Category Archives: Environment

The green thing

Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman, that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.

The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.”

The young clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

She was right — our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day.

 

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled.

But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

 

Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags, that we reused for numerous things, most memorable besides household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our schoolbooks. This was to ensure that public property, (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags.

But too bad we didn’t do the green thing back then.

We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.

But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throwaway kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

But that young lady is right; we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana . In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But she’s right; we didn’t have the green thing back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.

But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?

Please forward this on to another selfish old person who needs a lesson in conservation from a smartass young person…

We don’t like being old in the first place, so it doesn’t take much to piss us off.

How Steampunk Can (Help) Save the World

From Tor.com’s STEAMPUNK WEEK 2012:

Boldly Into Our Patina’d Future: How Steampunk Can (Help) Save the World

Boldly Into Our Patina’d Future: How Steampunk Can (Help) Save the WorldPhoto by ’Riding Pretty

Steampunk is, in part at least, a re-envisioning of humanity’s interaction with the things that we make and how we make them. It’s a non-luddite critique of technology that says “Hey, you’re doing it wrong” without trying to eschew technology outright. And that critique is sorely, sorely needed, now more than ever.

Continue reading How Steampunk Can (Help) Save the World

Fuel price went up again

It is not because of wars in oil-sensitive areas.

It is not because of the American elections for the next president.

It’s because the car makers have the bloody nerve to make fuel efficient cars so that the big oil company don’t get the money in that they think they deserve. They will make sure they get money for their value, no matter what we do.

It’s about time there is no more oil left for them to blackmail us with.

Belo Monte dam construction halted by Brazilian court

‘A Great Victory’: Controversial Brazilian Dam Construction Halted

Brazilian Federal court finds Belo Monte hydro-electric dam licenses invalid, indigenous peoples were not consulted

A victory came to activists in Brazil on Tuesday when a federal judge halted construction on the controversial Belo Monte dam in the Amazon, saying that the indigenous peoples had not been consulted.

The impacts of the dam, which would have been the third largest hydro-electric dam in the world, had long been slammed by indigenous groups and environmental activists who said that it would have displaced thousands and wreaked havoc upon the ecosystem while contributing to greenhouse gases.

When the Brazilian Congress gave approval for the dam in 2005, there were no consultations with the indigenous peoples about the environmental impacts, a fact that Judge Souza Prudente found in violation of the Brazilian Constitution.

“A study on the environmental impact of the project was required before, not after, work on the dam started. The legislation is flawed,” Judge Souza Prudente told O Globo newspaper.

“The Brazilian Congress must take into account the decisions taken by the indigenous communities. Legislators can only give the go-ahead if the indigenous communities agree with the project,” he said.

Souza Prudente remarked at a press conference that “only in a dictatorial regime does a government approve a project before holding consultations.”

Indigenous groups lauded the court ruling. “It’s a historic decision for the country and for the native communities,” said Antonia Melo, coordinator of the Xingu Vivo indigenous movement.

“It’s a great victory which shows that Belo Monte is not a done deal. We are very happy and satisfied.”

Zachary Hurwitz of International Rivers writes that “the decision supports the arguments that the affected tribes have been making over the lifetime of Belo Monte: tribes will face downstream livelihood impacts as a result of a reduction in the flow of the Xingu River on the 100-km stretch known as the Volta Grande or ‘Big Bend,’ and were never properly consulted, much less gave their consent.”

Hurwitz adds that the economic rationale dam proponents pushed is fundamentally flawed. “Economic rationale for the dam is based on a projected economic growth of 5% or more a year, but over the past few quarters, GDP has been lucky to grow at even a measly rate. As far as Belo Monte’s importance to Brazil’s economic race, this is really a case of the horse following the wagon.”

“And, as illustrated by this historic court decision, the wagon has been trampling on indigenous people and their rights, along the way,” writes Hurwitz.
SOURCE – via White Wolf.

Carl Sagan – You Are Here (Pale Blue Dot)

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

— Carl Sagan (1934-1996)

The need for speed.

How did the world turn into such a race track? And before you think I speak riddles: I mean motorways, freeways, Autobahn. Fill in the name depending on where you are.

If you have a car, how fast do you drive? And why do you drive it at that speed? Do you stick to the speed limit because faster is an offence? Do you go over the speed limit because it is a thrill? Or because you will be on time if you do? Or do you drive a lot slower?

I drive slowly. My speed on the motorway usually averages that of trucks. 80 to 85km/hour, about 55 or so mph. Is that slow? Sure, why not? People told me that there’s no fun in driving that slowly. It takes so long to get somewhere, all others are overtaking you, yadda yadda yadda.

Yesterday I did an experiment. I drove 120km/hour, about 78mph. Guess what? All but 2 cars overtook me. Right, that takes care of the argument that others overtake me, they do so anyway because they like to race like madmen, and of course madwomen. Well, with regular petrol only costing €1.82 per litre (think around $8.50 a gallon), what’s against that, right? It’s a cheap enough drive then.

My car is an eco-car. A Toyota Auris Full Hybrid. When I drive it the way I do now, I get almost 25km to the litre, about 60 miles per gallon. Works for me. The time I spend is my own, no one else’s, so that works for me too. And I get to see a lot more because I don’t race around like a fool, pushing to be in the rat race, going faster to do more, to be there in time, to do what the big lugs of the global economy expect everyone to do.

The world is going faster and faster, as if there is no tomorrow (there probably isn’t anyway, but that’s a different subject). Time flies, everyone complains about it, and money seems to fly along with it. (Well, pushing the accelerator will make that happen through the tiny vortex you create in your car’s fuel reserve.)

I’ll continue to take things easy. Time to hurry comes when there is a reason to, not because the rest of the world prescribes it. I’ll drive at my slow speed, see the trees and the cows, and the occasional sparrow-hawk or buzzard that sometimes sit on perches and signs along the road.

Would You Trust an 80-Year-Old Nuclear Reactor?

“The worst nuclear near-disaster that you’ve never heard of came to light in 2002, when inspectors at Ohio’s Davis-Besse nuclear power station discovered that a slow leak had been corroding a spot on the reactor vessel’s lid for years (PDF). When they found the cavity, only 1 cm of metal was left to protect the nuclear core. That kind of slow and steady degradation is a major concern as the US’s 104 reactors get older and grayer,says nuclear researcher Leonard Bond. U.S. reactors were originally licensed for 40 years of operation, but the majority have already received extensions to keep them going until the age of 60. Industry researchers like Bond are now determining whether it would be safe and economically feasible to keep them active until the age of 80. Bond describes the monitoring techniques that could be used to watch over aging reactors, and argues that despite the risks, the U.S. needs these aging atomic behemoths.”

Read more via Slashdot.

Transportation. Time for change.

Something has to happen. The picture here is one most people know and recognise. Have you ever sat in such a mess? If yes, I pity you. If not, then how on earth did you manage that?

We are all the slaves of fossil fuel. Diesel, petrol, whatever kind your vehicle likes, it is there for you, and the prices go up and up and up (and down a cent) and up some more. The only ones who thrive on that are the big oil companies. And they know that the reserves of their liquid gold are diminishing, so they are pushing up the prices some more to make as much in their lifetime as they can. All under the guise of wars in oil-producing areas, cost of labour and more of that.

We need to look at the other options much more. Individual transport is the holy cow of the western world. Go electric. Oil companies try to stop electric, but they are failing (finally). They also blocked hydrogen cars for very long, hopefully that is going to fall and fail too. A better form of public transport, smaller units transporting people more flexibly to more places. Electric trains, maglev trains. Oh, of course, that costs bundles of money, but it is an investment in the future, one that will keep its value. More roads, more asphalt, preparing for more fossil-fuel devouring machines is an investment for the short term. A waste of money. We have to look forward.