26 February 2010

India Computer Waste To Grow 500 PCT By 2020: Report

Excerpt from Planet Ark, 23 February 2010

'Waste from discarded electronics will rise dramatically in the developing world within a decade, with computer waste in India alone to grow by 500 percent from 2007 levels by 2020, a U.N. study released on Monday said.

E-waste - a term describing electronics including phones, printers, televisions, refrigerators and other appliances - grows globally by 40 million metric tones a year. Toxins are emitted when it is improperly burned by scavengers looking for valuable components, such as copper and gold.

A report released in Bali on Monday by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) predicted that by 2020, e-waste from computers would grow by up to 400 percent from 2007 levels in China and South Africa.

"This report gives new urgency to establishing ambitious, formal and regulated processes for collecting and managing e-waste via the setting up of large, efficient facilities in China," said Achim Steiner, executive director of UNEP.

"China is not alone in facing a serious challenge. India, Brazil, Mexico and others may also face rising environmental damage and health problems if e-waste recycling is left to the vagaries of the informal sector," he said in the report.

The report, co-authored by EMPA of Switzerland, specialty materials group Umicore and the United Nations University, said that the United States is the biggest producer of e-waste, creating around 3 million metric tones a year.

Close behind is China, which produces around 2.3 million metric tones domestically and is where a lot of the developed world's e-waste is sent, EMPA said.

EMPA is the research institute for material science and technology of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology...

Jim Puckett from the U.S.-based NGO Basel Action Network, which tracks illegal trafficking in e-waste, said Indonesian authorities recently discovered a shipment of nine 40-foot shipping containers of e-waste that had been sent from the U.S. state of Massachusetts.

"They were full of hand-stacked cathode ray tubes, computer monitors, basically. It was old junk that people wanted to get rid of because everyone wants flat-screens now," he said...'

UN Warns India & China Over Growing Problem of E-waste

Excerpt from The Ecologist, 22 February 2010

'African and Asian countries need proper electronic waste recycling systems to prevent the surge in consumer demand creating toxic e-waste mountains

Less-industrialised countries like India, Uganda and Senegal face a mounting hazardous e-waste problem unless proper recycling measures are enforced, says the UN.

Sales of consumer electronics, particularly mobile phones and computers, have soared in the past two decades. In 2007, one billion mobile phones were sold, up from a figure of 896 million in 2006.

A report on e-waste from the UN Environment Programme says China and India are expected to see sharp rises in electronics sales over the next decade, contributing to an e-waste mountain growing by 40 million tons a year.E-waste dumpingThe UNEP says e-waste cannot be left 'to the vagaries of the informal sector'. It says large-scale collection and recycling facilities need to be established in China, India, Brazil and Africa where levels of e-waste are rising...

The UNEP report says countries like Senegal and Uganda can expect e-waste flows from PCs alone to increase 4 to 8-fold by 2020.

At present the problem is most acute in India and China, which together produce more than 1.5 million tonnes of e-waste from TVs and 600,000 tonnes from refrigerators every year.

In China, the report predicts that by 2020 levels of e-waste from old computers will have increased by 200 to 400 per cent from 2007 levels, and by 500 per cent in India.

By that same year in China, e-waste from discarded mobile phones will be about seven times higher than 2007 levels and, in India, 18 times higher. But the UNEP says recycling can also recover valuable natural resources.

'In addition to curbing health problems, boosting developing country e-waste recycling rates can have the potential to generate decent employment and recover a wide range of valuable metals including silver, gold, palladium, copper and indium,' said UN Under-Secretary-General Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP. 'By acting now and planning forward, many countries can turn an e-challenge into an e-opportunity,' he added.

How We Poison Bangladesh With Toxic Ship Carcasses

Excerpt from The Ecologist, 23 February 2010

'Workers are dying in Bangladesh’s shipyards because the west's shipping industry - including UK companies - is not taking responsibility for the disposal of ageing vessels

They are known as ‘cutters’: men who enter the tanks of huge ships, armed with a blowtorch, sunglasses and a rag to cover their mouths. Their job is to cut slabs from ships’ hulls that are sent to steel mills for re-rolling.

The 50 or so cutters working in Bangladesh’s ship-breaking industry who entered the 275 metre long Agate on a December morning last year had been told by their bosses that the ship was ‘clean’ - free from dangerous oil and gas residues.

But when sparks from their cutting equipment hit the bottom of the tank, there was a massive explosion.

‘It was the main gas tank in the ship. Its size was huge. I was to cut one side of the tank. Other workers also started cutting the tank. After some time the tank exploded with a tremendous bang and the tank burst into flames. I was knocked out and don’t know what happened afterward,’ said Noor Alam, one of the injured workers....'

25 February 2010

Message from Crux - Steady State

For those of you who don't already know, I am volunteering with a nonprofit organisation called CASSE (the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy).

I support CASSE's work so that we can build a sustainable and fair economy, and pursue a hopeful future for civilization. I think you might be interested in seeing what I'm doing with them!

First, CASSE is about to launch a new blog called The Daly News.

Each week, The Daly News will provide a thought-provoking feature essay that challenges the predominant economic paradigm and explores creative solutions to our profound economic and environmental problems. Herman Daly, the award-winning economist and incisive writer who developed the concept of the steady state economy, will kick it off on March 1.

In addition to Professor Daly, the core rotation of authors at The Daly News includes Brian Czech (wildlife biologist, ecological economist, and author of Shoveling Fuel for a Runaway Train), Brent Blackwelder (former president of Friends of the Earth and founder of American Rivers), and Rob Dietz (environmental scientist and executive director of CASSE).

You can access the blog on CASSE’s website or via RSS feed:

Second, CASSE has an entertaining animated short called Add It Up that tells the truth about pursuing perpetual economic growth.

The animation, produced by film students at the University of Southern California, is available on CASSE’s website and YouTube:


Third, the new version of steadystate.org is here!

CASSE has an improved website with up-to-date material, revamped graphics, and user-friendly navigation.

For more information about these resources and other news about the steady state economy, please read the most recent edition of The Steady Stater newsletter:

And remember: a steady state approach is the crux of sustainability!

22 February 2010

Governor Martin O'Malley Launches Genuine Progress Indicator

Reposted in full from Governor of Maryland, USA 3 February 2010

'Governor Martin O’Malley today launched the Maryland Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI), an innovative online tool that will allow policymakers and citizens to more accurately measure the State’s standard of living by including indicators of social and environmental health along with traditional economic calculations.

“To give us a truer measure of our prosperity, we are launching the most comprehensive application of the Genuine Progress Indicator any state as ever undertaken,” said Governor O’Malley. “In addition to measuring our economic standard of living, this tool allows us to also factor in environmental and social costs of problems like air pollution, crime and income inequality, as well as the values of benefits like clean water, education and volunteerism. These indicators will help us make more informed, sustainable policy choices for many years to come.”
Developed by experts from several State agencies, the Governor’s Office and the University of Maryland, the GPI is designed to complement – but not replace – traditional, strictly economic measurements such as the Gross State Product.

“The GPI will give us a more complete picture as we strive for a sustainable future and grow a stronger economy that will not negatively impact our natural resources or the quality of life of our fellow Marylanders,” said Department of Natural Resources Secretary John Griffin, whose agency led the program’s development. “The next challenge will be how we use this new tool to inform priorities in investment and policy making.”

The Maryland GPI is based on models developed and published by academic institutions as a means for nations, states, and local governments to more accurately measure their standard of living by taking into account economic, social, and environmental well being. To date, several nations and states have calculated their GPIs, but no state has developed and applied it as a public, web-based tool as Maryland does today.

“For far too long we have counted what can be measured in dollars as contributing to our welfare, and we have portrayed it as the goal of business and government to increase the total sum of that value,” said Dr. Matthias Ruth, Director of the Center for Integrative Environmental Research at the University of Maryland that developed the GPI calculations and modeling efforts.

“Obviously, since some of the damages to our health, our communities, and our environment show up as cost, they get lumped into that dollar total, giving the faulty impression of progress.

The calculation of a Genuine Progress Indicator begins to correct the picture of how well-off we actually are. It counts as positive that which is actually positive - time spent with family, volunteer work in our communities, restoration of the environment, for example - and it subtracts the negative - time spent in our cars or loss of wetlands."

The GPI incorporates 26 factors in three categories — economic, social and natural — from the costs of crime to the costs of ozone depletion.

“The pure economic activity stemming from the explosive growth of urban sprawl positively contributes to the GSP,” explained project leader Sean McGuire of DNR’s Office for a Sustainable Future. “Yet, along with sprawl come increased commuting time, increased traffic congestion, land use conversion, and automobile impacts. And those negative impacts are not included in current economic gauges. In short, just because money is exchanging hands within an economy does not necessarily mean that citizens are enjoying sustainable prosperity.”
Internationally noted author, entrepreneur, and conservationist Paul Hawken applauded Governor O’Malley’s vision in developing the GPI.

“Maryland's Genuine Progress Indicator will allow citizens to create true security and lasting prosperity. A growing economy is always referred to as an unalloyed good, but we do not want to grow crime, environmental degradation, or disease,” said Hawken. “What we want to grow are abilities, opportunities, natural resources, education, security, happiness, and possibility. By distinguishing true needs from what is not desirable, Maryland has made a significant leap into an economy that will benefit this and future generations."

Maryland presents the GPI as an educational tool designed to allow the public and policymakers to better balance the costs and benefits of decisions on how to use the resources available to them.

“A strong economy, a clean environment and a healthy citizenry go hand in hand; none can be a true measure of success without supporting the other two,” said Governor O’Malley. “The GPI will help us ensure that our economic growth will not come at the cost of our natural resources, and that they both support our progress toward a sustainable future and a better qualify of life for all Maryland families."

The GPI joins a host of innovative interactive tools – such as GreenPrint, BayStat and the Maryland Green Registry – that have been developed for Maryland citizens under Governor O’Malley’s Smart, Green & Growing Initiative. The GPI is available online now. '

Bullying, Lies & The Rise of Right-Wing Climate Denial

Expose by Clive Hamilton, author of Scorcher - nasty stuff.

Reposted in full from The Drum Unleashed, ABC 22 February 2010

'Two years ago the Labor Party won a decisive election victory in part by riding a public mood demanding action on climate change after years of stonewalling.

The new Government promised to spearhead world efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Today it's on the run, retreating from a surge of militant anti-climate activism that believes climate science is a left-wing plot aimed at promoting elites, wrecking the economy and screwing the little man. What happened?

Part 1: Climate cyber-bullying

Australia's most distinguished climate scientists have become the target of a new form of cyber-bullying aimed at driving them out of the public debate.

In recent months, each time they enter the public debate through a newspaper article or radio interview these scientists are immediately subjected to a torrent of aggressive, abusive and, at times, threatening emails. Apart from the volume and viciousness of the emails, the campaign has two features - it is mostly anonymous and it appears to be orchestrated.

The messages are typically peppered with insults. One scientist was called a "Loudmouth, arrogant, conceited, ignorant wanker".

The emails frequently accuse the scientists of being frauds who manipulate their research in order to receive funding, such as this one to Ben McNeil at the UNSW:

"It's so obvious you are an activist going along with the climate change lie to protect your very lucrative employment contract."

They often blame the recipients of being guilty of crimes, as in this one received by Professor David Karoly at the University of Melbourne:

"It is probably not to (sic) extreme to suggest that your actions (deceitful) were so criminal to be compared with Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot. It is called treason and genocide.

"Oh, as a scientist, you have destroyed peoples trust in my profession. You are a criminal . Lest we forget."

Receiving emails like these is unsettling and at times disturbing, which of course is the point. They become worrying when they cross the line to personal threats, such as these sent to Professor Andy Pitman at the UNSW:

"There will be a day of facing the music for the Pitman type frauds... Pitman you are a f**king fool!"

And this one:

"If we see you continue, we will get extremely organised and precise against you."

When Pitman politely replied to the last, the response was more aggressive:

"F**k off mate, stop the personal attacks. Just do your science or you will end up collateral damage in the war, GET IT."

All threats have to be taken seriously, and at times warrant calling in the police. The police are able to trace anonymous emails to their sources and take action against those who send them. The police are now advising those who received abusive and threatening emails to resist the immediate urge to delete them and keep them in a separate folder for future reference.

Climate campaigners have also noticed a surge in the frequency and virulence of this new form of cyber-bullying. The following was received by a young woman (who asked that her name not be used):

"Did you want to offer your children to be brutally gang-raped and then horribly tortured before being reminded of their parents socialist beliefs and actions?

"Burn in hell. Or in the main street, when the Australian public finally lynchs you."

Another campaigner opened her inbox to read this:

"F**k off!!!

"Or you will be chased down the street with burning stakes and hung from your f**king neck, until you are dead, dead, dead!

"F**k you little pieces of sh*t, show youselves in public!!!"

Greens Senator Christine Milne told me that senators' inboxes are bombarded every day by climate deniers and extremists, so that now they are running at least 10 to one against those who call for action on climate change.

She describes it as a "well-organised campaign of strident, offensive and insulting emails that go well beyond the bounds of the normal cut and thrust of politics".

It was widely reported that in the days before the Liberal Party leadership challenge last November, MPs were blitzed with emails from climate deniers. Some MPs were spooked into voting for Tony Abbott, the only one of the three contenders who had repudiated climate science. Australia's alternative government is now led by climate deniers.

Journalists hit

Journalists too have become the victims of cyber-bullying. I have spoken to several, off the record, who have told of torrents of abusive emails when they report on climate change, including some sufficiently threatening for them to consult their supervisors and consider police action.

One was particularly disturbed at references to his wife. Another received the following from someone who gave his name and identified himself as medical representative at major pharmaceutical's company:

"You sad sack of s**t. It's ok to trash climate change sceptics yet, when the shoe is on the other foot, you become a vindictive, nasty piece of s**t not able to face the fact that you're wrong about climate change and you're reputation is now trash."

Anonymous emails are usually more graphic.

"Your mother was a goat f**ker!!!!!! Your father was a turd!!!!!!! You will be one of the first taken out in the revolution!!!!!!!! Your head will be on a stake!! C**t!"

Few of those on the receiving end of this hatred doubt that the emails are being orchestrated. Scores of abusive emails over a few hours are unlikely to be the product of a large number of individuals spontaneously making the effort to track down an email address and pour forth their rage.

While some individuals act alone, increasingly the attacks are arranged by one or more denialist organisations. It's fair to assume operatives in these organisations constantly monitor the media and, when a story or interview they don't like appears, send messages out to lists of supporters, linking to the comments, providing the scientist's email address and urging them to let him or her know what they think.

One or two of the cyber-bullies have hinted at the level of organisation, with one following an abusive rant with the comment: "Copies of my e-mails to you are also being passed out to a huge network for future reference."

Net rage and free speech

The purpose of this new form of cyber-bullying seems clear; it is to upset and intimidate the targets, making them reluctant to participate further in the climate change debate or to change what they say. While the internet is often held up as the instrument of free speech, it is often used for the opposite purpose, to drive people out of the public debate.

Unlike the letters pages of newspapers, on the internet anonymity is accepted and the gate-keepers, where they exist, are more lax, so the normal constraints on social discourse do not apply. On the internet, the demons of the human psyche find a play-ground.

If a group attempts to have a considered discussion about climate science on an open forum it is very soon deluged with enraged attacks on climate science, sometimes linking for authority to well-known denialist websites. Most scientists long ago stopped attempting to correct the mish-mash of absurd misrepresentations and lies in web "discussions".

Is the new campaign of cyber-bullying working? Receiving a large number of offensive emails certainly wears most people down. Some scientists and journalists probably do change what they say or withdraw from debate. Others have strategies for dealing with the abuse-never replying, deleting without reading or swapping loony emails with colleagues, and cultivating a thick skin.

The effect of the cyber-bullying campaign on some scientists-including those I have mentioned-is quite opposite to the intended one. The attempts at intimidation have only made them more resolved to keep talking to the public about their research. Their courage under fire stands in contrast to the cowardice of the anonymous emailers.'