Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘International’ Category

Bio-regional tourism greener, argues WWU enviro dean

by James Rogers June 18th, 2013

Tourism has a more pronounced effect on the world than the average tourist realizes. Whether they travel by air, sea or land, the long-distance tourist needs to appreciate the effects on the broader environment, the climate, and their own region and home. It’s more socially responsible, economically beneficial and ultimately more satisfying to travel closer to home, in one’s own region, than to distant lands. These were the key messages from Steve Hollenhorst, dean of Western Washington University’s Huxley College of the Environment, in a lecture earlier this month at WWU’s Biology Building titled, “The Trouble with Tourism: Rethinking Travel in the Age of Climate Change.” His talk was the final of the Huxley College speaker series.



Fossil fuels will still dominate U.S. energy usage in 2040

by Matt Rosenberg December 6th, 2012

In 2040 almost four-fifths of the energy the United States uses will be from the fossil fuels of oil, coal or natural gas. That’s just a bit less than last year but natural gas – seen by some as greener than oil or coal – will play a larger role in that mix, and coal and oil less. And by 2040 more than a tenth of the nation’s energy supply will come from renewables such as hydropower, wind, solar, biomass and geothermal power, and wave motion. That would be a good dollop more than the eight percent share for renewables in 2011.

These are some of recent facts and future projections in the baseline or “reference case” case scenario for the Annual Energy Outlook 2013 Early Release presented in a a Washington, D.C. briefing yesterday by Adam Sieminski, the head of the U.S. Energy Department’s data and forecasting unit, called the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Global vehicle penetration, sliced three different ways

by Matt Rosenberg October 28th, 2012

Data visualizations derived from the World Bank’s World Development Indicators show that while North America far outpaces other major global regions in vehicles per 1,000 people, that gap compared to the developing world is declining. And perhaps more revealing: several developing global regions have more vehicles per kilometers of roadway than North America. Surface transportation of course is just one sector of the energy economy. Growing global energy demands in coming decades for surface transportation, plus other consumer, commercial and institutional uses, and manufacturing, accent the bracing challenge of developing competitively-priced green energy on a vast scale in order to limit climate change.

The World Bank has posted a wide array of World Development Indicators to Google Public Data Explorer, so that users can easily build their own charts, graphs and visualizations. Picking just three among dozens of data depictions across different World Development Indicators, let’s look at global vehicle penetration, by global region, and measured three different ways. The first is passenger vehicles per 1,000 people (not including two-wheelers). North America has almost 2.5 times more than the next closest competitor, but has been declining in recent years; while on the rise are the Europe/Central Asia region, Latin America/Caribbean, and East Asia/Pacific. This chart will likely look quite different in 2020, and even more so in 2030, as the gap between North America and the rest of the world continues to narrow.

Adding in buses and freight vehicles, this next graph looks at motor vehicles per 1,000 people. The gap between North America and other continents is even wider.

However, the measurement of motor vehicles (no two-wheelers) per kilometer of built roads is quite different. Though the data set has a few gaps, it is fairly striking that in the one year so far in which data exists for the Middle East and North Africa (2008), it leads the pack. By this metric, North America ranks third among the major global regions used in the World Development Indicators, behind Middle East/North Africa, and Europe/Central Asia. Data for Latin America/Caribbean is limited to only 2004, so can’t really be factored in. East Asia and Pacific is sharply rising. Europe/Central Asia and South Asia are also rising, North America is declining.

As more road infrastructure is built in developing nations, motor vehicles per kilometer of roadway will likely continue to grow in the developing world. This in turn has a strong probability of increasing greenhouse gas emissions from the surface transportation sector, unless net-green alternative fuels can be produced and sold on a wide scale. North America of course, with its huge number of vehicles overall, faces a related environmental challenge.

Against a backdrop of strong global concern about climate change, the data suggest we can expect even more effort will be focused on developing affordable green vehicles powered by electricity or biofuels; and that scrutiny will intensify of how electricity is produced for transportation and other purposes. In the developing world especially, will coal continue to dominate, or will cleaner, greener alternative energy sources actually gain a substantial foothold?

RELATED: “Global Energy Use and Carbon Emissions, 2005-2035,” Public Data Ferret.


Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

Big learning curve ahead on U.S. automated weapons, intel

by Matt Rosenberg September 22nd, 2012

U.S. national security and military cost-efficiency will increasingly depend on automated weapons and automated information gathering systems on land, air and sea, but as procurement and deployment grow, coordinating and improving that effort will be a challenge, according to a recent report to top military brass from the U.S. Defense Science Board. As part of a broad re-make of U.S. military might the Department of Defense is increasingly moving away from reliance on humans and deeper into unmanned systems. But the report to the Office of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and DoD Under Secretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall, issues a warning in a cover memo that “autonomy technology is being underutilized” because of “obstacles within the Department” including poor design, ineffective R&D coordination across military branches, and the rush to deploy some systems without sufficient funding or time to develop the right approaches for training and actual usage.

The board also notes that past studies funded by DoD on improving autonomous systems have focused too much on the types and depths of their technical capabilities but not enough on design and performance enhancements to human-machine collaboration.

Cuba smackdown of rights testifier to U.S. Senate backfires

by Zachariah Bryan June 30th, 2012

Earlier this month in Cuba, peaceful political dissident Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, or “Antunez,” was jailed, beaten and pepper sprayed. This took place just three days after he testified to a U.S. Senate subcommittee about the Cuban government’s repression of citizens’ free speech rights. Though for thousands of Cuban citizens such harassment has long been common, acts of repression in Cuba burgeoned last year, according to the Cuba section of a recent global human rights report from the U.S. Department of State. In 2011, The Cuban Commission on Human Rights and Reconciliation counted a total of 4,123 short-term detentions, a 99 percent increase over 2010, according to the State Department report. This year’s pace is even higher, with documented political arrests in Cuba at more than 2,400 since January; 1,158 in March alone, according to testimony of U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) at the subcommittee hearing earlier this month.

State Dept.: Russia badly mistreats LGBTs, and the disabled

by Matt Rosenberg June 26th, 2012

Russia is no walk in the park, according to the recently released survey of global human rights conditions in 2011 by the U.S. Department of State. The report’s Russia section details problematic prison conditions, police corruption, the lack of safeguards to protect witnesses, interference with court cases from the government and military, extra-legal electronic surveillance of government critics, bias in state-controlled media and violence against independent journalists. That’s not all, however. The State Department report – drawn from a careful analysis of news from non-governmental organizations, media and other sources determined to be credible – also maintains that gays and lesbians and persons with disabilities suffer significant discrimination and harassment in Russia.

Seattle NGOs echo concerns of USAID Haiti audit

by Zachariah Bryan May 23rd, 2012

A program aimed at improving watersheds and water quality in Haiti and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development hasn’t made inroads against major environmental risks and could be facing potentially expensive setbacks, according to an audit by the agency’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Discussing the audit’s concerns, representatives of two NGOs in the Seattle region which track Haiti respectively accented ongoing cholera risk from unsafe water; and the need for a deeper level of personal investment from citizens to augment external aid for environmental and public health problems. But underlying these challenges is a staggering unemployment rate which defies easy answers.

Haiti’s troubled environment is compounded by a weak government and wanting infrastructure resulting in part from the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Trash pick-up, environmental regulation, and water systems are especially problematic. Haiti’s watersheds have been long in decline due to decades of unchecked logging and charcoal demand, leaving the island with an estimated two percent forestation today, according to the audit. This boosts susceptibility to tropical storms and hurricanes which can bring flash floods to communities from eroded watersheds, taking lives and damaging property.

USAID in response launched a partnership with Chemonics International Inc. named the Watershed Initiative for National Natural Environmental Resources program (WINNER). It has $128 million in authorized funding and is designed to reduce environmental and economic vulnerability by rehabilitating watersheds and reducing flood risk along rivers. It also aims to train farmers in agricultural practices. Haiti produces less than half the food it consumes.

UW report: King County a national leader in life expectancy

by Matt Rosenberg May 4th, 2012

King County ranks in the top two percent nationally for male and female life expectancy, according to a nationwide survey of all 3,147 U.S. counties or county equivalents, by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. IHME’s U.S. County Performance Research Team, led by Dr. Ali Mokdad, of Mercer Island, recently presented the survey data (here, in an Excel file) at a health care journalists conference in Atlanta. Researchers gathered life expectancy data for men and for women in each U.S. county, and used 1989, 1999 and 2009 as key touchpoints.