For my regular visitors, if you find that this blog hasn't been updating much lately, chances are pretty good I've been spending my writing energy on my companion blog. Feel free to pop over to Home is Where the Central Cardio-pulmonary Organ Is, and see what else has been going on.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Interesting reading

Steve Janke has written a post that touches on quite a few things I've been mulling around in my mind and wanting to write about. He's taken them in an interesting direction.

How does your garden grow?

A brief foray way from more serious subjects. ;-)

City and apartment living has their conveniences that I greatly appreciate. I like it when the plumbing gets backed up, I can make a phone call and someone will be in the next day. And I don't get billed for it. Which is good, since the plug causing the problem turned out to be in the basement sub-level. Things are close and convenient. Especially when before, a simple grocery shopping trip meant going to another town, and major shopping meant going to the nearest city, an hour's drive away. There's one thing I really miss, though.


A yard. Grass. Sitting outside late in the evening, cooking wieners over an open fire, and having plenty of room for the kids to run around without needing to go to a park (which we happened to have adjoining our property, anyways).

A garden. I really pine for a garden. Granted, the last couple of years before the move, I didn't have a garden. We'd lived at this property some years before, left for a couple of years, then came back. The areas I'd planted in were all grown over and needed to be prepared all over again. We only ever got it partly done that year. The next summer never happened. It was cold and wet, and few people got gardens -or crops - in that year.

And now, we're in an apartment complex. With a huge, north facing balcony. And it doesn't look like we'll be moving out to someplace "more permanent" anytime soon.

But the gardening bug is itching me. I'm trying to think of what sorts of things I can grow on my balcony. I don't mean flowers and the like. I mean food plants.

I know lettuces like things shady, and would probably do fairly well. They also don't need a whole lot of depth for their root systems.

What else could I plant, though? Would carrots work, if I had deep enough pots? Would I be able to plant enough to make it worth the effort? Do I have enough sun for them? Even if I wanted to grow tomatoes (not a well liked food in our household), I definitely don't have enough sun for them. Potatoes would probably work but again, would I be able to grow enough to make it worth the effort?

I've been searching through the library gardening sections for ideas, but when it comes to container gardens, they are either herbs (which I also want to plant) and decorative plants. No vegetables. Hardly any fruits.

So for the gardeners out there, how does *your* garden grow? What would you suggest for someone who wants to plant vegetables in containers, and gets full, if indirect, sunlight for only a couple of hours in the evening?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Thoughts on oil.

Obligatory disclaimer...

Like most people of my generation, I was taught about how terrible oil is, and what an evil it is that we use it, and are so dependent on it. I was told Big Oil and Big Industry wanted nothing more than to rape our world of natural resources, while somehow collaborating to overcharge us for those resources, all in the name of Mamon, and the Almighty Dollar. While I was in school in the 70's, we were taught we'd run out of oil by the mid-80's. In the 80's, I was told we'd run out in the 90's. Now I hear we're going to run out within 200 years. We were also told we'd run out of coal and other natural resources, all because we humans were so greedy and destructive.

We were taught that, by the late 80's, the world's population would be so huge, the Earth could no longer feed us all. People would be starving to death, with no way to feed everyone, unless we were lucky enough to have our numbers reduced through some terrible plague.

Oh, and we were also told we were going into another ice age.

For now, though, I'll just stick to oil, since it's so high on the list of evils things contributing to climate change.

Like most people, I was taught that there is only so much oil in the world, and then that's it. What I wasn't taught is that we don't actually know how much oil there actually is - I was under the impression that we'd found all the oil we'll every find, and that's it. I do remember wondering why the earth stopped making oil, but assumed it had to have something to do with us humans.

Now that I'm older, I've seen just how wrong these predictions have been, but I still didn't question the claims made about the oil industry very much. Personally, I don't like that we're so dependent on oil, but that has as much to do with the fact that.. well, I don't like being dependent. I don't like that there are no viable choices to gas and oil - especially as the prices increase so much. Sure, we use public transit now, but the rising prices will effect us, too, and the trickle down of costs means increased rent and higher costs in general, as fuel costs get factored into retail prices.

I also am aware of the dangers of oil. We lived in Victoria during the Exxon Valdez fiasco, and saw how the heroic efforts of so many were able to clean it up.

One of the things that I wondered about was just how people discovered oil? I knew of oil as something that had to be searched for, then drilled for; that it was something that only existed deep underground. That question was recently answered for me.

While I still have no idea about place like the Middle East, I read how farmers in Texas found themselves with a problem. A substance they called "rock oil" was seeping out of the ground, rendering the land in those areas useless for agricultural use and lowering the value of their land. When people discovered a use for this stuff, they were more than happy to get rid of it. In reading that, this farm girl completely understood. I could easily picture myself in their position. I'd be glad to get this toxic substance off my land, too - and if this stuff was actually useful enough that I'd make some money off of it, all the better!

Then a thought occurred to me. If a spill such as the Exxon Valdez is such an environmental disaster, why is it that removing this naturally produced toxin a bad thing? Shouldn't we be *wanting* to get it our of our environment? Yes, I know there are issues regarding how we obtain the oil and refine it; yet, I know oil and its products have their own environment problems; yes, I agree we can do better in those areas. I don't argue that at all. But now that the connection was made, I can't help but thinking that removing oil from the environment is actually a benefit.

One of the issues of oil scarcity, when it comes to predictions of how long we've got before it runs out, no one ever brought up that these numbers deal with "proven" reserves. I had no idea of this concept. The reality is that we have no idea how much oil there actually is. Not only that, but the processes and conditions in the earth that made that oil in the first place, continue today.

Though it wasn't named as such, however, I do remember one teacher who touched on the subject. Proven reserves is not just how much oil (or other resource) we know about, but whether or not we can actually access the oil we do know about. The teacher explained it by using the Alberta tar sands as an example. We knew, even back then, that there were huge amounts of oil in the area. Enough to supply us with oil for a very long time. The problem, the teacher explained to us, is that it cost more to remove it from the tar sands than the oil was worth. That's why, he told us, we will never be able to use the oil in the Alberta tar sands.

Obviously, he was wrong. Based on what we knew at the time, it made sense. Since then, not only has the price of oil gone up, but the technology changed. Now, removing that oil from the tar sands is profitable, and Alberta is going through a major economic boom because of it.

I've heard many people complaining, however, about how terrible this is. Big Oil, I'm told, is making a huge environment mess up there, and they shouldn't be allowed to take the oil out of the tar sands. It should be left alone, untouched.

What I'm finding out, though, is that things aren't quite so black and white. First off, I find myself asking again - why is removing that oil from the environment a bad thing? Especially when I learned this detail. After the oil companies have removed what they can from an area, they are required to return that area to better-than-before condition. They must replace the soil (now clean of oil) and trees. Sections of the tar sands have already been returned to this state. Yes, there are problems that need to be dealt with, but guess what? The evil Big Oil companies are actually working very hard to find ways to fix those problems (to reduce the use of fresh water, or find a working alternative, for example).

I'll be touching on the subject a bit more later, but one of the things to think about is what an incredibly positive effect oil has had on our society. Before cars, horses were our major mode of transportation. One horse produces 40 pounds of manure, and that manure was a problem in public areas. Sanitation was a huge issue. People loved cars because they were cleaner than horses. They may not have known about the danger of exhaust emissions at the time, but once they did, changes were made to improve on them, and they continue to be made today. In the mean time, we no longer have to worry about stepping in horse pucks on the streets, and all the issues of insects and the spread of illnesses that go with it.

Think for a moment on all the things we have now that we wouldn't, had it not been for finding a use for that black gunk seeping out of farmer's fields. As I sit writing this, I try to think of all the things that are made using oil products, directly or indirectly, and quickly lose count. Anything plastic, like the pieces of the machine that keeps my husband breathing at night. Anything that requires transportation, the the food in my fridge. Anything that requires machinery for manufacture - with is pretty much everything else. Heck, even the apartment building itself.

Come to think of it, I don't think there's anything at all in my apartment that doesn't somehow rely on the use of oil products at some point.

I absolutely believe that we need to move away from reliance on oil, if only because that dependency removes a level of control over our lives.

I absolutely believe we need to solve the very real problems of pollution that comes with oil.

I no longer, however, believe our uses of oil to be so terrible a thing. There are far too many benefits for me to feel at all guilty anymore about it.

Just for a laugh...

You Are 76% Lady

Overall, you are a refined lady with excellent manners.
But you also know when to relax and not get too serious about etiquette

Now online...

When I first started writing on the theme of global warming/climate change, the two opposing viewpoints were exemplified by the movie, An Inconvenient Truth, and the documentary, The Great Global Warming Swindle.

Since then, another show has become available online, Exposed: A Climate of Fear. This link will take you to the full and complete version, not split up into parts, so it might take a while to load. You can also read the transcript here.

I like how, right from the beginning, the host states...

Welcome to exposed, the climate of fear. I want you to know right up front, this is not a balanced look at global warming. It is the other side of the climate debate that you don`t hear anywhere.

Right from the get go, you know you're getting "the other side" of the story. They're not pretending to be anything different. Ironically, as I watched it, I found it to be far more balanced. Not only do they acknowledge opposing views without de-ligitimizing them, they showed them as excellent examples of good ways we can make a difference in the world (ie: the electric car - what a beauty! - and solar house examples). It's worth it to watch until the very end, as the host's summary is quite worth listening to.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Thoughts on CO2

Before I start, I just wanted to throw in a quick reminder to please visit the disclaimer post first, if you haven't already. Thanks. :-)

Once again, it's been a long time since I've posted on the subject. I've been finding it difficult to sit down and write a post. Aside from the fact that we're not home all that much these days, it takes a great deal of mental energy for me to write these. I take my writing very seriously, being careful to say things as clearly and succinctly as I can. It's particularly frustrating when writing on such a hot topic. For starters, I'm responding to comments made by people I know don't want to hear/read what I'm saying. They've already made up their minds and reject any point of view that disagrees with them out of hand. I'm not writing for them, though. So why am I willing to spend to much energy here, instead of on so many other things I could be doing? Why write, knowing I'm going to be belittled and insulted for my opinions? In the end, I'm writing this for the ones who aren't quite sure yet; for the ones who are questioning, and the ones who are fearful. I'm writing for those who are still thinking about it; not yet convinced by the hype and the fear mongering. I'm writing, because I hate to see lies or misinformation perpetuated, until they become accepted as truth. I write, because something inside me knows that this is the right thing to do, therefore it must be done, and if I don't, I can't be sure that anyone else will.

So today, I will tackle the CO2 issue.

We are being told that the amount of CO2 we are putting into the atmosphere is causing global warming and climate change. We are told that this is not up to debate. CO2 levels are supposedly skyrocketing, and it's all our fault, because we drive cars and use electricity, and so on. We are told that unless we go to heroic lengths to lower the levels of CO2 in the air, the world will undergo catastrophes beyond anything it's ever gone through, and it'll all be our fault. Or George W. Bush's fault. Or Stephen Harper's fault. Of the fault of "big business" and "industry."

More recently, I've noticed a lot more focus on CO2 levels in car exhaust. I find that one particularly odd. For as long as I can remember, I've been warned of the dangers of car exhaust. Not for the CO2 levels, though, but for the CO. Carbon Monoxide is deadly. When I was in my teens, a young man I knew, about a year older than myself, was killed by CO while working on his car. There are people who use car exhaust to commit both murder and suicide. There are many other noxious things about car exhaust that pollute our atmosphere, but until the last year or so, I've never once heard warnings about CO2 levels.

Another thought occurs to me when people talk of reducing CO2 levels. I was reminded of it as I was reading a sourdough cookbook, of all things. The author talked of how the wild yeasts in the air begin to ferment in flour and water to create sourdough, and that the fermentation process creates CO2, causing the sourdough starter to bubble.

Everything that ferments creates CO2. Every loaf of bread that rises. Every bottle of soy sauce or pickles. Every jar of sauerkraut. Every alcoholic drink. Even fruits and berries, over ripening on trees, can ferment into alcohol, inebriating the birds and animals that eat it.

This would be on top of other natural things, like forest fires, volcanoes, and the release of CO2 from our oceans.

And we're supposed to not only stop, but lower the levels of CO2 to prevent global warming? Just how are we supposed to do that?

Ah, but no, we're told. We just need to reduce the amount of CO2 *we* put into the air, since we are responsible for so much.

So just how much CO2 are we actually responsible for?

Someone else answered that question far better than I can...

PERMANENT gases in the atmosphere by percent are:
Nitrogen 78.1%
Oxygen 20.9%

Other permanent gases:
Argon 0.9%

The top three gases in the atmosphere amount to: 99.9% of the entire atmosphere.

Where is Co2??

Here is the rest:
Neon 0.002%
Helium 0.0005%
Krypton 0.0001%
Hydrogen 0.00005%

VARIABLE gases in the atmosphere and typical percentage values are:
Water vapor 0 to 4%
Carbon Dioxide 0.035%
Methane 0.0002%
Ozone 0.000004%

The writer went on to make this analogy.

You fill your house with 1 million ping pong balls.

You color those that represent Nitrogen blue, so you color: 781,000 of them.

You color Oxygen ping pong balls red: 209,000 of them.

You color Argon ping pong balls green: 9,000 of them.

And you color Carbon Dioxide ping pong balls black: A whole, whooping, ... 350 of them!

Now, out of the 350 of the black ones, current anthropogenic production of C02 is merely 5% of the total, with natural production, mostly from the oceans, represents 95% of Co2 production.

So, you paint 18 of the black balls with a yellow stripe. Out of the million in the room, 18 ping pong balls represent the TOTAL human contribution: that includes all our farm animals and agriculture, industry, cars, breathing, and let's assume that we've produced the same amount of Co2 for the past, oh, 10,000 years as we are today extremely exaggerated but let's continue anyway...

Now, out of those 18, Kyoto demands that all humanity reduce our output by 10% so from those 18 ping pong balls painted black and yellow, we pick two.

And color them purple.

Throw those balls into the pile of a million, stir them up, and try to find them...

Another analogy I've read but can't find right now used a case of 24 water bottles instead of ping pong balls. By the end of the analogy, the equivalent of water in the case to anthropogenic CO2 levels worked out to be the amount of water you'd get at the very tip of an eye dropper.

Yet we are lead to believe that the amount of CO2 we humans contribute to the atmosphere is enough to cause climate change? Now, if CO2 were some sort of deadly pollutant, I could almost understand even that small amount being dangerous. The only thing is, CO2 isn't a pollutant at all. It's absolutely essential to our survival. Not only that, but higher levels of CO2 leads to lusher plant life and increased crop yields. The more I learn about the effects of increased CO2, the more I see it as a benefit, not a detriment.

We're told we can somehow control how much CO2 there is out there, and in so doing, actually effect global climate! All I can think of is how incredibly arrogant that idea is. We humans may be effecting the world in a lot of ways. We can even create micro-climates, to a certain extent, but the climate of the entire world? We're simply not that powerful or influential on the earth.

There a lot of ways we can make positive contributions to the world. Affecting CO2 isn't one of them.