Alan Weisman discussed exactly that on Diane Rehm yesterday (guest-hosted by Susan Page) yesterday whilst discussing his new book, The World Without Us. Quite a fascinating discussion - it puts into perspective the number of nuclear and chemical "time bombs" humanity has put onto this planet.
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Despite what the Islamophobes would have you believe, support for terrorism continues to decline in the Muslim world, according to the latest survey from the Pew Global Attitudes Project. The percentage of Muslims in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Lebanon, and Jordan responding that suicide attacks were often or sometimes justified declined by 20-40% between 2002 and 2007.
The decreasing acceptance of extremism among Muslims also is reflected in declining support for Osama bin Laden. Since 2003, Muslim confidence in bin Laden to do the right thing in world affairs has fallen; in Jordan, just 20% express a lot or some confidence in bin Laden, down from 56% four years ago. Yet confidence in bin Laden in the Palestinian territories, while lower than it was in 2003, remains relatively high (57%).
The survey also finds that, amid continuing sectarian strife in Iraq, there is broad concern among the Muslim publics surveyed that tensions between Sunnis and Shia are not limited to that country. Nearly nine-in-ten Lebanese (88%), and solid majorities in Kuwait (73%) and Pakistan (67%), say Sunni-Shia tensions are a growing problem for the Muslim world, and are not limited to Iraq.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
The Guardian reports today that 300 million people in China are drinking contaminated water daily, and nearly 190 million suffer from water-borne illnesses. 17,000 towns have no sewage treatment, and 70% of of the rural popualtion has no access to safe water. Three-fourths of China's major lakes are highly polluted, as are 66% of their rivers and 25% of their coastal waters.
You might want to pass on the Chinese crabmeat. Just sayin is all.
Monday, July 16, 2007
A recently-issued press release from Oxfam and Gisha reports that Ghaza is on the verge of economic collapse and complete dependency on humanitarian aid due to the inability to transport imports and exports across the Kami crossing point.
Raw materials, non-humanitarian commercial goods, and even some essential equipment for urgent sewage system and water network repairs have not been allowed to enter Gaza since June 12. Israel's Customs Authority has also cancelled Gaza's customs code from its database, meaning that Gazans cannot receive goods ordered from abroad. Gaza residents have not been able to get their products out of Gaza for profitable markets in Israel, the West Bank, and abroad.
According to fresh data just released by the Palestinian Trade Center and the Palestinian Federation of Industries, 80 percent of industrial establishments have been temporarily shut over the past month and at least 65,800 employees have been laid off. Remaining establishments are only operating at 60 percent capacity. On top of the freeze of US$160 million in UNRWA construction projects, there has been an estimated private sector loss of US$20.6 million. If exports continue to be blocked, the cash crop sector will face a 100 percent loss in sales during the key November harvest.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
So the good news is that China has started doing some recycling work. The bad news is that it could make you sick. According to a report from the Basel Action Network, solder from old circuit boards and car batteries is being cooked down and recycled into trinkets and jewelry.
In 2002, the Seattle based Basel Action Network (BAN) in its report “Exporting Harm” revealed that about 80 percent of the electronic waste in the United States that is brought to recyclers is in fact not recycled in the United States but exported to Asia, and especially China where it is melted down in primitive, environmentally damaging conditions including the cooking and melting of computer circuit boards in vast quantity.
Dr. Weidenhamer’s analytical work now implicates electronic waste as a source of the lead that comes back to harm our children in the form of toxic children’s jewelry made in China for the American market. The vast majority of electronic waste found in China comes from North America.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Abu Aardvark has a fascinating bit today, as usual. Those who enjoy painting all Muslims with the same brush would be well-advised to read it.
What was most interesting was a fatwa issued by Shaykh Saleh al-Fawzan declaring all liberals apostates, which has sparked a huge debate in Saudi Arabia. I wonder how long it will be before Shaykh al-Fawzan gets his own talk radio show...
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Greenpeace and the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC) have released a fascinating scenario for the future of the energy sector that should give policymakers something to think about. In futu[r]e investment: A Sustainable Investment for the Power Sector to Save the Climate, the organization compares their Energy [R]evolution Scenario with a Reference Scenario published by the International Energy Agency in 2004. In the Greenpeace scenario, the power sector phases out 60% of CO2 emissions by reducing demand and generating 70% of power from renewable energy sources, up from 18% today. Power sector CO2 emissions decrease from 10,200 million tonnes in 2003 to 4,200 m/t in 2050. The investment in renewables also adds up to US$202 billion dollar per year in sectorwide savings, after adjusting for carbon credits, rising fossil fuel fuel costs, and the costs incurred due to climate change.
The model does make some key policy assumptions, of course. Hither:
to implement the Energy [R]evolution in the power sector and to avoid dangerous climate change, Greenpeace and EREC demand the following from the power sector:
- Phase out of all subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear energy and the
internalisation of external costs
- Set legally binding targets for renewable energy
- Provide defined and stable returns for investors
- Guaranteed priority access to the grid for renewable generators
- and clear and simple administrative procedures
- Strict efficiency standards for all electricity consuming appliances
Sunday, July 08, 2007
Congratulations to Chichén Itzá, the Christ Redeemer Statue, The Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu, Petra, The Roman Colloseum, and The Taj Mahal, all selected as the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Although I don't think Petra will adopt my proposed slogan (A Penitent Man Shall Pass... Into Petra!), I do like to think that my vote helped a bit!
Friday, July 06, 2007
The United Nations has released The Millennium Development Goals Report 2007, at the current midpoint between their inception 2000 and their 2015 target.
The verdict: uneven. The report does cite some notable and even noble successes:
- The proportion of people living in extreme poverty fell
from nearly a third to less than one fifth between 1990 and
2004. If the trend is sustained, the MDG poverty reduction
target will be met for the world as a whole and for most
- The number of extremely poor people in sub-Saharan
Africa has levelled off, and the poverty rate has declined by
nearly six percentage points since 2000. Nevertheless, the
region is not on track to reach the Goal of reducing poverty
by half by 2015.
- Progress has been made in getting more children into
school in the developing world. Enrolment in primary
education grew from 80 per cent in 1991 to 88 per cent in
2005. Most of this progress has taken place since 1999.
- Women’s political participation has been growing, albeit
slowly. Even in countries where previously only men were
allowed to stand for political election, women now have a
seat in parliament.
- Child mortality has declined globally, and it is becoming
clear that the right life-saving interventions are proving
effective in reducing the number of deaths due to the main
child killers – such as measles.
- Key interventions to control malaria have been expanded.
- The tuberculosis epidemic, finally, appears on the verge
of decline, although progress is not fast enough to halve
prevalence and death rates by 2015.
These are a bit overshadowed by some of the very many challenges left:
- Over half a million women still die each year from treatable
and preventable complications of pregnancy and childbirth.
The odds that a woman will die from these causes in sub-
Saharan Africa are 1 in 16 over the course of her lifetime,
compared to 1 in 3,800 in the developed world.
- If current trends continue, the target of halving the
proportion of underweight children will be missed by
30 million children, largely because of slow progress in
Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
- The number of people dying from AIDS worldwide
increased to 2.9 million in 2006, and prevention measures
are failing to keep pace with the growth of the epidemic. In
2005, more than 15 million children had lost one or both
parents to AIDS.
- Half the population of the developing world lack basic
sanitation. In order to meet the MDG target, an additional
1.6 billion people will need access to improved sanitation
over the period 2005-2015. If trends since 1990 continue,
the world is likely to miss the target by almost 600 million
- To some extent, these situations reflect the fact that the
benefits of economic growth in the developing world have been unequally shared. Widening income inequality is
of particular concern in Eastern Asia, where the share of
consumption of the poorest people declined dramatically
between 1990 and 2004.
- Most economies have failed to provide employment
opportunities to their youth, with young people more than
three times as likely as adults to be unemployed.
- Warming of the climate is now unequivocal. Emissions of
carbon dioxide, the primary contributor to global climate
change, rose from 23 billion metric tons in 1990 to 29
billion metric tons in 2004. Climate change is projected
to have serious economic and social impacts, which will
impede progress towards the MDGs.
Among the report's recommendations are preparation of country national development strategies, pro-poor economic growth, a medium-term approach to public expenditure (eat THAT, IMF!), better in-country monitoring and evaluation measures, and for the G8 to live up to their commitment to dedicate .7% of gross national income to ODA.
Heh. Good luck with the last one.
Monday, July 02, 2007
Following on the recent news that China has overtaken the United States in carbon emissions (WE'RE #2! WE'RE #2!), is the doubly distressing fact that despite the
efforts of some Chinese entrepreneurs, the financial and corporate environment in China is not conducive to energy-efficiency and climate-friendliness.
China's cement industry consumes 44 per cent more energy per unit than in developed countries, and the rapid development of energy-intensive industries, such as steel, copper and electricity, offset individual efforts like Zhang's.
According to the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, both the soaring demand for coal to generate electricity and the surge in cement production have pushed China's recorded carbon dioxide emissions for 2006 beyond those of the United States by eight per cent.
And in a stunning footnote, pollution claims some 750,000 lives each year in China, a fact that was left out of the draft version of a World Bank report on the topic.