The Balkans, Backpacking and the Environment

So there’s been a bit of a dip in blog posts recently. I’ve been doing a bit of backpacking in the Balkans and haven’t been particularly disciplined in updating the masses on the climate and how it’s changing. Turns out hostels aren’t the best places to practice high quality journalism.

It’s been an awesome trip so far. Started in Pristina, the capital city of Kosovo, where I worked in hostel called Buffalo Backpackers (disclaimer: I do not receive any financial incentives to advertise this establishment). Met a lot of interesting people with a lot to say about climate change. Not surprisingly the Scandinavians and Dutch were the most passionate when brought it up. A student called Toby told me that at his uni a group got together and gathered all the coffee cups that were used in a day and dumped them all outside the main building on campus. Coffee cups aren’t recyclable so it was a really effective way to show people just how much of an impact everyone having a coffee in a disposable cup can have on the environment. I think public acts like these will have a profound effect and at the very minimum get people to start thinking about climate change on a daily basis as the world should be.

After Pristina I made my way to Macedonia and was shocked by how much plastic there was at the side of the road and in the lake I was staying at. There’s very little regard for the environment there. No one recycles and on multiple occasions I’ve seen bus drivers throw bottles out the window. Again this confirms to me that no matter how much scientific research is done, absolutely nothing is going to change until people start to actually care. How this will be achieved I’m still figuring out.

Belgrade was my next stop and the people of Serbia seem to be a lot more environmentally aware than other countries in the Balkans which was refreshing. The hostel had separate bins for plastic, paper and glass. There was graffiti all over the city with a climate awareness message which was encouraging to see. Belgrade got a big thumbs up.


(Graffiti in Belgrade promoting veganism)

I found Montenegro to be great on the whole. I did some hiking in Durmitor National Park which was spectacular and can’t say I noticed litter or any signs of human impact. Down on the coast in a city called Kotor there was some pollution from cruise ships but that can’t really be avoided.


(Durmitor national park, Montenegro)

I’m now in Albania and it’s an absolute hidden gem. I’m certain it’s about to explode with tourism the same way Croatia did in the last ten years. The beaches are empty (off peak season now to be fair) and the water is crystal clear. Environmentally, again, it hasn’t been the best but through the grapevine I’ve heard they’re cleaning up their act to try to join the EU. The good ol’ EU.


(Sunset in Himara, Albania)

So, although I haven’t been writing blog posts I’m still keeping my ear to the ground and worrying daily about how humanity is going to save itself from the extinction we face in the next thirty-or-so years. The trip has been a great way to learn more about what other countries are doing to fight climate change and also an indicator of just how much work there is to be done. Not to worry, at least when the floods come all us Scots can head up into the mountains and watch the world drown (joke stolen directly from Frankie Boyle).

 

 

 

 

 

The Amazon Reef

Why is it in the news?

The amazon reef is a 9500 sq. kilometer reef system of corals, sponges and rhodoliths that was discovered just last year. It is located in the area where the Amazon river meets the Atlantic ocean, and is a massively exciting find for marine biologists. It offers the opportunity to discover thousands of new species and to better understand the ecosystems of our waters.

So why is everyone worried about it?

Oil companies such as BP have applied for permits to drill in the area, meaning the whole ecosystem could be destroyed by an oil spill before it has even been studied. Oil is a notoriously destructive commodity to mine and has been responsible for multiple catastrophic impacts on habitats around the world. If the same were to happen to the Amazon reef, millions of animals would lose their lives and marine ecosystems across the planet would be severely damaged.

What can you do to help?

There has recently been an ambassador assigned to try to protect the Amazon reef, Mr SpongeBob SquarePants himself. So go and share information, tell your friends about the threat, discuss the issue on social media and make as many people aware of what’s going on as you possibly can. There’s also a Greenpeace petition you can sign here to make your voice heard and show that you disagree with drilling for oil under the Amazon reef.

The only way these problems can be fixed is if everyone stands up and does something about it. Let’s stop BP and protect the Amazon reef.

 

Plastic Free July

Plastic Bottles on Pupnatska Luka Beach

By 2025, it is estimated that there will be one pound of plastic for every three pounds of fish in the sea. It’s a scary statistic, but there’s something being done about it this month.

The new movement, plastic free July, is a cool way to remind everyone that their everyday practices have a huge effect on the welfare of the environment.

It’s vitally important that the public start to think about how they can start to reduce the amount of plastic they use on a daily basis and are given simple, effective methods which they can incorporate into their lives.

It’s unrealistic to ask someone to stop using their car and cycle everywhere they go. This is just never going to happen. However, ask someone to buy toilet roll wrapped in paper rather than plastic, they’re much more likely to make that change.

Small, easy adjustments will compound into profound, positive effects on the way you live on this planet.

So, please look into this month’s movement and try to make small changes (like using a bamboo toothbrush like me) and use #plasticfreejuly to spread the word and make a difference.

The Melting Icebergs

A common area of climate science for people to be misinformed about is the idea that sea levels are rising due to melting icebergs. This just is not true.

If you pour yourself a glass of water with a few cubes of ice, as the ice starts to melt, the water level does not rise. Why? The water in the ice has already displaced the same volume of water as it would have had it been a liquid and so the overall volume of water in the glass does not change. The physics of this, in terms of sea levels is the exact same, but on a planetary scale.

Therefore, a massive, melting iceberg floating in the sea does not contribute to rising sea levels, but that doesn’t mean our sea levels aren’t on the up.

What does contribute to sea level increases is the melting of glaciers and the warming of the atmosphere. Glaciers are essentially massive bodies of ice, the same as an iceberg, but on land rather than in the sea. When these melt, the water stored in the ice makes its way to the sea and the sea level increases.

Meanwhile, the atmosphere is heating, subsequently heating the oceans. When water warms, it also expands, further contributing to rising waters.

This phenomenon is a massive problem for human civilisation. Hundreds of millions of people are at risk of their homes being submerged by the sea which is a pretty bloody big deal if you think about it.

This is, again, a very fixable problem. If humans come together, fully comprehend the threat of climate change, and work together to reduce our carbon emissions, sea levels will stop rising and return to their natural levels.

Simple.

Source: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/sea-level-rise/

 

 

 

Cool Bin in Durness, Scotland.

Image may contain: outdoor
(Photo credit: Ross himself – writer, manager and creator of the blog)

For the past week I’ve been on a road trip all over the North coast of Scotland called the North Coast 500. One of the highlights of the trip was this really cool bin.

The idea behind it was that you couldn’t use the beach unless you picked up at least one piece of plastic. Pretty nifty right?

It’s little ideas and efforts like these that make me much more optimistic about the future of our planet. It simply shows someone that cares about the welfare of their local environment.

At the end of the day, all we need is for change is for people to care.

Palm Oil

EnfntsTerribles_BeforeTheFlood_8.jpg
(Orangutan burnt alive in the process of clearing the jungle for palm oil plantations)

Palm oil is one of the most pressing and worrying problems on the climate change frontier. It’s cheap, has multiple uses and quick to produce, all of which are leading to the destruction of the Indonesian rain forest.

The product is used in lipstick, pizza dough, shampoo, ice cream, as a bio fuel, in soap and many more everyday products which is what makes it so popular. This is leading to massive areas of rain forest being burned to the ground to make space for palm oil plantations.

These rain forests are the last place on Earth where Elephants, Rhinos, tigers and Orangutan all live together in the same area. To lose this would be a genuine tragedy.

Not only does it have a horrendous effect on wildlife populations, it also releases massive volumes of CO2 into the atmosphere. Today, forest fires started to clear space for palm oil are spewing out more CO2 every day than the whole US economy combined.

How is this being allowed to happen? Large companies are bribing officials for licenses to burn down these rain forests and plant these trees. The companies are happy, the local governments are happy, the Orangutan are left to burn.

All is not lost, however! As always, there are multiple ways in which you can fight back and save these rain forests.

As with most problems facing the environment, profit is the driving factor of this destruction.

If you buy sustainably sourced palm oil products or don’t buy palm oil products at all, the whole problem is solved.

To begin with, look for either of these labels on the products you’re buying as they ensure that the palm oil used is either sustainably sourced or the companies are moving toward sustainability (not great but at least we’re moving in the right direction.)

 

RSPO Logo

Green Palm Label

 

 

 

 

 

Even better, avoid companies such as Doritos’s, Dominoes and Thornton’s, all of which have very poor records when it comes to palm oil use.

For more information on how to shop responsibly, please have a quick look at either of these sites:
http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/shoppingethically/palmoilfreelist.aspx
https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/palm-oil-name-shame-wwf

Palm oil is a scary and violent reminder of just how much damage humans are doing the planet. If we work together, we can easily stop the damage being done and rescue such a valuable ecosystem from being razed to the ground.

Why the Environment Should be Given Rights

I believe the environment should be given rights just like humans have. Just as a human has the right not to be tortured, the environment would have the right not to be abused as it is today.

The environment should be treated and respected like a living organism.

One and a half acres of forest are cut down every second across the world. In the next 25 years, 28,000 species are expected to go extinct due to deforestation. If the environment were to be given rights that would be legitimate in a court of law, not only would human damage to the earth likely reduce dramatically, those who are doing the damage would face prosecution.

If companies would be faced with the prospect of massive fines and individuals jail time, there would definitely be a reduction in reckless practices like mass deforestation or oil spillages that are so frequent and devastating for the planet’s ecosystems.

It is our responsibility as the most intelligent species on Earth to not only research and monitor the damage we’re doing, but also take measures to protect and restore the natural world that we’re so carelessly destroying.

Environmental rights are a great start in terms of respecting the natural world, yet are rarely discussed or even heard of.

As soon as is possible following the general election, I’ll be launching a petition for the UK government to implement environmental rights in the UK. I will publish it both here and on my Facebook page and if you agree with the sentiment, sign your name!

Source: http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/various-deforestation-facts.php

Globalism and the Climate

Definition: “The act or process of globalising :  the state of being globalised; especially :  the development of an increasingly integrated global economy marked especially by free trade, free flow of capital, and the tapping of cheaper foreign labour markets”.

The world’s borders are becoming less and less defined every day. It is now pretty much an inevitability that globalisation is going to continue to progress and the world will become smaller and smaller.

Statistics on how much the movement of goods and people are having on greenhouse gas emissions are very difficult to calculate, but significant to say the least.

Realistically, it cannot be stopped, but the impact can be greatly reduced in many ways. An air traffic control system is currently being tested that controls and reduces the space between aircraft while in transit meaning that they use less fuel. “Scrubbers” can be fitted to massively reduce the volume of damaging gases released from the exhaust fumes of large ships. New electric, self-driving trucks are being developed that are certain to transform the industry and massively reduce its carbon footprint.

These are just a few of many simple, yet very effective methods that can be used to reduce the effect  that globalism will have on the planet. These measures will allow us to both enjoy the connectivity, diversity and innovation that globalisation offers while minimising its effect on the planet.

https://www.treehugger.com/aviation/computerized-air-traffic-control-could-save-co2-equivalent-whole-denmark-economy.html

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jun/17/self-driving-trucks-impact-on-drivers-jobs-us

Ecosia

Ecosia is a brilliant search engine that uses Google’s search algorithm’s (meaning it’s just as good) but shows three adverts at the top of the search. The money they make from advertisements is put toward planting trees which means every single search has a Carbon negative effect. It also lets you know how many trees you’ve planted so far (at the time of writing this blog piece I’ve planted 250!).

Bloody genius if you ask me.

Why I’m Genuinely Optimistic

As unlikely as it seems, I think humanity will realise the enormity of climate change and work together to fix it. ‘If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.’ – William Thomas (1928). This is a rule in sociology that is still as relevant today as in ‘28. If people believe the worst will happen, then they become much less likely to try to prevent it.

So really it’s everyone’s responsibility to be optimistic about the future. You might just be saving your own life.