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Tips On How To Live a More Eco-friendly LifeEnvironmentalists have been encouraging us to take better care of our planet since Rachel Carson`s seminal work "Silent Spring" was published in 1962. She warned of the dangers of indiscriminate use of pesticides and pollution of the environment. She argued that not only was DDT harmful to the environment but that it`s indiscriminate use was actually making the insect carriers of disease stronger by encouraging DDT-resistant strains. She inspired an anti-DDT campaign resulting in the banning of DDT in the US in 1972 and a strengthening of the regulation of chemical pesticides. Her ideas were controversial; she was accused of being a "hysterical woman" and irresponsible for speaking out against pesticides which were protecting people from deadly insect-borne diseases. Even today she is criticised and the debate continues.
In the 1960s the environmental community embraced James Lovelock`s "Gaia" hypothesis which proposes that both living and non-living parts of the earth form a complex interacting system and that the biosphere, the living part, has a regulatory effect on the Earth`s environment. He has since upset many environmentalists by coming out in favour of nuclear power as the only means to halt global warming.
Currently the great global climate change debate rages on. The issues are hotly debated on "consensus" and "sceptic" websites and blogs. "Consensus" scientists claim that there is overwhelming evidence that man-made carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are affecting the earth`s climate by trapping heat in the atmosphere and that this will lead to sea levels rising and extreme weather; "climate change sceptics" insist that the warming is not being caused by carbon dioxide and that computer models predicting planetary disaster are way off the mark because they cannot model the effects of the greatest greenhouse gas of them all - water vapour.
Public confidence in the "consensus" view of climate change has suffered recently due to the "climategate" scandal in which conspiratorial emails have surfaced, apparently suggesting that climate change evidence has been interfered with to skew the results. In the face of all this uncertainty, what should we be doing to live a more eco-friendly life?
Our actions should include things which make sense in their own right and which will be important whether the Earth warms or cools in the future. A guiding principle is to do things that yield a cost saving or are neutral. "Cleaning up our act" in the sense that we stop polluting, makes sense and so does saving energy and water. Look at your household energy consumption. It is reasonable to have it drop one percent every two years for as long as you have been in your house just from household maintenance, appliance replacement and replacing light bulbs with fluorescents or LEDs when they burn out. Adjust the thermostat for when nobody is home. Spend less time in the shower. Grow some of your own food. Walk for your health and to save fuel. Share transport to work and compare tents or caravans here in the UK with a foreign holiday in today`s economic climate; save money and the planet!
A Cold Snap IS NOT Evidence Against Climate ChangeAt this time of year, as temperatures cool and the snow begins to fall, out come the sceptics who claim that since it's cold, climate change must not be happening. Really? I'm not going to get into the physics of why we have seasons but what I will say is that unless temperatures rise by a couple of dozen degrees, there will always be places on Earth that experience snow in Winter.
Climate statistics are based on the average temperatures across whole years, which clearly show a steady rise in global temperature. Accurate statistics abound but here is a very clear graph of England's temperature trends since the 19th century.
Then there is the issue of unexpectedly cold weather, such as we have been experiencing in the UK this winter. This can be explained very simply by viewing a map and knowing a little about how the gulf stream works. If you look at a map you will see that we are on a similar latitude to Canada, Russia and other places we all know get seriously cold in the Winter. The reason that we avoid the extreme weather is the Gulf Stream which is a warm ocean current that brings us heat from the tropics. The Gulf Stream is the major factor in our climate, but unfortunately it is also rather sensitive, particularly to the salination level (saltiness) of the sea. The ice caps are primarily composed of fresh water so as they melt they 'dilute' the sea, lowering the salination level and impeding the flow of the Gulf Stream and preventing it from warming us up as effectively.
For more info on the Gulf Stream see the BBC Weather Centre.
Ghana's Ghost ForestThis week in London's Trafalgar Square there will be massive exhibit of tree stumps legally logged in Ghana's rainforests. These rainforests have shrunk by 90% in 50 years and are in great danger of disappearing completely, along with all the animals that need the habitat to survive. Please lend your support in whatever way you can.
Google Earth's Rainforest ToursGoogle Earth has recently released a set of new tools to illustrate the scale of climate change and deforestation. Along with greater detail than ever on the rainforests of Amazon, Madagascar and Borneo, they also include audio tours narrated by Al Gore. They do a great job of highlighting how breathtaking, and precious our rainforests are and how the protection of them is a crucial step in fighting climate change.
CleanTechnica has more information and of course the maps and tours can be found at Google Earth.
Thought Solar Power Wasn't Good Enough?The guys at Land Art Generator have done their sums and come up with this poster which shows the surface area of land required to provide all of the Earth's energy requirements. They've even been practical enough to show how the solar arrays could be placed in key uninhabited desert areas to maximise their output whilst causing the minimum of disruption. Prepare to be amazed.
They say that enough solar energy hits the Earth in one minute to meet all of our energy needs for a year and that there is enough wind energy around the coast of the UK to meet all of our domestic needs. Why are we not not working harder to harness all of this clean, free energy?
Inconsiderate Cyclists Need to Stop Giving Us a Bad NameOK so I have a driving licence and ride a scooter to work most of the time (at up to 120 mpg it's a massively smaller footprint than a car and more fun into the bargain) but in fine weather I love riding my pedal bike. It's healthy, it's environmentally friendly, it's cheaper and I always feel better after 'blowing the cobwebs out' for half an hour.
However I seem to be one of the dwindling minority of cyclists who always wears a helmet, signals when I'm turning, keeps off the pavement, doesn't wear headphones, doesn't talk on the phone and knows that traffic lights apply to me too. I'm a responsible rider as are many good people who are just trying to improve their health and help the environment. Which is why get more than a little p***ed off when I see appalling cyclists sailing through red lights, racing down busy pavements and generally acting with complete disregard to everyone else on the road and off it. These riders are exactly the reason why motorists have such a dim view of cyclists as a whole - something which I can't really blame the motorists for, yet I still ask them to remember that some of us remain sensible road users.
Now I'm not an advocate of a mandatory cycling test as I think it would be both ineffectual and pretty much unenforceable. Equally I don't see the benefit of a minimum cycling age limit as I see at least as many adults as children failing to grasp even the basics of the highway code. I just want these people to understand that we will all be safer and happier if we share the roads responsibly. Also if more cyclists use the roads responsibly and there are less accidents as a result it will encourage more people to jump on their bikes, leave the car at home and give the climate a break.