Hard Rain Journal (9-24-06): Climate Crisis Update -- News on Farmers, Home Builders and Small Business Owners from Costa Rica and the UK
By Richard Power
Climate change and sustainability are interdependent issues that demand urgent and sweeping action at all levels of government and business throughout the world.
Here are three stories that both underscore the all-encompassing nature of this imperative and illustrate its global scope:
Small businesses in the UK are ill-equipped to cope with flooding caused by climate change, according to a report by AXA Insurance. Nine out of 10 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are under-insured, leaving a £865 million ($1.64 billion) insurance gap, according to the report. Although 85% of businesses surveyed by AXA think that climate change is a problem for the world, only 26% think it is a threat to them.
The firm also surveyed small and medium-sized businesses in flood risk areas in England and Scotland, and found that 71% were not concerned about the risk that flooding would disrupt their business and 69% had no business contingency plan.
One third of businesses in these areas had no insurance to cover them for loss of earnings or business interruptions caused by flooding.
AXA Insurance chief executive Peter Hubbard said: "Despite their vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, SMEs are yet to take the threat posed by climate change seriously enough, and it is imperative that government and the insurance industry work in partnership to ensure that business is adequately prepared and supported." Small businesses at risk on climate change – AXA, 9-21-06
Radical plans are being drawn up to make Britain's houses the most environmentally friendly in Europe, with new "zero-carbon" developments proposed to cut back on global warming. The measures - being drawn up by Yvette Cooper, the housing and planning minister - will surprise environmentalists, who have long criticised the country's appalling record on building "green" homes. She plans to introduce new codes and building regulations to surpass Scandinavian standards, for decades the best in Europe, and is to launch a competition to encourage builders to produce eco-housing. And last Friday she launched a study into how to provide zero-carbon developments in the Thames Gateway.
Britain's homes produce about a quarter of the country's entire emissions of carbon dioxide, the major cause of climate change. Half of them have less than a third of the right amount of loft insulation, though two-thirds of Britons say that they would be ready to pay more for an energy-efficient home....This revolutionary eco-development is to be built in the Thames Gateway by a new company, Bioregional Quintain Ltd, specifically formed to construct green housing. It has been designed by Foster and Partners with finance from the Government and WWF.
1 Low dual-flush WC.
2 Sewage is sent to be turned into fuel in a biogas plant.
3 Low-flow shower head.
4 Wastewater sent to be treated.
5 Electricity from wind turbines, solar panels and a combined heat and power plant fuelled by biomass.
6 Built-in recycling containers.
7 Energy-saving lighting and appliances.
8 Space heating and cooling.
9 Fruit trees and farmers' market.
10 Green roofs and terraces growing grass and plants.
11 Store for cold water in aquifer to cool buildings in summer.
12 Store for warm water in aquifer to heat them in winter.
13 Wind turbines.
14 Energy centre with anaerobic digester biogas plant.
15 Gravel and reed beds for purifying wastewater before it is used for irrigation. Geoffrey Lean, The green house of the future, 9-24-06
It wasn't so long ago that farmers and cattle herders in southern Costa Rica, in their efforts to survive, had nearly destroyed part of one of the world's most beautiful rain forests.
The forests were burned for pasture and farming land. Their trees, like valuable mahogany, were illegally logged. Once the forests were burned away, the land was farmed and grazed until it was stripped of nutrients, barren and dry. Because it could no longer sustain life, families who once lived on the land became immigrants, migrating to cities to find jobs....
The story is one well known by members of CATIE, the Costa Rica-based Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center....
In Costa Rica, Ferreira says CATIE has had some major success. Visit that same patch of barren land in the south today, and you will find a completely different scenario.
Illegal logging has been nearly eliminated because loggers have been taught how to harvest trees sustainably. Because the methods they use do not harm the rain forest, the wood is certified sustainable, and loggers sell it in international markets where environmentally friendly wood is in fashion.
Cattle herders have been taught how to graze their cattle on limited pasture without stripping it of its nutrients. They also are given money to plant trees on some of the pasture they had cleared for grazing. The result is that the rain forest, at least in Costa Rica, is coming back. Tourism in the area has increased....
But CATIE still has a lot of work to do. The group, which also is a university, is on the front lines in preventing climate change. The burning of rain forests is still a huge problem in Central and South America and because of the way it affects the climate, it will become a world-wide problem, said scientist Bryan Finegan, who teaches at CATIE.
The carbon dioxide released by burning rain forests is a major factor contributing to global warming. Scientists attribute 20 to 25 percent of the harmful carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to the practice of burning the forests by loggers, miners, cattle ranchers and subsistence farmers....
In Brazil, Finegan said the situation is accelerating with two successive years of droughtlike conditions. When farmers set fires to clear land, the fires often spread out of control because of the dry conditions.
Deforestation happens anyway, but climate change is making the situation worse... NATALIE STOREY, Costa Rican center on front lines of climate-change fight, The New Mexican, 9-24-06
Unfortunately, the political establishment in many countries is not providing leadership; nor is the mainstream news media. In both cases, this failure of leadership, at least among the great nations, is most egregious in the USA.
Want to participate in the effort to mitigate the impact of global warming? Download "Ten Things You Can Do"
There is a powerful magic in personal commitment.
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Global Warming, Energy Security, Environmental Security, Alternate Energy, Sustainability, Renewable Resources, Climate Change, Weather, Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth, Extreme Weather, Green Homes, CATIE, Crisis Management, Floods, Droughts, Forest Fires, Costa Rica, United Kingdom