Day 6: Rainforests – the lungs of the Earth
Our planet’s rainforests play a major part in climate change. The deforestation that takes place in these unique ecosystems contributes around a fifth of global CO2 emissions. Keeping rainforest standing is the simplest and cheapest way to mitigate climate change. Despite this, we are losing the world’s rainforests at an ever faster rate. They generate a fifth of the world’s oxygen, yet of the world’s remaining rainforests, 46% are fragmented, 30% are degraded and only less than one quarter are left fully intact.
It is not just the climate which will benefit from protecting forest. Rainforests are home to 350 million people globally. Around 1.6 billion people also depend on rainforests for their livelihoods and survival. This means nearly one in four people in the world rely directly or indirectly upon them. It’s not only humans: our rainforests are home to a rich tapestry of biodiversity. Despite only covering 6% of the world’s land surface, they contain two thirds of all biodiversity. 99% of this is still to be studied and could yield new exciting discoveries, some that could be revolutionary in the world of medicine. From slowing down climate change to improving human health, the value of the world’s main rainforest areas should not be under-estimated.
What eco actions can we take?
Citizens every citizen on this planet has a role to play in helping to protect the rainforests. Actions which can be taken include: eating less meat, as cattle farming is one of the leading causes of deforestation, especially in the Amazon; avoiding palm oil products where possible, as unsustainable palm oil plantations are currently the leading cause of rainforest destruction in Malaysia and Indonesia; and if you are buying new timber based products, make sure to look for the FSC mark: this accredits products that are grown and harvested sustainably. And finally why not donate to a charity like Cool Earth that directly protects rainforest.
Civil society: Communities everywhere can rise to the challenge. Spread awareness of what’s at stake over these 12 days of COPmas and lobby companies and governments to ensure their procurement policies include making sure they buy, and sell, only FSC certified products and that the palm oil they use is sustainably sourced.
Corporates: Businesses, from the blue chip multinational, through to the micro SME and start-ups, have a huge role to play in the protection of the rainforest. Manufacturers and retailers should only by selling FSC goods, and sustainability sourced palm oil. For an even bigger impact, businesses can partner with Cool Earth to help protect rainforest directly.
Day 7: Sustainable transport
We need to rethink the way we move ourselves around. There is a lot happening around ‘active transport’- which is a posh term for walking and cycling – but we also need to see a sea change in what powers our vehicles – petrol and diesel have been the dominant transportation fuels for over a hundred years, but are sooo last century, what we require is a new fuel for the 21st century. Welcome then e-vehicles, your time has come!
From tiny e-bikes all the way up to hybrid trucks and buses, plug in electric vehicles are coming. After a few false starts the technology is now in place to offer drivers a clean, viable and fun alternative to the internal combustion engine which has dominated the vehicle market for over a century. Now that the major manufacturers are getting involved, spurred along by some upstarts who are really shaking the car industry up, we can expect the quality and range of plug in vehicles to rapidly improve, making them a tempting proposition for the majority of drivers rather than being the preserve of the early adopters. There are many attractions to plug in vehicles: they are exceptionally efficient, have no tailpipe emissions so are very clean, are very quiet, have few moving parts so their reliability is excellent, are cheap to fuel and are great fun to drive with spritely performance from even the most basic plug in vehicle (the days of comparing electric cars to milk carts are long gone).
So, why aren’t they a more common sight on roads? One of the reasons is cost. Plug ins are more expensive than conventional cars and the main reason is the cost of the battery. This is changing rapidly though as the cost of lithium ion batteries is following a trajectory not dissimilar to that of solar photovoltaics over the past 5 years.
What eco actions can we take?
There are many actions we can adopt to reduce our travel carbon footprint, here are a few:
Citizens: We need to start asking whether car journeys are really necessary – could you hold that meeting on Skype? Could you cycle, walk or take public transport instead? If driving is unavoidable, then what sort of car should you use? If you live in city centres with car sharing schemes why not investigate whether any have plug in vehicles in their fleets. Car sharing schemes are in many ways a better option to car ownership as they lead to less driving and the vehicles are more modern and have lower emissions.
Civil Society: groups and communities can campaign to get their public buses to be converted to electric vehicles and/or hybrids. Join the campaigns for cleaner air in your area. Campaign for better cycle lanes.
Corporates: businesses of all sizes that operate fleets of vehicles could investigate the possibility of operating plug in vehicles within their fleets. There are financial & environmental benefits to switching to plug in vehicles and in many countries there are grants available to help with the vehicle purchase costs and recharging infrastructure.
Day 8: Biodiversity
Humans are becoming ever more dominant in the natural world and unfortunately, we often expand at the expense of the planet’s biodiversity. Although it is difficult to determine to any degree of accuracy, a number of scientists claim we are in the middle of the 6th mass extinction era caused predominately by human activity. The rapid loss of species we are seeing today is estimated by experts to be between 1,000 and 10,000 times more than the naturally occurring extinction rate. Habitat destruction, introduction of invasive species, over exploitation, agricultural mono cultures and latterly man-made climate change are compounding problems which are creating this crisis. In fact, all the creatures featured in our north pole illustration above are endangered species – yes even Santa’s reindeers.
Linking the issue of biodiversity loss to COP21 negotiations and debates, we see that climate change, including changes in temperature and increases in the number of extreme weather events, will heavily impact ecosystems and the biodiversity they provide habitats for. Even a small change in temperature can influence breeding cycles, habitat range, and food availability for species and therefore, the biodiversity of the planet could be the first victim of failing to reach a deal in Paris this COPmas.
What eco actions can we take?
Although over half of the world’s human population live in cities and other urban areas with, you could argue, a limited amount of contact with the wider biodiversity the planet has to offer, there are still many actions we can all take to do our bit to help preserve ecosystems and the biodiversity found within them.
Citizens: There is much that can be done on the part of individuals to protect biodiversity. Buying Rainforest Alliance Certified products can help towards reducing your personal impact on rainforest biodiversity. Not buying souvenirs on holiday that are made from the skin, fur, bone, beak, shell or hooves of an endangered species. Using 100% recycled paper, as this saves 24 trees per tonne of paper and can help towards slowing habitat destruction in forested areas. Buying organic food helps reduce inputs of fertilizers and pesticides into the environment, which in turn reduces negative impacts on nearby beneficial insects (for pollination and pest control) and any adjacent aquatic biodiversity.
Civil Society: Get involved with ecological restoration in your area, wherever you may live. Most areas have local interest groups active in restoration of some kind. By volunteering you can help restore habitat for native species and eliminate invasive species, all while learning something about your local plants and animals and getting active, out in the fresh air.
Corporates: Nowadays 75% of the world’s fisheries are fully or over exploited. Around 80% of the world’s biodiversity is found underwater, so the fishing industry and retailers and supermarkets have an important role to play in marine biodiversity protection. Reducing by-kill (animals caught by accident in fishing gear; species that the fishers do not intend to catch) in fish harvesting is vital to creating sustainable marine diversity. For office based companies, how about introducing a volunteering scheme that allows your employees to volunteer in their local environments, helping with waterway clean-ups and restoration of local habitats.