Monday, December 21, 2009

Good news on Climate for a Change

We can stop bothering people about everything and about their carbon footprints. It's too late for that now. And besides, the more we convince people that this is a problem from hell, the more they shut down. Therefore, we have to quit bothering people to change their lives -- we have to make the necessary changes upstream of everyday people, and stop bothering them.
This is why people concerned about the impending climate catastrophe need to realize that it's too late for the gradual, lifestyle-change approach that could have worked if started much sooner (and that I, among others, was wrong to support for too long).

We are in extremis, like a ship heading towards a collision -- this isn't the time to be telling the passengers to all run over to the starboard side and hope that we'll lean a little further to make the impact a little less severe -- this is a time for a radical course change.

That change is simple: Stop burning coal and fooling with "new oil" (oil from coal, oil from tar sands, oil from shale), and limit all deforestation rates to stay under reforestation rates. That's it -- if we can do that, fast, then we have done essentially the best we can do.

Best of all, this gives us the basis for a great deal:
"Hello world, it's us, the people who have been nagging you senseless with increasingly shrill and worried tones about an ever-increasing list of things you're supposed to make minute and calculated judgments about. Well, we're here to say that we've seen the error of our ways and we now realize that we were wrong to propose upending absolutely everything. We'd like to make a deal -- if we can all work together to get the world converted off coal and unconventional oils, we'll stop bothering you about everything else. Fly to your heart's content. Drive anywhere you can afford the gas for. Heat your house to 80F in winter if you like, and cool it to 60F in summer. We won't say a word, so long as you're not using coal or alt-oil to do it. Because we realize that, in the relevant time frame, all the world's oil and natural gas will be used up, by us or someone else. The only hope we have of preventing climate catastrophe is to get off the coal and alt-oils, and prepare society for the transition that has to happen when natural gas and oil run out. But that's a fine problem to have -- as Bill Clinton would say, "In Arkansas, we'd call that a high-class problem," because it's a much nicer problem than the one we're facing now, where we enviros are having to shout and scream about everything that is emitting carbon because we've failed to focus on the real issues: the coal, the alt-oils, and the CO2 trapped in soil. But we're over that now: help us put coal away, stop the oil sands and tar-sands madness, and keep deforestation rates down to less than reforestation rates, and we'll stop bothering you about everything else."

Best bike

Bamboosero Bikes:

Substitute bicycles for fish and you've got the idea behind Bamboosero.

Craig Calfee, a frame designer who has built bikes for Greg Lemond and other professional racers, started Bamboosero with the idea that teaching a man (or woman) to build bikes is a long-term solution that can have a lasting impact.

Using bamboo makes this possible. It grows in most of the developing world and makes it far easier to supply a bike builder with raw materials. And it makes a common resource more valuable. Much better than mining or cutting down the forest. Oh. . . and it rides like a dream!

The Bamboosero idea is simple: connect bike builders in developing countries with bike buyers like you. Buying a Bamboosero Bike doesn't just get you a great bike, it:
  • helps working families support themselves
  • injects badly needed foreign currency into struggling economies
  • creates the production capacity for an incredibly efficient local transport - bicycles!

You can choose from road, city or mountain bike models. You get a great bike. And Bamboosero gets to help entrepreneurs build businesses that will have an enormous economic impact for years to come.

Why Bikes?

Bikes are reliable and efficient. They can bring a better life within reach: access to safer drinking water, improved medical care, and more nutritious food.

Bikes can make jobs, markets, and schools more accessible.

And since bikes are easier to maintain than cars or buses, particularly in areas where parts and mechanical skills are scarce, the improvements they create can be counted on day after day, season after season.

While donations of food or medicine can help in extreme situations, bicycles enable villages to build their own economies and connect with resources beyond their own area. Donations to help get Bamboosero programs started will go further than most charity efforts because the model is truly sustainable.

Is it still LEED certified if it falls apart?

Portland's Daily Journal of Commerce:

10-year-old Marion County building needs extensive repairs

The Salem Courthouse Square building, built in 2000, needs several structural repairs. (Photo courtesy Marion County)

The Salem Courthouse Square building, built in 2000, needs several structural repairs. (Photo courtesy Marion County)

The Courthouse Square building in Salem, home to Marion County government offices and Salem-Keizer Transit, was only two years old when occupants started to notice the building settling, in 2002. Grouting cracked and tiles came loose, said Dave Henderson, the county’s business services director.

Things got worse from there, said Henderson, who works in the building. “There are areas you can see the partition walls pulling away from the exterior walls,” he said. “The drop-in ceiling grid is visibly misaligned in some places.

“You have some places where floor tiles in the restrooms have popped and have had to be replaced.”

Marion County is now looking for an architectural and engineering team to repair the building. Structural problems with the building have resulted in cracks, ceiling deformation, uneven floors, and door and window misalignments, according to the county’s request for proposals.

Courthouse Square was built by Pence Kelly Construction Inc., which has since joined with LCG Co. to form LCG Pence Construction. Arbuckle Costic Architects was the designer and Century West Engineering was the structural engineer.

In 2008, David Evans and Associates prepared a structural evaluation of Courthouse Square for the county. The building’s floor slabs experienced excessive deflection, or displacement under a load, according to the DEA report issued in February 2008 and updated in April 2009.

The design of post-tensioned slabs on the top three floors of the five-story building appeared to not meet industry standards, according to the report: “Per DEA’s independent structural calculations, it appears that portions of the original structural floor slab design were inadequate with regard to code requirements for deflection criteria and the minimum required mild reinforcement for serviceability and/or ultimate strength.

“In addition, the design did not meet industry standards …”

The report recommends that portions of the building be strengthened as soon as possible; however, the building is safe to occupy while a strengthening plan is developed and implemented, according to the report.

More than 350 people work there, for Marion County and Salem-Keizer Transit combined, and the building gets hundreds of visitors each day, according to the county’s request for proposals. The building also holds the county’s core computing data center.

Henderson said he hopes work can be done in phases so county and transit employees can keep working during construction. Marion County uses roughly 80 percent of the building; Salem-Keizer Transit uses portions of the first and fifth floors.

County officials are monitoring the building, which is still settling, Henderson said. “The building has not yet stabilized.

“The most important thing we’ve done is confirm with three different engineering firms that the office is safe,” he said. “We’ve shared that information with people (who work there).”

The request for proposals calls for a design team to begin work in February. County officials don’t know how they’ll pay for the project yet, Henderson said, and won’t know the cost of the project until the design team takes a closer look at the building.

A contractor could start work on the repairs within a year, he said. . . .

Solnit: Corporations as the Terminator machines bent on human eradication


A Magnitude Shy of What Physics Demands

Think of Schwarzenegger as the hinge between the fantasy of Terminator 2 and the reality of our predicament. Think of Obama…

Well, in T2, there’s Miles Dyson, a slender, well-spoken African-American family man who will engineer the computer technology that will create the intelligent machines that will annihilate practically everything. Sarah -- Connor, not Palin -- sets out to kill him, but her son shows up with his Terminator-Schwarzenegger sidekick, and they instead convince the not-so-mad scientist he’s about to do something terribly, terribly wrong. He then leads them to his workplace to destroy everything he’s ever done. When their violent erasure program sets off alarms that bring in squadrons of cops, Dyson ends up gravely wounded and holding the trigger to set off the explosion that will wipe out the technologies endangering future humanity -- and himself.

Seeing this movie with its acts of self-sacrifice, now offers an occasion to ask: when’s the last time you’ve even seen a major politician who’ll put his finger to that trigger with humanity in mind, no less simply do anything that’s bad for reelection?

What if Obama would say what he has to know, what they all have to know, that saving the planet from our slo-mo, unevenly distributed version of Judgment Day requires destroying the status quo and maybe changing everything? What if he’d just learn from Schwarzenegger that you can do quite a lot and still survive politically?

As a disgusted Bill McKibben recently put it, “Obama will propose 4% reductions in [U.S. greenhouse gas] emissions by 2020, compared with 20% for the Europeans (a number the EU said they’d raise to 30% if the U.S. would go along). Scientists, meanwhile, have made it clear that a serious offer would mean about 40% cuts by 2020. So -- we’re exactly an order of magnitude shy of what the physics demands.”

Bill, a normally mild-mannered guy who was overjoyed at Obama’s election, called the president’s position “a lie inside a fib coated with spin.”

Thanks to a sudden decision earlier this month by the Environmental Protection Agency allowing the executive branch to address the issue of climate-change gases under the Clean Air Act, Obama has apparently been given superpowers to act without being completely hamstrung by a reluctant Congress. Or as the Center for Biological Diversity put it, “President Obama can lead, rather than follow, by using his power under the Clean Air Act and other laws to achieve deep and rapid greenhouse emissions reductions from major polluters."

Will he? Probably not. After all, he’s the man who stood up in Prague last April and said: “I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” For a moment, it almost sounded as if he was going to be the action hero of our antinuclear dreams, wiping out one apocalypse that has hung over us for sixty years. And then he added that he didn’t actually expect to see the abolition of such weaponry in his lifetime, though he didn’t say why.

Now, we’re in an action movie in which the fate of the Earth is truly at stake, and the most powerful man on the planet has allowed himself to be hedged in by timidities, compromises, refusals, denials, and the murderous pressure of corporations. Those too-big-to-die corporations are the reason why the Senate is unlikely to ratify any climate-change treaty that threatens to do much of anything. Really, corporations -- half-fictitious, semi-immortal behemoths endowed with human rights in the U.S. and possessed of corrosive global power -- already are the ruthless cyborgs of our time. They are, after all, actively seeking a world in which they imagine that, somehow, they will survive, even if many of us and much that we love does not. Sorry poor people, young people, Africa, sorry Arctic summer ice, you’re not too big to fail.