Home sweet home...
I find myself in Italy visiting my dad in the country on this fine end-of-january weekend.
As always, when I come here in winter, I have some angry feelings towards the hunting the happens all around.
Sounds like a weird thing to say from the same girl that a while back blogged about the sustainability of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle...
And yes, I still believe hunting for food is not a bad thing, and actually can be a sustainable way to eat animal proteins. So I decided to analyse hunting by splitting this article into what I consider negative and what I consider positive about it:
- hunting like a game: most of the hunting, especially around here, is treated as a hobby, a game. The animals caught are not used for food but trophies.
- hunting birds: In Italy, in particular, many species which should be protected but are not yet, are still legal to hunt. Many others are hunted out of season, for example when they are preparino to migrate or migrating. Moroever other legal to hunt species are similar to threatened ones, which poses a risk to the latter.
Also, as real numbers are lacking, it is hard to understand and model the effects of hunting on population numbers.
- using un-ethical techniques : for example the use of "calls" whether 'synthetic' (recordings) or worse natural birds kept in cages to call natural birds closer...
- private terrains: Many hunting happens in private properties, even when the owner doesn't agree. In the case of my dad's house this is true, and, as it is hard to fence and expensive to get permissions to make it a "non hunting" area, the only thing one can do is accept. Hunters around here tend to be "violent" people, so during hunting season it is not really pleasant to go for a walk (on your own property, imagine that...), and even if they are not meant to come within 150m of a house, they don't respect this rule...
- dogs : hunting dogs are skinny. So skinny and treated badly, so they will go find the fallen bird out of starvation. Really not a nice sight...
So... When is hunting good?
- keeping population numbers in check: hunting can regulate population numbers when natural predation is low. While reintroducing natural predators would be a better management tool, well-regulated hunting can be employed.
- hunting for food: killing for a purpose and not for a hobby or game. Killing only what you need, respecting that it is an animal, and using all of the catch (bones included to give flavour to broths for example...)
Bottom line: to ensure hunting is done well it should be well regulated and monitored, and definitely shouldn't just be treated as a harmless sport or hobby!
Technology: friend or foe?
It's undoubtable that we are becoming increasingly addicted to technology, with our smartphones merging to our body to form a permanent third hand and even forming new vocabulary ("just google it" - an example of how a search website became so common that its name became a verb!). And while some "technological" things are a bit scary (we are being increasingly tracked, think of the targeted advertisement, algorithms to show us what they think we want to see so that we become more and more addicted to certain social medias etc...), others can be quite useful. And I decided to dedicate a new series of articles to this.
So part 1 of this series will be dedicated to apps useful to help us tackle climate change. Here I am going to mention a few I found and liked (and no, they are not sponsoring me...)
Eaternity - a Switzerland born company who claims to have "developed innovative software for private and professional use. It is based on an easy to understand and yearly reviewed CO₂-database. This is currently the largest and most comprehensive database for carrying out menu-CO₂-calculations. With Eaternity, we offer everyone the opportunity to make a sustainable choice when selecting their everyday food". It includes a FREE web app where you can: Create your own climate-friendly recipe database and measure the CO2-Footprint of your home cooking, find Hundreds of tasty, climate-friendly recipes for private use and also Measure the nutrition value of your homestyle cooking. But also offers services for restaurants and professionals to improve their CO2 footprints...
Oroeco- a carbon footprint calculator, where you can also compete with friends and enter challenges : making tackling climate change fun! Also providing you with tips on how to save money and save the planet...promising!
Buycott- allows you to "scan barcodes when shopping to learn product history & make an informed decision" and "Get your message across by notifying the product owners of your decision". Basically making your trip to the supermarket a bit easier if you are trying to make good choices for the planet!
Ecosia- a search engine that plants trees with every search... maybe we should start "ecosia it"
The new year has now properly kickstarted and hopefully you are still keeping some of your resolutions..
If one of them was to do more sustainable, or maybe take one step to sustainability, you have perhaps started to recycle more. Maybe you have just started recycling. And maybe you are navigating the complexity of recycling - what exactly goes where? How does one cope with so many different bins in the kitchen? How do you convince the other family members?
All valid questions, as, admittedly, they do make it difficult for us!
But here is a little piece of advice, and one I myself live by - i would always always under all circumstances (even try when I am travelling or away from home..) - ALWAYS RECYCLE PLASTIC!
Plastic is a big problem, for oceans (read more here), for us humans (babies are in particular susceptibles) and generally the planet, as it continue to degrade in smaller and smaller forms (and we also consume it already in its micro-forms), so what's out there is not just what we see...
While I have tried to completely eliminate it from my life (see the plastic challenge post and update), and the UK is thinking to open "plastic free" supermarket aisles, I have not been entirely successful, and I believe some plastic will eventually end up in your house, whether you search for it or not, so in this post I suggested some ways to do at home recycling...
Moreover, when thinking about recycling of this man-made materials, I am not simply thinking of environmental health but also human health and overall planet health. Because, ever wondered what happened to waste once it leaves your house?
To keep it short, some will end up in landfills while other regions prefer to 'get rid of it' by burning it (I know that it is an oversimplification and there are other ways too, but I believe these are the two most common) - and yes, you guess, neither will fully 'get rid' of it. Waste materials and chemicals will enter water sources and pollute the air. And these chemicals soon 'enter' the environment. Most are persistent organic pollutant which are fat soluble, and will enter the food chain, some accumulating as they go up the chain getting passed along... all the way to us! Think of it next time you drink a cup of full fat milk, eat your favourite cheese, a pork chop, a nice cut of fatty meat, some salmon (all examples of 'fatty foods' where these chemicals are likely to be..
And if you say "okay I will go veggie then", then you are still not safe, and even condiments such as salt (sea-salt in particular) will contain some...
Effects of pollutants range from increase in cancer risk, infertility, other hormonal diseases and I am sure plenty more... Convinced, yet?
Read more here
By any means, if you are happy enough to recycle all materials recyclables - kudu to you! I will try get more efficient with it myself...
New month, new sport!
This time I'd like to investigate a sport that by no means is one of my favourites, and is actually one I dislike quite a lot. However, it is one of my bf favourites and one in which he partook quite a lot in the past so, seeing some of the locations where he used to do it gave me some inspiration.
I firstly have to say that i don't really consider motorised activities as 'sports' - but some are classified as such so let's go have a deeper look into it.
What is off-road motorcycling?
This is pretty much self-explanatory: the term off-road refers to driving surfaces that are not conventionally paved. These are rough surfaces, often created naturally, such as sand, gravel, a river, mud or snow.
What are the environmental impacts?
The first, most obvious one: fuel consumption! In my head sports should be as carbon neutral as possible and powered by human force, not engines and thus shouldn't require any fuel. Motorcycles, on the other hand, do require fuel... and I believe they may drink quite a lot of it..
Secondly, they are NOISY which means: disruption to wildlife! Not only by frightening the animals and potentially driving them away from their natural habitats, but also potentially disrupting behaviours which are reliant on sounds (e.g. mating via interruption of mating calls, predator protection by disruption of alarm calls etc...).
Other wildlife distruptions will come from ACCIDENTS. Wildlife can end up injured or even killed...
Disturbance to soil and plants: off-road vehicles can churn up soil, leading to ruts, damaged root systems, compacted soil, accelerated erosion. In addition to damaging plants in the process of driving over them, off-road vehicles can spread seeds as they churn up soil and vegetation, aiding in the spread of weeds...
What can be done to reduce these impacts?
So, if the above hasn't convinced you to switch your motorcycle for, say, a mountainbike or even better a walk in the forest, let's see at what can you do to minimise some of these impacts...
For example the use of wet trails is generally more detrimental in terms of erosion because dirt-bike wheels have less traction and spin more on slick trails.
Less throttle is usually better than more throttle, which can cause wheels to spin unnecessarily and results in excessive noise.
Always stay on the trail to avoid damaging the surrounding ecosystem.
If there is a stream crossing on a trail, riding as slowly as possible through the water will cause the least amount of habitat disruption.
Meadows and wetland areas are especially sensitive because they have fragile soil structures and are often nesting sites for animals.
To avoid spreading invasive weeds or disease, always wash your motorcycle/bike between excursions so that soil and mud are not transferred from one area to the next. Finally, ensure that your dirt bike’s engine, exhaust system and spark arrestor are functioning properly. Poorly maintained bikes are louder, run less efficiently and are not as safe as tuned-up bikes.
As Italy welcomes in 2018, it prepares to see a ban on plastic bags for loose fruit and vegetables (abundant in shops and supermarkets as less of them come pre packaged) - sounds great, in theory, however bags will not entirely disappear but will be replaced by bioplastic bags.
Firstly some explanation: What is bioplastic?
Bioplastics are plastics derived from renewable biomass sources, such as vegetable fats and oils, corn starch, or microbiota. Bioplastics are usually derived from sugar derivatives, including starch, cellulose, lactic acid... Be careful though, as not all 'biodegradable plastic' is actually bioplastic. Some biodegradable plastics are contain additives that cause them to decay more rapidly in the presence of light and oxygen (moisture and heat help too). Unlike bioplastics, biodegradable plastics are made of normal (petrochemical) plastics and don't always break down into harmless substances. So make sure to understand what type are you using before composting etc..
And guess who is one of the biggest producers of bioplastic bags?
If you thought Italy well you thought right! Novamont is one of the biggest bioplastic bags producers and they are an Italian company.. now you may see that the Italian ban may not simply have come out of environmental concerns but out of more intricate hidden interests. Italy already banned plastic shopping bags in favour of biodegradable bags back in 2011, perhaps out of the same hidden interests?
But, you say, motive doesn't matter if it reduces plastic pollution and the plastic ocean problem... and I would agree, if it actually solved it.
But is bioplastic as environmentally friendly as it claims to be?
Now, the problem is that this so called biodegrable plastic might not necessarily biodegrade fast enough in water and may be a threat particularly for seabed habitats such as important sea grass meadows which are not only biodiversity hotspots but also important carbon sinks to help us deal with climate change....More detailed info on bioplastics can be found here
In conclusion, I believe that a deeper understanding of degradation and chemical decomposition is needed to fully understand the effects of bioplastic, and choosing the right materials with the minimal impacts on the long term.
So while a step away from plastic is welcome, we should be careful about its replacement - perhaps is time to think of reusables rather than simply replacing. Let's replace our single uses approaches instead...
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