In the city of Cotonou, most drivers of the numerous motorbike taxis known as “Zémidjans” in the local language phon have a strange accessory to their uniforms: they wear sleeping masques (the kind one gets in planes) over their mouths.
Several problems are being talked about when it comes to the Internet. We speak about one’s addiction to it, about the isolation it provokes – all connected, but all alone – about the risks of our data being stolen or the risks of buying online with a credit card. More rarely, we speak about Internet and its environmental impact. Has it ever occurred to you that while you are browsing the World Wide Web, there is a big charge of electricity coursing across the world to bring you the pages and documents you ask for? And I’m not talking only about the power your computer is consuming at the moment – as a fun statistic, a small laptop produces around 8 grams of CO2 per hour.
Bottled Water in Hot Water
(D. Sharon Pruitt Pink Sherbet Photography)
An increasing population, growing needs and rising pollution… there is no doubt that changes need to happen in several part of our lives if we don’t want to empty the resources of our earth. Let’s look at the case of water, for example. The names “San Pellegrino” and “Aquafina” are well known to all of us; most of us have probably even bought a bottle or two without really thinking about it. But today, this is the very discussion on the table, as some politicians propose ideas that challenge our ideas of consumption and question bottled water.
Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch, thinks that World Water Forum organizers should have been ashamed that fracking, the colloquial term referring to unconventional natural gas drilling, was not at the top of the Forum’s agenda. I can understand her frustration. Over six days of panels, I could only find one dedicated to hydraulic fracturing, and it was a comparably small discussion at that—only lasting an hour with three panelists, compared to the two hour time blocks with upwards of ten panelists at the majority of other panels. The panel ,“Hydraulic Fracturing: The Case for a Global Ban,” consisted of Ms. Hauter from the United States, Borislav Sandov of the Bulgarian National Civil Committee against Shale Gas, and Corinne Lepage, former Minister of the Environment for France and current member of the European Parliament. The panelists discussed how they believe a global ban is in order while coming from countries with differing viewpoints: Bulgaria and France have both banned it, while the United States is actively drilling. Fracking is the process of extracting natural gas from deep shale formations. Used in combination with horizontal drilling, the technology has allowed access to natural gas reserves in shale formations previously considered uneconomical. The process requires millions of gallons of water and thousands of gallons of chemicals (per frack, per well).
There was one issue that arose repeatedly in many of the different sessions I attended and with many of the different professionals I interviewed. This issue is that water governance is often segmented to small working groups that may or may not communicate with all stakeholders and groups, so the big-picture is often lost. There are many examples in which this issue arose. How water is defined:
Different water laws arise because of the ways in which water is defined. In the American Clean Water Act, for example, different regulations for water pollution are imposed depending on the type of water: whether it is discharged from a point-source (like factories), from non-point sources (like run-off from farms), whether it is river water, sea water, etc. States and muncipalities also have different rules and views on water. For example, different rules arise depending on if the water is defined as surface water, rain water, ground water, aquifer water, and so on. Different rates are also charged based on the ‘type’ of water – storm-water run-off, wastewater, etc. Water governance segmentation:
According to the panelists in the “High Level Panel: Global Water Governance,” the United Nations has an agency, UN-Water, that promotes cooperation among the UN agencies responsible for global and regional water initiatives.
Written by Martha Powers and Heidi Travis
The large glass geodesic dome pictured on the left graces the entrance to the Marseille Geolide Wastewater Treatment Facility. The interior of the public area of the facility is clean and modern with little hint of what is just underground. The facility is located in downtown Marseille, commissioned in 1987 by the city at a cost of 160 million Euros to build, with a biological treatment extension added in 2008. The design of the facility is at the lowest point of the city and was built underground due to its urban location. This plant serves 17 towns and 1 million inhabitants within the Huveaune river valley.
Pr. Yonglong Lu, professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences was invited at the debate on the 4th Workshop of monday about “The Rise of the Bio-economy: Chinese and European approaches”. His remarks were quite assertive – “China is not suitable for sustainibility criteria? I don’t think so”-or- “In fact, China is the first country to publish his national agenda 21”. And I was curious to know more about his point of view, so after the session, I interviewed him.
Here’s the conundrum: so far, more resource use means higher GDP, but we are running out of global resources. Here at WRF2011, it is widely agreed that we need to cut consumption of resources, but can we tell people to limit resource use if that means they take a corresponding hit economically? In a nutshell, should we limit the use of resources?
Plenary Session 1 asked this question. The panel had views from both sides of the coin: large resource consumers (the EU) and large resource exporters (Africa, Sri Lanka).