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Climate change: there’s hope

Friday 22 April 2016 was Earth Day and Tim Flannery was keynote speaker of the first Aspiring Conversations, “Cool It: dealing with climate change”, with Suzi Kerr and Veronika Meduna. Here are my notes of the event.

Tim Flannery

There’s hope

Climate change is not a destination. It is a process. We decide on the tempo of the change.

December 2015, February 2016 and March 2016 were the hottest months in 150 years. O.3°C warmer than ever recorded. Two consequences were observed this year: The Arctic ice formation did not replenish as it usually does in winter and sadly, 93% of the great barrier reef has been hit by bleaching. way beyond anything we’ve seen before.

By now, we’ve released enough CO2 in the atmosphere to add 1.5°C to the earth temperatures by 2050. Lots of ecosystems are and will be in strife. Every year, we add 50 gigatons of CO2 in the atmosphere. In the last 2 years, emissions stalled. It is a very good news. What has just been signed in New York will limit/enable a 2.7°C to 3.3°C warming by 2100. Again it is very good news as if we were to continue as we are going, temperatures would rise by 4 / 5 degrees by then.

The hope is: we understand clearly now that there is a problem and we know what tools and what paths we can take. We are at the peak of emissions. Half of energy investments last year were in solar and wind energy. Existing coal plants need to stop. And this will only happen through regulations.

A basket of technologies

We can draw CO2 out of the atmosphere.

  • We can plant trees. However we would need to plant trees on an area as large as Australia to absorb 50 giga tons. So we can manage to absorb 2 Giga town with planting trees.
  • Fairly recent studies show how kelp can absorb CO2 and provide protein so kelp farming will be part of the solution.
  • Carbon negative cement will be part of the solution to the carbon dioxide emissions.
  • A University of Washington researcher has demonstrated that we can pull CO2 from the atmosphere and transform it into carbon nanofibersproducing a very strong plastic at a cheaper price than steel.
  • Other studies show that silicate rocks can absorb large scale CO2.

With all these creative solutions, we could absorb 40 to 50% of the carbon in the atmosphere by 2050.

It is difficult to imagine 2050. Think of 1916… horses, start of the war, first electricity supply scheme in NZ… and think of 1950, post war, growth, cars etc. It was unfathomable for someone in 1916 to imagine 1950. In the 21st century, technology and change has accelerated. So there is no way we can imagine what our world will look like in 2050.

If we take a good look at what we do wrong now, we give ourselves permission to be creative, to progress, to be positive, to hope.

Veronika Meduna

Adapting to change

Today is a turn. The Paris climate agreement signed today is saving us from the worst. There is hope but we are so late, change already happens so we need to think about adapting to it. It is a slow emergency. It is so hard to grasp the problem and the possible impacts that it is difficult to get started. If we knew about the local impacts then we could think of our own actions. New Zealand has a wide variety of climates, influenced by many factors.

NIWA is mapping climate change as locally as possible. Air and oceans are and will be warmer, sea levels rise and will continue to do so. In the mountains, the snow cover thickness is forecast to be 90% of what it is now in 2040 so there is minor change for ski resorts until then.

There will be however 50% more rain in winter and spring while there will be more dry days. This means storms, heavier, more damaging, more floods as well as more droughts. How do we adapt to that?

The higher winter temperatures mean insects don’t die in winter. How do growers adapt to more pests?

There will likely be more fires, worsened by wilding pines. What shall we do today to prevent the worse in the future?

We need to get used to that so we can think about how to manage it.

presentation-brt-around-the-world-update-2012-47-638Suzi Kerr

Reduce emissions

Suzi has worked in Bogota, way back in the 80’s when the Columbia capital was a pandemonium of aggressiveness, danger and pollution. Today, Bogota is a prosperous and fairly safe city with a extensive public transport.

What happened? A visionary mayor, Antanas Mockus, created a social transformation by creativity and leadership. A bit crazy, one of his well-known action was employing young people to  ridicule drivers bad behaviours. In parallel, his associates created infrastructure and deep institution changes.

We don’t know where we go. We need to be creative. There is a lot of private energy and it is better if the government helps. Reducing emissions is a huge opportunity for electric cars. Creating big fleets will enable energy storage. We need to innovate. Politicians wait for people support to pass emission reduction laws. It is down to politics.

Planting trees is definitely part of the solution with lots of co-benefits. If the government commit to maintain a regular carbon price, then it is an incentive to plant more trees as it can double the yield of planting trees. Down to a technical issue…

Solutions exist, and when they don’t yet, we can create them if we look.

All we need is to put climate change at the top of our agenda.


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Climate Change Mitigation

This is a summary/extracts of the Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change, Summary for Policymakers, IPCC. I’ve added some indicators: In red are the people’s potential for action, in green are the co-benefits.  I did not add any comment or anything that is not in the original 31-pages document.

Mitigation is a human intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases.

Climate policies, to be effective, need to cross over all sectors and societal goals, include all countries and collective interests, based on sustainable development and equity. Addressing climate change creates co-benefits or adverse side-effects. No one action can itself solve the problem but working on all aspects has the potential to keep temperatures within 2 degrees increase (that is 450ppm) over the century, on which this report focuses.

Without additional effort to reduce GHG emissions, temperatures will have increased from 3.7 to 4.8 degrees celsius by the end of the century.

Anthropogenic (=man-made) greenhouse gas are CO2, methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases. They’ve accumulated at an ever increasing rate in the atmosphere (+2.2% per year in the last 10 years).

GHG emissions

Now these gases come from these activities:

GHG by economic sector

It is demonstrated that the increase in population itself has not increased the CO2 emissions. It is the GDP per capita increase that has. Consumption has grown between 300% to more than 900% over the century.

Adverse side effect of mitigating climate change (within 2 degrees) is to reduce consumption growth by 0.04 to 0.14 percent points per year. Co-benefits include reduced costs for achieving air-quality and energy security,  significant benefits for human health and ecosystems. Overall, the potential co-benefits outweigh the adverse side-effects. Mitigation costs vary between countries.

Mitigation policy could devalue fossil fuel assets and reduce revenues for fossil fuels exporters.

 

ENERGY PRODUCTION

Energy demand will be reduced by efficiency enhancements and behavioural changes.

Energy use will be reduced by behaviour, lifestyle and culture change, complemented by technological and structural change.By Rama CC BY-SA 2.0

Decarbonizing (i.e. reducing the carbon intensity of) electricity generation is a key component of cost effective mitigation. The share of renewable energy, nuclear energy and carbon capture and storage (CCS) needs to increase to more than 80% of electricity generation by 2050 and fossil fuel power generation without CCS is phased out by 2100.

Renewable energy performance has improved and costs have reduced substantially, enable deployment on large scale.

Nuclear energy is a mature low GHG emission source of energy but barriers and risks exist: operational risks, and the associated concerns, uranium mining risks, financial and regulatory risks, unresolved waste management issues, nuclear weapon proliferation concerns, and adverse public opinion.

Natural gas power generation could act as a bridge technology.

Carbon dioxide capture and storage technology could reduce GHG emissions but has not yet been applied at a large scale. Also it raises concerns about operational safety and long-term integrity of CO2 storage.

Combining bioenergy with CCS offers prospects while it entails challenges and risks.

 

ENERGY USE

Transports

  • Technologies existing and in development improve vehicles performance: electric, methane-based fuel, biofuels (with CCS)
  • Integrated urban planning: investment in public transport systems and low-carbon infrastructure, transit -oriented development, more compact urban form that supports cycling and walking, high-speed rail systems…
  • Behavioural change to adopt these

A combination of the 3 strategies not only halve the transport contributions but also provide important co-benefits: improved access and mobility, better health and safety, greater energy security and cost and time savings.

Buildings

The energy demand for building is in expansion, as wealth, access and lifestyles improve. Opportunities to stabilize or reduce global buildings sector energy use by mid-century exist:

  • Energy efficiency policies, strengthening building codes and appliance standards
  • Implement recent advances in technologies and know-how
  • Retrofit existing building can achieve 50-90% of reductions of heating/cooling energy use.
  • Life, culture and behaviour significantly influence energy consumption in buildings (three- to five-fold difference).

Co-benefits: savings, energy security, health, environmental outcome, workplace productivity.

Industry

Currently the biggest emitter; Opportunities to reduce Industry GHG emissions below the 1990 baseline exist:

  • Energy efficiency can directly reduce emissions by 25%.
  • Process optimization, substitutions,
  • Resource use improvement, recycling, re-use

It is not only cost effective but it also comes with co-benefits for the health and environment.

Waste reduction and recycling are key to reduce landfill emissions.

Agriculture, forestry and other land use

A quarter of global emissions come from deforestation, emissions from soil, nutrient (fertilisers) management and livestock. Therefore solutions are: By DarKobra Urutseg Ain92 (File:Tango icon nature.svg File:Blank_template.svg) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

  • afforestation (planting trees), and sustainable forest management
  • building humus,
  • improving cropland and livestock management
  • changes in diet and reduction of food loss

These strategies also benefit biodiversity, water resources and limit soil erosion.

Bioenergy can reduce GHG emissions only if fast growing species are used, land-use is well managed, biomass to bioenergy systems are efficient and biomass residues are well used.


Human settlements, infrastructure and spatial planning

Urbanization is a global trend and will include 64-69% of the world population in 2050. It comes with income increases which are correlated to higher consumption. The next 2 decades are a window of opportunity to get it right as a large proportion of urban areas will be developed during this time and it’s quite locked in. Mitigation strategies involve:

  • co-locating high residential with high employment densities (reduce urban sprawl),
  • high diversity and integration of land use,
  • increasing accessibility in public transport and other demand (access oriented development).

Advantages are better air and water quality, time and health benefits.

Mitigations policies and institutions

Sectoral and national policies

Currently USD1,200 billion are invested each year for energy security. Large changes in investment patterns are required:

  • decrease of 20% in fossil fuel technologies (-USD 30 billions per year). The complete removal of subsidies for fossil fuels in all countries could result in reductions in global emissions by 2050.
  • renewable energy investments double (+USD147  billions per year)
  • investing in upgrading existing transports, buildings and industry systems require another USD 336 per year.
  • achieving nearly universal access to electricity and clean fuel for cooking and heating are between USD72 and 95 billions per year until 2030 with minimal effects on GHG emissions while improving lives, environments and equity throughout the world.

That is plenty of opportunity for business and growth and it creates large energy efficiency gains.

Policies integrating multiple objectives, increasing co-benefits and reducing side-effects have started to be experimented and reveal that:

  • Regulations and information (education) widely used are often effective.
  • Cap and trade systems for GHGs (carbon offsets) could be effective if the caps are constraining.
  • Tax-based policies (for example on fuels) raise governments income and allow them to be proactive or to transfer to low-income groups.
  • Technology policy include public funded R&D and governmental procurement programs.
  • By lumaxart (Working Together Teamwork Puzzle Concept) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsPrivate sector can contribute to 2/3 to 3/4 of cost of mitigation with appropriate and effective policies, i.e credit insurance, power purchase agreements, feed-in tariffs, concessional finance and rebates.

 

International cooperation

Various cooperation arrangements exist yet their impact on global mitigation is limited. Many climate policies can be more effective if implemented across geographical regions.

 


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How climate change affects our region

Just like Wanaka is a “lifestyle reserve“, Wanaka is also likely to be far less affected by climate change than many other places in the world. Not worried by sea level rise! And a bit warmer wouldn’t hurt, would it?

However…

In our mountains, the biggest worry will be a shortened duration of seasonal snow lying, a rise in snow-line and a decrease in snowfall events. Glaciers will continue to melt.

The Ministry for the EnvironmentCopyright Ministry for the Environment Climate change projections for the Otago region page is worth reading. They predict:

  • around 0.9˚C warmer by 2040,
  • it will be wetter in winter and spring (more 29 % in Queenstown by 2090), drier in summer and autumn.
  • very heavy rainfall events are likely to become more frequent in Otago, increasing the risks of floods.
  • more often and stronger storms in winter (less in summer), with winds increasing between 2 and 5 per cent in winter, increasingly westerlies.
  • About the snow, “at heights between 1000 and 2000m:
    • the maximum seasonal snow depth is likely to decrease by approximately 20 per cent by 2040 and approximately 40 per cent by 2090
    • a low snow year is expected to be five times more likely by the 2090s.”

Unfortunately Treble Cone summit lies at 2088m and Cardrona at 1860m…

In the NIWA Natural hazard 2008 report, landslides, hailstorm, snow storms and electrical storms are all described for Otago. The fruit industry in Otago will be affected by summer droughts. The winter frosts will decline therefore bugs are likely to thrive.

And climate change is going to affect our native species, and their habitats in many diverse ways, states the Forest and Bird website. Birds and natives may have to move up to survive in their usual temperature but it is not always possible so it may mean they are out. Also some species, like tuataras -we don’t have any in our area to my knowledge- need a specific temperature for incubation therefore climate change is adding a threat to their survival.

Conversely, pests and insects are opportunist creatures and will make strides in changing conditions.

There is a last aspect I think is significant for our area: the impact of climate refugees, coming to live in our town because theirs is doomed. It may well have already started.

We are definitely all in there together!


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It’s time to talk about climate change

Surely you’ve heard of it: the United Nations are having a conference in Paris in December to talk about climate change. And hopefully make some decisions. Well, they need help because they are going in the right direction but far too slow.

What we need to know:

ErosionStClair beach98% scientists agree and the IPCC reports are peer-reviewed and include “skeptics” point of view. The IPCC report “Climate Change 2013: Physical Science Basis” summarizes all data with a level of confidence (depending on amount and quality of data as well as degree of agreement) and a measure of probability (based on models results and expert judgement).

Therefore any data or projection that comes with a high confidence and a very likely probability has -virtually certainly- happened or is going to happen. This is what the report states:

Climate change IS happening

  • Data collection around the world averages nearly 1°C increase in temperatures since 1870.
  • Extreme temperatures, droughts, floods, storms, have doubled or tripled since 1880.
  • Sea levels have risen 250mm since 1880
  • Glaciers have lost an average of 14 meters depth since 1950, particularly since 2004.
  • Wildlife has declined and species have migrated. Biodiversity main threat lies more in habitat destruction and wildlife trade than in climate change. However, the coral reef demise (only 12% of coral reef is left) is directly linked to ocean acidification which is due to CO2 increase.

Climate change IS human induced

Climate change is caused by the release in the atmosphere of vast quaE48400 - Lower part of Fox Glacier with glacier mouth, February 2013ntity of CO2 from coal and oil extracted by humans to create the extraordinary unprecedented growth since last century. Massive deforestation and other land use have also contributed to the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere. In the last 800 thousand years, atmospheric CO2 has varied between 100 and 300 ppm. Today it is nearly 400 ppm.

Methane and nitrous oxide (also created by humans – agriculture) are less concentrated but have a higher greenhouse effect than CO2 and therefore need to be considered as seriously as CO2.

Now, for people who still wonder why we should worry, click on the image below. Early humans appeared sometimes in Pleistocene and all the civilizations we know have developed in the relatively regular Holocene period. If we don’t prevent this sharp heating of our planet to happen, the world as we know it is GONE.
All palaeotemps

There is hope though. If we choose the right scenario, we can help make this temperature rise go slower, enabling as many as living creatures (includes humans) as possible to adapt…

What will happen?

Projections have been made for 4 scenarios (called Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs).

  • RCP 2.6 is a mitigation scenario which aims at, with active policies, stabilizing then decreasing the CO2 emissions before 2100.
  • RCP 4.5 scenario aims at stabilising the CO2 concentrations by 2100.
  • RCP 6 scenario aims at stabilizing the CO2 concentrations after 2100.
  • Now RCP 8.5 is what will happen if we continue business as usual.

So I’ve been very nice and read everything for you and here is a summary of the effects, depending on the scenarios we choose:

Today RCP 2.6 RCP 4.5 RCP 6.0 RCP 8.5
Goal Reduction by 2100 Stabilisation before 2100 Stabilisation after 2100 Business as usual
CO2 concentration in 2100 398 ppm 421 ppm 538 ppm 670 ppm 936 ppm
Average air and ocean temperature

(since 1870)

+0.85°C +1.8°C stabilised +2.5°C +3°C +4°C

(possibly +6°C)

Glaciers (cryosphere) 2% reduction since 1950 and accelerating 15 to 55% reduction 35 to 85% reduction

(ice free Arctic ocean in September by 2050)

Ocean acidification 8.1 8.05 7.95 7.9 7.8
Sea level rise (does not include the “not agreed on” possible Antarctic shelf collapse) +1.7 meter since 1900 +0.26m to 0.55m (compared to the average sea level between 1986 and 2005) +0.32m to 0.63m

(id)

+0.33m to 0.63m

(id)

+0.45m to 0.82m

(id)

And in Wanaka?

Just like Wanaka is a “lifestyle reserve“, Wanaka is also likely to be far less affected by climate change than many other places in the world. Not worried by sea level rise! And a bit warmer wouldn’t hurt, would it?

However…

In our mountains, the biggest worry will be a shortened duration of seasonal snow lying, a rise in snow-line and a decrease in snowfall events. Glaciers will continue to melt.

KeaThe Ministry for the Environment Climate change projections for the Otago region page is worth reading. They predict:

  • around 0.9˚C warmer by 2040,
  • it will be wetter in winter and spring (more 29 % in Queenstown by 2090), drier in summer and autumn.
  • very heavy rainfall events are likely to become more frequent in Otago, increasing the risks of floods.
  • more often and stronger storms in winter (less in summer), with winds increasing between 2 and 5 per cent in winter, increasingly westerlies.
  • About the snow, “at heights between 1000 and 2000m:
    • the maximum seasonal snow depth is likely to decrease by approximately 20 per cent by 2040 and approximately 40 per cent by 2090
    • a low snow year is expected to be five times more likely by the 2090s.”

Unfortunately Treble Cone summit lies at 2088m and Cardrona at 1860m…

In the NIWA Natural hazard 2008 report, landslides, hailstorm, snow storms and electrical storms are all described for Otago. The fruit industry in Otago will be affected by summer droughts. The winter frosts will decline therefore bugs are likely to thrive.

And climate change is going to affect our native species, and their habitats in many diverse ways, states the Forest and Bird website. Birds and natives may have to move up to survive in their usual temperature but it is not always possible so it may mean they are out. Also some species, like tuataras -we don’t have any in our area to my knowledge- need a specific temperature for incubation therefore climate change is adding a threat to their survival.

Conversely, pests and insects are opportunist creatures and will make strides in changing conditions.

There is a last aspect I think is significant for our area: the impact of climate refugees, coming to live in our town because theirs is doomed. This is why it is not only altruistic to act for the climate. We are definitely all in there together!

Solutions are well-known

We all urgently need to stop our petrol and coal consumption. There are so many other ways to produce energy (eg. solar panels), to save energy (e.g. insulate), avoid useless motorized traffic, buy local… And we need to make pressure on our local bodies so they create effective public transport systems, safe cycle lanes, better housing regulations. And we can put pressure on governments so that they encourage renewable energy rather than support fossil industry.
Worms-from-coffee-compost-pile
Agriculture and forestry also need to improve their practices. An IFOAM report explains in 2009 that “agriculture currently accounts for 10-12% of global greenhouse gas emissions” (ruminants and deforestation mainly) whereas, “global adoption of organic agriculture has the potential to sequester up to the equivalent of 32% of all current man-made GHG emissions“. So we can choose to buy organic, plant trees, drink less milk… and again pressure governments so that they promote organics rather than throw some sand into their wheels.

We can choose to avoid plastic, to recycle, to grow our own food to build up our own soil… In fact, there are so many solutions, that it will be the object of another article!

Mostly, we need governments to take the right decisions at the next Climate Conference, to choose effective mitigation of climate change and we have the opportunity to tell them :

Come and participate in the Climate March here in Wanaka, on Sunday 29th November, at 2pm in the Dinosaur park.

We can choose to change our lifestyle OR the climate will change our lives.

Sources:


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Digging up our lawn

Lawns certainly have an aesthetic and social value and sometimes are a great play area. Closely cut green grass used for landscaping or leisure, lawns were historically created by wealthy people who could keep unproductive spaces. With the invention of lawn mowers, lawns spread and became a standard feature of suburbia. Lawns maintenance necessitates high inputs not only in fertilizers and pesticides, but also in natural resources like water and petrol to mow it. And they don’t hold any wildlife. To me, they reflect the man’s desire to control nature.
I think growing vegetables is a more productive way to use that space therefore we progressively dig up our lawn. Advantages are many:

  • We transform wasted areas in productive and beautiful spaces.Using the slammer in the garden
  • We produce pesticides free veges, delicious and fresh from the garden, with zero food-kilometres and nearly for free. In her New Zealand footprint project, Ella Lawton has demonstrated that food and beverage makes up 56% of the total New Zealand footprint. The most efficient way to reduce our footprint is to produce half of our own food in our backyard, or at least eat locally grown food (page 27). It is slightly more efficient than becoming vegetarian.
  • We reduce our waste as all green waste is composted and used in the garden. It is even a way to
    store carbon therefore mitigate climate change
    .
    Organic gardening is good for the environment.
  • We take fresh air, build up muscles, stretch and burn calories. Gardening is good for our bodies.
  • When out in the garden, we hear birds and smell flowers, we connect with the slow pace of nature, reducing stress while providing a deeply meaningful and rewarding activity. Gardening is good for our minds.
  • We spend quality time together as a family.

Using a slammer, it is incredibly easy to remove patches of grass. Materials from Wanaka Wastebusters make frames.

Yes for a successful harvest, we need a lot of knowledge. It’s been built over the years, thanks to Dad, Terre Vivante where I worked for 7 years, Organic NZ, Dr Compost, permaculturists and friends’ wisdom. We also need seeds, also collected over the years and thanks to exchanges with friends or community swaps.

I’ve proudly added a Robert Guyton‘s Green Man sticker on my letter box and I am keeping an eye out for it in my community.

One advice: start small and expand over time. Now is a great time!

 


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We bought a Prius!

100_9451It’s been for a long time on my mind, so when in August we got a family tax credit lump sum, we decided to invest it in a good petrol-saving family car. Studying the market showed that the Prius is very reliable and cheap to run and maintain.

It comes in 3 generations (now in 4 but I did not look at the latest at all – not my price range).

  • The first version until 2004, was revolutionary but is oldish now.
  • The 2nd version 2004-2009 is super efficient – the best on the hybrid market by far.
  • The 3rd version is as efficient as the previous Prius and it is larger. I can’t afford a car that recent and I don’t really need larger.

3prius

There are plenty of 2009 Prius cars on TradeMe. I found one that had only 82,000km and costs NZ$12,000 (delivery to my door included).

It arrived on a beautiful day and was not easy to start (a combination of foot and button press is required and all  explanation is in Japanese). It was quite hilarious to have a new car that could not start and we had to take the truck transporting it to the garage!

Then I loved it. It is smooth and easy, it has an excellent handling, fun to drive. It is near silent while having a good sound system, making trips a pleasure. There is absolutely no change when the engine kicks in or stops. Seamless.

And, yes, it has an amazing low petrol consumption. So much that I forget to refill it! It has a display showing how many kilometers you can drive with 1 litre of petrol and if/when the battery get refilled or feeds the engine. I think it is quite a mind shift to count in km per litres, instead of the usual litres per 100 km. When it says I can only go 2 km away with one litre, it’s quite an incentive to stop accelerating. On average, with my main use being short distances in town, a full tank goes more than 850 km.

Prius_consumption

In average on the first 1,000 km the car drove 21.3 km per litre. The next 1,000 km, it managed 23.4 km per litres. Just changing the way I drive. An evening when streets were empty, I managed to cross the town only on the battery at about 40km /h. Yet, when there are cars behind me, I make a point of accelerating as required so that they don’t think my hybrid car is useless! It does have an excellent acceleration which consumes quite some petrol. Going uphill too, it can be quite fast, using energy accordingly. Which reminds me, all cars do use a lot of energy going uphill or in acceleration but they don’t have the screen to tell you so it’s easier to forget.

Beyond the car design, there are many ways to reduce petrol consumption. Awareness, awareness…

100_9453Since I have it, I’ve heard positive and envious comments and also denial ones. I was told that changing batteries cost a fortune yet found out that batteries are designed to live the car lifetime so exceptionally need to be changed. I was told it takes more than a normal car to build and dispose. That’s wrong, Toyota makes a point of having this right too.

When I see my petrol bill, I simply wonder why everyone does not have one. So go for it!


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DS4OER, watzat?

I’ve just embarked on a new adventure, signing up for for the ds4oer course that is learning Digital Skills for Open Educational Resources. Watzat? It means I will be able to create and contribute to free online courses available to everyone.

Knowledge for everyone, for free!

Knowledge for everyone, for free!

In the last 10-15 years, more MOOCs have been made available through the internet and I value the concept, in particular the “free” part of the idea.

A framework using a shared language has been established over the years to enable sharing and contributing lawfully. The purpose of this course is to master this language.


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I try, and I made it!

I’ve just finished to read “The Boy who Harnessed the Wind”, by William Kankwamba and it was so inspiring I wish everyone would read this book…

It’s the true story of an African boy who builds a windmill so that his family never has to live through famine again. He does this mostly alone without any money, with the help of a few library books, a lot of work and determination.

I value this book because William talks about his rural community.  It is not told by an ethnologist, a development officer or a tourist. It’s how life really is for more than one billion people and we hardly ever hear it from the inside.

Moreover, the local solution he offer is, I believe, the way to solve the global problem of scarcity in the world. I really like how he analyses that development must come from within.

Besides, we, in rich countries, take everything for granted (well, we do have more than everything) so we so have much to learn from this story. William is amazing in determination, simplicity, cleverness and altruism.

This book particularly resonates for me because I am librarian, like Mrs Sikelo, and my passion is to bring people the information they need. This story shows my work is all worthwhile as it can be life-changing.

It also tickled me deep inside because when I was 13-14, I told my science teacher that I wanted to be renewable energies engineer (way back in 1980) and he laughed at me… I gave up the dream. William did not give up. As he said in his first TED talk online: “I try, and I made it!” What a grand lesson!

Here is William’s blog, and his Moving Windmills Project website. Worth supporting.


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1080, diquat and co.

100% Pure NZ is systematically sprinkled with persistent organic pollutants, but don’t worry! All the studies prove it’s OK.

Actually, independent source Pesticides Action Network PAN declares it’s not OK, these products are on the Highly Hazardous Pesticides list (HHP list).

What’s the problem?

They do not disappear despite some biodegradability, they enter the food chain and they accumulate. From highly acute toxicity to long term toxic effects (carcinogenic and mutations), endocrine disruption, environmental degradation (ozone layer, effects on animals…), to hazard to ecosystems services (bees), HHP effects are varied. Cause and effects are not always obvious, often long term. Only highly acute toxicity is tested in most cases.

DiquToxicat dibromide is on HHP list. It can be fatal if inhaled ; Also toxic by ingestion and  dermal contact, including neurologic effect. It is chemically close to agent orange and was used in Vietnam too. It makes rats infertile. It is often found in cow milk.  It is unlikely carcinogenic but is known as a potential ground water contaminator. Diquat is used every year in Lake Wanaka in an attempt to stop lagarosiphon spread. It doesn’t stop it nor prevent it to grow again. In fact, lagarosiphon is not toxic, it is a habitat for native species, it absorbs nitrogen. It does annoy boaties, getting stuck in propellers. It does disrupt hydro dams (turbine shutdown and lost energy production), obliging hydro companies to invest in expensive measures against the plant.

ToxicGlyphosate (RoundUp)  is listed on the HHP list. It is not as biodegradable as Monsanto says. Not only it is quite persistent in water and sediments but also its degradation creates other toxic substances. It is known to have long term health effect on kidneys and reproduction organs. Its massive use also leads many weeds to become resistant and it is present in many surface and ground water tables. Besides, glyphosate is often associated with other chemicals for the weedkiller to be more efficient so you get the perfect cocktail for unknown consequences. Actually not so unknown as many many studies show severe effects but Monsanto’s powerful marketing machine is still winning.

ToxicPindone (not on the HHP list), however on PAN database, it is listed as highly toxic, causing nosebleeds, bleeding gums, bloody urine, extensive bruising in the absence of injury (ecchymoses), also fatigue, shortness of breath (dyspnea) on exertion. It may cause fluid in lungs (pulmonary edema). It is fatal or highly toxic for fish. Toxicity data is missing (no study done/recorded) as to cancer, water pollution potential and the bees. It is used to kill rabbits, with some success, although rabbits invariably spread again, possibly getting resistant.

Toxic1080 (Sodium fluoroacetate), is on the bad guys list as Extremely hazardous (Class 1a) according to World Health Organisation and fatal if inhaled. May also be absorbed through the skin. Leads to convulsions, laboured breathing, unconsciousness and death if untreated. DOC says 1080 is OK for NZ because it targets mammals and there is no native mammals in this country. 1080 is not used in any other country in the world because it would destroy mammals. Well, sorry but I AM a mammal and my children too. More and more research show that it accumulates and that it has long term carcinogenic and reproductive effects… In the local papers today, DOC kindly reassures us that fish ingesting 1080 are safe to eat because you need to “eat several tonnes of affected fish” to get a fatal dose. For me, “not fatal” does not equal “safe”. What about everything in between?

2014 is a mast year

In 2011, the Parliamentary Commission for the Environment publishes a report that supports the use of 1080 as the best solution available to help protect our native birds. Interestingly, independent scientists demonstrate just the opposite on their site 1080science.co.nz. A lot of information is on the Ban 1080 website.

Solidly based on the PCE report, DOC launches the “Battle for our birds”, with a record dropping of 1080, when we know that 1080 kills about as many birds as it protects them.

Which to believe?

I am not a scientist but I see clearly there is not enough consensus on that matter among scientists to keep using these HHP without questioning.

I know about Rachel Carson landmark book, Silent Spring, which warned, in 1962, that the use of pesticides would lead to wildlife destruction and a dramatic increase in cancer cases.

I have read Our Stolen Future, by Theo Colborne, which demonstrated in 1996, that even tiny doses of pesticides can alter human development and reproduction, as they are endocrine disruptors.

So I wonder… and I worry…

What do the pro 1080 win? Lots of money $$$ from selling and applying their product. Pro-1080-diquat-and-so-on justify themselves by any mean to keep doing business as usual.

What do the anti 1080 win? Nothing! They must have good precautionary reasons to spend so much time and energy fighting this!

Solutions?

I am not saying I have solutions. I just want people stop saying these substances are solutions. They are not. They are dangerous and don’t solve problems, hardly mitigate them. Saying they are solutions prevents everyone from searching for better ways -non toxic please.

I think we must stop thinking in terms of pests that we need to eradicate. Maybe consider them as resources? Lagarosiphon is excellent composted. Possums of course have made the fortune of many trappers. Some rabbit terrines are served in the best restaurants in some countries…

Maybe widen the issue to the whole system? We don’t have a “pests” problem in an otherwise perfect world. I know this may shock but it strikes me that National Parks are protected (from destruction by humans) and DOC is sole responsible for their maintenance yet forests are becoming silent. I know of some valleys that are privately owned and well looked after by their owners. No possums, no stoats, lots of birds, lush native bush. Maybe the system needs revisiting…

What if humans became again guardians of the land, respectful of nature, not consumers and controllers of nature? This does require quite a mind-shift and a lot of open-minded discussions. I don’t have solutions. But if we don’t look for them, we won’t find any and we’ll keep doing the same things with the same results.

What you can do

  • Take the warning signs seriously! It IS dangerous!
  • Join groups who set traps
  • Take photos of abuse and send them to the media, OSH, local authorities and beyond
  • Love your weeds instead of poisoning them
  • Generally avoid using chemicals, they all add up!
  • Prompt debates…

PS- I could make a very similar article about the pesticides used in agriculture, less visible but more widespread…


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Joel Salatin in Wanaka

Joel Salatin talk, last year in Wanaka, was an energizing speech as much in content as in the presentation itself, a great toastmaster exercise. Basically the recurring idea is orthodoxy vs heresy… These are my notes from the event.

Joel Salatin in Wanaka

 

Orthodoxy and heresy

People used to think the earth was flat – orthodoxy, then came Galileo saying that the earth was round – heresy. Even more when Copernicus said that the Sun was not going around the earth; the Earth was going around the sun- heresy. Then when slavery was the norm- orthodoxy, the Magnacarta established the right to be free- heresy.

We used to learn the Amazon as the ultimate wilderness- orthodoxy, whereas it is actually a planted and manicured forest- heresy …

In medicine, doctors used to think illnesses were spirits- orthodoxy, then it was discovered that it was due to bacterias and viruses… More recently, Pasteur established the germ theory, where we are victims, we can blame something else if we are sick. Meanwhile and more discreetly, Beauchamps was developing the terrain theory. Germ theory – orthodoxy vs terrain theory- heresy. Allelopathy is valid for illness but not for wellness. Heresy is to think you can create terrain for wellness instead of curing illness. More recently still, heresy is to upgrade genetic lines rather than repair genetic weaknesses…

 

Then, there was this joke…

Imagine we are a club of people who want to create the most unhealthy farm. Then we would choose only one specie, closed inside with no outdoor and a high density, no sun even aircond. All these criteria aggregate, encourage and nurture pathogens. It is the reality of industrial monoculture…

On the other hand, Nature cultivates diversity with an average of 20 species per square meters, to confuse pathogens, create balance and stability.

Today, orthodoxy on a farm is that fertility must be brought from outside, the government creates policies and agriculture rules. Heresy is to believe nature creates fertility, trusting the powerful carbon cycle. Nature is not sterile by definition. The orthodoxy is to grow quicker, cheaper, better, bigger pigs or corn.

The heresy is to grow balanced meaningful biological soup for species to thrive for itself. Let a pig express his pigness!

 

Then wider…

If a bull was destroying your flower garden, you would sue the bulls owner. GMO are imposed on our flower garden and we are being sued for not accepting being imposed them!

Society promotes segregated food systems instead of integrated food systems. One side producer / one side sellers / one side buyers vs producers/sellers/consumers, all local on site.

We destroyed a lot but we can heal, restore, via environmental participation.

A strong society has few rules and is not compromised by the choice of some individuals, be they different, on the contrary,  a strong society nourishes on different progressive ideas.

A weak society is fearful and paranoid and creates many rules to protect itself from change.

So listen to the heretics!

 

There are many solutions.

Edible landscaping

Lawn was started by British Royalty as a sign of richness, to show you don’t have to cultivate all your land to survive. This does not mean you do not have a food garden…

Participate viscerally with the earth and sun to create sufficiency and live in abundance.

Build up soils

The biomass creates itself if not impaired. Let the grass grow, so that the total energy/matter on the farm does not deplete with eggs and meat leaving the farm for sale. Lawn and low grass is dramatic in NZ because it does not let nature build up biomass into the soil. High grass not only nurtures soil but it is also a habitat for predator/eater therefore nurtures  biodiversity. Let herb grow to build up soil.

Read the whole story in Joel’s book, now available at Mount Aspiring College Library

Only 1/5 of soil depth is left after 50 years of grazed land. Letting the grass grow sequesters more carbon. Re-carboning the soil is one way of adapting to climate change, as just doubling soil depth would absorb most carbon released since industrialization.

Also build dams, ponds, water retention systems. Build up organic matter.

Local local…

Market locally to avoid transport. 50% of an average farm cost is fuel…. On Salatin’s farm, there is only 5% oil cost.

It does not matter if everyone is still asleep and brainwashed. Do not contribute to the problem. Grow your food, eat locally, grow your grass, build up soil!

 

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