Saturday, 26 November 2011
Sunday, 20 November 2011
Insulate insulate insulate! It cuts down energy use but most types (foam, fibreglass wool, Rockwool etc) take a fair amount of (usually) fossil fuelled energy to create. Why not grow your own? Of course, in days gone by, people used such as bracken to keep their hovels warmer but bio-insulation is relatively rare these days. Sheep’s wool is excellent and is increasingly used and produced for this purpose – click on this link for “The Woolly Shepherd” - but is not particularly cheap.
Step forward Greensulate from Ecovative design. This wonder stuff is an insulation/packaging material that is made from a fungus mycelium grown on agricultural crop waste, such as rice husks. Its “R-Value” is comparable with fibreglass.
Why you should look pityingly at anyone who recommends economic growth as the solution to our problems…
There is an old story about the inventor of chess. As the story goes, when chess was presented to a great king, the king offered the inventor any reward that he wanted. The inventor asked that a single grain of rice be placed on the first square of the chessboard. Then two grains on the second square, four grains on the third, and so on. Doubling each time.
The king, baffled by such a small price for a wonderful game, immediately agreed, and ordered the treasurer to pay the agreed upon sum. A week later, the inventor went before the king and asked why he had not received his reward. The king, outraged that the treasurer had disobeyed him, immediately summoned him and demanded to know why the inventor had not been paid. The treasurer explained that the sum could not be paid – by the time you got even halfway through the chessboard, the amount of grain required was more than the entire kingdom possessed.
The king took in this information and thought for a while. Then he did the only rational thing a king could do in those circumstances. He had the inventor killed, as an object lesson in the perils of trying to outwit the king.
For the most part, this fable is used as a lesson in the power of exponential growth. From the one grain of rice on the first square of the chessboard, the amount increases to the point that by the time you get to square 64, there are over 18 quintillion grains of rice on the board. In mathematics, it’s a demonstration of extreme growth.
Eventually, you run out of rice. Or land. Or water. Or any resource.
An exciting idea to fend off mosquitoes. It also works on flies and wasps too. It uses a “wall” of infrared light to keep the little bloodsuckers out. Szabolcs Marka, an associate professor of physics at Columbia University, is developing a novel way to protect people from the vectors: a virtual mosquito net with infrared light vibrating at wavelengths that irritate the insects’ nervous systems.
A panel of expert judges has chosen Pure Power’s Mobile Solar Power System as one of its Top 10 Green Building Products of 2011. Building sites often have mobile power supplies which are usually noisy diesel generators. Here’s a solar photovoltaic power supply on a trailer to stop all that nonsense. The S48T can supply 72 kilowatts (or about 20 domestic houses worth) because it has battery storage on board too. Amongst other uses, they are being used on location for movie filming e.g. Inception
They also supply a bio-diesel hybrid version for continuity of supply on less sunny days
So much for “trickle down” economics
A recent UN Report - Human Development Report - says developing countries will see reverse economic growth by 2050 - it delineates the global challenges of sustainability and equity. It points out that although (conventionally measured) living standards in most countries have been rising, from now on if environmental deterioration and social inequalities continue to intensify, the least developed nations will show a downward growth by 2050.
Floods account for more than half of global disasters, affecting more people than any other type of disaster. The menace of flooding is well known to the estimated 65,000 people living in Budalangi, an area in western Kenya near the Uganda border that is inundated by floods every few years. Mudimbia, a village in Budalangi, will be the site of a disaster relief demonstration conducted by Oregon-based Hydration Technology Innovations (HTI) in collaboration with the Kenyan Water for Health Organization
The project will focus on using the HydroPack™, a paper-thin 4-inch by 6-inch pouch filled with electrolytes and nutrients that on contact with water, any old dirty water, swells up over an 8-to-12 hour period to create a flavoured, healthy drink.
Taken from Triplepundit.com
Honey is supposed to be one of the purest natural foods there is. However, a recent report by Food Safety News blacklisted several US brands of honey for being “ultra-filtered.” Ultra-filtration is a process that removes pollen and therefore, traceability from honey. This technique is also a tacit way for Chinese manufacturers to sell their honey in the US, as there have been strict import tariffs on Chinese honey since 2001 for contamination with antibiotics and heavy metals.
Conventional farmers can sometimes sneer at organic agriculture. The facts are against them though.
Taken from The StarPhoenix
“The results are in from a 30-year side-by-side trial of conventional and organic farming methods at Pennsylvania's Rodale Institute. Contrary to conventional wisdom, organic farming outperformed conventional farming in every measure.
There are about 1,500 organic farmers in Saskatchewan, at last count. They eschew the synthetic fertilizers and toxic sprays that are the mainstay of conventional farms. Study after study indicates the conventional thinking on farming - that we have to tolerate toxic chemicals because organic farming can't feed the world - is wrong.
In fact, studies like the Rodale trials (www.rodaleinstitute.org/fst30years) show that after a three-year transition period, organic yields equalled conventional yields. What is more, the study showed organic crops were more resilient. Organic corn yields were 31 per cent higher than conventional in years of drought”
On Monday the 14th November United Airlines Flight 1403 made history when it flew because it was the first biofuel powered flight either in the US or the world depending on which news source one reads.The Boeing 737-800 burned a “green jet fuel” derived partially from genetically modified algae that feed on plant waste and produce oil created by Solazyme corporation.
Photovoltaic cells have been steadily falling in price due to to innovation and economies of scale in manufacturing. Here’s yet another innovation that promise not only cheaper manufacturing using less energy but also more efficient cells that make more electricity. A game-changing Optical Cavity Furnace developed by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory uses optics to heat and purify solar cells at unmatched precision while sharply boosting the cells' efficiency.
Bill Gates backs a Tobin Tax! This tax is designed to slow down the insane pace of international financial speculation and such weapons of economic destruction as CDOs, deravatives etc http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-15565479 . The EU are considering introducing it too
If just one percent of the Saharan Desert were covered in concentrating solar panels, like those in the picture, it would create enough energy to power the entire world. The Desertec Initiative announced, two years ago, its intentions to harness the power of the sun in the Sahara Desert. Now, the project is moving forward, with plans for the first construction to break ground in 2012. The 500-megawatt concentrated solar power plant (CSP) will cost a cool $2.8 billion and harness the power of the sun from the desert of Morocco. Desertec is a projected half-trillion dollar solar project that will occupy parts of the Sahara, the Middle East, and Europe. The potential for the project is great — if completed, it could produce enough electricity to meet 15-20 percent of Europe’s energy demand by 2050 while providing power to the Middle East and Northern Africa as well.
Brooklyn Grange Farm is though to be the largest rooftop farm in the world. Their one-acre (40,000 square foot) commercial organic farm on a rooftop in Queens, New York is made up of roughly 1.2 million lbs of soil and over 20,000 linear feet of green roofing material. They grow vegetables in the city and sell them to local people and businesses. The goal is to improve access to very good food, to connect city people more closely to farms and food production, and to make urban farming a viable enterprise and livelihood.
Starbucks concerned world coffee supply is threatened by climate change
Coffee supplies are being reduced by higher temperatures, long droughts and intense rainfall, plus more resilient pests and plant diseases, according to the UCS, “all of which are associated with climate change.” Coffee varieties are adapted to certain climate zones so a temperature increase of just a half of a degree can have a big affect and cause lower crop yields.
Coffee is not the only food product affected by climate change. A recent International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (known by the Spanish acronym, CIAT) study predicted a one-degree Celsius temperature increase by 2030 and 2.3 degrees Celsius by 2050 in the Ivory Coast and Ghana, which would make it too hot to grow chocolate. Both countries supply more than half of the world’s cocoa.
Tea is also being affected by climate change, according to a CIAT report released in May. Climate change will cause increases in average temperatures and rainfall which will cause many Kenyan farmers at lower elevations to abandon growing tea.
Saturday, 12 November 2011
I just sent the new States House members the following email (subject line: Responsibility) ahead of the elections for Chief Minister and the subsequent selection of new Ministers for the various Departments. I am expecting that too many narrow viewpoints will lead to a less than ideal outcome. Those who get elected here too often have, or rapidly develop, a kind of defensive armour that prevents them from seeing much outside their preconceptions.
Dear States Member,
I am writing to you ahead of the vote for Ministers. If you need to know why you should give any attention to my words, I have included some of my credentials at the end of this email.
Soon the house elects a new Chief Minister and, subsequently, Ministers for the various Departments. It is surely crucial that the House selects knowledgeable Ministers who are fully aware of the situation that Jersey and the world faces - only then can plans and policies have a hope of being appropriate.
Ahead of us we have environmental and economic challenges the likes of which the world has never seen before and Jersey cannot isolate itself from its responsibilities for planning to meet these. Our finance industry is dependent upon the international economy continuing to grow, which current events suggest is highly unlikely in the near to mid term, possibly ever again. Counter-intuitively, attempting to restore conventional growth, particularly in the developed nations, should be seen by the new Ministers as a very high risk strategy, if they are fully aware of the consequences. Jersey also has a much higher environmental responsibility per capita to get things right, owing to our very high global impact (because of our wealthy consumer society).
Ominously, neither of the two current candidates for Chief Minister appeared to clearly understand the question that I asked at the St Lawrence senatorial Hustings about the urgent need to adopt new ways of measuring economic success. If we continue to rely on the two dimensional conventional remedies of classical economics, which have been partially successful in the past, then we will inevitably fail to deal with the big, unprecedented challenges we face. We have now reached the point where any further conventional global “growth” is arguably uneconomic growth because the marginal long term costs of conventional growth are now outweighing the marginal benefits.
Apart from the Chief Minister, the three Ministers it is most critical for the House to get right are those of Treasury, Economic Development and Planning and Environment. It is so crucial that it might be better to elect no-one to these posts rather than the wrong ones.
When you vote, make sure to elect Ministers who explicitly acknowledge the full scope of the challenges we are up against and who express at least a willingness to investigate the new non-classical disciplines in economics that offer hope of engineering a sustainable civilisation. To do anything else is fundamentally irresponsible, both to the electorate that put you in your place and to the other seven billion inhabitants of this increasingly crowded world.
If you still think that merely tinkering with the constitution, how the States operates and restoring growth-as-we-knew-it is in any way a valid responsible strategy, then you will be of no use for solving the real, serious problems - indeed, you will be part of the problem.
The time ahead is crucial to everybody’s futures. Naïve, ill advised glass-half-full thinking, that looks to the policy successes of the past and imagines that all we need is more of the same, should not sway your votes.
• I sit on Planning and Environment's J.E.F. - Jersey Environment Forum - one of the two environmental think tanks set up by Freddy Cohen
• I am a committee member for, and media spokesman of, J-CAN - Jersey Climate Action Network
• I write an internationally respected sustainability blog - Sustainability and stuff according to Nick Palmer - http://nickpalmer.blogspot.com that takes a light hearted but serious view of the dilemmas we face
• I helped with research for, and contributed ideas and text to, the significant climate change book "What's the Worst That Could Happen"
• I am expert at puncturing the tidal waves of politically motivated climate change denial propaganda. Some of my arguments are regularly used in the top scientific climate science blogs, to which I also contribute
• I have a grounding in the newer, deeper forms of economic thought, such as Daly's ecological economics, to which I allude in the text above, which show how the free market can be tuned to deliver both sustainability, economic development (not growth), prosperity at the same time living within our environmental means and renewing that which has been deteriorated. All this with little regulation necessary. This form of economics is as close to "the answer" as is available
Thursday, 10 November 2011
Having had a chuckle, set your computer to full screen view, crank up the volume and prepare to get emotional.
And finally, from a time when video wasn’t flashy, comes Carl Sagan’s famous “Pale Blue Dot”. The Voyager 1 spacecraft, which had completed its primary mission and was leaving the solar system (9 years after passing Saturn), was commanded by NASA to turn its camera around and to take a photograph of Earth across a great expanse of space – 3.7 billion miles - at the request of Carl Sagan
Saturday, 5 November 2011
One of the biggest sources of climate change misinformation on the web, deceptively disguised as “scepticism”, is Wattsupwiththat, run by retired meteorologist Anthony Watts. Watts is the person on the Internet most responsible for viciously smearing scientists and spreading disinformation on global warming, particularly disinformation on the surface temperature record. He gets huge numbers of people reading it. For some years he has been promoting the idea that the apparent rise in global temperature has a lot to do with poor siting of the thermometers used to measure temperature changes and he organised a lot of volunteers to photograph and criticise the placement of thermometers because they were located near to tarmac, concrete, air conditioners etc. His theory is that the recorded rise in global temperatures is more down to urban thermometers getting hotter due to hot air from the tarmac etc. boosting the measurements rather than the planet heating up. Like many, indeed most, of the denialist arguments one sees, it sounds quite plausible – some of the stupid, ignorant or mendacious types who come up with the propaganda know how easy it is to lie to the public – others do the lying accidentally, because their poor judgement leads them to deceive themselves.
The real science of course went Duhhh!! The effects that Watts and his minions have been ruthlessly claiming are a big flaw in global warming science have, of course, always been known about and the science has always adjusted the raw data to take account of this. If Watts acknowledged this at all, he would then lead his readers to think that these legitimate, necessary adjustments were data fudging! How can science win against someone using paranoid arguments like that? The tragedy is that too many of the gullible public lap up this crap, as one can clearly see if one reads the comment sections of online TV or newspaper websites.
Over the last few months there has been a tremendous excitement in the Wattsup end of the climate science denialism blogosphere because one of the few scientists they listen(ed) to - Dr Richard Muller - announced that he was going to run a huge investigation into the temperature records. On his team was Professor Judith Curry – another darling of the deniers who writes a sort-of (her stated positions are very often rather muddled) sceptical blog, Climate etc. The research was even backed by, amongst others, the infamous Koch Foundation which bankrolls a fair bit of the denialist infrastructure. They were expecting this “unbiased” study to overturn the current scientific view on how much we are warming. Back in March, Anthony Watts even wrote (very unwisely, as it turned out…)
“And, I’m prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong. I’m taking this bold step because the method has promise”
Well the results are in. The climate scientists were right all along and the denialists were full of ****. Is Anthony Watts accepting his Nemesis with good grace and acknowledging that his "big idea" was disastrously wrong? Sadly, no. Those who use paranoid thinking can always wriggle out somehow and Watts and his ilk are wriggling like champion eels in a world title wriggling competition.
Here’s a couple of media excerpts:
Eugene Robinson at the Washington Post: “For the clueless or cynical diehards who deny global warming, it’s getting awfully cold out there. The latest icy blast of reality comes from an eminent scientist whom the climate-change skeptics once lauded as one of their own. Richard Muller, a respected physicist at the University of California, Berkeley, used to dismiss alarmist climate research as being “polluted by political and activist frenzy.” Frustrated at what he considered shoddy science, Muller launched his own comprehensive study to set the record straight. Instead, the record set him straight”.
“Global warming is real,” Muller wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal.
“When we began our study, we felt that skeptics had raised legitimate issues, and we didn’t know what we’d find,” Muller wrote. “Our results turned out to be close to those published by prior groups. We think that means that those groups had truly been careful in their work, despite their inability to convince some skeptics of that.”
Here’s Pete Sinclair’s climate crock – Bad, Badder, BEST – that sticks the knife in to finally show up Watts as the weasel that he is.
Thursday, 13 October 2011
For both my local and international readers, I offer up this slice of our local elections for Senators – the senior position in our government. I can’t pretend I have much respect for most politicians in bigger countries either – few are that much better at understanding the true reality of the situation we face – but let’s have a despairing laugh at the sheer irresponsibly ignorant ineptitude of most who seek to be our leaders locally.
The Jersey Evening Post did not report on all the questions asked at the St Lawrence Senatorial hustings in last night's paper. I asked what I consider to be one of the most comprehensive questions by far, yet reporter Ben Queree's piece reduced it to two words in one sentence.
"with a full parish hall hearing the 13 candidates' views on economic growth, fishing rights and the Island's international image"
He chose to solely highlight candidates' views on the relatively trivial subject of Jersey's image. Quite staggeringly inept reporting – or sub-editing by his “superiors”.
To be fair, Ben might not have understood the question. The Connetable, when passing it over to the candidates wondered if they would understand it. This was partially down to the Connetable herself who, at the start, had warned that questions should be brief, which is fair enough if people are trying to find candidates' views on speeding or drains but sometimes questions about the really big issues, that have the longest lasting most dramatic consequences, cannot be squeezed into a soundbite. I will give the full scene-setting here (plus a bit more) that I was unable to last night.
I initially pointed out that Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, last week suggested that the current financial crisis could be the worst ever (which obviously includes the great depression of the '30s).
Although Jersey's economy is in better shape than most it is very vulnerable to external events - the finance industry depends on a healthy international economy and the continued tolerance of offshore activities. The current external threat to the fulfilment industry is an example of Jersey's serious vulnerability.
Conventional economic thought, such as Ozouf and co rely on to formulate their policies, can only offer ideas to try and grow the economy to get us out of this hole but, as I pointed out last night, wanting further growth in the economy is neither desirable, possible or even rational.
The United Nations Environment programme has identified that we are living beyond our environmental means - globally we are using up planetary resources and energy 1.4 times faster than the planet can supply them sustainably. Anyone who spends more than their income should know what the eventual result of that foolishness is - unending misery.
In the developed world (USA/Western Europe) the demands that our economies make pro rata would need between 3-10 planets to satisfy sustainably.
So, obviously, we are damned if we try to grow our economy further and damned to stay stuck in this recession/depression if we don't - or at least that is what conventional economists would think.
I then asked if the candidates were fully aware of the different economic schools of thought that not only expected the giant crunch but also offer a way out to achieve a long term sustainable steady state economy that not only stabilises employment, social welfare, investment and industry but simultaneously protects our local and global environment. I further asked if they would seek out these alternative economic methods and apply them, if elected.
Well! You would have thought I had asked them how they would run a space exploration programme back in the days when the great and the good thought that the Sun revolved around the Earth and a few more enlightened people were pointing out that they were flat out wrong! Their familiar ideas, based upon a massive misconception, are simply doomed to fail and take the rest of us down with them. With two or three obvious exceptions, four at the most, they simply blustered and rabbited on with their pet ideas. The former Bailiff and highest of the high in Jersey society, Sir Philip Bailhache, was not even aware of the reality of what Mervyn King said which was, according to that hotbed of revolutionary thought The Telegraph:
“The world is facing the worst financial crisis since at least the 1930s “if not ever”, the Governor of the Bank of England said last night”
Sir Philip believed that Mervyn King had said the crisis was the most serious since the second World War.The majority of the candidates seemed to have no comprehension whatsoever of the situation we are in, not only economically but also, and more fundamentally and dangerously, environmentally too nor the vital strategy we need to urgently embark on to have a hope of rescuing our futures from the pit, and yet they are offering themselves up to lead a new States into the future. However, unfortunately the audience did not howl down their foolishness, which is explicable because probably they too did not understand the ramifications of the question either, so may not have appreciated its full significance but since when has the blind leading the blind ever been a sensible strategy? Now, more than ever, we need the democratic majority to vote for those who know what is really happening and at least have an inkling of what to do about it.
Monday, 3 October 2011
There is an interesting “peoples’ protest” growing in the US called “Occupy Wallstreet”. It was started in July on the Adbusters website (click here for the origin of the idea), and seems to be exponentially growing. New groups are forming rapidly across the States and, having spread across America, it is starting to crossover to Europe, Australia, Central America and Asia.
Taking their cue from the “Arab Spring” movement, which started in Tunisia then exploded when Egyptians occupied Tahrir Square in the 2011 “Egyptian Revolution”, the idea is just to occupy an area associated with bankers and sing, chant etc. The new bit is that it is not just for one day but just carries on, possibly indefinitely.
The basis of Occupy Wallstreet is that “the 99%” of ordinary people in the USA who are losing their jobs, healthcare and getting their homes foreclosed by the “1%” of bankers and financiers, have had enough - they’re mad as hell and their not going to take it any more – the previous words borrowed from the classic 1976 film Network (excerpt of the famous bit follows). It’s interesting to contrast what was worrying people back then in 1976 with today…
The Wallstreet occupiers are mad as hell that the “1%” are getting bailed out while the “99%” are getting screwed. Here is a link to the facebook page organising the Occupy the London Stock Exchange action. Click this link for the worldwide actions page.
Here is the introduction from the “We are the 99%” site
“Who are we? Well, who are you? If you’re reading this, there’s a 99 percent chance that you’re one of us.
You’re someone who doesn’t know whether there’s going to be enough money to make this month’s rent. You’re someone who gets sick and toughs it out because you’ll never afford the hospital bills. You’re someone who’s trying to move a mountain of debt that never seems to get any smaller no matter how hard you try. You do all the things you’re supposed to do. You buy store brands. You get a second job. You take classes to improve your skills. But it’s not enough. It’s never enough. The anxiety, the frustration, the powerlessness is still there, hovering like a storm crow. Every month you make it is a victory, but a Pyrrhic one — once you’re over the hump, all you can do is think about the next one and how much harder it’s all going to be.
They say it’s because you’re lazy. They say it’s because you make poor choices. They say it’s because you’re spoiled. If you’d only apply yourself a little more, worked a little harder, planned a little better, things would go well for you. Why do you need more help? Haven’t they helped you enough? They say you have no one to blame but yourself. They say it’s all your fault.
They are the 1 percent. They are the banks, the mortgage industry, the insurance industry. They are the important ones. They need help and get bailed out and are praised as job creators. We need help and get nothing and are called entitled. We live in a society made for them, not for us. It’s their world, not ours. If we’re lucky, they’ll let us work in it so long as we don’t question the extent of their charity.
We are the 99 percent. We are everyone else. And we will no longer be silent. It’s time the 1 percent got to know us a little better. On Sept. 17, 2011, the 99 percent will converge on Wall Street to let the 1 percent know just how frustrated they are with living in a world made for someone else. Let us know why you’ll be there. Let us know how you are the 99 percent.”
Bankers and international financiers are set to get a whole lot more unpopular shortly as the run on French banks that are exposed to Greek debt continues, which is likely to take down Morgan Stanley in due course which might then set off an avalanche of finance institution failures like the one that started in 2008 with Lehman Brothers. This time, governments have got little or no ammunition left to do bailouts by expanding debt yet further and putting the burden on to taxpayer’s shoulders.
As I’ve said before, the normal response of conventional economists, which is to attempt to restart business-as-usual “growth”, is like the problem with trying to kill the Alien, who’s blood is so acid that it is a danger to anyone trying to kill it.
“It's got a wonderful defense mechanism. You don't dare kill it.”
Similarly, this recession/depression has a great defence mechanism that should cause governments in general and, as far as we are concerned, Philip Ozouf’s Treasury Ministry in particular, to ponder the wisdom of trying conventional remedies.
Trying to solve the current global economic problems with more of the economic expansionism that caused the problems in the first place is just barking. Included within this are the problems of attempting to restore the type of economic growth that has led to us using planetary resources up almost 50% faster than the planet can supply them, and destabilising the climate faster than has ever been done before by Nature. This is not a rational option because it was the previous economic expansion that caused the mountains of debt that is likely to take down the whole system when the cracks proliferate.
Sunday, 2 October 2011
Part of the economic growth strategy mooted for Jersey, which is designed to save our sorry skins – finance down 12%!!! – involves e-gaming i.e. gambling for money online. It has been regretted by some that places like Alderney have stolen a lead over us. Not reported very well at all by the mainstream media locally (how do those so called journalists look at themselves in the mirror?) was the following which was from the New York Times (click for original article).
“LAS VEGAS (AP) — Gambling regulators on Thursday revoked the license of Full Tilt Poker, a popular Web site that once offered gambling to thousands of players around the world, saying the site had misled officials about its financial operations.
The revocation was made by the Alderney Gambling Control Commission on the British Channel Islands. The move, according to Full Tilt, put in jeopardy a plan outlined by a lawyer for Full Tilt to repay millions of dollars in player funds that had been in limbo since the site was first shut down to Americans in April, when its executives were indicted in the United States”
While our local politicians still cling to highly dubiously ethical get rich quick fantasies like this without regard to their “firework” nature, we are doomed. Politicians need to wake up to the unsustainable nature of their current policies and the even worse solutions put forward by their flat earth economist advisers.
Sunday, 25 September 2011
This rather spectacular video shows the view from the International space station. Click this link to a site which will let you know when it passes over your bit of the sky). First you have to specify your location (Configuration – select from map) by putting a marker on a Google map, then “submit” and finally click “ISS”.
The “video” is actually a time lapse, so it’s a little jerky. The direction of travel is North to South’ish. Starting up on West Coast Canada one passes Vancouver Island and down through San Francisco, Los Angeles, Mexico and then down the West coast of South America before finally hitting sun rise as it nears Antarctica. Watch for the lightning storms over Mexico. Watch in full screen HD!
Monday, 12 September 2011
Jeb Corliss "Grinding The Crack". Well, what on earth does that mean? What starts out as a fairly normal (!) base jumping video suddenly makes one's jaw drop, from about 1 minute 19 seconds in. There are a LOT of comments about his testicular fortitude and you will see why... As usual with videos of this nature, it's best to click through to the Youtube page and watch it in full screen high definition. It’s anyone’s guess how long Jeb has for this world.
Sunday, 28 August 2011
Windpower marches on
Coal, if you discount the negative externalities it produces, generates the cheapest power around. Natural gas is probably second (and a helluva lot cleaner, pollution-wise and greenhouse gas-wise).
The Brazilian authorities have this week (August 24th) confirmed that wind power in the country currently costs less than natural gas, after a series of energy auctions saw wind farm operators undercut other forms of energy generation.
By the end of last year, wind power in the U.S. was cost-competitive with natural gas, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) reported in January.
Ocean Acidification, global warming’s probably more evil twin, may be one of the root causes of the devastation of oyster farms in the Pacific NorthWest
The seas off Canada’s Newfoundland coast have been one of the world’s richest fisheries for nearly 500 years. Click here for a CBC archive about the rise and fall of the Atlantic cod fishery. In the 1950s modern trawlers arrived in the area and by 1992 the fishery was closed for lack of fish. Cod stocks in the area remained at less than 5% of their former levels for decades in spite of the closure. Since then the Grand Banks have been a case study for fisheries mismanagement and total ecosystem collapse brought on by over-fishing, a problem that is a severe threat to fish-stocks in the rest of the world.
This new study therefore brings some hope to the area. Canadian researchers from Queen’s University have found that cod are now at 34% of their pre-collapse peak, and biomass of all predatory fish is at more than 50% of pre-collapse levels. The collapse of cod has led to subsequent increase of haddock and pollock as well as herring which is what the cod used to eat. This imbalance of the food chain will take a longer time to recover.
For 1 in 6 people, access to water requires hard work: hours of walking, waiting in line and heavy lifting.
The time spent fulfilling this basic need keeps many children out of school and prevents women from carrying out all the domestic and income generating work for which they are responsible. In much of the developing world, it is often necessary to walk five miles (8km) or more every day to fetch water. In the dry season, it is not uncommon to walk twice this distance. Collecting water can be dangerous too. The traditional method of carrying water – carrying a 5 gallon (20 litre) water bucket on the head – can severely damage the spine, causing severe pain. Step forward the Wello – click this link for their website - a cheap plastic roller tank that takes a lot of the effort out of fetching water
The world's #1 sportswear brand, Nike, has accepted our Detox challenge: today (August 17th - NP) it has officially committed to eliminating all hazardous chemicals across its entire supply chain, and the entire life-cycle of its products by 2020. This is a major win for our campaign to protect the planet’s precious water, and create a toxic-free future.
Nike's announcement comes just five weeks into our Detox campaign, which began when we launched the "Dirty Laundry" report, revealing commercial links between major clothing brands - including Nike, Puma and Adidas - and suppliers responsible for releasing hazardous chemicals into Chinese rivers.
Puma was first to break away from the pack, opening up an impressive lead by announcing that it would go toxic-free. Puma's commitment to remove all hazardous chemicals from its entire product-portfolio must have left their competition wondering how they were going to raise their game. Now, Nike and Puma are the front-runners, and Adidas is far behind.
Here’s an interesting piece of research from “Environmental Health Perspectives” headlined:
“Lower Prevalence of Antibiotic-resistant Enterococci On U.S. Conventional Poultry Farms That Transitioned to Organic Practices”
It basically says that farms that transition to organic methods of rearing poultry quickly find a much lower prevalence of antibiotic resistant enterococcus (nasty) bacteria in their flocks. Not so much from the well known organic practises but more from the removal of the routine use of antibiotics that are in conventional food stuff, put there to “promote” growth etc. In cattle production, the routine use of antibiotics, described as ionophores because of their growth enhancing characteristics, rather than their bug killing abilities, can cause confusion. The U.S. Department of Agriculture sent a letter to Tyson Foods in 2007 to remove labels from chickens that said "raised without antibiotics" because of the use of ionophores in their feed.
The conclusion of the paper?:
“Conclusions: Our findings suggest that the voluntary removal of antibiotics from large-scale U.S. poultry farms that transition to organic practices is associated with a lower prevalence of antibiotic-resistant and MDR Enterococcus.”
(NP) MDR= multi drug resistant
Plastic2oil recently announced that they would be “mining” the waste plastic landfill sites of a large paper processor using their own technology that converts waste plastic (usually mixed polymers that have limited reusability) into a diesel oil substitute.
Renewable energy continues to make large strides, which is a conclusion you probably won’t have reached if you follow the mainstream media. Renewables 2011 goes into detail about the fast progress that has been made. Click for full report – Renewables 2011
“Renewable resources wound up supplying 16% of global final energy consumption and showed strong growth in all three sectors tracked – power, heat and transport. When it comes to electricity, renewable resources supplied an estimated 20% of global annual demand. Renewable power accounted for approximately 50% of new electric capacity globally and delivered nearly 20% of the global electricity supply. By early 2011, fully 25% of global power capacity from all sources came from renewables”
“Renewables accounted for about 26% of China’s total installed electric capacity, 18% of generation, and more than 9% of final energy consumption in 2010.”
“Germany met 11% of its total final energy consumption with renewable sources, which accounted for 16.8% of electricity consumption, 9.8% of heat production (mostly from biomass), and 5.8% of transport fuel consumption. Wind power accounted for nearly 36% of renewable generation, followed by biomass, hydropower, and solar photovoltaics ”
source of quotes: triplepundit.com
This article explains how India could utilise portions of the “desert” state of Rajasthan for large concentrated solar power plants that could supply much of the energy they need in just a few years. CSP is where the sun is concentrated by mirrors onto a central point to generate steam.
According to Shelton Group (a PR investor relations company), “a tipping point in American consumer interest in green products has occurred with 70% of consumers in our surveys saying they are searching for green products where green is defined as more energy efficient, natural, sustainable, etc.” Specifically, a few of Shelton Group’s market research findings in support of this green tipping point are:
Recycling: Growing in popularity with 64% of Americans saying they regularly recycle aluminum cans, plastic bottles and newspapers
Energy Efficient Lighting: 55% said they’ve replaced most of their incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent or LED bulbs
Energy Efficient Appliances:54% said they’ve purchased an Energy Star qualified appliance
Biofuels deservedly have a dodgy reputation due to the Americans’ efforts at turning corn (maize) into ethanol which led to a jacking up of world food prices and wasn’t even of any real benefit because the process took more or less the same amount of energy to create the biofuel as was available when using it. See EROEI… (or even the Elmer Fudd version of the article - someone obviously has too much time on their hands…).
Corn-into-ethanol is not the end of the biofuel story because the principle is still sound even though the previous practice was dumb.
Taken from The Green Economy Post:
A detailed review of 12 U.S. based synthetic biology, biofuel & biochemical companies that are developing third and fourth generation biofuels, bioindustrial & household chemical, and food additive products
Spin merchants continue to ply their morality free trade.
“Over the last six months, some of the largest virgin fine-paper manufacturers in North America have launched major marketing initiatives holding themselves up as environmental leaders. They support these claims by postulating that virgin paper manufacturing generates the same or less greenhouse gas emissions than recycled fine paper”
The Paper Task Force Final Report differs:
“making fine paper from waste paper is a more efficient process than making paper from trees, it uses less energy, less water, creating less effluent, and generating fewer greenhouse gas emissions. These facts are supported by the most comprehensive, independent, scientific lifecycle analysis of the impacts of paper manufacturing”
Taken from Triplepundit.com:
Bank of America announced an agreement in June, with ProLogis, and NRG Energy and the US DOE’s Loan Program Office, to finance the deployment of up to $2.6 billion of commercial and industrial rooftop solar installations, all across the USA.
This will be the largest distributed solar deal in history, which will create the equivalent of over 10,000 job-years, while providing 733MW of distributed solar energy, which is enough to power 100,000 homes across 28 states.
Taken from Triplepundit.com
In York, the Nestlé plant, that churns out over a billion Kit Kats and 183 million Aero bars annually has achieved a zero waste milestone four years early. For a company and brand that received sharp criticism last year for procuring controversial sources of palm oil last year, Nestlé and Kit Kat’s waste diversion efforts are more steps in the right direction.
Conventional agricultural practices have a large impact on greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, also soil erosion etc.
Organic produce and pasture based meat and dairy have less of an environmental impact than their conventionally produced counterparts, a recently released report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found. Titled A Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change and Health, the report includes lifecycle assessments of 20 popular types of meat, dairy and vegetable proteins.
A couple of quotes:
“Meat, eggs and dairy products that are certified organic, humane and/or grass-fed are generally the least environmentally damaging (although a few studies of the impact on climate show mixed results for grass-fed versus confined-feedlot meat,” according to the report. “Overall, these products are the least harmful, most ethical choices.”
“Well-managed grazing and grass-fed operations are better for the environment…Organic feed production and grazing practices are also better for the environment.”
A lot of recycling is of the type that collects a raw material and recycles it into something else. This is described as “repurposing”. The type of recycling whereby a plastic bottle is used to make another plastic bottle is somewhat rarer.
Pepsico have announced the 7up recycled PET bottle click here for press release
A ubiquitous component of the global supply chain is the pallet. Annually, 500 million new pallets are manufactured. They become part of the roughly 2 billion pallets that are in circulation in the U.S. at any given time. 93% of all goods move on a pallet.
Observation from one of my day jobs means I can vouch for the fact that the waste involved in the use of pallets is large.
Step forward the Ecoaluminum pallet made from recycled aluminium. It’s lighter than wood, doesn’t absorb chemicals mould etc
Wednesday, 24 August 2011
Also featured in the longer video is the Manta ray and the Airjelly – a flying jellyfish like device. Not featured is their Air penguin (click for link)interview with the creators
Sunday, 21 August 2011
Another masterpiece from Pete Sinclair. In it he contrasts the views and rhetoric of the usual suspects such as Rush Limbaugh, Lord Monckton, Alex Jones and Joe Bastardi, who misrepresent the truth, with actual events in the real world. He also shows just how long science has been warning the public about the dangers of altering the atmosphere - at least 55 years. Now that the pigeons are coming home to roost climatically, and eventually climactically, it’s about time for the “we told you so”s to start. As an illustration of just how insane and incorrigible some people are, the propaganda blitz from the denialist pundits is still in top gear.
Saturday, 20 August 2011
Unfortunately there is is a lot of propaganda around that alternative or renewable energy sources are not economic or efficient, compared with conventional sources. Such distorted thinking seeks to persuade people that conventional energy sources, such as coal, are a lot cheaper than wind, tidal, solar energy etc.
We heard a local voice, Mr Derek Bernard, express such propaganda during the question session that followed Sir David King’s recent (July) address at Durrell about the effects that climate change can have in store for small islands. Mr Bernard had the nerve to claim that the figures on the performance of wind energy etc just did not add up. Professor Sir David King mildly commented that he can’t have been looking at the same figures that he had seen…
This article (click link) from triplepundit.com sketches out the fundamentally misleading nature of such propaganda, which rarely compares apples with apples because, in the evaluation of economic and environmental costs, an awful lot is left out of the accounting procedures used.
An extract follows:
“Full cost accounting for the life cycle of coal unearths some rather alarming truths about the “externalities” associated with the extraction, transportation, processing and combustion of coal for the production of electricity in this country. When these externalized costs, which include health, environmental and economic impacts, are factored in, this doubles or even triples the cost of coal-powered electricity, making it more expensive than solar, wind, and other alternative sources”
Another aspect of the “conventional” view weighing heavily on our prospects for getting a more sustainable civilisation any time soon is the amount of money invested in it compared with general items of expenditure.
Here's a link to an article about the continuing campaign by the Daily Mail to muddy the waters and steer people away from all things alternative energy related.
Diverging slightly, here’s a great graphic.
This reminds me of a frequent cry during the late 60s and early 70’s about the American space programme. Some pointed to the amount spent on the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programmes and said we shouldn’t carry on with them because all that money could go to relieving world poverty instead. Others pointed out that the expenditure on the space programme was dwarfed by the amount that the Yanks spent on cosmetics and toothpaste which defused the argument a bit.
Sunday, 14 August 2011
A comment to a letter I had published in the JEP on behalf of J-CAN (which was in answer to a previously published climate denialist eccentric’s letter) although otherwise spot on illustrated an error that some make in their appreciation of the threats from climate change. This particular online comment (from "Pip Clement") included this phrase:
“Fortunately for most of the people on here they will be dead by the time the effects really become apparent”
This is what I replied:
“The effects are likely to become apparent way earlier than you suggest. Worse than that, if we do nothing, we will discover in our lifetimes (even the older ones’) that we have gone beyond the point of no return, when we will not be able to reverse the situation.
The dice will have been cast long before our grandchildren will need to the ones to “be lucky”. Who needs to be lucky? It’s us.”
The comments following my replies are worth reading too if seeing breath-taking stupidity and arrogance expressed floats your boat…
The dangers from global warming do not simply come just from effects directly attributable to the rise in average planetary temperature. Often overlooked, or not publicised, are the consequences of the effects on the ecosphere – all the animals, birds, trees, plants, insects, fungi, bacteria, plankton etc. that forms the vast interlocking web of life. These systems are far more sensitive to changes in planetary temperatures than climatologists’ thermometers and satellites and large effects are already obvious such as the acidification (reduction in alkalinity for the ultra-picky) of the oceans, the reduction in plankton numbers - in the past 60 years, algal biomass has decreased by about 40% - click for Nature article - and now here is evidence, from satellite photographs, of the huge impacts on pine forests in the US of the epidemic of pinebeetle infestation
Left: September 22, 2003. Right: September 25, 2010. Mountain Pine Beetles killed about 60 percent of the medium-to-large lodgepole pines on the western slopes of the park between the years depicted here. In the 2003 image, dense vegetation (dark green) is seen near the centre. In the 2010 image, the dark green has been replaced by shades of brown over large areas, indicating tree loss. Warmer winters are allowing more pine beetles to survive. In addition, summer drought stresses the trees and renders them more vulnerable to pine beetle attack Read more here click this link or this one about a researcher investigating the die off. It’s not just a simple matter of more winter warmth = more pine beetles = more die off of trees, the full story is a bit more complex than that, but this is exactly the sort of large scale effects that will start happening to the natural world way before the climate changes are obvious in temperature trend lines to casual observers such as those who get their world view from the newspapers, and opinionated television motor-mouths.
Sunday, 31 July 2011
A while ago I contributed this line “It’s the fish John West reject that makes John West the worst” to the Greenpeace campaign to get John West to sharpen up their sustainability act.
Now here’s some good news on the CSR front. Most people know the bluefin tuna has been over-fished. As a result, this has become a key matter of CSR (corporate social responsibility) for companies dealing with seafood. Greenpeace has been a long-term critic of John West for its suppliers' use of purse seines, a particularly destructive fishing method. They were just about the last major company to resist committing to a more sustainable method of harvesting tuna, but they were also responsible for this cute ad where a bloke fights a bear for a salmon - "ooh look, an eagle!". All square?
The two former adversaries have now tentatively joined hands to kick off a new sustainability program. A few days ago (July 29th), the company announced a staged programme to source 100% of tuna sold in the UK by 2016 using properly audited pole and line techniques, as well as to source from fleets that pledge not to use fish aggregating devices (FADs). FADS usually mean that a whole of other fish get caught at the same time and discarded, the prevention of which (discards) is the main thrust of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's magnificent Fish Fight. John West was one of the last of the major brands to come round to see sense. Princes did the decent thing back in March.The "see food diet" - I see food and I eat it - was on track to mean nothing to future generations (what was seafood, Granpa?) but there is hope out there if people continue to pressure corporations and governments
Sunday, 24 July 2011
This is supposedly the video manifesto that Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist/freedom fighter/Judiciar Knight posted to Youtube shortly before his attacks. It might not stay as a live link on Youtube but will doubtless be uploaded elsewhere.
Friday, 15 July 2011
The US EPA conditionally approved a new herbicide – Imprelis - for sale last October.The chemical name of the product is aminocyclopyrachlor, one of a new class of herbicides that has been viewed as more“environmentally friendly” than earlier weed killers. Imprelis is used for “improving” lawns by killing broadleaf weeds like dandelion and clover and is sold to lawn care professionals only. Unfortunately reports are coming in of widespread severe effects to conifer trees such as Norway spruces and Eastern white pines. Investigations into the cause are continuing but the application of Imprelis to nearby turf looks to be a significant factor.
Picture taken from New York Times article (click for source).
Dr. Cregg, an associate professor of horticulture and forestry and an extension specialist with Michigan State University who has fielded many calls from landscapers and inspected affected trees, said the problem existed across the country. He said
“This is going to be a large-scale problem, affecting hundreds of thousands of trees, if not more”
The Ford motor company are now using old car tyres and soy to make gaskets and seals for their vehicles
Back in 2009, Volvo Trucks in North America joined 31 other companies in a ten-year energy efficiency challenge issued by the U.S. Department of Energy, and it looks like Volvo has beaten everyone else to the punch. The company has announced that it is the first to meet the energy efficiency goal of a 25 percent reduction for its New River Valley plant in Virginia, and then beating it with 30 percent.
Paragraph taken from triplepundit.com
Ever wondered about those small bars of soap they give you in hotels? If you just stay one night or so it seems pretty wasteful if they just throw them away barely used, when they clean your room after you’ve gone. People around the world die every day from acute respiratory infection and diarrheal disease because, amongst other causes, they have no soap. Each year more than five million lives are lost to these diseases with the majority of deaths being among children less than five years old. Studies have shown that simple hand washing substantially reduces the spread of these diseases.
Clean the World gets soap to people who really need it. They organise soap collection schemes with hotels etc then sanitise it, ship it overseas, and distribute it
There may not be as much US shale gas as the hype suggested. This link to a June 25th New York Times article Insiders sound an alarm amid a natural gas rush shows that concerns have been raised internally that economically recoverable reserves have been inflated to attract investment, and faster than expected field deterioration rates are suggesting that fields will not last as long, or be as productive as expected. Shale gas was thought, in America, to be a bit of a get out of jail free card for their future energy “needs”, insulating them against many of the consequences of the peaking and decline of conventional oil reserves. Here’s another link Is shale gas a huge Ponzi scheme?
New research shows that adverts can "implant false memories" in order to manipulate consumers.
Taken from the New Economics Foundation blog
For anybody who worries that the advertising and marketing industry is artificially creating insatiable wants in people, the latest edition of Wired magazine makes disturbing reading.
It describes a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, and it is all about how advertising can trick the part of the brain that deals with long-term memory (the hippocampus).
The experiment used 100 students and introduced them to a non-existent new product, Orville Redenbacher’s Gourmet Fresh Microwave Popcorn. Some of them watched adverts based on slogans and text about how delicious it was; some of them watched what are called ‘high-imagery’ commercials, of happy people enjoying the popcorn at home.
Then they were divided again. Half went to a room and given a sample of the popcorn; half were just given a survey. A week later, they were asked what they remembered.
Here’s the scary bit. Those who watched the high-imagery ad were just as likely to say they tried the popcorn as those which actually did.
Even more scary, they rated the product just as highly as those who had actually tasted it. Also they were extremely confident about their memories. They knew why they liked it – not because of the advert, but because it tasted so good.
This whole story is disturbing on a whole range of levels. But one of them is just how subversive the system is. It desperately tries to keep economic growth higher by selling us things we don’t actually want, and our poor befuddled brains say ‘more!’
After San Francisco banned styrofoam in 2007, over 50 other municipalities in the state of California followed suit, and now, the entire state is poised to make it official–35M+ people will now get their take-out food in containers made from reusable or renewable materials as opposed to the lightweight plastic known as expanded polystyrene. The shift this law (beginning January 1, 2014) will have on the take-out industry as a whole is hard to fathom…it’s realistically the beginning of the end for styrofoam.
Taken from Triplepundit.com
Starting in October, the 7,000 McDonald’s across 39 countries that serve 13 million customers daily will have the option to eat a locally named fish sandwich that is MSC-certified (Marine Stewardship Council). The MSC has, however, received some criticism from NGO Food and Water Watch http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/factsheet/about-msc/
Like that of the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), this eco label should not be regarded as giving carte blanche to consumers to use/eat as much as they want!
Food price inflation is going to reach severe highs by 2030 and many of the world’s poorest people will not be able to afford to feed themselves. A recent FAO report stated that approximately 1.3 billion tons of food gets lost or wasted every year. It goes on to elaborate that consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes). Here’s a 2010 map of global hunger to think about (red areas are regarded as “extremely alarming”). Click on the image for a much larger, higher definition, version.
The report is probably the first of its kind to distinguish between food loss and food waste. Food waste is an entirely preventable phenomenon mostly occurring richer countries involving throwing perfectly edible food away by consumers and retailers alike. Food loss on the other hand occurs mostly in developing economies where poor infrastructure does not ensure optimal preservation of food during processing, transporting and other intermediate steps.
The report states that per capita waste by consumers is between 95-115 kg a year in Europe and North America, while consumers in sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia each throw away only 6-11 kg a year. Considering that agricultural land accounts for roughly 36% of the Earth’s land surface, wasting food is tantamount to wasting nature. Agricultural land is often land that was previously a habitat like grasslands, forests, and even deserts which were previously supporting complex ecosystems. Apart from land usage, agriculture is extremely energy intensive using vast amounts of fuel, fertilizer etc. Food wastage therefore is one of the worse kinds of preventable abominations.
Unilever has been recognized as a sustainability leader in a 2011 survey by SustainAbility, and the Ethical Corporation awarded the company its Responsible Business Award in the High Performance category. CEO Paul Polman talks about how the company has lowered its carbon emissions by 40 percent in the last ten years, how, as a large palm oil producer it is looking to move toward sustainable palm oil, and how it is working to change consumer habits to aid in conservation.
Polman urges other businesses to move toward sustainability. “It is a very simple message: you can wait for governments and use it as an excuse, you can wait for technology and use it as an excuse, but there are many things we can simply do now, and that business can do now. And it does make good business sense. There may be a slight cost in acting in some cases, but I think they are the exception. The cost of not acting and the cost of failure is going to be far higher.”
Many products that one can purchase have “planned obsolescence” built in. They are designed to last a certain length of time and then fail – usually they are also designed to be too expensive to repair economically, forcing most to have to buy another one or the “next generation” model over and over again. Good for GDP but bad for pollution, energy use and depletion of resources not to mention bad for one’s wallet. In short, not very sustainable on several levels.
Marcin Jakubowski has started a project (click link for his Ted talk) to give away blueprints of the 50 most vital machines that are needed to run civilisation. Like Firefox or Linux in the computer world, these are open source so anyone can modify them or improve them. These machines are designed to be built with basic tools and to be robust, long lived and economically repairable. Once people have them, they have them for a long time and a lot of time and effort does not need to be wasted buying them over and over again
Using wikis and digital fabrication tools, TED Fellow Marcin Jakubowski is open-sourcing the blueprints for 50 farm machines, allowing anyone to build their own tractor or harvester from scratch. And that's only the first step in a project to write an instruction set for an entire self-sustaining village (starting cost: $10,000).