A Concrete Overpass Can be Beautiful

2 02 2010

This Vertical Garden is located in Pont Juvenal, Aix-en-Provence.

This just shows that it is possible to green our existing infrastructure in two senses of the word. Adding vegetation like this both enhances the aesthetic of the monotonous highway commute and all those little plants can make a small dent in counteracting the greenhouse gas emissions released from thousands of passing automobiles.

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Let’s All Have Coal Ash for Breakfast!

14 01 2010

You can find someone to deny just about anything, and, I’m making an assumption here, but I would not find it remotely hard to believe that people like this can make a REALLY good living pulling stunts like this.





We Could All Use a Second Look

25 08 2009
From: CTV, 2009

From: CTV, 2009

“I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way. “

– From the film Dead Poets Society




How to Store Nuclear Waste in Canada

24 08 2009
From: ecofriendlymag, 2009

From: ecofriendlymag, 2009

Community resistance to hosting public need facilities such as power plants and landfills is nothing new. Governments historically have gone into communities and imposed these public need facilities on helpless citizens. Sometimes governments succeed in stifling community opposition but in other cases, communities band together to reject the proposal as was the case with the European and American multi-billion dollar nuclear waste storage plan. The same will likely apply to the storage of nuclear waste in Canada. Or will it?

The Canadian Government has opted to address the storage of nuclear waste by working with the public. On behalf of the Canadian Government, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) was tasked with developing a site choosing process which will comprise of two major components: a willing host community and a good geological site with a steady rock formation where groundwater is not easily available. NWMO is working with organizations and individuals on important principles and elements for a fair process to identify an informed and willing community to host the storage facilities.  Interested communities are invited to volunteer themselves as a potential host community. It seems that the Canadian Government is willing to cooperate and ask rather than tell. Additionally, the Canadian Government has asked NWMO to work with the host community for 8 to 10 years to discuss concerns and issues regarding storage of nuclear waste.

An aside: Canada has more than two million high-level radioactive bundles of nuclear waste that needs to be stored for approximately 10 000 years. It will cost between 16 and 24 billion dollars just to construct the storage facility. While ample research has been done to ensure safe storage of nuclear waste no one really knows what will happen within the next 10 000 years, or even the next 100 years for that matter. So who should bear the potential unknown risks of storing nuclear waste? While the Canadian Government is putting emphasis on identifying a willing host, aboriginal communities appear to be targeted. NWMO has specifically identified aboriginal consultations as a separate component of implementing a nuclear waste storage plan. Is this a good thing? Are we honourably trying to better educate and consult with aboriginals? Or are we simply trying to entice certain communities who are in desperate need of money and job opportunities? Both of which will be made available to communities who host nuclear waste. Just a thought to consider…

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2009/08/19/f-nuclear-waste-storage-options.html

http://www.nwmo.ca/

Thanks to Sarah English for contributing





China and Pollution: What You Can Do

18 08 2009
From: Current, 2009

From: Current, 2009

I know this probably isn’t News to anyone, but China is pretty bad when it comes to pollution. Often the argument goes like this:

  • China’s recent history of water pollution, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions is higher than anywhere in the world.

But then there is the counter argument:

  • North Americans along with Western Europeans have far higher greenhouse gas emission rates per capita, in fact the emissions per person in china are about a quarter of those of his or her United States counterpart.

And my counter argument?:

  • If China’s pollution is so high when their per capita rate is so low, that means there are a few very large, very powerful corporations, power plants, etc in the East that are allowed to pollute without consequence, or so it seems to me. We can’t punish the already struggling and impoverished general population of that country.

My personal argument isn’t based in fact so much as it is in observation and inference. We often hear about industrial catastrophe’s in China such as the recent lead poisoning of nearly all children in one village. We see the polluted haze that consumes Beijing daily (the olympics sure didn’t help thier image). We know that the country is very rapidly running it’s water resources dry and on top of that, it is said that a major water pollution incident occurs every other day. In effect, most of these problems are partly induced by us westerners who demand Chinese goods day in and day out, from irons to computer chips. It is within our capacity to change the way China manufacturers it’s products. We have the ability to demand a clean manufacturing process and the fair treatment of employees by only purchasing goods that meet our requirements. Wal Mart, of all places, is sort of doing this. They are developing an environmental rating system for all products on their shelves, and if their manufacturers don’t comply, they’ve threatened to drop them. The catch here, is that the system will only apply to packaging, which Wal Mart says it will reduce by a whopping 5%. This doesn’t mean much in and of itself, but it may hopefully spawn a new movement towards consumer knowledge of what they are purchasing. A rating system that expalins the approximate greenhouse gas emissions created by that product, the amount of recyclable material within it, the exact toxins that go into the manufacturing process, the amount of water used. If the west were to make purchases based on this type of data and not solely price, then maybe we could see a great change in Chinese manufacturers?

For now, you can look desparately for North American made products (occassionaly you can still find some clothing, shoes, office products, etc.), and you can improve your knowledge of the manufacturing industry in China. Two relatively mainstream documentaries are worth watching: WalMart: The High Cost of Low Prices, and Manufactured Landscapes. You can also support Human Rights Watch or support any number of environmental organizations, many of which will be involved with China in some way.

We can’t blame the country of China for the environmental problems of the world. We in the west have certainly been polluting for a longer period of time. Consider our industrial revolution was over 100 years ago, China’s has happened within the past 20 years. However, they are not going to change all by themselves. A quote from Wang Yongli, a water engineer in Shijiazhuang says, “We have a water shortage, but we have to develop…And development is going to be put first…In Israel [where there are also extreme water shortages], people regard water as more important than life itself. In Shijianzhuang, it’s not that way. People are focused on the economy.” If we as consumers show that we want environmental and social justice through our purchases by buying locally as much as possible, maybe the Chinese will then see the need to meet western regulations on both the environment as well as human rights. This is as much our problem as it is theirs. Don’t blame China until you stop supporting their dirty industries with your wallet and demand change.





Walking! It’s the New Driving!

11 08 2009
From: Flickr, 2009

From: Flickr, 2009

A fellow blogger put together a great post on the benefits of walking as well as the unseen costs of driving a car. Here are a few of the things he’s discovered:

  1. 40% of trips made in the United States are 2 miles or less
  2. Even given the above, fewer than 10% of all trips are made by foot or bike
  3. In 2008, Americans consumed 22.5% of the world’s oil production (884 million metric tonnes)
  4. For those of you who like to blame China for being the big polluter, they burned 375 million metric tonnes
  5. If you thought driving vehicles was bad for the environment, consider this. A car produces more waste and air pollution in it’s lifetime before it’s even driven.
  6. Medical expenses due to obesity count for 9.1% of all American medical expenditures.
  7. The risk of death from heart disease could be reduced by 34% by simply walking 2 hours per week

I put these numbers out there for obvious reasons. Do I believe cars are terrible things? Not at all, especially when they’re becoming incredibly more efficient, and we’re finally on the cusp of producing electric vehicles for the masses. I understand that cars are necessary at times, especially given the current urban form of North America – that is sprawl. You can’t really be expected to walk everywhere when there is no infrastructure in place to encourage it. However, I know for a fact that there are still plenty of trips that are incredibly brief and could easily be made on foot. Often our first instinct as 21st century human beings is to hop in the car no matter where we are going. It has been proven though, that this is unhealthy in numerous ways. So, next time you’ve got to go somewhere, consider the actual distance and the actual time required for that trip. Do you really need to drive? Could you benefit from a calming walk and a breath of fresh air?

For more on the social benefits of walking and more stats and numbers: http://svenworld.wordpress.com/2009/08/11/talking-the-walk





Senator Inhofe: Oil and Gas Don’t Pollute

29 07 2009

Wow…I don’t even know what to say about this. Senator Inhofe, of Oklahoma, actually says not only that oil and gas don’t contribute to climate change, but that they don’t pollute at all. That is one of the most absurd things I’ve ever heard.

Well senator, I guess that gives major oil companys the go ahead to dump their waste water in your backyard? Have you possibly tried to leave your car running in the garage with the door closed? Can you tell me that would have no ill effect on your livelihood? Maybe I can stop by and dump my oil motor oil in your garden? I certainly hope you just fumbled the words and didn’t actually mean what you said.