Monday, November 27, 2006

The Growing Concern for our Environment

No snow
As the climate warms up, mountainous regions may experience lower levels of snowfall. This image shows Mount Hood in Oregon at the same time in late summer in 1985 and 2002.

The environment issue has become a global concern; CO2 levels have increased substantially since the Industrial Revolution, and are expected to continue doing so. It is reasonable to believe that humans have been responsible for much of this increase

Global warming
The continuing emissions of greenhouse gases, chiefly carbon dioxide (CO2) severely increases the earth's atmospheric and surface temperatures, with disastrous environmental consequences.

Direct manifestations of a widespread and long-term trend toward warmer global temperatures will include:
· Heat waves and periods of unusually warm weather
· Ocean warming, sea-level rise and coastal flooding
· Glaciers melting
· Arctic and Antarctic warming

And the following events will foreshadow the types of impacts likely to become more frequent and widespread with continued warming:
· Spreading disease
· Earlier spring arrival
· Plant and animal range shifts and population changes
· Coral reef bleaching
· Downpours, heavy snowfalls, and flooding
· Droughts and fires

A typical example of the effect of climate chance is the East Africa drought. You need to visit the Wajir and Turkana district in Kenya to view the drought’s impact on pastoralist and agricultural livelihoods. In Wajir District, there are evidences of an almost complete collapse of the pastoralist livelihood. Cattle and camels are dying, and people are weak and malnourished due severe water and food shortages.

What are you doing about it?
We had a lunchtime discussion about climate change and environment degradation and came up with the following points to help draft an organization policy on the environment.

· Consider less flying
· If you must fly, then offset carbon emissions of flying through paying a small sum for each flight to carbon offset organizations (see or or asking your travel agent to do this
· Use of video or teleconferencing may help reduce need for flights in some cases
· Use hotels that are more environmentally friendly - see responsible travel or Tourism Concern website
· Look into whether there are environmentally friendly strip lights
· Buy more glasses, so people don't have to use plastic cups for water
· Buy printers that can print double-sided, and so we can reuse paper that has already been used on one side (then we can photocopy etc double sided)
· Ditto for photocopies
· Recycle photocopier/printer cartridges
· Print less
· Buying recycled loo roll, photocopy and headed paper in bulk
· Buying environmentally friendly soap, washing up liquid, loo cleaner etc in bulk
· Having bags for recycling of plastic and glass
· Turn down/off the heating
· Only use air conditioning when essential, and turn it off after half an hour
· Making the travel expenses also available to interns or volunteers who cycle or walk to work (currently they don't get any travel costs, making it a disincentive to walk or cycle)
· Fix the shower so cycling is more attractive
· See how many copies of each publications we really need to print
· Use recycled and unbleached paper for all of our publications
· Turn all computers, lights, photocopiers off at night or when not in use
· When making tea, be sociable and boil the kettle once and make tea for others on your floor
· If you're able to, use your legs not the lift
· Install dual-flush loos
· No parking outside, so that staff are not encouraged to drive
· Have a shower for cyclists/walkers etc
· Give our database an overhaul so we don't waste loads of reports to people who no longer exist
· Encourage nursing mothers to use traditional cloth nappies instead of pampers
· Use 100% degradable material

If you would like to help, Merlin, a humanitarian aid charity (where I used to work) has some good projects in East Africa, particularly in Wajir and Turkana district. You may visit to donate.

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