Home » Posts tagged 'sustainability'

Tag Archives: sustainability

Click on image to purchase

Olduvai III: Catacylsm
Click on image to purchase

Post categories

Burning Trees For Heating Won’t Help With Climate Change: UK Think Tank

Burning Trees For Heating Won’t Help With Climate Change: UK Think Tank


A suggestion by the UK Committee on Climate Change to burn more wood and plant replacement trees as a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels has drawn criticism from think tank Chatham House, which says this is hardly the best approach to reducing emissions.

“Expanding forest cover is undoubtedly a good thing, if you’re leaving them standing,” energy expert Duncan Brack told the Daily Telegraph. However, Brack, who served as special adviser to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, suggested that burning wood for heating was not the most sustainable way forward. Calling wood burning a carbon neutral process is “highly dubious,” Brack added.

These claims, according to the Telegraph’s environment editor, Emma Gatten, rest on the assumption that the carbon footprint of chopping down trees and burning them is offset by planting new trees to replace them. This assumption excludes the fact that older trees absorb more carbon and that it takes time to replace a forest.

“You can leave trees standing and they will continue to absorb carbon for decades,” Brack says. “But the biomass industry implicitly assumes that forests at some point stop reach a saturation point for carbon intake and can be harvested and simply replaced.” 

The benefit of planting trees to mitigate the effects of climate change has been put to the test on a wider scale as well. A study released last year found that reforestation could work, but it had to be done at a massive scale.

We need to plant 25 percent more trees than there are on Earth right now, or more than half a trillion in total, the study found. This would reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere by a quarter, erasing 20 years of emissions. Yet it would not solve the climate problem on its own, without a sustained effort to cut emissions, commentators on the study said.

Science professor calls for fewer humans to ‘strengthen human rights’

Science professor calls for fewer humans to ‘strengthen human rights’

Humanity must ‘act to sustain life’ by reducing fertility (voluntarily)

Will there be “untold human suffering” if humans do not stop having children in order to avoid a “climate emergency?” More than 11,000 scientists signed a paper authored by an ecology professor at Oregon State University making that case.

OSU’s William Ripple and Christopher Wolf, a postdoctoral research associate at OSU (left and right, below), were the lead authors of the paper “World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency,” published in the journal BioScience.

Their call to “reduce the world population” is among six solutions. “We need to reduce fertility rates through voluntary family planning,” Ripple told The College Fix in an email.

The paper cites “proven and effective policies” that can help reduce the population in order to “strengthen human rights.”

They include access to family planning services for everyone, “full gender equity” and giving everyone “primary and secondary education,” especially women.

“We believe that prospects will be greatest if decision makers and all of humanity promptly respond to this warning and declaration of a climate emergency, and act to sustain life on planet Earth, our only home,” the paper states.

Ripple maintains a website called “Alliance of World Scientists,” where he encourages scientists to read his paper and sign his petition to show “that you generally agree with our article.”

The alliance has 15,000 members from 175 different countries, according to the website. While it claims to vet those who seek membership, the alliance specifically seeks “scientists from any scientific discipline, including graduate students in the sciences.” It makes no mention of requiring an institutional affiliation.

Ripple’s attempt to persuade leaders to implement his agenda stands in contrast to the approach recently favored by Ivy League students. They made themselves a nuisance at the Harvard-Yale football game, delaying it for an hour, in order to protest climate change.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Scientists on where to be in the 21st century based on sustainability

Scientists on where to be in the 21st century based on sustainability

Preface. The article below is based on Hall & Day’s book “America’s Most Sustainable Cities and Regions: Surviving the 21st Century Megatrends”. Related articles:

Day, J. W., et al. Oct 2013. Sustainability and place: How emerging mega-trends of the 21st century will affect humans and nature at the landscape level.  Ecological Engineering.

Five scientists have written a peer-reviewed article about where the best and worst places will be in the future in America based on how sustainable a region is when you take into account climate change, energy reserves, population, sea-level rise, increasingly strong hurricanes, and other factors.  Three of the scientists, John W. Day, David Pimentel, and Charles Hall, are “rock stars” in  ecology. Below are some excerpts from this 16 page paper that I found of interest (select the title above to see the full original paper).

Best places to be

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Ancient Amazonian Societies Managed the Forest Intensively But Sustainably–Here’s What We Can Learn From Them


The Amazon’s trees, soils and mysterious earthworks tell the story of the millions who lived there before European arrival 

Intro image

August 15, 2019 — When loggers and cattle ranchers began toppling the rainforest in Brazil’s far western state of Acre, they revealed a mystery: vast ancient earthworks, hidden for centuries under the trees.

These “geoglyphs” took the form of geometric shapes — squares, rectangles and circles — hundreds of meters across, marked out with ditches and raised mounds. Since the 1980s, around 450 geoglyphs have been identified in Acre alone, dating back between 650 and 2,000 years — offering new perspectives on the supposed pristine nature of the Amazon as well as insights into how agriculture and healthy ecosystems might coexist.

The Amazon has long been thought of as an untrammeled ecosystem, a wilderness relatively untouched by humans. Indigenous peoples were presumed to be so few in number, and live so lightly on the land, that they had a negligible impact on the environment.

But recent interdisciplinary research across the Amazon basin is overturning that old story. It’s showing instead that the rainforest’s early inhabitants numbered in the millions, and that they managed the landscape intensively, in complex and sustainable ways — offering lessons for how we manage the Amazon today.  

Ancient Agroforestry

Jennifer Watling, currently an archaeologist at the University of São Paulo in Brazil, spent several seasons digging holes in some of Acre’s geoglyphs for her Ph.D. research at the University of Exeter in the U.K.

It is still unclear exactly what the geoglyphs were used for, Watling says. From the lack of household debris, it seems people didn’t live there, but perhaps visited for ceremonies and other special events. New tools, including the analysis of microscopic plant remains called phytoliths, are helping archaeologists find other stories in the soil.

coffee trees in agroforestry system Nova Maringá, Mato Grosso, Brazil
Agroforesters grow crops among trees for benefits such as increased biodiversity and soil health. Of the ancient sites archaeologists are finding in Brazil, one researcher says, “It looks a lot like agroforestry — managing the landscape, encouraging palms and probably other useful plants as well.” Photo courtesy of Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Towards a landscape diet and communal landscape management

Towards a landscape diet and communal landscape management

Lately I have read two articles which both claim that small scale farming is (self)exploitive and that even with direct marketing such as farmers markets, there is no profit, hardly even survival.  

What nobody told me about small farming: I can’t make a living, by Jaclyn Moyer published in Salon (it is from 2015, but someone shared it on social media and it came my way) makes the case that it is not possible to make a living from production on a small farm under any norm al circumstances. Jaclyn writes that she at first wouldn’t admit having a struggling business as no one wants to climb aboard a sinking ship. She believed “if a business was failing it was because the entrepreneur was not skilled enough, not savvy enough, not hardworking enough. If my farm didn’t turn enough profit, it was my own fault.” But after years of hard work she finally started to admit to herself and to the public how things are: 

“When a student asked if my farm was sustainable, I told her that I was certified organic, I managed my soil fertility through crop rotations and compost applications, I didn’t use synthetic pesticides, I conserved water. But no, I’d said, I didn’t think my farm was sustainable. Like all the other farms I knew, my farm relied on uncompensated labor and self-exploitation. My farm was not sustainable because I knew the years my partner and I could continue to work without a viable income were numbered.” By and large Chris Newman agrees with Jaclyn Moyer in his articel Small Family Farms Aren’t the Answer published in Medium. 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How to Make Wind Power Sustainable Again

How to Make Wind Power Sustainable Again

Illustration: Eva Miquel for Low-tech Magazine

For more than two thousand years, windmills were built from recyclable or reusable materials: wood, stone, brick, canvas, metal. When – electricity producing – wind turbines appeared in the 1880s, the materials didn’t change.

It’s only since the arrival of plastic composite blades in the 1980s that wind power has become the source of a toxic waste product that ends up in landfills.

New wood production technology and design makes it possible to build larger wind turbines almost entirely out of wood again – not just the blades, but also the rest of the structure. This would solve the waste issue and make the manufacturing of wind turbines largely independent of fossil fuels and mined materials. A forest planted in between the wind turbines could provide the wood for the next generation of wind turbines. 

If we build them out of wood, large wind turbines could become a textbook example of the circular economy.

How Sustainable is a Windmill Blade?

Wind turbines are considered to be a clean and sustainable source of power. However, while they can indeed generate electricity with lower CO2-emissions than fossil fuel power plants, they also produce a lot of waste. This is easily overlooked, because roughly 90% of the mass of a large wind turbine is steel, mainly concentrated in the tower. Steel is commonly recycled and this explains why wind turbines have very short energy payback times – the recycled steel can be used to produce new wind turbine parts, which greatly lowers the energy required during the manufacturing process.

However, wind turbine blades are made from light-weight plastic composite materials, which are voluminous and impossible to recycle. Although the mass of the blades is limited compared to the total mass of a wind turbine, it’s not negligible. For example, one 60 m long fiberglass blade weighs 17 tonnes, meaning that a 5 MW wind turbine produces more than 50 tonnes of plastic composite waste from the blades alone.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Why economic growth is not compatible with environmental sustainability

Why economic growth is not compatible with environmental sustainability

Man walking with factory in background

Academic FEDERICO DEMARIA will be addressing staff at the European Commission today in a keynote speech about the crucial issues of economic growth and environmental degradation. He asks, is the well-being of the individual, societies and nations possible beyond economic growth? 

‘Growth for the sake of growth’ remains the credo of all governments and international institutions, including the European Commission.

Economic growth is presented as the panacea that can solve any of the world’s problems: poverty, inequality, sustainability, you name it. Left-wing and right-wing policies only differ on how to achieve it.

However, there is an uncomfortable scientific truth that has to be faced: economic growth is environmentally unsustainable. Moreover, beyond a certain threshold already surpassed by EU countries, socially it isn’t necessary. The central question then becomes: how can we manage an economy without growth? 

Enough is enough

Kenneth Boulding, the economist,  famously said that: “Anyone who believes that exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist”.  

Ecological economists argue that the economy is physical, while mainstream economists seem to believe it is metaphysical.

Social metabolism is the study of material and energy flows within the economy. On the input side of the economy, key material resources are limited, and many are peaking including oil and phosphorus. On the output side, humanity is trespassing planetary boundaries.

Climate change is the evidence of the limited assimilative capacity of ecosystems. It is the planet saying: ‘Enough is enough!’. 

Mainstream economists – finally convinced by the existence of biophysical limits – have started to argue that economic growth can be decoupled from the consumption of energy and materials.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Against ‘Sustainability’ and Other Plastic Words

Against ‘Sustainability’ and Other Plastic Words

How techno-speak is robbing us of our feelings and our future.

Marine biologist Daniel Pauly of UBC: ‘Sustainability is a deceptive goal because human harvesting of fish leads to a progressive simplification of ecosystems in favour of… fish species that are adapted to withstand disturbance and habitat degradation.’ Photo source: Common Sense Canadian video interview.

The word sustainability, were it up to me, would be extinct, wiped out, kaput.

It is hard to escape the word’s tyranny. 

Economists promise “sustainable economies” while business types explore “sustainability accounting.” 

Greens promise a “sustainable future,” and even greener pundits swear that technology will deliver “global sustainability.”

Miners promise to dig more sustainable holes and foresters propose to mow down old growth trees more sustainably. 

The United Nations champions “sustainable development goals” as though SDGs were a delightful venereal disease. 

But apparently every nation must set some SDGs, and go for it. 

Why, there are even research chairs in sustainable development at universities. And I suppose, somewhere, there are people proposing to be sustainable journalists.

We have forgotten the original meaning of sustain, which stems from the Old French sostenir, meaning “hold up bear; suffer, endure.” In the 14th century — a period of pestilence and famine, it meant endure without failing or yielding.”

As civilization collapses we are going to need that old word again. 

But well-intentioned greens took a word with historic meaning and turned it into plastic soup with the Brundtland report published by the United Nations in 1987. 

That document let the word loose on the world like feral cats in Australia’s outback by defining “sustainable development” as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Why is Going Green So Hard? Because the System Isn’t

Why is Going Green So Hard? Because the System Isn’t

Every year around Earth Day, I’m reminded of papers I graded in an environmental sociology class. The assignment was to assess your values, explain how you thought you would live as an adult (about 20 years in the future), and then complete an online calculator to find out: If everyone in the world lived like you, how many planets would we need?

The students were all young and idealistic, and most of them cared deeply about the environment. In their papers, they professed how they would live their lives in the most sustainable ways possible — eating vegan diets, avoiding car travel, growing their own food, and so on.

Most were sure they’d find a way to make it work without sacrificing luxuries like international travel.

Then they calculated how many planets would be needed to support everyone in the world living with their ideal lifestyle. Every single student required more than one planet. Most needed about three.

That’s right: If everyone in the world lived like these idealistic, passionate environmentalists, we’d need three planets to produce enough resources for their needs.

These papers hit me hard emotionally. When I was their age, I was them. Their dreams were my dreams — only for me, those dreams are dead.

Even the most committed of them couldn’t get her environmental footprint down to what one planet can provide. There’s almost no way to live in the United States as it is now and be fully sustainable. Attempting to do so requires a constant, overwhelming amount of effort.

I know because I’ve tried to do it myself. It was exhausting, frustrating, and often unsuccessful.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Energy Return on Investment (EROI).

Energy Return on Investment (EROI).

This is the text of a book review that I wrote, and which has just been published online in the journal Science Progress.

Energy Return on Investment: A Unifying Principle for Biology, Economics and Sustainability. CHARLES A. S. HALL, Springer 2017 ISBN 9783319478203; xii + 174 pp; £37.99

The preeminent mathematical physicist, James Clerk Maxwell, famously described energy as being “the ‘go’ of things”. Thus, “energy” is the fundamental, underpinning driver and enabler of all processes in the universe. Since it takes energy to produce energy, in order to survive, animals must derive more of it from the food they stalk and hunt down than they expend in getting it, while to provide food and to serve all the other functions of a complex human society, it is necessary to recover very much more energy, overall, than is consumed in acquiring that energy. Such energy requirements may be gauged from Energy Return on Investment (EROI), the definition of which is deceptively simple: i.e. it is the amount of energy delivered to society, divided by the energy consumed in delivering it (and therefore not available to society for other purposes). As this ratio falls, fewer units of energy are made available for each unit of energy that is consumed in the production process. In the limit, for an EROI of 1:1, there is no net profit, since the amount of energy consumed is equal to that produced, thus rendering the exercise self-limiting and pointless (and for an EROI < 1:1, an energy sink is identified). EROI is a useful metric for determining the viability of an energy source, and we see that unconventional oil sources (e.g. oil sands and oil shale) tend to be more difficult to produce from than their conventional counterparts, and deliver fewer units of energy to society for each unit of energy that is consumed in the production process, i.e. a smaller energy return on investment (EROI).

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Let’s get ‘creaturely’: A new worldview can help us face ecological crises

Let’s get ‘creaturely’: A new worldview can help us face ecological crises

No farmer has ever gone out to the barn to start the day and discovered that a baby tractor had been born overnight. For farmers who work with horses, the birth of a foal would not be surprising.

That observation may seem silly, but it highlights an important contrast: Machines cannot reproduce or maintain themselves. Creatures can.

The tractor comes out of the industrial mind, while the horse is creaturely. The tractor is the product of an energy-intensive human-designed system, while the horse is the product of an information-intensive biological process that emerges from earth and sun.

The implications of this difference are rarely acknowledged in the dominant culture, but we believe they are crucial to explore, especially with new political space opened up by the Green New Deal for discussing ecological sustainability and economic justice.

In the short term, humanity needs to devise policies that respond in meaningful ways to today’s multiple, cascading ecological crises (including, but not limited to, rapid climate disruption), which present risks now greatly accelerated and intensified well beyond previous predictions. If that seems alarmist, we recommend “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice” for details.

To put uncomfortable realities bluntly: In ecological terms, things are bad, getting worse faster than anticipated, leaving humanity with increasingly limited options. Everyone agrees that there are no quick and easy fixes, but we want to push further: Do not expect any truly sustainable fixes to emerge from the industrial mind.

That’s why we believe it’s crucial to discuss not only policy but the need for a new worldview, one that can expand our imaginations. The distressing realities of our moment in history need not be the end of our story, if humanity can transcend the industrial and get creaturely.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Deconstructing the 3 biggest LIES that attack organic farming

Deconstructing the 3 biggest LIES that attack organic farming

Image: Deconstructing the 3 biggest LIES that attack organic farming

(Natural News) Oh yes they did. There’s now a so-called “study” that’s been done which supposedly determined that organic farming creates a much bigger carbon footprint that torques up “global warming” more than ever. Yes, old faithful US News has regurgitated a chunk of claims published in the International Journal of Science, and somebody has to set the record straight.

If you read the entire review of the “study” and the study itself, you can feel the GMO community grasping for anything to save face, especially in the midst of a tsunami of Bayer/Monsanto lawsuits (of which people are winning huge payouts) regarding glyphosate poisoning from using Roundup. Folks, this is the same weed killer used on the inside and out (think genetic engineering here and “Roundup Ready”) of 90 percent of U.S. corn, soy, canola, cottonseed, beets, alfalfa, and the list goes on.

The whole insidious anti-organic industry needs a big PR win and fast, so they’re jumping on the “climate change” bandwagon and spewing infested lies about organic farming. It’s time to deconstruct the biggest ones and expose the fraudulent “news” updates.

DEBUNKED: The 3 “consensus” lies about organic farming that true science completely tears apart

 #1. “Organic food is worse for the climate than non-organic food”

Big lie. First off, non-organic food usually means chemical-based fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides are doused on the farms by crop dusters and spread by tractor “boom” sprayers that spray millions of gallons of unsustainable, climate-destroying bug killer and weed killer over millions of acres. And that comes only after the scientists modify the crop seeds in a laboratory with the same chemical genes from the poisonous pesticides.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Deep adaptation, post-sustainability and the possibility of societal collapse

Deep adaptation, post-sustainability and the possibility of societal collapse

I write this piece primarily to get you to read an academic paper that has attracted relatively widespread attention. It is entitled “Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy.”

It is remarkable in a number of aspects. First, it was written by a professor of sustainability leadership who has been heavily involved for a long time in helping organizations including governments, nonprofits and corporations to become more sustainable. Second, the author, Jem Bendall, has now concluded the following after an exhaustive review of the most up-to-date findings about climate change:  “inevitable collapse, probable catastrophe and possible extinction.” Third, his paper was rejected for publication not because it contained any errors of fact, but largely because it was too negative and thought to breed hopelessness.

It is important to understand what Bendall means by “collapse” in this context. He does not necessarily mean an event taking place in a relatively short period of time all over the world all at once. Rather, he means severe disruptions of our lives and societies to a degree than renders our current institutional arrangements largely irrelevant. He believes we won’t be able to respond to the scope of suffering and change by doing things the way we are doing them now with only a few reformist tweaks.

That this idea doesn’t go down well in sustainability circles should be no surprise. That’s because our current arrangements, even if “reformed” to take environmental imperatives into account, are in no way equal to the task ahead. Our existing institutions are structurally incapable of responding to what is coming and so consulting about how to reform them is largely a fool’s errand—not the way sustainability experts and consultants want to be thought of.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Why Liberals Should be Conservative: Climate Change, Excellence, and the Practice of Happiness, Part 2

Why Liberals Should be Conservative: Climate Change, Excellence, and the Practice of Happiness, Part 2

Ed. note: Part 1 of this series can be found on Resilience.org here.

The Resurgent Aristotelians: Hopkins, Fleming, Francis, and Holmgren

What then does a modern Aristotelianism look like?  How might we reconcile his ideal of a singular, philosophically deduced definition of a “good life” with modern pluralism and heterogeneity, and the Liberal insistence on individual expressive self-creation?  How do we define “good” or “excellence” without imposing an ideology or world-view on others who have their own?  Who judges and according to what standards?  If such a reconciliation is impossible, will we be required to make a difficult choice?  Or is there no real choice at all?

These are the questions that I will be considering, and to which in some cases I will hazard an answer, as we go forward.  To start that process, a quick recap may be in order.  I have outlined a philosophical and political standoff between Liberalism and a still-being-defined conservative Aristotelianism using common terminology, but in a particular way that may also need clarification.  I take Liberalism to represent the broad post-Enlightenment political and moral philosophy that has found its home in societies organized around a market economy, in which the primary location of agency, obligation, and desert or rights resides in the individual, who is freed from the “constraints” of “kinship, neighborhood, profession, and creed,” and given over to seemingly voluntary “freedom of contract” (Polanyi, 171).  Liberalism, as I use the capitalized version of the term, includes both political liberals or progressives of the sort that one might associate with Democrats, the Labor party, or Democratic Socialism, on the one hand, and “conservatives” (with scare-quotes) of the sort associated with Republicans, the British Conservative Party, and Christian Democrats, on the other. 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Global Collapse Accelerating Buy Gold Now – Chris Martenson

Global Collapse Accelerating Buy Gold Now – Chris Martenson

By Greg Hunter’s USAWatchdog.com

Futurist and economic researcher Chris Martenson says a collapse is “a process, not an event.” Martenson contends the long awaited global collapse, on many fronts, has not only started, but is picking up speed. Martenson says, “Our prediction at PeakProsperity.com is these collapse trends, we have been following for 10 years now, are accelerating and continuing. None of them are reversing at this point in time. These will impact people’s future in a huge way. Environmentally, we see these signs, but we also have $245 trillion of debt in the global economy. We have been accelerating that debt cycle as if we could just keep that trend going forever—we can’t. So, what we see are all these unsustainable trends converging. They are going to happen . . . and people need to be ready.”

Martenson lays out the case to blame central banks for much of the geopolitical and economic friction in the world today. Martenson says, “The economic pie is not expanding anymore. It’s kind of stagnant. So, if you have one tiny group taking their fair share and the pie isn’t growing, it means they are taking from somebody else. This is the essence of central banking. They don’t create wealth, they redistribute wealth. When the Federal Reserve crams rates to zero, the savers lose out, but lose to who? The winners and losers are being picked by the central banks, and they have decided that the .01% should be the winners in this story and everybody else should be the losers. . . . Central bank policies have really benefited the elites at the expense of everybody else. This brings up the most important point and that is central banks are not our friends. They are redistributive organizations.”

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
Click on image to purchase