Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Nepal: Measuring Resilience to Climate Change From the Community Up

Nepal climate resilience
Image: Utopia_88 / Shutterstock.com
by Susannah Fisher, Eco-business: http://www.eco-business.com/opinion/nepal-measuring-resilience-climate-change-community/

Effective monitoring and evaluation of changes in community resilience that arise from both development and climate change resilience, can help Nepal can make smart moves to protect its people, says Susannah Fisher.

The Government of Nepal is well aware of the challenges. With support from development partners, it is investing heavily in climate change adaptation.

For example, the Pilot Programme on Climate Change Resilience (part of the Climate Investment Funds) is providing US$110 million in grants and loans.

The UK Department for International Development and the European Union are supporting district and village institutions to develop and implement Local Adaptation Plans of Action to address the impacts of climate change.

The government and their partners need to understand how these multiple efforts contribute as a whole to national resilience and to changes at the community level.

But the only way to do this is by effectively monitoring and evaluating changes in community resilience to see what works and what doesn’t.

That’s easier said than done. It’s difficult to measure shifts in resilience to long-term climate change if we don’t know what people will need to be resilient to in, say, 20 years.

Another challenge is the diversity of projects and development partners working to build resilience locally across Nepal. They often measure and address climate adaptation in different ways, so it’s difficult to create an overall picture of their contribution to resilience.

Measuring community resilience

A project may achieve its goal (for example improving water supplies, or increasing biodiversity) but it may not have contributed to overall resilience to current or future climate threats. It may not have even set out to.
Climate change effects were also not separated from other developmental impacts, such as economic shocks. There is a real need for better climate information that adds analysis and context to the data collected, and the existing information needs to be better managed.
To address this gap, we have been working with communities and policymakers in Nepal to develop local indicators of resilience to climate-related threats and to identify what could be monitored at a national level.

Could the results of different projects be brought together and monitored to see changes in climate resilience? We aimed to answer this question by using a quasi-experimental approach to look at how climate resilient a community is as a result of different project interventions.

We chose communities in each project area that faced similar climate hazards and had similar socio-economic characteristics.

We looked at the key vulnerability and resilience indicators in communities that had put climate change plans in place, as well as those that had done work on community forestry and strengthening local institutions.

We asked members of each community what made them particularly vulnerable to specific climate-relevant hazards they face and what factors helped them recover.

Communities in the mid-hills district of Rukum in western Nepal, for example, are vulnerable to landslides and to changes in rainfall that could affect their agriculture.

Research on mountain-livelihoods has already identified some indicators of vulnerability - such as the steepness of slope, which affects risk of landslides - but the community helped us identify many new ones that we might not have otherwise included.

In some communities people talked about the importance of owning an ox to deal with variable rainfall. With an ox, they said, you are able to plant your crops whenever you want. If you have to hire or borrow one you must wait for it to be available, and so can’t be as flexible about planting times.

Another indicator they identified was reliance on fruit trees and vegetables, which are particularly vulnerable to changes in rainfall.

To explore changes in a community over time, we used some of these indicators for a household survey, the results of which will be available soon.

We also linked the indicators from the household survey to locally tracked data, such as information on the loss and damage caused by landslides or on agricultural productivity.

This helped us better understand how different development approaches might impact on local resilience, and how this could be tracked through existing data.

What we found

While some indicators, such as loss and damage from landslides or agricultural productivity, were proxies for aspects of resilience, they did not capture all the elements that could indicate resilience or vulnerability to climate shocks.

Climate change effects were also not separated from other developmental impacts, such as economic shocks. There is a real need for better climate information that adds analysis and context to the data collected, and the existing information needs to be better managed.

Our study also showed that Nepal’s government systems do not collect enough data to monitor changes in community resilience. Incorporating resilience indicators into the national census or household living surveys could help fill this data gap in the future.

Looking more broadly at development projects, rather than just at climate resilience projects, helped us identify general factors that helped build community resilience.

This broader approach can help Nepal adopt the right tactics and make the smartest investments in its main development planning as well as through climate change plans.

Susannah Fisher is a researcher in IIED’s climate change group (susannah.fisher@iied.org). This post originally appeared here.

Monday, February 24, 2014

New Action Plan to Save Madagascar's At-Risk Lemurs

A male blue-eyed black lemur Nora Schwitzer
by Ian Colquhoun, University of Western Ontario

Contrary to the film of DreamWorks' imagining, Madagascar is not ruled by King Julien and his colony of lemurs.

In fact the status of the lemurs on the island - the only place on earth that they exist - is a very precarious one.

To try to reverse the frightening fact that 94% of lemur species are under threat, myself and lemur experts around the world have issued a renewed action plan for their conservation.

We highlight three key ways to save lemurs: community-based conservation management, the long-term presence of researchers at field sites, and ecotourism.

While the action plan separately identifies these three areas, they do not exist independently of each other. In particular, community-based conservation management and ecotourism have the potential to work very well together.

Lemurs in danger

Madagascar’s political problems have helped make lemur species the most endangered group of mammals on the planet.

A coup d’├ętat in early 2009 left the island nation with a ruling regime that was not recognised internationally and a regime leader too young under Madagascar’s constitution to assume the presidency.

Western nations warned their nationals against all but essential travel to Madagascar and tourism to the world’s fourth largest island plummeted overnight.

There are currently 106 species of lemurs in Madagascar (new species continue to be discovered) and their natural forest habitats especially suffered from this political turmoil.

Increased banditry, illegal logging in national parks and nature reserves, and a sharp increase in the hunting of lemurs as “bush meat” has left them facing extinction.

Ecotourism potential

Ecotourism can allow rural communities in Madagascar to earn revenue for protecting lemur habitats; create economic incentives and benefits for local residents; and facilitate locally supported conservation efforts.

Also, ecotourists can be educated and gain insight into the special biological and cultural qualities of the region. Organised from the bottom up, ecotourism can be sensitive to local concerns and be a sustainable form of development.

Ecotourism is not always the answer to conservation problems. But if implemented with careful planning, and as a part of a broader conservation strategy, it can be one tool among many to address conservation issues.

Much research shows that ecotourism can be effective when part of a community-based conservation approach.

It is this broad approach that is proposed in the new conservation plan. While Madagascar is one of the world’s top biodiversity hotspots, lemurs easily represent the country’s “brand” for drawing ecotourists.

The success of Rwanda’s and Uganda’s mountain gorilla ecotourism ventures shows that ecotourists are certainly willing to pay a premium to observe rare species in their natural habitat - Madagascar can provide that in spades.

One success story that can serve as a model for promoting lemur and forest conservation at other sites across Madagascar is centred on Maromizaha Forest in the eastern part of the island. This vast forest is rich in biodiversity, including no fewer than 13 lemur species.

With good transport links to the capital and the east coast, Maromizaha is readily accessible to ecotourists who want to do a bit of hiking.

Outreach to the local community has included building a multi-purpose interpretive centre, training several villagers as guides and making English and French courses available to them.

Researchers from universities around the world have worked with local schools to develop a heightened appreciation of the unique biodiversity there. They have also suggested new agricultural techniques and methods of crop production to the community.

These new developments have been welcomed by the local people, as they have seen their quality of life improve. While just eight visitors came to visit Maromizaha Forest in 2008, by 2,011 that number had increased to 208.

The project has developed into an important source of income for the local community. If Madagascar’s political landscape can remain stable in the future, there will be opportunities for many stories like this one.

Local partnerships

To be successful, ecotourism ventures must include a significant degree of participation from local communities. This means working with individuals in the community, with local groups and existing NGOs and helping authorities enforce the boundaries of forest reserves and protected areas.

Maintaining a long-term presence of field researchers can help build relationships with local communities, as well as providing feedback on how projects are going.

By training up locals, researchers could at some point step back and let the communities themselves sustainably run ecotourist operations.

The new plan represents a coordinated conservation strategy. The plan requires engagement with local communities, ecotourism and the long term participation of field researchers.

It is actually a combination of 30 action plans, each targeting different sites of importance for lemur conservation. Notably, a huge amount of land could be conserved for a relatively small amount of international aid (US$7.6 million).

Ecotourism driven by lemurs, along with research inspired by them, would contribute significantly to that cost.

Ian Colquhoun does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.
The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Ecological Footprint Highlights Human Pressures on Biodiversity


by Science for Environment Policy

by Constantine Alexander: http://www.constantinealexander.net/2014/02/ecological-footprint-highlights-human-pressures-on-biodiversity.html 
The concept of the Ecological Footprint can be used to illustrate the balance between the use of a natural resource or an ecological service and its availability.

According to a new study, the Ecological Footprint could be valuable as an indicator to help track progress towards the goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity. 

Human activities are causing biodiversity to decline rapidly and on a global scale. 

International efforts to prevent biodiversity loss centre on the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD); however, the 2010 target to halt biodiversity loss which had been adopted by all Parties under the CBD was not met.

In 2010, five strategic goals and 20 targets - known as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets - were agreed for the period 2011-2020. They include commitments to reduce pressures on biodiversity and address the underlying causes of its decline. 

Many indicators have been suggested for monitoring progress towards these goals and a global set of biodiversity indicators has been developed under the Biodiversity Indicator Partnership (BIP), partly funded by the EU.
This study focuses on the Ecological Footprint, one of the indicators adopted to monitor progress towards Aichi Target 4, regarding the use of natural resources. The Ecological Footprint method compares the natural resources and ecological services that humans require to those available. 

It is based on two indicators: 1) the land and sea area needed to produce resources and services, including a country’s imports but not its exports (Ecological Footprint), and 2) the capacity for production of such resources and services (biocapacity). 

For example, the space required for fishing grounds, if current catch quantities were to be achieved sustainably, would be compared to the space actually available. Such indicators are measured in hectares of productive land or sea, known as global hectares (gha).
Data from 2009 published in the National Footprint Accounts, produced by the Global Footprint Network, show that at 18 billion gha, the world’s Ecological Footprint vastly exceeds its biocapacity of 12 billion gha and humanity’s overall footprint increased by a factor of 2.5 between 1961-2008. In 2010, the EU alone had a Footprint of 4.7 gha per person, twice the size of its biocapacity.
Ecological Footprints can also be calculated at the national level, revealing which countries are driving global displacement of human-induced pressures as well as where such displacement is taking place. 

Based on consumption levels in the EU, most Member States have Ecological Footprints that are greater than their biocapacities, with some exceeding their biocapacity by 150% or more. 

Through imported commodities, many European countries use resources or biocapacity from other (often lower income) nations in order to meet their demands. Italy and the UK are among the top European importers, while Canada, Argentina and Brazil are the top three biocapacity exporters.
The study’s authors argue that the main pressures on biodiversity, including habitat loss and overexploitation of species, stem from human consumption demands, such as for food and energy. 

They say that, combined with other indicators, the concept of the Ecological Footprint can be used to help track the drivers of biodiversity loss and create a comprehensive monitoring system.
Although it was decided by the CBD Conference of the Parties at its 11th meeting that the Ecological Footprint method is not ready to be used at a global scale, it is available for Parties to the CBD to use at a national level, depending on their own priorities and circumstances.
Citation: Galli, A., Wackernagel, M., Iha, K. et al. (2013). Ecological Footprint: Implications for biodiversity. Biological Conservation. DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2013.10.019
Contact: Alessandro Galli

Friday, February 21, 2014

'It's Been Hot Before': Faulty Logic Skews the Climate Debate

Scientific studies on climate helped establish...
Global Warming Predictions (Wikipedia)
by John Cook

Global warming is increasing the risk of heatwaves.

This isn’t a hypothetical abstraction that our grandchildren may experience in the distant future.

Heatwaves are currently getting hotter, they’re lasting longer and they’re happening more often. This is happening right now.

Of course, heatwaves have happened in the past, including before humans started altering the climate. But it’s faulty logic to suggest that this means they’re not increasing now, or that it’s not our fault.

Sadly, this logical fallacy pervades the debate over heatwaves, not to mention other extreme events such as droughts, bushfires, floods and storms and even climate change itself. What’s more, we’re hearing it with worrying regularity from our political leaders.

Heatwaves on the rise

First, the science. As the Climate Council has reported, hot days have doubled in Australia over the past half-century.

During the decade from 2000 to 2009, heatwaves reached levels not expected until the 2030s. The anticipated impacts from climate change are arriving more than two decades ahead of schedule.

The increase in heatwaves in Australia is part of a larger global trend. Globally, heatwaves are happening five times more often than in the absence of human-caused global warming. This means that there is an 80% chance that any monthly heat record is due to global warming.

As the figure below indicates, the risk from heatwaves is expected to increase in the near future. Assuming our greenhouse gas emissions peak around 2040, heat records will be about 12 times more likely to occur three decades from now.

Increase in the number of heat records compared to those expected in a world without global warming. Coumou, Robinson, and Rahmstorf (2013)

The impacts of heatwaves go a lot further than tennis players’ burnt bottoms. As we are now coming to realise, heatwaves kill more Australians than any other type of extreme weather.

Floods, cyclones, bushfires and lightning strikes may capture more media coverage, but heatwaves are deadlier. On top of this comes new research linking heatwaves to increased rates of suicide.

Why are heatwaves increasing?

Put simply, our planet is building up heat. Over the past few decades, our climate system has been building up heat at a rate of four Hiroshima bombs every second. As we continue to emit more heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the warming continues unabated.

“But it’s happened before!”

This is the point at which some people’s logic tends to go off the rails, distorting the science and insidiously distracting us from the risks.

The reasoning is that as heatwaves have happened throughout Australia’s history, it follows that current heatwaves must also be entirely natural. This is a myth.

This is the classic logical fallacy of non sequitur - Latin for “it does not follow”. It’s equivalent to arguing that as humans died of cancer long before cigarettes were invented, it therefore follows that smoking does not cause cancer.

The non sequitur logical fallacy

This non sequitur is routinely used by Prime Minister Tony Abbott. He invoked it to deny that human-caused global warming was influencing bushfires (a phenomenon strongly influenced by heatwaves) and floods:
"Australia has had fires and floods since the beginning of time. We’ve had much bigger floods and fires than the ones we’ve recently experienced. You can hardly say they were the result of anthropic global warming."
Like a magician’s misdirection, this false argument distracts from the fact that the risk is increasing. Fire danger has been rising across many Australian locations since the 1970s. Fire danger days are happening not just in summer but also in spring and autumn.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt has followed the Prime Minister’s lead. The fact that Hunt used Wikipedia rather than scientific experts to inform his views caused many to overlook his logically flawed argument in downplaying the increasing risk from bushfires:
“I looked up what Wikipedia says for example, just to see what the rest of the world thought, and it opens up with the fact that bushfires in Australia are frequently occurring events during the hotter months of the year. Large areas of land are ravaged every year by bushfires. That’s the Australian experience.”
This week, Abbott reportedly denied the link between climate change and drought using the same fallacy:
“If you look at the records of Australian agriculture going back 150 years, there have always been good times and bad times. There have always been tough times and lush times and farmers ought to be able to deal with the sorts of things that are expected every few years.”
This argument overlooks the relationship between climate change and drought. Global warming intensifies the water cycle, making wet areas get wetter while drying other regions such as Australia’s south and east. Drier conditions, along with increased heatwaves, also drive the increase in bushfire danger.

Abbott doesn’t restrict his fallacies to extreme weather. Several years ago, he also presented the non sequitur to a classroom of schoolchildren, arguing that past climate change casts doubt on whether humans are now causing global warming:
“OK, so the climate has changed over the eons and we know from history, at the time of Julius Caesar and Jesus of Nazareth the climate was considerably warmer than it is now. And then during what they called the Dark Ages it was colder. Then there was the medieval warm period. Climate change happens all the time and it is not man that drives those climate changes back in history. It is an open question how much the climate changes today and what role man plays.”
This flies in the face of decades of peer-reviewed research. My colleagues and I have found that among climate research stating a position on the causes of global warming, more than 97% endorse the consensus that humans are responsible.

It is greatly concerning that Australian policy is being dictated by science-distorting false logic. The science is sending us a clear message: human-caused global warming is increasing the risk of heatwaves as well as other extreme weather events such as floods, drought and bushfires.

We need to look this problem square in the face, rather than have our attention misdirected.

John Cook created and maintains the Skeptical Science website.
The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
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Thursday, February 20, 2014

MOVIE REVIEW: "Glacial Balance": Documentary on Human Effects of Climate Change

on Mountain Forum: http://www.mtnforum.org/content/glacial-balance-documentary-human-effects-climate-change

Ethan Steinman, cinematographer, prepared a few new trailers for his film Glacial Balance.

As a means of teaching the general public about climate change through the relationship of Andeans to their nearby glaciers, and the subsequent worldwide effects that will be felt.

His goal with the film was for it to be a learning tool and to spark a debate to ultimately instigate change in climate change policy.

The film is a country-by-country journey along the spine of the Andes, providing a narrative of climate change impacts on communities.

It addresses Latin American geography with regards to the effects of climate change that are being faced today, dealing with aspects of Andeans' reality as they work to mitigate the effects of climate change.

The trailers and more info on the film HERE  (Available for educational and personal use)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Wet Warning from Australia's Top End on Rising Sea Levels

The Arafura and Timor Seas, hotspots (CSIRO)
by Andrew Campbell, Charles Darwin University and Stephen Garnett, Charles Darwin University

Rising sea levels are typically written about as a “threat to future generations” - something to worry about by 2050 or 2100, not now.

But if you want to see why even relatively small increases in sea levels matter, come to Darwin.

Australia’s top end is a global hotspot for rising sea levels.

In Darwin and the World Heritage-listed floodplains of Kakadu National Park, we’re seeing how the combination of gradual sea level rise and “normal” weather events - such as storms and king tides - can have surprisingly big impacts.

Small changes adding up to big damage

Storms and heavy rain are not unusual in the Darwin wet season. But recent weather has been spectacular, as monsoonal onshore winds coincided with king tides to batter the shoreline.

Crowds gathered to see waves crashing over cliffs and jetties that usually overlook calm seas. Tragically, two people got into trouble in these rough seas, losing their lives, and a young boy drowned in a flooded stormwater drain.

Sea levels around Darwin, which abuts the warm, shallow Arafura Sea, have risen by about 17 centimetres over the past 20 years.

As the CSIRO noted in its last State of the Climate report, the rates of sea-level rise to the north and northwest of Australia have been 7 to 11 millimetres per year, which is two to three times the global average.

Along the eastern and southern coasts of Australia, rates of sea-level rise are around the global average.

Sea-level rise rates around Australia, as measured by coastal tide gauges (circles) and satellite observations (contours) from January 1993 to December 2011. CSIRO State of the Climate 2012

Seventeen centimetres may not seem much, especially with a 7 to 8 metre daily tidal range. However, raising the underlying base makes a big difference, not just to the ultimate penetration of big tides and storm surges, but also in the everyday hydrodynamic fluxes on beaches, estuaries and floodplains.

The impact of recent Darwin weather on infrastructure - both built and natural - has profound implications for coastal planning, design, management and regulation.

The recent confluence of 8-metre king tides with strong onshore winds after weeks of wet monsoonal weather was unusual, but well short of being even a Category 1 cyclone.

By Darwin standards, there has been nothing exceptional about this wet season’s wind or tides. There was heavier than average rain last month - but even that has been a long way short of the records, or even a 1-in-10 year event.

The chunk of bitumen with the white line used to be the bike path. Andrew Campbell

Yet the damage we are seeing in Darwin has been considerable. Near where we live, a significant stretch of the city’s most popular bike path (above) was washed away.

Further north, a large casuarina tree, which 10 years ago stood atop the landward side of two dunes, toppled into the surf. A blowhole emerged where waves had undercut the cliffs.

As the City of Darwin has acknowledged for years, eroding coastlines are a growing problem for Darwin.

And as global maps in a recent article in the journal Nature showed, Darwin is just one of many cities - including heavily populated centres such as New York City, Kolkata and Shanghai - at growing risk of coastal flooding, in part due to accelerating sea-level rise.

How can we manage change better?

In Darwin, like other low-lying coastal settlements, we essentially have three options: start managing our retreat from the sea; try to engineer coastal defences; or get used to much more volatile and risky life on the edge, and modify our systems, policies and behaviour accordingly.

Of course, we could simply do nothing. But we contend that is the least credible and potentially most expensive option in the long run.

The other three options of managed retreat, investment in coastal defences, and accepting greater risk are not mutually exclusive. They can be blended within a well-conceived long-term strategy.

Managed retreat is the most confronting option, which some communities are already facing. Some low-lying coastal areas simply cannot be defended cost-effectively, and even the best adaptation strategies may be inadequate.

But there are also significant opportunities to reconfigure coastal settlement in ways that minimise social disruption.

In places with valuable assets, such as parts of some cities or Kakadu, we can improve coastal defences, natural and/or engineered.

On the Tommycut Creek: this used to be a freshwater melaleuca forest, like those seen in the film Ten Canoes, but saltwater intrusion has turned it into a hypersaline swamp. Eric Valentine

After our recent storms, Darwin’s coasts were more intact in sections where mangroves, trees and shrubs protected the soil. While the shoreline did retreat, damage was less than in cleared sections.

We need to be replanting the dunes we want to keep, and retaining or restoring mangroves in estuarine and low-lying areas.

The North Australian Biodiversity Hub is working with Kakadu Traditional Owners to look at options for managing the impacts of weeds and sea level rise on the floodplains that are so important for food for local people, and more broadly for Top End fishing and tourism experiences.

A casuarina tree that used to be on the landward side of two dunes, now toppled on the beach. Andrew Campbell

In Darwin, hard protection of foreshore made some difference. But even rock-walled sections were disassembled in places, with the rocks dragged back into the sea or thrown, with astonishing force, onto the tops of cliffs.

If expensive hard protection is going to be used, it needs to be done at a scale that is engineered to last for decades and withstand extreme weather events, taking into account projected future sea levels.

The latest climate science suggests that northern Australia may have less frequent cyclones in future, but a higher proportion of extremely intense (Category 5 or worse) tropical cyclones.

Darwin residents protest against a proposed residential island between Nightcliff and East Point. Andrew Campbell

Thirdly, the construction of new residential or tourism infrastructure in exposed zones of the coastal environment is inherently risky. At the very least, coastal planning must take into account the amplified risks from continuing sea-level rise.

Prepare now, or pay later

What we are seeing now in Darwin is a taste of things to come in many coastal areas of the world if we don’t take preventative and adaptive measures.

This has major implications for residents, investors, insurers, planners and policymakers. It also promises to create fertile grounds for litigation in the future, if people approving developments are not seen to be basing their decisions on the best available information.

Recent events in Darwin underline that sea level, especially in the monsoonal north, is rising fast, and old assumptions should no longer hold.

So we need to think long-term about which bits of coastal infrastructure we want to try to keep, and for how long, while steadily moving essential services to more secure places.

And we should remember that recent storms have been mild compared to the cyclone that will likely whack Darwin again sooner or later.

The Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods undertakes research and monitoring in Darwin Harbour and other coastal areas in northern Australia and south-east Asia, funded by a wide range of NT and Commonwealth agencies and industry, including the Bushfires and Natural Hazards CRC.

Stephen Garnett receives funding from the Australian Research Council for research on Indigenous land and sea management and has received funding from the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility on climate change adaptation for birds.
The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Stand Up and Roar for Sumatran Tigers

Help save Indonesian Forests

Click here to roar for the Sumatran Tiger

by Nick Young, GREENPEACE

Did you know there are as few as 400 Sumatran tigers left in Indonesia’s forests? 

Why? Because the forests these tigers call home are being destroyed to produce the palm oil used in household brands across the world, including New Zealand.

The products you love should be extinction free and tiger friendly. 

Add your voice to the call for change - sign our Tiger Manifesto today.

Palm oil is found in a huge range of products, from breakfast cereal to shampoo, many of which you probably use everyday. Crucially though, it doesn’t have to be produced by destroying forests.

You have a right to know if the products you use are linked to tiger extinction. If you want the brands you love to step up and be extinction free, please sign the Tiger Manifesto.

We’re already making a difference. We had a major breakthrough in December when Wilmar, the world’s biggest palm oil trader, committed to a No Deforestation policy. This came following months of pressure from Greenpeace supporters. While we have to make sure Wilmar follows through with this commitment on the ground, we also need to push other companies to follow their lead.

At home, New Zealanders up and down the country are taking a stand against risky deep sea oil to protect our beautiful environment, unique wildlife and fragile global climate. 

These are the same reasons why we need to put a stop to this destructive production of palm oil. Stand up and roar for the protection of the Sumatran tiger’s last remaining space on earth.

Together we will defend these spectacular creatures by calling on the brands you love to commit to only buying forest-friendly palm oil.

Nick and the whole crew at Greenpeace.

Monday, February 17, 2014

New York Could Grow All Its Own Food: Theoretically, New York City Could Become Largely Self-Sufficient

by , Smithsonian Magazine: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/new-york-could-grown-all-its-own-food-180949748/

High atop Building no. 3 in Brooklyn's Navy Yard, a waterfront industrial park looking out on Manhattan, an organization called Brooklyn Grange built a 65,000 square foot farm.

The Grange claims it's the largest rooftop farm in the world, and, in the time-lapse video above, Christopher St. John watched it progressed through the growing season.

Rooftop farms like this one do a number of jobs: they help keep buildings cool in summer and warm in winter, they help prevent flooding, and they provide a local source of fresh food.

The big question is what role rooftop farms and other forms of urban agriculture can have in feeding cities of the future. Are urban gardens little more than fun projects, or are they a key to a sustainable city?

Brooklyn Grange has another large rooftop farm, on a roof in Long Island City, and has sold 40,000 pounds of rooftop-grown produce, says Pop Up City. This sounds like a lot.

According to a 2010 report to the Mayor's office, though, New York City runs through around 28.6 million tons of food per year, meaning that for all Brooklyn Grange is doing, it's still only producing 0.00007% of New York's food.

But, according to Michael Sorkin, an architect, writing in Aeon, New York City really could become fully self-reliant one day.

Working with a simulation of New York City as a walled garden, cut off from the rest of the agricultural system, he says, “We discovered that it is in fact technically feasible to produce 2,500 nutritious calories a day for everyone in the city.”
At one level, the required infrastructure is not entirely outlandish. It would depend on the widespread use of vertical farming, building over existing infrastructure - railways, highways, factories, etc - and the densification of some parts of the city currently built at suburban scale.
The problem, as always, is scale. Growing food on every square inch of New York is certainly possible, technically, but whether that makes sense isn't so clear. The cost of making a self-sustaining New York, says Sorkin:
... would be prodigious and many of the implications highly vexed. For example, the energy required to light, heat, and build all of this is, we’ve calculated, approximately equivalent to the output of 25 nuclear power plants, an eventuality that is, to put it mildly, somewhat at odds with our larger intentions ... New York owns a watershed upstate and a remarkable set of aqueducts to bring what it captures to the city. It makes little sense to grow most grains in the city when they are produced and transported so efficiently from the Midwest.
So will rooftop farms ever be able to fully sustain the city? Maybe. But if the goal is to bring the city into balance with the larger ecosystem, trying to disconnect the city from the global economy may not be worth the cost.
About Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.
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Sunday, February 16, 2014


Five fun ways to prepare for climate change
by Suzanne Lindgren, UTNE Reader: http://www.utne.com/invisible-ink/resilience.aspx

Sixth Great Extinction got ya down? Worried about the future of humans on our planet?

You’re not alone, and even though heartbreaking climate news is everywhere these days, there is a silver lining to it all.

A miniscule but shimmering sliver of silver.

Wait for it … knowing the bad news can help us prepare for what’s coming. I did say it was a sliver.

While there is no way of knowing the full scope of changes we’ll face, educated guesses include drought, flooding, food insecurity, severe weather, unpredictable seasons, and ecosystem collapse.

Our best line of defense for a volatile future such as this is resilience, the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change. Here are five (decidedly anti-prepper) ways to prep.

Cultivate Diversity

A purple carrot is not just interesting and beautiful. As John Navazio - breeder of the Dragon Carrot - knows, genetic diversity is the best bet for life to adapt and evolve through challenging times.

Strengthen Your Real-Life Community

The original social networks really acted as nets. Neighbors lent tools to one another, helped each other raise barns, and held one another in times of loss and grief. If your Dragon Carrots don’t grow, your neighbors might have some advice to share (and maybe even a few carrots).

When you build your cob house, it’ll be a lot easier with extra hands. Sure, the times have changed, but real-life communities are as important as ever.

Learn a Skill to Trade or Share

Many of us work in professions with little value outside the mainstream economy. If we want to thrive outside of that economy, we’ll need a variety of skill sets between us.

Luckily, a lot of these things are fun to learn and we’re naturally interested in them: basic first aid, beekeeping, brewing beer, composting-toilet installation, growing food, knitting, making herbal medicines, massage, midwifery …

Practice Sharing

Share your skill. Host a seed fair. Start a community orchard. Turns out sharing is a great way to strengthen your real-life community. How convenient.

Join the Resistance

There are so many cool ways to help slow the economic momentum that’s causing climate change, from 350.org’s international climate movement to local battles against fracking, mining, clear-cutting, and general destruction in the name of profit. As psychologist Mary Pipher knows, action is a healing tonic - for ourselves and the earth.

Photo by Kevin Dooley, altered from original under the Creative Commons license.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Why Aren’t We Talking About Income Equality?

(End) Income (in)equality
(End) Income (in)equality (Photo credit: quinn.anya)
Commentators around the world see the growing gap in incomes of the richest and poorest as a destabilizing force with the potential to cause massive political and social upheaval. 
What I don’t see, however, are impact investors talking about one of the most critical issues facing us as a global society: income inequality. 
The author of this post, Bruce Campbell has 15 years of experience as a corporate attorney, representing ventures from the smallest startups to Fortune 100 companies. Bruce brings a true depth of expertise to serve social impact funds and entrepreneurs.
Capital owners continue to see very healthy returns on their investments at the same time that wages for most workers are declining.
Impact Investors seek to address the biggest issues of our time through market based approaches. Often, they invest in projects that many would consider the responsibility of government, for example: clean water, sanitation, energy access and education.

What I don’t hear, however, are impact investors talking about one of the most critical issues facing us as a global society: income inequality.

Commentators around the world see the growing gap in incomes of the richest and poorest as a destabilizing force with the potential to cause massive political and social upheaval.

In the United States, the richest country in the world, President Obama recently declared income inequality as the “defining challenge of our time” and the number one priority for his remaining time in office.

And in a report last week from the World Economic Forum, a group of 700 global experts concluded that income disparity is the most likely risk to cause severe economic and social crisis on a global scale in the next decade.
Who will lead the effort to a fairer distribution of wealth, if not impact investors?
Is there anything that impact investors can do about the global problem of income disparities? Given that a leading cause of the global wealth gap is the dramatic growth in investment returns in recent years, it seems a question worth considering.

As one commentator put it, “It is great that this investment is occurring - without it the world’s poor would be poorer. But the distribution of benefits from that investment isn’t an act of God. It’s a decision of man - and it can be changed.”

As a starting point, I wonder if there shouldn’t be more discussion around what is an appropriate or fair return on investment.

Should an impact investor, for example, always take the maximum return offered by an investment, or should there be some consideration for whether the return is fair given how employees are compensated over the period of the investment?

Is it fair, for example, if an investment returns 20% per year over a five year period - doubling the investor’s money - but the employees of the company have negative wages measured against inflation?

Perhaps a 2x return is the market rate, but should impact investors be led by markets that are seemingly blind to principles of sustainability and fairness?
Should this be the work of governments or individual citizens?
Investors, of course, need to look at investments on a portfolio basis. I know that many impact investing pioneers believe it is important to demonstrate that impact investment portfolios can perform as well or better than traditional portfolios.

The hope is that evidence of high performance impact portfolios will encourage institutional investors to consider an impact investing strategy. I see the merit in this approach and appreciate the significance of potentially moving large volumes of money into impact investing.

On the other hand, it seems that this approach essentially means that impact investors are benchmarking against market rates.

If that is the case, who then is left to lead a conversation around whether market rates of return are fair and supportive of an inclusive global financial system? Who will lead the effort to a fairer distribution of wealth, if not impact investors?

In talking to one impact investor, he suggested that market interventions to rebalance wealth should be the work of governments, not individual citizens. But impact investors regularly step in to address issues that governments are unable or unwilling to address.

Why should it be any different with income inequality? Can we really expect governments, like the deadlocked one we have here in the U.S., to lead us into a different way of thinking about our relationship to money and how profits should be shared between capital and those that produce the world’s goods and services?

Of course, this leads us to the question of how to determine what is the appropriate return on a particular investment. I don’t have the full answer, but it seems we need to be willing to think less - or perhaps not all - about how much money could be made if the same money were invested somewhere else.

It becomes critical, I think, to consider how employees of the company are compensated relative to investor gain. And another possible factor is how much of a return a particular investor needs based on the investor’s financial circumstances.

In the public company context, structural change will be more difficult as it will require large groups of diverse shareholders to assert pressure on boards and management teams.

In private equity, however, we could start to experiment immediately with new investment and profit sharing models. Here’s one possible model for how profits could be shared that I thought of while writing this blog:
  • First, the company pays investors an agreed upon amount to cover the investors’ direct expenses associated with making the investment (e.g. diligence and legal fees);
  • Second, the company pays investors a minimum rate of return that is adjusted for probability of repayment as measured against a baseline rate (e.g. inflation) but NOT benchmarked against the perceived return that could be expected in the same asset class but from a different investment; and
  • Third, any remaining profits, including from an “exit” of the investment, are shared in an agreed upon proportion between the investors and the employees - let’s say 50% each.
Profits could be realized by investors either through a debt or debt-like structure, payment of dividends or by the repurchase of investor equity.

For employees, profits could be shared in a variety of forms, such as direct bonus payments by the company and/ or funding an employee equity ownership plan. If an employee equity plan offered ownership of the same class of equity as investors, employees would enjoy the same tax-advantaged rates as investors on any future repurchases or secondary sales.

I haven’t thought through all of the details of the above model, and it assumes that employees of the company are not fairly compensated relative to investor profits - which, of course, will not always be the case.

This blog and the above model are meant to spark a conversation more than to answer all the questions.

And it reflects my belief that in a world in which the 85 richest people in the world own the same amount of wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion, we as individual investors and business people have a responsibility to think critically about how we share the economic benefits of our activities.
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Thursday, February 13, 2014

How Global Forest-Destroyers are Turning Over a New Leaf

Clearing of Sumatran rainforest (W Laurance)
by Bill Laurance, James Cook University

Indonesia is the world’s biggest destroyer of forests and four multinational corporations - APP, APRIL, Wilmar and Golden Agri Resources - have been responsible for much of it.

Until recently these mega-corporations were considered environmental pariahs, but suddenly things seem to be changing, with all four proclaiming “no deforestation” policies.

What gives?

A corporate revolution?

APP and APRIL are giant paper-pulp corporations. Collectively, they’ve cleared several million hectares of native Indonesian rainforest and other lands to grow fast-growing pulpwoods, turning the original rainforest into pulp in the process.

Wilmar and Golden Agri Resources are the world’s two biggest producers of palm oil - a key driver of forest destruction across the tropics, especially in southeast Asia.

Golden Agri Resources led the way, announcing a no-deforestation policy in 2011. Under growing pressure, its sister company APP (Asia Pulp & Paper) followed suit early last year.

APP’s metamorphosis was especially stunning. For years, APP had thumbed its nose at critics while bulldozing ever more forest.

This was easy for it to do because APP is largely a privately held corporation and because countries such as China and India - which generally don’t fuss too much about the environment - snapped up much of its pulp and paper products.

But gradually, the tide turned against APP. Its critics mounted, its reputation turned increasingly toxic, and it began to lose more and more market share. By this point, it had cleared vast expanses of native forest for plantations, and so had less need for more forest clearing.

Market pressure to change

So APP announced a radical change: a moratorium on forest clearing until all its lands could be systematically assessed, and then no further clearing of native rainforest or carbon-rich peatlands.

In addition, it pledged to introduce safeguards for the rights of local and indigenous communities and to be far more transparent.

Initially, plenty of observers - myself included - were skeptical of APP. But, so far APP seems to be passing muster. Its efforts are not perfect, but forest clearing has fallen sharply and it is unquestionably being more open and forthcoming.

Asia Pulp & Paper now has a ‘zero deforestation’ policy.

Oil-palm giant Wilmar saw the light next. Its no-deforestation policy was announced just in December last year, so it’s too early to say much yet.

It claims it will immediately halt clearing of all forests and peatlands, and will not buy palm oil from anyone who does. Wilmar’s global holdings are so vast that it will take time to implement its new policy and assess its benefits.

Last off the cab rank was APRIL, or Asia Pacific Resources International Limited. APRIL’s policy was announced just a fortnight ago, on January 28, in what is widely being seen as an attempt to steal the thunder from APP, its longtime competitor, in the week before the one-year anniversary of APP’s original no-deforestation pledge.

What are we to think about APRIL? On the one hand, APRIL has sought to go one better than APP by promising significant ecological restoration, initially to 20,000 hectares of native peatland in a key area of Sumatra, in addition to its other promises.

On the other hand, a close reading of its policies reveals that APRIL will still fell some native forests through 2014. Beyond this, it can continue to process rainforest trees and pulp from other suppliers until 2019.

In six years, a lot of forest can fall before the bulldozers and chainsaws. And to make things worse, APRIL’s new sustainability commitments won’t be applied to other pulp-producing companies ultimately owned by the same family business.

For these reasons, APRIL’s new policy clearly falls behind those of the other three big corporations.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development, a global group of 200 major companies committed to sustainable practices, has placed APRIL on probation because of its deforestation practices.

Having seen the fine print, WWF, which initially supported APRIL’s new policy, now seems to be rapidly backpedalling.

What’s the good news?

Despite those significant reservations about APRIL, all of these new policies still seem like a dramatic about-face for some of the world’s biggest forest-felling corporations.

Even if we’re dubious about their motives, their initiatives could represent an important wave of corporate realpolitik in our increasingly eco-conscious world. As such, they might become models for other natural resource-exploiting companies and business sectors internationally.

Beyond this, the four corporations have large land interests globally, so one can’t ignore the potential upside of their new policies alone.

Yet few doubt that there is still much to be done. APRIL, in particular, must raise its game. Too much evidence suggests its current approach is intended to muddy the waters and make its longstanding competitor APP seem less progressive.

And in the interests of full disclosure, I need to point out one of my PhD students attempted three years ago to conduct research with APRIL.

I toured their wood-pulp operations in central Sumatra, Indonesia, and later criticised their deforestation policies on ABC TV’s Foreign Correspondent program.

APRIL demanded that I cease criticising them and sign a strict confidentiality agreement. I refused, and in response they effectively tossed out my PhD student, right in the midst of her doctoral research.

As a result I hold little affection for APRIL. But I’d like to think I’m open-minded enough to give them credit if they make a genuine effort to turn over a new leaf.

At the end of the day, one has to see the actions of these mega-corporations in a hopeful light. Indonesia’s rainforests are among the biologically richest on Earth and sustain myriad endangered species, including orangutans and tigers.

Thanks to public pressure, changing ledger sheets and the shifting attitudes of some corporate bigwigs, things finally appear to be improving.

If we can sustain and build on these changes, those tigers, orangutans and countless species will have a better shot at long-term survival than they did before.

Bill Laurance receives funding from the Australian Research Council and other scientific and philanthropic organisations. 

In addition to his appointment as Distinguished Research Professor and Australian Laureate at James Cook University, he also holds the Prince Bernhard Chair in International Nature Conservation at Utrecht University, Netherlands. This chair is co-funded by Utrecht University and WWF-Netherlands.
The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Building Thriving, Resilient Communities Guide

by Resilience.org: http://www.resilience.org/resource-detail/2079531-building-thriving-resilient-communities-guide

This collection of books, online resources, trainings and courses was assembled by members and allies of theThriving Resilient Communities Collaboratory (TRCC), who share a vision of a world that is sustainable, just, compassionate, and healthy.


Building Thriving, Resilient Communities explores many exciting resilient systems being created in communities across the nation (and planet) that demonstrate how we can live more sustainably, and in community, while respecting Nature’s limits.

More than just inspiring stories, this collection contains tools - practical, tested, hands-on ways you can begin making your community more resilient.

And best of all, most of these steps - collaborating with neighbors, supporting local farmers and tradespeople, reducing dependence on globalized trade - are the right thing to do … even if we weren’t facing unprecedented challenges!


Monday, February 10, 2014

High Rents Aren't Hip: The Contradictions of the 'Creative City'

Melbourne (Photo credit: Paul D'Ambra - Australia)
by Kate Shaw, University of Melbourne

Recent reports have confirmed what many already know: the cost of housing in Australian cities is among the highest in the world.

The growth rate in Australian property prices over the last 15 years is the biggest sustained increase recorded anywhere.

Australia also has the highest debt-to-income ratio - encouraged by generous tax incentives to the middle and upwards classes to invest in property - meaning that as more households commit more of their incomes to mortgage repayments, so prices continue to rise.

High prices push out the arts

Sydney is most expensive, with a median dwelling price of A$660,000, followed by Melbourne with a median of A$553,000.

That these two cities lead the field is not surprising: Sydney is Australia’s financial capital, and Melbourne is commonly positioned as the nation’s most liveable and cultural capital.

Melbourne’s arts and live music scenes are indeed internationally renowned, and Sydney is now trying to revive its long-gone music scene, having taken guidance from Melbourne researchers on the development of a Live Music Action Plan.

Melbourne is not quite the exemplar it could be, however, and is already falling victim to its own success.

In recognition of this, the Victorian state government has established a live music roundtable; and the inner-city councils of Yarra, Port Phillip and Melbourne have set up their own live music taskforces.

Each is attempting to respond to the effects of the increasing property prices and residential population on local arts and cultural activities.

My research team has tracked the location of Melbourne’s arts and music scenes over the past 20 years.

The two maps below show the location of independent and community-based (ie. non-commercial) cinema, visual arts, performance and live music (for elaboration on these definitions see our recent paper here) in 1991 and 2011.

The pattern they show is the pattern of gentrifying cities all over the world: low-yielding land uses get pushed into areas where land values are lower, as high-end residential and office buildings - the “highest and best” uses in most market economies - proliferate. 
Figure 1

Figure 2
The displacement of the venues that host these activities from the wealthier south-eastern suburbs is expected. Interestingly, they are not fleeing to the city fringe where prices are much lower, but clustering where they can in the inner-city or heading north.

The two intense clusters on the 2011 Melbourne map are in the CBD and Collingwood/Fitzroy, and the northward trajectories are in Brunswick/Coburg and Northcote/Preston.

It is these areas that have the greatest diversity in property prices in inner-Melbourne - some of the most expensive, to be sure, but also some of the cheapest and, importantly, smallest spaces available in the inner-city.

The fact that these venues are not (yet) relocating to the outskirts is due partly to the need for centrality and good public transport for their audiences, and partly to the residential populations in these areas that largely support the presence of sometimes loud and messy activities.

The arts and live music scenes in Melbourne in 2011 (and now) are still strong and the number of small venues is increasing, but they are also increasingly precarious.

At their core are the independent artists and musicians whose relative freedom to experiment - and to continue to feed more commercial or mainstream culture - has been sustained by low rents and the capacity to live relatively cheaply.

A 2010 report by the Australia Council for the Arts shows that the financial position of practicing artists over the last 20 years has worsened.

Titled Do you really expect to get paid?, the report shows that very few artists in Australia earn high incomes and most earn very low incomes. Most earn from their chosen profession less than A$10,000 a year.

The pressures of gentrification

Gentrification is placing all sorts of pressures on arts and cultural venues, and on the people who work and play in, and live around and support them.

Those inner south and eastern areas on the 2011 map of Melbourne that are being emptied of their arts and music scenes, and areas such as Docklands that never had (recognised) cultural activity and still don’t, were subject to urban regeneration strategies - those market or state-led economic development strategies so often inspired by notions of the “creative city”.

Intended to decrease vacancy rates and increase land values, these strategies bring revenue to local governments and capital gains to landowners, essentially by displacing lower than best economic uses - including low-cost housing and low- and non-profit cultural uses.

While lifestyle and property media features gush over the “hipness” of the latest district discovery, the scene tries to hang on or moves on. The doubling and tripling of rents is not “hip”, it’s a problem.

The “creative city” is a contradiction other cities have been grappling with for years. Local governments in San Francisco, New York, Portland, Amsterdam, Berlin and Hamburg, among others, unable or unwilling to curb gentrification, are at least ensuring that some of the financial returns are invested in rent controls, capital works and purchases for (sub)cultural uses, and more cautious and egalitarian urban regeneration programs.

Few Australian governments have come to terms with the depth of the dilemma, but some in Melbourne and Sydney are making a good start. Now they must accord a place to independent arts and cultural uses in their planning policies, their zoning designations and their regeneration strategies.

Most importantly, they must make investment decisions not just in the interests of culture, but of those low-income people who put the social, cultural and economic diversity into gentrifying cities.

The project from which this piece comes was ARC-funded.
The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
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Sunday, February 9, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Understanding European Movements from ’68 to 2011

Post image for Understanding European movements from ’68 to 2011by Parthena Xanthopoulou-Dimitriadou, RoarMag.org: http://roarmag.org/2014/02/understanding-european-movements-cox-fominaya/

Parthena Xanthopoulou-Dimitriadou is a PhD candidate in Social Movement Studies at the European University Institute.

In the aftermath of 2011, the new volume by Fominaya and Cox provides an excellent analytical framework and empirical overview of European movements.
Flesher Fominaya, Cristina and Laurence Cox (eds.), Understanding European Movements: New Social Movements, Global Justice Struggles, Anti-Austerity Protest. London: Routledge (2013).
The last years have witnessed an unprecedented proliferation of mobilizations and grassroots movements responding to the dismantling of social and political arrangements following the momentous and ongoing financial crisis of 2008. 

In 2011, people took the streets across Europe to protest against socio-economic degradation, challenging the austerity policies designed and implemented under the auspices of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Cuts in public spending, wage reduction, the removal of working benefits, the abolition of collective labor agreements, the dissolution of public health systems and pension schemes, and rampant unemployment and homelessness were among the most contested issues behind the mobilizations, which soon redirected the public expression of indignation towards the entire political system, denouncing parties and challenging the very idea of representative democracy.

In the aftermath of the 2011 mobilizations and occupations, the plethora of grassroots movements that arose as a manifest challenge to dominant power relations has been accompanied by some recurring questions about the character of these movements and their objectives: 

- Is the popular contestation of the predominance of economic and financial priorities over social considerations a recent development?
- Are the post-2011 mobilizations a profoundly new phenomenon?
- How are they related to the proliferation of mobilizations and social movements since the beginning of the century?

The recently published volume - Understanding European Movements - is an endeavor to address questions like these by providing the necessary tools of understanding on where social movements stand in the global context, how are they embedded in local communities, how movement networks are set up, how social activism unfolds, how political identities are constructed and diffused, how contemporary mobilizations interact with historical memories, and so on.

Understanding European Movements seeks to grasp the logic of political activism in all its intricacies through a systematic examination of contemporary movements in light of social movement theory and European social theory. 

For this compelling collective project - which clarifies a number of deep-seated misunderstandings and corrects some commonly misunderstood aspects of social movements in the European context - credit should be given to the editors: Cristina Flesher Fominaya and Laurence Cox.

Fominaya and Cox have managed to masterfully put together a coherent collection of critical analyses and skillfully provide the analytical framework in which the three empirical parts of the book unfold. 

In their first chapter, they scrutinize the relationship between US and European movement theory as a relationship of domination of the “naturalizing” US approach over the “radical historicity” of the European one. 

Against American exceptionalism, Cox and Fominaya beset the canonical accounts of New Social Movements (NSM) theory and its ideological function for having reduced European social movement theory to an industry of myth reproduction, clearly devoid of a much desired critical framework or a clear intellectual history.

A winning analysis of the ‘anomalous’ Italian left and the historical legacies and political culture that created the conditions for the emergence of the ‘movement of movements’ (MoM) opens the first part of the book. 

Focusing mainly on the cases of Italy, France and the UK, the analyses in this part compose a compelling mosaic of the continuities and disruptions of European social movements and movement networks.

The contributions in this part trace the connections between the European social movements and the Global Justice Movement (GJM) by means of a profound examination of the political and socio-cultural legacy of the Centri Sociali Autogestiti (self-managed social centers) in Italy and the influence they had on the GJM’s “dynamics, culture, and agenda”, underlining the movements’ relationship to previous episodes of contention and their roots in specific national conditions, and elucidating the multiplicity of political, social and cultural connections between movement networks as an inescapable characteristic of the movements’ emergence and evolution.

The second part of the volume is devoted to an exploration of the interconnections and exchanges between movement networks, both national and international. 

The analyses here revolve around diffusion processes; the geographic interconnections between struggles; the formulation of collective memories and the construction of collective identities; the examination of connections between local and transnational networks in squatting movements; the importance of ‘space’ and the creation of ‘autonomous geographies’.

The third and final part of the book is devoted to uncovering the profound relationship between movement events and movement histories in various contexts. 

Closely following the argument carved out by Cox and Fominaya, the contributions to this part constitute a reflection upon the role of transnational networks in shaping social movements. 

Emphasis is placed on the prefigurative role of the Icelandic revolution for the later Tunisian and Greek anti-austerity protests, the use of national symbolic memory, and the importance of collective learning in the 15-M movement, which seems to display a certain degree of continuity with GJM mobilizations.

Yet, at the same time the relative novelty of today’s movement is also debated, highlighting a certain degree of rupture with previous mobilizations.

Puzzling about this volume is that the connection of the individual chapters to the central theoretical argument of the book is occasionally obscured; something that can mostly be overcome when the chapters are read in close relation to one another and not as separate individual articles. 

But even though this may prove unwieldy, it certainly does not diminish the critical contribution that Understanding European Movements makes to the social movement studies literature and to actual movement activism. 

For this, the volume should rightly be considered a crucial tool for understanding contemporary activism in Europe as part of a long historical process unfolding in an increasingly global setting.

Understanding European Movements is now available in paperback from Routledge.