Coach House Geography

Interesting Geography stuff for InterHigh

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 13 other followers

Archive for the ‘Sustainability’ Category

World pays Ecuador not to extract oil from rainforest

Posted by Lindy on January 3, 2012

Friday 30 December 2011

Governments and film stars join alliance that raises £75m to compensate Ecuador for lost revenue from 900m barrels. Supporters of the Yasuní ‘crowdfunding’ initiative say it could change the way important places are protected.

An alliance of European local authorities, national governments, US film stars, Japanese shops, soft drink companies and Russian foundations have stepped in to prevent oil companies exploiting 900m barrels of crude oil from one of the world’s most biologically rich tracts of land. According to the UN, the “crowdfunding” initiative had last night raised $116m (£75m), enough to temporarily halt the exploitation of the 722 square miles of “core” Amazonian rainforest known as Yasuní national park in Ecuador.

The park, which is home to two tribes of uncontacted Indians, is thought to have more mammal, bird, amphibian and plant species than any other spot on earth. Development of the oilfield, which was planned to take place immediately if the money had not been raised, would have inevitably led to ecological devastation and the eventual release of over 400m tonnes of CO2.

Ecuador agreed to halt plans to mine the oilfield if it could raise 50% of the $7.6bn revenue being lost by not mining the oil. While the world’s leading conservation groups pledged nothing, regional governments in France and Belgium offered millions of dollars – with $2m alone from the Belgian region of Wallonia. A New York investment banker donated her annual salary and Bo Derek, Leonardo DiCaprio, Edward Norton and Al Gore all contributed.

The idea of asking people to pay for something not to take place was widely dismissed by national treasuries as holding the world to ransom. The German development minister, Dirk Niebel, said that the principle of paying for the oil not to be exploited “would be setting a precedent with unforeseeable referrals”. However, Germany has now contributed $48m in “technical assistance”. The former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was widely criticised after he wrote off $51m of Ecuador’s $10bn external debt as Italy’s contribution. Other governments pledging support were Chile, Colombia, Georgia and Turkey ($100,000 each), Peru ($300,000), Australia ($500,000) and Spain ($1.4m).

Supporters of the scheme argued that it could be a model for change in the way the world pays to protect important places. The money raised is guaranteed to be used only for nature protection and renewable energy projects. Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon and other countries with oil reserves, have investigated the possibility of setting up similar schemes as an alternative to traditional aid.

The biological richness of Yasuní has astonished scientists. One 6sq km patch of the park was found to have 47 amphibian and reptile species, 550 bird, 200 mammal and more species of bats and insects than anywhere in the western hemisphere. According to Ecuadorean scientists, it would take in the region of 400 years to record Yasuní’s 100,000 or more insect and 2,000 fish species.


Posted in Amazon, Climate change, Energy sources, Fragile environments, International action, Solution to problems, Sustainability | Leave a Comment »

Kibera – cash for trash – a new video

Posted by Lindy on November 14, 2011


Posted in Appropriate technology, Kibera, Recycling, Sustainability, Urban environments | Leave a Comment »

Analysis Promising Biodiesel Crop needs Time To Prove Itself

Posted by Lindy on October 30, 2011

Date: 28-Oct-11; From article by  Nina Chestney

There is new hope for biodeisal from a little known tree, the pongamia pinnata tree. It will not reduce food production as it grows on poor land but much more research is needed before we can be sure it will work.

Pongamia pinnata is native to Australia, India and parts of southeast Asia. Its oil has so far been used in medicines, lubricants and oil lamps. Pongamia is attractive because, after six years of cultivation, its oil yield is estimated to rise to around 23 tonnes per hectare per year — almost double yields of 12 tonnes from jatropha (see below), another tree that is a biodiesel feed crop, and 11 tonnes from palm oil.

But the optimism is cautious as prior experience with jatropha shows that what looks like a promising crop may prove disappointing. A few years ago, jatropha was hailed as a biofuel alternative to fossil fuels that would not further impoverish developing countries by diverting resources away from food production. Its high oil yield and ability to grow on marginal land were attractive, but its commercial promise was overstated. Some farmers found that it needed fertilizer to thrive and that its harvesting and processing proved energy-intensive.

However, the evergreen pongamia can grow on marginal arid or semi-arid land and is a nitrogen-fixing tree, which means that it helps fertilize the soil, is promising.


While several large organisations have already planted trees in unused areas of Australia and India, it also believed that there is a role for small scale production.  India has recognized the potential for small-holders to grow the tree on marginal land and has encouraged them to plant around 25 million trees since 2003 and has bought the seed pods for processing into biodiesel.

Posted in Appropriate technology, Bio-enenrgy, Energy sources, Renewable, Solution to problems, Sustainability, Transport | Leave a Comment »

How is this for a neat idea?

Posted by Lindy on September 29, 2011

Posted in Fragile environments, Global warming, Solution to problems, Sustainability, Urban environments | Leave a Comment »

Change is Brewing in the Tea Industry

Posted by Lindy on May 26, 2011

Did you know that tea is the world’s most popular beverage after water? Around the globe, more than six million acres (2.4 million hectares) of land are used for growing the Camellia sinensis plant, whose leaves are brewed to make black, green and other varieties of tea. Like any tropical crop, tea raises a number of environmental and social issues.

What are the problems?

Tea is grown in cleared rain forest, as a monoculture (only one thing grown over hectares) which can lead to soil erosion, water pollution from fertilizers and pesticides and also to further rainforest loss for firewood needed in processing. They large tea plantations have lots of employees, which are often underpaid and live in poor conditions with little access to healthcare or education.

The good things about Rainforest Certified Tea?

.By adhering to the standards required for Rainforest Alliance certification, farmers are helping to build a sustainable future for themselves and their families.  The rules are both social and environmental. The workers need fair wages, good housing, access to clean water and health care. But additionally certification has stricter rules about use the of pesticides and fertilizer and how the farm stops pollution and manages waste and generally protects the environment.

Posted in Fragile environments, Solution to problems, Sustainability, Y7/8, Y9 | Leave a Comment »

REDD between Norway and Guyana:

Posted by Lindy on April 6, 2011

This week a further historic step is taken in the battle to hang on the world’s remaining tropical rainforests. It is unlikely to make too many headlines, but on Friday two countries will take forward the kind of arrangement that many have talked about but few have had the boldness to actually do. Guyana and Norway’s leadership is seen in the second stage of a ground-breaking deal through which one (Norway) makes annual payments to the other (Guyana) to keep its forests. The amount of money to change hands is calculated on the basis of how well Guyana has done in holding back deforestation, and the value of that in terms of avoided carbon dioxide emissions. A complex calculation is made to determine how well the recipient country has done but this year $40m is being transferred.

The money is all being invested in sustainable scheme, e.g funding solar panels on all the houses belonging to the indigenous people. These are the means for children to read books at night and mark the end of the kerosene lamps and candles which cause indoor air pollution and fire hazards.

There is also money to connect remote settlements to the internet, again powered with solar electricity. There is money to pay for the costly job of legally demarking Amerindian lands and there are plans for health, education and business support.

Without this support, Guyana would have undoubtedly lost forests. The country needs jobs, foreign exchange and tax revenues. And there are plenty of takers for the natural resources that await plunder in delivering these benefits. Since Brazil has cracked down on deforestation, the loggers, ranchers and soya farmers there have been looking for other places to expand their industries.

For more see

Posted in Amazon, Appropriate technology, Fragile environments, Global warming, IGCSE, solar, Solution to problems, Sustainability | Leave a Comment »

UK’s Drax Coal Plant Eyes Biomass For Greener Future

Posted by Lindy on March 7, 2011

Date: 07-Mar-11

Britain’s biggest coal-burning power station, Drax in North Yorkshire, generates 7 percent of the UK’s electricity — a sizeable chunk of that from biomass.

“Twelve percent of the fuel that we can burn today is biomass so that means 12 percent of the electricity comes from biomass which is a renewable fuel,” said Peter Emery, production director at Drax.

Drax has the world’s biggest coal and biomass co-burning facility, able to use 1.4 million tones a year of plant material to drive a steam turbine and generate electricity.

“We tend to burn material that is already produced but is not being put to good use,” said Emery. “That is how you industrialize this process and how you keep it cost effective.”

The power station is burning four main types of biomass, forestry waste, agricultural waste, some wood waste and energy crops. It sources these from the UK and overseas. Around 100 local farmers have entered into contracts with the power station to supply one kind of energy crop, Miscanthus, or Asian elephant grass. Chris Bradley owns Whinney Moor Farm in East Yorkshire, and says Miscanthus grows 3 meters tall and thrives on poor soils.I think putting this on grade one or two land is probably not an option and possibly not even morally right …But certainly on the lower grade soils like I’ve done — it is a good option.”

Energy crops are often blamed for pushing up world food prices. Drax said it would not contract farmers planning to convert from cereals such as wheat and added that Miscanthus was unlikely to be economic on high-grade land, given currently high grain prices. Miscanthus is being promoted alongside willow, sawdust and straw as biomass for producing heat and power when burned, without causing net emissions of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

Posted in Appropriate technology, Bio-enenrgy, Climate change, Global warming, IGCSE, nonrenewables, Renewable, Solution to problems, Sustainability | Leave a Comment »

Creating “Future Proof” Solar

Posted by Lindy on January 6, 2011

Starting this year, plants will be built in the desert to extract the valuable silicon from sand to construct solar panels. The energy to do this will be – you guessed it – solar power. Once these solar panels have produced enough silicon to make the the solar panels, then it is suggested that 50% of the world’s power can be obtained by solar energy by 2050.  But the novel technological approach suggested by the Sahara “Breeder” team is not the only one under consideration by solar industry stakeholders as they seek to shape the development of the sector over the next half century.

Posted in Appropriate technology, Fragile environments, Global warming, Renewable, Sahel, solar, Solution to problems, Sustainability | Leave a Comment »

Brazil’s Suruí Establish First Indigenous Carbon Fund

Posted by Lindy on December 10, 2010

When Brazil’s 1300-strong Suruí people embarked on a 50-year sustainable development plan, they did so without quick logging cash.  Instead, they will be protecting 240,000 hectares of Amazon rainforest in hopes of earning eight million carbon credits, and they’ve set up a unique carbon fund to administer the income and coordinate future development.
By 2006, that world beyond had engulfed them – a fact their young chief, Almir Narayamoga Suruí, saw all too clearly the first time he logged onto Google Earth.  “Like everyone back then, I was curious to see my home from the sky,” he says.  “But when I found the Suruí territory, it looked so lonely – like a little patch of green in a sea of brown and yellow.”
He believes, however, that in another half-century that little patch – their La Sete de Setembro in the state of Rondônia – will be more lush and green than at any time in recent memory, and his people will be healthier and better-educated than ever before, thanks to new schools and hospitals built with carbon cash earned by saving their forest and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD).
To achieve that vision, he and his people created the Suruí Fund, which the tribe’s marketing brochure describes as “a financial mechanism aimed at implementing the Management Plan of the Indigenous through principles of good governance and transparency, where representative indigenous advisers have a strong role”

The Brazilian Biodiversity Fund (Funbio) structured the mechanism and will also administer it.  Funbio also oversees the Atlantic Forest Fund for the state of Rio de Janiero, as well as scores of other mechanisms for delivering environmental finance.

“Indigenous peoples have an outstanding track record in terms of forest stewardship, as has been demonstrated time and again by studies of conservation and deforestation rates, but they generally have less experience with managing the sorts of finance and investments that carbon market transactions entail,” says Jacob Olander, who is providing technical support .It is designed to help local groups around the world develop expertise in payments for ecosystem services (PES), which are schemes designed to reward good land stewardship by recognizing the economic value of nature’s services.

Over the first three years, Funbio will advise the Suruí on how to funnel carbon income into environmental projects – such as carbon-friendly agriculture and rainforest preservation.  Over time, as carbon opportunities wane, they will shift to other businesses and investments that can generate a sustainable economy. All decisions, however, will be made by a representative body that the tribe set up to administer environmental resources.

Funbio got the ball rolling with early legal assistance and PES training, then helped tribal leaders identify and vet local partners. It’s now helping find buyers for newly-trademarked “Suruí Carbon”. “An outstanding lesson of the Suruí is their ability to forge partnerships and adopt new tools and strategies where needed,” says Olander.  “They know what they’re good at and what they’re not good at, and they know how to harness outside expertise – whether that be creating an endowment fund, using Google and satellite technology, or harnessing carbon markets – in ways that keep them in control of the project and their forests.”

“Amazon Conservation Team”, or ACT Brasil,  has a long-standing relationship supporting the Suruí, complementing Funbio´s carbon market expertise. They makie sure the tribe understands what it’s getting into and are a communications link to investors.

Both these organisations are paying for the initial fund to pay for the rigorous measurements and documentation needed to qualify for certification under the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS) and the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standards (CCB).

“Everyone is watching this,” says Mauricio de Almeida Voivodic, Coordinator for Natural Forests with Brazil’s Program for Forest Certification (IMAFLORA). “The  Suruí and Funbio are at the front of everything that’s happening with REDD in Brazil, and other tribes see this as a template that they can use to save their own forests and earn income.”

In the first three years, the fund will channel money into environmental services, such as forest protection and climate-safe agriculture.  It will gradually shift to other livelihood activities and organizational strengthening. Beyond the first three years, the scheme becomes more flexible, with annual reviews by Suruí governors and advisers.

To read the brochure produced by the Surui, follow the link

Posted in Amazon, Fragile environments, Global warming, Solution to problems, Sustainability | Leave a Comment »

Cancun’s Vanishing Mangroves Hold Climate Promise

Posted by Lindy on November 25, 2010

Date: 25-Nov-10 – Country: MEXICO – Author: Patrick Rucker

A view of a dying mangrove swamp in Puerto Morelos, near the Yucatan resort of Cancun, June 25, 2008. Photo: Reuters/Victor Ruiz

This famous beach resort, which will next week host international climate change talks, was itself born from the destruction of a potent resource to fight global warming. Thick mangrove forests lined the canals and waterways here before developers dredged the land to make way for the upscale hotels that now draw several million tourists every year. In the 40 years since Cancun was founded, countless acres of mangrove forests up and down Mexico’s Caribbean Coast have been lost — and the destruction continues.

Now many scientists say that mangrove forests can help slow climate change, and are desperate to save them. “We still have a lot to learn but the potential is huge for mangroves,” said Gail Chmura, a climate change researcher at McGill University in Montreal who studies how much carbon is stored in these knobby, tidal forests.

The United Nations may soon pay countries to set aside mangroves and sea plants that sock away carbon and those same reserves could mean long-term cash under a global carbon cap and trade scheme.

Breathing life into that carbon market is a key goal of climate talks among almost 200 nations meeting in Cancun from November 29 to December 10. The meeting is a follow-up to the December 2009 Copenhagen summit which disappointed many nations by falling short of a binding treaty to slow global warming.

Besides their power to sponge up carbon, mangroves serve as fish nurseries and buffers for devastating ocean storms — a worth that ecologists say is lost in a short-term tally of the land’s value.

Posted in coasts, Fragile environments, Global warming, Sustainability | Leave a Comment »