Migrant crisis? Plant a tree!

The World Resources Institute presents the case that a serious contributing factor in today’s African migrant crisis is the failure of food crops and lack of economic security due to the sheer impoverishment of Africa’s soils. To be blunt, the soils are dying. The answer? More trees!


The recent New Climate Economy report shows that restoring just 150 million hectares of degraded land by 2030 could feed 200 million people, raise $35-40 billion annually in farm incomes, strengthen climate resilience and reduce greenhouse gas emissions….

  • In Niger, the increased density of trees on cropland has reduced the time women spend collecting firewood from 2.5 hours each day to an average of half an hour per day.
  • Farmers in Malawi are promoting the growth of Faidherbia albida trees on fields to provide shade canopies and lock nitrogen in the soil. Farmers have seen their maize crop yields increase from fewer than 2 tons per hectare (2.5 acres) to 3 and 4 tons per hectare.
  • In Burkina Faso, farmers are using water-harvesting techniques such as building stone lines and improved planting pits, locally known as zai. These practices help trap rainfall on crop fields, increasing average cereal yields from 400 to 900 kilograms (880-1,984 pounds) per hectare (2.5 acres) or more.



This next WRI article also has details about South Koreasouth_korea_restoration




…and how agroforestry can, with just a few water-storing pits and specially planted fuel-trees, add to the productivity and fertility of farms and increase carbon storing across hundreds of millions of acres!

Posted in Ecology, Food, Politics, Soil | Leave a comment

It’s nearly game over!

If King Coal gets his grubby hands on the TPP, even a 100% Green Government could not stop coal growing as fast as they want. They might even sue the government now and then just for spite! We’ve only got 2 weeks before this thing is signed! Write letters to your MP today, get online, go to Reddit and Facebook and Twitter: and do it right now.

As the Guardian points out a TPP would:-

  • It gives Corporations the right to sue any government that gets in their way or reduces their profits.
  • We are signing it before we know what is in it: before the fine print is finished!

Choice agrees. Director of campaigns, Matt Levey, said the group’s biggest concern is “we just don’t know what’s in it”.

“If Australia is losing out from this deal, we don’t even know about it,” he said.

Labor has raised concerns about the possible inclusion of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clauses, which allow corporations to sue federal and state governments if laws are enacted that adversely affect them.

Parke describes ISDS clauses as “really scary”.

“They’re like Trojan horses, because they allow so many other things in,” she said.

Despite raising concerns on ISDS clauses, and refusing to sign free trade agreements that contained them when in office, Labor has refused to rule out supporting the TPP even with ISDS clauses.

  • This is about saving democracy itself!
  • Corporations already abuse the system, and commit quite appalling crimes against our fellow human beings and the environment for which they are slapped on the wrists with tiny little fines.
  • The TPP is like handing the school bully a whip and banishing the democratically elected school captain to the naughty chair.

“The TPP makes corporate profits more important than protections for clean air, clean water, climate stability and workers’ rights,” ACTU president Ged Kearney said last month.

  • Even if there are some good trade arrangements that come out of the TPP, it is the fundamental attack on global democracy that is the problem. We want fairer trade, but we do not want it at the expense of our vote and our voice. Australia was the first nation to impose plain packaging on cigarette packets. Tobacco companies would not have allowed Australia to do so without crippling fines under a TPP!
  • There are other less threatening means by which we can ensure free trade between our nations. We do not want to hamstring our governments and end up spiralling into an uncontrollable Corporatocracy as imagined in the Sci-Fi TV series “Continuum”, or Neal Stephenson’s “Snow Crash” and “Diamond Age”.
Posted in Economics, Global Governance, Global Warming, Politics | Leave a comment

Solar glider whoop te do!

Newsflash: solar glider takes off to fly across Pacific!!!! Everyone rejoice!!!!!!!!!
Real story: it’s doing so after a 2 or 3 week break due to bad weather!
Moral of story: Dr James Hansen is right on climate change and also right on renewables! We need both renewables and waste-eating nukes to wean off coal, oil, and gas.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

5 minutes on how Foreign Aid helps u

Brilliant and funny

Posted in Politics, Social Justice | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Great angry rant from Anglican Minister Byron Smith

An article in the journal Science has Anglican Minister Byron Smith fired up, and this came in from his facebook feed this morning.


*Angry rant ahead*

Bloody hell – yet another anti-divestment screed that hasn’t bothered to familiarise itself with the basics of the divestment movement. Unfortunately, this isn’t some irrelevant backwater publication but appears in one of the most prestigious science journals in the world.

Divestment is a political campaign with political objectives. The bankruptcy sought for the industry is primarily moral, rather than financial (that comes later).

The proximate goal of divestment is to hobble the power of the fossil fuel lobby, based on an analysis that says that one of the biggest roadblocks to effective climate policy in many nations (esp most of the most powerful ones) is that the regulators have been captured by industry, which is why policy responses have generally been muted despite large majorities in most nations supporting stronger climate action. For instance, Australia is about to reach a bipartisan agreement to slash its Renewable Energy Target by about 20%, despite nine in ten voters wanting the target to be kept or strengthened.

That is: divestment is about corruption, not market competition.

“Even advocates of divestment admit that the main purpose is to raise awareness.”
Bovine manure. The main purpose is to render toxic fuels toxic politically. This was the strategy used against the power of the tobacco lobby, which continued to largely write (or seriously water down) regulations for decades after it had become clear it was killing people by the millions. It was not until a global divestment campaign (in conjunction with concerted public health messaging and legal action to bring their misinformation campaign to light) that the power of the lobby was broken as their social license was revoked (or at least compromised). Better regulation followed (limiting advertising, restricting sales, quit smoking campaigns, etc.). But it was breaking the lobbyist’s illusion of respectability that opened the space for saner policy in the face of a destructive industry.

I am yet to see a piece critiquing the divestment movement that demonstrates that it has grasped this central strategy, which amounts to just substituting your own assumptions about the goals and then telling off divestment activists for failing to meet them.

And the other criticisms are more or less laughable.

1. Divestment isn’t sufficient to solve climate change on its own? Of course not. Who ever said it was? Again, have they ever actually read any of the articulate defenders of divestment, or just based their ideas on what they overheard some undergrad say during a sit-in?

2. Divestment means losing money? Not according to a number of independent analyses, which have compared portfolios with and without exposure to major fossil fuel companies and found basically zero difference, or, in the case of more recent studies, a major financial advantage to divestment, given that the price of both coal and oil have slumped, with coal likely being in long term structural decline). (PS Who cares? If the industry is morally tainted, then it’s immoral to profit from it. Removing tobacco from your portfolio, as many institutions with a social conscience have done for some time, means losing money, but really this means ceasing to steal money from the health of the poor and addicted. Same for fossil fuels, but more so.)

3. Divestment means having to move fund managers? Really? A university couldn’t be arsed considering the idea of switching fund managers because it’s all a hassle? So no belief in the free market then. Once you’re with a fund manager, you’re stuck. Plus, if you’re an institutional investor the size of the NYU, then if you tell your fund manager to change priorities, if they want to keep your business, they will change priorities.

4. Renewables sector couldn’t handle the cash injection? This to me is one of the most risible suggestions, given the massive growth in the sector over the last few years. In 2013 and 2014 the world added more new renewable capacity than fossil and nuclear combined. The world added in 2014 more renewable capacity than the entire existing nuclear capacity of the US. This is no fledgling industry.

5. We rely on fossil fuels everyday? Give me a break. Of course we do and THAT IS PRECISELY THE PROBLEM. Seriously, haven’t the editors of Nature been reading any of their own articles, let alone the deluge of climate science that says we need to move away from a fossil economy as soon as possible? Alternatives exist. Continuing to invest in a dead end and deadly industry is what is really in denial of reality.

6. “The question is how to harness that angry energy — without further polarizing the debate. This is a collective problem, and vilifying the fossil-fuel industry merely displaces blame.”
Patronising and naïve. There is a reason the debate is polarised: that has been the deliberate strategy of powerful financial interests, the very interests most threatened by divestment. This is the conclusion of many historians who have looked into the issue. Global warming used to be a bipartisan concern (Illustration: Margaret Thatcher was instrumental in setting up the UNFCC and was the first major world leader to sound the alarm on the issue). So calling for non-polarisation and implying that divestment is polarising means upholding a double standard. It also means implying that divestment is ineffective, which means denying the conclusion of many experts with far greater political and economic credentials than the editors board of Nature (including the fossil fuel industry itself, which is clearly becoming more spooked by the campaign).

So this turned into quite the tirade. My anger is not directed at you if you feel confused or have questions about divestment. That is natural. It is a complex topic. But editors at Nature ought to know better if they are going to yell something like this from their massive soapbox. I have very little sympathy for pieces like this that demonstrate almost no familiarity with the topic at hand, or which read like a puff piece from fossil PR. Seriously, I do wonder if there is some kind of hidden backstory here since this piece demonstrates most of the fallacies beloved of spin doctors: selective reading of opponents’ argument, cherry-picking data, calls for (false) balance, impossible demands, ignoring credentialed experts. But what really gets me frustrated in this case is the location in which these talking points are being aired. It shames a publication with the reputation of Nature to put their name to it.

If you’d like a good summary/debunking of ten common myths about the divestment movement (many of them deliberately created and disseminated by fossil fuel PR people through op-eds that look and sound remarkably like this one), then this is an excellent short piece: http://www.theguardian.com/…/10-myths-about-fossil-fuel-div….

If you want to learn more or get started yourself on divestment, then check out marketforces.org.au or gofossilfree.org.

Like and share if you’re frustrated at the misrepresentations of the divestment movement from a body like Nature, or if you just enjoy the odd grumpy diatribe for Friday afternoon entertainment.

Posted in Activism, climate change, Coal | Tagged , | 1 Comment

What do I make of Powerwall?

While Tesla’s Gigafactory is bringing down the *financial* cost of batteries, the *energy* cost of building them is still the same. And that cost is huge. So huge that once counted in the energy accounting of a wind and solar system, it really starts to eat into the EROEI. Sure wind and solar have good energy profits on their own. But read the papers! Where are the energy costs for storage for a system that is only on a third of the time? Where are the energy cost measurements for winter, when there’s far less sunlight? How much storage is required, and forget financial cost, how much *energy* is it going to cost to build storage for an energy system that is *mostly* off!?

If we include the *energy* cost of all the batteries required (because we’re moving from a power system that is mostly ON to mostly OFF), the sheer energy required to build all those batteries in the first place eats into the EROEI of wind (around 30?) and the EROEI of solar PV (around 7?) till wind is only 3 and solar PV’s struggling to break even!

Today’s nukes have an EROEI of 75, and that includes moving millions of tons of rock to get to the uranium. Tomorrow’s nukes won’t need to do that, because they’ll eat the nuclear waste which could bless them with an EROEI in the high hundreds, some say even over a thousand!

Posted in Renewable energy, storage | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

‘Peak cars’ from clever city design, NOT peak oil!

The Guardian is running the most encouraging news headline I’ve seen in a long time. I grabbed my coffee, and sat and stared in wonder at this headline. It’s a thing of beauty.

Cities around the world are coming to the same conclusion: they’d be better off with far fewer cars. So what’s behind this seismic shift in our urban lifestyles? Stephen Moss goes on an epic (car-free) journey to find out

7d40b184-cb77-4c60-94ff-413e59b731ff-2060x1236Highlights of a rather long article:

“The goal is to rebalance the public space and create a city for people,” he says. “There will be less pollution, less noise, less stress; it will be a more walkable city.”

  • Smart phone apps can plan our trips involving bikes & buses & trams & trains

“Multi-modal” and “interconnectivity” are now the words on every urban planner’s lips. In Munich, says Bore, planners told him that the city dwellers of the future would no longer need cars.

  • Car clubs can fill the gaps

The statistic everyone trots out is that your car sits outside, idle and depreciating, for 96% of its life. There has to be a more efficient way to provide for the average of seven hours a week when you want it.


  • Car free design slowly winning even in car dependent councils

 Car ownership in the borough has dropped over the past 10 years: whereas a decade ago 56% of households did not own a car, that figure now stands at 65%. Hackney, which is not on the underground network, also claims the highest level of bus usage in London. Though the population has risen by 45,000, the number of cars owned by people in the area has fallen by 3,000. These are trends that urban planners elsewhere would kill for.

  • Helsinki car-free

A report on the plan in the Helsinki Times last year confidently predicted: “The future resident of Helsinki will not own a car.”

  • Status symbol? More like wearing manacles!

Stephen Bayley, who has written several books on car design, is convinced the age of the car is coming to an end. “It’s five minutes to midnight for the private car,” he says. “It’s no longer rational to use cars in cities like London.” Cars were invented as agents of freedom, but to drive (and, worse, to have to park) one in a city is tantamount to punishment.

“There was some research a year or so ago which interviewed people in their 20s and 30s,” he says. “The great majority said they would rather give up their car than their smartphone, and in their list of cool brands, no car manufacturer appeared in the top 20. That’s a very significant change. Twenty years ago, if you’d asked young people, BMW and other car brands would certainly have featured.”

  • Even BMW recognises the Peak Car trend, and is backing Car Clubs rather than a private ownership model!

In his talk, he admits we are now seeing “a shift from ownership to accessing mobility”, and that young people are less likely to own cars than previously. Hence BMW’s backing for DriveNow, a car club which has established itself in Germany, the US and, more recently, central London.

Posted in New Urbanism, trains, Transport | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment