Read all about it: humans husband nature!
Good News: Green ideas work -- and spread!
There’s a way to dissolve plastic, protecting ocean reefs proves cost-effective, and some local people are moving ahead in applying the polluter-must-pay principle. We trim, blend, and append three 2008 articles: (1) “Canadian teen discovers plastic-bag-devouring microbe” by Eoin O'Carroll, May 23 in the Christian Science Monitor; (2) ”Environmental protection vital to reducing natural disaster impact” by the World Wildlife Fund, May 19; and (3) “US city to charge polluting firms” by the BBC, May 22.
by Jeffery J. Smith, May 2008CSM: A Canadian teenager has come up with a way to get plastic shopping bags, which normally take up to 1,000 years to decompose, to break down in as little as three months. Daniel Burd, a 16-year-old high school student in Waterloo, Canada, reasoned that, because plastic degrades, there’d be a microorganism that breaks it down. If that microbe could be identified, you could expose higher concentrations of it to plastic and break it down faster. So Daniel did just that, using ordinary household products. If used on an industrial scale, his microbes would save space in landfills and the lives of millions of wildlife species. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a swatch of trash twice the size of Texas, is 80% plastic. For his efforts, Burd won $30,000 in prizes and scholarships.
JJS: See? To make scientific progress, we need not depend upon big firms and spoil them with subsidies. A better bet would be to empower everybody, endow the citizenry with a dividend, so basement inventors can realize their ideas. Others, “penny investors” augmented by citizens dividends, could combine to invest in groundbreaking ideas, just as now gamblers form syndicates to buy lottery tickets. Plus, schools could lose the regimentation, allow students more latitude, then the creativity of youth might astound us. Meanwhile, some of their elders do have some good ideas -- that they even sometimes get employed.
WWF: Environmental degradation is a key factor turning extreme weather events into natural disasters.
* Human land use changes natural fire regimes and destroys more buildings.
* Deforestation and floodplain development links high rainfall to devastating floods and mudslides. The loss of upwards of 70% of floodplains in the Danube and tributaries increases the frequency and severity of floods.
* When mangroves are removed, dune systems developed, and coastal forests cleared, reefs are damaged, which causes much more damage and loss of life. In the Seychelles, reef destruction and sea level rise has doubled wave energy.
In one success story, the investment of US$1.1 million in mangrove replanting and other measures saves some Vietnamese communities an estimated US$7.3 million a year in sea dyke maintenance. During typhoon Wukong in 2000 the area remained relatively unharmed while neighboring provinces suffered significant loss of life and property.
There have been many international agreements and declarations but to actually protect and stabilize an area calls for setting aside land and sea.
JJS: If an area is to no longer yield bounty or money to local residents, then regional residents should compensate locals for their sacrifice. The way to do that is to recover rents for all the used locations in the region, then use a good portion of that revenue to pay residents a dividend. The size of the dividend normally would be enough to cover housing costs in areas of low land value, such as near areas off limits to extraction. Or, if locals are allowed to use the protected area in sustainable ways, then their harvest plus the dividend should easily be enough to allow locals to live comfortably.
The jurisdiction should also charge polluters, but not use that revenue to fund a dividend. As industry cuts back their emissions, there’d be less money for paying shares. Also, If people got money for being polluted, some might choose more pollution. Yes, do charge polluters, but use the money to administer the monitoring of sources, auctioning of permits, and enforcing of standards. One of the most progressive areas in the States is getting such a system up and running.
BBC: The San Francisco Bay Area is no longer waiting for the state or nation to act. Their Air Quality Management District will require businesses in nine counties to pay fees for the amount of carbon dioxide they emit. The rules, the first of their kind in the US, are due to come into effect July 1. Companies will have to measure and report their own emissions before being charged 4.4 cents per ton of carbon dioxide. The biggest payers will be a handful of power plants and oil refineries. The charges are expected to generate some $1.1m in their first year. The Bay Area is home to some seven million people and is among the wealthiest regions of the US.
JJS: And for that reason, some of the most expensive real estate in the nation, if not the world. If that region were to recover their site values, imagine the size of a rent dividend they each could receive! Enjoying the material security, local inventors might very well unleash a second silicon revolution.
Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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