Category Archives: environment

The Butterfly Effect: Wings, Blades, Eyelashes

Layman books on physics litter a portion of my bookshelf. I’ve read some of them and do remember the butterfly effect. A butterfly in Africa flutters its wings and a hurricane develops near the Florida coast. The innocuous becomes the monumental.

If the delicate wing of a butterfly alters events so dramatically, what about windmills? While windmills create a more benign form of energy, they may also alter events on this planet.

Machines and humans live symbiotically. Separation may no longer be possible. Machines keep increasing farm yields to keep both the weak and strong alive. Computers run commerce, governments, medical, and artistic endeavors. Travel, the worldwide version we crave, requires machines that consume vast amounts of energy. Small-tech devices meld with our bodies.

Over 7 billion pairs of human eyelashes flutter today. Nature tries to cull our ranks with bacterias and viruses and we fight back.

The human/machine creatures root for a clean, healthy planet. To maintain both is irrational. At some point, something must be sacrificed.

 

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_writing_challenge/the-butterfly-effect/

 

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Word Crimes

Rosencrantz: What are you playing at?
Guildenstern: Words, words. They’re all we have to go on.
           Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

She chastised me because I used a word. She told me a person cannot be Oriental, since it is degrading. I was out of the loop, I did not know. The preferred word is Asian, a person can be an Asian.

What’s in a word? It helps us communicate and limits our communication at the same time. It can be artificial, complex and ever-changing. There is heaven and hell in those words. Take pleasure in its playfulness and beauty. Find frustration when communication fails.

In Latin, orient simply means east. That was the origin of the word and the end of it became insulting. Evidently people from Asia don’t call themselves Oriental, and it’s best to call people the name that they prefer. I learned that calling a person Oriental is an antiquated term that calls to mind a time when Western peoples viewed Asians in a subordinate way.

So Asian or Asian-American is preferred. And so is African-American. Say Native-American instead of American Indian. An Indian is actually an Asian. We end up chasing our tails.

This whole idea of hyphenating Americans is a bit odd to me since hyphenation carries its own inherent flaws.

The word America is named after Amerigo Vespucci. An Italian explorer, Amerigo stumbled upon what is now part of Brazil. An early mapmaker decided to name this part of the world America after this Amerigo guy and plunked that label onto his map. Soon other mapmakers started to label the lands north of Brazil as America also. So by chance, the continents were called North and South America.

So where does this leave hyphenated Americans? You give up the words like Oriental and Black in exchange for the name of a dead-white man that poked his nose into an indigenous population beyond his own borders. I don’t see a vast improvement. Other words such as black, white, red, and yellow also fail to accurately describe human beings.

The West creates more word crimes than anyone else. Through a modern political lens, Western civilization has a name, and that name is evil. The word and the land America may find itself in jeopardy.

Native-Americans crossed into the the Americas about 25,000 years ago; relative newcomers to this land since humans first appeared on the planet about 160,000 years ago in East Africa.

In more realistic terms, we are all East Africans that have wandered far across the globe. A politically correct analysis: We torment the rest of the animal and plant kingdoms, and tamper with the climate and the earth’s crust. All of humanity is the real evil in this world view. Paradise was lost when humans entered the scene.

The world and the words in it are not perfect and never will be. Can’t we just relax and enjoy our discourse and disagreements without a call to self-flagellation? Do the best we can, do no purposeful harm, and move on. That’s all we have to go on. Go peacefully.

The New Cosmos Quandary

I’m hooked on science shows, especially the ones that deal with the creation of the universe. Science fiction is always on my reading list. Yet the new Cosmos television series sticks in my craw.

The cosmic calendar that Neil deGrasse Tyson so dramatically explores for us is riveting. After the Big Bang, human beings appeared on the scene on the last day of the year. Modern man only happened upon the planet during the last 14 seconds. We are so late to arrive to this Big Bang party.

Then Neil begins to state that humankind wields the power to alter the climate of the planet it lives on and that this is important. The machines we build, the power we use, will destroy the planet unless we change our ways.

But Neil, think of what your show brings to light. Even if humankind is the sole force of climate change, does it really matter if humans change their ways or not? Worse case scenario, most forms of life on the planet die. Did you not show us innumerable other planets in the universe with infinite possibilities of lifeforms on them? So earth loses most of its living creatures, aside from cockroaches perhaps, why is this such a monumental loss to the universe? You just brought us into focus with infinity, so who cares about the last 14 seconds?

Mankind built a now crumbling Stonehenge over five thousand years ago (or seconds ago depending on how you view it). The Great Wall of China got its start nearly 25 hundred years ago and has never been fully intact. Both castles and nuclear reactors will succumb to a heap of dust. In the grand scheme of the cosmos, everything we do is so insignificant and fragile. The earth will move on with us or without us, unless we are successful in blowing it up. Then the universe, considering its vastness, may not miss one measly planet.

In the scope of the new Cosmos series, why is climate change such a big deal? To me, that came out of left field.  The series dwells on the insignificance of mankind as it relates to the universe.

The very premise of the Cosmos series negates the consequence of a climate change focal point. Unless . . .  is there a god on our side tipping the balance? Nah, that can’t be it.

What motivates the creators?

 

 

 

 

 

To Deny Is Science: Climate Change

I love science. Even though I studied literature in college, I’ve always love to read about and watch shows about science. Some of my favorite writers wrote in the 19th century, a time when people found a greater freedom to explore science with a lesser chance of getting burnt at the stake or beheaded. A lot of the literature of this time period discussed and criticized the scientific sphere.

I believe in the theory of evolution. I believe in the big bang theory. And I am open to modifications or invalidations of scientific theories. That’s the way science works, so I thought. Science is always up to be challenged.

Issac Newton presented theories that were proven wrong at a later date. So did Einstein. Scientific theories get torn apart to see if they can stand.

So I am disheartened to hear President Obama and his administration assert that “climate change is real” and all discussion is closed. That ceases to be science and starts to become a weird sort of dogma.

Why won’t the believers in man-made climate change debate people that do not buy into this theory wholeheartedly? Scientist vs. scientist. Let there be a free-flowing discussion and experimentation.

The man-made climate change believers are veering onto a pathway to anti-science. Something smells rotten in government. Build upon knowledge, do not create a 21st century Western version of the Islamic Four Great Doctors from the 13th century. I’ve developed a taste for freedom. Let’s be free to think.

Non-Scents Rant

I hate this smelly world. I’m not talking about the smell of roses or the cooking smells of a tasty meal. I hate the artificial smells that offend my nose just about everywhere I go.

Years ago, the stores sold a few cans of Lysol, and a handful of Glade solid air fresheners that shrivelled up to an ugly glob when left out too long.

Now stores stock more and more aerosol air fresheners, scented candles, and liquid scents on their shelves. These artificial smells are bent on “improving” the smells of our world. But instead they create a worse stink.

These smells invade other products. I accidentally bought laundry soap that had an intense, cloying scent to it. The clothes stunk when I hung them in the closet, and they kept on smelling when I wore them. I couldn’t stand it anymore so I gave the soap away to someone that used it. I could tell because they always smelled like this stinky product.

I try to buy unscented, less artificial products. Often when I scan the ingredients, perfume is on the list of unscented, dermatologist-approved products. Trying to escape the ingredients that sound like something cooked up in a chemical laboratory is nearly impossible to do.

If anything, exercise should improve my health. I take a class at a place that stocks perfumed lotions and body sprays on their bathroom counter. Notice to the women that spray on Victoria’s Secret Sexy body spray: you don’t smell like “vanilla, orchid, sun-drenched clementine and midnight blackberry” (whatever that is). You smell like a hazardous-chemical spill. I’d rather smell your sweaty selves when you exercise than this concoction. I love real vanilla in my cookies, not the faux vanilla on your body.

While I’m at it, don’t do me a favor by cleaning my exercise mat with a Lysol wipe. It makes my eyes water and burn. I’m rather live with the germs than this anti-bacterial weaponry.

I refuse to cover up cooking smells in my house with the phony smell of a lab-created air freshener made of raspberry/pomegranate/dioctyl dimethyl ammonium chloride. I’ll keep the fish smell over this mixture.

A note to the product development people: you have reached the saturation point of freshening our air with your smelly products. Now you are just adding to the air pollution. 

End of rant. Thank you for listening.

On Fire or the Dinosaurs Died So That We Can Drive SUVs

Prometheus stole the sacred fire for mankind and we can’t live without it.

The Industrial Revolution replaced the ancient external fires with the internal fires of machines. The dirty desire for energy increased. The world’s insatiable demand for fire pollutes, which is good for making machines chug along, but bad for living things.

Some essential fires we have become addicted to:

  • Wood → Early mankind kindled open fires for warmth, protection, and food. All this, depending on who you consult, was a primary cause of global warming. The emissions from burning wood contain carbon monoxide and soot. The EPA says wood burning stoves are responsible for 5% of the smallest, deadliest particles emitted into the air in the U.S.
  • Coal → One of fossil fuels that powered the Industrial Revolution, it is the leading cause of pollutants such as smog, acid rain, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, mercury, arsenic, and lead. Coal mining disrupts the ecology and endangers the lives of miners daily.
  • Oil → Another fossil fuel that fueled the Industrial Revolution is a non-renewable, energy rich hydrocarbon. Burning oil pollutes with carbon dioxide, sulfates, and nitrates. Oil drilling and extraction disturbs the water and land. Accidental spills at the drill site or during land and water transport disrupts ecology. The disposal of products made from oil, such as plastics, creates more waste problems.
  • Water → Fire from water, one of the oldest ways to produce energy. Water wheels, mills, and dams alter the habitats of fish and restricts water passage. Water power pollutes less, but to be effective,  great quantities of water and land are necessary and that comes at a great financial cost.
  • Geothermal → While drilling for geothermal energy, harmful gas can escape from deep within the earth. Also after the expense that comes with building a geothermal plant, the heat within the earth can stop providing heated water for years at a time, making this an undependable form of energy.
  • Natural Gas → Natural gas is odorless and colorless and mostly consists of methane. It burns cleaner than coal and oil. It releases 45% less carbon dioxide than coal and 30% less than oil. It burns with no soot or sulfur dioxide and is widely available. It is lighter than air so when leaks occur it can dissipate with a lower chance of explosion. Still it is a non-renewable fossil fuel. Other drawbacks are transportation problems whether through pipelines, tankers, or barges. If used in cars and trucks, the mileage is lower than gasoline.
  • Nuclear → The newest and possibly most controversial of all energy sources. Will it provide safe, abundant energy for years to come or kill us all? Patrick Moor, an early member of Greenpeace, protested against U.S. nuclear testing in 1971. After 15 years with Greenpeace he left and became an advocate for some of his prior environmental targets. He now believes that nuclear energy is the only technology besides fossil fuels that is a reliable energy source. Nuclear energy proponents tout the safety record of the industry. They say Chernobyl was an anomaly and the rest of the would uses safer methods. Natural disasters care nothing for risk management methods as Japan came to understand. Besides, some nuclear waste lives practically forever. We can barely handle landfill toxins, how will nuclear waste play out?
  • Solar → Gathering solar energy with solar panels creates little pollution in itself aside from the manufacture and shipping of the panels. It is a quiet source of energy and can be used easier and cheaper in remote locations. The installation of solar panels can cost thousands or tens of thousands of dollars for a house.  The energy savings payback can take years. Cloudy weather and pollution can hinder solar cell efficiency. In the deserts of the American west, people oppose solar energy farms since they spoil the desert scenery.
  • Wind → At last, windmills must be our salvation. Yet people complain that they too spoil the scenery of the land and sea where they take root. People living near windmills claim that the turbines are a visual and auditory threat. Some people insist that the noisy whirling blades cause them great stress. A wind farm on the horizon reduces tourism and lowers home values in the areas they go up.  Wind turbines must exist in areas with the strongest winds which are often the same places that birds migrate and nest. The eagle that tore into the liver of Prometheus each day, now gets torn apart by the blades of our modern-day windmills.

The fires we need for basic survival and to feed the machinery that we love come with destructive forces. Perhaps Prometheus and not Pandora unleashed the real evils in this world.

Without fire and the technology it unleashed, humankind may have failed to thrive and died with a very different history. Certainly the planet would be cleaner today.

I know a 24-year-old nurse that gives her time to Doctors Without Borders and cares about the health of the planet. One time she surprised me with an offhand comment. She mentioned that she is tired of her human legs and arms which are so weak. She wants the strength of a machine, a bionic women of sorts I guess.

Science fiction and reality fuse people with machines. What human/machine ratio would cease to view energy-driven pollution as a crisis? Today the ubiquitous phone/computer may as well be embedded within the bodies of my friends and relatives. At some point, no one may care to look out a window to enjoy a Goldfinch perched on a tree branch. The windows to the soul are owned by Microsoft.

Half-Baked Ramblings on Abortion

The Zero Population Growth (ZPG) meeting I attended, circa 1972, had all participants agreeing that the United States needed to control its population growth before natural resources become depleted. Birth control was imperative to this goal. Abortion remained controversial when it was brought up.

This was before abortion became legalized. The people at the ZPG meeting had strong opinions on abortion; some for and some against. It wasn’t a violent division at this point. They decided to talk about it again at another meeting since no resolution could be reached.

ZPG bumper stickers were handed out at this meeting and I plastered one on my old car. I saw one person rant and rave a little when he saw the sticker on my parked car. Maybe others were unaware of the acronym’s meaning.

I owned a copy of Paul Ehrlich’s popular book, The Population Bomb. I wrote a high school report on the subject for a teacher that was strongly in favor of population control and refused to have children. He bickered with another teacher of mine that had five children. I got an A on the pro-Ehrlich report, more due to the subject matter, I believe, than the quality of the paper.

I spent a day volunteering at the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) booth at the State Fair. People from the anti-abortion booth came by to try to convince us of the error of our ways. I was unfazed by the dialog and pictures.

Yet later on, when I tried to imagine what I would do if I needed an abortion for whatever reason, it was heart-wrenching to think of it.

The pro-life movement believes that abortion is murder. Viewed this way, I empathize with their inability to condone it. Yet the inability to obtain a legal abortion, will not stop abortion.

If history can be trusted, women will continue to seek abortions no matter what its legal status is. I don’t want women to die or become injured due to a return of dangerous, back-alley abortions. That, too, is heart-wrenching.

Women comedians joke about wishing they were pregnant just so they could piss off pro-lifers by getting an abortion. Behind the dark humor lies the fear that all abortions will be outlawed by pro-life groups if given a chance. Jokes don’t take the pain out of the issue.

Doctor Kermit Gosnell performed legal abortions in dangerous conditions. Can’t we put safeguards on legal abortions without fear of closing down all abortions?

When pressed, even the most pro-life people are often willing to see the necessity of abortion in some cases. And I can’t believe that pro-choice people truly celebrate partial-birth abortions across the board.

Abortion remains controversial. So far, no number of meetings have reached a resolution.