Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Monday, May 6, 2013
This article was originally published on Solar Love. I recently ran across this interesting graph on reddit: The title of the article in which the graph was housed (similar to mine above) was: “Solar Energy: This Is What A Disruptive Technology Looks Like.” I think the graph is pretty clear —…
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
University of California
One of every three bites of food eaten worldwide depends on pollinators, especially bees, for a successful harvest. And in the past several months, a scramble in California’s almond groves has given the world a taste of what may lie in store for food production if the widespread — and still puzzling — decimation of bee colonies continues. (more)
Saturday, April 27, 2013
Copyright ImageClick to View A lobsterman returns an undersized lobster while checking traps in Mount Desert, Maine, in May 2012.(Robert F. Bukaty/AP/File) From North Carolina to Maine, the waters have been unusually warm lately. This is according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration…
Friday, April 19, 2013
Thursday, March 28, 2013
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Sunday, March 17, 2013
The CMO (Chief Misinformation Officer) of the climate ignorati, Joe Nocera, has a new piece, “A Real Carbon Solution.” The biggest of its many errors comes in this line:
A reduction of carbon emissions from Chinese power plants would do far more tohelp reverse climate change than — dare I say it? — blocking the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
Memo to Nocera: As a NOAA-led paper explained 4 years ago, climate change is “largely irreversible for 1000 years.” MORE
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
On March 20, 2011, I posted the following, having been trolled for being concerned. I remain concerned.
Most of the blogs I admire and follow have gone relatively quiet over the last couple of weeks. I think it may be that events have been overwhelming. Those of us who are news junkies have had our internal circuits fried, and those who avoid the news still check the news by checking our faces, and what they see, they suspect they don't want to ask about. So, family conversations are quiet and rather formal. So are conversations at stores and in parking lots. More than once, I've heard the remark: "people are being kinder to one another than usual." Except perhaps in places like Libya, but that connects obliquely to some of the things that will be said below.
I've been writing a post-apocalyptic novel, trying to bring my scant but eclectic knowledge of some life situations to an otherwise typical narrative (there are only so many plot lines, after all) -- but don't feel like tackling it at the moment. My characters are in the middle of a small war, and I've been putting them through a lot, but how do you keep hammering your fictional folk when vast numbers of real people are suddenly going through worse?
We've had M8+ sized earthquakes in our area before, the last one in 1700. It changed our coastline and drenched the shores of Japan. There have been two M6 earthquakes in the valley in my time here, only one of which I felt. I remember yelling at the boys, whom I suspected of wrestling in their bedroom and falling off the top bunk. But Beloved, who had lived in Southern California, said, "No, that's an earthquake."
A town to the south of us had brick walls spill out into the street and across the hoods of cars, grabbing the headlines. But I tend toward the personal. What caught my attention was a small item in the back pages of the paper a day or two later: a home in our county had burned to the ground because its chimney, in the attic, had shifted slightly, allowing sparks to escape. The family died.
We had just bought Stony Run. The house that burned was one we had previously considered buying. It came with more land, but was just a bit out of our price range and bit too long of a commute to work.
If we were to have a 6.0, as that quake was, a little closer to home, we'd stand to lose a lot of canning jars, a few kerosene lamps, gallon jars full of beans, oats and such, sitting on open shelves.
Or maybe the house. We do have wood heat.
We could tack little wood strips along the edges of the shelves, to keep things from walking off. And then hope never to face an M8+, though we're told there's a forty percent chance of that here by 2050.
Here at Stony Run we do have bug-out bags in case we survive anything rough on site, or ever need to relocate. They are only a shade fancier than those recommended by the federal government for everyone; and hopefully don't betray an unhealthy obsession with safety. Considering that in our eighteen years here, we haven't put those little speed bumps on our pantry shelves yet, I'd say we're pretty typical here in our attitude toward safety.
But, then, we're only one family. If we're wiped out like the one that bought that other house, some people will cry for awhile, but, as Robert Frost noted, "No more to build on there. And they, since they / Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs."
It's in the light of my own laxness that I think about nuclear power plant planning. Uranium 235 has issues. Plutonium has issues. So to derive benefit, i.e. lots and lots of electricity, from these extremely poisonous and temperamental materials, we (usually) surround them with water and keep the water flowing. And we build an incredibly strong tube to keep them in, and surround that with a strong box and surround that with another strong box, and have backup pumps to back up our backup pumps. Got those speed bumps in place, mmm hmm.
But the speed bumps aren't geared to events beyond what we're prepared to envision. We say, well, we might have an earthquake this size and a tsunami this high and we'll build to that standard. It should not surprise us that there will, from time to time, be surprises. Nature is what it is.
An earthquake happens. A tsunami happens. The survivors in Japan get that, and they rebuild. But many have said, of the invisible radioactivity in their air, in their water, on their spinach, and on their skin, that they are afraid. Death and destruction, well, okay, but this seems a bit much.
I think they're right, and I think many of the rest of us are right, to feel there's something different about a nuclear power plant failure than about plain old natural disasters. They understand tragedy.
Those criticizing the rest of us for paying attention to Fukushima Number One and its explosions and burnings and steamings are often the same people who were assuring us that would never happen to Fukushima Number One. And, y'know, it did. Ain't saying the earthquake isn't the greater -- many, many times greater -- disaster, this time around. But the nuke, it's ... it's something we did to ourselves. So the quality of the horror is just different, hence the seemingly disproportionate interest.
I look at our pantry shelves and say, why haven't we put those strips down yet? Or built cabinet doors? Have I done all I can to ensure our chimney will survive a six? How about a seven? It's a cost-benefit thing. On our small scale -- five people, now down to two, getting on in years -- the consequences are not very wide-ranging. On the scale of a pressure-water reactor or, as it turns out, a boiling-water reactor, they can be quite serious.
It was interesting to watch the nuclear industry's apologists trying to spin the Fukushima Daiichi disaster -- and it is one -- as innocuous, proof of the safety of nuclear, and so on -- falling back from one "oh, pooh" to the next as the intransigent materials bubbled, seethed, and blew. Sharon Astyk put it very well by citing the leader of the kidnappers in The Princess Bride: "Inconceivable!" he kept shouting, as his fate stalked him.
I'm sorry apologists, but The Onion really got it right. Nuclear is clean until it isn't. Just as Nature is benign until it isn't. And while Nature is unavoidable, nuclear is not. It's a choice. Our being absolutely dependent on it at the moment, as can also be said for fossil fuels, does not require of us that we regard that dependency as inevitable forever. We may allow ourselves (gasp!) the luxury of seeking alternatives.
The argument for the inevitability of nuclear and coal and oil ("we can't feed ourselves if we don't use them") springs from truths about our current situation: there are a lot of us, we have certain expectations about how to live; there are going to be more of us soon and more of us will have those expectations. True truths. But that doesn't mean the house can't or won't burn down if we keep using these energy sources. So it's worth noting that those who most loudly and insistently extol these energy sources to us -- as industry employees or as retainers of those industries in think tanks or Congressional offices -- are not thinking of our welfare. Did they tell us not to build in flood plains, behind low seawalls, or on fault lines? The non-debate, the shouting down of those who question, is about the enclosure of the commons. What's it all in aid of? Plutocracy.
Landowners in England from Tudor times into the nineteenth century chased subsistence farmers and subsistence farming, the basis of village culture, from the land in favor of pasturing sheep for the export of wool. This led to concentration of labor in cities, just in time to staff the industrial revolution, thus enriching the landowners -- now factory owners -- further. The incorporation of finance, science, law, and politics into the industrial revolution led to the re-purposing of journalism as media and advertising to enforce the norm of modern materialist consumerism: all voices to speak as one on behalf of plutocracy. It is from the plutocrats that you will hear of the inevitability of nuclear, and it is from the plutocrats that you will hear of the safety of nuclear, and it is from the plutocrats that you will hear of the acceptability of the risks of nuclear.
Criticism of the nuclear or fossil-fuel narrative is revolutionary, as it resists the plutocratic narrative, which masks the essential fact of enclosure of the commons, the transfer of value (money in the present instance) from all to a few, or, after awhile, from poor to rich. Consumerism is the current face of enclosure: we make it, we create your need for it, we pay you a little for helping us make it and charge you a lot to obtain it. Anti-materialism, anti-consumerism, localism, organic, decentralist, subsistence, union, even gay and feminist are words to make any plutocrat frown, as they are words that may turn our faces from the constant stream of assurances flowing from their publicists and publicans: sell (your time) low, buy (our crap) high.
At this point someone usually waves off the argument dismissively, saying, "socialism." Excuse me, Stalin was just a particularly efficient plutocrat. I'd espouse communalism as a form of subsistence culture, but I make a terrible communard. A good enough peasant woman, maybe. Let's stick to the business at hand.
When discussing the safety of nuclear, by all means do look to the facts. Help us understand the distances, the half-life, the normal background radiation levels. Note that most meltdowns don't salt our fields ten thousand miles away with isotopes, or empty out cities of thirteen million souls, or end civilizations. Most earthquakes don't either. But they can. Again, earthquakes happen; a nuclear accident is preventable. Nobody forced y'all to put that thing on one of the most seismically active seashores on the planet.
Plutocrats never do anything for no reason. The extraordinary effort going into the "nuclear is safe" mantra must have some kind of payoff, or so much money would not be spent on it. Our benefit is not the payoff.
Nuclear, compared to other ways of getting an erg, is extraordinarily expensive. Costs -- from the locating and mining of uranium, sickening the miners -- to voluminous safety regulations that are necessary (yet inadequate) -- to the planned and as yet still unimplemented long-term storage of fuels -- to the health consequences of accidents (because no one instance of cancer can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to be traceable to a particular release of gas in a covered-up accident) -- are externalized to the federal, state and local governments, health care systems, and insurance companies, who must then raise their taxes, fees and rates to us.
The risk is offset onto the majority, so that the benefit will flow to the few. How very like the financial industry! Which, when caught shorting the public at large, demanded and got the largest bailouts in the history of the world.
"Enclosure of the commons." It's a good tool; it will tell you who's whom much better than "left" versus "right." And make quite a hash of the claim of a great many bright but rather grasping people to be anything that could be called "conservative." Owning a Lexus doesn't conserve an effing thing.
So I am willing to listen to informed discussion of energy and science, of food and the well-being of humankind; and I get that I am not a genius and that this or that nuclear (or petroleum) scientist is one. But let us not pretend that snarking about safety counts as informed discussion. Too many of the souls of those doing the snarking have been bought and paid for.
The well of dialogue has been poisoned. Let's hope it doesn't glow in the dark for the next twenty thousand years.
May 19 update:
Japan’s Fukushima Reactor May Have Leaked Radiation Before Tsunami Struck, Bloomberg by Yuji Okada, Tsuyoshi Inajima and Shunichi Ozasa, May 19, 2011 6:21 am EDT:
[...] Japan’s government in April raised the severity rating of the Fukushima crisis to the highest on an international scale, the same level as the Chernobyl disaster. The station, which has experienced hundreds of aftershocks since March 11, may release more radiation than Chernobyl before the crisis is contained, Tepco officials have said.
We dedicate a lot of metaphorical column inches to covering clean forms of transportation such as electric vehicles and the ever popular bicycle. Both hold an important position in the future to come, for the environmentally conscious and the financially conscious. The general populace, however, are…
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
"The reaction of most people when I tell them I’m a scythe teacher is the same: incredulity or amusement, or polite interest, usually overlaid onto a sense that this is something quaint and rather silly that doesn’t have much place in the modern world. After all, we have weed whackers and lawnmowers now, and they are noisier than scythes and have buttons and use electricity or petrol and therefore they must perform better, right? Now, I would say this of course, but no, it is not right. Certainly if you have a five-acre meadow and you want to cut the grass for hay or silage, you are going to get it done a lot quicker (though not necessarily more efficiently) with a tractor and cutter bar than you would with a scythe team, which is the way it was done before the 1950s. Down at the human scale, though, the scythe still reigns supreme." More
Saturday, March 2, 2013
but now it's official.
Here's the press release from the National Environment Research Council: more
Friday, February 22, 2013
DENVER — After enduring last summer’s destructive drought, farmers, ranchers and officials across the parched Western states had hoped that plentiful winter snows would replenish the ground and refill their rivers, breaking the grip of one of the worst dry spells in American history. No such luck.
Lakes are half full and mountain snows are thin, omens of another summer of drought and wildfire. Complicating matters, many of the worst-hit states have even less water on hand than a year ago, raising the specter of shortages and rationing that could inflict another year of losses on struggling farms.
Reservoir levels have fallen sharply in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada. The soil is drier than normal. And while a few recent snowstorms have cheered skiers, thesnowpack is so thin in parts of Colorado that the government has declared an “extreme drought” around the ski havens of Vail and Aspen.
“We’re worse off than we were a year ago,” said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center. more
Thursday, February 21, 2013
Feb. 21, 2013 — Evidence from Siberian caves suggests that a global temperature rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius could see permanently frozen ground thaw over a large area of Siberia, threatening release of carbon from soils, and damage to natural and human environments. More at Science Daily
Monday, February 18, 2013
Thursday, February 14, 2013
from Seed Freedom by admin
Falls prey to lack of innovation and pest attacks due to volatile climatic conditions
The revolutionary Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton crop in India has started losing steam steadily due to lack of innovation and diversified pest attacks emerging from frequent changes in climatic conditions.
As is evident from the data collated by the Cotton Advisory Board (CAB) under the Union Ministry of Textiles, cotton yield has started falling gradually after the four years of revolution between 2002 and 2006 when bollworm-resistant Bt cotton seed changed farmers’ economy. After that, however, farmers have witnessed a sustained decline in yield from a peak level of 554.39 kg per hectare (ha) in the cotton year 2006-07 (October – September) to an estimated 488.89 kg per ha in 2012-13.
The remarkable increase in output, therefore, is attributed to farmers’ rapid adoption of Bt technology resulting in higher acreage. The fall in area under cultivation resulted in lower cotton output in the past few years.
Although, the innovator of Bt technology, the US-headquartered Monsanto claims to have introduced an update of bollworm resistant Bt cotton, the technology failed to help raise India’s per hectare yield. more
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
South Americans face deadly water battles – ‘The only thing the people want is water for families, but the mining companies want to take it. And soldiers will kill if you get in the way.’
South Americans face deadly water battles – ‘The only thing the people want is water for families, but the mining companies want to take it. And soldiers will kill if you get in the way.’:
By Michael Smith
12 February 2013
(Bloomberg Markets Magazine) – People streamed into the central square in Celendin, a small city in the Peruvian Andes, the morning of July 3, 2012. They were protesting the government’s support for Newmont Mining Corp.’s plan to take control of four lakes to make way for a new gold and copper mine. By midday, there were 3,000.
Some hurled rocks at police and brandished clubs. Then assailants shot two officers and an Army soldier in the leg.
Blocks away, construction worker Paulino Garcia left home on foot to buy groceries. As he approached the central square, he encountered chaos. People ran for cover as federal troops fired their weapons, Bloomberg Markets magazine will report in its March issue.
One bullet struck Garcia as he watched the mayhem. It ripped open his chest and exited through his back. The 43-year- old father of two fell to the ground and died. Another three people were shot and killed, and more than 20 were wounded.
It was the deadliest clash in 18 months of protests in Peru’s Cajamarca region, where many residents say Newmont’s $5 billion Conga mine will take water their villages and farms need to survive.
“He died in a pool of blood,” says Adelaida Tabaco, Garcia’s widow, 38, sobbing inside her half-built adobe house in Celendin. “The only thing the people want is water for families, but the mining companies want to take it. And soldiers will kill if you get in the way.”
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
WASHINGTON -- A new study using data from a pair of gravity-measuring NASA satellites finds that large parts of the arid Middle East region lost freshwater reserves rapidly during the past decade.
Scientists at the University of California at Irvine (UC Irvine); NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.; and the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., found during a seven-year period beginning in 2003, parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran along the Tigris and Euphrates river basins lost 117 million acre feet (144 cubic kilometers) of its total stored freshwater. That is almost the amount of water in the Dead Sea. The researchers attribute about 60 percent of the loss to pumping of groundwater from underground reservoirs. more
Ancient carbon trapped in Arctic permafrost is extremely sensitive to sunlight and, if exposed to the surface when long-frozen soils melt and collapse, can release climate-warming carbon dioxide gas into the atmosphere much faster than previously thought.
They found that sunlight increases bacterial conversion of exposed soil carbon into carbon dioxide gas by at least 40 percent compared to carbon that remains in the dark. The team, led by Rose Cory of the University of North Carolina, reported its findings in an article to be published online Feb. 11 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. More
Monday, February 11, 2013
Saturday, February 9, 2013
Scientists from Bangor University have discovered that growing oil palm to make 'green' biofuels in the tropics could be accelerating the effects of climate change.
Researchers from Bangor University have found that oil palm plantations developed to make 'green' biofuels are releasing prehistoric sources of carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. Their research seriously challenges the hopes that biofuels grown in the tropics could help cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Working as part of an international team, the north Wales scientists looked at how the deforestation of peat-swamps in Malaysia, to make way for oil palm trees, is releasing carbon which has been locked away for thousands of years. It is feared this carbon will be attacked by microbes and produce the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. The Bangor researchers say the ancient carbon comes from deep in the soil, which as the effects of deforestation take hold, breaks down and dissolves into the nearby watercourses. More
Thursday, February 7, 2013
What Transition looks like in Brazil:
Here is a beautiful short film, which will brighten any Thursday morning, about Transition in Brazil. It looks at what Transition looks like in 2 different communities there, Brasilandia in Sao Paolo, and Granja Viana. Made by the Permacyclists, it is an uplifting glimpse of how Transition is taking root there. I love the quote at the end: “A movement which brings sadness and suffering isn’t sustainable”.
This article was originally published on RenewEconomy: Rooftop solar continues to have a dramatic impact on the energy market in South Australia – the Australian state with the highest penetration of rooftop solar. As these graphs provided by Melbourne Energy Institute’s Mike Sandiford illustrate…
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Focusing on talent attraction and retention is what leads to gentrification, the phenomena that people who voice concerns about Placemaking are most often trying to avoid. There is an oft-voiced belief today that there is a finite amount of talent and creativity available in the world, and that cities must compete to draw creative people away from rival communities in order to thrive. But truly great places are not built from scratch to attract people from elsewhere; the best places have evolved into dynamic, multi-use destinations over time: years, decades, centuries. These places are reflective of the communities that surround them, not the other way around. Placemaking is, ultimately, more about the identification and development of local talent, not the attraction of talent from afar. more
WASHINGTON — Climate change could have a drastic and harmful effect on U.S. agriculture, forcing farmers and ranchers to alter where they grow crops and costing them millions of additional dollars needed to tackle weeds, pests and diseases that threaten their operations, a sweeping government report said Tuesday.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture analysis said that while crops and livestock have been able to adapt to changes in their surroundings for close to 150 years, the accelerating pace and intensity of global warming during the next few decades may soon be too much for the sector to overcome. More