Most UK adults don’t know what carbon offsetting is, though some suspect it is a process linked to fizzy drinks, according to an exclusive survey released today to GU Environment by the British Market Research Bureau.
Some 55% of survey respondents had either never heard of carbon offsetting, or had heard the name but didn’t know anything about it. When asked which term best described carbon offsetting, 66% were unable to give an accurate definition.
One in five said it was “the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere” while 19% selected “a chemical process which neutralises carbon dioxide gas before it is released into the atmosphere”. Some 2% of respondents thought carbon offsetting was a “new technique that eases trapped wind caused by carbonated/fizzy drinks”.
Only 15% of survey respondents said they knew “a lot” or “a fair amount” about carbon offsetting. Despite high-profile support for carbon offsetting from pop groups such as Coldplay, awareness was lower among 15 to 24-year-olds, with 51% saying they had never heard of it.
Carbon offsetting involves individuals or companies attempting to compensate for their contribution to global warming. Examples include planting trees, pumping greenhouse gases underground and setting up green energy projects abroad. Critics say the schemes are guilt-absolving, but others feel they are important to try to compensate for damage done to the planet.
Only 1% of Britons told researchers they had ever paid into a carbon offsetting programme.
Yet according to the survey most people do seem concerned about the environment. More than 60% of respondents disagreed with the statement “changing our lifestyles will make no difference to climate change, we might as well enjoy ourselves”.
Less than a third agreed that “it’s the government’s job to tackle climate change not mine as an individual”. Some 85% said they felt that business should be doing more to tackle climate change.
In addition, 57% of adults said they were either “fairly” or “very” willing to halve their number of car journeys, while 62% said they would be willing to take no more than one flight abroad a year for a holiday or weekend break.
Sue Welland from the offsetting company CarbonNeutral said the findings showed that awareness of green issues had risen considerably over the last 10 years. “[Now] the job is to resist all the jargon that is emerging and to communicate in everyday language how and why carbon offsetting works.”
The BMRB survey was carried out among 1,017 people aged 15 and over.
This had me kind of thinking about what I really do for the environment.
Well I am vegan for a start.
ANIMAL PRODUCTS AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Throughout the 20th century growing populations and ever-increasing industrialisation have had devastating effects on our environment. Global warming, widespread pollution, deforestation, land degradation and species extinction are just some of the problems we now face. The full consequences of such large-scale environmental degradation are impossible to judge, but what we do know is that the impacts on humanity will be most devastating in the developing world. With hundreds of millions of people already not obtaining enough food to meet their basic needs and billions of people lacking access to safe water supplies, it is imperative that we find sustainable methods of food production that do not further degrade planetary health.
“Removing the causes of environmental degradation is often more effective than seeking to control the symptoms.”
Cornelis de Haan, Livestock Adviser to the World Bank 
Agriculture in general is one of the most resource-intensive and environmentally damaging aspects of industrialised living. What this means for us as individuals is that if we are trying to reduce our car use, limit the amount of water we waste, become more ‘energy-efficient’ and generally lessen our environmental impact, then we should also examine our eating habits.
People are increasingly becoming aware of the direct correlation between what they eat every day and the health of the planet. Environmentally conscious consumers are concerned not only with food miles, over-packaging, pesticide use and GM foods, but also question the environmental sustainability of modern animal husbandry. Farmers used to be seen as ‘custodian’s of the countryside,’ but the overriding image of modern industrial farming is one of destruction and waste.
World meat production has quadrupled in the past 50 years and livestock now outnumber people by more than 3 to 1.  In other words, the livestock population is expanding at a faster rate than the human population. This trend contributes to all of the environmental problems already outlined.
A report commissioned by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Bank concluded that factory farming, “acts directly on land, water, air and biodiversity through the emission of animal waste, use of fossil fuels and substitution of animal genetic resources. In addition, it affects the global land base indirectly through its effect on the arable land needed to satisfy its feed concentrate requirements. Ammonia emissions from manure storage and application lead to localized acid rain and ailing forests.” 
And the problems don’t end there.
FEEDING THE WORLD
“The world must create five billions vegans in the next several decades, or triple its total farm output without using more land.”
Dennis Avery, Director of the Centre for Global Food Issues . 
WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that around 840 million people are undernourished. That’s roughly 14% of the human population. On average, around 25,000 people die every day from hunger-related causes. Each year 6 million children under the age of 5 die as a result of hunger and malnutrition – this is roughly equivalent to all the under-5s in France and Italy combined.  With the world’s population expected to increase from 6 billion to 9 billion by 2050, one of the most urgent questions we now face is how we, as a species, will feed ourselves in the 21st century.
Land availability is one of the main constraints on food production. The earth has only a limited area of viable agricultural land, so how this land is used is central to our ability to feed the world. At the moment, the problem is not lack of food – it is widely agreed that enough food is produced worldwide to feed a global population of 8-10 billion people – but lack of availability. Poverty, powerlessness, war, corruption and greed all conspire to prevent equal access to food, and there are no simple solutions to the problem. However, Western lifestyles – and diet in particular – can play a large part in depriving the world’s poor of much needed food.
“In this era of global abundance, why does the word continue to tolerate the daily hunger and deprivation of more than 800 million people?”
Jacques Diouf, Director-General, UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. 
THE LIVESTOCK CONNECTION
World livestock production exceeds 21 billion animals each year. The earth’s livestock population is more then three and a half times its human population. 
In all, the raising of livestock takes up more than two-thirds of agricultural land, and one third of the total land area.  This is apparently justifiable because by eating the foods that humans can’t digest and by processing these into meat, milk and eggs, farmed animals provide us with an extra, much-needed food source. Or so the livestock industry would like you to believe. In fact, livestock are increasingly being fed with grains and cereals that could have been directly consumed by humans or were grown on land that could have been used to grow food rather than feed. The developing world’s undernourished millions are now in direct competition with the developed world’s livestock – and they are losing.
In 1900 just over 10% of the total grain grown worldwide was fed to animals; by 1950 this figure had risen to over 20%; by the late 1990s it stood at around 45%. Over 60% of US grain is fed to livestock. 
This use of the world’s grain harvest would be acceptable in terms of world food production if it were not for the fact that meat and dairy production is a notoriously inefficient use of energy. All animals use the energy they get from food to move around, keep warm and perform their day to day bodily functions. This means that only a percentage of the energy that farmed animals obtain from plant foods is converted into meat or dairy products. Estimates of efficiency levels vary, but in a recent study , Professor Vaclav Smil of the University of Manitoba, Canada, calculated that beef cattle raised on feedlots may convert as little as 2.5% of their gross feed energy into food for human consumption. Estimated conversion of protein was only a little more efficient, with less than 5% of the protein in feed being converted to edible animal protein. These figures are especially damning since the diet of cattle at the feedlot consists largely of human-edible grains.
Feedlot-raised beef is an extreme example, being the least feed-efficient animal product, but even the most efficient – milk – represents a waste of precious agricultural land. Prof Smil calculates that the most efficient dairy cows convert between 55 and 67% of their gross feed energy into milk food energy.
Efficiency can also be measured in terms of the land required per calorie of food obtained. When Gerbens-Leenes et al.  examined land use for all food eaten in the Netherlands, they found that beef required the most land per kilogram and vegetables required the least. The figures they obtained can be easily converted to land required for one person’s energy needs for a year by multiplying 3000 kcal (a day’s energy) by 365 days to obtain annual calorie needs (1,095,000 kcal) and dividing this by the calories per kilogram. The figures obtained are summarised in table 1:
||Land per kg (m2)
||Calories per kilogram
||Land per person per year (m2)
On the basis of these figures, a vegan diet can meet calorie and protein needs from just 300 square metres using mainly potatoes. A more varied diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, grains and legumes would take about 700 square metres. Replacing a third of the calories in this diet with calories from milk and eggs would double the land requirements and a typical European omnivorous diet would require five times the amount of land required for a varied vegan diet.
In looking at land use for animal products this research makes the very favourable assumption that by-products of plant food production used in animal agriculture do not require any land. For example, soybean land is assigned 100% to human soy oil consumption with no land use attributed to the oil cakes used for meat and dairy production. This stacks the odds in favour of animal foods, so the figures in this paper are all the more compelling as to the higher land demands of animal farming.
Most of the land wasted on growing feed for livestock is in developing countries, where food is most scarce. Europe, for example, imports 70% of its protein for animal feed, causing a European Parliament report to state that ‘Eurpoe can feed its people but not its [farm] animals.’  Friends of the Earth have calculated that the UK imported 4.1 million hectares of other people’s land in 1996 .
- “In Brazil alone, the equivalent of 5.6 million acres of land is used to grow soya beans for animals in Europe. These ‘ghost acres’ belie the so-called efficiency of hi-tech agriculture…” Tim Lang of the Centre for Food Policy. 
This land contributes to developing world malnutrition by driving impoverished populations to grow cash crops for animal feed, rather than food for themselves. Intensive monoculture crop production causes soils to suffer nutrient depletion and thus pushes economically vulnerable populations further away from sustainable agricultural systems. All so that the world’s wealthy can indulge their unhealthy taste for animal flesh.
PUT OUT TO PASTURE
Although grain-dependent industrial agriculture is the fastest growing type of animal production, not all farmed animals are raised in this way. Much of the world’s livestock is still raised on pasture. Worldwide, livestock use roughly 3.4 billion hectares of grazing land.
Proponents of animal agriculture point out that most pastureland is wholly unsuitable for growing grain to feed for humans. They argue that by converting grass, and other plants that are indigestible to humans, into energy and protein for human consumption, livestock provide a valuable addition to our food resources. The reality is that land currently used to graze cattle and other ruminants is almost invariably suitable for growing trees – such a use would not only provide a good source of land-efficient, health-giving fruit and nuts, but would also have many environmental benefits.
Quite simply, we do not have enough land to feed everyone on an animal-based diet. So while 840 million people do not have enough food to live normal lives, we continue to waste two-thirds of agricultural land by obtaining only a small fraction of its potential calorific value.Obviously access to food is an extremely complex issue and there are no easy answers. However, the fact remains that the world’s population is increasing and viable agricultural land is diminishing. If we are to avoid future global food scarcity we must find sustainable ways of using our natural resource base. Industrial livestock production is unsustainable and unjustifiable.
WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
The UN Water Assessment Programme states: “At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the Earth, with its diverse and abundant life forms, including over six billion humans, is facing a serious water crisis.” 
We all know that ours is a Blue Planet, mostly made up of water, so it can be difficult to believe that this most precious of natural resources could ever become so scarce as to endanger future food production and general planetary health. However, only 2.53% of the earth’s water is fresh and most of this is inaccessible – some two-thirds being captured in glaciers and permanent snow.  The remaining fresh water is almost entirely made up of groundwater.
According to Sandra Postel, Director of the Global Water Policy Project, the world overdraws 200 km3 of its global groundwater ‘bank account’ every year.  This over-exploitation has serious consequences for future food production and global health. In fact, the WorldWatch Institute rates aquifer depletion, alongside HIV and shrinking cropland area per person, as one of the three most potentially devastating problems facing our species. 
Water pollution serves to compound the problem, with global wastewater estimated to be in the region of 1,500 km3. The UN suggests that 1 litre of wastewater pollutes, on average, 8 litres of freshwater, which would result in a freshwater pollution burden of around 12,000 km3 worldwide. 
Estimates suggest that climate change could cause a 20% increase in global water scarcity. 
In their ‘Global Water Supply and Sanitation Assessment 2000’ UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimate that at present 1.1 billion people have no access to safe water supplies. 2.4 billion people have no access to any form of improved sanitation.
“As a consequence, 2.2 million people in developing countries, most of them children, die every year from diseases associated with lack of safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene” – Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General, WHO and Carol Bellamy, Executive Director, UNICEF. 
The situation is predicted to worsen as population expands and consumption per capita increases as more and more people adopt resource-intensive Western-style lifestyles.
The UN’s 2003 Water Development Report predicts that “by the middle of this century, at worst 7 billion people in sixty countries will be water-scarce, at best 2 billion people in forty-eight countries.”  In fact, the problem is so serious that many environmental and political commentators predict that the resource wars of the future will be fought over water rather than oil.
To ensure our basic needs, we all need 20 to 50 litres of water free from harmful contaminants each day. 
THE LIVESTOCK CONNECTION
Worldwide, agriculture uses up 70% of fresh water resources.  This is largely because a lot of cropland has to be irrigated to make it agriculturally viable and to increase and improve crop yields.
As has been shown, much of this land is entirely wasted by being used to grow feed crops for livestock rather than food for people. The water used on this land – as well as that consumed directly by livestock – represents yet another wasted resource.
There has been much disagreement over precisely how much water is squandered in this way. Professor David Pimentel of Cornell University’s Ecology Department has calculated that it takes 500 litres of water to produce 1kg of potatoes, 900 litres per kg of wheat, 3,500 litres per kg of digestible chicken flesh and a massive 100,000 litres for 1kg of beef. 
A more conservative estimate comes from Beckett and Oltjen of the University of California’s Department of Animal Science.  In a study partly financed by the California Beef Council, they concluded that wheat production requires 120 litres per kg and beef 3,700 litres per kg. It is interesting to look a little more closely at these figures as they show that, even by the most conservative of estimates, beef production still represents a scandalous misuse of one of our most precious natural resources.
1 kg of meat yields about 2800 kcal and 174 g of protein.  1 kg of wheat yields 3300 kcal and 110 g of protein (100g after adjustment for digestibility). According to Beckett and Oltjen, the kilogram of beef requires 3,700 litres of water and the kilogram of wheat requires 120 litres of water. If we put all of these figures together, we find that whilst wheat provides us with an average 27.5 kcal for each litre of water used, beef provides only 0.76 kcal per litre. This means that – based on the data presented to show that other figures were “overstated” – beef still requires 36 times as much water per calorie as wheat. When the same calculations are done for digestible protein, wheat comes out as 18 times more water efficient than beef. These figures are summarised in table 2.
||Calories per litre
||Protein per litre
Table 2: Comparison of water use in beef and wheat production; Source: Beckett & Oltjen, 1993; USDA nutritional database. By these figures, one kilogram of beef uses as much water as:
300 toilet flushes
100 times the clean water needed by an individual according to UNESCO
Since a large percentage of the crops we feed to our farmed animals are grown on ‘ghost acres’ in developing countries, this wasted water is coming not just from our own reserves but from the very countries where drinking water is most scarce.
WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
We are always being told that we need to be more energy efficient. Be it through faulty boilers, inefficient light bulbs, over-filled kettles or driving to the paper shop, most of us are guilty of wasting energy in one way or another.
Over-consumption of energy is a major problem because the vast majority of the energy we use still comes from fossil fuels. The burning of oil, coal and gas result in the emission of carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas, and is the main contributor to human-induced climate change (see Global Warming).
While this is undoubtedly the most important implication of energy consumption, it is not the only problem. Other environmental consequences of the burning of fossil fuels include air pollution from toxic gases, acidification of land and water, contamination of ocean environments through oil spills and destruction of habitats through mining and drilling.  Exploitation of fossil fuels all too often has serious implications for indigenous people, whose land rights are frequently ignored and lifestyles destroyed by the construction of mines and pipelines.
With little serious investment in alternative renewable energy sources such as wind, wave and solar power, the onus has been shifted to the consumer to try to cut individual energy use. We can switch our power supply to companies that deal in renewable energy sources and we can choose to minimise our ‘fossil footprint’ through reducing the amount of energy we consume. One of the most energy-intensive aspects of modern life is industrial agriculture, and small changes in the food we eat every day can have a significant impact on the amount of energy we use throughout our lives.
Environmentally conscious consumers are becoming more and more aware of the benefits of buying locally produced food to cut down on ‘food miles'(the distance travelled – usually by lorry – by our food before it reaches our plates) and eating seasonally to reduce the energy used to create artificial climates in greenhouses. But the impacts of the type of food eaten are often overlooked by environmental pressure groups.
THE LIVESTOCK CONNECTION
“The industrial system is a poor converter of fossil energy. Fossil energy is a major input of intensive livestock production systems, mainly indirectly for the production of feed.”  A study conducted by the US Department of Agriculture concluded that their results “pointedly reveal the high level of dependency of the US beef cattle industry on fossil fuels. These findings in turn bring into question the ecological and economic risks associated with the current technology driving North American agriculture.” 
This same technology is being adopted as a model for industrial livestock production throughout the world. The study’s review of energy inputs versus energy outputs in food calories showed that while corn and barley produce about five times as much food energy as the energy used in production, beef production uses about three times as much energy as the food energy produced. This means that corn and barley production is around 15 times more efficient in terms of fossil fuel input than beef production.
Studies conducted in The Netherlands suggest that, inefficient as it is, beef production is less of a waste of fossil fuels than some other types of meat production. Brand & Melman calculate that 1kg of beef requires a fossil energy input of 15.5 Megajoules (MJ), poultry meat 18.1 MJ/kg, pork 18.9 MJ/kg, and veal production a massive 46.8 MJ/kg.  These figures are calculated for liveweight rather than edible protein, so the real energy input per kg of meat will be quite a bit higher. Similar studies conducted in Canada found even higher energy inputs. 
The vast majority of this energy is used in producing, transporting and processing feed. Little wonder, then, that the WorldWatch Institute has stated that “American feed (for livestock) takes so much energy to grow that it might as well be a petroleum byproduct.” 
Pimentel and Goodland argue that aquaculture (fish-farming) is even more feed and energy intensive than terrestrial agriculture. Cultured fish have to be fed grain (as well as animal waste) and large amounts of energy are used in aquaculture to pump water. According to their calculations, it takes about 34 kcal of fossil energy to produce 1 kcal of catfish protein.  Contrast this with estimations that corn and barley produce about 5 times as much food energy as they use in terms of fossil energy.
A plant-based vegan diet uses substantially less energy than a diet based on animal products. This energy is virtually all derived from fossil fuels, making meat and dairy consumption a contributing factor in air pollution, acidification, oil spills, habitat destruction and global warming.
So there we have what I do for the environment by being vegan. However I want to do more.
I am in the process of setting up proper recycling in the household. We use energy conservation whenever possible now. My one vice I have to admit is the computer which runs 24/7, and it’s one I’m considering seriously dealing with.
A lot of new houses in the UK are being built to be carbon neutral, this isnt without its problems but it’s a start. I intend to become as carbon neutral as possible as soon as possible too. I’ll go through the process in another post.
Makes sense to me I have to admit, there is nothing worse than being eaten alive during a kiss.
Quite an eventful day yesterday, CJ almost made an appearance. Marie had some waters break, but not the whole thing apparently. So basically we are back to square one and the waiting game after the hospital sent her home. I suggested a knitting needle well place and a good poke around but I was rebuffed.
More waffle from me later.