Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Why Is An Environmental Impact Statement Necessary?

Environmental ImpactImage by Waleed Alzuhair via FlickrBy Wendy Moyer

In 1969, as a result of the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), environmental impact statements became a requirement in the United States for any project or any action that the federal government would be involved in that could have an effect on the environment. An environmental impact statement (EIS) is even required if all that the federal government has to do is issue a license for an activity or a facility.

The primary purpose of an EIS is as a device that forces action that will insure that the goals and policies defined by the NEPA are infused into the federal government's ongoing actions and programs.

The NEPA mandates that environmental impact statements are required for all environmentally significant projects that are federally controlled. In addition to being a requirement when a license has to be issued by the government, an EIS would be required if a project receives federal funding.

Who Is Responsible for the Preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement?

The federal agency that controls the project is responsible for the preparation of an EIS. If an agency is sufficiently staffed and has the technical expertise, then it can prepare its own environmental impact statement. This typically happens when an agency is the direct designer of a project and when it will be the entity responsible for implementing the plan.

However, federal agencies such as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, those with licensing power, are required to hire environmental organizations in the private sector to prepare their environmental reports. These reports are usually submitted during the license application process.

How Can the Public Participate in the Process?

The NEPA stipulated that environmental impact statements should be made available to the public, the President, the Council on Environmental Quality, and federal, state, and local authorities. The Council on Environmental Quality guidelines imply that the agency that is responsible for the EIS is also responsible for holding public meetings if any of the proposed projects foster strong interest or debate.

These agencies also are responsible for providing information to the public about how they can participate in the EIS review process. As such, any parties that are interested can get in touch with the responsible agency in order to add their contact information to the mailing list for the apropos environmental impact statement.

Then the involved agency has to allow enough time for public comments before they publish a final environmental impact statement. It is likely that this final EIS will include both the comments as well as the agency's replies to the comments.

And to find out more about the NEPA and Environmental Organizations go to http://commonground.edrnet.com/pages/0a5d38ee2d/pages/3b8b026878

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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Corporate Sustainability and LEED Certification

U.S. Green Building CouncilImage via WikipediaBy Charles E Bush

The design of a company's corporate headquarters and offices can also have a huge influence in its overall sustainability ratings. In fact, sustainable architecture (the practice of using green construction materials and green-friendly building practices) is currently experiencing a surge of business interest, in large part because of demand from environmentally conscious consumers.

The most common assessment tool used to judge a building's green design qualities is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)certification system, a means of assessing various green factors used in building design created and monitored by the US Green Building Council (USGBC). The basic structure of LEED certification is a scale of 0-100 points, which can be earned through a number of design features, including:
  • Using recycled material in the building's construction
  • Supplying energy and power through renewable methods
  • Having exceptional standards in heating and cooling efficiency
  • Reducing environmental impact during construction
LEED tiers

There are four tiers of LEED certification, indicating increasing sustainable building practices:
  • Certified: 40 through 49 points
  • Silver: 50 through 59 points
  • Gold: 60 through 79 points
  • Platinum: 80 points and higher
Higher levels of LEED certification can be quite difficult to achieve. For example, as of 2011, there are less than 100 LEED Platinum certified buildings in the United States! However, for any business, achieving a high level LEED score can be an attractive goal and brings with it certain benefits. For example, a high LEED certification level can be a great selling point used by a corporation to woo environmentally conscious consumers and investors. In addition, incentives in the form of federal and local subsidies or tax benefits are often available for high level LEED certified buildings.

For LEED designers

For architects, contractors, and project managers who wish to achieve accreditation for expertise in LEED design, two primary tests are used to determine candidacy. These tests are created and offered by the GBCI (Green Building Certification Institute), an organization under the support of the US Green Building Council. The two accreditation tiers are:

LEED Green Associate credentials: The most basic LEED credential, this exam introduces concepts designed for a non-professional (for example, construction and contract workers) involved in sustainable building.

LEED AP (Accredited Professional) credentials: The LEED AP exam is more challenging than the Green Associate credential and contains deeper concepts of sustainable design. This exam is designed for those professionals with significant role in the design process (architects and project managers). It begins with the Green Associate exam but also includes a number of different specialty exams (including homes, building design, and neighborhood development), which can be selected by the test taker based on areas of interest or professional field.

The future

An upcoming third tier of accreditation, called the AP fellow, has been hinted at by the GBCI, though details have not been released as to this exam's expectations. Incidentally, for those who wish to take an upcoming LEED AP or Green Associate exam, a number of guides exist to help prepare for the exams and are available to buy throughout the Internet.

For more information about LEED certification, please visit http://www.corporatesustainability.net.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Charles_E_Bush
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Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Impact of Corporate Sustainability

CSRminute: Lenovo Signs Up as Charter Company ...Image by 3BL Media via FlickrBy Charles E Bush

The impact of corporate sustainability can influence many areas. How important is it for corporations to practice sustainable practices? There are three main factors to consider:

Environmental impact

Quite simply, a corporation with no sustainable practices in place can have an alarming impact on the environment. The areas which can cause the most damage include:
  • Energy usage: Heavy consumption of oil and gas and inefficient use of resources
  • Packaging and manufacturing: wasted resources and inefficient transportation
  • Pollution: Greenhouse gas, acid rain, and other toxic waste emissions
Financial impact

There is a high cost attached to environmental damage. For example, a recent United Nations report estimated that in 2008, three thousand of the world's biggest corporations were responsible for a combined $2.2 trillion of damage to the environment. As staggering as that sum is, it is even more astounding when one realizes that that number accounts for approximately one-third of that group's combined sales (estimated at $6 trillion). Such stories are in the news all the time. For example, the 2010 BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill, a year after the fact, has still had an untold impact for thousands of Americans and resulted in several hundred billion dollars of damaged property, destroyed livelihoods, and health issues.

Social impact

In addition to all of the factors mentioned above, a corporation can impact the community that supports. The health of its shareholders and employees should be a corporation's primary concern. When employees suffer because of unsafe work practices or dangerous conditions, productivity and goodwill both start to sag. In addition, heavily polluted or otherwise affected areas can cause a migration of employees and community members. For example, the BP Gulf oil spill caused many members of the affected areas to relocate as their livelihood was now unsustainable. Historically, similar cases of oil or nuclear spill sites have turned once thriving areas into ghost towns.

Added Value

However, it has been reported that increased sustainable initiatives actually lead to increased profit for companies. Recent case studies of several evolving corporate sustainability programs estimate that increased sustainable practices may increase company revenues by 38-66%, depending on the size of the business. These new revenues can come through saved energy costs, reduced personnel costs, decreased manufacturing costs, and increased productivity and consumer goodwill.


In addition, such sustainable practices increase the value of a company by giving voice to environment-conscious investors, consumers, and employees, who use their buying power to sway high level executive decisions. Companies that ignore sustainable influences risk losing money and sales, which in turn compels their shareholders to look for sustainable alternatives. However, when such values are firmly embraced by a corporation, they may be instilled as well in its employees, who then may begin to embrace greener lifestyles on their own.

Top United States sustainable companies

Corporate Knights, a Toronto-based media company and sustainability reporter, recently released their 7th annual report of the world's best sustainable corporations. The list below represents the top five US companies with the most green-friendly sustainable practices:
  • Johnson and Johnson
  • Intel Corp.
  • General Electric Co.
  • Agilent Technologies Inc.
  • Johnson Controls Inc.
To learn more about corporate sustainability, please visit http://www.corporatesustainability.net.

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Friday, May 27, 2011

The Need for Sustainable Agriculture

India - Sustainable AgricultureImage by Walmart Stores via FlickrBy Michael Lister

The green revolution was a period of extreme innovation that occurred in agriculture predominantly in the 1960's and 1970's, although commenced in the 1940's. During this period huge amounts of research and development were undertaken that increased agricultural productivity significantly, the benefits of which we continue to enjoy today. Initiatives included the development of higher yielding crop varieties, the introduction of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides as well as improving and modernising farm management.

It was these innovations that enabled more food security in the developed world than previously possible. Huge yields were achieved from relatively small areas of land, making food easy to come by in the developed world for most people. As modern farming practices developed, the need for sustainable agriculture was broadened from economic and food sustainability to environmental and social sustainability. While the level of investment in agricultural research and development has been substantially reduced since the green revolution, the knowledge within the sector has greatly increased and agricultural businesses have adjusted their practices to deliver agriculture sustainability.

Sustainable agriculture program

Today all agricultural industries including grains, horticulture, fisheries, sugar and meat are concerned with sustainable agriculture. Agriculture land is not as plentiful as it was during the green revolution and to ensure the sustainability of the industries and importantly the global food supply, sustainable agriculture practices have to be at the forefront of everything the food industry does. In Australia research and development corporations, that represent farmers, invest in research and development to improve the sustainable agricultural practices. Often this is jointly funded with the federal government.

There are also plenty of agriculture schools, primary and secondary as well as sustainable agriculture courses that equip people for careers agriculture. Agricultural jobs are a lot more varied than often thought, with fields in science, engineering, exporting, international relations and e-commerce.

Sustainable agriculture is not just a buzz phrase in countries like Australia, but rather is essential business. With limited arable land, limited water and increasing climatic variability and extreme weather events improving sustainable agricultural practices is fundamental to the future success of the industry and to the worlds food supply.

Without an increase in investment in research and development the advances of the green revolution might not be enough to ensure that people continue to enjoy food security.

Sustainable farm

A sustainable farm has to be able to produce food without depleting the natural resources required to grow more produce in the future. As practices have evolved and knowledge about sustainable farming practices have expanded farmers have become aware that they are responsible for much more than their crops and animals. Where once farmers grazed animals, today sustainable livestock farmers think about themselves as managing three living ecosystems: their animals; the grass and groundcover that animals need to eat to survive and the soils which ultimately is the most important element to manage.

Without good soil health sustainable farming can not exist. If soil health is depleted the grass or crops won't grow as well. Environmental degradation on the farm and in the surrounding areas is also a reality if soil health is not a focus of sustainable farming. Without good soil health the structure of the soil can be compromised leading to dust storms and also run off of top soil in heavy rains into waterways.

Agriculture irrigation

Some sectors of agriculture rely heavily on irrigation, such as rice and cotton. Other industries like soy, horticulture, grains and cattle grazing also use some irrigation. Modern irrigation spread widely with the green revolution as a way to produce food in areas that didn't have natural or adequate rain flow to support crops, although irrigation can be traced back to early Egyptian times.

Irrigation is somewhat of a polarising subject, particularly in areas of water scarcity. There are concerns that water is being diverted from its natural course, which has environmental impacts downstream. However others argue that without irrigation in some parts of the world that sustainable agriculture would not be possible. The debate is slowly moving towards finding a point where both objectives can be met to deliver sustainable agriculture and sustainable river and water systems downstream from where the agriculture irrigation is occurring.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Practical Actions To Reclaim A Safe Climate: Car Transportation

SmogImage by Simone Ramella via FlickrBy Harold Forbes

Road transportation is the second biggest source of energy-based carbon emission in the world and one of the easiest to make major cuts in.

Pedal bikes are cheap, efficient and virtually emissions free but they do have limited range and load carrying abilities for most people. It is reasonable to assume that the popularity of cars will continue and, while there are electric or hydrogen-powered alternative the proportion of the population that buys new cars is fairly small compared to the existing stock on the roads and only about one in 20 cars on the road are in their first year of registration.

Whether it is new or old, if you are a car owner, the key to your carbon intensity is the number of miles you travel in it. The more miles you travel, the more the total carbon dioxide emitted. Although this might seem self-evident, many people believe get don't make the connection. For example, many people think that the 'school run' must be a major source of emissions because of the noticeable decease in traffic in urban areas when the school holidays start and subsequent increase when they return. In fact, in the UK, the school run only accounts for 4% of passenger car emissions.

There are two strategies to make a quick impact on your car emissions. The first is taking a passenger. The single biggest source of transport CO2 is from those journeys of 5 to 25 miles producing 43% of car emissions, while the 7% of journeys that are over 25 miles produce a whopping 38% of car emissions.

The shorter journeys are probably mostly commuting, the single biggest source of traffic by type of journey taken. Commuting involves a high proportion of single occupancy vehicles. By definition, commuting is going from home to your place of work, so by deduction, your place of work may contain co-workers who make a similar journey to you. This is the type of behaviour change that people generally find difficult to engage with. They fiercely defend their usually imaginary, ability to leave the house and office at exactly the time of their choosing, to select the perfect temperature in the cabin of the car and to relax to their favourite radio station or CD. The reality of the trip is seldom like that, of course, so why not expand your humanity and bring a buddy? The conversation can distract from the jams.

Obviously, the arguments for lift sharing are even stronger on longer journeys and there are a number of website dedicated to matching travellers. Give them a try and you will probably end up meeting a wide variety of people: what better networking opportunity could there be? And remember, sharing you car has a multiplicative effect in cutting carbon.

The second strategy is to watch your speed.

In the UK, the majority of cars on motorways are travelling at 70mph or more regardless of the speed limit. Not so long ago, my own driving habits were consistent with the majority, but then I tried an experiment that has changed my habits completely. I had a business meeting to attend and decided I would drive there in my normal way (trying to keep up with the traffic flow or at least the guy two cars in front of me) and I would drive back limiting my speed to either the speed limit or 60mph where the 70mph speed limit applied. I used the car's trip computer to measure the results and they staggered me.

The journey was 159 miles and the outbound leg had an average speed of 51.7mph and fuel consumption of 38.1 mpg. The return leg gave an average speed of 48.6 mph and 48.6 mpg (yes, they are exactly the same number but I did double check the numbers). That is an incredible 27% increase in fuel efficiency for just a 6.5% increase in time travelled. This is a sizable figure and as more than a quarter of car miles are driven on motorways or trunk roads then easing up on the speed would, by my calculation, reduce car emissions by about 6%. Adding in the saving from doubling up on the commute would bring the total emission saving up to about 20%.

Taking action to cut our carbon emissions to reclaim a safe climate is now an urgent task. On present trends, we are on course for a warming of 4 degree Celsius by mid-century: only half a lifetime away. At that level, natural systems will begin to breakdown, making growing enough food for the human population next to impossible. That, combined with the increased frequency and violence of extreme weather events costing billions of dollars, will very likely cause civilisation as we know it to fall. Carrying on as "normal" will ensure that life become anything but: we need action now to reclaim a safe climate.

The biggest challenge is to make carbon reducing mainstream activity. Taking passengers and cutting your speed is a simple way to contribute to that.

Harold Forbes is Author of "How to be a Humankind Superhero: a manifesto for individuals to reclaim a safe climate". The book uses the myth of Hercules to provide individuals with twelve impactful action areas to fight climate change. It has been described by Jonathan Porritt, an eminent figure in the area of sustainable development as "An enjoyable read that hits the elusive balance between the analytic and the practical" and by the author Iain Banks as "a fine and heartfelt piece of work". Climate change has been described as the greatest threat facing humankind. "How to be a Humankind Superhero" empowers and inspires meaningful individual action. You can read chapter summaries at http://www.hksuperh.com or download the first chapter as a FREE PDF at http://bit.ly/freehksh.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Greenhouse Construction, A Way For Sustainable Living

EVA- Lanxmeer Greenhouse11 2009Image via WikipediaBy Judy Stevens

Greenhouses. A wonderful and loved hobby for horticulturalists and avid gardeners but now, commercial greenhouses are staking a claim to the "green building" enthusiasts. As our world becomes more sustainable, it only makes sense to build more greenhouses. Here is one more way to reduce your person carbon footprint.

Universities and Agricultural departments have built greenhouses for educational purposes but elementary and pre-schools were also building greenhouses to teach children about life, the earth, nature, as well as good eating habits and organic growing.

As our land becomes more obsolete many have sought to build greenhouses with the use of hydroponics so the soil is preserved and the vegetation grows healthier by transporting the nutrients directly to the root of the plants.

Acreage can no longer go out so we must consider going up. With a large greenhouse structure, growing up, or "eco-building" is the idea of planting in large glass towers and keeping the glass greenhouse structures growing year round and in places that would normally be unavailable. This would create crop for countries in places where land is not available, either because of climate or because of space. It would also allow growing year round and quite possibly put a stop to much of the hunger crisis.

Supplying healthy food through greenhouse structures or supplying crops that would help our oil crisis would be a complete sustainable process.

Greenhouse construction may seem costly, as does many "green" building products but the outcome far out ways the costs. Take for example your grocery bills. Per week a family may spend hundreds of dollars. This adds up for the year and with higher costs of gas and fuel, groceries will continue to skyrocket. Wouldn't it be nice to walk into your custom greenhouse, pick a few tomatoes, grab some spinach, and eat fresh organic veggies for dinner. It pays off within a year financially as well as health related advantages of eating organic foods.

The other day I was reading an article regarding the desire to create better food products by farming with organic fertilizers. This can be accomplished by attracting insects with particular plants that kill other insects that bring disease to the crop or plants. This quickly brought to mind how the generations throughout my life have always had a wave of "naturalists" that always wanted to get back to nature.

Like myself, I have wonderful intentions. Now, it is time to do something about it. I think we can definitely make good use of what we are learning about the economy, about the earth, and about "green" living by simply following what we believe in. Building greenhouses are unquestionably can provide a sustainable living.

For more ideas on growing your own food visit http://SouthernGreenhouses.com.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tiny Town Could Be Ground Zero For Clean Energy

© Guerito 2005Image via WikipediaBy Mike Nemeth

California's San Joaquin Valley is courting the renewable energy industry with all the finesse of hillbilly Lil Abner trying to entice a partner at an upscale waltz. He's got the chops, but those combat boots.

Firebaugh may prove to be the Valley's Love Potion No. 9. The tiny west-side community of 7,000 hasn't let its rural character and farm field sentiments get in its way as it seeks to attract its share of perhaps the biggest potential energy development prize of the coming decade.

So far, it's got two sectors - solar and biofuel - in the wings and is pursuing sustainability and a regional clean energy leadership with vigor and, more importantly, real finesse.

Littleton, Colo.-based SolarGenUSA has leased a 52-acre parcel from the city for a 5 megawatt solar installation. The company's web site says the project has been permitted.

In addition, there's talk of a Seattle-based company looking to contract for 40,000 to 60,000 acres so it can plant an obscure but desert-loving plant that's part of the mustard family. The crop, camelina, may be emerging as a front-runner in the effort to develop a viable source of biofuel, writes Harry Cline of Western Farm Press.
This and enterprise on the part of its leaders makes Firebaugh potential ground zero for clean energy.

And the drive for clean energy is on its way. Make no mistake. While it appears to be taking its time, the push for more diverse sources of energy - that don't add to carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere - has begun. And the San Joaquin Valley is attracting attention from solar, wind, biofuel and even geothermal.

Conventional wisdom would argue that those who establish successful operations at the outset of a trend have a strong chance of reaping profit. Kings County to the south also is flexing its sun-soaking muscles with nine solar projects on the books. And the towns of Tulare and Madera also jumped into the mix with solar arrays of their own.

Jobs in clean energy are expected. Their impact is outlined in multiple reports. Scarce now, they could break loose over the next couple of years as initial developers prove project viability. A new report offers a relatively rosy outlook, giving opponents of clean energy the argument that fossil fuels won't be considered "cheap" much longer.

"Costs of clean energy will rapidly decline because renewable energy standards, public investments, and environmental incentives will all spur new production," wrote authors Richard W. Caperton and Adam Hersh of the progressive Washington, D.C.-based think tank Center for American Progress.

Caperton is senior policy analyst on the center's energy opportunity team and Hersh is an economist on the center's economic policy team. They say in the report "Putting America Back to Work with Clean Energy" that the "crossover point" at which the two types of energy - fossil and clean - reach cost parity will be different depending on location and type, "but it is coming quickly."

Caperton and Hersh say investing in green energy will immediately create jobs, lower unemployment and improve the nation's energy system. Opponents argue that approach is simplistic and provide data that shows how costly clean energy can be.

That may be. However, other costs, including foreign policy and climate-related issues, if factored in, could create an altogether different cost-effectiveness ratio.

Separate from that is California's policy requiring utilities to get a third of their power from renewable sources by 2020. That also will drive development.

And there's the federal SunShot Initiative, announced on Feb. 4 by Energy Secretary Steven Chu. The initiative's goal is to reduce the cost of installed solar to about 6 cents per installed kilowatt, about a third of today's price.

The result? DOE says without subsidies this 6-cent statistic "will result in rapid, large-scale adoption of solar electricity across the United States."

Firebaugh intends to be first to the finish line. The city has in its corner City Manager Jose Ramirez, who said sustainability for the farming community is his goal. He has been working with me for the past year and a half to implement an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant that will pay for about $40,000 in LED street light retrofits.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act federal stimulus allocation is just an element of Ramirez's multi-pronged strategy to lower the greenhouse gas footprint of his community and improve its quality of life. Firebaugh also is working with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through its Sustainable Communities Initiative. The goal of the program is to provide equitable development, planning and development approaches for achieving shared prosperity.

Sustainability can be measured many ways. In terms of energy, the city's moving forward quickly, urging on the solar project and energy efficiency measures. But Ramirez explained that Firebaugh's got greater ambitions. The city's launched an effort to better connect with the free-flowing San Joaquin River. The community began as a ferry crossing when most traffic into the Valley traveled via a much more robust waterway.

Firebaugh also has a significant community garden and is engaged in other projects.

Many other regions of the country are also trying to corner a niche in the clean energy era, if indeed it develops into one.

I'd personally prefer it were sooner than later, just to prove to my wife that it can happen. This comment fits with the Lil Abner reference. I identified with him growing up in rural Alaska. My wife was a princess in my estimation as her father was head of Alaska oil exploration for Arco at the time. She was and still is gorgeous and knows how to act in social situations, whereas I was raised by wolves.

Still, when Lil Abner had a feeling, he was usually right.

Mike Nemeth, project manager of the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization, spent 24 years working as a newspaperman editing and reporting from Alaska to California. The SJVCEO is a nonprofit dedicated to improving quality of life through increased use of clean and alternative energy. The SJVCEO is based in Fresno, Calif. and works with cities and counties and public and private organizations to demonstrate the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the eight-county region of the San Joaquin Valley. For more information, go to http://www.sjvcleanenergy.org.

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Climate Change Can Be Solved With Adaptive Management

Systems thinking about the society                                   Image via WikipediaBy Garry Baverstock

What is adaptive management? Climate change solutions desperately need bi-partisan political will and the input from the right collaborative experts, led by highly competent project managers to deliver the outcomes and solutions to climate change problems.

Multi Disciplinary Systems Approach

The solution to climate change problems will require such an adaptive management method and a multi-disciplinary approach, just as that applied by Gene Krantz from NASA when his astronauts' lives were threatened by mishaps, during the Apollo missions - Apollo 13 being the most dramatic event of the series.
'Space ship earth' needs people who are going to apply systems thinking to a total system overview.

No Silver Bullet

If we are to advance as a society and solve the real problems facing mankind as a whole, over-simplifying the problems, seen practiced by non-technical politicians and large industry players and often supported by the media, needs to cease in the near future.

Nobody is going to win by this proliferated approach or the continual attempted implementation of 'silver bullet solutions'. There is no silver bullet. It is a complex issue and needs total systems thinking.

Rising and Unsustainable Consumption

Apart from the diabolical carbon and other greenhouse gas issue, the year 2050 represents a collision course with nature. David Baggs of EcoSpecifier, an eco-products knowledge-base website, has commented on and prepared clear charts and graphs illustrating the declining eco systems and the rising demands of humans through population growth and increasing materialism.

In addition to the scale of development and the destruction of natural habitats, the rate of consumption of materials on planet earth is now way beyond the capacity of the earth to continue supply resources to satisfy the demand. It is alarming that 60-70% of all materials consumed go to the building industry.

The quantity of materials consumed is now totally unsustainable and with the dramatic growth of China and India it does not require a PhD qualification to understand the problems and the role of the built environment in the contribution to the climate change problem.

World Population

Indigenous people (homo sapiens) basically lived in harmony with nature for 100,000 years and over-consumption never became an issue with low populations hunting which were hunting and gathering what was available. They lived within the limits of what was available and total populations never exceeded 5 million on the entire planet.

The world population was just over 3 billion when President J.F. Kennedy was assassinated and now it is nearing 7 billion. There could be growth to 9-12 billion if world population growth is not addressed. What is the workable limit to population based on ecological health of the planet? We need to know.

To fully understand the most desirable population levels in each region of the planet, a good starting point would be to clearly understand the culture and philosophical position of the world's indigenous peoples as it was before modern economies started to evolve. I believe there could be a modern-day lesson for those who think there is no other way than the current economic existence of unbridled consumption.

Making Maximum Use Of Resources

Many experts consider that there is a way of having quality without the quantity and the terrible waste prevalent in the modern world as exploded in the 20th century.

Researchers, sociologists, and economists could do well to explore this avenue and research and develop new ways inspired by our ancient pasts. New patterns of living and making maximum use of resources will contribute greatly to achieving true sustainability on planet earth. Sustainability based economics should be based on human values rather than money for power and overt destruction consumption.

The definitive book on this subject, one which examines solutions to global economic problems to the level we all need, has not been written yet. I am sure renewable energy technologies will be an integral part of the eventual workable solutions.

This is a challenge for all disciplines and for a new breed of Australian Sustainable Energy Society (AuSES) mentors to support students and young professionals working in the sustainable environment arena. It also will open the door for AuSES to be involved in more multi-disciplinary research and development and widen the net for enlisting new young members of the society.

There has been exponential growth in the consumption of energy since 1995 and there has been no attempt by any country to curtail consumption, fearing a depressed economy would follow. It is obvious the economic paradigm the world has been employing of the last 100 years has started to fail.

To paraphrase Einstein: "One cannot employ the same thinking to solve the problem that caused the problem in the first place."

About Garry Baverstock

Garry Baverstock, A.M. Leading Australian architect in passive solar design, challenges government to take the initiative in the matter of climate change. He is passionate that we need a review of governance systems in relation to energy use and power sources and a new 21st Century response. Read the full article with charts and graphs:: http://solar-e.com

Reduce your carbon footprint by following this design data manual to build a passive solar energy home: Green Building Design Guide

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Residential Solar Energy Systems Power the Witchcliffe Eco-Village

This is a cropped version of :Image:Zonnecolle...Image via WikipediaBy Garry Baverstock

Residential solar energy systems do not need to be isolated systems providing power for one individual home. They are most effective when grouped to service a complete land development or sub-division. A prime example of this can be seen in a new eco-village development at Witchcliffe, near Margaret River, Western Australia.

Sustainable Green Building Design

If most Australians were aware of what was going to happen to planet earth this century, they would be lining up to buy a house and land package in an environmentally sustainable eco-village.

Shaping such a development is not a simple task. A developer needs to be fully aware of how to design a sustainable residential subdivision and set guidelines that will work. Correct green building design must be incorporated into every unit. It is imperative that solid guidelines are attached to property developments to deliver outcomes that are a win for the residents, the community and the environment, by reducing energy and water and conserving the natural world.

For a small developer, joining forces with a major real estate development company with high ethics is a smart move for all involved. In this case it gave the smaller developer of the project the financial clout it needed to succeed. Whilst so many dream, very few successfully act and deliver.

Affordable Housing

A developer needs to start by considering the needs and best interests of the community. In Margaret River, not everyone is a retired real estate agent or doctor, or has a large bank account. They may not be rich in financial resources but they are good, down-to-earth people who greatly appreciate nature and want to help co-exist with it.

Unfortunately the huge explosion in the demand for large expensive houses by those mainly benefiting from the mining boom in Western Australia, has pushed up consumption, energy use and the sizes of houses.

With building costs skyrocketing over the last few years, many people have had the dream of owning their own home all but destroyed. This particular developer in Margaret River decided from the beginning when buying the land, to not only to do something for the environment, but to also tackle the issue of affordability.

By producing correctly designed, small blocks as part of a wider community, he has combined economies of scale and collective action, to reduce the costs of a house and land to within the reach of the average person in the region. At the same time it makes it attractive for similar people in the city to opt for an alternative style of living.

His timing is impeccable. Energy use is set to increase by 50% world-wide thus compounding the greenhouse effect. It will also produce huge increases in energy prices in the next couple of decades, as all known sources of energy are depleted. The cost-effective residential solar energy systems used provide power for a groups of homes, not just single units.

Alternative Lifestyle

What we now call an 'alternative' lifestyle may not be described this way for much longer. If the world keeps going the way it is, then we are going to need more of this style of living. The growth of energy use and the depletion of the world's energy resources will ensure that conventional lifestyles will not be afforded by anyone except the wealthy and those lacking public consciousness.

Healthy food and fresh clean water is the key to a healthy life and through cutting-edge water technology and productive landscaping, a well designed development such as this will deliver these precious commodities to all residents. Food and water bills will be kept to a minimum. This will be a great environment to bring up children and create a generation of socially and scientifically, sustainable people.

Green by Design

The developers also had the good sense to enlist an environmentalist and expert sustainable landscape designer and gardener, to ensure that the gardens and landscape are designed in detail to complement their vision for the estate.

The vision for this eco-village is to create a world leading sustainable community in Witchcliffe. The village will comprise 180 strata titled home sites with an extensive range of on-site infrastructure and services to create a world-leading example of sustainable development that achieves:

  • 100% net power generation on site with solar PV and wind turbines
  • 100% self-sufficiency in water through on-site rainwater harvesting
  • 100% production of seasonal fresh produce on-site
  • Class A recycled water for household garden and toilets
  • all homes to face expansive open space and community gardens
  • high-efficiency, solar passive homes
  • affordable house and land packages
  • on-site wind turbines to provide free charging for up to 100 electric vehicles
  • a local energy grid that employs smart grid technology
Micro Solar Economy

As a solar energy specialist deeply concerned with the problems of climate change and the contribution that our built environment makes to pollution, I am pleased with this initiative and wish the developer every success for the project.

Solar energy in the forms of passive solar, green building design of the individual houses, photovoltaic panels and solar water heating, all will form a lynch pin to make this development a truly 'micro solar' economy. When combined with the organic approaches to water collection, grey water and waste recycling and the generation of bio fuels (courtesy of the greatest energy gift - the sun), the beneficial consequences from this development will be far-reaching.

About Garry Baverstock

Garry Baverstock, A.M. Leading Australian architect in passive solar design, challenges government to take the initiative in the matter of climate change. He is passionate that we need a review of governance systems in relation to energy use and power sources and a new 21st Century response.

Further details on the eco village at Witchcliffe can be found at http://solar-e.com

Use our expertise - a low energy building design guide which architect and homeowner alike can understand, is available at: Green Building Design Guide

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Effects of Plastic Pollution

A mute swan builds a nest using plastic garbage.Image via WikipediaBy Kum Martin

While plastic is used practically in every household and industry, the production and disposal of plastic poses a great threat to the environment. Unfortunately, the materials used to make plastic take decades to degrade. In addition, the manufacturing process causes the emission of several toxic chemicals, such as ethylene oxide, benzene and xylene, which can cause several diseases and disorders among humans besides contributing to air pollution.

Invariably, when plastic outlives its use, it is either burned or thrown away. These methods of disposing plastic tend to result in air, water and soil pollution. When plastic is burned, it tends to release toxic chemicals into the atmosphere; and when it is cast away, it makes its way into water bodies and soil resulting contamination of both water and soil, which increases the rate of mortality among animals and birds.

Even when plastic is recycled, it can pose a threat to workers in the recycling plant. The workers are at a higher risk of developing respiratory disorders and skin problems. However, most plastic recycling plants ensure that workers are provided with adequate protective gear.

Some of the harmful effects of plastic pollution are highlighted below.

Generally, use of plastic is more prevalent in rural areas and hence, plastic pollution has longer lasting effects in these areas. This is primarily because rural areas do not have proper systems in place to dispose plastic. This high use of plastic, unfortunately, leads to death of animals, who unknowingly consume the poorly disposed plastic bags and bottles. Also, during rains, the plastic fallen on roads gets washed into nearby water reservoirs and storm drains. The plastic that find its way into drains tends to block the drains and this provides a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Whereas, plastic that in water reservoirs tends to slowly contaminate the water, which is supplied to homes and farms for drinking and irrigation.

As plastic decomposes slowly, it tends to release toxic chemical compounds like bisphenol A, styrene trimer and a by-product of plystyrene. Bisphenol A is known to wreak havoc with the reproductive system of animals. Once plastic finds its way into water, the slow degradation poses a great risk to marine life and aquatic birds. At times, marine animals get entangled in the dumped plastic and slowly die. When smaller pieces of plastic are consumed by marine life and other animals, they can choke and suffocate on it.

Today, realizing the harmful effects of plastic pollution, governments are taking measures to ban plastic bags. Also, measures are being taken to recycle plastic to prevent dumping and poor disposal. Many recycled plastic items that are currently available in the market biodegradable. Also, there is a ban in several places on burning plastic as the noxious fumes.

About Author:
Kum Martin is an online leading expert in global warming and environment. He also offers top quality articles like:
Herbicide Pollution Effects, Oil Spills Cleaning

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Ontario's Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Program

Computers ready for recycling at an event at O...Computers ready for recycling - Image via WikipediaBy Patrick R Boardman

Recycling waste materials like automobiles, cans, bottles, and paper has grown as a big business over the years and it is especially profitable when the materials are cost-effective to process and re-use. Automobiles and their parts are by far the most extensively recycled items: new cars are 84% recycled material by weight and the relative cost of recycling is low. The incentive is there for industry to assist with recycling activities and this has been realized in Ontario with a long-awaited campaign to recycle old computers and the whole range of electronic devices.

Ontario's Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment program (bearing the acronym WEEE), is a phased-in undertaking that launched Phase 1 in April 2009 and established a network of 167 drop-off boxes for a specific list of devices: TVs, computers, printers, fax machines, monitors, drives, keyboards, and mice. WEEE is an industry-developed plan funded by electronics manufacturers and importers. The effort comes back to them in spades since it will result in greater sales when people have a convenient way to dispose of last year's model.

An industry consortium, Electronics Product Stewardship Canada (EPSC) is working to ensure proper recycling standards and auditing to make sure that the managing of end-of-life electronics is done in an environmentally friendly way. They strengthened the Recycling Vendor Qualification Program in 2006 to increase the minimum recycling requirements and limit the amount of e-waste sent off to third-world countries.

When it becomes necessary to dispose of IT equipment the security of data is of concern to businesses. They will usually opt to have their own people scrub the disks, or have the computers recycled privately by specialist computer recycling companies under contract who will maintain security. Ontario's program will process consumer and business waste at no fee, but as EPSC President Dalton Burger explains, "Businesses have traditionally undertaken to come up with their own recycling programs. This (WEEE) is just another option for them."

In addition to estimating future tonnage of computer waste to be disposed of, Statistics Canada also studies the repercussions of having increased levels of toxins in the environment. Used laptops and desktops can be repaired and sold as refurbished computers instead of adding harmful toxins to the environment. Statscan notes that, according to Environment Canada, information technology (IT) and telecom products contain hazardous and toxic substances ranging from lead, mercury and beryllium in computer monitors to arsenic, cadmium and lead in mobile phones.

Once these heavy metals and poisons find their way into the water supply and the food chain they are ingested by animals and humans - much to the detriment of their longevity and clarity of thought. In addition to the accidental toxins we ingest, fluoride, a waste product of aluminum production was introduced deliberately into the water supply in the 1940s to accomplish several sinister objectives: the corporations stood to gain astronomical profits by creating a market for a waste chemical, and since corporations exert control over government they have an endless and predictable cash cow with pre-set orders for supplies to be added to the drinking water.

The desired political motive is to reduce the overall sharpness of the population's intelligence. The health effects of fluoride on the brain are summed up in a report by the Fluoride Action Network: "Studies in animals and human populations suggest that fluoride exposure, at levels that are experienced by a significant proportion of the population whose drinking water is fluoridated, may have adverse impacts on the developing brain. The heavy metals and toxic chemicals found in electronic waste have a similar effect in the interference with brain wave frequency and must not be allowed into the water supply.

Pat Boardman is an SEO Consultant for Computation Ltd. computer recycling Montreal and who sell Montreal refurbished laptops and Toronto used computers.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Knowledge IS Power: A Review Of The Wind and Solar Workshop In Arizon

Vestas wind turbine, Dithmarschen.Image via WikipediaBy Deidre Lin

Recently I attended the Wind and Solar Power Workshop in Arizona put on by Mike's Windmill shop where I learned many things. 5 stars is outstanding, 4 is good, 3 is so-so, 2 is poor and 1 star = never again! Read on to find out how the workshop did in terms of Information, Support and Performance.

Knowledge really IS power and how it affects us on a daily basis is readily apparent during this hands-on workshop.

3 Days Full of Information - No Fluff!

The workshop is set up to allow techies and non-techies alike to have hands-on experience building not one but 3 windmills from scratch. By the way, when I say 'by scratch' this does not mean a kit. These windmills are fabricated and built by hand - with the exception of a few small parts.

Built - Tested - Installed

During the course of the workshop taught by Mike and Joy, we built 3 different wind generators, tested them and then installed them on various heights of poles and watched the wind take over. It was quite a sight to see and knowing that you had a part in the process was a very special feeling.

Non-Techies Can Build Windmills Too!

I have always considered myself having a pretty good grasp of mechanical workings - for the most part anyway. Even so, there are always areas I have to read over and over or have a lot of hands-on practice to grasp. During the workshop every step of the planning, fabrication, building and installing the wind generator was explained. Mike is exceeding patient in his teaching methods and by the end of the workshop everyone had a general grasp of the entire process.

Project Support

Of course, with projects this involved there are bound to be questions that come up later on as you plan and build your own system. Never fear, Mike's Windmill Shop offers different levels of support & trouble shooting during phases of the whole project!

No Tools - No Problem!

Building wind generators does involve a pretty good assortment of tools - both power and traditional. While there are ways to fabricate and build the generator by hand it is assuredly very time consuming and more frustrating than if power tools are readily available. However, there are situations when people just do not have the space, time or tools but still would like to have a wind generator system. Mike's Windmill Shop has the solution to that dilemma too!

Fully Fabricated - Ready To Assemble

If you answered 'yes' to any of the above scenarios then there is a solution available in the form of fully fabricated and ready to assemble wind generators in several sizes for different applications. The wind generators come with full detailed instructions. Joy is very experienced in helping people figure out which application is best for their situation and can assist in choosing which model is most appropriate.

Ready - Set - Go?

Assuming that you have an existing house and property, it is advisable to start small. Do you have a detached 'play room', garden shed or detached garage/workshop that uses power and that you use frequently? What about a well house? If so, these are good 'starter' scenarios. Plan and build a system to run this small detached building.

Always check with local building codes in case there are some guidelines that will need to be met, including an electrician to complete the wiring part. Once the decision has been made on what building is chosen to 'learn' on then check to see if there is a workshop coming up at Mike's Windmill Shop to attend. If it's not feasible to attend a workshop there is still plenty of information on their website to read and educate oneself before proceeding.

If you are planning on building a house and are interested in adding renewable energy options into the mix, or are preparing to go completely 'off-grid'; then attending a workshop is a must in my opinion. The workshop will assist in not only the planning phase but the maintenance and troubleshooting phases down the line.

Parts Are Parts...

Maintenance is a part of daily household routines - we all are familiar with those scenarios. With a renewable energy system add in inverter and battery trouble shooting along with daily minor maintenance. During the workshop Mike and Joy give excellent trouble shooting advice, 'what-if' scenarios and tips to keep maintenance to a minimum and the system humming along. Also discussed are ways to keep power consumption down by adding some items and changing out others.

Information gets 5 stars for content, usable information and value for the money.
Support gets 5 stars for before, during and after the workshop as well as planning and implementation support and customer service.
Performance gets 5 stars for out-performing all workshops that I have attended in the last several years.

The only issue that some may feel is a drawback is the workshop location in Arizona. However, even that scored a pretty high number of stars with me. The workshop could be incorporated into a vacation that is already planned or in the works.

For more information about Renewable Energy, Earthships or reducing power consumption.

Enjoyed this resource? Deidre Lin invites you to read more about Healthy Lifestyles for mind, body and spirit in the middle of chaos at http://www.transformx.com

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What Is a Solar Tower?

Solucar PS10 is the first solar thermal power ...Image via WikipediaBy Mark W. Medley

Energy is becoming the most important resources of this decade, and our societies are growing more anxious about what form of energy, replaces our fast depleting sources of fossil fuels. One solution could be a Solar Tower.

Over half a millennium ago, Leonardo Di Vinci, worked with a feather, ink and parchment, dreaming of the future. Around 500 years later, one of his unique designs was of a "SolarTower."

The first solar tower was built in the late 17th century in Spain, and lately has become a viable alternative energy source. Already France, Israel and Spain benefit from the use of this pre-industrial revolution technology, which generates solar electricity, as well as enables crops to be grown around it.

How Does a Solar Tower Work?

A solar tower is placed on a reinforced concrete base in areas prone to high levels of sunlight. On the top of the tower, solar panels move to catch the sunlight, which is in turn used to generate electricity for the homes, and industries in the area near the tower.

Beneath the tower, the excess heat the tower loses can be sealed in plastic covers, where crops are grown such as tomatoes, and lettuces. Thus creating a dual purpose for the tower, and the community it serves.

The most famous solar electricity tower is located in Seville, in Southern Spain. And generates enough power to offer electricity to 200.000 homes in the area, at a much lower cost than traditional electricity.

The Future?

The scarcity of traditional fossil fuels, plus the current distrust of nuclear power could mean that more solar towers are built, and can offer electricity to communities around the world.

The initial cost is the only expense, aside from maintaining the tower, whilst valuable crops can be grown to generate an income for the community. A win-win sustainable situation.

Leonardo Di Vinci's dream has turned into a reality for several communities, and perhaps as technology advances, a Solar tower could become one of the many solutions to a probable future energy crisis.

Discover how to survive and thrive during a period of immense economic change

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Washington Embraces Clean Energy - Vows to Break Its Coal Addiction

Clean energy at work for earthday!Image by daveeza via FlickrBy Mike Nemeth

Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire has inked a deal to get her state off coal.

The connection has long roots and the dependency remains strong, so breaking the hold and getting the Evergreen state off the stuff will take years. About 14 when all is said and done, officials said.

That's a long time to break an addiction. But sometimes treatment programs - to be effective - must be lengthy to avoid backsliding. I can just see the state sneaking off for a smoke in the boy's room, listening to some Motley Crue.

The idea is to phase out coal generated energy at the TransAlta power plant in Centralia, near Kurt Cobain's early pre-Seattle grunge stomping grounds. The plant has two boilers. Under the agreement, Senate Bill 5769, one would close in 2020, the other in 2025.

"The result is a cleaner energy future," said Sen. Phil Rockefeller, D-Bainbridge Island, in a statement.

Rockefeller and others pointed out the reason for the long recovery period: jobs. Big deal in a down economy. TransAlta will work to shift the load to cleaner options, or not.

But the writing's on the wall. Washington follows a lead set by California. On April 11, 2011, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a measure that would require utilities to supply 33 percent of their energy from renewable sources.

Los Angeles Times reporter Patrick McGreevy quoted Brown at the signing as saying, "Its about California leading the country. It's America potentially leading the world."

Yeah, that's it. Now Washington. Can Oregon be far behind?

Actually, the Beaver State is already there. Portland, Ore.-based research firm Clean Edge did list the state No. 2 behind California on its most recent U.S. Clean Energy Leadership Index and then-Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed Senate Bill 838 into law in June 2007. It requires the state's largest utilities to generate 25 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2025.

"Today ... we are protecting our quality of life," Kulongowski said at the signing, according to a post by causetinnitus.net.

Other states are doing the same. The coal lobby likely isn't too pleased. The nation still gets about 47 percent of its energy from coal, but the amount of energy produced dropped by about 1.3 percent in January 2011, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

However, coal is cheap and it drives jobs. And as americaspower.org points out: "New coal plants built today using state-of-the-art technology offer improved environmental performance."

The site, operated by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, says coal-fueled power plants are capable of reducing up to 98 percent of sulfur dioxide emissions, 90 percent of nitrogen oxide emissions and 90 percent of mercury emissions.

So don't count it out. Growing up, we used sub-bituminous coal for heat up in Fairbanks. The Usibellis gave us cheap fuel to battle the chill when nights dropped to 50 degrees below zero (and sometimes colder). Likely, a lot of other families feel the same way about coal, which this country has more of than the Middle East has oil.

I was just talking to my in-laws, who are dedicated Fox News watchers, about how the future will likely be a mix of multiple forms of energy. I lean in the renewable direction. They made their fortune in Alaska's oil industry, so they said "obviously" oil.

But ocean acidification, higher mean temperatures, receding glaciers and snow pack and a whole host of other issues are making the argument for doing a better job with our energy use.

Mike Nemeth, project manager of the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization, spent 24 years working as a newspaperman editing and reporting from Alaska to California. The SJVCEO is a nonprofit dedicated to improving quality of life through increased use of clean and alternative energy. The SJVCEO is based in Fresno, Calif. and works with cities and counties and public and private organizations to demonstrate the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the eight-county region of the San Joaquin Valley. For more information, go to http://www.sjvcleanenergy.org.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Why Is US Policy So Pro GMO?

Ban SymbolImage by uvw916a via FlickrBy Adrian Desbarats

The topic of genetically modified (GM) foods has been raging globally now for the past two decades. In past articles we discussed the genuine concerns with GM foods. The main concern is quite simple - we do not know enough about the potential environmental and health implications involved with splicing the genes of one organism with the genes of another organism. And once you let GMOs out into the environment, there is no taking them back. They are there for good.

And in the middle of this raging debate, we have two major markets which have moved in two completely different directions with respect to GM foods. On one side, the US has led the development of GMOs and has embraced GM foods. On the other side, the European Union (EU) has rejected GM foods.

So why have these two major global markets moved in two distinctly different directions in this debate?

First, let's look at the EU stance.

GM foods became an issue in Europe when food exports from the US containing GM soya first began trickling in to the EU without labelling of any kind.

When this came to light, European consumers voiced their clear displeasure causing EU legislators to take a careful look at GM foods. The end result was new legislation enacted in 2004 which required all genetically engineered foods to be labelled as such.

This policy change brought on by consumer pressure was significant. Why? Because once GM foods had to be labelled, consumers actively avoided them. The end results was that many retailers simply stopped carrying GM foods. In fact, approximately 49 major food and drink retailers in the EU now have non-GMO policies. In other words, these food and drink retailers have made a corporate decision to not carry any GM foods in their stores. These 49 food and drink retailers have a combined market share of over 650 billion US dollars accounting for 60% of the total EU market!

As such, GM foods are effectively locked out of the highly lucrative European market. And this does not look to be changing any time soon. If anything, there is a growing trend of more EU food retailers following suit with their own non-GMO policies.

The US policy on GM foods is in stark contrast to the EU. In the US all variety of food crops are GM. As an example, 93% of all soybeans, 86% off all corn, 93% off all cotton, and 93% of all canola are GM.

Furthermore, the US does not require any labelling of GM foods. As such, consumers have no way of knowing whether the foods they eat are GM or not.

Why such a stark contrast between the EU and the US on this issue? We might get some enlightenment from research that suggests Americans tend to trust scientific authority. There is an underlying belief that if the experts say its ok, there is a tendency to trust that authority.

Providing the authority is acting in your best interest, you can assume your trust is well placed. But consider this list provided courtesy of organicconumers.org:

- Michael Taylor, former Monsanto Vice President, is now the FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods.
- Roger Beachy, former director of the Monsanto-funded Danforth Plant Science Center, is now the director of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
- Islam Siddiqui, Vice President of the Monsanto and Dupont-funded pesticide-promoting lobbying group, CropLife, is now the Agriculture Negotiator for the US Trade Representative.
- Rajiv Shah former agricultural-development director for the pro-biotech Gates Foundation (a frequent Monsanto partner), served as Obama's USDA Under-Secretary for Research Education and Economics and Chief Scientist and is now head of USAID.
- Ramona Romero, corporate counsel to DuPont, has been nominated by President Obama to serve as General Counsel for the USDA.

Given the above list, can we truly believe the US government is acting in the best interest of the people when it comes to food policy? Given the direct high level connection of many of these individuals with Monsanto and Dupont, the largest producers of GM seeds, herbicides and pesticides in the world, I hardly think so.

It is time for average Americans to take responsibility for their own education regarding GM foods. Get educated and take action.

Adrian Desbarats started Fashion & Earth to provide eco consumers with organic clothes at affordable prices. With their hassle free returns policy and, extremely popular Rewards Program you really have nothing to lose! Go ahead - check them out and experience the feeling of wearing eco friendly clothing

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

What Is "The Shift" And How Will It Affect Our Immediate World?

changeImage by busy.pochi via Flickr
By Chet Sisk

I've been hearing a lot of soothsayers and visionaries talk about the coming shift in the world where everything will change. I too, see a coming shift, but instead of reading tea leaves and tarot cards, I just pay attention to the world around me. As a journalist and educator, my job is to pay attention to the developments happening throughout humanity and help make sense of those trends for emerging leaders.

Based on my observations, a significant shift in how we view ourselves and the world is definitely on the horizon. The problem we face as a society is that we are still using 20th century ideas, philosophies and concepts in a 21st century world that demands new approaches. The shift, as I see it, is a forced update that will allow our current collective wisdom to catch up with real-time experiences in the 21st century. Allow me to share with you some of the most obvious markers of shifting that I've noticed in the world.

Internet access for everyone

I've travelled around the world and have noticed that wherever I've been (save the Kalahari Desert) everyone had some kind of connection to the internet. Whether through their smart phones or their wi-fi, we are living in an age where most of the world has access to information. For the first time in the history of humanity, the majority of people do not have to live in ignorance. As with the so-called "Arab Spring", people don't have to accept the official word of the government if they feel it is inconsistent with their experiences or wishes. They can get information and challenge those ideas. Even more, this world-wide access means another benchmark: for the first time in the history of the world, we have a demonstrative form of communicating with everyone, everywhere. This new reality will produce a shift in the way governments and organizations respond.

The Rise of the Peer-To-Peer Economy

Remember the 1950s model when all things happened through central organizations and corporations that controlled the ebb and flow of everything? Well, that's still going on, but the internet is providing an alternative that's emerging at lightning speed. As I've spoken about in the class on Social Entrepreneurship, peer-to-peer exchange is creating an environment where an organic neighborhood farmer in Boise, Idaho can now exchange seeds, information if not produce with an organic yam farmer in Uganda. This new form of economic development means that the world is now the marketplace for everyone. At this writing over 100 of these peer-to-peer exchange platforms have emerged around the world. Next year, that number will rise to critical mass. The winners in this process? Individuals and those who create platforms for this kind of exchange. The losers? Corporations and organizations that seek centralized control.

The emergence of Ubuntu philosophy

You can credit Bishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela for popularizing this indigenous African philosophical construct. Ubuntu philosophy's best explanation can be found when talking about the human body. The hand, foot and eye are individual and valuable parts of a person and must be honored for the specific gifts they bring. In addition, they all work together for the good of the one body because they are all connected. "I am because we are, we are because I am". Ubuntu philosophy is making its way into cultures around the world as a substitute for religious precepts that emphasized separateness, uniqueness and conflict with others. It can be argued that Ubuntu philosophy and spirituality is best suited in a world that finds itself connected through the internet, where belief barriers will be challenged as more people talk, trade and meet each other.

The Sustainability Movement

The biggest indicator that humanity is ready to take a new road forward is the exponential growth of the Sustainability or "Green" movement. Young people (who regularly communicate through the internet) recognize that the philosophical ideas of past generations to use and abuse resources for short term gratification has a direct impact on their immediate future. They realize that to hold onto those ideas would be participating in their own demise. Thus, a different way of looking at life and the world through the sustainability movement has become the rallying cry for young people everywhere. As with all major movements, it all begins with the youth.

All of these things are also creating a kind of consciousness where the ideas of egalitarianism and connectedness seems right and in order. It is similar to what happened in the US around 1900. At that time, a great portion of people still lived in the country and on farms. It seemed unthinkable that more people would live in cities. Just a few short years later, most Americans lived in cities, It seemed unthinkable that people would live on farms. This paradigm shift occurred without a bang or an event. The people then just embraced a new consciousness about life, as if it always was.

It appears that these four trends I've noted are converging at a speed that many did not anticipate. This is the
essence of what is now being called "The Shift". Some will try to dismiss these happenings as typical change that come along with every generation, but make no mistake ... we are talking about a fundamental altering in the way human beings relate to one another.

Chet W. Sisk is an author, educator and thought leader on Sustainable Society Leadership. He offers a free online course called "Sustainable Society Leadership" with the companion book "Think This/Not That: It's Time To Update Your Conventional Wisdom" at http://www.chetsisk.com.

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Why Is Google Investing in Solar Energy?

solar installImage by bkusler via FlickrBy Ian R Richardson

It was just a few years back that investing in solar technology or sustainable energy was considered risky and even odd. These days oil prices are reaching high levels due to global conflicts. The un-environmentally friendly nature of fossil fuels as well as the carbon emissions they produce means this may not be a clean and sustainable source of energy.

Nuclear energy continues to be viewed as an alternative choice to fossil fuels but the recent tragedy in Japan causing a melt down at the nuclear plant has put questions over the safety of this. Nuclear energy has a legacy of needing to handle the nuclear waste that frequently has to be buried for years and years, so has its own issues as a source of energy.

The search engine, Google, continues to increase its purchase of companies outside of its core brand by, investing in solar energy. The company's co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page (together with brother Carl Page) have invested in an organization called Nanosolar, which focuses primarily on thin-film solar cells. This innovative solar product might be a reason behind an investment due to the future potential.

The thin-film solar cells could be less capable in harvesting the sun's energy than traditional solar cells. There's a much greater possibility for this type of solar panel because these solar cells can be printed up on an array of different materials from sheets of plastic, that may then be transparently integrated into roofs, walls and other surfaces. Thus, more surface may be covered. Traditional solar cells are as decorative as a satellite dish.

Google have made an initial investment close to $5 million in the German solar power park. This is to develop a whole new solar facility in close proximity to Berlin, Germany. The solar energy park is around 116 acres in dimensions and will become among the largest in Germany generating around 16.65 mega watts of energy, enough to power around 5000 homes.

Google is to invest almost $170 million in a large new solar energy plant within the Mojave Desert. The type of solar planet is innovative and called BrightSource Energy. Its Ivanpah solar electric generating system uses a number of mirrors to mirror the sun's energy towards a solar tower. The electricity generated by all three plants is enough to serve greater than 140,000 homes in California through the peak hours of the day.

Committing to solar panel technology is a step out of the norm for Google. Its more major acquisitions prior to now tend to fit more with the online markets it are operating in and may include much talked about sites for example YouTube,com. Could this be among the first indications of Google flexing its corporate muscle and investing for ethical reasons or building a business empire less reliant on online technologies and advertising?

Ian R. Richardson is an expert on solar panels in Scotland and renewable energy, working at Absolute Solar and Wind.

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