Archive for the ‘environment’ Category

explain to me something.

Sunday, December 7th, 2008

Am listening to Obama’s weekly address, the one in which he “lays out key parts of Economic Recovery Plan.” Don’t get me wrong, I’ve totally drunk the Obama Kool-Aid. But I don’t understand this: “We need to upgrade our federal buildings by replacing old heating systems and installing efficient light bulbs. That won’t just save you, the American taxpayer, billions of dollars each year. It will put people back to work.”

Fair enough on saving tax dollars, but how will this create or restore jobs? Does every bit of savings in taxes put people to work?

snow day science

Sunday, December 16th, 2007

Boy, am I grateful for excellent housemates and a snow blower. Especially since I’m not doing anything with the snowblower, but Eric is. Having gotten home at an ungodly hour from a drum and dance,* I’m in no condition to plow snow. I did, however, redeem myself a bit by making hot chocolate. That and a freshly-baked apricot-ginger-Grand-Marnier muffin == breakfast of the goddess.

Two things I just had to share with you. First up is the environmentally appropriate global warming mug (1 min long):

And secondly, because it’s insanely cool, an almost-six-minute-long evolution video. Nothing like 3D animation to make you feel like an alien on your own planet. It’s set to heavy rock music; you might want to turn your sound down (but not off):

Now I cuddle my cats and drink and read. Add a job into the mix, and I’ll be a happy camper. Keep your fingers crossed for me: I’m waiting to hear on one. Here’s hoping…

*Another drum and dance, yes. In Cambridge this time, lovely lovely, my hands still hurt a little, must get djembe of my own. Although, as I discovered yesterday, a bass drum is great to play too. It’s really too bad that this was the last such event in this long-running series, but it seems that there are plenty of others if I’m willing to drive a bit. And for this, I’ll drive.

seaweed, ftw?

Monday, December 10th, 2007

Wired: “Group Touts Seaweed As Warming Weapon.”

The idea is simple: deforestation? No problem – just use the vast amounts of space out there in the oceans to grow a bunch of seaweed and algae of various sorts, which apparently photosynthesize carbon dioxide “at rates comparable to the mightiest rain forests.” Better: they grow quickly.

Critics say that this isn’t truly carbon sequestration if the seaweed is then fed to people, because then the carbon is released right back out. I clearly don’t know enough of the mechanics of photosynthesis – I thought the carbon was transformed and/or incorporated into more complex structures, not merely stored? And if it’s stored as something other than carbohydrates and (as the Wired article says) the carbon is released into the atmosphere as seaweed decomposes, isn’t it a good idea to feed it to people, then?

Ahha, gummint scientists to the rescue:

Q. Should we be concerned with human breathing as a source of CO2?

A. No. While people do exhale carbon dioxide (the rate is approximately 1 kg per day, and it depends strongly on the person’s activity level), this carbon dioxide includes carbon that was originally taken out of the carbon dioxide in the air by plants through photosynthesis – whether you eat the plants directly or animals that eat the plants. Thus, there is a closed loop, with no net addition to the atmosphere.

Anyway. The question of using seaweed to combat the insanely high levels of carbon dioxide humans put out is only beginning to be explored, but already it is an interesting idea!

global warming and daredevilry

Friday, November 30th, 2007

Newsbit: Evel Knievel is dead. Not from a stunt, either. I’ve never been hugely into him, but the guy had some guts, and was entertaining. May he rest, etc.

And a video, in which a science teacher proposes a pretty decent way to think about the global warming debate (and where you personally might stand regarding the issue) by approaching it as a risk-management problem. At the end of the video there’s reference to an “expansion pack” – a video cataloguing sources for finding out more about the issues involved. I haven’t watched that one yet, but the one below is worth even the ten long minutes it runs. Especially since the decision-making process this guy describes is applicable to many other areas of life.

Blue Man Group on global warming.

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

What an excellent way to spend two minutes:

Hat tip to Greg Laden.

Global warming and other calamities.

Tuesday, January 9th, 2007

Back from California, with a cold given to me by brother and nephew, who brought it with them from New York.

The funeral was… a funeral. It was sad. We cried.

I feel like my grandmother left so long ago, it’s difficult to find the words for talking about her death as something recent. Far more real for me was my mother’s pain, and my uncle’s. From this perspective, the family time was a very good thing indeed.

Now we’re back, and I would be diving right into the work if not for the cold that waylaid me in the morning and early afternoon. And I have a doctor’s appointment in an hour (unrelated)! Guess today’s a sick day.

Last week Ethan and I and other family had a long and at times heated conversation about politics, environment and other controversial topics. My mom and I have one of those more or less every time we see each other, and given that we’re on the opposite sides of the political spectrum from each other, you can imagine how they tend to go. One thing, though – we’re learning to not let the disagreements cloud our interactions for days. I guess that’s a good thing.

I’m all for providing information, but hate it when someone force-feeds it to me. So, WHEREAS I desire to share information on contentious topics with my mother, AND I love her, AND I don’t want to force all of it upon her, LET THEREFORE be established a new purpose for this weblog, BEING to more thoroughly document my perception of the world.

Let’s see if this lasts for more than a day, mm? I was always terrible at letter-writing, and diary-writing, and blogging. I’m hurtling headlong into the (hopefully?) final stages of my dissertation. But the world keeps going, and I need an outlet – and a tangible link to the outside of my head.

The evening after our big debate, I found the following interesting bits on the web.

Personal Responsibility

Wired reports that people can cause earthquakes! The 5.6 one that took place in 1989 in Australia was caused, National Geographic says, by 200 years of coal mining. And, HA ha, the extensive damage done by the earthquake cost more than all the coal they got out of that mine, put together. The damage and undoubted deaths aren’t funny, but in a perverse sense, the whole thing is. Remember, gang: what we do with our environment affects everyone.

Global warming isn’t new. It’s happened before, it’ll happen again. With or without us. Except that this time around, it’s us making it happen.

Fear not, though, some of us are acting to make things better. Jyllands-Posten reports that Danes will have access to bioethanol by 2010. Denmark is generally pretty cool, as Brad DeLong documents in “The Scandinavian Model.”

So what can you do? Well, for one thing you can offset the emissions you generate through travel by buying energy credits. Their calculator is flawed, but the money goes to developing renewable-energy projects.

Depending on where you live, you may also have the option of paying a little more to get your energy from renewable sources only. Here’s one place to start (in the US, at least).

You can even join Al Gore’s information troops.

Giving The Man The Finger


All passports issued by the US State Department after January 1 will have always-on radio frequency identification chips, making it easy for officials – and hackers – to grab your personal stats. Getting paranoid about strangers slurping up your identity? Here’s what you can do about it.

They do warn that tampering with these chips is illegal, and let me emphasize that I’m linking to someone else’s article here. Don’t shoot the messenger, Mr. Man!

Just Cool

Pleo the Robo-Dinosaur!

Off to the doctor’s. Y’all take care now, y’hear?