Biofuels, Economics, Food Shortages, Global Warming/Climate Change — by Earth Policy Institute April 12, 2013
by Lester R. Brown, Earth Policy Institute
The world is in transition from an era of food abundance to one of scarcity. Over the last decade, world grain reserves have fallen by one third. World food prices have more than doubled, triggering a worldwide land rush and ushering in a new geopolitics of food. Food is the new oil. Land is the new gold. 1
The abrupt rise in world grain prices between 2007 and 2008 left more people hungry than at any time in history. It also spawned numerous food protests and riots. In Thailand, rice was so valuable that farmers took to guarding their ripened fields at night. In Egypt, fights in the long lines for state-subsidized bread led to six deaths. In poverty-stricken Haiti, days of rioting left five people dead and forced the Prime Minister to resign. In Mexico, the government was alarmed when huge crowds of tortilla protestors took to the streets. 2
After the doubling of world grain prices between 2007 and mid-2008, prices dropped somewhat during the recession, but this was short-lived. Three years later, high food prices helped fuel the Arab Spring. 3Comments (0)
Consumerism, Economics — by Kim Hayes April 4, 2013
Click here for more details
Most folks familiar with permaculture understand how zones are used in the design of a piece of property. Depending on slope, contour, house placement, hydrology, and functional use, amongst other criteria, zones are never created as concentric circles like a bulls-eye or dart board. Use of the land, and the flow of activities, becomes a primary driver of the shape of a zone.
As it turns out, money has its own flow as well. This series of maps show how dollar bills move about or flow between humans during commerce in the US. You will notice the dollar bills ignore State lines, rivers and major highways that people travel on regularly. I feel this map can be used as a fantastic tool assisting in creating hub areas for evaluating goods and services, the creation of local currencies and a myriad of other transition focal points.
The ideas are endless. The ‘all seeing eye’ on ol’ George has opened my eyes with a new perspective on local money.Comments (0)
Consumerism, Economics, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss — by George Monbiot April 3, 2013
17 years, and the phone companies still haven’t sorted out the issue of conflict minerals.
If you are too well connected, you stop thinking. The clamour, the immediacy, the tendency to absorb other people’s thoughts, interrupt the deep abstraction required to find your own way. This is one of the reasons why I have not yet bought a smartphone.
But the technology is becoming ever harder to resist. Perhaps this year I will have to succumb. So I have asked a simple question: can I buy an ethical smartphone?Comments (3)
Consumerism, Economics, Society, peak oil — by Earth Policy Institute March 29, 2013
by Janet Larsen, Earth Policy Institute
Freeing America from its dependence on oil from unstable parts of the world is an admirable goal, but many of the proposed solutions—including the push for more home-grown biofuels and for the construction of the new Keystone XL pipeline to transport Canadian tar sands oil to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast—are harmful and simply unnecessary. Gasoline use in the United States is falling, and the trends already driving it down are likely to continue into the future, making both the mirage of beneficial biofuels and the construction of a new pipeline to import incredibly dirty oil seem ever more out of touch with reality.Comments (1)
Economics, People Systems, Society — by Rhamis Kent March 11, 2013
Something interesting happens to you once given an opportunity to take a well-taught, well-presented, and properly contextualized Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course. You are provided with new tools with which to view virtually every conceivable topic through very different eyes – in this instance, economics & history.
The American Civil War, for example, could easily be understood as America’s first energy war. It was also explicitly a war over capital – the most important capital the United States held at the time, enabling it to become the world’s greatest, most influential economic power with the eventual emergence of mass industrialization & financialization globally.Comments (14)
Economics, Global Warming/Climate Change, Society — by George Monbiot March 5, 2013
Take a ringside seat as a giant company beats the living daylights out of itself.
“Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?” The current answer to Alexander Pope’s question is the power company Électricité de France (EDF). It is suing 21 climate change activists for £5m as a result of their week-long occupation of its power station at West Burton in Nottinghamshire.
In doing so it has made the biggest strategic mistake since McDonalds pursued two impoverished activists – and inflicted more damage on its brand than its critics had ever managed. The campaign against EDF’s vindictive bullying is snowballing with astonishing speed. During daylight hours yesterday, signatures on the petition against this lawsuit were coming in at the rate of 1,000 per hour.
Already the company’s customers are leaving in droves, and letting other people know why. And the backlash has scarcely begun. This, if EDF does not pull out, will turn into the biggest anti-corporate campaign in the UK for at least a decade.Comments (0)
Consumerism, Economics, Global Warming/Climate Change — by Earth Policy Institute March 1, 2013
by Emily E. Adams, Earth Policy Institute
The energy game is rigged in favor of fossil fuels because we omit the environmental and health costs of burning coal, oil, and natural gas from their prices. Subsidies manipulate the game even further. According to conservative estimates from the Global Subsidies Initiative and the International Energy Agency (IEA), governments around the world spent more than $620 billion to subsidize fossil fuel energy in 2011: some $100 billion for production and $523 billion for consumption. This was 20 percent higher than in 2010, largely because of higher world oil prices. Of the $523 billion that supported consumption, $285 billion went to oil, $104 billion to natural gas, and $3 billion to coal; an additional $131 billion was divided among the three energy sources specifically for electricity use. Through these subsidies, governments cut the prices people paid for fossil energy by nearly a quarter—encouraging waste and hindering efforts to stabilize climate.
Economics, Society — by George Monbiot
Companies like EDF, seeking to terrify protesters with lawsuits, are likely to become victims of their own aggression.
Image: Todd Wiseman
Without public protest, democracy is dead. Every successful challenge to excessive power begins outside the political chamber. When protest stops, politics sclerotises: it becomes a conversation between different factions of the elite.
But protest is of no democratic value unless it is effective. It must disturb and challenge those at whom it is aimed. It must arouse and motivate those who watch. The climate change campaigners trying to prevent a new dash for gas wrote to their MPs, emailed the power companies, marched and lobbied. They were ignored. So last year 17 of them climbed the chimney of the West Burton power station and occupied it for a week(1). Theirs was a demonstration in two senses of the word: they presented an issue to the public which should be at the front of our minds. Prompted to act by altruism and empathy, one day they will be remembered as we remember suffragettes and anti-slavery campaigners.
Last week the operator of the power station – EDF, which is largely owned by the French government – announced that it is suing these people, and four others, for £5m(2). It must know that, if it wins, they have no hope of paying. It must know that they would lose everything they own, now and for the rest of their lives. For these and other reasons, EDF’s action looks to me like a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation: a SLAPP around the ear of democracy.Comments (1)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Conferences, Economics, Society, Village Development — by Bronwyn White February 20, 2013
The Economics of Happiness is a 2011 documentary film directed by Helena Norberg-Hodge, Steven Gorelick, and John Page, and produced by the International Society for Ecology and Culture. The film has been widely acclaimed and received numerous awards but most pertinently it has linked a number of cutting edge thinkers across the globe who are building the groundswell to see the wisdom from The Economics of Happiness film translated into action. The second of three international conferences will be taking place from 15-17 March 2013 in Byron Bay, Australia and you are invited!
The Economics of Happiness describes a world moving simultaneously in two opposing directions. On the one hand, an unholy alliance of governments and big business continues to promote globalization and the consolidation of corporate power. At the same time, people all over the world are resisting those policies, demanding a re-regulation of trade and finance—and, far from the old institutions of power, they’re starting to forge a very different future.Comments (0)
Billionaires are hiding behind a network of “independent” groups, who manipulate politics on their behalf.
Conspiracies against the public don’t get much uglier than this. As the Guardian revealed last week, two secretive organisations working for US billionaires have spent $118m to ensure that no action is taken to prevent manmade climate change(1). While inflicting untold suffering on the world’s people, their funders have used these opaque structures to ensure that their identities are never exposed.
The two organisations – the Donors’ Trust and the Donors’ Capital Fund – were set up as political funding channels for people handing over $1m or more. They have financed 102 organisations which either dismiss climate science or downplay the need to take action. The large number of recipients creates the impression that there are many independent voices challenging climate science. These groups, working through the media, mobilising gullible voters and lobbying politicians, helped to derail Obama’s cap and trade bill and the climate talks at Copenhagen. Now they’re seeking to prevent the US president from trying again(2).Comments (5)
Biodiversity, Deforestation, Economics, Food Shortages, Health & Disease, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss — by Rhamis Kent February 13, 2013
A student I had recently in my short course in California sent me a link to an award-winning NGO working in Haiti called SOIL (Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods) — a nonprofit working within the country performing truly beneficial work, utilizing compost toilets to deal with the perennial problem of waste management.
In the following clip SOIL’s Co-Founder & Executive Director, Dr. Sasha Kramer, provides an excellent, well-contextualized explanation of her organization’s work as well as the legacy of ecological & environmental degradation (and its corresponding effects on impacted human populations) often missing from discussions about colonial history:
Further Reading:Comments (1)
How the government betrayed its promises to protect our seas.
If the European Union decides to ban fishing boats from discarding the edible fish they catch, it’ll land the British government in a spot of bother. It’s been using the discards issue as its excuse for justifying overfishing.Comments (0)
Animal Housing, Consumerism, Economics, Health & Disease, Livestock — by Fraser Bliss February 8, 2013
These days organic food is a major trend and a multi billion dollar business. We find organic food in supermarkets in all shapes and forms. Advertising would have us believe that this organic food comes from idyllic small farms where farmers work the land by hand using traditional methods. It is a wonderful concept, but is it true? Is this the same high quality food that comes from home gardens and local farmers’ markets?
The TV advertisement below is from Ja Natürlich (translated: Yes Naturally), the organic brand of the German Rewe Group, which owns several supermarket chains in Austria such as Billa (Billiger Laden, translated: Cheap Store). This is how they describe their organic products:
What a cute ad. It starts off with the piglet saying, "Dear happy chickens, the farmer wants to take your picture." It goes on like this and certainly gives the impression that a decision for Ja Natürlich eggs is a choice that is healthy for us and supports small farmers still using traditional hand tools. The peaceful countryside setting is complete with chickens, an adorable talking piglet running freely around in an old barn yard, and even the farmer’s old-timer Nikon rangefinder camera is used to take their picture. The ad makes quite a bold claim: "Eggs from overly happy chickens." It would be wonderful if it was true, but is this really from where our precious store-bought organic eggs come from?Comments (10)
Biodiversity, Consumerism, Economics, Fish, Food Shortages — by Earth Policy Institute February 4, 2013
by J. Matthew Roney, Earth Policy Institute
The fish near the bottom of the aquatic food chain are often overlooked, but they are vital to healthy oceans and estuaries. Collectively known as forage fish, these species—including sardines, anchovies, herrings, and shrimp-like crustaceans called krill—feed on plankton and become food themselves for larger fish, seabirds, and marine mammals. Historically, people have eaten many of these fish, too, of course. But as demand for animal protein has soared over the last half-century, more and more forage fish have been caught to feed livestock and farmed fish instead of being eaten by people directly. A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that current fishing levels are dangerously high—both for the forage fish themselves and for the predators and industries that depend on them.Comments (1)
Ladbroke’s is offering odds on fish populations collapsing; the government is shortening them.
I’ve come across some odd ways to make a living, but few as strange as this. The gambling company Ladbrokes has been offering odds on the conservation status of various fish species. Until last night it was taking bets on mackerel; recently it has encouraged people to punt on the survival prospects of stocks of yellow fin tuna, swordfish and haddock. You can, if you wish, gamble on extinction.
It’ll be a while before I put my money on the recovery of any species in British waters.Comments (2)