A Man with a Flashlight

Quote of the day
July 6, 2007, 8:03 am
Filed under: Politics, The Earth

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” – W.H. Murray of the Scottish Himalaya Expedition, often wrongly attributed to Goethe himself.

Note to Mike Gravel, Bill Richardson, John Edwards, Barack Obama: propose a large tax on gasoline. This writer, and others, will have new respect for your seriousness on a range of issues, from peace in the Middle East to addressing the environmental catastrophe.

And he was driving a Prius
July 5, 2007, 11:58 pm
Filed under: Drug Prohibition, Politics, The Earth

Can you get greener than being Al Gore’s son, cruising along the San Diego freeway and smoking green buds?

I’m sure I won’t be the first to ask if the marijuana was as hybrid as the car. Yuk yuk yuk.

Strange to say, but my first reaction is a slight tinge of envy. It must be my hippie roots. There’s something strange, even dreamlike, about the whole situation. It seems to come straight from the subconscious of the Left. Does Al Gore III stand for something in all of us, the rampaging id of the gentle liberal psyche?

Heads in the sand
July 1, 2007, 11:09 am
Filed under: The Earth

I’m not an expert, but the theory of peak oil seems straightforward to me. The petroleum we use accumulated slowly over millions of years. There is no prospect of renewing it, at least not on a human timescale. As it becomes increasingly scarce, it will become increasingly expensive. And at some point, there will be left only petroleum which requires more energy to extract than it yields. In any case, long before that it will be so expensive that solar power will be a bargain by comparison, and oil will be dead. (Please do correct me if I’ve blundered so far.)

So I guess we should not be reassured when the chief economist for British Petroleum claims that oil is infinite:

This scenario is flatly denied by BP, whose chief economist Peter Davies has dismissed the arguments of “peak oil” theorists.

“We don’t believe there is an absolute resource constraint. When peak oil comes, it is just as likely to come from consumption peaking, perhaps because of climate change policies as from production peaking.”

So we don’t have to worry about the inevitable downslope in oil production making it prohibitively expensive, because the environmental costs of using oil will be prohibitively high, killing demand for it.

An interesting prediction, especially since there seems to be no indication of this coming drop in demand:

BP’s review shows that world demand for oil has grown faster in the past five years than in the second half of the 1990s. Today we consume an average of 85 million barrels daily. According to the most conservative estimates from the International Energy Agency that figure will rise to 113 million barrels by 2030.

We are addicted to oil, and like any junkie, we have an assortment of lies to support our habit. No-one wants to be the one who tells us the obvious: oil is the author of our current way of life, and that way of life may last no longer than the oil does.

Will Ferrell does Bush on global warming
May 6, 2007, 10:15 pm
Filed under: Comedy, The Earth

A classic, revisited.

Peak Oil, in 1881
May 6, 2007, 12:33 pm
Filed under: The Earth

Peak Oil has worried me ever since I watched “The Road Warrior,” though I didn’t know the term for it at the time.

The theory was refined and publicized by Marion King Hubbert in 1956 and accepted by the National Academy of Sciences in 1975. But you may not be aware that in the mid-nineteenth century, scientists already knew fossil fuels were not permanently exploitable.

William Thomas, a professor at Glasgow University, in 1881:

subterranean coal stores of the world are becoming exhausted surely, and the price of coal is upward bound… windmills or wind motors of some form will again be in the ascendent.

(Arnold Pacey (1974). The Maze of Ingenuity. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.)

The Zeer Pot: Refrigeration Without Electricity
May 5, 2007, 8:18 pm
Filed under: Design, The Earth

Freakin’ cool man. The Zeer, or “pot-in-pot refrigerator,” is made by putting a small clay pot inside a large one. The space between the pots is filled with sand, which acts as an insulator. Water added to the sand evaporates steadily, cooling the inner pot. There’s more:

Each zeer can contain 12 kg of vegetables, and costs less than US$2 to produce.

Experiments assessing its ability to extend shelf life show that tomatoes and guavas can be kept for 20 days, compared to just two without. Even rocket, which usually lasts only a day before wilting, can be kept for five days.

And it was invented in Nigeria.

Green building materials
May 5, 2007, 4:26 pm
Filed under: Design, The Earth

The BBC has a detailed article about London’s Think 07 trade fair. Treehugger blogs it here.

This is a subject I want to learn more about.