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March 29, 2007

Sometimes I Spit on Nature's Face

I recycle, I don’t litter, I don’t produce a lot of trash, and I don’t actively participate in global thermonuclear war, but these things are easy. Despite these small efforts, I still think I am over my pollution budget.

Although I haven’t driven much since coming to the U, I know my car is my biggest encroachment. Although it is small and fuel efficient, it is still a heavy polluter. The catalytic converter has been removed, so harmful pollutants like carbon monoxide aren’t properly oxidized before leaving my exhaust. My PCV (positive crankcase ventilation) system also has problems that I’ve ignored for too long, adding to the amount of offensive gases coming from my engine. Furthermore, I have some slightly worn intake valve stems and guides that allow small amounts of oil to be burned and expelled into the atmosphere. And of course, I often let the tachometer climb to unreasonable heights before shifting – just for fun, which amplifies all of the aforementioned conditions.

This car is 15 years old, and I’ll probably make it last at least a few more years until I have the means to buy a new one. Along the way, I doubt I will do very much to make it more eco-friendly. I’ll drive it whenever I feel like it, and sometimes I won’t even have any particular place that I need to go. Even in the future when 70% of our cars are powered by hydrogen fuel cells or something, I know it will be very difficult for me to depart from good ol’ internal combustion gasoline engines. I am guilty of being a friend of nature only as long as it doesn’t inconvenience me (or perturb my passions in this case). I am kind of like a non-voter who can’t imagine making a difference, especially when there are power plants out there that dwarf my wildest, smoggiest dreams by factors of a billion.

I know this is a group effort, and I’m an equally important member, but I honestly can’t see myself making a major lifestyle change. I do plenty of the small easy stuff, but when it comes to a significant sacrifice of comfort, I am just not inspired enough. I want to be. I try to convince myself to be. But I am not so motivated. I admit it. I think most people share this feeling, but they haven’t admitted it. That’s why progress is so slow, even though every hypocrite wants a healthy planet.

Check this out: Our pal Al Gore being a little bit of a hypocrite

March 22, 2007

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men Gang Oft Aglee

Boyle’s story showed that we need more reverence for nature. Our efforts to tamper with nature for our benefits often end up displaying our ignorance. One example from Boyle’s story is how dramatically reducing the amount of mosquitoes also lowered the population of a certain wasp which keeps the population of a certain caterpillar in check. With the caterpillars free from their oppressors they were able to multiply to the point that they destroyed the natives’ roofs that were made of delicious palm leaves. This example shows how the natural world can often pull up unthought-of consequences for our best attempts to reshape nature. Truly we must live in accordance with nature’s unfathomable power.

March 8, 2007

Mister MIT learned me good

Some of Lindzen's points:

All the diplomatic activity over global warming can alone lead one to believe that it is a major crisis. - (Not a scientific reason)

Many in the scientific community have discredited the more catastrophic predictions. - (Scientists against the threat of global warming)

Many scientists making these predictions are not experts in the field like Lindzen is. - (Less competent science supporting the treat of global warming)

A warming like ones being predicted wouldn't even be difficult to adapt to according to economists, agronomists, and hydrologists. - (Specialized scientists saying it’s not a real threat if it is happening)

Summary: capable scientists don't all agree on the ideas that are mostly propagated by less capable scientists or politicians. Also, many capable scientists in the appropriate specialized fields don't feel that the warming, if it occurs as predicted, would be a major threat to the planet or society.

In the rest of his argument he points out the flawed logic that turns the evidence into doomsday prophecies. One good example: Water vapor constitutes 98% of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. It is far more potent that CO2 and by far the most abundant greenhouse in the atmosphere, and we have no control over it. The remaining 2% that we have control over is fairly insignificant. And most likely if we burn all the fossil fuels we can we can't make the percentage in our control approach threatening levels.

I don't have a problem believing that the Earth's temperature is rising, although that point is minutely debatable. I don't even have much of a problem believing that it is our fault instead of a result of the mysterious climactic cycles of the Earth. Lindzen however makes it difficult for me to believe that global warming is the threat that most of us have been lead to believe.

March 1, 2007

Da Bears

I'm not exactly sure what Timothy thought he was doing out there. I can see that he has found meaning in his life by connecting with nature, and that's admirable. He was able to grasp the full reality of nature. He understood the harshness that many environmentalists fail to recognize.

Yet he still had a romanticized view of nature and his quest. He claimed to be protecting the bears even though they lived on federally protected land. He stylized his adventures and built them up in his head. His life was built around these trips; they saved him from alcoholism and defined his life. By convincing himself of how grand and noble his trips were he was able to feel better and better about his life.

His real achievement came in capturing the beauty of nature. The images he recorded are amazing. That's my favorite part about the film. His video relays the importance of continued protection of such places.

I find it hard to tell if he's doing more for nature or more for himself. However, the fact that he tackled such extremes makes him a much more respectable environmentalist than all those who prefer the greatest extent of their interaction with nature to be in the safety of a zoo.

Here’s a list of the 10 deadliest animals in the world. The bear is number 10 – responsible for an estimated 5-10 human fatalities per year