Tag Archives: ecological footprint

Where have all the insects gone?

I remember when our children were younger, and we went on our summer holidays by car, that the car windscreen would be splattered with the remains of dead insects.  This summer my wife and I drove to Cornwall and back for our holidays almost without a single insect hitting our windscreen.  Where have all of the insects gone?  It would appear that we, the human species, have wiped them out as a consequence of the way we exploit the planet for our own comfort and convenience.  Insecticides and monocultures aided by genetically-modified crops make a direct contribution but our consumption of fossil fuels and intensive production of everything from beef [see ‘A startling result‘ on May 18th, 2016] to plastics is changing the environment [see ‘Productive cheating?‘ on November 27th, 2013]. The biologist, Edward O. Wilson observed that ‘If all humankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed 10,000 years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.’  It looks like we are on the cusp of that collapse.

Cristiana Pașca Palmer, the executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity has highlighted the impact of our actions as a species on the other species with which we share this planet.  We are making the planet uninhabitable for an increasing number of species to the extent that the rate of extinct is perhaps the fastest ever seen and we might be the first species to catalogue its own demise.  Our politicians have demonstrated their inability to act together over climate change even when it leads to national disasters in many countries; so, it seems unlikely that they will agree on significant actions to arrest the loss of bio-diversity.  We need to act as individuals, in whatever way we can, to reduce our ecological footprints – that impact that we have on the environment [see ‘New Year Resolution‘ on December 31st, 2014] .  As the Roman poet Horace wrote: ‘You are also affected when your neighbour’s house is on fire’; so, we should not think that none of this affect us.

See also:

Man, the Rubbish Maker

Are we all free-riders?

A startling result

cowIn UK universities this is the season of project report writing for senior undergraduate students and report reading for their professors.   This year one of my students has been monitoring his personal ecological footprint and looking at ways in which he could use technology-based solutions to reduce it and then make recommendations to help others achieve the same [see my postings ‘Are we all free riders‘ on April 6th, 2016  ‘New Year Resolution‘ on December 31st, 2014].  He found that his weekly contributions to greenhouse gases (GHG) due to energy consumption in his flat or apartment, transportation and consumption of meat were 12.73, 5.87 & 8.60 kg carbon dioxide equivalents per week.  The total of 27.2 kg carbon dioxide equivalents per week is relatively low compared to the UK average but then he does not own a car and is living on a small budget.  What startled me was the proportion of greenhouse gases generated as a result of eating meat!

He consumed about 1.2kg of meat each week in about equal proportions of beef (12.14 kgCO2e/kg), chicken (2.84 kgCO2e/kg) and pork (4.45 kgCO2e/kg).  The numbers in parentheses are the greenhouse gas emissions from the production of each of these commodities in the UK and they can be compared to green beens or wheat at 1.55 and  0.52 kgCO2e/kg) respectively.  So, you don’t need to become a vegetarian but you could follow the example of my student by dropping beef from your diet in order to  make a significant individual contribution to reducing GHG emissions, or you could become a weekday vegetarian (see Graham Hill’s TED talk).

BTW – the diary cows, like the one in the picture, are lovely calm creatures and milk has a relatively small footprint at 1.19 kgCO2e/kg

Sources:

How low can we go? An assessment of greenhouse gas emissions from the UK food system end and the scope to reduce them by 2050. WWF November 2009.