Hexbyte Glen Cove Go vegan to save planet? UK show looks at eco cost of meat thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Go vegan to save planet? UK show looks at eco cost of meat

Hexbyte Glen Cove

A new exhibition in Britain throws the spotlight on the environmental impact of eating meat.

Science and art collide in a new British exhibition which opened on Friday and hopes to raise awareness about the environmental impact of eating meat, while promising a guilt-free look at the “difficult problem”.

“Globally we eat too much , and we need to reduce it,” said Kelly Richards, exhibition officer at Oxford University’s Natural History Museum.

“It’s a very nuanced, very difficult kind of problem to unpick,” she told AFP.

Rather than imposing dogma, she hopes the “Meat The Future” exhibition will “give people the information that allows them to make up their own mind about the kind of future that they want”.

The show uses interactive installations, a virtual supermarket, fake shelves and works from artists including Damien Hirst to highlight the environmental costs of meat consumption, which has tripled worldwide in 50 years.

Visitors are met at the entrance by piles of fake burgers on a gingham tablecloth, each pile representing the average daily amount of meat eaten in different countries.

Britons eat on average 223 grams of meat per day, a figure that is “a lot more than the “, and is “much above the recommended amounts”, said John Lynch, a physicist specialising in the of agriculture.

Highlighting the urgency of cutting emissions in order to meet global targets for limiting warming, he said: “We probably need to do as much as possible on agriculture.”

The sector’s emissions, he estimated, would be halved if everyone became “flexitarian”—where people still eat meat, but only rarely.

Environmental score

Which type of meat is most polluting and in what way? What are the health risks and benefits of eating meat?

These are the questions that 10 University of Oxford researchers have tried to answer in a mathematical but playful attempt to nudge visitors towards a more responsible diet.

The show examines how supermarkets and restaurants “can influence our choices… and we talk about the kind of tools that we can use to fight back a little bit,” said Richards, in front of fake refrigerated shelves filled with ready meals.

Visitors can also take a virtual shopping trip, with 10,000 products on offer that all come with a score evaluating their ecological impact.

The “environmental score” takes into account water pollution, impact on biodiversity and the CO2 emissions produced in its manufacture.

“If you go into a supermarket, you often don’t see that information,” Lynch said.

“So one of the parts of the research project is looking at different labelling schemes, so you might have a environmental score or a ranking… for your food product.”

The museum incorporates the ideas in its cafe where red and processed meats are off the menu, which boasts around 50 percent vegan dishes.

Insects for dinner

The exhibition also examines the advantages and disadvantages of meat substitutes.

Under the microscope are vegetable alternatives, such as soy steaks, tempeh and tofu, as well as grilled worm aperitifs and cricket flour.

While insects are not generally to European tastes, “I think we will see more insect consumption as it becomes more available and people have more awareness of it,” predicted Lynch, praising their environmental credentials and nutrition.

Vegetable alternatives are often criticised for their own environmental cost, but “even though some of them do require more processing, for most of the alternatives out there, they’re still much more efficient than actually eating the meat,” Lynch added.

An even more radical solution is to eat meat created in a laboratory from animal cells.

The emerging technology, which researchers have been working on for 10 years, was road-tested for the first time in a Singapore restaurant in January.

It would be expected to drastically reduce CO2 emissions, but “we still need data to confirm it”, said Lynch, who pointed to the energy consumption of the labs.

But convincing the public to switch to test-tube meat could be a tough task.

“Some people are probably just not going to be interested,” said Lynch.

Instead, he suggested that “if some people go vegan and some people just reduce their meat… , we’re still going to hopefully keep to the kind of sustainable limits of the planet.”



© 2021 AFP

Citation:
Go vegan to save planet? UK show looks at eco cost of meat (2021, May 28)

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Biotech fit for the Red Planet: New method for growing cyanobacteria under Mars-like conditions thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Biotech fit for the Red Planet: New method for growing cyanobacteria under Mars-like conditions

Hexbyte Glen Cove

A: Bioreactor Atmos (“Atmosphere Tester for Mars-bound Organic Systems”). B: A single vessel within Atmos. C: Design schematic. Credit: C. Verseux / ZARM

NASA, in collaboration with other leading space agencies, aims to send its first human missions to Mars in the early 2030s, while companies like SpaceX may do so even earlier. Astronauts on Mars will need oxygen, water, food, and other consumables. These will need to be sourced from Mars, because importing them from Earth would be impractical in the long term. In Frontiers in Microbiology, scientists show for the first time that Anabaena cyanobacteria can be grown with only local gases, water, and other nutrients and at low pressure. This makes it much easier to develop sustainable biological life support systems.

“Here we show that cyanobacteria can use gases available in the Martian , at a low total , as their source of carbon and nitrogen. Under these conditions, cyanobacteria kept their ability to grow in water containing only Mars-like dust and could still be used for feeding other microbes. This could help make long-term missions to Mars sustainable,” says lead author Dr. Cyprien Verseux, an astrobiologist who heads the Laboratory of Applied Space Microbiology at the Center of Applied Space Technology and Microgravity (ZARM) of the University of Bremen, Germany.

Low-pressure atmosphere

Cyanobacteria have long been targeted as candidates to drive biological life support on space missions, as all species produce oxygen through photosynthesis while some can fix atmospheric nitrogen into nutrients. A difficulty is that they cannot grow directly in the Martian atmosphere, where the total pressure is less than 1% of Earth’s—6 to 11 hPa, too low for the presence of liquid water—while the partial pressure of nitrogen gas—0.2 to 0.3 hPa—is too low for their metabolism. But recreating an Earth-like atmosphere would be expensive: gases would need to be imported, while the culture system would need to be robust—hence, heavy to freight—to resist the pressure differences: “Think of a pressure cooker,” Verseux says. So the researchers looked for a middle ground: an atmosphere close to Mars’s which allows the cyanobacteria to grow well.

To find suitable atmospheric conditions, Verseux et al. developed a bioreactor called Atmos (for “Atmosphere Tester for Mars-bound Organic Systems”), in which cyanobacteria can be grown in artificial atmospheres at . Any input must come from the Red Planet itself: apart from nitrogen and carbon dioxide, gases abundant in the Martian atmosphere, and water which could be mined from ice, nutrients should come from “regolith”, the dust covering Earth-like planets and moons. Martian regolith has been shown to be rich in nutrients such as phosphorus, sulphur, and calcium.

Anabaena: versatile cyanobacteria grown on Mars-like dust

Atmos has nine 1 L vessels made of glass and steel, each of which is sterile, heated, pressure-controlled, and digitally monitored, while the cultures inside are continuously stirred. The authors chose a strain of nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria called Anabaena sp. PCC 7938, because preliminary tests showed that it would be particularly good at using Martian resources and helping to grow other organisms. Closely related species have been shown to be edible, suitable for genetic engineering, and able to form specialized dormant cells to survive harsh conditions.

Verseux and his colleagues first grew Anabaena for 10 days under a mixture of 96% nitrogen and 4% carbon dioxide at a pressure of 100 hPa—ten times lower than on Earth. The cyanobacteria grew as well as under ambient air. Then they tested the combination of the modified atmosphere with regolith. Because no regolith has ever been brought from Mars, they used a substrate developed by the University of Central Florida (called “Mars Global Simulant”) instead to create a growth medium. As controls, Anabaena were grown in standard medium, either at ambient air or under the same low-pressure artificial atmosphere.

The cyanobacteria grew well under all conditions, including in regolith under the nitrogen- and carbon dioxide-rich mixture at low pressure. As expected, they grew faster on standard medium optimized for cyanobacteria than on Mars Global Simulant, under either atmosphere. But this is still a major success: while standard medium would need to be imported from Earth, regolith is ubiquitous on Mars. “We want to use as nutrients resources available on Mars, and only those,” says Verseux.

Dried Anabaena biomass was ground, suspended in sterile water, filtered, and successfully used as a substrate for growing of E. coli bacteria, proving that sugars, amino acids, and other nutrients can be extracted from them to feed other bacteria, which are less hardy but tried-and-tested tools for biotechnology. For example, E. coli could be engineered more easily than Anabaena to produce some food products and medicines on Mars that Anabaena cannot.

The researchers conclude that nitrogen-fixing, oxygen-producing cyanobacteria can be efficiently grown on Mars at low pressure under controlled conditions, with exclusively local ingredients.

Further refinements in the pipeline

These results are an important advance. But the authors caution that further studies are necessary: “We want to go from this proof-of-concept to a system that can be used on Mars efficiently,” Verseux says. They suggest fine-tuning the combination of pressure, , and nitrogen optimal for growth, while testing other genera of , perhaps genetically tailored for space missions. A cultivation system for Mars also needs to be designed:

“Our bioreactor, Atmos, is not the cultivation system we would use on Mars: it is meant to test, on Earth, the conditions we would provide there. But our results will help guide the design of a Martian cultivation system. For example, the lower pressure means that we can develop a more lightweight structure that is more easily freighted, as it won’t have to withstand great differences between inside and outside,” concludes Verseux.



More information:
“A low-pressure, N2/CO2 atmosphere is suitable for cyanobacterium-based life-support systems on Mars” Frontiers in Microbiology, DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2021.611798 , www.frontiersin.org/articles/1 … icb.2021.611798/full

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Hexbyte Glen Cove One Planet Summit kickstarts year of crucial environment talks thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove One Planet Summit kickstarts year of crucial environment talks

Hexbyte Glen Cove

The endangered Crowned Lemur. So far, efforts to protect and restore nature on a global scale have failed spectacularly

Global leaders will try to reignite international environmental diplomacy on Monday, with a biodiversity summit that launches a critical year for efforts to stem the devastating effects of global warming and species loss.

Momentum on climate and stalled in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a health crisis that experts say illustrates the many diverse dangers of environmental destruction.

The One Planet Summit, a largely virtual event hosted by France in partnership with the United Nations and the World Bank, will include French President Emmanuel Macron, UN chief Antonio Guterres, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and EU chief Ursula Von der Leyen.

Organisers want to lay the groundwork for crunch UN biodiversity talks—postponed because of the pandemic—that are set to be held in China in October and will see nearly 200 nations attempt to thrash out new goals to preserve Earth’s battered ecosystems.

France hopes next week’s will bring together issues around climate and the protection of ecosystems, a source from the Elysee Palace told AFP, adding that along with global warming, preservation of biodiversity is “our collective life insurance”.

So far, efforts to protect and restore nature on a global scale have failed spectacularly.

The planet is on the cusp of a mass extinction event in which species are disappearing at 100 to 1,000 times the normal “background” rate, most scientists agree.

The UN’s science for biodiversity warned in a landmark 2019 report that one million species face extinction, due mostly to habitat loss and over-exploitation.

Human activity, it concluded, had “severely degraded” three-quarters of ice-free land on the planet.

‘Climate Emergency’

The picture on climate change is just as dire.

Under the 2015 Paris deal, the world’s nations vowed to cap “well below” 2C, and 1.5C if possible.

With just over 1C of warming so far, the world has seen a crescendo of deadly droughts, heatwaves, flood-inducing rainfall, and super storms made more destructive by rising seas.

The European Union’s climate monitoring service has said 2020 tied 2016 as the hottest year on record.

Guterres warned last month that nations were not doing enough to avoid devastating temperature rises and urged world leaders to declare a “climate emergency” in their countries.

The UN’s next major summit, COP26, was also postponed because of the pandemic and is now due to be held in November.

Participants at Monday’s talks are “ready to demonstrate that their commitments are leading to concrete actions to preserve and restore biodiversity, and to lead systemic transformations of economies”, according to a summit statement.

Leaders will present initiatives on four themes—the protection of terrestrial and marine ecosystems, agro-ecology, funding for biodiversity and the link between deforestation, species and human health.

Last October, the UN’s biodiversity panel warned future pandemics will happen more often, kill more people and wreak even worse damage to the global economy than COVID-19 without a fundamental shift in how humans treat nature.

The summit will also launch the High Ambition Coalition—a group of 45 countries led by Costa Rica, France and Britain—which aims to secure a global agreement to protect at least 30 percent of the planet’s land and oceans by 2030.



© 2021 AFP

Citation:
One Planet Summit kickstarts year of crucial environment talks (2021, January 9)
retrieved 10 January 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-01-planet-summit-kickstarts-year-crucial.html

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