July 30, 2007
Mexican State Oil Company: End of Mexican Oil In 7 Years
From Prensa Latina, the Spanish-language news service:
Mexican Company Predicts End of Oil
Mexico, Jul 27 (Prensa Latina) Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) announced that oil reserves may run out in seven years.
“Supplies of this economically exploitable resource are running out,” informed a report sent by the state owned company to the United States stock market.
Until December 31, 2005 the report says proven reserves were about 8.978 billion barrels, while yearly production was 1.322 billion tons. If this rhythm continues oil will run out in the time stipulated..
El Universal newspaper reports that experts of the PFC Energy Advisory company based in Washington pointed out that investments for PEMEX exploration is also running out of time.
Even if heavy investments were made now, new oil fields would take from six to eight years to be ready and, consequently, Mexico may have to import oil to satisfy the internal market, it warned.
The newspaper quotes Carlos Ramirez, PEMEX spokesman as saying that if necessary investments were made, this would provide another 2.9 more years to what is foreseen with the proven developed reserves.
The director of the state owned company, Jesus Reyes, insisted that these are difficult moments due to a reduction of production in Cantareli, the main oil field in the country.
Posted by aj_kandy at 9:53 AM
April 23, 2007
Lester Brown at PopTech
Brown’s the head of the Earth Policy institute and author of Plan B 2.0, which outlines many of the interrelated crises of energy and resources facing our civilization. Here, he gives a hopeful but realistic talk at the recent PopTech conference. (link via Patrick Tanguay)
Notable: he discusses the political stability issues associated with using food grain for ethanol, and comes down on the side of aggressive wind and solar development and using plug-in hybrids as a better starting point towards moving away from oil and car dependence.
Takeaway quote: “The Soviet system failed because its market could not tell the economic truth; capitalism may fail because our markets aren’t telling the ecological truth.”
He also brings up the often-overlooked point that when we really need to, “if we’re really serious about this,” we can change our economy around very quickly, as we did in World War II.
Posted by aj_kandy at 8:48 AM
March 27, 2007
If we don’t get a handle on runaway greenhouse warming, sea levels are predicted to rise by approximately 20 feet, or 7 meters. If you think this won’t affect Quebec, think again.
Using the Google Maps API and NASA climate projection data, a clever person has put together a site to show exactly what will be flooded when sea levels rise.
In Quebec City, most of Lower Town will be underwater, and significant portions of the islands and riverbanks will be lost.
The region around Sorel-Tracy, mostly farms, will be completely flooded.
Municipalities along the Richelieu will also suffer a good deal of flooding, for instance, near Chambly.
And that’s why I voted Green yesterday. :)
March 2, 2007
Million Dollar Idea: One Hour Suits
I’ve had a longstanding problem with mass-produced retail clothing. Not only does it not really fit anyone properly “off the rack,” what happens to all the unsold clothes at the end of a trend or season? Does anyone really know?
Now the flipside is custom tailoring, made to fit a particular person, but it usually costs as much as a used car to get a single suit made; if you pick premium wools it can cost as much as a car. Which makes sense given the relative rarity of handmade clothes vs. machine-made, if you want to make a living, but also it reflects the labour-intensive nature of the craft.
I’ve always thought that technology can be of great assistance here. There are already full-body laser scanners, mostly used to create action figures and 3D model data for CG animation, but in at least one boutique in Japan, it’s used to generate accurate body measurements.
Computer numeric controlled (CNC) laser fabric cutting machines are probably as accurate, if not more so, than human hands.
Put the two technologies together, under the supervision of traditionally-trained tailors, cutters and finishers, and you can have, in essence, a self-contained clothing factory that can turn out something much better than off-the-rack or even made-to-measure, if not quite as good as handmade Savile Row, in about a week.
Ok, the ‘one hour suit’ is still some time in the future, but if you could bring near-Savile Row quality down to the $500-$1000 mark, many more people could have access to well-fitting clothes.
Why is this posted under Environment? For one thing, it would eliminate a lot of waste in the clothing industry - clothes made on spec that, if unsold, are eventually remaindered or discarded; the energy spent and CO2 created in shipping fabric from country of origin to country of manufacture, and then country of purchase.
It’s one more step towards the reconciliation of atoms vs. bits in our economy — in the future we will download licensed designs from the iTunes Fabric + Clothing Store, to be interpreted in local sustainable materials (or have licensed fabric designs also manufactured locally), then digitally tailored, again at a local facility.
Like any McLuhanesque medium, e-clothing will obsolete the sweatshops of current mass manufacturing, but also bring back something else; the local, trained and highly skilled tailors and weavers.
December 19, 2006
If We Had Listened To James Burke In 1989, We Wouldn't Be Here Now
This week, I dutifully lined up and bought my copy of An Inconvenient Truth (which I greatly enjoyed in the theatre — it’s just a really well-made documentary.)
What I found especially sad is the “before and after” photos, particularly those of great national glaciers and Mount Kilimanjaro.
I remember watching James Burke’s “Connections” series on PBS as a kid - as a family we were addicted to science programmes, all that Science International, Tomorrow’s World kind of stuff. David Suzuki was like that distant uncle in BC who came to visit through the television.
Around 1989 Burke put together a one-off special called After The Warming, which incorporated sophisticated computer graphics to show the history of global warming from the perspective of a TV presenter in the year 2050. It was a clever narrative device which allowed him to show a series of progressively worsening warning signs which (the show being British, and thus realistic) people ignored until it was too late to do anything.
Literally every topic Al Gore covers in An Inconvenient Truth was covered in this special, which aired some 16 years ago. At the time, of course, it was slagged off as hyperbolic fearmongering. If we’d have listened to him then, might we be in such a mess now?
You can find this documentary in two volumes on VHS; there still might be some new copies out there but most are used. I don’t think it was ever re-released on DVD, so here’s hoping someone out there does the right thing and puts it up on YouTube or Google Video.
In the meantime, check out Who Killed The Electric Car?, which also hit DVD shelves this week, and Robert Newman (ex-Newman & Baddiel)’s one-man show A History Of Oil, available in its bicycle-generator-lit entirety on Google Video.
Posted by aj_kandy at 11:30 PM
December 2, 2006
Stéphane Dion Leads the Liberals
I really wouldn’t have guessed this one: After initial strong showings for Michael Ignatieff, Stéphane Dion is the new leader of the Liberal Party, and the new leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. His platform put Kyoto front and centre (apparently, he even named his dog Kyoto —!) Now, if they win, they’ll have to follow through on it. Though, the Liberals had 13 years to fix things before now….
of course, this now screws up my brilliant idea for a CBC parody political show starring Ken Finkleman as his character from The Newsroom, now turned to politics and having become the prime minister in a sitcom-esque turn of events…
June 14, 2005
Book smart vs. earth smart
On one stop of the tour, he was asked to give a talk at Google headquarters in Mountain View, CA. I'll let you read that for yourself.
Now, Google generally hires really smart people - but as in all industries everyone sees things through their own particular lens - to a man with a hammer, everything is a nail, etc - and while their knowledge may be deep it is not necessarily broad. And the number of Ph.Ds on your team means nothing if they subscribe to a fundamentally flawed view of economics and reality. You can choose not to believe in geology, but it's going to affect you anyway, and geology trumps technology pretty much every time.
We, in reality, have at most a 20 to 30 year window to transition to a low-energy economy.
And yet we're building suburbs and highway infrastructure as if we have a 100-year supply of oil.
Why hasn't anyone asked the Government why we're still pursuing a dream of endless growth if the energy simply isn't there?
April 22, 2005
It's strange how often we romanticize aspects of America that we blithely destroyed because there was money to be made. And it's even more strange that having destroyed such things, we replicate them shoddily, and market them as antidotes to the very psychic emptiness that made the real things seem worthless.
For instance, Bush and his creatures trumpet precisely those ideals of small-town life that his actual policies are destroying. The idea that we are a nation of caring families, or cooperative communities, doesn't withstand the slightest critical examination. But the concept of family and community - of belonging - remains eminently marketable. It's as though we've been locked in a bare cell, and are comforting ourselves by imagining the ineffable perfection of Platonic beds and chairs.
In America's smaller towns, neighborhoods have been destroyed and businesses torn down, only to be replaced by chain businesses that offer a cheap imitation of the community values they ruined. "Old-fashioned" qualities - such as conscientious workmanship - are promoted in cavernous, dismal buildings that were made cheaply, out of shoddy materials, by people whose emotional investment in their work was at a bare minimum. Lovely Victorian buildings are torn down, to make way for some gigantic drab enclosure where faux-Victorian gaslights are sold. Our neighbors are driven from their houses and scattered to the four winds, so that chain stores can arrive and proclaim themselves our "good neighbors."
Whatever you consider the human spirit to be, our official culture has stopped making an effort to appeal to its kinder or saner aspirations, or to please it with anything more profound than the numb familiarity one feels when entering a Starbucks or a Wal-Mart...which is really just an adjustment to diminished expectations.
Perhaps our diminished expectations explain some of our strange bitterness towards the rest of the world. We work harder and harder, and pay more and more, and get less and less, but it's almost as though we defend our lifestyle all the more fiercely because of its very shabbiness. For if this is success, who could survive failure? If this is profit, who could bear loss? The closer we come to outright failure, the less we want to admit it.
Posted by aj_kandy at 4:51 PM
February 28, 2005
Power vs. Energy
The always-insightful James H. Kunstler notes that without cheap energy, America isn't the "world's most powerful nation," in fact it's totally at the mercy of others.
Salient point: without oil imports from friendly-ish nations like Saudia Arabia, Venezuela and others, the US has exactly four years of oil left based on its current -- and rising -- rate of consumption.
Right now, the US consumes 25% of all oil produced. In real numbers, the States will burn through 20 bn of the estimated 80 bn barrels that will be produced worldwide today alone.
Posted by aj_kandy at 9:37 AM
September 28, 2004
The Girly-Men, Volvo-Driving, Brie-Eating Blowhards Shall Inherit The Earth
So while we we all distracted with the Britney Spears wedding nonsense, oil hit $50 a barrel yesterday.
In the wake of a War for Oil whose outcome is still undecided, the Coors-family-funded Independence Institute - a Golden, Colorado-based right-wing think tank whose members support things such as assault weapons for everyone, using the canard of "property rights" to quash sensible civic zoning schemes, and funding GOP candidates who will parrot their talking points at every opportunity - support sprawl and car-centric development under the guise of economic growth, through the front of Randall O'Toole's 'Center for the American Dream.'
This center held a conference last year in, ironically, the most planned city in the US, Washington, DC (at a hotel touted for being 'in walking distance' of everything).
Their anti-Smart Growth / New Urbanism screed was put forth by speakers who used the following 'fair and balanced' epithets to describe their opponents:
"quacks, smart growth wackos, evil bastards, a bunch of eggheads, a bunch of lying jerks, damnable liars, pointy-headed intellectual fascists (this was by far the most repeated moniker), pointy-headed intellectual bastards (pointy-headed was a big theme...), a bunch of commies, the bad guys, busy-bodies advocating latte towns,"
and my personal favorite...
"a bunch of elitist, volvo-driving, brie-cheese eating blowhards"
I mean, come on, people. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed Smart Growth zoning into law in car-choked Kaliföhneea.
And in the wake of our recent girly-man attempt at a Car-Free Day downtown, the head of the Merchants' Association once again trumpets slightly lowered numbers as evidence that cars=profits.Has he thought about the fact that well before it is economically unviable to extract oil anymore in about 30-40 years due to Peak Oil, it will be simply too expensive for ordinary people to drive cars in maybe as soon as 20 years, due to the factors of supply and demand?
Well, how did businesses ever survive in Montreal before cars?
Public transit. We had streetcars going almost everywhere. We can still 'do' streetcars today. We have a metro, too. And if we zone things right, we don't have to have suburban ghettoes of 1-acre houses, we can redevelop them for higher density and mixed use, too. We don't have to eat up all the vacant land from here to the Gaspe to build crappy housing developments. We have a choice.
If you care about your quality of life and your children's, you'll let your MNA and your MP know that too.
*Did you know? More Republicans eat Brie than Democrats. True fact, sez the BBC in this great piece on election-time stereotyping and hot-button-issue-pushing.
May 30, 2004
The Ecologist put 50 jewel-like varieties of heirloom tomatoes on their cover the other month to trumpet the rise and rise of the Slow Food movement. They have a great little essay from Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser and a longer print-only profile of Carlo Petrini, the "activist for pleasure" at the heart of the Slow Food foundation based in Bam, Italy.
Happily, this is no dull and worthy activist organization -- the SlowFoodists are out to have a good time. Instead of holding protests, they start restaurants. Member groups are called "convivia" for their celebratory atmosphere. (There's a Quebec chapter, naturally.)
The Slow Foodists are against GM monoculture crops and corporate food, not only because it's bad ecosystem management, but because regional fruits, vegetables, animals, cheeses, and even traditional food knowledge and recipes risk extinction.
That's why they've created the Ark of Taste, a repository of food knowledge and biodiversity, and they encourage traditional food producers with the Slow Food Prize. Recipients include people from Guinea who preserved a plant that yields a traditional seed-based sweet drink; a former policeman in the Republic of Tuva who revived a native breed of sheep to create a range of dairy products including a sheep's-milk vodka (!), and a Mexican indigenous coffee-growing community who preserve the habitat of the vanilla plant, a delicate epiphyte orchid.
Their project makes sense when you realize that in a very short time, mass migration off the land and into cities meant a basic disconnect with the land, natural cycles, and agriculture: if you'll pardon the pun, our oral history of food has vanished. Hundreds of local specialty foods, food products and recipes have simply been lost. Petrini cites the example of a variety of cheese which is down to a single producer – and if no-one carries on that person's work, it's gone forever.
In that respect, Petrini's group are rather like Alan Lomax making field recordings of folk songs: seeking out, documenting, encouraging and preserving local flavours for future generations, lest we be reduced to McFood Pellets for eternity.
They have an associated movement called Slow Cities, which enshrines the Slow Food movement in a regional planning context; This year, they're founding the University of Gastronomic Science, not a cooking school but a combination of agro-environmental science and food business management, with a healthy dose of 'taste education.'
In a broader context, the culture of Slow is taking root, not only among disaffected aging yuppies who decided to go 'back to the land' after burning out at the brokerage or whatever, but across all levels of a society realizing that faster isn't always better.
Canadian/British writer Jean-Carl Honoré chronicles our attempts to wrest control of our lives from the clock in his bestseller In Praise Of Slow. Beyond slow food and cities, there's chapters on slow sex and slow traditional medicines.
Honoré offers some practical counsel in his FAQ, something to keep in mind now that F1 fever is upon us:
1.Leave holes in the diary rather than striving to fill every moment with activity. Easing the pressure on your time will help you to slow down.
2. Set aside a time of day to turn off all the technology that keeps us buzzing - phones, computers, pagers, email, television, radio. Use the break to sit quietly somewhere, alone with your thoughts. Or try meditating.
3. Make time for at least one hobby that slows you down, such as reading, painting, gardening or yoga.
4. Eat supper at the table instead of balancing it on your lap it in front of the TV.
5. Always monitor your speed. If you’re doing something more quickly than you need to simply out of habit, then take a deep breath and slow down.
It seems to me that making our lives Slow-focused (in addition to the emotional release of de-cluttering, as seen on countless HGTV programs) is a positive step that not only brings peace of mind, but also forces us to question the values which put us into such a rushed state to begin with. Rushing everywhere - why? To succeed? If so, what is 'success?' Is it being able to look down your nose at the other guy? Why jet travel instead of trains? Why take vacations in dribs and drabs when you really need a solid month off once a year?
I think it starts early on in life, when kids get pressured to succeed by parents, instead of being encouraged to grow at their own pace (compare standard schools with classless, gradeless Montessori schools, for instance.) They may end up neurotic overachievers, or more probably neurotic underachievers, paralyzed by a fear of success, doomed to mediocrity because success implies constantly having to top your latest and greatest.
So in a sense, a true Slow philosophy is a culture of excellence....and realizing that things take their own sweet (in all senses of the word) time.
May 15, 2004
Welcome To The Monkey Vehicle
I once had a high that not even crack cocaine could match. That was when I got my first driver’s license! Look out, world, here comes Kurt Vonnegut.
And my car back then, a Studebaker, as I recall, was powered, as are almost all means of transportation and other machinery today, and electric power plants and furnaces, by the most abused and addictive and destructive drugs of all: fossil fuels.
When you got here, even when I got here, the industrialized world was already hopelessly hooked on fossil fuels, and very soon now there won’t be any more of those. Cold turkey.
Can I tell you the truth? I mean this isn’t like TV news, is it?
Here’s what I think the truth is: We are all addicts of fossil fuels in a state of denial, about to face cold turkey.
And like so many addicts about to face cold turkey, our leaders are now committing violent crimes to get what little is left of what we’re hooked on.
Read the entire piece here.
May 14, 2004
The End Of Suburbia
Tipping you all to this new documentary by Toronto filmmaker Gregory Greene which opened last month in Toronto and is on the festival circuit at the moment.
Greene's credits include work for Bravo's Arts and Minds, documentary series for MuchMusic and more. Hosted by VisionTV's Barrie Zwicker, The End Of Suburbia: Oil Depletion And The End Of The American Dream is the documentary I was seriously considering making on my own.
The 78-minute film examines the subject of Peak Oil through interviews with leading urbanists, scientists and authors including Kenneth Deffeyes, Colin Campbell, Peter Calthorpe, James Kunstler, and more.
Find out more here. And you can purchase the DVD online via PayPal (or cheque) for just $24.95: they're encouraging screenings for groups of up to 50 people. Anyone interested in seeing it? I'll get a copy and we can find a place to watch it and have a discussion.
August 12, 2003
The War on the War on the Environment
"Were we governed by reason, we would be on the barricades today, dragging the drivers of Range Rovers and Nissan Patrols out of their seats, occupying and shutting down the coal-burning power stations, bursting in upon the Blairs' retreat from reality in Barbados and demanding a reversal of economic life as dramatic as the one we bore when we went to war with Hitler. Instead, we whinge about the heat and thumb through the brochures for holidays in Iceland."
Forwarded by the ever-astute Kate.
Posted by aj_kandy at 4:31 PM
August 10, 2003
London hits 100 degrees F
London hit 100 degrees F (37 C) today for the first time since record-keeping started in 1870. Switzerland hit the same temperature and in southern Europe it went as high as 40C. Forest fires in France, Spain and Croatia blazed out of control; one firefighter was slightly injured as a WWII-era shell exploded. River traffic on the Danube was threatened by sunken ships from WWII that resurfaced due to low water levels.
Posted by aj_kandy at 7:22 PM
February 18, 2003
William McDonough, Treehugger
"Cellulose paper is such a low-grade, prosaic use of something so beautiful and valuable as a tree. If you look at what a tree can do compared to human design...I mean, how many things do you know make oxygen, sequester carbon, fix nitrogen, water, provide habitat for hundreds of species, make microclimates, change colors with the seasons and self-replicate?"
"Why would you want to smash that and write on it?"
Posted by aj_kandy at 1:31 PM