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Environment and Spirituality
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Joined: 27 Mar 2003
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PostPosted: Mon May 10, 2021 4:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Karim,

Plastic is cheap, useful, and versatile.

It’s also a health and environmental disaster.

When you store food or beverages in plastic, some of it can wind up in your body.

But did you know that it’s possible to reduce or even eliminate your food-based plastic exposure?

Find out how here.

Yours for safe alternatives in an often-toxic world,

Ocean Robbins
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 22, 2021 4:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Listening to the Trees

What the forest can teach us about ourselves

Suzanne Simard, an ecologist at the University of British Columbia’s Department of Forests and Conservation Sciences, has dedicated her life to mapping the relationships between trees: how they send nutrients to one another, remember the past, warn their neighbors of disease or drought, and support their offspring. Her new memoir, Finding the Mother Tree, tells how her work has unfolded from her first discoveries of mycorrhizal fungi in the “wood wide web” to the inheritance left behind by dying trees and the life-giving force of the largest elders. Simard used isotopes and mass spectrometers to quantify the Indigenous knowledge that inspired her to study the interconnectedness of forest communities—and our human ones. She joins us on the podcast to discuss what we might all learn from trees.

Listen to the podcast at:
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 11, 2021 11:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What Western Society Can Learn From Indigenous Communities

Nearly two decades ago, when the New Zealand highway authority was planning the Waikato Expressway, people from the Māori tribe Ngāti Naho objected. The highway would encroach on an area that, in Māori tradition, was governed by a water-dwelling creature, a taniwha.

The authorities took those concerns into account and rerouted the road to circumvent the area in question. As a result, a year later, when the area was hit by a major flood, the road was unharmed.

“I’m still waiting for the headline, ‘Mythical Creature Saves the Taxpayer Millions,’” said Dan Hikuroa, a senior lecturer in Māori studies at the University of Auckland and member of the Ngāti Maniapoto tribe. He has often wondered if, once the flood hit, the technical team later said, “Why didn’t you just say it’s a flood risk area?”

Like many Indigenous peoples around the world, the Māori have developed their understanding of their environment through close observation of the landscape and its behaviors over the course of many generations. Now the New Zealand Environmental Protection Agency regularly looks for ways to integrate traditional Māori knowledge, or mātauranga, into its decision-making. Mr. Hikuroa has been appointed the culture commissioner for UNESCO New Zealand, a role he said is centered on integrating Māori knowledge into UNESCO’s work.

Western-trained researchers and governments are increasingly recognizing the wealth of knowledge that Indigenous communities have amassed to coexist with and protect their environments over hundreds or even thousands of years. Peer-reviewed scientific journals have published studies demonstrating that around the world, Indigenous-managed lands have far more biodiversity intact than other lands, even those set aside for conservation.

Embracing Indigenous knowledge, as New Zealand is trying to do, can improve how federal governments manage ecosystems and natural resources. It can also deepen Western scientists’ understanding of their own research, potentially, by providing alternative perspectives and approaches to understanding their field of work. This is ever more urgent, particularly as the climate crisis unfolds. “It is Indigenous resilience and worldview that every government, country and community can learn from, so that we manage our lands, waters and resources not just across budget years, but across generations,” U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, a citizen of the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico and America’s first Native American cabinet secretary, said in remarks to the United Nations.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 20, 2021 2:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A global challenge for climate action

The cost of climate change is often measured in terms of property damage and lost crops, but this doesn’t provide a complete picture of the impact it causes. A crucial consequence of climate change is the cost to human health – the damage to and loss of human lives from a wide range of environmental risks.

With a motive to highlight the immediate human cost of the climate crisis and encourage world leaders to take meaningful action, this year’s theme of World Humanitarian Day is ‘The Human Race’ - a global challenge in solidarity with people who have suffered the most due to the climate crisis.

World Humanitarian Day (WHD) is commemorated every year on 19 August having been formalised in 2009 by the United Nations General Assembly.

Each year, WHD focuses on a theme, bringing together partners from across the international humanitarian system to advocate for the survival, wellbeing, and dignity of people affected by crises and the safety and security of aid workers. This year’s theme emphasises that the climate emergency doesn’t affect everyone equally. People in vulnerable communities who are least responsible for changing weather patterns are affected the most and are already losing their homes, livelihoods, and lives.

In 2021, 235 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection. This number has risen to 1 in 33 people worldwide - a significant increase from 1 in 45 at the launch of the Global Humanitarian Overview 2020, which was already the highest figure in decades. The UN and partner organisations aim to assist 160 million people most in need across 56 countries and will require a total of US$35 billion to do so.

The agencies and institutions of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) have long championed the cause of good stewardship of the environment. With environmental degradation posing a growing threat on the populations that AKDN serves, mitigating climate change, as well as helping populations adapt to its effects has taken on increased urgency and importance.

In recent years, AKDN has planted tens of millions of trees across Asia and Africa and has committed to planting millions more in the years to come. In Badakhshan, Afghanistan, tree plantation helps stabilise dangerous slopes and creates a natural carbon sink to help absorb greenhouse gases. Earlier this year in Kyrgyzstan, the mayor of Osh city announced a tree planting initiative to brighten up the city. The “Green City” initiative was held on 20 March 2021. Staff, students and parents of the Aga Khan School, Osh, contributed by planting 100 oak trees in the Ak Tilek area, a newly developed part of the city with little existing greenery.

It is also important to understand the role clean energy can play in bringing equity to vulnerable communities. In Central and Southeast Asia, women and children spend a considerable amount of time gathering biomass such as wood for energy. Their time could instead be put towards furthering their education or business if solar panels were installed in these communities.
It is our ethical duty to protect the environment for all humanity and the generations to come, and this year’s World Humanitarian Day is an ideal opportunity to do more.

Each individual’s action can lead to collective progress in mitigating climate change. Mawlana Hazar Imam has often spoken of the importance of caring for the environment. In Ottawa in 2013, he said, “Our faith constantly reminds us to observe and be thankful for the beauty of the world and the universe around us, and our responsibility and obligation, as good stewards of God’s creation, to leave the world in a better condition than we found it.”
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 26, 2021 11:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Is There a Nuclear Option for Stopping Climate Change?

Humanity’s failure to avert the crisis of a warming climate is sometimes framed as a grand technological problem: For centuries, countries relied on fossil fuels to industrialize their economies and generate wealth, and it was only in recent years that alternative ways of powering a society, like solar and wind energy, became viable.

But when it comes to electricity, at least, that story isn’t true. Today, the United States gets 60 percent of its electricity from fossil fuels and just 20 percent from renewables. The final 20 percent comes from nuclear power, a technology that has existed since the 1950s, produces no carbon dioxide and has killed far fewer people than fossil fuels.

Decarbonizing the electric grid is certainly not the only challenge climate change poses, but it is the central one. And the Biden administration has said the United States needs to meet it by 2035. Should nuclear power be playing a bigger role in the transition? Here’s what people are saying.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 30, 2021 5:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thousands rally to ‘hug’ dying lagoon in Spain
AFP Published August 29, 2021

"Politicians you let the Mar Menor die" proclaims a banner on the beach in Madrid, Spain. — AFP
MADRID: Tens of thousands of people formed a human chain around Spain’s crisis-hit Mar Menor lagoon on Saturday in a show of mourning after tonnes of dead fish washed ashore, organisers and officials said.

One of Europe’s largest saltwater lagoons, the Mar Menor has long been a draw for tourists but is slowly dying as a result of agricultural pollution, with millions of fish and crustaceans dying over the past fortnight.

Images of dead fish have traumatised this southeastern coastal region, with locals and tourists turning out to join the mass mourning.

Footage from the scene showed huge lines of people, many in beachwear, holding hands along the waterfront on Alcazares beach, which stretches six kilometres and other part of the lagoon’s 73-kilometre shoreline.

Millions of fish and crustaceans have died over the past fortnight in the saltwater lagoon

“It was an act of mourning for the death of the animals... we wanted people to somehow ask their forgiveness for the barbarity we’ve inflicted on them,” Jesus Cutillas, one of the organisers said.

“For days, we’ve witnessed the death of millions and millions of fish and seeing all that unnecessary death hurts.

“The aim was to express our regret for what has happened and show our determination that it never happens again.” Many people wore black, others held up banners reading: “SOS Mar Menor.”

Organisers estimated up to 70,000 people joined the protest.

Experts say the fish suffocated due to a lack of oxygen caused by hundreds of tonnes of nitrates from fertilisers leaking into the waters, causing a phenomenon known as “eutrophication” that causes collapse of aquatic ecosystems.

On Monday, regional officials said they had removed 4.5-5 tonnes of fish, but by Saturday that had risen threefold to 15 tonnes of fish and algae.

“The 15 tonnes of dead fish and biomass (removed from the shore) show that this is indeed an environmental catastrophe and emergency. We need immediate help for the ecosystem,” tweeted Noelia Arroyo, mayor of the nearby town of Cartagena.

Pedro Garcia, director of regional conservation organisation ANSE, said this week that environmental groups feared the marine death toll was more than twice the figure given on Monday by the authorities.

“Within that 15-tonne figure, there will certainly be at least two or three tonnes of dead vegetation, but we have no way of knowing for sure,” he said on Saturday.

At the lagoon on Wednesday, Environment Minister Teresa Ribera accused the regional government of turning a blind eye to farming irregularities in the Campo de Cartagena, a vast area of intensive agriculture that has grown tenfold over the past 40 years.

But agricultural groups insist they comply scrupulously with environmental legislation.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2021
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 15, 2021 3:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Can Lab-Grown Burgers Help Stop Climate Change?

Humanity’s love of eating animals should worry you, even if humans are the only animals you care about. Meat and dairy production is responsible for 14.5 percent of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions, with about two-thirds of those coming from cattle. To keep global warming below two degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, the limit established by the Paris climate accord, the World Resource Institute says much of the wealthy world needs to cut its beef and lamb consumption by 40 percent — and that’s on the low end of such estimates.

Americans are among the top eaters of beef in the world, and persuading them to cut down on it or swap plant-based burgers for their steaks is a challenge.

Enter lab-grown — or, as some prefer, “cultured” or “cultivated” — meat: In the past few years, a small but fast-growing industry has sprung up with a mission to create meat from cell lines that doesn’t just taste like meat but actually is meat. Last year, a restaurant in Singapore even put lab-grown chicken on its menu.

As the sector has bloomed, so too have predictions of its imminent usurpation of meat of the slaughter-requiring variety. But how close are we really to that future, and is it the one we should be aiming for in the first place? Here’s what people are saying.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2021 1:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Earthshot Prize winners offer inspiration to all

This week, the Earthshot Prize was awarded to five winners for their ground-breaking solutions to the greatest environmental challenges facing our planet. The award, considered to be the most prestigious global environment prize in history, was launched last year by Prince William with the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) as a Founding Partner.

Climate change is sometimes seen as an issue of the future, an upcoming event that we might feel the effects of one day. However, the impacts of climate change are already here, with increases in sea levels, droughts, wildfires, and heatwaves being observed across the world.

This time last year, the Earthshot Prize was launched to encourage large-scale change over the next 10 years — a critical decade for the Earth. The Prize aims to support the global effort to protect and restore the environment while also turning the current pessimism surrounding these issues into optimism, highlighting the ability of human ingenuity to bring about positive change.

While climate change and environmental consciousness may seem to be featured in recent news reports and conversations, it has in fact been the result of past imbalances. “Environmental justice is not a new concept. Cultures up until very recently were living harmoniously with their surroundings, taking from it enough for their families, for their communities, and putting just as much back,” said Sophia Assani, Senior Program Officer for Focus Humanitarian Assistance USA.

“There was this symbiotic relationship with nature, a deep reverence for the environment. Today, we see the repercussions of so many decades of exploitation of our environments, of others’ environments.”

Even members of the Jamat in certain regions have experienced the implications of climate change, as an increase in droughts, mudslides, glacier melting, and flooding have affected the lives of those living in the mountainous regions of South and Central Asia. Onno Ruhl, the General Manager for the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, said, “Justice is important. Environmental pressures are enormous, and we’re in a state of severe imbalance between humanity and nature. Because there’s pressure, what that does is it puts excessive pressure on developing countries.”

“So what environmental pressures do is exacerbate inequality, and a superb example of that is the pandemic.”

According to the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), “Sea levels are rising and oceans are becoming warmer. Longer, more intense droughts threaten crops, wildlife and freshwater supplies. From polar bears in the Arctic to marine turtles off the coast of Africa, our planet’s diversity of life is at risk from the changing climate.”

The question then becomes, what can our global society do about this crisis? How can we mitigate the effects of climate change now and into the future? How might we regain a sense of environmental justice? The Earthshot prize aims to address these questions and lead on the way forward, as we enter a new era focused on maintaining a delicate balance between the environment and its inhabitants.

It is stated in the Qur’an that individuals and societies have a collective responsibility to be good stewards of the natural world. In this vein, the Earthshot Prize mirrors AKDN’s own efforts to find solutions to environmental crises, particularly for communities who are most at risk from climate change. As a Founding Partner of the award, AKDN brings its many decades of experience working to improve quality of life in some of the most environmentally vulnerable habitats in Asia and Africa.

The inaugural cycle of Earthshot Prizes was awarded to the Republic of Costa Rica for their efforts to protect and restore nature, including doubling the country’s forests since the 1990s; Takachar from India for developing a machine that converts crop residue into biofuel and fertilizer, and reducing smoke emissions by up to 98%; Coral Vita from the Bahamas, which grows coral on land to replant in oceans, and gives life to dying ecosystems; the City of Milan for developing a city-wide food waste policy that recovers food from supermarkets and canteens to distribute to the neediest citizens; and Enapter for its AEM Electrolyser technology that turns renewable electricity into emission-free hydrogen gas, to fuel cars and planes and heat homes.

These winners, along with others working in the field of environmental protection, provide inspiration to individuals and communities around the world, and offer examples of how anyone can do more to help sustain the earth for future generations.

Galeeb Kachra, an environmental scientist consultant who works for government agencies, said, “In the longer term, consider how your career can help the environment, what you can do through civil society, and how you can get involved in reducing your carbon footprint.”

“Take inspiration and examples from the Imam’s guidance on improving Quality of Life by taking care of our environment individually and collectively. Both the AKDN and small civil society groups in our local communities offer many examples, spanning habitat, housing, and humanitarian assistance.”

Every individual, institution, and organization can commit to this endeavour and do their part, however small it may be, from recycling, reduction of waste, judicial usage of water and fuel, to advocating for zero carbon footprint. As Mr Ruhl concludes, “Don’t do nothing. Tell all your friends to do something. If everybody does something, it would be so fantastic.”
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 01, 2021 3:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Would Russia or China Help Us if We Were Invaded by Space Aliens?

In a recent essay on great-power competition and climate change, Rob Litwak, an arms control expert at the Wilson Center, recalled a question that President Ronald Reagan posed to Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leader, after they took a walk during their 1985 Lake Geneva summit.

As Gorbachev put it later: “President Reagan suddenly said to me, ‘What would you do if the United States were suddenly attacked by someone from outer space? Would you help us?’”

“I said, ‘No doubt about it.’”

“He said, ‘We too.’”

“So that’s interesting,” Gorbachev concluded.

It sure is, because it’s not at all clear, given the recent upsurge in raw great-power competition, that Russia, China or America would help one another in the face of an invasion of space aliens threatening us all. Litwak’s point in retelling that story, of course, is that today we are facing a similar, world-stressing threat — not from space aliens but from a much more familiar and once seemingly benign force: our climate.

Global warming is challenging every nation with more extreme weather, wildfires and sea level rise and once-in-a-century storms coming much more frequently. Unlike with a space alien, though, there’s zero possibility of negotiating with Mother Nature. She does only whatever chemistry, biology and physics dictate, and she has no clue or interest in where the borders of Russia, America or China stop and start. She’s got the whole wide world in her hands — as she demonstrated with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Yet neither China’s president, Xi Jinping, nor Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, is attending the Glasgow climate summit in person with President Biden and many other world leaders that opened Sunday. And even more important, The Washington Post reported last week that some in the Chinese leadership want to resist any substantial cooperation with America on climate issues until the United States dials down its pressure on China “over human rights, Hong Kong, Taiwan, trade and a range of other issues.”

We’ve never seen this tactic before from Beijing: We’ll clean our air, but only if you let us buzz Taiwan’s airspace and choke off the air of freedom in Hong Kong.

A senior U.S. official told me that there is actually a lot of division in Beijing right now on the wisdom of this sort of wolf-warrior diplomatic strategy on climate, which is being pushed by Foreign Minister Wang Yi. There are definitely other Chinese leaders who want to collaborate with Washington and understand that on climate, we sink or swim together. Still, even a hint of this sort of planet-Earth-hostage-taking strategy by some senior Chinese officials is very troubling and needs to be called out.

“The window for humanity to avoid unmanageable climate change is narrowing,” Litwak noted in his Wilson Center essay. “China, the United States and Russia are, respectively, the first, second and fourth largest carbon emitters. Yet at the precise historical juncture when unprecedented global cooperation is necessary to forestall catastrophe, the world is on the brink of unconstrained geostrategic competition. Indeed, U.S. relations with Russia and China are the worst they have been since the end of the Cold War.”

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 02, 2021 3:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Voices from the Roof of the World" film series launch

Geneva, Switzerland, 29 October 2021 - As part of preparations for the climate change COP26 summit in Glasgow, a film series “Voices from the Roof of the World” – a joint initiative of the Aga Khan University, Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, Aga Khan Foundation and University of Central Asia – is being launched this Sunday 31 October on TV and online.

The 10-episode first season – produced by filmmakers from Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and India – focuses on the climate crisis in the earth’s highest mountain region stretching from the Pamirs to the Himalayans. Home to 240 million people and countless rare and endangered species, these mountains are also the largest depository of ice outside the polar caps, providing water to about a quarter of the world's population.

“…These filmmakers have captured poignant personal stories of people and cultures threatened by both deluges and desiccation of their environment,” said Andrew Tkach, Executive Producer of the series.

“They have ventured downstream to document how the melting of the Himalayan glaciers will affect 1.5 billion people living in the threatened fishing and farming communities of South and Central Asia. Others will show how deforestation, air pollution and killer heat waves will make the world’s most densely packed cities unlivable.”

This week, UN scientists announced that current greenhouse gas emissions will lead to an average 2.7-degree Celsius temperature rise this century, not the target of 1.5 degrees that delegates gathering in Glasgow will be trying so hard to achieve.

“There are many culprits to share the blame for the predicament humanity finds itself in, but with every target we miss to control CO2 emissions, we are squarely painting a target on our own back,” stressed Tkach.

“It is time to show that even in a world beset by intractable conflicts, it is possible to work across borders and social strata to save our common home. People living in some of the world’s most extreme conditions are fighting this battle every day, it is time we listen and learn from them.”

The first episode, “Bears on the Brink”, produced by Pakistani filmmaker Abdullah Khan, features the impact of climate change and drought on the endangered Himalayan brown bears and golden marmots found in the Deosai National Park in Gilgit Baltistan, the impact on local communities in the buffer zone, human-wildlife conflict and eco-tourism.

This series seeks to amplify the voices of those who bear the greatest burden of climate change. It will run for at least two seasons and all episodes will be available on AKDN YouTube.
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 14, 2021 3:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This Is Some Good Shit

The story of human poop is an amazing one. Who knew it was such a rich resource? Science writer Lina Zeldovich did. She grew up on a small Russian farm where her grandfather recycled the family poop into soil that enriched their annual harvests.

This week in Nautilus, Zeldovich brings us the dirty truth about “the other dark matter.” For all the environmental problems that human waste has caused, it can be recycled, and is, by Washington, D.C.’s wastewater plant, into valuable soil. Maybe not as rich in nutrients as Zeldovich’s grandfather’s soil, but an example of environmental transformation just the same.

The article can be accessed at:
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 15, 2021 2:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Climate Promises Made in Glasgow Now Rest With a Handful of Powerful Leaders

In Washington, Beijing, New Delhi and beyond, governments face conflicting forces — political, social and economic — that will shape their next steps in the effort to avert a climate crisis.

GLASGOW — After two weeks of lofty speeches and bitter negotiations among nearly 200 nations, the question of whether the world will make significant progress to slow global warming still comes down to the actions of a handful of powerful nations that remain at odds over how best to address climate change.

The United Nations global conference on climate change closed Saturday with a hard-fought agreement that calls on countries to return next year with stronger emissions-reduction targets and promises to double the money available to help countries cope with the effects of global warming. It also mentions by name — for the first time in a quarter century of global climate negotiations — the main cause of climate change: fossil fuels.

But it did not succeed in helping the world avert the worst effects of climate change. Even if countries fulfill all the emissions promises they have made, they still put the world on a dangerous path toward a planet that will be warmer by some 2.4 degrees Celsius by year 2100, compared to preindustrial times.

That misses by a wide margin the target of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees that scientists say is necessary to avert the worst consequences of warming. And it sets the stage for worsening storms, wildfires, droughts and sea-level rise as well as the social and economic upheaval that would accompany a widening climate crisis.

A relative handful of political leaders around the world — in capital cities such as Washington, Beijing and New Delhi — hold much of the influence over whether those promises are kept and the arc of warming can be sufficiently bent away from disaster. But they face a complex combination of pressures: industry interests that stand in the way of regulations, demands from developing countries for money to help them transition away from fossil fuels, and an increasingly vocal movement among citizens to rein in emissions more quickly and deliver what they call climate justice.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 16, 2021 5:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

AKDN achieves IFC EDGE green building pre-certification

Mumbai, India, 12 November 2021 – The Aga Hall Estate, an upcoming residential high-rise development project centrally located on a heritage site in South Mumbai, India, has earned EDGE Advanced Certification – the globally recognised benchmark for green building created by International Finance Corporation (IFC) – for designs that project energy savings of up to 45 percent, water savings of up to 50 percent and embodied energy (energy used in project creation) savings in the amount of up to 32 percent.

Originally the place of family residence of Aga Khan I, the site has evolved over a century and a half to include a community housing initiative and the Prince Aly Khan Hospital, with centres of excellence in oncology, cardiology and diagnostics. A transformative redevelopment is now planned for the Aga Hall Estate to offer 373 apartments of an international standard incorporating energy-efficient and environmentally sensitive features designed for multi-generational living.

Altaz Sundrani, a lifelong resident of Aga Hall Estate, said of the development project:

“Aga Hall Estate has been my home since childhood. I was born here. My parents were always at ease. As kids, the Estate provided a safe environment in which to grow up. My school was a stone’s throw away. I am very excited about the new development, especially with all the attention being given to common areas, safety and comfort, as well as to landscape and to minute details. With new school and hospital facilities, the Estate will certainly set a benchmark in this part of the city.”

The AKDN is committed to achieving net-zero carbon operations by 2030. Recognising that 85 percent of the direct greenhouse gas emissions from its operations come from operating the Network’s buildings, such as hospitals, schools, offices, community centres and university campuses, reducing emissions from buildings is critical to achieving this target.

To enable this, the AKDN developed a set of Green Building Guidelines, which sets out the minimum environmental requirements for new and existing buildings and outlines measures to reduce energy, water and material use adapted to AKDN’s operating contexts. The guidelines use the IFC EDGE (“Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies”) framework to assess construction projects, targeting at least EDGE Advanced standard. The Aga Hall Estate is one of the first and largest AKDN projects to implement these guidelines and achieve the certification.

The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) is partnering with IFC to accelerate wider adoption of green building practices. They are establishing a framework for greater collaboration in pursuit of their shared aspirations to move the construction industry on to a lower-carbon, more resource-efficient path. Projects such as the Aga Hall Estate exemplify this path.

“Some estimates suggest that more than half of the India of 2040 is yet to be built. Better and greener homes and buildings are essential to how we combat climate change in ways that tangibly improve peoples’ lives today and protect our habitat for generations to come,” said Onno Ruhl, General Manager of AKAH. “AKAH and the AKDN are proud to advance solutions for decarbonising the built environment in India and beyond.”
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 23, 2021 10:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What is net-zero carbon?

Renewable energy independence can be successfully achieved through the installation of off-grid solar systems.

The Aga Khan Development Network’s agencies have committed to be net-zero carbon by 2030. But what exactly does this mean, and why is it important?

Climate change is not only bad for our planet, it also negatively affects the quality of human life. According to the World Health Organization, climate change is the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century.

It compromises the basic ingredients of good health: clean air, safe and adequate drinking water, nutritious food supply, and safe shelter. To offset these effects, huge cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are needed.

Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas emitted through human activities. This is why many of the conversations around sustainability are centered on reducing carbon emissions. In order to stop the threat of climate change, these emissions need to fall to zero. The longer it takes, the more the climate will change.

Some industries, like local transport systems, are able to adopt technologies such as electrification, which can help to reduce carbon emissions to zero. But for others, such as aviation or large-scale agriculture, getting completely to zero will be difficult or even impossible.

As such, emissions from some sectors will continue, and need to be offset. An equivalent amount of emitted carbon needs to be removed from the atmosphere, to achieve a balance of zero — thus the term ‘net-zero.’

Upon the launch of the Earthshot Prize last year, Prince Rahim announced AKDN’s intention to become net-zero carbon in its operations, as part of its contribution towards global efforts to address the threat of climate change.

Leading by example, AKDN committed to a rapid and substantial reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from its operations, aligned with the latest climate science on limiting global warming to 1.5°C. Agencies signed-up to science-based targets to both significantly reduce emissions and offset the remainder.

Earlier this month, Prince Hussain reiterated the pledge in a video released by the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) to coincide with the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow.

“For decades, AKDN has been working with vulnerable communities to help them adapt to risk and build a better quality of life,” he said. “The climate crisis threatens to undo much of the progress we have achieved together. This is why we are committed to making the entire AKDN network net-zero carbon before 2030.”

“All our activities - more than 200 schools, over 400 hospitals and clinics, all our humanitarian and development programmes, hotels, factories, universities, and cultural restoration projects will be carbon neutral by 2030,” continued Prince Hussain. “It is our duty to be good stewards of the earth. This is deeply embedded in the ethics of our faith and in our network.”

The work required to achieve this target has already begun. In fact, working in harmony with natural resources has been at the heart of AKDN’s work for many decades. As part of the net-zero pledge, AKDN has started to scale up investment in Nature-Based Solutions.

Building better

Architectural rendering of FMFB’s Regional Headquarters in Gilgit.

Since most of AKDN’s direct and indirect emissions are linked to owned or operated buildings, all its agencies and institutions will now adhere to a set of AKDN Green Building Guidelines for the construction of new buildings and the management of existing ones.

This requires rethinking the ways in which buildings are designed, constructed, and operated, putting sustainable construction at the heart of development and promoting low-carbon construction principles.

In the mountainous region of Gilgit, Northern Pakistan, AKAH is working with the First Microfinance Bank to construct a green building to house the bank’s new Regional Headquarters. It will benefit from a range of passive design measures, which take advantage of local climate conditions to reduce the amount of energy required to maintain a comfortable environment indoors.

AKAH's design responds to the site by using insulation, shading devices, and natural materials to regulate temperature and lighting levels in the office. With these features, the building will need less energy to operate, reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 13 tonnes of Co2 per year.

Energising industry

Energy generation is an important part of AKDN’s work and contribution to the wellbeing of communities. AKDN has committed to working with partners to avoid greenhouse gas emissions by investing in energy efficiency and the production of renewable energy.

Allpack Industries Ltd., is the first Industrial Promotion Services (IPS) project company to run on solar power.

In sunny East Africa, Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) project companies are investing in solar power to reduce their carbon footprint. The installation of more than 1,400 solar panels at the Allpack printing plant in Nairobi, Kenya, is expected to eliminate over 90,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

Similar plans are underway to adopt renewable energy at other AKFED project companies, including at the Serena hotel chain. In partnership with Mettle Solar OFGEN, AKFED have transformed three properties, the Mara, Kilaguni, and Amboseli Serena Safari Lodges in Kenya into fully solar powered properties.

The lodges, all built in the 1970s within National Parks, are today leading examples of how clean, renewable energy independence can be successfully achieved through the installation of off-grid solar systems, even in challenging safari locations.

Elsewhere within AKDN, emission reduction practices include green office initiatives, reducing travel, and training activities for AKDN staff, as well as tracking and reporting greenhouse gas emissions.

If more organisations, businesses, and governments can make similar pledges to reduce emissions and bring forward their net-zero targets, it would contribute to repairing the earth, and improving the quality of life for us and many generations to come.

“It is an urgent task,” Prince Hussain concluded in his video message. “The earth and the future of humanity depend on it.”
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 04, 2021 12:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Meet an Ecologist Who Works for God (and Against Lawns)

A Long Island couple say fighting climate change and protecting biodiversity starts at home. Or rather, right outside their suburban house.

WADING RIVER, N.Y. — If Bill Jacobs were a petty man, or a less religious one, he might look through the thicket of flowers, bushes and brambles that encircle his home and see enemies all around. For to the North, and to the South, and to the West and East and all points in between, stretch acres and acres of lawns.

Lawns that are mowed and edges trimmed with military precision. Lawns where leaves are banished with roaring machines and that are oftentimes doused with pesticides. Lawns that are fastidiously manicured by landscapers like Justin Camp, Mr. Jacobs’s neighbor next door, who maintains his own pristine blanket of green.

“It takes a special kind of person to do something like that,” Mr. Camp said, nodding to wooded wilds of his neighbor’s yard. “I mow lawns for a living, so it’s not my thing.”

Mr. Jacobs and his wife, Lynn Jacobs, don’t have a lawn to speak of, not counting the patch of grass out back over which Mr. Jacobs runs his old manual mower every now and then.

Their house is barely visible, obscured by a riot of flora that burst with colors — periwinkles, buttery yellows, whites, deep oranges, scarlets — from early spring through late fall. They grow assorted milkweeds, asters, elderberry, mountain mint, joe-pye weed, goldenrods, white snakeroot and ironweed. Most are native to the region, and virtually all serve the higher purpose of providing habitats and food to migrating birds and butterflies, moths, beetles, flies and bees.

Mr. Jacobs is an ecologist and a Catholic who believes that humans can fight climate change and help repair the world right where they live. While a number of urban dwellers and suburbanites also sow native plants to that end, Mr. Jacobs says people need something more: To reconnect with nature and experience the sort of spiritual transcendence he feels in a forest, or on a mountain, or amid the bounty of his own yard. It’s a feeling that, for him, is akin to feeling close to God.

“We need something greater than people,” said Mr. Jacobs, who worked at the Nature Conservancy for nine years before joining a nonprofit that tackles invasive species — plants, animals and pathogens that squeeze out native varieties. “We need a calling outside of ourselves, to some sort of higher power, to something higher than ourselves to preserve life on earth.”

Which is why, for years now, Mr. Jacobs has looked beyond the lawns of Wading River, a woodsy hamlet on Long Island’s North Shore, to spread that ethos around the world.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 10, 2021 3:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Earth Is Getting a ‘Black Box’ to Hold Humans Accountable for Climate Change

When a plane crashes, its flight recorder is critical to piecing together the missteps that led to calamity. Now the planet is getting its own in case it self-destructs.

A rendering of Earth’s “black box” in Tasmania, Australia, a project to create an archive on climate change.

In a remote part of Australia, a steel vault about the size of a school bus will record the Earth’s warming weather patterns. It will listen to what we say and do. It will create an archive that could be critical to piecing together the missteps, its creators say, should humanity be destroyed by climate change.

The vault, known as Earth’s Black Box, will be constructed in Tasmania, an Australian island state off the south coast. It will operate much like a plane’s flight recorder, which records an aircraft’s final moments before crashing. But the makers of this new black box — including data researchers from the University of Tasmania, artists and architects — say they hope it won’t have to be opened.

“I’m on the plane; I don’t want it to crash,” said Jim Curtis, the executive creative director of an Australian advertising agency where the project was conceived. “I really hope that it’s not too late.”

Many questions remain, such as whether Earth really needs a black box and how future generations would decipher it. Mr. Curtis said the box would be designed “to hold our leaders to account.” He added, “If civilization does crash, this box will survive with a completely objective data story.”

Climate change is one of the gravest threats humanity faces, scientists say. It is exacerbating economic and health inequalities, increasing the frequency and intensity of natural disasters and, the United Nations has warned, threatens the world’s food supply.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 01, 2022 4:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Scenes From a World on Fire

Planet Earth is the one thing that all humans share. We are often at its mercy. We take its majesty for granted. We forget that we merely hold it in trust for our children’s children, for all those who’ll come after us.

To flourish, we absolutely must do one thing with this trust, and that is to keep global temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, above preindustrial levels — a point beyond which, scientists believe, lie the worst consequences of climate change, a world of recurring floods and droughts and fires and human misery. On this, we are failing, risking millenniums of human progress and indeed humanity’s future. Instead of real collective action, we continue to promise and to postpone, most recently in Glasgow, where the nations of the world gathered in the fall to talk yet again about the challenge of human-caused climate change. The words “last best chance” were thick in the air, but the words have grown stale: Despite repeated warnings going back decades, we are not addressing the greatest challenge the planet faces with anything approaching the response it requires.

Climate change is already here; it’s just not evenly distributed yet. Nor will it ever be. Many of the countries most vulnerable to effects of climate change have the least control over the warming of the planet, since they emit far less carbon dioxide. It is the responsibility of the United States and a relative handful of other great economic powers to answer, to respond, as collectively as possible, to the SOS that the planet is clearly sending.

None of this is unexpected. Thirty years ago, Margaret Thatcher, then Britain’s prime minister, sounded alarms in advance of the first big climate summit, in Rio de Janeiro, in 1992. Al Gore spoke with equal urgency before the Kyoto, Japan, summit in 1997, ditto President Obama before the Copenhagen summit in 2009. The New York Times’s editorial page used the “last best chance” formulation in anticipation of the 2015 summit in Paris. Absent “urgent action,” the editorial warned, the problem could “spin out of control.”

Four summits, four chances — if not “last best” chances, then at least chances for meaningful change. Papers signed, pronouncements issued, promises made — yet in the end, incremental progress with predictably poor results. The past six years were the six hottest years on record. We now live in a world of warmer, more violent weather. Stronger storms, longer droughts, heavier floods, larger fires. Lowlands are being lost to the oceans. Dry lands are being lost to the desert. Millions of people are moving because of a changed and changing climate. As documented in Opinion’s special section, Postcards from a World On Fire, the year 2021 produced damaging weather events of unusual and in some cases unprecedented ferocity across the globe — from the Pacific Northwest, to Ghana to Central Europe to Siberia.

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