Check out: The TH Interview: Jeffrey Sachs, The World’s Sustainable Economist

May 7, 2008

Some interesting points of view!


Harvest 2008 showcases conservation in action in the winelands

May 7, 2008

BWI Member LabelThe Biodiversity & Wine Initiative, a pioneering partnership between the South African wine industry and the conservation sector, has released its long awaited label. The label, which features a sugar bird on a protea, serves to identify and endorse wines which have been produced in accordance with BWI’s conservation requirements.

According to Inge Kotze, BWI project coordinator “By supporting the BWI members displaying this label, you will be making a significant contribution to the long term conservation of critical natural habitats and species in the Western Cape winelands.”

“The month of May marks the launch of this label in celebration of International Biodiversity Day (22 May 2008). At this stage approximately 30 farms are displaying the label, obviously as marketing drive continues this number will increase,” explains Kotze. “The importance of the label is that it empowers consumers to favour wines which are ‘fynbos-friendly’ and contributing to the conservation of our unique Cape Floral region.

The majority of South Africa’s wine region falls within the highly sensitive Cape Floral Kingdom. This conservation initiative in the wine industry, is supported by the Botanical Society of South Africa and The Green Trust (a WWF – Nedbank partnership) works with committed wine farmers to set aside highly threatened natural habitat on their farms for conservation, while also ensuring that these members farm in an environmentally sensitive and sustainable manner.

BWI Champion Label

Currently, enlisted in BWI are 8 champions, 8 co-operative cellar members and 99 members.

: Villiersdorp Cellar and Uitvlucht Co-op Winery.

: Wallovale Vineyards, Armajaro Estates, Beaulieu Farm, Simonsig Estate and Muratie Wine Estate.

: La Motte is the 8th SA producer to receive champion status.

This brings the total area conserved amongst all the members and champions to 63709 ha which represents some 63% of the total vineyard footprint in the Cape winelands.

For more information on the projects and the conservation stories of participating wine producers, see

load shedding?

April 16, 2008

load shedding????

lets not beat around the bush here and use nice little terms provided by eskom to pretend that all is ok in the south african energy world.

lets call it what it is . . . . POWER FAILURE!

The Diesel Tree: Grow Your Own Oil

April 7, 2008

[ From Treehugger ]
You’d have thought that with 20,000 stories in our archives we might’ve at least mentioned this in passing. But it seems not. Australian farmers in the wet tropical region of North Queensland have bought over 20,000 of these so-called diesel trees. The intention is that in 15 or so years they’ll have their very own oil mine growing on their farmland.

Because, the Brazilian Copaifera langsdorfii, to use its botanical name, can be tapped not unlike a rubber tree, but instead of yielding rubbery latex it gives up a natural diesel. According to the nurseryman selling the trees, one hectare will yield about 12,000 litres annually. *

Once filtered—no complex refining required, apparently—it can be placed straight into a diesel tractor or truck. We read that a single Copaifera langsdorfii will continue to produce fuel oil for an impressive 70 years, with the only negative being that its particular form of diesel needs to be used within three months of extraction.

Oddly this is not news. The Center for New Crops & Plant Products, at Purdue University reports that it was first reported to the western world as far back as 1625. They observe reports from 1979 saying “Natives … drill a 5 centimeter hole into the 1-meter thick trunk and put a bung into it. Every 6 months or so, they remove the bung and collect 15 to 20 liters of the hydrocarbon.” The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation noted in a paper at the Eleventh world forestry congress back in 1997 on the topic of tree oil for cars that “… the potential of other alternatives such as the Amazon Copaifera langsdorfii need to be investigated.”

Copaifera langsdorfii can grow trunks 30 metres tall and store the oil in their unusual capilliary structure. The above image is a transverse section of the tree’s cells.

However Purdue University record that “An acre of 100 mature trees might thus be able to produce 25 barrels of fuel per year.”

Via ABC and Sydney Morning Herald

Image found at: ‘Richter, H.G., and Dallwitz, M.J. 2000 onwards. Commercial timbers: descriptions, illustrations, identification, and information retrieval. In English, French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish. Version: 16th April 2006.’

* I used to convert metric measurements in American imperial but when I discovered that the only countries that have failed to embrace metric are the USA, Liberia and Burma I stopped.

hacking for green

April 3, 2008

kym reckons that so long as people out there are competing to see how green they can be, its all good!

check out the “Hybrid Hackers” video on YouTube:

“Leadership” folly

April 2, 2008

Upon reading this depressing article in the Washington Post, I had to ask a few questions:

1. Since when did a fence ever stop illegal immigrants?

2. I wonder who received the financial kickback from the ‘fence company’?

3. When will governments and so-called “leaders” (leaders into darkness, I reckon) wake up to the fact that the earth is their livelihood and there is only so much it can take before it loses the ability to support us in the manner many are apparently accustomed?

Washington Post Article:

Environmental Laws to Be Waived for Fence

National Guardsmen weld a section of wall being erected along the international border that separates San Luis, Mexico, and San Luis, Ariz., in this file photo.
National Guardsmen weld a section of wall being erected along the international border that separates San Luis, Mexico, and San Luis, Ariz., in this file photo. (Matt York – Associated Press)
Lawmaker Accuses Administration of Abusing Authority to Build Barrier at Mexican Border

By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 2, 2008; Page A04

The Bush administration will waive more than 30 environmental and land-management laws in order to finish building 470 miles of border fence in the Southwest by the end of the year, officials said yesterday.

The move, permitted under an exemption granted by Congress, will be the most sweeping use of the administration’s waiver authority since it started building the fence to curb illegal immigration. It will affect environmentally sensitive areas in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

In a statement, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said the agency has no choice but to bypass the standard environment reviews required of the federal government. “Criminal activity at the border does not stop for endless debate or protracted litigation,” Chertoff said. “Congress and the American public have been adamant that they want and expect border security. We’re serious about delivering it, and these waivers will enable important security projects to keep moving forward. At the same time, we value the need for public input on any potential impact of our border infrastructure plans on the environment — and we will continue to solicit it.”

However, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, said the administration has exceeded what Congress intended when it granted the department added flexibility under the Real ID Act. “Today’s waiver represents an extreme abuse of authority,” he said in a statement. “Waiver authority should only be used as a last resort, not simply because the Department has failed to get the job done through the normal process. It was meant to be an exception, not the rule.”

The use of the waiver authority means that the agency will not have to conduct detailed reviews of how the fence’s components will affect wildlife, water quality and vegetation in the area where it is to be built. Some environmentalists have complained that the fence will disrupt the migrations of various species, including imperiled ones such as jaguars.

Two environmental advocacy organizations, Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club, have filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to review the constitutionality of the waiver provision. Rodger Schlickeisen, Defenders of Wildlife’s president, said yesterday’s announcement bolsters his group’s argument.

“Thanks to this action by the Bush administration, the border is in a sense more lawless now than when Americans first started moving West,” Schlickeisen said in a statement. “Laws ensuring clean water and clean air for us and our children — dismissed. Laws protecting wildlife, land, rivers, streams and places of cultural significance — just a bother to the Bush administration. Laws giving American citizens a voice in the process — gone. Clearly this is out of control.”

James L. Connaughton, who chairs the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said his aides have been working with the Department of Homeland Security to assess the environmental impact of the fence construction even if it does not meet the strict requirements of the law.

In a telephone interview yesterday, Connaughton said the administration is trying “to comply to the extent possible while meeting the deadline” for the fence’s construction.


March 31, 2008

kym hopes that this will become a rule rather than an exception . . .
wouldn’t it be nice if our prisons in South Africa could miraculously be self sufficient AND actulaly rehabilitate offenders.


Here’s an island prison that’s about as distant in principle from Alcatraz as is it in location. Bastoey Island, about 45 miles south of Oslo, hosts some of Norway’s worst offenders in what is effectively an eco-village working holiday camp.

Instead of the traditional barred cells, prisoners, including murderers, rapists, drug dealers and thieves, live in separate, unlocked houses on the island. Although only one and a half miles from the mainland, prisoners are reluctant to escape, lest they get returned to the typical maximum security unit and lose the privilege of serving their time where they’re learning valuable skills, as well as gaining respect for themselves, each other, and the environment.

The island prison uses solar panels, is almost self-sufficient with food from its own organic garden, and operates a strict recycling system. This is an interesting experiment in eco-therapy — where reconnecting offenders with nature may well also help develop a noble sense of purpose, that in turn helps them reconnect with society.

[ Source: celsias ]

March 13, 2008

Patrick Moore was in South Africa recently on a whirl wind tour touting nuclear as the only solution to our power shortages . . .

I attended one of his presentations and found his use of statistics very one sided and narrow (climate change is not only about carbon output) and I would have thought as an ecologist he would understand the interconnectedness of ‘things’. What I disliked the most about his presentations was his continuous need to slander the greenies to make himself seem so right. If he was so keen to move from the “politics of confrontation” to the “politics of consensus” and if he wanted to be “fighting for something” rather than against something, then perhaps he needs to consider remaining consistent and leave Greenpeace and the anti-nuclear pundits and the greenies alone and rather work on what he is fighting for.

The press release from Earthlife Africa below says much more about the character of Dr Patrick Moore, including the questioning of hie co-founder status of Greenpeace which he shouts out about all over the world. If he has such issues with Greenpeace, then why proclaim so loudly that you were once a part of it?

I believe it is time Dr Moore moved on and honestly faced up to who he is now:- a pro nuclear lobbyist, with little doubt, paid handsomely by the Nuclear Industry. Lets not be deceived by loud claims of environmental friendliness, the great-green-gravy-train it seems has started rolling.

Read the rest of this entry »

Travelling into the Future

March 13, 2008

The Energy Commissioner of the European Union Andris Piebalgs says Global oil prices may reach $200 per barrel in three years.
“When I arrived at the European Commission in 2004, a barrel of oil cost $52. It has doubled in three years. We can’t rule out that in 2011 it will be at $200,” Piebalgs told business daily El Economista. (Source: Press TV)

With oil prices soaring to heights previously regarded as a joke, a few “new” technologies are moving into the spotlight, offering alternatives to the traditional (old-fashioned?), fuel-guzzling (planet-wrecking) internal combustion engine.

The Air Car

Imagine a car that needs only air and emits only pure air out if its tailpipe! No longer are air cars in the world of our imaginations – the MDI Air Car is in production. Built with the high performance Compressed Air Technology (C.A.T.) developed by Formula One race car engineer Guy Negre, the Air Car is the major first step towards his ultimate vision: enabling clean driving at any speed and for any distance, at a cost that makes it a reality for everyone.

By Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards, the Air Car is classified as a “zero pollution car”, as there are no emissions from the tailpipe. Designed to make a major difference in urban areas the Air Car runs exclusively on compressed air at lower speeds, emitting only air = zero pollution.

At speeds above 60km/h the revolutionary dual-energy compressed air engine is expected to achieve a fuel economy of a remarkable 106 miles per gallon (about). Using small amounts of fuel (gasoline, propane, ethanol or biofuels) to heat air inside a heating chamber as it enters the engine; the process produces emissions of only 0.158lbs of CO2 per mile. That is up to 4 times less than the average vehicle and 2 times less than the cleanest vehicle available today.

The Air Car can be refilled with Air at home by plugging it into a normal power outlet or in a few minutes at a compressed air station. The compressed Air tank will also automatically refill when driving at higher speeds in the future.

The miniCAT’s model specifications speak for themselves:

MDI Air Car miniCAT’s Specifications

The Tesla Roadster

Think that electric cars are sluggish, slow & dull?
Think again!

Tesla Motors has produced a sexy 2-seater, open-top roadster with a top speed of 125 mph (200km/h). But it is the 0 to 60 mph (96.5km/h) in 4.0 seconds acceleration that is making car enthusiasts excited. The Tesla Roadster is quick, it’s quiet, it is certainly sexy and it requires NO PETROL! Plug it into its at-home charging unit, and you’ll be fully charged in about 3.5 hours. This is considered a “worst case” for someone starting with a completely dead battery. Even after a 100-mile trip, you can be completely charged in less than two hours. You will get 220 miles (354 km) per charge, and should you need to charge on the road, packed away in the trunk is an optional mobile-charging kit that lets you charge from most standard electrical outlets while away from home.

Answers to your questions are readily available on Tesla Motors’ website – from interior and exterior colours to technical specifications.

Chairman & financier recently posted on his blog:

. . . our long term plan is to build a wide range of models, including affordably priced family cars. This is because the overarching purpose of Tesla Motors (and the reason I am funding the company) is to help expedite the move from a mine-and-burn hydrocarbon economy towards a solar electric economy, which I believe to be the primary, but not exclusive, sustainable solution.

Almost any new technology initially has high unit cost before it can be optimized and this is no less true for electric cars. The strategy of Tesla is to enter at the high end of the market, where customers are prepared to pay a premium, and then drive down market as fast as possible to higher unit volume and lower prices with each successive model.

Without giving away too much, I can say that the second model will be a sporty four door family car at roughly half the $89k price (the 2009 base models are on the market for $98,000 []) point of the Tesla Roadster and the third model will be even more affordable. In keeping with a fast growing technology company, all free cash flow is plowed back into R&D to drive down the costs and bring the follow on products to market as fast as possible. ”

Although the Tesla Roadster is still a niche car – with availability only in the United States, limited range and the substantial price tag – it has shown that sports car enthusiasts can see a light beyond the internal combustion engine.

BMW Hydrogen 7

Brad Pitt arrived at the premiere to Oceans 13 in a BMW Hydrogen 7 (AutoBlog Green). Whether you believe that Hydrogen is a serious contender for alternative clean & efficient fuels or not, the fact that BMW sees fit to produce the Hydrogen 7 (100 of them have been put to the test as loan cars to leading figures) is a leap forward in the automotive industry’s attitude towards oil.

Visit the BMW site to view the details of their Hydrogen 7.

Concept Cars

The automotive industry has certainly been busy with alternative energy concept cars. The list of companies and their concept cars is growing and we hope to see more in production soon!

The BMW H2R is a dual-fuel hydrogen-gasoline race car that has set 9 international land-speed records when run entirely on hydrogen –

The General Motors Chevy Volt Hydrogen plug-in hybrid electric vehicle is not only cool in design but is one of the most fuel efficient concept cars to be shown in recent years –

The Ford Super Chief is a tri-fuel vehicle that can run on unleaded gasoline, E85 (ethanol) or compressed hydrogen –

GM created the hydrogen version of the Gulf War gas-guzzling 8 mpg Hummer to showcase the future for hydrogen technology –

Future Thinking

The appalling state of our planet with its critical pollution levels and soaring costs of oil has lit one small light at the end of a very dark tunnel; the automotive industry has finally been persuaded to step up their research into alternative fuels. Yes, this persuasion might have been from indications of peak oil and financial impacts of climate change, but I think it is time to see the positive viewpoint and look expectantly towards a future of clean transportation.

Biofuels: A fake Climate Change Solution?

March 13, 2008

Reading the email below from Avaaz has re-awakened the niggling doubts that I have always had regarding Biofuels. In their place, where they are certainly not replacing food crops nor indigenous forest, they might have a place in the future of our planet, BUT can we control the rampant greed that is causing millions of hectares of indigenous forest to disappear to make way for biofuel crops. Can global controls even prevent the kind of destruction that human nature seems so capable of inflicting on the planet and its inhabitants (including other humans)? I am not sure if we can control it and if not then where does the solution lie? Surely in all our cleverness we can find a new solution? One where fuel is not something that needs to be created through destructive practices? (check out the Air Car from MDI on my Travelling to the Future post)

The letter from AVAAZ:

Dear friends,

Each day, 820 million people in the developing world do not have enough food to eat1. Food prices around the world are shooting up, sparking food riots from Mexico2 to Morocco3. And the World Food Program warned last week that rapidly rising costs are endangering emergency food supplies for the world’s worst-off4.

How are the wealthiest countries responding? They’re burning food.

Specifically, they’re using more and more biofuels–alcohol made from plant products, used in place of petrol to fuel cars. Biofuels are billed as a way to slow down climate change. But in reality, because so much land is being cleared to grow them, most biofuels today are causing more global warming emissions than they prevent5, even as they push the price of corn, wheat, and other foods out of reach for millions of people6.

Not all biofuels are bad–but without tough global standards, the biofuels boom will further undermine food security and worsen global warming. Click here to use our simple tool to send a message to your head of state before this weekend’s global summit on climate change in Chiba, Japan, and help build a global call for biofuels regulation:

Sometimes the trade-off is stark: filling the tank of an SUV with ethanol requires enough corn to feed a person for a year7. But not all biofuels are bad; making ethanol from Brazilian sugar cane is vastly more efficient than US-grown corn, for example, and green technology for making fuel from waste is improving rapidly.

The problem is that the EU and the US have set targets for increasing the use of biofuels without sorting the good from the bad. As a result, rainforests are being cleared in Indonesia to grow palm oil for European biodiesel refineries, and global grain reserves are running dangerously low. Meanwhile, rich-country politicians can look “green” without asking their citizens to conserve energy, and agribusiness giants are cashing in. And if nothing changes, the situation will only get worse.

What’s needed are strong global standards that encourage better biofuels and shut down the trade in bad ones. Such standards are under development by a number of coalitions8, but they will only become mandatory if there’s a big enough public outcry. It’s time to move: this Friday through Saturday, the twenty countries with the biggest economies, responsible for more than 75% of the world’s carbon emissions9, will meet in Chiba, Japan to begin the G8’s climate change discussions. Before the summit, let’s raise a global cry for change on biofuels:

A call for change before this week’s summit won’t end the food crisis, or stop global warming. But it’s a critical first step. By confronting false solutions and demanding real ones, we can show our leaders that we want to do the right thing, not the easy thing.

As Kate, an Avaaz member in Colorado, wrote about biofuels, “Turning food into oil when people are already starving? My car isn’t more important than someone’s hungry child.”

It’s time to put the life of our fellow people, and our planet, above the politics and profits that too often drive international decision-making. This will be a long fight. But it’s one that we join eagerly–because the stakes are too high to do anything else.

With hope,

Ben, Ricken, Iain, Galit, Paul, Graziela, Pascal, Esra’a, Milena — the team

SOURCES:[1] World Food Programme. “Hunger Facts.” Accessed 10 March 2008.

[2] The Sunday Herald (Scotland). “2008: The year of global food crisis.” 9 March 2008.

[3] The Australian: “Biofuels threaten ‘billions of lives'” 28 February, 2008.,25197,23336840-11949,00.html

[4] AFP: “WFP chief warns EU about biofuels.” 7 March 2008.

[5] New York Times: “Biofuels Deemed a Greenhouse Threat.” 8 February 2008.

[6] The Times: “Rush for biofuels threatens starvation on a global scale.” 7 March 2008. … also see BBC: “In graphics: World warned on food price spiral.” 10 March 2008.

[7] The Economist: “The end of cheap food.” 6 December 2007.

[8] See,, and

[9] Government of Japan. “Percentage of global carbon dioxide emissions (FY 2003) contributed by G20 nations.”