Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Turning exercise into electricity

I remember learning a long time ago that Chinese farmers used bicycle power to pump water to irrigate their fields. This is an image that has held my imagination all these years and I have often thought that it would be smart to generate electricity from stationary bicycles while people used them for exercise.

Lo and behold, this is what's happening, and it makes me happy:

Oregon State University Students Exercise to Generate Power
"Thousands of college students regularly hit the cardio exercise machines to work off stress after an exam or to stay in shape. Oregan State University is harniessing the energy the machines can generate and converting it to electricity to feed back into the power grid."   AP, February 20, 2009 

Any chance this initiative could spread to other colleges, to fitness centers everywhere and even to home gyms? It would motivate me to exercise more if I knew that I was actually making electricity!

I'm entering a new phase of my preparations for my WALK, the nitty-gritty phase. I'm communicating with people I hope to meet with along the way and preparing equipment and materials for the walk. One of the things I need to do this week is put out a request for people to sponsor the WALK. I'll get out some information about how to do so in the next two days.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Back in Bethlehem

When I arrived home yesterday I was treated by my husband to the last two paragraphs of the book he had just finished reading, The Long Thaw, by David Archer:

"If we add up the total amount of energy trapped by the CO2 from the gallon of gas over its atmospheric lifetime, we find that one gallon of gasoline ultimately traps one hundred billion kilocalories of useless and unwanted greenhouse heat. The bad energy from burning that gallon ultimately outweighs the good energy by a factor of about 40 million.
The enormous world-altering potential of that gallon of gasoline has taken the reins of Earth's climate away from its natural stabilizing feedback systems, and given them to us. May we use our newfound powers wisely."

The Long Thaw is one of many books on global warming and climate change listed on the website of ICE (Initiatives for the Climate Emergency), the group here in the Lehigh Valley that I joined as it started up in September 2008, convened by Len Frenkel due to his immense concern about global warming.

I recommend the website for its information on global warming, its proposals and the lists of books and further websites. Check it out at www.iceworks.org. I have listed it in the sidebar as a permanent link on this blog.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

My last night in Brazil; back to cold Pennsylvania tomorrow. I learned just this week that cruise ships emit more carbon per passenger than airplanes. What about freight ships? Several comments to BBC's Ethical Man suggested that he should come to the US by ship, container ship for example, but now I wonder about the carbon emissions of those ships as well. We need a large-scale comeback of sailing ships, new ships equipped with solar collectors and other green technology. 

Did you hear about the French man who climbed a skyscraper in Hong Kong to call attention to global warming?

"Alain Robert, dubbed the French spider-man, has scaled dozens of tall structures without ropes or harnesses, including the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Empire State Building in New York and Malaysia's Petronas Towers in Kuala Lampur...
'The global warming is something that is going to affect the next generation,' Robert told reporters on the ground level. 'The future is really compromised if we are not doing anything.'"

Monday, February 16, 2009

Oops - Fourteen more grandchildren

Yesterday's newspaper in Brasília carried a story about the American woman who, even though she already had six children under 8, no home or financial security, and no partner, got pregnant through artificial insemination and brought eight more children into the world. Aside from all the other issues of the safety and nurture of these fourteen little children, there's the whole issue of overpopulation. Our civilization needs to give a strong message to people of child-bearing age: don't bring any more children than you absolutely must onto this stressed-out spaceship called Earth. 

I have a quote to that effect today from the comment section of a blog in which BBC's Ethical Man, Justin Rowlatt, announces that he is coming to the United States to look for "solutions to the biggest problem on earth," global warming. The following comment is posted under the name Lord_Stormshadow:

"There is only one solution to Climate Change, and it's the one no-one's willing to talk about. People need to stop having babies. We need to get the global population down, and the only ethical way to do that is to get vast numbers of people all across the world to decide not to have children. Anything else really is just papering over the cracks."


My own position is that we cannot expect those who have a deep desire to have children to give it up entirely. But we must strongly suggest that they have only one or two per couple, as promoted by ZPG, Zero Population Growth. 

In the meantime, I am dedicating my walk to Nadya Suleman's fourteen children (the new octuplets and the six others), along with all the grandchildren already on my list.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Another climate change blog

(Look for my next post in two or three days as I'm off to the farm with no internet connection for a while.)

This morning I decided to see if I could find this blog on Google, typing in 'global warming' and 'blog' - result? over 7 million sites with no mention of this one. I kept trying with word combinations until 'blog, walk, grandchildren' brought up 'forallthegrandchildren' in third place. 

In the meantime I became aware of the amazing amount and variety of blogs on the subject. Two days ago I was bemoaning the fact that no one was writing about conservation, but here is someone who mentions it two years ago:

Climate Ark

January 9, 2007
Personal Sacrifice and the Climatic System
"As the science of climate change becomes more widely known, we are entering a period of angst where the reality of climatic system collapse is accepted, yet the search for climate solutions lags. One dispute is to what extent individuals must sacrifice modern conveniences to reduce emissions such as driving less, eating less meat and many other energy conserving activites; or whether the required necessary changes are of such a scale like public mass transit, global carbon caps and a carbon tax, which can only be carried out by governments. Given we must reduce emissions dramatically, by some 60% and perhaps more as soon as possible, the answer is both. I am very disappointed in Tony Blair's recent statement that we should all carry on with our air travel because science will find and answer to the problem. The hard reality is that some degree of personal sacrifice is going to be required."

So, what have we all been doing in the past two years? I for one have been slow to alter my habits and still have a long way to go in lowering my carbon footprint. I have a concern around air travel: when asked about the purpose of a trip, business and leisure or vacation appear as the main choices; I would like to add family as a purpose separate from the other two. The reality in this age of great mobility is that many of us must travel to see our children and grandchildren, and it would be unwise to stop nurturing those connections. Right now I'm in Brazil to visit my son and his family, flying back to the States next week. So I will continue to work on conscientious travel, and lowering my footprint in other ways.

If you haven't done so already you might want to calculate your own carbon footprint. You can find many online instruments to help you with this calculation if you google 'carbon  footprint.'
Or just go to www.carbonfootprint.com

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Map of the WALK

I posted this map on the new blog, for the children, and figured I would also post it here. It's not exact but a good approximation of the route I'll walk, about 2000 miles. Wouldn't you like to join me?

No quote today because my granddaughter is demanding my full attention.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What about conservation?

I've been looking for statements about conservation. Instead everything is about continuing to produce, build, go places, shop, all of which must happen to some extent, of course. But where are the quotes about shopping less, staying in your own neighborhood, turning off the lights, having fewer children ... I'm sure such statements exist but not at the policy level - LESS is not considered good for the economy.

What I did find today was the following note, from the Guardian (UK), about scientists  convening in Copenhagen in March:

"Scientists are to hold an emergency summit to warn the world's politicians they are being too timid in their response to global warming... The meeting follows 'disturbing' studies that suggest global warming could strike harder and faster than expected... Katherine Richardson, a marine biologist at the University of Copenhagen, who is organizing next month's event, said: 'This is not a regular scientific conference. This is a deliberate attempt to influence policy.'" By David Adams, February 10, 2009

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Development in the Amazon rainforests

It's 7:15 in the morning and I'm back from my first walk of the day. I completed one lap in the Parque Olhos D'Água near my son's apartment in Brasília. The lap equals 2 kilometers or 1.24 miles, but I count it as 1.5 miles after adding the walk to and from the apartment. I went out in the dark to a bright orange eastern horizon, and full daylight by the time I was done. The display in the park read 20°C, or 68°F. I imagine walking on Route 11 in Mississippi a month from now, early in the morning to get in my first three or four miles before breakfast. 

Today's newspaper in Brasilia, the Correio Brasiliense, carried an article about the struggle between the Minister of the Environment, Carlos Minc, and the Minister of Agriculture, Reinhold Stephanes, a struggle that repeats itself throughout the developing world at this point. Minc is opposing new clearing in the Amazon rainforest for the cultivation of sugarcane for the production of alcohol fuel. He insists that sugarcane plantations must use land that is already cleared, and they must not burn the residue, because of the carbon emissions, but should use the residue instead for composted fertilizer. Minc also opposes the opening of 82 projected thermoelectric plants in the Amazon region by 2017. These would be plants that produce electricity from fossil fuels such as natural gas. Brazilian officials like Stephanes who defend both the opening of new sugarcane plantations and thermoelectric plants argue that they are essential for economic growth. In developing countries, as much as anywhere if not more so, economic growth is still the holy grail. 

Monday, February 9, 2009

California's farms and vineyards

Back from the farm in Goiás, where it rained and rained and everything was green and beautiful. I had trouble remembering that the planet is in trouble and human life on the Earth in peril. The truth is that we must keep a healthy balance between our sense of urgency and need to act on the one hand, and our ability to enjoy life and love the world on the other. 

I'm quoting today from the Los Angeles Times, but first I must acknowledge that I am taking many of my quotes directly from Earth Equity News, a collection of quotes that the Climate Crisis Coalition sends out two or three times a week. I recommend subscribing to this service and will try to put a link to their website, www.climatecrisiscoalition.org, on the blog. I trust that they are happy to have their quotes reach more people, and I am grateful to them for making them available.

Here's the quote: Chu Warns: California Farms, Vineyards in Peril from Warming. By Jim Tankersley, LATimes, February 5, 2009.  "California's farms and vineyards could vanish by the end ot the century, and its major cities could be in jeopardy, if Americans do not act to slow the advance of global warming, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said Tuesday...  In a worst case, Chu said, up to 90% of the Sierra snowpack could disappear, all but eliminating a natural storage system for water vital to agriculture. "I don't think the American public has gripped in its gut what could happen,' he said. 'We're looking at a scenario where there's no more agriculture in California...'"

Steven Chu's words confirm my belief that anything I can do to raise the awareness of Global Warming is worth doing. The Walk for all the grandchildren IS ON! 

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Deltas and Global Warming

For the next two days I'll be away from my internet connection and will not be posting entries to the blog. Please check back again on Monday.

In the last two months I've spent time in two of the world's largest deltas: at the end of December Guy and I were in New Orleans in the delta of the Mississippi River, and last week I visited Belém in the huge Amazon River estuary. These areas provide a variety of resources to the planet, from swamplands and rainforests to fertile farmlands and ores and mineral deposits. 
They are vulnerable to climate changes that threaten the low coastal lands as ocean waters rise and storm patterns change dramatically.

Today's quote describes another of the world's large deltas:

"The Nile Delta region is home to approximately half of Egypt's population of 80 million people ... Vast farmland that extends for miles. It is an impressive - and rare - expanse of green in Egypt, a land dominated by desert ... According to U.N.'s Environment Program, a rise in only 0.5 meters (20 inches) would displace at least four million people and damage 1,800 square kilometers [700 square miles of farmland]. A one-meter rise (39 inches) would displace at least six million Egyptians and damage more than double the farmland." By Joseph Mayton, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, February 5, 2009.

It doesn't matter where in the world the carbon emissions occur, the effects are felt across the planet. Our excessive use of fossil fuels in the United States contributes to the rising waters in Egypt, along the Brazilian coast, as well as the Louisiana coast where the Walk for all the grandchildren will begin. For me it's not about feeling guilty - it's about being aware of the connections around the planet - a feeling of solidarity with all the people. And about a love for the trees and the waters, for the shells and rocks, for the birds and all creatures great and small.  

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The question of MEAT

My youngest son, whom I'm visiting in Brasília, has followed a vegetarian diet for many years and is now raising his little daughter as a vegetarian. When my children were young I followed the same diet and raised all three of them without meat until the youngest one was three or so. Since then we've gone our different ways and I've considered myself a semi-vegetarian.

Now, as I confront the issues of climate change, I am trying to decrease my consumption of meat, especially of factory-farm animals. In addition to the environmental reasons for cutting back on meat, there are multiple health benefits, so it should be a no-brainer. But meat-eating is a deeply ingrained habit in most western cultures, and for many of us eating a lot less meat would be easier than cutting it out altogether. 

Today's quote comes from Planetsave webmail, written by Scott James and published on January 24, 2009. 

"German Government Advisory: Eat Meat Only on Special Occasions

Germany's environmental issues advisory issued a strong advisory for German people to lower their meat consumption, effectively asking the population to eat meat only on special occasions. The advisory board cited that 15% of Germany's greenhouse gases come from agriculture. Dramatically reducing meat consumption will diminish Germany's carbon footprint."

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Photographs and a quote

I am posting the first photos of grandchildren today, my own three grandchildren to whom I dedicate my walk. As others send me photos of their grandchildren I will post them and dedicate the walk to them as well. Please pass the word to anyone you know who might want me (and others who join me) to walk for their grandchildren. 

My quote for the day comes from a Detroit Free Press Editorial, Feb. 1, 2009

Now's The Time to Speak Up on Global Warming

"Americans have to get serious about what tools they want deployed to ratchet back emissions of global warming gases ... A carbon tax that puts the cost directly in the customer's face offers the fastest way to change individual behavior ... Manufacturers would have no choice but to respond quickly to what consumers want, be it high-milage cars and more mass transit, solar hot water tanks and bales of attic insulation or their own backyard windmills ..."

Monday, February 2, 2009

Words from Prince Charles

I spent a few days last week at the World Social Forum in Belem, at the mouth of the Amazon River. The importance of the rainforests was one of the reasons the Amazon region was selected as the venue for this year's Forum. At the Forum I attended a Climate Change workshop where Brazil's Minister of the Environment, Minc, announced that the government is cracking down on deforestation by forbidding the export of soy and beef from areas that have been cleared, and by closing the huge sawmills and auctioning off the lumber so that the owners receive none of the profit. I can't say that I totally trust the Brazilian government, or any other, to follow through with such promises, but it's certainly an improvement to have the government indicate its concern so proactively.  

Another speaker at the Climate Change Workshop said that it's time for Brazil to catch up with Great Britain, which is the leader in initiatives to fight global warming. Here are some words from one of that country's leaders:

"Britain's Prince Charles called yesterday for the world to act with a 'sense of wartime urgency' to protect the rainforests, warning that they were 'umbilically connected' to the phenomenon of climate change. The heir to the British throne says rainforests 'are the world's lifebelt', acting as the 'world's air conditioning system' and helping store the largest body of flowing water on the planet. Such ambitious, ecologically-based policy is welcome from the nation that unleashed industrialism."

From Earth's Newsdesk (http://ecoearth.info/newsdesk/) Sept. 11, 2008

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Twin threats: global warming and nuclear proliferation

A new month begins and it's time to turn up my level of activity on this blog. My intention is to post a pertinent quote each day this month as well as sharing with my readers what's going on with plans for the Walk for All the Grandchildren.

My first quote is from Alex Thurston of www.theseminal.org who writes of a provocative statement he heard by Joe Cirinicione of Ploughshares Fund.

"Cirincione made the compelling point that nuclear proliferation and global warming rank as the two greatest threats to America's national security and to the well-being of people in general. He believes that the movements on both of these issues should coordinate to reframe the entire national security debate ..."