Congestion tax in Portugal

Yesterday there was a sentence in an article about the recent statements from the Portugese governments on plans to become more sustainable that hinted that the government is not only positive towards congestion tax at least in the larger cities in Portugal but also started to talk with the mayors about it. Probably Lissabon and Porto.

Today came the reply in an article in Metro (national edition). On the front page it said that the municipalities do not want congestion tax. If you read the article the mayor in Porto basically says that congestion taxes are out of the question because their public transport system is lousy. His counterpart says that it is not a new question but cannot be discussed on its own. In short, they do not say no, but certainly not a strong support of the idea.

Quercus on the other hand says that congestion taxes are a bad idea as long there are cheaper ideas available such as making sure there are parking fees everywhere in the city or higher road tolls for people are alone in their cars. Putting parking meters all over Porto does not sound like a cheap deal, also Portugal has road tolls with a transponder, how do the propose to handle single drivers? In the US you can already buy inflatable "commuter buddies".

I think there is some kind of road toll for inner city traffic in Lissabon already, or at least part of the inner circular road (CRIL?). Should not be difficult to expand that.

In both cases the congestion tax could or rather should be used to improve the public transport system in the respective city!

Today I became a happy owner of two new books
State of the World 2007 Our Urban Future from the Worldwatch Institute and
100 000 000 Guinea Pigs Dangers in everyday foods, drugs and cosmetics by Arthur Kallet and F.J. Schlink writtein in 1932 printed in 1933.

The latter I managed to get hold thanks to amazon market place, but I do not understand why there are water tight sections between countries. I didn't find it on either .co.uk nor .de only on .com ...

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36 11 66

Some clips from Jornal de Negocios 2007-01-29:

The numbers above are the percental increase in wind, hydro and biomass power the Portuguese government aims at for 2010. Now that probably seems little especially (wind and biomass) since wind power is considered one of largest potential in Portugal. But one of the dams are planned to be on a World Heritage Site! Also, biomass energy probably could increase multiple times its current use if all rest products from agriculture, and energy crops where introduced.

Also, the government foresees plenty (50000 til 2010) of microgeneration installations! That is also part of distributed energy generation system that will be studied (and developed) by FEUP and MIT.

Even so, talk about congestion taxes for Lissabon and Porto has surfaced at government level! See the previous post.

Portugal just started to get interesting!

University of Minho has to pay a fine of 700 000€ because some century old cork oaks (sobreiros centenarios) were cut down during a recent construction on one the campi. The story is not improved by the severe budget cuts from the state (ca 10% or is 20%), now the principal is soaking up all reserves that the departments have to manage this year. If nothing drastic happens until next, such as a large increase in students, the axe will probably swing next year ...

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Lavera Basic Toothpaste

Water (Aqua)
Sorbitol - a kind of sugar. Some may have concerns about but it is because often it is needed to labelled as a laxative, but one need to eat a LOT before that happens. Considered safe as food additive.
Hydrated Silica - NAS - I think it used as an abrasive agent.
Sodium cocoyl glutamate - NAS
Disodium cocoyl glutamate - NAS
Maris sal - sea salt
Sodium Fluoride - to help maintain the integrity of the tooth enamel. But avoid to swallow epecially if you are a kind and your tap water is fluorinated.
Xanthan Gum - a natural polysaccharide used to modify the texture. Quite safe.
Arnica Montana * - may lead to irritation if applied to broken skin. So avoid if your gums are bleeding. Also, if not prepared properly is not at all good. See wikipedia.
Echinacea purpurea * - Eastern purple coneflower. Some may be really allergic to this.
Menta piperita * - Peppermint.
Titanium dioxide - Probably to make the tooth paste white. Oddly there are concerns that it is cancerogenic. TiOx is formed on titanium implants and is the cause of its success in biomedical devices, but then it is big and not a powder.
Commiphora Myrrha - Myrrh - not yet approved as food additive.
Flavor (aroma) ** - Could as usual be anything.
Limonene ** - In the EU classified as irritating to the skin, skin sensitiser and dangerous to the environment.

* - ingredient for certified organic agriculture
** - natural essential oils

0.14% Fluorine - 1400ppm.

Strange that a company that sells products under the flag of organic culture that they include something that has been classified as dangerous to the environment!!! Also, this product is part of their "sensitiv" product line ...

I have sent an email to Lavera over a week ago but still no reply.

Well, sadly, the hunt for a good tooth paste continues!

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Natyr Aloe Vera deodorant

This time my attention goes to a deodorant marketed by the Italian fair trade distributor CTM Altro mercato: Natyr Aloe Vera deodorant with peach and camomile.

Aloe barbadensis * - extract from Aloe Vera.
Aluminium cholorohydrate - the antiperspirant
Glycerin - moisturiser - probably safe.
Cetearyl isononate - moisturiser - probably safe but NAS.
Ceteareth-20 - moisturiser - probably safe - not safe on damaged skin, penetration enhancer and potential harmful impurities or decay products.
Cetearyl-20 - moisturiser - probably safe.
Cetearyl alcohol - moisturiser - probably safe but NAS.
Glyceryl stearate - moisturiser - probably safe but NAS
Cetearyl palmitate - ???
Cetereath-12 - No idea - but see C20 above.
PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil - probably safe up to a certain limit.
Prunus persica * - Peach.
Anthemis nobilis * - Camomile - allergen.
Benzoic acid - considerad safe as a food additive in which it is used as preservative. Allergen.
Dehydroacetic acid - considerad safe as food additive but there also are concerns about its environmental impact.
Perfume - As always that can be anything including nasty stuff like synthetic musks.

NAS - Not assessed for safety.

* From Fair Trade certified producer.

Overall it seems of low to moderate concern but contain two allergens: camomile and benzoic acid. Gladly for me I am not allergic to any of those. But the idea that it contains skin penetrations enhancers C20 (probably also C12) is kind of unsettling especially for people that unwittingly have allergies.

It would have been so much nicer if all ingredients were good, withouth any concerns even after high quality assessment, but some of the many of the cetearyl chemicals have not been assessed for safety! But that is a very common concern for household chemicals!!!

I have sent an email to CTM asking them to improve their product(s).
Notably the page on CTM with deodorant does not mention any of the non-fair trade ingredients!!!

This time I limited the check to EWGs Skin Deep.

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Flygande Jakob

Flying Jacob, Tiago voando ou Jacó voando
6 persons

Put the oven on 225 C.

1 kg grilled chicken filets (skinned)
150 g bacon
3 bananas
5 dl whipping cream
5 table spoons of Heinz chili sauce
1 1/2 peanuts
Basil and oregano.

Shred the chicken.
Cut the bacon in small pieces and fry crispy.
Put in an oven proof pan.
Sprinkle with spices, don't go shy on the spices!
Slice the bananas and put over the meat.
Whip the cream and mix in the chili sauce,
and pour over the bananas.
Sprinkle over the pea nuts.
Put in the oven for 15 minutes.

Serve with rice, salad and beer.


The peanuts usually are salted so need to add more salt.
This is quite heavy stuff!

Everything but Heinz chili sauce can be found as organic produce!
Heinz can be replaced with ketchup and chilli, both which can be found as organic produce!
It is easier to buy ready grilled chicken, but not so likely to be from organic agriculture.
Instead buy an organic one, cut in small pieces and fry in the bacon fat.
Some try to make a low fat version by removing the chicken skin, but then there is whipped cream and bacon, and peanuts in there, plenty of fat!!!

Any Swede would take this as a flashback to the early 1980’s.

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Expresso and CO2 offsets

The Portuguese daily newspaper has set our impact on the environment as a theme for February 2007. Every saturday issue will include articles and interviews regarding global warming etc. Those 4 issues will also be carbon offset in collaboration with Carbono Zero. A project that lets you calculate your environmental impact in terms on home you heat your house, home garbage you produce and how and how much you travel to work. Then they calculate your CO2 emissions. Then give you the opportunity to buy carbon offets for purchasing trees in some (although unprotected) areas in Portugal.

Hopefully this will raise the awareness of the stakes at hand but buying offsets might be best way to deal with your own impact, although Portugal certainly has lost plenty of trees the last couple of years in the annual summer forest fires.

This also makes me wonder if Expresso have any idea where and how the trees than end in their newspaper are grown, and how the paper mass is produced?! As far as I know less than 5% of the forests in Portugal are certified. Also, I guess that most paper still are bleached with chlorine (sodium hypochlorite or chlorine gas). And certainly no recycle paper...

The Portuguese prime minister Socrates recently said that climate change is a global challenge and has thus proposed a package of measure to make sure that Portugal will be able to conform wth the Kyoto Protocol. Expresso 2007-01-27 mentions some examples of this package: 45% electricity from renewable sources in Portugal by 2010, 10% of public transport should use biofuels (no deadline mentioned) and to implement a system for taking environmental concerns in public procurements (again no deadline).

Also, the state energy company EDP (energias de portugal) has in a recent strategic meeting said that their investments until 2010 will be at least 50% on renewable energy sources.

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Freesheet project

Do you have any pics of freesheet (ie the one you do not pay for) newspapers littering streets, parks, lakes you name it? Post them on Project Freesheet.

'Paper comprises a third of the waste sent to municipal landfills, where along with other impacts, it breaks down and produces methane, a greenhouse gas with 21 times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide' - the Alliance for Environmental Innovation

Help them to obtain 1.5 million of your freesheet newspaper images to highlight the effect of freesheets on our streets and our environment.

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Tell Denmark not to support Japanese whaling

I just signed up for the defending the whales campaign by an sending email to the Danish foreign minister Per Stig Møller asking him and Denmark not to support Japanese whaling by not be present at the Japanese pro-whaling early February. The idea is that their presence would be taken as a sign that Denmark is pro-whaling. And not being would be a sign to the contrary.

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GM-crops are economic failures

I have just read the executive summary of the report Who benefits from gm crops? an analysis of the global performance of gm crops (1996-2006) released by the Friends of the Earth in January 2007.

Here is my summary and the main conclusions of the report:

The main market for GM crops is US in which maize, cotton, canola and soybean have been given traits to render them herbicide resistent (mainly Glyphosate), insect resistent (mainly Bt), both herbicide and insect resistent. This has lead to an increase in herbicide resistent weeds leading to farmers spraying more and more. Also the yields are lower than conventional non-gm crops. The farms have increased because it is so expensive to use both pesticides and GM-crops, but even then net income has decreased. Also, non-GM farmers complain over increasing difficulty in finding non-gm seeds.

GM-soy beans have increased in South America mainly for exportation of cattle feed. This has lead to increase in pesticides. Again lower yields due to increase in pest resistance and also GM soy is less tolerant to droughts.

Bt-cotton in China shows lower net income than non-gm cotton in China, India, Indonesia, Australia, South Africa, western Africa and Latin America. All over the same result. Lower yields and increase drought intolerance and increase in secondary pests.

In 2006 in India 7 regions jointly filed law suits towards Monsanto for excessive royalty fees. In December 2006 the case was still at India's Supreme Court.

In Indonesia Monsanto paid bribes to government official to get their Bt-cotton on the market. The Bt-cotton was later withdrawn from Indonesia because complaints over the inefficiency of the Bt-cotton and the excessive price of the Bt-cotton seeds.

In West Africa, and all over the world, poor farmers cannot sell to the US cotton market because they cannot compete with the heavily subsidised American cotton. At the same time US wants to force every one to use GM cotton seeds that are much more expensive than normal cotton.

All over the world Monsanto actively works against saving seeds to be used for future farming that has been practise in all countries for centuries.

Experiences after more than a decade of commercial planting of GM crops lead FOEI to draw the following conclusions:

The GM crops commercialized on a large scale in a few countries in the world since 1996 have not addressed the main agricultural problems and challenges facing farmers in most countries of the world, and have not proven to be superior to conventional crops.

GM crops have been released quickly and widely without an adequate evaluation and understanding of their performance or of their health, environmental and socio-economic impacts.

Small-scale farmers and consumers have not benefited from the introduction of GM crops.

GM crops commercialized today have on the whole increased rather than decreased pesticide use, and do not yield more than conventional varieties. The environment has not benefited, and GM crops will become increasingly unsustainable over the medium to long term.

To date, GM crops have done nothing to alleviate hunger or poverty. The great majority of GM crops cultivated today are used as high-priced animal feed to supply rich nations with meat. More than four out of every five hectares of GM crops are engineered to withstand the application of proprietary herbicides sold by the same company that markets the GM seed, and have little if any relevance to farmers in developing countries who often cannot afford to buy these chemicals.

Monsanto has been the main beneficiary of the commercialization of GM crops in the United States.

Large-scale farmers in the US and Argentina have benefited from a ‘convenience effect’, particularly in soybean production. However, it is questionable whether this ‘convenience effect’ means greater net economic returns compared to those derived from conventional soybean production.

There are a lack of comprehensive studies on the performance of GM crops in every country that has commercialized them, and this consequently calls into question their claimed benefits.

See also entries on Bt-cotton and GMO.

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Global Respekt

I just read the book "Global Respekt" in Swedish. Is also translated in English, "Global Respect". The full title is "Global Respect: A basic course in globalisationa nd human rights". It is the printed version of the website palmecenter.org. The content is also available as an online study circle.

For those of you that haven't read No Logo this a more accessible way to get the same material which also contains lots of links to human rights and workers rights organisation world wide.

The book is divided into 10 lectures:
  • Poor and rich - part I
  • Poor and rich - part II
  • Poverty and world trade
  • In a global world
  • Power and democracy - part I
  • Power and democracy -part II
  • Workers movement as a force force for increased democracy
  • Human rights - part I
  • Human rights - part II
  • Union work in a global world
Each lesson contains sections of questions to be used in study circle.
Each lesson ends with a short test of the main issues, answer at the end of the book.

The book ends with a small dictionary and lots of tips literature and references.

In short, a good read and starting point for anyone interested in human rights, workers right and democracy in a global world.

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The orangic alternative ...

... is the title of an article in FT 2007-01-06 about bamboo.

It is light weight and strong.
Lots cheaper than building with concrete etc.
Have you also seen the scaffolds that constructions workers in China scurry on?
They are made with bamboo!

It yields 25 times more per area than normal timber (I guess he means trees).
It is ready to harvest within 5 years, pines take 50-80 years ...

As the author notes the biggest draw back in the west is the long haul from China.

I have even seen clothes mad out of bamboo.
Something to think about?

Is it really an organic alternative.
That entirely depends on how they are grown.
But since it is very sturdy grass it does not need a lot of attention.
No need for ploughing either since it will shoot out again
once it has been cut down.

We will see if bamboo houses will catch on in Europe.

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Is this the Soul of Hugo Boss?

I got the EdT Soul by Hugo Boss as xmas gift.
Here is what I have found out sofar:

Denatured alcohol – Alcohol with reagent the makes you puke. Solvent.
ater – Solvent.
erfume / fragrance – Could be anything. Since HB self say that the Soul has a scent of musc my guess is that it contains synthetic muscs. Usually a red flag!
EG-6 Caprylic / Capric glycerides – coconut fatty acid reacted with PEG (poly-ethyleneglykol that is quite safe) to make a smoothing emulsifier. Probably is quite harmless on skin.PEG-40 hydrogenated Castor oil – PEG reacted with vegetable oil from the castor bean. (Note: castor beans contain ricin that is toxic)
Benzophenone 2 – Is used to protect fragrances from be broken down by UV light. Has a rose or germanium odor. Not sure whether it is safe or not. FDA has approved as a food additives whilst MSDS (of pure) substance says it is strongly irritating on skin, eyes and if swallowed or inhaled.
lantoin – is an extract from the comfrey plant (also found in mammal except higher apes) that is anti-irritating, soothing and can promote healing of irritated skin.
ctic acid – used to adjust pH and as a preservative. Quite natural, in this case most likely made by fermentation of starch. But is a photosensitiser with risk of enhancing sun burns and increasing chance of skin cancer, skin sensitiser that can lead to blistering and itching and is penetration enhancer such that it alters the state of skin so that other chemicals can penetrate more easily into the blood stream. Note sure what it supposed to do in this product.
Sodium hydroxide
– a base - used to adjust pH (makes solutions more alkaline). Will dissolve your skin if too concentrate, but here probably only used in minute amounts.
monene – a natural terpene that gives the smell of citrus fruits (takes the name after lemon).
– a terpene alcohol that gives a spicy flower smell (can be found in e.g. Coriander)

Hydroxyisohexyl 3-cyclohexane carboxaldehyde
– gives sweet light floral scent. IT is the opinion of the
SCCP that current epidemiological data demonstrates that contact allergy to Hydroxyisohexyl 3-cyclohexene carboxaldehyde is a problem in Europe.
innamal – probably gives hyacinth smell. But irritates and blisters skin, can have neurotoxic effect and yield immuno response (immunotoxin).
umarin – Gives the sweet scent of newly mown hay. But is a gastrointestinal or liver toxicant , cardiovascular or blood toxicant, possible cancerogenic, and can have negative effect on reproduction and development.
vernia furfuracea – a lichen probably gives a woody scent.
itral – gives citrus scent. Skin irritant.
itronellol – gives rose and geranium smell. Probably safe.
ugenol – Gives a spicy clove like smell. Neurotoxin, skin irritant, possible cancerogenic, immuse system toxin.
lpha-isomethyl ionone – Wood and tobacco fragrance. Skin sensitiser and suspected CNS disruptor.
I 60730 / Ext Violet 2 – colour – not sure why they have it because it is so little that the Edt looks like water. Can easily be omitted!

Do not inhale since
vegetable oil mists are classified as "nuisance particulates" by OSHA and the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists. Basically avoid inhaling or swallowing any perfumes.

Of course the negative effects of any chemical depends on its concentration and time of exposure. But then if many noxious agents work together your are likely to have synergistic effects (1+1=5).

According to the final report of the Greenpeace "Chemical Home" the company Hugo Bass has long been a bad apple without any sign of improvement. Also on the Skin deep most Hugo Boss products are associated with a large number of health concerns if used over extendd periods of time.

In short, the Soul of Hugo Boos goes to the toxic waste disposal.

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1% on payments and Tobin tax

One Portuguese organisation for restaurants (ARESP) recently made some hubub about the fee that is taken on electronic payments, ie with your credit card. There is only two companies in Portugal that do that. ARESP claim that the payments (over 1% of each payment) is eating up too much of the profit margin of meny of its member companies. They wrote to one minister and has also been in contact with Spanish banks that only charge 0.5%. Found on the national edition of Metro Portugal 2007-01-16.

Which reminds of the Tobin tax. Although in the case above the money goes straight into the bankers pockets.

Which makes we wonder why so many that are against the Tobin tax tries to do that in practical terms. Just subtract 0.1 or 0.01% of the transferred money (only for trade in currencies) should be very easy to do, at least in practise. At least all money transfer of USD has to go via US banks, so there is control already because of US anti-terrorism tactics.

Instead of just make the world trade instable by quick and erratic currency trade some money could be funneled into something more useful like microfinancing. Best way out of poverty is trade, trade for the poor, by the poor.



Nivea Balance deodorant

On the label:

Nivea Balance deodorant
Estimula os seus sentidos – Stimulate your senses
Cuida suavemente – Care smoothly
Protecção eficaz – Efficient protection
Pele suave como seda – Skin smooth as silk
Sem corantes nem conservantes - Without colouring agents nor preservatives

The ingredients:
Cyclomethicone is a type of silicone oil with full name decamethylcyclo-pentasiloxane, CAS 541-02-06. Free silicone oil can cause allergy and some immune responses inside the body.

Aluminium chlorohydrate is the active reagent. Or rather the aluminium ions are because they enter into the cells that produce the sweat so that they swell and temporarily stop exctreting the sweat.

Isohexadecane (CAS 4390-04-9) is a non-polar volatile solvent. It is soluble in silicone oils and evaporates when applied to skin. Most likely fossil fuel based. It has been connected to allergic contact dermatitis. It is an organic solvent and such it is probably good to avoid.

Quaternium 90 Bentonite is used to modify viscosity. It is thixotropic i.e. becomes more fluid when stirred (or applied with a deo-roll). Bentonite is a (negatively charged) type of clay of volcanic origin. Q90 is positively charged polymer, some manufacturers claim it has vegetable origin. Some claim Q90 to be mildly irritating and toxic. The much shorter Q-15 can cause contact dermatitis because it released formaldehyde. Not sure if there is connection between Q90 and Q15.

C12-15 Alkyl bensoate is used to suspend and/or dissolve aluminium salts (e.g. Aluminium chlorohydrate) and to extend the life time of perfumes. As far as I can tell it is neither sensitising or toxic.

Perfume – Can be anything. So it is impossible to tell if it is a good or bad perfume. Synthetic musks for example are not good.

Polyisobutene is a synthetic rubber used to make air tight layers, cling films and inner tubes for bike tires (since it it impermeable to gas). Not sure what it does in a deodorant.

Aqua – well water is water. Solvent.

Propylene carbonate is an irritant if pure. Used as polar additive to the Q90-bentonite. Not sure what it actually does. Up to 10% solutions seem to be non-irritant on skin.

Persea Gratissima is avocado.

In short it contains some ingredients that are potentially harmful to humans (cyclomethicone, isohexadecane and quaternium 90 bentonite) and at least one unnecessary ingredient (polyisobutene).

My suggestion is to avoid it.

Wonder if there is a place in town where I can deposit toxic waste?

If you want to figure what the ingredients in your household chemicals (such as deodorants and skin lotions etc) actually are and what function they have I can recommend:

Household products on NIH
EWG Skin Deep
Golden Butterfly

I went to nivea.com and selected Portugal.
I did not find it there. Maybe they withdrew it from the market?
Product number 82857 Lot number 34725610

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Urge Merkel to support a more fair trade

I just took part in this Oxfam campaign to urge Angela Merkel to support a more fair version of the trade deal that is currently under negotiation between EU and the ACP countries.

Here is my slightly letter slightly changed from the original:

In 2007 you have enormous influence on the world stage as holder of the European Union (EU) Presidency and as host of the G8. You have said that you will focus on genuine partnership between poor countries and the EU.

Not even EU has free trade. The current EU import taxes that increase with increasing added-value and export subsidies for agricultural products via the CAP both have strong detrimental effects on the trade from and within the ACP countries. These should be abolished before demanding that ACP countries take away import taxes.

During your EU Presidency, you have a historic opportunity to use your influence to make sure that EU trade policy promotes poverty reduction and sustainable development in some of the world’s poorest countries.

Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) are being negotiated between the European Union and 75 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. These countries have repeatedly voiced their concerns about the likely negative impact of the proposed deals on their economies.

The current proposals could trap millions of people in poverty, cripple developing countries' fledging industries and oblige governments to surrender control of their economies and natural resources. Rather than pushing ACP countries to accept free trade agreements before they are ready, the EU must work with these countries to offer fair alternatives that reduce poverty and promote development.

Germany has many opportunities to help eradicate international poverty in 2007. We ask that you use your EU Presidency to influence EU Member States and the European Commission to:

- Listen and act upon the concerns and
proposals of African, Caribbean and
Pacific (ACP) governments and civil

- Make sure that ACP countries are not
pressured to negotiate on issues they
have already rejected at the World
Trade Organisation (WTO) or do not
want to negotiate within EPAs;

- Make sure any new trade deals do not
force poor countries to open their
markets to unfair competition;

- Actively foster alternatives to these
trade deals so that poor countries
have a pro-development choice and
the space to have the best trade
policies for their people and


Financial Times makes a The Economist

John Kay of the Financial Times recently in his editoral Why the green lobby must be treated as a religion says that in global warming the enviromentalists got their Apocalypse myth they sorely wanted.

But as Andrew Simms in his letter to the editor It is high time that we considered mainstream economics - not environmentalism - as a religion notes that many environmentalist are trained scientists. Indeed, the IPCC is entirely composed of scientists. Maybe John Kay thinks that IPCC is a conspiracy?

John Kay continues "business linked to faiths and ideologies is a sinister and unaccountable power." I couldn't agree more. The odd notion by many economist that constant growth is the only way to solve any economical problem fails just as Andrew Simms notes that "orthodox economics, on the other hand, with its presumption of an infinite natural resource base to fuel endless gross domestic product growth, its belief in man as a perfectly informed rational agent and of markets bustling with the efficiency of limitless small companies facing no barriers to entry in any sector - this is a belief system that really does require a leap of faith."

One more thing regarding John Kay's statement on ideologies making sinister business I agree in regards to neoliberals without any moral scruples. Just see what happen in all the so called free trade zones around the world. Human Rights what is that - bah - lets ignore that - it is too expensive and cumbersome to let the workers have a say about and influence in their work and work place.

John Kay continues "Most environmental initiatives that have been implemented - phasing out fluorocarbons, renewable energy and emissions trading - have significant commercial lobbies behind them." I think he forgot the environmentalists. The phasing out of CFCs for one we can thank among other Greenpeace for showing that alternatives are possible. Renewable energy has always been around. Nowadays notably there are even market analysts claiming that renewable energy is the next hype. Hopefully it is hype that will last forever.

John Kay continues: "Windmills on roofs and cycling to work are insignificant in practical consequence, but that is to miss their point." That certainly goes near the infamous Economist article stating that personal (consumer) choice has no impact. So we should all give up and give to the powers of the so called market. But hey who is the market? It is us consumers!

One person making one small choice may not have a huge effect but if everyone in e.g. London would bike or walk to work that would have a huge effect. Do you see what I am getting at?

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Solar panel factory near Aveiro

It might seem from my recent posts on IKEA and Pescanova that the Portuguese government use the classification "Project of National Importance" (PIN) as a way to circumvent any environmental concern. Although in JdN 2007-01-05 there is an article about a solar panel factory that has attained PIN status. Although there seem to be a hickup since a new conference centre (Exponor) also has PIN status for an overlapping area. The article is a bit confusing. They talk about Matosinhos and Aveiro. But I think the factory is supposed to be in Aveiro. There already is an Exponor in Leca da Palmeira (which is close to Matosinhos).

The spin of the article is that the solar panel factory threatens the conference centre (sic!). I guess Portugal has its fair share of conference centres already. A solar panel factory, which is described as high tech, is certainly much more needed in Portugal. Not only for the high tech but for the positive environmental impact of using solar energy.

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Pescanova prefer the lenient Portuguese

If you live in Portugal you probably already have read the news about the Spanish company Pescanova building a fish aquaculture site in Mira in Algarve. Most of the fish is intended for exportation. The same factory was turned down in Galizia in Spain because it was intended to tbe built in a Natura 2000 site. The Portuguese has already given its support (both political and financial). Only problem is that the current site (Mira) in Portugal also is in a Natura 2000 site!!!

More about this on

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Even GM has seen the light

Even GM is putting some real effort behind electric cars.

The idea is to have a battery with enough capacity to enable daily commutes to work and the usual shopping rounds. They calculate ca 100km round trip daily. This of course puts a lot demand on the electric grid, or rather the conversion of renewables into electricity. If it were fossil fuels or nuclear power to power up the cars there is not that much of environmental gain.

Lets see if they can make it working for normal personal cars with a reasonable price tag. The current battery cars with any kind of reasonable prestanda (small sports cars) cost ca 500000€ which is a bit hefty to say the least.

Anyway, it doesn't solve the problem with congestion although with all cars like this maybe one can breath properly...

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IKEA is one of the worst in Portugal in 2006

The Portuguese environment NGO Quercus has assigned IKEA as a worst case on their annual list of best and worst events in 2006. The list (In Portuguese). Or rather construction of a Swedwood factor in a environmentally protected area. Declassified by state or local government without much analysis, or so it seems.

The snippet which includes IKEA:
"Avanço de obras públicas e privadas em áreas classificadas
Ao longo de 2006 inúmeros foram os projectos públicos e privados viabilizados em áreas classificadas. Fazendo uso de instrumentos como as declarações de imprescindível utilidade pública e as classificações como projectos PIN (Potencial Interesse Nacional), o governo revelou ter como orientação base a viabilização de qualquer investimento mesmo que localizado em zona classificada como Reserva Ecológica Nacional (REN), Reserva Agrícola Nacional (RAN), povoamento de sobreiros e azinheiras ou Rede Natura 2000, sem olhar à existência de alternativas de localização.

Este tem sido o caso do IC9 (sublanço Carregueiros/Tomar), da fábrica do IKEA em Paços de Ferreira, das plataformas logísticas e da barragem do Sabor."

In short:
The Portuguese government has been very eager to classify many projects as being of national importance thus aiming to override several area protections such as "national ecological reserves", "national agricultural reserve" and Natura 2000 without even looking at alternatives (such as building on other sites). Natura 2000 is a very strict EU classification that usually has strong impact on making nearby large installations and has to be considered when making an Environmental Impact Assessment.

One of these instances is the construction of a Swedwood factory in Paços de Ferreira between Braga and Porto. Swedwood is a subsidy of IKEA.

IKEA is starting to build an image as being environmentally benign, but by this decision one can always wonder how serious about this they really are...

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Ecological, biological or organic production

There seems to be a very large discrepancy in the terminology of ecological production within the EU. Look at this list of specified terms for some of the EU-15 taken from EG/331/2000:

ES: Agricultura Ecológica
DA: Økologisk Jordbrug
DE: Biologisherlandwirtschaft or Ökologischerlandbau
EN: Organic Farming
FR: Agriculture Biologique
IT: Agricoltura Biologica
NL: Biologische Landbouw
PT: Agricultura Biológica
FI: Luonnonmukainen Maataloustoutanto
SV: Ekologiskt Jordbruk

Organic is a bit non-desript, is it not?
Note: synthethic pesticides are made with organic chemistry synthesis.

Of course anything from a farm that growths can do it because of biological processes.

The aim of this is to convey the usefulness of a production that takes into account ecological services and optimises impact the farm has on other ecological processes.

I guess you do not even have to guess which phrase I prefer...

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