Monday, June 09, 2008

Wired's Inconvenient Truths

I still read and subscribe to Wired Magazine. Even though it was a shock when they changed the size and made it more like any other magazine, still it is something I look forward to each month.

This month's lead article and it was in the 15th Anniversary issue, congratulations Wired, dealt with the environment. The authors write in the opening couple of paragraphs:
The environmental movement has never been short on noble goals. Preserving wild spaces, cleaning up the oceans, protecting watersheds, neutralizing acid rain, saving endangered species — all laudable. But today, one ecological problem outweighs all others: global warming. Restoring the Everglades, protecting the Headwaters redwoods, or saving the Illinois mud turtle won't matter if climate change plunges the planet into chaos. It's high time for greens to unite around the urgent need to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

Just one problem. Winning the war on global warming requires slaughtering some of environmentalism's sacred cows. We can afford to ignore neither the carbon-free electricity supplied by nuclear energy nor the transformational potential of genetic engineering. We need to take advantage of the energy efficiencies offered by urban density. We must accept that the world's fastest-growing economies won't forgo a higher standard of living in the name of climate science — and that, on the way up, countries like India and China might actually help devise the solutions the planet so desperately needs.

The point is, there are a couple of sacred cows out there which have turned out to be very bad for the environment. To the authors the key is to lower the amount of carbon dioxide and other green house gases that are being pumped into the atmosphere. I should give the caveat, to make their points they do gloss over a number of problems inherit with their positions, but then again, no one accused the writers of being fair and balanced.

So what are some I agree, the first, in my order not the magazines is Nuclear Power.If you have been around environmentalists just suggest nuclear power to them and watch what happens. Now certainly alternative energy generating sources are good, but have drawback, wind power means huge windmills which are wonderful, unless you are a bird that flies into one of those big things, plus I understand the noise can be something. Solar power? Okay but still relatively expensive.

That does leave nuclear. It is clean. It produces very cheap electricity, perhaps not as cheap as hydro, but it is second. It emits no greenhouse gases. Again, if the key is to lower greenhouse gases, this is the key. As with all technology, things are improving and it is getting cheaper. OF course there are the downsides, such as what do you do with the spent uranium, how do you dispose or handle them safely. I suppose what one can do is simply sell them to any one of a number of rogue states to help them with their nuclear weapon programs. With some spent fuel rods and a couple of minutes on the Internet, you too can join the Axis of Evil. As an aside, I want to welcome all those readers from CSIS who are now reading this blog. Hi Andrew I know disposal is still a major problem but unless we deal with global warning, it is a moot point. Nuclear energy is today, it is economical, in the long run and it is clean.

The second point I want to discuss and this one gets me going every time, is Carbon Credits. The idea of carbon credits is:
What a cool idea: Instead of reducing our own carbon emissions, we'll pay other people to reduce theirs. Win-win!

It's saying to the third world, you continue to mire in substandard subsistence living, which while causes a shortened life span, doesn't produce greenhouse gases, and we will continue to live as we always have. So it intents to shut the third world off from development that could better their lives. The last thing we want is for them to be as wasteful as us, speaking as the first world. So they keep a tree, we keep living high on the hog. It is interesting that one of the best suggestions is the now being attacked by Conservatives, the carbon tax. Do I favour such a thing? Do I like paying even more for gas? No, but consider what is happening, this increase in gasoline is not driven by shortages caused by natural or human made disasters, it's caused by greed. The last paragraph of the Wired article states:
A carbon tax would eliminate three classes of parasites that have evolved to fill niches created by the global climate protocol: cynical marketers intent on greenwashing, blinkered bureaucrats shoveling indulgences to powerful incumbents, and deal-happy Wall Streeters looking for a shiny new billion-dollar trading toy. Back to the drawing board, please.

The third issue brought forward is urban living. Cities compact a lot of people into a relatively small area. With more people in a smaller area, things begin to become cheaper, such things as public transportation. Plus walking is now possible because everything is relatively close by. The problem of cities is not the core, its the suburbs. People spread out, when things spread out it loses the mass of affordability. Public transit has difficulty paying for itself because of distance. Suburbia becomes based upon the automobile only. Also, suburbs have meant the decrease in farmlands, as more of it become cookie cutter housing. Another problem was pointed out this way by the article:
Even worse are the 40 million lawn mowers used to tame the suburban backcountry: Each spews 11 cars' worth of pollutants per hour.
I was fortunate, the lawnmower I have decided to "blow up", at least parts started to shoot out. I bought an electric mower. No pollution and a lot quieter.

There are problems with cities, two in particular- one is the fact they become heat islands, all that asphalt tends to heat up the area. Another problem is the lack of green, with all the above, there are very few trees. For example, Brantford has nly 15% tree shade throughout the city, which is very bad. To counteract the problems of heat, the urban forest needs to expand. But that is possible.

I do have a few disagreements, one is the issue of cars. One writer suggests not buying a hybrid but buy used. Personally I think we should get more electric cars, and this goes back to my comment about cities, with closer distances a person does not need the conventional gas powered car to get around. Smaller, electric cars are far better.

So that's just a few points I want to raise about the article. It is articles like that which remind me why I continue to read Wired.


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