06 August 2010

The Secret Life of Things: Eric Sun Undergoes Past Life Regression Therapy

Sourced from You Tube - animation by EcoInnovators

''Life Pscycle-ology' a humorous look at the life story of an unhappy mobile phone, who seeks therapy after his owner dumps him in favour of a new model. Free learning resources available at http://www.thesecretlifeofthings.com/

Nature Deficit Disorder

Sourced from The Word Spy, 5 August 2010

'nature-deficit disorder n. A yearning for nature, or an ignorance of the natural world, caused by a lack of time spent outdoors, particularly in rural settings. Also: nature deficit disorder...

Revealing the inspiration behind his latest epic, Avatar, legendary filmmaker James Cameron recently described himself as a "nature geek", and said modern humans were suffering a degree of "nature deficit disorder". It may not be a medically recognised condition, but "nature deficit disorder" is a concept gaining traction with childhood and behavioural experts around the world. —Peter Ker, "More fertile imagination," The Age, March 20, 2010...'

05 August 2010

Dick's Population Puzzle

Excerpt from The Age, 5 August 2010

'...[Dick Smith' isn't one of the usual suspects; he's from the mainstream, a political agnostic, a poster boy for middle-Australian values and capitalism who could just as well serve as host on The Apprentice. Millionaire businessman and entrepreneur Dick Smith is an unlikely dissenter but on the evidence of Dick Smith's Population Puzzle, he's not a reluctant one.

His concern is that Australian and global population growth carries enormous risks, dangers that none of our political parties is prepared to address.

As Smith sees it, population growth is the thread that links myriad issues that the Australian public - if not its policymakers - has grave concerns about: urban growth, housing affordability, a stretched health system, environmental destruction and the impact that has on food and water supply and border protection.

Filmed over six months, Dick Smith's Population Puzzle follows Smith knocking on the doors of Australia's rich and powerful, attempting to get the issue on the agenda.

Some of those he petitions are pleased to see him; some aren't. Many disagree with his arguments but in raising the issue, he also teases out some sensitive matters that few are willing to embrace.

The documentary's maker, Simon Nasht, knows why the topic gets under the skin.

''We don't seem to be able to talk about immigration without getting sidetracked into a discussion about refugees, which is so tiny in the scheme of things as to be irrelevant,'' he says.

In the year to last December, overseas migration contributed 277,700 people, or 64 per cent, of Australia's 432,600-person population increase (the rest comes from ''natural increase'', which is births over deaths).

Nearly half of that increase came from short-term, non-permanent visa categories, mainly workers who are brought in to fill jobs where there are shortages.

Less than 10 per cent of the increase is the result of refugees but as Nasht contends: ''If you want to discuss immigration levels you are anti-immigrant.''

In any case, Smith argues for an increase in the refugee intake at the expense of other immigrants. He questions Australia's responsibility as an ethical global citizen when it recruits doctors from developing countries that have paid for their training and need them more than us. He wonders why we import workers while millions of Australians remain undertrained, under-skilled and undereducated.

More troubling for Nasht is that the discussion about population growth ''has been run through the vested interests of property developers, media companies who have a vested interest in more people, as do retailers, as does business in general.

''As Dick says, it's the easiest profit to make because you don't have to fight for more market, the market just gets bigger.

''Politicians love the idea of more taxpayers and Treasury estimates that half of our economic growth is just based on having more people. There's been a blind acceptance that Australia can keep growing forever.''

It's a massive social experiment and there's been no discussion about it, Nasht says. What makes the immigration debate so vexatious, Nasht says, is that it cuts across social and political lines and that for every benefactor of a ''big Australia'' there are just as many who will suffer.

Though many of Smith's arguments can be construed in alternative ways and some smack of exaggeration, his provocations have value and merit, Nasht says.

Smith's claim that Australia will run out of food and water should not be dismissed as alarmist, he says. Will we remain a net food exporter if our population increases and good farming land adjacent to Sydney and Melbourne is given over to housing, he asks. ''Some people believe these are serious issues that can't be ignored.''...'

04 August 2010

EU to Step Up Raw Materials 'Diplomacy'

'Materials diplomacy?' That sounds ominous...seems a resource constrained world is sneaking up on us faster than we think...

Reposted in full from EurActiv, 18 June 2010

'An EU expert group has identified 14 raw materials seen as "critical" for EU high-tech and eco-industries and suggested that the European Union's global diplomacy should be geared up to ensure that companies gain easier access to them in future.

"It is our aim to make sure that Europe's industry will be able to continue to play a leading role in new technologies and innovation and we have to ensure that we have the necessary elements to do so," said Industry Commissioner Antonio Tajani, presenting the group's final report on 17 June.

The supply risks identified for the 14 critical raw materials highlighted in the report primarily relate to the fact that global production is concentrated in a handful of countries: China, Russia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Brazil.

The low recycling rates of these materials and the difficulty of substituting them with others add to their "criticality", the report said.

To guarantee that industry can access these essential raw materials, "we need fair play on external markets," said Tajani. Encouraging supply from EU sources, improving resource efficiency and increasing efforts to recycle were also highlighted in the report as ways forward.

Of the 41 minerals and metals analysed, the expert group listed the following 14 raw materials as critical for the EU: antimony, beryllium, cobalt, fluorspar, gallium, germanium, graphite, indium, magnesium, niobium, PGMs (Platinum Group Metals), rare earths, tantalum and tungsten.

The group cites forecasts indicating that demand for some of them might more than triple by 2030 compared to 2006 levels.

These materials are an essential part of both high-tech products and every-day consumer items, such as mobile phones, thin-layer photovoltaics, lithium-ion batteries, fibre-optic cables and synthetic fuels.

They also suggested that the list be updated every five years.

Promoting exploration within the EU and beyond

The experts recommend a number of policy measures to improve access to primary resources and stress the need to increase recycling and promote research into substituting and improving the efficiency of materials.

Policy measures to improve access to primary resources should cover "fair treatment of extraction with other competing land uses", promote exploration and extraction within and outside the EU and "ensure that exploration by companies is regarded as a research activity," the report says.

It also advises the EU to promote good governance, capacity-building and transparency in relation to the extraction industry in developing countries.

The European Commission and the African Union Commission agreed on 8 June to develop bilateral cooperation in the field of raw materials and work together on issues such as governance, infrastructure, investment and geological knowledge and skills.

Regarding trade and investment, the group advises the EU to consider shaping a new EU-wide policy on foreign investment agreements to "better protect EU investments in raw materials abroad".

The bloc should also consider the merits of pursuing dispute settlement initiatives at World Trade Organisation (WTO) level "to include in such initiatives more raw materials important for EU industry".

The EU filed a joint complaint with the United States against China at the WTO in June last year, accusing Beijing of unfairly favouring its industries by restricting access to nine types of key raw materials (EurActiv 24/06/09).

China, which is responsible for 95% of global 'rare earth' production (one of the 14 materials listed as critical to EU industry), plans to ban exports of some of them as of 2015. Beijing's plans are a cause for concern among manufacturers of high-tech products ranging from computers to electric car batteries and wind turbines (EurActiv 09/06/10).'

Beyond Decibels: Planning the New Sounds of the City

Reposted in full from the New Scientist, 2 August 2010

'City-dwellers may hate traffic noise and loud, late parties, but they enjoy a "vibrant calm" soundscape, says Trevor Cox, and we should cultivate it

I went on a "sound walk" in London in spring last year. Thirty people gathered near Euston railway station and then, in absolute silence, we meandered down backstreets, along major roads, through railway stations and ended up in Regent's Park. For 2 hours, we tuned into the city's soundscape. I had not expected to hear birdsong on a backstreet close to a noisy main road, and I was surprised to find that I enjoyed the sound of a lock banging against a bike frame as a cyclist rode by. Nor had I ever realised quite how annoying the sound of roller suitcases was until I heard travellers trundling their luggage into St Pancras station.

As an acoustic engineer, I found this walk a real ear-opener. Urban design is only really concerned with abating noise made by public transport or industry: the subtle and interesting sounds that can enhance cities are overlooked. With the internal combustion engine on its way out, though, the acoustic fog created by cars, buses and trucks will finally lift and other sounds of the city will emerge. Will we like what we hear? All those annoying sounds currently masked by traffic noise, such as humming ventilation systems and music escaping from pubs, restaurants and cars, will become more audible. It's time to work out how we want our cities of the future to sound.

In the past, researching urban soundscapes was simple. I would measure street noise in decibels, then canvass public opinion using a battery of tests borrowed from experimental psychology and combine the two. I might play a couple of city noises I had recorded and ask subjects to say which sound was more annoying. Since all that researchers wanted to know was the relationship between noise levels and people's responses, we tended to treat our subjects rather like lab animals.

Inconveniently, human response to sound is complicated and not captured well - if at all - by the decibel, except when noise is relatively loud and constant. Even so, crude decibels rule in planning regulations. Noise maps illustrate how bad this reductionist approach can get.

Worldwide, engineers use expensive computers to generate maps of the sound environment. These look so much like pretty, coloured road maps that some researchers joke it would be cheaper and quicker to colour in a map, using red crayons for busy roads and blue for quiet backstreets.

Take my house in Manchester, the heart of northern England. It appears on a sound map with a decibel value of between 60 and 64.9 decibels. Even with a PhD in acoustics I struggle to interpret this. How can the complex way sound varies during the day and between the seasons be meaningfully summed up by a single number? It also seems too large for the quiet back road I live on. Most importantly, it ignores important issues such as neighbour noise. This cannot be included on maps because there are no databases showing where inconsiderate people, players of loud music and raucous lovers live. Moreover, all this takes no account of a listener's perception: has years of working in acoustics made me overly sensitive to noise?

Yet the crude noise maps we make drive policy. Advocates argue that they have been vital in making politicians take noise seriously. This must be a good thing: noise has many deleterious effects, ranging from sleep disturbance to increased levels of stress hormones in the blood, reduced performance in schoolchildren, and poorer wellbeing overall. Yet noise is still not high on the political agenda, despite reliable estimates that 54 per cent of the UK's population live in conditions exceeding daytime sound levels prescribed by the World Health Organization - 55 decibels for steady, continuous noise.

One problem with decibel measurement is that it does not differentiate between "negative" and "positive" sounds. Take the sounds made by a fountain in a town square, happy children in a playground or the cheerful toot of the Manchester tram - any one of which might exceed permitted sound levels. Increasingly, researchers have been pressing for these positive sounds to be considered within urban design alongside more traditional noise-control approaches.
This is going to be tricky because we cannot measure the sound level for a water feature in decibels and hope that this also captures the different responses of listeners. Babbling brooks, gushing fountains and pounding waterfalls all have very different sound qualities.

Many researchers approach this problem by embracing social science methods, setting up focus groups, going on sound walks, trying to capture the emotional response to sound. Others persist with computer algorithms to model people's reactions, gathering extra data, such as the listener's age and gender, to use in the algorithm to redress the inadequacies of the decibel. They might also measure the complex aspects of audio signals, such as the balance between treble and bass or whether it has a distinct tonal quality. To tap the moods evoked by given sounds, listeners are asked to fill in personality questionnaires.

As the complexity of these models grow, so does my feeling that there must be a better way. Consider a small, relatively quiet, urban square - an acoustic oasis. To design such spaces, traditional engineers quieten intrusions from traffic, rail and planes. Buildings, walls and baffles can all be used to block out the sources of noise and reduce intrusion.

Once we have abated the noise, though, what do we want to hear? The Positive Soundscape Project, funded by the UK's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, has given us pointers. This unusual interdisciplinary research came out in favour of what seems contradictory: a "vibrant, calm" soundscape. In fact, this makes good sense. A city thrives on vibrancy, so an urban square needs to have a sense of activity: the barista making coffee, the clack of high heels on the pavement, or snatches of conversations from passers-by. Yet we don't want this vibrancy to be so intense it becomes intrusive: it might be nice to have a busker in the square, but you don't want them playing in your face. Subtle changes in urban design alter how people use places and consequently the soundscape.

One of the major problems will be getting designers to use soundscape research. Beyond bare compliance with regulations, architects and planners receive little acoustics training. Sound is treated as an engineering constraint, and given as much consideration as, say, whether the street drainage system will work. Where does that leave the emotional response we have to sound (usually stronger than our response to guttering)?

No one wanders around the street with a beauty-ometer; people make aesthetic judgements without having any idea about the tangible "rules" underlying them. If we acknowledge that urban sound has an aesthetic, which I believe it does, we urgently need to know what governs it and then how designers can work with it. Similar to that of the visual world, it will be built on a complex understanding of cultural theory, sonic art, cognitive and social psychology, engineering, physics and the relationship between them.

Powerful technologies can also help in this exploration. One promising avenue is virtual reality with realistic sound, enabling soundscapes to be explored before being built. The fancy fly-throughs of virtual developments which are so popular with architects are too often silent, but researchers are working hard to rectify this.

Hopefully, by building an aesthetic of sound, using the best technology we can get our hands on, we'll be skipping to work through a positive soundscape before long.


Trevor Cox is professor of acoustics at the University of Salford in Manchester and president of the UK's Institute of Acoustics. He directed the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council's Ideas Factory project "A Noisy Future?"'

Ecuador Will Not Drill In Amazon Reserve

Reposted in full from Planet Ark, 4 August 2010

'Ecuador signed a deal on Tuesday creating a trust fund to hold donations from Germany and other rich nations willing to pay the Andean country to refrain from drilling for oil in an Amazon wildlife reserve.

The plan, drawn up with the United Nations, applies to a 675-square-mile part of Yasuni National Park called the ITT section. Keeping oil firms out of the area would avoid dumping 410 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the air, Ecuador says.

"This is a Ecuador's contribution toward combating climate change," Minister of Heritage Maria Espinosa told reporters.

Oil is Ecuador's chief export. The country holds the rotating presidency of OPEC this year.

Yasuni National Park, in the Amazon, is home to more species of wildlife than any other place on earth - it has more different tree types than exist in all of North America, plus a huge variety of monkeys, birds and other wildlife, scientists say.

The government is asking donor countries such as Germany and Italy to pay about $3.6 billion, or about half of what the country would get from exploiting the oil, in exchange for keeping part of the area untouched.

Only Germany has signed a deal so far, promising $50 million per year over 12 years. As outrage grows over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, Ecuador says it has a stronger argument than ever for its jungle protection plan.

"The impact of oil exploitation does not always have a technological response. There are a range of risks that we cannot control, as the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico shows us," Espinosa recently told Reuters.

"Right now, this is an avant-garde project. Ten years from now projects like this will be the rule, not the exception," she said.

"We need new scenarios. We need post-oil economies. We need to create new models of production and consumption."'

Australia Agriculture Faces Climate Upheaval: Scientist

Excerpt from Planet Ark, 4 August 2010

'Land available for agriculture in Australia, one of the world's largest food exporters, is in danger of shrinking because of climate change, a leading scientist said on Tuesday.

More grain was also likely to be grown in the north as climate change cuts production in the drier south with more marginal areas turned over to pasture, threatening Australia's position as the world's fourth largest grain exporter.

The country's mostly infertile and fragile soils made the agriculture industry particularly vulnerable to climate change, said Andrew Ash, director of the Climate Adaptation Flagship project of the government-backed research organization CSIRO.

"We've had a fairly strong drying trend over the past 12 years or so and we think now there is a climate change signal associated with that," Ash said in a telephone interview after an address to the World Congress of Soil Science in Brisbane.

He said major changes in land management were needed to keep the 60 percent of Australia's land mass now used for agriculture from shrinking.

"It is more likely that we will see some cropping areas at the margins shrink," he said, while other areas would expand in regions that now have high rainfall, such as parts of Victoria, but which are expected to become drier. This might make these areas more suitable for cereal crop production, he said.

Australia is also expected to become warmer in the coming decades, further limiting water availability to crops and run-off for rivers and dams, particularly in the south, as well as escalating the risk from bushfires.

This would also affect soils because they help in the cycling and storage of water, nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus as well as carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas.

Ash said technological changes such as the breeding of more heat-resistant crop varieties and the use of degradable plastic sheeting to protect crops in the early stage of development could offset the negative impacts of climate change.

"We will eventually get to the point in some farming regions, even with the new technologies, that there will have to be some larger land use changes," said Ash.

"Probably the clearest example of that at the moment, with the drying of southern Australia and the reduction of water availability, people are starting to look at northern Australia," he said.

That could mean more areas planted with wheat, cotton and other crops such as peanuts in the north, offsetting falling production further south.

But while the north has a distinct wet season, which could provide water for irrigation, Ash said there were constraints such as soil quality so only a relatively small amount of northern Australia would be suitable for cropping.

The country's agricultural production has long suffered severe swings in climate and scientists expected even greater extremes in the coming decades...'

03 August 2010

Steady As It Goes Is Fast Enough

Reposted in full from the Brisbane Times, 3 August 2010

'Approval of an expansion of Melbourne's boundary is the death warrant for the city's 12 green wedges. When it came to the crunch, our green lungs were regarded as dispensable.

Amendment VC68, which passed through Victoria's parliament last week, not only sanctioned a 43,600-hectare extension of the urban growth boundary into the green wedges. It also showed how easily future expansion could be approved in a society that puts growth before everything else.

The green wedges were established to protect "rural and agricultural uses, natural resources, landscape, heritage, open space, and conservation values". In other words, they were there to provide recreation and food for the people of the city and the protection of scenery. The Brumby government's action indicates that, in its view, these have a lower priority than growth.

The Victorian government is not alone in its pursuit of virtually unfettered economic growth.

Other state governments, the federal government and the Coalition promote economic growth.

Further afield, China and India are the most prominent of developing nations following the West's example.

Yet there is a clear alternative to endless economic growth — the Steady State Economy.

First outlined by philosopher John Stuart Mill in 1848, this vision is now backed by a rapidly growing worldwide movement. The Centre for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy was founded six years ago and is now active on every continent. Indeed, Greens leader Bob Brown mentioned this new vision for our world at the party's campaign launch last week.

In the Steady State we will no longer base our lives on consuming an ever-increasing amount of non-renewable resources such as coal and oil, but will live within our ecological means. Our populations will be in balance with the resources that are sustainably available. It will also be a fairer world where there is equal access to services for all, as well as the freedom that will develop from a much closer relationship with the environment.

This clear philosophy shows up the disconnect between the Victorian government's actions. It says it is concerned about climate change and wants to begin phasing out Hazelwood power station, while at the same time it is paving the way for a massive increase in the demand for every kind of energy from expanding Melbourne's population. Does the government understand the relationship between supply and demand, or is it so committed to growth that it does not care?

Who is to blame for this disaster? The environment movement put up a strong fight to protect the green wedges but it was overwhelmed by the development interests that benefit from a Big Melbourne. The problem is that defensive trench warfare is not enough. What happens on the ground is determined by whatever society as a whole is prepared to accept.

The real failure of the environment movement and our politicians is that they have not developed an alternative vision for our country. Instead we have an all pervasive development ethos powered by a default vision of endless economic and population growth. To avoid a never-ending series of attacks on the environment and a failure to connect the dots, we must make the idea of developing a sustainable vision a top priority for all Australians. At least the Greens have recognised this.

Geoff Mosley, a former chief executive of the Australian Conservation Foundation, is Australian director of the Centre for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy. His book Steady State – Alternative to Endless Economic Growth will be published in October.'

'Conflict-Free' Electronics Bundled in Financial Reform Law

Reposted in full from Greenbuzz, 27 July 2010

'Nearly unmentioned in the discussions of the financial reform bill is a measure that will affect large swaths of the U.S. economy and that seeks to remove "conflict minerals" sourced from the Democratic Republic of the Congo from products sold in the United States.

The Washington Post reported late last week that the 2,300-page financial reform bill contained a provision focused on eliminating the use of four materials that are commonly sourced in war-torn Congo: Gold, tin, tungsten and tantalum.

The country has been embroiled in a horrific war since 1994 that has killed an estimated 5 million people, and led the nation to be dubbed "the rape capital of the world."

The materials included in the financial reform law are commonly found in electronics, but the provision's impacts will go much further: It applies to any publicly traded U.S. firm that uses gold or tin in its products.

"This is a law that is going to affect virtually the entire U.S. manufacturing sector," Rick Goss, vice president of environment at the Information Technology Industry Council, told the Post's Mary Beth Sheridan.

The article continues:

The issue got tied to the financial reform bill largely because of [Republican Senator Sam] Brownback, who had previously introduced legislation on "conflict minerals." He sought to attach an amendment to the bill, and Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn), chairman of the banking committee, supported it, congressional staff said. In the end, Brownback voted against the overall bill, but his amendment survived.

The new law requires American companies to submit an annual report to the Securities and Exchange Commission disclosing whether their products contain gold, tin, tungsten or tantalum from Congo or adjacent countries. If so, they have to describe what measures they are taking to trace the minerals' origin.

The law does not impose any penalty on companies who report taking no action. But the disclosures must be made publicly on firms' Web sites.

"The consequence is a market-driven one. Consumers can make their choices. Do they want their electronic products to be funding gang rape in central Africa? I don't think most Americans would want that," said Rory Anderson of the World Vision humanitarian group, which has been pushing for the legislation.

The issue of responsible sourcing of materials has been on tech companies' radars for some time.

In 2009, the Center for American Progress launched a "No Blood for Gadgets" campaign focused on conflict materials, and electronics companies have long focused on the greening of their supply chains.

Hewlett-Packard, for instance, showcased its efforts on scouring its supply chain of conflict materials at the 2009 BSR conference, and in 2008, the company released green supply chain guidelines for suppliers and top-level global enterprises alike to work toward transparency in supply chains. Later that year, HP also named its largest suppliers as part of its CSR report, an unprecedented move in the secretive IT industry.

Conflict materials are not just a problem for the electronics sector; jewelry retailers have repeatedly worked on cleaning up the supplies of sometimes "dirty gold" in the marketplace.'

Labor Promises National Food Strategy

Reposted in full from ABC News, 3 August 2010

'Labor will develop a national food plan if re-elected to government, Agriculture Minister Tony Burke has announced.

Last month an ABC Online investigation revealed there are concerns over whether there needs to be more regulation of foreign ownership of farms, as other countries are increasingly looking to Australia to buy up productive agricultural land.

Mr Burke says the national food plan would investigate food security, quality and affordability.

"This is a first for Australia and will integrate all aspects of food policy by looking at the whole food chain, from the paddock to the plate," he said.

"Even though we export 60 per cent of what we grow, we need to ensure that our country's food security is protected in the years to come.

The Greens are in favour of a national food plan, while the Coalition is in favour of more monitoring of foreign purchases, but does not want a register.

Mr Burke says the plan will include a consultation process with key industry players such as the National Farmers Federation, the Australian Food and Grocery Council, CSIRO and Woolworths.
It will be funded through money already provided for in the Budget under the Regional Food Producers Innovation and Productivity Program.

The sale of agricultural land is exempt under the rules of the FIRB unless the sale exceeds $231 million.'

02 August 2010

Economics Dumbed Down

Reposted in full from the Centre for Policy Development, 25 July 2010

'Given the distortions in the Opposition’s rhetoric on economics, it’s worrying that polls consistently show voters rate the Coalition so highly on economic management, writes Ian McAuley

Notice something strange in the opinion polls? Essential Media polling has surveyed Australians on a number of specific issues, asking which party they would trust to handle various issues. On education, jobs, industrial relations, housing affordability, climate change and the environment Labor easily scores ahead of the Coalition.

Yet on the question “management of the economy”, the Coalition still leads by a comfortable margin.

There is a strange contradiction in these figures. If economic management isn’t about ensuring high employment and harmonious labour relations, conserving scarce environmental resources, keeping housing affordable, and investing in education, what is it about?

The answer lies in the rhetoric of the Opposition, for whom “economic management” has come to mean keeping a balanced budget. Counter-cyclical economic management to stave off the recession suffered by most other countries has been framed as “reckless spending”. Spending on infrastructure can be sacrificed in the interest of bringing the budget back to an early surplus. And a responsible market-based policy to put a price on carbon is called a “big new tax”.

This dumbing down of the economic debate is serious. Most seriously it has frozen us into inaction on climate change. Rather than seeing environmental sustainability as a basis for economic sustainability, we have come to accept the notion that meaningful action on climate change requires economic sacrifices – as if we place no value on our (and the planet’s) environmental resources.

Budgetary management is but one aspect of economic management. Most economists agree that over a business cycle recurrent government expenditure should be balanced by tax and other income. Similarly, economists do not have a terror of public debt: what counts is the use of that debt. If it is used to finance current consumption then that is reckless, but if it is used to fund productive infrastructure then our economy is strengthened. If anything can be called “reckless” it is a policy which puts a “balanced budget” ahead of investment in productive infrastructure. (Imagine how shareholders would respond if a public company were to cut its capital expenditure and reduce its debt to zero.)

Already in this election campaign the Opposition has exploited this puerile construction of “economic management” to stymie carbon pricing and to devalue even the Government’s paltry infrastructure spending. The blame lies not only with the Opposition, however; political parties are opportunistic and to expect any different behaviour from the Opposition would be as na├»ve as to expect sailors to practice celibacy on shore leave. The Government too must take some blame, for it has had three years to explain economic policy to the electorate, and has failed to do so.'

New Climate & Energy Policies Could Create 2.5 Million Jobs, Hold Down Energy Costs

Reposted in full from Warmer Bulletin e-news, 30 July 2010

'New greenhouse gas emissions and energy policies at the Federal level could generate as many as 2.5 million new jobs and $134 billion in economic activity in the United States while keeping energy costs down, according to a new report from the Center for Climate Strategies, published with Johns Hopkins University.

The report is based on economic impacts of climate policies developed by 16 states and calls for adoption of 23 specific policy approaches that have the potential to reduce pollution, are cost effective, and improve energy, health, environment, and economic development."

Several states have pioneered creation of comprehensive state climate action plans in recent years," said Tom Peterson, President and CEO of the Center for Climate Strategies.

"Our analysis provides the first clear indication of what would happen to the economy if such programmes were adopted at the Federal level."

"These results may sound surprising to some, but detailed analysis shows opportunities for well chosen policies to expand the economy" according to Dr. Adam Rose of the University of Southern California, a principal author of the study.

"The Center for Climate Strategies report findings substantiate that advanced climate actions are essential to establishing a stable and strong economy, using clean energy sources, including renewables and nuclear power, as the primary drivers, long into the future," said former EPA Administrator and New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, Co-Chair of the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition (CASEnergy).

Suggested policy adoptions would focus on creation of new clean energy sources for heat and power; improved energy efficiency and industrial processes; transportation and land use improvements; agriculture and forestry conservation; and expanded recycling and waste energy recovery under a national framework.

Assuming full and appropriately scaled implementation of all 23 actions in all US states, the resulting greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions would surpass national GHG targets proposed by President Obama and congressional legislation, and would reduce US emissions to 27 per cent below 1990 levels in 2020, equal to 4.46 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (BMtCO2e).

"This report is the first solid economic data based on what is already underway at the state level to address climate change and energy use," said Kathy Wagner, Director of Governmental Studies at the Johns Hopkins University's Washington, DC Center, which published the study.

The Center for Climate Strategies was established in 2004 and is a nonpartisan 501c(3). CCS works with 40 states and several regions across the United States, and in Mexico and China, to develop and advance comprehensive climate and energy policies and actions.

The Governmental Studies programme of Johns Hopkins University's Washington DC Center periodically publishes timely reports of pathbreaking work that can better inform ongoing policy debate.'

US Food Waste Worth More Than Offshore Drilling

Reposted in full from the New Scientist, 30 July 2010

'More energy is wasted in the perfectly edible food discarded by people in the US each year than is available in oil and gas reserves off the nation's coastlines.

Recent estimates suggest that 16 per cent of the energy consumed in the US is used to produce food. Yet at least 25 per cent of food is wasted each year. Michael Webber and Amanda Cuellar at the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy at the University of Texas at Austin calculate that this is the equivalent of about 2150 trillion kilojoules lost each year.

That's more than could be gained from many popular strategies to improve energy efficiency. It is also more than projections for how much energy the US could produce by making ethanol biofuel from grains.

Dairy foods and vegetables are the greatest culprits, with around 466 and 403 trillion kilojoules lost as waste each year, respectively (Environmental Science and Technology, DOI: 10.1021/es100310d).

The numbers are likely to be conservative, the team says, as they are based on food-waste figures from the US Department of Agriculture from 1995 - the latest available. Since then food prices have dropped and waste is likely to have increased. What's more, the figures do not take into account waste on farms and from fishing. Estimates suggest between 8 and 23 per cent of fish caught worldwide are by-catch, and are often thrown dead or dying back into the sea.'