Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Are Palm Oil Farmers Destroying Indonesia’s Forests?

With the deforestation fires that has now caused serious pollution in the neighboring city-state of Singapore, are Indonesian palm oil farmers destroying their country’s vital tropical rain forests? 

By: Ringo Bones 

Well, the endemic problem recently acquired headline news status yet again after air pollution levels in the neighboring city-state of Singapore now exceeds the UN’s established acceptable air pollution levels during the middle of June 2013, the annual mass slash and burn farming methods of Indonesia’s industrial palm oil farmers had once again gained headline news status even though such environmentally destructive activity became large enough to cause unacceptable levels of air pollution in Singapore and other neighboring states since 1997. Given such environmentally destructive methods of palm oil production had never been condemned, never mind cracked down, by post Suharto Indonesia, should consumers of the world unite to boycott any product using Indonesian palm oil? 

According to the latest findings, most of the slash and burn farming activities done by industrial scale palm oil producers are mostly done on the ecologically sensitive - but unprotected by the Indonesian government - primeval wooded swamplands and tropical equatorial peat bogs of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The internationally recognized Pollution Standards Index peaked at 371 over Singapore City back in Thursday, June 20, 2013 before falling to about 218 later in the day. A Pollution Standards Index or P.S.I. reading over 200 indicates very unhealthy air and a P.S.I. score above 300 is considered hazardous – even for individuals with a relatively healthy respiratory system. The “Hell Haze” produced by the slash and burn practices of large scale farming of palm oil in Indonesia has been considered an “annual” problem since the late 1990s, when Singapore City’s P.S.I. peaked at 226 back in 1997.    

While a sizeable portion of the Singaporean police have now been stationed in Malaysian and Singaporean owned palm oil companies stationed in Singapore in order to break up “unauthorized” mass protests in case they occur, the average Singaporean citizen seems for now just toughening out the “haze hell” of the slash and burn practices of palm oil producers of neighboring Indonesia. Will it only be a matter of time when the Singapore air pollution reach a certain high level to trigger rhetoric of armed conflict between the governments of Indonesia and Singapore? 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Are Wood-Burning Power Plants Truly Environmentally Friendly?

Given the logic that if one harvest biomass sourced fuels slower that the rate it grows back considered renewable and therefore environmentally friendly? 

By: Ringo Bones 

The European Union’s proposed to put on-line wood-burning electricity generating power plants that use fast growing sustainably grown and harvested woods from the United States had ignited a renewed discussion on the “green credentials” of wood and other biomass burning schemes as an alternative to fossil fuel burning. So are these proposed schemes truly Earth friendly in the sense that it doesn’t introduce more climate disrupting and global warming causing excess carbon dioxide into the Earth’s atmosphere? 

There was a BBC discussion back in May 28, 2013 by Gaynor Hartnell of the Renewable Energy Association and Andrew Pendleton of the Friends of the Earth on weather wood-burning electricity generating power plants are truly sustainable and climate friendly. According to Hartnell, if one harvests biomass – like wood – at a rate slower than the rate it grows back can be considered sustainable. But is there a flaw in Hartnell’s apparently logical perception on the concept of biomass renewability? 

In an interview back in July 9 2012, the 1984 Nobel Physics Prize laureate Carlo Rubbia stated that based on current research on the behavior of gaseous carbon dioxide currently circulating in the earth’s atmosphere, the average lifetime that carbon dioxide generated by human activity – as in biomass and fossil fuel burning – stays in the atmosphere before being sequestered back into wood, dissolved into the world’s oceans and lithosphere, is 30,000 years. Therefore, most of the carbon dioxide produced when Emperor Nero burned a section of Rome as he fiddled around 2,000 years ago is still in the atmosphere. So is the industrial burning of biomass at the same rate we go through fossil fuels truly climate friendly and sustainable? 

Even though Pendleton sides with the view of Nobel Physics laureate Rubbia that the rate of the carbon dioxide generated by burning wood or other forms of biomass is much slower than the rate that it can reabsorb it back and turn it into cellulose, it seems that this move is the most sensible one at present according to the EU where the powers-that-be at Brussels plans for a 22-percent target of its energy source to come from renewable – as in biomass based – schemes before the year 2020. But most environmental based groups in Europe are still mystified on its true sustainable green credentials given that the woods hat are sourced from the United States are shipped to Europe on transports that run on fossil fuels. So EU based environmentalists are now actively up in arms to ban the proposed scheme. 

Derb Carter, an environmentalist from the US state of Georgia says the increased harvesting of “low grade” swamp-wood harvested from environmentally sensitive swampy woodlands in Georgia that are grown on privately owned wood farms that border Federally protected old growth swamp woodlands to be processed into pellets to be shipped to Europe to fuel their wood-burning electricity generating power plants could have unforeseen dire environmental consequences on Georgia’s swampy woodlands. So, is the widespread adoption of wood-burning electricity generating power plants a misguided policy used to combat climate change? 

Monday, March 25, 2013

The 2013 CITES Conference In Bangkok: No New Ground Broken?

Supposedly to take decisive action to halt the decline of tropical timber, sharks, manta rays and a wide range of endangered plants and animals, is the latest triennial CITES conference too ineffectual? 

By: Ringo Bones 

During the middle of March 2013, delegates from 170countries passed proposals upgrading protection for more than 50 species, but critics warn that loopholes allow trade in some critically endangered species remain unclosed even after 40 years after the CITES treaty was signed. The increasing affluence of the working class in Mainland China had also in recent times increased the demand in exotic animal parts for use in traditional Chinese medicine that are sourced from critically endangered species like tiger blood and rhino horn despite the dubious effectiveness of these products. Not to mention the recent increase in shark fin soup consumption by Mainland China’s new middle class.  

Near the end of the conference, Russia and the United States set aside their on-going political differences to band together in protecting the unregulated hunting and trading of polar bear and their associated products. Even though the two countries failed to achieve a comprehensive polar bear hunting ban, certain indigenous tribes in Canada’s North West Territories are allowed by law subsistence level hunting and trade of polar bear and polar bear products but both the Russian and US government had uncovered that during the past few years that commercial quantities of polar bear related products had been traded in their territories by Canadian North West Territory tribes that far exceed the subsistence hunting quota levels.   

When it comes to the illegal trade in ivory, the “Gang of 8” countries – i.e. Philippines, The People’s Republic of China, Thailand, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Malaysia and Vietnam had since become a haven to illegal ivory traders that had been coddled by some high-ranking government officials that allow them to exploit ivory trading loopholes and profiting from the trade in ivory are now threatened with severe sanctions. Given the challenges, it seems like everyone concerned in the regulation and / or control in the trade of endangered wildlife parts are facing an uphill battle. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

The US Climate Change Rally: Environmental Hope And change?

Even though the Obama administration seem unable to free itself from the clutches of the Big Oil lobby, will the latest climate change rally at the D.C. Beltway end the environmental deadlock?

By: Ringo Bones

Environmental activist spent months planning the event and looks like the Sunday afternoon climate change rally in Washington D.C. urging the Obama administration to adopt a more environmentally friendly energy policy and to break itself from the clutches of the Big Oil and Coal lobby started to turn out to be the biggest environmental rally in recent years. Even though it is the biggest environmentally oriented rally on the D.C. Beltway in recent years, what chances does it have of initiating a significant change of the US government’s policy towards a more environmentally friendly and more sustainable energy policy?

Back in Wednesday, February 13, 2013, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Daryl Hannah were one of the high profile persons arrested protesting the Keystone Oil Pipeline over the project’s environmental impact and its ability to offer true energy independence for America. And the Sunday afternoon US Climate Change Rally in the D.C. Beltway are focusing their concerns over the harmful environmental impact of the Keystone Oil Pipeline.

If the Obama administration manages to make a genuine change on the US government’s energy policy towards a more environmentally friendly and sustainable path, America’s carbon dioxide emissions would probably be reduced significantly because latest studies show that 57 percent of the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere can be traced to man-mad industrial processes of crude oil and coal burning. The ball on climate change action is already on the Obama administration’s court when it comes to moving away from unsustainable and environmentally unfriendly fossil fuel burning to run America’s wheels and engines of industry.