Mining the ocean

May
15
2014

I’ve been taking in a wide variety of stories about what humans are doing (most of it bad) to the oceans. Here are some of the concerns I’m reading about:

As usual, it’s difficult to know what to believe about the present, never mind the future; these are matters for experts. If you want to get a general idea of the pessimistic treehugger view, watch Sea The Truth for an hour:

 

 

Impermanence

May
15
2014

So, this is all over the news: two independent teams of glaciologists have published research purporting to show that the West Antarctic ice sheet is getting ready, more or less, to slide off into the sea. If it does, we are duly warned, global sea level may rise by ~10 feet.

That’s a lot of ice.

Now, we’re talking glacial change: it means s-l-o-w. This is not expected to happen for perhaps a hundred years, and it may take hundreds of years to unfold, but the scientists say the changes now set in motion are irreversible. Are they right? Perhaps no-one now living will ever know.

According to that NY Times article, the glaciologists (or at least some of them) think this is probably happening because of global warming.  The first glaciologist to raise the warning did so in 1987, but he mostly wasn’t believed. If the scientists are right, and it really is possible to predict such an outcome so far in advance: what are the odds that as a species, we’ll plan and deploy a response to what’s coming? Not high.

frost

Going solar, old school

Apr
05
2014

On Tuesday, I booked a vehicle with my car sharing co-op, and drove into the deep suburbs, to do some shopping.

I stopped in at IKEA and bought some nice cordless rechargeable solar garden lights, named Solvinden. Here is one in my garden, among the fading narcissus, burning off the day’s accumulation of energy:

Solvinden from China via IKEA

They were appealingly priced, and I think they were on sale, for $4 each (regularly $5).

I have bought similar devices in the past, and all have failed after about six months. They are cheaply-made, and not easy to repair. These may not last long, and if they are still burning a year from now, I’ll be mildly surprised. These lamps are of course made in China, and this is not to fault the Chinese. When I was a boy in North America, Japan was our China, and Japanese a word that meant cheap junky technology. China is on the way to somewhere else, just as we are.

I’m struck by the fiscal history of this lamp, which I perceive only dimly. What titanic machinery is in play, that digs up the metals and minerals and petrochemicals, that marshals the capital and labour, that fashions and delivers a thing so resolutely disposable as this.

Transformers

Apr
01
2014

So this is a thing now… some people are making a drone truck that turns into a drone helicopter and back again. It’s being designed for the American military, for remotely-piloted medical evacuation of casualties, without exposing pilots or medical personnel to unacceptable risks.

I might not believe it, but I read about it in Popular Science, a magazine I’ve loved and trusted as long as I can remember.

http://www.popsci.com/article/cars/will-helicopter-truck-fly

BlackKnight

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