Sunday, May 3, 2009

Hazardous to Health and Environment

A couple of weeks ago, I read an interesting article in the New York Times that a friend forwarded to me . It discusses the large impact that cooking fires used throughout much of the world are having on global climate change. As the article explains, recent studies estimate that up to 18% of anthropogenic heating may be due to the soot produced by cooking fires and charcoal/wood burning stoves, making it the second largest cuase behind CO2 emissions. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that indoor air pollution caused by these cooking methods has been cited by the World Health Organization as the second largest environmental contributor to ill health behind sanitation issues (read it here). It is interesting that we often connect the solution of our energy woes with a movement toward a more simplistic organic lifestyle, when in fact in some areas of the world a progression away from aspects of traditional lifestyle is desperately needed.

My philosophical musings aside, I really wanted to introduce this topic because right now there is little being done as far as research goes about this problem. Most of the people involved are NGOs or corporations attempting to get carbon credits. Not to say this is bad, just to say that an increase in interest, funding and research is necessary to meet this problem head on. The main way in which involved parties are trying to reduce emissions (both those harmful to the environment and people directly) is by investigating new stove designs and fuel sources. The whole situation takes on a new dimension however when you bring into play cultural attitudes, economics and resource availability. Currently work in this area is being done in this area by Dr. Ellzey's research group in the Mechanical Engineering department so if you interested in getting involved shoot me an email at

1 comment:

Meredith said...

I think that solar cookers are a great idea for developing countries! They use sunlight - no other form of energy - and are basically large mirrors used to concentrate the light and heat from the sun into a small cooking area.

They do take longer to cook food than ovens, and of course they are no good when it's rainy or cloudy, but still, many areas that have a lot of sun don't have a lot of access to affordable energy, so this would be a good solution.