If you only read one thing this week…


People and the Planet – How to lift people out of poverty without destroying the world. by Nick
May 4, 2012, 4:36 pm
Filed under: Development theory, Environment, If you have 30 mins

The world now has a very clear choice. We can choose to address the twin issues of population and consumption… Or we can choose to do nothing and to drift into a downward vortex of economic, socio-political and environmental ills, leading to a more unequal and inhospitable future.” Sir John Sulston, Royal Society Fellow on the Society’s recent report.

Overconsumption in rich countries and grinding poverty in much of the world are a threat to social stability and environmental sustainability. Britain’s Royal Society spent the past two years studying this, and their report (download the report here) is well worth a look.

Key recommendations include:

  1. The international community must bring the 1.3 billion people living on less than $1.25 per day out of absolute poverty, and reduce the inequality that persists in the world today.
  2. The most developed and the emerging economies must stabilise and then reduce material consumption levels.
  3. Reproductive health and voluntary family planning programmes urgently require political leadership and financial commitment, both nationally and internationally.
  4. Population and the environment should not be considered as two separate issues.

If you can’t face the full report, the BBC summary is nice!



Results of 30 year organic vs non-organic farming trial by Nick

Started in 1981, the Farming Systems Trial (FST) at Rodale Institute is America’s longest running, side-by-side comparison of organic and conventional agriculture. The results of their 30 year trial were published this week (get the full pdf here).

The short story is that they claim that, on real farm size trials, over 30 years:

  • Organic yields match conventional yields.
  • Organic outperforms conventional in years of drought.
  • Organic farming systems build rather than deplete soil organic matter, making it a more sustainable system.
  • Organic farming uses 45% less energy and is more efficient.
  • Conventional systems produce 40% more greenhouse gases.
  • Organic farming systems are more profitable than conventional.


UN official warns that climate change threatens peace and development by Nick
July 20, 2011, 11:45 pm
Filed under: Environment

The BBC is covering the speech by Achim Steiner (UN Environment Program) to the UN Security Council in which he said that climate change will increase the rate and impact of natural disasters, threaten food security, and raise the risk of violent conflict over dwindling ecological resources and systems. He called for “a proactive strategy of evolved and perhaps new international platforms, mechanisms and institutional responses”.

Read the full speech here.



NGOs and corporations – what’s wrong with CSR? by Nick
July 18, 2011, 7:55 am
Filed under: Articles, Environment, If you only have 15 mins

Andrew Pendleton’s 2004 report (Institute for Public Policy Research) for Christian Aid on the issues and perils of NGO engagement with corporate power is a sobering read that looks at some of the trends, what has been achieved, and some learning about what can and cannot be reasonably expected from dialogue and engagement.

Pendleton concludes that a shift from self governed Corporate Social Responsibility to legal structures that produce Corporate Social Accountability by allowing those harmed by corporate action to seek redress through national and international law is a major avenue that does not receive enough attention.

Read the report “Behind the Mark – the real face of corporate social responsibility” (surprisingly digestible) here, or read the rather more forceful one pager from CorporateWatch here.

Proponents of dialogue see it as the best chance we have, faced with the reality of corporate dominance. But this is only true if other realities cannot be conceived of and brought into being …

Many NGOs are choosing what is essentially a palliative campaign strategy, one that tries to make conditions more bearable rather than solving the problem. As the world’s ecological crisis worsens, many of the organisations we’ve trusted to fight the destruction are effectively reinforcing the power of the destructive corporations. As our need for change becomes ever more urgent, and the solutions needed ever more drastic, some NGOs find themselves actually asking for less and less change.” – Corporate Watch.



The Earth Summit in Rio – hopes and fears by Nick
April 27, 2011, 9:47 am
Filed under: Development theory, Environment, If you have 30 mins, News

Jim Thomas writes a fascinating article giving a short history of the last twenty years of climate and environmental negotiation, and their relationship to sustainable development efforts. What’s at stake, argues Thomas, is whether the future of the planet will be governed by financial markets and climate engineers, or whether we will see a genuine attempt to solve environmental problems in the context of larger social and economic goals such as reducing poverty and creating a just and sustainable society.

Read the Guardian Article here.

Comments Off on The Earth Summit in Rio – hopes and fears


by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
December 7, 2008, 2:25 am
Filed under: Environment

New Scientist Magazine’s recommendations to the US President Elect on climate issues make worthwhile reading this week. Read the article here.



Measuring our Mission – Mission (Im)possible? by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
June 18, 2008, 9:40 pm
Filed under: Environment, measuring results, Uncategorized, Web sites

This 6-page report by McKinsey has some excellent examples of how some large non-profits have got round the challenges of how to measure progress towards fulfilling their mission. You do have to sign up to read the full article, but it only takes a couple of seconds and is well worth it. The article takes the Nature Conservancy as an example of an agency that had two macro-level indicators (revenue generated and increased number of protected habitats) until they realised that neither of these indicators were telling them whether they were making progress towards the real heart of their mission which was increasing biodiversity. The authors claim there are three critical performance metrics needed by an organization:- success in raising resources, staff effectiveness and progress toward its mission fulfillment, with the last being the hardest to measure. They outline three ways of mission measurement: 1) through narrow definitions of success, through research, or through proxy indicators. They draw examples from several organizations which is useful and thought provoking.