Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Yes Men stunt

The Yes Men Stunt (in French, with video in English).

High summer despite Sun's low

Summer was hot, despite Sun's deep low.
In 2008, the Sun reached the lowest point of its 11 year cycle, and this time it was a deep low, the Sun was the coolest it has ever been since 1913. In 2009 and the following 4-5 years (half of its cycle), its temperature will rise. We can expect more 100+ summer temperatures.
According to NOAA, August and September 2009 were the second hottest on record, despite the Sun's deep low just ending.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Global Warming and the financial crisis

Remember my posts on April 2009, "Oil depletion will accelerate Global Warming", and "Changing Times"?
A reduction in oil usage (whether it is from oil depletion or a financial crisis), resulting in a reduction of particulate emission, which will make hotter summers and colder winters. This is exactly what we are seeing since Falls 2008. It may be a coincidence, but as time goes on and the pattern repeats, the probability of it being a coincidence decreases rapidly.

The Winter in 2008, Northern Hemisphere, was the coldest in a very long time. As a Master Gardener for Washington State, I volunteer for garden clinics. The most common plant diseases we were seeing in Spring: cold damage, plants that were injured or killed by unusually low temperatures.
The Southern Hemisphere Summer, happening at the same time, in Australia, was unusually hot. They had terrible forest fires.

The Summer 2009 in the Northern Hemisphere was unusually hot here in Washington state. We had 109F in my area, unseen according to locals. Here again, the damage on the vegetation is clear: a lot of dead dried trees, particularly evergreen trees in the mountains.

Now Falls has started. Although the temperatures are still warm, we have very cold nights. The day-night amplitude feels greater than usual. This also can be explained by a reduction of particulate pollution, as was measured during the 3 days following 9/11.

So we can expect the following weather patterns in the near future:
Colder Winters with higher precipitations.
Warmer Summers, heat waves, change of rain patterns, longer seasonal droughts.
Greater day/night amplitude during Spring and Falls.

Plant shade trees and super-insulate your house.

When will the American people finally accept responsibility? I suspect and fear it will take a major event, worse than the 2003 heat wave that killed 50,000 in Europe. I suspect a prolonged drought in the South, then a heat wave. Hydro dams will not have enough water, and nuclear reactors will be throttled down due to excessive heat. The stress that air conditioners will put on the grid could then overwhelm it.
A grid failure at the peak of a heat wave could be catastrophic. A large portion of the American South is unlivable without air conditioners.

It is sad that we are still debating scientists' findings.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

My Greywater System.

Lint from the washing machine water is the first cause of sceptic system failure. The content of the greywater from the washing machine is actually very beneficial to plants (organic materials, but also phosphates from the soap - phosphate is a fertilizer).

The setup includes a surge tank where the washing machine water comes in, an overflow going into the sewer or septic, an outlet going into the garden, and a small drainfield at the roots of one of my trees.


Inlet and overflow:



This system worked for a year. Since it is illegal to dispose of greywater above ground, I disconnected the system until I found a better solution. This involved building a reedbed for organic filtration, and underground piping for irriguation. The reedbed is described below:

Troughwall connection going to the reedbed:

Reedbed been build:

Reedbed filled with marsh plants:

Plant growth after 1 year:

Plant growth after 2 years:

Greywater from the reedbed:

Sustainable Living: priorities

Once you have decided to become self reliant, the first thing you will find out is that the way of life you have now is so far from self reliance that the task seems impossible. It is almost impossible to be completely self reliant today, but there are many things we can do in our families to decrease our reliance on society and government, and therefore decrease our vulnerability against adversity (unemployment, natural catastrophes, ...).
The best thing to start with is an action plan. Decide what you are going to change in your life, and set steps to achieve your goals.
Here is my action plan:

1. Finances. Build up 3 months of savings. Eventually, build a separate cash reserve that will provide one year of mortgage payments.

2. Stop the city garbage service, and take care of your own garbage. Buy 7 garbage cans, and haul them to the nearest dump site once they are full.
Star a compost system to recycle food wastes from the kitchen, as well as weeds from the garden. If rodents are a problem, star a worm bin.
Anything that goes to the garbage bin has to be replaces, so self reliance also means reducing your garbage.

3. Start a garden. Grow green, carrots, beets, tomatoes, squash, beans, radishes. All those are fairly easy to grow. Plant fruit trees such as apples, cherries, plum ...

4. Find a local source of heat. Where I live in the PNW, that source may be wood (from our forests), or electricity (from our electric dams). I have a wood stove and an electric radiator. I do need to find a way to ventilate the house in case of power outage, when I use the wood stove. A solar panel connected to a DC fan could do it.
Protect your house from excessive heat. Plant deciduous shade trees around your house. Deciduous trees will not block the sun in the winter, when you need it. Their dead leaves will enrich your compost.

5. Harvest rainwater for toilet flushing and cloth washing. Those are non critical use, but they are the biggest users of clean water. Why use drinkable water for those?

6. Recycle your greywater. Water from laundry and dish washing may be reused to water plants, particularly shade trees. Fruit and berry trees are also an acceptable recipient of greywater if you use organic detergents.

7. Food storage. There are items that cannot grow in your area, or require too much work, those should be in the food cellar. Sugar, salt, grains (rice, wheat, oat ...), dried milk ...
Start canning the produces of your own garden, build a solar dehydrator, so you can stock your food storage with produces of your garden.

8. Get a good bicycle, and train your self. No need to win the Tour de France, just train yourself by riding 5 to 10 miles a day. This bicycle, and your training, will become very handy when gas rationing starts.

9. Try a composting toilet. A simple system may be build for about $50. They are not as practical as flush toilets, so once it is built and tried, you may store it in the garage until the need to save water arises.

10. Build a cold frame. This will allow you to grow food early in Spring, to late in falls.

These are my 10 steps, I have been working at them for several years.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Changing Times

During the 3 days that followed 9/11, all the planes were grounded in this country. During those 3 days, scientists analyzed the effect of the absence of contrails from airplanes in the climate, and realized the effect was not only measurable, but beyond anything expected. The temperature difference between days and nights, a value that is normally fairly stable, increased during those 3 days, and decreased back after.
Pollution particles (such as in contrails) decrease daytime temperature by reflecting the Sun heat, and increase nighttime temperature by reflecting heat loss (infrared) back to Earth.
We can expect that over a longer time, we would also see an increase in Summer temperatures, as well as a decrease in Winter temperatures.

Since September, we are experiencing an unprecedented reduction in World oil consumption (and consequently a reduction in particles emission) due to the financial crisis, as can be seen in the dramatic drop in oil prices (from $140 to $40 a barrel).

Is is a coincidence, then, that while we are experiencing one of our coldest winter, Australia is struggling with an unusually hot summer, experiencing one-in-a-century forest fires?

We can expect hot summers and cold winters in the coming years. Summer heat could become a real problem for many parts of this country, as it was in Europe in 2003 (50,000 deaths). If the electric grid cannot keep up with increased demand from air conditioners, we can expect the worse.

Temperate coastal areas such as the PNW would fare a lot better than the rest of the Nation, and could see an influx in population in the coming years.

It could take up to 20 years to see a reduction of greenhouse gases in the upper atmosphere, finally reducing the greenhouse effect. During those 20 years, a lot of changes may occur that could be irreversible.

Monday, April 6, 2009

What will I tell my Grandson?

Essay I wrote in mid 2007 on an older website:

I will be grandpa in 3 months.
As this event finds its way into my mind, some memories of my childhood, memories of my gransparents I didn't even know I had, are resurfacing from my subconscious.

My grandpa had a small homestead farm. I loved it when my parents would take me to visit him. He had ducks, chickens, goats (they were smart and fun) and a pig, a big fat dirty pig (our favorite of course). The farm animals were fun and dociles, but I prefered going in the fields full of wild weeds, hearing the bees buzzing around. There was an incredible amount of different kinds of bees, going from one flower to the other. And there was a pond (from a WWII bomb) where I could watch the frogs. At night, they would sing, and it was really nice to see the stars, watch the bats, and listen to the frogs. These are fond moments of my early childhood (I was less than 10) that still bring tears to my eyes.

I don't have ducks and goats and pigs to show my Grandson, so I hope he will like the frogs and the bees that visit my yard.
I hope they will still visit my yard. Will they?

Instead, I may find myself pollinating my fruit trees by hand, with a small brush, flower by flower. My grandson may want to help me. So I will have to explain to him that the trees make flowers first, then the flowers become apples, cherries and peers. But for that to happen, we must mix the pollen from one flower to the other. The tree can't do it himself, we have to help him.
If my granson is curious, and I am sure he will be, he may ask "How come the tree can't do it himself?".
So I will have to tell him that the fruit trees developped a companionship with small insects we called bees. The bees would feed on the nectar at the center of the flowers, and in return, they would mix the pollen between the flowers, so that the flowers would become fruits. The bees pollinated millions of trees, allowing them to produce billions of apples, cherries, and other fruits that we would eat. The trees made their flowers colorfull so that the bees new where the nectar was.
The bees were very good to the trees and to us, but one day, they started to disappear. Hundreds, thousands, then millions of bees disappeared. Now they are gone, and we have to help the trees make the fruits.

[ Colonie Collapse Disorder ]

If my grandson comes to visit me on a Spring night, we would see the stars and watch the bats. But I would miss the frogs singing. So I would have to tell him that we used to hear the frogs singing in the spring nights. Now watching the stars and the bats without hearing the frogs singing, it's like watching a movie without the sound.
The frogs were very good to us. We even used them to make medication for sick people. Every region had its own kind of frog, they were very different, their songs were different too.
I will have to tell him that one day, the frogs started to get sick, and disappear all around the world.
Now most of them are gone, and when Spring comes, we miss the songs of the frogs.

[ Chytrid Fungus ]

So my Grandson may eventually ask:

"So Grandpa, if the bees and the frogs were so good to us, why did they go, why didn't we help them?"


Update April 2009: My Grandson is now almost 2 and a joy in my life.

Regarding bats, well, they may be gone soon as well:


Now if frogs and bats populations crash, we will have an explosion of the insect populations, since bats and frogs are their biggest predators. Worrysome!

Oil Depletion will accelerate Global Warming

Essay I wrote in early 2007 on an older website:

During the 2 days following September 11th, the absence of air traffic allowed scientists to analyze the effect of pollution from airplanes (or lack thereof) on the US climate. They found that the absence of particules usually released by airplanes actually increased US temperature variations during these two days (day-night variations).

While air pollution increases temperatures (greenhouse effect, producing global warming), the release of particules consequent to that pollution tempers that increase (this is also known at global dimming).

[ Global Dimming on Wikipedia ]

In other words, we are not seeing the effect of golbal warming today, we are only seeing the difference between global warming and global dimming. Once global dimming receeds, global warming will go into high gear.

September 11 showed us that it takes less than 3 days for global dimming to take effect (particules released in the air will reduce sun light on Earth in the following days).
We also know that it takes ~ 20 years for global warming to take effect (the time the greenhouse gases go into the upper atmosphere) and even about 50 years for the ocean temperature to be affected (due to its mass).

What we have today is the warming from pollution 20 years ago, tempered by the dimming from today's much higher pollution.

During the beginning of the oil depletion phase, while the consequences of a frantic consumption of oil and coal at the peak will be slowly accelerating warming (20 to 50 years lag), the progressive reduction of particules in the atmosphere (due to oil depletion - we will be using less fossil fuels) will also increase warming.

During the 20 first years of the energy descent, we will have two events compounding their effects on the climate.

If you are already living in a hot place, MOVE!!!


Global Warming is a lost cause

Essay I wrote in late 2006 on an older website:

Global Warming has being announced more than 100 years ago.

1904: Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius was, according to NASA, "the first person to investigate the effect that doubling atmospheric carbon dioxide would have on global climate."

Before that, it was said that if we continue using fossil fuel, we will experience temperatures "never experienced by humans before". I think it was said in the late 1800, but can't find reference to it.

So despite a very long prediction, and documented increase is CO2 - as predicted, a sound scientific analysis, and a worldwide consensus, it is still debated and explained through most unreal ways today. While it is now happening in the most obvious ways, it is still denied, sometimes forcefully.

The astonishing oblivion of people, at all levels of education, is the real mystery, one that future generations will likely look back at with awe and disbelief.

So, why is there so much resistance to what should have long ago been accepted and taken care of? Al Gore puts it in a way that I believe explains it very accurately. The title of his movie is the best that could have being found to explain global warming, and how people react to it: An Inconvenient Truth.

If we want to address global warming, we will have to drastically change our way of life. A lot of things will have to go. The more you look at it, the scarier it becomes. So most people will at some point plunge their head in the sand, so as to continue living the so indispensable indulgences that modern life (or more accurately, cheap oil) has brought to us, because it is simply too inconvenient to think otherwise.

The most unreal explanations will be acceptable, so that the inevitable can be ignored.

Where one starts to understand that global warming is a lost cause is by looking at another issue that should also have raised red flags long ago: Peak Oil. Here too, an incredible oblivion seems to have contaminated the mind of most people, whatever their education. Those educated enough to understand the issue will quickly raise the cornucopian solution of an imminent scientific breakthrough solving our energy problems. Fusion being the most cited "solution".

Even geologists that have spent their lives working for oil companies (the most famous being Hubbert) are ignored when they tell us we have a big problem. Here too the most unreal explainations are accepted against the warnings of professionals so as to continue the instant gratification dream.

So what is the point of this?

My point is that fighting for global warming is a lost cause. Global warming will be stopped by oil depletion. Of course it will be too late, the climate will already be affected, and will continue to change for some time after oil has depleted. Peak oil will also be taken care of by oil depletion. I mean by that that we will continue to use (and fight and die for) oil until there isn't enough. And then we won't be ready for what will happen. Then the changes that could have being voluntarily made, will be painfully forced on us.
We will not get ready for oil depletion, until it has hit us in the face, in a cold winter, or a summer heat wave killing millions (I say millions because the 15000 deaths in France in the 2003 heat wave were still not enough, so I guess millions deaths are what people are waiting for).

I have finally accepted that nothing will be done until we are forced to by events. I am preparing myself and my family as best as I can (I made my action plan, you should make yours). There are many things I can do nothing about, so I focus on what I can. Every little action is a step in the right direction.

It doesn't matter how much one can contribute. I just want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.