turning down the noise

One person’s opinion, call it my op ed:
In our social media, twitter sound-bit driven world – it’s more about emotional attention than meaningful content. We are getting bombarded with increasingly meaningless noise – call it a dumbing down.     In electrical engineering there’s a concept called SNR (signal to noise ratio) and I gotta say the noise is drowning out important ‘signals’

We are relying on uninformed peers to inform us. I used to peruse the NYTimes most popular list and find it increasingly meaningless. I used to look at popular magazines + news sources to inform me. I used to listen to NPR to inform me. I’ve changed all that.

There are three new things that I do:

Can’t get enough of this

(a) download specific podcasts, listen to peer reviewed science + opinions

(b) subscribe to online NYTimes to peruse daily articles not picked up by twitter + ‘noise’ harvesting streams + to support them.

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(c)  go to the library regularly:

I biked to the public library in Eugene the other day and found things I would not have easily found on-line. Maybe this library is unique, but I think modern libraries have successfully reinvented themselves. In some cities (like South Lake Tahoe) I go to the library at the local community college or university.

My criteria for a good library is simple: Lotsa computer work stations long sections of current magazines + newspapers, and endless array of books and multimedia to choose from.

Here’s a sample of what I found at the Eugene library and three things that have influenced my thinking profoundly. Subsequently, I had a hard time finding these three articles on line (except for the Orion article), and had to dig hard to unearth them. I’ll try to devote a future blog to each of these topics:

(1) Orion: ‘Peak oil Fantasy’
on-line there the first comment was by Richard Heinberg (one of my heros)  Orion: Peak oil Fantasy
(2) FT’s Natural Born Chillers how Japanese cool themselves (and they don’t have central heating).  They cool and heat the body rather than the whole room or house!
(3) Newsweek’s the future of farming. This Newsweek web site itself wouldn’t yield the article, but a general search found it. It was fascinating to read how the dude that sparked the ‘green revolution’ in the 1970’s and fed millions, also ended killing thousands of farmers… was held up as a hero. And that we can ‘rewild’ the world by concentrating our farming with an aquaponics greenhouse style ‘agriculture’.   Newsweek: The future of farming

 

original thinking on sustainability

images.duckduckgo.com

Rarely do I find anything original in the ‘sustainability noise’   worthwhile sharing or blogging about.   This NYT article has some fresh, interesting information.

I hope you find it motivational.   It will be driving my behaviors.

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There are two things that caught my ‘cautiously optimistic’ curious brain: ‘beyond environmentalism’ which purports to impact consumerism, materialism and an ever increasing GDP requirement  of nations.   WOW, finally.  That only took 40+ years, to spiral down to one of the root causes behind our runaway industrial freight train. Stay tuned for a future blog about this wonderful new directio.

And then there’s this article.

NYTimes article link – click here

What You Can Do About Climate Change

Global climate: it’s complicated. Any long-term solution will require profound changes in how we generate energy. At the same time, there are everyday things that you can do to reduce your personal contribution to a warming planet. Here are seven simple guidelines on how your choices today affect the climate tomorrow.

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1 You’re better off eating vegetables from Argentina than red meat from a local farm. 
Eating local is lovely, but most carbon emissions involving food don’t come from transportation — they come from production, and the production of red meat and dairy is incredibly carbon-intensive.  Emissions from red-meat production come from methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Experts disagree about how methane emissions should be counted in the planet’s emissions tally, but nearly everyone agrees that raising cattle and sheep causes warming that is an order of magnitude more than that from raising alternate protein sources like fish and chicken (the latter of which have the added benefit of creating eggs).
According to researchers at Carnegie Mellon, a typical household that replaces 30 percent of its calories from red meat and dairy with a combination of chicken, fish and eggs will save more carbon than a household that ate entirely local food for a full year.
Yes, eating nothing but locally grown fruits and vegetables would reduce your carbon footprint the most. But for people not ready to make that leap, reducing how much meat you eat matters more than going local.
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2 Take the bus.  To give ourselves a good shot at avoiding severe effects such as widespread flooding of coastal cities or collapse of the food supply, scientists have determined there’s only so much carbon dioxide we can safely emit. Divvying up this global carbon fund among the world’s population (and making some assumptions about future emissions) gives you the average amount each person can burn per year over a lifetime — an annual “carbon budget.”
The current per capita emissions for Americans is about 10 times this limit, and given the relative affluence of this country, our emissions will not get down to the average anytime soon. But they can still fall from where they are. Consider this: If you drive to work alone every day, your commuting alone eats up more than your entire carbon budget for the year. Taking the bus — or biking! — would sharply reduce your output.
3 Eat everything in your refrigerator.  Scientists have estimated that up to 40 percent of American food is wasted — which amounts to almost 1,400img-3 calories per person every day. Food waste occupies a significant chunk of our landfills, adding methane to the atmosphere as it decomposes. Even more important, wasted food adds to the amount of food that needs to be produced, which is already a big part of our carbon load.
How can you waste less? For food shopping, plan out meals ahead of time, use a shopping list and avoid impulse buys. At home, freeze food before it spoils. If you find yourself routinely throwing prepared food away, reduce portion sizes.
img-44 Flying is bad, but driving can be worse.  Remember that annual carbon budget we talked about? One round-trip flight between New York and Los Angeles, and it’s all gone. Fliers can reduce their footprint somewhat by traveling in economy class. First-class seats take up more room, which means more flights for the same number of people. On average, a first-class seat is two and a half times more detrimental to the environment than coach.  But as bad as flying can be, driving can be even worse. A cross-country road trip creates more carbon emissions than a plane seat. And while a hybrid or electric car will save on gas mileage, most electricity in the United States still comes from fossil fuels.
If you really want to mind your carbon emissions, taking a train or a bus is best, especially for shorter trips. Or try that Internet thing: A Skype call or Google Hangout produces very little carbon dioxide.
img-55 Cats and dogs are not a problem.  Every so often, a news outlet points to pet ownership as being bad for the climate. At first, the argument might seem to make sense: Dogs and cats eat mostly meat, which is extremely carbon-intensive, so they must be driving carbon emissions.
But our pets generally aren’t chowing down on prime cuts of steak; they’re eating the leftover parts that people don’t want. When a cow is slaughtered, almost 50 percent of the animal is removed as unwanted or unfit for human consumption. The meat that ends up in pet food is a byproduct of human meat consumption, not a driver of it.   If you do get a dog, you can use it to the climate’s advantage. A dog will help you get in the habit of taking walks. The next time you need to run a quick errand to a nearby store, you can walk rather than hopping in your car.img-66 Replace your gas guzzler if you want, but don’t buy a second car.   Before you even start driving that new car to add to your first one, you’ve already burned up three and a half times your annual carbon budget. How? By encouraging the manufacturing of all of those raw materials and metals. Yet there’s a break-even point at which the carbon savings from driving a new, more efficient car exceeds the carbon cost required to produce it. For example, on average, trading in a 15-mile-per-gallon S.U.V. for a 35-m.p.g. sedan offsets the extra manufacturing costs within two years. Anything you do to improve mileage will reduce your carbon output. Keeping to the speed limit and driving defensively can improve your mileage by more than 30 percent, according to the Department of Energy. Even something as simple as keeping your tires inflated and having your engine tuned up can give you up to a 7 percent bump in m.p.g. — and an average carbon savings of about what you’d save from eating only local foods all year.

img-77 Buy less stuff, waste less stuff.   It’s not just car manufacturing that adds to carbon emissions. Other consumer goods can have a huge impact: Making that new MacBook Pro burns the same amount of carbon as driving 1,300 miles from Denver to Cupertino, Calif., to pick it up in person. At the other end of the product life cycle, reducing waste helps. Each thing you recycle is one fewer thing that has to be produced, and reduces the amount of material that ends up in landfills. But the recycling process consumes energy as well, so — depending on the material — it may not be as helpful as you might think. Recycling a magazine every day for an entire year saves less carbon than is emitted from four days of running your refrigerator.  It’s better not to consume the raw materials in the first place, so you may want to think carefully about whether you’re really going to use something before you buy it.

Of course, these individual choices are all small measures.  A sustainable solution that avoids severe damage to the planet will require fundamental changes in the global energy system: transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy and sharply reducing the number of cars that run on internal-combustion engines.  Advocating public policies that support the development of clean energy and efficient transportation is probably the most climate-friendly thing you can do. But cultural and behavioral change can be part of the solution as well. Might as well start now.

Fred’s comment:  Cultural + behavioral changes are the MOST IMPORTANT  way toward a comprehensive global solution.  Scientists and technologists can only point us in the right direction.