Saturday, November 29, 2008

Dying crocodiles

The deaths of hundreds of crocodiles in the Kruger National Park’s Olifants River this year seems to indicate South Africa’s heavily polluted river systems have reached a ‘tipping point,’ explains Danie Pienaar, the head of scientific services at SANParks.

This tantalising snippet appeared on The Times home page, but will probably disappear as the page is updated.

There was a link to an audio clip, which was useless to me, as my computer doesn't have speakers, and there didn't appear to be any link to a print version of the story. Nevertheless, the story adds to the concern about South Africa's water resources, and puts the sacking of Dr Andrew Turton from the CSIR in an even more serious light.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

in her own write

It seems as though people in Australia have had a similar idea to SAFCEI:

in her own write:
Four months ago a meeting was held in Melbourne with the purpose of establishing a multi-faith environmental organisation. I have never actually joined an environmental organisation before - but when I heard about this I was moved to action. You see, while I don't deny the science of climate change and I don't wish to ignore technology in finding solutions to problems, I am tired of the never-ending rationalism involved in the science, technology, economics and politics relating to climate change and environmental matters. My view is that human communities and the Creator of the planet need to be more clearly acknowledged in the debate.

From that very first meeting in July, GreenFaith Australia has been established and I have finished up its Secretary.

CSIR Silences and Suspends Top Water Scientist

Dr Anthony Turton, who delivered a very disturbing presentation at the SAFCEI National Conference in Rosettenville in April this year, has just been suspended by the CSIR. Dr Turton spoke on the “water crisis” in SA and the mining operations in Gauteng in exacerbating the crisis.

We have been informed that Dr Turton has been suspended by the CSIR (see CSIR statement) prior to delivering an address entitled, “Three Strategic Water Quality Challenges that Decision-Makers Need to Know About and How the CSIR Should Respond”, which was intended to be delivered as the Keynote Address at “A Clean South Africa” CSIR “Science Real and Relevant” Conference on the 18 November 2008.

CSIR Silences and Suspends TOP Water Scientist - Environment South Africa - NEWS - FORUMS - ARTICLES - LEGISLATION:

This action comes just days after he was due to deliver his Keynote Address at a high profile conference but was not present at the conference and was more than likely prevented (or threatened) from attending the conference.

So much for our taxes at work !!! The CSIR is funded by public funds and Dr Turton's work was to reveal serious problems with Water in South Africa which clearly the current ANC regime do not want made public.

It is time for the public to stand up and ACT against this gross violation of Democratic and Constitutional Rights. Clearly the powers that be do NOT want you to know that you and your family are being slowly poisoned by greedy corporations and government officials.

Please go here to sign the petition against his suspension.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The bottled water scam

CounterPunch -November 18, 2008

The Bottled Water Con
Buying the Message on the Bottle

By Wendy Williams

I remember when the name of the game at my gym was pump 'n' swig. Weight
lifters and treadmill sloggers routinely carried with their sweat towels
expensive water in plastic bottles.

Drinking commercial water was the cool thing. In 2006, Americans bought 32.6
billion single-serving bottles of water, and another 34.6 billion larger

With a slew of brands for basically the same product, image marketers have
pushed the envelope - the bottle itself. My favorite absurdity: "Bling H2O,"
with the motto "More than a Pretty Taste." You can buy this water in a
"Limited Edition" frosted-glass bottle encrusted with crystals for $40.

The surprising truth is that an estimated 25 to 40 percent of bottled water
comes from public drinking reservoirs. Pepsico's Aquafina label shows
high-peaked mountains, but the water is from municipal systems, including
that of Ayer, Mass., a town next to a military base and a short drive from
Boston. Coca-Cola's brand, Dasani, also uses municipal systems.

I remember a Dennis the Menace cartoon showing Dad, dazed and bleary-eyed at
3 a.m., holding out a glass of water. Dennis says, "That's bathroom water! I
wanted kitchen water!"

It's all in the marketing.

At some restaurants, "water sommeliers" have pushed $75-a-bottle water for
each course. I once took my husband for his birthday to a restaurant where
the waiter asked if we would like our water bottled or - with curled lip -
"native." That convinced us. We absolutely had to go local.

We still laugh about that.

For years, the joke's been on consumers. We spend all that money on water
and plastic, and toss the plastic. It litters America from sea to
bottle-bobbing sea.

"We estimate that fewer than 20 percent of those get recycled," says Betty
McLaughlin, executive director of the Container Recycling Institute.

Elizabeth Royte, author of the highly readable "Bottlemania: How Water Went
on Sale and Why We Bought It," says America uses about 17 million barrels of
oil each year to make plastic water bottles.

"If you have good tap water, if bottled water is redundant, why wouldn't you
go for the low-impact option?" she asks. "Bring your water over to the
Stairmaster in a reusable bottle."

That message finally seems to be getting through. Today I see the beginnings
of a bottled-water backlash. At my gym, almost no one wants to be seen
swigging from throw-away plastic anymore.

Some restaurants have abandoned bottled water. New York City's Italian
restaurant Del Posto, where it's easy to drop hundreds of dollars on dinner
for two, has a 61-page wine list with many bottles priced over $1,000, but
you can't buy bottled water at any price. Says one of the restaurant's
owners: "To spend fossil fuel trucking water around the world is absurd."

At colleges nationwide, students take the "no bottled water" pledge.
Realizing that spending taxpayer funds on bottled water is careless
environmental stewardship, Illinois has canceled contracts for bottled
water. The city governments of Fayetteville, Ark., and Albuquerque, N.M.,
won't buy the stuff. Chicago has a tax of 5 cents per bottle to cover
disposal costs. Michigan may extend its 10-cent deposit on soft-drink
bottles to bottled water.

For a while, bottled water had a good thing going. In 2006, the industry
worldwide grew 7 percent in dollar sales. Some forecasters suggested 40
percent growth over the next five years.

But recently, those phenomenal growth rates have slowed worldwide.

"Bottled water sales have gone flat for the first time in 30 years, at both
Coke and Pepsi," says ad executive Erik Yaverbaum, founder of Tappening,
which encourages people to drink tap water. "I think people are realizing
they are wasting money buying water that's the same as what comes from their

If I'm going to the gym now, I drink a glass of water before I go. If I'm
going on a long car trip, I fill up a clean glass jug. My mom did that. And
we never went thirsty.


Wendy Williams, who lives in Massachusetts, is co-author of "Cape Wind:
Money, Celebrity, Class, Politics and the Battle for Our Energy Future." She
wrote this commentary for the Land Institute's Prairie Writers Circle,
Salina, Kan.


And in South Africa it is no different.

Some brands of bottled water are simply tap water, so you might as well refill them at the tap and recycle the bottles instead of adding them to the landfill.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Southern Ocean close to acid tipping point

Australian researchers have discovered that the tipping point for ocean acidification caused by human-induced CO2 emissions is much closer than first thought.

Scientists from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and CSIRO looked at seasonal changes in pH and the concentration of an important chemical compound, carbonate, in the Southern Ocean.

The results, published in today's Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, show that these seasonal changes will actually amplify the effects of human carbon dioxide emissions on ocean acidity, speeding up the process of ocean acidification by 30 years.

Dr Ben McNeil, senior research fellow at the UNSW's Climate Change Research Centre, says the ocean is an enormous sink for CO2, but unfortunately this comes at a cost.

"The ocean is a fantastic sponge for CO2, but as it dissolves in the ocean it reduces the pH of the ocean, so the ocean becomes more acidic," says Dr McNeil.

This acidification makes life especially hard for marine creatures such as pteropods - an important type of plankton found in the Southern Ocean - whose shells are made up largely of calcium carbonate.

Once the acidity of the Southern Ocean reaches a certain level, the shells of these and other calcareous marine creatures will start to dissolve.

"That's a really bad point to get to," says McNeil. "After that point, we can't go back unless we suck the CO2 out of the atmosphere."

This so-called 'tipping point' of acidification had been predicted to occur when atmospheric CO2 levels hit 550 parts per million, around the year 2060.

However, the new research shows levels of the carbonate that these creatures need to build and maintain their shells drops naturally in winter, due to natural variations in factors such as ocean temperature, currents and mixing, and pH.

This means the tipping point is likely to be reached at far lower atmospheric CO2 levels - around 450 ppm, says McNeil, which also happens to be the target set by the IPCC for stabilisation of CO2 emissions.

"That's the benchmark that a lot of climate scientists have said we want to reach," he says, but this concentration is forecast to be reached around 2030.

Dr McNeil says ocean acidification could lead to large scale ecosystem changes, affecting not just plankton but other marine life including fish, whales and dolphins.

"They're at the base of the food chain ... so right now we don't really know the ramifications."

"EconomicDemocracy Coop"

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Renewable Energy lobby group:

A group of parliamentarians have formed themselves into a Renewable Energy lobby group called e-REACT. The first major outcome of this group is a private members bill on Feed In Tariffs called REFIT. Nersa announced at a WWF conference on Renewable Energy last week that Feed In Tariff legislation will be ready for implementation by February 28th, 2009 (postponed from September 25th). Eskom is likely to be the only approved power purchase agency. Only wind, solar, landfill gas and hydro will qualify for power purchase agreements. Biomass and Solar PV will not qualify.

Sponsored by Dr Ruth Rabinowitz (IFP) who is also the convenor, the private members bill supports speedy introduction of Feed In Tariff legislation and aims to be a wake-up call to Ministers that we are nowhere near realisation of the 2003 White Paper on Renewable energy which set a target for 10 000 GwH by 2013. The e-REACT private members bill will be discussed in parliament on 18 November at 12h30.

If you cannot attend the discussion, please consider emailing a note of support to either Ruth Rabinowitz (IFP), Gareth Morgan (DA), Lance Greyling (ID) or Judy Chalmers (ANC), stating your name, telephone number, fax (if you have one) and email address and a note saying why you support REFIT.

You can email it to one of these addresses:

Dr Ruth Rabinowitz (IFP)

Gareth Morgan (DA)

Lance Greyling (ID)

Judy Chalmers (ANC)

For further information contact Dr Ruth Rabinowitz MP on 011 802 1826 or 082 579 3698

Nations under threat of climate change

November 10, 2008 4:17 PM
Five nations under threat from climate change
"The first line of coconut trees has disappeared" - Kiribati inhabitant

While the world dithers about tackling climate change, in some parts
of the world people are running out of time. In Florida sea level
rises can be worked around to some extent - condos can be put on
stilts and moved away from the shoreline. But on some islands you can
only move back so far before you have to start worrying about the
water at your back door as well as the water in front.

Here are five islands whose inhabitants are going to need a new home soon:

1. The Guardian reports today that the new president of the Maldives
will be putting part of the country's profits from tourism into a very
special - and unusual - fund: one that will be used to buy a new,
climate-change-friendly home. With its highest point reaching only 2.4
metres, the Maldives is one of the lowest-lying nations in the world
and risks being submerged by rising sea-levels.

2. Tuvalu is another small pacific island state, and after the
Maldives the second-lowest nation in the world. At its highest, it is
5 metres above sea-level and could be gone by the middle of this
century. In 2002, the government was said to have hired two
international law firms to look into suing polluting nations for
effectively evicting its citizens.
3. Kiribati is a group of 32 atols and one island that peaks at 6.5
metres above sea-level. The World Bank has been involved in assessing
the nation's vulnerability to climate change. I attended a talk by one
of the project leaders some years ago in Paris. She quoted a few of
the changes which the islanders were noticing. The one that has always
stuck with me was "the first line of coconut trees has disappeared".
Salt-intrusion was killing off the trees that were closest to the

4. The inhabitants of the Carteret Islands of Papua New Guinea may be
among the first climate refugees - their home lies just 1.2 metres
above the waves. The government of Papua New Guinea adopted a plan in
2005 to evacuate the locals to the neighbouring island of
Bougainville. The relocation was initially scheduled for 2007, then
delayed. According to this report, there was a trial earlier this
year, which created some tension as relocated citizens were used as
labourers in coconut plantations on Bougainville.

5. In 1995, 500,000 inhabitants on Bangladesh's Bhola Island were
forced to move in when half their island was permanently flooded. Some
claim they were the first climate refugees. Scientists predict that 20
million Bangladeshis could suffer the same fate by 2030.

Catherine Brahic, environment reporter
New Scientist

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The tyranny of oil

From a book review:

Antonia Juhasz - The Bush Agenda:Index: "Juhasz investigates the true state of the U.S. oil industry—uncovering its virtually unparalleled global power, influence over our elected officials, its lack of regulatory oversight, the truth behind $150-a-barrel oil, $4.50-a-gallon gasoline, and the highest profit in corporate history. Exposing an industry that thrives on secrecy, Juhasz shows how Big Oil manages to hide its business dealings from policy makers, legislators, and most of all, consumers. She reveals exactly how Big Oil gets what it wants—through money, influence, and lies.

The Tyranny of Oil offers both a new take on problems and a new set of solutions as Juhasz puts forward an immediate call to action—a formula for reining in the industry, its governmental lobbying power, environmental destruction, and violence while reducing global dependence on oil. Her thought-provoking answers to the most pressing energy questions speak directly to readers concerned about oil and gas prices, global warming, wars for oil, and America’s place in the world. With the major players in the world’s most powerful industry charged with collusion, price-gouging, anti-competitive behavior, and unabashed greed, Juhasz calls boldly for the breakup of Big Oil."

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Celebrate frogs


Spring is sprung and the grass is riz and I wonder where the froggies is ……..

It’s that time of the year again – when we all listen out for the return of the frogs. Their chirping and croaking fills the night with reassuring sounds that our planet is still healthy enough to support these delicate indicator species. However, all is not well in our amphibian world. The world is facing what may be the single largest mass extinction event since the time of the dinosaurs: as many as half of the world’s 6,000 known amphibian species could be wiped out in our lifetimes.

At Sea World we are participating in a worldwide effort to help frog conservation. 2008 has been declared the Year of the Frog by the Amphibian Ark (a grouping of conservation groups working to help frogs survive into the future). The campaign hopes to raise awareness about the vulnerability of frogs and to rescue some of the most threatened species. The frogs will be protected in zoos and aquariums until, hopefully, the threats to the wild populations can be controlled and the animals can be released back into nature. Zoos around the world have been asked to become ‘arks’ to help save threatened species of amphibians. In South Africa the major threats to frogs are habitat loss and pollution.

Now is the time to celebrate frogs in your garden. Sea World is launching a “Fantastic Frogs Foto” competition ………….

Anyone can enter as long as your photo’s are taken within the boundaries of South Africa. Prizes will be awarded to the top three photo’s and all submissions will be displayed in the Aquarium at Sea World during the coming December/January festive season. Your photo can be submitted either by emailing or by post to Fantastic Frog Foto competition, PO Box 10712, Marine Parade, 4056. Closing date for the competition is 21st November 2008.

When submitting, please include your name, address and contact number as well as the date and place where you shot the photo.

So, when next you hear that loud croaking – smile – you are lucky enough to live in a special part of our planet – where the frogs have not been silenced forever!

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