Australia World Leader in Human Development

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Australia has been ranked to be the second best country in the world for human development, according to a report by the United Nations.

The latest Human Development Report by the United Nations Development Programme, found that Australia excelled in the areas of life expectancy, expected years of schooling and gross national income per capita.

Only Norway received a higher Human Development Index ranking.

The report also found that globally two billion people had been lifted out of “low human development” in the last 25 years, and that focus was now needed to galvanise the progress made.

The report found that 830 million people were classified as working poor, living on under $2 a day. Over 200 million people, including 74 million youth, were unemployed, while 21 million people were currently in forced labour.

The report also highlighted gender inequalities around the world. While women carry out 52 per cent of all global work, glaring inequalities in the distribution of work remain. Women were also less likely to be paid for their work than men, with three out of every four hours of unpaid work carried out by women.

The full report can be downloaded here.

Web~link: Australia World Leader in Human Development | ProBono Australia

100% Renewables is not just cleaner – it’s about equality

Renewables is about equity

As the world’s energy system shifts from fossil fuels to renewable sources, the question is no longer if the world will transition to sustainable energy, but rather, how long will it take and whether the transition can be made in ways that maximise the benefits today and for future generations.

Changing our energy system is about more than replacing fossil resources with sun and wind. In fact, the economic model for renewables is completely different: 100% renewable energy can lead us to a more equal distribution of wealth.

The differences start in the way our energy system is structured. The fossil fuel-based energy system is characterised by complex, centralised infrastructures where the fuel is transported to the power plant, and energy production and distribution is controlled by very few entities. The supply chain is vertical, and the benefits are shared only among a few stakeholders.

Most renewable energies offer opportunities for more decentralised energy production and consumption. They have a horizontal supply chain and require innovation in infrastructure and energy markets. New stakeholders ~ including citizens, farmers and small businesses ~ are entering the system. They claim ownership rights and have direct impacts on the implementation.

Some countries have begun to realise the benefits. A recent German study [pdf] reveals that some €5.4bn was generated in Germany in 2012 through projects that were partially or fully owned by local investors, including individuals. Local private investments created a total of around 100,000 jobs that year in both the construction sector and operation.

By 2050, Vancouver will obtain 100% of the energy it uses from renewable sources and emit 80% fewer greenhouse gases than in 2007.

A study by Brand Finance estimates that Vancouver’s brand is valued at $31bn due to its reputation as a “green, clean and sustainable” city. Steering the city towards 100% renewable energy and focusing on local sustainability, has helped create more than 3,000 new local green jobs in only five years.

The district of Kasese in Uganda, comprising approximately 130,000 households, is radically transforming. By 2020, Kasese will supply the energy needs of its population by only renewable sources. This ambitious target will be achieved by adopting a people-centered approach, with a wide variety of renewable sources such as biomass, solar, geothermal and mini-hydroelectric technologies. This will help the region overcome health issues strongly connected to the uncontrolled use of charcoal, firewood and kerosene, the main energy sources used for cooking and domestic electricity production.

By implementing a decentralised renewable energy system in the region, several clean energy businesses have been started since 2012, creating jobs for locals. They sell solar equipment, construct solar hubs, build biogas systems, improve cook stoves and deliver mini-hydro projects. The number of businesses in the local green economy has increased from five to 55 since 2012, and at least 1,650 people have been trained in the process.

Re~Post: A Global Shift to 100% Renewables Is Not Just Cleaner ~ It’s About Equality | Common Dreams 

Starfish going global as it welcomes Ruy Anaya de la Rosa

RuyStarfish is pleased to welcome Dr Ruy Anaya de la Rosa as Project Director for our global Biochar for Sustainable Soils (B4SS) initiative.

Ruy is passionate about the potential of biochar to improve soil fertility and sustainability. Ruy’s experience includes biochar, carbon markets, life cycle analysis and the uptake of appropriate technology in less developed countries. Ruy has a Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Science, a Masters of Science in Sustainable Energy Technology and Bachelor of Science in Mechanical with Electrical Engineering.

While born in Mexico, Ruy’s life and work have taken him around the globe and he is fluent in Spanish, English, French, Portuguese, Dutch, German and Swedish.

The purpose of B4SS is to share knowledge and build capacity regarding the use of innovative biochar-based organic amendments for sustainable soils and land management. In this way the project aims to support rural livelihoods for small landholders, enhance productivity, improve the capture and efficient use of nutrients, address declining soil fertility, contribute to watershed management and strengthen resilience to climate change.

Funding of USD2m has been secured from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) for this purpose. The project will leverage an additional USD1ÂŒm of value through collaboration with existing biochar projects from six countries. These projects span a range of different soils, climates and cultures with the core focus being:

  • Vietnam ~ rice straw biochar to improve soil fertility and sequester carbon
  • Ethiopia & Kenya ~ use of biochar to aid the return of nutrients to depleted cropping soils
  • Indonesia ~ working with an existing network of 1,750 small-scale women farmers with dryland cropping systems to improve soils affected by the 2004 tsunami
  • China ~ testing biochar for immobilising heavy metals
  • Peru ~ biochar to reduce deforestation and improve crop productivity.

Ancient farming practices point to the future


Affectionately called “Professor” by his neighbors, Josefino Martinez is a well-respected indigenous farmer and community organizer from the remote town of Chicahuaxtla, in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. The land he cultivates is etched into the mountainside, with a slope so severe that plowing with tractors or animals is impossible. Yet his storage room was full of maize, beans, dried chili, squash seeds, and fresh fruit that he’d grown right here.

When asked how this was possible, Martinez explained that he simply farmed in the manner of his ancestors, the indigenous Triqui people.

According to a detailed report by the World Resources Institute (WRI), the first thing to know about the impending food crisis is that the human population is expected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050. That’s a 37% increase from 2012, when it reached 7 billion.

But agriculture already accounts for a nearly a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions and 70 percent of freshwater use globally. So if we simply increased the scale of what we’re doing now, the ecological effects would be catastrophic.

The report goes on to describe a “menu of solutions”. Following are three items that Mexico’s Indigenous farmers are already doing ~ plus one more that isn’t on WRI’s list but probably should be.

1. Farm like a forest
Not accounting for land covered by water, desert, or ice, about half of the planet is dedicated to pasture and croplands, according to WRI’s study. And the continued expansion of agricultural land is driving biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation.

Oswaldo Flores, a Zapotec indigenous man from the village of Yaviche, explained how his community uses intercropping and agroforestry to grow more food without expanding into new lands.

The farm is a cafetal, a shady, multistory system with tall, purple-podded guajinicuiles and fruit trees forming the upper layer, coffee trees at the intermediate layer, and smaller food plants and vines (chiles, chives, chayotes) near the ground. The trees protect the plants below from high winds and cold temperatures, and their fallen leaves provide a natural compost that inhibits weed growth, adds fertility, and retains soil humidity. At the edge of Flores’ cafetal, the vegetation transitions to another complex and even more ancient intercropping system. The milpa is a Mesoamerican technology that integrates maize, beans, squash and other complementary food crops. While estimates of its age differ, it is at least 3,000 years old.

2. Eat low on the food chain
Getting our protein from animal products is highly inefficient. Poultry is the most efficient conventional source of meat, and still only converts 11% of its feed energy into human food. Beef cows convert only 1% and are major contributors of greenhouse gases. Shifting toward plant and insect-based protein sources is part of the sustainable food solution.

“You have never tried chicatanas?” challenged Brisa Ochoa, as she served our family a salsa made of mashed ants in her hometown of Ayoquezco. During the first spring rains, the chicatana ant leaves its nest, only to be captured by eager residents who prize its sweet and tangy flavor. Mexico has 300 to 550 species of edible insects, more than any other country in the world, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation. Among the most popular in Oaxaca are grasshoppers known as chapulines, served roasted and flavored with lime and chili, and maguey worms, served ground up and incorporated into a spicy salt. Insect protein takes some getting used to, but it’s healthier and more environmentally sustainable than livestock, boasting a feed conversion ratio of more than 50%.


3. Restore health to damaged land
JesĂșs LeĂłn Santos, sustainable agriculture coordinator at indigenous farming organization in the Mixteca CEDICAM, is working to revive and enhance indigenous farming wisdom in order to restore the health of the soil and the productivity of the land.

The first step was to build trenches, stone walls, and terraces to stop the erosion of the remaining soils and to slow water runoff so aquifers can recharge. These barriers were stabilised with tenacious local vegetation, such as the sweet-smelling vetiver grass, which withstands drought, flooding, and mudslides. Once stabilized, the barren hillsides were reforested with native tree species.

The CEDICAM community saves its own native crop seed, using an in-the-field selection process that has persisted regionally since the pre-Columbian era. They preserve and exchange the best seeds of maize, beans, squash, chile, tomatillo, chayote, squash, sunflower, and prickly pear, as well as local specialties like cempoalxochitl, quintoniles, and huauzontle.

LeĂłn Santos says he has seen yields increase fourfold after incorporating these ancient and modern sustainable growing techniques.

4. Cultivate reverence for the planet
One essential element missing from WRI’s otherwise thorough “menu of solutions” was the ethical perspective known as convivencia, or “living together” with both our human and natural communities. The ethos is best summarized by Kiado Cruz, a Zapotec farmer from the Oaxacan town of Yagavila:

“The ground beneath our feet is our Mother Nature, who has carried us and sustains us. As we work her, we do not profane her, rather we carry out our task as farmers in the context of the sacred. It is corn through which Mother Nature nourishes us. It is flesh of our flesh, because we are people of corn. So we have to collect it in a manner that shows the respect we owe both our soil and our brother corn.”

Re~Post: Four ways Mexico’s Indigenous farmers are practicing the agriculture of the future | Yes! magazine

Weblinks: World Resources  Report 2013-2015: Creating a sustainable food future

The Top 100 documentaries we can use to change the world

100 documentaries for change

Documentaries have an incredible power to raise awareness and create transformative changes in consciousness both at the personal and global levels.

Over the last 8 years, Films for Action have watched hundreds of social change documentaries and cataloged the best of them on their site.

There’s now so many that they realised there was a need to filter the list down even further.

So what follows is their list of the very best 100 ~ hand-picked for their quality, insight and potential to inspire positive change.

All of the films have been selected because they are either free to watch online, or can be rented online. There are several films which will be added when they too become accessible.

Enjoy! And turn them into ACTION!!

Web Link ~ The Top  100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World | Films for Action

Myall Creek: a crime that will not be forgotten

Myall Creek
Remembering is central to healing the pain of injustice and atrocity. A wound can’t properly heal unless its cause is properly identified. To know our history ~ ancient and recent ~ is to know who walked before us and made our country what it is. It is to know ourselves.

This weekend people from all over Australia, black and white, converged on Myall Creek ~ a tiny place with two overgrown tennis courts and a memorial hall ~ in a small part of north-west NSW known evocatively, given its violent history, as New England. Here in 1838 a group of stockmen killed 28 unarmed Wirrayaraay old men, women and children.

The Myall Creek Massacre, as it came to be known, was not the first of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of such crimes that unfolded across the colonial frontier between the first inhabitants, soldiers, settlers, vigilante groups and Indigenous “black police”. Nor was it the last.

But Myall Creek is unique. It is the only massacre on the colonial or post-colonial frontier where non-Indigenous murderers of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people have been convicted. Seven of the killers hung for the crime. Myall Creek was also instrumental for killers of blacks ~ a lesson that spread across the continent like a Mallee wildfire: cover your tracks by properly disposing of the bodies; leave no witnesses.

In 2000, when the first of what are now annual June long-weekend commemorations at Myall Creek took place, descendants of victims and killers united in an act of mutual apology and forgiveness.

Every year at Myall Creek since 2000 it’s been the same: sorrow and forgiveness.

John Maynard, an Indigenous history professor who is currently researching Aboriginal servicemen, gave a guest speech at Sunday’s Myall Creek commemoration. Professor Maynard says:

“It seems a strange and hypocritical contradiction that some black and white politicians tell us we need to ‘move on’ and not dwell upon the frontier wars of the past whilst at the same time we are saturated with ‘Lest We Forget’ Gallipoli – a failed (allied, including Australian) invasion of another peoples’ country.”

Find out more and get involved:

Who are we humans being?

Future Dreaming 1 from Kfilms on Vimeo.

For many sustainability practitioners, Starfish included, transformation and evolution of human consciousness and spirituality are of central importance to achieving genuine sustainability.

This piece to camera by Dr David E Martin is inspired and inspiring. David is widely experienced and expertised, including in finance, venture capital, ethical trade, economics, integral accounting, protection, and in the promotion of knowledge held by the longest persisting communities on earth.

Furusato nozei ~ Japanese citizens direct taxes to rural areas

Hometown dues

Many Japanese city-dwellers still harbour strong feelings towards their furusato ~ their home town or rural area which their forebears may have left many decades ago during the country’s rapid urbanisation.

For some rural towns, the unexpected popularity of a scheme called furusato nozei, or hometown tax, is proving a windfall.

Seven years ago the central government began allowing city residents to divert a proportion of their income-tax payments to a furusato of their choice. The response has been overwhelming. In the last fiscal year rural towns earned „14 billion ($1.2 billion) from such contributions.

And some people choose a furusato not on the basis of any family ties, but simply because they like the area. Many select towns on Japan’s north-eastern coast that were devastated by the tsunami of March 2011. Sonoe Hasegawa, a 47-year-old accountant from Tokyo, says she wants to help revive the countryside. She has decided to give tax to Ishinomaki, a town in Miyagi prefecture where 3,700 residents drowned in the disaster, as well as five other places.

Furusato longings are a force the government cannot ignore. It has just expanded the scheme. A household with an income of „8m, for example, may now donate up to „142,000 in return for about 7% off its tax bill, up from 3.5% before.

Re~Post: Hometown dues | The Economist

Starfish completes Youth Centre Policy & Procedure Manual resource

The Youthie Logo

Starfish has completed six months work researching and writing an open source policy and procedure manual for the Tamworth Youthie.

The overall purpose of the Manual is to detail policies which enable the Youthie to operate effectively and efficiently as well as comply with all relevant legislation and regulation.

Starfish has created the Manual as an open source resource for the youth sector as a whole, under a creative commons licence. While Starfish prepared the Manual under engagement by Tamworth Regional Council, more than $30,000 worth of pro-bono work was done over-and-above this engagement to create a valuable resource for the youth sector.

The Youthie is a drop-in facility for young people aged 12–24 years from across the Tamworth region which has recently moved to a new multi-million-dollar facility in Coledale. This is one of the all too few purpose-designed-and-built youth facilities in Australia at this time.

A copy of the 220-page Manual can be downloaded here.

Read more about Starfish’s work on the Tamworth Youth Strategy here.

Largest protected arid land zone on Earth

Largest protected arid zone on earth

The Pintubi traditional owners have helped to create the largest protected zone of arid land on earth, by declaring 4.2 million hectares of their land an Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) under the Kiwirrkurra IPA.

“A lot of people think the desert is empty,” said Lindsey Langford, an anthropologist who works out of the tiny community in Western Australia that gives the IPA its name.

“But the desert is full of life. IPAs recognise that the best people to manage country in Australia are the people that have been managing it for thousands of years.”

Indigenous Protected Areas are an Aboriginal-led agreement on how country should be managed and by whom. They need to satisfy an Aboriginal value system and a government one to gain approval. The common ground is preservation – of ecology on one hand and culture on the other.

Job creation in some of the most remote communities in Australia is another government draw card.

“It works into tourism and into a whole range of other opportunities that opens up communities to economic developments,” said Richard Aspinall, state manager Western Australia for Prime Minister and Cabinet, who has worked on the Kiwirrkurra IPA with the traditional owners.

“We expect from that we’ll get employment outcomes and we’ll also start working with kids, getting them inspired that the future is rosy and important for the whole community.”

~ Richard Aspinall | Western Australia State Manager | Prime Minister & Cabinet

Repost ~ Traditional owners, scientists and cat gizzards key to IPA agreement | ABC News