Saturday, May 20, 2017

Protecting the Planet

 Every 60 seconds humans cut down 15 hectares of trees primarily for food or energy production. And that as much as 45,000 hectares of rainforest are cleared for every million kilos of beef exported from South America.  Deforestation and forest degradation are responsible for over 17 per cent of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions. Forests are the lungs of Mother Earth.

Monique Barbut, the executive-secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), also drew world’s attention to the fact that “when we take away the forest it is not just the trees that go… The entire ecosystem begins to fall apart… with dire consequences for us all…”

Of all the wood used as fuel worldwide, about 17 per cent is converted to charcoal, according to The Charcoal Transition report. The point is when charcoal is produced using inefficient technologies and unsustainable resources, the emission of greenhouse gases can be as high as 9 kg carbon dioxide equivalent per 1 kg charcoal produced.

The  Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned that up to seven per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans come from the production and use of fuel-wood and charcoal. For more than two billion people worldwide, wood fuel means a cooked meal, boiled water for safe drinking, and a warm dwelling. This is especially important for poor people in rural areas of developing countries, where wood is often the only energy source available. However, much of the current production of wood fuel is “unsustainable,” contributing significantly to the degradation of forests and soils and the emission of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. In many regions, the conversion to charcoal is often done using rudimentary and polluting methods.

To reverse these negative trends in wood energy production and use we need to adopt improved technologies for energy conversion. We need to turn our attention to scaling up the transfer of renewable energy technologies, particularly for forest biomass, in order to ensure that developing countries are making use of these technologies and keep pace with growing energy demands in a sustainable manner. A shift from traditional ovens or stoves to highly efficient modern kilns could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent. At the end-use level, a transition from traditional stoves to improved state-of-the-art stoves could reduce emissions by around 60 per cent.

The challenge is huge knowing that more than 2.4 billion people –about one-third of the world’s population– still rely on the traditional use of wood-fuel for cooking, and many small enterprises use fuel-wood and charcoal as the main energy carriers for various purposes such as baking, tea processing and brickmaking. “Wood based energy accounts for 27 per cent of the total primary energy supply in Africa, 13 per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean and 5 per cent in Asia and Oceania,” according to FAO estimates.

 The capitalist economy is set up so there’s more profit to be made in creating problems than in solving them. The economic model is slash, trash and burn, and so rewards destruction. Capitalist profits favors tearing up mountainsides and sending filthy fuels through rickety pipelines. Why use a free resource—the sun—when we’ve got labour-intensive drilling? The same with agriculture, which somehow purports to feed us by destroying the biological system that supports the growth of crops. If we are to survive, let alone thrive, as a species, we need to accept that the capitalist system is violence against the earth, and all violence against the earth is violence against every one of us. Re-greening the earth is both necessary and within our grasp.