Tuesday, April 29, 2008

earth day - continued

according to a recent study at the MIT, even hippies and homeless people in america consume more than double the energy of the average world citizen - because of our implicit consumption of government "services" such as:

- wars
- police
- libraries
- the IRS, CIA, & FBI
- subsidized mass transit
- welfare
- roads

i'm not sure if i agree that homeless people should really be responsible for part of this consumption, given that they don't pay taxes, but that is beside the point.

as a tax-paying citizen and resident, i do consume these services - most of them, i am happy to consume on a daily basis - but this means that i will tend to be nearer the national average for energy consumption. so i will consume nearly 5 times as much energy as the average inhabitant of the planet.

the article's keys to reducing energy consumption - they reinforce the biggies (housing, transport, food, and accumulation of stuff that i mentioned two posts ago), and suggest that the more local and labor-intensive option is preferable.

Monday, April 28, 2008


i've decided i'm not allergic to the sun anymore, specifically in the sense that me seeing excessively bright lights will no longer give me headaches.

if my understanding is correct, the pain directly behind my eyes was never caused by optical overload, but rather by my reaction to it. my first response to bright lights is to tense some of the muscles in the area. after a while, these muscles started to hurt, which i interpreted as a sunlight-induced headache. in anticipation of these headaches, i learned to fear the sun and get all squinty with the least exposure.

this theory is based on a conversation i had with a uncle(cousin)-in-law who is a doctor and said that a normal healthy body will adapt to virtually any sensory input.

my first test of it was while walking home today. it was beautiful sunny walk, bright enough that i would normally wear my industrial strength sunnies that are just a step and a half shy of a welding mask. i felt my eyes instinctively try to tense up a few times, but i relaxed them (i don't really know how i relaxed them, since i don't even know what it was that was tense in the first place, but i relaxed them, nonetheless). this first test was a success.

with any luck, i'll have more chances to test the theory soon.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

earth day - do it right or not at all

how could i resist?

things not to do this earth day:

buy a hybrid car (or any other new car or anything at all, really). your impact on the earth will be much less if you can push off the purchase of anything. production of goods, especially large complex machines made of metal, plastic, electronics, paint and lithium consumes huge amounts of resources that we don't really have effective ways to recycle. if you can live with the old car, tv, spatula, or whatever, it would be in the earth's best interest if you did.

move to the suburbs. america consumes hugely disproportionate amounts of energy and other resources in part because we live in american style suburbs and drive suburbans (a big GM SUV) to and from work. it seems to me most people move to the burbs to have a safer, more natural environment for their kids to grow up in. but those big houses, big yards, and long commutes are helping to displace nature and modify our atmosphere. i can't speak to the reality of raising kids in a soulless 'burb vs a compact city community, but the environmental impact of the city option is drastically less. smaller, more dense housing plus shorter commute distances and better mass transit options can only be more efficient.

eat anything. obviously, this is impractical, but you get the idea. the more local the consumption, the more likely that it will involve less of an environmental impact. but i can't easily say whether field grown tomatoes turned into cans of tomato paste in Florida and sent via rail across the country would be more or less efficient than hothouse grown "vine ripe" tomatoes grown locally and trucked to the farmer's market. (is it sometimes more environmentally responsible to avoid the farmer's market in favor of the processed and packaged goods?) the energy and other environmental impacts of food are open to a lot of discussion, but a few points are indisputable: less meat is better, and less industrial food-product is better (seriously, how much energy goes into that diet coke or individual cup of jello from which a body gets zero or negative nutritional value?).

yeah, so, if you feel like engaging in pointless token efforts that may do more harm than good, buy the compact fluorescent bulbs that every envori-org is tripping over themselves to promote. or the prius, or the ethanol fuel, or the solar panels, or any number of other idiotic greenwashed products. but, if you really want to reduce your impact, buy less, live closer and smaller, and eat simpler.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

unrelated 30's and an unmanageable australian water shortage?

kind of a mix of unconnected things, as per usual:

the top 50 highest paid hedge fund managers collectively got paid just shy of $30 billion last year. if these 50 people ran off and founded a new nation where they were the only citizens, its GDP would be about the same as the median national GDP for all of the countries in the world. generally, hedge fund managers only get paid when they kick ass and take names and it has been a tough year to do that, so maybe they deserve their pay. i don't mean to judge, just to point out the ludicrous.

speaking of ludicrous, it is expected that 30% of the corn produced in the US this year will be used to produce ethanol instead of food, because of this short-sighted (homicidal might be more accurate, as world hunger problems worsen because of this policy) pork-barrel policy that favors the corn states.

completely unrelatedly, Australia is having another water shortage, complete with bans on washing cars, watering lawns, etc and all sorts other ridiculous ineffective political machinations that ignore market forces. when it gets much worse, they'll start telling people how often they can shower. it makes me wonder how much of their water is really consumed for domestic purposes. it would be good to keep in mind that large amounts of water are consumed in the production of beef (approximately 441-1,500 gallons of fresh water per pound of beef in the US(about 4,000-12,000 liters per kilo)) (for reference, i am a pragmatist, not a vegetarian. if i lived in Oz, being the first might force me to embrace the second) if these numbers are remotely accurate for Australia, a simple water-saving measure would be to increase the cost of domestic beef by increasing the price of agricultural water supply or adding a water shortage tax to domestic beef. i imagine most households could much more easily remove one kilo of beef from their monthly consumption than they could reduce their domestic water use by 4,000 liters per month. it sounds like backwards politics are alive and well outside of the US.

Friday, April 4, 2008

iSport energy squeeze with Tuarine! and Electrolytes!

i've discovered the path to my fortune.

it is paved with marketing slogans and bits of my soul.

what do you get when you mix the three most popular (and idiotic) premium consumer products:

1) energy drinks
2) sport anything
3) techno luxury

let me introduce: the iSport energy squeeze with Tuarine! and Electrolytes!

it is a technologically advanced luxurious premium mix of replenishment and energization.

basically, red bull meets gatorade plus high fashion techno luxury.

it is a gel-form mix of high fructose corn syrup, sugar, caffeine, salt, and tuarine (whatever that is)

it will be sold under five different brand names (each emphasizing a different strength of the formulation, but each owned by me) in 3 different parts of your local grocery or convenience store.

my inspiration (from real life, i promise):

iFood - a tray of sandwiches available from a local deli. notice how well that ties in with the technological luxury brand image created by the ipod? yeah, me too.

Flav-R-Pops Sport with Electrolytes! - just like regular flav-r-pops, but with salt (i hate to spoil it for sport drink fans, but Electrolytes = salt. sport drink = water + salt. no kidding. there is a reason your sport drink and sweat both taste similar and both taste salty. it is because they are full of salt.)

Diphenhydramine HCL - aka Benadryl, Unisom, and Nytol, plus generic versions and alternative brands with precisely zero distinguishing features other than branding. you can find it in the sleep aid, antihistamine, and cold&flu sections. careful not to use the wrong one, though. who knows what might happen. you might get sleepy as a side effect of your pill for clear sinuses, instead of getting clear sinuses as a side effect of your gel cap that helps you get to sleep.

honestly. sometimes, the world we live in is too ridiculous for words.

how much is deforestation causing climate change?

i read an interesting article about how solar rays and correlated low cloud cover are not the cause of climate change, at least according to the latest study.

and an idea struck me. if lower atmosphere clouds (or the lack thereof) cause global warming, then the source of these clouds is pretty important. more than anything else, forests create clouds. sure, oceans and lakes create clouds along the coastlines, but virtually every molecule of water in the atmosphere more than about 100 miles inland has passed through a plant since it last saw the ocean.

this was my most important take away from my brief environmental science studies in university: if you cut down the fist 100 miles of the amazon rain forest, the rest would slowly dry up an die.

so, if forest create clouds, enhance evaporation, reduce heat absorption (vs bare ground), could they not be an important factor in determining the global temperature? how could they not be?

to re-enforce this idea, we could look at global forest cover over the last few centuries and how it correlates with global temperatures or create a model to examine impacts, which is what a few scientists did at the university of Kansas a few years ago. they found that tropical forests had a significant cooling effect, while temperate forests had a net warming effect, but that the impact was comparatively small at around 2 degrees C over the next 100 years.

i was kinda hoping i wouldn't find a paper on the subject. kinda bursts my bubble, really.

interestingly, the blurb doesn't specifically mention clouds, or the CO2 released by changing from forest to grassland, and, since it was done 3 years ago, couldn't have included cloud-causing bacteria considerations. instead, it focused only on heat reflectivity and moisture influence of ground covers.

so there.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008