BSJ

The Butler Scholarly Journal

Category: Environmental Issues

  1. The Value of Verticality: Why assessing the environmental impact of skyscrapers needs to look beyond building design

    With increasing urban density, skyscraper construction is on the rise. In 2014 alone, 97 skyscrapers were built worldwide, a record for a one-year period (1). In this context, some urban planners and preservationists portray tall buildings as environmentally harmful (2), concentrating on how unsustainable design features create an ‘urban evil’ which is detrimental to the environment. Skyscrapers have gained a reputation for excessive water use, energy consumption and CO2 emissions. In this context, many have concentrated on the potential of new-build ‘green-skyscrapers’ (3). However, concentrating on new building design fails to consider retrofitting existing constructions and overlooks human use of…

  2. ‘Grand de Party’: Did the Tour de France benefit Yorkshire?

    Portrayed as the ‘grandest départ’ in the Tour’s history, the Tour de France’s visit to Yorkshire was claimed to be an economic opportunity to showcase its thriving cities and scenic routes, yet its role as a regional invigorator has been questioned. In addition to short term road closures and travel disruption, the economic cost of preparing the route and the environmental impact of the event may undermine the value of its benefits to the region. The economic return from the Tour may be vast, with estimates of over £100 million for the region (Coldrick, 2013). This may be long term,…

  3. Playing with fire? Entering the Anthropocene

    Is human activity really altering the planet? Geologists have been attempting to show how anthropogenic influence upon the environment can be recognised in the rock record, and it seems that significant evidence is beginning to emerge. In early June 2014 scientists reported finding rocks made of plastic on a Hawaiian beach. These ‘plastiglomerates’ most likely formed from melting plastic in fires lit by humans which, once fused to denser materials like rock and coral, sink to the sea floor. Burial and preservation may create a geological marker and provide further evidence for the debate surrounding the transition into a new,…

  4. Ocean Circulation – a climate changer?

    Will climate change ever be understood? A major limitation of current climate models is the reconstruction of ocean circulation. There is a good knowledge of modern circulation, but research is currently underway to explore whether major shifts in the past circulations coincide with significant climatic events. It is believed that on geological timescales, key climatic controls relate primarily to tectonics and ocean circulation changes. Both of these mechanisms influence atmospheric CO2 concentrations and therefore global temperatures. Ocean circulation changes can occur due to reconfiguration of oceanic gateways. A predominant example of this is the opening of the Drake Passage, the…

  5. Nuclear Power – The ethics of millennia of containment

    Ethics in engineering have perhaps never been as critical as they are now, with the development of ever more powerful and consequential technologies. The proliferation of nuclear power has resulted in a growing quantity of radioactive byproducts. According to the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), about 20 metric tonnes of used nuclear fuel waste is produced each year per facility. This waste is categorized as either low-level or high-level depending on its potential for destruction. A large percentage of the low-level waste has a relatively short half-life, and will decay to background radiation levels within 100 years. High-level fuel waste can…

  6. Food miles or foolish miles?

    ‘Food miles’ are often assumed to be a suitable indicator of environmental-friendliness and have become perceived as a panacea label for determining carbon impact. As a result, it is presumed that eating local food is environmentally superior to that produced, and thus transported from, overseas. However, attached to the emphasis on local food is a disregard for carbon produced from cooking or transporting food within the UK itself. There is a failure to distinguish between carbon intensities of different modes of transport and area suitability for products, meaning that food miles may not be the greenest measure of consumption. Food…

  7. Say No to Rhino Horn

    Rhino poaching has become an ever increasing problem over the past few years. Since 2008 cases of rhino poaching, especially in South Africa which contains 80% of all of Africa’s rhinos, have increased dramatically. 2011 saw 448 cases of poaching in South Africa, indicating an increase of 3000% since 2007. 668 rhinos were killed in the country in 2012 and the number is set to be even higher for this year. This is obviously devastating news for the rhinos of Africa, especially black rhinos, which are already critically endangered in the wild. If poaching on this scale continues, we face…

  8. Fracking Hell

    Hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’, is the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks and release natural gas or oil. Fractures provide a conductive path connecting a larger volume of the reservoir to the well. Some hydraulic fractures form naturally, such as veins or dykes, and can create conduits along which gas and petroleum from source rocks may migrate to reservoir rocks. Induced hydraulic fracturing (fracking) enables the production of natural gas and oil from rock formations at depths of up to 20000ft, where there may not be sufficient…