Showing posts with label Eric Ritz. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Eric Ritz. Show all posts

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Organic farming 'could feed Africa'

Traditional practices increase yield by 128 per cent in east Africa, says UN

By Daniel Howden in Nairobi

New evidence suggests that organic practices - derided by some as a Western lifestyle fad - are delivering sharp increases in yields, improvements in the soil and a boost in the income of Africa's small farmers

Organic farming offers Africa the best chance of breaking the cycle of poverty and malnutrition it has been locked in for decades, according to a major study from the United Nations to be presented today.

New evidence suggests that organic practices – derided by some as a Western lifestyle fad – are delivering sharp increases in yields, improvements in the soil and a boost in the income of Africa's small farmers who remain among the poorest people on earth. The head of the UN's Environment Programme, Achim Steiner, said the report "indicates that the potential contribution of organic farming to feeding the world maybe far higher than many had supposed".

The "green revolution" in agriculture in the 1960s – when the production of food caught and surpassed the needs of the global population for the first time – largely bypassed Africa. Whereas each person today has 25 per cent more food on average than they did in 1960, in Africa they have 10 per cent less.

A combination of increasing population, decreasing rainfall and soil fertility and a surge in food prices has left Africa uniquely vulnerable to famine. Climate change is expected to make a bad situation worse by increasing the frequency of droughts and floods.

It has been conventional wisdom among African governments that modern, mechanised agriculture was needed to close the gap but efforts in this direction have had little impact on food poverty and done nothing to create a sustainable approach. Now, the global food crisis has led to renewed calls for a massive modernisation of agriculture on the hungriest continent on the planet, with calls to push ahead with genetically modified crops and large industrial farms to avoid potentially disastrous starvation.

Last month the UK's former chief scientist Sir David King said anti-scientific attitudes among Western NGOs and the UN were responsible for holding back a much-needed green revolution in Africa. "The problem is that the Western world's move toward organic farming – a lifestyle choice for a community with surplus food – and against agricultural technology in general and GM in particular, has been adopted across the whole of Africa, with the exception of South Africa, with devastating consequences," he said.

The research conducted by the UN Environment Programme suggests that organic, small-scale farming can deliver the increased yields which were thought to be the preserve of industrial farming, without the environmental and social damage which that form of agriculture brings with it.

An analysis of 114 projects in 24 African countries found that yields had more than doubled where organic, or near-organic practices had been used. That increase in yield jumped to 128 per cent in east Africa.

"Organic farming can often lead to polarised views," said Mr Steiner, a former economist. "With some viewing it as a saviour and others as a niche product or something of a luxury... this report suggests it could make a serious contribution to tackling poverty and food insecurity."

The study found that organic practices outperformed traditional methods and chemical-intensive conventional farming. It also found strong environmental benefits such as improved soil fertility, better retention of water and resistance to drought. And the research highlighted the role that learning organic practices could have in improving local education. Backers of GM foods insist that a technological fix is needed to feed the world. But this form of agriculture requires cash to buy the patented seeds and herbicides – both at record high prices currently – needed to grow GM crops.

Regional farming experts have long called for "good farming", rather than exclusively GM or organic. Better seeds, crop rotation, irrigation and access to markets all help farmers. Organic certification in countries such as the UK and Australia still presents an insurmountable barrier to most African exporters, the report points out. It calls for greater access to markets so farmers can get the best prices for their products.

Kenyan farmer: 'I wanted to see how UK did it'

Henry Murage had to travel a long way to solve problems trying to farm a smallholding on the western slopes of Mount Kenya. He spent five months in the UK, studying with the experts at Garden Organic a charity in the Midlands. "I wanted to see how it was being done in the UK and was convinced we could do some of the same things here," he says.

On his return 10 years ago, he set up the Mt Kenya Organic Farm, aimed at aiding other small farmers fighting the semi-arid conditions. He believes organic soil management can help retain moisture and protect against crop failure. The true test came during the devastating drought of2000-02, when Mr Murage's vegetable gardens fared better than his neighbours'. At least 300 farmers have visited his gardens and taken up at least one of the practices he espouses. "Organic can feed the people in rural areas," he says. "It's sustainable and what we produce now we can go on producing."

Saving money on fertilisers and pesticides helps farmers afford better seeds, and composting and crop rotation are improving the soil. Traditional maize, beans and livestock farming in the area have been supplemented with new crops from borage seeds to cayenne peppers and honey, with buyers from the US to Europe. Now he is growing camomile for herbal tea, with buyers from the UK and Germany both interested.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Facts & Figures

The rapidly growing quantities of e-waste make for some astonishing facts. Did you know that the annual amount of e-waste generated from end-of-life electrical and electronic products (WEEE) is estimated to be a two digit amount, in million tons! And this is predicted to double in the coming decades. Explore further statistical data showing global comparisons and country specific factsheets on quantities of e-waste, per capita e-waste generation, composition of different appliances in the waste pile etc.

Valuable Materials
Electronic appliances are composed of hundreds of different materials that can be both toxic but also of high value. Gold, silver, copper, platinum etc. are valuable materials which recyclers recover from e-waste.

Hazardous Material
Electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) are made of a multitude of components which contain toxic / hazardous substances, e.g. carcinogens such as lead and arsenic. The recycling processes and disposal of these components, while being a lucrative business proposition for some, poses serious health risks and environment dangers.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Eric Ritz, activist

Eric Ritz, youth-activism promoter, answers Grist's questions

What work do you do?

I'm the founder and executive director of Global Inheritance.
What does your organization do?
We reinvent activism for today's young generation. Our initiatives focus on the power of creativity to communicate and push for progressive social change while rejecting conflict. Global Inheritance targets various subcultures, developing campaigns that cater specifically to each individual demographic.

Bin there, recycled that.
Under the Global Inheritance banner are several different programs with goals ranging from promoting recycling to stopping nuclear-weapons proliferation. TRASHed is a two-pronged program -- part art-based and part event-based. The Art of Recycling is a large-scale art initiative bringing together major artists to turn ordinary recycling bins into inspiring works of art. And the TRASHed Recycling Store, set up at various concerts and other events, accepts recyclable bottles as currency toward cool merchandise. Tour Rider is another event-related program; it focuses on traffic congestion and air pollution, giving concertgoers who carpool access to a range of perks including gift bags and VIP privileges.
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What are you working on at the moment?

We just finished our first concert as part of a series of events called Public Displays of Affection, which rewards people who use the subway or bus system in Los Angeles. Next on our plate is AFI Fest, a film festival held by the American Film Institute. What I'm really excited about currently is Coachella 2007. We are planning several really cool programs at this year's festival that will raise the environmental bar for all major music festivals around the world.
How do you get to work?

I roll out of bed and over to the desk.

What long and winding road led you to your current position?

I grew up with parents who had strong morals. I also lived in a progressive town (Portland, Ore.) and went to school at the University of Oregon (although I wasn't the stereotypical UO activist). I helped organize benefit concerts and worked with a lot of out-of-touch nonprofits. Then I worked on the Truth campaign. And finally, the rise of the internet and meeting Matt Brady, who is currently the Global Inheritance creative director, led me to where I am today.

Where were you born? Where do you live now?

Born in Detroit and ended up in Los Angeles.

What has been the worst moment in your professional life to date?
Having to deal with lame people who care only for themselves.

What's been the best?

Trading trash for treasure at the Recycling Store.

I've worked in several cutthroat industries that employ creative and hardworking people. I love people who are very passionate about life and don't compromise or change for others. I believe you have one shot at life, so make the most of it.

What environmental offense has infuriated you the most?

Where do I begin?

Who is your environmental hero?

There's too many to count. I think God and all the religious figures should be environmental heroes. I want to start a campaign with God saying you will be damned if you litter or drive a Hummer in NYC. Think about the positive environmental impact Buddha, Allah, Jesus, and Muhammad could have on society!

What's your environmental vice?

I fall asleep watching movies and leave the TV on.

Read any good books lately?

Papillon by Henri Charriere.

What's your favorite place to eat?

I love a Brazilian restaurant called Bossa Nova. It's open 'til 4 a.m., and has amazing food and decent prices.

Which stereotype about environmentalists most fits you?

I drive a hybrid but fly around in a Learjet.

What's your favorite place or ecosystem?

South America.

If you could institute by fiat one environmental reform, what would it be?

Instead of running the morning news with celebrity/murder updates, all the major networks would broadcast a 15-minute news piece talking about the environment and ways to integrate new ideas into your everyday life.

Who was your favorite musical artist when you were 18? How about now?

When I was 18, probably N.W.A. Currently, there are several I could pick. Right now, I'm listening to Air, the Virgin Suicides soundtrack.

What's your favorite TV show? Movie?

I don't watch much TV, but I get Netflix and rented Live Aid recently. I'm not sure what we were thinking in the '80s. People were so over the top. I can't believe people dressed and acted that way. I think the entire world was high.

Which actor would play you in the story of your life?
P. Diddy ... and there would be a horrible accident (think Brandon Lee/The Crow) on set, with P. Diddy unfortunately passing away after four days of unsuccessful surgery.

If you could have every InterActivist reader do one thing, what would it be?

Avoid being backseat drivers; take the wheel and show by example what's possible.

HVAC boot cleared of Asbestos in Los Angeles