Archive of category "climate change"

by Jacob Corvidae

Perhaps the most important civil rights issue facing us today is climate change. It completely changes the foundation that all our other questions, concerns and struggles are built upon.

If climate change becomes catastrophic, humanity will not die. But those with power and resources will be the most likely to survive, while those without perish. This is not because those with resources are predestined for survival or somehow “chosen”. Nor is it because those without have failed some test of fate, and must carry the label of “losers”. It is simply because resources make it easier to adapt to difficult conditions, whether those resources are political, financial, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual.

I hope that climate change does not become catastrophic, but hope, while necessary, is not enough. We must also bring together all the people of this world who care about equality, fairness and freedom to recognize that this is a threat to those principles of unparalleled proportions. And when financial, physical or political resources are not in our hands, then we must cultivate a powerful core of social, emotional and spiritual strength. We must build upon those to make the political and financial changes needed.

The struggle for social justice and freedom continue throughout the world. We know the challenges before us are many. But we are also making tremendous progress. As Martin Luther King Junior said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” We have seen tremendous progress in the bending of that arc in recent years, such as the Arab Spring, troubled though that work always is.

We must unite against this threat. It is perhaps our greatest challenge as a people for it is not an enemy out there, but a threat that we ourselves have created. This causes confusion. It is not the sort of “fight” we are used to, with an external foe we can revile. Instead it requires different tactics. Instead we must build our own compassion. Instead we must create the new and better world as our first step, as opposed to tearing down “the enemy”.

While we may be unfamiliar with this tactic, and wonder how we rally without an outside enemy, we can also see the tremendous power of this dilemma. When we are the creators and short-term benefactors of this challenge, when we are at the helm of this dangerous ship, then we can also turn the wheel. It requires that we understand this threat to the future that we hold dear.

If we will raise the lantern of hope for freedom and justice, then we must shine the light on climate change. When we bring ourselves together around this wheel, then we can turn it.

[I wrote this after waking up on MLK day. Please share it. - Jacob]

by Jacob Corvidae

Saving the world is hard enough without it also being boring. So here’s a smattering of ways to have fun while being more eco-friendly.

  1. The Fun Theory - a great competition that came up with a bunch of creative ways to get people to do more eco-things by making them the more fun option. Their site features a bunch of videos of the entries. Shown here was a great recycling bin design that got people to run around gathering recyclables to use it.
  2. Japan’s Fun Train – Want to make more people use trains? What if they were great places to be in? These two trains from Japan are great examples of using this idea to make trains more kid-friendly. But really the idea could be taken in many different directions with amazing results.
  3. Seed bomb vending machine – Treehugger pointed this nice one out, and I don’t know if it really makes anything more fun, but it tickled me pink, so here it is.
  4. Designers’ eco- coloring book – Now, I know that many alterna-folks aren’t crazy about coloring books, because of the notion that it’s spoonfed “coloring-in-the-lines” instructions. But that wasn’t my experience at all as a kid. Rather, it was a great way to get comfy with using color, discovering color combinations and playing with different techniques and materials. In any case, this book is even more fun. Professional illustrators were asked to contribute pages on an environmental theme, making for a fun, arty coloring book that you can also use to indoctrinate your child into the eco-hegemony! Shown here, an illustration from the book by Delphine Vaufrey.
  5. Rep. Markey’s statement on Climate Change Deniers – This just stands as a great example of how activism is far more fun when we bring in humor instead of just polemics. It’s only a little over a minute and really worth a listen.  See vid clip below.

by Jacob Corvidae

Music is a powerful force in the universe: it can inform, inspire, move and enlighten us. Except when it sucks.

And sure enough, it’s easier to write a sucky song about politics than a good one. In fact, Grist provided a whole list of songs about climate change that suck [Link corrected - sorry 'bout that]. So I went on a quest to find songs about this topic that don’t suck. And it wasn’t easy. I couldn’t even get 10. But it’s a start, and I’m hoping you can let me know of any others.

My criteria were pretty simple and completely subjective: it had to be intelligent and sophisticated in it’s handling of the subject, or fun and clever, but anything insipid or trite was not allowed.

So, in no particular order, here’s the list:

Climate Songs That Don’t Suck

 
This Monkey’s Gone to Heaven – Pixies – lyrics

Idioteque – Radiohead – lyrics

Watershed – Vienna Teng – lyrics

Tables and chairs – andrew bird – lyrics

The Clock – Thom Yorke (and ALBUM: The Eraser) – lyrics

And note that this entire album (!!) is apparently about climate change, but this one stands alone in a way that I don’t think the others do.

Sleeping in – postal service – lyrics

White Light – Vienna Teng – lyrics

While I’ve been told this may not be strictly about climate change, I think it works well for it – and the sounds like a tea-pot heating up and whistling puts it in place for me.

Yes, that’s it. 7 songs. Despite a list of over 350 climate related songs that others have put together. Now, maybe some of those don’t suck. I didn’t listen to or know them all.

But here are 2 Special Mentions to at least boost the list a little:
Thanks – Erin McKeown, Amy Martin and Missoula Coyote Choir – lyrics
A sweet song off the great biomimicry kids album by Amy Martin.

Long Line of Cars – Cake – lyrics

Enjoy – and let me know if you know of any others.

by Jacob Corvidae

Hey folks, just a heads up that Powering the Nation just posted a guest blog I did for them on the future of energy. Yep, that’s me on the list, right above John Kerry.

Here’s the list of guest editorials:
http://unc.news21.com/index.php/opinions.html

And here’s a direct link to my full article:
http://unc.news21.com/index.php/opinions/277-the-energy-challenge-act-today-shape-tomorrow.html

by Jeffrey Harris

It took me days to get around to it, because it’s so damn long, but Paul Krugman’s piece in the New York Times magazine on climate change economics filled me with hope, unexpectedly.

There are many parts of the well-written article that I liked, in general it does a good job of listing the economic arguments about climate change, and ultimately wholeheartedly agreeing we need a carbon price, the real debate is how fast we should raise the price to rational levels. That in itself deserves a few cheers.

But what most lightened my mood was the passing note that the WTO recently published a missive that a carbon tariff (essential to get US industry and labor on board with a carbon pricing mechanism) would probably pass muster under WTO rules. Everything else I’ve read on the subject suggested we’d need to change WTO rules (or withdraw, which would have economic consequences vastly preferable to avoiding a carbon price, but still probably unacceptable to the average US voter).

So three cheers for the possibility, however slim, that Congress could, if it had the balls, actually pass both cap and trade and a carbon tariff some time this decade!

by Tony Sirna

Nissan LEAFI’ve been doing a bunch of research lately on electric vehicles to see what might make sense for us at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage for our vehicle co-op. For 12 years we have been focusing on biodiesel and vegetable oil based fuels but things have not always been smooth. The main issues have been related to winter fuel gelling and fuel filters clogging in general. We’ve also never gotten a steady system for  collection of used oil and production going, so we have been using biodiesel made from new veggie oil which is only marginally better for the environment than petroleum.

We are now embarking on a major re-evaluation of vehicle technologies for our co-op, with a team researching things like electric vehicles, hybrids, ethanol (including home made, potentially from cellulose), bio-gas, wood-gas, human and animal powered, and any new technologies in the veggie oil world.

My interest in electric vehicles (EVs) has come out of my research into a village-wide electric power co-op with a largish wind turbine to power our whole village. With an abundant source of renewable electricity, EVs could be our most ecological option. There are ecological issues related to batteries of course, but my research shows that EVs are a net benefit over petro based vehicles and on par with other bio-fueled options currently or soon to be available (more on that in a post soon).

Of course the main issue with EVs is about range – how far you can drive on a single charge. Most all-electric vehicles (sometimes called Battery Electric Vehicles or BEVs to distinguish them from hybrids) still have ranges in the 80-100 mile range. That range is great for most folks daily commuting needs, but our rural location means many or even most of our trips are 80-150 miles.

A further complication, is that a 100 mile advertised range does not always mean you can drive 100 miles. Accessories like A/C, heat, lights, etc. can reduce your range. Higher speeds and hills also reduce range (and while we don’t have mountains we do have hills). Winter temps can also reduce battery capacity and range.  It also matters how you drive – fast acceleration and breaking are inefficient.

So what are our options?

In the All Electric Category I found the following vehicles available now or in the next 18 months.

Vehicle Range Cost
Nissan LEAF 100 miles $33,000
CODA 90-120 mi $30-40,000
i-MIEV 80-100 mi $30,000
Mini-E (2 passenger) upto 150 Unknown
Ford Focus 80-100 mi Unknown
Ford Transit Connect 80 mi Unknown
Tesla Sedan (claims to seat up to 7) 160-300mi $57-75,000
Think City 100 miles $37,0000
Conversion Kit Vehicle 25-80 miles $20-30,000

The most appealing for us would be the Tesla Sedan because of the extended range it can provide. The price tag is pretty high though. The Nissan LEAF is definitely more affordable, but its unclear if it would really get us where we need to go (and back that is). The CODA is still limited in its availability.

For folks living in suburban or urban areas with shorter commutes I think a lot of these options would work great.

I also looked into Plug-in Hybrids such as the upcoming Chevy Volt and the 2011 Plug-in Prius as well as the various Prius Plug-in conversion kits.

The Volt is expected to have a 40 mile electric range and get 50 mpg once the gasoline (or E85) engine kicks in.  The 2011 Prius will have only a 15 mile electric range and also get around 50 mpg. With a Prius Plug in conversion you can get electric ranges of 25-50 miles before it goes back into hybrid modde and gets 46-50 mpg (depending on model year).

Its too bad the electric range on these hybrids is so short. If you could get something with an 80 mile range and a gasoline/diesel back up that would really work well for us and for a lot of people I would think. Obviously the cost and weight of having a big battery pack and a gas engine is probably the issue.

I’m expecting that once these EVs are available,  someone will come up with an aftermarket add on battery pack to increase the range, just like there are plug-in Prius kits. That could be just the ticket and demonstrate the demand for EVs with a bigger range.

by Jeffrey Harris

It’s probably about time for me to stop being delighted that the subset of the Economist’s staff who blog at Democracy in America sound like rational environmentalists, but still I am.

In this post, they make the eminently reasonable argument that while drilling offshore probably makes sense politically, it’s ridiculous from the perspective of global atmospheric carbon. The only societies with the wherewithal to conserve are those, like ours, with a strong enough state to enforce such restrictions. If we can’t do it, we’re pretty much screwed.

by Jeffrey Harris

I really wish The Economist would discover the religion of human-readable URLs, in addition to the religion of free-markets-are-always-better. But I’m thrilled that they’ve written such a thorough and readable explanation of the actual high level agreements and controversy on climate change, I haven’t seen better (realclimate.org came close for a while, but lately they’ve gotten more shrill and they’ve always been too technical for me, much less your average non-physics-major. Their wiki still kicks ass as the definitive source for helping rebut most climate skeptic canards, though).

And as an aside, happy progressives-actually-passed-big-progressive-legislation week! First time in my lifetime, maybe since LBJ! Did you see that David Frum of all people is saying the Republicans should strive to replace the income-tax provisions of the health care bill with other taxes perhaps a carbon tax? Who knew passing health care would get Republicans agreeing with Al Gore! I would actually support all the legislation he’s proposing, I think.

by Jacob Corvidae

The answer is probably still “no” – but here’s some data in favor of lawns that can help enliven and inform the debate!

First off, check out this great article from NASA about research on the many impacts of lawns. One of the surprising parts of this research was seeing how lawns can function as a carbon sink, helping to alleviate carbon levels.

Of course another great use of lawns is recognizing that since they already are being used to grow plants, they may as well grow food. For example, this same article points out that we have 3 times as much land being used for lawns than irrigated corn production in the US (note the irrigated part). Anyone interested in this should check out the classic guide Edible Landscaping.

Since so many people have lawns, it’s nice to look at ways that they can contribute to the solution, and not just the problem.

Of course, the real question is how much more of a carbon sink would you have with a lawn compared to a lawn with xeriscaping or native landscaping? Just being a carbon sink doesn’t mean it’s not still a net loss compared to what it could be….

And another question is this: how much does lawn-culture contributes to sprawl and how the negative impacts of sprawl on carbon outweigh the minor benefits of lawns as carbon sinks?

Finally, lest anyone forget, gas lawn mowers belong to the devil! See this nice summary of the problems, as well as great info on solutions.

Oh – and to end on an up-note: here’s a new ROBOTIC! electric lawnmower! I mean, that’s at least got some cool points….

by Tony Sirna

People wanting to know how to reduce their footprint would like to have data so they know what changes to make to do it. Unfortunately the data available for a lot of choice is still incredibly hard to find or inaccurate and vague.

I personally don’t do a lot of footprinting because  I don’t feel the need for exact numbers to trust that doing a few key things will reduce my footprint:

  • Eating primarily vegan
  • Driving fewer miles in efficient vehicles
  • Having a smaller home (or sharing it)
  • Using less electricity, gas, and heating oil
  • Reducing long distance travel

Once you’ve done all that then you can start talking about the details: local and organic food, flying vs driving vs trains, etc.

For those interested in calculators here’s some links that might help you find the one thats best for you or that has that bit of information you were looking for. Let us know if you have a favorite or find ones that are really good.

Top Five Footprint Calculators – Just some bloggers opinion but there are some good links

The 15 best carbon Calculators – If 5 isn’t enough for you try 15.

Michael Bluejay’s Calculator – This guy didn’t like the other calculators so he wrote his own. Its very simple and well laid out. Its worth reading his opinions on the other calculators. Its also worth reading about him. I feel like I met him somewhere before.

Food carbon Calculator – For those wanting a detailed look at food. You can compare the CO2 of tropical vs local fruit, cooked vs raw veggies, etc. This may not work in every browser.

If you find one that can tell you the footprint of a strawbale home vs a cob home or the different impacts of sugar vs sorghum, then I’m definitely interested.