Pros and cons of Daylight Saving Time: do we still want that?

Daylight Saving Time (DST) has a long and controversial history. After being introduced in an essay by Benjamin Franklin, the idea was adopted in 1916 by Britain and Germany. The goal was to reduce the domestic consumption of coal and to give factories daylight hours to work, in order to aid the war effort.

The functioning of the system is simple: clocks go forward one hour in the summer and back again in the winter. In this way, we can enjoy extra evening daylight in warmer months and extra morning daylight during the winter.

Nowadays, most areas in North America and Europe, and some areas in the Middle East, observe daylight saving time (DST), while most areas of Africa and Asia do not. In South America, most countries in the North of the continent near the equator do not observe DST, while Paraguay and southern parts of Brazil do.

How does DST affect people’s life?

The effects of this switch strongly vary depending on the geographical location of a country: the closer you are to the North Pole, the more noticeable they are. For example in Iceland, from mid-May to mid-August the sun only sets for around three hours a night and there are only around five hours of effective daylight during the winter months.

There are both positive and negative effects due to this practice. However, sometimes it is difficult to understand whether the positive ones prevail over the negative ones, or vice versa.

Thanks to DST during the winter time, people don’t have to go at work or school in the darkness and this strongly reduces the number of traffic accidents and makes streets a safer place. At the same time, people do not adapt so smoothly to changes and this can also raise the risk of health-related issues, mostly due to the disturbed sleep cycle. A 2016 study found that the overall rate for stroke was 8% higher in the two days after the change, while  the risk drops off in the following days because our bodies and circadian clocks gradually adapt. Moreover, the Monday and Tuesday after daylight saving time in the spring have also been associated with a 10% increase in heart attacks, according to a 2012 study at the University of Alabama Birmingham.

Are DST really effective for energy saving?

Originally, DST was aimed at reducing the energy consumption. However,  there is surprisingly little evidence that it actually helps to save energy. Matthew J. Kotchen and Laura E. Grant (2008) proved that DST increases residential electricity demand, approximately by 1% (also by 2-4% during the fall). That results in a higher cost both in terms of electricity, but also for the pollution emissions.

Disagreements among European countries

The relevance of the DST related effects gave rise to several doubts about the effectiveness of the system, mostly in the North of Europe. Last year, over 70 000 Finnish citizens signed a petition in order to press EU for end to daylight saving time. The issue has a strong relevance at the European level, since all EU members must follow the same timetable to keep trade and travel running smoothly between the internal market.

The European consultation: we can have a voice!

The European Commission has launched a consultation on the daylight saving time clock changes in order to evaluate whether or not the rules should be changed. Europeans and interested organizations have until August 16th to give their opinion (the consultation and more background information are available here).

The EC is assessing two main policy alternatives: keep the current summertime arrangement or discontinue the changes and ban periodic switches, leaving each state to choose between permanent summer, winter or a different time. Repealing the current directive would not automatically abolish summertime across the EU. It would just end EU-wide harmonization and allow individual states to decide the issue.

The evolution of agriculture: how we lost productivity, efficiency and stability of our fields

Nowadays, the agricultural sector is ruled by the industrial approach: fields are factories guided by the rule of business. Nature does not play the main role anymore.

We expanded our production to places that are really not adapt for growing crops. Every year we lose huge amounts of fertile soil, destroying its capacity both in terms of productivity, efficiency and resilience. That led to a continuous expansion of the farmland with a decreasing productivity, that involves problems of space and food production for the whole planet.

Regarding the loss of resilience of the soil we are simply increasing the use of pesticides. Since 1945, pesticide use has risen 3300 per-cent and is still supposed to increase, given that pests are developing resistance to our new powerful chemicals.

At the same time, due to the loss of fertility and capacity of our soil, we also have to face the problem of productivity (crop losses have increased 20 percent over the same period). In order to do that, we have introduced fertilizers and we are employing an endless quantity of them. That is also absurd considering that we could avoid all these problems  simply living the nature and natural ecosystems play their original role.

Moreover, imposing our artificial knowledge over the original experience of the nature, we are replacing plants with hybrid ones, genetically modified by humans. Because of their hybrid nature these new plants couldn’t pass their genetic traits on the next generation, meaning that every farmer will be supposed to buy hybrid seeds instead of planting seeds from the plants he/she eats. In this way we will progressively lose the wide variety of different species that originally existed, replacing them with an unique – and generally poorer – type.

We switched to a system of farming that mimicked industry, not nature. As a result, the leading force in farming is making profit. Nowadays, we are not growing food to sustain ourselves anymore: we are growing so much food it became a surplus – an export item and a political tool. Food is produced not in the most suitable place but in the country which has the most significant market power, able to produce with the lower cost and in larger quantities. That’s the case of some Italian brands of pasta which used to import wheat from Canada. Passing over the transportation costs and the environmental concerns linked to a so displaced production, what is really surprising here is that Italy has the best weather conditions for the production of wheat but it is still importing it. So, the question is: why does Canada have a so significant market power in the production of wheat? Why, speaking about the agricultural sector, the natural landscape and the weather features of a country are less important than its market position? Isn’t food production supposed to be related to the nature and the surrounding environment more than to scale economies, capital and profit making capacity?

Janine M. Benyus, in her book “Biomimicry – Innovation inspired by nature”, presents two interesting data about the agriculture industry. First of all, because of pesticide residues, agriculture is defined as the number-one polluting industry in U.S.; the biggest concern is about groundwater, contaminated by pesticide and nearly impossible to clean. Recent studies have shown that people who get in touch with these pesticide residues have higher than normal risks of developing illnesses, such as leukaemia, lymphoma and other cancers.

Secondly, mainstream agricultural techniques are currently less efficient than how they used to be in the past. The input-production ratio moved from 1:4 in 1990 to the current value of 1:1,5; even if we are producing much more now than in the past, the efficiency of our production has strongly been impaired by the adopted practices of farming.

That’s only a brief explanation of the problems linked to monocultures and the men’s attitude of imposing themselves on nature. Solutions are available, new ideas are spreading and there is some hope for improvement in the future. Actually, that would also be our unique chance to get over the problem of food production and climate change in general. But, as Janine M. Benyus states in her book, this may be just “the storm before the calm”. The system is not sustainable anymore, not even stable or optimal and we are now in the position to move on and revise the funding principles of our production system.

BALANGAY LEGAZPI is the Best Climate Practise 2017

On November 8th, in conjunction with the first week of COP23 and within the context of the “ICCG Climate Week”, ICCG organises a webinar dedicated to the Best Climate Practice Award, to showcase the most innovative and compelling projects that have participated in the 2017 edition of the contest and to explore the landscape and challenges of climate resilience and disaster risk reduction strategies.

After the online voting polls closed in July and the assessment of a jury composed of high-profile experts analysing the 19 shortlisted projects in the run, on the occasion of the International Day for Disaster Reduction, ICCG announced that the project “Balangay Legazpi” is the winner of the contest.

Legazpi City (capital of the province of Albay in the Philippines) is known for its adaptation and disaster risk reduction strategies, being highly vulnerable to natural hazards such as typhoon, earthquake, landslide, volcanic eruption, floods and tsunami. In order to sustain the disaster-risk reduction and management (DRRM) initiatives and to bridge the information gap between vulnerable communities and disaster-preparedness information providers, Balangay is a disaster-preparedness mobile and web application that provides communities information before and during the disaster. It is a public resource that provides to citizens disaster-related information, preparing families for earthquakes, floods and typhoons.

The main feature of the project is its user-centred approach. Before starting the project, potential users have been asked about what they dislike and why they use/don’t use similar technology-based initiatives. Official accounts are given to partner institutions and youth, engaged through local youth hobbyists who are tapped as volunteers to assist and create the promotional materials. Moreover, the local government issued accounts to barangays (smallest administrative divisions in the Philippines) to let them post announcements and information about their barangay activities.

The collaboration between local government units, academy, private sector, civil society organizations (CSOs), non-government organizations (NGOs) and affected communities strongly strengthens disaster education and bridges general information gap.

The role of youth (around 40 percent of the total population) is also enhanced by the structure of the application: they result both as the creators of information and materials and as end-users of the system, acting as information leaders in the family. A strong sense of ownership is developed, resulting in stronger engagement and higher and sustained user-base.

Statistics of the web and mobile application are very promising: 230 average daily visits from May 2016 to the first quarter of 2017 and 300 application downloads (exceeding the initial target of 199). In October 2016 it played a very important role during the Tropical Storm Karen, providing users rainfall advisory and updates. The project is also expected to growth in the future, with a projected increase of 10 to 15 percent per month in 2018.

More information about this project and many other good practises from all over the world are available on the Best Climate Practices platform, where the best ground-breaking climate-friendly practices are presented: just take a look at the official web site http://www.bestclimatepractices.org/.

Climate Change vs. Sports

We have been speaking about sustainability in Rio Olympic Games. Sustainability-in-Rio

Today we want to open your eyes on another issue, the inside competition atlethes are conducting against climate change. No one else more than olympians and their performances is being affected by climate change.

Extreeme temperature is crtical to every sport, mostly outodoor ones. Atlethes are at a risk of heartstoke and lost of concentration. On the top of that, in these contrary conditions less records are expected to be hit.

A report of  Observatorio do Clima, a Brazilian civil society group said that :”Because of warming, sport will never be the same again, and fewer records than in previous games are likely to fall as a result”.

Already organisers of the games are thinking to take some action like hosting marathons during the night with cooler temperature.

Will climate change also cut out some countries from hosting next games? Well, that’s very likely!

A study by university of Waterloo found out, as the chart shows, that cities which previously hosted the Winter Olympics may be unsuitable to host the games in the coming decades due to climate change.

winter_olympics_chart
CREDIT:UNIVERSITY OF WATERLOO

Since Sochi, many athletes signed a petition urging world leaders to take action on climate change. Moreover, the new campaign called “1.5°C, the record we cannot break” promoted by the Climate Vulnerable Forum,  has emerged prior to the Rio Olympics, asserting that not all records, especially global temperatures, should be celebrated when they fall.

Now the biggest question is : for how long sports can surivive climate change?

Extreme weather is due to Climate Change. Really?!

Every once in a while, I meet someone who doesn’t believe in climate change. They say that all the changes are happening since the beginning of the time and will continue to be so it is quite normal for the Earth to be so warm or to be so cold. Well, I always partially agree with them. But since last century we can see more and more storms all over the world. Maybe 2 of them you might think as a normal phenomenon but we saw in UK,China and India among other countries made it clear that it is indeed happening due to Climate Change.
If you still do not agree, read this post where the scientist in UK did some research and Carbon Brief did further research on that research and then followed up some Question and Answers session to understand these disasters happening all over the world. Why I can a storm a disaster? Well, it completes ruins your city and daily routine and not to mention the financial problem it causes the government in the matter of days.

A series of storms – first Desmond, then Eva, and finally Frank – dumped 230mm of rain on the UK during December, triggering flooding across much of Scotland, northern England and Northern Ireland. The preliminary results – from three different approaches – indicate the human impact on climate was as large, or even larger, than the impact of natural fluctuations in the Atlantic and Pacific ocean – even during a strong El Niño event. Climate change and ocean variability each made the record rainfall totals 50-75% more likely, the researchers say, and doubled the chances of such a warm month. Random variability in weather also contributed to the severe conditions.

Do you still feel that Climate Change isn’t happening? Is Yes, then I am sure you believe that Santa Claus exist too!

Source: Carbon Brief, Climate Prediction

Paris Summit 2015 – Each country’s pledge

Carbon Brief has been following each country’s pledge towards the Paris 2015 summit. Here on this post you will find more details on how each country pledged in the upcoming summit. While for some countries, the pledges seem a big task however it will be interesting to see if they manage to achieve the target.

For instance, Mexico – the first developing country to come forward – includes a section on adaptation, while the EU is silent on the topic. Switzerland’s pledge of a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions looks high compared to the EU’s “at least 40%”, until you realise they plan to use international carbon credits where the EU will make all reductions on home soil.

These pledges are also known as “intended nationally determined contributions”, or INDCs. You can find more details of each country’s INPC on UNFCCC. If the INDCs fall short – as they are widely expected to do – there is no official mechanism in place to ratchet them up before Paris. This is where they will be incorporated into the agreement, and likely take on some element of legal force.

I have my skepticism too but let’s wait for this event to happen!

Source: Carbon Brief

ThoughtBubble: How to be more green…only for woman

A new week, a new ThoughtBubble! This time the thoughtbubblefarbeAuthor is our colleague Simona!

How to be more green…only for woman.

When I started to attend this course I start to become more and more aware about some topics and also wondered how I could be more green in practical aspects. I used to be convinced that little gestures were enough, for example to differentiate waste properly, save energy when possible (for instance turn off the light, reduce the use of washing machine) and so on, but I was not satisfied anymore, so I start to surf on internet to looking for what I could do.
I found an article concerning a problem typical of woman in the world…the period!
Before explaining in detail what the article was about, let me do just a little consideration: a woman usually has 40 years of fertility in her life, which means almost 480 menstrual cycles, on average 2400 days of period. With a simple multiplication you can easily estimate that a woman uses 4800 tampon or sanitary napkin. This products have a big impact on the environment, not only because they can not be recycled but also for their packaging.
The two possible sustainable solution (what I had found on internet) are washable pads (but I do not prefer this option) or a menstrual cup.
With the second one, I discover a new word. I heard about it few years ago but I didn’t give it much attention. For women and especially men who do not know what I am talking about, menstrual cup is, like the name suggest, a cup that concentrates the bloody flow. It is made with medical silicone so it is hypoallergenic and it is washable and usable for 10 years!
It seems strange that this valid alternative is on sales at least since 2007 but it is so unknown (likely for the big interests behind the disposable tampon market).
It has not got any collateral effects, you can do any kind of sports with it (water sports included), it is very piratical, cheap (it costs around 30 euros) but above all it is eco-friendly!
There are many products and methods which are in the market but are not known. Wether it is because a reusable product is not in anyone’s interest in the economic market or because people are just not well informed I don’t know. Sharing what we find out on how to be more sustainable should be everyone’s duty, so here you have my contribution.

Big Thumbs Up to Simona Colaizzi for this thoughts!!!