Remember the innocent days of the 1980s ethical consumer movement? New Age entrepreneurs rode the green wave into the hearts and malls of the world. The promise? Buying pricey ice-cream or hair rinse made with Brazil nuts (or the stocks of the companies that made those products) would make the world a better place. That myth crashed. Consumers, it turned out, were not willing to buy idealism in a bottle if it came at a premium. Two decades later, green marketing remains with us, more intense than ever. Is green yet more than a fad? The Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability annual survey estimates that 13-19% of American adults are dedicated green buyers – a $290bn market. The US-based Cone Communications estimates that 70% of American consumers consider the environmental impact of their purchasing. The UK and Europe show similar numbers. According to marketing experts, however, these figures are wildly overstated, reflecting attitudes, not buying patterns. “Buying green products presents people with a social dilemma: they have to be willing to pay premium prices Ð not for their own direct benefit, but for the greater good,”says professor Shruti Gupta of Penn State University, a world expert in ethical behaviour. “While people love to voice their idealism to survey companies, the cold facts are they almost always put their self-interest first.” Take Elizabeth Romanaux, a consultant from New Jersey interviewed by the American Association of Retired People for a magazine piece about green buying. She considers herself environmentally conscious. She recycles. She composts. But she won’t pay a premium for an eco-friendly hotel room or cleaning products. “It isn’t that I canÕt afford them,”she told AARP Magazine. “It just goes against my grain to pay more.” “Consumers will buy pricier green products,” Gupta says, “but only if they are convinced that […]
The China Railway High-speed (CRH) train travels at over 300km an hour between Beijing and Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi province. This northern province, with roads congested by overloaded lorries en route for cities, was ChinaÕs principal coal-producing region for a long time, until it was overtaken by Inner Mongolia. Everything is stained with coal: the sad grey villages, the landscape and the people, whose faces and bodies are blackened from working down the mines. Even the water is black: washing the coal after extraction pollutes rivers and groundwater, making it unsuitable for irrigation or drinking. The look of the mines has hardly changed for centuries, even though they are being modernised. Huge heaps of coal at the entrances wait to be transported by lorry. Blackboards on the office walls carry the day’s slogans for the work team leaders and reminders of the decisions of the all-powerful State Administration of Coal Mine Safety, currently run by Zhao Tiechui. The number of mining accidents has risen again since 2010, when there were 1,403 accidents and 2,433 deaths, according to official figuresÊ Even though China plans to build more nuclear power stations and hydroelectric dams, coal remains its main source of electricity, preferred by business, particularly locally. According to the Beijing Development and Reform Commission, Beijing residents will consume 20m tons of coal a year by 2015, compared to 11m tons in 2010 (when there had already been a rise in use). China is one of the world’s biggest coal producers (reserves are estimated at 118bn tons), with depositsÊconcentrated in the north and northeast, where there are no major problems of extraction. It is cheap to extract, and seen as the best way to provide the energy needed to boost growth. The industry provides a lot of employment, particularly in rural areas where […]
Along the Rangoon River, where tigers and elephants once roamed, two 12-year-old boys dig through heaps of brick and debris, looking for metal to sell. ÒMoney,Ó says one, thrusting a fistful of antique reinforcing bar at me. The other stoops to the ground and hits the ReBar with a small hammer, breaking apart the mortar that once held the slender rod in its place. Almost overnight, a colonial-era wall, dividing the river from the city, was demolished. Those who need money the most have come to pick through the rubble at dawn. When the Myanmar Port Authority announced unprecedented dredging of the Rangoon River in early 2011, a contract to widen the Strand Road quickly followed. It was a vital link connecting timber farmed upcountry to waterways that carry the wood away, and has long facilitated the export of this precious resource. The road was built by the British nearly 150 years ago, and is the city grid’s southern anchor – a line laid down along a faraway river to make ‘order’ seem part of nature. It was the last land stop for the colony’s exotic exports. Today, the road is too old and too narrow to bear the weight of Burma’s predicted export upswing. Thus the multi-million-dollar upgrade, adding as many as 10ÊadditionalÊlanes in high-traffic areas. Soon the number of boats docking in Rangoon (now Yangon) will treble. Individual cargo limits will rise from 15,000Êtons to 35,000 tons of deadweight per vessel. With the dredging, the port of Rangoon, the link between upper Burma and the lower Irrawaddy regions, will become vital once again. In the 1920s and 1930s Rangoon was the second busiest immigration port in the world, trailing only New York City. Indian, Bengali, Armenian and European workers and merchants arrived in astounding numbers, hoping to […]
Alastair Campbell Random House $62.99 The Burden of Power is the fourth volume of Alastair Campbell’s diaries, and perhaps the most eagerly awaited given the ground it covers. It begins on September 12, 2001 as world leaders assess their response to Al Qaida terrorist attacks in New York and Washington the day before, a day which wrote itself immediately into the history books: 9/11, and it ends on the day Campbell leaves Downing Street. In between there are two wars, first Afghanistan, still going on today, and then, even more controversially, Iraq. It was the most difficult decision of Blair’s premiership, and perhaps the most unpopular. Campbell describes in detail the discussions with President Bush and other world leaders as the steps to war are taken, and delivers an intimate account of Blair as war leader. He records the enormous political difficulties at home, and the sense of crisis that engulfed the government over the suicide of weapons inspector David Kelly. And in the meantime Blair continues to struggle with two issues that have run through all of the Campbell diaries in government – fighting for peace in Northern Ireland, and trying to make peace with Gordon Brown. And Campbell continues to struggle with trying to balance one of the most pressurised posts in politics with the needs of a family and a partner who wants him to leave it. The Burden of Power is as raw and intimate a portrayal of the pressures and responsibilities of political life as you are ever likely to read.
Bamboo and rattan plants are at the centre of major initiatives in Asia, Africa, and Latin America that are combatting global warming, fighting soil erosion, protecting forests, and enhancing communitiesÕ access to water. When IDRC first supported pioneering research on these plants in 1979, the world knew little of their positive environmental potential. But this is changing thanks to work undertaken by the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR), created by IDRC in the early 1990s as an extension of earlier IDRC-sponsored research. In Allahabad, India, bamboo planting restored the fertility of soil degraded by brick mining, so farmers once again can grow crops. That project, which won the 2007 Alcan Prize for Sustainability, also raised the local water table by seven metres within five years. A new bamboo plantation in China’s Guizhou province reduced soil erosion in a mountainous area by 75%, while making degraded farmland and forests viable again. Meanwhile, manufacturing charcoal from sustainable bamboo in India, Tanzania, Ghana, Ethiopia, Mozambique, and the Philippines has prevented the deforestation that results when trees are cut to make fuel. New bamboo-based building techniques developed in Latin America and since transferred to Uganda and Kenya have similarly reduced reliance on threatened forests while avoiding the use of concrete, a major producer of carbon dioxide. How bamboo and rattan plantations can capture carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere is the subject of ongoing research. Network based in Beijing The first-ever international workshops on rattan and bamboo in 1979 and 1980, both held at IDRC’s Singapore office, blossomed soon after into the Bamboo and Rattan Research Network, the precursor to INBAR. Housed initially at IDRC, in 1997 INBAR became independent Ð and also the first international research organization to be based in Beijing. Since then, IDRC has supported INBAR’s work through a […]
By Tim Flannery Text Publishing Twenty-five years ago, a young curator of mammals from the Australian Museum in Sydney set out to research the fauna of the Pacific Islands. Starting with a survey of one of the most inaccessible islands in Melanesia – Woodlark, in the Trobriands Group that the young scientist found himself ghost-whispering, snake wrestling, Quadoi hunting and plunged waist-deep into a sludge of maggot-infested faeces in search of a small bat that turned out not to be earth-shatteringly interesting.With accounts of discovering, naming and sometimes eating new mammal species; being thwarted or aided by local customs; and historic scientific expeditions, Tim Flannery takes us on an enthralling journey through some of the most diverse and spectacular environments on earth. Among the Islandsis the third book in a loose trilogy of Flannery’s adventures, following on fromThrowim Way Leg and Country.