GC 2016

Every week the Green Column appears in the Isle of Man Examiner. The authors come from different organisations and backgrounds. They all share love and respect for their environment and the topic of the Green Column is always connected to that.

We have had many outstanding Green Columns written in the last 3 years. Some of them are featured underneath, selected by availability and whether their content is still valid.

If you are interested in writing a Green Column, please write us a message in the contact-section.


22 December 2016

Is your Christmas Tree green?

Putting an old Christmas tree through a chipper allows it to be recycled

Christmas is coming, and my wallet’s not getting fat, says IoM FoE’s Cat Turner. So we’ve conferred with our colleagues at FoE in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – who, between them, have some terrific ideas for enjoying a great Christmas without breaking either the planet or the bank. This year they’re focused on the ubiquitous Christmas tree

Is there such a thing as a ‘sustainable Christmas tree?

Artificial trees aren’t biodegradable – and some take huge amounts of energy to manufacture.

So it might surprise you that, in fact, a real tree isn’t necessarily a greener option. It’ll depend on factors such as: how many years you use your artificial tree for; how and where a real tree is grown; whether it’s composted afterwards, continues to grow or goes to the Energy from Waste Plant/is otherwise incinerated.

Whatever, the best option is usually to keep using whatever you’ve already got for as long as it’s viable – or even to decorate large house plants or other items, to make stunning tree substitutes. And remember to put your fairy lights on a timer or turn them off every evening!

1. Artificial trees If you have one already, use it for as many years as possible to make the most of it. If you don’t have one, try Freecycle or one of the other recycling sites for a second hand one.

2. Eco-friendly real trees Make sure your tree is locally grown. If you want a tree that is certified organic, you could ask if it’s been Soil Association approved – we’re not aware of any such available on-island, but if you hear of any, let us know.

3. Grow your own My girls and I have a smallish potted tree with roots, which lives indoors for December and the rest of the year outdoors. This cuts its environmental impact and is cheap, though it may outgrow out living-room eventually.

4. Recycling real trees Don’t let your tree be part of the 90 per cent in the UK that get landfilled – seek out Christmas tree composters or if you have access to a chipper, do it yourself.

Your Christmas tree’s not the only option for ‘greening’ your Christmas – you could turn your attention to your ‘food footprint’, and investigate a vegetarian or vegan alternative to turkey, or for the Boxing Day menu; and at the very least you can shop for ethically-produced, organic food, keep waste to a minimum, and freeze what you can in the way of leftovers for later.

Happy Christmas!


15 December 2016

First-hand experience of installing solar panels

Installing photovoltaic panels

Friends of the Earth Coordinator Pete Christian reports on living with a solar photovoltaic array

My wife Vicky and I wanted to invest in solar energy, and with only two of us not making the best use of thermal panels heating our water, we chose photovoltaic (PV) panels.

We were advised throughout by George Fincher of Manx Energy Advice Centre (MEAC), who also installed the panels.

Solar panels are a permitted development not requiring planning permission (outside conservation areas), and do not affect the robustness of your roof.

There are interactive tools on the internet to investigate the suitability of your home, by inputting latitude, compass orientation and roof pitch, variables which affect efficiency. There is an optimum combination to maximise output, but I was amazed how little is lost through sub-optimal conditions – for us, shallow roof elevation and facing more west-southwest than south. An important factor is the shadow which may be cast – eg by trees, and obviously deep shade for large periods will be problematic. However, modern panels can be individually optimised, so that a small shadow on one part of the array does not affect the efficiency of the whole.

We opted for 2.5kWp, totalling 10 panels, with a control box in the garage displaying what is currently being generated, plus the history. These are connected via the internet to a system generating monthly reports, indicating how many ‘tree equivalents planted’, or ‘car equivalents neutralised’ our renewable energy choice has brought about. And the panels appear to self-clean, even from gull droppings. Solar panel prices have continued falling, installations now being probably at or under £2,000 per kW. Ours has performed over 18 months as predicted, and reduced our electricity bill by half.

Payback time is still over 12 years, if defined by recouping the whole installation cost, but the installation may add to your property value, and potentially make it more attractive to purchasers. On a bright winter’s day we can run the washing machine and dryer for free, and in summer charge our newly-acquired Leaf electric vehicle by day for nothing, or overnight at half price electricity.

And there’s something wonderful about connecting directly to the sun, knowing our clean energy isn’t on the back of things being ripped or drilled from the earth, transported, and then burnt. And it’ll be there tomorrow.

Various installers operate in the island. And for free advice from MEAC, you’re welcome to call at the Green Centre, opposite Chester Street’s Little Shoprite Store on any Saturday.


08 December 2016

Valuing our precious landscapes – the detail

In the second of two articles, Friends of the Earth member James McLean looks more closely at the detail of the Department of the Environment, Food and Agriculture Landscape and Amenity Strategy 2050

Following last week’s overview of the Department of the Environment, Food and Agriculture’s new strategy paper, there were a few high level aims in the document that grabbed my attention. For reference, the document can viewed online here: https://www.gov.im/media/1352012/our-landscape-our-legacy.pdf

They’re all good suggestions, but I felt these in particular were worth drawing attention to.

– Ensure the unique Isle of Man landscape is protected and promoted

– Ensure everyone understands what biodiversity is, why it is important and is empowered to use it sustainably

– Ensure ecosystem services are a key part of policy decisions

– Take a ‘catchment management’ approach to help mitigate climate change, prevent flooding and provide clean drinking water.

– Sensitively manage critical habitats in a pragmatic manner to sustain and maintain value

– Involve society in understanding, appreciating and safeguarding biodiversity

– Develop a Green Economy to enhance our island’s reputation and to sustainably use our natural wealth

– Maximise the potential of eco-tourism

– Ensure that the complex interaction of regulations, markets and policy deliver economic and environmental benefit

– Improve visitor information so people can confidently and responsibly use and enjoy [our landscape]

– Recognise the importance to health of catchment management for flood prevention and water quality, and ensure that policies and management support this.

– Increase community group, user group and corporate engagement with countryside projects.

– Encourage and develop new outdoor/natural learning opportunities.

– Support forest school concepts to promote different learning opportunities.

However, without timelines for implementation, ownership and assessment, the document offers very little in the way of actual strategy. For comparison, there are a number of notable LEMPs (Landscape and Ecological Management Plans) to refer to, in order to illustrate what could be expected.

The University of Bath’s particularly stood out to me as a well formatted and documented strategy, setting out a clear and easy to follow plan:

Assessment of current position – Strategic vision – Implementation (including management strategy, programme and phasing, funding and resources) – Assessment (strategy for monitoring and review)

Other than what has already been highlighted as missing, where, for example, is the input from the Department of Infrastructure? DEFA and DoI are intrinsically connected. How does this document sit along with urbanisation in the island? What about sustainable energy descent and clean transport infrastructure? What about the island’s waste reduction and sustainable waste management? All of these questions lead back into the greater strategy for sustainably sustaining and developing our natural environment.


01 December 2016

Prioritising the island’s precious landscape

Ape Mann at South Barrule is a good example of the activity using the islands environment to anable people to reconnect with natural surroundings

In the first of two articles, Friends of the Earth member James McLean looks at the Department of the Environment, Food and Agriculture’s Landscape and Amenity Strategy 2050

The Department of the Environment, Food and Agriculture’s Landscape and Amenity Strategy 2050 aims to ‘set a clear lead in what is expected from landscape management for the future across the whole Isle of Man to maximise and sustain our natural wealth’, identifying three key topics.

Valued Environment – This might be better termed as a valued ecosystem as it discusses benefits such as natural air and water filtration and food production.

Resilient Economy – This looks at business opportunities provided by a well-managed landscape, such as fishing and agriculture, as well as business opportunities in educational and recreational industries that help the public reconnect with natural surroundings – for example, Ape Mann at South Barrule.

Vibrant Community – This identifies benefits for the wider community that come from engaging with sustainable, responsible use and management of the landscape, such as health improvements, community belonging and inspiring people.

Having identified these benefits for the island (from a human perspective) that can be gained from a holistic land management strategy, the document lists some suggestions for government to develop and/or harness these benefits. However, it is somewhat lacking in the following: Measurable Aims and Targets

For a strategy of such importance and with a 30+ year lifespan, I would expect to see some real measurable goals. Any ideas should surely be driven by analytical study and assessed at least every decade,if not more frequently, to ensure that the ideas put into practice are delivering expected results. At no point within the document was I able to identify clear strategic goals.

Actionable tasks – The document does highlight largely high-level tasks for each of the topics, all of which I would support and encourage government to develop. What it is incredibly short on, however, is detail as to the how and the who. There is no information about departmental ownership, financial requirements (e.g. budgets), resource requirements, correlation to benefits, steps to achieve tasks. The document does highlight that: ‘Resource demands will be limited, certainly initially, since the natural capital already exists. ‘Management […] in many cases will already have been identified with the relevant resources.’ So perhaps this is already known and simply not documented here.

So what is the document actually proposing? In the next Green Column I will look at the more detailed content. In the meantime, find the document online here: https://www.gov.im/media/1352012/our-landscape-our-legacy.pdf


20 October 2016

Growing great things from small spaces

Chris Wilsons home-grown beetroot
Chris Wilsons home-grown beetroot

Cat Turner from Isle of Man Friends of the Earth visits a home in Douglas where a small area is being maximised.

Regular readers of this column have seen plenty of articles from me about community gardening, sustainable food systems and the like. But from time to time we come across people doing good things on a smaller – sometimes much smaller – scale.

That’s exactly what happened when I called round to see the amiable Chris Wilson, at his home in Douglas. From the front, Chris’s home is easily identifiable. ‘It’s the one with lots of flower-pots outside the front,’ he told me – and so it was. But it was the back garden which proved a revelation. A pocket handkerchief-sized piece of steeply-sloping ground, it must have seemed deeply unpromising at the outset, its main redeeming feature being its terrific aspect, combining spectacular views over nearby hills with plenty of glorious sunlight.

Chris has lived in his current home for more than 20 years, but only started growing in earnest some two years ago. In that time, he’s established something of a mini-miracle in his own backyard. Making a virtue of necessity, the steeply-sloping ground has been terraced into a series of small, raised beds full of beautiful, healthy top-soil – each one bursting with productivity. I saw spinach and lettuces, blackcurrant bushes and strawberries, and lots of different herbs – and Chris is just about to get some onions under way in and around other plantings. He’s obviously thought hard about how to get the best out of his confined space: he spoke knowledgeably about intercropping (growing more than one different and complementary crop, commingled in the same space), and rotating the plantings in order to ensure maximum soil health and productivity. He’s obviously put a lot of thought, and just as much effort, into the project.

So why does Chris bother? Well, it was clear from talking to him that a large part of his motivation is sheer pleasure; he spoke of the therapeutic effect, after a busy day’s work, of getting his hands into soil and tending to the plants. And then, of course, there’s the benefit of harvesting fresh, homegrown produce. I sampled green beans straight from the pod, essentially still alive and as flavoursome as I’ve ever tasted. And as we said, in a world of conformity and mass-produced food, ‘growing your own’ is a small, but significant, act of independence and rebellion.


06 October 2016

Big Tiday Up is all about respecting environment

oct2016bigtidyup
Bruno, George, Sarah, Pete, Andrew and Tony from the Green Centre tackle Well Road Hill in Douglas

This weekend saw the Green Centre crew getting down and dirty with the litter-pickers, on Well Road Hill, reports Cat Turner from Isle of Man Friends of the Earth

Each year, the good folks at Douglas Borough Corporation organise a ‘Big Tidy Up’ event. This is where members of the public can help rekindle their pride in the town, and clean up specially grotty grot-spots. The corporation provides fetching tabards (see our photo for how to carry them off with aplomb), bin bags and longhandled litterpickers for picking up the yukkier items. Well Road Hill provides us with a fertile area for litterpicking, it must be said, chock-a-block with binnable stuff. The team spent a productive hour or so making the place presentable, and getting some exercise into the bargain.

Organised across the British Isles by Keep Britain Tidy, the Big Tidy Up has been going on annually since 2008, and last year more than 30,000 people got involved, hefting a massive 4,056 bags of rubbish off our streets and public spaces. Since its inception, it’s actually removed 25,000 sacks of refuse – and that’s a great result.

It does make you wonder, though, doesn’t it….why do people think it’s OK to litter the streets of their hometowns so that the Big Tidy Up is necessary? Much of what we collected was cigarette butts, chewing gum and drinks bottles/cans – all, sadly, discarded on the pavement within metres of easily-accessible bins. Littering’s an offence that can be punished by a hefty fine – so why not make that extra effort and walk the few feet to the nearest rubbish receptacle? In any event, it greatly restored my faith in human nature, when a lovely lady dropped into the Green Centre later that same day, to buy one of our neat ‘pocket ashtrays’ – tidy little things that mean she’ll never be at a loss for somewhere to dispose of her smokes. And every little really does help: my girls have developed a little ‘house rule’, that we try to leave places better than we found them. Usually, that means collecting a few bits of rubbish and sticking them in a nearby bin, or bringing them home to our own wheelie-bin. Lizzie, aged 10, tells me that to her mind it’s about ‘showing respect for the people who live here’, including – of course – ourselves. I like her approach – we’ll keep our island tidy, because we’re worth it!


14 July 2016

What we would like to see from our future government

Isle of Man Friends of the Earth is encouraging prospective MHKs to consider the long-term impact of policies and the need to address serious environmental, social and economic issues.

Not all actions yield immediately obvious benefits, but they still require thought and consideration.

 

We want change on:

Climate and Sustainability

While Tynwald’s 2016 commitment to climate action is fairly positive, it is far too little too late and leaves us behind more evolved nations.

Many small island communities are well on the way to (or have already achieved) 100 per cent renewable energy status, and sustainablity in other respects.

We believe that primary legislation is the cornerstone to active and enforceable targets in reducing carbon emissions and implore new candidates to back this initiative.

More urgency is required in transitioning to a 100 per cent renewable energy economy – something ever more attainable, with storage technologies.

This would enable us to meet international responsibilities, ensure greater security of energy supply and price and generate new jobs and skills.

Local renewable energy could cut the need for Manx finances to be paid abroad for imported fossil fuel or other energy.

Government’s stated intent to lease our territorial seabed for fossil fuel prospecting is entirely inconsistent with our climate commitments – we must ‘keep it in the ground’.

It should be leased for projects that relate to renewable generation.

An Energy Advice Service should be established, as should financial support schemes to facilitate better home insulation, energy efficiency and, where appropriate, microgeneration/heat pump technologies.

Regulations should require that all new-builds meet high efficiency standards, compatible with European regulations. This would help people living in fuel poverty, require fewer imports and create opportunities for the building sector.

We need a mandatory plastic bag charge, where proceeds are fed back into recycling initiatives – or better yet, a ban on all single-use bags.

It is not acceptable to be the last remaining country bordering the Irish Sea without such a charge.

Incinerator/waste charges should encourage recycling. The recently proposed availability charge runs contrary to this.

Electricity and gas standing charges at present disadvantage low users and hit the most vulnerable hardest. Standing charges should be incorporated into unit prices.

 

Clean Local Waters

Clean inland and sea waters are essential to the economy and environment, benefiting tourism, biodiversity, and wellbeing.

We expect adoption of the 2006 bathing-water quality standards, robust monitoring and enforcement.

 

Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

The island’s Biodiversity Strategy must be translated into action, including rewilding and habitat protection, better upland management, including for flood risk management and protection of fragile green lanes and greenways.

 

Other issues IoMFoE would like to see candidates considering include:

l Rapid progress on flood risk management (including both technical and environmentally-based alternatives).

l Support for cycling, other low CO2 transport options; government fleet prioritising electric vehicles.

l Improved public EV charging networks, and information thereon, to support both local drivers and visitors.

l Support for producers of locally-grown food.


07 July 2016

Energy storage solutions for a small nation island

Cat Turner, from Isle of Man Friends of the Earth, looks at options available when generation exceeds demand.

The Isle of Man lags behind many other island communities in terms of renewables, missing out on energy and price security, jobs and the ability to demonstrate clean technologies. One rapidly developing area in this regard is energy storage – which can help manage the intermittencies of some renewables.

Being able to store energy that’s been produced when generation exceeds demand makes a system more efficient; it cuts the need for standby solutions. Storage can smooth demand peaks, and cut spending on overall generation capacity.

For bigger networks, scaled-up battery storage lets a grid operator manage infrastructure pretty much second-by-second. Being able to absorb from /discharge to, the network gives flexibility unavailable from other grid management tools – critical as the proportion of intermittent renewable generation increases, because the system reacts quickly to unpredictable fluctuations from multiple points on the network.

Integrated storage also ensures renewable energy isn’t wasted – it can be stored, and discharged later; especially important for solar and wind power, which depend on ambient conditions. And of course, integration of renewables is key to cutting CO2.

There are lots of different storage technologies, including:

l Chemical batteries include lithium ion, nickel-cadmium and lead-acid, each with differing properties. They are efficient, and can be utility-scaled.

l Flow batteries are rechargeable – power is generated by passing a solution over a membrane. They can be almost instantly recharged by replacing the solutions, and spent material later reused.

l Pumped-storage hydroelectricity. Surplus power is used to pump water to an elevated reservoir behind a dam. When it’s needed, water is released to a lower reservoir through a turbine, and generates power. This technology represents the largest capacity of energy storage available worldwide.

l Flywheel energy storage. The flywheel contains a spinning mass, driven by a motor. When energy’s needed, it drives a turbine-like device to produce electricity, slowing the rotation of the spinning mass. Flywheels can deliver a continuous supply of uninterrupted power and respond to energy needs almost instantly.

l Compressed air. Excess generation is used to compress ambient air, at pressure, in underground caverns. When power is needed, the pressurised air is recovered through an expansion turbine driving a generator for power production.

l Thermal energy storage stores energy temporarily in the form of heat or cold. For example, solar thermal power uses energy from peak sunlight hours to super-heat molten salt. The excess heat then generates steam to drive a turbine and generate electricity when needed.


10 March 2016

We’ll tell you what we want, what we really really want!

Cat Turner reflects on some of the feedback from the ‘Wellbeing’ workshops held across the island last month by EcoVannin and the UK’s Network of Wellbeing

Last month EcoVannin and the UK’s Network of Wellbeing ran a series of events where people shared thoughts about what really makes for ‘wellbeing’ in our island.

We also presented to MHKs, stressing the need to measure, and focus policy on what matters to their electorate.

And what a week it was. Dr Larch Maxey of NoW, and Richard Dyer, FoE UK’s economics campaigner, led workshops in Ramsey, Douglas, Port Erin and Peel. Most were jam-packed. The mix of people who came was heartening – business people, entrepreneurs, the retired, concerned parents, the comfortably-off, and people on low incomes or wrestling with difficult circumstances. It was also great that local authority representatives took the time to come to the public meetings, and participate with their constituents.

Over the week, around 500 suggestions were put forward – on what ‘wellbeing’ means generally and more specifically on how we can make the island more conducive to a good life. The themes that people chose to group suggestions included:

environment

democracy/politics

community

food

transport

arts, culture

economy and many more.

Interestingly, most fell under community and environment. Even those under the headings of economy, politics or business had a strong social/environmental element. They included: ‘More equal, fairer society’; ‘Renewables’; ‘The chance to influence decisions that affect us’; ‘Awareness among powers-that-be that climate change has potential to spoil everyone’s quality of life’; ‘Economy: balanced socio-economic group with families, singles and retired people sharing the same community’; ‘More affordable fresh local food’ and ‘Free places to sit and socialise – not library (no talking) or coffee shops (expensive).’

When we presented to Tynwald, Dr Maxey asked members what they thought made for wellbeing. After a long silence, one member said: ‘Money’.

That may have been intended ironically, to be fair, but interestingly at these jam-packed public meetings, not one suggested ‘money’. The nearest was ‘fairer taxation and welfare’ and ‘support independent businesses’.

We’ll be sharing the detailed suggestgions over the coming weeks, as the groups identify ideas and projects they can help make happen. Let’s hope their representatives are listening.


25 February 2016

Coronation Community Garden is taking shape

The second residents’ meeting for the lovely project EcoVannin.im is running, in conjunction with Braddan Parish Commissioners, took place last week.

It was, if anything, even better than the first. We were delighted to see that several people came from other groups – to find out how things were working – and whether they might be able to run something similar themselves in other neighbourhoods. That was lovely in itself, but even better was the fact that whilst they all took away useful know-how, they all also had some good information or ideas to offer us.

Thanks especially Men in Sheds, the lovely chaps from The Childrens’ Centre Community Farm, and Phil Matthews from Foxdale – you gave us just as much as you gained! In addition, various Green Centre folks offered support by way of things like help setting up, and documenting progress in photos so we have an archive of our progress. The group was very lucky to have the help of Jane Prescott, the environmentally-minded director of landscape architects Prescott Associates. Jane has a keen understanding not only of the way in which layout, planting and planning can be done – but also, through personal experience, of some of the pitfalls that we need to take on board. She brought the project to life for us with images and ideas of what’s possible. And it’s all awesome!

We’re hugely grateful for the offer of additional financial support from the Society for the Preservation of the Manx Countryside and Environment, too. Although we’ll source as much from donors and Freecycle as possible, we know we’ll need to spend money on things like a shed, polytunnel, fruit cage and planters – plus niggly but important things like insurance.

By the end of the lively session, we’d agreed the next steps. Among them, we formed a Steering Group. This handful of extra-willing people will help sort out things like a constitution, showing exactly how we’ll run.

It’ll also draft a code, setting out some neighbourhood-friendly gound rules – we’re thinking here of things like ensuring we take away all our rubbish after every visit; that we park mindfully if we come by car; and that we don’t take more than our fair share of produce!

We want to keep things friendly and informal, but clear, so people know what’s OK and what’s not.


04 February 2016

New initiative to create ‘eco-churches’ is launched

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, was guest speaker at the Eco Church project launch

The ‘Eco Church’, was launched on January 26 as Christian Aid’s Isle of Mam climate campaigner Cat Turner discovers

The Eco Church project is a partnership between Christian Aid, A. Rocha UK, Tearfund, the Church of England and the Methodist Church. Churches across the British Isles are being encouraged to register and take part.

A. Rocha UK is taking the lead on the scheme, and it’s a good fit, as the organisation is a Christian charity working for the protection and care of the natural world. It does this through practical involvement in nature conservation projects and ecological research; campaigning on biodiversity issues; engaging with churches, schools, communities and individuals.

But back to Eco Churches, which comprises a national award scheme and aims to equip congregations in England and Wales so they can: ‘Care for creation through every part of church life.’ It was launched with a reception at St Paul’s Cathedral on January 26 and the guest speaker was the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. Contributions were also heard from churches that have already completed their eco journey.

To qualify for an award (Bronze, silver or gold), churches work through a unique online survey. Questions cover worship, buildings, community engagement, personal lifestyle – just about everything that comprises part of Christian life. To win awards, congregations will need to complete certain action points and the scheme offers lots of resources to help prepare churches for their practical responses. A plaque is presented to each congregation who completes the journey, winner or not.

But it’s not just about competition; those taking part will gain so much more than just points towards a prize. The aim, after all, is to change church culture across all denominations – blending creation care with evangelism and social action as expressions of a holistic mission.

As Goldington Vicar Richard Howlett put it: ‘I see this work of transformation as part of living the Gospel’. He led his church St Mary The Virgin on their eco journey. They changed two disused sites into a place where residents could meet to tend plants, grow food and enjoy the outdoors – a lovely idea with a whole raft of benefits for the community.

And when his Buckinghamshire parish scooped the award, Rector Martin Williams didn’t even see it as an accolade: ‘It’s a means through which we come to worship our creator God more deeply,’ he explained.

‘From meditation to insulation, from location to invocation, loving God and his creation should impact everything in our church lives,’ said churches and theology director Dr Ruth Valerio.

Churches in the island which would like to get involved can find out more here: Arocha Ecocurches


 

14 January 2016

Eat your greens and help to save the planet

Methane produced by cows is having a significant impact on climate warming

Much is made of the CO2 emitted by energy generation, transport and building and the damaging climate change these activities are causing. But our eating habits are at least as important, says Isle of Man Friends of the Earth’s Cat Turner.

I was reminded of how our eating habits are being ignored while our attention is concentrated on energy consumption recently when I saw the movie Cowspiracy, which is free to download on YouTube.

While it wasn’t always clear where the makers of this eye-opening film got their data, it was very obvious that a meat-laden diet – especially one relying on intensive agriculture and grain-fed livestock – make at least as big, if not a bigger, impact on our climate than some more usually cited sources.

How so? Well, usually, when this comes up, there are hoots of laughter due to the fact that methane – cow farts, not to be coy – is part of the problem. Snigger-worthy as this may be, it’s significant.

As a greenhouse gas (GHG), methane is vastly more ‘potent’ than the more often-cited CO2, but it’s around in lower quantities. CO2 is the most prevalent of the six by volume in our atmosphere. So when scientists talk about GHGs, they tend to express the volumes as an aggregate ‘CO2 equivalent’ – they convert the volumes of all the gases, via their GHG ‘potency’, to a single measure.

Even a relatively small amount of methane has a significant impact on climate warming. We’re not talking about a small amount, though – farmed cattle globally number 1.4 billion, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). These numbers are growing as countries like China develop an increasing appetite for meat. This means there’s a significant amount of methane being emitted from the rear-ends of the world’s cattle.

But in fact there’s more to it than that. Depending on how you calculate it, livestock account for anything between 6-32 per cent of GHGs – the FAO itself puts it at 14.5 per cent, seen by many as conservative.

The reason for the differences is that some measures only include direct emissions from livestock others include total emissions from feed production, production of fertiliser/ pesticides, ploughing, deforestation to grow soybeans for feed, and draining peatlands. Most scientists say all these components should be included – production and use of fertilisers is responsible for over 30 per cent of all GHGs from livestock.

Clearly a de-meatified diet helps cut CO2 emissions.

In its lifetime, a cow typically eats 1,300kg of grain and 7,200kg of forage.

To make 1kg of beef, it takes 6.5kgs of grain and 36kgs of roughage.

That same grain could feed many times more people than the 1kg of beef – with massively lower CO2 impact, and benefits for human health, the wider environment and animal welfare


 

07 January 2016

Outdated pursuit of GDP hurts people and planet

By Cat Turner

It was dispiriting to read Chief Minister Allan Bell’s interview in last week’s Manx Independent. Neither environment nor people got much mention. Climate change is the biggest challenge humanity faces – globally shaping government policies, technological innovation, economic frameworks, and peoples’ lives. Yet despite claiming that ‘sustainability’ is key to our future, climate didn’t feature.

Instead, as ever, he focussed on gross domestic product (GDP) growth – a measure of how much is being bought and sold, not a barometer of what matters most to a healthy society. He didn’t look at our ‘Gini coefficient’ – this measures income inequality, and it’s rising. He said this administration had three priorities: economic growth, protecting the vulnerable and rebalancing public finances. He discussed 31 years of unbroken growth – but not its human impact.

But what’s an economy for, if not people’s wellbeing? Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says: ‘GDP tells you nothing about sustainability.’ And even Simin Kuznets, dubbed the ‘inventor’ of GDP, says: ‘The welfare of a nation can scarcely be inferred from a measure of national income.’ Mr Bell also discussed priority three: government’s finances. But number two, looking after the vulnerable, got short shrift. Yet it’s this, and the wellbeing of everyone (vulnerable or not), that we pay government for. It speaks volumes that he had nothing to say on it. Research consistently shows that people’s wellbeing turns on: being connected – to environment and people; being active, especially out in nature; being aware of what’s around you; learning, growing, feeling valued; giving (time, not money).

Obsessive pursuit of GDP growth isn’t just outdated, it encourages policies that hurt people and planet. Many things that boost GDP are bad – plane crashes, for example, generate economic activity through insurance payouts and new plane builds, but they’re not helpful!  And governments can increase wellbeing in planned recessions – indeed, many economists say this is absolutely necessary to combat climate change.

Our environmental record is woeful. This island:

– has no climate change legislation

– is the only place in the British Isles with no plastic bag tax or charge

– has minimal contribution from renewables to the Manx Utilities Authority

– fails to properly incentivise microgeneration and applies punitive charges especially to wind-turbine planning applications

– applies last-century clean-water standards, rather than those used across UK and EU

– fails to protect ancient greenways from being destroyed by off-road vehicles, so that many are shockingly damaged. In the UK, these are protected, so tourist bikers come here to destroy ours instead.

‘Growth’ means nothing when it masks a degrading environment, rising inequality and an irresponsible approach to wellbeing.

Let’s make 2016 the year this changes. After all, it’s an election year!