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Going Green: Carbon, Complications and Confusion

Going Green: Carbon, Complications and Confusion

Appreciated as efforts to makes us environmentally conscious are, repeatedly shocking us with complicated calculations may just deaden our sensitivity to the issues, says Eva Fernades


November 7, 2010 3:24 by


Every morning as I head to work, I am greeted by this grammatically challenged sign board. The pedant in me always formulates the response the imaginary robot in my head, EV3, would give (in case you are wondering, after disjointedly moving his upper body and arms he says in a monotone particular to robots of his caliber: ‘EV3 Good Robot- REDUCE CARBON FOOTPRINT- ACTIVATED.’)

Though I scorn the sign, I must admit I never really knew what a carbon footprint was. I knew it was a quantifiable measure of how awfully we are abusing the planet and a source of much guilt. But beyond that I was pretty clueless; so doing the research for this story was quite an enlightening, but also a confusing experience. My new-found knowledge, or confusion, was especially relevant given the headlines smeared across recent local papers: ‘WWF report says UAE has largest footprint’.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, ‘The Ecological Footprint tracks the area of biologically productive land and water required to provide the renewable resources people use, and includes the space needed for infrastructure and vegetation to absorb waste carbon dioxide (CO2).’

Wait, what? In layman’s terms, the ecological foot print is something like the measure of human demand for resources compared to the earth’s ability to produce these resources. When these resources are used, carbon dioxide (CO2) is released into the air. Carbon emission in general are alright, but it becomes problematic when the amount of CO2 is far more than the environment can absorb.

Seems straight forward now, doesn’t it? Not really. Think about all the overlapping complications that arise when you try to calculate the Earth’s ability to reproduce its resources? What about revolutionary agricultural methods that may be developed, or biotechnology that could dramatically increase food production?

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