Archive for November, 2011

Insensitive increase of Energy Bill in UK

November 29, 2011

This blog was posted earlier at the introductory stage of this assignment figuratively in the summer with wrong presentation formats which has been adjusted. However in view of the unpredictable weather pattern; we have been advised to expect a very frosty winter. My mind skipped as I received my November energy bill, I don’t know about yours but I think we should talk about it once again.

Government neglect to the plight of people in this excruciating economic tide is really appalling and disgraceful in this generation of natural disaster and technologically aided human disaster. We have recently heard in the British media that most of the energy providers will increase their prices two to three times before winter; British Gas and Scottish Power had already made theirs in May and August respectively. The excuse was the uprising in the Middle East but during this period about fifteen oil wells in Libya were running, producing 31,900 barrels per day while the tension in other regions had calmed down. However it is expected an average household will be paying almost 18% on energy bill above what they paid last year in the heels of the cuts from the government. If Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) one of the big six energy providers in United Kingdom could post pre-tax profits of around 1.3bn in 2011, 29% above last year, it sure means the government is insensitive on the welfare of the common people.

In practice if government accrue so much income on tax from these energy providers and the commoners who should benefit from these taxes freeze in the cold winter because they can’t afford to pay for the extra bills, then what is the dividend of governance? Over 2,700 people are expected to die this winter because they may not afford to heat their homes. It therefore requires government to reassess some of their policies and heed to calls from NGOs such as National Energy Action (NEA) who are campaigning that necessary measures should be in place to enable some of the most vulnerable people in society to have warmer homes and government to adapt policies that will improve the health, financial security and wellbeing of fuel-poor households in UK.

Gradually, it is becoming apparent that energy is a necessity of life and should be a product accessible to everyone at all cost; on the contrary by the time it becomes unaffordable the wellbeing of the commons will be challenged.

In the heat of the price increase, David Cameroon summoned the Chief Executives of the giant six energy companies in October and gave a riot act asking them to work harder and faster to bring down bills. They in turn agreed to a bill cut while giving quasi advice for consumers to shop around for cheaper prices. I think it is a polite insult to the conscience of the poor consumers who hardly get any of these providers on phone and now compelling them to compare prices.

The UK benefit system is founded on equity and wellbeing of those on low income, unemployed, disadvantaged and disabled who are generally called the commoners. Gas which is a source of energy to heat homes during winter should be as relevant as houses provided to homeless people from the tax payer’s money. This money should be channelled for communal development and communal problems especially in welfare issues.

However as a ‘common goods’ energy should be a non profit commodity highly subsidised by treasury proceeds from government and should be one of the offing of the benefit system enjoyed by all citizens that have the right of abode in United Kingdom

“I am free”

November 29, 2011

This picture was posted by a couple of my friends on Facebook recently. Although it is very populist, I decided to mention the illustration here because it reminded me somehow of contents we touched on in the class.

When we spoke about capitalism, we characterised it as a system of making profit without need. Going deeper into the issue of needs, we agreed that many people, especially in developed countries, try to satisfy a lot more desires compared to the amount of money they earn. The logical consequence is the occurrence of debts. And debts are a good way to make us accept the system as we found out. There is an essential necessity to find a job and go to work regularly in order to pay them off.

Apart from the words regarding the usual economic actions of the members of a capitalistic society, the private life of “Mr. Normal” is described in the cartoon. Normality, not individuality, seems to be the highest aim in life, together with social and (again) economic security of course.

An apathetic image is drawn of the people who are “the commons”. Humans are presented as skeletons that seem to be happy and thankful about not having to think for themselves. They appear to appreciate the possibility to follow certain “common” objectives without realising that these are actually dictated. Although I see the point in the artist’s criticism of society, I do not want to think so pessimistically. Generalisation is neither right, nor does it help. There ARE people who make use of their voice as the Occupy Wall Street movement shows.

What is your opinion about critical cartoons like this one? Do people really start rethinking the role of the commons when confronted with this kind of sarcasm or does too much exaggeration just distract from the real issue?

Thailand Floods and The Global Markets

November 29, 2011

Thailand floods shake the throne of global Rice

Thailand is the largest exporter of rice in the world since 1962, when applied Myanmar socialist system lost its dominance prior to the trade. The Thai rice exports reached a peak in 2008 when a shipment of 10 million tons versus 6.8 million in 2009. Vietnam exported and closest rival Thailand in the global rice trade is estimated at 9.6 million tonnes last year.The Thai government expects that it may eliminate the current floods on the 5 to 6 million tons of rice, estimated quantity production to five this year. Under the World Trade exceeded expectations for the rice crop of about 33 million tons in the current year, may deduct Thai floods 10% of this amount. If the same thing happened with the commodity of oil or wheat, the results will be disastrous for sure. But the nature of the rice market to make the consequences less serious, where the crop is characterized by great flexibility, which can cause flooding of significant damage to him as some predict.

Although rice is a main food for half of the world’s population, but the volume of world trade which is very small, compared with the harvest total expected of it in season 2010 – 2011, amounting to about 451 million tons, which is thrown only 7% of it in global markets, while the share of wheat is 20%. Means of international policies and directions of people food, rice is consumed most often in areas that are produced there. Rice is the major crops in Asia that rate of production and consumption by 90%, which seeks to achieve self-sufficiency of it. The markets are usually located under the weight of local and national systems of protection, where the item is considered one of the most goods subject to the policy. Moreover, different types of rice from long to short, thin, thick and adhesive, sticky, and others. Therefore, the consumer tends towards locally grown species do not prefer rice imported from distant farms.
Overall, this year is an excellent crop of rice so far. And the impact of the drought that hit Arkansas, the main area for rice production in America, largely on the crop, where the current year, exports fell by nearly 4 million tons to 3 million tons. But help to bumper crops in both Pakistan and India, make up the shortfall in exports of Thailand. Also successful and abundant crop in India to convince the officials who were afraid of food inflation, to reduce protectionist policies, where the government lift a ban was imposed on the white rice last September to allow the export of two million tons by the flooding of Thailand. The Indian traders to sell the entire amount authorized by the lowest possible prices, thus casting in the interest of African countries, which imports about 10 million tons per year, one third of total world trade.
Floods and production of personal computers

 

The floods in Thailand affect the industry of electronic components in the country to a slowdown in industry, and even to decline by 20% in supply, according to a disastrous scenario worn by some analysts, has been declining supplies of the hard disk most important component in personal computers (NBC) by 30% during the fourth quarter to 125 million units, which will be forced makers of computers to reduce their production according to company studies “IHS.” According to the company’s competition, “International Data Corporation” (IDC) that this may be reflected in AUSSOIS cases to a decline in the delivery of services of personal computers by 20% compared to the expectations of the first quarter of next year, factories have Thai-producing hard drives are generally in the industrial zones in the central plains that flooded since July, which provides 40% of the market needs.

At the time nearing the end of the rainy season in Thailand and the floodwaters began to recede producers are expected to be able to resume shipments of their activities by the end of the year and expects “IDC” the return of production and prices to normal levels in June 2012.

Occupy the squat

November 29, 2011

Having many friends living in squats, I am especially interested in the topic of squatting. To me, it is a radical but legitimate way of commoning although it is questionable whether they choose to live on ‘common’ ground.

Currently, because of negotiated changes in the law life is getting harder for squatters. Many prejudices exist in terms of assuming they live in property that does not belong to them as a consequence of being neglectful. What is often not recognised is that many squatters consciously decide to squat. Lots of squatters are highly politically and environmentally concerned as I experienced. Squatting is (their way of) occupying.

 
That is why it seems almost logical that squatters and the Occupy London movement cooperate now. Here is an interesting clip about the two close interest groups occupying an unused building owned by the bank UBS, which illustrates both the issue of squatting and the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon.

Shale gas- The new age

November 29, 2011

Believe it this has been around since 2000 and evidence has it that it is in America, Europe, China, and Russia. This is the new natural gas see this article. This new gas which is currently being fracked (this being the extraction process) with over 1600 gas wells in America has not been both socially and politically acceptable here in Europe.

It is because we are good environmentalist or we just want to look at the NEGATIVE aspects.  Let put things in perspective we want to prevent/ reduce / eliminate global warming, but there is no remedy it’s all try and error. We have to be open-minded in the process it cames at a price and some options have side effect. One of the major side effects with his natural gas is fracking is likely to contaminate the underground (water) have a read, and also to cause earthquakes. But the question is his there no intervention that we are currently adhering to with no consequence or some country get the lion share look at carbon off setting, sugarcane for biofuel etc

EU with the exception of Poland have not been keen on this cause

1. Its expense, cause our Shale is deep down in the earth.

2. We appear to lack the technical know how to extract this resource. According to the article only about 100 wells

3. We are possible happy to continue to relay on Russia and its gas pipes.

China is maybe in predicament here after investing in all the solar and wind turbine industry.

Having said all this is maybe an ideal short-term measure that will delay the inevitable global warming. Cause if there were solutions the world would not be coming together to talk sweet nothings. I think the world would rather have the growing industries running on natural gases then the current use of coal.

Resource custodians and the enemy within against sustainability

November 29, 2011

Rural communities in some third world nations should no longer continue to rely on their leadership to uphold national and international legislations and or agreements in goo faith when it comes to protecting their environment against catastrophic covert ventures aimed at what remains as rain forests. This is more in respect of the timber logging for export by rogue international traders. The practice causes depletion, degradation and other related adverse effects hence making people more critical for sustainability of life.

 Communities must not wait until the problem becomes utterly bare and out of control when this evil is laid bare when the problem at that time will be no where near solution. Waiting to act later will be dangerous and not doing anything now will be extremely costly and the situation will no be turned around. The depletion is occurring at an alarming rate. If people failed to commit themselves to safe guarding their future, there will be a natural calamity. It is time to stand to the double standards of those they trust. The leadership are betraying their people especially in the management of natural resources. A retinue of youths and able bodies should take the necessary action to save the environment.

 In Sierra Leone, the recent documentation by Alzajeera  documentary when foreign journalist posed as international “Timer Trader”  attempted go in the logging business though it was banned. Their crusade went up to the high command and what is more sympathetic is that for less than $100,000 (one hundred thousand dollars) meant to be paid for the multi million dollars logging business registration.

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Additionally, things are even worst at local community levels where the traditional heads are betrayers of their own people. There is the need for people to be pragmatic and engaged in activities like Wall Street and St. Paul’s Cathedral style of action to put pressure on those who want to destroy their lives, (the rogue custodian of their resources). The communities must demand participation as this inimical to sustainability. National and International policies set so far to address depletion and environmental deterioration are not kept.

Agrarian Reform for Food Sovereignty

November 29, 2011

Historically the arrival of the Dutch in the Cape of South Africa in 1652, took land that belonged to the Africans and marked it as private land for the Europeans. Hence, a campaign group The Right to Agrian Reform for Food Sovereignty has risen out of the need to help these landless african people recognise their ancestral right and reclaim land reform for the purpose of black, emerging small scale farming.

The documentary above show the struggles of Ithemba Farming Association situated on the outskirts of Western Cape, how they fail to get Government recognition and support as a group of small scale farmers who resettled on that piece of land 21 years ago, instead they are faced with eviction. The land is being re-claimed for a ‘mixed use housing redevelopment project’ on land that in the farmers’s opinion is viable for agricultural purposes. Listening to the farmers’ accounts, it is clear that 1) through their farming activities they are able to provide for for themselves and families, they are now spending less money buying food from supermarkets as most of what they need is available on the farms. 2) some farmers are even managing to sell some of their produces and also feed neighbouring poor communities (to the other side of the farm there is an informal settlement neglected by the government as a result they are going to the farms begging for food). What  threatens these farmers’ demands for Agrarian Reform in the interests of Food Sovereignty is the lack of a market access for their produce. The food market in the Western Cape is dominated by Chemical Model farmers, and hence the small scale farmers are faced with the problem that although they produce organic produce, they are not harvested in large quantities and therefore can not compete with the commercial farmers.

The Ithemba Farming Association farmers do themselves acknowledge that at the moment they are not productive enough and not able to fit into the high stream of economic development but would like the government to support emerging farmers. Looking at the principles of Food Sovereignty one would agree with the campaign for land reform in South Africa, there is need for genuine and comprehensive land reforms that prioritise local agricultural production in order to feed people, the access of peasants and landless people to land, water, seeds, and credit. With examples of best practice drawn from Europe and America, one way these farmers can implement Food Sovereignty is through Community Supported Agriculture.

Charity Embraces Food and the Commons

November 28, 2011

Edinburgh Cyrenians works in partnership with the Fareshare network to reduce food waste of big corporations and supermarkets.  Diverting food from landfill, Cyrenians Good Food collects food that is near its use by date, sorts it in their small warehouse and re-distributes to organisations working with people in need.

This video presents the Cyrenians Good Food project.

Fareshare were also featured recently on the BBC news.  The report on a collection of charities distributing food in Trafalgar Square, London, highlighted the amount of food that is wasted in the UK.  This is not only bad for the environment, but is extremely wasteful when we here of so many reports of hunger and lack of food n other parts of the world.

Cyrenians also operate two other services connected with food, waste and the environment.  The Cyrenians Farm and Cyrenians COREThe farm operates as a business providing income for the organisation as a social enterprise.  However, the farm is sited within one of their communities that provide accommodation for up to 8 young people and a team of residential volunteers.  Although, residents are not obliged to work on the farm they are encouraged to.  By doing so they learn about food – from how and when it is grown to harvesting and cooking.  The residents then collectively agree menu’s and cook together.

Cyrenians CORE project fills the gap that Good Food leaves.  Taking the food that is passed its useby date or waste from restaurants Core collects this in a large lorry and delivers this to a farm where it is turned into compost.

THE SAHARA FOREST! IS MY DREAM

November 28, 2011

Imagine a forest, in the Sahara as a remedy for global warming and much more. Does it sound crazy? I understand, in conventional terms it would be more sensible to think about conservation and/ or reforestation of the tropical rainforest, which are threatened by logging and clearance for agriculture, than my captioned subject. Although these conventional recommendations are easier to contemplate they are not straightforward solutions without a challenge. The economic and political reasons that lead to the destruction of the rainforests are among the very challenges that make such recommendations not easy to enforce. I totally concur, however, that preservation, sustainable utilisation and restoration of our planet’s ecosystems is a crucial part of the answer to the puzzle.

Often times thinking out of the box is the reason for many important inventions and or innovation. That is why dreaming about the Sahara Forest as one of the panaceas for global warming can not and should not be disregarded.

You may be imagining the amount of fresh water you will need to forest Sahara desert. You may even be guessing I may be talking about irrigation schemes using the Nile or late Gadaffi’s man made river. No, I am talking about using our planet’s apparently limitless resource, Seawater; creating Mangrove forests using seawater irrigation. In fact it is not just a dream, the work has already begun by the Manzanar project on a small scale and I believe the coming of significantly up scaled programme should be in next to no time.

Mangrove forests naturally occur in the intertidal zone of tropical and subtropical seas and oceans and are among the world’s most productive ecosystems. They are often called as ‘tidal forests’, ‘coastal woodlands’ or ‘oceanic rain forests’.

What are the science, rationale and significance behind the Manzanar project mangrove initiative? You will find the whole answer in the linked paper in which I am a co-author. To give you a brief account:

The science behind is the findings on what is missing in the composition of seawater to grow seawater plants, how to supplement it and the tools and methods to successfully grow the seeds or seedlings in the final designated land. The system can be employed to restore degraded mangrove forests, to grow mangrove forests within the intertidal zones where irrigation is not required and also to grow mangrove forest inland beyond the intertidal zone.

The rationale and significance of the initiative lies in the abundance of seawater (approximately 97.5 % of all the water on the earth), vastness of barren deserts and the impact of such grand ‘viable’ greening schemes to our environmental perils.

If you take my dream about the Sahara forest literally and metaphorically to include all barren deserts with access to Seawater, it is not difficult to imagine the scale of such initiative and the impact it can have to combat climate change.

Finally, I want to acknowledge that this very dream is a dream I share but firstly (that I know of) the dream of my Mentor and unconventional thinker Dr. Gordon H. Sato.

Renewable Energy; The Panacea of Africa Development

November 28, 2011

Insufficient power supply is the cancer that has eaten dip into African economy, created environment for unfair sharp practices amongst electrical equipment companies and middlemen to sabotage infrastructures in order to encourage importation of parts and equipment. This however bore licking holes on all developmental programmes on the continent.

We have read so much on UNDP’s 2015 MDGs and the argument that development should have a human face; which sounded quite brilliant. But if only 2% of the rural poor have access to electricity in this modern world, it then makes nonsense of this conception called MDGs. Nonetheless, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) has punctured UNDP’s argument by insisting that access to energy is essential in improving productivity and increasing people’s livelihood.

In a workshop in 2003 NEPAD presented an Energy Agenda declaring that there are abundant energy resources yet to be tapped in Africa especially in area of renewable energy and emphasised categorically that development should be linked with energy.

Renewable Energy should have formed part of the MDGs in the first instance because it is linked with rural development; it is environmentally friendly; it requires less investment and there are readily available natural resources – biomass, geothermal, solar, hydro, wind etc. When we understand the simplistic nature of some of these God given resources; the question must be asked why the United Nation has not given the required attention to this aspect of development. I wish we could organise a workshop and a scholarly debate on this. For clear understanding here are some of the renewal energies:

Biomass converts agricultural waste products; and or cash crops like sugar cane rice etc to ethanol a substitute for petroleum fuel through a process called Cogeneration. It is an ideal rural electrification option that is cost efficient with abundant local resources; only Mauritius has optimum utilisation of this potential in Africa as it generates 20% of its electricity from sugarcane.

Geothermal – are constant flow of energies within the earth crust examples are the molten rocks or magma and the volcanoes. It has the simple technology of drilling wells through rocks to capture high concentrated steam through pipes to power electricity generating turbines. With over 41 mountains in Africa only Kenya and Ethiopia have explored this potential. Where are the remaining 39 mountains?

Solar – arguably the cheapest energy source, most popular of the renewable energies and the answer to rural power supply; it is energy from the sun converted through Photovoltaic (PV) technology to electrical energy. It could have been the rally point of meeting energy needs in Africa since they are endowed with abundant sun energy but the astronomical cost of the photovoltaic technology had restricted patronage. Is it not astonishing that two major EU consortiums (German- Desertec Industry Initiative (DII) and French- Medgrid) are already in the Arab deserts of North Africa on a project to capture wind and solar energy to power homes in Europe? Is it not pure hypocrisy that on a daily basis European Charity organisations are soliciting aids for Africa while their governments are making big media hypes on financial assistance to Africa; relegating what should be the real aid to Africa? Is it not surprising that NEPAD is not reacting?

Wind -There has been less investment in wind turbines partly due to lack of technical skills and low wind speed across Africa; Morocco has made significant progress in this area of energy with the building of 42 km African’s largest wind farm. Many countries in North and Central Africa are seriously considering the option.

It is rather unfortunate that the immediate economic values of oil and gas from export encouraged over dependence on this sector thereby dwarfing the realisation of the right technology that could develop other areas mentioned above. However, UN made an attempt in putting renewable energy in the front burner in the past with the signing of the United Nation Framework Convention for Climate Change by 155 heads of government in 1999. Initially there were lukewarm attitude from major oil exporters in Africa -Nigeria, Algeria, Libya, Angola and Cameroon. Subsequently a decision was made in 2002 during the World Economic Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg requesting every country to commit 10% of its national energy supply from renewable energy.

By 2011, the situation has not changed; about 15% of Africans still do not have electricity with exception of South Africa and North Africa.

Ironically USA, the biggest donor to UN, is the home of Caterpillar, the leading player in Global Diesel Generator Sets which has its biggest market in Africa. Additionally, United States is the home of the world’s biggest research and development centre, NASA. Wouldn’t it be rational that instead of these double standards of giving aids and milking it away through multinationals that it should be converted to the development of cheap technology to achieve renewable energy in Africa? Renewal Energy is the core of development and should form the ninth 2015 Millennium Development Goal.