Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Carlo Petrini. Climate and Food Change

Carlo Petrini, president of Slow Food, speaks about climate change and food security, Central and Eastern Europe and socialism's heritage. Petrini focused on the manifesto's eighth point, knowledge transition for climate adaptation.

"This is the central point, the most important cultural and political point," he stated. "Virtuous practices already exist in the cultural biodiversity of the farmers of the world. They have extraordinary knowledge and there must be a dialog with official science, an honest, frank and sincere dialog as equals."

The manifesto is based upon the strong link between climate change and agriculture, drawing attention to the contribution to the problem by the industrial globalized food system and the potential to mitigate it by adapting to ecological and organic farming.

Indian scientist and activist Vandana Shiva, founder of NGO Navdanya and vice-president of Slow Food International, elaborated on each of the manifesto's nine points, providing a passionate summary of its principles. Shiva argues that as 35 percent of the climate change crisis comes from agriculture, therefore 35 percent of the solution also lies in farming and food and that we must look seriously at this vital component in analyses of climate change and discussions of possible solutions.

She argues that we must return to sustainable, local, bio-diverse systems that are better adapted to dealing with the cyclones and floods created by climate change, as well as contributing to cleaner air and water and better food.

Download the Manifesto on Climate Change and the Future of Food Security in five languages here, www.future-food.org

South Park Takes on Japanese Whaling

The Japanese are on a mad hunt to kill all the world’s dolphins and whales in an all-new "South Park" titled, “Whale Whores,” premiering on Wednesday, October 28 at 10:00 p.m. on COMEDY CENTRAL.

Stan and his family are spending his birthday at the Denver Aquarium where they will get to swim with the dolphins. Things turn bloody when the Japanese attack, kill all the dolphins and ruin Stan’s big day. There seems to be no end to the senseless killing. Stan takes on the cause to save the dolphins from the Japanese.

You can see a preview from the episode below, and you can catch the whole thing when it premieres this Wednesday, October 28, 2009.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Climate Change Positives. Giddens’ Track Record

Anthony Giddens says that all the books about climate change that he read proposed revolutionary solutions.

Although, with his latest book – The Politics of Climate Change, Polity Press 2009, the prestigious sociologist brings into the public sphere new concepts and original approaches climate policy or risk society, he records numerous positive steps. I propose a tour of this "track record" of climate change positives.

1. Except for Germany and Denmark, in the top league fighters against climate change there are those countries that have concerns related to their energy security and not necessarily to global warming.

They have reduced emissions and focused on energy efficiency policies for purely economic reasons.

Coupling of energy efficiency policies and climate change counteraction is a good lesson to follow, despite criticism of radical environmentalists. Obama, during the election campaign, perfectly understood the energy security/climate change action binomial.

2. Hence, continuity of climate policies is affected by the left-right political spectrum.

Until now, effective policies have been conducted, in general, by regimes of the center-left.

The Scandinavian countries are an example of continuous application of such policies and they invariably had center-left governments.

However, climate policies must be consensual and the result of agreements, in principle, between absolutely all political parties.

3. A tool that operates effectively via coercive force of the state is the emission tax. Carbon should have a price – from here goes climate policies. The great advantage of taxes compared to other climate policy lies in the fact that the imposition is universal and compulsory. To the extent that taxations are reconciled with social equity (the poor are the hardest hit by tax charges), taxes are the optimal climate policy making. The European Trading Scheme, the EU carbon market solution, was eventually embraced only because Member States could not agree on carbon tax harmonization.

4. Subsidies for renewable energy is a fourth component of a climate policy's success. They give a stable base for investment in an era where gas prices and oil fluctuate.

5. Nuclear energy, many analysts assert, may be part of the energy mix of many countries, despite fierce opposition. Concerns related to use of nuclear energy are significant, however. Personally, I oppose nuclear for many reasons. But Anthony Giddens is a sociologist and applies mere statistics. For many developed countries, a high risk of not reaching their targets of reducing emissions without the use of energy generation in nuclear reactors should be considered.

6. Relocation of industries has made the Western manufacturing sector to steeply decline in the past two decades. The West is depending on the goods "made in China" or produced in other developing countries. Western carbon emissions would be thus much higher if production was not transferred to Eastern markets. Therefore, global equity in reducing carbon emissions shall be a key factor in Copenhagen.

“All governments face deep dilemmas in reconciling climate change and energy policy with sustaining popular support, especially in times of economic difficulty. […] In order to cope, governments will have to resort to a range of strategies while at the same time trying to foster a more widespread consciousness of the need for action. The habits and routines of everyday life stand in the way, but the key problem is the difficulty of getting people to accept that the risks are real and pressing”. (Giddens, 230)

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Ride Planet Earth

Kim Paul Nguyen is a 27 years old Australian and he is riding planet earth. Well, he is riding his bike “merely” from Brisbane, Australia to Copenhagen, so that would make about half of the globe. Kim’s professional background is in social work, he has been working in the child protection field for the past eight years, interspersed with a lot of traveling, some environmental volunteering and “a few too many hours watching Liverpool miss out on the title again”. He is also a documentary video maker, a cycling enthusiast and an environmentalist.

Even though at the time you are reading this blog post he is cycling somewhere in Europe, Kim had the kindness to answer 2C a few questions just to unveil the reasons that lie at the root of such a crazy and beautiful two-wheeled enterprise.

1. Did you get a lot of brotherly support from environmental NGOs in the countries that you've crossed?

I have received a lot of support from NGOs and more and more as I get closer and closer to Copenhagen. It started off with mainly Friends of the Earth Australia but over the course of the journey I've worked closely with Greenpeace, WWF and other local orgs. Its been brilliant really, learning about the work they are doing and receiving help with accommodation, good company and promoting the message of stopping climate change.

2. What about simple people? How did they react to your initiative?

Well, I wouldn't call them simple people but most of the people I've met and seen live in isolated parts of Asia, and they are usually farmers of some kind, or living and working in small villages. They have responded in all kinds of ways, with enthusiasm and excitement, shock and bewilderment, and very rarely aggression. But most people have been very supportive and I have been fortunate to have received amazing hospitality from people everywhere I've been. A place to stay, food, a friendly smile. But the language barrier has made it hard to discuss climate change. When I have had an interpreter with me the people have openly talked about the changing climate and its impacts but have often been unaware of the political process going on at meeting such as the COP15, and how they might effect them.

3. Did cyclists' communities express their solidarity? In what ways?

Yeah, cyclists have been great. I've cycled with a number of local people and meet many cyclists and they have been wonderful. Local cycling groups are arranging many of the Ride Planet Earth events on 6th Dec. They are often most interested in the details of my experiences. I am trying to help bring the cycling and environmental groups together and so far this has been working well. They have been working with me to publicise Ride Planet Earth which has climate change as its main focus.

4. Were the roads friendly with you and your crew? Could you rank the regions function of "friendliness towards cyclists"?

I am very used to crazy drivers, narrow roads and dicing with death cycling through Beijing, Jakarta or Istanbul. I always feel pretty safe on the road, although I probably shouldn't. Only a few times have cars driven close and caused me any trouble. These incidences have been in Australia and Europe, in Asia drivers expect something crazy to happen when they are driving so they drive slowly and generally dodge you.

5. Does your message have to get across governments or companies as well?

Of course the message needs to be heard by everyone. For change to come at the speed is needs to in order to avoid the worse of dangerous climate change government and industry must be involved and proactive. I think ordinary people can change their behaviour, this is a necessity, but part of that change must be to engage with their governments to make protection of our planet a priority. Even if business only listens to money they will have to change if they buyers decisions change and our governments pass laws that will regulate the carbon they can produce. It is all connected.

6. Is there a political conviction beyond your initiative? Do you also pledge for green jobs or against our evil consumerist behaviours?

I can't say I really understand this question. Yes, I have a strong political conviction behind this project, my actions, and the actions I am encouraging in others. I can't pledge for green jobs but I think this is the way forward, the green revolution. If government subsidises renewable energy and green jobs instead of subsidising fossil fuel production and consumption it will have positive environmental, social and economic impacts.

I think that sustainable development must be based on a reduction in the current levels of consumption. With climate change we consumers are the problem. When we start consuming less, and consuming smarter our planet will be safer.

7. Why do you think that a climate deal in Copenhagen this year is essential to combat runaway climate change?

The timeliness of the COP15 is why it is so important. The next 10 years will determine what path humanity takes. The one that will lead us to environmental and eventual social devastation, or the one that will lead to a healthy planet and a healthy society for future generations. We can't put it off any longer. It starts in Copenhagen. If we don't take action before 2020 the level of carbon in the atmosphere will be high enough to bring devastating effects to communities all over the planet.

8. Even though you are not going to cross the United Stated of America, probably you do know that the Climate Bill is debated in the Senate and its targets of CO2 emissions reduction are pretty weak. What would you say to the US senators? What would you say to President Obama, given that, most probably, there will be no U.S. Climate Bill before COP15?

I would say that we are all connected. Everything is connected. To act now is to improve our lives and the lives of our children and grandchildren. To look after the planet is to look after ourselves. The health of our planet is worth more than all the money in the world, it will bring happiness and safety and long life to us where money never could. Don't follow the money, follow your hearts and minds. We must act now before its too late and ensure that we stop polluting the atmosphere and start looking after our earth. Our children, our grandchildren, and their children will look back on how we took action when we needed to, how we overcame the greatest challenge of our own insatiable greed, and did something truly noble, preserved our beautiful world for them.

9. What is a bicycle? Is it just sports equipment? Is it leisure? Or is it a serious alternative, at least for urban transport.

I think it is clearly one of the most important sustainable, environmentally friendly, travel and transport options. We need to be looking for alternatives to fossil fuel based transport, oil driven, especially when it is unnecessary. The bicycle is one of the big options that we need to encourage, partly by building better infrastructure for cyclists. But it isn't just bikes, walking, taking public transport, skating, blading, all these forms of travel are preferred to driving a car alone. A bike can be used for recreation, or transport, or for both. whichever way bikes should be promoted for improving health, saving you money and saving the planet from unnecessary pollution.

10. Were the cities that you've already been through open to bicycle transport (bicycle lanes, racks etc.)?

Actually, unfortunately, very few were. I do think you can cycle in any city, and you usually be quicker on a bike, but only a few that I've seen have specific cycling lanes. It seems that places with only a small bike culture, like Australia, have less infrastructure for bikes and drivers are ruder. In most places in Asia drivers gave me a lot of space so I felt very safe.

11. What bike are you riding?

It’s a Vivente World Randonneur.

12. Are your preoccupations revolving around other environmental issues or merely climate change?

Again, it’s all connected. I think the important thing is that people need to feel a connection with the planet, and then they'll want to protect it. The environmental abuses that continue, such as deforestation, and pollution, cause local problems as bad or worse than what climate change does at a planetary scale. But for this project I couldn't focus on every issue, so I chose the one that is the most important, climate change.

13. How do you foresee the world in 2050 if average temperatures will increase with more than 2 degrees Celsius?

There will be major problems, with droughts, floods, storms, access to water, and climate refugees. I don't think the earth could cope and there would not be enough resources for everyone.

14. How's Eastern Europe so far?

Great. nearly everyone has been really happy to see us. In the cities we've connected with local people a lot, we've traveled with a Bulgarian man, a Romanian woman and a Serbian guy. I hope to come back to Romania next year, beautiful land, beautiful people.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Romania’s chance to gain the EU’s Agriculture Commissioner seat is lost by domestic power wringing

At the EU level, Romania is not considered a serious candidate for the portfolio of the European Commissioner on Agriculture. Romania’s entire political class compromised the chances of small farmers to be represented by a Romanian commissioner at the EU’s Agriculture Commission. The lack of responsibility manifested in the past months by the Romanian Government and Parliament in this highly important issue and opportunity of the future is absolutely condemnable, reads an Eco Ruralis press release.

According to internal sources, Romania once had a good chance at securing EU's Agricultural portfolio,with several influential member states backing Romania. But now, after a long delayed nomination and apparent signalling from EU Commission head Jose Miguel Barroso, big supporters like France, Germany and Finland have switched their allegiance to more viable candidates from Ireland and Austria.
Romania failed to see this opportunity and as a result the interests of the approximately 3 million small farmers in Romania, which represent over 50% of the total number of the small farmers in the EU will remain unrepresented.

The PD-L liberal and PSD socialist parties (the coalition that until 2 weeks ago formed the Romanian Government) as well as the parties in opposition, contributed to the loss in support for a Romanian EU Agriculture Commissioner. Romania’s politicians instead considered the presidential campaign and internal power wringing as being more important and thus demonstrated a total disregard for the country’s agricultural sector, which is one of the country’s most important sectors. The defective way in which the Romanian authorities have managed European funds so far further highlights and exacerbates this situation. The corruption in the Romanian administration only aided to a lack of confidence on the part of the European Commission to trust Romania with the responsibilities of coordinating the EU's Agricultural portfolio and the substantial budget that comes with it.

The way in which the Romanian authorities dealt with this lost opportunity shows the political
classes’ incompetence. Despite the evident signals from Brussels which questioned Romania’s capacity to coordinate such an important portfolio and despite the pressures for Romania to submit on time its nominations for the post, the Romanian authorities instead preferred to work on other issues like the upcoming presidential campaign. During the last months the Romanian authorities had ample opportunities to gain the EU’s trust and the support of the member states. Instead, the scandalous and irresponsible fight for power in Bucharest made Romania a very weak candidate for this vital position. Mr. Dacian Ciolos was eventually nominated by the Romanian Government but this happened far too late and without the government even initiating any kind of negotiations with Barroso, the EC president and member states. While the country is currently inundated by propagandistic speeches from politicians who pretend to serve the national interest, the country’s farming sector is angered by the political realities and lost opportunities.

Eco Ruralis is a Romanian grassroots association made up of small farmers who practice organic and traditional farming based on environmentally conscious principles.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Florestania: Amazonian Social Development in the Heart of the Forest

Building on the legacy of Chico Mendes’ socio-environmentalism, in the last twenty years his followers in the state of Acre have developed and implemented the most successful sustainable development strategy in the Amazon basin.

The pioneering work of the father and martyr of Brazil’s environmental movement has flourished in a series of innovative approaches guided by the concept of florestania, or forestinzenship, which brings together the expansion of citizenship rights with demands for better quality of life for the peoples of the Rainforest.

Development in the Amazonian region does not merely lie in laws and consultancy programs; “it presupposes a social pact, a permanent dialogue, that comprises all layers of the society in the region,” said Binho Marques, governor of the Brazilian state of Acre.

This type of developmental pattern is named Ecological Economic Zoning - EEZ. It is defined by FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) as a form of land use planning that takes into account all elements of the physic and biotic environment on the one hand and the socio-economic

environment on the other. It then matches both of them through multiple goal analysis, thereby providing a neutral tool for the various land users to arrive at a consensus on the optimal use or non-use of the land

The Acre developmental system is based on a strong social capital, assessment of environmental vulnerability, and an excellent educational system. “The main base of sustainability is education”, stresses Marques. The government of Acre has practically created a “digital jungle” of libraries, modern computers, and access to information and knowledge.

‘Ecosystem services’ is the economic concept that revolves around the development of Acre. “We are manufacturers for the forest,” stresses the governor, “an industrial park that takes good economic advantage of the forest’s resources functions as a mix of public and private investments.” The condom factories use natural rubber and enjoy successful exports, while a poultry processing plant involves a vast number of local households. Agro-forestry is at the center of both agricultural and environmental development of the small Brazilian state, giving as outcomes reforestation of the world’s most important carbon sink and sustainable exploitation of rubber and fruits.

As governments and environmental, scientific and business organizations prepare to launch the negotiations of a new global protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in December, in Copenhagen, the governor of the state of Acre militates for a global deal to be sealed in the Danish capital. “We need our sustainable practices related to forest conservation to be internationally assessed and recognized in order to lead to a certification of our products and services.”

Following Chico Mendes’ heritage, Foster Brown, Senior Scientist, Woods Hole Research Center, expert on the Acre experience, spoke on the capacity building given to the indigenous people in the Amazon under the REDD mechanism. Their observances of the regional changes are extremely accurate and noteworthy for any scientist, even though they are not published in Science Magazine.

A UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s program, REDD - Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation mechanism - addresses incentives for conservation in tropical forests, so it does not maximize the carbon sequestration potential of natural systems worldwide – nor their social and biodiversity benefits. The mechanism is an important part of the solution, and leaving conservation out of REDD would be a monumental missed opportunity. It now looks as if REDD+ is in place for the climate talks in Copenhagen this December. This is an important step in the right direction – for people, for biodiversity, and for climate.

Chico Mendes (19441988) was a Brazilian rubber tapper, unionist and environmental activist in the state of Acre. He fought to stop the burning and logging of the Amazon Rainforest to clear land for cattle ranching, and founded a national union of rubber tappers in an attempt to preserve their profession and the rainforest that it relied upon. He was murdered in 1988 by ranchers who opposed his activism.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Predatory Capitalism Causes Climate Change

All crises, climate crisis included, have been created by “predatory capitalism”, stated John Perkins at the Green Festival in Washington, D.C, October 2009.

The root of all this, said the controversial author of “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man”, lies in the adolescent stance on competition that Americans find deeply embedded in their education: “be better”, “beat others”.

“It might be positive for our homeland security, however… Our homeland is the Earth.”
The world is witnessing the first global empire that was created not by military force, but by economic means and corporations. These latter ones, believes Perkins, are central to politics for they control the whole economy via lobbying and the media.

However, “corporations exist only because of us; we buy their products and we worship their leaders by printing on the covers of the magazines their bosses’ faces. But they use slave labor (…). Say ‘no’ to that! Say no to Nike shoes manufactured in Vietnam!”
It takes real consumer responsibility and a deep reform of politics and of government. “If we don’t buy their tennis shoes and their cars they are going to have to come around. Instead of Monsanto’s GMO’s and dirty crops of Chiquita or Kraft why not go organic in Africa and local elsewhere”, said the “Economic Hit Man”.

The best students in Economics are oriented towards entrepreneurship and they do not want follow a corporate career. “Who the hell would want to look like that guy with ridiculous hairdo and that repeats that cynical line on TV – ‘you’re fired!’ – Donald Trump? Who wants to look like this guy?” asked Perkins.

If we want to put an end to “corporatocracy” we will need a new rule for business: make profits – yes, but only if your work creates a better world. More than 200 years ago corporations, continued Perkins, could exist only if they served the public interest in USA. And that was capitalism too.

There are many examples of Latin-American countries that had brutal dictators and currently they turned to good democracies. “We don’t want foreign aid, they would cry out with Perkins’ words, we must give our peoples the opportunity to raise out of their bootstraps.”

What you can do?

Find your passion, advises Perkins. Join an organization that fights for good causes. “We must rise up, we are a democracy, so act democratically,” shouts Perkins. See good democratic examples such as Yes! Magazine or Dream Change!

Or as Perkins states in the Epilogue of “Confessions…”:

“(…) cut back on your oil consumption. In 1990, before we first invaded Iraq, we imported 8 million barrels of oil; by 2003 and the second invasion, this had increased more than 50 percent, to over 12 million barrels.' The next time you are tempted to go shopping, read a book instead, exercise, or meditate. Downsize your home, wardrobe, car, office, and most everything else in your life. Protest against "free" trade agreements and against companies that exploit desperate people in sweatshops or that pillage the environment.

I could tell you that there is great hope within the current system, that there is nothing inherently wrong with banks, corporations, and governments — or with the people who manage them — and that they certainly do not have to compose a corporatocracy. I could go into detail about how the problems confronting us today are not the result of malicious institutions; rather, they stem from fallacious concepts about economic development. The fault lies not in the institutions themselves, but in our perceptions of the manner in which they function and interact with one another, and of the role their managers play in that process.

I could enumerate the amazing opportunities we have available to us for creating a better world, right now: enough food and water for everyone; medicines to cure diseases and to prevent epidemics that needlessly plague millions of people today; transportation systems that can deliver life 's essentials to even the most remote corners of the planet; the ability to raise literacy levels and to provide Internet services that could make it possible for every person on the planet to communicate with every other person; tools for conflict resolution that could render wars obsolete; technologies that explore both the vastness of space and the most minute, subatomic energy, which could then be applied to developing more ecologic and efficient homes for everyone; sufficient resources to accomplish all of the above; and much more.” (Perkins, 222)

“We do not know where this movement is going to go, but we have faith,” closed Perkins in mystical manner. “We have faith in a sustainable, peaceful, and a just world for everyone!”

John Perkins recently launched his new book, “Hoodwinked”. Besides “Confessions…”, previous books by John Perkins include “Shapeshing”,” The World Is As You Dream It”, “Psychonavigation”, “The Stress-Free Habit”, and “Spirit of the Shuar”. To learn more about John, to find out where he is lecturing, to order his books, or to contact him, go to his Web site:


Perkins is also twittering under the I.D. of ‘Economichitman’.