Category Archives: climate change

my eco-dilemna

I constantly live at the intersection of  mainstream or ‘alternative’ lifestyle. Living at WinSol,  there is no cost:  no energy bills, no garbage bills, no water bills, no sewer bills… nada!   Is that alternative? or just nice, even cool?  So when I go live in the mainstream for a few days, I quiet all my judgment, evaluations and comparisons. Over the years I have arrived at a state of equanimity: it just is. I used to just ‘let go’ but eventually found that letting go is the negative form of attraction and is as much of a trap as outright judgment is. So ’empty mind’ and ‘metta’ (as the buddhists say)  fills my mind and heart. But lately, something has come to the forefront of my mind, and I can’t let it go: crockpots!

Lately, I have circled around and focused on crockpots as being the poster child of our continued western decline.  A crockpot by its innocent self contains all the trademarks of our declining civilization going down the rabbit-hole.

At best a crockpot produces a beautiful savory food dish. At worse it could burn your house down. But it’s the space in-between where my judgmental mind can’t seem to let go. Maybe it’s this: in order for WinSol to have a working crockpot I would need to spend over $5,000 increasing my solar panels/controller/battery storage – just to accommodate a 1500watt constantly on electrical heating element. And maybe – just maybe – I am envious of mixing up a casserole, soup or other delicious dish, plugging it in,  walking away… and 5 hours later I can enjoy a savory dish. How convenient is that!!? But the ‘real’ price that I would pay for that is beyond my ‘alternative life style budget’ and WinSol’s philosophy.   Let me explain…

…First of all at WinSol, we live by the sun. We are immersed in the nuances and cycles of nature (real nature). One of our founding principles (WinSol’s manifesto) is that electricity cannot be used for heating and cooling. I’m about 95% there in reality – due to a small solar electric driven freezer.

On a technical basis:  WinSol’s current solar & wind electrical system cannot accommodate a microwave (high-surge induction load), or any electrical heating elements like a toaster, convection oven, space heater, or crockpot. I miss the convenience of a toaster more than anything, but have developed a work-around using a gas burner. I could probably develop an alternative to a crockpot using a pressure cooker or a double pot over a gas burner – but why?  I remember a past eco-dilemna that had to do with making bread….

Bread maker?   I think the easiest explanation for my behaviour change is an electric breadmaker. Before I moved to WinSol , I used an electric breadmaker twice a week to make beautifully home-baked, healthy bread without chemicals. But was it really ‘home’ made? I think it was closer to being ‘microprocessor’ made. A few years back, a friend and I decided to make bread the old fashioned way, and I reconnected with the passion of true artisan bread. There’s something
very cool and ‘right as rain’ about kneading, rising, kneading, rising and baking a loaf of bread from three ingredients… talk about being a purist!! And that’s really what an electric breadmaker and crockpot takes away – the artisan element.  (besides using a WHOLE bunch of electricity, high-embodied energy, shelf space, another convenience contraption, another appliance that’ll break and has designed obsolesce built in… geezh! tell me how you really feel :-)!

Artisans   What would our world be like without artists and artisans? As technology encroaches further and further into minimizing real artistry I will stubbornly cling to WinSol’s ‘alternative’ and artisan lifestyle and not enjoy the conveniences of crockpots.

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Sidebar….What’s ‘Alternative’ ?

Everywhere we hear ‘alt – right’, alternative news, alternative energy… I really dislike the word: ‘alternative’. Alternative to what? Is it a good or bad alternative? Does something really need an alternative? Isn’t it really just different rather than alternate?

Take alternative energy for instance. Most (all?) people know that alternative energy is that green stuff: solar, wind, geothermal. But oil, coal, natural gas are the REAL alternatives, because ALL our energy comes from our only energy source: the sun. One of my fun sound bites is: ‘Oil is renewable, you just have to wait a couple million years’.

So can we agree that ‘alternative’ is in the mind of the beholder?

two WOW’s

It’s a long time between my ‘WOW’s.  After decades and ramblings around, it takes something special & extraordinary to elicit this reaction. Here’s two in the last week:         1) DrawDown                           2) Scandanavian electric cars

Book

DrawDown is Paul Hawken’s latest (swan song?) endeavor along his philosophy of ‘natural capitalism‘ and ‘ecology of commerce‘… in other words they’re solution based. I’m a BIG fan of Paul over the decades, but he’s outdone himself on this one. I knew about drawdown a few years ago and could never quite figure out what it was about until recently. When I attended his sold out (250+) pre-release at the Oakland Impact HUB last week – a big WOW again. Paul’s original thinking and limitless passion are unique in the USA.  Dr. Michael Braungart told me 10 years ago that Paul was the best example of a ‘european eco-dude’ in our midst. I say that with all the love in the world:  a european eco-dude in our midst (sounds like a book or song title) is my way of saying forward thinking with social/economic/environmental balances on the cutting edge within a long-term systems thinking strategic view: like Michael’s green chemistry and C2C endeavors.

Drawdown’s mission & vision:

The Mission

Project Drawdown is facilitating a broad coalition of researchers, scientists, graduate students, PhDs, post-docs, policy makers, business leaders and activists to assemble and present the best available information on climate solutions in order to describe their beneficial financial, social and environmental impact over the next thirty years.

The Vision

To date, the full range and impact of climate solutions have not been explained in a way that bridges the divide between urgency and agency. Thus the aspirations of people who want to enact meaningful solutions remain largely untapped. Dr. Leon Clark, one of the lead authors of the IPCC 5th Assessment, wrote, “We have the technologies, but we really have no sense of what it would take to deploy them at scale.” Together, let’s figure it out.

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This solution based book (database/case studies) and website (which is VERY deep) is a compilation of the world’s best think tanks and scientific research on carbon reduction projects. In 2001, Paul asked: …‘what are the top five things we should be doing to reverse the CO2 trend?’… no one knew. Fifteen years later, there was still no consensus.  Three years ago, Paul decided to assemble a team of researchers and scientists to answer this question, and he has succeeded. It’ll be interesting to see how the vested interests and climate change mafia (Paul’s words) aka IPCC will react to this seminal work.

In a nutshell, drawdown has three CO2 forecast scenarios: business as usual, adopting 80 solutions, optimistic adoption. In the latter, we could start actually REVERSING global CO2 buildup by 2045. WOW – who would’ve thought that was possible even in the next hundred years! Most pundits including the IPCC, Bill McKibben, etc… have stated that even if we stop all CO2 emissions right now, levels would not go down for hundreds of years. Paul Hawken says otherwise – and more power to him.

Quick summary (spoiler alert) is that even though Refrigerant management is the #1 solution (HFC’s are 100X+ more potent than CO2) combining (#6) educating girls and (#7) family planning makes it over 119 Gton of CO2 reduction, AND combining (#3) reducing food waste and (#4) plant rich diet wheat food also makes it over 136Gton of CO2 reduction. So focusing on women and food instead of energy and transportation would be a better start.

Thanks for refocusing us, Paul. He’ll be at several book signings in the Bay Area if you want to thank him personally…. I know I will, again and again. Stay tuned for Drawdown #2 as there are another 100 coming attraction (solutions) in the works by Paul and his team.

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Electric cars in Norway: 40% of all cars sold in Norway are electric. Norway has set a goal to be 100% electric cars by 2025. WOW. Considering that StatOil is one of the world leading oil producers, and that Norway isn’t exactly located in the sunniest climate = it’s an ambitious and admirable goal.  For starters:  “Earlier this year, Norway opened the world’s largest fast-charging station, which can charge up to 28 vehicles in about half an hour.”  So maybe Germany, China, California can take a clue from Norwegians and emulate them.

One a side note, a couple weeks ago California crossed a milestone and produced 50% of its electrical demand from renewables. And they said it couldn’t be done… by 2020! That’s our current goal: 50% of our energy from renewables by 2020. And we crossed that threshold three years early. Now the challenge is to increase its frequency and duration.

Land of Oz

welcome to SF… what a world class city… still. It’s been a few years since i’ve enjoyed these environs the way I used to: being present with all the livlihoods around: SOMA, Yerba Buena, Chinatown,
Embarcadero skyways, Ferry Building, cool little shops & cafes… did you know there’s a redwood forest in the middle of SF??

The one thing that stood out for me this time (after I shed off the usual zombie-land, master-of-the-universe environs, that I was once part of) was the sheer # of empty muni buses – everywhere! WOW – Uber is going to be SO,SO successful. What a ridiculous sight: empty behemothth buses chewing away KWs of electric buzz-feeds.. at least they’re not on direct fossil-fuel… just think of the cost per mile – the REAL cost – driver labor, repair & maintenance, embodied energy, ugly overhead electric lines, damage to streets, energy cost, accidents, mishaps/deaths, on and on… of all those buses lined up on Market street and beyond with nary a passenger. My biggest bitch tho is the gawd awful sight of those buses squeeling and buzzing away… and the utter destruction of any ambiance that a human being could enjoy.

How distant this is from pedestrian friendly city centers of Europe and Asia! Why oh why, do we have our heads so deep in the tar sands?

The only quick info I could find on the O+M (ops+maint) costs per city bus mile was from the Washington DC area in 2015:  WOW  considering an average car costs around 10cents/mile and carpooling can cut that in half or third… what more can I say?  the writing is on the wall or street (yep = wall street 🙂…Uber will be getting lotsa capitalization from there, and perhaps empty buses, and BIG city buses will be a thing of the past.

It’s not better on the other side of the Bay in Beserkeley… where empty AC transit buses go streaming by, clogging up roads, belching fumes (there’s no overhead electric lines like in SF).  ahhh to head back to the environs of WinSol and the forest sanctuary… peace & serenity and real (human) nature.

Winter weirding

This is a record setting January.  WinSol is buried in a winter wonderland of snow with more on the way.

 This is a record January with 237 inches beating the old record for January of 159 inches set in 1973.

The learning center dome has its first real test under heavy snows and seems to be holding up pretty good.  We’ll see what the 72 hour snow fatigue does to the Cupola soon.  It’s really a beautiful setting as long as one has adequate heating, food and water – AND – doesn’t need to go anywhere.


Feb 22nd update:  Yep, it’s been a record snowfall for February also.  Lake Tahoe lake level is at it’s highest level EVER.  Kirkwood (my fav ski area) got over 72″ of new snow just
in the past 7 days.

 I keep getting these email updates almost every other day of some ridiculous # of snow inches that just fell.  When you gotta DIG OUT the chair lifts… what can I say:

Unfortunately, the Carson Spur and the ski resort itself is having open/close issues – and this veteran skier is only a blue-bird.  Although I am on my 17th ski day already this year.

WinSol and the learning center came out of the deep snow just fine.  There’s only one small leak on the cupola and NO cracking… whew… gotta but some acrylic bars across that this summer for the next big snow weirding.

Energie Wende

that’s German for ‘Energy Turning’... which is well under way with the utility death-spiral already a reality in Germany, but we have our own ‘energy turning in the USofA’… so here’s annual op-ed on energy:

Exec Sum: It’s time to take a hiatus and chill in our warming planet: it’s all too damn confussing,  as our rubber band has exceeded its stretching limits:  Oil prices will continue to hover between $20-40, coal IS done – fini-  despite trumpian efforts,  wind and solar will continue to enlighten, and the USA will continue to gets its energy ass kicked by Europe and China… we are a laughing stock when it comes to energy policy: cheap oil at any price.  We hardly notice as the world moves on (to renewables).

Between falling oil prices and OPEC’s dysfunction (latest production cut agreement won’t hold long),  trumping around with uncertainty, Paris accords fading, Venezuela’s civil unrest, protesters turning into connected protectors,  fracking getting a pass,  more cars at less MPGs, Tesla’s stock shrinking as marriage to its incestuous cousin is approved, and Gaia keeps turning up the
heat on us frogs, what can I say that’s positive?   Hey – we’re waking up!  slowly but surely we are reaching a tipping point and I’m optimistic that our Big Brains will soon figure out that nature doesn’t really have an opinion and it’s better off without us – any questions?  There’s just one little issue with my optimism: Are we really that smart?  It only took us 5,000 years to put wheels on our luggage! And that was on top of 55,000 years without wheels!  something about chisels?… but I digress…

We have an energy solution right in front of us, but can’t seem to get past bi-partisan morass. Even NRG can’t figure it out… I get tired reading about the troubles in the renewable business… would the pop media wake up and get some balls – please?  Fossil fuels are not only messy, they’re guey, they stink, their supply chain is extremely inefficient (<5%), when they leak they kill, and we’re addicted like a heroin addict.  If you’ve ever driven up to an active fracking development area, you’ll be smelling and seeing methane clouds miles away; or if you’ve been with a wild-catting/leatherneck crew you’ll soon learn the messy business of dozens of 100ft long steel pipes swinging overhead waiting to be launched into the ground to send a diamond drill bit down,down,down (sound like I’ve been there? – yep in the 80’s… they were fracking then too in Oklahoma and I had a front row seat… but the fracking is WAY bigger & messier now).

(Newsflash on a recent Oil discovery: a HUGE – yes a trumpian huge – oil reserve in the Texas Bakken field was just unearthed that’ll keep oil & gas prices low for years more and renewables in the USA fighting for survival.)

renewables are messy...and renewables continue getting a dose of political uncertainty (again, sigh…) but what’s so messy about hooking up two wires to a solar panel, a couple water pipes to a hot water collector, or erecting a steel tower (once) for a wind blade? Compared to ANYTHING in the fossil fuel industry… absolutely nothing! (sing it Edwin Starr…. music tune: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpWmlRNfLck

Here’s an easy solution:  teach a kid how to heat water with a black soda bottle (just put some dark liquid in there and stick it out in the sun), or point out the solar PV panels on rooftops, and maybe even a wind turbine when you’re driving around… but hey! in order to be a teacher, y’all gotta be a good student… so study up and then teach the GOOD stuff to a young-un.

Note: if ya wanna be really cool, do this on the right… super heat a soda can!

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P.S. That’s what the LeLc is all about… FUN and PLAY… and the GREAT TURNING  (WTR)

 

Asthma & Diesel

I turn my car’s fan OFF whenever I am behind a belching diesel truck or bus (especially if their muffler is located down low – like school buses) and for good reason:  diesel exhaust fumes. I’m overly sensitive to chemical smells, and whenever I smell diesel aldehydes I hold my breath and wait for cleaner air.

According to wikipedia diesel exhaust contaminants include substances listed as human carcinogens by theInternational Agency for Research on Cancer of the U.N.‘s World Health Organization.

It made me very, very sad decades ago when I saw children (including my own) being required to stand in line next to a running school bus, breathing in diesel exhaust into their young pink lungs. What a travesty! I knew they were breathing in aldehydes and other carcinogens which would cause health problems decades later.  And it would be such an easy fix (it still is!): just raise the damn exhaust muffler from the ground to higher up! Saying something about this, or worse – complaining! – always falls on deaf ears.

Try telling a trucker to stop idling their rig.

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As with many modern ailments, asthma and other lung infections are caused by modern lifestyles. There’s a markedly lower asthma rate in industrialized countries that have clean diesel than those that do not.

It’s actually kinda easy to wean a person away from an onset of asthma: breathe cleaner air! It’s that simple. Close your windows when the first school buses and garbage trucks start rolling. Open the windows up again after these trucks stop running. Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is one of the few things you can control.

An article in the NYTimes Well clearly states the impact of exercising in polluted cities: “The potential health impacts are worrisome. Studies show that athletes who spend long hours in ice rinks filled with exhaust from Zamboni machines, such as figure skaters and hockey players, have unusually high rates of asthma compared to other athletes.”

So next time there’s a smog alert day in your area, besides trying to pollute less, maybe you can rest your body until the air gets cleaner… you’ll be healthier for it.

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Searching on ‘asthma & diesel exhausts’, there’s an entry from a UK study in 2007:

Diesel exhaust fumes on polluted streets have a measurable effect on people with asthma, according to the first study looking at exhausts and asthma in a real-life setting, published today in the New England Journal of Medicine.”

Most countries in Europe have had ‘clean diesel’ for over two decades – and it’s WAY cheaper than regular gasoline. Whenever I rented a car there, I always opted for a diesel one. At ~$8/gallon, fuel costs are often higher than rental fees in Europe.

But the USA, thanks to a powerful lobby group, refuses to pass legislation mandating clean diesel – except for California.

Starting in 2010 cleaner diesel truck engines were phased in. California is leading the USA toward cleaner diesel:

https://www.ajot.com/news/future-freight-plan-for-california-depends-on-clean-diesel-power-to-ac

According to 2015 data compiled by IHS Insight for the Diesel Technology Forum, there are over 900,000 Class 3-8 commercial vehicles in California and about 18 percent are the newest generation clean diesel (2010 Model Year and newer) that achieve near zero NOx and PM emissions. Since 2010, these vehicles alone have saved or eliminated 700,000 tons of NOx and 20,700 tons of PM. They have also saved or eliminated 5.8 million barrels of crude oil and 2.5 million tons of CO2. This compares with just over 15,000 natural gas powered commercial vehicles. Nationwide, almost 26 percent of the diesel commercial vehicle fleet is powered by engines that are 2010 and newer generations.”

These points and others were outlined in the Forum’s final comments submitted Wednesday on the draft California Sustainable Freight Action Plan concerning the development of strategies to improve freight efficiency and the transition to zero-emission freight technologies.

And it’s going to get even cleaner with diesels in California, according to Cal’s CARB web site:

The regulation requires diesel trucks and buses that operate in California to be upgraded to reduce emissions. Newer heavier trucks and buses must meet PM filter requirements beginning January 1,2012. Lighter and older heavier trucks must be replaced starting January 1,2015. By January 1,2023, nearly all trucks and buses will need to have 2010 model year engines or equivalent.

The regulation applies to nearly all privately and federally owned diesel fueled trucks and buses and to privately and publicly owned school buses with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) greater than 14,000 pounds. The regulation provides a variety of flexibility options tailored to fleets operating low use vehicles, fleets operating in selected vocations like agricultural and construction, and small fleets of three or fewer trucks.

Now, if we can only get other states to adopt similar clean diesel mandates and save our children’s lungs (and retrofit those school buses!!)

WTR related:

Something as mundane as cleaner diesel is part of ‘The Great Turning’ within the Work that Reconnects (WTR).  It’s always easier to remain numb to realities than acknowledge our pain, and make the world a better place – a cornerstone of Joanna Macy’s WTR work: “acknowledge your own pain that ended up as numbness. It’s painful, and hurtful to embrace & acknowledge all the ugliness, violence, chemicals in our daily lives: better just ignore it for your own ‘peace of mind’… which really never comes from numbness.”

 

Shrimp with bacon + olive oil?

 

mmm……looks appetizing right?

well, I won’t be saying this at any dinner parties:  But shrimp, bacon and olive oil are not what we think they are.

I can’t seem to get away from blogging about food. Why are there  so many food distortions, outright lies, and hidden secrets?  Here’s the latest:

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I’m a regular fan of CBS  60 minutes… I know, I know: they are heavily edited + scripted for THEIR agenda,  but they still produce original investigative journalism – unlike 90% of web content.

Let’s start with olive oil, or what olive oil isn’t.  Look at a bottle of olive oil.  Chances are it will say ‘Made in Italy’ well it’s neither from Italy nor is it olive oil!

Check out ‘Agromafia’ a 60 minutes segment that aired on Jan 3, 2016. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-agromafia-food-fraud/

Here’s some highlights:  Olive oil is a $16 billion industry.  Generally olive oil costs $50 agallon.  But sunflower oil costs $7 a gallon.  Add a little chlorophyll to sunflower oil and it’ll look just like olive oil!  Let’s see $50 vs $7… quite a margin!   So the Italian mafia brings in sunflower + canola oil from North Africa, reprocesses it with Chlorophyll, relabels it  – and walla:  a whole new profit center is borne:  3x more profitable than cocaine.  Allergy people BEWARE :  some of this fake olive oil is based on nut seed oil.

anecdote: just yesterday I bought some italian pasta instead of USA pasta (thinking I would avoid the inevitable GMO that most USA wheat has) … but alas! italian pasta is neither also!  At best it’s contaminated with pesticides and poisons.

Italy appears to have its own hideous, fake food supply chain …  just like China++   So sad!  The ‘made in Italy’ label has been altered forever. I stopped trusting Italian leather decades ago, ever since an Asian store keeper in Venice tried selling me a fake leather jacket .  A little due diligence revealed cheap China crap with ‘made in italy’ knockoffs that were everywhere – even in some  hi-end stores.

Nothing seems to be immune  from the mafia’s food altering cartel: Italian wines are altered with poor quality table wine, relabeled ‘made in Tuscany’;  40,000 gallons worth >$5mil last year alone.  Tomatoes, sauce, pasta, milk, bread… nothing seems to be immune from the mafia’s reach.

From farm to fork:  from supermarkets, to transportation, to farm harvesters, growers + seeds… the entire supply chain!!  The Italian mafia appears to controls everything: especially in Sicily, where the majority of food vendors and restaurants are controlled by the mafia.

The 2007 New Yorker magazine was the first publisher of this phenom.  Why has it gone unnoticed for so long  (8 years!)?

So step aside China, we have a new wiener in the food deception game!  The real sad losers in all of this are the Italian people. Gone will be their ‘made in Italy’ reputation and pricing premiums.  The real Italian artists and artisans could be driven out of business. Hopefully they’ll re-label themselves, and be able to market their wares under some new ‘unalterable, non-mafia’ controlled label.

Thank you New Yorker + CBS/60 minutes – there are still a few investigative journalists around… I might just start subscribing to the New Yorker!

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 let’s look at shrimp.

Have you noticed how cheap it’s been for the last year?                    There’s a reason for that:    In Thailand + Mynamar +, poor migrant kids are being sold to and locked inside shrimp factories to peel Red Lobster, Kroger, Olive Garden, Wal-mart and others’ cheap shrimp. They get paid $3-4 for a 16 hour day peeling shrimp.

In 2015 alone, over 2,000 shrimp slaves have been freed as a result of an ongoing AP investigative series.  42% of Thai shrimp are contaminated.  Heavy antibiotics are used by shrimp farmers. As much as 38% of the mangrove forests being cut, can be directly linked to shrimp farming.

To escape detection, Asian shrimp are often combined with other seafoods and sold as combo patches to unsuspecting western markets. Last week, even Whole Foods had to admit it didn’t know if its Thai suppliers were mixing ‘slave shrimp’ into its seafood supplies.

sources: SF Chronicle page A6, December 15, 2015 and Mother Jones Jan6, 2016:  http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2016/01/six-reasons-think-hard-about-shrimp-craving

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And now for some GOOD NEWSbacon

Everything’s better with bacon – right?

You may have seen the latest WHO (World Health Organization) report that a couple slices of bacon are equivalent to two packs of cigarettes a day – what BS!  Here’s the real story behind the NPR + pop media story:

WHO merely put cured meats on its list of likely carcinogens.  Within three days, over two dozen social media outlets posted that bacon was hazardous to your health — they ramped up the WHO listing to an become an edict on avoiding bacon + ham. The Spanish were pretty pissed about that!

Here’s the real story: There’s always been a correlation linking nitrates in cured meats to cancer. BUT  ‘correlation does not imply causation’. The WHO did not imply causation – they merely put cured meats on their ‘links to cancer’ list – not an increased risk!

Smoking increases lung cancer by 2,500%, eating two slices of bacon each day increases cancer risk by 18% – and even that is misleading, since the average person has about a 5% risk of colorectal cancer.  When you put the two together it comes out to about a 1% increased personal risk – unless of course you’re driving a car while eating your bacon burger.  So… enjoy your bacon!

(source: Catalystmagazine.net page 16, December 2015)