Sunday, July 29, 2012

responding to skepticism, the right way..

The New York Times has an op-ed by University of California research scientist Richard Muller where he declare his reversal on being a climate change skeptic and its cause being related to human action. The reversal has been picked up by other news outlets such as the LA Times and the Cleveland Plain Dealer that covered the rebuttals and dismissals by contrarians. What is most important about this mea culpa is not that its change of position, but that he outlines the objections to climate change that he had, and how he did the analysis to question his own outcomes. He also highlights that much of the research supporting climate change could use the same critical analysis. He also challenges others to refute his findings instead of just dismissing them. This is the spirit of science, the doubt and revision until you are sure. To be fair, the results have not been published, though the are claimed to be peer reviewed. We will have to wait for them to be published and the debate to continue. You cannot claim to be objective, unless you can demonstrate that you can be convinced, otherwise you are living by faith alone.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The personal cost of climate change.

The New York Times has an incredibly direct article about how the extreme weather is impacting our infrastructure an in turn impacting us.

The debate concerning climate change has been that this is normal cyclical change and it is normal. Which is unprovable in our lifetimes since we can only see the patterns in hindsight.

More alarming is that there is a faction that says so what, things change and we should get use to it. And the question we need to ask is, is the world described in the article one we should aspire to?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Scary arithmetic...

If this weekend wasn't scary enough, Bill McKibben has an article in Rolling Stone about the situation we face with Global Warming, and what needs to be done. He goes through some scary numbers and when you add them up things don't look good. He also explains why change is so hard, because as always you have to "follow the money" and it leads to the oil companies. The amount of money in the ground to be extracted is just too mind boggling to not be taken of advantage of by the interests that be. If oil is money then it's lubricating the government process as much as our machinery. The article is so depressing because it doesn't really provide a solution, and the article makes painfully clear that individual effort really doesn't matter. A conversation with a friend begs the question that given we are biological creatures first and logical creatures second, doesn't it logically follow that we will be no different from any other organism that will consume its resources to the point of ecological collapse. That is indeed the question? For mankind to survive, it does have to transcend nature in order to continue to thrive within nature. A dilemma indeed. Well a depressing post today, but the article is worth reading in order to so clearly understand in an articulate manner what our current situation is and who needs to address it.

Monday, July 16, 2012

We're not digging ourselves into a hole, we're burying ourselves instead.

The Boston Globe has an article on a study by UCLA researchers who did a real time archeological study of 32 Los Angeles families, and the results were overwhelming. We are living lives of clutter and accumulation, but not much satisfaction. The scary thing is that we all see this and recognize it. But we can't stop ourselves. We buy with the idea of just in case, and pick up hundreds and hundreds of cups we won't use. We look for the latest and greatest thinking it will make us happier, so we upgrade relentlessly. We think more is better getting more of the same thing over and over, collecting every minor variation. This is our lives, owned by our stuff. It's easy to get righteous and say that we won't be like that, but being honest, I am definitely one of those people who accumulates over time and buys on impulse. So what can you do?
  1. Don't buy on impulse, buy on need. Often you will see something you want when shopping. Instead of picking it up if you don't need it right away. Write down what that item is and only get it if you find you keep revisiting the list.
  2. Buy used. This weekend I upgraded my router with a much faster version from Goodwill. I saved money, but I also didn't contribute to landfill with more packaging clutter. I also got a receiver from freecycle that allowed me to use my existing computer monitor more effectively to be my media center. Look at Craigslist and ebay for items.
  3. Ask your neighbors. Often neighbors will have things you can use that they don't want. I bought some used speakers, and didn't want to buy speaker wire. My neighbor had some speaker wire left over that he was storing and didn't think he would need. Because of warehouse shopping, people often have more than they need and they are willing to get rid of to get rid of their space. You can give them something in exchange or take them out to a meal.
  4. Gift biodegradable. Plants are excellent gifts, and who doesn't like home baked cookies.
  5. Practice detachment. This one is tough for me since I don't like to throw things away, since I think it's throwing it away. But if you subscribe to freecycle, follow it for things that people want, not things you want. It is amazing that you often have what others want. And the bonus is that you know that people will use what you give away, as opposed to accumulate it.
These are some things you can do to bury yourself out of the piles of our lives.

Friday, July 13, 2012

A tipping point.

Slate has a post on the changing energy consumption in the world. The developing world is no longer the majority consumer of global oil. One of the claims is that the developing world has been able to hopscotch to the latest technologies in telecommunications going directly to wireless. It makes me wonder what would be the hopscotch for transportation technologies if you were starting today. Would the dominant format be the automobile propelled in any manner or would it be a mass transit system. Most of our cars spend their time not being utilized. Does that make sense?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Do people know, do people care?

As I sit here on a corporate shuttle, the bay area is under its third "spare the air" day. This article asks whether it matters and makes a difference. Looking at traffic my sense is that it might make it worse. The loss of federal funds to encourage mass transit are no longer provided and with gas cheap the incentives aren't sufficient. I find that more the reason. For most people a car is a sunk cost so they can't utilize it they are "losing" money and a car is something that you pay a big chunk each month only second to rent or mortgage. Perhaps raising tolls on spare the air days might create greater observance. A side note. Cars are the dominant species in many ways. While writing this a young woman was at a crosswalk and only one car stopped to give her right of way. The challenges of the environment remind me of weight loss. We don't get fat all at once but we want to lose it all at once.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Keeping it all in perspective with a little help

Mike Cassidy writes about how Santa Clara University has changed the way staff and students look at garbage through a simple little inversion. Offices now have standard waste baskets that are used for recycling and small little side baskets for garbage. It's a little "nudge" to make you think about what goes into the landfill. To further drive the point home, janitorial staff will empty the recycling bin, but they won't empty the garbage can. That is the responsibility of staff. It definitely makes you aware of how much you are throwing away if you have frequently get up and dump your garbage.

Now not everyone is happy about it, but I think that's the point. A lot of people aren't happy about ever growing landfills. Simple solutions exist, we just need a change of perspective.