01 September, 2011

Earth-friendly house project

In August of this year we started a new project to build a new family house that will (we hope) stand as an example of how eco-friendly a family house can be.

Our intention is to incorporate as many practical features as possible that will allow the building and running of the house have the minimum carbon and other material footprint as possible. To see and follow the details of this project please visit the project blog http://ifd66.co.uk/ecohouse/blog/main/main.html

Features will include low carbon footprint concrete, water capture, greywater recycling, double glazing, solar (and may be wind) energy, wood burning stove, passive heating, compost toilet.

12 April, 2011

Energy saving in Japan

After the devastating events in March the East coast of Japan has been left with the prospect of power shortages this summer and for the foreseeable future. As a result the news articles have been filled with anecdotes about how government, people and commerce are 'saving energy'. While this is of course commendable, the cynical part of by being can't half but scream 'WHY HAVEN'T YOU BEEN DOING THIS BEFORE?' particularly as since 2010 Japan has been committed to a 25% CO2 cut by 2020.

It seems the messages sent to us by the majority of scientists and from local observations from around the globe about the immediate and impending costs of climate change are not regarded by this society as 'that impending'.

With all the extra media attention to saving power, the question as to why Japan still avoids adopting daylight saving time has resurfaced and for a good article on this matter it's worth visiting Why is Japan kept in the dark.

Anyway, as a result I decided to do what some towns and communities have already done in Japan and to adopt an independent DST regime. From today all the clocks in our house, including the one on this computer have been put forward an hour. As a result I hope that in the mornings there won't be the pressure to get up so early (with Japanese summer light normally streaming in from as early as 4.30am) as it will be getting light at the more natural time of 5.30 and after having effectively gone to bed 1 hour earlier.

I just wish the Japanese government could develop the gumption, wisdom, and commitment to adopt DST for the country and save me the hassle of having to doing it independently.

If you think this is a good idea and live in Japan, why not try it yourself and pass on the idea to others.


25 August, 2010

Slow boat: Slow life

It was last week when coming back from Koh Samet, a small island in Thailand, that I got thinking about the benefits of a slow life and how society constantly drives us to lead a fast life. The island lies just of the east coast of Thailand and is easily visible. We (myself, my wife, and two young daughters aged 2 and 4) caught the 'slow' boat service back to the mainland.

This service takes a mere 1 hour and is on one of the boats which services the island with supplies as well as offering a passenger service. After having a leisurely breakfast on one of the restaurants that fringe the beach, a horn sounded to call the passengers to a barge which ferries them to the main boat mored just off the beach.

All in all it was a great adventure for our daughters. After the transfer to the boat we were able see huge numbers of fish surrounding the boat while it waited to be loaded up. Once on the move we also were able to see a great variety of jelly fish gliding past the bow of the boat, and even the occasional flying fish.

While enjoying the trip, it seemed to me that the passengers on the many speed boats going past us were missing out on so much. May be we were not getting the excitement of the speed of these boats but I'm sure that would soon wane and be replaced by the constant noise, wind, and bumping of their journey.

Why is it that speed is always promoted and sold at premium - surely this only encourages us to stay in the fast lane and on many levels miss some of the most important things in life.

Yes, I have a fast internet connection, but when traveling or choosing a place to eat out, I will always chose the slow alternative whenever possible. And yes, this includes taking the boat and train back from Japan where I live to my home country, the UK (when I was single of course).

09 June, 2010

Green roof and chickens

By way of an update on two on-going projects here are photo gallery links:

supports biodiversity
reduced heat island effect in urban areas
visually pleasing
CO2 capture
cleaner air
water capture/reduced water run-off
heat insulation/reduced energy costs (if on residential buildings)

drug free, nutritious, better-tasting eggs
localisation of food
free-range 'happy' chickens
food waste recycling
organic compost

If time, updates on the problems and solutions encountered on the journey with these projects

10 May, 2010

The good and the not so positive ....

It's been a long time since I've been able to post a blog and this one is a little different than previous entries in that it doesn't say much in words but relies more on images.

From the link at the end of this post you can view a series of photos, which in one way or another, are linked to the environment.

The gallery was started as a demonstration for my students who are assigned to take 4~5 photos and bring them into class to discuss in a group. The group then decides which two photos to put forward and present to the class - one representing a positive impact on the environment and the other a negative impact. The class then decides on the best two in each category.

If you have your own photos which you think fit the theme please add them directly to the gallery (see Upload at top of gallery page) or send them to me at ifd66@mac.com

The gallery can be viewed at http://gallery.me.com/ifd66#100599

01 January, 2010

Copenhagen accord: progress or procrastination?

The outcome:
After two weeks of intense debate the delegates and heads of state for 192 nations 5 of these nations signed an accord that they recognised there was a case for keeping average global temperature increase to no more than 2˚C.

References to 1.5˚C were dropped despite this being the level at which scientists and climate models predict many island nations will be eradicated.

So too was an 80% cut in CO2 emissions by 2050 dropped.

It was agreed however that the richer nations pay $30bn per year to poorer nations to help deal with climate change, and $100bn per year by 2020.

Adding a pinch of perspective:

Last year these same rich countries managed to scrap together $8 TRILLION to support the banking and securities firms.

No agreements or even suggestions were made on how to limit global temperature rise to 2˚C.

2˚C represents the threshold where unstoppable climate change scenarios are likely to become reality. This is when many of the predicted positive feedback mechanisms will be triggered such as the release of the vast methane deposits in the frozen tundra, and the release of the massive amounts of carbon as the remaining tropical forests dry up and burn.

At the bare minimum, scientists are now telling us that we have a 50:50 chance of not passing this threshold and keeping climate stable. As one commentator said, who would allow their children to get on a plane with a 50:50 chance of crashing?

Commentator's comments on the summit's outcome:

"The city of Copenhagen is a crime scene with the guilty men and women fleeing to the airport"

"Beating global warming will require a radically different model of politics than the one on display in Copenhagen"

"World leaders have effectively signed a death sentence for many of the world's poorest children"

And from this commentator, I have no more to say on this summit.

20 October, 2009

Why waste time debating global warming?

Recently I was sent an article from the BBC: What happened to global warming? Yes, I had already read it, and had heard the arguments for doubting the existence of man induced global warming, as well as all the counter arguments.

I wondered though, why was this ONE article being circulated so much, and not the other legions of anecdotal and scientific reports from around the globe which continue to clarify the current consensus that climate change is here, is getting worse, and is unlikely to go away?

While reports of record warming of oceans, melting of ice-sheets, shrinkage of coral reefs etc etc, are easily enough to convince me of the realities of global warming, debating whether this warming is human-induced or not, or indeed is itself real or not, simply acts to deflect from the arguably more tangible, and less controversial 'facts'.

These are:

FACT 1: Given that our economies are doing very little to rid themselves of their addition to fossil fuels, CO2 emissions are directly correlated with economic activity, or more crudely, consumption (the definition of consume being to completely destroy) of the earth's natural resources.

FACT 2: The rate of consumption has become far too high with the current population consuming the resources that would take 1.4 earths to restore - And guess what? - there's only ONE earth (Global Footprint Network)

FACT 3: This unrelenting pressure on the earth's resources is impossible to ignore - Just check out the highlights of the UN's GEO-4 - Global Environment Outlook about the current state of the earth's soil, water, air, forests, biodiversity, and development. Unfortunately there, are very few, if any, positive trends to cheer the heart and soul.

FACT 4: If there is any progress to be made on solving all these solutions we simply have to reduce our decidedly corpulent levels of consumption (ahem .... waste). And of course there is the small matter of fairness - how is it we continue to consume such huge quantities of resources in our developed enclave without at least paying a fair price (as pollution - ahem - carbon taxes would help ensure))

So let's forget the arguments about CO2 and global warming. Just agree that, at least in principle, it's fair to call for a reduction in our consumption (ahem... CO2 emissions) to levels that will allow our children to enjoy a lifestyle similar to ours.

Why waste time debating semantics (ah humm ... human induced global warming)?