Archive for June, 2009

The politics and practice of carbon neutrality – or: the action must start

Friday, June 19th, 2009

We have a global warming process developing. The facts are not crystal clear, but there is broad agreement about the problem and its causes. Many companies, individuals  and organisations have made it their ambition to contribute meaningfully.

The aim of it all is to become carbon neutral – everyone of us.

There must be changes if we are to achieve this. The way we live, eat and transport ourselves, how we treat the air, the earth´s surface and the sea must become new.

In most countries there is a fundamental lack of comprehensive action. The change process has to start with clear messages to our politicians to establish a framework for change. Now everybody is looking at each other, talking and doing bits and pieces.

Our lives and the corresponding politics must change together.

Are the politicians afraid of the changes that must come? Are they afraid of losing the next election?

We have to work with the next generations in mind. Along term solution is required, beyond present day people.

We know there is a problem, but we are not able to solve it. Or is the situation not dangerous enough yet – if so why all the problematizing? The situation is rather bizarre.

There are also other challenges to deal with: poverty, lack of sanitation and health services, illiteracy…

A political push is needed:

  • President Barack Obama wants speedy passage of U.S. legislation to tackle the problem of global climate warming. The Republicans say it is a energy tax and oppose it. The two parties should obviously have further talks to establish common ground and decide what this is all about.
  • China is busy on several fronts – solar, coal – it seems legislation takes care of itself there.
  • Many other countries have already started to move.

Concentrating solar thermal energy

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

An old way of producing energy is coming into the fore again. In sunny areas of the world it could generate many times the power capacity we have today.

Focusing the suns´s rays by reflectors of various kinds and then heating a liquid is again being tested and used. An example is a solar-thermal pumping station in Egypt.

Many approaches are possible – water, molten salt, compressing gases, hot steam of 550 degrees Celsius. Some cooling is as a rule necessary.

Tax grants and feed-in tariffs have been used to get it moving.

20 big German companies are now planning to invest EURO 35 billion, with total investments possibly reaching EURO 400 billion as we approach 2050, for a big new sun-focusing installation in the Sahara. The distribution system to Europe will also be a challenge. The technology has been tested in Spain and in the Californian desert since 1980-ies.

Extent of change to achieve a better climate

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

A Norwegian government sponsored group of people has had a workshop to suggest a first line of proposals for climate improvement – a first plan.

They suggest the following:

  • Phase out all oil burners for heating
  • Electrify 20% of all private cars and 25% of all offshore activity
  • Have mandatory carbon capture and  storage on the 6 biggest industrial points of emission
  • Improve the efficiency of existing private and industrial buildings

So systematizing with existing technology will make a big impact!

Sitting yourself to death?

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

Everyday physical activity is disappearing or has disappeared, and we are getting sicker.

WHO: In the course of the next 100 years 70% of all sickness absenteeism (from work) will be related to physical inactivity. They state that 10% of all deaths are related to inactivity.
They list a number of inactivity related conditions or illnesses: premature death, circulatory effects, type2 diabetes, cancer, muscle and skeleton sufferings, mental disorders, reduced functionality and life quality.

The Danish Institute for peoples´ health has calculated that this adds up to 3.1 million extra days of sickness leave in a population of 5.5 million.

There is a conflict of interest as medical companies want to sell drugs for it all! But we must remove focusing on medication and move over to prevention and training. Life style intervention must replace medicine intervention. If 5% of people not training today start up the demand for health services will be strongly reduced.

There is considerable research underpinning the fact that training is sickness prevention. Steven N. Blair has researched and written extensively on this matter and states that the biggest problem of the western world is physical inactivity. People are sitting themselves to death! The important thing is to be fit, but not necessarily slim!

A Scandinavian approach to the matter has been publishing an activity handbook in Sweden and Norway with recommendations of training for 33 specific illnesses. The book is distibuted to all health personell. Doctors are now ordering patients into specific exercise programs to improve their health. The initial results are very encouraging.

The minimum exercise regimen needed is very light. About one half hour of low intensity exercise pr. day will improve the situation, and the more you do the better it will be.

Water – a common good – better management needed

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

There is plenty of water for everybody. Most nations are using much less than they receive.

But it now seems that our water use is too high to be safe. There seems to be systemic water problems and local disruptions.

A global crisis may be in the making. Many big rivers do not reach the sea, there is not enough water to run the turbines producing electricity, freshwater fish is declining too fast, agricultural areas are drying up, wetlands are being damaged.

Global trends are adding to the problems:

  • increase in world population will drive up water consumption, water-thirsty foods will be increasingly used, mainly due to a change from vegetarian foods to meat.
  • climate change – the water cycle is turning faster, making areas too wet or too dry.
  • biofuels require lots of water

Improving efficiency is the answer. Industry has done it (use 10% of water), the big question is to get farmers (use 70-80% of water) to manage water better. Trade patterns should more closely reflect the amount of water embedded in traded goods – virtual water.

UNESCO thinks fundamental changes of behaviour are required: changing incentives, improving information flows, improving the way water use is governed.

Water is rarely priced. Basic information about water use is lacking. The governance of water is not good, decision-making processes are unsure, investment in water is haphazard.

Certifying water efficiency could be a start. A whole new system is what we need.

Big polluters trying hard to improve: Australia, USA

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009


Australia intends to establish legislation to deal with global warming. Coal generates about 83% of the country’s electricity. Australia’s first coal was mined in 1797 and Australians have had cheap power from this dirty source of carbon-dioxide since then.

Australia aims to cut emissions by at least 5% of 2000 levels by 2020, and possibly 25%, depending on global action. Free permits will go to big polluting industries: concrete, steel and aluminium, not coal. A handout will help coal go along, including capturing methane released from coal mines.

By 2020 the government wants solar, wind and other renewable sources to generate 20% of Australia’s power.

The politics of this is difficult. Will the industry disappear? How worrying is climate change – ref. recent bushfires and floods? What about election promises that were  made?

The House of Representatives are expected to pass a climate change bill soon. On May 21, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved a bill requiring reductions of industrial emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases of 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050, from 2005 levels. The climate change bill is top priority of President Barack Obama.

The legislation would mark a major change in U.S. policy, and a victory for activists seeking to put the brakes on global warming. Obama must weigh the environmental benefits against the expected costs new legislation would bring to consumers and businesses in recession.

Farm-state lawmakers are concerned over a related Environmental Protection Agency proposal on ethanol and other biofuels. It is also being discussed creating a federal climate control agency to improve knowledge of the problem and provide forecasts and warnings to the public about changes in weather and climate. Protecting the coal industry is also a factor.

Google Wave – a new communications platform

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

A new collaborative communications platform is under development in the Google environment. It will be a web application to be presented later this year. It has also been called the reinvention of mail.

The intention is to share a wave with others based on live conversations between participants, sharing and collaborating on documents, using or developing software, maps, other digitized content.
This will enable us to be more productive, develop content/sites through collaboration, build wave systems.

It will be an open platform with tools for developers.

Future uses could be: News gathering and editing, report writing,  entertainment projects, advertisement aggregation, running information sites, diverse development projects, ….

Integrated environmentalism

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

The natural sciences side of environmentalism has been strongly focused. A trend of wholeness and societal environmentalism is now gaining force. Factors of economics, law, society, politics, art, cooperation, risk handling, etc. are now being considered, and research programs are being established. New research teams are being established with people from several different areas contributing.
Technological efficiency is not enough, our everyday use of the new environmentalism must also be good. If possible we want to keep up the good life! Traditional thinking is changing as we go towards new levels of development.