Sunday, January 22, 2017

Add to our climate change list...


As you know, we live off the grid; have for nearly 40 years now.  Our energy consumption, capture, and storage protocols were based on "normal" weather; normal winter and summer sun and wind.

But- we don't have them any more.  Typically here in SE Minnesota, late January and early February are brilliantly sunny.  Cold; but totally clear skies.  That works great for photovoltaic power, in fact; yes, the days are shorter, but the cold dramatically increases the panels' output; for every 3°C colder than the specified temp; which is around +27°C; the panels put out 1% more power than specs.  So- when it's -10°F; e.g. -23°C; which used to be very common week long temperatures here; the panels are putting out around 17% more power.  That's a lot.

The past several years though have shown a new January/February pattern - which does not include sunny days.  Warm- it hasn't been below freezing for a week now (insane here) - and...


This is what our world has looked like, for days, and days, and days....... we are now living in Niflheim; one of the realms from Norse Mythology - "Mist World".  Primordial cold and damp- and no sun.  Yup.  Here we are.

Besides being depressing, just a bit, our energy processes are messed up, good.  No, solar panels do not put out significant power in this kind of fog/cloud cover.  So- we are forced to burn gasoline to run our backup generators, which we have for the supposedly occasional week with no sun.  Those sunless weeks happened every year - once, or twice.  Now- we have them every other week.  It seems. 

Which creates another "not in the plans" problem- we own 4 backup generators; for 3 locations and a spare...  3 out of 4 are now dead; from being run so constantly; far more than designed for.  We now spend an hour or so a day running the one generator around (in the slush no vehicle can move through) from one site to another; and wondering if we have enough gas...

And if you are using solar heat - same thing; your building will not be getting warm today.

These impacts are here, now.  Affecting everyone.  But it's like "being nibbled to death by ducks" - it kind of seems harmless; until you die.

It's not harmless, though; it's cumulative, and weakens everything we depend on.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Cheer up, Brian! Things could be worse! (#3)


That's the line from the final scene of Monty Python's "The Life of Brian".  As they are being crucified.

I've been quiet here for a good while, because I was trying to only post positive stuff.  There really hasn't been much, has there?

So. Moving right along.  Going with the flow.  Bad news, it is.

Spice asked me this morning when climate change was really going to hit.  The answer, of course, is; it already has.  Yes, it really is too late to take any actions that will prevent truly major climate disruptions, that will affect humans around the world - drastically.

“ 'We have not arrived in our climate of the future, but we have certainly left our climate of the past,' said Deke Arndt, chief of the National Centers’ climate monitoring branch. "  That's from an article in Bloomberg a couple days ago,  "Climate Disasters Cost U.S. $46 Billion as Flooding Leads List"

Floods?  What floods?  The news is all full of - you know what; and Meryl Streep.  Not about the current disaster in Thailand, which is wrecking their tourist income again and has 700,000 people homeless;  nor about the current "atmospheric river" bringing huge floods and storms to California; nor the highly unusual heavy flooding in - Nevada??  They're sandbagging in Reno and Sparks- and worried the floods could get into downtown Reno... ?

News?  Nah.  Happens all the time.  Going to get worse; boring news now.

And here in the Big Woods- 3 nights ago, our thermometer registered -16°F; "sixteen below zero".  This morning; it was +34°F - and - first raining (on a landscape that was at 16 below = bad ice on everything) - then; we got a lovely, typical snow.  Typical for - mid April.  In early January.  (Sorry about the crummy video quality here- trying to keep my bandwidth consumption down...)

video

Leaving us, a little later, with beautiful woods, and more broken trees-


Normal April snow.  What is NOT normal about this storm is the wind that is following it- April storms don't work that way...  

video

The kind of thing that breaks even healthy trees.  Radical temperature swings continue- down to +9 last night; going to -5°F next night- and up to near +40°F by next week.  Really, really not normal here.

AND - in case your lust for doom is not yet sated; have you heard about the immense chunk of Antarctic ice that is going to break loose any day now?  The one- the size of Delaware, and 1,100 feet thick?  

The part about "things could be worse!" ?  Count on it; they will be worse in the decades ahead.  100% of everything points that way; no, magic technology is not going to fix this.

If you currently live on a flood plain- or a sea coast - seriously; find a way to move your family elsewhere, and right now.  While you can still find climate change deniers to sell to...

Depressing.  Yes it is.  Hang in there.  Anyway.  

Saturday, August 6, 2016

A little "social media" request........

As a few old-timers here may know, I spend just a little time "commenting" on news stories in the major media; The New York Times, The Washington Post, sometimes Huffpo and others.

If, and when, I have something to say, and if and when I think someone might actually listen.

I have a little request for you - which might make a difference.  We all know that "economists" couldn't predict their way out of a wet paper bag - but people still keep asking them what to think.  Mind boggling.

Right this very minute - the New York Times has a nice feature pointing out that the entire world has entered a "slow growth" phase.  And that the "forecasters" once again didn't see it coming; and still persist in saying growth will resume very soon.  We base our fiscal "policy" on these fantasies.

I made a comment.  At the moment, to my surprise, it's running high in the readers "Readers' Picks"; about 6th in the list.

Basically it says "this is what ecologists have always predicted - and here we are."

The vast majority of the commenters add ideas and theories from "economics".  All beautifully explanatory and contradictory - and authoritative.  Despite never having accurately predicted anything.

You know - I think it just MIGHT make a difference if a bunch of the readers here added their recommendations - and bumped that comment up in the list.  Perhaps a few more people might notice "- hm - economists' predictions never work out - ecologists' predictions usually do..."

I think that would actually be progress.  Give it a try!  Can't hurt - might help.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

What Ice Wall? Phase 2

Entire post from NHK below- with not one single mention of the ice wall.  Instead- the regulators think TEPCO really should DO something about the problem - since - they haven't.  They are doing a study, though!  Thank goodness.  Oh, and this press release points out they are still pumping water into the melted down reactors to cool them.  And the water then goes - where?  They're not sure.

"TEPCO urged to cut risk of radioactive water leak

"Japan's nuclear regulator has urged the operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to reduce the risk of leaking of highly radioactive water from the facility into the sea, in case of another tsunami.

"About 60,000 tons of such water is believed to have pooled in reactor buildings at the plant. The operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, is injecting water into the buildings to cool melted nuclear fuel, and groundwater is flowing into their basements.

"The Nuclear Regulation Authority instructed TEPCO at a meeting on Tuesday to urgently study measures to lower the amount and radiation levels of the water.

"The authority proposed 2 measures to TEPCO. One is building more tanks to store the water, even though the plant has about one thousand tanks. The other is treating the water using a system designed to filter out radioactive material, and circulating the water in a cooling system.

"NRA member Toyoshi Fuketa said the utility cannot keep the water in the buildings forever. He said TEPCO should handle the water problem either along with that of other radioactive water or first of all.

"Following the NRA's instruction, TEPCO is to report the results of its study at a meeting next month or later."

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Whole Truth About "Economics".

Buckle up.  Exactly how often these days do you have a chance at "the whole truth"??  But here it is.

A couple days ago, Ilargi over at The Automatic Earth posted a cartooned short lecture from "legendary economist Ha-Joon Chang" on - Economics.

Back in the dark ages of blogging, around 2008-2010, when I was posting frequently, I tracked the "rank" of my blog using the now extinct Technorati statistics.  I was pleased when I eventually ranked up in the top 4% (as high as I got, but darn good) - but surprised to find that their measure of my "authority"; a statistic I don't understand at all, had me ranked pretty high for ecology - but higher for economics.  What? A surprise to me; though both fields have the same Greek root in oikos, house, they notoriously don't talk much.

Apparently though, if you are trained in the study of resources, their uses, values, and flows - it becomes easy to notice when Economists are talking total nonsense.  Which is often/always; as every study has always shown.  Look up 'monkeys are smarter than investors" if you want to get into that topic.  Ha-Joon Chang has noticed the nonsense from inside the field - a considerable recommendation.  Take a look; not while you're distracted, because between the ironic narration and the double-entendre animations, this is packed tight:



Then; if you have the urge; take the time to search this blog right here for the simple word "economics".  You'll find I made many of the exact same statements about economics and economists, years ago.  Alas that I can't claim to be a legendary economist, though.  (No disparagement of Chang intended, I actually think he is truly brilliant - and speaks the truth.)

And the Moral Of The Story: according to both a legendary economist and Greenpa; Economics is a meaningless field of study.  Really.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Way Forward

At the moment, everyone on the planet is greatly afraid that we have no way forward.

I certainly don't know what will happen; but I do know these things: time will pass, we will change, and it is possible to try to find a "better way."

It would be good to remember at this point that History does have examples of times when we found a better way.  The abolition of slavery, for example and women's suffrage.  It would also be good to remember that both those events were painful; and neither resulted in completely solving the problems; slavery most certainly still exists, and many situations exist where great chunks of the populace have no say whatever in their governance.

But the effort was made; by millions of us, and the outcome was better.  Hang on to that.

A few more things we know.  In all cases where we found better ways, the truth, and fairness (not quite the same thing as justice) played major roles.  Truth, because any path based on untruth must fail by the laws of physics; and fairness - because somehow, we creatures of Earth are built to expect it.  Not only humans, but most species ever tested—primates, dogs, horses, crows, ravens— expect fairness, and resent its absence - sometimes violently.  (Google 'sense of fairness in ... ' if you want to check.)

Right now, our major social battles seem to be very short on truth, and very short on fairness.

There are some major truths we all know- which are not allowed to be uttered publicly.  Like.  Some police are racist.  All of them?  No.  But some, yes.  And the cops are not doing anything about it.

512 people have been killed in the USA by police so far this year; 990 were killed last year.  How do we know?  The Washington Post decided someone should look into the matter- since no federal agency keeps statistics on police related killings; nor do local police report them.  Here is the WaPo database.  59 police officers have died in the line of duty this year; 29 by gunfire.

Just so we know.

And - people, and parties, on all sides of everything — are afraid.  And fear makes us blind and foolish — and dangerous; to others and to ourselves.  Also untruthful; and unfair.

Just saying those things out loud, as part of the conversation, is a first step.  What to do about it can come later.

Speak truth.  Work for fairness.  I'm afraid.

If you're looking for common ground- there it is.

Monday, June 6, 2016

"Oh, you mean THAT ice wall. Well..."

"Since the ice isn't stopping the water, now we're going to pump cement into the leaks."

Um.  Hey, if cement was going to work, wouldn't it have been cheaper to just pump cement in the first place?

Nope, not going to work, either.  If water flow is reduced here- the pressure, and flow rate, will go up there- making a new leak in a place where the ice was - sort of- working.

Which is why they didn't try cement in the first place.  It's a game of whack-a-mole; where the moles dig new holes as fast as you whack.  But hey- we're doing something!

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20160606_28/

"TEPCO expands ice wall operations at Fukushima

"Tokyo Electric Power Company has expanded operations to create an underground ice wall at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to stop the volume of contaminated groundwater from increasing.

"TEPCO on Monday began injecting a liquid refrigerant into more pipes that make up the 1,500-meter wall surrounding 4 damaged reactor buildings. The operation now covers 95 percent of the wall.

"Groundwater flows into the buildings and becomes tainted with radioactive substances. Reducing its volume is a key to decommissioning the reactors.

"The operation started in March on the downstream side of the wall because lowering the water levels too much could cause tainted water to leak from the buildings.

"Workers began freezing the upstream side after making sure there were no leaks.

"The ice wall project still faces challenges. Ground temperatures have not fallen in some places, and groundwater levels outside the wall have not gone down.

"Also on Monday, workers began injecting cement into the ground where temperatures have not fallen."

------------------------------------------------------

Particularly fun is this bit:

"Workers began freezing the upstream side after making sure there were no leaks.

"The ice wall project still faces challenges. Ground temperatures have not fallen in some places, and groundwater levels outside the wall have not gone down."

Translation: They started freezing the other side after making sure there were no leaks.  But there are leaks - with no measurable effect on water levels anywhere.................