Friday, 20 August 2010


Deforestation makes up 1/5 of all global man made emissions - more than the entire global transport sector. Indonesia is the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitter - after the US and China - due to clearance of Indonesian rainforest and peatland to make way for palm oil plantations. The IPCC estimates that preventing carbon release from deforestation is the mitigation measure with the largest and most immediate impact. So what can we do, remote as we are from these issues?

1. Pressure palm oil suppliers to be sustainable

Starting off on a positive note, here is a success story. Nestle have recently committed to stop using products that have come from rainforest destruction, like palm oil and paper. This is because of a massive Greenpeace campaign that used social media, along with orang-utan costumed-protestors, to keep up a relentless stream of pressure and publicity. This is fantastic - getting a company to face responsibility for what happens 'way down' the chain is a great precedent. The next step in Nestle's very own statement is 'the systematic identification and exclusion of companies owning or managing high risk plantations or farms linked to deforestation'.

2. Brazilian Cattle

And another encouraging story! According to Greenpeace's 'Slaughtering the Amazon' report, cattle ranching in Brazil is the 'single biggest driver' of deforestation in the Amazon. 80% of deforested areas now have cattle on them. Greenpeace's report came out last June and since then, four of the largest cattle companies have committed to zero deforestation in their supply chains. Marfrig, Bertin, JBS-Friboi and Minerva supply leather to Nike, Adidas and Clarks amongst others. This is a massive victory for Greenpeace, and both this and the Nestle campaign show that small actions DO matter. It costs nothing to lend your support to campaigns like these by sending an email or leaving a Facebook comment, and it all helps.

3. Sell your old phone

Coltan is a mineral used in the production of mobile phones. The majority of the world's coltan reserves are in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and there are approximately 200 mines in eastern Congo. There is a high rate of deforestation in Rwanda and Burundi, due in part to mining. And then there are the shocking human rights abuses, with a UN report concluding that all of the main armed groups fighting in the DRC are financing themselves through the minerals trade. This point, by the way, goes somewhat out of the climate change remit, but I couldn't ignore it. See the Blood in the Mobile campaign to learn more about the conflict minerals in our electronic devices.

If you recycle your phone, you are making good use of what's been mined, and hopefully lessening the need for more mining. There are loads of websites dedicated to recycling mobiles, here's one example. Request a freepost bag online at the Coop and send your phone off to Oxfam, where it will either be refurbished for resale or completely recycled.

4. Buy FSC-certified wood
The Forest Stewardship Council certifies forests and wood that is cut legally and sustainably, with respect for local people. If you have a burning urge to buy new wood, this is the kind to get. Otherwise, recycled is good.

5. Agnes Denes

Denes is a leading environmental and conceptual artist, she not only takes the environmental issues as her subject but helps to prevent climate change too.
"it means re establishing disturbed and destroyed land, creating roots to hold eroding land and keeping global warming down, photo synthesis up, clean ground water and a million things trees do besides grow and become aesthetics."

Denes "Tree Mountain -- A Living Time Capsule" in Finland, 1996. This massive earthwork and reclamation project involved the construction of a "mountain" on the site of an old gravel quarry and the planting, by volunteers from different countries, of 11,000 Finnish Pine trees in an exquisite intricate pattern. The volunteers were then each given inheritable certificates (valid for 400 years) which granted them responsibility for the stewardship of one of the trees. This project was first announced by the Government of Finland at the World Summit in Rio de Janeiro as a contribution to global ecology.

Though this is not an action per se it is something artistically minded creative people can bear in mind- that art can be used to change the world we inhabit as well as comment on the state of it.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010


This week, with tummies rumbling, we've been looking at what food choices we all can make to reduce the impact of our appetites on the environment.

1. Meaty
UN’s top climate scientist Rajendra Pachauri states that “People should consider eating less meat as a way of combating global warming. UN figures suggest that meat production puts more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than transport.”
It really comes down to consumer choice. An answer to meaty palates is to swap a meal of red meat to chicken.
A nice website to help with ideas for vegetarian food is:

The campaign argues it need not be all or nothing when it comes to meat, simply cutting down is well worth doing, for your purse and your planet. With both celebrity endorsements and charities such as the World Land Trust this site makes vegetarianism very appealing.

2. Fashion
This last thought leads one to wonder whether ethical consuming is just another trend, as a backlash to the general drift towards ignoring the history of a product which peaked in the nineties. It's interesting to see how food fashions reflect our society's zeitgeist. For example our countries recent discovery of 'superfood' where faith is placed in expensive, exotic, snack size tubs to insure you appear to be and are healthy.

The popularity of blueberries has pushed more local berries off the shelves of supermarkets. Many native berries are better suited to the UK's growing conditions have a similar nutritional profile.

The way to reverse the tide of berry monopoly, with local berries being swept away by imports is to buy locally and support a variety of goods, because raspberries are delicious.

3. Farting and belching
Disgusting news shows that the average person lets rip two to three shot glasses of carbon dioxide every 24 hours. (Unless you're a vegetarian, in which case you may need a pint glass which is a disgusting thing to imagine.) Scientists advise a diet low in baked beans, corn-on-the-cob, green peppers, cabbage, milk and raisins.

All the same this does not serve as an argument against vegetarianism because a cow's fart far 'outweighs' anything a human can muster. In fact a team of Japanese scientists believe they have devised a way to neutralise the perilous methane produced by 1.5 billion cows. Read more here:

4. Rice
An International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) study forecasts a 15% decrease in irrigated rice yields in developing countries and a 12% increase in rice prices as a result of climate change by 2050.
This is a huge problem in developing countries. Rice plays a central role in feeding more than 3 billion people, including most of the world’s 1 billion poor.

Whilst production will be negatively effected by changes in climate, simultaneously rice production contributes to the problem. It is worth cutting down the amount of rice you eat.
For more information visit:

Genetic modification is one of the suggested solutions to the problem, with scientists aiming to engineer a rice that take four minutes less to cook, thus saving a total of 10,000 hours of cooking time everyday. However, despite long debates, GE products remain controversial. Much research into genetic modification is funded and supported by biotech companies. One Royal Society fellow, Dr Arpad Pusztai, has asked for a credible GM testing protocol to be established. Ten years on in 2008, he said we still don't have one. Greenpeace summarises the problems with GM food. It's probably best to avoid!

5. Crofting
Crofts are small, often self-sufficient farms in Scotland. Crofting is a key example of traditional, sustainable agriculture. This website and blog describes the 'trials and tribulations of a modern crofter', who is trying to 'lead a more traditional lifestyle while lessening his impact on the environment'. Whilst owning and managing land seems out of reach for us, it is nonetheless an inspiring read. Entries range from accounts of ploughing their potato field, to the best way to plant trees. As a city dweller, much of the reality of farming is new to me. Stonehead Croft is not a business and they do not sell their produce. Yet it is interesting to remind ourselves of the roots of agriculture, the origin of what we eat, and the processes it goes through to get to us.
Furthermore, recipes are posted and there's a good looking one for berry burst muffins - for all your local berries!

6. Profit based companies have more and more power over the world's food system. The UK Food Group is a network for non-governmental organisations working on global food and afgriculture issues. They are researching the impact of the international food supply chain, with the intention of developing policies promoting 'sustainable and equitable corporate practice'. Quite a mouthful. But policy has an important role in the future of agriculture which leads us to

7. Geoff Tansey
Geoff Tansey is a writer and consultant who is working for a fair and sustainable food system. He has written a book called 'The Future Control of Food', which is a guide to the key issues of intellectual proerty and ownership, genetics, biodiversity, and food security. At first, rules and regulations about intellectual property don't seem to have much to do with agriculture. But, he says, carrying on as we are - commodifying everything - will lead to genetically modified organisms, grown meat, and licensing rather than ownership of everything from seeds to music: a kind of 'corporate feudalism'. We need to change the framework of globally imposed intellectual property rights. Read his excellent address at a UK Food Group events here, in the events section

Tansey and the UK Food Group are focusing on laws, rules and regulation that will faciliate the kind of food system we want - food democracy and an approach tackling poverty and hunger.

7. Global
Up to 800 million people do not have enough to eat. This fact surely makes our decisions about what foods to consume here in the UK seem less challenging.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010


There are millions of things you can do in the comfort of your home to improve your energy consumption. Most of them are easy peasy small actions.

1. Easy

As overpopulation is an enormous growing problem, the easiest way to cut your carbon emitions is to restrain from having children.

In fact, a couple that has two children instead of three could cut their family's climate impact by the equivalent of 620 return flights a year between London and New York. (source BBC website's reporting of research by the Optimum Population Trust)

2. Kitchen

To put lids on pans - which also keeps all the nice foody aromas in
To use the right pan size for the amount and the right hob size for the pan

Each minute a fridge door is left open takes three minutes to cool back down again- so don't leave it open long

3. Computers

People always say it takes more energy turning off and on again than leaving computers in standby. In actual fact I've found that unless you're going to use your computer within 24 hours then it's best to turn it off, but if you are then it's best to put it on standby or hibernation.

4. Energy monitor

You can buy an energy monitor which shows you how much electricity you are using in your home, and which things are using the most. The link below is to an ethical shop which sells several varieties.

5. Green tariffs

You can get all your electricity from renewable sources. For not too much more than a regular tariff. On this site you can put your postcode and estimated energy use (if you know it) and find out the price of a tariff in your area. It's interesting to see exactly how much of each company's supply comes from renewables - and nuclear.

6. Carbon Zero House

This inspiring couple in Scotland have made their lives carbon neutral. They are pioneers and people come from far and wide to see how they have successfully made a carbon neutral house from scratch.

7. Local Carbon Budgets

Around 80 per cent of the UK's emissions are from local activity.
Here is a petition to ask you MP to support the move to make every local council to have a local carbon budget to cap CO2 emissions in every council area.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Renewable Energy

To ease us in, our first topic is renewable energy.

Our first two points are some background information, worth looking at.

1. TED talk
An excellent debate about nuclear energy versus renewable energy. Both sides are covered very well and make surprising and interesting points. Courtesy of TED.

2. Greenpeace - Energy [R]evolution
Greenpeace has just published 'Energy [R]evolution', an optimistic outlook on sustainable world energy. The summary is an encouraging read. It details how the shift from coal and oil to renewables should be achieved. You can download a copy of the report summary here: there's some nice photos in it too.

3. Windmill maker
Hugh Piggott is an inspirational man living in a wind powered community in North-West Scotland. He teaches people how to make their own wind turbines from recycled materials.

For those of us who don't live in a solitary house on a windy hill, more's the pity, here are some ways you can support existing projects.

4. Pro wind farm petitions/groups
According to polls, 7 out of 10 people support wind farms. It is important to voice this 'silent majority'. These sites have a map showing all wind farms in the different stages of planning, and allow you to lobby your MP in favour of wind farms in your area.

5. Solar
This charity is trying to bypass the dirty fuel stage for developing countries, by promoting solar energy. They teach people to convert their kerosene lamps into solar lamps. The short video shows how such a simple invention could change a continent. You can donate or volunteer: amongst other things, they are asking for graphic designers. A project worth getting into.

Finally a quick and easy petition to get solar on Houses of Parliament


We felt bombarded by the amount of information about the consequences of climate change, the oncoming disasters and future chaos. It seemed difficult to find any clear instructions on what positive actions to take. So we decided to start this blog with the aim of presenting a small set of things to do. We will take one aspect of climate change each week, and research far and wide, scouring the net and presenting the best of our findings. We hope to enable people in the same position as us to do something positive against climate change.

Phoebe Halstead and Hannah Simpson