Covers environment, transportation, urban and regional planning, economic and social issues with a focus on Finland and Portugal.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The New Wars of Climate Change

Conflict syndrome

In the year of 2005 the first Human Security Report documented a decline in the number of wars, genocides and human rights abuse over the past decade. However, in the 2008 edition of the biennial report Peace and Conflict, new evidence suggests that if there was a global movement toward peace, since the end of the Cold War in the 1990s and early years of the 21st century, it has stalled. New challenges point to a conflict syndrome - a sum of factors that often operate in conjunction to undermine the stability of states and the foundations of human security.

In fact, human-induced climate change is already taking place and it’s not very difficult to find press warnings of climate change causing violent conflict. The question is: is the world facing a new era of war?

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The Past

Researchers from the Department of Geography at the University of Hong Kong reported, in July 2007, that cool periods in China and the resulting scarcity of resources, such as shrinking agricultural output, are closely linked with a higher frequency of wars over the past 1000 years.

The research Climate Change and War Frequency in Eastern China over the Last Millennium, which compared variations in climate with data from 899 wars in eastern China between 1000 and 1911, was published in the journal Human Ecology and can be resumed in the following way:

- War frequencies showed a cyclic pattern that closely followed the global paleotemperature changes.

- Reduction of thermal energy input during a cold phase would lower the land carrying capacity in the traditional agrarian society, and the population size, with significant accretions accrued in the previous warm phase, could not be sustained by the shrinking resource base.

- War frequencies varied according to geographical locations (North, Central and South China) due to spatial variations in the physical environment and hence differential response to climatic change.

The research shows that human population increases and collapses were correlated with the climatic phases and the social instabilities that were induced by climate changes during the last millennium. The findings proposed a new interpretation of human-nature relationship in the past, with implications for the impacts of anomalous global warming on future human conflicts.

The Future

A 2003 report prepared for Pentagon years ago explored the potential consequences of an abrupt climate change and concluded that it would create serious food shortages due to decreases in global agricultural production, decreased availability and quality of fresh water and disrupted access to energy supplies. This would result in large population movements and an escalation of global conflict.

The “Abrupt Climate Change Scenario” report warned of the need to strengthen US defenses against "unwanted starving immigrants" from the Caribbean, Mexico and South America. Such kind of strategies usually claiming their pragmatism and appealing, intentionally or not, to security, fear and other emotional or irrational issues , can have negative consequences, undermining the role of civilian institutions in the search of democratic and sustainable solutions.

The Present

Google Earth: Crisis in Darfur
This unprecedented online mapping initiative from the USHMM and Google Earth lets you visualize, better understand, and respond to the genocide in Darfur.


The conflict and resulting tragedy that have unfolded in Darfur since 2003 have taken the world headlines. The most common way of explaining the context was in terms of ethnic differences between Arabs and Africans. Actually, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki- Moon, believes that we are already seeing in Darfur a violent conflict caused by climate change - "the Darfur conflict began as an ecological crisis, arising at least in part from climate change".

No conflict ever has a single cause. In the case of Sudan, the escalation of violence has been attributed to such factors as:
historical resentments and local perceptions of race;
demands for a fair distribution of power between dissimilar groups; unfair distribution of economic resources (Sudan is one of the most unequal countries in the world, with wealth and power concentrated in the capital);
disputes over access to and control of increasingly scarce land, livestock and water between pastoralists and agriculturalists;
small arms proliferation and youth militarisation; bad government agricultural policies and weak state institutions.

Thus climate change alone (or drought and land degradation caused by it) does not explain either the outbreak or the extent of the violence in Darfur. The other 16 countries in the Sahelian belt have felt the impact of global warming (including Mali and Chad), but only Sudan has experienced such devastating conflict. Darfur is, in fact, an exemplary case showing how the physical consequences of climate change interact with other factors to trigger violent conflict, like the nature of power structures at the local, regional, national and international levels.

Climate scare stories don’t take into consideration the forms used by many poor communities to peacefully manage their affairs. Generally, violent conflicts in the South are more related to resource abundance than resource scarcity. An example is the competition over rich mineral reserves in the Congo or diamonds in Sierra Leone.

The IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report of 2007 shows that global warming will have global effects, varying in both kind and degree. Second the research for this report, the consequences of consequences of climate change include a high risk of armed conflict in 46 countries with a total population of 2.7 billion people, and a high risk of political instability in a further 56 countries with a total population of 1.2 billion - a total of 102 countries as being at risk of significant negative knock-on socio-political effects.

The 46 countries identified as facing a high risk of armed conflict have current or recent experience of armed conflict and additionally, particularly weak institutions of government and very poor economic performance.

Another example showing that environmental scarcities and massive population movements do not always result in violent conflict was Malawi, which has been suffering from massive famine but no war has followed. Also, the Asian tsunami of 2004 created huge refugee problems but did not lead to violent conflict. Why not?

Climate change - violent conflict [1]

The answer lies in “intervening variables”. Environmental scarcities do not directly cause violent conflict, but the outcome depends on social and political factors that impact on the potential for violent conflict - some variables increase and others decrease conflict probability.

Actually, we don’t know exactly what these factors are and how they influence the capacity to adapt to climate change. But the current understanding is that we are talking about 3 political and social characteristics:

1 - the deeper the divisions between ethnic and religious groups or between classes are, the more likely it is that environmental scarcity causes violent conflict.

2 - states with weak political institutions are particularly vulnerable, since they find it difficult to manage the social tensions caused by climate change.

3 - democracies are better able to protect the environment and manage peacefully the consequences of environmental degradation.

A better understanding of climate change requires an interdisciplinary knowledge in astronomy, physics, geology, chemistry and biology. The observations from Space are crucial for this, but the economic and social sciences also play a fundamental role. And effective solutions to this urgent problem only can be obtained in peace by international collaboration.

REFERENCES:

[1] Tapani Vaahtoranta, The wars of climate change, OSCE review 3/2007, The Finnish Institute of International Affairs

[2] David D. Zhang, Jane Zhang, Harry F. Lee and Yuan-qing He; Climate Change and War Frequency in Eastern China over the Last Millennium, Human Ecology, Springer Netherlands, Volume 35, Number 4 / August, 2007

[3] Dan Smith, Janani Vivekananda, A Climate of Conflict: The Links Between Climate Change, Peace and War, International Alert, London UK, 2007-11

[4] Betsy Hartmann, War Talk and Climate Change , t r u t h o u t | Perspective, 26 November 2007

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Environmental Sector will create 500 000 jobs in the Nordic countries

Working Life in the Nordic Countries Photo: AiN

In Denmark, the number of employees in the sector of the wind energy has increased from 2900 to 21000 in ten years (for 5,3 millions of inhabitants). Norway is one of the world leaders in the sector of the solar energy, Iceland in the geothermal energy, and Finland and Sweden are among the most advanced European countries concerning biofuels. There is a strong potential of development in renewable energies.

New types of needs appear. For example, in Sweden, a new legislation will oblige owners of 600 000 properties to have their energy consumption checked by certified auditors, in 2008 (the first has just received his qualification).

Also Sweden will have a shortage of 50 000 engineers by 2010, according the latest edition of the magazine Working Life in the Nordic Countries.

The main problem is the labour shortage, at a time of the start of baby-boomer retirements and when the Nordic economic boom increases the demand for labour. But in the Nordic Region there is the potential for half a million new jobs to be created, according to the Nordic Council.
"We strongly believe that the efforts needed to combat climate change do not have to be regarded as constraints on the economy. Instead, they can be used as a lever for new, green technology." – Maud Olofsson, 2007

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Nordic Model – an Example for Europe to Follow?

The Nordic Model – an Example for Europe to Follow?
by Christoph Mayerl


The Scandinavians have shown that economic success and an extensive welfare state are not mutually exclusive. What is the secret of the Scandinavian model? Is it suitable for the rest of Europe?

Are you just residing or have you really started living? The question the largest furniture company in the world addressed to its German customers is a very Scandinavian question.

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The implicit message is: we discovered the secret of good living a long time ago, so when will you arrive at it? Right now, if possible, an increasing number of European politicians are answering, as they look more and more towards the far north for solutions to their countries' problems. "We need to change course, as the Scandinavians did a long time ago," Kurt Beck, leader of the German Social Democrats, said in a television interview last summer.

Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland have achieved what some economists believe is impossible: despite high taxes and a welfare state with generous provisions, their economies are booming. "On average the Nordic countries outperform the Anglo-Saxon ones on most measures of economic performance," the US economist and Nobel Prize winner Jeffrey D. Sachs asserted in November 2006 in an article for the magazine Scientific American.

The Scandinavians Score Points in All Areas

The general enthusiasm for the Scandinavian model is understandable. In almost every study, whether it concerns poverty, press freedom or life expectancy, the Scandinavians come out top. According to the Pisa study [on educational achievement] Finland produces the smartest pupils year after year. In Denmark employees feel more secure than in Germany even though a quarter of them change their jobs every year. Swedish women bear an average of 1.8 children. And if that were not enough, the health systems in Scandinavia are free, there is a comprehensive network of day-care facilities and an apparently stable social safety net. For years delegations of politicians have been queuing up in Helsinki, Stockholm and Copenhagen to find out how the Scandinavian model works.

Their expectations are high. For people are looking to the Scandinavian model not only as a blue print for social reforms in individual states but as something that might eventually make the rest of Europe a better place to live. "A European social model that really deserves the name would guarantee prosperity and competitiveness, prevent social division by safeguarding basic social rights, and help to reinforce the concept of Europe in the minds of Europe's citizens," the sociologist Josef Weidenholzer wrote in the Austrian newspaper Der Standard on 28 Februar 2006.

Sweden Is the Original Model

So what distinguishes the Scandinavian model? The simple answer is that the Scandinavian states use high levels of taxation to finance extensive welfare states that offer comprehensive provision to their citizens in many areas. Looked at in more detail, the picture quickly becomes more differentiated and more complex. Sweden is considered to represent the Scandinvian model in its purest form, with the others displaying differences of emphasis.

The parameters become clear when the Scandinavian countries are compared with Britain, whose espousal of minimal social provision now means that it represents the opposite end of the spectrum to Scandinavia within Europe. The top taxation rate in Sweden is 56 percent, in Britain it is 40 percent. The expenditure of public bodies and of the social security system is 60 percent of GDP in Sweden and 44 percent in Britain. Other equally important elements of the Scandinavian system that are more difficult to put a figure on include high levels of investment in education, training and research, a family policy favourable to children and women and strong but politically moderate trade unions.

For the German politician Karl-Martin Hentschel, a member of the Green Party, a special feature of the Scandinavian model is the proximity of the government to its citizens. As he wrote in the tageszeitung on 9 March 2007, "The municipal communes are the State. For example they collect most of the tax revenues... The average citizen only comes in contact with the federal state when he has dealings with the army, the police force or the judiciary, which are the traditional institutes of the authoritarian state. Given the important role of the communes it's no wonder citizens are willing to pay higher taxes. They see where the money's spent."

Early Reform of the Welfare State

While Scandinavia's European neighbours enthuse about the Nordic model, in Scandinavia itself it is not considered sacrosanct. Faced, [like many other countries], with the phenomenon of an aging population, Scandinavia too has cut back social spending in recent years. On 22 September 2007 the Swedish newspaper Expressen greeted the announcement by the conservative government of stricter regulations for the long-term unemployed. "The goal is to restructure a system in which 1.5 million people of working age were outside the job market when the Social Democrats left office..."

Reforms are also taking place in Denmark, which by Nordic standards is already considered almost neoliberal. The Danish version of Scandinvian employment policy is known as flexicurity. The obstacles to hiring and firing are lower than anywhere else except Ireland and Britain, but unemployment benefit is high and there is a good system for helping people to find employment. The result is a very dynamic labour market with a lot of movement. More than a quarter of Danish employees lose their jobs every year – but usually only for a short time.

When it comes to reforms, which are jointly supported by the government and the opposition, politicians are not afraid to introduce unpopular measures. Last year agreement was reached on raising the retirement age to sixty-seven and incentives were created for students to graduate more quickly. The Danish daily Berlingske Tidende welcomed this step on 21 June 2006. "The government carefully prepared Danish citizens for the measures over a long period of time. This has met with acceptance because a slight change in course now is better than radical measures later."

Is the Scandinavian Model Really a Model?

Denmark's recent moves in the direction of a more liberal economy demonstrate how difficult it is to generalise about the Scandinavian system. The economic journalist Inga Michler thinks the notion is questionable and concluded in Die Welt on 30 June 2006: "There are many good ideas in the North, but there's not a standard model that could be taken as a whole and implemented in Germany."

Looking abroad, the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter also sought to dampen expectations. The economy has recovered since the crisis in the early 1990s, it wrote on 9 March 2007, "but it would be ridiculous to speak of a Scandinavian miracle."

Sceptics think that the Scandinavian economies are still growing not because of but in spite of their overblown welfare states. The European state is maternal: protective but also infantilising. Its high taxes and benefits discourage anybody from doing too well," Martin Wolf wrote in the Financial Times on 1 March 2006. In a piece for the Brussels Journal Martin de Vlieghere even declared the Scandinavian model to be a myth, citing the prosperity index of the OECD, in which the Scandinavian countries are continually falling. According to Vlieghere the real Europeans heros are the Irish, who in only eighteen years have moved from twenty-second to fourth place – thanks to low taxes.

Scandinavia and East European Pragmatism

In Eastern Europe, where national economies are having to manage an enormous transformation process, it tends to be Ireland rather than Scandinavia that is the model. In Gazeta Wyborcza of 21 September 2006 Witold Gadomski urged the Poles to make an effort to do what the Irish had done. "If Poland doesn't reform its public finances, enter the euro zone, lower taxes, introduce structural reforms (liberalising the energy sector, telecommunications and train services) and complete the privatisation process, it won't be able to repeat Ireland's success."

The Baltic countries, on the other hand, which are undergoing a similar transformation process, feel closer to the North, not only geographically: "Is Ireland really a model for Estonia?" the Estonian newspaper Postimees asked on 22 February 2007. "There can be no doubt that the Irish model is a sure bet because in Ireland there is a consensus between employers and employees about suitable outline agreements. However, we must bear in mind that Ireland took the first important steps towards boosting its industry a quarter of a century ago. It sounds like a cliché, but for Estonia, the only alternative is a science and research-based economy."

The Scandinavians themselves, while impressed by Ireland's economic miracle, basically support the course followed by their own governments. "But that is no guarantee," the Swedish sociologist Joakim Palme explained in an interview with euro|topics. "The Scandinavians will continue to advocate high taxes only as long as they continue to receive generous benefits from the state in return." So it is not a matter of a romantic ideal of the Nordic social state, but rather a temporary contract. Currently there is nothing to suggest that Sweden's welfare state might come under pressure. But the saying "ingenting är omöjligt,"nothing is impossible, applies in Sweden as well. It is not for nothing that the globally successful furniture company uses this slogan in its domestic advertising campaigns.
______________________________________________

Christoph Mayerl
Born in 1976, Christoph Mayerl studied journalism, philosophy and politics in Eichstätt, Bavaria. He works as a free-lance journalist in Berlin.
» to author index

Translation

Melanie Newton
Original in German

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Friday, November 30, 2007

Award

I received an award from the finn mathematician Lekahe! Kiitos! Now, it's time to pass on the award, and... Ladies and Gentlemen, the winners are:
Be The Blog award
From Portugal, from Algarve to Trás-os-Montes, the great team of Regiões , António Felizes, Castanho, Sérgio, Lopes, Trigo e Fonseca!

From Helsinki, Finland, the cool team of the Lusofin community, António, André, Diana and Teea!

From Seattle, US, the great Suxmonkey!

And from a tropical island in US, the fantastic Graviplana!

(And there would be many more people to add)
The code for the badge can be found in MeAndMyDrum by Mark, whose idea this award is.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ranking of the Human Development Index: Iceland "best country to live"

The upcoming Human Development Report entitled Fighting climate change: Human solidarity in a divided world, was launched today (27 November 2007) in Brasilia, Brazil. The launch event was paralleled by multiple launches in cities around the world.
According to the report, Iceland has overtaken Norway as the world's most desirable country to live in, and puts again AIDS-afflicted sub-Saharan African states at the bottom.
Rich countries dominate the top places, with Iceland, Norway, Australia, Canada and Ireland the first five but the United States slipping to 12th place from eighth last year.
Launch of the 2007/2008 Report

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HUMAN DEVELOPMENT INDEX
The HDI measures achievements in terms of life expectancy, educational attainment and adjusted real income

HDI rank/High human development
1 Iceland
2 Norway
3 Australia
4 Canada
5 Ireland
6 Sweden
7 Switzerland
8 Japan
9 Netherlands
10 France
11 Finland
12 United States
13 Spain
14 Denmark
15 Austria
16 United Kingdom
17 Belgium
18 Luxembourg
19 New Zealand
20 Italy
21 Hong Kong, China (SAR)
22 Germany
23 Israel
24 Greece
25 Singapore
26 Korea (Republic of )
27 Slovenia
28 Cyprus
29 Portugal
(...)

World map indicating Human Development Index (2007)
Countries fall into three broad categories based on their HDI: high, medium, and low human development.The 2007/2008 edition of the Human Development Report was published on November 27, 2007
Image from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:UN_Human_Development_Report_2007

North America - US must climate-proof growth to prevent human development reversals
The 2007 Human Development Report calls for 80 percent emission cuts by 2050

San Francisco, 27 November 2007—The United States has a unique responsibility to“climate-proof” its growth not only to protect Americans but also to prevent catastrophic reversals in health, education and poverty reduction for the world’s poor, according to the Human Development Report (HDR) on climate change launched here today.

As the US prepares to join global leaders in Bali in December to negotiate future action against climate change, the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP’s) HDR, entitled Fighting climate change: Human solidarity in a divided world, stresses that a narrow ten-year window of opportunity remains to act.

If that window is missed, temperature rises of above four degrees Fahrenheit could see an extra 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa go hungry, over 200 million more poor people flooded out of their homes and an additional 400 million exposed to diseases like malaria and dengue fever.

“The carbon budget of the 21st Century—the amount of carbon that can be absorbed creating an even probability that temperatures will not rise above four degrees—is being overspent and threatens to run out entirely by 2032,” says Kevin Watkins, lead author and Director of the Human Development Report Office, “and the poor—those with the lightest carbon footprint but the least means to protect themselves—are the first victims of the developed countries’ energy rich lifestyle.”

As the world’s largest economy and one of the biggest CO2 emitter, the US has a responsibility to take the lead in balancing the carbon budget by cutting emission by 80 percent by 2050, according to the Report, in addition to contributing to a new US$86 billion annual global investment in substantial international adaptation efforts to protect the world’s poor.
Full Press Release (PDF)

World - OECD countries falling short of their commitments to fight climate change
The 2007/2008 Human Development Report calls for 80 percent emission cuts by 2050

Brasilia, 27 November 2007—Developed countries are failing to meet their targets forcutting greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocol, according to the UnitedNations Development Programme’s Human Development Report (HDR) launched here today. The Report calls for urgent action to align energy policies with a commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050.

With governments preparing for a key meeting in Bali, Indonesia to negotiate a successor to the current Kyoto Protocol, the 2007/2008 HDR, entitled Fighting climate change: Human solidarity in a divided world, notes that most OECD countries are off-track for the Kyoto targets. It highlights the discrepancy in many EU countries between politically agreed targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions and current energy policies. The authors argue that rich countries are driving an ecological debt crisis which will impact earliest—and hardest—on the world’s poor.

While developing countries account for a growing share of global emissions, rich countries still lead in running up the carbon debt. If each poor person on the planet generated the same emissions as an average European, four planets would be needed to safely cope with the pollution, says Fighting climate change. That figure rises to seven if the benchmark is the emissions of an average Australian and nine for a North American or Canadian.

“Governments of rich countries negotiating the post-2012 framework to succeed the Kyoto Protocol need to take the lead and align credible national carbon emissions targets with any multilateral agreements around a ‘global carbon budget’,” says Kevin Watkins, lead author and Director of the Human Development Report Office. “We do not need high level communiqués reminding us that we have an urgent problem—we need solutions and practical measures to cut emissions.”
Full Press Release (PDF) ENG
Full Press Release (PDF) PT

Media Materials

Presskit (PDF)(English) [689 KB]

Press materials

Videos

The Report in the news

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Regionalização em "banho Maria" até 2009?

O défice

O controle do défice orçamental sempre foi um dos principais objectivos fixados pelo actual governo do PS. Nesse sentido, durante a presente legislatura, o executivo tomou várias medidas de curto/médio prazo, tais como, o congelamento das progressões na Administração Pública, a subida de impostos e os cortes no investimento público.

Continue a lerEsse objectivo foi alcançado, com Portugal a conseguir cumprir o défice de 3% do PIB (em dois anos houve uma redução de 3,1 %). Esta redução foi obtida, não só pelo aumento da receita fiscal, mas também, como os dados o demonstram, pela diminuição da despesa pública em percentagem do PIB, mesmo tendo em conta eventuais formas típicas de desorçamentação que poderão ter ocorrido no sector empresarial de estado.

A reforma da administração pública representa assim uma transformação estrutural crucial, uma medida com efeitos de médio/longo prazo, que pode contribuir decisivamente para a estabilização do défice orçamental e para uma aceleração do tímido crescimento económico verificado nos últimos anos em Portugal. Essa reforma da administração pública (PRACE) integra-se na estratégia socialista para a regionalização, estratégia essa que pode ser sintetizada nos seguintes pontos:

1 - Reestruturação dos serviços desconcentrados da Administração Central em 5 regiões com base nas NUT II, compreendendo a entrada em vigor dos novos sistemas de carreiras, a mobilidade e avaliação do desempenho e a reorganização das micro-estruturas da Administração Central.

2 -Reorganização do Associativismo Municipal por meio de novo regime jurídico, tendo em vista a reordenação dos municípios de acordo com as fronteiras das 5 regiões-plano e prevendo a criação de associações de municípios com base nas NUT II e III.

3 - Descentralização para os municípios de poderes detidos pela administração central, com os respectivos fundos (Fundo Social Municipal) e com efeitos a partir do Orçamento de Estado de 2008, ao nível da educação, da saúde e da segurança social.

4 - Realização de um referendo no início da próxima legislatura.

A reforma da administração pública está por executar

Há avanços no domínio do PRACE, pelo menos no que diz respeito à proposta da fusão de organismos e à concretização da Lei da Mobilidade. No entanto, o quadro legislativo ainda não está completo e falta o mais importante - passar da teoria à prática, executar.


Além da efectiva implementação das reformas encetadas, é necessário que haja um entendimento entre os dois maiores partidos políticos portugueses sobre 3 questões fundamentais:

- a data da realização do referendo obrigatório
- o mapa das regiões administrativas
- quadro institucional das regiões administrativas ( competências, órgãos e financiamento)

A primeira parece ser a questão decisiva, visto que, a partir do momento em que se calendarizar o referendo, todo o processo de discussão em torno da terceira questão será dinamizado com base no mapa das cinco regiões-plano, o qual parece ser consensual para estas forças políticas.
O processo de Regionalização está, pois, dependente dum entendimento entre as cúpulas do "bloco central".

Contudo, os últimos eventos políticos poderão significar que o processo de regionalização português não deveria estar excessivamente dependente do sistema político-partidário, sob o risco de ser eternamente adiado - é necessária uma transformação interna dos partidos políticos, adaptando-os às novas realidades sociais e económicas (e ambientais), hoje bastante diferentes daquelas que condicionaram o referendo de 8 de Novembro de 1998.

Mais recentemente o impasse confirmava-se:

O líder do PSD não tomará nenhuma iniciativa antes das legislativas - Menezes deixa Regionalização em "banho Maria" até 2009

O PSD não tomará nenhuma iniciativa que dê o pontapé de saída para a Regionalização antes de 2009. Para já, apenas avança o debate interno.

“Luís Filipe Menezes não tomará nenhuma iniciativa no sentido de dar o pontapé de saída para a Regionalização antes das legislativas de 2009. O líder do PSD incluiu a defesa das regiões administrativas na sua moção ao Congresso que o consagrou, mas não vê no tema uma prioridade política. Até às legislativas, o PSD apenas animará o debate interno sobre a questão.
Mendes Bota, um dos maiores regionalistas do partido e actual vice-presidente de Menezes, mantém em marcha a associação que criou em defesa da promoção de um referendo às Regiões. Para diz 7 de Dezembro está marcada a inauguração da primeira sede do movimento, em Faro. Em declarações ao Expresso, Bota reconhece, no entanto, que será cauteloso esperar pela revisão constitucional de 2009 para tentar desarmadilhar" a lei, nomeadamente acabando com a exigência de uma dupla maioria para validar o referendo”. - Ângela Silva
expresso.clix.pt

Será sustentável este adiamento?

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"Regiões, Sim!" vai inaugurar sede em Faro

O Movimento Cívico "Regiões, Sim!" vai inaugurar a sua sede no dia 7 de Dezembro, às 18h00, na cidade de Faro .A associação, que nasceu em Abril do corrente ano, é independente e apartidária.

Também no dia 7, o Movimento Cívico promoverá um jantar-conferência, em Albufeira, destinado a aprofundar a reflexão sobre a regionalização. Após as intervenções, será aberto um debate com a assistência, sendo o jantar-conferência aberto ao todo o público, que poderá adquirir bilhetes de ingresso através dos serviços de apoio do Movimento (e-mail: regiões.sim (at) gmail.com)

www.observatoriodoalgarve.com

www.regiao-sul.pt

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Google Transit trip planning in UK, Switzerland and Italy

Google announced the launch of Google Transit trip planner in Europe. Now you can plan your entire journey using public transportation. So far Google has information for the following places and transport companies:

Read more1 - Traveline South East, UK
"The UK's No 1 website for impartial information on planning your journey, by bus, coach or train... or any combination of the three!"
Google Transit can plan trips on the following agencies in this area: Traveline Southeast, including national data for long-distance coach services.

2 - SBB, Switzerland (train, ferries and long distance bus coverage)

3 - VBZ, Zurich, Switzerland

4 - Turin, Italy (Gruppo Torinese Trasporti)

www.5t.torino.it/5t/en/percorsi

5 - Florence, Italy
(ATAF&Linea, AMV, ACV)

www.provincia.fi.it/mobilita/

www.ataf.net/travelPlan/calcolapercorso

You can try it yourself: type your start and end address in the "get directions" boxes. The default results are driving directions, but in the areas that Google has transit routing coverage, you can simply click on the "Take Public Transit" link.

Google believes this is an important step in encouraging people to use public transit. Google is hoping folks will decide to leave the car at home if they can easily discover a transit stop next to a business as they're searching for it, or if they realise it's easy to take a train as they plot their journey from point A to point B. Google is always looking to improve the coverage and work with more partners and they will keep you posted as more places and transport companies are added.

How to provide transit data to Google Transit Trip Planner

Recently we made a plan for a trip across the Europe, Lisbon - Helsinki. The aim was to see which of the schedules of the transit agencies might be integrated to increase the Google database, giving to the users a chance to check which would be the cheapest, probably fastest and most environmentally friendliest trip.

Lisbon – Helsinki trip plan
Start: Rotunda da Expo 98; Lisbon, Portugal
End: Mannerheimintie ; Helsinki, Finland
Travel: 4,069 km – about 1 day 20 hours (by car)

Transporlis is a multimodal information system of the metropolitan area of Lisbon.
It is a system that integrates the main transport operators of the metropolitan area of Lisbon, and that allows to optimize the use of their transports in function of the schedules of each company. It also integrates the flight schedules of the airport of Lisbon.

YTV door-to-door Journey Planner gives you advice on the best public transport connection to your destination within the Helsinki region.
The principal duties of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area Council (YTV) comprise transport system planning, regional public transport provision, waste management and air quality management for its four member municipalities (Helsinki, Espoo, Kauniainen and Vantaa).

We can say that the world integration of the public transit schedules (in its different transport modes) will surely be a great challenge . Once achieved, this previous example would be highly simplified, improving the schedule-based service. IT and modern real-time logistics are crucial keys for the design of future public transport.

So, to increase the integration it's necessary that the agencies have a public transportation data for their cities, and get it included in the Google Transit Trip Planner. The Google Transit Feed Specification describes how to provide transit data in a format that Google Transit Trip Planner can use, i.e. how a public agency that oversees public transportation can submit a feed to Google Transit Trip Planner.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

28 Hours in Jyväskylä

IMG_12

Jyväskylä is a city located in central Finland, about 147 km from Tampere and 270 km from Helsinki, near the lakes Päijänne and Keitele. It is the center of the Jyväskylä Region. At the end of 2004, Jyväskylä city had a population of 83,582, while the Region of Jyväskylä had 163,420 inhabitants.

Read moreJyväskylä is known as a city of schools, the Athens of Finland, and is also famous for its many buildings designed by Alvar Aalto and for hosting the Rally Finland, which is part of the World Rally Championship. The city is home of the annual Jyväskylä Arts Festival.

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Friday, November 9, 2007

Google establishes New office in Portugal

Google establishes in Lisbon to attract national companies. Google will concentrate on the online publicity, attracting the portuguese companies to invest.
Google Portugal team has finally arrived to Portugal. Good news for a country that seeks an economic growth based on investments in new technologies.

Read more
It almost passed one year since a European delegation of Google came to Portugal to prospect the market, shaking the technologica
l sector and waiving with the hypothesis of doing purchases among the most technologically attempting ones.


But everything ended the best way: Google named a representative, Paulo Barreto, who worked from Spain until reaching the right moment for investing in Portugal.


We want the companies know that we are here”, explains Paulo Barreto in an exclusive interview to Diário Económico, some hours before receiving several dozens of potential customers in the heart of Lisbon.

Among the invited companies is PT, holding company of the largest Google rival in Portugal, the portal Sapo. “It is an event to present the office”, Paulo Barreto continues, nothing annoyed with the allusion to the competition between Sapo and Google.

What Google Portugal wants from now on , is to affirm in the online publicity market and to leave other wars for later. The small team of the structure, composed exclusively by portuguese professionals , was recruited along six months with the objective of creating one specialists team. Some came directly from the European headquarters of Google, in Dublin.

Paulo Barreto's mission will be now to lead his sales office totally turned for the online publicity , that just represents in Portugal 3% to 4% of the total of the advertising investment .

According to Barreto, Google can help the internationalizing of the portuguese companies. He's convinced that this publicity platform is actually the marketing form with largest return. The used system is the well-known AdWords.

Some customers of the system are, for example, Impresa, RTP and Cofina. However, Google believes that it has potential for much more.

The Portuguese office is integrated in Google EMEA (area 3), together with Spain, Italy and France.

Google has 2.500 collaborators in Europe and twelve R&D offices, spread by countries like United Kingdom, Israel and Switzerland, among others. Portugal won't be contemplated , for a while.

Links:

diarioeconomico.sapo.pt

www.jornaldenegocios.pt



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Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Arctic Quandry -- What Happens When The Ice Melts?

There’s no need to rehash what we already know. The Arctic is melting. It’s a fact that we are going to have to come to grips with. Shipping lanes are being changed, animals and natives are being displaced, and ice is disappearing(...)
So it’s no surprise to see five of the nations likely to be hardest hit up north — Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Iceland — come together and issue a cry for help.
Full text: greenoptions.com

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Greenpeace: Neste palm-based biodiesel not so green

A full-page advertisement in Tuesday's Helsingin Sanomat by Neste Oil (which perhaps wants to be to biodiesel what Nokia is to mobile phones) promoting its biodiesel as an environmentally friendly option was immediately disputed by Greenpeace. According to the page advertisement, biodiesel reduces emissions of greenhouse gases.
Read more


Stockholm, Sweden - Sweden's Greenpeace organisation held a demonstration on Tuesday at the headquarters of the Swedish oil company OKQ8 to protest plans to buy bio diesel fuel produced by Neste Oil using tropical palm oil as the raw material.
Photo: Greenpeace / Ludvig Tillman

WATCH THE VIDEO


Harri Lammi of the Finnish section of Greenpeace:
"The production of palm oil is one of the greatest causes of deforestation in Southeast Asia. Neste Oil says that it imports the oil from Malaysia, but the company that they use plans to expand to Indonesia, where 80 per cent of deforestation stems from the production of palm oil"
Greenpeace calls the oil a "rain forest fuel", and says that the production of its raw material, palm oil, increases greenhouse gas emissions, rather than reducing them.

Jarmo Honkamaa of Neste Oil says that the palm oil comes from Malaysia from monitored plantations. The subcontractor is a company called IOI.
"Our palm oil can be traced back to the plantations. The plantations have been examined by a foreign company, and they have made a report. We didn't get top marks on every aspect, but there are no great causes for concern"
Honkamaa says that Neste Oil has been actively developing a certification system for sustainable palm oil production, called the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil, or RSPO.
"We will use certified palm oil as soon as possible, and IOI is also committed to this"

The certification system is not yet in use, and Lammi of Greenpeace says that Neste cannot claim in its advertising that a single drop of the palm oil that it uses is extracted without damage to the rain forests.
"It seems unlikely that certification would have any significance, because such a small proportion of producers will be a part of it"
"If demand increases, there will be more producers, and when the oil brings a good price, it will be produced in an unethical manner"

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Google Transit and Google Maps integration: Cheaper, Faster and Greener

Lisbon – Helsinki trip plan with Google Maps ( for a while , car-free travel planning isn't available in Europe)


Google recently announced that Google Transit has graduated from Google Labs being fully integrated with Google Maps . This means that Google Transit allows travelers to choose public transportation instead of driving and to receive customized directions (in areas where Google has transit coverage). Thus, you have freedom of choice to check which is the cheapest, probably fastest and most environmentally friendliest trip.

Read moreYou can select the time of departure or arrival and Google Transit will plot the best course (you can choose from a few alternate routes). Considered parameters are: walking directions to and from public transportation stations, cost of the trip (compared to the cost via car) and estimated total time of travel.

For a while, the project is only available in selected cities, not in Europe. Next, we will make a plan for a trip across the Europe, Lisbon - Helsinki. The aim is to see which of the schedules of the transit agencies might be integrated to increase the Google database.

Lisbon – Helsinki trip plan


Start: Rotunda da Expo 98; Lisbon, Portugal
End: Mannerheimintie ; Helsinki, Finland
Travel: 4,069 km – about 1 day 20 hours (by car)

Note:
the following information is merely experimental , it doesn't release the consultation of the transportation services. In reality, traffic, construction works or other events may affect the results.


1. Selection of flights from the available options (booking)

Estimated time of travel – 6h25min + 1h30 (check-in, luggage, etc)

Itinerary
From---------To--------- Departure-------------Arrival
Lisbon------ Munich ----- 29Oct, 06h30---------29Oct, 10h35

Munich ---- Helsinki------ 29 Oct, 11h20 ------29 Oct, 14h55

2.Trip between Rotunda da Expo98 and Portela Airport (2 points placed in Lisbon city) 3.9 km
Estimated time of travel (public transport) – 88 min
Estimated time of travel (by car) – about 8 min
It's better to call a taxi...


Transporlis is a multimodal information system of the metropolitan area of Lisbon.
It is a system that integrates the main transport operators of the metropolitan area of Lisbon, and that allows to optimize the use of their transports in function of the schedules of each company. It also integrates the flight schedules of the airport of Lisbon.
Path Finder
Video

3.Trip between Vantaa Airport and Mannerheimintie(Helsinki) 19.8 km
Estimated time of travel (public transport) – 43 min
Estimated time of travel (by car) – about 22 min

YTV door-to-door Journey Planner gives You advice on the best public transport connection to your destination within the Helsinki region.
The principal duties of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area Council (YTV) comprise transport system planning, regional public transport provision, waste management and air quality management for its four member municipalities (Helsinki, Espoo, Kauniainen and Vantaa). It also maintains regional databases and conducts studies on different issues affecting the region. Besides its member municipalities, YTV also serves a number of nearby municipalities on the basis of separate contracts.

Departure (Lisbon) - 4 h 30min
Arrival (Helsinki) - 16h 47min
Estimate
d total time of travel - 10h 17m

Level of satisfaction of the residents with public transport in selected cities (2006)
Satisfaction of the residents with public transport in selected cities in 2006.
Source: Survey on perceptions of quality of life in 75 European cities. European Commission 2007. The survey was carried out in November 2006 by interviewing 500 people in each 75 cities participating in the survey. There were 23 questions on the quality of life in the respondent’s area.

In this above graph we can notice the satisfaction of the residents of selected cities with public transport in the year of 2006 ( survey on perceptions of quality of life in 75 European cities). Helsinki is placed in the first position followed by Wien, Rennes, Hamburg and Munchen. Paris is in the middle. Madrid, Barcelona and Lisbon are in the last third, while Roma and Napoli are at the bottom.

In Helsinki, the central city, the share of public transport is among the highest (in European comparison). This is a result of active policies of promoting public transport.
In relation to the national wealth (GDP per capita), monthly passes are very inexpensive in Helsinki (the price difference of single and monthly passes is significant).

In the Helsinki metropolitan area the share of the operating costs of public transport financed by ticket revenues is higher than in most cities included in international comparison and all the public funding is derived from municipalities, contrary to most of metropolitan areas in Europe (particularly in capital cities), where the central government usually takes the main responsibility of public transport.

It is not surprise that the YTV door-to-door Journey Planner service is among the most visited sites of the country, due to its simplicity and efficiency - a Helsinki “slang” site version complements the 3 languages of the site (finnish, swedish and english) and the site also includes one mobile version and journey planner for cyclists.

The Finns seem to have learned from the success of the world of IT and modern real-time logistics , keys for the design of future public transport.

How to provide transit data to Google Transit Trip Planner

We can say that the world integration of the public transit schedules (in its different transport modes) will surely be a great challenge . Once achieved, this previous example would be highly simplified, improving the schedule-based service.

So, to increase the integration it's necessary that the agencies have a public transportation data for their cities, and get it included in the Google Transit Trip Planner. The Google Transit Feed Specification describes how to provide transit data in a format that Google Transit Trip Planner can use, i.e. how a public agency that oversees public transportation can submit a feed to Google Transit Trip Planner.


References
Petri Jalasto, Eeva Linkama,Seppo Lampinen (YY-Optima Oy), Finnish transport system in European perspective, Ministry of Transport and Communications, 28 September 2007

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Interactive map of the species under threat in your region

Species case studies by region

99% of threatened species are at risk from human activities. Take a closer look at the species under threat in your region. Interactive map (and species fact sheets)
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The World Conservation Union IUCN published on September 12th a new red list of threatened species in Washington and Paris.
2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Extinction crisis escalates: Red List shows apes, corals, vultures, dolphins all in danger - 12 September 2007
"Life on Earth is disappearing fast and will continue to do so unless urgent action is taken. There are now 41,415 species on the IUCN Red List and 16,306 of them are threatened with extinction, up from 16,118 last year. The total number of extinct species has reached 785 and a further 65 are only found in captivity or in cultivation."
Full release

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Facebook: hundreds of new Finnish users every hour

Some weeks ago "the main auditorium at the Old Student Building in downtown Helsinki was packed with people. TV-cameras rolled and the sponsors' neckties gleamed as media guru Sam Inkinen delivered a presentation.
As it happens , the content of the event did not quite match up to the surroundings and the glitz: the National Union of University Students and the Student Union of the University of Helsinki were launching their new Virtual Campus Lyyra, a nationwide Internet networking service, where students can keep blogs and photo albums and send messages to their friends and colleagues.
Nothing so terribly revolutionary in all this, then. However, the stunt - arranged by the Helsinki advertising agency BOB - filled the hall because the invitations contained the magic words: "Lyyra to challenge Facebook"

Back in the spring of this year, Facebook was for Finns still just one social networking site among many. Yes, it had users, but it was hardly the sort of mega-phenomenon that the video-sharing YouTube operation represented.
However... during the summer the service achieved critical mass, after which user numbers increased rapidly.
Now they have gone ballistic: on Tuesday afternoon [October 2nd], nearly 500 Finns joined the Facebook community in the space of around an hour and a half.
It is hard to list the number of users in a newspaper article, because the figures are out of date before the paper heads off to the printers. On Sunday evening just over a week ago, the total was 57,000 users - by Tuesday evening it was 63,500. Today [October 9th, 15:00] it is hovering just under 88,000. (...)
It is difficult to explain quite why the Finns found Facebook right now, and not earlier. In Norway, for instance, the big boom in new members took place back in the spring, and there are now nearly 370,000 Norwegian Facebook users, and more than 400,000 in Sweden."
full article
NEWS ANALYSIS: Facebook draws in hundreds of new Finnish users every hour, By Olavi Koistinen - Helsingin Sanomat


"University students have opened their own nationwide Internet service, Lyyra, which is a Finnish counterpart to social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace.

“In one fell swoop, we’re making Finnish students some of the most progressive in the world. Whereas Facebook is merely a way of having fun on the Internet, Lyyra will have a positive impact on students’ real lives,” says Lasse Männistö, Chairman of the National Union of University Students in Finland.

www.lyyra.fi is a virtual meeting place for 300,000 students. It will open up a new channel for the activity that characterizes the student lifestyle – pranks and protests will now be organized on the Internet. Lyyra is also the world’s most advanced student card – it’s the first large-scale application based on Sony FeliCa technology in Europe.

Lyyra’s mission is to offer benefits and services that will both enhance and ease students’ lives, while also providing a social network. Lyyra aims to spark off debate and remind people that alongside the rapid accumulation of study credits, students should be gaining a world of educational and entertaining experiences – and, of course, new friends."
full article
Virtual Campus Lyyra to Challenge Facebook
VIRTUAL STUDENT CAMPUS LYYRA TO CHALLENGE FACEBOOK - Finnish students to rank among the most progressive in the world

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The evolution of the science and the technology has reached many extraordinary inventions that nobody dreamed of before. The greatest wonder is the crossing between the man and the machine, cyborg. On one side, hopes were placed on the healthier and more diversified human body. Another side it has been considered to threat the humanity and human values. The guide of the cyborg balances between these contradictory ethical visions.
Tekninen teos kyborgeista

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