Bennett - Editor
We start this week by sounding out one of the unintended consequences from man’s dominance of this planet. Wildlife, ecosystems and natural habitats are increasingly asked to compete with us – they are losing, but the reality is that we all lose. There is a great silence spreading over the natural world. The chorus of sounds that was once heard across the globe exists now only in a few isolated places but in others it is now fragmented and disjointed by human activity or has gone quiet altogether due to species loss and extinction. For those readers with a likeness for audio rather than visual, the article provides links to sounds recorded from Fiji’s coral reefs and a meadow in the Nevada Mountains. Pull out your headphones and you be the judge…
Our next set of environmental articles reinforces the realities of the competition between humans and nature. The Yasuni National Park in Ecuador is one of the richest areas in the world for biodiversity and has been the subject of great media attention recently with a novel idea proposed by the government. A $7.2bn oil reserve inside the national park has been discovered and Ecuador is asking the world community for half that amount to keep it and its carbon in the ground. The payback is leaving the park untouched as a gift to humanity and the planet. However a year later the ambitious project has barely received any funding. Why? Because the richest and biggest polluters of the world can consume the assets and services generated by the park for free – no surprises here! Last week we discussed natural capital valuation and as we see the oil firms and illegal loggers moving in by trucks on newly built roads through the heart of the jungle I think the idea of putting a value on such assets becomes more relevant than ever. Time isn’t on Yasuni’s side and sadly the watching world is quite happy to sit by and let it happen as “Big Oil” moves in for its next victim.
When you’re next sitting down at the local restaurant or walking the aisles at the supermarket filling your trolley and looking at the prices of what you’ll pay, you shouldn’t feel ripped off. Well, compared to the predicted future cost of food in the year 2050 anyway. Scarcity will mean cheap food is a luxury of the past. The complications of population increases, climate change, scarcity of arable land, emerging markets demand for agriculture production, the recent biofuel boom and 80% of global food trade handled by speculative traders on financial markets will put upward pressure on prices and downward pressure on quantity per mouth. One answer to a solution might rest with science or technological improvements and management practises. The other could be vegetarianism with food shortages forcing people into a “new-norm” diet. Humans derive about 20% of their protein from animal based products but dropping this to 5% would mean we could feed the extra 2 billion people expected to be alive in 2050. What’s also positive to hear is that a vegetarian diet is five to ten times less water intensive than a protein rich food diet. And don’t forget about all the food we waste! Our next article highlights that more than one fifth of all the water we use worldwide is taken to grow over one billion tons of food that nobody eats. I don’t know about you, but eating your greens has taken a new meaning to all of this.
Combining energy tech and business culture to save energy isn’t anything new. But when you have exhausted traditional energy management options, you might search for the innovative. This is exactly what a packaging company did by installing a plug in device to an electrical outlet that can be linked to a computer through a wireless signal. It shows the outlets energy usage via a dashboard and interacts as a smart device for energy conservation. By handing these out to employees and creating a platform for visual stimulation and being able monitor results and share ideas they managed to get participation and then competition. They call it behavioural psychology in energy efficiency.
A New Zealand company faced with requests from its customers for a recycled product decided to see if it could be made. This is exactly what New Zealand Hygiene did when it was approached for recycled toilet paper. A little research turned out a product that was made out of sugarcane waste and had no extra costs added.
Our last article sheds light on a peculiar town in Bavaria who simply put, is in the business of selling electricity. It has created its own industry to the value of $5.7 million annually by being a first mover in green initiatives. The town boasts nine buildings and 190 homes with solar panels, three hydro plants, four biogas digesters and seven wind turbines!
Thanks for taking the time to read this issue and look forward to catching up with you again. If you have any items of interest you would like to submit, then please feel free to forward them.