RSSCategory: Environment

Straight talk about Canada’s oil sands

February 24, 2009 | By | Reply More
Straight talk about Canada’s oil sands

Would you like to learn the unvarnished story about oil sands, an often highly-touted source of fuel?

The March issue of National Geographic has a detailed article on oil sands, focusing on a production facility in Alberta Canada: “Scraping Bottom.” It’s an already profitable environment-unfriendly carbon-irresponsible way to feed America’s often-wasteful craving for fuel.

[Photo: Wikimedia Commons]

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Australian dust storm

February 13, 2009 | By | Reply More
Australian dust storm

I don’t know if this 2007 dust storm occurred close to Hanks house–maybe he can comment. But this dust storm is dramatic. I’m never seen anything like it. I hope these guys brought along some extra air filters for their car . . .

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Republicans Reveal Attitude Toward The Future

February 7, 2009 | By | 3 Replies More
Republicans Reveal Attitude Toward The Future

The rhetoric that accompanied Obama’s election included much from the downsized Republicans about looking forward to working with the new president and coming to grips with national problems in the spirit of a fresh start. However, the stimulus package—which may well be too big—has forced the Republicans to declare themselves. We’re hearing a lot about wanting more tax cuts—almost exclusively tax cuts—in lieu of spending in the form of direct aid. This is a Republican mantra now. Tax cuts. The question, of course, is really this: what good are tax cuts when you’re already buried in debt? Granted, it frees up (theoretically) money for critical and immediate payments, but if the idea is to put people back to work tax cuts are not the solution. Because corporate America is mired in over-leveraged debt burdens that must be paid down before something mundane like hiring can happen. Tax cuts, therefore, won’t have any kind of immediate impact on the jobless rate.

In time it might, depending on several other factors, the most significant of which would be a newfound corporate sense of ethics which would prevent them from continuing the pillage of their own capital for all the things that have gotten us into this mess in the first place. Labor is at the bottom of the ladder of what they see as important—hence the tongue lashing Obama gave them for paying out bonuses while asking for federal aid. As for working people? What good does a tax cut do someone who isn’t paying taxes because he or she has no income?

But this was to be expected. It is an attitude born out of the mixed priorities of what has become the Right, one of which is fiscal responsibility (I used to support Republicans on this count) the other of which is the more Libertarian view (borne of the Grover Norquist faction) that government is always the problem and must be pruned back radically. Hence tax cuts, in order to curtail revenues in order to force the government to reduce its size and, one must realize, its influence.

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Say hello to Eriophora biapicata

February 6, 2009 | By | 6 Replies More
Say hello to Eriophora biapicata

eriophora biapicata Thought I’d post something different – a little taste of home. Literally from my own backyard in fact. This is a female eriophora biapicata, or Garden Orb-weaving spider (females are about one-quarter to one-third bigger than males). Unlike many Australian arachnids (and most Australian wildlife in general), this species doesn’t want to kill […]

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61 degrees

February 4, 2009 | By | 3 Replies More
61 degrees

My family is keeping our thermostat at 61 degrees this winter. We decided to bring it down from our traditional 65 degrees in order to save energy. [Note: Late at night at my house, the temperature automatically drops down to 55]. I’ve put a thermometer in various rooms to check the accuracy of the thermostat. The actual daytime temperature ranges from 59 to 62 in the various rooms. When we are all gone for the day, we manually set the temperature down to 55.

When I mention “61 degrees” to people, most of them are surprised; some of them are aghast. Apparently, at least among Americans, 61 degrees is an usually “cold” temperature for the interior of a house in the winter. Over the past couple of weeks, I even heard from several people who keep their thermostats above 70. When you browse the Internet, you will find numerous “authorities” advising you to set the thermostat down to 65 to save energy (e.g., here). Here’s an informal survey of quite a few folks.

Apparently, even our new energy-conscious President likes it toasty indoors.

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The American war against telephone poles

February 4, 2009 | By | 3 Replies More
The American war against telephone poles

In a short article entitled, “The War on Telephone Poles,” the February 2009 edition of Harper’s Magazine includes a fascinating excerpt from an essay by Eula Biss, which was originally titled “Time and Distance Overcome” as it appeared in the Spring issue of Iowa Review. Biss’s article is a terrific example of the human tendency to resist long-range change that would substantially improve the community as a whole.

As she clearly documents in her essay, many people ferociously opposed the erection of telephone poles back in the 1880’s. Whatever their stated reasons (aesthetics and defense of private property were often argued), the real reasons for resisting telephone poles were timeless: fear of change combined with a warped sense of the importance the individual in relation to his or her community. The Biss essay reminds us that Americans have long been quite capable of harpooning critical community-building endeavors in the name of individual freedom. We don’t fight telephone poles anymore, but this destructive tendency is one we still see in modern day America.

Only a small bit of Biss’s essay is available online. The basic idea presented by her essay is that in the 1880s, numerous people (including elected officials and newspapers) ferociously opposed the erection of telephone poles. They argued that telephone poles were ugly. They characterized telephones to be considered playthings of the rich.

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Billboards for your body, your mind and your planet

January 17, 2009 | By | 2 Replies More
Billboards for your body, your mind and your planet

Consider the types of billboards that we most often see along the highway. They encourage us to pollute our bodies with unhealthy food, to pollute our minds with shallow amusements and to pollute our Earth by wasting resources and indulging in luxuries. The two billboards I photographed below are all-too-representative of what I’ve read along highways.

Yes, there are also billboards for public services as well as billboards for useful and reasonable products. What concerns me, though, is that most billboards carry unhealthy messages. There are so many unhealthy billboards out there that unhealthy activities seem to be norm. It’s booze, gambling and conspicuous consumption all the way down the highway. What effect might this have on us? It reminds me of James Q. Wilson’s broken window theory of crime:

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Legacy

January 14, 2009 | By | 5 Replies More
Legacy

I watched a good portion of Bush’s last press conference and couldn’t help thinking it was an audition for the part of a recovering junkie recently fallen off the wagon.  It wasn’t the words so much as the body language and facial expressions that held my attention.  Surreal?  Hasn’t the whole sad thing been surreal? […]

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More on the corn ethanol fiasco

January 9, 2009 | By | 2 Replies More
More on the corn ethanol fiasco

Corn ethanol is a terribly costly and damaging joke that has been inflicted on us by politicians looking for something that looks like a fix, rather than doing the much harder work to find real solutions to our energy problems.   I’ve posted on corn ethanol before, and it’s now time to pull down the tent […]

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