Sunday, 30 December 2007

Government is backing a campaign to grow GM crops in the UK

Our wonderful government is backing a new campaign to grow GM crops in the UK. Despite the health concerns of scientists, environmentalists and the general public our government is putting its weight behind the campaign. A senior government source said: "GM will come back to the UK; the question is how it comes back, not whether it's coming back". Julian Little. Chairman of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council said: "We have absolutely every confidence that GM will be used in the UK… It's worth remembering that there are approximately 100m hectares (247m acres) of GM crops being grown around the world by about 10 million farmers. There is absolutely no question at all that this is technology that is being seen to work in other countries and why on earth would you not want to be interested in the UK?… There is no question in our minds that we'll win".

Environmental groups have already taken a strong stance against the use of GM crops in the UK. Clare Oxborrow of Friends of the Earth said: "Unfortunately the public and media have thought we've won the battle and GM's gone away and people aren't really worrying about it at the moment. It certainly hasn't gone away". Graham Thompson of greenpeace UK said: "The population has comprehensively rejected GM in the UK and over most of Europe so they're constantly having to be as bullish as possible. The purpose of the crops primarily is to give intellectual property rights to biotech companies."

We all need to take a stand against GM crops. We need to lobby our MP’s now before it is too late. We are already exposed to toxic chemicals in our food chain, the last thing we need are GM crops. No-one knows the long-term consequences of GM crops, they simply have not been around long enough.

[Via The Guardian]

Friday, 28 December 2007

Climate change is happening faster than expected

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned in its new report that stopping global warming is now impossible. According to the IPCC, climate change has already happened with a 1.1 degree Celsius temperature rise already in the global climate system. The IPCC says that some major climate changes such as increases in flooding and in heatwaves cannot now be stopped because of this temperature increase. The IPCC goes on to say that world leaders have eight years to take the necessary action to begin reducing greenhouse gas emissions if they will have any chance of keeping the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius. The report gloomily predicts that greenhouse gas emissions will increase by up to 90% by 2030, and the EU’s target of stabilising the global temperature at 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels looks unlikely to be met.

The co-chair of the IPCC's working group II, Martin Parry, said the world had passed the point at which there was a "perfect solution… It is a choice between a damaged world and a more damaged world… Ten years ago we were all talking about our children and grandchildren. Now when you look at these impacts they will be in the lifetimes of people in [this] room." Scary stuff. If this doesn’t get world leaders moving on this problem, I don’t think any thing will.

[Via The Telegraph]

Thursday, 27 December 2007

MacDonalds tries to go green

McDonalds, an institution more commonly known for its poor environmental policies and damage to the planet is trying to ‘green-up’ its image by using waste from its restaurants to generate power. Whether this is enough to outweigh the environmental damage McDonalds inflicts on the world is another question. The idea is for a small pilot scheme using 11 of its restaurants in Yorkshire, which if successful will be rolled out to all the other McDonald sites. Waste from the restaurants in Sheffield, Rotherham and Barnsley will be shipped to Veola Environmental Services who will treat the waste at its Energy Recovery facility in Sheffield.

Steve Easterbrook, President and CEO of MacDonalds UK said: “As a progressive company, we are constantly trying to find ways to run our business in a more sustainable way. However, like many companies, we find that we are currently constrained by the lack of infrastructure needed to support initiatives like this across the UK… If the trial is successful we are keen to explore how we can extend it to other parts of the country as part of our ongoing efforts to improve our impact on the environment and local communities." Nice sentiment, but does it fit in with McDonald’s corporate strategy on environmental policies? You decide.

[Via The Telegraph]

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Carbon off-setting increasing child labour

In a bizarre twist on the viability of carbon off-setting, there is now evidence that some of the schemes are causing an increase in child labour in poorer countries. In an example of such a scheme, Climate Care is paying poor and impoverished families in India to stop using diesel-powered pumps to irrigate their fields and replace them with human-powered treadles instead. One family ‘benefiting’ from Climate Care’s scheme is the Ram family. Their six year old daughter and her four young brothers now work flat out in the searing sun to pump water into their family field. Climate Care is the company that sells off-sets to British Airways customers, so they can feel better about their long-haul flights.

Michael Buick of Climate Care admitted that children were working the pumps, but he said people had to focus on the benefits to the whole family. He went on to say his group was proud of its scheme, which had led to more than half a million foot treadles being sold, and had won several awards. Ashutosh Pandey of Emergent Ventures India, which advises companies on clean technology said: “The problem is the number of times child labour is involved… It’s not being monitored properly. It’s not reducing emissions. People are selling their diesel pumps to others who are using them.”
The effectiveness and overall impact of carbon off-setting needs to be reviewed. Carbon off-setting has to actually work, otherwise it is simply an exercise in assuaging people’s guilt.

First UK council to introduce new code of practice for Wi-Fi in schools

For the first time in the UK, Carmarthenshire County Council is drawing up a code of practice for the use of Wi-Fi in its schools. Councillor Ieuan Jones said: "We are going to monitor the situation as closely as we can because we all have these concerns. The dangers of these Wi-Fi connections are possibly along the lines of using hand-held mobile phones." Meryl Gravell, the council leader, said: "A code of practice is absolutely necessary. The safety of our children in school is paramount for all of us." The council is going to enforce this on all schools under its control, and hopes the code of practice will be adopted nationally. There is growing concern at the harmful effects of mobile phone and W-Fi radiation, especially to children. The government’s own health protection watchdog chief, Sir William Stewart called for an official review of the use of Wi-Fi in schools.

Unfortunately, the government has ignored Sir William’s advice, along with the mounting scientific evidence that shows radiation from Wi-Fi devices, mobile phones and their masts can cause numerous ill-effects, including cancer. Only last week the European Environmental Agency warned of the health risks of exposure to electromagnetic fields (from electrical devices and appliances) and electromagnetic radiation (from mobile phones and Wi-Fi) and recommended a reduction in the permitted levels of both. The German government is advising its citizens to use landlines rather than mobile phones and wired connections rather than Wi-Fi. And yet our government is telling us Wi-Fi and mobile phone use is perfectly safe. I know who I believe, and its not our government!

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Go ‘green’ in a Hummer

I know it sounds like a contradiction in terms, but yes, you really can go green in a big ol’ Hummer! Who says saving the planet means driving a small eco-car? Certainly not SAE Energy of Wichita, Kansas. SAE Energy are headed by Johnathan Goodwin and Larry Urry, who together founded the company to convert ordinary diesel and petrol cars to use alternative fuels and run more efficiently to reduce harmful emissions, oh and increase horsepower too.

What sets these guys apart is the fact that they take big traditional American fuel guzzling cars like the ubiquitous Hummer and other 4x4’s and convert them to run on various combinations of alternative fuels mixed with petrol or diesel using software and systems they perfected themselves. They use mostly standard factory produced parts and combine them with their clever in-house technology. Their incredibly innovative approach is getting them noticed, with an upcoming series on the Discovery Channel and a project for California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, their star is definitely on the rise.

Talking of Hummers, they are working on a 2005 H3 Hummer that will be dual-engined. One engine will be electric, the other will act as a turbine. Now here’s the clever bit, when the batteries are running low, the turbine will kick-in for a few minutes and recharge the batteries. The turbine will run on biodiesel, so the emissions are lower. In total, this particular Hummer will have twice the horsepower and yet it will get 60 miles to the gallon. Can you imagine, a 5,000 pound Hummer with 600 horsepower going from 0-60 in around 5 seconds? Hope the brakes are good! For us mere mortals, SAE Energy have developed a $5,000 add-on kit that can convert any diesel powered car to use 50% less fuel and produce 80% less emissions. –

I find it pretty amazing that these two guys working with limited finances and facilities are doing something the major US car manufacturers with all the money, staff and resources available to them have so spectacularly failed to do. SAE Energy has shown it is possible to make big powerful cars that are fuel-efficient and less polluting, so why aren’t the car makers doing it? I suppose it comes down to consumer demand, if consumers want greener cars and are prepared to put their money where their ethics are, then manufacturers will have no choice but to meet this demand.

ExxonMobil accused of ‘misleading advertising campaign’

Friends of the Earth (FoE) has just launched an online video called ‘The Exxon Files’, an animated spoof of the X-Files that gives the low-down on ExxonMobil’s funding of climate change deniers. There have long been suspicions, and even evidence of ExxonMobil giving millions of dollars to a variety of thinktanks, scientists and lobbyists to rubbish the science underpinning the human impact on global warming. FoE Europe campaigner, Christine Phol, said: "ExxonMobil invests millions of euros funding thinktanks and lobbyists committed to blocking internationally agreed policies to combat climate change whilst at the same time spending major sums on advertising designed to present itself as an environmentally responsible company." You can help the FoE campaign by watching the video and registering your support for their planned complaint to the Belgian authorities over ExxonMobil adverts at Brussels airport.

The adverts say that ExxonMobil is reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, but the company’s corporate citizenship reports shows an increase of 8.7 million tonnes of CO2 emissions between 2003 and 2006. Paul de Clerck, another FoE Europe campaigner, described the adverts as just one example of ExxonMobil's "deliberately misleading advertising campaign". He went on to say: "The 'greening' of oil giant Exxon is nothing more than a slick public relations exercise… Instead of spending millions (of euros) on manipulating the facts, they should make real efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions." Of course ExxonMobil denied the claims, their spokesperson said: “The recycling of this type of discredited conspiracy theory only diverts attention from the real challenge at hand: how to provide the energy needed to sustain and improve global living standards while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions” ExxonMobil’s response would be laughable if the issue of global warming wasn’t so serious.

[Via The Guardian]

UK power companies fail to tackle climate change

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has claimed that the UK’s biggest power companies are failing to deal with climate change. In its annual survey, the WWF rated the UK’s top six energy companies in order of their attempts to tackle climate change. Top of the league came Centrica (owner of British Gas) for tackling carbon emissions and promoting energy efficiency followed by Scottish Power for having the highest investment in renewable energy resources. They were followed by E.ON UK, Scottish and Southern Energy, EDF Energy and finally RWE Power. EDF Energy and RWE Power had demonstrated the least progress in tackling climate change, but even the companies at the top of the list still lacked the vision necessary to combat climate change.

WWF’s head of climate change, Keith Allott said: "If you combined the best elements of Centrica's and Scottish Power's strategies, you might begin to see a real leader pushing towards a green and efficient power sector… The power sector's emissions have been rising in recent years and many companies are focusing on building new fossil fuel or nuclear stations rather than providing efficient energy services and clean renewable energy." For all their ‘green’ claims, the power companies are still not doing enough. Maybe consumer pressure would spur them on. If enough consumers changed suppliers to the ‘greenest’ companies, the rest would soon change their attitude to climate change.

Via The Guardian]

Monday, 15 October 2007

Fear turns Catalina green

The small but idyllic Catalina Island is turning green. Catalina is a small island off the southern coast of California. It has a population of around 3500 mostly conservative and affluent citizens. Not exactly stereotypical green activists, but the people of Catalina are embracing change to help reduce their impact on global warming. Their aim is to reduce their carbon emissions to as near zero as possible and be as self-sustaining as possible.

The reason? One film by Al Gore, you know the one, “An Inconvenient Truth” and the fact that their island paradise will very likely be underwater if global warming continues at its present rate.

Fear is driving their desire for change. It is fear that is creating the impetus for real change. The good people of Catalina are looking at their lifestyles and making changes to help themselves, both as individuals and as a society. They hope to be an example of model living that will influence others across the USA. The fact that it is helping the planet may initially have been of little interest to them, but does it really matter? The end result is the same: they are causing less damage to the planet.

So perhaps what some people need to drive positive change is fear. Rather than appealing to people’s sense of duty or concern for the environment, we should be making them afraid of the consequences to them. A good dose of fear may save the planet where common sense has failed.

Cats and dogs go green

Love your cat? Love your dog? Love the planet? Now you can love all three equally at the same time! Animal Pure produce and sell natural and organic pet care products for all cat and dog owners that care about their pets as well as the environment. Inspired by their adopted dog Rick, who suffers from skin allergies, the good people behind Animal Pure developed a range of products that is both organic and as chemical free as possible.

The range is split into a small cat care range and a much bigger dog care range. I suppose dogs need more looking after than cats do. The range includes cat and dog beds, toys, grooming products, dog collars, leads and doggy herbal supplements. They even have eco-friendly coats to keep your dog dry and toasty warm in the winter.

Animal Pure’s products certainly look well-made, and are good value too. They have used recycled materials where possible, with extensive use of hemp and other natural materials to protect your pet and the environment.

The Great Global Warming Swindle appears to have been a swindle

How many of you watched ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle’ recently on channel 4? If you did, you will remember the whole programme was an attempt to portray global warming as a purely natural phenomenon caused primarily by solar activity. Even more disturbing, was the film-makers attempt to convince us the theory that global warming is being caused by human activity was false and basically a lie. Apparently we are all victims of a great big con.

Now it appears we were victims of a con. A con by the film-makers themselves. The programme has been referred to Ofcom, the regulatory watchdog, to consider a complaint by 37 scientists. The programme has been accused of misrepresenting the prevailing views and facts relating to global warming. Even one of the climate sceptics whose research work was used on the programme has accused the film-makers of broadcasting falsehoods.

I watched this programme with my partner and we were both shocked by the portrayal of global warming as nothing more than a natural cycle, the rising levels of carbon dioxide relegated to mere coincidence. It made us wonder at the time who was funding the programme and what their agenda was. Whatever it was, I found the whole thing irresponsible and detrimental to the cause of reducing the human activities associated with global warming. Nice one channel 4, way to save the planet.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

UK Ministry of Defence pays £12 million to identify potential climate change conflicts

In the UK, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) has agreed a £12 million contract with the Meteorological (Met) Office to identify areas of the world where climate change could cause conflict and pose security threats to the UK. The MOD needs to know both the locations of future conflicts and the environmental and climate outlook too for future military planning. The Met Office will use its expertise to determine areas that will be affected by global warming over the coming decades. The research will focus on two main possibilities, locations where drought could lead to food and water shortages and locations where previously unfertile land becomes fertile, either through rising temperatures or increased rainfall.

It is believed conflict could arise from both of these scenarios. The MOD’s chief scientific adviser, Roy Anderson said: "The MoD has identified climate change as a key strategic factor affecting societal stresses and the responses of communities and nations to those stresses. We have a pressing need for the best available advice on future climate change and, based on these predictions, assessments of the impacts of those changes on human societies at the regional and local scale." This particular project is only one part of a wider scheme to determine the effects of climate change globally and nationally. Defra, the environment department, has pledged £74m to help scientists provide more detailed forecasts of how UK weather is likely to change over the coming decades. The emphasis of the UK government has very clearly shifted from trying to determine if global warming is real to what the effects of global warming will be.

Computer models predict that the Middle East will become increasingly hotter and drier, with 30% less rainfall by 2010. In such a volatile area, increased drought will only add to the tensions and conflicts. With oil still the mainstay of Europe and the US economies, this is an area that is very likely to draw us into conflict.

Worryingly for the MOD, it is predicted that by the end of the century there could be as many as 130 days each year that are too hot for soldiers to operate.

In the US, a report for the government back in March warned that the US must be prepared to intervene in escalating crises around the world brought on by climate change. Global Business Network, a consultancy based in San Francisco said in their paper ‘Impacts of Climate Change’ “…crises may force the US as a global leader to act in situations that it might otherwise have preferred to ignore…to adopt a ‘pre-emptive’ approach to forestall the worst effects of collapsing ecosystems, water systems…”

Looking at the whole raft of measures the UK government is putting in place, it would appear that they are resigned to global warming and are looking at ways to deal with the impact rather than try to stop it happening. If this is the case in the US and other countries too, it looks like it is up to us as individuals to do everything we can to minimize our carbon emissions, both personally and with the products and services we buy.

Via The Guardian]

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Tories embrace the environment with new policies

The conservative party is fast becoming the party of the environment, with an 800-page report due to be published on Thursday outlining a raft of policies to make us all more environmentally friendly. The report promises to be bold and innovative in its approach to protecting the environment. There are proposals to ban electrical appliances that exceed precise limits on energy consumption. Another idea worth mentioning is to force manufacturers to fit appliances with devices that switch them off rather than leave them on stand-by. These are great ideas, they will force manufacturers to develop technology that is better geared to reducing climate change emissions.

The other important element of this policy document is the concept of increasing taxation on energy wasteful practices, such as buying big petrol guzzling cars and giving rebates to households that take positive steps to reduce their energy use. Some may see this as a cynical marketing ploy to attract voters, but I like to think that whatever the motivation behind the policies, as long as the policies are effective, it does not really matter.

[Via The Telegraph]

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Eco-housing gets a boost

The second largest house-builder in the UK, Persimmon has pledged to support the government’s plans for low carbon emission housing. The company has said it wants to help build the 3 million houses needed by 2020. They have agreed to introduce environmental measures in the new homes to try to get the zero carbon emissions standard the government wants. They are currently testing things like wind turbines and photovoltaic solar cell roof tiles. The company in return wants the government to change the planning laws to speed up the planning application process and make it easier for them to buy land to build on.

This may appear to be a worthwhile move by a building company, but is it? Building new homes with renewable energy technologies is a great idea and needs to be a statutory requirement for all new houses, not a marketing ploy by builders. The worrying element of this deal is the relaxation of the planning application law that could allow builders to use precious greenbelt land to build on. They are in effect holding the government to ransom. The government knows the country needs 3 million new homes, so they will have to cave-in to house-builders demands to ease planning and building restrictions.

[Via The Guardian]

Biofuel demand starts to hurt poorest communities

As predicted by many environmentalists recently, the demand for corn (or maize) for biofuel production has started to cause suffering among the poorest of communities. Western demand for biofuel is leading to higher prices and declining food stocks for people in the poorest countries. An example of this is Mexico, where demand for corn in the USA has increased dramatically since president Bush stated his aim that the US produce 35 billion gallons of biofuels by 2017. Corn is a main staple in the Mexican diet, and when the price jumped by 50% there were protests in the streets. The Mexican government had to step in and enforce a price freeze. As demand grows further there are fears that decreased stocks and price rises will create more problems in Mexico. As Doña Catalina, making and selling tortillas from her little shop says "Poor corn..It isn't meant to go in cars. It is meant to feed our children and our grandchildren. And their grandchildren too."

The scale of demand for biofuel crops such as corn is staggering. In the US alone there are already 121 ethanol biorefineries with a 76 under construction. Even so, this will only meet a third of president Bush’s quota of biofuel production. The whole international biofuel production process has to be managed effectively and fairly otherwise it will be another case of the richer developed countries inflicting suffering on the poorest countries to satisfy their own greed.

[Via The Guardian]

Solar powered watch to save the planet

In the Guardian today there is an article called ‘Top 10 green gadgets’ which I just happened to glance at while I was reading the more serious news items. Number six on the list is a Citizen solar powered watch. I never thought of a solar powered watch as something that could save the planet, but now I’m convinced. All I need to do now is persuade my partner that this is something I simply must buy to reduce the threat of global warming. The rationale behind this broad statement is that people tend to buy new watches quite frequently, many just replace their watch when the battery has died rather than have the battery changed. 18.4 million watches are sold in the UK alone in 2003, imagine how many are sold every year throughout the world. Having a watch like this one means you can keep the same watch for life, saving energy and resources, thereby protecting the environment. You can find these ‘green’ watches at Citizens website. They have women’s and men’s watches in sporty, classic and dress styles. My favourite is the perpetual calendar sports model for £299, so if Father Christmas is reading this, I’ve been good all year, honest!

Monday, 3 September 2007

Wind turbines in your backyard

There are many people, myself included that believe wind and solar power is a good solution to our energy needs. So far, the majority of wind farms have been planned and located in the countryside, far away from population centres. This does blight the countryside and affect the local wildlife and population, but for the majority of people there is no consequence apart from greener electricity. Local councils and residents have in the past, and continue now, to campaign against wind farms in their local area. All that is about to change. Ecotricity have started a new policy of seeking planning permission to install wind turbines in urban areas. This makes it far easier for them to get planning permission approval. Apparently urban populations do not oppose wind turbines and local residents have little objection to them. I suppose this is because we are used to having big ugly structures all around us in cities, whereas in the countryside people are more used to living in a beautiful and peaceful environment. Whatever the reasons are, this is a good move by Ecotricity and will mean more green electricity for more people without spoiling the countryside.

[Via The Guardian]

The real cost of distressed denim

Distressed denim may be all the rage in the fashion world at the moment, but the style comes at an environmental and human cost. In Tehuacán in Mexico it is the local people that pay price for our fashion. Once famous for its mineral springs and spas, Tehuacán, the ‘City of Health’, is now home to around 700 clothes manufacturers, many with little or no environmental controls or standards. Workers are routinely exploited, their employee rights ignored. The worst environmental culprits are the dozens of factories that make the faded or distressed denim that is so fashionable right now. The chemicals used in the process are discharged into the rivers and streams around the factories, turning the water blue and damaging the crops that depend on the water systems.

The main chemical used is potassium permanganate, a strong bleaching agent that was once used to induce abortions. Mariano Baragán, a local farmer said: "As well as being blue, it burns the seedlings and sterilises the earth." The government agencies that should be monitoring the factories are allowing this to happen, probably because the local economy depends on the factories, and their foreign corporate customers. It is these corporations that should be enforcing stricter controls on their client factories to protect both the workers and the environment. We as customers ultimately have the power to change this with our buying power. We chould only buy products from ethical and fairtrade companies.

[Via The Guardian]

Climate change hits Inuit way of life

Climate change is something that we sometimes perceive as abstract and a bit unreal at the moment, in our country at least. We have not really had to experience the devastating effects of global warming on our way of life, yet. For the Inuit people of Canada, Greenland, Alaska and Russia’s far east, climate change is real and it is current. Rising temperatures, melting ice and rising sea levels are affecting entire communities and their traditional way of life. This is not something that they need to worry about in the future, this is their reality now. Sheila Watt-Cloutier, the former president and international chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC) is trying to raise awareness of the effect of global warming to her people. She talks about increasing numbers of hunters falling through the ice. She explains about her neighbour: “He fell through the ice and found him two days or three days later when his legs were frozen…

…It's a remarkable story because he is an experienced hunter yet even he couldn't read the condition of the ice. What you see on the surface of the ice may look like what you've been taught for generations, but the ice is forming differently because the Arctic sink is warmer”

She goes on to say: “In Baffin, yes, the floe edge is much closer than before. In Greenland, the ice sheet is melting much faster than anything that they have ever experienced in the past few years. Alaska has been hit very hard as communities are literally falling into the sea.” This really brings home to me how important it is for us to do everything we can to reduce our own carbon footprint. It is not just about us, and our future, it is about other people around the world and their present. We owe it them.

[Via The Guardian]

Offshore wind farms are a danger to whales and dolphins

Offshore wind farms are expected to account for around 20% of our electricity needs by 2020, which is good news for the government as it is at least one target they may be able to meet and it is good news for the planet as it means reduced carbon emissions and lower global temperature rises, which makes it good news for us too. Unfortunately these constructions are very likely to harm whales and dolphins, both during construction and in the longer term. A report by the Whale and Dolphin Society states that during construction, the noise can be heard up to 80km away and at closer ranges whales and dolphins can have their hearing damaged and can exhibit dramatic behavioural changes. Once the wind farms are in full operation, the noise from the service boats will continue to cause damage to marine life.

As a vegan, I do not want to see any living creature caused pain or suffering. On the other hand, global warming if left unchecked will do incredible harm to many life forms, humans included. Is this a lesser of two evils? I personally do not think so. We created the mess we’re in, and we should sort it out without causing harm to animals or people. We should endeavour to find solutions the climate change that are ethical and fair to all living creatures.

[Via The Independent]

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Government policy on climate change lacking

The Commons Environmental Audit Committee has urged the government to take more effective and co-ordinated action to reduce the emissions that are causing climate change. The cross-party group of MP’s on the committee believe that government policy is becoming incoherent and the measures put in place do not go far enough.

The government has set the UK a target of reducing carbon emissions by 60% of 1990 levels by 2050 in a legally binding plan under the draft Climate Change Bill. The government believes that this will be sufficient to keep global temperature rises to 2 degrees Celsius. The most recent research however suggests that this level of reduction will not be enough to achieve the 2 degree Celsius rise the government wants. Even if this was enough, the UK’s carbon emissions have risen rather than fallen, making it highly unlikely that the government’s own target will be met.

The committee points to series of failings on the government’s policy towards meeting not just its own targets, but also its Kyoto commitments. The problem is, people are not prepared to take the necessary steps as individuals, and the government is wary of introducing regulation for fear of becoming even less popular. It is a strange situation really, most people agree that something needs to be done to stop the rise in global temperature, but no one really wants to do much about it, other than easy token gestures.
[Via The Independent]

Website helps you to reduce CO2 from your car

There are a few simple steps you can take to reduce the environmental impact of driving your car. By choosing the right car and driving the right way you can cut down CO2 emissions.

The Department of Transport in association with What Car? magazine has launched a website with details of the most fuel efficient cars in all classes. The website lets you input the type of car you are interested in and it gives you details of the top 10 in the class for fuel efficiency and emissions. The car categories are: Supermini, Small family, Family, Estate, MPV, Compact Executive, Executive, Coupe, Open-top, Hot hatch, Compact 4x4, Large 4x4, Luxury and Performance Car. These categories were developed by What Car? magazine, to cover the majority of cars people will buy.

According to the website, if drivers follow their Smarter Driving Tips, CO2 emissions from their existing cars could reduced by 8%, and even better, if drivers buying new cars bought the most fuel efficient in its class, it could lead to a 24% reduction in CO2 emissions from new cars. It just goes to show that by taking very simple steps we can reduce our individual carbon footprint.

Water transport promises greener way

Using coastal waters and the canal system to transport goods around the country can produce 80% less carbon emissions compared to road haulage according to a report by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee. That would be a pretty massive reduction in carbon emissions if all UK companies would switch form road to water freight. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to happen because of the higher costs involved.

Despite British Waterways promising to double the freight carried on water by 2010, the amount carried by water has dropped from 4.3m tonnes to 3.4m tonnes between 2000 and 2005. The British Waterways agency believes this is because it is uneconomic to transport goods by water in comparison.

The obvious answer would be for the government to increase the tax on road haulage to make water haulage more attractive. The government increases taxes all the time, so this would fit in nicely with their tax ethos. The other way to get more freight on Britain’s waterways is to give subsidies or tax breaks to firms using water haulage.

If the government is at all serious about reducing the UK’s carbon emission levels, this would be a very easy option to take. It may mean a slight increase in prices, or slightly less profit for the companies, but compared to the alternatives, this is a small price to pay.

[Via The Guardian]

Velib cycle scheme hits Paris

Paris is trying out a cycling scheme first developed in Lyon, which looks like a good way to reduce city centre congestion and therefore pollution and carbon emissions. The Velib scheme has 10,600 bikes located at 750 docking stations, with plans to increase this to 20,600 by the end of the year. The docking stations are located at 300m intervals, mainly at transport hubs and popular sites. Commuters can pick up a bike at a docking station and return it to any other docking station. The first half hour of use is free, but after that there is an incremental charge for every additional half hour of use. Users of the scheme can book a Velib pass online or at stations, costing a mere €1 for a day pass, €5 for a weekly and €29 for a yearly, this is an inexpensive and environmentally friendly way of getting to and from work.

The Velib scheme is part of Paris’s mayor Bertrand Delanoë’s aim to reduce car traffic by 40% by 2020. The mayor has already had an extra 200km of cycle paths built, and plans to double the number of cycle lanes by 2008. This popular scheme is a good model for other towns and cities to follow. Creating more cycle paths makes cycling safer and more attractive to commuters. This is a simple way to reduce carbon emissions and get people fitter and healthier at the same time.

[Via International Herald Tribune]

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Recycling organic waste into compost

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in the early 1990’s launched an initiative to recycle domestic and industrial waste as compost for local farms. The Land Network was pioneering the use of recycled domestic and industrial waste as compost. This could have been a hugely popular and effective scheme, but due to the complex and weighty regulations, the uptake has been minimal. Instead of the projected 3,000 farms using the system, only 16 farms managed to get past the red tape and use the scheme last year. The point of the scheme was to use the 100 million tonnes of organic waste we produce each year to make compost for Britain’s farms. It was hoped that this would reduce the £1 billion a year spent on importing chemical fertilizers into the country. £1 billion adds up to a huge amount of chemical fertilizer, which in turn amounts to a massive amount of toxic chemicals introduced into the environment.

The scheme has many benefits. Local authorities can save the money that would be spent on dealing with the organic waste, the farmers save money because they do not have to pay out for fertilizers and the food grown with organic compost is more nutritionally beneficial. Reducing the use of chemical fertilizers helps the environment, because they leach toxic nitrates into the soil and pollute rivers and water supplies, and the transport of fertilizers across the world creates CO2 emissions. All in all this was a terrific idea that needs a little work to make it accessible to Britain’s farmers.

[Via The Telegraph]

Gadget swapping parties (not just for men)

Clothes swapping events have been going on for some time now, we read about them everywhere. This is great for all you ethical fashionistas, but what about us ethical techies? we want to do our bit to save the planet too! Well, now there is something for us too, Cadge-IT swapping parties. The concept of Cadge-IT is to get a group of guys to bring their unwanted electrical gadgets, power tools, sports kit, basically whatever they have bought and no longer want, have a few drinks and then swap stuff.
According to YouGov, each household has around £460 worth of unused products, which adds up to £9 billion nationwide.

That’s £9 billion worth of products buried and forgotten in people’s lofts and garages. Rather than waste it, swap it should be the message for everyone. It’s a simple and fun idea that will help towards reducing climate change gas emissions. Although the idea is aimed at men, I’m sure women will participate in our gadget parties before too long!

[Via The Independent]

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

African organic farms under threat

Starting Monday 23rd July, the Soil Association (SA) is debating the merits of banning the certification of African organic produce due to the CO2 emissions created by the aircraft that fly the produce to our stores. The SA is hearing views on the issue until September, when it will act to impose either a limited or total ban. There is pressure from UK farmers to impose the ban. If the SA imposes a ban on the labelling of African organic produce as organic, it will effectively destroy the livelihood of millions of people across Africa. There are a number of reasons why such a move would be immoral, and would do little to protect the environment.

The farmers in Africa that have worked for years to get organic certification create on average 30 times less CO2 than UK citizens (World Bank figures). They see the West as the main contributors to climate change, yet they are the ones being punished for it. London's Cranfield University in a recent study calculated that roses grown in Kenya saved more CO2 than if the flowers were grown in Holland. This is because of the greater use of renewable energy sources in Kenya compared to the high energy consumption in Holland. Even factoring in the CO2 from the air transport, the African produce has still created less CO2 emissions than the European produce.

Airlines attacked by MP’s

British airlines have been criticised by MP’s for not doing enough about carbon offsetting. Whenever I see politicians accusing others of ‘not doing enough’ about climate change the phrase about ‘pot, kettle and black’ pops into my head for some reason. Aircraft produce greenhouse gases, and until the engines that power the aircraft are developed sufficiently to produce less greenhouse gas emissions, there is not much the airlines can do about it. Carbon offsetting is both unproven and unreliable in reducing CO2 emissions. The government pushing the airlines to promote carbon offsetting will not necessarily reduce climate change. This just looks like another token effort to give the appearance of effective action.

The aviation industry is a contributor to climate change because people want the convenience of flying to any destination whenever they want to. We as a society and as individuals have to decide if we value our planet more than our way of life. The two are simply incompatible at the moment. The way we are choosing to live is damaging the planet, and the more our population grows, the more damage we do. It all comes down to how much we are prepared to change to save our future.

[Via The Telegraph]

Europe’s greenest city is in Sweden

The Swedish city of Växjö has been awarded the European Union’s award for sustainable development. Växjö is very likely the greenest city in Europe, with a level of 3.5 tonnes of carbon emissions per person, it is the lowest of any urban area in Europe. The average in Sweden is around 5 tonnes, and in the USA it is 20 tonnes. This puts into perspective how environmentally friendly Sweden is generally. The city decided ten years ago to become a fossil fuel free city and set itself a target date of 2050 to achieve this. Their electricity power plant runs on biomass, using woodchip and other wood waste from the local sawmills. The plant not only provides electricity, but the hot waste gas is condensed and purified then pumped around the town to supply water boilers and room heaters.

This is an incredibly efficient use of the local resources and shows the kind of joined up thinking that is needed to get the most out of our limited resources. The next step for the council is to get the local people to change from petrol powered cars to more environmentally friendly cars. I have no doubt the good people of Växjö will go even further in reducing their impact on the environment. Växjö is certainly leading the way to a greener way of living.

[Via The Independent]

The increase in rainfall is due to human activity

A new paper published in the journal Nature today has concluded that human activity is causing the global shifts in rainfall patterns and contributing to both the wetter weather and hot dry weather we are experiencing. This is something most people felt was true anyway, but this is the first important study to show the direct link between human activity and increased rainfall. The research was carried out by the Hadley Centre of the UK Met Office in conjunction with a number of national climate research institutes. The study looked at weather records from around the world going back to 1925 and used 10 computer models to predict the weather changes. The only models that could explain the recorded change in rainfall were the ones that factored in human induced climate change.

So there you have it, evidence that we have altered the planet’s weather systems and made our own lives more difficult. The worrying thing is there may be worse to come. Hopefully the government will take the flooding seriously enough to spend the money to improve flood defences and set up a flood response unit that can quickly send assistance to the affected areas.

[Via The Guardian]

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Energy firms want government money for carbon capture research

The main electricity generating companies involved in the development of carbon capture technology have asked the government to give them £1 billion to help with project costs. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is the process of capturing the CO2 emissions from large producers like power plants and then compressing and storing the CO2 in deep geological formations or in deep oceans. The technology to capture the CO2 exists, but the actual storage of the compressed CO2 is new and untested. This is the area energy companies want the government to invest in. Although this will eliminate around 90% of the CO2 from power stations, the process itself is energy intensive, costly, and will produce its own CO2 emissions. Whether CCS gives an overall reduction in CO2 emissions is still to be demonstrated.

BP has already abandoned its plans to build an experimental hydrogen plant using carbon capture in the North Sea due to government inaction. Other companies are threatening to do as BP has done and shelve their plans for CCS plants unless the government coughs up the money. Should the government, and by extension us the taxpayers, give money to private companies to carry out research that will benefit them and make them money? I suppose if the government doesn’t meet the costs of the project, the companies could always put their prices up to recover the costs anyway. Either way, we end up paying for the whole thing. It CCS actually helps the planet, then maybe it is just worth it.

USA looks to new technology to reduce climate change

I know the accepted view of the USA’s efforts to reduce climate change is poor to say the least. And yes, I know it is pretty easy to take swipes at President Bush and his environmental policies, after all, he has steered the USA away from any global climate control treaties over the last few years. On the surface, it does look like President Bush is putting the US economy before the planet. Maybe there is truth in these perceptions, but, to give credit where it is due, the US Department of Energy (DOE) is spending money on research into new technologies that promise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from industrial processes.

One such area of research is CO2 sequestration. Nine specially selected projects have received a total of $24 million to develop technologies that will allow CO2 to be captured and safely removed from coal-fired power stations’ emissions. This is a fascinating area of research, and once the technology is fully developed, should make it easier for the USA to reduce its CO2 emissions without having to drastically change or impair their economic performance.

In combination with changes to the way people use energy, this kind of technology, if it comes online soon enough, can make a real difference to the growing problem of climate change. The beauty of this kind of approach is that it can be exported to big emitters like India and China and allow them the economic growth they need to sustain their populations whilst minimising their impact on global warming. Hopefully with enough research into ways of reducing CO2 emissions from existing processes and research into new energy sources, we may just beat global warming.

UK MP’s consider legislation to force employers to pay a ‘living wage’

A group of MP’s is calling on the government to introduce legislation to force UK companies to pay their overseas staff a ‘living wage’ and give them employment rights and protection. The MP’s want UK firms to offer their staff around the world the same kind of rights UK workers are accustomed to. This follows a report by the Guardian that highlighted the working conditions at factories in Bangladesh that make products for Asda, Primark and Tesco. Some of the workers earn as little as 4p an hour and are forced to work up to 80 hours a week. The workers reported instances of abuse by supervisors and sackings for being off work when sick.

These kinds of practices are outlawed in the UK, yet UK companies allow their suppliers to use such exploitative practices that they border on slavery. The government and retailers point to the Ethical Trade Initiative, which is a voluntary code of practice with guidelines of 48 hour working weeks, maximum 12 hours overtime and a living wage, but this is clearly not working.

I know retailers are in competition, and at the lower end of the market, price is the main attraction for shoppers, but at what cost to the people that make the products?
We in the UK and the rest of the developed world can afford to pay a fair price for everything we buy. We do not really need to exploit the world’s poorest people so we can save a few pennies on a pair of jeans. At the higher end of the market, where clothes can be extortionately expensive, is it really necessary to exploit the workers? When a pair of jeans can cost over £100, is it right to pay the workers something like 10p an hour?

Like many of the government’s voluntary codes pf practice introduced to allow companies to self-regulate, they simply do not work. It should be pretty obvious to anyone that in a commercial organisation the primary motivator is making as much profit as possible. Workers’ rights, especially workers that are beyond UK law, are an irrelevance. Surely the only reason UK companies outsource work to third world countries is the low production costs involved, one factor of which is the low wages they pay the workers. The only way workers’ rights can be improved is through government action and legislation to ensure UK companies apply the same rules to workers abroad as they do in the UK. Ideally there need to be legal minimum standards for all workers that are applied across the world.

[Via The Guardian]

Public transport costs rise as motoring costs drop

The benefits of going green are not lost on businesses and governments. Green has political capital right now. Green sells and green gets votes. The UK government likes to talk up its green credentials, to be in effect the government that cares for the planet. There seem to be new sound-bites and new initiatives to tackle climate change coming out all the time.

This may play well in the papers and on the television news, but in reality are these just more empty words and token gestures? Looking at the government’s transport policy, it would appear to be just another smokescreen to keep the public placated. In the last 30 years, the cost of travelling by car has fallen by 10% while the cost of travelling by train and bus has risen by 50%. Not exactly the best way to get people out of their cars and onto public transport! In the last 10 years, motorists have driven up to 270 billion miles a year, which any way you look at it adds up to a massive amount of CO2 emissions.

Is there a simple solution? As our population grows and people become wealthier, more people will own and drive cars. To compound the problem, there is the perception that public transport is more dangerous, especially for women travelling on their own, and of course there is the stigma of not owning a car and having to get on a bus or train. This is a complex problem, and will involve a culture change among many people. The car has been promoted as a sign of independence and status, for some people it defines who they are. The government can help by improving public transport generally and by making it cheaper and safer. They can even risk the wrath of motorists and increase the cost of driving, but that I think will be step too far for any government that depends on voters to stay in power. In the end it will come down to individuals making choices that either help reduce climate change or increase climate change.

[Via The Independent]

Sunday, 15 July 2007

London could be plastic bag free

London’s council leaders have put together a proposal to either ban plastic bags from shops or introduce a 10p levy. The proposal has been agreed by all 33 local authorities in London and will be put to parliament in November. This is possibly the best idea to come from the London Councils in a long time. Unfortunately, the government does not share the councils concern for the environment and is likely to oppose the move. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is also opposed to proposal. We use around 10 billion plastic bags a year in the UK, which adds up to a huge environmental impact.

Defra have made an agreement with retailers to reduce the numbers of plastic bags they use by a quarter by 2008. A Defra spokesperson said “This agreement is working, with retailers offering shoppers reusable bags for life. We don't think a ban or a levy is the right way to go” The question is why not? In Ireland a levy of 20p per plastic bag has reduced the numbers used by 90%. The same Defra spokesperson said that in Ireland the use of bin liners has gone up as a result of the plastic bag tax. This seems a strange correlation to me, but they’re the experts. I think we Londoners should lobby our MP’s to get this 10p tax on plastic bags into effect as soon as possible.

[Via The Guardian]

Friday, 13 July 2007

Electricity firms are trying out new Smart meters

Four major UK electricity suppliers has signed a contract with the government to install 40,000 smart meters as part of a two year trial. The government is giving £10 million towards the costs of this. The purpose of the trial is to determine whether smart meters actually reduce people’s electricity consumption. It is hoped the smart meters will help people change the way they use electricity.

The smart meters will have a clip-on display unit that shows electricity use in real time. This means the consumer can see exactly how much each appliance is costing them to run. Whether this will make people change the way they use electricity remains to be seen. I’m sure people will be more likely to turn off lights and appliances on stand-by once they see how much it is costing them. The aim is to have every home fitted with smart meters by 2017.

The consumer watchdog energywatch believes this is inadequate and has asked the government to make all new and replacement meters smart meters. This makes so much more sense. Why install new meters and replace existing ones with ordinary meters, then in a few years time have to go through the whole process again and replace them all with smart meters. The only reasons I can see for this is that with the existing meters the electricity companies can give estimated bills and can make more money by over estimating electricity use, and if they install smart meters people will use less electricity so they will make less profit. It seems like a strange thing for any retailer to do, to ask their customers to buy less of their product! Maybe the government needs to bring in legal requirements for the use of smart meters.

[Via The Guardian]

People lead the way in saving the planet

There is a quiet revolution taking place, right under our noses. Change is happening throughout the land. As public awareness of climate change grows, more ordinary people are making changes to their lifestyle to at least try to save the planet. Although the effects are limited when viewed at an individual level, when taken as a whole, the cumulative results are much greater. Little things like people drying their clothes in the old fashioned way on a washing line rather than using a tumble dryer can make a huge impact on electricity use. An average tumble dryer creates 1.5kg of CO2. Taken over a year this figure is far from negligible, taken across the country the figure is pretty significant.

Using a washing line creates none. Asda have reportedly sold 1.2 million clothes pegs between January and April of this year, an increase of 1,400% on the same period last year, and ales of clothes lines and rotary dryers is up by 147%. So, it becomes obvious that every little change we make to reduce our carbon footprint is worth doing, no matter how small it may seem to us as an individual, because as a society if we all make these small changes, we can make a big difference to our future.

[Via The Independent]

Having too many children can damage the environment

I know that traditionally, having children is pretty much down to each individual and there has never been any statutory control in this area. A new report by the Optimum Population Trust has been published earlier this week that states families should have a maximum of two children, as any more is damaging to the environment. I know this smacks of interference into people’s lives, but maybe if people are being reckless in their behaviour and damaging the planet, which let’s face affects us all, there does need to be some kind of regulation in place.

The think-tank have worked out that over an 80 year lifespan, the average UK child will create the equivalent carbon footprint of 620 of return flights to New York. When you factor into the equation that each child will have their own children, the carbon footprint gets even bigger. As well as their carbon footprint, there is the use of the Earth’s resources, water and food. The fact that the world is overpopulated is open to question, some people would like to believe the Earth can support an ever growing population. The think-tank obviously believes the world is not big enough to support the human population as it stands, and as it grows, the world will struggle to support us all.

The report has been met by some as an intrusion into their freedom to live their lives as they wish. But, is an individual’s right to freedom of lifestyle more important than the good of the wider community? Where is the line that separates freedom of choice and global responsibility? The government will in the future have to decide where to step in to perhaps curtail personal choice for the greater good. Scary thought, but it may have to happen some day as resources become limited.

[Via The Guardian]

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Personalise your style with Armour Sans Anguish

We all want to be a one-off and now you can be with Armour Sans Anguish (clothing without sorrow), the brainchild of two fashion forward girls called Tawny Holt and Julie Edwards, who are both passionate about one-of-a-kind, recycled and sweatshop free clothing. Deconstructed vintage style is their forte and looking through their collections (which get snapped up pretty quick), Armour Sans Anguish excel at it.

Julie is a consummate pro when it comes to repurposing old items, having acquired the skill of thriftiness from a very early age. Tawny majors in Cultural Anthropology and Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz and has always loved making things.

Online eco-store BTC Elements are currently selling a beautiful Armour Sans Anguish, 'Layered and Lovely' reconstructed tulle dress, created from reclaimed and secondhand fabric, for $200. If you're a fan, get purchasing now, before it sells out, like all their other beautiful creations.

[Via ethicalfashionista]

Live Earth saves the planet

If music be the food of love for the Earth, then play on…The whole world must have known about Live Earth, but unfortunately most of the world was watching something else on their television sets. The idea of rock concerts across seven continents simultaneously broadcast to a potential audience of 2 billion people to get across the message that we all need to do our part in saving the Earth is a worthy one. We can only applaud the efforts of Al Gore to take the message to as much of the world’s population as possible. Getting the audience to add their names by text or email to a worldwide petition is inspired.

The number of music stars that gave their time freely must show how much they care about the environment, mustn’t it? I mean, their lifestyles are so green and ethical aren’t they? Maybe I’m being cynical, but I tend to think that what matters is action rather than words. Being on a stage telling people to save the planet is easy, taking the steps to achieve it are much harder. I’m sure doing this concert will do wonders for their eco credentials and no doubt the television exposure must have been worth a fortune in PR

The only problem is, names on a list will not change the world. After the concert, people will still get into their cars to drive home via a fast food restaurant to eat processed meat products and go home to their normal lives. What will change because of this concert? How many people will change their lifestyle because of Live Earth?

The problem of rising global temperatures is so huge now that only drastic action by everyone is going to make the difference. Token gestures just will not cut it I’m afraid. Are we prepared to make the changes, even if they mean sacrificing our lifestyles? I think not. People are too comfortable with their way of life to take the steps needed to save the Earth.

UK farmers want to lead the way with biofuel crops

Where many environmentalists see the surge in biofuels as something to be cautious with, the UK’s farming industry wants to expand into growing crops for biofuels. British farmers see this as an opportunity to go from a subsidised farming industry to a competitive and successful market-driven one. The UK has already fallen behind the USA and other European countries in the uptake of biofuel crops and green fuels in general. The National Farmer’s Union’s vice president, Paul Temple was dismissive of fears that using food crops for biofuel would push up food prices, saying that it was “absolute nonsense” put about by food processors. He went on to say “This is a big win for both urban and rural economies because we already produce significant exportable surpluses at the bottom end of the market…biofuels offer farmers the chance to move out of the subsidised economy to the market economy but the UK has been slow out of the blocks compared with Germany, France and America." Great for the farmers, and the taxpayers that subsidise them, but what about the world’s poorer communities?

His view is at odds with a United Nations report prepared with input from all 30 of its organisations. The report believes the rush to expand the use of biofuels will not only increase deforestation, but will push small farmers off the land and lead to serious food shortages and increased poverty among the world’s poorest communities unless the whole thing is carefully managed. Judging by past experience the biofuel revolution will not be ‘well managed’ but will instead be profit driven rather than environmentally driven.

[Via The Guardian]

Advocates For Animals takes on Tesco

Why is it that animals are loved by most people, yet their suffering is tolerated by the majority? We all recoil at the RSPCA adverts on the television that show cats and dogs in awful states, yet how many of us think about the farm animals that are kept in the most torturous conditions? When people tuck into their breakfast eggs and bacon do they think about the suffering of the animals they are eating? Advocates for Animals is one of Britain’s leading animal protection organisations and provides a voice for animals. They campaign against animal cruelty in all its nasty, horrid forms.

Which brings me unfortunately onto the topic of battery hens. We all know how cruel the treatment of chickens is on factory farms, yet supermarkets still support the practise of keeping chickens in tiny cages with barely room to move. One of Tesco’s egg suppliers has been exposed by Advocates for Animals for keeping up to eight chickens in wire cages that are legally only permitted to hold a maximum of five. It is bad enough that chickens are kept in cages for their entire life, unable to stand up properly or to stretch their wings or legs, but to cram even more into these tiny cages is criminal.

Advocates for Animals has launched its ‘Go Cage-Free’ campaign to try to persuade Tesco to stop selling eggs from caged hens. The campaign will focus on educating the public about the plight of caged hens and visiting Tesco stores in 16 towns to spread their message.

The supermarkets have the buying power to dictate to farmers how they treat their livestock. It is about time supermarkets used their clout to ensure that all farmers they deal with treat their livestock with humanity and stop the barbaric practises of factory farming. If supermarkets are unsure about this issue, maybe we can help them to decide by not buying eggs from caged hens. The supermarkets depend on us for their profits, so if we spend our money ethically, they will have to change their policies. We can make the difference!

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Reducing farm animals methane production

The easiest way to reduce climate change gases in the atmosphere is for all humans to become vegan. That is pretty much a very simple and painless way to reduce global warming gases. Obviously this is not going to happen, so scientists are working on ways to make cows and sheep produce less methane. Did you know that a quarter of all the methane produced by human activity comes from farm animals?

There are differing approaches to this problem around the world. In Germany for example, scientists at Hohenheim University have developed a plant-based pill that is combined with a special diet to reduce the methane cows produce by converting it to glucose. In New Zealand and the UK, the approach taken is to get farmers to grow different types of grass that have high levels of sugar. This diet of sugar rich grass changes the way bacteria in the animals’ stomachs break down plant material into waste gas. The problem with this type of grass is that it is more difficult to grow, so scientists are trying to make a genetically modified version which is hoped will be easier to grow. Which in effect is getting GM crops into the food chain through the back door.

The obvious answer to this particular methane gas problem is for people to stop eating meat and dairy products. The complex and expensive answer is to change the animals diet with pills and GM feed. Guess which one is more likely to happen?

[Via The Guardian]

The darker side of the biofuel ‘green’ revolution

Biofuels have been touted as the green alternative to petrol for some time now. A number of governments, ours included, have set targets for the uptake of biofuels in the next few years as a means of reducing their countries CO2 emissions. Unfortunately in doing this they have opened the door to unscrupulous and unethical businesses to exploit both the planet and people. Just one example of this is taking place in Uganda. The Mehta sugar corporation wants to expand its sugar cane plantations for biofuel production.

This may sound like a good thing, but that is far from the truth. The Mehta sugar corporation wants to expand its operations into the Mabira Forest Reserve. At the moment the reserve is protected by law due to its importance to the country’s eco system, the forest is home to 300 bird species and many rare primates, and the forest stores CO2.

The Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni said that handing the forest over to the Mehta group would create jobs and boost the competitiveness of the sugar industry in the area. Again the conflict between the environment and the needs of the economy area at odds. Can there ever be a convergence of economic need and environemntal need? I think there can, but the element of greed has to be removed from the equation. I believe there can be compassion and ethical conduct in business. There have been protests against this in Uganda, and in April three people were killed at a demonstration. The push for biofuels is creating the conditions for exploitation of the world’s forests and increased hunger in the developing world as more agricultural crops are sold for biofuel production, creating food shortages and inflated prices.

Is the West’s drive to convert to biuofuels actually going to reduce the global levels of CO2 or is it merely reducing emissions from some countries so they can meet their targets and increasing emissions in others? The overall net effect may be a rise in CO2 emissions if we’re not careful.

[Via The Independent]