Record numbers sign up for Veganuary 2019

Veganuary. The month that people dedicate to changing up their diet by consuming solely plant-based, vegan produce. With people entering 2019 with the phrase ‘new year, new me’ rooted deeply in their mindset, will we see them sticking to the change of diet?

This year, record numbers have signed up to the Veganuary pledge, with over 250,000 from 193 countries signing up. On Sunday 30th December 2018, 14,000 people signed up at a rate of one every six seconds.

2018 saw a real boom in the rise of veganism, with numbers of products available and adherents to the vegan lifestyle increasing exponentially.

“In 2018 there hasn’t been a week that has gone by without veganism hitting the headlines, whether it is a magazine editor being fired or Waitrose launching a new range of products,” said Rich Hardy, Head of Campaigns at Veganuary.

“Vegan products are getting a lot better and it is becoming a lot more convenient to have a tasty plant-based diet.”

One of the reasons for the surge in active members in the vegan community has been the warnings from scientists across the globe about the damage meat production and consumption has on the living planet, in terms of the amount of greenhouse gas emissions the industry creates each year.

A report published in 2014 called ‘Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans in the UK‘, noted that the average emissions of meat eaters was 7.19kgCO2e/day compared to 2.89kgCO2e/day for those who consumed a vegan diet. In May 2018, an incredibly comprehensive analysis of the impact of animal agriculture was published, which stated that avoiding animal products was the single most productive way to reduce an individual’s environmental footprint.

‘Moving from current diets to a diet that excludes animal products has transformative potential, reducing food’s land use by 3.1 (2.8-3.3) billion hectares (a 76% reduction), including a 19% reduction in arable land; food’s GHG emissions by 6.6 (5.5-7.4) billion metric tons of CO2eq (a 49% reduction); acidification by 50% (45-54%); eutrophication by 49% (37-56%); and scarcity-weighted freshwater withdrawals by 19%.’

Recently, delegates who attended the COP24 meeting in Katowice, Poland were reprimanded for the menu served in the food court on site, a menu very high in meat-based products.

A third of UK consumers say they have deliberately reduced the amount of meat they eat, or excluded it from their diet entirely, according to the supermarket chain Waitrose. in 2018, one in eight Britons declared themselves as either vegetarian or vegan. 21% participate in a flexitarian diet, which is where a mostly plant-based diet is sometimes supplemented by meat, dairy, or fish.

Joseph Poore, of Oxford University, who led the research, said: “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth – not just greenhouse gases but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use. It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car.”

Veganuary’s site states that the three main reasons to practice veganism are animal welfare, health, and environmental protection. It offers a practical explanation of all three reasons, including recommendations for videos, articles, discussions, and a list of vegan myths they take the time to dispel. There is also a ‘vegan starter kit’, advice on where to eat out, and a hundreds of recipes.

While Veganuary grows in numbers, environmentalists are worried that it will be hard to promote this lifestyle to the majority of people within the small time-frame that we have left to tackle climate breakdown.

‘Though dietary change is realistic for any individual, widespread behavioral change will be hard to achieve in the narrow timeframe remaining to limit global warming and prevent further, irreversible biodiversity loss.’

 

Timber skyline: The rise of the wooden skyscraper

Rapid urbanisation of cities is becoming more and more apparent. This immediately presents issues in terms of the carbon footprints of buildings. The bigger cities get, the taller buildings get, the more greenhouse gas emissions we produce in their construction. In order for us to make our cities bigger, taller, more environmentally-friendly, cities need to find ways to future-proof themselves.

By 2050, the global population is expected to rise to 10 billion, and around two-thirds of us will live in cities. Of course, the solution to this in terms of space will be high-rise complexes.

The materials we use now to build with, mainly concrete and steel, have a large carbon footprint. The answer may lie in something called cross-laminated timber, or CLT.

We are currently in a somewhat renaissance for timber. Wood, of course, is a renewable resource. Currently, the world’s tallest building at 53m tall is the Brock Commons Tallwood House in Vancouver, which was completed in 2017, just beating the then world’s tallest wooden building, the Treet building, at 52.8m, in Bergen. These however may be left in the proverbial timber dust, with a proposed building in Tokyo known as the W350 Project planned to reach 350m (although this is scheduled for completion in 2041).

In Brummundal, Norway, an 81m high residential building is being constructed from Norwegian timber. Vienna is currently working on an 84m high wooden building. In the Parisian district of Terne, an entire wooden building complex is under construction, and in Germany, an eight-story wooden house was built on an area that used to belong to the United States army in the Bavarian town of Bad Aibling. It is a current showpiece for energy-efficient construction.

Concrete and steel are both costly to produce and heavy to transport, whereas wood can be grown sustainably and is far lighter. Concrete manufacturing is the world’s third largest producer of greenhouse gases, and is also 15 times less thermally efficient as timber.

Another boon to using timber as a construction material is it’s ability to sequester carbon from the atmosphere as it grows, trapping that within it’s makeup. For example, Kielder Forest in Northumberland has 150 million trees. These trees sequester 82,000 tonnes of carbon annually. “This means that as a rough estimate each tree at Kielder is locking up 0.546 kg of carbon per year – equivalent to 2 kg of carbon dioxide.”

Credit: The Economist

It has been shown that a timber building can reduce it’s carbon footprint by up to 75% in contrast to a building of the same size made of conventional building materials. American architectural firm Skidmore, Owings, and Merrell (SOM) , who designed Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, have designed a 42m tower, which, if built, will have a carbon footprint 60% less than a conventional build.

“Wood environments make people happy”, gleefully asserted the exhibition ‘Timber City‘ at the National Building Museum, which ran from 2016 to 2017. The exhibition included “architectural models, a video about managed forests and a world map that highlights more than 30 notable recent wooden buildings.” There was also a selection of tree stumps, wood manufacturing examples, and different types of lumber waste, nearly all of which can be used commercially and are recyclable in some way or another.

Regular timber unfortunately isn’t malleable like steel or concrete – it cannot be poured and set as those materials can. It is not strong enough to build high. This is where CLT comes in. It is a wood-panel product made by gluing layers of solid-sawn lumber together, with each layer glued perpendicular to one another. By gluing the layers perpendicular, the finished panel achieves better structural rigidity in both directions.

Whole sections can be pre-made and erected quickly on-site. Due to the relative strength and lightness of the wood, it is also suitable for closing gaps, or construction projects on existing buildings.

In April, plans were proposed for an 300m high wooden building, consisting of 80 storeys, which would be integrated with London’s Barbican Centre, a scheme which was developed between Cambridge University’s department of architecture alongside PLP Architecture and the engineers Smith and Wallwork. The project, if realised, could create over 1,000 new residential units.

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The skyline for the proposed timber tower at the Barbican. Image: PLP Architecture / Cambridge University

“If London is going to survive it needs to increasingly densify”, says Dr Micheal Ramage, director of Cambridge’s Centre for Natural Material Innovation. “One way is taller buildings. We believe people have a greater affinity for taller buildings in natural materials rather than steel and concrete towers.”

For those of you whose immediate thought is – are we not forgetting the Great Fire of London? The fires that frequented the city of Edo (The name for 17th century Tokyo)? Fortunately for those afraid of house fires, CLT does not burn like conventional timber, as the above video will testify.

“Every well-trained firefighter knows today that an adequate solid wood construction made from cross-laminated timber will withstand fire long enough for them to rescue the residents,” said architect Tom Kaden.

Using CLT and other wooden materials offers new design potential, and ultimately, space to grow. The transition from concrete and steel to construction using timber may possibly have a wider positive impact on urban environments and build form.

It is possible that these new ideas will allow architects, designers, and engineers to reformulate the aesthetics of architecture, but also the inherent structural methodologies that architecture has generally become accustomed to. New innovations in timber could lead to a greener revolution in architecture for the 21st Century and beyond.

 

 

 

“Completely inconsistent” EU coal deal fails to deal with coal subsidies

Analysts have stated that an EU deal to phase out coal subsidies within the Paris Climate Agreement is “completely inconsistent”.

Negotiations at COP24 ended on Wednesday. A benchmark CO2 emissions standard of 550 grams per kWh for all European power plants has been set, with limitations set to be in effect by 2025. Unfortunately, a loophole has been secured by Poland, a coal-dependent country, which allows countries another year to negotiate new ‘capacity mechanisms’ that would be exempt from the deadline. This may allow for unprofitable coal plants to keep operating until 2035, which is five years after the projected cut-off for meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

“Continued support for coal as just agreed by the EU is completely inconsistent with meeting the Paris agreement goals and in particular with limiting warming to 1.5C [above pre-industrial levels].” said Bill Hare, the director of the Climate Analytics thinktank. “It appears to be a de facto rejection of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change finding that coal needs to exit the power sector rapidly. In the EU this means by 2030.”

After the deal was signed, the EU’s climate commissioner, Miguel Arias Cañete, tweeted “A more flexible market will facilitate the integration of more renewables. We also limit capacity mechanisms and #support5050 to move #BeyondCoal. #CleanEnergyEU completed.”

https://twitter.com/MAC_europa/status/1075184954357805057

This has not been met with universal support. Environmental campaigners Greenpeace have said that the proposed capacity mechanisms and stay of execution for subsidies levied on the coal industry showed unequivocally that many EU governments were still not fully serious about or dedicated to tackling climate breakdown.

The deal “will help the transformation to cleaner electricity production” said MEP Krišjānis Kariņš. “It will open up more competition in electricity across the EU border – good for the climate and good for the wallet”.

Green MEP Florent Marcellesi said that the delayed introductions of an emissions standard guaranteed “a free licence to go on polluting despite the impact on climate and public health”, meaning that the deal is ‘insufficient’ to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

“The cost-optimal pathways show that to be in line with the Paris Agreement, the OECD and EU countries need to phase out coal the fastest – by 2030. China would need to phase out coal around 2040, and the rest of the world by 2050.”

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Image taken from Climate Analytics

 

Governmental cherry-picking: over 32,000 badgers killed in annual cull

During the annual badger cull this autumn, more than 32,000 badgers were killed. This was done with the intent to reduce tuberculosis in cattle.

While officials stated that the culls were effective in stemming the prevalence of the disease, independent scientists said the date said officials were quoting was cherry-picked.

In 2017, 33,000 animals that were infected with TB were slaughtered in 2017. Michael Gove, the current environment secretary approved a huge increase in badger culling in September, which could see up to 42,000 animals shot. The data published by the government on Tuesday shows that so far, 32,601 badgers have been killed, a record number.

It seems that this cull is nothing more than an effort to protect capital over biodiversity.

While some badgers will be spreading TB, it is poor biosecurity on farms and the frequent trading of cattle that has more of a negative effect on TB control efforts than badgers themselves. The increasingly high amount of badgers culled in efforts to stop the spread therefore seems meaningless. Around half the culls failed to meet their initial targets.

“The ways that these targets were altered varied between sites in a completely non-standard way,” said Prof Rosie Woodroffe, of the Institute of Zoology, who was part of a 10-year badger-culling trial. “The scientific term for this methodology is ‘making it up as you go along’.”

Woodroffe stated that there was no basis for confidence in the cull, since it was impossible to estimate from the information gathered.  “We are all used to politicians making optimistic statements based on unreliable data. For a scientist to do so is deeply worrying,” she said.

“Claims that the culls are reducing cattle TB is based on cherry-picking data from a report produced by government scientists. It states explicitly that ‘these data alone cannot demonstrate whether the badger control policy is effective in reducing bovine TB in cattle’.” said Woodroffe. The government focused on areas where TB seemed to be dropping, yet missed out areas where rates of TB seemed to be rising.

“This is the largest destruction of a protected species in living memory.” Said Dominic Dyer, the chief executive of the Badger Trust. “By the end of 2018, the government will have spent over £50m of public funds killing over 67,000 badgers [since 2013], which could push the species to the verge of local extinction in areas of England where it has lived since the ice age. The badger cull is a cruel, costly and ineffective policy and its continuation is a national disgrace.”

We have to ask; what is the point of this cull? To simply protect assets? It is clear that government officials do not view natural biodiversity as an asset. Other options must be assessed.

 

£80m Eden Project North set to open in Morecambe in 2022

A proposed attracting may be coming to Morecambe in autumn 2022, which would be the latest addition to the Eden Project; Eden Project North, an £80m environmental attraction which will purportedly bring in up to 8,000 visitors a day.

Eden Project North will be comprised of a number of indoor and outdoor experiences, all set around or within a series of ‘biomes’, styled around mussels, a species that Morecambe is well known for. These biomes will house a number of different ecosystems.

Dave Harland, chief executive of Eden Project International Limited, said: “We’re incredibly proud to present our vision for Eden Project North and hope that the people of Morecambe and the surrounding area are as excited about it as we are.

“We aim to reimagine what a seaside destination can offer, with a world-class tourist attraction that is completely in tune with its natural surroundings.”

The hope for Eden Project North is that it will connect the local community to the internationally-significant natural environment of Morecambe Bay, creating a better understanding of natural environments and their fragility, and to also hopefull foster a better sense of well-being in the area.

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An artist’s impression of Eden Project North, a proposed new attraction for Morecambe . Credit: Grimshaw Architects

Grimshaw Architects, the organisation responsible for  the world-famous Rainforest and Mediterranean Biomes, have designed the Morecambe-based structures with its focus on the marine environment.

The project is also being seen through by its partners the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, Lancaster University, Lancashire County Council and Lancaster City Council. Lancaster City Council plan to invest £250,000 in the project.

Group leader and Labour Cllr Eileen Blamire said “We have all been impressed and enormously excited by the emerging proposals for Eden Project North. If this scheme happens it will have a transformative impact for Morecambe and the wider area.

“Eden Project North meets the criteria in terms of the Eden Project mission” Said Nick Bellamy, head of Eden Project International.

“To have all of this come together with support from Lancaster University, the city and county councils, the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership and other bodies is really rare, but very welcome.”

“2019 will be the year that this project really takes off. We’d hope to have full planning permission by 2020, and to be open in the third quarter of 2022.”

The front line of environments affected by climate breakdown will be coastal areas who will be at risk of flooding from rising sea levels. These are also areas where 17% of the UK population lives, and to draw attention to the fragility of those environments will be nothing but good.

“Our project in Cornwall was about the connection between humans and plants, and Eden Project North is about our connection with the marine and aquatic environment.” Said Bellamy.

“It will also be about health and wellbeing and that link to coastal communities, and how we can understand that better.”

“We’ve got an incredible vision for this place, and the question is, are you with us?”

You can find out more information on the projects of Eden Project International here.

 

 

 

 

 

See the ice before it is gone: Olafur Eliasson brings Arctic icebergs to London

Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson and Danish geologist Minik Rosing have brought twenty-four blocks of Arctic ice to London.

The work, entitled Ice Watch, has been set up outside of the Tate Modern. The small icebergs were taken from the Nuup Kangerlua fjord in Greenland after becoming separated from the main ice sheet. It has been created to increase awareness of man-made climate breakdown.

More and more icebergs are being produced as the planet warms due to man-made climate change, which in turn contributes to rising sea levels, which poses a threat to wildlife and low-lying coastal human settlements.

The hope is that Ice Watch will help people to conceive of the reality of climate breakdown and global heating. The general public has seen photos and videos of ice breaking from sheets, glaciers receding, animals such as polar bears forced to swim for miles as they have no ice to walk across, and yet in this country we never get the full effect from these pieces of evidence. We rarely have that first-hand experience.

The point of the project is interaction. “Put your hands on the ice, listen to it, smell it, look at it” says Eliasson. “Witness the ecological changes our world is undergoing.”

The artist is known for large installations employing natural materials such as light, water, and air temperature, which are used to enhance the viewer’s experience.

Increasingly warmer global temperatures causes the Greenland ice sheet to lose around 200-300 billion tonnes of ice each year, which is a number that is expected to increase dramatically in the future.

“I’ve been studying behavioural psychology, and looking into the consequences of experience,” says the Icelandic-Danish artist. “What does it mean to experience something? Does it change you or not change you? It turns out that data alone only promotes a small degree of change. So in order to create the massive behavioural change needed [to tackle climate change] we have to emotionalise that data, make it physically tangible.”

Both Eliasson and Rosing believe that when it comes to making the public more aware of climate breakdown, narratives based on fear or worst-case scenarios are the wrong way to go. “Instead of fear-based narratives, you need a positive narrative to make people change their behaviour,” says Eliasson, “and that’s why I think the culture sector has a strong mandate to take on some leadership here.”

“We have to provide a glimpse of hope,” adds Rosing. “People think the scientists come with the bad news about climate change but actually we come with the good news. We understand what’s happening, we know exactly what needs to be done and we actually have the means to fix it. The only reason we’ve been able to upset the global environment system is because we have enormous power. If we direct that same enormous power to improving the system, we can get it back on track.”

The temporary sculpture of Ice Watch, itself almost an homage to ancient sacred stone circles, allows us to see a fragile and yet powerful reverence that this environment has. As we engage with the ice directly, experience it’s cold, it’s age, it’s melting, we are transported to the areas where this happens unseen.

The artwork coincides with COP24, the meeting of United Nations delegates in Poland to determine how to employ strategies to keep to the climate regulations agreed at the Paris Climate Agreement three years ago.

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An unfortunate side effect of this installation is the environmental cost. The estimated energy that it cost to bring one of these blocks to London was equal to one person flying from London to the Arctic and back again.

What this temporary sculpture creates is a sense of time, or, more accurately, the knowledge of a time that is running out. Just as the sculpture is only in London from today to the 20th, giving audiences a small time-frame to experience it, so too is the amount of time we have left to limit the damage to ice sheets and their corresponding environments globally.

Ice Watch will be exhibited from the 11th December to 20th December. Well, they will be there until they melt away.

Find more information here.

An open letter: 100 notable figures from around the globe sign a call-to-arms on climate breakdown

100 notable figures from around the globe have come together to sign an open letter which calls upon concerned citizens of the globe to rise up and radically organise against current governmental complacency on the ecological and climate emergency we are facing.

The 100 includes Vandana Shiva, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Chris Packham, Lily Cole, Bill McKibben, Dr Rowan Williams, and Bill Ripple of Scientists Warning amongst others.

The open letter, penned and organised by Dr Alison Green, Dr Richard House, and Dr Rupert Read, who are all representatives of climate advocacy and action group Extinction Rebellion, has been published today simultaneously round the globe, in media including The Guardian (UK), South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), Taipei Times (Taiwan), O Pais (Mozambique), Aftenposten (Norway) and Al Wihda (Chad).

The publication of the letter comes at the same time as the COP24 United Nations climate summit in Katowice, Poland, which is the first to be held since the IPCC report on climate breakdown and the proposed global temperature limitation of 1.5C was published in October.

At COP24, renowned environmentalist Sir David Attenborough declared in his speech, “Right now, we’re facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years: Climate Change. If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations, and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”

“The world’s people have spoken. Their message is clear. Time is running out.”

As an organisation, Extinction Rebellion ‘rejects the complacency and denial exhibited by business and political leaders, and insists that the truth about the climate crisis is told.’ It uses non-violent direct action and civil disobedience to bring attention to the apparent ‘criminal activity’ of governments.

The group’s demands are as follows:

  • The Government must admit the truth about the ecological emergency, reverse all policies inconsistent with addressing climate change, and work alongside the media to communicate with citizens
  • The Government must enact legally binding policy measures to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and to reduce consumption levels
  • A national Citizen’s Assembly must be created, to oversee the changes, as part of creating a democracy fit for purpose.

“We feel we have really struck a chord with this letter. People understand that there is nothing wrong with telling the truth,” commented Dr Alison Green, PVC Academic at Arden University.

“It has been heartening to have the support of so many high-profile people, and amazing that some of the biggest names were also the quickest to respond. Even people who felt unable to sign the letter commented that they supported the action.”

Fellow letter organiser and chartered psychologist Dr Richard House added, “I co-organised the famous press letter on ‘toxic childhood’ that went viral overnight in September 2006, and tellingly, the level of concern shared by our signatories to this letter surpasses even that. The ignoring or sidelining of this issue by corporations and governments is simply no longer an option.”

Read the full letter below.

Climate Emergency: An Open Letter to Concerned Global Citizens

This open letter appears today in major newspapers across the world.

In our complex, interdependent global ecosystem, life is dying, with species extinction accelerating. The climate crisis is worsening much faster than previously predicted. Every single day 200 species are becoming extinct. This desperate situation can’t continue.

Political leaders worldwide are failing to address the environmental crisis. If global corporate capitalism continues to drive the international economy, global catastrophe is inevitable.

Complacency and inaction in Britain, the USA, Australia, Brazil, across Africa and Asia… – all illustrate diverse manifestations of political paralysis, abdicating humankind’s grave responsibility for planetary stewardship.

International political organizations and national governments must foreground the climate-emergency issue immediately, urgently drawing up comprehensive policies to address it. Conventionally privileged nations must voluntarily fund comprehensive environment-protection policies in impoverished nations, to compensate the latter for foregoing unsustainable economic growth, and paying recompense for the planet-plundering imperialism of materially privileged nations.

With extreme weather already hitting food production, we demand that governments act now to avoid any risk of hunger, with emergency investment in agro-ecological extreme-weather-resistant food production. We also call for an urgent summit on saving the Arctic icecap, to slow weather disruption of our harvests.

We further call on concerned global citizens to rise up and organise against current complacency in their particular contexts, including indigenous people’s rights advocacy, decolonization and reparatory justice – so joining the global movement that’s now rebelling against extinction (e.g. “Extinction Rebellion” in the UK).

We must collectively do whatever’s necessary non-violently, to persuade politicians and business leaders to relinquish their complacency and denial. Their “business as usual” is no longer an option. Global citizens will no longer put up with this failure of our planetary duty.

Every one of us, especially in the materially privileged world, must commit to accepting the need to live more lightly, consume far less, and to not only uphold human rights but also our stewardship responsibilities to the planet.

You can see a full list of signatories here.