The Picture Book

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Thinking Simplicity is a Part of the Fun

I am impressed with the designers.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Slow and Courteous Driving Return to the Road

I witnessed in shock a dramatic change in motorist behavior that I thought could never happen - motorists slowed down..... and are courteous.

The economists were right on to predict a major behavioral shift when gas breach $4 per gallon (they said it happened at $2.50, $3.00 and so on). Gas prices in my neighborhood officially broke through that level 4 days prior on Wed May 21st, and just like magic, the world around here instantly slowed.

I have been seeing fewer cars on the road for a while, but yet to observe much of a change in driving behaviors for the road warriors- until now. I am usually the only motorist, and usually the last of the pack, who will roll slowly into a red-light stop. Often eager drivers will pass by me, to my befuddlement, and accelerate into the stop 100 feet ahead. But now, many motorists are matching me step by step, and at times, unimaginably, are even slower.

On the highway I trailed behind a van that cruised at a whopping 40 mile per hour on the slow lane, and what is even more surprising was that there were more cars cruising behind me.

It dawned on me that WE ALL KNEW ALL ALONG. We knew that driving fast and hard wastes gas, and surely we know SUVs are not helping. We just didn't care until now the gas prices are punishing anyone not caring. It was not the case that we didn't know, as I had thought all these times.

So we probably knew all along our role in carbon emissions, and we knew all along our role in environmental destruction.

While no one likes high prices, I whole heartedly believe high prices of living will be the best incentives for consumers to cut down on wastes. In some strange ways, I actually hope the prices get a little higher.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Monday, May 19, 2008

EPA continues its feet-dragging on tighetening smog standard

The EPA dragged its feet again, stonewalling efforts of many states, including California, for better emission standard. The EPA chief Stephen Johnson denies the influence of White House once again, as usual.

The agency has a dilemma? - to protect the environment, or to do so only when it is convenient for the economy?

You would think that "Environmental Protection Agency" is a dedicated branch to the ... protection of environment? And so it continues to drag its feet on emission control, especially favoring the pace of the auto-industry. You would think that they should be an agency for the environment?

Interestingly, Johnson rose to the top of the rank in March, 2005 when Bush named him the new EPA chief. For years environmentalists and the Oversight Committee have noticed a pattern of political meddling, which EPA denies repeatedly.

This is perfect example of short-sighted politics and economics at its best, in which few special interest groups and easily-influenced politicians determines the issue on the table based on lobbying and campaign contributions and tax revenues.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Iceland and its Quest for 100% Renewables

Picture: Svartsengi Geothermal Plant with swimming in the Blue Lagoon from the International Geothermal Association.

Today Iceland is reaping the rewards from its renewable energy development, turning around one of previously poorest European economies to one of most prosperous.

The island of nearly 300,000 are producing nearly 100% of its electricity through geothermal and hydro power, and billions in saving has clearly benefited its economy. Although it still has one of the highest greenhouse gas emission per capita because of its fishing and heavy industry, the nation has made tremendous progress since the oil crises of the 70's and remains one of few nations that stayed the course towards renewable infrastructure. It remains on course to phase out fossil fuel in two decades.

More than just a model of success in renewable infrastructure or an example of the economic benefits in going green, what Iceland has really shown me is a hint of possibility that someone somewhere can survive the devastating energy crisis.

Check Wikipedia's Geothermal power in Iceland.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

20 5% Solutions

A colleague and I engaged in an animated, passion-filled hour-long conversation hovering from what is wrong with politics today to whether or not our grandchildren may be the ones facing the real consequences of environmental disasters. When the topic turned to energy and peak oil, he reminded me that "we do not need one super solution, we can have twenty solutions each of which contributes 5% of the total solution."

So let's list some of the technology we already have or in development:

1. Wind
2. Solar
3. Geothermal
4. Ocean waves
5. Hydro power
6. Biomass fuel
7. Recycled fuel
8. Hydrogen fuel
9. Natural gas
10. Nuclear? Coal and oil?

The prospects seem full of potential, and so what it holding back the policy makers?

Again I am reminded to return to the reality of short-sighted economics and politics. I understand all too well how we tend to sit back and let things get worse until disasters are staring us in the face.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Polar Bears being "protected", now what?

US Department of the Interior announced decision to protect polar bears under the Endangered Species Act.

It says:

Additionally, the Department will continue to:

* monitor polar bear populations and trends,
* study polar bear feeding ecology,
* work cooperatively with the Alaska Nanuuq Commission and the North Slope Borough for co-management of the polar bears in Alaska,
* provide technical assistance to the participants of the 1988 North Slope Borough Inuvialuit Game Council Agreement for the conservation of polar bears in the Southern Beaufort Sea region and monitor the effects of oil and gas operations in the Beaufort Sea region.

So it seems to me is that we will continue to "monitor" and "study" the thawing of Arctic ice and the dying of polar bears.

Polar bears stand no chance against us human beings.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Rapidity of our Destructive Power

Scientists estimate that the Universe is 14-billion years-old, the Solar System is 4.5 billion years-old, and dinosaurs walked on Earth for 200 million years many hundred of millions ago in the Jurassic era.

The age of human beings, on the other hand, is but a fleeting moment in the grand geological scale, lasting just a mere hundred-thousand of years. The modern industrial age is even more fleeting at a century-old, amounts to a single blink in the eyes of the dinosaurs.

In this short time of one-century, 20 billionth of the age of the Earth, we have already managed a blazing trail of mess. Dinosaurs were able to roam for 200 million years - maybe our greatest enemy is our own sense of superiority and arrogance.

One thing we are certainly superior of, is that, we are capable of destroying this world with greater efficiency and speed that no other specie has ever come close in matching.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Unusually Cold May

Mr. Weather turns unexpectedly cold in the middle of May.

Ants invaded offices this morning. Perhaps it was just too cold outside.

Again I started to wonder.... it is still not so bad?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Oil....... Is Not Expensive Enough

Are we the US motorists being fair about the supposedly high gas prices?

Per gallon, it costs $6.50 in Hong Kong, $7 in Europe, $5.50 in Japan, and $5 in Canada.

What about that little $1.59 cup of coffee we love so much at Starbucks, or the $1.50 16-oz water bottle that we snatch up without much thoughts? They are all more expensive than gas. When I look at beer, wine, sodas, juices and the equivalent of Doritos chips in weight, I see that they are all more costly than gas, and yet I see no shortage of shoppers loading up a cart-full of them.

I am also willing to wager that no less than 90% of us consumers spend far more on trinkets, snacks and so many other utterly useless and wasteful accessories.

My dear consumer friends should understand the "special privilege," not God-send as limitless and free, of being able to buy gas and roam in "freedom" - and it is just too much to want all cakes and eat it too.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Don't bother lying later that "we didn't know"

Polar bears the poster child of global warming may be working its magic in influencing the public. Over her concerns for their habitat and survival, my wife became interested in the environmental issues and asked me many questions about the climate change and the Arctic.

I was inspired to write this "prophecy of doom" post, dated Saturday, May 10th, 2008.

Basically I said I doubt that enough will be done until disasters strike us human kind in a rude awakening. The shock is most likely to come when least expected, as we continue to remain complacent with great false sense of security. Yet, Nature has already shot off many surprising early warning signs and rendered many scientific projections to be about as useful as coin-flips.

The politicians, the oil coalition, and the SUV-loving nay-sayers will love nothing more to simply maintain status-quo, and will certainly resort to the the expected denial and should-shrugging later on. Yet it is also that some of the most vocal green activists, Al Gore included, remain still as a part of the total contribution to the continuing environmental damage. After all, we continue to drive, shop and own a houseful of appliances and electronics, and still hop on that plane to take self-proclaimed needed getaway vacation, charged to the courtesy of American Express.

I feel that, deep inside, we all know what we are doing and what the consequence may be. But I expect most to say the same "it wasn't our fault" later.

That is how we are.

My slimmest hope relies on us having adequate technology to salvage the situation when world disasters strike in full force.

Friday, May 9, 2008

I Expect Further Wild Life Decimation To Come

While the world fusses over economy, recession, inflation, food criss, aftermath of Nargis in Burma, continuing Iraq conflicts, US presidency, and just about all issues relating only to us human beings....

.... the WILD LIFE CONTINUES TO SLIP AWAY a little more right underneath our nose relatively unnoticed....

As it is typical for every specie to operate its own selfish genes to perfect its own song and dance of self-preservation, the human specie are seemingly unconcerned with the endangerment of all other species until it the comfort level is challenged.

I am beginning to wonder how close we are to that point of no return.

There seems to be a flaw in the Grand Design.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

California Chinook Salmon also face Catastrophic Decline

In 2007, another mystery in the decline of wild life population unfolded in Central Valley - Chinook salmon essentially went missing from spawning upstream. In a dramatic move on April 10th, 2008, the Pacific Fisheries Management Council voted to ban all fishing of Chinook salmon for the year's season.

The "Silence of the Salmon" in addition to the bees confirms easily what I thought as obvious - the entire eco-system is under great assault, and we human beings are still in darkness over the degree of damage already caused.

Ecologists have been warning us for years.

I am certain more "Silencing" is to come.

Source: California Dept of Fish and Game

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Arctic Ice Thawing in Record-Retreat

Climate scientists are seeing strong evidence of the Big Thaw coming this summer, most likely to break the record low of 2007.

This photo shows two coast guards leading two researchers hauling a buoy, to be deployed in the open ocean. Scientists has estimated a realistic chance that the North Pole melts out this year. The thawing of the Arctic can further re-enforce the Earth warming trend as dark water are exposed and less ice are available as reflector.

See NSIDC (National Snow and Ice Data Center) for updates.

Burma (Myanmar) devastated by Hurrican Nargis

Nature displays its awesome destructive power once again, this time sweeping through Burma. The death toll is currently estimated at 100,000 and likely to rise. The higher occurrence of powerful hurricanes in recent years is making it more difficult to attribute to just normal weather statistical alone.

This picture is taken by NASA's Terra Satellite.

I wonder if we will see more killer hurricanes this summer.