Our choices on the environment

When Sylvia Earle was a child, the Gulf of Mexico was her backyard. Her parents encouraged her love of the outdoors, and always taught her to leave a place better than she found it. Three decades later, she was the first person to walk solo on the ocean floor at a depth of more than a quarter of a mile, and later the first chief scientist of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. An oceanographer, she has become one of the worldʼs most vocal ocean advocates, and a leading figure in the environmental movement.

Not everyone can be a full-time environmentalist or a world-famous oceanographer, however. For individuals, the question of what an ordinary person can do to help the environment has become increasingly difficult. Many people would like to leave the world a better place than they find it, but at a time of heatwaves, wildfires, and rising carbon emissions, that task seems very daunting.

Ms Earle sees room for hope, though. “The most important thing is knowing,” she says. “We all have the opportunity armed with knowledge to turn things around.”

She points to the recent focus on plastics, and the growing awareness of how small plastic pieces contribute to the build-up of toxins in the ocean. “Now that we know we have a problem, we have a fighting chance of solving it.”

The reason the anti-plastics movement has been so popular is because it presents something concrete, an aspect of daily life where individual action can have an immediate and satisfying result.

The food we eat and the things we buy are also a big source of emissions. Cutting down on red meat and buying less are two of the most direct ways to reduce individual carbon footprints. Prof Berners-Leeʼs most recent research finds that if food consumption trends continue on their current trajectory, the earth will need to produce 119 per cent more food by 2050.

“It doesnʼt have to be done overnight, none of us have to go vegetarian or vegan . . . But we do need to get on a different trajectory over the next decades,” adds the academic, who is brother of inventor of the world wide web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

Home heating and car travel are other areas where individuals can have a direct impact. Heating and cooling can be made efficient with better insulation and design. Avoiding car travel, or opting for a ride-share or electric vehicle where possible, can also cut emissions.

“Part of it is what we do in our own carbon footprint, and part of it is what are the ripple effects that go out from what we do,” Prof Berners-Lee says. “How you exert your systemic influence in all those other ways — what do you do at work, how you vote, etc.”

Even the most ambitious individual carbon-cutting efforts can go only so far, because of the energy systems already in place in the world.

“What we really need to think about is how can we create the conditions where, as a species, as a planet, as a global society, we can manage those emissions downward,” he says. “There is no escaping the need for some sort of global co- ordinated response.”

 

Nine Alarming Facts about Single Use Cups

Nine Alarming Facts about Single Use Cups

1. Disposable paper cups contain 5% polyurethane plastic,

making composting and recycling of disposable cups extremely rare

2. Half a trillion disposable cups are manufactured annually around the world; that’s over 70 disposable cups for every person on the planet.

3. Most plastic used in the world today is for single-use items.

4. 4 billion trees, or 35% of the total trees chopped down, are used in

paper industries

5. 1 tonne of paper consumes 98 tonnes of resources in manufacture.

6. Globally, we consume nearly 300 million tonnes of paper each year;

most made from virgin pulp.

7. Very little recycled paper is used to make disposable cups due to

health risk concerns.

8. 70% of the world’s paper comes from diminishing forests, not from

plantations or recycling

9. Consumer waste has increased more than tenfold over the 20th century,

from 40kg to 560kg of waste per person, per year.

Plastic pollution

Plastic. As a result  its  proliferation  has been exponential, its  pervasiveness is global.  Plastic  pollution now  reaches  virtually  every  part of  the  planet.    One  of  the  most  observable  changes  on  the planet  in the  last  50  years  has been ‘the  ubiquity  and  abundance  of plastic  debris’1.  It is  likely that in the  first  ten  years  of  this century  we  have  used  more  plastic  than  we  did  during  the whole  of  the  last. 

Plastic production is increasing inexorably, particularly in the developing world; it is an indicator of development. In the first ten years of this century we produced more plastic that the whole of the last century. We are now producing nearly 300 million tonnes of plastic every year, half of which is for single use (Plastics Europe, 2009) .

Microsoft's subsea speed monster

Microsoft's subsea speed monster: A cable 16 million times faster than your broadband zd.net/2fDBvHt via @ZDNet & @LiamT

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According to Microsoft, Marea is the highest-capacity connection of more than a dozen trans-Atlantic subsea cables. Marea also connects to nearby Sopelana, which links up with fiber networks connecting to other major European hubs like Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, and London.

 

Microsoft also points out that Bilbao offers a convenient path to hubs in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

For Microsoft, the cable will help it improve its various cloud services, such as Azure, Office 365, Skype and Xbox Live. Facebook says it will help it improve the "increasingly data-intensive services" that it provides through WhatsApp, Messenger, Facebook, and Instagram.

The cable is expected to become operational in early 2018.

Bring back bottle deposits to stop plastic pollution in our oceans

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In the UK we use a staggering 38.5 million single-use plastic bottles and a further 58 million cans every day! Only half of these are recycled, so it’s no surprise that many of these end up on our beaches and in our oceans.

Plastic bottles take 450 years to break down, killing marine life, harming the coastal ecosystem and ruining our beaches.

Placing a small deposit on plastic bottles and cans would dramatically increase recycling and reduce marine plastic pollution.

This petition has been set up by Surfers Against Sewage, a marine conservation charity. Find out more about Surfers Against Sewage here:http://www.sas.org.uk