Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Forget what the world used to be like...

...instead we need to plan for how we want the world to be.

Welcome to the Anthropocene, the Age of Man. Our human actions have so much influence on the world that we might as well forget the idea of going back to some pristine environmental baseline.

So says Professor Ursula Heise, eco-critic in Stanford University’s English department, who is busy untangling the environmental stories we tell ourselves.

“We need to shift from thinking about what ecosystems used to be, and how we can get back to an [environmental] baseline,” she says. “The conversation needs to be about to what kind of world we want for the future and to work toward that.”

I think she's right. Even though I wish she was wrong.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Global resource fight has just begun

Think food and energy prices are bad? Just wait, it'll get worse.

Scientists offered grim warnings at ReSource 2012, a recent conference. According to the Guardian:

"We are nowhere near realising the full impact of this yet. We have seen the first indications – rising food prices, pressure on water supplies, a land grab by some countries for mining rights and fertile agricultural land, and rising prices for energy and for key resources [such as] metals. But we need to do far more to deal with these problems before they become even more acute, and we are not doing enough yet."

Countries that are not prepared for this rapid change will soon – perhaps irrevocably – lose out, with serious damage to their economies and way of life, the conference was told.

Fighting over fish has happened before, and it could happen again. Cod wars, mackerel wars, what next?

Feeding 9 billion people

The other inconvenient truth is that it will be hard to feed people in the near future. Conservation advocates like me have to face the truth that our treasured places will suffer if people need more food. We can't control fishing if people are catching fish to avoid starvation. Most of us would probably eat the last fish if we were truly hungry.

We need to produce food more efficiently, and that has many aspects. More food production with a lower ecological footprint is key. Not just more food per area used, but more food per resources consumed. Jon Foley points out in Time, we need to alter our diets.
Much of the grain grown in developed nations goes to feed not human beings but domesticated animals, and inefficiently too — one filet mignon requires 32 lbs. of corn, and converts that grain into calories at just 3% efficiency. Globally we'll likely need to eat less meat — if only to give parts of the growing developing world space to eat a little meat — and, at least in much of the unhealthily overfed West, eat fewer calories overall. That might help reduce global food waste — one out of every three calories produced globally are never eaten, which isn't just a waste of food but of water, land and energy.

Eating meat and ocean predators like tuna is a resource-costly way to feed ourselves, and we need to get started in cutting back on resource use in eating.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Electric bikes and motor scooters in China

During a recent visit to China I was impressed to see so many silent motor scooters. Electric motor scooters. I even rode on one.

Now I know why, Time reports that 90% of the world's e-bike sales are in China.

Electric scooters look the same as gas scooters, except for no trail of smoke. They don't sound the same, they're silent. This would be hailed as a great green success if it were happening in London or New York.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Me and my shark fin

Must-watch video featuring Kool Kid Kreyola.

KOOL KID KREYOLA - ME AND MY SHARK FIN from Spencer Keeton Cunningham on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Explosion blows out big dam, wahoo!

OK river cowboys, here's your dream. Watch as an explosion blows out the bottom of a big dam (471 feet long, 125 feet high) and the reservoir floods out of the hole. Man's work undone in the blink of an eye, and nature restored. It'll be years before recovery is complete, perhaps decades. But it's grand glory to watch this critical beginning of the process.

This dam is in salmon country, where I'm from, in the Columbia River gorge in Washington. I've been there, I've seen it, and I argued for it's removal. What a reward. I only wish I had been there to see it in person.