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May 2010 newsletter
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May 2010 printable subscriber newsletter


April 30th, 2010

This month's newsletter includes articles on using ocean temperatures to cool our cities, hiring (rather than buying) products, whether lab-grown meat is a 'green' solution, the health impact of air pollution and what the impact of a huge expansion of wind power will be on the electricity grid. To download, log in and scroll to the bottom of the page...

So, we’ve had the last debate, we’ve had ‘Cleggmania’, we’ve had 'Bigotgate’. In one of the most closely fought elections for decades, it looks as though there’s still all to play to for.

Except that really, there isn’t. Whichever hue of prime minister ends up in Number 10 this May, he will be placing his limbs into exactly the same resource manacles as the two other contenders.

No, I’m not talking about the budget deficit, although as our columnist Dan Box recently pointed out, the national debt has now made us slaves to one of the fiercest, most unforgiving markets of all – the international bond market.

I’m referring instead to the fundamental resources of society, which, unfathomably, have been given scarcely any airtime at all during the election campaign.

Take energy. The closest the subject came to discussion during the leaders’ debates was for an exchange of fire over support for nuclear power. Nick Clegg pointed out, quite rightly, that nuclear power is expensive, and that cheaper solutions exist. But by dismissing nuclear power – as Professor David Mackay showed in his myth-busting book Renewable Energy Without the Hot Air – you’d better have a plan for renewable energy so good it makes Denmark look like the back yard of an Exxon CEO.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much sign that any of the main political parties have fully thought through the huge impact on our electricity grid that both today’s and tomorrow’s energy policies are likely to have, as David Strahan points out in this issue of the newsletter.

Other resource issues include water availability, an issue that was brought starkly to our attention by two reports in April.

The first, produced by the insurance group Lloyds, argues that water shortages around the world are directly contributing to agricultural price instabilities – surely a key issue for a country that has consistently made its larder the free market, trading dodgy City derivatives for our dinner?

The second report came from the highly respected International Water Management Institute, and warned that clamouring – as western governments frequently do – for a doubling of food production by 2050 without tackling water efficiency ‘doesn’t add up’.

And perhaps the leaders, busy trumpeting the new future manufacturing and hi-tech economies, would have done well to read an analysis on the impacts of rare-earth metal mining by two ecologists, Oswald J. Schmitz and T.E. Graedel, published by online magazine Yale Environment 360:
‘Anyone who relies on modern electronic technology and favours the development of green technology — environmentalists and technocrats alike — has a shared link to environmental damages ensuing from mining,’ they wrote.

To our new prime minister: out of sight on the campaign trail must not mean oversight when in office.

Mark Anslow

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