Pollution and Covid-19. Do we need more notices?

Image by David Roumanet from Pixabay

In March of last year, the European Herat Journal, attached to the University of Oxford, updated the annual number of estimated premature deaths from air pollution in the world. According to new and more adjusted measurement systems, the number of human beings killed by the poor quality of the air we breathe goes from 4.5 million a year to almost 8.8 million, almost 800,000 of those deaths occur in continental Europe. Particularly harmful are suspended particles of less than 2.5 microns (PM 2.5). To give you an idea, they are 100 times thinner than the thickness of a human hair. One micron is equal to one thousandth of a millimeter. PM 2.5 particles are of anthropogenic origin in almost all cases, that is, produced exclusively by humans.

To analyze the effects of these particles in suspension on animal health, which includes human health, we must distinguish between PM 10 (less than 10 microns), which may have a natural origin, and PM 2.5, whose origin is human emissions, mainly from diesel engines. PM 2.5 are lighter and remain in the air longer than the previous ones, causing or, at least, exacerbating various respiratory diseases, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma, allergies and cardiovascular ailments.
Taking into account that pollution, mainly that of large urban centers, causes millions of deaths worldwide, and triggers or worsens respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, is it an added risk factor during the current pandemic caused by COVID -19, which also causes serious respiratory and cardiovascular effects in a part of the population?
Based on several studies on the subject carried out during this pandemic, it seems that it is true, but with nuances.

A study led by doctoral student Marco Travaglio and his Cambridge University colleagues overlapped the levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and nitrogen oxide (NO) from more than 120 monitoring stations in England, with figures on infections and coronavirus deaths; finding a link between poor air quality and COVID-19 case fatality in those areas. Travaglio stated that he needs further work to show the specific cause of this correlation, but assured that the health conditions caused by air pollution are remarkably similar to those that increase vulnerability to this coronavirus.

Similar work by Dr. Yaron Ogen of Germany’s Martin Luther Halle-Wittenberg University mapped airborne NO2 levels and COVID-19 deaths regionally in Italy, Spain, France, and Germany; finding that long-term exposure to air pollution “could be a major contributor” to high mortality rates.

Another team, led by Dario Caro, Ph.D. in chemistry specializing in environmental sciences, from Aarhus University in Denmark, analyzed the correlation between air pollution and coronavirus infections and deaths in northern Italy. His team found that people living in areas with more polluted air had a higher level of inflammatory cytokine cells, making them more vulnerable to the virus.

Another study, more complete than the previous ones, carried out by doctoral student Xiao Wu and assistant professor Rachel C. Nethery, together with Biostatistics professor Francesca Dominici and other colleagues also from Harvard University, found that small increases in exposure at long-term levels of small particles in suspension, are related to a great jump in the death rate from COVID-19. Each additional microgram of fine particles per cubic meter to which people were exposed in the long term was associated with an 8% increase in the death rate. This study analyzed deaths from COVID-19 from more than 3,000 counties in the United States (representing 98% of the population) until April 22, 2020, at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering of the Coronavirus Resource Center.
They found that an increase of just 1 μg / m3 of PM2.5 is associated with an 8% increase in the COVID-19 mortality rate, with a 95% confidence interval, and a positive and negative variability of 2%. – 15%. The results were statistically significant and robust for the secondary and sensitivity analyzes. To give our readers an idea of ​​the magnitudes we are talking about, a μg (microgram) is one millionth of a gram. That is, a small increase in long-term exposure to PM2.5 leads to a large increase in the COVID-19 mortality rate.

Despite the inherent limitations of the ecological study design, the results underscore the importance of continuing to enforce existing air pollution regulations to protect human health during and after the COVID-19 crisis. The data and code for this study are publicly available, so analyzes can be routinely updated.

Despite the inherent limitations of the ecological study design, the results underscore the importance of continuing to enforce existing air pollution regulations to protect human health during and after the COVID-19 crisis. The data and code for this study are publicly available, so analyzes can be routinely updated.
And not only that, but it also makes us think that the decrease in the lethality observed in early May, is not due to a supposed and hypothetical weakening of the virus, denied by the main virologists, or the decrease in the insignificant viral load of the new infected, but by the brutal drop in pollution in the main cities and manufacturing centers, the return of which can cause a further increase in serious cases, which will require further budgets and respirators.

Although longer-term studies will be required to characterize this increased mortality from COVID-19 caused by air pollution, and to further refine the potential variability factors in the analysis, it seems clear that we must drastically reduce and in the least possible time our emissions of suspended particles, not only to try to reverse the most harmful effects of anthropogenic global warming that we suffer, but also to immediately improve health worldwide and mitigate the effects of the current coronavirus pandemic, and those of other pandemics that could undoubtedly plague us in the future.

Do we need more notices?

A Green alternative to pandemics

Camp Funston Field Hospital in Kansas, 1918

Many scientists believe that the outbreak of the pandemic is related to the way human species coexists with nature. And it has always been this way, since we are aware of, and except for those pandemics caused by climatic changes which occurred after great volcanic eruptions ,such as those that occurred in ancient Egypt, humans have tried to adapt nature for their own benefit, instead of adapting to her, with catastrophic results. The different bubonic plagues of the year 542 (Plague of Justinian) and that of 1347 to 1353 are a good example. Also those that plagued the Roman Empire, the Antonine plague (165-180) and the most devastating, the Cyprian of the years. 249 to 262, leaving the empire at the mercy of the barbarian invasions.
Europe had been attacked, and therefore the rest of the world at the time, by different outbreaks of the same plague during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. influenza appeared at the end of the 19th century also known as the Spanish Flu and it was caused by a virus.
Until the end of 1892, when Dmitri Ivanovski described what a virus was, humans did not know of its existence, although the way of contagion of some viral diseases was known. Therefore, the Spanish Flu pandemic and the virus that caused it could be studied in order to find a remedy or, in any case, a method to avoid contagion.
It is believed that the outbreak began in the Russian steppes with relatively benign effects, and that in 1916 it reached the United States, increasing its deadly capacity as it mutated. This virus remained active until 1920, already weakened by the latest mutations and with an immunized population.

Viruses have always existed – some scientists believe they are a relic of precellular life – and just as influenza A H1N1 (Spanish Flu) arose from a mutation of avian influenza, in recent years we have seen and been able to control other possible viral pandemics, almost always originated from that famous flu. There is now enough scientific evidence that points to wild animals as carriers of the current COVID-19. However, the one that most affected a group of societies and in the most devastating way, was the result of the conquest of America by the Europeans (the origin of the conquerors is of no importance, since having been Austrians, French, etc., the result would have been the same). In this case, smallpox and syphilis, transported by the conquerors, together with a radical job change (slavery), caused the disappearance of 95% of the Amerindian population, some 40 million people according to Bartolomé de las Casas.
All these pandemics, the overcrowding, the massive and intrusive interconnection of humans in the wild habitats of other animals, or the intra-species transfer of viruses, have a common denominator: they are the product of Nature being forced by the human being. Instead of adapting to it, we have tried to make Nature adapt to us. But while we could say that these pandemics are a warning of something worse to come, perhaps the famous Spanish Flu represents it much better, for having exploded at a time when humans had sufficient analytical capacity to know exactly what it was about.

In 1917 the flu had transformed and its mortality had increased a hundredfold over that of a normal flu, and it had found the best place to expand, the American military camps where the troops that were to go to Europe were being trained. The concentration of bunk beds in wooden barracks or tents had become an unbeatable source of contagion. President Woodrow Wilson asked the specialists and the chief of staff for advice, and the opinion of the latter prevailed. American troops spread the virus throughout Europe, and on their return contaminated the rest of the world. Currently no one knows how many human beings died, but brutal figures are being considered, from 25 to more than 100 million people.

Of course, it is not our intention to make historical or biological parallels between pandemics. If there are, they are not a product of our imagination but a reality. In 1918 there was a heinous war and the opinion of the military prevailed, and now that of investors and financiers. This is a small paragraph that we could treat as a small internal fight of the same human race, to decide the best strategy in their fight against nature.

Returning to the subject, we cannot forget an episode that could have ended as a pandemic, which best reflects this distortion: Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) or Mad Cow disease.
Although humanity had already suffered locally from food-related illnesses – not in vain we have learned what is edible from trial and error – this was the first inadvertently – although not accidentally – caused by humans that crossed borders perniciously and required a coordinated response. It is acquired by ingesting meat from infected animals, which were infected with feed partially made from the remains of animals of the same species. It was solved after the slaughter of two million cattle in the United Kingdom, the focus of the infection.

We are currently experiencing a new infection, also a human product and with still unknown repercussions. Anisakiasis, which is acquired by eating fish infected with Anisakis larvae or the same nematode.
Anisakis has always existed naturally, but in a small number of fish. It is a parasitic worm in fish. Eggs hatch directly in the sea. Crustaceans feed on the larvae and are also eaten by other fish or cephalopods. Inside, the larva turns into a worm and becomes a cyst in the intestine or in tissues. Its cycle is completed the moment the fish is devoured by a marine mammal, where it becomes parasitized again, feeds, grows, mates and spawns through the feces of the same mammal. This complex life cycle (without a marine mammal it could never reproduce) explains its low natural incidence; however, the intensive exploitation of the seas by humans has transformed its spread. This intensive fishing and its subsequent commercialization entails cleaning the fish after being caught, abandoning huge amounts of infected viscera directly into the sea. Those viscera become food for the rest of the fish, which become infected in a practically geometric progression.

If you travel to Brazil or Peru, or to the Far East, you will discover how the different societies are interacting in a massive and unconscious way with hundreds of species that previously lived in exclusively virgin spaces, that feed on their waste and share parasites and diseases with Humans. And, not only that, climate change is transforming or changing the habits of thousands of species of insects, worms, and small reptiles. Precisely, the flu reached the human being in this way. Having an avian origin and being asymptomatic in these animals, it causes serious disorders in humans, and causes thousands of deaths every year.
How many illnesses will have gone unnoticed? The scientific community itself estimates that many, particularly because little is yet known about viruses, hardly the most common and harmful. Except on rare occasions, the human being has been lucky. Anisakis, for example, is not difficult to eliminate and it is not lethal either but imagine what could happen if it carried a virus that altered prions, such as happens with Mad Cow disease. The result would be catastrophic.

Until now, human beings have been able to survive with varying fortunes to the various attacks of nature caused by themselves. Sometimes there have been unaffordable losses that have changed the way of living or relating, or that have even ruined apparently incombustible cultures. The plague that ravaged the Roman Empire or the Black Death itself, which eliminated two-thirds of Western societies, are good examples. And it happened in a world where a pandemic could be contained more easily, since it was not so hyperconnected.

Currently we are directly influencing and without enough knowledge about the nature of thousands of species, extinguishing many. If a small bat – or a pangolin, it is not yet known for sure – has turned humanity upside down, what could a series of tiny insects not do, directly or indirectly? How can the depletion of the ozone layer, this year extremely weakened in the northern hemisphere, affect species? Or the disproportionate and unknown increase in CO2 in the deep layers of the oceans? Or the sudden disappearance, in an extremely short period, of plant species? What effects will this disappearance have on the animal species that resided in them? How will they react and to what extent can they invade our spaces?

Viruses are essential for the survival of life on Earth, both in the generation of oxygen on the planet – due to its relationship with the cyanobacteria in the ocean, which produce the vast majority of oxygen on Earth – and for the balance of carbon in the oceans. Since we cannot eliminate them even if we had a broad knowledge of them, we would have to live in balance with them as much as possible. And for this it is essential to have a network of ecosystems without human intervention, which should contain the propagation of most viruses that can jump from other animals to humans, or that pass from immunized animals and in symbiosis with them to others who are not. And even more climate change is causing the thawing of terrestrial areas that have been in hibernation for thousands of years, and which the scientific community assumes will contain their own populations of viruses, which could re-emerge and affect life.

We do not have the magic and immediate solution, but we can urge society to invest resources in finding it, using the available scientific and health resources; In addition, we should change our model of life to adapt it to nature and greatly limit the danger of a pandemic that is much worse than what we currently suffer, and can affect humans beings, plants or other animals of the that we feed, or even the same bacteria that we need to survive. The unknowns are many and we need light on them now.
Remember that science takes time to obtain results, and to harvest it is necessary to sow.

On the Green New Deal, 1st part

There has been much talk about the Green New Deal for a while. Leaving aside the authorship of the name, we can say that it is inspired by the famous, vilified and celebrated New Deal, by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
It should be remembered that one of the New Deal programs was the “Civilian Conservation Corps,” (Civil Corps of Environmental Protection), dedicated to the afforestation of the Dust Bowl, caused by the constant desertification of the American Midwest. To give us an idea of ​​the magnitude of the program, Roosevelt got it approved on March 31st., 1933, and by July 1st., 1933 there were already 1,463 work camps, with 250,000 unemployed youth, 25,000 adults, 28,000 veterans and 14,000 American Indians The task of organization and recruitment was entrusted to the army, which subsequently took advantage of it to create and train in a record time the huge and efficient army that later fought in Europe and the Pacific. In the US, some organizations inspired by the “Civilian Conservation Corps” were created, but perhaps the most important one is The Sea Ranger Service, based in the Netherlands, which in combination with the government of this nation is dedicated to safeguarding and recovering the marine bottoms and its ecosystem.

Roosevelt’s New Deal did not change the world economic system, but it did humanize and democratize it, guiding it from an exclusively capitalist system to getting the whole society benefit from it. At the same time, it enhanced the rights and freedoms of human beings. We cannot say that it was an economic success as such, as full employment did not occur until the US entered the Second World War.
We do not know what would have happened if Roosevelt had been able to develop his project without the constant boycotts and impediments of the business world, and the cuts and prohibitions of the US Supreme Court who understood it competed with the business class’ infrastructure investments. In 1939 the economy had not yet reached the level of the 20’s. The opposition of business circles to the New Deal and their attempts to hinder the process, resulted in a fall in private investment and Government could not compensate it.
The successful outcome of the war economy launched in 1941, suggests that the New Deal would have taken the US and much of the world out of the great depression.

Creating a war economy is also raising a country using its most important material: people. Now we face with a similar situation, only that this time we need it to help us survive as a society and perhaps as a civilization.

The Green New Deal was born from a proposal by Van Jones, former Special Adviser for Green Jobs, Business and innovation of Barack Obama, who boosted green investments throughout the country, together with new infrastructures, industries and, above all, research. The idea has been adopted by The European Energy Centre and the political activist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
The failures and successes of the New Deal teach us how to face the new challenge, if we really can face it.

Of course, the first problem we have to face is political. North American and European societies are not the same now as in the thirties. Nobody would think then of voting a denialist politician nor those who live turning their backs to empirical science. Today, however, we can find a dominant political class that denies reality. We have the example right now in the US or in Italy, but also knocking at the door of governments in many other places, such as Spain itself (remember the Popular Party and Rajoy’s cousin).

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is not by far Roosevelt, not because of her capabilities, which she has yet to prove, but because Roosevelt ruled the US during three legislatures with electoral comfort, although with almost all business apparatus and economists of the Austrian School of the 30’s against him.

Friedrich Hayek and part of the Austrian School strongly criticized the New Deal, curiously in regard to their concept of freedom, which they considered misleading. However, the Nobel laureate supported without any prejudice the Chilean, Portuguese and Argentine dictatorships, and the South African Apartheid, stating that: “My personal preference is inclined to a liberal dictatorship and not to a democratic government, where all liberalism is absent.” Curiously, the liberalism defended by these dictatorships was not real, but just as false as Hayek’s and part of the new Austrian School (we cannot confuse Hayek with Ludwig Von Mises), since their economic laws were designed to defend a small group of people , expelling the rest of the supposed liberal benefits.

The Green New Deal tries to create a lot of quality employment, encouraging a reindustrialization with green features. The name becomes due to its great resemblance to the policy of President Roosevelt. That is, to have a part of the budget, in this case North American and European, addressed to the creation of a large network of new infrastructures. Stern magazine estimates that fighting Climate Change can cost us 1% of annual GDP, while not fighting it could represent 7%, and up to 20% if we add the loss of health and biodiversity. The Re-Define Studies Center values ​​the need, only in Europe of 2% of GDP, which would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30%.
Unfortunately, human beings face an unknown problem. There is no experience of a rise in greenhouse gases of the present magnitude, but what we do know is that their effects are not immediate but will appear during the next 30 years. That is, that the effects of what is currently in the atmosphere, approximately 430 Ppm of CO2, has caused a rise of 0.5º Celsius; but the total effect will be appreciated in 30 years, with an approximate increase of 2.75º. And the 550Ppm of CO2 planned for 2050 will represent a rise of almost 4º. The rise in sea level is equally inevitable and could be between one and two meters, that will cause the disappearance of the great deltas that feed billions of human beings. The disappearance of glaciers will mean a drop in the availability of fresh water in many places on the planet. Cold winters will no longer hold water in the high mountains, so it will slide in a torrential way in case the amount of rain is not reduced.
These forecasts, along with some more, are the most studied and reliable. What we cannot do is to predict how many species will disappear, in which places it will rain more or less or at which point the ice of Greenland and Antarctica will collapse.

Now, let’s not forget that the forecast of 550 Ppm of CO2 by 2050 seems or is inevitable. The changes necessary to stop the increase to this figure are not possible, at least in the short term.
The challenge does not end, therefore, in deciding how to invest, which policies we have to follow and from where we have to extract the amount of money required to develop the Green New Deal, but also how we must manage , if we can do so, the disappearance of million hectares of cultivation due to the rise in sea level, the increase in desertification, the extinction of numerous species essential for ecological balance and the migration of hundreds of millions of people.

That said, we cannot understand or share the results of those studies which speak of the need to invest 1 or 2% of GDP. Nor the foreseeable fall of 7% in case of not facing the changes. No one can assess the necessary percentage with a base index that depends on such diverse factors, such as the increase in the price of food, land, speculation and sometimes crisis (there is the paradox that the Bank of Spain has to raise its expectations of growth thanks to the current economic downturn); it just only be based on the “well-being budget” of its society.
The change of economic paradigm is as inevitable as climate change itself, and it will be a consequence of this. We may call it Green New Deal or otherwise, but we cannot predict the exact direction it will take, which will depend on governments and lobbyists on the one hand, and citizen awareness and mobilization on the other. A change of economic paradigm of this magnitude can only occur with a political and social agreement in all countries around the planet, and from a cultured and socially advanced majority. It will not or course in a world ruled by deniers of any sign.

On the Green New Deal, 2nd part

Eunice Newton Foote, scientist and climatologist, in 1865 was the first person to demonstrate the relationship of CO₂ with global warming.

The Green European Foundation, estimates that in Europe the Green New Deal could cost between 150 and 250 billion euros (we understand it as an annual amount), thereby achieving a 20% reduction in emissions from CO₂ and increasing energy efficiency, in addition to building systems for renewable energy production. Of course, we cannot consider that all this capital, small and insufficient to solve the serious problem of climate change, is a mere expense. Instead we should contemplate it as an investment partly of immediate return due to the decrease in unemployment that would represent, in addition to energy savings. The wealth it would generate is unquestionable, much more than the investment required. We must also consider private investment, currently paralysed, which would generate added wealth of high quality, as it would adapt to available human capital or, if necessary, it would create it.
The European left, however, is proposing more drastic measures and greater investment, which could be quantified at between 250 and 350 billion euros per year. This money would be divided into two groups of investment, that of research and development for companies producing technology, and that of implementation of that technology. And it would serve to reduce the energy bill by 300 billion euros, in addition to generating exports worth 25 billion euros in clean technology. Green European Foundation also forecasts the creation of six million jobs and the wealth that accompanies it.

In the 1930s, the US government found itself with a society in debt and with little liquidity. Public finances however were able to set the banknote making machine in motion. Now we find ourselves with a very indebted society, including banks and governments themselves. The debt of states that can contribute the most to a possible Green New Deal is currently unpayable. However, this money exists, and even more than would be needed, and it is circulating very slowly and with much uncertainty in the hands of pension funds, banks and credit societies from which nobody asks for money, and at an interest rate that is almost always negative. Depending on the ideology of who governs, this money can be returned to the hands of the states, or by conveniently legislating it can be used to amply finance the Green New Deal. To achieve this, all that is needed is political will, forgetting certain economic dependencies or class relations.
And just as climate change has no political colours nor flags, it has no borders. It’s affectation and the problems it entails are planetary. It is not worth solving it only in Europe and the US, forgetting the rest of the world; nor is it worth changing the productive models of the first world, but not those of consumption. The transfer from a consumerist economy to an austere one, from a polluting one to a green one, cannot currently be done only by governments but with the complicity and collaboration of the societies that choose them.

A couple of years ago, when in a paper on ecology and sustainability we were asked about the program of a party, wrongly catalogued as anti-system and anti-capitalist, we replied that it was perfect, maybe the only 100% sustainable party. The problem is that putting it into practice means that 6 of the 7,5 billion that currently populate the planet needs to disappear. And it is not difficult to prove it.as a matter of fact we have it in front of us. James Lovelok, now 100, explains it in his book “The Revenge of Gaia”.
One of the most serious problems we have is how to manage globalisation, i.e. how to get the 6 billion who are currently queuing up to enter the consumer world, how to do so in a sustainable way. And that society that is waiting, part of it already bursting into consumption, is maintained thanks to plastic and lacks the capacity to process it; and moves around with waste engines from the first world, which disposes of them because they are pollutants, sending them to the third world through aid programs.
Those 6 billion inhabitants use plastic for everything from fetching water, packing and storing food, to shoes and clothing. In fact, if we enter a house in the developing world, we will find more plastic than in a home in the developed world; and if we walk along any street, town or countryside in the less developed areas, we will see plastic in small pieces of broken pipes, bags, bottles, espadrilles and even clothes Altogether in a quantity unimaginable, horrific and unrecyclable. As far as diesel is concerned, who has not been surprised to find in those countries the old buses, lorries, taxis and even railway machines and ships which were seen before on European streets, railways, rivers and ports?
Today the planet cannot provide enough raw material, not even to satisfy the approximately 1.5 billion human beings who have entered the consumer economy. Therefore, one of the first measures that should be taken is to reduce the number of human beings that inhabit it with a policy of reproductive austerity, at least until we discover or generate enough resources without sacrificing the balance of the planet. Climate change is inevitable, as well as the disappearance or extinction of a good part of human beings; however, what Lovelok and the rest of fearless scientists do not explain is that it is in our hands to decide how to do it. How to limit and reduce the number of human beings that today populate the planet.

In Europe the problem is to transfer this change of economic paradigm and development to a national, regional and even local level.
Without a real fiscal and budgetary union, it is impossible to create the conditions for all countries to participate at the same rate. The existence of different central banks becomes useless, as well as counterproductive. It is essential to centralize research in a supranational entity, with authority to supervise the different research centres, whether public or private, and to administer the public resources they may receive. In the same way, a new central entity would have to be created for energy, with the same authority over public and private companies.
Let us remember that the EU already has a Commissioner for Energy and Climate, Arias Cañete, who curiously has a degree in law, without any study of economics or environment, and with interests in oil companies.
In addition to all this, all regulations on means of transportation for people and goods, and on production and recycling of industrial products must be unified, including those related to urbanism, tourism and all those that may affect the European political strategy on climate change.

Unfortunately, human beings tend to use means without assessing their pollution capacity or the damage they may cause to future generations, with the conviction that it will be future generations who will solve the problem thanks to hypothetical new technologies or research expertise nowadays lacking. In a short time we will have to manage with what our grandparents threw into the sea, when they already knew that it could not absorb it. Tons of radioactive waste, millions of tons of filled or battered armament, without caring if they contained heavy metals and chemical materials. Not to mention the millions of tonnes of ships that the German navy sank in the Atlantic, loaded with the same weaponry. We find ourselves at the gates of this time bomb, having to rebuild our parks, create a dense network of biodiversity between fields, repopulate huge areas currently arid, organize fire brigades even in Alaska, northern Canada and Siberia, create an international sea police force, and rebuild entire cities with the rules laid down by the Green New Deal. All at the same time when our cities are being built violating current EU regulations or common sense (just walk around l’Hospitalet de Llobregat, the European Calcutta, and you’ll see). Of course, if we are not even able to shade our schoolchildren with four trees, how can we demand or pretend that countries such as Ethiopia, Nigeria or Brazil obey the directives of the first world?
In the current political situation, unless we believe in gods that miraculously awaken the minds of those who live only in the immediacy, the solution can only come through the creation of large plants to absorb greenhouse gases. And it is our responsibility and free decision that these plants or new industry are owned by supranational entities, external to the big corporations who have propitiated the situation in which we find ourselves. Or we can choose that are these same corporations which with national and international aid, and through research financed by all, manage that industry and thrive even more.

Gas, a vain alternative to gasoil

These days we have been able to analyze two different news about the use of natural gas as replacement of liquid and solid fuels, although we need to consider if what we are going to show can be called news. On the one hand the report of Transport & Environment, an international association in which Ecologistas en Accion participates. On the other the report of the Ministry for the Ecological Transition.
If you compare both works, you will soon discover that the Transport and Environment details with many data and explanations the research done, while the Ministry, not only does not detail how it has reached its results but shows them as an absolute truth, that is, as an act of faith, which in this case could be suicidal for the planet.

Undoubtedly, the Ministry’s report will reach all companies and media in the country; Not so with Transport and Environment, which will only reach ecologist associations or the most restless activists. The name of the Ministry already offers enough confidence: For the Ecological Transition, which shows the apparent willingness to change our energy model.
The misnamed report of the Ministry does not show data nor who has written it, the Transport and Environment is dated this last October and not only says who has written it but also who has reviewed it.
To all this, the most painful fact is that, in principle, the Ministry has enough professionals and financial means that charge good salaries to develop a study, and not a mere statement that seems to be the copy of a report from the energy industry. However, the environmental groups are nourished by small donations, usually from people with not too many resources, and from many volunteer scientists, possibly working for little money or for the satisfaction of a job well done.

But let’s go to the data.
One of the most serious problems of natural gas is its high global warming factor. In addition, we cannot ignore that the average methane gas lost during the supply of fossil gas is 2.2%, a gigantic figure for what it means for the atmosphere. To this 2.2% we must add the part that is lost during the extraction work, which can be much greater. The greenhouse effect of fossil methane is 30 times higher than CO2, and unfortunately, its emissions are expected to increase considerably, given that different countries facilitate their use.
The energy efficiency of methane in combustion engines is very similar to that of other fossil fuels. In some cases, methane can be beneficial, for example in the transportation of land goods. However, we can assure that the small savings of around 7% of CO2 emissions due to the use of methane gas in combustion engines, is largely compensated by the gas leaks to the atmosphere. As the paper explains, the new diesel engines equate the emission of CO2 with those of gas, so that this little advantage would be eliminated, without considering however the inevitable methane leaks.
To conclude, what this paper aims to explain is that there are cheaper long-term alternatives with zero emissions for all the uses in which methane can be less polluting than the rest of fossil fuels.

Preservation of the urban Environment

Image of Nara Figueiredo

Traditionally, the environmental movement has concentrated its efforts in the preservation of the natural spaces, understanding these as those spaces in which the impact of the man has been minimum. Anyhow, the progressive concentration of population in urban spaces, and the impact of cities and its design, so much in the health of its inhabitants (of all species) as in the ecosystems that surrounds them has forced in the last years to concentrate more efforts of preservation in urban spaces. In fact, the dichotomy ” urban space – nature ” is falling little by little in disuse, accepting the need of making cities permeable so that natural spaces join urbanism

However, campaigns such as the one promoted by SEO Birdlife under the name “Neighbourhood Birds” in which it draws attention to the progressive disappearance of species once so common in our cities as the sparrow or the swift makes it clear that this process does not progress at the required pace.
There is an urgent need for the re-definition of cities, comfortably entrenched behind their parapet of “sustainability”, defined simply as an electoral slogan and alibi for their progressive “inevitable” growth. This requires both greater public awareness and the implementation of municipal regulations that have preservation of the environment as one of the main axes. There’s no need to invent anything. Literature on how to do this has long been available and is summarized in the “Local action for Diversity” application manuals adopted following the Convention on Biological Diversity presented at the Earth Summit in Rio 1992 and summarized in “BiodiverCITIES: A Handbook for municipal Biodiversity Management for Local Governments”

For practical purposes, some of the municipal policy proposals to be developed are:

1) Incorporation of “natural capital” into municipal accounts, along with policies aimed at reducing the ecological footprint and incentivizing the conservation of biodiversity and the green economy.

2) Planning urban expansion by understanding Soil as a basic resource to preserve and recover; while pushing regulations demanding the use of solutions based on nature in the urbanization process (green roofs, vertical gardens, green pavements, sustainable drainage… )

3) Policies for the conservation of indigenous fauna through the programming of maintenance and construction works in appropriate periods so as not to interfere with biological cycles, as well as the development of regulations for the rehabilitation and construction of buildings respectful of biodiversity.

4) Prioritization of diversified green areas, with native varieties and limited management, adapted to the climatic conditions of each town, with the aim of maintaining zones, not only green, but also full of life.

5) Identification of species and areas of greatest conservation interest by local technicians in order to give them priority and develop active policies that allow their recovery.

6) To promote education and citizen participation in the development of any environmental policy in order to weave a network of local interests and complicities that facilitate the success of the different policies implemented.