Archive for December, 2009

If you know me, I’m not usually one to ask for people to sign petitions. So I hope this will have you stop and take a look – and then take action.

If I could sign only one petition, this would be it. It is much more than just a signature.


Click the link, and it will explain the situation much more clearly and concisely than I can.


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Courtesy of YJ. Informationisbeautiful does audiences worldwide a huge favour by visualising information in clear, concise ways. Here is one of the visualisations, that is applicable to science. Click here for more.

What’s best about this ‘map’, is that this is what the author managed to get ONLINE, using websites publicly available, without actually talking to climate scientists. It’s what would happen to me, or you, or anyone else who isn’t a climate scientist and is trying to find out what is happening. And it was “a mammoth task” – so please, climate change scientists, this what I’m talking about when I say scientists should learn to communicate, otherwise their research loses meaning.

This blog, realclimate.org, linked from informationisbeautiful, is done up by climate scientists, and even so is claimed to be too technical for the author. Still, I think it’s a good source at least.

It’s pretty sad nowadays to watch climate scientists get shot down by people who don’t know their facts – most of these people who hear about stuff from others, are influenced by politicians, and are not actually suffering the wrath of climate change themselves.

That said, I am in no way endorsing what the author of informationisbeautiful has placed on the map. It is simply a tool to look at things. I myself am not educated enough about climate change to claim any of these details as truths in research.

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A month ago, President Nasheed of the Maldives gave a powerful speech to urge everyone about consequences of the talks in Copenhagen. This is his speech. If you are still unconvinced that the world’s climate is changing, let it be clear that it is. The world is intricately connected – actions of people in one country can affect another severely. The world is not just ours, as it is not just the developed nation’s. The world is also limited, and our resources finite.

Let it be clear that your lifestyles are key to this change. Let it be clear that people are suffering all over this world.

President Nasheed’s Powerful Speech

Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

We gather in this hall today,
as some of the most climate-vulnerable nations on Earth.
We are vulnerable because
climate change threatens to hit us first; and hit us hardest.
And we are vulnerable because we have modest means
with which to protect ourselves from the coming disaster.

We are a diverse group of countries.
But we share one common enemy.
For us, climate change is no distant or
abstract threat; but a clear and present danger to our survival.

Climate change is melting the glaciers in Nepal.
It is causing flooding in Bangladesh.
It threatens to submerge the Maldives and Kiribati.
And in recent weeks, it has furthered drought in Tanzania,
and typhoons in the Philippines.

We are the frontline states in the climate change battle.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Developing nations did not cause the climate crisis.
We are not responsible for the hundreds of years
of carbon emissions, which are cooking the planet.

But the dangers climate change poses to our countries,
means that this crisis can no longer be considered somebody else’s problem.

Carbon knows no boundaries.
Whether we like it or not, we are all in this fight together.
For all of us gathered here today, inaction is not an option.

So, what can we do about it?

To my mind, whatever course of action we take must be based on the latest advice of climate scientists. Not on the advice of politicians like us.

As Copenhagen looms, and negotiators frantically search for a solution, it is easy to think that climate change is like any other international issue.

It is easy to assume that it can be solved
by a messy political compromise between powerful states.
But the fact of the matter is, we cannot negotiate
with the laws of physics.
We cannot cut a deal with Mother Nature.
We have to learn to live within the fixed planetary boundaries
that nature has set.

And it is increasingly clear that we are living way beyond those planetary means.

Scientists say that global carbon dioxide levels
must be brought back down below 350 parts per million.
And we can see why.
We have already overshot the safe landing space.

In consequence the ice caps are melting.
The rainforests are threatened.
And the world’s coral reefs are in imminent danger.

Members of the G8 rich countries have pledged to halt temperature rises to two degrees Celsius.

Yet they have refused to commit to the carbon targets, which would deliver even this modest goal.

At two degrees we would lose the coral reefs.
At two degrees we would melt Greenland.
At two degrees my country would not survive.
As a president I cannot accept this.

As a person I cannot accept this.

I refuse to believe that it is too late, and that we cannot do any about it.
Copenhagen is our date with destiny.
Let us go there with a better plan.

Ladies and gentlemen,
When we look around the world today,
there are few countries showing moral leadership on climate change.
There are plenty of politicians willing
to point the finger of blame.
But there are few prepared to help solve a crisis that,
left unchecked, will consume us all.

Few countries are willing to discuss
the scale of emissions reductions required to save the planet.
And the offers of adaptation support
for the most vulnerable nations are lamentable.
The sums of money on offer are so low,
it is like arriving at a earthquake zone with a dustpan and brush.

We don’t want to appear ungrateful
but the sums hardly address the scale of the challenge.
We are gathered here because
we are the most vulnerable group of nations to climate change.
The problem is already on us,
yet we have precious little with which to fight.

Some might prefer us to suffer in silence but today we have decided to speak.
And so I make this pledge today: we will not die quietly.

Ladies and gentlemen,
I believe in humanity.
I believe in human ingenuity.
I believe that with the right frame of mind, we can solve this crisis.

In the Maldives, we want to focus less on our plight;
and more on our potential.
We want to do what is best for the planet.
And what is best for our economic self-interest.

This is why, earlier this year, we announced plans
to become carbon neutral in ten years.
We will switch from oil to 100% renewable energy.
And we will offset aviation pollution,
until a way can be found to decarbonise air transport too.

To my mind, countries that have the foresight to green their economies today, will be the winners of tomorrow.
They will be the winners of this century.

These pioneering countries will free themselves
from the unpredictable price of foreign oil.
They will capitalize on the new, green economy of the future.

And they will enhance their moral standing,
giving them greater political influence on the world stage.
Here in the Maldives we have relinquished our claim to high-carbon growth.

After all, it is not carbon we want, but development.
It is not coal we want, but electricity.
It is not oil we want, but transport.

Low-carbon technologies now exist, to deliver all the goods and services we need.

Let us make the goal of using them.

Ladies and gentlemen,
A group of vulnerable, developing countries committed to carbon neutral development would send a loud message to the outside world.
If vulnerable, developing countries make a commitment to carbon neutrality, those opposed to change have nowhere left to hide.
If those with the least start doing the most, what excuse can the rich have for continuing inaction?

We know this is not an easy step to take,
and that there might be dangers along the way.
We want to shine a light, not loudly demand
that others go first into the dark.

So today, we want to share with you our carbon neutral strategy.
And we want to ask you to consider carbon neutrality yourselves.
I think a bloc of carbon-neutral, developing nations could change the outcome of Copenhagen.

At the moment every country arrives at the negotiations seeking to keep their own emissions as high as possible.
They never make commitments, unless someone else does first.

This is the logic of the madhouse, a recipe for collective suicide.

We don’t want a global suicide pact.
And we will not sign a global suicide pact, in Copenhagen or anywhere.

So today, I invite some of the most vulnerable nations in the world, to join a global survival pact instead.
We are all in this as one.
We stand or fall together.
I hope you will join me in deciding to stand.


Head here to sign a petition that will deliver your name to President Nasheed, who will speak at the Copenhagen conference.

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Anyone involved in conservation will know that poaching is a severe issue that has yet to be addressed in many countries. Animals made into commodities, perpetuated through their use as medicine, artefacts for display, or hunting enjoyment, is something that goes on still.

The first innovative approach to catch poachers I have heard of is taken by the company, Custom Robotic Wildlife.

Photo source: Wired.com

Creating remote-controlled animal decoys, they use a tag team of four-person sting operations to catch poachers in the act. One controls the robot animal, one videotapes the poaching, and the last two tackle the hunters, who then find themselves with fines, or jail time.

Are these decoys actually convincing?

Taxidermy is used to good effect here – corpses of the desired animal robot are taken and stuffed, with the wired devices hidden in parts of the animal least likely to be shot at by poachers.

Not that I could find any statistics on how successful these operations have been, but noting that they make coyotes, deer, elk, antelope and bears, it sure seems like more people are giving them a try. Of course, they also make these robots for people who just simply want to chase off annoying geese on their lawn, or to law-abiding hunters as decoys.

Interesting approach. I’m skeptical, but well, we could use all the creative approaches we can think of.

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I just received news of this – do spread news of the program to people you know fit the bill!

Bayer Young Environmental Envoy program – welcoming youths between 17 – 24 years of age to apply with proposals of environmental projects they would like to see put into action – if they are selected for this program, together with 11 other Singaporeans they will join an environmental leadership camp in Singapore, and possibly an all expenses paid trip to Germany awaits them! 4 students from Singapore will be selected for the trip to Germany, which is there for the youths to gain exposure to wide number of environmental measures currently used by all levels of government and industry in Germany.

Find out more HERE.

Should you know any persons interested please do pass it on! The brochure can be attained through the website, and so is the application form available there. (: This seems like a really good opportunity for people passionately involved in environmental issues to channel their energies proactively.

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I may be late in finding out about this organisation, but they are interesting. 350.org is co-founded by Bill McKibben, one of the first authors on global warming to the public, back when no one really knew much about it.

Find out about them in 90 seconds, all images and 0 words.

As a platform to mobilise people to action all over the world creatively, 350.org has reached out to over 180 countries all over the world.

Ask them why 350 – and you’ll soon find out that 350 is the safe level of carbon dioxide to have in the atmosphere, as deduced by scientists (Hansen et. al., 2008) through environmental modelling. Don’t just take anyone’s word for it, read the actual paper through the reference.

One thing that resonates loudly with me, is that they are using 350 as a way to reach out to people of all countries and languages, because numbers, images and changes can be universally understood.

In the same vein that Win-Win Ecology by Michael Rosenzweig illustrates, sometimes movements have to be radically different (read: NOT revolutionary, because revolutions are dangerous) for people to sit up and take notice.

Focussing on positive action, Rosenzweig’s main opening in the book brings up an interesting idea. I am recalling this offhand, because I don’t have the book with me. His book opens by saying that there are, basically, two ‘R’s in ecology now. Reservation ecology, and restoration ecology. These terms are pretty self-explanatory. We reserve land for wildlife and biodiversity, in nature reserves and parks, botanical gardens and marine protected areas. Restoration biology talks about protecting new areas that were previously occupied, through active human intervention.

He then proceeds to call for the third ‘R’ in ecology: reconciliation ecology. If there is land to be used, man trumps wildlife – and the number of reserves and their sizes are likewise limited. Habitat loss is one of the leading causes of extinction. It has happened, and still is happening. So what happens to the wildlife then? According to Rosenzweig, this is where reconciliation ecology comes to the rescue. By designing and integrating reconciliation ecology in every aspect of building society, we can share our land with wildlife – so that land is not necessarily a mutually exclusive part of the earth anymore. Anthropocentric outlook, I know.

Still, it’s an interesting book to read, with many astonishing examples of reconciliation ecology, and a good concept to keep in mind – that said, it cannot be, as he proclaims, the way forward – simply because there are many animals that cannot share the same living space as us, as we in theirs. They require particular habitats, environmental conditions, etc. We cannot hope to occupy every bit of the earth and keep our biodiversity and ecosystems intact. A much more extended response to Rosenzweig’s rose-tinted ecology is written here, by Thomas Brooks in 2003.

Lastly, in this short update of mine, is on James Hansen’s desire for Copenhagen talks to fail – if they were fixated solely establishing a ‘cap and trade’ system, that is, in his view, fundamentally wrong as an approach.

What he says then, is intensely thought provoking:

“This is analogous to the issue of slavery faced by Abraham Lincoln or the issue of Nazism faced by Winston Churchill. On those kind of issues you cannot compromise. You can’t say let’s reduce slavery, let’s find a compromise and reduce it 50% or reduce it 40%.”

Read the complete interview with The Guardian here.

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