On 10th September, 2005, Gordon Brown said the high price of fuel posed a significant risk to the European economy and to global growth, and urged OPEC to raise oil production. Again, six months later, he said “we need . . .more production, more drilling, more investment, more petrochemical investment” (22nd April, 2006).
However,one of his more recent initiatives, namely
the promotion of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids is a good part of a plan for getting off fossil fuels.
Electrification of most transport is a path to a safe and long future of Human kind and the future of this World. The faster more Nations understand and adopt it the better it would be for the reduction of pollution in the local context and Global Warming in the long run.
However, Electric or Hybrid vehicles alone can not solve the problem which threatens us towards Extinction. For that we have to look into the life-style of the modern human closely and discuss chapter & verse. Through this book I’ll try to open up the discussion to peers and readers so that by Rio+20 enough noise is created by it to warrant discussions, but most importantly make the youth of today sit up and look for the answers, as its they who would shoulder the burden of the past generations mistakes.
Let’s begin by listing some of the symbols of modernity –
Until the early 1900’s, much of the soap used was made at home. Fats from cooking and butchering were saved until there was enough to make a batch of soap. This all changed in 1916 when a shortage of fats (a main ingredient in soap) occurred during World War I. As an alternative was needed, enterprising companies developed the first synthetic soaps called detergents.
In 2008 Greenpeace showed the World how Unilever the maker of beauty soap Dove was systematically destroying the rain-forest of Indonesia. By planting hectare after hectare of palm-oil plants which provide the basic ingredient for the soaps. The Orangutang – a monkey species unique to that part of the world is in the verge of extinction. And in the process the complete rain-forest. Which would lead to further disturbance in the delicate Climate balance of the world.
Lets understand how –
When scientist choose an animal for conservation, say the Tiger, the project by default saves the complete Eco-system of that area. A carnivore like the Tiger requires to kill and eat. Its prey are the herbivore like Deer etc. Now the Deer/ Buffalo would need grass/vegetation and lots of it as the population ratio between a Tiger & Deer as a rough guess would be 1:100. Now, for a good vegetation we would require the right bio-diversity. From the Earthworm to the Birds, each have a specific role to play; from pollination to digestion of decayed leaves which then releases precious Nitrogen vital for plant growth.
So when you save a Orangutang or a Tiger you are directly saving the whole Eco-system, alternately when we hear about the danger of extinction of such primary species, you can bet your last dollar that the complete habitat destruction of millions of plants and animals have already taken place.
We can not live our life without soap, but can we find an alternative way to produce such products ?
2. Toilet Paper;
This is a life – style which needs serious thought, lets look into the source of paper for the toilet paper –
“Tissues, toilet paper, and other disposable products are responsible for unspeakable destruction of ancient forests around the world. And, in today’s New York Times, tissue maker Kimberly-Clark (K-C) has probably given us a bit more information than they meant to about the extent of the destruction they’re causing despite their green claims.” …the company used 3,113,000 metric tons of virgin fiber in 2005, an increase from the 3,067,000 metric tons of virgin fiber used in 2004,…this amounts to over 435,820 metric tons of Boreal pulp used by Kimberly- Clark in a single year,…they’re cutting down ancient boreal forest, a 10,000-year-old ecosystem. Blogpost by lindsey – February 26, 2009 at 12:01 ( Green Peace USA ).
Worldwide, the equivalent of almost 270,000 trees is either flushed or dumped in landfills every day and roughly 10 percent of that total is attributable to toilet paper. “While the paper industry often touts plantations as the solution to creating an ongoing supply of virgin pulp and fiber, these monocultures often displace indigenous plant and animal life, require tremendous amounts of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and soak up large quantities of water. the World Watch magazine.
Although I would not like to comment on the matter of which is better, washing with water or swiping with a piece of paper; for me water wins hands down when it comes to the three R’s of sustainability – Re-cycle, Re-use & Re-new. And with this I am not just talking of saving just the 10% of the 270,000 trees but all of it which require a serious look and determined practice of the 3 – R’s mentioned.
3 Plastics ;
Today, plastics frequently replace most traditional materials such as wood, metal, glass, leather, paper and rubber because they can be lighter, stronger, corrosion resistant, very durable and a better insulator. These properties often make plastics more economical to use than other materials. They are used throughout industry and business; they influence the way we dress, the way we enjoy ourselves and the way we live. Many plastics have become household names – nylon, polyester and so on… Plastics can be produced from oil or gas that has undergone chemical processing, and consists of synthetic polymers. Certain types of plastic are suitable for packaging (25% of the US plastic
production – 37% of the European plastic production), others for building and construction (22% in US – 20% in EU), and others for toys and medical stuff (13% in US – 9% in EU), transportation (5% in US – 7.5% in EU), furniture (4% in US – 3.5% in EU), electronic stuff (4% in US – 7.5% in EU) etc.
As is evident from the above paragraph, the modern Human is surrounded by plastic. In fact I’m able to write this article on my lap top which is also made of plastic component and the optic fibers which connects me to the world-wide web would also be a form of plastic.
Crude oil is used in plastic making as main raw materials. 1 litre of petrol (0.76 kg) needs approximately 0.9 kg of crude oil, with 1 kg crude oil counted for 44 MJ/kg. Considering that the crude oil production report does not consider the oil used for plastic making and the oil used as energy in plastic plants (what is improbably), the net heat generation is 0.6 1014 kWh to 2000 and 0.77 1014 kWh to 2004. Considering the worst case of energy consumption versus different plastic making, i.e. PP energy consumption, the net heat generation is 0.46 1014 kWh to 2000 and 0.59 1014 kWh to 2004. The net heat generation from the use of crude oil in plastic making is roughly 0.4.1014 kWh from 1939 to 2000. It corresponds to 1.3% of the missing heat and contributes to 0.5% of the global warming. Its contribution is about the same magnitude than the gas flaring, less than the impact of nuclear power, and more than coal fires. ( http://www.ltu.se/cms_fs/1.5035!/plastics%20-%20final.pdf )
As one can see that the impact to global warming is more than coal, however the point I would like to make is that is derived from Crude oil. At the end of 2010, world proven crude oil reserves stood at 1,467,012 million barrels, of which 1,193,172 million barrels, or 81.3 per cent, was in OPEC Member Countries. ( http://www.opec.org/opec_web/en/press_room/179.htm )
If we continue to follow the life-style we have without finding alternatives we would be using up this reserve to continue making plastic, electricity, gas for our automobiles and with each liter used increase the level of Green house gas.
Only with the above 3 examples I have tried to show how the modern Human is creating immense pollution, I’ve yet to document our use and extraction of Metal, Cement and other daily use materials which are so common and easily available that one hardly spends time to understand the enormous festering wound it is creating on the bosom of Mother Nature.
What is required from the Gen Next is a firm approach towards understanding the dangers they are inheriting and mend the ways with some short-term compromise to the life-style for a long Sustainable Future! It would not be easy but it would also not be impossible for Man is an inventor. And when it’s very own existence as a being comes into danger, he will and must adapt.
- Jennifer Grayson: Eco Etiquette: Is My Toilet Paper Toxic? (huffingtonpost.com)
- Kleenex sponsors book on saving the orangutan (mumbrella.com.au)
- The Toilet Paper Analogy (and Why You Need It In Your Life) (crazyadventuresinparenting.com)
- Kimberly-Clark And WWF Work Together To Conserve The World’s Forests (prweb.com)