Monday, 16 June 2008

Three Point One Planet Earths

I’ve just tried this carbon calculator for kids. It’s easier to use than the adult versions because you don’t need to know exact figures but I suppose, for that reason, it isn’t as accurate either. It does give a pretty good picture of where you stand on doing your bit for the environment though.

What I found interesting - assuming the figures can be trusted - is that if everybody were to live like Brits, we'd need 3.2 earths in order to support the average person’s lifestyle. And despite my efforts, we’d still need 2.2 earths if everybody did the same as I do.

I suppose it shouldn’t really come as a surprise; I’ve known for a long time that we Brits, along with the rest of the industrialised west, are inconsiderate of the needs of the rest of those sharing the planet with us. We want what we consider a decent standard of living while much of the world struggles to find fresh water, adequate clothing and food. Hopping in the car to nip to the supermarket is something much of the world can't even imagine, as is sticking the washing machine on, turning over land to the luxury of growing flowers, etc etc etc.

But, according to the carbon footprint calculator, we’re far from the worse offenders. The average Australian needs 3.6 planet earths but Americans need 5.3!! That I really found shocking. Yes, we all know that the average American jumps in his car at every opportunity and that they have huge fridges but five point three???

Just because we’re not the worse doesn’t mean we can rest on our laurels though. Our German neighbours only need 2.5 so are outdoing us considerably on the green front; the Japanese are slightly lower at 2.4; and Mexicans are at 1.4. Not that any of those figures are good enough - we do only have 1.0 to 'play with', after all.

People in India and China are both below needing one planet but that could be because there’s such a large percentage of poor there, who aren’t contributing much to environmental problems simply because they can’t.

It's clear that if the human race is going to survive on this planet, we must learn to lower our own consumption and start sharing more.

I predict the following:
  • Food and fossil fuel prices will sky rocket, forcing us to lower our consumption (what we're experiencing now will be nothing compared to future prices)
  • We'll have to start growing more of our own produce whether we like it or not and re-learn to cook from scratch
  • When we do plant flowers, they'll need to be native species in order to support important insect life
  • Meat production will cease and the land used for arable crops instead
  • 'Mend and make do' will once again become the norm
Although there are some things I can’t do to reduce my footprint, like walking or even using public transport instead of using the car, and growing my own veg would just be too physical for me, I’ll continue to do as much as I can, and hope that one planet will prove enough for all 6.8 billion of us (and that figure's rising by the second).

Sharon J xx


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WebSmith said...

I am so tempted right now that I am drooling. Having been involved in a number of venture funded startups I know that the high gas and oil prices are really creating opportunities. Even oil baron Picket is making a multi-billion dollar investment in wind farms in the Texas panhandle and the things are starting to pop up in Ireland and the UK in a big way.

These venture guys are starting to throw money at alternative energy things and, besides the wind turbines, there's some very viable technology in existence for electric and hydrogen powered cars and trucks. The military is even starting to throw money at hydrogen power for its tanks. From what I have read, you can go over 200 miles on a glass of water and it can be fresh or salt water. Advances in batteries have made the electric technology viable. U.S. Business and domestic habitat only uses 8% of the oil for energy but transportation is coming in at a whopping 68% and that's where the huge opportunity is arising.

The American society is the largest consumer market on the planet by far and we don't want to use less. We want more for less. It would be nice if it was clean. This need along with the high gas prices is what is creating this golden egg.

These venture guys don't really understand the technology or business models but they understand the market dynamics. That's why they lost so much in the .com industry. If gas goes up another $2 per gallon, the money faucets are going to open, people are going to be getting millions to finance some really stupid things, and there's going to be some very serious IPOs.

Working 12 hours per day, ruining your health in the process, and stressing over things that, in the end, don't matter is something I didn't pick up from Dad but, it's got my heart thumping. This time I could actually do some good for the world if I lived through it. Maybe I'll switch back from the vitamins to the blood pressure pills.

Sharon J said...

We have quite a few wind farms here in the UK but the thing is, people are actually protesting against them because they’re ugly. Ok, so they’re not the most attractive things to have along the coast but better that than a continued use of fossil fuels that we know are damaging our chances of survival as a species and will run out sooner or later anyway. Sometimes I really wonder what people’s priorities are!

If travelling over 200 miles on a glass of water ever becomes available on a public basis then I dread to think what the price of water will be like because, knowing our government, they’ll stick a ridiculous tax on it!

“…we don't want to use less. We want more for less.” Exactly. It’s the same here in the UK. And while hydrogen etc might solve the fuel problem, it isn’t going to change the fact that, as things are, there won’t be enough food for everybody. People are up in arms about the increase in food prices we’re experiencing at the moment. Apparently these price rises are due to a) the rise in oil prices and b) the recent crop failures in Australia and a demand for cereals from India and China. But it seems people would rather protest at having to pay a few pounds more for the weekly shop (or buy/waste less) than share what we produce.

“…people are going to be getting millions to finance some really stupid things, and there's going to be some very serious IPOs.” It seems that biofuel was one of those with too much land being turned over to fuel crops, which has also had its effect on the rising prices.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I know that what we’re doing at the moment isn’t it.

WebSmith said...

The choice in places like LA, San Jose, San Francisco, Portland, New York, Seattle, etc. is between looking at windmills or smog. Sometimes it's a choice between seeing the hills with windmills on them or not seeing the hills at all.

I think that the windmills are majestic in a powerful kind of way but, I've been told that that is a guy thing.

It's actually not just the oil. It's the trash. Besides the obvious things like plastic cups and wrappers it's the outgrown surfboards, skates, kayaks, PVC, used golf balls and hoola-hoops that are there, still. Millions of hoola-hoops laying there not rotting for 50 years now. There's a whole ocean of this stuff north of Hawaii.

I have fantasies about financing technological break throughs in glass, wool, cotton, and silk.

Sharon J said...

It may not be a guy thing, Websmith. My other half hates the wind turbines whereas I'm perfectly ok with them.

I realise that oil is far from our own problem but it isn't just about disposing of plastics but also about its actual production, isn't it? The stuff's nothing but a problem from start to finish. I do try to avoid buying products made from synthetic polymers but that's not easy in our modern society. No doubt the original inventors had good intentions as were intended to last for years but its exactly that that's causing the disposal problem. How many hula-hoops really need to last for years when most kids tire of them after a few months anyway? The same obviously goes for all children's toys, not to mention carrier bags and food packaging.

Isn't bamboo a preferable alternative to cotton? Less land needed, less water, and it has pretty amazing properties.