Saturday, July 29, 2006

Easy way to save energy

Did you know that cell phone chargers use power if they are left plugged in and not charging a phone. That is true of most electrical appliances that are plugged in but turned "off". They still draw a charge. I was reading through this online accounting of a small business trying to account for and reduce it's energy use and stumbled across this little bit of information regarding cell phone chargers. The one tested in this case was using 3 watts of energy when plugged in and not charging. Some people may think 3 watts is nothing to worry about. But lets do the math: According to the U.S. Census Bureau the number of cell phone subscribers in the United States reached approximately 159 million in 2003. I'm sure it's a few million more today. Imagine that most of these folks leave their chargers plugged in, let's say 130 million (remember this is U.S. only). Assuming folks plug in and charge every day for 8 hours (I'd guess most charge every other day or less) we could say that 130 million chargers are wasting 2-3 watts 16 hours a day. That's a range of 260 to 390 million watts of energy a day wasted which translates into 260,000 - 390,000 kWh (1 kilowatt-hour (kWh) = 1,000 Watts) a day.

Looking at this post at treehugger about this very subject I see these comments:
FWIW, following this post I went and hooked up my "Kill-A-Watt" monitor to my cell phone charger. The results are in: 0.04 kWh over 308 hours. That is, I left the charger plugged in for 308 hours, and attached my phone whenever it got low.

At that rate my total kWh for the year is going to be 1.1

I understand that there are a lot of "bad" adapters out there, but maybe they are the big, heavy, hot things attached to cheap computer equipment. I saved an 8 watt continuous pull by dropping my powered computer speakers, for instance.
...

okay, so it's "only" 1.1 kwH per year. that's for one charger for one cell phone. let's extrapolate: the population of canada is 32 million. sure, not everyone has a cell phone, but there are a LOT of ppl with two, three, or more of the things. if everybody wastes "only" 1.1 kwh per year, do the math: 32.3 MILLION kilowatt hours wasted per year!
...

i just did the math:
one barrel of oil = 1640.8KWh
therefore, if 32 million cell phone charger adapters were left plugged in and wasting 1.1 KWh/year, that's
196,977.08 barrels of oil wasted!
Math makes my head hurt so I'll stop with the numbers. The point is, it's a lot of wasted energy and a lot of Carbon being pumped into the atmosphere to power unused devices. Via CNN there is this:
Keeping your cell phone and battery charger plugged in may cost you $1.50 a month and the night light? That'll cost you $.50 a month if you keep it on 24/7. On a national scale, the Alliance to Save Energy estimates that on a national level, these vampire devices use about 5 percent of our energy and cost consumers more than $8 billion annually.
Best of all is this page at the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy which details the power usage of all sorts of home appliances.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Israel War Crimes Update



The U.S. and Britain are alone in their opposition to a an immediate cease fire in the current Israel-Lebanon conflict. With each day that passes it seems that opposition to Israel's war against Lebanon is growing. This is not going to get better unless they back off. If they continue their brutalization we can expect an incredible escalation of violence in the Middle East. I cannot imagine that this will remain confined to Israel and Lebanon.

At least 384 people have been killed in Lebanon, including 20 soldiers and 11 Hizbullah fighters and between 600,000 and 700,000 others have fled their homes.

Israel's death toll stands at 36, with 17 people killed by Hizbullah rockets and 19 soldiers killed in the fighting.

War Crimes

According to Lebanese president Emile Lahoud Israel is using White Phosphorus as a weapon. Democracy Now! has an interview with independent journalist Dahr Jamail regarding Israel's use of White Phosphorus. It's also being reported that Israel is using cluster bombs in Lebanese residential neighborhoods.




Israeli children writing messages on the missiles to be fired into Lebanon. What?? Is this for real? If so I can only say that disgust is a word that just begins to scratch the surface.





The results of the delivery of those missiles. U.S. tax dollars paid for these deaths.


Juan Cole has been keeping up with the situation very well, discussing Condolezza Rice's visit, cluster bombs, and more. He also discusses various instances of strikes against civilians and specific war crimes that may have been committed.

Cole discusses Alan Dershowitz and Grades of Human Beings:

Israeli officials have already showed us how Arabs can be reclassified away from a full "human" category that they clearly, in the view of the Kadima government, do not deserve.

For instance, Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Dan Gillerman angrily denounced Kofi Annan for neglecting this key fact. The Guardian reports, ' Mr Gillerman said "something very important was missing" from Mr Annan's speech: any mention of terrorism. Hizbullah were "ruthless indiscriminate animals", he told reporters. '

So you see, one reason that you can just bomb the hell out of the Lebanese in general is that they aren't human beings at all. They are "animals." You might quibble that Gillerman is only referring to members of the Hizbullah party as animals, not all Lebanese. But most Shiite Lebanese, some 45 percent of the population, support Hizbullah. And the Lebanese government, made up of Christians, Sunnis and Druze, let Hizbullah into the Lebanese government and gave it cabinet posts. So probably those who tolerate Hizbullah are at most half-human. This has yet to be worked out. It might be possible to declare them .66 animal. Or maybe they are just all animals. They speak Arabic, after all, right Mr. Gillerman?

There is a problem with stopping here, however. It is not enough to reclassify some human beings as animals. After all, you have to treat animals humanely. You can even be fined for mistreating an animal, though probably you would not go to jail.



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Monday, July 24, 2006

Climate change round-up... or, I guess we're not so smart after all



About time for another climate change round-up. We'll begin with a look at an extensive series of polls conducted by the Pew Research Center which released the results July 12, 2006. While focused on the attitudes of those in the U.S. towards climate change it also compares U.S. beliefs to those in several other countries. Perhaps most interesting is that while those in the U.S. generally consider themselves well educated and "advanced" we seem to fail to comprehend this danger to our existence while many in the "less developed" world seem to understand the danger. Interesting. Amazing what a steady flow of indoctrination and a cushy lifestyle will accomplish. Sad, sad, sad. Summary of Findings: Little Consensus on Global Warming:
Partisanship Drives Opinion
Americans generally agree that the earth is getting warmer, but there is less consensus about the cause of global warming or what should be done about it. Roughly four-in-ten (41%) believe human activity such as burning fossil fuels is causing global warming, but just as many say either that warming has been caused by natural patterns in the earth's environment (21%), or that there is no solid evidence of global warming (20%).

The public also is divided over the gravity of the problem. While 41% say global warming is a very serious problem, 33% see it as somewhat serious and roughly a quarter (24%) think it is either not too serious or not a problem at all. Consequently, the issue ranks as a relatively low public priority, well behind education, the economy, and the war in Iraq.

The divided public attitudes toward global warming - and modest expressions of concern over the issue - distinguishes the United States from other industrialized countries. Last month's Pew Global Attitudes Project survey showed that only 19% of Americans expressed a great deal of personal concern about global warming. Among 15 countries surveyed, only the Chinese expressed a comparably low level of concern (20%).

The latest nationwide survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, conducted June 14-19 among 1,501 U.S. adults, finds that the public opinion about global warming is deeply polarized along political lines. Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to say there is solid evidence that temperatures are rising (by a margin of 81% to 58%), and that human activity is the root cause (by 54% to 24%). Democrats also place a far higher priority on the issue - believing it is a serious problem and rating it far higher in importance among issues facing the nation. For the most part, independents see global warming in the same way as Democrats in terms of whether there is solid evidence for the phenomenon and the importance of global warming relative to other issues.
Then there is this by Geoffrey Lean and Fred Pearce, published July 23, 2006 in the Independent Online Amazon rainforest 'could become a desert':
And that could speed up global warming with 'incalculable consequences', says alarming new research

The vast Amazon rainforest is on the brink of being turned into desert, with catastrophic consequences for the world's climate, alarming research suggests. And the process, which would be irreversible, could begin as early as next year.

Studies by the blue-chip Woods Hole Research Centre, carried out in Amazonia, have concluded that the forest cannot withstand more than two consecutive years of drought without breaking down.

Scientists say that this would spread drought into the northern hemisphere, including Britain, and could massively accelerate global warming with incalculable consequences, spinning out of control, a process that might end in the world becoming uninhabitable.

The alarming news comes in the midst of a heatwave gripping Britain and much of Europe and the United States. Temperatures in the south of England reached a July record of 36.3C on Tuesday. And it comes hard on the heels of a warning by an international group of experts, led by the Eastern Orthodox "pope" Bartholomew, last week that the forest is rapidly approaching a "tipping point" that would lead to its total destruction.

... the Amazon now appears to be entering its second successive year of drought, raising the possibility that it could start dying next year. The immense forest contains 90 billion tons of carbon, enough in itself to increase the rate of global warming by 50 per cent.

David Adam of the Guardian Unlimited describes the potential landscape of the future with Drought, gales and refugees: what will happen as UK hots up:
As this week's heatwave shows, climate change will affect almost every aspect of British life. But how? We examine the likely outcomes in coming decades

This week's heatwave is only the beginning. The mercury may not have pipped the all-time record on Wednesday, but it is only a matter of time. Maybe not next week and maybe not next month, but soon. And for the rest of our lives.The planet is warming rapidly. Arctic ice is at record lows and the north pole could melt to open water sometime this century for the first time in some 40m years. The mighty West Antarctic ice sheet is creaking and dramatic changes are expected, from the Amazon rainforest to the Siberian permafrost. But what about the UK? What else does global warming have in store for our once green and pleasant land?


Lastly, Ian Sample of the Guardian Unlimited discusses the coming extinctions in his article, Earth facing 'catastrophic' loss of species:
Scientists call for action in biodiversity crisis · Warning that world faces next mass extinction

The Earth is on the brink of "major biodiversity crisis" fuelled by the steady destruction of ecosystems, a group of the world's most distinguished scientists and policy experts warn today.Nineteen leading specialists in the field of biodiversity, including Robert Watson, chief scientist at the World Bank, and Professor Georgina Mace, director of the Institute of Zoology, are calling for the urgent creation of a global body of scientists to offer advice and urge governments to halt what they call a potentially "catastrophic loss of species".

Destruction of natural habitats and the effects of climate change are causing species to die out at 100 to 1,000 times faster than the natural rate, leading some scientists to warn we are facing the next mass extinction.

Nearly one-quarter of the world's mammals, one-third of amphibians and more than one-tenth of bird species are threatened with extinction. Climate change alone is expected to force a further 15%- 37% of species to the brink of extinction within the next 50 years.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Israeli War Crimes


Your U.S. tax dollars hard at work. So I guess we can add these war crimes on to our list of war crimes in Iraq? Just as I think I could not be any more disgusted with the conduct of my fellow humans and governments, particularly the U.S. and its allies... it just gets more fucked up everyday.

It's a funny thing in our world that the most well armed nations get to define terrorism. Yeah. Very funny.

More here and here.

Via this post at Informed Comment.

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Monday, July 17, 2006

It is time for the people to lead

Let me begin by asking a question and then I'll come right to the point. Are you prepared to do what it takes to stop global climate change? If yes, you can skip the next three paragraphs... start with the paragraph that begins "You answered yes."

You've answered no and I want you to ask yourself why. Do you believe that climate change is not a problem? If this is the case, how have you come to that conclusion? Do you realize it is a conclusion which contradicts the conclusion reached by the vast majority of climate scientists? Have you taken time to explore the available articles on the research? Or perhaps you believe climate change is a problem but feel there is nothing you or we can do about it. Perhaps you feel it is too late to make the changes? In either case all I'll ask is this. Set aside five minutes right now. 5 minutes for a mental exercise. Imagine for a few minutes that you are in the future 25 years looking back at this moment. The moment you made a decision not to act. In this future which may, or may not come to pass, you look back and wish you and your fellow humans had acted. In this future the predictions of climate scientists in 2006 have proven true. In fact it is the worst case scenario.

In this worst case scenario it is the year 2031. The planet has continued warming at an alarming rate. Weather patterns are shifting and becoming increasingly extreme. Each new year breaks the records of the previous year. More tornados, hurricanes, and wild fires. Severe droughts and flooding combined with shortages of oil and natural gas have made food production increasingly difficult. Food shortages have become common and when available it is much more expensive. Gasoline has also become expensive at $15 a gallon and is often not available. For those who still rely upon the central utilities grid 8-12 hour blackouts are a daily occurence. You try to grow some of your own food but it is increasingly difficult. Pollinating insects such as bees and butterflies are rare these days and often the plants you are able to keep alive do not produce much. Animal populations are fluctuating wildly as migration patterns change radically and once common species become endangered due not only to the rapidly shifting climate but also greatly increased hunting by humans in search of food.

That may prove to be our future given our current path. It might not be so bad. It might be worse. The above description is not at all far fetched. Think about the possibilities. I've only touched on a few. There really much more to imagine in that scenario. How old will you be in 25 years? Your children? Grandchildren? 25 years is not so far away. Perhaps you are still not convinced. Perhaps you won't be until that day comes in 2031. Perhaps it will be a day in 2015? The truth may prove to be that even if we do work very hard to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that we are too late. That is a very real possibility. Do you want to look back at this moment with the realization that you did nothing? Make your decision and make it soon. If you do want to join in the effort continue reading.

...

You answered yes. You are prepared to make the changes that must be made. Then may I boldly suggest that it is up to you to lead the way. It is up to me. It is up to the people to lead the way. It really is that simple. We have it in our power to make the changes that may slow climate change just enough. It is past the time that we realize the truth that the elected governments are not doing it and, more importantly, cannot do it. They've taken the wrong path and are unable, perhaps unwilling to change course. But we, the people, can. Yes, it comes back to that: We, the people. It really is up to us to lead the way to change, to lead the way to a new world.

Here's how we'll do it and it will not be easy. We must change our lives, we must adjust our behaviors in ways that many will consider drastic. In some cases we may even consider the changes uncomfortable. If at any point in this list you notice yourself repeatedly thinking, "Oh, I can't do that, I'll just skip on to the next one" then it is time to stop and start over at the beginning of this document. If we are truly prepared to do what it takes to stop global climate change then we also realize that these changes are not optional. They're not really choices. If you are in a burning house you don't choose to let it burn. You put the fire out or you get out. In the case of climate change, there is no getting out. We will put the fire out or we will suffer. In truth, we'll likely suffer anyway but we may have enough time to lessen the suffering. Let's get started.

Vehicles
We'll begin with personal gas powered vehicles, whatever form they may take. We'll assume for this first section that you must, for now, drive a gas powered vehicle. It may be a hybrid that uses less gas or it may be a gas guzzling SUV. The point is you put gasoline or diesel in it's tank. If you live and work in a city and are able to rely solely upon mass transit and/or bicycles good for you, skip ahead. If not read on and remember, these are not optional.

  • Car pool. 2,3,4 to each vehicle. This one may be most important for those that must continue using personal vehicles. Imagine the impact in any major city. Imagine a typical morning of rush hour traffic. The highways jammed with 300,000 vehicles. Now imagine that everyone is car pooling 2 to a car. Those 300,000 cars are reduced to 150,000. Imagine the carbon not being emitted and the fuel being saved. This is hugely significant.
  • Ride Sharing. If you have to start a car, if you MUST get in the car and go somewhere consider whether or not your neighbor has any needs that might also be met during the errand.
  • Don't drive unless you must. Plan ahead. Combine errands. If you are car pooling pick one or two days a week to stop and pickup groceries. Plan it into your trip home.
  • Driving Speed. When on the highways keep it at 60 or less.
  • Braking and accelerating. Look ahead, anticipate. Coast as much as possible. Coast to traffic lights and start from a vehicle moving 5 or 10 mph rather than speeding up to a light, stopping and starting from 0. Accelerate slowly and smoothly.
Home Energy
Every time we flick a light switch on or turn on an appliance we are adding carbon to the atmosphere. Think before you do. Be aware of the little details of energy consumption that add up day by day, house by house. This section assumes you already have a home you live in or rent. Home owners have more freedom to make structural changes that increase efficiency but renters can also make changes.
  • Daily behavior. As stated above, think! Turn lights and appliances on only if you must.
  • Lighting. Replace your bulbs, especially those that tend to get left on for a while with compact fluorecents. During the day keep the lights off and use the natural light of windows.
  • In the summer turn the thermostat up to as high a temperature as you possibly can. Even better, run attic fans rather than the air conditioner.
  • In the summer don't eat food that needs to be cooked or baked. Save recipes that require cooking and baking for the winter. When you must cook use lids, especially important if you must cook in the summer. Water will boil much faster if a lid is on the pot which keeps the heat out of the house and allows you turn the stove off sooner.
  • Plant trees around your home to provide shade in the summer.
  • Install shutters, blinds, or thick curtains. Be aware of direct sunlight and the heat it brings. If you're not in a room and don't need the light close the shutters, blinds, or curtains.
  • In the winter turn the thermostat down... way down. Put on extra socks, sweatpants, and a sweat shirt.
  • In the winter open your shades, curtains, etc. to let in the sunlight.
General Consumption
Don't. Just don't buy it. Only buy what you absolutely must. Yes, this is counter to our consumer culture. Too bad. Consuming requires energy on so many levels that I could easily write a book about it. What it comes down to is only buy things that you absolutely must buy.
  • Keep and wear your clothes until you outgrow them or they fall apart.
  • If you have clothes that you do not use give them to someone who will. Don't let this turn into a rationalization to buy new things because you've gotten rid of old things. Only buy what you NEED. Don't give away stuff you still need because your tired of it and want a new style or color.
  • Keep and use all devices until they are old and broken. Cell phones, computers... any device at all. Take very good care of it and upgrade or replace only when you must. When you do upgrade or replace a device, if it still works find a home for it. Give it away if you must, just make sure a still usable appliance finds a good home where it can continue it's useful life.
  • Because it cannot be said enough, don't buy it if you don't NEED it.
  • When it comes to personal body care think about packaging. What do you really need to be healthy and clean?
Diet
A vegetarian diet is healthier and requires much less fossil fuel to produce. That's not debatable, it's fact. You don't have to be a vegetarian but strive to eat less meat.
  • Stop drinking shit out of aluminum cans and glass/plastic bottles. Turn on the faucet and be amazed. Water is good for you. Everything other liquid you put in your body is unnecessary. It is simple. Put a filter on your faucet if it makes you feel better.
  • Eat less meat.
  • Eat less. If you eat more than you need you will gain extra weight that you do not need. You will be less healthy. It's not a question of skinny or fat. It's a question of health. Too skinny is not healthy either.
  • Eat food that is locally grown if at all possible. Find a farmer's market.
  • If you eat meat try to get it locally. If you do not hunt or fish perhaps you know folks that do. Make arrangements to trade or purchase some of theirs.
  • Plant a garden and grow your own food. If you don't have lots of room that's okay. Grow what you can in the space you have. You'd be amazed at how much you can grow in a few big pots on an apartment balcony facing south.
  • Eat more raw food. Apples are good and they don't need much (or any) packaging.
  • Buy food in bulk. Look at the packaging and remember packaging is the product of energy processes that result in climate change.
  • Don't eat out, especially don't eat out at fast food restaurants.
Construction
If you must build a new home build it well with energy efficiency as a top priority. Don't build a new home unless you must.

  • Build it in the ground.
  • Use recycled materials in the construction.
  • Design it to be efficient.
  • Don't be afraid to be different. Look at alternative methods of construction as these are often much better than commonly accepted methods and materials used in the industry.
  • Face it south.
  • Design it to be off the grid.
Collaborate and Cooperate
We can do alot in our homes. This change starts with us as individuals and with individual commitment. But we are not just individuals are we? We are social. We live in communities. While we begin the process as individuals we can do oven more if we choose to cooperate and collaborate with others. Rebuilding community institutions will prove to be a fundamental ingredient to our survival and in the ways that we deal with climate change. In the year 2006 many of us don't know our neighbors. We've forgotten what it means to live in a community. Here are a few ideas for ways that we can work together to use less energy:
  • Bike co-op. Lots of cities are starting these and each one has it's own unique form and function. But the point is to help people get more use out of bicycles for day-to-day transport.
  • Community Gardens. Again, lots of cities are putting in community gardens. Empty lots, once tested to be safe, can be put to good use growing food.
  • Buying clubs. Meet up with your neighbors to order food in bulk. If you do it right it can mean cheaper food, bulk food with less packaging, and fewer trips to the grocery store.
Gonna get messy
Remember folks, those in power have not moved us in the right direction and there's a reason for that. The elephant in the room is this: the solution to our climate change problem is the saving of energy... consuming and doing less. This is counter to our entire way of life... it is counter to the general thrust of capitalism with seeks constant growth and constant consumption. What has traditionally been viewed as a strong and healthy economy must come to an end if we are to deal with the climate change crisis that is at our front door. See, this really is a life changing moment. It's not just about a 101 easy ways to save the earth list. The truth is, if we are effectively dealing with climate change it also means we are redefining our economy and our entire way of life.

Do it or don't, but now is the moment. If we are lucky we have not already passed the point of no return... if we have now is our last chance to do everything we can to soften the crash landing. It's now or never and it's up to us. No more waiting for elected "leaders". We do it, we the people or it won't get done.



Just a start
This list is really just a start. I'll edit it, add more... I'm sure there's lots more that can be added but I think I've covered most of the most important actions to be taken. Leave your suggestions in the comments.

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Sunday, July 16, 2006

July 13, 2006, Daniel Yergin Day

Ever heard of Daniel Yergin? To put it simply he has consistently been on the wrong side of the peak oil debate. He has been wrong time and again in regards to the price and future availability of oil as well as in his cheerleading for oil-based social development. He is a part of an auto/oil industry that has actively deceived the public in regards to climate change and resource availability.

In honor of him, July 13, 2006 which was the first day to see markets cross $76 for a barrel of crude has been named Daniel Yergin day. Even better, Yergin's prediction of $38 per barrel of oil for November 2005 will be remembered as a new unit of in terms of oil trade. $38 is now 1 Yergin. So, as of this week, oil is trading at over 2 Yergins.

For the details check this article by Jeffery Brown over at the Energy Bulletin:

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- The front-month futures contract climbed past $76 a barrel Thursday for the first time ever on the New York Mercantile Exchange, with August crude touching $76.30 and last trading at $76.21, up $1.26.

In regard to efforts to deny the reality of Peak Oil, I have previously described what I call the "Iron Triangle," which I define as: (1) most auto, housing and finance companies; (2) most of the mainstream media and (3) most major oil companies, major oil exporters and the energy analysts that work for the major oil companies and major oil exporters.

In my opinion, the Iron Triangle has a vested interest in denying the reality of Peak Oil, and they are, in effect, working together to encourage Americans to continue buying large vehicles, in order to continue driving large distances to and from large mortgages.

...in a column in Forbes Magazine, published on 11/1/04, Daniel Yergin, in response to a question about the future direction of oil prices, dismissed concerns about oil supplies and asserted that oil prices on 11/1/05 would be at $38 per barrel. Note that oil prices exceeded $60 in the summer of 2005, prior to the hurricanes.

In my opinion, Mr. Yergin serves as an excellent symbol of the major oil company/major oil exporter/energy analyst group. And since oil prices are now trading at close to $76 per barrel--twice Mr. Yergin's prediction--I hereby designate July 13, 2006 as "Daniel Yergin Day," in honor of Mr. Yergin's continued efforts to, in effect, persuade Americans to continue driving large debt financed vehicles, on long commutes to and from large mortgages.

One of the little ironies about the Peak Oil debate is that it is those who are trying their best to warn Americans about the dangers posed by Peak Oil---Matt Simmons; Colin Campbell; Kenneth Deffeyes; Boone Pickens, Jim Kunstler etc.--who are most often blamed for rising oil prices. I think that it is just the opposite. It seems logical to me that those who are asserting that we have plentiful supplies of oil are doing far more to encourage consumption--and thus higher oil prices--than those who are asserting that we have problems with oil supplies.

If you believe Matt Simmons, et al, about the future direction of energy prices, you will drastically reduce your overall consumption, especially your energy consumption, by living in a small energy efficient home, close to where you work--which would ideally allow you to walk or take mass transit to work, or at least result in a short commute.

In my opinion, it is those who are telling us that Peak Oil is decades away--such as ExxonMobil, Opec and Yergin--who are most responsible for, in effect, encouraging Americans to continue driving $50,000 SUV's on 50 mile roundtrips to and from $500,000 mortgages in the suburbs.

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Hot, Hot, Hot: First Half of 2006 Sets Heat Record

The trend continues. Of course this increasingly rapid heating of our climate comes at a time when we are entering a serious, long term energy crisis based on the peaking of oil production. Politicians do not have any kind of answer and will resort to truly idiotic short term "solutions" such as corn-based ethanol that are not solutions at all. In fact they produce far less energy for the amount of energy input and the processing plants being built to convert the corn into fuel will add to the climate problem. Meanwhile Americans can't be bothered with such trivialities as melting ice caps and will continue to drive to the malls and Wal-marts until they cannot afford it. You'll have to pry their SUVs and credit cards from their cold dead fingers.

Sara Gourdarzi of LiveScience.com reports on the new record set by the First Half of 2006:
The average temperatures of the first half of 2006 were the highest ever recorded for the continental United States, scientists announced today.

Temperatures for January through June were 3.4 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th-century average.
Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri experienced record warmth for the period, while no state experienced cooler-than-average temperatures, reported scientists from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.

Scientists have previously said that 2005 was the warmest year on record for the entire globe.
Last month the United States experienced the second warmest June since weather record keeping began in 1895.

This warming coupled with less than average precipitation caused moderate to extreme droughts in almost 45 percent of the contiguous United States. However, some areas, such as the Northeast of the country experienced record rainfalls and severe floods.

Many experts believe that such weather anomalies are the result of global warming, an average increase in the Earth's atmospheric temperature caused at least in part by human activities.

Other studies reveal consequences of a warmer climate.

According to one study, the amount of land damaged by rising temperature-induced droughts more than doubled in the last 30 years.

Meanwhile, dry conditioned have contributed to more than 50,000 wildfires in the first half of this year, an unusually high number. A study earlier this month suggests climate change has in recent years contributed to more wildfires in the Western United States.

Other studies suggest that warmer oceans and increased moisture could make for stronger hurricanes for many years to come.


More info via the The National Climatic Data Center.

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Saturday, July 15, 2006

Bush, Putin, and democracy

The Observer reports on Vladimir Putin's reaction to that grande champion of "democracy" and "freedom", George Bush:
Bush said that, during two hours of discussions, 'I talked about my desire to promote institutional change in parts of the world like Iraq where there's a free press and free religion. I told [Putin] a lot of people in our country ... would hope that Russia would do the same thing. I fully understand, however, that there will be a Russian style of democracy.

'Putin replied, smiling: 'I'll be honest with you: we, of course, would not want to have a democracy like in Iraq.'


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Israel, Hizbullah, and the U.S.

Juan Cole puts it well:
Israeli spokesmen are saying that they want to finish off Hizbullah. But you can't finish off a mass movement among 1.35 million people. Besides, there wouldn't be any Hizbullah if Israel had not invaded Lebanon in 1982 and occupied the south for 18 years. Israel's grabby occupation radicalized and helped mobilize the Lebanese Shiites. They aren't going to become less radical and less mobilized as a result of the current hamfisted Israeli assault.

...

Americans have to understand that when Israel goes wild and bombs a civilian airport and civilian neighborhoods in Beirut, a lot of the world's Catholics (Lebanon is partially a Catholic country) and its 1.4 billion Muslims blame the United States for it. Israel is given billions every year by the United States, including sophisticated weaponry that is now being trained on the slums of south Beirut. It should also be remembered that Bin Laden said, at least, that he started thinking about hitting New York when he saw that 1982 Israeli destruction of the skyscrapers or "towers" of Lebanon. How many future Bin Ladens are watching with horror and rage and feelings of revenge as Israel drops bombs on civilian tenement buildings? When will this blow back on Americans? (I mean blow back in other ways than an already painful further spike in petroleum prices).




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Friday, July 14, 2006

Israel's violence is really starting to piss me off

Rather than post something that would be more emotion than anything, I'll post this from the RadGeek as well as some other links that I think hit it on the head. I will add though, that it's not just this disproportionate violence by Israel against Lebanon and the residents of the Gaza strip, but also the incredible bias of the U.S. media. Of course, yes, I expect the U.S. media to exhibit bias but it still pisses me the fuck off. And with that I'll stop before I write something I regret.

The RadGeek discusses the Proportionality of the recent violence leveled by Israel against Lebanon:

So in Israel, one civilian was murdered. Eight soldiers were killed in combat and two captured. In the process of retaliating, Israeli forces have slaughtered 27 civilians, including 10 children, who had nothing in particular to do with the attack. They have bombed out bridges, destroyed roads, and bombed the country’s main airport (which had no connection with Hizbollah’s attacks and is far away from Hizbollah’s base of power in Southern Lebanon). They show no signs of letting up: this deaths and destruction is only the beginning.

and against the residents of the Gaza Strip:
So in Israel, one civilian was murdered, two soldiers were killed in combat, and one captured. Residents of towns near the Gaza strip have suffered some fright and some property damage from poorly-aimed rocket attacks. In the process of retaliating, Israeli forces have killed some 70 people, many of them children or other civilians who had nothing in particular to do with the attacks. They have also deliberately torn up farms, bombed bridges, destroyed school buildings, and the main civliian power plant. They show no signs of letting up: this death and destruction is only the beginning.

...

The murder of civilians by Palestinian or Lebanese terrorists is criminal, and those who committed the murders can be stopped from committing further crimes through the use of violence, if necessary. But the right to use force against someone does not mean the right to use any amount of force necessary against anyone at all in the process of stopping her. It’s true that if you really are willing to do everything in retaliation for the kidnapping of a soldier, or attacks on your forces, or attacks on civilians, then this is included. Any atrocity at all is included in doing everything, and that is precisely why the willingness to do everything in retaliation for an attack, no matter what the cost to innocent third parties, is a moral crime of the first order. Destroying the lives and livehlihoods of scores of innocent people in the process of trying to stop the murder of one or two other innocents is criminal. Destroying the lives and livelihoods of scores of innocent people in the process of trying to avenge the death or capture of a handful of soldiers in combat — the primary justification given by the Israeli government for these campaigns — is nothing less than an atrocity.


There are several recent posts by the Angry White Kid regarding Israel's aggressions that are worth checking:
Israel's state terrorism, war crimes and exceptionalism must end
Sickeningly hilarious? Or just plain contemptible
Let the carnage commence

Also, there's always Juan Cole's Informed Comment which is one of my daily reads.


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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Concerns of the New America

Jonathan over at Irregular Times wonders: George W. Bush is Big Brother, But Does America Care?

In the first 24 hours of the work week after it was revealed that George W. Bush has been engaging in yet another secret program to spy against American citizens that even the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee thinks is illegal, what were people thinking about the most?

They weren’t thinking about their liberty. They were thinking about Zinedine Zidane, a soccer player who gave a headbutt to another soccer player, Marco Materazzi. 5 out of the top 8 searches on Technorati in the last day have related to the incident at the World Cup.

It was a dramatic act of crude violence, to be sure, but in the end, how much does it matter to people’s lives? If the entire French team gave head butts to the entire Italian team, would it change the lives of any Americans in any significant way? Well, actually it would. It would give them something to talk about for a week instead of paying attention to the steady attacks on their constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms.

Was the news of the newly revealed government program to spy against Americans anywhere on Technorati’s top eight list? Nope. But Clay Aiken was there. News that a video blog site called Rocketboom had chosen a new host, and subsequently went offline, was number two on the list. Potc was right behind at number three.

Yeah, welcome to the New America. This is an America in which citizens have allowed multinational corporations to redefined them as consumers. Thinking about democracy and freedom as well as the struggle involved in maintaining those things, well that's just too much work. Much easier to tune into the latest TV distraction or movie blockbuster.

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Friday, July 07, 2006

Where have all the butterflies gone?

I was starting to think maybe I was crazy. But no, my perception seems to be pretty accurate. This spring and summer I have seen almost no butterflies. Practically zero. In fact, I would say less than 20. By this time last year and the previous year and most years before, I would see that many in week depending on my location. In fact, since being back in Missouri and spending lots of time in the garden, seeing 10 - 20 a day is not uncommon with 3-5 species represented in that count. Of course it's hard to say if one is seeing the same butterfly more than once but it's still very possible to get an idea if you're paying attention. Not only are we not seeing the butterflies but also zero caterpillars.

A few seconds of google turned up a whole slew of articles that verify my perception. Here's the first, Where have all the butterflies gone?:

Wild fluctuations in California's winter and spring weather have hurt fragile butterfly populations, causing numbers to fall to the lowest in more than three decades and increasing the concerns of scientists about long-term declines linked to climate change and habitat loss.
...

Shapiro, an entomologist and professor of evolution and ecology, monitors 10 locations from Suisun Marsh to the Sierra Nevada and maintains one of the two largest butterfly databases in the world. The other is the British Butterfly Monitoring Scheme.

At most of the study sites, he has seen half or less than half the number of species typically present at this time in an average year. Near Vacaville at Gates Canyon in April 2005, he found 21 species and 378 individual butterflies. But last month he counted 10 species and 43 individual butterflies.

Many species already appear to be suffering from a serious long-term decline because of several factors, including changes in climate and loss of habitat, he said.

"This short-term anomaly has really kicked the populations while they're down and may have accelerated their decline,'' said Shapiro.

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

A few Climate Change links of interest... Superman won't save our asses

A bit of a climate change link dump. By way of introduction let me just say that I'm pretty sure we're fucked as a species and of course we've set the course for the extinction of lots of other species. Not to say we shouldn't do something, we should. We really fucking should, every single day. But as I've said before I think the turning point has come and gone. Just for the sake of putting it down here's a simple list: stop driving, work less, spend less, consume less, walk more, bike more, turn up your thermostat in the summer, turn it way down in the winter, eat vegetarian, compost, grow your own food, turn off every electrical device you don't need, install compact fluorescent lighting.

Yeah, that's me being hopeful. I expect most will do nothing at all because it's just too much work. Easier to go see Superman and enjoy a Happy Meal with the kids.

First there is this review by Ken Caldeira over at the American Scientist Online, Time Is Not on Our Side , in which he reviews a couple of recent works on climate change:
Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change. Elizabeth Kolbert. x + 210 pp. Bloomsbury, 2006. $22.95.

The Weather Makers: How Man Is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth. Tim Flannery. xx + 357 pp. Atlantic Monthly Press, 2005. $24.

If the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from the burning of coal, oil and gas is not reduced greatly and soon, the consequences are likely to be catastrophic. So say Tim Flannery and Elizabeth Kolbert, authors of two new books that provide ample evidence that those emissions are adversely affecting the complex web of interactions that ties Earth's organisms to climate.

The incipient catastrophe is manifesting itself in a myriad of ways. A half-century ago, the Inupiats of the small Alaskan island of Shishmaref were able to venture 20 miles out onto the sea ice to hunt seals; now that ice turns to slush only 10 miles out. Storm surges that were once held at bay by the ice now regularly eat away at the island, a strip of land only a quarter of a mile wide; a single storm can remove as much as 125 feet. Once houses sat square and firm on the frozen ground; now they tilt and veer as the melting soil softens and gives way. The Inupiats recently voted to move their village inland, away from their ancestral home—an early loss to global warming.

This scene from Shishmaref is among those described by Kolbert in Field Notes from a Catastrophe, which is based on a series of articles that appeared last year in the New Yorker. Such is the power of the images she paints that, soon after the series appeared, a senior staffer to a Republican senator told me, "When the Eskimos start moving their villages, you know it's time to start doing something."

Kolbert describes scientists at a research station on the Greenland ice sheet working rapidly in the early morning, trying to avoid the slush and rivers of water that will form later in the day from the melting ice. This water sinks rapidly through cracks in the ice cap to the rocky base, lubricating the flow of the ice to the sea, where icebergs will calve off, raising sea level and flooding coastal communities. When the sea freezes, as ice forms, heavy salty water is pushed out and sinks. When icebergs melt, the cold fresh water they contain spreads across the ocean surface (rather than sinking into the denser, saltier waters below), thereby interfering with the large-scale thermohaline circulation of the ocean. No one can predict with confidence how interference with such planetary-scale processes will affect climate. We are like children poking at a sleeping polar bear, without knowing what will happen when it wakes up.
Then there is this essay by John Gray at the New Statesman, Rather than face up to climate change and do what can be done, humanity may opt to let it happen:

During the present century, human beings are likely to experience a change in the planetary environment unlike any in history. Climate change is irreversible, and accelerating fast. No one, apart from a few cranks speaking on behalf of the Bush administration, doubts that global warming is a side effect of human activity. Accumulating scientific evidence suggests strongly that climate change is happening on a larger scale and more quickly than was suspected even a couple of years ago. Observable processes such as the melting of the Antarctic ice cap point to rising sea levels that will wipe out much of the world's arable land and flood many coastal cities. The face of the planet is changing before our eyes.
Then there's this gem from CNN reporting on a recent study and panel: Earth 'likely' hottest in 2,000 years:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- It has been 2,000 years and possibly much longer since Earth has run such a fever.

The National Academy of Sciences, reaching that conclusion in a broad review of scientific work requested by Congress, reported Thursday that the "recent warmth is unprecedented for at least the last 400 years and potentially the last several millennia."

A panel of top climate scientists told lawmakers that Earth is heating up and that "human activities are responsible for much of the recent warming." Their 155-page report said average global surface temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere rose about 1 degree during the 20th century.


Last there's this interview at Rolling Stone with Al Gore:

OK, say you're the guy making that call. What do you ask us to do -- trade in our cars and buy a hybrid?

Here's the essence of our problem: Right now, the political environment in the country does not support the range of solutions that have to be introduced. The maximum you can imagine coming out of the current political environment still falls woefully short of the minimum that will really solve the crisis. But that's just another way of saying we have to expand the limits of the possible. And that's the main reason that I made this movie -- because the path to a solution lies through changing the minds of the American people. Not just on the facts -- they're almost there on the facts -- but in the sense of urgency that's appropriate and necessary. Once that happens, then things that seem impossible now politically are going to be imperative. I believe there is a hunger in the country to be part of a larger vision that changes the way we relate to the environment and the economy. Right now we are borrowing huge amounts of money from China to buy huge amounts of oil from the most unstable region of the world, and to bring it here and burn it in ways that destroy the habitability of the planet. That is nuts! We have to change every aspect of that.

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Monday, July 03, 2006

Goldfinch in the garden




Goldfinch
Originally uploaded by geekinthegarden.

Our garden is in full bloom with Purple Coneflowers, Orange Coneflowers, Grayheaded Coneflowers, Beebalm, and Butterfly Weed. I've spent the morning watching a pair of Goldfinches feed from the Purple and Orange Coneflowers. More photos at my flickr page.

I've not been around the blog lately. Lots of gardening then a problem with my knee and some poison ivy and then a bit of work and a trip out of town. So, I've been around but not really had the time to focus on the blog. Things seem to be simmering down a bit so perhaps I'll do some catching up with the blog.

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