Flooded Planet

Exploring the World to the Very Last Drop

Tag: politics

Speeding Trains Will Not Budge

As I was barreling down the highway today (well, actually I’m more often accused of driving like an old lady, so I chose ‘barreling’ to make it sound more dramatic than it really was…let’s say I was going 57 mph in a 55…all caution thrown to the wind).

Anyway, so there I was. I had to slam on my brakes in order to avoid a collision. My laptop was situated on the back seat of the car, because I’m dense and don’t think that what happened last time will happen this time). Mr. Hewlett Packard went crashing to the floorboard…again. Inertia does what it’s paid to do—it keeps things going in the same direction they were just undertaking a moment ago, even when some outside force says that the situation has changed.  It takes a moment or two for all things to sync up again I guess.

All objects in motion tend to stay in motion until acted upon by some outside force (I’m paraphrasing, Mr. Newton, so stop looking at me like that…it’s close enough).

Fortunately, the computer is still working…again, after being slammed to the floor for the umpteenth time.

This inertia law applies to pretty much anything and everything in the physical universe, including heavy things, like speeding trains, and even things as light as atmospheric gasses, like CO2, methane, water, or sulfates of various ilk. If we can picture the idea of the CO2 being ‘pumped’ into the air (the classic smoke stack doing its thing is a nice visual), that really means just a couple of things. First, because these compounds are gasses, they’re going to go, and then mostly stay, where we’d expect them to—up. Second, their elemental composition of relatively small molecules, coupled with the idea that a turbo-boost of heat energy helped to send these little cuties aloft in a big time way…well maybe this picture helps us to imagine what will be necessary to get those annoying gasses back down where we can do something constructive with them—we’re going to have to ‘suck.’

I read a headline today that the world’s first industrial-scaled attempt at removing carbon from the atmosphere was recently brought online (question…why would this seemingly simplistic endeavor take this amount of time to come to fruition? Surely I’m missing something here). Sounds exciting, I thought to myself, delving into the story with gusto. Turns out it’s the Swedes once again leading the way, and apparently there’s an enterprising businessman on the development team.

The facility is located somewhere outside of Zurich and basically operating the way most people might imagine. At its most basic, we’re talking about a ginormous vacuum cleaner that sucks the CO2 out of the atmosphere. Once this has been accomplished, the carbon is filtered out, then used, in this particular example, to help grow things in greenhouses (commercial plant vendors already do something similar, introducing copious amounts of CO2 into the plants’ environment so that they’ll be prompted to grow better, faster, stronger… faster). The company’s rep also claims that synfuels may be developed, as well as providing carbonation for soda, which I thought was a very worthy benefit to pursue.

Then I read the part of the story that absolutely did not work for me. The company hopes to remove 1% of civilization’s global annual carbon dioxide emissions by 2025. To do so, he said, 250,000 comparable-sized facilities would have to put into operation, as well. Yes, you read that correct—250,000 plants. So…eight years…250,000 more buildings of similar capacity…to achieve 1% extraction of annual global CO2 emissions. Sounds like a good plan, right?

One other very very important aspect of this story to unfortunately emphasize: this enterprise is not contributing to the concept known as ‘negative emissions.’ What’s that, you ask? In practice, it would mean that we are removing more carbon from the air than we are spewing into it. The theory is that, if we reduce the overall amount of the CO2 floating around up there in the atmosphere (the stuff causing the greenhouse effect that is warming the planet) we might gradually cool things down. This facility is not doing that. It’s ‘repurposing’ the carbon (my term), using the very by-product of their efforts for other things such as those already mentioned.

So, to be clear, yes, this outfit is sucking carbon out of the air, but it’s not permanently removing the stuff. No sequestering happening here yet. One can easily imagine that if a company is going to pursue that business model, I guess what we might call the “Removing carbon from the atmosphere, not to better secure an optimistic outlook for future generations, but to then take the sucked-out carbon and make a little cash on the side by using it for things like safeguarding soda as the sticky sweet carbon-ated beverage king it already is” business model, well, that company might be accused of ethical transgressions, moral hazards, legerdemain, bait and switch, etc., and, indeed, such accusations have already been flying.

I’m sure that businessman tucked amongst them is happy to spin the questions that will surely be leveled against him as this carbon removal enterprise begins to look more and more like business as usual.

I took the time to dive into some of the other alternatives on the table as possible solutions to our Climate Change sticky widget, quickly discovering that nobody out there really has the slightest idea about how we’re going to tackle Climate Change head on. There are fleas on the ticks on the flies on the hair of the half-starved dogs we’re calling the best of the best. A solution that comes even remotely close to something that looks and smells like a bona fide solid scientific promise is as far off as that speeding train looked nearly 50 years ago when the subject matter experts started sounding the alarm. As hard as it is to stop a speeding train, looks like it’s just as hard to get up a good head of steam (objects at rest tend to stay at rest unless acted upon by some…well you know the rest).

The comments I read in many of these journalistic articles are the most honest and unfiltered truth one can find out there. Leave it  to somebody who is a natural born cynic and skeptic to state things as they really are. In truth, we don’t know what the heck we are doing, and we’re simply running out of time to even have a chance at figuring it out.

Meanwhile, the POTUS has taken us out of the Paris Agreement when he absolutely did not have to. Pretty soon, we may have to say that we’re out of the game entirely…all of us, because we understood the rules, we just thought we could skirt around them.

Here’s part of the comment that I liked best because it says the same thing I’ve been saying on this post for several months now. I will not give attribution because I didn’t get this person’s permission. I only offer a ‘two-thumbs-up’ for the honest and simple words that really drive it home for me, simply because it’s true (grammar, punctuation, and slight wording changes mine to improve read…intent wholly intact):

“…I mean besides a very, very select few of us, how many do you observe who take this matter to the level of seriousness it deserves? Most people shrug it off. “Warming, yep, what can you do?” Then they get in their oversized SUV or pickup, crank the AC and floor it into the sunset. There has to be some major major events before people as a whole will take notice, and then it will be too late. I just cannot see people rolling back to the level required to avoid going over the cliff…”

Sincere Thanks for stopping by!

G2

Chinese Coffee Mugs

Chinese Coffee Mugs

 

Nothing less complicated than a coffee mug

Yet how complex it truly is

 

I know nothing of its beginnings

 

How it was made

How it can be so smooth

Or how it got so white

 

And those beautiful designs placed on that same smooth white surface

What are all those colors made of

What gives them their majestic brilliance

 

What’s the substance of any of it and where did it come from anyway

 

It was simply placed in my hands

I never really have much choice

 

Only know that I’ve used it and many others like it

Never anything more…and never anything less

 

Nothing less complicated than a coffee mug

If I can’t understand that…well how can I possibly know the world

 

Someone whispers in my ear –

 

It was Made in China

 

Oh well that’s a start I say

What do we know about China and her people I ask

 

Someone whispers They drink a lot of tea

 

Oh I say I think somehow I knew that

 

Yes but they’re steadily switching over to coffee

 

Really I gasp and how do we know that

 

Because they’re making a lot of these mugs

 

Hmm I say tasting my coffee

Nothing’s as simple as all that I suppose

 

In the end the Chinese may turn out to be the coffee baron’s biggest customer

 

Amazing I say truly astounding

I continue to sip my coffee in my Chinese mug

 

Someone whispers I believe the stool you’re sitting on is Made in China too

All of a sudden I’m nervous and it’s not just the caffeine

 

Nothing more complicated than the Chinese I say

Feeling as though the only one astonished in the room is myself

 

Why do I know nothing of their beginnings

Or how they got so white

Or what gives them their majestic brilliance

 

Or how we became so Oriental in the first place

 

The stamp is on the bottom the voice whispers again

 

Hmm I say turning the smooth white mug upside down

The coffee spills all over the table but the stamp is indeed clearly visible

 

The voice chuckles as someone tosses me a rag

I make a grab for it but a yellow finger is pointing at a little snippet of white sewn to one corner

 

I choose not to read it

 

When we turn everything upside down there we’ll find the Chinese

 

I stare at the coffee mug and those colors still so vibrant

 

The voice whispers one last time

 

The coffee is also Chinese

 

(© 2005 All Rights Reserved)

Apalachicola

When I first arrived in Panama City, Florida some 22 years ago now, Apalachicola was one of the first little nearby towns I visited. The place was kind of famous, according to legend, and I couldn’t find any locals who didn’t highly recommend it as an enjoyable day excursion. So I went.

There’s something about the salt air that I truly think is good for the human soul. I have a friend who swears by it, even getting a little surly when she can’t get her fix of the salty elixir. But beyond that, Apalachicola just makes me feel happy in lots of different ways. It’s small town USA. The streets are bright with sunshine, and the whole place has managed to keep its down home vibe, with nothing but small Mom and Pop shops, lots of great restaurants, and plenty of maritime culture and American history to soak up, whichever way you turn. I’ve been to this fantastic little place numerous times, both with friends and family, and always leave with the feeling that it won’t be too long before I go back.

So, it’s a bit of a concern to know that Apalachicola has been hit really hard on a couple of different fronts. If you read the paragraph down at the bottom of the free posters they give away, showing the river and the bay from satellite height (one hangs on the wall of my home because I really like the way it looks), you’ll discover that it is one of the most important estuaries in the southeast United States. And for generations, the place has been home to some of the best seafood you’ll ever taste for hundreds of miles around. Apalachicola Bay is home to blue crabs, shrimp, numerous kinds of saltwater fish, and of course…those famous bay oysters (this bay supplies 10 percent of the nation’s supply, and there are thousands of jobs that depend on the success of the oyster).

Their annual seafood festival is something to experience. I had never seen so many oysters in all my life. The vendors serve them up a dozen different ways, and all of them delicious. Baked on the grill with some parmesan cheese, hot sauce, butter and lemon juice…oh, my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

So the part that’s disheartening is the fact that the oystermen haven’t had the kind of catches they did in times past for years now. The seafood festival I went to was twenty years ago. I hear it hasn’t been the same for quite a long while. It’s hard to determine just what the cause is, and there seem to be several factors involved. Although some would say it comes down to drought and drought only, others maintain that the real cause behind the oyster shortages has everything to do with river flow, and that means Georgia is to blame.

This water feud has been going on for decades now. Florida claims that Georgia needs to loosen its grip on the spigot that controls the flow of water downstream. Oh, if it were only that easy.

You have to go way back to the late 1930s, when the Army Corps of Engineers (they seem to be behind a lot of the troubles that are caused by water) proposed the construction of a dam in northern Georgia, to provide water for nearby Atlanta, as well as to control flooding, and a host of other reasons that sounded good at the time. Buford Dam was finished in 1957, with Lake Lanier created as a result. Of course, nobody knew that nearby Atlanta would become the water-starved metropolis that it now is, gobbling up every available drop it can get its hands on. (P.S. I lived in Atlanta for two God-forsaken years. Why anybody would want to do that to their soul is beyond me, although I guess traffic gridlock for hours on end may be a charming way of life for some. Take my advice…visit often, but live somewhere else).

The problem started way back when, after the Corps authorized that the water used for the hydroelectric component of the dam be diverted, instead, to supply Atlanta residents with more drinking water. Alabama immediately cried foul, filing a lawsuit against Georgia and the Corps. Florida wasn’t far behind. When you start depriving citizens of the water they’ve come to expect, trouble’s bound to ensue. That goes double for people whose livelihoods depend on it. The Apalachicola River supplies 35% of the fresh water that flows into the eastern portion of the Gulf of Mexico, and is critical for maintaining proper salinity of the waters in the bay. When things get too salty, oysters don’t grow, and people don’t eat.

All parties decided to settle down a bit and try to reach favorable agreements for all concerned. The devil’s in the details, of course, and there’s two sides to every story (although there’s three in this case who can’t play nice together). A couple of compacts were the result, but these didn’t last for long, and everybody climbed back in the saddle, ready to kick things up to the next legal level.

From there, the story just gets very litigious, I’m afraid, and I’m not adept at making good drama out of lawsuits and arbitration that just drag on and on. Things have been mired down for a while, with big players in Florida, like Senators Rubio and Nelson, and Governor Scott all weighing in for Florida. Meanwhile, the oyster industry has been recognized as “in collapse,” with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently issuing a fishery disaster over oysters.

Essentially, there’s been trouble over water in some aspect or another between these three states for nearly a quarter of a century now, and a happy compromise seems nowhere to be found. Maybe the Supreme Court justices can throw the hammer down.

Several conclusions can be drawn, and you’ll probably make most of the same ones I have. Population growth continues to strain the nation’s natural resources (Atlanta is the nation’s ninth most populous city, and with no slowdown in sight). Water is, of course, one of the most important natural resources we have, along with every other nation on the planet, and how precious we are finding it to be these days.

In the meantime, I’ve known some families, either directly, or through friends, who have decided to walk away from the oyster and fishing industries after making their living on the water going generations back. That’s a tough call, and another piece of Americana that’s slipping away. Apalachicola’s economy depends heavily on the bay to stay open for business. But people have decided to call it quits, with some long-time restaurants, distributors, and other supply-chain interests shuttering their doors for good.

We can always hope things get better, but, at least for now, the once-thriving Apalachicola Bay is just a shell of its former self.

Check out these other related posts, and sincere thanks for stopping by!

Big Ball of Bio-Water

Falling Electricity

G2

 

South China Tea

Sometimes, when words intended to describe one thing are mentioned, they conjure up images that are quite different from what they once actually meant.  Such is the case we now find ourselves in with respect to the “South China Sea.”  I suppose the word “China” is the stickiest one of the three.  I don’t think of a body of water anymore when I read the headlines right now so much as an interesting and sticky political situation with the potential to destabilize the region quite quickly.

The political theater surrounding “ownership” of the South China Sea is really quite rich.  The claims and counterclaims, the history that is purported to be there, the ancient fishing grounds and relics of antiquated maps establishing primacy and all the rest.  Too many countries with too many claims.  How does one go about sorting it out?

Actually, a panel of judges, as we’ll call the decision-making body that China has basically pushed aside, even before a decision was handed down, did that very thing just a few weeks ago (July 2016). It concluded that China’s bold moves in the area are not to be seen as any sort of right to the body of water, or at least to very large portions of it, and that the country should cease and desist post haste.

It’s good that we have a clue as to what China’s true intentions might be, despite what their leaders might otherwise be spinning for us.  After all, we know that China is a rising superpower.  We know that it takes a whole lot of fire to keep an economic blaze like that going for the foreseeable future.  Fire needs fuel, and there’ve been reports that the South China Sea is awash in the stuff (oil and natural gas, of course).  Not to mention that the big boats carrying goods to all parts of the world crisscross through those same waters at a pace that puts at least some of the other important shipping lanes to shame.

So, it’s easy to see that a whole lot is at stake.  China is the bully on the block.  None of the other nations staking claims in the area come close to China’s military or economic might.  China knows this and seems to be intent on making a statement, despite the best efforts of others to stop it in its own dirty wake.

What one does have to admit as rather remarkable, no matter who’s side of the fight they’re on, is the transformation of some smallish spits of land into airfields, complete with facilities to house and maintain fighter jets. Truly astonishing if you look at the before and after photos. If nothing else, we have to hand it to the Chinese for their grit, tenacity, engineering ingenuity, and all the rest. But, in the meantime, the world will not stand for such bullish behavior, and the Chinese haven’t heard the last of it yet. Too many upraised fists still shaking in the air, and not enough of them showing anything for all their efforts but a big empty net full of nothing.

Sincere thanks for stopping by!

G2

Hectic Eclectic

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