Friday, September 21, 2018

Coming Round

Find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher or via 

Hello and Welcome

Hello and welcome to the Sustainable Futures Report for Friday 21st September. Yes I'm working back up to producing weekly editions once again. I'll explain why in the next episode.
Yes this is Anthony Day and welcome once again to the Sustainable Futures Report. As I say every time, a special welcome to my patrons whose regular contributions cover the costs of hosting this podcast. Welcome, and thanks again to you all.
If you would like to become a patron you'd be more than welcome and all you have to do is pop across to and sign up.
This week
This week I review an important book on the circular economy, there is energy news on nuclear, gas and coal, the BBC fesses up, Saturn may have rings but Carlsberg is getting rid of them, extreme weather is still battering many parts of the world and can Walmart afford sustainability?
Remember, there are links to all my sources on the blog, which is available from Friday morning at
Climate Change
But first, climate change is an issue but what can you and I do about it?
Last time I reported that scientists believe we could be as little as 3 years off the climate change tipping point. Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the authors say: 
“Collective human action is required to steer the Earth System away from a potential threshold and stabilize it in a habitable interglacial-like state. Such action entails stewardship of the entire Earth System—biosphere, climate, and societies—and could include decarbonization of the global economy, enhancement of biosphere carbon sinks, behavioral changes, technological innovations, new governance arrangements, and transformed social values.”
What can we do about it?
In each episode of the Sustainable Futures Report I complain about how little is being done to address the problem or to take it seriously, but perhaps it’s time I came up with some suggestions about what you and I can actually do about it. It’s easy to blame governments or other people, but it’s not enough. Yes, let’s put pressure on governments and corporations and keep the debate on carbon emissions and resource depletion in the front of public consciousness, but what should we ourselves be doing? Do you remember reduce, re-use, recycle? Let’s reduce the amount of plastic we buy. In fact many people are doing just that. However the sad fact is that refusing plastic drinking straws is a good thing to do but it won’t save the planet, any more than that watch made from recycled materials, that I featured last time, will. More about all that from George Monbiot later on.
Now if you delayed replacing your car by a year, or even more, you’d start to make a difference. Every new car starts as raw materials - iron ore, chemical feedstock for the plastics, rare earth metals for the electronics, sand and silica for the glass. If you don’t buy a new car none of that material has to be used. More important is the energy used in every stage of the manufacturing process, from the diggers which extract the ores, the refineries which produce the chemicals, the kilns which produce the glass to the energy which keeps the production lines rolling and powers the assembly robots. In the present state of things, most of that energy has a carbon footprint. And the benefit of all that energy is wasted when your car is scrapped. Your new car makes a significant contribution to global warming and carbon emissions even before you drive it out of the showroom, just by being built. So let’s reduce, and reduce significantly by thinking carefully about delaying big-ticket purchases like cars, domestic appliances and so on. But there’s more.
Repair, remake, redesign, rethink 
Repair, remake, redesign, rethink is the subtitle of a new book by Catherine Weetman. It’s called “A Circular Economy Handbook for Business and Supply Chains”, published by Kogan Page (ISBN 978-0-7494-7675-5). You will have come across the idea of the circular economy in previous episodes of the Sustainable Futures Report. The idea is that all production and manufacturing exists in a closed circuit. When a product nears the end of its life it may be refurbished, repaired or re-manufactured and ultimately disassembled into it all its component materials. As in nature, there is, theoretically, no waste in the circular economy. Everything for which there is no further use becomes the raw material for the next production cycle. Catherine quotes Professor Walter Stahel who said “…the goods of today become the resources of tomorrow at yesterday’s prices.” 
Sounds too to be true? To some extent it may be, but there is a tremendous amount of work which can be done to develop the circular economy before we get anywhere near theoretical limits.

Why a Book?
As I said in the last episode, all information exists somewhere on the web in reach of a search engine. The difference with a book is that the author has done all the research, verified the content and put it into a logical sequence for us to use. Catherine Weetman has carried out detailed research so that each chapter of her book ends with an exhaustive list of academic references and a list of further resources. Nonetheless this is a practical book, not an academic thesis. Apart from research, Catherine Weetman writes with experience from working on logistics and project management in food, fashion and supply chains for some of the UK’s biggest household names. 
Her book is written in a clear and understandable style and has charts and tables and a wealth of case studies. It starts with a guide on How to Use this Book, which is always useful. Divided into four parts, it leads off with an overview so you’re left in no doubt about what the circular economy is, while Part 2 describes how businesses in various industries have adopted circular economy principles. Part 3 looks at the implications for supply chains and Part 4 is devoted to implementation. 
The circular economy is an essential part of achieving and maintaining a sustainable world, so I like the way Catherine puts everything in context with case studies and real-world examples. We learn how Ford is working with HJ Heinz to use fibres from tomato skins as a bioplastic material, replacing petrochemical plastics and stopping the tomato skins being wasted. We learn how global water usage has grown at more than double the rate of population growth in the last century, and goes on growing. We learn how crops grown to feed people directly take up just 4% of the world’s available land surface, whilst crops to feed cattle, sheep, pigs and chickens account for 30%. We learn how resources - technical, energy, water and biological - are impacted, and some would say unsustainably impacted, by different industries across the world. Case studies and examples from food and agriculture, fashion, consumer electronics and industrial manufacturing show how the circular economy is potentially at the heart of a sustainability revolution and of fundamental changes to our lifestyles and expectations. It’s about doing more with less. It’s about sharing resources in a different way to achieve a different and probably better standard of living. 
Who’s it for?
This book is as much for the managers who have never heard of the circular economy as for those who deal with it every day. Every business is at the crossroads of numerous supply chains and if the organisations upstream or downstream of your business decide to implement circular economy principles you’re going to have to adapt, or you will find business more difficult or more costly to do. As I said in The Green Supply Chain, if you’re the weakest link your customers and suppliers are likely to work round you, and suddenly your market is gone. A Circular Economy Handbook for Business and Supply Chains is an essential reference for those already involved, and forewarns and forearms those who haven’t been hit by it yet. It’s not bedtime reading, nor would I expect anyone to read it from cover to cover, but buy this book and dip into it. It’s not only useful, much of it is fascinating. It will broaden your outlook and you might find out how your competitors could be overtaking you.
The Competition
Talking of competitors overtaking you, I read that China and the European Union (EU) signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Circular Economy Cooperation at the 20th EU-China Summit in Beijing on 16th July. Of course the UK won’t have to worry about that after Brexit next year, which is just as well as we will have plenty of other things to worry us by then!
CHINA - EU circular economy
Hinkley C
Moving on to energy and our old favourite Hinkley C. The CEO of the French nuclear group Framatome said recently that the start-up of the UK’s first European pressurised reactor (EPR) at Hinkley Point C in 2025 was feasible. Framatome used to be called Areva, a troubled engineering company involved with other EPR projects in Finland, France and China, all of which are over budget and seriously delayed. When EDF signed the Hinkley Point deal with the UK government in 2012, Vincent de Rivaz, the CEO of EDF Energy at the time, said UK households would be cooking their Christmas turkeys with electricity generated at the reactor in 2017.  Only 8 years late, then. So far.
The project is led by EDF Energy with investment from China and backing from the UK government. There has been strong criticism of the government for guaranteeing an indexed-linked price for the electricity from the plant at more than twice the current rate. As renewable and battery prices fall many see the plant as an expensive white elephant, but with 3,100 people employed on the site it would be a brave politician who called a halt.

Coal Comeback
In other energy news The Guardian reports that a coal comeback could drive up UK energy emissions. It’s a simple question of market economics: Coal plants have become more economic to run than their gas counterparts in the past month because wholesale gas prices have hit 10-year highs. A report from Imperial College warns that coal-burning in September is adding an extra 1,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions to the UK’s total, threatening its reduction targets.
And in Germany…
Meanwhile in Germany dozens of protesters have occupied 60 treehouses, some as high as 25 metres off the ground, since 2012 in an attempt to protect the ancient Hambach forest from being felled to make way for the expansion of an open-pit coal mine. The authorities have now decided to drive them out so that RWE can enlarge its existing lignite mine. 
Hambach is an ancient forest and home to some rare species but RWE owns it and intends to fell it and has the force of the law behind it. Lignite, of course, is a particularly dirty type of coal and it is ironic that a government-appointed coal committee is due to announce an end date for the coal industry by the end of the year. The government is under pressure to reduce emissions in line with the Paris agreement but has had to rely more on coal since it decided to phase out nuclear by 2022, following the Fukushima disaster.
Across the Pond
Meanwhile, some good news from across the pond. Courthouse News reports that the state of Oregon can continue rating fuels based on their greenhouse gas emissions despite claims by oil and gas companies that the program is unconstitutional. The American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, American Trucking Associations, and Consumer Energy Alliance sued the state environmental commission in 2015, asking a federal judge to block Oregon’s Clean Fuels Program on the basis that it is unconstitutional, unenforceable and discriminatory.  Under the program, regulated businesses must keep the average carbon intensity of all transportation fuels used in Oregon under an annual limit. Fuels with carbon intensity below the limit generate credits for the businesses, while those above the limit result in a deficit.
U.S. District Judge Ann L. Aiken refused, finding the Oregon program was nearly identical to a California program that the Ninth Circuit had previously approved.
The case went to appeal, but a divided panel of Ninth Circuit  judges ruled in Oregon’s favour.
You may remember that Judge Ann Aiken has been prominent in the Juliana case. This is an action by a group of young people against the president and the US government, claiming that their life chances are damaged by the government’s failure to prevent fossil fuel companies from polluting the environment in which they live and by contributing to the causes of climate change. Despite repeated calls by the government for the action to be struck out, the case goes on. And on. Some of the young people are not so young these days.

Wind in the Desert
A recent paper from the University of Illinois suggests that we should consider building wind and solar farms in the Sahara Desert. Do you remember Desertec? It was a plan to build solar farms in the Sahara and to transmit the energy to power Europe. The Desertec Foundation still exists and is still promoting the idea and you can find all about it at The Illinois research is about a lot more than just cheap renewable energy. Postdoctoral researcher Yan Li and his colleagues found that a massive wind and solar installation in the Sahara Desert could have beneficial climatic and ecological effects, as well as supplying power to Europe and the Middle East. Their climate-modeling study found that such an installation in the Sahara Desert and neighboring Sahel would increase local temperature, precipitation and vegetation. Overall, the researchers report, the effects would likely benefit the region. 
Co-researcher Eugenia Kalnay at the University of Maryland, said, “We found that the large-scale installation of solar and wind farms can bring more rainfall and promote vegetation growth in these regions. The rainfall increase is a consequence of complex land-atmosphere interactions that occur because solar panels and wind turbines create rougher and darker land surfaces.”
Colleague Safa Motesharrei added, “The increase in rainfall and vegetation, combined with clean electricity as a result of solar and wind energy, could help agriculture, economic development and social well-being in the Sahara, Sahel, Middle East and other nearby regions”
Seems like a win-win to me.

Walmart and sustainability

I came across an article about Walmart and sustainability in The Conversation. The impetus came from the Chief Executive wondering what sort of world his granddaughter was going to inherit. How could they make Walmart a more sustainable organisation and reduce its impact on the planet? Some things proved relatively easy to do.
The efficiency of its fleet of trucks doubled within a decade. Walmart converted 28 percent of the energy sources powering its stores and operations globally to renewables and the company diverted 78 percent of its global waste from landfills, instead finding ways to recycle, reuse or even sell the garbage. Its goal is to eventually get to 50 percent renewables and zero waste in Canada, Japan, the U.K. and U.S. by 2025.
The other side of things is the sustainability of the products that it sells to its customers. There were two problems here: the first might not apply in Europe but certainly applied in the US. It was a problem of definition. Almost any product could be labelled sustainable because there were no standards against which sustainability had to be judged. This backfired on the company. For example, a promotion of Campbell’s soup with a green “Earth Day” label instead of its customary red one generated external criticism and accusations of “greenwashing.” 
The other problem was cost. Sustainable and organic and responsibly sourced products typically sell at a premium and there was very little room for premium priced products at Walmart which aims at the keenest possible prices. Its consumers were uninterested or unable to pay higher prices for the sake of sustainability.
This led Walmart to focus less on consumers and more on suppliers. If it could just make sure its products were more sustainable or at least that it was able to offer more options – without a meaningful increase in price – it could go a long way toward achieving its goals. And consumers wouldn’t even realize they were helping make the world a better place.
It took years of work with suppliers, but a 2014 study found that Walmart was the top-cited retailer driving suppliers’ investments in product sustainability, with 79 percent identifying the retailer as influential.
Walmart’s efforts showed that balancing cost and sustainability is possible but difficult to implement. For companies, labelling a low-cost product as “sustainable” makes it harder to justify charging a higher price for a similar good that bears that label. And retailers would prefer not to waste limited shelf space providing those options.
Supermarket chains have immense power. Let’s hope others will continue to use it to promote sustainability.
Plastic pollution is still on the agenda and good news comes this week from drinks brand Carlsberg. Many brewers send out their drinks in packs of four, six or more where the cans are joined together with plastic yokes. This plastic is notorious for being one of the worst dangers to wildlife when it is thoughtlessly discarded. Birds, fish and marine mammals can all get caught in it and rarely manage to get free. Carlsberg's solution is to glue the cans together. If you want to release a can you just twist it to break the bond. They are even using glue which can be recycled along with the can. Additionally, Carlsberg announced new caps which remove oxygen to make the beer taste fresher for longer; a switch to Cradle-to-Cradle certified silver inks on its bottle labels to improve recyclability; and a new coating on refillable glass bottles to extend their lifespan.
Carlsberg will extend its Snap Pack to its other brands and the signs are that other brewers will follow suit. As a consumer you can make your choice and influence their decision. Look out for Snap Packs towards the end of this year.

Paved with Good Intentions
The Road to Hell, they say, is paved with good intentions. The roads to sustainability is sometimes paved with unforeseen consequences. George Monbiot, writing in The Guardian, recounts the story of a request to Starbucks and Costa to replace their plastic coffee cups with cups made from corn starch which was retweeted 60,000 times, before it was deleted. 
Monbiot goes on, and I quote: “Those who supported this call failed to ask themselves where the corn starch would come from, how much land would be needed to grow it, or how much food production it would displace. They overlooked the damage this cultivation would inflict: growing corn (maize) is notorious for causing soil erosion, and often requires heavy doses of pesticides and fertilisers.
The problem is not just plastic: it is mass disposability. Or, to put it another way, the problem is pursuing, on the one planet known to harbour life, a four-planet lifestyle. “Regardless of what we consume, the sheer volume of consumption is overwhelming the Earth’s living systems.
Don’t get me wrong,” he says, “Our greed for plastic is a major environmental blight, and the campaigns to limit its use are well motivated and sometimes effective. But we cannot address our environmental crisis by swapping one overused resource for another. When I challenged that call, some people asked me, “So what should we use instead?”
The right question is, “How should we live?” But systemic thinking is an endangered species.”
No, nothing is as simple as you think. But at least we must keep thinking. Read the rest of that article. You’ll find the link on the blog at Do read it if you get the chance, but here’s another brief quotation from it: 
“The BBC’s approach to environmental issues is highly partisan, siding with a system that has sought to transfer responsibility for structural forces to individual shoppers. Yet it is only as citizens taking political action that we can promote meaningful change.
The answer to the question “How should we live?” is: “Simply.” But living simply is highly complicated. In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, the government massacred the Simple Lifers. This is generally unnecessary: today they can safely be marginalised, insulted and dismissed. The ideology of consumption is so prevalent that it has become invisible: it is the plastic soup in which we swim.”

Mea Culpa BBC
George Monbiot is not alone in criticising the BBC and it has finally admitted mistakes over its coverage of climate change. The problem has long been an issue of false balance. On many current affairs programmes climate scientists have been followed by denialists, notoriously Lord Lawson who has no scientific background in the field and who has been shown to deliberately quote false information. Now Fran Unsworth, the BBC’s director of news and current affairs has issued a briefing note to producers warning of the problem. “To achieve impartiality, you do not need to include outright deniers of climate change in BBC coverage, in the same way you would not have someone denying that Manchester United won 2-0 last Saturday. The referee has spoken.”

And finally, the weather.
I reported last time about extreme weather events around the world and it seems that they continue. After the floods, the heatwave and the typhoon, Japan has suffered a major earthquake. Nothing to do with climate change, of course, but another blow to a nation already devastated in many areas.
The Philippines were hit this week by Typhoon Mangkhut and at the time of writing 81 people were dead and many more missing. Dozens are feared dead after a landslide engulfed a building where miners were taking shelter.
Hong Kong
The storm moved across to Hong Kong which was left reeling by ferocious winds of up to 173 kilometers per hour (107 miles per hour) and gusts of up to 223 kph (138 mph).
The storm tore off roofs and scaffolding from skyscrapers, shattered windows, shook high-rise buildings and caused serious flooding in low-lying areas as waves of more than three meters (9.8 feet) lashed the coast. 54 people are known to have died.
As Typhoon Mangkhut approached, China evacuated 3 million citizens from southern towns. As the storm passed on the South China Morning Post reported that the Guangdong government estimated the direct economic losses for the province were at least 4.2 billion yuan. That’s about £450m or more than half a billion US dollars. 
Across the world Hurricane Florence has been moving steadily across the United States. As it made landfall it was downgraded to a category 1 storm and it is suggested that that gave people a false sense of security. Regardless of wind speed, as the storm moves up the East Coast it brings torrential rain, storm surges and flooding. 30 people have already died. Citylab reported on Tuesday that Hurricane Florence battered the Carolina coasts with heavy rain, strong winds, and a devastating storm surge over the weekend. But even after the rain had dissipated, it still presented a danger from disastrous flooding, which the North Carolina Department of Transportation warned would still get worse in the days to come.
I don't know whether the storm will get across to California, but heavy rain would be useful to quell the wildfires burning in that state. On 31 August it was reported that the fire was under control but by 6 September reports were coming in that it had spread to cover 23 mi.².
I haven't been able to find any reports dated since 10 September, but Mercury News recorded on that date that a 45-mile stretch of Interstate 5 which runs from Mexico to Canada, was still closed because of the fire. The fire had destroyed abandoned cars and trucks along the road, although it seems that the occupants managed to escape.

Bad News for the Climate
And that’s it for another episode.
I didn't want to end with all this bad news, with these stories about all this exceptional weather but the implication must be clearly that climate change is real, that climate change is serious, and that climate change should be the number one concern of all governments. Let's share that with our political representatives: let's hold them to account. Let's try and focus them on the long term and the not so long-term future of ourselves on this planet. Good luck with that, given how governments throughout the world are obsessing about short-term issues.
Well, as I say, that's it for another episode of the Sustainable Futures Report. Another bumper episode running to over 4,500 words this time. I hoped you enjoyed it. I hope you found it interesting and I hope that you will let me have your ideas for the topics that I should investigate and cover in future episodes or pieces that you would like to contribute yourself. I've got some ideas for the next episode and I'm planning to publish on 28th September as we get back to a weekly routine. I’ll explain why then.
And that really is it…
So for now this is Anthony Day saying thank you for listening, saying thank you for being a patron if you are, and you know where to go if you're not.
Yes I'm Anthony Day, contact me at with your suggestions and ideas.
That was the Sustainable Futures Report.
Bye for now

Friday, September 07, 2018


Find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher or via 

Hello and Welcome

Hello I’m Anthony Day and welcome to the Sustainable Futures Report for Friday 7th September.
Now that we have left August behind us you may think that the silly season is over. There were many silly stories in the press but many serious issues continued to be serious so here's a roundup of what you may have missed. I've called this episode HOLD TIGHT because there's an awful lot to get through. The first and most important thing of course is to welcome our newest patron Michelle Marks. Welcome Michelle, and thanks for supporting the Sustainable Futures Report. If you too would like to be a patron and contribute a small amount each month to support the Sustainable Futures Report you would be more than welcome. Just hop across to where you'll find all the details. And let me take this opportunity to thank all my patrons for their continuing support.
This Time
I've always said that sustainability is a vast subject. Just to give you a flavour of that, in this episode I'll be talking about energy, including fracking and transport, about waste food and waste plastic, about climate change, about investment strategies, about floods and fires and climate change denial, and we have a book review as well. There are some informed insights from Jeremy Leggett and there might be a bit of politics too.
Remember, the full text of this episode is on the blog at where you will find links to the sources of all my stories.

Liquid electricity?
Here we go then, let's start with energy. Have we finally found the philosopher’s stone? You know, the compound sought by the alchemists of old which would turn lead into gold. The idea of a pumpable liquid to fuel electric cars seems to me to be in that category, or at very least it seems to be too good to be true. Researchers Cronin, Chen and Symes say in the abstract from their article in the Nature Chemistry journal “we present a polyoxoanion, … that can act either as a high-performance redox flow battery electrolyte… …or as a mediator in an electrolytic cell for the on-demand generation of hydrogen.” Some storage batteries contain a liquid called an electrolyte. Older readers may remember when car batteries contained sulphuric acid as an electrolyte, and the cells had to be topped up with distilled water every now and then. It seems that this new process could be used in electric car batteries. The exhausted electrolyte liquid would be drained out and replaced with a new energy-rich batch. If this could be done as quickly as refuelling a petrol or diesel car the range anxiety problem with electric cars - the worry that the battery will run out and take hours to recharge, leaving the driver stranded - will be solved at a stroke. Of course there will be a few issues to be ironed out. Could this liquid be dispensed through existing petrol pumps? Can it be easily transported or does it need to be pressurised? How is it produced and how much energy is needed for the process? What will happen to the exhausted electrolyte extracted from the batteries? A practical solution may be some way off, but we need to support more research like this.

Cleaning Up Cars
More news from the automotive sector. 
In August Greenpeace took direct action against @UKVolkswagen by blockading their head office “to try & wake them up to the diesel pollution crisis. It's time for VW to do the right thing & #DitchDiesel.”   20-08-18
VW has been getting a bad press in Mexico as well, for a story which has been relayed by media from the Washington Post to CBC to the Daily Telegraph. Apparently, Volkswagen is curbing the use of hail cannons outside its factory in Puebla, Mexico, after it was accused by local farmers of causing a drought in the region, leading to heavy losses of crops.
VW used the cannons to protect newly-built vehicles from hailstone damage. The devices emit shock waves into the sky, which are believed to prevent the chunks of ice from forming, but there’s a lack of scientific evidence that the cannons actually impact weather conditions and minimise hail, and their legitimacy has long been criticised. Still, farmers in Puebla claim that the cannons have led to a lack of much-needed rainfall.
The hail cannons are “affecting the Earth’s cycles,” said Gerardo Perez, a leader of the farmers. When the devices blast away, “the sky literally clears and it simply doesn’t rain,” he said. To cover the crop losses, the farmers are demanding that Volkswagen pay nearly $4 million in compensation.

Bad news, but the most damning report came from The Guardian.
Drivers in Europe have paid €150bn more on fuel than they would have if their vehicles had performed as well on-the-road as in official laboratory-based tests, according to a new report.
Car companies have legally gamed official tests of fuel economy for many years by, for example, using very hard tyres during tests or taking out equipment to make cars lighter. The gap between test and actual performance has soared from 9% in 2000 to 42% today.
Analysts at research and campaign group Transport & Environment have now calculated that this difference cost motorists in Europe €150bn (£136bn) in extra fuel between 2000 and 2017. UK drivers paid €3.5bn more in 2017 alone, and a total of €24bn since 2000.
A new more realistic lab test is now in place but the European commission uncovered new evidence in July that this was also being gamed by carmakers. This means the increases in fuel efficiency being demanded by the EU as part of its action on climate change are still being undermined and drivers will continue to use more fuel than policymakers intend.”
Something in the Air
OK, that’s hitting drivers in the pocket and it’s frustrating attempts to curb climate change, but what’s more worrying is the effect of poor air quality on health. 
CNN reports that air pollution could be more damaging to our health than previously thought, according to a new study, which found that prolonged exposure to dirty air has a significant impact on our cognitive abilities, especially in older men.
A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that breathing polluted air causes a "steep reduction" in scores on verbal and math tests.
Meanwhile, The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health has declared pollution as the greatest health risk to the world population of which air pollution is by far the greatest contributor. The principal outdoor pollutants are particulates (PM10 , PM2.5 and ultrafine particles), both primary from exhaust and tyre/brake wear and secondary from atmospheric chemical interactions of pollutants.
In 2016, the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPH) published a ground-breaking report highlighting the serious health issues being created by air pollution in the UK with an estimated 40,000 deaths from cardiovascular and lung disease brought forward and substantially greater effects on morbidity from a wide range of diseases. An important conclusion from this report was that air pollution acts across the entire life course from conception to old age; exposure to pollutants in early childhood, contributing to excess morbidity and mortality in later years.
Falsifying vehicle emissions data is clearly both cynical and irresponsible. It might not be going too far to classify it as a crime against humanity, as it affects all people for all of their lives; motorists or not. 

Goodbye to Coal?
Transform, the journal of IEMA, reports that the UK is on the brink of eradicating coal from its electricity mix during the summer months. OK, we’ve had an exceptional summer, but coal accounted for a record-low 1% of power over June this year.
Climate Action also has the story: “Researchers at Imperial College London analysed official data from the National Grid over the months of April, May and June,” they say.
“‘For the third summer in a row, coal is edging closer to extinction in Britain,’ commented lead author Dr Iain Staffell, noting that ‘coal supplied a mere 1.3 per cent of electricity over the quarter. Its share also fell below 1 per cent for first time across June.
‘The times at which coal is running over summer is “at a bare minimum”,’ Staffell added, highlighting that plants are usually called upon to provide grid stability during periods of low demand.”
“The report goes on to state that Britain “likely could” run without coal all summer, given that the remaining fleet operated at only 3 per cent of its maximum capacity.”

Across the pond, California has given fossil fuel-derived energy a hefty shove towards obsolescence after legislators voted to require that 100% of the state’s electricity come from carbon-free sources.
The bill, which will need to be approved by the state senate and Governor Jerry Brown, will require a complete shift to clean energy such as solar and wind by 2045. It would also demand that electric utilities source 60% of their power from renewable sources by 2030, up from the current target of 50%.

Nothing in the Pipeline?
Turning to another source of fossil-fuel energy, Eco-Watch reports a Stunning Victory for Indigenous Nations as Canada Halts Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion
I mentioned this dispute in a recent episode. Alberta is exploiting vast tar sands to extract bituminous oil, but can only make the project viable by transporting the output by pipeline across Bitish Columbia to the port at Vancouver.
The article goes on, “A Canadian court "quashed" approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion on Thursday, a major setback for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose government agreed to purchase the controversial project from Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion Canadian dollars (U.S. $3.5 billion) in May.
“It's a stunning victory for Indigenous groups and environmentalists opposed to the project, which is designed to nearly triple the amount of tar sands transported from Alberta to the coast of British Columbia.
“The Federal Court of Appeal ruled that the National Energy Board's review—as explained by the Canadian Press—"was so flawed that the federal government could not rely on it as a basis for its decision to approve the expansion."
“The project has been at the center of widespread protests from environmental groups and First Nations ever since November 2016, when [prime minister] Trudeau approved a $7.4 billion expansion of the existing Trans Mountain pipeline that would increase the transport of Alberta tar sands oil from the current 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 barrels per day and increase tanker traffic nearly seven-fold through the Burrard Inlet. Specifically, the court said it was an "unjustifiable failure" that the National Energy Board did not consider the environmental impacts of the increased tanker traffic.”
If you remember, the Burrard Inlet links the Port of Vancouver to the Pacific Ocean. In addition to concerns about the environmental impact of the pipeline there were also concerns about the tankers taking the product away to Asian markets. The inlet is crossed by a string of islands, making navigation far from straightforward, particularly in winter. 
The court's judgment could be appealed a final time to the Supreme Court of Canada, but for the moment construction must stop and the government must revise its review of the project, including its negotiations with the indigenous peoples.
It looks as though the Canadian government has bought a white elephant which could remain in limbo indefinitely. 

Fracking Futures - or not?
Still on energy, Jeremy Leggett published a review of fracking last month. You can find it at  and the link is on the blog and the blog is at . He calls it “Why American Shale is heading for a crash and fracking in the UK is doomed to costly failure” so he’s not puling any punches. I recommend that you go and have a look at it, but I’ll just highlight a couple of points. Leggett reports that  US fracking is consuming cash faster than it’s generating it and he calls it a giant Ponzi scheme which will never repay its investments. According to Bloomberg there’s a major threat to the viability of fracked gas from the rapidly improving solar, wind and battery technology which is driving energy prices below the level where fracked fossil fuels can be profitable. California’s plan to phase out fossil fuels, mentioned above, just ramps up the pressure. There is also concern that many fracking wells are becoming depleted much more quickly than expected. New pipelines will never pay for themselves if there is no product to put through them.
Quite apart from viability, there are serious environmental concerns. The US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) now accepts that fracking can contaminate drinking water. Farmers are suing water companies for mining aquifers to extract the thousands of gallons of water needed for fracking operations.  70,000 fish were killed in Ohio after a fracking spill, but nobody knows exactly what killed them because operator Halliburton has no legal requirement to reveal the chemicals it uses. On the face of it, gas is a cleaner fuel than coal, but the methane leaks associated with extracting the gas can make it more damaging than coal. The EPA has found that methane leakage is far higher than expected, and leakage in the US has global climate consequences.
There is no fracking currently in the UK, but the government is keen that it should start as soon as possible in England and is doing everything to smooth the planning path and to buy off opposition by promising hefty grants to the local communities where fracking is planned. Scotland, Germany, the State of Victoria in Australia, France, New Zealand and the US State of Monterey are some of the states which have all banned fracking, but the UK government insists that fracking is an essential part of England’s energy future. One of the problems in the UK, of course, is that nobody in government is giving any serious attention at the moment to anything apart from Brexit, the UK’s planned departure from the European Union, and each of the two main parties is totally split from cabinet level down.

Let’s talk rubbish
Waste has featured in the news over the past few weeks. 
A shocking report published in the Journal of Cleaner Production reveals that more than a third of farmed fruit and vegetables never reaches supermarket shelves because it is misshapen or the wrong size. A third. More than 30%. One apple or potato or cucumber or strawberry or turnip in three is thrown away.
A University of Edinburgh study found more than 50 million tonnes of fruit and vegetables grown across Europe were discarded each year. This was in part because they did not meet consumers' expectations of how they should look.

Meanwhile, plastic waste still makes the news. BBC News quotes the Treasury saying that there is high public support for using the tax system to reduce waste from single-use plastics.
A consultation on how taxes could tackle the rising problem and promote recycling attracted 162,000 responses. Treasury Minister Robert Jenrick said the government was looking at "smart, intelligent incentives" to get plastic producers to take responsibility.
Reports suggest a levy on manufacturers and some disposable plastic products may be introduced in the Budget, which will take place in November. It could include measures such as a tax on single-use coffee cups.
Climate Action tells us about a new solar-powered watch made from recycled plastic. “Two French designers are leading the way to reducing plastic pollution,” they say, “by creating a watch made from recycled bottles. The new eco-friendly watch is named ‘Awake’. It is made from plastic waste, recycled stainless steel and is powered by solar energy.” 
Apparently this watch will cost about $300. I must admit I’m tempted, although my £65 watch still works perfectly well. If I were to buy a new watch it would be nice to think that it’s been made with minimal impact on the environment. I think the new watch’s main contribution will be to make people remember that recycling is important.

Scientists have been telling us about the dangers of plastic pollution for years. Then David Attenborough made a film about it and suddenly everyone’s aware. You can never tell what will trigger the tipping point; only rejoice when something does.
Scientists have been telling us about climate change for years. The consequences of the long hot summer we’ve had may have the same tipping point effect. There has certainly been no shortage of weather stories in the media, and people are beginning to think that climate change might just be real.
Floods and Fires
At the beginning of August New Scientist reported on California’s worst wildfire in history. It was now the size of Los Angeles, they said.

In June and July fire burnt across Saddleworth Moor in northern England. It may have been caused by arson, but the hot dry weather helped it burn for some 3 weeks.
A series of wildfires in Greece began in the coastal areas of Attica in July and by mid August 96 people were confirmed dead. 
In Sweden, in northern Europe, wildfires burned more than 24,000 hectares of land, with authorities battling 80 fires across the Nordic country at one point. Some of these fires were burning north of the Arctic Circle.
The situation wasn’t helped by an outbreak of arson, which saw some 100 cars set on fire in different cities across the country.
The South China Morning Post reports that In Japan, more than 200 people were killed in historic flooding, followed by an extreme heatwave, and then a typhoon battered the country again – all of this in July alone.
As I write this, the BBC is reporting that Japan has been hit by one of the strongest typhoons in 25 years, with officials warning more than a million people to evacuate their homes.
Typhoon Jebi made landfall in western areas, bringing heavy rain and reports of winds up to 172km/h (107 mph).
In Osaka Bay it swept a tanker into a bridge and in Kyoto parts of the train station roof came down.

In Calabria, Italy, torrential rain in August led to flash flooding. Waters tearing down a narrow gorge killed 11 hikers
In Kerala, India, floods caused the death of at least 324 people. Some 220,000 were left homeless and thousands were trapped after unusually heavy rain.
The state is “facing the worst floods in 100 years”, said chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Roads were damaged, mobile phone networks down, an international airport closed.

Could it be Climate Change?
The bad news goes on, all over the world. As I said, people are beginnig to mutter about climate change. Writing in the Daily Mail, former Conservative party leader Michael Howard said, “Thirty years ago Margaret Thatcher warned of man-made global warming. I fear this blazing summer is proving her right.”

The Guardian’s headline was “Domino-effect of climate events could move Earth into a ‘hothouse’ state”. It went on to explain that a domino-like cascade of melting ice, warming seas, shifting currents and dying forests could tilt the Earth into a “hothouse” state beyond which human efforts to reduce emissions would be increasingly futile. The paper was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “I do hope we are wrong, but as scientists we have a responsibility to explore whether this is real,” said Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre. “We need to know now. It’s so urgent. This is one of the most existential questions in science.” He warned that the 2℃ target set by the Paris Agreement might not be enough to avoid this situation. Worryingly it’s generally agreed that the commitments made by the countries signing the Paris Agreement will not be enough to meet the target, especially as Trump’s America has turned its back on it.

Putting your money…
Jeremy Leggett provides us with a summary of a recent note to investors issued by Jeremy Grantham, chief investment strategist of Grantham, Mayo, & van Otterloo, a firm with more than US$118 billion in assets under management. Grantham calls it “The Race of Our Lives” and he goes through the threats to the future from climate change.  He shows his company’s portfolio break down - 39% in clean energy, 17% in energy efficiency, 19% in agriculture and the rest spread over smart grids, copper and water.
These are his recommendations:
  • Vote for green politicians and that can include some Republicans
  • Lobby investment firms to be greener and to lean on their portfolio companies to do the same.
  • Do not grant the oil companies immunity– they have been complicit in a global cover-up of data, funded propaganda, delayed decarbonisation and they’ve recklessly endangered us.
  • Consume with decarbonisation in the front of mind
He closes:
“We are racing to protect not just our portfolios, not just our grandchildren, but our species. So get to it.”

And Those Against…
Of course the denialists are always with us. A recent headline said,
“Australian PM dumps key climate policy to stave off leadership revolt”
Sorry Mr Turnbull, it didn’t work. Although there’s no guarantee that the new PM will introduce wide-ranging green policies. Probably the opposite.

In the US the Illinois attorney-general is suing Trump Tower over the 20 million gallons of water that it takes from the Chicago River each day. It uses the water for cooling, which raises its temperature, and then discharges it back into the river with no regard for any environmental consequences.

A sinister story comes from Open Democracy UK.
“Twenty years ago, and without any public debate, an arcane international agreement entered into force. The Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) gives sweeping powers to foreign investors in the energy sector, including the peculiar privilege to directly sue states in secret international tribunals arbitrated over by three private lawyers. Companies are claiming dizzying sums in compensation for government actions that have allegedly damaged their investments, either directly through expropriation or indirectly through regulations of virtually any kind.
“Swedish energy giant Vattenfall, for example, sued Germany for €1.4 billion in compensation over environmental restrictions imposed on a coal-fired power plant. The lawsuit was settled after the government agreed to relax the restrictions protecting the local river and its wildlife. Since 2012, Vattenfall has been suing Germany again, seeking €4.3 billion plus interest for lost profits from two nuclear reactors, following the country’s phase-out of atomic energy after the Fukushima disaster. Several utility companies are pursuing the EU’s poorest member state, Bulgaria, seeking hundreds of millions of euros because the government reduced soaring electricity costs for consumers. And these are only a few examples.”
We covered this in a previous episode. I read a report recently that the US fossil fuel industry was considering similar action. It wanted to sue the government to repeal environmental legislation that was making its operations unviable. Let’s ignore the effect of fossil fuels on the viability of the planet.

It’s an Ill Wind…
There has got to be good news. Back at the beginning of year the city authorities in Cape Town South Africa predicted that the city would run out of water on 21 April. That you didn't in fact happen because they introduced to stringent water rationing regulations, they were able to negotiate with farmers to release some of the water in my reservoirs and they did have some rain. Since then I have had exceptional rain and the reservoirs are now back up to 80% capacity. No let up on the rationing regulations, however. I think people in Cape Town have come to realise how valuable water really is. A lesson for all us perhaps.

Good news for the shipping industry in that they North Atlantic Sea ice is receding in the hot weather so that navigation around the top of North America is possible. A new 42,000 t containership, the Venta Maersk,  has been built for the route. Good news for the shipping industry, but maybe not such good news for the rest of us because even without collisions or capsizes there will be environmental damage from the passage of these vessels. The fact that the northwest passage is open itself underlines the truth of climate change.
Designing the Purposeful World
And now, before you go, we have a book review and an interview with Clive Wilson, the author. This will be the first of two book reviews for September. My first thought was to ask “Who reads books these days?” We are so overwhelmed with sources of information from multiple television channels to social media to Internet search engines and podcasts, quite apart from the traditional newspapers, magazines, and print advertising. We are showered with so much information that many people have a very limited attention span, and who indeed would read a book when you can get all the answers on line? The answer of course is that while you can search for anything on line, it’s frequently difficult to judge the accuracy of what you find or even to complete the picture of what you are looking for. On the other hand, the author of a book has done the research, often over many months or years.  They have verified and cross-checked the information and assembled it all in a logical sequence for you to absorb.
I don’t know whether Clive Wilson thought specifically of attention spans when he wrote Designing the Purposeful World, but his book certainly does everything it can to catch the reader’s attention and keep it. It’s also only 130 pages or so, so it’s a very manageable size, but Clive is asking the reader questions, and giving space for written answers from the first page on. In fact he asks you to write down your thoughts no less than seven times in the first chapter and ends it with a checklist to test your understanding. This is a pattern repeated throughout the book. This is not a book that anyone is going to fall asleep over.

Designing the Purposeful World explores the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,(UNSDGs) how they affect all of us and how we all can make a difference. If you haven’t heard of the UN SDGs you should go to, or maybe just read the book. It starts from why anyone can make a difference and ends with a summary of the story so far and a call to take action, to promote the SDGs and to help to fulfil them. There are seventeen goals and along the way Clive demonstrates how they fit in with our lives, with the organisations we work for, with the companies we buy from and with society at large. I’ve had an opportunity to talk to Clive Wilson and to ask him to expand on some of his ideas. 
Interview +++++++++++++++

Clive Wilson. His book, Designing the Purposeful World, is published by Routledge and available from all good bookshops. Next time I shall be looking at “A Circular Economy Handbook for Business and Supply Chains” by Catherine Weetman and published by Kogan Page.
And that's it for this edition of the Sustainable Futures Report, which is by far the longest one to date but as I explained the start there is just so much to catch up on. As usual there are links to all my sources on the blog which you can find at

And Finally…
Thank you for listening and if you're a patron thank you for your support. And thanks again to Michelle Marks for becoming our latest patron. The next edition of the Sustainable Futures Report will be on 21 September and I'm seriously thinking about resuming a weekly publication schedule. I'll explain why next time. I'll also mention smart meters and tell you about my attempts to buy an electric car. I expect there will be quite a lot of other stories to bring you as well. If you have ideas or information or feedback don’t hesitate to share at And don’t forget that there are links to the sources of all these stories on the blog at
In the meantime thanks once again for listening.
This is Anthony Day
That was the Sustainable Futures Report 
Bye for now!