Climate Change

Tech Industry Can Fight Climate Change

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The Internet can help fight climate change, says eco-group Greenpeace leader Kumi Naidoo. The current technology we are using have made high speed communication between continents possible. It has definitely made the delivery of breaking much faster than traditional media. It has helped advocacy groups pressure government to be more transparent. It has enabled countries like Egypt to facilitate social revolutions. Therefore, says Naidoo, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it can help solve the problem of climate change.

Each time someone posts a Facebook status, streams a favorite video on YouTube, and types a Twitter message, the information is contained in massive data centers which uses up a lot of electricity. Data centers are a major part of the online cloud system, and one can consume as much electricity as a medium-sized city.

If cloud computing were a country, according to Naidoo,who hails from South Africa and has been the group’s International Executive Director since 2009, it would rank sixth in the world on based on how much power it consumes.The amount of data going to and fro around the world is forecasted by experts to triple in the next few years, as more and more people use the Internet to connect with the rest of the world.

Naidoo, who is also known as a human rights activist, acknowledges that the internet has changed the world for the better. It has mobilized groups of people toask for more freedom, transparency & democracy from their governments. The Greenpeace director says it is only natural that it moves the world to a clean energy revolution that will last for generations to come.

Naidoo reminds people that the Internet that everyone finds useful, and the companies that run it, are at a crossroads in terms of where their energy comes from.  Several online-based companies are nowaiming for a green Internet and a sustainable future. Companies like Facebook, Apple and Google have committed to 100 percent renewable energy.They did this in response to advocates around the world who have asked them for a greener Internet. Other fast-growing technology companies, like Salesforce, Rackspace and Box, have joined the rest in making the same commitment, proving that 100 percent renewable energy is 100 percent possible for any company that has the will to implement it.

Naidoo adds, “In contrast, some popular online companies, including social media sites that people use every day like Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr, still power their platforms with fossil fuels and nuclear energy.” At the moment, the largest cloud-based company is Amazon Web Services, a division of It is the data host for some of the most popular Internet brands in the world. Unlike major online brands like Google and Apple, Amazon’s main source of power for its servers comes frompollution-causing sources of energy that threaten nearby communities and the climate. “Of course, Amazon doesn’t have to remain stuck in the energy sources of the 1800s. Energy sources like wind and solar made up for more than half of all the new electricity in the United States in 2012,” says Naidoo.

The Greenpeace director assures the public, though, that digital pioneers are making moves toward eco-friendly measures, both online and offline. For one, Apple is now operating the largest privately-owned solar installation in the U.S. at one of its data centers. Facebook persuaded a U.S. power company to supply its data center with 100 percent wind energy. Google followed suit by pioneering the use of clean power purchases, buying wind energy to provide electricity for its services like Gmail and YouTube, as well as the rest of the power grid.

Naidoo further comments, “If Amazon and others want to stay innovative and relevant, it’s high time they made the switch to the abundant, sustainable, renewable energy of today.Simply put, we need a greener online to preserve a greener offline.”

Indeed, the Internet has helped influence world policies in the direction of freedom, transparency and democracy. Naidoo is optimistic that the world’s move to a clean energy revolution will last for generations to come. He advises, “These companies can make that happen, but only if they hear from you.” Naidoo is actively inviting the public to join him in convincing Internet companies to commit to 100 percent renewable energy for their data centers.

Who Cares About Climate Change?

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NO country on earth has more to fear from climate change than the Philippines—a nation of 7,100 islands and some 98 million souls. The climate has always wrought havoc here and—as shown by Typhoon Yolanda—it’s getting worse. Storms coming to our islands have the entire Pacific Ocean to draw strength from. Sitting astride shifting tectonic plates, we have experienced 13 magnitude 6.0 or stronger earthquakes since 2001—the latest of which was a magnitude 7.2 quake that hit Bohol and killed 222 people.

Since 2002, we have recorded 184 natural disasters. Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) was the 30th named storm of the 2013 Pacific season and the second Category 5 (with winds in excess of 150 miles per hour) to hit the Philippines in the last 11 months. Yolanda—which killed over 5,000 people in the Visayas—is the most powerful storm in history to hit land.
New scientific evidence simply tells that simply, climate change will mean more intense tropical storms. The energy that is stored in the waters off the Philippines will increase the intensity of typhoons and the trend we now see is that more destructive storms will be the new norm.

But who cares about climate change?

Days after Typhoon Yolanda hit the country Naderev Saño—Philippine Climate Change Commissioner—was delivering an impassioned plea during the 19th Framework Convention on Climate Change in Warsaw, Poland.

That it is the 19th convention of its kind and that it is still in its “framework” stage, means that Saño’s decision to go on a hunger strike—“until some concrete agreement on climate change is reached in Poland”—was a very bad idea.

Rich countries simply won’t pay up even if they are the biggest culprits in the destruction of the environment and largest contributors to climate change. For now, writing checks and making donations whenever a natural disaster strikes will have to suffice.

But without serious, sustained attention and the kind of sacrifices in lifestyle that few nations seem prepared to make, every coast will feel what our Visayan coasts felt.

Perhaps not as violently, but every bit as surely if nothing is done about climate change.

In Defense of Small Businesses

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by Ike Señeres

AS WE see vivid images of super typhoons devastating our islands, we should also be reminded of the very strong economic storms that are already hitting our country every day now, causing daily damage that could cost more than a series of storms and earthquakes could possibly cause. As we talk about the apparent lack of preparations to address these natural disasters, we should also be reminded that we are not prepared for these economic storms either, with practically none of the so called “safety nets” in place.

It is a good thing that natural storms could be forecasted. Economic storms on the other hand do not need any forecasts, because these are certain to come, and in fact they already have. As we speak, local products are being clobbered in the local markets, and scores of small businesses and small factories have already closed. The damage is already being felt, even before the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) is fully in place by 2015, and even before all the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements will be fully implemented.

One way or the other, the natural storms that are coming to our shores would have something to do with climate change and global warming, even if it could be argued that storms would naturally happen even without these two factors. That said however, regardless of what side of the argument you are with, there is no argument that the effects of climate change and global warming would definitely affect small businesses and small factories, as it has already happened in many cases. When we say small businesses, it should already include the business of farmers and fishermen.

I remember that when the issue of “safety nets” was discussed many years ago, there was a consensus that the government should not count all projects that all the projects that are in the normal course of public services delivery. What that means is that the government should come up with new and original “safety nets” that would be on top of, and different from what are normally provided by them. At that time, nobody really knew what that meant, and that is still the case now.

In the lack of understanding what “safety nets” would really mean, I would instead define it to mean anything and everything that would make a local product survive the onslaught of foreign products. Actually it should not be limited to plain and simple survival alone, because it should objectively mean success in the local and foreign markets, defined in terms of gross sales and market shares. I will add to that the fact that this boils down to product competitiveness. If that sounds to you like a sink or swim scenario, you are right, because that is what it really is, and much more than that, it is actually a life or death situation.

By comparison, I would say that dealing with a natural storm is easier than dealing with an economic storm. On the part of many local politicians, that could be as simple as delivering a few relief goods and taking lots of pictures. There is really no need for a closure, because the actions would end as soon as the evacuation centers are vacated, and that is it. In the case of economic storms however, the first line of casualties are not people, so there is really no rush for dramatic photo opportunities.

In the case of economic storms, the local products in the local markets are the first to die, and their deaths would ultimately result in the death of the factories, being the second line of defense. It could be said that the third line of defense would be among the ranks of the workers who would lose their incomes as their jobs would also die. Complicated as the sequence would appear to be, the cause of it all is the death of local products, and that is where we should fight back first, to make our products more competitive, so that these could stand up strongly to the foreign invaders and win the fights too.

Making products more competitive is a no brainer, because there is a science behind that. As a matter of fact, many big local companies have already perfected that science, and many of their products are now doing very well in the local and global markets. The rules of the marketing game are very clear. Aside from having a good product, what are needed are good product positioning, good branding, good labelling, good packaging and good advertising. There is no way out of these rules, because companies would have to play the game or die.

Again by comparison, the big companies could very well stand up on their own, and would therefore not need any help from the government. Obviously, the only ones that would need help from the government are the small businesses and the small factories. This is not really a new discovery, because we have known this all along. For so many years now, we have also heard many government agencies reporting that they are implementing programs along this line, but nothing seems to stick, and we are not seeing local products winning in the local and global markets.

The lack of financing is often said to be the cause of local product failure. That could be true, but in reality, any product doing well in the market should not have any problem in getting investors. And if the product is really doing well, the cash flow would be good too, and the only need for more financing would be for expansion purposes. We should really aspire to produce more local products that are global winners. Otherwise, we will just be a consumer economy, found at the lower end of the value chain, with no value added of our own.

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