Sunday, August 31, 2008

Nature superior to Man? What green twaddle

For some, love of Nature is the flipside of distaste for Man. This is nonsense: as the No1 species, we're in control

Sitting on a log, in a clearing by the banks of the River Matamata close to where it flows into the Amazon, Sara Bennett was encircled by her audience. This audience, too, sat on logs. We were composed of men and monkeys. The human contingent were my six travelling companions and I. The monkeys - well, they too had names, but I could no more name them than name the half-dozen different monkey species they came from.

The reddish-furred monkey in Dr Bennett's arms was a female howler monkey: this I did recognise - by the fearsome, echoing roar she made as she clung like an anxious child to her human matriarch. But as for the simian miscellany that sat solemly on logs, pretending to understand as Sara talked about her monkey rescue work, or clowned around, running up tree trunks, swinging from shrubs or playing with rocks and sticks, I cannot begin to identify them.

They ranged from something with a broken tail, the size of a squirrel, to a woolly monkey the size of a labrador, and two dark-coated creatures as big as children, their fur so long and shaggy that it fell over their eyes, while long-tailed monkeys, pale or dark, hardly bigger than cats, put on a spirited display of gymnastics. "Now stop showing off and settle down, Chimboshi," said Sara to the most extravagant performer.

Dr Bennett runs a sanctuary for orphaned monkeys in the Amacayacu National Park in Colombia. The park is enormous - nearly 300,000 hectares - reaching from the banks of the Amazon deep into primary forest; but the modest Amazon port of Leticia is only a couple of hours downriver and Leticia (though unconnected by road) is a substantial little town; so the interface between Man and monkey brings its crop of casualties on the simian side.

"People in Leticia know I look after young monkeys that have been orphaned or wounded," said Sara, "so they bring them here." Her sanctuary is not caged - just a patch of forest around her small cabin - and the animals are free to come or go. A scientist whose work is now more in conservation than pure science, people admire and respect her.

Who could fail to? But awkward questions can be the most interesting, so I asked: "Obviously you're helping the monkeys in your care, but has your work any significance for the rest of the Amazon's monkey populations?" She was honest enough, and a sufficiently good scientist, not to pretend to any easy confidence in the answer.

Perhaps I should not try to impute motives, but it was my strong impression that Sara Bennett does not measure the good she is doing in strictly scientific terms; nor is any wider contribution she may make to South American monkey populations what mainly impels her to take in and care for these creatures. I think she just loves monkeys, and in particular her monkeys. She loves them as individuals; and they fascinate her - as, indeed, she fascinates them. This struck me as a wholly and self-evidently good thing, and in need of no further justification, even if that could be provided.

At which point I can imagine a sniffy response from some of the people I have met and talked to along the borderline between science, conservation and ecological campaigning. To a way of thinking common among their mindset, Sara's continuing involvement in the lives of her orphans would be seen as a problem. According to this view, Man should so far as possible stand away from "Nature". Nature starts where the human domain ends, and the aim of serious environmental campaigners should be to withdraw so far as possible the hand of Man, and erase so far as possible the mark of Man, his stamp on the world. Man distorts. Man is bad; Nature is good; the distinction is clear, and the best among us should be on the side of Nature.

But what, then, of the isolated indigenous tribes in the Amazon part of the wild? Are they part of Nature? Environmental campaigners like to insist that such people will establish a "balance" with their environment, but what if they don't? No natural law says that an indigenous tribe may never multiply, beating the forest back. But we outside the forest almost seem to be defining indigenous tribes as part of Nature, not Man - an insult, properly considered.

The truth is that some environmentalists form the fundamentalist outriders for what, even among millions of the less zealous, amounts to a kind of religion, not a science, for it invests data with moral qualities unknown to science. To many, love of "Nature" is the flipside of distaste for Man, or an embarrassment - even shame - about being human.

At the heart of this religion sits a weird variation on the old, old story: the story of the Garden of Eden. In Genesis, God expels Man from the garden. But in the 21st-century version, Man is urged to expel himself; then declare the garden a national park.

Well, I'm not against national parks. Almost 10 per cent of Colombia is a national park. We should have more of them. And there may be places where we do wish to stop and freeze invasive environmental change; and species we do want to ring-fence and preserve from extinction, even self-inflicted. The precautionary principle, meanwhile - that we should be careful about changes that may get out of hand - is simply a matter of prudence, requiring no doctrine for its justification.

But make no mistake: this is not withdrawing from Nature. The very act of selectively extracting ourselves from chosen places, is an act - perhaps the ultimate act - of control. The Earth is our garden, our Eden. We can make new breeds, new plants. We can make lakes and level mountains. We can help to shape and tend our planet as no other species has, and the bits we choose to leave "wild" - like the classic English country garden - are part of the plan. Our plan. The plan we choose to implement.

Stewardship - control - is not an idea we can honestly duck. We must stop retreating into the metaphysical mists of a theory of division between Man and Nature, and cheerfully accept that we ourselves are "Nature", and we're in charge: the top species. We can design this garden for succeeding generations, according to our human taste, because we love our own species.

We love monkeys too, and therefore we will have monkeys, lots of them, of every kind. And we will run orphanages for them. It gives us pleasure. So hats off to Dr Bennett and her audience in that forest clearing, all of us - including the humans: so much a part of Nature that one of the bigger monkeys sat down beside our companion Karl and, in a spirit of scientific curiosity, looked into his eyes and stroked his beard.


A warming theory that has melted away

By Bjorn Lomborg

In defending his strategy for fighting climate change, Oliver Tickell abandons his entire argument...

Oliver Tickell defends against my critique his visions of 4C leading to a catastrophic future. Two casual observations lend themselves readily. First, Tickell has entirely abstained from defending his claim for human extinction from 4C. Thanks. Second, I was clearly wrong when I said that Tickell's claim for 70-80 metres of sea level rise had maxed out campaigners' scare potential because that means all ice is melted. Showing an amazing ability to raise the stakes none the less, Tickell now talks about sea level going 100m higher.

The UN climate panel (IPCC) says that 4C will lead to a rise a hundredth of that figure; but Tickell simply claims such moderate projections are "dangerously misplaced". All I can see is that such facts are terribly inconvenient.

He summarily dismisses (as "outdated econometric models") the analysis of one of the IPCC lead climate economist authors, when the model points out that the damage will be quite modest at 3.5% of GDP. He assures us this "is not to dismiss economics as a whole" - because he can find two economists who support his argument, embracing Stern and Weitzman eagerly.

It is hard not to see this as opportunistic cherry-picking: Stern might have been incomplete but his work "yielded many useful findings - not least that swift and decisive action to mitigate climate change is" the right way to go.

I will not deal with Stern here. Many others have pointed out that the Stern Report has seriously exaggerated the peer reviewed evidence and massaged the analysis to get his results (see, for example, Byatt et al, 2006; Carter, de Freitas, Goklany, Holland, & Lindzen, 2006; Dasgupta, 2006; Mendelsohn, 2007; Nordhaus, 2006e; R. S. J. Tol, 2006; R. S. J. Tol & Yohe, 2006; Varian, 2006; Yohe, 2006, see also my critique in my book Cool It). Weitzman, who Tickell likes when he agrees with him, actually criticises Stern: "As economic analysis the Stern Review dwells in a non_scientific state of limbo." Even then, Stern never did a proper cost-benefit analysis. Such analyses overwhelmingly show that strong early carbon cuts are a bad idea.

But it is interesting to assess Weitzman's argument (My arguments are partly indebted to Professor Nordhaus (pdf)). Tickell (and many other campaigners) fancies Weitzman, because his economic argument seems to support draconian climate policies.

While very technical, it relies on a fairly straightforward gist. All risks you can think of - even catastrophic ones - have non-zero risk. Thus, it is possible (if not very likely) that global warming will not only increase the planet's temperature by 4C, but 10C. Heck, it might even increase beyond 20C - which Weitzman with armchair climatology, suggests might have a probability of 1%. Since evidence for or against such extremes is scarce, accumulating evidence can only slowly close us in on their true probability. Yet, for any given amount of evidence, there will always be sufficiently outrageous risks (think 30C) that are sufficiently unbound by evidence and sufficiently close to negative infinite utility that the total net utility is negative infinity. Thus, we should be willing to spend all our money to avoid it.

Now, in principle all economists would agree that non-trivial risks should be included in the model, and for example, Nordhaus has done that analytically in cost-benefit models (they still show that large emission cuts are not warranted). However, the Weitzman result curiously means that the more speculative and fuzzy the extreme event, the more it counts in the total utility.

This is an argument driven by a technicality - essentially a claim that we are willing to pay an infinite amount to avoid even an infinitesimal risk of annihilation. Yet we demonstratively aren't - and shouldn't be. Civilization-ending asteroids hit the earth once every 100m years, but at present we only spend $4m per year to track them. Maybe we should pay $1bn. But we shouldn't spend everything.

This underscores the fatal flaw in the Weitzman argument. When we allow all scary, fuzzy concerns onto centre stage, there is no end to where we should spend all our money. Every conceivable policy measure has a non-zero risk of catastrophe and so should be avoided at any cost. Biotechnology, strangelets, runaway computer systems, nuclear proliferation, rogue weeds and bugs, pandemics, and asteroids are just a small sample of the areas each of which we should spend all our money on.

Tickell doesn't deal with these arguments at all. As with Stern, he simply picks Weitzman because the policy conclusion fits. Tickell then claims that spending $2tn annually on large-scale emissions cuts will provide the best insurance for mankind. But this ignores that investments in energy R&D will probably long-term cut 11 times more CO2. Moreover, if our goal is not just to cut CO2 but to help people and the planet, we can do even more good by focusing on simple solutions such as investing in nutrition, health and agricultural technologies. Instead of avoiding a couple of thousand extra malaria deaths in a century cases through expensive CO2 cuts, maybe we should avoid a million malaria deaths now through low-cost health policies.

Tickell's reply clearly shows what happens when policy drives the search for suitable facts. The IPCC is simply ignored, Stern is praised for his policy usefulness, Weitzman embraced irrespective of his analysis essentially leading to policy paralysis, driven by extreme and pervasive speculative risks. Not surprisingly, Tickell ends by saying - without a shred of evidence - that his policy would be the best solution, "even without the threat of global warming".

Not only does Tickell abandon his central claim of human extinction, but he also abandons his entire argument for his policy. Not much remains.


Global Warming - Geologist's point of view-II

Sea-level changes through geological history

Sea-level has been close to its present level for the past 6000 years, before which it was lower and fluctuating, last achieving its present position about 120,000 years ago. About 15,000-16,000 years ago, sea-level was 130-140 m below its present position. For the past 500,000 years it has been lower than today about 90% of the time.

These major changes coincide with the latest Ice Age, the later half of the last 1.65 million years of geological time, represents the last 10,000 years when most of the icesheets have melted. Sea-level falls coincide with periods of glaciation whereas the rises occur during interglacials -- the warmer times between ice advances, like the present day.

The onset of the Ice Age began about 40 million years when surface waters in the southern oceans suddenly cooled and the deep ocean basins quickly filled with water ~10øC cooler than before that sank because of its increased density. By about 15 million years ago, the Antarctic Icecap had formed, accelerating production of cold waters.

About 6-5 million years ago, sea-level fell by as much as 50 m, probably associated with expansion of the icecap in Antarctica. This might have caused the Mediterranean Sea to dry up over ~1,000 years, producing vast salt deposits, preserved in the sediments of the sea floor.

About 5 million years ago there followed a brief warming trend and sea-level rose again leaving shallow marine sediments inland of modern coastlines around much of the world. Fossil floras and faunas show that climates were generally warmer than today -- Iceland had a temperate climate; southern England was subtropical. Let us take a case of geological period when the climate was very close to the current climate.

Carboniferous period:

Life was at its full bloom at the age of Carboniferous period (360 MM years -300 MM years).Insects, plants, dinos and many species evolved at this time. It is associated with all the green forest correlatable to present coal deposits. Climate of this period matched today's climate.

Similarities with our Present World

Average global temperatures in the Early Carboniferous Period were hot- approximately 20ø C (68ø F). However, cooling during the Middle Carboniferous reduced average global temperatures to about 12ø C (54ø F). This is comparable to the average global temperature on Earth today!

Similarly, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the Early Carboniferous Period were approximately 1500 ppm (parts per million), but by the Middle Carboniferous had declined to about 350 ppm -- comparable to average CO2 concentrations today!

Earth's atmosphere today contains about 380 ppm CO2 (0.038%). Compared to former geologic times, our present atmosphere, like the Late Carboniferous atmosphere, is CO2- impoverished! In the last 600 million years of Earth's history only the Carboniferous Period and our present age, the Quaternary Period, have witnessed CO2 levels less than 400 ppm.

Global Temperature and Atmospheric CO2 over Geologic Time

There has historically been much more CO2 in our atmosphere than exists today. For example, during the Jurassic Period (200 mya), average CO2 concentrations were about 1800 ppm or about 4.7 times higher than today. The highest concentrations of CO2 during all of the Paleozoic Era occurred during the Cambrian Period, nearly 7000 ppm -- about 18 times higher than today.

The Carboniferous Period and the Ordovician Period were the only geological periods during the Paleozoic Era when global temperatures were as low as they are today. To the consternation of global warming proponents, the Late Ordovician Period was also an Ice Age while at the same time CO2 concentrations then were nearly 12 times higher than today-- 4400 ppm. According to greenhouse theory, Earth should have been exceedingly hot. Instead, global temperatures were no warmer than today. Clearly, other factors besides atmospheric carbon influence earth temperatures and global warming.

I will be presenting what is written on the rocks and what is the opinion.

Our Future Written in Stone

Today the Earth warms up and cools down in cycles. Geologic history reveals similar cycles were operative during the Carboniferous Period. Warming episodes caused by the periodic favorable coincidence of solar maximums and the cyclic variations of Earth's orbit around the sun are responsible for our warm but temporary interglacial vacation from the Pleistocene Ice Age, a cold period in Earth's recent past which began about 2 million years ago and ended (at least temporarily) about 10,000 years ago. And just as our current world has warmed, and our atmosphere has increased in moisture and CO2 since the glaciers began retreating 18,000 years ago, so the Carboniferous Ice Age witnessed brief periods of warming and CO2-enrichment.

Following the Carboniferous Period, earth witnessed predominantly desert-like conditions, accompanied by one or more major periods of species extinctions. CO2 levels began to rise during this time because there was less erosion of the land and therefore reduced opportunity for chemical reaction of CO2 with freshly exposed minerals. Also, there was significantly less plant life growing in the proper swamplands to sequester CO2 through photosynthesis and rapid burial.

It wasn't until Pangea began breaking up in the that climates became moist once again. Carbon dioxide existed then at average concentrations of about 1200 ppm, but have since declined. Today, at 380 ppm our atmosphere is CO2-impoverished, although environmentalists, certain political groups, and the news media would have us believe otherwise.

What will our climate be like in the future? That is the question scientists are asking and seeking answers to right now. The causes of "global warming" and climate change are today being popularly described in terms of human activities. However, climate change is something that happens constantly on its own. If humans are in fact altering Earth's climate with our cars, electrical powerplants, and factories these changes must be larger than the natural climate variability in order to be measurable. So far the signal of a discernible human contribution to global climate change has not emerged from this natural variability or background noise.

Understanding Earth's geologic and climate past is important for understanding why our present Earth is the way it is, and what Earth may look like in the future. The geologic information locked up in the rocks and coal seams of the Carboniferous Period are like a history book waiting to be opened. What we know so far, is merely an introduction. It falls on the next generation of geologists, climatologists, biologists, and curious others to continue the exploration and discovery of Earth's dynamic history-- a fascinating and surprising tale, written in stone.


The catastrophe behind climate change

As the estimated cost of measures proposed by politicians to "combat global warming" soars ever higher - such as the International Energy Council's $45 trillion - "fighting climate change" has become the single most expensive item on the world's political agenda.

As Senators Obama and McCain vie with the leaders of the European Union to promise 50, 60, even 80 per cent cuts in "carbon emissions", it is clear that to realise even half their imaginary targets would necessitate a dramatic change in how we all live, and a drastic reduction in living standards.

All this makes it rather important to know just why our politicians have come to believe that global warming is the most serious challenge confronting mankind, and just how reliable is the evidence for the theory on which their policies are based.

By far the most influential player in putting climate change at the top of the global agenda has been the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), set up in 1988, not least on the initiative of the Thatcher government. (This was why the first chairman of its scientific working group was Sir John Houghton, then the head of the UK's Meteorological Office.)

Through a succession of reports and international conferences, it was the IPCC which led to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, soon to have an even more ambitious successor, to be agreed in Copenhagen next year.

The common view of the IPCC is that it consists of 2,500 of the world's leading scientists who, after carefully weighing all the evidence, have arrived at a "consensus" that world temperatures are rising disastrously, and that the only plausible cause has been rising levels of CO2 and other man-made greenhouse gases.

In fact, as has become ever more apparent over the past 20 years -not least thanks to the evidence of a succession of scientists who have participated in the IPCC itself - the reality of this curious body could scarcely be more different.

It is not so much a scientific as a political organisation. Its brief has never been to look dispassionately at all the evidence for man-made global warming: it has always taken this as an accepted fact.

Indeed only a comparatively small part of its reports are concerned with the science of climate change at all. The greater part must start by accepting the official line, and are concerned only with assessing the impact of warming and what should be done about it.

In reality the IPCC's agenda has always been tightly controlled by the small group of officials at its head.

As one recent study has shown, of the 53 contributors to the key Chapter 9 of the latest report dealing with the basic science (most of them British and American, and 10 of them associated with the Hadley Centre, part of the UK Met Office), 37 belong to a closely related network of academics who are all active promoters of the official warming thesis. It is on the projections of their computer models that all the IPCC's predictions of future warming are based.

The final step in the process is that, before each report is published, a "Summary for Policymakers" is drafted by those at the top of the IPCC, to which governments can make input. It is this which makes headlines in the media, and which all too frequently eliminates the more carefully qualified findings of contributors to the report itself.

The idea that the IPCC represents any kind of genuine scientific "consensus" is a complete fiction. Again and again there have been examples of how evidence has been manipulated to promote the official line, the most glaring instance being the notorious "hockey stick".

Initially the advocates of global warming had one huge problem. Evidence from all over the world indicated that the earth was hotter 1,000 years ago than it is today. This was so generally accepted that the first two IPCC reports included a graph, based on work by Sir John Houghton himself, showing that temperatures were higher in what is known as the Mediaeval Warming period than they were in the 1990s.

The trouble was that this blew a mighty hole in the thesis that warming was caused only by recent man-made CO2.

Then in 1999 an obscure young US physicist, Michael Mann, came up with a new graph like nothing seen before. Instead of the familiar rises and falls in temperature over the past 1,000 years, the line ran virtually flat, only curving up dramatically at the end in a hockey-stick shape to show recent decades as easily the hottest on record.

This was just what the IPCC wanted, The Mediaeval Warming had simply been wiped from the record. When its next report came along in 2001, Mann's graph was given top billing, appearing right at the top of page one of the Summary for Policymakers and five more times in the report proper.

But then two Canadian computer analysts, Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick, got to work on how Mann had arrived at his graph.

When, with great difficulty, they eventually persuaded Mann to hand over his data, it turned out he had built into his programme an algorithm which would produce a hockey stick shape whatever data were fed into it. Even numbers from the phonebook would come out looking like a hockey stick.

By the time of its latest report, last year, the IPCC had an even greater problem. Far from continuing to rise in line with rising CO2, as its computer models predicted they should, global temperatures since the abnormally hot year of 1998 had flattened out at a lower level and were even falling - a trend confirmed by Nasa's satellite readings over the past 18 months.

So pronounced has this been that even scientists supporting the warmist thesis now concede that, due to changes in ocean currents, we can expect a decade or more of "cooling", before the "underlying warming trend" reappears.

The point is that none of this was predicted by the computer models on which the IPCC relies. Among the ever-growing mountain of informed criticism of the IPCC's methods, a detailed study by an Australian analyst John McLean (to find it, Google "Prejudiced authors, prejudiced findings") shows just how incestuously linked are most of the core group of academics whose models underpin everything the IPCC wishes us to believe about global warming.

The significance of the past year is not just that the vaunted "consensus" on the forces driving our climate has been blown apart as never before, but that a new "counter-consensus" has been emerging among thousands of scientists across the world, given expression in last March's Manhattan Declaration by the so-called Non-Governmental Panel on Climate Change.

This wholly repudiates the IPCC process, showing how its computer models are hopelessly biased, based on unreliable data and programmed to ignore many of the genuine drivers of climate change, from variations in solar activity to those cyclical shifts in ocean currents.

As it was put by Roger Cohen, a senior US physicist formerly involved with the IPCC process, who long accepted its orthodoxy: "I was appalled at how flimsy the case is. I was also appalled at the behaviour of many of those who helped produce the IPCC reports and by many of those who promote it.

"In particular I am referring to the arrogance, the activities aimed at shutting down debate; the outright fabrications; the mindless defense of bogus science; and the politicisation of the IPCC process and the science process itself."

Yet it is at just this moment, when the IPCC's house of cards is crumbling, that the politicians of the Western world are using it to propose steps that can only damage our way of life beyond recognition. It really is time for that "counter-consensus" to be taken seriously.



Sales of winter clothes and thermal underwear are soaring as Britons suffer a dismal summer and prepare for a winter of high fuel bills, according to a leading retailer. Department store Debenhams said shoppers were turning their back on summer sarongs, shorts and swimwear and opting for woollens instead. Sales of thermal underwear at the store are up 54% on this time last year, winter coat sales are up 76% and warm knitwear is up by 53%. Debenhams said the figures were similar to those traditionally seen during October.

The retailer said it had expected a slight increase in sales of winter clothes during the dismal August weather, but put the "massive boost" in figures down to "hibernation hysteria". It noted the higher sales followed comments by Jake Ulrich of Centrica - the parent company of British Gas - telling consumers struggling with soaring fuel bills that "maybe its two jumpers instead of one".

Debenhams' spokesman Ed Watson said: "The awful weather clearly has something to do with this hibernation hysteria. "However with gas and electric companies turning up the heat, it looks like many people will be turning to their wardrobe rather than the central heating thermostat this winter to keep warm. "I suppose it's a reluctant thanks to Jake Ulrich as well. A full set of Debenhams' long johns and a couple of our woolly jumpers are in the post so he can follow his own advice."


The latest Greenie nonsense: No cafeteria trays

Crammed on middle linebacker Derek Walker's plate are beef, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, spinach and a roll. In the other hand, he balances a salad and a bottle of hot sauce. He lumbers through the small, tabled-filled cafeteria and plunks down without spilling a drop. All without a tray. "You've just got to do with what you have," Walker said. Glenville State has joined an increasing number of colleges and universities that have shed their cafeteria trays.

In drought-stricken Georgia and North Carolina, the goal is to conserve water by lightening the load on dishwashers. Other schools are trying to cut down on wasted food and conserve energy. Proponents, including major food vendors, say it also reduces the use of water-polluting detergents. But no trays?

Students will have to find another way to sled in the winter. And imagine the surprise of Bluto Blutarsky, who piled his tray high, using some of the heaping portions to start a food fight in the 1978 film, "National Lampoon's Animal House." Advocates of the trayless cafeterias say if students can't pile on the food as Bluto did, they might consume fewer calories and keep off those unhealthy pounds often gained in college. Try telling that to hungry coeds who simply make more trips to the counter. "I'll just keep coming back for seconds," said Jeff Lyke, a freshman at Glenville State, which started going trayless in April to coincide with Earth Day.

"It speaks well for our institution's consciousness in preventing an otherwise needless waste," said Glenville President Peter Barr. Convincing the central West Virginia school's nearly 1,400 students, however, could take time. "I think that's kind of ridiculous," said freshman Rebecca Riffle, who used a legal-size notebook to help carry her plate to a table. "Whenever there's a bunch of people here at one time, it gets crazy. You have people bumping into you, so if you're balancing stuff, you're going to end up dropping something or breaking something."

But students all over the country might have to get used to it. Fifty to 60 percent of Philadelphia-based Aramark's 500 campus partners and 230 of the 600 colleges and universities served by Gaithersburg, Md.-based Sodexo are expected to dump their trays, company officials said. At least 23 of the 625 schools belonging to the Okemos, Mich.-based National Association of College & University Food Services have adopted the idea so far. Most of those schools operate their food services independently.

It's too soon to measure cost savings nationwide. But five times more energy and water are consumed in dining halls than any other square foot on college campuses, said Sodexo spokeswoman Monica Zimmer. "So if a college is looking to go 'green,' they need to start looking in the dining facility," Zimmer said. Georgia Tech, enrollment 18,000, has saved 3,000 gallons of water per day without trays, she said.

The 50,000-student University of Florida estimates it will save 470,000 gallons annually. At the 2,000-student University of Maine at Farmington, which went trayless in February 2007, the tally is 288,000 gallons, said Aramark spokesman Dave Gargione. Broken dishes from a lack of trays have been taken into account at Glenville, which has bought extra plates and cups, but Gargione said he hasn't heard about such a trend nationally.

Aramark conducted a study of 92,000 students, faculty and staff at 300 institutions and found that 79 percent indicated they would accept eating off plates instead of trays. Another Aramark study of 186,000 meals served at 25 institutions found that when trays weren't used, food waste per person was reduced 25 percent to 30 percent. At Glenville's Mollohan's Restaurant, one of two places to eat on campus, food waste has been reduced from three, five-gallon buckets to just one per day, said Stephen Shattuck, Aramark's food service director at Glenville.

Some schools are experimenting in a few trayless cafeterias before going campuswide. "This is gaining steam all over the country," said Gail Campana, director of publications and marketing for the food services association. "It's going faster in some places than others because you have different cultures and different ways that universities do things."

Fortunately for Blutarsky, the University of Oregon's Erb Memorial Union, where Belushi's famous food fight scene was filmed at the "Fishbowl" food court, still makes trays available.



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