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The Future We All Want

Posted on 18 October 2012 by Fabiano

This is a guest post by Fabiano Scarpa from The Brazilian Network for Global Climate Change Research about their newly released brochure booklet entitled “The Future We All Want- Green Economy, Sustainable Development and Poverty eradication”.

The booklet features many beautifully rendered illustrations by Jean Galvao, some of which are reproduced in this blog post.

The National Institute for Space Research (INPE) and The Brazilian Network for Global Climate Change Research (REDE CLIMA) have recently released the English version of the booklet entitled “The Future We All Want- Green Economy, Sustainable Development and Poverty eradication”. The Educational Material is aimed at both teachers and students.  It presents the main topics discussed at the UN Conference Rio + 20 that took place in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from June 13 to June 22.

 The main parts of the brochure are presented below:

Everything started in Stockholm

The awareness that environmental degradation due to human activities could have major impacts acutely modifying life on Earth, led the UN (United Nations) to organise a conference which took place in Stockholm, Sweden in 1972 (The United Nations Conference on Human Environment). Representatives from all over the world gathered together at the meeting. It was the first big effort to address the relationship between human beings and the environment. 

Jean Galvao

 In 1987 the World Commission on Environment and Development published an innovative report- “Our Common Future”- that raised the concept of sustainable development defining it as “a development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Later, other conferences were organised aiming to find solutions in order to reach sustainable development. 

 Jean Galvao


The last one, Rio + 20, - twenty year after the Earth Summit Eco 92 (Where the document Agenda 21 was produced)- took place in the city of Rio de Janeiro and a document regarding the protection of biodiversity, natural resources, green economy, poverty eradication and climate change has just been released.

Jean Galvao


Why Green Economy?

Discussions on sustainable development always include issues related to changes in consumption behaviour- saving water and energy, avoiding consumerism, using public transportation in order to avoid major environmental impacts….

But then a question emerges: Do we need to quit or reduce dramatically the usage of everything we´ve conquered in terms of goods and technology in the modern world in order to live in a sustainable way? The expression “Green economy” refers to the optimisation of activities that provide rational use of natural resources where the benefits are so evenly distributed that poverty levels are barely detected and greenhouse gases emissions are very low (decarbonized economy), minimizing the negative effects on the environment.

Jean Galvao

To achieve that, innovative technologies are necessary so that different segments of society can make use of machines with low energetic consumption. Appliances like televisions, computers, refrigerators and lamps must have low rates of energy consumption.

Energy matrices need to be gradually replaced by clean and renewable sources of energy such as eolic (wind energy), photovoltaic (sun energy), biodigester (energy from heat released by burning gases from animal manure, decomposing agriculture wastes and sewage) and tidal power (converting energy of tides into electricity). Water consumption also has to be approached with responsibility. About 2.5% of the water available on the planet is drinkable (the rest is in form of sea water). The vast majority of this freshwater is frozen in the form of ice caps and glaciers or is in the underground. So only 0.3% of the freshwater is available in rivers and lakes and has to be shared with all the living beings (apart from the ones that live in the oceans of course) and human beings (7 billion people today). 

Jean Galvao

The Ecological Footprint

The Ecological Footprint of a country, a city or a person, consists of the size of productive areas of land and sea that can provide products, goods and services that sustain different lifestyles. In other words, the ecological footprint is a way to translate, in hectares (ha), the extension of a territory that either a person or an entire society uses, on average, to sustain a lifestyle. Studies have shown that since the 1980s the demands for natural resources on Earth have increased dramatically and are now greater than their regeneration capacity.

Jean Galvao

Recent data shows that we are using 25% percent more than what Earth can regenerate. That means we now need a quarter of a planet more in order to sustain our lifestyle.

We can say that this is an irrational way of exploiting nature because the rate of consumption is faster than renovation capacity.

Less poverty is crucial

On Average, the modern societies’ lifestyles have given little contribution to sustainability. On the contrary, they have been responsible for accelerating the process of global warming and the effects are already being felt. For example, an increase in mean global temperatures and alterations in frequency and intensity of phenomena such as extreme rain and drought. However, the countries with the largest ecological footprints (the richest) are those that will less suffer from global climate change due to human activities because the quality of life and the citizens’ economic resources will allow for the reduction of the impacts caused by environmental alteration and a faster adaptation to the new situations that are coming. Thus it is fundamental to reduce poverty in the world in such a way that people from less developed countries can find their own ways to adapt and survive.

Jean Galvao

Natural Disasters

One of the main impacts of global environmental change is the increase in frequency and intensity of extreme phenomena causing huge damage to inhabited areas including social, economic and environmental losses.

Natural disasters are generally associated with earthquakes, tsunamis, volcano eruptions and extreme meteorological phenomena such as heavy storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, severe droughts and heat waves. But also include local processes and phenomena like landslides, flooding and erosion. They can happen either naturally or due to human activities.

Brazil is among the countries in the world that are more affected by floods. Flooding makes up for 60% of all the natural disasters that occurred in Brazil during the 20th Century. Of these, 40% happened in the southeast region.

In July 2011, the federal government created the National Centre for Monitoring and Alerts of Natural Disasters (CEMADEN). This department is linked with the secretary of policies and research and development programs of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MCTI) located on the campus of the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) in Cachoeira Paulista, São Paulo. CEMADEN provides accurate information about risk areas related to landslides, heavy rainfall and flood events for the whole country.

Such pieces of information are elaborated from forecasts, detailed maps, satellite information and weather radars. Such data is processed to generate alert signals (from two to six hours) before the disaster occurs.



The Future We All Want

How can we help societies to move towards the direction of using natural resources wisely?

The challenge is huge and we need to work alongside both governmentand companies. But we, as citizens, can do our part. Think it over!

1 - Consumerism is a temptation and a very bad habit. It is one of the major factors that contribute for the shortage of natural reserves on the planet. Avoid replacing unnecessarily devices that aggregate high technology (mobiles for example) and reduce the consumption of disposable products.


2- Fluorescent lamps and LED lamps (light emitting diode) are economic, use less energy and last for longer than incandescents. Choose appliances marked as class A. They are more efficient in using energy.


3-Cellulose Paper Manufacturers consume a huge amount of water and energy. Thus, print what is really important and try to use both sides of the paper. Recycled papers must be used whenever possible.


4 - Gather together with your neighbors and people who live in your neighborhood. Ask politicians in your city for selective waste collection, recycling bins, and of course demand recycling.


5- Consumption of energy by electric shower is high. Thus showering must last no more than 10 minutes. This way you will save water and energy. Gas water heaters should be avoided as they emit greenhouse gases.


6-Be a responsible consumer. Look for information on companies and try to  find out whether they have committed environmental crimes. Sustainable attitudes are associated to recycling water, investment in innovative technology to reduce energy consumption and biodegradable products.


7-Practise citizenship wisely. Use the social networks to raise your voice. Demand of politicians and companies in your city, in your state and in your country to make sure that they are meeting all the necessary requirements for the conservation of biodiversity, hydric resources and soil in such a way that the great goal can be finally reached- sustainable development.


8-Use public transportation. Catch a lift with your friend and give a lift. Demand high quality means of transportation - buses, trains and subways. If you are not going too far use your bike or go on foot. It´s better for your health and the environment.



Content freely accessible to everyone. The pictures were made specifically for the booklet by Jean Galvao.

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Comments 1 to 13:

  1. Great to see updates on progress in international & national policy arenas, and dimensions of CC on international development. More of these type of posts please.
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  2. Interesting that in point 5 they say "Gas water heaters should be avoided as they emit greenhouse gasses". In Queensland, govt. regulations now require gas water heaters: we cannot replace our existing electric system with another electric one. I wonder whether the GHG emissions of a gas water heater (storage type, not on-demand) would be greater than the equivalent electric heater, taking into account generation costs and line losses etc. A solar hot water system with heat-pump backup might be the low emission choice, but not cheap.
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  3. Hi Doug! You raised a very interesting point. Thank you! Yes, solar water heating is by far the best option since this system will reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases. Coal is the main source of energy in Australia as far as I know which is a problem of major concern. Anyhow modern electric tankless water heaters are very efficient in terms of energy consumption and their units do not emit greenhouse gases.
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  4. Solar domestic hot water is the poster child example of how feckless we are in our energy habits in the United States. Point your browser to the following Google Maps link and cruise around. The location is Sun City, Arizona. Take a look at the rooftops. What's missing? What's under the roof of every single one of those dwellings, consuming about 20% of the household energy input? Meanwhile, Arizona's electrical generation capacity is overwhelmingly powered by fossil fuel including substantial coal generating capacity. Water heaters not using electricity as an intermediary between flaming coal and natural gas are just burning gas directly. When we look at Sun City AZ we're looking at a community of recalcitrant cavemen, just one town of thousands, a few hundred households of hundreds of thousands more. This is basically insane. Solar domestic hot water is deadly dull old-school technology, Joe-the-Plumber state of the art. Dollars and watt-hour equivalents are sleeting down from the sky in positively destructive quantities in Arizona and much of the rest of the United States yet we're so slothful and lazy we won't lay our hands out to grasp any of the free stuff. Crazy. Do we want to be losers? Do we deserve to be losers? Sometimes it seems we convey that impression.
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  5. Hi Doug! Well According to the National Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, Solar Water Heaters (SWH) can reduce both energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. The document is available here:
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  6. Yeah, Fabiano, and we've known this in the U.S. for decades. Lots of talk, no action! Other countries are not so crazy. I live in Seattle, have a shading problem w/our roof from trees but even so a minor amount of effort and money devoted to solar hot water heating eliminated about 40% of our domestic hot water energy consumption. Practically a worst-case scenario and still a substantial benefit.
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  7. Fabiano, thanks for the link to that pdf. I am reading it with interest. Here, in Queensland, solar energy systems for hot water and electricity enjoy government subsidies of various types. I am in favour of both uses of solar energy, but my budget does not yet stretch far enough to be able to afford the initial capital outlay, even though there is a long term payoff. If/when the carbon cost of electricity and gas are added to their consumption cost, I expect the equation to become a no-brainer. From a sustainability viewpoint, there must be embodied carbon costs and the consumption of non-renewables (such as metals and rare minerals) in supplying conventional water heaters and in solar systems, but I do not know what they are. If solar construction causes more damage to the environment than conventional, it would not be such a good idea.
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  8. Hi Doug! Thank you for your post! There are different types of water heaters. The best ones are made of durable material and the energy consumption for their production is low. They work very well and there´s little impact on the environment. You can make your own one as I did at home. If you´re interested please let me know so that I can give you some tips. My email is: Cheers, Fabiano.
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  9. In addition to Fabiano's generous offer of advice, folks who like to tinker and are interested in solar hot water systems might want to visit the website Build It Solar which has a marvelous compendium of solar energy information for DIY types. One key tip: if you're building a home or remodeling, take the opportunity to include a path for plumbing and wiring to the roof. Make it easier to install a system for yourself or somebody else in the future. This seemingly minor matter is a large driver of installation cost, often the largest.
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  10. Hi ljonestz! Thank you very much for your kind comment! Cheers, Fabiano.
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  11. Fabiano@8, one of the best, and now out of production was the Copper Cricket. . It's long been on my loooong list of "round tuits," to build one. Naturally, they are widely avaialble in China, and one sees them all over rooftops there.
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  12. Doug @#9 I agree: but not just to the roof. I created ducts with access points all round our house when I converted it. Also, do make them bigger than you imagine is necessary. The main spine I created was 450x300mm and I ended up completely filling it with all the services, including solar thermal and heat-recovery ventilation. What people always forget is the insulation which, done properly, takes up much more room than you'd expect. I'd say I open it up at least once a year to add a new cable or change something.
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  13. Doug@9: When I was a kid, my brainiac Dad and I would sit and have 'techy sessions,' looong before they were known as such! He had a design for a solar-heated house, dug into the north-facing side of a hill (south-facing, for you australopithecenes!), using these things he'd imagined; building "modules' of plywood and foam; now, we call'em SIPS. He envisaged using wind turbines, large batteries, and the use of propane appliances, in order to live 'off-the-grid,' another term that had not yet been invented. He told me how he would design a centalized column, (hollow) which would contain ALL the mechanicals (plumbing, electrical, HVAC) and with easy access on any floor. He had built some crude solar water panels back in the mid 30s, building his parent's a cabin in Foxpark, WY. He said they worked long as the sun shone! They were a single-loop one and unfortunaely, froze. He was way ahaead of his time, and though I dimly was awae how out-in-front he was, he didn't take the ideads much further, and now that I fully realize his genius, it's all gotten really costly! As I can, I'll slowly do a lot of this conversion to my home; just up the road from me is a very reliable and near-constant wind's called Wyoming!
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