Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ed Miliband declares war on climate change sceptics

Climate secretary Ed Miliband warns against listening to 'siren voices', in an interview with the Observer (UK).

The climate secretary, Ed Miliband, last night warned of the danger of a public backlash against the science of global warming in the face of continuing claims that experts have manipulated data. In an exclusive interview with the Observer, Miliband spoke out for the first time about last month's revelations that climate scientists had withheld and covered up information and the apology made by the influential UN climate body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which admitted it had exaggerated claims about the melting of Himalayan glaciers.

The perceived failure of global talks on combating climate change in Copenhagen last month has also been blamed for undermining public support. But in the government's first high-level recognition of the growing pressure on public opinion, Miliband declared a "battle" against the "siren voices" who denied global warming was real or caused by humans, or that there was a need to cut carbon emissions to tackle it.

"It's right that there's rigour applied to all the reports about climate change, but I think it would be wrong that when a mistake is made it's somehow used to undermine the overwhelming picture that's there," he said.

"We know there's a physical effect of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere leading to higher temperatures, that's a question of physics; we know CO2 concentrations are at their highest for 6,000 years; we know there are observed increases in temperatures; and we know there are observed effects that point to the existence of human-made climate change. That's what the vast majority of scientists tell us."

Mistakes and attempts to hide contradictory data had to be seen in the light of the thousands of pages of evidence in the IPCC's four-volume report in 2007, said Miliband. The most recent accusation about the panel's work is that its chairman, Rajendra Pachauri, may have known before the Copenhagen summit that its assessment report had seriously exaggerated the rate of melting of the Himalayan glaciers.

However, Miliband was adamant that the IPCC was on the right track. "It's worth saying that no doubt when the next report comes out it will suggest there have been areas where things have been happening more dramatically than the 2007 report implied," he said.

The danger of climate scepticism was that it would undermine public support for unpopular decisions needed to curb carbon emissions, including the likelihood of higher energy bills for households, and issues such as the visual impact of wind turbines, said Miliband, who is also energy secretary.

If the UK did not invest in renewable, clean energy, it would lose jobs and investment to other countries, have less energy security because of the dependence on oil and gas imports and contribute to damaging temperature rises for future generations. "There are a whole variety of people who are sceptical, but who they are is less important than what they are saying, and what they are saying is profoundly dangerous," he said. "Every­thing we know about life is that we should obey the precautionary principle; to take what the sceptics say seriously would be a profound risk."

The Copenhagen conference in December ended with no formal agreement to make deep cuts in global emissions, or even set a timetable, but Miliband warned activists against "despair".

The UN conference was a "disappointment", he said, but there were important achievements, including the agreement by countries responsible for 80% of emissions to set domestic carbon targets by today. "There's a message for people who take these things seriously: don't mourn, organise," said Miliband, who has previously called for a Make Poverty History-style mass public campaign to pressure politicians into cutting emissions.

Lord Smith, the Environment Agency chairman, said: "The [Himalayan] glaciers may not melt by 2035, but they are melting and there's a serious problem that's going to affect substantial parts of Asia over the course of the next 100 or more years."

Friday, January 29, 2010

I live without cash – and I manage just fine

Armed with a caravan, solar laptop and toothpaste made from washed-up cuttlefish bones, Mark Boyle gave up using cash....

In six years of studying economics, not once did I hear the word "ecology". So if it hadn't have been for the chance purchase of a video called Gandhi in the final term of my degree, I'd probably have ended up earning a fine living in a very respectable job persuading Indian farmers to go GM, or something useful like that. The little chap in the loincloth taught me one huge lesson – to be the change I wanted to see in the world. Trouble was, I had no idea back then what that change was.

After managing a couple of organic food companies made me realise that even "ethical business" would never be quite enough, an afternoon's philosophising with a mate changed everything. We were looking at the world's issues – environmental destruction, sweatshops, factory farms, wars over resources – and wondering which of them we should dedicate our lives to. But I realised that I was looking at the world in the same way a western medical practitioner looks at a patient, seeing symptoms and wondering how to firefight them, without any thought for their root cause. So I decided instead to become a social homeopath, a pro-activist, and to investigate the root cause of these symptoms.

One of the critical causes of those symptoms is the fact we no longer have to see the direct repercussions our purchases have on the people, environment and animals they affect. The degrees of separation between the consumer and the consumed have increased so much that we're completely unaware of the levels of destruction and suffering embodied in the stuff we buy. The tool that has enabled this separation is money.

If we grew our own food, we wouldn't waste a third of it as we do today. If we made our own tables and chairs, we wouldn't throw them out the moment we changed the interior decor. If we had to clean our own drinking water, we probably wouldn't contaminate it.

So to be the change I wanted to see in the world, it unfortunately meant I was going to have to give up cash, which I initially decided to do for a year. I got myself a caravan, parked it up on an organic farm where I was volunteering and kitted it out to be off-grid. Cooking would now be outside – rain or shine – on a rocket stove; mobile and laptop would be run off solar; I'd use wood I either coppiced or scavenged to heat my humble abode, and a compost loo for humanure.

Food was the next essential. There are four legs to the food-for-free table: foraging wild food, growing your own, bartering, and using waste grub, of which there is loads. On my first day, I fed 150 people a three-course meal with waste and foraged food. Most of the year, though, I ate my own crops.

To get around, I had a bike and trailer, and the 34-mile commute to the city doubled up as my gym subscription. For loo roll I'd relieve the local newsagents of its papers (I once wiped my arse with a story about myself); it's not double-quilted, but I quickly got used to it. For toothpaste I used washed-up cuttlefish bone with wild fennel seeds, an oddity for a vegan.

What have I learned? That friendship, not money, is real security. That most western poverty is of the spiritual kind. That independence is really interdependence. And that if you don't own a plasma screen TV, people think you're an extremist.

People often ask me what I miss about my old world of lucre and business. Stress. Traffic jams. Bank statements. Utility bills.

Well, there was the odd pint of organic ale with my mates down the local.

Mark Boyle is the founder of The Freeconomy Community.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Red Nev goes Green

Manchester United defender Gary Neville has applied for planning permission to build a flower-shaped eco-home in Bolton, UK.

Neville, wants to build a four-bedroom, single-story house with a wind turbine, solar panels and ground-source heating. It will be 8,000 square feet, mostly submerged in the Pennines and covered in a grass roof, making it partially invisible. The former England right-back - known as 'Red' Nev for his loyalty to Manchester United and role as PFA shop-steward - has applied to Bolton Council for the project, which Make Architects claim will be the first of its kind in the North West.

"The client has been heavily involved in the design process and is passionate about preserving the natural beauty of this area," Make's Stuart Fraser said. "It has been a privilege to be given a brief which has allowed us to truly test the boundaries of current sustainable thinking in terms of design and construction and to work along some leading experts in this field."

Work has been penciled in to begin later this year.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Are You Ready To Go Solar At Home?

Solar panels have never been cheaper. How to tell if your house is a good fit.
You recycle, you buy organic, and you drive a hybrid car. What's next if you've got greenbacks burning a hole in your pocket and you want to spend them on something green?

Get your house some solar panels. Soon you will smile with glee as you slash the amount of money you fork over to the electric company every month, while reveling in the satisfaction that your home is producing its own zero-emissions power.

Solar panel prices have plunged by half in the past year as manufacturers have opened new plants, ending a multi-year shortage of silicon for photovoltaic chips. That glut will be bad for manufacturers' profit margins, but good for you. For SGD 20,937 (USD15, 000) installed, a 3.5 kilowatt system could generate 5,000 kwh of electricity a year, about a third of most homes' needs.

And if your time horizon is long enough, your homemade solar power won't cost any more than what you pay the power company. Currently the US federal government gives a 30% investment tax credit, and assuming that one can finance a solar system at the going mortgage rate of around 5%, over 20 years his/her solar power will cost between 10 cents and 13 cents per kwh.

Costs will be even lower if you can finance the system yourself with cash you have sitting around collecting 0.1% interest in a money market fund. John Berger, chief executive of Houston-based solar installer Standard Renewable Energy, maintains that because many additional state and local green energy incentives will run out of money or expire by the end of next year, there's never been a better time to install a solar system.

You've heard of smart meters? When your solar system is installed you get a genius meter that shows how much power your solar panels are generating, how much power your house is drawing from the electric utility and (if you're really power-frugal) how much power you're sending back to the grid. Lazy summer day? Grab a beer and watch the metering levels flip around as clouds wander over your neighborhood and block the sun for a few minutes.

Looking for a last-minute Christmas gift for the high-tech early-adopter nerd in your life who has everything? Solar panels are better on the environment than a new high-def TV, less annoying than a robotic dog and probably about as much fun to drive as an all-electric car (kidding). There are some caveats: Panels don't work if you have a big tree blocking the sun. And in some of your more uptight (i.e., "nicer") neighborhoods, the local spy agency (i.e., homeowners association) won't let you install them.

Monday, January 25, 2010

At least $58 million raised by "Hope for Haiti Now" telethon

The "Hope for Haiti Now" telethon, shown Friday on 25 different networks around the world, had by Saturday raised $58 million, with organizers saying that donations continue to be received.

Hosted jointly, from three different locations, by Wyclef Jean, George Clooney and CNN's Anderson Cooper, the telethon featured performances from some of the best-known names in music. Anderson Cooper was actually reporting live from Haiti, struck by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake on January 12, during the event. And in addition to viewers being able to watch the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Bono, Jay-Z, Rihanna, Shakira, Beyonce, and Mary J. Blige perform some of those calling in to make donations had, says MTV, the opportunity to speak to one of more than 100 of the biggest names in film, television and music who were helping professional operators man the phones.

Jon Stewart, Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks and Clint Eastwood were among those thanking callers for their donations and CNN reports that one donor was told by the actress Reese Witherspoon: "Thank you so much for your donation. You can't imagine how much love and great, wonderful energy is here today. People are doing everything they can to make a difference in these people's lives."

The figure of $58 million includes donations made by phone, online and mobile but not those that have been promised by corporations. Nor does it include the largest of the private donations or the money generated by iTunes sales.

MTV, the production company responsible for the telethon - developed in conjunction with George Clooney and setting a new record for donations by the general public to a televised event raising funds for disaster relief - confirms that the "Hope for Haiti Now" album is "the biggest one-day album pre-order in iTunes history ", having gone to number one in 18 different countries.

In addition "Stranded (Haiti Mon Amour)", the track that Bono, The Edge, Jay-Z and Rihanna prerecorded in London for the telethon, which had the official title "Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief", is currently the most popular iTunes song in 12 countries.

Donations for "Hope for Haiti Now" will be accepted for another six months and the money received will be distributed to seven organizations working to bring relief to the survivors of the Haiti earthquake, including a fund established by former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

Oxfam America, Partners in Health, the Red Cross, UNICEF, United Nations World Food Programme, Yele Haiti Foundation and the Clinton Bush Haiti Foundation/Fund are the seven organizations in question.

With the exception of the fund set up by Mr Clinton and Mr Bush the other organizations were, notes MTV, selected because of their "history of operation and collaboration within the nongovernmental organization (NGO) community in Haiti".

On Sunday the government in Haiti announced an official death toll of 150,000. In recent days the final toll was being estimated at 200,000, a figure that has apparently been revised upwards to 300,000.

To make a donation please visit The Red Cross website.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

5 Tips for CNY Green Spring Cleaning Bliss!

Get into The Chinese New Year groove with these eco friendly spring cleaning tips

Spring brings many things: budding flowers, April showers, birds chirping and mops mopping. Yes, besides the new signs of life popping up all around you, spring also brings upon the ritual of spring cleaning. It’s a dirty task, but somebody has to do it, or the mess of the last few winter months will continue to cultivate in your home. Instead of making a bigger mess this spring, make a few smaller changes that will be great for your home and green for the environment. Here are 5 tips that you can follow to have an eco friendly spring cleaning experience:

1. V is for vendetta and vinegar
Vinegar wages a personal vendetta again germs in your house this spring! This acidic liquid can be added to baking soda to make a natural drain cleaner, and it can be added with salt to make a pasty chrome sink cleaner. Want to learn other eco-friendly uses for vinegar? Check out the website below.

2. Become friends with your windows
This means to release them from the bonds of locks and to open them up. Let them enjoy the cool spring air as it comes into your home, and give them a good, clean scrubbing. Your windows will look great and you’ll be reducing your energy bill.

3. Switch from paper to cloth
Reduce your household paper waste consumption by using cloth dish rags or pieces of old clothing to wipe counters and other surfaces. Instead of using wads of paper towels, you can use the rags to clean what you need to. Then the rags can be washed and reused over again. Click on the picture to access a cool blog post on how to make cleaning rags from old clothes.

4. Sweep in sustainable style
Spring brings pollen, buds, loose dirt and other wonders from nature that get tracked into your home and on your porch or deck. Instead of using a vacuum and consuming energy, grab a green broom that will sweep away the mess! Try a Dinuba Broom, which is made with 100% recycled plastic bristles and sustainable wood.

5. Get rid of clutter with recycled storage units
Organization plays a big role in spring cleaning, especially inside your home. You can organize what’s inside your home (after you’ve cleaned and de-cluttered it) with a recycled storage unit. Way Basics is a cool company that offers completely recycled and easy to put together storage units. The best part about the company, besides its cool creations, is that its employees work towards helping victims of natural disasters obtain the furniture that they desperately need. Oh, and they plant trees at the Red River National Wildlife Refuge.

Just try a few of these tips this spring, and you’ll see just how nice it feels being happy with yourself, your cleaning habits and your environment.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Global oil reserves and fossil fuel consumption

The world is showing no sign of weaning itself off fossil fuels: in the 28-year span covered by the BP data below, worldwide reserves of oil fell only twice – in 1998 and 2008.

Oil has been the world's fossil fuel of choice since the late 1960s and our taste for it doesn't seem likely to diminish in the short term. Oil companies are still keen to secure any undiscovered reserves while continuing to be a powerful lobbying presence. You may think that with pressing concerns over peak oil and global warming, the world would be slowly weaning itself off the energy-rich liquid. But in the 28-year span covered by the BP data below, worldwide reserves fell only twice – in 1998, and a decade later in 2008.

Opec nations control the lion's share, with 76% of the world's reserves. Interestingly, many of the Opec countries' proven reserves have barely changed in the past 20 years, despite massive exporting activity.

The largest percentage growth in oil wealth is in Vietnam, with a 39% surge in its proven oil reserves from 2007-08. This newfound wealth corresponds to 1.3bn barrels, which may sound like a lot, but would feed the world demand for less than three weeks (17 days) at 2008 levels of consumption.

Oil consumption fell by 0.29% from 2007-08, while its more polluting relation coal saw a 3% increase in its use. Reasons for coal's recent rise include the low price of emissions trading permits and the fuel's increasing promotion as key for 'energy security'.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Make your own face masks, foot scrubs and more!!

Right now, schedule yourself an at-home spa day. The holidays are a perfect time to do so because you may have some time off of work (or someone else who can watch the kids for a few hours does). And, the holidays are stressful, so you deserve a moment of release.

You don’t need to break the bank. And, you don’t need to expose yourself to questionable chemicals. Here are some DIY recipes to get your gorgeous self glowing again. (Hint, hint – some of these make great gifts, too!)

Refreshing Orange Scrub
This recipe is courtesy of Noreen Finneran "Incredible Edible Spa"
1/2 of an Orange
4 T Cornmeal

Squeeze orange juice and pulp into a bowl and add the cornmeal. Mix into a paste. Apply onto freshly washed face and body. Scrub gently for 2-3 minutes. Rinse, tone, moisturize.

Chocolate Facial Mask
This recipe is courtesy of Practically Green by Micaela Preston
2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
2 T plain yogurt
1 T honey

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Apply to face and neck, avoiding eye area. Kick back, relax and enjoy the delicious aroma for about 15 minutes. Rinse off with warm water.

Lavender-Honey Milk Bath
This recipe is courtesy of The National Honey Board
3 Tablespoons dried lavender flowers*
1-1/2 cups whole milk, cream or combination
1/3 cup honey

Process lavender flowers in a blender until they become a powder, turning off the blender and scraping down the sides as necessary. Whisk together lavender powder, milk and honey in a glass bowl, then pour into a jar. Before each use, shake the jar and pour half of the mixture into the bath. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Makes enough for 2 baths.
*Dried lavender flowers can be found in the spice section of gourmet and specialty stores.

Smoothing Skin Lotion
This recipe is courtesy of The National Honey Board
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice

Mix together honey, vegetable oil and lemon juice. Rub into hands, elbows, heels and anywhere that feels dry. Leave on 10 minutes. Rinse off with water.

Avocado Foot Softener
2 T cornmeal

2 T mashed avocado or avocado oil

Mix ingredients in a small bowl until they form a paste. Apply to feet, working the gritty paste into calluses and rough spots, and up and around the toes. Rinse with warm water and dry feet thoroughly. For maximum softening, repeat once or twice a week.

Lemon Facial Toner
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
grated zest of one lemon
1 cup distilled water (any water should do)
2/3 cup witch hazel (you can get this at any drugstore)

Shake well before use, apply with cotton balls until face is clean. Keeps one month.

Banana Hair Mask
1 banana
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

Mash ingredients until creamy. Apply to hair, cover head with plastic wrap, let sit for 15-30 minutes - in the sun if possible. Rinse completely and shampoo as usual.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The greatest threat of the 21st century: not AGW but Eco-Fascism

This is Peter Spencer, he’s a farmer in New South Wales, and his livelihood has been stolen by the Australian government in the name of – you guessed it – “combatting climate change.”

That’s why he is now sitting atop that windblown tower you see in the photograph, on sheep farmland rendered useless by eco-legislation, starving himself to death in protest at his government’s callous disregard for his property rights. This is his 46th day on hunger strike.

Jo Nova from the Telegraph (UK) has been following the story closely. Here’s the eco-political background:

As a part of Australia’s commitment to protect native vegetation and to reduce carbon emissions under the Kyoto protocol, Peter Spencer and thousands of farmers like him, have been subjected to a government imposed ban on land clearing.

The saved trees are natural carbon sinks worth an estimated $10.8 billion to the government in reduced carbon emissions, should Kevin Rudd’s emissions trading scheme go ahead. But the farmers, who can no longer develop this land have received no compensation.

Peter Spencer is among the victims of this legalised theft. He first told his story here in 2006.

In recent decades, thousands of farms have become economically marginal and have gone out of business. What is not widely known is that this “marginality” has often been the result not of market forces but of government regulation. In particular, governments in pursuit of urban green votes have imposed a vast range of devastating new costs on farmers.

My farm is probably one of the worst affected in Australia, so I can speak about this with some knowledge. “Saarahnlee” is at Shannons Flat in NSW. Our northern boundary fence is the southern boundary of the ACT and its Namadgi National Park.

The farm consists of about 14,000 acres, about 60 per cent of which was cleared before World War II. When I bought it in the 1980s, I had been working overseas to earn the money to buy the place. Unfortunately, I was unable to farm it for some time so extensive regrowth occurred. When I returned to Australia to begin to farm, I found that various laws to preserve native vegetation had been enacted in the meantime, and I was unable to “reclear” the land.

I could have applied for permission to clear, but not only was it unlikely this would have been granted, at that time it would have cost us over $300,000 merely to prepare the necessary farm plan. This was because of the number of different ecosystems present due to the 900 metre altitude variation on the property. There would have been no refund if the plan was rejected. It should be pointed out that under the just-released regulations (December 1, 2005) this cost would now be paid by the relevant department.

The result was that I was left with only 800 acres to farm: not nearly enough to live off and a financial catastrophe. The bank foreclosed on our mortgage and at the moment we are barely hanging on, thanks to the help of our extended families.

I protested to the state government and was told nothing could be done. Our plight has received extensive publicity and it’s worth putting on the record that I haven’t received one message of sympathy from any environmentalist. It appears the Green movement is prepared to destroy the property rights of despised groups such as farmers and devastate their lives in order to achieve its ends.

The rest of the article shows that Peter Spencer was no whingeing slouch. As Jo Nova reports, he really did try everything before resorting to his final, desperate pass.

After the land-clearing laws came into effect, Peter paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to set up ponds for trout fishing. But new water laws ended that too (and also without compensation). Tenaciously Peter then set up a fine-wool breeding program, but the bushfires of 2003 (that destroyed 500 homes in Canberra, and native forest near Peter) meant that hundreds of wild dogs were forced out of burnt areas. They over-ran his property, killing hundreds of sheep.

Spencer gave a moving interview on ABC radio’s Counterpoint programme.

Every one of my projects is destroyed, every one of my…it’s just disgraceful, Michael, I just feel sick. I was just thinking last night, I can remember going off to court, day after day, sometimes the last eight or nine weeks I would come back, spend one night [unclear], change all my files, back to Sydney again. I spent nearly five weeks there non-stop the last two months. And I’d watch sheep dying in the paddock and I couldn’t go round and shoot them because I had nobody left to help me. I had to let them die on their own, just kicking and struggling because they couldn’t stand up anymore, nothing to feed them with, it was just unbelievable.

One of Spencer’s neighbours wrote to an Australian senator, describing the kind of man Spencer is:

I have known Peter since 1989 when I became one of the Spencer Family’s next door neighbours and the two families spent a lot of time together especially the children as living 42 kilometers from the nearest town..

In those days Peter spent a lot of time in the highlands of Papua New Guinea as he had various… tourism accommodation type businesses and had been operating them for 10-15 years prior to us knowing him. Peter is/was accepted as a Chief in one of the Highland Tribes in Papua New Guinea and has been known to be called in by the then Papua New Guinea Government to negotiate peace between the two… fighting tribes putting his own life on the line in these situations but coming out with very positive results. In 1996/97 there was a riot at his Hotel in Mt Hagan where rascals tried to rob and burn his Hotel, Peter was taken captive and placed on his knees with hands tied behind his back and a gun placed at his head, fortunately for Peter the gun misfired and in the rascals confusion he was able to escape.

Peter Spencer is an example to us all. I’m not suggesting we all go on hunger strike but we ought surely to emulate his clear-eyed courage in facing up to the greatest menace of our age. That menace is not, of course, the illusory threat of AGW which our governments so cheerfully use to fleece us and impose control of over us. That menace is eco-fascism. It’s real, it’s terrifying and it’s time we fought back.

I agree with Gerald Warner. The only way to get our message across that we’re sick to the craw of Green lies, Green taxes, and Green tyranny is to punish all the mainstream parties – and that very much includes Cameron’s Green Conservatives – at the polls.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Singapore Green Landscape 2010

Singapore Green Landscape 2010 gives an overview of the various non-governmental organisations (NGOs), green groups, business associations and groups, green websites, government agencies, and institutes and centres in Singapore, which are related to the environment.

We hope that this publication is useful for everyone who wishes to find and connect with the environmental organisations in Singapore, and explore personal and business opportunities.

This publication is free for download.

Thanks Eugene for the link! :)