Friday, September 30, 2011

Study Uncovers a Predictable Sequence Toward Coral Reef Collapse

ScienceDaily (Sep. 29, 2011) — Coral reefs that have lots of corals and appear healthy may, in fact, be heading toward collapse, according to a study published by the Wildlife Conservation Society and other groups.

Using data from coral reef systems across the western Indian Ocean, an international team of researchers identified how overfishing creates a series of at least eight big changes on reefs that precipitate a final collapse. This information can help managers gauge the health of a reef and tell them when to restrict fishing in order to avoid a collapse of the ecosystem and fishery.

The study appears this week in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The authors of the study include: Tim R. McClanahan and Nyawira A. Muthiga of the Wildlife Conservation Society; Nicholas A.J. Graham and Joshua E. Cinner of James Cook University, Queensland, Australia; M. Aaron MacNeil of the Australian Institute of Marine Science; J. Henrich Bruggemann of Laboratoire d’Ecologie Marine, Université de la Réunion, La Réunion, France; and Shaun K. Wilson of the Department of Environment and Conservation, Perth, Western Australia. More >>>

Location:Cayman Islands

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Israel to frack water supply exploiting oil shale

Israel is looking to get in on the oil shale - tar sands act, BBC News reports.

The article, though mentioning environmental concerns about this so-called unconventional source of oil, essentially soft peddles these and instead focuses on how much oil could be extracted: “Israel is sitting on enough shale to produce around four billion barrels of oil, enough at today’s usage to keep the country in oil for more than 40 years.”

Here’s the kicker, the inevitable political and environmental justice flashpoint:

The drilling area [in the Valley of Elah in central Israel, roughly 30 miles from Jerusalem] is also to the site of a vital and politically sensitive water aquifer shared by both Israel and Palestinian areas of the West Bank.
More >>>

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Palau, Marshall Islands to Seek Advice from World Court on GHG Impacts

22 September 2011: The Governments of Palau and the Marshall Islands have called upon the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to seek, on an urgent basis, an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the responsibilities of States under international law to ensure that activities carried out under their jurisdiction of control that emit greenhouse gases (GHGs) do not damage other States.

The announcement was made by Palau’s President Johnson Toribiong during the general debate of the 66th session of the UNGA. Toribiong said urgent action to combat climate change is vital, and that the ICJ has already “confirmed that customary international law obliges” States to ensure activities within their jurisdiction “respect the environment of other States.” Toriniong underscored it was time to determine what the “international rule of law means in the context of climate change.” More >>>

Location: Cayman islands

IDB, GDF Suez to Support Sustainable Energy Access to Isolated Regions

21 September 2011: The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and GDF Suez signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to support social entrepreneurial projects aimed at providing sustainable energy access to disadvantaged populations.

During the annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) meeting, IDB and GDF Suez agreed to collaborate in a programme aimed at promoting economic and social development of isolated regions, and at reducing energy insecurity worldwide. GDF SUEZ hopes, through its corporate social responsibility programme, “GDF SUEZ Rassembleurs d’Energies,” to sponsor up to eight significant projects with high social impact by 2013. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

UNITAR is pleased to announce its new online courses

UNITAR is pleased to announce its new online courses on:
Drafting and Adopting United Nations Resolutions (in English), which will take place from 3 to 28 October 2011.

Chairing International Conferences (in English), which will take place from 10 to 21 October 2011.

These courses target members of the diplomatic community as well as government officials, staff of international and non-governmental organizations, professionals from the private sector, and post-graduate students. We would be grateful if you could share this information within your diplomatic academy and with your colleagues who may be interested in taking this course.

More information about the course content, fee, and registration is available at:

Should you need further information, please contact the Multilateral Diplomacy Programme Team at:

Location:Cayman Islands

The Economy, Peak Oil and Permaculture

Richard Heinberg- Senior Fellow at the Post Carbon Institute is a Permaculturist.

His latest book describes The End of Growth- isn't looking for when the recession will end and we'll get back to "normal". He believes our decades-long era of growth was based on aberrant set of conditions- namely cheap oil, but also cheap minerals, cheap food, etc- and that looking ahead, we need to prepare for a "new normal". The problem, according to Heinberg, is our natural resources just aren't so cheap and plentiful anymore, and he's not just talking about Peak Oil, Heinberg believes in Peak Everything (also the title of one of his books). Heinberg thinks for many, adjusting to a life where everything costs a bit more, could be very hard, but he also thinks the transition to a new normal might actually make life better. "Particularly in the Western industrialized countries we've gotten used to levels of consumption that are not only environmentally unsustainable, they also don't make us happy. They've in fact hollowed out our lives. We've given up things that actually do give us satisfaction and pleasure so that we can work more and more hours to get more and more money with which to buy more and more stuff- more flatscreen tvs, bigger SUVs, bigger houses and it's not making us happier. Well, guess what, it's possible to downsize, it's possible to use less, become more self sufficient, grow more of your own food, have chickens in your backyard and be a happier person." This is not all theoretical. In the backyard of the home Heinberg shares with his wife, Janet Barocco, the couple grow most of their food during the summer months (i.e. 25 fruit & nut trees, veggies, potatoes.. they're just lack grains), raise chickens for eggs, capture rainwater, bake with solar cookers and a solar food drier and secure energy with photovoltaic and solar hot water panels. Their backyard reflects Heinberg's vision for our "new normal" and it's full of experiments, like the slightly less than 120-square-foot cottage that was inspired by the Small Home Movement. It was built with the help of some of Heinberg's college students (in one of the nation's first sustainability classes) using recycled and natural materials (like lime plaster). Heinberg admits it's not a real tiny house experiment since they don't actually live in it- his wife uses it as a massage studio, he meditates there and sometimes it's used as a guest house (though that's hush hush due to permitting issues). But their tiny cottage points to the bigger point behind why a transition to a less resource intensive future could equal greater happiness. "Simplify. Pay less attention to all of the stuff in your life and pay more attention to what's really important. Maybe for you it's gardening, maybe for you it's painting or music. You know we all have stuff that gives us real pleasure and most of us find we have less and less time for that because we have to devote so much time to shopping, paying bills and driving from here to there and so on. Well, how about if we cut out some of that stuff and spend more time doing what really feeds us emotionally and spiritually and in some cases even nutritionally."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Our Weatherbeaten Nation

Awakening a week or so ago to the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, and to several days of heavy rain, flooding, property damage and a feeling of powerlessness in my small suburban community, my thoughts turned to the debate over climate change in our country.

In a year when the number of tornadoes registered up to the end of June – approximately 1,600 – is already at a record level, 48 percent of Americans believe that the threat of climate change is exaggerated. At a time when eight of the top 10 worst disasters of 2010 (in terms of victims affected) were due to weather-related factors and the scientific consensus on man-made global warming is at 97% and growing, Americans are split on whether climate change is the result of human activities or non-human natural causes. U.S. public opinion on climate change has become increasingly polarized, as partisan think tanks, narrowcast media, chat rooms, divisive politicians and frustrated scientists have framed the discussion to recast an originally scientific topic into a political wedge issue.

Facts and education no longer seem to matter. Early environmental researchers found that level of education was the most consistent predictor of citizen concern over climate change. However, a study published in 2010 found something startling: concern about climate change increased with level of education among Democrats, but decreased with education among Republicans. That’s right: the higher the education level of Democrats, the more they believe in global warming, and the higher the education level of Republicans, the less they believe in it. This tells us that data, research and problem-solving are taking take a back seat to ideology, sentiment and politics. In other words, this divide has less to do with science and more to do with emotions and values. There is a great sense of disdain and suspicion right now for the liberal scientific elite in a significant portion of the U.S. population, and I’m afraid the feeling is often mutual. More >>>

Location:Amman, Jordan

Monday, September 19, 2011

Permaculture Design Course - Jordan 2011

The graduates of the 2011 Permaculture Design Course in Amman, Jordan.
The Permaculture Design Certificate course is an internationally-recognized, seventy-two hour course resulting in a Permaculture Design Certificate. It provides an introduction to permaculture design as set forth by movement founder Bill Mollison.

The PDC serves as foundation for further permaculture work and study and is a prerequisite for the Diploma in Permaculture Design, offered through The Permaculture Institute. Credit for this course is now accepted by a growing number of universities around the world.

To date, thousands of permaculture designers worldwide have been certified through this course, and now comprise a global network of educators, ecological activists who influence major corporations, individuals creating new business alternatives and groups of committed people working together to change the way we view and design into our landscapes.

The course covers sustainable living systems for a wide variety of landscapes and climates. It includes the application of permaculture principles to food production, home design, construction, energy conservation and generation, and explores alternative economic structures and legal strategies supporting permaculture solutions. More >>>

Location:Amman, Jordan

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Remote Island Paradise to Be Powered By Coconuts and Sunshine

In the Malay language, the coconut palm is called “pokok seribu guna,” meaning “the tree of a thousand uses.”

Make that one thousand and one. In just over a year’s time, the entire chain of the Tokelau islands plans to get 100 percent of their energy from a heavenly mix of coconuts and sunshine, according to United Press International.

It is perhaps incontestably appropriate that an island paradise should power itself with its two most plentiful resources. The new energy policy should also help to make these tiny, vulnerable tropical atolls more self-sufficient, as well as send the world a message about the feasibility of locally sourced renewable energy.

Tokelau, a territory of New Zealand, consists of three small atolls located roughly halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand. About 1,500 people call Tokelau home. Since the highest point on the islands is only 16 feet, they are particularly vulnerable to the threat of rising sea levels.

Under the new energy plan, most of the islands’ power — 93 percent — is slated to come from solar energy. The coconut power will supply the remaining 7 percent, and will come into play when skies are overcast or when electricity demand exceeds solar supply.
More >>>

Location:Queen Rania Al Abdallah, Amman, Jordan

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Climate change threatens to hike hunger in the Pacific – report

BANGKOK (AlertNet) – Climate change threatens to increase hunger and malnutrition among millions of poor people in the 14 small and geographically remote island nations of the Pacific unless action is taken, a new report by the Asian Development Bank said.

Food Security and Climate Change in the Pacific: Rethinking the Options urged Pacific nations, many of which are in fragile and conflict-affected situations and suffering from slow economic growth rates, to manage natural resources better and increase local food production, particularly of climate-resistant crops such as taro, yam, and cassava.

"Rising temperatures and rising tides due to climate change could reduce food supply in the Pacific,” Mahfuzuddin Ahmed, a senior economist in the Asian Development Bank’s Pacific Department who wrote the report, said in a statement.

“With over 10 million people in developing countries in the region, this is a threat that we cannot ignore," he added.

The region is already seeing a decline in agricultural production per capita and productivity has stagnated, the report said, partly due to an increase in migration from rural to urban areas and also because of fragile ecosystems and a limited natural resource base.

The Pacific is also considered one of the most vulnerable to impacts of climate change such as natural disasters and sea level rises, which are expected to reduce the agricultural output further. More >>>

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

UN Secretary-General Underlines Threats of Climate Change in the Pacific

5 September 2011: During his official visit to Kiribati, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon congratulated the President of Kiribati on his active participation in multilateral efforts to address climate change, in particular by promoting dialogue among parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Ban met with the President on 4-5 September 2011, and acknowledged the value of initiatives like the Tarawa Climate Change Conference, organized by Kiribati in November 2010, in preparation of the Cancun Climate Change Conference. Both agreed that climate change represents "an urgent and irreversible threat to the people of this region and the planet," and called for urgent action by all parties. They underscored the specific vulnerability of SIDS to the impacts of climate change, adding that it threatens to undo progress achieved in the Pacific region towards achieving sustainable development goals. They both stressed the need for urgent international action to reduce emissions consistent with the science, and for adaptation financing to enable the implementation of critical adaptation programmes.

They noted the actions that can be taken in the Pacific to address climate change, highlighting the actions of Kiribati such as mangrove forest management, biodiversity conservation initiatives, water resource management and the enhancement of coastal resilience. Ban also visited a mangrove planting site and met with the Minister of Environment, Lands and Agricultural Development, as well as with communities that have lost homes, land, and fresh water to rising sea levels. More >>>

Location:Cayman Islands

The Peak Oil Crisis: Efficiency is the Solution

If there is a way to get through the loss of fossil fuels, it lies in developing new and more efficient ways to generate renewable energy and more efficient ways of utilizing the fossil fuels we have left.

Renewable sources currently provide only 16 percent of our energy in the U.S. and 11 percent of our electric power. Unless the production of these renewables can be increased substantially in the next 50 years and the efficiency with which we use energy increased many fold, then the world is going to become a very dark and stagnant place.
There is running debate going on between people who believe all is lost without copious supplies of fossil fuels to power the global civilization and those who believe that the conservation and efficiency that will come with very high fossil fuel prices will provide a recognizable future for civilization. The great unknowns in all this is whether there will be sufficient financial and other resources available to effect the transition and whether or not the damage wrought by a changing climate will be so serious that a global transition to renewable energy will be difficult if not impossible.

For the immediate future, however, much of what life in the future will be like will depend on the technologies that will enable civilization to continue while using only a fraction of the energy that is consumed today and to develop the technology to produce large quantities of cheaper renewable fuels. The manner in which our fossil fuels are being used is so wasteful of the energy contained in fossil fuels that major reductions can be made with little real impact on the activities that consume energy. The prime examples of this waste is the internal combustion engine which uses only 14 percent of its fuel to turn the wheels while wasting most of the rest. Huge central power plants waste most of the energy that devours coal and natural gas, and produce much waste heat that is dumped into the air or local water bodies or in line losses. Without the massive waste, the fossil fuel age could last a lot longer. More >>>

Location:Amman, Jordan