The meat industry is one of the top contributors to climate change, directly and indirectly producing about 14.5 percent of the world’s anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, and global meat consumption is on the rise. People generally like eating meat—when poor people start making more money, they almost invariably start buying more meat. As the population grows and eats more animal products, the consequences for climate change, pollution, and land use could be catastrophic.
Attempts to reduce meat consumption usually focus on baby steps—Meatless Monday and “vegan before 6,”passable fake chicken, andin vitro burgers. If the world is going to eat less meat, it’s going to have to be coaxed and cajoled into doing it, according to conventional wisdom.But what if the convincing were the easy part? Suppose everyone in the world voluntarily stopped eating meat, en masse. I know it’s not actually going to happen. But the best-case scenario from a climate perspective would be if all 7 billion of us woke up one day and realized that PETA was right all along. If this collective change of spirit came to pass, like Peter Singer’s dearest fantasy come true, what would the ramifications be?
Read Full Article at SLATE
Mosquito If there’s one creature who’s climate change gain is our loss, it’s mosquitoes. No longer restricted to strictly tropical environments, mosquitoes have spread as warmer temperatures have crept into environments they had never previously been. More mosquitoes means higher potential to spread diseases, including malaria, West Nile virus and dengue fever. This greater risk of disease is not only bad news for humans, but also some animals, including certain bird species, who had previously been unexposed to these pests. In fact, even some of the world’s largest creatures are not immune to the disease transmitted by these tiny insects. Last month, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society revealed that two whales kept in captivity died as a result of diseases carried by mosquitoes.
Jellyfish Acidifying oceans and warmer waters might be encouraging swells in populations of jellyfish around the world. Although the notion that jellyfish are benefiting from climate change has been subject to debate, studies have shown that coastal jellyfish populations are generally on the rise. More jellyfish would be bad news for any species that relied on the oceans for its food supply, including humans. Jellyfish can essentially reorder the food web by eating the same plankton that would otherwise be consumed by fish, restricting the transfer of energy on the food chain since predators tend to avoid them. The increase in jellyfish populations could also lead to an ecological disaster by resulting in an increase in carbon beyond what oceans can cope with, according to a report from The Guardian. When jellyfish die, they break down into biomass with considerably higher levels of carbon than their vertebrate counterparts. Bacteria that thrive on decaying organisms cannot absorb carbon as well and instead breathe it out into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.
Gray Nurse Shark Worldwide, around one third of oceanic shark species are at risk of extinction, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). These animals are primarily at risk as a result of human intervention, particularly the overfishing of sharks for their fins. But there is one species of shark that may stand to benefit from man-made climate change, the Australian gray nurse shark. Like many shark species, gray nurse shark populations have been under pressure. This species could disappear entirely by 2050. However, thanks for warmer waters surrounding Australia, two separate populations of this nurse shark on each side of the continent may reunite for the first time in 100,000 years.
Text and Images via Discovery. Click HERE to see more.
Fly and be Damned gets underneath the well-known facts about the unsustainable nature of the aviation industry and argues for fundamental change to our traveling habits. The first book to transcend the emotional debate between the entrenched positions of those who are either for, or against, flying, this groundbreaking work argues that aviation is stuck in a stalemate between misguided policy and a growing imperative to deal with its environmental impact and that there is now little possibility that the transition to sustainable flying can be a smooth evolution. A book by Peter McManners.
‘All human societies have had to face challenges of one sort or another. But today’s challenges are perhaps greater than any faced in the whole of recorded history. Failing to rise to the climate challenge has very serious consequences as to avoid irreversible climate chaos we must hold average global temperatures to no more than 2C above pre-industrial levels, which requires immediate, rapid and widespread action. We long-industrialised nations have a historic obligation to set a lead. Although many of us are already doing a great deal, there remains however a curious phenomenon of ‘airflight carbon blindness’ where individuals who meticulously change light bulbs, use the bus and recycle, still find it just too easy to hop on an cheap air flight. Similarly national and even international frameworks often ignore flying. We urgently need to talk about flying and this book certainly gets the conversation started!’ – Paul Allen, Project Director, Zero Carbon Britain
‘McManners could have titled his important new book ‘Fly and Be Sustainable’, with its bold and provocative vision for transforming the aviation industry from a laggard of the fossil fuel age to a linchpin industry of the future. Building on the industry’s rich entrepreneurial tradition, his proposals could very well usher in a third golden age for the industry and provide a crucial step for a sustainable future. Whether this book disturbs, enlightens, angers or provokes into action, it provides a much-needed jumpstart to the debate on sustainability and deserves a wide audience.’ – John E. Reardon, Editor, International Journal of Pluralism and Economics Education
‘For those who live by air travel, McManners sets out a tough agenda for a sustainable aviation industry.’ – Nigel Winser, Executive Vice President, Earthwatch.
All text and Images above via Zed Books.
Via Zeb Books Blog
Why can everyone learn Portuguese? Are some aspects of our nature unknowable? Can you imagine Richard Nixon as a radical? Is Twitter a trivializer? New Scientist takes a whistle-stop tour of our modern intellectual landscape in the company of Noam Chomsky.
Let’s start with the idea that everyone connects you with from the 1950s and ’60s—a “universal grammar” underlying all languages. How is that idea holding up in 2012?
It’s virtually a truism. There are people who misunderstand the term but I can’t deal with that. It’s perfectly obvious that there is some genetic factor that distinguishes humans from other animals and that it is language-specific. The theory of that genetic component, whatever it turns out to be, is what is called universal grammar.
But there are critics such as Daniel Everett, who says the language of the Amazonian people he worked with seems to challenge important aspects of universal grammar.
It can’t be true. These people are genetically identical to all other humans with regard to language. They can learn Portuguese perfectly easily, just as Portuguese children do. So they have the same universal grammar the rest of us have. What Everett claims is that the resources of the language do not permit the use of the principles of universal grammar.
That’s conceivable. You could imagine a language exactly like English except it doesn’t have connectives like “and” that allow you to make longer expressions. An infant learning truncated English would have no idea about this: They would just pick it up as they would standard English. At some point, the child would discover the resources are so limited you can’t say very much, but that doesn’t say anything about universal grammar, or about language acquisition. Actually, I doubt very much that a language like that could exist.
Excerpt of the interview with Graham Lawton for SLATE. Continue HERE
Ensuring that the genetic diversity of the world’s food crops is preserved for future generations is an important contribution toward the reduction of hunger and poverty in developing countries. This is where the greatest plant diversity originates and where the need for food security and the further development of agriculture is most urgent.
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which is established in the permafrost in the mountains of Svalbard, is designed to store duplicates of seeds from seed collections around the globe. Many of these collections are in developing countries. If seeds are lost, e.g. as a result of natural disasters, war or simply a lack of resources, the seed collections may be reestablished using seeds from Svalbard.
The loss of biological diversity is currently one of the greatest challenges facing the environment and sustainable development. The diversity of food crops is under constant pressure. The consequence could be an irreversible loss of the opportunity to grow crops adapted to climate change, new plant diseases and the needs of an expanding population.
Via The Ministry of Agriculture and Food