Salty land or water? Grow potatoes!

The Guardian reports that salt tolerant potatoes can survive salty water and grow food where previously the land was dying.

But thanks to a partnership with Dutch development consultants MetaMeta, several tonnes of the Texel seed potatoes are now on their way to Pakistan where thousands of hectares of what until now had been unproductive land because of sea water encroachment have been set aside for them.

If the experiment works and the potatoes adapt to the Asian climate, it could transform the lives of not only small farmers in Pakistan and Bangladesh,, where floods and sea water intrusion wipe out crops with increasing regularity, but also worldwide the 250 million people who live on salt-afflicted soil.

Posted in Food | Leave a comment

Smart money and the quicker solution

A post to a friend:

Building passive solar homes, retrofitting smart meters to a smart grid, creating smart devices that interact with signals from the smart-grid, and even building huge seawater hydro dam-batteries (because most new conventional river-hydro dams should not be built for local ecological reasons) all takes time. France increased their nuclear grid 73% in 11 years. That’s the kind of speed we need. Nukes will do a lot, but they’ll *only* shut down coal. We still need all that extra money to convert our transport fuels to ‘rechargeable’ batteries, hydrogen, synfuel, whatever. Here’s the kicker. I think it’s honest to say we’d be struggling to run our homes and industries on a 100% renewable grid. Just matching our electricity requirements to when the juice is flowing is hard enough. Trying to max out how much electricity we can use in the day, super-cooling phase change materials in the bedrooms to cool us overnight. (As the planet warms, we’ll need cooler rooms in summer or people die! Think Russia a few years ago, where 50,000 people died.)

Fuel becomes the question. *If* we have baseload reliable electricity, NREL USA have stated 85% of American driving could be recharged on existing overnight grid capacity.
We have a choice: either we experiment with a whole new society with smart grids, super-sized grids (to bring distant solar thermal and wind to where it’s used), smart appliances, smart homes, smart industries, all just so we can get stuff to work *overnight* on unreliable renewable electricity, or we can just swap coal for nukes and save all that experimental money to replace oil as well. I know where I’d put my money.

Posted in Global Warming, Nuclear, Solar | Leave a comment

Minister defends divestment

An Anglican minister I know wrote:

The goal of divestment is not to cripple these companies economically, which at this point is basically impossible. The goal of divesting from polluters is revoking their social license, to cease giving them the moral cover to keep owning the government through their lobbying, to reposition them as politically toxic, so that politicians treat them more like the tobacco industry (and generally try to avoid being seen in the same room or receiving their money), to cripple their ability to keep setting the rules of the game, in order that more sane rules might be developed.

This strategy has been very effective in the past (e.g. Apartheid South Africa) and is a necessary, though not sufficient step towards opening a space where real climate action can become mainstream.

Posted in Activism, Global Warming | Leave a comment

Canada’s dead trees to build ‘plyscrapers’

Climate change warmed up Canada’s winters for so long that pine beetles destroyed billions of trees across Canada’s vast forests. Those trees are dead or dying. They will release billions of tons of CO2 when they rot. What to do with beetle-infected pine trees? Build skyscrapers out of them of course. Or is that plyscrapers?

The Guardian reports that this could provide a huge economic and environmental incentive for Canada to convert to building all new towers from wood, locking that CO2 away for centuries!

One other important breakthrough came in British Columbia, a Canadian province half-covered in forest. Since 1996, more than 16m hectares have been destroyed by North America’s native mountain pine beetle, which releases a blue-staining fungus into the wood, halting the flow of nutrients and water and the killing the tree.

The province faced the prospect of billions of these dead lodgepole pines triggering a huge release of carbon dioxide – until a means of using this undesirable blue-stained lumber for building was realised. British Columbia promotes its use through the Wood First Act, passed in 2009, which requires all new, publicly financed construction projects to first consider wood as the primary building material.
Guardian October 2014

Posted in Industrial Ecosystems, Materials & Metals, New Urbanism | Leave a comment

How do you pronounce ‘new’?

New? Do you say the flat “noo” or the ringing “n-you”? I’ve noticed flat “noo” creeping into movies and news reports, but it’s n-you everyone! This is how civilisations fall! One minute we’re dropping the you sound from new, and the next minute there are barbarians at the gates. Or, we wake up and discover that we are the barbarians!
Click the speaker icon on the right here to hear Google Translate’s verdict on how to pronounce ‘new’.
Google Translate

Posted in Writing / English | Leave a comment

Want to write? Clean your desk!

I’m a wannabe. That’s right, for various reasons my career bent sideways again and again. I’m part of the ‘slash’ generation. Soldier / cleaner / taxi driver / District Officer (child protection officer) / bookkeeping / administration. I’m a jack of all trades and master of none. A dilettante. After a decade of following various environmental themes quite closely, there’s one thing burning in the back of my mind. A collapse story, but one with a difference, one I haven’t seen in any movie yet (except maybe hinted at in Doctor Who).

I want to become a writer. So while working in admin in a large Aussie telco, and then coming home to do yet more admin for my wife’s design firm; and while following environmental stories and issues, I have also been studying grammar and writing.

But in all this chaos, how do I stay motivated? I read a number of writing blogs. One I follow because she taught me a short writing course earlier this year. Claire Scobie gives all sorts of advice, and this one is particularly effective if you’re feeling totally despondent.

Clean your desk!

As she says:

Spring clean your desk. Honestly, clearing your physical space helps remove psychic clutter. Take 2 hours to sift through your stack of papers, chuck out obsolete drafts & make space for the new. Wipe down your desk, pick some flowers, make it a pleasant place to sit.

In my case, I probably also need that other great art lost to the modern world, sleep, but for now I can testify to the mind-cleansing power of a clean desk. Do it. Buy a few manilla folders or 2 ring binders, and attack that corner of guilt-and-shame that you’ve been looking at for the last year. Sort it out. Categorise it. Put things to do in your in tray: or just plain do them. Tidy it, clean it, wipe it down.

And if that fails to get your creative juices flowing again, read a book. It’s hard to imagine now, with all the horrible news about ISIS coming out of Iraq, but there’s an old Iraqi saying I like. “To live is to read.” Do it.

Then when you’re refreshed and tidy and ready to go, I would add one last thing. If “to live is to read” then imagine how good it will feel to sit and read your finished first draft after a good 6 week break! Imagine getting in your comfy chair, having a favourite treat, and just binge reading your own work for the sheer pleasure of it. You can mull over editing strategies the next day: first draft’s always suck. But the sheer fact of having finished it must be an amazing experience! I remember finishing some impressively long sociology essays, and that was some fairly dry material. I can’t wait for the day I let loose with characters running amok in a post-collapse Sydney!

One day.

Posted in Writing / English | Leave a comment

America socialist? I don’t think so!


Posted in Global Warming | Leave a comment