Sunday, January 14, 2007

Environmental Issues

This is a wall pannel from Chicago's Field Museum: "From so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved", - Charles Darwin.

I was thinking the other day that there is one truly international “thing” that unites all of us around the Globe. It is the environment, the nature. Air and oceans do not have boarders: the division is purely artificial, man-forced. That is why I believe that our efforts to preserve the environment cannot be country-specific they have to be international and coordinated globally.

I travel a lot and I see that the “eco-friendly” efforts are very much dispersed. European Union is very concerned with the issue. In Germany’s Frankfurt airport I recently saw 3-4 different types of garbage cans: for paper, plastic, glass and other stuff. When I was living in UK, since 2004 we had special blue plastic bags delivered home for free where we could deposit all recyclable waste.

EU also initiated a so-called “Stand-by” initiative as early as 1997. Stand-by power of electrical equipment is the electricity consumed by end-use devices when they are switched off or not performing their main function. Stand-by power consumption is an increasing fraction of the electricity use and the fast penetration of new and digital technology is likely to increase this share. It is estimated that stand-by power already accounts for about 10% of the electricity use in homes and offices of the EU Member States. A number of proactive steps has been taken by EU in this regard and you can read more details at http://energyefficiency.jrc.cec.eu.int/html/standby_initiative.htm

Central Europe, Russia included, are a bit behind. I know in my hometown there is a big buzz about energy saving light bulbs. They need less electricity to electric bill is smaller and therefore a lot of pensioners (my parents are a good example here) changed their light bulbs to more efficient ones. This is not much but at least it’s a step forward. In addition, in most families I know (my relatives and friends) there is a strict rule of not leaving any equipment on stand-by.

Now having lived in USA for more than a year I am very surprised that the question of environment protection is not as burning as elsewhere. My husband (who lived in USA for 5 years and traveled a lot around the country) says that he saw a couple of recycling bins for newspapers and soda tins but I haven’t seen any here yet. I am surprised that this issue is not widely discussed or implemented. May be I don’t know much about this country yet but here are my observations: tons of electricity are wasted (especially by equipment on stand-by), monstrous SUVs are everywhere (huge cars that consume a LOT of gallons of fuel per mile).

The one thing USA is good at, as it seems to me, is animal/plant life conservation. Only in Chicago there are 3 museums that I know of that in one way or the other devote their exhibitions to nature conservation. There are also 2 zoos, one of which is FREE to public where you can also learn about endangered species.

Washington zoo has recently had a baby panda born in captivity for the first time and the news was everywhere. It seemed to be nearly as important event as presidential elections. I even saw a 1-hour film on TV made to this occasion!

I don’t have a plan how to make environment protection a truly global effort or to force USA sign the Kyoto agreement. But I truly belief that if every single person out of 6 billion living on the planet makes at least 1 conservation effort on a regular basis the Earth will be a much better place to live.

My own New Year’s resolution is to reduce to minimum the amount of time my home/work appliances left on stand-by. I also already fulfilled my previous resolution: we bought one of the most fuel efficient cars on the market, new Honda Civic, not the hybrid yet (that will probably be the next step) and I also have been supporting World Wide Fund (WWF) for many years (you can see more details about this organization by clicking “Protect Nature” link on the right-hand side navigation panel).

I came to write this little abstract now because this has been the warmest winter ever, both in Chicago and in Russia where I am from. I do not want my children to celebrate their Christmases in raincoats listening to the stories about a strange substance called “snow” or extinct creatures called “penguins”. I am sure most of you feel the same way too! I strongly believe that this issue is not just governments’ responsibility, it is every one’s responsibility everywhere, because we don’t have Chinese nature or Argentinean nature or Egypt’s nature it’s all ours, it is international!

1 comment:

James said...

I think most Americans are concerned about the environment but the movement is too diffuse. Intelligent people sometimes still cant grasp something as gradual as global warming, reduced landfill space, acid rain, air and water pollution, ozone hole etc but respond to the loss of the polar bear and other losses in lovable biodiversity. I think the environmental movement needs a better more cohesive marketing effort.