Earlier this week a group of Greenpeace activists, including the actress Lucy Lawless, scaled an oil drill ship that was due to travel to the Arctic. After spending over 76 hours onboard the ship, Lucy Lawless and the five other activists have now been arrested by the police.
The ship was scheduled to travel to the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska yesterday to drill three exploratory oil wells for the global oil and gas company Shell. But the activists successfully managed to stop and delay the ship from leaving the port of Taranaki in New Zealand. Greenpeace is critical of Shell’s planned exploration for oil in the Arctic which the environmental organization says “signals the beginning of an Arctic oil rush” that could potentially cause “irreparable harm” to the fragile nature and its inhabitants.
If you remember the BP/Deepwater oil well explosion in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 you should have a fairly good idea what kind of “irreparable harm” they are talking about.
“A major oil spill in the Arctic would be an environmental disaster”, said Nick Young from Greenpeace in New Zealand. “Experts say it would be virtually impossible to clean up, due to the harsh weather conditions and the sheer lack of vessels and infrastructure in the area. More than 6,000 vessels were pulled in to deal with the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and even so only a meagre 17% of the oil was recovered”, Young said. “The US Coast Guard has made clear there is no way they could deploy thousands of vessels to deal with a blow-out in the Arctic.”
You can send a message to Shell’s CEO Peter Vosser and demand that they stop with the risky oil drilling in the Arctic: http://www.greenpeace.org/savethearctic
For the latest updates from the action in New Zealand follow the hashtag #SaveTheArctic or check out the live updates from Greenpeace here: http://www.greenpeace.org/new-zealand/en/
Lucy Lawless protesting Shell’s planned exploration for oil in the Arctic.
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Due to the warming effects of climate change, ascending the world’s highest peak may become more difficult yet.
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The global economy grew 3.8 percent in 2011, a drop from 5.2 percent in 2010. Economists had anticipated a slowdown, but this was even less growth than expected, thanks to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, unrest in oil-producing countries, the debt crisis in Europe, and a stagnating recovery in the United States. As richer economies struggle to recover from the financial crisis of 2008–09, poorer countries are facing high food prices and rising youth unemployment. Meanwhile, growing income inequality and environmental disruption are challenging conventional notions of economic health.
The total value of goods and services produced worldwide in 2011 was $ 77.2 trillion, twice as much as 20 years ago. The global economy expanded by an average of 4 percent each year in the decade leading up to the 2008 slowdown and the 2009 contraction. Industrial economies typically grew by about 3 percent annually in the 10 years before the recession but only 1.6 percent in 2011. Developing economies, which grew by an average of roughly 6 percent annually in the decade before the recession, grew by 6.2 percent last year.
Developing Asia was responsible for 25 percent of global economic output in 2011. China’s economy, the world’s second largest, grew 9.2 percent in 2011, producing $ 11.1 trillion in goods and services. Yet this was a much slower expansion than its pre-recession rate of 14 percent in 2007. India, whose gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 7.4 percent to $ 4.4 trillion in 2011, surpassed Japan to become the world’s third largest economy. (See data at www.earth-policy.org.)
The 2011 growth in developing Asian economies was dampened somewhat by the disaster in Japan, which disrupted global supply chains in automotives, electronics, and other sectors. Japan’s economy also took a hit, contracting by 0.9 percent to $ 4.3 trillion in 2011.
Many industrial countries are still struggling to recover from the Great Recession. Economic output in several of them, notably the United States, the United Kingdom, and Russia, was some 10 percent lower in 2011 than it would have been without the crisis, according to International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates. The 2011 slowdown in industrial countries also decreased the flow of wealth to developing economies.
An intricate web of borrowing among European Union members set the stage for a debt crisis, which made global financial markets more volatile in 2011. A few countries, notably Greece, have racked up debts they are unable to repay. Lending countries, especially Germany — the world’s fifth largest economy, with a GDP of $ 3.0 trillion in 2011 — have been reluctant to bail them out. Europe’s troubles continued into 2012 when credit rating agencies downgraded 10 countries, including France, Italy, and Spain, in January and February.
The United States remained the world’s largest economy in 2011 with a GDP of $ 14.8 trillion, but economic activity was weaker than expected as government stimulus spending was insufficient to boost private demand. The United States is one of a few rich countries where unemployment rates were still higher in 2011 than before the recession, and families’ income expectations were extremely low. Standard & Poor’s fueled concerns about U.S. fiscal health when it downgraded the country’s debt rating in August, and uncertainty about how policymakers would address these challenges strained global financial markets. Slow growth in the largest economic power dragged down the global economy as a whole.
While not hit as hard by the Great Recession, developing countries faced challenges in 2011 from youth unemployment — which has been on the rise globally in recent years — and high food prices. Bad weather, low grain stocks, and high oil prices helped raise the cost of food, a particular burden on poor families who spend a large share of their incomes on it. High food prices can contribute to global food insecurity and poverty; the World Bank estimates that high food prices in late 2010 pushed an extra 44 million people into extreme poverty. These factors likely helped trigger the revolutions that swept across the Middle East and North Africa. That unrest contributed to high oil prices, which slowed consumption in industrial economies. Oil prices spiked to $ 120 a barrel in April, but had declined to around $ 100 by August.
Qatar, where more than half of the nation’s income comes from oil and natural gas, has the world’s highest average income: almost $ 103,000 per person. The United States and China have average incomes (as measured in GDP per person) of $ 48,000 and $ 8,000 per person, respectively. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, a failing state plagued by government corruption and violent conflict, has the world’s lowest average income, at less than $ 350 per person. Thus the world’s highest national average income is now almost 300 times the lowest.
In December 2011, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development reported that the gap between the rich and the poor has widened in many industrial countries in recent decades. For example, in the United States between 1984 and 2008 (the latest year for which data are available), incomes among the richest 10 percent of households grew almost 4 times faster than incomes of the poorest tenth. China has also grown more unequal in recent years despite booming economic growth. Remarkably, Brazil has reduced inequality and poverty simultaneously over the past decade as it raised incomes among both the rich and the poor.
When income distribution is very unequal, social mobility is limited and economic growth contributes less to reducing poverty. High income inequality also threatens political stability and endangers the economy as a whole. A 2011 article published in the IMF magazine Finance & Development found that increased income equality is even more important for sustaining economic growth than openness to trade, democratic governance, foreign investment, competitive exchange rates, or external debt.
Our current economic system requires continued growth to keep governments and families afloat, but the natural systems that support our economy cannot sustain endless consumption. GDP tallies economic output but does not reflect environmental limits, sustainable yields, or how today’s environmental damage undermines future prosperity. And it fails to distinguish economic growth that alleviates poverty and strengthens society from that which pollutes the environment, endangers health, or disproportionately enriches large corporations and the very wealthy.
Several indices offer more nuanced measurements of well-being. For instance, in 2011 Norway topped the U.N. Development Programme’s Human Development Index, which incorporates life expectancy, years of schooling, and average income. The United States ranked fourth and China came in at number 101 out of 187 countries. The United States performs less favorably on indices that deduct for negative environmental impact.
The Global Footprint Network (GFN) calculates humanity’s Ecological Footprint, comparing the consumption of resources to the earth’s ability to replenish them. If the earth’s natural systems are like an endowment, then its annual regenerative capacity is like interest earned — the amount that can be spent each year without depleting the principal. GFN found that by 2007, humanity’s ecological footprint exceeded the earth’s yearly “interest” by 50 percent. Together, the United States and China consume almost half of what nature can sustainably provide.
In our current growth-based economic system, rising affluence and population growth mean increased consumption, environmental destruction, and waste production. This western model of development is failing: if everyone on earth shared the lifestyle of the average American, we would need more than 4.5 planets to sustain us, according to GFN. Without a more comprehensive vision of economic health and better ways to measure it, we are flying blind on a path to economic decline and collapse.
Eco-Economy Indicators are twelve trends that the Earth Policy Institute tracks to measure progress in building a sustainable economy. Given the way the world now does business, economic growth is a measure of the mounting pressure on the environment. By Brigid Fitzgerald Reading.
Great piece by the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) Switchboard blog on efforts afoot in Latin America to step up on green in anticipation of Rio+20, which will be held here in the region this June. The goals and standards being contemplated, however, fall far too short. They’re too green-as-usual.
First, the focus is disproportionately on energy, in a region that houses the Amazon and other priceless biodiversity resources, which should therefore place the reversal of deforestation and resource overshoot dead center on the agenda.
And second, the region’s goals are far too timid for the challenge we face. With scientists insisting we have only until 2020 to reverse warming emissions and resource depletion, it’s time we stop talking about a goal of 20% or 30% renewable energy by 2025 or 2035, or protecting 25% of our oceans by 2040.
The time has come to get radical on our goals. There was a lot of lament at Durban over the ambition gap, remember? That’s a great phrase we must never forget, at least not until we close the gap. The counter at Durban was that it’s hard enough to get countries to agree on timid goals, so imagine the radical type.
Yeah, that’s the state of the world right now. Agreed. But what are we to do? Simply accept the failure of ambition and allow the planet and everyone on it to warm into oblivion? Trade survival for “realism” and keep our arms crossed in one big “Oh well” shrug? No!!!! We just can’t do that.
Which brings us back to Latin America, my parents’ birthplace and the region I studied, have covered as a journalist and have lived at for the last 24 years. Someone has to lead and aim higher. Someone has to insist on meeting the 2020 deadline. Someone has to stop the lunacy of today’s “realism” and usher in the new and inevitable radical normal. Some country. Some region.
Why not Latin America? The modern environmental movement began right here at the 1992 Rio Summit and returns now for Rio+20. We are once again hosting the environmental world, as we did two years ago at Cancun. But this time, there can be no Cancun in terms of results. No Copenhagen. No Nagoya. No Durban. Time is fast running out. We only have until 2020. The ambition gap must close.
The place is here. The moment is Rio+20.