Water vs. drought

19 04 2009

The UN Water Report “Water in a Changing World” (available here) predicts that in the year 2030 a lack of water can be reality for 3 billion people, if nothing is done to stop the climate changes! Today that’s the case for 1,5 billion people, so we’re talking a huge increase here!

Source: https://engineering.purdue.edu/GEP/Spotlights/WaterInitiative

Some facts:

– Almost all big river systems in the world are polluted, over half of them seriously.
– About 80 % of the diseases in the developing countries are directly or indirectly caused by a lack of clean water and water closets.
– Already today there are 300 million people in China drinking polluted water.
– During the past century there was a 300 % increase of world’s population while the water consumption has increased 600 %.
– Of the foreign aid given to the developing countries only 5-6 % go to the water and sanitary sector. At least the double would be necessary.
Every dollar invested in the water and sanitary sector brings in 5-12 dollars in improved health, cleaner environment and increased productivity.
30-40% of the water gets lost on the way because of leaking water pipes.

The resources should be used more efficiently, but not only that – they should also be distributed in a more fair and more environmentally friendly manner.

Source: http://transitioniow.org/2008/02/13/uk-catches-up-with-island/

Few of the developing countries can actually afford all the investments in the water and sanitary sector that would be necessary, so many of them collaborate with private companies, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. As an example I can mention Bolivia, who in 1999 gave all the rights to the water industry to two occidental companies for a period of 40 years. The result was that the price of water increased by 200 %, and a lot of poor families had to pay a fifth of their incomes just to have running water at home. Demonstrations followed and the government was forced to break the contract.

A good solution, proved successful by several countries, thereamong Finland, could be collaboration between the state, the municipalities, the private sector and local organizations. Then water and sanitary services can be provided at a reasonable price. But this requires the business to be transparent. This is not always the case today, even in industrial countries. Corruption is common – it is not uncommon that up to a third of the money ends up in the wrong hands.

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ankraut/

According to researchers every human being on earth could be provided with 50 liters of water per day, but that would require a huge change in how the water resources are divided. And the needs of the poor (especially the women) would have to be met first. The situation today is quite different. In some areas the poor pay 10-30 times more for the water than the rich, who are connected to the water system. Similarly the rich farmers pay around one fifth of the full price for irrigation while small farmers pay the full price for insufficient amounts of water. An alternative would be to water with waste water, which Israel already does. Since food production consumes 70 % of the water resources globally (up to 80-90 % in some developing countries) more efficiency in water usage is needed!

Also in the industry the efficiency in water usage should be increased. In Denmark they produce 138 dollars GDP with one cubic meter of water, in the US 20 dollars and in India only four.

Conflicts related to water are rare. A global agreement on water resources does not exist, but there are over 400 bilateral and regional agreements, which work relatively well.

Source: http://watersecretsblog.com/archives/2006/08/index.html

One of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is to halve the number of people who lack clean water by the year of 2015. This would result in 90 % of the world’s population having access to clean water. This goal will probably be reached. However, the sanitary goal will not be reached. Drilling wells has been more attractive than building water closets. Around 2.4 billion people are currently without a water closet, and this situation will not improve significantly by 2015.

The water usage varies a lot between countries. In the Netherlands, the UK and Uruguay people consume around 100 liters per person and day, in Finland 150-200 liters – while the consumption in Canada and New Zealand is as much as 700 liters! The biggest water consumers (in volume) are, however, the US, China and India.

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrhappy8/

So – we all realize that something needs to be done! And everyone, that means YOU, can make a difference. Save water at home in any way you can. Don’t waste it!


Sources used for this blog post:

The UN Water Report “Water in a Changing World”, published March 16, 2009

Article, “2030 kan 3 miljarder ha brist på vatten”, by U.B. Lindström, Hufvudstadsbladet, Sunday, April 19th, 2009


Was the Earth Hour call answered?

17 04 2009

Just thought I’d post a video showing how Earth Hour was celebrated around the world. Earth Hour took place the 28th of March 2009 at 8.30 pm.

I also want to remind you all to keep living green :) And here are some tips on how to do that, courtesy of WWF – The Good Life.

April is spring cleaning month – a time to get your home and garden ready for the warmer months ahead. It is also the perfect time to make some changes in your life to lighten your footprint on our planet! Here are some tips to get you started:

1. Enjoy the warmer weather and fresh spring air by walking and/or cycling more, instead of driving. If you walk or bike daily, you can save as much as $3,000 a year in gas, vehicle maintenance and parking!

2. Get your garden ready for summer by composting your kitchen and yard waste in your backyard. Or, if it’s offered, separate your organic waste for weekly composting by your municipality.

3. Fight climate change by washing your clothes in cold water. They’ll be just as clean and you’ll save a lot of energy. Almost 90 per cent of the energy used to wash clothes goes into heating the water!

4. Instead of using your energy-guzzling clothes dryer, use a clothesline to hang up your clothes to dry. After the refrigerator, the clothes dryer is the top energy-using appliance in the house!

5. When your light bulbs burn out, make sure you replace them with CFL bulbs. CFL bulbs are 75 per cent more efficient and last eight times as long as standard bulbs!

6. Did you know that the average food item travels more than 2,000 kilometres before reaching your plate! Reduce greenhouse gases by filling your plate with locally grown fruits and vegetables.

7. When shopping, take a collection of reusable shopping bags with you so you’re not using plastic bags, which create waste and greenhouse gas emissions. Remember, bags take from 20 to 1,000 years to break down!

8. After cleaning out your closets, donate your pre-loved items to a charity shop or invite your friends over for a clothing swap. Remember to re-use, repair, and re-wear clothing to reduce your fashion footprint!

Commemoration of the Rwandan genocide

15 04 2009

The 7th of April 2009, 15 years had gone by since the Rwandan genocide started in 1994. Everybody has probably heard about the genocide, but how many really know what happened, and how this could be allowed to happen?

Let’s start with a short background video, for those of you who need to freshen up their memory:

Please note that in this video there is shocking footage, and note also that the facts presented are simplified and not very detailed, but should give you a good enough background check.

The efforts of the UN during the genocide have been seriously debated. Could we, the rest of the world, have done more? Undoubtedly. But not a lot of us could understand the scope of the tragedy until afterwards, if then! Rwanda was a country with many tensions between the Hutu and the Tutsi. The difficulties go way back, and it’s hard for an outsider to fully understand what this means. Former colonial powers (first Germany, whose rule was weak and didn’t imply many changes, and then Belgium, who were the first to introduce “Ethnic Identity Cards” dividing the population into Hutu, Tutsi or Twa (a smaller racial group who had occupied areas in Rwanda before the arrival of the Hutu and the Tutsi)) have been blamed for making matters worse, but who can tell how the story would’ve ended without their involvement?

Wyclef Jean – Million Voices:

Around 800 000 people were killed – mostly Tutsis but also moderate Hutus. We are still today trying to punish those guilty, and to figure out what really happened. Did the government really have full control of the Hutu militia (thereamong the interahamwe)? Who is really to blame? Can you blame a specific group or was the genocide just a wave of attacks, committed by individuals who were spurred on by earlier attacks? The UN Tribunal, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), situated in Arusha, Tanzania, has been given the difficult task of trying to “write an official version of the history” and to judge the guilty. As a law student I immediately see the conflict of interest that presents itself here. The tribunal runs a risk at being used more as a means to determining an official version of the history of the genocide and as a means to national reconciliation, rather than determining the guilt of one single individual, which should be the fundamental task for a court. Involving the element of trying the whole history might actually endanger the whole partiality of the court, since it can be hard to judge one single individual in an environment (the court) where the whole horrible history of the genocide is discussed. The two elements should simply be kept apart, but this is an issue that can be discussed for hours, so I’ll stop it right here ;)


In general, the ICTR is doing a good job. I’ve been there, working, so I was able to get a little insight in how the Tribunal worked. Sure, there are critical voices on how the prosecutor is doing his job, how easily the judges come to one conclusion in certain cases while not in others, the practical difficulties that are present at the court etc. There’s probably a lot to learn from this court as well, just as there has been from earlier similar tribunals, but at least they’re working on it. And it’s a difficult task, with witnesses and accused spread all over the world, different national praxises that make things even more difficult etc.

In addition to the ICTR, which is charged with judging the “big guys” = the main brains behind the genocide and the big perpetrators, there are numerous Gacaca courts in Rwanda, judging smaller perpetrators on a more local level. These Gacaca courts are lead by important individuals in society, not always educated in law, and are so-called “traditional courts”.

Source: http://www.martinjohnsoncommunications.com.au/pages/africa

Gacaca Court

The commemoration ceremony this year took place in Nyanza-Kicukiro, in the Kigali Ville province in Rwanda. The commemoration lasted one week, and ended yesterday. A program issued by the Rwandan National Commission for Fight against Genocide (NCFAG), said that President Kagame, among others, will light a candle in memory those who perished during the genocide. The Executive Secretary of Genocide Survivors Association (IBUKA), Bonoit Kaboyi, whose office is located at Nyanza-Kicukiro, said there was some light at the end of the tunnel, 15 years after genocide.”There is now more harmony, good co-habitation and reconciliation among Rwandans,” Kaboyi has stated. He said the fact that suspects confessed publicly and asked for forgiveness during gacaca proceedings has helped to reconcile the perpetrators and survivors, some of whom could not speak to each other previously.

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame addresses attendants at the genocide mass-grave site in Kigali, April 7, 2009, during the 15th commemoration of the Rwandan genocide. REUTERS/Hereward Holland (RWANDA ANNIVERSARY SOCIETY CONFLICT)

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame addresses attendants at the genocide mass-grave site in Kigali, April 7, 2009, during the 15th commemoration of the Rwandan genocide.

“Genocide survivors must move forward with your lives…life must go on, we must continue to build for a better future,” Kagame told a large gathering, including members of diplomatic corps, ministers and politicians. He, however, said the post-genocide history can not easily be erased as more than a million people were brutally slaughtered during the April-July genocide. “Of course, it is not an easy task to build on the ashes of more than a million people,” he stated, adding that the future of Rwandans will be shaped by the Rwandans themselves.

President Kagame also took a swipe at the cowardice of the international community when thousands of innocent people were being butchered mercilessly. “They [international community] are part of that history. They are root causes of genocide,” he stressed, underscoring that they abandoned the people they had come to protect. “They left them [people] to be murdered, aren’t they guilty?’’, he asked.

The Rwandan President, however, noted that significant progress has been achieved in the post-genocide days and urged concerted efforts from Rwandans to propel the country towards further progress. ‘I can seat confidently, relaying on what I see,” President Kagame said.

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame and first lady Jeanette Kagame lay a wreath at a mass grave in the capital Kigali, April 7, 2009, during the 15th commemoration of the Rwandan genocide. REUTERS/Hereward Holland (RWANDA ANNIVERSARY SOCIETY CONFLICT)

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame and first lady Jeanette Kagame lay a wreath at a mass grave in the capital Kigali, April 7, 2009, during the 15th commemoration of the Rwandan genocide.

The site of this year’s commemoration is also historic. During onslaught of the 1994 killings, thousands of refugees sought shelter at the United Nations Peace Keeping Force (UNAMIR) at the Technical School (ETO) near Nyanza-Kicukiro, hoping to get protection from the blue helmets, but to their dismay the peace keepers abandoned them and were subsequently killed by notorious Interehamwe militias and rampaging soldiers from the former Rwandan Armed forces (Ex-FAR). A survivor of Nyanza attack, Venuste Karasira, narrated to President Kagame how he escaped the death when Interahamwe started shooting and hurling grenades at them. He said that attackers thought he was dead when he was sleeping among dead bodies and covered by blood. “The killers thought I was dead and left the area,” he said. To read an article about this area, click here.

World eminent personalities such as the US President, Barack Obama, and the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, Tuesday paid tribute to the victims of the genocide. Obama in his message to Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame said that the tragedy in 1994 was so enormous, so daunting, that it ran the risk of becoming a statistic. “We must remember that each of the 800,000 individuals who died in 1994 had their own story, their own family, and their own dreams.” The US President, however, praised the Rwandan courageous men and women who survived the genocide and have since demonstrated remarkable strength and generosity in forgiving those who committed these heinous acts. “These individuals inspire us daily by working to restore trust and rebuild hope in Rwanda,‘’ he underscored. He added that by remembering these events deepened the world’s commitment to act when faced with genocide and to work with partners around the world to prevent future atrocities.


Main source for this article: The Hirondelle News Agency, Arusha

Green Living

7 04 2009

Lately I’ve been reading a lot about green living, and I’m getting more and more inspired to green my own ways of living. I wanted to share some of what I’ve read with all of you.



8 Easy Ways to Start Being Green – Earth911

1) Reduce – use less stuff!
2) Reuse
3) Recycle
4) Power Down – reduce your use of electricity
5) Don’t be a Drip – reduce your use of water
6) Shop Smart – look for environmental friendly, locally produced alternatives, minimal packaging etc.
7) Don’t Tire Down – tires at the proper pressures reduce gas mileage and are more durable
8) Be a Show-Off – ask for environmental friendly alternatives at your local shops


Steps towards a more sustainable life of less – ZenHabits


Article about whether we could (and/or should) start living in a more sustainable fashion – a life of less! We should buy less stuff, use less electricity (by, among other things, ditching the car and start walking/cycling places again) – and start enjoying the simple things in life – the nature, the food, the people we love… This article makes you question your own living – do you really need all that stuff you have? Do you need to use your car all the time, or are you just lazy? Do you need that big house that is not only less friendly towards the environment (considering the amount of electricity etc. needed) but also costs more to build, maintain..?


Are e-books an environmental choice?

This article is for all of you book lovers out there!

So, to sum up the article – e-books are more environmental friendly than printed books – but only if you compare them to new books.

“As usual, the greenest way to go is reuse—buying used books online won’t do your favourite author any favours, but Mother Earth will smile on you for the estimated 3 kg of carbon emissions you’ve averted by not buying a new book. (Seventy percent of those emissions are released in the course of simply producing the paper it’s printed on.)”


Green Your Home Through Low-Impact Living

Find green products, calculate your impact and learn how you can reduce your environmental impact.


Sustainable Living Guide

A big guide with links to sites about ANYTHING you might want to know about sustainable living!


Tips for Green Living – Greenpeace

My favorite! Here you can find tips on how to green your home (concrete tips, which makes it good reading), and what to avoid the next time you shop etc… Really interesting reading!




The Green Guide – For Everyday Living

Also a good site, with a lot of tips about green living, health and safety… They have buying guides for most things (refrigerators, washing machines etc.) where they compare the environmental impact of the different appliances, tell you what to think about and other useful things… Really interesting reading!

Examples of articles:

Which flatscreen TV is greener? Plasmas vs. LCDs

Plastic Containers Buying Guide


One Million Acts of Green

Canadian project to activate people and to make them more environmentally conscious.

“CBC and The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos want to mobilize Canadians to do One Million Acts of Green. In partnership with Cisco, the idea behind the campaign is that one small act can make a big difference.”


Lastly, some tips on how to green your office:

8 ways to green your office – Earth911
How to make a recycled notebook
Green office supplies and products