Sunday, 11 November 2012

NEWSLETTER #4 - SOCIETY OF AFRICAN EARTH SCIENTISTS


    Volume 1, Issue No. 4,  August/September 2012


Foreword by the Acting Chair of Society of African Earth Scientists, Chukwunyere Kamalu

Welcome to the fourth issue of the bi-monthly newsletter of the Society of African Earth Scientists (SAES).

A Proposal on Sustainable Development
On 26th April 2012, when the Society was formally launched at the Africa Centre with a lecture on “Earth and Land in African Thought and Practice”, the lecture was followed by a  vigorous discussion on the role of SAES and  plans for delivering its  objectives.   Mr Sam Montoute made the suggestion from the floor of a sustainable development project involving the purchase of degraded and deforested land in Africa.  Sale of the land back to the  community from which the land was purchased -  at the same price as it had been purchased for - would return the land back to the community in an improved state (after having improved the land  value and revitalised the land by planting trees and vegetation).  Following the Africa Centre launch, I suggested that Sam should draft a brief paper on the project which we could publish in the SAES newsletter. The paper  is included below.  

New SAES Science Blog
In September, the Society started its own science blog on the internet. This represents an interesting development as it now gives the Society a public platform on which to publish its papers for public attention. In particular, the Society is now able to display its note, EARTH, WATER AND JUSTICE, for  the information of African governments in respect of the environmental and social impact of land grabbing, and a reminder of  the responsibility of African governments to protect the rights of their citizens  and Africa’s natural resources.  The blogspot also avails the Society of a convenient means to archive  issues of its newsletters and an opportunity to raise funds through the letting of advertising space on its blog  to ethical business.

The  Bio- Energy Issue
Bio fuels is currently a topical issue which has featured in the SAES posts and in earth science discussions generally.  Many are of the popular view that bio fuels will reduce carbon emissions as they provide a sustainable alternative to carbon fossil fuels.  Many environmentalists and well meaning public have bought into the idea that bio fuels represent a sustainable and eco-friendly form of energy. However, the scientific research into bio fuels challenges this perception.
   In fact bio fuels, have been discovered to  sometimes equal  or exceed the carbon emissions of  conventional fossil fuels [1], [2]. They also threaten food security as more and more governments and corporations seize  fertile land to harvest bio fuel crops in place of food crops; depleting the local food producing capacity.
   The danger of bio fuels is that they are seen as sustainable when their effect can be  the opposite. We tend to see tree planting as always a sustainable eco-friendly measure; but this is  not always the case. Often tree planting is undertaken in developing nations by corporations from industrialised countries for the purpose of carbon trading; whereby a corporation removes the obligation it has to cut its carbon emissions in its native country by effectively exporting that  carbon reduction to the developing world by planting trees in Africa (for instance). As trees absorb carbon dioxide, the carbon emission reductions   achieved this way are considered  as a trade-off for the corporation’s emissions in its mother country. 
  This is the Clean Development Mechanism cited in the Kyoto Protocol, which is seen by many as not only inherently unfair but as i) promoting land grabbing as it encourages private companies to pursue the acquisistion of land for this purpose, ii) enabling industrial economies to use this as a loophole to avoid direct cuts to their carbon emissions and exporting these cuts to the developing world, iii) the largely monoculture plantations resulting from this action bring about environmental damage as some corporations plant foreign trees like evergreens from Europe to grow in one seventh of the time they would take to grow in Europe, contaminate the groundwater with pesticides and herbicides, deplete the groundwater supply of the locality, destroy bio diversity, etc. 
   In October the British NGOs Biofuelwatch and Friends of the Earth will be holding a joint conference on bio fuels where it is expected some of these issues may be addressed. A report back on this meeting is expected in the next newsletter.

Affiliation and Association with other earth/solar science organisations
SAES is delighted to announce its affiliation with both the African Association of Women in the Geosciences and Solar Sister.


A SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT PROJECT IN AFRICA
A proposal  by Sam Valentine-Montoute
    I would first like to introduce myself: my name is Samuel Valentine-Montoute and I was born in London, United Kingdom; however my parents were from the Island of St. Lucia, Caribbean.  From them I learned to love and appreciate the natural world; to utilize the plants and animal life around me in order to extract food, medicine, a home and a trade.  I grew to understand the importance of looking after the earth, for without it life could come to an end.  Thus, like others of the same mind, I have a growing concern for the planet we are living on and have laboured to find ways in which we can affect the future well-being of this planet in a cost effective way that we all can contribute too, and gain from.  
Our contribution can take place on two levels: one to protect the environment; and the second, to utilise land that can be productive, not only for ourselves, but for our grandchildren and their children.  For this to be possible, we would have to consider ourselves as caretakers of the earth, and not the owner’s.  For this project we could only achieve our goals by purchasing and thereafter using the land in a way that is neither a threat to the individual or community nor detrimental to the environmental well-being of the planet. The method I am about to describe to you will not only be economical viable to all parties involved, but will prove to be sustainable to the local community for the foreseeable future. 
   My proposal is to establish a joint venture between private individual’s, and community members.  To raise capital for the venture, shares will be sold and the money used to purchase all materials, equipment and land.  However, to protect all parties, and the land itself, a joint agreement between the local, regional and national governments and the community members will be drawn up.  The land will be protected by an Act of Parliament, such as the Forestry Act of 1919 of the United Kingdom.  Any and all transfer of ownership or proposed change in usage of the land can only take place through the above mentioned  Act. 
   It is further proposed that any discussion surrounding the disposal of the original parcel of land must be granted by the original owners – the community.  This would occur by the repurchase of the land by the community itself, at the original price, excluding inflation.  Thus, the land cannot be sold to a third party, at any time during its ownership by private investors; but must revert back to its original owners.  This should secure in the minds of the local community that they will never lose ownership of the land, while it is in the hands of private investors.  If the national government chooses to purchase the land through a Compulsory Purchase Act it has to be accompanied by an Act of parliament, and the price set at the full commercial rate. 
   Temporary ownership or lease can be obtained through the sale of shares, thus allowing individuals in the surrounding communities the opportunity of becoming investors in their local region.  The selling of shares can lead to the means of raising additional funds for the sole purpose of increasing land usage, for example increasing the range of crops grown on the land or timber for the construction or furniture industry.  However, it is important to state that the choice of crops or timber must be based on sustainability, and environmental benefit to all concerned, including the land itself.   To further increase the profitability of the land, and thus the financial reward to the community, it is proposed that research be undertaken with regards to exploiting the financial rewards arising from the sale of the carbon dioxide that would naturally be captured by the timber, to the relevant institutions or governments.
   It is also proposed that the program be used as a means of providing practicum’s (work experience) to national and/or international learning institutions – community college’s, technical institutions and universities.  Learning institutes would be invited to lease portions of the land, or participate by becoming partners in the venture, with the possibility of providing basic learning tools to community members, as part of the arrangement.  The reintroduction of local plants, foliage and animals, and the long-term impact this may or may not have upon the land and the various people groups that live in and around the vicinity and their changes in lifestyles that may or may not occur, could be studied and learned from, with the results being used on behalf of communities around the world. 
   Accommodation will need to be built to house visiting professors and their students, and well as other interested parties.  In keeping with the overall theme of the program, buildings will be erected using local materials, which would blend in with the environment.   All necessary structures will be made available for a project of this magnitude, including the Internet and other mobile devices.  Observations points will also be erected to all the study of the local wildlife, without causing interruption to their daily lives. 
   Youth who have committed non violent crimes could be offered the opportunity to spend a period of time at the facility, rather than being sent to jail.  As part of their rehabilitation into society, the young people must be willing to learn a skill, attend classes for reading, writing and mathematics, and learn how to care for the land, animals and people groups that live in the area.  The cost for their stay will be borne by the National Governments from which these young people came from. 

Sam Valentine-Montoute
September 2012

 If you are interested in taking forward the issues addressed in this proposal you may contact the author at the following email address: Contact: sam.montoute@btinternet.com

Earth Science Book Reviews

Geological Atlas of Africa - With Notes on Stratigraphy, Tectonics, Economic Geology, Geohazards, Geosites and Geoscientific Education of Each Country, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 2nd edition 2008.  Thomas Schluter.
This volume [3] claims to be the first summarization of the geology of Africa presented in atlas form and including the stratigraphy, tectonics, economic geology, geohazards, geosites and geoscientific education of each country and territory of the continent.  The summary information on  the book states “The atlas aims to contribute to capacity building in African Earth Sciences and to initiate research and economic opportunities by providing a database of basic geological background information.”
   As well as this the book is full of attractive illustrations and the introduction contains certain gems of information for those interested in the historical background of  the subject.  On page 9 the author appears to grudgingly admit  that the earliest scientific geological map originates in Africa. It says: "Undoubtedly existed in Egypt a highly developed surveying and engineering system, but unfortunately no cartographic proof of it is known - except on a map drawn on a papyrus... prepared during the 19th dynasty under the Pharaoh Sethos I with his son Rameses II...". One would normally suppose that either there is proof or there is not. Plainly there is proof,  because this is the 19th dynasty papyrus the author has mentioned. However,  the way this is written (with"buts" and caveats designed to sow doubt in the reader as to whether this actually did originate in Africa or not)  is to give the impression that there is no proof. Thankfully, we are able to read between lines, and the bottom line I understood from this is that the earliest evidence of scientific geological mapping points to its origin in Africa.
   This is a text  highly recommended for  those fascinated by the geology of Africa.


Earth Science Events

October 9, 2012.
 Forests are not Fuel: The Limits of Bio-energy in Climate Mitigation
Hosts: Biofuel watch & Friends of the Earth
Venue: 8 Hop Gardens, off 52 St Martins Lane, London WC2N 4EA

October 22 - 24, 2012
WINDABA 2012
Venue: Cape Town Convention Centre, Cape Town, South Africa
Windaba 2012 is the international event on wind energy in South Africa hosted by the South African Wind Energy Association.
The South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) introduce WinDABA 2012, South Africa's Wind Industry's Conference and Exhibition.

November  19-21, 2012
International Conference on Biodiversity and Sustainable Energy Development
Venue: Hyderabad, India
“Biodiversity-2012 paves a path to move towards the nature respecting the beautiful lives comprising the diversity. The conference states a call to the scientific community to take the Social responsibility saving the Mother Nature and providing a ground to explore the survival opportunities by sharing thoughts through scientific research and applying them into social life. Biodiversity-2012 shares the opportunity to bring together researchers from academia and corporate, activists, ecosocial organizations and NGOs to foster collaborations through the research talks & presentations to put forward many thought provoking strategies sharing the common agenda of Biodiversity Conservation”.

December 3 - 4, 2012
Achieving Food and Environmental Security - New Approaches to Close the Gap
Venue: Royal Society, London
THE ROYAL SOCIETY 2012 scientific discussion meetings at the Royal Society.
3 – 4 December

This meeting is free to attend, but pre-registration is essential.

For more details visit http://royalsociety.org/events
December 3 - 4, 2012
Annual International Conference on Geological & Earth Sciences (GEOS 2012)
Venue: Hotel Fort Canning, Singapore, Malaysia

December 3 - 4, 2012
Annual International Conference on Geological & Earth Sciences (GEOS 2012)
Venue: Hotel Fort Canning, Singapore, Malaysia

December 10 - 21, 2012
Conference and Advanced School on Quantification of Earthquake Hazards in the Caribbean – The Gonave Microplate
Venue: Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.
Two-week workshop dedicated to understanding the  deformation processes around the Gonave microplate and the related earthquake hazards, followed by an advanced school on the theory and application  of modern seismological and geodetic methods
Weblink: http://www.agenda.ictp.it/smr.php?2380

 April 16-19,  2013
12th International Conference Groundwater-Soil-Systems and Water Resources Management
Venue: Barcelona, Spain
Weblink: http://www.aquaconsoil.org/AquaConSoil2013/Start.html

 May 3 - 5,  2013
Colloque maghrebin de geophysique appliquee
Venue: Meknes, Morocco
Overview of  latest scientific developments and recent work to help the fight against the loss of environmental resources and ensure environmental sustaoinability.
Weblink: http://www.fs-umi.ac.ma/cmga6-meknes-2013


Some selected Reading, Links, etc

1] Haberl et al,  Correcting a fundamental error in greenhouse gas accounting related to bioenergy, 2012.  http://www.cccep.ac.uk/Publications/research-articles/error-greenhouse-gas-accounting-bioenergy.pdf

2] Schulze et al,  Large-scale bioenergy from additional harvest of forest biomass is neither sustainable nor greenhouse gas neutral, 2012. http://ncfp.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/biomass-energy-not-sustainable-or-carbon-neutral.pdf

3] Schluter, T., Geological Atlas of Africa - With with notes on stratigraphy, tectonics, economic geology, geohazards, geosites and geoscientific education of each counry, 2nd Edition, Springer-verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg, 2008.
http://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=IfvKWpsISTQC&oi=fnd&pg=PA4&dq=african+geology+undergraduate+textbooks&ots=lQ7JXRkO0H&sig=Y4l2oLYNi5EVzjuxupZbpMdciz4#v=onepage&q&f=false

4] A link on “Groundwater and Rural Water Supply in Africa”: http://www.iah.org/downloads/occpub/IAH_ruralwater.pdf

5] Link to Journal of African Earth Sciences: http://www.journals.elsevier.com/journal-of-african-earth-sciences/

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