16 April 2009

developing world stoves & climate change

a very interesting article from the front page of the new york times today, on the role that cooking stoves in the developing world have on global warming. the article cites studies that have found the stoves responsible for up to 18% of the earth's warming, and suggests potential ways to take said stoves out of rotation.

i'm glad to see the attention, as the piece reminded me of a project i worked on in graduate school. i was researching waste management methods in the developing world, of which trash burning is particularly significant. aside from the myriad health detriments associated with 'backyard burning', i learned that even a moderate amount of individual free burning can release more toxins into the environment than a large-scale community incinerator.

an occasional campfire in the woods is one thing. regular use of fire lacking ventilation or filtration of the smoke, however, is incredibly dangerous to people's lungs, and depending on the fuel burned (hello, plastics!) threatens most other body systems.

i'm hopeful that the public pressure of global warming will lead to a change in the use of these rudimentary and dangerous stoves. i'm a little sad that it's taken global warming for us to open our eyes to the dangers (and easy solutions) of this problem.

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