Friday, July 31, 2009

The Future is Africa?

Send to me by a friend, spotted en route to Lusaka air port:

Afro-optimism at its illustrated best? (I tried wikipedia - they do not even have a page on Afro-optimism...)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Biodiversity, landscapes and tourism

New research shows that biodiversity and landscapes are important for tourism - at least in Ireland:
This analysis provides an example of how biodiversity can be measured by means of different indicators, and how the latter can be used to assess the influence of the biodiversity profile of a region on the tourism flows towards it. Previous studies have considered environmental amenities as one of the determinants of tourism destination choice. The central hypothesis of this paper is that the destination’s biodiversity profile can be considered as a key component of environmental amenities. The main objective of this study is to propose a different perspective on this topic, considering the role of biodiversity on tourists’ choice of destination and duration of stay. Domestic Irish tourist flows have been chosen as a case study. The first step of the analysis required the construction of biodiversity indicators suitable for developing a biodiversity profile of each Irish county. Subsequently, a model was developed so as to explain the total number of nights spent in any location as a function of a set of explanatory variables including information about the socio-demographic characteristics of respondents, biodiversity and the landscape profile of the county of destination and features of the trip. Results show that most of the biodiversity and landscape indicators included in the analysis turn out to be statistically significant in determining tourists’ choices regarding the duration of their trip. As a result, policies pursuing biodiversity conservation appear to have a positive impact on the revenue of regional tourism.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Luxury Shame

There is a new emerging term: Luxury Shame

Interesting research to back it up:

"Luxury Shame: An Emerging Norm" Free Download

RYAN VINELLI, Yeshiva University - Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

The luxury goods market, once only accessible by the ultra-wealthy, has been transformed in the past few decades to be a world within the reach of middle class consumers. However in the wake of the growing international financial crisis, governments, societies, and individuals have been forced to make substantial changes. As such, consumers have begun shunning outward displays of wealth. Heavily branded, self-promoting luxury products are being forced to reinvent themselves due in part to the deep pains of the financial crisis, especially hitting the lucrative middle-class market. This phenomenon has manifested in a trend, dubbed "Luxury Shame." By using psychoanalytic theory, this paper seeks to examine the development of societal prohibition in the form of luxury shame and the internalization of this prohibition in individuals as guilt and shame.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Priorities for Environmental Expenditure

The South African government has released the Medium Term Strategic Framework
a framework to guide government's programme in the electoral period 2009-2014. This is what the report has to say on the environment:

The main objective of government is to encourage sustainable resource management and use by focusing on various interventions including the diversification of the energy mix in pursuance of renewable energy alternatives and promotion of energy efficiency; adopting waste reduction practices by encouraging the re-use of waste outputs as productive inputs; enforcing zero tolerance approach to illegal and unsustainable exploitation of resources; improving air and atmospheric quality for health and well being of citizens; supporting local and sustainable food production; sustainable water use and preserving quality of drinking water and enhancing biodiversity and the preservation of natural habitats.

The focus is on energy efficiency and renewables, waste, exploitation of natural resources, air quality and health, water use and quality, biodiversity and natural habitats. No specifics, such as targets, timeframes and allocations are mentioned. The report does include a list of programmes, but do not appear conclusive:

Establishing a National framework response on climate change mitigation and adaptation whilst maintaining our reputation as a global player

A common system for environmental impact management across government in developing the Environmental Impact Management Strategy that will ensure improved efficiency and effectiveness

Implementing the Water for Growth and Development strategy: strengthening institutional capacity for water management so that water scarcity is not exacerbated by ineffectual management, and finding the right mix of mechanisms to effect change in behaviour including regulatory, self-regulatory, market-based instruments and awareness and education. Projects such as the Mokolo River Augumentation Project and the Lower Sunday’s river aimed at improving water availability and irrigation especially for poor farmers and providing Previously Disadvantaged Users access to user rights will continue

Finalise a policy process on market-based instruments such as taxes, charges and incentives that can be used to promote environmental protection and biodiversity conservation

Implementation of the National Framework for Sustainable Development to ensure that the country follows a sustainable development trajectory for now and into the future

Promote innovation and diversification towards alternative production of resources

To pursue and explore further the concept of Green Jobs including scaling up labour intensive natural resources management practices that contribute to decent work and livelihood opportunities. In particular projects and industries are being pursued in the fields of marine aquaculture development, wildlife management, waste services and ecosystems rehabilitation programmes

Efforts to meet the energy efficiency target of 12% by 2015 and renewable energy target of 10 0 GWh by 2013, will be enhanced by creating an enabling environment for renewable energy, through for example implementing the renewable energy feed-in tariff and building the local renewable energy manufacturing capacity

Effectively managing and allocating the radio frequency spectrum, which is a finite and scarce national resource, prioritising the allocation of the spectrum for developmental purposes.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Growth and greenhouse gases: no decoupling (yet?)

Almost a year and a half ago this is what we quoted from an article posted on Project Syndicate (see earlier post on decoupling):

"...the solution to the challenge of global climate change is as plain as day. The only chance of improvement is to decouple economic growth from energy consumption and emissions. This must happen in the emerging countries, and even more urgently in the old industrial economies."

The "only chance of improvement" does not show convincing signs of improvement yet. New research shows that 1% growth in the economy corresponds to 0.8% growth in greenhouse gas emissions. Very few countries diverge too much from this norm. 

H/T: Scitizen.

Soybean oil

Just after coffee on a slow Monday morning. 

From a new paper "The Life-cycle Carbon Footprint of Biofuels": 

Our results indicate that soybean biodiesel production, despite its high savings from a pure engineering perspective, dramatically increases greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional diesel when factoring in emissions from land use change across a broad range of assumptions.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Carbon emissions: what is a fair share?

The debate on who should take responsibility for climate change is heating up.  Industrialised nations want developing countries to accept reduction targets as well.  This brings renewed interest in the question how to compare emissions across nations.  The World Resources Institute for example proposed differentiated per capita greenhouse gas emissions targets to counter the obvious inequitable outcomes of absolute emission targets.  Moving beyond this proposal is another option published in PNAS to link responsibility of climate change to individuals instead of nations.  This means that all of the world's high emitters are treated the same regardless where they live. 

This is good news for Africa, which as a result of a large number of carbon poor people, can emit more, and thus, have some space to grow. High carbon intensity and inequality in countries like South Africa is not good news for rich people who will have to accept deeper then average cuts under such a framework.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Education in systems thinking

Systems thinking is not something I associate with following a standard education. In fact, it is something that bring memories of a long and painful process of unlearning...

Now, look at this:

6th grade overarching question: What is the architecture of a dynamic system?

7th grade overarching question: What are the big systems that order our world?

8th Grade overarching question: How do we contribute to and transform dynamic systems?

This is from an on-line curriculum Quest to Learn from the Institute of Play.


H/T: Plektrix.