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Author Topic: ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE, GLOBAL WARMING, AND CULTURE  (Read 1214195 times)
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Rad
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« on: Nov 22, 2015, 09:31 AM »

All,

We are going to restart our thread on the climate, our environment, and the consequences of global warming that we had to remove because of being threatened by The Guardian with legal actions because we had dared to post some of their articles on this subject in that thread.

This restart happened in 2015 and has been posting and accumulating articles since that time. Over time this has taken up lot's and lot's of space on our server that became way to much. So we will be now be adjusting how long we store articles posted to it to one year at most. Currently we are now beginning to delete all the articles up and until the beginning of 2017. 

God Bless, Rad
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Darja
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« Reply #1 on: Oct 04, 2017, 05:21 AM »

In less than 70 years, we've made enough plastic to wrap the entire world in cling film

The plastic problem is bad, but 'we haven't seen anything yet', scientists say.

Martha Henriques
IBF
10/4/2017

We've made 9.1 billion tonnes of plastic since it was invented – here's where it ends up   Carla Schaffer / AAAS   

We've created about 9.1 billion tonnes of plastic – that's 9,100,000,000,000kg – since we first started mass producing the stuff in the 1950s. If that were all cling film (plastic wrap to Americans), we could have wrapped up the Earth by now.

Well almost – you'd have to stretch it a bit to cover the last 10 million square kilometres or so (an area about the size of China).

What's worse, according to a study published in Science Advances, is that 79% of that has ended up in landfills or the natural environment – the countryside, rivers and the ocean. That includes the furthest reaches of the seas, remote islands and the insides of a great many wild animals and fish.

Another 12% of the waste is incinerated, releasing greenhouse gases and contributing to air pollution. A tiny 9% is recycled. Even then, the proportion of that that gets re-recycled – so recycled twice – is vanishingly small.

The fact that we can't deal with all this mess is "an atrocity", oceanographer and climate scientists Erik van Sebille of Utrecht University, who was not involved in the research, told IBTimes UK.

"We are not even doing recycling well yet – even plastic that does get collected or recycled still ends up in the environment. There's a lot of leakage coming out of recycling," he said.

The reason this is a problem is that plastic just doesn't break down by itself. It doesn't rot and return to the soil like the vast majority of biological materials do. This means that all the plastic we make and throw away will essentially just sit there until we do something about it, or it's eaten by an unsuspecting animal. Even when the animal dies and its body decomposes, the plastic inside it will stick around ready for the next hungry creature to come along.

One long-standing puzzle about plastic waste has been that only a fraction of what we throw away can be accounted for – particularly in the oceans. Only about 270,000 tonnes or so can be found floating around, but several million tonnes are thought to find their way into the seas. At the moment, scientists still aren't sure where the missing millions of tonnes are going.

Alongside such mysteries, there is the certainty that the future will hold a much bigger plastic problem than we are already facing. By the 2050s, the centenary of plastic's rise to popularity, we will have thrown away the equivalent of 35,000 Empire State Buildings' worth of plastic rubbish, the present study estimates.

"There's a whole lot more plastic coming our way. I would almost say we haven't seen thing yet," van Sebille said.

"The curves and forecasts show on a business-as-usual scenario that all the plastic we've been producing in the last decade or so is nothing compared with what's to come."

But the good news is, knowing the scale of the problem is an essential step towards solving it. And despite churning out the stuff for 60 years, until now no one had stopped to calculate exactly how much plastic we had made. So this study can help to put the plastic problem in proportion.

"They've done a really good job of trying to answer an extremely complicated and important question," said Van Sebille. "It's an important step to really understanding where all this plastic is."

Really, enough to wrap up the whole world?

Yes, pretty much.

    Cling film weighs about 1.7g per square foot, according to Slate.
    That's 1.7 g per 0.092903 square metres
    That's 18.3 g per square metre
    9.1 billion tonnes is 9,100,000,000,000,000 g
    Which could be used to make 500,000,000,000,000 sq m of cling film
    That's 500 million sq km
    And the area of the Earth is 510 million square km

So, give or take an area about the size of China (9.6 million sq km or so), that's enough to wrap up the whole world.


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« Reply #2 on: Oct 04, 2017, 05:25 AM »

Air pollution: Sadiq Khan calls for ban on wood-burning stoves

London mayor cites figures showing that the home stoves, used in 16% of households, produce up to a third of all the capital’s fine-particle pollution

Patrick Greenfield
Guardian
10/4/2017

Wood-burning stoves could be banned in some areas to combat air pollution under proposals by the London mayor, Sadiq Khan.

Khan has written to Michael Gove, the environment secretary, to request extra powers to improve air quality in the capital, including measures to tackle solid-fuel burning and construction pollution. The proposed measures include minimum emissions standards for vessels on London’s waterways and heavy construction machinery like diggers and bulldozers.

Wood-burning stoves, which would be banned under the proposals for urban areas with poor air quality, are increasingly popular – 1.5m have been sold across Britain. They are most popular in south-east England, where 16% of households have them, compared with 5% nationally.

It is estimated that between a quarter and a third of all of London’s fine-particle pollution comes from domestic wood burning. In January, during a period of very high air pollution, it contributed half the toxic emissions in some areas of the capital, according to King’s College London research.

Khan said: “Non-transport sources contribute half of the deadly emissions in London, so we need a hard-hitting plan of action to combat them similar to moves I am taking to reduce pollution from road vehicles.

“With more than 400 schools located in areas exceeding legal pollution levels, and such significant health impacts on our most vulnerable communities, we cannot wait any longer, and I am calling on government to provide the capital with the necessary powers to effectively tackle harmful emissions from a variety of sources.”

The mayor has asked the environment department to amend the Clean Air Act to allow for the creation of zero-emission zones where the burning of solid fuel is not allowed from 2025 onwards.

When asked to comment on Khan’s letter, a Defra spokesperson told the Guardian: “We are determined to improve air quality and have put in place a £3bn plan to reduce roadside emissions.

“Next year we will publish a comprehensive Clean Air Strategy which will address all sources of air pollution. We are also raising consumer awareness about the impact of burning wood on health and working with industry to help reduce harmful emissions.”

The mayor’s proposals come after he triggered London’s emergency air quality alert on Wednesday for the seventh time in thirteen months. Polluted air from the continent combined with toxic air in London to create dangerous levels of pollution.


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« Reply #3 on: Oct 04, 2017, 05:30 AM »

'Don't just rely on NGOs': finding solutions to deforestation

How can food companies stop contributing to deforestation? A panel of experts discussed solutions at a roundtable in New York

Anna Leach
Guardian
10/4/2017

Half of the world’s rainforests have been felled in a century. If deforestation carries on at the same rate, they may be gone in 100 years. Food companies are a big part of the problem; agriculture is the largest single cause of forest loss. And they are also part of the solution, with hundreds making commitments to stop deforestation.

But as deforestation continues, what more can companies do? This was the question put to experts from the private, NGO, government and finance sectors at a recent roundtable on the topic, held in New York.

Partnership emerged as a major theme. Although progress has been made on governments, food companies and NGOs working together to end deforestation, several roundtable panellists emphasised the need to act more quickly to stop destruction of forests around the world.

“There isn’t enough action happening now to end deforestation. Companies must rectify their business practices before they expand into new territories, because that old model of industrial plantation isn’t delivering for the forest, for people or for the planet,” said Gemma Tillack, agribusiness campaign director at NGO Rainforest Action Network.

Brazil’s soy moratorium – a 2006 agreement between environmental groups and corporations where purchasers agreed to not buy soy produced on deforested land – was heralded by several panelists as an example of what can happen when collaboration is successfully implemented. “We need to replicate the extraordinary success of the soy moratorium in other parts of Latin America,” said Glenn Hurowitz, chief executive of Mighty Earth. “We need to do it in south-east Asia on palm oil and spread it to other commodities like rubber.”

The key to the success of the soy moratorium – which is not without its critics – was effective collaboration, said Francisco J B Oliveira Filho, former director of policies to tackle deforestation in the Brazilian government. “It was a very hard discussion at the beginning,” he said. “But as soon as we got to know each other, we managed to reduce the illegal soy production related to deforestation in the Amazon region to the level that it’s almost 2–3%.”

The conversation took place alongside the UN general assembly, and the body’s sustainable development goals were mentioned as a way forward for governments and other parties on their commitments to end deforestation. “This week’s theme around sustainable development goal 17, and the critical nature of partnership to accomplish these very complex issues, feels very fitting,” said Diane Holdorf, chief sustainability officer at Kellogg. “Without the partnership of collective action, we’re not going to achieve our best.”

As well as working across sectors and along supply chains, Tillack added that companies had a role to play in encouraging each other to adhere to standards. “There is a very crucial peer-to-peer role. Don’t just rely on the NGOs to find the cases and pressure one company. We are the least resourced of all. That responsibility needs to go back to all of you guys that have big budgets.”

Many panellists highlighted the importance of working along the whole of the supply chain, from the smallholder farmers to the multinational companies to the banks who finance different parts of the chain.

Pavan Sukhdev, goodwill ambassador to the UN Environment Programme and chief executive of Gist Advisory, said that banks should consider risk to the environment in their processes. “As a banker for 25 years, one of my observations as a member of the risk committee was that, how come we do not have ecological value as a risk?” he said.

It is important to integrate rather than pressurise different parts of the chain, said Gabriela Burian, sustainable agriculture global lead for Monsanto and strategic adviser for food and agriculture in the Americas for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. “Work as a team and then they can understand the value,” she said.

Burian added that new initiatives are not necessarily the answer. “Every six months we launch a new coalition and this is really hard to track, for companies to understand. Let’s deliver on what we have and scale up.”

Working with local governments is also vital, said Andrew Aulisi, senior director for public policy and government affairs at PepsiCo. “A lot of decisions are made at the local level,” he said. “There’s going to be a local desire to dedicate some of that land to agribusiness. We can’t allow our supply chain work to exist in a silo, where we think that we’ve created a clean supply chain but it’s existing in a parallel universe where the landscape is actually being degraded.”

The High Carbon Stock approach (HCS), which identifies forest areas that need to be protected as distinct from land which has been degraded so does not have a high biodiversity value, was presented as a way all those who contribute to deforestation can make more progress.

Tillack asked why the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) hadn’t adopted HCS as part of their standard for members. Dan Strechay, RSPO’s US representative for outreach and engagement, said the organisation is currently conducting a consultation with members and the public on revising their standard and the question of incorporating HCS is part of it.

Oliveira Filho laid out the challenge for coming decades: “How are we going to balance production to feed the world and protection for climate change, for biodiversity?”

Productivity is at the centre of the solutions, said Aulisi. “If you take a step back and look at sustainable agriculture globally the key is yield and productivity getting the most production on the smallest footprint.”

There are solutions out there, he said, but there is a lack of action to adopt them: “We have technologies and practices. We don’t need to invent anything, we could just take what we have now and put it to use on farms. And yet it seems at times there’s a lack of will to do it.”

The panellists agreed that working together was how action would get started. “Because at the end of the day everyone around the table is working on the same goal,” said Strechay.
On the panel

Luiz Amaral, global executive manager, global forest watch, commodities and finance, World Resources Institute

Andrew Aulisi, senior director, global environmental policy, public policy & government affairs, PepsiCo

Gabriela Burian, sustainable agriculture global lead; Strategic advisor for food and agriculture in the Americas, Monsanto; World Business Council for Sustainable Development

Davida Heller, vice president, corporate sustainability, Citi

Diane Holdorf, chief sustainability officer, Kellogg Company

Glenn Hurowitz, chief executive, Mighty Earth

Francisco JB Oliveira Filho, former director of policies to reduce deforestation, Ministry of the Environment of Brazil

Sara Law, vice president, global initiatives, CDP

Dan Strechay, US representative, outreach and engagement, Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil

Pavan Sukhdev, chief executive; Author; UNEP goodwill ambassador, GIST Advisory; Corporation 2020

Gemma Tillack, agribusiness campaign director, Rainforest Action Network


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« Reply #4 on: Oct 04, 2017, 05:33 AM »

Catholic church to make record divestment from fossil fuels

More than 40 Catholic institutions will make largest ever faith-based divestment, on the anniversary of the death of St Francis of Assisi

Arthur Neslen
Guardian
4 October 2017 06.30 BST

More than 40 Catholic institutions are to announce the largest ever faith-based divestment from fossil fuels, on the anniversary of the death of St Francis of Assisi.

The sum involved has not been disclosed but the volume of divesting groups is four times higher than a previous church record, and adds to a global divestment movement, led by investors worth $5.5tn.

Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief who helped negotiate the Paris climate agreement, hailed Tuesday’s move as “a further sign we are on the way to achieving our collective mission”.

She said: “I hope we will see more leaders like these 40 Catholic institutions commit, because while this decision makes smart financial sense, acting collectively to deliver a better future for everybody is also our moral imperative.”

Church institutions joining the action include the Archdiocese of Cape Town, the Episcopal Conference of Belgium and the diocese of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino, the spiritual home of the world’s Franciscan brothers.

A spokesman for the €4.5bn German Church bank and Catholic relief organisation Caritas said that it was committing to divest from coal, tar sands and shale oil.

In a symbolically charged move, the Italian town of Assisi will also shed all oil, coal and gas holdings the day before a visit by the Italian prime minister, Paolo Gentiloni, to mark St Francis’s feast day.

Assisi’s mayor, Stefania Proietti – a former climate mitigation professor – told the Guardian: “When we pay attention to the environment, we pay attention to poor people, who are the first victims of climate change.

“When we invest in fossil fuels, we stray very far from social justice. But when we disinvest and invest in renewable and energy efficiency instead, we can mitigate climate change, create a sustainable new economic deal and, most importantly, help the poor.”

The origins of the latest church action lie in last year’s climate encyclical by Pope Francis – himself named after St Francis of Assisi – although the project was advanced by the Global Catholic Climate Movement.


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« Reply #5 on: Oct 04, 2017, 05:35 AM »

Campaign urges people to recycle dead batteries

Major high street retailers back drive to encourage recycling after poll shows more than half throw batteries away in the bin

Rebecca Smithers Consumer affairs correspondent
Guardian
4 2017 06.45 BST

Major high street retailers have joined forces to encourage people to recycle their used household batteries as a new poll revealed that more than half of respondents admitted they throw them in the bin.

Asda, B&Q, Currys PC World, Marks & Spencer and Morrisons are all backing the drive to make it easier for consumers to recycle dead batteries and avoid millions ending up in landfill every year and wreaking environmental havoc.

Retailers who sell more than 32kg of batteries a year are already required to provide collection points, yet they are not always visible. Those backing the new campaign have committed to making sure these facilities are easy to spot in store.

A poll of 3,055 UK adults by environmental charity Hubbub and compliance scheme Ecosurety revealed that less than half of those surveyed (47%) realised that batteries are made of valuable heavy metals which can be reused, including lead, mercury, cadmium, zinc, manganese and lithium.

The toxic contents mean that they can be hazardous to the environment if not disposed of properly, yet half of respondents (52%) admitted throwing batteries away in the regular waste bin. This results in millions every year ending up in landfill, with the potential to leach into the ground and water supplies if not carefully managed. In addition the research found that six in 10 people in the UK hoard batteries in their homes, adding up to a whopping 178m batteries stashed, despite the dangers to children.

Dead batteries are currently shipped to be recycled in Finland, Germany and France, although the first UK plant will open in Scotland in November. That will be able to process 20,000 tonnes of batteries a year – enough capacity to deal with all the UK’s current batteries. However there are concerns that the drive to replace petrol and diesel cars with a new breed of electric vehicles will raise a fresh environmental headache – the fate of half-tonne lithium-ion batteries when they wear out.


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« Reply #6 on: Oct 04, 2017, 05:36 AM »

Bags for life carry food poisoning risk if used for raw meat or fish

Use separate bags for raw foods, ready-to-eat foods, and household products to avoid bacteria spreading, warns food safety watchdog

Rebecca Smithers Consumer affairs correspondent
Guardian
10/4/2017

Reusable “bags for life” can spread deadly food poisoning bacteria if they are used to carry raw foods such as fish and meat, consumers have been warned by the government’s food safety watchdog.

In revised guidance on its website, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) is recommending that shoppers use separate bags to carry raw foods, ready-to eat foods and non-food items such as household cleaners and washing powder.

The new advice aims to reduce the risk of “cross-contamination” of bacteria, encouraging consumers to follow good hygiene practices while out shopping in supermarkets and other food shops as well as in the home.

It has warned that deadly bugs such as E coli and campylobacter, which can cause stomach bugs, can be transferred from the outside of packaging when plastic bags are reused – even when there is no obvious trace of leakage. It suggests that reusable bags could be colour coded or labelled to avoid any mix-up.

If there has been visible spillage, soiling or damage, plastic bags for life should be replaced, while cotton ones could be machine-washed to keep them hygienic.

At the end of August the FSA’s website was updated – with little publicity – to tell consumers: “Ideally, you should have enough bags to carry raw foods, ready-to-eat foods and non-food items such as washing powder separately. Keep enough bags for life for raw foods only and don’t use the same bags again for ready-to-eat foods or for carrying other household items.”

It says that raw foods (meat, fish and shellfish, loose vegetables with soil on, and eggs) can contain germs or have germs on their surface that cause food poisoning. Even wrapped raw foods such as pre-packed fresh meat or fish may have traces of harmful bugs on the outside of the packaging.

Suppliers are expected to adhere to strict rules in their factories. On Monday it emerged that the UK’s largest supplier of supermarket chicken – 2 Sisters Food Group – has suspended production at one of its main processing plants after an investigation by the Guardian and ITV News revealed poor hygiene standards and food safety records being altered.

Large retailers in England have been charging 5p for single-use plastic carrier bags for nearly two years. However, in a move criticised by environmental groups as confusing, they are not required by law to charge for plastic bags for some products such as uncooked fish, meat or poultry products and plants.


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« Reply #7 on: Oct 04, 2017, 05:39 AM »

Using outer space to help cool buildings on Earth

Using a phenomenon known as radiative sky cooling, a team of Stanford researchers has developed rooftop panels that could be used to passively cool buildings.   

Joseph Dussault
CS Monitor
10/4/2017   

October 4, 2017 —Researchers may have found a way to make refrigerators and air conditioners more efficient: Just shoot the heat into space.

Using a natural optical phenomenon called radiative sky cooling, a group of scientists-turned-entrepreneurs has developed roof panels that they say could reduce the energy needed to cool homes, offices, supermarkets, and data centers. Elegant in its passivity and its simplicity, their new application may represent a considerable, if incremental, step toward rethinking how we build our homes and places of business. And it could even provide clues about how to make existing structures more efficient.

“I think the elegance of it appealed to me,” says Aaswath Raman, a research associate at Stanford University in California and co-author of a paper published in the journal Nature Energy last month that describes the radiative cooling panels. “It’s to make something that’s a very good non-absorber of sunlight and, at the same time, a very good emitter of heat away.”

Most of the heat radiated by objects on Earth is absorbed by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and re-emitted back to the surface. But Earth’s greenhouse effect isn’t a perfect seal. Some infrared wavelengths of radiation can slip through the atmosphere and pass into space. That heat loss produces an effect known as radiative sky cooling.

For the cooling effect to work, an object must face the sky directly – a physical obstruction, such as a tree or building, will absorb and re-emit any thermal energy that is released. Under certain conditions, the cooling phenomenon can bring an object’s temperature below that of the surrounding air. That’s why frost can form on cloudless nights, even when ambient temperatures stay above freezing. To harness this natural quirk is to use deep space as a kind of heat sink.
Five hopeful signs global energy is getting cleaner

The panels developed by Dr. Raman and his colleagues exploit this phenomenon, cooling water to temperatures below that of the ambient air, no electricity needed. The water could then be circulated through the building to cool its interior.

Sophisticated passive cooling technologies have existed for millennia. By 400 BC, engineers in present-day Iran had mastered the art of building yakhchāls, or ice pits. By running water along the inside of clay domes – an early evaporative cooling system – one could keep the pit cool enough to store ice in the sweltering summer months.

Passive cooling has its limitations, however. On a clear day, the sun’s heat will usually offset any cooling effect.

“Some architects started looking at it in the ’60s and ’70s, with the main caveat being that it only worked at night,” says Raman. “It never really took off as a technology, because it became rather complex to use something that only worked at night to deliver cooling during the day.”

In 2014, Mr. Raman and his Stanford colleagues found a workaround. With $3 million in funding from the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program, they developed highly reflective panels that could harness the sky cooling effect while blocking up to 97 percent of solar light. Placed on a roof under direct sunlight, their panels stayed 8.8 degrees F. cooler than the surrounding air – a cooling power of 40.1 watts per square meter. Last year, three of those researchers founded SkyCool Systems, of which Raman is chief executive officer.

Researchers generally agree that radiative cooling technologies such as the one developed by SkyCool could translate to significant long-term energy savings in new buildings. But retrofitting still presents a considerable challenge: In a 2015 analysis by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., researchers found that material and installation costs made SkyCool’s technology unsuitable for existing structures.

“The use of radiative cooling technology requires completely different types of building components,” says Srinivas Katipamula, who co-authored the analysis. “Only when existing buildings are completely torn down for a retrofit is it possible to use radiative cooling technologies. We have to look at existing buildings if we are to make a big dent in reducing energy consumption, because much of the consumption is associated with those buildings.”

To that end, Raman’s company has shifted focus toward a new mode of integration: solar water coolers. Such a system would use the same radiative panels to cool fluid in a closed loop. In recent field trials, his team successfully retrofitted the condenser component of off-the-shelf commercial refrigeration and air conditioning systems.

“In this particular trial, we’re targeting something like a 10 to 20 percent improvement in efficiency on an annual basis,” says Raman. “For something like refrigeration, that’s actually a big deal. If you think about supermarkets and other cold storage facilities, keeping things quite cold or even frozen is an expensive proposition.”

With potential savings like that, radiative cooling could represent a step forward in a growing “zero-energy design” movement, which advocates building structures that produce at least as much energy as they consume.

The movement has grown steadily in the last decade. Earlier this year, Austin, Texas, unveiled a new housing development of 7,500 net-zero-energy homes – the largest in the country. That growth can be partially attributed to trends in solar energy, says Nathan Johnson, an assistant professor at Arizona State University who studies energy markets and renewables.

“Solar prices have dropped significantly, and subsidies are set to remain until at least 2020, so the incentives to install distributed solar are strong,” says Professor Johnson. “The market has grown sufficiently that standard business practices in an open market will take things forward.”

Residential and commercial buildings accounted for about 40 percent of the country’s total energy consumption in 2016, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Of that, 6 to 8 percent was used specifically for cooling, while at the same time creating emissions that contribute to global warming.

But cutting-edge technology can’t always replace good engineering, says L.D. Danny Harvey, a University of Toronto climatology professor and author of “A Handbook on Low-Energy Buildings and District-Energy Systems.” By reducing the need for cooling in the first place, developers can make simple choices to improve efficiency in the long-run.

“You minimize solar heat gain by minimizing the window areas facing west, and you use windows that permit very little solar heat to get in,” says Professor Harvey. “If it’s west-facing, you have adjustable external blinds. If it’s south-facing, you have an overhead which will shade it in the summer and let in sunlight in the winter. You do sensible things like that to reduce the need for both heating and cooling.”

Existing buildings can be improved through window glazing and double-skin facades, which reduce solar penetration and improve ventilation. It’s a scaled-back approach, Harvey admits, and it won’t make an old building energy neutral. But since more than half of the US housing stock was built before 1980, according to a report by the National Association of Home Builders, even small gains in efficiency could add up.

“We’re going to have to retrofit the entire building stock of all the countries in the world,” says Harvey. “Maybe you can renovate 2 percent a year – you’re talking a 40-50 year period, so that takes us to 2060 or so. But at the same time we’re converting the electricity grid entirely to renewable energy. And we’re implementing ever-more stringent standards for new buildings, and we’re making more and more of the new buildings net-zero or close to it.”


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« Reply #8 on: Oct 04, 2017, 05:42 AM »


World Can Meet Growing Food Demands and Limit Warming to 1.5°C, Study Says

By Daisy Dunne
Ecowatch
10/4/2017

Agriculture and food production is responsible for around 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Slashing the sector's emissions is considered to be key to limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, which is the aspirational target of the Paris agreement.

However, adopting negative emissions strategies, such as soil carbon management, will be essential to help the farming industry reduce its carbon footprint without threatening the global food supply, the lead author told Carbon Brief.

The new study marks an important step in our understanding of how to tackle the "wicked problem" of food insecurity in a changing climate, another scientist told Carbon Brief.

Making a meal of the planet

Food production contributes to global warming in a number of ways. Agricultural machinery and the transportation of crops and animals cause the release of CO2, crop fertilizers release nitrous oxide, and methane is released by rice paddy fields and livestock.

Growing demand for food has also led to the global expansion of farmland at a rate close to 10 million hectares (approximately 24.7 million acres) per year during the past decade. Some of this land once supported rainforests, which stored huge stocks of carbon.

Overall, the production of food is thought to account for around 30 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions.

Cutting emissions from agriculture is, therefore, considered to be vital to limiting warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. To slash agricultural emissions, it is likely farmland expansion into forests will need to be scaled back, fertilizers used more efficiently and lost trees replanted.

However, these mitigation techniques will take up precious farmland and could have an impact on global food production, explained Dr. Stefan Frank, a researcher at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Vienna and lead author of the new study published in Environmental Research Letters. He told Carbon Brief:

"Reducing global emissions may affect food availability as agricultural land could be diverted from food production to energy use for fossil fuel substitution, such as biofuels. Mitigation efforts may also limit land available for agricultural expansion due to the need for protection of high carbon landscapes, such as forests."

Crunching the numbers

His research investigates how strategies to cut emissions from the agriculture, forestry and other land use (AFOLU) sector could affect both global warming and food availability by 2050.

The research uses mathematical models to simulate the expected fall in emissions if the agricultural and land use sector employed mitigation strategies with the aim of limiting warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by 2050.

The study found that, if key mitigation strategies are implemented, the agriculture and land use sector could cut its emissions from 12 billion tonnes of CO2 a year to around 600,000 million tonnes of CO2 a year by 2050.

One way to meet this goal would be to introduce a "carbon tax" on food, the study found, whereby foods that cause high carbon emissions during their production, such as beef and rice, are taxed the most.

This tax could encourage agricultural businesses to find ways to reduce their carbon emissions, Frank said. He added:

"For this study, we use an economic land use and mimic different climate change mitigation policies implementing emission reduction targets and bioenergy demands. The emission reduction targets are achieved by implementing a carbon price in the model, which incentivizes the shift towards more greenhouse gas efficient production systems."

The chart below shows how a tax on carbon emissions could affect the price of food in relation to today's prices. Deep red represents a scenario whereby a tax of $150 dollars per tonne of CO2 emissions is applied, whereas pale pink shows a scenario where a relatively lower tax of $10 dollars per tonne of CO2 emissions is introduced.

Graph showing how a tax on carbon dioxide emissions could affect the price of food in relation to today's prices.Frank et al. (2017)

However, although the introduction of a carbon tax could help to cut farming emissions, it could also threaten the food security of the world's most vulnerable people, the research suggests.

This is because a tax on food could restrict the calorie intake of low-earners who are vulnerable to food price hikes. In many parts of the developing world, poor people spend as much as 60 to 80 percent of their income on food, according to the World Food Programme.

Using models that consider these caveats, the researchers simulated how a range of carbon taxes on food production could affect the average calorie intake across the globe by 2050, if efforts are made to limit warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

They found that carbon taxes on food production could result in global food calorie losses ranging from 110 to 285 kcal per person, per day, by 2050, depending on the level of tax that is introduced and the market conditions. This could translate into a rise in undernourishment of 80-300 million people in 2050, the researchers said.

However, the assumption that a fall in calorie intake will lead to a rise in undernourishment and lower food security could be too simplistic, said Tim Benton, a professor in population ecology at food security at the University of Leeds, who was not involved in the study. He told Carbon Brief:

"[The analysis] tackles only a part of the whole issue. Globally, poor diets are driving ill-health through providing too many calories and not enough nutrition, so what we produce and how we produce it needs to change to provide healthier diets: calories are not a good proxy for food security."

'Win-win' strategies

However, the potential rise in undernourished people as a result of a carbon tax on food could be stemmed if "win-win" emissions mitigation strategies are also implemented, the research suggests.

One "win-win" strategy outlined by the research is soil carbon sequestration, or the introduction of farming methods that encourage soil to absorb more carbon from the atmosphere. It is considered to be a "win-win" mitigation strategy because it can help to boost crop productivity as well as lower agricultural emissions. Frank said:

"There are of course uncertainties related to the mitigation potential from soil carbon sequestration, but if these potentials were to be achieved, the impacts on food security could be significantly eased."

The research found that introducing soil carbon management on a global scale could enable us to achieve the target of limiting warming to 1.5°C at a "considerably lower calorie cost," said Frank.

The models found that introducing good soil management could reduce the fall in daily calorie intake by 65 percent, when compared with scenarios that do not consider carbon sequestration.

Using "win-win" strategies, such as soil carbon management, could make limiting warming to 1.5°C while maintaining food security a realistic goal. Frank explained:

"There are several other "win-win" options such as reducing food waste and harvest losses, or societal dietary change that were not explicitly assessed in this study but if realized together, they could even enable us to achieve this goal [of limiting warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels] without compromising food security at all."

The study offers us insight into how the causes of food insecurity as a result of climate change are often complex and indirect, said Benton:

"Rising food insecurity is painful to contemplate, but it is a wicked problem. Without mitigating climate change, its impacts on food security are also likely to increase the number of food insecure, either directly or indirectly (through promoting conflict).

"This is an important study which shows that carbon pricing can drive positive effects, but can also drive negative effects. It sets an agenda about how to avoid the negatives, whilst embracing the positives."


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« Reply #9 on: Oct 04, 2017, 05:44 AM »


Zinke’s Monument Review: Another Gift to Oil, Gas and Coal

By Jacob Eisenberg
Ecowatch
10/4/2017

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has recommended that his boss, President Trump, do what no President has done before: fundamentally change and substantially diminish America's national monuments. "Energy dominance" is a theme that has permeated Zinke's statements and acts as Interior Secretary. But its conspicuous scarcity in his rhetoric around the monument review should not fool anyone into thinking that increasing the availability of fossil fuel is not a significant motivation for the administration's attack on our monuments.

Rather, fossil fuel boosters played a key role in placing the monuments in the Secretary's crosshairs. The Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, in particular, have faced a concerted campaign for their elimination by, among others, fossil fuel-linked advocates who want to open access to the oil, gas and coal resources within and around their boundaries. If the president or Congress accept Zinke's recommendations, it would be against the will and interest of the American public—a capitulation of American treasures to pad the profits of the world's richest industries.

Utah Monuments' Fossil Fuel Attractions

Utah is a geologic wonder known for its unique red rocks, canyons, arches, hoodoos and other majestic features. It also sits on geologic formations rife with oil, gas and coal deposits which the fossil fuel industries have been rapidly extracting.

Kira Minehart

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument sits atop a giant coal field containing "several billion tons," according to Zinke's leaked memo on monuments under review, with resources identified under almost half of the protected area. At the time it was designated in 1996 there was a gigantic, destructive coal mine proposed within its borders, called "a public safety, fiscal and environmental nightmare." The designation of Grand Staircase slammed the breaks on that mine, but Big Coal hasn't taken its sights off the area, even 21 years later. And Sec. Zinke sympathized. Strongly. Upon visiting the monument in May, he offered, "monuments should never be put in a position to prevent rather than protect and the president is pro-energy across the board." Now, he's working to right this misconceived wrong.

Kira Minehart

The Bears Ears National Monument doesn't contain fossil fuel reserves of quite the same scale as its neighbor, but removing protections for the area would nonetheless open the door to the fossil fuel development in and near the monument borders. Coal and oil reserves surround the monument, there are quite a few oil wells already within its proximity, and industry has already expressed interest in leasing areas within the monument's current boundaries.

Should the boundaries of these two monuments be diminished, it would open the doors to the fossil fuel industry foreclosing on conservation of these critical lands forever. Some might say that fossil fuel industry won't ever develop part of these lands because they are uneconomic or hard to access. But keep in mind oil, gas, and coal companies don't necessarily need to drill or mine leased public lands to derive financial benefit from leasing them. Their business model allows them to reap rewards for just owning or leasing fossil fuel reserves.

To put it simply, exploration and production company valuations are based in part on their accessible reserves. So, by leasing public lands with known reserves, companies can attract more investment to continue growing. Therefore, extractive industries can do harm to public lands before they're ever drilled, mined, or logged; by leasing parcels of our lands, they can be tied up and complicate efforts to conserve the area.

Fossil Fuel's Utah Advocacy Arm

Unfortunately, the fossil fuel industries and its false promises play an outsized role in Utah politics. By co-opting an anti-federal bent already present in the state, they've managed to downplay the economic and recreational value of protected public lands, as well as the harm their development does to public health and the environment, while overstating the jobs they could offer. The Sutherland Institute is a one of the industry's key proponents.

A conservative advocacy group based in Salt Lake City, the Sutherland Institute has served as one of the key opponents of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase. The institute has directly influenced Utah politicians to assume their extreme, anti-public lands position, going so far as to draft the language of a state legislature resolution calling on President Trump to rescind Bears Ears. When asked about possible undue influence by E&E News, the Institute responded with a confused defense: "Utah lawmakers 'regularly reach out' to the group for its expertise."

When Sec. Zinke visited Utah in May as part of his monuments review, he spent only an hour with the leaders of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, a group representing five native tribes that call the Bears Ears area home and parts of it sacred, and, reportedly, much of the rest of his time with monument opponents including Utah's anti-public land politicians and Sutherland Institute staff.

The Institute has direct ties to fossil fuel money. Their extreme anti-public lands project, in particular, has received significant donations from the Koch network and diluted donations from the Kochs themselves. It isn't alone. Other prominent groups with known ties to the fossil fuel industries back it up; well-known names like the Heritage Foundation and the Koch's own American for Prosperity fully support the administration's attack on our national monuments and public lands. And it appears it's their voices Zinke most values.

Zinke's Not-So-Hidden Agenda

It didn't take long after being sworn in as Interior Secretary for Ryan Zinke, a self-described Teddy Roosevelt conservationist, to shed the façade of a responsible steward of the land and set our expectations for his partisan review.

An early DOI press release declares "Secretary Zinke Takes Immediate Action to Advance American Energy Independence." In the release, Zinke states, "for too many local communities, energy on public lands has been more of a missed opportunity…" thus publicly launching his crusade. The phrases "energy independence" and "energy dominance," which are frequent themes touted by the Trump Administration, don't mean much more than "drill, baby, drill." Since his early proclamation, there have been a multitude of statements and actions reaffirming Sec. Zinke's misguided mission to boost oil, gas and coal, including on monuments specifically.

On April 26, President Trump signed the Presidential Executive Order on the Review of Designations Under the Antiquities Act, directing the Secretary of the Interior to review national monument designations and produce the aforementioned recommendations. One only needs to look at the Order's first section, which lays out the rationale for the review, to get the gist of what was to come: "Monument designations that result from a lack of public outreach and proper coordination with State, tribal, and local officials and other relevant stakeholders may also create barriers to achieving energy independence…" (emphasis added). Energy independence—a theme frequently touted by the Trump Administration that doesn't mean much more than "drill, baby, drill"—was clearly a priority. This was sparsely reinforced through the course of the monument review, but Zinke's comment on energy in Grand Staircase said it all.

An Attack on Our National, Natural Heritage

Shrinking the borders of America's monuments would constitute an attack on America's public lands, its natural heritage, and the long-beloved Antiquities Act. Reducing the size of these monuments for special interests like fossil fuels makes that attack far more destructive. Also, deeply unpopular. When Zinke solicited the public's comments on his review of recently designated national monuments, he received 2.8 million submissions, more than 99 percent of which were in favor of maintaining the status quo of protection for unique and spectacular landscapes and elements of our history. But in President Trump's executive branch, when the interest and will of the public is pitted against big industry, regular citizens lose. It's a travesty—a miscarriage of democracy.

Jacob Eisenberg associate advocate of the Oceans And Land & Wildlife Programs at the Natural Resources Defense Council.


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« Reply #10 on: Oct 04, 2017, 05:48 AM »


Dr. David Suzuki: Environmentalism Is a Way of Being, Not a Discipline

Ecowatch
10/4/2017

I'm often introduced as an environmentalist. I prefer to be called a father, grandfather, scientist or author, as these terms provide insight into my motivation. Environmentalism isn't a discipline or specialty like law, medicine, plumbing, music or art. It's a way of seeing our place in the world and recognizing that our survival, health and happiness are inextricably dependent on nature. To confront today's environmental crises, everyone—garage mechanics, construction workers, dentists, politicians and judges—has to see the world through an environmental lens.

I recently attended an event with a panel of outstanding athletes and artists who had become activists on various environmental issues. The moderator asked what role awe had played in their commitment. Their answers revealed how inspiring it is to experience that sense of awe in the face of nature's beauty.

I couldn't help thinking that two more words should have been added to the discussion: humility and gratitude. As the panel grappled with the issue of ecological degradation, the idea emerged that all we need is to be more aware so we can use science and technology to solve the crises.

We're clever animals—so smart that we think we're in command. We forget that our inventions have created many crises. Atomic bombs represented an incredible scientific and technological achievement, releasing the power within atoms. But when the U.S. dropped them on Japan in 1945, scientists didn't know about radioactive fallout, electromagnetic pulses or the potential for nuclear winter. Those were discovered after we used the weapons.

Swiss chemist Paul Mueller won a Nobel Prize in 1948 for his discovery that DDT was a potent insecticide. Many years after the compound was put into widespread use, biologists discovered a previously unknown phenomenon: biomagnification up the food chain.

When people started using chlorofluorocarbons, no one knew they would persist in the environment and float into the upper atmosphere where the sun's ultraviolet rays would cleave away chlorine-free radicals. As a geneticist, I only learned about the protective ozone layer when other scientists reported that chlorine from CFCs was breaking it down.

Our knowledge of the biological, chemical and physical components of the biosphere and their interconnections and interactions is too limited to enable us to anticipate the consequences of our inventions and intrusions. Nevertheless, we look to our creativity to lead us to a better world with nanotechnology, genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, geoengineering and space travel.

What we need is humility. Clever as we are, nature is far more creative. Over 3.8 billion years, every species has had to evolve ways to find food, water and energy, and to dispose of wastes, find mates, reproduce, avoid predators and fend off parasites and infections. Nature offers myriad solutions that we have yet to discover. If we had the humility to learn from nature, using an approach called "biomimicry," we would find far more and better solutions.

The Canadian Cancer Society recently reported that half our population will develop cancer. This isn't normal, but it shouldn't surprise us. After all, we have synthesized hundreds of thousands of new molecules that have never existed on Earth. Most have never been tested for their biological effects and tens of thousands are now used in products and enter our waste stream.

When we dump this vast assortment of new molecules into air, water and soil, we can't anticipate how they might interact within living organisms or what their long-term consequences might be. Throwing more money into cancer treatment and research will not alone stem the disease. To arrest the cancer crisis (and it is a crisis), we must stop using the biosphere as a garbage can or sewer for these new molecules.

Along with humility, we should be grateful for nature's generosity, something I've learned from Indigenous peoples. They acknowledge the source of their well-being, clean air, clean water, clean food and clean energy—all things that are created, cleansed or replenished by the web of life around us. In the urbanized industrial world we inhabit, we tend to think the economy is the source of all that matters to us, and so we have little regard for what we're doing to the natural systems that sustain us. It's time to see with new eyes.


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« Reply #11 on: Oct 04, 2017, 05:57 AM »

Outrage greets Mexican feminism panel with 11 participants – all of them male

    Lopsided lineup reignites debate about representation of women in Mexico
    ‘What next? A conference on racism with only white people?’

Duncan Tucker in Guadalajara
Guardian
10/4/2017

When a pink flyer promoting a feminism conference at Mexico’s biggest university was posted on social media this week, it did not take long before people noticed something was amiss.

The lineup featured two panels with 11 participants – and all of them were male. It was, as one woman tweeted, the graphic description of “mansplaining”.
Outrage as Mexican student killed after using ride-hailing service
Read more

The lopsided lineup provoked outrage on Twitter, reigniting debate about the representation of women in Mexican society and the role of men in feminist movements in a deeply machista country where seven women are murdered every day.

“What’s next? A conference on racism with only white people?” asked another Twitter user.

Organised by the humanities department at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Unam), the 11 October conference appears to be intended as a homage to the feminist scholar Marta Lamas, who will host the event and debate the 11 men. The university did not immediately respond to queries about the event.

Many feminists saw the format as an insult or an act of provocation.

“Feminism for dummies: we don’t have a single representative, there are many of us and we’re very diverse. Invite many women to your debates,” tweeted the feminist blogger Ana González.

The under-representation of women in Mexican society spurred a group of feminists to found Con Nosotras, an initiative that encourages public speakers to boycott all-male forums.

“It’s good that this has created debate about the issue,” said co-founder Susana Ochoa. “I think their intention was good but it wasn’t communicated appropriately. ”

Ochoa said the incident could prompt Mexicans to consider the importance of including women in public debate. “Women have not been represented in this country for a long time,” she said.

Regina Tamés, the director of GIRE, a reproductive rights organisation, defended the event, saying on Twitter: “It’s an event which male allies and friends are going to honour Marta. She has spent 45 years speaking with women.”

For many, the incident illustrated a frequent problem related to male involvement. “Feminists don’t hate men,” González said. “We just want them to stop being protagonists everywhere.”

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Outrage as Mexican student killed after using ride-hailing service

    Cabify driver held over murder of Mara Fernanda Castilla, 19
    Protests accuse government of failing to tackle spate of femicides

David Agren in Mexico City
10/4/2017
Guardian

The murder of a Mexican university student after she used a ride-hailing service has sparked outrage and prompted street protests by activists who say that the country’s authorities have done little or nothing to prevent a litany of femicides.

Mara Fernanda Castilla, 19, was found dead on Friday, according to the Puebla state governor, Tony Gali. Her body had been abandoned in a ditch some 90 kilometres south-east of Mexico City.

Castilla had hailed a car from Cabify, a Spanish ride-sharing service, in the early hours of 8 September after going out clubbing with friends.

The driver passed by her apartment – ending the paid portion of the ride there and sending a receipt to her email – but security cameras did not show Castilla exiting the car or entering the building. Castilla was taken to a hotel, where she was sexually assaulted and strangled, according to investigators. The driver has since been arrested.

News of Castilla’s murder came during Mexico’s independence holiday – an event marked this year with somewhat downbeat celebrations following a powerful earthquake which killed at least 98 people, and amid public soul-searching over continuing corruption and violence.

Some on social media added the official holiday hashtag #VivaMéxico to tweets condemning Castilla’s murder, while protesters in major Mexican cities marched to protest against violence against women on Sunday.

“I’m not going to celebrate when there’s something so outrageous happening,” said Liliana Rivera, a psychologist, who protested on Sunday.

“There’s this outrage and an outcry because these murders are not being taken seriously by the government unless they go into the media. In every state we have these problems,” Maricruz Ocampo, an activist on women’s issues in the state Querétaro, told the Guardian. “The number that the [federal] government gives is that seven women are killed every day because people can get away with it. There is no other reason.”

Puebla, where Castilla moved to study political science, has registered 83 feminicidios so far in 2017. Civil society groups have pushed the Puebla state government to issue a “gender alert” – an emergency mechanism introduced into law in 2007 following a surge of gruesome hate crimes against women in the northern border city of Ciudad Juárez. The request was rejected on 7 July.

Over the weekend, the hashtag #SiMeMatan – “if they kill me” –trended on social media. The hashtag has trended previously after officials have implied that female victims of violence were somehow complicit in the crimes committed against them.

Four months before her death, Castilla herself used the hashtag on a 5 May tweet reading “#SiMeMatan it’s because I liked to go out at night and drink a lot of beer …”

In recent years, ride-hailing services such as Cabify and Uber have exploded in popularity in Mexico – not least because they are perceived to be safer than ordinary taxis, which often do not have seat belts, GPS devices or credit card readers. Taxi drivers have also regularly been involved in crimes including robbery and kidnapping.

Meanwhile, armed robberies occur regularly on public transit in the suburbs of Mexico City, while the subway in the capital has female-only cars to prevent sexual assault.

“You take Uber and Cabify because you think it’s safe, but it ends up you’re still exposing yourself to danger,” said Ana Olivares, a student protesting in Mexico City. “There’s no way to stay safe.”

Cabify came in for further criticism after the company expressed condolences for Castilla’s “death”. Many on social media corrected the Cabify statement to read that Castilla was, in fact, murdered.

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« Reply #12 on: Oct 04, 2017, 06:03 AM »

Test tube babies in a conflict zone: dealing with infertility in Gaza

The UN has called the Gaza Strip unlivable, yet IVF treatment is widely available to its residents, with some paying thousands of dollars while others take advantage of a goodwill gesture by the ruling Hamas party

Miriam Berger in Gaza City
Guardian
Wednesday 4 October 2017 07.00 BST

The Gaza Strip was a month into this summer’s suffocating electricity crisis when Thair Salah Mortaja became a father for the first time. He had spent thousands of dollars to overcome infertility – first paying for drugs, then a futile operation, and finally for costly in vitro fertilisation (IVF) – but the struggle for parenthood did not end there.

His wife, Fatima, went into labour when she was just seven months pregnant, partly because of poor prenatal care. Their doctor wanted to get her to a specialist in Nablus, but the hard-to-procure permit to exit blockaded Gaza into Israel and proceed to the West Bank city didn’t come through. After a tense labour, she gave birth prematurely to triplets (multiple births are common with IVF). But the intensive baby care unit at Gaza’s largest hospital, Shifa, was already over capacity.

So they waited hours until an incubator became available. The doctors decided to put the son and one daughter together in the incubator, run by generators amid the power shortages. The third child remained on oxygen in a little bed beside her siblings. The overstressed intensive care unit frequently makes such arrangements for IVF twins and triplets, a doctor explained.

The war-torn and impoverished coastal enclave – which the UN has declared “unlivable” – is a surprising place to find widespread access to IVF treatment. But it is accepted by Palestinians in Gaza, for whom having children is a source of social respect, national strength and religious duty – feelings only heightened by the death and destruction around them. Amid socio-economic pressure to conceive, IVF has also been a politically expedient tool to garner goodwill: this summer, Gaza’s extremist Hamas government provided free treatment for chosen couples, as did the NGO run by the wife of another major Palestinian political player, Mohammed Dahlan.

A week on, Fatima was back home recovering while the couple’s babies remained hospitalised. Mortaja’s heart was still racing constantly. In the weeks before, and since, several babies have died waiting for the rival Palestinian Authority and Israel to approve exit permits for people to receive urgent care unavailable in resource-limited Gaza. One day that week in July at Shifa’s intensive care unit, a baby who had just died lay in an incubator, his body withered and still, before doctors removed him to make way for another.

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2007, while Israel and Egypt have kept Gaza blockaded on security grounds. Now Gaza’s 2 million people are faced with unemployment and population density that is among the highest in the world, stuck in what they often describe as an open-air prison.

The dire situation worsened in June when the Palestinian Authority, which runs the West Bank, stopped paying Israel for Gaza’s electricity in an attempt to squeeze Hamas out. In response, in the dead heat of summer, Israel cut electricity and Gazans went from having eight hours of power to just three or four. Anger against the authority, its Fatah party, and Hamas, along with Israel, only grew.

In these circumstances, IVF comes with a host of complications. The fertility rate in Gaza is among the highest in the Arab region, with 4.5 children a couple, compared with the West Bank’s 3.6, according to a 2017 UN Population Fund report. Dr Bakr Qaoud, of the Gaza City Helow Centre, says more than 1,000 couples annually try the treatment in Gaza through private clinics, at a cost of $2,000-$2,500 (£1,500-£1,900) a round. He says thousands more would like it, but can’t pay.

Dr Mohamed Jouda, who runs the Hala Centre in Gaza City, says that over the years he’s been working in the field he has seen a decline in male fertility rates, which he attributes to the stresses of war and environmental factors such as the use of herbicides and other toxins.

There are, however, no formal studies of infertility rates in Gaza. Neither is there research into the impact of pesticides used by Israelis and Palestinians, although rumours in Gaza persist that the Israelis use pesticides on food imported into Gaza that contribute to male infertility.

While some conservative communities object to IVF, Hamas has supported and subsidised the treatment, funding couples during the yearly Ramadan holiday. Gaza is also politically polarised – right down to which clinics people use, says Qaoud, explaining that some are known to be Hamas funded.

Mortaja didn’t have any political connections to pay for IVF treatment. In the five years since his marriage, he has spent about $10,000 on hospital visits, operations and IVF. They have sold Fatima’s gold dowry and got into debt with friends and family.

Others are luckier: Ziad Khader, 35, an actor, was among 600 couples to receive free treatment from a charity run by Dahlan’s wife.

For nine years, Khader and his wife failed to conceive. Then he saw an advertisement for funding from Jaleela Dahlan’s group. His wife is now three months pregnant with twins.

Khader is from a Fatah family, and he says he is thankful for the support from Dahlan, who is also Fatah. But he loathes being indebted to anyone. He would rather support his family, he says, but there are no jobs.

“It’s a siege of ideas,” says Khader of the political and economic repression. For now, though, he can’t see beyond the excitement of his wife expecting twins.


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« Reply #13 on: Oct 04, 2017, 06:05 AM »

Babies behind bars: the Honduran prison where children live with their mothers – in pictures

There is only one prison in Honduras that holds only women. The Penitenciaria Nacional Femenina de Adaptación Social, based in Tamara, 40km from the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa, holds 700 female prisoners and is the only facility in the country where infants can live with their mothers. The prison is home to 49 children, and six more babies on the way

Photographs by Christina Simons. Text by Alëx Elliott
Christina Simons and Alëx Elliott
Guardian
4 October 2017 13.02 BST

Click to see all: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/gallery/2017/oct/03/honduras-prison-where-children-live-with-mothers-penitenciaria-nacional-femenina-de-adaptacion-social-in-pictures


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« Reply #14 on: Oct 04, 2017, 06:08 AM »

Can Catalonia declare independence from Spain?

Since Sunday’s referendum, the Catalan president has repeated his determination to do so within days. The reality may not be so simple

Sam Jones in Barcelona
Guardian
Wednesday 4 October 2017 10.35 BST

The regional president, Carles Puigdemont, has repeated his determination to declare independence from Spain days after 90% of participants in a unilateral referendum voted for Catalonia to become a separate state. Speaking to the BBC on Tuesday night, Puigdemont said once the government had a final tally of votes, it would “act at the end of this week or the beginning of next”. He is due to make a statement on TV at 9pm local time on Wednesday.

Can he do this?

The Spanish government is adamant that he cannot and the country’s constitutional court ordered the referendum to be suspended last month. Puigdemont argues his government has been left with no choice but to proceed unilaterally as repeated attempts to discuss the matter with the Madrid government have been ignored. He also says the referendum results gives him a clear mandate.
What does the Spanish constitution say?

It is pretty clear: “The constitution is based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, the common and indivisible homeland of all Spaniards; it recognises and guarantees the right to self-government of the nationalities and regions of which it is composed and the solidarity among them all.”

So what happens next?

Just as Madrid will not recognise the results of a referendum both it and the courts have declared illegal, so it will not recognise an independence declaration. The Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, still has the option of tackling the independence challenge by invoking article 155 of the Spanish constitution. The article, which has never been used, allows the Spanish government to step in and take control of an autonomous region if it “does not fulfil the obligations imposed upon it by the constitution or other laws, or acts in a way that is seriously prejudicial to the general interest of Spain”.

Given the police violence that marred Sunday’s poll, leaving hundreds of people injured, such a move would go down extremely badly. Not only would it galvanise support for Puigdemont’s position, it would also bring huge crowds on to the streets in protest.

Tensions are still running very high and many Catalans are angry that the thousands of Spanish Guardia Civil and national police officers who tried to halt the referendum are still deployed in the region.

Puigdemont warned that the triggering of article 155 would be another in what he called “a long list of mistakes” by the Spanish government.

“After each mistake, we have become stronger,” he told the BBC. “Today, we are closer to independence than we were a month ago. Each week, after every mistake, we’ve gained more support from society; a bigger majority in Catalonia who do not accept this situation.”

He said that the use of article 155, and the possible arrest of members of the Catalan government – including himself – could be the “ultimate mistake”.

King Felipe made a rare television address on Tuesday night, in which he accused Catalan authorities of attempting to break “the unity of Spain” and warned that their push for independence could threaten the country’s social and economic stability.

He made no reference to Sunday’s violence in the speech, in which he said the government had a duty to “ensure constitutional order”.

Not so far. Puigdemont and other Catalan politicians have made several calls for the EU to intervene to help solve the crisis, but the bloc has so far kept out of what it views as an internal matter for Spain.

“Violence can never be an instrument in politics,” the European commission said in a statement on Monday. “We trust the leadership of prime minister Mariano Rajoy to manage this difficult process in full respect of the Spanish constitution and of the fundamental rights of citizens enshrined therein.”


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