FAIR TRADE IN A WORLD OF CLIMATE CHANGE

Hands-Holding-Seeds1-1200x520While governments, scientists, civil society and others convened at the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the U.N.’s weather agency reported that 2011 was the 10th hottest year since records began in 1850. Though politicians and pundits may still debate the origins and impacts of climate change, there is a general consensus in the scientific community that we are experiencing a significant shift in the earth?s climate. This shift has particular significance for people living in the developing world and those who depend primarily on both subsistence and commercial agriculture for their livelihoods. Farmers are on the frontlines of climate change and are confronted with daily evidence, facing ever chaotic and extreme weather conditions.

2011 marked a flashpoint for many small farmers and fair trade producers. Fair trade producers from Mexico and Colombia to Ghana and Indonesia experienced a record number of climate change influenced disasters, including landslides, severe floods and crop failure. According to Fairtrade International (FLO), fair trade farmers are experiencing up to 28% reductions in yield due to erratic weather patterns and droughts. Small farmers, already vulnerable from a lack of financing options, limited market access and/or volatile markets, among other factors, are now faced with lower yields, ?natural? disasters and higher costs to adapt to and mitigate climate change impacts.

Climate change is impacting specific crops in very specific ways. A recent report by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) detailed how a significant percentage of Ivory Coast and Ghana, the two biggest cocoa producing countries, will be too hot for cocoa by 2030. Compounded by erratic and unpredictable weather patterns, flooding and new pests, cocoa and cocoa producers have a very bleak future. Sadly, this pattern is replicated in other crops like coffee. Coffee producing regions are experiencing a dangerous combination of lower rainfall and higher temperatures, which some speculate will render production unsustainable in lowland countries and regions by 2050. While coffee plants may be able to adapt to higher altitudes in search of cooler temperatures, small farmers are tied to their land, both historically and financially. The United States Agency for International Development?s (USAID) work with the Global Climate Change Initiative recently published a study that analyzed a number of intersections of climate change, poverty and agriculture. Key to the study is an index of ?country vulnerability? with many of the countries with significant fair trade presences ranked as ?extremely? vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change.

Read more: http://overgrowthesystem.com/fair-trade-in-a-world-of-climate-change/

If America cared about the planet as much as the NFL, this is what it would look like

110What if people showed the same zeal toward environmentalism as they did sports? That’s the premise of BuzzFeed Yellow’s new video, “If We Cared About The Environment Like We Care About Sports.” The clip imagines greenies going wild over the rejection of a mountaintop removal bill, watercooler banter about a presidential address (“Did you see Obama’s climate speech last night?” “Oh no no no! Don’t spoil it! I had to DVR it.”), and one beer buddy telling another, “John Muir was the best American preservationist of all time. Period.”

Read more: http://grist.org/list/if-america-cared-about-the-planet-as-much-as-the-nfl-this-is-what-it-would-look-like/

Jen Gale’s Simple Kitchen Energy Saving Tips!

If you are anything like Jen, you might spend a reasonable amount of time thinking about food-what to make, new recipes to try out etc etc.

But how many of us put much thought into how much energy we use cooking our food? Eating is after all, essential. But are there ways we can eat well and save energy (and money!) at the same time?

The answer is yes! Here are Jen’s top tips for cooking with less (energy).

  • Batch cook-in the ‘good-old days’, it was not uncommon to set aside one day a week to baking everything that would be needed for the coming week. It saves all the energy that would be needed heating up the oven each time. Batch cooking savoury dishes also works well (and saves you time). Freeze what you don’t eat ready for another day
  • The energy saving-ness (not a word we know) of Slow Cookers has been independently verified. By me For a ‘roast chicken’ they use less than a third of the energy. Apparently you can also use slow cookers for jacket potatoes, and cakes- potentially life changing..!
  • Pre-soak rice and pasta in cold water to reduce the cooking time. Another method that has been tried and tested with some success, is to put the pasta in the pan with cold water, bring it up to the boil, with a lid on, then turn the heat off and leave it to cook in the residual heat. It takes a few minutes longer, but it does work.
  • Get a wonderbag, or make yourself a wonder box, or haybox
  • Halogen cookers are supposed to be lower in energy than conventional electric ones, as areRemoska mini-electric ovens
  • If you have a combi microwave, it can also act as an oven and a grill, and uses much less energy, as it is a smaller space to heat

Read more: http://www.startuk.org/jen-gales-simple-kitchen-energy-saving-tips/

Food expiration dates are garbage. Here’s a new label that’ll make you think before you toss.

Food expiration dates are for wussies. No seriously, they’re really not that important. Dates on labels like “best by,” “best-before,” or “enjoy by” are actually just guidelines from food manufacturers advising retailers when they think their food will be the tastiest. More often than not, most food is edible for days or weeks after the suggested date on a label.

That means most of us are probably throwing away hard-earned groceries. We toss about 40 percent of all the food we buy, or more than 20 pounds per person each month. Cue Bump Mark, a new food label meant to safeguard against unnecessary tossing.

The label is made of four different layers from top to bottom: plastic film, a layer of gelatin, a plastic bump sheet, and another piece of plastic film. As the food inside the package starts to decay, so does the gelatin in the label. By the time both the food inside and the gelatin have expired, all that’s left on the label is the layer of bumps. As long as the label is still smooth to the touch, the food is still OK to eat. The Washington Post reports:

Read more: http://grist.org/list/food-expiration-dates-are-garbage-heres-a-new-label-thatll-make-you-think-before-you-toss/

'It Is Not Hopeless,' says World's Chief Climate Scientist

As Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change opens meeting to finalize latest report to the world, head of agency says meeting challenge of global warming will not be easy, but that it can be done

"It is not hopeless."

That was the key message delivered in Copenhagen on Monday by Rajendra Pachauri, chairperson of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as the agency met to finalize the findings and language of its pending Synthesis Report, the last installment of its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), designed to provide the world's policymakers with a comprehensive scientific assessment of the risks of human-caused global warming and climate change.

"The Synthesis Report will provide the roadmap by which policymakers will hopefully find their way to a global agreement to finally reverse course on climate change," said Pachauri. "It gives us the knowledge to make informed choices, the knowledge to build a brighter, more sustainable future. It enhances our vital understanding of the rationale for action—and the serious implications for inaction."

What was critical for world leaders, policymakers and the global public at large to understand, he said, was that though it won't be easy to avert the worse impacts of the world's changing climate, it is possible.

Read more: http://www.commondreams.org/news/2014/10/28/it-not-hopeless-says-worlds-chief-climate-scientist

The Revolution That Wasn’t: Why the Fracking Phenomenon Will Leave Us High and Dry

yellow-brick-frack-blogA new, landmark report shows that hopes of a long-term golden era in American oil & gas production are unfounded.

America’s energy landscape has undergone a dramatic shift over the last decade—literally and figuratively—as a result of the widespread use of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”). Whole areas of the country have been transformed in a matter of months, while the fossil fuel industry has reversed the decades-long decline in crude oil production and increased natural gas production to record highs. Thanks to shale gas and tight oil (“shale oil”), by 2013 annual crude oil production was 24% higher and natural gas was 20% higher compared to just ten years earlier.

While this achievement is impressive, it pales in comparison to the sea change that has been triggered in “conventional wisdom” about our energy future. In a few short years we have gone from President Bush warning that the U.S. was addicted to oil and dangerously reliant on Middle East imports to fears of a production glut, as a recent New York Times article stated:

With domestic oil production growing month after month, many oil experts predict that the country’s output will rise to as much as 12 million barrels a day over the next decade, which would mean the country will be swimming in oil the way it is currently dealing with a surplus of natural gas.

Analysts at Turner, Mason & Company, a Dallas engineering consulting firm, say the country could hit a saturation point when production hits 10 million to 10.5 million barrels a day, at which point large exports will become necessary or drilling and production may have to slow.

Running Down a Dream

While the so-called “shale revolution” came as a complete surprise to most analysts and government forecasters, the conventional wisdom now appears to be that this is the beginning of a long-term transformation. Production of shale gas and tight oil in the U.S. is expected to grow at breakneck speeds throughout the decade, with natural gas production increasing for the next 25 years while domestic oil production peaks by the end of this decade and slowly declines to near current levels by 2040. Not only will supplies expand, according to conventional wisdom, but oil and natural gas prices will remain stable and relatively low for decades to come.

Far from being an academic exercise, the implications of this shift in conventional wisdom are profound and far ranging—influencing geopolitics, climate policy, domestic manufacturing and jobs, investments in renewable energy, and the health and well-being being of communities across the country. In fact, the perception of a long-term oil and gas boom has led to:

Read more: http://www.postcarbon.org/the-revolution-that-wasnt-why-the-fracking-phenomenon-will-leave-us-high-and-dry/

Succession Planting: Keep It Coming

A smart succession plan means fresh food from spring until snowfall.

Get Acquainted

Succession planting—following one crop with another—is the most important tool for maximizing a garden's yield. Creating a detailed succession plan now eliminates the guesswork of what and when to plant later on in the season. Get started by making a list of all the vegetables you want to grow and developing an understanding of their individual growth habits and preferences.

Catalog descriptions and seed packet instructions offer each vegetable's vital statistics, including when to first plant in spring, how many days the variety takes to reach maturity, how much space it requires, and if it is frost-tolerant.

Consider, too, how long each vegetable produces. Some crops, such as radishes and cress, have a harvest period of just a few weeks. Carrots, beets, and other vegetables with an intermediate maturation time may be sown in spring and again in late summer for fall and winter harvests. Others, including tomatoes and peppers, are long-season crops that bear continuously, while Brussels sprouts, corn, and winter squash remain in the ground for several months but only bear at the end of their season.

Create a Planting Schedule

Assembling all of this crop information into a planting plan is a bit like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle of the garden. Simplify things by drawing a spring, summer, and fall diagram of each bed. Begin plugging vegetables into the diagram, with early, quick crops followed by long-season ones. Be sure to note the approximate date each crop needs to be sown or transplanted and when the expected harvest date is.

Read more: http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/succession-planting-keep-it-coming

Power storage group Alevo plan 1bn US battery plant

Swiss-based group launch new battery technology that they claim will be a breakthrough for storing excess clean energy, and create 2,500 jobs in the US

Wind turbines in motion  in Windfarm in  CaliforniaCould a long-vacant cigarette factory in North Carolina build the rechargeable battery that will unlock the future of the clean energy economy?

The Swiss-based Alevo Group launched the new battery technology on Tuesday. After spending $68.5m (£42.5m) for the factory, the group said it would spend up to $1bn to develop a system that would get rid of waste on the grid and expand the use of wind and solar power.

The project, a joint venture with state-owned China-ZK International EnergyInvestment Co, aims to ship its first GridBank, its patented battery array, to Guangdong Province this year, going into production on a commercial scale in mid-2015.

The container-sized arrays store 2MW and would be installed on-site at power plants.

Jostein Eikeland, Alevo’s chief executive, said in an interview that the company had an agreement with the Turkish state power authority, and was in discussions with US power companies.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/oct/28/power-storage-group-alevo-plan-1bn-us-battery-plant?view=mobile

Should meat be a luxury?

Mom and dad, cover your eyes. Now that my cattle-ranching parents aren’t reading, I’ll say it: Americans eat too much meat. We’ve gone from eating four ounces of meat twice a week in 1920 to eating 4.4 to 6.9 ounces a day, according to a recent New Yorker article. To keep up with demand, the U.S. brims with monstrous factory farms. And that’s not healthy for animals, humans, or the planet.

So, how to solve meat overconsumption? You could approach meat as a sometimes-treat and utilize less-popular cuts and organs like tongue. Meat-as-luxury, an idea as old as time, has been applauded by many food thinkers. But Dana Goodyear’s aforementioned article “Elite Meat” does an excellent job of showing how that looks on the ground.

Goodyear profiles Anya Fernald, the co-founder and CEO of Belcampo, a company that includes a sustainable farm, a slaughterhouse, butcher shops, and restaurants. At $15.99 a pound for skinless chicken breasts, the resulting meat is pricey — but that doesn’t keep Belcampo’s products from flying off the shelf.

Read more: http://grist.org/food/should-meat-be-a-luxury/

Frugal lessons from the Amish

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Amish people and communities are unique in many ways, and their “Christian” doctrine and beliefs shall not be to discussion here for we can degree or disagree with them.

amish-buggy-500x339To most outsiders, they are known mostly as soft-spoken people who live a simple life, don’t use (mains) electricity, have no telephone (inside the house) and don’t drive cars. I have put some aspects here in brackets for the Amish are not just one entirely homogenous group with the same set of rules. Some allow electricity, as long as it is not from the grid, which means they may use generators, solar or wind, or other means of generating it, in the same way that some will not have a telephone at all while others simply will not permit one in the house and thus have an outhouse with a phone.

They’ve also had just enough bad press to make some people wary. No matter what your opinion of their beliefs, the traditional Amish lifestyle offers some (financial) advantages that anyone might consider adopting. Obviously, some adjustments involve sacrifices and commitments that not everyone is going to want to make, but the principles can still help you find ways to save. Here are some lessons to be learned from these “plain people”:

Sometimes “Need” really means “Want”

Most people cultivate a sense of need for things they could live without. Since most aren’t driven by a culture that abhors amenities, it can take a financial crisis to help a person realize what he or she can give up. How many times have you said, or heard said something like, “A person has to have some comforts.” to justify that second television, or a luxury car, or something similar? If saving money is your goal, take a look around and figure out what the real necessities are.

As I have said more than ones in my many writings on the matter of needs and wants is that many of our perceived needs are but wants, more often than not created by advertising.

Simple is good

In many ways, the things we spend extra money on either complicate our lives or end up costing more in the long run. A self-propelled lawnmower doesn’t cut grass any better; it’s just easier and has more moving parts to replace. A brisk hike in the fresh air is just as effective as that 30 minute stroll on an expensive treadmill and you’ll enjoy it more. Manual hedge clippers are half as expensive as electric, less noisy and give your arms some exercise.

Simplicity is also making a comeback with technology in many instances with a retro-trend as far as cell-phones are concerned, for instance, where a fair number of people have begun to abandon the smartphones for the older forms of mobile telephones which were just that, mobile telephones.

When it comes to simplicity there are many aspects of our lives that would benefit from being simplified again and that also includes our reading and our filing and whatever else.

Pen, pencil and paper still have their place and in fact the place is getting bigger again as there are also many people who are returning to the real letter and to using pen and paper for taking notes and also storing hard copies of stuff rather than keeping it digitally on some media or even “in the cloud”.

There are many other things in our lives that also benefit from being kept as simple as possible as to complicate things often makes things more expensive and when something goes wrong with them makes them, nowadays, (almost) impossible to fix, to repair.

Grow your own

I know, not everyone can raise livestock or big crops, but most of us can grow a few vegetables or herbs, even if they’re of the miniature, indoor variety. You’ll save some money and get better tasting, healthier produce, too.

It is possible to grow your own in the smallest of places, as Vertical Veg proves on his site and in his courses. You do not have to have acres of land on which to grow healthy vegetables for yourself (and your family). Even a small balcony can provide at least some.

In addition to that, if you don't have the space to grow the amount that you think you want to grow or need to grow, there is always the possibility to have an allotment garden (though the waiting lists are rather long in many places in Britain). In other countries those plots go by different names but in essence it is all the same.

Many hands make light work – and less expense

When big projects arise in an Amish community, family and neighbors pitch in to get it done. Granted, if you live in the city, a barn raising is pretty much out of the question, but that doesn’t mean that family and friends can’t pitch in to mend that back fence or build a deck. Building codes in most cities will allow a homeowner to do their own home improvements and “employ” someone to help. You’ll need a permit for most work, and there will be inspections, but if you can’t afford a contractor, some free meals and maybe a case of beer might go a long way toward paying your friends.

But not everywhere is it that strict as in the Land of the Free, which does not seem to be as free as it is always made out to be. In some countries you can pretty much do a great deal more though a permit for extensions and such like may be required or for outbuildings on your property.

Craftsmanship isn’t about expensive tools

The reputation of Amish woodworkers is based on attention to detail, patience and secrets handed down through generations. Many of their tools are hand-made. You’re probably wondering what that has to do with saving money. It’s simple. Photographers can create awesome images without the top-of-the-line DSLR. Web developers can create great sites without owning the latest computer or software. Whatever you do, don’t get caught up in needing the biggest and best. Be the master of the tools you own and save some money.

Take care of your tools

Keeping the tools of your trade longer doesn’t mean letting them fall apart. Any skilled craftsman knows that without proper maintenance, tools fail. Keeping your equipment in shape means it will perform better, longer. Having to replace them because of premature failure isn’t cost-effective. Therefore, buying good tools, which may be a little more expensive than the cheap ones, are a much better investment than buying cheap ones that fall apart after only a short while.

Also, you don't have to buy new tools. Look for old quality tools that, with a little TLC, can be rescued and resurrected to outperform any new modern tool. This is because old tools were made by craftsmen who knew what the craftsmen who were going to use demanded in quality.

Quality is worth the investment

One of the reasons Amish furniture is in such high demand is that it lasts. Because of the meticulous construction methods and hand-selected materials, many Amish pieces become heirlooms. Sometimes saving money means paying a little more for something that you’re not going to be throwing away soon. Naturally, this applies to much more than furniture.

A handmade wooden spoon, a handmade knife, or other goods and products made lovingly with care to ensure that they last for several lifetimes are a much better investment than something that has built-in obsolescence and will break or otherwise no longer function in less that three years.

The biggest problem that we have today and why things don't last is the built-in obsolescence, designed by the manufacturers (and, dare I say, governments) so that we have to buy new every few years (to keep the economy growing) and that almost nothing made today can be repaired (easily and cheaply). When repair is more expensive than buying new then something has seriously gone wrong with our society, and that is the case today. Often spare parts can be more expensive than a new product and that just does not make sense at all.

Make the most of resources at hand

To an Amish farmer, a cow is a source of dairy products and fertilizer. A grove of trees can provide building materials, but needs to be managed well, because it also produces game for the dinner table, as well as other natural foods. Crops are rotated carefully to optimize soil condition and help control crop disease. Careful resource management helps Amish communities sustain themselves with little help from the outside. We can all save money by learning to manage, recycle and repurpose what we have.

Reuse and repurposing is also something that you will find on every Amish farm and it was – I stress the word was – commonplace once on every farm, homestead and the majority of homes everywhere.

To a degree, this is true, it was due to the fact that finances were tight and thus you did not just “pop out to the stores” to buy something or order it from a catalog or today on the Internet.

You did not goo out and buy glass storage jars; you used those that cam with stuff you bought. The same went for drinking glasses. You repurposed glass jars for those. Empty tin cans became pencil bins, scoops for chicken feed and soil for potting, and the list goes on and on. Other things were made from scrap wood in simple DIY fashion or more elaborate even.

Get the Most Out of What You Have

Those horse-drawn prams the Amish are so well known for are also handed down, and repaired or reconditioned many times over. So it is with their other possessions. The basic principle is that if something serves its purpose, it doesn’t need to be replaced. Imagine how much money you can save by keeping your car a few years after it’s paid off. How about refinishing the dining table instead of replacing it? Make what you own last a little longer and you’ll save.

The old adage from America “If it ain't broke don't fix it”, to a degree embodies this in that, if it is not broken and works well then do not replace it but keep using it and if it is broken and repairable then do so. It is worth it in the long run for (1) it more than likely saves you money and (2) as it has been working for a long time it will, repaired, work for another long while.

The Amish and other frugal folks also look after their belongings in a different way than do many of our contemporaries today. They do not seem to care that they have, for instance, lost something during a visit to the local park, as an example, and as I find on an almost daily basis, and go back to retrieve. They rather go and buy a new one. This is something that is so alien too me that I just cannot comprehend it.

Gifts Don’t Have to Break the Bank

Traditional Amish gifts for birthdays, etc. are simple, practical items and usually singular. A tool or an item of clothing is typical. More often than not handmade also. This was also the way when I was growing up, whether for birthdays, or other occasions. Bought gifts were very rare indeed.

While there’s no need to adjust your gift giving quite that radically, it wouldn’t hurt to consider buying one very thoughtful gift instead of a dozen expensive ones.

When it comes to surviving hard times, the Amish have sustained their culture and communities in North America for centuries, while relying mostly on themselves. What better example for those of us trying to provide for ourselves and our families in today’s economy?

© 2014