Category Archives: GW in the News

Welcome to Modbury. Just don’t ask for a plastic bag

John Vidal, environment editor
Saturday April 28, 2007
The Guardian

Modbury is the quintessential small West Country town. Set in a hollow among rolling Devon hills just a few miles from the sea, it has 760 households, a high street, three churches, a primary school, several pubs, two takeaways, a surgery, a small supermarket and 40 or so small shops.

Not much happens in Modbury. Some say the last time the peace was disturbed was in 1643 when Roundheads and Cavaliers fought in its streets. But a revolution of another kind will take place on Monday. At 8am it will become the first plastic bag-free town in Europe.

Spurred by environmental fervour and growing concern about the 100bn or more plastic bags thought to be littering the world and clogging the seas, the town’s 43 traders have unilaterally declared their independence from the plastic bag and have pledged to no longer sell, give away or otherwise provide them to anyone in Modbury for a minimum of six months.

No one knows knows how much it will cost them or the town, or indeed whether Modburians and the holiday-makers who visit the town will rise in revolt.

But from now on, if you buy olives from Adam in the deli, a steak from Simon the butcher, or a sweet and sour from Phil in the Chinese, they will come wrapped in corn starch paper. Helen in the ironmongers, Sue in the gallery and Sarah in the gift shop are moving to cotton. If tourists nip into the Co-op for ice cream, they will be given a cloth bag. Modbury will be full of biodegradable, organic, fairtrade, unbleached, recycled carrier bags of every description – except plastic.

So committed are the retailers that they have commissioned 2,000 official Modbury bags, which could soon be collectors’ items. Made in Mumbai, India, they will sell for £3.95.

The idea of a plastic bag-free town comes from Rebecca Hoskins, a young Modbury-born-and-raised wildlife camerawoman who went to the Pacific last year to film marine life for the BBC but experienced horrendous plastic bag pollution.

“It really affected me,” she said. “I have never cried behind a camera before. I’m not a blubby person. But it broke my heart to see animals entangled in plastic, albatrosses dying in plastic, dolphins trailing plastic and seals with their noses trapped in parcel tape roll. The sea is now like a trash can and the plastic is there for ever. It doesn’t go away for hundreds of years. What I witnessed was just so unnecessary. All this damage is simply caused by our throwaway living.”

She returned to Devon, went diving and found the seas there also full of plastic. “So I booked the Modbury art gallery, invited all the traders and showed them my film. At the end they all said they would give up plastic bags.”

“It was very moving,” said Sue Sturton from the Brownston art gallery. “I thought people would turn a blind eye to something happening as far away as Hawaii. But I was wrong. We have a responsibility here. People go to the beaches here and we as shopkeepers are just handing out plastic shopping bags.”

“She massaged us. But it didn’t need much,” said Jane, who runs the St Luke’s hospice charity shop which is turning to paper and cloth bags. The other traders are buying bags for her to use in wrapping customers’ purchases. “I think it could work elsewhere, but this is definitely not a normal town at all.”

“They’ve got it now,” said Ms Hoskins, who gave up her film work two months ago to concentrate on turning the town plastic bag-free. “It seems to have really brought people together. The shops have sent all their unused plastic bags to Newcastle where they are being made into plastic chairs, and they have all set up plastic bag amnesty points where people can bring in the hundreds of bags that they keep under the kitchen sink. Now it’s just a question of seeing if people accept it. We are all trembling now. To be a pioneer is pretty scary.”

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Greenhouse gases slowly kill us

Trisha Sertori, Contributor, Denpasar
The Jakarta Post, Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Despite the horrors caused by global warming, we can still make a difference, according to Climate Crisis Project presenter, Emerald Starr.

During a presentation at the Canggu Club in Bali last week, Starr presented the real facts and cause of global warming: greenhouse gas emissions.

It is a terrifying fact that we humans are wiping themselves out at an ever-increasing pace, much the same as they managed to wipe out almost 60,000 different animal species over the past 100 years.

Starr is one of 1,000 people chosen by former U.S. vice president and environmental activist Al Gore to spread the message of the dangers of global warming. Gore’s Climate Project aims to dispel the myths and controversies surrounding global warming, and to promote the measures to be taken in order to slow down — and even reverse — the rise in deadly greenhouse gas emissions.

“Since the industrial revolution in the 1860s, global temperatures have been rising. Temperatures are now higher than ever before. In 2006 India recorded temperatures of 50 degrees Celsius, and extremes of temperature have been noted around the globe. This is a worldwide phenomenon,” Starr said.

In the short term, an increase in global temperatures will result in the occurrence of more storms and hurricanes, floods, droughts and typhoons. In the long term, global warming will wipe out entire countries, as land will become inundated by ever-increasing sea levels, Star explained.

“The earth is experiencing a record number of hurricanes, heavy storms, droughts and floods,” Starr said. “Japan had a record ten typhoons in one season and the U.S. suffered from 1700 tornadoes strong enough to lift houses. Tornadoes were registered in areas that had never been affected by this kind of weather pattern in the past.”

Starr cites the prestigious Michigan Institute of Technology research into storm strength, which points to an increase in the occurrence and intensity of storms since 1970. He says that scientists have no doubt that global warming is the reason behind these radical shifts in weather patterns, because as the sea warms-up, air currents, such as monsoons, are affected and change pattern.

It is in the near future that the most destructive aspects of global warming will be seen, says Starr, with countries such as the Netherlands losing much of their land base.

“As the ice caps and glaciers around the world melt, sea water is rising. Within a couple of decades we can expect waters to rise by more than five meters. At that level much of California would be under water; almost half of Florida will disappear; cities such as Beijing will become nightmare zones,” said Starr.

Diseases are also on the rise as a direct result of global warming, says Starr, with viruses such as malaria and dengue now prevalent in areas that once were cool climates.

“As colder areas warm there will be more diseases. Malaria and dengue will move from the tropics into newly warm areas. The case in America is one example. The West Nile virus is now prevalent in North America, since the country has warmed to a temperature in which the virus can survive. In the past it could not survive the cold winters.”

The impact of global warming on coral reefs can be seen, says Starr, and that is a major disaster as 25 percent of the earth’s oxygen is created by coral reefs. The destruction of reefs and wholesale slaughter of oxygen-producing forests, such as those in Kalimantan and Sumatra, is evidence of how humans are slowly suffocating themselves.

It does not have to be this way though, says Starr and other environmentalists, such as Naneng Setiasih of Reef Check Indonesia Foundation, working to protect viable reefs across Indonesia.

“We have a major crisis occurring from global warming with reefs bleaching and dying. What we are trying to do at Reef Check is map the most resilient reefs, those that are able to withstand the stress of global warming, and protect them,” said Naneng, citing reefs off Padang in Sumatra, Thousand Islands off Jakarta and reefs along the North Coast of Bali, as those that may be able to survive the effects of global warming.

According to Starr, one of the best ways to help reduce the volume of atmospheric carbon dioxide, the gas that causes most greenhouse gas emissions, is to plant trees, because trees absorb carbon dioxide.

This is what the East Bali Poverty Action program is doing in the poorest and driest zones of east Bali. Tree-planting is offering an income to local people and protecting the environment. Bali Teak Farms, under Sayu Made Putri, is also mass-planting teak and using the leaves to make recycled paper.

However, unless governments get tough on industry, automobile manufacturers and other heavy polluters, and financially back non-fossil fuel energy alternatives such as wind power, solar, even the use of coconut oil, humans will be running a losing race against the clock.

CFC ban a hard call due to lack of alternatives

Adianto P. Simamora, The Jakarta Post

While you sit in your cool office, shielded from the tropical heat, your air conditioner is burning through a chemical regarded as one of the biggest culprits in the depletion of the ozone layer.

Chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, have been banned in many countries around the world, a lead the Jakarta administration is yet to follow — despite the fact that Jakartans’ usage of CFCs make up 60 percent of that of the national level, an official said.

Deputy chairman of the administration’s team on ozone protection Daniel Abbas admitted that his office was facing difficulties in forcing businesses to stop using CFCs due to the lack of alternatives.

“The State Ministry of the Environment informs us that Jakarta is the main user of ozone-depleting substances. But we can’t force businesses to stop it unless there are alternative substances,” he told The Jakarta Post.

He said that the ministry’s claim was reasonable since most households and buildings in Jakarta were equipped with air conditioners, in addition to the millions of food transportation trucks that also use air conditioners around the country.

CFCs, which are also used in refrigerators, foam production, fire extinguishers, aerosols and solvents, are the main destroyers of the ozone layer, which blocks out the sun’s deadly ultraviolet rays.

They are mainly imported from India and China and are more popular here than more ozone-friendly hydroflurocarbons because they are less expensive.

The ministry has estimated that around 4,000 tons of CFCs are illegally traded every year, 10 times the country’s annual quota of 400 metric tons.

Indonesia ratified the Vienna Convention and Montreal Protocol on Ozone Layer Protection in 1992, obliging it to phase out the use of ozone-depleting substances.

The protocol requires Indonesia to stop importing CFCs by December this year.

The administration issued a gubernatorial decree last year establishing a working team to protect the ozone layer and end the use of ozone-depleting substances.

Daniel said that the environment ministry had supplied 198 CFC recycling machines to Jakarta auto workshops.

The machines, which are worth Rp 35 million each, recover, recycle and recharge CFCs produced by car air conditioners.

“However, many of the machines are now inoperable since there are no technicians that know how to repair them,” he said.

He said that the administration was currently looking to identify ozone-depleting substance use in the city.

“We have signed an agreement with a non-government organization to monitor the use of ozone-depleting substances,” he said.

The depletion of the ozone layer, which is located in the stratosphere, between 15 and 60 kilometers up, can have serious health affects, increasing skin cancer and cataract rates in both humans and animals, as well as damaging marine ecosystems.

Widespread use of CFCs around much of the world throughout the 20th century led to a large hole developing in the ozone layer above Australia, Antarctica and the South Pacific. Australia now has the highest skin cancer rate in the world.

The Indonesian government has said that between 1995 and 2004, 7,119 tons of ozone-depleting substances, mainly CFCs, were phased out.

Indonesia has received millions of dollars from multilateral donors to fund the phase-out, which also includes a deadline on the use of hydrofluorocarbons.

By 2040, the more ozone-friendly substance will not be used here any more, with an even safer alternative chemical to replace it.

Meanwhile, Industry Minister Fahmi Idris said Tuesday that his office had issued an ordinance banning industries from using ozone-deflating substances as raw materials.

“We will withdraw the business permits of industries that did not comply with the regulation,” he was quoted by Antara as saying.