Blog Archives

Hot Air at Copenhagen

In honor of the meager accord reached last week at the UN climate talks in Copenhagen – which even the New York Times called less meaningful than even the least ambitions expectations bandied about before the conference – I am reposting a link to this video with William Rees,  a professor at the University of British Columbia, who came up with the concept of the Ecological Footprint. Rees offers a compelling argument about why we humans are failing to act more aggressively in our own self-interest to beat back global warming.  He made the remarks at the GreenAccord conference in Italy a few weeks ago.

“We have the science to deal with the global warming problem and we’ve had it for some time. So the question is: what is it about the nature of our species that we are intelligent enough to know we have a problem but we are not capable of organizing socially in order to solve this problem?” –William Rees.

To hear more, check out the video by Alex Savulescu

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Wondering Why the World is Dithering on Global Warming? Check Out This Video with Bill Rees


“We have the science to deal with the global warming problem and we’ve had it for some time. So the question is: what is it about the nature of our species that we are intelligent enough to know we have a problem but we are not capable of organizing socially in order to solve this problem?” – William Rees, the father of the Ecological Footprint.

Rees,  an ecologist and professor at the University of British Columbia,  has been anointed with “rock star status” by Adbusters for coming up with the concept of the Ecological Footprint. His presentation to journalists from around the world at the GreenAccord conference created a buzz. Rees explains the Ecological Footprint and why the idea that there are no limits to growth is a fallacy. It’s thought-provoking stuff and certainly timely, given news of political gridlock at the UN climate talks in Copenhagen this week.

My friend Alex Savulescu videotaped, edited and uploaded the video to the web. Thanks Alex!

Contraception to Fix Global Warming?

In the last year or so new research has emerged that slices, dices and quantifies the environmental impact of every person on the planet, providing a whole new level of intimacy with the greenhouse gases that fuel our lives.

These new statistics have put an uncomfortable spotlight on Americans, since we consume so much more per capita than any other people on Earth. It has also inflamed the old population debate; as much of the research points the finger at the littlest Americans – newborn babies. They are, it turns out, monumental carbon bigfoots. Each new birth locks the planet into generations of gargantuan carbon emissions, according to Paul A. Murtaugha and Michael G. Schlaxb, a couple of college professors in Oregon.

Murtaugha and Schlaxb brought this point home, then right into the nursery, last February in a paper concluding every newborn American child adds as much as 12,730 tons of carbon dioxide to each parent’s carbon legacy. A baby in Bangladesh, in contrast, adds just 98 tons, while a Nigerian newborn, the professors found, passes on only a 157-ton legacy.

Put another way: One American child generates as much CO2 as 106 Haitian kids.

The London School of Economics
followed up in September, concluding that contraception is almost five times cheaper than conventional methods of combating climate change. That study was commissioned by the environmental think tank Optimum Population Trust.

Now the United Nations has come around to the same way of thinking. In a report issued today, the UN, for the first time, draws a clear line between the fate of the world’s poor and looming environmental problems that begin to manifest themselves in climate changes, water shortages and crop failures.

Who doesn’t love kids? And, who doesn’t want to give one’s own everything possible? Ironically, giving kids “everything” – in material sense – these days amounts to stealing from them the most important things: breathable air, clean water and a stable climate.

Today’s Greenlines: Clotheslines, Bike Paths, Farmers Markets, London Deforestation + More

This trend doesn’t seem to have hit DC yet, at least I haven’t seen many clothes hanging in my neighborhood, but people around the country are apparently fighting for their rights to clothesline.

The Streetsblog Capitol Hill picks up an AP story about how a majority of Americans recognize that they could play a role in helping the environment but don’t usually back up the talk with actions. Hmmm, the same thing could be said of world leaders.

A London exhibition of giant tropical tree stumps dramatizes rainforest deforestation. Check out the story and photo on the Guardian site.

The Washington Post reports from Indonesia on “A CLIMATE THREAT, RISING FROM THE SOIL”

DC Metrocentric gives an update on Penrose Square in Arlington, a rare example of an older suburban shopping center being revamped as a denser urban village with a pedestrian friendly mix of shops and housing.

The financially troubled Allegro apartments in Columbia Heights sold for $77.5 million, DC Metrocentric also reports.

We Love DC offers its five favorite bike routes.

DC nonprofits say they are seeing more demand and less moolah to carry out those services, Washington Business Journal reports on the survey.

Columbia Heights residents are meeting Saturday to discuss plans to bring a farmer’s market back to the neighborhood.

Winemakers say Global Warming is Changing their Business

AFP is reporting that winemakers at the WineFuture convention in Spain this week are agog over the impact Global Warming is having on their grapes.

While a warmer world is helping out growers in someplaces, traditional wine country in Spain and new powerhouses such as Australia are already seeing both a direct impact from higher temperatures and indirect problems attributed to climate change such as drought and water shortages.

For some time now, some winemakers have been taking defensive measures to reduce their carbon footprints as more and more eco-friendly consumers become aware of the climate costs involved in drinking wine imported from the other side of the globe.  Surprisingly, however, it isn’t necessarily to the distance that’s the biggest factor in a bottle’s greenhouse gas bill, as I learned while reporting this story in Italy earlier this year.

Still, do such industry measures to reduce their carbon footprint make a difference or is it simply corporate spin? What do you think?