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Posts Tagged ‘energy’

Sustainablity is more than just recycling and planting trees

Friday, November 13th, 2009

Just Focus

What is sustainable development?ourworld
Well let’s take a step back and first ask - what is development? It is a pretty difficult term to define because no one really agrees exactly what it is. For many people development simply refers to reducing poverty and improving living condition in poor countries. Others believe that poor countries should pursue the development path that richer countries have followed. For the purposes of this article, lets think about it is as “growth and change that creates a world where more and more people can enjoy a good quality of life and reach their potential”. Sounds pretty good right?!

So then sustainable development would be growth and change that helps us all enjoy a good quality of life, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Even better! I think almost all of us can agree that sustainable development is a good thing. But how do we achieve it? For many of us when we hear the word ‘sustainability’ we think immediately of the natural environment, but sustainability is not just about protecting Mother Earth. A truly sustainable world requires us to look after the people too!  The Just Focus crew like to use the Four Pillars of Sustainability, which are; Environmental responsibility, Economic health, Social equity and Cultural vitality.

Four Pillars of Sustainability

4pillars2This helps us to look at sustainability a bit differently and make connections between happy healthy people and a happy healthy planet.

Over the next few months Just Focus is going to look at each pillar and explore ways each of us can help contribute to creating a sustainable world. In this article we look at a HEALTHY ECONOMY.

To create an economy that is both sustainable and healthy, we need to do things a little differently than we are now. Looking after the environment and our workers has to be held in balance with business development and making a profit. Sounds hard, but we don’t have to choose one over the other. Here are some of the things we could work on…

Energy is a necessity. We use it for heating, cooking, manufacturing, construction and transportation. It’s hard to imagine life without it. But the way we use it needs to change. And fast! We are currently consuming non-renewable resources, such as oil and gas, faster than they can be produced, creating harmful environment effects and creating a global dependency on a resource that will one day run out. We must preserve some non-renewable resources for use in the future and focus on developing renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and hydro power.

Personal Action: We are pretty lucky in New Zealand because 70 % of our power is from renewable sources, but it is still good to try and conserve power. Check out for some games and activities.

bike-and-busOur transport system help us to move people, food and other goods around cities, countries and the world. But the recent growth in the transport sector is damaging the environment, and many believe it is contributing to climate change The volume of traffic and increased congestion in the big cities also has an economic cost, with loss of work hours and slower delivery services. Transport is an essential part of life, but it is also harmful to the economy and the planet. What do we do!? A good place to start is reducing our dependency on cars. We also need new technology to improve vehicle efficiency and more investment in public transport systems.

Personal Action: Petition your local council to provide incentives for car pooling and using public transport, so more people will be encouraged to do it. You can save money and the planet!

Education and Employment
Without adequate investment in education and training our economy couldn’t grow. Economic prosperity relies on on-to-it people and businesses who provide high quality products and services that others want and are prepared to pay for. Education and training creates skilled workers who are able to meet this need. Helping people improve their skill level and find jobs is also the best way to reduce poverty. To be truly sustainable, work needs to be valued and workers treated fairly and we need regular opportunities to update our skills and knowledge, so that we can adapt to our rapidly changing world.

Personal Action: Make the most of your education and training and never stop learning! Be aware of your rights as a worker

skyscrapers_of_shinjukuBusiness and industry
The business and industry sector has a HUGE role to play in achieving sustainable development around the world. Although many big corporations are accused of causing environmental damage and undermining workers human rights they also have the potential to make a huge contribution, by creating jobs and business opportunities, and using resources more efficiently. Also, by improving their environmental practices, producing less waste, and raising labour standards and valuing their workers, they can set an example to other businesses (try googling ‘Interface Inc’ for an example of a company doing exactly that!).

Personal Action: Check out and join campaigns that challenge irresponsible and dangerous corporate actions around the world


International trade isn’t new, people began trading silk and spices thousands of years ago, but the volume of world trade today and the rules that control it have increased the impact it has our everyday lives. Trade has lots of positives but it also contributes to rising pollution levels and has reduced biodiversity (that is the number of living species on the planet). On top of this, the gap between the world’s richest and poorest people has widened, partly due to unfair trade rules created by the World Trade Organisation. How we trade and invest around the world is going to have significant impact on the planet’s future. We need trade rules that benefit people AND the planet.


Personal Action: Purchase products that are Fair Trade and/or Organic certified, which means that the environment and the workers who made these products are getting a better deal. Go one step further and get involved with an NGO like Oxfam and work towards reforming the World Trade Organisation

Good time for change
We need to make quite a lot of changes if we want to create a healthy sustainable economy.  You may be thinking that this is not really the best time, what with most of the world in an economic recession. But rather than let all the statistics and media hype get us down this could be the perfect time to take stock. Why did this happen? What are we doing wrong? What would be the impact if we continue to do things like this? This is a great time to think about how we could do better! How could we organise the global economy so that as many people as possible benefit and so that we use the world’s resources sustainability? For our sake, and the sake of those to come, this is a question we cannot ignore any longer.

The Post-Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook: Recipes for Changing Times

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

By Richard Heinberg

swissarmyknifeThis book is like a Swiss army knife. Sharp. Simple. Very practical. Extremely useful. From Solar Heating to Sweet Potato Soup,  water-readiness to worms, and lollies made out of flowers. You can learn how to create walkable communities and/or become a medic-in-a hurry treating accidental electrocution. There is even a glossary of Surfspeak (useful I suppose for a beach disaster) and advice on how to loaf around more creatively. This book is especially designed to stand the test of time, and points out that the stone age didn’t come to an end through a lack of stones - that instead we moved on to a better, more creative, use of new technologies.

You can join our library and get books and DVDs out for Free!

You Can Save the Planet

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

by Jacquie Wines and Sarah Horne

This book introduces and explains massive global problems that need to be addressed now. It’s packed full of useful things you can do to make your homes, schools, and neighbourhoods more environmentally friendly. Including:planet_photo1

  • How to save water around your house.
  • How to persuade your local supermarket to reduce the number of plastic bags used.
  • Ways to organise your household recycling that really work.
  • How to spread the word on saving the planet.

You can join our library and get books and DVDs out for Free!

Preparing for life after oil

Friday, September 12th, 2008

By Hannah Robson

oil_photoaWhat is the issue?
We all know about global warming and climate change and we all know about the rising price of petrol, but do you know that cheap’ oil WILL RUN OUT?! The world is so dependent on oil, but it is becoming increasingly expensive, we are running out of easily accessible oil and soon it will take more energy to extract it than it is actually worth.

Who is it going affect?
The consequence of Peak Oil is a potential energy crisis and, like global warming, will affect EVERYONE. Oil is used for so many things in today’s society, from the fuel in our cars to heating, food and clothing production, petroleum products are used to make plastics, fabrics, even cosmetics and medicines. Basically, your parents will start complaining about the cost of petrol and everything else (even more than they do now!), and from there petrol will become so ridiculously expensive that no one will be able to afford it. This is going to have a dramatic affect on us and change the way we live our lives. The cost of transport will mean we will travel less, trade fewer goods with other countries and we will have to give up or find alternatives for many everyday objects, from lip-gloss, to fertiliser to CDs!

What are people doing about it?
transition-townsWhile some people (mostly scientists and politicians) are focusing on new technology and other sources of energy, over 500 communities all over the world (including New Zealand) are facing the challenges of climate change and peak oil by looking for ways to become less dependent on oil and reduce their impact on the planet. These towns are known as Transition Towns and their aim is to create vibrant and thriving communities that are prepared for life after oil. There are dozens of these communities all over Britain, as well as the Sunshine Coast, Australia and New Zealand’s very own Waiheke Island, Orewa and Kapiti Coast. All up over 1,527,000 people are involved!

While this is happening at a local level there are also national and global principles in action. Nationally, some governments use energy rationing systems to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels and globally, the Oil Depletion Protocol encourages nations to collectively reduce consumption, both oil producing and consuming nations.

What can we do?
There are lots more towns around New Zealand that have expressed interest in participating in this initiative. What about YOUR town?

The 12 steps of Transition
Curing our addiction to oil.

1. Get a team together — you need a group of keen and dedicated people to get the project going

2. Awareness raising - start informing people and get them talking about the issues, show some films like A Crude Awakening: the oil crash or An Inconvenient Truth, get some speakers in….make some noise!

3. Lay the foundations — find out what people are already doing in your community, start networking and build relationships with local businesses, schools and community groups.

4. Organise a Great Unleashing — have a (eco!)party and share your vision with the whole community.

5. Form working groups - get people focused on specific aspects of the process like food, water, transport, waste etc.

6. Try Open Space — bring everyone together and explore a particular topic or issue, with no agenda, no timetable, no coordinator and no minute takers, just let the ideas and discussion flow and see what happens.

7. Less talk, more action! Don’t just organise lots of meetings, show people what you are achieving.

8. Facilitate the Great Re-skilling — we seem to have forgotten how to do lots of things. Organise workshops on cooking, cycle maintenance, sock darning, gardening and food growing etc.

9. Make friends with your Local Government - Whether it is planning issues, funding or providing connections, you need them on board.

10. Honour your elders — Our grandparents lived in a lower energy society, before the age of consumerism and convenience. We could learn a lot from them.

11. Go with the flow — once your community is behind this it might not always go as your planned. Be flexible.

12. Create an Energy Descent Plan — Sounds serious doesn’t it? This is about combining all the work and plans so you cope as oil gets more and more expensive.

For more details on the 12 Steps to Transition and heaps more information go to


You don’t have to be involved in Transition Towns to take action you could leave the car at home and catch a bus or train or walk— if you don’t need to drive, DON’T! — come on guys, you know the drill. Buy less, grow your own food, recycle. Don’t let the Peak Oil Crisis be another global issue that isn’t addressed until it becomes even more difficult Stop making excuses — it’s time to make ourselves aware and show we care!


Check out Beyond the Petrol Pump, by Omar Hamed
Borrow A Crude Awakening: the oil crash, An Inconvenient Truth, Syriana and loads more DVDs from the Global Education Centre
Check out the Green Party’s Peak Oil Campaign
Go to and for loads of ideas on reducing your personal carbon footprint
Check out some great tips for organic gardening at

    Tackling climate change

    Wednesday, August 1st, 2007

    How is NZ reducing its ecological footprint?

    Storme Sen

    Global warming
    You hear about global warming everywhere nowadays; scientists and tree-huggers spout on about it and the millions of mind-boggling statistics to back up their claim at any opportunity. Yet, that phrase is never in the forefront of our minds in our everyday life, not when we take our hour long shower, not when we leave six appliances on at once, not until global warming affects our lives personally do those cold statistics mean a thing.

    Since when has the weather gone so insane?
    Mudslides, earthquakes and floods are occurring in places where they shouldn’t be at alarming rates; polar bears are actually drowning from lack of icebergs to rest on! Global warming is no longer something we can put off or disown as scare-propaganda. A recent example of out-of-control weather phenomenon are the tornadoes that hit Taranaki. New Zealand shouldn’t have global warming problems; we are renowned for our “clean and green” image, right? Wrong.

    If we measure the average emissions produced per capita (individually), New Zealand comes in at a shocking 12th place in the world for the highest carbon producing countries in 2006. As a country that thrives on showcasing its natural resources for the tourism industry and production of biological products for export, New Zealand’s economy is particularly vulnerable to climate change

    Cars FloodSo what is global warming?
    The suns rays have always penetrated our atmosphere, warming the earths surface, enabling life to inhabit our planet, then been reflected back off the earths surface out through our ozone layer. But now, the pollution we emit traps the harmful rays in our atmosphere so that they cannot be reflected back out of our ozone layer, causing global warming. This changes our weather patterns, causes droughts, melts our ice caps, provides warmer temperatures for disease carrying vectors and pests, such as mosquitoes, to breed, and changes the conditions for crops to be grown in, to name a few examples.

    We know a lot of these facts and that global warming is a problem of epic proportions, but now the time has come to do something about it. It was not caused by my generation but it is up to us to carry the burden and we can no longer just say our great great grandchildren will have to deal with it. New Zealand has ratified the Kyoto Protocol named after the Japanese city the environmental summit was held in. The Kyoto Protocol aims to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of developed countries to 5% below the level they were in 1990 from the period 2008-2012. New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions are currently 25% higher than they were in 1990 and New Zealand is in danger of not achieving its target.

    Global Warming VisualThe Bill
    At Youth Parliament 2007 a Legislative Bill was put forward for debate amongst the Youth Parliamentarians. This bill was mainly aimed at reducing household carbon gas emissions and lowering the energy usage of individuals. The bill enables a household to open a voluntary carbon account that will monitor their energy consumption via a Smart card system. There would be a fee to open an account and the amount of energy deemed reasonable for consumption would be individually analyzed in accordance with the needs of each different household. The account would also introduce carbon credits (in the form of tax credits), rewarding a household that makes energy savings of 10% (with $500) and penalizing those that overreach their amount of calculated energy use. In addition, the bill stated that the government will pay up to 50% of the costs of converting to more energy efficient means such as solar power.

    This bill was greeted with a plethora of criticism. Youth MP Katherine Steel felt that the bill did not go anywhere near far enough and proclaimed “this bill is proof that the government is f!*king with our futures”. Many Youth MPs pointed out the several flaws in this bill. Namely, if it is voluntary with a sign-up fee no one will do it and making it compulsory is out of the question because it will be “perceived as a state intrusion”. It doesn’t offer enough of an incentive and why would you want to sign up for something that would actually add extra cost should you use too much energy. Additionally there is the cost of performing individual energy usage evaluations, which would be astronomical.

    LiveEarthThe ironically heated debate over this environmental bill also produced talk about whether New Zealand should revoke its strong Anti-Nuclear policy. Youth MP James Barnett stated that “70% of the world already use nuclear power, I say we follow.” Some Youth MPs thought that this was worth the hypocritical label because nuclear power would more than meet our energy requirements and produces no greenhouse gas emissions, stating that we are “famous for Do as we say and not as we do’ anyway” (for example, it is illegal for us to cut down native trees and yet we import the native trees of other countries).

    The more idealistic and positive of the Youth MPs were for the passing of this bill, arguing that while this bill was definitely not perfect, it was still a step in the right direction. Others weren’t so sure it was the government’s job. How many politicians does it take to change a light bulb?” asked Youth MP James Walkinshaw. The answer? None, the people need to do it themselves.

    An Inconvenient Truth


    Save happy valley

    Monday, March 27th, 2006

    Hannah Newport

    view of happy valley
    Ok, so we all like a nice toasty fire in the winter - “put your feet up dear, there’s a good lass”. But that’s no reason to go around killing native animals, now… is it?

    Almost a decade ago now, somebody thought so. Travel, if you will, your mind to the West Coast of the South Island. Picture a remote red tussock wetland, pristine and ecologically unique. Imagine this place: an almost predator-free home to thirteen threatened species. This lovely image of nature you hold is a reality; it is Happy Valley.

    However, mining company, “Solid Energy”, are not tempted by the view. Nor by the excitement of kiwi-spotting opportunities. Beneath the surface is what draws their gaze. Since 1998 Solid Energy has had their eye upon the coal that lies underneath Happy Valley, and have been taking steps to plunder this resource. As those of you who know about mining ambitions will know, the resource consent process is a long and tiresome one. Yet Solid Energy, to their credit, dear souls, has persevered.

    Fear not, people said to each other; most felt confident that the sheer stupidity of the corporation’s plans would result in rejection. It soon became clear, however, that the five million tons of coal — over $950 million in value — lying beneath Happy Valley was pretty persuasive.

    Happy Valley is a state owned area, but Solid Energy’s promise of funding for future conservation projects has put a stop to any objection that the Department of Conservation may or may not have made. A long and lengthy court case did not result in a good outlook for the delicate ecosystem that is Happy Valley.

    Solid Energy has cleared all the legal barriers and is going full steam ahead with its plans.

    But how can this be? I hear you ask. The Valley is home to thirteen endangered species. Thirteen!

    Included in the long list of native species living in the Valley is the endangered carnivorous land snail Powilliphanta patrickensis, a beautiful and ancient creature. It is said to date back to Gondwanaland, making it older than the very coal it now lives above.

    The Great Spotted Kiwi, one of the rarest varieties of our shy friend, faces a similar risk. Forest & Bird warn that kiwi may be extinct on the mainland in 15 years, while Solid Energy continues to threaten its sanctuary in Happy Valley. The sad fact is that the delicate wildlife balance held in Happy Valley cannot be “restored” after mining, as Solid Energy intends.

    To many across Aotearoa, it is absurd that such an important wildlife area could be forsaken. And, most infuriatingly, all for yet more climate-destroying fuel! Fuel which is not, in fact, intended for keeping us toasty in the winter. Rather, the coal under Happy Valley is destined for steel production in China and will ultimately pump into the atmosphere 12 million tons of carbon dioxide.
    campaign banner
    Something must be done, you may well cry! It is this very anger and outrage at Solid Energy’s plans that has led to an uprising of environmentally-minded folk across our country. The ingeniously named Save Happy Valley Coalition was established in April 2004; a combination of members of every major environmental organisation in New Zealand, including Forest & Bird, Greenpeace and even the Department of Conservation, as well as other individuals who care.

    And care they do! The campaign effort has been present in almost every part of Aotearoa, including posters, postcards and demos. More recently, direct action has been taking place in Happy Valley itself, with an occupation planned to last indefinitely.
    The theory behind this is that if Solid Energy really wants the coal, they’re going to have to face some very strong-minded people before they can get to it.

    So despair not! And if you think it’s important to speak out against Solid Energy, join the voice that is doing just that.

    More information can be found at

    Beyond the petrol pump - peak oil and aotearoa new zealand

    Wednesday, November 16th, 2005

    Omar Hamed

    A friend told me earlier this year that he was buying an expensive new car. One that guzzles petrol like there is no tomorrow. I asked if he was out of his mind. I told him that there is no point buying a gas guzzling car now that the end of cheap oil has come. In a couple of years, I said, he will not even be able to afford the petrol for his new car. Needless to say, he bought the car. But now less than twelve months later he is finding it harder and harder to afford the rapidly increasing petrol prices.

    petrol pumpsAlthough the price of petrol is estimated to reach $2.00 a litre by Christmas, and with analysts saying this is just the beginning of the price rises, no one should be surprised with the current situation. Matthew Simmons, an adviser to President George Bush, said earlier this year, “Demand is pulling away from supply…and we have to ask whether we have the resources that we think we do. It could be catastrophic if we do not anticipate when peak oil comes.”

    Many of you are probably thinking, “what is peak oil’?” Peak oil is when the amount of oil being extracted reaches its highest point and after that it starts to decline. We will not know when peak oil happens until after it has already occurred. There are conflicting opinions on when peak oil will be reached. Some experts say we have already reached it, while others say it will happen in the coming decade. The fact is that in the next few years oil is going to get increasingly scarce. Oil prices are going to keep rising and with this rise will come a rise in the costs of those things which require oil to be manufactured. This includes everything from clothing to food, and from plastic bags to bicycle tyres.

    Peak oil will have a huge effect on our society. Because a major part of our economic system is built around oil, running out in the near future is going to have dramatic effects on the way we live. Oil provides 90% of global transport supply and a reliable flow is needed for New Zealand and most other countries economies to continue growing. Because of New Zealand’s location at the bottom of the world, increased oil prices will make transport to and from these islands increasingly expensive.

    The move away from a society based around cheap oil to one based around renewable resources and energy conservation is not simply an option; it is an inevitability. Harnessing solar and wind power as well as increased energy efficiency will reduce the possibilities for blackouts down the line. Long queues at the petrol station can be avoided if there is adequate government funding of public transport and cycle infrastructure. Use of plastic packaging can be cut back on dramatically by businesses. Food processed and transported thousands of kilometres from factory to supermarket will cease to be the norm as oil prices hit consumer spending. In a sure sign of things to come a neighbour told me last night that he had sold his four wheel drive the week before. Why? Because the cost of filling his tank with petrol was now costing well over a hundred dollars. Oil free future, here we come. Ready or not.


    Richard Heinberg’s Paper presented on November 7th 2005, at the California Leaders Round Table Dialogue on Peak Oil, Climate Change and Business Action; , 2005 in San Francisco.