CBC: What on Earth?

Every week CBC What on Earth sends an emailed newsletter and it always timely, interesting and digestible. They usually cover 3 topics a week, so here is one from each date- January 7, 14 and 21.

January 7/21

Flexitarianism, Buying Used and More Green Habits on the Rise

Flexitarian eating

“Citing United Nations data, Bloomberg News reported that per capita, meat consumption was expected to fall three percent globally in 2020— the biggest decline since 2000 — as a result of pandemic-related factors such as restaurant closures and COVID-19 outbreaks at meat-packing plants.”

“But even before COVID-19, Canadians were eating less meat, Univ. of Guelph researchers reported, and suggested it was as a result of health and environmental reasons. “It is relatively clear that ‘meat minimizers’ or flexitarians — those who still eat meat, but are eating less of it — are driving changes in meat consumption,” the Guelph researchers wrote.”

Buying Used

“Manufacturing a new product typically uses up resources and generates emissions and waste, so reducing, reusing and recycling are key to sustainability. For those reasons, more and more environmentally conscious consumers are buying goods second-hand. ThredUP, an online marketplace for used clothing that expanded to Canada last year, reported that the U.S. market for previously worn fashions has doubled to $24 billion US since the company was founded in 2009.”

“More and more retailers are also launching programs to make it easier to resell their products, including Patagonia, Levi Strauss and Ikea. Again, this is part of a broader trend.” Studies have shown that the “second hand economy” is growing in Canada and that the most active participants are those under 45 years of age.

Active Transportation

Photo credit Lucy

“Amid the coronavirus pandemic and the transmission risks on public transit, many cities in Canada and around the world have expanded cycling lanes and other infrastructure and the number of Canadians walking or biking to work has been increasing.” Studies have shown that since 1996 the trend toward active commuting has been on the rise. Those taking public transit, however, have recently seen a reduction in numbers, largely due to the pandemic.

— Emily Chung

January 14/21

Broader Implications of the Introduction of Water Futures

“Just before Christmas, the CME Group, the New York-based market operator that takes its name from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, began trading water futures. For the first time, Wall Street traders are now able to take a stake in the future value of water the way they have with other agricultural and mineral commodities. But the intent of the new water futures market is to share the risk of unexpected price swings for farmers and other water users.”

“Water has always been seen by economists as a special case. Like the air we breathe, it is more valuable to human life than gold or oil or even, in the short term, food. But because of its relative abundance, water’s traditional price in Canada has been close to zero.”

“Roy Brouwer, executive director of the Water Institute at the University of Waterloo, said that introducing various market price systems might fix that. Of course, in the past, leaving speculators in charge of the price of essential goods — such as when Enron helped bid up the price of gas and electricity in the early 2000s — has sometimes worked out badly for end users. “If you leave it completely to the market, you might end up with some of these extreme situations,” said Brouwer. “Somewhere in between considering water a human right and the commodification of water through these water markets is probably where you want to be.”

— Don Pittis , Business Comumnist

January 21/21

Indigenous Peoples and 7th Generation Philosophy

“Indigenous Peoples around the world use 7th GENERATION PHILOSOPHY, so when they make decisions they always have many generations ahead in mind. Unlike most other animals, humans have the ability to think in the long term. We plan not only for the coming days but also for years down the road: careers, children, homes and retirement. However, when it comes to considering the very long term — say, generations ahead — we often fall short.”

“Some believe that when it comes to climate action, this short-sightedness neglects to take into account how our actions today — such as continuing to burn fossil fuels or cutting down forests — will affect our grandchildren, great-grandchildren and so on.”

“Philosopher Roman Krznaric notes that Jonas Salk, who developed the first polio vaccine back in the 1950s and later warned about nuclear proliferation, asked the question, “Are we being good ancestors? In other words, how are we going to be remembered by the generations to come?” said Krznaric, who recently published the book The Good Ancestor: A Radical Prescription for Long-Term Thinking. This question becomes even more relevant in an era of climate change, which promises to alter life on Earth for hundreds of millions of people in the decades to come.”

“This type of long-term thinking isn’t new to many Indigenous groups, who are used to what is termed “seventh-generation decision-making,” where people make choices based on how it will affect their community decades, if not hundreds of years, into the future. “Seventh-generation thinking says you have enough: Earth already provides everything you need to be happy and healthy, so take care of it well,” said Rick Hill, a member of the Tuscarora Six Nations in southern Ontario.”

Photo credit Lucy

“But in contemporary times, “we’re stuck with this idea that growth is necessary in order to be modern, to be competitive in the world.” Hill said that such a forward-thinking process doesn’t provide quick answers. If the government asked his community for a response on a matter of importance, for example, “we would then sit down and talk to our elders, talk to our women or talk to the children [and ask]: ‘What do we think about this? Arriving at a joint decision,” Hill said, “could take days, weeks, may take a year. Because you’re cautious, you’re careful and thoughtful.” As Hill put it: “We’re out of step with modern society. But we say modern society is out of step with the Earth.” 

“Some cities around the world are taking a longer view, such as North Vancouver, which has a 100 year sustainability plan and Amsterdam, which is aiming to have a completely circular (basically no-waste) economy by 2050. It’s more proof that modern science can learn from Indigenous knowledge. While the steps may seem small thus far, Krznaric said that environmental organizations such as Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future show that longer-term thinking may be taking hold in broader society. “I think these movements add up to something, which is about a recognition of the need to extend our time horizons,” he said.”

— Nicole Mortillaro

Photo by Lucy

Also great news, in last week’s What On Earth newsletter: Electric Vehicle batteries co-produced in Isreal and China are able to be charged in 5 minutes.

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