Archive for the 'climate change' Category

capitalism, climate change, society, travel, water

Water, water, everywhere. And not a drop to drink.

I’ve been thinking about water. For most of September, October and November I was on a sailboat, in the islands of the western Pacific ocean. It was wonderful, although clean drinking water was sometimes a problem. In much of Latin America as well, I was sceptical about the quality of the water. There is much bottled water drunk in Latin America and the Pacific – by poor people, not just the well-off – out of fear of dangerous tap water.

But even that is nothing. 6000 people every DAY die through water-related disease. And within just ten years time, 1.8 billion people will be living with absolute scarcity. The issues are huge, and the mainstream market response to poor quality water or lack of water availability is bottled water – an absolute disaster in every way. So, I’ve made a video with my personal solution for me – the LifeSaver Bottle – and about the global issues. Plus, I drink some water laced with guinea-pig poo. So. Worth watching!

climate change, fuel, travel

“The plane will go anyway”

I choose not to fly as much as possible. People don’t like to hear this, because they can already feel a potential judgment coming of their own actions or choices. But let me explain why first.

It’s not because I’m scared or because I don’t like looking at the clouds from above (in fact I do): it is just unfortunately the case that flying by air is just an incredibly quick way to blow all of the good karma you built up by cycling and reusing plastic bags. After space travel and splitting the atom it’s probably the fastest way you could burn fuel and create pollution. You’d have to cross the Atlantic by jet ski in order to be more environmentally unfriendly.

Everywhere I go however (by bus, boat and train) from Toronto to Mexico, from La Paz to Rio de Janeiro, I hear the exact same words, from different people, repeated with eeiree similarity: “But the plane will be going anyway. So why not be on it?”.

It’s fascinating to me that humans can trick ourselves with statements such as this when we know it would be morally reprehensible to respond to “look, we’re gonna gang-rape this girl anyway, so you might as well join in”. Continue Reading »

climate change, fuel, society, travel, USA

4 tuktuks, 3 airplanes and a Mississippi steamboat – my Carbon Footprint in 2010

I’ve done a lot of travelling in 2010. Namely across the Atlantic, looping around the USA, into the Caribbean and travelling down Central America as far as Nicaragua. So naturally I’m concerned about what the cost is to our shared natural environment of all my wanderings. From the outset I’ve tried to travel as environmentally friendly as possible, which informed my decision to travel across the Atlantic by ship

Even so, my travelling must have had a big impact on the environment that we all have a stake in, and over the New Year I’ve been trying to figure out to my satisfaction what that might be, and how good an idea (for everybody else and our shared global environment) me travelling around having a good time is.

To give you an idea of why I think this is important, have a look at my recent article that details how the world’s politicians have failed us when it comes to combatting climate change, and how we are, unfortunately to say the least, heading for an all-out global catastrophe.

I’ve worked out a very approximate answer in terms of a “carbon footprint”, measured in metric tonnes of carbon dioxide (* see note 1).

But rather than first list a bunch of figures I want to look back on exactly how far I’ve come, compare that to my “carbon budget”, and consider the choices I made and what I got out of it.

I arrived in New York City at the beginning of January on a ship from Southampton, England. After visiting Philadelphia, Boston, Washington D.C., Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal by long-distance bus and train, in April I moved to Chicago (by train) and spent 3 nice weeks there. I then hired a car (a hybrid electric Toyota Prius) and drove 5000 miles across the West through Seattle and down through Portland and Eugene to San Francisco, where I left the car.

13 000 miles around the USA

13 000 miles around the USA

I then got a train to L.A., took a campervan around wine country for a few days, and then took a 3-night train ride to New Orleans (these are big distances…). I then took bus and car (with my parents) to Florida, and then finally visited New York City by train again very briefly for the 4th of July before returning by train to Florida. Up against my visa time limit, I flew out of the country to Nassau, The Bahamas, where I stayed for a month and a half. I then flew (there is no other option) to Cuba, and then from Cuba to Cancun (the closest exit). I only took buses after that.

Just taking the carbon cost of the first 6 months in the USA, the obvious big costs are the ship to the Americas, the private car road-trip across the West, the campervan (surprisingly bad) and the flight out of the country. The ship accounts for a huge 1816.1kg of CO2 (nearly two tonnes… although I calculated at the time, marginally less than a transatlantic flight (* see note 2). Continue Reading »

capitalism, climate change, politics, society

Climate Change and Cancún – The politicians have failed. Now it’s up to us

The outcome this week of the climate change conference in Cancún can be read two ways. Yes, multilateralism (although not the role of the UN) has been saved, and as one minister timidly put it “people are still talking to each other”. But as Greenpeace have commented, “The conference may have saved the multilateral process after last year’s abject failure in Copenhagen, but we have not yet been saved from climate change.”

Green MP Caroline Lucas used very similar wording: “It’s a very weak deal – enough to keep the ongoing negotiation process alive, but not enough to save the climate.”

And although both organisations have given encouragement to governments for the little that has been done, when it comes down to it, all that matters is the bottom line, and the bottom line is “What kind of world will this agreement create?”

Unfortunately, according to scientific commentators such as those at Climate Tracker Action, the agreement will deliver 3.2 degrees Celsius of overall global warming. The Bolivian government was more pessimistic, estimating 4 degrees. While the difference between 2 or 4 degrees on a summer’s day doesn’t mean much, averaged out all over the world, it’s disastrous. Continue Reading »

climate change, society

What’s the big deal with Climate Change?

I didn’t think I’d have to ask myself that question, but I do find that questioning one’s own beliefs is the first step towards being able to communicate them to others. And here in Guatemala it’s become obvious to me that I need to have a good answer to the question “what’s the big deal with Climate Change?”, just as I’ve had to refine my answer to the question “why are you vegetarian?“.

Not that most people of course have even asked me that question. Normally I’ll realise the need to explain myself simply by a sceptical look or a blank stare or a feeling that I’m being humoured in a conversation. And in case you think this is something to do with Guatemalans, it’s a situation I’ve encountered with Brits, Europeans and Americans when I’ve mentioned climate change, even casually or in passing.

Part of my failure to always communicate effectively with people is no doubt due to my own beliefs and convinctions. I do understand that almost Continue Reading »