Authors: Derek Paul and Metta Spencer

This planet is gradually warming, mainly because of the burning of fossil fuels, which add heat-trapping gases to Earth’s atmosphere. The increased temperature changes the climate in other ways too, including the rise in sea levels; ice mass loss in Greenland, Antarctica, the Arctic and mountain glaciers worldwide; shifts in the times when flowers bloom; and extreme weather events.

Life on Earth is dependent on a layer of gases, primarily water vapor, in the lower atmosphere that trap heat from the sun, while radiating some of it back and keeping our planet at a temperature capable of supporting life.

The sunlight that remains trapped is our source of energy and is used by plants in photosynthesis, whereas the remainder is reflected as heat or light back into space. Climate forcing (or “radiative forcing”) is the differential between the amount of sunlight absorbed by Earth and the amount of energy radiated back to space.

Several factors determine the size and direction of this forcing; for example light surfaces are more reflective than dark ones, so geographical regions covered by ice and snow reflect back more than areas covered by dark water or dark forests; this variable is called the “albedo effect.”

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Learn from PG&E’s mistake: Trim your trees!

Financiers and corporate managers had better pay more attention to climate change or they may suffer the same fate as PG & E: bankruptcy. Erik Kobayashi-Solomon has explained the collapse of Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a shareholder-owned company that has provided the electricity for 5.2 million households in central and northern California.
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Electric cars will become cheaper than combustion-engine cars by about 2024. This is enabled largely by the declining costs of the batteries for EVs. Until recently, a mid-size electric car’s battery accounted for over half of the vehicle’s total cost. By 2025 it will account for only 1/4 of the cost.

Airlines consume about 87 billion gallons of fuel per year. Very little of it has been sustainable, and price is one of the reasons. Even if it could be produced in sufficient quantity, biofuels cost now about $16 a gallon, as compared to $2.50 for conventional fuel. But considerable work is being done to develop sustainable fuel for planes and it may be achieved within a few years.

Burn it instead!

Okay, so my question is naive, but I still want to know. Whatever I read about recycling says it is not very helpful. It takes a lot of labor to process it, and a lot of the stuff gets sent to the landfill anyway. And there are other arguments that I haven’t followed closely. But then why not just burn it? Isn’t a big incinerator better than a landfill? Especially if we use the heat for some useful purpose– either to heat something that needs it, or as a source of energy.

There must be a good, reasonable answer or else we would be burning our trash. But I haven’t heard it. Can anyone explain? Thanks.

Heat Pumps Save Energy!

One important way of reducing carbon emissions from heating and cooling buildings is to install heat pumps. Electric heat pumps reduce primary energy consumption in Europe between 15 and 50%, compared with oil- and gas-heating systems. This then reduces CO2-emissions by between 20 and 60% and up to 85% of other pollutants.

Call more things ‘parks,’ please

Paddling through the Queen Elizabeth Park

The Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands Provincial Park – in Ontario – is the largest undeveloped provincial park in Southern Ontario. That is, there are no central park facilities, etc. It’s a lot of wilderness.

Interestingly, the park – before it was parkland – was extensively logged. It was known as the burnt lands for a while – due to the desolation and lack of trees – from both logging and repeated wildfires. Since then, it has regrown and is now dense bush – including forests, swamps, etc – and is likely a large carbon sink. Perhaps more areas need to be declared parks.

Carbon sinks or carbon dumps?

Earth’s entire atmosphere and water systems are being used as our carbon dumps?

Perhaps due to (everyone’s sole spaceship) Earth’s large size, there seems to be a general obliviousness in regards to our natural environment. It’s as though throwing non-biodegradable garbage down a dark chute, or pollutants emitted out of exhaust and drainage pipes, or spewed from sky-high jet engines and very tall smoke stacks—or even the largest contamination events—can somehow be safely absorbed into the air, sea, and land (i.e. out of sight, out of mind); like we’re safely inconsequentially dispensing of that waste into a compressed-into-nothing black-hole singularity.

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Sustainable Government Buildings

Here’s a sustainable municipal building in San Bernardino, California

I am a student at the University of Toronto and often walk by the Ontario legislative and parliament buildings, which abut the campus. I think it would be an interesting initiative to see various government and institutional (colleges, universities, etc.) buildings — such as Queen’s Park, etc. — install solar panels on their roofs, etc. These buildings have large foot prints (surface area) with both angled / flat roofs — and could likely generate a fair bit of electricity from solar panels. This would demonstrate beneficial and innovative land stewardship and create a positive role model for other individuals and property managers in various contexts. It could additionally save money for the government!

(Some of the buildings use skylights for interior lighting – though there is a lot of underutilized space on the structure…)

Buildings such as these could even re-cycle / re-use rain water from the roofs – either for irrigation of the grounds – or for use in the building (other than drinking water).

A Use for Carbon Dioxide

The Netherlands greenhouse industry is experimenting by using soil-less mediums – such as mineral bags – to root the plants in. They pump CO2 from nearby coal refineries directly to the greenhouses – to assist with plant growth – as tomatoes, etc. like high levels of CO2.

What works?

The Short List Of Climate Actions That Will Work

There is more consensus on what solutions are effective than there appears to be

By Michael Barnard. Medium, Oct. 22, 2019 .

Electrify everything!

I spend a lot of time critiquing solutions for low-carbon transformation, and that leads, inevitably, to people asking me: what works? What should we be doing? Most recently, that came in the form of a question on Quora that was well enough formed to trigger me to write down the solution set: “What exactly is the current scientific consensus on steps to combat climate change?“

Consensus is an interesting word. I tend to prefer consilience, where multiple lines of investigation lead to the same conclusions. That said, the following are the solutions or approaches that I see from my investigations and discussions as gaining consensus and consilience. It’s not the how, but the what. There are many paths that lead to these realities. One way to read the following is to consider that it describes the world in 2050.

This list doesn’t necessarily map easily to Project Drawdown because its approach is a cost benefit analysis of CO2e reductions for dollars, while this is a more aggressive transformational vision.

The Short List

Electrify everything

Convert all energy services to work directly from electricity instead of fossil fuels. Transportation, industry, and agriculture. All of it. All gas appliances must go. All road transport must be electric. Most trains and a lot of planes must shift to electric. Electricity creating biofuels or hydrogen for the subset of transportation that can’t be electrified. All heat from electricity. The US throws away two thirds of all primary energy, mostly in the form of waste heat from fossil fuels used in inherently inefficient combustion processes. We only have to replace a third of the actual primary energy we use today to maintain our lifestyle and economy.

Overbuild renewable generation

All other forms of generation with the exception of nuclear were overbuilt, so we’ll do the same with wind and solar, and they are really cheap, so that is not that expensive. Also a bit of geothermal and some biomass. After all, only $3 trillion of renewables would provide all primary energy for everything the US does today.

Build continent-scale electrical grids and markets

And improve existing ones. HVDC became much more viable with high-speed hybrid circuit breakers in 2011, and is an essential technology for long-distance, low-loss electrical transmission. It can replace some AC transmission and be buried along existing right-of-ways.

Build a fair amount of hydro storage

And some other storage too. While storage of electricity is an overstated concern given overbuilt renewables and continent-scale grids, some is still required. Pumped hydro resource potential is far greater than the need, is efficient, and uses very stable, known technologies. Shifting existing hydro-electric dams to be passive, on-demand storage as opposed to baseload is also key. Fast response grid storage can be provided by existing lithium-ion technologies, as Tesla has proven in California and Australia. By 2050, we’ll have roughly 20 TWh of batteries on wheels in US cars alone, available both for demand management to reduce peak demand, soak up excess generation, and to provide vehicle-to-grid electricity as needed.
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Hard times ahead!

U.S. Military Could Collapse Within 20 Years Due to Climate Change, Report Commissioned By Pentagon Says

The report says a combination of global starvation, war, disease, drought, and a fragile power grid could have cascading, devastating effects.

by Nafeez Ahmed | Oct 24 2019, 9:00am

According to a new U.S. Army report, Americans could face a horrifically grim future from climate change involving blackouts, disease, thirst, starvation and war. The study found that the US military itself might also collapse. This could all happen over the next two decades, the report notes.

The senior US government officials who wrote the report are from several key agencies including the Army, Defense Intelligence Agency, and NASA. The study called on the Pentagon to urgently prepare for the possibility that domestic power, water, and food systems might collapse due to the impacts of climate change as we near mid-century.

The report was commissioned by General Mark Milley, Trump’s new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, making him the highest-ranking military officer in the country (the report also puts him at odds with Trump, who does not take climate change seriously.)
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But what are the waste products?

I have heard algae and ocean environments act as both large carbon sinks and produce significant quantities of oxygen. I had not heard of this specific Eos bioreactor device – though it is an interesting article. One of my questions- not addressed by the article – is what waste products are produced by these devices?

Thanks for sharing.

I agree. And I too haven’t heard anything about it lately. Have any of you folks?

I’ve heard that it’s just not at all sustainable. The fish are too close together- if one get’s sick, they all get sick so they always use antibiotics- plus, these fish just bring disease to fish in the wild too.

Who’s Printing Your New House?

3d house printing is going mainstream

Here’s how the Kiwis are doing it

I want to comment on a couple of areas from the viewpoint of a Building Inspector for a local authority in New Zealand who initially started out with his Masters in Architecture.

Firstly when you say the best way to reduce the consumption of energy is not to change the building codes but simply to tax heavily the carbon in fuel, I would agree. Tax the carbon in fuel heavily but also incentivise the use of products, services and practices employed by companies. Combine incentives with a combination of preferred local authority contractors at a local authority level, possibly even combined with less red tape at the building consent stage and finally seek at a national / state / province level to add tax breaks to qualifying companies.
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Shouldn’t we worry about those planned wooden skyscrapers?

Chicago and London are both researching wooden skyscrapers 80-storeys tall, whereas Taiwan has one planned (70 storeys) for 2041. Is this possible with the compression that will be exerted on the on the wood materials as the weight of the upper floors press down on the base? How will these survive potential intense storms and/or earthquakes? Even if it is possible, is it wise to construct such large buildings out of a material such as wood?

Tip: Sneak in Through an Open Stoma!

By Kathy Voth

Imagine you’re a carbon molecule floating in the atmosphere and your mission is to get from there into the soil and stay there for decades.

Your first step — slip into a plant through an open stoma.

Stomata are microscopic openings on the surfaces of plant leaves that allow for the easy passage of water vapor, carbon dioxide and oxygen. They are crucial to the function of leaves as photosynthesis requires plenty of carbon dioxide as well as the release of waste oxygen and excess water.

Inside the plant you go through your first transformation: photosynthesis. You’re combined with water (H20) and photons from sunlight to become glucose (C6H12O6). You’re now part of the body of the plant. From here, there are multiple routes to your destination, some that take much longer than others. You could become part of the body of a cow, or part of her manure. You might be part of a plant that gets trampled onto the soil, or you might be part of the roots that get sloughed off periodically underground.
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Mass Timber is Supposed to be Safe

Allegedly the timber components are stronger than conventional wood – as they are multiple layers of wood glued together. This increased density of material additionally assists with fire prevention purposes. Do you have any insight – from your perspective – as to why wood skyscrapers have become somewhat popular in Scandinavia?

Builders, We’re Out of Time!

We are out of time. I have been working on offgrid passive buildings since 1992. The good news is that we have had the technology to do net positive buildings for decades.<'em> With cheap polluting fossil fuels propagating false economies, it didn’t make financial sense to do it. Now, every building that is not built net zero or positive bakes in even more costly climate impact. Pay now or pay later.

I’d like to see the 2030 Challenge (with its Energy Use Intensity target in eKwh/ m2/ year) adopted worldwide but even that has shortcomings. B.C.’s Step Code is on the right path with a Carbon Use Intensity target, but we do need life cycle targets that consider the embodied energy built in to incentivize getting away from the concrete and steel.
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Beware of wooden high-rise buildings

Timber high rises are a PR effort by companies like Weyerhauser and Georgia Pacific. It’s ridiculous to build high rises from wood, which is both heavier and weaker than steel. They are strictly PR stunts, subsidized by the timber industry. No architect or engineer would design them on his own. When one of them catches fire, and they can’t put it out, we will hear all kinds of excuses. Anything but the truth.

Why Everybody Wants a Lawn: And Why it’s Killing the Planet

By Matt J. Weber

This article may shake you up. You’ll probably decide to turn your lawn into something more convenient. But the article (unfortunately) doesn’t suggest that you turn it into a forest. Why not? That’s what the world really needs — about two trillion additional trees, and your lawn is the best place for you to plant your share of them. Still, this great article may motivate you to turn in the right direction. Please share it with everyone you know who has control of a piece of land that’s not already devoted to food crops or trees.
–Carol Wells

This is my lawn. I mow it, water it, pull weeds, and occasionally enjoy it. Though it’s not the greatest lawn in the world, it’s pretty typical. Everybody on my block has one. In fact, pretty much every house in this town has a lawn — each one tended to relentlessly by its owner-occupier.

But what insidious force compels me to expend so much energy on this measly plot of grass? Why not let it grow to its full potential? What’s wrong with a few dandelions? Why do I need a nice lawn at all?

Well, like most things in this world, I can pin the blame squarely on medieval aristocracy. But seriously, the invention of the lawn mower, the passage of the 40-hour work week, and the mass production of cheap housing all contributed to my insatiable desire for a nice, big lawn.

First, though, let’s talk about Angiosperms.

Angiosperms rule the Earth. They’ve been around since the dinosaurs. Today, they occupy over 90 percent of the planet’s land surface. Angiosperms are flowering plants. They constitute most of the plant species on the planet, including all flowers, fruiting plants, deciduous trees, and yes, grasses. Grass itself covers over 40 percent of the Earth’s surface. Our ancestors evolved in the vast grasslands of prehistoric Africa. We are grassland animals. It’s our natural habitat. No wonder it is by far the most common plant used in our lawns.

In the United States, lawns take up more acreage than the top eight crops combined.

But it wasn’t always like this. We didn’t really even start having lawns until the 19th century. And they didn’t really take off until after World War II.

Before that, lawns were mostly limited to the wealthy upper classes of medieval Europe. Nobility were the only ones who could afford to set aside and maintain land that didn’t produce food or contribute to their livelihood in any way. See, maintaining a lawn was hard work back then. The grass had to be cut by hand, using a scythe or shears. Of course, the landed elite that owned these lawns weren’t going to be rolling up their ruffled sleeves and getting their cravats dirty scything their own lawns. No way. They paid people to do that for them. So not only was a lawn a ton of work, it was very expensive.

That is, until the invention of the lawn mower in 1830. Through mechanizing lawn care, virtually anyone — not just the extremely rich — could maintain a lawn. As sports and lawn games became more popular, so did lawns. If you could afford the land and the lawn mowing machine, you were set.

Because extreme wealth was no longer necessary for lawn maintenance, an aspiring lawn owner need only the time to tend to it. But before 1938, many in the U.S. had to work more than eight hours a day during the week and half days on Saturdays. That left little time to take care of a lawn. But in 1938, congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act, mandating the 40-hour work week. Suddenly, workers were free (enough) to conceivably manage a lawn.

But the lawn’s greatest ally was still to come.

Enter, the Suburb

As the cities of the 19th century grew more crowded and industrial, those who could afford it began to move. But they couldn’t move too far away. The jobs were still in the city. So communities sprang up on the outskirts of metropolitan areas, far enough to escape from the density and pollution of the inner city but close enough to commute to work. These were the first suburbs. Many of the houses in these suburban communities were built on enough land to have their own lawns.

Soon, the condition of the lawn became synonymous with the caliber of its homeowner’s character.

While suburbs began to surround most major cities in the US at the turn of the 20th century, they didn’t really take off until after World War II. An influx of war veterans seeking homes increased the demand for cheap, plentiful housing. The GI Bill made it possible for these returning soldiers to buy homes at discounted rates. To keep up with the housing demand, cheap, mass produced housing began to expand throughout the United States.

It was all thanks to William Jaird Levitt.

By circumventing unions, cutting out middlemen, and turning the construction of a home into 27 systematic steps, Levitt created what was essentially the first assembly line for large-scale, low-cost housing. Soon, these Levitt-style housing developments were popping up all over the United States, each one ordained with a pristine plot of well-manicured grass.

Now everybody could have a nice, big lawn.

Well, not really.

Levitt was super racist and restricted the sale of his homes to white Americans. Sales agents were explicitly instructed not to accept any applications from African Americans — even if they were war veterans. So not everybody got a nice, big lawn.

But these suburbs began to represent the American Dream — a place where anyone with a can-do spirit and a hardworking attitude (and the right complexion) could obtain their own piece of land with their very own pre-fabricated home, complete with 2.5 kids and an immaculate lawn. Soon, the condition of the lawn became synonymous with the caliber of its homeowner’s character. A well-maintained lawn meant a well-run, hardworking household, populated by true Americans who work 40 hours during the week but don’t spend their weekends in idleness. No, they have a lawn to take care of. It needs to be mowed and watered. Unwelcome plant varieties need to be removed to make room for a perfectly uniform mat of green grass. An overgrown, neglected lawn reflected laziness on the part of the homeowner, even a decrepitude of moral fiber. Because if you’re not maintaining your lawn to the same standards as your neighbors, you must be some kind of social deviant. Just as Levitt was enforcing a monoculture within his suburbs, his homeowners were cultivating a monoculture of plants in their lawns.

Having a nice, big lawn is more than just a symbolic act. Many communities across the U.S. actively police the upkeep of their neighborhood’s lawns. Homeowners can be subject to a fine if their grass isn’t clipped short enough or if their yard doesn’t adhere to the community’s standards of lawn care.

It’s all pretty insane when you think about it. But humans are weird. Especially Americans.

Lawns, Meet Climate Change

Our national obsession with lawns is putting a real strain on the environment.

We apply more synthetic fertilizers and pesticides to our lawns than an equivalent area of cropland. Not only can this hurt local wildlife, these chemicals can end up in our own drinking water. The manufacture and use of these chemicals require large amounts of fossil fuels and contribute to global warming. Lawnmowers and landscaping equipment account for 10-18 percent of non-transportation related gasoline emissions. Running a single lawn mower for an hour emits just as much pollution as 40 automobiles, according to the EPA (though some dispute this claim, they agree that a single lawn mower produces more pollution than multiple cars). In a year, a hectare of lawn can contribute as many greenhouse gases as a jet flying halfway around the world. Not to mention that an estimated 17 million gallons of gasoline are spilled every summer while refueling those lawn mowers. That’s almost two Exxon Valdez-scale oil spills every year, right in our front yard.

Most critically, lawns require a lot of water: 50–70 percent of all residential water in the United States goes to landscaping. Irrigated lawns take up nearly three times as much space as irrigated corn. To maintain that amount of grass on a daily basis, nine billion gallons of water need to be allocated to our lawns. That’s like every person in the United States dumping 30 gallons of fresh, drinkable water onto the ground, every single day.

Properly maintained, a lawn can actually help fight climate change while still providing space for barbecues and bocce ball.

But our lawns don’t have to be this much of a drain on the environment. First, we can reduce the amount of fertilizers and pesticides we use just by switching up the plants in our lawn. We don’t need uniform mats of grass. Low maintenance shrubs, herbs, or perennials can take the place of grass and increase the biodiversity of your lawn. Some plants can reduce the amount of time needed for mowing, and increase the natural carbon sequestration potential of our lawns. After all, grasslands are the planet’s great carbon sinks. Properly maintained, a lawn can actually help fight climate change while still providing space for barbecues and bocce ball.

We need only change what it means to have a nice, big lawn.

Truly, environmentally sustainable lawns would be better measures of our moral fiber as citizens of planet Earth than any of those old medieval lawns ever were.

Medium Environment, June 26, 2018

U of Toronto is planning a timber-based 14-storey high-rise

What are your thoughts on this trend of timber-based high-rises? The University of Toronto is proposing plans for a 14-storey high rise adjacent to the Munk School of Global Affairs – but it will be constructed of a timber frame…

I think context is important… how do the clear-cuts (as bad as these are) compare in Borneo vs. Brazil vs. Canada? Are some more sustainable sources of lumber than others? Surely clear-cutting is not the best forest management strategy by any means.

What role does reclaimed lumber play in relation to ecological / environmental impacts? I heard several years ago that reclaimed lumber (including some from logs sank to the bottom of the Ottawa River in the 19th century) was a designer trend.

Sugar Cane Paper

Several years ago, I used to use sugar cane paper (notebooks) when writing notes – particularly in high school and first year of university. I have not seen these notebooks for sale for a while — though will check more stores the next time I go to buy a notebook. This paper was made from leftover components of the sugar cane industry — which made a paper similar to contemporary wood pulp paper.

I recently looked back into this and it turns out there is some research in the field — as it reduces waste from the sugar industry – and may have environmental benefits. Some of the products use an estimated 80% less wood-based products than traditional papers. One of the technical names for this is called bagasse — this is the name for sugar cane by-products – used in various industries, such as biofuel or paper manufacturing.

Perhaps some school boards could look into this initiative based on affordability and environmental benefits – as a way to reduce their environmental footprints.

Blame Americans first

I’m tired of Americans pointing fingers at places like Borneo and Brazil. We consume 25% of the earth’s wood products, and build houses out of lumber, 1/3 of which comes from Canadian clearcuts. Our “green” organizations are scared of the American timber industry. Until that changes, we all go down.

It’s time for an Energy Transition in South East Asia

By: Liming Qiao, Asia Director of GWEC

There is no better time than now for our industry to step up the energy transition and to define our role in the future energy system: the cost reduction of wind energy, the improvement of the efficiencies and reliability of wind technologies and the mounting threat of the climate imperatives are making the case for wind energy. Following the events during the UN Climate Action Summit in New York last month, there is now unprecedented policy momentum behind taking more decisive actions to stop dangerous climate change than ever before. Wind energy, together with other clean energy sources, is one of the most important technology choices to fulfil the climate targets and to provide substantial emission reduction in the future energy system.

This urgency is all the more pressing in South East Asia, a region that still relies on fossil fuels in a time where power demand is on the rise as the region’s economy and populations continue to grow.

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Green Hydrogen

Hydrogen from renewable energy could play a central role in the global energy transformation, the latest report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) finds. ‘Hydrogen: a renewable energy perspective’ estimates that hydrogen from renewable power, so called green hydrogen, could translate into 8 per cent of global energy consumption by 2050. 16 per cent of all generated electricity would be used to produce hydrogen by then. Green hydrogen could particularly offer ways to decarbonise a range of sectors where it is proving difficult to meaningfully reduce CO2 emissions.

Decarbonisation impacts depends on how hydrogen is produced. Current and future sourcing options can be divided into grey (fossil fuel-based), blue (fossil fuel-based production with carbon capture, utilisation and storage) and green (renewables-based) hydrogen. Blue and green hydrogen can play a role in the transition and synergies exist.

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Tucson, get with the program!

Renowned linguist and cognitive scientist (etcetera) Noam Chomsky has noted that: “A very good economist, Dean Baker, had a column a couple of weeks ago in which he discussed what China is doing. They are still a big huge polluter, but they are carrying out massive programs of switching to renewable energies way beyond anything else in the world. [American] States are doing it. Or not.” … In Tucson, Arizona, for example, “the sun is shining … most of the year, [but] take a look and see how many solar panels you see. Our house in the suburbs is the only one that has them [in the vicinity].

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The Renewables Pull Ahead!

In 2019, for the first time, more electric energy was produced in UK by green sources than by fossil fuels!
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Solar panel farm grows 17,000 tons of food without soil, pesticides, fossil fuels or groundwater

A new agricultural technique may have just solved the problem of growing food in some of the world’s most inhospitable places – locations that don’t currently support traditional agriculture.

In addition, the technique can save what are clearly finite resources from extinction, something all of us should clearly favor.

As reported by Natural Blaze, as the world’s population grows, so too does its demand for food. Right now, activist organizations are battling the spread of the genetically modified organisms (GMOs) which have become prevalent in modern agriculture, despite the dangers they pose to our health.

The primary argument for GMO makers like Monsanto and backers in industry and government is that they are necessary because the world is running out of resources, and GMO crops are a better way to boost yields (which is not true, actually). On first hearing it, this argument might sound cogent and believable; after all, it’s “science” and scientists aren’t trying to harm us.

Technology to make agriculture sustainable and environmentally clean

But digging deeper into the impact of GMO crops and the herbicides used to make them most effective, demonstrates well that chemical farming is what’s doing real harm to finite land and soil resources.
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IRENA. — International Renewable Energy Association — is an organization that seems to be doing a great deal to promote energy self sufficiency. I saw its Facebook page.

Germany decided after Fukushima to quit, not only coal, but also nuclear. And it’s working!

Germany has released plans — several months ago — to shut down 84 of its coal burning plants to help with climate change.

The decision to quit coal follows an earlier bold energy policy move by the German government, which decided to shut down all of its nuclear power plants by 2022 in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima disaster in 2011.

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Methane in Siberian Sea

Sea in Siberia is “boiling” with Methane bubbles

Scientists in Siberia have discovered an area of sea that is “boiling” with methane, with bubbles that can be scooped from the water with buckets. Researchers on an expedition to the East Siberian Sea said the “methane fountain” was unlike anything they had seen before, with concentrations of the gas in the region to be six to seven times higher than the global average.

The team, led by Igor Semiletov, from Tomsk Polytechnic University in Russia, traveled to an area of the Eastern Arctic previously known to produce methane fountains. They were studying the environmental consequences of permafrost thawing beneath the ocean.

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Hard Times

In an interview by the on-line Nati-onal Obser-ver with re-nowned ling-uist and cogni-tive sci-entist (etcetera) Noam Chomsky, posted February 12 (2019), the latter emphasizes humankind’s desperate need to revert to renewable energies, notably that offered by our sun:

“A very good economist, Dean Baker, had a column a couple of weeks ago in which he discussed what China is doing. They are still a big huge polluter, but they are carrying out massive programs of switching to renewable energies way beyond anything else in the world. [American] States are doing it. Or not.” … In Tucson, Arizona, for example, “the sun is shining … most of the year, [but] take a look and see how many solar panels you see. Our house in the suburbs is the only one that has them [in the vicinity].

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Flouting Environmental Law

It’s quite safe to assume that, had the (central B.C., August 4, 2014) Mount Polley copper and gold mine massive tailings pond release of a slurry of years’ worth of waste into Polley Lake—yet for which there were no B.C.-environmental-law charges laid against Imperial Metals regardless of its clear recklessness—been located in plain sight just off of, say, Vancouver’s scenic attraction Stanley Park instead of in a region of natural wilderness, it would not have received the relatively minute mainstream news-media coverage it has to date.

Denial, Even By Kids

It doesn’t surprise me, as general human mentality collectively allows us to, amongst other forms of blatant pollution, throw non-biodegradables down a dark chute like we’re safely dispensing it into a black-hole singularity to disappear into nothing.
And then there’s the astonishing short-sighted selfishness. I observed this last year when a Global TV news reporter randomly asked a young Vancouver man wearing sunglasses what he thought of government restrictions on disposable plastic straws. “It’s like we’re living in a nanny state, always telling me what I can’t do,” he recklessly retorted.

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Plastic roads

I have heard of an interesting initiative in India regarding the creation and use of plastic-based roads. A technology exists that allows old plastics – such as plastic bags – to be shredded and used alongside glue and tarmac to create durable roads. 1 kilometer of this style of “plastic road” uses the equivalent of 1 million plastic bags – and so far India has installed roughly ~33 000 kilometers of this road style. Using this plastic mixture additionally saves about 1 ton of asphalt for every 1 kilometer of road. It is additionally about 8% cheaper than a conventional road – per statistics by the World Economic Form. It has been indicated that this form of road is stronger than conventional roads and more resistant to potholes.

However, my questions are – what are the byproducts of this road? Is it recyclable when needing repairs or replacement? Is there run off in the form of small plastic particles / microplastics? Is it permeable / what are the long-term implications for the health of soil in adjacent environments?

Here is a video the World Economic Forum posted on their Instagram social media:

Isn’t this exploitative? I’ve heard that this is bad for other countries. Also when did we even get into the habit of doing this? When did we even stop processing our own garbage? C’mon Canada…

Canada exports its trash!

There have been several alarming articles in Canadian media over the past week or so around the exportation of Canadian waste products to other countries due to a limited capacity and limited industry here in Canada. Several alarms were raised previously – in early 2019 – around this trend – though it is being re-examined in September 2019.

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Climate change is not smoke or is real and its coming to get us. Observe good scientiffic information coming from the brains of NASA.

CLARREO : a satellite that can help make our space based scientiffic instruments much more accurate and powerful.

And I thought he was just an action hero…

Garbage Bags are Canadian

Did you know garbage bags are a Canadian invention circa. 1950s? Perhaps there is increased research and development potential here. For many years – they were manufactured in my hometown – among other locations – though the City of Kawartha Lakes recently banned black garbage bags in hopes of reducing trash output and promote increased recycling rates (clear bags = ease of identifying recycling materials in garbage; etc.). Residents are allowed one small opaque bag per trash collection cycle.

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Polluting by Protesters?

I read online that the Climate Action Summit at the United Nations began on 23 September 2019. I am curious if anyone is calculating or tracking the various ecological impacts (emissions, etc.) from this conference. Photos on social media indicated a large number of delegates from all over the world – as well as thousands of protesters. How many emissions are from the delegates flying or travelling in to New York for this conference? Surely some live near the city – but others are travelling thousands of kilometers to reach the conference. On the same note – does the protest – of which Ms. Thunberg is the figurehead – have a net negative or net positive impact on climate change re: total emissions, etc.?

Furthermore, does the United Nations track the emissions / climate change impact from their delegates? I have seen on social media and news agencies that the Secretary General (Antonio Guterres) travels all over the place – in short periods of time – such as flying to Mozambique then Tuvalu then Philippines, etc. What is the climate impact of all this air travel over the course of the year?

Greens don’t love pipelines

Green party leader Elizabeth May recently said that sometimes she will “feel like, ‘When did the media decide they want to beat up on us [Greens]?’”

Could it have something to do with her party’s platform promise, if elected, to kill the Trans Mountain dilbit pipeline expansion project? …

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Get your electricity from a quartz crystal

Piezoelectricity is the generation of electricity and energy through compression of materials – most often mechanical compression of crystalline materials – such as quartz. Quartz watches have used this form of energy generation for years. Additional proposed applications of this field of energy production include a dance floor at a night club that generates electricity as folks dance; or a road that generates electricity as cars drive on it.

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Artificial Islands?

Several nations have explored options of artificial islands to mitigate climate change and other political situations. One of the most famous at present is China’s activity in the South China Sea around the Paracel Island.

The Maldives constructed an artificial island via dredging a shallow area of sea several years ago. This allegedly is to mitigate congestion on the main capital island of Male.

“A Flood-Resistant Island:

You catch a ferry from a part of Male where motorcycles clog the narrow streets and fishermen gut their morning catch on the sidewalk. A few minutes later, you arrive in a brand new world, the island of Hulhumale. It’s an artificial island built by engineers, not volcanoes.

When the ferry arrives, you step up onto this island. The streets are straight and wide. There’s a new hospital, new schools, new government buildings, new apartments — all several feet higher than the rest of the Maldives.
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What about floods?

Several urban areas have begun seawall construction to try and mitigate regional flooding and/or evacuation. Are there similar ecosystem options to mangroves for areas where mangroves are not native and/or the climate is not welcoming to them? Malé in the Maldives has begun an artificial seawall construction around the city – funded partly by Japan. New York has additionally begun investigating (if not constructing) systems to mitigate flooding on Lower Manhattan. Is there opportunity for a mix of artificial and natural seawalls and seawall alternatives? Other nations – such as Fiji (and potentially Kiribati and Tuvalu)- have begun looking for land in other countries to purchase to move their population(s) as climate refugees. Is there a clear legal situation for climate refugees? I am not sure if there is a precedent in history before – though there are certainly examples of forced relocation.

MHD additionally has applications for the desalination of water. This has been in research and development since the 1980s (I think).

Next:Try Magnets?

Magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) has potential as a source of environmentally friendly energy. Here are some excerpts from papers on the topic:

” The fundamental concept behind MHD is the magnetic field can induce currents in moving conductive fluid, which in turns creates force on the fluid and also changes the magnetic field itself. The generator used in this process is called Magneto Hydro Dynamic (MHD) Power Generator. MHD power generator don’t have any mechanical part to produce current and the actual conductor are replaced by magneto-fluid (plasmas gas, liquid metals, and salt water).
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Egypt’s big solar park

Have folks heard of the Benban Solar Park? It is a series of 41 land plots in Egypt – ranging from 0.3 to 1 square kilometer. The plots are designed to generate solar energy – in the largest such complex globally. Interesting, instead of one company running it- each plot is to be leased (or sold) to a different company or group of companies. Interesting notion here – as it seems most solar panel installations (on a commerical scale) are managed or owned by one company.

How do the big corporate powers get to damage the environment this way?

Pesticides in our Food

Poisoning has a long history

“By the 1920s, U.S. fruit growers were plastering on lead arsenate in such amounts that they were starting to poison their customers. In 1919, the Boston Health Department destroyed arsenic contaminated apples because people were getting sick. The follow year, it had to do it again. In 1919, California health officials discovered with alarm that arsenic residues tended to stick to fruit, meaning the poison was hard to remove.

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China allegedly continued using arsenic-based pesticides until the early 2000s.

Beware of Poisonous Pesticides on your Food

In the late nineteenth through mid-twentieth century, the United States (among other nations) used arsenic and lead based pesticides in agricultural contexts. Arsenic was additionally used to make green paint at this time. I wonder what the legacy of this trend is on environmental health. Could this be impacting bees and/or human health? It is unclear to me how long the compounds stay in the soil – though even the subsequent generations of pesticide chemicals were toxic too.

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You can help! Hunt for seeds!

“Canadians asked to find ash trees in a bid to preserve the species: Co-ordinator for the National Tree Seed Centre in Fredericton, McPhee is asking Canadians to help him find mature stands where seeds can be gathered and later stored for future generations in the centre’s deep-freeze vaults.

“We’re looking to protect the genetic diversity of the species,” McPhee said in an interview. “We’re looking for natural stands of trees that are in seed …. We want Canadians to be our eyes — to let us know they’re out there.”

“Jon Sweeney, a research scientist with the Canadian Forest Service, said the loss of ash trees also means the loss of the 44 species of insects and other organisms that depend on this particular type of tree.

“When the ash trees go, you lose more than the trees,” said Sweeney. “You get complications.”

“Aside from the environmental impact, there will be an economic impact as well, considering white ash is used to make baseball bats, hockey sticks, canoe paddles and many types of tool handles, ladders and furniture.

“It’s going to cost municipalities millions, if not billions, of dollars to cover tree removal and replacement costs,” Sweeney said from Fredericton.

“It can cost you $200 to take a tree down, or it can cost you $2,000 … (And) if your house is no longer shaded, you’ll be paying more for air conditioning.”

More information available here:

Tripping over the Cord

Electric cars may have potential to mitigate environmental impacts – but where is the infrastructure re: charging stations, etc.?

In Toronto – a homeowner owned an electric car and tried to charge the battery while it was parked on the street in front of their home. Municipal bylaw indicated this is not allowed – due to the hazard of someone tripping over the cord running over the sidewalk – city officials indicated this would additionally be a violation of multiple building and electrical codes.

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For many decades toxic materials were used in construction – such as asbestos and heavy metal based paints. When buildings are demolished or renovated – where do these materials end up? I am hoping that in most cases they are safely disposed of – but what if these end up as infill or in a garbage dump? Who’s monitoring this kind of thing?

Nutrition in the South Pacific

Environmental considerations is a rather broad category in this circumstance. I am particularly curious around this in relation to remote areas – such as the South Pacific states. A number of these areas have exceptionally poor nutrition statistics, with high rates of chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, etc.

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Ontario, does Quebec have a deal for you?

Is it still cheaper to import hydroelectric energy from Northern Ontario and Quebec versus. refurbishing the nuclear reactors in Ontario? I heard rumours it was about 12 cents cheaper (over the long-term) per kilowatt to import hydroelectric than it was to invest in re-furbishing the reactors. Certainly Quebec has surplus electricity from its remarkable dams. I wonder how many jobs can be created by tapping Northern Ontario’s renewable energy potential…?

Fence your backyard with solar panels!

I saw a photo circulating on social media regarding adaptive use of solar panels as fencing materials. Apparently solar panels are becoming cheaper and more flexible — and as such — there are a range of adaptive uses for them. One of interest was solar panel fences in sunny areas. Could provide an additional boost for a home via a garden!

Everything for the sake of jobs?

Whether it’s the mass deforestation and incineration of the Amazonian rainforest (which produces 20 percent of Earth’s oxygen), a B.C. midsummer’s snowfall, a vicious heatwave, a near-extinct whale species gradually dying off, unprecedentedly large-scale flooding or geologically invasive/destructive fracking or mass deforestation or increasingly dry forests resulting in record-breaking deadly wildfires in California and B.C. or a myriad of other categories of large-scale toxic pollutant emissions and dumps, there’s discouragingly insufficient political gonad planet-wide to sufficiently address it.
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Plenty of oxygen

I gained a huge amount of surprising knowledge from this extraordinary article. It explains how the whole carbon cycle works in nature and why we’re not going to run out of oxygen — though humankind is doing something terrible.

The Amazon Is Not Earth’s Lungs
Humans could burn every living thing on the planet and still not dent its oxygen supply.
By Petet Brannen. The Atlantic Aug 27, 2019

Second Life for Plastics

“A pilot project in Whitby, Ont., is using technology to give plastic waste a second life by turning it into diesel fuel and gasoline.

The technology, dubbed the Phoenix, can convert single-use items like plastic bags and Styrofoam — items that would otherwise end up in landfill.

John O’Bireck, president of energy investment company Sparta Group, says he sees plastic “as a resource, not a scourge.”

He says the fuel produced by Phoenix is already being used in his company’s fleet of trucks that transport industrial waste. “Five tonnes of plastic can be converted into about 4,000 litres. And 4,000 litres can drive our whole fleet of 10 vehicles back and forth every day running 16 hours a day.”

O’Bireck says Phoenix uses a process involving pyrolysis — using heat to bring about decomposition — to upcycle plastics that can’t go into the recycling stream.”

Why are climate deniers so hostile to women?

Here’s an article from The New Republic:

The Green Old Deal

By William Hawes

There are a lot of things to like about the recent resolution for the Green New Deal. The commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the acknowledgment of the catastrophic events that will occur if the world does not act soon- these are all healthy signs. Like Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign which removed many stigmas about socialism, raising public consciousness about the structural changes needed to lessen the impacts of global warming are to be commended.

However, there are very serious problems with the language of the resolution, as well as the underlying assumptions, biases, and ideology which pervades the text.

Starting with an obvious problem, the “Green New Deal” is based on the political and economic mobilization of FDR’s New Deal. It was the New Deal, essentially, which saved capitalism from collapse in the US in the 1930s. If the Green New Deal is saying anything, it is offering cover to the ruling class- here is your propaganda model out of this mess you’ve created; here is another chance to save capitalism from itself. It’s a false promise of course, as no purely technological scheme based in a capitalist economy will be able to fix what’s coming, but it’s a very convenient narrative for capitalist elites to cling to.

Roosevelt’s New Deal placated workers and bought time for the bourgeoisie to rally, but it was the combined forces of post-WWII macroeconomic Keynesian economic stability, high taxes on the wealthy, the Bretton Woods agreement, the Marshall Plan and reconstruction of Japan which helped grow the middle classes in the mid-20th century.

Indeed, the Green New Deal (GND) mimics the mainline liberal/reformist agenda when it pledges to try: “directing investments to spur economic development, deepen and diversify industry and business in local and regional economies, and build wealth and community ownership, while prioritizing high-quality job creation…”

That’s about as boilerplate as one can get. You’d expect to hear this blather from anywhere on the mainstream spectrum, out of the mouth of a Chamber of Commerce hack or a College Republican newsletter.

Another issue of basic civil decency is that the GND is blatantly cribbing from the Green Party’s own ideas, and then watering them down, without any reference to their origins. The limitations of the GPUS do not need to be run through here, but the point remains: stealing policies from others who have been campaigning on this platform for decades, without offering even a token of acknowledgement, is not a good look.

I mean, this is all so obvious, and frankly, it’s disheartening and embarrassing to live in a country with such little common sense.

There’s more. The resolution calls for “net-zero global emissions by 2050”. This sounds great, except it leaves the foot in the door for a carbon trading scheme, where polluters will pay to offset their emissions with money, “investments in technology”, false promises to plant tree farms which they can renege on in court battles, etc.

Further, the GND states that it supports:
“to promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing historic oppression of indigenous peoples, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth”

It calls for:
“[The] Green New Deal must be developed through transparent and inclusive consultation, collaboration, and partnership with frontline and vulnerable communities, labor unions, worker cooperatives, civil society groups, academia, and businesses…”

First, who in Congress is talking about implementing the kind of direct democratic practices alluded to here, or drawing on the expertise of community leaders, local governments, etc? Nobody. Who in Congress is calling for actually concrete material reparations, reconciliation, and public methods to heal the intergenerational traumas, inequities, and systemic racism and classism which continue to punish vulnerable communities? No one. Who in Congress is calling for an end to our intervention in Venezuela and supporting the Maduro government from the obvious covert and military-corporate machinations currently underway? Not a soul.

I understand that this resolution is a first sketch, a very early draft which may go through many changes. I am not interested in demeaning people who are serious about fighting climate change; or scoring points by being “more radical” than others; or by igniting controversy around a critical “hot take” of the GND.

What I am curious about is how those in Congress foresee the types of jobs being created. Are we going to have millions of people planting trees (the best way to slow down climate change) or millions toiling in wind and solar factories? The most effective way to slow global warming would be to support the Trillion Tree Campaign.

Another ridiculous oversight is the lack of acknowledgement in the resolution of quite possibly the 2nd most pressing issue regarding humankinds’ survival, the threat of nuclear war and militarism. Obviously only international cooperation can determine the nuclear states relinquishing their arsenals, as well as shut down all reactors worldwide. Further, the huge budget of the military and the interests of the defense companies in promoting endless wars are not called out.

The only way a GND can work is through international collaboration. Asking other countries with far fewer resources, infrastructure, and technology at their disposal to “follow our lead” as we undergo a purely domestic New Deal within our 50 states and territories is cruel, shortsighted, and disingenuous. It would be the 21st century analogy to socialism in one country, expecting other nations to simply deal with the wreckage of climate disasters after we’ve fucked over the entire world.

What I’m attempting to sketch out is that to even put a dent in global warming in the 21st century and beyond, the feeble approaches by bourgeois democrats must be denounced for what they are. A GND for the USA as the “leader” is not in the cards; the analogy I’d use is more like a fully international Green Manhattan Project.

This would mean councils of expert indigenous peoples, climate scientists, ecologists, and socio-psychological experts in conflict resolution and ecological and cultural mediation worldwide would begin directing and implementing structural transformations of society, by addressing the separation from nature, historical amnesia, and emotional numbness endemic to Western society.

Natural building methods would have to take prominence over Green-washed corporate-approved LEED standards, massive conservation, ecological and restoration projects would have to get underway, along with the relocation of millions globally who live in unsustainably arid or resource hungry areas, and programs for regenerative organic agriculture would need to begin being taught to our youth right now. Is anything like this happening or being talked about in the mainstream?

These supporters in Congress as well as most progressives are assuming we still have twelve years to act, which the latest IPCC report warned was the maximum amount of time left. Perhaps people should be reminded that 12 years is just an estimate. We might have two years. We may be already over the tipping point.

Really, this is all just bullshit for Democrats to get each other reelected by LARPing as progressives and social democrats, and anyone with half a brain can see that. There can be no mass green transportation system unless urban cores get significantly denser, because as of now, perhaps half the country is still based on a post-WWII design to accommodate the whimsies of suburban property developers who only cared for profit and segregated communities, city planners with no conception of the consequences of rising energy demand, and homeowners in the fifties who likewise did not understand the devastation that sprawl, large energy-hogging single family homes, inefficient energy transmission, and long commutes would contribute to global warming.

How many mountains would need to be mined and blasted, how many wild plants and animals killed and desecrated, and rivers and waterways polluted would it take to get every soccer mom and Joe six-pack a new electric vehicle?

It is possible that only a mass relocation to urban cores with public infrastructure and fair compensation for citizens to move would allow for a green transportation and energy network to work properly. If not explained properly, these positive ideas for change would only feed into conservative far-right paranoia.

There are two people in Congress out of 535 that identify as anti-capitalist. The evidence even for these two is lacking, and we don’t have time to wait electing the other 270 or so. The military, financial institutions, defense companies, fossil fuel multinationals, intelligence sectors, and mainstream media are in total lockstep on the march towards societal and economic collapse and continued ecological degradation. Can anyone see the Pentagon, Halliburton, Shell and BP, and any Democrat or Republican giving away the equivalent of trillions of dollars in renewable technology, resources, IT networks, medicine, etc., to sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, or Southeast Asia? I didn’t think so.

If even self-proclaimed socialists like Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez don’t have the guts to speak out against imperial mechanized drone warfare and the CIA literally fomenting a coup in Venezuela, and the majority of citizens having no problem with this, it just goes to show the lack of empathy and education in this country. Both of them are childish and uneducated; and should be treated as such, even if we should show conditional support for this preliminary GND, if only because it could theoretically morph into something promising.

In short, this first draft GND is “old” for a couple reasons: first, the economic model and the signaling in the language come directly from the liberal-bourgeois-reformism of the FDR administration. Second, it is old in the sense of being behind the times environmentally; it doesn’t keep up with what science proves is necessary for humanity to thrive: the GND does not call for economic degrowth, a reduction in energy demand, a sharp reduction in obtaining protein from meat, and a thoroughly anti-capitalist method to regenerate civic life and the public commons.

The flip side is that to thrive in a truly green future, we will have to re-examine truly ancient “old” Green methods to balance the “new” methods of technological innovation: the ancient ways of working with nature that indigenous traditions have honed, which has provided humanity with abundance for tens of thousands of years.

Natural building, creating and promoting existing holistic, alternative medicine, localizing energy and agricultural production, and growing food forests must be at the top of any agenda for humankind in the 21st century. This might seem impossible to our Congress because these methods do not cater to “marketplace solutions”, do not rely on factories and financialization, do not use patents to create monopolies, i.e., because these priorities do not put more power in the hands of capitalists.

Here are a few final thoughts. The first is the whole premise of the GND is based on a very reductionist, analytical, and Anglo style of thinking. Basically, this resolution is insinuating that we can change everything about the economy and forestall climate change without taking apart the financial sectors, the war machine, etc.

The second thought follows form the first, which is that the Continental thinkers offer a more grounded, immanent approach which examines how capital itself has warped human nature.

Specifically, many important researchers demonstrated how the culture industry has manufactured ignorance, false needs, and ennui on a mass basis.

For instance, in a US context, to put it in very crude stereotypes, how are we going to convince one half of the country to stop eating red meat, give up their pickup trucks, put their guns in a neighborhood public depot, and stop electing outright racists and sexists. On the other hand, how can we convince the other half to give up their Starbucks on every corner, give up their plane travel to exotic locations, not buy that 2nd posh home to rent out on Airbnb which leads to gentrification, etc.

Basically, most middle class people in the US don’t want to fundamentally change as of yet, and this resolution won’t have the force to confront the utterly fake, conformist, and escapist lifestyles most US citizens continue to choose at least partially of their own volition.

Simple, clear language is important to energize citizens and can lead to catalyzing change. The concept of the Green New Deal could very well be that theme which unites us. One hundred and two years ago, it was those three special words “Peace, land, bread” which helped unite a nation and sparked a revolution.

Here’s one last thing to chew on. In the 21st century, the nation-state has proven that its time is over, as it provides a vehicle which centralizes corporate and military power that now threatens the existence of life on this planet. The Green New Deal calls for:

“obtaining the free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous peoples for all decisions that affect indigenous peoples and their traditional territories, honoring all treaties and agreements with indigenous peoples, and protecting and enforcing the sovereignty and land rights of indigenous peoples…”

Although it is clear the writers meant this in a very general and vague kind of way, as obviously not a single agreement has been “honored” going back 500 years by invading settler-colonialists, enforcing the sovereignty and land rights of indigenous peoples would mean the abolition of the USA. That’s a Green New Deal I can work with.

WRITTEN BY William Hawes. Author of the ebook Planetary Vision: Essays on Freedom and Empire. Visit my website

Is 3-d printed construction really green?

I would think that 3d printing of buildings using special formulations of concrete would have a low carbon footprint if the machinery doing so would be mainly electric and solar recharged perhaps. That carries with it a unique set of problems. Like how do you tap into electricity that was formerly generated through diesel engines?

More powerful battery systems need to be developed. But another way to reduce the carbon emissions is maybe have more pre-fab housing built then transported onsite. This would make the 3d printing process easy to set up. However it might add to the glut of transport trailers on our highways. But then again even Tesla is building electric trucks.comment image

What is Mass Timber?

Paul, I learned a lot from my interview with you and Michael Yorke — especially about the merits of “mass timber,” which I had never heard about before. I was concerned that using wood for construction might make for firetraps, so it was very instructive to learn that when you use thick pieces of wood they just char on the outside and retain their structure inside quite well. That is certainly reassuring, and I think more other people need to hear that news too.

We must Cut Carbon out of Construction – NOW!

By Paul Dowsett, OAA, FRAIC, LEED AP
Principal Architect — Sustainable. Architecture for a Healthy Planet. August, 2019

Five months. That’s all we have to transform as an industry. Seventeen months if we’re being generous. And transform we must! There is no option – or planet – B.

Being an architect, I look at my own industry, to determine the state we’re in, and more importantly, to propose how we can, and must, change.

The act of city building would not be possible without the literal city builders, i.e. the entire construction industry – building owners and managers, architects and engineers, general contractors and tradespeople, and material manufacturers and suppliers.

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Remember the California wildfires…now we have the amazon wildfires…why are these fires happening all of a sudden. CNN is reporting on the situation and its looking pretty grim for global warming. We need trees because they convert carbon dioxide to oxygen, not to mention protect wildlife and provide the ecosystem they need to survive. Hopefully someone will develop a strategy for dealing with these catastrophic events so that action can be taken when something like this occurs. With all the incredibly technology we have we could at least help save some of our important worldly resources. How is fire fighting drone technology coming along? Can it be used under the circumstances? How can it be organized and deployed? I hope the world’s leaders are considering such an option.

Protect the Oak Savannahs

An interesting article by Julie Jocsak at the Saint Catharine’s Standard (1 March 2019) around the restoration of oak savannah ecosystems in the Niagara region of Ontario. Many oak savannas have been over-taken by introduced and invasive species, threatening endemic and native eco-systems’ flora and fauna.

Many more cities have floods now, due to climate change. But Berlin is requiring all new developments implement on-site storm-water management. This has led to a building boom of green roofs. I wonder how long green roofs last vs. “traditional” roofing materials. Some areas of Scandinavia have been using green roofs for centuries – such as the Faroe Islands.

“Traditional” roofing material has its drawbacks as well — when Notre Dame burned, the lead roof vaporized, releasing tons of lead into Paris’ atmosphere – leading to health concerns for children in surrounding areas.

In Ontario, several articles recently estimated that 15-30% of landfill waste was from demolished buildings. Is it more environmentally friendly to demolish buildings rather than retrofit them? Do building codes plan for the eventual demolition and disposal of building components? Is there a better solution than simply dumping them in landfills?

How Climate Change Could Trigger the Next Global Financial Crisis

By Robinson Meyer | The Atlantic | 1 August 2019

“In other words, the success of the delaying tactics of the carbon lobby create a situation in which we’re then faced with the possibility of a sudden regulatory shock, something that really inflicts major losses.”

Many ideas discussed in this outstanding interview with the financial historian Adam Tooze.

“Tooze: I mean, that’s been the green-modernization agenda of climate politics, certainly in Europe, since the 1980s, right? This is not simply a zero-sum game; this is a structural transformation that has many very attractive properties. There’s loads of excellent jobs that could be created in this kind of transition.”

Everyone is focused on plastic recycling now. I saw a clear plastic bottle the other day that is 45% made from plant material. It looked like any other water bottle. A bit flexible.
The really interesting invention is that place in Arizona or some nearby SW state where they have built a set of buildings out in the desert made largely from old tires. They pile the tires up, put something in them (dirt or is it concrete?) and that is their wall. Terrific insulation. Very thick. I bet the acoustics are good too.

It must have some effect, Beverly, because carbon taxation works. I don’t hearing anyone discussing the price of gasoline, but nevertheless the evidence shows that they don’t drive as much when it is expensive.

Save the Permafrost from Fires

The permafrost is a huge carbon sink. These wildfires in the Arctic must be speeding up the melting. Does anyone know how much effect they are having?

Howard, we should ask a vegan. They are presumably setting the standards for the rest of us to follow. I think Bill Clinton is a vegan now, isn’t he? Do vegans eat eggs?

WhatsApp and Youtube elected Bonsonaro?

Seriously, something has to be done urgently about Bolsonaro’s horrible policies. Surely he must be open to a financial deal, isn’t he? Who is trying to organize a campaign to pay him to keep the rainforest intact?

I just read an article about how he was elected by a combination of YouTube and WhatApp — though they didn’t intend to do it. It seems that the poor of Brazil rely on WhatApp to get clips of videos that they cannot afford to watch with YouTube (I guess the connectivity price is too high or something). So there were right-wing disinformation campaigns on YouTube that got picked up and spread among working class Brazilians, who therefore voted for Bolsonaro on the basis of it.

How can Humanity Defend Ourselves from Demagogues?

This Bolsonaro guy is apparently one of the most dangerous people on the planet. What can the rest of the world do about his policies?

See the New York Times on Amazon deforestation here.

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Got milk? Not so much. Health Canada’s new food guide drops ‘milk and alternatives’ and favours plant-based protein
Sharon Kirkey
January 22, 2019
Canada’s new food guide, the first update in more than a decade, recommends fruits and vegetables make up half our plates at any meal. . . Drink water. Go light on the animal products. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Fruit juice is liquid sugar, not fruit. Avoid processed foods. Limit booze.. . .

The International Code Council is not universal. Many states have their own building codes, so presumably China has its own. Probably it is promoting its standards abroad too, as it gains influence around the world. That is fine, so long as the buildings are well-constructed. Remember how some schools collapsed in China a few years ago? That’s not the building code we’d favor!

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Use price signals!

The demand system management idea depends on using prices signals to influence consumers, so we use electricity more during the hours when it is cheap. But not many people pay attention to the price of the electricity, do they? Is this an effective motivator?

Demand Management Can Help

The demand management angle is especially important, but not always recognized. Energy demand management systems aim to optimize the demand-supply and optimize energy generation and transmission systems. Energy demand systems are automated systems that send signals to the customers to shed load depending on systems conditions. It also informs the system supervisors about the coming changes in demand patterns.

Currently, about 45% of the world’s steel production comes from recycled metal, along with about one third of the world’s aluminum and over 40% of the world’s copper. In 2014, approximately 135 million metric tons of scrap metal was recycled in the United States alone.

China’s green architecture goes global

By Charlotte Middlehurst

The future of urban design in China is open source, international and sustainable, the Chinese winner of a 2016 Ashden Award tells Charlotte Middlehurst

Wei Zhang begins his presentation with a slide of striking images. On one half of the slide there’s a photo of a smoggy day in Beijing, where buildings are barely visible because of thick smog. On the other is the same skyline but with blue skies. They read: “damage” and “prosperity”, respectively.

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The California Effect

There is a term — the “California effect” — that describes the greater power of California than that of Trump. He is trying to relax the standards of efficiency for cars, but California is holding the line on their tough standards. And because they account for so many car owners, the car companies stick to the California standards instead of Trump’s preferred ones. But I read that Trump is trying to force them to go along with the federal law. Where does that fight stand at the moment? I haven’t seen any reference to it in the paper lately.

How Good are Hydrogen Trucks?

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Trucks
Article by Nicolas Pocard | May. 17, 2018

How many trucks do you see on the road on any given day? Likely, quite a few. Heavy duty transport is a crucial element in moving the products we all rely on.

And this transport volume is showing no signs of slowing down. As the global economies further entwine, we are increasingly dependent on the movement of goods via trucks. ….. .

‘This Is Not Normal’: Record-Smashing European Heat Wave Sparks Demands to Combat Climate Emergency

“The climate is changing. Use your voice, wallet, and votes to fight it.”

by Jessica Corbett, staff writer, Common Dreams

Are there still extensive wild fires throughout Europe? I heard they were particularly bad in Portugal among other regions.

N.Y. Commits $55 Million to Long Island Energy Storage
Program includes commercial and residential storage projects

This is a serious critique of the potential that forestry offers for reducing climate change. I cannot appraise it but I think it should be taken seriously I hope someone works through the logic.

For First Time Ever, Scientists Identify How Many Trees to Plant and Where to Plant Them to Stop Climate Crisis
Good News Network

Jul 7, 2019
Around 0.9 billion hectares (2.2 billion acres) of land worldwide would be suitable for reforestation, which could ultimately capture two thirds of human-made carbon emissions.
The Crowther Lab of ETH Zurich has published a study in the journal Science that shows this would be the most effective method to combat climate change.
The Crowther Lab at ETH Zurich investigates nature-based solutions to climate change. In their latest study, the researchers showed for the first time where in the world new trees could grow and how much carbon they would store.
Study lead author and postdoc at the Crowther Lab Jean-François Bastin explains: “One aspect was of particular importance to us as we did the calculations: we excluded cities or agricultural areas from the total restoration potential as these areas are needed for human life.”
LOOK: Rooftop Panels of Tiny Plants Can Cleanse Polluted Air at 100 Times the Rate of a Single Tree
The researchers calculated that under the current climate conditions, Earth’s land could support 4.4 billion hectares of continuous tree cover. That is 1.6 billion more than the currently existing 2.8 billion hectares. Of these 1.6 billion hectares, 0.9 billion hectares fulfill the criterion of not being used by humans. This means that there is currently an area of the size of the US available for tree restoration. Once mature, these new forests could store 205 billion tonnes of carbon: about two thirds of the 300 billion tonnes of carbon that has been released into the atmosphere as a result of human activity since the Industrial Revolution.
Photo by Crowther Lab / ETH Zurich
According to Prof. Thomas Crowther, co-author of the study and founder of the Crowther Lab at ETH Zurich: “We all knew that restoring forests could play a part in tackling climate change, but we didn’t really know how big the impact would be. Our study shows clearly that forest restoration is the best climate change solution available today. But we must act quickly, as new forests will take decades to mature and achieve their full potential as a source of natural carbon storage.”
WATCH: Tree-Planting Drones Have Successfully Planted Thousands of Saplings – and They’re About to Plant More
The study also shows which parts of the world are most suited to forest restoration. The greatest potential can be found in just six countries: Russia (151 million hectares); the US (103 million hectares); Canada (78.4 million hectares); Australia (58 million hectares); Brazil (49.7 million hectares); and China (40.2 million hectares).

Many current climate models are wrong in expecting climate change to increase global tree cover, the study warns. It finds that there is likely to be an increase in the area of northern boreal forests in regions such as Siberia, but tree cover there averages only 30 to 40%. These gains would be outweighed by the losses suffered in dense tropical forests, which typically have 90 to 100% percent tree cover.
CHECK OUT: NASA Happily Reports the Earth is Greener, With More Trees Than 20 Years Ago–and It’s Thanks to China, India
A tool on the Crowther Lab website enables users to look at any point on the globe, and find out how many trees could grow there and how much carbon they would store. It also offers lists of forest restoration organizations. The Crowther Lab will also be present at this year’s Scientifica (website available in German only) to show the new tool to visitors.
The Crowther Lab uses nature as a solution to: 1) better allocate resources – identifying those regions which, if restored appropriately, could have the biggest climate impact; 2) set realistic goals – with measurable targets to maximize the impact of restoration projects; and 3) monitor progress – to evaluate whether targets are being achieved over time, and take corrective action if necessary.
Reprinted from ETH Zürich


The federal government is putting up $15 million over four years to rescue the 50 Million Tree Program which was cut by the Ontario government of Premier Doug Ford in its last budget, CBC News has learned.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna made the announcement today in Ottawa, saying the new cash will extend the program for at least another four years.

She said in a statement to CBC News on Tuesday evening that preserving the program will mean cleaner air, a healthier environment and good local jobs.

“While Mr. Ford cuts programs that support tree planting … and tackling climate change, we will continue to invest in a clean future for our environment, our economy and our kids,” she said.

The 50 Million Tree Program had an annual budget of $4.7 million and had planted more than 27 million trees across the province since 2008. Its goal was to have 50 million planted by 2025.

But a day after Ontario’s budget was delivered, Forests Ontario, the non-profit group that oversees the program, was told funding for it was being eliminated.

This new funding will essentially support the planting and growth of 10 million trees, bringing the program’s total to 37 million. Support for the program beyond that target is not part of this announcement.

Ontario cancels program that aimed to plant 50 million trees
Doug Ford government one of the most ‘anti-environmental’ in generations, says Green Party leader
Rob Keen, CEO of Forests Ontario, said it takes three to four years for a tree to go from seed to planting.

Every year, the four key nurseries in Ontario participating in the program cultivate 2.5 million seeds between them, which they nurse over three years until they are ready to be planted in their permanent settings.

The funding cut left 7.5 million saplings at various stages of growth in limbo, with nursery owners unsure how they were going to fund their crops until they were ready to plant.

Sustaining the program
Nurseries have been asking if they should be planting seeds to be ready for 2023, Keen said.

“If you don’t have the funding in place … nurseries are not going to plant.”

The new funding “is fantastic because it provides that assurance that there’s going to be funding in there to use up the stock that is currently in the ground and plant some more stock,” he said.

Ed Patchell, CEO of the Ferguson Tree Nursery in Kemptville, Ont., also welcomes the funding. He told CBC News he has three million trees at his nursery at various stages of growth. He said he was unsure what to do with them but is pleased they will now be guaranteed a permanent home when they are ready to plant.

Ontario cuts conservation authority funding for flood programs
Internal poll finds voters have negative opinion of PCs environmental policies
“I think it’s great that the feds have stepped up. I would like to see the province step up, to see a value in the program and contribute as well, but we’ll see what happens,” he said.

While nurseries now have the confidence to plant a crop now for delivery in 2023, Keen said it remains unclear if there will be funding next year to plant again.

About 40 per cent forest cover is needed to ensure forest sustainability, Keen said, and the average right now in southern Ontario is 26 per cent, with some areas as low as five per cent.

“The 50 Million Tree Program has been great, but we need to plant one billion trees to really get the forest canopy up in southern Ontario,” he said.

Balancing the budget
Ontario’s Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry John Yakabuski told CBC in a statement that his government is focused on balancing the budget to “protect critical public services like health care and education.”

“In order to do this we have to maximize value for the taxpayer dollar,” he said. “We remind other levels of government that there is only one taxpayer, and that we have committed to balancing Ontario’s budget in a responsible manner.”

“Previous governments who did not share this commitment to fiscal restraint are responsible for saddling Ontario with a $347,000,000,000 debt.”

Yakabuski said that the 50 Million Tree Program only plants 2.5 million trees per year, while the forestry industry plants about 68 million trees annually.

CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices|About CBC News

From Derek Markham @derekmarkham
Perhaps one day in the distant future we’ll be able to go 3D-print an apple tree, or build an internet-connected modular maple tree from a kit, or have access to hyper-trees that grow at 10X the normal rate, but until that day arrives (and probably for long after), we’ll need to keep buying young trees, planting seeds, and taking cuttings the old-fashioned way, which is actually much simpler and cheaper than any tech solution to anything.

They say that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, but since we don’t have an app for time travel yet, we’ll have to focus on planting during the second best time, which is right now. And you don’t have to have a massive lot or backyard in order to plant trees for food, shade, or beauty, as there are many tree varieties that remain small enough to not crowd or shade out everything else, and which can function as either the canopy layer or the sub-canopy in permaculture-style plantings even in a smaller space.

Here are 10 great tree varieties for small yards and gardens:

1. Serviceberry:
A number of species of Amalanchier, or serviceberry, are available, with varying heights ranging from shrub-sized to small tree, and with some producing a delicious blueberry-like fruit after the fragrant white flowers are pollinated. Also called saskatoon, juneberry, shadbush, or sugar-plum, serviceberry trees also produce a flash of fall color when their leaves turn, and can thrive in a wide variety of climates.

2. Crape Myrtle:
Sometimes referred to as the “lilac of the South,” crape (or crepe) myrtle (Lagerstroemia) trees are well-suited to full sun locations, are heat tolerant, and produce showy flowers even in poor soil. A variety of sizes of crape myrtle are available, from a compact shrub to a 30-foot tree, with flowers ranging from white to fuchsia, and with an “exfoliating” bark that offers winter contrast.

3. Dogwood:
Although the flowering dogwood (Conus florida) is the most commonly seen kind of dogwood, there are a number of other varieties of dogwoods, ranging from shrub-sized to tree-sized, but most will thrive in moist, shadier locations. With showy flowers in white, pink, or red, dogwoods can add a burst of spring color to the yard, and certain species, such as the Korean dogwood (Cornus kousa) produce an edible fruit, while other species’ fruit is more suited to the wildlife.

4. Japanese Maple:
Acer palmatum is a fairly common landscape tree, and with good reason, as its small stature and bold colors can be a great accent in a little space. Japanese maple trees come in hundreds of varieties, with a wide range of leaf types, growth habits, and colors, but most of them are best suited for partially shaded locations, and although the flowers are rather modest, the fall leaf color of these trees can more than make up for that. Although the fruit (samara) isn’t edible, according to The Spruce, the Japanese sometimes fry the maple leaves to make candies.

5. Witchhazel:
The source of the common astringent named after it, witchhazel (or witch hazel) grows as a small tree or a large shrub bearing fragrant yellow or orange-red fall or winter flowers (which is why it’s also sometimes called winterbloom). With several species commonly available, and many cultivars, witchhazels come in a number of sizes and shapes, and as the Chicago Botanic Gardens says, “the only major drawback to witch hazels lies at their roots—a preference for well-drained, loamy, acidic soil means that they grow less than happily in clay soil.”

6: Elderberry:
Elderberries (Sambucus) are most often seen as shrubs, although varieties that grow more like a small tree are available, and their flowers and berries are good for pollinators and other wildlife, while the fruit is also prized for making jam, wine, pies, and other delicacies. According to, elderberries “grow best in a slightly acidic soil that is high in organic matter and stays consistently moist,” but that is well-drained, and are suited to full or part-sun locaions.

7: Apple:
Although a full-sized apple tree might overwhelm a small yard, dwarf apple trees can stay at or under 8 feet tall, while still producing a good-sized crop of full-sized fruit. There are literally thousands of varieties of apple trees, many of which are grafted onto dwarf rootstock, which keeps the trees smaller, while upper portion (the scion wood) determines the quality and type of fruit. From sweet early summer apples to late season keeper apples, there are apple varieties for just about any eating preference, and while some dwarf varieties can still grow larger than intended, judicious pruning can keep them in check. Many common fruit trees are available in dwarf sizes that would fit a small yard, such as peaches, apricots, pears, cherries, and more.

8: Fig:
There’s nothing quite like a ripe fig, right off the tree, and although figs seem like they’re only for Mediterranean zones, there are fig varieties that can be successfully grown in a number of different climates, and in small spaces. Fig trees can be cultivated in protected areas in some northern climates, and can even thrive in pots or containers, which can then be brought inside or sheltered during the winter, and in contrast with other fruit trees, can benefit from heavy pruning each year to keep them to size.

9. Vitex:
The chaste tree, or monk’s pepper (Vitex agnus-castus), is a multi-trunk small tree with clusters of fragrant purple flowers and lacy gray-green leaves. The fruit resembles a peppercorn and is used in alternative medicine, and the flowers are a favorite of butterflies, bees, and people alike. Vitex grows best in full or part-sun locations with well-drained soil, and can aggressively invade nearby soil in the right conditions. According to folklore, the tree was named so because it was believed that it was an anaphrodisiac, with medieval monks having chewed its leaves to help them maintain their vows of celibacy.

10: Redbud:
Redbud trees, which can actually have white, pink, red, or purple flowers, are a staple showy spring treat in the garden, and although some can grow 20 to 30 feet tall, can be a good addition to a smaller yard or garden, especially with some careful pruning. Redbud seeds are good forage for wildlife, and redbuds are said to be an important source of nectar and pollen for honeybees and other pollinators. This fast-growing tree prefers well-drained soil and full sun to part shade, and because it’s in the pea family, can get some of its nitrogen from the air so that only light fertilization is necessary.

The local climate needs to be taken into consideration, as well as any specific space and height constraints, before getting too far down the rabbit hole of looking at tree catalogs and nursery stock. With hundreds thousands of choices of species and varieties available, there’s a tree or shrub for just about any location, and the best guidance can come from local gardeners, orchardists, and arborists, who have hands-on experience, rather than just buying what looks good on an impulse.

There’s a new study proving that there’s enough room on the earth for another trillion trees at least, and if he hurry and plant the right kinds in the right places, we can slow global warming a lot. In fact, when the trees are mature about 40 to 70 years from now, they will be able to reverse most of the damage we’ve done, pulling back a lot of the carbon now in the atmosphere. But we have to hurry, and we have to do it right! It will take many billions of dollars, but it’s still the cheapest and best way.

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What’s the future of meat? This vegetarian meal looks delicious but where’s the protein?

Decentralization makes us less vulnerable. And one great form of decentralization is to own the solar panels on your roof and don’t feed the electricity back into the grid but store it. Here’s a familiar sight — the alternative, older approach.

A triumphant recycler!

The next time you build an office building, make it sustainable! Here’s a nice example.
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Where to put new trees?

Here’s new research showing that there’s enough room to plant another trillion trees, and that it is the best and cheapest way to help solve the climate crisis. I say “HELP solve,” because it will take too long for the trees to grow to expect them to do the job alone. But we have to start now.

Of course, there’s this alternative.

Depends on one’s perspective. I look at it as 1 person and 4,700 trees.
All we need is 637 other like minded individuals, or 319 at 9,400 trees

You have probably seen this wonderful video:

One of the problems with tree-centric innovation, and with too much of agriculture and knowledge in general is the failures to (a) collaborate, (b) listen, and (c) learn and then (d) try.
In some areas an innovation goes viral almost the minute it proves itself (1970’s use of growth hormones to aid beer production). In other areas, e.g. vaccine, the knowledge is resisted for stupid (and sad) reasons.

In the agriculture section here is a new collaboration where I know some of the people on the Indian (ekutir) side. See:

Several years ago I aided a bit in C. K. Mishra’s World Bank trip around Latin America explaining his ekitursb program helping tens of thousands of small farmers in India.
There was polite interest but nobody said “Oh boy, let’s try something like that here”.

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