Germany’s environmental ministry nixes meat, fish at official functions

February 24, 2017 by  
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The German equivalent of the Environmental Protection Agency is saying yes to sauerkraut, no to bratwurst—officially, at least. Barbara Hendricks, minister for the environment, announced last week that the Umweltbundesamt , Germany’s federal environmental arm, will serve neither meat nor fish at state events. She cited as a reason the inordinate environmental burden they pose on the environment, especially in the case of livestock farming, which studies show generate more greenhouse-gas emissions than transportation. This isn’t a novel stance for the ministry. In 2009, the Umweltbundesamt counseled Germans to return to the prewar tradition of eating meat only on special occasions, if not for their health, then for the sake of the planet. “We must rethink our high meat consumption,” said then–environment minister Andreas Troge. “I recommend people return to the Sunday roast and to an orientation of their eating habits around those of Mediterranean countries.” A nation that offers hundreds of varieties of sausage may not be so easily swayed, however. Germans consume a lot of meat—about 60 kilograms (132 pounds) per capita per year, according to some estimates . Unsurprisingly, Henrick’s pronouncement has already drawn criticism, with one political rival accusing the minister of “nanny-statism” and forcing vegetarianism on people. “I’m not having this Veggie Day through the back door,” said Christian Schmidt, minister of food and agriculture. “I believe in diversity and freedom of choice, not nanny-statism and ideology. Instead of paternalism and ideology. Meat and fish are also part of a balanced diet.” A member of Bavaria’s conservative Christian Social Union party, Schmidt previously called for a ban on giving meat substitutes names like “vegetarian schnitzel” and “vegetarian sausage” because they are “completely misleading and unsettle consumers.” Infographic: The true environmental cost of eating meat He also censured German schools for eliminating pork from the menu out of consideration for Muslim students. “We should not restrict the choice for the majority of society for reasons of ease or cost,” he said. Meanwhile, Hendricks’s detractors have dismissed her a hypocrite, since meat and fish will still be offered in the staff cafeteria. “The ban only applies to a handful of guests, not to 1,200 employees,” said Gitta Conneman, a senior minister from the Christian Democratic Union. “This is pure ideology, a ‘people’s education’ for the diet.” But, at least for now, the environment ministry isn’t budging. “We’re not telling anyone what they should eat,” it said in a statement. “But we want to set a good example for climate protection, because vegetarian food is more climate-friendly than meat and fish.” Via ThinkProgress Photos by Marco Verch and Oliver Hallmann

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Germany’s environmental ministry nixes meat, fish at official functions

Duke University researchers use light to convert carbon dioxide to fuel

February 24, 2017 by  
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What if the carbon dioxide building up in our atmosphere could be put to good use as fuel ? For years chemists have chased a catalyst that could aid the reaction converting carbon dioxide to methane , a building block for many fuels – and now Duke University scientists have found just such a catalyst in tiny rhodium nanoparticles . Duke University researchers converted carbon dioxide into methane with the help of rhodium nanoparticles, which harness ultraviolet light’s energy to catalyze carbon dioxide’s conversion into methane. Rhodium is one of Earth’s rarest elements, but according to Duke University it plays a key role in our daily lives by speeding up reactions in industrial processes like making detergent or drugs. Rhodium also helps break down toxic pollutants in our cars’ catalytic converters. Related: Scientists create a new kind of matter called time crystals The fact that the scientists employed light to power the reaction is important. When graduate student Xiao Zhang tried heating up the nanoparticles to 300 degrees Celsius, the reaction did produce methane but also produced an equal amount of poisonous carbon monoxide . But when he instead used a high-powered ultraviolet LED lamp, the reaction yielded almost entirely methane. Jie Liu, chemistry professor and paper co-author, said in a statement, “The fact that you can use light to influence a specific reaction pathway is very exciting. This discovery will really advance the understanding of catalysis.” The scientists now hope to find a way to employ natural sunlight in the reaction, which Duke University says would be “a potential boon to alternative energy .” The journal Nature Communications published the research of seven scientists from Duke University’s chemistry and physics departments online this week. Via Duke University Images via Chad Scales/Duke University and Xiao Zhang/Duke University

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Duke University researchers use light to convert carbon dioxide to fuel

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