11 September 2009

Big Food vs. Big Insurance

...posting in full another brilliant article, powerful in its common sense, from Michael Pollan, professor of journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.”

Excerpt from the New York Times, 9 September 2009

'TO listen to President Obama’s speech on Wednesday night, or to just about anyone else in the health care debate, you would think that the biggest problem with health care in America is the system itself — perverse incentives, inefficiencies, unnecessary tests and procedures, lack of competition, and greed.

No one disputes that the $2.3 trillion we devote to the health care industry is often spent unwisely, but the fact that the United States spends twice as much per person as most European countries on health care can be substantially explained, as a study released last month says, by our being fatter. Even the most efficient health care system that the administration could hope to devise would still confront a rising tide of chronic disease linked to diet.

That’s why our success in bringing health care costs under control ultimately depends on whether Washington can summon the political will to take on and reform a second, even more powerful industry: the food industry.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three-quarters of health care spending now goes to treat “preventable chronic diseases.” Not all of these diseases are linked to diet — there’s smoking, for instance — but many, if not most, of them are.

We’re spending $147 billion to treat obesity, $116 billion to treat diabetes, and hundreds of billions more to treat cardiovascular disease and the many types of cancer that have been linked to the so-called Western diet. One recent study estimated that 30 percent of the increase in health care spending over the past 20 years could be attributed to the soaring rate of obesity, a condition that now accounts for nearly a tenth of all spending on health care.

The American way of eating has become the elephant in the room in the debate over health care. The president has made a few notable allusions to it, and, by planting her vegetable garden on the South Lawn, Michelle Obama has tried to focus our attention on it. Just last month, Mr. Obama talked about putting a farmers’ market in front of the White House, and building new distribution networks to connect local farmers to public schools so that student lunches might offer more fresh produce and fewer Tater Tots. He’s even floated the idea of taxing soda.
But so far, food system reform has not figured in the national conversation about health care reform. And so the government is poised to go on encouraging America’s fast-food diet with its farm policies even as it takes on added responsibilities for covering the medical costs of that diet. To put it more bluntly, the government is putting itself in the uncomfortable position of subsidizing both the costs of treating Type 2 diabetes and the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup.

Why the disconnect? Probably because reforming the food system is politically even more difficult than reforming the health care system. At least in the health care battle, the administration can count some powerful corporate interests on its side — like the large segment of the Fortune 500 that has concluded the current system is unsustainable.

That is hardly the case when it comes to challenging agribusiness. Cheap food is going to be popular as long as the social and environmental costs of that food are charged to the future. There’s lots of money to be made selling fast food and then treating the diseases that fast food causes. One of the leading products of the American food industry has become patients for the American health care industry.

The market for prescription drugs and medical devices to manage Type 2 diabetes, which the Centers for Disease Control estimates will afflict one in three Americans born after 2000, is one of the brighter spots in the American economy. As things stand, the health care industry finds it more profitable to treat chronic diseases than to prevent them. There’s more money in amputating the limbs of diabetics than in counseling them on diet and exercise.

As for the insurers, you would think preventing chronic diseases would be good business, but, at least under the current rules, it’s much better business simply to keep patients at risk for chronic disease out of your pool of customers, whether through lifetime caps on coverage or rules against pre-existing conditions or by figuring out ways to toss patients overboard when they become ill.

But these rules may well be about to change — and, when it comes to reforming the American diet and food system, that step alone could be a game changer. Even under the weaker versions of health care reform now on offer, health insurers would be required to take everyone at the same rates, provide a standard level of coverage and keep people on their rolls regardless of their health. Terms like “pre-existing conditions” and “underwriting” would vanish from the health insurance rulebook — and, when they do, the relationship between the health insurance industry and the food industry will undergo a sea change.

The moment these new rules take effect, health insurance companies will promptly discover they have a powerful interest in reducing rates of obesity and chronic diseases linked to diet. A patient with Type 2 diabetes incurs additional health care costs of more than $6,600 a year; over a lifetime, that can come to more than $400,000. Insurers will quickly figure out that every case of Type 2 diabetes they can prevent adds $400,000 to their bottom line. Suddenly, every can of soda or Happy Meal or chicken nugget on a school lunch menu will look like a threat to future profits.

When health insurers can no longer evade much of the cost of treating the collateral damage of the American diet, the movement to reform the food system — everything from farm policy to food marketing and school lunches — will acquire a powerful and wealthy ally, something it hasn’t really ever had before.

AGRIBUSINESS dominates the agriculture committees of Congress, and has swatted away most efforts at reform. But what happens when the health insurance industry realizes that our system of farm subsidies makes junk food cheap, and fresh produce dear, and thus contributes to obesity and Type 2 diabetes? It will promptly get involved in the fight over the farm bill — which is to say, the industry will begin buying seats on those agriculture committees and demanding that the next bill be written with the interests of the public health more firmly in mind.

In the same way much of the health insurance industry threw its weight behind the campaign against smoking, we can expect it to support, and perhaps even help pay for, public education efforts like New York City’s bold new ad campaign against drinking soda. At the moment, a federal campaign to discourage the consumption of sweetened soft drinks is a political nonstarter, but few things could do more to slow the rise of Type 2 diabetes among adolescents than to reduce their soda consumption, which represents 15 percent of their caloric intake.
That’s why it’s easy to imagine the industry throwing its weight behind a soda tax. School lunch reform would become its cause, too, and in time the industry would come to see that the development of regional food systems, which make fresh produce more available and reduce dependence on heavily processed food from far away, could help prevent chronic disease and reduce their costs.

Recently a team of designers from M.I.T. and Columbia was asked by the foundation of the insurer UnitedHealthcare to develop an innovative systems approach to tackling childhood obesity in America. Their conclusion surprised the designers as much as their sponsor: they determined that promoting the concept of a “foodshed” — a diversified, regional food economy — could be the key to improving the American diet.

All of which suggests that passing a health care reform bill, no matter how ambitious, is only the first step in solving our health care crisis. To keep from bankrupting ourselves, we will then have to get to work on improving our health — which means going to work on the American way of eating.

But even if we get a health care bill that does little more than require insurers to cover everyone on the same basis, it could put us on that course.

For it will force the industry, and the government, to take a good hard look at the elephant in the room and galvanize a movement to slim it down. '

Paper Giant Promises Green Curbs On Expansion

...who makes the paper you buy?

Excerpt from Planet Ark, 11 September 2009

'Asia Pulp and Paper, one of the largest paper producers in Asia, said on Thursday it has no immediate plans to expand its two Indonesian pulp mills and would only do so if it secured sustainably produced timber.

The Indonesia-based company, known by its initials APP, is a target for green groups because some of its products are made from wood from natural forests and peatlands, which release huge amounts of greenhouse gases when cleared.

APP runs two pulp wood mills in Indonesia with an annual pulp production capacity of just under 3 million tonnes. The unlisted firm, a subsidiary of the Sinar Mas Group, has projected 2009 gross revenue of $4 billion, down from $4.5 billion in 2008.

The company, which also has operations in China, has embarked on a programme to continually improve the environmental management of its operations to ensure the greenest possible product, said the firm's head of sustainability, Aida Greenbury.

"The are no plans to expand the two existing mills without access to additional sustainably produced materials," Greenbury said in Singapore during Reuters' Global Climate Change and Alternative Energy summit.

APP is the number one producer of pulp and paper in Asia, outside of Japan, and third-largest globally.

Most of APP's pulp wood is sourced from Indonesia's Riau and Jambi provinces but shortfalls in supply are met by wood from East Kalimantan, West Kalimantan and South Sumatra, said Greenbury...

Around 90 percent of APP's suppliers provide plantation wood and the remaining 10 percent is mixed wood residue from natural forest, she said.

In 2007, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), an independent sustainability accreditation body, announced it was disassociating itself from APP.

APP's website says that according to the FSC policy, the FSC "will only associate with companies that are not involved with illegal logging, civil rights abuses, destruction of high conservation value forests, forest conversion or genetically modified trees."

Since that incident, APP has reviewed its supplier lists and submitted the results to the FSC, said Greenbury. APP's suppliers have been accused of illegal logging and of burning forest to create access roads, but Greenbury said this was untrue.

"We demand that the pulp wood supplier has to ensure the legality of the wood and if possible, certification," she said. "The fact that our material is 30 percent certified is significantly above global standards."'

10 September 2009

Try Nature, Not Tech, To Fix Economic Woes: UNEP

Excerpt from Planet Ark, 10 September 2009

'The world is waking up to huge economic benefits of investing in nature, from forests to coral reefs, after one of the "great oversights" of the 20th century, the head of the U.N. Environment Program said on Friday.

Achim Steiner told Reuters that governments had long placed too much faith in technology to fix problems such as global warming, water pollution or erosion, instead of looking to natural solutions.

"At the beginning of the 21st century we are being thrown back onto nature because you can't fix all these problems with technology," he said.

"The disproportion of investments in technological fixes versus investing in nature's ready-made solutions, tried and tested over millions of years, is one of the great oversights of the 20th century," he said.

A U.N.-backed study this week, for instance, indicated that tropical forests provide services worth an estimated $6,120 per hectare (2.47 acres) a year such as food, building materials, water purification or opportunities for tourism.

A new U.N. climate pact due for agreement in December in Copenhagen is set to encourage measures to safeguard tropical forests that soak up greenhouse gases when they grow.

Steiner said that governments should take an even wider view of the value of forests since storing heat-trapping carbon dioxide was only one aspect of a tree's worth.


He said his advice to governments and investors was: "Don't just look at a forest as a watershed, or a carbon sink, or as helping biodiversity, or a tourism attraction. Put them all together and then make a cost-benefit analysis."

"The cumulative set of benefits you get from talking about a tree ... has to get economically captured," he said.

Among other natural systems, coral reefs provide services as nurseries for fish, protecting coasts from storms, or as scuba-diving holiday destinations. Or insects provide services, for instance, in pollinating crops...

Steiner also said a call by UNEP last year for a "Green New Deal" of investments in clean economic growth to revive struggling economies had helped but that it was too soon to judge if it marked a permanent greener shift.

"This concept struck a chord," he said of the idea, inspired by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "New Deal" that helped end the Depression of the 1930s.'

09 September 2009

Green Roofs Australia

A treasure trove of information, resources and contacts for green roofs! Check out the wonderful images in the gallery.


'Green Roofs Australia is a not-for-profit membership organisation with an elected committee that draws together the various governmental, organisational and businesses groups and individuals interested in being kept informed about green roof science, technology, practice, regulations and specifications.

We promote green roofs as an effective response to climate change and city heat island effects, and to reduce buildings’ carbon footprints.'

Green roof on Seattle City Hall, US

Rock Steady - Moving Towards a Steady State Economy

Excerpt from The Investment Professional, 2009

'...since he retired from the World Bank almost 15 years ago, Daly has remained decidedly outside the mainstream himself, mounting a steady barrage of criticism against what has been the central, unchallenged goal of Western economies since World War II—the relentless, single-minded pursuit of economic growth as measured by GDP (gross domestic product). The zeitgeist may be catching up with Daly, though. More and more economists, environmentalists, and real-world financiers and portfolio managers, many of whom call themselves “steady staters,” are seeking to knock GDP growth off its pedestal as the preeminent driver of economic policy....

Growth advocates, steady staters maintain, are operating under a number of wrongheaded assumptions, the first of which holds that the earth’s ecosphere functions only to serve the human economy. The economy, steady staters argue, is an open system inside the earth’s closed system. It cannot expand indefinitely without using up the earth’s finite resources.

Steady staters assert that growth as currently defined in GDP terms has failed to signal when human productive activities become “uneconomic.” In societies operating at high levels of consumption, incremental benefits are outweighed by incremental costs—for example, the health impacts of pollution. These costs, however, either go unrecognized or are registered as additions to rather than subtractions from GDP.

Steady staters also point to studies that suggest that continued growth in high-consumption economies, rather than enhancing human welfare, contributes to social malaise, as consumers acquire “positional” goods far beyond their basic needs, chasing fruitlessly after elevated social status. Polls indicate that self-reported “well-being” actually peaked in the United States in the 1950s and began to decline as per capita consumption rose sharply through the postwar years...

But steady staters aren’t just naysayers; they propound a clear set of alternative policies to the GDP growth model. The Canadian ecological economist Peter Victor maintains that “you can construct a macro picture for a national economy where the economy is not growing much or at all in GDP terms but where social and economic objectives are being met.”

Exactly what would such an economy look like and how can it be realized? In a speech before the UK Sustainability Commission in 2008, Herman Daly outlined ten policy ideas for the transition to a steady-state society. They include a cap–auction–trade system for basic natural resources; a shift away from taxing income and toward taxing resource depletion and environmental pollutants; limits on income inequality; more flexible workdays; and the adoption of a system of tariffs that would allow countries that implement sustainable policies to remain competitive in the global marketplace with countries that don’t...

Daly also calls for a transition to a 100% reserve requirement for bank lending, returning the control of the money supply to government; a stable worldwide population; and separation of GDP into two separate “costs” and “benefits” accounts. To discourage transborder financial capital flows that exploit the labor and resource capital of developing countries, he would also downgrade the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and World Bank into clearinghouses that collect fees from countries that run both surpluses and deficits in their current and capital accounts. Lastly, he would remove the price barriers to “nonscarce” intellectual capital—including royalty payments to patent holders. These barriers, he notes, often prevent developing countries from accessing the clean technologies critical to sustainable growth...

In March 2009, the UK government’s Sustainable Development Commission published “Prosperity without Growth?” Both Herman Daly and Peter Victor were consultants on this report, which blames the single-minded pursuit of growth for the global financial and environmental crises, and which calls on the leaders of the developed G-20 countries to adopt a 12-step transition to sustainable economies that is almost identical to the steady-state blueprint.

Grassroots movements are also driving steady-state behaviors on a local level. For example, Sweden is now home to a number of ecomunicipalities. Led by economist Torbjörn Lahti and by Karl-Henrik Robèrt, founder of the Natural Step Movement, these formerly depressed industrial towns have made an official and deliberate commitment to “dematerialize” their economies and to foster social equity...

Meanwhile, the UK-based Transition Culture movement has gone viral. Founded by permaculturalist Rob Hopkins in Totnes, England, the movement promotes local resilience, “powering down,” and “reskilling” as a response to climate change and peak oil. From Chile to Japan, over 150 communities around the world have become Transition Towns. Here in the United States, 24 communities belong to the movement. (Sandpoint, Idaho, was featured in Jon Mooallem’s April 16, 2009, New York Times Magazine article “The End Is Near! (Yay!).”)

Other signals of a steady-state mentality include growing public protest over executive compensation and the Obama administration’s proposed regulations for realigning executive pay with long-term performance across the financial services sector. And then there’s the “locavore” movement, which has taken off with a vengeance in the US—as evidenced by the Obama White House’s kitchen garden. The Story of Stuff, a low-budget 20-minute animated video that vividly connects the dots between human consumption and the despoiling of the planet, is being used as an educational tool in classrooms across the country.

Perhaps one of the most intriguing pieces of legislation inspired by steady-state principles is a bill that is expected to be introduced into the Vermont Senate in 2010. The bill would establish a Common Asset Trust managed by a board of trustees, with a binding mandate to assign present and future generations explicit property rights to certain resources—water, wetlands, air, and air waves. “If this legislation passes, if you want to use one of these assets you will have to compensate the commons,” says Joshua Farley of the Gund Institute, which helped craft the legislation...

Those who fail to factor “natural capital” risks and costs into their valuation models are likely to join the endangered species of the capital markets in a steady-state world. On the flip side, those in the investment and financial community who buy into the inevitability of the steady state say it is opening up a whole new approach to value.'

Elimination of Food Waste Could Lift 1bn Out of Hunger

Excerpt from The Guardian, 8 September 2009

'Eliminating the millions of tonnes of food thrown away annually in the US and UK could lift more than a billion people out of hunger worldwide, experts claim.

Government officials, food experts and representatives of the retail trade brought together by the Food Ethics Council argue that excessive consumption of food in rich countries inflates food prices in the developing world. Buying food, which is then often wasted, reduces overall supply and pushes up the price of food, making grain less affordable for poor and undernourished people in other parts of the world. Food waste also costs UK consumers £10.2bn a year and when production, transportation and storage are factored in, it is responsible for 5% of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions...Tom MacMillan, executive director of the Food Ethics Council, warned that reducing food waste alone would not be enough to alleviate hunger, because efficiency gains in natural resources are routinely cancelled out by growth in consumption. "Food waste is harmful and unfair, and it is essential to stop food going into landfill. But the irony is that consumption growth and persistent inequalities look set to undo the good that cutting food waste does in reducing our overall use of natural resources and improving food security," he said.

MacMillan explained that the land and resources freed up by cutting food waste would likely be put to producing and consuming other things, such as growing more resource-intensive and expensive foods, bio-energy or textile crops. "Now is the moment all parties should be searching out ways to define prosperity that get away from runaway consumption. Until they succeed, chucking out less food won't make our lifestyles more sustainable," he said.'

LIVE AID, 13 July 1985 - how long, how long must we sing this song?

Workers of the World, Relax!

From site developed by RagTag Productions

'The principle of continuous growth which rule our economy have brought us here.

But is there a different path?

What if we used our gains in productivity to slow down? We could work less and produce less. It would also mean consuming less.

If you like the film please share it with a world that desperately needs some slowing down.'

08 September 2009

Sprawling LA Shrinks Water and Energy Use

Lesson 1: its possible!

Lesson 2: its possible to do it rapidly and affordably!

Lesson 3: you do have to actually spend some money retrofitting and pursuing efficiency gains!

If they can do it in Los Angeles, it can be done ANYwhere!

Excerpt from
GreenBiz, 1 September 2009

'Commercial and industrial properties in sprawling Los Angeles reduced their water consumption by double-digits in July, the mayor’s office announced last week.

Meanwhile, energy consumption in America’s second largest city fell by 318 gigawatt hours during the 2008-2009 fiscal year - more than half of which was driven by Los Angeles businesses using a slew of successful incentive programs.

Five core programs are credited with achieving the vast amount of energy savings, such as compact fluorescent lamp distribution and lighting retrofit programs, according to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP)...

Overall, the city cut its water use by more than 17 percent in July, compared with the same period the year before.

The reductions by building type include:
• 20.1 percent reduction by single-family residences
• 8.3 percent reduction by multi-family residences
• 17.1 percent reduction by commercial properties
• 21.8 percent reduction by industrial properties
• 34.4 percent reduction by government properties

...Over the last three years, LADWP has boosted its energy efficiency budget tenfold. The amount of energy saved during the 2008-2009 fiscal year equals the amount of power used by 53,000 homes.'

Sustainable Campuses - A New Measure of Prestige

Bold is my emphasis...

Excerpt from Warmer Bulletin e-news, 4 September 2009

'University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) has scored ninth in a top-20 ranking of the "coolest" schools in the nation environmentally, according to an article in Sierra Magazine, a publication of the Sierra Club, the nation's oldest and largest grassroots environmental group.

UCLA reports that this matters to 67 per cent of students applying to college, according to the magazine staff, which published the rankings."This is a new measure of prestige for colleges," said Avital Binshtock, lifestyle editor for Sierra.

"In researching the article, we talked to college admissions strategists and people who specialize in getting students into top schools. They all found that students are very interested in going to schools that have green practices."...

The rankings were based on total scores assigned to universities after adding up points for sustainability efforts in eight categories - academics, administration, efficiency, energy, food, purchasing, transportation and waste management.'

Zero Waste Places - UK

Excerpt from Warmer Bulletin e-news, 4 September 2009

'The Towards Zero Waste Funding is part of the Zero Waste Places initiative launched by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in October 2008.

The BREW Centre is calling for community 'places' to go as far as possible in reducing the impact of waste across all aspects of life - home, work, school and recreation.

Zero Waste Places that were awarded funding during 2008 under this initiative include: a street of 100 houses, a sub-urban estate, a number of 'green zones' within a borough, a street market and a city centre square.

Following the success of these projects, the BREW Centre will support 8 further projects who may apply for up to £10,000 of grant funding to kick start a significant attack on waste, with a particular emphasis on waste prevention.The funding is available to local authorities who are encouraged to develop holistic approaches and work in partnership with the private and third sectors. Project applications must be submitted to the BREW Centre by October 1, 2009.

The criteria and application template can be found on the BREW Centre website.

The London Borough of Brent has been rolling out Green Zones after receiving Towards Zero Waste funding in 2008. Their goal is to set up 20 zones using volunteers and community leaders. To qualify as a 'green zone' areas must demonstrate that 65% of houses are recycling at least 5 materials, 70% of houses are using water saving devices and that they meet a number of other criteria including the use of sustainable transport and 'green' shopping.'

Living Greener


The Federal Government's new site - practical information and tools on how householders can live more sustainably, save money and help the environment through energy, water, waste and transport management:

at home
in the garden

plus info on energy and water saving rebates for home owners, renters & landlords and schools.

Climate Change: No Eden, No Apocalypse

Excerpt from brilliant article hot off the press from the New Scientist, 7 September 2009

'...just as we need to understand the physical changes that are sweeping the planet, we also need to understand climate change as a cultural and psychological phenomenon...

[we need to] rethink our discourses about climate change in terms of four enduring myths. I use "myths" not to imply falsehoods but in the anthropological sense - stories we tell that embody deeper assumptions about the world around us.

First is the Edenic myth, which talks about climate change using the language of lament and nostalgia, revealing our desire to return to some simpler, more innocent era. In this myth, climate is cast as part of a fragile natural world that needs to be protected. It shows that we are uneasy with the unsought powers we now have to change the global climate.

Next, the Apocalyptic myth talks about climate in the language of fear and disaster. This myth reveals our endemic worry about the future, but also acts as a call to action.

Then there is the Promethean myth, named after the Greek deity who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to the mortals. This talks about climate as something we must control, revealing our desire for dominance and mastery over nature but also that we lack the wisdom and humility to exercise it.

Finally, the Themisian myth, named after the Greek goddess of natural law and order, talks about climate change using the language of justice and equity. Climate change becomes an idea around which calls for environmental justice are announced, revealing the human urge to right wrongs.

The value in identifying these mythical stories in our discourses about climate change is that they allow us to see climate change not as simply an environmental problem to be solved, but as an idea that is being mobilised in various ways around the world. If we continue to naively understand the climate system as something to be mastered and controlled, then we will have missed the main opportunities offered us by climate change.

From a practical perspective, that means rethinking our responses to climate change. Rather than placing ourselves in a "fight against climate change" we should use the idea of climate change to rethink and renegotiate our wider social and political goals.'

On the Loss of Wisdom

This should be mandatory viewing for everyone in any bureaucracy, anywhere!

TED talk, February 2009

Barry Schwartz makes a passionate call for "practical wisdom" as an antidote to a society gone mad with bureaucracy. He argues powerfully that rules often fail us, incentives often backfire, and practical, everyday wisdom will help rebuild our world.

The Paradox of Choice

TED talk by Barry Schwartz, July 2005

'Barry Schwartz studies the link between economics and psychology, offering startling insights into modern life...

'In his 2004 book The Paradox of Choice , Barry Schwartz tackles one of the great mysteries of modern life: Why is it that societies of great abundance — where individuals are offered more freedom and choice (personal, professional, material) than ever before — are now witnessing a near-epidemic of depression? Conventional wisdom tells us that greater choice is for the greater good, but Schwartz argues the opposite: He makes a compelling case that the abundance of choice in today’s western world is actually making us miserable.

Infinite choice is paralyzing, Schwartz argues, and exhausting to the human psyche. It leads us to set unreasonably high expectations, question our choices before we even make them and blame our failures entirely on ourselves. His relatable examples, from consumer products (jeans, TVs, salad dressings) to lifestyle choices (where to live, what job to take, who and when to marry), underscore this central point: Too much choice undermines happiness.'

Fundamental Human Needs

Summary of Human Scale Economist Manfred Max-Neef's work from Wikipedia and the Rainforest Information Centre:

'Fundamental human needs, according to the school of "Human Scale Development" developed by Manfred Max-Neef...are few, finite and classifiable (as distinct from the conventional notion of conventional economic "wants" that are infinite and insatiable).

They are also constant through all human cultures and across historical time periods.

What changes over time and between cultures is the strategies by which these needs are satisfied.

Max-Neef classifies the fundamental human needs as:

  • subsistence,
  • protection,
  • affection,
  • understanding,
  • participation,
  • leisure,
  • creation,
  • identity and
  • freedom.
Needs are also defined according to the existential categories of being, having, doing and interacting, and from these dimensions, a 36 cell matrix is developed'

Human Needs






physical and
mental health

food, shelter

feed, clothe,
rest, work

living environment,
social setting



social security,
health systems,

plan, take care
of, help

social environment,


respect, sense
of humour,

with nature

share, take care of,
make love, express

intimate spaces
of togetherness


curiosity, intuition

teachers, policies

analyse, study,meditate

schools, families


sense of humour

duties, work,

dissent, express

parties, churches,



games, parties,
peace of mind

relax, have fun

intimate spaces,
places to be alone



abilities, skills,

invent, build,
design, work,

spaces for


sense of
belonging, self-

religions, work,
values, norms

get to know
oneself, grow,
commit oneself

places one
belongs to,


passion, self-esteem,

equal rights

dissent, choose,
run risks, develop


'Satisfiers also have different characteristics: they can be violators or destroyers, pseudosatisfiers, inhibiting satisfiers, singular satisfiers, or synergic satisfiers. Max-Neef shows that certain satisfiers, promoted as satisfying a particular need, in fact inhibit or destroy the possibility of satisfying other needs: eg, the arms race, while ostensibly satisfying the need for protection, in fact then destroys subsistence, participation, affection and freedom; formal democracy, which is supposed to meet the need for participation often disempowers and alienates; commercial television, while used to satisfy the need for recreation, interferes with understanding, creativity and identity - the examples are everywhere.'

Top 5 Sustainable Food Stories of 2009

All great stories, have excerpted the one on Yardsharing...

From Farm to Table, 4 September 2009

'...this year saw an explosion in community gardening, yardsharing and urban farming. This is a great development that has real impact. The power of people growing, maintaining, harvesting and eventually cooking and eating produce that they themselves raised is incalculable. Gardening and yard sharing are not new ideas obviously, but the impact these ideas are having on the culture at large is exploding. In “What is Yardsharing?” Hyperlocavore Liz McLellan defines yardsharing as such:

"What is ‘yardsharing’? Yard sharing is an arrangement between people to share skills and gardening resources; space, time, strength, tools or skills, in order to grow food as locally as possible, to make neighborhoods resilient, kids healthy and food much cheaper!

Why would I want to set up a yardsharing group? Yard sharing is a way to connect people who love to garden, people who love healthy fresh food and people who have yards! Often people who have yards have little time time for a vegetable garden. And sometimes gardeners have trouble finding soil to garden in because they rent an apartment! Sometimes older people lack stamina and are socially isolated, finding younger people to partner in growing food together works wonderfully for all. There are all kinds of reasons it makes sense."'

07 September 2009

Widening Roads: Short-term Traffic Relief, Long-term Emissions Increase

Report from Sightline concerning transport strategies in North America

'Building new additional highway lanes increases total global warming emissions over the long term - even if the project reduces congestion and emissions over the short term. Sightline's analysis of highway-widening projects and road emissions has implications for transportation proposals such as the Columbia River Crossing between Oregon and Washington, and the Gateway Project in greater Vancouver, BC.

Report Summary:
  • Adding lanes to a highway will increase total global warming emissions over the long term - even if it reduces congestion over the short term.
  • Specifically - we estimate that each extra lane-mile built will increase emissions of carbon-dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, by more than 100,000 tons over 50 years.

  • Any short-term fuel savings from congestion relief are quickly overwhelmed by increased traffic volumes on the roadway. '

Midway Journey - Chris Jordan

Excerpt from Midway Journey, September 2009

'Midway Atoll, one of the remotest islands on earth, is a kaleidoscope of geography, culture, human history, and natural wonder. It also serves as a lens into one of the most profound and symbolic environmental tragedies of our time: the deaths by starvation of thousands of albatrosses who mistake floating plastic trash for food.

Five media artists, led by photographer Chris Jordan, are traveling to Midway to witness the catastrophic effect of our disposable culture on some of the world’s most beautiful and symbolic creatures. But even more, they are embarking on an introspective journey to confront a vitally relevant question: In this time of unprecedented global crisis, how can we move through grief, denial, despair and immobility into new territories of acceptance, possibility, and wise action?'