Greenpeace Brazil Report underlines the risky business of construct dams such fragile rainforests
São Paulo/Munich, 13 April 2016 – Activists from Greenpeace Germany gathered at the global headquarters of technology giant Siemens AG in Munich, Germany today to shine a spotlight on the company’s potential involvement in a new hydropower dam in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest. Siemens, along with dam part providers Voith, General Electric (GE) and Andritz may be lining up to participate in the construction of a massive 7.6 km wide hydropower dam on the Tapajós River, according to a Greenpeace Brazil report, published today. The dam would not only flood huge parts of the rainforest, but also threaten the cultural survival of the 12,000 Indigenous Munduruku People who have lived along the Tapajos River for centuries.
“Siemens is just one step away from getting involved in the destruction of the heart of the Amazon Rainforest,” said An Lambrechts, Greenpeace International Amazon Project Coordinator. “If Siemens participates in the construction of the Tapajós hydropower dam, the company can expect to be tied to a project with human rights violations, corruption scandals, animal and plant species extinction and the destruction of the culture of the Munduruku Indigenous People. Siemens and the others companies named should instead of focus its efforts on developing genuinely sustainable energy sources”, continued Lambrechts.
Siemens presents itself as a green powerhouse, but energy production that leads to human rights violations, biodiversity extinction and even negative climate impacts can’t be considered green. So far, Siemens, Andritz, GE and Voith have failed to commit to steer clear of the upcoming hydropower dam construction. Others companies, such as the Italian electricity utility company Enel, have already communicated that they will not be involved.
The new Greenpeace Brazil report “Damning the Amazon” details the risky business of hydropower in the Amazon rainforest and how Siemens and other international companies face serious financial and reputational risks with their involvement in these projects. Enthusiasts of Amazon development try to justify the environmental, social and human rights impacts of hydropower dams in the Amazon with promises of addressing climate change, in reality the construction of these dams causes a considerable amount of greenhouse gas emissions,
carbon dioxide and the much more potent methane, as a result of the decay of flooded vegetation and soil.
Also, as a result of climate change, rivers in the region are predicted to undergo dramatic reductions in flow, making new dams unlikely to attain the expected energy output. For the Tapajós River, a governmental study predicted a fall in water flow of up to 30 percent in the vicinity of the projected dam site. The report shows the best alternative is a combination of wind, solar and biomass generation – feasible only if the government were to allow a 50 percent increase in number of contracts auctioned each year for renewable energy sources.
“It is time the Brazilian government admitted that clean hydropower in the Amazon is a myth that sows misery and destruction while failing to provide energy security. Companies should distance themselves from these projects and that corporations acknowledge that the economics of large dams in remote tropical rainforests do not stack up,” says Lambrechts.
The recent Belo Monte hydropower complex on the Brazilian Xingu River, also in the Amazon Rainforest, has already proven how dams can trample on Indigenous Peoples’ homes and lead to the destruction of fragile ecosystems. The Belo Monte hydropower project has become part of the largest corruption investigation in Brazilian history with companies paying millions in bribes for stakes in its construction.
Build, Buy, Or Retrofit? 3 Green Housing Considerations
Green housing is in high demand, but it’s not yet widely available, posing a serious problem: if you want to live an eco-friendly lifestyle, do you invest in building something new and optimize it for sustainability, or do you retrofit a preexisting building?
The big problem when it comes to choosing between these two options is that building a new home creates more waste than retrofitting specific features of an existing home, but it may be more efficient in the long-run. For those concerned with waste and their environmental footprint, the short term and long term impacts of housing are in close competition with each other.
New Construction Options
One reason that new construction is so desired among green living enthusiasts is that it can be built to reflect our highest priorities. Worried about the environmental costs of heating your home? New construction can be built using passive solar design, a strategy that uses natural light and shade to heat or cool the home. Builders can add optimal insulation, build with all sustainable materials, and build exactly to the scale you need.
In fact, scale is a serious concern for new home buyers and builders alike. Individuals interested in green housing will actively avoid building more home than they need – scaling to the square foot matter because that’s more space you need to heat or cool – and this is harder to do when buying. You’re stuck with someone else’s design. In this vein, Missouri S&T’s Nest Home design, which uses recycled shipping containers, combines the tiny home trend with reuse and sustainability.
The Simple Retrofit
From an environmental perspective, there’s an obvious problem with building a new home: it’s an activity of mass consumption. There are already 120 million single-family homes and duplexes in the United States; do we really need more?
Extensive development alone is a good enough reason to intelligently retrofit an existing home rather than building new green structures, but the key is to do so with as little waste as possible. One option for retrofitting older homes is to install new smart home technology that can automate home regulation to reduce energy use.
Real estate agent Roxanne DeBerry sees clients struggle with issues of efficiency on a regular basis. That’s why she recommends tools like the Nest Thermostat, which develops a responsive heating and cooling schedule for the home and can be remotely adjusted via smartphone. Other smart tools for home efficiency include choosing Energy Star appliances and installing water-saving faucets and low-pressure toilets. These small changes add up.
Ultimately, the most effective approach to green housing is likely to be aggressive retrofitting of everything from period homes to more recent construction. This will reduce material use where possible and prevent further aggressive land use. And finally, designers, activists, and engineers are coming together to develop such structures.
In the UK, for example, designers are interested in finding ways to adapt period houses for greater sustainability without compromising their aesthetics. Many have added solar panels, increased their insulation levels, and recently they even developed imitation sash triple glazed windows. As some have pointed out, the high cost of heating these homes without such changes will push these homes out of relevance without these changes. This is a way of saving existing structures.
Harvard is also working on retrofitting homes for sustainability. Their HouseZero project is designed for near-zero energy use and zero carbon emissions using geothermal heating and temperature radiant surfaces. The buildings bridge the gap between starting over and putting up with unmanageable heating and cooling bills.
It will take a long time to transition the majority of individuals to energy efficient, green housing but we’re headed in the right direction. What will your next home be like? As long as the answer is sustainable, you’re part of the solution to our chronic overuse – of land, energy, water, and more.
How the Auto Industry is Lowering Emissions
Currently, the automotive industry is undergoing an enormous change in a bid to lower carbon emissions. This has been pushed by the Government and their clean air plans, where they have outlined a plan to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.
Public Health Crisis
It is said that the levels of air pollution lead to 40,000 early deaths in the UK, with London being somewhere that is particularly bad. This has led to the new T-Charge, where heavy polluting cars will pay a new charge on top of the existing congestion charge. Other cities have taken action too, with Oxford recently announcing that they will be banning petrol and diesel cars from the city centre by 2020.
It is clear that the Government is taking action, but what about the auto industry? With the sale of petrol and diesel plummeting and a sharp rise in alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is clear that the industry is taking note and switching focus to green cars. There are now all kinds of fantastic eco-friendly cars available and a type to suit every motorist whether it is a small city car or an SUV.
Of course, it is the cars that are currently on the road that are causing the problem. The used car market is enormous and filled with polluting automobiles, but there are steps that you can take to avoid dangerous automobiles. It is now more important than ever to get vehicle checks carried out through HPI, as these can reveal important information about the automobile’s past and they find that 1 in 3 cars has a hidden secret of some kind. Additionally, they can now perform recall checks to see if the manufacturer has recalled that particular automobile. This allows people to shop confidently and find vehicles that are not doing as much damage to the environment as others.
With the rise in sales of alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is now becoming increasingly more common to see them on UK roads. Public perception has changed drastically in the last few years and this is because of the air pollution crisis, as well as the fact that there are now so many different reasons to switch to electric cars, such as Government grants and no road tax. A similar change in public opinion has happened in the United States, with electric car sales up by 47% in 2017.
The US is leading the way for lowering emissions as they have declined by 758 million metric tons since 2005, which is the largest amount by far with the UK in second with a decline of 170 million metric tons. Whilst it is clear that these two nations are doing a good job, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in order to improve the air quality and stop so many premature deaths as a result of pollution.
With the Government’s plans, incentives to make the change and a change in public perception, it seems that the electric car revolution is fully underway.