The Skyfarm Garden

The Skyfarm by German designer Manuel Dreesmann allows people to grow food in their own home. The hanging spherical gardens offer city dwellers fresh greens without the carbon footprint and pollution of long distance transport.

Dreesmann’s spherical molded acrylic garden designs hang from the ceiling and from the balcony, making them ideal for the high rise buildings in city centres.

February 29, 2012

BC’s Endangered Forests

Cortes Island old growth appears to be the next in a series of controversial logging disputes to plague the BC coast in 2012. Most, but not all, of the trouble stems from logging of rare old growth pockets still standing, and/or the unregulated logging of the private forest land created with the two million acre (3,125 sq.mile or 8,094sq.kms) E & N Railway land grant of the 1870s. (See The Great Land Grab in Hul’qumi’num Territory,). All of it is aggravated by the remote foreign ownership of access to most of BC’s forests.

Sierra Club BC’s analysis (Restoring the Balance, January 2011) shows that logging of old-growth rainforest ecosystems has seriously compromised species habitat and carbon storage capacity. More than two million hectares (7,722 sq.mile or 20,000sq.kms) of rainforest ecosystems on BC’s coast, mostly on Vancouver Island and on the South Coast, have less than 30 per cent old growth remaining and are considered to be at high risk of species extinction. Vancouver Island alone has lost more than one million hectares of productive old growth rainforest (3,861 sq.mile or 10,000sq.kms), representing the loss of approximately 100 million tons of carbon storage.

District Lot 33

A year of passionate argument and heartfelt pleas has failed to save District Lot 33 (DL33) at Nanoose, which was given to the Snaw’naw’as First Nation as a woodlot. The move was condemned by the Forest Practices Board, which agreed with conservation activists that the forest was such a rare Coastal Douglas Fir (CDF) ecosystem that it should be preserved.

Less than 1% of the CDF ecosystem remains intact. Aside from the plant communities which are ranked as “globally critically imperiled” or red-listed, there are numerous creatures which will be displaced, such as Roosevelt Elk which use the 64-hectare (0.25 sq.mile or 0.64sq.kms)  forest for winter habitat.

The DL33 logs are being purchased by TimberWest, causing activists to question TimberWest’s SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative) certification.

On their website, ForestEthics says the ‘Sustainable’ Forestry Initiative (SFI) = Selling False Information: “The phony SFI certification program – developed and funded by some of the biggest forest destroyers in North America – is a marketing tool for selling environmentally harmful products by falsely describing them as ‘green.’ This scam threatens our forests, communities, fresh water and wildlife.”

Local activists have mounted a petition to timber product purchasers, Don’t Buy BC’s TimberWest Hot Endangered CDF Wood Products. “TimberWest Forest Corp is buying the wood from this controversial red listed forest, in spite of their SFI certification re: biodiversity and sustainability. They say conventional logging practices are being followed, ignoring the fact this forest is red-listed and there should be no logging at all.”

Avatar Grove

The Avatar Grove and “Canada’s Gnarliest Tree” were discovered by Ancient Forest Alliance activists in December, 2009. It is home to some of the largest and strangest shaped ancient red cedars on the Island, as well as rare large Douglas fir. It has the potential to be the “Cathedral Grove of Port Renfrew” due to its ease of accessibility and giant trees. However, most of the Avatar Grove is currently under threat of logging and road development, with flagging tape strung up and paint on the biggest trees! No cutting permits have been issued yet by the Ministry of Forests and Range but the BC Government continues to state that it is not interested in protecting the grove.

McLaughlin Ridge

Now under logging by Island Timberlands, McLaughlin Ridge had been previously protected old growth forest near Port Alberni. It was classified as critical habitat for wintering deer and endangered Queen Charlotte goshawks until 2004, when the province allowed it to be removed from a tree farm licence.

Flores Island

Friends of Clayoquot Sound (FOCS) continue to sound the alarm about the logging of Flores Island where Iisaak Forest Resources is road building in preparation for a cut. FOCS reports that the cut in Clayoquot Sound is now as high as it was in 1995 while the forests remain as unprotected as they were during the days of the great 1993 blockade.

Cortes Island

The old MacMillan Bloedel private forest lands on Cortes Island have been the source of controversy since the 1980s, and throughout the land flips which have resulted in Brookfield Assets’ ownership. The community and Klahoose First Nation are close to achieving a woodlot for the Crown land, which is 80% of the forest. However, grief continues to be generated due to the 20% private forest land which rings the island.

The Wildstands Alliance has been working for four years on a variety of initiatives, from negotiation about sensitive areas with the corporate owners, to a Forest Trust for the Children of Cortes Island, but have now launched the Forest Witness campaign for 2012. The group Island Stance describes their activity as “to encourage civic responsibility prior to industrial logging by Island Timberlands on their private managed forest lands holdings on Cortes Island.”

Residents also have mounted a petition, Protect Cortes Island Forests, to Island Timberlands and Brookfield Assets.

The petition contains the same concerns that have been enumerated by the islanders for decades:

“We the undersigned are greatly concerned about the future of the forests of Cortes Island. Island Timberlands’ proposed industrial logging operations will have long term impacts on this threatened forest type and we therefore demand that Island Timberlands:

1) Retain all remnants of old growth forest;
2) Protect all watersheds and salmon habitat and maintain natural water flow and quality;
3) Respect all the principles and goals of the BC Sensitive Ecosystem
Inventory; and
4) Ban use of clearcut logging methods.”

Forest Witness

With Island Timberlands’ announcement to commence industrial logging on their Cortes Island forest land holdings in Jan. 2012, Cortes Island has been called to bear witness.  Called to witness the true ownership of British Columbia’s private managed forest land companies; with corporate baron Brookfield Asset Management, parent company to Island Timberlands, running roughshod through rural BC communities.

Join us. Bear witness —The Wildstands Alliance Cortes campaign

Called to witness industrial scale logging practices with inadequate ecosystem-based forest management to protect the ecological integrity of community watersheds, sensitive ecosystems and rare & endangered species on private managed forest lands.

Three years in the making, the Wildstands Alliance Cortes campaign has a solid foundation of research, community alliance initiatives and provincial partnerships established to champion a new forest ethic for British Columbia.

Delores Broten is the editor of the Watershed Sentinel, the independent voice for environmental news in British Columbia. Visit: http://www.watershedsentinel.ca/

 

February 24, 2012

Wooden Poverty Cabin

Manifest Destiny! is a Mark A. Reigelman II and Jenny Chapman creative offering a commentary on issues of homelessness in present day America. The cabin is bolted to the side of an apartment building that is just down the street from the Occupy Wall Street protest location.

The 10ft (3.1m) tall, 6ft (1.8m) long and 7ft (2.1m) deep reclaimed wood cabin uses wood salvaged from a 100year old Ohio barn. A solar panel and battery provides power for the night lighting, and the cabin uses anchor bolts and steel brackets to attach to the building.

The cabin will be there until October 28th, 2012. Its address is 447 Bush Street at Grant at the Hotel des Arts in San Francisco, USA.

Visit: http://soex.org/Exhibit/104.html

Via TreeHugger

February 24, 2012

Stunning Snow Circles

Why just walk in the snow when you can draw at the same time? Artist Sonja Hinrichsen created these stunning large scale snow circle patterns. Five people took three hours to make the temporary art at Rabbit Ears Pass, Steamboat, Colorado.

Jack Dysart took his Cessna plane up for an eye in the sky view, and Steamboat-based filmmaker Cedar Beauregard used a camera-carrying remote controlled eight-rotor helicopter (octocopter) called Cinestar8. The miniature helicopter costs US$10,000 (€7,480) and carries a 0.9lb (0.4kg) camera.

February 24, 2012

Upcycled Coffee Cup Art

New Yorkers consume a lot of coffee, just behind Chicago, so artist Gwyneth Leech’s disposable coffee cup art display is right at home in NY.

Since last September Leech has hand drawn on her used disposable coffee cups, collected over a number of years. Her work has been on display at the Flatiron Building, and her 800 hand-drawn cups drew a lot of attention, hopefully sending a message about recycling to those coffee-thirsty New Yorkers.

The coffee cup creations had abstract art through to city scenes, as well as a few portraits of passers. The cups themselves were strung up and gently moved as heated air rose inside the display space, and were illuminated at night.

Maybe Leech can artistically upcycle unused coffee-cups so that people can buy their favorite design, and perhaps then they will use them more than once, and afterwards recycle them.

February 22, 2012

Austria’s Submerged Park

The Green Lake near the Hochschwab Mountains, Tragoess, Styria, Austria is home to a peculiar park, one that you can walk through during the winter but must swim through in the summer.

During the winter the park is dry and the lake is very shallow, while a snow pack thickens on the mountain, but as summer temperatures melt the snow, the park gets covered by a 10m deep (32ft) crystal clear lake.

Scuba divers can sit on park benches that are completely submerged, along with small bridges, trees and bushes, providing a surreal diving experience.

February 21, 2012

Space Junk Janitor

The Swiss Space Center at the Swiss Federal Institute for Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, have designed a “janitor satellite” to help clean up the growing problem of space junk. The US$11million (10 million Swiss Francs) CleanSpace One satellite is a prototype for what they hope to be a family of satellites that are sent to retrieve large, defunct satellites and de-orbit them – making them burn-up in Earth’s atmosphere or splash down in an ocean.

NASA tracks 16,000 pieces of space junk larger than 4 inch (10.2cm) in diameter, but in reality the U.S. space agency estimates that over 500,000 pieces of space junk is up there, consisting of spent rocket stages and broken satellites. The debris orbital velocity is around 28,000 km/h (mph), and even the tiniest of particles can damage spacecraft or impact other debris, splitting it into ever-smaller pieces.

Known trash impacts include a French satellite damaged in 1996 by a rocket casing, and an U.S. Iridium Communications Satellite that was destroyed in 2009 in a collision with a defunct Russian satellite. The Iridium Satellites are in low earth orbit constellations, occupying the same orbital path so this debris will eventually spread around the Earth, affecting the other Iridium Satellites.

The CleanSpace One satellite is being built to solve three problems, such as how to maneuver a spacecraft into the same orbital path as the debris, so EPFL are developing a compact propulsion system for their small satellite (actually a 3 cube Cubesat). The next problem, after catching up with the debris, is to capture it and hold it but without creating even more debris. This could be very difficult, especially if the debris is spinning and for inspiration the researchers are looking at how plants and animals capture their prey. Finally, it has to slow the debris down and drag it into Earth’s atmosphere. CleanSpace One is going to try and de-orbit Switzerland’s first orbiting satellite, the Swisscube Picosatellite launched in 2009, or the second TIsat, launched in July 2010.

Volker Gass, The Swiss Space Center’s director hopes to someday “offer and sell a whole family of ready-made systems, designed as sustainably as possible, that are able to de-orbit several different kinds of satellites.”

One of the problems of increasing debris, apart from the risk to satellites, and any human launches or space stations, is the increasing cost of insurance. A new, US$150-500million satellite could be launched into orbit and then get knocked out of service by a $0.30 steel bolt or even a flake of paint.

The Swiss Re Insurance Company estimated that every year, there is almost a one in 10,000 chance that a 107sq.ft. (10sq.m.) satellite traveling in a sun-synchronous low earth orbit 373-621 mile (600-1,000km) will get hit by a 0.16sq.inch (sq.cm.) piece of space junk. So, if there are continuously 1000 spacecraft in this orbit, and they stay there for 10 years, there is a certainty that at least one of them will get hit over a 10-year period.

The European Union and United States hope to agree to internationally binding agreements to limit future space debris, ensuring that what goes up does eventually come down safely and efficiently without having to wait thousands or tens of thousands of years for the trash to come down by itself.

Visit: http://actu.epfl.ch/

Via CBC

Trevor Williams is a University of Victoria Mechanical Engineering PhD candidate specializing in renewable energy, power grid modeling and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. He has a bachelors in Aeronautical Engineering, a Masters in Management Science and over 23 years international experience in the space industry, having worked on Earth observation and telecommunications satellites. He is the author of the Eco-Geek blog.

 

February 21, 2012

Solar Winds Arts Center

The Solar Winds Cultural Arts Center is a design proposal from artist Michael Jantzen for a large solar and wind powered structure dedicated to being used for a wide variety of cultural arts activities.

“The center is composed of seven conical shaped modular structures that are merged together at their bases. Each of the seven are fitted with a large vertical axis wind turbine designed to be integrated into the shape of the apex of each of the conical shaped forms,” explains the designer. “Four of the south facing cone shaped structures are fitted with large, integrated photovoltaic solar cell arrays. These solar cell arrays are backed with specially designed solar heat extraction systems.”

The wind turbines, solar cells, and solar heat extraction systems provide all of the electricity, space heating, and water heating energy needed to operate the center. Whenever there is a surplus of energy generated by the structure, it is distributed to the local community energy grid.

The tall conical shaped segments of the structure also function to naturally ventilate the center as air is drawn in at the base of each segment and vented out through uniquely designed air exhaust ports at the top. Each of the seven conical shaped segments of the structure are also equipped at the top with skylights, which naturally illuminate the spaces below.

The clustering of the seven conical structures created an enormous cavernous space that is ideal for cultural arts events. The perimeter of the structure, and in-between the seven conical shaped segments, includes a multitude of flat shaped shade roofs and bridges between several of the segments in order to form platforms for outdoor events.

Visit: www.michaeljantzen.com

February 19, 2012

Pipeline Deal And Gitxsan Occupy

Many Gitxsan First Nation people and their supporters spent their Christmas holidays at the blockade outside of the Gitxsan Treaty Office (GTO) in New Hazelton, BC. On December 5, 2011, after consultation with their clan members, Chiefs and members converged on the Gitxsan Chief’s Office in response against a deal signed on December 2nd with Enbridge in support of the controversial Northern Gateway Project by hereditary Chief Elmer Derrick, a negotiator with the GTO. The deal provides the Gitxsan with an equity stake in the pipeline project that could be worth $7 million (€5.3 million) over the life of the project.

A coalition of Gitxsan hereditary leaders and band councils representing 45 Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs (two thirds of the Hereditary Chiefs) have stated that “Elmer Derrick and the Gitxsan Treaty Society/Gitxsan Economic Development Corp. do not speak for all Gitxsan. The Gitxsan people had no knowledge of the proposed agreement nor were they consulted.”

The coalition has signed a declaration stating that the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Agreement is null and void, the Gitxsan Treaty Society must cease operations and be shut down and the former Executive Director Gordon Sebastian, former Chief Negotiator Chief Elmer Derrick and Negotiator Beverly Percival are terminated. The representatives say that not only were the communities not consulted but the Environmental Review Process is not yet complete as community hearings are being held in January. Preliminary results of an online poll conducted by the Gitxsan Chiefs show that over 90% of Gitxsan are against the proposed pipeline and that almost 100% are against the Gitxsan-Enbridge deal.

In response to the public outcry, Derrick said it was the responsibility of hereditary chiefs to inform their houses about the project and that he was within his power to sign the deal. However, Percival said the treaty office board of directors did not authorize the agreement, and she did not know Derrick was going to form a partnership with Enbridge on the Gitxsan’s behalf. The GTS filed an injunction with the BC Supreme Court on December 7th, which forbids some hereditary chiefs from trespassing on the GTS. The RCMP have not yet enforced the injunction.

The Gitxsan dispute underscores rifts among the Gitxsan, as knowledge of the signed Agreement was only obtained through media, much like the Gitxsan Alternative Governance Model of May 2008, the subject matter of litigation in Spookw vs. Gitxsan Treaty Society which claimed that the GTS was unaccountable and should not have the right to represent the nation in treaty talks.

The Lake Babine Nation is demanding an apology from the GTO for signing an agreement with Enbridge that could impact the Lake Babine Nation’s lands and resources without first consulting the Lake Babine Nation. “The pipeline will not cross Gitxsan territory. They will not bear any of the risks or the costs. It is us, along with the other Nations through whose territories the tar sands oil will be transported, who will suffer the consequences,” says Chief Wilf Adam.

A website has been formed called http://gitxsanagainstenbridge.com where updates, photos and video footage can be found.

Media coverage of the Gitxsan/Enbridge controversy has been varied. A historic declaration by over 130 First Nations opposing the Enbridge pipeline was relegated to the BC Business section in the Vancouver Sun but when a First Nation seemed to have signed on to the deal it garners front page headlines. The controversy continues.

Susan MacVittie works with World Community Development Education Society in the Comox Valley, Canada. Pipeline Deal Leads to Gitxsan Occupy was previously printed in the Watershed Sentinel, the independent voice for environmental news in British Columbia.
Visit: http://www.watershedsentinel.ca

February 19, 2012

The Woven Fibre Cycle

Renowned Brazilian designer Jarbas Lopes has created a bicycle comprised of woven fibre. Created as part of his larger Cicloviaérea series, the currently untitled work measures 43.3 x 74.8 x 26.8 inches (1.1m x 1.9m x 0.68m) and offers a sturdy and sustainable ride, while simultaneously questioning capitalism and methods of mass production.

“Untitled” was on display at the VIP Art Fair 2.0: International Contemporary Art Fair held annually from February 3 to 8, 2012 in New York City.

Visit: http://www.danielreichgallery.com/lopes01.html

Via DesignBoom & vipartfair

February 19, 2012

Recyclable Tube Toys

These brightly colored toys are made using the actual cardboard packaging that the toy bits and pieces are shipped in. The brainchild of British designer Oscar Diaz, the Tube Toys offer a train, fire engine, tractor and car which are all 100% recyclable and pre-cut for easy assembly.

“All the parts needed to build each vehicle are contained in a standard cardboard tube, which doubles as the packaging. The tubes have slots and holes to place the wheel axes and other components. A single stripe of paper displaying all the information necessaries for the shop (brand, product name/description and barcode) is the only bit that will be discarded after purchase,” explains the designer.

 

 

Tube Toys by Oscar Diaz.

 

 

February 19, 2012

Deluxe Chicken Coop

The ModernCoop chicken house uses recycled cedar, metal or fiberglass roves to create an ultra cool retro-looking 50’s trailer design.

Designed to provide a deluxe home for your backyard flock,  the innovative and sustainable design comes from Portland-based architecture firm Wright Design Office.The coops have a water supply port and a pest-protected feeding section, roosting box, egg access hatch and perch level viewing windows. A ladder is used to access the interior, and being raised off the ground helps provide extra vermin and predator protection.

The chicken coop sits in a chicken run which is approximately 24″ wide x 48″ long x 42″ high (60cms x 120cms x 107cms) including the ladder. Additional chicken coops can be added lengthwise or side-by-side to increase the chicken run area. The chicken house can be permanent or made as a mobile coop to allow the hens to do their aerating and fertilizing of the soil.

A fully constructed ModernCoop costs around US$790 (€607), with the run costing US$100 (€77) or the plans can be purchased for US$125 (€96).

Visit: ModernCoops & Wright Design Office

February 16, 2012

Recycled Trash Park Art

American artist Gregory Euclide creates his stunning miniature ‘held within what hung open and made to lie without escape’ landscape installations from trash collected and recycled from local parks.

The installation includes a landscape painting that measures 7ft x 5ft (2.13m x 1.52m) with a running river, made from paper, that leaves the canvas and flows into a riverbed. Real park boulders provided mold shapes that became rock outcrops made from paper, and sliced-open plastic bottles, filled with sand, became a paper forest.

The recycled plastic, foams, paper, hair and rocks form dioramas that the artist sees as the ‘same kind of fake control over nature that allows us to be comfortable with the destruction of it’. Other materials used by Euclide included acrylic paints, acrylic caulk, eurocast, fern, goldenrod, hosta, lawn fertilizer, moss, pencil, and sponge.

February 16, 2012

General Electric’s Privatization of Water

Investment banker Goldman Sachs has famously been described by the Rolling Stone’s business writer Matt Taibbi (July 2009) as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” So it’s a good idea to take notice whenever that Vampire Squid moves its blood funnel towards something. Having profited handsomely from the Wall Street bailouts, the Squid has smelled money in a new direction: water privatization.

In January 2010, Goldman Sachs, General Electric, and the World Resources Institute (WRI), a Washington-based think tank, together launched a water “initiative” to develop an index measuring water-related risks facing companies and their investors. As their news release put it, “In many regions around the world, water scarcity from climate change and pollution is starting to impact a company’s performance, yet few analysts account for water-related risks.”

Their new water index would “draw on publicly available data regarding physical scarcity and water quality and overlay factors including the regulatory regime and social and reputational issues” in various regions of the world. In other words, their risk-index might more accurately be called an “opportunity-index” for water-investors. Goldman Sachs’ partner General Electric has long smelled money from that sector.

“According to Canada’s water expert Maude Barlow, “The biggest water company of all is General Electric.”

The Aqueduct Alliance

By August 2011, Goldman Sachs, General Electric, and WRI had not only found a name for their partnership – the Aqueduct Alliance – but they had also developed their index into a water database and mapping tool, which can include the amount of infrastructure investment taking place in a given region. Moreover, they had put an “environmental” spin on the project, claiming that it will help corporations, governments and stakeholders become more aware of their “water footprint” and thus make more “sustainable” decisions.

As well, by August 2011, Goldman Sachs, General Electric and WRI had invited into the Alliance some new corporate partners (or Vampire Squids, if you prefer): Coca-Cola, Talisman Energy, Dow Chemical, United Technologies, and Bloomberg. The WRI’s Kirsty Jenkinson told the Financial Times (August 16th, 2011), “Companies see the need to get better visibility about water if they are going to have to access it for their business.” With the new Aqueduct Alliance water database, “they can see if they are at risk of not getting the water they need, or coming into conflict with other users of that water.”

“Presumably, the potential for “conflict” is what attracted United Technologies to join the Aqueduct Alliance. United Technologies is the world’s tenth largest arms-producing company, with arms sales of $11.1 billion (€8.43) in 2009.”

Coca-Cola has handed over to the Alliance its own proprietary data on freshwater availability worldwide – data collected over years of research for its water-bottling enterprises. “Water is the lifeblood of our business,” Coca-Cola spokesman Joe Rozza told the Financial Times. Coca-Cola’s Canadian director, J. Trevor Eyton, is a director of Brookfield Asset Management Inc., which is heavily involved in BC power, energy, and logging issues.

Calgary-based Talisman Energy spokesman Sandy Stash told Marketwire (August 19th), “We are very excited to have been asked to become the oil and gas sector sponsor for the Aqueduct Alliance. Talisman aspires to a water management strategy that defines best practices for water withdrawal, reuse, disposal and conservation in our North American shale gas operations.” Just three weeks earlier, the BC Liberal government had awarded Talisman Energy a licence to divert up to 10,000 cubic metres (353,000 cu.ft.) of water per day from the Williston reservoir for the next 20 years. Williston reservoir is BC’s main hydroelectric reservoir, serving the WAC Bennett Dam and Shrum Generating Station on the Peace River.

The Aqueduct Alliance intends to generate databases and water-maps with “an unprecedented level of detail and resolution,” including advanced hydrological data and “geographically specific indicators that capture the social, economic, and governance factors that affect companies and economies.”  The databases will include up-to-date news coverage on water issues in a given region.

By September 2011, the Aqueduct Alliance had developed a prototype database/map covering the Yellow River Basin in Northern China. In January 2012, the Aqueduct Alliance intends to release four additional database/maps on river basins of “high priority,” including the Colorado River in the USA, the Orange-Sengu River in Africa, the Yangtze River in China, and the Murray Darling River in Australia. Fifteen more regions across the world will then be analyzed.

The Murray Darling

In a very short-sighted move, the Australian government in the 1990s implemented a water-market for the Murray Darling River Basin – one of the longest river systems in the world and the heart of Australia’s agricultural production. But in 2001, a major drought struck the Basin. Within a few years of the long-lasting drought, the federal government was forced to start buying back water for the region. This inflated the price in the water market. By 2009, so many water speculators had moved in on the Basin that in that year alone, some $3 billion in water-rights were bought and sold, with the federal government forced to compete with international water investors. By September 2010, the government had spent at least $1.4 billion buying back water rights. Although the drought eased in 2010, the fact that the Aqueduct Alliance is now focusing on the Murray Darling Basin means that the risks and opportunities there are still “high priority.”

Some critics have called the Australian government’s implementation of a water market very similar to what Alberta and BC are proposing.

Alberta Water Markets

In their April 2008 report, A Fight To the Last Drop: A Glimpse Into Alberta’s Water Future, Randy Christensen (staff lawyer with Ecojustice) and Danielle Droitsch of Bow Riverkeeper warned that the Alberta government was moving in “the wrong direction,” opening the way for “speculators devising ways to create profits from an increasingly scarce public resource,” and doing so without consulting the public. They also noted “the government’s failure to collect any royalties from the granting or subsequent sale of water rights. The property right in water is vested in the Crown under the Water Act, but Alberta treats it as something that ought to be given away.”

Then, on May 5 of 2011, the Alberta Premier’s Council for Economic Strategy – chaired by David Emerson, with General Electric Canada’s President and CEO M. Elyse Allan as a member – released its report, Shaping Alberta’s Future. The report recommended the creation of a new Alberta Water Authority to oversee all water allocation license trades across the province. The purpose of this body would include facilitating the buying and selling of water licenses within a market-oriented system.

As the report states: “The Alberta Water Authority will oversee an Alberta water allocation exchange. The Authority will maintain information on use and return flow. It will track trades permissible under current policy. It will also advise on policy changes to give holders of water licenses more opportunity to sell, lease or trade some or all of their right to draw water. Such will allow licensees holding water allocations they are not currently using or no longer need to lease or sell this surplus to others within the watershed at a price set by market forces of supply-and-demand.”

Just days later (May 10), the chairman of water-bottling giant Nestle told Reuters, “We are actively dealing with the government of Alberta to think about a water exchange,” prompting denials from Alberta’s Environment Minister Rob Renner.

The Council of Canadians immediately deplored “the creation of a province-wide deregulated water market,” and noted, “Two and a half years since announcing it was reviewing Alberta’s water allocation system, the government has failed to consult with Albertans – the owners of the water – to hear their views about how water should be governed in the future, but has apparently made time to listen to what Nestle would like to see in a new allocation system.”

BC Water Act Proposal

In December 2010, the BC Liberal government released its Framework for the Modernization of the British Columbia Water Act. The government is expecting to table a new Water Act in 2012. In assessing this policy proposal, West Coast Environmental Law noted that it introduces the possibility of a water market, which would “likely result in a huge financial windfall for current licence holders while failing to recognize issues raised by public and First Nations rights over the resource.” In 2010, there were 44,000 water licence holders in B.C.

The Council of Canadians stated: “The proposal now being considered would allow for water users who currently hold a licence to sell it to the highest bidder on an open market. Whoever purchases the licence may be able to change what the water is used for, potentially setting up a situation where water currently being used in agriculture ends up being used in a hydraulic fracturing operation. Worse yet, the proposal talks about creating ‘a more flexible system … by reducing the government decision-making burden and streamlining requirements.’ In other words, it would create a deregulated market for BC’s water.”

Ecojustice’s Randy Christensen called the proposed framework “a pretty sweet deal for the fortunate few who happen to have water rights – primarily electricity generators (including Independent Power Producers), oil and gas companies, mining companies, and agriculture.” He added: “What’s most dangerous about this proposal is that it will privatize water in a way that becomes effectively irreversible. Right now, one gets a ‘licence’ to use water that the Government may alter or revoke without (generally speaking) having to pay compensation. However, once the licence to use a public resource is converted into a tradable economic right, that is held and may be sold, any changes to the system that affect that right will undoubtedly spur lawsuits against the government.”

NAFTA Woes

This should remind readers of the Harper government’s outrageous (August 2010) $130 million (€98.8 million) roll-over regarding AbitibiBowater’s NAFTA challenge. Rather than defend Newfoundland and Labrador’s legal rights, the Harper government – a mere six months into the NAFTA case – reached an out-of-court settlement that has far-reaching implications for every province.

According to Steven Shrybman, lawyer for the Council of Canadians, because of this legal precedent, “it is not therefore an overstatement to describe the consequences of this settlement as effectively representing a coup-de-grace for public ownership and control of water and other natural resources with respect to which some license or permit had been granted. By settling with AbitibiBowater, the federal government has invited claims by any foreign owned company that loses an entitlement to take surface or groundwater in Canada for commercial purposes.”

Moreover, according to Scott Sinclair of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, those potential future claims will be provincial, rather than federal, liabilities. As Sinclair wrote for The Tyee (March 25, 2011), “Ottawa settled the case without defending the province’s rights. While the Harper government has pledged it will not try to recover the costs of this settlement from the Newfoundland and Labrador government, it has put provincial and territorial governments on notice that it intends to hold them liable for future NAFTA-related damages with respect to provincial measures.”

The NAFTA cave-in by the Feds, combined with the pending new Water Acts in Alberta and BC, have released such a smell of money around water that a veritable coterie of Vampire Squids have gathered. After all, they could profit either by getting the water through a water-market, or by launching a NAFTA Chapter 11 claim. Their blood funnels have been quivering especially over the national energy plan drawn up by the Energy Policy Institute of Canada (EPIC), whose chair is David Emerson, and whose vice-chair is General Electric Canada’s President and CEO M. Elyse Allan.

The Role Model

As usual, there is a billionaire model at work: in this case, T. Boone Pickens. The Texas energy tycoon spent at least a decade buying up water-rights in the Texas Panhandle and telling the press and anybody who would listen that he was planning to build a high voltage transmission corridor that would take his wind-powered electricity, his natural gas, and all that water he’d bought, and pipe it down to the big cities of south Texas. Of course, such talk terrified his neighbours, who foresaw their own homesteads withering away into dry clods and tumbleweeds.

Then, in April 2011, the local Municipal Water Authority – having long listened to its panicked constituency members – reached an agreement with Pickens to purchase most of his water-rights for $103 million (€78.2 million). Since he’d paid about $75 million (€57 million) for those rights, it was a cool profit of about $28 million (€21.3 million). All those other homeowners and business owners, however, will be paying off the purchase for the next 20 years through increased water and sewer rates to pay off the bonds that financed the deal.

Then, in July 2011, Pickens swung his attention North. He launched a $775 million (€589 million) NAFTA challenge against the Ontario government over regulations surrounding his planned wind farms in southwestern Ontario. When Vampire Squids start jamming their blood funnels into anything that smells like money, it’s hard to get them to stop.

Joyce Nelson is an award-winning freelance writer/researcher and the author of five books. GE and the Privatization of Water was previously published in the Watershed Sentinel, the independent voice for environmental news in British Columbia. Visit: http://www.watershedsentinel.ca

 

February 15, 2012

MIT Plant Solar Cell

MIT researcher Andreas Mershin wants people in developing countries to have cheap solar cells to charge lamps or cell phones, using natural photosynthesis based on plant protein.

The research is published in the open journal Scientific Reports and builds upon earlier MIT research by Shuguang Zhang. The earlier plant molecule solar cells required expensive lab equipment but the new system can use simpler technology. The efficiency is still only 0.1% (much less than conventional solar cells) but if other researchers can help improve the method then perhaps 1 or 2% efficiency could be the result.

The system uses molecules that plants use for photosynthesis (called photosystem-I or PS-l). Mershin used a simpler way to obtain PS-I molecules and coat an array of tiny zinc oxide nanowires that carry the current and provide a large surface area. He had the idea from looking at how pine trees use their layered branch and leaf structures to absorb as much light as possible.

“You can use anything green, even grass clippings” as the raw material, Mershin says. The research team has proposed using inexpensive membranes to filter and extract the plant protein. “It can be very dirty and it still works, because of the way nature has designed it. Nature works in dirty environments — it’s the result of billions of experiments over billions of years.”

If the PS-I molecule stabilizing chemicals can be given to villagers in remote locations, with some simple instruction, they could extract the protein, roughen up a tin roof and paint it on, generating power during the day for use at night in LED lighting, eliminating dangerous, expensive and unhealthy kerosene lanterns, Mershin adding that “Nighttime illumination is the number one way to get out of poverty,” as it allows people who work all day to read at night and get an education.

Via MIT News & Scientific Reports

February 15, 2012

Penelope Cruz Hot Without Fur

Penelope Cruz looks hot in the new PETA advert against the use of fur, with 70ft (21.3m) tall ads placed in New York, London and Milan. In Manhattan, New York the Madison Square Garden billboard was unveiled just in time for Fashion Week. In Cruz’s “Give fur the cold shoulder” shoot, the Spanish actress is looking over her shoulder with quite the mesmerizing visage.

PETA has scored another big name, an Oscar-winning actress, fashion icon, mum, animal lover and also a clothing designer in concert with her sister (the sisters design a fur-free clothing line for Spanish-based Mango clothing store).

Penelope Cruz joins Michelle Obama, Eva Mendez and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, in speaking out against wearing fur.

Warning: extremely graphic video of fur trade in China via the PETA link.

Via PETA & Daily Mail

February 7, 2012

Joanna Makes a Friend Film Review

Some friends require a little assembly. Directed by Jeremy Lutter (Vancouver Island, BC) and writer Ben Rollo (Victoria, BC) Joanna Makes a Friend is an MPPIA (Motion Picture Production Industry Association of British Columbia) award winning film about overcoming loneliness that asks the question “Do robots make better friends than humans?”

Joanna is a lonely little girl struggling to fit in and is unable to make any friends at school. Her slightly odd tastes and love of HP Lovecraft mean that the kids at school tease her. Often sitting alone under her favourite tree on the playground, Joanna sketches her dark whimsical inner world; ravens, eerie tea parties and tentacle creatures reaping revenge on the meanest of classmates. Eventually, she takes matters into her own hands and builds her very own robot friend out of spare Betamax VCR parts found in the garage. Appropriately, she christens him Edgar Allen Poe-bot, or EAP for short. Her new friend is a big hit with the kids at school and all too soon EAP chooses the limelight over Joanna. Finally Joanna is faced with the fact that she must make a real friend.

Together Lutter and Rollo have brought to life a modern day fairytale story for the lonely or isolated child that we have all experienced. The theme is a personal one for Lutter who spent the first ten years of his life as an only child moving around a lot with his family. Often starting at a new school without any friends he shared the same feeling of loneliness as the protagonist in the film. Eventually he too was forced to make a friend and in junior high met Rollo where the two combined efforts to hand-in scripted videos instead of essays for grades.

February 2, 2012

Tree Shaping Book Review

Knowledge to Grow Shaped Trees is a recently published book written by Peter Cook and Becky Northey, the world’s leading tree shapers. The knowledge contained in this book is their answer to a growing worldwide demand for information on what is known as the “pooktre” shaping method.

This book has 42 years of the authors’ real-life experiences of tree shaping; the information is given in a clear step-by-step process. The knowledge is easy to put into practice because the book contains so many photos along with an explanation of exactly how it’s done, creating a platform to allow individuals, with no previous experience, to begin shaping trees into all kinds of fantasy forms and useful items. The ideas provided in this book encourage people to live in harmony with the environment.With this new knowledge, and an understanding of tree lore, you will be more observant of the trees that grow around you.

The book starts with a young man riding his horse along the lonely surf beach of Fraser Island and finding a large hunk of ambergris (secretions from the intestines of sperm whales used in perfume), which comes from the largest predator on earth. The young man sold it and bought 160 acres of old growth forest in the mountains of southern Queensland and continues to the present day with a peaceful property covered with many beautiful examples of pooktre.

The authors explain which tree species are suitable for the pooktre treatment, and just as important, the trees to avoid. They explain the principles of why a tree species will work or not, using many real examples to explain the importance and practical use of tree lore. Some knowledge is unique to pooktre. Some techniques, such as grafting, and wind staking, have been so refined they have become new techniques in their own right.

Knowledge to Grow Shaped Trees by Peter Cook and Becky Northey.

Knowledge to Grow Shaped Trees has over 350 images and illustrations and 20 content packed chapters full of great information, but this is not just another “how-to-book”, they also share the underlying principles of tree lore which governs their artwork. The book Knowledge to Grow Shaped Trees demonstrates that trees are dynamic living beings and what can be achieved when you work cooperatively with them.

February 2, 2012