Rachel's News #998

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Rachel's Democracy & Health News #998

"Environment, health, jobs and justice--Who gets to decide?"

Thursday, February 12, 2009.............Printer-friendly version

Featured stories in this issue...

  Twenty-eight years ago William Catton, Jr., published
  Overshoot, subtitled "The ecological basis of revolutionary
  change." This is a book you can read more than once and gain new
  understanding of our predicament each time.
Prepare for the Best
  As the globalized economy spirals downward, opportunity opens up
  for local innovation -- not new technical inventions, but new ways of
  organizing ourselves for living. This essay focuses on Philadelphia.
Link Between Chemical Exposure and Breast Cancer?
  A review of 400 scientific studies shows that early-life exposure
  to common, every-day chemicals makes breast cancer more likely.
U.S. East and West Coasts Could Be Flooded
  A new study in Science Magazine finds that global warming could
  raise ocean levels of North America and the Indian Ocean more than
  other places, perhaps flooding the U.S. East Coast and parts of
Hurdles (Not Financial Ones) Await Electric Grid Update
  Energy experts say that simply building a "smart" electric grid is
  not enough, because that would make the cheap electricity that comes
  from burning coal available in more parts of the country. That could
  squeeze out generators that are more expensive but cleaner, like those
  running on natural gas or sunlight.
Why Sustainable Power Is Unsustainable
  Many forms of renewable energy are dependent upon scarce metals
  like indium and platinum or on farmland, which is needed for food.
Fears Over 'Scandal' of Demolition Pollution
  Gases released from foam insulation in old buildings are much more
  damaging than carbon dioxide, pound for pound.


From: Rachel's Democracy & Health News #998, Feb. 12, 2009
[Printer-friendly version]


A review of William R. Catton, Jr., Overshoot (Urbana, Ill.:
University of Illinois Press, 1980).

By Peter Montague

Why would anyone want to review a book published 28 years ago? Because
many people still have not heard of it, much less read it, and so have
missed one of the most important books of the 20th century.

On the first page of the book we read, "Today mankind is locked into
stealing ravenously from the future. That is what this book is about."

Actually, it's a bit more complicated than that.

To understand what this book is about, you need the definition of
"carrying capacity":

"An environment's carrying capacity for a given kind of creature
(living a given way of life) is the maximum persistently feasible
load -- just short of the load that would damage that
environment's ability to support life of that kind." [pg. 4]


"Carrying capacity can be expressed quantitatively as the number of
us, living in a given manner, which a given environment can support
indefinitely." [pg. 4]

The main thread of the book is simple enough: for eons, humans lived
within the planet's given carrying capacity and our numbers remained
relatively low. At the beginning of the industrial revolution in 1800
there were fewer than one billion humans worldwide. [pg. 18] Then two
things happened, both of which increased the Earth's carrying capacity
for Europeans:

"The past four centuries of magnificent progress were made possible by
two non-repeatable achievements: (a) discovery of a second hemisphere,
and (b) development of ways to exploit the planet's energy savings
deposits, the fossil fuels [coal, oil, natural gas]." [pgs. 5-6]

These two events created what Catton calls "the age of exuberance" --
a unique 400-year period in human history when Europeans (and, later,
others) learned to see the future as one of limitless expansion. This
perception of limitlessness "spawned new beliefs, new human
relationships, and new behavior." [pg. 24]

Personally, I believe the perception of limitlessness created a
religion of growth -- more widely accepted than any other single
religion -- that retains its hold on the human mind and spirit today.
Believing that limitless expansion could go on forever, humans
expanded their numbers rapidly. But by 1980, when Catton wrote 
Overshoot, it was dawning on some people that limitless expansion
is not possible on a finite planet.

Role of Technology

Back to Catton's story: When the New World hove into view, a new
source of wealth became available for the taking (requiring only the
extermination of indigenous people by guns and germs). With new
wealth, Europeans (and eventually some others) gained more leisure
time, which allowed the development of more technical ingenuity. [pg.

Technical development then allowed Europeans to expand Earth's
carrying capacity (for Europeans and their lifestyle) by two basic

First, by the "takeover method." With technically superior weapons and
tools, Europeans displaced the indigenous people who occupied the New
World, and then they displaced much of the wildlife living there as
well, converting forests to farms, for example. Somewhat later,
Europeans displaced Polynesians, Australian Aborigines, and Africans.
Today humans are displacing wildlife at an astonishing pace in what is
being called the sixth great extinction of species. The takeover
method continues today.

Technology allowed humans to accelerate the takeover method of
expanding carrying capacity, but it also created a second way, the
"drawdown method" in which non-renewable resources were drawn down for
the benefit of the present generation.

The most important of these non-renewable resources were the fossil
fuels hidden underground. Fossil fuels allowed us to substitute
ancient sunlight for human muscle power, giving each of us (in the
U.S.) the equivalent of 80 "energy slaves" to do our work for us. [pg.
43] That is the fundamental basis of our present prosperity.

In addition to fossil fuels, we drew down highly-concentrated mineral
deposits -- iron, copper, chromium, vanadium, titanium, phosphorus,
and so on.

With new technologies producing more food and fewer infant deaths, the
human population expanded rapidly. Global population doubled to one
billion in the 200 years 1650-1850, then doubled again in only 80
years to reach 2 billion by 1930. The third doubling took only 45
years, reaching 4 billion in 1975. [pg. 18] Today global population
stands at 6.7 billion and is doubling every 50 years or so. At this
rate, population will hit 8 billion by 2030 and 11.5 billion by 2050
(if nothing changes). The world is adding a population the size of the
U.S. today (300 million) about every 2.5 years.

The human population could grow at this rapid pace because we seemed
able to expand Earth's carrying capacity by relying on "ghost acreage"
or "phantom carrying capacity." Catton defines "phantom carrying
capacity" as "either the illusory or the extremely precarious capacity
of an environment to support a given life form or a given way of
living. It can be quantitatively expressed as that portion of the
population that cannot be permanently supported when temporarily
available resources become unavailable." [pgs. 44-45, emphasis
added] By precarious capacity, Catton means things like farming
capacity that requires specific conditions, which can be disrupted by
drought, flood, swarms of locusts, reduced access to chemical
fertilizers or large-scale machinery or bank credit or, in some cases,
poorly-paid Mexican labor.

Phantom carrying capacity is created by "ghost acreage" of three

** fossil acreage from long ago (our fossil fuels are the
residues of plant life that grew on fertile land long ago, storing
sunlight in chemical form, which nature eventually turned into
deposits of coal, oil and natural gas).

** trade acreage, which is productive land in other countries.
Much of 18th and 19th century trade consisted of powerful nations
(England, Holland, Belgium, France, and others) convincing weaker
nations to use their land to produce goods for export to Europe at
"reasonable" prices. Trade acreage provided the basis of 19th century
colonial empires, and still provides the basis of much "free trade"
today. Recently the New York Times carried a front-page story about
lithium deposits in Bolivia that Japanese and U.S. car makers are
lusting after for lithium-ion batteries for electric cars. Bolivia is
resisting, but it seems likely that Japan and the U.S. will eventually
end up with Bolivia's lithium and very few Bolivians will end up with
electric cars.

** Fish acreage. By developing technologies to vacuum the
oceans, humans have used ocean ecosystems to expand Earth's carrying
capacity for humans.

The use of these three kinds of "phantom carrying capacity" has
obscured from us the true nature of our situation: phantom carrying
capacity is temporary.

** Fossil acreage is non-renewable, so it can only provide temporary
expansion of carrying capacity.

** The same has proven true of much "trade acreage" -- we extracted
minerals from highly-concentrated deposits and dispersed them into the
biosphere. Nature will not renew these deposits, at least not on a
time-scale likely to help humans. So these minerals expanded the
Earth's carrying capacity for "modern humans," but only temporarily.

** Fish acreage could be managed sustainably, but this has generally
not been done. Humans are decimating marine fisheries, harvesting fish
lower on the food chain each passing year, while acidifying the
oceans, which is undermining the base of oceanic food webs. Thus,
given the way humans have managed it, fish acreage can provide only
temporary expansion of carrying capacity.

So phantom carrying capacity has fooled us into thinking that the
Earth can support more of us than, in fact, it will support in the

This reflects one of the most important changes brought on by the "age
of exuberance" -- humans came to believe in the permanence of
limitlessness. [pg. 25] Instead of seeing the last 400 years (and
most especially the last 200 years) as a special time, created by
events that would never be repeated, we began to see limitlessness as
the norm. We thought our technology had allowed us to permanently
expand the carrying capacity of planet Earth, which is not the case.

Technical advances turned out to be a double-edged sword. For a time,
they increased the carrying capacity of the planet for humans. More
food could be grown on less land, for example. But technical advances
eventually began to impose their own requirements on the planet's
resources -- expanding the area needed for waste disposal, for
example, thus reducing the carrying capacity of the planet for
modern people.

In other words, Catton says, technology initially increased the
carrying capacity of the planet for Europeans but eventually the
situation reversed and technology itself began to expand the foot
print of each industrialized human, thus reducing the carrying
capacity of the planet for industrialized humans. [pgs. 31, 59, 154,

As the population of industrialized humans continues to grow, each of
our "energy slaves" imposes its own requirements on the global
ecosystem, including mining, processing, transport, and waste
disposal. As Catton says, it would help us understand our situation
better if we renamed ourselves from Homo sapiens to Homo colossus.
[pg. 155] With our modern technologies, our individual footprint is
colossal, and the more colossal it becomes, the fewer of us the planet
can support. Meanwhile human population continues to grow.

Unfortunately, the limits of carrying capacity are not easy to see
under the best of circumstances. They are also difficult to see
because we have temporarily lifted some of them by our reliance on
"phantom carrying capacity" -- plus we have been blinded by our belief
in the permanence of limitlessness and, as I see it, the religion of

Finally, carrying capacity is not a fixed limit like a concrete wall;
carrying capacity can be exceeded, at least for a time. A
species can temporarily exceed the carrying capacity available
to it -- by overexploiting and thus degrading the environment (which
reduces the carrying capacity available to future generations). [pgs.
138-139] Thus, exceeding available carrying capacity puts us into
direct competition with future generations.

That is what we humans are doing today -- living beyond our means,
borrowing capacity from the future and using it up. We are depleting
the base of available capital, not merely living off the interest.
This means future generations will have less capital to work with.
Soil that we degrade will not be available to our grandchildren for
growing crops. Mineral deposits that we mine and disperse into the
environment are no longer available for future manufacture. Acidified
oceans will not produce the abundance of fish that our heirs could
have otherwise expected.

In sum, by exceeding the carrying capacity of the planet for
industrialized people, we have put ourselves into direct competition
with future generations: it's us or them. You will recall that this is
what we were told on the first page of the book: "Today mankind is
locked into stealing ravenously from the future. That is what this
book is about."

The second important fact about temporarily exceeding the carrying
capacity of the planet is that it is temporary. If we humans
exceed the human carrying capacity of the Earth, this sets into motion
forces that will, in time, bring our numbers back into line with
available carrying capacity. [pg. 5]

Exceeding available carrying capacity puts us into a condition that
Catton calls "overshoot" (the title of the book), and it leads
eventually to a "crash" -- meaning a die-off. Denying the likelihood
of such a crash will not prevent it from occurring, Catton believes.
Instead, "[B]elieving crash can't happen to us is one reason it will."
[pg. 213]

It seems clear that we are in overshoot -- our human numbers, and our
lifeways, have exceeded Earth's carrying capacity. We are drawing down
the future, using up resources faster than nature can replenish them.
The Global Footprint Network estimates that, for all humans to live
at the U.S. standard today would require 6 planet Earths to provide
the acreage needed to supply raw materials and places to throw our
discards. Therefore the "age of exuberance" -- the age in which we
developed expectations of a perpetually expansive life -- is drawing
to a close. Furthermore, the attitudes we developed during that age
are obsolete, and are preventing the clear thinking needed now.

Today, 28 years after Catton published Overshoot, the evidence of
overshoot is everywhere: global warming; the thinning ozone layer;
marine fisheries depleted; oceans acidifying (damaging the base of
oceanic food chains); humans crowding out other species, causing the
sixth great extinction; tillable soils shrinking as deserts expand;
forests disappearing; mountain snow pack and glaciers shrinking,
jeopardizing fresh water supplies; global-warming-related multi-year
drought afflicting large sections of the U.S., China, India, and
Australia; human and wildlife reproduction disrupted by industrial
poisons now measurable everywhere on earth; and so on. This list could
be readily extended.

Where does that leave us? It leaves us facing the specter of die-off.
The question is, how will humans manage that specter? The tendency
will be for some to lay blame on others -- scapegoats -- even though
no one group is responsible for our predicament. As Catton says, "the
conversion of a marvelous carrying capacity surplus into a
competition-aggravating and crash-inflicting deficit was a matter of
fate." [pg. 177] Fate is shaping history, he explains, when "what
happens to us was intended by no one and was the summary outcome of
innumerable small decisions about other matters by innumerable
people." [pg. 177]

"If, having overshot carrying capacity," Catton says, "we cannot avoid
crash, perhaps with ecological understanding of its real causes we can
remain human in circumstances that could otherwise tempt us to turn
beastly. Clear knowledge may forestall misplaced resentment, thus
enabling us to refrain from inflicting futile and unpardonable
suffering upon each other." [pg. 216]

As Catton wrote in 1980, "The stakes have become phenomenally high:
affluence, equity, democracy, humane tolerance, peaceful coexistence
between nations, races, sects, sexes, parties, are all in jeopardy."
[pg. 262]

What could we do? Our top priority must be to preserve the biosphere,
upon which we humans are entirely dependent. In my opinion, we must
use all our science and ingenuity and heart and common sense to try to
learn where the crucial limits are and then practice living within

Since ecological limits are not always readily discernable (except by
exceeding them and observing the damage in the rear-view mirror), we
can adopt a precautionary approach and err on the side of caution, not
assuming that our risk assessments and our cost-benefit analyses can
provide reliable guidance. History shows us that they cannot.

We can stop insisting that material growth and rapid technical
innovation are essential for human well-being. Yes, growth is needed
in the third world -- roads, power plants, water supplies and more --
but the overdeveloped world needs to substantially reduce its
footprint to make space for that needed growth. Our insistence on
growth everywhere and on rapid technical innovation is what will
finally destroying the planet as a place suitable for human
habitation. Rapid innovation is, by definition, ill-considered

Back to Catton, who says we could "...insist on strict enforcement of
ecosystem preservation policies prescribed by the Endangered Species
Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and many other pieces of
protective legislation going back to the Antiquities Act of 1906 and
beyond. (We would do this for the ultimate sake of our own species.)
We would also do our best to stretch our remaining supplies of fossil
acreage, instead of competing to hasten their consumption. We would
painstakingly revise our cultural values to reduce resource appetites.
We would foster non-consumptive modes of human enjoyment, and we would
reckon our wealth in terms of environmental assets rather than in
terms of the rate at which we plunder them.

"In sum, we would commit ourselves to becoming less colossal with all
deliberate speed...

"Human self-restraint, practiced both individually and especially
collectively, is our indispensable hope," Catton says. [pg. 263]


"The paramount need of post-exuberant humanity is to remain human in
the face of dehumanizing pressures." [pg. 7]... "To keep from
dehumanizing ourselves (and even gravitating toward genocide), we must
stop demanding perpetual progress." [pg. 9, emphasis added]

Finally, "In today's world, it is imperative that all of us learn the
following core principle:

"Human society is inextricably part of a global biotic community, and
in that community human dominance has had and is having self-
destructive consequences." [pg. 10]

This is a book you can read more than once and gain new understanding
each time. Is William Catton correct? Surely not on every single point
he's not. He wrote 28 years ago and new information has come to light.
But is the basic thread of his argument correct? I can't say it's not.
You can read Overshoot and decide for yourself.

Return to Table of Contents


From: City Paper (Philadelphia, Pa.), Jan. 28, 2009
[Printer-friendly version]


A guide to surviving -- and thriving in -- Philadelphia's new green

By Paul Glover

The Dark Season closes around Philadelphia. Wolves howl, "Tough times
coming!" Young professionals with good jobs study budget cuts, watch
stocks flail. Career bureaucrats are laid off; college students wonder
who's hiring. Old-timers remember when Philadelphia staggered through
the terrible Depression years without jobs or dollars, while crime and
hunger rose. Some districts here never escaped that Depression --
they're still choosing between heating and eating.

As usual, the future will be different. Philadelphia's responses to
global warming and market cooling, high fuel and food prices, health
unsurance, mortgages, student debt and war will decide whether our
future here becomes vastly better or vastly worse. Whether we're the
Next Great City or Next Great Medieval Village. Imagine Philadelphia
with one-tenth the oil and natural gas.

But to hell with tragedy. Let's quit dreading news. Take the Rocky
road. There are Philadelphia solutions for every Philadelphia problem.

Imagine instead that, 20 years from now, Philadelphia's green economy
enables everyone to work a few hours creatively daily, then relax with
family and friends to enjoy top-quality local, healthy food. To enjoy
clean low-cost warm housing, clean and safe transport, high-quality
handcrafted clothes and household goods. To enjoy creating and playing
together, growing up and growing old in supportive neighborhoods where
everyone is valuable. And to do this while replenishing rather than
depleting the planet. Pretty wild, right?

Entirely realistic. Not a pipe dream. And more practical than cynical.
The tools, skills and wealth exist.

Mayor Michael Nutter foresees we'll become the "Greenest City in the
United States." So it's common-sensible to ask, "What are the tools of
such a future?" "What jobs will be created?" "Who has the money?"
"Where are the leaders?" "How will Philadelphia look?" "What can we
learn from other cities?"

Some of the proposals sketched here can be easily ridiculed, because
they disturb comfortable work habits, ancient traditions and sacred
hierarchies. Yet they open more doors than are closing. They help us
get ready for the green economy, and get there first. Big changes are
coming so we might as well enjoy the ride. You have good ideas, too --
bring 'em on.

From "Yes We Can" to "Now We Do"

As President Barack Obama says, "Change comes not from the top down,
but from the bottom up." Philadelphia's chronic miseries suggest that
primary dependence on legislators, regulators, police, prisons,
bankers and industry won't save us. They're essential partners, but
the people who will best help us are us. As stocks and dollars decay,
most new jobs will be created by neither Wall Street nor government.
We and our friends and neighbors will start community enterprises; co-
operatives for food, fuel, housing and health; build and install
simple green technologies to dramatically cut household costs. Then we
can have fun. Music, sex, breakfast. Music, sex, lunch. Music, sex,

Amid the worst daily news, thousands of Philadelphia organizations and
businesses, block captains, landlords, homeowners and tenants are
already setting the table for an urban feast. Many know they are part
of a movement seldom noted by media; others work alone. Some take big
bites of this future; others nibble. Several take large risks; others
go slow. Rather than stare at gloom, they fix it. They see a future
that works.

From Hope to Nonviolent Revolution

The trumpets and drums of Philadelphia's green symphony are its
boldest groups and businesses. They set the pace for rebuilding the
entire city toward balance with nature. While all green actions are
celebrated, here are some Philly "Best of Future" nominations. For
more details, see greenjobsphilly.org/future.html.

FOOD: Grow it here

Challenges: Like an army camped far from its sources of supply,
Philadelphia trucks food from hundreds and thousands of miles away,
especially in winter. Costs of harvest, processing and distribution
rise, raising prices. Fertile soils were scraped bare. Thousands are
hungry here. Relax, though, we're not riding a spoon to the mouth of
doom. An urban food army is marching.

Next Steps: Philadelphia has 40,000 vacant lots. Their best use
is now for growing fruits, berries and veggies. Same with many of our
700 abandoned factories: These are prime sites for vertical and roof
farms, hydroponics, aquaculture, mushrooms. Plant the parks, too.
Greenhouses extend seasons. Land breathes again when abandoned parking
lots are depaved. Edible landscaping blooms meals. Edible community
centers process neighborhood yields. Fallen leaves stay in
neighborhoods to become new soil. Feeding kitchen scraps to worms
(vermiculture) builds the food of food.

Local Heroes: Mill Creek Urban Farm, Greensgrow, Weaver's Way
Co-Op Farm, City Harvest, Youth 4 Good, Philadelphia Orchard Project,
Neighborhood Gardens Association, Philadelphia Urban Farm Network,
Farm to City, edible landscapers, Philadelphia School and Community
IPM Partnership, Henry George School, Philadelphia's greenhouses,
Community Supported Agriculture.

World Champions: Beijing grows all its vegetables within 60
miles. TerraCycle manufactures organic soil. Guerrilla Gardeners throw
seed bombs.

Sites: cityfarmer.org, urbanagriculture-news.com,

Books: Food Not Lawns, The Ruth Stout No-Work Garden Book, The
Complete Book of Edible Landscaping. Keywords: depaving, urban land
reform, solar envelope zoning.

Big picture: Philadelphia can become a giant orchard and year-
round garden, housing and reliably feeding more people than live here

FUEL: Who lights your fire?

Challenges: Within 20 years Philadelphia businesses, homes and
agencies that waste energy will close. Philadelphia Gas Works CEO
Thomas Knudson recently declared that natural gas is a "transitional
fuel" beyond which this city must evolve. The price of coal tripled
last year. PECO rates will leap within two years. Electric shut-offs
rise. So we'll rebuild Philadelphia rather than fade.

Next Steps: Establish independent neighborhood utilities with
wind, passive solar and micro-geothermal. Employ thousands to build
and install these. Employ multitudes more to manufacture and install
insulation made with newsprint and fly ash (a residue of coal
combustion). We'll get free winter warmth from 500,000 solar windowbox
heaters. District heating and cogeneration reduce fuel need. Municipal
utilities reduce grid costs. Tree shade reduces cooling costs: Plant a

Local Heroes: Energy Coordinating Agency, Bio-Neighbors
Sustainable Homes, Roofscapes, Philadelphia Green, Philly Tree People,
Urban Tree Connection, green contractors. Harold Finegan's gym needs
no fossil fuel for heating and cooling.

World Champions: American Council for an Energy-Efficient
Economy, Rocky Mountain Institute, Sacramento Municipal Utility
District. Book: Toolbox for Sustainable City Living: A Do-It Ourselves

Big picture: Philadelphia can function even better with one-
tenth the fossil fuel. Our lives will be more secure.

HOUSING: Stand your ground

Challenges: Absentee ownership and unemployment discourage
repair and foster blight. Gentrification, foreclosure and taxes
pressure humble homes. More middle class become homeless daily.
Whether rowhouse or condo, homes won't be affordable unless massively
insulated. And hey, river wards, both ocean and sewage, are rising.

Next Steps: Renters become homeowners through right-of-first-
refusal (landlords offer sale first to renters) and sweat equity
credits (renters swap community work for houses). Enforce law
requiring absentee owners to have local agents. Shift to Land Value
Taxation, which places tax burden on land rather than homes. Equitable
development is a legal movement that prevents gentrification through
restraints and incentives. Enforce the Community Reinvestment Act,
which requires lending in low-income neighborhoods (not sub-prime) and
prohibits racial lending. Cease evictions based on dishonest loans.
Evict shady lenders. As heating bills rise we'll move underground,
because deep dirt is the best insulation. Not just elites to bunkers
(Bill Gates lives inside a hillside), but all of us into pleasant,
sunlit ecolonies. Big solar windows catch winter heat. Amend building
codes for green innovation.

Local Heroes: Hundreds of local organizations fight for and
finance affordable neighborhoods. Women's Opportunity Resource Center,
Women's Community Revitalization Project, Philadelphia Housing Task
Force, Community Land Trust Corp., Project H.O.M.E., People's
Emergency Center, African-American Business & Residents Association,
Henry George School, Habitat for Humanity, Green Roof Philadelphia,
Ray of Hope Project, churches. Major underground buildings in
Philadelphia include Franklin Court Museum, Wilma Theater, Penn Center

World Champions: Germany requires R70 insulation -- three times
tighter than the typical U.S. home -- in new buildings. National
Community Reinvestment Coalition, United for a Fair Economy,
Earthships, Boston City Life/Vida Urbana, Equitable Development
Toolkit, Shelterforce. Book: The Earth-Sheltered House: An Architect's

Big picture: Everyone living in Philadelphia in 50 years will
be living in earth shelters. Green means we'll all be comfortable. No
behind left chill.

HEALTH CARE: Healthy rebellion

Challenges: Corporate insurers raise costs, limit choices,
resist paying. They block reform legislation. Premiums rise beyond the
reach of millions. ' Taxes rise to cover city employee benefits and
indigent care. Thousands of Philadelphians are stuck in jobs they
dislike, to keep insurance. Philadelphia's 140,000 uninsured avoid
care and die earlier, or go bankrupt paying more. Medicaid's waiting
list grows. Hospitals close; free clinics lose staff. Toxic air and
chemicals, junk food and lack of exercise cause much disease.
Grassroots action will heal city and citizens.

Next Steps: While pushing for universal health care (less
bureaucracy, lower cost, free choice), gaps can be filled by genuinely
nonprofit regional self-financing systems. Fraternal benefit societies
and member-owned co-op health plans create independent safety nets and
preventive care clinics. Medical centers can barter, accept
Philadelphia MediCash.

Local Heroes: Thousands of holistic and allopathic healers,
Health Care for All Philadelphia, Catholic Worker Free Clinic,
Esperanza Health Center, Congreso de Latinos Unidos, Planned
Parenthood, Philadelphia Urban Solutions, Philadelphia Community
Acupuncture, Philadelphia FIGHT, Philadelphia Health Care Center,
PhilaHealthia, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Shriners Hospital
for Children. Dozens more at phillyhealthinfo.org.

World Champions: Mutual Health Organizations, Ugandan Health
Cooperative, Ithaca Health Alliance, Dr. Patch Adams, Healthcare-NOW!,
Book: Health Democracy.

Big picture: When sickness is big business, free healing
requires insurrection.

MONEY: Give yourselves credit

Challenges: Extreme capitalism and extreme socialism trample
humanity. Lack of cash and credit kills businesses, jobs and homes.
Some folks still have lots of money, but most of us have less. Dollar
power dwindles because dollars are backed by less than nothing:
rusting industry and $10 trillion debt. So we'll print real money --
neighborhood currencies -- backed by real people.

Next Steps: Mutual enterprise systems (neither Wall Street nor
Red Square) celebrate the spirit of regional enterprise when it serves
community and nature. They applaud innovations -- public and private
and personal -- that meet real needs. Local trading credits based on
local land, skills, time and tools refresh the economy. Poverty is
lack of networks more than lack of dollars, and Philadelphia has
thousands of networks -- business, professional, technical, fraternal,
neighborhood, church, union, electoral, senior, youth, racial, sexual,
athletic, hobby, family, friends. Woven together they're a powerful
base of regional trust, trade and wealth. Take your pick of
neighborhood and sector currencies. Cities may not issue them but may
accept them for taxes.

Local Heroes: Philadelphia's 83 credit unions, Valley Green
Bank, e3bank, Equal Dollars, barter exchanges and gift economy,
Philadelphia Regional and Independent Stock Exchange, Philadelphia
Fund for Ecological Living (PhilaFEL).

World Champions: Ithaca HOURS, Berkshares, LETS, Time Banking,
National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions,
Permaculture Credit Union, Grameen Bank microlending, Kiva, Robin Hood

Big picture: Dollars control people; local currency connects

WATER: Go with the low flow

Challenges: Millions are spent to sanitize polluted river water
and pump it to homes. Then we poop into it. Storm drains carry sewage
and garbage back to rivers. Sewage treatment does not remove all
pharmaceuticals. Old chemical tanks poison groundwater. Sinkholes
undermine houses. Bottled-water scam drains local economy. Climate
change brings frequent flood and/or drought. But new technologies
will protect our liquid assets.

Next Steps: Amend code to permit filtered graywater yard use,
and waterless compost toilets. Install watersaving devices. Collect
rainwater in rooftop tanks, barrels and swales. Plant xeriscapes.
Depave driveways and abandoned parking lots. Start Progressive Street
Reclamation, converting least-used streets and alleys to playgrounds
and gardens.

Local Heroes: Philadelphia Water Department taxes pavement,
rewards depaving, distributes rain barrels. Friends of the Wissahickon
installs compost toilets in the park. These convert turds into clean,
sweet-smelling garden soil.

World Champions: Swedes collect urine from apartment houses,
store it six months, then use as fertilizer (EcoSanRes). Mexicans
collect urine from city hall and schools to fertilize fields
(TepozEco). Zimbabweans plant fruit trees atop privy muck (ArborLoo).
Book: The Humanure Handbook.

Big picture: Clean water is becoming more valuable than gold.
Nobody shits on gold.

TRANSPORT: Be here now

Challenges: Philadelphia's rail system was ripped out for cars,
which clog streets and slow emergency response. Cars smash, kill,
maim. They inhale paychecks and taxes, exhale rotten air. They compel
war for oil. We'll become stronger and sexier as pedaling bipeds.

Next Steps: To risk your life for your country, ride a bike.
Hop on the bus. Revive street rail with ultralight passenger cars.
Restore regional freight routes. Raise transit funds with local
gasoline tax. Make pathways for bicycles, rollerblades, skateboards,
Segways, scooters and wheelchairs. Restore canals. Zone for mixed use,
to reduce travel needs. Live near your work. Employ multitudes making
mosaic sidewalks. Convert paving to playgrounds.

Local Heroes: PhillyCarShare, Bike Share Philadelphia, Bicycle
Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, Neighborhood Bike Works and Bike
Church, Critical Mass bike rides, bike shops, Delaware Valley
Association of Rail Passengers, Pennsylvania Transit Coalition,
PenTrans. Even SEPTA: Trains are clunky and late, but they're there.

World Champions: Carfree Cities conferences, carfree.com, World
Naked Bike Ride, Urban Ecology.

Big picture: The first cities rebuilt for proximity rather than
speed will win this race.

JOBS: The full employment economy

Challenges: Philadelphia has lost 400,000 manufacturing jobs in
50 years. Now we import stuff once made here. Today, millions of
American jobs depend on servicing bad things rather than good things.
Car crashes are 8 percent of the GDP. How many jobs would end if
criminals went on strike? What jobs would be lost if people ate
healthy fresh food and exercised? What if we were content with what we
owned?' We'll advance from jobs managing damage to jobs creating a
beautiful city worthy of beautiful children.

Next Steps: All skills can rotate greenward. Philadelphia needs
at least 100,000 green-collar jobs to rebuild, retrofit, plant,
harvest, manufacture and repair the homes and tools of the future.
Arts and healing arts are green jobs, too.

Local Heroes: Sustainable Business Network of Greater
Philadelphia, American Cities Foundation, Penn Future, Ray of Hope
Project. Green Jobs Philly, Neighborhood Environmental Action Team,
Green Labor Administration, several City Council members.

World Champions: Blue Green Alliance (enviros and unions
united), Green for All, Apollo Alliance, D.C. Greenworks, Sustainable
South Bronx.

Big picture: We'll develop new definitions of career, success;
build green safety nets.

BUSINESS & INDUSTRY: Luxuriate in the Necessities

Challenges: America has been outstanding at pouring concrete,
going fast and throwing things away. But high costs of raw materials,
manufacture and trucking are causing consumers to quit consuming for
the sake of consumption. Our Next Great Economy will sell more of
durable value. We'll all have enough.

Next Steps: Regional manufacture will resume as transport costs
grow. Top niches will be basics: housing, energy, clothing,
housewares. Orchards and gardens and food processing. Holistic healing
will grow. Likewise, handcrafts. Everything energy-efficient.

Local Heroes: Sustainable Business Network, Buy Local Philly,
White Dog Cafe, Provenance Architecturals, Re-Store, flea markets,
farmers markets, materials exchanges, repair shops, recycling.

World Champions: Socially Responsible Investing. Magazines:
Green Business Journal, Adbusters. Site: storyofstuff.org.

Big picture: Smart money invests to raise all boats.

GOVERNMENT: The land is the law of the land

Challenges: Many bureaucrats trained in obsolete systems resist
change, defend their turf. City's health insurers and pensions drag
city down.

Next Steps: Government welcomes grassroots innovators by
passing laws facilitating greening of economy and neighborhoods: urban
land reform, urban agriculture, sanitation and water codes, building
codes. When urgent change is resisted, citizens underthrow the

Local Heroes: Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission,
PWD, streets guys who dig on rainy nights.

World Champions: City of Curitiba, Brazil, encourages
experimentation and welcomes mistakes. Magazines: Governing, Planners

Big picture: Good government takes risks, makes change easy.
"Make no little plans." -- Daniel Burnham.

PUBLIC SAFETY: Just be sure to let that happen again

Challenges: Whenever people are hungry, cold or fearful due to
unemployment, crime rises. Isolated resentment becomes street protest
or riot. Racism flares. Taxpayers cannot hire enough police to escape
chaos. Public safety is secured by creating safety nets for food,
fuel, housing and health care.

Next Steps: Jobs fight crime. Decriminalize marijuana locally.
Hire ex-offenders. Neighborhood watch instead of neighborhood watch

Local Heroes: Block captains, Men United for a Better
Philadelphia, Ray of Hope Project, City Harvest, People Against

World Champions: Time Dollar Youth Court, Rainbow Police. Book:
Defensible Space.

Big picture: People who are respected, loved and secure do not

EDUCATION: Keep it real

Challenges: Curriculums are less relevant to getting jobs or
fixing society. Forty-five percent of Philadelphia high-schoolers drop
out. Students are graded like eggs.

Next Steps: Respectfully teaching skills of neighborhood
management will make learning fun. Teach creativity rather than

Local Heroes: Thousands of dedicated teachers, Neighborhood
Enterprise Schoolteachers, magnet schools, Waldorf School. Newspaper:
The Notebook.

World Champions: Paolo Freire; free university education in

Big picture: Loving learning is the first lesson.

CULTURE: Life gets highest ratings

Challenges: Media that's cynical about grassroots power
features crime and celebrities.

Next Steps: Empower average people to make music, art, dance,
theater. Revive street-corner singing. Bring back vaudeville.
Parachute clowns into parks.

Local Heroes: Mural Arts Program, Raices Culturales
Latinoamericanas, Spiral Q Puppet Theater, 373 groups listed at
philaculture.org. Locally made homecrafts. Philadelphia's 2,800
feature children, heroes, nature.

World Champions: El Sistema (Venezuela) makes barrio kids into

Big picture: Everyone is a creative genius. Good culture
releases that power and beauty.


Whether you're a student, job seeker, employee or retiree, there are
thousands of ways to connect to Philadelphia's green movement. You're
the one we've been waiting for. Check the ever-growing list of local
green-jobs Web sites (start with greenjobsphilly.org/future.html).
Visit local green businesses and groups. Time to bring those murals to


Paul Glover teaches metropolitan ecology and green jobs at Temple
University. He is founder of the Philadelphia Orchard Project (POP),
Ithaca HOURS local currency, Citizen Planners of Los Angeles and other
groups. He is the author of Green Jobs Philly, Health Democracy and
Hometown Money. More information at paulglover.org.

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From: 10connects.com (Tampa, Fla.), Feb. 5, 2009
[Printer-friendly version]


By Heather VanNest

St. Petersburg, Florida -- Exposure to chemicals in everyday products
may increase your breast cancer risk.

A new report suggests chemicals found in everything from pesticides
to plastics to personal care products mimic estrogen or alter

Some controversial chemicals include phthalates and bisphenol A.

Click here to learn how to lower exposure to bisphenol A and

Researchers looked at 400 epidemiological and experimental studies.

They say exposure to common chemicals found in some baby & water
bottles, canned food liners may be linked to breast cancer later in

"The picture of breast cancer causation that emerges is complex," said
Jeanne Rizzo, R.N., president of the Breast Cancer Fund, the
organization that presented the articles.

"While there is no single smoking gun, the trends that emerge lead us
to stop asking IF there is a link between breast cancer and synthetic
chemicals, and to instead ask how to act to reduce our exposure, given
the strong and compelling evidence we now have."

The Breast Cancer Fund is a non-profit, consumer advocacy group that
works to identify and eliminate environmental causes of breast cancer.

The scientific review is published in the International Journal of
Occupational and Environmental Health.

"Early-life exposures to endocrine disruptors like phthalates and BPA
-- particularly during fetal development and childhood, but also
continuing through first childbirth and breastfeeding -- are closely
linked to later-life breast cancer risk," said Janet Gray, Ph.D., lead
author of the scientific review article. "These compounds have yet to
be classified as carcinogens, even though recent studies show an
explicit health risk."

Copyright 2009 10connects.com

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From: New Scientist, Feb. 5, 2009
[Printer-friendly version]


By David Robson

Rather than spreading out evenly across all the oceans, water from
melted Antarctic ice sheets will gather around North America and the
Indian Ocean. That's bad news for the US East Coast, which could bear
the brunt of one of these oceanic bulges.

Many previous models of the rising sea levels due to climate change
assumed that water from melted ice sheets and glaciers would simply
run into the oceans and fill them uniformly. These models predict a 5-
metre rise [16.4 feet] in sea levels if the West Antarctic ice sheet
melts, but fail to acknowledge three important factors.

First, Jerry Mitrovica and colleagues from the University of Toronto
in Canada considered the gravitational attraction of the Antarctic ice
sheets on the surrounding water, which pulls it towards the South
Pole. As the ice sheet melts, this bulge of water dissipates into
surrounding oceans along with the meltwater. So while the sea level
near Antarctica will fall, sea levels away from the South Pole will

Once the ice melts, the release of pressure could also cause the
Antarctic continent to rise by 100 metres. And as the weight of the
ice pressing down on the continental shelf is released, the rock will
spring back, displacing seawater that will also spread across the

Redistributing this mass of water could even change the axis of the
Earth's spin. The team estimates that the South Pole will shift by 500
metres towards the west of Antarctica, and the North Pole will shift
in the opposite direction. Since the spin of the Earth creates bulges
of oceanic water in the regions between the equator and the poles,
these bulges will also shift slightly with the changing axis.

Washington awash

The upshot is that the North American continent and the Indian Ocean
will experience the greatest changes in sea level -- adding 1 or 2
metres to the current estimates. Washington DC sits squarely in this
area, meaning it could face a 6.3-metre sea level rise in total.
California will also be in the target zone.

"Policy-makers must realise that the effects could be greater or
smaller in different areas," says team member Natalya Gomez. The team
have so far only considered one ice sheet, so the effects of other ice
sheets across the world could also have a similar impact, she says.

However, these models assume that all the West Antarctic sea ice will
melt, but Peter Convey from the British Antarctic Survey in
Cambridge points out this may not necessarily be the case. "It would
be dangerously easy to get people to focus on the 6-metre figure, but
it just might not happen like that," he says.

Jonathan Gregory from the University of Reading in the UK, who is
part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, however, thinks
the work should be helpful once this has been reliably evaluated.

Journal reference: Science: DOI: 10.1126/science.1166510

Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

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From: New York Times, Feb. 7, 2009
[Printer-friendly version]


By Matthew L. Wald

Washington -- Environmentalists dream of a bigger and "smarter"
electric grid that could move vast amounts of clean electricity from
windswept plains and sunny deserts to distant cities.

Such a grid, they argue, could help utilities match demand with supply
on the hottest afternoons, allow customers to decide when to run their
appliances and decrease the risk of blackouts, like the one that
paralyzed much of the East in 2003.

The Obama administration has vowed to make the grid smarter and
tougher, allocating $11 billion in grants and loan guarantees to the
task in the economic stimulus package passed by the House last week.

But it will take a lot more than money to transform the grid from a
form that served well in the last century, when electricity was
produced mostly near the point of consumption, and when the imperative
was meeting demand, no matter how high it grew.

Opposition to power lines from landowners and neighbors, local
officials or environmental groups, especially in rural areas, makes
expansion difficult -- even when the money for it is available. And
some experts argue that in the absence of a broader national effort to
encourage cleaner fuels, even the smartest grid will do little to
reduce consumption of fuels that contribute to climate change.

In fact, energy experts say that simply building a better grid is not
enough, because that would make the cheap electricity that comes from
burning coal available in more parts of the country. That could
squeeze out generators that are more expensive but cleaner, like those
running on natural gas. The solution is to put a price on emissions
from dirtier fuels and incorporate that into the price of electricity,
or find some other way to limit power generation from coal, these
experts say.

The stimulus bill passed by the House includes $6.5 billion in credit
to federal agencies for building power lines, presumably in remote
areas where renewable energy sources are best placed, and $2 billion
in loan guarantees to companies for power lines and renewable energy
projects. The bill also includes $4.4 billion for the installation of
smart meters -- which, administration officials say, in combination
with other investments in a smart grid, would cut energy use by 2
percent to 4 percent -- and $100 million to train workers to maintain
the grid.

About 527,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines stretch across
the United States, most installed many decades ago.

Everyone agrees that more lines are needed. But some industry experts
argue that the problem of making the grid greener goes well beyond
upgrading and expanding the existing power lines. The grid, they say,
was set up primarily to draw energy from nearby plants and to provide
a steady flow of electricity to customers. It was not intended to
incorporate power from remote sources like solar panels and windmills,
whose output fluctuates with weather conditions -- variability that
demands a far more flexible operation.

The experts say that the grid must therefore be designed to moderate
demand at times when there is less wind or sun available -- for
example, by allowing businesses or residential customers to volunteer
to let the local utility turn down air-conditioners in office
buildings or houses, when hourly prices rise.

An even more significant problem is that utilities increasingly face
opposition to expansion and must fight for years for permits.

Jose M. Delgado, president and chief executive of the American
Transmission Company, which operates in four Midwestern states, said
his firm's last major project, a line of about 220 miles from Duluth,
Minn., to Wausau, Wis., took two years to build but eight years before
that to win the permits. The federal Interior Department took a year
to approve the line crossing a wild river and required a $5 million
contribution to a national park, but the one-year delay raised costs
by an additional $12 million, for a total of $440 million, Mr. Delgado

Loan guarantees will not help this problem, he said. "We have had
wonderful access to the private bond market," he added.

The International Transmission Company, a Michigan company, is trying
to build a 26-mile line that, had it been in place, would have
prevented the great Eastern blackout of 2003, said Joseph L. Welch,
president and chief executive. The State of Michigan has approved it,
but a homeowner is challenging it in court, Mr. Welch said.

"We burn up three years on a line that will take two months to build,"
he said.

But, he added, "We absolutely have no problem -- underscore, no
problem -- financing our transmission grid."

Other companies said the same, although a few said the loan guarantees
in the House bill would be helpful.

As power lines lengthen, the number of approvals they require
increases, the complications of dividing the costs become greater and
the difference among national interests and local interests becomes
starker, said Dan W. Reicher, a former assistant secretary of energy
who was a member of President Obama's transition team.

Policy makers have looked at various models to resolve the conflicting
interests in power-line disputes. In the 1930s, the federal government
assumed sole responsibility for approving natural gas pipelines, and
as a result, gas moves freely from wells in the Gulf Coast states to
other areas of the country, with much of it used to make electricity.
Gas pipelines are somewhat less objectionable, though, because they
are buried.

Another model is the one used to build the Interstate Highway System,
with the states using their powers of eminent domain in a system that
was centrally planned with state input. But highways were more
attractive to many states than power lines would be, electricity
officials say, especially if the lines are simply crossing a state
without adding much local benefit. A third possibility is a national
commission that would present a master plan for thousands of miles of
new transmission lines that Congress could approve for the whole
country in spite of local objections for individual pieces.

Congress tried to solve the problem in 2005 with a law that gave the
Energy Department authority to intervene if states did not approve new
lines deemed to be in the national interest, but that has not worked
well, said Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California and
chairman of the House Energy Committee. It was criticized as an
assault on the traditional control by the states of land-use

The electric industry is at least planning to better integrate
different parts of the grid so that if power is needed in Baltimore it
can be imported from Chicago. A group of technical experts, mostly
from the Midwest, have been meeting for months to map out new lines,
in an effort that industry veterans say is unprecedented in its
breadth. But the group's aim is simply a map of what such a system
would look like; it will not seek permission for such lines, or try to
finance them or actually build them. The group is scheduled to make an
announcement next week.

"We've got a real political confrontation that's going to take place,"
said Glenn L. English Jr., chief executive of the National Rural
Electric Cooperative Association, who had served as a congressman from
Oklahoma for 20 years. "It basically comes down to the question of
prioritization. What's more important to you? Do you truly want to
maximize the use of renewable energy?"

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From: New Scientist, Feb. 6, 2009
[Printer-friendly version]


By Colin Barras

Renewable energy needs to become a lot more renewable -- a theme that
emerged at the Financial Times Energy Conference in London this

Although scientists are agreed that we must cut carbon emissions from
transport and electricity generation to prevent the globe's climate
becoming hotter, and more unpredictable, the most advanced
"renewable" technologies are too often based upon non-renewable
resources, attendees heard.

Supratik Guha of IBM told the conference that sales of silicon solar
cells are booming, with 2008 being the first year that the silicon
wafers for solar cells outstripped those used for microelectronic

But although silicon is the most abundant element in the Earth's crust
after oxygen, it makes relatively inefficient cells that struggle to
compete with electricity generated from fossil fuels. And the most
advanced solar-cell technologies rely on much rarer materials than

Rare metal

The efficiency of solar cells is measured as a percentage of light
energy they convert to electricity. Silicon solar cells finally
reached 25% in late December. But multi-junction solar cells can
achieve efficiencies greater than 40%.

Although touted as the future of solar power, those and most other
multiple-junction cells owe their performance to the rare metal
indium, which is far from abundant. There are fewer than 10 indium-
containing minerals, and none present in significant deposits -- in
total the metal accounts for a paltry 0.25 parts per million of the
Earth's crust.

Most of the rare and expensive element is used to manufacture LCD
screens, an industry that has driven indium prices to $1000 per
kilogram in recent years. Estimates that did not factor in an
explosion in indium-containing solar panels reckon we have only a 10
year supply of it left.

If power from the Sun is to become a major source of electricity,
solar panels would have to cover huge areas, making an alternative to
indium essential.

Precious platinum

The dream of the hydrogen economy faces similar challenges, said
Paul Adcock of UK firm Intelligent Energy.

A cheap way to generate hydrogen has so far proved elusive. New
approaches, such as using bacterial enzymes to "split" water, have a
long way to go before they are commercially viable.

So far, fuel cells are still the most effective way to turn the gas
into electricity. But these mostly rely on expensive platinum to
catalyse the reaction.

The trouble is, platinum makes indium appear super-abundant. It is
present in the Earth's crust at just 0.003 parts per billion and is
priced in $ per gram, not per kilogram. Estimates say that, if the 500
million vehicles in use today were fitted with fuel cells, all the
world's platinum would be exhausted within 15 years.

Unfortunately platinum-free fuel cells are still a long way from the
test track. A nickel-catalysed fuel cell developed at Wuhan
University, China, has a maximum output only around 10% of that a
platinum catalyst can offer.

A new approach announced yesterday demonstrates that carbon nanotubes
could be more effective, as well as cheaper, than platinum. But again
it will be many years before platinum-free fuel cells become a
commercial prospect.

Fuel vs food?

Biofuels, like ethanol fermented from maize, are the most infamous
examples of the doubtful sustainability of supposedly renewable forms
of energy. This time the non-renewable resource at risk is the
world's arable land, Ausilio Bauen of Imperial College London said
at the meeting.

Again, there are potential solutions, but none that are ready for
market. Biofuels from cellulose or even lignin can be derived from
inedible plant material and wood rather than food crops. Algae, grown
in outdoor tanks, continues to attract attention, and extracting
biofuel from marine algae or seaweed could sidestep land use issues

Renewable energy technologies remain the great hope for the future,
and are guaranteed research funds in the short term. But unless a
second generation of sustainable energy ideas based on truly
sustainable resources is established, the renewable light could be in
danger of dimming.

See related article: Top 7 alternative energies listed.

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From: Sunday Herald (Glasgow, Scotland), Feb. 11, 2009
[Printer-friendly version]


By Rob Edwards, Environment Editor

Pollution from the demolition of old buildings could blow a gaping
hole in government attempts to tackle global warming, experts have

Ministers have been accused of "a scandal and a cover-up" for failing
to devise a strategy for dealing with the huge amount of hazardous
chemicals contained in old insulation foam.

If the chemicals escape into the environment when buildings are
knocked down they act as powerful greenhouse gases to disrupt the
climate. They will also eat away at the ozone layer that protects the
earth from the sun's harmful ultraviolet radiation.

Most insulation foam used in building panels before 2004 contained
chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) or hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). The
use of these compounds is being phased out because they are known to
damage the ozone layer.

The relatively small amounts used to cool old fridges are being
collected and destroyed. But there are no plans for dealing with the
much larger quantities contained in building panels.

A memo last month from the UK government to the European Scrutiny
Committee in Westminster revealed that there could be a "bank" of
100,000 tonnes of ozone-depleting substances in UK buildings. Their
global warming potential was equivalent, the memo said, to 340 million
tonnes of carbon dioxide.

This is equal to almost two-thirds of all the carbon dioxide emissions
from the whole of the UK in 2007. Emissions from old buildings are
expected to rise significantly after 2010 and peak between 2030 and
2040 as increasing numbers of structures are demolished.

Peter Jones, an expert environmental consultant, pointed out that some
of the ozone-depleting chemicals had a global warming potential 13,000
times greater than carbon dioxide -- and that the amounts contained in
building insulation were 18 times higher than in fridges.

"The government has successfully addressed the fridge mountain' but
seems to be doing next to nothing to prevent the release of much
larger amounts of the same damaging substances," he said. "I think
this is a scandal and a cover-up."

He pointed out that ozone-depleting substances were not included in
government targets to cut the pollution that is changing the climate.

Building insulation containing the chemicals should be treated as
hazardous waste, he said.

But this often didn't happen, he alleged, because demolition
operations were not adequately monitored by the Scottish Environment
Protect Agency (Sepa) or other agencies. "No-one is taking
responsibility," he said.

Sepa accepted there was "no concerted effort" to recover ozone-
depleting substances from building foam. The agency also agreed that
building panels containing such materials should be defined as
hazardous waste.

The European Union was proposing that ozone-depleting substances
should be removed from building foams "where technically and
economically feasible", said a Sepa spokeswoman. Further consultations
should help clarify what this means.

In 2007, Sepa prevented the disposal of insulation panels from the
demolition of the Chunghwa Picture Tubes factory on the Eurocentral
business park in Lanarkshire.

"Sepa would remind all contractors that waste from any planned
demolition activities must be disposed of legally," stressed the
agency's spokeswoman.

The Scottish government agreed that ozone-depleting substances were
not included in its climate change targets. They were controlled
instead by the Montreal Protocol, and resulting UK regulations.

The government was working with other agencies "to assess methods for
recovery or disposal of materials containing ozone-depleting
substances from buildings that are being demolished", a spokesman

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in London
insisted that it was taking the issue "very seriously". It had
commissioned its own research to assess the potential impacts.

But environmental groups argued that Scotland's buildings were hiding
a "potentially target-busting" source of greenhouse gases.

"If we are to deliver on the Scottish climate change bill we cannot
afford to ignore these harmful gases," said Dr Sam Gardner, from WWF

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  Rachel's Democracy & Health News (formerly Rachel's Environment &
  Health News) highlights the connections between issues that are
  often considered separately or not at all.

  The natural world is deteriorating and human health is declining  
  because those who make the important decisions aren't the ones who
  bear the brunt. Our purpose is to connect the dots between human
  health, the destruction of nature, the decline of community, the
  rise of economic insecurity and inequalities, growing stress among
  workers and families, and the crippling legacies of patriarchy,
  intolerance, and racial injustice that allow us to be divided and
  therefore ruled by the few.  

  In a democracy, there are no more fundamental questions than, "Who
  gets to decide?" And, "How do the few control the many, and what
  might be done about it?"

  As you come across stories that might help people connect the dots,
  please Email them to us at d...@rachel.org.
  Rachel's Democracy & Health News is published as often as
  necessary to provide readers with up-to-date coverage of the

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