Bees in Brazil, how Costa Rica offers hope to the Amazon, paying bus fares with plastic waste in Indonesia and Ecuador, the health warning that should be plastered on diesel buses everywhere and Lillys Plastic Pickup
Photo by Assaad W. Razzouk
Welcome to Episode 20 of The Angry Clean Energy Guy with me, Assaad Razzouk. I am so happy you’re here. Thank you. Today I want to talk about bees. Yup, bees. Then I’d like to talk about the lessons in hope that Costa Rica’s payment for ecosystem services offers to forests everywhere, especially forests that are burning as the Amazon is today. And finally I’d like to talk about how you can pay for your bus fare with plastic bottles and plastic cups in two countries that could not be farther apart.
I want to talk about bees and specifically bees in Brazil. I hope all of you know and have done something about the Amazon rainforest burning. It’s burning at a rate which has massively gone up since President Bolsonaro of Brazil came to power because he’s basically not enforcing his own laws and therefore farmers and cattle ranchers are having a jolly time burning the rainforest to clear land and preparing it for use. But within that larger story of the lungs of the planet burning, there is a another story of 500 million bees – that’s 500 MILLION bees – dying in Brazil. In just the last three months. And the reason they’re dying is because another thing Bolsonaro has done is he has opened the floodgates of pesticides on Brazil’s farms and forests. His administration has approved a vastly larger number of pesticides than the previous administration in a “poison package”, so to speak.
So the Bolsonaro administration has allowed a record 290 pesticides this year, and that’s up 27% over last year. Now these pesticides contain products such as Neonicotinoids and Fipronil that basically kill bees. The EU, for example, imposed a total band almost on new Neonicotinoids because of the serious harm that they cause to bees. Now let’s put the importance of bees into perspective. There is a supermarket in Hanover, Germany that emptied its shelves of products that depended on bees just to show its customers what that meant. And in the case of that supermarket, 60% of the grocery shelves were emptied to dramatize the effect of the bees disappearing because they had to take away all the apples, the zucchini, almonds, coffee, avocados, onions, berries, lots of chocolate, lots of candies, some marinated meats and even camomile-scented toilet paper.
Bees are actually a very important insect. Plants need them to pollinate, which makes them indispensable. They’re also what’s called a keystone species, which means that other species are dependent on them to survive. And to put bees in an economic perspective, they basically contribute $500 billion to the world’s economy each year through the global crop production that would not otherwise be there if it weren’t for the bees.
There’s lots of other stuff that’s wonderful. For example, did you know that honeybees have been producing honey in the same way for 150 million years? It’s taken us to be here to try and wipe them out. The honeybee is also the only insect that produces food that’s eaten by man. Bees also produce wonderful beauty treatments that have been used since Cleopatra’s days. Honey, of course, is incredibly healthy because it’s got vitamins, it’s got minerals, it’s got enzymes, and if we didn’t have bees, the variety of foods available would go down tremendously and the cost of some of what’s left would surge.
So the irresponsibility of the Brazilian president as you can here extends over the Amazon fires, but also over a wilful attack against pollinators and therefore against the food that all of us consume. I mean, what has taken hold of these people and what are they doing? There is so much there to be angry about.
As the Amazon continues to burn, I’d like to offer Costa Rica in today’s department of hope.
Costa Rica has done something amazing. Rampant and criminal logging, just like what’s going on in Brazil today, cut its forest cover from 72% of the country in 1950 to 26% in 1983. So illegal logging almost wiped out Costa Rica’s forest. However, Costa Rica did something unexpected: It introduced a 23 year old today program of payment for ecosystem services that promoted conservation. Magically, its forest cover is now back up to 52%. So its forest cover was cut by two thirds, then payment for ecosystem services was introduced and the forest cover doubled, which is amazing. And it’s something that’s imminently copy-able in countries like Brazil and Indonesia who could implement the same program enriched by 23 years of learning because the Costa Rican payment for ecosystem services program evolved over time.
So in a nutshell, Costa Rica’s program banned all conversions of forests and then introduced an offer of payments to re-forest as well as to protect the forest and to manage existing forests in a responsible way. And through this mix of land management, land use and payment for ecosystem services, Costa Rica managed to reverse its forest decline. And I think it’s a lesson that can be exported very successfully to Brazil, but also to Indonesia, to Thailand, to the Philippines, to Vietnam, to many countries that have experienced deforestation and would like to fight back against it.
CLIMATE WARNING LABEL
On another note, I don’t understand as those of you who listened to episode 19 know, why a huge health warning is not slapped on every single petrol and diesel powered bus everywhere in the world. I honestly do not understand that, given the health risks that these buses are. So I designed my own suggested draft warning label for gas pumps everywhere, so where you fill your car, for diesel buses, for petrol-fuel buses, for cars. You can also put this warning label on planes, on ships that use super dirty fuel. You can even put it on plastic. And the reason we should put these warning labels everywhere is because citizens can then consider the consequences of their choices and do so in an informed way. And that’s because climate change is a huge public health issue.
And here is how I suggest this warning label should read. So it’s one of these big boxes with orange at the top and an exclamation mark inside a yellow triangle and it says “warning” in very big letters. And then underneath it says, “use of this product leads to a serious threat to the economic well-being, public health, natural resources and environment of everyone on earth through increased climate change impacts including lethal pollution, loss of sea ice, accelerated sea level rise, longer, more intense heat waves, wildfires and or droughts, stronger and more intense hurricanes and typhoons and accelerating species extinctions around the world.”
I have used this warning as the picture associated with this episode on my website. And I think it’s magic. You just stick it on the school buses, on diesel-powered school buses and then just watch parents refuse to put their kids on them. Stick it on public transit diesel buses, and then just see how we will all think before stepping inside them.
So imagine if it was plastered everywhere. That should wake up everybody.
PAYING FOR BUS FARES WITH PLASTIC WASTE
Now, speaking of buses, I was struck by what I thought was a wonderful innovation in two countries, super far apart: Indonesia in Asia and Ecuador in Latin America, in the area of plastic reuse.
So at about the same time a city called Surabaya in Indonesia and a city called Guayaquil in Ecuador, both with about 2.8 million people, introduced schemes whereby you can ride a public bus and pay your fare with plastic bottles. And I thought that was just wonderful.
The queues in Surabaya Indonesia are something that must be seen. People can ride for an hour on the public buses with an unlimited amount of stops allowed for either three large plastic bottles, five medium plastic bottles or 10 plastic cups. I mean isn’t that great? And in Guayaquil, in Ecuador, 15 plastic bottles buy you a ticket on the city’s bus transit system.
What we need to see is we need to see these initiatives really take over the richer countries in the world, which in the area of plastic frankly are doing a lot less than they should be doing, starting with the United States where there is hardly any effort to do anything about plastic at a federal level and single-use plastic is really only addressed in certain States and in a very limited way. Very disappointing and so much more that can be done. We should all make our voices heard for things to change.
The one thing everybody can do is vote. Everyone should use their vote to effect change.
You know what to do.
HERO OF THE WEEK
Thank you so much for listening to me, The Angry Clean Energy Guy, this far.
My hero of the week is an 11 year old activist. Her name is “Lillys Plastic Pickup”. Her Twitter handle is @lillyspickup and she is absolutely wonderful. She’s an international environmental champion, a youth ambassador for the plastic pollution coalition, and she has been an activist since age nine and that’s amazing. Her campaign is about encouraging people all over the world to take litter up for one day and help make Earth a cleaner place. Thank you lilly, for what you do. And if you want to get involved with her wonderful effort to clean up the world, just visit her Facebook page at Lilly’s plastic pickup.
VILLAIN OF THE WEEK
Now contrast what Lilly, 11, has been doing for two years with my villain of the week, Japan’s public finance agencies. So we have an 11 year old trying to clean up plastic litter everywhere and on the other hand we have Japan’s public finance agencies throwing monies at countries in Asia to build more coal, but they’re not only throwing money at them, they’re doing it in quite an impressive way.
So these Japanese public finance institutions are financing $17 billion of coal power in India, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Bangladesh, countries already with some of the dirtiest air anywhere on the planet. But the Japanese are financing coal-fired power there which is 40 times dirtier than the coal that Japan builds at home. Now, clearly Japan should not be building any more coal at home, and even more clearly Japan should not be financing coal abroad. But what makes these Japanese public finance institutions my Villain of the Week is the fact that not only are they doing all that, they’re also financing coal plants that would be illegal in Japan. These plants emit 13 times more nitrogen oxide, 33 times more sulfur oxide and 40 times more dust than what’s allowed in Japan.
So a very lovely cocktail of chemicals and pollution and dust that’s created, especially for the Indians and the Indonesians and the Vietnamese and the Bangladeshis. And I don’t understand how these countries allow it.
This really has got to end. And these lovely Japanese finance institutions are the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), the Nippon Export and Investment Insurance (NEXI) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). So dear Japanese public finance agencies, can you please stop what you’re doing? And dear India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Vietnam, at a very minimum, don’t allow the Japanese to build up to 40 times dirtier coal in your own countries than they allow themselves in their home country. I mean, come on. Can a minimum of common sense please prevail? Thank you.
On that note, have a great two weeks everyone
There is so much to be angry about, if you are a clean energy guy.
Every day, so many things that happen around the world make me angry when I look at them with lenses colored by the climate change chaos unfolding everywhere around us. And I am especially angry because I know we can solve the climate change crisis if we were only trying.
Each week, I will share with you a few topics that struck me and that I was very angry about – and this will generally have to do with climate change, solar or wind power, plastic pollution, environmental degradation, wildlife, the oceans and other related topics.