Saturday, September 29, 2007

Supply and Demand Efficiency and Climate Change

By: Stewart Brennan

Is it just me, or does anyone else get sick to their stomachs when American President George Bush or Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, open their foul mouths about being World leaders in the battle against Global Warming and Climate Change? They do not address the real issues of growing pollution, deforestation, and lack real planning on energy issues. Given their poor records in other humanitarian areas, I would say that they do not really care about the fate of humanity.

Global Warming and Climate change are Important Questions to discuss but what is the REAL Underlying culprit(s) or cause(s)?

There are a lot of arguments that point to symptoms of “Climate Change” with just as many conflicting opinions against. Many people argue on statements from knowledge and some with just their strong beliefs. Questions you might hear or ask are; has there been a shift in weather patterns in your area? Are Glaciers melting fast? Is there flooding because of it? Is the Arctic Ice Cap shrinking faster?

I think we need to look at this topic from a different perspective. If we are to take things seriously we need to be logical in our approach and ask the right questions. The questions we should be asking are; does an increasing World Population have an increasing demand for consumer products? Are we creating more waste, garbage and pollution because of our increasing demands? What is happening to the waste we are creating? Will the demands on our resources decline? What happens if our natural resources decline considerably from demand? Can we organize change?

To some, more garbage means more jobs, to others; more garbage means more air, water, and soil pollution. Are we in a hurry to profit and overlook the impact our demands are having on the environment, or should we regulate our production by caring about our environment and the role we play in it. The issues should not be polar division between us, but a problem to solve together. Cooperation and progress starts with agreement.


We are about 6.5 Billion people in the World today and rising. Global population numbers cannot climb forever. To free market enterprisers and Imperialists that means more money from the products they sell. But for the planet, it means, increased demand for food, water, living space, and energy. There needs to be an equal amount of energy put into planning to offset the demand. The estimated population growth is 9.1 billion by 2050, unless a major die off happens, or people abstain from procreation.

There are so many accelerated demands on our planets finite resources. I don’t know if we have passed a tipping point under the current world economic schemes and drivers or not. I do know however, that if we continue on this wasteful path, we will ultimately destroy our freedoms and ourselves in the process. Our society with its corporate profit drivers will push our planet to the very brink of calamity if we do not agree to act on changing our habits.

The recent demand for material in the heavily populated nations of Asia is accelerating our Planet to a critical point. What is the root cause of this problem? Is it the human demand, governing systems, Corporate Imperialism, or a combination of these things? Let’s not look at pointing fingers. Instead, lets look at solutions by working together.

Did I leave out oxygen?

Our planets oxygen supply is a process from our plants and vegetation in our forests and oceans that remove the carbon element from CO2 to create O2. If we continue to cut our forests down to sustain our growing needs, something is going to give. That is doubly so for the oceans. What it boils down to is that there will be less oxygen in the atmosphere and more gases such as methane and CO2. Our symbiotic relationship with nature has become industrial and corrosive. The continued reduction of our forests and poisoning of our oceans along with increased CO2 and methane gases from decay are what we need to focus on. We need to reverse our destruction of nature or mankind will drive head first into a wall called “Extinction”.

We are no longer able to maintain a supply of materials to a growing demand without grave consequences to the supply area. We are going to have to change our habits and give up some of the luxuries we enjoy if we are to make a significant lasting change to our continued survival. At some point in the near future, areas of the World will no longer be able to sustain themselves with even the basic fundamentals for survival, “Food, and Water”. Many people choose to ignore this fact but it is already happening in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

China has recently moved into the Industrial age from an agricultural society. In short, the demand for food is outstripping our domestic ability to supply itself. China and many countries including the United States, import a large portion of food to sustain its demand.

Growing areas on the Planet must increase to match the increase in population, which means more deforestation. The burden on our oceans also poses problems from over fishing and bottom dredging.


The real solutions will come from people like you! People show a willingness to tackle menacing problems together, but right now the American, and Canadian Governments are stopping us from solving these problems by procrastinating and pretending they have a plan.

Making society efficient is up to all of us. We need to take an active role in maintaining and improving our recycling systems. It isn’t enough however for just you and I to make these changes. We need strict laws to regulate corporate waste plans and a Research Institution for structural planning with research results turned into reality. The goal is zero waste or as close to zero waste as you can possibly get. I think we need to TELL our governments to create this institution where our best and brightest gather to tackle these important issues. Call it a concrete address for us to send ideas to or visit with a garage built contraption. Are you with me?

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

This is a reply to: The Climate Change Peril that Insurers See – Washington Post


  1. Lake Lanier Has Three Months of Water Storage Left
    By Stacy Shelton
    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
    Thursday 11 October 2007
    Lake Sidney Lanier, metro Atlanta's main source of water, has about three months of storage left, according to state and federal officials.
    That's three months before there's not enough water for more than 3 million metro Atlantans to take showers, flush their toilets and cook. Three months before there's not enough water in parts of the Chattahoochee River for power plants to make the steam necessary to generate electricity. Three months before part of the river runs dry.
    "We've never experienced this situation before," state Environmental Protection Division Director Carol Couch said of the record-breaking drought and fast-falling lake.
    In two weeks, Couch plans to give Gov. Sonny Perdue a list of options to further restrict water use by businesses and industries, along with an analysis of potential water savings and estimated job losses. Some exemptions to the state's ban on outdoor watering in north Georgia could end, including those applied to water-dependent businesses such as car washes, pressure washing companies and landscapers. Couch's staff is still working on the details.
    She said she fully expects an economic hit if substantial rain doesn't fall soon and the emergency actions are taken.
    "There has to be a balance between determining how much water we can conserve against how much lost jobs and lost economy there is," Couch said. "You don't do that lightly."
    Landscapers already have suffered. Days after the outdoor ban was ordered Sept. 28, Mary Kay Woodworth of the Urban Agriculture Council trade group said landscapers' phones around the region stopped ringing. "Immediately, employees were laid off. Contracts waiting on signatures - from $3,000 jobs to $150,000 installations - were canceled."
    Other heavy water users are considering their options. A Pepsico Inc. plant that produces Gatorade, which is the biggest water user in the city of Atlanta, is figuring out ways to cut down further on its use in the next 30 days. Coca-Cola is waiting to see what restrictions might be imposed at its Atlanta syrup plant, but has already cut back as part of a corporate water conservation plan.
    Some water providers are asking big users like manufacturers to voluntarily cut back and are making emergency plans to install equipment to pump water from unprecedented depths of Lanier and the Chattahoochee.
    Fate Depends on Corps
    How bad things could get depends on rain, and the forecast is not promising. October is normally the year's driest month, and climatologists say another dry, warm winter is ahead.
    Metro Atlanta's water fate also depends largely on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency that owns and operates Buford Dam and the 38,000-acre lake that sits behind it, bordered by Gwinnett, Hall and Forysth Counties. This month, the Corps has released from Lanier more than four times as much water as flows in from the Chattahoochee and other feeder streams. But that's far less than last month, when the Corps released 35 times as much water out of Lanier than flowed in.
    More than a billion gallons leave the lake every day, more than twice the amount metro Atlanta uses. Much of it flows past the city into West Point Lake, another federal reservoir near LaGrange, then along the Alabama border and eventually to Florida and the Gulf of Mexico.
    Pat Stevens, an environmental planner for the Atlanta Regional Commission who regularly keeps tabs on how much water is available for Fulton, Gwinnett, Cobb, DeKalb and other metro Atlanta governments, said the Corps' "wastes water unnaturally."
    "When you move into a drought like we've moved into, you'll drain the system," Stevens said.
    The Corps' water releases are based on two key requirements: the minimum flow needed to operate Plant Scholtz, Gulf Power's small coal-fired facility just below Lake Seminole, and federal mandates to protect two mussel species in a Florida river.
    If the Chattahoochee were undammed and running freely, Mother Nature would be providing only half the water the Corps is sending, Corps officials have said.
    Val Perry Jr., a homeowner and officer of the Lake Lanier Association, told the Corps last week that "If there were no dams at all, some mussels would die and [the species would] not become extinct.... Does a couple of mussels trump 5 million people? What I hear from the Corps is that the answer to that is yes."
    Together with Lanier, four other federal lakes on the Chattahoochee combine to send water toward the Apalachicola River in Florida, which is formed by the waters of Georgia's Chattahoochee and Flint rivers. But no one knows whether the mussels - the endangered fat three ridge and threatened purple bank climber - actually need the 3 billion gallons they get every day.
    "The real big question is how low can you go to not allow the species to go down the slippery slope of extinction?" said Sandra Tucker, a field supervisor with the wildlife service in Georgia. "Those are things we just really don't know."
    But even if the mussels could survive with less water, the coal plant could not, said Lynn Erickson, a Gulf Power spokeswoman. The plant, which opened in 1953 and produces enough electricity to power as many as 19,000 homes, had to lower its water withdrawal pipe on the Apalachicola River about 25 years ago. To go lower probably wouldn't be cost effective, Erickson said.
    "This is a small plant in the whole scheme of things," Erickson said. "But it's a critical piece of the whole system." It ensures reliability for an entire region that includes Tallahassee, southeast Alabama and southwest Georgia.
    State and regional representatives, including Couch and Georgia's congressional delegation, have been asking the Corps to reconsider its releases for the power plant and the mussels for more than a year. So far, the answer has been no.
    "We are required to maintain [the minimum flow]," said Corps spokeswoman Lisa Coghlan. "As we march on, we're going to seriously be looking at our emergency operations and how we provide relief."
    The Corps last month predicted Lanier, in the worst-case scenario, could drop another 19 feet by the end of the year to set a new historic low that would threaten metro Atlanta's drinking supply sometime next year.
    Mark Crisp, a water expert in Atlanta with the national consulting firm C.H. Guernsey & Co., has said for years that metro Atlanta is asking too much from Lanier. Most of the region's population - and one-third of the state's population - rely on the smallest river basin in the Georgia. In fact, it's the largest metropolitan region in the country depending on a river so small.
    As Couch put it, "All our eggs are in one basket."
    Now Crisp's warnings seem even more prescient. The active storm season that rescued the state during the last drought - from 1998 to 2002 - is unlikely.
    "We're already on the downside of the hurricane season so that hope and a prayer has pretty much gone away," said Crisp, whose clients include customers buying electricity generated at Lanier's Buford Dam. "At this point, as bad as it has gotten, we've got to start thinking about the doomsday, at least saying to each other, 'How are we going to handle it if it comes?'"
    Stevens, the ARC's environmental planner, said she "doesn't even want to think about" the fallout if Lanier drops to 31 feet below its full level.
    Perdue spokesman Bert Brantley said the state has fought in the tri-state legal water wars and has restricted outdoor watering, with the worst-case scenario in mind.
    "The Level 4 declaration is just the latest step in asking Georgians to do their part to conserve as much of our existing resources as possible."
    If that's not enough, the first sign of trouble for metro Atlantans could be lowered water pressure, as the water systems strain to pull water out of a dwindling river and lake.
    Corps Acknowledged Mistake
    Compounding this year's problem was a huge mistake by the Corps in 2006.
    That spring, just as the drought was beginning, the Corps released billions of gallons of additional water from Lanier to the Apalachicola River, for the spawning season of the threatened Gulf sturgeon. So few of the prehistoric fish remain that a federal biologist in Florida has estimated fewer than 10 females are able to spawn in any given year.
    The Corps discovered it had relied on a faulty gauge to measure Lanier's level - overestimating the amount of water left in the lake by nearly 2 feet. That meant the Corps had accidentally released 22 billion gallons of water: enough to supply metro Atlanta's needs for about a month and a half.
    EPD Director Couch first sent out a warning in June of last year that metro Atlanta's drinking water supply was in jeopardy, thanks to the Corps' releases, which she said were twice the amount needed for the threatened fish. The Corps has since acknowledged it released more water than needed.
    That same month, the state sued the Corps, seeking to reduce the amount of water headed across the border to Florida. A flurry of hearings last summer failed to resolve the matter. Florida and Alabama also have complaints about the Corps' management of the Chattahoochee River. A 17-year legal battle is wending its way through the federal courts.
    But, even if the courts decide to reduce the releases, and the region is deluged with rain, that may only delay the inevitable, some say, because metro Atlanta is outgrowing its water sources.
    "Our Culture Has to Change"
    An $8 million water plan for metro Atlanta completed in 2003 is based on the generally accepted assumption that this region can remove an average of 705 million gallons of water a day from Lanier and the upper Chattahoochee. But state officials have long thought that the area won't reach that level of water use until 2030.
    Metro Atlanta is already more than halfway there, and over the next 25 years another 1.6 million people are expected to share the water.
    And the original assumption was based on some major "ifs:" if additional reservoirs are built; if aggressive conservation measures are enacted; if additional water is pumped from Lake Allatoona to the Chattahoochee basin; if metro Atlanta is allowed to use more of the water in Lanier instead of sending it downstream to Alabama and Florida.
    Given the current drought, those underlying assumptions are suspect.
    Crisp now estimates metro Atlanta could reach its water limit as early as 2018, assuming continued growth in population.
    "Our culture has to change," said Crisp, who lives on Allatoona, which has dropped to levels not often seen at this time of year. "We have been a water-rich region all of our lives, never having to worry about water.... The attention that is paid to water goes away as soon as we start having rain again.
    "We're going to have another drought after this one," he said. "When we can't guess, but we can be assured we'll have another drought that's actually worse than this one.... With that in mind, our planners have to start looking at this in terms of how many more families, how many more businesses, how many more gallons of water can we allocate out of the Chattahoochee River."

    Staff writers Matt Kempner and Duane Stanford contributed to this story.

  2. Everyday People: Astoria Couple Throws Out Lifeboat of Ideas to Save Energy, Resources
    By Kara Hansen
    The Daily Astorian
    Monday 08 October 2007
    After spending two years working to convert a 1970s Tudor-style Astoria home into a low-impact, energy-independent household, Caren Black and Christopher Paddon are finally going off the grid - or coming as close as possible to being entirely self-sufficient.
    That means making no purchases, producing no garbage, cutting off all outside utilities and fueling their Honda hybrid with just one tank of gas over the entire month of October.
    And they'd like their North Coast neighbors to do the same.
    "We cannot continue to use and waste power. People are going to have to learn to conserve," said Black, a longtime teacher and school administrator from California. "That's one of the reasons for this challenge: Learn while you can, while you're still on the grid. It's easier to learn now, when if you make a mistake there's still backup."
    For Black and Paddon, their October Green Fest is a "test" of the homestead they've developed, "a time to check and see how we're doing," according to the couple, who began the nonprofit Titanic Lifeboat Academy in 2005 for education and research on issues related to peak oil - the uppermost point before global oil production descends into terminal decline. They also hoped their home could become a sort of demonstration center for sustainable lifestyles, systems and technologies.
    "The whole point of coming here was to found a homestead that was self-sufficient and erase the footprint," said Black, who is also involved with the county's Community Emergency Response Team. "If we can take this house off the grid, if we can erase the footprint of this house, anyone can do it."
    Paddon, a volunteer firefighter for the Lewis and Clark fire district who has worked in industrial design, as a solar-panel installer and once managed a 40-acre ranch in California, added insulation to the home and installed thermal windows. Two goats provide the couple with milk; chickens supply eggs and fertilizer. They also recycle rainwater, using much of it to irrigate a garden and the property's scattered fruit and nut trees.
    However, while they can generate about half of their monthly electricity with solar panels on the roof (about 10 kilowatt-hours per day) and a wind turbine (about 6 kWh) in their front yard, unplugging from outside utilities is nearly impossible.
    "Both of those systems are grid-tied so any excess (energy) we produce is fed back into the grid system," said Paddon. "If we just disconnected from the grid completely, we would lose the advantage of being able to bank any surplus energy we produce and then use it later."
    And while Earth-friendly technologies will help in the struggle to save oil and slow climate change, they won't solve the overall problem, the couple explained.
    "What will replace this energy is not some new alternative or some new technology," said Black.
    "Technology will not save us," said Paddon. "But if we use and conserve the amount of oil that's left - a scarce amount of oil - we can make that transition easier and the fall a little bit softer."
    Efforts to cut back on energy use can be fairly simple, they said, such as changing out standard lights for energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs; eliminating purchasing for a week; or starting a carpool. They also recommended eating foods in-season and buying only local, organic products, which reduces the need to fuel trucks for shipping it across the country.
    Despite growing awareness of resource depletion and global climate change, they said more needs to be done.
    "We have a heightened sense of urgency," Paddon said.
    "People who insist on living in yesterday are making tomorrow way more difficult than it needs to be," said Black. "People aren't willing to stop to really look at how we're consuming and what the patterns are and what needs to change. There's going to be no easy way down off the cliff, other than straight down."

  3. Our Drinkable Water Supply Is Vanishing
    By Tara Lohan
    Thursday 11 October 2007
    Thanks to global warming, pollution, population growth, and privatization, we are teetering on the edge of a global crisis.
    Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, the Hungarian biochemist and Nobel Prize winner for medicine once said, "Water is life's matter and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water."
    We depend on water for survival. It circulates through our bodies and the land, replenishing nutrients and carrying away waste. It is passed down like stories over generations - from ice-capped mountains to rivers to oceans.
    Historically water has been a facet of ritual, a place of gathering and the backbone of community.
    But times have changed. "In an age when man has forgotten his origins and is blind even to his most essential needs for survival, water has become the victim of his indifference," Rachel Carson wrote.
    As a result, today, 35 years since the passage of the Clean Water Act, we find ourselves are teetering on the edge of a global crisis that is being exacerbated by climate change, which is shrinking glaciers and raising sea levels.
    We are faced with thoughtless development that paves flood plains and destroys wetlands; dams that displace native people and scar watersheds; unchecked industrial growth that pollutes water sources; and rising rates of consumption that nature can't match. Increasingly, we are also threatened by the wave of privatization that is sweeping across the world, turning water from a precious public resource into a commodity for economic gain.
    The problems extend from the global north to the south and are as pervasive as water itself. Equally encompassing are the politics of water. Discussions about our water crisis include issues like poverty, trade, community and privatization. In talking about water, we must also talk about indigenous rights, environmental justice, education, corporate accountability, and democracy. In this mix of terms are not only the causes of our crisis but also the solutions.
    What's Gone Wrong?
    As our world heats up, as pollution increases, as population grows and as our globe's resources of fresh water are tapped, we are faced with an environmental and humanitarian problem of mammoth proportions.
    Demand for water is doubling every 20 years, outpacing population growth twice as fast. Currently 1.3 billion people don't have access to clean water and 2.5 billion lack proper sewage and sanitation. In less than 20 years, it is estimated that demand for fresh water will exceed the world's supply by over 50 percent.
    The biggest drain on our water sources is agriculture, which accounts for 70 percent of the water used worldwide - much of which is subsidized in the industrial world, providing little incentive for agribusiness to use conservation measures or less water-intensive crops.
    This number is also likely to increase as we struggle to feed a growing world. Population is expected to rise from 6 billion to 8 billion by 2050.
    Water scarcity is not just an issue of the developing world. "Twenty-one percent of irrigation in the United States is achieved by pumping groundwater at rates that exceed the water's ability to recharge," wrote water experts Tony Clarke of the Polaris Institute and Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians in their landmark water book Blue Gold: The Fight to Stop the Corporate Theft of the World's Water.
    The Ogallala aquifer - the largest in the North America and a major source for agriculture stretching from Texas to South Dakota - is currently being pumped at a rate 14 times greater than it can be replenished, they wrote. And, across the country, "California's Department of Water Resources predicts that, by 2020, if more supplies are not found, the state will face a shortfall of fresh water nearly as great as the amount that all of its cities and towns together are consuming today," add Clarke and Barlow.
    Demand is outstripping supply from the rainy Seattle area to desert cities like Tucson and Albuquerque. And from Midwest farming regions to East Coast cities.
    The crisis is also worldwide, most noticeable in Mexico, the Middle East, China and Africa.
    As population growth, development, consumption and pollution take its toll on our water resources, the ability to fight this problem has been further complicated by the spread of neoliberalism. The same ideas that have resulted in the booty of private contracts being doled out in Iraq also have contributed greatly to our water crisis. Neoliberalism is the belief in "economic liberalism," which espoused that government control over the economy was bad. It opened up the commons to commodification and let corporations privatize what once belonged to the public.
    In 2000 Fortune magazine printed this telling statement: "Water promises to be to the 21st century what oil was to the 20th century; the precious commodity that determines the wealth of nations."
    It has oft been expressed that the next resource wars will not be over oil - or energy at all - but over water. As the idea of neoliberalism, proliferated by institutions like the World Bank and the IMF, spread, the public sector has become dangerously privatized. And it may not be the wealth of nations on the line - but the wealth of corporations.
    A senior executive at a subsidiary of Vivendi, the world's largest water controller summed it up, "Water is a critical and necessary ingredient to the daily life of every human being, and it is an equally powerful ingredient for profitable manufacturing companies."
    But when private companies control water resources, people's needs for survival are pushed aside in place of the bottom line. In Africa, an estimated 5 million people die each year for lack of safe drinking water. And yet Africa, with its many cash-strapped countries, is targeted by multinationals that force governments to turn over their public water systems in exchange for promises of debt relief.
    When corporations control water, rates go up, services go down, and those who can't afford to pay are forced to drink unsafe water, risking their lives. This has happened across the world - in South Africa, in Bolivia, in the United States.
    This same philosophy of corporate control drives the construction of dams, which have displaced an estimated 80 million people worldwide. In India alone, over 4,000 dams have submerged 37,500 square kilometers of land and forced 42 million people from their homes.
    Multinationals looking to cash in on the water business have also made giant inroads in selling bottled water in richer countries. Expensive marketing campaigns convince people that their tap water is unsafe to drink. Then, companies like Coke and Pepsi bottle municipal tap water and others like Nestle pilfer spring water from rural communities and resell it at huge profits.
    The water crisis may be growing, but so is resistance to privatization as communities are fighting back against the corporate control of the world's most vital resource.
    How We Can Fix It
    We need water to survive, not just as individuals, but as communities. Author John Thorson put it perfectly when he said, "Water links us to our neighbor in a way more profound and complex than any other."
    Just ask the people of the Klamath Basin of Southern Oregon and Northern California. They've experienced water wars for the last hundred years that have pitted neighbor against neighbor and tribal member against farmer.
    Native American tribes in the region - the Klamath, Hoopa, Karuk, and Yaruk - with priority rights to water, have struggled with farmers over limited water resources. Nature has been unable to deliver as much water as the government has promised to farmers and tribal members, as well as downstream fishermen. With not enough water in the river, either crops have failed or fish have died, creating community strife and economic hardship.
    But in the last year, things have begun to change. These groups have formed a coalition to save the river they all depend on for survival. They are sitting at the same table and finally beginning to hear from each other about the needs of farmers, the value of subsistence economies, the history of families on the river, the ceremony that comes with the salmon runs, the rights of nature.
    Together, this unlikely alliance is taking on PacifiCorp, one of the largest multinational power companies, whose out-of-date dams are threatening the ecosystem and the economy of the region.
    And just over the peak of Mount Shasta another community and tribe are battling to save their spring water from Nestle, which hopes to tap the community's greatest asset for its own wealth.
    The people of the small town of McCloud and the Winnemem Wintu tribe are fighting back, and they are not alone. Across the country a backlash to the bottled-water business is gaining steam. Fancy restaurants like California's Chez Panisse, Incanto, and Poggio and New York's Del Posto have gotten on board. San Francisco has also led the way among municipalities that are beginning to cancel their bottled water contracts, understanding the great harm the industry does to the environment and communities.
    It is not just bottled water that has posed a problem, but private companies buying out municipal water systems and then raising rates and lowering services. One the best examples is Stockton, Calif., which went private in the largest "public-private partnership" in the West. Since 2001 the people of Stockton have been fighting for control of their water against a multinational consortium.
    The case gained international attention when it was featured in the film and book Thirst: Fighting the Corporate Theft of Our Water. The public finally won out in July, when the city council voted to get rid of the 20-year contract and send the corporation packing.
    The citizen groups that have been working to defend their communities are being supported by many national and international groups pushing back against corporate control and empowering people - groups like Tony Clarke's Polaris Institute in Canada, which has focused on public education and research around issues like the privatization of water services, bulk water exports, water security and bottled water.
    In the United States, Corporate Accountability International is encouraging people to drink tap water over bottled water with their "Think Outside the Bottle Campaign." They are working to educate the public, as well as city governments and businesses, with great success.
    And today, on the 35th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, Food & Water Watch, is sponsoring a National Call-In Day for action on clean water to urge representatives to support the creation of a clean water trust fund, "which is a long-term, sustainable, and reliable source of funding to upgrade and improve our public water systems." The organization has been working to protect public water systems from private takeover and to help fund municipal water so that all residents have clean, safe and affordable water.
    The movement extends across the country and the world as people are also rebelling against the corporate takeover of their municipal water systems - in California, in Ghana, in Brazil, in Canada, in France, in Indonesia - and the list goes on.
    Opposition to corporate control is rooted in the belief that water is part of the commons. Everyone should have access to clean water, regardless of their level of income or their country's international standing.
    In order to ensure that all people have access to clean, affordable water, we need to make some changes.
    Some see technology as the necessary fix - or at least a step in the right direction. As the BBC reports:
    New technology can help, however, especially by cleaning up pollution and so making more water useable, and in agriculture, where water use can be made far more efficient. Drought-resistant plants can also help.
    Drip irrigation drastically cuts the amount of water needed, low-pressure sprinklers are an improvement, and even building simple earth walls to trap rainfall is helpful.
    Some countries are now treating waste water so that it can be used - and drunk - several times over.
    Desalinization makes sea water available, but takes huge quantities of energy and leaves vast amounts of brine.
    But many warn against relying on a "techno-fix" to solve our problems.
    Water experts argue that we need to reduce consumption on individual and community levels. Author Tony Clarke advises working with those closest to the problems, such as helping farmers to develop a more sustainable agriculture system. And the same goes for industry. Looking to the folks who have been on the land longest, like indigenous and traditional cultures, will also help us learn how an ecosystem works.
    And experts say that we also need to start developing a comprehensive water policy that goes from the regional to international level. The World Bank and United Nations have the capability to change the designation of water from a human need to a human right, ensuring that corporations can't exploit this resource for economic gain, as Clarke and Barlow advocate for in Blue Gold.
    Governments should be investing in their people, in conservation and in the infrastructure that we depend on to access clean, affordable water.
    It ultimately comes down to an issue of democracy. "We came to see that the conflicts over water are really about fundamental questions of democracy itself: Who will make the decisions that affect our future, and who will be excluded?" wrote Alan Snitow, Deborah Kaufman and Michael Fox in their recent book Thirst. "And if citizens no longer control their most basic resource, their water, do they really control anything at all?"

    Tara Lohan is a managing editor at AlterNet.

    Go to Original
    Egypt: After Summer Shortages, Promise of Water Runs Dry
    By Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani
    Inter Press Service
    Thursday 11 October 2007
    Cairo - This summer saw a spate of severe water shortages throughout the country, leading to numerous protests by frustrated - and thirsty - citizens. Egypt has seen its share of political demonstrations in recent years, but the latest water protests are the first time that ordinary people have taken to the streets to demand a basic service.
    "The recent demonstrations show that citizens have lost faith in longstanding government promises to provide them with adequate drinking water," Mohamed Nagi, head of the Cairo-based Habi Centre for Environmental Rights, told IPS. "Until now, very little has really been accomplished to solve the water scarcity problem, which grows worse every year."
    The issue first exploded in early July, when hundreds of residents of the Nile Delta's Kafr al-Sheikh province, frustrated by months-long water shortages, blocked a nearby highway for several hours. According to reports in the local press, angry protestors brought traffic to a standstill, demanding clean drinking water for their villages and households.
    Only a few days later, another protest - this time an estimated 3,000-strong - was held by residents of the Gharbiya province, also in the Nile Delta. According to official daily al-Ahram, the crisis in Gharbiya ended on Jul. 10 with the government dispatching a number of water-laden trucks to the area as a "temporary solution".
    According to Nagi, the breakdown of state-run water distribution networks is an all too common problem.
    "Water purification projects often cease functioning for long periods due to under-funding by the state, and official neglect," he said. Nagi went on to attribute the increasing cases of water deficiency to provincial corruption, insufficient planning and slapdash construction.
    "Meanwhile, those who suffer most from shortages of drinking water are those of the lowest-income classes, who don't have much political voice," he added.
    After continued reports of shortages throughout the country, President Hosni Mubarak called on the cabinet to launch an "urgent plan" to ensure that all Egyptians enjoy sufficient access to potable water. On Jul. 25, the cabinet announced that a total of 1 billion Egyptian pounds (180 million dollars) would be allocated to construction of small water purification centres in and around shortage prone areas.
    Nevertheless, the following months saw similar protests in several other areas of the country where local water distribution networks have functioned erratically for months or years. During July, August and September, popular demonstrations - many joined by thousands - were reported in the provinces of Alexandria, Giza and Marsa Matruh, among others.
    Dubbing the protests a "revolution of the thirsty", the local press - both official and independent - carried headline news throughout the summer about the ongoing shortages. Newspapers often featured front-page pictures of citizens frantically queuing for meagre water rations, or angrily shaking empty water cans.
    In early August, al-Ahram cited a study by the Cairo-based Centre for Rural Studies that found that an estimated five million Egyptians - in a population of 80 million - lack sufficient access to clean drinking water. Shortly afterwards, independent daily al-Masry al-Youm cited a survey by the state-run National Research Centre that found that 85 percent of Egypt's total potable water production was wasted due to the poor state of local water distribution systems.
    In spite of these dire findings, housing minister Ahmed al-Maghrebi was quoted by the local press in early August as saying that Egypt was "not suffering from a water-shortage crisis."
    Amid increasing numbers of popular protests and complaints, however, the minister was soon moved to revise his statement. In an Aug. 26 interview on Arabic language satellite TV station Dream, he conceded that "popular protests over the lack of water come as no surprise."
    Maghrebi also announced he had secured cabinet and parliamentary approval to allocate 17 billion Egyptian pounds (3.1 billion dollars) over the next four years for upgrading local water distribution networks. He said 100 local water projects across Egypt were scheduled for completion within the 2007/2008 fiscal year.
    Earlier this month, the cabinet also approved a housing ministry request to increase the amount earmarked for the President's "urgent plan" for the construction of water-purification plants from 1 billion to 1.5 billion Egyptian pounds.
    According to Nagi, however, recent government pledges to provide short-term solutions to the problem - especially in light of earlier unfulfilled promises - simply don't hold water.
    "The housing minister says we need four years for completion of the necessary water projects," he said. "But this belies earlier statements by (previous housing minister) Ibrahim Suleiman, who said it would only take two years to guarantee water to every corner of Egypt. And Suleiman made those statements four years ago."

  4. UN Issues "Final Wake-Up Call" on Population and Environment
    By James Kanter
    The International Herald Tribune

    Thursday 25 October 2007

    Paris - The human population is living far beyond its means and inflicting damage to the environment that could pass points of no return, according to a major report being issued today by the United Nations.

    Climate change, the rate of extinction of species, and the challenge of feeding a growing population are among the threats putting humanity at risk, according to the United Nations Environment Program in its fourth Global Environmental Outlook since 1997.

    "The human population is now so large that the amount of resources needed to sustain it exceeds what is available at current consumption patterns," Achim Steiner, the executive director of the Environment Program, said in a telephone interview. Efficient use of resources and reducing waste now are "among the greatest challenges at the beginning in of 21st century," he said.

    The program described its report, which is prepared by 388 experts and scientists, as the broadest and deepest of those the United Nations has issued on the environment and called it "the final wake-up call to the international community." Many biologists and climate scientists have concluded recently that human activities have become a dominant influence on the planet's climate and ecosystems. Underscoring the depth of those concerns was the recent award of the Nobel Peace Prize to former Vice President Al Gore and to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations network of scientists that the Environment Program helped found and helps finance. But there is still a range of views on whether the altering climate could result in a catastrophic depletion of natural resources as the human population heads toward 9 billion by mid-century, or more of a steady diminution in diversity.

    Over the last two decades the world population has already increased by almost 34 percent, to 6.7 billion from 5 billion. But the land available to each person is shrinking, from 19.5 acres in 1900 to 5 acres by 2005, and is projected to drop to 4 acres by 2050, the report said.

    Population growth combined with unsustainable consumption has resulted in an increasingly stressed planet where natural disasters and environmental degradation endanger millions of human beings as well as plant and animal species, the report said.

    Persistent problems identified by the report include a rapid rise of so-called dead zones, where marine life no longer can be supported because of depleted oxygen levels from pollutants such as fertilizers, as well as the resurgence of diseases linked with environmental degradation.

    The report comes two decades after a commission chaired by the former Norwegian prime minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland, warned that the survival of humanity was at stake from unsustainable development.

    Mr. Steiner said many of the problems the Brundtland Commission identified were even more acute now because not enough had been done to stop environmental degradation while flows of goods, services, people, technologies and workers has expanded, even to isolated populations.

    He did, however, identify pockets of hope, noting that Western European governments had taken effective measures to reduce air pollutants and that Brazil had made efforts to roll back some deforestation in the Amazon. He said an international treaty to tackle the hole in the earth's ozone layer had led to the phasing out of 95 percent of ozone-damaging chemicals.

    "Life would be easier if we didn't have the kind of population growth rates that we have at the moment," Mr. Steiner said, "But to force people to stop having children would be simplistic answer. The more realistic, ethical and practical issue is to accelerate human well being and make more rational use of the resources we have on this planet."

    Mr. Steiner said parts of Africa could reach an environmental tipping point if changing rainfall patterns stemming from climate change turned semi-arid zones into arid zones and made the agriculture that sustains millions of people much harder.

    Mr. Steiner said another tipping point could occur in India and China if Himalayan glaciers shrink so much that they no longer supply adequate amounts of water to populations in those countries.

    He also warned of a global collapse of all species being fished by 2050, if fishing around the world continued at its present pace.

    The report said 250 percent more fish are being caught than the oceans can produce in a sustainable manner, and that the level of global fish stocks classed as collapsed had roughly doubled to 30 percent over the past 20 years.

    The report said that current changes in biodiversity were the fastest in human history, with species becoming extinct a hundred times faster than the rate in the fossil record. It said 12 percent of birds are threatened with extinction; for mammals the figure is 23 percent and for amphibians it is more than 30 percent.

    "Scientists now refer to a sixth major extinction crisis that's under way," Steiner said.

    The first mass extinction, about 440 million years ago, and the four succeeding extinctions were the result of physical shocks to the planet like volcanic eruptions and plate tectonic shifts.

    The report said that annual emissions of CO2 from fossil fuels have risen by about one-third since 1987 and that the threat from climate change now was so urgent that only very large cuts in greenhouse gases of 60 to 80 percent could stop irreversible change.

    The effects of global warming, like the melting ice in the Arctic are "accelerating at a pace that goes beyond the scenarios and models we've been using," Steiner said.

    Climate change, however, was an issue that gained huge momentum over the past year, with governments, industries and citizens increasingly seeking solutions to the problem, Steiner said. The recent award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and to former Vice President Al Gore was a sign of widespread scientific consensus that climate change is under way, he said.

    Steiner called for an accelerated effort on a far wider range of environmental issues to build the same sense of urgency as shown on climate change over the past year to address the worsening situations of biodiversity, land degradation, fisheries and freshwater.

    Many biologists and climate scientists have concluded that human activities have become a dominant influence on the planet's climate and ecosystems. But there is still a range of views on whether this could result in a catastrophic unraveling of natural resources as the human population heads toward nine billion by midcentury, or more of a steady diminution in diversity.



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