- Critically assess the extent to which the ‘local level’ can influence and respond to global environmental problems.
Global environmental problems are (Pearce: 1995) ones that have a “global impact.” Global environmental problems of our time include, but are not limited to; climate change, depletion of the ozone layer, land degradation, rising sea levels created by melting polar ice and pollution.
Most global environmental problems are caused by local actions. That means actions that occur at the ‘local level’ have a global impact. For example, many power plants in South Africa, China, the U.S. and Japan depend on coal. Coal is one of biggest pollutants on earth and poses a major threat to life (Hansen: 2009). When coal is burnt at these plants, they release mercury into the atmosphere. While in the atmosphere, this mercury can travel from one country to another or across a whole region before finally settling back on the earth’s surface (Hoffmann: 2008). As a result, mercury released from coal burnt in Tokyo, for instance, could end up settling on the soil in Singapore. Meanwhile residents around the power plant in Tokyo would talk about local pollution the impact is global as it is felt in Singapore. That can be explained by the fact that we share the same planet and solar system. If a local solution is sought by municipal authorities in Tokyo, for instance, if they choose to depend on solar energy or some other cleaner energy to run these plants, this response would have a global impact in the sense that mercury would no longer settle on the soil in Singapore. In this light, a local response has had a global impact.
Livestock breeding is a local agricultural activity which is mostly practised in rural regions around the world. However, “Livestock occupies 26 per cent of the ice-free terrestrial area of the planet for grazing and 33 per cent arable land is used for feed crop production. Besides, the livestock expansion has been a key factor for deforestation (Banerjee: 2007).” It’s surprising to see how much space these local activities occupy. Many trees are cut down to create space for feed crop farming. That clearly reflects the viewpoint that local actions could have a global impact when it comes to global environmental problems.
Meanwhile it is true that the local level has a role to play, it has some drawbacks when it comes to finding sustainable solutions towards resolving global environmental problems. There is need for a stronger international response towards resolving these issues. In 1992, for instance, the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) was supposed to tackle global warming. This move was later followed up via the Kyoto Protocol. When such global efforts are combined with local efforts, then the world can achieve a long term solution to the global environmental challenges of today (Pearce: 1995). That’s because when a firm in Tokyo is causing pollution, Japan’s commitment to the Kyoto protocol could get the government to crack down on such firms so that Japan does not exceed its quota.
Global efforts are there to complement local efforts, not to downplay them. However, it is disheartening to learn that not all parties do respect their commitment to these international environmental treaties.
Banerjee, Animesh (2007) “Find Locally Relevant Solutions To Global Environmental Problems” RxPG News (http://www.rxpgnews.com/india/Find-locally-relevant-solutions-to-global-environmental-problems_31561.shtml)
Hansen, James (2009), “Coal-fired Power Stations are Death Factories. Close Them,” The Guardian, Sunday February 15th Edition
Hoffmann, James (2008) Coal-fired Power Plants Vs Pollution, Simon and Schuster, New York
Pearce, David (1995) Capturing Global Environmental Value, Earthscan, London Pg. 139-142
- Examine and assess the economic factors influencing the renovation of historic buildings and identify and evaluate possible policy solutions to promote conservation
Feilden (2003) defines a historic building as one that makes us want to “know more about the people and culture that produced it.” Most of these buildings have stood the test of time and need renovation from time to time. No two renovation jobs are the same. However, all these projects have some common issues at the beginning of the project. These include assessing the economic feasibility of the renovation project as well as political factors involved. Before launching a renovation project of any kind, that project must make economic sense (Newman: 2000). If not, millions could end up being wasted. When it comes to historic buildings it is even different. That’s because in order for the project to make economic sense, the renovation budget has to include the costs of complying with the rules and regulations for historic buildings.
The question is how much to invest into a project to renovate a historic building? Many techniques can be used to evaluate how much to invest into renovation projects. These techniques include savings-to-investment ratio (SIR), discounted payback period (DPP), life-cycle costing (LCC), internal rate of return (IRR) or benefit-to-cost-ratio (BCR). However, in some situations, these economic applications cannot be the sole factor (Rakhra: 1984). There are some historic buildings that signify much. In such cases, a renovation project might not make economic sense but the historic value of a building could downplay the economic sense of the project.
In order to promote the conservation of historic buildings, there is need to train conservation workers to better understand the use of material that was traditionally used like lime. This training needs to include practical modules that would make it possible for students taking these courses to visit these buildings and familiarize themselves with the different techniques that prevailed in the era during which most of these building were constructed. In addition to that, authorities need to take appropriate measures that would make traditional construction equipment available today (Newman: 2000). That means it is important to recognise the role of traditional manual skills. This implies a blend of manual skills and conservation in training courses.
Methods of conservation of historic buildings need to be improved. More efforts should go to regular maintenance instead of root and branch restoration across England. New techniques need to be developed and emphasis should also be placed on research to better understand ancient techniques (Newman: 2000). It is easier to conserve a historic building if those concerned with that particular project understand how that building was conceived.
There is also need to improve working conditions, social status and employment security so as to attract young skills into the field. Authorities need to also publicise training courses as well as the importance of conservation. This would also arouse interest and induce more young people to get into this field (Newman: 2000). However, all these efforts would not yield immediate results. It would take years and resources before the fruits of such endeavours would be savoured.
Feilden, Bernard (2003) Conservation of Historic Buildings, Architectural Press, Oxford
Newman, Alexander (2000) Structural Renovation of Buildings, McGraw-Hill Professional, Irwin
Rakhra, A.S. (1984) “Some Economic Aspects of the Rehabilitation of Buildings,” Canada Research Council
Wilkos, Jonathan (2007) Maintenance of Ancient Buildings, Hoffman Books, Chicago
- Critically discuss whether the objectors to the Eco-town proposals across England are right to be sceptical regarding the green credentials of these developments
Eco-towns refer to new countryside settlements of about 20,000 homes that are earmarked for construction in England. These settlements would be built to meet low and zero carbon emission standards, as well as other environmentally sound technologies like recycling (Department for Communities and Local Government: 2007). These towns would also include social housing in an effort to dampen the effects of the ongoing housing crisis (McCarthy: 2008). However, this move has triggered widespread opposition from some local residents who fear that such a move would deprive them of their countryside way of life. They do not want their communities to be urbanised. Besides, some opposition stems from the fact that some of these communities were not consulted. As a result, this has not been included in the housing plans of some local authorities.
The idea of eco-towns should be welcomed in some respects. These include the fact that these settlements are expected to make use of the latest developments in environmental technology. They will also stand out as examples on how to plan and create environmentally-friendly settlements; and idea that would help mankind to make the environment better for future generations (Department for Communities and Local Government: 2007).
However, some critics have voiced out fears that some of these settlements could be previously seen housing projects that are now increasingly tagged with the term “eco” to get widespread approval this project would be executed by construction companies whose primary aim is profit maximisation. With such motive, it is hard to quickly accept that the project would be as “green” as it is painted (Potts: 2009).
This project could also lead to increased use of cars and transportation to move in and out of these settlements. As a result, there would be more carbon emissions; something that could offset the low carbon emission levels of these eco-towns. “A commonly expressed concern is that building lots of new houses away from other settlements may only increase dependence on cars and private transport. A more substantial criticism is that it is wrong to “ghettoise” good environmental practice into eco-towns; it should be compulsory with all new house building (McCarthy: 2008).”
In order to succeed with the eco-town project, the government needs to work in collaboration with local communities. Basically, the idea of eco-towns is good. However, the planning and sidelining of local communities could lead to failure. That’s because the project is being transformed into a political issue (Potts: 2009). The fifteen locations earmarked for the eco-towns including some located in some natural countryside’s have been described, by critics, as “unsustainable locations” (McCarthy: 2008). According to some critics, these eco-towns would urbanise their countryside communities.
To some extent, Eco-town objectors have a point to be worried. The fact that these settlements would lead to increased dependence on cars undermines the green component of the project. That’s because cars bring about pollution. However, the environmentally-friendly technology to be installed in these settlements is a good idea.
Great Britain: Department for Communities and Local Government (2007) Homes for the future
McCarthy, Michael (2008) The Independent, “The Big Question: What are eco-towns, and how green are they in reality?” 1st July, 2008
McCarthy, Michael (2008) The Independent, “Protesters’ fury as eco-town shortlist targets ‘unsustainable’ locations,” 4 April 2008
Potts, Gareth (2009) The Ecologist “Eco-Towns: without local involvement, forget it,” 17th July, 2009