Welcome to Future FootprintHello and welcome to FutureFootprint, the place on the net for people with an environmental conscience! This is still a bit of a work in progress but the idea is to do a regular blog on current environmental issues and easy ways you can help save the planet in your everyday life. Also do check out our Mythbusting section which takes all those stupid environmental myths and blows them out of the water!
I'm always looking for anyone who wants to contribute to this site - people who would like a place to blog about environmental issues, help bust myths or give critical responses to the media's take on eco-news. Just give me a shout!
Synthetic MeatScientists have developed a way for growing beef muscle tissue in a lab, thus creating meat that does not come from a slaughtered animal.
Now along with the obvious ethical benefits of not actually having to kill an animal to create genuine meat this could pose a massive environmental benefit. Huge amounts of rainforest have been cleared for cattle ranching, massive amounts of farmland is used to rear animals where it would produce many times more food if used to grow cereals and vegetables. We mustn't forget too that cows are massive producers of methane gas, a more harmful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
The work is still in its early stages but if but takes off they could use the same process for all kinds of meat, completely removing the need for farming animals for meat.
I know this will have its opponents from the farming community to the anti-GM lobbyists to those who are just plain freaked out by the idea of meat that isn't really meat but I for one welcome the day when this is appearing in the shops. Of course there are massive logistical issues with producing this tissue on a scale to compare with that of the cattle farming industry but with an exponentially expanding human population we need big ideas like this. Ideas that will allow us to feed the masses without destroying the planet in the process.
Rhino HornsThere are five living species of Rhinocerous in the world today, two in Africa, 1 in India and two in Indonesia. All are critically endangered, indeed it is estimated that there are as little as sixty Javan Rhinoceroses left alive.
So what's the reason for this? Is it climate change? No. Is it habitat destruction? No. It is a set of myths about their apparent medicinal benefits. These magnificent beasts are being systematically hunted and killed because rich people will pay a hefty price for their horns. And what do these rich people do with them? They grind them down and ingest them because they believe it will cure anything from headaches to impotence to devil possession. There are even many people who believe it works as an aphrodisiac.
Well let me tell you, rhino horns are primarily composed of a protein called keratin (the same substance that your hair and fingernails are made from) plus deposits of calcium and melanin. All of which already occur in abundance within the human body. You can receive the exact same nutrients by biting your fingernails and drinking a glass of milk.
Rhino hunting won't stop until these myths are destroyed and the market for rhino horns collapses. Spread the word everyone, these supposed heath benefits are completely bogus.
The BA Strike and its Environmental SavingsSo we're now on day one of the British Airways cabin crew strike which, along with causing many flight cancellations around the world, has grounded 80 aircraft at Heathrow Airport. This got me thinking about how much fuel (and therefore carbon dioxide) is being saved just by these aircraft not flying for three days.
A Boeing 747 uses around 5 gallons of fuel per mile according to Boeing's website. Now of course these grounded planes won't all be 747s so lets say on average (fairly conservatively) their usage could be around 2 gallons per mile.
If each plane were to make one flight per day of an average of 1000 miles (a conservative average since many will make at least one return trip on one day and transatlantic is 3000 miles in one go) then the fuel saved by these aircraft being grounded is:
Number of aircraft x average fuel usage per mile x average flight distance x number of flights per day x number of days
80 x 2 x 1000 x 1 x 3 = 480,000 gallons of fuel saved
So with some conservative numbers, this strike is saving half a million gallons of fuel. Good grief that's a lot. Also these numbers only relate to the 80 aircraft grounded at Heathrow, there are many many more grounded at other airports around the world. Indeed we could probably multiply this saving by three or four to produce the worldwide saving.
Suddenly I'm in favour of this strike!
Edit: The same applies to the eruptions of Eyjafjallajokull, the Icelandic volcano in April and May. The grounding of a good percentage of European flights for the better part of a week saved a massive amount of fuel from being used by air travel. Several times the saving of the BA strike.
Returning British Industry Could Be Big Environmental WinThe past year has seen a great revival in British industry, driven by several factors - the rising cost of shipping, the quality of merchandise produced in many overseas factories and the additional UK workforce available given the rise in unemployment due to the recession. This could be beneficial to the environment for a variety of reasons. Firstly the carbon dioxide produced by the shipping industry is massive and a sizable chunk of that is produced by the big routes from Asia to Western Europe. Secondly the UK has committed to much tighter emission targets than China and other big Asian manufacturing countries meaning that the manufacturing process itself should be more environmentally friendly. Add to that the UK's vastly improving waste management and recycling services and this could really be a big win.
We just have to hope that more and more UK companies get behind this move to bring production home. While its always been the better environmental choice, better for the UK economy and provided many good people with employment, now it's becoming the better financial choice.