Sunday, 3 April 2016

The three main ways often identified to make our consumption sustainable.

People often talk about global warming and how unsustainable our current models of consumption are. But this doesn't not have to be the case. There are three primary ways that we can reduce our human impact on the environment.

Lessened use of automobiles. This is something that I've mentioned before, and many have written longer pieces about this, even entire books and many thesis. Cars make up around 15% of our emissions or so, depending on where you live. And there are other damages. The cars make up a big part of the reason why we have so much urban sprawl, and of course that makes a large part of environmental damage as well. Of course electric cars won't produce any emissions (at least not any locally, whether it produces any at all depends on the power plant source be it coal, nuclear, solar, wind, etc), but still takes a lot of effort and material to make the car in the first place, and also building places for the cars to be also takes a lot of effort, emissions and material, and removes the ability for it to be instead something like a park.

We of course need certain motorized vehicles, firetrucks need to be in existence otherwise how do we put out large fires? We need container ships to move things around (the latter could be powered by non coal non diesel means though). But we don't have to rely on motor vehicles nearly as often, and this is where bicycles, walking, electric buses and electric trains come in. We can build smaller roads in our cities too because of this lessened reliance on motor vehicles. We can route roads around environmentally sensitive areas more often. And while it won't solve all of the problems, electric cars at least do provide a way to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions (as long as the power plants are themselves clean and use renewable power sources).

The second means is pretty obvious. Most of our power (and heat for that matter) derives from fossil fuels. This does vary depending on the country, France uses a lot of nuclear power as does Sweden, and Denmark on a bright windy day can rely exclusively on renewable power sources. But most of the world's power plants are powered by fossil fuels. Nuclear power can provide incredible amounts of power, I mean the E=M*C^2 equation means that you could convert one kilogram of mass into the equal amount of energy as detonating 21.48 megatonnes of TNT. That is a lot of energy (this is why our Sun can produce so much energy based on this one equation). But given the risks and lessons learned from Fukushima Japan and Chernobyl, former Soviet Union, I don't think that it is worth the risk.

We can shift to clean and renewable power sources effectively. We could also do things like have the right insulation for each of our homes and buildings too. Geothermal power does not depend on the weather and only uses water and the internal heat of our planet. If we have a windless cloudy day when solar and wind power won't create enough power, we can turn to geothermal. We can also store extra power on the very good days with artificial lakes that use potential energy created by elevating water up high and letting it flow down on bad days (link here to what I mean. Good video Wayne:

The last huge transition that we can make (obviously there are more, like not using single use bottled water, using fabric rather than plastic bags at the supermarket, etc) would be what we eat (and use for clothing). Animal agriculture takes up a surprisingly large amount of resources and land. It needs about as much land as all of Africa. You probably don't know the true extent of the size of Africa because of the Mercator projection maps, so imagine it like 3 USAs, Canadas, Chinas or Europes or 3 and a half Australias, or almost twice the size of Russia. Imagine all of that used for animals that go on to feed humans. Obviously you are allowed to hunt if you're starving, for the same reason that a Muslim is able to eat pork if they are starving, practicality and saving a human life, but for the most part, we don't need to use or eat animals. We would need some land for the increased about of produce we would need, but we could turn into grasslands or forests what was once animal farms.

I took some of my first steps towards this when I yesterday turned down bacon that my dad was preparing for the purpose of not eating meat as opposed to a stomach ache or something like that, and making a chart with baby chicks, calves and piglets compared with the meat that the adults would grow up to be, printed it out and put it on my refrigerator door. Hopefully that would inspire me as well as maybe a sibling or parent or more to do the same as I do.

I'm actually a pescatarian right now, not eating any meat but fish. I am looking and seriously considering getting rid of the fish part and the milk and eggs part of my diet and turning to things like artificial leather for whatever I have that would be leathery. It's harder to do when you aren't the person responsible for the groceries in your house, and am not an adult yet, but even Lisa (Simpson) could do it in the 90s. I have been googling how to make things that I currently enjoy out of vegan things, like jello (if you didn't know, gelatin is made out of hooves), waffles (haven't found answers for waffles yet), I've even found out on Good Mythical Morning that you can find alternatives for fish that taste pretty much like actual fish. I am seriously considering a vegan lifestyle not only for the reduced environmental impact but also the ethics of eating meat vs not eating it (and also other animal products).

It would be much easier to do the vegan thing if we had labeling laws, indicating whether a product contains animal products and if so what kind (skin, meat, milk, eggs, etc) with simple to read easy to find charts on products (including things like candles, beeswax isn't vegan) as well as laws that require the provisions for non animal alternatives at places where animal product containing products are also provided, excluding businesses that revolve around meat (like a deli) but including things like grocery stores and restaurants. I am hoping that this will make it easier for people to find that more things are vegan than you think. Refusing new meat based businesses business licenses also should hopefully make it less prevalent.

I found this video on youtube that shows kind of the stereotype that people tend to have about vegans vs the things they actually do. I enjoyed it. Link here:

These are just some of the ways to help our environment which is quite strained right now. I don't think that you would like to swim to work would you?

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