Daily Archives: September 25, 2014

The Hidden Costs of Turning Food Into Fuel


National Geographic

Published on Sep 25, 2014

Worldwide biofuel production has increased, with the main source being corn-based ethanol. This has driven up corn prices in the U.S. (a large producer) and created problems for countries that heavily rely on U.S. corn imports, such as Mexico. In 2007, tortilla prices soared 70 percent in that country, and riots broke out. Eventually the government stepped in to control costs, but similar situations could arise in the coming years as we increasingly turn to food as a source of fuel.

By 2050 we’ll need to feed two billion more people. Click here for a special eight-month series exploring how we can do that—without overwhelming the planet:
http://food.nationalgeographic.com.

Watch more Food by the Numbers videos:
http://www.nationalgeographic.com/foo…

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20 Questions: William Deresiewicz on Excellent Sheep | Mahindra Humanities Center


Harvard University

Published on Sep 25, 2014

William Deresiewicz on his new book Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life.

Moderator:

Homi K. Bhabha
Director of the Mahindra Humanities Center

Questioners:

Amanda Claybaugh
Professor of English, Harvard University

Nathaniel Donahue
Harvard College ’15

Fawwaz Habbal
Executive Dean for Education and Research, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Rakesh Khurana
Dean of Harvard College

Camille Owens
Harvard College ’13

Diana Sorensen
Dean for the Arts and Humanities, Harvard University

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Zimbabwe Invests Millions to Increase Beef Production


CCTV Africa

Published on Sep 25, 2014

Zimbabwe’s government is planning a multi-million dollar investment to prop up its livestock sector. The aim is to produce 400,000 tonnes of beef a year by 2018 in line with the country’s economic blue print ZimAsset. CCTV’s Farai Mwakutuya reports

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Jeffrey Smith’s China Introduction


The Institute for Responsible Technology

Published on Sep 25, 2014

Jeffrey Smith shares his experience speaking in China about GMOs.

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1859 Carrington-Class Solar Storm Pummeled Earth’s Magnetic Field


VideoFromSpace

Published on Sep 25, 2014

Computer models of the magnetic field during the 19th century coronal mass ejection (CME) is compared to a moderate 2006 blast. English amateur astronomer Richard Carrington observed the 1859 solar flare that gave birth to a massive CME.

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Stephen Colbert Slams Mainstream Media for Lack of Climate Coverage

http://ecowatch.com/2013/01/31/stephen-colbert-climate-coverage/
EcoWatch | January 31, 2013 11:09 am

http://thecolbertreport.cc.com/videos/mm5bdz/the-word—the-new-abnormal

My favorite part:

“Yeah. What’s the point of going to all that trouble if me and [CNN’s] Erick Erickson won’t be around to enjoy it? Sure, our grandkids will, but I don’t want to be one of those grandpas who spoils the grandkids with a habitable planet.”

“It’s the same reason I will not buy life insurance. I get hit by a bus, and my family gets rich? Sorry, I don’t want anybody happy at my funeral.”

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Climate Reckoning: My Family’s Coal Story

 Published on Aug 11, 2014

“Part historical narrative, part family memoir, part pastoral paean, and part jeremiad against the abuse of the land and of the men who gave and continue to give their lives to (and often for) the mines, [Reckoning at Eagle Creek] puts a human face on the industry that supplies nearly half of America’s energy… it offers a rare historical perspective on the vital yet little considered industry, along with a devastating critique of the myth of ‘clean coal.’”—Publishers Weekly

Jeff Biggers | September 24, 2014 9:27 pm

Four years after the publication of my memoir/history, Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland, I found myself sitting in the front row of an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency hearing in southern Illinois. It was a historic evening in Harrisburg, only a few miles from where Peabody Energy sank its first coal mine in 1895, and a few blocks from where I had sat on the front porch as a kid and listened to the stories of my grandfather and other coal miners about union battles for justice. For the first time in decades, residents in coal country were shining the spotlight on issues of civil rights, environmental ruin and a spiraling health crisis from a poorly regulated coal mining rush.

The total destruction of my family’s nearby Eagle Creek community from strip-mining was held up as their cautionary tale. The takeaway: Strip-mining more than stripped the land; it stripped the traces of any human contact.

“We have lost population, we have lost homes and we have lost roads,” testified Judy Kellen, a resident facing an expanded strip mine in Rocky Branch. “We have lost history. We have to endure dust, noise levels to the pitch you wanted to scream because you couldn’t get any rest or sleep, earth tremors, home damages, complete isolation of any type of view to the north, health issues, a sadness in your heart that puts a dread on your face every day, and an unrest in the spirit that we knew nothing of.”

A lot has changed in these four years—much of it troubling, and much of it inspiring.

After traveling to coal mining communities around the U.S. and the world, I have learned that my own private reckoning with coal in the great Shawnee forests surrounding Eagle Creek was only a prologue to our greater climate reckoning for my children.But first, the inspiring part: Faced with losing their homes, farms, health—and sheer sanity—from the blasting and non-stop war-zone traffic of coal operators within 300 feet of their living rooms—southern Illinois residents with deep coal mining roots in Harrisburg were taking a courageous stand for climate and coalfield justice. Meanwhile, former coal mining areas from central Appalachia to Germany to Scotland have begun the process of transitioning to clean energy economies.

…(read more).

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World Leaders, Listen to the People Not the Polluters | Kumi Naidoo

Kumi Naidoo | September 24, 2014 1:06 pm |

The world has changed since our leaders discussed climate change in 2009. It has become even more evident; ravaging crops in Africa, melting ice in the Arctic, drowning the Philippines and drying-up California. The poor are paying the highest price. But ever since super storm Sandy hit New York, even the rich in industrialized countries know that they can´t hide from devastating climate change in their gated communities.

Climate change is not on its way. It’s already here.

People

are standing up to polluters, so we put their message on the side of the UN building in NYC, hours before the UN Climate Summit 2014 started. Photo credit: Greenpeace

Yet, cost-effective, sensible solutions have also made quantum leaps since 2009. Clean, renewable energy is getting bigger, better and cheaper every day. It can provide the answers our exhausted planet is looking for. Renewables are the most economical solution for new power capacity in an ever-increasing number of countries. 100 percent of power capacity added in the U.S. last month was renewable and countries like Denmark and Germany are producing new clean electricity records almost every month. In China, real change is under way, too. Not only is China installing as much solar this year as the U.S. has ever done, but their apocalyptic coal boom which drove up global carbon pollution since 2000 is also coming to an end. Things are rapidly changing and the current economic paradigm is no longer impenetrable—the light of reason is starting to shine through its cracks.

If rationality and economics were humanity’s guide to living on this planet, climate action would no longer need summits. The more successful clean energy solutions get, the more they are cutting into the profit margins of those few powerful companies whose business models depends on continued fossil fuel dependency. That’s why we agree with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon when he says “instead of asking if we can afford to act, we should be asking what is stopping us, who is stopping us, and why?” We would add to this another question: for how long?

Today, it is interests of the fossil fuel industries—not technology nor economics—which are the only obstacle to securing a safe future for us and our children on this planet. And they know it, too. When we talk to people at major energy firms these days, they admit in private that they understand the need to transition towards clean energy. But the coal investments that companies like Duke Energy in the US, and Eskom in South Africa have made are holding them back. Worse, because they fear that their massive investments could become stranded (i.e. wasted) assets they are actively lobbying politicians to slow down the clean, people-powered energy revolution that is under way.

Business lobbies such as ALEC in the U.S. or Business Europe in the EU are fighting tooth and nail to prevent progressive climate policies from being adopted. They claim they do this to “protect jobs.” But this is an utter lie. We want workers fully involved in a just transition to a clean energy future. But we also know from Greenpeace Energy Revolution analyses over the past decade that renewables and energy efficiency will deliver more jobs than carrying on with dirty energy business as usual. By implementing a step by step energy ®evolution governments can, for example, help businesses create 3.2 million more jobs by 2030 in the global power supply sector alone. In South Africa, to pick just one country, 149,000 direct jobs could be created by 2030. That’s 38,000 more than in the current government plan.

….(read more).

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Natural Gas a Bridge to Nowhere, Study Finds » EcoWatch

http://ecowatch.com/2014/09/25/natural-gas-bridge-nowhere/
Anastasia Pantsios | September 25, 2014 10:31 am

A study published today in the journal Environmental Research Letters found that switching from coal to natural gas would not significantly lower the greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change.

The natural gas processed at this plant isn’t the answer to reducing carbon emissions, a new study says. Photo credit: Shutterstock

“That’s chiefly because the shift would delay the deployment and cost-competitiveness of renewable electricity technologies for making electricity,” concluded the three researchers from the University of California Irvine, Stanford University and Seattle-based nonprofit Net Zero.

“Increased use of natural gas has been promoted as a means of decarbonizing the U.S. power sector, because of superior generator efficiency and lower CO2 emissions per unit of electricity than coal,” said the study. “We model the effect of different gas supplies on the U.S. power sector and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Across a range of climate policies, we find that abundant natural gas decreases use of both coal and renewable energy technologies in the future.”

The study found that, without a climate policy, electricity use would increase as the natural gas supply increased and cost dropped, canceling out the benefits of lower carbon emissions, even if methane leakage from natural gas exploration—itself a potent greenhouse gas—were near zero. It also found that the low cost of natural gas would discourage and delay development and deployment of clean energy technologies. The research team looked at outcomes with no climate policy, a moderate carbon tax of $25 per ton and a strict carbon cap that reduces carbon dioxide emissions 83 percent over 2005 levels by 2050, as well as with renewable energy standards.

(read more).

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Rockefellers to abandon fossil fuels in switch to clean energy – Climate Action Programme

25 September 2014
Heirs to the Rockefeller family will sell investments in the fossil fuel industry and reinvest in renewable energy in a bid to combat climate change.

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund joined a coalition on Monday of around 650 individuals and 180 institutions that pledged to rid themselves of more than US$50 billion (£31 billion) in fossil fuel assets.

The fund, separate from the larger Rockefeller Foundation, manages assets of around US$860 million, and the divestment effort could act as an example to other originations and boost global environmental efforts.

Stephen Heintz, president of the fund, said: “We are immediately divesting from coal and tar sands, the most carbon intensive fuels…It’s not a huge economic lever, but it does begin to send financial signals and it brings visibility to the issue. This is like a snowball, and it’s going to get more and more mass as it rolls forward.”

The fund, based in New York City and created in 1940, will assess how to cut other fossil fuel investments while boosting renewable energy companies.

Students and activist investors are backing the divestment effort to persuade foundations, corporations, universities among others to divest from the 200 companies with the largest share of coal and oil resources.

John D Rockefeller (pictured above right) accessed the oil resources of Texas and California in the late 19th century and founded Standard Oil, a company that spawned Exxon, Chevron, Amoco and Mobil.

Heintz said that if Mr Rockefeller was still alive he would be willing to move away from the fossil fuel industry.

Heintz said: “We are quite convinced that if he were alive today, as an astute businessman looking out to the future, he would be moving out of fossil fuels and investing in clean, renewable energy”.

…(read more).

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