Live Earth

I had an idle moment Saturday morning so I had a look at the television listings to see if there was anything worth recording Saturday evening. I noticed the Live Earth concert had started so I let it serve as the background sound while I perused the listings. It was quite entertaining, though not in the way they intended.

First, the Black Eyed Peas. They were being interviewed about what they were doing for the environment. One of them was eager to say he’d sold his Hummer. I gather he’s pleased with reducing his consumption from unimaginable excess to mere extravagant excess.

Second, a CTV host was talking to someone I didn’t recognize who said he was doing his part by using bed sheets made of bamboo. Did I miss the news report about how cotton is now an environmental hazard?

Third, the same CTV host also explained that helping out is easy. She explained that if we each turned off a single light, we’d save over $75 million dollars in energy costs nationally. I’m assuming this is annually, for a light that is on 24 hours a day. While I do understand the idea, the example is awkward at best. Lord help us all if there are many people out there who can find 24 ‘bulb-hours’ they can easily do without each day.

All of this at a number of monstrous concerts all around the world to promote the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. But how do they think all the people and equipment get to these concerts?

I changed the channel a few minutes later. The last thing I’m interested in is being preached at by self-important celebrities who are the cause of far more carbon-dioxide emissions than I could dream of causing myself. It wouldn’t be quite so bad if they had a clue, but lord help us, I don’t think they have one between them. It just makes everyone feel good about themselves while precious little is really done.

Still, even from the worst situation, one must strive to pull something useful from the wreckage. In this case, it’s the reaction of an old friend of mine. According to the CBC:

Anti-poverty activist Bob Geldof has been among those who called the series “just an enormous pop concert” and criticized the movement for lacking achievable goals.

If his enormous Live Aid/Live 8 pop concerts had a stated and achievable goal, he must have neglected to mention it. Don’t you just love the big eight-year-old?

Selling a solution

I hate that ads sometimes use problems as sales tools. It seems that these days, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a global warming alarmist. To cash in, Walmart has set a goal of selling a hundred-million CFL bulbs in the United States, one for each of its regular customers.

Of course when one considers such large numbers, even a minuscule savings per bulb will add up to a significant amount of energy. Despite costing several times more than incandescent light bulbs, they use far less electricity and pay for themselves in a surprisingly short time. They also last ten times longer than incandescent light-bulbs.

All is not perfect in paradise, however. Unlike dirt-cheap incandescent bulbs, CFL bulbs contain mercury. We can’t simply put CFLs in the garbage because mercury is toxic. Does Walmart deign to mention this in their promotional material? Not on your life. Further, I did a quick search on their site, with this result:

Your search for:

mercury in Entire Site produced the following 0 results, sorted by relevance

I was hoping to discover they’d take back old CFLs, but all they’re doing at this point is ‘investigating’ a recycling program. With current CFLs each containing 5 mg of mercury, their 100,000,000 CFL goal will mean 2.5 tonnes of mercury going to the land fill unless people keen to do the right thing take extra care and dispose of the CFL properly after it burns out.

Yes, Walmart is working with their suppliers to reduce the amount of mercury used in each CFL, but the 1/3 reduction they’ve announced for CFLs coming later this year still each contain 3.5mg of mercury. The 1/3 reduction, while a great thing, still means 2/3 will go to the landfill unless the user disposes of the old CFL properly.

I checked the City of Ottawa web page and was happy to see both compact and regular fluorescent lights are now being accepted in the hazardous waste program. But really, how many people will make the effort to discover where the once-a-month hazardous waste deposit is being held this time, and make a special trip to drop off all the items they’ve collected since the last one? And all of this presupposes people know they’re not supposed to throw fluorescent lights in the garbage. Heck, most people still throw batteries in the garbage.

Be careful with them. They are fragile and can break. Should this unfortunate event occur, the United States Environmental Protection Agency suggests a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. Open a window and leave the room (restrict access) for at least 15 minutes.
  2. Remove all materials you can without using a vacuum cleaner.
    • Wear disposable rubber gloves, if available (do not use your bare hands).
    • Carefully scoop up the fragments and powder with stiff paper or cardboard.
    • Wipe the area clean with a damp paper towel or disposable wet wipe.
    • Sticky tape (such as duct tape) can be used to pick up small pieces and powder.
  3. Place all cleanup materials in a plastic bag and seal it.
    • If your state permits you to put used or broken CFLs in the garbage, seal the CFL in two plastic bags and put into the outside trash (if no other disposal or recycling options are available).
    • Wash your hands after disposing of the bag.
  4. The first time you vacuum the area where the bulb was broken, remove the vacuum bag once done cleaning the area (or empty and wipe the canister) and put the bag and/or vacuum debris, as well as the cleaning materials, in two sealed plastic bags in the outdoor trash or protected outdoor location for normal disposal.

See? Why worry? Nothing to be concerned about!

I’ve taken to buying my CFLs at Ikea, because I was buying a lamp and the CFLs were prominently displayed. In addition to their accepting batteries for proper disposal, they also accept CFLs. I respect that they admit the most efficient lights have a down-side, and are willing to help minimize it. Further, they’ve been accepting old CFLs since 2001, which makes me think they’re doing it at least partly because it’s the right thing, and not just as a sales tool.

Everyone’s a climatologist

Oh the CBC…. It’s not that I particularly enjoy kicking them around, but rather they seem to enjoy it. At least they must because their reporting sometimes just begs for it. Granted this time I’m referring to an Associated Press article they’ve republished, but if they post it, they’re fair game for criticism.

Take last Saturday’s article, Ice climbers give eyewitness accounts of global warming. The questions start with the headline. The climbers may have witnessed “vanishing glaciers, melting ice routes, crumbling rock formations and flood-prone lakes where glaciers once rose,” but those aren’t global warming. Rather, they’re effects of it. Possibly.

Climate is ridiculously complex. There are so many factors, climate scientists resort to models to explain their observations because a simple formula or two aren’t enough. But models are only as good as the assumptions put into them. Can climate scientists understand everything about the climate in a given area to build a perfect model? Don’t bet on it. Regardless, models are useful because if you make one that explains everything you’ve measured in the past, you can see what future effects may be by changing parameters. Still, a model sufficient to explain past observation may return incorrect results when other changes are introduced.

What the news media, and most enviro-nuts, refuse to understand is the complexity of the climate is so extreme, drawing simple causal conclusions is laughably naive. Even the climate scientists often get things wrong, but we’re supposed to believe anyone with crampons and a rope when they claim a particular retreating glacier is proof of anthropomorphic climate change? Perhaps if it’s what you’re already determined to believe…

The article wants to believe it very badly it seems. It refers to Yvon Chouinard as a renowned climber and surfer. His further credentials are having founded an outdoor clothing company. How can we possibly deny our hand in global warming when he says, “I personally have done a bunch of ice climbs around the world that no longer exist. I mean, I was aghast at the change.” Case closed. That’s as solid as proof can get. Might as well go home now.

Mark Bowen is a climber and a physicist, and he also wrote a book on climate and mountains. He says, “As climbers we see these places, we go all over the world. We’re in touch with the natural world like few people are. We can see the changes better than most people can.” I have no doubt climbers see things the average person doesn’t. But does seeing things make them experts about the cause of what they see? At least Bowen is a scientist, but a doctorate in physics doesn’t make him a climate expert. The blurb describing the book explains that Bowen accompanied Lonnie Thompson, a pioneer of high-altitude ice-core drilling. Frankly, I’d rather hear what Thompson has to say.

Next up is Maynard Miller. He says, “We’re going to be in one heck of a mess, I can guarantee that. We have mucked up the world’s climate.” I’m impressed with his credentials as a climber, but not so impressed with his climate pronouncements given he’s a geologist. He goes further, saying, “Glaciers are extraordinarily sensitive indicators of climate change.” I have no problem believing this, but how can he be so sure of the cause of the changes he sees?

My favourite example is Mount Kilimanjaro. The glaciers on Kilimanjaro are shrinking and this is a commonly brought up in support of the claim that we’re warming the planet. What’s rarely said, just as the CBC article fails to mention, is the cause of Kilimanjaro’s glacial retreat is in more question now than ever. Scientists have noticed Kilimanjaro has undergone intense deforestation and many believe this is the reason for the shrinking glaciers. The article cites Kilimanjaro as clear evidence of global warming, despite the evidence not being as conclusive as the doomsayers claim.

But hey, I’m not a climatologist, or even a physicist or geologist. Why would you believe me? The difference between me and these guys is I am not suggesting you believe me. All I’m suggesting is you ask questions, challenge conclusions, and not automatically believe what the media hands you. This tiny application of thought and the scientific method would make you better qualified to write the article than the author of the article.

My restoration adventure

I plan to scan all of my parents’ photos and save them to CDs. This has the dual advantages of allowing me copies of my own at only the cost of my own time, and the preservation of the images both from colour shifts that the passage of time invariably brings, and preservation from complete loss in case of a flood or something. As most plans with no deadlines, the progress is slow. The last bit of work I’ve done was to scan, colour correct, and repair a roll of film that I know was taken in the summer of 1969. The date wasn’t written on the prints, but what the photos are of makes the date unmistakable.

The thirty-three year old print as it appeared right out of the scanner.

You see, for seven months in 1969, the U.S Army Corps of Engineers dammed up and shut off the American Falls at Niagara Falls. There was some repair work done as extensive erosion had occurred. Indeed, the falls are where they are today because of erosion. Also, there’s a large pile of rock at the base of the American Falls and one of the main reasons they dammed the falls was to examine this rubble close up and determine whether they should remove it or not. I’ve read the tourist industry in the area was very concerned that visitors would stay away if they knew that half of the falls wouldn’t be there to see. It turns out that the novelty of seeing the falls dry made it one of the busiest tourist years ever, up to that time.

Colour correction and a few adjustments make quite a difference!

I don’t know who actually took these pictures (I think it may’ve been my brother), but I offer for your approval a photo from the base of the falls. Normally, all of the rock you see in this photo would be covered with water, except perhaps at the very bottom right. At the top is the actual edge of the falls the water plunges over …and you can spot a trickle if you look closely. My only regret is that to fit the images onto this page, I had to reduce their size so much that you can’t see the dirt, spotting, and surface damage in the original. The results certainly are not up to professional restoration standards, but I bet I can at least equal the results from the small film developer places that offer restoration services.