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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 1st, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Kurt Vonnegut’s 1988 Letter to the Future More Relevant Today Than Ever Before
By Kick Kennedy, EcoWatch
31 July 16

n 1988, my then Hyannis Port neighbor the late Kurt Vonnegut wrote a prescient letter to the Earth’s planetary citizens of 2088 for Volkswagen’s TIME magazine ad campaign. His seven points of advice are perhaps more relevant today than at any time in human history. We should keep this advice in mind this election year and adopt Vonnegut’s recommendations while we still can.

Here’s his letter:

Ladies & Gentlemen of A.D. 2088:

It has been suggested that you might welcome words of wisdom from the past, and that several of us in the twentieth century should send you some. Do you know this advice from Polonius in Shakespeare’s Hamlet: ‘This above all: to thine own self be true’? Or what about these instructions from St. John the Divine: ‘Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment has come’? The best advice from my own era for you or for just about anybody anytime, I guess, is a prayer first used by alcoholics who hoped to never take a drink again: ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.’

Our century hasn’t been as free with words of wisdom as some others, I think, because we were the first to get reliable information about the human situation: how many of us there were, how much food we could raise or gather, how fast we were reproducing, what made us sick, what made us die, how much damage we were doing to the air and water and topsoil on which most life forms depended, how violent and heartless nature can be, and on and on. Who could wax wise with so much bad news pouring in?

For me, the most paralyzing news was that Nature was no conservationist. It needed no help from us in taking the planet apart and putting it back together some different way, not necessarily improving it from the viewpoint of living things. It set fire to forests with lightning bolts. It paved vast tracts of arable land with lava, which could no more support life than big-city parking lots. It had in the past sent glaciers down from the North Pole to grind up major portions of Asia, Europe, and North America. Nor was there any reason to think that it wouldn’t do that again someday. At this very moment it is turning African farms to deserts, and can be expected to heave up tidal waves or shower down white-hot boulders from outer space at any time. It has not only exterminated exquisitely evolved species in a twinkling, but drained oceans and drowned continents as well. If people think Nature is their friend, then they sure don’t need an enemy.

Yes, and as you people a hundred years from now must know full well, and as your grandchildren will know even better: Nature is ruthless when it comes to matching the quantity of life in any given place at any given time to the quantity of nourishment available. So what have you and Nature done about overpopulation? Back here in 1988, we were seeing ourselves as a new sort of glacier, warm-blooded and clever, unstoppable, about to gobble up everything and then make love—and then double in size again.

On second thought, I am not sure I could bear to hear what you and Nature may have done about too many people for too small a food supply.

And here is a crazy idea I would like to try on you: Is it possible that we aimed rockets with hydrogen bomb warheads at each other, all set to go, in order to take our minds off the deeper problem—how cruelly Nature can be expected to treat us, Nature being Nature, in the by-and-by?

Now that we can discuss the mess we are in with some precision, I hope you have stopped choosing abysmally ignorant optimists for positions of leadership. They were useful only so long as nobody had a clue as to what was really going on—during the past seven million years or so. In my time they have been catastrophic as heads of sophisticated institutions with real work to do.

The sort of leaders we need now are not those who promise ultimate victory over Nature through perseverance in living as we do right now, but those with the courage and intelligence to present to the world what appears to be Nature’s stern but reasonable surrender terms:

Reduce and stabilize your population.

Stop poisoning the air, the water, and the topsoil.

Stop preparing for war and start dealing with your real problems.

Teach your kids, and yourselves, too, while you’re at it, how to inhabit a small planet without helping to kill it.

Stop thinking science can fix anything if you give it a trillion dollars.

Stop thinking your grandchildren will be OK no matter how wasteful or destructive you may be, since they can go to a nice new planet on a spaceship. That is really mean, and stupid.

And so on. Or else.


Am I too pessimistic about life a hundred years from now? Maybe I have spent too much time with scientists and not enough time with speechwriters for politicians. For all I know, even bag ladies and bag gentlemen will have their own personal helicopters or rocket belts in A.D. 2088. Nobody will have to leave home to go to work or school, or even stop watching television. Everybody will sit around all day punching the keys of computer terminals connected to everything there is, and sip orange drink through straws like the astronauts.

Cheers,
Kurt Vonnegut

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 21st, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From our friend Jay Hauben of Columbia University – Hi,

Many peoples get spirit from celebrating the changes of season. The Jewish people celebrate the start of a new year with the coming of fall and the harvest. Many people in Asia celebrate a new year with a Spring Festival just before the coming of spring and the time for planting. People in the Persian tradition celebrate the new year called Norooz at the Spring Equinox. This year Norooz falls on March 20.

Ronda and I send you warm greetings for Norooz and for the whole year to come. May all of us learn from nature a way of renewing our lives, seeing the light instead the dark and uniting with all that is good.

Norooz is celebrated as the start of a new year by 350 million or more people worldwide. It is an ancient Zoroastrian celebration and was spread by the first Persian Empire established by Cyrus The Great over 2,500 years ago, around 550 BC. A later Persian empire even included parts of what is now the western Xinjiang province in China. That area was within the Sassanid Empire’s borders, around 450 A.D. Even today people there still celebrate Norooz.

Last year, after I sent out my Norooz greeting, a Korean friend answered that people in Asia consider every human being part of great Nature as is every tree or bird or even the wind. He said they try not to conquer Nature rather keep intact as a part of our body. I heard from a friend in Japan that it is also a Japanese tradition to celebrate the Vernal and Autumnal Equinoxes. A friend in Norway told me that “Nowruz – is deeply indo-european, it is New (in Norwegian Ny), the word rooz or ruz has rich associations in the direction of (new/re) birth, flowering, (spring out), in slavic languages rodzenia, rust (birth, growth). We need some of that in the world now, the Arab Spring did not quite get as far as I had hoped.”

An Iranian friend wrote to me. “We spell it No Ruz (New Day) but the double “o” is OK too- When in Iran everything closes and people picnic everywhere for 13 days, even stopping by the side of a main highway and pitching a colorful tent. Iran is certainly a major player as the most stable country in the region and has always had the respect of its neighbors-well, most of them…”

A neighbor in Manhattan wrote, “I love nature [when it’s not violent] and do learn from it when i can. unfortunately, we city-folks are not immersed in it; the little i see is from my window: the birds, the sky, the amazing view of the snow-filled trees, and central park; we all must go there soon.”

A friend in China responded to my Norooz message, “How nice to learn about the Norooz and the Zoroastrian religion of so many people of the earth village. I like definitely as you said: the way of life seeing the light instead the dark and uniting with all that is good. But to our common misfortune, there are always the powers who see the world as a neighborhood to control and to fight with rather than to respect and live in peace.” A friend living in Thailand observed that “Nature is pure and simple, human politics is complicated and insane.” And wished me and Ronda Happy Norooz.

Also, one of my cousins wrote to me that he is “familiar with the fact that many civilizations celebrate the solar equinox, which was and still is the start of renewing (spring and planting), the new yearly start of fertility, both plant and animal alike.” He reminded me that Jewish people celebrate Passover at this time and Christians celebrate Easter. It shows me that we people everywhere are really more the same than different.

Last year Ronda and I attended the UN celebration of Norooz. It consisted of short speeches and videos from twelve nations: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The theme of all the speeches was that Norooz reconnects humans and nature every year. That we all should learn from nature to renew our lives. That Norooz transcends ethnicity and religion and geography. The spirit of Norooz is good neighborliness. Translated into international diplomacy that means respect for cultural diversity and national sovereignty. I found such statements valuable even though I agree with my friend in China that there are dominant nations who see the world as a neighborhood to control not to respect.

Ronda and I hope you are and can stay well and that Spring will make everyone’s life a bit easier and more pleasant.

Happy Norooz, Happy Easter! Happy Passover!
Happy Spring!

Take care.
Hello from Ronda.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 20th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


The idea driving the protests is that climate change can be blunted only by moving to renewable energy and capping any growth of fossil fuels.

The New York Times – Environment

Environmental Activists Take to Local Protests for Global Results

By JOHN SCHWARTZ – MARCH 19, 2016

READING, N.Y. — They came here to get arrested.

Nearly 60 protesters blocked the driveway of a storage plant for natural gas on March 7. Its owners want to expand the facility, which the opponents say would endanger nearby Seneca Lake. But their concerns were global, as well.

“There’s a climate emergency happening,” one of the protesters, Coby Schultz, said. “It’s a life-or-death struggle.”

The demonstration here was part of a wave of actions across the nation that combines traditional not-in-my-backyard protests against fossil-fuel projects with an overarching concern about climate change.


Activists have been energized by successes on several fronts, including the decision last week by President Obama to block offshore drilling along the Atlantic Seaboard; his decision in November to reject the Keystone XL pipeline; and the Paris climate agreement.

Bound together through social media, networks of far-flung activists are opposing virtually all new oil, gas and coal infrastructure projects — a process that has been called “Keystone-ization.”

As the climate evangelist Bill McKibben put it in a Twitter post after Paris negotiators agreed on a goal of limiting global temperature increases: “We’re damn well going to hold them to it. Every pipeline, every mine.”

Regulators almost always approve such projects, though often with modifications, said Donald F. Santa Jr., chief executive of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America. Still, the protests are having some impact. The engineering consultants Black and Veatch recently published a report that said the most significant barrier to building new pipeline capacity was “delay from opposition groups.”

Activists regularly protest at the headquarters of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington, but there have also been sizable protests in places like St. Paul and across the Northeast.

In Portland, Ore., where protesters conducted a “kayaktivist” blockade in July to keep Shell’s Arctic drilling rigs from leaving port, the City Council passed a resolution opposing the expansion of facilities for the storage and transportation of fossil fuels.

Greg Yost, a math teacher in North Carolina who works with the group NC PowerForward, said the activists emboldened one another.

“When we pick up the ball and run with it here in North Carolina, we’re well aware of what’s going on in Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island,” he said. “The fight we’re doing here, it bears on what happens elsewhere — we’re all in this together, we feel like.”

The movement extends well beyond the United States. In May, a wave of protests and acts of civil disobedience, under an umbrella campaign called Break Free 2016, is scheduled around the world to urge governments and fossil fuel companies to “keep coal, oil and gas in the ground.”

This approach — think globally, protest locally — is captured in the words of Sandra Steingraber, an ecologist and a scholar in residence at Ithaca College who helped organize the demonstration at the storage plant near Seneca Lake: “This driveway is a battleground, and there are driveways like this all over the world.”

The idea driving the protests is that climate change can be blunted only by moving to renewable energy and capping any growth of fossil fuels.

Speaking to the crowd at Seneca Lake, Mr. McKibben, who had come from his home in Vermont, said, “Our job on behalf of the planet is to slow them down.”

He added, “If we can hold them off for two or three years, there’s no way any of this stuff can be built again.”

But the issues are not so clear cut. The protests aimed at natural gas pipelines, for example, may conflict with policies intended to fight climate change and pollution by reducing reliance on dirtier fossil fuels.

“The irony is this,” said Phil West, a spokesman for Spectra Energy, whose pipeline projects, including those in New York State, have come under attack. “The shift to additional natural gas use is a key contributor to helping the U.S. reduce energy-related emissions and improve air quality.”

Those who oppose natural gas pipelines say the science is on their side.

They note that methane, the chief component of natural gas, is a powerful greenhouse gas in the short term, with more than 80 times the effect of carbon dioxide in its first 20 years in the atmosphere.

The Obama administration is issuing regulations to reduce leaks, but environmental opposition to fracking, and events like the huge methane plume released at a storage facility in the Porter Ranch neighborhood near Los Angeles, have helped embolden the movement.

Once new natural gas pipelines and plants are in place, opponents argue, they will operate for decades, blocking the shift to solar and wind power.

“It’s not a bridge to renewable energy — it’s a competitor,” said Patrick Robbins, co-director of the Sane Energy Project, which protests pipeline development and is based in New York.

Such logic does not convince Michael A. Levi, an energy expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“Saying no to gas doesn’t miraculously lead to the substitution of wind and solar — it may lead to the continued operation of coal-fired plants,” he said, noting that when the price of natural gas is not competitive, owners take the plants, which are relatively cheap to build, out of service.

“There is enormous uncertainty about how quickly you can build out renewable energy systems, about what the cost will be and what the consequences will be for the electricity network,” Mr. Levi said.

Even some who believe that natural gas has a continuing role to play say that not every gas project makes sense.

N. Jonathan Peress, an expert on electricity and natural gas markets at the Environmental Defense Fund, said that while companies push to add capacity, the long-term need might not materialize.

“There is a disconnect between the perception of the need for massive amounts of new pipeline capacity and the reality,” he said.

Market forces, regulatory assumptions and business habits favor the building of new pipelines even though an evolving electrical grid and patterns of power use suggest that the demand for gas will, in many cases, decrease.

Even now, only 6 percent of gas-fired plants run at greater than 80 percent of their capacity, according to the United States Energy Information Administration, and nearly half of such plants run at an average load factor of just 17 percent.

“The electricity grid is evolving in a way that strongly suggests what’s necessary today won’t be necessary in another 20 years, let alone 10 or 15,” Mr. Peress said.

Back at Seneca Lake, the protesters cheered when Schuyler County sheriff’s vans showed up. The group had protested before, and so the arrests had the friendly familiarity of a contra dance. As one deputy, A.W. Yessman, placed zip-tie cuffs on Catherine Rossiter, he asked jovially, “Is this three, or four?”

She beamed. “You remember me!”

Brad Bacon, a spokesman for the owner of the plant at Seneca Lake, Crestwood Equity Partners, acknowledged that it had become more burdensome to get approval to build energy infrastructure in the Northeast even though regulatory experts have tended not to be persuaded by the protesters’ environmental arguments.

The protesters, in turn, disagree with the regulators, and forcefully.

As he was being handcuffed, Mr. McKibben called the morning “a good scene.” The actions against fossil fuels, he said, will continue. “There’s 15 places like this around the world today,” he said. “There will be 15 more tomorrow, and the day after that.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 10th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


As our readers must have realized by now – we are posting a series of columns focusing on activities in Vienna, Austria, that are of value to the global network intent to support Sustainability for all.

After having decided that global agreements chased by the UN Headquarters in New York are just pipe dreams. All we can hope for is this network of individual country promises that in their sum-total can answer needs like a decrease in CO2 presence in the atmosphere while not forgetting goals of poverty reduction, energy, climate, security, or equity. We were grateful to President Obama when we realized that this was his thinking as well, and the Paris2015 Outcome – that some insist on calling the Paris Agreement – does in effect constitute the answer to our needs – but only if a “verification of progress” system is put in place.

We looked around and realized that most energy related UN affiliates are headquartered, or at least have a foot, here in Vienna. So I started this series of articles. The more I looked at this – the harder it became writing it – this because of the richness of material – literally daily I am involved in activities, or at least get material that all relate to these topics.

In this last posting I take the advantage of an exceptional boon – the fact that again Vienna was declared the most livable city in the World. This can clearly help. Would you not rather want to live in the best city in the World?

———————–

Besides the city of Vienna, among the first 31 out of the 230 cities with ranking by Mercer, we find a total of 8 cities from German speaking Europe; further 8 assorted cities from other Western Europe (Copenhagen, Geneva, Amsterdam, Luxembourg, Stockholm, Brussels, Helsinki, Oslo); New Zealand/Australia account for 9 cities, Canada for 4 cities, Singapore that this year dropped to only 26th place, and highest ranked US city – San Francisco – at 28th place.

Paris is at 37th place, London at 39, New York and Tokyo are at 44-45.

Dubai is at 75th place, Abu Dhabi at 81, Taipei at 84.

First Developing Country city is Durban, South Africa, 86th place.

Buenos Aires, first Spanish speaking South American city is at 93rd place.

Tel Aviv is at 104th place, Brasilia at 106, Muscat, at 107, Tunis at 113.

Beijing, first city in China, is at 118th place. Istanbul at 122.

Mexico City is at 127th place, Riyadh at 164, Moscow at 167, Tehran at 203, Damascus at 224, and at bottom 230 Baghdad.

What are your conclusions from looking at the above?

Is it not so that you would rather like to live in Western Europe – in Vienna and surrounding countries? In Australia, New Zealand and Canada? Would you contemplate on reasons why some of the richest countries’ capital-cities are low on the list?

====================

I will proceed now to review some of the most resent activities that occurred in the city of Vienna that were rooted with the city itself and not with organizations from afar planted here or organizations formed here in response to needs afar.

In our series we posted so far about: The IAEA Headquarters, The SE4All Headquarters The Outer-Space UN affiliates, The Laxenburg Palace based IIASA, and the Kommunalkredit Public Consulting Group that works with the Austrian Foreign Aid office connected to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

====================

Let us look now first at cultural life – and I will go after two amazing shows that just opened:

DER KONGRESS TANZT – “The Congress Dances” – an amazing Operetta that opened at the VOLKSOPER on the Guertel.

The Historical facts are that the Congress of Vienna (German: Wiener Kongress) was a conference of ambassadors of European states chaired by Austrian statesman Klemens Wenzel von Metternich, and held in Vienna from September 1814 to June 1815.

The Congress was intended to organize the post-Napoleon Europe and through that – the World. In many ways this was an attempt to create an overarching EU. All came except Napoleon who was left behind on his exile-island.

It was said that instead of being in session this Congress danced. The Congress of Vienna was the first of a series of international meetings that came to be known as the Concert of Europe, which was an attempt to forge a peaceful balance of power in Europe. It served as a model for later organizations such as the League of Nations in 1919 and the United Nations in 1945.

Covering the lighter side of this Congress Erik Charell used some of the songs from a Con ference-time operetta and produced a film that was released in 1931. Recently, Richard Heymann extracted some of the music from the film, added some of his own, and with the help of conductor and arranger Christian Kolonowiits recreated the operetta that was released now in 2016. This because Vienna celebrated in 2015 the 200th anniversary of the Vienna Congress. This operetta, a parody of the Congress, approached gingerly by the Volksoper, is now the newest “must see” in Vienna.

The BURGTHEATER on the Ring, premiered this week Peter Handke’s – DIE UNSCHULDIGEN, ICH UND DIE UNBEKANTE AM RAND DER LANDSTRASSE (Those Without Guilt, I and the unknown on the edge of the country road) – a masterpiece of modern theater in the celebrated hall of classicism.

Handke (born in 1942 – the war years – his mother resettled in the village Griffin in 1948 after leaving the DDR) was a young Austrian writer (novelist, playwright and political activist) who believed that at the beginning there was the word. Handke’s first play was PUBLIKUMSBESCHIMPFUNG (Talking Rough to the Public) that automatically made him a sensation in Germany – Austria was too small for him those days. Back those years we saw his work and works by the German Hans Magnus Enzensberger at the Brooklyn Academy of Music – the old Brooklyn Opera House. Handke’s luck was that He was recognized by the German Director Claus Peyman who staged that first play and since then another 10 plays by Handke. Handke gained international attention after an appearance at a meeting of avant-garde artists belonging to the Gruppe 47 in Princeton, New Jersey, USA.

Landstrasse, stage work by Karl-Ernst Hermann, has a vague autobiographical content and ia all played out on the county road that connects his village Griffin with a neighboring village and in itself becomes a stage for the locals and the World at large. It reminds one of Martin Luther who already then saw the importance of taking reality to the streets – this for him a direct connection between humans and God. For Handke, this is not God but human truth. The simple staging – a broad white ellipse winding to a distant corner – is the path where the action walks by and we peep in on it. This is modern poetic theater at its best – a good place to relax when trying to deal with the World’s woes.

The action is not specific but rather full of hints and you get out really what you want to see. The hints include totaliarism – quite clearly a reminder of the villages Nazi past, butb then there are aspects of budding love and perhapse unanswered love and bitterness – but also hope for a better world.

I started with Vienna’s high locally centered life – but then there are musical events, not just Staatsoper and the Philharmonic, but locally produced musical events where Austrians play foreign folks to perfection. We just enjoyed evenings sponsored by the Austro-American Society with Irish and Mexican music. The Irish evening was held in a typical Austrian pub, and the Mexican and American event was at the organization’s Club rooms where the manager, an Austrian, is loved by all – an ideal American host.

But, the purpose of our Vienna series is not just to say that Vienna is the most livable city in the World – but that I contend that work with global scope can be performed right here – so let us look also at local organizations that can be enrolled in support of global activities – and the first to be mentioned is “the Austrian Federal Ministry for Europe Integration and Foreign Affairs (BMEIA).” You will find there a department that deals with all global topics you may be interested to work on. Also, the city hosts many NGOs and great Think Tanks to work as local NGOs – sometimes connected to one of the many active Universities.

One such institution is “the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM).” I will mention the Presentation of last night by Professor Dr. Shalini Randeria, the IWM Rector, titled “Precarious livelihoods, disposable lives, and struggles for citizenship rights.” Dr. Randeria, from India, holds chairs at Budapest, Berlin, Zurich, and Vienna Universities. She has published widely on the anthropology of globalization, law, the state and social movements. Her presentation last night was the Keynote address at a IIASA and Forum Alpbach meeting at the Austrian Academy of Sciences on the occasion of the IIASA meeting called to formulate a “World in 2050″ Programme.

The Academy of Sciences public event – “Human Capital, Geopolitical Complexities, and Our Sustainable Future” had two panels (I) The release of a book by Professor Wolfgang Lutz – “Who Survives? Education Decides the Future of Humanity.
and (II) “Human Capital, Geopolitical Conflict, and Sustainable Development Goals.”

Panel II – Chaired by Professor Pavel Kabat, Director General of IIASA – had:
– Ambassador Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, Director-General Section VII-Development, Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign-Affairs.
– Professor Dirk Messner, Co-Chair, German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU)
– Professor Carlos Nobre, President Brazilian Federal Agency for Support an Evaluation of Graduate Education. Brazilian Member of the Board of IIASA.
– Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Chair of the Leadership Council and Advisor to the UN Secretary-General; Director of the Earth Institute, Columbia University.
– Dr. David Wilkinson, Director, Institute for Systems, Informatics and Safety at the Joint Recearch Center, European Commission.

While the first panel dealt with education as an imperative if one wants to take advantage of the SDGs and in effect achieve the wished-for results, he second panel touched upon the topics that are the framework for the program-in-construction for the year 2050 and on tis we will deal separately.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 1st, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Overview of Research at IIASA

IIASA uses advanced systems analysis to conduct policy-oriented research into the most pressing areas of global change – energy and climate change, food and water, poverty and equity – and their main drivers

Futuristic IIASA study for “The 2011-2020 Research Plan” distinguished three major global problem areas facing humanity today where concentration and intensification of research by IIASA scientists is most likely to yield the most productive results.

These three global problem areas were defined as:

Energy and Climate Change
Food and Water
Poverty and Equity

The work is supported by research into the drivers of the transformations taking place in our world – population, technology, and economic growth.

All IIASA research is policy-relevant and geared toward provision of robust solutions to the challenges of international, regional, and national policy and governance.

The methodology used at IIASA since the foundation of the Institute in 1972 are advanced systems analysis. Both methodology and data are constantly updated and refined in-house to respond to emerging research needs.

Now IIASA – since March 2015 IIASA is studying the WORLD till 2050. March 7, 2016 till March 9 2016, IIASA hosts the Second Annual Workshop of the World in 2050 (project TW12050). IIASA’S PARTNERS in this project are: the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN, the Stockholm Resilience Center (SRC), and the Earth Institute at Columbia University.
The first meeting of this project – March 10-12, 2015 was deemed a great success.

The SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) that were approved by the UN General Assembly, September 2015, are the guidelines to and from this IIASA project.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 26th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


SE4All WATER-ENERGY-FOOD NEXUS.
The very important WEF NEXUS for SUSTAINABILITY that links the Paris 2015 Outcome and the SDGS.

Theme of a meeting sponsored this week by the Hungarian Mission to Austria and to the UN offices in Vienna.


Water-Energy-Food Nexus – Responding to Emerging Needs and Opportunities.

Date: February 22, 2016
Host & Location: Hungarian Embassy, Bankgasse 4-6, 1010, Vienna, Austria.

Background:
In September 2015, world leaders formally adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,
including 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 associated targets which are aimed at
stimulating action over the next 15 years in areas of critical importance for a more equitable and
sustainable world. The strong linkages between the SDGs underlines the notion that progress on each
goal will be critical for progress on others, with increasing understanding for the implementation
of the SDGs through an integrated framework that demands close collaboration at all levels of governance.
As a result, the water-energy-food nexus (WEF NEXUS) has emerged as a crucial policy and governance approach for
integrated planning and implementation of the SDGs.

AGENDA

10:00 –10:05 Welcome remarks: H.E. Ambassador Karoly Dan

10:05– 0:45 Setting the Scene
– Background and scope of the workshop, approach, expectations and potential outputs/outcomes –
Mr. Paul T.Yillia, SE4All
Presentation: The cross-cutting nature of the SDGs – emerging opportunities for operationalizing
the water-energy-food nexus (WEF NEXUS) – Prof. András Szölösi-Nagy

10:45–12:45 Session I: Discussion Session on partner experiences
Session Chair: Mr. Olivier Dubois, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO);
Co-Chair of the SE4All High Impact Opportunity (HIO) on the WEF NEXUS
– What are the realities, needs and challenges in the countries partners operate?
– How can the SE4All Nexus HIO respond to the needs and challenges?

14:00 –15:30 Session II: Discussion Session on identifying emerging opportunities
Session Chair: from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ);
Co-Chair of the SE4All High Impact Opportunity on the WEF NEXUS
– What opportunities are emerging on the WEF NEXUS
– Presentation: SE4All initiative on Technical Assistance Programme to Strengthen Inter-sector Coordination
(TAPSIC) – Mr.Paul T. Yillia, SE4All
– Exploring the possibility to develop a concrete framework to anchor emerging opportunities within o the SE4All Nexus HIO

15:45-17:45 Session III: Synthesis of Sessions I & II – Developing key elements for action
Session Chair: Mr. Martin Hiller, Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP)
– Mobilizing resources – exploring the possibility of a call for funding
– Mobilizing additional partnerships, including the private sector, civil society and the public sector
– Key message from the workshop (short communication)

17:45–18:00 Closing remarks – Ms. Rachel Kyte, SRSG & CEO, SE4All

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 26th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The SDGs are retaken and enhanced 2001 Johannesburg agreed-upon Millennium Development Goals plus SUSTAINABILITY – that comes from the Rio1992 Conference. These were brought to universality at Paris2015.

The SDGs teach us that Sustainability is an issue for both – Developed and Developing countries – and the Sustainable Development topic, when focused only as a need of Developing Countries – was an easily explainable failure that wasted twenty years of our time. The key is – “No One is to be Left Behind” and this, to pay attention to what goes on right now before our eyes, includes even the migrants. The subject is not open to experts only anymore – it includes Civ il So ciety at large.

Thursday, February 25, 2016, while others went to separate meetings organized with the Ambassadors to Vienna of Romania, Hungary, or Moldova – I preferred the meeting of the SID that under the leadership of retired Austrian Ambassador Thomas Nowotny brought to a panel discussion Ambassador Sylvia Meier-Kajbic now with the Austrian Foreign Office where she is in charge of te division tat takes care of Austrian Foreign Aid, and Mag.Norbert Feldhofer of the office of the Austrian Chancellor Fischer, where he also covers Foreign Aid issues. Thomas Nowotny, in the 1960s was secretary to Chancellor Kreisky and since was involved in various aspects of human and economic sides of political science.

BMEIA and the Chancellor’s office have officially a 0.7% of the GDP to use for Foreign Aid. Now the idea is not to use this as a give-away but rather as a catalyst to help needy countries develop their own taxation system and channels of funding based on local sources and on the legions of their expatriate citizens who are capable to repatriate funds and invest in their own countries. The SDGs have thus a possible new effect on worldwide Foreign Aid programs. In Austria this amounts to a changed use of ADA funds. While campaigning for the continuation of foreign aid activities, it is therefore important for SID to refocus on how those funds are spent. Also, it is important to link the Paris 2015 Outcome to the SDGs – this because both areas of activity serve the same purpose – the creation of Sustainable Societies.
We did not her much of tis kind of thinking at above panel.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 24th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Carbon dioxide is invisible and odorless. Dawn Stover wonders: What if we could see carbon pollution in the air and water?

Seeing (pollution) is believing: ow.ly/YHEtd

Janice Sinclaire
Communications Director

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
1155 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
U.S.A.
T. 773.382.8061
C. 707.481.9372
F. 773.980.6932E.
 jsinclaire at thebulletin.org

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23 February 2016,

SEEING (POLLUTION) IS BELIEVING.

by Dawn Stover — stover.jpeg

of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. IT IS THREE MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT!
Stover is a science writer based in the Pacific Northwest and is a contributing editor at the Bulletin.

The snow has melted along the roads in my rural community, revealing a surprising number of beer cans, plastic bottles, and other trash in the roadside ditches. This is a sparsely populated area, yet I drive past mile after mile of terrestrial flotsam and jetsam. Most of it, I suspect, is jetsam—the stuff that is deliberately thrown overboard.

It probably won’t be long before some disgusted (or enterprising) neighbors start tackling this mess. Most of the cans and bottles can be redeemed for a five-cent deposit or put into bags for free curbside recycling. The worst thing about this roadside pollution is also the best thing about it: We can see it. That makes it easy to clean up.

Imagine if carbon pollution was as recognizable as a Bud Light can. What if, every time you started up your car or boarded an airplane or sliced into a Porterhouse steak, a sour-smelling beer can was ejected from your vehicle or pocket? Pretty soon there would be cans lining every highway and tarmac, and coal-fired power plants would literally be buried under them. But even this foul onslaught of aluminum might be less damaging than the 40 billion metric tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide (plus other greenhouse gases) that humans are dumping into Earth’s atmosphere and oceans every year, raising the temperature of our planet. Unfortunately, carbon dioxide is invisible and odorless, which makes it easier to ignore. If we were dumping 40 billion metric tons of aluminum into the air and sea annually—the equivalent of 2,800 trillion beverage cans—surely we would do something about that.

Air quality alert. One of the reasons China is getting serious about clean energy is that the air pollution in Beijing, Shanghai, and other Chinese cities has become intolerable at times. The visibility gets so poor that flights are sometimes canceled because of smog, and residents are frequently forced to don masks when venturing outdoors—where the air quality can be worse than an airport smoking lounge. The pollution sometimes reaches all the way to California.

“The air in Los Angeles used to be like Beijing,” a California-based colleague recently reminded me. Los Angeles still has some of the most contaminated air in the United States, but the situation has improved significantly since 1970—when President Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Congress passed the first of several major amendments to the Clean Air Act, empowering the federal government to regulate air pollutants.

The EPA’s new Clean Power Plan—announced in 2015 but challenged in court by 27 states and currently on hold pending a judicial review—would do for carbon pollution what the Clean Air Act did for smog in an earlier era. This time around, though, many elected officials can’t see what the problem is. Literally.

Making the invisible visible. Instead of implementing a carbon tax or federal limits on power-plant emissions, maybe we just need to add a smelly dye to all fossil fuels—something like the red colorant that is added to fire retardants so that pilots can see where they have sprayed, or the rotten-egg-like chemical that is injected into natural gas so that homeowners can detect gas leaks before they become life-threatening. Instead of subjecting airlines to proposed new emissions limits, we’d simply see a hideous red contrail every time an airplane flew overhead. Standing on the beach, we’d see a red tide—the carbon dioxide absorbed by the North Atlantic alone has doubled in the past decade. And the smell of the recent enormous methane leak from a ruptured pipeline in southern California would pale in comparison to the collective stench emitted by fracking operations and thousands of fossil-fuel-burning power plants. On the plus side, we’d be able to see trees and other plants sucking up carbon, which might make us think twice about turning forests into pallets.

This is only a thought experiment, of course. We shouldn’t have to go to these lengths to realize that the byproducts of fossil fuel combustion are bad for our health. Most of us know better than to breathe from our car’s tailpipe or leave the garage door shut with the engine running. That’s how you kill yourself, after all. And yet we think nothing of dumping copious amounts of exhaust into the air that everyone breathes. It’s out of sight and out of mind.

Turning a blind eye. Although greenhouse gas emissions aren’t visible, their climate impacts are. It’s not hard to see melting glaciers, wilted crops, and storm surges—or to find photographs, charts, and other images showing how quickly our planet is changing. And yet, as President Barack Obama remarked during a press conference on February 16, “There’s not a single candidate in the Republican primary that thinks we should do anything about climate change, that thinks it’s serious.” That’s a problem, said Obama, because other countries “count on the United States being on the side of science and reason and common sense.”

How can Marco Rubio not see the impacts of rising sea level in Florida? How did Donald Trump miss the meaning of Hurricane Sandy, a bellwether for the type of extreme events that scientists say will become more common and more severe as global warming continues? Where was Ted Cruz when Texas was enduring devastating heat, drought, and wildfires—or the deadly floods that followed? All of the GOP candidates, including self-professed climate change “believer” John Kasich, are turning a blind eye to the decades of scientific research that place the blame squarely on human activities, and it’s possible that even a putrid red haze would not move them.

There will always be some people who are willfully ignorant and inconsiderate and lazy, who toss their trash out the window and leave it for others to pick up. The rest of us can stand around shaking our heads, or we can pull on our gloves and do something about this dreadful mess. Unfortunately, the past two centuries’ worth of carbon dioxide emissions is like a heap of discarded cans and bottles that are already hopelessly bent, broken, and ground into the mud. This carbon buildup will have consequences for Earth’s climate and sea level for tens of thousands of years to come.

That’s no excuse to put off spring cleaning, though. Climate change is largely irreversible on human time scales, but rapid and aggressive action would keep the worst impacts of global warming to a minimum. It’s more important than ever to make drastic reductions in carbon dumping, and get serious about reforestation and other cleanup measures. These are the Bud Light cans we can still get our hands on.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 23rd, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

from: Umang Jalan  umang at cseindia.org via lists.iisd.ca

In the last few years, countries like India that import a majority of their oil, have made considerable gains in reducing their fiscal and trade deficits. In India, the low prices have afforded the government an opportunity to decrease subsidies and increase excise duties on major crude oil distillates i.e. diesel and petrol. These increases in excise duties have been classified by the government as a progressive carbon tax. The revenue from the increased excise duty was estimated at around Rs. 70, 000 crores (US$ 10 Billion) for FY2015-16 in last year’s budget. However, oil prices have since gone down further and various increases in excise duty have been announced, which will increase this revenue. It would be interesting to note whether this year’s budget has provisions for spending this revenue in a climate-aware manner.

According to the government, there is a de-facto “carbon tax” on petrol and diesel at US$ 140 (per tonne of CO2) and US$ 64 respectively. This is much higher than the internationally agreed price of carbon—US$ 25-35. The increase in excise duty however has not led to any measurable reduction in demand from FY2014-15 levels, as they have been coupled with a corresponding reduction in global oil prices—keeping the net price of petrol and diesel low. This begs the question—will such a tax survive an eventual increase in oil prices?

The revenue from the carbon tax has also not been spent in a climate-aware manner. For example, a portion of the excise duty has been allocated as road cess. This could perhaps be used to modify urban mobility in a more sustainable manner, by improving public transport. This is part of a larger pattern of government expenditure, that does not take into account the systemic changes that would be needed to move to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy.

Tax on Carbon to Carbon Tax

According to the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, India has the 17th highest climate risk index in the world between 1994 and 2013. In recent times, there has been a significant increase in the frequency and intensity of climate-related events in India. Although all of these cannot be directly attributed to climate change, the trend of increasing climate impacts is something the government should take notice of and act upon. The following are a few ways in which government expenditure can be made climate-aware:

As mentioned above, investment in transport-related infrastructure can take into account its long-term health and demographic impacts. A focus of transport spending in road infrastructure although important should be complemented with expenditures on improving the quality and scale of the country’s urban public transport systems.

In light of the high climate risk reported in the above study and the recent increase in frequency and intensity of extreme weather events seen in India, expenditure on risk reduction activities like early warning systems should be increased. Such funding could be focused towards areas that are particularly prone to such events. Such expenditure would include more efficient use and dissemination of meteorological data through awareness initiatives and better communication infrastructure.

There can be changes to the trade policy to include favourable trade terms for low carbon goods and technologies. The methods and infrastructure available for evaluating goods and technologies that would be eligible for such terms could be established and streamlined. Perhaps, there could be better co-ordination between organisations like the Indian Patent Office (IPO), which also seeks to expedite patent queries for green technologies (as part of the new national Intellectual Property Rights policy) in identifying eligible technologies.

Similar expenditures have been listed in India’s recently submitted Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC), which estimates that India will need US$ 206 billion (at FY2014-15 prices) between 2015 and 2030 for implementing adaptation actions in agriculture, forestry, fisheries infrastructure, water resources and ecosystems. Perhaps, India can use the “good fortune” of extended periods of low global oil prices to compensate for some of these expenses.

The article was published on www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/all-t…

Regards

Umang Jalan

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Umang Jalan
Research Associate
Climate Change Programme
Centre for Science and Environment
41, Tughlaqabad Institutional Area
New Delhi-India
Mob:9818610944

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 21st, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

In the last hours of the last day of COP 21 – December 12, 2016 – the PARIS AGREEMENT was born. In effect this was a compilation of individual countries statements of what they are ready to do in order to decrease their GHG emissions in the hope that the sum-total of these promises will somehow limit the warming of the planet by only 2 degrees or even by only 1.5 degrees. Everybody understood that the sum total of the promises in those papers does not suffice to achieve the stated goals. Nevertheless, the so called agreement was indeed a great achievement as it puts a limit to work of 24 years since the 1992 first Rio Conference on Sustainable Development.

French President Francois Holland – via his Prime Minister Laurent Fabius let the raucous diplomats know that lights will be closed at the set time for the Conference end and thus got them to terminate the debate and declare that what they had was an agreement.

Very well – this ends the introductory effort to tackle the problem of global warming that causes climate change, and now we are free to start putting flesh on these bare bones that came out of the Paris negotiation rooms.

With the end of the conference, the French leadership was passed to the French Minister of the Environment Mme Segolene Royale as from now it will be viewed as a technical problem to be addressed by more technical people – not by fighting politicians as ib was perceived in the past. The main issue is now how to involve private financing in order to achieve the goals and targets that were set up in the Paris meeting.

Also the UN mechanisms that were set up are not needed anymore. In effect much of the personnel will eventually be let go and instead new mechanisms established – the verification mechanisms to see if the countries live up to what they voluntarily promised to do – and perhaps could be induced to do more as what they promised is still a far cry from what is needed.

The UN’s top climate diplomat, Christiana Figueres, has said she would not accept an extension of her appointment which finishes this summer – she will leave her post in July.

Looking to the future – others move into the breach, and only two months after Paris we just had an interesting international meeting in Vienna on finding financial routes to start implementing some of the things that were left without an indication of follow up procedure.

The meeting was held under the leadership of Kommunalkredit Public Consulting attached to a bank that deals with the Austrian Foreign Aid programs as operated by the Life Ministry and other government offices with experience of working with private enterprises active overseas.

The first day dealt with policy, but much more important in our opinion was the second day that was built around two sessions “LEVERAGING PRIVATE FINANCE FOR CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION AND ADAPTATION.”

Twenty years of providing foreign aid did really nothing to help reduce the impact of climate change and now the foreign aid spigots have dried up. On the other hand, it has become clear that doing the right things for the environment is actually good business – so the way is to provide inducements that activate private enterprise. Investors can be found also in developing countries to participate with outside investors.

The Day was started by Tobias Grimm from Munich Reinsurance Co. who is a Senior Project Manager for Geo Risks – read losses from tings like Climate Change. They provide money for immediate recovery from extreme events.

He was followed by Angelika Frei-Oldenburg from the German European Bank GIZ Gmbh (Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit). The Germans have joint projects in Morocco, Bsangladesh, Central America and Rwanda.
They deal with the opening of a path for private money going into adaptation projects and openly acknowledged thatthey have more questions then answers. This led me to summarize the topic as follows:

“WE HAVE OPPORTUNITY RATHER THEN RISK WHEN WORKING WITH ADAPTATION – THE IDEA IS TO BE DIFFERENT FROM BUSINESS AS USUAL.”

GIZ thinks of the need to create new products or to reallocate resources – the search is for how to bundle theideas and look at efficiencies in adaptation measures. As an example she told us bout a medium size Moroccan fishery tht suffered from loss of fishing stock and was moved to look at a recycling facility.

Felicity Spors, Sr. Carbon Finance Specialist at the Climate and Carbon Finance Unit of the World Bank Group, is working currently on Methane and Climate Change Mitigation and a Pilot Auction Facility. This as a new tool to get investments in private auctions.

Martin Berg from the European Investment Bank in Luxemburg looks at blending Capital markets with public funds.
His product could be Green Bonds. He was talking of markets that could move to 12.6 Billion Euro – 104 projects in 41 countries.

Adrien Couton from Dalberg Advisers Cosultancy working with MSME (Micro, Small, and Medium Companies) that he clusters in groups. He was previously Chief Executive Officer of Naandi Water, the largest … Sanitation and Agriculture portfolios and as a consultant for the World Bank’s Water.

Clemens Ploechl who works now on Crowd Funding to Combat Climate Change. He ges many small funds via te internet in order to bundle these funds abd achieve an important goal. We understand that most people do not expect rurn on their money and eventually are happy to write them off if the important good cause was helped indeed.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 19th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

This last Sunday, the venerable Austrian jewel – THE BURGTHEATER – once more lived up to the Brechtian concept of an ideal Theater as an arena for Ideas. Let me confess that I am not innocent when it comes to this. Back in the sixties and seventies I was part of a team that was running THE THEATER FOR IDEAS in the West Village of Manhattan, and in the summers – out of a summer house I shared in East Hampton on Long Island, the State of New York. Shirley Broughton, a former dancer and Brechtian theater person, from the days Brecht exiled himself from Nazi Germany and was active in the US,
picked up the idea after Bertolt Brecht returned to East Berlin. With the help of some family foundations she established this institution that at its best was described as a play-ground for the cream of New York intelligentia. For the 1965-1966 season, THE THEATER FOR IDEAS was awarded an OBIE Special Citation “for encouraging exploration in dramatic literature and music and providing a forum for thought in the theater.” It is the 11 am Sunday debates at the Burgtheater that remind me now of those old days.

Under the general topic of DEBATING EUROPE – and under the leadership of the Editor of DER STANDARD – Alexandra Föderl-Schmid – and with support from the ERSTE FOUNDATION and the IWM (Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen – The Institute for Human Sciences, Vienna), The Burgtheater organized a debate on the topic “Wozu brauchen wir TTIP? – What for do we need TTIP? – “The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership” – a series of trade negotiations being carried out mostly in secret between the EU and US.

The Chair of the panel was Ms. Shalini Randeria, Rector of IWM in Vienna and Research Director and Professor of Social Anthropology and Sociology at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID) in Geneva.

The Panel (in seating order) included Mr. Peter-Tobias Stall, professor of public international law at the Georg August University of Göttingen; Ms. Eva Dessewffy, lecturer at the Department of European Integration and Economy-Right at the Danube University in Krems, Austria and Consultant with the Labor-Unions Headquarter, Austria; Mr. Franz Schellhorn, Head of the liberal-economy think-tank Agenda Austria and previous Economy-Journalist for Die Presse; Mr. Lutz Guellner, a German, the new elected Head for Communication in the Trade Office of the European Commission, Brussels; Ms. Petra Pinzler, in September 2015 she published a volume on un-free-trade under the domination of big companies and government officials – “Der Unfreihandel. Die heimliche Herrschaft von Konzernen und Kanzleien” (Rowohlt) – a critical review of the European Trade policy with an analysis of the rights, democracy and economy aspects of the Free-Trade planned programs such as TTIP, CETA und TISA.

As we see – the panel was well balance and all points of view present – from the self justifying European Commission and the liberal economist to the strict guardians of labor rights and honest analysts of what it means for Europe to allow itself to be dominated by American business interests based in very different legislature then any of the EU member states. So, I see no sense in repeating here the arguments, and I will now rather point out why a deal between two un-equals is just not to the Europeans’ interest.


The two un-equals are a United States – united under the banner of pure capitalism that rejects the niceties of social and environmental aspects in running the economy. This American Democracy gives people the right to earn money with money. This naturally leads to concentration of wealth and to more power to the wealthy.


On the other hand, the European Democracy has evolved as a Social Democracy that uses taxes in order to provide services to the citizens. True, Europe is not as united as it ought to be and the individual states are pursuing the social democracy goals with different levels of enthusiasm. It is the old established democracies that are better off, and have thus more advanced social norms – with some of those that more recently freed themselves from totalitarian systems lagging behind and being more susceptible to US charms.


The European Commission as such, seemingly as well, has allowed itself to be dragged into secret negotiations with the US super-business and this seems completely unacceptable to the labor unions and the environmentalists that judge correctly the immense danger from losing protective laws – laws that protect the people and the environment from the power of immense money grab and loss of judicial cover.


The goal of an economy ought to be SUSTAINABILITY rather then GROWTH – the charms of FREE-TRADE can mean that a Country with lower protective legislation – or no protective legislation at all – can by overriding in name of agreed upon expediency – simply wipe away the protection that so painstakingly has been established in a more advanced social state, that night evaluate sustainability more then the immediate financial gain that destroys the environment, lowers quality of life, and is responsible for health problems.

To be sure – I do have a personal story on this. Back in the seventies, the US decided finally that the health problems created by combustion of lead-contained gasoline where not worth the profits of the petroleum refinery – and leaded gasoline was outlawed. So what? The company that produced the Tetra-Ethyl-Lead – the compound that was used by the refiners – created a daughter company in Canada, and under THE FREE TRADE NAFTA agreement moved to export this to California where the petroleum industry was happy to buy it from them. Under NAFTA they just tried to over-ride US law. And what do you know, the US government said they had no legal means to stop this. They cannot close the border to poison because that would unravel NAFTA. California had to pay off that company to get them to desist from exporting the stuff – plain extortion on an international level. A story that should be known to all those European TTIP dreamers. What made things worse was the fact that by then there was proposed an alternative to lead – low percentages of ethanol mixed to the gasoline did provide the octane boost need to replace the lead compound – but refiners did not want this solution.

The opposition to TTIP in Austria is clear in the unwillingness to accept transnational legal system that is intended to override the Austrian and European legislation. That is clear.

Austria is fighting genetic engineering technologies and requires clear information about content of food and other products – any decrease in this sort of safeguards imposed by someone with less stringent rules is unacceptable.

Social and ecological achievements by Austria and the EU cannot be rolled back for sake of profit – that is clear.

Most countries including the EU, the US, and Canada, have accepted the 8 minimum-agreed-norms of the ILO – such as the right to collective agreements – to unionize and have an agreement; no children’s work; no forced labor; non-discrimination of any kind. Above all – no secrecy allowed. Democracy is based on transparency.

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Hoping I will get another hint to something about Europe, I went to see the Burgtheater project “Hotel Europa oder Der Antichrist” (Hotel Europe or the Anti-Christ) fashioned freely after a novel written by Joseph Roth with further inputs from other pieces and correspondence.

Moses Joseph Roth (1894 in Brody, eastern Galicia, Austria-Hungary – died in 1939 in Paris exile having committed suicide with excess drinking) was an Austrian writer and journalist.

This piece deals with someone coming back after World War I to the gates of Europe. It is possible to see in this theater event the slide to World War II. The one point I found in the direction I was looking to is Roth’s equalizing Hollywood and Hitler. Could we say that I saw there the danger from an excess that dehumanizes us? Maybe.

Whatever – this was very good theater and the four actors looked like Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph dressed as Hotel bell-hops. I guess – a bow to Mr. Roth living in hotels in exile from his Austria.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 18th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


From the shelf to the bin: food waste and the culture of rush.

Diana Moreno 18 January 2016
openDemocracy, UK


A third of all food that’s produced in the world is thrown away as ‘waste.’ What’s going on?

From the shelf to the bin: food waste and the culture of rush
Diana Moreno 18 January 2016

A third of all food that’s produced in the world is thrown away as ‘waste.’ What’s going on?

Food ‘waste’ waiting to be thrown away. Credit: Diana Moreno. All rights reserved.

Shortly after signing my contract as a store assistant for a well known low-cost German supermarket company, I came across a nasty reality that seemed not to bother the rest of my colleagues: every day, at a sleepy four o’clock in the morning, a random employee has to do the “waste inventory.”

This consists of scanning all the products that can’t be sold anymore, one by one, and then throwing them out into a blue container. The resulting mountain of food is impressive—around seventy bakery items, a hundred pieces of fruit, and fifteen trays of meat. Over two hundred food items start the morning at the bottom of the garbage container, every single day.

But that’s not the most surprising thing. The real scandal is that very few of these items need to be thrown away at all.

Of course, the expiry dates of food have to scrupulously obeyed, but most of the reasons for throwing things away have nothing to do with protecting our health. Instead, we get rid of items just because they’ve lost their label, or because the package is broken, or because they’ve been left outside the fridge. In the frenzy of a regular work day, employees don’t have time to scrutinize every corner of the store, searching for items that a neglectful customer has left out of place on a shelf, or that they themselves may have forgotten somewhere.

As a rough calculation, I’d say that food that’s unfit for consumption accounts for less than half of what is thrown away. While doing the waste inventory I can see it, but the ‘waste’ is valued at only 300 Pounds or so—less than one per cent of the store’s daily income.

What happens to it? I ask the delivery guy where he takes the food.

“To the incinerator” he replies. “Why, are you hungry?”

If you’re able to imagine one ton of food and then multiply it by a hundred million you get the exorbitant amount that’s wasted in Europe every year, according to a report from the European Parliament. At the global level, the FAO calculates that this comes to 1.3 billion tons per annum, or a third of all food that’s produced. I can see a tiny part of this nonsense, day by day, in my shop.

What’s going on? At the heart of the problem is a basic lack of care, brought on by a culture of rushing, speed, and busyness—lots of people, scanner sounds, the noise of coins and trolleys—everything in a hurry. In shops like mine, everything is meant to be this way. The tills are designed for customers to be there for as little time as possible so that more people can be processed in the same number of minutes.

In some ways the till is the perfect symbol of modern slavery: immersion in this small metal cage implies an average of six hours a day sitting and doing mechanical and monotonous scanning-and-packing work with one 30-minute break. Greetings and goodbyes are identical, mechanical, pronounced a hundred times per day: the same jokes, the same comments.

Customers can pay with a new system called ‘contactless payment’ that works by simply touching a credit card to the machine. “They do that so we can spend quickly… and more,” an elderly customer says to me wisely. No time for conversations. I serve 20 people every ten minutes. That means 60 every half an hour, 120 per hour, and around 500 during a standard shift—giving each customer 30 seconds to chat. It feels kind of disturbing to interact with 500 different people during six hours without ever having a conversation.

Rushing also means that things get dropped. Glasses are broken, yogurt is scattered, or an egg from the box is broken when you’re trying to stack it up in the crammer stand. So that means throwing the whole carton away. And when the day is close to an end, tiredness sinks in. The more tired we are, the less we care.

Interiorizing this culture of rush makes everybody feel annoyed when something doesn´t work—for example when items pile up, plastic bags are difficult to open or barcodes won’t scan. Or when the cashier forgets a code or the customer takes too much time packing everything into their bags, exasperating the rest of the queue. Almost without noticing, I´ve adopted a way of serving that pressurizes costumers to leave over time. When did I and my colleagues start behaving this way? None of us know.

Some mention the ‘pressure’ of the long queue, or the customers’ comments that encourage you to be quicker. Or the manager´s instructions that force you to speed up if there’s a long line or to close the till and do something else if it’s not busy, in order to avoid a single minute of inactivity. Bosses also encourage us to speed up by giving a prize to the fastest cashier every month. As an experiment, I reduce my speed and soon I’m pressured to scan faster in order to ‘hit the store´s target.’ By the end of the shift, rushing has burrowed its way deep into my bones.

Do things have to be this way? Isn’t there an alternative? I want to believe that there is.

Barely two hundred meters along the street from where I work is another smaller shop called hiSbe. It calls itself an “ethical supermarket, independent and community-run,” and it has the aura of something more organic and environmentally-friendly. I go inside to take a look.

The shop looks less busy and less crowded with people and items. There are four employees with smiles that don’t look forced. Prices and quality are not reduced as much as on the crowded low-cost shelves that I’m used to stacking. Its claim to put “workers and suppliers before benefits” may not be a pose after all.

One of hiSbe’s commitments is “refusing to throw away any food that can be eaten.” How do they accomplish that I wonder? Here’s what I find out: they reduce the price of any surplus goods before the delivery of new stock; they minimize packaging and sell stuff by weight; they give items away for free like eggs which are about to expire; and they don’t discriminate against ‘ugly vegetables’ that aren’t the standard size and look.

Above all, things are done well and carefully and without rushing. It’s a small shop without too many customers, so there’s more time for chatting. Less rushing means that things aren’t dropped or broken so frequently or forgotten somewhere out of the fridge. “We barely throw any food away at the end of the day,” one worker confirms to me.

This isn’t an isolated example. There are a growing number of citizen initiatives which are fighting against unjustified waste like the ‘dumpster diving’ movement, or the Real Junk Food Project in Brighton—a food bank that uses items discarded by local supermarkets. In Lisbon, the Frutafeia co-operative campaigns against standardization in foodstuffs, especially vegetables, while Berlin’s ‘social fridges’ offer self-service food for free to people who are homeless.

In the current dominant system of food consumption and the culture of rush, a daily mountain of edible food that’s thrown into a bin is not considered a failure—it’s simply one of the many consequences of doing business as usual.
To reverse that process, we all have to put our shopping into question.

This is a shorter version of a longer piece
please see - www.opendemocracy.net

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 11th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

DIA-CORE project has the pleasure to announce the DIA-CORE Regional Workshop“Best Practice Policies To Finance Renewable Energy”, to be implemented on the 29th of January 2016, in Vilnius, Lithuania, hosted by Lithuanian Energy Institute (LEI).

Main aim of the DIA-CORE Regional Workshop is to present and analyze the current policy performance and financial conditions for RES investments, as well as renewable energy support schemes in the region.

To download Workshop’s Agenda and info:  diacore.eu/news-events/events/ite…

For more information about the workshop stay tuned at the event’s webpage!

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 11th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

In a letter to all IISD readers of the Clean Energy List, Ms. Victoria Healey, the Project Leader at US NREL writes:

A representative from the Clean Energy Solutions Center (Solutions Center), Ms. Victoria Healey, will attend the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) General Assembly and the World Future Energy Summit (WFES) during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, from January 16-21, 2016. Under the joint IRENA and Solutions Center Renewable Energy Policy Advice Network (REPAN), Ms. Healey will be available to meet individually with government representatives, government affiliated practitioners, and policymakers seeking clean energy policy, program, regulation, and finance technical assistance. The REPAN was established to help developing countries to design and adopt clean energy policies and programs that support the deployment of clean energy technologies, and to identify design, and implement finance instruments that mobilize private and public sector capital, and formulate clean energy investment strategies. This support is provided free of charge. To schedule an appointment, please contact Victoria Healey at  nrel.gov.


Consultations during the IRENA General Assembly will occur at the St. Regis Saadiyat Island in a location to be determined. During the WFES the 1-on-1 consultations will take place at the IRENA networking area located in the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.

About the Renewable Energy Policy Advice Network, the Clean Energy Finance Solutions Center, and the Clean Energy Solutions Center:

The Clean Energy Solutions Center and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) joined forces in 2013 to launch the Renewable Energy Policy Advice Network (REPAN)—a collaboration that leverages both organizations’ resources by coordinating a global network of experts and practitioners to help countries design and implement renewable energy policies and programs. To learn more visit cleanenergysolutions.org/expert/…

The Clean Energy Finance Solutions Center of NREL assists governments and practitioners with identifying appropriate finance mechanisms and designing and implementing policies to reduce risk and encourage private sector investment; helping to achieve the transition to clean energy at the speed and scale necessary to meet local development needs and address global challenges. The CEFSC is an expanded and dedicated resource that is part of the Clean Energy Solutions Center, a Clean Energy Ministerial initiative that helps governments design and adopt policies and programs that support deployment of clean energy technologies.

signed:
Victoria Healey,
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Project Leader for the Clean Energy Solutions Center

To learn more about how these initiatives can assist in meeting countries’ clean energy objectives, please visit cleanenergysolutions.org and finance.cleanenergysolutions.org…, and follow us on Facebook www.facebook.com/CleanEnergySolu… and Twitter twitter.com/Clean_Energy_SC

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 10th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

IRENA’s two added workshops during World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, UAE, that will be held January 16-21, 2016.

from: Virginia Yu <VYu@irena.org>

Sun, Jan 10, 2016 at 2:22 PM

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) announces two side events at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, UAE – 1) Global Atlas for Renewable Energy Workshop on Medium-term Strategy, 18 January, and 2) Solar Resource Assessment Workshop for Policy Makers, 19 January.

1) The Global Atlas for Renewable Energy Workshop on Medium-term Strategy will take place on 18th January, 2016 at ADNEC (Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre) – future home of World Fair 2020), Abu Dhabi. The purpose of this workshop is to gather information and ideas from stakeholders that can feed into IRENA’s development of the medium-term strategy (1-2 years) for the Global Atlas. Workshop participants will engage in a practical discussion around how the Global Atlas can help overcome barriers to renewable energy development, generate ideas for more effective communication on the Global Atlas, and investigate the needs and ideas of data providers.

To register, please send an email to  potentials at irena.org by 13th January. For further information on the event and location, please read the final event concept note and announcement. Please connect to:  www.irena.org
prior to the meeting.

2) The Solar Resource Assessment Workshop for Policy Makers, in collaboration with DLR will take place on 19th January, 2016 at IRENA Headquarters, Masdar City, Abu Dhabi.

With this training, IRENA gives an introduction of the capabilities of such tools and how they may be used to improve the design of policies for solar energy. To register, please send an email to  carsten.hoyer-klick at dlr.de. We would be grateful to receive your confirmation by 13th January. For further information on the event and location, please see the attached PDF.

IRENA Headquarters, Masdar City | P.O. Box 236 | Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates | Tel: +97124179988 | Mob: +971566161584 | www.irena.org

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Solar-Med-Atlas Workshop for Policy Makers.pdf 164K


Solar Resource Assessment for Policy Makers:


Date: Tuesday, January 19th, 2016, 10-16h Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Venue: IRENA Headquarters, Masdar City

Solar resource is “fuel” for solar energy technologies and the availability of accurate solar data is a key parameter in planning solar power systems. Solar resource assessment portals as the Solar-Med- Atlas and the IRENA Global Atlas have been developed to ease access to this data, to improve planning of policies and implementation of solar energy systems.
With this training we want to give you an introduction of the capabilities of such tools and how they may be used to improve the design of policies for solar energy.

Training Schedule 10:00h – 10:45h
10:45h – 12:15h
12:15h – 13:15h 13:15h – 14:15h
14:15h – 15:45h
15:45h – 16:00h

- Introduction and expectations of the participants
- Getting information from solar resource portals, hands on experience on using the Solar-Med-Atlas and the Global Atlas for Renewable Energies

Lunch Break

- Analysis of the data in Geographical information systems (demonstration) – Interpretation of results
What is a good nationwide solar resource assessment – requirements for a successful campaign.

- Conclusions and further questions. Short assessment of the Global Atlas

Please bring along your laptops, to be able to participate in the hands on exercises.
Please register your participation at:  carsten.hoyer-klick at dlr.de

Transportation: Shuttle bus will be provided from ADNEC at 9:15am going to IRENA HQ, then leaving again at 4:00 pm from IRENA HQ going to ADNEC

We thank IRENA for hosting the workshop in their headquarters.

===============================================================


THE IRENA 6-TH ASSEMBLY IS SCHEDULED FOR JANUARY 16-17, 2016 AND WILL START ON JANUARY 16TH WITH A MINISTERIAL ROUNDTABLE TITLED: “AFTER COP 21 – CONCERTED ACTION TOWARDS RENEWABLE ENERGY DEPLOYMENT.”

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Posted in Abu Dhabi, Archives, Copenhagen COP15, Future Events, Futurism, Geneva, Germany, Nairobi, Paris, UAE, Vienna

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 27th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


A West Virginia Family Leaves Coal for Local Food and Wants to Help Others Do the Same.

Sunday, 27 December 2015 00:00 – By Laura Michele Diener, YES! Magazine | Op-Ed, Re-posted by Truthout.

The sound of a train whistle interrupts conversations every hour, on the hour, in the small town of Kimball, West Virginia. Linda McKinney and her son Joel were showing me the beds in their community garden when the rushing of the train overwhelmed the quiet sounds of crickets, stream, and rain. Linda and Joel were used to it and continued their conversation over the noise, shouting about how they should plant more marigolds, pulling berries off the vine for me to taste, and admiring a second crop of peppers that had sprung up overnight. The train roared along, carrying away some of the last coal processed in McDowell County.

“Coal is dying,” Joel told me. “Coal’s almost dead. Nobody wants to say it. It is what it is. On the international market, it’s dead for this area.”

He used to work for Norfolk Southern, the same railroad company that operates the train that just passed through. He has watched the number of trains loaded with locally mined coal decline, replaced with ones full of goods made elsewhere: cars, chemicals, and goods bound for Target. He grew up in a coal-mining family, the son and grandson of coal miners on both sides, and has watched as the industry’s decline decimated the place where he grew up. “This place is dying. I mean, it is. I’m from here, it’s sad to say it.”

Official numbers back up his words. As in the rest of the region, the total number of coal miners in McDowell County has declined since the heyday of the industry in the first half of the 20th century . That trend has continued in recent years, with the number of miners in the county falling from about 1,700 in 1990 to about 1,100 in 2014. There are many reasons for this: processes such as mountaintop-removal mining require fewer workers than underground mining, and the local coal industry faces competition from cheaper sources such as Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, as well as from natural gas drilling. Many of the county’s remaining jobs are low-paying ones in fast-food restaurants or the prison system.

Unemployment leads to poverty and alarming health trends. According to 2011 data, more than 46 percent of McDowell County residents were obese; the U.S. national average was 34 percent. The average life expectancy is one of the lowest in the nation at 64 for men and 72 for women; the national averages are 76 and 81. The county also leads the state in number of teen pregnancies and people on disability.

Despite these problems, McDowell suffers from a shortage of health care resources such as health professionals and addiction-treatment centers. Even sidewalks can be rare along the busy, winding roads, discouraging walking. Families get trapped in desperate cycles of disease, unemployment, and addiction

So what is left for residents? Many have left in search of employment. Others have succumbed to a sense of despondency. Local politicians blame President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency for mine closures and advocate for a return to a coal-based economy through campaigns such as “Friends of Coal.” Others join the 14 percent of McDowell County citizens who are unemployed, hoping and waiting for the mines to reopen.

But Joel, Linda, and the rest of their family have a different answer. “Agriculture,” Linda responds, without missing a beat. “Everybody—I don’t care if there’s two people left in the county—they’ve got to eat.”

Her family is doing its best to get that transition started. At Five Loaves and Two Fishes, the food bank they run to serve McDowell County residents, the McKinney family maintains a traditional garden as well as five hydroponic towers. The produce they grow not only supplements the food they give out, but acts as an educational model to encourage people to start their own gardens and agribusinesses.

Food and Faith

Five Loaves is located in an old Save-A-Lot store building on the side of the main road running through Kimball. It has been a food bank since 2001, and in the care of the McKinneys since 2009, when they took it over from longtime friend, theReverend Albert “Bubby” Falvo.

Joel and his father Bob have converted the front area into a comfortable porch with rockers, benches, flowerpots, and stacks of pallets. While planning my first visit, I tried to get directions over the phone. Linda reassured me. “Honey, if you come into McDowell county, all roads lead to the food bank.”

“Miss Linda,” as her friends call her, is the heart, soul, and chef of Five Loaves. She works full time there, or rather, volunteers full time, as she works entirely for free. At 59, with flashing black eyes, she possesses a certain glamour, even when dressed in old jeans and surrounded by packing crates. She laughs loudly, with a resounding and joyous “Ha!” and a nudge to bring you into the joke.

Although Linda calls herself a “holler girl”—using the Appalachian slang term for a rural valley—and has always lived in McDowell County, she grew up in an Italian-speaking family. Having lost her mother as a little girl, she was raised by her nonna, or grandmother, who spoke no English but cooked meals for the entire holler. Nonna, who was born Maria Nicola, emigrated with her husband, Philip Pizzato, from the Italian city of Naples in 1913.

“Everybody thought they were going to get rich in the mines,” Linda says. The Pizzatos didn’t get rich, but Philip, whom the other miners called “Mr. Patches” since they couldn’t pronounce “Pizzato,” earned a steady living for his wife, six sons, and five daughters until he died in a car accident in 1947.

Linda’s entire manner expresses this dual heritage. She pronounces certain words with a melodious accent, slipped between the slow syllables of her southern twang: minestrone, basilico. “When I was little we would grow basil in a washtub, and Daddy would say, ‘Go out and get some basilico’—that’s what we called it.”

Linda learned to cook at her nonna’s side. “We didn’t have recipes. Nothing was measured out, but each day had its own purpose. Monday was bread baking day. Sunday, we made sauce, always red sauce, never white. … On Sundays, food stayed out all the time and we would just eat all day long.”

They made chicken cacciatore, homemade pasta (they hung the noodles on a pole over the bed), egg frittatas, and Italian wedding soup, all of which Linda remembers fondly. But she also snuck out to the neighbors’ place to try pinto beans and biscuits. Her recipes now are a mix of local and foreign, old world and new.

“She just wants to feed people,” her daughter Jina Belcher explained, and that was certainly true for me. Each time I visited, Linda fed me, cooking with fresh ingredients from the garden. Since I’m a vegetarian, she made me some standards: veggie dip with chips and carrots, chocolate mousse, and my favorite, kale salad with strawberries, of which she is especially proud. “When people tell me they don’t like kale, I say, ‘You ain’t tasted my kale.’”

Linda makes and gives out wholesome, healthy food because that’s what she was raised on and what she fed her own children—but also because she wants to reverse the health trends in McDowell County. She understands that obesity and poverty go hand in hand, as half the county is on some kind of public assistance and may not be able to afford fresh produce. But she believes that education and changes in lifestyle can help people get their hands on good food, even when they don’t have much money.

Every Wednesday of this summer, she held community cookouts in the gardens with an emphasis on healthy eating and fresh vegetables. Nearly 400 people attended regularly, Linda estimates. She also offers Zumba classes (she’s a certified instructor), vegetable planting parties, and cooking courses.

In addition to her passion for healthy eating, she finds herself motivated by her Christian faith, which was nurtured in riverbanks, mountain soil, and in the small Methodist church where she worshipped as a child. She is a certified Methodist lay pastor, which means she can preach but not perform communion or weddings. “I could go anywhere in any church and feel comfortable, except where there’s snakes,” she says, referring to a Pentecostal ritual where certain parishioners hold venomous snakes during worship as an expression of faith.

She shuddered and then broke into laughter. “I won’t go to no snake church.”

She finds her faith renewed each time she reaches her fingers into the dirt. “I totally believe that relationships are built at a table and in a garden. When you bring those two together, you have family.”


Betting on Agriculture

Unlike his mother, Joel McKinney does not like dirt, and he hates bugs. What attracts him is the challenge of invention. Full of restless energy, he rarely stands still. As we spoke, he paced around his hydroponic towers, lifting up vines and pulling off dead leaves with gestures alternately rough and tender.

“I’m a science nerd,” he told me more than once. He practices a form of urban agriculture usually pursued indoors, but does it outside so it’s visible to local people. The unusual sight of the five white plastic towers, each one more than eight feet tall and bursting with rainbow-colored vines, attracts curious passers-by. Which is exactly what Joel is hoping for—to get locals excited about the economic possibilities of growing. “Agriculture is the best possible future for McDowell County,” he insists.

This work has consumed all his time for the past year, since he quit his job as a signalman for Norfolk Southern. Soon after that, he received a veteran’s grant from West Virginia State’s agricultural program to start a greenhouse at the armory in Welch, the county seat. He devoted himself full-time to growing—moving into his parents’ basement, enrolling in Penn State’s online program for a degree in agriculture, and building and maintaining hydroponic towers on the armory grounds in Welch, as well as the ones at Five Loaves. To do all this, he has taken out around $30,000 in loans. “So in about two and a half years, if something don’t happen, life’s going to be hard,” he says. “But I’m pretty certain.”

While Linda is propelled by faith, it’s the prospect of a good living that motivates Joel. Although he says he will never charge for food at Five Loaves, he hopes his towers at the Welch armory will eventually turn a profit. He has already approached grocery retailers Wal-Mart and Kroger. Once he begins selling vegetables, he plans to roll the funds back into the community garden at Five Loaves to finance projects there, including a CSA program that will distribute groceries directly to local people, a permanent farmers market, a plant store with seedlings for sale, and most of all, educational programs. His goal is to provide a model for sustainable business that others in the region could learn from.

“This is kind of small-scale,” he acknowledges, “but I want to start here, learn the ropes, and then take it to the county level.”

Feeding the County

It was August 22, the third Saturday of the month. Welfare checks were running low, and the residents of McDowell County descended on Five Loaves for the food giveaway. Cars lined both sides of the road. Old men rested in their pickup trucks, while women with camp chairs chatted in the sun. The lively atmosphere of a town festival pervaded, with children racing around the porch, scrambling over the pallets, and running through the garden. The men smoked down by the river at the back of the garden. One man with a white beard gestured toward the tree tops, preaching to the smokers. “Who do you think created this blue sky?” he asked.

There was only enough food for 150 families, and it was first come, first served. So even though the giveaway began at noon, most of the people had already been there for hours to ensure they were included. Some had brought tents and camped out the night before. One family had waited since 2:30 in the morning.

The food had come from a variety of sources. Much of it arrived in trucks that come once a month from Operation Blessing’s Hunger Strike Force, a humanitarian organization founded by the minister and TV personality Pat Robertson. Five Loaves receives donations from the local Wal-Mart as well as from individual donors.

At noon, everyone lined up on the porch for their turn to receive a grocery cart, move through the warehouse grabbing products from the freezers and shelves, then back outside to sort through three big bins of produce. Volunteers, all with relatives waiting in the line, moved the people along and helped push the carts and load up cars.

Linda kept the line in order with an iron will. “You git off my porch with that cigarette!” She shouted, chasing a recalcitrant man. She sat at the head of the line for hours, joking with people and rising to hug them.

One man waited around all day to collect any unused scraps for his pigs. He hovered at Linda’s shoulder, never speaking, his blue eyes like pinpoints lost in a creviced face, a bandana tied on top of his battered fedora. Occasionally he carried a bag of lettuce or such to his truck. “That’s Mr. Chester,” Bob McKinney said, pointing him out to me—he knew almost everybody.

Unlike Linda, Bob stayed in the background, pushing carts and lifting boxes of food. A slim man with round glasses, he spoke in soft, measured tones.

We heard Linda’s voice rising above the crowd. Bob gestured over to her as she chattered away with the woman at the front of the line. “She’s a networker,” he said, smiling fondly. “Me, I’ll take care of the rest.”

The rest included all the maintenance, the electrical work on the building, and keeping the forklifts and freezers in good working order. Bob is an ordained Methodist minister, but had never been completely comfortable speaking in front of people. “I had felt a calling in the ministry,” he explained, “but it’s this kind of ministry.”

A mine-safety teacher, Bob is the only member of the family still actively employed in coal. Like his father before him, he has worked in the industry his whole life, either as a teacher or a safety inspector, but he also acknowledges that mining is no longer economically viable for southern West Virginia.

As a minister and then at the food bank, he has witnessed the toll the changing economy has taken on McDowell County. He pointed out a number of people in the line who had jobs, sometimes commuting outside the county, but still couldn’t make it through the month. Others were disabled from accidents in mines or on construction sites. As I looked at the crowd, I noticed that a good portion were elderly—women with white hair plaited around their heads, men in suspenders lounging against the wall beside their walkers.

Bob looked them over worriedly. “Politicians have the attitude—’Them people just here for a handout.’ ‘Get a job,’ they say. Get a job where? I say, ‘You give ‘em a job, I’ll stop giving ‘em food.’”

A World Beyond Coal

“My dad was a coal miner my entire life. That’s how I was raised. That’s how he fed us, so as far as that’s concerned, my heart is there.” Jina, Bob and Linda’s youngest child, is certainly her mother’s daughter. Her determination bursts through in her voice, even more so than Linda; she speaks quickly and articulately. She works full-time at a local bank in Welch and also takes care of all the finances for Five Loaves, which she sees as far more than a place to pick up food once a month.

Like her parents and brother, she sees the food bank as leading the way in economic alternatives to coal in McDowell County. The daughter and granddaughter of coal miners, she also dated one all through high school and eventually married him. But at Concord University, which she attended on a full scholarship as a recreation and tourism major, she learned about the effects of mountaintop-removal mining on the environment. She is also aware that opportunities for coal mining are waning in southern West Virginia.

“I do think it’s a dying industry, and I think that if we could get the passion of these ex-coal miners involved in a new agricultural business, that it could flourish.”

Some former coal miners have transitioned successfully, and Jina points to her husband, Justin “JD” Belcher, as an example. After 7 1/2 years at the same mine, he found himself laid off. But he took the opportunity to pursue videography, which had always been his passion. Entirely self-taught, he submitted a trial reel to a local car dealer and now works full time for the company as a video editor. He also runs his own wedding videography business, Unscripted Memories.

Justin has taken charge of public relations at Five Loaves and makes films for the food bank’s Facebook page. “When we look at our life two years ago when he was in the mines, yes, of course there was more money,” Jina says. “But now it’s stable and he’s doing what he loves.”

His transition, she believes, could be a model for the community.

All Roads in the County

Linda McKinney was right when she told me all roads in the county lead to the food bank. That might sound depressing, but there’s more to it than dependency. In McDowell County, the Five Loaves and Two Fishes food bank is the heart of the community, a place people go for education, fellowship, and vision.

“I love going out there early in the morning, walking into that garden,” Linda says. Her vision acknowledges the coal heritage of McDowell County, which brought her grandparents over on a boat from Italy in the hope of striking it rich, and kept them fed and clothed for generations. But it also looks beyond it to a future of self-sufficiency and small businesses fueled by cultivated fields bursting into bloom in the hollers.

In the future she wants to see, people will flock to the county she loves rather than flee from it. “This county’s been good to me. It’s been good to our family. It’s been good to my husband. Where else would I go? I wouldn’t do well. I’m too loud.” She laughed in her joyful manner, shaking her whole body.

“They can say, poor, poor West Virginia and poor, poor, McDowell County. I don’t do that. I’m gonna be the brightest little star I can in my little corner where God put me.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 26th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Pincas –

I’ve got 12 months left to squeeze every ounce of change I can while I’m still in office. And that’s what I intend to do.

We’ve done a lot of remarkable things together this year. On January 12, I’ll be giving my last State of the Union address. I want you to watch, and say you’re ready to keep up the fight in 2016 — because your voice matters just as much as mine does.

When we took office, we were losing nearly 750,000 jobs a month. But over the last 69 months, our businesses have created more than 13.7 million new jobs — the longest streak of private-sector job growth on record — and the unemployment rate is down to 5 percent.

For the first time more than 90 percent of Americans are now covered, and more than 17 million people have gained health insurance under Obamacare. Insurance companies can’t discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, or charge women more just for being women.

And America is now leading by example on climate change. The Clean Power Plan will cut carbon pollution from power plants by 32 percent by 2030. We’ve cut our oil imports by more than half, while doubling clean energy production from wind, solar, and geothermal — creating steady sources of good jobs that can’t be outsourced.

Even as our economy is growing, America has cut our carbon pollution overall more than any other advanced nation on Earth. And we just helped secure the most ambitious global climate agreement in history.

These are your accomplishments, and that’s what I want to celebrate with you on January 12. As long as you’re out there organizing, on whatever issue you’re organizing around, America has a bright future ahead.

Let’s lean into that in 2016.

Thanks — and happy New Year,

Barack Obama

————————————-

and from MICHELLE OBAMA:

Friend –

I can’t thank you enough for standing by Barack and Democrats all over the country this year. Millions of supporters have invested time, money, and energy to take true ownership of this party and advance the values and beliefs that make us Democrats.

So I really mean it when I say that I can’t thank you enough: All the progress we’ve made this year, we’ve made because folks like you have never shied away from a challenge, and you’re never afraid of hard work.

There will be more challenges on the road ahead, and more work to be done to protect our progress and keep moving forward. I know you’re ready to face it all head-on — it’s what folks like you have always done. You’re never satisfied to sit idly by and just watch things happen. I’ve always known our supporters to be action takers, and you’re no different. So right now, if you can, pitch in $3 so we can keep facing those challenges head-on and doing the hard work that truly makes a difference in our fellow Americans’ lives.

The future of this country is up to us — and I know it’s in good hands, because I’ve seen the good that we can accomplish when we work together. I’m so excited to see what we’ll do next.

Michelle

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 26th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Between 1979 and 1983, the American Petroleum Institute, the industry’s most powerful lobby group, ran a task force for fossil fuel companies to ‘monitor and share climate research.’


Almost All Major Oil Companies Have Known About Global Warming Since the 1970s

By Lauren McCauley, Common Dreams

26 December 2015

It wasn’t just Exxon that knew fossil fuels were cooking the planet.

New investigative reporting by Neela Banerjee with Inside Climate News revealed on Tuesday that scientists and engineers from nearly every major U.S. and multinational oil and gas company may have for decades known about the impacts of carbon emissions on the climate.

Between 1979 and 1983, the American Petroleum Institute (API), the industry’s most powerful lobby group, ran a task force for fossil fuel companies to “monitor and share climate research,” according to internal documents obtained by Inside Climate News.

According to the reporting:

Like Exxon, the companies also expressed a willingness to understand the links between their product, greater CO2 concentrations and the climate, the papers reveal. Some corporations ran their own research units as well, although they were smaller and less ambitious than Exxon’s and focused on climate modeling, said James J. Nelson, the former director of the task force.

“It was a fact-finding task force,” Nelson said in an interview. “We wanted to look at emerging science, the implications of it and where improvements could be made, if possible, to reduce emissions.”

The “CO2 and Climate Task Force,” which changed in 1980 its name to the “Climate and Energy Task Force,” included researchers from Exxon, Mobil, Chevron, Amoco, Phillips, Texaco, Shell, Sunoco and Sohio, among others.

One memo by an Exxon task force representative pointed to 1979 “background paper on CO2,” which “predicted when the first clear effects of climate change might be felt,” noting that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was rising steadily.

And at a February 1980 meeting in New York, the task force invited Professor John A. Laurmann of Stanford University to brief members about climate science.

“In his conclusions section, Laurmann estimated that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere would double in 2038, which he said would likely lead to a 2.5 degrees Celsius rise in global average temperatures with ‘major economic consequences,’” Banerjee reports. He then told the task force that models showed a 5 degrees Celsius rise by 2067, with ‘globally catastrophic effects,’” Banerjee reports.

The documents show that API members, at one point, considered an alternative path in the face of these dire predictions:

Bruce S. Bailey of Texaco offered “for consideration” the idea that “an overall goal of the Task Force should be to help develop ground rules for energy release of fuels and the cleanup of fuels as they relate to CO2 creation,” according to the minutes of a meeting on Feb. 29, 1980.

The minutes also show that the task force discussed a “potential area” for research and development that called for it to “‘Investigate the Market Penetration Requirements of Introducing a New Energy Source into World Wide Use.’ This would include the technical implications of energy source changeover, research timing and requirements.”

“Yet,” Banerjee notes, “by the 1990s, it was clear that API had opted for a markedly different approach to the threat of climate change.”

The lobby group teamed up with Exxon and others to form the Global Climate Coalition (GCC), which successfully lobbied the U.S. to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol.

The damning revelations are the latest in an ongoing investigation into what the fossil fuel industry knew about climate change and then suppressed for decades—all while continuing to profit from the planet’s destruction.

Reports that Exxon, specifically, lied about climate change were published early October in the Los Angeles Times, mirroring a separate but similar investigation by Inside Climate News in September. Those findings set off a storm of outrage, including a probe by the New York Attorney General.

Nelson, a former head of the API task force, told Banerjee that with the growing powers of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the early 1980’s, API decided to shift gears.

“They took the environmental unit and put it into the political department, which was primarily lobbyists,” he said. “They weren’t focused on doing research or on improving the oil industry’s impact on pollution. They were less interested in pushing the envelope of science and more interested in how to make it more advantageous politically or economically for the oil industry. That’s not meant as a criticism. It’s just a fact of life.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 26th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

We are familiar with fossil-fuels industries science arguments – but the new thing that surprised me was that “Truthout” internet site gives them a venue for publicity as in:
 www.truth-out.org/news/item/34152…

“Climate Change 2015: The Latest Science”
Saturday, 26 December 2015 00:00 By Bruce Melton, Truthout | News Analysis

Oh well, but those questionable scientists quoted did push a little too far. They actually claim that Kyoto had it better then Paris – and that Kyoto was going to fulfill Rio. Does that mean that the Truthout Analyst gives away here that the Kyoto fake solution was also sponsored by the oil&coal folks that were active in Kyoto under the mantle of the International Chamber of Commerce?
I must confess here that the ICC at Kyoto turned me of completely when they threw me out when I showed up at one of their meetings. At Kyoto the ICC seemed in close relationship with the US delegation – and there is no secret what I thought of the US sponsored Protocol. Wonders seem to come back and explain themselves!

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 24th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

We wrote our own assessment of the so called Paris Agreement – this after we first submitted it to the OUTREACH MAGAZINE for their final issue of the conference – the evaluation and summary issue.
The material appears here at www.SustainabiliTank.info as – “PARIS2015 or COP21 ENDED IN FIRST SUCCESS IN MATTERS OF CLIMATE CHANGE BECAUSE PRESIDENT OBAMA DID LEARN FROM AL GORE’s MISTAKES.” (December 20th, 2015)

The problem with most assessments that find shortcomings with that agreement comes from the fact that they are authored by peple that were involved in the UN and its conferences that produced absolute nothing and wasted us 20 years. THey were chasing some elusive and impossible dream to get all the cats and dogs to find a meaningful way by consensus on how to handle the need to reduce the use of fossil fuels.

We pick here the assessment we got from Mr. Gleckman now fron Maine and Chappaqua, New York.

He was involved – as he says – via the UNFCCC as Former, Senior Advisor to UNFCCC at the Copenhagen COP15; and was
Former, Chief of the Environment Unit, UN Centre on Transnational Corporations. Both positions that were not positive from my seat at the meetings. Big business was threaded then through the Paris based International Chambers of Commerce chaired by Mobil oil with clear interest to sto;; the whole thing – something the UNFCCC did quite well. Now Mr. Gleckman finds fault with us – those that refuse to continue to hit the UN walls with their head.

The approach he represents is the one that asks for that elusive legal binding agreement that we know we cannot get. So President Obama settled to stay with the voluntary promises by governments – even he knew they will not add up to what is needed. But he also banks correctly on Civil Society to come out from the UN basement and in full daylight demand governments’ honesty and the increase of the voluntary promises to the true needed levels. The first swallow of this kind was the Patrick Sciarratta led rebellion of Civil Society, backed by six UN Member States, against the negatively oriented UN DPI. Patrick succeeded and others will as well. I pot here the Gleckman letter and hope our readers will fill in the voids.

Seven questions about the ‘successful’ Paris COP
asked by Mr. Harris Gleckman of the US.

He writes:

A good number of commentators on the Paris COP have shared views that could be summarized as “COP was a success-but.” Others have appraised the COP as a complete ‘success’ or a fraud .

The ‘success but’ message depends heavily what criteria one has for judging a successful outcome of an international negotiation.

Clearly some countries, UN-system, and some media commentators, have domestic and international rationales for declaring a ‘success’ in Paris – even it is just the act of concluding an agreement irrespective of the contents of the agreement, or whether it actually changes in the world for the better.

The following questions look at the definition of success but in different ways. They are intended to challenge a number of the presumptions behind the assessment of ‘success but’ advocates.

1. Goals and reality: a profound gap – The COP formally adopted a below 2 degree goal and de facto approved a 3.7 degree package of intended nationally determined contributions.

Why is so much post-COP attention on the goal and not on the planet instability of what Governments accepted? Or put in another way should the outcome of the meeting be called the Paris 1.5 degree COP or the Paris 3.7 degree COP ?

2. Free riders galore : – The intended nationally determined contributions are only promises about the future.

Based on the COP outcome, what arguments could be made to a Government that its best short-term economic and political interest is not to cut its emissions and quietly expand its existing industrial system and let everyone else make the GHG cuts ?

3. Five year fictions : Each year that mitigation cuts are postponed means that a higher and sharper level of cuts are needed to bring the carbon budget down to a less than 2.0 degree goal.

If governments in 2015 could formally adopt a below 2 degrees goal with the knowledge that the aggregate impact of the declared nationally determined contributions come to 3.7 degrees, what evidence is there that they would they have even greater political willingness for sharply increased mitigation cuts at five year stocktakings ?

4. A fantastic non-enforcement system : Under most bilateral investment treaties, MNCs can file complaints before a binding arbitration panel that an action taken by a specific Government reduced their expected level of profitability and that the foreign investor should be compensated by that Governments for damages.

As the Paris Agreement invites voluntary national contributions, what arguments can a Government use to defend itself before a binding arbitration panel from a MNC which seeks compensation for loss expected income ?

Climate change does not exist in a vacuum – In the Paris negotiations a good number of important policy areas were deleted by the chairs and host government from the final text of the Paris Agreement.

Why did the Paris COP disconnect climate change from the management of oceans, human rights, gender, workers, mountains, health effects, oil and gas subsidies, international transport emission, climate migrants, carbon black, carbon budget, historical responsibility, the trade regime, agricultural destabilization, etc ?

6. Financial support – now you see it and now you don’t – One outcome of the Copenhagen process five years ago was a commitment to have $100 billion available for developing countries by 2020. Since Copenhagen Governments have recognized that annual costs from 2020 are likely to be 3-5 times larger than the $100 billion ‘commitment’

Is there a greater commitment to have money available for developing countries to reduce GHG emission or prepared for the impacts of climate change in the Paris Agreement than in the ‘failed’ Copenhagen Accord ?

7. Voluntarism, voluntarism – where is the rule of law -

Under the Paris Agreement (and under the Copenhagen Accord) Governments were authorized to submit their voluntary national goal posts and GHG reducing plans to the UNFCCC. Under the Paris Agreement Governments agreed to have a 5 year stocktaking of these plans without any process to adapt these plans to meet the less than 2 degree goal.

Does the practice of voluntary national implementation included in the Paris Agreement enhance or undermine the future development of international rule of law in other environmental, social, human rights and economic regimes?

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Comment and Replies can be sent to

Harris Gleckman
Director, Benchmark Environmental Consulting (Maine & New York)
Former, Senior Advisor to UNFCCC at the Copenhagen COP; and
Former, Chief of the Environment Unit, UN Centre on Transnational Corporations

Harris Gleckman
Principal
Benchmark Environmental Consulting
5 Kipp St,
Chappaqua, NY 10514
914-238-8072
914-330-1207 (c)

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