You don’t have to believe to be green
Here’s some interesting facts you won’t read in your local newspaper: the world has stopped warming. Data from all four major global temperature tracking outlets (Hadley, NASA’s GISS, UAH, RSS) released in February this year show that the world cooled between 0.65-0.75C in 2007.
The trend isn’t new. If we take the global average temperature from 2001, the trend is downwards. In the 1730’s, Europe underwent a period of rapid warming similar to the one recorded in the lead up to 2001. There is a lack of activity on the sun that some are suggesting could be the start of a Maunder Minimum.
Every time you hear people on television say that there are only a handful of manmade global climate change skeptics, you might be interested to note that the number in the United States alone includes 31,000 scientists – 9,000 with doctorate degrees in atmospheric science, climatology, Earth science, environment and other specialties. The list includes 9,021 Ph.D.s, 6,961 at the master’s level, 2,240 medical doctors and 12,850 carrying a bachelor of science or equivalent academic degree.
I could spend hours trying to convince many of you that the idea of man made global warming is flawed, and no matter what the facts, you will probably never change your mind. Believers in cults rarely do. But ultimately what you believe doesn’t matter, because you don’t have to believe to be green.
We’ve switched from leaded fuel to unleaded, and yet the pollution keeps on being pumped out. Whether air quality is related to global warming or not makes no difference as no one wants to breathe smog.
Then there’s a pure economic side. As gas has surged past $4 a gallon in the United States, the cost of filling a car has skyrocketed. Even if the price settles down in the short term, the price will only increase over the long term as global demand increases and global supply diminishes. The concept of peak oil is open to debate as to when we’ll run out, but we know oil is a finite resource.
We can make a difference now. Smaller cars, greener cars. Electric vehicles are readily available today, and some diesel vehicles coming out of Europe offer extraordinary milage. Smaller cars offer great savings as well, and do you really need an SUV to go to the local supermarket?
I drive a 2003 3 door Toyota Echo with a 4 cyclinder, 1.3 liter engine. I don’t know what the imperial conversion is, but it does 4.1lts/ 100 kms. [Editors Note: That would be a whopping 57 miles/gallon, but is also the manufacturer's numbers.] I do so little driving now that I fill it up only once a month. When we purchased the car I was driving 200kms (about 130 miles) a day at a time where gas was half the price it is today, because even then we knew that we didn’t want to spend a growing chunk of our incomes on filling the car.
Reducing your gas consumption is both good for the environment and saves you money.
Plastic is made from petroleum products, so in some ways this relates to the need to get off of oil. But from a green viewpoint there’s nothing hard about taking your own bags to the supermarket, and most places sell green friendly, reusable bags for a small cost. When we do get plastic bags, we keep them and reuse them later. One person doing so doesn’t make a huge difference, but imagine if we all did it.
Recycling, depending on where you live can be a bit of a joke, and there were reports in Australia last year that recycled materials were being dumped because no one would take them. Even if that is true, that a portion of the materials you recycle are used is a start, and technology is increasingly delivering better ways of recycling just about anything you can think of. Chances are that next ream of paper you buy, or newspaper you read, will have at least part recycled paper. Recycling reduces pollution through reduced use of resources and by reducing the amount of rubbish dumped in landfills.
Many experts now think that the wars of the future will be over water. We have lot of salt water, but fresh water is a scare resource, and much like oil will increase in price as demand outstrips supply. Here in Australia, water is THE number one environmental issue, and where I live currently you can’t water your lawn or even wash your car (you can wash your car at a car wash, but the car washes themselves have strict recycling and environmental restrictions).
There are plenty of things you can do to save water. Don’t plant a lawn, or if you have one add a soil wetting agent so the need for regular watering is reduced. Put a water saver into your shower that reduces the flow of water, or install a dual flush toilet (which are now compulsory in all new Australian homes). Not only is saving water good for the environment, it can be good for your back pocket as well.
Use public transport
Better than reducing the size of your car is giving up your car completely, or where possible. Mass transit systems worldwide are experiencing a boom in use as oil prices have gone up, but Governments will only invest more into these systems when even more people switch. If you’re commuting, can you drive to a local train station and catch a train? Is there a local bus, or tram you can use? Every car off the road cuts down on oil use and pollution, and helps deliver a better environment. It will also save you money.
* Photo credit: Richard Giles