Planet Earth Weekly

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


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The Bamboo Bicycle

An American bike from 1896. The frame made of ...

An American bike from 1896. The frame made of bamboo. Exhibited in Prague’s Technical Museum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Lin Smith

A Non Polluting Form of Transportation
December 16, 2013—The bamboo bicycle caught my attention when reporting on the Green Climate Fund Conference in Warsaw last month where the U.N. chief, Ban Ki-Moon, was seen riding around the city, and the conference hallways, on a bamboo bike. At the conference, the Bamboo Bike Initiative of Ghana was one of several projects being recognized by the U.N. as a Lighthouse Activity, a project which shines light towards the future, helping to build a low carbon and efficient world, “tackling climate change, health, financial and social problems.” They are recognized for the beacon of hope they shine on their communities and throughout the world. The Bamboo Bike Initiative provides an affordable form of transportation plus provides jobs for those in rural African communities.

The History of the Bamboo Bike
No one is credited with inventing the first bamboo bike, as it is thought many were building some form of the bike in the late 1800’s. The bamboo bike first appeared in New York around 1894, where it was on display by Bamboo Cycle, a company from England which patented it the same year. Following is a review sent to the company in 1894 praising the bike:

Sirs,
I am more than satisfied with my bamboo bicycle. I have ridden on rough, stony roads and it has shown no signs of wear and tear. I strongly recommend these bikes to my friends. The appearance of them is better than steel machines. There still seems to be a prejudice against them, but as my experience goes, it is an unfounded one. I believe they are as strong as any on the market.

This same review might have been written in 2013. They are highly recommended by those who ride them and stand up to any bike on the market, yet, they are not as widely accepted as carbon fiber or steel framed bikes.

Bamboo bikes today are made as road bikes, mountain bikes and racing bikes. The methods used to make the bamboo durable consists of smoking, heat treatment, torching or placing the bamboo in ovens. The poles can be joined using metal, resin saturated fibers or hemp and coated with a substance to prevent water damage.

The Bamboo Bike Initiative of Ghana
The Bamboo Bike Initiative was established in 2009 in Ghana to reduce rural unemployment by training apprentices to assemble the bamboo bike frames. The long term goal is for these apprentices to open workshops in their villages and train 5 or 6 more people to craft the bikes. The bamboo for the bikes is grown locally, which keeps the bikes at a lower cost, provides jobs for the unemployed in Africa and creates a healthy atmosphere, as it is a prolific producer of oxygen.

The Bamboo Bike Initiative partners with a company from Australia called Bamboo Rides, which supplies the equipment used to improve the precision and marketability of the bikes to meet European standards, where most of the bikes are sold. Growing bamboo locally not only creates jobs, but saves on carbon emissions, resulting from shipment of bamboo. Unlike carbon filled frames, which create pollutants at every stage from extraction to manufacturing, the bamboo bicycle frame is able to be recycled, leaving minimal environmental damage. Isaac Osei, Regional Director for Ghana’s EPA, states ” Vehicle ownership will rise as Ghana reaches record levels of growth, which will increase carbon dioxide emissions—educating people to make and use bamboo bicycles to commute will meet the goals for sustainability in Ghana.”

Finally, Mathew Sparkes, of the Guardian, writes about his bamboo bike ride, “When I first started riding the bike, nothing happened for a split second. Then, almost before I noticed, it sprang ahead as though it had more energy than I was putting in to it. It rivals carbon, steel, or anything I’ve ridden. It’s also as comfortable and soaks up the bumps. The feel of it comes from something that grows naturally—grass!”


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The Green Climate Fund

Scientific studies on climate helped establish...

The Green Climate Fund would help counteract temperature increases by funding climate friendly programs in underdeveloped nations(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Lin Smith

Origination of the Green Climate Fund
November 30, 2013–The idea for the Green Climate Fund originated at the 2010 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held in Cancun, Mexico. According to the drafted document, which can be viewed at gcfund.net, its purpose is, “to make a significant contribution to the global efforts to limit global warming, by providing support to developing countries to help limit or reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and to adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate with low-emission projects and climate-resilient development.” The Fund was to limit the emissions that would take place with the Industrial Revolution that would soon evolve in undeveloped nations, by working and funding a cleaner Industrial Revolution for those nations using renewable energy instead of fossil fuels, preventing a further rise in global temperatures. In last week’s article on planetearth5.com, “The Demographic Transition”, by John Hidore, it was stated, “A country’s stages of the Industrial Revolution and population growth have merged from one to the next, but do not take place at the same time. Many less developed countries have not yet changed to an industry based economy, still being an agricultural society.” The Green Climate Fund was to provide grants and lend funds to the developing countries, working closely with the countries that would be most impacted by global warming, by channeling funds where needed and closely monitoring them for efficiency and effectiveness.This project has been in the development stage for several years, having a projected date of action starting in 2020.

The Warsaw Climate Talks
In the past two weeks, 9,000 people gathered in Warsaw for the Green Climate Fund Summit conference, including representatives from 195 countries, plus world environmental groups. This conference was to map and plan the action of the Green Climate Fund. Manfred Konukiewitz, of the the Green Climate fund board, stated, “Climate finance is a critical part of the international effort to combat climate change and address the impact of ever more serious climate change. The Fund is stepping up its work to deliver effective results in developing countries and ensure that the impact of funding for adaptation is maximized.”

The conference in Warsaw succeeded in creating frustration among several organizations, resulting in a walk out of these groups. Greenpeace walked out stating, “Expectations were that the developed countries were going to put money on the table, but what happened was a farce! It was the opposite of what we expected.” The environmental groups showed dismay with the lack of leadership, as Poland performed a political shuffle of their environmental ministers during the conference plus hosting a coal industry summit during the Green Climate Fund talks. This led to the belief by many that Poland was not serious about combating global warming. The environmental groups stated, “We are walking out to send a strong message due to total inaction at the talks, due to lack of ambition and finance, at a time when we need the most action.” They believe that rich countries are not pledging enough money in proportion with the climate damage they have caused. So question is, where will the money come from? Some believe, at least in part, that it should be raised with a carbon tax on the trillions of dollars in fossil fuel subsidies, which allow the price of these commodities to remain relatively low.

The bickering continued with the developed nations not wanting to take responsibility for further weather catastrophies, as underdeveloped nations thought they should. Connie Hedegaard, EU Climate Commissioner stated, “We cannot have a system where there will be automatic compensation whenever severe weather events are happening one place or the other around the planet. You will understand why that is not feasible!” Ban Ki Moon, The UN Secretary General told the Financial Times, “While national delegates bicker, human activity is leading to rising global temperatures, as stated by a new climate report released September 2013. It is much more than a wake up call. It is an emergency alarm bell. We have to take urgent action.” The conference ended with giving developed countries until 2015 to establish their “contribution” plans (meaning no commitment!) to curb greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, with nothing being finalized until the next conference in Paris in 2015.

Solutions To the Global Warming Crises
If we can’t seem to organize soon enough on a large, global scale, (much environmental damage will be done by 2020, the target date of action for Green Climate Fund) then everyone on every level needs to step up to the plate–and quickly! Individuals, communities, states and nations need to be contributing to saving our planet at a personal, state and national level. Todd Gitlin, in his article “How to Stop Apocalyptic Climate Change,” states, “The institutions of our ruling world have a powerful stake in the mad momentum of climate change, the energy system that’s producing it and the political stasis that sustains and guarantees it. They are so powerful they seem unbreakable. Don’t count on them to avert the coming crisis. They can’t because, in some sense, they are the crises!”

A final thought–would it be possible for the developed nations to cut their defense programs in half and contribute that money towards defending our planet?