I ran across this article looking for information on avian flu. South Carolina is the capital of the poultry industry, but even there, nobody wants to live next to a commercial chicken house. Thomas Brickle, who owns three egg houses in the area, made one comment I found particularly inspiring: "We have flies," he said. "We had flies before we had chicken houses, and we probably had flies before we had chickens." OK, so, what has no fur, struts around on two legs, thinks he is good looking (but isn't), and likes the sound of his own voice?
Blair is discussing the possibility of building more nuclear power plants. Some of the U.K.'s older plants will be going offline in the next decade or so and according to CarbonFree (a company betting on renewable energy schemes): November was a bad month in the UK for advocates of power generated from renewable sources. There was a seven-day cold period during which temperatures hovered around zero; a lack of wind becalmed wind turbines and fog blinded solar panels. Panic over bird flu was replaced by concerns that gas producers in the rest of the EU were reluctant to pump natural gas into a pipe under the North Sea that supplies power stations and homes in the UK. Rumours circulated that this winter will see rolling power cuts, firms shutting down and old people shivering around candles.
Slate carries the story of a guy who tried and failed to use his bike for useful purposes. Why he failed becomes painfully obvious if you can read between the lines. He owns four bikes, which he rarely uses "for actual transportation." Like our president, he rides for fitness and recreation only. He is single, childless, owns a dog of course, and has no aging parents to care for (the exact opposite of my lifestyle). He also telecommutes and lives near a 17-mile bike trail that passes close to most places he would want to go (stores, bars, and restaurants). You would think it would be nearly effortless for him to use his bike for just about every local errand. Not so!
I was writing a post about nuclear energy based on an article in Scientific American when I noticed an interesting comment on one of Dave's posts on global warming, which all somehow tied together. From Scientific American: Smarter Use of Nuclear Waste [ ENERGY ]Fast-neutron reactors could extract much more energy from recycled nuclear fuel, minimize the risks of weapons proliferation and markedly reduce the time nuclear waste must be isolated Sorry, you can't read the full article without a subscription. Not to worry, the gist of it is that fast breeder reactors could eliminate most of the problems associated with today's reactors (bomb grade material, nuclear fuel shortages, and large amounts of long-lived waste). I learned long ago not to get worked up when reading articles on imminent scientific breakthroughs that are going to save the world, but this technology (unlike fusion) is actually within reach.
I am no longer alone. Others now know that alien species are abducting the planet's rainforests. I was greatly relieved to find this article in New Scientist via Treehugger a few days ago. Admittedly, the number of environmentalists who think biofuels are a bad idea are outnumbered by people who have been abducted by aliens a million-fold, but maybe it's a start (I know, my posts on the subject are starting to look obsessive/compulsive).
Carnivorous Powelliphanta snails that can grow to the size of a man's fist are being attacked by a coal mining company (note that this article was found in a business journal). What is wrong with letting a company move a colony of endangered snails? Well, first, the odds are very high that the move will fail. Secondly, if you don't draw the line here, what will stop the next person from moving them again when they want to build condos where they have just been moved? Why bother to save a snail species at all?
Interesting. I quit playing in the dirt with my toy trucks when I was... oh, about 6 years old. A few weeks ago, the Forest Service announced a plan to control the proliferation of illegal trails created by off-road enthusiasts. Personally, as I said in an earlier post, I wish the government would just get out of the recreation business. I think it should be illegal to drive motorized vehicles off road on any public land. You can't dump garbage on public lands, why are you allowed to churn it into a mud hole with your 4x4? These people do a lot more tangible, direct damage to natural habitats than urban Hummer drivers. Most people are not aware of it because they do all of this damage off the beaten track. Let the enthusiasts pay the market price for tearing up the planet. There are plenty of entrepreneurs out there who would love to charge them to use their property -- assuming, of course, that the government would create a level playing field by enforcing laws that protect wetlands and streams on these properties. You might even see a throttling of this growing industry by free market user fees, which could be quite steep, depending on competition, supply, and demand.
An article in last Sunday's Seattle Times gives us some bleak news. The Amazon is being illegally cleared at unprecedented rates. Why? There is a demand for the wood. Where? Brazil's main markets are the United States, which accounts for one-third of all timber shipments abroad, followed by China, at 14 percent and growing rapidly, and European countries, which collectively account for 40 percent.
Though native[s]... like me are gradually being outnumbered by newcomers, we remain tied to the land in a way outsiders will never understand... Without it, we lose our cultural identity and, ultimately, ourselves. This is not a new fight; it has raged in these mountains for generations as our land has been exploited again and again. This is not a quote from Chief Sealth. It is from a letter in Newsweek lamenting the development of rural Appalachia. I empathize with the author's plight, but not his myopic perspective. His great, great, great grandpappy took that land from Native Americans (who undoubtedly took it from someone else). We are all the same, we human beings. Our history is one long power struggle. I can't see how the future will look any different. He is on the losing end of the power struggle this time.