Thursday, 29 October 2009

Water, water everywhere

The Fourth plinth in London's Trafalgar Square was used by a student from Ipswich to highlight water awareness. Dressed as a toilet, he carried a placard stating that "water and sanitation are human rights". PR from Water Aid, the charity backing him claimed that 2.5 billion people lack basic sanitation. Presumably this implies that everyone has a right to a flush toilet.

A great idea, But has anyone actually given any thought as to where all the water for this human right will come from? Or where all the toilet paper that will be flushed down these toilets will come from? Or where all the effluent will go? Like so many of the quick fix solutions to world poverty being inflicted on the less developed world, virtually no thought is given to the environmental impacts. I have tried to gather data on this topic, and would be really interested to see copies of any correspondence relating to EIAs [Environmental Impact Assessments]; I know for a fact that many aid charities do not carry them out, so it is always worth writing to charities to find out if they carry them out, and with what results. What is the Environmental impact of changing traditional farming methods to 'improved' western technology? What is the environmental impact of using artificial fertilisers, pesticides? What is the environmental impact of deep boreholes for water?

I do not have a problem with emergency aid, following natural or even man-made disasters, but long-term, so called development aid, is often ill thought out, with little or no thought about the long-term environmental consequences. And providing water for everyone to use with western style profligacy is one of the biggest potential disasters I can think of. Meanwhile, we at the World Land Trust are working with several of our partner NGOs, to conserve watersheds. They are just as important as the tropical forests that often grow around them.

Is a flush toilet a basic human right or is it a luxury?

Friday, 9 October 2009

Cats. Betes Noir & Wildlife

This says it all.

And the current issue of the American Bird Conservancy magazine says a bit more

Friday, 2 October 2009

Population press release

For this blog, I have simply pasted a press release from the Optimum Population Trust. The World Land Trust and OPT share the same Patron (Sir David Attenborough) and I believe that the activities of OPT are every bit as important as anything the WLT does. Politicians still avoid the P word, but human Populations are the only real threat to the planet. Read on.......

CONTRACEPTION IS “GREENEST” TECHNOLOGYFamily planning cheapest way to combat climate change
Contraception is almost five times cheaper than conventional green technologies as a means of combating climate change, according to research published today (Wednesday, September 9).
Each $7 (£4) spent on basic family planning over the next four decades would reduce global CO2 emissions by more than a tonne. To achieve the same result with low-carbon technologies would cost a minimum of $32 (£19). The UN estimates that 40 per cent of all pregnancies worldwide are unintended.
The report, Fewer Emitters, Lower Emissions, Less Cost, commissioned by the Optimum Population Trust from the London School of Economics*, concludes that “considered purely as a method of reducing future CO2 emissions”, family planning is more cost-effective than leading low-carbon technologies. It says family planning should be seen as one of the primary methods of emissions reduction.
Meeting basic family planning needs along the lines suggested would save 34 gigatonnes (billion tonnes) of CO2 between now and 2050 – equivalent to nearly six times the annual emissions of the US and almost 60 times the UK’s annual total.
Roger Martin, chair of OPT, said the findings vindicated OPT’s stance that population growth must be included in the climate change debate. “It’s always been obvious that total emissions depend on the number of emitters as well as their individual emissions – the carbon tonnage can’t shoot down, as we want, while the population keeps shooting up. The taboo on mentioning this fact has made the whole climate change debate so far somewhat unreal. Stabilising population levels has always been essential ecologically, and this study shows it’s economically sensible too.

“The population issue must now be added into the negotiations for the Copenhagen climate change summit in December.** This part of the solution is so easy, and so cheap, and would bring so many other social and economic benefits, from health and education to the empowerment of women. It would also ease all the other environmental problems we face – the rapid shrinkage of soil, fresh water, forests, fisheries, wildlife and oil reserves and the looming food crisis.

“All of these would be easier to solve with fewer people, and ultimately impossible to solve with ever more. Meanwhile each additional person, especially each rich person in the OECD countries, reduces everyone’s share of the planet’s dwindling resources even faster. Non-coercive population policies are urgently needed in all countries. The taboo on discussing this is no longer defensible.”
The study, based on the principle that “fewer people will emit fewer tonnes of carbon dioxide”, models the consequences of meeting all “unmet need” for family planning, defined as the number of women who wish to delay or terminate childbearing but who are not using contraception.*** One recent estimate put this figure at 200 million. UN data suggest that meeting unmet need for family planning would reduce unintended births by 72 per cent, reducing projected world population in 2050 by half a billion to 8.64 billion. Between 2010 and 2050 12 billion fewer “people-years” would be lived – 326 billion against 338 billion under current projections.

The 34 gigatonnes of CO2 saved in this way would cost $220 billion – roughly $7 a tonne. However, the same CO2 saving would cost over $1trillion if low-carbon technologies were used.

The $7 cost of abating a tonne of CO2 using family planning compares with $24 (£15) for wind power, $51 (£31) for solar, $57-83 (£35-51) for coal plants with carbon capture and storage, $92 (£56) for plug-in hybrid vehicles and $131 (£80) for electric vehicles.

However, the study may understate the CO2 savings available because the estimates of unmet need are based on married women alone, yet some studies suggest up to 40 per cent of young unmarried women have had unwanted pregnancies.

Mr Martin added: “The potential for tackling climate change by addressing population growth through better family planning, alongside the conventional approach, is clearly enormous and we shall be urging all those involved in the Copenhagen process to take it fully on board.”
*Available at
**In a statement issued last month, OPT called on climate change negotiators to ensure that population restraint policies are adopted by every state worldwide to combat climate change. Family planning programmes in poorer countries should be treated as legitimate candidates for climate change funding. The statement was endorsed by OPT patrons including Sir David Attenborough, Dr. James Lovelock and Jonathon Porritt. See:
***A recent study by Oregon State University concluded: “A person’s reproductive choices must be considered along with [their] day-to-day activities when assessing [their] ultimate impact on the global environment.” See Reproduction and the carbon legacies of individuals, by Paul Murtaugh and Michael Schlax, College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences/Department of Statistics, available on The authors calculate that in the US each child adds 9,441 tonnes of carbon dioxide to the carbon legacy of an average female, equivalent to 5.7 times her lifetime emissions. See also: A Population-Based Climate Strategy (OPT Research Briefing) at
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