Category Archives: earth

That Hot African Air Has Been a Whopper!

I read today that “hot African air!” has been the cause of the recent European heat wave. Whatever the cause, the weather here in Tartu has been very hot for the last month or so. Very hot and very dry.  Over the twenty plus years I have lived here, I have not seen this type of weather.

What is hot? For us, that would mean around 90 degrees Fahrenheit. That may not sound too bad, but for us it is murder! We are not prepared for this kind of heat. Cold weather? We are ready for that, yes. Snow? No problem. But few people up here have good strategies to deal with extended periods of hot and dry air. Most homes, for example, do not have air conditioning. Ditto for the Finns and Swedes. I read that one air conditioned food store is allowing customers to “sleep in” to escape the hot nights. Nice!

What to do? Daily excursions to the nearby lake are a must – just to cool off a bit.  All windows are open. No cooking in a hot kitchen. And more lounging in air-conditioned malls. Lots of folks have fled the cities to hand out in the country where they are closer to water and cooler forest air.

The forecast is for rain today or tomorrow. Finally!


A Reality Check about Plastic and the future

Here it is

Plastic has been much demonised recently, thanks to its impact on wildlife and the environment, which is starkly illustrated by the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and pictures of seahorses clutching Q-tips or dead albatrosses with stomachs full of plastic.

Despite the increasing concern about the issue, there is little sign that plastic use is falling. Half of all the plastic ever made was produced in the last 13 years, says investment house Hermes, while output is set to increase by 40% in the next decade.

We might think of this as a paradigm for our modern “linear economy”. The line goes from resource to product to consumption to waste. And so we are overloaded with waste while we wonder about resource scarcity.

The answer? A circular model. Designing products that are meant to be used and the materials in them to be re-used.

New York to Donald Trump: Enough CO2!!!!

Did you know that

… just 2 percent of buildings(in New York) produce nearly 50 percent of the city’s climate-altering emissions …

Wow! And who owns those CO2 belching behemoths?

The 90-floor tower nicknamed the “Oligarch’s Erection” is the gaudy centerpiece of Manhattan’s Billionaire’s Row ― a place where a corrupt Nigerian oil tycoon set a $51 million record for the biggest foreclosure in the city’s history in 2017 and a Silicon Valley tech mogul bought the most expensive home ever sold in New York for $100.5 million in 2018.

But 157 West 57th Street is part of another, equally exclusive club that includes Trump Tower, the Trump International Hotel & Tower, the Kushner family’s 666 Fifth Avenue, the ritzy Baccarat Hotel and Residences and 15 Central Park West, where Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein lives.

The club belches out that 50%. How interesting!


Do Kids Need to Farm?

Not too long ago, it was considered a good idea for youngsters to leave the farm to get an education. Getting a degree was the way forward!

That is what my Estonian grandfather did. He was born on a farm in the tiny area called Paistu in the year 1890. His father had helped his own father to establish the farm. But my grandfather had a problem that would disqualify him from following in their footsteps. for reasons that we do not know for sure, he couldn’t walk without experiencing pain. It might have been infantile polio. Whatever. But he realized at a young age (at the turn of the 20th century) that he could get an education and change his identity. And he dd just that. He got a medical degree in Moscow and came back to Estonia as a doctor.

Here is the thing — in the 20th century millions and millions of folks took that path. They got degrees that shaped their identities. They became a person wrapped in a  knowledge package. And they left the farm behind.

Meanwhile, back at the farm, things changed. Farming morphed into big business. Plants and animals became resources — inputs. And the food we eat became products. There is nothing inherently wrong with that until we realize two things.

  • very few of us actually know how our food is produced or by whom
  • very few of us understand whether the system in place is sustainable, let alone optimal

This is a cultural problem. And cultural problems demand cultural solutions. One way forward might be to re-introduce our kids to the countryside. Take them back to the farm, not to make them farmers, but to educate them how farms actually function. How they produce our food.

That is happening at a farm in New York. called Spout Creek Run by some very plucky women, the farm has been doing this job from over 20 years. It works.

Image result for Sprout Creek farm

And it is in trouble.

Could you help? Do you want to? Check out this article to learn more!

We are Waking up to Our Plastic Problem

In itself, plastic seems to be rather mundane. And we use plastic for lots and lots of stuff. But it is becoming apparent that our massive uses of plastic are causing some problems.

There may be some health risks, though it is unclear how serious they are. As important, we are creating too much plastic waste that does not bio-degrade easily. That is a problem that needs correction.

Sorry to gross you out, but this image  of a whale that died from ingesting huge amounts of plastic says it all. Gross!

Image result for whale plastic

And this

Image result for beach plastic

The UK is enacting some regulations on single use plastic that will help. But we can and should expect a lot more until we start getting our plastic addiction under control.

Thinking about Ducks and Load Curves

The price of solar is going down, and that is great! And as the price plunges, usage goes up, and that is great too! So what is the problem? It’s the duck.

The duck?

Yes. The duck load curve. That is the shape of the curve you find when solar is generating lots of power during the day (when the sun is shining) but not so much in the morning or around dinner time. The problem is that utilities need extra power in those peak times, and don’t need it during the day. That variation in loads produces the so called “duck curve” and a headache for those trying to find economical ways to meet power demand through the day and evening.

So how to handle the duck curve?

The ultimate answer is better energy storage – batteries. But our battery technology is not that good yet. Too expensive. So, we need other options to deal with the duck curve until we get those super batteries.

How will that work? Paul Denholm discusses the problem — and the solutions that might allow us to get to an 80% renewable future.

Who would have thought that reading about energy use would be so fun!