'A footprint means pressing down and global means world, so 'global footprint' means pressing down on the world and we don't want to press too hard' (child's definition of a Global Footprint)
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what about climate change?

Stepping into a new high cost world

You may have noticed the price of many foods has risen dramatically in the last year. In particular, the prices of basic foodstuffs such as wheat, rice and maize have nearly doubled in price. While there are many reasons for this, the cost of oil and climate change are two important reasons why food prices have risen so steeply.    

The price of oil has risen tenfold from $13 a barrel 10 years ago to $130 a barrel in 2008. Many believe this is because demand for oil is greater than the supply of oil available and that we have reached the point of ‘Peak Oil’ (see Did you know? box below). More expensive oil pushes up costs associated with farming such as running tractors, using fertiliser – which is made from oil – and the costs of shipping or flying goods to market.

Climate change also plays a part. Severe droughts and floods bought on by global warming make it harder to grow crops like rice and grain.  

One of the responses to climate change by western governments has also played a part in raising food prices: the replacement of food crops with crops for making biofuels. In the United States, for example, 30% of the corn crop by 2010 will be for fuel rather than food. This reduces the amount of land available for food crops and so pushes up the price of corn flour.

The down side to all this is that the poorest in the world will suffer most. The Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that an extra 100 million people have been added to the 800 million people who were already hungry because of the recent huge rise in food prices. This is why International Aid Agencies have called for more money to be spent on food production and food aid in poor countries.

On a positive note, it will encourage people in rich northern countries to buy only the food they really need; about a third of all food currently bought in the UK is never eaten and ends up being thrown away. More expensive oil (and gas) will also persuade people to think more carefully about the journeys they make by car and plane and how much energy they use in the home. This in turn will reduce their energy footprint and so help in the fight against climate change. 

Our most important energy source is about to peak and go into decline?

Oil is the most important fossil fuel there is. Our whole civilization and way of life; everything we are familiar with has been made possible by cheap and plentiful oil. But all that is about to change because of Peak Oil. The idea of Peak Oil is actually quite simple. Imagine all the world's oil gathered together in one big tank. At some point in time, we will have used up half of that oil.

Peak Oil is the term used to describe this "mid-point" when half of all the world’s oil is gone. Many geologists and scientists believe we may have now reached that point and that the amount of oil available to the world will decline steeply over the coming years. But this “peak” comes at a time when demand for oil continues to rise, particularly from rapidly developing countries such as China and India. This in turn will mean that oil prices continue to increase rapidly.

BUT did you also know that towns and communities across the world are preparing for a low energy future when oil is no longer available?
Known as the Transition Towns Network, these are communities that are planning for life beyond oil. 

Try to image a world without oil or with very expensive oil. What would it be like? How would we travel? How would the goods we consume be made and then transported? How would farmers, heavily dependent on fertilizers and pesticides made from oil, grow our food? Would a world less dependent on oil be a better or worse place to live?

Fuel your thoughts by reading "http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/6932300.stm" an article on how some towns are preparing for Peak Oil and beyond.