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Jakarta residents to sue government over severe air pollution

The Indonesian capital topped the charts for the worlds most contaminated city a lots times in June

Tired of breathing in a few of the world’s filthiest air, a group of activists and ecologists in Jakarta has actually chosen to take legal action against the Indonesian federal government to do something about it.

Air quality in the south-east Asian city has actually plunged considerably in the previous month and taped even worse conditions than infamously contaminated cities such as Delhi and Beijing.

Social media users have actually published photos of the Indonesian capital blanketed in smog under the hashtag, #SetorFotoPolusi.

Varadhita Eriyadi (@dhitavarra)

Taken from my workplace, 24th flooring. SCBD. body link”class=”u-underline”> #SetorFotoPolusi

June 26, 2019

On 25 June, the capital signed up an air quality index (AQI )of 240 according to the vibrant IQAirVisual index. For contrast, London’s present index reading is 12 while San Francisco is on 26.

The Jakarta smog has actually now triggered more than 30 complainants, consisting of activists, ecologists, civil servants, artists, and businesspeople to unite and deal with sending a civil claim versus the federal government this month.

The case will be submitted versus the Indonesian president, along with the ministries of health, house affairs and environment, and the guvs of Jakarta, Banten and West Java.

“We hope that through this claim the federal government can enhance existing policies and take efficient actions to get rid of air contamination due to the fact that present policies are not working,”described Ayu Eza Tiara, a legal representative from the Jakarta Legal Institute, which is dealing with the case.

“In the recently of June, based upon our information, the air contamination index is typically truly bad, “stated Ayu,”It is typically high at a loss zone, which is categorized as extremely unhealthy.”

According to the vibrant IQAirVisual index, Jakarta topped the charts for the world’s most contaminated city a minimum of half a lots times this June.

The AQI reading is based upon measurements of particle matter, consisting of PM 2.5, little particles less than 2.5 micrometers in size that can be breathed in and trigger major health issue.

Last year Jakarta was ranked the most contaminated city in south-east Asia, based upon a research study by Greenpeace and AirVisual, released this March.

In addition to Jakarta’s infamously bad traffic , Greenpeace thinks the city’s markets, prohibited and legal smelters, open-waste burning and coal-fired power plants are likewise to blame.

But the Indonesian federal government appears hesitant to acknowledge the issue.

The acting head of the Jakarta ecological firm just recently dismissed the bad June readings, stating the federal government “does not actually react to real-time information”and in basic the air quality had actually been”moderate”this year.

Jakarta guv Anies Baswedan has actually put the issue to the high variety of automobiles on the roadway, however Greenpeace energy advocate Bondan Andriyani argues that is just part of the photo.

” In 2018 the information revealed that traffic in Jakarta was enhancing, however the air quality, decreased. It’s a contradiction,”stated Bondan, “The PM 2.5 information revealed that variety of unhealthy days practically doubled in 2018 from the year previously.”

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Fukushima disaster: first residents return to town next to nuclear plant

Parts of Okuma are open for organisation when again, however just a few hundred previous homeowners have actually moved house

A town beside the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor partly resumed on Wednesday, 8 years after a triple disaster required 10s of countless individuals in the location to leave.

About 40% of Okuma, which sits right away west of the plant, was stated safe for homeowners to make a long-term return after decontamination efforts considerably lowered radiation levels.

However, media reports stated simply 367 individuals from Okuma’s pre-disaster population of 10,341 had actually signed up as homeowners, recommending that extremely couple of individuals will go back to areas that have actually been deserted because a fatal earthquake and tsunami triggered a triple disaster at the nuclear plant in March 2011.

Most of Okuma, nevertheless, stays off-limits due to high radiation levels. Homeowners have actually been allowed to make daytime gos to to keep their houses, however Kyodo news reported that just 48 individuals, coming from 21 families, had actually up until now signed up to remain over night.

Local authorities hope the opening next month of a brand-new city center and other facilities tasks will encourage more individuals to return.

Concern over the possible health results of direct exposure to radiation stays high amongst individuals from locations near the plant, especially households with young kids. A survey by the Asahi paper and a regional broadcaster discovered that practically two-thirds of left homeowners felt nervous about radiation in spite of main claims that decontamination work had actually been a success.

Part of Okuma is likewise being utilized as an interim storage website for countless cubic metres of hazardous soil collected throughout an unmatched decontamination drive to decrease radiation to levels that would make it possible for 10s of countless evacuees to return house.

The federal government has actually pledged to move the soil out of Fukushima prefecture by 2045, however has yet to discover an irreversible storage website.

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Central Okuma in April this year. Parts of the town are open for locals to return. Photo: 183641 +0900/ AP

The crises at 3 of Fukushima Daiichi’s 6 reactors triggered huge radiation leakages, requiring 160,000 individuals to leave.

While evacuation orders in the majority of the preliminary no-go zones have actually been raised, limitations are still in location in numerous locations closest to the plant, consisting of the majority of Okuma and all of neighboring Futaba. More than 40,000 individuals were still not able to return house since March, and a number of those whose houses have actually been stated safe have actually chosen not to return.

The prime minister, Shinzo Abe, will go to an event on Sunday to mark the partial lifting of the evacuation order in Okuma. Abe, who has actually promoted the reboot of atomic power plants that were closed down in the wake of the catastrophe, might likewise check out Fukushima Daiichi for the very first time in more than 5 years, according to Kyodo news firm.

Abe is eager to show that life in Fukushima is gradually retuning to typical ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, drawing criticism from advocates.

As Japan marked the 8th anniversary of the catastrophe last month, a Greenpeace examination exposed high levels of radiation in locations that have actually been stated safe, and implicated the federal government of misguiding the worldwide neighborhood about the threats dealt with by returning evacuees and decontamination employees.

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Who keeps buying California’s scarce water? Saudi Arabia

Saudi-based Almarai owns 15,000 acres of an irrigated valley but what business does a foreign food production company have drawing resources from a US desert?

Four hours east of Los Angeles, in a drought-stricken area of a drought-afflicted state, is a small town called Blythe where alfalfa is king. More than half of the towns 94,000 acres are bushy blue-green fields growing the crop.

Massive industrial storehouses line the southern end of town, packed with thousands upon thousands of stacks of alfalfa bales ready to be fed to dairy cows but not cows in Californias Central Valley or Montanas rangelands.

Instead, the alfalfa will be fed to cows in Saudi Arabia.

The storehouses belong to Fondomonte Farms, a subsidiary of the Saudi Arabia-based company Almarai one of the largest food production companies in the world. The company sells milk, powdered milk and packaged items such as croissants, strudels and cupcakes in supermarkets and corner stores throughout the Middle East and North Africa, and in specialty grocers throughout the US.

Each month, Fondomonte Farms loads the alfalfa on to hulking metal shipping containers destined to arrive 24 days later at a massive port stationed on the Red Sea, just outside King Abdullah City in Saudi Arabia.


  • Alfalfa at Fondomonte Farms in Vicksburg, Arizona

With the Saudi Arabian landscape there being mostly desert and alfalfa being a water-intensive crop, growing it there has always been expensive and draining on scarce water resources, to the point that the Saudi government finally outlawed the practice in 2016. In the wake of the ban, Almarai decided to purchase land wherever it is cheap and has favorable water conditions to produce enough feed for its 93,000 cows.

In 2012, they acquired 30,000 acres of land in Argentina, and in 2014, they bought their first swath of land in Arizona. Then, in 2015, they bought 1,700 acres in Blythe a vast, loamy, agricultural metropolis abutting the Colorado river, where everything but the alfalfa seems cast in the hue of sand. Four years later, the company owns 15,000 acres 16% of the entire irrigated valley.

But what business does a foreign company have drawing precious resources from a US desert to offset a lack of resources halfway around the globe?

What Fondomonte Farms is doing is merely a chapter in the long story of water management in the west, one that pierces the veil on the inanities of the global supply chain how easy it is to move a commodity like alfalfa, or for that matter lettuce or clementines or iPhones, across more than 13,000 miles of land and sea, how much we rely on these crisscrossing supply lines, and at what cost to our own natural resources.



An astonishingly good rate

Though Blythe is a desert, it is adjacent to the lower Colorado river, a river that supplies water to roughly 40 million people and irrigates 4m acres of land.

Bart Miller, Western Resource Advocates healthy rivers program director, says that over the last 80 years, due to the growth of proximate cities such as Denver, Los Angeles and Phoenix and the expansion of large-scale farms, demands on the river have steadily climbed. The river is also shrinking due to climate change. It has endured a nearly two-decade-long drought, with only waning rain and snowpacks to supply its flow. As a result, the river is at a record low.

The state of the Colorado river can be traced, in part, to a water claim approved by the federal government all the way back in the 1800s when a British gold rush-era prospector named Thomas Blythe first laid eyes on the desert expanse adjacent to the rushing Colorado river and submitted a water claim application to the federal government.

That 1877 water claim, now owned by the Palo Verde Irrigation District, ensures that Blythe has unquantified water rights for beneficial use; in other words, as much water as those living and farming within the district could possibly need in this water-scarce region, and for free.

The Palo Verde Irrigation District is not allowed to sell the water not to the company Calistoga, say, for bottled water, but not to their farmers, either. Blythe farmers are thus only charged to cover the water districts overhead $77 an acre-foot a year, an astonishingly low rate.

In other places, people are charged according to how much water they use and are thus incentivized to use less. In Blythe, no matter how much he uses, a farmer gets his water for a cheap, flat rate.


  • Alfalfa fields and storage warehouses at Fondomonte Farms

Its no surprise, then, that Fondomonte chose to set up shop here. While Saudi Arabia has enacted laws to manage their water resources, in the US we are still governing our water based on compacts made in the 1800s before the western cities had boomed, before suburban sprawl, before factory farming and a global supply chain and, of course, before climate change.

Water from the Colorado might be limited, but in Blythe, while they still have it, its there for the taking.

Getting the water from the river to Blythe is a complicated engineering feat. Its a really unique system, explains JR Echard, assistant manager of the Palo Verde Irrigation District, as he traces how the water moves throughout the valley on a map on his office wall.

Were in the desert, Echard said, but we live next to a massive river and have rights to it. Thomas Blythe might have appeared crazy to want to build an empire of agriculture out here in the desert but, in Echards eyes, Blythe was on to something.

The Colorado river powers a meticulously managed system of canals and dams. Southern water districts like Palo Verde estimate their constituents water needs and submit corresponding orders to the Parker and Hoover dams upstream which then release the requested water as though turning a great industrial tap. Once in Blythe, the diverted water moves downward into the valley below with the help of gravity and into a 250-mile system of canals that wind through 100,000 acres of cropland.

The canals are outfitted with electronic gates that can be opened and closed with the click of a mouse from the Palo Verde Irrigation Districts offices.


  • The Diversion dam on the lower Colorado river, regulated by the PVID

In California, everyones after whatever water they can get. Because of the low supply, the Palo Verde Irrigation District is currently three years into a 30-year fallowing contract when farmers are paid not to plant a portion of their fields so the water can instead be sent to cities with the Metropolitan Water District, which supplies water to big cities like San Diego and Los Angeles.

Fondomonte inherited a fallowing contract, so they are restricted from planting a portion of their land each year. This drives the company mad, an employee whom I will call Jim, told me. He asked not to be named for fear of reprisal from Fondomonte. Alfalfa-hungry Fondomonte would prefer to plant every inch.

Despite its agricultural prowess, 23% of Blythe residents live in poverty (compared with 12% nationally). The town is home to 21,000 people 6,000 of whom are incarcerated in one of the towns two state prisons. The prisons were supposed to bring economic development to the city, Echard told me on our way back from the dam as we sped alongside one of the primary canals. But it hasnt done much at all.

Fondomonte, on the other hand, has been a boon. Everyone wants to be working here, Jim told me. Not only does the company employ more than 100 locals full-time as compared with the part-time or seasonal labor found on most farms and with 401ks, vacation and health insurance, but they also support local farmers by purchasing their alfalfa to add to their bales and ship overseas.

There are a lot of exporters here, Jim said of US farmers and farm operations selling their crops to overseas markets. They have been exporting from here for 30 or 40 years. I dont see how this farm is any different.

The Saudis, theyre here buying up at a good price, Echard explained. Theyre just the same as everyone else. They buy local. Its a shot in the arm for the economy.


  • A field of alfalfa in Blythe, California

But is it an outrage?

The thing about alfalfa is that its perennial; you can grow it all year and stagger the planting in the fields so that theres nearly always a new crop of alfalfa ready to be cut as well as planted. Once its cut, it keeps growing, and they cut it again. A crop can last up to five years, but Fondomonte generally rips up and replants after two or three; any longer than that and the alfalfa grows more stem-heavy, and thus drops in quality.

Each day on their massive, gated farm headquarters, Fondomonte employees take samples of the alfalfa and test its quality: the higher the ratio of leaves to stems, the better the quality, and thus the better the milk the cows will produce.

Almarai only wants the highest quality, Jim explained. He broke open a bale with his hands as if tearing off a piece of bread. The outside of the alfalfa was brown, but just inside, was a vivid and surprising green.

Fondomonte employs some of the most hi-tech mechanisms big ag has to offer computer programs that combine with satellite and drone imagery to delineate the soil characteristics of each speck of land, drones take videos of production in progress, and the company is currently improving their own system of intra-farm canals and electronic gates so that they can irrigate each field with the touch of a button from behind a computer screen in the office. Its all part of their ongoing effort to maximize their efficiency and crop quality, thus their profit, thus their empire in Saudi Arabia perhaps, eventually, here as well.

If its raining, the employee told me, the farm manager can just farm from behind his desk. They are entirely self-sufficient, and have expertise in constructing a hi-tech alfalfa empire having already done it in Saudi Arabia.


  • The storage barns at Fondomonte Farms and a PVID irrigation ditch in Blythe, California

Dan Putnam, an alfalfa expert and UC Davis professor, explained US-grown alfalfa has long been shipped overseas, long before Almarai. Alfalfa is the third largest economic product in the US, but only 4% is exported annually. In the western states, however, which are high producers close to shipping ports to major export markets like China, Saudi Arabia and Japan, about 15% is exported each year. These high-export states are also the states that happen to be grappling with drought, meaning that the most water-strapped states are shipping much of their water overseas, in the form of alfalfa.

When Almarai first began purchasing land in the western US, environmentalists, and many average citizens, were outraged. Saudi Hay Farm in Arizona Tests States Supply of Groundwater, said an NPR article in November of 2015. Saudi Arabia is Outsourcing its Drought to California, wrote Gizmodo.

Yet Putnam takes umbrage with the outrage over alfalfa exports. Why, he wonders, are people so much more outraged over alfalfa using water here only to be shipped overseas, what about almonds, a water intensive crop of which 70% of Californias harvest is shipped overseas. Or oranges? Or lettuce?

I suggested to him that it might have something to do with the fact that alfalfa isnt seen as food its just a plant, a mega-crop divorced, in common perception, from its value as food. But as the basic element of a larger food chain of the dairy and meat industry, alfalfa, Putnam claims, is critical.

I have a T-shirt, he told me. Alfalfa: ice-cream in the making.



  • Grant Chaffin, owner of Chaffin Farms (left). The baby potatoes grown at Chaffin Farms, Blythe

Putnam, along with many farmers I spoke to, urges people to consider how much water crisscrosses the globe in the current supply chain. Its not just alfalfa, and its not just agriculture. People will find goods at the cheapest prices, and companies in areas with unstable resources will relocate elsewhere.

While its hard to then make a clear calculation of exactly how much US water is being poured into alfalfa and then shipped overseas (some evaporates, some filters back into the soil, some is deposited back into the river downstream) its clearly not nothing. But who knows how long it will last. For the survival of that country, Putnam said of Saudi Arabia, they will look to other parts of the world.

On our way back from the dam to the district offices, Echard drove me up along the access roads to get a panorama of the canals, and past some bright fields of alfalfa. We then drove to a part of valley where, in partnership with various environmental organizations, the Palo Verde Irrigation District had planted a large grove of trees to revive some of the habitat that once stretched so abundantly along this part of the Colorado. In August, he told me, it can be 115F (46C) outside, but under this canopy of trees, it might be 20 degrees cooler.

Here in the middle of the desert, weve got a little forest, he said, proudly. Like the river, this forest, too, is a manmade environment; mans footprint is everywhere.

As we drove back to the office, I pointed out some nice bushy trees along the canal. Oh, those are saltcedar, Echard said. An invasive species from Asia that drain the water table and leave salt deposits in the soil, which destroys the other plants. No one wants it, he said, as he yanked the truck into gear and headed back out again amid the bright carpets of alfalfa stretching in all directions.

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Rural America is ready for some sort of a New Deal, preferably green | Art Cullen

Growing food, earnings and populations with renewable resource, resistant farming

Rural America requires a brand-new offer, or a minimum of a much better offer, and if it’s green all the much better.

Farm loan delinquencies are increasing to levels not seen because the Farm Debt Crisis of the 1980s, from which the rural midwest never ever truly recuperated. Almost a 3rd of Iowa farmers growing corn and soybeans captured up in a trade war with China are stated to be under severe tension, according to Iowa State University. They’re the more youthful ones.

Rural neighborhoods are draining pipes youths. Two-thirds of Iowa’s 99 counties are losing population and potential customers as making tasks seep out of the midwest. The Information Age tasks are not in those county seat towns of 5,000 individuals– they’re in Minneapolis or Des Moines.

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