The damage done to our environment due to increased meat production ranges from deforestation to water pollution to extensive fossil fuel burning. In the past 50 years, the meat consumption has more than doubled. This is causing an exhaustion of our already limited resources, such as water, land, and fuel. However, meat consumption is not the only issue. Agricultural land use contributes a whopping 15% to global greenhouse gas emissions according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and this is disregarding the manufacturing and transportation of all the necessary farming equipment. If we include those products, the number could lie between 25 and 30%! Finding sustainable ways for production and consumption of meat and crops is a pressing, global issue that demands immediate attention. Environmentalists and agriculturists are already working towards finding solutions for the future. However, we must come up with and implement creative and innovative solutions that take not only the environmental aspects of the situation into account, but also the economic aspects as well. One must consider that agriculture is a global industry and an integral part of most countries’ economies. One must also consider that there is a global demand for internationally produced crops and meat.
Organic Agriculture/ Organic Farming
The method of farming, where the use of any synthetic materials (such as synthetic pesticides or synthetic fertilizers) is prohibited. Instead natural methods, like crop rotation and biological pest control, are used. Only about 3% of the world’s agriculture is organic.
The method of farming that is most widely used. This method has industrialized the production of livestock, poultry, fish and crops. Some tell-tale signs of industrial agriculture include genetic engineering and globalization of the agricultural market.
Cows that are nursed by their mothers and fed grass until they reach about 12-18 months. They are then moved to a feedlot, where they eat primarily grain and are given routine antibiotics and growth hormones.
Cows that are raised on pastures eating only grass.
Cows that are raised without growth hormones or antibiotics. They are fed an organically-grown, vegetarian diet that sometimes includes grain.
The agricultural process of cultivating one crop over a vast area for an extensive number of years.
Deforestation: Worldwide, hundreds of thousands of square kilometers are utilized for raising livestock. To acquire this land, forests must be cut down. Between 65 and 70% of deforestation in the Amazon is due to cattle ranches. As the global population increases, the demand for meat, and subsequently land for grazing, grows.
Water Consumption: Huge amounts of water are required to maintain the livestock and the crops that they feed on. Research shows that humans are consuming half of the available fresh water on the planet. The other half has to be divided by the millions of other species that need it to survive. Next to humans, the animals raised for consumption expend the most water. Some cows, for example, drink up to 190 liters of water per day.
Waste Disposal: Water pollution and bio-habitat loss are both byproducts of waste disposal by factory farms. Factory farms dump their overwhelming mounds of waste into rivers and landfills, which pollutes not only the river and surrounding water reserves, but often the bays and gulfs that the water eventually flows into. As a result, the excess nitrogen from the waste destroys marine habitats.
Energy Consumption and Global Warming: You can follow a timeline for the production of meat, and every step of the way, heavy energy consumption is extremely evident. It starts with the energy it takes to raise the grain to feed the cattle, next the energy it takes to maintain living conditions for the cattle, next the fuel to transport it from the slaughterhouse to the butcher or the meat processing plant, then it’s transported to markets (that are sometimes thousands of kilometers away), finally, the cattle has to be refrigerated and cooked. Obviously, this process causes the burning of fossil fuels, which emits Carbon dioxide (CO2). However, livestock also emits mammoth amounts of Carbon monoxide (CO), a deadly greenhouse gas, as a by-product of digestion. According to State of the World in 2004, livestock emit about 16% of the atmosphere’s CO.
Solutions and questions to consider addressing in your resolutions:
- How to reduce the consumption of meat
- Promote choosing locally-grown beef
- Is it best to choose grass-fed, organic, or feedlot beef?
- Ideas for better and innovative waste management
- How to reduce energy consumption
Carbon Footprint: This comes almost entirely from industrial agriculture, as opposed to organic agriculture. As stated in the introduction, agricultural land use contributes a whopping 15% to global greenhouse gas emissions according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and this is disregarding the manufacturing and transportation of all the necessary farming equipment. If we include those products, the number could lie between 25 and 30%!
Global Warming: When forests are chopped down to accommodate the growth of monoculture crops, the absorption rate of CO2 dramatically decreases, because monoculture crops can only ingest a fraction of the CO2 that forests are able to. Farming not only produces and prevents adequate absorption CO2, but also emits methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). These are 23 and 310 times more fatal than CO2. Altering land use for agriculture also contributes greatly to global warming. By changing the Earth’s land cover, its capability to absorb or reflect light also shifts, which can then cause a rise in surface temperatures and a change of the atmospheric conditions.
Solutions and questions to consider addressing in your resolutions:
- How can we reduce the agricultural carbon footprint?
- Organic farming versus industrialized farming
- Promote buying locally
- Large demand for internationally grown crops
- Positive and negative aspects of monoculture agriculture
- How large and important is the international agriculture industry?
- What economies rely primarily on agriculture?
2012 – The official UN-year of "Sustainable Energy for All", but what this sustainbility means at all? Can we say a fuel will also be preserved for our great-grandchild when it predictably runs in 45, maximal 90 years, when its generating and use destroy our envrionment and leads to a terrifiying fast progress of global warming? While the worldwide anthropogenetic carbon dioxide emissions accounted for about 2300 million metric tons in 1900, it is now - about 100 years later - more than a decuple of this data.
All these awarenesses motivated several experts and scientists to doing research on renewable and clean energy sources beginning slow-going during the second half of the 20th century. Detaching from conventional ways of energy production and changing over to the use of complex solar, wind, hydraulic, geotermal or biomass power plants still confronts governance with so far unsolved problems and turns out to be one of the big controversial questions in international cooperation these days. But altough it will call for massive changes in people’slifestyle on the one hand and in country’s economic and social politics on the other one, the use of renewable energies is the only possible alternative to coal, gas and oil and is on long term essential to save humanity from itself.
Clean Energy (often used as an alternate term for "Green/Sustainable Energy")
Clean Energy describes ways of environmentally friendly energy production with a low pollution, such as photovoltaics, the use of wind and biomass power, and geothermics, which have a low impact on the environment.
Environmental Engineering is the development of techniques basing upon science principles to improve the environment and to reerect marred ecological systems.
Harmful Ways of Generating Energy
Harmful ways of generating energy are understood to have a negative impact on the environment as well as on humans. Their production and the genesis of damaging gases like CO2 going ahead with it redound monumentally to the advance of worldwide greenhouse effect.
The reserves of fossil fuels like brown and bituminous coal, petroleum gas or crude oil are limited strongly. Presumably, the conventional energy sources will be depleted untill 2200 at most according to the further development of worldwide energy consumption. Leading institutions of the UN such as the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) call the people’s attention with a multitude of campaigns and projects on this urgent problematic. The cognizance that only clean renewable energy can assure a worldwide ecological and economic sustainability in perpetuity disposed many industrialized countries to invest in environmental engineering (the consequence is an expected doubling of the market for renewable energy technology by 2050) as well as in new power plants and the successive change of energy recovery. In 2009 about 162 billion US dollars were placed collectively in renewable energies worldwide. The top investors People’s Republic of China (34,6 billion US dollars), the United States of America (18,6 billion US dollars) and the United Kingdom (11,2 billion US-dollars) post the biggest growth rate. Reviewing different statistics, an especial strong advancement in the fields of wind and solar power is conspicuous. Presently, energy from renewable clean sources producing minimal carbon emissions is responsible for 19 percent of the worldwide electricity generation. There are yet some nations like Norway (98 percent), Mozambique and Zambia (both 99 percent) which count almost fully on new forms of energy generating setting a good example and being seminal with regard to future-oriented sustainability. Noteworthy is also Brazil (about 85 percent) which particularly stood to benefit from its giant hydropower plants during the last years. Additionally, recent events such as the devastating impact of natural disasters on the Fukushima power plant in March 2011 also prompted rethinking of the general energy policies in different countries all over the world. The creation of new units at national level such as the Japanese Renewable Energy Foundation or the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy aimed at large-scale investments in the renewable sector followed from this. But every body agrees about the fact that we are still far from a worldwide hundred percent power supply by clean sources despite all efforts.
With photovoltaic it is possible to use the power of insolation by means of special absorb panels for the transformation in thermal as well as chemical energy and electricity without any harmful by-products. The costs of purchase for these plants are comparatively moderate and so, they are especially interesting for private households wanting to become independent from fossil fuels prices rise. In addition, there are extensive power stations and solar parks principally to be found in Spain and Germany. These are often criticized by conservationists facing the established problematic of the omission of huge biotopes.
Being predicated on the air mass movement’s aimed utilization people have built traditional windmills and advanced wind generators for more than 800 years. These days space-saving wind power plants produce universal 238 megawatt current per annum and can rejoice in high publicity and a very positive economic development. The – under adequate circumstances – relatively high effectiveness of the plants is accompanied by the many disadvantages they bring along. Nearby residents often complain about incoming nurse disturbance by the propellers, off-shore properties (large-scale wind power plants located directly in the sea) interfere with the communication of marine mammals. Many people are bothered by the disfigurement of rural areas which emanate from the construction of wind energy converters in their opinion. Nevertheless, wind is still the number one source for renewable energies having almost unlimited expansion possibilities.
Hydroelectric power stations use the elevation energy of flowing water with turbines at waterfalls and dams. Two-thirds of the for energy generating developable water resources are geographical located in less developed countries and supply in combination with modern environmental engineering a great chance of self-dependent provision with clean energy. The option of systematic energy-storage turns out to be an explicit benefit compared to wind power and photovoltaic.
More than 2,5 billion people all over the world are reliant on traditional energy production in form of varied organics’ burning which can be employed both solid, liquid and gaseous. Dung, firewood or special cultivated economic plants do not produce any additional CO2 gases in the process. Focusing on an increased biomass power generating as the Netherlands for example do is notably profitable for countries with a big agricultural sector, which can thereby salvage incoming refuses in large part.
With the geothermal energy, sometimes also named ground heat, water being pumped through pipes deep in the lithosphere can be broiled. The drilling facility’s lowness is essential for the achievable temperature. Accordingly to the complexity, the bores are often very cost-intensive and are mainly unique to few regions with special privileged requirements such as but not limited to Island with its active volcanos.
Despite the fast development of the renewable energy sources’ recovery on the one hand, the high status of environmental engineering and a sweeping publicity of the impendence emanating from anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions on the other hand, a big dependence on brown and bituminous coal is still in existence. This energy source accounts for more than 40 percent of all the worldwide electricity generation and ranks first therewith. During the combustion of the fossil fuel which takes place in large coal-fired power stations vast amounts of polluting gases (up to 1,4 kilo CO2 per kilowatt hour) are released.
In the course of millions of years a gas mixture being in the main composed of methane, sulfide, azote and carbon dioxide arises by reason of elevated temperature and a high pressure – natural gas. Russia is along with the United States the nation with the highest natural gas pumping rate. Together they provide with a market share of 37,7 percent other nations with a great demand for this fossil fuel such as but not limited to Germany, Iran or Japan. The natural gas sources’ geographic spreading leads to a high energetic dependence often criticized. However, the natural gas technologies are comparatively very advanced: Since the first natural gas vehicle (NGV) was developed in 1984 in Sweden, this technique has grown constantly in popularity and is now used in 12,7 million automobiles worldwide (statistic from 2010).
Petroleum is an upscale liquid containing hydrocarbon which is usually found in combination with natural gas. Producing medium carbon emissions it serves on a grand scale as motor fuel and via burning also for the electricity generating. Problematically is the certainty of the strong limitation of the resources which will prospectively be depleted during the next 46 years according to a statement by the British oil-company BP.
No other way of energy production and consumption is that frequently discussed like the atomic electricity generating. The danger of a maximal credible accident, a for humanity irrepressible detonation of a power station as we had yet to experience twice: 1986 in the Ukrainian Chernobyl and in Fukushima just one year ago. A further so far unexplained issue constitutes the disposal of deadly contaminated uranium waste. Due to this and other risks the nuclear energy brings along several nations and institutions have militated clearly against it and thus have decided to abstain from its use.
The in the early 1970’s in Canada founded Non-Governmental-Organization (NGO) have been generally known by means of a multitude of spectacular campaigns and public protests during the last years. Intent on nonviolence, the independent environmental organization has concentrated especially on themes like overfishing, whaling, genetic engineering, deforestation or global warming. Furthermore, Greenpeace and its members argue explicitly again the use of nuclear energy. Talking about a so called “energy revolution” the organization arrogates a world with a hundred percent current supply by clean and safe renewable energies and wants the governments to detach themselves as fast as possible from dirty and dangerous fuels going ahead with an elaborate, decentralized energy system.
International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)
The International Renewable Energy Agency is a federation of currently 90 states and the European Union which united to strive concertedly for a global transition towards a sustainable use of renewable energy. Within this framework the IRENA provides their experiences in the practical application of inter alia wind power, photovoltaic and geothermic, grants relief to countries to profit by the efficient development as well as by a transfer of knowledge and technology.
Commission of Sustainable Development
The Commission of Sustainable Development (CSD) is the most significant institution regarding future orientation in the fields of society, economy as well as environment. Its foundation took place as a result of the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The CSD’s ambitions are a developing of advanced, cleaner and cost-effective energy technologies (partly also for fossil fuels) on the one hand and a bigger share of the energy mix to renewable energies on the other one.
United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)
The United Nations Environment Program headquartered in Kenya, which is on the brink of its 40th anniversary handles particularly clean and “green” energy in LEDC’s and aids the associated employment creation. For this purpose – the enforcement of sustainable development projects - the UNEP collaborates with different local partners, subordinated specialized organizations and NGO’s.
World Council for Renewable Energy (WCRE)
Over 10 years after its foundation the non-profit WCRE accounts itself being “the global voice for Renewable Energy” (according to its official website) which is focused on the further development of strategies and guidelines and the integration of new forms of energy production into modern economy and lifestyle. The independent organization is committed to the dangers, hidden costs and other disadvantages the conventional energy brings alone with it. For the very first time, the WCRE arranges the so-called “World Renewable Energy Forum” in Mai 2012 in Colorado (USA) teaming renowned experts from all over the world and other people interested in this topic.
3rd-4th June 1992
United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Earth Summit), on which, among others, alternative energy sources to fossil fuels are discussed, was held in Rio de Janeiro
The Framework Convention on Climate Change targeting a stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations was issued as a consequence (this treaty became famous as Agenda 21)
11th December 1997
Setting up of the Kyoto Protocol containing well-defined target values as the most important additional protocol in conjunction with the Agenda 21
6th-8th September 2000
Environmental Protection is one of the UN’s Millennium Goals
16th February 2005
Kyoto protocol comes into effect and therewith the agreement of 193 states and the EU to reduce the annual greenhouse gas emissions conjointly at an average of 5% (from its level in 1990 to 2012), including additionally the emission trading, the joint implementation methods as well as the clean development mechanism
20th to 22th June 2012
United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (“Rio+20”) will be convened
Conference themes are exemplarily the ensuring of renewed political commitment to sustainable green development, the evaluation of previous progress in meeting already agreed commitments and thirdly the recording of new and emerging challenges
A population growth of more than five billion people during the last 200 years, downright a population explosion, which overbalance the world and leads to a similarly fast and exponential increasing energy requirement early turned out to be an alarming signal arrogating aimed actions and rethinking. Thus, there was the first UN conference in 1972 dedicating it to clean energy, and a multitude of other general questions involving environmental protection. This United Nations Conference on Human Environment (UNCHE) set a key example for the international and transboundary cooperation in the concerted combat again global warming, lay the foundation for all further ecological activities by the UN.
As one chapter of the adopted declaration the assembled delegations and organizations the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) was set up. From this time on it concentrates on the empowering of LEDs in Africa themed “Ready, Willing and Able” and publishes several reports like in 1987 the Brundtland Report as the first one which deals with sustainability making it to an issue of public interest.
To guarantee the enforcement of already submitted proposals and to add authority to the UNEP’s demands the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development was convened by the former secretary general Kurt Waldheim. It took place in Rio de Janeiro from 3rd to 14th June 1992 – exactly two decades after the 1200 guests from all over the world arrived to UNCHE in Swedish Stockholm. After debates and talks five different materials came along and one succeeded for the first time in the history of international environmental protection to unite the plurality of stakeholders. Here, the Agenda 21 was developed, a conception focusing on the use of renewable energies and couching the pursuit of improved power efficiency as a means of ecological sustainability. The cognition, that a functional ecology is just potential when additionally a categorical status of sociality and economy in a nation is, was especially revolutionary and meaningful for the further comprehension of this problematic.
Quinquennial UN conferences for the further development and the aimed, continuous maintenance work on the Agenda followed: In 1997 at the “Earth Summit + 5” advising legally binding goals for the reduction of carbon emissions, which were the outcome of the Kyoto Protocol accomplished during the same year, and in a revised way also of the General Assembly meeting in September of 2002. There, in a 65-paged new target marks, priorities and programs were retained.
Three years ago, the United Nations Climate Conference was held in the capital of Denmark. Beforehand big heralded as the “one of the largest political meetings ever”, however it was rather a disappointment storied with mass demonstrations by unsatisfied environmentalists. Furthermore, the previous commitment to halve the emissions at least until 2050 (Bali Road Map) was dropped.
Similar objectives as in Copenhagen pursued also the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun, but however this time with abundantly clear advancements. Emphasizing that for this goal new environmental engineering will be imperative, the assembled industry nations accepted to limit the greenhouse gas emissions on 60- 80% exemplary through the transition on alternative energies and added appropriation for the environment’s protection. The countries were asked to develop special, ideas - adapted to all their given factors. Last but not least a second liability period for the Kyoto Protocol and the “Green Climate Fund” (GCF) were agreed upon. The fund, which should support LED’s particularly in Africa, South America and Asia in accommodate to the consequences on global warming, was concretely established one year later in Durban (17th conference of the United Nations framework convention on climate change’s member states).
The UN has announced 2012 to the international "Year of Sustainable Energy for All" and devotes it some eminently events tending for instance to environmentally-friendly small plants in the country. This development is to facilitate accession to clean energy for more people.
Without question, energy generating basing on renewable sources will be our only possibility for a continual and environmentally friendly current, heat and fuel supply in the long term. The processing of coal, natural petrol and gas leads to a huge air-pollution going ahead with the expediting of greenhouse effect and further with the global warming whose consequences we must already experience now. The use and production of nuclear energy is unproblematic neither. The emanating dangers, both for humans and for the environment, such as but not limited to its incalculability and the debatable disposal of radioactive waste should not be underestimated.
The reorganization of a nation’s energy system has to start at the lowest level – a sufficient briefing of the population about energy saving and a careful exposure to heated water is especially essential in newly industrialized countries such as India, Brazil, Mexico and the People’s Republic of China. These are being in a totally turnaround characterized by economic growth by leaps and bounds and should not make the same mistakes as European Nations (later also the USA) did during the industrial revolution constituting their demographic transition at that time.
A continuing exchange and aimed assembly of research results between different involved countries and parties is amongst others implicitly needful to guarantee an immediate access to the self-dependent use of renewable energies. Additionally, appreciable cost savings arise from this, which could be employed more effective for other things. Exemplary goals of modern environmental engineering are the required increase of renewable energy power plants’ effectiveness, the elaboration of plans describing how to deal with impermanence of solar and wind power and the further optimizing of utilizable locations.
The already acquired cognition that a decentralized energy supply can hold a multitude of advantages especially in yet lesser developed countries should lead accordingly actions. In rural, sparsely populated areas having currently rarely access to electricity as a consequence of their geographical isolation and a feeble developed infrastructure on the one hand but outstanding theoretical natural resources (sun, wind, beneficial water flows) on the other one could be provided with energy by the construction of small power stations near the point of sale. Such advancement would furthermore work against the problematic emigration of young and qualified workers from villages to more attractive seeming cities.
A self-propelling emanating from the affected countries themselves will probably not be possible in the short run, thus, it is essential to create impulsions for the industrialized nations to support the concerned LEDC’s. As yet, the United Nations have boosted this development mainly with the clean development mechanism (CDM) for countries helping developing nations with the installation of climate condition-improving projects and therewith also themselves achieving decided limitations for greenhouse gas emissions, whose implementation went ahead with the Kyoto Protocol in 2005. At this point, new creative ideas and encouragement are in great demand.
One question left to be solved is the fate of the former workers in fossil fuel or nuclear power plants. A fair program might be initialed for their reeducation to a position in one of the new clean generating station.
All in all, renewable energy sources cannot only save our precious environment, but is able to provide sustainable solutions against poverty, intergovernmental conflicts, or national economical struggles if thoughtfully developed and step by step established. Sustainable energy for all!