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1.2 Globalisation is about networks

Globalisation is a term that refers to the flows around the world of species, money, goods, ideas, people, etc., and the networks that are integral to these flows. The word is used to attempt to capture a dizzying mix of recent economic, political and socio-cultural developments. The term can also be applied to ecological globalisation. The global transport of people, goods and services has massively increased. Technological and economic networks have developed to smooth trade and econ
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Learning outcomes

By the end of this unit you will:

  • Have gained an understanding of the four dimensions of globalisation in relation to climate change;

  • Be able to distinguish between the three approaches to achieve sustainability;

  • Know the difference between ‘government’ and ‘governance’;

  • Identify what makes ecological citizenship distinctive;

  • Understand how the medium of the web can aid transitions to sustainability.


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6.3 The role of active citizens and communities

Few people agree that individuals should take the main responsibility for tackling environmental issues. For example, in a 2007 poll of over 2000 UK citizens, 70% agreed that the government should take a lead in combating climate change, even if it means using the law to change people's behaviour. However, over 60% disagreed that there was nothing they could do to avert climate change and over half agreed that they would do more if others did more too, although 40% thought that recycling was
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1.1 What is the carbon footprint and why is it important?

The carbon footprint is the annual amount of greenhouse gas emissions, mainly carbon dioxide, that result from the activities of an individual or a group of people, especially their use of energy and transport and consumption of goods and services. It's measured as the mass, in kilograms or tonnes per year, either of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions alone, or of the carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) effect of other greenhouse gas emissions.


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2.1 Preamble

Here are some quotes from the ‘Summary for Policymakers’ (SPM) included in the report from the scientific working group in the IPCC TAR (IPCC, 2001a):

  • The Earth's climate system has demonstrably changed on both global and regional scales since the pre-industrial era, with some of these changes attributable to human activities.

  • Globally, it is very likely that the 1990s was the warmest decade and 1998 the warmest year in the instru
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2.1 Dealing with change in what matters: ethics, policy and action

Much of what has been covered so far in this unit deals with the individual human capacity to frame nature as a means for enabling environmental responsibility. But what are the implications of this for actually doing something about policy design and action to improve matters? Framing the natural world is an inevitable human endeavour that we all carry out, whether consciously or subconsciously, as part of our interaction with human and non-human nature. For example, each of the tools listed
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1.4.1 Introduction

Up to now I have focused on the claims of the antisweatshop movement and the counter-claims of those who contest the purely negative conclusions drawn about the exploitation of another country's poor. To that end, I have, at various moments, touched on issues of demands to take responsibility: whether, for instance, responsibility for sweatshops should be divided up in some way between all those connected to the market system which gives rise to them, or placed firmly at the door of the big r
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1.2.9 In praise of cheap offshore labour? continued

Significantly, no one from the pro-market lobby is actually denying that sweatshops exist, or trying to cover up the fact that workers in such places have to endure bad working conditions. But, as the subtitle of Krugman's (1997) article suggests: ‘bad jobs at bad wages are better than no jobs at all’. Low as the wages are in the offshore T-shirt or microwave factories compared with those in more developed economies, they tend to be higher than those of other workers around them. The huma
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4.4.1 Tidal Energy

The energy that causes the slow but regular rise and fall of the tides around our coastlines is not the same as that which creates waves. It is caused principally by the gravitational pull of the moon on the world's oceans. The sun also plays a minor role, not through its radiant energy but in the form of its gravitational pull, which exerts a small additional effect on tidal rhythms.

The principal technology for harnessing tidal energy essentially involves building a low dam, or barrag
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4.3 Indirect use of solar energy

The above examples illustrate the direct harnessing of the sun's radiant energy to produce heat and electricity. But the sun's energy can also be harnessed via other forms of energy that are indirect manifestations of its power. Principally, these are bioenergy and hydropower, already discussed in Section 3 above, together with wind energy and wave power.


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3.3 Nuclear energy

Nuclear energy is based on harnessing the very large quantities of energy that are released when the nuclei of certain atoms, notably uranium-235 and plutonium-239, are induced to split or ‘fission’. The complete fission of a kilogram of uranium-235 should produce, in principle, as much energy as the combustion of over 3000 tonnes of coal. In practice, the fission is incomplete and there are other losses, but nevertheless nuclear fuels are more highly concentrated sources of energy than f
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1.1.1 Where do we get our energy from?

The world’s current energy systems have been built around the many advantages of fossil fuels, and we now depend overwhelmingly upon them. Concerns that supplies will ‘run out’ in the short-to-medium term have probably been exaggerated, thanks to the continued discovery of new reserves and the application of increasingly advanced exploration technologies. Nevertheless it remains the case that fossil fuel reserves are ultimately finite. In the long term they will eventually become deplet
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References

Climatic Research Unit (2003) Information Sheets at http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk
New Internationalist (2003) ‘The Big Switch: Climate Change Solutions’, June, issue number 357.
The Open University (1998) S103 Discovering Science, Block 2 ‘A Temperate Earth?’, Milton Keynes, The Open University.

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5.6 Land and water pollution

In this section we will just take a couple of examples that show how easy it is to expose ourselves to long-term damage inadvertently. Pesticides, developed to control insects and other vermin, can increase agricultural productivity. Although pesticides were originally hailed as one of the wonders of modern technology, it was quite quickly discovered that there was a downside to their widespread use. One problem was that of bioaccumulation. Pesticides tended to be stable chemicals and
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4.7 Summary

Human activity has been responsible for some extinctions and othe deleterious changes to habitats. These changes have not always been the result of thoughtless or selfish behaviour; often intentions were worthy, but outcomes were not as predicted. The importance of genetic diversith is demonstrated here in relation to Dutch Elm disease. The need to retain genetic diversity in plants, used for food and medicine, is recognized in such initiatives as the Kew Milennium Seed Bank Appeal.


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2 2 Definitions: energy, sustainability and the future

What do we mean by energy and sustainability, and what is meant by future?

The term energy has a long history but the standard scientific definition today is that energy is the capacity to do work. The term power is related to energy and its definition is power is the rate of doing work. The two are linked together by the simple formula

energy = power x time

The term sustainability is not so simple to define but there is perhaps no better
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1 1 Why sustainable energy matters

One of the greatest challenges facing humanity during the twenty-first century must surely be that of giving everyone on the planet access to safe, clean and sustainable energy supplies.

Throughout history, the use of energy has been central to the functioning and development of human societies. But during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, humanity learned how to harness the highly-concentrated forms of energy contained within fossil fuels. These provided the power that drove the
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3.2 The agreement to protect the ozone layer

After a decade of controversy about the possible effects of CFCs, in 1985 British scientists discovered over the Antarctic a quite unexpected ‘hole’ in the ozone layer which was the size of the USA. This helped to galvanise the international community into action (though some who took part in the negotiations claim it played little part). By 1987 the first international agreement to control substances damaging to the ozone layer, the Montreal Protocol, was established. Interestingl
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5.5 Feminist critiques of international rights

The second source of criticisms that we would like to explore comes from feminist critiques. Some feminists argue that the universal notion of rights makes invisible the special problems faced by women as a group, and that, thereby, specific articles of the various human rights declarations and conventions reinforce traditional gender roles in the family and the workplace. This criticism comes in at least two forms.

The first is that rights for women (as for other disadvantaged groups)
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5.4 The influence of the Western perspective

With regard to the first set of problems – that the rights discourse is not universal but is deeply informed by a Western perspective – it is striking that many actors and commentators on the international stage now frame their arguments and assertions in terms of the language of rights and justice. Yet we need to ask to what extent this language of rights and justice really underpins shared understandings and values. There is a strong case for saying that if there are shared understandin
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