When you go shopping it’s not easy to keep track on which products or brands you shouldn’t buy to avoid supporting the destruction of rainforests or animal abuse. How can you know which products follows proper environmental standards, which corporations who fuels climate denialism, which brand of rice that are GMO-free or which corporations who are openly supporting LGBT rights? It just seems as an impossible feat to exert your power as an individual consumer and make informed decisions! But a new smartphone app could help you avoid the Koch Brothers, Monsanto or any other corporation with a terrible environmental or social track record the next time you go shopping.
The Buycott app – which is available for free on your Iphone and on Android devices soon – makes it possible for you to scan the barcode on any product and trace its ownership from various corporate subsidiaries all the way up to the main parent company. The Forbes write:
“Once you’ve scanned an item, Buycott will show you its corporate family tree on your phone’s screen. Scan a box of Splenda sweetener, for instance, and you’ll see its parent, McNeil Nutritionals, is a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.
Even more impressively, you can join user-created campaigns to boycott business practices that violate your principles rather than single companies. One of these campaigns, Demand GMO Labeling, will scan your box of cereal and tell you if it was made by one of the 36 corporations that donated more than $150,000 to oppose the mandatory labeling of genetically modified food.”
This all sounds very promising! So check out the app and maybe next time you go shopping it’ll be easier to choose products that reflects your principles. Have you already tried the app? Let us know what you think about it in the comments below!
Some environmentalists champion nuclear power as an answer to global warming. But a new book by anti-nuclear campaigner Joseph Mangano argues that the dangers far outweigh any benefits. Elaine Graham-Leigh has reviewed Mad Science: The Nuclear Power Experiment by Joseph Mangano. The review was first published on Counterfire.
The thesis of Mangano’s book is that the era of nuclear power, in the US at least, is nearly over. The US nuclear power programme, he argues, ‘has been a failure, and will fade into obscurity with time … Building a single new reactor will either take years to complete or never occur’ (pp.280-1). For Mangano, this is a victory for the anti-nuclear campaigners like him who have fought for decades against official denials that nuclear power plants were dangerous or could cause health problems. It is, he says, ‘a triumph for truth over non-truth’.
This might be the expected position from any environmentalist – on the side of campaigners against government and big business – but recently this has changed. For some prominent environmentalists now, an end to nuclear power would be a catastrophe. Both Mark Lynas and George Monbiot, for example, argue that the only attainable way to phase out fossil fuels is to replace them with a combination of renewable and nuclear power. Mangano does not address what sort of power generation would take nuclear power’s place, and this is an omission, considering how the question is implicit in any consideration of this most controversial way of generating power. Nonetheless, Mad Science adds important research and argument to the case against nuclear power.
Mangano’s conclusion about nuclear power’s continued viability seems applicable not just to the US but around the world. While the UK government has recently granted EDF permission to build two new reactors at Hinkley Point, in Somerset, according to the World Nuclear Report 2012, major nuclear projects were abandoned in six countries last year, while four (Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Taiwan) announced that they would phase out nuclear power altogether. This does not include Japan, where after more than a year in which no nuclear power stations were running following the meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant, the Ohi reactor was restarted, but the future of Japanese nuclear power is surely doubtful.
The most obvious cause of this grim picture for nuclear power enthusiasts is of course the reminder provided by Fukushima of the potential for nuclear accidents. Mangano does not address the legacy of Fukushima specifically but, in the US context, argues that economic factors are more important in the decline of nuclear power than is often allowed. The US nuclear industry is supposed to have been damaged because the public panicked about safety issues following the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in 1979. Mangano points out however that the last nuclear reactor which actually managed to open was approved six years before Three Mile Island, in 1973. A major nuclear disaster is unlikely ever to endear the industry to the public, but the problems in US industry were evident long before.
Nuclear power stations were supposed to produce electricity which was ‘too cheap to meter’, as Lewis Strauss, chair of the Atomic Energy Commission pronounced in 1954, as part of a vision of a futuristic ‘age of peace’, in which people would also ‘travel effortlessly over the seas and under them and through the air with a minimum of danger and with great speeds’ (p.15). The reality however did not live up to the science fiction: building and operating nuclear reactors turned out to take much longer, cost much more, and be more risky than had originally been anticipated.
This was a problem because in the US, power generation was a matter for the private sector. In 1954, this also applied to nuclear, as the Atomic Energy Act allowed private companies access to technical information about nuclear power generation and enabled them to get licences from the government to start nuclear reactors. The first hurdle these companies faced was insuring themselves against the financial consequences of a nuclear accident, which a 1957 estimate put at potentially $7 billion. No insurance company would take this on, so the government was compelled to pass the Price-Anderson Act, limiting the liability of nuclear plant owners to $60m. Other countries followed suit, so for example energy companies in the UK now have maximum liability of £140 million if they allow their reactor to meltdown. This may seem like a significant sum and it would make a dent in any company’s balance sheet, but for comparison, the cost of Fukushima on the latest estimate could be as high as $70 billion.
Even with this limitation of liability, nuclear power generation turned out to be a difficult activity to make profitable. Reactor construction tended to take a long time; sometimes as long as fifteen years between permission to start building and actually generating electricity. Problems once up and running meant that the plants ran at lower capacities than would have been estimated. By the late 1980s, US nuclear power plants were still running at an average of only 57% of capacity and some experimental reactor types never got off the ground. It is often claimed than modern nuclear reactors are much less problematic than the early designs: defenders of nuclear power argue that the reactors at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima were old technology and more risky than newer types. This may be so, but nuclear power generation is still seen as a dangerously unprofitable enterprise. In 2012, ratings agencies downgraded seven energy companies and approved RWE and E.ON pulling out of UK nuclear reactor plans because this meant that they could ‘focus on investment in less risky projects’ (World Nuclear Report 2012).
As with any privatised industry, the fortunes of nuclear power in the US have depended on its short-term profitability for the private companies concerned. The government assumed the lion’s share of the risk, but as Mangano shows, was prevented from making nuclear power happen in the way it wanted by that fact that the industry was run according to the needs of the market. It is a useful demonstration of how privatisation promotes profits at the expense of everything else, regardless of whether we celebrate or deplore the end of nuclear power.
Whether a world free from nuclear power would be a good or a bad thing is of course the fundamental question, setting the safety of nuclear power generation against the idea that it is a green option. Mangano describes how the attempt to resurrect nuclear power from the late 1990s used the argument that nuclear power was green power, since the nuclear reaction does not emit any greenhouse gases. He points out that for the nuclear industry this was more a useful ploy than an argument emerging from a deeply-held belief in the necessity of combating climate change, and that the green credentials of nuclear power can be overstated. The reaction itself may be carbon-free, but every other step in generating nuclear power, from making the concrete to build the plants, to mining the uranium, to disposing of the waste, is not.
For defenders of nuclear power however, the point is that whatever the greenhouse gas emissions associated with nuclear power, they are less than those made from using fossil fuels. Lynas, for example, cites the calculation that Chinese nuclear power generation would displace six million tonnes of CO2 per year per plant. In this view, nuclear is the only realistic replacement for fossil fuel power generation: our choices are not between renewables (solar, wind, wave power etc.) and nuclear or fossil fuels, but between nuclear and renewables or fossil fuels and renewables. To argue this however, green nuclear power enthusiasts have not only to convince us that nuclear power is green, but also that it can be safe. The most fervent environmental argument about nuclear power is not about its carbon footprint, but how many people it has killed.
The sixty-year history of nuclear power generation is littered with major accidents: Windscale in 1957, Three Mile Island in 1979, Chernobyl in 1986 and Fukushima in 2011. The nuclear industry in the West and its supporters cannot pretend that these did not happen, although the USSR was able to keep what appears to have been a serious accident at their nuclear plant at Chelyabinsk in 1957 secret until the late 1980s. Nuclear accidents differ from other industrial accidents in that potential casualties may not fall ill until much later, so the final death toll is not immediately apparent. This opens the door for the argument that they are not as serious as a scaremongering media and panicking public might think.
Thus there are extreme differences between the maximum and minimum numbers said to have been killed as a result of Chernobyl. The International Atomic Energy Agency estimates that about fifty people who worked at the plant or in the emergency services responding to the accident died shortly afterwards and about 4,000 other ‘excess deaths’ are expected. On the other hand, in 2009, three Russian scientists published ‘The Difficult Truth about Chernobyl’, in which they presented evidence for 985,000 excess deaths between 1986 and 2004 and a collapse in childhood health in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia (p.228). Nuclear supporters dismiss this as paranoid: a familiar argument about nuclear accidents, deployed about both Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, is that depression caused by the fear of nuclear exposure is worse for those who were living near the plants than the risk of cancer as a result of the accident. No doubt people are also now saying this about Fukushima. Mark Lynas argued in 2011 that no one had died as a result of Fukushima, although it was surely then, and still is now, too early to tell.
The pro-nuclear position that Fukushima can be regarded as nothing more than a moderate industrial accident requires exposure to even large doses of radiation to be safe. It may be difficult to trace beyond doubt the effects of Chernobyl on the large populations exposed to it, and too soon to be definitive about the effect of Fukushima, but as Mangano makes clear, this does not mean that we have no evidence about the advisability or otherwise of exposing people to radiation leaks. The normal operation of nuclear power plants in the US has given us ample evidence of how likely the major accidents are to have caused harm.
This is Mangano’s particular area of interest, as he is director of the Radiation and Public Health Project, and one of the strengths of the book is its detailed examination of the evidence for the health risks of the normal operation of nuclear plants. It is first of all noteworthy that normal operation can include a number of accidents: Three Mile Island is the well-known US nuclear accident, but there are others, including a meltdown at an experimental reactor at Santa Susana, California in 1959, which may have released more radioactivity than Three Mile Island, and a less serious incident at Browns Ferry, Alabama in 1975. The operation of any nuclear plant also involved some routine releases of radiation outside of major incidents.
As a result of popular pressure the federal government was forced to fund a report into the effect of nuclear plants on the populations living around them. Issued in 1990, the report was greeted as a clean bill of health for the nuclear industry, as it proclaimed that there was ‘no evidence that an excess occurrence of cancer has resulted from living near nuclear facilities’ (p.161). However, this was more a whitewash than the final word on nuclear safety. Mangano points out a number of serious flaws in the study which undermine its optimistic conclusions.
The study was based on a comparison of cancer rates in counties near to nuclear facilities with counties having similar demographics elsewhere. The selection of areas for study was rather arbitrary from the start, as it excluded all nuclear plants which were not operating by 1981 and some others, like the Santa Susana reactor. This meant that some of the control counties were themselves close to nuclear plants not included in the study, so they were hardly providing a baseline of cancer rates which could not possibly be affected by nuclear power generation. The analysis of death rates by county also ignored wind direction: it would not be particularly surprising if areas upwind (according to prevailing wind direction) of a nuclear plant did not show a marked increase in cancer deaths, but this could not be taken, as the study did, as evidence that there is no risk to health in living downwind from one. Finally, the study only looked at cancer deaths, rather than at cancer cases, so ignored cases of cancers like thyroid cancer which is often curable. Of course, the study was also limiting itself by only looking at cancer rather than other potential health effects like infant mortality.
As Mangano shows, even with this selective use of data, the federal study did provide some indications of health problems caused by nuclear power plants, at odds with its executive summary. The analysis of counties near Three Mile Island, for example, showed that incidence of ten types of cancer had increased since the plant was started up, and childhood cancer deaths rose by 10%. In addition, studies carried out by his Radiation and Public Health Project have suggested that there is a clear effect on the health of nearby populations from nuclear power plants, including a striking decline in infant deaths, birth defects and childhood cancers within two years of the closure of a plant. Also suggestive is work by Ernest Sternglass, who pointed out that US infant mortality rates had been falling steadily from 1935-1950, in line with improvements in health care and living standards, but then levelled off for 1951-1964, before then starting to decline again. No one has come up with an explanation for what amounts to 375,000 excess infant deaths, except that the US began to test large scale nuclear weapons in the Nevada desert in 1951 and stopped doing so in 1963.
Since there are therefore distinct suggestions that nuclear power plants may not be good for the health of the people living downwind of them, it seems likely that a meltdown, which releases far more radiation in one go than during normal operation, would have marked deleterious effects. The studies of the health effects of the US nuclear programme make the larger rather than the smaller estimate of the death toll from Chernobyl seem more likely. Chillingly, Mangano points out that there is reason to think that as far as nuclear accidents are concerned, we have so far got off lightly. Many US reactors are located close to major cities, and in 1966, for example, the Fermi 1 reactor came perilously close to a major explosion which would have irradiated most of Detroit. Older reactors are also more dangerous than newer ones because they have amassed more spent fuel. One of the features of the Fukushima disaster was that some of the cooling pools, used to cool spent fuel rods safely, ran dry and caught fire. The reactors at Fukushima were relatively young and had not built up a large amount of spent fuel. If the same type of accident were to happen at one of the many older US plants, with cooling pools already filled to more than capacity with spent fuel rods, the release of radioactivity would be very much greater.
The response to all this from pro-nuclear greens would be that industrial accidents happen in any industry. This is clearly true: recently fifteen people were killed and buildings flattened in West, Texas after a fertilizer plant exploded. The evidence Mangano presents does suggest that there is a difference in scale. Nuclear power is the only type of power generation to be able to kill nearly a million people from a single accident. However, this is not really the point.
Pro-nuclear environmentalists are effectively arguing that we have to choose between a number of murderous power generation options, and since they all kill people, we may as well go for the one which is least bad for the climate. This is indeed the unpalatable choice if we only look at what would be attainable within the current framework of power generation run by private companies for their profit. If we were able to plan our power generation with the needs of people at the forefront, there is nothing to say that we could not have electricity which managed both not to cook the planet and to kill hundreds of thousands of people. There are after all renewable options out there. Footage of a wind turbine on fire has been seized on with delight by climate change deniers and anti-wind farm campaigners, but as far as I am aware, the death toll remains at zero.
Industrial production under capitalism has always been about making profit while killing and maiming workers and anyone else who could not afford to live far enough away from industry. Just because that has been the norm however is no reason why it must continue in a new century of power generation. What it takes is an understanding that we have to fight to change the system and not simply rely on EDF to decide to build a nuclear reactor rather than a coal-fired power station. The nuclear argument is one of the most contentious and difficult in the environmental movement, and it is far from settled. Mangano’s book provides important ammunition for anyone who sees that nuclear is the answer only if we give up believing in our collective power to change the question.
When New York City opened registration for its much anticipated public bike-sharing program on April 15, 2013, more than 5,000 people signed up within 30 hours. Eager for access to a fleet of thousands of bicycles, they became Citi Bike members weeks before bikes were expected to be available. Such pent-up demand for more cycling options is on display in cities across the United States—from Buffalo to Boulder, Omaha to Oklahoma City, and Long Beach in New York to Long Beach in California—where shared bicycle programs are taking root.
At the start of 2013, the United States was home to 22 modern public bike-sharing programs. By spring 2014, that number will likely double as a flurry of cities joins the more than 500 bike-sharing communities worldwide. (Read more about bike sharing around the globe here.) With the expansions of current programs and new openings in larger markets like New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, the nationwide fleet of shared bikes is poised to quadruple in the next couple of years, from nearly 9,000 to above 36,000. And with a growing list of American communities exploring the possibility of setting up bike shares, this number is expected to continue to climb.
People are fond of quipping that nothing good comes out of Washington, but many of the American cities launching bike-sharing programs got turned on to the idea of bikes-as-transit by watching the nation’s capital. Capital Bikeshare began operation in September of 2010, replacing a smaller short-lived program that started in 2008 but was never expansive enough to be successful. (In 2007, Tulsa, Oklahoma, was actually first in the country to open an automated bike-share system, with a couple dozen bikes at three solar-powered stations.) During its reign as the largest bike-sharing program in the United States, Capital Bikeshare has been enormously popular among residents and visitors alike, who together have logged more than 4 million rides. Now with more than 1,800 bright red bicycles stationed at 200 locking docks within DC and the northern Virginia communities of Arlington and Alexandria, Capital Bikeshare soon will expand into neighboring Montgomery County, Maryland. The total fleet is expected to reach 3,700 bikes at more than 300 stations by the end of 2013.
As in many of the programs, people can sign up for a short-term or an annual membership with a credit card online or in person at a station kiosk. They then can unlock a bicycle and return it to any station within the system. All rides under 30 minutes are free, after which escalating fees kick in, encouraging people to make short trips and to keep more bikes available for other riders.
After test runs of bike sharing with temporary programs installed for the 2008 national presidential nominating conventions, nonprofit organizations in the Twin Cities and in Denver opened programs in 2010. Nice Ride Minnesota covers Minneapolis and St. Paul with 1,550 bikes at 170 stations. Among the nearly 60,000 users in 2012 were more than 200 employees of the Minneapolis city government, who save the city money when they use the bikes to travel to meetings and make inspections. Nice Ride is one of the seasonal bike shares that closes during the coldest months, even though the area’s burgeoning bicycle culture makes it a priority to plow snow from some of the 177 miles of bikeways—a lane-mileage-to-resident ratio that rivals even the bike mecca of Copenhagen. The cycling improvements are paying off: bike commuting in Minneapolis increased from 1.9 percent of trips in 2000 to 3.5 percent in 2011.
Denver’s program of 540 bikes at 53 stations is expecting to have at least 700 bikes and 80 stations in 2013. It is part of the B-cycle family of bike shares covering more than 15 locations, including Fort Lauderdale/Broward County in Florida, Nashville, Houston, and Boulder. Members can use their cards to unlock bikes in any of the other public B-cycle programs. At its Madison and San Antonio operations, B-cycle is testing out a utility tricycle, which could appeal to a wider variety of users by providing increased stability and allowing cargo hauling. Charlotte B-cycle showed how quickly a bike share can get off the ground when it opened in 2012, barely a year after the project’s conception.
Boston started its Hubway bike share to great acclaim in 2011, quickly surpassing ridership projections. The program has since grown from 600 to 1,100 bikes in Boston and neighboring locales. The Boston Public Health Commission provides low-cost annual membership to low-income residents ($5, including a helmet, instead of the regular $85). Another large bike share that opened in 2011 was in Miami Beach. The operator, the private company DecoBike, boasted nearly 1.3 million rides in 2012, making its bikes there the busiest in the country. With a high influx of tourists to this barrier island resort community, more than 300,000 people already use the system each year. The program will soon be expanded to the city of Miami, adding 500 bikes to the current fleet of 1,000.
In the largest of the new wave of 2013 bike-share openings, New York City is poised to roll out some 6,000 bicycles at 330 stations in Manhattan and Brooklyn in late May, with the long-term goals of expanding to other parts of the city and growing to 10,000 bikes. This is one of several new programs to be run by Alta, the same company operating schemes in DC, Boston, and Chattanooga. While New York’s launch has been delayed several times, first due to software glitches and then because of damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, it continues an ongoing series of improvements for bikers in a city where fewer than half of residents own cars. Some 300 miles of lanes have been carved out of New York’s busy streets as part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s sustainability strategy for the city. Bike commuting has more than tripled since 2000.
Annual membership in Citi Bike (named this because of its sponsorship by Citibank) costs close to $100—like so many things in Manhattan, higher than in most other cities—but, as Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan points out, this is still less than the price of a monthly subway pass. Members are likely to save money if biking replaces even some bus, subway, and especially taxi journeys. DC bike sharers found that annual membership saved them an average $800 in transportation costs. And bike sharing is far, far cheaper than the $7,800 cost that AAA estimates for the average person to own a car and drive it 10,000 miles a year (depreciation and gasoline expenditures included).
Bike shares in Chicago and San Francisco will also be operated by Alta. Chicago’s program, named Divvy, is planning to have 300 stations docking 3,000 bikes by the end of August 2013, hoping to grow to 400 stations and 4,000 bikes in 2014. Meanwhile the city already claims the most bike parking in the country and is expanding its bikeways to span 645 miles, bringing paths and trails to within a half-mile ride of all residents. Mayor Rahm Emanuel explains that his “vision is to make Chicago the most bike-friendly city in the United States,” attracting energetic tech workers from historically bike-friendly areas like Seattle.
An expansive bike share is being planned in the San Francisco Bay Area, where 700 bikes are planned to roll in August. About half will be in San Francisco proper and the rest in cities along the 50 mile transit corridor south to San Jose. Overseen by the regional air quality control agency, the program aims to get more people out of private vehicles in order to cut tailpipe pollution and reduce crowding on public transportation. The Caltrains that run between San Francisco and San Jose already carry over 4,000 bikes each month and end up turning away riders when the special bike cars are full. Bike sharing has the potential to free up some of that space by allowing commuters to pick up a bike on either end of their train ride, addressing what is known as the first- and last-mile problem. The long-term goal is to reach a regional fleet of up to 10,000 shared bikes.
Southern California, with its bike-friendly climate, is also riding in to the bike-sharing game. DecoBike is planning an 1,800-bike system in San Diego. Another firm, Bike Nation, plans to open a program in Long Beach with 250 bikes by year’s end. The fleet could grow to 2,500 in the next four to five years, capitalizing on the new bike lanes and separated tracks that have helped biking in Long Beach jump 70 percent over the last 4 years. As more riders have taken to their bikes, both car and bike accidents have fallen precipitously.
Bike Nation is also bringing up to 4,000 bikes to Los Angeles and neighboring communities this year. This sprawling car-centric city has been on a bike improvement crusade since Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was cut off by a taxi cab while cycling and broke his elbow in 2010. In the years since, the city has installed 123 miles of bike lanes and sponsored several CicLAvia’s—one-day events inspired by the ciclovías of Bogotá and Mexico City, when selected major streets are closed off to motor vehicles, allowing bikes and pedestrians to take over in a festival-like atmosphere. The April 2013 event attracted an estimated quarter-million people.
Other cities with large public cycling programs on the horizon include Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, and Seattle. (See Table.) Portland, Oregon—America’s quintessential bike town, where bikes are given out to low-income residents, bike lanes are ubiquitous, and certain traffic lights are engineered to give priority to cyclists—first got into the sharing game with a “yellow bike” program that started in 1994. Donated bikes were painted bright yellow and scattered around the city for free use. Twenty years later, Portland plans to open a modern bike share with 750 bikes at 75 automatic docking stations. The city hopes that having more bikes readily accessible for spontaneous jaunts could boost cycling even more, from its current 6 percent of trips (already up from 1 percent in 1990).
One of the communities with a smaller program opening in 2013, Hoboken, New Jersey, plans to begin a unique hybrid bike-sharing and bike rental scheme in June, less than two months after achieving unanimous City Council approval. Bike and Roll, which currently rents out 2,000 bikes in New York City—the nation’s largest traditional bike rental fleet—will open a pilot scheme in Hoboken with 25 rental bikes for longer-term usage and 25 bike-share bikes for short trips. The goal is to develop a synergy between bicycles and the ferries that efficiently move commuters and tourists between New Jersey and New York.
Hoboken’s bike-share bikes are from Social Bicycles (SoBi), one of a few startup companies that have removed the requirements for electronic docking stations by integrating the locking component and GPS tracking into the bicycle itself. While users are still encouraged to leave the bikes at specified hubs, they also can lock them to regular bike racks or other street fixtures, a feature that is common in bike-sharing schemes in Germany, for example, but not so far in the United States. For its first public initiative, SoBi delivered a set of bikes to Buffalo for a venture connected with a car-sharing company. It plans to take this technology to Tampa for a 300-bike system at the end of 2013.
Another smart-lock bike share is scheduled to open later in 2013 as part of a downtown revitalization initiative in Las Vegas. The initial pilot program will involve 50 to 150 high-tech bikes from ViaCycle, which currently operates smart-lock bike shares on the campuses of Georgia Tech and George Mason University, two of the handful of American campuses that have gone beyond traditional bike rentals and bike libraries into the world of modern bike sharing.
Forgoing the electronic docking stations in favor of smart-locking bikes can theoretically drop the pro-rated capital cost of a bike-share bicycle from in the neighborhood of $6,000 to closer to $1,500. Either way, bike shares and bicycling infrastructure give a big bang for the buck. For example, Capital Bikeshare in Washington could double its bikes and docking stations at the same cost of constructing just one mile of one lane of highway. While cars have brought pollution, congestion, and road rage to cities, bicycles can lead to cost savings from improved mobility, reduced wear and tear on roads, and less valuable real estate devoted to parking.
Bike shares can also boost business. Each ride in the Twin Cities’ Nice Ride system was found to bring $7–14 to the local economy. Forty-four percent of Capital Bikeshare riders surveyed used bike share to make a trip they otherwise would have skipped, largely for entertainment, socializing, and dining out. A bicycle places people within a city landscape, allowing them to easily make stops, as opposed to merely shuttling through it sequestered inside a private car. Shops and restaurants often report a surge in business after the creation of a bike lane on their street. On a given weekend afternoon in vibrant downtown Long Beach, California, there are often more bikes parked than there are spaces for cars.
Nationwide data from the National Sporting Goods Association indicate that over the last 20 years the number of bikers has fallen from more than 50 million to below 40 million. Yet while there are fewer people who climb on a bicycle in a given year, the number who ride frequently, like for commuting or regular activities, has actually risen over the past decade. Bike sharing can help facilitate this increase and put more folks back on two wheels. The high visibility that comes with a bike-share system reminds people that biking is a viable transit option and encourages more riding overall. In San Antonio and Washington, DC, for instance, retail bike sales have increased since the start of bike sharing.
Furthermore, as cities are improving their cycling infrastructure, the health benefits of the bicycle are becoming more obvious. Studies show that regular utilitarian cycling to get to work can beat out the gym for improving fitness. During the first year that people abandon regular driving to become a bike commuter, they can lose 10 pounds or more. Such health benefits are part of the reason why the health care company Humana houses a bike share for its employees in Louisville and was one of a trio of businesses (along with bicycle manufacturer Trek and advertising firm Crispin Porter + Bogusky) that came together to develop B-cycle. Blue Cross Blue Shield, another health insurer, is a major sponsor for several bike-sharing programs, including those in Charlotte, Houston, Omaha, and the Twin Cities.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors, representing more than 1,300 cities across the country, noted at its 2012 meeting that “communities that have invested in pedestrian and bicycle projects have benefited from improved quality of life, a healthier population, greater local real estate values, more local travel choices, and reduced air pollution.” The group passed a resolution “in support of alternative modes of transportation, such as bikesharing programs, as a means to increase transportation mobility and mode choice.” Along with these benefits, bike shares can bring the freedom, convenience, and joy of cycling to people who may not have ridden a bike since childhood. As programs mature and new ones are added, bike-sharing could become a standard feature of the urban habitat, a must-have for any forward-thinking community.
Hundreds of socialists, environmentalists and climate activists attended the first Ecosocialist Conference in New York City last month. One of the featured speakers at the conference was Jill Stein, the nominee of the Green Party during the 2012 national election in the US, who held a talk about how capitalism is killing the planet.
Besides linking the economic and climate crisis, Stein also discussed the politics of fear, Barack Obama’s environmental failure and the highly controversial Keystone XL pipeline. You can watch her 30 minute long talk in the video below.
“This is an incredible outpouring of support of those not going forward with Obama but forward with the 99% for system change and fundamental justice,” Jill Stein said. “Capitalism is trying to kill the planet, but the people are rising up.”
Her remarks reflected the view of many participants that organizers of the February 17 mass demonstration [against the Keystone XL Pipeline in Washington] had weakened the protest’s impact by presenting it as an expression of support for Obama, echoing his “forward” and “clean energy” slogans, for example. As several speakers noted, the Democratic administration now seems very likely to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.
The February 17 action thus showed both the power of environmental protest and the futility of relying on the Democrats. As Jill Stein said, “the demonstration told Obama, ‘we’ve got your back,’ and then he stabbed us in the back.”
If you want to learn more about the conference, John Riddell covered it in more detail here on Green Blog.
Supporters of organic living are the influencers, oftentimes responsible for making mainstream consumers aware of things like additives, over processing and genetically modified foods and ingredients. Unfortunately for the average person, it can take a major health issue to really start taking an informed inventory of their lifestyle and the quality of food they’re consuming.
Dietary hyper vigilance can be a lot of work to maintain. Looking for the informed consumer in the grocery store is easy because they are the people actually reading the labels.
Most people reading this know that when shopping for produce there are 3 options. Conventional, genetically modified and wonderful organically gown produce. Did you know that there’s a 4th? You got it, home gown produce. Time to talk some dirt.The Skills and Set Up
Whether you are fortunate to have a back yard or not, setting up your home garden to start growing some of your own food is pretty easy. Some of my fondest childhood memories occurred in my family garden. Picking and eating fresh carrots still warm from the ground, collecting peas and eating them while watching Bugz Bunny with my dad. Wants your kids to love veggies? Get growing. They’ll love getting their hands dirty, seeing the plants grow and veggies flourish. It’s also an opportunity to teach them the principals and values of caring for a garden. Not only will it give you a great excuse to unplug and get some fresh air, but it’ll directly impact your health and quality of live because fresh veggies are delicious!
If you are creating a traditional vegetable garden, consider the location before you begin. For plants to produce vegetables they need an area that receives full sun for most of the day. Choose an area to develop that is away from shady trees, and also ideally near your water source. It doesn’t have to be expensive to start your own garden if you are resourceful.
Steps to get you started:
- Mark off the area you want with wood stakes and string. Stand back and evaluate the space prior to lifting the lawn. Is it big enough for the type of plants you want to harvest?Don’t forget to account for space to allow you to walk between your rows of plants, water and weed.
- Double digging is a lot of extra work but it has a huge pay off. Rather than digging the traditional six inches in depth, double it to a foot and back fill it. By aerating the soil and making it softer, you will encourage your vegetable roots to go deeper. Healthier plants create a more bountiful yield. Use a rotor tiller to start, and get in deep with your shovel.
- Take a sample of your soil to your local garden center. They will be able to advise you on the appropriate compost and organic fertilizer to add to your soil for best results.
- Invest in a good quality composter (if you don’t have one already) and turn your plant trimmings into valuable topsoil in your own yard.
- Planting a balcony garden? Choose larger planters that will sustain deep roots. Go vertical with your space and utilize hanging baskets for things like cherry tomatoes and even chili peppers or strawberries. Recycle a 2L and “Make Your Own Pop Bottle Drip Irrigation System”
The next part is trying to figure out what to plant and make sure the seeds you buy are certified organic. You’ll find many types of interesting heirloom vegetables you’ll want to try. Google ‘organic seeds’, enjoy.
First, start by thinking about what you want to eat. Are you a family that enjoys eating a lot of lettuce? Varieties like loose leaf lettuce are very easy to grow in a garden or in an over sized planter. Green leafy vegetables such as Swiss Chard are packed full of vitamins and will continue growing after cutting for the duration of the season.
Carrots are fun to grow, but take up a bit of space. Tomatoes (including beefsteak and cherry) are ideal for home gardens, as are cucumbers, green onions and some types of squash. Beets are fantastic and easy to grow, simply plant and water them, then wait for harvesting. Turnips can be waxed and stored for months in a cold place. Think like your Grandparents and choose vegetables that can be stored, canned or frozen for the winter and utilize your surplus. Blanch hard vegetables like carrots and freeze for healthful eating all winter long without going to the grocery store for subpar and over sprayed alternatives.
Don’t limit yourself to just the garden. If you love fruit, why not plant an apple tree? In as little as four years you can be harvesting your own apples for snacks, baking as well as making organic apple sauce. Cherry trees thrive in most climates and give a good yield in the early summer. Accept that you will also be feeding some of the local wildlife with your bounty, and that’s a good thing too.Helping the Environment
There are so many benefits to your health and to the environment when you start to grow your own food. Even if you aren’t able to garden year round (depending on the climate) even diverting a small portion of your food bill from the grocery store will make a difference in your budget and ecologically.
- No pesticides in your own vegetable garden.
- Plants filter the air improving air quality.
- Using water reclamation saves fresh water and prevents waste.
- Lower the emissions by buying less foreign sourced fruits and vegetables.
- Use natural herbs as pest deterrents, and incorporate them into your garden. You will also enjoy harvesting them and using the fresh herbs for your cooking.
Having your own vegetable garden is a lot of work, with a lot of reward. If you have friends who garden as well, arrange a cooperative effort to share excess produce and trade your tomatoes for their extra green peppers. If you find you have a lot of excess vegetables, don’t let them go to waste! Most food banks and shelters will accept donations of vegetables and you’ll be helping the environment and your community with your new green thumb. Remember what starts in your backyard can change the world.
The level of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere reached a symbolic milestone late last week when it hit historic record levels of 400 parts per million (ppm). Climate scientists warns that the milestone is a wake-up call for people and world leaders as it shows the alarming urgency of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions before it’s too late.
“Crossing 400 ppm is not a reason for celebration,” said Pieter Tans, a scientist with NOAA’s Global Monitoring Division, after the latest reading was released from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. Because CO2 is the main greenhouse gas contributing to global warming it is imperative that we reduce our CO2 emissions rapidly. But this latest milestone shows the world is moving in the wrong direction. Global CO2 levels have increased since the beginning of the industrial revolution, we passed 300 ppm during early 20th century and since then the rate have increased ever so rapidly. The rate has accelerated since the 1950s from around 0.7 ppm per year to 2.1 ppm per year for the last 10 years.
“That increase is not a surprise to scientists,” said Tans. “The evidence is conclusive that the strong growth of global CO2 emissions from the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas is driving the acceleration.” And once emitted the CO2 stays in the atmosphere for thousands of years, making it more and more difficult to mitigate and adapt to the devastating effects of runaway climate change.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), this is the first time in human history that CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere crosses 400 ppm. In fact, the planet haven’t experienced these levels of CO2 in millions of years. The last time the level of CO2 was near these levels was during the Miocene Period, about 10 million years ago. Back then the Earth looked completely different from today. Global temperatures then were much hotter. At the poles it was perhaps as much as ten degrees warmer, and the great ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica had not been formed. Sea level was around 5 to 40 meters higher than today.
But “it took nature hundreds of millions of years to change CO2 concentrations through natural processes such as natural carbon burial and volcanic outgassing,” Michael Mann, climate change author and director of the Earth System Science Centre at Penn State, told the AFP. “We’re unburying it and burning it over a timescale of 100 years, a million times faster.”
And this rapid speed in which global concentrations of CO2 are increasing is the main concern for climate scientists. “There is no precedent in Earth’s history for such an abrupt increase in greenhouse gas concentrations,” Mann said. It’s easier for living things to adopt to slow changes that take place over tens of millions of years than to adjust to this abrupt change in climate.
World leaders want to stop climate from rising further than 2 degrees in global temperatures. A 2C increase in global temperatures will mean that we have to stabilize our greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at about 445 to 490 ppm. But 350 ppm is the level climate scientists have identified as the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere. If the current trend is allowed to continue we will not be able to reach neither of these two targets.
“We are creating a prehistoric climate in which human societies will face huge and potentially catastrophic risks,” Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at London School of Economics and Political Science, said.
A TV ad which attacks Coca-Cola for trying to stop a recycling scheme in Australia has been stopped from airing on TV. In recent weeks Greenpeace has been campaigning in support of the implementation of nationwide 10-cents-a-bottle recycling scheme in Australia. The environmental organization has called the scheme “a no brainer” and they’ve been critical of Coca-Cola’s efforts to undermine and stop the recycling legislation.
Last week Greenpeace raised $20,000 in donations in just one day to get the TV ad, which attacks Coca-Cola for lobbying against the recycling scheme, shown during Channel Nine’s Friday Night Football broadcast in Australia. But the ad was pulled just minutes before it was supposed to air after being deemed “too offensive” by the channel. Greenpeace quickly blamed Coca-Cola and other beverage makers for putting pressure on Channel Nine to stop the ad from airing.
“They took the money and now they’ve bottled it,” Greenpeace’s Reece Turner said. “Coke has been accused of bullying politicians into blocking cash for containers. It’s a reasonable assumption their influence is behind Channel Nine’s last-minute choking.”
Seabirds and other animals often mistake plastics with food. These plastic objects slowly fills their stomachs over time until they are unable to ingest any real food. A slow death by starvation then follows for these poor seabirds. In Australia, this plastic rubbish is estimated to affect up to 65% of the seabird population. And Coca-Cola is currently trying to fight legislation that is key to fixing this problem. This short ad by Greenpeace exposes how Coca-Cola, even though being a longtime supporter of WWF, is willing to let plastic pollution trash our oceans and kill our marine life.
Despite being banned from TV, Greenpeace’s campaign is still making waves. The actual ad has been seen over 700,000 times and is the most shared video in Australia. And now shareholders has started to question Coca-Cola’s efforts to stop a national Cash for Containers scheme. During an annual meeting in Sydney, Coca-Cola Chairman David Gonski called the scheme “old fashioned”, inefficient and warned that it would increase the price of soft drinks. But his comments were challenged by shareholders as well as protesters outside the meeting.
“What’s wrong with old fashioned?” one shareholder asked. “We have container deposit legislation in South Australia and only 4% of containers are found in litter. That’s a stark contrast to the 40% of containers in the eastern states.”
By blocking the ad from airing on TV, Channel Nine have successfully given Greenpeace’s campaign more media attention. And in the end Coca-Cola is the one who will suffer the most from the public backlash that follows.
Speaking at a climate conference in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that inaction on global warming is “not an option” and called on nations to redouble efforts to secure an internationally binding climate change treaty.
After being invited by the governments of Poland and Germany, environment and climate ministers from 35 countries – who together are responsible for around 80% of world carbon emissions – gathered earlier this week at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue conference in Berlin for a round of dialogue and informal negotiations ahead of the UN climate summit (COP19) in Warzaw, Poland, later this year.
While stressing that all countries need to act, Merkel demanded immediate and bold action on climate change so that a binding climate treaty that limits emissions that cause global warming can be reached by 2015. “I’m under no illusion that there is a long road ahead,” Merkel said at the conference. But “doing nothing only means that it will get a whole lot more expensive.”
These are indeed strong words for global action against climate change. But while Germany’s carbon emissions rose by two percent last year, Merkel has so far seemed uninterested in fixing Europe’s severely broken cap-and-trade program and failed to push for tougher climate policies for the European Union.
A new bicycle index has ranked the 20 most bicycle-friendly cities in the world. Already world-renowned bike-friendly cities such as Copenhagen and Amsterdam are of course on the list. But there are several newcomers as well, such as Malmö in Sweden and Seville in Spain. Unfortunately, there is still no US city on the top 20 list.
The new Copenhagenize Index has ranked the 20 most bicycle-friendly cities in the world. The index, which ranks a total of 150 cities, has been compiled by Copenhagenize Design, an urban planning consultancy who specializes in bicycle planning. More than 400 people from around the world has helped rank the various cities. Each city have been ranked on the basis of 13 different parameters that takes everything from the availability of satisfying bicycle infrastructure and facilities to the overall bicycle culture in the city and the political climate regarding urban cycling into account.
Unsurprisingly, especially considering it already has a world-renowned reputation of being a bike-friendly city, Amsterdam in the Netherlands is ranked as the most bicycle-friendly city in the world. “The cycling atmosphere is relaxed, enjoyable, and as mainstream as you can get. This is the one place on the planet where fear-mongering about cycling is non-existent and it shows. There are few places we enjoy urban cycling as much as in Amsterdam,” the Copenhagenize Index says.
Copenhagen is ranked as the second most bicycle-friendly city in the world. No other city beats Copenhagen when it comes to “a well-designed and uniform bicycle infrastructure network.” But the Index warns that a lack of clear political leadership and new massive car infrastructure projects makes Copenhagen’s future seem uncertain and bleak for cyclists.
Utrecht, yet another Dutch city on the top 20 list, is the third most bicycle-friendly city in the world. The Index highlights the “fantastic” infrastructure that can be found in the small city. According to the Index, Utrecht is a “world-leader” and “a splendid city” for cyclists. But the city, just like Amsterdam, haven’t seen much new significant progress lately. So to avoid getting stuck in status quo the Index calls for increased efforts, more creative thinking and innovation to improve cycling conditions even further. “With urbanisation on the rise, the city needs to move forward in order to accommodate more cycling cities and really establish themselves as leaders of the future, not just the present,” the Index asserts.
Below is the complete list of the top 20 most bicycle-friendly cities in the world – with their 2011 ranking in brackets:1. Amsterdam (1) 9. Dublin (9) 2. Copenhagen (2) 10. Tokyo (4) 3. Utrecht (new) 11. Munich (6) 4. Seville (new) 11. Montreal (8) 4. Bordeaux (new) 11. Nagoya (new) 5. Nantes (new) 12. Rio de Janeiro (18) 5. Antwerp (new) 13. Barcelona (3) 6. Eindhoven (new) 13. Budapest (10) 7. Malmö (new) 13. Paris (7) 8. Berlin (5) 14. Hamburg (13)
If you want more information on why these cities rank the way they do just check out the Copenhagenize website, which has extended explanations on the different pros and cons of each of the top 20 cities.No cities in the US made the cut
While the majority of the top-scoring cities are located in Europe, the US still has no city that can compete with more bike-friendly cities such as Copenhagen in Denmark, Tokyo in Japan, Rio in Brazil or Montreal in Canada.
But the League of American Bicyclists recently released their yearly ranking of the most bicycle-friendly states in the US. Their list shows how Washington continues to be the most bike-friendly state in the country. Washington has a good performance in all of the five categories. The state gets especially good grades when it comes to its work on legislation, education and its encouragement to get more people to use their bikes.
“We’re encouraged to see significant progress in top states like Washington, Delaware, Colorado and Oregon,” says League President, Andy Clarke. “But as the scores clearly highlight, there’s much work to be done in critical areas like infrastructure and planning in every state.”
The 14 most bicycle-friendly states are: Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Minnesota, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Illinois, Arizona, Maryland, Michigan, Maine and Utah on 14th place.
Terms like going green and reducing one’s carbon footprint are part of the everyday vernacular.
Ironically, one way that people can be part of this increased focus on eco-friendly behavior is by learning about and using a process that has been around for decades—composting.Why Compost?
If you add compost to your garden, the soil improves, according to The Garden of Oz. This leads to healthier and more productive plants. Composting saves literally tons of fallen leaves, clippings, vegetable peelings and other waste from being dumped in a landfill. For example, more than 30 million tons of food is thrown away each year, according CNN. Cutting food waste in half would reduce the nation’s carbon footprint by more than 25 percent.
While some think composting involves a lot of time, work, space, and expense, there are a wide variety of easy ways to do it. Some small composting containers can fit on patios, while larger bins handle all of the grass clippings that walk-behind lawn mowers leave behind.
The Garden of Oz suggests two main varieties of composters: open bins and containers.Open Bins
These are typically made out of wood, recycled plastic or chicken wire. Because they are open, they can easily collect rain water and they are convenient. They don’t have to balance a big pile of potato peelings in one hand while opening a lid with the other. Of course, this easy access does mean that bugs and rodents can also get into the compost readily, and a downpour can make the materials too soggy. Open bins can vary greatly in size, from a small container that sits off to the side on a balcony or small yard to one that is much larger.Closed Containers
A closed compost container is usually shaped like a box or a drum that rotates. Thanks to the lids or drum design, pests are typically not an issue. The container may look a lot nicer than an open bin with all of the compost exposed. A rotating drum is typically easy to turn, which makes mixing compost a breeze, and they are also a snap to unload.
Disadvantages of closed compost containers include: you have to water them and the compost stored inside an upright container can be unwieldy to mix properly. Like the open bins, closed containers come in a variety of sizes, so people can compost as much or as little as they like.
No matter what size or shape composter, know what can and cannot go inside of it. There are certain things you use in a compost. Coffee grounds, fruit and veggie scraps, grass clippings and dry leaves are some of the many things that make for great compost. Meat, eggs, bones, pet waste and diseased plants should never be placed into the composter.
Politicians, lobbyists, and tourists alike can ride bicycles along a specially marked lane between the White House and the U.S. Capitol, part of the 115 miles of bicycle lanes and paths that now crisscross Washington, DC. In Copenhagen, commuters can ride to work following a “green wave” of signal lights timed for bikers. Residents in China’s “happiest city,” Hangzhou, can move easily from public transit onto physically separated bike tracks that have been carved out of the vast majority of roadways. And on any given Sunday in Mexico City, some 15,000 cyclists join together on a circuit of major thoroughfares closed to motorized traffic. What is even more exciting is that in each of these locations, people can jump right into cycling without even owning a bicycle. Welcome to the era of the Bike Share.
Cyclists have long entreated drivers to “share the road.” Now what is being shared is not only the road but the bicycle itself. Forward-thinking cities are turning back to the humble bicycle as a way to enhance mobility, alleviate automotive congestion, reduce air pollution, boost health, support local businesses, and attract more young people. Bike-sharing systems—distributed networks of public bicycles used for short trips—that integrate into robust transit networks are being embraced by a growing number of people in the urbanizing world who are starting to view car ownership as more of a hassle than a rite of passage.
Today more than 500 cities in 49 countries host advanced bike-sharing programs, with a combined fleet of over 500,000 bicycles. Urban transport advisor Peter Midgley notes that “bike sharing has experienced the fastest growth of any mode of transport in the history of the planet.” It certainly has come a long way since 1965, when 50 bicycles were painted white and scattered around Amsterdam for anyone to pick up and use free of charge. Unfortunately, many of those bikes quickly disappeared or were damaged. In the 1990s, several Danish cities began more formal systems, with designated racks and coin deposits to check out bicycles. Copenhagen’s famed Bycyklen (“City Bike”) program, which has been an inspiration to many cities, finally closed at the end of 2012 after operating for 17 years with more than 1,000 bicycles. It is set to be replaced by a modern system in 2013, which could help Copenhagen meet its goal of increasing the share of commuting trips on bike from an already impressive 36 percent to 50 percent.
Modern bike-sharing systems have greatly reduced the theft and vandalism that hindered earlier programs by using easily identified specialty bicycles with unique parts that would have little value to a thief, by monitoring the cycles’ locations with radio frequency or GPS, and by requiring credit card payment or smart-card-based membership in order to check out bikes. In most systems, after paying a daily, weekly, monthly, or annual membership fee, riders can pick up a bicycle locked to a well-marked bike rack or electronic docking station for a short ride (typically an hour or less) at no additional cost and return it to any station within the system. Riding longer than the program’s specified amount of time generally incurs additional fees to maximize the number of bikes available.
Although the Netherlands and Denmark had far more pervasive cycling cultures, it was France that ushered the world into the third generation of bike sharing in 1998, when advertising company Clear Channel began the world’s first public computerized program with 200 bikes in the city of Rennes. The country moved into the big leagues in 2005 when Lyon, France’s third largest city, opened its Vélo’v program with 1,500 bikes at some 100 automated self-service docking stations. Its success—an apparent 44 percent increase in bicycle ridership in the first year—paved the way for large-scale bike sharing’s early shining star: the Vélib’ in Paris.
Vélib’ was launched in 2007 with 10,000 bicycles at 750 stations, and it quickly doubled in size. By the end of 2012, Vélib’, which is funded in a 10-year contract with advertising firm JCDecaux in exchange for street-side ad space, could claim more than 224,000 annual members and had surpassed 130 million trips. Since the system’s launch, the number of cyclists on the streets has risen 41 percent, with more than one out of every three bicycles on Paris streets being a shared bike. With bikes accounting for just 3 percent of traffic, though, there is still room for growth, and that is the plan. Bike sharing is part of a broader initiative to reduce automotive traffic and pollution in Paris, which includes closing prominent streets to cars on weekends, reducing speed limits, marking dedicated bus lanes to help move people en masse more efficiently, and extending the bike lanes network to 430 miles (700 kilometers) by 2014—all championed by Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë, who has said that “automobiles no longer have a place in the big cities of our times.”
Meanwhile, programs were popping up throughout Italy and Spain like mushrooms after a rainfall. According to figures maintained by Peter Midgley, Italy had 47 bike-sharing programs in 2007, Spain had 36, and France had 18. Many were smaller scale, with tens of bikes rather than thousands. But a few stand out. Spain’s signature program in Barcelona became so popular soon after its launch in 2007—getting many new riders to try bike commuting for the first time—that by 2008 it had quadrupled its fleet to 6,000 bikes and planned extensions to the surrounding communities. Seville also began bike sharing in 2007 as part of a rapid transformation to make the central city more accommodating to people, not just cars. In less than 5 years, cycling leapt from close to nothing to cover 6 percent of trips. As of late 2012, Spain leads the world with 132 separate bike-share programs. Italy has 104, and France, 37. With a wave of new openings in 2009 and 2010, Germany joined the group of leading countries and now has 43 programs, including some with stationless bikes that can be located and accessed by mobile phone. (See data.)
Other European countries have fewer programs, but some are very active. Dublin’s 550-bike system boasts a high membership and frequent rides on each bike. London’s Barclays Cycle Hire system launched in 2010 with 6,000 bikes and has grown beyond 8,000. As part of Mayor Boris Johnson’s “cycling revolution,” London is introducing several new cycle paths and “superhighways” in hopes of doubling the number of cycling trips within the next decade. In the Netherlands, a different breed of bike sharing run by the national railroad makes some 5,000 bikes available at more than 240 rail stations and other popular commuting spots. In Eastern Europe, which appears to be on the brink of a bike-sharing bonanza, Warsaw opened a program in August 2012 with 1,000 bikes that were ridden 130,000 times in that first month. The city now has some 2,500 shared bikes.
Bike-sharing enthusiasm has spread to Eastern Asia, Australia, and the Americas as well. Russell Meddin, who along with Paul DeMaio has chronicled and mapped the world’s bike-sharing programs, reports that even Dubai launched a program in February 2013.
In the Americas, where the car has long been king, the first big third-generation bike-sharing program opened in Montreal in 2009. It now has 5,120 bicycles and over 400 stations, facilitating use of the city’s robust network of bike lanes and paths. Toronto plans to expand its 1,000-bike scheme, and Vancouver and Calgary, along with several other Canadian cities, are expecting to start programs in the next couple of years.
When Mexico City launched its Ecobici program with some 1,000 bikes in 2010, it quickly reached its limit of 30,000 annual members and started a waiting list of eager would-be cyclists. The program has since quadrupled in size and remains the largest of Latin America’s dozen or so programs. Most of these are in Brazil; in fact, São Paulo even hosts multiple bike-sharing ventures. In Argentina, Buenos Aires opened a pilot program in 2010 and currently has 1,200 shared-bikes, allowing more two-wheelers to brave the traffic, even crossing what is known as the world’s widest street. Santiago, Chile, currently has a program operating with 180 bikes at 18 manned stations in one city neighborhood, but later this year plans to roll out a larger automated system that could grow to 3,000 bikes at 300 stations within four years.
Throughout the United States bike-sharing programs are springing up at a fast clip; in fact it is hard to find a sizable U.S. city that is not at least exploring the bike-sharing option. As of April 2013, there were 26 active modern public programs in the United States, a number poised to double within the next year or two.
The largest U.S. program in early 2013 was Capital Bikeshare, with more than 1,800 bicycles spread across 200 stations in Washington, DC, and neighboring communities. Nice Ride Minnesota, which covers the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, was second, with 1,550 bikes at 170 stations. The Boston metropolitan area is home to 1,100 shared bikes. Miami Beach is planning to add 500 bikes to its current fleet of 1,000 as it extends into Miami this year. And Denver, which is looking to grow from near 500 to 700 bikes in 2013, is one of more than 15 public systems in the B-cycle family that give members access to bikes when they travel to different cities, including Madison, Fort Worth, Fort Lauderdale, San Antonio, Charlotte, and Kansas City.
Several of the new players coming online in 2013 will dwarf the existing American field. New York’s highly anticipated Citi Bike program is poised to roll out 5,500 bicycles at 293 stations in Manhattan and Brooklyn in May, with the ultimate goal of reaching 10,000 bikes. Chicago plans to start in June, ramping up to 4,000 bikes at 400 stations in 2014. Southern California will be rolling into bike sharing in a big way with programs opening in Los Angeles (4,000 cycles), Long Beach (2,500), and San Diego (1,800). In northern California, a pilot project of up to 1,000 bikes in San Francisco and Bay Area cities south along the rail line hopes to begin what could ultimately be a 10,000-bike program.
Impressive as these additions are, they are hard-pressed to hold a candle to some of Asia’s massive developments. According to Susan Shaheen and colleagues at the University of California at Berkeley, Asia got into the game in 1999 with a program in Singapore that lasted until 2007. The city now has two bike-sharing systems: one conventional and one run by a car-sharing company offering electric bikes. South Korea rolled out six programs between 2008 and 2010, including one in Changwon that now has 4,600 bikes and one in Goyang with 3,000. Japan, where commuters have a long history of using bikes to get to train stations (witness the 2.1 million bicycle parking spaces in the Greater Tokyo metropolitan area), has nine bike-sharing programs that began between 2009 and 2012. Taiwan, a high grossing bicycle exporter, has two bike-sharing programs as well. But it is the “bicycle kingdom” of China that is showing the world how big bike sharing can get.
In early 2013, China was home to 79 bike-sharing programs, with a whopping combined fleet of some 358,000 bicycles. According to a paper prepared in late 2012 for the Transportation Research Board’s 92nd Annual Meeting by Yang Tang and colleagues at Tongji University, expansions and new projects could soon balloon China’s public bike fleet to just under 1 million cycles.
The world’s largest bike-sharing program is in Wuhan, China’s sixth largest city, with 9 million people and 90,000 shared bikes. Wuhan recently claimed the number one spot from Hangzhou, which has 69,750 bikes in its bike-share scheme. Hangzhou launched mainland China’s first computerized bike-share system in 2008, integrating stations with bus and subway networks, allowing the same transit card to be used across all modes and granting extra free bike riding time with a bus transfer. By 2020 Hangzhou’s system could grow to 175,000 bikes.
The growth in bike sharing and bike infrastructure may help buck the pervasive motorization that has turned rush-hour roadways in China’s fast-growing cities into virtual parking lots. In Zhuzhou, after a program of 20,000 bikes opened in 2011, the share of trips made by bicycle—which had slipped to a meager (by Chinese standards) 5 percent—reportedly jumped to 10 percent. An estimated 70 percent of the bike trips were made on shared cycles. In Hangzhou, the cycling share dropped from 43 percent in 2000 to 34 percent in 2007, but then it rebounded to 37 percent by 2009 after bike sharing was introduced. In Beijing in the 1980s, more than half of all trips were made by bicycle; by 2007 this had fallen to 23 percent. Yet as more cars and trucks filled Beijing’s roads, the average car speed fell to less than 8 miles per hour in 2003, down from 28 in 1994. It is too early to gauge the impact of Beijing’s municipal bike-share program, which opened in 2012 with 2,000 cycles and plans to jump to 50,000 by 2015.
Bike-sharing cities are finding that promoting the bicycle as a transport option can lead to more mobility and safer streets for all. Bike-sharing programs are well positioned to hook people up with a bus or metro system, accommodating the last mile or so between home or work and mass transit. Having bikes ready to go on the streets encourages more people to try out biking, and once they experience its convenience, speed, and lower cost, they then advocate for further improvements to cycling infrastructure—like bike lanes, paths, and parking—making it even easier for more riders to join in. This “virtuous cycle” means that it is increasingly likely that bike sharing could soon show up in a city near you.
Stay tuned for a forthcoming release delving into more detail on bike sharing in the United States.
Concerns about the dramatic decline in bee populations around the world in recent years has resulted in a continent-wide ban in Europe on insecticides that allegedly causes serious harm to bees.
Bees are vital to our ecosystem and food production because they pollinate three-quarters of all crops in the world. This pollination indirectly contributes over €22 billion annually to European agriculture alone. Their decline has been blamed on loss of habitat, diseases and the use of neonicotinoid pesticides by farmers.
The suspension of neonicotinoid pesticides has been backed by both the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and environmental campaigners, who have called the ban “a significant victory for common sense.” But the proposal to ban neonicotinoid pesticides was only supported by 15 member states, eight voted no and four member nations abstained, and therefore failed to reach a qualified majority when the 27 EU member states voted on it (a complete list of the countries can be found further down). Because of this failure to reach a majority it was up to the European Commission to decide on the adoption of the proposed ban – a suspension which the commission supported.
Tonio Borg, Health and Consumer Commissioner, said that “although a majority of Member States now supports our proposal, the necessary qualified majority was not reached. The decision now lies with the Commission. Since our proposal is based on a number of risks to bee health identified by the European Food Safety Authority, the Commission will go ahead with its text in the coming weeks,” Borg concluded.
The UK voted against a suspension by arguing that the ban wasn’t supported by science, that it would harm food production and result in increasing costs for farmers. But experts and environmentalists alike discards these arguments. Professor Simon Potts, a bee expert at the University of Reading, said that “the ban is excellent news for pollinators” and that science is clear on the need for a ban. “The weight of evidence from researchers clearly points to the need to have a phased ban of neonicotinoids”, Potts said. “There are several alternatives to using neonicotinoids and farmers will benefit from healthy pollinator populations as they provide substantial economic benefits to crop pollination.”
Environmental campaigners blamed the UK’s vote on heavy lobbying from chemical and agriculture companies. Greenpeace’s chief scientist, Doug Parr, said to the Guardian that “by not supporting the ban, environment secretary, Owen Paterson, has exposed the UK government as being in the pocket of big chemical companies and the industrial farming lobby.”
The ban will come into effect from 1 December 2013. The UK, Czech Republic, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Austria and Portugal voted no the suspension. Ireland, Lithuania, Finland and Greece abstained from the vote. Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Spain, France, Cyprus, Germany, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia and Sweden voted in favor of the ban.
I’ve recently discussed a report by David Hughes of the Post Carbon institute on my energy blog (see here). The report is called “Drill Baby Drill” and it serves to debunk many of the myths regarding shale gas and tight oil (often referred to as “shale oil”).
If you believe the propaganda shale gas / oil “solves” all of the west’s energy problems for “a hundred years” (or a thousand years or some other large made up number!)….not so! As this report illustrates shale gas is currently plateauing at an output level of 26 billion cfg/day (about 189 mtoe). Sounds like a lot…until you realise that current US gas demand is about 25.4 trillion cfg/yr (or about 60-80 billion cfg/day once you account for seasonal variations). This means that shale gas output within the US can only meet about 37 – 32% of current US gas demand. Total US energy consumption is currently hovering around about 2,200 mtoe. So, neglecting conversion losses and cycle efficiencies (which for certain energy pathways from natural gas to vehicles for example would be significant) you would need to increase shale gas production about 12 fold, just to meet current US domestic energy demand.
Now there may be room for more growth, but it’s limited. As I’ve pointed out in a prior post (see “is shale gas a fracking Ponzi scheme?”), many shale gas “plays” are not economic, often being driven more by market speculation than real world gas demand (a number of the same people behind the sub prime crisis have been getting involved in trading in shale gas “plays“). David Hughes suggests that there may be some room for growth in the form of joint gas and oil fracking operations. Even so, it’s worth considering that he also notes how the EIA has been gradually downgrading its forecasts for proven reserves of shale gas. The present reserves estimate of 579 trillion cfg would only sustain current production for about two and a bit more decades. Again in reality it’s more likely there there might be some further growth in output, before shale gas peaks and enters into a rapid decline.
Shale/Tight oil isn’t much better. They are a little behind shale gas operations, so further growth is likely. David Hughes estimates, based on DoE and EIA figures, that production will ramp up from a current output of 1.2 milion bbl/day to a maximum of around 2.2 million bbl/day in 2017, before declining sharply (of course I’m for hoping it stops altogether!). As with Shale gas, the oil industry has some wriggle room. They may not reach this high point and sustain less output for longer, or they might overshoot (as with shale gas) and sustain a higher output for less time, but that’s about it.
Again, 2.2 million bbl/day probably sounds like a lot, until you realise that current US oil demand hovers around 20 million bbl/day (i.e. if Hughes is to be believed the US can only get 11% of its oil needs from tight oil) and global demand is about 80 million bbl/day. It is literally a drop in the ocean, much like the Tar sands I reported on before.
And also like those tar sands Shale gas and tight oil both come with a very heavy carbon footprint, many times greater than that associated with conventional fossil fuels extraction. Shale gas, as I discussed in a prior post may be worse than coal.
In fact a recent joint study by the LSE and the Grantham Research Institute has pointed out that the bulk of the world’s existing fossil fuel reserves are essentially “unburnable” if we want to keep global warming to be below the 2 degrees recommended by scientists. Many billions (about $674 billion last year) are being wasted every year on finding or adding additional fossil fuel reserves which we’ll likely never use and thus the companies doing so will never recoup revenue from these operations (again it pretty much meets the definition of a Ponzi scheme).
And it’s not just the carbon dioxide being released as a result of shale gas production that’s the problem. There’s also all those nasty chemicals involved in the fracking process and the gas leaking into people’s water supply (such that they can actually set their tap water on fire! Watch this video if you don’t believe me). In short the advice of the fossil fuel industry to switch from conventional to unconventional fossil fuels is not that far removed from that of a drug dealer telling an addict that the solution to his cocaine addiction is to switch to crack.
It is important as green campaigners we challenge this notion of “shale gas will solve all our problems” mantra, for it is tempting certain individuals (particularly those on the political right) to believe that if we just ignore climate change (which we can’t) they can still have their SUV in the drive way and air-con on all night and basically maintain business as usual.
By way of example, I highlighted a while back how the present UK energy policy is founded on the principle that nuclear power will be cheaply available (actually EDF are looking for a subsidy level that exceeds wind power!) and that natural gas from the UK’s shale deposits will be cheap and plentiful. Neither of these conditions are likely to apply. Yet even so several major green energy projects, despite making more economic sense than the Tories obsessions with nuclear and shale gas, have been shelved.
The reality is, unconventional fossil fuels are simply not up to the task. While I would accept the argument that the more “pessimistic” peak oil analysts have perhaps underestimated the potential output from these sources, the numbers still do not add up. At best shale gas has bought America maybe a decade or two more of cheap energy addiction. But the come down from the other side of this shale fueled binge is just going to be all that more severe. My advice would therefore be to curtail the use of these sources (if not an outright ban on them) and begin the transition to renewables.
Indeed by contrast to America’s shale gas splurge Portugal has succeeded in going to 70% on its renewables consistently over the last winter (briefly 100% at times). Another way is possible!
Despite commitments from Australia to limit global warming to below 2 degrees the country’s coal export are planned to expand by more than double current levels in the coming years. For that reason six Greenpeace activists boarded a ship from Australia carrying coal for the Asian market earlier this morning. The dramatic stunt is part of a ramped up campaign from Greenpeace against Australia’s ever increasing coal exports.
“We’ve taken the action today because Australia is on track to almost double coal exports in the next decade. Both major political parties have no solutions on the table. It is time to slow down the coal boom,” Greenpeace Activist Emma Giles told the Guardian from on board the ship.
“Our leaders are failing us so it’s up to us to take civil disobedience and to slow down and stop these coal ships. We are set to stay here as long as it takes,” Giles said.
Along with this action, Greenpeace are calling on people to join their campaign by signing a statement in support of today’s action. Once they reach 10 000 names, the statement will be published in the Australian Financial Review.
The video below shows how Greenpeace activists boarded the coal ship.
“A resounding success!” John Riddell, Louis Proyect, and Ben Silverman report on a major step forward for anti-capitalist organizing in the environmental movement. I was unable to attend the Ecosocialist Conference in New York City on April 20, and it is clear from all reports that I missed an important and inspiring event.
The meeting was organized by the Ecosocialist Contingent, the alliance that participated as a united anti-capitalist voice in the demonstration against the Keystone XL Pipeline in Washington on February 17. Initiated by members of Solidarity and the International Socialist Organization, the Ecosocialist Contingent quickly expanded to include the broadest range of left organizations and individuals yet seen in the U.S. environmental movement.
Below are reports by three participants in the conference.
- John Riddell wrote his report specifically for Climate & Capitalism. His report can be found below [editor's note]. John is best-known as the leading historian of the Communist International, but he is also active in the fight against Enbridge’s tar sands pipeline in Toronto, and a founder of Toronto Bolivia Solidarity.
- Louis Proyect, a long time socialist activist in the New York City area, moderates the popular online discussion forum Marxmail. His report is published on his blog, The Unrepentant Marxist.
- Ben Silverman is a New Jersey based socialist and environmental activist, and a member of the International Socialist Organization. His report is published on his blog, The Red Plebeian.
For readers in the Toronto area, John Riddell and Abbie Bakan will report on the conference at a public meeting on Saturday May 4 at 7pm, at the Beit Zatoun coffee house, 612 Markham St. Details here.New York Conference charts path toward ‘system change not climate change’
By John Riddell
The Ecosocialist Conference, a broad and enthusiastic all-day meeting in New York April 20, took a big step toward creating an anti-capitalist wing of the environmental movement.
The conference was arranged in just six weeks by organizers of the Ecosocialist Contingent in the mass demonstration against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in Washington February 17. It was supported by 29 groups who subscribed to the Ecosocialist Contingent statement for “system change, not climate change.”
The 240 attendees ― more than double the number organizers originally expected ― included members of several socialist currents and many unaffiliated socialists, but the real strength of the conference lay in participation by a great number of young climate-change and ecological activists. Most participants were from the New York region, but a few came from as far away as Maine, Oregon, Texas, and Vancouver, B.C.Break with Democratic Party
The range of opinion was wide. Many participants, including spokespersons for the Green Party, did not term themselves anti-capitalists, but agreed on the need for ‘system change’ and a break from the corporate-dominated Democratic Party.
Among them was the first featured speaker, Jill Stein, the Greens’ presidential candidate in 2012. “This is an incredible outpouring of support of those not going forward with Obama but forward with the 99% for system change and fundamental justice,” she said. “Capitalism is trying to kill the planet, but the people are rising up.”
Her remarks reflected the view of many participants that organizers of the February 17 mass demonstration had weakened the protest’s impact by presenting it as an expression of support for Obama, echoing his “forward” and “clean energy” slogans, for example. As several speakers noted, the Democratic administration now seems very likely to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.
The February 17 action thus showed both the power of environmental protest and the futility of relying on the Democrats. As Jill Stein said, “the demonstration told Obama, ‘we’ve got your back,’ and then he stabbed us in the back.”The road to system change
The conference brought together a wide range of viewpoints in a fruitful exchange.
For example, the panel on “Carbon taxes and market approaches” heard Teamster and Green Party activist Howie Hawkins’ reasoned defense of carbon taxes as an immediate measure to alleviate climate change that enjoys “solid support.”
The second presenter in this session, Dan Piper of Socialist Action, counterposed the need for working people to “seize command of the productive apparatus.” There is no way to end environmental destruction through reforms, he argued. For example, cities based on cars or on public transit are mutually exclusive alternatives.
But how can we link immediate concerns like Keystone XL to the need for system change? Chris Williams, author of Ecology and Socialism, addressed this point in the closing session by calling for the building of a movement through which “we change our relationship to each other and the planet. We need to shift the pendulum of power – and, ultimately, get rid of it.”
The climate change movement showed its potential by delaying Keystone XL, Williams said, “and when it is approved, we should demonstrate again.”Electoral action
Widely different approaches were also evident in discussions of participation in elections. “We are in uncharted waters,” said Joel Kovel of EcoSocialist Horizons. “There are no market solutions, and no electoral solutions either…. Ecosocialism is a spiritual question; our organizing aims to direct spiritual forces to the Earth and nature,” he said.
Gloria Mattera of the Green Party agreed that “the market system has failed,” but stressed the need for “electoral expression in order to engage the broader population,” calling for “a broad electoral alliance to challenge the power of the corporations.”Environmental justice
Speaking in the opening plenary, Richard Smith stressed the need for wholesale economic transformation to save the planet. “Drastic retrenchment is required. Three-quarters of goods produced are not needed at all.” The argument for this view is strong, but as stated it doesn’t seem to recognize the need to overcome global inequality, in particular the increasingly desperate needs of billions of people who lack even the most basic requirements of life.
Other presentations focused more explicitly on the impact of environmental crimes on victims of oppression. David Galarza, a Puerto Rican ecological activist, portrayed encouraging gains by environmental struggles in his country; Firewolf Bizahaloni-Wong of the Native Resistance Project discussed Idle No More and the fight for indigenous rights.
A well-attended panel addressed the broader issue of “Race, Gender, and Environmental Justice.” The first victims of climate change are the peoples of poor countries, and “we have a lot to learn from environmental movements in the Global South,” said Heather Kangas, a Baltimore-based members of the International Socialist Organization. Moreover, “the environment is not just the natural world but also where we work, live and play – it is urban and suburban as well as rural,” she said, advocating that the ecosocialist movement link up with Environmental Justice groups found among peoples of colour.
Amity Page, a journalist with the Amsterdam News, described the systematic racism of the U.S. emergency management agency (FEMA) and other authorities after the Hurricane Sandy disaster. People of colour were regarded simply as “looters,” she said. FEMA and police did not enter subsidized public housing to help those in need and kept other assistance workers from going in, saying it was too dangerous. “A disaster heightens the inequalities that are already there,” she said.
Abbie Bakan, head of gender studies at Queen’s University, Ontario, took up a case study: the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians. They have undergone an “indigenous experience, enduring environmental racism,” in which slogans like “make the desert bloom” promote the notion that “the good earth comes only from the colonial project.”
Some comments from the audience in that session:
- “There has been an environmental justice movement all along among indigenous peoples, people of colour, and in the Global South, but you have to have anti-imperialist eyes to see it.”
- “Every climate change activist must also be an antiwar activist.”
- “We will learn much more about racism and how it is manifested through our activity in the environmental movement.”
The event’s program was well-run and varied, with 43 speakers and facilitators. Aside from the panels discussed here, there were sessions on agriculture/food, fossil fuel divestment, Hurricane Sandy, labour, and Green Left history.
No discussion was scheduled on ecosocialist activities going forward, but it was generally felt that the conference created a strong foundation for future activities. Alongside Chris Williams’ call for another Keystone XL protest, there was talk of holding another ecosocialist conference down the road. The Ecosocialist Contingent will hold a teleconference May 6 to discuss next steps. For information, write ecosocialistconference [at] gmail.com.
April 1 was no joke in Lansing, Michigan, when equipment at a power plant malfunctioned and caused 300 gallons of oil to leak into the Grand River. Two days later in Chalmette, Louisiana, a pipeline connected to a drum full of chemicals broke, releasing the toxic liquid into the surrounding area, along with airborne cancer-causing agents. These two incidents followed even worse disasters in Mayflower, Arkansas and West Columbia, Texas. This means that the U.S. endured four spills over the course of two weeks. And still, oil companies have not been brought to justice.
The Michigan spill occurred at the Lansing Board of Water and Light’s Eckert Power Plant, and for once, the spill came from somewhere other than an oil corporation, small comfort though it may be. Lansing Board of Water and Light is a publicly owned municipal utility that provides water and electricity to Lansing and East Lansing. An equipment failure at their plant caused turbine oil to escape, and soon make its way into the adjacent Grand River.
The utility staff deployed three booms to contain the oil, and the EPA was on the scene almost immediately. Impacts to the local ecosystem are still being assessed, but thick dark patches could be seen by people in parts of the river after the time of the spill.
“An oil spill in the Grand River is alarming, and we’re calling for a thorough investigation to determine the extent of the damage and its environmental impact,” said Nick Clark, Michigan director for Clean Water Action. “This is another reason why it’s so vital to make clean, renewable energy a priority. There is no environmental fallout connected with clean energy sources like wind or solar power.”
Brad Wurfel, spokesman for the Michigan Department for Environmental Quality, remarked that though the spill is “manageable in terms of the substance … and in terms of the environment’s ability to absorb it,” the smaller size of the incident (in comparison with those in Arkansas and Texas) by no means lessens the negative impact. “It’s not a minor spill. We take it very seriously. Nobody wants to see anything spilled in the river. … We’ll probably continue to see [a] sheen [in the river] in the near term.”
Luckily, since the oil spilled was hydraulic, rather than tarsands crude, it would cause no foul odor. Nor, said Wurfel, would it release any airborne pollutants. Both of these facts are more than can be said for Louisiana.
In Chalmette, not far from New Orleans, ExxonMobil has added a new disaster to its list of anti-accomplishments. While its Pegasus pipeline continues to poison the Arkansas town of Mayflower, a thick liquid chemical mixture is infecting the air and ground in Louisiana. A pipeline malfunction at ExxonMobil’s refinery there caused a (so far) undisclosed amount of the liquid to poison the immediate outside area. Though the leak was quickly reported and stopped, the damage is done.
On the day of that incident, people throughout Chalmette and New Orleans reported a strong, foul odor not unlike oil or gasoline. That was the effect of the chemical, which released 100 pounds of hydrogen sulfide and 10 pounds of benzene into the air. The latter is, according to Before It’s News, “a volatile organic carbon compound known to cause cancer.”
Petty Officer Jason Screws, of the Coast Guard National Response Center, who was overseeing the accident, added, “The odor threshold for these chemicals is very low. You can smell it a lot sooner when the concentration is enough to be harmful.” In other words, it was released in a large enough amount to have a negative health impact.
The bottom line is that oil has tainted land and water in four different states in two consecutive weeks, and right in the midst of right-wing attempts to drum up support for pipeline oil transportation, to boot. Just days before the Arkansas pipeline leak, Alex Pourbaix, president of Keystone XL company TransCanada, had done his best to tout pipelines as the best option for transporting crude. “If you’re actually concerned about the environment, you very much want to see oil moving by pipeline,” he lied.
On April 11, as part of the ongoing effort to show just how wrong such sentiments are, environmentalists from Texas and various parts of the Gulf Coast rallied outside the G8 foreign ministers’ meeting at the Lancaster House in London. Their goal was to send a clear message to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry: that the Keystone XL pipeline must be rejected – particularly after this latest string of oil disasters.
Environmental justice advocate Bryan Parras, who lives in Houston (very near to the West Columbia spill), remarked, “The XL pipeline is set to deliver a toxic slurry of dirty oil to communities all over the U.S. As we’ve seen from the pipeline spills in [these] last two weeks, the delivery of tarsands is too risky and costly for the communities [that are] in harm’s way.” The solution, he concluded, is simple: “Keep the oil in the soil.”
This article was first published in People’s World by Blake Deppe.
Even amid policy uncertainty in major wind power markets, wind developers still managed to set a new record for installations in 2012, with 44,000 megawatts of new wind capacity worldwide. With total capacity exceeding 280,000 megawatts, wind farms generate carbon-free electricity in more than 80 countries, 24 of which have at least 1,000 megawatts. At the European level of consumption, the world’s operating wind turbines could satisfy the residential electricity needs of 450 million people.
China installed some 13,000 megawatts of wind in 2012, according to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC). This was a marked slowdown from the previous two years, when new installations averaged 18,000 megawatts annually. Reasons for the drop-off include concerns about project quality and inadequate electricity transmission and grid infrastructure, which prompted the government to approve fewer projects and to restrict lending. Still, all told, China leads the world with 75,000 megawatts of wind capacity: more than a quarter of the world total.
In a country more readily associated with coal-fired electricity and nuclear power ambitions, wind reached some impressive milestones in China’s energy mix in 2012. Wind-generated electricity increased more than coal-fired electricity did for the first time. Even more remarkable, the electricity produced by wind farms over the course of the year exceeded that produced by nuclear power plants. And this is just the beginning: with massive wind projects under development across its northern and eastern provinces, and 19 ultra-high-voltage transmission projects connecting windy rural areas to population centers (all to be completed by 2014), more milestones lie ahead in China. Consulting firms GTM Research and Azure International project that China will reach 140,000 megawatts of wind by 2015 and nearly 250,000 megawatts by 2020.
The U.S. wind industry made headlines too. More new wind electricity generating capacity was added in 2012 than any other generation technology, including natural gas—a record 13,100 megawatts. An incredible 5,200 megawatts, spread among 59 wind farms, came online in December alone as developers raced to qualify for the federal production tax credit before it expired at the end of the year. The United States remains second only to China, with 60,000 total megawatts of wind capacity—enough to power more than 14 million U.S. homes.
Several U.S. states have more installed wind capacity than most countries do. The 12,200 megawatts in Texas and the 5,500 megawatts in California, for example, would rank them sixth and eleventh, respectively, on the world wind power list. In Texas, a further 21,000 megawatts of wind projects are under consideration, much of which could be accommodated by the “Competitive Renewable Energy Zones” high-voltage transmission projects scheduled for completion by the end of 2013. These new lines will connect wind-rich West Texas and the panhandle with high-demand markets to the east. (See data.)
Wind farms generated at least 10 percent of the electricity produced in nine states in 2012, up from five states the year before. Iowa and South Dakota got nearly a quarter of their electricity from wind. Oregon’s 845-megawatt Shepherd’s Flat wind farm, commissioned in 2012, is North America’s largest. But in Carbon County, Wyoming, a project of up to 3,000 megawatts is under development.
To the north, Canada’s 6,500 megawatts of wind power are sufficient to meet the electricity needs of nearly 2 million households. As Ontario, the country’s most populous province, works to phase out coal-fired power by 2014, its wind generation is growing—in fact, Ontario’s wires carried more electricity from wind than from coal for the first time in 2012.
The European Union (EU) added more megawatts of wind in 2012 than it did natural gas, coal, or nuclear, even as fiscal austerity measures cut renewable energy incentives. Several EU member states lead the world in the share of electricity they get from wind farms. Spain and Portugal typically have a 16 percent wind share. In Germany, whose 30,000 megawatts of wind capacity are the third highest in the world, the national wind share is 11 percent. Four of Germany’s northern states now get roughly half of their electricity from wind.
But it is Denmark that sets the bar for wind’s role in electricity production. The Danish Wind Industry Association reports that wind farms generated 30 percent of Denmark’s electricity in 2012, up from 28 percent in 2011. The government pledged in late 2011 to boost this share to 50 percent by 2020.
Looking eastward, Romania and Poland each added roughly 900 megawatts of wind in 2012, reaching 2,500 and 1,900 megawatts, respectively. Turkey’s goal is to reach 20,000 megawatts of wind in the next 10 years, nearly 10 times its current capacity.
Aside from China, India is the other big Asian wind market. With over 18,000 megawatts installed, India ranks fifth worldwide in wind capacity. The government plans to spend roughly $8 billion on grid and transmission upgrades by 2017 through its “green energy corridors” plan. This is sorely needed in a country where nearly 300 million people do not have access to electricity.
Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Oceania have enormous wind potential but little actual development thus far. Activity in each of these regions, however, indicates seriousness about harnessing the wind. In Latin America, Mexico more than doubled its wind capacity to almost 1,400 megawatts in 2012. Brazil, where wind installations grew 75 percent in 2012, could add another 1,500 megawatts in 2013 to reach 4,000 megawatts total.
Just 100 megawatts of wind were installed in all of Africa in 2012, split between Ethiopia and Tunisia. Kenya’s long-awaited 310-megawatt Lake Turkana wind farm, which could generate more than 10 percent of national electricity, has suffered multiple setbacks but may begin construction in 2013. No new wind projects came online in the Middle East. Jordan is looking to grow its currently negligible wind power to 1,200 megawatts by 2020, however, and plans are also under way in Israel and Saudi Arabia.
In Australia, the goal is to get 20 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Half of the country’s current 2,600 megawatts of wind is in the state of South Australia, where wind farms generated 24 percent of all electricity in 2012. The January 2013 commissioning of the 420-megawatt Macarthur wind farm in the state of Victoria gets the country halfway to its expected 30 percent wind growth for the year.
Most of the world’s installed wind capacity is land-based; just 2 percent—roughly 5,400 megawatts—has been built offshore. Recently, however, offshore development has accelerated, more than tripling over the last five years. Ten of the 12 countries with offshore wind farms are European. The United Kingdom hosts more than half of the world’s offshore capacity and aims for 18,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2020; its offshore wind resources are actually estimated to be 16 times larger than its electricity consumption. In Denmark, some 15 percent of electricity is expected to come from offshore wind farms by 2014.
China and Japan are the only offshore wind producers outside of Europe, hosting 390 megawatts and 25 megawatts, respectively. With 130 megawatts installed in 2012 alone, China has quickly amassed the world’s third largest offshore capacity figure; the country’s near-term offshore targets are 5,000 megawatts by 2015 and 30,000 by 2020. In the wake of the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, Japan is looking to harness more of its offshore wind, a resource plentiful enough to meet national electricity needs nearly three times over. And in South Korea, numerous offshore projects are under way, as the country’s wind industry aims to reach 23,000 megawatts of wind power by 2030.
According to Navigant Research, new wind installations worldwide will fall to some 40,000 megawatts in 2013. This would be the first instance in at least 17 years when annual additions did not increase year-to-year. Much of this deceleration will likely be the result of a slowdown in U.S. development. Still, the annual market is expected to rebound in 2014 as costs continue to fall, as major players recover, and as newcomers in Africa, the Middle East, and the Baltic region begin to realize their wind ambitions. GWEC and Greenpeace International project at least 425,000 megawatts of wind capacity worldwide by 2015—enough to generate electricity for all of Central and South America. The world is starting to realize that wind’s potential is almost without limit.
By J. Matthew Roney.
In 2011, President Obama challenged the U.S. Department of Energy, and the rest of the nation to put one million electric cars on the road by 2015. The Department of Energy has since eased off the deadline, according to Mercury News, but says it’s still committed to the President’s goal.
And they’re not the only ones. Now more than ever, the country is dedicated to the idea of hybrid and electric vehicles on U.S. roads across the country. Forbes estimates that roughly 56,000 electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles were sold in the U.S. in 2012. That’s only a small portion contributing to Obama’s one million goal, but it does lend to the evidence that America is buying into the idea of going green on the road. The reasons go beyond the simple numbers of supply and variety. Here are some of the reasons we might just reach that goal set by the President in 2013:China’s Polluted Reality
China’s overwhelming pollution has been in the news several times lately. ABC News reported that one of the biggest factors contributing to the poor air quality is the amount of cars that inhabit the roads in the nation of more than one billion people. 13 million cars were sold just last year within their own borders, so it’s safe to say that it’s a growing problem.
A picture speaks a thousand words, and the images we’re seeing from cities like Beijing and Shanghai contain so much smog and pollution that you can hardly see the iconic skylines underneath the man-made clouds of smoke. The citizens there even have to wear masks just to breathe while walking around the city.
This is a serious wake up call for Americans who want to avoid the same fate. Hybrid and EVs aren’t the only way to prevent smog-filled cities, but car buyers know they’re a good start.Europe Shadows Our Demand
Similar to President Obama’s demand for 2015, a commission in the European Union has set its own goal to increase the number of electric cars on the road to cut carbon emissions by 2025, Reuters reported. In 2010, hybrid and EVs consisted of about 1.1 percent of the total market in Europe, which is a decent start.
How does this benefit the U.S.? Because there’s demand in two continents, automakers will continue to cut production costs and increase supply, which essentially passes on the savings to the buyer. The costs of hybrid and EVs have been scrutinized for high maintenance and car coverage costs, so the cheaper it is to make one, the cheaper it is to maintain.Manufacturers Predict Enormous Production
Automakers aren’t messing around with the limits of their hybrid/electric-vehicle production. Ford Motors introduced five new electric-powered models in the last year, and expects 2013 to be a record year for sales, according to Bloomberg.com
The Detroit-born auto company sold 6,000 hybrid cars in 2012; a sizeable increase from the previous year, and the rest of the American auto industry seems to be following suit. The U.S. Department of Energy may be skeptical of the 2015 deadline set by President Obama. But as far as they’re concerned, the one million isn’t a matter of if, but when.
Across large portions of North America and Europe, the beginning of spring has been anything but warm so far. Scientists have now attributed that to the intense loss of Arctic sea ice caused by climate change. Last autumn, that ice fell to a record-breaking low, and experts say it’s only going to get worse.
Jennifer Francis, research professor with the Rutgers Institute of Coastal and Marine Science, noted, “The sea ice is going rapidly. It’s 80 percent less than it was just 30 years ago. There has been a dramatic loss. This is a symptom of global warming, and it contributes to enhanced warming of the Arctic. This is what is affecting the jet stream and leading to the extreme weather we are seeing in mid-latitudes. It allows the cold air from the Arctic to plunge much further south. The pattern can be slow to change because the [southern] wave of the jet stream is getting bigger.”
Vladimir Petoukhov, professor of earth system analysis at Germany’s Potsdam Institute, conducted research on the matter that led to the same conclusion. “The ice was at a record low last year,” he agreed, “and is now exceptionally low in some parts of the Arctic like the Labrador and Greenland seas.”
And as scientists have warned time and again, climate change is also triggering increasingly aggressive and unstable weather.
“With more solar energy going into the Arctic Ocean because of lost ice, there is reason to expect more extreme weather events, such as heavy snowfall, heat waves, and flooding in North America and Europe,” said the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in a statement.
Meanwhile, cattle and livestock in the UK have paid the price for the lingering cold with their lives. Emergency crews were helping with rescues this week in Scotland and Wales in order to save flocks of sheep on snow-covered farms. Animals on very rural farms in Northern Ireland have been dying from the cold. In response, helicopters were deployed today to drop food off for some of these animals.
Ireland agriculture minister Michelle O’Neill said, “It is a severe situation. People are angry and concerned. We have an animal welfare issue. Some of the scenes are harrowing – to see farmers bring in sheep that have died from the snow.”
A spokesman for the National Farmers Union of England and Wales added, “Severe weather warnings are still in place, and the majority of farmers are out there battling freezing temperatures to protect their livelihoods, families, and incomes.”
The Government of the United Kingdom’s chief scientific adviser, John Beddingon, remarked, “The current variation we are seeing in temperature and rainfall is double the rate of the average. That suggests that we are having more droughts, we are going to have more floods, we are going to have more sea surges, and we are going to have more storms. These are the sort of changes that are going to affect us in quite a short timescale.”
This article was first published in People’s World by Blake Deppe.
President Hugo Chavez has lost his two year long battle against cancer. But “those who die for life, can’t be called dead,” Vice-president Nicolas Maduro said when he made his heartfelt announcement of the death of Chavez on Venezuelan public television.
While hundreds of thousands of people have gathered on the streets of Caracas to bid a final farewell to their late president, only a month before elections to pick his successor, it can be worth remembering Chavez stance on climate change. Personally I’ll never forget his speech at the COP15 climate conference in Copenhagen in which he linked capitalism to global warming.
The full text of Hugo Chavez’s speech at the December 2009 Copenhagen climate conference can be found below. In the speech Chavez linked climate change and capitalism, saying that “if the climate were a bank, they [the rich governments] would already have saved it”. The translation has been done by Kiraz Janicke.
Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, Excellencies, friends, I promise that I will not talk more than most have spoken this afternoon. Allow me an initial comment which I would have liked to make as part of the previous point which was expressed by the delegations of Brazil, China, India, and Bolivia. We were there asking to speak but it was not possible. Bolivia’s representative said, my salute of course to Comrade President Evo Morales, who is there, President of the Republic of Bolivia.
She said among other things the following, I noted it here, she said the text presented is not democratic, it is not inclusive.
I had hardly arrived and we were just sitting down when we heard the president of the previous session, the minister, saying that a document came about, but nobody knows, I’ve asked for the document, but we still don’t have it, I think nobody knows of that top secret document.
Now certainly, as the Bolivian comrade said, that is not democratic, it is not inclusive. Now, ladies and gentlemen, isn’t that just the reality of the world? Are we in a democratic world? Is the global system inclusive? Can we hope for something democratic, inclusive from the current global system?
What we are experiencing on this planet is an imperial dictatorship, and from here we continue denouncing it. Down with imperial dictatorship! And long live the people and democracy and equality on this planet!
And what we see here is a reflection of this: Exclusion.
There is a group of countries that consider themselves superior to us in the South, to us in the Third World, to us, the underdeveloped countries, or as a great friend Eduardo Galeano says, we, the crushed countries, as if a train ran over us in history.
In light of this, it’s no surprise that there is no democracy in the world and here we are again faced with powerful evidence of global imperial dictatorship. Then two youths got up here, fortunately the enforcement officials were decent, some push around, and they collaborated right? There are many people outside, you know? Of course, they do not fit in this room, they are too many people. I’ve read in the news that there were some arrests, some intense protests, there in the streets of Copenhagen, and I salute all those people out there, most of them youth.
Of course young people are concerned, I think rightly much more than we are, for the future of the world. We have – most of us here – the sun on our backs, and they have to face the sun and are very worried.
One could say, Mr. President, that a spectre is haunting Copenhagen, to paraphrase Karl Marx, the great Karl Marx, a spectre is haunting the streets of Copenhagen, and I think that spectre walks silently through this room, walking around among us, through the halls, out below, it rises, this spectre is a terrible spectre almost nobody wants to mention it: Capitalism is the spectre, almost nobody wants to mention it.
[Audience applause]“Let’s not change the climate, let’s change the system!”
It’s capitalism, the people roar, out there, hear them.
I have been reading some of the slogans painted on the streets, and I think those slogans of these youngsters, some of which I heard when I was young, and of the young woman there, two of which I noted. You can hear among others, two powerful slogans. One: Don’t change the climate, change the system.
And I take it onboard for us. Let’s not change the climate, let’s change the system! And consequently we will begin to save the planet. Capitalism is a destructive development model that is putting an end to life; it threatens to put a definitive end to the human species.
And another slogan calls for reflection. It is very in tune with the banking crisis that swept the world and still affects it, and of how the rich northern countries gave aid to bankers and the big banks. The U.S . alone gave, well, I lost the figure, but it is astronomical, to save the banks.They say in the streets the following: If the climate were a bank it would have been saved already.
And I think that’s true. If the climate were one of the biggest capitalist banks, the rich governments would have saved it.
I think Obama has not arrived. He received the Nobel Peace Prize almost the same day that he sent 30 thousand soldiers to kill more innocents in Afghanistan, and now he comes to stand here with the Nobel Peace Prize, the president of the United States.
But the United States has the machinery to make money, to make dollars, and has saved, well, they believe they have saved the banks and the capitalist system. Well, this is a side comment that I wanted to make previously. We were raising our hand to accompany Brazil, India, Bolivia, China, in their interesting position that Venezuela and the countries of the Bolivarian Alliance firmly share. But hey, they didn’t let us speak, so do not count these minutes please, Mr. President.
Look, over there I met, I had the pleasure of meeting this French author Hervé Kempf. Recommending this book, I recommend it, it is available in Spanish – there is Hervé – its also in French, and surely in English, How the Rich are Destroying the Planet. This is what Christ said: it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. This is what our lord Christ said.
[Audience applause]“The rich are destroying the planet. Do they think the can go to another when they destroy this one?”
The rich are destroying the planet. Do they think the can go to another when they destroy this one? Do they have plans to go to another planet? So far there is none on the horizon of the galaxy.
This book has just reached me, Ignacio Ramonet gave it to me, and he is also around somewhere in this room. Finishing the prologue or the preamble this phrase is very important, Kempf says the following, I’ll read it:
“We can not reduce global material consumption if we don’t make the powerful go down several levels, and if we don’t combat inequality. It is necessary that to the ecological principle that is so useful at the time of becoming conscious, ‘think globally and act locally,’ we add the principle that the situation imposes: ‘Consume less and share better.’”
I think it is good advice that this French author Hervé Kempf gives us.
Well then, Mr. President, climate change is undoubtedly the most devastating environmental problem of this century. Floods, droughts, severe storms, hurricanes, melting ice caps, rise in mean sea levels, ocean acidification and heat waves, all of that sharpens the impact of global crisis besetting us.
Current human activity exceeds the threshold of sustainability, endangering life on the planet, but also in this we are profoundly unequal.
I want to recall: the 500 million richest people, 500 million, this is seven percent, seven percent, seven percent of the world’s population. This seven percent is responsible, these 500 million richest people are responsible for 50 percent of emissions, while the poorest 50 percent accounts for only seven percent of emissions.
So it strikes me as a bit strange to put the United States and China at the same level. The United States has just, well; it will soon reach 300 million people. China has nearly five times the U.S. population. The United Status consumes more than 20 million barrels of oil a day, China only reaches 5-6 million barrels a day, you can’t ask the same of the United States and China.
There are issues to discuss, hopefully we the heads of states and governments can sit down and discuss the truth, the truth about these issues.
So, Mr. President, 60 percent of the planet’s ecosystems are damaged, 20 percent of the earth’s crust is degraded, we have been impassive witnesses to deforestation, land conversion, desertification, deterioration of fresh water systems, overexploitation of marine resources, pollution and loss of biodiversity.
The overuse of the land exceeds by 30 percent the capacity to regenerate it. The planet is losing what the technicians call the ability to regulate itself; the planet is losing this. Every day more waste than can be processed is released. The survival of our species hammers in the consciousness of humanity. Despite the urgency, it has taken two years of negotiations for a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, and we attend this event without any real and meaningful agreement.
And indeed, on the text that comes from out of the blue, as some have called it, Venezuela says, and the ALBA countries, the Bolivarian Alliance say that we will not accept, since then we’ve said it, any other texts that do not come from working groups under the Kyoto Protocol and the Convention. They are the legitimate texts that we have been discussing so intensely over the years.
And in these last few hours, I believe you have not slept, plus you have not eaten, you have not slept. It does not seem logical to me to come out now with a document from scratch, as you say.
The scientifically substantiated objective of reducing the emission of polluting gases and achieving an agreement on long-term cooperation clearly, today at this time, has apparently failed, for now.
What is the reason? We have no doubt.
The reason is the irresponsible attitude and lack of political will from the most powerful nations on the planet. No one should feel offended, I recall the great José Gervasio Artigas when he said: “With the truth, I neither offend nor fear.” But it is actually an irresponsible attitude of positions, of reversals, of exclusions, of elitist management of a problem that belongs to everyone and that we can only solve together.
The political conservatism and selfishness of the largest consumers, of the richest countries shows high insensitivity and lack of solidarity with the poor, the hungry, and the most vulnerable to disease, to natural disasters. Mr. President, a new and single agreement is essential, applicable to absolutely unequal parties, according to the magnitude of their contributions and economic, financial and technological capabilities and based on unconditional respect for the principles contained in the Convention.
Developed countries should set binding, clear and concrete commitments for the substantial reduction of their emissions and assume obligations of financial and technological assistance to poor countries to cope with the destructive dangers of climate change. In this respect, the uniqueness of island states and least developed countries should be fully recognized.
Mr. President, climate change is not the only problem facing humanity today. Other scourges and injustices beset us, the gap between rich and poor countries has continued to grow, despite all the millennium goals, the Monterrey financing summit, at all these summits as the President of Senegal said here, revealing a great truth, there are promises and unfulfilled promises and the world continues its destructive march.
The total income of the 500 richest individuals in the world is greater than the income of the 416 million poorest people. The 2.8 billion people living in poverty on less than $2 per day, representing 40 per percent of the global population, receive only 5 percent of world income.
Today each year about 9.2 million children die before reaching their fifth year and 99.9 percent of these deaths occur in poorer countries.
Infant mortality is 47 deaths per thousand live births, but is only 5 per thousand in rich countries. Life expectancy on the planet is 67 years, in rich countries it is 79, while in some poor nations is only 40 years.
Additionally, there are 1.1 billion people without access to drinking water, 2.6 billion without sanitation services, over 800 million illiterate and 1.02 billion hungry people, that’s the global scenario.
Now the cause, what is the cause?
Let’s talk about the cause, let’s not evade responsibilities, and let’s not evade the depth of this problem. The cause, undoubtedly, I return to the theme of this whole disastrous panorama, is the destructive metabolic system of capital and its embodied model: Capitalism.
Here’s a quote that I want to read briefly, from that great liberation theologian Leonardo Boff, as we know a Brazilian, our American. Leonardo Boff says on this subject as follows:
“What is the cause? Ah, the cause is the dream of seeking happiness through material accumulation and of endless progress, using for this science and technology with which they can exploit without limits all the resources of the earth.”
And he cites here Charles Darwin and his “natural selection”, the survival of the fittest, but we know that the strongest survive over the ashes of the weakest.
Jean Jacques Rousseau, we must always remember, said that between the strong and the weak, freedom is oppressed. That’s why the Empire speaks of freedom; it’s the freedom to oppress, to invade, to kill, to annihilate, and to exploit. That is their freedom, and Rousseau adds this saving phrase: “Only the law liberates.”
There are countries that are hoping that no document comes out of here precisely because they do not want a law, do not want a standard, because the absence of these norms allows them to play at their exploitative freedom, their crushing freedom.
We must make an effort and pressure here and in the streets, so that a commitment comes out of here, a document that commits the most powerful countries on earth.
Well, Mr. President, Leonardo Boff asks… Have you met Boff? I do not know whether Leonardo might come, I met him recently in Paraguay, we’ve always read him.
Can a finite earth support an infinite project? The thesis of capitalism, infinite development, is a destructive pattern, let’s face it.
Then Boff asks us, what might we expect from Copenhagen? At least this simple confession: We can not continue like this. And a simple proposition: Let’s change course. Let’s do it, but without cynicism, without lies, without double agendas, no documents out of the blue, with the truth out in the open.
How long, we ask from Venezuela, Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, how long are we going to allow such injustices and inequalities? How long are we going to tolerate the current international economic order and prevailing market mechanisms? How long are we going to allow huge epidemics like HIV/AIDS to ravage entire populations? How long are we going to allow the hungry to not eat or to be able to feed their own children? How long are we going to allow millions of children to die from curable diseases? How long will we allow armed conflicts to massacre millions of innocent human beings in order for the powerful to seize the resources of other peoples?
Cease the aggressions and the wars! We the peoples of the world ask of the empires, to those who try to continue dominating the world and exploiting us. No more imperial military bases or military coups! Let’s build a more just and equitable economic and social order, let’s eradicate poverty, let’s immediately stop the high emission levels, let’s stop environmental degradation and avoid the great catastrophe of climate change, let’s integrate ourselves into the noble goal of everyone being more free and united.
Mr. President, almost two centuries ago, a universal Venezuelan, a liberator of nations and precursor of consciences left to posterity a full-willed maxim: “If nature opposes us, let’s fight against it and make it obey us.” That was Simón Bolívar, the Liberator.
From Bolivarian Venezuela, where a day like today some ten years ago, ten years exactly, we experienced the biggest climate tragedy in our history (the Vargas tragedy it is called), from this Venezuela whose revolution tries to win justice for all people, we say it is only possible through the path of socialism!
Socialism, the other spectre Karl Marx spoke about, which walks here too, rather it is like a counter-spectre. Socialism, this is the direction, this is the path to save the planet, I don’t have the least doubt. Capitalism is the road to hell, to the destruction of the world. We say this from Venezuela, which because of socialism faces threats from the U.S. Empire.
From the countries that comprise ALBA, the Bolivarian Alliance, we call, and I want to, with respect, but from my soul, call in the name of many on this planet, we say to governments and peoples of the Earth, to paraphrase Simón Bolívar, the Liberator: If the destructive nature of capitalism opposes us, let’s fight against it and make it obey us, let’s not wait idly by for the death of humanity.
History calls on us to unite and to fight.
If capitalism resists, we are obliged to take up a battle against capitalism and open the way for the salvation of the human species. It’s up to us, raising the banners of Christ, Mohammed, equality, love, justice, humanity, the true and most profound humanism. If we don’t do it, the most wonderful creation of the universe, the human being, will disappear, it will disappear.
This planet is billions of years old, and this planet existed for billions of years without us, the human species, i.e. it doesn’t need us to exist. Now, without the Earth we will not exist, and we are destroying Pachamama as Evo says, as our indigenous brothers from South America say.
Finally, Mr. President, and to finish, let’s listen to Fidel Castro when he said: “One species is in danger of extinction: Humanity.”
Let’s listen to Rosa Luxemburg when she said: “Socialism or Barbarism.”
Let us listen to Christ the Redeemer when he said: “Blessed are the poor for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, we are capable of not making this Earth the tomb of humanity. Let us make this earth a heaven, a heaven of life, of peace, peace and brotherhood for all humanity, for the human species.
Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much and enjoy your meal.