Thought provoking piece by Al Jazeera guest writer questions the limits of perpetual economic growth. What do you think?
“Aggressive growth is impossible ecologically and implausible economically. We need economic strategies at the local, state and national levels that prioritize community benefit over corporate gain, and which presume a need for local resiliency instead of depending on uncontrolled growth. We also need to develop new strategies to democratize wealth in the face of extreme inequality.
Like the programs developed in “the state and local laboratories of democracy” that led to the New Deal, numerous experiments percolating across the country in the “new economy” — building cooperative and community-owned businesses, developing locally focused supply chains at a municipal and regional level, building new forms for public ownership of essential services like banking and power generation — may just point the way.
The end of growth poses a long-term systemic challenge, and such explorations suggest that a new direction may be quietly being explored in the midst of economic and ecological degradation. It is a direction that is likely to accelerate as economic and social pain of the decaying economic system continues to force Americans to explore solutions that take us beyond the tired nostrums of the past.”
—Gar Alperovitz is a professor of political economy at the University of Maryland and a founder of the Democracy Collaborative. He is the author of “What Then Must We Do?: Straight Talk about the Next American Revolution.”
Nestlé chairman Peter Brabeck has a history of courting controversy and is likely to further inflame his critics with his belief that man-made emissions are not the primary reason behind our changing climate.
Sitting in the Swiss mountain ski resort of Davos after we have both listened to the Tanzanian president tell the heartbreaking story of how global warming is making life increasingly unbearable for his people, Brabeck told me that:
“Climate change is an intrinsic part of the development of the world. Since the world has existed we have had climate changes and we will have climate change as long as the world exists … For me the issue is more about what can we do in order to adapt to climate change and perhaps to try to gain more time … Are we God to say the climate, as it is today, is the one we have to keep? That’s the way it’s going to be? We are not God. What we have to assure is that climate change happens within a timeframe that humankind can adapt to.”
Good read, not for everyone though, since it’s from a multi-gabllionaire’s perspective.
The European Union, which for years has sought to lead the world in addressing climate change, is tempering its ambitions and considering turning mandatory targets for renewable energy into just goals.
The union’s policy-making body is also unlikely to restrict exploration for shale gas using the disputed technique known as hydraulic fracturing.
A deep and lasting economic slowdown, persistently high prices for renewable energy sources and years of inconclusive international negotiations are giving European officials second thoughts about how aggressively to remake the Continent’s energy-production industries.
The details are still being negotiated in Brussels, but officials said the European Commission’s energy and climate proposal will probably include a binding target of reducing emissions by 35 percent to 40 percent by 2030. Some officials wanted to make the new targets for renewable energy nonbinding. But opposition this week appears to have turned the tide in favor of having a binding renewable target — although it would be applied across the European Union rather than to individual nations, according to an official briefed on the negotiations.
There is absolutely no way to reasonably stop countries from emitting carbon and GHGs.
Document leaked to Wikileaks. Allows companies to pollute, avoid fines, and generally skip environmental treaties and laws.
[T]he Environment Chapter is noteworthy for its absence of mandated clauses or meaningful enforcement measures. The dispute settlement mechanisms it creates are cooperative instead of binding; there are no required penalties and no proposed criminal sanctions. With the exception of fisheries, trade in ‘environmental’ goods and the disputed inclusion of other multilateral agreements, the Chapter appears to function as a public relations exercise.
Today, 15 January 2014, WikiLeaks released the secret draft text for the entire TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) Environment Chapter and the corresponding Chairs’ Report. The TPP transnational legal regime would cover 12 countries initially and encompass 40 per cent of global GDP and one-third of world trade. The Environment Chapter has long been sought by journalists and environmental groups. The released text dates from the Chief Negotiators’ summit in Salt Lake City, Utah, on 19-24 November 2013.
The Environment Chapter covers what the Parties propose to be their positions on: environmental issues, including climate change, biodiversity and fishing stocks; and trade and investment in ‘environmental’ goods and services. It also outlines how to resolve enviromental disputes arising out of the treaty’s subsequent implementation. The draft Consolidated Text was prepared by the Chairs of the Environment Working Group, at the request of TPP Ministers at the Brunei round of the negotiations.
Thousands of homeowners in flood-prone parts of the country are going to be in for a rude awakening. On Oct. 1, new changes to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which offers government-subsidized policies for households and businesses threatened by floods, mean that businesses in flood zones and homes that have been severely or repeatedly flooded will start going up 25% a year until rates reach levels that would reflect the actual risk from flooding. (Higher rates for second or vacation homes went into effect at the start of 2013.)
That means that property owners in flood-prone areas who might have once been paying around $500 a year—rates that were well below what the market would charge, given the threat from flooding—will go up by thousands of dollars over the next decade.
That change, unsurprisingly, has affected homeowners from the seaside coast of New Jersey to the Gulf beaches of Louisiana very unhappy. On September 28, dozens of Long Islanders—many of them victims of Superstorm Sandy—converged at the Babylon Town Hall for a “Stop FEMA” rally, one of several held around the country. (FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, runs the NFIP.)
Congressional representatives from states like Louisiana and Florida that are likely to be hard hit by the NFIP changes are raising hell, calling for FEMA to delay the implementation of the new rules. FEMA says its hands are tied—Craig Fugate, the agency’s director, told a Senate subcommittee at the end of the September that the Biggert-Waters Act, the law passed last summer to adjust NFIP rates, gives him no leeway to postpone the changes to NFIP just because they may be unaffordable to some property owners.
For readers actually into climate adaptation and urban planning, this is huge, huge news. Click here to read more about the the Flood Insurance Act of 2012. This basically undoes decades of subsidizing risky properties in the U.S.
The burden of living in risky, flood-prone areas will shift more towards the individual home owner and away from the American taxpayers.
What are your thoughts on the NFIP? Should the rates stay the same or be adjusted?
Students Win Seed Money To Make Flour From Insects
Mohammed Ashour has a big order to fill: By March 2014, he has to deliver 10 tons of grasshoppers to customers in Mexico.
He and four other MBA students at McGill University in Montreal have a plan to farm insects in poor countries and turn them into flour that can be used in everything from bread to corn tortillas. And on Monday, former President Bill Clinton handed them $1 million to make it happen.
The team, which includes Ashour, Shobhita Soor, Jesse Pearlstein, Zev Thompson and Gabe Mott, received the for social entrepreneurs at the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting. The seed funding will go to their project, , which aims to make insect-based food products available year-round to people living in some of the world’s poorest slums.
The project is launching at a time when a lot of people are looking to spice up the idea of eating super-nutritious insects, which some are calling “mini-livestock.” From the , insects are inspiring restauranteurs, entrepreneurs (check out the ) and researchers. As The Salt in May, the United Nations agricultural arm released a supporting iron- and protein-rich insects for dinner because of their nutritional, environmental and economic appeal.
Hi! Denser city living now seems to be the best solution for the billions of people added to the earth. But many prefer to live in big houses in the suburbs (than in tiny apartments), and would rather drive long distances to their workplace (than experience overcrowding on public transports). What do you propose would be the best way in encouraging both denser city living whilst having good neighbourhood satisfaction? Thanks
This is incredibly complicated and I’m not really going to answer your question directly. There are a variety of design and urban planning techniques to help cities be more dense while being more livable. Form Based Code, Smart Growth, sustainable planning, etc., are very common, easily replicable, and very flexible solutions to this.
The problem with these solutions are that people are not staying in one place for very long. This trend of people moving to cities will slow a bit, and cities can adapt and absorb the influxes.
The real question, to my mind, is how to make them stay? These new people rarely participate in local government. They rarely stay or invest in a place, typically using the city as a catalyst to elevate their socioeconomic standing.
This is fine, but cities will suffer in the next demographic swing. As it stands, most cities are planning for the next 10-20 years using a stable or growing tax base. This is just not true. Tax receipts will not continue to grow, they’ll be more volatile, creating deeper dips and higher spikes in local economies.
Tax receipts, which are used for things like water, health, education, environment, security, business development, and transportation, will (probably) implode.
Detroit (or the entire country of Japan) is a good example of this. Both based their planning goals on false demographics.
So, while most cities are scrambling to provide design solutions, they really should be pivoting towards investing in the people. How? Diversity in education systems. Having a strong public school system is great, creating a system that includes charter, specialty, religious schooling options is even better. Assisting people with their health care options should include increased focus on mental health. Study after study has shown that when people improve their mental health, their physical health and relationships with communities greatly improves. Investment in parks, environmental quality, and conservation areas consistently (in nearly every country) show economic and health resiliency.
There are tons of other things, like creating a Happiness Index, which measures how happy people are in the current situations. If there are dips and swings to this index, government can nudge the bar in one direction or the other.
Interesting headline, but the devil is in the details. The study is 1) from a graduate student using extremely limited data gleaned by observing the behavior of a few farmers and 2) focused on a temporary, experimental economic incentive project in two remote villages in Cameroon, Africa.
From the perspective of adaptation theory, it is important for researchers to find examples of maladaptation. Maladaptation increases risks or creates new problems, rather than resolving them. For example, relocating villagers with the intention of protecting them from floods has several ill effects on their education, culture, and may even violate their human rights (for more, see here).
So, more examples of maladaptation are very much needed. However, the findings need to be compared to other behaviors, such as incentives inherent in economic development projects, education attainment, empowerment of women, etc.
The below shows an example of a handful of villagers and farmers given obscure economic incentives to change their behavior - change farming techniques, change tree harvesting techniques, and increase educational attainment, all previously passed down from generation to generation. The author concludes that the villagers have become more vulnerable to risks from climate change. But, with such abrupt disruption, distorted incentives, and short time span - all of which are correctable - I’d say this one is more than a bit premature.
MITIGATION MAY CREATE MORE VULNERABILITY
The research focused on two villages in the rainforests of southern Cameroon that are involved in payments for ecosystem services (PES) pilot projects.
Through PES, communities receive financial or in-kind payment for preserving “services” such as water, carbon storage and biodiversity. The pilot projects in Cameroon are designed to maintain carbon stocks and biodiversity through such activities as protecting and regenerating forests, and sustainable agriculture.
In addition, the projects include components to strengthen local health and education as they relate to infrastructure.
The pilot projects were focused on reducing deforestation and conserving biodiversity, but did not necessarily consider how to help communities adapt to a changing climate, researchers found.
In fact, the study found that conditions imposed by the PES projects had major implications for livelihood activities in the village of Nkolenyeng, predominately a farming community.
For example, in light of the projects’ ban on rotational slash-and-burn crop farming – also known as swidden – the study found some older farmers are opting to clear less land rather than take up more labor-intensive clearing methods.
These decisions may ultimately affect food security and income in the village, creating more vulnerability, the study suggested.
“At my age, I have little energy to prepare my fields without burning, so for now with the project conditions I’ll prepare only a small portion,” said one 62-year-old farmer during a focus group.
Welcome to the world’s tallest slum: poverty-ridden Venezuela’s Tower of David. Squatters took over this very unfinished 45-story skyscraper in the early 1990s, and they’ve been there ever since. The tower was originally intended to be a symbol of Caracas’ bright financial future, complete with a rooftop helipad, but construction stopped because of a banking crisis and the sudden death of the tower’s namesake, David Brillembourg.
Today, as the government is grappling with a citywide housing shortage, the tower is a stark monument to what could have been in the country’s crime-plagued capital. The tower is dogged by accusations of being a hotbed of crime, drugs and corruption. But to residents, many of whom have spent their entire lives there, it’s just home.
Watch as Vocativ climbs the tower and gains the rare in-depth access to residents’ daily lives inside this unique and sinister establishment.
Few cameras have been allowed into the depths of the tower. It is an experience not to be missed.
Two forces (markets and applied sustainability theory) are at odds with each other. Especially when it comes to human rights and equality. The Green Climate Fund is, in a sense, a bank that works in very poor, and developing countries. These countries are growing, fast. And organizations like the UN are helping these countries build better cities and safer communities, with the goal for everyone to become healthier and well educated. There are controversies with this type of development. Often times, tens of thousands of people are displaced from their homes, species and ecosystems are destroyed, and only a handful of companies benefit.
The Green Climate Fund helps developing countries to be more environmentally conscious, more aware of impacts of fast growth. There are many complicated elements to financing growth, and one is gender. Here is a discussion on how the Green Climate Fund can improve the banking rules for women in developing countries.
Climate change is not gender-neutral. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has highlighted the variations in the extent to which people are affected by climate change, and are able to adapt, depending on a number of factors, including gender. In most countries there are differences in the economic activities, access to resources and decision-making power of men and women. These gender differences affect the ways people are impacted by, and respond to, climate change.
Recognizing the importance of taking these gender differences into account, the Governing Instrument for the Green Climate Fund (GCF)specifically calls for taking a “gender-sensitive approach,” making this the first climate fund to mandate the integration of gender-based perspectives from the outset of its operations.
Climate financing approaches will be more effective and provide broader benefits if they address rather than reinforce gender inequalities that increase the vulnerability of women to climate change and adversely affect their ability to contribute to mitigation and adaptation efforts.
Women still face unequal access to political power, economic resources, legal rights, land ownership, bank credit, and technical training.
The GCF can promote gender equality by establishing structures and operating procedures that are careful to include women as well as men in decision-making roles, respond to the particular needs of women for climate-related financing, and enable women’s enterprises to benefit from new low-carbon technologies and economic opportunities.
The paper advocates for the explicit inclusion of gender considerations in the GCF Board’s work plan. The GCF is expected to support a fundamental paradigm shift in addressing climate change by establishing new best practices, including in its approach to gender.