After a reasonably warm day I’m in the train, enjoying the farmland between Ede and Amersfoort. The orange evening sun slowly sinks towards the horizon. In the sky I see a lot of air balloons floating by. It must be nice to literally transcent the everyday hustle and see your everyday environment from a different perspective. Wubbo Ockels, who flew a little higher and looked at the Earth from space, was deeply convinced of the need to protect our planet: “We are really where we are: on a beautiful planet, that we cannot do without. We are all astronauts of Spaceship Earth.” (AD.nl)
Humanity has not finished exploring new areas. Last year, the Mars One project started. In 2024, this project plans to send the first people to Mars to begin a permanent residence there. Futuristic as it may sound, the technology is available and the plans of Mars One are very practical.
I don’t think it’s a bad idea to look for another planet because as it is, we will have devoured the earth within a few hundred years. We burn fossil fuels in a suicidal pace because the economic train has to keep going. We know exactly which activities are messing up our climate, but knowledge cannot make a difference if it is not translated into policy.
Which brings me to the subject of cows. Every time I become futuristic about my own life, a couple of cows show up in that picture. Very romantic, in a meadow with a fragrant haystack and a tree under which they can have their siesta. But I’m not sure this dream will ever be realized, because keeping livestock has various negative effects on the environment. In Europe, livestock production causes 10% of greenhouse gas emissions. This is mainly due to the beef and dairy sectors. Another aspect is the accumulation of nitrogen through fertilizers. Biodiversity is also declining by using land for food and fodder.
Climate change is already causing hunger because weather patterns are becoming more extreme: more droughts and more floods. Oxfam is campaigning to call the major food producers to account for their contribution to climate change and their passive attitude when it comes to solutions. As Dutch consumers, we can reduce the footprint of agriculture by eating less meat and dairy than the excessive (unhealthy) amounts that we devour at the moment.
Thursday is World Environment Day. Let’s celebrate it while we still can. And if we end up on Mars anyway, I would like a little Marscow in our backyard capsule.
Reading tip: The Protein Puzzle, PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, 2011.