Planet Earth Weekly

Climate Change and Renewable Energy: Saving Our Planet for Future Generations


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Pollution and Child Labor: The Tanneries of Bangladesh

Bangladesh

Bangladesh and Child Labor

By Linn Smith

March 26, 2017—-Following is a recent article concerning Bangladesh, child labor and the polluting tanneries published by the Associated Press.

 In a Planet Earth Weekly article, May 2014, Bangladesh: The Poster Child for Climate Change https://planetearth5.com/?s=bangladesh I recieved the following comment about the tanneries from Solid Bangla, a newspaper in Bangladesh:

solid bangla..
June 18, 2014 at 1:54 am
Such a good article. Bangladesh is going through its most difficult time and things seem to get worse. Climate change will severely affect Bangladesh for sure and also the rise in tanneries and unregulated brick fields are ruining the environment so badly. Corrupt politicians can not see this as most of them are uneducated and corrupt. But thanks for identifying some good and concerning sides. Good job and good luck to Bangladesh.

Bangladesh

Tanneries, child labor and pollution

The Polluting Tanneries of Bangladesh Mar 24, 11:37 AM EDT
BY MARTHA MENDOZA AND JULHAS ALAM
ASSOCIATED PRESS

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Hazardous, heavily polluting tanneries, with workers as young as 14, supplied leather to companies that make shoes and handbags for a host of Western brands, a nonprofit group that investigates supply chains says.

The report by New York-based Transparentem, released to The Associated Press on Friday, didn’t say leather from the tanneries ends up in American and European companies’ products, only that the manufacturers of some of those goods receive it.

Some companies say they’re certain the leather used to make their products was imported from outside Bangladesh, and the manufacturers concur. Still, in response to the report most brands had switched factories, banned Bangladesh leather or demanded improvements and audits.

The abuses alleged have long plagued Hazaribagh, a Dhaka neighborhood that’s the hub of Bangladesh’s leather industry with more than 150 tanneries. The air is noxious with an eye-stinging rotten-egg odor, and children play on small hills of rotting hide trimmings. The Buriganga River, a source of drinking water for 180,000 people, shimmers with poisons from tannery chemical runoff, as well as other human and industrial waste.

The $1 billion-a-year industry was ordered to shut down and move more than 15 years ago, but deadlines have passed without consequence and fines go unpaid. Last week, Bangladesh’s High Court told authorities to stop supplying gas, water and electricity to the tanneries. Rawhide supplies have also been ordered halted.

And yet they’re still in business, fueled by consumer demand for ever-more-stylish but low-priced wallets and boots.

Child labor of Bangladesh

Tanneries of Bangladesh

Transparentem uses investigative journalism practices to tackle labor and environmental abuses, producing detailed reports that are privately shared with companies involved. The group gives companies time to respond before sharing its findings with investors, regulators, advocacy organizations or journalists.

Its confidential Hazaribagh report and accompanying video, shared late last year with about a dozen U.S. and European brands and companies, showed workers at five different tanneries bent double under the weight of soaking wet cow hides, shuffling past heavy machinery delivering heavy loads. Workers are seen whipping handheld razors through leather, tossing off loose trimmings. Barrels of chemicals lean against walls. The floor is wet, and some workers are barefoot.

Bangladesh law prohibits workers under 18, but some appeared to be teenagers. The report says that in 2015, a mother confirmed her child working in a tannery was 14. Footage from 2016 showed the child was still working there. On the video, a 17-year-old told the videographer his age. And there’s 2016 footage of two workers agreeing that there are 15-year-olds onsite.

Transparentem is not publishing its findings but showed the video to an AP reporter before sharing the report. It said the discretion was needed to protect its investigators and the workers, and that the research is ongoing.

Bangladesh child labor

Tanneries, pollution and child labor

The nonprofit said its Hazaribagh team tracked leather first-hand and with corporate reports from two tanneries, Apex Tannery Ltd. and Bay Tannery Ltd., to Bangladesh shoemakers Apex Footwear and Bay Footwear. Apex Tannery also sent leather to South Korean leather dealer White Industries, said the report. From White, Transparentem tracked leather to Simone Accessories, a South Korean handbag maker.

Using customs records and business documents, they found those factories make shoes and purses for Clarks, Coach, Kate Spade, Macy’s, Michael Kors, Sears, Steven Madden and Timberland. Also included were Germany-based Deichmann, a shoe and sportswear chain, and two U.S. firms – Harbor Footwear Group and Genesco – which design and market shoes in even more brands.

No one followed a piece of leather produced by a child to a particular purse or shoe.

E. Benjamin Skinner, founder and principal of Transparentem, said the group investigates endemic problems within an industry, and looked into Apex and Bay because they are among the largest.

“We tell brands and retailers what they may not, but should, know about those with whom they do business. This gives them the opportunity to use their influence with their suppliers to address questionable activity and advance positive action,” Skinner said.

The American and European brands that responded to queries from the AP stated their commitments to prevent labor abuse in manufacturing. But some brands, the Bangladeshi companies involved and industry officials disputed the report’s findings.

“That NGO went to our buyers too,” said Shahin Ahmed, chairman of the Bangladesh Tanners’ Association. “They showed them some video clips of child workers who are engaged in manufacturing some byproducts. … They are no way part of the main industry, I can challenge anybody.”

Syed Nasim Manzur, managing director of Apex Footwear and a director at the Apex Tannery, calls Hazaribagh “an environmental disaster” and said they’ll soon close their plant there. But he said the report is a “smear campaign,” allegations of child labor are unsubstantiated, and Hazaribagh leather doesn’t end up in exported products.

Manzur said Apex Footwear and Apex Tannery are separate entities, although they have some owners in common and are associated businesses. He said Apex Footwear has two separate shoe-making factories, one for local markets and another, across the street, for exports. The Hazaribagh leather goes only to the local factory, he said.

Bay Footwear technical adviser Rezaur Rahman, speaking for Bay Group, which includes their tannery, called Transparentem’s findings “absolutely baseless.”

“We worked with the International Labor Organization and trade unions. I don’t understand how and where they found child workers in the industry,” Rahman said. “We don’t have any child workers.”

Coach – whose website says their produce is “handcrafted from the finest American and European hides and textiles” – said they get no more than 1.5 percent of their leather from Hazaribagh and Kate Spade said they get just 1 percent. Both said they’re stopping any purchases from Hazaribagh.

Michael Kors and Harbor Footwear said they were a few steps removed from the Hazaribagh tanneries, hadn’t knowingly sourced leather there, and would make sure not to.

Clarks and Deichmann said they are certain no Hazaribagh leather ended up in their products.

Deichmann said Apex Footwear only makes their shoes with imported leather or hides processed at Apex Gazipur tannery that they’ve audited.

A Clarks spokesman said the company “is only responsible for the sourcing of materials in our own products and cannot control the sourcing of others.”

Sears, Timberland, Macy’s, Genesco and Steven Madden all said that while they weren’t getting leather from the tanneries, they saw an opportunity to use their companies’ leverage at the related factories to bring improvements, with some using threats, others offering auditors and support.

Attorneys representing Apex Footwear and Macy’s, Steven Madden and Genesco signed an agreement last month that says Apex will verify that all tannery workers are adults using protective gear, and that independent auditors would oversee longer-term improvements.

Steve Park, sales director at White Industry Co., said the South Korean company stopped using raw materials from Bangladesh late last year after U.S. clients such as Coach, Michael Kors and Kate Spade informed them about environmental problems and child labor issues. Now they use American, Brazilian and Pakistani suppliers, he said.

Scott Nova at the Worker Rights Consortium in Washington, D.C., said a brand or retailer that is serious about protecting worker rights, and about honoring its public commitments to do so, would not do business with a factory that sources from suppliers that engage in dangerous and abusive practices.

“This principle applies, whether or not leather from the tanneries in question is being used in a brand’s products,” he said.

Global brands are drawn to manufacturing in Bangladesh by low wages, and leather shoes, belts and purses are top exports. But many Bangladeshi manufacturers depend on domestic tanneries for their leather, and 90 percent of those tanneries are in Hazaribagh.

Conditions in the neighborhood are deplorable. Chemicals and defecation run milky-white through open sewers, pouring untreated into the river, more of a waste pond than a waterway. Metal tarnishes quickly; electronics corrode.

Tannery workers live in small, hot, steel-walled rooms perched on precarious stilts above creeks of raw sewage and mounds of stinking scraps.

AP journalists were not allowed inside Apex and Bay’s Hazaribagh tanneries, but workers walking out said no children were employed there now.

Reporters did find children working in smaller Hazaribagh tanneries not mentioned by Transparentem. The work is hazardous, with large equipment and little to none of the protective clothing, splash aprons, safety goggles and respirators mandatory at North American and European tanneries.

The AP team watched as a man tasted liquid from a drum that processes leather to test for salt levels.

“We would hope to avoid the harm that can be caused by the liquid when the body and the limbs are exposed to it,” said another Hazaribagh leather tanner, Mohammed Harun, 52. “There are some powders and chemicals that infect us when inhaled.”

He said they need boots, gloves and masks.

“If the owners provide us with these things, it will improve the situation,” he said.

A British Medical Journal study published this week found that Bangladeshi tannery workers as young as 8 frequently have untreated rashes and infections, as well as asthma and other lung problems. Pure Earth – a nongovernmental organization that addresses industrial pollution – has put Hazaribagh on its Top 10 list of polluted places, along with Chernobyl. Similar problems exist at tannery clusters in the Philippines and India.

Human Rights Watch advocate Richard Pearhouse, who has reported on pollution and child labor at Hazaribagh tanneries, said none comply with national environmental laws or repeated court orders to move.

American shoppers can make a difference, he said.

“Consumers should be asking plenty of sharp questions on the shop floor about what retailers are doing to guarantee they are not sourcing leather from Hazaribagh’s toxic tanneries,” he said.

Banladesh tanneries: child labor and pollution


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Making a Difference: President Obama, Marine Preserves and Monuments

Obama and  coral reefs

Obama Preserved Many Coral Reefs

“President Obama established the first national marine monument off the east coast of the United States.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

March 19, 2017—-President Obama joined an elite group of people that led to the establishment of our national parks and monuments. Two of those men were John Muir and  President Theodore Roosevelt. Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act in 1906 under which many of our national parks and monuments were established. The Antiquities Act gives the president the authority to set aside sites that are historically or scientifically important.

The Antiquities Act of 1906

Since Roosevelt signed the act more than a thousand different marine protected areas have been created. President Obama used this act to further our federal park system 29 times during his eight years in office. Some of the area is on land and some is in the global ocean. President Obama set aside more ocean environments, as monuments and reserves,  than any other person in history. Altogether he added more than 850 thousand square miles (1.3+ million km2) of ocean for new reserves and additions to existing one.

Seamounts and ocean monuments

Seamounts preserved by President Obama

Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine Monument

Under American law oceans existing within 200 nautical miles of land can be included in protected reserves. On September 5, 2016 President Obama established the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. It is the first national marine monument off the east coast of the United States. It covers approximately 4,913 square miles (12,725 sq km) and includes two separate sections that are near each other. One includes three canyons cut into the continental shelf,  and the other includes four extinct volcanoes or seamounts that exist on the deep sea floor off the shelf.

Coral bleaching and reefs

Coral bleaching is happening along many reefs today.

Seamounts of the Oceans

Along much of the Atlantic coast of the United States there exists an underwater shelf that extends out to sea for a great distance. Scattered along the edge of this shelf are deep canyons cut into the edge. The canyons drop thousands of feet. The exact origin of these canyons is unclear. One section of the monument includes three of these canyons. The larger section of the monument includes four seamounts. A feature of this section is that approximately 50 species of deep sea coral reside nearby. Some at depths of more than 12,800 feet (3900 meters). Commercial fishing and the taking of any physical or organic material from the site is prohibited. Some crab and lobster harvesting will be allowed for several years but then terminated.

Marine monuments and Obams

President Obama set aside marine monuments.

Papahänaumokuäkea Marine National Monument includes the Hawaiian Islands and extends to the northwest to include Midway and other islands. This monument was first created by George W. Bush. In 2016 Obama quadrupled the size of the reserve. It now includes nearly 600,000 square miles (966,000km2) of ocean islands making it the largest marine reserve in the world. It is also the largest single area protected by the United States and is a United Nation Heritage Site. It contains thousands of marine species, half of them unique to the Hawaiian Islands.

Seamounts and the Tropical Oceans

One of the significant aspects of the marine monuments and preserves that Obama set aside is that they are north of the tropic of Cancer. Most coral reefs are in the tropical oceans. These reefs are being destroyed by bleaching due to warming water. The most severe damage to coral reefs is between the equator and 30 degrees either side of the equator. More than 30 countries in this region have reported bleaching to offshore reefs.

The establishment of the reserves and monuments in higher latitudes not only stops damage by fishing and collecting but promises to provide time to study the reef life before the seas have a chance to warm enough to destroy them. Thanks President Obama!


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The Trump Administration and the Clean Power Plan

Clean Power Plan

What kind of planet will we leave our children?

“Repealing the Clean Power Plan will not bring back jobs in the coal mines!”

By Linn Smith

March 9, 2017—-Mike Pence, now Vice President of the U.S. under the Trump administration, has had a long history of denying climate change. In 2001, Pence wrote in an article titled, Global Warming Disaster, “global warming is a myth, the earth is actually cooler today than it was 50 years ago,” and in 2009 he stated it was not clear whether our changing climate was due to human activity, saying there was a growing skepticism in the scientific community about global warming.

Pence and the Clean Power Plan

In 2009 Pence led 27 states, along with Indiana, where he governed between 2013-2017, in a fight against Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which was a “commonsense plan to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants, while maintaining an affordable, reliable energy system, which would cut pollution and protect our health and environment now and for future generations.” In a 2014 speech Pence stated that Indiana is a pro-coal state which will continue to fight “overreaching schemes” of the EPA until the war on coal comes to an end.

Letter to Pence from Scientists

Indiana scientists sent a letter to Governor Pence in 2015, pleading with him to call on their expertise, a letter which went unanswered. Part of the letter states:

“Dear Governor Pence, Our understanding of the Earth’s climate has come a long way in the past 100 yrs. and the role of greenhouse gases is now well documented. The Earth’s atmosphere contains greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide that trap heat from the Sun that would otherwise be transmitted back out to space. Changes in the carbon dioxide concentration strongly influence Earth’s climate. In the past century, the carbon dioxide concentration of the atmosphere has increased by 30%. This increase, in large measure, is the result of human use of fossil fuels for energy. This carbon transfer has increased global temperatures in our lifetimes, with a set of secondary effects such as weather patterns that are more erratic and extreme. Like the overwhelming majority of scientists, we project that this human-produced effect will continue to grow into the foreseeable future…….Our challenge today is to explore opportunities to develop mitigation and adaptation strategies in Indiana that reflect our interests to protect energy and transportation infrastructure, the health of the public economic development. We would be privileged to help you in this effect……..” Again, this letter has remained unanswered.

clean power plan

Is Trump good for the environment?

Clean Power Plan and the Lawsuit

The Trump administration is currently attempting to dismantle the Clean Power Plan, which was part of Obama’s effort to fight global warming. The lawsuit against the Clean Power Plan is currently in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, waiting a decision. The court decision could be made anytime between now and several years down the road.

The clean power plan

The Clean Power Plan for the health of our planet!

According to an article by Brad Plumer on http://www.Vox.com, the court process could take years as the EPA will have to write a new coal power plant rule, along with a legal explanation of why it’s changing its mind, followed by responses from the public. Because of regulations regarding the court battle, the Clean Power Plan is currently not in effect while the decision is being made. The court could rule: A) that the EPA does have the authority to regulate carbon dioxide from existing power plants under Section 111(d), B) It does not have the authority, or C) the law is ambiguous and its up for interpretation. Matt Pilon says in, “Clean Power Plan Repeal could have Mixed Impacts”, the short-term impact of a Clean Power Plan delay would be that utilities would be able to lower emissions more gradually, relieving them of some potential costs.

Clean Power Plan

Keeping our nation clean.

Repealing the Clean Power Plan will not bring back jobs in the coal mines! The jobs have been lost to natural gas, renewable resources, open pit mining and mountaintop mining, which is less expensive and requires less manpower—even though it is environmentally devastating. The answer? Retraining coal miners and rebuilding the infrastructure of coal mining country.

Retraining Coal Miners

Wind technician is one of the fastest growing fields in today’s job market. President Obama allotted $14.5 million in federal funding for programs to retrain out of work coal miners and to develop the economy of coal country.

Change must be accepted! It was also devastating for small farmers in the midwest to lose their family farms to large corporations. But all the Willie Nelson farm aide concerts that took place couldn’t save the small farmer. Change happens!

Clean Power Plan


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Overpopulation Results in Global Stress

Are there enough resources for overpopulation?

With climate change will there be enough resources for all?

Climate change can decrease the carrying capacity of a region.

By Dr. John Hidore

February 23, 2017—The human population has been growing in size and spreading out over the planet ever since its origin in Africa long ago. It is currently growing faster than at any time in history. Today it is equivalent to adding the populations of the earth’s three largest metropolitan areas each year…or between 80 and 90 million people every 12 months. Various estimates place the global population at between seven and seven and a half billion. Of this two billion has been added in just the last 24 years.

Overpopulation Defined

There are a number of concepts being used today in relating the size of the human population to the environment. These are population growth, limits to growth and overpopulation, and they are each related. The basic resources people need are food, water and essentials for clothing and shelter. Ideally, in any region the size of the human population remains below or in balance with the resources available to support it. When in balance it results in the population being sustained for long periods of time. However, we do not live in an ideal world and the sustainable population seldom exists.

Population growth in any region may result in the area no longer having enough resources to sustain the growing number of people at a healthy level. When this occurs either the people, the environment, or both become stressed. The symptoms of population stress include human health problems, resource depletion, migration, and violence. Environmental stress includes a variety of processes, including deforestation, soil erosion and climate change. In any event when human stress or environmental stress takes place the region is overpopulated.

Carrying Capacity and overpopulation

What is Carrying Capacity?

Processes That Create an Unsustainable Population

Even if the population in a region stays fairly constant it can become overpopulated by environmental changes. Climate change can increase the number of people a region can support. Rainfall may increase in a dry region, or temperatures may get warmer or cooler to favor plant growth.

Carrying capacity is the number of organisms a region can support without environmental degradation. Climate change can decrease the carrying capacity of a region. During the last ice age, large areas of what are now dry lands or deserts received more rainfall than they do now. The Sahara Desert and much of the middle east contain the remains of cities that flourished during wetter times, but are abandoned now due to climate change.

Changes in technology can also change the carrying capacity. As technology has progressed through time many regions have been able to support an increasing number of people. However, the effect of technological change tends to be short-lived and ultimately encourage overpopulation. Even with a more favorable climate and the addition of technological advances there is still a limited carrying capacity and overpopulation can occur.

The green revolution of the 20th Century is a good example of how the carrying capacity can be increased. Modifying plant species allowed crop production, particularly grain, to greatly increase and feed a growing population. 

Just as humans can increase the carrying capacity they can also decrease it. Over-grazing by livestock, soil erosion, salinization of soils, deforestation, or human induced climate change can reduce the carrying capacity. This lowers the level of the sustainable population so that overpopulation occurs.

overpopulation

Overpopulation and climate change creates environmental stress.

Overpopulation: The Big Question

The big question, “Does overpopulation occur regionally or globally?” Clearly on a regional basis the answer is yes. All the symptoms are there. Whether it is occurring on a global basis in today’s world is not clear. There are symptoms of overpopulation on every continent except the Antarctic.

Many scientists say the evidence of overpopulation is severe. For example: more than a billion people are undernourished. Another billion do not have clean water to drink.

 Climate change is taking place at an astonishing rate. The extinction rate of plant and animal species is the highest in recorded history. It may be that the resources available to us will support a population of only half what it is at the present time. If the latter is the case, immediate, and perhaps extreme, measures must be taken if world stress and turmoil is to be avoided!

The evidence of overpopulation is severe!


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The Repeal of The Stream Protection Rule

smog

Coal causes major pollution!

“The Congressional Review Act clears the path for the new Republican administration to repeal any of Obama’s legislation signed after mid June of 2016.”

By Linn Smith

February 19, 2017—This week Trump signed a bill which repeals Obama’s Stream Protection Rule, a regulaton that protects waterways from coal mining waste by placing restrictions on coal companies that dump their waste in streams. Obama signed the Stream Protection Rule in December 2016, several weeks before the Trump administration took power.

The Congressional Review Act

The 1996 Congressional Review Act allows the House and Senate to kill any recently finalized federal regulation signed by an outgoing administration, in this case Obama. It allows congress and the new administraton, Trump, to repeal an act by a majority vote in congress, as long as the new president agrees to sign it, and Trump has agreed to the repeal!

The Congressional Review Act clears the path for the new Republican administration to repeal any of Obama’s legislation signed after mid June of 2016, and there is a lengthy list of repeals pending! The Stream Protection Rule was finalized by Obama in December 2016, so the Congressional Review Act is well within the limits for use in repealing this rule. Since its creation in 1996 the Congressional Review Act has only been put in to use one time—George W. Bush rolled back legislation in 2001 that would have further protected employees in the workplace.

The Stream Protection Rule

The Stream Protection Rule would have required new mining companies to set aside money to restore surrounding streams that would be effected by the mine and all mining companies would be required to monitor water quality. The Interior Department estimated the regulation would have cost the coal companies only 0.1 percent or less of their entire annual coal industry revenues!

According to sciencemag.org, “Demise of the Stream Rule won’t revitalize coal industry,” killing the rule will reset to its 1983 version when, “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers usually issued a permit for blocking a stream with mine waste with the EPA also signing off. The repeal puts the pressure back on the Corps.”

Mountaintop mining

Mountaintop mining blasts away the mountains!

No Return of Coal Mining Jobs

The coal companies stated the Stream Protection Rule would have reduced mining jobs. But in Appalachia it’s predicted that jobs will never return because mountaintop mining is more economical and requires fewer workers. In the Planet Earth Weekly article, From Coal Mining to Renewables, planetearth5.com, I stated, “Coal jobs have been trending down for decades, partially because of mountaintop mining. Mountaintop mining has taken the place of underground mining and requires fewer workers, cutting jobs by the thousands.”

Loss of jobs in underground mining

Underground Mining

In 2015 the coal industry employed just under 70,000 people. There will always be some need for coal, as in the production of steel, but as an energy source it’s becoming the more expensive fuel. Natural gas and renewables are more economical, with renewables eventually being the future!

Trump signs Stream Protection Rule


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Grameen Shakti: One of The World’s Fastest Growing Renewable Energy Companies

Renewables in Bangladesh

Shakti provides solar for rural areas.

“Sustainable Energy: Entrepreneurial companies like Shakti are proving we can do far better than business as usual.”

By Linn Smith

February 10, 2017—-Founded in 1996 in Bangladesh, Grameen Shakti has installed over 5 million solar home systems and created over 100,000 clean energy jobs. Grameen Shakti was set up as a not-for-profit in 1996 to bring modern energy services to households, by providing both energy technology (solar-home-systems for electricity, improved stoves and biogas for cooking) and affordable finance, at a local level.

Renewable Energy

Shakti provides solar for small businesses.

Solar in Rural Bangladesh

In Bangledesh 80% of the population lives in rural areas, which is where Grameen Shakti gets its name—translation is “rural energy”. Nearly half of rural Bangladesh becomes islands during the rainy season as snow melts in the Himalayas, rushing through the countryside to the Indian Ocean. Income varies among the populations with many people finding solar out of reach because of low income. Obtaining solar would equal the entirety of several months wages for some people.

Grameen Shakti

Solar power is provided for rural Bangladesh.

Creating Rural Supply Chains for Solar

Shakti focuses its solar energy towards what the customer needs, and makes plans with the rural people to pay for it with very affordable loans. In an article by Nancy Wimmer, director of microSOLAR, she states, “Shakti meets this challenge by creating rural supply chains and after-sales service. Its engineers and technicians live, work and are trained on the job in the villages. They become part of the community, keep in close contact with their customers, and make sure the solar systems are in good repair and running properly. If there is a problem, Shakti is on site to solve it – even in times of disaster. Shakti sent young, motivated engineers into the hinterland to set up its first branches. They won the trust of the villagers, trained village technicians, managed all financing, solar installations and maintenance. This laid the groundwork for Shakti’s quality service and steady growth, but it took years to develop.” Shakti now has 1500 branch offices in every district of Bangledesh, and has trained mostly women as engineers.

Grameen Shakti

Shakti provides Bangladesh with solar power.

Solar and Biogas: Creating Clean Energy

Today Grameen Shakti has reached nearly 8 million rural dwellers, with not only solar but also biogas plants, which are produced by the breakdown of organic matter such as agricultural waste, manure sewage or food waste. It has also provided over 600,000 energy efficient cook stoves to rural areas.

Wimmer also states, “There are no silver bullets for solving the many problems facing traditional rural societies, but entrepreneurial companies like Shakti are proving we can do far better than business as usual. Shakti succeeds in such a tough business because it has found a way to provide affordable services and financing to a million village customers with microcredit.”

Shakti: Moving Towards a Low Carbon Vison

Shakti is a winner of the Ashden award, which supports sustainable energy trailblazers that focus on a world where everyone has access to affordable, clean energy. The Ashden awards recipients are encouraged to move closer towards a low carbon vision through tangible, powerful examples to inspire others to act by providing the winners finance, publicity, and research.

Grameen Shakti: Doing what it can, where it can to create a healthier planet!


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Greenland: Human Settlement has been Dictated by a Changing Climate

Melting of the Arctic

The Arctic sea ice is melting at a record rate.

“The year 2016 was the warmest year globally since records began in 1880!

By Dr. John J Hidore

January 25, 2017—–Since Greenland was first settled by arctic people and Europeans, climate has played a huge part in the ups and downs of the human population. The first European colonization took place during a relatively warm period in the Arctic. The global climate during the years 950 AD to 1250 AD is known as the Little Climatic Optimum. Weather was unusually warm for several centuries and human settlements spread toward the Arctic. Iceland and Greenland were settled as were other islands in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Eric the Red is believed to have discovered Greenland in 982 AD. In 984 AD, the Norse founded the colony of Osterbygd on the island. Evidence of agriculture and other activities serve to indicate what the climate was like at this time. While it was a cold land, it supported enough vegetation (dwarf willow, birch, bush berries, pasture land) to make settlement possible. The settlers brought cattle and sheep that not only survived but thrived for a considerable period. The Norse established two colonies and began to farm. The outposts thrived and regular communications existed between Greenland and Iceland.

The Little Ice Age and the End of Norse Settlements

Between 1250 AD and 1450 AD climate deteriorated over wide areas around the North Atlantic in what is known as The Little Ice Age. The Little Ice Age was the coldest period in historic times. Areas bordering the North Atlantic Ocean experienced drastic cooling. Mountain glaciers expanded and in some cases reached their maximum extent since the end of the Pleistocene glaciation. Iceland’s population declined. Greenland became isolated from outside contact, with extensive drift ice preventing boats reaching the settlements. Grain that grew there in the tenth century would no longer grow. In Europe storms resulted in the formation of the Zuider Zee, and the excessively wet, damp conditions led to a high incidence of the disease, St. Anthony’s Fire (ergotism).

The little ice age marked the end of the Norse settlements in Greenland that had begun in the tenth century. After flourishing for more than 400 years the colonies disappeared about 1410 AD. A Danish archaeological expedition to the sites in 1921 found evidence that deteriorating climate must have played a role in the population’s demise. Excavations show that at first the soil permitted burying bodies at considerable depth. Later graves became progressively shallower. Some graves were in permafrost that had formed since the burial. Tree roots entangled in the coffins showed the graves were not originally in frozen ground. It also showed that the permafrost had moved progressively higher. Examination of skeletons indicated that food was becoming more and more scarce. Most remains were deformed or dwarfed. There was clear evidence of rickets. All the evidence points to a climate that grew progressively cooler, leading eventually to the isolation and extinction of the settlements. It is not certain the colonies failed due to climatic reasons, but it seems likely.

By 1516 the settlements had practically been forgotten. In 1540 a voyager reported seeing signs of the settlements, but no signs of life. The settlers had perished.

Resettlement of Greenland

There was no European settlement on the island of Greenland for 200 years. In 1721 Denmark sent an expedition to the island to form an outpost, starting the Greenland resettlement.

Glacier National Park

Global warming is causing disappearing glaciers.

The Warming of Greenland

In recent centuries the climate of the Arctic basin has warmed a great deal. The average temperature over land in the Arctic for the year ending in September 2015 reached the highest since recording began in 1900. The temperature was 2.3 degrees F above the mean for the last 114 years .

The year 2016 was the warmest year globally since records began in 1880. The average temperature for 2016 was 58.69 ºF. Temperatures on Greenland followed suit. In June at Nuuk, the capitol city, the temperature reached 75º F (24º C). As temperatures continued to warm the population of the island has been growing. The current population is now above 55,000. Many small settlements have sprung up and agriculture is returning. Until recent years fishing was the primary industry, but now tourism is a growing source of income. Unemployment is relatively high, but with increasing temperatures and more varied employment sources the population is expected to continue to grow. Human settlement in Greenland has been dictated by a changing climate!

Climate change effects Greenland!


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Organized Religions Thrive on Population Growth

“Global acceptance of family planning would alleviate much of the stress on the environment!”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

January 10, 2017—-As the year 2017 begins, Earth’s population is in turmoil. People the world over are protesting against unemployment, poverty, hunger, disease and drastic environmental change. A key to reducing this global turmoil is to slow, stop, or reverse population growth, but there is tremendous pressure to support a growing population. There are groups that thrive on population growth and spend large sums of money to support this growth.

Organized religions are a major contributor to population growth. The strength of organized religions is in the number of their adherents. Since their power lies in their numbers, they encourage large families and oppose family planning, including birth control. Population growth might be slowed substantially in just a few years if it were not for organized religions.

Overpopulation and wallstreet

Does organized religion support overpopulation?

Christianity

The two major religions in terms of membership are Christianity and Islam. There are about 2.1 billion adherents of Christianity. The holy book of Christianity is the Bible, which does not address the issue of family planning. Within Christianity there are many different organized churches. The largest is the Catholic Church with approximately 1.2 billion members. The Catholic Church has long considered any kind of birth control to be a sin and this has been reiterated by Pope Francis. Other Christian churches also support rules against abortion and the use of contraceptives. There is considerable debate now among Evangelical churches. Many do not condone contraception. Others do support it and are leading a movement to accept it as church doctrine.

Global Greenhouse Gases

Climate Change

Islam

There are approximately 1.5 billion followers of Islam. The Islamic holy book is the Quran. The Quran does not prohibit family planning. It does not formally address the issue. Some forms of contraception have been in use in Islamic countries since the origin of Islam. In today’s world the followers of Islam have a wide variety of choices of birth control.

In some countries where Islam is the prevalent religion contraceptive use among women is as high as 70%. Islam has strict rules that prohibit sexual relations before marriage. It views sexual relations between husband and wife as an expression of love and is encouraged. However, prohibition of contraception has grown as a means of increasing the followers of Islam. Individual countries or sects are prohibiting contraception for a variety of reasons.

National and Tribal Interests

In some religions and geographical areas the use of birth control methods is considered a crime. A case in point is the nation of Iran. In 2016 the government declared the use of contraceptives to be a criminal act. Even in some secular countries there are laws that make abortion a crime of murder, even to save the life of the mother or in the case of rape.

A number of European countries have become concerned about their declining birthrate. Among them are Denmark, Germany, Greece, and Italy. The populations of these countries, as in many European countries, is aging due to the low birth rates. The number of residents over the age of 65 is nearly double the world average and is expected to increase. This has major economic and social impact on these countries. Denmark has introduced education concerning the implications of having vs. not having children.

Many religious policies are responsible for much of the rapid growth in population and human stress. The self-interest of religions is more important in some countries than the welfare of the human population or the condition of the environment. It is time the effect of these policies should be made clear and the policies made subject to re-evaluation.

The stress of population growth adds to the stress on our environment. Each day without action increases the probability of a global human disaster. Global acceptance of family planning would alleviate much of this and contribute positively to human health, especially that of women!


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Our Throw-Away Culture

Fossil Fuels

Coal and Oil Formation

“We must act like responsible citizens, even if our government does not!”

Linn Smith

December 29, 2016—Well, Christmas is over and garbage cans and dumpsters are loaded with boxes, wrapping paper, bows and various discards from the holidays. “Take, Make, Waste” is what Annie Leonard calls it in “The Story of Stuff”.

I grew up in a rural farming community. Our yearly garden produced the vegetables we ate. Our trees produced the fruit we would enjoy until the following year’s vegetables and fruits were harvested. What our garden and fruit trees didn’t produce, my grandmother’s house did. Grapes were turned into jelly and so sweet, I have never tasted anything like it since! My parents canned…….and canned some more. The walls in the basement had shelves full of glass jars filled with the beautiful colors of vegetables and fruits. The taste……well, nothing you can buy in a grocery store today! After the fruits and vegetables were consumed the jars were washed and stored back on the shelves for next season’s crop.

Our milk came from our dairy herd, strained through a cheese cloth to get the black floaty things out…never pasteurized! Our meat came from pasture grazed cattle, raised either on our farm or my uncle’s farm and eggs were just a short walk to the hen house.

The Barefoot College

Gandhi’s Philosophy: The small villages must be empowered.

Family Farms Today

Today the family farms where I grew up have all but died, replaced by corporations raising corn for ethanol. Meat and poultry products are mass produced for the consumer in feed lots or small confined cages. How often I walk past fruit trees and the fruit is laying on the ground rotting. Is the art of preserving our food being lost for the next generation?

And what about all the things we Americans tear down or throw away because we’re tired of it and it’s time for something new?

How to be a More Mindful Consumer

Annie Leonard states in “How to be a More than Mindful Consumer, “Let me say it clearly. I’m neither for nor against stuff. I like stuff if it’s well-made, honestly marketed, used for a long time, and at the end of its life, recycled in a way that doesn’t trash the planet, poison people, or exploit workers. Our stuff should not be artifacts of indulgence and disposability, like toys that are forgotten 15 minutes after the wrapping comes off, but things that are both practical and meaningful. British philosopher William Morris said it best: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

Save Planet Earth

Sweden: Creating a Sustainable Community

Sweden is a leader in being an environmentally conscious country. In 2017, they will reduce the sales tax when citizens repair things like bicycles, shoes and cloths. And when people choose to fix white goods, such as washing machines and dishwashers instead of carting them off to the dump, they will receive tax refunds….a reward for being less wasteful. They believe that changing the economic incentives will change people’s thinking toward creating a healthier environment.

Colin Beavan: A Year of Deprivation?

Colin Beavan spent a year trying to live with the least impact on the environment. He tried creating no waste, eating no pre-processed meals, no t.v., no car, and bought no new stuff. Here’s what he had to say about that year, “”They assumed I just finished a year of deprivation,” Colin said. “But I realized that it was the prior 35 years that I had been deprived when I use to workaround the clock, rush home late and exhausted, eat take-out food, and plop down to watch TV until it was time to take out the trash, go to sleep, and start all over again. That was deprivation!”

Take Action

With a new administration entering power in the U.S. it’s time to take responsibility for leaving a healthy planet for future generations….because our government is not going to do it for us! The incoming administration does not support the scientific facts that state our planet is warming and our weather is changing. So it’s time to do what we can, when we can, where we can! We must act like responsible citizens, even if our government does not make a healthy planet a priority–or worse, works for the reversal of steps taken to reduce CO2 in our atmosphere. We are free to choose our actions, but we are not free from the consequence of those actions!

Take Action to Create a Sustainable Future


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  The Depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer

Ogallala aquifer depletion

Depletion of the aquifer

“The Ogallala is recharged by rainwater but only about 1 inch of precipitation actually reaches the aquifer annually.”

By Linn Smith

April 12, 2016—–The Ogallala Aquifer is at risk of drying up! The aquifer, which is part of the High Plains Aquifer, underlies portions of 8 states, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas, and spans 175,000 sq. miles in the midwest United States. Water from the aquifer has many uses but irrigation uses the majority—57 million gallons per day! The Ogallala also supplies approximately 82% of the drinking water for the overlying states.

Water Accumulation in the Ogallala

Water started accumulating in the aquifer 15,000 years ago. Brownie Wilson, a researcher for the Kansas Geological Survey, states, “If the topsoil were rolled up like a carpet the sponge beneath would look like an empty egg carton, with peaks and valleys of varying depths. In parts of western Nebraska, where the Ogallala is plentiful, the sponge extends as far as a thousand feet below the Earth’s surface.”

Depletion of the Ogallala

The Aquifer lies beneath 8 states.

Water Extraction of the Aquifer

Large scale extraction of water from the aquifer for farming purposes began after WWII due to improved farming methods and farm equipment. About 27% of the irrigated farmland in the U.S. lies over the aquifer. Currently the farmland above the aquifer produces about 1/5 of the beef, corn and wheat consumed in the U.S., but the water is depleting faster than nature can replenish it according to an ongoing 60 year study.

In some parts of western Kansas wells have totally dried up! Between the years 2000 and 2008, 25% of the Ogallala Aquifer has depleted from levels of the early 1800’s. Once depleted the aquifer will take over 6,000 years to replenish naturally from rainfall. A 2013 study forecasted that the High Plains Aquifer, which the Ogallala makes up the greatest portion, would be 69% depleted by 2060.The Ogallala is recharged by rainwater but only about 1 inch of precipitation actually reaches the aquifer annually. Recharge of the aquifer ranges from 0.024 inches per year in Texas and New Mexico to 6 inches per year in parts of Kansas, but hundreds of thousands of years of rainfall will be needed to replenish it back to its levels of the early 1800’s.

Ogallala aquifer

U.S. Aquifers are being depleted.

A Depleted Aquifer will Affect Food Supply

In an article written by Laura Parker,” What Happens to the Midwest When the Water’s Gone?” she states “If they don’t reduce pumping and the aquifer is drained, food markets will be profoundly affected around the world. In the coming decades this slow-speed crisis will unfold just as the world needs to increase food production by 60 percent, according to the United Nations, to feed more than nine billion people by mid-century.”

Solutions to a Depleted Aquifer

Solutions? Farmers can either conserve water and extend the life of the aquifer or choose to deplete it. Farmers can dig deeper wells if they run out of water, but the cost has to be determined because eventually deeper and deeper wells could cost more than the income from the crops.

The North Plains Groundwater Conservation District in Texas has introduced a new project to conserve water. Participating farmers grow corn with just over half of the water they would normally require to irrigate the fields using pivot sprinklers rather than the water consuming drip system and they plant crops farther apart to help conserve water. Many farmers are choosing the dryland farming method which uses crops that are drought-resistant and conserve moisture without irrigation. Such crops include sunflowers and winter wheat, but these crops produce less income than crops from irrigated farming, so pressure is on many farmers to keep pumping.

The Ogallala Aquifer and Water Rights

What is happening to the Ogallala Aquifer is also happening to aquifers in Africa, Asia and the Mideast. Again, just as the population of our earth is exploding, our aquifers are becoming contaminated and depleted, taking thousands of years to refill. We need to conserve our groundwater to sustain food production for an increasing population. In Kansas and Nebraska, groundwater belongs to the public. Water rights are granted to property owners by the state, which assign a certain amount that can be legally used—-but what’s available on paper often exceeds what’s left in the ground! Farmers often feel the water is legally theirs to use until it’s gone!

Laura Parker says, “Hope lies in technology; farmers show me iPhone apps that track water use so precisely that as little as a tenth of an inch can be applied to their crops. In Colby, Kansas, Lon Frahm, who farms 30,000 acres of wheat and corn, irrigates with two billion gallons of water yearly. He counts among his farmhands an IT technician who collects data to keep his yields ahead of his declining wells.”

Wind Farms Replace Crops

In the past several years many farmers have retired from crop farming, leasing their land to wind energy. Outside Friona, Texas, northwest of Lubbock, Wesley Barnett leases wind rights on his land to an energy company. The going rate runs about $10,000 a year per turbine.  Barnett says he can’t water his land anymore so for some people, wind is a lifeline.

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