Yearly Archives: 2014

  • Has China’s Economic Shift Really Ended the Commodity Super-cycle?

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    Filed in Energy , Environment & Climate , Fair Trade, Finance & The Social Economy , on by Worldwatch Institute

    The most recent economic “super-cycle,” a decades-long trend of rising commodity prices, has been influenced by the surging growth of China since the turn of this century. Now, as China begins its shift from an export-led growth model to a model based on internal investment and consumption, the super-cycle has slowed.

    The Worldwatch Institute’s Mark Konold, Caribbean Program Manager, and Jacqueline Espinal, intern with the Climate and Energy Program, state that despite this change, commodity prices experienced a notable drop in 2013 but remained high compared to historical averages, suggesting that the super-cycle may have been and continues to be driven by other substantial global factors.

    How deeply has China affected global energy markets and what factors, including environmental and energy factors, are currently playing a role in determining overall prices?

    Read the entire story, originally published on the Worldwatch Institute website (

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  • GreenPages Directory, Certifications and the Role of Standards

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    Filed in Ecosystems, Wildlife & Biodiversity , Energy , Environment & Climate , on by GreenPages Directory

    One way that you as a conscious consumer can have an impact on an industry is to use your purchasing power to encourage businesses to act responsibly. The GreenPages Directory can help you find the type of company you want to do business with by filtering results according to benchmarks that are most important to you. One basic method for this is to conduct a search that filters according to which certifications and labels a product or business has attained.

    The purpose of any certification or labeling program is to ensure that companies adhere to specific criteria that reach the level of quality standards set by a regulatory body for the given industry. These programs are either officially mandated or they are voluntary, and for our purposes, mandatory regulations can be thought of as legally binding rules set by the government that can include everything from the way a product is manufactured to whether or not it functions as it claims to do. In order for a government label to be mandated, however, it has to be passed by a governmental regulatory agency, folded into a law, and then enforced through inspection. Violation of these standards, for instance a meat-packing firm ... Read More

  • Green Life: Dropping a Brick in Your Toilet Has Never Felt So Good

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    Filed in Environment & Climate on by Sierra Club

    Most of us are repeat offenders when it comes to excessive toilet flushing. In fact, the US Environmental Protection Agency reports that Americans use more water each day by flushing the toilet than any other activity, even showering!

    Even if you are a responsible flusher, each flush is inherently wasteful. In drought-plagued California, approximately 203 million gallons of drinking water (yes, drinking water) are wasted by toilets per day. Precious drinking water is squandered while 400 homes in East Porterville, California have gone dry.

    OK, so not all of us can afford a low-flow or dual-flush toilet, let alone get our landlords to acknowledge the emails we sent about installing one, but does that mean we are doomed to a humongous water-footprint?

    No, thanks to the founders of Project Drop-A-Brick. As the name suggests, all you have to do is Drop-A-Brick in your toilet tank and you will feel 50-gallons-less-guilty each week following.

    Read the entire story in Sierra Magazine, originally published on the Sierra Club website (


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  • They Tore Down the Wall, We Can Stop the Pipelines

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    Filed in Energy on by Sierra Club

    Yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. When I still lived in Berlin, my favourite November 9th activity was to go to the bridge where the Wall was first breached in 1989 – the Boesebruecke. I’d sit on the cold damp concrete of the bridge, pop the cork on a mini-bottle sekt (similar to champagne) and just wonder what it was like to be there that night.

    In recent years, I have become more curious about how East Germans brought down the Wall and how I can apply those lessons to my own efforts to stop the tar sands. But even after telling the ‘Fall of the Wall’ story for five years as a Berlin tour guide, I still do not fully comprehend how and why it happened. I know the steps that led to the downfall of the Wall though.

    With TransCanada applying two weeks ago to build the biggest tar sands pipeline in Canada (Energy East), I started to wonder if stopping the pipelines is our fall of the Wall.

    Stopping the pipelines from Enbridge’s Northern Gateway and Line 9 projects, to Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain project to Energy East will not by itself shut down the tar ... Read More

  • Climate Change Impacting Birds – Interview on Banff Centre Radio

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    Filed in Ecosystems, Wildlife & Biodiversity on by Nature Canada

    Climate change seriously threatens bird species across Canada and the United States according to a new groundbreaking report released by Nature Canada’s partner organization, the Audubon Society. The report concludes that half of all birds studied could see their populations drop dramatically on account of climate change.

    Paul Jorgenson, Nature Canada’s Senior Communications Manager speaks with Banff Centre Radio about the concerning phenomena.

    “There are a few different things that are happening. One is that species are seeing their habitat range just outright decline. It’s contracting by X square kilometres and now, it’s going to be less than that,” says Jorgenson. “But another thing that is happening, which most people have not done a lot of research on but is just as bad, is that we are seeing habitats shift as well.”

    “Even if you had a species whose habitat didn’t decrease too much, it shifted to a new place. That is still a big problem for that species [because] if the new habitat range is right in the middle of a big urban area or the great northern boreal forest and that species doesn’t live well in the boreal forest, then that species can still potentially be wiped out.

    Learn more about how climate ... Read More

  • Bee-ware: Bayer is Back With a New Neonic

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    Filed in Agriculture & Food , Ecosystems, Wildlife & Biodiversity , on by Sierra Club Canada

    Flupyradifurone is a new neonicotinoid pesticide from Bayer. That’s right, another one!

    Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) explained that:

    “Flupyradifurone may pose a risk to bees, non-target beneficial arthropods, and freshwater and saltwater invertebrates when used for foliar application. Flupyradifurone may pose a risk to birds and small wild mammals when used for soybean seed treatment.”

    The neonicotinoid pesticide can enter the environment through a number of different insecticide applications and covers a large number of ‘pests’ in a variety of crops. It can also enter groundwater and aquatic environments through surface run-off.

    Health Canada’s PMRA is accepting comments on Flupyradifurone until this Saturday, November 1st. Do you think Flupyradifurone should be allowed on the market? Share your thoughts today by visiting the Sierra Club website.

    Read more on John Bennett’s blog, Sierra Club Canada’s Executive Director, originally published on the Sierra Club Canada website (

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  • Green Life: Mr Green, Should I Replace My Water Heater?

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    Filed in Energy , Environment & Climate , on by Sierra Club

    Hey Mr. Green,

    My 10-year-old electric water heater uses about 5,000 kilowatt-hours a year. Should I wait until it dies or replace it now? If the latter, what’s the most energy-efficient water heater on the market?

    —Randi, in Putnam Valley, New York

    Holy starry dynamo of night! Your water heater alone uses almost twice as much electricity as my entire house. At New York’s average residential rate of 19.6 cents per kilowatt-hour, you could be spending $1,000 a year to feed that energy hog. I’d rather take cold showers with Dick Cheney and Mitch McConnell than shell out that much.

    Depending on where your energy comes from, conventional electric water heaters can suck up even more fossil fuel energy than gas heaters since two-thirds or more of the fossil energy that makes electricity gets used up as heat and in transmission.

    So, to replace or not to replace your electric water heater?

    Read the entire story in Sierra Magazine, originally published on the Sierra Club website (

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  • Global Economy Inches Upward as Environmental and Social Concerns Mount

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    Filed in Fair Trade, Finance & The Social Economy on by Worldwatch Institute

    New Worldwatch Institute analysis examines global economic trends and associated challenges

    Washington, D.C. — National progress is often measured almost exclusively by growth in the gross domestic product, or GDP. Yet as the global economy inches upward, actual social and environmental well-being lags. Alternative measures for gauging progress are needed to determine true prosperity, write Worldwatch’s Mark Konold and Climate and Jacqueline Espinal in the Institute’s latest Vital Signs analysis (

    Growing economy. The global economy grew moderately (at 4.49 percent) in 2013, resulting in a total combined GDP of $87 trillion for all countries in the world. Emerging markets accounted for a large part of the growth (representing 50 percent of the total), as an affluent middle class formed and young workers migrated into cities, encouraging business investment in developing countries.

    Growing inequality. Even as the global economy picks up, however, social challenges continue to mount. According to the United Nations Development Programme, average household income inequality in recent decades has risen in both industrial and developing countries. One billion out of 7 billion people live below poverty levels and experience most acutely the dark side of development, such as global climate change, water depletion, food shortages, and biodiversity destruction.

    There also continued to be labor shortages, increased globalization, ... Read More

  • Warming Trends in the Pacific Northwest Are Not Due to Natural Variability

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    Filed in Environment & Climate on by Union of Concerned Scientists

    The Union of Concerned Scientists’ Kendall Science Fellow and Scientist Roberto Mera discusses how today’s changing climate and recent record-setting wildfires this year in the Pacific Northwest is compelling scientists to search for ways to determine the cause behind the observed trends.

    The Pacific Northwest has experienced a statistically significant warming trend of 0.7°C (1.3°F) in an annual mean temperature from 1901-2012, as indicated in a recent study by Abatzoglou and co-authors in the Journal of Climate. This trend has been attributed to heat trapping emissions as the leading contributor to long-term warming.

    This past week we saw a highly provocative alternative to Abatzoglou et al’s findings: the main cause of the century-long warming trend is due to natural changes in atmospheric circulation over the northeast Pacific, according to a new study by Johnstone and Mantua in the PNAS journal. The publication by Johnstone and Mantua has received a great deal of attention in the media, including an article in the New York Times. But how could such different conclusions be reached?

    Read more on the Union of Concerned Scientists blog:

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  • Hershey Bars, Global Warming and Deforestation: a Sweet New Policy

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    Filed in Agriculture & Food , Environment & Climate , on by Union of Concerned Scientists

    Good news for earth and chocolate lovers: the Hershey Company has recently significantly strengthened its commitment to zero deforestation for all the palm oil it uses. The Union of Concerned Scientists – particularly Palm Oil Outreach Coordinator Miriam Swaffer – has been talking with The Hershey Company for nearly a full year about this policy.

    The Union of Concerned Scientists’ Senior Scientist and Director of Climate Research and Analysis Doug Boucher writes on how the organization urged the Hershey Company to follow the science and the lead of the most advanced consumer goods companies, including competitors of theirs such as Nestle and Unilever. And they have.

    Hershey’s stronger commitment to zero deforestation is significant for several reasons; because it is a strong policy by almost every criterion; because UCS has been working with the Hershey Company for nearly a year, urging energetic and scientifically rigorous action; and because I’ve liked their chocolate bars for an awfully long time.

    Now, that’s a sweet deal. Read more on the Union of Concerned Scientists blog:

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