Anthropogenic global warming – truth or fraud?

“It is very disturbing when the amorality of scientists unites the immorality of politicians.”  Jurandyr Arone Maues

“amorality of scientists”? You’ve got to be joking! Now you’ve done it.

Do you think scientists want global warming to be true? No, I can assure you that we don’t want it to be true. I personally would rather carry on regardless with my affinity for fossil-fuel powered sports motorbikes, BUT I can’t simply ‘forget’ my science education. Can I?

First of all, we’ve already told you. Many times over. But apparently non-scientists are not as ‘logical’ as scientists. Other things seem to get in the way of your reasoning. Things like lifestyle and belief systems. Social inertia. Conspiracy theories. Conservatives. Religion.

We could come up with the most irrefutable evidence you could imagine and still there would be loads of people that would think “it’s all a giant conspiracy”. Because they’re hooked on vehicles, consumer goods and international air travel. Right?

Most people are almost born with this ideology that “work is good” and “work can’t be bad”. It’s indoctrinated into us all through our schooling and beyond. We’re all taught to “do something of benefit”. People who are brought up with religion automatically think “man can do no harm”. Wrong! We invented the thermonuclear bomb. I think everyone agrees that they’re very destructive man-made things.

And the thing is, nuclear bombs are essentially atomic-scale devices. We invented all sorts of poisons that can kill off entire ecosystems. Guess what? Poisons are molecular scale devices also.

Almost every single change or consequence in this universe is brought about by the small scale influencing the big scale. For example, my expertise is in materials (that’s how I know about IR spectroscopy); every single material you can touch is influenced by the arrangement of its atoms. Every single one. It’s the difference between charcoal and diamond. They’re both carbon-based materials. The only difference is the atomic stacking. That’s it. That’s why superman can squeeze a lump of coal and turn it into diamond.

I think deniers need to just stop already and take a much-needed reality check. And fast. Just leave your preconceived ideas at the door. Is it so hard to believe that what we do affects our environment? Is it?! If we keep on making changes at the *local* scale, and we keep on doing this *all over the planet*, that means we are *already* doing things on a global scale. Just because you can’t SEE all of those exhaust pipes in front of you, doesn’t mean they’re not contributing.

Likewise, just because you can’t comprehend how a tiny thing like a molecule can influence a whole planet, doesn’t mean it’s not happening either. We already know that changes in one scale can and do influence another. There are storms all over the planet Venus for example. Do you know why? Well according to planetary scientists, it’s because of its atmosphere.

Do me a favour, read this. That’s the link between CO2 and absorption of radiation. That’s the mechanism right there. There is no doubt about the IR spectra of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

But it’s not a question of one lone molecule, is it? Do you know how much volume of gas one tonne of CO2 represents? Do you? 1 tonne of CO2 gas occupies 557 thousand litres.

Now try to imagine the NUMBER of molecules. It’s right up there. Forget tonnes. Forget litres. Let’s talk about the actual number of molecules for a change. The USA emits emits approximately 71,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 of these molecules every single year. Do you see how many zeroes that is? That is no exaggeration. That is a real number estimate that I have personally calculated. We are talking “duodecillions” of molecules here, all over the world.

Now granted there are a lot of molecules in a teacup (a lot less than this, I can assure you). But I hope that at least *some* people who read this can now begin to see how this goes from being a molecular-scale problem to a planetary-scale problem.

And not only that. We know there are tipping points. We know about chaos theory. We know about “sensitive dependence on initial conditions”. What the hell am I on about now? Well for example if Hitler had have got into art school, instead of being rejected, then there WW2 probably wouldn’t have happened. Would it?

And the thing is, we can see the carbon dioxide concentration is increasing all over the world. So that is measurable. And the electromagnetic spectrum of greenhouse gases are also measurable (and let me tell you, their repeatability is undeniable).

Next deniers will tell you that plants love CO2. And so does phytoplankton. Not according to this study.

Well sorry to alarm you, but forests and oceans can’t seem to keep up. Because if they could, the CO2 concentration would stabilise. But it doesn’t. It keeps rising. And the more forests we cut down, the higher it goes. Indeed, it should already be obvious. Because if they loved the extra CO2, they would already be making use of it.

Do you know what those little serrations are on this graph? I read somewhere that each one of those jumps represents and entire growing season for deciduous plants (because there are more in one hemisphere than in the other). And judging by that graph, you can even see that the leaves fall from the trees faster than they grow. That’s what that is.

Those little zig-zag jumps you can see are the effectiveness of the planet’s lungs. Each year they take a breath. And each year, it looks like they are suffocating ever so slightly more. You might say the concentration of CO2 might not matter to them. It probably doesn’t. But the fact is, global warming would still occur even without any trees, as it does on the planet Venus, the “greenhouse capital” of the solar system.

And this problem we are facing is no different to another anthropogenic global problem: ozone hole problem. Remember? Nobody denied that! And I’ll tell you why nobody denied that. Because it was EASIER to give up CFCs and swap over to a different aerosol propellant, wasn’t it? Simple. Done.

Try to realise that if the Earth’s atmosphere doesn’t actually go on forever. It’s less than 10km thick. People commute more than that on a daily basis. Ethiopians walk more than that on a daily basis just to get enough water. It’s actually very thin when you think of it like that (as all astronauts and cosmonauts will tell you).

And that was what Carl Sagan was trying to say with his book “Pale blue dot”. Carl Sagan was truly brilliant at making ordinary people appreciate big and small numbers. Well I’m going to go one further than Carl. And I’m going to bring it right down to human-scale proportions. If the Earth’s atmosphere was condensed into a solid, it would be only 12.2 metres thick. That’s it. That’s all we’re playing with.

Now try to recall every single time you filled up your fuel tank. Can you remember? That’s 50kg or more at a time. If you had to carry that 50kg every time you filled up your car, you’d probably be more aware of the amount of carbon you’re burning. But it just flows up into the petrol bowser, down through the hose and out the nozzle without you even lifting a finger.

Now try to remember every single time you turned on a light switch or plugged something in. All that electricity had to come from somewhere too (like when coal and gas were scooped up by the truckload at all the mining sites dotted around this planet and burned in power stations that you can’t even see).

And now try to remember every single thing you have ever bought. Tonnes of invisible (invisible to you) carbon dioxide went into making all the stuff we buy. Tonnes. Incidentally, that is why the manufacturing industry doesn’t want to talk about climate change either (because they’re too involved in it).

Now. All that CO2. Have you planted that much carbon in the mean time? Has your garden grown and gained tonnes and tonnes of weight? Or has it been urbanised instead– chopped down and flattened? Has your soil got that much richer? No. The answer is “no it hasn’t”. All of that carbon has been taken from underground mines and dispersed into the atmosphere.

Try to think of all of that carbon being sprinkled onto the 12.2 metre frozen sea of air. Try to think of it that way. Try to think of all those duodecillions of molecules “doing their thing”. Try to think of it that way.


Why are scientists fanatical about climate change?

Yes we certainly do become a bit fanatical. Why? Why is that? Let’s take a look:

Because the basic hypothesis here is is that our actions directly affect our environment. It really is that simple. It’s no different than pouring a tonne of cyanide into a lake. What do you think is going to happen? Fish will die is what will happen. Likewise, modern technology can and does have the potential to affect the atmosphere. You can either accept it or you can bury your head in the sand like an ostrich.

I think a lot of people don’t get the connection between the vibration of countless tiny molecules and temperature. That’s why I like to share this information.

When you study science, you soon learn that scientists must be open minded. A closed-minded scientist is all but useless. What good would it do a scientist if their own personal belief systems got in the way of their research? Can you imagine if I “didn’t believe” that fluorine gas reacts violently with potassium? So I go to the chemical laboratory and proceed to mix 4kg of potassium with 100 moles of fluorine gas, “just for fun”, because I “believe” nothing is going to happen. That would be a very dangerous personal belief. Right?

A scientist can take a look at new data and go “oh okay, that’s news to me.” You’ve now changed his outlook and it has only taken a few minutes/hours. But it has taken the rest of the world THREE DECADES to catch up. THREE DECADES! And still you have people who don’t believe there is a correlation.

It truly baffles me. I think the denial has NOTHING to do with carbon dioxide vs temperature and it has EVERYTHING to do with people’s lifestyles and careers.

Why don’t you deny atomic charges? Or electromagnetism theory? Or molecular bonding? No. You cherry pick the parts of science you want to agree with and to hell with the rest of it (most likely because you drive a car and you want to *continue* driving it).

Did you know that it actually takes more time to become a science doctor than a medical doctor? It took me nine years of full time study. Where is the respect? For many people, there isn’t any. And it probably takes close to two whole decades to become a professor… these are *very* knowledgeable people.

So, yes. Yes we do become a bit fanatical. We become fanatical because the fossil fuel industry even knows it to be true, but they don’t do anything! We become fanatical because you have people like googly-eyed “Lord Monckton” claiming they know what they are talking about when in reality they are totally scamming people.

The value of NAT and ENV shares on the the global stock exchange.

Here’s the kind of thing you see when you hang out on LinkedIn for a while:


And here is my response to that:

Did you see the stock price for NAT shares though, since Trump got in? NAT shares are down. Way down. And when I say NAT, I don’t mean “Nordic American Tanker Ltd” on the NYSE. I mean NAT, on the global stock exchange, the GSE.

ENV shares are down too! Once again, I don’t mean “Envestnet Inc”. I mean ENV, on the global stock exchange, the GSE.

And isn’t it telling of business today that NYSE:ENV and NYSE:NAT do not represent nature or the environment? Quite the opposite. In actual fact they represent gas pipelines and supermax oil tankers, respectively.

Every time the Nasdaq, the S&P, the Dow jones go up, GSE:NAT and GSE:ENV invariably go down1. Way down. I think it’s because we don’t know any other way.

Maybe the only reason the stock market “is on fire” is because Mr. Trumpet wants to abolish the EPA? Maybe it’s very telling of business today. That while stock markets are, as you say, “on fire”, the Earth is figuratively burning up also.

The trouble is this: when GSE:NAT and GSE:ENV go down, all other stocks will soon follow. This should be like a law already.

It’s not all about the stock market. Do you know WHY there is not stock market on planet Mars or planet Venus? Because there is no breathable atmosphere. So maybe “business at all cost” types should consider that before their next next trade? You know, invest in something other than money?

If you could measure the worth, the market capital of GSE:NAT and GSE:ENV, it would put the rest of the worlds’ stock exchanges to shame. If we had to pay for these services, humanity would be bankrupt. Bankrupt I tell you! Bankrupt!

Traditional economic stock markets are all but a meaningless evaluation. All of them incorrectly report the true value of the Earth’s assets. If our environment cannot even be maintained, then one must ask the next logical question: just how ‘sustainable’ are “sustainable business models”?


By the way, I’m not here to make friends. I’m not here to get more connections. Or leads. Or clients. I’m here to make people think. Clients will always be there, biodiversity won’t. 2c

Oh and it is ‘their’. The word you are looking for is their, not there.

Design disappointment.

Today I’m going to share with you a little secret that’s been bugging me lately

It’s about one of my inner-most feelings about the design industry. For several months now, I’ve been getting disappointed. I have a bit of a dilemma. A moral dilemma 1.

Here it is: there seem to be very few what I call “ethical designers”. And that worries me.

I know because rarely do the creatives ever ‘like’ my environmental posts on LinkedIn. Rarely. Almost never.

Now keep in mind that probably about half of my connections work in the design industry. They’re senior graphic designers. They’re art directors. Executive creative directors. Chief creative officers. Important people. Important people with important accounts.

Designers are supposed to lead the way when it comes to new trends. I mean, fashion designers have the power to change what a billion people wear, within the space of a year (or less). Right?

And yet on this subject, the environment, most designers are suspiciously silent. And I think I know why. I strongly suspect it’s because there’s this so called ‘professional’ [read: confidential] client relationship.

In other words, the never seem to speak up, because they are too afraid that they are going to lose money. Not just with customers, but with their real clients, the businesses that hire them to design. You can’t be seen to criticise the business that gives you work. Like they say, “don’t bite the hand that feeds you”.

Here’s the thing. If people say or do the wrong thing —like the wrong post say— then they lose the account. I know because one of my design teachers told me. If anyone is caught drinking Pepsi in the design room when the Coke representative walks in, your agency loses the Coke account. That’s the way it works.

You see, I really think designers are forgetting just how difficult it is to accomplish good design. I think they’re underestimating themselves. They’re selling themselves short. And I think they should act a bit more like they way they were in highschool. Back then they were the trendsetters. The people who dared to be different. The people who stood against the status quo. Those rebellious kids. The cool ones, you know.

I would like to see the designer charge three, five or ten times more than they normally would for their design. Use that extra money. Give half of it to an enviornmental charity. But I would prefer to see you refuse the brief altogether. Don’t do it. Not for any amount of money!

People who changed the world in the past were never really popular during their time. People like Galileo questioned the status quo. And now today we have satellite communication and GPS navigation systems.

It could be that my “save the planet” content is preferentially served to all my conservation connections. But somehow I doubt it. Many creatives would have seen my posts as well. Many. They lurk, they don’t like. I’ve noticed.

And I was actually going to write this on my LinkedIn feed, but decided to write about it here instead. Because over there, it’ll only become very ‘awkward’.

I’ve also noticed that whenever I post a ‘controversial’ update or comment, I get about three times the number of people looking at my profile. They’re probably checking out who is making all the waves. But they never say anything. Not even privately.

It’s like they’re thinking something like this behind my back: “well if he doesn’t know, we’re not going to tell him; more work for us”.

I know how social groups work. If you say something controversial enough, something to upset people enough, something that goes against the norm, something that people can’t deal with, you risk getting expelled. Banned from the group. And I don’t want that to happen. I’d still like to get a few illustration commisions.

I know how the world works. I know it runs with money. I’m not stupid or naïve. So it’s not that I don’t know what I’m doing. Oh no; I know exactly what I’m doing. I also know something that most designers don’t know. I know a thing or two about science.

In that respect, I suppose my training is pretty unique because I have a strong background in science but my most recent qualification was a diploma of graphic design. So I speak the dual languages of science and design. I don’t know too many ex-scientists designers. None, in fact.

The thing is, I can’t forget my past. No matter how hard I try. I can’t not be a scientist. I trained for more than ten years to be a scientist. I can’t forget who I was or who I am today. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t. Sometimes I wish I could forget. Then I could probably ignore all these conservationists and and indigenous people and just “get on with being ‘successful’ “.

It’s not that science and design are incompatible. Oh they are perfectly compatible alright. Yes business, design and science are indeed all compatible. But not when it comes to big corporations they’re not. Because the bigger the company, the less accountable the employers, employees and customers all become.

The bigger a company, the more ethical rules they seem to break. Seriously. Environmental rules. Especially when it comes to the following industries: mining, engineering, manufacturing, development, construction and transport/logistics. They just don’t give a fuck. Or so it seems.

I know enough to know that there are many unknowns in science. But for every ‘unkown’, there are ten or a hundred ‘knowns’. Science is pretty good. Science works. Your computer works. Your smart phone works. Your iwatch works.

The trouble with designers staying silent is this. The bigger the account gets, the less people see the effect of their design decisions. Designers are not seeing the impact.

But what is worth more? The account? Or the planet? If we lose the planet, we lose pretty much all future accounts. Right? Riiight?

So my new rule of business is that I only want to work towards a better future, not a worse one. Otherwise, what’s the point?

If we are all working towards a worse future, if all there is is “now”, if that is so important, why bother working at all? Why bother building cities, freeways and skyscrapers? Why bother with children and grandchildren? You tell me. What is the fucking point? What is the fucking point of having children if this world is not sustainable?

And don’t get me wrong, I try to live in the ‘now’ as much as humanly possible. It’s just that I also consider the future as well as the past (which I think is wise).

When a client comes to you asking for a rebrand, they’re obviously thinking about the future, aren’t they? They are looking for a newer, better future. Right?

So what I would like to see is this: I would like to see creative executives have the balls to say to someone like Mr Gautami Adani something like this:

“well the thing is, Mr Adani, we can’t actually make your logo any cooler, accessible or friendly, you’re asking the impossible. Fossil fuels have become out of vogue, out of fashion, we can’t change that. No one can change that. Solar and wind are “in”. Coal is out.”.

I would like to see Chief Creative Officers, Executive Design Directors remind the CEO, the CFO, the board of directors about the future. Remind them that they are hoping for a better ‘future’ design, hence, they must care about the future. That’s why they’re investing money. Because they’re hoping for a better future.

I’d like to see more people remind these fools at the top just why the environment has to come before business. And then maybe the business owners and investors would insist on a newer, more sustainable, ecological design. Who else is going to design for them?

I think it’s absurd that people are too afraid to even say anything. Everyone should be able to harp on about the environment as much as they bloodywell like without fear of losing their job. Otherwise, we are all fückéd ladies and gentlemen. Fückéd!

Here’s what I would like to say to all investors. I would like to walk into a boardroom meeting and draw this fucken equation on the board:

no environment = no business = no profit.

Because I can tell you one thing right now. People can see straight through a logo or a design. I used to think a great logo was everything. but it’s just an identity mark.

If the companies’ ethics and morals aren’t in the right place, then people will eventually go with the ugly logo. I love a good logo, I do. I choose companies based on their logos and their design. True! But once I turn on a company, there’s almost no going back. If I had to choose between designer logos and saving the planet, bring on the ugly logos.

People are fickle. Customers will change banks. No amount of design can be used to sell a horrible company to well-informed people. That might have worked in 1990. Or even the year 2000. But this is the age of information, the age of connection.


The reason is that money can only be used to ‘offset’ things up to a certain point. And I think we are fast getting to that point, if it isn’t already behind us. Beyond that point, money doesn’t do any good. Sure money can buy a forest. Money cannot buy us a new atmosphere or a stable, unpeturbed weather system. Money cannot buy a clean ‘new’ planet. That is not how the world works.

Sometimes I like to entertain the idea of hypothetical situations, because I find them to be very insteresting. For example. if the major powers launched all of their nuclear weapons (more or less simultaneously), then how much would it cost to ‘fix’ the planet afterwards? What if it couldn’t be ‘fixed’? What then? That’s one reason we try to avoid a nuclear holocaust. Because we know about the consequences.

Things can’t keep on going on like they’ve always done. Again, the world doesn’t work that way. I know that’s not the way it is at the moment.

You may think I am some hippie nutter. But I’m not. I am a bit of a dreamer though. I don’t really care too much about money. I care that what I think, what I say, and what I do are all aligned — in the right direction.

So where am I going with this? A few years ago I read that whenever an organisation grows, it reaches a critical size of about 150 people. That is the maximum number of people we can efficiently deal with. Beyond that and things get too disconnected and bureaucratic. Efficiency goes down.

So these days I prefer to work with smaller businesses. That’s what my gut instinct tells me to do. Businesses that are small enough to change and adapt. Businesses that are able to put the environment first. They’re the ones who I want to trade with.




Is the weather becoming our enemy?

Every time I turn on the news or read a newspaper, it seems as if everything is against us, the Earth itself included.

Have you noticed that certain weather incidents are now portrayed as a bad thing? Don’t misunderstand me. When I say they are bad, if there are casualties, it goes without saying that a tragedy has taken place.

What I don’t agree with is the notion that that the environment has somehow reached enemy status. Like it has a mind of its own and it’s out to get us to teach us a hard earned lesson. No! It’s our friend for Pete’s sake. It’s the oxygen we breathe. We grew up here. It’s almost like teenage children rebelling against their parents! Here’s a thought: if you’ve driven a car today, don’t attack the weather afterwards like some kind of evil foe. We’re the ones changing the weather.

I guess unlike a lot of other things, the weather can be dangerous and we’re naturally afraid of that. Just witness the air travel chaos caused by the recently erupting Icelandic volcano (Tenerife is a primary European holiday destination, so we were indirectly affected by all the flight cancellations). But then people begin to react with fear & anxiety which stems from a threat which usually can’t be controlled easily.

I’m just waiting for the day when some bright spark proposes [seriously] putting a stop to these ‘human inconveniences’ by plugging that Icelandic volcano or some other grandiose idea to reduce the volcanic ash cloud. Because my biggest fear is actually the moment when humans do try to stop or prevent weather phenomena in order to create a more ‘stable’ environment. Oh wait, seems it’s already happening:

Climate intervention is a field so new that the senior scientists who attended the five-day meeting don’t agree on its name. Some are calling it geoengineering; others call it climate remediation. Either way, it involves complex –and, some say, ethically questionable– processes to reduce the impact of global warming. Like dispersing sulfur particles into the atmosphere. I don’t think we should do that… we might just get sulfuric acid rain clouds.

You may or may not be aware that us humans have a great history of fucking things up big time. And the bigger the scheme, the greater the fuck-up.

Sorry to say this, but whatever we touch, we end up destroying in one way or another.

Sometimes we’re so stupid, we don’t even know what we’ve destroyed until it’s too late. Sometimes we’re that ignorant and we’ll never even know what we buggered up.

Mark my words people, because the first thing scientists do before attempting to create an artificial ‘solution’ is to measure or characterise something. Some of the most powerful computers on Earth are dedicated to weather prediction.

I hope we never reach the stage where we try to interfere with Earth’s natural systems. It’s probably too late, since it looks like we have already kick-started another global warming phase.

I wouldn’t be surprised, for example, if some clever schmuck is right now devising an artificial gas halo to protect the Earth and cool it back to it’s natural level. Or they could extend the Earth’s orbit a bit and cool it down that way. If it isn’t clear already, I think that these sort of grandiose schemes are doomed to failure right from the start. Not because they won’t work, but because of the unintended consequences.

Journalists are not entirely to blame. You even hear people being interviewed on the street. Too much rain is bad, too much hot weather is bad, too much snow is bad. There is drought and at the same time there is flooding. But who decides how much is too much? In my opinion, the rapid change in weather patterns we see now probably are caused by humans.

I’m not convinced that we can fix our mistakes quite so simply. Anyone who thinks otherwise should probably read the book “why things bight back”… In conclusion, I think it’s our entire mindset we really do need to change not just our lifestyle.

The coal debate

Ex scientist here. Dr. qualified. (like that even matters today)
No we most certainly should NOT be relying on coal!! How many times do scientists have to tell you this??!! For one thing, coal is not renewable. It’s going to run out you know. Maybe not in the next few decades. But in a couple of centuries it will. Then what?!! But quite apart from that, the really clever scientists are telling you to keep it in the ground! Are you politicians all DEAF, or what? Hello global warming!
I know it’s hard for you to accept something that you don’t understand. But how many people know how and why their mobile phone works? Or their computer? Or their car? Eh?
You have enough sunshine in QLD to power that state for the next… 5 billion years!!!! It’s a no brainer. FFS living in this country is becoming embarrassing.
You politicans might know about money and rules and regulation, but you know sweet FA about how the world works. I.e. Physics and chemistry. Here’s a tip. Kindly look up the surface temperature of the planet Venus. That planet is hotter than it should be considering it’s proximity to the sun. It’s at least 30 degrees hotter than Mercury for Pete’s sake (and Mercury is MUCH closer to the Sun!). What’s the difference? Well, for one thing, Venus has a predominantly CO2 atmosphere. It’s the original greenhouse planet. Heck, it’s probably a hundred °C hotter than it should be because of that CO2. Now I suggest you politicians start taking notice of my fellow scientists… because otherwise you’re going to be even more out of touch than you are now. Les out
its not politically correct to say global “warming”, because we have no idea what its actually doing, so just to be safe . every social justice warrior knows that, you have to say climate “change” now to muddy the waters , or you will be socially ostracized. but at least you do agree that its the sun that drives climate, like on venus, and not human activities. but we should stop selling our coal to china, a brutal communist dictatorship, and others , after all we`re going to need it here to for some few hundred years to power our cities, what will we do when it runs out , our childrens childrens children will need it , unless one of these genius scientists can invent a better solution that wont cripple our nation and cause millions of deaths like solar and wind will
I think you completely missed my point. I was trying to point out that atmosphere also affects climate, not just the proximity to the sun.

[Read more…]

Culture your culture

Something happened last week while I was walking my dog.

SSHE decided that the best place to do a poop was right in the middle of a path in the Royal National Park. Right in front of two people who happened to be coming the other way. They saw the whole thing. I carried on rather sheepishly as they passed right by me. They both stopped at the end of their walk and looked back at me. The fat man with lycra/spandex pants and fluorescent sports top stretched his legs and was feeling rather good about himself, because he asked me to pick up my dog’s turd when I was more than 10 metres away. That’s brave.

When I go for a street walk –and I find myself going less and less just to avoid people– sure, I carry plastic bags. This time, I didn’t have any. So wanting to avoid a confrontation (like I always do), and feeling extremely embarrassed, I just replied calmly and softly “sorry I don’t have any plastic bags”, turned around and carried on. And then I heard them both muttering something about me being in a National Park with a dog and how it was ‘prohibited’. Well I have been thinking about this for a week or so. And my internet reply –which is rather different from my real-world reply– goes something like this:

No I don’t litter and I never have done. Normally I am a really ‘good’ person and I carry plastic bags with me when I walk my dog on the street. But lately, I’ve been reading this book, which embraces a “cradle to cradle mentality”.

Nowadays, whenever I go for a walk along a nature strip, I just cover the poop over with the adjacent sandy soil. It decomposes naturally and enriches the Earth. There is no ‘waste’.

One plastic bag is spared for use on something else. And there is one less plastic bag with a turd inside it, rotting away in the Lucas Heights dumping ground that they call a “waste management centre”.

You know, Aborigines and their dingoes have been living in this same National Park for 40,000 years. And they would still be here in another 40,000 years if white folk hadn’t have come along and shot them all. They didn’t pick up their dogs’ shit and put it into a plastic bag for it to end in landfill, did they? So I think we can learn an all-important lesson in sustainability from them.

Come to think of it, what do you think would happen if you asked all creatures big and small within the bounds of the National Park to dispose of waste as you suggest, by putting it in a plastic bag? There would not BE a National Park. It would turn into a dump.

Do me a favour. Don’t demand or even ask me to “do what is right”. Who told you that that was the right thing to do anyway? Have you been watching this video or this one?

Don’t you dare judge me about being a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ person. And wipe those smug grins off your faces.

Do I mind picking my dog’s poop up? If it’s going to end up in a rubbish tip, yes, actually, I do mind.

I do not value your values. I do not culture your culture. I didn’t vote for your government and I don’t believe in what they stand for. I don’t remember signing any documents upon my birth to obey all the rules in your society. And neither does my dog.

What’s that you say? You don’t like treading in crap? It bothers you? So you don’t care about the environment after all, you just care about smearing dog shit on your vehicle’s carpet. Right, I see how it works now.

Well by the same token, I don’t like breathing in the toxic fumes coming from your vehicle’s exhaust pipe. Kindly drive around the block instead of driving past my place of residence. I’m sure that none of the animals in the National Park –with the exception of the black crows who now feed on road kill– like vehicles very much. So speaking on their behalf, kindly stop driving around and fucking up the atmosphere we all breathe.

Citizens of Australia, if it wasn’t for loads and loads of animals essentially crapping everywhere, nature wouldn’t exist as we know it. Crap is what keeps it all going. And let’s talk about the boundaries of a National Park shall we?

I went back two days later and the big pile of shit that my dog left had almost completely disappeared. The rain had already begun to wash it away. So I’m going to carry on walking my dog there until I get a fine for it. And when approached, I’m going to claim that I’m part Aboriginal and that my dog is part Dingo. And if they have a problem with that I might just say that I’m starting my own religion called “Vida Enigmatica”.

Is humanity ready for Elon Musk’s Mars mission?

Going to Mars is harder than getting to the top of Mt. Everest. And I don’t see anyone living way up there on the summit.

Dear Mr. Musk, I think a better way of doing it is to genetically engineer bacteria to produce an atmosphere first, over successive generations. Generations as in plural, i.e. more than one.

One simple reason we’re where we’re at today is because nature has provided us with abundant raw materials. It started with the use of solar powered materials (by that I mean twine and timber). There are no solar powered materials on Mars. No trees. No forests. The most efficient materials (in terms of energy required to produce them) are natural materials, because they convert sunlight directly into… materials. No heat required. All other synthetic materials require lots of energy to produce.

If I were hired to do a materials feasibility study, I would have to rule that it is “not yet feasible”. Even with the invention of “Martian concrete”. How are are you going to make hermetically sealed living quarters out of that slop? Are they going to be shovelling Martian concrete… wearing gas masks? Builders can’t even get that right here on Earth with abundant food, water and a 21% oxygen level. None of that over there. Is there?

My point is that nature is still subsidising all of humanity’s activities, even today. So we would be going backward centuries, millenia even. You can’t even light a fire on the planet Mars. What good is that? People today would be bored out of their minds.

The only way it would work, I think, was if there was a nuclear reactor involved. And I am certainly not advocating the use of nuclear fission in space (or anywhere else).

IMHO, trying to colonise Mars now is going to be 10x slower, 10x more expensive and 10x more boring than expected. Besides, if we were all living on the planet Mars now under domed little roofs, I’m sure we’d all want to live here –on the interesting planet– not there.

And the way production and manufacturing has worked up until now is this: several tens of thousands of years ago, wood and other natural, local materials were first used to to usher in the ceramic/pottery era … which was then used to usher in the bronze era … which was then used to usher in the iron era … which was used to usher in the modern information & nanotechnology era. We have always had to work our way up the material chain.  And all the while, well, nature herself has been subsidising us all along. With the really important things like food and oxygen.

My point is, we didn’t just jump straight into making gigahertz computers, we had to work up to it. Slooowly.

So it would be a bit like taking our current technology back in time, to the ancient Egyptians. Now to the big question: How much technology would we need to take to them to advance the rest of that civilisation in one big, massive jump forwards?

So right along those lines, here’s a quick thought experiment: say you take a smartphone back in time to the ancient Egyptians. Does anyone truly think that that would be ‘enough’ to start making mass-produced batches of smartphones right next to the pyramids o Giza? Well in case it isn’t clear already, it’s not.

Because first of all, there are no microscopes to even see what is going on inside that phone to even reverse-engineer that technology. And in order to get the microscopes, one has to first invent glass. And to do that, one needs polishing machines. Which requires motors. Axles. Bearings. Magnets. Copper wire. Electrical insulation. Ok. Now that we have that, on to making the components. Capacitors require tantalum. Touch screens require indium. Tin. Oxygen.

What are resistors made of? Carbon. Nichrome wire. Plenty of that here on Earth… not so much on Mars. Okay, not to be the pessimistic one, what are circuit boards made of? Fibreglass. What is the matrix made of? Plastic. What are plastic buttons and the casing made of? Plastic. No oil wells on Mars yet. Shit. Where is the nearest fibreglass factory? Where is the nearest plastic factory? Yellow pages? Hmmm. This is going to be more difficult than we first thought, isn’t it?

Never mind, we will continue, however.

What about the semiconductors used in all those tiny transistors? Germanium. Germanium is hard enough to get our hands on here, let alone there (with no atmosphere). Do you see my point? And there are many other elements required too. Where is the nearest gadolinium mine? Earth, that’s where.

Where are the silicon mines and purifying factories located on Mars? Nowhere. Don’t we need vacuum rooms for that as well? Well, yes. Why? Because the ‘vacuum’ that is the Mars’ atmosphere… is simply not ‘vacuumy’ enough. We need an ultra-high vacuum to achieve high-grade 99.999% purity silicon. So we are going to take vacuum pumps with us now are we? They’re pretty heavy. And every scientist already knows— you can never ever get down to an ultra-high vacuum with only one type of vacuum pump. Better make that rocket booster a bit bigger for the takeoff. Still more rocket fuel than expected.

Ahh yes, there is this one new technique to manufacture 99.999% silicon from 84% ferrosilicon. Except that it requires a sol-gel lab. Glassware at the very least. Liquids. Centrifuges. Magnets. Neodymium. Oh well.

So what you space futurists are basically telling me is that you would have to bring all of these starting materials… from Earth first… simply in order to “get going”.

I can’t even yet buy a fucking Mars bar on the planet Mars. And we are already talking about colonising that motherfucker?

“For a better world?”
Which world exactly?

Timely reminder: there is a whole freakin’ industry required to produce computers and everything else from their raw materials. A whole level of industry. Everything from mining equipment to extraction facilities, to manufacturing centres and clean rooms. The only way a Mars colony could ever be truly self-sustaining, is to take several different types of factories –yes I said entire factories– with us.

And everyone already knows small factories are not as efficient as larger factories, right? So in case the purpose of this post isn’t clear yet, what is the fucking point of this new Mars mission?

And now to my second big question: if we already know that the efficiency of production there is going to be WORSE than what it is here. If getting there fuck’s up this planet further, why even go?

Why go? Because we can? Does that mean we should? This goes without saying, but just because we can do something does not mean that we should. Simply being able to do something does not make it ‘better’.

And is that what we have been planning to do all along? How much jet fuel would that require I wonder? Eh?

So I think we better not bite off more than we can chew. I think the space mission to Mars is nothing more than a space race, a bit like the sixties space race. That’s what I think of it.

Now, I am not saying that we are not ‘clever’. I am not saying that we are not ‘advanced’. I am not saying that it can’t ever be done. And I’m not saying that it won’t ever be done.

But what I am saying is that it is definitely going to be harder than we think. Not to mention less efficient. And ultimately worse for planet Earth.

We are not yet even fully self sustaining here on Earth, with water that falls freely from the sky, with oxygen that is freely available and with food that grows all by itself. 

And people still want to start an entire manufacturing operation on another planet, with absolutely none of that already over there?

When is donald trump going to be president?

CORRECT ANSWER: well, assuming he hasn’t been assassinated yet, January, 20th, 2017.

And now that I’ve got you here with my keyword spamming trickery, I’ll spend the rest of this post talking about carbon dioxide with respect to climate change — and how it’s the volume that counts.

I know half of you are interested to know “when donald drumpf is going to be president” (for the right reasons). And half of you are interested to know “when donald trump is going to be president” (for the wrong reasons)1.

Yes. That’s right. This blog partly makes up or all the climate change deniers. And it’s precisely YOU I’m targeting here.

So. I’ve noticed that people always talk of gas emissions in terms of mass, which severely understates the quantity…

Exactly how much space does 1 tonne of CO2 gas occupy? You only need to look at molar volumes of gases:

People talk of gas emissions in terms of mass, which understates the quantity…  But exactly how much space does 1 tonne of CO2 gas occupy? You only need to look at molar volumes of gases:

1 tonne = 1 million grams.
44g of CO2 = 1 mole = 24.5L of gas (at 25ºC and standard atmospheric pressure)
Therefore, just 1 tonne of CO2 gas occupies 557 thousand litres. (= 22.7 kmoles or 557 m3)

Taking the figure above, annual global CO2 emission at 7910 million metric tons (7,910,000,000), multiply that by the volume occupied by one tonne (557,000), and we come up with 4.4 thousand trillion litres of CO2 gas produced every year.

We spew 4,400,000,000,000,000 litres of CO2 into the Earth’s atmosphere every single year.

We do not live in an infinite space, not in area, nor in volume. Yes, gravity sucks back all those CO2 molecules to planet earth. So I take the thickness of the atmosphere, from wikipedia:

I think we as people have forgotten the following important factoids:

50% of the atmosphere by mass is below 5.6 km altitude (18,000 ft).
75% of the atmosphere’s mass is within 11 km of the planetary surface.
90% of the atmosphere is below 16 km (52,000 ft).
99.99997% of the atmosphere is below 100 km (62 mi; 330,000 ft).

And the Earth’s total surface area from another source:

The total area of the Earth is approximately 510 million square kilometres.

My ultra quick calculation of volume of Earth’s atmosphere, up to 100km (yes let’s include all of it) = 51 trillion trillion cubic metres or 51,000 trillion trillion litres. That includes the atmosphere, the stratosphere, the troposphere, the mesosphere -yes, the entire fucking quota.

It appears some people claim that we can produce that much CO2 gas, 4.4 thousand trillion litres every single year, and it no way affects the limited volume of ‘our own’ atmosphere (51,000 trillion trillion litres)! That’s equivalent to an increase of 86 parts per billion CO2 gas every single year.

A few points:

  1. Of course, much of these emmissions are recycled into oxygen by trees and plants during photosynthesis. But while we continue to cut those down that won’t help us with our CO2 problem!!
  2. The upper atmosphere, the stratosphere, is extremely low pressure & doesn’t actually “hold” much gas.
  3. CO2 is 1.5 times denser than air.
  4. Using other estimates of the mass of the Earth’s atmosphere (5 quadrillion metric tonnes) used in the above calculation results in an increase in CO2 concentration of 1.6ppm per year!
  5. The world’s oceans can also dissolve some  CO2, acting like a large reservoir. But here again, there is a limit to how much seawater can take.

Do I even need to elucidate my calculations further? People claim that our  CO2 production has no affect on our precious environment, not even cumulatively! And as an ex-research scientist, that mode of thinking enrages me.

As far as I’m concerned, anyone who thinks that our way of life doesn’t affect the environment (climate included) is an idiot. Sorry, but some people still continue believe that we can spew as much CO2 into the air as we want and it will have no long-term effect on the Earth’s climate. 

You only need to look at exactly how much CO2 is produced by man:

Since 1751 roughly 315 billion tons of carbon have been released to the atmosphere from the consumption of fossil fuels and cement production. Half of these emissions have occurred since the mid 1970s. The 2004 global fossil-fuel CO2 emission estimate, 7910 million metric tons of carbon, represents an all-time high and a 5.4% increase from 2003.

What is the true value of our the world’s oceans?

So I came across this little illustration recently, put out by the WWF:


The ocean puts food on the table and underpins trillions of dollars of economic activity worldwide. It does all this freely. But not for long. The ocean is heading for a collapse.

Because the ocean belongs to everyone – and to no one – too many have taken too much. Centuries of overuse and neglect threaten to leave us with a vast blue desert. It is time to change the way we see the ocean – from a place where we take what we want and dump what we don’t, to a shared resource of immense value.

WWF is working to generate a new wave of support for sustainable seas. We will show leaders how a healthy ocean fosters economic development. We will celebrate and scale up the work of coastal and fishing communities to protect the resources they depend on. And we’ll give everyone the opportunity to speak out for our blue planet. Join us.

I think you’ll find that someone has drastically underestimated the value of the ocean + atmosphere here. It’s more like QUADRILLIONS of dollars. Why? Well, think about it, if we had to live off world, how much would it cost us? Eh? In a big space ship. Because that’s what some people are saying the alternative is. And without nature, that’s essentially what we’d have to do. We’d literally “be on our own”.

For example, how much are the first thousand lettuce leaves grown on Mars essentially going to cost to produce? Well, they are going to cost 1.5 BILLION dollars each lettuce leaf, aren’t they? So when you place the value at ‘only’ $24 trillion for all the fish in the sea (and more), I laugh. It ain’t anywhere near high enough. The information contained in the genetic material alone is priceless.

I was worried back in ’92.

Yes I first learned about “global warming” in 1991 or 1992.

I think I must have had a smart teacher for the subject called general studies, because she knew about this new topic and warned all of us. She probably heard all about it at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) aka the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit. I could tell she was concerned. I can still remember seeing the worry in her eyes way back then.

Also, like a lot of nerdy sciency kids, I already knew about the atmosphere of other planets (like Venus for example). And so I’ve known for a long time that there isn’t really anything (apart from biodiversity feedback loops) stopping this planet from becoming more like either Mars or Venus.

So I began making lifestyle choices back then, when I was 14 or 15 years old. I chose not to drive. I continued to ride my bicycle. I rode it everywhere. In fact I didn’t learn to drive a car until I was 28 years old. Not until I had to. Not until I needed to deliver a lot of bicycles for my business. But eventually, it all caught up with me again. It slowly dawned upon me that I was falling into the trap of becoming just like everyone else again.

We are supposed to be working for a better future. That is why we all work so hard. But if the future is going to be worse, what’s the point?

So now, after almost a decade of driving around, I’m slowly but surely weening myself off of it again.

Later, when I gratuated, I refused to work for oil companies. I was offered a very highly paid job investigating the steel microstructure of crude oil tankers. I just couldn’t do it. So I went straight back to university and did another 5 years there.

Climate scientists are saying now that we are in a “climate emergency”. Look, the coal industry in Australia is saying there is enough coal reserves to last another 365 years. Well okay. But if other planets are anything to go by, this world’s entire fucking oceans could potentially boil right off and disappear into deep space! Melting icecaps will be the least of our worries. Now, while that scenario is never mentioned by climate scientists, that’s what planetary scientists mean when they talk about “a climate system that is out of control”. Are people starting to get it now?

Now I still don’t think people even today fully realise the implications of climate change, 25 years later.

Pale Blue Dot — Carl Sagan

Development is not progress

I believe we cannot save the world by simply buying things all the time.
Illustration by Leslie Dean Brown. © 2015. All rights reserved.
Illustration by Leslie Dean Brown. © 2015. All rights reserved.

Even if we all bought 100% eco things 100% of the time instead of the plastic crap that everyone buys today, they are still ultimately things and it will mean that the demand for timber and other eco fibres will go up further, leading to further deforestation elsewhere (more plantations of whatever crop, be it corn for renewable plastic, bamboo or hemp for fibres, etc).

Personally I think the only real ‘solution’ for the entire human civilisation is … to do nothing. And by that I don’t mean “don’t change”. I literally mean: do nothing. For people to simply work less. Work a four day week. Work a four hour week.

We should be more like the Aborigines! We should look up to the Aborigines! The original (and best) custodians of this land.

More sleep and more meditation. That’s the only hope for humanity, for people to be more mindful. And that is the best that I can think of (after several years of thinking I might add).

And I can tell you first hand that it’s very hard to live with less, because we have all been brainwashed with “more more more”.

Of course it’s a huge problem because half the global economy is based on blatant overconsumption. I think one of the best things I ever did was to live in Spain — it taught me to be happier with much less.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t all try to be more eco, but what I am promoting these days is simply minimalism. So I would rather buy a wooden broom than have a vacuum cleaner (for example). Because I see the broom as being much less wasteful over the long term.

Unfortunately, when you begin to look at where all of our starting chemicals come from, the industrial processes used to get them, and where everything else is mined from, you realise how big the problem is.

People don’t want mines in their own backyard. And so the ONLY other place to get them is the natural spaces that are left. That is a very big problem. If only because “accidents happen”.

From my point of view as a former materials scientist, I find that life is so special, we should be fighting for every shred of biodiversity on this planet. We couldn’t even hope to artificially make anything like near as complicated as a fly or a worm from first principles using artificial methods (without cheating using genetic engineering etc).

[Read more…]

Open letter response to Malcolm Roberts

Here is what this Australian sentator said on his maiden induction speech:

“It is basic. The sun warms the Earth’s surface. The surface, by contact, warms the moving, circulating atmosphere. That means the atmosphere cools the surface. How then can the atmosphere warm it? It cannot. That is why their computer models are wrong.” [source]

Excuse me? Are you fucking kidding me? You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. You’re basically using your own anecdotal observations because “you think it’s all a global conspiracy”.

See, this is a big worry. When politicians have such power and are that blatantly stupid, basically we are all doomed. That’s why scientists are getting pissed off.

Maybe scientists need to dumb it down so that you can understand?

Now, I could link to research papers, but if you don’t even understand basic science, what’s the point? So I’ll link to other places on the web to make it simpler for you to understand.

Yes, space is freezing cold. Yes stars warm up planets. But that’s where your logic ends. And forget the actual data proving that the global mean temperature is rising. Forget it.

Just take one look at the planets Mercury and Venus. Venus has an atmosphere of 96% carbon dioxide.

Mercury doesn’t have an atmosphere. In fact it has the least amount of atmosphere of all the planets in the solar system.

Mercury is closer to the sun, right, (are you still with me Malcolm?), and yet, strangely enough, it’s surface temperature is LOWER than that of Venus.


Numbers? Okay. Sure.

The surface temperature of Mercury ranges from -173°C at the poles (at night) to 427°C (daytime, equator).

In fact, at a searing 750 K (477 °C), the surface of Venus is the hottest in the solar system. Venus is closer to the Sun by 108 million km, (about 30% closer than the Earth), but it is mainly due to the planet’s thick atmosphere. Unlike Earth’s, which is composed primarily of nitrogen, oxygen and ozone, Venus’ atmosphere is an incredibly dense cloud of carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide gas.

The combination of these gases in high concentrations causes a catastrophic greenhouse effect that traps incident sunlight and prevents it from radiating into space. This results in an estimated surface temperature boost of 475 K (201.85 °C), leaving the surface a molten, charred mess that nothing (that we know of) can live on. Atmospheric pressure also plays a role, being 91 times that of what it is here on Earth; and clouds of toxic vapor constantly rain sulfuric acid on the surface.

In addition, the surface temperature on Venus does not vary like it does here on Earth. On our planet, temperatures vary wildly due to the time of year and even more so based on the location on our planet. The hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth was 70.7°C in the Lut Desert of Iran in 2005. On the other end of the spectrum, the coldest temperature ever recorded on Earth was in Vostok, Antarctica at -89.2 C.

But on Venus, the surface temperature is 460 degrees Celsius, day or night, at the poles or at the equator. Beyond its thick atmosphere, Venus’ axial tilt (aka. obliquity) plays a role in this temperature consistency. Earth’s axis is tilted 23.4 ° in relation to the Sun, whereas Venus’ is only tilted by 3 °.

The only respite from the heat on Venus is to be found around 50 km into the atmosphere. It is at that point that temperatures and atmospheric pressure are equal to that of Earth’s. [source]



Our environmental footprint

Most of the global economy is based on the idea of selling physical products. And if you’re not selling something yourself, your clients are people that do.

B I’ve noticed that in some environmental discussions and debates, Westerners automatically assume that their country is less polluting than poorer countries. I don’t think pointing the finger at China really helps. And here’s why:

I think our blatant consumerism in the West doesn’t compare favourably to the third world, because all of the things that we buy have a kind of “environmental footprint” if you like. And note that I’m not even really talking about CO2 emissions here (even though the US carbon emission per capita is 17.56 metric tons while that of China is ‘only’ 6.19 metric tons per capita). Carbon is not the only element on the periodic table although it is the one that goes into the atmosphere more than the others.

If China pollutes rivers or whatever making loads of stuff for the West, who is really doing (causing) the polluting? The chinese manufacturers? Or is the Western consumer demand for those products ultimately to blame?

My main backround if materials science. One of the more eye-opening subjects I found out about (in terms of environmental degradation) is called “extractive metallurgy”. Extractive metallurgy is the study of chemical processes that we use to extract an refine metals from their ores. Basically, in a nut shell, all materials have to come from somewhere. Ususally it’s either the Earth’s crust itself or sea water.

In most of the processes, you need either need huge amounts of electricity and/or high temperatures and/or huge amounts of other chemicals to obtain the desired elements and/or compounds.

For example, here is just one of the many steps in the refinement of germanium:

GeO2 + 4 HCl → GeCl4 + 2 H2O

In this step, the reactive gas chlorine is being used to make germanium more reactive. So chlorine, which is toxic, is used in one of the processes to extract the element germanium from its oxide. Okay.

And here is just one of the steps in tellurium refinement:

HTeO−3 + OH + H2SO4 → TeO2 + SO2−4 + 2 H2O

In this step, sulfuric acid is being used to make tellurium more reactive. Okay.

And where are germanium and tellurium being used you ask? They are two semiconductors that are the basis for integrated circuits and other electronic components in all sorts of electronic devices. Not so good.

In fact, many other nasty chemical compounds are used in the extraction, refinement and manufacturing industries. Many others.

I’m not 100% sure, but I think the worst offenders are the electronic consumer devices, simply because they contain the most number of hard-to-extract elements. The harder-to-extract elements require more chemical treatment steps. That’s just one of the reasons why they these elements are so expensive (not just that they’re rare). In fact I can probably go so far as to invent a new theory, which goes something like this: “the higher the unit price of an element, the more damaging its extraction process is to the environment.” But I digress…

Here’s the thing. There are a lot of chemical elements used in computers and extracting them from the ground and processing them taxes the environment (especially when you consider all of the planned obsolesence we see today). Our current way of life creates more and more electronic waste that cannot be recovered or recycled (except perhaps the gold bits)

I recently asked a few questions on Quora and I’d like to share those questions and answers with you now. Listed here are some of the toxic chemicals and semiconductors that are used in electonic decices. Go on, take a look. Can you begin to see how big the problem is now?

The point is, nasty chemicals are used at all steps of the extraction and refinement process. We just don’t ever see them being used in industry. Oh but they’re there alright. They’re being used all the time.

Suffice it to say that if Westeners think they pollute the Earth less than a typical 3rd-worlder, in my eyes, they are sorely mistaken. [Read more…]

Some perspective

Imagine if 7 billlion people had always lived on a dust-bowl Mars-like planet with no life outside of the base stations. Imagine if that’s the way it had always been. Imagine if that was humanities’ entire existence, on the red planet…

With that in mind, I’d like to do a little thought experiment. I want you to imagine what would happen if we were to start exploring the solar system, from our home Mars.

The closest other world, Earth, looks very promising. We’ve spent a hundred trillion dollars on this latest space mission, okay. It’s been 30 years in the planning stage alone…

So we go to this new place called ‘Earth’.

And we don’t find another dust-bowl freeze-your-arse-off planet with no oceans, a toxic atmosphere* and a severe lack of oxygen. We don’t find it to be uninhabited. We don’t find the gravity extremely off-putting. We don’t find a desolate, barren wasteland devoid of all life like the home planet. No.

Instead, what we encounter is another world no unlike this one, the one we already know as ‘Earth’, exactly the way it is now, but without all the humans. Without any civilisation.

Imagine if we found 60 amur leopards, 400 Sumatran tigers, 880 mountain gorillas, 1826 giant pandas, 4080 snow leopards, 4848 black rhinos and 10000 blue whales!

Impenetrable jungles! Countless species of insects! Fish! Crustaceans! Molluscs! Birds! Frogs!

“Frogs? What an unusual name. What are they? Oh they’re slimy but harmless critters –amphibians– that thrive both on the land and in the water and use jumping as a form of locomotion.”

[Read more…]

Who are the greenest printers in Australia?

I just finished a diploma of graphic design a few months ago. And during a subject called “prepress”, I found out that printing is not the most ecological part of graphic design. In fact traditional printing is not very good for the environment at all. It isn’t all just about the paper they use, but they also use loads and loads of metal printing plates and lots and lots of water.

So I have been shopping around for the most ecological printer for some time now (like 6 months, on and off). And I think I’ve finally found a quality one that is reasonably priced. [Read more…]

The problem with using biofuels in aviation.

Recently on LinkedIn:

First, it’s a premise of sustainable, alternative fuels that their production actually draws down atmospheric carbon–the carbon comes out of the atmosphere to make the fuel. The carbon is released again when the fuel is burned. By (albeit partial and imperfect so far) application of that principle, vastly lower net emissions (on the basis of life cycle analysis) are now possible.

I understand all abot life-cycle assessment. Yes, true, biofuel crops do take CO2 out of the air. 

But not if brazilian rainforest has to be cut down to make way for new plantation crops — because the native forest already does a way better job of taking CO2 out of the air than a crop with less biodiversity ever will. 

So my question is: where are we going to grow all of the new crops that will be needed for this additional biofuel?

It’s no good saying that new sustainable crops will reduce the CO2 from the air if you harvest the whole thing every year and burn it again. That only releases the same carbon that was absorbed by the crop in the first place… so no net CO2 increase. (well that is probably an over-simplification, because some carbon dioxide no doubt goes in to the soil) [Read more…]

My response to another climate change denier…

Mike Johnson, it’s people like you that really annoy me. Sorry to say that, but you do. I look at your profile and I see that you flip burgers. Where is your science credibility? That’s okay, maybe you read in your spare time…

So to people like you, I say go and look up the CO2 content of the planet venus. Then go and look up the surface temperature of the planet venus. Seriously, what you are saying about the flea analogy is complete rubbish. And I am calling you out on it right here and now in front of the whole world. Here’s where your flea analogy would be better. Assume you have 7 billion fleas on one dog. Now half of them think that they aren’t affecting the dog, because they’re so small. They’re just fleas, right? And the other half know that there is only so much blood in the dog. If you look at my profile, you will see that I am not working for anyone. I am not working for the government. I have no vested interests in anything except the truth and the protection of biodiversity. I put my faith in fellow scientists like Dr. James Hansen:

The mass of Earth’s atmosphere is distributed approximately as follows:

50% is below 5.6 km (18,000 ft).
90% is below 16 km (52,000 ft).
99.99997% is below 100 km (62 mi; 330,000 ft.

I like to think it is about 10km thick. Why 10km? Because Everest has an altitude of 8848km and not a single person lives above the summit of Mt. Everest, do they Mr. Johnson? Why not? Too cold and barely enough oxygen. Right. So taking these numbers back to the dog analogy, if the Earth was a dog, and the dog’s body was a ball that was 1 metre (just over 3 feet) in diameter, then the atmosphere on that dog would be 0.78mm thick. For you Americans, 1/32 of an inch. Now. Are you going to sit there with your Bachelor of Hamburgerology and tell me that 7 billion fleas (even proportionately microscopic ones) all drilling for blood would somehow not affect that atmosphere? I could say the same thing about an orange. If the Earth was an orange with a diameter of 10cm, then the atmosphere would now only be 0.078mm thick. Or 1/320″ for the Americans. I suppose you are going to tell me that 7 billion fruit flies feeding on that one orange wouldn’t change the composition of the orange’s skin, not even a tiny amount?

It doesn’t matter how big the Sun is in comparison with the Earth Mike. What matters is that we are urbanising the entire surface of the Earth. We mine things out of the ground and then proceed to burn it in cars all over the face of the Earth. We’re burning the entire remains of all past life on Earth that has accumulated over a billion years or so and we’re pumping it all into the atmosphere in only a hundred years or so. *starts to point the finger and wave it prophetically like all great scientists do when they’ve offended/insulted and have something important to say* So don’t you come here with your government conspiracy crap, Mike. Government conspiracies about global warming don’t make any sense! No sense at all! Why not? Because the USA actually *invades* other countries so that it can get more oil!! If anything half of these STUPID politicians aren’t even convinced of it themselves! There is only ONE thing stopping this planet from becoming more like Venus, and that is this planet’s biodiversity. It’s an adaptive, interactive system. Now if that ever starts to go haywire my friends, like it or not, we are doomed. The best, most advanced ‘technology’ that maintains a healthy atmosphere is … nature itself.

To be fair, you can’t fit 7 billion fruit flies on one single orange. But eventually even those tiny billions of microbes make the orange skin go mouldy, don’t they?

Open letter to climate change skeptics (from a scientist).

Do you notice the terminology “global warming” is somewhat detached from the humanity that caused it? As if it were the planet’s response to our domination, but not directly our own fault.

For me, the notion that this is all some part of a repetitive ‘prehistoric cycle’ which man has nothing to do with is preposterous. It just happens at the same time man enters the industrial age, and is happening 10x quicker than anything before. Hello! coincidence!! The words rate of change have very strong meaning in the scientific community. Grand geological transformations don’t just happen over a matter of years or even decades. They are supposed to take millennia, or longer. So now that the average global sea & air temperature has risen a degree already, I think we’re already in deep shit my friends.

Deforestation today proceeds at 55,630 to 120,000 square kilometres each year. At this rate, all tropical forests may be gone by the year 2090.

You might be one of the smart ones & think that the Earth’s volume is vastly superior to what we could possibly be doing on the surface. But the surface is paramount; everything that happens here depends on it. Yes, the atmosphere has the capacity to change the temperature of the entire planet and it has done so before. Still don’t believe it? The temperature and composition of the atmosphere are dynamic factors; they do not remain constant. Note I deliberately used the term “the atmosphere” because it is most definitely NOT “our” atmosphere! Look at the atmosphere of Venus: it’s completely hostile. Look at the atmosphere of Mars: there is none. No one said to us “The Earth is going to remain habitable/hospitable for as long as you lot are around you know”.

I think the real reason why some people continue to deny global warming is taking place (subconsciously or not) is that they can’t deal with reality. So if they convince themselves that it would’ve happened anyway, they can simply carry on life as normal, and not have to worry about it.

So I think the very least people can do is to accept that they’re responsible for it. Anyone who doesn’t think it is happening is worse than the flat-Earth society. Honestly. Just go bury your head in the sand somewhere, ostrich style. (see that’s what I like about a blog, I can use stronger language than a scientific paper and not have to be so damn subtle in writing and then have someone edit out my carefully chosen words)

This is Pluto speaking here.

>sign the petition to reinstate Pluto‘s full planet status<
Illustration by Leslie Dean Brown
Illustration by Leslie Dean Brown


This is Pluto speaking here.

Look, I wasn’t very happy when some scientists took away my “full planetary” status in 2006 without even consulting me directly. And I’m not alone.

I’ve been thinking about it – and this whole ‘dwarf’ designation has never really sat well with me ever since. And my moon Charon is not to thrilled about it either… because that would make her the moon of a dwarf planet, aka a “dwarf moon”.

Especially when you say that I’m a dwarf planet, and then go on to say “which is not really a planet”. Imagine how Jupiter would react if you said: “Jupiter is a gas giant planet… which is not really a planet!” !!

And then you gave me a number. What do you call it? “Minor planet designation”. Wait a second. Let me look that up. Let’s see here, what have I got, I knew I had it somewhere… “134340”. That’s it. “134340”. That doesn’t sound very special to me. One minute I’m named after a God. And the next thing someone has placed this completely arbitrary bogus number IN FRONT OF my name. Not after it mind you. BEFORE! Like this: 134340 Pluto. One-three-four-three-four-zero-pluto. To a planet, this is invective! [Read more…]

Hope for the planet

I went to David Suzuki’s “hope for the planet” talk last Tuesday and I am feeling inspired! I think it was worth going, if only too see so many like-minded individuals in the one place at the one time.

Towards the end of the discussion, one young attendee said that she saw the audience as “agents of change” and asked what the single biggest piece of advice that the speakers could give to the audience. And Naomi Oreskes answered that particular question; that she couldn’t give one generic answer, because it all depends on our field of expertise. I thought that was very wise. And so I am using the tools at my disposal:


I might as well use this opportunity to tell the whole world that like David Suzuki, I too find it COMPLETELY OUTRAGEOUS that people put the economy over and above the environment. Without the natural environment, there wouldn’t even *be* an economy!

I want people overseas to know that Gina Rinehart spent $22million on a campaign to destroy the carbon tax in Australia in 2010. She went on to invest $200million in network ten and another $280million in fairfax media to sway public opinion. Luckily she has sold most of her media investments in 2015 and has stopped trying to become one of the members of the board of directors…

I think that was a despicable attempt to control the media and thus sway public opinion the proposed carbon tax, which would have hit the mining industry hard. I see her attempt to buyy out the media as a form of environmental corruption. Inn fact last week I invented might have a new term called ‘EC’. EC is a term that originates from PC (which means politically correct). You probably already guessed it; EC means “environmentally correct”. So I think that Gina Rinehart may well be the richest person in Australia –or the richest woman in the world– but she is just not environmentally correct.

Oooh yes I think that the carbon tax should definitely be reinstated in Australia. Most definitely!

The trouble I see is that this: we know the extra carbon dixode we are putting into the air comes from burning the fossil fuels such as coal and crude oil. So if we have to reduce the amount of carbon going into the air to the level before the industrial age, not only will we have to put back all the forests as they were before all of the mining (to restore the original carbon cycle), but we’ll also have to find a way to offset billions upon billions of tonnes of of carbon that have been mined and essentially burned into the atmosphere. Hmmm

Philosophy of green economics: promoting a new oxygen tax.

I think many people operate on the assumption that our technology makes us somehow ‘superior’ to all other species; thus we feel like we are more independent and separate from nature, we have become more detached. And therein lies the problem…

If you do think along those lines, perhaps you should ask yourself: Where does your oxygen supply come from? Where does all of our fresh water come from? And who, or what, actually cleans and maintains the health of rivers, lakes and oceans which have provided us with food for hundreds and thousands of years?

Who actually gets rid of nature’s organic waste? No, it’s not your local sewerage treatment plant. It’s bacteria. It’s algae. It’s molluscs. It’s crustaceans. That’s who.

Illustration by Leslie Dean Brown
Illustration by Leslie Dean Brown

And who renews the nutrients in the soil? And I don’t mean who fertilises the soil, I mean, who breaks down the fertiliser? It’s not the farmer. All farmers do is plant crops, remove ‘weeds’ and ‘pests’ and then harvest those same crops. In that sense, farmers don’t ‘grow’ crops — crops grow themselves! Farmers maintain crops. They guide crops so that they are more productive. The farmer doesn’t pay his legion of plant employees, does he? He doesn’t pay the organims that do all of the really hard back-breaking work right down in soil, does he? [Read more…]

Businesses remain feasible inside of the foreseeable future. As such, a company in its feeling would necessitate the operator to predict the future in order to make sure the going issue theory remains upheld

Businesses remain feasible inside of the foreseeable future. As such, a company in its feeling would necessitate the operator to predict the future in order to make sure the going issue theory remains upheld 

Business as an Art of Predicting the Future Prospects

Nevertheless, for one particular to reach industry, he / she should master the artwork of predicting the future, and in addition appear up with approaches of benefiting from any long term scenario. [Read more…]