A Curious Green Partnership


With all of the terror related events that have recently occurred in France, one wouldn’t think that France and Iran would be synonymous with the word partnership. Well, the gringa tells her dear readers to think again. Once again the sophistication of the French people  and the deeply philosophical nature of Iranians have resulted in both nations magnanimously spanning cultural differences that should be an example for all of us to follow. We would do well to emulate their motives as well, committing to save this planet and the human race from extinction.

This month the Environment Minister of France, Segolene Royal, met with Iran’s equivalent of the same office, Massoumeh Ebtekar, leader of the Environmental Protection Organization of Iran. They have outlined a schedule of projects that should bloom to fruition by February of next year.

Both officials will be touring Iran for three days. Topping the list of places to visit in Iran is lake Orumiyeh in the northwest. This saltwater lake, the largest of its kind in Iran, is a UNESCO heritage site. Over the past twenty years it has shrunk by almost 90%. This has been caused by a combination of un-sustainable farming methods, the construction of dams and the effects of climate change.

They will be joined in their tour by influential businessmen from the energy industry representing companies that specialize in environmentally aware renewable energy. These companies focus on water conservation, minimizing the impact of pollution and designing structures that are energy efficient.  Of particular mention is the leader of the multinational company, Engie.

Engie’s claim to fame is that of an energy company that desires to make a difference throughout the world. Operating in the fields of electricity and natural gas, they seek to manage dwindling natural resources responsibly and create innovative technologies that could render use of non-renewable natural resources obsolete.

France chose to partner with Iran because they believe that the two nations are facing similar energy and climate challenges. Although French officials see this as a great opportunity for the two nations, French bankers are not so keen on the idea. It seems the financial movers and shakers in France have not caught up with the decision of July 2015 when the world lifted sanctions that had been upon the nation of Iran. That’s understandable considering that bankers are just trying to decipher the complicated mess of laws and rules that would govern a financial venture in Iran. The gringa totally understands wanting to cover your own patootie.

However, even if the environment department heads of France and Iran get impatient for funds to flow, the gringa trusts in the ingenuity and passion of the French to discover a solution. There has even been mention of turning to Italy for financing. But what exactly do they want to use all that money for?

The funding will be used to help each nation come into compliance with the decisions of the international climate accord that was signed in Paris by many nations last year. Paris and Iran want to work together to create two thriving green economies. The gringa wants to know just what the heck a green economy is.

Well, the United Nations has been using the term “green economy” since 1989 when a United Kingdom group of environmental economists wrote a blueprint presenting their case for sustainable development, or so one would think from the title of their work “Blueprint for a Green Economy”. The short tome actually contains no reference at all to what a green economy is. The world is left scratching its head as to the meanings of authors David Pearce, Anil Markandy and Edward B. Barbier.

It isn’t until, in 1991 and 1994, the same authors released sequels to their original greenless blueprint of green economies that mankind finally discovered what the heck they were trying to tell us. When all three are read together, these are the conclusions to be drawn:

  • By changing economies, countries can change the world’s climate condition for the better.
  • Purposeful action must be sponsored by world leaders to develop sustainable energy.
  • Governments must lead rather than wait on the private sector.
  • Economics and environmental policy must become intertwined in order to solve the problems of a global economy and entire world population threatened by the effects of climate change.

What forward thinking France and Iran are displaying. Their actions may very well be the catalyst for a shift in economic thinking and how countries approach climate change initiatives. It is not uncommon for a country to get an economic bail-out when suffering from a financial crisis. The movement of the future may very well be “green stimulus packages” offered by the United Nations as well as individual countries that can afford to help others. The gringa is feeling hopeful.

Sources:

www.al-monitor.com

www.france24.com

www.engie.com

sustainabledevelopment.un.org

Image Credit: tse1.mm.bing.net

 

Life In A Bubble


There are many different reasons to be interested in the science of climate change. Maybe you are a lover of nature, like the gringa. Maybe you are a doomsday prepper, anticipating worldwide failures of critical natural resources necessary for humanity’s survival. Perhaps you are a problem solver, interested in creating solutions to help us all survive. Or you could be an author of science fiction and fantasy and the realities of climate change provide a plethora of creative resources. Whatever the reason, then you will find the possibility of life in a bio-sphere bubble interesting to ponder.

Tucson, Arizona was recently host to an environmental event sponsored by One Young World, a group of leaders in innovative climate change survival solutions, particularly Biosphere 2 (Earth is #1).  The event featured experts in science, international diplomacy, political science and commercial industry who are all interested in humanity’s need for sustainable sources for food and energy. The speakers whom event attendees were, perhaps, most interested in were probably the former astronaut and individuals who have been living in Biosphere 2.

If a person was to take a tour of Biosphere 2, you might be expecting a sterile, technical, enclosed life support environment like the International Space Station. However, you will probably be pleasantly surprised to find a faux ocean the size of an Olympic swimming pool surrounded by a bamboo forest. As you continue exploration, you will stumble across a desert recreation complete with species of ants and cockroaches.

The Biosphere idea was birthed more than two decades ago. In 1991 the dream was realized when eight individuals, four women and four men, donned their uniforms and entered the three acre terrarium smack dab in the middle of an Arizona desert where they would live confined for twenty-four months.

The habitat was constructed thanks to the generosity of a wealthy Texan who wants a place of safe retreat when the Apocalypse crashes down around our ears. He shelled out about $150 mill to recreate miniaturized versions of South America’s rainforest, the African Savannah, and a single ocean. The Biosphereans worked for two years to determine if this earthly microcosm would interconnect, survive and become a self-sustaining world producing oxygen and food.

Beneath the multiple geodesic domes of steel, glass and plastic transplanted nature began to fail the moments the doors were sealed. Precious oxygen was leaking and making its escape to the outside world. Despite the threat of suffocation, the Biosphereans soldiered on. They planted crops near the ocean. A sophisticated underground bellows system created wind. But small crops of oxygen producing plants and man-made breeze were not enough to make the habitat a survivable, much less pleasant, environment. For the sake of science the Biosphereans persevered through two years of oxygen deprivation yet finally called it quits when survival was only possible by pumping in outside-sourced oxygen.

But was this experiment really a failure? Of course not. It was a very valuable learning experience. Think of all the research that was accomplished on learning how vegetation, geography, water and air movement, and fresh water sources can all be successfully recreated and the knowledge of certain mistakes not to repeat in the process.

The Biosphere 2 is not a total physical loss either. The University of Arizona will continue studies on how to succeed in a biosphere lifestyle. Part of the property will be open to the public and re-christened “Land Evolution Observatory”. The university will launch a project that, over the span of a decade, will attempt to perfect the methods the Biosphereans began. The gringa considers these self-sacrificing and brave Biosphereans to be the pioneers of the Millennia.

The Biosphere story also has a romantic twist. The gringa, madly in love with her caveman, loves a good romance and is happy to learn that two of the individuals fell in love during their confinement together and married as soon as they had regained their freedom to the outside world. The couple, speaking to the Tucson audience, explained how profound their sense of inter-connectedness to their environment became. Daily they tracked carbon and oxygen levels, strongly aware that their survival depended on the right balance.  They felt aware, moment by moment, of each breath they took and each CO2 exhalation they made. The reality of the co-dependence the humans, plants, animals and insects all had with one another was always at the forefront of their mind.

When former astronaut Ron Garan addressed the audience, he discussed his six month stint enclosed in the self-sustained environment of the International Space Station. It was a profound experience that increased his environmental awareness and how tiny, fragile and singular our Earth is. His individual life perspective was completely changed as he worked beside the two Russian cosmonauts he shared duties with. Upon his return to Earth, he dedicated himself to collaboration with projects that will promote the survival of humans and the planet we call home. The only planet, mind you, that we have.

He recounted one of his most poignant experiences. It was the moment he returned to Earth. He peeked out the window of the capsule, saw a landscape of rocks, flowers and grass. His immediate mental and emotional response was, “I’m home” despite the fact that this American was actually in Kazakhstan. Once you’ve been off world, any square inch at any spot on the globe is home, regardless of politics, religion, nationality or ethnicity. The gringa finds this philosophy beautiful and inspirational. And I hope that we all figure it out together, how to save our home.

Source & Image Credit:  www.newsweek.com

 

 

Today’s America, Just a Civilization Rerun


If man is really an intelligent animal it would stand to reason that he would learn from his own mistakes. If he is an extremely intelligent animal he would also learn from the mistakes of others and the mistakes demonstrated in the annals of history. So, how smart are we, really? The gringa’s thinkin’, um, maybe not so smart.

As NASA and other space agencies throughout the world use their technologies to create models of what to expect from climate change, they have continued to share their knowledge with the world. Some folks are listening, others are not. Some folks are taking action, others are not. Of those taking action, it just doesn’t seem like their efforts are enough on their own. And considering what the world’s top scientists are warning everyone about, the gringa’s only conclusion is that, as a whole, man’s just not the sharpest pencil in the box.

Climate change scientists are concerned that the world’s current usage level of raw materials and natural resources is unsustainable, period. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. We have just got to stop using up all of this stuff! Just stop it, I tell ya! If we don’t, eventually the industries that depend on these resources will simply collapse because there will not be enough materials to support their production. But what exactly are we talking about? We are talking about the basic raw materials that end up being a necessary component in just about everything we use in everyday life:

  • Trees (lumber, paper, building materials, shipping containers, etc.)
  • Petroleum
  • Fresh water
  • Raw ores and metals (not vital for jewelry but vital for technology)

And that’s just a few, not to mention basic food crops like grains that the entire world is dependent on and requires vast amounts of fresh water for cultivation.

So what happens when vital industries collapse? How can the effect upon society be known? Won’t some very clever entrepreneur simply come up with a suitable alternative to replace what collapsed, using a completely novel material? Well, that’s not what history teaches us.

Throughout history many great nations and empires have collapsed due to some significant event that led to the decline of the population and their economy. The pattern reflects that such collapses of empires is usually preceded by a culture that becomes obsessed with accumulating wealth at the price of oppressing the poorer working classes. Once this becomes the societal norm the culture has become a predator vs. prey culture.

It seems pretty obvious to the gringa that, at least in her own country, the United States, this is the current state of things. So, if my nation has evolved into the cultural stage that precedes a collapse of the state system, is there anything that can be done to prevent the collapse or are we too far gone?

Experts say that the condition is possibly reversible if the culture will do one very important thing:  Reduce consumption to a sustainable level and distribute resources more equitably. This solution sounds pretty simple for a highly complex problem and civilization.

How in the heck do these experts expect Americans to change their consumer culture? Their consumer culture is EXACTLY what defines them. Americans are not proud of a heritage of literature or fine art or musical progenies who produce operas. Americans are proud inventors and innovators and entrepreneurs who sell lots of goods and services in order to make lots of money so they can turn around and buy lots of goods and services to serve as the evidence that they were successful to begin with by their own selling of goods and services. The gringa believes the United States is doomed because the very actions they believe has made the country great is the very behavior that is going to bring it down. Gross consumerism.

So, if America is doomed to collapse, then what will happen? Well, when the Roman Empire bit the dust centuries followed where the population declined. Sick folks couldn’t afford medical treatment so death rates were higher. Young people had uncertain futures so there were fewer pregnancies. What pregnancies there were experienced higher infant mortality because diets were poorer and medical treatment less accessible. The Romans also became dumber because education takes a back seat as a priority when a person is trying to eke out an existence in a collapsed empire. In fact, the population of Rome became widely illiterate.

Amazing how such an advanced civilization spoiled itself to the point that it collapsed and regressed and de-volved. But it happened. And it happened to more empires than just Rome. For example, these are other nations that made it to the pinnacle of existence and then fell to their deaths:

  • Minoa
  • Mycenaea
  • Mesopotamia
  • Sumera
  • Akkadia
  • Babylon
  • Abbasid Empire
  • Umayyad Empire
  • Sassanid Empire
  • Egypt
  • Hittite civilization
  • Mauryan Empire
  • Gupta Empire
  • Zhou Empire
  • Han Empire
  • Tang Empire
  • Song Empire
  • Maya civilization

Let’s stop there and note that the Mayans had reached a point in their society where they were ruled by kings. Their science and astronomy was highly advanced. Metallurgists and craftsmen created magnificent art and jewelry. And then this highly ordered civilization with their kings and calendars and sophisticated political system and complex culture lost well over 90% of their population.

This cycle of rise to power, period of indulgence then collapse into dissolution is worldwide. It has occurred in virtually every major civilization on every continent in the world. No people has been immune. And each civilization was arrogant enough to believe that they would be the exception to the historical rule. Much like my own nation.

So, the gringa watches and waits, considering the checklist of the many events that can trigger the collapse of a civilization:

  • Natural disasters
  • Environmental changes/catastrophes
  • War, civil war or foreign invasion
  • Technology development
  • Weapons development
  • Changes in trade
  • Depletion of natural resources
  • Cultural revolution and unrest

Well, pretty much everything on the list has either happened or seems rather imminent. So now what happens in the predator vs. prey model of America? Well, as the predator becomes more and more enriched, they begin to outgrow the available prey population. The population of the prey will continue to decline. The predator will then have to turn elsewhere to have their needs met. That can be done by creating wars for profit in other countries, assisting in regime changes to place in power a leader who is friendly and will allow exploitation of their people and natural resources, and trade agreements with friendly nations that openly exploit their natural resources and population. Yes, that is America.

But the bad news is that when a predator population begins to rage out of control and threatens the natural order of things, it also begins to decline with disease from growing fat with overfeeding. It then declines even more as it becomes malnourished due to a decline in available prey caused by its gross overfeeding. And then, finally, the predator weakens to the point that it can no longer regain its strength and former glory and a greater and stronger predator swoops in and takes out the competition. And this little rabbit is watching and seeing everything that the wolves are doing.

 

Sources:  www.nasa.gov

www.space.com

 

Image credit:  www.newsgrist.typepad.com

 

 

 

 

NASA & The Hub


The gringa often hears folks say things like, “NASA is really doing some amazing things, but it doesn’t seem like much of their technology is really helpful to us regular folks here on Earth.” Well, actually, there are great spin-off benefits to all that amazing space technology.

Consider the new program underway in Australia. An Australian organization, National Resources Management Spatial Hub (NRM Hub, or, more commonly, the Hub), is using satellite images of Earth provided by NASA, and other space agencies, to help them better manage rangeland. As global populations continue to grow, demand rises for meat production. Now, more than ever before, do Australia’s ranchers need every edge they can get to meet this demand by using sustainable methods.

With over eighty percent of Australia classified as rangeland, more commonly known as the “Outback”, Earth observation technology is helping ranchers make better land management decisions. This will help leave a stable environment for future generations. With so much land mass available for grazing in its natural condition, Australia is in a unique position to produce meat for the global community without the need to resort to slash and burn forests to create grazing areas. This is good news for climate change by recognizing one resource to utilize responsibly and reduce deforestation.

Earth observation data also helps Australia’s land managers develop innovative ways to manage their precious water resources. The data also provides an overall, panoramic, “big picture” perspective so that ranchers can determine which grassland areas may be overgrazed. They can then reorganize their grazing plans, moving herds to other areas and promote the health of their rangelands.

The Hub is comprised of over 20 Australian agencies, federal and state, as well as research organizations and industry related organizations. They put to good use the satellite images provided by NASA. The Aqua and Terra satellites provide new images on a 16 day cycle. As images are collected over the years, more knowledge is gained in tracking and understanding climate conditions such as drought. This gives ranchers the information they need to make critical ranching decisions.

Ranchers don’t just want to make money, they also want to maintain healthy land that can pass into the hands of their children who continue the ranching tradition. Many of Australia’s ranches have remained in families for generations. They take great pride not just in producing meat and wool, but also in being environmentally conscious.

The Hub has produced results that have impressed the agricultural community in Australia. It has grown from its original 40 properties to 120 ranches presently. At least another 100 are on a waiting list to join the program. This is the agriculture of the future, farming and ranching as a hi-tech, global community effort.

Similar techniques such as what the Hub uses in Australia are being put into practice in other areas like Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso where satellite data is used to measure potential agricultural output. In South Asia data monitors rice production, the grain upon which the world is most dependent.

After all this scribbling about meat production and such, the gringa is going to have to push herself away from the desk and throw a juicy T-bone on the grill. Ta!

Source & Photo Credit:  www.nasa.gov    www.nrmhub.com.au