environment, technology

The Answers to the Annoying Arguements— Prius vs. the SUV

Why are people so easily fooled?

Right off the bat it needs to be pointed out that the Prius isn’t 100% green, it probably isn’t even 50% green. That said, SUV’s are worse, even if a report by a marketing team uses bad science and silly assumptions to say it ain’t so.

There’s also those folks who talk about how commuting five miles in an SUV is better than commuting twenty miles in a Prius. No kidding! But that isn’t a proper comparison, it is just a terrible argument that completely fails to make any sense. Commutes in the US have steadily increased over the years, so the five mile commute is rare to say the least. But the important thing is that by creating two different distance there is no longer any point of comparison— driving those five miles using a Prius would be better than using an SUV.

Some folks talk about nickel and Sudbury, Ontario (which isn’t as polluted as it used to be, but is very far from being clean), tell them that the new Prius uses lithium batteries not nickel. Also, mention that nickel is used in the manufacturing of most cars, since nickel is needed to make stainless steel.

It might be interesting to point out that the H3 Hummer, and most SUV’s, get about as many miles per gallon as the Ford Model-T.

That said, the Prius isn’t perfect, everyone should make an effort to drive less when possible— no matter what you drive. It is important to remember that there isn’t one car out there that is a friend of the environment, only cars that are less hostile.

environment, technology

Wanted Dead or Alive: CO2 Reward: $25 Million

Sir Richard Branson along with Vice President Al Gore and some other unnamed (because no one loves them) people have offered up a $25 million dollar reward. What do you need to do to cash in? Invent a way to suck CO2 out of the air. Why? Well, Sir Richard said that:

The plot is often that no one believes the threat until it is almost too late and then the superhero steps in to save the day. Well, today we have a threat, we still have to convince many people that the threat is indeed urgent and real. We have no superhero, we have only our ingenuity to fall back on.

It seems an unlikely that anyone will win the “Virgin Challenge” (not to be confused with plots of 1970’s B-Movies or 2000’s A-Movies). But the great thing about this is that it keeps people thinking about climate change, and the reality that by 2100 the Earth could be nearly fifty degrees warmer on average1. People need to keep making the environment and issue, because it seems insanely easy for people to forget about it. People also need to see that this is a serious and urgent issue. That is what this prize is really accomplishing, if it can also create some sort of CO2 vacuum, then so much the better.

And just so you don’t think Sir Richard, the head honcho of Virgin, is fooling around— you should know that he has also pledged that for the next ten years all the profits from his travel companies will go to fighting global warming.

1 “Study Sees Earth’s Temperature Soaring by 2100.” Dunham, Will. Reuters

environment, whatnot

The Heart of Oil

It’s a tricky situation, but the gist of it is this— Exxon still hasn’t fairly compensated the people it hurt when the Valdez poured between 10.8 and 30 million gallons of poison into the Alaskan coastline on March 24th 1989. Exxon has various silly reasons for saying they don’t have to pay the people affected by one of the most destructive environmental disasters in history. Mostly they’ve said it was an accident and that they paid to clean things up and they think that is enough.

If a kid plays with matches in a field and accidentally burns a farmer’s entire crop, would cleaning the coals and paying for the seed be enough? Probably not. Imagine the farmer tried to get fair amount of money from that kid, and the kid responds that he has paid a lot already for the seeds, but you know that his parents have chipped and the amount that it cost him has been exaggerated a bit. Who do you feel sorry for? The kid or the farmer? Imagine now that while the farmer tries to get the kid to pay a fair amount he puts that amount in the bank. Imagine that the interest he makes on that money, the money that people agreed is owed to the farmer, has already doubled, but the kid just won’t pay.

exxon oil bird Today the Seattle PI reported that courts say Exxon doesn’t have to pay the $5.4 billion that was awarded to the people hurt by their mistakes. The reason is that there are new rues about caps for punitive damages. Exxon has said it payed enough, but insurance and, tax write offs have reduced their losses. The $5.4 billion Exxon owes folks has been set aside earning interest, most folks think the interest has exceeded $5.4 billion by now.

Exxon is coming out of the storm with a scratch, the people who depended on the natural resource that they completely screwed up are missing limbs. Ten percent of those who should have been compensated have died, that is how long this fight has been going on. Children born after the spill are preparing for college.

If you want to see the heart of oil, a heart that still beats at the same cold pace today, look no further than this. Fault has never been clearer, indifference to harm caused couldn’t be less stark. The question is will we learn to hear this twisted heart’s pumping elsewhere?

[tags]big oil, environment, exxon, oil, oil spills, valdez[/tags]

environment, seattle

Sounds Like Bad News

The Puget Sound is dying. All our water is in trouble. It’s nothing new, when I was in elementary school we learned about lakes dying because of pollution, it doesn’t take a huge leap to realize that it’ll happen to every body of water that see regualr pollution. Bigger bodies of water, like oceans, just take longer to screw up. We already doomed the polar bear, and now it looks like fish might be goners too.

The people of Seattle are trying to save the Puget Sound, but they don’t seem to be using science which might be a problem. Politicians and the public are all invited to weigh in on the best way to save the sound. I’m not against public debate, but I sure as heck don’t want my neighbor’s idea of how ecology works to be weighed equally with how expert ecologists know it works. The goal is to restore the sound to “good health” by 2020. Considering it is approaching catatonic right now that’s a hefty mission.

The important thing to realize is that not screwing up the environment will cost us, that means making some decisions that will be unpopular. Politicians hate doing that mostly because it could cost them campaign money and votes, and there lies the problem. The thing to realize is that it’s mostly an initial cost— most of the things that help the environment are more cost effective long term. Even changes that seem to cost more will cost us less. Buffer zones and maintain (or growing) forest cover doesn’t make anyone money, but it does aid the environment which is a very limited resource.

Everytime we do something that hurts the environment less we add to the economy. When we choose to continue using oil for instance we aren’t just paying our hard earned cash for that gas at the pump, we are paying by thawing Alaska’s permafrost, we are paying by spilling oil into the ocean, by pouring pollutant’s into our air and lungs, and so much more. It adds up quickly especially as the population grows and continues our legacy of oblivious contentment.

We have to consider that expecting the science of the next generation to come up with a magic pill and fix things is stupid. We have to consider that politicians won’t do anything until they have to and that doing the right thing is rarely fun. Passing our responsibilities off only makes the problems more difficult. What’s worse is that it’s an attitude that gets passed on and so any meaningful change is resisted.

That is why people born in thirty years won’t ever see a polar bear in the wild, and that is why the Puget Sound won’t be healthy by 2020.


The Environment, Stupid

At first I thought I was just seeing more and more about the environment because I was thinking about it more.  Now I realize that isn’t true.  As the problems with the our ecosystems are discovered there is just more news, whether it’s local, national, or international.  Things like ecosystems collapsing, politicians embracing “green” ideas and agendas, half the coral reefs dying in 25 years, and that our consumption of resources is outreaching their production.

I just wonder when it will all finally sink in for most folks.  I also wonder how bad it’ll have to be for that to happen and if there will be any thing to do once it final does become an obvious and undeniable problem. At one time President Clinton had a campaign platform that went (in part) “The economy, stupid.”  I think it is finally time that we hear a similar and equally important message from our current candidates, but this time regarding something that has a much more difficult time bouncing back, our environment.
[tags]environment, the environment stupid, ecosystems, politics, science[/tags]

environment, seattle

Green, but Certainly Not Blue

I’ve been amazed at how beautiful it is here in Seattle, the colors in the sky, the greenery, the mountains, the water.  Well, it turns out the water isn’t so great.  You might have guessed that when I posted the sign that warns of sewage in the water during rain that maybe the water isn’t so great.  Well, that would be a pretty good guess. It turns out they are having a lot of trouble with water pollution in this supposedly eco-friendly area.  Yes, trees are nice, but trees are one part of the environment and I think it is easy to forget the water so long as the surface looks ok-ish.  Recently I’ve been reading reports that talk about things like sewage ruining clam beds, weird white mat covered dead zones, fish killing oxygenless water, and oil spills.  In short, I think that this area is nearing a crisis point where folks won’t be able to ignore what they can’t see.

Seattle is a nice place, don’t get me wrong, and yes this is a problem being echoed around the world, but that just means that it’s time to take drastic measures to clean & protect this large and delicate resource we’ve been enjoying for so long now.

eating out, environment, outdoors, random, seattle, travel

Yum & Yuck

rowingI ate down by the water the other day at a Mexican restaurant called Agua Verde Cafe. The food was delicious, not too pricey, and it was happy hour so my beer only cost $2.50. Okay, can I just say that $2.50 does not a happy hour make, that’s more like a pleasant hour. It wasn’t like I got some expensive beer, it was a Pacifico. Anyway, I had this taco composed of yams, onions, and cheese with some sort of tasty sauce. It was called a Taco Boniato and it was worth every penny. We ate on the deck which was nice, but would have been nicer if the weather was just a tiny bit better, because then they would have had the removable sides taken down, giving a full view of the beautiful lake we were eating beside. After that my friend and I went down to the docks just below so that I could see what water looked like in Seattle. It looks just fine. Below Agua Verde is a paddle club where you can rent kayaks, at $15 an hour it seems worth it to be able to explore what looks like a pretty amazing seascape.
waterwarning signs

I mean, look at how pretty the water looks on the surface, [cue “hard hitting” tv “journalist” overdub] and yet beneath this seemingly pristine facade lies a terrible reality. After these messages!!
[cue commercial] Buy the new iPod

I found this sign posted in quite a few places. But hey, at how often could it possible rain in Seattle? Even if sewage isn’t overflowing into the water while I’m there I’d like to avoid anywhere that sewage ever overflows into. Look at that swimming person on the sign, why can’t he see what a terrible mistake he’s made!  I realize that birds, fish, and little kids do all sorts of business in the water, but sewage seems like taking it up to the next level.