Environment Friendly Travel – The New Trendsetter

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At a time in the world when the cumulating effects of man’s actions on the environment can be felt directly and explicitly, climate change is an issue that needs to be tackled now more than ever. From rivers being replaced by plastic waste instead of water in Indonesia to a 19-mile long crack appearing in the glaciers of Antarctica to the biggest wildfire California has ever seen, man’s actions have had disastrous consequences on the ecosystem of the world, and tourism has much to do with it. Travelling has a great impact on the carbon footprint produced by individuals – aeroplanes emit harmful greenhouse gases and carbon particulates, hotels around the world utilise gallons of water to do laundry, tourists at vacation spots buy and use more plastic in the form of single-use water bottles and food packets.

In light of its environmental impact, there has been a recent trend among many travellers to be more responsible in their travelling choices and make environmentally conscious decisions while vacationing around the world. A survey by TripAdvisor shows that nearly two-thirds of travellers today want to want to make more eco-friendly choices in terms of booking hotels, modes of transport and even their meals. Many tourist locations have even started to shift their priority from mass tourism to valuing local cultures. Jon Bruno, the executive director of the International Ecotourism Society says, “Sustainable travel is all about creating a positive effect on the communities you visit”. Eco-friendly travel thus entails merely leaving a place better than it was found.

Travelling ethically and sustainably is not as difficult as it might seem – from small actions like turning off the lights while leaving the hotel room, to reusing hotel towels, to using greener modes of transport, there are multiple ways to lessen the impact on the environment and local communities while travelling. The simplest step that can be taken to ensure an eco-friendly vacation is to choose a green travel destination. The Global Green Economy Index by the consulting firm Dual Citizen found that the greenest destinations for 2018 were Sweden, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, and Finland. However, more than a country’s ranking, while researching vacation spots it is more important to pay attention to how a destination embraces the green lifestyle – is there a strong public transportation system? Do they encourage farmers markets and local produce? Are there walkable neighbourhoods?

The next thing to keep in mind for a sustainable travelling experience is to choose environmentally friendly modes of transportation. Trains are the most sustainable way of travelling, and so are buses. Instead of using car rentals, taking public modes of travel reduces the carbon footprint left behind by groups of travellers. If renting a car is inevitable, opting for electric powered vehicles over traditional diesel or petrol engine cars can dramatically cut down the greenhouse gases produced. While at the destination, perhaps the most conscious choice that can be made is to ditch traditional hotels and resorts in favour of Airbnb, eco-lodges or even staying with locals in the area in homestays. Surveys have found that Airbnb and homestays consume much less energy and water, produce less waste and emit fewer greenhouse gases when compared to chain hotels. Further, staying with locals can allow for exchange of valuable cultural information in addition to directly contributing to the local economy and giving the traveller a more authentic experience.

An important thing to be kept in mind while vacationing is the ethical considerations of animal tourism. Being a responsible traveller entails researching into the treatment of animals in the tourist spots that one visits – more often than not, the demand for animal tourism in tourist countries leads to mistreatment of the indigenous animals. This can be seen in the various vacation pictures posted by people beside drugged up tigers or taking safari rides on the backs of elephants. Interaction with animals can be done in a safe and ethical way through animal rescue and rehabilitation centres where one can be assured that the animals are being treated with the love and respect they deserve.

While travelling, keep in mind to minimise the waste left behind – this involves not only generating less waste while on vacation but also trying to clean up the waste generated by others and encouraging others to be more responsible. The sight of beaches strewn with plastic bottles, chip packets, candy wrappers, empty sunscreen tubes and disposable utensils has become a sight common to many travel destinations. Some ways to tackle this problem include – travellers should try to use reusable bottles, bring their own toiletries, practice recycling, and opt for reusable stainless steel straws instead of plastic ones.

Travelling ethically and in an eco-friendly manner doesn’t have to be a huge task that requires major sacrifices. Incorporating a few of such simple changes into travel plans can lead to a positive impact on the environment of the travel destinations and of the world in the long run, in addition to providing unique experiences that conventional, luxury travel cannot.

Technology and its assistance in climate change related natural disasters

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In recent years, the world has experienced a record number of back-to-back natural disasters. In the U.S. over 110 large fires burned throughout the country last summer alone, with California facing its deadliest heat wave ever. One study found that the area affected by forest fires in the West has more than doubled over the past 30 years, with Washington state having experienced the most damaging fire in state history in 2015. Hurricane Harvey and Irma brought devastation to Texas, the Caribbean and Florida last year, wreaking widespread havoc and earning Harvey earning the reputation of the costliest disaster in U.S. history. Southeast Asia suffered catastrophic flooding in 2017, killing 1200 people, displacing tens of thousands and causing more than $3.5 billion in total losses. Then there was the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan that contributed to losses of over $354 billion in today’s dollars, the extreme heatwave of Europe and California’s severe drought of 2017. According to global insurance firm Swiss Re, economic loss in 2017 were estimated at $306 billion – almost double 2016’s loss and also much higher than the 10-year-average of $190 billion.

And the verdict is in. Scientific studies are beginning to reveal that climate change is exacerbating the naturally-occurring risks we already face as inhabitants of planet Earth. Extreme event attribution is one of the most rapidly expanding fields of climate science, with one major conclusion being drawn by those studying it: extreme weather events are here to stay.

So how do we prepare for what lies ahead? The answer is one that, ironically, is perhaps responsible for getting us to where we are today. Technology.

Technology can help solve inefficiencies within humanitarian responses to natural disasters. Next gen technology such as robotics and AI can help improve the efficiency and productivity (in terms of cost savings) to emergency responses, as well as allow humanitarian organizations to share data in order to better collaborate with other organizations. Through technologies that enable electronic payments, people in need of fast and secure cash relief can be helped quicker than ever before. But perhaps aiding the coordination and communication effort following a disaster is where we see technology have the most impact. Be it for relief workers on the ground, families seeking loved ones, authorities wishing to locate the missing or hospitals trying to treat the injured, traditional communication channels are often overloaded or broken down and unable to be used during times of crisis. ‘Crisis maps’ is one example of a Google-owned product that works to aid emergency communications and disaster response, using open-source software with information provided live by locals to develop maps of the crisis and publish real time information regarding the impact. Through this platform, messages and texts submitted by those trapped under rubble are able to be heard, enabling quick and efficient response by rescue teams. In the U.S., there are countless apps geared towards survival and rescue during an emergency. The official FEMA app is one example, which allows users to stay updated with weather-related alerts from the U.S. National Weather Service as well as upload and share disaster photos to support the emergency response effort. In a more generalized way, social media can also help save lives and reconnect separated families in the wake of a natural disaster – as well as enable communities to hold agencies to account by spreading awareness of abuse or poor conditions in refugee camps.  

Early warning systems and capabilities via mobile technology can also allow people to prepare for oncoming disasters. For example, had Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia utilized early action systems they could have avoided as many as 100,000 deaths during the most recent famine, more than half of which were children, one Oxfam and Save The Children study found.

Technology can also facilitate the development of materials and products that prevent damage inflicted by natural disasters. Bushfire shutters, for example, are designed to withstand extreme heat, preventing windows from shattering and causing curtains or furniture to catch aflame. This significantly reduces the risk of houses of being burnt down during a bushfire, which can potentially save lives. Better yet, the technology of today can converge architectural, engineering and geo-spatial data to put into place better town planning, enabling builders, architects and government to prioritize restoration efforts in the wake of a natural disaster – as well as better plan towns to prevent further damage by natural disasters.

Technology can also help us mitigate climate change through innovations such as renewable energy, in order to reduce the risk climate change poses in terms of natural disasters. Finding and harnessing alternative energy sources are key to reducing our dependency on fossil fuels and in turn, reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Through tech innovation we will see the complete transformation of the automation industry into one that uses resources more efficiently to reduce waste, pollution, energy usage and use of raw materials. Technology can also allow for large scale growth of lab-developed meats, lessening our dependence on livestock farming which contributes significantly to global warming and uses valuable amounts of land and water.

We simply need to harness all the incredible opportunities technology presents us in order to better cope with the inevitable increase of climate change-related natural disasters we will experience in our lifetime.

Cleaning up our act – Renewable energy to restore balance on Earth

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The planet’s reliance on energy to keep society running is undeniable, and it is no secret that humanity has utilised unhealthy energy sources to keep society running smoothly. While fossil fuels were nearly solely responsible for humanity’s energy consumption in the past, there are healthier, more environmentally-friendly energy sources being developed and implemented that can ensure the planet has a brighter, healthier future. In the relatively little time that renewable energies have been in successful operation, they have made leaps and bounds, surging upward and onward to place them firmly in the lead as prospective sole energy sources of tomorrow. Over the past Summer, for example, renewables generated more electricity than brown coal and produced 40% more than gas, only being surpassed by black coal. While there are still ways to improve renewable energy sources there is no doubt that the generations of the future will likely enjoy the benefits of natural, renewable energy sources rather than the unhealthy fossil fuels that have driven humanity’s progression up until the early 2000s and onwards.

Since 2015, the number of locations that are generating 70% or more of their total electricity supply from renewable energy sources has more than doubled, further cementing renewable energy sources as the leading candidates for the future of energy the world over. The momentum created by renewable energy continues to build, as cities the world over make the pivotal shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. Renewable energy has not come about without its barriers though, with one of them being America’s very own President Donald Trump. When President Trump made the decision to withdraw from the Paris accord, it sent the planet (including his own country) into a panic spiral, making people angry and afraid for the consequences that could occur as the result of his decision. Since his decision, the majority of passion and action for climate change has been driven by the global covenant of more than 7,400 leaders that came together in the wake of his decision. As leaders continue to realise the importance of keeping the planet healthy, so do their people.

The economy is built on energy, and up until recently the economy has functioned around the preconceived assumption that said energy will be reliable, accessible, and relatively inexpensive. Had we continued to utilize energy sources that are unhealthy and short-lived in their shelf life, that assumption would have remained a glorified act of ignorance. However, with renewable energy solutions becoming more popular and affordable – particularly solar panels and wind turbines – this assumption holds more truth than ever. While the transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy is sure to be a long one, the positive results that will be yielded will be more than worth their weight in gold.

We live in an increasingly carbon-constrained planet and ignoring the facts will only serve to do more harm than good. Reality checks have been served left, right, and centre in the form of climate change and subsequent natural disasters, air pollution rates, and the very health of living beings all around the world. With every dawning wake-up call comes more call for action, more desperation to restore balance to a world that we as a race have single handedly begun to destroy. Whether this damage is reversible is not yet a certainty, but the one thing that rings loud and true is that there are no downfalls to making the change to renewable energy sources, there are only bright positives. Renewable energy is not only changing the world and the lives of people in current and future generations, but it is revolutionising them.

Humanity relies on the sourcing and producing of energy to balance, centre, and drive forward our way of life, but the sad truth is that, up until this point, the methods of which we have extracted energy sources has been all but unhealthy. The good news is that there is a better way, and that way is already being implemented and yielding significant results in the little time that it has been broadly available. Renewable energy such as solar power has been the saving grace of the planet. Unlike the fossil fuels that came before it, it is a sustainable form of energy as well as being the fastest-moving energy source to have burst into fruition. In the time that renewable energy has been introduced and become viable, it has improved the lives and societies of people around the globe, propelling us into a certain future that is lit up by renewable energy and empowered by the good that using such energy sources does for the planet. We may not be able to turn back the clock, but renewable energy can (hopefully) restore balance to Earth – and to future generations to come

Trump’s Dangerous Views on Asbestos

Donald Trump will easily go down as one of the most polarizing Presidents in the history of U.S. politics. In the eight months since he has held the Oval Office his administration has been plagued with accusations of corruption and disorganization, and the ‘talk first, facts later’ attitude he had on the campaign trail has morphed into a reckless style of legislative governance that is both unpredictable and often, misinformed.

Amongst the many outrageous claims Donald Trump has made over the years, are a number of dangerously ignorant comments about asbestos.

Donald Trump’s pro-asbestos sentiment can be traced all the way back to 1997 and his The Art of the Comeback book, in which he claimed he believed the anti-asbestos movement was rigged by the mob.
Within the pages he also calls an anti-asbestos law “stupid” and inaccurately claims asbestos is “…100 percent safe, once applied.”

Trump also supported the 9/11 asbestos conspiracy theory. The conspiracy theory suggests that the Twin Towers would never have collapsed if asbestos had been used for the entire structure, rather than just the first forty floors. As recently as 2012, Trump was lending the conspiracy theory credence, tweeting “If we didn’t remove incredibly powerful fire retardant asbestos & replace it with junk that doesn’t work, the World Trade Center would never have burned down.”

Considering many 9/11 first responders have suffered respiratory complications due to the clouds of toxic asbestos dust which lingered over downtown New York City, these comments seem crass and insensitive. But many experts believe it is not just first responders who were at risk while the city was engulfed in the hazardous fumes, 90,000 everyday citizens showed up to assist with the search for survivors amongst the burning rubble of the twin towers. These people also inhaled the noxious fumes. Some experts have estimated that the death toll from 9/11 will rise into the millions over the next few decades, as symptoms related to the effects of exposure to asbestos and other poisonous chemicals begin to manifest in the population.

Trump has also been a proponent of “safe asbestos” or the chrysotile-defense. Which argues that it is the amphibole-containing products which are dangerous. This claim is widely disputed by health and medical professionals, as 95% of the products used in the United States historically were mostly chrysotile.

Countless scientific studies have linked the substance with various forms of cancer, a 2005 study from Yale University’s School of Medicine even linked asbestos with colon cancer. The World Health Organization has recognized the risks of asbestos for decades, stating “all types of asbestos cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, cancer of the larynx and ovary, and asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs).” The carcinogen has been banned in over 50 countries.

Asbestos can be both inhaled and ingested, and the material has been used for everything over the years, resulting in citizens gulping down microscopic fibers in their water, as it ran through asbestos cement pipes. Or breathing it while they slept thanks to asbestos based ceiling insulation.

Court evidence has revealed that multiple companies contributed to a cover-up of the dangers of asbestos as early as 1929. A chilling example includes the largest manufacturer of asbestos based products in the USA, Johns Manville and company president Lewis H. Brown. Brown was made aware of the chilling effects of asbestos on his workers, by local physicians as early as 1949. However, Johns Manville continued to produce products containing asbestos up until the early 1980’s. The EPA did not classify asbestos as a hazardous air pollutant until 1971.

Donald Trump’s ill-informed views are a slap in the face for those sufferers of mesothelioma and other cancers caused by asbestos, who are now facing renewed concern about the toxic substance and the ban on its use in the USA. Thanks to a combination of Trump’s pick for the role of director of the USA Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Scott Pruitt and the proposed budget cuts to the Agency’s funding.

Pruitt has been accused of a non-committal stance toward the banning of the product. When pressed for answers he’s cited the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act as a reason to spend three years reinvestigating the risks that asbestos may pose. In response to senators’ questions regarding his position, Pruitt suggested that “prejudging the outcome of that risk evaluation process would not be appropriate.” He’s also been accused of approving other toxic products with little regulation by several environmental groups, and members of the democratic party referring to his appointment as a disaster.

In the United States, asbestos litigation is the longest and most expensive mass tort in all of US legal history, involving over 8000 defendants and costing millions in legal fees. Analysts expect costs in the USA alone to reach over $200 billion. The lengthy proceedings and costs involved with Asbestos proceedings in the USA several firms dedicated to providing legal support to those affected like The Ledger Law Firm who provide legal advice to claimants and offer fee-free representation to those whose hearings are unsuccessful.

Today about 125 million people worldwide are still exposed to asbestos in the workplace, and occupational exposure to the carcinogen has been responsible for over 107,000 deaths. New cases of mesothelioma are constantly diagnosed each year, with over a thousand cases diagnosed in 2015 across America, Australia and the United Kingdom.

Safe asbestos may be an ‘alternative’ fact that Trump supports. But the risks and the science behind the dangers are clear, and to grave to be ignored in the name of profit, or convenience.