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Chad Pregracke, Cleaning Up the Mess Urban Planning and Housing Affordability What is Biodynamic Agriculture? Mass Culture for Profit And then there was Nelson Mandela www.themirrorinspires.com www.themirrorinspires.com


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editorial

Weather extremes the new normal

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It’s weird, the weather. Or it may just be that it is obvious. Depends on whom you talk to. Climate change has been on the march for a while now, or it may just be a phenomena – what has been happening lately – in the earth’s cycle.

Changes in extreme weather threaten human health as well as prosperity.

For example this week the highest waves ever recorded off the coast of Hawaii; Australia coming to terms (again) with searing heat and the unpredictability of bushfires and extreme temperatures; the USA where a third of the population was recently affected by unrelenting and totally unexpected freezing temperatures and huge snow storms and winds. At the end of 2013 cyclones in The Philippines. Changes in extreme weather threaten human health as well as prosperity. Many societies have taken measures to cope with historical weather extremes, but new, more intense extremes have the potential to overwhelm existing human systems and structures. More frequent and more severe extreme weather events are more likely to destabilise ecosystems and cripple essential components of human livelihood, such as food production, transportation infrastructure, and water management. Death, disease, displacement, and economic hardship may follow, as we have seen with recent hurricanes, floods, heat waves, and droughts. As the earth’s climate has warmed, some types of extreme weather have become more frequent and severe in recent decades, with increases in extreme heat, intense precipitation, and drought. Heat waves are longer and hotter. How can it be that in Australia, for example, they talk of temperatures of 50 degrees being the new normal in some areas? Heavy rains and flooding are more frequent. In a wide swing between extremes, drought, too, is more intense and more widespread.

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Reflections and Observations

the Mirror’s Faces MANAGING EDITOR Doug Green RESEARCH WORDS PRODUCTION & DESIGN Karl Grant ADMINISTRATION & SUBSCRIPTIONS JEZ Media Ltd ADVERTISING ENQUIRIES 06 870 9029 words@xtra.co.nz PUBLISHER WORDS P O Box 1109, Hastings, New Zealand words@xtra.co.nz

The Mirror is published bi-monthly and offers the Reader reflections and observations on the issues of our times. The Mirror welcomes editorial contributions and encourages readers to share their reflections and views with us. The Mirror uses information provided in good faith. We give no guarantee of accuracy of the information. No liability is accepted for the result of any actions taken or not taken on the basis of this information. Those acting on the information and recommendations do so entirely at their own risk. SUBSCRIPTION: NZ $42 per year for 6 issues. Subscription payment to be made to: JEZ Media Ltd, P.O. Box 1109, Hastings 4156, New Zealand. words@xtra.co.nz Payment can be made by EFTPOS. Or by posting a cheque to the above address. Single copies NZ $7.00

So we adapt – and need to adapt – to move on.

Community Planning, Sustainable Business and Waste Minimisation Strategies www.envision-nz.com

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ANALYSIS

6 And then there was Nelson Mandela.

We live in a time when it is not easy to identify inspiring leaders, people who bring about change for the good of humanity. Mother Theresa is one. However, inspiring leaders do not need to be leaders of nations; they can be fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers working in community for the common good. Some people who are successful, say in business, are mistakenly held up as leaders. And they are not...the push for power they seek is more to do with personal gain and wealth.

FOCUS

11 Chad Pregracke, Cleaning Up the Mess.

Our rivers have become tremendously polluted today, The Mississippi River is the most polluted (and largest). There is one man in the Quad Cities area that has taken it upon himself to do what is necessary to reverse this, Chad Pregracke. “The Mississippi River was literally Chad Pregracke’s backyard while growing up outside of Hampton, Illinois” (Living).

BOOKS

18 The Golden Notebook was not a trumpet for women’s liberation.

At 19, she married her first husband, Frank Wisdom, with whom she had a son and a daughter. She left that family in her early 20s and became drawn into the Left Book Club, a group of literary communists and socialists headed by Gottfried Lessing, the man who would become her second husband and father her third child.

COMMUNITY

26 Urban planning and housing affordability.

This year, Demographia is publishing its 10th Annual International Housing Affordability Survey. It ranks 360 metropolitan markets in nine countries. Are planners in the worst performing cities paying any attention? And are they drawing any conclusions on how to improve the situation? Or do local governments conclude that the best way to increase the supply of affordable housing is to impose new regulations that will mandate developers to build housing units at prices, standards, and in locations selected by the government?

FRONT COVER

Picture courtesy Hans van Florenstein Mulder.

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CULTURE

30 Mass culture for profit.

Video games are migrating from television screens to mobiles and smartphones. Even the nominally free games are being monetised and the information they generate about their players linked with other data to target ads. Where’s the pleasure in that?

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ANALYSIS

And then there was Nelson Mandela

W “ No one in my family had ever attended school. On the first day of school my teacher, Miss Mdingane, gave each of us an English name. This was the custom among Africans in those days and was undoubtedly due to the British bias of our education. That day, Miss Mdingane told me that my new name was Nelson. Why this particular name I have no idea.”

— Mandela, 1994.

We live in a time when it is not easy to identify of inspiring leaders, people who bring about change for the good of humanity. Mother Theresa is one. However, inspiring leaders do not need to be leaders of nations; they can be fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers working in community for the common good. Some people who are successful, say in business, are mistakenly held up as leaders. And they are not...the push for power they seek is more to do with personal gain and wealth.

the ANC leadership, was unsuccessfully prosecuted in the Treason Trial from 1956 to 1961. Although initially committed to non-violent protest, he co-founded the militant Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) in 1961 in association with the South African Communist Party, leading a sabotage campaign against the apartheid government. In 1962 he was arrested, convicted of conspiracy to overthrow the government, and sentenced to life imprisonment in the Rivonia Trial.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela lived from 18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013 and was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician and philanthropist who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the first black South African to hold the office, and the first elected in a fully representative election.

Mandela served 27 years in prison, initially on Robben Island, and later in Pollsmoor Prison and Victor Verster Prison. An international campaign lobbied for his release, which was granted in 1990 amid escalating civil strife. Mandela published his autobiography and opened negotiations with President F.W. de Klerk to abolish apartheid and establish multiracial elections in 1994, in which he led the ANC to victory. As South Africa’s first black president Mandela formed a Government of National Unity in an attempt to defuse racial tension. He also promulgated a new constitution and created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate past human rights abuses.

His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid through tackling institutionalised racism, poverty and inequality, and fostering racial reconciliation. Politically an African and democratic socialist, he served as President of the African National Congress (ANC) from 1991 to 1997. Internationally, Mandela was Secretary General of the Non-Aligned Movement from 1998 to 1999. A Xhosa born to the Thembu royal family, Mandela attended the Fort Hare University and the University of Witwatersrand, where he studied law. Living in Johannesburg, he became involved in anti-colonial politics, joining the ANC and becoming a founding member of its Youth League. After the South African National Party came to power in 1948, he rose to prominence in the ANC’s 1952 Defiance Campaign, was appointed superintendent of the organisation’s Transvaal chapter and presided over the 1955 Congress of the People. Working as a lawyer, he was repeatedly arrested for seditious activities and, with

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Continuing the former government’s liberal economic policy, his administration introduced measures to encourage land reform, combat poverty, and expand healthcare services. Internationally, he acted as mediator between Libya and the United Kingdom in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial, and oversaw military intervention in Lesotho. He declined to run for a second term, and was succeeded by his deputy, Thabo Mbeki. Mandela subsequently became an elder statesman, focusing on charitable work in combating poverty and HIV/AIDS through the Nelson Mandela Foundation. Mandela was a controversial figure for much of his life. Denounced as a Marxist terrorist by critics, he nevertheless gained


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ANALYSIS

international acclaim for his activism, having received more than 250 honours, including the 1993, Nobel Peace Prize, the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Soviet Order of Lenin and the Bharat Ratna.

He is held in deep respect within South Africa, where he is often referred to by his Xhosa clan name, Madiba, or as Tata (“Father”); he is often described as “the father of the nation”. ❙

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ENVIRONMENT

Carbon Majors

Accounting for carbon and methane emissions 1854-2010

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Richard Heede’s paper in Climatic Change (21Nov13), including supplementary material

In groundbreaking peer-reviewed research forthcoming in Climatic Change, researcher Richard Heede offers the most complete picture to date of which institutions have extracted the fossil fuels that have been the root cause of global warming since the Industrial Revolution. Rather than attribute emissions to nations, the study aggregates historical emissions according to carbon producing entities themselves. Heede concludes that nearly two-thirds of carbon dioxide emitted since the 1750s can be traced to the 90 largest fossil fuel and cement producers, most of which still operate today.

The Objectives

Richard Heede’s The primary objective is to quantify and (7Nov13) Carbon trace historic and cumulative emissions of Majors: Methods carbon dioxide and methane to the largest & Results Report extant fossil fuel and cement producers. Read the article in The Guardian (20Nov13) by Suzanne Goldenberg Also see the new Carbon Majors website for media materials, a portfolio of excellent images and animations by Carbon Visuals

This project focuses on the industrial carbon fuels and cement manufacturing, and details the annual and cumulative contribution of each of the largest 90 producers from as early as 1854 (but typically later) to 2010. National greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories estimate aggregate emissions of the six “Kyoto gases,” chiefly from fuel consumption, process emissions, fugitive methane, and land-­use changes. This project’s focus is to trace emissions back to the corporate producers of the lion’s share of the world’s carbon fuels and cement.

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Current production of fossil fuels by multinational and state energy enterprises is well known, as are the historic emissions of the world’s 196 countries. This project is a first attempt at aggregating historic data by carbon producing entities. The work is unique in converting production of all fossil fuels into the carbon content and resulting emissions of carbon dioxide upon the combustion of marketed fuels, and in tracing emissions to the primary producing entities. The project traces the emissions from fossil fuels produced and made available to the world markets and consumers that when used as intended result in emissions to the atmosphere. These “indirect” productrelated emissions account for ~90 percent of total emissions traced to the ninety entities. Additional “direct” emissions attributed include vented CO2, flared CO2, emissions from own fuel use, and fugitive and vented methane from oil and gas systems and coal mining.

Key Findings The research attributes 63 percent of the carbon dioxide and methane emitted between 1751 and 2010 to just 90 entities. Fifty are investor-owned companies such as Chevron, Peabody, Shell, and BHP Billiton. Thirty-one are state-owned companies such as Saudi Aramco and Statoil, and nine are


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government-run industries in countries such as China, Poland, and the former Soviet Union. The research also classified the 90 entities according to type of fossil fuel extracted and marketed. There are 56 oil and natural gas companies, and 37 coal producers. In addition, the CO2 emissions from seven cement manufacturers are included.

Heede’s research reveals: • Emissions traced to investor-owned

entities clock in at 315 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, narrowly surpassing emissions from governmentrun industries, which totaled 312 gigatonnes. State-owned companies, meanwhile, contributed 288 gigatonnes. 

• The largest investor-owned producers

have had an outsize effect on emissions. The top 20 produced fuels that comprised 29.5 percent of emissions, while the top 10 account for 15.8 percent.

• Half the emissions traced to the ninety “carbon majors” have occurred since 1986, demonstrating the increasing speed with which fossil fuels are being burned.

Implications It’s difficult for researchers to find complete extraction records, so there are advantages to greater corporate and government transparency requirements, including more thorough assessments of direct and product-related emissions. In addition to further analysis that can be conducted through the dataset itself, the approach — looking at producers rather than nations — opens many doors for future research. Scientists running climate models, for instance, could use this data to determine how different effects of climate change can be attributed to the 90 entities in the study. The results may also have practical policy applications. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the primary forum for international climate discussions, typically focuses on responsibility at the country level. This research provides another lens to examine global climate policy since it offers the first comprehensive accounting of historical emissions from producers, including many multi-national institutions that initially extracted fuels from the earth. ❙

It’s difficult for researchers to find complete extraction records, so there are advantages to greater corporate and government transparency requirements, including more thorough assessments of direct and productrelated emissions.

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ENVIRONMENT

Biofore concept car to premiere at Geneva

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The Biofore concept car, a joint production by UPM and Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, is to premiere at the 84th Geneva International Motor Show, 6-16 March, 2014. The unique concept car is designed to be a futuristic, street-legal vehicle which demonstrates the use of renewable biomaterials in the automotive industry.   

Various parts of the concept car Various parts of the concept car will will be made be made from UPM’s biobased materials from UPM’s – the UPM Formi biocomposite and UPM Grada thermoformable wood material. biobased materials will significantly improve materials – the These the overall environmental performance of UPM Formi the car, without compromising quality or biocomposite safety. The concept car will also be fuelled by and UPM UPM BioVerno wood-based renewable Grada thermo- diesel. UPM Raflatac label materials will be used to mark spare parts as well as in the formable wood material. interior and exterior design of the car.  Exhibiting at a world-class industry These event will draw international attention to materials will the concept car, the students and other significantly partners involved in the building process. “From the very beginning we have aimed improve to showcase the car in Geneva. the overall In fact, we have phased the project environmental accordingly.The car has recently been and we are proceeding well with performance painted the interior,” states  Pekka Hautala, of the car, Technology Manager from Metropolia.  without In addition to UPM and Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, several compromising other partner companies and the Finnish quality or Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation are involved in the Biofore safety.

concept car project.  

Through the renewing of the bio and forest industries, UPM is building a sustainable future across six business areas: UPM Biorefining, UPM Energy, UPM Raflatac, UPM Paper Asia, UPM Paper Europe and North America and UPM Plywood. Products are made of renewable raw materials and are recyclable. The Group employs around 22,000 people and our annual sales exceed € 10 billion. UPM shares are listed on NASDAQ OMX Helsinki. UPM – The Biofore Company – www.upm.com 

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UPM ForMi is a new, durable, high quality biocomposite material intended for use in injection moulding production. Made of renewable fibres and plastic, the compound is safe, odourless and uniform in quality. UPM ForMi is manufactured from pure polymers and pulp, and is ideal for industrial as well as consumer product applications. UPM’s supply chain and the use of renewable raw materials ensure that the new composite also has a small carbon footprint. www.upmformi.com  UPM Grada is a new thermo-formable wood material for the form pressing industry. Grada technology revitalises the forming of wood with heat and pressure and opens up new opportunities for designs not achievable with traditional methods. UPM Grada’s unique forming properties enable high quality and ecological designs which are also visually appealing. UPM Biofuels. UPM plans to become a major player in high quality, advanced biofuels for transport. Biofuels are an essential part of the Biofore strategy. The innovative wood-based biofuels developed by the company and their production technologies are part of the sustainable future. UPM’s biofuels are frontrunners in quality, usability and sustainability. They will significantly decrease the greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossils fuels. www.upm.com/biofuels  UPM Raflatac is one of the world’s leading suppliers of self-adhesive label materials. UPM Raflatac has a global service network consisting of 15 factories on six continents and a broad network of sales offices and slitting and distribution terminals worldwide. UPM Raflatac employs around 2,900 people and made sales of EUR 1.2 billion (USD 1.6 billion) in 2012. Further information is available at www.upmraflatac.com. ❙


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Chad Pregracke, Cleaning Up the Mess

Our rivers are have become tremendously polluted today, The Mississippi River is the most polluted (and largest). There is one man in the Quad Cities area that has taken it upon himself to do what is necessary to reverse this, Chad Pregracke. “The Mississippi River was literally Chad Pregracke’s backyard while growing up outside of Hampton, Illinois” (Living). Pregracke has set out to take care of something so extremely important to the Midwest but also something that has played a major role throughout his life. During high school and college, Chad worked on the river as a fisherman and barge hand, he camped on the islands and shorelines to save money (Living). “It was during this time that Chad began to realise how neglected the rivers were, with the unsightly and toxic accumulation of trash along their banks” (Living).  Through this experience Chad Pregracke was able to see the destruction of the rivers and the habitats that surround them today. Something the public does not see on an everyday, especially in the cities. Chad decided to step in and do the job if no one else would, “one river, one piece of garbage at a time” (Living). Tim Wall describes the beginning of Chad’s project to clean the river; “Chad had been pushing a wheelbarrow up and down the banks of the Mississippi River 12 hours a day all summer long…[aluminum cans, plastic bottles, soggy boxes, old tires…and it was all making its way from Chad’s grasp to recycling centers to landfills” (Wall x). “In his first season, Chad removes 45,000 pounds of refuse from the Quad Cities area and people begin taking notice” (Living). “In 1998 at the age of 23, Chad founded Living Lands & Waters, a not-for-profit organisation based in East Moline, Illinois, dedicated to cleaning up and preserving our nation’s rivers” (Living).  Soon word spread of Chad Pregracke’s incredible work to clean the rivers. “People all over were beginning to eye the water quality of the Mississippi River with a new perspective. They wanted to change the neglected and abused situation that had festered for years” (Barrow and Pregracke 54). “Since the project’s inception, Chad, his crew, and over 60,000 volunteers have

collected over 6 million pounds of debris from our nation’s greatest rivers. “ (Living). This is an amazing accomplishment that Chad himself started more than ten years ago. He is someone the Quad Cities can be proud of. He obviously deeply cares about the Mississippi River, but also Chad deep love for life itself. The Mississippi River is a major lifeline for many, and who knows what condition it would be in today if it was not for Chad Pregracke. Here are a few River Stats: “587 milk crates, 83 toilets, 55,301 tires, 12,322 balls, 775 refrigerators, 179 television sets, 128 BBQ grills, 42 messages in a bottle, and 181 coolers” (Living). One can only imagine if the entire Mississippi had a cleanup crew like ‘Living Lands and Waters’ what they might find and how much of it. 

Living Lands and Waters’ mission is:  To aid in the protection, preservation and restoration of the natural environment of the nation’s major rivers and their watersheds. To expand awareness of environmental issues and responsibility encompassing the river. To create a desire and an opportunity for stewardship and responsibility for a cleaner river environment. (Living)  Chad Pregracke continues to be an inspiration to the Quad Cities area. “Chad was the recipient of the Jefferson Award for Public Service, America’s version of the Nobel Prize, in June 2002” (Living). “Most recently, Chad expanded the mission of the organisation to include Big River Educational Outreach, The MillionTrees Project, and the Adopt-a-River Mile programs” (Living). Outside of cleaning up rivers, Chad has found a way to accomplish so much more for the environment. The URL for ‘Living Lands and Waters’ if there is anyone interested in getting involved is http://www. livinglandsandwaters.org/GetInvolved/ default.htm ❙

Through this experience Chad Pregracke was able to see the destruction of the rivers and the habitats that surround them today. Something the public does not see on an everyday, especially in the cities. Chad decided to step in and do the job if no one else would.

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How do we prevent extreme damage?

In June, India and Nepal were hit by severe and unexpected monsoon rains that caused landslides, destroying villages and killing over 1,000 people. And earlier this month, over 150 people were killed in an event has been described as one of the country’s most destructive natural disaster of the year.

Can lessons gleaned by ISET from the aftermath of the 2010 Pakistan floods help India, the Philippines, Nigeria, and Cameroon, and elsewhere in the world, recover more quickly from natural disasters?

Can lessons gleaned by ISET from the aftermath of the 2010 Pakistan floods help India, the Philippines, Nigeria, and Cameroon, and elsewhere in the world, recover more quickly from natural disasters?

In June, India and Nepal were hit by severe and unexpected monsoon rains that caused landslides, destroying villages and killing over 1,000 people. And earlier this month, over 150 people were killed in an event has been described as one of the country’s most destructive natural disaster of the year.

Here are some of ISET’s main findings:

How do we reduce and prevent such extreme damage in vulnerable parts of the world like those of Southeast Asia? In the aftermath of the disastrous 2010 floods in the Indus Basin of Pakistan, Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) set out to work with researchers from Pakistan’s Institute of Social and Environmental Transition (ISET) to understand who was most vulnerable to the floods and why these populations were more prone to long-term damage. The research reveals the causes of such destruction in Pakistan and the ways through which governments and policymakers could respond. ISET set out to respond to a changing climate – increased rainfall, melting glaciers – and to bring some of Pakistan’s most vulnerable into the decision-making process.

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- Researchers found that households with six or more members that subsisted solely on farming were most affected over the long term. Diversifying sources of income helped families survive better. - Lack of access to healthcare, education, off-farm employment, social networks, and political instability increased the vulnerability of Pakistan villages. - ISET found that improvements to food and water security, housing construction, local infrastructure, and communications networks could improve local responses to extreme weather events. Finally, researchers sought to understand the role that women played in decision-making in the aftermath of the floods. In short, women’s mobility and ability to participate in recovery and coping strategies was limited. In part, research showed that women’s mobility was constrained; high flood waters and the inability to swim prevented them from accessing services like healthcare, but the local context of purdah also meant that they were culturally bound to the home. ❙


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ENERGY

Renewable energy source

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During heatwave conditions in the five days to January 18 this year, wind actually contributed 3 per cent of electricity supply across the Australian National Electricity Market.

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Much has been written about the contribution that wind and solar have made to Australian energy supply, especially in the recent hot spell. About 10 per cent of electricity supply comes from renewable sources, two-thirds of this being unsubsidised hydro-electricity, with onethird from wind/solar which needs subsidies to cover more than half of its costs. During heatwave conditions in the five days to January 18 this year, wind actually contributed 3 per cent of electricity supply across the Australian National Electricity Market. Nobody knows the contribution of rooftop solar but it could not conceivably have been more than 1 per cent. Overall, wind facilities amount to 3300 megawatts of capacity, somewhat less than the Loy Yang brown coal power stations in Victoria or Macquarie Generation’s black coal facilities in the Hunter Valley. Windmills produced at an average of 23 per cent of their capacity during the January heatwave.

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This was below their year-long average of about 30 per cent because the hot spell, as is often the case, was characterised by still air. Fossil fuel plants are available 95 per cent of the time. Gas plants (and hydro-electricity) can be switched on and off at very short notice to fill the peaks in demand. As a result they generally earn more than the average plant on the electricity spot market. The below-par performance of windmills in high-demand periods means they not only require a subsidy but are also less valuable than other plants because their availability is reduced when they are most needed and when the price is highest. Accordingly, windmills actually earn less on average than other plants in the electricity spot market. Indeed, during the recent heat wave, wind power earned an average of $123 per megawatt hour in Victoria and $182 in South Australia while the average price was respectively $209 and $285 in the two states.


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ENERGY

es are just a power failure Subsidies are expensive Investments in wind and other subsidised electricity generation, according to the renewable energy lobby group the Clean Energy Council, has been $18.5 billion. By contrast, the market value of comparable generating capacity in Macquarie Generation coal plants is said to be only $2 billion and a brand-new brown coal plant of 3300 megawatt capacity would cost less than $10 billion. Wind aficionados claim that such costings do not take into account that wind is free whereas fossil fuel plants have to pay for their energy. But that is also untrue. Wind plant maintenance is about $12 per megawatt hour which is more than the fuel plus maintenance costs of a Victorian brown coal power station. Subsidies to renewable energy were once touted not only as a key to reducing emissions of carbon dioxide but also as paving the way to a future source of electricity that would become competitive in price and reliability with fossil fuels. After two decades of increasing subsidies, this optimism has proven to be unfounded. Instead we have seen subsidised renewable energy sucking capital into worthless investments. On present plans, a nominal 20 per cent of electricity is to be sourced from

renewables by 2020. By that year the excessive cost burden on the economy will be $5 billion a year and rising. This entails crippling subsidies paid by consumers and businesses. The imposition has been a factor in the foreshadowed plant closures of Holden, Electrolux and the aluminium smelters at Kurri Kurri and Point Henry. Because of our readily available coal and gas Australian electricity costs are intrinsically among the lowest in the world. This was formerly crucial to attracting highly competitive energyintensive industries like smelting. Australia could once again benefit from low-cost electricity if deregulation freed energy supply from its renewable obligations. The benefits would be especially welcomed across all agricultural and manufacturing industries that are subject to international competition. Subsidies on existing Australian renewable plants are planned to run for 15 years. But Spain, previously the poster child of renewable subsidy excesses, has shown the way forward by eliminating all previously promised subsidies. Australia needs to abandon its own renewable schemes and allow the energy market to operate on commercial terms. ❙ – AFR

Because of our readily available coal and gas Australian electricity costs are intrinsically among the lowest in the world. This was formerly crucial to attracting highly competitive energyintensive industries like smelting.

The coal train on a run between Leigh Creek Mine and NRG Flinders Power Station at Port Augusta, South Australia

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ENVIRONMENT

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FOOD

Microbiologist receives TWAS Prize

BUENOS AIRES – Uzbek microbiologist Dilfuza Egamberdieva, group leader at the National University of Uzbekistan, at Tashkent, has isolated salt-tolerant bacterial strains that live in salt-degraded soils, where they help the rooting process in plants. After the selection of potentially rootcolonizing bacteria, she has tested them in experimental settings on plants’ roots, obtaining 10-15% yields increase. She hopes to apply her technique soon, in Uzbekistan, to boost the yield of economically important varieties such as wheat, cotton, tomato and cucumber. 

Egamberdieva has been invited to present her results at the TWAS’s 24th General Meeting in Buenos Aires, where she has been awarded one of the TWAS Prizes that carries a cash award of US$15,000. TWAS, The World Academy of Sciences for the advancement of science in developing countries, headquartered in Trieste, Italy, was founded by Pakistani physicist Abdus Salam. This year the Academy celebrates its 30th anniversary at its conference in Buenos Aires.  More than 2.6 billion people in the world rely on agriculture, but around 52% of the land used for this scope shows soil degradation. Land impoverishment is often due to salt infiltrations in the ground, which weaken the plants and lower the yield. Salt inhibits “nodulation”, the development of tiny nodules on plants’ roots, where nitrogen fixation occurs. Nitrogen is a critical element limiting plant growth, and specific bacteria convert the atmospheric nitrogen absorbed by plants into a more usable form (ammonia). Uzbekistan has 4,4 million hectares to use for agricultural purposes, but more than half are under-productive, due to excessive saline content from the Aral Sea basin.  Egamberdieva has been studying soil bacterial communities for more than 10 years. She has noticed that salty soils discourage bacterial growth, and stress plants at the same time. In addition, as she has repeatedly proven, salty soils often host bacteria that are noxious for humans.  In her investigation, Egamberdieva has

spotted beneficial soil salt-resistant bacteria that help plants grow better, causing no harm to men. These bacteria are found around the roots of plants. “We found that bacteria from the Pseudomonas family, in particular Pseudomonas extremorientalis, are salt-resistant and grow close to the roots, where they compete with other bacteria for colonization. On the contrary, pathogenic bacteria cannot actively colonise the plants’ roots. Here, Pseudomonas produce antibiotics that plants use to defend themselves against fungi, trigger the rooting process and produce nodulationpromoting factors, thus giving the vegetation better chances to fix nitrogen and grow bigger”. As an exchange for these favours, plants secrete exudates useful for the bacteria.  To better exploit these useful bacterial strains, the Uzbek microbiologist has come up with a technique that allows the selective enrichment of Pseudomonas strains. Using her technique, which has already been patented, Egamberdieva is able to isolate from the soil only beneficial rootstimulating bacteria.  “We have already completed some experiments, both in protected greenhouses and in open fields, working in close contact with local farmers”, said Egamberdieva, who is also engaged in promotion campaigns with the government and in outreach campaigns among farmers. “Crops treated with the “bacterial fertilisers” give yields 1215 % higher than normal, when bacteria are administered to tomatoes and cucumber”. Soon, Egamberdieva hopes, she will be given the green light to test her findings on real fields, thus helping farmers achieve better products. Her research has been supported mostly by international organisations and funding agencies. ❙

TWAS, The World Academy of Sciences for the advancement of science in developing countries, headquartered in Trieste, Italy, was founded by Pakistani physicist Abdus Salam. This year the Academy celebrates its 30th anniversary at its conference in Buenos Aires.

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The Golden Notebook was not

Doris Lessing emerged from a black cab outside her home in London one day in 2007 and was confronted by a horde of reporters. When told she had won the Nobel Prize, she blinked and retorted “Oh Christ! ... I couldn’t care less.”

That was typical of the independent and often irascible author who died in November 2013 after a long career that included “The Golden Notebook,” a 1962 novel than made her an icon of the women’s movement. Lessing’s books reflected her own improbable journey across the former British Empire, and later her vision of a future ravaged by atomic warfare. The exact cause of Lessing’s death at her home in London was not immediately disclosed, and her family requested privacy. She was 94. Lessing explored topics ranging from colonial Africa to dystopian Britain, from the mystery of being female to the unknown worlds of science fiction. In winning the Nobel literature prize, the Swedish Academy praised Lessing for her “scepticism, fire and visionary power.” The often-polarising Lessing never saved her fire for the page. The targets of her vocal ire in recent years included former President George W. Bush - “a world calamity” - and modern women - “smug, self-righteous.” She also raised hackles by deeming the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States “not that terrible.” She is best known for “The Golden Notebook,” in which heroine Anna Wulf uses four notebooks to bring together the separate parts of her disintegrating life. The novel covers a range of previously unmentionable female conditions menstruation, orgasms and frigidity and made Lessing an icon for women’s liberation. But it became so widely talked about and dissected that she later referred to it as a “failure” and “an albatross.” Published in Britain in 1962, the book did not make it to France or Germany for 14 years because it was considered too inflammatory. When it was republished in China in 1993, 80,000 copies sold out in two days. “It took realism apart from the inside,” said Lorna Sage, an academic who knew Lessing since the 1970s. “Lessing threw over the conventions she grew up in to stage a kind of breakdown - to celebrate

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disintegration as the representative experience of a generation.” Although she continued to publish at least one book every two years, she received little attention for her later works and was often criticized as didactic and impenetrable. Lessing was 88 when she won the Nobel literature prize, making her the oldest recipient of the award. “This is pure political correctness,” American literary critic Harold Bloom said in 2007 after Lessing won the Nobel Prize. “Although Ms. Lessing at the beginning of her writing career had a few admirable qualities, I find her work for the past 15 years quite unreadable ... fourth-rate science fiction.” While Lessing defended her turn to science fiction as a way to explore “social fiction,” she, too, was dismissive of the Nobel honour. After emerging from a London black cab, groceries in hand, that day in 2007, she said: “I can’t say I’m overwhelmed with surprise,” Lessing said. “I’m 88 years old and they can’t give the Nobel to someone who’s dead, so I think they were probably thinking they’d probably better give it to me now before I’ve popped off.” As the international media surrounded her in her garden, she brightened when a reporter asked whether the Nobel would generate interest in her work. “I’m very pleased if I get some new readers,” she said. “Yes, that’s very nice, I hadn’t thought of that.” Born Doris May Tayler on Oct. 22, 1919, in Persia (now Iran), where her father was a bank manager, Lessing moved to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) aged 5 and lived there until she was 29. Strong-willed from the start, she read works by Charles Dickens and Rudyard Kipling by age 10 and lived by the motto, “I will not.” Educated at a Roman Catholic girls school in Salisbury (now Harare), she left before finishing high school.


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a trumpet for women’s liberation Her nonfiction work ranged from “Going Home” in 1957, about her return to Southern Rhodesia, to “Particularly Cats,” a book about her pets, published in 1967. In the 1950s, Lessing became an honorary member of a writers’ group known as the Angry Young Men who were seen as injecting a radical new energy into British culture. Her home in London became a centre not only for novelists, playwrights and critics but also for drifters and loners. Lessing herself denied being a feminist and said she was not conscious of writing anything particularly inflammatory when she produced “The Golden Notebook.” Lessing’s early novels decried the dispossession of black Africans by white colonials and criticised South Africa’s apartheid system, prompting the governments of Southern Rhodesia and South Africa to bar her in 1956. Later governments overturned that order.

At 19, she married her first husband, Frank Wisdom, with whom she had a son and a daughter. She left that family in her early 20s and became drawn into the Left Book Club, a group of literary communists and socialists headed by Gottfried Lessing, the man who would become her second husband and father her third child. But Lessing became disillusioned with the communist movement and in 1949, at 30, left her second husband to move to Britain. Along with her young son, Peter, she packed the manuscript of her first novel, “The Grass is Singing.” The novel, which used the story of a woman trapped in a loveless marriage to portray poverty and racism in Southern Rhodesia, was published in 1950 to great success in Europe and the United States. Lessing then embarked on the first of five deeply autobiographical novels -from “Martha Quest” to “The Four-Gated City” - works that became her “Children of Violence” series.

In June 1995, the same year that she received an honorary degree from Harvard University, she returned to South Africa to see her daughter and grandchildren. In Britain, Lessing won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1954, and was made a Companion of Honour in 1999. That honour came after she turned down the chance to become a Dame of the British Empire - on the ground that there was no such thing as the British Empire at the time. Lessing often presented women - herself included - as vain and territorial, and insisted in the introduction for a 1993 reissue that “The Golden Notebook” was not a “trumpet for women’s liberation.” “I think a lot of romanticising has gone on with the women’s movement,” she told The Associated Press in a 2006 interview. “Whatever type of behaviour women are coming up with, it’s claimed as a victory for feminism - doesn’t matter how bad it is. We don’t seem to go in very much for self-criticism.” ❙

By Doris Lessing

Lessing’s early novels decried the dispossession of black Africans by white colonials and criticised South Africa’s apartheid system, prompting the governments of Southern Rhodesia and South Africa to bar her in 1956. Later governments overturned that order.

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A Tale for the Time Being

– Ruth Ozeki Text Publishing

$A32.99

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It’s not often a book gets me excited about reading it as soon as I open it, but that’s what happened with A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. Right away, in the first few pages, readers are treated to a unique, young voice. Naoko is contemplative, wiser than she realises, and speaks without tempering her words.

Right away, in the first few She displays a very stark self-awareness pages, readers which often caused me to catch my breath. are treated to a This novel has so many intricate layers, unique, young I know I can’t do it justice in this review. A colleague of mine once told me he voice. Naoko is always loves listening to, performing, and contemplative, conducting Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, though he’s done so countless times. wiser than she even For him, it never gets old or stale. He realises, and always hears something new, notices speaks without something that gives it even more depth and meaning. tempering her I can imagine reading A Tale for the words. Time Being again and again and having She displays a very stark self-awareness which often caused me to catch my breath.

this same reaction.

In a way, I think Naoko exemplifies the complexity and full freedom of religion in modern Japanese culture. She isn’t overtly religious, but she is very open-minded, which allows her to pull the truths and strength she desperately needs. Naoko’s time with her great-grandmother Jiko is profoundly beautiful, and the descriptions of Buddhist traditions and ceremonies are absolutely breathtaking.

This novel Ruth says she wanted to read at the has so many same rate [Naoko] had lived and at times intricate layers, found it difficult to resist the temptation I know I can’t to quickly devour the entire story. I do it justice in definitely shared that feeling! I found myself getting impatient during the scenes this review. with Ruth and Oliver. I just wanted Ruth

to get back to reading Naoko’s diary. I had to know what happened next!

A Tale for the Time Being will appeal to those who enjoy contemporary fiction, those who enjoy a bit of the fantastic with some magical realism, those who like their

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fiction to be intertwined with science, philosophy, history, and politics. Marcel Proust is quoted in the book: “Every reader, while he is reading, is the reader of his own self”. Ozeki explores some thought-provoking angles concerning the importance of the reader to a novel. This novel challenged and stretched my thinking, and I always appreciate that. This was my first time reading any of Ozeki’s books, and I am left with the compulsion to go buy everything she’s written. I am certain this novel is going to end up listed as one of the best releases of 2013. ❙


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My Brief History

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Stephen Hawking has dazzled readers worldwide with a string of bestsellers exploring the mysteries of the universe. Now, for the first time, perhaps the most brilliant cosmologist of our age turns his gaze inward for a revealing look at his own life and intellectual evolution.

My Brief History recounts Stephen Hawking’s improbable journey, from his postwar London boyhood to his years of international acclaim and celebrity. Lavishly illustrated with rarely seen photographs, this concise, witty, and candid account introduces readers to a Hawking rarely glimpsed in previous books: the inquisitive schoolboy whose classmates nicknamed him Einstein; the jokester who once placed a bet with a colleague over the existence of a particular

– Stephen Hawking

black hole; and the young husband and father struggling to gain a foothold in the world of physics and cosmology.

Random House

Writing with characteristic humility and humor, Hawking opens up about the challenges that confronted him following his diagnosis of ALS at age twenty-one. Tracing his development as a thinker, he explains how the prospect of an early death urged him onward through numerous intellectual breakthroughs, and talks about the genesis of his masterpiece A Brief History of Time— one of the iconic books of the twentieth century.

$34.99

Clear-eyed, intimate, and wise, My Brief History opens a window for the rest of us into Hawking’s personal cosmos. ❙

The Rosie Project

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Don Tillman, a professor of genetics, has a difficult time interacting with people generally and women specifically. He hasn’t even made it to a second date.  Early on he explains it is because some women are late, which he hates, or that they don’t really understand the pragmatic and obvious things in life. For instance, at the end of one date, the woman suggests she’d like apricot ice cream.   Don insists that all ice cream tastes essentially the same, owing to the chilling of the tastes buds, particularly fruit flavoured ones.  He suggests a taste test to prove his point. “But by the time the serving person had prepared them, and I turned to ask Elizabeth to close her eyes for the experiment, she had gone.” Don decides that he wants to get married, though, and the best way to do this is to create a questionnaire and The Wife Project becomes his main focus.  The reader knows that Don is autistic, on some level. He has a difficult time understanding and connecting to other individuals and recognising the importance of social rituals. He wants a woman who is punctual,

– Graeme SimsionText

doesn’t smoke, is logical. Like him. Enter Rosie Jarman who is a barmaid, late, drinks, smokes, and is on a quest to find out who her father is.  Don becomes intrigued by The Father Project, as he dubs it, and then by Rosie herself.

Publishing

$A29.99 $NZ 37

The hardest part of the book was understanding how Don connects with Rosie. We’re told that he does and I found Rosie fun as a reader, but it was difficult to find consistency with Don “all ice creams are the same why are you leaving upset?” with Don “I don’t care that you violate every principle that I thought was important to me and I’ll change for you.”   Essentially, as Don and Rosie begin to interact more, Don’s feelings for her begin to have an affect on his behaviour. In some ways I felt like Rosie almost cured Don of his autism.

Hurtling back to town, in a red Porsche driven by a beautiful woman, with the song playing, I had the sense of standing on the brink of another world. I recognised the feeling, which, if anything, became stronger as the rain started falling and the convertible roof malfunctioned so we were unable to raise it. It was the same

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As a romance reader, the romance was unconvincing despite the fact that I enjoyed both Don and Rosie individually. But I struggled with Don’s presentation. His ability to pick up on social cues depended on what the scene called for.

feeling that I had experienced looking over the city after the Balcony Meal, and again after Rosie had written down her phone number. Another world, another life, proximate but inaccessible. As a romance reader, the romance was unconvincing despite the fact that I enjoyed both Don and Rosie individually. But I struggled with Don’s presentation. His ability to pick up on social cues depended on what the scene called for. If we were supposed to laugh, his social cue inference skill was low. If we were supposed to see him falling in love with Rosie, his social cue inference skill was high. Juxtapose this passage, for instance: “What’s your poison?” said Amghad. “Poison?” “What do you want to drink?” Of course. But why, why, why can’t people just say what they mean? With this: I nodded in polite agreement. Bianca was exhibiting exactly the characteristics I was looking for. There was every chance she would be perfect. But for some reason, my instincts were rebelling.

have practiced with different beats. You’re not as smart as I thought you were.” I just looked out the window of the taxi. Then she said, “No way. No fucking way. You did, didn’t you? That’s worse. You’d rather make a fool of yourself in front of everyone than tell her she didn’t float your boat.”

Even at the end, Don talks about falling in love which seems to be such an emotion based, rather than evidenced based statement. It was these obvious variances that made the book have a certain manipulative feel to it. But setting that aside, the story is cute and often quite humorous. And more importantly, it felt different than the books I’d be reading before. I didn’t like The Father Project part of the book. I understood that it brought them together but it overtakes part of the story and has a fairly unsatisfactory ending but I chalked that up to being Literature.  Literature books don’t like clean endings no matter if the entire book spends its time hurtling toward it

” The Story of a New Name

– Elena Ferrante $A29.99 $NZ37

Soon enough though, it is Lenù herself that starts to feel lost.

*** In the taxi, Rosie said to me, “You should

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After reading the wonderful My Brilliant Friend a few months back, I was itching to get stuck into the sequel to Elena Ferante’s novel of a Neapolitan childhood.  Luckily for me, Europa Editions have just published it - and it’s another superb read. 

The Story of a New Name (translated by Ann Goldstein, review copy courtesy of the publisher) picks up where we left off, with the cliffhanger at Lila’s wedding.  Her decision to wed to escape poverty appears misguided from the very start, with her husband having seemingly betrayed her to the people she hates most in the world.  As Lenù looks on (slightly distracted by the handsome figure of Nino Sarratore), she begins to feel that for once Lila has overplayed her hand... Soon enough though, it is Lenù herself that starts to feel lost.  As Lila slowly

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Don is the narrator of the entire book (no switching alternate points of view). As with any first person book, if a reader doesn’t respond to Don, the book is going to be an utter failure. ❙

adapts to life as a married woman, her friend struggles with her studies, always doubting her ability to truly fit in with the people around her.  Having deliberately distanced herself from her family and friends, Lenù now finds herself caught in a no-(wo)man’s land, stranded between two social spheres, neither of which she really belongs to. Again, the old competitiveness and jealousy raises its head, and Lenù tries to console herself that she is, at least, happier than Lila.  The new Signora Carracci, however, is a woman both enigmatic and fearless, and no matter what life throws at her, she is likely to get what she wants in the end.  Which is when Nino enters the story once more... From the paragraphs above, you might be forgiven for thinking that I’ve decided


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to start reading romance fiction, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Taking up the themes of My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name is a twisting, caustic account of the life of women in mid-twentieth-century Naples, a feminist look at the struggles women faced in escaping from the poverty trap and a lifetime of subservience to men. The first part of the book largely takes place in the neighbourhood, an oppressive, cramped world in itself, where a handful of families rule the roost, lending money and cheating customers at the grocery scales.  While Lila has ostensibly married into this ‘ruling’ class, she is a woman, with no real rights, and like all wives who hesitate to accept this ‘truth’, she will suffer for her obstinacy.  Lenù, our eyes and ears, is frightened by a sudden realisation of what happens to women when they become wives and mothers: “That day, instead, I saw clearly the mothers of the old neighbourhood.  They were nervous, they were acquiescent.  They were silent, with tight lips and stooping shoulders, or they yelled terrible insults at the children who harrassed them.  Extremely thin, with hollow eyes and cheeks, or with broad behinds, swollen ankles, heavy chests, they lugged shopping bags and small children who clung to their skirts and wanted to be picked up.  And, good God, they were ten, at most twenty years older than me.” p.102 (Europa Editions, 2013) Lila is now one of these women, and her introduction to married life is brutal and upsetting.  It does not make for pleasant reading. The new name of the book reflects Lila’s new state as a married woman - Lila (or Lina) Cerullo has become Signora Carracci, and this change of name does bring some advantages.   She gains financially, moving into a large, modern apartment, and she never needs to worry about money, taking freely from the tills of her husband’s businesses.  She has also risen in the world in terms of status, walking around the streets of the neighbourhood like a Neapolitan Jackie Onassis.  But at what cost?  Her freedom, her intellectual development and her self-respect...

The widening gulf between Lenù and Lila reflects the general division in the novel between the literate, intellectual characters and the rest of the neighbourhood.  Those wanting to further their minds are able to retreat to a place in their heads where their partners, friends or enemies are unable to reach them, and Lenù sees a need to keep away from her oldest friend, fearing that Lila’s problems will drag her back down into the morass of the neighbourhood... Part of the magic of Ferrante’s work though is the way that the two women’s lives are so inextricably entwined that there is never a chance of a complete break: “But Lila knew how to draw me in.  And I was unable to resist: on the one hand I said that’s enough, on the other I was depressed at the idea of not being part of her life, of the means by which she invented it for herself.” (p.274) Every time Lenù believes that their friendship is finally over, she can’t resist going back to see her friend, looking for something she could never really explain - praise, redemption, a feeling of superiority? Whatever it is, she’s unlikely to leave satisfied - no matter how successful Lenù becomes, there’s something about Lila, something innate, which allows her to effortlessly surpass her friend, to always be two steps ahead.  It’s a tortured relationship at times: “When I saw Lila again, I realized immediately that she felt bad and tended to make me feel bad, too.  We spent a morning at her house in an atmosphere that seemed to be playful.  In fact she insisted, with growing spitefulness, that I try on all her clothes, even thought they didn’t fit me.  The game became torture.” (p.97)

The first part of the book largely takes place in the neighbourhood, an oppressive, cramped world in itself, where a handful of families rule the roost, lending money and cheating customers at the grocery scales.  While Lila has ostensibly married into this ‘ruling’ class, she is a woman, with no real rights, and like all wives who hesitate to accept this ‘truth’, she will suffer for her obstinacy.

Ah, friends... A further strong point of Ferrante’s writing is her wonderful characterisation.  The two main women are strongly depicted, and can be very attractive, but there is no black and white here.  Lila

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Lenù, despite being our conduit into Ferrante’s world, is a coldly honest portrayal of a character the reader might be tempted to associate with.

around her), but she can also be perversely stubborn, often when giving in a little might actually benefit her.

Even in twenty-first-century Australia, true equality is very far from being a reality...

Lenù, despite being our conduit into Ferrante’s world, is a coldly honest portrayal of a character the reader might be tempted to associate with.  Egotistical, immature and often self-serving, she is also somehow easily swayed and unable to keep her nose out of matters that don’t concern her, even if she kids herself that she wants no part of life in the neighbourhood.  These flaws though, far from marring the two women, make them real, complete, people we can truly sympathise with.

After our recent Federal election, won comfortably by the conservative opposition, the new Prime Minister (a deeply religious and conservative politician) announced his new cabinet.  Of the eighteen ministers announced, only one was a woman, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop (Abbott himself decided to take on the women’s affairs portfolio...).  A cartoon in the newspaper the next day had a worried-looking colleague asking Abbott if having one woman in the cabinet was a problem.  The cartoon PM replied by saying that it would all be good - she’d be overseas most of the time anyway...  Just a joke, right?  I’m not convinced...

Ferrante’s novel reflects another time, another world, one in which, of the two paths the friends choose, Lila’s housewife role seems the most likely route to success.  Sadly though, that’s not really the case. 

In a climate like this, books like Ferrante’s are a reminder of how far we’ve come, but also of how far we’ve yet to go and it’s another great read.  So, can I have the final book in the trilogy now, please?❙

A World without Wall Street? Francois Morin, translated by Krzysztof Fijalkowski and Michael Richardson Footprint Books

$48.99

“A World Without Wall Street?”, this is the very step that needs to be taken as quickly as possible.

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As the aftershocks of the latest economic meltdown reverberate throughout the world, and people organize to physically occupy the major financial centres of the West, few experts and even fewer governments have dared to consider a world without the powerful markets that brought on the crash. Yet, as Francois Morin explains in “A World Without Wall Street?”, this is the very step that needs to be taken as quickly as possible to avoid a perpetual future of dehumanising working conditions, devastated ecosystems, and the submission of public policies to private interests. In this insightful and radical take on global finance, Morin recommends nothing less than a revolutionary reconstruction of the international monetary system.

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More, he recommends that the laws of societies be reformed so that the power of management may be shared among all of the actors involved in production, not concentrated in the hands of the few. This shift, argues Morin, will transform the monetary system into a common good for all of humanity, rich or poor. With Wall Street at the centre of the very power structure that needs to be dismantled, Morin takes broad aim at the purely speculative financial games and arcane instruments by which the global economy and its citizens are held captive. In this very timely and provocative book, Morin bravely offers a way forward – instead of simply triaging a haemorrhaging system, he persuasively asks us to consider a subversive reinvention. ❙


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This year, Demographia is publishing its 10th Annual International Housing Affordability Survey. It ranks 360 metropolitan markets in nine countries.

By Alain Bertaud, Urbanist, Senior Research Scholar, Stern School of Business, New York University Former Principal Planner - The World Bank http:// alainbertaud. com/

Are planners in the worst performing cities paying any attention? And are they drawing any conclusions on how to improve the situation? Or do local governments conclude that the best way to increase the supply of affordable housing is to impose new regulations that will mandate developers to build housing units at prices, standards, and in locations selected by the government? The last approach, under the name of inclusionary zoning is unfortunately the most common response, as recently seen, for instance, in New York and Mexico City. Urban planners have been inventing all sorts of abstractly worded objectives to justify their plans for our future cities – smart growth, liveability, sustainability, are among the most recent fads. There is nothing wrong, of course, for a city to try to be smart, liveable, or sustainable. But for some reasons these vague and benign sounding objectives usually become a proxy for imposing planning regulations that severely limit the supply of buildable land and the number of housing units built, resulting in ever higher housing prices. In the name of smart growth or sustainability, planners decide that densities should be lower in some places and higher in others. Population densities are not a design parameter whose value depends on the whim of planners but are consumption indicators which are set by markets. Even the Communist Party of China recently declared that resource allocation is best achieved through markets; why can’t urban planners in so-called market economies reach the same conclusions and let markets decide how much land and floor space households and firms will consume in different locations? It is time for planners to abandon abstract objectives and to focus their efforts on two measurable outcomes that have always mattered since the growth of large cities during the 19th century’s industrial

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revolution: workers’ spatial mobility and housing affordability. As a city develops, nothing is more important than maintaining mobility and housing affordability. Mobility takes two forms: first, the ability to travel in less than an hour from one part of a city to another; and second, the ability to trade dwellings easily with low transactions costs. Housing mobility allows households to move to the location that best maximise their welfare. Affordability is the ability for any urban household to be able to rent a dwelling for less than a 25% of its monthly income, or to buy one for less than about three time its yearly income. The mobility and affordability objectives are tightly related. A residential location that only allows access to only a small segment of the job market in less than an hour commuting time has not much value to households, even if it is theoretically affordable. For instance, the government of South Africa has been building several million units of heavily subsidised “affordable” housing in areas that require long and expensive commute – transport costs representing in some cases more than 50% of a worker salary. In this case, affordability without mobility is only a poverty trap. Affordability and spatial mobility are therefore inseparable objectives. Urban planners should routinely monitor land and housing prices and rents by location in the metropolitan area in which they work. Monitoring the market supply side should be one of their main tasks. They should also monitor the changes in households’ income distribution, the demand side. That way, they may learn how markets work. How many urban planning departments publish annually variations in land and housing prices? If they did, they would be obliged to provide their own diagnostic to explain real estate price variations and propose remedial action when housing affordability decrease in an unacceptable manner. Land use regulations and the availability of trunk infrastructure heavily constrain


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housing affordability the supply of developable land. Planners, therefore, have a key role to play in ensuring an elastic supply of land by auditing land use regulations and by planning new trunk infrastructure that would allow the development of new areas or faster travel time to already built-up areas. A periodic regulatory audit should weed out obsolete regulations to allow an elastic land supply and to increase households’ ability to consume the amount of land and floor space that would maximize their welfare in the location of their choice. Part of the audit should concern the regulations, taxes, and administrative practices that unnecessarily increase transaction costs when building new housing units or selling or buying existing ones. The twin objectives of maintaining mobility and housing affordability should drive the design, financing, and construction of trunk infrastructure. Because the building of trunk infrastructure often requires the use of eminent domain, governments have a monopoly on its design and construction. Here is a new simple job description for urban planners: plan the development of trunk infrastructure to maintain a steady supply of developable land for future development, but leave land and floor consumption per dwelling to the market. There is no silver bullet to increase the supply of affordable housing. But if planners abandoned abstracts and immeasurable objectives like smart growth, liveability and sustainability to focus on what really matters – mobility and affordability – we could see a rapidly improving situation in many cities. I am not implying that planners should not be concerned with urban environmental issues. To the contrary, those issues are extremely important, but they should be considered a constraint to be solved not an end in itself. Urban development should remain the main objective of urban planning. Until now, Demographia has focused its annual affordability survey on a limited number of OECD countries. This is understandable as the data collection task is difficult enough in

advanced economies. In many cities, the scarcity of credible data on affordability further demonstrates how little interest the planning profession has in the issue. However, the housing affordability problem is even worse in emerging economies than the ones in the OECD cities covered by the Demographia survey. In emerging economies, rapidly increasing households income combined with severe constraints on the supply of developable land are putting an enormous pressure on housing prices. The constraints on land supply are usually due to obsolete regulations, overzealous and predatory bureaucracies - and in deficiencies in timely trunk infrastructure investments. In Mumbai, for instance, in spite of a spectacular increase in real households’ income through the last twenty years, the number of people living in slums has increased and includes now more than half of the population. Paradoxically, a large part of the Mumbai population that has recently reached middle class status is now living in slums! It is hoped that the clear quantitative approach demonstrated by the Demographia survey would incite local think tanks in India, Brazil and China to develop the data base and the methodology to analyse the affordability problem and find a market solution to solve it. All Markets: Among all 360 markets in the principal analysis, there were 95 affordable markets, 84 in the United States, seven in Canada and four in Ireland. ❙

In emerging economies, rapidly increasing households income combined with severe constraints on the supply of developable land are putting an enormous pressure on housing prices.

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What is Biodynamic Agricu

– Hans van Florenstein Mulder

Farmers, vets and scientists had noticed the decline of fertility of seeds and animals.

The methods and understanding of Biodynamic agriculture developed and refined over the past 89 years from indications given to practicing farmers by Rudolf Steiner June 1924 in Koberwitz, Poland.

farm work at the right cosmic time, when astronomical events change, or are going for a moment in a state of chaos.

Farmers, vets and scientists had noticed the decline of fertility of seeds and animals.

It makes the soil fertile through living fertilization (compost) and not through mineralized fertilizer (N, P, K).

We have to remember that in those days we still had organic farming. The problems observed had their origin in the decline of the life forces in nature.

The preparations enliven the soil and make the soil more awake to the rhythms of the universe. They improve the health of the soil and therefore the health of plant, animal and human being.

Biodynamic farming is an impulse, which tries to overcome the ongoing degeneration of the land. This is possible through reconnecting the farm with the rhythms of the universe through doing

In this farming the human being stands central; he/she is the ego of the farm.

The preparations are as it were a healing or medicine for the improvement of the soil fertility, the health of the plant, animal and the farm in general.

A finished compost heap made by the co-workers of the “Don Bosco” organic/biodynamic farming community in Mindanao in the Philippines.

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ulture and what is its origin? The cosmic spiritual level It is on this level that the biodynamic practices work with their dynamic characteristics using especially made herbal preparations, the astronomical rhythms with their influence on the inanimate and animate world restoring the rhythms in nature and the concept of the “Farm Individuality”. Another aspect is the new community forming that may arise from this form of agriculture and we can predict the reversal of people back to the land to have a more humane life style than in the city. Farmers now come out of freedom to farm, the blood line is broken. Biodynamic farming is new in the sense that it not only works with moon forces as in the past but important is to realize the Sun quality of the preps 500 and 501 and the planetary influences through the preps 502—507. In summarising:

• What is the Image of a Farm of the Future (Farm Individuality)?

• The use of biodynamic herbal preparations

• The re-connection with rhythms of the Universe

• Farming has a Social responsibility; new Community forming

• Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

What is the point of view of Health in Anthroposophy? The Farm Individuality is seen as an image of the human being in its 3fold and 4 fold nature.

The way a farmer works is characterized by the phenomenological approach in biodynamic agriculture to understand the sense perceptible phenomena observable in the physical world as manifestations or revelations of the super-sensible forces and processes. In this work we try to integrate the knowledge of natural science with the knowledge obtainable through spiritual science or Anthroposophy.

Nutrition Right protein ratio of grains versus legumes. Legumes have high lysine and low S-amino acid. Grains have low lysine and high S-amino acid – • China. Tofu and Rice • Mexico. Beans and corn • Middle East. Tahine and bread • India. Dahl and rice The right ratio for Na: K is 1 to 2 processed food reverses this and K is lost. • High K in fruit and vegetables • Banana 200: 1 • Pumpkin seeds 200/300: 1 • Water melon 100: 1 • Orange 200: 1 The over-consumption of protein (animal) cause Ca loss which manifests in osteoporosis. Better to get protein from plant material in the form of seeds, peanuts, sprouts of sesame and pumpkin seeds. ❙

Biodynamic farming is new in the sense that it not only works with moon forces as in the past but important is to realize the Sun quality of the preps 500 and 501 and the planetary influences through the preps 502— 507.

When we look at the 4 Fold Human Being it is in a healthy state when the soul/ spirit is fully incarnated into the body and the Ego, or individuality acts as governor in keeping a balance between astral, etheric and physical bodies. In a similar way a farm is in a healthy state when the soul/spirit is fully incarnated into the farm and the Ego of the farmer acts as governor to bring balance between the animal, plant and mineral kingdoms.

Co-workers making a compost heap at the organic/biodynamic farm, of Shanti Sewa Griha, a leprosy community in the village of Budhanikantha, near Kathmandu in Nepal. 

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Mass culture for profit – Thibault Henneton

Develop your mobile business or face extinction.

There are also plans for a companion app to allow players to stay in contact with the game even after they put down their games console and switch off the television set.

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Video games are migrating from television screens to mobiles and smartphones. Even the nominally free games are being monetised and the information they generate about their players linked with other data to target ads. Where’s the pleasure in that? Since the spread of smart mobile devices — smartphones and tablets — the video games industry has learned a lesson in economic Darwinism: develop your mobile business or face extinction. The growth of gaming on the move means a new global division of labour, and the industry is revising its profit margins. The French games publisher Ubisoft’s next sure success, Watch_Dogs, is designed for the new consoles (Xbox One, PlayStation 4). In this open-world game a player’s avatar can roam through a virtual city based on Chicago; its leading character is a computer hacker and former mob fixer, whose main advantage is an ability to hack the city’s information infrastructure to open security barriers or take control of traffic lights and cameras, and elude the surveillance network. TheWatch_Dogs marketing team has come up with a free mobile app, Hide, for release alongside the game, which will allow users to “disappear from the network” — ironic, given that mobile gamers generate huge volumes of data, which developers analyse in minute detail to help optimise the game and maximise revenues. There are also plans for a companion app to allow players to stay in contact with the game even after they put down their games console and switch off the television set; they will be able to use a phone or tablet to undertake missions in cooperative multiplayer mode. This app will be synchronised, so missions accomplished on mobile screens will transfer to their main screens when they resume play there. Some big publishers are taking advantage of improved connectivity to combine technologies, both to increase returns on the long, costly development of blockbusters, and to create new “franchises”, brands that can be divided into episodes and released for a range of platforms.

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Besides Hide and the companion app, there could be a third app, if Watch_Dogs is then released in original versions for Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry and Nintendo DS. Adapting games for other platforms is known as “porting”; porting to mobile devices is an assembly line-like process, and traditional development studios often outsource it to subsidiaries or outside contractors in countries with lower costs. France has a porting company, Playsoft, which works with major publishers (Electronic Arts, Disney, Sega, Konami), but will not specify who and what because of confidentiality agreements. The headquarters in Paris signs the contracts, then the apps are developed by a Polish subsidiary, which employs about 100, though this is not mentioned in the credits. The traditional studios are trying to adapt to changing patterns of gaming and cut costs. They aim to reach more casual gamers, who don’t track the latest releases on news sites, but download an occasional game if it’s free.

Pyramid of a business model Ubisoft has recently acquired Futures Games of London, developer of the Hungry Shark franchise, and Digital Chocolate, in Barcelona, a publisher of social and mobile games. Ubisoft continues to invest in Quebec, but Electronic Arts (FIFA, Battlefield) has cut two-thirds of its local workforce, claiming the cost of labour is too high when its games sell for 99 US cents. In 2011 Electronic Arts acquired free online games creator PopCap Games (Plants vs Zombies) for $850m, signalling a change of direction. This summer the Vivendi group gave up its holding in Activision Blizzard, which is number one in the sector, claiming its business was “too cyclical and uncertain”. Nomadic players of Watch_Dogs may look down on gamers playing Candy Crush Saga on their mobile screens. The mobile and social network version of this game, launched in 2012, attracts 200 million players every month and generates more than $860,000 of revenue a day, according to Think Gaming.


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But rearranging virtual sweets on a grid, lining up shapes and colours, is a hackneyed theme, reminiscent of Tetris or fruit machines, and loses appeal when you realise that, like other F2P (free-to-play) games, it is calculated to exploit your frustration. That calculation is shaped like a pyramid if you are looking at the game itself, or a funnel if you are looking at the business model. The first stage is acquisition — attracting gamers. The game is usually a loop: one or more levels are always available. Movement is often automated: your avatar advances of its own accord, and all you do is touch the screen or tilt the device to guide it around obstacles. The game is free: it’s included in your network subscription fee (though online stores often ask customers to supply a bank card number). So it attracts lots of players, through word of mouth and player rankings.

Value of virtual currency At the second stage — retention — the player is encouraged to come back for more, through frequent updates, rewards and personalisation. In Candy Crush Saga, the player has a finite number of lives. When these are used up, he can either wait for them to regenerate, or beg one from a fellow gamer on Facebook, which means he has every interest in recruiting gamers as “friends”. There will be a “currency” for use within the game — it doesn’t matter what form this takes, as long as players quickly get used to it. Robert Weber, co-creator of mobile advertising platform NativeX, says: “The sooner users recognise the virtual currency’s value to their gameplay experience, the sooner they’ll be willing to buy more”. The third stage is monetisation. A small core of players attached to the brand will be ready to pay for new lives. They will make up fewer than 2% of all players, but yield considerable profits for the publishers. The business model for “freemium” or free-to-play games seems to have been developed in South Korea in 2001, and is based on micro-transactions; it is becoming dominant in the sector, overtaking premium games (paid games without in-game stores) and “paymium” games (medium-priced games with in-game stores). This has led to many games with life spans as short as a few months, and continually modified. The model depends

Why play real sport, when you can sit in a chair and play virtual sport. Makes sense?

on constant tracking of user behaviour, and often carries advertising, which generates around 20% of freemium game revenue. However, there may be trouble ahead: in September 2013 the UK Office of Fair Trading was concerned about the “blurring [of] the distinction between spending ingame currency and real money”, confusing for younger children. The transformation of the industry by the spread of mobile devices has allowed independent developers to do without publishers as distributors. There are many success stories, including Finnish company Rovio Entertainment, which created Angry Birds, currently licensed to toy manufacturer Hasbro and soon to be a film.  Plague Inc.,a 99-cent game in which the player creates and controls a pathogen, aiming to destroy Earth’s population, was developed by a team of four in the UK, with a budget of $5,000. A week after its release in May 2012, it topped the download charts in the UK and the US. The secret of Plague Inc.’s success is not originality: it is accused of plagiarising Pandemic 2, released in 2008, itself inspired by Contamination, a 1985 game for PC.

There are many success stories, including Finnish company Rovio Entertainment, which created Angry Birds, currently licensed to toy manufacturer Hasbro and soon to be a film. 

Plagiarism is a frequent complaint, because of “the gray area between what the law expressly forbids and what ethically feels wrong, where many clones, remakes and ports will reside”. Plague Inc. illustrates the crucial role of intellectual property and platforms in the transformation of the industry. The developers who lead the market for games for mobile connected devices (King, Zynga,

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have accepted the dominance of a Gameloft) the platform over intellectual property.

Flurry tracks user behaviour (it tracks more phones than Google or Facebook, according to Forbes magazine) and offers its clients a marketplace for the buying and selling of advertising, mostly for other apps.

Smaller firms, which often specialise in a single programming language, are unable to compete with these wealthy listed companies. They can distribute their games via online stores, as long as they are willing to accept the terms, but few can extend their good ideas across a range of platforms, so the money finds its way into the same pockets.

‘The data that glues together’ This seems to contradict the claim of the mobile analytics and monetisation platform, Flurry, that there is a middle class of mobile app developers. Flurry tracks user behaviour (it tracks more phones than Google or Facebook, according to Forbes magazine) and offers its clients a marketplace for the buying and selling of advertising, mostly for other apps. According to CEO Simon Khalaf, Flurry has “the data that glues [supply and demand] together”. Seven out of 10 applications on phones contain Flurry code that collects information: number of active users per day, session length, payments. This is useful to developers who want to fine-tune games (if a lot of players have stopped at level 3, you need to make your game less difficult). When linked to very specific categories of consumer, it can be used to target them: those who commission the

The dumbing down of society.

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information-gathering then base ads on it. The platforms, and their software, seem to be offering imaginative pleasure, but they’re really part of an advertising industry. Are mobile games leading to a new “mass culture”? The advocates of the expression mass culture “use [it] in the hope of making us believe it is a culture that has arisen spontaneously from popular culture,” Theodor W Adorno said in a 1963 talk on the culture industry (Kulturindustrie), a concept he and Max Horkheimer formulated in Dialectic of Enlightenment, published in 1947. They chose the term to describe something that conforms to a “plan for a product intended for mass consumption, and which to a great extent determines that consumption”— which distinguishes it from popular culture. Though a video game can be a “work” in the true sense, mobile gaming, supported by software platforms, is the ultimate in commodification. There will soon be a potential alternative: Valve (Half-Life, Counter-Strike) will shortly launch SteamOS, a Linux-based system free to download for users and freely licensable for manufacturers. Markus Persson, alias Notch, creator of Minecraft, recently tweeted that Valve is “saving the entire gaming world”, but it may not save us from the Kulturindustrie.

-Le Monde


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Fiddling in Rome while our food burns

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Rumour has it that the Roman emperor Nero played a fiddle and sang while Rome burned for five days in the Great Fire of 64. Nearly 2000 years later, at the very site where this devastating fire started so long ago, history is repeating itself, only the leaders doing the fiddling are delegates to the 40th meeting of the UN Committee on World Food Security(CFS). And what’s burning is the world’s food in the engines of our cars.

Despite urgent statements from the floor about the negative impacts of biofuels on food security, the small group tasked to negotiate a set of principles and actions came up with weak principles and complete inaction. There was no acknowledgment of the negative impacts of biofuel policies and mandates in the United States and European Union, which have been instrumental in artificially stimulating and sustaining the biofuel industry.

Unfortunately, this time, the fire didn’t end in five days. Food-based biofuels have been burning for over a decade, the fires are growing in scale and intensity, and there is no end in sight.

Why the fiddling? Simple: The most powerful countries at the negotiating table were the same ones benefitting from the burning of food in our cars. Canada and the US played the loudest, with the EU, Brazil and Argentina playing much the same tune. Only South Africa, a lonely voice, joined with civil society to speak for the victims of these policies.

It’s not as if we haven’t seen the warning signs. There have been three food price spikes in the last six years, with a wide range of studies implicating biofuels as a key driver of price volatility. How could it be otherwise? In the United States, 40 percent of our corn - fully 15 percent of global corn supplies - is now diverted to make ethanol, up from just 5 percent in 2000. The food security impacts are multiple and severe. Because ethanol competes for corn with food and animal feed, it has a direct impact on the cost of food. Indeed, in 2008, global food prices doubled. This hurts poor consumers. Biofuels - from corn, sugar, soybeans, and other feedstocks - compete for land and water, putting added stress on scarce resources.

Of course, the ones choosing the tune were powerful industry interests, from the biofuels companies themselves to the agribusiness firms capturing the benefits of high prices and subsidised demand for their products. The CFS is supposed to be the principal international agency coordinating global

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– Timothy A. Wise & Marie Brill Timothy A Wise is the Policy Research Director, Global Development and Environment Institute, Tufts University, Medford. Marie Brill is the executive director of ActionAid USA. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Jubilee USA Network. For more information about ActionAid, visit actionaidusa. org/.

Most dramatically, biofuels producers have been key drivers of large-scale land acquisitions in African and other developing countries. This is why the CFS put the issue of biofuels and food security on this year’s agenda and commissioned an expert report to inform the decision. Indeed, the report confirmed the negative impacts of biofuels to date and recommended decisive action. Our own report confirms that one of the main threats to our ability to feed the world in the future is the continued expansion of first generation biofuels. No matter. At the CFS the fiddling began. www.themirrorinspires.com


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But instead of leading, the CFS decided to do nothing.

responses to the food price crisis and dealing with the new realities of the rising and worrisome integration of food markets with fuel and financial markets. It has that clear mandate.

Meanwhile the fiddling continues, the biofuels burn on. More than 80 organisations from around the world signed an open letter urging the CFS to take action. Members of civil society formally involved in the CFS negotiations refused to endorse the resolution. “Small scale food producers have spoken powerfully here about the reality they are confronted with every day: that biofuels crops compete with their food production, for the land they till and for the water that sustains them,” they stated in a press release. “[These] recommendations overwhelmingly defend the interests of the biofuels industry and legitimise violations of the right to food.”

But instead of leading, the CFS decided to do nothing. The straightforward proposal that biofuels policies that harm food security should be reformed was categorically rejected. So too, was any mention of the land and water impacts of runaway biofuels expansion. The world is not waiting for the CFS to lead. Policymakers around the world are beginning to contend with food-fuel competition. The US Congress is under pressure to reform, or even repeal, its biofuels mandate. The EU recently cut its own mandate in half, explicitly recognising the negative impacts of food-based fuels.

This is no time for the CFS to fiddle in Rome. Our food is burning. And hundreds of millions of people are going hungry.

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