Archive for January, 2009

New approaches to the betterment of society

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Several institutions with better methods and new ways of thinking are now coming to the fore. I will mention two:

1. The Co-Intelligence Institute (Tom Atlee) works to further the understanding and development of co-intelligence. It focuses on catalyzing co-intelligence in the realms of politics, governance and conscious evolution. They research, network, advocate, and help organize leading-edge experiments and conversations in order to weave what is possible into new, wiser forms of civilization. They help link people involved in co-intelligent activities to each other and to ideas and tools that will help them increase the co-intelligence in their lives, communities and societies.

2. Nansen Dialogue will, through applying the ideas and skills of dialogue, empower people who live in conflict situations to contribute to peaceful conflict transformation, and democratic development with promotion of human rights.

Nansen Dialogue is marked by the wish to provide a neutral and open space where the different actors in a serious conflict can meet face to face in truthful and honest communication. The aim is to break down enemy images, as well as to increase understanding of each other’s positions, interests and needs. Facilitators and lecturers try to stimulate the cognitive analysis of the conflict itself and the experience of “the other’s” position. The focus is not on who is right or most guilty, but on how to build respect for democratic principles, human rights and peaceful conflict resolution for future improvement of society. These principles are to be an alternative in political organisation to national chauvinism and ethnic loyalty.

The Nansen Academy also hosts the Norwegain Peace Centre that offers training in peace education, with particular focus on diaspora / refugee youth in Norway.

In charge of this program: Steinar Bryn

(Text are quotes from their websites)

US Government – Obama administration – has set up a website to encourage participation: How can we strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness by making government more transparent, participatory, and collaborative?

Norwegian emissions: Offsets elsewhere or new technology at home?

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Norway is making solar panels with clean energy? Norwegians like to think of themselves as good keepers of the environment. 98-99% of Norway’s electricity comes from hydroelectric plants. It adopted a carbon tax in 1991. It was the first country to capture carbon dioxide and store it underground. The government has pledged to make the country carbon neutral by 2030, only taking local emissions into account. But it is the world’s third-biggest exporter of gas and fourth-biggest exporter of oil – exports that are burned abroad: Norway is profiting handsomely at the planet’s expense!

But what will future policy be? Symbolic green goals, buying offsets or methodical fact- and research-based approach at home?

The government is promoting many forms of renewable energy and energy efficiency. The state levies a carbon tax on Norway’s dirtiest industries – oil and gas firms – with good effect. StatoilHydro has two of the world’s four big carbon-capture schemes. But growing output means increased emissions.

There is a carbon-trading scheme – EU based – giving Norwegian firms access to a large pool of spare permits, lowering the costs of compliance. The government is the biggest enthusiast in buying permits. Trees will also be planted in Norway, but big technological advances are needed.

Depending on the efficiency, buying quotas will be sufficient to offset Norwegian emissions  with a good margin. 

But for future oil and gas production somebody has to put on the brakes – if Norway doesn’t, who will?

Ordinary Norwegians should live greener lives, but so far you may do  whatever you want, including nothing!

There are inconsistencies in the government’s stance with too much symbolism. We need more analysis of costs and benefits. 

Will Norway turn itself into an environmental pioneer? Maybe we need a comprehensive plan, or will that limit the politicians playing around trying to become environmental idols of the world?


Craig Venter – mapping of human genes

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Craig Venter´s genetic code:
After having mapped the complete genes of a few humans it is apparent that gene biology is complex. We will be able to use it for curing disease and improving peoples lives, and now we have to increase our understanding of gene biology. But we have had a quiet revolution!
We must have information about man´s physical and psychological attributes as well as medical information. Interplay among genes must also be mapped. When we have this we can find out what comes from heritage and environment.
Having a high genetic of an illness does not necessarily mean that you will be sick. Other genes can protect us from disease. It is therefore important to consider the whole genome. It is also possible to adapt your lifestyle to your genome!
Medicine in the future will be preventive and aiming to stop the diseases where your genes indicate possible vulnerability.
Legal aspects must also be considered so that gene discrimination or misuse of information is controlled. sensible. Sensible laws will also reduce people´s fear of the genome.
Venter is now working on designing synthetic micro-organisms, and these will eventually change the world´s production methods. Algae using CO2 is also being developed, among other things to produce energy. In medicine the genome will be useful in the fight against infections, biological terrorism.
The main challenge now is building understanding of what the genome is and what we can do with it!



The world´s tropical forests

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

Deforestation is now not happening at an alarming rate. Tropical forested countries are stepping up the fight to combat climate change via a pioneering new initiative called the UN-REDD Programme. 

It also appears that forests rebuild fast if left on its own. These new forests are filled with animals from nearby, depending on what is there. Big animals are often driven away for good, while insects etc. stay.  

The rise in the industrial forms of land use, consumption and prices will determine the degree of land use, again determining the forestation and presence of wild life.

The climate change is in itself a threat as increased temperatures will drive away many kinds of animals, forcing them to relocate in order to survive. What will remain in the hot forests remains to be seen. 

The processes of stabilization of populations and urbanization we see is reducing pressure on deforestation as well as abandoning the use of marginal land. It seems increased emphasis on planning of the use of land could be necessary.


Monday, January 19th, 2009

PRESIDENT OBAMA’S inauguration should revive environmental initiatives. One of the most important is “cap and trade,” a market-based system designed to cut emissions of greenhouse gasses, particularly carbon dioxide. Backers have come out in support of cap-and-trade legislation. Investors soon will hear a lot more about it. Also look for new proposals to emerge in the Senate.

Cap and trade has strong support within the new administration. Obama was on the board of the Joyce Foundation in Chicago when it helped fund the Chicago Climate Exchange CCX (owned by Climate Exchange, ticker: CLE.UK), which runs a voluntary cap-and-trade program and trades carbon futures. The Environmental Protection Agency’s new director, Lisa Jackson, was New Jersey’s representative on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or Reggie, a promising cap-and-trade program for 10 Middle Atlantic and northeastern states.

The CCX has attracted about 400 entities – Monsanto, IBM, Intel (INTC), the city of Chicago to sign on to a voluntary program that mandates an emissions cap.

At least three regional U.S. groups are in various stages of development:

  • Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – Reggie
  • Western Climate Initiative (2012)
  • Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord (2012)

A mandatory cap-and-trade program is in its fourth year in Europe. Trading volume there doubled last year, and prices hitting $43 a ton at one point before sliding to $13 recently.

A state program works so that the government sets the ground rules and oversees compliance. Emission quotas for companies can be set by a  government agency or entities authorized to do so.

Obama would like to see emissions at 1990 levels (about 15% below current levels) by 2020 and then, by 2050, fall to 80% below the 1990 levels. Unlike Reggie, the federal program would target many industries.

Proponents say that the use of emission-reduction credits will cut overall air pollution, rather than merely shift it around. Private exchanges are established for buying and selling quotas. Sellers and buyers in the form of companies trade here.

Sellers are companies that operate under their caps for CO2 emissions can sell surplus reductions and credits to those that don´t.

Buyers are companies that cannot meet their CO2 reduction targets must buy emission reduction credits from others. These can be in the form of emission reductions and offset credits.

Offset projects: Companies can create offset credits by planting trees, using carbon storage or employing carbon reducing technology.



EU Environment Index

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

There are many environment policy areas in the EU! The policy areas are grouped in the following environmental themes:

Learning via the net

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

The World Wide Web has been proved a very attractive space to wander, but one of the deficiencies of the web is the lack of orientation. Cognitive overload and disorientation limits the effectiveness of hypertext for learning. By cognitively adapting a hypertext system to the user and by providing instructional cues, the effects of these problems might be reduced.

Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning CSCL applications in future classrooms are likely to be organized around Wireless Internet Learning Devices (WILD) that will be small handheld PCs connected by short-range wireless networking. CSCL may evolve towards a focus on systemic coupling in an augmented activity space.

We can consider hypertext (hypermedia) as a tool for augmenting human understanding and also using a conceptual framework behind it. The role of a conceptual framework is implemented by generating web pages which are linked according to the relations among concepts in a knowledge base. For each concept in the knowledge base there is a web page. The generated web pages are linked according to explicit (e.g. inheritance) or implicit (e.g. sibling) relations.

See Wikipedia Semantic WEb:

Mobile devices in concert

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

People who don’t know each other are using sophisticated mobile net devices to act in concert. Cell phones, pagers and PDAs are shaping modern culture.

The concept has caught on where cliques of people hang out together all day, despite being in different places, by sending and receiving text transmissions on their telephones. Demonstrators rely on wireless telephones to coordinate their actions and evade barricades. In cities techno-hipsters can congregate in “WiFi” areas that interact with their wireless devices to let them participate in a virtual social scene. Example: upscale prostitutes can enter their services and prices into their mobile phones, allowing customers to discreetly determine if anyone nearby is selling what they want to buy.

Mobile, wireless, net-connected devices are now prompting a world of “ad-hocracy,” in which people cluster temporarily around information of mutual interest. Consumerism might change when pedestrians, as their mobiles detect stores and restaurants, patch into electronic gossip about an establishment. A wireless urban space is pervasively connected to the Internet.


Regulating windmills

Monday, January 12th, 2009

The Norwegian county of Rogaland has established a plan for the development of windmills in their area. The plan will tell you where to possibly locate windmills. As many as 30 windmill projects are being considered in the county.

The Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE) can authorize the building of windmill farms.  It is expected that the county´s plan will be adhered to.

No other county has such plans as they so far are voluntary.

Citizen´s participation in environmental questions

Monday, January 12th, 2009

On September 26th 2009 World Wide Views on Global Warming will give citizens all over the world a possibility to define and communicate their positions on issues and questions central to the negotiations at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen, starting two months later.

Decisions made at COP15 will shape the global climate policy for years to come and will strongly influence the economic, industrial, social and climatic development for us as citizens. It is therefore important to give citizens around the world an opportunity to contribute with their views on some of the key issues addressed at the climate summit.

World Wide Views on Global Warming will bring forward the views of citizens from all parts of the world.

The core of the method will be citizens meetings with 100 participants in as many countries as possible approximately two months before the climate summit starts.

The method used for the national citizen meetings has been constructed as a hybrid with elements from well tested existing methods. It will contain an element of authentic citizen expressions in terms of suggestions for individual/local/national/ international action, for which techniques from the ‘Citizen Hearing’, developed by the Danish Board of Technology, will be used.

Part of the programme of the meeting will be split into thematic deliberations, which will lead to on-the-spot voting on a set of pre-prepared questions. This includes elements inspired by

  • ‘Deliberative Poll’ (Developed by James Fishkin)
  • ‘Citizen Summit’ (Developed by AmericaSpeaks)
  • ‘Voting Conference’ (Developed by The Danish Board of Technology).
  • ‘Interview Meeting’ (Developed by The Danish Board of Technology).
  • ‘Consensus Conference’ (The Danish Board of Technology).

Reporting inside an eLearning system based project intra-net. Common to the methods is the emphasis on deliberation and dialogue with citizens informed by input from various experts.

Citizens from a limited number of countries will be involved in the selection of the questions, for example by holding a focus group meeting on each continent. An international Scientific Advisory Board with selected experts and interested parties will be appointed. It will be consulted when selecting the questions to the citizens and making the introductory material.

The WWViews will take place approximately 2-3 months before the climate summit starts. This should allow enough time for results to become known to political decision-makers on COP15.