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Author Topic: Pluto in Cap, the climate, ecology and environment topic  (Read 144203 times)
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« Reply #795 on: Nov 11, 2013, 07:13 AM »

Sydney plans to go 100% renewable by 2030

By CleanTechnica
Monday, November 11, 2013 4:09 EST

Allan Jones, the Chief Development Officer of Energy and Climate Change for Sydney, Australia, intends to have the city rely entirely on renewable energy sources for power, heating, cooling, and transport.

Allan, formerly the head of the UK’s climate program, was recently interviewed by the Renewables 100 Policy Institute. He commented on the ambitious nature of this program, as shown in the video below, followed by some text summary in the following sections.

Renewable Energy Sources For More Than Power

Very importantly, the initiative is to provide not only power, but also heating and cooling, using only renewable energy.

Allan Jones intends to have conventional renewables (wind and solar) generate 30% of the city’s electricity, with the other 70% coming from trigeneration (using biomass-fueled generators). Trigeneration, or combined heat, power, and cooling (CHPC) is a process in which a plant generates electricity and then uses the waste heat it produces to provide heating and cooling. The heat is used to power absorption refrigerators to provide a cooling effect.

The thought of heat-powered air conditioning sounds nice, doesn’t it?

It’s Local!

Part of the plan is to use only local renewable energy, in order to avoid transmission losses and to avoid the storm damage risk that accompanies overhead electricity transmission lines. As Diane Moss, the founding director of the Renewables 100 Policy Institute, said:

    Behind the decision were several factors. Included among them was the fact that the city has little land space, so only 18% of Sydney’s renewable energy needs can be met with solar and wind power within the city boundaries. The City of Sydney also set the parameter that no remote renewables should be used, in order to avoid the energy loss and vulnerability to storm damage that come with overhead grid transmission and distribution networks.

To overcome this issue, land just outside the city will be used to generate some of the renewable energy.
Why 100%?

According to Allan, the ultimate long-term goal is to transition to renewable energy. Setting a clear and complete goal to do so, instead of just obtaining a little renewable energy here and there from a few projects, is important to them. Copenhagen is one of the few renewable energy cities Allan cited as a leading example that Sydney is looking up to.

This project will be funded primarily by the private sector. The city will fund the gas distribution line, which accounts for 10% of the budget.

Click to watch:
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« Reply #796 on: Nov 11, 2013, 07:15 AM »

UN climate talks open amid warnings of increasingly extreme weather phenomena and ‘sobering’ Philippines typhoon

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, November 11, 2013 6:54 EST

Nations launched a new round of talks Monday for a 2015 deal to cut Earth-warming greenhouse gas emissions in the aftermath of a deadly Philippines typhoon the UN’s climate chief labelled “sobering”.

The 12-day United Nations talks opened amid a slew of warnings about potentially disastrous warming with increasingly extreme weather phenomena unless humankind changes its atmosphere-polluting, fossil-fuel burning ways.

“What happens in this stadium is not a game. There are not two sides but the whole of humanity. There are no winners and losers, we all either win or lose in the future we make for ourselves,” UN climate chief Christiana Figueres told climate negotiators.

“We gather today under the weight of many sobering realities,” she added — the first being the new record of 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere that was reached earlier this year.

“The second is the devastating impact of Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful typhoons to ever make landfall. Our thoughts and our prayers are with the people of the Philippines, Vietnam and South-East Asia.”

The UN has set a target of limiting global average warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels — at which scientists believe we can avoid the worst effects of climate change.

The world seeks to reach that goal by curbing emissions of invisible, heat-trapping gases from burning fossil fuels which provide the backbone of the world’s energy supply today.

Reducing this pollution requires a costly shift to cleaner, more efficient energy, which helps to explain why the UN negotiations have been such a battlefield.

Experts say the 2 C objective, set in 2009, is likely to be badly overshot on current emissions trends.

Last week, the UN Environment Programme said the chances of meeting the two-degree goal were “swiftly diminishing”, while the World Meteorological Organisation reported atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases hit a new record high in 2012.

In September, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted global surface temperatures could climb on average by as much as 4.8 C (8.6 F) this century — a recipe for catastrophic heatwaves, floods, droughts and sea-level rise.

Though the stakes are high, no specific targets have been set for this round of the annual talks, hosted by one of the world’s biggest coal polluters just two years before the tortuous global process must deliver a global deal.

Observers hope negotiators will do some legwork for the much-trumpeted agreement, due to be signed in Paris in 2015 for implementation five years later.

The talks are scheduled to wrap up on November 22, at ministerial level.

The gloves are expected to come off over help for poorer nations to cope with climate change.

Rich economies have yet to show how they intend to meet a pledge, made back in 2009, to muster $100 billion per year from 2020.

Figueres said climate change has left future generations facing “a monumental uphill struggle” that can be alleviated with finance “that enables the entire world to move towards low-carbon development”.

“This is the conference to move faster, higher, stronger towards the socially equitable and economically sustainable future we want and need,” she said.

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« Reply #797 on: Nov 11, 2013, 07:19 AM »

Philippines government urges emergency action to resolve UN climate talks deadlock

By John Vidal, The Guardian
Monday, November 11, 2013 7:46 EST

UN negotiations in Warsaw must deliver emergency climate pathway as new storm brews in the Pacific, says government

The Philippines government has firmly connected the super typhoon Haiyan with climate change, and urged governments meeting in Poland on Monday to take emergency action to resolve the deadlocked climate talks.

“We cannot sit and stay helpless staring at this international climate stalemate. It is now time to take action. We need an emergency climate pathway,” said Seb Yano, head of the government’s delegation to the UN climate talks, in an article for the Guardian, in which he challenged climate sceptics to “get off their ivory towers” to see the impacts of climate change firsthand.

Yano, whose family comes from the devastated town of Tacloban where the typhoon Haiyan made landfall on Friday, said that countries such as the Philippines did not have time to wait for an international climate deal, which countries have agreed to reach in Paris in 2015.

“What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness,” hewill tell delagates from 190 countries, as UN climate negotiations get underway for a fortnight today in Warsaw. “The climate crisis is madness. We can stop this madness. Right here in Warsaw. Typhoons such as Haiyan and its impacts represent a sobering reminder to the international community that we cannot afford to procrastinate on climate action..

“Science tells us that simply, climate change will mean more intense tropical storms. As the Earth warms up, that would include the oceans. The energy that is stored in the waters off the Philippines will increase the intensity of typhoons and the trend we now see is that more destructive storms will be the new norm.”.

Yano dared anyone who doubted man-made climate change to visit his country: “To anyone who continues to deny the reality that is climate change, I dare them to go to the islands of the Pacific, the islands of the Caribbean and the islands of the Indian ocean and see the impacts of rising sea levels; to the mountainous regions of the Himalayas and the Andes to see communities confronting glacial floods, to the Arctic where communities grapple with the fast dwindling polar ice caps, to the large deltas of the Mekong, the Ganges, the Amazon, and the Nile where lives and livelihoods are drowned, to the hills of Central America that confronts similar monstrous hurricanes, to the vast savannas of Africa where climate change has likewise become a matter of life and death as food and water becomes scarce.

“Not to forget the massive hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico and the eastern seaboard of North America. And if that is not enough, they may want to pay a visit to the Philippines right now.”

He said that even the most ambitious carbon emissions reductions by developed countries would not be enough to avert catastrophe. “Developed country emissions reductions targets are dangerously low and must be raised immediately, but even if they were in line with the demand of reducing 40-50% below 1990 levels, we would still have locked-in climate change and would still need to address the issue of loss and damage.”

He was agonising over the fate of his relatives, and while his brother had survived, he had spent the last two days gathering the bodies of the dead “with his own two hands.”

The UN climate chief said on Monday that typhoon Haiyan served as a backdrop of “sobering reality” to the fortnight-long negotiations, which are being held in a football stadium in Warsaw.

“We must stay focused, exert maximum effort for the full time and produce a positive result, because what happens in this stadium is not a game,” Christiana Figueres, executive director of the UN framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC) told delegates. “There are not two sides, but the whole of humanity. There are no winners and losers, we all either win or lose in the future we make for ourselves.”

She said that officials in Warsaw must continue to lay the groundwork for a climate deal in Paris in 2015, and explain details of financing to help poorer countries adapt to climate change.

Figueres was followed by the head of the UN’s climate science panel who quoted Albert Einstein “Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them” – in a presentation to the Warsaw meeting. He said that global warming was unequivocal and that human activities were “extremely likely” to be causing temperature rises.

Rajendra Pachauri, who is chairman of the intergovernmental panel on climate change, also reiterated other findings of the panel’s landmark report published in September, including warnings that continued climate change will lead to the rapid shrinking of Arctic sea ice and rising sea levels by the end of the century.

Separately, youth climate campaigners at the summit criticised Figueres for agreeing to give a speech at a coal conference that is taking place on the sidelines of the UN talks. Sierra Student Coalition delegate Ashok Chandwaney said: “The secretary’s decision to engage with the coal industry ignores the reality that by attending their summit as a keynote speaker, she is legitimising their presence and succumbing to their far-reaching influence on the UNFCCC process.” © Guardian News and Media 2013


Typhoon Haiyan survivor: 'I was not prepared for the devastation'

Lynette Lim of Save the Children, who was in Tacloban when the typhoon struck, describes how survivors coped in the early hours

Lynette Lim, Monday 11 November 2013 12.13 GMT   

The area has seen typhoons every year – just not of this magnitude. Having gone through severe typhoons, I don't think people thought they would not survive this one.

The storm was supposed to strike at 9am. But by 5.30am there was heavy rain and extremely strong winds so we knew it had made landfall. One hour later the cell signal went out and the hour after that there was no radio signal. The heart of the storm hit at 8.30am and an hour later the storm surge came in as well. It started to die down at 10.30am, so there were six hours in which children and families in extremely dilapidated housing had to go through that.

The building I was in was one of the sturdier ones, but the windows were smashed by flying debris and part of the roof was ripped off, so the rain was sweeping through and the whole place was flooded. When the flash-flooding came through it wiped out the whole living area downstairs: it was up to a metre-and-a-half high.

I think I went in quite mentally prepared for the typhoon but I was surprised by how strong it was. The devastation I was not prepared for. People were just in shock. They couldn't believe how powerful the storm was. People began to leave the evacuation centre [near us] – the roofs and windows had been smashed. People there really suffered from the storm surge and used a bed as a raft to float to our building and climb to the second floor.

They were trying to go home, look for relatives, make sure everyone was safe and salvage what was left of their homes – pretty much nothing. There were families who had left a family member behind to protect the house from being looted. There was a lot of debris and a lot of flooding. There were trees and fallen electricity lines strewn everywhere. On the side of the road people were laying out dead bodies covered in clothes and whatever they could find. There were children as well as adults.

I saw a dozen or so. But I am sure there are many in coastal areas that have not been retrieved or in places that completely flattened there must be a lot of bodies under there.

We had tried to co-ordinate with the government prior to the storm and had preparedness plans but they were thrown out of the window because the government itself was incapacitated. We walked for seven hours into the centre because no regional official was around.

We saw a lot of people with cuts and bruises where they had been hit by flying debris or glass had struck them but there was no way to get them the support they needed. Medical supplies from hospitals were looted because people realised there was no one around to help them. By Sunday, I got to a hospital in Tacloban and saw a sign outside saying: "No admission – no medical supplies."

On Saturday, everyone was desperate for food. By midday we saw looting for basic supplies, which escalated the day after into whatever they could get. We saw people taking refrigerators out; perhaps something they really needed – they knew they wouldn't be able to afford another one after the storm. Other people were taking flat-screen TVs. People were looting fashion outlets and taking high-heeled shoes – anything they could get. It was hard to tell whether it was opportunistic or desperate.

[They were] ripping out the gates of grocery stories because the markets were not open and they did not have food. They were angry at the government for not supporting them – they felt it was absolute hell and there was no way of recovering. It was absolutely clear not that they didn't want to help themselves but they couldn't [stop themselves].


‘Miracle’ baby born amid Philippines typhoon rubble and named for missing grandmother

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, November 11, 2013 6:50 EST

Emily Sagalis cried tears of joy after giving birth to a “miracle” girl in a typhoon-ravaged Philippine city, then named the baby after her mother who went missing in the storm.

The girl was born Monday in a destroyed airport compound that was turned into a makeshift medical centre, with her bed a piece of dirty plywood resting amid dirt, broken glass, twisted metal, nails and other debris.

“She is so beautiful. I will name her Bea Joy in honor of my mother, Beatriz,” Sagalis, 21, whispered shortly after giving birth.

Sagalis said her mother was swept away when giant waves generated by Super Typhoon Haiyan surged into their home near Tacloban city, the capital of Leyte province which was one of the worst-hit areas, and she has not been seen since.

More than 10,000 people are believed to have died in Leyte, and many hundreds on other islands across the central Philippines, which would make Haiyan the country’s worst recorded natural disaster.

But, in the most tragic of circumstances, Bea Joy restarted the cycle of life.

“She is my miracle. I had thought I would die with her still inside me when high waves came and took us all away,” she said, as her teary-eyed husband, Jobert, clasped the baby and a volunteer held an IV drip above them.

The husband said the first wave that came carried their wooden home in the coastal town of San Jose many meters inland, washing all of the family outside.

He said the entire community had been washed away, with the once picturesque area replaced by rubble and the bloated remains of people and animals.

“We are supposed to be celebrating today, but we are also mourning our dead,” Jobert said.

He said it was God’s will that he found his wife floating amongst the debris.

They were carried away for what felt like hours until the water subsided, and they found themselves sheltering in a school building where other mud-soaked and injured survivors had huddled.

The couple and their surviving neighbors subsisted there until Monday morning only on bottles of water they found among the debris. Jobert said he knew that his wife was about to give birth any day, but no help or aid had come.

“She began labour at 5:00 am (Monday) so we had to walk several kilometers before a truck driver hitched us a ride,” he said.

The young military doctor who attended to her, Captain Victoriano Sambale, said the new mother had already broken her waters by the time the couple stepped inside the building, and then developed bleeding during the delivery.

“This is the first time we have delivered a baby here. The baby is fine and we have managed to stop the bleeding of the mother,” he said.

However, he cautioned doctors were extremely concerned about potential infections that could easily be caught amid the unsterile conditions, with the medical team almost powerless now to help her.

“Definitely the mother is still in danger from infection and sepsis (septicemia). So we need to give her intravenous antibiotics. Unfortunately we ran out of even the oral antibiotics yesterday,” Sambale said.

« Last Edit: Nov 11, 2013, 08:16 AM by Rad » Logged
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« Reply #798 on: Nov 12, 2013, 07:29 AM »

Warsaw UN climate talks: Welcome to Coaland

UN climate hosts Poland need to get off dirty coal power and drive efforts to tackle dangerous climate change

Michalina Golinczak
Monday 11 November 2013 15.12 GMT   
On Monday, the UN climate talks opened in Warsaw. Significant progress needs to be made during these negotiations, to ensure that we are on track to agreeing an ambitious global deal to combat climate change at Paris in 2015.

But the world is not only watching the negotiations closely. All eyes are on Poland, the presidency of this conference.

Already in the run up to the summit, Poland presented itself as controversial host. In a blog post on the official COP19 website, the organisers welcomed the melting ice of the Arctic as opportunity for new drilling and one to “chase pirates, terrorists and ecologists”. The government was further criticized for inviting the biggest coal and oil companies as sponsors, and for allowing a global coal summit to take place in parallel to the climate talks. But all this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Poland is responsible for only about 1% of global greenhouse emissions. But its carbon dioxide emissions per capita are above the EU average and the country is one of the bloc’s least efficient economies. More than 90% of Poland’s electricity is produced from coal, which makes the country the second largest consumer of the fuel in the EU. The latest figures of the European Environment Agency show that Poland also experiences the second highest levels of air pollution in Europe.

Two thirds of Poland’s coal-fired power plants are older than 30 years and more than one third are older than 40 years. The power station in Bełchatów is the second largest lignite plant in the world and the biggest single polluter in the EU. According to Greenpeace’s recent report ‘Coal kills. The analysis of health costs of emissions of the Polish energy sector’, coal power plants are responsible for almost 5,400 deaths a year, about 1,000 of them are related to Bełchatów alone. The recently published HEAL analysis ‘The unpaid bill. How coal power plants make us sick’ says that Poland’s total health costs from coal power generation are the highest in the EU – and equivalent to approximately about 30% of the average annual amount of EU cohesion funding to the country.

What is the government’s answer? Prime Minister Donald Tusk said that Poland will increase its use of coal because of the large domestic supply.

So while preparing to host COP19, the government went ahead with planning the construction of several new coal power plants and mines, most of which will start operating after 2020.

One of the biggest investments is Elektrownia Północ (North Power Plant). The carbon emissions of this project will be equivalent to increasing the country’s population of 1.8 million inhabitants. These plans will prevent the energy sector’s decarbonisation for several decades.

At the same time, Poland’s former chief geologist and former Vice-Minister of Environment Michał Wilczyński forecasts that the country’s brown coal deposits will run out by 2035 and that the mining of bituminous coal is going to be so expensive that by 2030, Poland will import more of it than it will produce.

The government is using two arguments to defend its addition to coal – the protection of the national economy and sovereignty. Both of them are questionable.

The cost of mining is already increasing. As journalists Bartlomiej Derski and Rafal Zasun explained earlier this year: “Polish coal mined last year was worth about 30 billion PLN. At the same time we paid 8 billion PLN for the miners’ pensions [per year]”. By comparison, renewable energy received annual subsidies of approximately 2.4 billion PLN (this excludes subsidies for co-firing biomass with coal).

According to the Greenpeace report ‘Working for the climate’, the implementation of an ambitious program of ‘greening’ the energy sector in Poland could create over 170,000 jobs. This figure takes into account the reduction in employment in the mining sector.

And what about the second argument? Already in 2012, every fifth tonne of bituminous coal was imported. For several years now Poland has been importing twice as much coal as exporting.

Earlier this year, Tusk said that the agreement to the EU energy and climate package in 2008 was a dramatic and dangerous mistake. “We won’t allow ourselves to be misled by the industry lobbyists as our predecessors were, and we will not make Polish people believe that solar panels and wind turbines are the energy future of our country”, he added.

Experts however show that renewable energy could cover as much as 26% of Polish electricity demand in 2020 and even 80% in 2050.

Meanwhile, the European Commission announced that Poland is being referred to the Court of Justice for failing to adopt rules set out by the EU Renewable Energy Directive. The deadline for implementation of the directive was three years ago. The consequence of non-compliance can be a fine of over 133,000 EUR per day until the directive is fully implemented.

The national strategy of the Polish government has its consequences on the international level too. Poland is seen as a real barrier to progress in the EU, which in turn holds up progress at the wider level. The country has opposed proposals to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30% by 2020 three times. Samantha Smith from WWF set it out clearly: “The top three factors that have held the EU back in terms of politics are Poland, Poland and Poland.”

You probably ask yourself why Polish citizens are not present in the debate. According to opinion polls, the majority of the Polish public (84%) thinks that climate change is a big threat and that there is a need to act now. 75% believe that the EU should be a global leader in climate protection. 96% believe that we should use more clean energy. More than two thirds of the Polish public (67%) declares a willingness to pay more for clean energy and 69% state that we have to fight climate change even if it should slow down economic growth.

There are new protest movements against the government’s environmental policy. Occupy Chevron Żurawlów, the resistance against the construction of the Elektrownia Północ power plant, and the quickly growing Polish Youth Climate Network are only three out of many examples.

One of the biggest strength of these movements is their diversity – people with all kinds of social backgrounds are fighting for their right to self-determination and to live in a healthy, safe and sustainable environment.

The Polish government has an opportunity now, while hosting COP19, to drive progress for an ambitious global deal to prevent dangerous climate change.

• Michalina Golinczak is a member of the Polish Youth Climate Network

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« Reply #799 on: Nov 12, 2013, 08:05 AM »

Abbott government abandons emissions reduction target range

Prime minister says Australia will cut greenhouse gases by no more than 5% until he sees more commitment from other nations

Lenore Taylor, Tuesday 12 November 2013 05.28 GMT      

Tony Abbott has confirmed that his government has abandoned its longstanding policy to reduce Australia's emissions by between 5% and 25% of 2000 levels by 2020 – a crucial and internationally scrutinised goal that had retained bipartisan support since 2009, throughout Australia's tumultuous political debate over climate policy.

Asked whether the Coalition still supported the target range as UN climate talks began in Warsaw without any political representation from Australia, the prime minister told journalists: “Australia will meet our 5% emissions reduction target, but this government has made no commitments to go further than that. We certainly are in no way looking to make further binding commitments in the absence of very serious like binding commitments from other countries, and there is no evidence of that.”

In fact, Abbott and the environment minister, Greg Hunt, have regularly repeated a Coalition commitment to increasing Australia's emissions reduction target to up to 25% under a specific set of conditions for global action set down in 2009 and accepted by both major parties.

A recent report by the Climate Change Authority – the independent advisory body set up by the former Labor government – found that the conditions for a target higher than 5% had already been met, and when compared with the actions of other countries, 5% no longer represented a "credible option". The authority – which the Coalition intends to abolish – said a tougher target would be required but did not nominate the target Australia should now adopt in its draft report.

But when asked whether he remained committed to the target range, which Australia has inscribed in its commitments to several international agreements, Abbott said: “We have made one commitment and one commitment only, which is to reduce our emissions by 5% … we have never made any commitments, any commitments to any binding targets over and above that, in the absence of absolutely clear evidence that other countries are going to take a very serious like approach.”

The issue of Australia’s negotiating stance at the Warsaw talks, where its delegation is being headed by the ambassador for the environment, Justin Lee, has been the subject of lengthy discussions at the past two cabinet meetings, most recently on Monday night.

It is unclear whether negotiators will formally withdraw Australia’s target range of 5% to 25%, even though the prime minister has now made it clear both publicly and privately that Australia will not move to a higher target for 2020 and is very sceptical about taking on a higher target in a negotiation for a post-2020 agreement.

The Abbott government has said it will provide only $3.2bn for Direct Action – an amount independent modelling has found will be insufficient to meet even a 5% target – and no more money will be forthcoming. And independent modelling has found that meeting a higher target using Direct Action would be hugely expensive.

The range of targets and conditions under which Australia's target would be raised above 5% were repeated by Hunt in an article for the Australian Financial Review as recently as 30 September, in which he said "the Coalition is committed to a target of a 5% reduction in emissions and the conditions for extending that target further, based on international action".

In a speech to the Grattan Institute think tank in July, Hunt said "we also accept, and we gave support to the government for the targets, not just the 5% but also the conditions for change ... we accept the targets, clearly, categorically, absolutely".

Abbott stated the Coalition's commitment in a letter to former prime minister Kevin Rudd in December 2009, subsequently released under freedom of information laws, in which he requested information on the costs of the proposed emissions trading scheme, but also wrote "the Coalition's position of bipartisan support for emissions reduction targets – subject to the conditions that were earlier outlined – remains unchanged".

Guardian Australia also reported last week that Cabinet was also rethinking Australia's involvement in the Green Climate Fund, an international fund to help developing countries cope with the impact of climate change.

Abbott confirmed that the government would be making no further commitments of funding to the Green Climate Fund.

Labor's environment spokesman, Mark Butler, said: "It's no real surprise to see Tony Abbott walking away from his earlier support for Australia's commitment to reduce carbon pollution by a minimum 5% by 2020 with a higher target range subject to certain conditions. He's made it clear on a number of occasions that he sees no particular problem with carbon pollution.

“This week he hopes to abolish the legislated cap on Australia's carbon pollution and allow the big polluters open slather in the future. And he's got no policy to put in place that has any prospect of actually bringing our carbon pollution down.”

A spokesman for the Australian Conservation Foundation said: “Abandoning the commitment Australia has repeatedly made to the international community to increase our target to 25% would make Australia a deal wrecker.

“Abandoning the election commitment to reduce pollution by 5%–25% wilfully ignores the fact that Australians want more action on climate change, not less, regardless of how its achieved.”

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« Reply #800 on: Nov 12, 2013, 08:19 AM »

Typhoon Haiyan: survival, loss and humanity in obliterated city of Tacloban

Kate Hodal reports from the capital of Leyte province, where survivors are desperate for food, water and medicine

Typhoon Haiyan: how you can help the Philippines

Kate Hodal in Tacloban, Philippines, Monday 11 November 2013 19.40 GMT   
Link to video: Philippines declares state of calamity after typhoon Haiyan

On a stretch of road on the way into Tacloban city centre, just past a lone white coffin with gold-painted handles, lay a mass of dead, bloated bodies. Men, women, cats, dogs and pigs were piled in a heap against a stone house with a metal roof bent upwards like a question mark.

Its residents stared out at the chaos below like zombies.

"Those are dead people in front of our house and the smell is awful," called out a woman from the balcony, her face shrouded in cloth to protect her from the stench. "The sister of the dead man came to see her brother, but she couldn't take him away, she just cried.

"What else can she do," the woman asked. "There is nowhere to take him, nothing to do."

An upturned car had been slammed against the woman's house. Broken concrete pipes and pallets of wood had pummelled her front yard and now filled it, along with pieces of tyre, mattress, plastic and metal. The corpses, meanwhile, had bloated and burst in the heat, their entrails seeping out, tongues oozing from faces.

The woman on the balcony ran down the stairs to ask for help. Joan Madejas Opiniano, 40, who runs an orphanage in eastern Samar province, was breathless as she described the super storm that hit three days ago and obliterated her city. "I started filming the typhoon but within three minutes the water was so strong and so much, it was already up to my ankles," she said, shaking.

"So I tied my son to myself with rope and together we got into a plastic container to float through the waters. Thank God we all survived, but we have to get out of here now. Immediately. We have only three cans of water left to drink and people have started roaming the streets, going into houses to steal things. It has only been three days. Within two weeks it will be impossible for anyone to survive."

The force of the storm that has flattened much of Leyte island, where Tacloban serves as the provincial capital, is best seen by air. The emerald-coloured trees that used to cover the mountains between Tacloban and Ormoc city have been stripped of leaves and now resemble toothpicks stuck into the hillside. Houses and villages have been blown to bits, the debris of homes and farms strewn across the earth. As the land levels out into agricultural plains towards the sea, palm trees that once rose out of the landscape now lie scattered like sticks.

Random images emerge unscathed from the typhoon's chaos: a two-storey pink building next to a winding brown river, 12 miles inland from Tacloban's coastline; two lone motorcycles passing each other on an empty stretch of highway framed by fallen trees.

At Tacloban's decimated airport, where military planes were busy dropping off much-needed supplies of fuel, water, dried goods and generators, hundreds of survivors waited in queues to leave the chaos. There were sick grandmothers lying prone on benches; diabetics with intravenous drips in makeshift wheelchairs fashioned from plastic chairs and carried, not wheeled, by family members; pregnant women and women with toddlers with runny noses.

Among them were pallets of goods – dried food stuffs and supplies. As of Sunday night, over 100 tonnes of relief had arrived in Tacloban, along with 254 military staff, said Colonel Butch Guevara of the Philippine air force's second air division, which is overseeing search and rescue. More than 1,120 civilians had so far been evacuated to Manila and Cebu, with seemingly thousands more to follow in days to come.

Survivors staggered up and down Tacloban's streets on foot, by motorcycle, in vehicles with blown out windows and windshields, or by rickshaw, often carrying various goods like fuel, water or rice. Many of them beg for supplies. With no power and no communications available in the city, residents are desperate to get the word out to their loved ones that they are safe but in need of supplies.

"Pls. help Lola and Lolo … We are safe. We really nid ur help...we nid food to survive..." read one note pressed into my hand by Michelle Salva, a young woman dressed in a yellow long-sleeved top with cloth around her face to lessen the smell of death permeating the streets. "Thank you for your help, we need you," she said, before turning away.

Everywhere, residents shared tales of survival, loss and humanity. "We were all sleeping when the storm hit, but our cat started meowing so loudly that we all woke up," said Quinn Capacio, 22, as he traipsed through the streets with bottles of water and an umbrella. "The water was already up to our ankles in the house and outside it was waist-high. My whole family huddled together in one room and then the roof blew off. We stayed like that for five hours, huddling and praying. Our cat was almost swept away but we saved her, just like she saved us."

An old woman looking for shoes and money approached and rubbed her stomach with hunger. Capacio reached into his plastic bag and handed her two flattened and oversized flip flops. "Money is useless for me," he said to her sadly. "It doesn't buy you anything because there's nothing to buy." As she wandered away, muttering to herself, more people approached, begging for supplies. "Ma'am, do you have any antibiotics?" asked one man as we passed the lone white-and-gold coffin on the roadside, protected by green netting. "We need food, any kind of food," said another. "What can you give us?"

With little to no relief having yet reached the vast majority of Tacloban's survivors, people have begun taking care of themselves – with a palpable anger at the little they think their government has provided. "There's nothing here – no food, no water, and they don't care," said Edison Tamparia, 30, in basketball shorts and a white slip top. "I had to break into a warehouse to find water but it won't last us two days. People aren't going to survive like this."

Still, among the scenes of devastation, people are trying to get their lives back in order. Families wash clothes and themselves on the side of the road, using water from boreholes, or cook pasta over open fires cobbled together from wooden debris. Men nail down roofs and women drag piles of mud and rubbish from out of their homes using buckets and rope. Children float on plastic bottles in lakes full of debris, salvaging anything they can use.

"Even though we have nothing – no food, no water, no money – we still make do," said Kennelyn Matobato, 34, as she washed the mud from her clothes and her husband butchered their sole remaining pig on a table by the side of the road. A coffin housing her dead grandmother stood nearby, waiting to be buried.

Still, a terror of further storms to come – exacerbated by a new system that reached the Philippines in the early hours of Monday morning – had thrown some into despair, worrying that their already vulnerable lives would be put even more at risk.

Roughly 44 metric tonnes of food aid are expected to arrive on Tuesday on American military planes on behalf of the World Food Programme, said regional emergencies officer Geoff Pinnock, who added that shipments of rice would soon follow. With blocked roads severely hampering relief efforts, it was necessary for routes to be cleared before aid could be more evenly distributed, he added. "This is on a scale of Katrina or the tsunami," he said. "Water is now our highest priority. We need water purification systems immediately as water here normally came from the river, but as the river is full of bodies that's not an option right now."

As the sun began to set in a glow of orange, purples and pinks, two commercial planes made their first landings in Tacloban, filled with passengers looking for loved ones. One man said he had come to find his brother and mother. Another younger looking man in his 30s said he wanted to find his wife. As they crossed the tarmac, a horde of Tacloban residents waited to board the last C-130 plane for Manila, many of them sick and injured. "This is a test from God," said Efren Amarga, 49, a weary man in a green rainjacket with blue-rimmed eyes. "There is nothing left of my house, nothing at all – no walls, no roof, no windows, just mud. My three daughters are missing and I have no idea if they're alive. I just need to get to Manila to get money and medicine for my wife – she has asthma – and then I can come back and start looking for my girls."


Expect increasingly violent cyclones, weather experts warn

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, November 11, 2013 13:34 EST

Meteorologists have yet to formally link global warming to typhoons like the one that devastated the Philippines, but they expect increasingly extreme weather phenomena due to a rise in ocean temperatures.

The trail of death and destruction left in the wake of Super Typhoon Haiyan was at the forefront of a new round of United Nations climate talks that opened Monday in Poland, as Philippine authorities warned some 10,000 people may have died.

Haiyan — the most powerful typhoon to make landfall ever recorded — swept over the Philippines Friday, just days before the 12-day UN climate talks opened in Warsaw to a slew of warnings about potentially disastrous warming with increasingly extreme weather phenomena.

“There is a tendency of (oceans) warming up and an increase in the intensity of cyclones is part of the risks,” said Herve Le Treut, a Paris university professor and climatologist.

Typhoons, hurricanes and cyclones are different names given to the same powerful weather phenomenon according to the region it hits, but meteorologists use the generic term “cyclone” when talking generally about these super storms.

In September, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), mandated by the United Nations to make scientific assessments about the risks of climate change, concluded in a report that it was “virtually certain that the upper ocean… warmed from 1971 to 2010″.

It is estimated that temperatures rose by around 0.1 degrees Celsius par decade down to a depth of 75 metres (246 feet), and even warmed a little further down.

Meteorologists believe that the upper ocean also got warmer during the first half of the 20th century, but whether the rise in ocean temperatures is caused by man or by natural changes on the planet is still being debated.

Fabrice Chauvin, a researcher at France’s National Centre for Meteorological Research, pointed out that there were no satellites to track cyclones before the 1970s, which has hindered in-depth research on the phenomenon.

The IPCC however said in 2007 that based on climate models, it was “probable” that cyclones would become more intense and generate more rain than before.

Drawing energy from the seas Cyclones are formed from simple thunderstorms at certain times of the year when the sea temperature is more than 26 degrees Celsius (79 Fahrenheit) down to a depth of 60 metres, and draw their energy from the heat.

Chauvin said that higher temperatures at the surface of oceans would create a bigger source of heat energy for cyclones.

“There will therefore be a tendency to have slightly more violent cyclones,” he said, while pointing out that computer-generated climate models nevertheless predict fewer such super storms in the future.

Steven Testelin, a forecaster at national weather service Meteo-France, added that the warming of oceans was “far from uniform”.

“Some seas warm up quicker than others, which can lead to more intense cyclones in some areas,” he said.

The UN climate talks in Warsaw aim to work towards a deal to cut Earth-warming greenhouse gas emissions, due to be signed in 2015 in Paris, and Haiyan was at the forefront of Monday’s opening session.

In an emotional appeal to delegates, Philippine climate negotiator Naderev Sano pledged to fast at the talks until concrete progress is made towards fighting the climate change he blames for the typhoon that battered his own home village.

“What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness. The climate crisis is madness. We can stop this madness right here in Warsaw,” he said.

“I speak for the countless people who will no longer be able to speak for themselves.”


Typhoon Haiyan: there is worse to come

The first disaster to kill more than a million people could happen within our lifetimes

Guardian G logo
The Guardian, Monday 11 November 2013 22.07 GMT          

Link to video: Typhoon Haiyan seen from space

No single typhoon, flood or drought anywhere in the world can be blamed on global warming, but the inexorable rise of the global thermometer is nevertheless an indicator of worse to come. Cyclones, hurricanes and typhoons are temperature-dependent phenomena. They become increasingly hazardous as sea temperatures rise. As average global temperatures increase, so does the likelihood of ever greater extremes of local temperature. So does evaporation, and so does the capacity of air to carry ever greater volumes of water vapour. So the lesson of typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines with unparalleled fury on Friday, is that there is more to come, with more deaths, more destruction, more wrecked economies.

This would be true even without global warming. Population growth rates might have declined, but every 60 minutes there are another 8,000 people in the world: about 75 million every year. Most of these are in the developing world, and since so much of the developing world is within and around the tropics, where cyclones are a seasonal hazard, that means there will be more potential victims in the path of any climate-related disaster. For the first time in human history, more people are concentrated in the cities than dispersed in the countryside, and this concentration is expected to continue until almost two-thirds of all humanity lives in the cities. That means that any typhoon that hits an urban region will find more people in the way.

But more than 2 billion people have to survive on incomes of no more than $2 a day, and these too are crowded in cities in and near the tropics. These people are more likely to live in substandard housing, some of it shamelessly jerrybuilt by greedy landlords and authorised by corrupt authorities, or in shanty towns on unstable or marginal land at risk from flood and landslip when the heavens open. The schools built for their children are liable to collapse in earthquake or cyclone, any hospitals available to them are likely to be reduced to rubble along with their houses.

The Philippines government, with a long and cruel experience of typhoons, had a comprehensive disaster management strategy, plenty of warning, and it knew what to expect. The second lesson of Haiyan is that even those who make ready for bad weather may be overwhelmed by even worse.

The final lesson is that, sooner or later, some unparalleled disaster will slam with little or no warning into some crowded city managed by a heedless authority in a country run by a corrupt or brutal oligarchy. It could be the first disaster to kill more than a million, and it could happen within our lifetimes. There may be worse to come, and not just because of climate change.

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« Reply #801 on: Nov 13, 2013, 06:17 AM »

Aussie PM Abbott vows to repeal tax on industrial polluters

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, November 12, 2013 22:52 EST

Australia’s new conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott Wednesday moved to abolish a carbon tax designed to combat climate change as his first major economic reform since taking office.

Abbott said the September 7 election which he won decisively had been a referendum on the future of the tax which was imposed by the former Labor government on major polluters from 2012 in a bid to reduce carbon emissions.

“No one should be in any doubt — the government is repealing the carbon tax in full,” he said as he introduced a bill to repeal the tax into parliament.

“We are doing what we were elected to do. We have said what we mean and we will do what we say — the carbon tax goes. It goes.”

Scrapping the divisive tax was a central election promise of Abbott who had argued the cost of the levy was passed on to consumers, resulting in higher utility bills and day-to-day costs.

“The intention of the new government is to put power prices down by axing this toxic tax and by using other means to reduce emissions,” he said.

“This is our bill to reduce your bills, to reduce the bills of the people of Australia.”

Abbott also said the removal of the tax would strengthen the economy of Australia, which is among the world’s worst per capita polluters due to its reliance on coal-fired power and mining exports.

The carbon tax had charged the country’s biggest polluters for their emissions at a fixed price and was due to transition to an emissions trading scheme.

The new government instead favours a “direct action” plan that includes an incentive fund to pay companies to increase their energy efficiency, a controversial sequestration of carbon in soil scheme, and the planting 20 million trees.

Abbott had earlier been forced to wait for about an hour to move the legislation after Labor, which opposes the dismantling of the tax, stalled proceedings with debate about the government’s nickname for opposition leader Bill Shorten.

The prime minister had referred to his opposition counterpart as “Electricity” Bill Shorten during a media interview earlier in the day, a moniker attacked by Labor as “name-calling”.

Then as he began to move the bill, Abbott was interrupted by yelling protesters in the public gallery.

“Inaction (on climate) is simply not good enough,” shouted one protester, one of more than a dozen removed from the chamber.

The government also introduced a bill to repeal the mining tax — a levy once proposed as a 40 percent tax on “super profits” within the industry but which was ultimately greatly reduced in size and scope after a backlash from the mining sector.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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« Reply #802 on: Nov 13, 2013, 06:42 AM »

11/12/2013 06:15 PM

Climate Research: Lessons from Typhoon 'Haiyan'

By Axel Bojanowski

Many at the climate conference in Warsaw and around the world see a link between global warming and the devastating typhoon in the Philippines. But several studies point to other causes -- and even more worrisome trends.

The UN climate conference got off to a deeply emotional start in Warsaw on Monday. "It's time to stop this madness," said Yeb Sano, the lead Filipino delegate, fighting tears over the death toll of an estimated 10,000 from the typhoon catastrophe, in an address to his counterparts from almost 200 countries. The world must finally reach an agreement, he continued, to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to halt global warming.

"We refuse to accept that running away from storms, evacuating our families, suffering the devastation and misery, having to count our dead, become a way of life," Sano said.

Environmental organizations back Sano's stance. "While we can't yet say how much climate change influenced this monster typhoon, we do know that extreme weather events are becoming more extreme and frequent because of climate change," wrote Daniel Mittler, the political director of Greenpeace International, on Sunday. Like other environmental activists, Mittler believes governments "in cahoots with the fossil fuel industry" have helped cause such extreme weather events, which they expect to become more frequent.

Stefan Rahmstorf, a researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), outside Berlin, also agrees. "How can those who do all they can to fight climate-protection measures sleep in view of the images coming out of the Philippines?" he asks.

The Decisive Lesson

Can the deadly typhoon really be attributed to man-made climate change? Statistics reveal other causal connections. For example, the way in which houses, dikes and settlements are built plays a decisive role in determining how many people will be hurt by a storm. In the United States, this has led to a steady decrease in hurricane-related deaths since 1900 despite significant rises in both the population densities and storm frequencies in at-risk areas. For Haiti, there are studies claiming that "urbanization in and migration into storm hazard prone areas could be considered as one of the major driving forces of (its) fragility" when affected by storms.

As a result of such factors, storms even weaker than "Haiyan" could result in even extremer catastrophes. For example, tropical cyclone "Nargis" killed almost 140,000 people in Burma when it struck in May 2008 even though it was two categories on the hurricane scale below "Haiyan" when it made landfall.

In March, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will publish its fifth and newest assessment report on the state of climate change. In the second part of a draft of the report, the organization stresses the importance of constructing more robust buildings that can better withstand storms. A richer world might be able to protect itself better: Measured in terms of global economic output, one study finds, increasing prosperity could cut storm-caused damage in half by the end of the century.

But that is only one side of the story. The other is the long-debated question of whether global warming can change the nature of storms. A lack of data makes analysis more difficult, and it wasn't until roughly 30 years ago that it became possible to make systematic observations based on satellite data. Before that, storms were appraised in large part based on data related to damage and sea level.

No Identifiable Trends

In its most recent assessment on global warming, released in September, the IPCC stated that there were no identifiable long-term trends when it comes to tropical cyclones, which are also known as hurricanes or typhoons. However, there are fears that the strongest storms could grow even more destructive.

Tropical storms draw their energy from warm water. But the equation "warmer oceans equals more storms" doesn't hold true. The phenomenon known as wind shear as well as airborne dust particles can weaken them. Indeed, some have posited that reductions in air pollution in the Western world since the late 1970s have contributed to an increase in hurricane activity over the Atlantic since then.

In 2012, researchers from the University of Copenhagen reported that hurricane activity in the Atlantic had been rising for decades and had now grown as strong as it was at the end of the 19th century. However, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) states that this trend was broken in the Atlantic at the turn of the millennium. The 2013 storm season, which ends in November, has so far been especially mild, with only two hurricanes, especially considering all the pessimistic forecasts published at the beginning of the year.

Fewer Storms, Higher Floods?

The WMO also reports that, over the last decade, there has been below-average tropical storm activity. In fact, Ryan Maue, a climate researcher at Florida State University, wrote in 2011 that worldwide tropical storm activity has reached a low point. Another study, from 2012, calculates that the number of storms has been declining since 1872.

Nevertheless, there is still the question of where things will go from here. The IPCC states that simulations predict there will be fewer tropical storms as the global temperature rises. But the most unsettling finding is that the strongest storms could get even stronger. The consequences of this could be grave, writes Yale University researcher Robert Mendelsohn. According to his estimates, the strongest 1 percent of storms could cause more than half of the damage of all storm activity combined. However, since these giant storms come so infrequently, experts say it might be centuries before it is possible to actually measure the effects of climate change.

For the Philippines, other changes in the earth's climate might prove much more worrisome. For example, there are hardly any other places where the sea level is rising as quickly, and storm floods there continue to get higher. What's more, climate researchers expect to see more precipitation in a warmer world, as milder air can retain more moisture. As a result, typhoons could trigger even greater flooding.

With graphics by Christina Elmer

* image-566200-breitwandaufmacher-xvhr.jpg (71.88 KB, 720x268 - viewed 69 times.)
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« Reply #803 on: Nov 13, 2013, 07:23 AM »

Typhoon Haiyan: eight die in food stampede amid desperate wait for aid

Thousands storm rice warehouse in the devastated central Philippines while Haiyan relief effort flounders

Kate Hodal and Tania Branigan in Cebu, Wednesday 13 November 2013 08.30 GMT      

Link to video: Tacloban residents queue for airlift

Eight people have been killed in the typhoon-ravaged central Philippines after thousands of Haiyan survivors stormed a government-owned rice warehouse seeking food supplies.

The Philippines National Food Authority said police and soldiers stood by helpless as people streamed into the warehouse in Alangalang, Leyte province – an area where hunger and desperation are running high after Haiyan made landfall early on Friday morning, ravaging vast swaths of Leyte and Samar islands. The security forces could only watch as more than 100,000 sacks of rice were carried away.

The eight were crushed to death when a wall in the warehouse collapsed, spokesman Rex Estoperez told the Associated Press. Other rice warehouses were dotted around the region, he said, refusing to give their locations for security reasons.

The Philippines government has come under fire for failing to deliver aid adequately or quickly enough, with growing frustration in the hardest hit areas, such as Tacloban, the capital of Leyte province where dead bodies have piled up on the streets and residents have resorted to looting to find food.

A military official told the Guardian on Wednesday that the government was aiming to double its relief efforts within the next two days. Attempts to provide help were buoyed by the expected arrival of two extra US military C-130 planes and one additional Australian air force plane.

Three relief distribution points were being set up in the Leyte island towns of Tacloban, Guiuan and Ormoc, the official said, with the main aid effort operating out of neighbouring Cebu instead of Manila, the capital, which is 360 miles to the north.

More than 10,000 people are feared to have been killed in the Philippines due to Haiyan, most of them in Leyte province, with aid workers suggesting that number may rise significantly. As many as 29 municipalities have still not been reached due to impassable roads and downed telecommunications.

President Benigno Aquino III said on Tuesday that he believed the number killed to be far lower – around 2,500 – and told CNN that the 10,000 figure may have come from an "emotional" official, with government figures alleging that the death toll stands at 2,275. The UN has said more than 670,000 people have been displaced and a total of 11.3 million people directly affected by the super storm.

International relief efforts intensified with the launch of a UN appeal and the dispatch of American, British and Japanese troops to the affected regions. But minimal amounts of aid have reached the worst‑hit areas.

More than 3,000 people surged on to the tarmac of Tacloban airport on Tuesday morning in the hope of flying out on the two Philippine air force planes that had just arrived.

Babies and sick or elderly people were given priority but only a few hundred were able to leave. Others were held back by soldiers and police. Many had walked for hours and camped at the base overnight.

"I was pleading with the soldiers. I was kneeling and begging because I have diabetes," said Helen Cordial as she lay on a stretcher, shaking. "Do they want me to die in this airport? They are stone-hearted," she told the Associated Press.

Dean Smith, an Australian who has been living with his family near Palo, Leyte province, for the last five years, told the Guardian that he waited eight hours to be able to get one of the first commercial flights out of Tacloban to Cebu. On the way to the airport he said he saw "horrifying things that I know I have seen but my brain hasn't processed yet".

He described scenes of chaos in the city centre, where police were stealing money from the local cashpoints, people in cars were refusing to drive the injured to get help, and the bloated body of a man floating in dirty water was being gnawed at by a dog.

"What people have gone through, what they have seen – there is going to be a lot of post-traumatic stress after this event I assure you," he said shakily. "No one has ever seen anything like this."

Having arrived on Tuesday in Cebu, Smith was planning to stock up on food, medicine and water and take it back to his Palo home, where his wife, six children, a 92-year-old grandmother and a pregnant nanny were all desperately awaiting supplies. He departed for Tacloban early on Wednesday morning.

Domestic and international relief efforts were being hampered by wet weather, poor communications and damaged infrastructure, with aircraft only able to land in Tacloban during daylight hours because the air control tower had been destroyed by Haiyan. Unsubstantiated reports of aid convoys being attacked by hungry victims circulated, with the Telegraph reporting that communist rebels had been killed whilst trying to intercept a Red Cross convoy destined for the island of Samar.

Still, Corizon Soliman, secretary of the Philippine department of social welfare and development, said aid had so far reached a third of the city's 45,000 families.

However armed forces spokesman Ramon Zagala told the BBC that relief workers were struggling to deliver aid for a number of reasons.

"The area is very vast and the number of helicopters – although we have a lot of helicopters at the moment – it's really a challenge for us to bring [aid] to all the places and [bring] the number of goods that are needed."

The BBC quoted a Leyte official as saying that although relief goods like medicine and equipment were arriving into the province "it's just not reaching the people affected".

The UN released $25m (£15.7m) in emergency funds for shelter materials and household items, and for assistance with emergency health services, safe water supplies and sanitation.

The UN aid chief, Valerie Amos, launched an appeal for $300m as she arrived in Manila. "We have deployed specialist teams, vital logistics support and dispatched critical supplies but we have to do more and faster," she said.

The US, Britain, Japan, Australia and other nations have pledged tens of millions of dollars in immediate aid, and some businesses have also offered help: banking group HSBC announced a $1m (£630,000) cash donation.

In Tacloban shops were stripped of food and water by hungry residents. While some tents had arrived, the widespread damage left many people sleeping in the ruins of their homes or under shredded trees.

Military doctors at a makeshift clinic at the airport said they had treated about 1,000 people for cuts, bruises and deep wounds but did not have enough medical supplies.

"It's overwhelming," said Antonio Tamayo, an air force captain. "We need more medicine. We can't give anti-tetanus vaccine shots because we have none."

The typhoon flattened Basey, a seaside town in Samar province about six miles across a bay from Tacloban. About 2,000 people were missing there, its governor said. Rescue and relief workers were yet to reach many of the more remote areas.

"There are hundreds of other towns and villages stretched over thousands of kilometres that were in the path of the typhoon and with which all communication has been cut," said Natasha Reyes, emergency co-ordinator in the Philippines at Médecins Sans Frontières. "No one knows what the situation is like in these more rural and remote places, and it's going to be some time before we have a full picture."

Damage to communications left the armed forces struggling to reach local authorities and many officials were dead, missing or trying to protect their own families.

"Basically the only branch of government that is working here is the military," Ruben Guinolbay, a Philippine army captain, told Reuters in Tacloban. "That is not good. We are not supposed to take over government."

The interior secretary, Manuel Roxas, said on Tuesday that only 20 of Tacloban's 293 police had arrived for work. But he added: "Today we have stabilised the situation. There are no longer reports of looting. The food supply is coming in. Up to 50,000 food packs are coming in every day, with each pack able to feed up to a family of five for three days."

A team of British medical experts and the first consignment of aid from the UK was leaving for the Philippines, David Cameron said on Tuesday.

The UK surgical team, led by Anthony Redmond, Manchester University professor of international emergency medicine, includes three emergency physicians, two orthopaedic surgeons, a plastic surgeon, two accident and emergency nurses, a theatre nurse, two anaesthetists and one specialist physiotherapist.

The USS George Washington aircraft carrier, transporting about 5,000 sailors and more than 80 aircraft, plus four other US navy ships, should arrive in two to three days, the Pentagon said.

Britain's HMS Daring, a warship with equipment to make drinking water from seawater, and a military transport aircraft should arrive around the same time.

Japan is sending a team of 40 from its self-defence force.

Aquino has declared a state of national calamity, allowing the central government to release emergency funds more quickly and impose price controls.

Initial estimates of the cost of the damage vary widely, with a report from German-based CEDIM Forensic Disaster Analysis putting the total at anywhere from $8bn to $19bn.


Typhoon Haiyan: in village after village the plea is the same – please help us!

In northern Cebu, where the typhoon made two devastating landfalls last Friday, families line the road begging for supplies

Kate Hodal in Bogo
The Guardian, Tuesday 12 November 2013 18.24 GMT   

The children stand in clusters with wooden signs at the side of the highway, their palms outstretched. "Please help us," reads one sign, scrawled in permanent ink on a broken board. "We need food & water," reads another.

As our car weaves its way through the sugar cane-covered hills of northern Cebu – a region where typhoon Haiyan made two devastating landfalls last Friday – we pass family after family begging for help from the buses and trucks that drive past. One boy, agitated at the lack of drivers who have slowed down or stopped, screams out: "We need help!"

In village after village, families line the road requesting help, with various signs – but all variations on the same theme. We park on a hill at a smattering of obliterated thatch huts in Tagoban, a few miles outside Bogo – a city of 85,000 people that officials estimate was 95% destroyed by Haiyan. A group of men are holding out buckets and empty water bottles, hoping for a passing vehicle to throw out cash or food.

"Maybe 10 cars will help us out a day, giving little packages, or 20 or 50 pesos," says Dondon Toleng, 28, dressed in a black Adidas T-shirt and basketball shorts, as he stretches out a bucket into oncoming traffic. Soon a van full of Filipinos drives by and chucks out three packages of crackers. "Thank you," he cries out, as a number of trucks seemingly full of dried foods and donated aid stream past, on their way, ostensibly, to Bogo.

Toleng explains the difficulty of trying to get hold of aid in the aftermath of Haiyan, the strongest storm ever recorded.

"There is some aid being delivered, but we have to go all the way into Bogo City to get it," he says, a return journey of some 25 miles. "We have no fuel, we have no money, our water pumps are broken, so everything costs."

Water from the town costs 30 pesos, he explains, but as he earns only 60 pesos a day as a cutter in the neighbouring sugar cane plantation, neither he – nor his neighbours – have the funds to support his family in this time of crisis.

Heading north, the black ribbon of road extending through this agricultural region of Cebu is framed either side by destruction. Felled trees line the route, their palms crunching under tyres, and in some places whole roofs lie in the road, decorated with the black wires of fallen pylons.

Every few miles there is another village and another group of families begging for supplies. One hut, its thatched roof still partially intact, has a sign that pleads simply: "Have mercy."

In Bogo, people are milling about listlessly. Girls dressed in yellow uniforms giggle behind empty glass cases in their food shops, but there is nothing to sell. The cashpoint machines are broken; without electricity, no one can get any money.

"There's nothing to buy," says one girl manning her parents' convenience shop. "We are all out of stock."

The buildings here make it look like a bomb went off in the centre of town: metal sheeting has torn huge gaping holes in shopfronts and flying debris has knocked statues off their pedestals. The flimsiest houses – those made of thatch and bamboo – have disintegrated organically into the hillside, the remnants of their insides scattered around like litter.

Around 20 families have taken up refuge in the magnificent pink stone church at the top of the hill, where a statue of St Vincent Ferrer looks out over the caved-in city.

"I went back to see my house yesterday and it was totally destroyed. I just stood there and cried," says Nilvic Ursal, 27, a mother of two who plans to stay in the church's community hall – which had its roof blown off – as long as she can. "There was nothing left but water and mud. We have no way to fix it."

At least in the church there is some food, says Father Dave Jurcales, who says it may take two months for the city's electricity lines to be replaced.

"A trickle of aid has come into Bogo in the last day – we're co-ordinating with our own agencies and the city is distributing its own aid. The government is giving out rice, noodles and dry goods, and we're providing water, shelter and electricity from a generator."

Not far from the church sits Bogo's squat sports complex, a covered basketball court that doubled as the city's evacuation centre until its roof was blown off and water started pouring in everywhere. Now it serves as the main warehouse and distribution centre for relief goods that arrive on trucks from Cebu, 60 miles away.

The complex is also home to over 520 people, almost all sleeping on the cold concrete floor with only a cardboard box as a bed.

"There are four families sharing this space with me," says Ruchelle Minincilio, 39, as she cradles her baby, pointing to a space no larger than six feet by 12. "My house is gone. There is nowhere else to go."

Inside, the wooden basketball court is covered in water. Tents have been erected to protect the stacks of rice from damage and a gaggle of police hang around in the stands, chatting. Bogo's mayor, Celestino Martinez Jr, is sitting at a table underneath one of the tents overseeing operations, where he complains that, without exact figures for how many families are in need, the aid his city really requires is still unknown.

"The aid only started coming in yesterday, because for two days we were unreachable," he says, referring to impassable roads and downed telecommunications.

"As of right now, we don't know how many homeless, how many victims. The problem is if you give one [sack of rice to survivors], they want two. If you give two, they want three. So you tell them: 'No, just come back tomorrow.' The aid is coming in from the government, from NGOs, from private donors. It all has to be co-ordinated and divided at local level and then sent out."

Martinez makes it sound as though the operation is complex. But when questioned as to why hundreds of bags of rice were still in the warehouse and hadn't yet been delivered to hungry residents, he could only describe a "first wave" of aid and a "second wave" of aid. "This is the second wave," he said simply.

The road north from Bogo towards Cebu's northernmost tip, Daanbantayen, is surrounded by the debris of people's homes, and while there are no official death tolls here yet – in Bogo, the mayor said, the number was just 11, thanks to an efficient evacuation procedure – the scale of devastation in this agricultural belt will take years to reverse.

Many residents live tucked away in small villages along the coast or in the mountains, where aid has not yet reached and the numbers of dead and injured are still unknown.

Local and international aid workers know as much, and have tried to send out teams to assess the situation. But blocked roads and faulty communications have prevented much of the news from the truly remote areas – such as Bantayen island, just north of here – from being known. It also means that aid, when it is delivered, only goes to the few who know it is coming.

"Unless someone had come up into the mountains to tell me this aid delivery was going on, I wouldn't have known about it," says Jean Rowsen, 37, as she picks up a bag of privately donated goods in Calape town hall. "This is the only aid I've received and it might be the last – unless someone comes up to help us in the mountains."

Kenneth Lim of the philanthropic Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, which was providing toiletries, sardines, rice, noodles, milk and sugar to roughly 2,000 families across north Cebu on Tuesday alone, said the aid task was formidable.

"We've been driving through the north of the island all morning, handing out these bags," he explained. "We can't get everywhere, but it's obvious the people are desperate."

As night falls on the island and the roads become slick with a new rain that many fear is yet another storm looming, families wait out the long evening with candles and their dwindling supplies. In the shadows, you can just about make out lone villagers traipsing along with water containers, and the children still standing with their palms out, begging in the dark.


UN launches massive $300 million appeal as warships head to battered Philippines to help

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, November 12, 2013 7:20 EST

The UN launched an appeal for a third of a billion dollars on Tuesday as US and British warships steamed towards the typhoon-ravaged Philippines where well over 10,000 people are feared dead.

Four days after Super Typhoon Haiyan destroyed entire coastal communities with record winds and tsunami-like waves, the magnitude of the disaster continued to build with almost unimaginable horror.

Festering bodies still littered the streets in many areas, with the smell of rotting flesh hanging in the air and ramping up the fear of disease in the tropical heat.

Increasingly desperate survivors begged for help that was having difficulty reaching them — many still without access to food and water after nights spent in the open.
Graphic on the emerging view of the destruction caused by Typhoon Haiyan accross the central Philippines

“We are certainly expecting the worst. As we get more and more access we find the tragedy of more and more people killed in this typhoon,” UN humanitarian operations director John Ging said, after Philippine President Benigno Aquino declared a “state of national calamity”.

The United Nations warned 10,000 people were feared dead in just one city, Tacloban, the provincial capital of Leyte province where five-metre (16-foot) waves flattened nearly everything in their path as they swept hundreds of metres inland.

Nearly 10 million people, or 10 percent of the Philippines’ population, have been affected, while 660,000 have lost their homes, the UN estimated as it launched a flash appeal for $301 million.

UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos told reporters in Manila the money was needed for “food, health, sanitation, shelter, debris removal and also protection of the most vulnerable”.

“I very much hope our donors will be generous.”

Amos praised the international community’s reaction since Haiyan slammed into the Philippines on Friday, but said much more needed to be done in a disaster of almost biblical proportions.

“We have already seen an international and generous response given the horrific pictures that people have seen, particularly on their television screens,” she said.

Overwhelmed and under-resourced rescue workers have been unable to provide desperately needed food, water, medicines, shelter and other relief supplies to many survivors, and desperation has been building across the disaster zones.

“There is nothing here left for us. Our house is gone, we don’t have any money, we don’t have our documents, passports, school records,” Carol Mampas, 48, told AFP at Tacloban’s destroyed airport as she cradled her feverish baby son in a blanket.

“Please, please, tell authorities to help us. Where is the food, where is the water? Where are the military collecting the dead?”

Bodies still litter the wreckage, while security concerns are growing as gangs take advantage of a security vacuum to loot homes and businesses.

The government announced a night-time curfew for Tacloban and deployed special forces across the ruined city to try to prevent pillaging.

Downpours worsen desperation

Heavy rain overnight in Tacloban compounded survivors’ desperation, while a tropical storm to the south threatened other typhoon-hit islands where hundreds of other people were also killed.

An international relief effort has begun to build momentum, with the United States and Britain announcing they were sending warships carrying thousands of sailors to the Philippines.

The aircraft carrier USS George Washington, which has 5,000 sailors and more than 80 aircraft aboard, headed from Hong Kong to the United States’ close Asian ally on Tuesday.

Five other US warships are also being deployed, and the carrier group is expected to reach the Philippines within two to three days, the Pentagon said. Dozens of US marines arrived in Tacloban on Monday as an advance team.

A British warship, currently in Singapore, would head “at full speed” to the Philippines, Prime Minister David Cameron announced on Monday.

Many other countries have pledged help with even China, which has been embroiled in a bitter territorial dispute with the Philippines, offering aid and sympathy.

The UN children’s fund UNICEF said a cargo plane carrying 60 tonnes of aid including shelters and medicine would arrive in the Philippines Tuesday, to be followed by deliveries of water purification and sanitation equipment.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR was also organising an airlift carrying aid including hygiene kits.

Aquino’s declaration late Monday of a state of calamity allowed the government to impose price controls and quickly release emergency funds.

“In the coming days, be assured: help will reach you faster and faster,” he said in a televised address.

“My appeal to you all is: remaining calm, praying, cooperating with, and assisting one another are the things that will help us to rise from this calamity.”

Coastal towns reduced to piles of wood

Haiyan’s sustained winds when it hit Samar island, where it first made landfall, reached 315 kilometres (195 miles) an hour, making it the strongest typhoon in the world this year and one of the most powerful ever recorded.

Aerial photos of Samar showed whole districts of coastal towns reduced to piles of splintered wood.

The official government death toll stands at 1,774, although authorities have admitted they have not come close to accurately assessing the number of bodies lying amid the rubble or swept out to sea.

The Philippines is hit with an average of 20 tropical storms or typhoons a year, as they emerge from the Pacific Ocean and sweep west.

However Haiyan’s record intensity has fuelled concerns that climate change is increasing the ferocity of storms.

Blaming global warming for Haiyan’s mega-strength, Philippines negotiator Naderev Sano pledged at UN climate talks in Warsaw on Monday to fast until progress was made on tackling the environmental crisis.

If the death toll of more than 10,000 is correct, Haiyan would be the deadliest natural disaster ever recorded in the country.

A weakened Haiyan hit Vietnam and China on Monday. At least seven people were reportedly killed in China.

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« Reply #804 on: Nov 14, 2013, 06:41 AM »

Warsaw climate talks: nearly 3 in 10 countries not sending ministers

Australia is not alone in its failure to send a minister to the UN climate negotiations in Poland, reports RTCC

Sophie Yeo in Warsaw, for RTCC, part of the Guardian Environment Network, Wednesday 13 November 2013 16.11 GMT      

According to statistics released by the UN, over 10,000 people will spend the next two weeks swarming through its corridors, busily going about their business of trying to find a solution to climate change.

But only 134 of these will be ministers, in spite of the fact that there will be 189 countries attending the conference.

The representative sent by each country indicates the level of importance it places on the negotiations.

Australia recently attracted attention by its refusal to send either its environment minister Greg Hunt or foreign minister Julie Bishop to the negotiations.

Instead, Australia will send along its climate ambassador Justin Lee as its lead negotiator.

As the world’s top climate officials gather to discuss how to stem emissions and mobilise finance, Hunt will instead be based in the Australian parliament, attempting to fulfill Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s election promise to repeal the country’s carbon tax.

Former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd personally attended the UN climate talks in 2007 during his first term in power, where he ratified Australia’s commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, which committed industrialised countries to reduce their emissions.

This year, two prime ministers and two presidents will be attending the conference, each hailing from some of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, including the Pacific islands of Tuvalu and Nauru, along with African countries Ethiopia and Tanzania.

The UK is sending two ministers from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, while the US is sending its climate change envoy Todd Stern—not a minister, but nonetheless a powerful voice on climate change within the US government.

The number of ministers registered to attend does not always reflect the final head count, with the potential for attendees to drop out at the last minute.

But in spite of the overall poor ministerial attendance, the number of participants at this conference has increased from last year—precisely 10,106 are registered to attend, compared to the 9004 who turned up last year in Doha.

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« Reply #805 on: Nov 14, 2013, 07:52 AM »

Drug combination kills antibiotic-resistant germs

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, November 13, 2013 13:49 EST

Scientists Wednesday unveiled a drug combination that destroys antibiotic-resistant germs in mice, potentially opening a new front against chronic and relapsing infections in humans.

Big Pharma had been closely interested in a compound dubbed acyldepsipeptide (ADEP), only to drop it when some germs became resistant to it.

But scientists in the United States reported that, when used alongside conventional antibiotics, ADEP proved to be a relentless killer.

“We decided to pair it to conventional antibiotics…. to stem the propagation of (drug) resistant cells,” said study co-author Kim Lewis of Northeastern University in Boston.

The combination “completely sterilised” bacteria in a Petri dish and in mice whose thighs had been severely infected, said Lewis.

“Efficacy in an animal model is actually a pretty good predictor of efficacy in humans, so I think it is entirely realistic” that a drug may result, he added.

Humans rely on antibiotics to fight off a vast array of bacterial diseases, from tonsillitis to tuberculosis.

But antibiotics do not work for all types of bacteria, and in some types where they are effective, germs are evolving worryingly into forms that are resistant to the drug.

Some infections are caused by biofilms — slimy collections of bacterial cells that coat infected areas and block out the immune system, according to a podcast by Nature, accompanying the study in the British journal.

While antibiotics can penetrate those biofilms, they fail to clear up the infection because of so-called “persister cells”.

These are hibernating cells within the biofilm that stop dividing or growing and shut down their metabolism.

The dormant cells are the main cause of chronic and relapsing bacterial infections, since conventional antibiotics can target only actively growing bacterial cells.

“We had to look for something that in a persister will activate a function, will corrupt it, force it to kill the cell,” said Lewis.

Drug combo triggers cell death

The team tested ADEP in the lab and found it activates a protease in cells — protease is a protein that breaks up other proteins, eventually causing cell death.

In the experiments, the protease degraded proteins in the bacterial cells, causing these molecules to “self-digest”, said Lewis.

“It doesn’t matter whether that cell was growing, dormant, persister. So that compound has the ability to sterilise an infection,” he said.

The reason that pharmaceutical companies had abandoned ADEP as a drug option was because resistance to it developed “pretty readily”, according to the study author.

And mutant bacterial cells that do not produce protease are completely resistant to ADEP when the drug is used on its own.

In their experiments, the team used ADEP in conjunction with conventional antibiotics such as rifampicin to wipe out Staphylococcus aureus germs.

“What we found is these mutants that do not have the protease… become susceptible to killing by any antibiotic essentially,” said Lewis.

“That is why we get sterilisation when we combine ADEP with virtually any other antibiotic and that of course solves the problem of resistance.”

Lewis said his team was working with a biotech company to take these results further.

In a comment also carried by Nature, bacteriologists Kenn Gerdes of Britain’s Newcastle University and Hanne Ingmer of the University of Copenhagen rated the chances of a new antibiotic as “probable”.

They also noted that Lewis and the team were testing a second class of antibiotic that also activates protease.

“This growing body of results generates hope that antibiotics for the treatment of persistent infections will be available in the future,” they said.

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« Reply #806 on: Nov 15, 2013, 05:12 AM »

Largest US public utility votes to close six coal-powered plants in Alabama

Two more coal units in Kentucky to be replaced with natural gas plants as utility cites strict environmental regulations in closures

Associated Press, Thursday 14 November 2013 22.13 GMT      

America's largest public utility voted Thursday to close six coal-powered units in Alabama and replace two more in Kentucky with a new natural gas plant.

At the board meeting in Oxford, Mississippi, Tennessee Valley Authority CEO Bill Johnson said increasingly stringent environmental regulations and flat power demand have made it necessary to rethink how the utility generates electricity.

"This is a personal nightmare for me," said Peter Mahurin, a board member from Bowling Green, Kentucky, said of the decision. "But I must support what I believe to be in the best interest of TVA's customers."

In fiscal year 2013, coal accounted for 38% of TVA's portfolio while natural gas made up 8%. Johnson said he would like to see those numbers closer to 20% each over the next decade.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell met with Johnson last month to seek continued operation of all three coal-burning units at Paradise Fossil Plant in Drakesboro, Kentucky. The board had previously approved upgrading the two oldest units with environmental controls. But on Thursday, COO Chip Pardee recommended building a gas plant there instead.

He said the third unit at Paradise is newer and has sufficient environmental controls to continue operating on coal.

The board also voted to close all five units at the Colbert plant in north-west Alabama and one of two remaining units that had not been marked for closure at the Widow's Creek plant in north-east Alabama.

Board member Joe Ritch, of Huntsville, Alabama, echoed Mahurin's comments on the closures, saying, "As painful as it is, it's the right thing to do."

He said that saving a few jobs now would reduce TVA's competitiveness for years to come.

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« Reply #807 on: Nov 15, 2013, 06:19 AM »

Deforestation in Amazon jungle increases by nearly a third in one year

Data confirms a feared reversal of steady progress over past decade against destruction of the world's largest rainforest

The Guardian, Friday 15 November 2013   

Deforestation in the Amazon increased by nearly a third over the past year, according to Brazilian government figures released on Thursday.

The data confirms a feared reversal in what had been steady progress over the past decade against destruction of the world's largest rainforest.

Satellite data for the 12 months through the end of July 2013 showed that deforestation in the region climbed by 28% compared with a year earlier.

Although scattered, the total land cleared during the period amounted to 2,250 sq miles (5,850 sq km).

The figure, boosted partly by expanding farms and a rush for land around big infrastructure projects, fulfilled predictions by scientists and environmentalists that destruction was on the rise again.

"You can't argue with numbers," said Marcio Astrini, co-ordinator for the Amazon campaign at the Brazilian chapter of Greenpeace. "This is not alarmist – it's a real and measured inversion of what had been a positive trend."

Brazil tracks the amount of land cleared each year as part of its efforts to protect the Amazon, a jungle the size of western Europe.

The Amazon is an abundant source of the world's oxygen and fresh water and considered by scientists to be a crucial buffer against climate change.

The measurement year for the satellite data starts each August, during the Amazon dry season, when the skies are cloud-free and clear aerial images can be recorded.

The reasons for the rebound in deforestation are numerous. Changes to Brazil's forestry laws have created uncertainty among landowners regarding the amount of woodland they must preserve.

High global prices for agricultural commodities have also encouraged growers to cut trees to make way for farmland.

Loggers, squatters and others are also rushing to exploit land around big infrastructure projects, including railways, roads and hydroelectric dams under construction in the Amazon.

Izabella Teixeira, Brazil's environment minister, dismissed criticisms that government policies had led to the increase.

She pointed to the long-term decrease in deforestation over the past decade and said the overall trend was "positive".

The government's goal, Teixeira said in Brasilia, was "to eliminate illegal deforestation in the Amazon".

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« Reply #808 on: Nov 15, 2013, 06:24 AM »

What Colombia's Kogi people can teach us about the environment

The Kogi people are warning society of destruction we face if we fail to embrace nature

Jini Reddy   
Guardian Professional, Tuesday 29 October 2013 14.55 GMT      

Deep in Colombia's Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains, surrounded by jungle (and guerrillas, tomb raiders and drug traffickers), live 20,000 indigenous Kogi people. A culturally intact pre-Colombian society, they've lived in seclusion since the Spanish conquest 500 years ago. Highly attuned to nature, the Kogi believe they exist to care for the world – a world they fear we are destroying.

In 1990, in a celebrated BBC documentary, the Kogi made contact with the outside world to warn industrialised societies of the potentially catastrophic future facing the planet if we don't change our ways.

They watched, waited and listened to nature. They witnessed landslides, floods, deforestation, the drying up of lakes and rivers, the stripping bare of mountain tops, the dying of trees. The Sierra Nevada, because of its unique ecological structure, mirrors the rest of the planet – bad news for us.

The Kogi don't understand why their words went unheeded, why people did not understand that the earth is a living body and if we damage part of it, we damage the whole body.

Twenty-three years later they summoned filmmaker Alan Ereira back to their home to renew the message: this time the leaders, the Kogi Mama (the name means enlightened ones), set out to show in a visceral way the delicate and critical interconnections that exist between the natural world.

The resulting film, Aluna, takes us into the world of the Kogi. At the heart of the tribe's belief system is "Aluna" – a kind of cosmic consciousness that is the source of all life and intelligence and the mind inside nature too. "Aluna is something that is thinking and has self-knowledge. It's self-aware and alive." says Ereira. "All indigenous people believe this, historically. It's absolutely universal."

Many Kogi Mama are raised in darkness for their formative years to learn to connect with this cosmic consciousness and, vitally, to respond to its needs in order to keep the world in balance. "Aluna needs the human mind to participate in the world – because the thing about a human mind is that it's in a body," explains Ereira. "Communicating with the cosmic mind is what a human being's job is as far as the Kogi are concerned."

The Kogi people believe that when time began the planet's 'mother' laid an invisible black thread linking special sites along the coast, which are, in turn, connected to locations in the mountains. What happens in one specific site is, they say, echoed in another miles away. Keen to illustrate this they devised a plan to lay a gold thread showing the connections that exist between special sites.

They want to show urgently that the damage caused by logging, mining, the building of power stations, roads and the construction of ports along the coast and at the mouths of rivers – in short expressions of global capitalism that result in the destruction of natural resources – affects what happens at the top of the mountain. Once white-capped peaks are now brown and bare, lakes are parched and the trees and vegetation vital to them are withering.

"The big thing in coastal development in this area is the 'mega-projects', especially the vast expansion of port facilities and associated extensive infrastructure to link new ports to large-scale coal and metals extraction and industrial plant such as aluminium smelters," says Ereira.

In a poignant scene in the film, CNN footage from September 2006 shows the Kogi walking for miles to protest against the draining of lagoons to make way for the construction of Puerta Brisa, a port to support Colombia's mining industry.

What happens at the river estuary affects what happens at the source, they say, over and over again. "The Kogi believe that the estuary provides evaporation that becomes deposited at the river source. So if you dry up the estuary you dry up the whole of the river source," says Ereira.

In the film, the views of the Kogi are backed up by a specialist in ecosystem restoration, a professor of zoology and a world leader in marine biology. "Along this stretch of coastline, you have a microcosm for what is happening in the Caribbean and also on the rest of the planet," says the latter, Alex Rogers, of Oxford University, on camera. "Their view that all these activities are having an impact at a larger scale are quite right."

It's not all doom and gloom: the Kogi end the film on a message of hope: don't abandon your lives, they say, just protect the rivers. But how to do that? One way forward is to engage the Kogi (and other indigenous communities who have an understanding of environmental impacts) in environmental assessment plans. The Tairona Heritage Trust has also been set up to support projects proposed by the Mamas. But Ereira stresses, "The Mamas are very clear about how we should take notice of what they say. Listen carefully, think, make our own decisions. They don't want to tell us what to do."

"I would hope that ordinary people will come away from the film feeling empowered to express what they already know – which is that the planet is alive and feels what we do to it," he says.

"Everybody who is a gardener in this country already has a Kogi relationship to the earth but they don't necessarily have a language to express that. They have an empathetic relationship to the land and what grows on it, and that empathy is what we have build on."

For more information visit the Aluna film website.

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« Reply #809 on: Nov 15, 2013, 06:28 AM »

After the forest: Cameroon's Baka people fight for survival – video
Wednesday 13 November 2013

With swaths of forest being cleared by loggers, Cameroon's indigenous Baka people explain how deforestation is affecting them. They say extreme poverty and discrimination have brought high levels of illiteracy, unemployment, alcoholism and teenage pregnancy – and urgent action is needed to prevent their way of life from being destroyed

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