It is likely that the widespread retreat of mountain glaciers, rising sea levels (low lying countries and islands may be submerged), record breaking summer temperatures - globally, and the increase of devastating natural disasters are all closely related to the speedy onset of global warming.
Over time it is expected that rainfall in Africa and the Middle East will drop, this means less water for drinking, cleaning and growing crops. It is also likely that the dangerous levels of Co2 in the Earths atmosphere along with these new weather patterns are directly linked to the actions of humans in the last century. If a serious commitment to the environment is not made within the next decade we can look forward to serious impacts of climate change. Not only are the physical environment affected, but also health, jobs, economies, cultures and communities.
Lets consider ideas for solutions that will positively change the way we live life on Earth, both on a personal and political level.
Environmental change will need to be embraced by every one of us on a large scale, a big part of that means convincing the government that it's important to the people of New Zealand to take positive action on environmental policies. These would include:
- Adopting greenhouse targets such as a 20% reduction of emissions by 2020 and 80% by 2050.
- Phase out coal. Reject the notion of "clean coal", a method that only shifts pollutants from one waste stream to another. Just recently the Department of Conservation gave the ok for a coal "conveyor" to be built from the Whangarei
- Port to Marsden B. This will go right through the Ruakaka Conservation Area and little has been done to ensure it will not be harmed.
- All polluters, including transport and agriculture, must pay for their greenhouse emissions. Money raised by polluters should be put towards viable renewable resources.
- New Zealand has one of the best wind energy resources in the world. According to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation authority there is enough wind here to produce three times our present annual power generation.
- Support forests. Tree planting in New Zealand is now exceeded by forest clearance. We need to stop dairy expansion and make land use changes.
As a community it is important to voice our concerns and by speaking to your local constituency to get change in motion. Write letters expressing your personal wish for the future.
Better yet, make an appointment with the MP in your area. Use it as a chance to get across the matters that mean something to you personally.
Ask for a commitment from them to take it to the next level. If you would like to find the electorate in your area you can go to: www.elections.org.nz/electorates/index-2.html
Do you know your Ecological Footprint?
Your ecological footprint calculates the number of hectares required to sustain your lifestyle. In New Zealand the average environmental footprint is 8.7 hectares per person. If we divide the planet among the worlds population and each was given as equal part we would only get 1.8 hectares, this includes "non-liveable" space, therefore actual space is even smaller. And smaller again if we take the effects of future global warming into consideration.
The more aware we are of our everyday life the more we are able to lessen our "footprint" on our environment. Things to take into consideration are Water, Transport, Paper use, Chemical use, Plastics and Food.
Earthday Network is a non-political organization whose goal is to educate all parts of society on what they can do to help the planet to find your footprint check their website www.earthday.net
Also consider the "What can I do" column at the end of this newsletter.
Vegetarianism and the environment
There is little doubt that the 1.3 billion cows and oxen, 0.9 billion pigs, 1.8 billion sheep and goats and 14.1 billion chickens can leave a deep ecological footprint on the world.
The production of meat is a larger burden for the environment than the production of vegetable products.
About 44% of the grain in the world is used as animal feed. Think of how many people we could feed if that land mass were used for growing food for human consumption. Animals have to eat 1.5 - 4.3 times more energy (fit for human consumption) than they can deliver.
Part of the agricultural soil used for animal agriculture consists of converted forest areas.
Deforestation does not only pose a problem in areas with tropical rain forest but does so around the world. Consequences include loss of cultural diversity, loss of biodiversity and indirectly contribute to the greenhouse effect because less carbon dioxide can be stored.
Though the greenhouse effect is essentially an entirely natural process, it is estimated that 64% of global warming worldwide is caused by carbon dioxide, followed by methane (20%), halogenic compounds (10%) and nitrogen oxide (6%). The majority of greenhouse gas emissions produced by agriculture are directly or indirectly related to animal agriculture.
The practice of pulling a fishing net through water behind boats, removes around 5 to 25% of an area's seabed life on a single run.
What can I do?
There are many simple things you can do that can make all the difference in the long run.
- Shop locally. Not only does it save on transport emissions, it supports local growers and businesses.
- Bring your own bags when shopping, preferably re-usable, and not plastic.
- Pack your kids garbage free lunches.
- Walk or bike any distance less then ten blocks.
- Research your power company and make the switch if they are not using clean, renewable energy. By switching you send a message to energy companies that we do not want to buy or support dirty electricity in any way. Meridian appears to be the 'cleanest' in Christchurch.
- Share newspapers or better still listen to the News on the radio or search the information you require on the net. You'll save trees.
- Boil only enough water for the amount of drinks you are making.
- Get fit and bicycle to work or school, use public transport or carpool.
- Use water like you're on a limited tank supply.
- Accept that it's ok for your car to be a little dirty.
- Mulch garden beds to keep in moisture, it also saves on weeding.
- Be aware of all chemicals you use and dispose of them safely.
- Buy from Piko's 'on tap' and 'open sack' sections to save on excess packaging.
- Think about the size of your fridge, car, home and even family (preferably before having them).
- Think about those 3 R's Reduce, Reuse and 'Recycle'.
- Educate yourself watch - Al Gores "An inconvenient truth" and "Fast food nation".
- Try out vegetarianism
- Be aware of the Earth everyday and of our effect on it. Awareness of our own impact, willingness to change, and spreading the word is what we are hoping this information will bring. Spread the word with enthusiasm, love and determination.