Archive for January, 2007

Selling Indulgences

Monday, January 29th, 2007

A couple of colleagues have circulated links to websites offering the opportunity to offset the CO2 created by my energy consumption in return for monetary payment.


Thanks for the links, but all of these people are asking for money and offering little but vague assertions in return. This is not intended to deny the good intentions of either the Native Power people linked to by Al Gore or of the IRES folks and their friends at WestJet, or I guess of any other chap who puts up a website and offers a $60 absolution for the CO2 I spewed on my flight to India last year. But none of these sites offer convincing proof that my $60 payment will somehow suck back all that CO2. So how can I tell that what salves my conscience will indeed undo the effects of my sin?

This business of buying remission reminded me of the mediaeval practice of selling indulgences and a quick Google search confirmed that I was not the first to make that connection: � Selling Indulgences

How Much Renewable Energy Do We Have?

Monday, January 29th, 2007

George Monbiot showed (in November 2005) that, even with extremely generous assumptions about the plausible extent of resource usage, renewable energy sources will not suffice to replace what he believes must be cut from our carbon combustion rate.

But then (in July 2006) he continued to deny what may be the only feasible solution, despite recognizing many errors in previous arguments against it, on the grounds that “To start building a new generation of nuclear power stations before we know what to do with the waste produced by existing plants is grotesquely irresponsible.” This while blithely suggesting as an alternative that “With similar levels of investment in energy efficiency and carbon capture and storage, and the exploitation of the vast new offshore wind resources the government has now identified(13), we could cut our carbon emissions as swiftly and as effectively as any atomic power programme could.” But the technology of capture and sequestration is far from well established and the wind power he refers to is just what he showed in the article above to be far less than enough to meet his country’s needs. He does conclude by mentioning that neither the gas nor the wind resources in North America are proportionately nearly as large as those of the UK.

Designed To Let Us Down

Sunday, January 21st, 2007

David Brin’s suggestion for adding peer-to-peer capabilities to create a more robust cellular phone system

No Nukes For Oil?

Wednesday, January 17th, 2007

In Today’s Big Story at perhaps the most interesting aspect was the (wisely) restrained reaction of Jack Layton – “It’s certainly incumbent on somebody proposing to use nuclear plants to provide the power for the oil sands to tell us where they are going to put the waste. And I don’t think that question has been answered.” It is important not to insist that it will always remain unanswered, and in fact finding a satisfactorily answer may be our only realistic hope for solving the CO2 problem.

Canada Sleeps Through War to ‘Save the Internet’

Wednesday, January 17th, 2007

This Tyee article is about the low profile of the ‘Net Neutrality’ debate in Canada. Author Bryan Zandberg is right that this is something we should not be ignoring.

The telecoms and cable providers are monopolies, and not only do they demand non-competition within the technologies of which they have been given control, but they also kick and scream when anyone suggests providing an alternative like a public free wireless network.

But it’s not just the carriers who are the source of the problem. Even with multiple competing carriers, there would still be pressure from big media firms to lock out smaller information sources and they will not hesitate to withhold their content from channels that do not help reinforce their control of the information market.

Capitalism has a natural tendency to follow the biblical injunction “Unto him that hath shall be given and from him that hath not shall be taken away – even that which he hath”. This is not necessarily what we want in many areas – but most especially in that of media and information control.

Preaching the Word of Atheism

Saturday, January 13th, 2007

Preaching the Word of Atheism is an article in The Tyee which surveys some trends (or wannabe trends) among the humanists and others who are skeptical of the value of religion. Whether or not they are either representative or have any chance of being effective, there is some interest in watching their progress. The same does not apply to the vast string of predictable comments. In fact scanning through them makes me thankful that I have so few readers.

Children of Men

Saturday, January 13th, 2007

The Tyee review of this movie (which I saw last weekend) is in my opinion off base.

The film is technically quite well done with effective cinematography and acting, but the premise is more than silly; in fact it is quite harmful. I am not referring primarily to the implausibility of sudden global unexplained human-specific infertility, but rather to the fact that the story would have us believe that decades of such infertility lead to massive refugee camps and violence everywhere and that our salvation lies in restoring our fertility. What bunk! The miracle of childbirth is all very nice, but now and for the foreseeable future the less often it happens the better.

The Reality Club: BEYOND BELIEF

Thursday, January 11th, 2007

The Reality Club: BEYOND BELIEF

What Al Gore Hasn’t Told You . . .

Thursday, January 11th, 2007

What Al Gore Hasn’t Told You About Global Warming is a review on Alternet by David Morris of George Monbiot’s book ‘Heat’

Engaging Brains Through Games and Simulations

Thursday, January 11th, 2007

Wesley Fryer reports on a workshop by Bernie Dodge at Macworld

Transforming Langara

Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

A group of my colleagues at Langara College have been looking at the possibility of significantly increasing the attention paid to environmental sustainability – both in terms of our college’s physical operations and in terms of what we teach. Some feel that what is needed can be accomplished within our existing governance structures and others demand some new source of direction. Rather than be distracted by debating this in the abstract it would be better to push on and see what we can do with the present structure, and let any suggestions for change be informed by that experience.

Mark Twain, Father of the Internet

Tuesday, January 9th, 2007

By Crawford Killian in Tyee we have Mark Twain, Father of the Internet