Tom Dyson contributed a powerful comment to my recent travelogue post, arguing that flying all over the place on airplanes does not exactly constitute good citizenship of the planet. You want good citizenship? Check out My domestic environmental projects from Valdis Filks in Sweden. I feel inadequate.


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From: Gunnar (Feb 10 2007, at 15:02)

Jim Gray said at a recent talk that if we could get videoconferencing working a lot better then we can reduce the crazy amount of time a lot of us spend on airplanes.

On another green note, if you haven't seen it, these folks are at the forefront of the bright green movement, there are approx. 7 million ideas on things we can fix.


From: Mike Watkins (Feb 10 2007, at 15:08)

We don't have to look as far as Sweden to find people working towards reducing their imprint on the planet.

In Vancouver, and most local municipalities, you have recyling at the doorstop (or alleyway); composters for only 25$ (I have two and keep them going year round). Certainly in Vancouver proper there is a vast network of bike trails and routes - we avoid driving our car as much as possible, even with kids - a trailer at first, then trail-a-bikes, then a Burley Piccolo, and then a tandem sized such that kids or spouse can ride the rear (stoker) seat.

My two grade-school age boys walk home 2.5 kms from school 4 or 5 days a week; when its not absolutely pouring out, we ride or walk both directions. They grew up being pulled in a trailer or on the tandem or pretend-tandem. Soon we'll add another tandem to the stable.

We have an organic garden budding in the backyard - need to use that compost for something. Sweaters and extra blankets are the rule in our old house during the winter.

Here's a good "reduce" or "reuse" tip: Craigslist. What an amazing, and simple, solution for buying more things second hand. Its amazingly effective, and local. We trade things or give things away for free rather than send unused times to the landfill, and when we need something we do try to check first. Now if only the Craigslist folks could improve their search system or provide a public API it would be even more useful.

Our travelogue is less exotic but no less fun. The kids still talk about our bike trips to Nanaimo, Victoria, the Gulf islands, Sunshine coast - we either camp or credit-card camp indoors. Apparently we'll be riding to Calgary one year, and then across the country, according to my kids. I've learned not to argue with them.

I used to travel extensively for work (systems integration consulting) but a combination of being sick of being away, sick of the industry I was mostly working for (a high polluter), and sick of my contribution to the degradation of the planet, saw me sell my share of the consultancy to my partners several years ago and focus on lifestyle and educating the next generation of adults. I'm confident they'll do a better job than we did but spreading the word has to be done at a level much more broad than one family here and there.

Still sitting on hundreds of thousands of air reward miles that I just don't want to spend, not if flying a kiwi in from N.Z. generates 1.5kgs of greenhouse gasses.

One thing I've learned though - setting a good example is not good enough. While a few parents have added some minor walking and occasional riding into their school regime, virtually none have seen what we are doing as achievable in their own lives. That's just silly.

Quite a few people need a push.


From: Darren (Feb 10 2007, at 15:48)

We've started buying carbon credits to offset our air travel. This page from the David Suzuki Foundation lists some 'Gold Standard' vendors (search the page for 'gold'):


From: Sylvain Hellegouarch (Feb 11 2007, at 00:33)

Well if you think about it. One of the major way we pollute is by driving our car. If you've ever been to London you should try the London orbital (M25) at rush hour. Crazy.

But is all this communiting compulsory?

Imagine if people could commute locally to some sort of decentralized offices where people from different company could gather. Company would simply rent spaces in those offices and employees would work via VPN for instance.

The poinr is that if you could reduce the commuting dramatically you would improve life at so many level that everyone would win. I assume it's a huge shift of mentality of course.

This might be already done in some contexts but not on a large basis (at least not in Western Europe I think).

Planes pollute but I doubt they do as much as daily car commuting does.

- Sylvain


From: Ed Davies (Feb 11 2007, at 03:37)

I made a similar comment on Norman Walsh's blog. Tom Dyson's comment is much more to the point, though.


From: John (Feb 11 2007, at 10:29)

Hope he doesn't feel *too* good about using Ethanol. From everything I've read lately, Ethanol is a joke. It takes more energy to produce it that it saves, produces less energy per unit than gasoline, increases smog, and based on the way we're producing (subsidizing) it here in the US, will ultimately raise the price of food because we're using corn, one of the most inefficient ways to produce ethanol.


From: David Smith (Feb 11 2007, at 14:27)

There's no question that the global climate has been warming for roughly a century and a half, and that warming is almost certainly accelerating. However, anyone who can be absolutely certain the degree to which industrial CO2 emissions are contributing to that warming, or the degree to which reducing CO2 emissions will slow it, is acting as a politician, not a scientist. Climate and the atmospheric processes that drive it are far more complex than that. Dr. Henrik Svensmark, director of the Center for Sun-Climate Research at the Danish National Space Center puts it well: "The greenhouse effect must play some role. But those who are absolutely certain that the rise in temperatures is due solely to CO2 have no scientific justification. It's pure guesswork."


From: Ted (Feb 11 2007, at 15:54)

I was a bit surprised when I found this yesterday. If it's accurate, it looks like Canadian citizens are the most profligate consumers of energy in the world. I always thought it was the Americans. Each uses more than five times more than the average resident of China.

The page that links to this chart is World energy resources and consumption on Wikipedia.


From: J-P Stacey (Feb 12 2007, at 02:27)

The notion that David Smith propounds, that there's still widespread uncertainty in the scientific community about the human effects on climate change, is simply not true. The recent IPCC report---which, being written by a community, is an exercise in guarded, unhasty scientific reasoning ("The scientists spoke cautiously but the graphs said it all", Guardian, "Worse than we thought", Guardian)---states that we are 90% certain that human activities are the main cause of climate change. IPCC reports are written with the <em>unanimous</em> input of all contributors, which means that the figure of 90% includes every single objection raised by the <em>thousands</em> of scientists who have signed their name to the IPCC's output.

The opinion among individual scientists is generally far closer to certainty: faced with overwhelming data backing up the reality of human causes of climate change, it's difficult for anyone to decide otherwise. That's not to say you can't find people who will, because among millions of researchers worldwide you can probably find someone to say anything. But the IPCC have already discussed the claims by Svensmark and others that climate change correlates most strongly with solar cycles (my emphasis): "The authors concluded that natural forcings have been important on decadal-to-century time-scales, but that <b>the dramatic warming of the 20th century correlates best and very significantly with greenhouse gas forcing</b>."

When ExxonMobil and Philip Morris have to pay scientists to deny climate change ("Scientists offered cash to dispute climate study", Guardian; "Who’s Paying?", George Monbiot; Letters, Guardian), it's fairly clear that someone, somewhere is scraping the bottom of the barrel. The majority of noise from climate-change deniers seems to be coming from commentators and opinion-piece writers, acting as a vast, ignorant echo-chamber of fringe opinions without checking the validity of whatever opinions are held. After all, every writer loves a conflict, and airing a conflict---however false the dichotomy, however unsupportable one or other viewpoint---can look from a distance like actual journalism.

Through our inaction, and our flailing attemts at quasi-scientific caution, we are setting ourselves up to witness death and destruction on an unimaginable scale, mitigated from the first world's point of view only by the fact that the first few millions of casualities will almost certainly be in the third world, so of course countries like the US have yet to really give a hoot. This glee with which we'll grab any possibility that we can somehow carry on behaving like fat, rich, spoilt children, this laziness that prompts people to discuss other people's discussions rather than the actual data, is leading us to ruin. We have ten, maybe fifteen years in which to act before the ex-permafrosts start to release more CO2 than we'll ever be able to mop up. So this has to stop.


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