The use of fossil fuels as the primary source of energy has unwittingly landed humanity into its greatest challenge yet. As oil and coal are burnt up, the greenhouse gases are causing the melting of polar ice, leading to a chain reaction that threatens every other aspect of the ecosystem. This paper looks at the crisis that fossil fuels have brought about, as well exploring existent and proposed solutions, both at the collective and the individual level. Introduction Global warming technically refers to the overall rise in global temperatures.
Its widespread use however also encompasses the courses of this rise in temperatures and the effects thereof. More importantly, it is synonymous with the role of human beings’ activity in contributing to these rises. Carbon emissions from planes, cars and industrial plants rise up into the atmosphere and create a blanket of heavy air that traps heat that radiates onto the earth’s surface. By not letting heat escape, over time the globe becomes warmer. This has a direct effect on the flow of ocean currents, directly responsible for weather patterns.
It also causes the melting of polar ice, which besides also affecting climate, also causes the sea levels to rise. (Guggenheim D & Gore Albert, 2006). Effects of Global Warming Some critics are skeptical of the whole notion of global warming. Despite this criticism, it has grabbed the attention of masses, and they are increasingly examining its effects. The following is a brief insight; Agriculture is fundamental to life, as it is the source of food. Without food, human beings are at risk of extinction, and conflicts are bound to arise.
Yet global warming is threatening agriculture. Due to climate change, the environments where bees and other creatures vital to pollination are used to dwelling in are no longer suitable, and the bees are disappearing in droves. More than that, rainfall and sunshine patterns are changing, rendering farmlands unsuitable for the crops that are used to growing there normally. The combined effect is that agricultural yields are negatively affected, and there arises a shortage in overall supply of food worldwide.
In early 2008, with the human race hungrier, food prices rose to their highest levels ever, and inflation in many countries became unprecedented. This trend came to a head at the beginning of 2008, with riots and revolts in numerous countries. In the Philippines, soldiers were deployed to guard food crop farms from being raided. Haitians on their part overthrew their government in protest over untenable food costs. It is also here that people were reduced to eating mud, if only to fill up their stomachs. Similar scenarios were reported in Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and a good number of Asian emerging economies.
Global warming is not the only factor in bringing about food shortage, but it does play a major role, and has come to the attention of masses around the globe that are willing to act to mitigate the negative effects (Auken, 2008). Another set of negative effect that has been tied to global warming are the now prevalent natural disasters pounding various parts of the world. Hurricanes that have brought devastation to New Orleans, Mexico and more recently Jamaica over the past few seasons have been the worst in recorded history.
They have been attributed to rises in sea level resulting from glacial melts owing to global warming. They have brought unprecedented destruction, forcing many coastal cities to adopt new strategies to combat such events. Billions of dollars are now being invested in disaster prevention, and are resulting in an increase in taxation. Similar amounts are being invested in reconstruction efforts to restore damaged infrastructure. Housing models are being radically changed, with cheaper housing being favored to cut losses in case of any eventualities.
Prevalent Solutions Such tools as carbon footprints and green qualifications are now being employed to influence the conduct of the common person to contribute toward reducing their personal negative impact on the globe; consumers in Europe and America are increasingly becoming conscious to purchase food with minimal carbon footprints for example. Carbon footprints refer to the amount of carbon dioxide emitted during the process of developing a product from scratch to the point where it gets to the consumer.
In effect, products which use plenty of machinery to produce and have to be transported by heavily fuel reliant means such as planes and trucks have much higher carbon footprints than those that are produced using minimal fossil energy and are close to the market. Labels indicating the carbon footprint are put on products by organizations who take the initiative, in a bid to persuade consumers to buy the least destructive products. And the method seems to be working.
In Europe especially, consumers are increasingly cutting on their contributions environmental degradation and products with high carbon footprints and finding increasingly limited market. Closely related is the issue of organic foods. These are gaining preference for the reason that they are produced using only natural material, rather than chemicals that are hazardous to human beings and detrimental to the environment. The level to which a product is free of chemical toxicity is referred to as its organic rating, just like carbon footprints are used to depict the level of carbon emissions of a product.
Publications and other forms of media are used by proactive organizations to sensitize the public on which products are environmentally friendly, and these do have a major influence on consumer choices. The result is that farmers serving the European markets are using increasingly less machinery and chemicals, thereby reducing the emissions and chemical pollution of the agricultural industry to the environment. Manufacturers also have to adapt to a new way of production- with their carbon footprints being closely monitored, they are increasingly adjusting their production processes to get favorable ratings (Organic Trade Association, 2008).
My Solution Proposal In the fight against global warming, I believe efforts should now be geared toward experiments on entirely new lifestyles and forms of organization, with successful experiments being replicated across the globe. In my case, I propose an experiment with a new eco city, preferably in an arid area, at a waterfront (e. g. a lake) for sustainability of life. This will kill quite a few birds with one stone, as the problems of food insecurity, unsustainable energy and wasted land would all be addressed. Implementation
In designing such an urban development, cutting edge technology and radical thinking are required at every step of the way. Ecological urban planning concepts are necessary to take advantage of the lake breeze, which can be harnessed for wind energy to cater for a significant part of the new city’s energy requirements. The city plan should also allow for the breeze to penetrate the streets and residential areas rather than block it. When this is done, ecological architecture can be employed in designing self-cooling buildings, which have the advantage of not only saving on air conditioning.
This is desirable because it both saves on energy and preserves the environment, seeing as most air conditioners are environmentally harmful. The urban plan also needs to take care of existing ecosystems – if there are any streams, trees or wildlife habitations, the city and building designs should be made around them. Buildings will need to be fitted with solar panels to take advantage of the abundant sun in arid lands, thus further adding to the energy supply provided by wind. Wherever possible, buildings should have green roofing.
This is where gardens are made on top of roofs for purposes of food, beautification and more. This will have a number of advantages; food will be more abundant, a cool microclimate will be created (further reducing the need for air conditioning), and the carbon footprint will be drastically reduced or eliminated. The buildings can also be constructed with double walls using recycled material (for sustainability). Double walls have the effect of keeping temperatures low when it’s hot outside and warm when it’s cold outside.
Stretches of idle land just outside the city can be used to plant ecologically friendly biofuel crops such as Jatropha Carcus, which is drought-resistant, to complete whatever energy requirements that may remain. Being at the lakefront, clean water for most chores might prove a challenge to get, thus the need to preserve and recycle whatever water can be harnessed. One of the ways to do this is by use of a Sewerage Treatment Plant (STP), which filters sewerage to produce water for irrigation and gas for cooking.
This way, other clean sources of water can be less burdened. Energy needs will also be met. Gardens and parks should be organic to reduce the amount of fertilizer and chemical pesticides necessary to maintain them. Sustaining the Gains All the outlined gains of an eco-city would be to naught if the residents do not sustain them. Residents should be encouraged to carpool when going to work, or better still to cycle to work to minimize the carbon footprint. As much as possible, recycled material should be used and other material should be recycled.
The use of plastic bags should be banned, instead encouraging the use of bio-degradable baskets. For lighting, energy-saving fluorescent bulbs and tubes should be used. Each home should have a garden in its compound, with at least a tree or two. The gardens, for domestic food consumption, should be grown organically. The beach area should be kept clean, with no littering or dumping of chemicals or effluent into the lake. This will help preserve marine life and overall aesthetic beauty. If such a city can be constructed, myriad gains will have been made; Positive Environmental Impact
The immediate impact of all the new vegetation – the green roofs, home gardens, biofuel crops, etc – would be the creation of a cool microclimate in the developed area. Being in front of a lake, the arid land as it currently is cannot benefit because all the moisture being brought in by the breeze either evaporates or travels long distances inland, benefiting other areas with vegetation. With the new vegetation however, the moisture would be trapped, and as the plants perspire, vapor would rise into the local sky, thereby creating rain at that local level.
The overall reduced heat levels would also slow down evaporation rates, ensuring that the soil remains moist, helped also by the increased rain. Naturally, more rain is bound to increase vegetation cover, further enhancing the value of the land and creating a positive cycle. Positive Impact on Soil As the vegetation grows and dies, the soil would be enriched organically as the foliage decomposes, increasing its productivity. This happens when the decomposed foliage turns into humus, and mixes with the local sand. This has the effect of bonding the soil together while creating an acceptable level of drainage and porosity within it.
If the soil is further enriched with the waste products of the STP process, the overall composition of the soil will become highly favorable to agriculture. It would also be conducive for worms and other soil organisms to grow, which in turn further enrich the soil with vital nutrients. Positive Economic Impact Another area of profound impact will be economic; from the time of construction right through to the establishment of offices and residences, employment opportunities will abound for both locals and immigrants.
The eco-friendliness of the area will also attract investment – a lot of which these days is conscientious – thus spurring growth. Being at the lakefront, the city is also highly likely to attract considerable international tourism as tourists seek clean and new areas to escape from winter or simply to unwind. At the same time, the marine fishing industry is bound to experience a boost from the clean fishing areas, with ready market locally provided by residents within the new city. They may even be able to export, depending on other factors.
At the domestic level, people will be able to grow food and reduce their household budget. They may even be able to sell some of it and generate income – the city can be a net exporter of food. Conclusion Global warming has blessed the world with a lot to ponder upon. With effects ranging from food shortage to natural catastrophes, mitigation should not be a question of whether, but how and when. Coupled with this is the need for newer energy sources, to reduce the globe’s dependency on fossil fuels. With concerted efforts and due diligence, the problems that these two factors portend can be contained to an extent.
I propose an experiment with an eco city built on a waterfront as a means of studying how human beings can adopt a top down approach to addressing these pressing issues. I believe the gains to be made will not just be environmental but economic as well. Works Cited Associated press, June 20th 2007, Fossil fuels Tycoon plans largest wind farm- green machines- MSNBC. com, Retrieved 12th Feb 2009. , http://www. msnbc. msn. com/id/19231397 Auken, B. V, 15th April 2008, Amid mounting food crisis, governments fear revolution of the hungry, Retrieved 11th Sep, 2008, http://www. wsws. org/articles/2008/apr2008/food-a15. shtml
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