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

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Baltic Sea Almost Ice-Free

Baltic Sea is still almost ice-free and sea waters are unseasonably warm. According to the Finnish Institute of Marine Research, waters around Finland are one or two degrees above the long-term average.

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Normally, the northern parts of the Gulf of Bothnia are iced over in January. However, actually, ice is only to be found in the most northern areas of Kemi and Oulu.

In southerly areas ice has formed only in some sheltered bays of the Gulf of Finland, like the Bay of Vyborg and near St Petersburg. In winter, under normal conditions, ice would also be found in the open sea, between Helsinki and Tallinn. It is likely ice will form along the coast of Helsinki no earlier than in mid-February, officials are saying.

There is less ice in the Baltic at present, than even at mid-January during the winters of the periods between 1988-1989 and 1960-1961. which showed the least ice cover during 300 yrs of recorded measurements.

Second to the Finnish Institute of Marine Research, weather and ice conditions development during the winter of 1929-1930 (the 3rd most-free on record) were very similar to present sea conditions.

The winter of 1930 was followed by a decade of low ice, which in turn was followed by a decade during the 1940s when the entire Baltic Sea froze over during the winter.

Baltic Sea/Google Earth

Ice situation – maps (21.01.2008) [itameriportaali]

Ice situation and sea surface temperature (21.01.2008) [fimr]

Finnish Institute of Marine Research's Polar View site [haavi.fimr]

High resolution true color satellite image of Scandinavia & Baltic Sea (Image taken by the MODIS instrument on NASA's Aqua satellite at 11:20 UTC April 2, 2004.)


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Switzerland Tops 2008 Environmental Performance Index

Yesterday was released the 2008 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), which tracks national environmental results on a quantitative basis, measuring proximity to an established set of policy targets using the best data available.

The 2008 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) represents the result of extensive consultations with subject-area specialists, statisticians, and policymakers around the world, and was released by the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy from the Yale University and by the Center for International Earth Science Information Network from the Columbia University.

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According to the ranking, Switzerland is the world's greenest country, followed by 3 Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway, Finland) and Costa Rica. Mali, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, Angola, and Niger occupy the bottom five positions.

Top-ranked countries have all invested in water and air pollution control and other elements of environmental infrastructure and have adopted policy measures to mitigate the pollution harms caused by economic activities.

Environmental Performance Index – Rankings & Scores / 2008 EPI - Summary for Policymakers

US placed 39th in the rankings

The United States placed 39th in the rankings, significantly behind other industrialized nations like the United Kingdom (14th) and Japan (21st). The United States ranked 11th in the Americas, and 22 members of the European Union outrank the United States.

The U.S. score reflects top-tier performance in several indicators, including provision of safe drinking water, sanitation, and forest management. But poor scores on greenhouse gas emissions and the impacts of air pollution on ecosystems dragged down the overall U.S. rank.

“The United States’ performance indicates that the next administration must not ignore the ecosystem impacts of environmental as well as agricultural, energy and water management policies,”(...)
“The EPI’s climate change metrics ranking the United States alongside India and China near the bottom of the world’s table are a national disgrace.”
Gus Speth, Dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

Wealth is a major determinant of environmental success

Analysis of the drivers underlying the 2008 rankings suggests that wealth is a major determinant of environmental success. At every level of development, however, some countries achieve results that far exceed their peers, demonstrating that policy choices also affect performance.

For example, Costa Rica (5th), known for its substantial environmental efforts, significantly outperforms its neighbour Nicaragua (77th). Nicaragua’s history of poor governance and political corruption, violent conflicts, and budgets skewed towards the military instead of environmental infrastructure no doubt adds to the disparity.

Low-ranked countries typically have not made investments in environmental public health and have weak policy regimes.

“At a time when so much scientific evidence is telling us that the Earth's ecosystems are in crisis, it is inexcusable that our collective investment in environmental monitoring is so low. For some critical issues such as water it is actually decreasing. When a hospital patient's health worsens, doctors increase their monitoring, and we need to do the same for the planet,”
Marc Levy, Deputy Director of Columbia’s Center for International Earth Science Information Network and one of the EPI project leaders.

Importance of incorporating rigorous foundations into decision-making

“Policymakers in the environmental field have also begun to recognize the importance of incorporating analytically rigorous foundations into their decision-making. However, while policymakers are calling for increased intellectual rigor in environmental planning, large data gaps and a lack of time-series data still hamper efforts to track many environmental issues, spot emerging problems, assess policy options, and gauge effectiveness. The EPI seeks to being to fill these gaps and, more broadly, to draw attention to the value of accurate data and sound analysis as the basis for environmental policymaking.”

2008 EPI ranks 149 countries on 25 indicators tracked across 6 established policy categories

Environmental Performance Index Framework / 2008 EPI - Summary for Policymakers

The EPI focuses on two overarching environmental objectives:

• reducing environmental stresses to human health;
• promoting ecosystem vitality and sound natural resource management;.

These broad goals also reflect the policy priorities of environmental authorities the world and the international community’s intent in adopting Goal 7 (*) of the Millennium Development Goals.

The two overarching objectives are gauged using 25 performance indicators tracked in 6 well established policy categories, which are then combined to create a final score - Environmental Health, Air Pollution, Water Resources, Biodiversity and Habitat, Productive Natural Resources, and Climate Change.

source: Information for the Media

Goal 7 of the Millennium Development Goals - Ensure environmental sustainability:
Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes; reverse loss of environmental resources.
- Reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss.
- Halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation,
- By 2020, to have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum-dwellers.


Sunday, January 20, 2008

5 Blogs That Really Get You Thinking

Conceptisaddict blog rewarded me with the Thinking Blogger Award! Thank you so much, Lekahe. Kiitos paljon. I am very honoured.

The participation rules are simple:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative
silver version if gold doesn't fit your blog).

Here are the top 5 blogs that get me thinking: by Allsux
Inventorspot by Steve Levenstein
Mundo da Teea by Teea
The Remodeled Blog by Lauren
Velvet Verbosity
by Velvetverbosity
Congratulations, you won a

Please, remember to tag blogs with real merits, i.e. relative content, and above all - blogs that really get you thinking!


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Paz, Pão, Saúde, Educação

image by by Thanos K & Asa B - Ovimagazine

O início de 2008 tem sido marcado pelo encerramento de vários serviços de saúde por todo o país, gerando protestos das populações contra estas medidas governamentais. Num país desequilibrado, que ainda sofre de grandes desigualdes sociais e territoriais, medidas vergonhosas como o encerramento de centros de saúde e de maternidades causam a mais viva repulsa a qualquer cidadão com um mínimo de sensibilidade.

Em Portugal, o direito à protecção da saúde é constitucionalmente garantido por meio de um serviço nacional de saúde (SNS) universal e geral, tendencialmente gratuito, que tenha uma racional e eficiente cobertura de todo o país em recursos humanos e unidades de saúde e uma gestão descentralizada e participada.

Continue a ler

Assim, o Estado é obrigado a garantir o SNS. Se não o fizer através da administração central ou desconcentrada, terá de criar as condições económicas e políticas necessárias às autarquias locais e regionais. Recentemente, tem estado a decorrer um processo de transferência de competências da administração central para a local. No entanto, na área da Saúde parece estar em “stand-by”.

No âmbito da transferência de competências para os municípios, ( artº 22º da Lei do Orçamento de Estado para 2008), foi proposta a concessão ao Governo de autorização para transferir para os Municípios dotações inscritas nos Ministérios respectivos, relativas a competências a descentralizar nos domínios da educação, acção social e saúde. Segundo a ANMP, este processo de negociações avançou alguns passos nas áreas da Educação e da Acção Social, mas foi suspenso na área da Saúde, tendo sido a área do Ambiente e Ordenamento do Território excluída das transferências propostas.

Tendo em consideração as vantagens da descentralização de competências para o Poder Local:

- Vantagem em adaptar os serviços à procura local e às condições locais.
- Oportunidades para inovação, com riscos localizados, mas com potenciais benefícios nacionais.
- Aumento de responsabilidade dos funcionários locais, com um melhor atendimento às populações locais.
- Potencial para coordenação de serviços e investimentos que lidam com problemáticas comuns .
- Eficiência governativa local incrementada pela partilha de serviços comuns.
- Capacidade de aproveitar recursos locais, tais como impostos, “know-how” e responsabilidade social.

E tendo em conta que as desvantagens poderão ser minimizadas por várias medidas, no sentido de superar a falta de recursos humanos e materiais locais:

- Disparidades no nível de serviços prestados ao longo do território, sendo desejável uniformidade e igualdade de oportunidades, particularmente no sector da educação.
- Excessiva interferência política em processos em que é necessária imparcialidade e visão de âmbito nacional.
- Excessivos interesses corporativos, para os quais os políticos locais poderão não ter o “peso político” necessário.
- Jurisdições das autarquias locais poderão ter uma dimensão demasiada pequena para viabilizar serviços ou para conseguir atrair profissionais especializados.

Formas de superar as desvantagens
- Cooperação inter-municipal (no sentido de superar as dificuldades das entidades locais de menor dimensão).
- Atribuição de funções a níveis de poder mais elevados (no sentido de superar as dificuldades das entidades locais de menor dimensão).
- Contratação externa de serviços (no sentido de superar as dificuldades das entidades locais de menor dimensão).
No entanto, esta prática pode tornar-se inadequada no âmbito de serviços de carácter social, para os quais o sector privado pode não estar especialmente vocacionado.
- Equalização financeira, no sentido de superar as desigualdades regionais.
- A descentralização de competências para o Poder Localdeverá ser acompanhada pelo desenvolvimento de sistemas de audição e inspecção eficazes.

Parece-nos ser, no mínimo, surpreendente a suspensão deste processo. A transferência de competências do Estado para o Poder Local não significa abdicação de responsabilidades - implica uma intensa cooperação entre todos os níveis de governo democrático. O governo e os municípios têm de ultrapassar eventuais desentendimentos e desconfianças mútuas e chegar a uma solução que garanta a prestação de cuidados de saúde às populações. Os cortes orçamentais não deveriam ser realizados nesta área essencial para um desenvolvimento humano harmonioso.

"A paz, o pão habitação saúde, educação" da composição "Liberdade" de Sérgio Godinho
Palavras de esperança, mas tambem de desilusão por promessas que ficaram por cumprir desde 25 de Abril de 1974.

[1] Davey, Kenneth, Division of reponsibility between levels of power, 2003