Welcome to the blog of the Broad Curriculum course Living Sustainably: A complete guide to surviving a changing planet. This course is run by Professor Nick Gray of the Centre for the Environment at Trinity College Dublin.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Who is Responsible for Global Warming?


Most people have heard of global warming or the greenhouse effect.  However, the majority of people I have talked to about it don’t seem to know a lot about it or why it is occurring.  If this is the case slowing it’s effect seems like an almost impossible task.  In a clip I recently watched on YouTube, Global warming 101, it was stated “scientists believe that it is human activity driving the temperature up”.  For decades now scientists have studied global warming and have generally concluded that it is the greenhouse gases emitted by humans that are the cause.  As we continuously burn fossil fuels and destroy our forests we are constantly adding to the concentrations of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, which then trap more and more heat. Although these gases have always been present it is only since the human race became industrialised and the concentrations of greenhouse gases rose above an acceptable level that the problems began.  If our generation stands any chance of curbing the effects of global warming it is necessary to somehow inform the public of the ramifications for our planet and future generations.  With the increasing temperature comes melting of the polar ice caps, rising sea levels, species extinction, flooding, and malnutrition, amongst numerous other negative effects for our planet and it’s inhabitants.  People need to realise that global warming is not a myth and that we are the culprits behind it.

Sarah Clavin

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Why is the concept of sustainable living such a taboo

Sustainable living seems to be a phrase that when mentioned causes some people to become really defensive and start defending their lifestyle. Or it gets dismissed as something that is for other people, namely ‘Eco-freaks’, but not for them. Why is the concept of sustainable living such a taboo to some people? I have a friend who is genuinely of the opinion that we should not bother to care for our environment to pass it on to future generations in a viable condition because she won’t be around then. When I try to reason with her she just shuts down and won’t listen to any other argument on the topic. The way of life that she has is not in the minority; in fact these opinions are still very much in the majority especially among my generation. How can we explain to people of such a mind-set when they won’t even bother to listen to anything contrary to what they already believe? We’re not asking them to become vegetarian, never fly again or walk everywhere. They could just make small changes to their lifestyle that would make a big change to our planet. Changes that would in fact benefit them as well. Some of these could be using public transport instead of driving everywhere and in doing this saving money on petrol, or using energy efficient light bulbs again saving money. Even using a metal reusable water bottle instead of a plastic bottle helps save not only the environment but also the time and money of buying a new plastic bottle when the old one is worn out and minimises potential risk of contamination. In my opinion it is not asking too much to alter our lifestyles so that others, including future generations, are able to simply live.
Clare Singleton

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Carbon Emissions and Food

The food that you eat and how it is produced is the single largest component in your dinner’s carbon footprint. Up to 30% of European GHG emissions come from the food and drink sector. Firstly I am looking into where I do my weekly shopping. I am writing a shopping list at the start of the week and deciding what I can buy locally, what fair trade items I will buy and what I can grow in my own allotment. All these alternative options will help lower my food miles and therefore GHG emissions.  Buying locally not only lowers emissions, it creates local employment and local economy. It is also important to buy fair trade products to help support the produce of farmers in third world countries. They supply us with out of season fruit, vegetables and flowers as well as coffee and tea. In order to lower my food footprint I also looked into food type, cooking, packaging, disposal and storage.

By eating less red meat and dairy products we can save up to 25%. By reducing red meat intake and replacing it with pork you can significantly reduce your GHG emissions. It is also healthier to reduce your intake of these foods. By planning out what you are going to eat, and either controlling how much you cook or keeping leftovers for the next day you can reduce the amount of waste. Put simply less waste means more food to go around and less demand means lower prices. Reducing the amount you buy, reducing meat and dairy and eating more seasonal foods and recycling waste packaging you will half you GHG emissions for food.

Katie Boyle

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

It's the small things that count the most!


Everyone knows that out planet is suffering, we hear and see it on a daily basis. Most people are very aware what actions are required to sustain our planet so that the next generation can reap its benefits. And they are more then happy to do their bit for the planets well being, whether it is recycling or cutting down on their CO2 emissions. But are they actually doing enough?

I’ll be the first to admit that I don't do enough for our planet even though I lead my to believe I do sometimes! Like most people, I recycle and I wash my clothes at lower temperatures. However, if I leave the house, I more than likely would have left a light on somewhere, thus increasing my carbon footprint. On other occasions where I could easily walk, I tend to get a bus or a lift.

It’s these simple things that most people tend to ignore which is crucial to the planets sustainability. I’m not trying to accuse everyone of not pulling their weight; I just think that if we noticed these small things and tried to improve on them, the effect would be quite substantial towards a sustainable future.

So the next time you feel like going to the shop, put down the car keys and put on the jacket and walk down there! Your future generation will thank you for it yourself!!
(Also don't forget to turn the lights off before you leave!!)
Shane Mc Garry