29 February 2008


Greenpeace has taken another step in promoting a sustainable use of our natural resources in a world of ever-growing consumption.

In EfficienCity, a multimedia-packed interactive virtual town (with some good pioneering examples), they demonstrate how to lower greenhouse gas emissions and achieve more secure energy supply, with consequent cheaper electricity and heating bills.

In this virtual model they advocate the principle of decentralised energy, where small Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plants can provide most of the energy needs of a town in an extremely efficient manner.

"It's the most efficient way possible to burn fuel because so little energy is lost as waste heat. (...) Because the heat needs to be captured and piped around the local district, CHP plants are usually sited in the towns and cities where the electricity and heat will be used. This makes it more efficient for electricity generation as well as heat; very little energy is lost in transmission.

CHP is also brilliant in the transition from a fossil-fuelled energy system to one based on cleaner, greener fuels like biogas and biomass. CHP plants can run on a variety of fuels, which means that the fuel mix can include fossil fuels like natural gas but, as more cleaner fuels like biogas become more available, they can switch to those."

Apart from the CHP plant, the decentralised energy system they propose also makes use of local renewable energy sources (such as solar, wind, tidal or wave power).

It is also a flexible and scalable system that can fit the local needs. This way, instead of depending on one single massive power plant, different infrastructures can have their own power sources, such as a small CHP or a single wind turbine, for example.

Such a system can improve energy security as when "using hundreds of small energy generators instead of a few major ones means there's a far lower risk of system failure; it's far less likely that several small plants will fail at the same time than that one big plant will."

Finally, efficiency means not only a great deal less resources consumed, with its positive impacts on greenhouse gas emissions, but also, at the individual level it means a great deal saved by every energy consumer, i.e. us, the citizen. In short, a better life quality by all standards.

So, the next step is to convince the big energy (oil, coal, nuclear, etc.) lobbies to give up their monopolies and everyone, the people, the planet and all other living beings, will thank them! Not an easy task to do, though...

EfficienCity, Greenpeace UK
All about EfficienCity, Greenpeace UK
Make your town climate-friendly, Greenpeace UK

19 February 2008

Stamp Out Poverty campaign

Stamp Out Poverty is a network of more than 50 UK organisations, trade unions and faith groups, which campaigns for additional sources of finance to bridge the massive funding gap required to bring the world’s poorest people out of poverty.

"Without additional, sustainable and predictable finance, the Millennium Development Goals, agreed to at the United Nations in 2000 - which range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education, all by the target date of 2015 – cannot be achieved."

Here is the Stamp Out Poverty Declaration:
  • "We are committed to the implementation of additional sources of finance, specifically duties or levies, to generate reliable income streams for the provision of long term sustainable development; and to combat, where linked, causes of poverty such as economic and environmental harm to developing countries.
  • In the light of the Millennium Development Goals – the historic accord in the year 2000 by all UN countries to halve world poverty by 2015 – there is an international agreement to improve the human condition worldwide through the provision of basic amenities such as clean water and essential healthcare and education.
  • Current avenues of development assistance - traditional overseas aid, debt relief and improved terms of trade - are neither providing an urgent enough response to stop preventable disease and death, nor generating the necessary funds to pay for the Millennium Development Goals and bring sufficient numbers of people out of poverty.
  • The first ‘development tax’, agreed in 2006, in the form of the Air Ticket Levy - whose funds provide treatment for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis – sets an important precedent for further progress in this field.
  • We urge decision-makers, in the UK and internationally, to take all steps necessary for an early introduction of new and additional financing initiatives, such as a stamp duty on sterling currency transactions, with proceeds ring-fenced for sustainable international development objectives.
  • We further urge decision-makers to ensure that such proceeds do not replace either existing international aid disbursements, agreed commitments to increase international aid or provision to cancel the debts of developing countries."
Another initiative within the philosophy of the Tobin taxes... Will it ever be a reality?

Stamp Out Poverty
Tobin Tax Initiative
The UN Millennium Development Goals, UN

14 February 2008

Preserving paradise in Phoenix Islands

Kiribati has recently established the world's largest marine protected area - the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA), in a total of 410,500-square-kilometer of one of the Earth's last intact oceanic coral archipelago ecosystems.

After several years of joint scientific research between Kiribati and the New England Aquarium, with funding and technical assistance from Conservation International, PIPA was first created in March 2006. On the 30th of January 2008, Kiribati adopted formal regulations that more than doubled the original size of PIPA making it the largest marine protected area on Earth.

Russell A. Mittermeier, the President of Conservation International said: "the creation of this amazing marine protected area by a small island nation in the Pacific represents a commitment of historic proportions; and all of this by a country that is under serious threat from sea-level rise attributed to global warming. The Republic of Kiribati has now set a standard for other countries in the Pacific and elsewhere in the world. We are proud to be associated with this effort that helps the people of Kiribati, and we call on governments and private conservation groups everywhere to support Kiribati in its efforts and make similar commitments to protect their own natural systems."

Kiribati is working together with the Conservation International, the New England Aquarium and other partners to design "an endowment system that will cover the core recurring management costs of PIPA and compensate the government for the foregone commercial fishing license revenues. This plan allows for subsistence fishing by resident communities and other sustainable economic development in designated zones of the protected area."

"Keeping oceans and marine ecosystems intact and healthy allows them to better resist the impacts of climate change and continue their natural role of sequestering atmospheric carbon that causes global warming."

In 2007 Kiribati has applied to have the marine reserve listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its Outstanding Universal Value.

Te Mauri and Te Raoi (Good Health and Peace)!

Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA)
Phoenix Islands Movie, PIPA
World's largest marine protected area created in Pacific Ocean, Conservation International
Pheonix expedition reports, Primal Ocean Project, Global Marine Programs, New England Aquarium
Phoenix Islands World Heritage Area submission, UNESCO

13 February 2008

Voices from all around the Globe

Global Voices is a non-profit global citizens’ media project, which seeks to "aggregate, curate, and amplify the global conversation online - shining light on places and people other media often ignore."

It is a co-operative effort of contributors from every continent and it's core values are expressed in a document called the "Global Voices Manifesto", drafted collectively by many bloggers around the world:

"We believe in free speech: in protecting the right to speak — and the right to listen. We believe in universal access to the tools of speech.

To that end, we seek to enable everyone who wants to speak to have the means to speak — and everyone who wants to hear that speech, the means to listen to it.

Thanks to new tools, speech need no longer be controlled by those who own the means of publishing and distribution, or by governments that would restrict thought and communication. Now, anyone can wield the power of the press. Everyone can tell their stories to the world.

We seek to build bridges across the gulfs that divide people, so as to understand each other more fully. We seek to work together more effectively, and act more powerfully.

We believe in the power of direct connection. The bond between individuals from different worlds is personal, political and powerful. We believe conversation across boundaries is essential to a future that is free, fair, prosperous and sustainable - for all citizens of this planet.

While we continue to work and speak as individuals, we also seek to identify and promote our shared interests and goals. We pledge to respect, assist, teach, learn from, and listen to one other.

We are Global Voices."

It aims at:
  • amplifying the voices of bloggers and content creators often ignored by other media;
  • helping to develop and refine tools and resources that encourage global dialogue and the freedom of online expression;
  • advocating against censorship and promote the safety of bloggers who live under autocratic regimes;
  • foster diversity and the emergence of new citizens’ voices through training and outreach.
Global Voices has an Advocacy program, which "seeks to build a global anti-censorship network of bloggers and online activists throughout the developing world that is dedicated to protecting freedom of expression and free access to information online."

This network aims at raising awareness about online freedom of speech issues, share global tools and tactics with activists and bloggers facing similar situations in different places, and to produce educational guides about anonymous blogging, anti-censorship campaigns, and online organizing.

Global Voices also has an outreach initiative, called "Rising Voices", which "aims to extend the benefits and reach of citizen media by connecting online media activists around the world and supporting their best ideas."

Finally, it has the "Lingua" project, which "seeks to amplify Global Voices in languages other than English with the help of volunteer translators."

At the moment, Global Voices is being translated into Bangla, Chinese (Traditional and Simplified), Farsi, French, Portuguese and Spanish languages. The extension into Arabic, German, Hindi, Japanese and Malagasy languages is under way...

Good reading and keep informed!

Global Voices Online
Global Voices Lingua
Global Voices Advocacy
Rising Voices

06 February 2008

Democracy charade

Human Rights Watch has recently published their annual World Report, with extensive reviews on human rights practices around the globe

On this issue, and in an essay called "Despots Masquerading as Democrats", Kenneth Roth, executive director of the organization, focuses on the breach and disrespect for Democracy and Human Rights by Autocratic regimes, which are legitimised and supported by Western governments (such as the ones of the US and the EU) because of their interests in "resources, commercial opportunities, and short-sighted visions of security."

According to the report, "democracy has become the sine qua non of legitimacy", which makes that "even overt dictators aspire to the status conferred by the democracy label". These rulers have therefore "mastered the art of democratic rhetoric that bears little relationship to their practice of governing. (...) Electoral fraud, political violence, press censorship, repression of civil society, even military rule have all been used to curtail the prospect that the proclaimed process of democratization might actually lead to a popular say in government."

Kenneth Roth attributes part of the reason why this is possible to the fact that, unlike international human rights law, “democracy” has no legally established definition. "There is no International Convention on Democracy, no widely ratified treaty affirming how a government must behave to earn the democracy label. The meaning of democracy lies too much in the eye of the beholder." This allows tyrants to be ("with a bit of maneuvering") labelled as "democrats", without having the need to comply with international human rights laws.

"The problem is compounded by inconsistency in promoting democracy—a long-standing problem. These days, for example, the US government’s vigorous criticism of democratic shortcomings tends to be reserved mainly for long-time adversaries or pariahs, such as Syria, Burma or Cuba. Washington has largely exempted such allies as Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, or Ethiopia, while its short-lived pressure on others, such as Egypt or Jordan, has waned. (...) This obvious double standard makes the promotion of democracy seem like an act of political convenience rather than a commitment of principle, weakening the pressure for real democratic change."

The report also promotes the recapture of the ideal of Democracy, central to the Human Rights cause, yet so susceptible of being manipulated. This thus requires " heightened attention to the clever subterfuges of its detractors."

"It is time to stop selling democracy on the cheap and to start substituting a broader and more meaningful vision of the concept that incorporates all human rights."

World Report 2008, Human Rights Watch
Despots Masquerading as Democrats, Human Rights Watch

02 February 2008