Thursday, May 3, 2007

British Queen begins US trip in Virginia

The Queen is starting her first trip to the US for 16 years with a visit to Virginia to meet survivors of the worst college shooting in US history.

The 81-year-old monarch will be joined by the Duke of Edinburgh for the six-day East Coast tour.

The official state visit will end with two days in Washington DC with President George Bush.

The Queen's last stay in the US followed the first Gulf war when President Bush's father was in power.

Apology call

The Queen's programme is aimed at forging bonds between Britain and the US and focusing on their shared future.

On Thursday the Queen will pay tribute to the victims of the Virginia Tech shooting and is expected to meet survivors and bereaved families.

Cadets from the college will line the steps up to the state capitol, where the Queen will deliver her keynote speech to the Virginia assembly.

The Queen will visit Jamestown on Friday to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the US's first permanent English settlement.

There have already been calls for her to apologise for the introduction of slavery and slaughter of American Indians.


She will also fulfil a lifelong dream by attending the Kentucky Derby at the Churchill Downs racetrack at the weekend.

The finale will be two days in Washington DC, where she will be entertained by President Bush, visit a Nasa space centre and meet some of GI brides who left Britain for a new life across the Atlantic during the Second World War.

The box-office hit film The Queen, for which Dame Helen Mirren won an Oscar, is likely to have increased interest in the visit.

It will be the fourth state visit to the US by the Queen and the Duke, following tours in 1957, 1976 for the US Bicentennial and 1991. They also visited Ronald Reagan in 1983.

Mr Bush will undoubtedly be trying to avoid the embarrassment Mr Reagan faced once with the Prince of Wales.

It was revealed on Wednesday that Mr Reagan wrote in his diaries how the Prince was, "horror of horrors", served a cup of tea with the teabag left in it.

The Queen is arriving by plane and her carbon footprint will be calculated and offset for the first time for a state visit.

Story from BBC NEWS
Published: 2007/05/03 06:07:27 GMT

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Survival in the Anthropocene - Part 1


Good evening everybody, and what a thrill it is to be at Peking University, and to be together with you. And what a thrill it is for me to have the chance to give this unique lecture series, the Reith Lectures, and to take part in a global discussion, a discussion that we must have in the beginning years of our new century, if we are to achieve what we hope to achieve -- shared peace and prosperity around the planet. I think we all sense that we are at very important decision points in the planet, with obvious risks and huge opportunities. As Sue just said, there is no place on the planet of more significance for these choices -- for its own sake as well as for the world's sake -- as China today, a country that calls for superlatives in its role, its dimensions, and the stakes for the world. Here we are in the famous, beautiful, magnificent Hall of the Ten Thousand Masses, as it's called, but to account for China's vastness we would need a hundred thirty thousand such halls of ten thousand people each to accommodate the 1.3 billion people of this country, which makes up one fifth of the world's population and is quickly becoming an absolute epicentre of the global economy as well as many of the challenges that I'll discuss tonight.

China has been at the centre of world history for millennia, and for large stretches of world history China has been the leading power. Roughly from 500 AD to 1500 AD China was clearly the dominant economic power and the dominant progenitor of fundamental and leading technologies of all sorts, which empowered the world and changed it in magnificently positive ways. And of course we all see and expect China to play that role in the twenty-first century as well. After a long period of difficulty, economic hiatus and internally and externally caused disarray, China clearly is in the ascendancy in this century. It is far and away the most dramatic case of economic growth in the history of the world. Never before have we seen rates of economic progress, and what they signify -- deep improvements of human well-being taking place at not only the pace but obviously the scale that we're seeing now, with each decade bringing a doubling or more of living standards -- in a country of these vast proportions.

So the superlatives of the economy are well known and they cross lips around the world every day, but we're going to talk about another aspect of that challenge this evening, and that's the superlatives of the environmental challenge that China faces. Not only is it the world's most populous country, it is one of the world's most crowded countries, and it is certainly one of the world's most environmentally stressed regions. This is a challenge that has existed throughout China's history, but what has happened in recent decades and what will happen in the decades to come poses qualitatively new challenges that are emblematic of the unique environmental stresses that we all face on the planet together -- some because of the special role that China will play in the future, and some because China is experiencing the same kinds of phenomena as in other parts of the world.

I called my lecture today 'The Anthropocene' - a term that is spectacularly vivid, a term invented by one of the great scientists of our age, Paul Crutzen, to signify the fact that human beings for the first time have taken hold not only of the economy and of population dynamics, but of the planet's physical systems, Anthropocene meaning human created era of Earth's history. The geologists call our time the holocene --the period of the last thirteen thousand years or so since the last Ice Age -- but Crutzen wisely and perhaps shockingly noted that the last two hundred years are really a unique era, not only in human history but in the Earth's physical history as well. The Anthropocene is the period when human activity has overtaken vast parts of the natural cycles on the planet, and has done so in ways that disrupt those cycles and fundamentally threaten us in the years ahead.

Now considering how we're going to face the dual challenge of continued economic progress, which we dearly hope for in this country and in other parts of the developing world, and continued economic well-being of course and progress, in today's high income world, with the profound and growing environmental dangers that we face, is the subject of our Reith Lecture today.

Let me set the stage. Our era is unique. We've never before experienced anything like the human pressures on the environment as well as the human successes in sustained and broad-based improvements of well-being. Ensuring that we can continue those successes without going right over the cliff will prove to be our generation's greatest challenge. Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, which we could date roughly to the beginning of the nineteenth century - 1800 or so, perhaps a few decades earlier by some historians' accounts, a couple of decades later in most places in the world - the human impact on the environment has increased approximately one hundredfold. Human population has risen from six or seven hundred million in the middle of the eighteenth century to our 6.6 billion today, roughly a tenfold increase. Per capita economic activity -- that is how much each of us on the planet consumes, produces, draws upon natural resources for our sustenance and well-being -- has also risen by typical statistical account, as hard as it is to compare over the course of two centuries, roughly tenfold as well. With ten times more people, each of whom is engaged in ten times more economic activity, we have two orders of magnitude, or one hundred times, the influence of human activity on the planet. And this is coming at unprecedented cost to physical earth systems. What's absolutely striking, and the puzzle we need to solve, is this basic fact: What we are already doing on the planet in terms of effects on physical systems is unsustainable. We cannot go on doing what we're doing. We have already reached a point of literal unsustainability, in the sense that if we continue on our current path, using resources the way we use them now at the scale we use them now, we will hit very harsh boundaries that will do great damage to human well-being, to the earth, and to vast numbers, literally millions, of other species on the planet. But we have an even harder problem to solve than that one, and that is that we do not want to stop here in terms of consumption or economic activity. The developing countries -- and we're in the most populous of them today -- which together make up five sixths of humanity, rightly and understandably and from my point of view absolutely accountably and responsibly, say they would like their place in the sun as well. If the high income world has achieved certain levels of wealth, comfort, safety and life expectancy, what about the rest of humanity? From my point of view as a development economist, something absolutely wonderful is happening, something that I think we could even dub the Age of Convergence, and that is that the measure of economic development, the methods, the institutions, the processes, the adaptation of advanced technologies, are becoming a worldwide phenomenon. Now tragically not every part of the world is yet part of that phenomenon, and I will have the chance to discuss that in a later lecture, when we talk about the poorest of the poor who are still not part of this dynamism. But the wonderful news is that large parts of the planet are part of this dynamism - China of course is at the very forefront in an unprecedented manner -- catching up in technology, economic activity, and human well-being. Let's not doubt the improvements of living, not only of conventionally measured living standards but of human well-being and life expectancy, in nutrition, in opportunities, in chances to fulfill life's hopes that come along with this economic improvement.

The processes now are made powerful by the strong winds of globalization -- the market forces and the ability of ideas and technology to flow across national boundaries at an unprecedented rate. The world economy is now growing at approximately five per cent per annum, and that is four per cent approximately of per capita income increases, and one per cent per year roughly of global population increase. That means we are on course for a massive increase of economic activity, just what we would like to see in the still poor countries of the world, those who aspire to have the chances that technology and science have brought us. It is fair to say that, given current trends, we have a powerful force of economic convergence in most parts of the world, and if the processes of convergence continue to operate as they have in recent decades, one could expect that perhaps the average per person income on the planet could rise as much as four times between now and mid-century. If the average income as measured by economists, statisticians, taking into account the purchasing power of income in different parts of the world, is roughly eight thousand dollars per person, one could expect perhaps that that would reach thirty thousand dollars by mid-century, given the powerful and positive forces of economic development.

Population of course, though increasing more slowly in proportional terms than it did in the second half of the twentieth century, is still increasing in absolute terms by an astounding amount of 70 to 80 million people per year. And on the medium forecast of the UN Population Division, that leads to a projection of roughly an increase of another two and a half billion people on the planet by the year 2050. That is a world population increase of roughly fifty per cent, with income on a path, barring various disasters, to increase approximately fourfold. Multiplying one and a half by four suggests that the current trajectory would lead to an increase of world economic activity of six times between now and 2050. That is the goal from the point of view of economic development, but think about the paradox, if we already are on an unsustainable trajectory and yet China, India, and large parts of Asia are successfully barrelling ahead with rapid economic development at an unprecedented rate. We are asking our planet to somehow absorb a manyfold increase of economic activity on top of an already existing degree of environmental stress that we've never before seen on the planet.

It is possible that we will not be able to increase sixfold in economic activity with current technologies before the environmental catastrophes would choke off the economic growth. The hardships in water stress, deforestation, hunger, and species extinction, would cause this process to go awry, even before we are able to do more damage to the planet. But that does pose the fundamental question - what will give in the end? Many people think the only thing that can give are living standards in the high income world, whereas others believe that we are bound for a bitter struggle between the rich and the poor in the years ahead. I want to argue that the only viable, peaceful way forward is a change of the way we live that allows for continued improvement of living standards in all parts of the world and for catching up, but that also permits us to square the circle of environmental stress and economic development.

Survival in the Anthropocene - Part 2


The Anthropocene is felt in so many areas -- habitat destruction, rising greenhouse gases that are changing the climate and threatening us profoundly, water stress, human dominance of the natural nitrogen cycle through heavy use of manmade fertilisers that allow us to feed a world population of 6.5 billion people on its way to 9 billion, new diseases that emerge when human populations and animal populations come into contact in new ways, and of course in the vast over-fishing, over-hunting, over-gathering, and over-exploitation of natural resources in large parts of the planet, leading to population collapses and species extinction.

I want to touch on one of these many aspects, because it is not only of central importance, but helps to illuminate the challenge of squaring the circle of development and environmental sustainability. Climate change, a vast challenge that reflects at the core the fact that modern economic growth since the Industrial Revolution has been built on the use of fossil fuels , which leads to the emission of carbon dioxide and , through the greenhouse effect, the warming of the planet and fundamental changes to the earth's climate. The effect was identified more than a century ago, in 1896, but it has only come to our attention in recent years, because it is only in the last couple of decades that we have come to understand just how big the human effect is on the growing concentrations of carbon dioxide and a number of other such greenhouse gases, and on our changing climate.

This is a case where what we are doing today is not sustainable, because each year we are raising the carbon concentration in the atmosphere by two or more parts per million of molecules in the atmosphere. When projected over the course of this century, that rate of emission would lead to such a high level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that the climate would be changed, we now understand, to the point of dire risk for us and for vast parts of the global eco-system. Species extinction, extreme weather events, massive changes of precipitation, grave risks to food production, disease transmission and the like, would all reach harrowing levels later in this century if we merely continue to do what we're doing now. But here comes the puzzle. With the world economy barrelling ahead, the amount of energy use is also rising dramatically, and so too the use of fossil fuels, which will be in sufficient abundance long enough for us to wreck the climate before we run out. And so if the concentration of carbon dioxide is increasing by roughly two parts per million each year, it could easily be four parts per million in a few decades, with the rate increasing over time. The projections are that by mid-century we might have doubled the pre-industrial concentration of carbon dioxide. By the end of this century, if we continue on a business as usual course with the economic development we so hope for in this country and in the rest of the developing world, perhaps the concentration will have tripled or quadrupled. We know, as we learned once again by the recent scientific consensus of the inter-governmental panel on climate change, which reported in its fourth assessment round beginning in February of this year, that the effects of that kind of increase pose risks to this planet that we simply cannot afford to take.

What can we do? Do we have to end economic growth? Do we have to end the hopes of the developing world? Do we need dire cutbacks in living conditions, inevitable in today's rich world? I believe that there is another course, and it's the course we must take. There are at least three ways out of this conundrum. First of course is fuel and energy efficiency, so that we can get more economic output with less direct use of fossil fuels. Second of course is the substitution of non-fossil fuels for fossil fuels, so that per unit of energy the emissions of carbon dioxide can be reduced, whether it's with safely deployed nuclear power, or more economical solar power, or wind, or bio-mass, there's definitely a role, though perhaps not as dramatic as we might hope, for non-fossil fuels.

There's a third alternative as well, and that is to learn to use our existing fossil fuels safely. And for China and India this is perhaps the single most important hope for these countries and for the planet. One idea on the drawing board which needs to get into demonstration and production in this country as soon as possible - and that means nearly immediately - is the idea of power plants that burn coal to generate electricity, capturing the carbon dioxide that they would otherwise emit, pumping it into pipelines and safely storing it in safe geologic reservoirs in the earth.

The big question for the planet is the unprecedented challenge to move to a sustainable energy system, requiring a great degree of co-operation, foresight, and planning, over a time span of decades. Can we do it? Can we find that level of public understanding, political consensus, direction and determination? We may fake it with nice speeches, but the climate will change whether we fake it or not. There is no spinning this one. This one is dependent on what we actually do, not what we say we do.

I want to mention one hopeful analogy, and that is how we have successfully as a world avoided what was another desperate risk, and that was the depletion of the ozone layer. That was also discovered by Paul Crutzen, the scientist who brought us the Anthropocene. He and two colleagues, Sherwood Rowland and Mario Molina, discovered, accidentally as it were, that the chemicals that we use for refrigeration and for our aerosols, the chloro-fluorocarbons, or CFCs, posed a grave risk to survival on the planet because of their accidental interactions in the stratosphere that could have destroyed the ozone layer. It was an accidental, brilliant discovery. It took some years for the public to become aware of it. When the scientists said it, the makers of the CFCs said that it was junk science, that they'd heard it before. They went into denial. But then NASA in the United States snapped a picture from one of its remarkable satellites, showing the hole in the ozone layer. In a way it may be the picture that saved the world, because as soon as people saw that hole with their own eyes, they weren't listening to the Chairman of DuPont anymore, they were thinking about their survival and the survival of their children. The public awareness soared, the pressure for action increased. At that point DuPont and other companies' scientists went to work. They determined there was an alternative to the CFCs, there were other safer chemicals that could be refrigerants and aerosols. Then a fourth step took place. The companies whispered in the ears of the politicians, "it's okay, you can reach an international agreement, we can handle this." And quickly, -- from the basic science to the international agreements took about fifteen years -- by 1990 a global framework was in place that called for the phasing out of the chloro-fluorocarbons and has put us on a path of at least relative safety with regard to that risk.

With climate I believe we have the same prospects now. It is a much more difficult issue, a problem that gets to the core of the functioning of the world economy, so it cannot be solved from one day to the next, requiring a basic change of our infrastructure and our energy systems which will take decades to complete, but a process nonetheless that I think is underway in the same way. First came the science, back in 1896, and then the modern science in the last twenty-five years. And as soon as the science came, came the companies with the vested interests claiming junk science, because their instinct is to start lobbying. But you don't lobby against nature. Nature has its principles: it doesn't matter what the boards of these companies say. What matters is the actual physical mechanisms. The science was right, it becomes more and more known.

Now like the ozone crisis, public awareness has been the second step. For a long time climate change was discussed as something for the far future. Now it's understood as something that imperils us today as well. The heatwave in Europe in 2003, claiming more than twenty thousand lives; Hurricane Katrina, a storm of devastating proportions, shocking the American people and the world about what climate can do; the mega-drought in Australia that took place this year, and destroyed a substantial part of Australia's export crop; the massive typhoons being experienced by this country, as well as the warming taking place in large parts of this country, and severe droughts in the interior of China - have all made climate change an immediate issue, an understandable issue, and one that of course will get worse, no matter what we do right now, for a while, because we are on a trajectory of worsening climate change stresses that is locked in place for the near term.

The good news is that the scientists and the engineers are now scurrying. Technological alternatives are being developed. Carbon capture and sequestration is beginning to be put into place in demonstration projects. So too are alternative non-fossil fuel energy sources, and so too remarkable breakthroughs in energy efficiency, such as hybrid and plug-in hybrid automobiles, which promise us vast efficiency gains, more distance per unit of fuel.

The good news is that those technological breakthroughs are similarly leading the companies to whisper in the ears of the politicians - "it's okay, we can handle this." And that's the best news of all. Companies around the world are now in the lead of their politicians. In fact they're telling the politicians we have to act, we want a framework, we need an incentive mechanism, we need a price structure so that we can move ahead with sustainable energy. I believe we're going to get there. Global negotiations on a truly global framework open in December of this year, in Bali, Indonesia. We've agreed in principle on a Framework Convention on Climate Change, that we must stabilise greenhouse gases. We took an early small step in the so-called Kyoto Protocol, but this only involved a very small set of commitments for a limited part of the world - mainly Europe, because the United States did not even join. Now in December we must have the US and China, and India, and the European Union, and other parts of the world, all coming together and saying we must do this for ourselves and for the future. Nature has spoken more loudly than vested interests. This is not a matter of vested interests, it is a matter of common interest. These steps, from the science to the public awareness, to the technological alternatives, to the international agreements, are the very steps that we will need for all aspects of the Anthropocene. This will be the mark of our new era - science-based global policy-making based on worldwide public awareness. That's going to be true for saving the rain forests, for saving our oceans from over-fishing, for managing water stress, and for choosing population alternatives that are sound for the planet and sound for individuals as well. We don't have to accept the population trends, because people would choose fertility reduction voluntarily in large parts of the developing world, if the alternatives were made available to them. We can do this, and we will learn that the costs of action are tiny, compared with the risks of inaction. Climate change can be solved, according to the best current estimates, for less than one per cent of world income each year, and perhaps well under that, where the potential costs are a devastating multiple of several per cent of world income if we continue on the business as usual trajectory.

I want to end where I started the first lecture, with my favourite speech by President John F. Kennedy. He talked about the challenge of peace. That is our biggest challenge on the planet. And peace is also threatened by environmental risk. But he also told us in that speech that we have chances. He said, and I repeat because I think it is our common thread: "Our problems are man-made, therefore they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man's reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable, and we believe they can do it again."4 That is the spirit of the Anthropocene.

Thank you very much.

Monday, April 30, 2007

I will not resign, says Wolfowitz

World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz has said he would not resign in the face of "bogus"

World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz
charges against him.

In a statement to a panel of World Bank directors, the embattled

Mr Wolfowitz was defending himself against accusations that he pushed through a huge pay package for his girlfriend without the Bank's consent.

The committee is due to report to the Bank's board of 24 representatives, who will decide on the president's fate.

Mr Wolfowitz has apologised for his actions, vowing to stay on to complete what he called "important work".

Earlier, US President George W Bush said he believed Mr Wolfowitz "ought to stay" in his job.

But a growing army of voices, including World Bank colleagues and the European Parliament, are calling for Mr Wolfowitz' resignation amid escalating concern the scandal embroiling the former Pentagon number two is damaging the credibility of the global lender.

International development group Oxfam called his continued presidency "untenable" in an open letter to the Guardian newspaper on Monday.

'Good faith'

Mr Wolfowitz said the World Bank's ethics committee had access to his decision to relocate his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, to the US State Department in 2005 "if they wanted it".

Mr Wolfowitz has previously said that Ms Riza's salary increase to almost $200,000 (£100,000) "was well within the parameters" of the World Bank's salary and benefits structure.

"I acted transparently, sought and received guidance from the bank's ethics committee and conducted myself in good faith in accordance with that guidance," Mr Wolfowitz told the panel.

"I will not resign in the face of a plainly bogus charge of conflict of interest," he added.

"The goal of this smear campaign, I believe, is to create a self-fulfilling prophecy that I am an ineffective leader and must step down for that reason alone."

Mr Wolfowitz appeared at Monday's meeting with Washington lawyer Robert Bennett, who is famous for helping former president Bill Clinton settle sexual harassment charges in 1998.

"We want to make a presentation to them to show that this conflict-of-interest allegation is absolutely false," Mr Bennett said ahead of meeting.

Mr Wolfowitz was a controversial nominee to the post of head of the World Bank because of his support for the war in Iraq.

BBC News

A Moment Lost

Cold here, icy cold there. You belong to neither, leaves have withered.

Your face is pale and blue, a tearful smile. Some-thing in your eyes, whispers words of last good-bye. My heart sinks down, tears surge out.

Hot summer. Cheerful Cocktail. You took my hand. We fled into another world of band. You sat by my side, long hair tied behind, cool and killing. Smile floating on the lemonade, soft and smooth. How I was? amazed. Your face looked like the cover of the magazine. My head spin. You led my hand, danced along the crazy theme.

Light vied with wine, elegance mixed with fragrance, laughing covered by greetings, the crowed was busy at handshaking. You stood there, eyes on me. I trembled at the sparkles, centerer than the light. A masterpiece from God, I felt dizzy. We were not near, yet we were together.

Days ended. You said, you would wait for me at the Alps side. We would ski against snowflakes dancing in the sky. I gave no answer but a good-bye to ac-company your flight. Gone was the plane, I suddenly tasted my pain. I knew I had been silly and stupid, you were in my heart, I shouldn’t have hidden in the dark. I tried to forget your disappointment. I made be-lieve sometime someday, I would tell you, I feel all the same.

My thought struggled at confessing, somehow hesitation ended in flinching. I continued my role of a fool, clinched to my maiden pride, yet secretly in-dulged in your promise of the white land -- snow measuring down to us, in your arms I am lifted up. The chiming of Christmas bell!

The bell died in the patter of rain, from hell came the laughing of Satan at my brain. Tearful smile, swallowed by the darkness. How could I trace your hair to wipe your tears? My hands reached out, catching nothing but a raindrop, on a leaf that had withered.

Snowflakes have melted into water, we are no more together.

By Weng Fan