Wednesday, 9 November 2011

1 in 7 Billion

© National Geographic Magazine

If you’re one in a million you’re considered very special so imagine being 1 in 7 billion. This is no longer a dream, this is reality. There are now officially 7 billion humans on the planet.
Last week, October 31st 2011, saw the human population reach 7 billion according to the United Nations Population Division. This has been due to a combination of people living longer, people living healthier and better medical support. This should be an achievement and people all over the world are celebrating the birth of the 7 billionth human but what strain is this having on our planet? Can we survive with so many people?
According to the Huffington Post there is only half an acre of productive cropland on the planet for every person on earth. Its common knowledge that we are running out of fresh water and with climate change increasing areas susceptible to floods and droughts, the area available to grow crops will become even more sparse.
Efforts are being made to try and inform the uneducated and developing countries. This has been ongoing for many years and will take many more to complete, but the developed world, you and me, also have a role to play. We know what the impacts are and we know how we can help reduce the ever growing population. We need to take action and try to work together to ensure we can all survive on earth and most of all create a sustainable living environment.
If planet Earth stands a chance of surviving we as a population need to become more environmentally conscious and be aware of the products we purchase and the type of foods we eat. This should no longer be seen as being green and rather a way of life which is just as ordinary as going to sleep.
Finally the President of the United Nations Foundation, Timothy E. Wirth, addressed the current situation in a recent speech which I think reflects perfectly what needs to be done to combat our ever increasing population.
“In a world of 7 billion, it is more important than ever that we address fundamental issues of poverty and inequality. We know that investing in women’s reproductive health and voluntary family planning is one of the most cost effective means to tackling our most pressing global development challenges.”
To hear the complete speech click here.
© Randy Olson @ National Geographic
 How are you going to help?

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Horse Carriage Romance?

Depending on where in the world you live, you may or may not have heard about the campaign to ban the horse drawn carriages in New York City’s central park.
I first came across the issue earlier in the year when organising my own trip to New York. Whilst researching what activities I could do in the city I came across information I was really not expecting to find and wanted to help the best way I know how by spreading the word. 
For hundreds of years horse drawn carriages have been a symbol of this city and are captured in many of the movies and images we see on our screens. However, in recent years this ‘symbol’ has been on the screens for all the wrong reasons. 
According to the New York Times, a nonprofits group known as NY-Class, which stands for ‘New Yorkers for Clean, Liveable and Safe Streets’ have been campaigning since 2008 for the removal of the carriage horses.

This is because many people believe, including myself, that horses do not belong in congested urban settings constantly forced to breathe in toxic exhaust fumes as they stand in traffic behind cars and taxis and are often denied the 15 minute breaks they are required to be given every two hours. It has also been reported that during time off they are kept in stables and denied access to the open space an animal of this size requires to maintain a certain level of health and wellbeing. Given the choice I doubt any of us would choose to work in these conditions.
It was also reported in the New York Times that since 2008 NY-Class has been promoting “replacing” the city’s carriage horses with 68 electric cars, one of several proposals by animal right advocates over the years to get rid of the carriage horse industry, which they say is inhumane.
Last week the New York Daily News reported that a carriage horse died on the streets of New York City last week on its way to Central Park. Surely this just highlights that these animals should not be made to work under these conditions.
I posted an article earlier in the year about the mis-treatment of circus animals and, for me personally, I can not see any difference between the two activities. These animals are made to perform to us – yes it may not be to crowds of people but it is certainly in front of ‘crowds’ of cars and worse in conditions that we wouldn’t even want to work in.
Lea Michele, Glee actress, has been campaigning and actively involved with PETA for promoting the horse drawn carriage ban over the last few months and following the recent news of the death of another horse in the streets of New York City, has re-launched her campaign to make more people aware. She has also launched a video to urge people to take note of what is happening and hopefully force a ban on horse drawn carriages not just in New York City but all over the world.
Now if you’re still not sure where your support lies and you still need convincing this ban is the right thing then you should watch Lea Michele’s video below:

Furthermore get involved yourself and sign the petition
Finally, there are alternatives and many organisations have been involved in showcasing some possibilities. Earlier this month the New York Times reported that a faux-vintage electric car had been proposed as an option to replace horse drawn carriages.
Supported by Lea Michele herself “these eco-friendly ‘horseless carriages’ would attract tourists with old New York glamour, protect carriage drivers’ jobs and allow approximately 220 horses currently working in this industry to be retired to sanctuaries”.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Have you planned your Stay-cation?

For many of us this year’s holiday season is already over. I have, for many years, travelled around my own country experiencing the vast variety of places which are on our doorstep. This got me thinking how many people really, truly, can say that they spend quality time in the country they live and explore every aspect of it? With travelling to foreign countries so popular I’m starting to think not many.
My interest in nature started early and I can’t really pin point the time I realised I wanted to make a difference. After camping with my parents for practically my whole life I can only assume it was down to them.
Back in September 2006 I decided to take the opportunity and volunteer whilst I was out of work. I enrolled on a National Trust Working Holiday and it was fantastic, not only did I make some new friends I knew I was in someway making a difference to the environment I loved.
The National Trust runs about 400 Working Holidays a year throughout the UK. Each have their own set of activities and therefore you can pick the one that suits you the most. My tasks involved beach clearing, scrub clearance and wood coppicing. The holidays demand varying degrees of hard graft but are definitely worth doing and thoroughly enjoyable. Most holidays can be selected according to volunteer’s skills sets, age and level of fitness.
I tend to spend my annual holiday camping in the south of Cornwall and absolutely love it there. Even if I choose to travel abroad I would still want to go back there each year. Not only for the friends and family I have down there but to enjoy how wonderful our own country is.
There are many beautiful countries to go and visit, which don’t get me wrong I would love to go and visit one day, but what about the country you live in? Are there not places in your own communities you would like to explore first? I was surprised to find out that a lot of my friends have never really explored their own country. And why not?  It’s on our doorstep after all.
Each country has its unique qualities and often attracts vast numbers during the summer months. If tourists are prepared to visit our country to see what it has to offer then shouldn’t we be doing the same? Do we ever truly get to fully explore our own country? We need to rethink the way we travel and the places we travel to as travelling is one of the greatest contributors to climate change.
Unlike other environmental issues green travel is entirely down to us.  As travellers and tourists we make the decision ourselves regarding how we should travel.
Well lucky for us, green travel is considered quite trendy at the moment with a lot of new people taking up camping. There are several books in shops at the moment with tips on how to be green, but favourite has to be Eco Escapes by Laura Burgess. Not only are there tips on how to be green whilst on your holidays but it provides you with a list of beautiful and eco friendly places you may wish to visit during your holiday. The book suggests that it will ‘help you see with new eyes and help you see home as a great place to start wherever this may be’.
Some campsites are known to have solar powered showers and recycling is strongly recommended. According to Jonathan Knight, author of Cool Camping, some campsites also have their own comfortable, fragrance free composting toilets. 
There is a good website you should all visit if you want to explore the advantages of green travel. Responsible Travel thinks that holidays should care about the local communities and different cultures as well as wildlife and the environment. Tourism does help communities grow by providing an income source through travel related spending. We should want to explore all the cultures available to us we just need to make sure we are accountable for our actions.
Stay-cation is the new catch phrase and many people don’t know what it means or the intended purpose of the word. But many of you I’m sure, similar to me, have being doing it for years and now it’s our turn to show them how it is done and how they can positively effect the environment we live in.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Eco Wrapping

Last week was my birthday and I was lucky enough to receive lots of presents. Now I have tons of wrapping paper and cards and I was trying to think of ways I could put them to good use. It seems like such a waste to spend loads of money on wrapping paper and gift bags for them to just end up in the recycling. If they are recycled at all that is!
Of course the exciting part about unwrapping a present is ripping the paper apart and throwing it across the room but what difference would it make is we simply tried to keep the paper? This paper could then be reused for someone else to enjoy and save you some money too.
In fact, if you are a ripper like me, instead of buying wrapping paper in the first place you could come up with innovative ideas from around the home to reduce your waste. Wrapping gifts in old newspapers and magazines is an inexpensive and individual way of wrapping your present. You could always try and find funny stories to amuse your friends too. I have also heard of wrapping in Chinese or Arabic newspaper which can have a really nice effect given they look more like shapes than words. Also if a friend is perhaps learning a language wrapping a present in that countries newspaper can be really individual!
© The Patchwork Dress
© The Kind Life

Using brown paper packing is another idea you could use teamed up with a nice piece of ribbon can make a present look really special and a technique my boyfriend has been using for years.
Now I am not proposing everyone will like this idea and may think its looks a bit lazy like you haven’t really made an effort so maybe you need to target your audience appropriately. All I know is, if I received something like this I would love it and I know a couple of my friends who would feel the same! And on the plus side you will be reducing how much dye and ink you are using as well as the amount of paper.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Is it possible to have a green festival?

© Matt Cardy
Glastonbury, the largest music festivals in the UK, was this weekend and while everyone was enjoying the sunshine and music and possibly a beer or too most people forgot about the environment. Tens of thousands of people travelled from all over the country to take part in this event adding unnecessary CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. According to organisers around 50% of Glastonbury’s CO2 emissions arise from travelling to and from the event.

So this year Glastonbury has come up with a green initiative whereby anyone arriving by public transport gets exclusive use of solar showers, discounted main meals and access to compost toilets. This sounds fantastic and a great way to encourage people to think about their travel arrangements especially as it is for no additional cost. I know if that was me I would definitely arrive by train or coach for the possibility of a solar powered shower! It will be interesting to find out how many people took up this opportunity and whether it was a success in reducing travel related pollution.

According to the Little Hampton Gazette this year Glastonbury organisers have launched the ‘Love the Farm – Leave no Trace’ campaign, which aims to tackle many of the environmentally negative aspects of the festival. The campaign covers many of the initiatives already mentioned as well as handing out biodegradable tent pegs and using bio-fuels to power the generators.

There will also be 100 ‘green police’ wearing comic costumes reminding people of their responsibilities whilst at the festival. This is because the mountain of rubbish created by these week long events takes days to clean up.

What could you do as a festival-goer to go green at Glastonbury or any another festival this summer:

  • Travel to the event by public transport;
  • Use biodegradable tent pegs;
  • Use the toilets provided and not the ground;
  • Use the recycle bins provided;
  • Use the cigarette ‘BUTT’ bins;
  • Limit what you bring and take everything home again;
  • Clean up behind you; and
  • Pack up your tent and take it home;
So while your out their having fun remember everything we do has some kind of impact on the planet.
© The Telegraph

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Can Environmental Differences Break Up a Relationship?

Most of us have different views from our partners especially something as controversial as global warming or deforestation but can said differences lead to the break down of a relationship?

If you’re not really a follower of Greenpeace you may not know what I’m talking about and I must confess I am not an avid follower myself but their latest campaign really caught my eye. The campaign is likely to attract a large amount of new activists and raise huge awareness because, as reported in the Londonist, this particular campaign is a winning combination of a serious message memorably delivered.  

The headlines read: Ken dumps Barbie! Now even to the none believers this headline alone is intriguing enough to make you want to read the whole story. According to Business Green environmental campaigners Greenpeace are targeting the manufactures of Barbie, Mattel, after revealing that their packaging is made from pulp from the Indonesian rainforest's. The pulp is produced by Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) who have apparently been dropped by a number of major retailers in recent years over concerns that its policies were contributing to the estimated one million hectares of Indonesian rainforest cleared each year.

Whether we are buying these toys as a gift or receiving them from someone else we are contributing and responsible for clearing areas of priceless rainforest's and threatening the endangered species which live in these habitats. Do we really want that on our conscience?

The campaign has lead to banners and posters being displayed on tubes and bus stops around London to highlight the importance of this campaign in a fun way to include everyone and not just us eco warriors out there. Barbie has been an iconic symbol for the last 50 years and almost everyone will know who she is. Hopefully, these tactics will open the facts up to everyone and make people realise that actions need to be taken. It doesn’t just stop with posters, Greenpeace have also co-ordinated a Barbie hunt whereby hundreds of dolls are hidden around the UK with chainsaws strapped to their arms and Greenpeace want you to track them down. Check out their website to see if there are any in your area.  
If you want to help protect the Indonesian rainforest you can write to Mattel’s CEO here.

© Greenpeace

Greenpeace also argue that it isn’t just Mattel who are associated with AAP, other companies such as Disney are also thought to be involved. I mean what’s next – will Prince Charming really divorce Cinderella?

It is encouraging though that in less than a week of the campaign starting, the Los Angeles Times reported that Mattel had received between 80,000 and 200,000 emails (depending on which source you trust) from people around the world and because of this, announced last week, that it would develop a new policy to make its packaging suppliers “commit to sustainable forestry management practices”. So it just goes to show that our actions really do count and that together we can all make a difference to the world.

I still have one question though can environmental differences really end a relationship? I’d like to think not as everyone is allowed to have their own opinion but it is nice to think that these issues are being discussed and that people do feel strongly enough about them to tell their partners and families and encourage environmental awareness around the home and in our everyday lives.

Friday, 10 June 2011

A Spout of Drought?

Reservoirs around the UK are drying out following, what the Guardian has coined ‘the driest March in 50 years’. Some parts of Cambridgeshire had less than 2mm of rainfall during this month which is less than normally recorded in the Sahara desert for this time of year according to the Centre for Hydrology and Ecology. A representative from the Centre for Hydrology and Ecology was reported as saying back in April that “a dry April could lead to a significant deterioration in the resources outlook, so we need to keep a careful eye on things over the next few weeks.” As many of you can probably remember April was pretty dry too!
The drought also has the potentially to affect our food supply. Without enough water to harvest crops flood prices are expected to rise. The Guardian has reported that Ministers will meet with farmers, supermarkets and utility companies this week to assess the threat of this drought becoming an environmental and agricultural disaster.
Ecological damage is also likely with low river levels across the country which of course is impacting upon fish levels and plant species.
Therefore the next few weeks will be critical for water companies, farmers and wildlife and unless we get prolonged rainfall soon, water companies may have to restrict the amount of water we use in the form of a hosepipe ban. In some regions water companies are already on alert.
If a hosepipe ban is put in place you could try and reduce your water consumption in the following way:
·          Don’t let the water in whilst washing the dishes;
·          Collect used water for watering houseplants;
·          Water your lawn either n the morning or evening when temperatures are cooler;
·          Take timed showers;
·          Use the washing machine and dishwasher only when full;
·          For cold drinks keep jugs of water in the fridge instead of running the tap;
·          Wash fresh fruit and vegetables in a bowl of water instead of running the tap;
·          When running a bath, plug the tub before turning the water on;
·          Collect water from your roof to water the garden;
·          Teach your children about water conservation;
·          Avoid recreational water toys;
·          Turn water off whilst brushing your teeth; and
·          Wash your car and pets on the grass to water the lawn at the same time.
Whilst this may seem like a negative to most people maybe this is what the countries needs to make the public realise how much water we waste as a nation. During previous droughts people have thought of innovative ways to reduce consumption and we now need to teach younger generations the importance and value of reducing water. The tips above are really useful and can be used in everyday life without much effort. If we are forced to take these measures then once the hosepipe ban if lifted then we may as well continue these measures to conserve water in the future and help fight climate change.
I know I say it all the time but seriously, is this Mother Natures way of fighting back? This year we seem to have had so many environmental issues all over the world, floods, forest fires, tornado's, earthquakes, tsunami’s, volcanic ash clouds and now a potential drought!  Should we not be listening and trying to make a difference?

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

A Prickly Situation!

© Guardian

The beloved British hedgehog, adored by wildlife lovers around the country is said to be declining in numbers according to the BBC. The Mail Online has reported that in the 1950s hedgehog populations were around 30 million whereas now they are said to be potentially less than 1 million. A survey was undertaken by volunteers funded by Mammals Trust UK and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee to determine wild hedgehog numbers in the UK.
Gardening has become a popular past time over recent years and has resulted in walled gardens and increased paved areas, destroying the natural habitats for hedgehogs. The decline in hedgehogs has also been associated with more road deaths, modern farming practises and the loss of hedgerows that has left the hedgehog vulnerable to badger attacks.
Conservation charities have warned that unless urgent action is taken to protect this species the mammals could vanish from some parts of the UK by 2050.
Therefore, in an attempt to increase numbers, gardeners are being urged to take a few simple measures to help. These include:
·         Removing a single brick from the bottom of a wall;
·         Cutting a hole in a fence;
·         Leaving patches of long grass;
·         Putting out food and water (usually cat or dog food but never bread and milk); and
·         Providing a hedgehog home.
In response to the latest figures, the British Hedgehog Preservation Society has got together with the People’s Trust for Endangered Species to launch a three year campaign to encourage people to get involved. It will include both funded research projects and a public participation campaign which is aimed at promoting hedgehog friendly gardening practices.
If you want to find out more information on how you can help take a look at the Hedgehog Street Campaign.
Several commercial organisations have also been getting involved in protecting this animal in recent years with fast food chain McDonald's agreeing to alter the deign of its ice cream containers which, according to the BBC, wildlife campaigners claimed were death-traps to hungry hedgehogs.
If they can do it so can you. How are you going to help protect the much-loved hedgehog? I think I might start leaving out food and water.

© Pugh Graphic

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Another Eyjafjallajökull?

Just a little over a year ago Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull Volcano famously erupted and although was considered relatively small in comparison to previous in the area, caused significant travel disruption to thousands of people around the world.

According to the BBC the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull last caused the worst disruption and lead to the largest Eurpoean air travel closure since World War II. About 20 countries closed their airspace and 10 million travellers were affected. The was down to large quantities of volcanic ash lying on the ground coupled with strone surface winds which ultimately lead to poor visibility. Due to the volcano's location being directly under the jet stream this meant ash was blown for huge distances at upper levels affecting international airspace.

Flights across Europe were cancelled for six days and, according to The Independent, were estimated to have cost airlines £130 million a day. However, in terms of pollution, and all you eco warriors out there will love this, it was reported that European flights alone avioded approximately 344,109 tonnes of CO2 emissions a day whilst the volcano only emitted about 150,000 tonnes of CO2 per day.

Well that was a year ago and believe it or not it's happening again just in time for the holiday season! According to The Independent the Grímsvötn Volcano, in Vatnajokull National Park, began erupting on Saturday 21sy May 2011 which caused flights at Iceland's main airport to be cancelled due to a large plume of ash, smoke and steam 12 miles high entering the atmosphere.

© Getty Images
A Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) spokesperson has confirmed that they are in a much better position than last time. He said safety will still be paramount but the level of disruption will be dramatically reduced from last year, provided there is not a huge amount of high density ash cloud. The spokesperson also said a similar level of ash to last year would not result in the same level of disruption. So fingers crossed it should cause too much disruption.

This time round the ash is a lot coarser and falling to the ground quicker therefore, in order to have the same impact as the Eyjafjallajökull eruption last year a more explosive eruption would be needed to propel the ash as far as last year. If you want to take a look at the scientific data a little bit more take a look at the British Geological Survey’s website its really interesting!
Flights over the UK were suspended briefly yesterday and thousands of passengers were affected by the ash cloud. However, most flights in the UK have now resumed because the concentrations of ash are thought to have dispersed.
Although the volcano has officially stopped erupting the ash cloud still continues to travel and as such, according to the BBC, ash may return to the UK airspace on Friday so further flights may be disrupted. A CAA spokesperson stated that we are expected to be at risk of a high concentration of ash covering most of the UK. This obviously is not good news for anyone wishing to travel in the immediate future.
I just can’t help but think is this Mother Nature’s way of telling us to stop using airplanes and reduce our carbon footprint? After the year we have had already I can only assume that Mother Nature is fighting back!
Click to pl

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Circus of Horrors

Living in confined spaces, constant travel and performances in front of loud crowds is no life for anyone, especially not for the animals that are made to perform in circuses but this is the life many of them are forced to live.

This issue has been the focus in the media recently when The Independent reports that “elephants may have shackles on their legs for most of their lives and other animals are tied or kept in small cages. Closely confined circus animals may also be unresponsive to events around them which in humans are usually an indicator of depression and other disorders associated with inability to have control of environmental impacts.” Surely everyone can see that this is a significant indicator of poor welfare. Even if you haven’t witnessed this for yourself, just from reading these reports it is glaringly obvious that this treatment, this lifestyle and this much neglect is just wrong! If I haven’t left the house for a day I start to feel trapped let alone a whole life time spent in a cage with chains around my ankles. This isn’t a lifestyle they chose. It was forced upon them by our very own species.
These poor animals are made to do ‘tricks’ under extreme conditions just to satisfy us, the public. I mean do we really want to have this on our conscience. Is a 30 minute performance really worth it when you consider the abuse these animals are subject to? After reading these reports I definitely would not attend a circus (with an animal act).
© Getty Images
All animals are subject to training by circus staff and some trainers have been known in the past to use harsh methods, physical violence in order for them to perform tricks. Such punishments lead to pain and fear. This is because animals which are not domesticated are usually much worse at adapting to conditions imposed by humans. This just highlights the fact that these animals should not be made to perform such activities.
As Tree Hugger suggests people have the assumption that circuses are all about up-close glimpses of rare creatures and the captive breeding programs that can bring endangered species back from the brink but not all animal owners are so ethical, qualified or even kind to their animals, but this is not the case as many animals all over the world are being abused in some way.
© Creative Commons
If you thought that these activities only happened in foreign countries as no one here in the UK would let this still go on today then you would be wrong. Here in the UK a 59 year old elephant named Anne was beaten by her owners and chained up for hours at a time. A video leaked earlier this year has lead to the Country’s Environment Secretary to ban all wild animals from circuses and so far has lead to Anne the elephant being removed from the circus.
There is also the story of Knut, a Polar Bear bred in captivity in Berlin’s Zoological Garden back in 2006. Rejected by his mother at birth he was raised by zookeepers. He became the centre of a mass media incident when children started protesting outside the zoo for the release of Knut. Sadly his story ended in March this year when he died at the age of four which has since been related to brain problems.
Since these stories have unfolded Government Ministers have been put under pressure in Parliament this week over their failure to bring forward plans to ban wild animals performing in circuses which has lead to people campaigning and petitioning to put a stop to this issue. If you would like to help encourage the banning of wild animals in circuses join The Independent’s campaign by signing their online petition for the Government to set out a timetable for banning wild animals.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

FEED the World

Here in the UK it is getting extremely difficult to get a plastic bag from your local shop. The look of disgust from the sales assistant and the additional cost of buying a bag (which you are usually made aware of after you have made your purchase) makes you really question whether your really need a bag and it seems to be working by the amount of reusable bags I see people carrying around. 
I think and hope that it is only a matter of time before plastic bags are wiped out completely. Especially when you consider that most plastic bags are sent to landfill and are not biodegradable. Yes they are useful for taking your sandwiches to work or picking up dog mess but are there not other alternatives? Surely an alternative should be developed? People tend not to go shopping unexpectedly, it is usually a planned event and therefore it can’t be too hard to remember to take a reusable bag with you. 
Most of them are a fashion statement anyway. Many high street shops have designed beautiful; and trendy bags over recent years to really encourage people to use an alternative to the plastic bag and obviously make some money too. 
Whilst searching on the Internet for a new reusable bag I found a really interesting project which is selling artisan bags to raise money to feed the poor. Now you only have to read my blog to know I love a god cause, and this is no different. What a brilliant concept – you get a great bag and feel good about giving to charity. It is a really easy way to get involved. 
FEED Projects was set up in 2006 with the mission of creating a good product to help FEED the world. This is achieved with the sale of FEED bags and other accessories and then offsetting a donation to feeding the poor. 
Their website states that their “personal commitment to working against hunger is matched with a commitment to the environment and to safe and healthy working conditions for all we work with”. FEED bags are made with sustainable materials, along with fair labour production. Each bag sale is helping to 'FEED the world, one bag at a time'. 
If you want to find our more information you should follow them on Twitter @FEEDProjects or watch the video below: