By Nadia Prupis
A people-powered energy revolution—an era in which people can produce their own electricity—is possible, and could happen soon, according to a new report released Monday by the environmental group Friends of the Earth Europe (FOEE).
The report, The Potential of Energy Citizens in the European Union, finds that over half the residents of the EU could be generating their own renewable electricity by 2050. That's 264 million "energy citizens" meeting 45 percent of the region's energy demand through a democratized, citizen-owned system that allows people to be the operators of their own utilities—taking power away, in more ways than one, from a market monopolized by large corporations.
"[People] have the power to revolutionize Europe's energy system, reclaiming power from big energy companies, and putting the planet first. We need to enshrine the right for people to produce their own renewable energy in European and national legislation," Molly Walsh, FOEE community power campaigner, said.
The report also found that overall, 83 percent of European households, whether individually or as part of a utility collective, have the potential to help create, store or help provide renewable energy.
Electricity production by energy citizens, potential to 2050 per Member State.Friends of the Earth Europe
The researchers analyzed the potential for renewable energy generation, storage, and distribution for different categories of "energy citizens"—households generating energy individually; households producing energy collectively as part of a co-op or association; public entities such as schools, hospitals and government buildings; and small enterprises with less than 50 people on staff.
Number of energy citizens for the various technologies assessed, potential to 2050 for the EU28.Friends of the Earth Europe
The report found that:
"[About] 115 million EU households will have an electric vehicle in 2050, 70 million may have a smart electric boiler, 60 million may have solar PV on their roof and 42 million may have stationary batteries on their premises. Another 64 million households could participate in renewable energy production through an energy collective."
[...] About 161 million can potentially provide flexible demand services with an EV, (smart) electric boiler or stationary batteries. A large share of the households that could have demand flexibility could also be an energy producer."
"Citizens are already playing a role in renewable energy projects across Europe—benefiting the local economy, as well as creating public support for the energy transition. Their potential is huge, and this research shows these projects could, and should, be the norm," Dirk Vansintjan, president of the European Federation of Renewable Energy Cooperatives, said.
Potential energy storage by energy citizens, estimates for 2015, 2030 and 2050.Friends of the Earth Europe
The report was commissioned by the European Renewable Energies Federation, Friends of the Earth Europe, Greenpeace EU Unit, and the European Federation of Renewable Energy Cooperatives. The organizations are calling for a framework to promote citizen-owned energy within the European Commission's Energy Union package, the commission's strategy for ushering in a low-carbon economy.
Such a call aligns with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's wish for "the EU to become the world number one in renewable energies," the groups said.
Because the data surrounding renewable energy is limited, there are some uncertainties surrounding the findings, the report cautions, but that in itself is evidence that more in-depth research need to be devoted to the industry and that policymakers should undertake measures to tap the potential of citizens' collective energy creation.
"The EU should be clearing a path for forward-thinking, nimble energy citizens, not supporting big, polluting utilities," Tara Connolly, energy policy adviser for Greenpeace EU, said. "The age of energy dinosaurs is over."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams....
For the next 30 days, I'm going to be wearing every single piece of trash that I create. At first that might sound crazy, but anybody who knows me, knows that I am indeed crazy ... crazy in a good way. My biggest goal in life is to inspire people to think about how our little daily actions affect the world around us both near and far.
Most Americans realize that we create an unfathomable amount of trash. You've all probably seen the horrific images of landfills bursting at the seams, bodies of water littered in trash, and animals killed or badly injured from plastics.
Many of us have wrapped our heads around the massive global issues we've created with our trash, but I think we fail to put more emphasis on the role we play in this tragic situation. How are we as individuals contributing to these problems and what positive changes can we make today to live out a life that is in harmony with our beliefs? We need to put our actions front and center, and inspire positive change.
The average American creates 4.5 pounds of trash per day, a statistic that's hard to visualize especially as it adds up. So for 30 days I am going to live just like the average American. I'll eat, shop and consume just like millions of us are accustomed to doing every day. By the end of 30 days, I'll be wearing upwards of 135 pounds of garbage. To make this possible, I had a special suit designed to support the weight and make it visible by Nancy Judd of Recycle Runway. Everywhere I go I'll be a walking billboard of American consumerism.
Rob Greenfield in New York City's subway wearing all the trash he's generated.YouTube video
Rob Greenfield on day eight.Gary Bencheghib
Living on One, a non-profit production and impact studio that uses immersive storytelling to create films that inspire action around pressing global issues, and filmmaker Gary Bencheghib are helping me to create an unforgettable and shocking visual of the amount of trash that most of us create each day. Throughout the month we will be producing videos that put trash front and center, and go behind the scenes to show why this issue matters and how we can be part of the solution.
If you are on the streets of New York City, keep a look out for the guy covered in trash and come take a selfie with me using the #TrashMe, or follow along on my website, Facebook page and/or YouTube channel....
In legal tiger farms across China, some 6,000 caged cats are kept in filthy conditions and will be killed for dubious medicinal uses and as home decor for the country's newly-rich elite. The sordid business is mostly legal, but hides behind carefully-worded agreements and pretensions of conservation. The issue is expected to be addressed at this week's Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting in Johannesburg.
Tiger breeding cages at Guilin Tiger Farm in China.Belinda Wright / Wildlife Protection Society of India
It is estimated that 60 percent of China's 1.4 billion people use so-called traditional medicines made from tiger bones, rhinoceros horn, bear gall bladder and other exotic animal parts. As China has grown in recent decades, creating a larger middle class and many newly rich entrepreneurs, demand for tiger parts has grown.
China signed on to CITES, but maintains about 200 tiger farms, where tigers are bred to serve this growing market. Claiming that these tiger parts are for domestic consumption, and therefore not subject to the treaty on international trade, China also defends the tiger farms as a captive breeding program that actually helps the species.
However, in 1993, China banned trading in tiger bone, and a 1988 wildlife law that purports to protect endangered species sets forth a policy of "actively domesticating and breeding the species of wildlife."
"What we didn't understand until very recently is that ban in 1993 did not supersede China's wildlife protection law, which was crafted in the 1980s and actually mandates the farming and consumption of tigers and other endangered species," author and wildlife activist Judith Mills told Yale Environment 360 in an interview last year.
Small pens house tigers.Environmental Investigation Agency
Among the luxury products made from these farmed animals is tiger bone wine, which can sell for $257 per 500 ml (about 17 ounces). But almost every part of the tiger is alleged to have some medical use: the brain, whiskers, eyeballs, nose, penis, tail and feet. Tiger skins and whole stuffed tigers are a status symbol in wealthy Chinese homes.
Far from saving the species, tiger farms promote demand for these body parts that makes poaching wild tigers even more lucrative.
"The problem with tiger farming is that it stimulates demand for tiger products, which stimulates poaching of wild tigers because products from wild tigers are considered superior, more prestigious and they're exponentially more valuable," Mills said.
The World Wildlife Federation (WWF) counts the number of tigers in the wild at 3,890.
Historic and current range of tigers in Asia.World Wildlife Federation
A February 2013 report by the Environmental Investigation Agency concludes that "wild Asian cats are being poached to supply the market demand stimulated by China's legal domestic trade in skins of captive-bred tigers at a time when the international community has agreed that demand reduction is essential to save wild tigers."
The report also notes that tiger farming and trade has spread to other Southeast Asia countries including Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. Recently, Laos announced its intention to phase out tiger farms.
In July, the Environmental Investigation Agency called on CITES to adopt concrete measures to end tiger farms. Even if adopted, it remains to be seen if China will abide by the regulations or find another loophole. The Guardian reports that a farm in northeast China is cross-breeding tigers with lions, thus creating a "liger" that the Chinese say is not covered by its own 1993 law.
It's no secret that Elon Musk wants to take humans to Mars by 2025, but now, for the first time, he will explain how he plans to do it.
OnInnovation: Copyright 2010 The Henry Ford.
In a keynote speech, Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species, Musk "will discuss the long-term technical challenges that need to be solved to support the creation of a permanent, self-sustaining human presence on Mars. His technical presentation will focus on potential architectures for sustaining humans on Mars that industry, government and the scientific community can collaborate on in the years ahead," according to SpaceX.
In a move to generate even more buzz around the highly anticipated speech, Musk shared photos of his Interplanetary Transport System—a powerful rocket engine dubbed Raptor—conducting its first test-firing in addition to some other details:
When compared to the Merlin engines used to power SpaceX's signature Falcon 9 rocket—the one it used to deliver supplies to the International Space Station—Musk said the Raptor's "chamber pressure is almost 3X Merlin, so engine is about the same size for a given area ratio." That means the Raptor is roughly three times more powerful than the Falcon 9's Merlin engine.
Musk's latest reveal shows just how far SpaceX has come since he founded the privately funded aerospace company in 2002. In 14 years, SpaceX went from successfully launching the Falcon 1 rocket into orbit in 2008 to being contracted to launch commercial satellites, as well as resupply the International Space Station.
In previous interviews about his plans for missions to Mars, Musk said the first mission is slated for 2018 when SpaceX plans to launch its so-called "Red Dragon" spacecraft, without a crew and on top of a Falcon Heavy rocket. Then every 26 months—when Earth and Mars's orbits are closest together—SpaceX will launch two more rockets to practice landing large objects on Mars, with full crews expected to make the trip in 2024.
While Musk says his main goal in these trips is establishing a colony for future generations, getting there safely will have its challenges.
Radiation exposure on the way to Mars puts astronauts "at huge risk of cancer [and is] a major open problem that must be solved for the mission to be feasible," Hannah Kerner, executive director of the Space Frontier Foundation, explained to ABCNews.
There are also other issues including the psycho-social effects of space travel as well as the effect of decreased gravity on the human body, Kerner said. And, as with all space travel, she warned, "there will surely be more vehicle failures and potential loss of life on the path to Mars."
So why do it?
At the event in Hong Kong in January, Musk described the desire to go to Mars this way:
"It's really a fundamental decision we need to make as a civilization. What kind of future do we want? Do we want a future where we're forever confined to one planet until some eventual extinction event, however far in the future, that might occur? Or do we want to become a multi-planet species and then ultimately be out there among the stars?"
And while Musk's main purpose to take us beyond our blue planet may be to save us from possible extinction, he also admitted, "What gets me more excited is that this would be an incredible adventure. It would be like the greatest adventure ever."
Watch Musk's speech live streamed today at 2:30 p.m. ET:
President Obama and Leonardo DiCaprio will meet at a White House event Oct. 3 to discuss ways to combat climate change.
At the inaugural South by South Lawn or SXSL, a play on SXSW, Obama and the Academy Award-winning actor will take part in a conversation with renowned climate scientist Dr. Katharine Hayhoe about "the importance of protecting the one planet we've got for future generations."
Following the conversation, DiCaprio's new climate documentary Before the Flood will be shown on the South Lawn in what is being billed as a "first-of-its-kind film screening."
The film, directed by Fisher Stevens, chronicles DiCaprio's international campaign to highlight the perils of a warming planet. Before the Flood will air on the National Geographic Channel globally in 171 countries and 45 languages on Oct. 30.
The actor also made climate change a centerpiece of his Oscar acceptance speech earlier this year, calling it "the most urgent threat facing our species."
In his speech, he addressed the need to support leaders who fight the biggest polluters, as well as the need to stand up for the rights of indigenous people and for the "billions and billions of underprivileged people" affected by global warming.
"For our children's children, and for those people out there whose voices have been drowned out by the politics of greed. I thank you all for this amazing award tonight. Let us not take this planet for granted. I do not take tonight for granted. Thank you so very much," DiCaprio said....
After three years of research, a Ph.D. student at the University of Melbourne may have discovered a way to kill superbugs without the use of antibiotics.
Shu Lam believes that she has found the key to averting a health crisis so severe that the United Nations recently declared it a "fundamental threat" to global health.
Antibiotic-resistant superbugs kill about 170,000 people a year and, according to a British study, are estimated to kill up to 10 million people a year by 2050 and cost the world economy $100 trillion.
"If we fail to address this problem quickly and comprehensively, antimicrobial resistance will make providing high-quality universal healthcare coverage more difficult if not impossible," UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told The Guardian. "It will undermine sustainable food production. And it will put the sustainable development goals in jeopardy."
In what is being hailed by scientists in the field as "a breakthrough that could change the face of modern medicine," Lam and her team developed a star-shaped peptide polymer that targets the resistant superbugs, rips apart their cell walls and kills them.
"These star polymers screw up the way bacteria survives," Lam told VICE. "Bacteria need to divide and grow but when our star is attached to the membrane it interferes with these processes. This puts a lot of stress on the bacteria and it initiates a process to kill itself from stress."
A bacterium cell before (left) and after being treated by the star-shaped polymers. University of Melbourne
Lam told The Telegraph the polymers have been effective in treating mice infected by antibiotic-resistant bacteria and are relatively non-toxic to the healthy cells in the body. The reduction in toxicity is because of the larger size of the polymers which make them too big to enter healthy cells.
Lam's findings were recently published in the Nature Microbiology journal and while the results are promising in the lab and on mice, she said there is still a long way to go.
"We still need to do a lot of studies and a lot of tests—for example, to see whether these polymers have any side effects on our bodies," she explained to Vice. "We need a lot of detailed assessments like that, [but] they could hopefully be implemented in the near future."
Professor Greg Qiao, her Ph.D. supervisor, told The Telegraph they will need at least five more years to fully develop her project unless millions of dollars are invested into speeding up the process.
However, "The really good news about this is that, at the moment, if you have a superbug and you run out of antibiotics, there's not much you can do. At least you can do something now," he said.
So what would the star polymer treatment look like in the future? As Lam explained in an interview with VICE:
"The quickest way to make this available to the public is through topical application, simply because you go through less procedures as opposed to ingesting these molecules into the body. So when you have a wound or a bacterial infection on the wound then you [generally] apply some sort of antibacterial cream.
"The star polymers could potentially become one of the anti-bacterial ingredients in this cream. Ultimately, we hope that what we're discovering here could replace antibiotics. In other words, we also hope that we will be able to inject this into the body to treat serious infections, or even to disperse it in the form of a pill which patients can take, just like somebody would take an antibiotic."...
As President Obama's signature Clean Power Plan heads to court, the Dutch parliament voted Thursday to shut down its entire coal industry. The move is needed in order for the country to meet its 2030 goal to reduce carbon emissions by 55 percent.
Dutch parliament building in The Hague.Markus Bernet, Wikimedia
The action would put the Netherlands in position to achieve the goals of the Paris climate agreement. The 77 to 72 vote, while non-binding, comes on the heels of a recent confidential study, leaked to the Dutch newspaper Trouw, that one or more plants would have to be closed. The country has five coal plants currently in operation, including three that just came online last year. A recent five percent increase in emissions has been linked to its newest plants.
An overwhelmed Urgenda lawyer Cox after winning the historic Dutch climate case.Urgenda / Chantal Bekker
In June, 2015, a court in The Hague ordered the Dutch government to cut its emissions by 25 percent within five years. The unprecedented ruling came in a case brought by the Dutch Urgenda Foundation. In a transcript from the reading of the verdict, the court said: "The state must do more to avert the imminent danger caused by climate change, also in view of its duty of care to protect and improve the living environment." The government has appealed the ruling.
In the leaked document, the consulting firm CE Delft said that the Dutch government would need to quickly close one or two power plants to meet the court's order. They concluded that closing the plants would impose lower costs to society than other alternatives to achieve the court-imposed emissions target. The report estimated that the average household would save 80 Euros ($90 at current exchange rates) a year, against costs of 30 Euros ($34). The Dutch economic ministry estimated that the cost of closing all the country's coal plants by 2020 would total 7 billion Euros ($7.9 billion).
Last year, five older coal-fired plants were decommissioned. Some environmentalists think that a coalition agreement could keep some or all of the three newer plants open. The issue has been contentious and is likely to affect next year's Dutch elections. The right-wing, populist Freedom Party, which may block the parliament's plan, currently leads many opinion polls.
In the U.S., 94 coal plants were shut down last year, with another 41 expected to the shuttered in 2016. Aging plants and cheap natural gas are driving the transition from coal, even as 26 states are suing the federal government to overturn the Clean Power Plan. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit will hear oral arguments Sept. 27.
Even if the Clean Power Plan survives this challenge, a study published today in Nature Climate Change says that the U.S. will miss its 2025 carbon emissions target by a wide amount, as much as 1.5 billion metric tons per year. Nevertheless, "The study underscores the importance of EPA's Clean Power Plan for meeting the climate change promises," wrote Science this morning....
Cyanobacteria bloom at Clear Lake, Lake County, California, resulted in oxygen depletion in the water and the subsequent mortality of multiple aquatic species, including carp, catfish, bluegill and crappie. Kirsten Macintyre, California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Associated Press reported that algal blooms have been detected in more than 40 of the California's bodies of water—the highest number in state history. The blue-green cyanobacterium's growth has been fueled by
record-breaking heat and a historic drought.
"Warm temperatures, increased nutrients, and low water flows aggravated by drought conditions and climate change are favoring toxin-producing cyanobacteria and algae; and a number of lakes, reservoirs and river systems are suffering blooms as a result," the California State Water Resources Control Board announced last month.
As the Sacrameto Bee described, this green muck has been spotted across the Golden State:
"Since July, officials have issued notices about potentially toxic blue-green algae in the Klamath River near the Oregon border; along an arm of the state's largest reservoir, Shasta Lake; and at Pyramid Lake in Los Angeles County. They've attributed the deaths of thousands of fish along a section of Clear Lake to toxic blooms. Blue-green algae also has formed in parts of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, prompting health warnings about green, malodorous water in Discovery Bay and Stockton."
Beverley Anderson-Abbs, an environmental scientist with the State Water Board, told AccuWeather that blooms are usually seasonal, "However, these seasons have been getting longer over the past few years as winters have been relatively warm and water, especially in smaller lakes, has been warming earlier in the year and staying warm later."
"It is very possible that this could get worse in the future as temperatures continue to increase and the possibility of future droughts along with that," Anderson-Ebbs said.
Harmful algal blooms can produce toxins that can cause serious illness in people. Wade Hensley, a resident of Discovery Bay, California was hospitalized after microcystin poisoning, a byproduct of algae. According to NPR, his body went numb from the waist down.
The California Department of Public Health states that algae exposure can cause rashes, skin and eye irritation, allergic reactions and other health effects but at high levels, "exposure can result in serious illness or death."
Over on the East Coast, the Chesapeake Bay and waterways beyond are seeing bigger and longer lasting algal blooms. The Daily Press reported that a strain of algae called Alexandrium monilatum has spread from Virginia Beach to the James, York and Rappahannock rivers to the Eastern Shore—even as far north as the Potomac River.
The report states that this year's bloom is still going strong even though it usually disappears by early to mid-September. Researchers are now trying to understand if Alexandrium has an impact on marine life. Currently, it does not appear to be harmful to humans.
"So the guidance is you should probably avoid it," Virginia Department of Health's marine science supervisor Todd Egerton told the Daily Press. "But, for the most part, people haven't reported any issues with it."
A number of other drivers can spur algae growth, from warming water to excess nitrogen and phosphorus runoff. Algal blooms have been known to strip oxygen from the water, creating a "dead zone" that threatens fish and other marine life....
Nestlé's grab of a Canadian community's water supply has sparked international outrage and calls to boycott the company and bottled water. More than 150,000 Facebook users are talking about the news on the social media site.
The Council of Canadians is calling on people to sign a declaration on its website to boycott bottled water and Nestlé.
Nestlé Waters Canada, a bottled water operation of the multinational food and drink giant, outbid the Township of Central Wellington in Ontario for water rights to a local well to ensure "future business growth."
The company is already permitted to pull up to 3.6 million liters (roughly 951,000 gallons) of water a day for its bottling operations in nearby Aberfoyle, but decided to swoop up the well near Elora, Ontario in order "to supplement our operations in Aberfoyle."
According the Globe and Mail, the company bought the well from Middlebrook Water Company last month after having made a conditional offer in 2015.
The reason this issue has blown up is because the Township of Centre Wellington wanted to buy the spring water well for itself in order to safeguard the drinking water supply the growing community, mayor Kelly Linton explained to The Guardian.
The township has a population of about 30,000 but "by 2041, we'll be closer to 50,000 so protecting our water sources is critical to us," he said.
Not only that, much of the province of Ontario is experiencing record drought conditions, with rainfall 100 millimeters below normal in some areas from April to June, the National Post reported in July.
A drought intensity map released by Agriculture Canada on June 17, showing "moderate drought" across eastern Ontario.Agriculture Canada
According to The Guardian, when township authorities learned that Nestlé was trying to buy the well, they scrambled over the summer to come up with a counter-offer.
"We put in more money than they did and we removed all conditions," Linton said. The amount has not been specified.
But Nestlé, which had right of first refusal, was able to match the township's offer and won the well for itself.
"As you can appreciate we aren't going to be outbidding Nestlé," Linton said. "As a small town we're using taxpayer dollars, so we have to be good stewards of that."
Nestlé was reportedly unaware of the township's counter-offer until after the purchase was made. Since securing the well, the company said it has submitted an application to the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change to conduct an aquifer pump test to determine if the water source meets the company's internal requirements "as well as ensure it can be operated in a sustainable manner." If the source at the Middlebrook well site meets Nestlé's requirements, the company will seek a permit that allows it to draw water at 300 gallons a minute, Nestlé said.
However, Wellington Water Watchers, a local volunteer group, plans to block the company's plans.
"We are fighting tooth and nail to not allow that pump test to go ahead," Mike Nagy of the group told The Guardian.
The Wellington Water Watchers pointed out in a Facebook post that Nestlé's latest move will vastly increase plastic pollution due to the wastefulness of bottled water.
"Think about the plastic we will stop being produced by saying NO to the Nestle permit renewals and the recent purchase of the Middlebrook Well. 6.4 million liters a day would translate into 12 million plastic packages per day! This is how much water they would have access to if they get the permit in Elora Centre Wellington as they already have 4.7 million liters day. Use the 4th R, REFUSE."
The Council of Canadians is also urging a national boycott of Nestlé. A media release for the boycott states:
"This summer, while many parts of southern Ontario faced drought conditions, Nestlé continued to pump more than 4 million litres of groundwater every day from an aquifer near Guelph. Nestlé pays less than $15 per day for this water, which it then ships out in hundreds of millions of single-use plastic bottles for sale all over North America."
"The water crisis is at our door here in Canada," Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow said. "Groundwater resources are finite and are currently taxed by droughts, climate change and over-extraction. At this pace, we will not have enough for our future needs. Wasting our limited groundwater on frivolous and consumptive uses such as bottled water is a recipe for disaster. We must safeguard groundwater reserves for communities and future generations."
Additionally, as Barlow told the Canadian Press, the new Elora well is located near a First Nation's reserve, potentially putting their water supply at risk.
"[The well] sits on the traditional territory of the Six Nations of the Grand River, 11,000 of whom do not have access to clean running water," Barlow said.
Nestlé's has been making many recent headlines over its bottling operations. Last week, EcoWatch reported that the Swiss conglomerate is now legally permitted to take water from the San Bernardino National Forest in California on a permit that expired back in 1988.
A federal judge ruled that the corporation can continue its use of a 4-mile pipeline that siphons thousands of gallons of public water a day from the Strawberry Creek watershed and sell it back to the public as bottled water. The water is sold under the Arrowhead brand....