I’ve been reading a bit about the Rio+20 Summit going on at the moment. This also coincides with the G20 summit so leaders from the UK, USA and other super powers will be missing the start of Rio+20 in favour of G20. I’m a bit confused as to why the two events clash considering that surely discussions surrounding the situation in Syria, the economic crisis and the subsiding of fossil fuels are directly linked to the environment.
The financial crisis comes from the same mentality that is causing climate change and the crumbling of the very foundations of ecosystems on a global scale- the ‘Manifest Destiny’ manner of thinking is the cause of financial and environmental collapse. Society lives in a way that is not sustainable and believe it is our ‘entitlement’ to resources on tap, reaping as much as possible while we can, hoping for the inevitable consequences to happen a long way in the future. But we are burning through resource and reaching the consequences far faster than we had hoped and having to deal with them, without wanting to go back to our previous way of life, having to scrimp and save. For the world to reach such peaks of financial wealth to the individual as well as to governments as it soared to ahead of the financial crisis, there is a direct link to the exploitation of the resource around us. Want more fuel? Just drill for more! Want more food? Chop down a forest and grow some more plants or set up some more ranches. Over-population and living beyond what the planet can cope with affects us financially and on an environmental level. The solution to the two comes from a RADICAL re-adjustment to our current way of life- nobody is ‘entitled’ to anything and the cost of wealthy nations exploiting those who are poorer is going to get worse. For the West and the wealthy, we will suffer from climate change and life will not be as nice, but we will cope. For Islanders living in places with low-lying land or those countries already in drought, poverty and civil conflict, it will only get worse- resources will become even more stretched, wealth will be kept for the wealthy and current tensions will be magnified in places where there just isn’t the structure in place to end strife and control the situation and for low-lying Islands, it is just a simple matter of not being able to stop the place from being submerged.
I guess my point is though, that the two summits are intrinsically linked and there should be a global attendance at both- from the start. Nations like Syria are so powerful and uncontrollable because of their oil. Oil= power. Reduce the necessity for oil and offer people alternatives and suddenly places like Syria lose such influence. Nobody wants to tackle somewhere (even if they are killing their own people in front of the world’s eyes) if tackling them means risking oil supply and knock-on, painful global effects. Tackle climate change and you tackle everything.
A more eco-friendly alternative to soy?
‘Rice dream’ doesn’t contain soy, is suitable for veggies and vegans as it is lactose and dairy-free still and the rice is grown in Northern Italy so the rice is not transported as far and acres of the Amazon aren’t being cleared to grow it. The packaging is cardboard and is produced from wood fibre from FSC certified forests and is transported flat on reels.
What’s not to love?!
When people talk about soy and tofu, the first thing most people link them with is either health freaks or vegans. I love the taste of soy milk as opposed to standard milk- I find standard milk far too heavy-tasting and it’s also not very healthy.
A few of the documentaries I have been watching recently have revealed another side to it though and I’ve started to have second thoughts.
The actually growing of soy is done primarily in the Amazon or places where the crop can be grown in vast expanses. Forests are mowed down in order to grow soy. That direct destruction of the environment and the animals that live in it is awful enough to make me want to stop eating and drinking it. I am on my last pack of soy milk, then that is that gone. Greenpeace pushed for a moratorium on growing soy on areas of de-forested land in 2008 in Brazil and that seems to have been carried out.
However, even when soy is grown in the USA, it requires acres of land and high amounts of pesticide so there are huge environmental impacts for the local environment.
Turning soybeans into milk also takes a huge amount of energy so the production of milk or tofu products can leave a pretty big carbon footprint too. Buying soy from a local farmer or drinking alternate, more eco-friendly milks seems a far better option (you can find recipes for making your own online too). Even organic soy products have a dark side in their exploitation of farm workers for example so the rule generally seems to be: buy soy locally from a reputable farm, or leave it completely! 80% of soy is used to feed animals so meat-eaters may want to consider buying meat that is organic or free-range- i.e. corn-fed chicken from local farms (you can find these in supermarkets too, just check the label).
A couple of years back I got really hooked on this show on Nat Geo Wild or Animal Planet- one of my usual haunts. It was called Game Ranger Diaries and basically depicted the work done in a specific national park in Africa. It was a really great show, revealing how animals and humans can co-exist but also the problems that national parks encounter- in terms of limited space, the conflicts with poachers, disease and local opinion etc. It raised some really interesting ideas and explained the amazing work that a national park can do, but also the problems of what is in reality, very small pockets of safety for endangered species.
The park depended on locals to run the park, act as anti-poaching staff and educate and interact with the local community. The positives of this are that they are creating jobs for locals, offering a livelihood that prevents those locals from turning to poaching for money, employing people who understand the environment and the communities and are able to understand ways they can work with the community to ensure minimum conflict between locals and nature in the park (i.e. Elephants trampling crops). I think there are huge positives here. Park staff run education programmes to educate local and disadvantaged children about the environment they live in- some have never seen this wildlife before, despite the fact that it lives on their front door. This campaign to educate the next generation is great and shows them that there are options.
But is this all sustainable? I have also been religiously watching Planet Earth though and that raised some interesting ideas. By employing locals as park staff you are offering them employment that benefits the environment, but still an employment that intrinsically links nature to monetary value.
If people will only protect their environment if they get paid to do it, as opposed to conserving it because they believe it is their duty to do it- regardless of being paid for it- then can this really be a sustainable means of protecting an environment? For example, if funding and backing for the park collapses or if it is operating in a volatile environment and a civil war starts, then what is the incentive to protect nature- park staff may care, but if there is no financial/ lifestyle gain, or even financial/ lifestyle loss, then would the staff and community still back the scheme or would they allow poaching to happen?
I imagine most people would rather not conduct the experiment to find out. As much as I hope people genuinely do care about the environment around them, people have families to feed, and when you live so close to nature, your only choice may be to exploit it more heavily.
It would be interesting to know how much poaching is actually backed by the Western world. I’ve read a few blogs which link criminal activity and illegal wildlife trade- claiming that illegal wildlife trade is the most profitable crime, which naturally links to drugs, guns and gangs. To solve the problem of illegal wildlife trade, you ultimately have to crack down on gangs as a whole, gangs who are often in the pockets of corrupt (and allegedly democratic) governments. So who is responsible if governments won’t turn round and say no? Everything is truly interlinked and the preservation of wildlife is a thread that weaves through everything so it really does matter. At the moment, it isn’t just isolated species of animals dying out- the fabric of entire eco-systems is ripping apart and entire pieces of the web of life are removed, the rest will collapse too. Its like throwing a stone at glass and watching the impact ripple out and shatter the whole pane. If we wake up in 50 years and the world is just a concrete block, void of fish in the sea and animals roaming in vast herds, then that frankly, is a damn disgrace, so let’s hold people accountable, let’s demand that we know how our food was caught, how our clothes were made, where and how the fuel for our supposedly ‘eco-friendly’ cars is grown. If we don’t? The answer is pretty apparent.