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]