What have you done today to lower your impact?

We are washing away the foundations of our existence on every front. It is high time we move from crashing about on the planet like a bull in china shop and find a way to go forward with intent. We must find systems of living based on sustainability. The systems and tools exist, it is up to each of us to adopt them.

Blog Archive

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Sheffield Star online post #9, Insulation basics

Insulation is essential! I can’t say it any plainer than that. You wouldn’t step outside on a winter morning without your cardigan, that's a sweater for all you stateside readers, would you. So why leave your house to pour heat through the loft (attic), walls, windows, and floors?

The choice of insulation is important. Here are a few questions to consider when choosing insulation products.
• Is the insulation going to make you sick?
• Does your choice of insulation use too much energy to manufacture and require too many resources dug from the ground or pumped from oil wells to produce?
• Is the product recyclable or biodegradable?
• How effective is it?

Products like mineral wool and spun fibreglass consist of fibres that are easily inhaled. Much like asbestos fibres they can lodge in the lungs and may pose a health threat. These products also typically use a resin based binder to hold them together. Like most resins they are manufactured using petrochemicals and have a negative impact on indoor air quality. In some cases, like formaldehyde, these resins are known to cause cancer. These products are not generally recyclable and pose contamination risks at disposal. Because they rely on mining and industrial processes to manufacture they require more energy, embodied energy, to produce than more natural alternatives.

The manufactured or blown foam products also require massive inputs of chemicals and energy to produce. They are not recyclable and present similar if not worse disposal problems.
These concerns have to be balanced with the benefits of using some of these products. In some cases they are the best alternative, as in blown foam to seal and insulate cracks and gaps around pipes and wiring in walls or around windows. There are more natural alternatives however for almost all of the above mentioned products. For instance a blown foam product that is soy based has recently been developed.

For loft and under floor insulation, the more green options are natural fibres such as wool or hemp, and recycled cellulose or fabric fibres. Another option is cork, a product sustainably harvested from trees. Cork can also be used in cavity walls as it is waterproof as well. All these products are recyclable and have low embodied energy.

Effectiveness, measured in U-value, or R-value for those in the states, varies from product to product. For U value the number should be lower as it is a measurement of how much heat passes through the material whereas for R value the number should be high as it is a measure of who well the heat is blocked. Check it out before purchasing as a product that has half the effectiveness compared to another will require twice as much to achieve the same end.

I'll do another post where I’ll cover specific strategies for insulating your home.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Check out this music video about energy efficiency

As Joe Romm over on Climate Progress says “This record’s going LEED platinum.”

Earth Hour, What did you learn?

And more importantly how will you change your behaviour? I mostly read by windup head torch for the hour and did some gardening jobs, some yoga, and tidied up our room. I also took a stroll a few blocks around mainstreet Hamilton Bermuda. There did seem to be quite a lot of lights off but not nearly enough. I appreciate the statement of solidarity with those fighting to deal with climate change but Earth Hour should provoke change. Myself, I intend to be more careful about turning off power strips, and thus all the devices attached to them. I already read by windup headtorch most nights and will continue to. I never use the tumble dryer as we have very high quality solar drying potential here in Bermuda, though I never used it in the UK where we had somewhat lower quality solar resources. So today I hung out my clothes in the warm breeze. Later, I'll be walking the hour or so it takes to get to my friends house for dinner and a film.

But what would it take to go further? I like this idea found on Living the Frugal Life.

"Some of the blogs I read that deal with preparing for life after peak oil, or the next great depression, or political collapse strongly suggest turning off the electricity at the junction box for a weekend or a week, just to see how well you can function without it, and to see in what areas you'd like to be better prepared or equipped. I've never done this. But having just turned off the lights for an hour and a half last night, I can see that some sort of light other than oil lamps would sure be nice, if it came to that. Perhaps solar lanterns, or some hand-cranked battery powered lighting. Reading by oil lamps would probably ruin my eyesight sooner rather than later. It took less than an hour with the lights turned off to learn this."

As we are staying in a guest house I won't be able to do this but it is similar to the Free From Power days I did when we lived in Sheffield. Here's more on those;
2nd FFPD
3rd FFPD

Thanks to Cliffird Wirth over at Surviving Peak Oil for the heads up on that Furgal Living site.

Friday, 27 March 2009

A Farm for the Future

If you are at all interested in growing or eating food, and who isn't, you really should watch this film from the The Natural World series on BBC, "A Farm for the Future" over on Google video. Here's the blurb for the film from United Diversity;

"Wildlife film maker Rebecca Hosking investigates how to transform her family’s farm in Devon into a low energy farm for the future, and discovers that nature holds the key.

With her father close to retirement, Rebecca returns to her family’s wildlife-friendly farm in Devon, to become the next generation to farm the land. But last year’s high fuel prices were a wake-up call for Rebecca. Realising that all food production in the UK is completely dependent on abundant cheap fossil fuel, particularly oil, she sets out to discover just how secure this oil supply is.

Alarmed by the answers, she explores ways of farming without using fossil fuel. With the help of pioneering farmers and growers, Rebecca learns that it is actually nature that holds the key to farming in a low-energy future. (from BBC)"

Thanks to Rob Hopkins at Transition Culture for the heads up on this. My wife and I eagerly awaited every new episode of The Natural World while we were in England. I can't get them here on Bermuda TV which is mostly US sitcoms and drama. This episode is required viewing in my opinion as we chart our course through the world of peak oil and climate change.

Thanks to Hermitage TV for the image.

Kids and Earth Hour

As most of you know this Saturday night at 8:30pm is Earth Hour. Many of you may be wondering what to do with your kids with no lights and no TV, no video games, no computers. I ran across this website that has some suggestions. check it out at MooMama


Here's an excerpt;

"We have decided to participate in Earth Hour and throw a party at my parents' home this Saturday night! We will be turning off all lights and computers and will shut the thermostat off for the entire night here in my house.

Here are a few fun activities to fill this hour in your home:

* Any celebration is reason to eat cake in our family! My sister, Hannah, has decided to make a Blackout Cake for our Earth Hour party. Check out the recipe for one here.

* If you have a fire pit outside, light a fire and roast some marshmallows. Maybe tell a few good old fashioned ghost stories!

* Play flashlight tag!

* Play hide and seek in the dark! Make sure to give the smaller children an older partner!

* Have your child perform a show! Shine a flashlight on them from the audience and let them pretend they are on stage!

* Two words: Shadow puppets!

* Light candles! Keep them high and away from the children. Use mason jars or other deep glass containers with votives to minimize the risks.

* Be even safer and use these night lights by Oxo to illuminate your hour.

* Set up a tent indoors and camp inside for the night! Break out the glow sticks and read some stories to the kids before bedtime. Some suggestions are The Lorax by Dr. Seuss or The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.

* Beyond all else, cherish the quiet, candlelit moments of this hour with your children and loved ones. These are the moments we are trying to protect by voting Earth!"

Human potential is directly proportional to Human Proximity

We must learn to work with one another if we are to return to a balanced resilient lifestyle. Get to know your neighbors, help them, ask them to help you.

Need land to grow more food?

When I was doing the research for my thesis on home based food growing n Sheffield UK, I came across many creative solutions to the problem of a shortage of land to grow on in the urban setting. I saw guerilla gardening, where small public plots are taken over and planted with food crops. I worked with the abundance project to harvest neglected fruit trees all over the city and distribute the fruit to those in need. I met a fellow who, through perseverance and against much resistance, got a community gardening project going on his housing estate for the residents. I heard of a couple who, in exchange for some produce, kept the veggie garden of an elderly neighbor ticking over when he took ill. I saw people in all economic levels working with their neighbors to support each others efforts to grow food. I myself was given a composter and gave in return a water butt. Here in Bermuda I've met a fellow who works for an edible landscaping company that encourages homeowners to plant food in their gardens and runs agriculture camps for the youth in the summer.

I've just read about a wonderful idea in Maryland whereby folks sign up to share space in their backyards to a type of community supported agriculture, a kind of a distributed grid of food. The article by Greg Plotkin is over on Sustainable Food,

"The Murray Hill Row-by-Row Project has no farm; instead, it uses the member’s yards as the farming space, hence the term "lawnshare." Each member grows one or two crops in their yard, and what grows is shared with all the members. I organize who grows what, grow the seedlings, help members prepare their garden plot, help the members plant the seeds or seedlings, look over the crops and organize the harvest, which includes picking, dividing and distributing.

The members themselves give up lawn space and commit to daily watering and keeping an eye on the plants. Members find it a lot easier to grow a lot of one crop, rather than have a full kitchen garden of their own. From the relative ease of growing one crop and the small weekly fee, members enjoy a full variety of vegetables and a more developed sense of community."

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

GM based agriculture incurs more costs than benefits

A report out of Germany indicates that the use of GM crops in agriculture;

"does not bring any macro-economic benefits. In fact, the use of GM crops incurs extreme high costs in the entire food chain. These costs are generated by strongly increasing seed prices as well as necessary measures to avoid threatening resistances, the separation of commodity flows, and analyses. Additionally, there are losses (Dazu kommen Sch├Ąden) to the tune of several billion US dollar, which where caused in corn and rice by contamination with unapproved GM. Also in farming, the at best marginal cost benefits of planting GM crops pay off only in the short-term. Clear winners from the use of GM seeds are a handful of corporations, first and foremost Monsanto, which secure high profits for themselves from seed patents."

read more about it at Organic Consumers Association

EPA halts permitting of mountaintop removal mining

"I just want to celebrate...."!
"MTR takes place in the Southeast Appalachian Region, located in the states of West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report in 2003 about MTR. Between 1985 and 2001, over seven percent of Appalachian forests were wiped out and 1,200 streams were either polluted or buried according to the report. An area equal in size to one-quarter of New York City or San Francisco, 800 square miles, was estimated to be destroyed in Appalachia. It is high time we saw an end to such a thoroughly damaging industry. " - Gina-Marie Cheeseman on Celsias

Long overdue, the Environmental Protection Agency has halted permitting of mountaintop removal coal mining. We've sacrificed large swathes of the Appalachian ecosystem, mountain communities to ash spills, health and quality of life in the area to truck traffic, explosive noise, and dust intrusion. All to satiate our unending greed for cheap energy to fuel wasteful consumerist lifestyles. The Bush administration encouraged this behaviour to insure our addictive ways, remember his advice to "go shopping", and blocked every attempt to behave responsibly towards the precious natural resources and heritage of Appalchia.

Now, a breath of fresh air is blowing away the coal sludge encrusted lobbyists and fat cats from the seats of power. After a review of the science on the impacts of MTR the EPA will decide how best proceed.

Thanks to Gina-Marie Cheeseman on Celsias for the image.

Progress in Washington on Climate Change

The mainstream US media may be refusing to cover climate change science but that hasn't stopped the Obama administration from making real progress to address the problems presented by our carbon intensive lifestyles. Reversing 8 years of criminal neglect as the EPA worked for the polluters rather than the environment under the Bush administration, as reported by the Washington Post;

"The Environmental Protection Agency’s new leadership, in a step toward confronting global warming, submitted a finding that will force the White House to decide whether to limit greenhouse gas emissions under the nearly 40-year-old Clean Air Act.

Under that law, EPA’s conclusion — that such emissions are pollutants that endanger the public’s health and welfare — could trigger a broad regulatory process affecting much of the U.S. economy as well as the nation’s future environmental trajectory. The agency’s finding, which was sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget without fanfare on Friday, also reversed one of the Bush administration’s landmark decisions on climate change, and it indicated anew that President Obama’s appointees will push to address the issue of warming despite the potential political costs."

It will be interesting to see if the US media covers the signing of the endangerment finding on April 16th.

read more at Climate Progress.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Transition 101- post #1

As I posted yesterday, we are very likely now in a world where oil production has peaked and I've posted repeatedly we are without a doubt experiencing the early stages of climate change.

Even if oil hasn't quite peaked yet and certainly if it has, we need to reduce our dependency on resources that we can't control access to, are bound to get more scarce, and more expensive from both a financial and environmental perspective. There are many reasons to do so, chief among them is our own personal and community resilience and the gorilla in the room, Climate Change. Just about anything you do in the modern western way of life is contributing to climate change and is dependent upon fossil fuels. It doesn't take a genius to see the risk to our well being of continuing down the path we are on. Business as usual will not do!

But weaning ourselves and community off of fossil fuel dependence is not an easy thing to imagine. Fortunately there are those who have already done it or are in process. On a large scale, Cuba had to deal with a rapid reduction of oil supply when the Soviet Union collapsed. On a smaller scale, towns like Totnes in England have become Transition Towns.
See a more complete list below of the 152 transition towns worldwide.

Transition is a growing movement designed to prepare ourselves for the coming of the hydrocarbon twins, Peak Oil (PO) and Climate Change (CC). I am currently involved in helping to start up a transition movement in Bermuda. As a result I am working with others to prepare some basic materials to begin to educate the public about the twin threats of PO and CC as well as the nuts and bolts of transition. As this process progresses I will post these materials here on this blog.

Here is what I have so far;

Transition initiatives are based on 4 key assumptions:
1. Life with dramatically lower energy consumption is inevitable and it's better to plan for it than to be taken by surprise.
2. Our community presently lacks the resilience to enable them to weather the severe energy shocks that will accompany peak oil.
3. We have to act collectively and we have to act now.
4. Unleashing the collective genius of us all to creatively and proactively design our energy descent, we can build ways of living that are more connected, more enriching and that recognise the biological limits of the planet. (Hopkins 2008 p134)

6 principles underpin the model;
1. Visioning - imagine in detail what the goal is
2. Inclusion - all sectors involved with all other sectors
3. Awareness raising - start with an assumption that everyone is ignorant of the issues, insures that all are informed to an equal level. Mainstream media intentionally tries to downplay these issues and is therefore confusing.
4. Resilience - rebuilding resilience is central and crucial
5. Psych insights - understand and remain sensitive to the psychological impacts of the message
6. Credible and appropriate solutions - what can be achieved at a community level while still working on the personal and governmental levels. (Hopkins 2008 p142)

Here is a list of the "official" Transition Towns as found at the Transition Network WIKI
, many more are thinking over and are termed "mullers";
  1. Totnes, England
  2. Penwith, England
  3. Kinsale, Ireland
  4. Ivybridge, England
  5. Falmouth, England
  6. Moretonhampstead, England
  7. Lewes, England
  8. Stroud, England
  9. Ashburton, England
  10. Ottery St. Mary, England
  11. Bristol, England
  12. Brixton, England
  13. Forest Row, England
  14. Mayfield, England
  15. Glastonbury, England
  16. Lostwithiel, England
  17. Forest of Dean, England
  18. Nottingham, England
  19. Wrington, England
  20. Brighton&Hove, England
  21. Portobello, Scotland
  22. Market Harborough, England
  23. Sunshine Coast, Australia
  24. West Kirby, England
  25. Llandeilo, Wales
  26. Bro Ddyfi, Wales
  27. Whitstable, England
  28. Marsden & Slaithwaite, England
  29. Frome, England
  30. Brampton, England
  31. Isle of Wight, England
  32. Waiheke Island, New Zealand
  33. Orewa, New Zealand
  34. Dunbar, Scotland
  35. Rhayader, Wales
  36. Seaton, England
  37. Bath, England
  38. Exeter, England
  39. Isle of Man
  40. Canterbury, England
  41. Kapiti District, New Zealand
  42. Carbon Neutral Biggar, a Transition Town, Scotland
  43. Presteigne, Wales
  44. Wolverton, England
  45. Leicester, England
  46. Holywood, Northern Ireland
  47. Westcliff-on-Sea, England
  48. Isles of Scilly
  49. Liverpool South, England
  50. Norwich, England
  51. Tring, England
  52. Crediton, England
  53. Boulder, CO, USA
  54. North Howe, Scotland
  55. Lampeter, Wales
  56. South Petherton, England
  57. Armidale, NSW, Australia
  58. Chichester, England
  59. Bell, VIC, Australia
  60. Bellingen, NSW, Australia
  61. Berkhamsted, England
  62. Forres, Scotland
  63. Sandpoint, ID, USA
  64. Opotiki Coast, New Zealand
  65. Newcastle, NSW, Australia
  66. Chepstow, Wales
  67. Coventry, England
  68. Bungay, England
  69. Nelson, New Zealand
  70. Hervey Bay, QLD, Australia
  71. Dorchester, England
  72. New Forest, England
  73. Mersea Island, England
  74. Maidenhead, England
  75. Ladock & Grampound Road, England
  76. Leek, England
  77. Horsham, England
  78. Tynedale, England
  79. Stafford, England
  80. Chester, England
  81. Exmouth, England
  82. Cambridge, England
  83. Hereford, England
  84. Kingston-upon-Thames, England
  85. Buxton, England
  86. Taunton, England
  87. Eudlo, QLD, Australia
  88. Cotati, CA, USA
  89. Kildare, Scotland
  90. Ketchum, ID, USA
  91. El Manzano, Chile
  92. Sydney, NSW
  93. Lyons, CO, USA
  94. Whanganui, New Zealand
  95. Langport, England
  96. Sidmouth, England
  97. York, England
  98. Katoomba, NSW, Australia
  99. Louth, England
  100. Santa Cruz, CA, USA
  101. Fujino, Japan
  102. Monteveglio, Italy
  103. Arran & Holy Isle, Scotland
  104. Ely, England
  105. Monmouth, Wales
  106. Sampford Peverell, England
  107. Berlin, Friedrichshain Kreuzberg, Germany
  108. Tunbridge Wells, England
  109. Hastings, England
  110. Deventer, Netherlands
  111. Brooklyn, New Zealand
  112. Kilkenny, Ireland
  113. Wingecarribee, NSW, Australia
  114. Kenmore, QLD, Australia
  115. Newton Abbot, England
  116. Peterborough, ON, Canada
  117. Montpelier, VT, USA
  118. Portland, ME, USA
  119. Belsize, London, England
  120. High Wycombe, England
  121. Lancaster, England
  122. Sebastopol, CA, USA
  123. Bassingbourn, England
  124. Leamington Spa, England
  125. Sevenoaks, England
  126. Chesterfield, England
  127. Sheffield, England
  128. Woodbridge, England
  129. Laguna Beach, CA, USA
  130. Pine Mountain, CA, USA
  131. Ashland, OR, USA
  132. Kirkbymoorside, England
  133. Downham Market, England
  134. Berea, KY, USA
  135. Pima, AZ USA
  136. Dorking, England
  137. Hawick, Scotland
  138. Los Angeles, CA, USA
  139. Cooran, QLD, Australia
  140. Castle Ward, Bedford, England
  141. Tayport, Scotland
  142. Redland, Bristol England
  143. Barraba, NSW, Australia
  144. Denver, CO, USA
  145. Newent, England
  146. Whatcom, WA, USA
  147. Mount Shasta, CA, USA
  148. NE Seattle, WA USA
  149. Louisville, CO, USA
  150. Newburyport, MA, USA
  151. Omagh, Northern Ireland
  152. Oxford, England

Hopkins, R 2008 The Transition Handbook; From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience - published by Green Books

Transition Towns WIKI - Transition Network/Transition Communities http://transitiontowns.org/TransitionNetwork/TransitionCommunities

thanks to
Transition Towns WIKI - Transition Network/ Transition training for the image http://transitiontowns.org/TransitionNetwork/TransitionTraining

Monday, 23 March 2009

World Oil production has peaked. Are you ready?

Much like the ejecta from the volcanoes going off will help to dim the atmosphere and mask the effects of excess carbon dioxide, the slowing of the economy is masking the fact that we have likely reached peak oil production. As compiled by Clifford Wirth Phd over on;

Surviving Peak Oil: Planning, Preparation, and Relocation

" Oil and stock analyst Tony Ericksen of the Oil Megaprojects Task Force concludes that global oil production peaked in 2008:

"World oil production peaked in 2008 at 81.73 million barrels/day (mbd). This oil definition includes crude oil, lease condensate, oil sands and natural gas plant liquids. If natural gas plant liquids are excluded, then the production peak remains in 2008 but at 73.79 million barrels per day. However, if oil sands are also excluded then crude oil and lease condensate production peaked in 2005 at 72.75 mbd."

In an earlier post Dr. Wirth presented us with this;

"Credit for accurate Peak Oil predictions (within a few years) goes to the following (projected year for peak given in parentheses):

* Association for the Study of Peak Oil (2007)

* Rembrandt Koppelaar, Editor of “Oil Watch Monthly” (2008)

* Tony Eriksen, Oil stock analyst and Samuel Foucher, oil analyst (2008)

* Matthew Simmons, Energy investment banker, (2007)

* T. Boone Pickens, Oil and gas investor (2007)

* U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (2005)

* Kenneth S. Deffeyes, Princeton professor and retired shell geologist (2005)

* Sam Sam Bakhtiari, Retired Iranian National Oil Company geologist (2005)

* Chris Skrebowski, Editor of “Petroleum Review” (2010)

* Sadad Al Husseini, former head of production and exploration, Saudi Aramco (2008)

* Energy Watch Group in Germany (2006)

* Fredrik Robelius, Oil analyst and author of "Giant Oil Fields" (2008 to 2018)

Oil production will now begin to decline terminally.

Within a year or two, it is likely that oil prices will skyrocket as supply falls below demand. OPEC cuts could exacerbate the gap between supply and demand and drive prices even higher.

Independent studies indicate that global crude oil production will now decline from 74 million barrels per day to 60 million barrels per day by 2015. During the same time, demand will increase. Oil supplies will be even tighter for the U.S. As oil producing nations consume more and more oil domestically they will export less and less. Because demand is high in China, India, the Middle East, and other oil producing nations, once global oil production begins to decline, demand will always be higher than supply. And since the U.S. represents one fourth of global oil demand, whatever oil we conserve will be consumed elsewhere. Thus, conservation in the U.S. will not slow oil depletion rates significantly."

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Yes We Must!

As scientists warn that we are fast running out of time to prevent runaway climate change (a global challenge that dwarfs this financial crisis both in size and importance, literally and singularly too big to fail), naysayers claim that the Obama administration is trying to do too much, talking heads and pundits on corporate media are saying we need to slow down on developing a smart grid, and the politicians that are owned by the lobbyists and corporate interests that have created the multipronged mess we are in do everything in their power to remain firmly stuck in the toxic coal waste mud oozing through the towns of Appalachia, President Obama is forging ahead with plans to rebuild the economy on the technologies of the future and put the world on a path towards sustainability. I may not agree with everything he is doing but I am willing to give him leeway to put a plan in place and will continue to try to influence the process through contact with my states' politicians and petitions to the Congress, Senate, and White House. In the meantime is incumbent upon us all to personally reduce wasteful consumerism, increase energy efficiency, invest in sustainability, fight dirty coal and reduce driving (the chief culprits in global warming), and further reduce our carbon footprint by eating local and organic. This isn't about Can Do it is about Must Do.

Here's excerpts from Obama's speech at the SCE Electric Vehicle Technical Center in California as reported on Climate Progress,

"... our greatest discoveries are born not in a flash of brilliance, but in the crucible of a deliberate effort over time. And often, they take something more than imagination and dedication alone — often they take an investment from government. That’s how we sent a man to the moon. That’s how we were able to launch a world wide web. And it’s how we’ll build the clean energy economy that’s the key to our competitiveness in the 21st century.

We’ll do this because we know that the nation that leads on energy will be the nation that leads the world in the 21st century. That’s why, around the world, nations are racing to lead in these industries of the future. Germany is leading the world in solar power. Spain generates almost 30 percent of its power by harnessing the wind, while we manage less than one percent. And Japan is producing the batteries that currently power American hybrid cars.

So the problem isn’t a lack of technology. You’re producing the technology right here. The problem is that, for decades, we have avoided doing what must be done as a nation to turn challenge into opportunity. As a consequence, we import more oil today than we did on 9/11. The 1908 Model T earned better gas mileage than a typical SUV sold in 2008. And even as our economy has been transformed by new forms of technology, our electric grid looks largely the same as it did half a century ago.

So we have a choice to make. We can remain one of the world’s leading importers of foreign oil, or we can make the investments that will allow us to become the world’s leading exporter of renewable energy. We can let climate change continue to go unchecked, or we can help stem it. We can let the jobs of tomorrow be created abroad, or we can create those jobs right here in America and lay the foundation for our lasting prosperity.

... In the next three years, we will double this nation’s supply of renewable energy. We have also made the largest investment in basic research funding in American history — an investment that will spur not only new discoveries in energy, but breakthroughs in science and technology."

Thursday, 19 March 2009

cool animation about warming earth

I found this on Open Alex.
Wake Up, Freak Out - then Get a Grip from Leo Murray on Vimeo.

You think I'm against GMO's.....

Thousands of farmers in India have commited suicide after being ruined by switching to GM crops. Farmers in Poland are hunger striking to point out government duplicity with Monsanto.
Read more at Organic Consumers Association.
Here's and excerpt;

"Edyta Jaroszewska, 42 year old organic farmer and the chairperson of the Organic Farmers Association, started hunger strike against GMO cultivation in front of Ministry of Agriculture, Warsaw, Poland two days ago.

Two days ago Danuta Pilarska, another organic farmer and chairperson of The Organic Farmer's Union, joined her. Yesterday, both women, together with other members of the Coalition for a GMO Free Poland, joined a meeting of the Polish government's Agricultural Committee in the Senate in Warsaw. The committee was discussing the future of GMO in Poland.

After a few hours of debate Edyta concluded "There's no political will within the Polish government to stop corporations from illegal planting of the GM maize variety MON 810 - and to ensure that Poland is kept GMO free. This opens the possibility of the widespread planting of MON 810 during this year. So we don't have another choice other than to stay here and fight!"

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

The dangers of the blinkered US media

I've requested on several occasions recently that readers of this blog let me know if they had seen reporting of various environmental or climate change stories on the mainstream media. Of course, with recent news about Anna Nicole Smith to cover, the major purveyors of news in the US just didn't have time to cover threats to human civilization as we know it!

Joe Romm has written an interesting piece about it over on Climate Progress.
Here is an excerpt;

"Energy Daily (subs. req’d) notes of the U.S. media non-coverage of Copenhagen:

Ironically–given the Gallup finding that two in five Americans think the press is exaggerating climate change concerns–only a few of the major U.S. news outlets published accounts of the Copenhagen gathering, which received heavy coverage by news outlets in Europe and Asia.

Great point — though “ironically” isn’t the right word. There is nothing ironic about this. It is cause and effect. The right word is “tragically. ...

West Coast Climate Equity notes:

Last time mean global temperatures reached 2 to 3 degrees Celsius above present levels, in the mid-Pliocene (3 million years ago), an event associated with CO2 levels of about 400 parts per million, polar regions were heated by near-8 degrees C and sea levels have risen by 25+/-12 meters relative to the present. This represents near-total melting of Greenland and west Antarctica ice sheets (Robinson et al., 2008: “Pliocene role in assessing future climate impacts” (http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/ abstracts/ 2008/ Robinson_etal.html).

A rise of mean global temperatures above 4 or 5 degrees Celsius would shift the atmosphere to pre-glacial/interglacial conditions, which dominated the Earth from about 34 million years ago (end-Eocene) (Zachos et al., 2008) http://www.nature.com/ nature/ journal/ v451/ n7176/ full/ nature06588.html

That means ultimate sea level rise of 250 feet, with the best current projection being 5 feet by 2100 (see “Startling new sea level rise research: “Most likely” 0.8 to 2.0 meters by 2100“), rising thereafter 10 to 20 inches a decade (or more) for centuries. Good luck adapting to that, next 50 generations."

The Transition Handbook

I've been trying to develop interest in starting a transition movement here in Bermuda. My primary resource and recommendation is "The Transition Handbook" by Rob Hopkins. I've been thinking of writing a review for this blog but now one of my favorite bloggers over on Celsias, Jeremy Williams has done it before me.

This book really is a wonderful resource, full of pithy quotes, rationale for starting a transition movement, and practical guidance in getting the job done. I also recommend Rob Hopkins blog Transition Culture. Here's an excerpt from Jeremy's review;

"‘The Transition Handbook: from oil dependency to local resilience ‘ is the guidebook to the Transition Towns movement. It explains the problems of peak oil and climate change, re-localization and resilience as responses that will transition us to a post-carbon future, and how you can set up your own transition initiative.

All of this is divided into three broad sections, ‘the head’, ‘the heart’, and ‘the hands’. First, the problem, and Hopkins explains peak oil and climate change in simple and straightforward terms. He avoids the controversies, and focuses on the local - these are things that will affect each of us, in our every day lives. The two must be addressed together, as there are many solutions that will tackle both, and other solutions to one that will make the other worse. The US government’s Hirsch report for example, recommends coal to liquids for keeping cars on the road - a neat solution to peak oil, but devastating to climate change. Instead, a focus on efficiency and public transport would deal with both. ...

‘The Hands’ gets down to the practical details, from the principles of Permaculture, how to write a press release, working with a local council, films to show, the experiences of Totnes and Lewes, the first projects. There are sections on running productive meetings or discussions with large numbers of people. It’s practical and realistic, and really does feel like a handbook or a manual. I should also mention that from a design point of view, The Transition Handbook is a nice piece of work. It’s big and square and has wide margins that invite you to scribble notes. In its message and design, it’s a book that wants you to be involved, to add your story to the transition tales.

Transition Towns is the rarest of things, being a response to climate change and peak oil that is positive and proactive. “Too often environmentalists try to engage people in action by painting apocalyptic visions of the future as a way of scaring them into action” says Hopkins. “What would happen if we came at this the other way round, painting a picture of the future so enticing that people instinctively feel".

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Is it too late?

When I heard that massive plumes of methane were bubbling up from the sea bottom in the southern hemisphere, not to mention from the bottom of Arctic lakes, I almost gave up. "That's it", I thought. "We're doomed."

After a few days of a gloomy funk I decided that even so, I have a responsibility to future generations to limit the extent of the damage by continuing to work towards sustainability in my own life and to promote sustainability wherever I can.

That combination is key. As I improve my own carbon footprint in my own life I will choose methods that increase my resiliency and help me adapt to the warming world. At the same time, I increase my resiliency by helping others to do the same, as no man is an island. Resiliency depends on community.

But what about the governments of the countries I live in? The US, the UK, and Bermuda are all successful developed countries. What are they doing? What should they be doing?
As I am not as informed as George Monbiot on this topic I suggest you read this essay by Mr. Monbiot over at the Guardian.

If we behave as if it's too late, then our prophecy is bound to come true

However unlikely success might be, we can't afford to abandon efforts to cut emissions - we just don't have any better option

Here is an excerpt;

"Until recently, scientists spoke of carbon concentrations - and temperatures - peaking and then falling back. But a recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that "climate change ... is largely irreversible for 1,000 years after emissions stop". Even if we were to cut carbon emissions to zero today, by the year 3000 our contribution to atmospheric concentrations would decline by just 40%. High temperatures would remain more or less constant until then. If we produce it, we're stuck with it.

In the rich nations we will muddle through, for a few generations, and spend nearly everything we have on coping. But where the money is needed most there will be nothing. The ecological debt the rich world owes to the poor will never be discharged, just as it has never accepted that it should offer reparations for the slave trade and for the pillage of gold, silver, rubber, sugar and all the other commodities taken without due payment from its colonies. Finding the political will for crash cuts in carbon production is improbable. But finding the political will - when the disasters have already begun - to spend adaptation money on poor nations rather than on ourselves will be impossible.

The world won't adapt and can't adapt: the only adaptive response to a global shortage of food is starvation. Of the two strategies it is mitigation, not adaptation, which turns out to be the most feasible option, even if this stretches the concept of feasibility to the limits. As Dieter Helm points out, the action required today is unlikely but "not impossible. It is a matter ultimately of human wellbeing and ethics".

Yes, it might already be too late - even if we reduced emissions to zero tomorrow - to prevent more than 2C of warming; but we cannot behave as if it is, for in doing so we make the prediction come true. Tough as this fight may be, improbable as success might seem, we cannot afford to surrender."

Sustainable cities?

What do you think of when you read the term Sustainable City?

I like this:
The Living Building Challenge:

“Imagine a building informed by its eco-region’s characteristics and that:
  • generates all of its own energy with renewable resources
  • captures and treats all of its water
  • operates efficiently and for maximum beauty”

and this:

"Imagine Cities that could:
  • play a beneficially role in their local ecosystems
  • generate all their own energy from renewable resources
  • produce the majority of their own food
  • operate both efficiently and with maximum livability and equity"

read more at Open Alex

Monday, 16 March 2009

Sustainable agriculture petition

I've just sent a message to Secretary Vilsack by signing the petition, below, over at the CARE2 petition site.
If agriculture, food, and it's impact on Climate Change, health care, and resiliency is important to you, please sign this petition.

"Dear Secretary Vilsack,

The food and farming industries garner a lot of political attention. Understandably, the manner by which we grow, process, and distribute food is influential, so it is imperative that we take a look at the impacts of the food and farming industries. By changing the way we grow and process food, Americans can positively impact global warming, rising health care costs, and dependence on foreign oil.

The way we grow and ship food uses a surprising 19 percent of our total fossil fuels, which is second highest, falling only behind cars. It is time for all industries to consider their short-term and long-term impacts on the environment.

We can no longer afford to continue these agricultural processes that deplete natural resources, such as fresh water reserves. Global warming is exacerbated as a result of the many greenhouses gases emitted by food growth and processing.

Reforming farming to be more sustainable will lessen the affects. Please shift this industry from monoculture crops and feedlots to self-sustaining farms with crop diversity. These diverse farms naturally replenish soil nutrients and even hold water better during drought years.

It is widely known that the food industry relies on cheap fuel to maximize production, but now is the time to veer away from fossil fuels and foreign oil dependence. Oil is limited, but others natural resources like the sun are not. Now is the time to shift to using long-term resources. It is not only natural but easy to use the sun and processes of nature to fuel the food industry.

Sadly, the focus on food today had moved away from quality and instead concentrates on output. This creates mass production of cheap, unhealthy food. It is no secret that the average American diet is unhealthy and a great contributor of widespread obesity. Four of the top ten killers in America today are chronic diseases linked to diet: heart disease, stroke, Type II diabetes and cancer. The costly burden falls to an already broken health care system that spends billions of dollars fighting preventable yet common diseases. Not only is this harmful to those who are paying the high price of health care, but these are habits that are passed down to our children who have become the most unhealthy generation ever.

[Your comment here]

Clearly, reforming the food and farming industries is dire. But you can offer a glimmer of hope for America's future by providing stepping stones of change that will put an end to global warming, pollution to the environment and the downward spiral of our broken health care system. All of these industries need great reform as well but it must begin at the heart of the problem, our food system.

Thank you."

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Business as Usual

Business as usual solutions to the financial crisis mean an attempt to return to the same old exploitative model that got us into this mess. Far worse are business as usual solutions to climate change. Business as usual is no solution. The consequences are dire.

There are 3 types of Business as Usual, herein referred to as BaU.

1. Industry BaU, the type of behaviour we have seen from the oil barons and their corporate toadies who will do antything to maintain their stranglehold on the planet; deny, obfuscate, lie, and kill.

2. Governmental BaU, closely related to industry BaU as government tends to be of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations.

3. Personal BaU, this is the most important BaU because until government and industry see us making the necessary changes in our own lives they will not believe they have to make changes. The changes are significant. We can't wait for some government sponsored industry to come forward with a technology that will enable us all to live the wasteful hedonistic way we do today into infinity. It will involve some sacrifice. But what we sacrifice in consumerism and convenience we will gain in self sufficiency, health, and a deeper connection to the natural world and each other. This is because what is required is re-localization, a return to thrift and common sense, and a reconnection with and reliance on local community. Our attachment to Business as Usual in our own lives and in industry and business must be abandoned! Innovation in all things is required. If we don't ... read on to see what we face.

One of the most respected research organizations in the world, The Hadley Center at the UK Met office equates "business as usual" with "worst case scenario".

I used to read science fiction but science fact has become so scary, tense, and exciting that I've lost interest in science fiction.

Read about it at Climate Progress Joe Romm's Blog, where I found the Met office graphic. Here is an excerpt,

"A 5.5°C warming would inevitably lead to the mid- to high-range of currently projected sea level rise — 5 feet or more by 2100, followed by 6 to 20 inches a decade for centuries (see “
Startling new sea level rise research: “Most likely” 0.8 to 2.0 meters by 2100“). That means 100 million or more environmental refugees by century’s end alone.

Then we have desertification of one third the planet and moderate drought over half the planet, plus the loss of all inland glaciers that provide water to a billion people.

The unexpectedly rapid expansion of the tropical belt constitutes yet another signal that climate change is occurring sooner than expected,” noted one climate researcher last December. As a recent study led by NOAA noted, “A poleward expansion of the tropics is likely to bring even drier conditions to” the U.S. Southwest, Mexico, Australia and parts of Africa and South America.”

In 2007, Science (subs. req’d) published research that “predicted a permanent drought by 2050 throughout the Southwest” — levels of aridity comparable to the 1930s Dust Bowl would stretch from Kansas to California. And they were only looking at a 720 ppm case! The Dust Bowl was a sustained decrease in soil moisture of about 15% (”which is calculated by subtracting evaporation from precipitation”).

Yet even the “one-third desertification of the planet by 2100″ scenario from the Hadley Center is only based on 850 ppm (in 2100). Princeton has done an analysis on “Century-scale change in water availability: CO2-quadrupling experiment,” which is to say 1100 ppm. The grim result: Most of the South and Southwest ultimately sees a 20% to 50% (!) decline in soil moisture." - Joseph Romm

Will your state benefit from Climate Change legislation?

The financial crisis is small potatoes compared to climate change.
Dealing with climate change will be good for the economy.
Have you heard that before but wondered, what about the specifics? How will it help my area?

Check out Less Carbon More Jobs interactive maps showing the US industries that will benefit from a carbon cap. Not all the states are there yet and it only includes the industries that are currently in existence. As the green economy gets going there will many many more that will come online.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Composter made from recycled pallets

We've been living with our friend Judy in Bermuda. She has been wanting to start growing food again and has been burying her kitchen waste for some time. She has allowed me to start a compost heap in an old wicker laundry basket that the bottom has rotted out of. We got to chatting about expanding the composting operation and I mentioned that she could make a system out of recycled pallets. She thought she might like to buy one of the commercial products.

Off we went to the garden centers to price up plastic composters. The cheapest one was $270. That settled that. On our way home we stopped by the local bottled spirit importer and they gave us 10 like new pallets.

It's built in 3 sections so that as the first section gets full it can be turned into the second. This island is subtropical and produces lots of garden trimmings and leaves. The third section is for the manufacture of leaf mould, an excellent soil conditioner.

The second shot shows that partially filled third section.

The third shot shows the full structure, the box on the table contains my first plantings in Bermuda, some jalapeno peppers I found at the farmers market this morning.

The first shot shows how I wired it together and to the existing fence, also Daisy the cat acting in a supervisory capacity.

The first two sections will get some chicken wire on the inside to help contain the compostables.

Friday, 13 March 2009

6 key messages from Copenhagen

2,500 of the worlds scientists from 80 countries have gathered in Copenhagen to build consensus and draw conclusions about the acceleration of the degradation of the planets' climate . The full report will come out in June but they have 6 key points ready for distribution now. I found them over on World Changing

Those of you who visit this blog regularly won't be surprised to learn that my favorite is #5 "Inaction is inexcusable". No Kidding?! Also, I especially like part of #6, "reducing the influence of vested interests that increase emissions and reduce resilience;".

Meanwhile, short term thinking threatens to stall progress in Congress, read more, again, over on World Changing.

I've been trying to scan US media, ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN, for the last several days of this Copenhagen meeting and have seen nary a mention of it. I did see it on the BBC, as expected. To paraphrase one quote, "Scientists warn that worst case scenarios mentioned 2 years ago are already coming to pass." There is no shortage of Chevron ads on US media though. Please let me know if you see coverage of the Copenhagen meeting in America. On a brighter note I caught David Letterman talking to Tom Brokaw about global warming, and their individual efforts and involvement, on the tonight show.

"The scientists' six key messages are:

1) Climatic trends

Recent observations confirm that, given high rates of observed emissions, the worst-case IPCC scenario projections (or even worse) are being realised. For many key parameters, the climate is already moving beyond the patterns of natural variability within which our society and economy have developed and thrived. These parameters include global mean surface temperature, sea-level rise, ocean and ice sheet dynamics, ocean acidification, and extreme climatic events. There is a significant risk that many of the trends will accelerate, leading to an increasing risk of abrupt or irreversible climatic shifts.

2) Social disruption

The research community is providing much more information to support discussions on "dangerous climate change". Recent observations show that societies are highly vulnerable to even modest levels of climate change, with poor nations and communities particularly at risk. Temperature rises above 2C will be very difficult for countries to cope with, and will increase the level of climate disruption through the rest of the century.

3) Long-term strategy

Rapid, sustained, and effective mitigation based on coordinated global and regional action is required to avoid "dangerous climate change" regardless of how it is defined. Weaker targets for 2020 increase the risk of crossing tipping points and make the task of meeting 2050 targets more difficult. Delay in initiating effective mitigation actions increases significantly the long-term social and economic costs of both adaptation and mitigation.

4) Equity dimensions

Climate change is having, and will have, strongly differential effects on people within and between countries and regions, on this generation and future generations, and on human societies and the natural world. An effective, well-funded adaptation safety net is required for those people least capable of coping with climate change impacts, and a common but differentiated mitigation strategy is needed to protect the poor and most vulnerable.

5) Inaction is inexcusable

There is no excuse for inaction. We already have many tools and approaches — economic, technological, behavioural, management — to deal effectively with the climate change challenge. But they must be vigorously and widely implemented to achieve the societal transformation required to decarbonise economies. A wide range of benefits will flow from a concerted effort to alter our energy economy now, including sustainable energy job growth, reductions in the health and economic costs of climate change, and the restoration of ecosystems and revitalisation of ecosystem services.

6) Meeting the challenge

To achieve the societal transformation required to meet the climate change challenge, we must overcome a number of significant constraints and seize critical opportunities. These include reducing inertia in social and economic systems; building on a growing public desire for governments to act on climate change; removing implicit and explicit subsidies; reducing the influence of vested interests that increase emissions and reduce resilience; enabling the shifts from ineffective governance and weak institutions to innovative leadership in government, the private sector and civil society; and engaging society in the transition to norms and practices that foster sustainability.

This piece originally appeared in the Environment section of the Guardian"

Thursday, 12 March 2009

It's Broke, don't fix it!

Michael Pollan has often been quoted as saying that by continuously designing new fixes into a broken system, we just move it farther and farther away from operating the efficient way that nature intended.

I know he was referring to food and agriculture but I think this idea can be applied to many issues of the day.

The continued efforts to bail out a financial system based on debt, consumerism and greed which robs the poorest of us to enrich the richest,

An energy system that is cutting our own throats day by day by destabilizing the ecosystem upon we depend for our very lives,

The dominance of agribusiness that in it's arrogance erodes complex natural systems that have evolved over millions of years to be replaced by simple man made science experiments that have only just appeared on the scene and haven't even been adequately tested for safety,

The design of impersonal communities that rely on giant automobiles and dwindling petrochemicals rather than public transit, walking, cycling, and neighborliness,

A health care system that is designed not to make us healthy but to maximise profits,

And on the personal level, how we set up our households to depend on far flung countries and corporations for energy, shelter, food, clothing, clean water, transportation and income.

So what's the answer? I think we all have to find our own answers to these conundrums but for me it lies in resilience. My goals are to avoid spending on consumerism but to invest in sustainability, to choose fresh local organic food produced in a sustainable fashion if not grown by me, to wear clothing that is designed to last not to appear fashionable, preferably used and to wear it till it wears out, to set up my life such that I don't need to own a personal car, to walk or ride the bus, to generate the energy I use on site, to reduce my consumption of marketed, processed, and overpackaged resources from far flung corners of the world, to work with my neighbors to create a sustainable resilient community that works together to thrive in hard times.

Trying to save the economy we are watching meltdown is trying to fix a fatally flawed system that has no future. The sooner we abandon it, though it may mean austerity in the short term, and remake our lives using the principles of resilience and sustainability the less suffering overall in the long term we will create.

Finally, Some Good News About Our Oceans

After the flurry of depressing posts about the oceans yesterday, here are some reasons to be hopeful.

Check out this post by Julie M. over on Celsias;

Finally, Some Good News About Our Oceans

Posted using ShareThis

Here's an excerpt directly pertaining to one of my posts yesterday.

"In another positive move for our oceans, in response to a petition and threatened litigation by the Center for Biodiversity , the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in February agreed to review how ocean acidification should be addressed under the federal Clean Water Act.

Ocean acidification results from the ocean's absorption of excess CO2 in the atmosphere, resulting in increased acidity and changes in the seawater chemistry which in turn can hinder the ability of marine animals to build and maintain their protective shells and skeletons. The Center has asked the EPA to impose stricter pH standards for ocean water quality as well as publish guidelines to help states protect U.S. waters.

The EPA's formal response to the petition sets out a public process to evaluate ocean acidification's impact on water quality, as well as determining whether the current water quality criterion for pH should be modified to address these new concerns. The EPA also agreed to develop biological assessment tools and other technical guidance with regard to evaluating the health of coral reefs that are specifically threatened by ocean acidification."

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Do you own property near a coastline?

This image from World View of Global Warming is of a house in the island nation of Tuvalu.

My sister and I sold our family home which was about 18" above high tide mark a few years ago. I've posted before about the threats to coastal property, where you can find a link to the tool that lets you look at projected sea level rise in your neighborhood, and make no secret of my belief that I will live to see sea level rise of 1 meter or more. This isn't just a problem for far off nations like Tuvalu or Bangladesh so "out of sight, out of mind" ain't gonna cut it! Think, New York, Singapore, Hong Kong, London, Miami, Savannah, Charleston, Norfolk, Baltimore, etc, etc, ......

There are so many issues associated with sea level rise that make property values seem insignificant; pollution of the seas as they swamp industrial sites and garbage dumps, food shortages as coastal farms are drowned, disruption of commerce as ports become unusable and highways are swamped, environmental refugees as billions of people look for new places to live.

Assuredly this is not likely to be an event as portrayed in Day after Tomorrow, it will happen gradually, except in the case of storm surges as hurricanes become more severe. This gives us time to adapt. But will we?

When will we realize that coastal properties have no value? Insurance companies are already realizing it I think. How will you sell your home to finance your move inland if your home has no value? It may sound unethical or even callous but shouldn't you be thinking about selling that coastal property while it still has value? There are those who do not believe these levels of sea level rise are possible and are still willing to purchase that waterfront property. Buyer Beware!

Check out this post on the subject over at Worldchanging
Here's an excerpt from the post by Joe Romm,

" Coastal property values won't wait to (permanently) fall until sea levels have actually risen 4 or 5 feet, as they almost certainly will by the end this century on our current CO2 emissions path (see
Startling new sea level rise research: "Most likely" 0.8 to 2.0 meters by 2100 and Report from AGU meeting: One meter sea level rise by 2100 "very likely" even if warming stops?).

Coastal property values will crash when a large fraction of the financial community and of opinion-makers -- along with a smaller but substantial fraction of the public -- realize that it is too late for us to stop 4 to 5 feet of SLR. And remember, if we don't get on the sustainable sub-450-ppm path soon, then people will quickly come to understand that SLR won't stop in 2100. Seas will continue rising post-2100 perhaps 10 to 20 inches a decade (or more) for centuries until we are ice free and seas are 250 feet higher. And that makes protecting most coastal cities very, very difficult and expensive."

Gulf Stream Instability

When I sailed my 30' sailboat to Bermuda in 2002 I contracted with Jennifer Clarke, The Gulfstream Lady, to plot my course across this massive north flowing current. She tracks the warm and cold eddies that spin off the stream and can bring a boat to a standstill. It was well worth the price as we made the trip in under 7 days, pretty good for such a slow small boat as mine. I have heard that even she, one of the worlds foremost authorities on the gulfstream, is finding it increasingly difficult to accurately predict the flow.

3 years ago, before we left Bermuda the first time, I was lucky enough to meet Neal Peterson. Author of Journey of a Hope Merchant, an excellent read by the way, he told me that he had been crossing the gulf stream for years from his home in South Carolina. He used to be able to reliably find the well defined edge of the stream in the roughly the same place but no more. Now he never knows where he will find it.

Now that I am back in Bermuda I'm told by locals that they are noticing a definite cooling trend. This is consistent with the 30% reduction in flow of the warm gulfstream waters that influence the climate which I posted on back on April 20th 2008 here on this blog.

Read more about this over on Celsias. Here's an excerpt from the post by Jeanne Roberts,

"The mechanism of abrupt climate change is, according to climate scientists, a failure of an ocean current called "The Great Conveyor Belt" (also known as thermohaline circulation). This ocean current is in trouble as freshwater glaciers and ice sheets melt. Excess freshwater entering the saltwater ocean interrupts how the current operate, threatening to stop its circulation.

If the current stops bringing warm, equatorial air northward via the Gulf Stream, it would lead to increasing cold in Northern Europe and the Atlantic Coast of the United States.

For example, Europe and Alaska are at the same latitude, but Europe is warmer because of this thermohaline circulation, which is the result of differences in water temperatures and salinity between the North Atlantic and the Pacific. When the Great Conveyor Belt circulates in the ocean, warmer equatorial waters raise the temperature of the Atlantic Ocean, most notably between Europe and the Atlantic coastline off New York. Winds circulating around and over this warmer sea area bring warmer temperatures to adjacent landmasses in Europe and America.

If thermohaline circulation were to fail as some anticipate, currently temperate areas of the globe would become close to uninhabitable, and food production in those areas would fail almost entirely. According to one source, the Gulf Stream has already slowed by six million tonnes of water per second over the past three decades, and computer modeling projections suggest that another global temperature rise of as little as 3 degrees Celsius creates a 50-percent risk of the current collapsing altogether."

Thanks to the BBC via the celsias post for the image.

Acidic Seas threaten mass extinctions

As reported on the BBC, our oceans are now more acidic than anytime in the last 500,000 years, 30% more acidic than at the start of the industrial revolution. This is a direct consequence of increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere due to human burning of fossil fuels.

Are we so greedy for convenience and comfort that we are willing to sacrifice our oceans!?

While I'm ranting I'd like to point out that the BBC still has a science and environment reporting division, this news is featured on the radio, television, and internet. Please let me know if you see anything on this story on mainstream US media.

Read more at BBC News. Here's an excerpt,

" 'I am very worried for ocean ecosystems which are currently productive and diverse,' Carol Turely told BBC News. I believe we may be heading for a mass extinction, as the rate of change in the oceans hasn't been seen since the dinosaurs. It may have a major impact on food security. It really is imperative that we cut emissions of CO2.' Dr Turley is chairing a session on ocean acidification at the Copenhagen Climate Change Congress." - Roger Harrabin
Environment analyst, BBC News

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

This Dusty ole Dust... The west is drying up

"So long, it's been good to know yuh.
This dusty old dust is a-gettin' my home,
And I got to be driftin' along." - Woody Guthrie

Are you one of the 25 million who depends on Lake Mead or Lake Powell for your electricity or your water?

Researchers at San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography suggest that Lake Mead faces a 50% chance of drying up by 2021 if the drought continues and water use keeps rising.

By 2017 Lake Mead will likely not be able to produce hydropower any longer.

Lake Mead and Lake Powell are both half full.

read more about the Scripps Research

Check OpenAlex for more on the drying of the west.