Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Creative Descent into the Stewardship of Earth

An excellent article has just been published over at the Energy Bulletin - Making us "future-proof" - the evolving role of horticulture

The end of cheap oil is going to have far reaching consequences to the way we live, breathe and eat. Think for a moment of modern day agriculture, of the large machines cultivating the fields, of the fertilizers used on the crops, of the trucks that transport the food from the farms to the supermarkets, sometimes thousands of kilometers away. Think of the plastic wrapping on those foods, think of the large refrigation cool rooms at each of those shops.

Each of these things are based around oil, as oil becomes more expensive, shopping for food will become a luxury, rather than a necessity. People will be forced to grow their own, which will mean a sharp learning curve for those of us that have not soiled our hands since we were children.

"The end of cheap oil means the end of cheap broad-scale mechanical cultivation, the end of cheap fossil-fuel-based fertilizers, and the end of cheap long-distance transport. In such a scenario, it is of genuine concern that we have (1) covered large areas of our most fertile, well-watered land with giant, sprawling cities, (2) filled these cities with pretty but unproductive parks, gardens, and streetscapes of mostly exotic plants on which we lavish water and fertilizers, (3) have come to rely on growing food at remote locations and transporting it over long distances to where it is consumed, and (4) devoted large areas of our land to growing surplus crops and products that need long-distance transport to distant countries. In an energy-descent world, horticulture and productive gardening, together with some wood production, will need to become more local - shifting back into our cities where they have traditionally been in more sustainable societies."

If we are to survive this massive change, we have a limited number of roads to go down. A lot of the population tends to put their trust in the scientists of the day, safe in the knowledge that the same wonderful technology that got us to this point will eventually solve all our woes. For those of us that don't fit into this category, some of us have decided that the world will indeed end, and there is nothing we can do about it but enjoy the time we've got, and others take as many steps as possible to limit their personal footprint, recycling, using alternative energies and growing their own food.

There is also a fourth group, a group of people who have a deep understanding of their place in the natural world. This group plans to ride the long sloping curve away from oil dependance, at the same time lessening their dominance over the land. This group see themselves not as masters of the universe, but as integral parts of it. They see their roles as stewards, not rulers. They see their final resting place ina world where...

"human populations are back in balance with the surrounding ecosystem; the use of energy and resources is matched to the natural capacity of the land people occupy"

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Champions of the Earth

The United Nations Environment Programme has just announced the 7 environmental leaders to receive the "Champions of the Earth" award for 2006.

The award was established in 2004, and recognizes environmental leaders around the world for their work.

This year, the winners are...

  • Tewolde Gebre Egziabher

  • Professor Tommy Koh

  • Mikhail Gorbachev

  • Rosa Elena Simeon Negrin

  • The Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO)

  • Mohamed El-Ashry

  • Massoumeh Ebtekar

  • UNEP’s Executive Director, Klaus Toepfer said: "I believe that this event comes at an exciting time, where the last 12 months will go down as a period in history when we rediscovered the crucial importance of the environment for our economic, social and spiritual lives"

    Full Story at Environmental News Science

    Wednesday, March 22, 2006

    The Glass is Almost Empty

    The first World Water Day was held on the 22nd March 1993. It was started by the UN in the hope of raising awareness of water as one of our most valuable resources. During the general assembly that created this day, the following observations were made as reasons to increase awareness...

  • The extent to which water resource development contributes to economic productivity and social well-being is not widely appreciated, although all social and economic activities rely heavily on the supply and quality of fresh water

  • As populations and economic activities grow, many countries are rapidly reaching conditions of water scarcity or facing limits to economic development

  • The promotion of water conservation and sustainable management requires public awareness at local, national, regional and international levels

  • Fast forward 13 years to present day, and we find one fifth of all children in the world do not have access to safe clean drinking water, causing the death of 4,000 children every day. We find people being beaten, jailed and killed trying to defend their water resources. We find newspapers around the world talking of wars between countries over water, each one of these newspapers taking 10 litres of water to create.

    1 day out of 365 isn't enough. We need to dedicate our lives to conserving this resource. Each one of us needs to be harvesting the rainwater that lands on our property, and using it thoughtfully, rather than abusing it relentlessly.

    Related Links...

  • On World Water Day, glass half empty for fifth of world's children

  • Unsafe Water and Poor Sanitation Causes 4000 Children to Die Each Day

  • The 21st century’s most explosive commodity will be . . . WATER

  • World water wars warning sounded at forum

  • Citty Hippy Feature: World Water Day

  • Wikipedia: World Day for Water

  • WorldWaterDay.org
  • Monday, March 20, 2006

    Tree Power

    MagCap Engineering, a company based in Canton, Ohio, is working on extracting energy from trees. No, not the old fashiond way of sucking the black stuff out of trees long dead, but by converting the natural energy in living trees to usable, direct-current energy.

    Inventor Gordon W. Wadle says "As unbelievable as it sounds, we've been able to demonstrate the feasibility of generating electricity in this manner. While the development is in its infancy, it has the potential to provide an unlimited supply of constant, clean energy without relying on fossil fuels, a power generating plant complex or an elaborate transmission network."

    MagCap are now on the lookout for investors to help pay for the research needed to figure a way to increase the tree power from less than 2 volts to 12 volts sometime this year, creating an alternative to fossil fuels.

    If this research proves fruitful, we may see a future where there's a tree planted next to each parking space, with a hole to plug in your electric car. Other applications would be to provide power for signs, security lights, street, park and hiking trail lights, surveillance or sensor equipment, and the concept of decorating Christmas Trees could take a whole new turn...

    Wadle pointed out that there seems to be no limit to the amount of power that can be drawn from an individual tree, no matter how many "taps" are inserted -- each produces the same amount of energy, an average of 0.7 - 0.8 volts. Size of the tree also seems not to matter. Interestingly, while conventional wisdom would seem to indicate that the tree draws much of its energy from photosynthesis via its leaves, the voltage output actually increases to 1.2-1.3 volts in the winter after the leaves have fallen.

    More Information...

  • MagCap Engineering, LLC Announces 'Free' Unlimited Energy Source Developed That Draws Power from the Environment

  • Electrical tree: Energy for free

  • Plugged in: Startup hopes to tap electricity from trees

  • Canton firm's alternative to oil: Plug in to a tree

  • MagCap Engineering
  • Saturday, March 18, 2006

    Pull Yer Elbows In

    The Australian Bureau of Statistics has released the Regional Population Growth figures for the 2004-05 financial year, and the figures are surprising in some areas.

    In the next 25 years, Sydney will need to find room for an extra million people. However, Queensland and Melbourne are growing at an even quicker rate than Sydney.

    Brisbanes growth rate of 1.9% is the highest of all Australias capital cities. If that growth rate continues, Brisbanes population (currently at 1,810,900) will double in just over 35 years. South East Queensland as a whole has been growing at a staggering 1,000 people per week.

    Queenslands Premiere Peter Beattie recently said "The biggest challenge I face every day is the challenge of growth. It's a huge problem for us."

    More Info...

  • Sydney falls behind in population growth

  • Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2004-05

  • Queensland: beautiful one day, basket case the next
  • Friday, March 17, 2006

    How to Talk to a Global Warming Sceptic

    The stages of grief are usually defined as Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Despair & Acceptance. In the face of the environmental issues of global warming and climate change, it seems that individuals are going through this process. Unfortunately, while some of us are at the Acceptance stage (I personally am somewhere between Despair & Acceptance), a lot of people seem to be still in Denial.

    So how do we deal with people in Denial? How do we get them to come to the realisation that we have; that something is terribly wrong, and something needs to be done? Well, in psychological terms, we should be non-judgemental and be good listeners. During the Denial stage, people will try to rationalise their belief that nothing is wrong, or that there is nothing that we can do about it.

    A lot of things have been claimed as the cause of global warming, A Russian scientist recently said it was caused by a meteor explosion a hundred years ago", a science professor says it is caused by cosmic rays from the stars, others think it has to do with cows farting.

    With a new theory seeming to pop up every day, it is getting harder and harder for us in Acceptance stage to convince those in Denial. Fortunately, there is blog that may be of help. A Few Things Ill Considered blog has a section titled How to Talk to a Global Warming Sceptic.

    So, next time someone tells you that action on global warming is suicide, point them in the direction of this blog. It may make them angry, but that's one of the next steps towards acceptance.

    Thursday, March 16, 2006

    Senate Inquiry into Australia's future oil supply and alternative transport fuels

    In what is being touted as "Australia's first high-level consideration of alternative fuels", the Australian Government will be holding a senate inquiry into our future oil supply and alternative transport fuels.

    The enquiry begins early next month. The committee will sit in Melbourne on April 4th, Canberra on April 5th and Perth on the 11th & 12th April. The following issues are on the agenda to be addressed...

  • Projections of oil production and demand in Australia and globally and the implications for availability and pricing of transport fuels in Australia

  • Potential of new sources of oil and alternative transport fuels to meet a significant share of Australia’s fuel demands, taking into account technological developments and environmental and economic costs

  • Flow-on economic and social impacts in Australia from continuing rises in the price of transport fuel and potential reductions in oil supply

  • Options for reducing Australia’s transport fuel demands.

  • Unfortunately, submissions are now closed for the enquiry, but 156 have been received in total.

    More Information...

  • Information About the Inquiry

  • Senator Christine Milnes Website

  • Submissions Received by the Committee

  • Australian Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas