Feb 222007

As my previous post stated, we are all causing massive changes to the earth by producing green house gasses and eradicating carbon absorbers. Skeptics, Grist has done a great job rounding up the usual suspects if you want to know more about certain points.

The question is, what to do about it all? Running through the various greenhouse gas calculators, Anna and I will produce about 14 tones of CO2 this year. Our total is roughly half of what the average American couple produces, but we really shouldn’t be patting ourselves on the back. A closer look at the numbers: we share a car, and we car pool to work. Our 1913 house has no heat or air conditioning, and all of our lights are compact florescent. We are also able to get the vast majority of our produce locally, year round. When you look at all these factors, we are actually not doing as well as we should.

Our base numbers are relatively low, but are skewed by one thing, frequent air travel. For example, Anna and I are going to Europe this spring. Just these flights there and back the 18,774 KM will produce about 4.2 tones of CO2. Our entire year of driving will only produce about 2.2 tones of CO2. Add in our other trips and you can easily see where the majority of my CO2 comes from. It is little wonder why the Bishop of London recently proclaimed that flying on holiday is a sin.

Of course, we could just purchase carbon offsets. And actually, we have. Anna and I are “carbon neutral” (select the right carbon off setter, they are definitely not equal in their solutions). Have we redeemed ourselves, now free of sin? Enter in cheatneutral.com to show how silly that notion is:

What is Cheat Offsetting? When you cheat on your partner you add to the heartbreak, pain and jealousy in the atmosphere. Cheatneutral offsets your cheating by funding someone else to be faithful and NOT cheat. This neutralizes the pain and unhappy emotion and leaves you with a clear conscience. Can I offset all my cheating? First you should look at ways of reducing your cheating. Once you’ve done this you can use Cheatneutral to offset the remaining, unavoidable cheating

As the above satire shows, carbon offsets are good intentions, but really shouldn’t be an excuse for not getting your house in order. The changes are all going to be a bit different for everyone. People are generally at a different level already, and the changes depend a lot on your location. But it pretty much all boils down to the following:

1) Reduce electricity consumption. The biggest bang for buck is simply changing lights. Compact florescent lights consume 25% of the amount of power to provide the same light as a traditional light bulb. While at it, go for the low mercury versions of CFL’s. That done, there are plenty of other ways to reduce energy consumption – Energy Star appliances, insulation, efficient home design, and line drying clothes. Industry has a ways to go on this front. Office buildings are notoriously inefficient, and our computer industry is only going to consume more power.

2) Live locally. Try to buy foods produced locally, and organically. It is easy to pick on things like water from France, berries air shipped from Argentina, and Brazilian beef. But even transportation and freezing of produce in the USA produces huge amounts of green house gas. An easy way to do this is to subscribe to a CSA, community supported agriculture, hit the farmers market, or start a garden.

3) Eat less, or better yet, no meat. Eating meat has about the same environmental cost as driving a polluting car vs. a hybrid, about 1.5 tones of CO2 per year. This is due mostly to the increased energy inputs meat requires, but also the current state of industrial meat farming. In addition, most of the rainforest devastation has been to plant soya for animal feed, this further reduces the amount of CO2 that can be reabsorbed.

4) Reduce auto and air transit. Bike, train, bus, or carpool where possible. As stated above, we are definitely guilty on this one, and business travel will need to change. Read this for a bit of an efficiency shock. Most of North America is designed to only work with everyone having a car. This needs to change. We need to promote more efficient city design, as well as better public transit.

The above changes are important, but ultimately I believe we are going to have to have consume less and have a smaller footprint on the earth to get levels where they should be. Really, the planet can’t support us living the way we are right now. I’ll be writing another post soon about the changes Anna and I are making to try to reduce our consumption and greenhouse gas production.

Want more ideas to reduce your greenhouse gas production? Here is a short list:
EPA’s suggestions
EUROPA’s suggestions
Climate Crisis’ suggestions
Greanpeace’s suggestions
Treehugger’s suggestions

Feb 202007

“Most Americans believe global warming is real but a moderate and distant risk. While they strongly support policies like investing in renewable energy, higher fuel economy standards and international treaties, they strongly oppose carbon taxes on energy sources that put carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.”

Titled Americans Believe Global Warming Is Real, Want Action, But Not As A Priority, this report on a University of Oregon study is an interesting look on American attitudes:

Using affective-image analysis, Leiserowitz also asked Americans what thoughts or images came to mind when thinking about global warming. Sixty-one percent of their associations fell into just four categories: melting ice in the Arctic; warmer temperatures; impacts on non-human nature; and polar ozone holes.

“These responses help us understand the connotative meaning of global warming — and why Americans react the way they do,” Leiserowitz said. “These associations are to geographically or psychologically distant impacts, generic warming trends, or a completely different environmental problem. Thus it’s not too surprising that global warming remains a relatively low priority.

“One of the most important things that we found is what we didn’t find,” he added. “We found no references, no associations, of the impacts of climate change on either human health or extreme weather events. Yet these are, arguably, among the most important potential impacts, because, ultimately, the consequences are going hurt people.”

America needs a kick in the ass. For example, this should feel like a punch in the gut: A series of connected lakes has been discovered deep beneath glaciers in Antarctica and are speeding streams of polar ice into the sea, scientists announced. Water under glaciers has been shown to significantly speed up glacier slide off and melting, raising the sea level. To add to the point: Scientists warn it may be too late to save the ice caps – The Guardian says the calculations for totaling green house gasses have been wrong, and the increases will almost guarantee the melting of the caps, resulting in sea level rise of 4-6 metres (13-20 feet). Some of this will happen when we are already dead; the consequences will continue long after us.

To bring it home, for San Diego this would mean much of the coastal areas under water – PB, IB, and the complete loss of Coronado. It also seems to suggest Imperial County and Baja California would see massive changes – The Sea of Cortez would reach almost to El Centro and Calexico. It would seem to only take a storm or two to threaten floods of the entire Imperial Valley. Imagine the Salton sea becoming part of the Sea of Cortez, and the Pacific.

As dire as the sea level rise is for certain areas, everyone will be affected by weather and biological changes. Rainfall patterns are a matter of life and death in many parts of the world, and weather systems may change dramatically with changing temperatures. This of course will have a huge change on our food supply with a very real threat to our industrial agriculture that feeds much of the world. This look at hardyness zone changes from 1990 to 2006 is very telling.

The increase of C02 will mean more is dissolved in the ocean to form carbonic acid. This results in ocean acidification, placing many ecosystems at risk. Overall, the changes are expected to extinct 15 and 37 percent of known species by 2050. On the flip side, these changes will also bring new opportunities to invasive species and diseases that are quick to adapt.

It is hard to imagine the response to this. As Fareed Zakaria has noted, even if we adopted the most far-reaching plans to combat climate change, we would still watch greenhouse gases rise for decades. He argues that in addition to reducing our output, we have to start figuring out how to cope with the damage we have already done:

“Many environmental advocates fear that talking about coping with global warming will hamper efforts to slow it down. In fact, we have no alternative but to do both. Mitigation and adaptation complement each other. In both cases, the crucial need is to stop talking and start acting.”

More to come from my high horse later…

Feb 132007

I was a big fan of Danger Doom, the very strange combination of MF Doom, Danger Mouse, and Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. So I was pleasantly surprised to find Occult Hymn. Adult Swim digitally released some remixes and skits on their website for free, way back in May. Niiice.

The always fantastic Sabadabada has some new tunes posted as well (Brazilian records of the 60’s and 70’s).

Feb 022007

Anna and I met some of her college friends in Yosemite for a long weekend over MLK day. We traveled through the valley in the dark and arrived Friday night. Not having seen the valley on the way in made it all the more impressive to wake up to. We stayed at the Yosemite Lodge, the spectacular granite wall almost overwhelms the huge windows. I walked around the in the snow and shot some photos to the sounds of thunder – the ice that formed overnight on the falls was warming and crashing off the rock face.

After a hike to the Yosemite Falls we got acquainted with the excellent (and free) valley shuttle service and took off to the trail head for Mirror Lake. We did the long loop, but never found the other end of the loop. The trail was a nice mix of environments and offered a very different look at the valley. Mirror Lake is smaller than it once was, and at its smallest in the winter, so we didn’t get the iconic mirror view. There were enough still bodies of unfrozen water to give us a glimpse of what it would have been in its peak.

That night I wore skates with a toe pick for the first time. I definitely hadn’t skated in a long time, but the differences between a hockey skate and a figure skate (hockey skates have a shorter blade, rockered edge, no toe pick, and a different boot) sure didn’t help. I still managed to fool a few people into believing I knew what I was doing. The rink wasn’t anything special, but skating under the stars and the incense-cedars is worth the cost of entry.

The next morning we took it easy. We soaked up the morning sun from the giant windows like lizards on a rock while finishing off some reading. The fully relaxed state helped for our hike on the Upper Yosemite Fall trail. We didn’t have enough time or motivation to get to the very top of the valley, but we made it about half a mile past Columbia Rock to the view the top of the falls. The view of the valley from Columbia Rock was pretty amazing, and well worth the mile of switchbacks up. We watched the last fingers of sunlight disappear from the valley floor, then headed down. That night we had pizza at Curry Village and visited with the other groups.

Monday we enjoyed a fancy-pants breakfast at explored a bit more of the valley on our way out. First up was Bridal Falls. Because the falls are in the shade almost all of the day, they have a lot more ice than the Yosemite falls. The view was great, but the ice mist made the trail a bit treacherous. On our way out we came across a man flat on his back and just coming to after a fall. Good thing we had a physical therapist with us. After making sure nothing was broken or otherwise damaged, we helped him off the ice and down the trail to the waiting EMTs. Excitement over, we headed up to the Wawona Tunnel overlook. The view was spectacular, but our time was up, we had to head back to San Jose to fly out. Our trip to the valley was short, but definitely enjoyable.

Feb 012007


Most folks have heard about the Aqua Teen Hunger force ads (up for weeks in 12 other cities) causing a terrorist scare in Boston by now. I know if I was going to plant a bomb it would look like a Lite-Brite showing a cartoon character flipping the bird. Sigh. But their press conference just takes this absurdity to a new level:

Two suspects arrested for their part in a hair-brain TV cartoon marketing campaign that ultimately paralyzed downtown Boston held a wild and mocking press conference Thursday, during which they would only answer questions regarding… their hair.

“I feel like my hair is pretty perfect but altogether I want to redirect this to the haircuts of the ’70s,” Berdovsky said, ignoring reporters’ shouts.

“I really like the one where the hair curls around to the back,” Stevens replied.

“Oh yeah, that one’s so hot,” Berdovsky then responded.