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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Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK): An Interview With Dr. Michael Hutchins

Reposted from National Geographic blog:

Posted by Jordan Carlton Schaul of University of Alaska on January 11, 2014
 

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Inuit man eating narwhal (NGS)

The following interview is my 12th in a serieswith my esteemed colleague Dr. Michael Hutchins. Michael recently joined the American Bird Conservancy, as the organization’s National Bird Smart Wind Campaign Coordinator.

The distinguished ecologist has agreed to answer my questions about indigenous knowledge and the impact of such informational resources on the management of wildlife populations.

Jordan: In many cases, the large scale hunting of megafauna by indigenous peoples has been implicated in mass extinctions in the late Pleistocene. Is it fair to attribute the demise of some large placental and marsupial mammals to indigenous peoples?

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Inuit woman (NGS)

Michael: This is an interesting question.  It is difficult to say, as what happened in prehistory must be pieced together through sketchy evidence. However, I am highly skeptical of the claims of some scientists, such as Paul Martin (Martin, P.S. 2005.Twilight of the Mammoths: Ice Age Extinctions and the Rewilding of America. Berkeley: University of California Press), who has blamed indigenous people for widespread Pleistocene extinctions.

Martin developed his theory of Pleistocene overkill, also known as the “blitzkrieg model” based on his observation that the sudden demise of large Ice Age mammal populations coincided with the arrival of humans on different continents. Martin hypothesized that as humans migrated from Africa and Eurasia to Australia, the Americas, and the Pacific islands, they rapidly hunted large animals to extinction.  But, as we all know, correlation does not imply causation. Continue reading


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Seed Saver Encouraged to “Pass Them On”

Dayna McDaniel, co-founder of Seed-Savers, KC, shares with reporter Cindy Hoedel of the Kansas City Star Magazine her reason for starting Seed-Savers, KC and the first seed she ever saved.

It was a tomato presented to me by a neighbor, back in the 1970s.
I had just moved into the neighborhood and I noticed this yard, and I was just flabbergasted. It was a paradise yard. It was one of those yards where you just want to meet whoever is gardening there.
It was hard to figure out if somebody really lived there because I never saw anybody there. But I knew somebody had to live there or there wouldn’t be this beautiful garden.
And then one weekend there was a woman outside. She was this ancient, ancient, ancient person. I thought, “Oh, my goodness gracious!” and I went up to her, and she started taking me around her yard.
The tomatoes were coming ripe, and she said, “I’m going to share these tomatoes with you that I brought from Arkansas back in the ’50s, and I have to ask you to pass them on. It’s very important.” Continue reading


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“We are not protesters, we’re protectors”

This Fall Winona LaDuke and folks from Honor the Earth, along with the Horse Spirit Society, Owe Aku and the White Earth Land Recovery Project led a horseback ride from the Headwaters of the Mississippi along the proposed route of a new oil pipeline that would cross the White Earth reservation.

It was the third of a series of rides on oil pipeline routes that took them on the Alberta Clipper proposed expansion route (from Superior, Wisconsin, to the Red Lake Reservation), and to the proposed Keystone XL route in the Dakotas, where riders from White Earth Reservation joined with the Lakota to ride between Wanbli and Takini on the Cheyenne River Reservation.

For more about Honor the Earth, click here.


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Sustainable, People-Centered Agriculture Lies in Agroecology

Clover and Fescue. Photo: David Bradbeer via Flickr.com.

In keeping with the general theme of a new “gift” economy, Colin Tudge and Graham Harvey’s article in the Ecologist focuses on “a sustainable, people-centered agriculture.”

…we are launching our ‘Manifesto for a new agriculture’ at the Oxford Real Farming Conference 2014.
A key theme is ‘agroecology’ – farming that takes its lead from nature. It conceives each farm as a mini-ecosystem, and agriculture as a whole as a key player in the global biosphere.
Physiology is a vital science in agroecology – how plants and animals function – and psychology too in the case of livestock, for farm animals are sentient and to keep them without cruelty we need to understand what keeps them content.
Overall, though, we need ecology – often still seen as a woolly pursuit but in truth the most intricate and the most ‘modern’ of all biological sciences. Continue reading


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Sacred Economics

A reader recommended I look into the book Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition by Charles Eisenstein.  I checked out his website and was completely blown away by this short film.

The book is also available on-line.  You can find it here.


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Haida People’s Rogue Geoengineering Project Condemned by Scientists

NPR’s Morning Edition recently grappled with the issue of geoengineering.  The program discussed the Haida people’s 2012 attempt to bring salmon back to their waters, by using iron dust to create an algae bloom, and the scientific community’s response to it.

In the summer of 2012, a small group of the Haida people, a native community in Canada, had a problem. The salmon they rely on were disappearing. So the Haida took matters into their own hands.
They partnered with an American businessman, drew up plans and then took a boat full of iron dust into the waters off their home island and put the dust in the ocean.
When they spread the iron dust, it created a big algae bloom. They hoped the algae would soak up carbon dioxide and bring back the fish.
The reaction to the experiment was immediate and negative, and described by some media as the “world’s first rogue geoengineering project.”
While it scared a lot of people and angered a lot of scientists, this event could be a sign of what’s to come. Some very mainstream scientists are saying the climate change situation is so bad that saving life as we know it might require something radical: like shooting chemicals into the stratosphere to protect Earth from the sun. In essence, these scientists are talking about hacking the climate.

To learn more on this topic you may want to check out Matthew Watson’s blog the reluctant geoengineer.


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Why Monetize Sustainability?

Reposted from: André Reichel | Sustainability Research

When talking about corporate responsibility, the issue of measurement comes up after a while. And rightly so, because if you cannot measure it you can hardly formulate goals, develop programs for implementation and evaluate your success in achieving them. But what is measured? The answer is simple: money. Regardless if you are trying to measure your company’s ecological or societal impact, most of the times you end up with calculating in Euro, Dollar, Pound and other currencies. It appears to be the one best way to do it, to get the numbers right and legitimize decisions. This is of course not the case. Continue reading