Sunday, October 19, 2008

Recognising America's Culture of Greed - Another Step in Recognising the Changing Zeitgeist?

America's Culture of Greed by Lowell Klessig

American culture has many commendable attributes. Extreme individualism is not one of them.

Individualism was the core of the frontier psyche. The pioneers were, in many ways, self reliant and self-sufficient. At the same time, early Americans were also very conscious of the common good. That consciousness was reinforced by the Civil War, the Great Depression, and WWII. However, in the expansiveness of the late 20th Century, and especially in the last few years, individual rights have trumped responsibility to the group. While every society struggles with balancing individual freedom with the common good, America has lost its balance. Our survival now depends on re-establishing it.

I have had the wonderful opportunity to travel to 48 countries and to teach in eight of them. A graduate student and I conducted cross cultural research on 28 of those countries. We compared the societies on eleven generic social priorities including "Individual Freedom". Social priorities vary widely among countries and our various analyses did not always yield the same result. However, there is a world wide perception that "Individual Freedom" is excessively high in the United States.

While people of other cultures view our individualism as dangerous, we are proud of it. We are proud of it until it severely damages the common good-like the financial system upon which we all depend. Then we get angry that government, as the defender of the common good, didn't prevent such destructive individual greed.

The Wall Street mess is a logical extension of the unlimited American individualism that we hold so dear. CEOs just pushed the pendulum further off center when they demanded obscene salaries and took wild risks with other people's money while only considering their individual wealth, power and ego. Because of their position, their extreme greed has had a dramatic negative impact on the common good.

CEOs in other cultures act differently. For example in 2005, according to the Institute for Policy Studies, the CEO of British Petroleum (BP is the second largest oil company in the world) made a handsome $5.6 million. The CEO of Royal Dutch Shell (the third largest oil company) made a handsome $4.1 million. The CEO of U.S. based Exxon Mobil (largest oil company) collected $69.7 million and the average salary of American oil companies was $33 million. That discrepancy represents a huge cultural difference between the US and Europe.

The comparison with Japan is even more astonishing. American CEOs have been earning about 400 times the average earnings of their employees in recent years. In other words the CEO earns more every day than the employee earns in a year. Japanese CEOs earn only 11 times what their employees earn.

No-one who has traveled extensively would argue that European and Japanese CEOs are less competent than American CEOs. The difference lies not in intelligence or training or experience; it lies in the ethics of their respective cultures - the balance between individual rights and the common good.

The candidates in this election differ regarding the appropriate balance between individualism and the common good. One candidate (McCain) recognizes the need to put "Country First" but then typically begins his sentences with "I" to focus on his personal story as a war hero and maverick politician. The other candidate (Obama) talks very little about himself while focusing on "we", our moment in history, and our common future. Then McCain chooses to partner up with Palin from Alaska - America's last frontier of rugged individualism and self reliance. Palin has the strongest orientation toward individualism of any national candidate in my lifetime - stronger even than Barry Goldwater whom I supported in 1964. She can even gut a moose by herself.

None of these candidates condones the excesses that have become commonplace on Wall Street. However, McCain and Palin can not shed their Republican affiliation and its bias toward excessive individualism, e.g. deregulation of the banking system. They are saddled to the same cultural curse that is causing our financial system to crumble-too much "I" and too little "WE".

Note for publisher: The research referenced in the article was published in the Journal of Human Values 5:1 (1999)

Lowell Klessig is Emeritus Professor of Integrated Resource Management at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. In addition to articles in professional journals, he has authored numerous Extrension publications in non-technical terms for adult audiences. He served as Executive Director of the Wisconsin Rural Leadership Program. He has travelled to 48 countries and taught in eight foreign countries. He writes a monthly column for a midwestern weekly newspaper and does occasional magazine features (a one page bio summary is available electronically upon request).

Lowell Klessig
934 River Road N
Amherst Junction, WI 54407


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Plastic Bag Bans Around the World

Plastic Bag Bans - World Update by Kit Parks

In the last two years, there has been a striking momentum to reduce or eliminate plastic bags in the US as more Americans become aware of the environmental hazards of these bags. While the US movement is in its infancy, much of the world has already taken action.

In 2002, Bangladesh became the first country to outright ban plastic bags. The bags were credited in large part for the massive floods in 1988 and 1998. Enormous amounts of plastic bag litter clogged sewer lines and flooded upwards of two-thirds of the country during these devastating floods.

The litter from plastic bags was so bad in South Africa that the Minister of the Environment and Tourism jokingly named plastic bags the national flower because so many bags decorated their trees. Free bags are now illegal and there is a 3 cent levy on all plastic bags.

Paris banned the bags in 2007, and all of France will follow suit in 2010. Other countries with outright bans or free bag bans include: Bhutan, Eritrea, Rwanda, Somalia, Taiwan and Zanzibar. China banned free bags last summer and estimates that it will save 34 million barrels of oil each year.

Countries that tax plastic bags include Ireland, which saw an immediate 90% reduction in plastic bag use after enacting its PlasTax. Ireland saves 400,000 barrels of oil each year due to the tax. In Germany, most stores charge 5 to 25 cents per bag. Hong Kong has proposed a 50 cent tax for 2009. Israel adds a surcharge for plastic bags unless they contain meat, fish, poultry or produce. Sweden also taxes the bags.

Spain is working on its National Plan of Integrated Waste which would include a ban in 2010. In the UK, the retailers took the lead. Many have eliminated plastic bags and encourage reusable bags. IKEA and Whole Foods are two US chains that have been leaders in the reusable bag movement.

2008 will be remembered as the year US retailers began to regularly stock reusable bags. The mostly non-woven polypropylene bags are becoming standard fare in most stores today. However, people often forget the bags, leading to the surge in popularity of new bags that fold into a pocket so that they can be stored in purses, eliminating the need to remember.

Plastic bags are considered environmentally incorrect because they never fully decompose, are often littered, which causes significant harm to wildlife, and due to the staggering 100 billion used in the US each year, unnecessarily clog our landfills.

Surprisingly, paper bags are worse environmentally. Lack of air and moisture in the landfills prevent proper decomposition, they take more energy to manufacture and deliver, and they cost retailers, and thus consumers, significantly more to produce than plastic bags.

Many Americans now realize, as have many of our European and Asian neighbors, is that reusable bags are the solution to the plastic and paper bag problem.

Kit Parks is the president of Ecoroot, a reusable products company which donates 20% of its profits to environmental education programs. She writes about environmental and lifestyle issues. Parks can be contacted via the Ecoroot website

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The Politics of Plastic Bag Bans

Big Oil Fights Plastic Bag Bans by Kit Parks

Across the country, from big cities like San Francisco to small towns like Westport, CT there is a movement to eliminate free plastic bags because of environmental issues. This movement is not sitting well with Big Oil, which is fighting all efforts which might hamper this $4 billion industry.

Seattle passed a 20-cent plastic bag tax, despite media efforts of the Plastic Bag Affiliates (PBA), which is a group of manufacturers of the bags, such as Exxon-Mobil and Dow Chemical. A concentrated PBA campaign since has garnered the necessary signatures to put the tax a future ballot, giving the oil companies one more shot at retaining their plastic bag business in Seattle.

In California the PBA ran ads that tried to scare people into thinking they would have to pay $400 per year because of the tax, and completely disregarded the fact that the tax was to encourage people to bring reusable bags which would then cost the taxpayer nothing.

In 2002, Ireland imposed a similar tax and saw an immediate 90% drop in plastic bag use. Ireland credits this reduction for saving 400,000 barrels of oil per year. China estimates it will save 34 million barrels of oil now that it has banned free plastic bags.

The PBA ads also say plastic bags are fully recyclable, which is true. However the ads neglect to mention that most American municipalities do not accept plastic bags for recycling because they can gum up the machinery. Less than 2% of plastic bags are recycled, according to the EPA. It also costs more to recycle plastic bags than to use virgin resin to make new bags, so it is not cost effective to recycle the bags, despite what the oil companies would have us believe.

Fear of losing billions in sales has made Big Oil come out swinging. To get the Seattle tax referendum, one estimate says they paid about $8 per signature in ad costs. To thwart California efforts for a ban or tax, the airways were filled with Gas, Food Now This! radio ads condemning a potential plastic bag tax. The ads said the tax would be especially devastating to low income families, seniors and anyone living on a fixed income. Again, PBA makes no mention that the tax incurred by these people would be zero if they brought in their own bags, which is the main purpose of the proposal.

In Annapolis, where a ban was being considered, Donna Dempsey, the plastic bag industry spokesperson, noted that paper bags take up seven times more space than plastic bags, so it cost more to truck them to the store and for stores to stock them. Once again, she did not mention reusable bags which would cost the stores nothing and take up no storage space.

America is behind the rest of much of the world when it comes to plastic bag reduction programs, in large part to the money, power and influence of the big oil companies which sponsor the Plastic Bag Affiliates campaigns to stop plastic bag taxes and bans.

Kit Parks is the president of Ecoroot, a reusable products company which donates 20% of its profits to environmental education programs. She writes about environmental and lifestyle issues. Parks can be contacted via the Ecoroot website

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The Compressed Air Vehicle

Power Your Car Using Air! by Steve Auger

Most of us have heard of the promised hydrogen economy. What hydrogen proponents aren't telling us is that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are impractical. The reasons are numerous and include cost, infrastructure, reliability, safety ...

In all likelihood there will never be a hydrogen-based economy, at least not for the automobile industry and not in our lifetime. Most likely, there will be a variety of different technologies, led by plug-in electric vehicles and gas/electric hybrids.

One of the major drawbacks of fuel cell technology is that hydrogen is not used as fuel but instead is an energy storage medium. As a storage medium, hydrogen is very inefficient compared to other alternatives. For example, lithium-ion batteries provide better energy density, efficiency and the infrastructure is not a significant issue as compared to the distribution of hydrogen.

Besides than lithium-ion batteries, there are other energy storage options that are more practical and closer to realization than hydrogen fuel cells. One such option is compressed air . Compressed air vehicles have zero emissions, are inexpensive to produce and don't suffer the same magnitude of infrastructure development problems.

Competitively priced compressed air cars will be commercially available in the near future. In fact, Moteur Development International (MDI), the French manufacturer of compressed air vehicles, and Zero Pollution Motors (ZPM) are targeting a larger vehicle for the U.S. market in 2010. If rumors are true the car may have a range of 1000 miles utilizing a dual energy source.

The air car has some environmental advantages over other vehicle types. There are no battery disposal issues that an electric vehicle would have. Maintenance and part replacement will be required less often than for internal combustion engines simply due to the simplicity of the engine design. On the down side, the air technology does not function at lower temperatures.

Steve Auger is the author of an environmental blog entitled Blog On Smog and has posted several articles on fuel cells.

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Will the Changes Coming in 2009 be a Portent of the Changing Zeitgeist?

2009 - The Year of Change by Ilmas Futehally

I was lucky to meet the late Prof Geremek in 2005, when he predicted that 2009 would be a year of change for Europe with many elections, including the election for the European Parliament taking place in 2009. He had said that maybe Europe would shine after that- depending on the kind of political decisions that the new leaders are able to take.

Change is in the air with major European countries UK, Germany and Norway scheduled to hold elections in 2009. And of course, the European Parliament is due for election in mid 2009- the largest trans-national election ever.

But it is not just Europe that is going to have new leaders, new policies and new alignments in the next year. The election scheduled to take place in the US later this year is being watched closely by people all over the world. If the "rest of the world" had a vote in the US elections, perhaps the outcome would be more predictable. It is clear how large tracts of Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa vote. How the US will vote in November is not. As it stands, Senator Barrack Obama's promises to bring about the change that the country needs, while Senator McCain has recast himself as a soldier, ever ready to fight in the interest of the country. However in the Republican Convention, he too felt the need to announce that "change is coming".

Change of leadership in large parts of Europe, along with the US will lead to a fundamental rethink in global policies and actions. Senator Obama has already announced the need to create a Clean Technologies Deployment Venture Capital Fund for US $ 10 billion investment over five years and an investment of US $ 150 billion over a ten year period in energy technology. This addresses the need to reduce the US dependence on oil imports. This would obviously change the US policy in the Middle East in a manner that would bring about lasting peace and stability in the region.

The Middle East itself is expected to undergo a changing of the guard. Elections are scheduled in Lebanon in 2009 that are expected to decide on Lebanon's relations with Syria, the future of Hizbullah's weapons and the fate of the Christian population.

Elections are also scheduled in Iran where President Ahmedinejad is expected to run for a second term. The main issue of the election is however, not expected to be the Iranian nuclear ambitions, that the international community is concerned about, but more domestic issues such as economic reform and inflation. Iraq too is expected to hold parliamentary elections in 2009.

In Asia, India, Japan and Indonesia are expected to go for elections in 2009. The general election outcome in India is unpredictable. Depending on the outcome, the course of the country could change fundamentally, both in terms of internal governance as well as its foreign policy and alignments. Japan too is expected to have a turbulent time ahead as for the first time, a censure motion was brought against a prime minister under Japan's post-war constitution in 2008. However, how long the new prime minister will last is uncertain in view of the fact that Japan has had 10 prime ministers in the 15 years. Japan's economic problems along with its fast aging and shrinking population are not ones that can be solved easily. The issues that will be debated in Indonesia's elections are also domestic ones such as economic growth, reduction of the unemployment and poverty rates.

So, many regions and countries across the world are scheduled to hold elections in the near future. Will these give rise to statesmen and women who will be able to change the course of the world by addressing major challenges of climate change, poverty and energy? Or will they just muddle along with their eyes on the next election further down the road? That 2009 is going to be a year of change is clear. Whether it will also be a year of hope and opportunity will have to be seen.

Ilmas Futehally is the Vice President of Strategic Foresight Group, a think tank based in Mumbai, India.

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Understanding the Language of the Changing Zeitgeist

The New Green Language by Joseph Winn

Embracing new, environmentally sustainable ideas is often confusing. New terms like "Greenhouse Gases", "Carbon Footprint", :Greenwashing", and even the "Three R's" (nope, not what you learned in school) are tossed about by a new generation of green techies but for most of us, they may as well be speaking in Latin. Before a company can truly become green, the principals must understand the dynamics, procedures, and the corresponding terminologies.

Let's start with Recycle. Sounds easy. Most of us are familiar with recycling glass bottles, plastics, and newspapers. The confusion starts with plastic coding, that little number inside the recycling logo on the product. All recyclable plastics are now coded with a numerical value between 1 and 7, representing the type of material used to produce them. However, in most parts of the country, only plastics coded 1-3 are generally being recycled. The others end up in a landfill for the next eon or so. So, instead of simply recycling, we now use the 3R's: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Carefully consider the waste before purchasing an item; try to purchase an item that can be reused at least several times; and, of course, continue to recycle what you know can be recycled.

Greenhouse gases refers to all gases in our atmosphere, but generally refers to the elevated amount of carbon dioxide (CO2 ), a major contributor to global warming. A carbon footprint is a measure of human activity on the environment in terms of greenhouse gases produced, in units of pounds of carbon dioxide. Just about everything we do, from washing our clothes to driving a car to lighting an office building, increases our impact or carbon footprint. The major environmental goal in Going Green is to become as close to carbon neutral as possible.

Greenwashing is the intentional or unintentional misleading of consumers into believing their product or service is environmentally sustainable and comparable or more effective than it's conventional counterparts. Companies must take extreme care to not overstate, and make sure to back its claims, or consumers may lose faith in green purchasing, setting back the entire movement.

These are just a few examples of the new green jargon. A more complete listing can be found at our online Green Business community portal: Learning the new green language can not only make you green savvy, but can also help you to develop a healthier and greener business environment.

Joseph Winn is the President/CEO GreenProfit Solutions, Inc., an environmental consulting and benefits firm specializing in assisting small and medium size companies in Going Green. You may contact Joseph at:

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OPINION: The Problem of Global Desertification

Global Desertification by Frank B Lee

Imagine a world of deserts...

General Information about Desertification

Desertification is the breaking down of land by erosion. It most often occurs in dry areas, where human activity or climate change (or both) has greatly impacted an area. The freshwater supply and the soil can be easily destroyed, and if the land is degraded, the drylands will be unable to renew the water and soil resources and become a desert. Because of the loss of plants and trees by human activity, erosion also destroys most of the topsoil of the dryland, disabling any vegetation, leading to famine and loss of biodiversity in the area.

What Causes Desertification?

The main causes of desertification are overgrazing of livestock, overcultivating crops, deforestation, the increasing amount of fires per year, overusing groundwater, increasing amount of salt in the soil, and climate change. Overgrazing and fires causes destruction of plants in the drylands, destroying the biodiversity of the dryland. Overcultivating and an increase of salinity can lead to the destruction of the topsoil which is important for growing crops. In vegetated areas, the land is often cooler than the rest of the dryland and prevents the dryland winds to erode the topsoil. Climate change and droughts can cause a decrease in freshwater amount, which will prevent plants to grow.

All these processes involve the overpopulation of the drylands. Where there are more humans, there will be destruction of the drylands.

What is Being Done to Stop Desertification?

To stop desertification, we must look at what causes desertification. There is no other way to remove the effect of overgrazing or overcultivating the land except by not using the land. This is not a smart way to stop desertification, as humans need the food and other resources that come from the drylands. However, to stop the erosion, there have been some tree belts, strings of trees that block wind from blowing away the topsoil in the drylands. In north-eastern China, there will be "Green Wall of China" that will be grown. It is a wall of trees that is almost as long as the Great Wall of China. For the loss of freshwater, humans should use the idea of sustainable resources so that water can be saved. Also, in some areas, leguminous plants have been used to extract the nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil to restore the fertility of the soil. Also, to combat deforestation, people have been using the heat as an advantage with solar cooking instead of using wood for fuel.

How Has Desertification Affected Us?

Desertification is like a monster, eating up the land that it passes through. It's worse than a hurricane, an earthquake, or a fire. Once it somewhere, it's really hard to get that place back, because it makes plants hard to grow there by destroying the soil and things can't live there because there is no water. Desertification is like the disease of the lands. In China, desertification is spreading very fast. China's increasingly high population rate is causing much of its land to die. The deserts and storms will cause $50 billion to China's economy (Bill Gates only has $60 billion - just a random thought). The dust storms caused by the desertification will destroy much of the country's agriculture. Is this not bad enough? Also, in the US in the 1930s, there was the Dust Bowl in the Great Plains, causing many people to abandon their homes. The people caused the Dust Bowl by not farming correctly and there was also a drought at that time. In the Sahelian kingdoms in Africa, desertification and drought caused a death of over 100,000 people. Everyday, people die because of poverty and hunger, but have you thought about what causes all this? It's the bad quality of the land and the lack of water that causes these deaths. If desertification was stopped, there would be no poverty.

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Endangered Species Red List - A Barometer of Environmental Health

2008 Endangered Species Red List Published by Philip Robinson

The IUCN Red List of Endangered Species for 2008 has just been published. The 2008 Red List is obviously a very lengthy report covering the list of endangered species, from extinct and extinct in the wild to those that fall under the classification of not enough data. A selective look of some of the results:

- 20% + of reptiles are struggling to survive

- 20% + of mammals, including marine mammals, are also threatened with extinction

- Of the nearly 50,000 species listed (fauna and flora) over 35% are threatened.

But there are a few of things that are worthwhile highlighting:

Bad news sells and shocking news sells shockingly. In the Red List this would be those species that are extinct or critically endangered and those that show a deterioration in their status. This is both good and bad news for endangered species as whole. It is good news for those that are under fire, but it is bad news for those that "appear" to be holding on. Those species that may today be classified as Least Concerned can later on become critically endangered.

A very quick and selective highlighting of the report is by looking at some of the statistics:

1. Mammal: 37 species have shown an improvement. 144 have deteriorated (17 have gone to Critically Endangered status).

2. Birds: 2 species have shown an improvement. 24 have deteriorated.

3. Reptiles: No improvements, only deterioration report. These are six reptiles, all of them have gone to critical.

4. Amphibians: One improvement while 7 have deteriorated (4 Critically).

So in this grouping we have 40 improvements, and 181 have deteriorated. Makes you wonder. Species in the world are at risk due to many factors, in fact to many human created factors. Amongst these are:

- habitat loss due to human settlement, agricultural expansion;

- hunting and poaching for skins and meat;

- depletion of food sources;

- habitat degradation coming from overgrazing;

- climate change;

- and many others.

The overall message we should take from this, apart from recognizing the efforts of the IUCN, is that all species deserve our care, and this care is really reflected by respect and looking after the environment. Although the number of improvements may look small, and perhaps they are in the overall sense, there is a tremendous amount of effort behind these results. In the long term, that is what it is all about. As long as we don't run out of time.

Philip Robinson had always suffered from an overdose of useless information based on many varied interests. It now happens that it isn't so useless. One of Philip's current projects takes place at

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Will the Crash Change Environmental Consciousness?

Is the Current Financial Crisis a Blessing For the Environment? by Axel Meierhoefer

For the last few months we have all witnessed a steady stream of negative news about the economy, about the credit markets, and about companies and families getting strained by financial woes.

The last few days focused a lot on the bailout and the rescue for Wallstreet. What has become clear for all of us is the fact that prices have increased, starting with fuel after the Katrina Hurricane a few years ago, and now affecting almost every aspect of life.

In addition, what was thought to have been a never ending increase in home values (the biggest retirement nest egg for most) has come to a screeching halt and reversed to the tune of 20-30% in many areas of the country. With the collapse of one bank after another, and huge takeovers by the government (Freddie and Fanny come to mind, as well as AIG), the remaining institutions have reacted in a way that is pretty typical whenever something goes wrong in the United States.

Initially there is a tendency to squeeze out every little possible advantage of a situation and then the pendulum swings all the way to the extreme other end. Case in point: Banks and other lenders were giving away mortgages and credit lines to people without any proven income, for significantly overpriced houses, and to top it of, they didn't ask for any down payment, any principle payment, and even substituted the remaining interest payments - all with the claim that the rising value of the property will take care of everything in 2-3 years.

If you, as a private person, have paid your mortgage the old fashioned way, every month, with interest and principle, and based on a down payment of 10-20%, you would think those banks and lenders you worked with would appreciate your good behavior and see you as a great customer.

Your house is probably still worth more than you borrowed for it, even after all the corrections. But- if you would go and ask for a new mortgage or a new line of credit right now, chances are you will not get it, regardless how well you behaved the last 5 years.

It's not that nobody likes you, but the banks and lenders have decided not to take any risk anymore. Now they want to know everything they never asked for in the past - and then some, before they would even consider giving you any money.

What does that have to do with the environment and eco-consciousness?

Well, in the last few years organizations, Nobel-prize winners (like Al Gore) and ordinary shareholders demanded that lenders and banks would pay attention to the impacts of projects on the environment and the policies of the companies they gave money to.

Have you ever asked yourself how it was possible that thousands upon thousands of houses were build during the real estate boom and almost none of them had a solar panel or a heat exchanger in sight? They were build fast and cheap, even though most real estate is going to be around for 50 years and all the required technologies were available.

While states all across the country mandated to the energy companies to produce ever increasing portions of energy with alternative means (Wind, Solar, wave-actions, etc.), the building industry received money hand over fist without any of those demands. Actually builders frequently had problems getting money if they wanted to implement these eco-systems because it would make their buildings less competitive compared to other players in the same market.

While all this has been going on, the consumers and investors (shareholders) have been demanding more environmental sensitivity by the companies they own or finance. In October 2007, discussing the value of so called Renewable Energy Credits (REC's) that companies buy when they don't really reduce their impact on nature, here is what Business Week wrote:

"Johnson & Johnson has proclaimed a 17% reduction in carbon emissions since 1990, based largely on RECs. Without the credits, the pharmaceutical giant has seen a 24% increase, J&J executives acknowledge. "Recent corporate moves by J&J and others are pushing in the right direction, but it is still window dressing compared to the problem at hand," says Hunter, the former J&J manager.

Amid the overheated claims, some corporations have made legitimate environmental gains. Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) helped spark the market for energy-saving fluorescent bulbs by giving them top billing, even though incandescent bulbs are more profitable. Office Depot overhauled lighting and energy in more than 600 stores, contributing to the company's real 10% decline in releases of heat-trapping gases. Dow Chemical (DOW) and DuPont (DD) have significantly trimmed their actual emission levels. But there is still reason to worry about long-term commitment. Dow says it invested $1 billion to help achieve reductions of 19% between 1994 and 2005. Because of technological challenges and costs, however, Dow predicts that additional cuts won't occur until 2025, 18 years from now."

So how does the current crises change all this? I think the same way the lenders and banks now ask us to show every detail of our income, our ability to pay our dues, our commitment to our obligations, and our willingness to limit our appetite for all sorts of consumer credit, they will follow demands of their shareholders and hold companies to the same standard.

When companies want to finance projects in the future, I believe it is very likely that banks will not only look at the financial risks, but also at the long term impact and the opinions and demands of consumers and shareholders.

Many studies have shown that the public at large in all its' different roles as investors, consumers, employees, parents, etc. demands more green initiatives and eco-consciousness - to the tune of 75%+.

Though things might look pretty gloomy right now, I am optimistic that one of the positive outcomes of the current financial crises might well be that banks and other lenders will not just look at the numbers, but also at the impact of a project or proposal on the environment,- not because they suddenly got smart, but because their constituents on all levels simply demand it.

That's the good thing about a painful cleansing like the one we are witnessing right now. Some unexpected benefits can come from it, and I hope we all and our children will be better of in the long run, because of it

Axel Meierhoefer is an eco-conscious performance coach, author, and the founder of Axel Meierhoefer Consulting (AMC LLC). His motto is" Helping others help themselves achieve success". If you'd like to get on his E-mail list for more articles, or like more insights, go to or email

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Green Computing

What is "Green IT" and How Can Your Business Participate? by Laura Rucker

"Green IT" or "Green Computing" has been in the news a lot lately, especially with the recent spikes in energy prices in the United States that are now comparable to other regions, such as Western Europe. When looking further into the green aspect of computing, we see there are various levels of this energy conservation.

When you hear the term "Green IT", it's logical to assume it refers to the energy efficiency of various types of IT equipment. One of the key points of this is the power consumption of the devices themselves.

For example, Ethernet switches require electricity to perform. With efficiency being the measure of power compared to the amount of work performed. When network products use more power to perform the same amount of work a person can do, they are classified as less energy efficient. Inefficiency creates increased costs for a business, which are then passed onto the customer.

Energy efficiency can be measured in at least two ways:

  • The measure of power consumed versus the cost of that power.
  • The amount of heat produced by the equipment, with a product being less energy efficient if more air conditioning is required to cool it.

Businesses can participate in the "Green IT" or "Green Computing" concept by doing the following:

  • VIRTUALIZATION: Running two or more computer systems on one set of physical hardware.
  • POWER MANAGEMENT: Automatically turning off monitors and hard drives after set periods of inactivity.
  • RECYCLING MATERIALS: Keeping harmful materials such as lead, mercury, and hexavalent chromium out of landfills.
  • TELECOMMUTING: Utilizing teleconferencing and VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technologies to reduces gas consumption and office space which require heating and lighting.

In summary, the goals of "Green IT" or "Green Computing" are to increase energy efficiency during a products lifetime, limit the use of hazardous materials and promote the recycling of defunct products.

For more information about getting the lowest price on a T1 Line, Ethernet, MPLS, VoIP or OCx Circuit, each with a Low Price Guarantee, from over 30 first-tier and top-tier carriers, from the agency that won the 2008 "Carrier of the Year" award at the National Telecom Association conference, please visit

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A Case Study in Environmentally Aware Ecotourism

Wetland Restoration and Poverty Reduction Through Ecotourism by Brandy Lellou

Long before there was a wide spread concern about the environment, the population of what is now Diawling National Park (DNP), lived as part of their environment; protecting and utilizing it and the surrounding areas which formed a lush ecosystem of dunes, estuaries, pastures, and forests, rich in plant and wildlife bio-diversity; capable of sustainably supporting thousands of inhabitants. Located in the southwest corner of Mauritania on 15,600 hectares, this wetland region became a state owned park in 1991, under the direction of Diawling National Park. The Park, is bordered on the south by the Senegal River, the west by the Atlantic Ocean, the north by the Chat Tboul Reserve and encroaching sand dunes, the northeast by Keur Massene (a popular hunting resort), and the east by unregulated homesteading and agriculture production. Only a natural barrier of sand dunes divides the fresh and salt water wetlands of the park, thus creating a unique habitat for both fresh and salt water birds. The park is a permanent year round home to almost 300,000 birds and a supports over a million migratory birds during the winter months.

From the very inception of the park in 1991, the goals included providing an economic future for the region's inhabitants. However, over the last 20 years the ecosystem of the park has been greatly damaged by large exterior infrastructural projects (dams, dikes, and water diversion activities) and compounded by interior exploitation: hunting, over fishing, and poor agriculture and water management practices. Today the park's wetlands, its wildlife, and its inhabitants, face some of the most extreme natural conditions and man made obstacles in their struggle to survive on degraded land in a deteriorating ecosystem.

However, when cooperating with an extremely poor population, whose only means of survival is a dying ecosystem, it is not realistic to insist that they do more to preserve their sensitive environment. An alternative means of income generation, which focuses on maintaining their existing lifestyle while using the ecosystem as an asset, must be developed and implemented. Previous studies of the DNP's natural resources and economic potential and evidence from experience in Senegal's adjacent Djoudj Park, indicate that Ecotourism may be the most effective way of accomplishing the goals of: wetland conservation, preservation of traditional customs, and providing a path out poverty. The very definition and concept of Ecotourism provides empowerment of indigenous populations by giving both monetary value and dignity to their traditional activities.

During the creation of the park, there was significant resistance from residents, who were aware of the situation that initially occurred in Senegal's Djoudj Park; involving forced removal of the local population and cessation of all activities. In addition, many stakeholders both within and outside the Park saw, and continue to see, economic development in terms of large infrastructure and agriculture projects; rather than in the conservation and health of the wetland ecosystem. The involvement of numerous international organization's concerned about Diawling National Park's environmental state, has left the inhabitants with suspicion about their future in the park. Although the concept of Diawling has always been very different and encourages the continuation of local activities including fishing, gathering of plants, and herding; residents fear that once the park's ecosystem has been restored, they will be forced to leave in the name of conservation.

Initializing ecotourism activities calms the fear of forced removal from the Park and ensures the population's necessity and future in the Park as an integral part of the ecotourism, conservation, and wetland preservation strategy.

The inhabitants of Diawling National Park and its surrounding areas have historically been oppressed and rather invisible in the realm of Mauritanian society. However, improved economic standing, independence, and international recognition breed empowerment and respect within politics strengthening their significance and securing land tenure rights.

The implementation of Ecotourism in the Park, and the resulting economic and environmental benefits to the community and Mauritania as a whole, will give the vulnerable inhabitants of the Park a voice and a tangible argument against continued exploitation of their most valuable resource, the Senegal River.

Experience in other regions of Mauritania indicates that tourist often leave with a deep attachment to the people they visited and become advocates for the improved economic welfare of the population.

Thus under the 'Wetlands Restoration & Poverty Reduction through Ecotourism' strategy the environment, economic development, and ecotourism are unified; they can not exist as separate entities. What impacts one, will impact the other.

This article was written by Brandy Lellou, the director of Nature's Voice Our Choice, Nature's Voice Our Choice is nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving, conserving, and restoring community water resources through public awareness, education, and the implementation of projects that use applied science and traditional methods to solve environmental problems.

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Is Capitalism Still Viable?

Renewed Questions About Capitalism and the Laissez Faire Economic Model by Kihara Kimachia

The US mortgage crisis has seriously challenged the idea of laissez faire (free market) economies. What was once regarded as the soundest and progressive economic model is now suffering a crisis of confidence. No one seems to have the answers.

The free market economic model in a nutshell dictates that a government must not interfere or be involved in any economic activity. On the other extreme end you have communist economies where government owns, controls and directs all economic activity. What is important to note is that no country is fully capitalist or communist. Most countries are mixed economies defined as capitalist or communist depending on how far they lean either way.

In the early 1990's the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) came up with a series of programs known as Structural Adjustment Programs (SAP's) designed to help third world economies spur economic growth and get out of poverty.

The main thrust of these programs was:
• Third world economies were to liberalize their economies, that is, sell state assets and corporations to the private sector. In other words, governments were asked to reduce their involvement in economic activity and become free market economies.
• Reduce public spending mainly by reducing the workforce on government payroll. Third world governments were forced to downsize their work force significantly. They were also required to reduce spending in healthcare and education by removing subsidies in these sectors. In a nutshell they were to require their populations to pay for these services.

To ensure that third world governments committed to these programs; aid, grants and loans were to tied to how successful a government was in implementing these programs. The US and Europe followed suit and tied their financial support to commitment to SAP's.

The argument then was that the free market economic model was the only route to economic prosperity. We now know better given that since 1978 China's GDP has grown an average 9.9 percent a year. China's per capita income has grown at an average annual rate of more than 8% over the last three decades, drastically reducing poverty. It is now almost unanimous amongst economists that the SAP's nearly destroyed third world economies. In fact, most countries have since abandoned them completely.

What is going on in the US and now Europe is an example of what runaway, unbridled, unregulated capitalism can do. The US $ 700 billion bailout plan recently passed by congress is a slap in the face of what used to be sound economic policy. The events in the US and Europe should serve as wake up call to all; that the best economic model is not necessarily the laissez faire 'hands off' model but rather that countries should strike a balance between the capitalist and communist models. China appears to be doing rather well. Being too far on one end clearly has its hazards.

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Economic Crisis? Don't Forget the Environment!

Economic Current Events and the Environmental Bail Out by Roger Vanderlely

The recent economic current events in the global financial markets has prompted a response that is both too late to avert the crisis and does not address the root causes of the problem, which is selfish and greedy behaviour of people who are not held accountable for their actions. This is a worrying situation in its own right, but also points to more serious concerns about the approach of governments around the world in regards to environmental issues.

The bail out of the financial institutions threatened by the economic collapse was effected quickly and the resulting small increase in market performance was virtually instantaneous, though the long term effects of this situation are still far from clear.

These decisions have been made based on the advice of expert economists that have had the trust and ear of both the financial institutions for many years, though governments have been reluctant to act unless forced to do so by dire circumstances.

What hope then do we have for the environment? Despite equally dire warnings of impending troubles with the environment, governments have either been slow to act or have avoided acting to reverse environmental degradation. Will this trend continue until it is blindingly obvious that we are in the middle of a catastrophe? If so, throwing any amount of cash at the problem will not be able to fix it. We are treating the environment as if it can be fixed with a click of the fingers, just in the nick of time as the disaster is looming.

We need to get out of this short sighted, greed centered view of our impact on the planet. We need to take a longer term view of our effects on the planet and adopt clean energy strategies on a global scale with the technology we have available now. We cannot afford to wait until we are either drowning or choking, because by then there will be no way back. If this happens it is we humans that will become extinct.

It is time for governments to do what they are supposed to do: provide for the wellbeing of their people both for now and for the future through well considered long term planning in both the financial and environmental arenas.

Roger Vanderlely

For more information on renewable energy, fossil fuels, the chemistry of solar energy and more visit my website,

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OPINION: Just how Liable for the Crash are the Bankers and Consumer Culture?

We Deserve the Economic Crisis by Jacques Sprenger

The Wall Street meltdown is simply a reflection of our culture. In spite of serious warnings in our history, for example the gasoline scare in the 70's, when the Arab nations taught us a lesson we never assimilated. The 70's were also the start of the environmental movement which quickly lost steam when energy became cheap and abundant again. We became a nation of squanderers.

Even though we knew 38 years ago that oil was not a renewable source of energy and even though we started then entertaining ideas of alternate fuels, nothing came out of it, whether due to the oil companies effective lobbying, or to the indifference of our politicians who believed in carpe diem and future generations be damned.

The economic crisis is not due to mortgage foreclosures (97% of mortgage holders are paying their debt faithfully), as our fearless leaders in Congress would have us believe, but to the greed of Wall Street brokers who invented new defective financial instruments which nobody could understand. Bill Steigerwald of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review says "Yes, the greedy, corrupt, corporate and political rats on Wall Street and in Washington are largely responsible for the meltdown..".

One example of the cozy relationship between Washington and lobbyists is Sen. Chris Dodd (Connecticut) as cited in 'Source Watch' "Dodd has received more money from Arthur Andersen than any other Democrat - $54 843.00 - and has aggressively worked to insulate Arthur Andersen and other accounting firms from liability to defrauded investors in cases like Enron." Arthur Andersen and Enron have of course disappeared as companies, but the fact that they gave heavily to Sen. Dodd's campaigns indicates clearly the quid pro quo of American politics which has landed us in the present mess. Multiply this fact by 535 (total members of Congress) and you'll better understand the urgent need to elect anybody but the present incumbents.

But lest we conveniently heap 100% of the blame on our politicians and greedy corporations, let's us not forget that we have become a nation of squanderers and indifferent voters. Less than 50% of citizens bother to participate in the elections on average, apparently content with the status quo or, ominously, convinced that their vote will not change anything.

We squander with abandon. Our garbage would make many Third World inhabitants jump with joy at the hidden riches. We have not embraced the European passion for recycling, assured that somebody else will take care of sorting out the mess. We are the main contributors to global warming due to our enormous consumption of oil, yet we look with suspicion at those who signal a future catastrophe: "Let the next generation take care of the mess."

It is time to look at our cultural soul and decry wasteful habits. Our children and their children will look upon us with disdain, asking why we did nothing when all the signs pointed to serious problems. The financial crisis was totally preventable, were it not for the corrupt bond between lobbyists and members of Congress. They should have done their job as our representatives, but the only job they are interested in is to get reelected and become rich. But then, we voted for them, didn't we?

Born in Switzerland many years ago and now living in Brownsville, Tx, where I teach special education in a local high school. I love my job and the challenges involved in making a difference for so many bright kids who struggle to overcome their disabilities.

I have followed education topics and international politics for the past 25 years and have lived in Europe and Latin America before settling in the U.S.

My e-mail:

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Suggestions on Living a 'Green Life'

Living Green is Good For the Environment and For You by Simon M Skinner

You hear a lot these days about how important it is to live a greener life... that you should lighten your carbon footprint on the earth. Sometimes it seems like we're getting lectured everywhere we turn.

But there are several ways you can live a greener life that are easy to implement. Most cities have garbage services that pick up recyclable materials in addition to your trash. It is simple to set up a separate container for cardboard, plastics and other recyclables. On trash day, your garbage service takes it away and does all the hard work of recycling all those materials.

Another easy way to live greener is to join your local Freecycle email list. Instead of throwing away items and buying new stuff all the time, use the Freecycle list. If you have an item you don't want anymore, simply list it. Chances are, someone in your community can use it and they'll come take it off your hands for free. Likewise, if you need something, post your needs and see if someone can help you score the items for free. This reduces trash in the landfills, and everyone gets what they want.

When you do things around the house, there are a lot of green products you can use that cost very little. If you replace your standard incandescent light bulbs with energy-saver bulbs, you can save a considerable amount on your energy bill, and the costs of the bulbs are very similar to the incandescent bulbs. These compact fluorescents last much longer than a traditional bulb as well as using less energy.

Out in the yard, solar lights can save energy and help illuminate dark areas. There are enough different designs on the market now at varying prices to make them affordable to most people. They don't require an electrician to install them, and with the new solar technologies, they are brighter than solar lights used to be. They even have solar powered holiday lights you can use to decorate your yard without using cords and increasing your electric bill.

Another place to go green and save money is with batteries. Today's rechargeable batteries last a long time, recharge easily, and save you money. When they finally do run out of their charging ability, rechargeable batteries are recyclable. Just drop them off at your local hardware store for recycling along with any broken fluorescent bulbs.

As you can see, it is easy to begin going green. It is not only good for the environment, it is better for you and it will save you money. Living green will soon become a habit, and before you know it, you'll be looking for more ways to be even greener. So don't be afraid to take that first step. It's easier than you think.

Simon M Skinner owns an eco friendly website offering green products and services to protect the environment. We also offer free environmental and green news and views and information to help you choose an eco friendly lifestyle.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Bartering - The Forgotten Way to Live

Barter is Useful in This Economy by Terry Lamb

Now more than ever small companies are concerned about their economic futures, and with the state of the economy in America they have good reason to worry. If small companies were to trade services and goods with other companies they could end up better equipped in these economic times. When sales are down bartering with other businesses can get you through stressful times.

It's a lot simpler to initiate a trade exchange with another enterprise if you know the boss, the salespeople or the buyers, or if you've engaged in transactions with the firm before. That makes the procedure go more smoothly and engenders an atmosphere of mutual trust as well.

It is surprisingly easy to find out if a good or service can be bartered. You can negotiate with almost any service or commodity imaginable, from accounting work to lawn service to haircuts for your dog. The only limitation on barter is that the product or service that is being offered must have some value to someone else who is willing to make a deal to get that product or service.

If you're planning to barter with someone for merchandise and/or services you will want to make certain that the transaction is equally satisfactory for both of you. Individuals who are not happy with the result of a trade will be unlikely to give you repeat business and may damage your reputation with others. You need to ensure that you both do well to safeguard future bartering possibilities.

Bartering goods and services with another business is also an excellent small business marketing opportunity. The economic climate may be hard right now, making it attractive to swap goods and services, but it will eventually turn around. That is when your sales can benefit from the marketing groundwork laid during the tough times.

Lot of companies are struggling to continue in business, during hard economic period. This should not be the outcome to your company. Among few customs to aid your business stay afloat during stiff economic times is by acquiring skills to trade with others. This could set for the distinction among a fading business and a supreme one.

Starting up a trade exchange with another company can be easier if you have done business with someone from the other company at some point in the past. The process of small business marketing is made much easier and smoother and will help build the foundation of a long lasting and trusting relationship. Deciding what goods or services are appropriate to barter is actually quite easy. Almost any product or service that can be purchased or sold can also be used for negotiation. Pest control, lawn service, accounting work, and even pet grooming are all services that are worthy of the process.

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Wetter Summers in the UK - A Sign of Global Warming?

Britain's Increasingly Wet Summers by Isla Campbell

Some attribute it to global warming; others simply blame freak weather conditions, but whatever the cause of the atrocious amount of rain which swept across the UK, the summer of 2008 will go down in history as one almighty washout.

Countless music festivals and other prestigious specialist outdoor exhibitions and events have all fallen victim to the weather leaving many organisers painfully counting the cost of abandonment and forcing some to even consider whether they can afford to stage such events in the future.

One of the 2008 summer's shock abandonments was the prestigious Ebor horse race meeting held annually during the third week of August at the Knavesmire in York. Usually a sun-scorched extravaganza, with tens of thousands of race-goers enjoying top quality racing, the entire meeting was scrapped this summer because of a waterlogged track after four times the average rainfall for the month fell on the course during August. The same week, the much-awaited 20/20 cricket international between South Africa and England at Riverside in Durham also became a victim of the atrocious weather as the playing surface flooded, much to the disappointment of many cricket fans who had bought tickets well in advance.

But, it wasn't just sport that fell victim to severe unseasonal precipitation. Other visitor events such as the Bristol Balloon Fiesta went ahead but suffered financial losses as the venue became waterlogged causing many potential visitors to abandon their plans. Furthermore, mass balloon take-offs and flights were severely curtailed as the weather was simply too bad to allow them to take to the air for most of the event, leaving organisers rueing their luck.

Over the past two years summer flooding has become a common problem across the UK, and it's not just events that have suffered as many residential and commercial properties have also flooded. Torrential downpours cannot be absorbed as the ground quickly becomes saturated leaving the water to simply run-off to the nearest lowest point, quickly swelling rivers and creating chaos for dwellers not only on flood plains but also those in localised water collection points. Most flash flooding occurs because of massive and sudden rainstorms overwhelming aged flood defences and drains that are often not equipped to deal with such powerful summer surges. That is because they are primarily designed for winter flooding which is a different condition altogether as the water levels rise more slowly and therefore are more manageable.

Indeed, it was flash flooding that created widespread chaos on Humberside and in the South West during 2007 and unfortunately there have been many instances of similar but less severe localised flooding reported during the summer of 2008.

Unfortunately, many people living in such areas are finding that a new home insurance quote now comes with a higher excess amount as well as higher premiums, due to their exposure to risk of flooding. But, with a promised £1billion government investment in new flood defences to come, perhaps their misery may be short-lived.

Isla Campbell writes for a digital marketing agency. This article has been commissioned by a client of said agency. This article is not designed to promote, but should be considered professional content.

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Geothermal Heat Pumps

Geothermal Heat Pumps - Cost Effective and Environmentally Sound by Ryan McCall

A Geothermal Heat Pump (GHP) is an apparatus that extracts heat from below the surface of earth. It works on the principle that heat flows from higher temperature substances to lower temperature substances via conduction or via convection (air currents). Geothermal Heat Pumps take in heat from the earth or water bodies to provide space and water heating. This works since the earth traps nearly half the sun's energy that is received by the earth.

Taking advantage of the earth's ability to store thermal energy, ground source heating and cooling is inexpensive and environmentally friendly while still providing lots of heat. These pump systems can either pump heat from the ground into a building, or in warmer weather, from the building back into the ground. It doesn't take much electricity to run the pumps and fans, along with a compressor.

Geothermal heat pumps (GHPs) are among the most efficient and comfortable heating and cooling technologies currently available for homes and other buildings. These ground-source heat pumps use the natural heat storage capacity of the earth or ground water to provide energy efficient heating and cooling. Most GHPs are installed with "Desuperheaters" which collect waste heat from the compressor and use it to pre-heat domestic hot water for free. This is a new money-saving technology for homes.

It can cost several times to install a geothermal heating and cooling system, compared to the traditional kind. However, those costs are recovered over the next five to ten years, in the form of saving on energy costs. The interior components of these systems can easily last twenty-five years, and the piping in the ground can last fifty years. These systems are practical in most areas, and about 50,000 new systems are put in every year. They heat in the winter, and cool in the summer.

Many newer housing systems come with desuperheaters which take out warm air from the heat pump's compressor and use it to heat your water. The only downside is that when not using your compressor it will not provide the hot water because it is not running. Some companies are also giving a system with a separate heater during times of non use because the geothermal heating systems are such a money saver and so much more efficient.

Geothermal Heat Pumps are among the most efficient and comfortable heating and cooling technologies currently available for homes and other buildings. These Geothermal Heating Systems use the natural heat storage capacity of the earth or ground water to provide energy efficient heating and cooling.

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Vertical Farming - Is it Really a Viable Alternative?

Vertical Farming - What is it and What Are the Benefits? by Kathryn Bax

Vertical Farming: What is it? This is the method of agriculture that has been proposed by Professor Dickson Despommier from Columbia University. He feels that there is a great need for inner city blocks to have their own immediate source of food where plants will be grown without soil, by means of aeroponics and hydroponics within buildings already known as "farmscrapers".

With the over-population of the world ever increasing, and water and land being a finite source, alternative options are being sought for feeding the masses, yet minimizing land use. How are we going to continue to feed and house everyone? If we need more land for housing, then farmlands and forests will shrink. And yet, one needs that farmland to feed the masses, and the forests to produce oxygen and to sustain other life forms that are all part of the ecology. So it seemed like a catch-22 situation until someone came up with the brilliant idea, or so it seems on the surface, of having city blocks of concrete and glass where you will be able to farm fish, poultry, pigs, fruit and vegetables all in a controlled environment. So what are the benefits of all of this?

Well, those who support this idea, believe that it is a far better way of producing crops and that there are more benefits than conventional farming. They claim that it is more efficient. How so? Well, all produce will be grown organically, with no pesticides and insecticides, as being in a controlled environment there are no insects and pests that can attack the plants.

Another benefit of some consideration is that the crops will be further protected from inclement weather, and therefore less crops will be lost to hurricanes, hail, drought and snap freezes, because the temperatures within these vertical farms will be set at ambient temperatures. With global weather patterns becoming more unpredictable, and with global warming being a huge problem, vertical farming sounds like a solid option.

A further benefit is seen in the fact that having farms like these within the inner cities, the carbon footprint in miles of food transportation will be reduced, because the crops and produce are already there, within easy access to those who need them. Because they are able to recycle and use black water in their irrigation systems this is a further benefit to conserving drinking water, which is becoming more and more a resource of scarcity. Considering how important water is for life in general, vertical farming seems to be the answer for a serious problem that many starving nations now face due to drought and lack of drinking water. In addition, with the plants being grown in these huge vertical greenhouses, the transpiration that will occur naturally will be harnessed and reused again for irrigation. Considering that conventional farming uses 70% of the world's drinkable water, and much of that is polluted by fertilizers and pesticides, this seems to be one of the greatest benefits.

However, those are the benefits, what are some of the negative aspects that have not been mentioned? Well, pollination is something that needs serious consideration. Insects are crucial to this process. So if this is going to be an insect-free environment, pollination will have to be done by hand, which is labour-intensive, and will this result in the produce costing more? And talking about costs, we all know that urban land is far more expensive that farm land, and the cost of creating such a concept and powering up a farmscraper for lights, controlling ambient temperatures and the like, will not be a cheap exercise. So just how much will this produce cost the consumer? It sounds as if it would cost them far more than what they could expect to pay for conventionally grown food. Controlling the environment within these buildings with regards to lighting, temperature, pollination and the arrangement of plants will all be important factors for success.

Will vertical farming ever take off? We are at least 5 - 10 years away from such a concept. We still have enough land to feed the masses in most countries around the world, and we have not reached crunch point just yet. However, I certainly think that the concept needs to be given serious consideration, especially as what is being proposed is not outlandish. With cost factors being the major drawback, once cheaper solutions can be found in the construction of these farmscrapers, traditional farming may one day be revolutionized. We may see traditional farmers working in conjunction with inner city farmers in a supporting capacity, to farm organically some of the few crops that perhaps cannot feasibly be grown in a farmscraper environment.

Kathryn Bax

A Worldwide Farmers' Market for Farm Food, Farm Accommodation, Game Farms, Wine Farms, Farming Jobs, Farm Swaps, Rural Services, Country Living and much, much more. Buy local and support your local farmers.

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Promoting Environmental Awareness in Your Business

Simple Tips to Keep Your Business 'Green-Friendly' by Michael John Quinn

As global warming and environmental awareness continues to be a much discussed topic, it is possible that we have become completely desensitized to this pressing issue and have simply written it off as 'too hard' or 'not something that we can do anything about'.

On the contrary, there are many seemingly small practices and changes that business and individuals can implement in order to 'do their bit' for the environmental situation.

From turning off the lights and your PC when they are not needed to using recycled paper, every little thing, when reproduced across the globe, can indeed have a positive effect. And in most cases not only will you be helping the environment but you will save on costs too!

Some examples of ways that you, and particularly businesses, can 'do your bit' include:

* Turn off lights when the room is not in use, this includes meeting rooms, offices, living rooms, bedrooms and kitchens.

* Turn off your computer when it is not in use, this includes overnight and can even stretch as far as turning it off when you go to lunch if you want to really be conscientious and proactive.

* Use recycled paper - this may be as small as reusing scrap/waste paper by printing drafts and documents for review on the reverse blank side, or even reverting to purchasing and utilising fully recycled paper for everything from contract and documents to business letterhead.

* Only print what you need to - do you really need a hard copy of that email, or can you store a copy electronically? There may be many other types of files that you can store electronically as well.

* Ensure that you, and your employees, not only have access to but make use of recycling bins for paper, bottles, jars, cans and any other recyclable material that your business may use.

Some businesses have become particularly proactive in the environmentally friendly arena. With technology such as video conferencing it is possible to meet with clients and do business deals without leaving your office. This not only saves travel time and costs but will reduce the impact on the environment as there is no transportation required, whether this is via taxi to the next suburb, or airplane to the next state.

As a way of ensuring that your workplace moves forward towards a 'greener' future you can possibly look to implement regular review and reporting processes. This may be through appointing a staff member to be responsible for monitoring current practices or even incorporating environmental awareness into employee evaluations, depending on what is appropriate for your situation.

Whatever steps you choose to take, the fact remains that we all need to start addressing what we can do to move towards an environmentally friendly workforce and business community.

The professionals at The Quinn Group can provide you with advice regarding every aspect of your business. Whether it is cutting costs, improving productivity or environmental awareness right through to preparing budgets, legal contracts and compliance. As a multi-disciplinary firm we are equipped to provide advice on a range of business and personal areas. If you would like further information, or you have a query that we can assist with please contact us by calling 1300 QUINNS or click here to submit and online enquiry.

The Quinn Group is an integrated, accounting, legal, and financial planning practice offering expert advice to help you achieve your business and personal goals. With more than 15 years' professional experience, we are committed to building long-lasting relationships with our clients by providing superior service in a timely and cost-effective manner. For more free advice please visit Corporate Lawyers.

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The Biodiesel Debate

Is Biodiesel Good Or Bad For the Environment? by Alan Folkard

The Biofuel Debate - What's all the fuss about?

There has been much talk of biofuels and in particular biodiesel being touted as a more carbon friendly alternative to traditional petroleum based fuel...

  • Because biodiesel is made from renewable resources (unlike fossil fuels) and it has lower emissions compared to petroleum diesel
  • Because it is less toxic than table salt and biodegrades as fast as sugar
  • Because it is made entirely from renewable resources such as soybeans, sunflowers, rapeseed and palm oil as well as waste vegetable oil (used cooking oils)

it surely follows biodiesel must be better for the environment...or is it?

Over the last few years through the Kyoto Protocol, governments have discussed the global issue of climate change with a view to setting targets to reduce greenhouse gases. Whilst there has been general agreement that something needs to be done and targets have been set, the United States is the only developed country that has not ratified the treaty and yet it is one of the significant greenhouse gas emitters.

The dilemma seems to be that biodiesel is undoubtedly greener than traditional petroleum based fuel. On the other hand however, as there is no stipulation how and where this fuel is produced, could this 'green' fuel actually be doing more harm to our environment than good?

Let's look at some of the contributing factors to this debate...

Biodiesel - The Good

As an alternative fuel, biodiesel would seem to be a very good alternative to fossil based fuels:-

  • Mitigating the effects of greenhouse gas emissions

  • Making best use of the remaining limited supplies of fossil fuels

  • Reducing air pollution along with the associated health risks to the public

  • Benefiting domestic economies by reducing the dependence on importing foreign petroleum

  • Relatively easy to produce in small or large volumes

Biodiesel - The Bad

The main problem with bio-fuels today is the source of the raw materials:-

  • Biodiesel and ethanol are produced from plant oils and from edible crops meaning competition for basic foodstuffs, food or oil?

  • Rain forests are being converted to palm oil production (palm oil is a key ingredient of food and other can also be used to produce biodiesel)

  • Current crops cannot keep pace with the bio-materials needed for producing biodiesel

Does this mean if we replace traditional petroleum based diesel with biodiesel we'll compromise our supply of foodstuffs?

Biodiesel - The Future

The Biotech Industry has begun to help with the need to find alternative fuel sources for the future by looking at how to get more from less:-

  • Increased production of more plants

  • Improving crop yields - corn, a common biofuel crop in the USA, yields under 200 barrels (per square mile per year) whereas Jatropha for instance can yield over 2,000 barrels

  • Use of marginal land - look at crops (see below) that can be grown on arid land rather than take away arable farmland needed for essential food production. Using arid land in the poorer regions could provide social and economic benefits for that region

New sources that lessen the threat of environmental impact include:-

  • Algae - grows quickly, renews quickly but to be a viable option cost effective harvesting remains a challenge

  • Jatropha - can be grown in arid climates, has a high yield compared with traditional biocrops, has the potential to increase fertility of the land

  • Camalina - Researchers say the Camelina plant is an excellent source of biofuel; it can be grown in arid land, with less water, fertilizer and pesticides

Biodiesel - Many Complex Issues

Diesel engines were in fact originally designed in the early 1900's to run on biodiesel made from oil seed crops and not to run on petroleum-based diesel. Was it a mistake not to encourage the development and take up of biodiesel back then instead of depending almost solely on petroleum?

Despite agreement in principle that biodiesel has a role to play in helping to reduce emissions unless politicians give clear guidelines about the future of renewable fuels there will continue to be a haphazard take up around the world. Most governments have been proceeding with caution and rightly so but mixed messages from governments around the world have only added to the uncertainty around the use biodiesel fuel. What should be the governments role be in promoting the use of biodiesel?

We live in a world today that has largely grown up in a throw away society without due regard to the consequences of waste. This wasteful attitude has been exacerbated by the lack of proper education in the basic skills of survival. It is only relatively recently that modern day governments have begun to encourage large scale recycling.

The challenge we face is to educate the public about the issues surrounding biofuels and what is good or bad. Honest debate not influenced by individual hidden agenda's is the only way to arrive at political choices that embrace all the issues surrounding the use of biofuel.

So, is biodiesel good or bad for the environment?

One thing is for sure, first generation biofuels once thought to be the alternative fuel source of the future, have come under increased scrutiny recently. It is becoming clear that more information is needed about the potentially destructive elements of first-generation biofuels and the impact they have on the environment.

Environmentalists are concerned that the inadvertent consequence of using biodiesel fuel is unrecoverable damage to the environment. Furthermore, developing a dependence on traditional first generation biocrops may result in food competing with fuel over the use of land. We need to determine what the true balance is between good and bad from an environmental perspective.

Clearly governments need to further embrace the concept of reducing greenhouse gas emissions but should they be more proactive in finding a green source for our fuel as well?

Instead of destroying forests maybe we should look to new more "green" raw materials for producing biofuels. We must embrace the promotion of second and third-generation biofuels in an effort to help solve many of the current problems surrounding the use of first generation biodiesel.

Alan Folkard is an avid devotee and follower of all things Biodiesel and supports the adoption of biodiesel as an alternative fuel provided a way can be found to balance the good and bad from an environmental perspective.

Learn more about what biodiesel is.

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