December 24, 2015

Happy Holiday Hope: The Slow but Steady Return of The American Chestnut

The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire) - Nat King Cole
Its one of the best Christmas songs you have to admit.. some of em feel like a brain tumor (yup.. Jingle Bells, sung by Simon and The Chipmunks   click this link at your peril.. it's a special level of hell made for your Aunt Thelma), but when this one, Nat King Cole, gets stuck in your head, it's not bad, it does make you feel warm.. you feel the fire, smell the smell of roasting sugars, and it feels cozy... pre-global warming cozy... nothing to worry about cozy... it's a damn good song. But what the hell was Nat King Cole talking about?
It's a rare American city where the festive cheer leads to roasted chestnuts, but you can find em sometimes, at Christmas markets and state fairs. My first time seeing them of all places was in Europe where the crop is more steady. It was a lonely Christmas in Munich, and I wandered their famous Christmas Market, complete with Glockenspiel ( A favorite joke German word of a college buddy of mine, and how relieved I was to find out it was just a clock..) and some guy was roasting these little round things over coal and it turns out they were little salty morsels of goodness, Chestnuts in English.

June 21, 2015

This Time for Real: The Electric Car Becomes a Consumer Reality

Think about how complex modern life is. Most of us are so busy keeping up with it we have a hard time getting perspective on it. The world is 7 Billion people strong, all whizzing around on something, and eating a complex diet and fulfilling so many needs, and in more luxurious places wants, for themselves and others. Global trade is massive as well, just look at how many tons of shipping, or TEU's, the measurement of volume in shipping, about one 20 foot long shipping container, go whizzing to every corner where man is. Plus the way we make life comfortable in every corner with heating, air conditioning, and even humidity control in places. It's all fueled by Fossil Fuels, something like 90% of our mechanical energy demands, transportation and electricity generation, product production and even the food we eat, fertilized by nitrogen cracked from oil... mmmmm, tasty.  If 90% of our current societal needs are met with fossil fuels, it's going to take a death by a thousand cuts to take them out of our lives. It's like removing metastasized lymphoma. It's in everything we do, more insidious than High Fructose Corn Syrup, bygum!
So forgetting Natural Gas and Coal for now, huge contributors to global pollution and CO2, but they currently don't power too much of our transportation, which is our eventual topic, which I promise I will get to after some context ( the percentage of natural gas transportation is likely growing right now, from minuscule to negligible, which isn't a horrible thing because it's clean-er (not clean!), but Coal for movement went the way of the steam engine, replaced by more efficient gas around the turn of the century with the creation of oil wells. Coal is bad for the planet, but good for the whales, who were the previous source of energy for many of our needs!)  the world uses about 93.6 million barrels of crude oil per day as projected for 2015.
How much oil do we use as a nation, the USA?

May 20, 2015

Just Declaring the Problem can be the Hardest Part: The Era of Environmental Documentaries

Recently a Documentary came out that might have the largest impact 103 minutes of digital recording could ever have on Global Climate Change, with all due respect to Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, which inarguable launched mass public discussion of Global Climate Change to new heights in the western world no matter what you think of our Former Vice President and some of his goofy gaffes and personal choices. The film is the Chinese equivalent of Gore's landmark work, however, instead of focusing on Anthropogenic Climate Change as Gore's movie did, it focused on the much more immediately impacting health effects of pollution on people in China's Industrial North East. To know the Chinese is to know their practicality, and they tend not to be as dramatically moved by secondary effects, their lives revolving around immediate ones, but they are a kind of sappy people, prone to simple affections, and knowing that they have all been suffering health affects so dramatically from pollution is bound to hit them where it hurts. A simple talk by a CCTV reporter named Chai Jing, perhaps a Chinese Katie Couric before this, all it is is an academic talk akin to a TED Talk so popular today. It was viewed 300 million times before the PRC government censored it completely from the Chinese Web, in a nation of 1.35 Billion. What jumps out more than anything is how complete the suppression of discussion about pollution has been as the world has lauded the Eastern Tiger of Economic Development since Deng Reopened China After Mao's death in 1976.
It's hard to explain what a watershed this moment is to have someone speak so publicly, authoritatively and openly about something that over a billion people have a hunch about but pretend isn't happening so as not to be singled out for negative treatment in the world's most populous complex but nonetheless authoritarian regime. Take a look:

March 18, 2015

Elk Populations of the East: Past, Present, and Future, as the Tide of Reintroduction Rolls On

One of the Most popular posts on this Blog has been my writing on The Return of the Elk to the East. It's been so popular that I feel a follow up is called for.
I said about everything I knew at the time in that post, so I figured why not dig in some more and provide some more raw information for the autodidacts out there. As a service of information, I thought it might be fun to list where the elk are now as public herds (there are a lot of meat and trophy herds, which is great, but the public herds are more likely to be free roaming and an act of wide scale species restoration, although not to take it away from the Ted Turners of the world who are privately trying to bring about ecological restoration, but their neighbors might complain, and it's harder to complain to city hall). I also searched news stories and the rumor mill as to where they might go as states and parks make active plans, and where they could go by my observations of places in the east that are wild enough. As I research, it turns out that it doesn't take a huge area.. Virginia placed their herd on 3 square miles of recovered coal mine where most of them will stay if they manage for numbers, but many of the herds are much more woodland and widely ranging.
let's start with where they started:

February 8, 2015

The Rise of the Copper Top: Copper Bullets are Making Life Cleaner for You and Longer for the California Condor

I've written a lot of posts by now. There have been a bunch of themes that have come out.. success is good, pollution bad, full ecosystems are good, and oil is bad, and one underneath has been that it's a bummer if we have to regulate to fix a problem if the regulation doesn't yield any other benefits to us. If we are walking off an ecological cliff, it's nice to still do it with our constitutional dignity as any red blooded American will tell you. that leads us to the Red Blooded topic of this post:

January 1, 2015

The Rise of the Light Emiting Diode (LED)

They are cool.. literally.. you know them by name as well as by sight now.. they set the tone in swanky night spots and they let you know you are in a modern place, the adorn cars looking for street cred as well as those so helplessly geeky they only appeal to the efficiency obsessed. When you were a kid they blinked on your hi fi and on the bridge interments on the Millennium Falcon, and they seemed to last forever and glow on the other side of your TV room a bit evilly when you were trying to fall asleep. They made remote controls possible, saving that tired ass trip to the Zenith to change from the Yankees game to Maverick, and for some reason it took years to go from these simple uses to being basically everywhere, but now they almost are, at a time we need them most...