Japan Turns Off Nukes, Africa Plants More Trees
Just Proven -- Humans Need Nature for their Health
Harnessing clean power and planting trees are good -- so good they’ll raise land values that spur speculation which hurts greenery. We trim, blend, and append four 2012 articles from: (1) BBC, May 5, on nukes; (2) Christian Science Monitor, May 1, on trees by I. Hopkins; (3) BBC, May 8, on allergies by M. Kinver; and (4) Counterpunch, May 1, on May Day by G. Moses.
by Isaac Hopkins, BBC, by Mark Kinver, and by Greg Moses
Tomari shutdown leaves Japan without nuclear power
Japan is switching off its last working nuclear reactor, as part of the safety drive since the March 2011 tsunami triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima plant. It leaves Japan without energy from atomic power for the first time for more than 40 years.
Until last year, Japan got 30% of its power from nuclear energy.
Hundreds of people marched through Tokyo, waving banners to celebrate what they hope will be the end of nuclear power in Japan.
Since the Fukushima disaster, all the country's reactors have been shut down for routine maintenance. They must withstand tests against earthquakes and tsunamis, and local authorities must give their consent in order for plants to restart. So far, none have.
Two reactors at the Ohi plant in western Japan have been declared safe. The government says they should be restarted to combat looming shortages. However, regional authorities would still have to give their approval.
In the meantime, Japan has increased its fossil fuel imports, with electricity companies pressing old power plants into service.
If the country can get through the steamy summer without blackouts, calls to make the nuclear shutdown permanent will get louder, our correspondent says.
The six-reactor Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was badly damaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Blasts occurred at four of the reactors after the cooling systems went offline, triggering radiation leaks and forcing the evacuation of thousands of people.
A 20km (12m) exclusion zone remains in place around the plant.
To read more
JJS: As Japan moves away from energy supplied by hierarchical industry, so does Africa move away from fertilizer supplied by the corporate elite.
African farmers grow trees as a natural crop fertilizer
According to “Agricultural success from Africa: the case of fertilizer tree systems in southern Africa (Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe),” a report from the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, simple “Fertilizer Tree Systems” (FTS) can double maize (corn) production in soil that is low in nitrogen, an essential plant nutrient.
A type of agroforestry, FTS incorporate nitrogen-fixing trees and shrubs into agricultural fields, usually inter-planted with food crops. These trees take in atmospheric nitrogen and return it to the soil, where it serves as a nutrient for plants.
FTS are much cheaper for farmers to implement than buying fertilizer and represent a more holistic approach to soil management. FTS scaling-up programs were broadly implemented about 10 years ago, and in that time the number of small farmers using these techniques has ballooned from a few hundred to more than 250,000 in Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
FTS have proven most effective for small farmers who are able to devote the necessary labor and land more easily than raise the money needed for commercial fertilizer. By relying on naturally occurring systems rather than imports, agroforestry improves food security, bolsters biodiversity, and reinforces local economies.
The report also stresses that FTS do not provide all nutrients required by crops, so external inputs are frequently necessary to boost phosphorus and potassium. However, as nitrogen has been shown to be a limiting nutrient in much of southern Africa, sustainable production can be improved through the use of FTS, even without other fertilizers.
To read more
JJS: While switching to alternative power and alternative fertilizer is real progress, new knowledge that proves humans need nature can be useful, too.
Lack of contact with nature 'increasing allergies'
A lack of exposure to a "natural environment" could be resulting in more urban dwellers developing allergies and asthma.
Finnish scientists say certain bacteria, shown to be beneficial for human health, are found in greater abundance in non-urban surroundings.
The microbiota play an important role in the development and maintenance of the immune system.
"There are microbes everywhere, including in the built environment, but the composition is different between natural environments and human-built areas," explained co-author Ilkka Hanski from the University of Helsinki.
The team collected samples from 118 teenagers in eastern Finland, and found that those living on farms or near forests had more diverse bacteria on their skin, and also displayed lower allergen sensitivity.
One type of gammaproteobacteria, called Acinetobacter, was singled out as being "strongly linked to the development of anti-inflammatory molecules".
"Basically, our study showed that the more you had of this particular gammaproteobacteria on your skin then you had a immunological response which is known to suppress inflammatory responses (to pollen, animals etc)."
Dr Hanski said that there was a tendency for gammaproteobacteria to be more prevalent in vegetative environment, such as forests and agricultural land rather than built-up areas and water bodies.
"Urbanisation is a relatively recent phenomenon, and for most of our time we have been interacting in an area that resembles what we now call the natural environment," he said.
"Apart from reserving natural areas outside of urban areas, I think it is important to develop city planning that includes green spaces, green belts and green infrastructure," Dr Hanski suggested.
Another recent study also illustrated a link between the lack of green spaces and higher stress levels among people living in urban areas described as deprived.
"The stress patterns revealed by these samples of cortisol, a hormone released in response to stress, found in residents' saliva, were related to the amount of green space around people's homes," explained co-author Catharine Ward Thompson, director of the OPENspace Research Centre, based in Scotland.
Researchers from OPENspace have also been involved in another study that looks at the wellbeing of people over the age of 65 and their ability to get out and about.
The Inclusive Design for Getting Outdoors consortium identified a direct link between the ease of getting outdoors and health and quality of life.
The study, involving 4,350 older people across the UK, found that good walkable access to local shops, services, and green spaces doubled the chances of an older person achieving the minimum recommended amount of walking -- 2.5 hours each week.
The concept of "nature deficit disorder " -- a phrase coined by Richard Louv, the US author of Last Child in the Wood -- has gained traction on both sides of the Atlantic.
To read more
JJS: People today would not know this deficit if the demands of the original May Day activists had been met.
May Day, Then and Now
May Day was born in Australia by the stonemasons of Melbourne University who in 1856 won their struggle for an 8-hour workday. Later the 8-hour day was adopted for federal employees and proclaimed as a presidential principle by Ulysses S. Grant.
May Day goes back into archaic traditions of human responses to springtime. Dancing around maypoles, people enact a sense of participation in the joys of natural renewal and growth won back from winter’s death. The lyrics of the “Official Eight Hour Song” include, “We want to feel the sunshine, and we want to smell the flowers.”
When I hear that San Francisco activists have ploughed under idle land the better to grow their own food, I think of Henry George scanning his beloved Bay Area and recognizing the absurd contradiction of a system that would enforce monopoly over idle property even as it grinds out longer lines of joblessness and poverty. Throw property open to anyone weary of idle hands, and you practically eliminate idleness altogether. “It is not the relations of capital and labor,” said George, “not the pressure of population against subsistence, that explains the unequal development of society.” No. “The great cause of inequality in the distribution of wealth is inequality in the ownership of land.”
To read more
JJS: If the public were to recover and depend upon its socially-generated value of land for public revenue, then metro regions would be sure to leave much space open, since a region’s overall land values are higher where humans use locations in many ways, including “non-use” or parks and open space.
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics and helped prepare a course for the UN on geonomics. To take the “Land Rights” course, click here .
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