I thought I’d share with you some interesting environmental stuff I’ve come across recently – in no particular order. First up, the Swedes have just released some guidelines for climate-friendly food in an effort to reduce greenhouse gases. Jointly drafted by the Swedish National Food Administration and their Environmental Protection Agency, the guidelines will be circulated around the EU for comment. There are no surprises to the advice: eat meat less often; eat seasonal, locally-produced fruits and vegetables (remember when we used to do that?); and avoid bottled water (the plastic may contain chemicals such as phthalates and bisphenol A, which seep into the water).
It’s good to see the Swedes taking the lead in Europe and helping consumers think through their food choices. Given that one kilo of beef contributes up to 15-25 kilos of greenhouse gases and that Swedes’ meat consumption has grown by an average ten kilos per person over the past ten years and now totals 65 kilos, it’s a smart move promoting healthy food choice hand-in-hand with helping the environment. And you only have to read this report (by the Joint Research Centre) to learn that meat and dairy products contribute on average 24% to the environmental impact of total final consumption in the EU 27, while constituting only 6% of the economic value. Click here to read the guidelines in English.
And speaking of things seeping into your water or food, if you want to freak yourself out, go here to find out what pesticides are on your food. I decided to use the site to check out if my favourite poached pears might be suspect. Holy Guacamole as they say! 28 pesticides are found on pears – 6 known or probable carcinogens; 13 suspected hormone disruptors; 8 neurotoxins; and 3 developmental or reproductive toxicants. I’m reading Paul Roberts’ book, The End of Food, and he goes through the history of when we lost the plot and starting growing our crops smothered by chemical fertilizers and pesticides and injecting animals with antibiotics so they’d grow faster. Frightening. I have no doubt that in 100 years (if humanity hasn’t knocked itself off by sheer stupidity), future generations will shake their collective heads and call us the “chemical age”.
Meanwhile, Houston is going to erect a dome over the city. Well, engineers are thinking about it anyway. The idea is that a giant geodesic dome, stretching over 21 million square feet, might protect the city from its grim environmental future of fierce hurricanes and baking heat. You can watch a video on the Discovery Channel and explore the dome. I’ve pinched the photo below from the Discovery Channel.
The dome won’t be made of glass as that would be too heavy. It may be built from a light polymer, called Texlon® ETFE, invented over 25 years ago and called the “climatic envelope”. It’s 99% lighter than glass and can withstand winds of more than 180 miles per hour (more than the strongest category 5 hurricane). Apparently, an army of dirigibles would be used to construct the dome since everyday city life in Houston could not be interrupted. But what about insects, birds and rain – how would that work inside the dome?
And finally, I was out in the garden the other day muttering about pests that had attacked some flowers. I don’t want to whip out chemicals so I hunted for some homemade recipes to beat them off and found this excellent FAQ sheet from Gardening Australia – a heap of recipes using things like soap flakes, bicarb and molasses to get rid of pests like caterpillars, grasshoppers and mealybugs. I tell you: it’s a war zone out there in the garden!