The Noah Project

Rebuilding a sustainable world.


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Nobel laureates call for a revolutionary shift in how humans use resources

Reposted from theguardian.com,

Amazon deforestation
Deforestation is among a growing list of planetary ailments, the Nobel laureates warn. Photograph: Sipa Press/Rex Features

 

Eleven Nobel laureates will pool their clout to sound a warning, declaring that mankind is living beyond its means and darkening its future.

At a conference in Hong Kong coinciding with the annual Nobel awards season, holders of the prestigious prize will plead for a revolution in how humans live, work and travel.

Only by switching to smarter, less greedy use of resources can humans avert wrecking the ecosystems on which they depend, the laureates will argue.

The state of affairs is “catastrophic”, Peter Doherty, 1996 co-winner of the Nobel prize for medicine, said in a blunt appraisal.

He is among 11 laureates scheduled to attend the four-day huddle from Wednesday – the fourth in a series of Nobel symposia on the precarious state of the planet.

From global warming, deforestation and soil and water degradation to ocean acidification, chemical pollution and environmentally-triggered diseases, the list of planetary ailments is long and growing, Doherty said.

The worsening crisis means consumers, businesses and policymakers must consider the impact on the planet of every decision they make, he said.

“We need to think sustainability – food sustainability, water sustainability, soil sustainability, sustainability of the atmosphere.”

Overlapping with the 2014 Nobel prize announcements from 6-13 October, the laureates’ gathering will focus on the prospect that global warming could reach double the UN’s targeted ceiling of 2C over pre-industrial times.

Underpinning their concern are new figures highlighting that humanity is living absurdly beyond its means.

According to the latest analysis by environmental organisation WWF, mankind is using 50% more resources than nature can replenish.

“The peril seems imminent,” said US-Australian astrophysicist Brian Schmidt, co-holder of the 2011 Nobel physics prize for demonstrating an acceleration in the expansion of the universe.

The threat derives from “our exponentially growing consumption of resources, required to serve the nine billion or so people who will be on planet Earth by 2050, all of whom want to have lives like we have in the western world,” said Schmidt.

“We are poised to do more damage to the Earth in the next 35 years than we have done in the last 1,000.”

Ada Yonath, an Israeli crystallographer co-awarded the 2009 Nobel for chemistry, said sustainability should not just be seen as conservation of animals and plants.

Humankind should also be much more careful in its use of other life-giving resources like antibiotics.

The spread of drug-resistant bacteria through incorrect use has become a key challenge in “sustainability for the future of humankind”, she stressed.

Several of the laureates suggested a focus on energy.

Dirty fossil fuels must be quickly phased out in favour of cleaner sources – and, just as importantly, the new technology has to spread quickly in emerging economies.

If these countries fail to adopt clean alternatives, they will continue to depend on cheap, plentiful fossil fuels to power their rise out of poverty.

“This will lead to major climate change in the future, and might well destabilise a large fraction of the world’s population due to the change of [climate] conditions,” warned Schmidt.

The climate impact of Asia’s rapid urbanisation will be one of the meeting’s focus areas.

Another concern aired by laureates was the need to strip away blinkers about the danger, while remaining patient in explaining to people why change would be to their advantage.

George Smoot, co-awarded the 2006 physics prize for his insights into the big bang that created the universe, gave the example of LED lighting, a low-carbon substitute for inefficient incandescent bulbs.

“A great innovation is not enough,” he said. “It must be adopted and used widely to have major impact and that starts with general understanding. But until people move from old incandescent bulbs to the new ones, the impact is much less.

“So we need the solutions, for authorities to authorise or encourage their use through regulation, and for people to adopt them.”

And that could only work once everyone understands the benefits for humanity as a whole, but also for themselves, said Smoot.

 

 

 


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Native Peoples Use Traditional Knowledge to Adapt To Climate Change

Rosalyn Lapier talks about how Native peoples are using traditional knowledge to adapt to climate change:

For those who do not spend time outdoors it may be difficult to fully appreciate the change that is occurring. But for those who live off the land, such as farmers, ranchers, and those with subsistence lifestyles, climate change is having a real impact. It impacts the health and well-being of countless Native peoples who rely on gathering plants for both medicinal and edible purposes. More importantly, climate change impacts the spiritual life of Native peoples.
But we are adapting. The Blackfeet, similar to other tribes, schedule their ceremonial activity according to seasonal cycles. But with the cycles destabilizing, we now need to adjust each year to the volatile weather. For example, the Blackfeet conduct their Thunder-pipe ceremony at the sound of the first thunder which marks the return of rain. At the ceremony, serviceberries (Amelanchier alnifolia) are planted to celebrate the renewal of life. Traditionally, first thunder occurred in spring. The first thunder now happens much earlier in the year, sometimes even in the winter when it is unwise to plant in Montana.
The Blackfeet are now in the process of adapting and evolving to what some environmentalists call a new Earth. The TEK I learned from my grandmother is from the old Earth. However it still has value and the Blackfeet will continue to find new ways of gathering plants, new methods of identifying changes in our weather, and ways to further our traditions. Climate change will continue to affect the Blackfeet’s environment, ultimately impacting our lifestyle and spiritual life. But as we learn new TEK practices, we will be able to work better with nature and continue the process of transferring our “new” Traditional Environmental Knowledge to the next generation.

You can find the full article and video here.


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FAO Announces International Symposium on Agroecology

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) will host an International Symposium on Agroecology for Food Security and Nutrition on September 18 and 19, 2014. The symposium, at FAO headquarters in Rome, will explore recent scientific research and knowledge around agroecological practices, promote open dialogue, and showcase existing experiences and programs on agroecology. Food Tank is excited to be participating in this event.

The event will bring together international experts in the field of Agroecology and falls within the new FAO Strategic Framework, which aims to “increase and improve provision of goods and services from agriculture, forestry, and fisheries in a sustainable manner.”

The symposium will provide a forum for taking stock of the current state of science and practices of agroecology. Discussions will focus on current initiatives underway around the world contributing to the development of an international framework for research on agroecology, with consideration of economic, social and environmental aspects in industrialized and developing countries.

The symposium aims to produce an action plan for a follow up process in Africa and Asia including potential activities in the context of the FAO Strategic Framework. Following the symposium, the FAO will release scientific proceedings and other informational media content for online sharing.

Registration is now open for interested participants.

Maia Reed holds a B.A. in International Development Studies from McGill University and recently received her Permaculture Design Certificate.


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Chinese Populace Rejects GM Foods

Corn is harvested at a farm in Shandong province, Sept. 28, 2013. (Photo/Xinhua)

The resistance to genetically modified foods by the populace is consistent in almost every country where they are “literally” trying to ram it down people’s throats.  Here’s an article about the uncertain fate of GM food imports into China posted in Want China Times:

In November of 2013, China rejected imports of 600,000 tonnes of US-grown corn on the grounds they it was a genetically modified food not approved in China.
Since then, more than 400,000 tonnes of US corn has been turned away by Chinese authorities for the same reason.
This is merely the tip of the iceberg in China where genetically modified food has been a fiercely debated issue, and not one that will be resolved soon.
In July, 2013, 61 top Chinese scientists appealed to Chinese leaders to facilitate the commercialization of GM rice.
Around the same time, the Ministry of Agriculture attempted to convince the public of the safety of GM foods through state-run newspapers and news agencies, stating that no harmful side-effects had been reported for GM foods that had been stored for more than two decades.
This argument, however, could not silence those who doubt GM food’s safety because they claim that the lack of reports that GM is unsafe do not mean the foods are safe for human consumption or the environment. Some critics also expressed concerns that China’s dependence on imported GM foods would jeopardize its security, especially in the event of any conflicts with food producing countries.

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Organics Under Attack

The OCA has a long history of defending the integrity of organic standards.

Last September, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), under pressure from corporate interests represented by the Organic Trade Association, made our job harder.

They also made it more important than ever for consumers to do their homework, even when buying USDA certified organic products.

Without any input from the public, the USDA changed the way the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) decides which non-organic materials are allowed in certified organic. The change all but guarantees that when the NOSB meets every six months, the list of non-organic and synthetic materials allowed in organic will get longer and longer.

The USDA’s new rule plays to the cabal of the self-appointed organic elite who want to degrade organic standards and undermine organic integrity. For consumers, farmers, co-ops and businesses committed to high organic standards, the USDA’s latest industry-friendly move is a clarion call to fight back against the corporate-led, government-sanctioned attack on organic standards.

Read the essay

 


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Organic Farming – Solution to World Hunger

The following article by Paul Hanley in Saskatoon’s The Star Phoenix succinctly lays out the benefits of organic farming and the issues with industrial farming.  To summarize it in a nutshell, “We need to start paying farmers for ecological services, not just food. The money can come from repurposing perverse subsidies on fossil fuels and farming, estimated by the International Monetary Fund to be over $2 trillion a year worldwide.”

It’s been a good year for Saskatchewan’s organic farmers. First, prices for some organic crops are quadruple those of conventional grains. Second, due to the vagaries of the rail transportation system, organic growers have had more success getting their crop to market this year than conventional farmers. And since they do not use chemical inputs, costs are lower, resulting in higher net income.
Actually, it’s been a good year for organic agriculture worldwide.
The organic approach is gradually shedding the “it can’t feed the world” myth. In fact, report after report came out this year saying it may be the only way to feed the world, even as the population rises by 50 per cent over the course of this century.

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Live Streamed Lecture by Vandana Shiva

Arts-Vandana Shiva poster

Internationally renowned eco-feminist, philosopher, and activist Vandana Shiva will be paying a visit to Winnipeg this weekend, and while her ticketed event is now sold out, local organizers have arranged an alternate, free live-streamed teach-in.

Shiva will be speaking to a group of paying attendees on the evening of March 28 as part of the “Fragile Freedoms” lecture series, presented by the University of Manitoba’s centre for professional and applied ethics, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, and the CBC.

On March 29, Shiva will be giving a lecture about Earth democracy from 90 Sinclair Street, which will be broadcast as a live-streamed teach-in to other locations across Canada, including a secondary location in Winnipeg.

The organizers of this event state that “there is no lecture hall or community centre with the capacity to hold everyone who should hear her inspirational and empowering message,” which is why they are offering this free, live-streamed event “in the spirit of decentralized knowledge-sharing and radical self-education.”

The notion of radical education, and radical self-education, is part of a larger movement to create spaces of knowledge-sharing outside of formal educational structures.

British scholar David Hicks believes that in its current form education “inevitably reproduces the social, political and economic norms of the dominant ideology. In the west this is capitalist, technocratic, individualistic, materialist, and patriarchal.”

In contrast to the Fragile Freedoms event, the teach-in on March 29 is free, and organizers of the second Winnipeg location—the University of Winnipeg Womyn’s Centre and the Women’s and Gender Studies Students’ Association—are attempting to make it as accessible as possible.

Free snacks, coffee, tea, bus tickets, and childminding are all offered as part of the event. It’s also being offered in a wheelchair accessible room in proximity to accessible washrooms.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the concept of Earth democracy, organizers of the teach-in provide a definition to use as a starting point before hearing Shiva’s thoughts: “Earth democracy is the worldview that we as humans can be part of a healthy planet, but we must take action to protect peace and swaraj (sovereignty) for all living beings: Let us learn about our right to water, our right to seed and to food, and our right to life.”

Join in the live-streamed teach-in at 7:00 p.m. on March 29 at room 2M70 at the University of Winnipeg.