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Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XVIII

Tulum, Mexico (1986) Photo by author

As per usual, my comment on an article in The Tyee that gives an interesting perspective on the idea of ‘Carbon Footprint’ and individual verses collective actions in addressing the behavioural/consumption changes necessary for effective action on climate change.

Great read and perspective.

“The problem is that climate change is as much a political problem as it is a scientific one. It’s not that we’ve been failing to make individual lifestyle changes; it’s that powerful interests have knowingly obscured, distracted from and delayed climate action over the last 50 years.”

I find this key to help in understanding one of the narratives that have come to dominate the ‘environmental/climate change/global warming’ movement: a transition to ‘renewables’ (or ‘green/clean’ energy) and ‘electrifying’ everything is the best path forward; and many of The Tyee writers are as guilty of this as well.

As has been shown by Jeff Gibbs’ Planet of the Humans and Julia Barnes’ Bright Green Lies, the ‘environmental’ movement appears to have been hijacked by powerful/influential political/economic interests in order to market the idea that getting everyone to shift away from fossil fuel-based industry and products is the key action in fighting climate change and avoiding the predicted consequences of it.

This idea is, I believe, primarily a marketing/sloganeering/narrative control campaign to help the businesses/corporations/industries involved in ‘renewables’ and associated products in expanding their consumer base and shifting capital towards them. It is not and never has been about protecting or saving the environment and ecological systems. It is about protecting and saving our energy-intensive, business-as-usual complexities and the technologies necessary to support/maintain these; and it is driven by the primary motivation of the ruling class/powers-that-be/elite: expansion/control of the wealth-generating systems that provide their revenue streams.

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What is Low-Carbon Living?

WHAT IS LOW-CARBON LIVING?

It’s re-imagining our lives to be more resilient, more abundant and more luxurious, while also being gentler on the Earth. Sound impossible? It’s not! My little family of four utilizes appropriate technology to lower our homestead’s carbon footprint, and it makes us happier, healthier and better connected to our community. Check out what we’re doing to learn how.

husking roselle.jpg

The Truth About: Carbon Footprint Calculators

A carbon footprint is a best guess about how much greenhouse gas my actions (and those taken on my behalf) cause to be put into the atmosphere. It’s an attempt to measure the harm I do, understand it and then reduce it by making different choices. If you’re wondering whether it matters, I recommend reading The Uninhabitable Earth. (If you can’t find it through your local library, that’s an affiliate link. My commission doesn’t raise your price and supports The Cool Effect.)

All carbon footprint calculations are incomplete because the economy is complex. A gallon of gas burned in your car directly emits CO2 and other greenhouse gasses (usually measured in CO2 equivalent). The equipment that mines petroleum also gives off pollution, as does the equipment that refines and transports it, and the equipment that makes that equipment. Add this in and the total emissions from a gallon of gas rise by a third to 27.6 lbs.

What about the emissions that occur when the road between the oilfield and the refinery is repaved? Are they divided between the footprints of all humans who drive that road, or all humans who consume the products that travel on it?

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Life on 1/10th the Fossil Fuels Proves to Be Awesome

LIFE ON 1/10TH THE FOSSIL FUELS PROVES TO BE AWESOME

That’s according to Peter Kalmus, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in California. Alarmed by drastic changes in the Earth’s climate systems, Kalmus, embarked on a journey to change his life and the world in the process. He cut his carbon footprint by 90 percent. How did he do it, what insights can he share as we attempt to live less consumptive lives and can he(or we) really be happy with a simpler lifestyle? Doesn’t it involve tremendous sacrifices? He offers a great roadmap to ‘being the change’.

 

http://becycling.life/

Energy Landscapes: An Aerial View Of Europe’s Carbon Footprint

Energy Landscapes: An Aerial View Of Europe’s Carbon Footprint 

PHOTOS BY ALEX MACLEAN
Alex MacLean photographerABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER

Alex MacLean is known for his aerial photographs documenting changes in the landscape brought about by human intervention and natural processes. MacLean is the author of 11 books and his work has been exhibited widely. Journalist Daniel Grossman worked with MacLean on this project, which was supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
Europe and the United States have very similar standards of living, but significantly different carbon footprints — with Europe’s per capita carbon emissions less than 50 percent of those in the U.S. Aerial photographer Alex MacLean decided to document this phenomenon in an attempt to understand how the highly developed nations of northern Europe are able to spew significantly less carbon into the atmosphere. Flying over Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and Wales with camera in hand, MacLean came away with an appreciation for how a country’s carbon footprint is directly related to how efficiently it designs, moves through, and powers its built environment.

Over a series of months, MacLean documented historical design advantages that many European nations have inherited and now knowingly reinforce in their physical landscapes: dense urban centers with an emphasis on pedestrian and bike accessibility; compact rural and suburban communities with sharp growth boundaries; connectivity between public transport and human-powered transportation; the integration of commercial and retail space into the fabric of residential areas; and a dearth of sprawl. “How we organize ourselves on the ground is the key factor determining how much fossil fuel we burn,” MacLean says.

Rysum, Germany, a 15th-century village. Expansion is restricted within a growth boundary, creating a sharp urban and rural edge.
A neighborhood in Copenhagen, Denmark, with dense housing that has a relatively low carbon footprint.

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Bottled Risk

Bottled Risk

Over the last 15 years, the bottled-water industry has experienced explosive growth, which shows no sign of slowing. In fact, bottled water – including everything from “purified spring water” to flavored water and water enriched with vitamins, minerals, or electrolytes – is the largest growth area in the beverage industry, even in cities where tap water is safe and highly regulated. This has been a disaster for the environment and the world’s poor.

The environmental problems begin early on, with the way the water is sourced. The bulk of bottled water sold worldwide is drawn from the subterranean water reserves of aquifers and springs, many of which feed rivers and lakes. Tapping such reserves can aggravate drought conditions.

But bottling the runoff from glaciers in the Alps, the Andes, the Arctic, the Cascades, the Himalayas, Patagonia, the Rockies, and elsewhere is not much better, as it diverts that water from ecosystem services like recharging wetlands and sustaining biodiversity. This has not stopped big bottlers and other investors from aggressively seeking to buy glacier-water rights. China’s booming mineral-water industry, for example, taps into Himalayan glaciers, damaging Tibet’s ecosystems in the process.

Much of today’s bottled water, however, is not glacier or natural spring water but processed water, which is municipal water or, more often, directly extracted groundwater that has been subjected to reverse osmosis or other purification treatments. Not surprisingly, bottlers have been embroiled in disputes with local authorities and citizens’ groups in many places over their role in water depletion, and even pollution. In drought-seared California, some bottlers have faced protests and probes; one company was even banned from tapping spring water.

Worse, processing, bottling, and shipping the water is highly resource-intensive. It takes 1.6 liters of water, on average, to package one liter of bottled water, making the industry a major water consumer and wastewater generator. And processing and transport add a significant carbon footprint.

Read more at https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/bottled-water-environmental-risk-by-brahma-chellaney-2015-09#vsAZZry1Ks9YteRY.99

 

Earth Overshoot Day and Not-For-Profit Enterprise

Earth Overshoot Day and Not-For-Profit Enterprise

In 2015, 13 August is Earth Overshoot Day. The day marks the estimated calendar date when humanity’s demand on the planet’s ecological services (which produce renewable resources and assimilate wastes) outstrips what the Earth can supply. This means that for the rest of the year, we are taking more than is regenerated, operating in Overshoot. Last year, Earth Overshoot Day was August 19th. We first went into Overshoot in the late 1970s, and since then the day has crept ever earlier on the calendar. This means we are using the ecological resources of just over 1.5 Earths.

Meeting the challenge of providing for all humanity’s needs within the limits of what our Earth can provide will require a radical restructuring of the global economy. In this post I will discuss how a post-growth economy based around not-for-profit enterprise can help us get to One Planet Living.

Before we get into that, though, what is Earth Overshoot Day all about? It’s based on the concept of Ecological Footprinting, which is both a science-based sustainability metric and also a sustainability communication tool developed by the Global Footprint Network. You can read the methodological details here, but the basic idea is that the Ecological Footprint is the amount of productive space needed to provide the ecological resources and absorb the waste of an individual, a city, a business, a country or the whole world, expressed in global hectares.  An Ecological Footprint is made up of cropland, pasture, fishing grounds, forest, land built-up with buildings or infrastructure and the land needed to absorb carbon emissions, with this last one usually accounting for at least half the footprint.

 

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How Much Crude Oil Do You Consume On A Daily Basis?

How Much Crude Oil Do You Consume On A Daily Basis?

Oil. The commodity. We know what it’s worth – at least we thought we did – but what does a barrel of the black stuff get you in real life? Before we get theoretical, let’s first consider how much oil you use.

If you’re in the United States, that figure is approximately 2.5 gallons of crude oil per day; roughly one barrel every seventeen days; or nearly 22 barrels per year. That’s just your share of US total consumption of course; the true number is harder to discern – minus industrial and non-residential uses, daily consumption drops to about 1.5 gallons per person per day. Subtract the percentage of the population aged 14 and below and the daily consumption climbs back above 2 gallons. This is big picture, and it’s quite variable, so let’s go further.

Most of the nation’s daily crude consumption stems from transportation. If you’re an average driver in an average car, your crude consumption is in the order of 12 barrels per year. However, if your car is more than ten years old, chances are that figure is closer to 15 barrels annually. Does an electric car offer significant savings? Of course it does, but for an unconventional comparison let’s assume all of the electricity is sourced from oil – in truth, petroleum is not a very efficient fuel and accounts for just 1 percent of electricity generation in the US. Under this assumption, a Tesla Model S, with an 85 kilowatt-hour (kWh)battery and a range of 260 miles, will consume approximately 8 barrels of crude per year.

Related: The World’s 10 Biggest Energy Gluttons

Frequent flyer? Say 2,000 miles per year on a US carrier? Add about two-thirds of a barrel of crude to your annual consumption.

A 3,000-mile cruise on the MS Oasis of the Seas may sound relaxing, but at roughly 4 barrels of crude per passenger, the carbon footprint alone is worth reviewing.

 

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