Will Water Drown in Climate Change Issues?

Water is happiness, illus.Approximately 71% of the planet is covered with water. Of all the water on earth only 2.5% is fresh water, and only 0.1% is accessible for us humans. Almost 70% of water consumption occurs in agriculture, 23% is used in industry and the rest in domestic consumption. Water means life. Without water we cannot exist. Water scarcity has been long noticed, albeit not in my home country, Norway, and this scarcity has been discussed thoroughly in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). 

Groundwater is declining worldwide and is emptied faster than it can replenish itself.

It has been commonly been agreed upon that 768 million people lack direct access to water but a study from the United Nations in 2013 suggests that the numbers could be far more dramatic, with an entire 2 billion people having no access to clean and safe water. According to another study (Onda et al., 2012 study), the number of people who do not have satisfactory access to water is even greater, probably in the order of 3.5 billion or roughly ½ of the world’s population. And more than 1/3 of the population, 2.5 billion people, do not have access to satisfactory sanitation.

Limited Resource
Fresh water is a limited resource. We do not get more water, even as it completes its cycle. On the contrary, since we pollute fresh water and fail to clean it sufficiently, only about 70% of the water we use for domestic and industrial purposes can be cleaned and reused.

Certainly, we have solutions, techniques and technologies to conserve water, but it goes slowly, very slowly, in large part because of the major economic interests at stake. Everything is not black, however, if we can get a serious grip on the situation. First and foremost, we must get this on the agenda and sensitize everyone from the consumers to the politicians and decision makers. A shift to less water-intensive products and production, including the energy sector, is crucial. The longer we wait, the less water we’ll have for a steadily growing population.

world-hungerScarcity: life and death
Water is a driving force in nature. Without water, there would be and there will be no life as we know it. Although we do not even notice the water issue in Norway, this is a growing global problem. São Paulo, Brazil, with its 20 million inhabitants, is now in danger of water rationing. California, the world’s fifth largest producer of crops is in its fourth year of severe drought and in January of this year topped drought statistics since record keeping began. World population increases as does the personal consumption of water. We do not manage to cleanse as much as we pollute. Our consumption of freshwater has tripled over the last fifty years and the need for water increases by 64 billion cubic meters annually. One cubic meter is equal to 1000 liters.

Access to clean water is also a major cause of illness and death in the developing world where 80% of these figures, including three million deaths each year, is attributed to water shortages.

Agriculture and cattle operation
Property dedicated to agriculture currently covers 11% of the world’s land surface yet it consumes 70% of all fresh water. Here is an area in which much water can be conserved. Meanwhile, it is among the worst in terms of helping to conserve. Not only has it embedded itself into people’s lifestyles and habits, but there are major actors — and of course all of the appurtenant lobbying — who want to keep the status quo because so much money is at stake. No one likes others telling them what to eat, or what they should be dressed in. For it is here that we can retrieve the most when it comes to agriculture. One kilogram of beef consumes 15,500 liters of water before it reaches the consumer. It corresponds to approximately 2,400 liters for a burger. And that becomes a tremendous amount of water during a year. This is referred to as Virtual Water; that is, the total water math for any product, or what it costs in water to produce.

I will not go into too many individual products and their water consumption, but some are really worth looking at, since we need to save water and consequently also change our consumption. 2/3 of Norway’s water consumption, i.e. Virtual Water, is happening abroad, according to the research site forskning.no, so it is safe to say that the world’s water problems also affect us in the highest degree.

I Have a Beef with Beef
Beef is both a climate offender and a water baddie. No other meat comes close in terms of water consumption. One kilogram of pork requires 4,800 liters of water, poultry production “only” 3,900. Meat production has risen by incredible 600% since 1950, when the world’s population was at 2.5 billion people. If there is a positive in this picture it is that poultry, which consumes the lowest amount of Virtual Water, has increased the most. Still, about 300 million cows are slaughtered annually. When one looks at such numbers, it makes sense to try to adhere to a meat-free Monday, an idea which the UN has promoted for several years. Admittedly, it is the greenhouse gas emissions of methane and not water consumption which has been the focus of Meatless Monday but why not help two problems at once?

Cotton, hemp and bamboo
Let stick with farming a little more. The garment industry scores high on the list of the ten most water-intensive industries. Cotton takes up between 2.5 and 5% of arable land, but has a huge consumption of pesticides, around 16% of all that are used worldwide. In addition to pesticides are all the chemicals used in the processing. Organic cotton production represents only a small fraction of the total, around 1%. But we are talking about water, and this is where it gets really interesting. It takes 11,000 liters of water to produce one kilogram of cotton (on average a pair of jeans weighs about 800 grams). 80% of the cotton grown is used for clothing. How can we change this picture? The answer is as simple as it is difficult: We have alternatives to cotton! The problem is that the cotton industry is is an immensely powerful lobby. The good alternative is not polyester (which already has a large market share in the garment industry) or other energy-intensive artifical fibers which are based on oil, but something as simple as hemp and bamboo. For one kilogram of finished processed hemp, it only takes 2150 liters of water, mostly in the form of rainwater, not irrigation. These numbers are about the same for bamboo. Unfortunately there has been no appreciable development in production methods for hemp during the last fifty years or so, much of this due to the ban which many countries have had. Hemp can grow almost everywhere, from the Arctic to the equator. The fibers are also significantly stronger than cotton, which is good for consumers, but not for profit, since hemp-products are more durable and do not need to be replaced as often. Hemp requires no pesticides, but it does need some fertilizer.

Bamboo is another good alternative to cotton and features some absolutely unrivaled qualities in garment production. There are more than 1400 different bamboo species, but it is the Moso Bamboo (Phyllostachys Edullis) that is used in garments. Thankfully, this is not a species that is popular among the endangered pandas. Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants in the world and can grow up to one meter per day. In addition, it requires no fertilizer or pesticides. Bamboo grows without irrigation is a very hardy plant. It can grow in most parts of the world.

Bamboo plants develop an antibacterial agent, Bamboo Kun, which makes it almost 100% resistant to fungus as well as repellent to insects — it simply works as a pesticide in itself. Not only that, it acts as an antibacterial agent in clothings too.

Bamboo clothings are soft and can be compared to the feel of silk on the skin. The first time I bought some bamboo socks, the saleswoman boasted that I could wear them 5 days on a row without them smelling. I must admit that it was not an appealing thought to wear the same socks for five days, even knowing that it would be saving water, but in connection with this article, I had to test it out. It was difficult dealing with the mental barrier, but her claim was true. After five days there was no more odor than normal, i.e., it was the equivalent of wearing cotton socks for one day.

In Costa Rica, a small country in Central America — one with the largest acreage of nature reserves by percentage, they have figured out that the use of bamboo for housing construction will reduce the use of arable land with about 12% compared to the construction by ordinary wood and just takes 1/8 of energy consumption compared to cement and 1/50 of that consumption when compared to steel. In many contexts bamboo is as strong as steel, which was proved by the earthquake of 7.5 on the Richter scale in 1991. The houses built with bamboo —built for a large-scale social housing project which raised the amount of affordable housing for the poor, located in the epicenter of the earthquake, were undamaged, while other nearby buildings lay in ruins. Bamboo can also be used for reinforcement of concrete and hemp can be used to make “hempcrete”; old natural materials and techniques that can have a renaissance and save both water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Bamboo and hemp have an incredible number of useful characteristics, I have mentioned only a very few. They are also incredibly helpful plants in the larger perspective of climate change, including sucking up CO2, but there is too much to mention here and now.

Paper and steel
Both hemp and bamboo can be used to produce paper, another one of the top ten water-intensive industries. Here there will be much to gain from a larger perspective of climate change, not least of which would be shrinking the CO2 footprint. Both, but mostly hemp, have been used in paper production for over two thousand years, long before paper from cellulose of wood took the lead role.

Steel production comes just after the paper and textile industry on the list of water-intensive industries.

Climate Smart Agriculture
As mentioned above, agriculture consumes a huge amount of water. Cattle farming is mentioned as particularly water intensive — and water polluting, but what about agriculture? This is an area of great savings potential but it is one that requires restructuring. Today, small-scale farmers feed 70% of the world’s population. Although irrigation systems have improved, we should look at new methods and techniques to reduce water consumption further. The future is in developing methods that are substantially less water demanding than traditional agriculture. 


The Omega Garden system rotates the plants around a bulb. They claim that it yields three to five times the weight of plant per watt of electricity used, compared to conventional flat systems. Their commercial carousel system produces as much as a 1500 square foot greenhouse in only 150 square feet, and their LED system just sips electricity. (Inhabitat – Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building)

Hydroponic cultivation is amazingly – almost unbelievably– water conservative. It is not unusual to have a 70-90% reduction in water, while at the same time yielding an increase at a corresponding rate. Hydroponic yields have been ten times as large as the conventional farming of certain plants including tomatoes in the US and Canada. With this technique herbicides and pesticides are avoided and therefore end products are cleaner and safer for the consumer. The plants also grow substantially faster. The disadvantage is that it is more labor intensive than modern mechanized large-scale cultivation and the initial investments are significant, which disqualifies such enterprises for many producers in poorer countries.

Back to the roots
Organic and ecological farming are both water-stingy and far less water pollutant. Unfortunately, due to widespread and partly inconclusive data, the belief that such farming can supply us all with enough food has been destroyed. In the rich, industrialized world organic practices produce an admittedly a lower yield based on land use – only 80% compared to conventional agriculture. But when looking at the rest of the world, the developing countries (which after all make up the majority of the worlds landmass) show quite a different picture. A seven-year study done among 100 Indian farmers showed that such enterprises actually gave 20% higher yields than conventionally run agriculture!

Root Intensification
System of Root Intensification (SRI) is a composite system of different techniques. It can be used in conventional farming, though it functions best and is used most commonly with organic and ecological farming. Though it is slightly more laborious in the pre-process, there is an enormous impact of increased production and reduced water use.

Climate change adaptation: SRI using less water has larger root system. From Andhra Pradesh, India.

Climate change adaptation: SRI using less water has larger root system. From Andhra Pradesh, India.

The basic principles of SRI are:

  • – Carefully managed cultivation of sprouts
  • – Early transplantation of 8- to 15-day-old seedlings
  • – Simple planting with large distance
  • – Early and regular weeding
  • – Carefully controlled water management
  • – Use of natural compost as much as possible

Separately, these methods have been used for a long time. Together they constitute an extremely powerful method. The biggest advantage is that increasing returns are achieved by using less water. The amount of seed is also greatly reduced — by up to 80-90% savings. Neither fertilizers nor pesticides are required. About 250 scientific papers on SRI have been published in the last ten years. It is estimated that somewhere between four and five million farmers are using SRI today, with good support from authorities in countries like China, India, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.

In height
Vertical farming means cultivating in tiers, in structures like stories in a building. It goes without saying that it is very space efficient. Combined with hydroponics, one can produce huge amounts of vegetables almost anywhere and with low water consumption. This can be a good complement to traditional farming where certain plants such as rice and wheat, require large land areas and do not fit into future greenhouses. The food can be locally grown where people live and becomes homegrown; not even short-traveled. Since it takes place indoors such cultivation can be carried out everywhere but it requires some investment; artificial lighting and a certain degree of automation, preferably a lot. LED-lights are commonly used. Vertical farming is a modern and somewhat sterile culture method which might fit best into an urban environment, but it is one that may come to play a major role in the future, at least if migration to cities increases.

Power needs water
Virtually everything we do uses water and industry is of course no exception. The energy industry is high on the list of water consuming sectors with its 15% of the total, surpassed only by agriculture. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the need for water in energy production will double by 2035. More precisely: Water extraction will increase by 20%, while water consumption that does not go back to nature will increase by more than 85%. It is important to see where the energy is produced. Often it is created in clear competition with human needs for water in areas that are already water-stressed. On top of it all, it is an industry that contaminates water. Norway is in no way lagging behind. The Norwegian state owned Statoil is engaged both in tar sands and fracking (hydraulic fracturing), or shale gas extraction, as it’s so nicely referred to in Norway. Both are incredibly dirty businesses placing a heavy burden on water resources as well as having a tremendous effect by contaminating groundwater.

Among renewable energy sources, wind power is the most water efficient.

The car
When it comes to contaminating groundwater, motor oil is among the worst offenders, particularly in the US where it is considered to be one of the two biggest water polluters. One liter of motor-oil can contaminate 1 million liters (about 250,000 gallons) of water. The safest way to remedy this, aside from avoiding spills, is to change to plant-based motor-oils. 

When it comes to our small domestic consumption, much water used simply runs into the ground. Old and bad pipes and infrastructures are the main reasons, especially in poorer countries. This is obvious even in Europe with vast differences between the very countries that make up the EU. The richest countries have basically least amount of these losses, while the poorest have the greater. Globally, bad water pipes contribute to an incredible loss of improbable 35%.

There are over 21,000 desalination plants in more than 120 countries around the world. Since the turn of the millennium, the output of water from desalination plants has tripled. Yet this represents only a fraction of the total freshwater available and the price of production is high. The desalination process takes enormous amounts of energy. The energy consumption for one cubic meter of water is around 0.37kWh per from rivers and lakes and about 0.47kWh for groundwater, while a desalination plant uses between 2.58 and staggering 8.5kWt to ​​conjure as much water. In fact it is far less energy intensive to clean up wastewater — which has been done on a large scale in Australia and Singapore — than to desalinate water.

A huge effort is underway to research and explore new techniques to create fresh water. One of the most exciting pilot projects is in Chile where the goal is to transform fog into clean water, but so far desalinization is showing more significant promise. Nevertheless, small treatment plants or even water purifying “gadgets”, can be of great benefit where lack of clean water is greatest and where every drop counts.

While water has received less attention than climate change in general, water shortages will become more noticeable in the very near future. Restructuring our consumption patterns may be crucial for continued access to clean water. An average consumer in developed countries uses about 5,000 liters of water daily, while a vegetarian consumes approximately 2700 liters. Perhaps it is time to promote more than just one meat-free day a week?

— Ole A. Seifert

Recommended reading, especially for those who wants to know more detailed about different products, especially the water consumption of food and beverages:

Tony Allan (professor): Virtual Water – Tackling the Threat to Our Planet’s Most Precious Resource

This story was on print in the Norwegian weekly paper Ny Tid (Modern Times) March 18 2015.

Thanx to Sean Mazzetti for editing!

Read more about System of Root Intensification:

In with root intensification — out with gmo



Statoil’s hidden chapter: Fracking — the filth gets filthier

by Ole A. Seifert
Photo: Amy Youngs, amymyyou on Flicker<br /> cornucopia.cornubot.se

Shale gas has long been advertised as being an environmentally sound alternative to oil and coal. Is this truly the case? Photo: Amy Youngs

Statoil, the Norwegian state owned Oil Company (owning 66% of the company’s shares) recently announced that it will reduce its tar sands extraction efforts in Alberta, Canada. The public are rejoicing, believing that their voice has been heard – unfortunately this is not the case. The reduction of the exploitation of the tar sands is indeed a wonderful thing, but it has occurred largely due to economic reasons.

A fair amount of Norwegians are very environmentally conscious and the detrimental effect that tar sand extraction has on the indigenous populations of Canada weighs heavy on their hearts. The fact that their government could inflict so much pain and suffering on a homeland other than their own was deeply upsetting, so the announcement of the reduction feels like a win, whatever the reason.

Shale gas has long been advertised as being an environmentally sound alternative to oil and coal. Is this truly the case? Have we had all the facts, or are we simply wanting to believe a government sanctioned advertisement campaign designed to build support for an industry that could well be as detrimental for the planet as all the rest? Are we being fed propaganda? Are we being fed and are we opening up our mouths and minds and swallowing a sugar coated truth?


Would you like a glass of fresh fracking water?

Hydraulic Fracturation, or “fracking” as it is more commonly known, is a hot topic for debate in many countries in the world. Some US cities and states have enforced a temporary ban on the practice after MSBNC ran an expose in 2009, followed by the CNN in 2010, showing how drinking water had an ignitable gas accompanied as a by-product when running out of a faucet. Quebec, Canada have also put a temporary ban on the practice. Tunisia and France have banned it completely.

Statoil is not affected with such bans. In fact, Statoil is one of the largest global operators of the fracking practice, especially on the Marcellus formations located in North-Eastern America. The Marcellus is the third largest field, after those found in Iran and Siberia.

Gas = environmentally friendly?
In a narrow perspective, gas is indeed more environmentally friendly, producing 40-50% less CO2 emissions than oil and coal. This is a great number, but gas affects other parts of our delicate world and in other ways, other ways that governments don’t want us to focus on, from soil pollution to water contamination. The biggest risk however, is the gas’s effect on global warming, especially the unburned gas. Fracking is (mainly) the extraction of methane gas, CH4. Methane gas is 86 times more dangerous as an accelerator to climate change than carbon dioxide in a twenty year-perspective, posing a huge risk to us once again. Currently the UN figures show this increased risk as 34% (IPCC in 2013) compared with CO, in a hundred year perspective. New satellite observations (2014) showed us a leak percentage high as 9-10 on average, which guts the entire benefit of switching to gas as an environmental friendly option.

Water, water, water, sand and chemicals
One of the main reasons that gas has become profitable again — as the techniques has been around for a long time, is the possibility for horizontal drilling and the fracking technique. It consists of pumping millions of liters of water mixed with sand and a huge quantities of chemicals. Many US states are now demanding that it should be explained and disclosed what chemicals are used, but this is halted by several of the companies involved. In 2005, “the Bush/Cheney Energy Bill” passed that exempted natural gas drilling from the Safe Drinking Water Act. It has until recently exempted companies from revealing the chemicals used in fracking. The decision overrides the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is referred to as the Halliburton loophole. In a recent report from the Environmental Integrity Project (October 2014), it has emerged that diesel and other dangerous liquids with higher levels of toxins as Benzene, Toluene, Ethyl benzene and Xylene. Are being used. These are very hazardous, carcinogenic substances. Fracking will normally go through between 4 and 30 million liters of water. Less than half of the water comes up again and can be treated and cleansed. 80-300 tons of chemicals are used. It goes without saying that the water is highly polluted and very toxic. Both the little that comes up, as well as what is left in the ground.

Accidents happen, even with Statoil. Most recently last summer. “Luckily” most of the gas burned, while the dirty water from boreholes rebounded and flooded the waste water basins and proceeded out in Opossum Creek about five kilometers away and killed an estimated 70,000 fish, according to conservative estimates from the EPA. I guess it was not so lucky for the fish.

More pain than gain
Let’s get back to the emission track. A new research report — Remote sensing of fugitive methane emissions from oil and gas production in North American tight geologic formations, October 2014, various authors — used satellite observations combined with EPA figures, and showed that although emissions have decreased somewhat, they are still too high to give gas the status as an environmentally friendly alternative. Another study from March 2014 (Towards a better understanding and quantification of methane emissions from shale gas development), argues that the EPA numbers are too low, as does a study from December 2013 (Assessment and Risk Analysis of casing and cement impairment in oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania, 2000-2012) who believes that methane emissions are more likely to be about 100 to 1000 times higher than the EPA estimates! Even with conservative estimates, fracking contributes to a faster global warming and has no net climate benefit whatsoever in any timescale that matters to humanity. It is also of importance to put in perspective that the fresh water — a stable yet scarce resource — is used up, polluted and made unfit for human consumption. Water has long been on the UN agenda (Millennium Development Goals, 2000 -2015). Even water rich nations like Norway will be affected if the water shortage worsens as 2/3 of Norway’s water consumption is abroad, known as Virtual Water.

Ethical guidelines?
Statoil has a long-term plan for the development of shale gas resources. We focus on technology that ensures recovery in the best possible way, providing the highest possible recovery rate, and reduces the environmental impact. In addition, we are working to identify and implement activities to benefit the communities where we operate.”

– from Statoil’s Norwegian homepage*.

Sure, they have long-term plans and technology that give the highest output and return for the company and its shareholders. Reducing environmental consequences? In relation to what? This is simply empty words. Unfortunately this is not the only empty words and misrepresentation. Statoil mix words like “everything” with 15-40%. Where else can you buy a product and only get 15-40% of the item, and still be pleased?

“We are increasingly recycling all water used during Bakken drilling operations. Many shale gas and tight oil operators, including Statoil, are seeking ways to fracture wells and limit the use of water through recycling or an overall reduction in water consumption. We are increasingly recycling all water used during Bakken drilling operations. After being injected into the well, part of the fracturing fluid will return in the days and weeks that follow. The amount of fluid that returns to the surface depends on geological characteristics. Typically between 15%-40% of the fluid is returned. The rest of the water injected as part of the hydraulic fracturing process remains in the shale formation and may be produced over a long period of time.”

— from Statoil’s own website, annual report 2012.

It sounds like pure fraud in a dirty industry. I have already mentioned this “rest of the water” being ”produced” over a long time beneath the ground as extremely polluted and a source of further contamination of groundwater.

Returned (flowback/produced) water is returned for the entire production lifetime of the well…” – it continues. Well, does this only apply for the Bakken formation wells? How credible is this, when they just failed this at the Marcellus formation in 2014? Do they really believe this themselves, until an accident happens there too? Thank you so very much, Statoil, we realize that you really take environmental responsibilities seriously.


*) http://www.statoil.com/no/OurOperations/ExplorationProd/ShaleGas/Pages/HowAreTheResourcesProduced.aspx

A Norwegian version of this story was published in the magazine Gatenytt (Street News), December 2014. http://gatenytt.no/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/GN_nr2_Ole-Seifert-Fracking.pdf

Big thanx to Alexandra Dimitriou-Engeler for editing!

In with root intensification — out with gmo

by Ole A. Seifert

Ecological farming with System of Root Intensification (SRI) is by far the best method to produce record crops in agriculture, not gmo. It can provide savings of 80-90% of seeds. Two good reasons to stay away from genetically modified seeds that turns many farmers into slaves of patents by biotechnology Companies

SRI can increase yields phenomenal. To the left SRI rice, plain rice on the right. Photo: Amrik Singh.

This year is the 30th anniversary of the System of Root Intensification (SRI) was developed [2013]. The French agronomist and Jesuit priest Henry de Laulaníe developed this method in Madagascar in 1983. The method has come more and more to light, especially since it has been used with great success in many poor countries. It was like an epidemic in media about  the rice farmer in India who had a record crop on his little patch of land in 2012. It was the young rice farmer Sumant Kumar from the impoverished province of Bihar who were responsible for this crop. Four to five tons of rice per hectare was the usual — world average is 4. Not only were the grains of rice larger than usual, but the production of his one little hectar of land reached astonishing 22.4 tons! This was a new world record, far better than any GMO rice crops have ever managed. Other farmers in Bihar district which also used SRI, could enroll record crops around 17-18 tons. Worth noting is that Sumant Kumar did not use chemical fertilizers or pesticides, only natural fertilizers from the farm. Bihar is now referred to as the center of the new green grassroots revolution and the state is planning a financial injection of $ 50 million to SRI.

Media focus on Kumar’s record crop makes many think that this is a method that is only suitable for rice. Applied to the non-root vegetables, it is called System of Crop Intensification (SCI). SRI / SCI sets groundbreaking records for the crops, like wheat, finger millet, potatoes, soybeans, kidney beans, lentils, peas, mustard plants, sugar cane, yams, tomatoes, garlic, eggplant and other edible plants.

The basic principles of SRI:
– Carefully managed cultivation of sprouts
– Early transplantation of 8 to 15 days old seedlings
– Easy planting with large distance
– Early and regular weeding
– Carefully controlled water management
– Use of natural compost to the greatest possible extent

Each of these methods has been used for a long time. Together they form a powerful method. The main advantage is the increasing returns achieved by using less water and local varieties. The amount of seed is also greatly reduced – up to 80-90%. ** Neither fertilizers or pesticides are required.

“Farmers use less seeds, less water and less chemicals but they get more without having invested two more. This is revolutionary, ” said Dr. Surendra Chaurassa from Bihar’s agriculture ministry. “I did not believe it to start with, but now I think it can potentially change the way everyone retreats. I would want every state two Promote it. If we get 30-40% Increase in yields, that is more than enough to recommend it.”**

The last ten years have been published around 250 scientific articles about SRI. It is estimated that somewhere between four and five million farmers are using SRI today, with support from the authorities in countries such as China, India, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.

Organic farming versus genetically modified crops (GMOs)
For years, there have been statements that organic agriculture can increase agricultural production, especially in poor countries. Although some casts doubt on the efficacy and outcomes especially in the short term by organic farming, the results show otherwise. Both in terms of the size of the crops as well as the soil. More and more agronomists and agricultural experts now believe that organic farming can not only increase production, but may be the only solution to eradicate hunger and famine ***. There is skepticism to organic farming, but one should bear in mind GMO seed producers position. They are economic giants who spend huge funds on lobbying. Much of this is reminiscent of tobacco manufacturers struggle to prove that smoking, especially passive smoking (eventually) was not dangerous, with paid researchers’ statements. When you know that Monsanto has used mercenaries from former Blackwater to infiltrate anti-GMO groups, it is reasonable to doubt that their goal is for everyone’s welfare, but rather purely economic goals and the pursuit of maximum profit *** *. Monsanto is the largest producer and market of genetically modified seeds, has a history that is worth noting, emphasizing that the people’s welfare is hardly central to their principles. According to a UN report in March 2011, organic farming has the potential to double food production in ten years.

Climate change adaptation: SRI using less water has larger root system. From Andhra Pradesh, India.

Gmo – so last millenium
Does it matter if the population gets sicker and sicker? Or is it just a wonderful gains that create more jobs, revenue and profit? Red blood cells are destroyed by genetically modified crops from seed producers, chemical and biotechnology giant Monsanto group, according to new findings. “Scientists tested levels ranging from 27 mg 270 mg over a seven day period, it was remarkably evident that the Cry toxins were hemotoxic, even at the Stop doses administered. Hemotoxins destroy red blood cells, Disrupt blood clotting and cause organ degeneration and tissue damage. “****** Another study was conducted over two years, a normal life cycle for a rat, in contrast to the normally prescribed 90 days (USA ), also showed an increase of cancers and earlier death than the control study group. This study was led by Professor of Molecular Biology, Gilles-Eric Séralini, at the University of Caen in France. The study met tremendous opposition when it came out last year. Funnily enough, the strongest opponents were also closely tied and associated with Monsanto and other GMO companies … *****

Unfortunately, there is still little that is known about the long-term effects of GMOs. Some studies indicate that GMOs can cause sterility. The precautionary principle should apply. Gateavisa warned against genetic engineering in 1989 (anniversary issue 126/1989).

The arguments for gmo is partly been to produce higher yields and reduced use of pesticides. The arguments have no validity anymore. Larger crops without the use of pesticides does not happen by gmo, but by healthy, organic cultivation. 80% of the world’s GM crops are engineered to withstand high doses of pesticides. Some mentions better flavor, texture or appearance in GMO-products. It may be true, but how healthy is a tomato that stays fresh for months? Does it digest in the body corresponding slow? Gene Technology Act regulates the use of genetically modified organisms and foods in Norway. It says that the production and use of genetically modified organisms should be performed in an ethically acceptable manner, be useful to society and should be in line with the principle of sustainable development. How to consider these criteria? What is regarded as useful for the community? Are shareholders’ profit more important than public health? Sustainable development is hardly by destroying biodiversity that will happen by the widespread use of GM seeds.



Originally published in norwegian for Gateavisa, May 23, 2013 at 6:56am. http://www.gateavisa.no/2013/05/23/7131/ 

*) http://sri.ciifad.cornell.edu/aboutsri/FAQs.html
**) http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2013/feb/16/india-rice-farmers-revolution
***) http://www.worldwatch.org/node/4060
***) http://ourworld.unu.edu/en/how-millions-of-farmers-are-advancing-agriculture-for-themselves/
****) http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/297701 Monsanto hired mercenary Blackwater to infiltrate anti-GMO groups
*****) http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/sep/28/study-gm-maize-cancer
******) http://www.collective-evolution.com/2013/05/11/scientists-discover-bt-toxins-found-in-monsanto-crops-damage-red-blood-cells/




Weather forecast for the next 20 years: SUN, SUN, SUN AND STEADY WIND

by Ole A. Seifert

Only 15% of the gasoline is used to drive a car. The remaining 85% goes away in heat and idling. The same applies to energy use in general. And water consumption. Much disappears on other than what it is supposed to. Only by introducing energy saving technology, according to experts we can save nearly one trillion U.S. dollars every year. This is a huge amount of gas and electricity that can be saved. And water. If only we are aware of this and follow it up in practice, we can save a lot, both for ourselves and the environment.  Washing your Volvo by hand is not really a big job and water savings are enormous There are many small changes we all can do and by that also send positive signals to the outside world. An outside toilet is not exactly the thing in already existing cities, but the recycling of sewage, also to energy, could have been far better. Sweden has two municipalities where it is required to have alternative sewage solutions in new buildings. Unfortunately, this has not been fully implemented in practice.


The roof of Chicago City Hall. Chicago is one of the pioneer cities in terms of green roofs.

 The roof of Chicago City Hall. Chicago is one of the pioneer cities in terms of green roofs.




We can already reduce our consumption. Less meat production / consumption and cultivation of hemp is also easy available methods to create a better and cleaner future, beside the focus on renewable energy. Livestock, especially cattle raising, accounts for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, and agriculture accounts for 80% of the world’s water consumption. World Watch Institute states that a drastic cut in meat consumption is the only thing that can be secure enough food for a growing population. We can also work to get through greener solutions, whether it is better at handling of sewage, better insulation, green roofs, use of bamboo and hemp etc. etc.



Both bamboo and hemp has a lots of usages and is growing incredibly fast, as “weeds” like to do, and can save many trees and deforestation and also reduce the water-and energy-intensive, not to mention far less pollution compared to for instance cotton production. Hemp cultivation can be done almost anywhere and with a limited use of fertilizer. Bamboo does not require much, other than the right climate, so it is unlikely to be profitable in our (norwegian) latitudes in the overall environmental accounts.



The vegan Apu in the Simpsons had a living, green roof already in ’90’s. A haven for Paul and Linda McCartney where everything was grown biodynamic. Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC) is an organization that had its first conference in 2003 in Chicago, a city where even the massive City Hall roof is a green oasis. This year’s conference will be 30 November to 3 December in Vancouver, Canada [2010]. But long before GRHC saw the light green roofs was already a major industry in Europe. In 1994 this industry had a turnover of 500 million DM in Germany, which increased to 700 DM in 1997. France, Switzerland and Austria have also been involved in this trend. In Basel in Switzerland, all new, flat roofs are required to be green. Support and stimulation schemes in these aforementioned countries, has made it both acceptable, attractive and not least efficient. Besides simply creating green spaces, especially in urban areas, they have many other positive aspects. They are used to collect rain water and has fabulous properties to prevent a lot of water falling into the streets when it is really pouring down.


When the Japanese government needed a new building in Fukuoka, was the only available space in the city's only green area. The area is still green.

When the Japanese government needed a new building in Fukuoka, was the only available space in the city’s only green area. The area is still green.


The roofs are also more viable, as they both provide for diversity and that the roof’s life expectancy increases by almost the double, besides of the cleaning and improving the air quality. Although China does not have the same professional approach to its green roof, these are in expansive growth. The Chinese are generally good with green spaces almost everywhere it is possible in large cities, in addition to using the roofs. Although admittedly not all green roofs are completely legitimate, they are common in cities, not least for nouveau riche who have their party book in order. China has also generous subsidies that make it to attractive to install solar panels or solar hot water systems. Many places in the countryside, they make this very simple. They have flat roofs with edges, as a small water pool. The sun does the rest. If green roof would spread globally, there is also potential for cultivation of cannabis for recreational use when it becomes legal.


By focusing more on cleaner energy sources, it can slow down on oil and coal production and of course on the use of nuclear power. Oil production stands for even one quarter of the Norwegian greenhouse gas emissions and emissions are increasing and almost doubled in less than 20 years. Emissions from the oil industry was about 90 percent higher in 2008 than they were in 1990. We must also prevent Statoil from engaging in oil sands extraction in Canada, preferably in stopping the whole thing. The norwegian state owns 67% of Statoil and the state, that´s us. The oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has intensified the fight against offshore drilling, especially in the United States. Organization repower america, has had several direct mail campaigns against prominent politicians.



Donghai Bridge offshore wind farm, China.

Donghai Bridge offshore wind farm, China.

Wind and sun are there, waves and tides equally and other sources continue to emerge, such as the Statskrafts osmotic power plant at Hurum, Norway. 



In all these areas are developing is growing fast. Wind power plants got new and better, gearless turbines and one can safely say they have the wind in the sails with big projects both inland as well as offshore. China’s investment in offshore wind farms are formidable. Their first offshore wind farm to consist of 34 units that will provide 3MW each when they are put into full operation later this year. United States recently announced its first offshore project, but has many land-based and also the world’s largest inland facility in Texas. They are still the world’s  leading on wind power, ahead of Germany and China. Just last year alone, the U.S. installed wind turbines that produce over 10MW. Together they produce 35.000 MW of wind power, enough to supply 9.7 million families on this also led to a saving of 57 billion gallons of water, which would be used if the power would come from power plants that use fossil fuel and water for cooling. China is still the greatest in terms of total investment in facilities with renewable energy sources, mainly wind, solar and biomass to account for 8% of their total consumption in 2020.


The new generation of wind turbines are scheduled for release in 2014.

The new generation of wind turbines are scheduled for release in 2014.


China is now equal the United States, with 4% of renewable energy. Still, it will be coal, nuclear and hydropower making up the majority of China’s power generation. But China is already the world’s largest producer of solar panels. Norway by Fred. Olsen Windcarrier, is out with windmill ships that serve as platform, which will withstand heavy sea. They have 70 meters long legs that can be lowered into the sea. The first two ships, with an option for more, being built in Dubai (probably by migrant workers from Bangladesh, Pakistan and India on slave contracts, deprived of their passports). Otherwise, it is Spain, Denmark and Germany which are leading wind turbines nations of Europe. Amazingly enough, it is Germany who is in the lead  in terms of solar power and accounted for nearly half the world’s solar power in 2007. This has lowered prices dramatically, by half from 1997 to 2007 in Germany.


Yet we must also have an eye for an unwanted use, particularly in the industry, and be a driving force to  improve conditions. More and more we can read reports of natural phenomenas that are out of control. The Greenland ice is melting faster than anyone had imagined, and only now in the summer [2010], two giant floe broke off and is drifting with the risk of ship traffic, oil and land impacts. The first floe that was fell off and is drifting, is  more than four times larger than Manhattan and the largest in the Northern Hemisphere since 1962. Maybe someone should tow it to a fresh water poor area?


Shocking satellite images were made public in late May and shows that the landscape rises. In an increasing pace. This could have unforeseen consequences for a rising sea as well.


Lake Taganyaka in East Africa, Africa's deepest and the world's second largest lake by volume, had the highest temperature of 150 years. With water temperature of 26° C, it is disastrous for both fish and fishermen.

Lake Taganyaka in East Africa, Africa’s deepest and the world’s second largest lake by volume, had the highest temperature of 150 years. With water temperature of 26° C, it is disastrous for both fish and fishermen.


The oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico was totally out of control. Even after “successful” sealing, there are enormous quantities of oil under water. It was recently discovered an undersea oil slick consisting of tiny oil droplets in the Gulf region, invisible to the naked eye. This slick is 35 km long. If it moves with the Gulf Stream northeast and out in the open sea, it may have undesirable effects in Europe. Since the discharge is in deep water, it mixes the oil into the sea and kill large areas of underwater fauna, not just the birds that we see in the pictures, but far down the food chain. The damage will be long lasting.


However, it is now discovered a new type of oil-eating microbe that thrives in cold water down to 5 ° C. One assumes that this microbe has evolved such because of repeated oil spills in the Gulf. The advantageous of this newly discovered microbe is that it absorbs less oxygen than other oil-eating microbes, which in itself can damage water quality. Maybe something for Norway to have in stock, so just in case?



The global community is you and me, even as we may seem insignificant among the 6 billion others. In many of life’s mysterious ways, it is more useful to search for solutions than focusing on the problems alone. With today’s access to information, we have the opportunity to be updated, while also adding pressure on authorities. At all time a number of petitions takes place, supporting campaigns and direct inquiries to the politicians the world over every day. It is important not only to scamp away with a few Facebook groups, which of course also counts, though not as much, but use a minute or two during the week and support directly via e-mail campaigns and petitions. Avaaz.org is one of the better to keep updated through, but there are a number of other small and large, local and global web-based action groups who do a good job.




Small keystrokes, perhaps even on a bamboo-pc.

Small keystrokes, perhaps even on a bamboo-pc.

Δ In the period 1973 – 1982 there were 1500 worldwide natural disasters.



Δ In the period 1983 – 1992 there were 3500 worldwide natural disasters.


Δ In the period 1993 – 2002 there were 6000 worldwide natural disasters.


Δ In the period 2002 – 2012 … … …





(Published in the paper issue of Gateavisa # 189, 2010 and http://www.gateavisa.no/2011/04/02/værutsiktene-for-de-neste-20-ar-sol-sol-og-jevn-vind/)


To let our potential blossom

by Ole A. Seifert

Mayans were right. Not that it’s the apocalypse, but that we stand at a crossroads. Where we can continue with our eyes closed. We can let the world go on as before, even though we know we have a steady course towards the abyss. Or we can use what we have so much of, but use as little of, our gray matter — our brains. We can open our eyes and see and act accordingly. We can change the world to a better place where we see the planet as a whole, a unity and our common home. We can change our thinking and our actions, so our descendants also can enjoy the Mayan predictions. A turning point where we took responsibility for each other and our shared planet.


As of today, we produce enough food to feed approx. 10 billion people. That even though we also produce vast quantities of meat, which steals a tremendously large amount of fresh water, especially from water-poor country like Pakistan which produces much of the animal food. Water is a scarce resource. Not noticeable here in the Kingdom of Norway, even though 2/3 of our water consumption is in other countries, but for the roughly 1.1 billion who do not have free access to, clear, running water, and about 2.4 billion are without access to sanitation, water scarcity is noticeable.


 In our hunger for idiocy, eh … sorry, energy, we engage in the ultimate environmental crime by sucking the planet’s recent oil and gas reserves through shale gas and fracking (hydraulic fracturing). It’s not just the crazies in BP that do it, but also the Norwegian people, led by our dear Stoltenberg and our jointly owned Statoil. A contaminating process which use nearly 600 different chemicals are pumped under high pressure into the rocks. Yes, mixed with huge amounts of water. Each shale gas well use somewhere between 80 and 300 tons of chemicals. Between 4 and 30 million liters of water are required. Only 30 – 50% of the water comes up again and can be treated and cleaned. It goes without saying that the groundwater get highly polluted and very toxic. Not so cool, unless you live nearby and fancy the idea of setting tap water from the faucet on fire. Did I mention that water is a scarce resource?


Sure, we have plenty of everything, even of all that can drive humans into distress and misery. Also greed that allows us to get rid of millions of people, and still make money … That means that we choose to ignore the unequal distribution among the world’s population, our sisters and brothers. That means we can gain some extra  kilos during the Christmas season, after conscientiously have supported our wonderful system with our money, mainly presents as most would have afforded themselves or perhaps and very often do not even need, while much of the world’s population living in poverty and distress. Where those cranks and solder together mobile presents, eh … sorry, mobile phones, working under poor conditions, barely paid while they handle all kinds of toxins. What a sweet little child’s hand is more convenient than adults, hungry fingers to produce more of what we in the rich part of the world already have in abundance.


Just while I strummed down these words, 300 to 400 people died of hunger or hunger-related causes. Every four seconds a person dies of hunger and hunger-related causes. Also in 2012 we will reach 15 million dead children. Starved to death in a world of abundance. On a planet where everything is very skewed. Where 1/3 of the population goes hungry. On a planet where the world’s food production is increasing faster than population growth and how Europe throw enough food away in a year to cover the entire Belgium.


We produce enough food to feed approx. 10 billion people per 2012. Approximately the same number we expect the population to be in 2050. How inequality and poverty means that many of those living on less than $ 2 a day, can not afford this food. Where we still expect to have to double food production by 2050, because our hunger for the resource-intensive meat – which is also among the most water demanding areas we engage in – have no borders in a media-and PR-created world. Where  we can not let our cars thirst – we do rather use crops for fuel. As if the cars were our family.


We need not be afraid that meteors, volcanic eruptions or earthquakes will damage the world’s population. They have such poor accuracy anyway. We can do it best ourself, as we have it in system.


Never in history have we been our next closer. We are connected via the net to any corner of the world and we have no excuse for not taking responsibility. We can let our consciousness awake, not being oppressed by the power of greed and vile envy where everything is a competition, but to show to ourselves and our posterity that we as mankind can evolve to the common good, that we co-operate well if not even better than we can compete. Show that humans still possess something as basic as love and that this love also applies to our next and all life around us. To let our full potential blossom.


Happy New Year and good, new time!




Originally written in norwegian and published by the magazine Gateavisa, December 2012 http://www.gateavisa.no/2012/12/25/vart-fulle-potensiale/