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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 17th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

India-China competition dims hopes for regional cooperation.


By HARSH V. PANT
The Japan Times online, Monday, May 17, 2010.
LONDON — Established in 1985, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) had its 16th summit meeting in Thimpu, Bhutan, late last month. Apart from the fact that Bhutan hosted its first SAARC summit, there was hardly anything that inspired confidence in this largely moribund organization that is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its founding this year.

Covering at least 1.5 billion people across India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Maldives and Afghanistan, SAARC is one of the largest regional organizations in the world. But its achievements so far have been so minimal that even its constituents have become lackadaisical in their attitudes toward it. The state of regional cooperation in South Asia can be gleaned from the fact that Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani went to Bhutan via Nepal, using Chinese territory in Tibet rather than the straightforward route through India.

Bhutan chose climate change as the theme of the summit, and the eight-nation grouping delivered a Silver Jubilee declaration titled “Toward a Green and Happy South Asia.” The focus, however, was the agreement on trade in services signed during the summit. Intraregional trade in South Asia remains far below its potential despite the member states’ signing the South Asian Free Trade Agreement, which went into force in 2006.

For long, the dominant narrative of SAARC has been how the India-Pakistan rivalry hampers the group’s evolution into something significant. That is now losing salience amid China’s growing dominance of the South Asian landscape.

China entered SAARC as an observer in 2005, supported by most member states; India could do little about it and so acquiesced. Now, much to India’s consternation, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal are supporting China’s full membership in SAARC. China’s rising profile in South Asia is not news. What is astonishing is the diminishing role of India and the rapidity with which New Delhi is ceding strategic space to Beijing on the subcontinent.

Even as China becomes the largest trade partner of most states in South Asia, including India, New Delhi is busy repeating the old mantra of South Asia being India’s exclusive sphere of influence.

Of course, no one takes note of that anymore. Pakistan’s all-weather friendship with China is well-known, but the reach of China in other South Asian states has been extraordinary. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka view India as more interested in creating barriers against exports than in spurring regional economic integration. India’s protectionist tendencies have allowed China to don the mantle of regional economic leader. Instead of India emerging as the facilitator of socio-economic development in Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan, it is China’s developmental assistance that has impact.

India’s attempts to keep China out of the subcontinent have clearly not worked, and it’s time to re-evaluate its South Asia policy. China’s strategy toward South Asia is premised on encircling India and confining her within the geographical coordinates of the region. This strategy of using proxies started with Pakistan and has gradually evolved to include other states in the region, including Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. China is entering markets in South Asia more aggressively through trade and investment, improving linkages with South Asian states through treaties and bilateral cooperation.

It is following up on this by establishing a ring of road and port connections in India’s neighborhood and deepening military engagements with states on India’s periphery. This quiet assertion of China has prompted various smaller countries in South Asia to play China off against India. Most states in the region now use the China card to try to offset the influence of India. India’s structural dominance in South Asia makes it a natural target of resentment among its smaller neighbors.

Yet, there is no hope for regional economic cooperation in the absence of Indian leadership. The failure of India to counter China’s rise has made it even more unlikely that such cooperation will evolve productively. As the two regional giants compete with each other in the near future, they will be more focused on relative gains vis-a-vis each other than on the absolute gains that regional cooperation can bestow.

Liberals in South Asia have long taken their inspiration from extraordinary developments in the European Union (EU), arguing that South Asia could also go down a similar path of regional economic and political cooperation.

That comparison is fundamentally flawed, however. The states in Western Europe arrived at the EU only after resolving persistent security dilemmas. And the U.S. security umbrella continues to ensure that European political rivalries do not raise their ugly heads again.

In South Asia, the security dynamics between a large India and its smaller neighbors ensures that the road to economic and political cooperation will be a bumpy one. And that road will become even more difficult to traverse with the emergence of China.

Harsh V. Pant teaches at King’s College London.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 15th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Climate change to be burning issue at 16th SAARC summit
Climate change will be the burning issue at the 16th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in two weeks in Thimpu, Bhutan, local media reported on Monday, April 12th 2010.

The summit, which has the theme “Towards a green and happy South Asia,” expects to see a regional mechanism proposed by Nepal to counter the effects of climate change, reported The Kathmandu Post.

According to a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official, Nepal will push for an effective regional mechanism to cope with climate change. Also, Bangladesh and Maldives are likely to support Nepal’ s effort to set up a regional body, as both the countries will face the most drastic effects of climate change.

Studies have shown that rising sea levels because of melting polar ice caps mean that Maldives might get submerged, while Bangladesh will lose 20 percent of low-lying areas in the Bay of Bengal resulting in the displacement of 25 million people.

Bhutan has finished all the necessary preparations for hosting the summit, which will mark the 25th year of the establishment of the regional body.

According to the schedule, the summit formally kicks off on April 28 followed by a meeting of 38th session of the Programming Committee on April 29. Bhutan has officially launched a separate website with all the necessary information about the summit.

According to Hari Kumar Shrestha, Joint Secretary at the Foreign Ministry, the summit is expected to sign the SAARC Agreement on Disaster Response Mechanism, the Convention on Cooperation on Environment and Climate Change, and the Agreement on Trade in Services among member states.

The other issues likely to taken up by the summit would be energy and food crisis, and the effective implementation of SAARC Development Fund.

Regional issues like terrorism, extremism, early implementation of South Asian Free Trade Agreement, and expansion of tourism across the region will figure during the meet, according to officials.

The other key agenda would be the appointment of a SAARC Development Fund secretary for the secretariat, which is to be established in Thimpu.

The summit will also be attended by observers from China, Japan, the European Union, Republic of Korea, the United States, Australia, Mauritius, and Iran along with the eight member states.

Founded in 1985, the SAARC groups Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Source: Xinhua
2010-4-13

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 27th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the Turkish Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), called for an Islamic Executive Bureau of Environment and a common OIC position on climate change, and led the organization to a meeting in Rabat, Morocco, Jamuary 18-19, 2010, chaired by Saudi Arabia’s Prince Turki.

The First Meeting of the Islamic Executive Bureau of Environment was held at the ISESCO Headquarters in Rabat on 18-19 January 2010. The meeting was chaired by H.R.H. Prince Turki bin Nasser bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, General President of Meteorology and Environment Protection, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
In his message to the Meeting, the OIC Secretary General Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu stated that the climate change posed an existential threat for some of the OIC Member States. Following the impasse witnessed during the Copenhagen Meeting, securing a fair and equitable agreement on climate change within the framework of existing instruments remains a priority for the OIC countries.

The Secretary General called upon the Member States to evolve a common OIC position on the climate change to safeguard their interests in the multilateral negotiations in the lead up to Mexico round. In the area of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), the Secretary General also proposed to establish a carbon dioxide exchange scheme to contribute to the reduction of carbon emission.

The Executive Bureau endorsed the proposal of the Secretary General to establish ‘H.R.H Turki bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz Special Chair for Environmental Studies’ in universities of the most vulnerable OIC countries exposed to the adverse impacts of climate change. The meeting entrusted ISESCO and the Presidency of Metrology and Environment Protection, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in Coordination with the OIC General Secretariat to follow up the implementation of this project.

The OIC Secretary General assured the Islamic Executive Bureau for Environment, its Chair and the Secretariat of his resolve to work in unison to combat environmental challenges and securing the planet for the future generations.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 22nd, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

OK, there are disputes among Indian scientists and Indian officials who have connections to Indian oil industry. We knew this all the time and where not happy when under US President G.W. Bush the US pushed out under US business interests push, the scientific head of the IPCC and put in place the proxy Indians. But then, obviously, India is also not homogeneous – so we see internal Indian disputes.
YES – THE GLACIERS ARE MELTING AND NOBODY CAN PREDICT ACCURATELY THE YEAR OF THEIR FUTURE DEMISE – so what? The melting of these glaciers causes floods in the valleys – we know it because we see it. Yes, after they melt there will be draught – that is logic – it is implied in future shortage – that is clear. Those that love oil do not want to let go of it, and those that own refineries do not want to lose their investment – that is clear.
When lots of ice from above earth sites melts it will cause floods on coast line communities – that is clear. The melting of glaciers and the Antarctic ice will cause sea-level rise and floods – that can be sworn by – that is clear. Which island will disappear before 2013 or after – OK – that is not quite clear.
So what all this noise and only the UN can sound retreat – we do not. We also said that the relief of pressure on the tectonic plates because of the melting away of ice can cause earthquakes in areas where the plates meet – like the recent Tsunami belt over the earthquake belt shows. There are no scientific statements on this – only plain logic statements – so what? Yes we stopped short of our statement after the Haiti quakes and said – this one we do not exactly sense how it happened as we do not know of faults in that area. This is our lack of knowledge in this case that calls for help but it does not negate the prior statements. Science is not instantaneous – it requires further thinking and theories and proof if possible – not plain squabbles by industry-backed deniers and knee-jerk reactions by the UN. (our comments to the following news)

——————

SCIENCE, SPHERE, aol, January 21, 2010.

UN Climate Body Eats Crow Over Glacier Warning.

from Theunis Bates, a Contributor.

LONDON (Jan. 20) — It sounds like the plot of a Hollywood disaster movie: Central and Southern Asia are hit by biblical floods when the Himalayan glaciers suddenly melt. After that cataclysm, water no longer flows from the mountains, leaving rivers like the Mekong and Ganges dry and millions facing permanent drought. That was the picture painted by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2007 report, which said there was a “very high” chance that these glaciers would disappear by 2035 if the world kept warming.

But the IPCC, the U.N. body charged with investigating climate change, has retracted that claim after it emerged that its predictions of a sudden melt weren’t based on peer-reviewed evidence, but instead on an article that appeared in the popular science magazine New Scientist in 1999.

Himalayan glacier

Subel Bhandari, AFP / Getty Images
While the Khumbu Glacier near Mount Everest is shrinking, the United Nations admits it overstated the threat of a total glacial meltdown in the Himalayas.

Climate change skeptics have lapped up the scandal, which they’ve already dubbed “Glaciergate,” saying that it further erodes the credibility of climate science already damaged by last year’s Climategate e-mail scandal. Global warming denier Peter Foster, writing in Canada’s National Post, said the error showed how the “IPCC’s task has always been not objectively to examine science but to make the case for man-made climate change by any means available.”

But Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, vice chairman of the IPCC, said the mistake did not undermine the report’s key conclusions: that the warming climate is accelerating glacial melt and that this will affect the supply of water from the world’s major mountain ranges, “where more than one-sixth of the world population currently lives.”

“I don’t see how one mistake in a 3,000-page report can damage the credibility of the overall report,” van Ypersele told the BBC. “Some people will attempt to use it to damage the credibility of the IPCC; but if we can uncover it and explain it and change it, it should strengthen the IPCC’s credibility, showing that we are ready to learn from our mistakes.”

The argument over the IPCC’s melt date went public last November, when a paper written by Indian geologist Vijay Kumar Raina revealed that there was little consistency in the behavior of the Himalayan glaciers. Some were shrinking, he found, some expanding, and others were stable. If global warming were to blame, he asked, why weren’t they all following the same pattern? “A glacier … does not necessarily respond to the immediate climatic changes,” he wrote. “For if it be so then all glaciers within the same climatic zone should have been advancing or retreating at the same time.”

India’s environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, endorsed the paper and accused the IPCC of being “alarmist” in its predictions. But IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri shot back that Raina’s findings were “voodoo science” and accused Ramesh of repeating the claims of “climate change deniers.”

Embarrassingly, it’s now the IPCC that stands accused of sloppy science, as a rigorous system of fact checks would have kept the controversial assertion out of the 2007 report. The claim first appeared in a 1999 interview between a New Scientist journalist and the Indian glaciologist Syed Hasnain, who speculated that the mountain range’s glaciers could vanish by 2035.

Environmental group the World Wildlife Fund then repeated Hasnain’s prediction in its 2005 report, “An Overview of Glaciers, Glacier Retreat, and Subsequent Impacts in Nepal, India and China.” As this was only was a campaigning paper, it had not undergone a thorough scientific review. But its lack of scientific rigor didn’t stop the IPCC using the WWF document as a source.

In chapter 10 of its 2007 report, the IPCC concluded: “Glaciers in the Himalaya are receding faster than in any other part of the world, and if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate. Its total area will likely shrink from the present 500,000 to 100,000 square kilometers by the year 2035 (WWF, 2005).”

But many glaciologists believed those claims were overheated. As most Himalayan glaciers are hundreds of feet thick, only a sudden, huge spike in global temperatures could cause them to disappear before 2035. “The reality, that the glaciers are wasting away, is bad enough,” Graham Cogley, a glaciologist at Canada’s University of Trent, who played a key role in exposing the flawed claim, told the United Kingdom’s Sunday Times. “But they are not wasting away at the rate suggested by this speculative remark and the IPCC report. The problem is that nobody who studied this material bothered chasing the trail back to the original point when the claim first arose.”

Indian glaciologist Murari Lal, the lead author of that section of the IPCC report, last week rejected claims that the U.N. group had made a serious error. “We relied rather heavily on gray [not peer-reviewed] literature, including the WWF report,” Lal told New Scientist. “The error, if any, lies with Dr Hasnain’s assertion and not with the IPCC authors.”

Unsurprisingly, Hasnain has refuted that attempt to pass the blame. “The magic number of 2035 has not [been] mentioned in any research papers written by me, as no peer-reviewed journal will accept speculative figures,” he said to New Scientist. “It is not proper for IPCC to include references from popular magazines or newspapers.”

That’s a tough but obvious lesson, and one the IPCC is unlikely to forget.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 7th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Economics of Adaptation to Climate Change Study:
The Global Report

 www.worldbank.org
 www.worldbank.org

Tuesday, January 12, 2010
3:00 – 4:30 PM
World Bank “J” Building, Washington D.C.
(entrance on 18th Street between G and H)
Room B1-080

Description:

The ongoing World Bank study – the Economics of Adaptation to Climate Change  – has tried to further the understanding on two key issues: what will it cost developing countries to adapt to climate change and how can countries make their development plans more climate-resilient?

This event will provide highlights of the groundbreaking Global Report and draw lessons from it to explain: (i) the what, how, and why of adaptation; (ii) whether adaptation is simply development (or not); and, (iii) how different estimates of global costs of adaptation fit together.

An overview will also be provided of the “Country Case Studies” track of the study, currently underway in Bangladesh, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique, Samoa and Vietnam, and implications of adaptation for country-specific development paths.

Chair:
Warren Evans, Director,Environment Department, World Bank

Presenters:
Sergio Margulis, Study Team Leader and Lead Environmental Economist, World Bank
Urvashi Narain, Senior Environmental Economist, World Bank

Discussant:
Otaviano Canuto, Vice President,Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network, World Bank

The study is made possible through the generous support of the UK Department for International Development (DfID), The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

RSVP to Ms. Hawanty Page:  hpage at worldbank.org by Friday January 8, 2010

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 10th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

The following is just in time – please see what President Obama just said in Oslo after receiving the Nobel Prize:

Speaking as U.N.-sponsored climate talks continued in Copenhagen, Obama linked global warming to international security, telling his audience that “the world must come together to confront climate change.”

He said: “There is little scientific dispute that if we do nothing, we will face more drought, more famine, more mass displacement — all of which will fuel more conflict for decades.”

Now at the Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change will be heard something that the leadership of the UN managed to hide for many years – this until the taboo was broken by the UK at the time they chaired the UN Security Council three years ago. They declared, as part of their prerogative for naming a topic of their choosing, with full voice, that climate change is a security issue. We know what we say because our web was a victim of a UN that by policy of some individuals made the clear decision not to allow the UN DPI to see in its rooms the truth come out via the UN accredited press.

—————–

from Jonathan Gaventa

E3G, Institute for Environmental Security, Chatham House and Energy Security Initiative at Brookings COP15 Official Side Event

Delivering Climate Security

What the security community needs from a global climate regime

Thursday 17th December, 2:45pm – 4:15pm*

Liva Weel Room, Bella Center

Join leading climate security experts for a side event exploring climate change impacts on national security and how the global climate regime can address this threat.

Experts:

Brigadier General (ret) Wendell Chris King, Dean of Academics, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College

Nick MabeyCEO and Founding Director, E3G

Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti, Climate and Energy Security Envoy, United Kingdom

Major General (ret) Muniruzzaman, President, Bangladesh Institute for Peace and Security Studies

Cleo Paskal, Associate Fellow, Chatham House

*Refreshments will be served at the end of the event.

For more information please contact Meera Shah on +44 207 234 9880.

Related materials are available on E3G’s website: www.e3g.org.

 

   

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 30th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 

Climate Change Adaptation: It’s about Water! 
— Global Water Partnership’s contribution to the climate change dialogue

Water is central to the world’s development challenges. Whether it is food security, poverty reduction, economic growth, human health—water is the nexus. Climate change is the spoiler. No matter how successful mitigation efforts might be, people will experience the impacts of climate change through water.

The Global Water Partnership is participating in ‘Water Day’ at the climate change negotiations in Barcelona. GWP Executive Secretary Dr Ania Grobicki will be the lead speaker on water and transboundary issues on Tuesday, November 3. The venue is the Fira Congress Hotel, opposite the conference centre. The opening session starts at 9 am and lunch will be provided.

Recently, the GWP’s Technical Committee released its 14th Background Paper: “Water Management, Water Security and Climate Change Adaptation.” It argues that investments in water are investments in adaptation. The paper can be downloaded on www.gwpforum.org or ordered free at gwp@gwpforum.org.

Climate Change: How can we Adapt? – a one-pager about GWP’s key messages on this subject – is available here: www.gwpforum.org/gwp/library/GWP_Briefingnote_climatechange.pdf.

GWP has been accepted as an Inter-Governmental Organisation with Observer Status at  COP 15 in Copenhagen in December and has submitted an article to the delegate publication. But more information on that will follow later. 

More resources about climate change and water and more information on GWP’s involvement in the global dialogue on climate change is available on this page: www.gwpforum.org/servlet/PSP?iNodeID=205&itemId=442.

 

——————————————————–Steven DowneyHead of CommunicationsGlobal Water Partnership (GWP)Drottninggatan 33SE-111 51 Stockholm, SWEDENPhone:   +46 8 522 126 52Fax:      + 46 8 522 126 31E-mail: steven.downey@gwpforum.orgWebsite: www.gwpforum.org
A water secure world  the mission of the Global Water Partnership is to support the sustainable development and management of water resources at all levels.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 26th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

An UPDATE – The September 26, 2009, Global Citizens Consultation on Climate Policy.

As we posted earlier, on basis of very limited information, the initiative that started in Denmark ended up involving 39 countries but a total of 46 meeting places as the United States had six events, Switzerland three according to their three main languages, Spain three, and India, Brazil two each.

The full list of participating partners can be found at:
 www.wwviews.org/node/11

It is interesting how the Maldives had a meeting organized by “Strength of Society – S.O.S.” that can be reached via sos.org@gmail.com, in Egypt the meeting was organized by Care International, and in Ethiopia and Malawi by the British Council – so we have a mix of local organizations and international NGOs. Basically it seems that the organizers did in most cases not come from the Country’s Government.

WWViews on Warming , c/o Teknologirådet, is The Danish Board of Technology
Antonigade 4
DK1106 Copenhagen K

Phone: +45 33320503    info at wwviews.org
Press contacts

– part of a European network of technology assessment that obviously must have strong contacts with the country’s government.

Our information comes from having eventually visited with the event organized by the Austrian member of the European network – the Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA) of the Austrian Academy of Science (OEAW) –  www.oeaw@at/ita and having spoken with ITA Director Dr. Michael Nenwitch, the Vienna event organizer Dr. Ulricke Bechthold, and Project Management outreach person, Sabine Stemberger.

The ITA of the OEAW is an interdisciplinary research institute, something that we would call a think tank, that relates technical change with social issues in an effort to develop alternatives for political use with understanding for the technologies’ effects on society.
From them I learned that actually this was a 9 to 6 or as they say in Europe a 9:00 to 18:00 single day event, that because of its global scope becomes a 36 hour event, as while I was talking to them in Vienna, actually the Australian results were already known.

The idea was to invite chosen organizations in various parts of the world – chosen on basis of their interest and reliability. Those organizations were then supposed to invite a cross section of the population’s structure, chosen statistically according to age, gender, professional interest etc. to sit in a closed meeting around small tables – I think there were just 10 people to a table seated so they were a representative mix within the general representative mix of people in the room for sum total of 100 chosen representatives. Funny was how I at first did not understand that if I would be seated at a table, poor me could have upset this carefully organized apple cart.

The people were charged to participate in a series of four discussions – as said at their small round tables – they had then to answer questions for each separate topic of those four separate discussions, and in each discussion answers were tabulated like votes with final results given for the 100 participants in the room.

The first discussion deal with The Climate Change and its effects. After 45 minutes of discussion that followed a short introductory movie they had to vote on two questions.

In Essence -The Questions were: (A) Did you know how serious the issue of effects of global climate change is? and (B) How worried you are?

The answers were tabulated and presented at the end of the following discussion at the roundtables, while in between the discussions there was another activity. In between the first and second discussion the group was to hear just for 10 minutes from Austrian Federal Minister for Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Economy, Mr. Niki Berlakovich, who participated also last week at the Verbund meeting and is heavily involved in the biofuels issue. www.lebensministerium.at

Also addressing the group were Professor Helga Kromp-Kolb, Climate researcher at the Meteorology Istitute of the Vienna University, and the scientific adviser to climate and energy funds in Austria  www.boku.ac.at  Also Professor Georg Stingl, the head of the mathematics and natural sciences at the Academy of Sciences  www.oeaw.ac/ita.

Before the first discussion took place, the event was introduced by ITA Project Chair, Dr. Ulrike Bechthold, and by Dr. Wolfgang Gerlich.

The results of the voting following the above mentioned two questions for Discussion Round number one – they were –
for Question A: There was zero for full knowledge of the problems and for I do not want to answer. There was 38% for I knew a lot on the problems and 10% for I knew little – with 52% for I knew some of the issues.

for Question B: This about Worries. It was 36% for I worry a lot; 46% for medium; 14% for little; then still 4% – no way and 0 for – no answer.

The way I interpret the above is that further education work is needed so more people know the problems and worry about what goes on – but I surely would not want to see this become an excuse for a call to action now – the fact that politics are based on push from the people, the fact that people are not yet fully informed, may have a slow-down effect on the politicians. And this is dangerous for those that are in the know.

————–

Discussion round 2 dealt with the long range goals and urgency.

Discussion round 3 dealt with the issues of Green House Gas Emissions.

Discussion round 4 dealt with economy aspects, technologies, and adaptation.

Again, short videos were going to be used as introduction to each discussion. Eventually there was going to be a two hours debate about recommendations and the presentation of results – all of which I suggest to our readers to go to the original website in order to find out the results. As said, the meeting was not intended for outsiders or the press, and I fully understand the integrity of the procedures. Also, the intent of the recommendations is to influence the country’s delegation to Copenhagen – in this case the country is Austria and it is expected that the Minister of Environment, who just was here, will be the spokesperson in Copenhagen.

The meeting, though private, had nevertheless exposure to the press with a small Press Conference after the Minister’s visit with those selected for the discussion groups. As the Press Conference was not advertised on the WWView website, I missed it, though by chance arrived at its end and saw that there were good questions from the few journalists in the room. Having not heard the presentation, I did not ask in the open, but tried to ask the Minister what he thinks of the eventual G2 (US-China) answer to a  post-Copenhagen situation if no real moves are decided upon in Copenhagen? I know this was an unfair question, but I asked it anyway, and I believe there will be a chance to come back to it another day. The Minister is clearly in the EU mainstream on climate change.

Now, before I finish, let’s see what are the recommendations that already came in from the Far East:

AUSTRALIA – Commit confidently at COP15 – Act now to limit warming below 2°C through a legally binding global agreement. Develop new technology in an ethical and accountable process. The need for leadership, education in technological advances is paramount.

INDIA (Bangalore) – Co Clean and Green – Governments and Corporate must fund development of clean technology and renewable energy without patent and proprietary bases. Create actionable awareness at all levels for sustainability and a clean green planet.

BANGLADESH – An International Climate Court! The new climate deal should include establishment of an international climate court to control the states/countries responsible for causing negative climatic impacts. The court should also evolve a legal framework to try climate cases and bring the offenders to justice and provide opportunity for negatively affected countries to claim compensation.

CHINA – Bring the Issue Before The People. To enhance the citizen’s awareness of environmental protection by effective dissemination e.g. short film, public interest advertisement.

The above clearly shows what it is paramount is were you live, and citizen of what country you are. It would be nice if we had a true global citizenship, but as we do not have one yet, it is hard to come to an agreement, and our refuge is to talk among those who really count – something that may be as large as a new G-20 or who knows – as small as a G2.

on www.wwviews.org – the link for the results is –

 results.wwviews.org/new2/?cid=bla…

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 10th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

The New York Times Sunday TOP STORIES – August 9, 2009. 

Climate Change Seen as Threat to U.S. Security
By JOHN M. BRODER


A growing number of policy makers say that the world’s rising temperatures, surging seas and melting glaciers are a direct threat to the national interest. 

www.nytimes.com/2009/08/09/science/earth/09climate.html?th&emc=th

{The Following confirms what we are saying continuously for the last 5 years.}

– QUOTATION OF THE DAY – 

“We will pay for this one way or another. We will pay to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today, and we’ll have to take an economic hit of some kind. Or we will pay the price later in military terms. And that will involve human lives.”
– GEN. ANTHONY C. ZINNI,  former head of the Central Command, on climate change.

www.nytimes.com/2009/08/09/science/earth/09climate.html?th&emc=th

WASHINGTON — The changing global climate will pose profound strategic challenges to the United States in coming decades, raising the prospect of military intervention to deal with the effects of violent storms, drought, mass migration and pandemics, military and intelligence analysts say. 

Such climate-induced crises could topple governments, feed terrorist movements or destabilize entire regions, say the analysts, experts at the Pentagon and intelligence agencies who for the first time are taking a serious look at the national security implications of climate change.

Recent war games and intelligence studies conclude that over the next 20 to 30 years, vulnerable regions, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and South and Southeast Asia, will face the prospect of food shortages, water crises and catastrophic flooding driven by climate change that could demand an American humanitarian relief or military response.

An exercise last December at the National Defense University, an educational institute that is overseen by the military, explored the potential impact of a destructive flood in Bangladesh that sent hundreds of thousands of refugees streaming into neighboring India, touching off religious conflict, the spread of contagious diseases and vast damage to infrastructure. “It gets real complicated real quickly,” said Amanda J. Dory, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy, who is working with a Pentagon group assigned to incorporate climate change into national security strategy planning.

Much of the public and political debate on global warming has focused on finding substitutes for fossil fuels, reducing emissions that contribute to greenhouse gases and furthering negotiations toward an international climate treaty — not potential security challenges.

But a growing number of policy makers say that the world’s rising temperatures, surging seas and melting glaciers are a direct threat to the national interest.

If the United States does not lead the world in reducing fossil-fuel consumption and thus emissions of global warming gases, proponents of this view say, a series of global environmental, social, political and possibly military crises loom that the nation will urgently have to address.

This argument could prove a fulcrum for debate in the Senate next month when it takes up climate and energy legislation passed in June by the House.

Lawmakers leading the debate before Congress are only now beginning to make the national security argument for approving the legislation.

Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who is the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and a leading advocate for the climate legislation, said he hoped to sway Senate skeptics by pressing that issue to pass a meaningful bill.

Mr. Kerry said he did not know whether he would succeed but had spoken with 30 undecided senators on the matter.

He did not identify those senators, but the list of undecided includes many from coal and manufacturing states and from the South and Southeast, which will face the sharpest energy price increases from any carbon emissions control program.

“I’ve been making this argument for a number of years,” Mr. Kerry said, “but it has not been a focus because a lot of people had not connected the dots.” He said he had urgedPresident Obama to make the case, too.

Mr. Kerry said the continuing conflict in southern Sudan, which has killed and displaced tens of thousands of people, is a result of drought and expansion of deserts in the north. “That is going to be repeated many times over and on a much larger scale,” he said.

The Department of Defense’s assessment of the security issue came about after prodding by Congress to include climate issues in its strategic plans — specifically, in 2008 budget authorizations by Hillary Rodham Clinton and John W. Warner, then senators. The department’s climate modeling is based on sophisticated Navy and Air Force weather programs and other government climate research programs at NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The Pentagon and the State Department have studied issues arising from dependence on foreign sources of energy for years but are only now considering the effects of global warming in their long-term planning documents. The Pentagon will include a climate section in the Quadrennial Defense Review, due in February; the State Department will address the issue in its new Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review.

“The sense that climate change poses security and geopolitical challenges is central to the thinking of the State Department and the climate office,” said Peter Ogden, chief of staff to Todd Stern, the State Department’s top climate negotiator.

Although military and intelligence planners have been aware of the challenge posed by climate changes for some years, the Obama administration has made it a central policy focus.

A changing climate presents a range of challenges for the military. Many of its critical installations are vulnerable to rising seas and storm surges. In Florida, Homestead Air Force Base was essentially destroyed by Hurricane Andrew in 1992, and Hurricane Ivan badly damaged Naval Air Station Pensacola in 2004. Military planners are studying ways to protect the major naval stations in Norfolk, Va., and San Diego from climate-induced rising seas and severe storms.

Another vulnerable installation is Diego Garcia, an atoll in the Indian Ocean that serves as a logistics hub for American and British forces in the Middle East and sits a few feet above sea level.

Arctic melting also presents new problems for the military. The shrinking of the ice cap, which is proceeding faster than anticipated only a few years ago, opens a shipping channel that must be defended and undersea resources that are already the focus of international competition.


Ms. Dory, who has held senior Pentagon posts since the Clinton administration, said she had seen a “sea change” in the military’s thinking about climate change in the past year. “These issues now have to be included and wrestled with” in drafting national security strategy, she said.

The National Intelligence Council, which produces government-wide intelligence analyses, finished the first assessment of the national security implications of climate change just last year.

It concluded that climate change by itself would have significant geopolitical impacts around the world and would contribute to a host of problems, including poverty, environmental degradation and the weakening of national governments.

The assessment warned that the storms, droughts and food shortages that might result from a warming planet in coming decades would create numerous relief emergencies.

“The demands of these potential humanitarian responses may significantly tax U.S. military transportation and support force structures, resulting in a strained readiness posture and decreased strategic depth for combat operations,” the report said.

The intelligence community is preparing a series of reports on the impacts of climate change on individual countries like China and India, a study of alternative fuels and a look at how major power relations could be strained by a changing climate.

“We will pay for this one way or another,” Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, a retired Marine and the former head of the Central Command, wrote recently in a report he prepared as a member of a military advisory board on energy and climate at CNA, a private group that does research for the Navy. “We will pay to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today, and we’ll have to take an economic hit of some kind.

“Or we will pay the price later in military terms,” he warned. “And that will involve human lives.”

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 1st, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

The following are the top 28 finalists in the Official 2009 New 7 Wonders of Nature competition – nominated from among hundreds of sites around the world that have been proposed.


see please: www.new7wonders.com/ and you can vote – for up to 7 of the 28 list – at that link.

you can vote for your choice of 7 on line, by phone, or text message. It is expected that one billion people will vote and the winner will be announced in 2011.

A similar effort two years ago elected seven manmade wonders generated considerable publicity. We backed at that time Machu Picchu, Peru

These selections are being organized by a Swiss filmmaker and entrepreneur, Bernard Weber, and the committee that chose the 28 finalists included Federico Mayor, former chief of UNESCO, and Rex Weyler, co-founder of Greenpeace International.

Like everything else that has a UN connection, obviously such selections will be politicized beyond the simple angle of national pride – just see the country called Chinese Taipei for what most call Taiwan.

In this year of climate change we thing the Amazon will get the world’s nod, but watching in Vietnam (it is Halong Bay) how a whole country can get beyond a particular location we would have said that China could muster the vote, but will they do it for Taipei?

From among the many places on the list that we have been to – I am voting as Numero Uno for the Iguazu Falls.

Country

VENEZUELA
SURINAME
PERU
GUYANA
FRENCH GUIANA
ECUADOR
COLOMBIA
BRAZIL
BOLIVIA

VENEZUELA

CANADA

GERMANY

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

IRELAND

PALESTINE
ISRAEL
JORDAN

PUERTO RICO

ECUADOR

UNITED STATES

PAPUA NEW GUINEA
AUSTRALIA

VIET NAM

BRAZIL
ARGENTINA

LEBANON

KOREA (SOUTH)

TANZANIA

INDONESIA

MALDIVES

POLAND

SWITZERLAND
ITALY

NEW ZEALAND

AZERBAIJAN

PHILIPPINES

INDIA
BANGLADESH

SOUTH AFRICA

AUSTRALIA

ITALY

CHINESE TAIPEI

From the competition on the 7 Man-made wonders – a stamp collection from Gibraltar:

For all media inquiries and interview requests, please contact:

Tia B. Viering, Head of Communications
Mobile: +41 79-762-2784
Phone: +49 89 489 033 58 (Munich office)
Email at press@n7w.com.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 25th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Unpaid workers can switch jobs, UAE ministry says – paper
by Neeraj Gangal on arabianbusiness.com, Friday, 24 July 2009

LABOUR GAINS: The acting Director-General of UAE’s labour ministry informed about the move – Any worker who has not been paid for more than two months has the right to change jobs without a No Objection Certificate (NOC) even after receiving his dues, according to a report.

Humaid Bin Deemas, the acting Director-General of UAE’s Ministry of Labour informed this on Thursday, the Gulf News daily reported. The senior official was speaking at a press conference that was held after an open day event at the ministry’s premises in Dubai, it added.

“Workers who have not been paid for more than two months have the right to stay with the same company or choose to change jobs without the NOC.

“The rule is also applicable to those who have not been paid for the same duration of time but decided to cancel their work permits where they will have the six month ban, which is usually enforced by the ministry, lifted,” Bin Deemas added.

Related: IN PICS: Inside Dubai’s labour camps.
Related: Registered firms to pay workers via WPS from September.

The worker has now the right to leave his employer without filing the required notice period if the firm does not fulfil any of its commitments as stipulated in the employment contract, Gulf News noted.

Also, all firms registered with the UAE Ministry of Labour will start making payment of workers’ wages through the newly introduced wages protection system (WPS) from September, the ministry said on Thursday.

The new system makes the electronic transfer of labourers’ wages from employer to employee mandatory following a decree issued by Labour Minister Saqr Ghobash.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 7th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

What Does Climate Change Do to Our Heads?        

by Sanjay Khanna
14 May 2009, CultureChange.org
A small yet growing body of evidence suggests that how people think and feel is being influenced strongly by ecosystem transformation related to climate change and industry-related displacement from the land. These powerful stressors are occurring more frequently around the world.

A case in point: When researchers from the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health at the University of Newcastle in Australia conducted interviews in drought-affected communities in New South Wales in 2005, the responses suggested some of their subjects may have been suffering from a recently described psychological condition called solastalgia (pronounced so-la-stal-juh).

Solastalgia describes a palpable sense of dislocation and loss that people feel when they perceive changes to their local environment as harmful. It’s a neologism that Glenn Albrecht, an environmental philosopher at the University of Newcastle’s School of Environmental and Life Sciences, created in 2003.

Albrecht’s work among communities distraught by black-coal strip mining in New South Wales’ Upper Hunter Region convinced him that the English language needed a new term to connect the experience of ecosystem loss to mental health concerns.

“The sense of a home landscape being violated [by strip mining-related environmental damage] seemed to have disturbed the region’s social ecology so much that the psychic or mental health of many people living in the zone of high impact was being affected,” he says.

Albrecht’s stunning insight? That there might be a wide variety of shifts in the health of an ecosystem—from subtle landscape changes related to global warming to desolate wastelands created by large-scale strip mining—that diminish people’s mental health.

In Eastern Australian communities, where the toll of a six-year-long drought has been devastating, interviews with farmers provided additional momentum for the solastalgia concept.

In one such interview, a female farmer poignantly described the loss of her garden oasis. “Our gardens have had to die,” she said, “because our house dam has been dry…. So it’s very depressing for a woman because a garden is an oasis out here with this dust…you know, to come home to a nice green lawn is just… that’s all gone, so you’ve got dust at your back door.”

While persistent drought and open-pit coal mining may be extreme cases, if the environmental degradation of the past hundred years is any indication, our contemporary lifestyles, built on a dwindling resource base, have failed to acknowledge how much the mental health of people and ecosystems is interrelated.

This may imply that the unrelenting media focus on weather-related and economic aspects of climate change does not adequately take into consideration the challenge of mitigating the psychological impact of global warming. How might we feel when the heat is relentless and our surrounding environment changes irrevocably? How might our mental health be affected?

In a recent Wired magazine article on Albrecht and the concept of solastalgia, Global Mourning: How the next victim of climate change will be our minds, writer Clive Thompson sensitively characterized as “global mourning” the potential impact of overwhelming environmental transformation caused by climate change. Thompson cogently summed up Albrecht’s view of what solastalgia might look like were it to become an epidemic of emotional and psychic instability causally linked to changing climates and ecosystems.

Albrecht also emphasizes that feelings of melancholia and homesickness have previously been recorded among Aboriginal peoples in the Americas and Australia who were forcibly moved from their home territories by U.S., Canadian and Australian governments in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Sanjay Khanna: You speak of psychoterratic and somaterratic illnesses. What are they?

Glenn Albrecht: Psychoterratic illness involves the psyche or mind and terra or earth. So a psychoterratic illness would be an earth-related mental illness, where both nostalgia and solastalgia are examples of people being made “mentally ill” by the severing of “healthy” links between themselves and their home or territory.

Somaterratic illness, on the other hand, involves soma or the body and relates to damage done to the human body, its physiology and/or genetics, as a result of the loss of ecosystem health by, for example, toxic pollution in any given area of land.

SK: You note on your blog that there are antecedents to solastalgia.

GA: Yes, David Rapport, a past professor at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, is a pioneer in the study of the health of natural ecosystems and their relationship with humans. In the 1970s, he described “ecosystem distress syndrome,” which was what happened when an ecosystem couldn’t restore its balance after an external disturbance.

Once I fully appreciated this concept, I realized there must be a human equivalent to ecosystem distress syndrome, that is, a home environment so profoundly disturbed that it affected the balance of well being or the mental health of people within their social ecology.

The interviews of affected people I conducted along with Nick Higginbotham and Linda Connor in strip-mined areas of the Upper Hunter Valley showed that people’s sense of place was being violated and that this was profoundly disturbing them. Their home environment was being desolated and it seemed to us that the vital link between ecosystem health and human health, both physical and mental, was being severed.

SK: Can you tell us a little bit more about the origins of solastalgia?

GA: Solastalgia’s Latin roots combine three ideas: The solace that one’s environment provides, the desolation caused by that environment’s degradation and the pain or distress that occurs inside a person as a result.

Solastalgia brings into English a much-needed word that links a mental state to a state of the biophysical environment. The need for new concepts in the face of what is happening under climate change has seen other cultures develop new terms that have affinities with solastalgia.

The Inuit, for example, have a new word, uggianaqtuq (pronounced OOG-gi-a-nak-took), which relates to climate change and has connotations of the weather as a once reliable and trusted friend that is now acting strangely or unpredictably. And the Portuguese use the word saudade to describe a feeling one has for a loved one who is absent or has disappeared. The upshot is that under the pressure of climate change, your preferred climate and ecosystem might well be thought of as a lover gone missing or turned bad.

SK: How might your research impact on psychiatry and the diagnosis of psychoterratic illnesses such as solastalgia?

GA: Alongside five other researchers, our four-person team co-wrote a summary of our research on the mental health impacts of mining and drought for psychological and psychiatric professionals. The paper, Solastalgia: the distress caused by climate change, was published in Australasian Psychiatry, a publication of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, in November 2007.

Our team has mused that people badly affected by solastalgia would benefit from a set of professionally developed diagnostic tools so that solastalgia could be listed as a condition that required diagnosis and professional attention.

We’re happy for other people to take that challenge up and there are some academic psychiatrists who are interested in exploring these ideas further. However, given that key aspects of solastalgia are existential, the traditions of environmental philosophy and medical psychiatry may not come together so harmoniously. The melancholia of solastalgia is not the same as clinical depression, but it may well be a precursor to serious psychic disturbance.

That said, it’s worth remembering that up until the mid-twentieth century, the medical profession viewed nostalgia as a diagnosable psycho-physiological illness in which, for example, soldiers fighting in foreign lands became so homesick and melancholic it could kill them.

Today psychiatrists would see the condition of rapid and unwelcome severing from home as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), an outcome of an acute stressor such as warfare or a Hurricane Katrina.

Solastalgia on the other hand is most often the result of chronic environmental stress; it is the lived experience of gradually losing the solace a once stable home environment provided. It is therefore appropriate to diagnose solastalgia in the face of slow and insidious forces such as climate change or mining.

SK: Would you tell us a little bit about the transdisciplinary team that you participate on?

GA: Nick Higginbotham, a social psychologist colleague who specializes in epidemiology and health matters, is working to gather empirical data for our solastalgia research. He has developed a much-needed environmental distress scale (EDS) that teases out the specific environmental components of distress from all the other things that go on in a person’s life. We will be using this scale in the new AUS$430K grant the team has received from the Australian Research Council to extend our earlier work by addressing “the lived experience (ethnography) of climate change” among people in the Hunter Valley.

Linda Connor, an ethnographer and social and medical anthropologist, handles the ethnography or cultural experience of all this. So collectively we have empirical (Higginbotham), cultural (Connor) and philosophical (me) interpretations of health and climate change. Finally, Sonia Freeman, our research assistant, has co-authored a number of papers.

SK: What implications might the recent apology by Kevin Rudd, the new Prime Minister of Australia, to the “stolen generations” of Australian Aborigines have in relation to solastalgia?

GA: The apology by Kevin Rudd to the stolen generations is about seeking forgiveness for the government-sanctioned taking of Indigenous children from their families and from their home territories (their “country”) from 1909 until 1969. There have been profound mental and physical health impacts from this process and many of the remaining stolen generations are now ageing but with a 17-year shorter life expectancy on average than non-indigenous Australians. Those who are alive today may be experiencing genuine nostalgia for a once-sustainable past and solastalgia within contemporary pathological and depressed home environments.

SK: Do you see a relationship between the conquest of Indigenous peoples of the Americas and Australasia, the state of environmental degradation and the experience of loss that we are seeing today? If so, what is that relationship from your perspective and research?

GA: The answer is, yes, there is a relationship between the two colonial cultures: the two continents were colonized only by the systematic dispossession of complex and formerly sustainable Indigenous societies.

Traditional Indigenous cultures in the Americas and Australasia displayed a profound appreciation of the relationship between human and ecosystem health, something global culture is trying to rediscover under the label of sustainability.

Remnant aboriginal cultures are still being pushed aside by the dominant global model of economic growth and progress. Even today, their chronic health problems are likely related to social and political issues that are connected to ongoing dispossession.

I’ve had recent firsthand experience of the lives of Indigenous people leading semi-traditional lives in Northern Australia to see the importance of the connections between human health and ecosystem health. In Arnhem Land, Aborigines who live on what are called “outstations” have been able to maintain much stronger and healthier links to their traditional land. Their physical and mental health status is, as a consequence, much better than those whose links to their own land have been severed and who now live in crowded, dysfunctional communities.

SK: Some of the solastalgia symptoms you describe are similar to the loss of cultural identity, including the loss of language and ancestral memory. Loss of place seems an extension of this new global experience of weakened cultural identities and Earth-based ethical moorings.

GA: I have written on this topic in a professional academic journal and expressed the idea of having an Earth-based ethical framework that could contribute to maximizing the creative potential of human cultural and technological complexity and diversity without destroying the foundational complexity and diversity of natural systems in the process.

Our history shows that some people and cultures have a tendency to create pathological ways of thinking, but if we want to support a life-affirming ethic in the twenty-first century, we are in need of reform and change.

SK: In the context of accelerating environmental change, what would you say to young people about the planet they are inheriting? What does sustainability mean in the context of the overwhelming pace of environmental and economic change that we’re seeing today?

GA: This is a tough one because the children of today face the double whammy of the escalating pace and scale of changes under the global forces of development and those of climate chaos. I’ve suggested to my own teenagers that what is happening is unacceptable ethically and practically and they should be in a state of advanced revolt about the whole deal.

From my perspective, supporting and maintaining the status quo is no longer a reasonable response to these big picture issues. At every point, we must challenge and refute this kind of thinking in a society that is clearly on a non-sustainable pathway.

Unfortunately, the lot in life of the youth today is to undo much of what has been done in the name of growth and progress in the last two hundred years. However, this does not mean a return to the past: As Herman Daly (the ecological economist) once said, you can have an economy that develops without growing.

On a personal level, I’m an optimistic, energetic philosopher and I believe that we must get our values more life orientated. I’m not willing to give up on encouraging change towards sustainability even in the face of what look like overwhelming negative forces.

The four-year grant recently awarded to our team will allow us to study the lived experience of climate change at a regional level. We’re happy that we’ll be able to start contributing data on how climate change is shifting culture, values and attitudes.

The next four years are critical. As a member of a research team, I believe that we’re right at the leading edge of change research and we are very committed to supporting the network of ecological and social relationships that promote human health. There’s hope in recognizing solastalgia and defeating it by creating ways to reconnect with our local environment and communities.

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Sanjay Khanna is a writer and foresight researcher based in Vancouver, Canada. He can be reached at sk AT khannaresearch DOT com. His blog is at www.realisticsanctuary.com. More articles are available at www.huffingtonpost.com

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 4th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 Today’s Financial Times had a 4-pages SPECIAL REPORT – titled “SUSTAINABLE BANKING.” I was quite skeptical when I saw this title, but then the front page photo was of a wind-mills farm among cacti in Brazil, and the subtitle – “Winds of change: financing renewable energy projects, such as this one in Brazil, is increasingly favoured as part of a sustainable banking policy.” I became even more intrigued – is it possible that financial insatitutions stop chasing after ideas that build baloons and decide instead to use the wind in for really positive achievements?

Right there in front it said: “ECONOMIC CRISIS SOWS SEEDS OF CHANGE – SUSTAINABILITY MAY BE A WINNER IN THE FALLOUT FROM THE GLOBAL CREDIT CRUNCH, WRITES BROOKE MASTERS.”

It starts: “‘The credit crunch and collapse of the structured products market have turned much accepted financial wisdom on its head. The world has gained a new appreciation for long-term risk, and regulators around the globe seek to impose new standards on institutions they supervise.’ ‘Sustainability is not a luxury at all. It is just good business. People are paying even more attention than they were before because they are more conscious of their images,’ says Fabio Barbosa, president of Grupo Santander Brasil, which now owns Banco Real, winner of last year’s FT Sustainable Bank of the Year award. ‘Society is demanding a more conscious attitude.'”   Then please read it further   at www.ft.com/cms/s/0/0c03d2a2-4f01-…

and “Dangers: Credit crunch holds many key lessons for the future By Mike Scott” at www.ft.com/cms/s/0/0598956a-4f01-…   then he continues as:

“Opportunities: Big institutions learn to think small.” – The world has recently lost its faith in the global financial system as an engine of prosperity, but there is one area that shines through as a success.

Microfinance, pioneered by economics lecturer (and now Nobel laureate) Mohammed Yunus in the 1970s, has improved the lives of millions of people by lending them tiny sums that enable them to take the first step on the road to financial inclusion.

The sector has developed from Professor Yunus’s first loan of $27 in a Bangladeshi village to be embraced around the world. While those first loans came out of Prof Yunus’ own pocket, the poorest people in the world are now, indirectly, receiving money from some of the biggest banks in the world and – through specialist investment firms such as BlueOrchard – some of the world’s wealthiest individuals. This at: www.ft.com/cms/s/0/0f702242-4f01-…

and “Age of scarcity: Resource shortages yield investment opportunities” at www.ft.com/cms/s/0/114e03c2-4f01-…

Eventually you ask yourself why the two major banks of Spain, which by the way did not buy into the balloons, and banks in Brazil and India are front runers in this review of what is solid banking for future generations, and why did the US banks and the other European banks , not see what these saw?

Which brings us to David Chazan reporting on what was learned by wise people of Bangladesh from turning MAOISM to MICROFINANCE in a JOURNEY OF HOPE at www.ft.com/cms/s/0/01d58ab4-4f01-…

And there is much more from where these notes come in those four pages of the Financial Times.

Wew suggest thus to our readers – do yourselves good by going by yourselves to:   search.ft.com/search?queryText=%2…   and see further:

GOOD “Leading Banks reap benefit of environmental agendas” at www.ft.com/cms/s/0/036122d0-4f01-…

I was leafing through the Financial Times while waiting at The Asia Society this morning for the start of the session on “A new Indian Government: Deciphering the Election Results and their Implications,” on which we advertised in our posting:

China and Climate Change with Jeffrey D. Sachs, Pakistan’s Crises, Water Management for the Poor, A New India Government, Philippines’ 2010 Politics – First Week in June discussion programs at the Asia Society in New York.
(posted on www.SustainabiliTank.info, Tuesday, May 26th, 2009)

Chaired by Mira Kamdar, a Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute and recent fellow at the Asia Society, with panelists that included Kanchan Chandra from New York University, Sanjay Ruparella from The New School for Social Research, New York, and via a telephone connection to Delhi, Mr. Pramit Chaudhuri, The Hindustan Times Senior Editor.

The discussion was about the politics of India and the consensus was that the Congress Party and the main opposition parties have decreased in electoral power because of an immense fractionation among the voters, and the formation of hundreds of splinter groups – so that now smaller minorities of voters can obtain larger majorities in the lower house of Parliament.In the Upper House the situation is similar but a different coalition is needed there. Will now the new government – that has power in the House but really not in the street – with the extreme case having been that an elected member of the Parliament came in with just 9% of the vote – tackle needed social issues? There is a need for generational change, but the new faces are in many cases the sons and daughters of the old faces. The Senior Editor said that the stronger government, thanks to the numbers in Parliament, will have now less shackles to bring about change and liberalize, even though the left was weakened, Seemingly the stock market and journalism think so – but will they?

During the Bush Administration, doors to the US have been opened and it is expected that on nuclear power this will continue, and seemingly, if climate change is dealt with in this context, there will be cooperation here to – they said.

It can be expected that investments from institutions – inside and outside India – will continue in infrastructure like highways, and energy, but will they invest in human infrastructure? Is there going to be a shift away from identity (read ethnic) policy, in States like Bihar?

India has now the opportunity to work with the new US for a green 21st century in areas like public transportation, not just 8-way highways. Will they? In effect, from the rural sector there is now push for decentralization and small scale solar and wind, with grass roots involvement at the village level – so here we come to the real potential for innovation on this huge subcontinent – this connects to our opening story.

The Senior Editor said that India like China had a consumption driven growth model. Domestic consumption and investment came in from the outside, but with the credit problems investment fell 3-4%. They will now have to make this up from new public expenditures as much of the infrastructure comes not just from the State, but from the individual State Governments.

There was a question about curbing the population growth, but it was answered that actually the population is considered an asset for growth. How to provide health services to the population did not seem to be a priority.

————-

When the meeting broke, I spoke in private with the panelists present about the fact that Shashi Tharoor is now a Minister in charge of dealings with what the UN calls the South, as I wrote about in the June 1, 2009 posting:     “Dr. Shashi Tharoor – the new India Minister of State for External Affairs in charge of the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America Affairs.”

We agreed that this may open the way for such contacts, so that India becomes more effective on the international stage – further, I also believe that he might be a good link to the new Washington of President Obama – with the departure of the powers that kept him out of the UN Secretary General’s office.

 

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 17th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

mail-2.jpg

Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS) and Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS, Singapore) are jointly organizing the first BIPSS-ISAS Roundtable dialogue on Singapore-Bangladesh Relations on 25 May 2009 in Singapore.

A four member delegation from Bangladesh led by President BIPSS, Major General ANM Muniruzzaman (Retd.), will arrive in Singapore on 24 May, 2009. The roundtable agenda encompasses a wide range of issues that are of interest for both the countries; Singapore and Bangladesh.   Both the institutes will present papers (each institute will present 4 papers) on domestic economic developments (of respective countries), regional security architecture, evolving regional relations in South and Southeast Asia and future of regional groupings in South and Southeast Asia (i.e. SAARC and ASEAN). The Roundtable will also review past and existing relations between Bangladesh and Singapore.

The roundtable dialogue will essentially play a major role in strengthening Singapore-Bangladesh relations and furthering regional cooperation. This will be a yearly event at Track II level, and the 2nd Singapore-Bangladesh Roundtable will be hosted in Bangladesh in 2010.

Tentative Programme

logo_isas.jpg


SUNDAY, 24 MAY 2009

Arrival of Bangladesh Delegation to Singapore


MONDAY, 25 MAY 2009

8.30am                      
Arrival of Delegates and Tea / Coffee
9.00am
WELCOME ADDRESS

Professor Tan Tai Yong
Co-Chair, First Roundtable on Singapore-Bangladesh Relations, and
Director, Institute of South Asian Studies, Singapore

Major General Muniruzzaman
Co-Chair, First Roundtable on Singapore-Bangladesh Relations, and
President, Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies

9.15am
SESSION ONE
Singapore and Bangladesh: Understanding Domestic Socio- economic and Political Environments

Moderator
Dr Amitendu Palit
Visiting Research Fellow
Institute of South Asian Studies

Presentations

Key Socio-economic and Political Developments in Bangladesh
Dr. S Mahmud Ali, Senior Editorial Coordinator – Asia-Pacific, at the BBC World Service, London and a member of the BIPSS International Advisory Board.
Key Socio-economic and Political Developments in Singapore
Dr Gillian Koh, Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Policy Studies Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS.
Discussions

10.45am
SESSION TWO
Bangladesh-Singapore Relations

Moderator
Dr. S Mahmud Ali,
Senior Editorial Coordinator – Asia-Pacific, at the BBC World Service, London and a member of the BIPSS International Advisory Board.

Presentations

Relations between Singapore and Bangladesh – The Bangladesh Perspective Khaled Iqbal Chowdhury, Research Associate, BIPSS
Relations between Singapore and Bangladesh – The Singapore Perspective Mr M. Shahidul Islam, Research Associate, Institute of South Asian Studies


12.15pm                

Lunch


1.30pm

SESSION THREE
Singapore and Bangladesh: The Regional Security Architecture

Moderator
Professor S. D. Muni
Visiting Senior Research Fellow
Institute of South Asian Studies

Presentations

Major Security Challenges facing South Asia
Major General ANM Muniruzzaman (Retd.),
President BIPSS.
Major Security Challenges facing Southeast Asia
Mr Daljit Singh
Visiting Senior Research Fellow
Institute of Southeast Asian Studies
Discussions


3.00pm

Tea / Coffee

3.15pm

SESSION FOUR
Singapore and Bangladesh: Regionalism and the Future of
Regional Groupings in South and Southeast Asia

Moderator
Major General ANM Muniruzzaman (Retd.),
President BIPSS.

Presentations

Bangladesh, the South Asian Region and SAARC
Shafqat Munir, Research Analyst, BIPSS.
Singapore, the Southeast Asian Region and ASEAN
Ambassador See Chak Mun
Senior FellowInstitute of South Asian Studies
Discussions


4.45pm

CLOSING REMARKS

Professor Tan Tai Yong
Co-Chair, First Roundtable on Singapore-Bangladesh Relations, and
Director, Institute of South Asian Studies, Singapore

Major General Muniruzzaman
Co-Chair, First Roundtable on Singapore-Bangladesh Relations, and
President, Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies

5.00pm

End of Roundtable


6.30pm

Cocktails followed by Dinner hosted by ISAS


9.00pm

End of Dinner

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 9th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 Note: The highlighting and accent are by SustainabillTank.

The presentation makes it clear that experience taught us that politicians usually do not act in time and in the end it is the military that ends up being called to sort things out. In the case of climate change – “a top Class ‘A’ security strategic challenge”, the situation may be already so bad in many places that the military may have become already an actor.

Panel II at the “Global Security Implications of Climate Change” Conference included also Top military officers from Bangladesh and the US Army War College.

—————-

Brig. Gen. NIGEL HALL PRESENTATION at IISS, MAY 5, 2009: GLOBAL SECURITY IMPLICATIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE, Panel II – Managing Climate-Induced State-Threatening Crises: What is the role of the military?

How should militaries plan for massive humanitarian interventions into states stressed by climate-induced crises?

Introduction:
It is a privilege to be here today.   I am not an expert on climate but I do consider climate change to be a top Class ‘A’ security strategic challenge.   May I just add that I am speaking in a personal capacity.

How Should Militaries Plan for massive Humanitarian Intervention into States Stressed by Climate-Induced Crises?

[As we have just heard], outlooks may differ depending on national and regional perspectives.   Taking a UK and European-centric perspective, my short answer is that for now they should do no more planning than they already do. Certainly UK Forces are over-committed doing high priority tasks.   If there is an unprecedented massive humanitarian catastrophe today, based upon existing planning, our militaries could throw whatever is available and required into emergency response once tasked.


So What is the Military Priority of Effort Today?
For the likely medium [10 – 20 years ] timescale which is the nub of the question, there are other more important things militaries should be doing today, and in UK’s case, some things they are already fully engaged in doing, as part of wider cross-government climate change mitigation and planning policies.
In December 2008 the UK MOD published its Climate Change Strategy.   This covers how the MOD, as the largest producer of central government emissions, will reduce its own carbon footprint; how new defence equipment will need to meet future climate requirements; and the central role taken by MOD science, research, analysis, including scenario planning as part of cross-Government Climate Change Security Planning.
This is a start.   But there is a more proactive role that all militaries should be playing to get others to really focus and start to take the necessary anticipatory action. Given the urgency, and based upon recent strategic mistakes learnt across the security, nation building and development nexus in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention in the big UN missions, the military must be more forceful as stakeholders in the various national and global fora considering climate.   The military must push reluctant politicians and other government departments to grip this issue now and understand that the military are not, repeat not, the major answer to the potential massive humanitarian, social and economic consequences of climate change that we will likely encounter. In national speak, this is about ‘whole of government’, a more joined up than ever before team effort.
In the international context, this requires unprecedented regional and global cooperation and effort. The potential good news is that this subject just could be the one that gets the United Nations, European Union, NATO, other regional organisations, the revamped international finance institutions, regional development banks, and humanitarian organisations and major NGOs working more effectively together.

—-
I accept an alternative possibility is that this is all too difficult. That climate, as a threat multiplier, will increase existing security tensions and stresses (weak and failing states, water, food resource competition, migration) passed a tipping point and result in unprecedented global disorder.   All the more reason, I suggest, for militaries to go into overdrive now and do everything possible to prevent or mitigate this grim scenario.

They must firmly put the case that we face an unprecedented global security problem.   Climate induced security challenges converge with other 21st century security risks.   Your intelligence, military, and scientific scenarios here in the US paint much the same range of sobering assessments as in Europe.   The outlook is potential existential threat for many millions of people, not to mention significant reversal of human security, economic prosperity, rule of law, and establishment of representative government recent trends.

Long-term policies and life-changing actions and effort, therefore, must become the over-riding political issues.   They must replace customary short-term election winning political issues and short-term voter priorities.   This requires inspirational leadership.     You may be getting this here in the US.   Thank goodness, no place is more important given your political and economic leadership role in the world, and scientific and research clout.   But long-term inspirational leadership that can deliver unprecedented cross-government concerted effort and public support is desperately needed elsewhere (brief aside, it was PM Tony Blair who, driven by the security implications of all this, pushed climate change on to the G8 agenda).   For now, relentlessly making the case on climate security in order to get the traditionally slower moving civilian authorities moving is the most important military task in many countries.

——–

Time is Short
Whatever your top priority, whether the likely water struggles and calamities from the China/India Himalayan plateau, the devastating consequences in Africa banding the equator, or projected migration northward out of Mexico (or any one of many other scenarios) – even if we face only half the scale of migration, and complete re-location of whole communities as a result of rising sea levels, drought, and extreme weather events outlined in current best scientific predictions, comprehensive international, political, economic and social strategies and action plans must start now.   To-date military humanitarian intervention has tended to be short-term emergency response and option of last-resort.   I fear that the military will become more involved over time on account of the scale of crises and need for military intellectual, intelligence, scientific, research, organisational, and specialist equipment and capabilities as well as speed of response (recall NATO recent responses to the Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and Pakistan earthquake).   However, it would be fatal to make this a military priority now.
We must go the extra mile now to invest in the other non-military primary actors’ preparedness. We need to be thinking how to absorb many millions of climate-stressed migrants in ways that minimise further insecurity, including in already over-crowded parts of the world.   We have got to think and do better than mega UNWRA and IDP camps. It is not just about migration and re-location either; the Megacities projections and urbanisation trends, worry enough already, but exacerbated by climate stress will be major issues too. The sooner we get on with this non-military planning the greater willbe the chances of coping with what is coming.


Prevention and Preparation
The military tend to think ahead and in a comprehensive and strategic way more than others.   They should play on this strength and can be significant thought leaders at this time.   Military research, science, innovation, and analysis in cooperation with others have a huge role to play at this stage.   More widely, I think of the outstanding roles played by Generals Marshall and McArthur after World War Two inspiring and designing political and economic frameworks way beyond traditional military horizons. Much better we identify some civilian Marshalls and McArthurs in the next few years, rather than revert to type in future extreme adversity and default to military supremos.
Let me put my head further above the parapet.   One key to significantly reduce the potential humanitarian impact of climate stress will be to go all out attacking poverty.   Surely, nothing else will produce a more dramatic reduction in the high population growth amongst precisely many of the peoples that will be most severely stressed by climate change and recipients of our future humanitarian and development assistance?   Perhaps at this time of economic stress with indicatorsgoing the wrong way, our politicians need to hear this loud and clear.

Climate Change and Other 21st Century Security Risks: Opportunity
In an article I have recently completed, I describe climate as a Class ‘A’ security risk along with rapid population growth and resource scarcity and competition.   They will likely catalyse or accelerate some Class ‘B’ staple risks for example, existing tensions, rivalries, and consequences flowing from weak and failing states, poverty etc.   The combined scale of these ‘A’ and ‘B’ risks is, I believe, beyond our ability to manage by continuing business more or less as usual.   Indeed, with proliferating stress today – Pakistan and Somalia – being the two latest significant additional burdens now impacting at the political and military strategic levels, we are close to the limit of coping.   Big transformational change, what I describe as 21st century mobilisation, may be approaching fast.   Done right, ‘smart’ mobilisation which is about mobilisation of thinking power, the best available experience, and renewed commitment to public service at local, regional, national, and international levels could be a real opportunity here.

With the much needed reform of our international organisations, new century mobilisation focusing on science, research, innovation, and with unprecedented international cooperation may provide a way ahead.   This could require a shift to a wartime-style managed command economy (hopefully combining the best of free market in partnership with essential state directed activity where free enterprise cannot deliver in time), and for example height of Cold War levels of funding (with % of GDP targets) in the science, research, and planning and design of solutions to deal with these humanitarian consequences as they become shorter-term realities.

Finally

History, reinforced by current political practice, tells us that we are programmed to put off having to face difficult choices.   The military so often end up as option of last resort and paying a heavy price for the failure of others and absence of prudent, timely action. I refer as much to the situation today in our intervention operations and major UN missions, as to 60 plus years ago.   If ever there is a time for the military to speak out, to warn, and to harness its niche strengths – its strategic forward looking approaches, its scientific, innovation, and systems-integration capacities into a wider campaign, it is right now. But the military should be a supporting and not a lead actor in all of this.

——–

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 9th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

This Section of our reporting from the May 5th, 2009 of the IISS Washington DC meeting on “The Global Security Implications of Climate Change” covers the second panel or what I will refer to as the Panel of Generals.

the panel was chaired by Dr. Andrew Parasiliti, Executive Director, IISS-US, Corresponding Director, IISS-Middle East.

Prior to joining IISS in March 2009, Dr Parasiliti was a Principal, Government Affairs, at The BGR Group, and an Executive Director of BGR Capital & Trade.   In these roles he had a major role in facilitating BGR’s interactions with US and international companies doing business in India, the Middle East, and worldwide.   He was also instrumental in BGR’s successful advocacy campaign in support of US-India civil nuclear cooperation.

From 2001-2005, Dr Parasiliti was Foreign Policy Advisor and personal representative or member (“PRM”) to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE).   From 1999-2001, he was director of the Middle East Initiative at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, where he   was responsible for the intellectual development and management of Executive Programs for business and government leaders in Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, and India, as well as Russian and Chinese General Officers.   From 1996-1999, Dr. Parasiliti was director of programs at the Middle East Institute (MEI) in Washington, DC, where his initiatives contributed to the renaissance of MEI as a leader among Washington think-tanks dealing with Iraq and Iran.
On his panel:

– Major General A. N. M. Muniruzzaman (ret.), President Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies, an experienced peace-keeper with the UN and interested in water security issues.

– Brigadier General Nigel Hall (Ret.), now Senior Associate Fellow, Defence Academy of the UK, worked with the UN and NATO on climate change & environmental impacts. He did a study with King College, London, on cross country climate change strategy with the UK Ministry of Defense moving to decrease its emissions footprint.

РDr. Kent Butts, Professor of Political Military Strategy, Director, National Security Issues Group, Center for Strategic Leadership US Army War College. He was U.S. defense and army attach̩, Uganda, Tanzania, and Malawi. with the rank of Colonel, he examines the threats to regional stability from resource conflicts (oil, water, land) and the assurance role of environmental issues as potential confidence building measures.

The military man from Bangladesh expanded on the unique geography of his country that lacks elevation from the sea – so its composition made up largely of mangrove islands puts it in the front line of climate change. with high population density and a total of 144 million people. it is bound to become an enormous case of migration with about 30 – 40 million people that might be dislocated and migrate north – that means towards India.

Bangladesh has 808 rivers – 57 are transboundary – of these 54 with India and 3 with Myanmar. If there is no snow in the Himalayas these will dry up in the summer. They already see loss of biodiversity, depletion of fish stocks – inland and at sea.

Land is being lost to the rising sea-water, and more land becomes unusable because of increased salinity. They already managed floods and cyclones – now the military has to get ready to much worse. The military will have to handle mass migration and there is the need to develop cooperation with India.

Further, regional cooperation is needed in the Himalayas, but also in the sub-regional levels involving the stakeholders.

Bangladesh is beyond mitigation – they were talking about adaptation but the US kept off the agenda for 8 years.

The link between military and civil in security becomes shorter – the civil becomes more and more military.

——

The man from the UK   said the military must take a much more pro-active role as stakeholder to push the problems they must be made to understand that the military is not the main act, he said.

Climate will increase existing tensions and cause major global disturbances. Climate induced security challenges lead to potential existential threats to rule of law. PM Tony Blair pushed he subject of climate change.

Brigadier General Nigel Hall fears the military will get more involved – who would imagine that NATO gets involved in Tsunami, Katrina, Pakistan ..?

South Africa is already facing migrants without being able to take care of its own people.

Generals Marshall and McArthur of WWII had to move beyond general accepted military roles, now cases like Pakistan and Somalia impact with political vows. 21st century mobilization may be advancing smart and we need to reform the international organization. We get a Class A Security Risk in context of poverty alleviation!

You must get the key players to focus on what the real global problems are now – we better focus on the 21st century rather then the 20th.

——

The man from the US Army War College started by mentioning the military as resource for climate change. He talks as per the “Center for Strategic Leadership (CSL) and says we need to broaden the concept of security!

Take a simple village at the bottom of a valley that will be swept aside. Climate Change will then amplify tensions.

What if the US and China would work together to work out an adaptation program for the world? This because it is understood – as the 7 – 11 Commission already said it – “when people lose hope they can do unthinkable things.” The military does not volunteer for these issues, but with a $100 billion budget, it is easy to get it cover these issues also. The D.O.D. will have to appoint someone to cover the climate change issue – the Defense Authorization requires such an appointment.

The US already got its military involved in environmental disasters in the Caribbean, South and Central America, so now what is needed is to include climate change. We must learn to task the military – someone to decide who does what.

A question wanted to know about the militarization of developing countries’ security. Is there the risk of militarization of governments? And the General from Bangladesh said that every sensible military will want the maintaining of civil authority over the military, while the military is the only arm that can execute at the scale needed here – this specially when the events involve millions of people.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 22nd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

U.S. agrees to debt-for-nature swap to preserve Peru rainforests.

In a bid to preserve some of Peru’s biologically diverse rainforests, the United States agreed this week to a $25 million debt-for-nature swap with the country, Peru’s second since 2002. Over the next seven years, in exchange for erasing millions of their debt, Peru will fund local non-governmental organizations dedicated to protecting tropical rain forests of the southwestern Amazon Basin and dry forests of the central Andes.

“This agreement will build on the success of previous U.S. government debt swaps with Peru and will further the cause of environmental conservation in a country with one of the highest levels of biodiversity on the planet,” said Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

Other debt-for-nature agreements have already been brokered with Bangladesh, Belize, Botswana, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Panama, Paraguay, and the Philippines.

This week’s swap makes Peru the largest beneficiary of such deals with the U.S., with more than $35 million dedicated to environmental conservation in the country.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 14th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

India’s humble rickshaw goes solar.
by Elizabeth Roche Mon Oct 13, 2008.   NEW DELHI (AFP) – It’s been touted as a solution to urban India’s traffic woes, chronic pollution and fossil fuel dependence, as well as an escape from backbreaking human toil. A state-of-the-art, solar powered version of the humble cycle-rickshaw promises to deliver on all this and more.

The “soleckshaw,” unveiled this month in New Delhi, is a motorised cycle rickshaw that can be pedalled normally or run on a 36-volt solar battery.

Developed by the state-run Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), prototypes are receiving a baptism of fire by being road-tested in Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk area.

One of the city’s oldest and busiest markets, dating back to the Moghul era, Chandni Chowk comprises a byzantine maze of narrow, winding streets, choked with buses, cars, scooters, cyclists and brave pedestrians.

“The most important achievement will be improving the lot of rickshaw drivers,” said Pradip Kumar Sarmah, head of the non-profit Centre for Rural Development.

“It will dignify the job and reduce the labour of pedalling. From rickshaw pullers, they will become rickshaw drivers,” Sarmah said.

India has an estimated eight million cycle-rickshaws.

The makeover includes FM radios and powerpoints for charging mobile phones during rides.

Gone are the flimsy metal and wooden frames that give the regular Delhi rickshaws a tacky, sometimes dubious look.

The “soleckshaw,” which has a top speed of 15 kilometres (9.3 miles) per hour, has a sturdier frame and sprung, foam seats for up to three people.

The fully-charged solar battery will power the rickshaw for 50 to 70 kilometres (30 to 42 miles). Used batteries can be deposited at a centralised solar-powered charging station and replaced for a nominal fee.

If the tests go well, the “soleckshaw” will be a key transport link between sporting venues at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.

“Rickshaws were always environment friendly. Now this gives a totally new image that would be more acceptable to the middle-classes,” said Anumita Roychoudhary of the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment.

“Rickshaws have to be seen as a part of the solution for modern traffic woes and pollution. They have never been the problem. The problem is the proliferation of automobiles using fossil fuels,” she said.

Initial public reaction to the “soleckshaw” has been generally favourable, and the rickshaw pullers have few doubts about its benefits.

“Pedalling the rickshaw was very difficult for me,” said Bappa Chatterjee, 25, who migrated to the capital from West Bengal and is one of the 500,000 pullers in Delhi.

“I used to suffer chest pains and shortage of breath going up inclines. This is so much easier.

“Earlier, when people hailed us it was like, ‘Hey you rickshaw puller!’ Police used to harass us, slapping fines even abusing us for what they called wrong parking. Now people look at me with respect,” Chatterjee said.

Mohammed Matin Ansari, another migrant from eastern Bihar state, said the new model offered parity with car, bus and scooter drivers.

“Now we are as good as them,” he said.

Indian authorities have big dreams for the “soleckshaw.”

India’s Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal who hailed the invention for its “zero carbon foot print” said it should be used beyond the confines of Delhi.

“Soleckshaws would be ideal for small families visiting the Taj Mahal,” he told AFP.

At present battery-operated buses ferry people to the iconic monument in Agra — but their limited numbers cannot cope with the heavy tourist rush.

CSIR director Sinha said he hoped an advanced version of the “soleckshaw” with a car-like body would become a viable alternative to the “small car” favoured by Indian middle class families.

“Greenhouse gas emissions are showing an increasing trend year on year and 60 percent of this comes from the global transport sector.

“In the age of global warming, the soleckshaw, with improvements, can be successfully developed as competition for all the petrol and diesel run small cars,” Sinha said.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 13th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

From:      soros at other-net.info
Subject: ‘Capitalism Has Degenerated into a Casino’
Date: October 13, 2008

‘Capitalism Has Degenerated into a Casino’ says NOBEL LAUREATE MUHAMMAD YUNUS.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus says that greed has destroyed the world’s financial system.                                           SPIEGEL ONLINE spoke with him about the profit motive, social consciousness and what should be done to end the financial crisis.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Yunus, for years you have been preaching a more socially conscious way of doing business and have denounced the narrow focus on maximizing profit as harmful. Now, the entire financial system is wobbling …
Yunus: The current turn of events makes me sad. It is certainly not something I am happy about. The collapse has hurt so many people and has suddenly made the entire world unstable. We should now be concentrating on making sure that such a financial crisis does not happen again.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What should be done?
Yunus: There are huge holes in the current financial system that need to be plugged. The market is clearly not able to solve these problems itself, and now people are having to run to the governments to ask for emergency assistance. That is not a good sign because it shows that trust in the markets has evaporated. At the moment, there is unfortunately no other option than for government takeovers and government support. That is currently the method being used to combat the crisis — a method kicked off with the $700 billion bailout package passed in the US. In Germany, the government has likewise jumped into the fray.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Where exactly do you see the problem with such a strategy?
Yunus: The point is that we have to return as soon as possible to market mechanisms that can ameliorate the crisis and solve problems. Solutions should come out of the market and not from governments.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: But you just said yourself that the market is not capable of doing so.
Yunus: That is exactly what we need to work on. For a long time, the main priorities have been the maximization of profits and rapid growth — but that focus has led to the current situation. Each day, we have to look to see if there is potentially harmful growth somewhere. If we find there is, then we need to react immediately. If something grows unnaturally quickly, then we have to stop it. Why don’t companies all pay into a fund that buys up securities that have become too risky? I can even imagine a business model for such a program.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: On the one hand, you say that the market has to solve the problem itself, on the other hand, though, you criticize overly quick growth. That sounds like you think that profit-oriented capitalism has failed.
Yunus: Not at all. Capitalism, with all its market mechanisms, has to survive — there is no question. What I excoriate is that today there is only one incentive for doing business, and that is the maximization of profits. But the incentive of doing social good must be included. There need to be many more companies whose primary aim is not that of earning the highest profits possible, but that of providing the greatest benefit possible for human kind.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: And you think that those two incentives are mutually exclusive? The bank you founded, Grameen Bank — which led to your receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 — both helps people and earns healthy profits.
Yunus: It is a company which is focused on the social good and which makes a profit, but it is not focused on maximizing its profits. I am not interested in turning all profit-oriented companies into socially conscious operations. They are two different categories of companies — there will always be businesses whose primary goal is that of earning as much money as possible. That is okay. But earning as much money as possible can only be a means to an end, not an end in itself. One has to invest money in something meaningful — and I would make a case for it being something that improves the quality of life for all people.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What, though, does an increase in the number of socially minded companies have to do with the financial crisis?
Yunus: Were there more socially minded companies, people would have more opportunities to shape their own lives. The markets would be more balanced than they are today.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: You are talking about saving the world with altruism …
Yunus: There are many philanthropists in this world, people who help people by providing them with homes, education, etc. But that is a one-way street. The money is spent and never comes back. Were one to invest that money in a socially minded company, it would stay in the economy and would be much more effective because it would be used according to the criteria of the market and would thus develop a certain amount of market leverage.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Who do you think is guilty for the current financial meltdown?
Yunus: The market itself with its lack of adequate regulation. Today’s capitalism has degenerated into a casino. The financial markets are propelled by greed. Speculation has reached catastrophic proportions. These are all things that have to end.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The current financial crisis began as a credit crisis — homeowners in the US could no longer pay down their mortgages. At Grameen Bank, which provides microloans, the repayment rate is close to 100 percent. Do you think your bank could be a model for the entire finance world?
Yunus: The fundamental difference is that our business is very connected to the real economy. When we provide a loan of $200, that money will go to buy a cow somewhere. If we lend $100, someone will maybe buy some chickens. In other words, the money goes to something with concrete value. Finance and the real economy have to be connected. In the US, the financial system has completely split off from the real economy. Castles were built in the sky, and suddenly people realized that these castles don’t exist at all. That was the point at which the financial system collapsed.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is it now time for governments to intervene in the market economy and strengthen regulation?
Yunus: There has to be regulation, but governments should not be allowed to steer the market. On the other hand, it has become clear that Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” which supposedly solves all the market’s problems doesn’t exist. This “invisible hand” has completely disappeared in the last few days. What we are experiencing is a dramatic failure of the markets.

Interview conducted by Hasnain Kazim. Translated from the German by Charles Hawley.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 8th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

The World Values Survey is available at: www.worldvaluessurvey.org www.happyplanetindex.org

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Download the reports
Download the Happy Planet report (2006, pdf)
Download the European Happy Planet report (2007, pdf)

See the Global HPI map:  www.happyplanetindex.org/map.htm

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