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China turns to ecology in search of ‘civilisation’

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China turns to ecology in search of ‘civilisation’

BY James Oswald
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From obscure origins, China’s ecological civilisation model has grown into an international movement

In 2007, then Premier Hu Jintao announced that China would become an ‘ecological civilisation’, eschewing the previous development model that had seen economic growth take priority over environmental health.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has a history of using the concept of civilisation, or wenming, as part of its moralistic methods of governance: material civilisation, spiritual civilisation, and political civilisation have all been invoked.

In the Deng era, material civilisation set an ideal material standard of living and spiritual civilisation guided the moral decisions of these Chinese nouveau riche. Later, Jiang Zemin introduced political civilisation that focused on regulation, law, governance and institution-building.  This Chinese notion of civilisation is best understood as a process, of ‘becoming civilised,’ rather than the Western conception of civilisation that has its roots in the notion of the city.

Though these civilising discourses are a response to real or perceived problems arising from China’s development and incorporation into the global market economy, they differ from ecological civilisation in an important way. The previous civilisations are inward-looking attempts by the CCP to address issues arising from its development and modernisation. Ecological civilisation, in contrast, has international implications— after all, the present environmental crisis, while it may see a particularly severe expression in mainland China, is international in nature and its causes and manifestations are global.

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‘Promote ecological civilisation, build a beautiful China’. From the Central Propaganda Department’s magazine, Current Affairs

Ecological civilisation is distinct from its predecessors in another important way—it arose from an already existing academic debate, with Chinese academics developing the idea after reading about it in a Russian article from 1984.

The original publication describes ecological civilisation as a system that synthesises concepts from social science (in the Marxist-Leninist tradition) with ecological studies, so as to mitigate the negative effects that development has on the environment, and to advocate the frugal use of resources to promote ‘harmonious development.’  A summary of this original publication appeared in the Guangming Daily in 1985. The idea caught the attention of Liu Zongchao, then a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and inspired him to begin writing on the topic.


How Urban Trees Can Save Lives

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How Urban Trees Can Save Lives

Planting Healthy Air report quantifies health benefits of trees for 245 cities globally

Heatwaves are one of the world's most underestimated threats, killing more than 12,000 people every year around the world—more than any other weather-related event. And heat is especially dangerous in cities, which tend to be much warmer than surrounding less-developed areas. On top of that, cities tend to have higher levels of air pollution, which contribute to more than 3 million deaths every year. With 70 percent of the world’s population predicted to live in cities by 2050, heat and air pollution constitute a major public health concern.

One relatively simple solution to this problem? Plant more trees in cities. Trees cool the air by casting shade and releasing water vapor, and their leaves can filter out fine particulate matter (PM)—one of the most dangerous forms of air pollution, generated from burning biomass and fossil fuels. The Nature Conservancy has studied the effects of trees on air quality in 245 of the world’s largest cities and documented the findings in the Planting Healthy Air report.

Key Takeaways of the Report

The Planting Healthy Air report documents which cities stand to benefit most from tree plantings, in terms of both heat and PM reduction, and how much investment would be required to achieve meaningful benefits.

The analysis found that investing just US$4 per resident in each of these cities in tree planting efforts could improve the health of millions of people, and that trees are as cost-effective as many other common solutions.

Most of the cooling and filtering effects created by trees are fairly localized, so densely populated cities—as well as those with higher overall pollution levels—tend to see the highest overall return on investment (ROI) from tree plantings.

The localized nature of trees’ effects, however, means that particular neighborhoods in virtually any city could benefit from plantings. City planners can even target plantings to protect areas with especially vulnerable populations—such as near schools and hospitals—or use trees as a screen against PM coming from highways and industrial areas.

While trees alone can't solve the entirety of cities' air and heat problems, they are a critical piece of the puzzle. The report shows that even a conservative global investment in urban trees can save tens of thousands of lives.

Editor's Note: Scroll through the interactive map at the bottom of the page to see which neighborhoods within each of the cities from the study have the highest return on investment for heat and PM reduction.

Source: https://global.nature.org/content/healthyair?intc=nature.hp.news3


Marrakech Climate Summit Continues Momentum Towards Low-Carbon Future

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Marrakech Climate Summit Continues Momentum Towards Low-Carbon Future

by The Nature Conservancy / Press Statement

MARRAKECH, MOROCCO | November 18, 2016

Marrakech Climate SummitOver the past two weeks, leaders from around the world reaffirmed their commitment to taking decisive action together on climate change, and to advancing the landmark Paris Agreement. That Agreement, reached last December, established for the first time a strong framework in which all countries agreed to take national action to address the threat of climate change. Throughout this year’s climate conference in Marrakech, known as COP 22, negotiators began the tough work of implementing that agreement, by developing guidance to support countries’ efforts. By the close of COP 22, more than 100 countries had formally joined the Agreement.

The Marrakech conference followed closely other key advances in recent months, such as the speedy entry into force of the Paris Agreement, the recent aviation emissions reduction agreement from Montreal, and the Kigali agreement to reduce heat-trapping hydrofluorocarbons used in air conditioning and refrigerators.

The results of the U.S. election of a candidate who has expressed skepticism about climate change occurred during the COP 22, and governments, businesses and civil society, including those in the United States, responded with renewed determination to advance management of the risks presented by climate change and to continue to develop a clean energy, low-carbon future. On November 16, more than 360 global companies and investors stated their continued support for previously agreed limits on global warming and to accelerating efforts to seize the opportunities of moving to a low-carbon economy.


A Historic Day in Our Fight Against Climate Change

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Statement, Blog, from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on Historic Kigali Agreement

Gina McCarthy10/15/2016
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Melissa Harrison ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

Statement from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on Historic Kigali Agreement

This week, nearly 200 nations came together to take a historic step in combatting climate change. After years of hard work and difficult negotiations, a global commitment to protecting our planet brought us to this moment. Amending the Montreal Protocol will significantly phase down HFCs and avoid up to a half-degree centigrade of warming by the end of the century. While we have seen many significant successes under President Obama’s leadership in fighting climate change, this day will unquestionably be remembered as one of the most important in our effort to save the one planet we have. It is truly an exciting time for all of us who have worked so hard to achieve this new level of success, and as head of the U.S. delegation, I could not be more delighted with the outcome of the negotiations and our collective resolve. The prospects for the future of our planet are bright. 

Blog: A Historic Day in Our Fight Against Climate Change

By EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

Protecting the air we breathe and slowing the effects of climate change are a core part of EPA’s mission. And today, I am proud to say that we, alongside nearly every country on Earth, have taken another historic step in carrying out that mission by cutting down on the use of damaging hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs.


Financing the Climate-Change Transition

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Financing the Climate-Change Transition

"Over the next 15 years, an estimated $93 trillion will be needed for investments in low-carbon infrastructure."

POTSDAM, PARIS, ZURICH – Unless the world reduces greenhouse-gas emissions rapidly, humanity is likely to enter an era of unprecedented climate risks. Devastating extreme-weather events are already increasing in frequency, but much of the worst climate-related damage, such as a sustained rise in sea levels, will be recognized only once it is too late to act.

Clearly, the climate system’s time horizon does not align well with the world’s much shorter political and economic cycles. Listed companies report on a quarterly basis, and recent regulatory changes, such as those mandating increased use of mark-to-market accounting, limit long-term thinking.

Donald Trump looks at Barack Obama

What Will Trump Do?

The populist surge challenging political establishments worldwide has now claimed the biggest prize of all. Project Syndicate commentators weigh the costs for America and the world.

Governments usually have legislative cycles of no more than four years, and they must also respond to immediate developments. Yet stabilizing the climate requires sustained and consistent action over an extended period.


How does oil affect the environment?

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How does oil affect the environment?

Crude oil is used to make petroleum products used to fuel airplanes, cars, and trucks; to heat homes; and to make products like medicines and plastics. Although petroleum products make life easier, finding, producing, and moving crude oil may have negative effects on the environment. Technological advances in exploration, production, and transportation of oil and enforcement of safety and environmental laws and regulations help to avoid and reduce these effects.

Technology helps reduce the effects of drilling and producing oil

Exploring and drilling for oil may disturb land and marine ecosystems. Seismic techniques used to explore for oil under the ocean floor may harm fish and marine mammals. Drilling an oil well on land often requires clearing an area of vegetation. These impacts are reduced by technologies that greatly increase the efficiency of exploration and drilling activities. Satellites, global positioning systems, remote sensing devices, and 3-D and 4-D seismic technologies make it possible to discover oil reserves while drilling fewer exploratory wells. Mobile and smaller slimhole drilling rigs reduce the size of the area disturbed by drilling activities. The use of horizontal and directional drilling makes it possible for a single well to produce oil from a much larger area, which reduces the number of wells required to develop an oil field.


Green Infrastructure in Quezon City

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Implementing Rules and Regulation for Green Infrastructure

The Implementing Rules and Regulation, Part 1 (IRR-1) for Green Infrastructures in pursuant to Section 24 of SP 1917 S-2009 - "An Ordinance Requiring the Design, Construction or Retrofitting of Buildings, Other Structures and Movable Properties to Meet Minimum Standards of a Green Infrastructure, Providing Incentives thereof and for Other Purposes" also known as the "Green Building Ordinance of 2009". (click on the links below for full text)


green_building_cover_thumbImplementing Rules and Regulation (full text)

Annex A (Inspection and Evaluation Procedures)

Annex B (Green Building Rating System)

Annex C (Standard Certification Issuance)

Annex D (Preliminary Application Form for Green Bldg.)

Annex E (Preliminary Ammendment Application Form for Green Bldg.)

Annex F (Final Application Form for Green Bldg.)

Annex G (Minimum Standards, Prohibited Acts and Penal Provisions)

Annex I (ORDINANCE NO. SP-1940 SERIES 2009)


Watersheds Lost Up to 22% of Their Forests in 14 Years

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Watersheds Lost Up to 22% of Their Forests in 14 Years. Here’s How it Affects Your Water Supply

by Yiyuan Qin Yiyuan Qin and Todd Gartner - August 30, 2016

Drought in Sao Paulo. Flooding in the Himalayas. And pollution in Sumatra. These three distinct water crises have a common cause—degradation in forests.

That’s because upstream forests, wetlands and other “natural infrastructure” play a critical role in supplying clean water downstream. They stabilize soil and reduce erosion, regulate water flow to mitigate floods and droughts, and purify water. Yet the world’s watersheds lost 6 percent of their tree cover on average from 2000-2014, putting citizens at risk of losing their water supplies.

On the Yangtze River at Badong, China. Photo by Bernd Thaller/Flickr.
On the Yangtze River at Badong, China. Photo by Bernd Thaller/Flickr.

Who Can Use GFW Water?

GFW Water allows anyone with internet access, regardless of expertise, to visualize critical watershed information and threats, and screen for cost-effective, sustainable natural infrastructure solutions. For example:

  • Downstream utilities, municipalities, businesses and others who make infrastructure investments can identify risks and explore natural infrastructure options and find information to improve operations and protect water at a lower cost.
  • Finance and development institutions can gather data, explore trends and gain insights about the regions they support to develop a pipeline of investable opportunities to enhance water security and bolster economic development.
  • Researchers and civil society can use data to support their projects and find the information needed to advance their research and campaigns to protect watersheds.

Global Forest Watch (GFW) Water, a global mapping tool and database launched today, examines how forest loss, fires, unsustainable land use and other threats to natural infrastructure affect water security throughout the world. GFW Water provides data sets, statistics and risk scores for all of the world’s 230 watersheds, areas of land where all of the water drains to a common outlet such as a river. Users can drop a pin anywhere to learn about the risks to the water supply near them, and find resources on how investing in natural infrastructure protection can help alleviate these threats.

Findings from GFW Water reveal some of the watersheds most threatened by forest loss, fires and erosions:

Recent Forest Loss in Sumatra, Indonesia Watershed

As forests are cut down or converted to other land uses, their ability to regulate flow and purify water diminishes, putting communities at risk of flood, drought, higher water treatment costs and greater incidence of drinking water contamination.

The watershed of Sumatra, Indonesia experienced the most  forest loss from 2000-2014, losing more than 22 percent of its forest cover (8 million hectares, or an area about the size of South Carolina). Research shows that agricultural expansion, logging and infrastructure extension as a result of expanding global markets for pulp, timber and oil palm are among the major drivers. Forest clearing in the region has intensified floods, landslides, fires and water pollution.



Paris Agreement

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Paris Agreement


At the Paris climate conference (COP21) in December 2015, 195 countries adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal.

United Nations flag © Comstock

The agreement sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C.

Key elements

The Paris Agreement is a bridge between today's policies and climate-neutrality before the end of the century.

Mitigation: reducing emissions

Governments agreed

  • a long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels;
  • to aim to limit the increase to 1.5°C, since this would significantly reduce risks and the impacts of climate change;
  • on the need for global emissions to peak as soon as possible, recognising that this will take longer for developing countries;
  • to undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with the best available science.

Before and during the Paris conference, countries submitted comprehensive national climate action plans (INDCs). These are not yet enough to keep global warming below 2°C, but the agreement traces the way to achieving this target.


In Memory of Aydin Sayili

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In Memory of Aydin Sayili

Aydin Sayilli (1913-1993) was an eminent historian of science whose pioneering work during a 50-year career uncovered many hidden treasures in the history of mathematics, astronomy and medicine, especially in the Islamic tradition. In this special section, we celebrate his memory and publish the list of his articles published on our web portal.

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Figure 1: The young Aydin Sayili. Courtesy of Dr. Hüseyin Gazi Topdemir.

Aydin Sayilli (1913-1993) was an eminent historian of science, especially of Islamic science. His career was aided by chance when meeting with Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, whom he impressed enough to receive a state-supported scholarship to attend graduate school at Harvard, where he studied under George Sarton.

One of his biographers, Professor Ekmeledin Ihsanoglu, qualified him in the following words: "Aydin Sayili is one of the first eminent figures of the history of science in Islam to pursue an academic career in this discipline. He was fortunate to earn the first PhD from the history of science chair established by George Sarton in Harvard University. With this distinguished background, he made valuable contributions to this field throughout his life" (see Aydin Sayili (1913-1993) At Work: His Scientific Biography).

The doctoral dissertation of Aydin Sayili on scientific institutions in the Islamic civilization, completed in Harvard in 1942, was the first thorough essay on this important topic. Its chapter on the multi-faceted aspects of the observatory in the world of Islam is until now a unique example of deep investigation in which minute analysis of sources led to outstanding historiographical results.

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Figure 2: Aydin Sayili at the height of his academic career. Source: Archives internationales d'histoire des sciences (N°. 134, pp. 135-148) and Aydin Sayili (1913-1993).

The work of Sayili may be outlined briefly as follows:

"Aydin Sayili was born in Istanbul in 1913. His primary and secondary education took place in Ankara for the most part. After completing his secondary education, he took part in competitive state examinations and was sent by the Turkish Ministry of Education to the United States for his higher education. The program of his university education was planned and organized under the guidance of George Sarton, one of the foremost pioneers in the field of the history of science and one of the most central figures in securing for it the status of an independent academic discipline. Sayili's training at Harvard was broad in scope with his so-called "horizontal" specialization or concentration in the history of science being in the world of Islam and his "vertical" specialization in the history of physics. He obtained his Ph.D. degree in the history of science in 1942 from Harvard University which was apparently the first such degree to be given in that discipline anywhere" (In Memoriam of Aydin Sayili: Biography and Account of his Scientific Activity).

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Figure 3: Aydin Sayili and George Sarton. Courtesy of Dr. Hüseyin Gazi Topdemir.

During a long and fruitful career that span over 50 years, until he passed away in 1993, Aydin Sayili produced an impressive list of monographs exploring different areas of history of Islamic sciences and history of science at large. His work touched on the history of mathematics, astronomy, medicine, and he was interested in other different areas, one of which had attracted his attention throughout his life: setting the record for the Turkish contribution to history of science, since the time of Abdulhamid ibn Turk in the 9th century until the Ottoman period (see the list of his publications section 2 of In Memoriam of Aydin Sayili: Biography and Account of his Scientific Activity).

Figure 4a-b: Two views of Hayatta en Hakikî Mürsit Ilimdir (The Truest Guide in Life Is Science) by Aydin Sayili, first edition, 1948 (2nd edition Ankara, 1990)./td>

The list of articles by Aydin Sayili published on www.MuslimHeritage.com:



The 12th International Congress of Ecology ( INTECOL 2017 Beijing)

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The 12th International Congress of Ecology ( INTECOL 2017 Beijing) organized by INTECOL will be held in Beijing, August 20-25, 2017. As the host of the congress, the Ecological Society of China warmly welcome you to join this meeting together with leaders in ecology from the globe, as well as scientists, educators, practitioners and policy-makers, who are dedicated to protecting and preserving our planet.
The theme of the congress is Ecology and Civilization in a Changing World, which will focus on harmonious and sustainable development among people, nature, and society in the context of global development. During the congress, the issues on the following fields will be thoroughly discussed, i.e., ecosystem service valuation and sustainable development, culture conservation and human well-being, global change, environmental change in urbanization, ecosystem restoration and management, biodiversity conservation and ecosystem health, ecological civilization, molecular ecology and ecological genomics.
We do hope you can join us for discussing the issues faced by human and finding solutions to them, as well as making new friends from the other regions.
We are looking forward to seeing you in Beijing in August 2017!


Ecocentrism and Traditional Ecological Knowledge

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Ecocentrism and Traditional Ecological Knowledge

By J. Stan Rowe

Of what relevance to current industrial civilization are Indigenous Cultures (ICs), those islands of aboriginal society that still persist here and there in quiet backwaters not yet invaded by world trade and commerce? Does Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) offer useful lessons for Westerners seeking harmonious and sustainable ways of living on Earth? Recent discussion of TEK on the Internet (Ecopolitics-l listserver) prompted the following essay.


Anthropologists and sociologists have long had an interest in the flexible ways diverse cultures adapt to the various physical and biological landscapes of Earth. One modern approach is the study of Historical Ecology, tracing patterns of change in cultures as they evolve. The presumption is that cultures are subject to historic selection, responding to what is outside them and within. External forces - varying according to geographic place- are local environmental conditions (soils, water, climate, biota), large-scale environmental change (especially climatic change), and local human actions (cooperation and/or competition with neighbouring societies). Internal forces, the focus of particular interest, are traditional activities and beliefs that determine "the practical engagement of people in the world." In other words, how a society adapts to its dynamic environment.


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