Welcome to the latest Information for Action newsletter - January 2012
New on the website
We have made 34 new YouTube videos on the website, or for viewing on YouTube
We have completed Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 of Eco Freako – the Comic
There is a new music video called “Information” on the website
The “search database” page has been updated so you can now search alphabetically for Green Groups or Products
Cartoons are being added each month from this year’s calendar
Eco Freako show
The Eco Freako Show has been performed around Perth at various venues and looks like being performed later in the year in NSW, Vic, Qld Australia and New Zealand. Thanks to Sean and Anthony at the Leederville Hotel.
The t-shirt design has been updated to feature a animal interacting with our logo. They are available for $25 by ordering online.
The Politician Contact database is still being maintained to reflect world changes
Advertising space is available for ethical green products and companies on the IFA website and the new Geen Pages website
Volunteers who are currently assisting with projects or have volunteered in the year include: Michael Bombardieri (Computer programmer), Don Bopearachchi (Graphic design), Cesar Augusto Caparroce (Sound recording), Clement Clarke (Computer programmer), Michael Eales (IT network), Pilar Gonzalez (Data entry), Wang Han (Chinese translation), Ngan Huynh (Data entry), Anupama Jijesh (data entry), Sahana Kali (Data entry), Maki Kaneko (Japanese translation), Kai-Kong, (Computer programmer), Helen Kwok (graphic design, animation), Alex Lago (Spanish translation), Mark Aaron Lee (Graphic design animation), Wai kwan Lee (Leo) (Computer programmer), Jane Liu (Chinese translation), Carolina López (Spanish translation), Tien (Trace) Bee Luk (Chinese translation), Don Malcolm (Computer programmer), Catherine Miragliotta (Graphic design), Mauro Monaco (Italian translation), Svetlana Oganova (Russian translation), Yohei Okamoto (Japanese translation), Carol Prado (Portuguese translation), Homa Pour (Data entry), Chitra Rangan (Data entry), Julie Reason (Proof reading), Diana Rodriguez (Spanish translation), Veroarii Sandou (French translation), Peter Scott (Committee member, proof reader, advisor), Melinda Shute (Data entry), Noel Tsai (Graphic design), Tim Wilson (Committee member, artist), Wan Ying Teo (Graphic design, animation), Ayako Yamada (Japanese translation), Loong Hin Yoong (Website promotion, PR), Ming Ming Zhao (Computer programmer).
Our new Green Pages website is your one connection to Products, Businesses and services supporting sustainability, the environment, and green business ethics. The Internet is massive and it continues to grow every minute. With such a large amount of information it is difficult for Internet users to find what they are looking for. Hours are spent searching for something without ever finding it because of the overwhelming amount of information. While we need products and services to live, and companies need to trade profitably, we believe profit should not be the only motivation and we are committed to supporting businesses, which operate sustainably and ethically. The Green Pages is a quick way to find up-to-date information on leading suppliers of environmental friendly products and services around the world. The Green Pages is a point-and-click type directory suitable for hand held devices like mobile phones, blackberry or personal computers.
From the President
The world is in a recession after many years of economic growth. During a recession businesses fail and people lose their jobs, investments, homes and saving. We hear about it every night on the news and it is not good for many people.
But there is a positive side to recession and depression. A recession leads to a drop in production, which means less consumption of resources, less waste and pollution, including CO2, and less pressure on the environment. A recession stimulates thought about the global financial system - built on mass consumerism, speculation, fraud, greed, loans and debt. It gives people their lives back and enables them to spend time with family and friends and pursue creative activities. People are relieved from hours of toil, often spent doing mindless tasks.
During a recession people save rather that spend their money, which increases the recession. So politicians and most economists urge people to spend, as a way of being patriotic. But what is good for the economy and business is not necessarily good for the environment. It just reflects the growth oriented views of mainstream politicians who view growth and consumerism as positive. In fact, growth and consumerism are part of a much bigger problem – the economic system of capitalism, with its overproduction, marketing and advertising.
Consumers have been living beyond their means for decades – one long shopping spree fuelled by debt. People were given loans they couldn’t pay back. Easy mortgages, credit cards and deferring car payments were offered to people, regardless of their credit rating. They were encouraged to spend.
The Iraq war was also a factor in the economic downturn. The war cost America $3 trillion, consumed resources and increased the US budget deficit.
But the party is over - and what goes up comes down. If we continue running the world’s economy in overdrive until it crashes, then picks up and crashes again, in repeating cycles then we will destroy the planet’s climate and biota. The growing economy is the primary cause of the current mass extinction because it doesn’t take into account the environmental costs or the fact the Earth is finite while human activity is increasing. Currently the primary solution that the world’s political leaders seem to be adopting is to continue growth economics by throwing money at consumers to spend society out of the recession – the so called stimulus package - more consumption and unsustainable growth. We need to grow in a different direction with investment in low-carbon businesses and services and use the recession to lay the building blocks for low-carbon society.
Climate change is only one symptom of this failed economic system. Climate change must be solved urgently - but unless we replace our growth oriented economy with a sustainable economy and a sustainable population then we will have to deal with environmental symptom after symptom. We could solve the climate change problem by replacing coal power with nuclear power. However, in doing so, we will create nuclear waste and other problems.
We need to reduce the human population from nearly 7 billion to 1 billion people and we much create a new economic system. And only when we have a stable environment should we re-evaluate the size of our population. The number may go up or down from 1 billion depending on how well we manage our environment. A stable environment is one where all resources are recycled, and not depleted, and where the level of our pollution can be well managed by natural sinks.
If we don’t plan a sustainable population then we will be forced into it by climate change. Climate change will result in massive desertification, loss of ecosystems and loss of agricultural land. Drought and famine will force the human population down – particularly in developing countries. The developed world will struggle on using expensive and dangerous technology like genetic engineering to produce drought tolerant domestic plants and animals, and nuclear power to desalinate sea water. Food will be much more expensive and there will be more diseases from viruses and bacteria. There will be far more suffering as a result of climate change induced famine and other factors than if society organises a reduction in its population now in a way that is humane. The human population went down to several thousand people during the last ice age and there is not reason it won’t happen again.
We need to respond to climate change much faster. Time is running out for biodiversity and our quality of life and we need short term solutions and longer term solutions. We have literally eight months to save the planet from climate change. In December world leaders will meet in Copenhagen, Denmark to set 2020 and 2050 targets for reducing global CO2. We need tough goals – like a 30-50% reduction below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80-90% reduction by 2050 if we are to keep rising temperatures below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels. We need science-based goals for the reduction of greenhouse gases and all countries need to work together setting a low personal emissions quota for everyone.
The problem is no single country wants to go first because it will hit their profitability and the developed world is up against the developing world, with the latter demanding exemption from compulsory emissions targets. Barack Obama wants to reduce US emissions 15 percent by 2020.The European Union has agreed on a 20 percent cut and 30 percent if other rich nations follow suit. Australia has offered 5 percent and 15 percent. Japan and Russia have no proposals for cuts.
Information for Action has been lobbying hard over the past year to get the best deal for the environment. We have spent thousands of dollars sending hundreds of letters to world leaders. But we need your help. We need donations for ongoing lobby over the next few months and we want you to send our letter, or some modified form of the letter, to your politicians. The corporations will be lobbying for the weakest targets. So it depends on you to counter theirDear Rowland, hired lobbyists with a personal letter from you to your government. And ask for a reply. A template letter is included at the bottom of this newsletter.
Several quick fixes have been proposed for dealing with climate change. Each has merit and should be considered in the short term i.e. over the next 50 years. They include: carbon trading, nuclear power to produce base load energy for cities, the artificial production of algae to consume CO2 and act as a source of energy, and the production and burial of charcoal to bring down CO2 levels.
Carbon trading is the current conventional method of dealing with climate change. While it is better than nothing it is slow acting and is not going to solve the climate change problem. It will just create a huge bureaucracy and make a lot of money for lawyers and financiers. While most of corporations would prefer no action on climate change carbon trading is the least painful option. A direct Carbon taxation would have been far more effective.
Nuclear power is well established in some countries such as France and the US. Some greenhouse gas amounts are emitted when the nuclear plants are being built, in transport, and for the fuel waste handling and storage processes. However, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted while electricity is being produced is much less from nuclear power than from coal - 3.3 grams of CO2 per kilowatt/hour compared to 700 grams from coal-fired power stations.
Scientists are trying to make use of algae, one of the earliest forms of life, to combat climate change. Algae require carbon dioxide to grow and there are plans of trapping the carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants and other industrial plants and passing them across algal beds, in effect feeding the CO2 to the algae.
Algae can grow 20 to 30 times faster than food crops and grow in sites otherwise uninhabited, from salt-water marshland to deserts. The plan is to then turn the algae into vegetable oil that can be made into biodiesel, jet fuel or plastic products. These fuels are considered to be net carbon neutral because the algae absorb greenhouse gases when they grow.
It has been suggested that we could pull down global atmospheric CO2 levels relatively quickly by burning farm waste in a low oxygen environment, producing charcoal - and then burying the charcoal. Plants take up CO2, and release it when the plant dies or is burned. But if we turn plants into non-biodegradable charcoal, and do it on a massive scale, then in theory we could capture the CO2 as a solid and bury it forever. This process also has the advantage of producing energy as a by-product of combustion, which the producer can sell, and the charcoal is good for the soil.
If a weak targets, voluntary targets or no targets are set in Copenhagen it will certainly mean mass extinction and the end of nature as we know it. This is the last chance for lobbying to be effective and it is up to you. If polite letters and activities like bike rides, rallies, concerts, festivals, tree-plantings, and peaceful protests don’t work then the next options to consider are direct action and civil disobedience.
The Executive Committee as elected at the Annual General Meeting are: Rowland Benjamin - President, Tim Wilson - Vice President, Denis McCarthy - Secretary, Nirada Eaton - Treasurer, Clement Clarke - Committee Member, Peter Scott - Committee Member.
Climate Change letter
I am writing to you about climate change. Governments around the world need to work together but currently there is too much talk and delay. While we wait for a global consensus, the Earth gets hotter and dryer.
Greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels are long-lasting and remain in the atmosphere for hundreds of years after they are produced. There is already enough carbon in the atmosphere to ensure that sea levels will rise several meters in coming decades.
The concentration of carbon in the atmosphere is now about 380 parts per million and increasing by 2 parts per million each year. To stabilize the climate and stay under the IPPC recognised 2 degree C global warming danger threshold, the concentration needs to fall to 350 parts per million.
Therefore to prevent the worst effects of climate change we don't just need to cut carbon emissions we need to remove some of carbon that has accumulated in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution.
This is a major challenge but I am sure that you are a political leader who is capable of rising to the challenge.
Scientists know that there is a strong link between human activity and climate change. However, as they gather more data, they are discovering that the problem is worse than originally expected.
Ice at the Poles acts as a reflector and returns much of the sun's heat to space. As the ice melts, more heat is absorbed by the Earth and the planet gets warmer. In addition, as the ground under the ice thaws, methane, another greenhouse gas, is released into the atmosphere. These are two examples of positive feedback mechanisms which accelerate global warming.
When global warming reaches a particular threshold or tipping point, it is possible that it will lead to a runaway greenhouse where the temperature rises exponentially and we move into an uncontrollable situation. Climate models suggest that positive mechanisms outweigh the negative feedback mechanisms which tend to correct the problem.
We may be perilously close to this tipping point and I urge you to act now rather than when it is too late.
Time is running out, both for the biodiversity of life that inhabits our planet, and for our quality of life. We are dependent on the health of our planet and if it continues to decline, as it has done over the past century, then human health and wellbeing will decline as well. The window of opportunity for us to organise globally to create a sustainable society is open - but it is closing. The time to act is now!
We need to stop arguing about who makes the biggest cuts in CO2 emissions and each country needs to start taking its own decisive action.
I urge you to take action in the following ways:
1. Require that electricity generation and transport source a greater proportion of their energy from renewable energy sources. 2. Set targets to reduce CO2 emission by at least 50 percent by 2020 and by 90 percent by 2050. 3. Regulate to ensure industry and government departments reduce carbon emissions. 4. Ensure that public transport is more attractive - faster, more relaxing and more reliable than a car. 5. End subsidies on fossil fuels. 6. Reform the agriculture sector to ensure better land management. 7. Stop building coal power station and phase out the existing stations. 8. Regulate to ensure builders use the most appropriate building materials and design homes for greater energy efficiency. 8. Halt deforestation and support efforts to increase the amount of forests. Plant more trees in urban areas to increase shade in the summer and reduce energy bills and fossil fuel use. 9. Speed up the rate at which technology in cleaner energy is transferred to developing countries and ensure companies share patents.
Action taken earlier will be more effective in slowing climate change than action taken later. If allowed to go unchecked, the economic, social and environmental cost of global warming could be catastrophic, far outstripping any short-term preventative costs to the nation's economy.
Huge future costs can be avoided by incurring relatively modest cost today.