Showing posts with label environment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label environment. Show all posts

03 March 2013

Ecotricity - greener, greener, green

Ecotricity builds wind and solar generating systems. They also supply green energy to commercial and domestic customers in the UK. Starting from small beginnings they have made a significant impact in the market and continue to grow rapidly in capacity and popularity.

Turbine blades transported by road
Ecotricity was started by Dale Vince who built a small windmill generator from reclaimed components for his own use.

Friends asked him to build similar generators and eventually he made a much larger one for a local farmer.

He then wanted to build something even larger to connect to the grid, but hit all kinds of difficulties and additional costs imposed by the larger companies and distributors.

Through persistent effort he managed to negotiate a deal and since then Ecotricity, the world's first green electricity company, has built many more large wind turbines and wind farms.

Innovation - Dale has had many interesting and innovative business ideas and has never been willing to take 'no' for an answer. He raises extra finance by issuing bonds, his company also sells wind and solar generated power to end users and offers (at slightly higher cost) a 100% renewable deal.

They have a policy of not having shareholders; instead, profits are ploughed back into building additional generating capacity. The company encourages new customers to sign up so as to use their power bills wisely, in other words to help build additional capacity. Their customer service is exceptionally good, polite and helpful.

More recently Ecotricity has also developed a green gas plant, generating methane by biodigestion of waste. Dale has built record breaking electric vehicles, both a motorcycle and a high performance car that recently set a new world land speed record for electric vehicles.

Caring for the planet - Surely we have a duty to care for the planet on which we live? Dale Vince is certainly doing his part to reduce environmental damage. If you live in the UK you could help simply by changing your electricity and/or gas supplier to Ecotricity.

In other parts of the world you may be able to help in other ways. We can all do our part by reducing our use of energy, by walking or cycling instead of driving, by flying less often, by taking the train, insulating our homes, turning down the thermostat, showering more quickly - the list is long.

But many small actions by large numbers of people add up to a significant difference.

Making the switch - You can switch to Ecotricity online (if you use this link I'll get a partner contribution from the company). If you prefer to speak to them by phone call 08000 302 302 and quote 'SCI1' and I'll still receive the contribution.


  • Have you heard of Ecotricity before?
  • Are you doing all you can to reduce your household and business energy use?
  • Are you using green sources of energy where available?

See also:

13 November 2012

The end of the world?

How long can we go on treating the Earth as an endless provider? There are limits to our resources and we're in the middle of an explosive increase in their rate of use. Are there too many people on this planet? What will happen if we go on like this?

Too many people using too many resources?
Well, maybe not the end of the world, but perhaps the end of the world as we know it.

Hurricane Sandy and other natural disasters around the globe make us ask the question, 'Why?' We want to know why things like this happen. It's a natural enough question. It's tempting to think it's not our fault, that disasters happen randomly.

Storms like Sandy do indeed happen randomly, but their frequency and severity are increasing because of human-induced global warming. But where will it all lead? That depends, and it depends on you and on me.

The size of the problem - To get to grips with this we're going to need a broader and more thorough view of the damage we are currently wreaking on poor old planet Earth. Indeed, we've already gone beyond the planet by making a good start at messing up low Earth orbit, now so littered with everything from flakes of paint to spent rocket stages that it could easily become unusable.

We need to grasp that we have not only messed up but that we are continuing to mess up faster and faster. And the almost inevitable result will be an enormous population crash from disease, lack of food, ecological collapse, war, severe climate change or some other catastrophe, or more likely a perfect storm of several major issues in synergy. And the longer we go on doing little to make things better, the more serious the disruption will be.

It's comforting to think that somehow, sooner or later Papa will reach into our world and repair it. But it's more likely that he foresaw the mess and is waiting for us to fix it; he gave us the responsibility and he's warned us repeatedly. But we weren't listening. And we're still not listening.

I'm 65 next birthday and have begun to think of my life as something that will soon be winding down and ending. This is natural, of course. But I am also starting to think of human society as we know it in much the same way. And, not unreasonably, we can even see the universe itself like that if we choose to.

The way forward - We're in a far bigger pickle than most of us realise. And our biggest problem (because to a large degree it causes all the rest) is overpopulation. That's the dark picture painted in outline.

After the crash there may be an opportunity for something new and better. But that is not something to consider right now. Instead let's begin work right away. What is needed? Why, the fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

It doesn't sound much of a solution to global warming, does it? But if we truly loved one another we would not be willing to leave such a mess for the next generation. And if we had a little more self-control we might walk and cycle instead of taking the car, demand fewer gadgets, waste less food. If we were really patient, kind, faithful and gentle how might that affect the way we behave?

What we can do - We do have a choice. If we start now we can make some major changes. It's far too late to prevent global warming but it will warm faster and to an even more dangerous level if we delay still further. I would identify population growth and industrial growth as our largest enemies. They are the root cause of pollution, carbon dioxide release, loss of habitat and natural diversity, species extinction and the rest.

The alternative is to carry on as we have done before, stopping our eyes and ears to the signs of looming disaster. Let's leave it for another generation...

Let's be clear. Advances in technology can help us but we will need to be careful about our choices. Where technology can reduce wastage and support more people for less impact that is a good thing. But we need to use this good thing as an opportunity to reduce our impact, not as an excuse to increase our numbers and consumption.

In the longer term there is only one route for further expansion - outwards. There is still room for growth in space - perhaps on the asteroids, Mars, or the Moon. But Earth is more than full already.

We're demanding far too much of our planet. Stop it! Now!


  • What do you think will happen if our population and consumption continue to grow?
  • Many small changes make a big difference. Are there ways you could save a little energy, food or other scarce resource?
  • Are there ways you can apply pressure to your local or national government to be less concerned about growth and more focussed on reducing our impact?
  • If we don't act today, how long should we wait?

See also:

21 February 2012

Greening the city

This article considers ways of improving the city or town environment. There are some big projects here, growing trees and plants in the heart of our urban world. But there are also ways forward for smaller groups to run projects for themselves, right where they live.

Built to support a vertical forestCities already have parks, private gardens, urban farms, landscaped roadside verges and large buildings with atria containing tropical plants, but what else can we do to bring greenery into the city? There are some surprisingly innovative ideas out there.

Milan's 'Bosco verticale' project is currently under construction and will consist of two residential towers supporting ornamental woodland and shrubbery.

New York's Highline converted railway line has become a much-loved green space for walking and relaxing right in the heart of the city. It was inspired by an earlier project in Paris, the 'Promenade Plantée'.

In London, an old building has found a new use as a vertical garden.

Verge gardens get a write up in Australia, these use small urban spaces and are managed by the local people.

There's lots of scope for individual and group action. Contact your local town council. Form a local community project. There are some good ideas in Groundwork's toolbox document. On the whole group action may be best, you can plan together, work on the planting and maintenance together, enjoy the space together, eat together, become a real community in the process of creating a cared-for green space in your environment. What could be better?

26 December 2011

Recycling Christmas tree lights

In China, waste Christmas tree lights are converted into chopped copper and brass for reuse and plastic feedstock for slipper soles.

Christmas tree lightsChina has become a powerhouse for recycling, and they're now making great strides in terms of cleaner, more environmentally-friendly recycling.

The insulation on junked electrical cable used to be burned off so that the copper could be extracted for refining and reuse. But today, in China, the plastic insulation is recovered and sold as a feedstock for shoe sole manufacturers. Even the water used in the processing is reused in the plant, nothing is dumped back into the environment.

The factory described in this article and video on 'The Atlantic' website takes in unwanted Christmas tree lights, sells copper, brass and plastic feedstock,  and consumes only electrical energy and a modest amount of water which is returned to the atmosphere as vapour.

That is a shining (groan) example of how waste can, and should, be handled. The biggest downside I can see in this is the energy cost of shipping the material halfway around the world rather than disposing of it locally.

17 January 2011

RESPONSE - Permaculture

Peter Farmer posted a video and a link to Permaculture. I'm repeating them here along with the comment I left on his website 'Pioneering change' and some additional information.

Here are the links...
Permaculture is an idea that's been developed over many years. You can visit the UK Permaculture Website, One kind of permaculture in actionbut there are other sites for other parts of the world and wherever you live it's worth checking out the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service.

Wikipedia provides a really good overview

There are many other websites out there, but remember that permaculture is primarily an idea. The websites have a variety of slants and approaches, some you may like while others may contain elements you dislike. But what they have in common is that they all relate in some way to the basic idea of permaculture.

Here's the video...

And here's my comment...
Permaculture is a very old idea, but also a very good one. Before the industrial revolution most communities depended on methods of this kind. Although the underlying principles were not understood, societies were rich with handed-down methods that worked with the natural world.

But with technology we became free to work against nature and exert our independence. And now, in Western society, we hardly know what the natural world is! We have forgotten the valuable handed-down methods.

Permaculture can help put us back in touch with reality. It can help us take small steps back towards living with our environment instead of fighting against it.

We need to be whole in EVERY way – body, mind and spirit – individually and communally – but also in relation to the natural world.

Thanks for drawing our attention to this, Peter. Great stuff!

Additional thoughts
All my life I've been powerfully impacted by the idea that everything is rooted and grounded in love.
  • There is firstly the Father's love for us in sending his Son, Yahshua.
  • Then the Son's love in revealing the truth about his Father's nature.
  • Their great deposit of love in embracing all of us who would hear and receive them by pouring their love-essence, the Holy Spirit, into our hearts.
  • The way he (the Spirit) changes our hearts from selfishness to love.
  • The simple truth that we are to love one another (even our enemies).
  • And finally the duty we were given to care (lovingly) for this world that sustains us. In the beginning we were given the power to rule over everything in the natural world, but we were always expected to rule with the care and benevolence of love.
Permaculture is a practical outworking of this duty. Many of its proponents have not yet encountered the love that is there for them in Christ, but they have understood that the human race desperately needs to show that care and benevolence towards the natural world. We are not independent overlords, we breathe the air, drink the water, and eat the food that the physical world provides. We have been very foolish in mistreating it.

We need to become much, much wiser. The ideas espoused in permaculture can help us. We should all read and understand and ask ourselves, 'What is wisdom in this regard? What is our duty? What will a caring heart take from this? What practical steps am I called take?'

It might be as little as a few radishes in a window box, or it might involve a lifetime's work on a farm, there's a wide spectrum of opportunity between the two!

There are opportunities in every town and village, every garden, every public space, every school, park, hospital. Look for the opportunities and see what you can make of them.

07 January 2011

TECHNOLOGY - Electric vehicles with a difference

Better Place have been beavering away for some years, agreeing deals with nations and states around the world, developing the technology, making the case for their approach to electric vehicles, running demonstrations.

The Renault FluenceFinally they are ready and are buying 115 000 Renault Fluence cars for the Israeli and Danish markets. They are also installing charge points and battery swap stations in Israel and Denmark and demonstrating taxis in some other countries.

A recent news article provides plenty of information about the current situation and is well worth a look.

You can read the background in earlier articles here on AAJ (scroll down after clicking the link).

Well done to Shai Agassi and his team. Lateral thinking of this kind is what the world needs right now if we are to make any impact on fossil fuel use.

Another example of the same sort (albeit much smaller) is the story of Dale Vince and Ecotricity. Articles in The Sunday Times and BMI Voyager cover that story well.

12 October 2010

ENVIRONMENT - The cost of damage

This article from the BBC News website spells it out pretty clearly. Environmental damage comes with a heavy price ticket, but the underlying and far bigger issue isn't mentioned. Because our population is way more than the planet can support (and still growing rapidly) it may not be possible to chart a way out of the mess we have created. We have left it far too late.

BBC article on the cost of environmental damageBut it's encouraging that a major news provider is publishing an article like this one. At last, after many decades of warnings from the scientists there is growing evidence that the media, governments, and businesses are beginning to accept that we really do have a problem.

Of course there are useful things we can do. We have already started to do some of them (renewable energy, fishing quotas, emission controls, banning persistent pesticides, and much more). But we are in a phase of the human story where improvements are becoming harder and more costly to achieve while the costs of not making those improvements is also rising rapidly. And I don't mean financial costs alone, but costs in terms of living standards, health, and human safety.

The first step towards any hope of recovery is to recognise that we have a problem. It's becoming clear that at last we're taking that step. Now we're in the phase of broadening and deepening our understanding of the issues we face. That, at least, is good news.

See also: Biology and the economy, Climate change - an update, Nitrogen trifluoride - should we be concerned?

10 May 2010

Biology and the economy

Humanity has become nothing less than a plague on the earth. The Bible calls us to be stewards of this planet, A crowd scene in Hong Kongbut instead we are well on the way to wrecking it.

A BBC News item today reports that loss of habitat and species will soon begin to have a major impact on the world economy. There is so far little evidence that governments have grasped the size of the problems or their urgency, perhaps we are paralysed like a child who has thrown a ball and broken a window. Denial is easier than taking responsibility, owning up, and attempting to make amends. This is in addition to anthropogenic climate change and other issues (pollution, overuse of water resources, dwindling mineral stocks etc).

What we face is little short of catastrophe, but we are doing so little about it. We talk about more efficient agriculture, power generation from wind, sunshine, tides, and waves, recycling of waste, but we don't yet realise that we are merely tinkering. The greatest problem is rarely discussed because it is so difficult - there are simply far too many of us sharing the surface of our small planet.

One good sign is that greater affluence is resulting in falling birthrates in the developed world. In Europe, North America, Australasia, and the developed parts of Asia, birth rates are close to or even below replacement levels. But the less developed areas of Asia and Africa and to a lesser degreee South America still have burgeoning populations.

We must do what we can to reduce the world's population. If we do not - and quickly - the world will do the job for us through steadily increasing starvation and disease. This is likely to be widespread through the developed world as well as less privileged regions.

05 March 2010

Climate change - An update

There is really no room for doubt that we are affecting the world's climate in a wide variety of harmful ways. BBC news item on the Met Offfice reportA new report from the Met Office finds the evidence has stacked up even more strongly since the IPCC report in 2007. Read the BBC's news item on the Met Office report.

There's more Met Office information on their climate change page. Well worth a look if you want to know more.

(This update is intended to add new information to my earrlier blog 'Climate change - Truth or deception?')

01 March 2010

Climate change - Truth or deception?

Most scientists are agreed, we have a serious problem on our hands. A typical glacierPossibly less severe than we fear but just as possibly more severe than we fear. Meanwhile there are plenty of sceptics who claim the data has been fixed or incorrectly analysed.

It's no good speculating and it's no good just crossing our fingers. We need to know whether the science is sound or not. It makes a difference. Do we need to stop releasing CO2 and methane or can we safely continue as we've been going?

Whichever side of the debate you are on, I strongly urge you to take a good look at Dan Satterfield's latest blog post. He has no doubt which side he is on. I agree with him and I really want to encourage everyone to read his post and its two main references and draw their own conclusions. This is one of the best posts on this topic that I have seen.

17 February 2010

UPDATE - Better Place rolls out first trial

Here's the latest on Shai Agassi's Better Place company. The trial rollout of a few hundred cars has begun in Israel.

See main article >

14 February 2010

Shai Agassi - Joined-up thinking

Shai Agassi, the Israeli/American alternative energy entrepreneur is thinking big. he can't help it, it's in his nature! Better PlaceThe most valuable things he has brought to the table involve lateral thinking, sudden leaps that change everything, paradigm shifts.

Where most of us are content to tweak the status quo, Shai Agassi understands that to make a real change we need to look at our problems with open minds, recognising that the solutions may sometimes be there right before our eyes but that 'tweak the status quo' may blind us to them. We often look without seeing.

Shai's solution to battery powered motoring is close to rollout in a major way, first in Israel, then Denmark, then Australia, and with a range of other places queuing up to follow the lead of these three. Banks are beginning to believe in the business model of his company, Better Place, and are starting to provide loans to enable the infrastructure to be built. Governments are also backing the idea with funding. Car manufacturers, electricity companies and even oil companies and chains of petrol stations are joining in too. This is an idea that is starting to fly.

But if that's not enough, Shai Agassi is also pointing out that we need joined up thinking on electrical energy. Wind farms, electric motor vehicles, battery exchange systems all face issues, but build them all on a large scale and they help one another out in significant ways.

Listen to Shai as he explains.

You can also watch Shai explain his battery swap technology (recorded in 2009).

See update >

22 November 2009

The coming of the electric car

I didn't know that Shai Agassi had spoken at TED until I read about it today on the Tiny Car| Smart Car News Blog. Shai's company, Better Place, is rolling out fully green, all electric cars and the infrastructure to support them. The plan is that they should be cheaper and more convenient than petrol cars. Quite a challenge!

Here's the video of his talk at TED, it's inspiring and convincing and describes an approach that is simple but original. My own belief is that this idea will fly - it deserves to. Watch and see.

05 October 2009

Electric car - Better Place video

The company that just might get electric vehicles on the road in a major way, 'Better Place', has released a video showing the system in action.

With Israel, Denmark, and Australia rolling out the scheme, and with both Nissan and Renault on board to manufacture the cars, it seems this idea may well be starting to get some traction - (pun intended :-)

See also my earlier blog entry about this system and the guy behind it, Shai Agassi.

30 August 2009

The electric car - but better?

Shai Agassi through his company, Better Place, has developed a system for building and operating electric vehicles - and it might just work. He claims that the car would cost less to buy and be more convenient to use than a Shai Agassi speakingnormal petrol powered car. And the cost per mile would be similar to current fuel costs.

Shai has thought this through in great detail and has persuaded companies (Renault and Nissan) and governments (Israel, Denmark, Australia for example) to make a start on building the necessary infrastructure and the new vehicles. He is a visionary but he also has business acumen, drive, enthusiasm, and good persuasive speaking ability.

Very, very interesting, and well worth watching the video (no longer available). You will have to watch the sponsor video first (amusingly enough it's for an oil company) but then you can choose individual segments for yourself.

Note added in 2024 - Better Place was a great idea that failed. It had potential though, and you can read about it in the WIkipedia article.

08 December 2008

Science? Technology?

Hang on, there's something unusual here. There's a shiny stone in the ashes. He picked it up and blew off the dust, it seemed unusually heavy in the hand, Malachite, copper oreit was a strange shape, and its colour was unlike any rock he'd seen before.

He spat on it and rubbed it with his finger, then took it over to the brook and washed it. This was something special, he was was going to keep it. He slipped it into his leather pouch.

He thought about the fire. It had been fiercely hot where the wind had blown through a gap in the hearthstones, he'd noticed that last night. Fires were usually orange in the centre, this one had been a bright yellow, almost too bright to look at and much too hot to get close. Perhaps the extreme heat had somehow created this object? What else had been different?

Science or technology? -
What's going on in this little story? When is something science? When is it technology? What's the difference? Does it matter? There's popular confusion about these two words, not helped by the fact that some of our most respected sources are as confused as the general public.

But there's a perfectly clear difference between the two and it's really not hard to explain. We don't even need a scientist or a technologist to help us nail this one; a good place to start would be a dictionary. The Wiktionary definition offers two current meanings for the word 'science'.

1 - The collective discipline of study or learning acquired through the scientific method; the sum of knowledge gained from such methods and discipline.

2 - A particular discipline or branch of learning, especially one dealing with measurable or systematic principles rather than intuition or natural ability.

For technology, Wiktionary gives

1 - ... the study of or a collection of techniques.

2 - ... a particular technological concept - the body of tools and other implements produced by a given society.

We can see right away that science is to do with knowledge whereas technology is concerned with techniques. The difference is that science seeks to understand what is while technology has a purpose and wants to make use of what is.

Two things immediately follow from this. There can be no technology without prior science, and technological advance usually opens fresh opportunities for science.

Making a discovery - Let's take another look at our little story. During the Late Stone Age (the Neolithic) somebody must have noticed that a shiny material was left behind in the ashes of last night's fire. This is science, initially it's just a matter of observing what happens. Maybe copper had been accidentally extracted from pieces of ore many times before but very little attention had been paid to it. Only a particularly inquiring mind would notice and begin to wonder.

What if? - The next step is to test the possible causes for what we have observed. This is a scientific experiment. The man who found the special pebble might try to create a hot fire deliberately by altering the layout of the stones and the amount and kind of wood. He might play around with different kinds of stone. He might discover that he could make a fire hotter by rearranging things. He might also find the heavy, lustrous material only appeared when a very hot fire was combined with a particular kind of hearthstone. By trial and error and keen observation he might become quite proficient at producing copper.

Finding out how things work is science, using the knowledge to make copper on demand is technology. It would be worth making because people always like unusual objects, he'd be able to trade lumps of this stuff for food, stone tools, and other things he needed.

Science is a matter of observing, making hopeful guesses, testing ideas, and narrowing down the truth by ruling things out. Technology is a matter of seeing the value of something and finding practical ways of achieving it. Science may lead to new technology, and technology may lead to new industry. And existing technologies and industries may enable further scientific progress.

Long before copper was first extracted by fire, technologies based on wood, stone, skin, fibre, bone and other materials were well advanced. Homes could be built from mammoth tusks or branches cut from trees, the frames covered with sods of earth or foliage. Baskets, woven fabrics, and simple pottery were used for practical purposes and for decoration. And hunter-gatherer technology was well advanced with good strategies for finding edible roots, fruits, shellfish along with bows, stone-tipped arrows and spears and more.

Why does it matter? - We often say 'science and technology' in a single breath without thinking about the difference. Studying sub-atomic particles is science so we're tempted to think that a particle accelerator is science too. But the accelerator is technology. Because astronomy is a science we think that the Hubble Space telescope is also science, but it's not.

This confusion becomes a problem when we oppose science because we are anxious about technology. Science informs us about the universe in which we live, technology makes changes that often affect us in practical ways. It is never harmful to understand something, but it may be harmful to make use of it. The internal combustion engine is a great example. Understanding combustion, the expansion of gases, or the structural strength of materials does not in itself do either harm or good. But the technology of an engine can be used to power an armoured vehicle or an ambulance. It can be used to make war, deliver a car-bomb, or rescue a sick person. And as we all know it may also have unexpected side effects such as causing global warming, city smogs, and respiratory diseases.

We will all agree that a certain level of effort is useful, without science and technology we would still be living without clothes, without houses, without fire, and without medicine.

But blaming science for issues with technology is counterproductive. It's not what we know that gets us into trouble, it's what we do with what we know. But it's also true that our current technology has done untold harm. It has enabled unsustainable growth of population and comsumption of resources, we are now between a rock and a hard place.

The main issues with science are deciding how much of it we can afford and where to focus the funds and effort. There are also some regulatory issues, science depends on experimentation and experiments may raise moral issues. We sometimes disagree over what is acceptable.

The main issues with technology are how it will be used and how it will affect society and our environment. Meanwhile, neither science nor technology can address the great questions of purpose. Why are we here? Why is the universe here? What is the purpose of love? Moral issues, questions of right and wrong, value judgements, all of these must be handled in some other way.


  • Your home is full of the results of technology. Can you identify some of them?
  • Can you make any guesses as to the kind of science that underpins those technologies?

See also:

26 October 2008

Nitrogen trifluoride - should we be concerned?

Nitrogen trifluoride is a powerful greenhouse gas, and there's four times as much in Earth's atmosphere as we thought. The Earth from spaceNot only that, this stuff is 17 000 times more potent than carbon dioxide and the levels are increasing by eleven percent each year.

How serious is the situation? How did we allow it to happen? What can we do about it?

On 23rd October, NASA published a press release in which they state

Using new analytical techniques, Ray Weiss of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif., led a team of researchers in making the first atmospheric measurements of nitrogen trifluoride. The amount of the gas in the atmosphere, which could not be detected using previous techniques, had been estimated at less than 1,200 metric tons in 2006. The new research shows the actual amount was 4,200 metric tons. In 2008, about 5,400 metric tons of the gas are in the atmosphere, a quantity that is increasing at a rate of about 11 percent per year.

'Accurately measuring small amounts of nitrogen trifluoride in air has proven to be a very difficult experimental problem, and we are very pleased to have succeeded in this effort,' Weiss said. The research will be published Oct. 31 in the American Geophysical Union's Geophysical Research Letters.

The gas is used in electronics manufacturing, especially LCD screens, solar cells and integrated circuits.

How serious is the situation? - It seems that nitrogen trifluoride contributes only about 0.15 percent of the total warming so we have no reason to panic. But the story does demonstrate how important it is to measure what we do - estimates of the amounts released were off by a factor of four times.

If we take no action it's clear that levels of this substance will continue to rise. With increasing production of electronics in general and LCD screens and solar cells in particular it seems rates of release of this gas can only accelerate. If so, we do need to be concerned and should be putting our house in order now while atmospheric levels remain low.

Nitrogen trifluoride breaks down very slowly in the atmosphere, six to seven hundred years. What we release today will be with us and our descendents for a very long time.

How did we allow it to happen? - It's not yet a major problem and we've only just become aware of the scale of its presence in the atmosphere. In ten years time if we are asked 'How did we allow it to happen' we'd have to admit to carelessness. But right now the question is a little unfair as the data were not available. Now that the world is aware of the situation it will be possible to decide whether action is needed and if so, what form it should take.

What can we do about it? - In terms of what has aleady been released - nothing. All we can do is wait for a thousand years or so until it goes away.

In terms of releasing less in future, or even banning the gas altogether, we can probably do a great deal. We will need the political will to act and for that we'll need to collect more data and then do further scientific and technical consultation. That stage is already underway.

In practical terms we could add the gas to the Kyoto Protocol (already being considered), find alternatives for electronics manufacturing (might prove difficult), or ban the production of the gas (could bring the electronics industry to its knees). Wisdom demands that we act fast enough to prevent a serious problem developing, but slowly enough to avoid expensive disruption to the electronics industry.

See also

13 October 2008

After the financial crisis

Maybe, just maybe, it's time to pick ourselves up and get to work. The banking system has been dealt a heavy blow and will never be the same again, The Hoover Damthe British economy was already slowing down without credit availability evaporating as well.

It's possible we've turned the corner, the next few weeks should let us know one way or the other. So what are we going to do now?

It's no good thinking we can go back to business as usual. There's been a financial earthquake, the ground has shifted in unexpected ways, what we thought we knew about the landscape doesn't apply any more. The fault lines have distorted everything.

I think the best thing we can do is to take this as a great opportunity. We in the UK need fresh goals for business, we can't survive on our banking prowess because the banking industry has let us down. We need something new. But what?

For all his faults and appalling acts, Adolf Hitler did some things well. He helped Germany recover from the 1930s depression years and the hyper-inflation that had wrecked the German currency. He put the nation to work building autobahns, steelworks, armaments, power stations. The USA had the same idea, building the Hoover Dam for example. Schemes like this provided jobs for the unemployed, put spending money in their pockets, and got the economy moving again. At the same time they created infrastructure that made agriculture and industry more efficient and in many cases the infrastructure is still in use today.

The autobahns are a good example, and so is the Hoover Dam.

Now, I'm not suggesting that Britain should build armaments, but we could certainly take a tip from the famous Dam. Why not put effort into accelerating our move towards greener energy?

Green projects could get our economy moving again, providing employment at a time when it is showing signs of falling, getting money circulating in our local businesses and shops, and providing green energy for tomorrow sooner than would otherwise happen. Wind farms, the Severn Barrage, geothermal schemes, solar energy for heating and power, wave energy and a beefed up research programme would give us a boost now and put our children in better shape for tomorrow.

And there's an opportunity for export too. If we can develop some of these technologies quickly we may be able to sell hardware or licence our designs. Green industries are new industries and that is where the opportunities will be.

15 September 2008

Rape and pillage

When a nation is defeated in war, the victors take whatever remains. Bluefin tunaIn the last fifty years the human race has waged war on the environment, but the environment has pretty much lost the war and we're now taking what remains.

I assume you can see the terrible flaw in our thinking (or lack of it).

It was true of the ancient empires and city states and it's still true today - in all out war the victor takes anything that remains. Sometimes it's slaves, sometimes it's property, sometimes it's the lives and welfare of the defeated population, often it's all three, but when victory is complete it is always very bad news for the losers.

The BBC published an article today about the plight of the bluefin tuna, it's a good article, everyone should read it, but it's only the tip of the environmental iceberg. It seems the tuna is now in real danger of extinction, the very existence of the 'tiger of the sea' is precariously balanced and yet we are still overfishing it.

Big trouble - The fact is that the environment is in big trouble. The knowledge that we all depend upon it for our daily lives has not yet impacted us nearly enough. But it will do - you may depend upon it.

The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, even the very land we stand on is in danger. Mankind has won a great victory over nature, but has not properly considered that nature itself is our only provider. We have all but killed the goose, the supply of golden eggs is just about ended.

Cod - Here's another cautionary tale from the sea. Cod stocks on the Canadian Grand Banks off Newfoundland have been depleted, and despite measures to reduce catch levels or even ban fishing altogether, they have so far failed to recover (article section from Wikipedia).

But it's not just sea fishing that's at risk, here's a shortlist of some other factors to consider.

Climate - there's now strong evidence that the earth's climate is changing in response to rising levels of carbon-dioxide and other gases. Ice in the Arctic Ocean is vanishing year on year, sea levels are rising, glaciers are retreating all over the globe, storms are becoming more frequent and more violent, extremes of temperature and rainfall are more common.

Pollution - of the atmosphere, the oceans, and the land is better in some respects, but is worse in many others. The long term prospect remains poor.

Fresh water - sometimes too much (flash flooding) but often too little (droughts, dry reservoirs, falling levels in aquifers, spreading deserts).

Deforestation - there has been some recovery in north-west Europe, but much loss of tropical forest. This loss seems to be accelerating.

Easter Island - There is a stark warning in the story of this barren land in the Pacific. Once forested and fertile, it was home to the Rapanui people who carved the vast, stone heads or 'Moai'. The civilisation here was at one time advanced, writing was invented independently, farming technology was an important part of the economy, timber and stone were both in use for building and for artistic or ceremonial use. Yet now there are almost no trees and the civilisation has vanished. Why? Because they over-exploited their natural resources. This is the tragedy of the commons in action.

We also face the same tragedy. Genesis 1:26-28 calls on us to manage the earth and all that is in it. The Hebrew verb 'radah' can be translated 'dominate'. And although managing something involves taking charge, it also requires wisdom and stewardship. The Rapanui conquered and dominated their island but they did not care for it as good stewards. What will tomorrow's historians write about us? And in what sense did the Rapanui truly 'dominate' their island? They are certainly not dominant now.

16 August 2008

Living in fear in St Neots

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I've just read a distressing news report about a local family that are having their lives ruined by thoughtless, cruel, young people throwing stones at their home, calling out abusive remarks, and even breaking windows. The news report is online, take a look for yourself.

Let's list out a few basic facts about the situation and about me. After all, I live in St Neots, I am involved whether I wish to be or not, I'm part of this community.
  • The young people doing this are probably bored, perhaps they have nothing useful to keep them occupied. They probably get swept along in the moment, they each want to outdo the others. It's cool to do this stuff. There may be one amongst them who leads them into stuff they wouldn't otherwise do.

  • The police are only able to respond to crimes that are committed, they don't have the remit or the people to deal with any underlying problem.

  • The church will feel sorry that this has happened, but will think, 'What can we do?'

  • The people being victimised can do little to help themselves.

  • The neighbours will feel, 'I'm not getting involved otherwise I'll be next.'

  • I'm thinking hard about what I should do...

Mallard Lane is not the most prosperous part of town, hardship is a reality for some and local people are struggling with issues which include vandalism. Here's a map of the area (you can also view a larger map). The pin in the map just marks the street, not the position of the household under attack.

So what can I do? What can anyone do?

Here's what I propose, I will begin by praying.

I'll share this story with the friends I meet with on Thursdays, we can pray together.

If you're reading this and would like to pray too that would be great. The main things I'm asking as a start are
  • That I'll be shown clearly what, if anything, I am to do.

  • That the trouble will stop and the pressure be lifted.

  • That the woman in the story will be healed.

That's a start. But in practical terms here's what I'm thinking.
  • Make contact with the people who are being victimised.

  • Invite them round for a BBQ some time soon.

  • Send letters to the local church explaining the background and asking for prayer and any practical input they feel led to offer.

  • Consider encouraging a meeting to include the victims, the police, young people from the area (if possible), the church, neighbours, other organisations that might be able to offer support, help, or advice.

So far I have little idea where the Lord will lead me in this, but I know it would be wrong to 'just forget'. I'll post to the blog again to let you know what happens next.

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