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Saturday, March 13, 2004

Chinese Dam Plans Threaten Environment

The NY Times ran a major piece on this last wednesday. As China modernizes it is desperate for power and one way that it is attempting to generate it is via damming its river systems. The other is through importing nuclear energy technology from the United States -- something Bush is right now actively promoting, as he uses the federal government as a platform for the industry. By comparison, hydroelectric power would seem relatively clean but unfortunately there many side-effects to dams and their deleterious effects upon regions and habitats are now seen as major problems which may require their not being built. I find it interesting that the Washington Times -- a conservative paper -- ran this article...is it that they felt like bashing the Chinese, or is it that they are looking to promote reasons for a greater nuclear presence within China?

Via: Washington Times

Environmentalists are concerned with China's plans to build an enormous system of dams that would alter a unique ecosystem, the canyons of the Nu River.

The proposal is to build a series of 13 dams along the canyon region, which a U.N. agency has designated a World Heritage Site, The New York Times said Wednesday.

The area is home to old-growth forests, some 7,000 species of plants and 80 rare or endangered animal species.

Even within the Chinese government there is opposition. Last year, China's State Environmental Protection Agency and the Chinese Academy of Sciences publicly criticized the Nu project.

In Yunnan province in southwest China, the Nu project would also force the relocation of as many as 50,000 people, many of them agrarian peasants, the report said.

The project comes as a result of isolated blackouts and power shortages because the country has outstripped its power supply. Proponents also say the country is responding to international pressure to shift from dirtier coal to cleaner energy sources.

Posted by Richard
3/13/2004 06:14:00 PM | PermaLink

 
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Vegan Blog Press

Much thanks to SA Computer Magazine for linking and publicizing this blog in their "Pick of the Blogs" column. It never ceases to amaze me the way blogs get noticed and gain readerships (or fail to do so). I remember people telling me when I started this, "Don't call it 'Vegan Blog' -- it will turn people off and seems too weird." Then, others commented upon its politics after I got going, "It's too radical -- no one will read it." Well, here's the blog inching toward adulthood, being read daily in over twenty countries, and getting props from computer magazines in South Africa. I say this not to toot my own horn, but rather to point out the power of being active and working on one's project. When I began this project I was hoping that the communicative nature of blogs could create a larger democratic audience for vegan issues, which for me mean ecological and animal politics and culture. I was hoping simply to get the word "vegan" out into the blogosphere and have it become more common and less intimidating. I never could have imagined how much success awaited!

Posted by Richard
3/10/2004 06:25:53 PM | PermaLink

 
Tuesday, March 09, 2004

UN study: Think Upgrade Before Buying a New PC

Much thanks to Jessica for this one. As I wrote to her, this article is misleading in painting Dell as a progressive company as regards e-waste, though the recycling program is certainly a step towards a better direction. Also, while I agree with the authors that users need to upgrade and buy more durable systems rather than replacing at the speed of Moore's law, the article is misguided in assigning consumers the main role in solving the problem. What is needed is far stricter production and commercial regulation on the IT industry generally, in my opinion.

Via: Infoworld

A United Nations University study into the environmental impact of personal computers, due to be published later Monday, has found that around 1.8 tons of raw material are required to manufacture the average desktop PC and monitor and that extending a machine's operational life through re-use holds a much greater potential for energy saving than recycling.

According to the study, the manufacturing of one desktop computer and 17-inch CRT (cathode ray tube) monitor requires at least 240 kilograms of fossil fuels, 22 kilograms of chemicals and 1,500 kilograms of water. In terms of weight, the total amount of materials used is about equal to that of a mid-size car.

By far the best way to minimize impact on the environment from a personal computer is to extend its useful life, said Eric Williams, a researcher at the United Nations University (UNU) in Tokyo and one of the report's co-authors.

Users should think carefully about whether they really need a new computer, if upgrading their existing computer could serve the same purpose, he said. Actions such as delaying replacement and upgrading the memory or storage space or, if the machine is replaced, donating the old computer so that it may continue to be used offer potential energy savings of between five and 20 times those gained by recycling.

This is because so much of the energy required to manufacture a personal computer is used to make high-tech components like semiconductors and those components are destroyed in the recycling process to collect a small amount of raw materials. In an earlier study published in late 2002, Williams concluded that 1.7 kilograms of fossil fuels and chemicals and 32 kilograms of water are used to produce a single 2-gram 32M-byte DRAM (dynamic RAM) memory chip.

Seemingly endless advances in technology are encouraging people to replace their machines and falling prices are making replacement a more attractive option that upgrading and have users accustomed to a two-year to three-year upgrade cycle.

"It's a big problem," said Williams.

However, there are some encouraging signs. In the corporate market machines supplied under service contracts often have a good chance of being re-used thanks to programs offered by the equipment suppliers, such as Dell Inc.

The vendor has seen a tremendous increase in the number of machines it receives from customers for processing before either recycling or donation to agencies such as the National Cristina Foundation, said Tod Arbogast, senior manager of asset recovery services at Dell.

He said Dell has handled millions of machines since 1992 when it started offering its asset recovery service, which costs around $25 per machine and includes collection, transportation and reporting and, for personal computers, destruction of data on the hard-disk drive. The service is available in the U.S., Europe and select countries in Asia and Latin America. Around two fifths of Dell's commercial customers participate.

"We believe no computer should go to waste," he said. "The ultimate solution is to reuse the computer either as a donation, for parts or on the second-hand market."

The market in used computers for private users is growing as technologies like Internet auctions allow users to quickly advertise their old machine to several potential customers. The market for used computer equipment on eBay was around two billion dollars in 2001, said Williams.

When it comes to replacing equipment there is one piece of advice that Williams offers both private and corporate users: do something with your old machine quickly.

"The longer it sits in your closet (or desk), the less value it will be to you and whoever will be getting it."

The report also looks at energy use and says always-on networks are making the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Energy Star program less relevant.

"I think it needs to be renewed," said Williams. Too many computers at companies are prevented from entering their standby mode by LAN traffic, which keeps them awake and consuming power even while they are not in use, he said. While acknowledging that some machines are kept online to allow network maintenance to take place, Williams suggests redesigning network cards to allow the PC to go to sleep and then wake it should there be any important network traffic.

Nonresidential office and telecommunications equipment consumed around 3 percent of all electricity supplied in the U.S. in 2000, according to a January 2002 DOE study. Of that, around 40 percent was consumed by personal computers and associated monitors.

The report, "Computers and the Environment: Understanding and Managing their Impacts," is published by Kluwer Academic Publishers and the UNU and is available in paperback (ISBN: 1-4020-1680-8) or hard cover (ISBN: 1-4020-1679-4) editions and costs $35 and $83, respectively. The UNU's dedicated Web site related to IT and the environment is http://www.it-environment.org.

Posted by Richard
3/09/2004 07:09:47 PM | PermaLink

 
Monday, March 08, 2004

Strategizing the Ecologically Sustainable Working Class Globally

This is a very complex issue that suffered terribly a decade ago under the mantra of "Spotted Owls" -- where Greens were paraded as tree hugging, absolutist lunatics who cared more about a few members of a nearly extinct species than the lives and professions of a community and where workers were posterized as ass-busting and practical-minded "real men" who chopped down five or six giant redwoods and spit out the saw dust before even breaking for their morning coffee and a call home to their sweetie. The authors of this article compile a decent summary and history of recent problems and successes in the attempt to organize and catalyze a new critical consciousness between the two groups. There is no question that so-called Environmental (or Ecological) Justice is the place that issues of Race/Class/Gender and Nature/Species meet up most often, as opposed to more purely Green ideological wings such as Deep Ecology. A question remains, however, if nature and species can receive a fair hearing in EJ circles or if anthropocentrism (human-centered thinking and feeling) remains too dominant a model of experience. I have seen both reasons for hope and reasons for doubt. Still, hope is only fostered through action and so ultimately I agree with the authors of this paper that those concerned with the protection of nature and species engage EJ debates and actions vigorously.

Via: Journal of World-Systems Research: Special Issue on Global Social Movements Before and After 9-11

Blue-Green Coalitions: Constraints and Possibilities in the Post 9-11 Political Environment (PDF)

Abstract
By Kenneth A. Gould, Tammy L. Lewis, & J. Timmons Roberts

Workers and environmentalists in the United States have often found themselves on opposite sides of critical issues. Yet at the WTO meeting in Seattle in November 1999, they came together in a historic protest many see as a watershed in the formation of a new blue-green "Seattle Coalition." However the two camps are again in conflict over substantive issues, and in the changed political climate of post 9-11, the question arises of the coalition's durability. The paper first briefly reviews the history of labor-environment interactions in the United States. It then examines a series of problems and potential areas of promise for the movements: difficulties of coalition-building, expectations of reciprocation, local vs. national connections, and the question of differing class cultures and interests. Finally, three areas of potential research and action are suggested: new roles for the mainstream environmental groups, just transition alliances and climate justice alliances. We propose that the environmental justice and environmental health wings of the green movement are more suited to making long-term coalitions with labor than are habitat-oriented green groups.

Posted by Richard
3/08/2004 08:46:56 AM | PermaLink

 
Sunday, March 07, 2004

Study Highlights Global Threats to Bird Populations

Via: Reuters

A new report by BirdLife International says more than 1,000 of the world's birds face extinction and that agricultural expansion in Africa and unsustainable forestry in the tropics pose grave threats.

The report, "State of the World's Birds 2004," brings together for the first time in one document the existing research about the status and distribution of the world's birds.

Some of its key findings include:

- One in eight of the world's birds -- or 1,211 species in total -- faces extinction.

- Over 7,500 sites in nearly 170 countries have been identified as important bird areas.

- Agricultural expansion and intensification threaten 50 percent of important bird areas in Africa.

- Sixty-four percent of globally threatened birds, most of them in the tropics, are threatened by unsustainable forestry.

- Alien invasive species threaten 67 percent of the endangered species on oceanic islands.

- In total, 129 bird species have been classified as extinct since 1500.

"State of the world's birds presents firm evidence that we are losing birds and other biodiversity at an alarming and ever increasing rate," said BirdLife Director Michael Rands.

The report, which was released on Monday, also highlights some success stories which it says show what can be done to save species from extinction.

For example, it says the short-tailed albatross was thought to be extinct until its rediscovery in small numbers on Tori-shima, off Japan, in the 1950s.

Since then, habitat management in the Pacific and improved commercial fishing methods which do not accidentally hook birds have helped numbers recover to around 1,200 pairs.

The black robin, endemic to the Chatham Islands off New Zealand, was reduced to just five individuals in 1980 -- the smallest population of any bird species for which precise numbers were known.

It was pulled back from the brink of extinction through nest protection and supplementary feeding and now numbers around 250.

Birds are recognised by biologists as "indicator species" as their status highlights the health of the broader environment.

"The decline of bird populations in many parts of the world is of considerable concern, indicating a fundamental flaw in the way that we treat our environment," says the report.

BirdLife international is a global alliance of conservation groups and the report has been released to coincide with a week-long BirdLife International World Conservation Conference in Durban, which began on Sunday.

It brings together 350 experts from over 100 countries who will examine and debate issues in global bird conservation.

Posted by Richard
3/07/2004 11:29:01 PM | PermaLink