“Holding keys to a paradise” 11/11/11

I used to think that scientific research study could only ever be a good thing, but now I’m not so sure. I think I was merely exhibititing “specialisation” type social behaviour in response to this civilisations increasing complexity.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out we’ve got continually deteriorating social & environmental problems. Don’t think there’s anything wrong with the way we do things today? There’s a book entitled The Fourth Civilisation, which is precisely the type of text more scientists should read before deciding upon their next topic of research. It’s what everyone should read, instead of those silly English novels they get you to read at highschool. Read all that first and with that in mind, then embark on your career.

“The great danger for the world in the post-cold-war period may come from the combination of economic problems and the struggle for cultural survival.” – Alexander Tomov, 1996.

When I was at university, science was all about solving problems. Come to think of it, research is essentially the slow process of gathering or “discovering” new factoids that one day may just come in handy for future researchers. But what we don’t want is answers to problems we’ll face during the next century or the next decade or even now. What we [b]needed [/b]were answers [i]yesterday [/i]for the problems we were facing DECADES ago! All too often, scientists belatedly come up with half-arsed ‘solutions’. Answers to consequences that science itself is or was originally implicated in.

For example, exactly how can this purported “Grand Unified Theory” possibly benefit anyone. To me it reaks of human ignorance & . What the HELL kind of answers can these experiments [i]possibly [/i]reveal that will help us here on Earth [i]before [/i]we wipe out not just our own civilisation but half the freakin’ species that live here?? I for one think it would be good if the whole science community got a bop on the head so to speak and took onboard some good old fashioned COMMON FUCKING SENSE.

I’m feeling pretty optimistic today, even so, I still think the world is generally fucked… for every single scientific invention there’s been some kind of unintended negative consequence. Possibly the only exception is the humble solar panel, and we don’t use them nearly enough as we should.

During my post-graduate degree, I learned that scientists are veritable EXPERTS in justifying research funds. It’s late & I don’t know what I’m saying but I would like to see the same amount of money given to sociologists & see what they come up with. They’d probably come up with better answers for this planet than all those particle physcists put together.

I read the other day that the MIT & other various groups were trying to create “Wireless Power Transfer via Strongly Coupled Magnetic Resonances”… now keeping in mind what I said earlier about ‘unintended negative consequences’, hands up who actually thinks that pursuing this is a good idea? Why do it? Do we hate cables that much or are we just becoming too lazy to plug them in to their respective sockets???

Who wants to live like the fat buggers on that inter-galactic spaceship in the movie WALL.E? Not me, that’s for damn sure. I happen to like it here on Earth. I like animals and plants. I’m happy to co-habitate with them. I’m no tripped-out hippy, but I think we could actually benefit by some much-needed changes.

The life cycle analysis of an automobile is more than just the battery

In this article I’d like to talk about the life cycle analysis of a traditional car with an internal combustion engine compared to that of an electric car. I’m not actually going to perform any detailed life cycle analysis calculations, just talk about the number of additional parts that a petrol or diesel powered car requires compared to an EV.

First of all, let’s get one thing straight. No one is saying that purchasing an EV car is ‘better’ for the environment than purchasing no EV car at all (and no petrol/diesel replacement either). Right? No one is saying that here, there or anywhere.

It’s nice that David Pilling has written about where materials come from when they buy an EV. But why not also write an equally-damning column on the materials that go into petrol powered cars? Likewise, it’s nice that Schalk Cloete has written about the hidden emissions of electric cars. But do the authors really think that petrol- or diesel-engined vehicles are any less exempt? That’s what pisses me off.

There are thousands of intricate moving parts that make up a conventional internal combustion engine. Thousands. In order that they function correctly, they require complicated electrical, lubrication and cooling systems. The first time I looked at my motorbike’s repair manual, I was shocked!

Let’s talk about how many individual parts there are in an internal combustion engine and compare shall we?

What about all the pistons, piston rings, driveshafts, camshafts, gearbox, valves, crankshafts, valve springs, fuel injectors, bearings, o-rings, timing belts, fan belts, flywheels, alternators, ignition coils, spark plugs, distributor, starter motor, fasteners, sensors, switches, relays, cables, wiring harnesses, oil pumps, water pumps, fuel pump, oil filters, fuel filters, petrol tank, radiator, exhaust system …I mean the list goes on and on and on and on!

My point is that none of the above mentioned parts are required in an EV. None. I will repeat that: none.

So fossil fuel driven cars are competing with a motor that has ONE moving part in it (well except for the ball bearings on the main drive shaft). So the internal combustion engine now is potentially at a huge manufacturing and environmental disadvantage.

The cost of manufacturing, moulding and machining all of those extra parts is huge! And they’re not made of crappy alloys either. What then is the environmental cost?

What about the lead in lead/acid batteries? What about the copper in the starter motor? And what about the aluminium in the radiator? What about the aluminium in the engine block and gearbox casing? Where do all these materials come from?

What about the Manganese, Molybdenum, Chromium, Vanadium and Nickel in all those hardened-steel moving parts inside the engine and gearbox? What about the energy that goes into mining, smelting, forging, forming, cutting, swaging, extruding, casting, injection moulding, machining, tempering, hardening, plating?

What about the environmental impact of building and maintaining all of the machines used in manufacturing, processing and production? What about the energy required by all of the machines on the assembly line? What about the energy required by the testing and tooling machinery to make sure all of the parts are within tolerance?

What about consumables? What about engine oil? What about the coolant? What about the battery acid? What about the transmission fluid? What about the gaskets? What about the grease? What about the air filter? What about the oil filter? What about the fuel filter? What about the environmental cost of changing those frequently?

None of those things are required with an EV either. None.

There are so many friggin’ parts, no one has even tallied up the environmental cost of them individually (instead they work out how much energy the factory or the entire transport energy sector uses). It’s a rough guess at best.

If EV cars were invented first, piston engined car would never have even been conceived, that’s how overly-complex they are to design, manufacture and produce. Of course EV manufacturers already know all of this, that’s why they’re all trying to jump on the band wagon now, because there’s potentially more profit in it.

Can you at least begin to see that it’s not just about the environmental impact of a lithium ion battery in an electric vehicle. And that it’s not just about where the electricity comes from? It’s much more ‘complicated’ than that.

Would fossil fuel proponents now like to sit there and calculate all of the life cycle factors and environmental impacts, taking into account all of the things I have just spoken about?

The bottom line is, you have got to be fuckin’ kidding me if you think combustion engines are more sustainable when everything is taken into account… and yes I really would hate to be the sorry bastard that gets lumped with all those calculations.

What is environmental corruption?

Allow me to explain:

I actually see corruption a little differently from most people. Not only do I think that most of ultra-rich are in a sense “environmentally corrupt” (unless they give a sizeable amount of their wealth to environmental causes, which sadly, not a lot of them seem to do). For me when I use the term corrupt, I mean it in environmental terms, not in financial terms. A bit like how the QLD government has been accused of being “morally bankrupt” w.r.t the Adani coal mine. I’d hope they are not financially bankrupt.

But I also think that that the general population is in a sense ‘complicit’ because most of us pay taxes. Which is another way of saying: “yes, we 100% agree with what you are doing and we will even give you a large proportion of our money to you to help you to continue to do what you do”. This is why I think Aboriginal people are basically passively objecting and have always done so, because they don’t agree with the central way that government ‘works’. I am not even a part-Aborigine, but I think the majority of Westerners have a very flawed mentality of ‘sustainability’ and ‘development’ (and especially “sustainable development”). The whole point now is that we are trying to be more sustainable. That’s why it’s supposed to be an eco lodge and not some other type of lodge. But we never really ask the experts in sustainability for their advice. Right?

I have only been living in Bundeena for a few years. I also do not like the horrid construction around the Aboriginal rock engravings over at Jibbon Point for example. Why couldn’t they just leave it alone? Low key? No. They had to build all around it. It looks like scaffolding. It’s just that ugly. They had to use helicopters to help build it. Helicopters are not the most efficient transport vehicles ever devised, are they? They put some kitsch statues there made of metal with horrid stencil-like animal shapes cut out of them (well ok, they have probably been there a while). But were those works commissioned by Aboriginal artists? Not likely. My point is, all that concrete and steel had to be mined from somewhere else. I think many people in general see this kind of development as ‘progress’ — but I think we are going backwards.

Do you know what the saddest part for me is? That one of the most truly sustainable races on the planet Earth, the ingenenous Aborigines, have some of the highest rates of suicide on the planet Earth! In the case of Australian Aborigines, for one age group, 5x above average. I think we need to ask them for their help and stat. The highest suicide rate on planet Earth is not the Japanese or the Finnish or other Northern Europeans, it is for the Inuit peoples… 190/100,000 per year. That is quite alarming and indicative of our predicament.

Do you know what my shrink tells me when I tell her all this stuff? [Yes I see a shrink, no secret there, it’s the ones that don’t you have to worry about LOL] She says: “Who’s to say we’ll be here in another 500 or 1000 years?”. And I’m like: “Well that’s my point. Do we actually *want* to still be around or not? I mean, if the ancient Egyptians said things like that, we’d have been fuckéd several millenenia ago. Time has a way of catching up with us.”

I do see money as a form of corruption, yes. Why? Well here’s why. I have even heard first hand (about a decade ago) that ecologists are told to “tone down their report writing”. I suppose if they were really 100% truthful about things, nobody would hire them because not as many constructions would be approved…

For instance, one ecologist who was hired to report on this local Spring Gully construction at that the edge of the Royal National Park states:

“It is possible that, with appropriate management, the biodiversity of the existing vegetation could be increased – indeed this should be the aim of developing and maintaining a low-impact camping area.”

Well ok. But also says in the same report:

“the conservation value of the vegetation on the site has been reduced by fragmentation, as a result of residential development to the north and clearing for the night-soil dump to the south; and reduction in biodiversity as a result of past land use and bushfires.”

I.e. admits that reduction in biodiversity was caused by previous human interferance, yet now advises that it would be beneficial to put more humans there (rather than none). So now more ‘weeds’ will encroach even further into the RNP… Now imagine if the author *always* added this clause to every single ecological report: “we recommend that the area be left to regenerate for another 20+ years at which point biodiversity will be on par with surrounding regions” Would they be as likely to be hired for future work? I don’t think so.

Quite frankly I think we all know that the current political system “sucks” (if only in terms of the environment). I suppose it could always be worse though. They do acknowledge some things but then with other things like coal mining and whatnot it’s merely lip service.

So to sum up, I think if you’re working for some chemical company, or construction company, or engineering company, and you’re being paid a massive salary, then yes I see that as a form of corruption.

That new pepsi ad with Kendall Jenner…

I will continue to drink Pepsi. In fact, the only thing contained within my “new” vintage kelvinator man-cave fridge… is a bottle of pepsi (and a metal ice cube tray).

Why I don’t think it is that bad is that it at least *tries* to be anti-establishment. What’s wrong with that? Isn’t that a good thing? It’s not sexist. Is it? It’s doesn’t cast police in a negative light. Does it?

It’s not *really* about the black movement either, because asian and muslims are represented more than freakin’ black people! [no offense to black people here]. It could well be a peace or environmental march.

So what? It’s a bit corny in places. It won’t age well. At least it got people’s attention! I think any international corporation that promotes art and music is better than one that doesn’t…

What the fuck to millenials even want? Yes, it’s sugar water. It’s water, flavoured with sugar. But it’s never pretended to be anything else, has it?

As of this moment, it’s fast approaching 60,000 ‘dislikes’. But then, that’s the problem with youtube isn’t it? Youtube has dislikes. Every other fucking social media outlet only has likes. Maybe that tells you something. Maybe people who watch youtube are just… unhappy trolls?

I do not get what everyone is complaining about. But then, I’m not a millenial. I think it’s an over-reaction. The ad is just not that bad (IMHO).

I bet you if most people had have loved the very same ad, by chance, then of course everyone else would love it too. 

Now all the marketers are trying to to analyse why it ‘failed’. Maybe it just failed because… some young people like to whinge and complain about everything? If it wasn’t this, it would be something else… 

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.

 

 

 

Why am I a minimalist?

I am a former materials scientist. The first question I always get asked is: “what is that?”.

Materials science is the study of mostly synthetic materials such as metals, polymers, ceramic and composites. We study their physical & chemical properties and how they are extracted from the Earth.

I am telling you this because I think that people need to start listening to scientists. More people need to listen to more scientists.

That’s a two way thing. I think that more scientists should start their own blogs (and other mediums communication like that).

Right. So I am a former materials scientist. And do you know what I now think about materials? What I now know?

I think that everything that you buy kills some part of the world somewhere else. The metals in the electronics that you are buying come from mines and natural spaces have to be destroyed to get them. I think we have to realise that and remember it every time we go to buy something. We need to think about that whenever Apple tries to sell us some new product. Do we really need it? What is the environmental cost?

My view now is that the things that we buy have to come from somewhere. Ask yourselves where. Most plastics [polymers] in use today come directly from oil. Uh oh.

All metals that aren’t being recycled are mined. Mines are always built in the natural environment (just look what happens when they are not –like with coal seam gas– people complain their heads off and usually get their own way).

But the problem isn’t just big banks and mining companies. Because I think 99% of adults have simply forgotten where they get their stuff from. [Read more…]

How do I feel about trophy hunters?

Warning. This is a big, long rant which I saved for posterity.

Personally, I think that trophy hunters should have a bounty placed on THEIR head… of about $500,000 – $1.0 million. To see how they like being shot at (and at any time of day when they might be taking a piss without their weapon for example).

What annoys me even more than the bastard that shot Cecil and his stupid face with over-whitened teeth, is all the stupid dumb bitches lying down smiling with dead animals. And propping dead animals’ limp heads up so they make a ‘better’ photograph. Somehow I don’t think that is an appropriate image to be taking for posterity.

From my perspective, this shows a complete and utter lack of respect for the animal. It shows that they’d rather gloat over a corpse than to respect another sentient, feeling being. So this to me is truly unethical. It’s immoral.

Where does this lack of respect originate? Well, I have a hunch that many hunters have a religious upbringing. And religious people always think that humans are somehow ‘above’ animals. They think that humans are superior beings. But the fact is, we are all animals!
Once you accept that we too are animals (because as David Suzuki says, we’re certainly not plants), then you can start to see how out-dated trophy hunting really is.

To me, lying down with a dead animal is a bit like lying down with a slain human! Except it’s worse! It’s worse because there might be 7,000 of those animals in existence in the known universe. And yet there are 7,000,000,000+ humans! So naturally I respect the animals about a million times more, don’t I?

How do I feel about the lying down with dead animals thing? Well, they are the only women that I would love to punch in the face. Or shoot in the back. That’s how I feel and unfortunately it would be illegal to act on that…
But you know anger and hatred doesn’t solve much, so I prefer to put their behaviour down to their upbringing. Trophy hunters can’t help what their parents taught them about morality and purpose in life. So it’s probably not even their fault. But I think if they are truly good people they should definitely learn something from it. Rather than be controversial, I think they should just go “Oh I didn’t know this would piss off a million people so much. Right. I better not do that any more.”

And that’s the thing with the Cecil killer. He completely justified his actions. He’s not a 19 year old teenager. And apparently he wants to continue trophy hunting!

I don’t even think people are annoyed that Cecil was a celebrity. There’s more to it than that. Cecil was merely the last straw in something that is coming under increasing pressure globally. I can assure you that the average citizen on Earth does not want to see ANY lions hunted, famous or otherwise. The fact that he was a celebrity is just the fucking icing on the cake as far as poaching is concerned.

So I don’t like his response. It’s pathetic. It’s like arguing that killing non-celebrity lions is okay. But it’s not. I think lions can and should take care of themselves. There were loads more lions, elephants and tigers, etc before humans came along. Humans are the ones that decimated their population. Before humans, lions and tigers ‘managed’ themselves just fine. The only thing that needs ‘managing’ are poachers and trophy hunters!

There’s still more to it than that though. As an Australian, I actually have an affinity for the underdog. And the underdog is the rhino. It’s the giraffe. It’s the lion. I have an affinity for the underdog. Because the odds are stacked against them and they definitely stand less chance of survival than a bunch of cowardly humans with high-powered rifles. As if human encroachment isn’t enough for them to deal with! So I have an affinity for the underdog, because they are out-gunned.

A much fairer fight would be to go hunting with your fingernails filed into little points!

I can understand people wanting to eat deer and other game for their meat. I can understand that and I can accept that it happens on a daily/hourly/minute-by-minute basis. I get it. I get that people eat meat. I too was brought up to eat meat! We ate meat every single day. And I still sometimes eat meat. Although I have to say that I don’t enjoy it as much as I used to.

And yes I can even go so far as to admit that some hunters do seem to care about keeping nature alive. That’s not something I was previously willing to accept. It’s true that they pay for hunting and fishing licenses… it’s true that they are contributing more to conservation efforts than the average Joe (certainly not the average conservationist or activist though who donates money and asks for NOTHING in return).

What I truly don’t understand is people wanting to stuff dead animals in the name of conservation. Especially endangered animals. Why? I see this as no different to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi who allegedly stored his victims’ heads in freezers — to preserve them so that he could look at them from time to time. But even Colonel Gaddafi had his good points! Even Colonel Gaddafi didn’t take selfies with his victims!! Even Colonel Gaddafi had his limits!!! Am I right?

The way I see it, ‘taxidermy is preservation’ not ‘conservation’. It wouldn’t bother me if the practice was completely outlawed. It’s probably illegal to stuff human beings. And likewise, it should be illegal to stuff endangered animals.
You asked how do I feel about it? Well, it’s a good thing that dentist isn’t living in in my suburb. Because it makes me so seething mad I have already committed all manner of horrible thought crimes. If it was legal, I’m sure there are many people that would want to torture the dude. Like it or not, that’s how it makes thousands of people feel.

The thing is, I know if Walter Palmer was my neighbour, I’m not sure I could stop myself from blowing up his letterbox at the very least. I’d just be plotting and scheming all sorts of Karma events. Possibly the letterbox would be sprayed with expanding foam. Possibly he would have nails propped up against his car tyres so that when he drives off he gets four instant flat tyres. Possibly there would be loads more sabotage events… you get the idea. Of course, that’s just how I feel. :-)
If Walter Palmer was my neighbour, I would undoubtedly have to move. Because, yes, basically I feel like torturing the little bastard myself. Does that anger come across in the text? The feelings you have asked for? I hope so. I hope it makes trophy hunters think twice. Because I’m predicting that before too long, they’re going to find themselves hunted.

So the last thing I am going to say is that I think that if trophy hunters GENUINELY cared about the environment, if they were really ‘concerned’ they’d be better off donating that $50,000 or $60,000 directly to an environmental charity.
They’re prime mission is not to save the world or make it a better place. They’re prime mission is not to feed African families. If it were, they would simply donate that money to Oxfam instead. Wouldn’t they?
So I think hunters in general should really be the ones to distinguish and distance themselves from trophy hunting, and fast. Before people start getting hurt. Because the world is ever-more connected. And what went on in the 1980’s doesn’t cut it in the age of information.

The principle of “the five whys”.

It’s called “the five whys”. And it’s one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal.

I think more people should use this technique so that we can improve society. What is it? What does it entail?

It was ‘invented’ at the Toyota corporation as a method of determining the root cause of something unwanted. You keep asking the question why, a bit like a bratty little kid who first figures out the true power of the word ‘why’.

The central idea is to keep on asking ourselves the ‘why’ questions — we keep asking ourselves why something is so, even if we might not like the answers.

For example, if we apply the principles of the five whys to depression, we may discover the true cause of depression (at least in some people). Scientists have got to the point that they can determine whether someone is depressed based on their brain chemistry. Right, but do they then ask the further question: what causes those brain chemicals to be different? One line of research will lead to a ‘cure’. But the other will lead to ‘prevention’. Which is better? I already know the answer.

It’s no good knowing about brain chemicals if we don’t know what factor change the chemicals in the first place. Otherwise we will never prevent depression, we will only have a ‘cure’. So I think asking the five whys in terms of depression is a simple but effective approach. I think that is part of the success of the very simple approach to holistice medicine.

And this is why I think psychology is a very powerful and underrated tool. Because psychologists, unlike psychiatrists, get to the root causes. Psychologists are already three steps ahead of the scientists studying brain chemistry. Because first of all, psychologists have already figured this out. Secondly, they are already asking the five whys. In fact, they are asking a hundred or even a thousand whys. And they already know that depression has triggers. It’s their job to look for the triggers.

The triggers in my case are a mixture of genetic and environmental. They are genetic because I’m told that I have the ‘melancholy’ or inhereted type of depression as opposed to aquiring depression. That’s all I know.

I can tell you right now what causes my depression, what triggers it. I’m going to do this in point form:

  • Firstly, seeing concrete everywhere. I believe that it’s a horrible ugly material. It’s overused, it’s grey and —unlike nature— it’s very prone to being sprayed with graffiti.
  • Suburbs. Yes. suburbs. I generally find suburbs ugly and therefore depressing. Particularly places that have been either not well designed or overdesigned. That includes all forms of urbanisation, land clearing and ‘development’.
  • I generally find any place without trees quite literally depressing. So in my opinion, if you’re a town planner or an architect, and you’re reading this, the best thing you can do is a) design around existing trees b) plant more trees (and not just in a hole in the asphalt, because as one person put it: “a tree is a community”)
  • Cars with exhaust pipes. Because I have known for some 25 years now about global warming. It’s time to stop producing fucking internal combustion engines already and build more electric-powered cars.
  • Grass. I find the patch of mono-specific grass to be unnatural and therefore depressing. I think back gardens need to look more like meadows. That would attract bees and other insects like dragonflies.
  • Lately, mowers. Why do we even mow grass? Really, what for? If we don’t like long grass, why did we put it there to start with? Depressing.

Today, that’s all I’d like to talk about. But in future I will return to the subject of the five whys, but next time it will be applied to GMOs.

Future optimism scale

ext

Knowing what I know about materials, their effect on ecology and people’s obsession with consumerism, I give humanity a score of about, oooh, 2.9. (and that’s me trying *very* hard to be generous and optimistic)

And you can subtract 0.1 from that number for every decade after that.

The trouble I see is that people are becoming more and more disconnected from what they buy. They don’t see the impact that it is having on other parts of the world. They don’t see any direct or local impacts, so some people even think “everything is rosy”.

On top of that, product life cycles are getting shorter and shorter and shorter, which is bad. We should be reward companies that sell timeless designs. Because there is less of an environmental footprint if you manufacture the same thing without any changes. Every time a part changes shape, moulds also have to change, that is not good for the environment. And the manufacturing phase of synthetic products contributes more to pollution than their end-of-life disposal.

90% of people refuse to even talk about it, like the problems will all magically “go away”. Cat videos get more likes on social media than most current environmental issues. And I find that to be quite saddening.

I don’t even think climate change or overpopulation is the biggest threat. It’s probably land clearing. We’re not even giving nature the chance to recover! If urbanisation continues, there just won’t be anywhere for other species to go! And it has been said that if insects disappear, we will soon follow. I think a greater threat to humanity is a mass extinction.

People should try to realise that if you put a great big hermetically-sealed dome right over the top of Manhatten, for example, it probably wouldn’t even work, because central park does not produce enough oxygen, and there is not enough space to grow food and get other material resources…

Probably the worst thing of all is the collusion between government, politics and business. The wrong people are being the most rewarded.

It’s not even 2100 that people should even worry about. It’s the centuries that follow that. With the current rate of deforestation, it’s not going to be a very fun world to live in…

Do keep in mind, I give [some] other species a much higher score than us, many an 8, 9 or even 9.9999 for some. But unfortunately, many many others (mammals and amphibians) will be, like, 0.1, 0.2 or 0.3. That’s really how bad it is. There are species out there with only a dozen specimens in existence.

Putting trophy hunters in their place

This is a mile long rant in response to a trophy hunter on Quora. You’ve been warned.

Your ‘answer’ has been downvoted. What a bunch of self-righteous CRAP. Practically everything you say is complete rubbish. The most ridiculous arguments I have read all year.

  1. I just did an IUCN campaign on carnivorous plants, okay. many of which are endangered through poaching. So that invalidates that argument… just because you don’t see other campaigns as frequently, doesn’t mean that people don’t care about other strange and less-well known animals.
  2. No. Just no. First off, I don’t eat meat. Even so, there’s no way in hell that chickens, cows and sheep were ever in danger of going extinct. So that’s part of it. Lions used to roam by the 100,000. Furthermore, Cecil apparantly suffered for 40 hours. Average factory animals don’t suffer tha long at the time of slaughter.
  3. You can’t compare Lance Armstrong with Walter Palmer. My gosh that you are clutching at straws there. Yes it is ‘unsportsmanlike’. Just take a look at this fat bastard Michael Robinson. Notice I didn’t say fat ‘rich’ bastard? I know it’s not Walter Palmer, but don’t tell me that he’s a great ‘sportsman’. In my eyes, trophy hunting will never be deemed a sport, even if you can tally up a ‘score’. It’s basically going around murdering other creatures! How the féck is that sport? I suppose you think ISIS are sportsmen too do you? Same. They behead their victims too.
  4. Yes the giraffe is more beautiful than the stupid women that kill them. I’m sorry you don’t seem to understand that. If Kendall Jones was the last woman on Earth, okay, and she pulled that shit in front of me, I’d still rather cook the woman up and eat her flesh than procreate with her in order to save humanity.I don’t find rhinos to be particularly ‘beautiful’. They’re big. Cute maybe, but not beautiful. And if she killed a rhino instead of a giraffe, I’d *still *rather cook the woman up and eat her flesh than procreate to save humanity. Got it?  So beauty alone has nothing to do with it.

    It’s about having empathy, compassion and respect. Of course, you were probably indoctrinated as a child to think that that humans are above all other creatures.

  5. I don’t care how rich or poor Walter Palmer and others are. That has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with it. He could be homeless and I’d still react the same way! He could be a billion dollars in debt and I’d still react the same way!
  6. Actually what’s fasinating is how shocked some hunters are when you talk about killing and treating humans in EXACTLY the same way as the animals they themselves slaughtered. There is no difference between a human and an animal. No difference! We are all animals. That’s where trophy hunters go wrong. They see themselves as superior.

In fact, as I’ve said before, if there are 7,000 of one species, and 7,000,000,000 of the other, guess which I appreciate and value more? That’s right, the rarer breed. Not to say that I wish the average Joe on the street harm. Just the ones that threaten the rarer species.

Doesn’t have to be critically endangered. A statue such as ‘threatened’ or “least concern” is enough for me to show empathy, compassion and respect. Especially if it has faced dwindling numbers or near extinction (like for example blue whales, fin whales).

Yes, some animal lovers really do hate some humans. What’s wrong with that? I don’t see anything wrong with that at all.

Are you bothered by the fact that some animal lovers have a million times more respect for an ‘animal’ than a human? I think so. I think this fundamentally distrubs some hunters and their visions of other human beings. Or are trophy hunters so naive that they think that all animal lovers are all-loving, all-caring ‘nice’ people incapable of real and negative emotions? We’re just as capable of anger and revenge. The thing is, we would be more inclined to consider Walter Palmer’s family before doing anything stupid. Not to mention jail time.

What, trophy hunters think that animals lovers can’t get mad or violet? Wrong!

I think more surprising is the typical shocked reaction of pro-trophy hunters when the barrage of death wishes arrives. What, do you think trophy hunters are respected by their fellow humans? Wrong. They’re completely reviled, and it has nothing to do with any of the 5 or 6 points you make.

I can assure you that more people would wish them dead, except that they can’t speak out for fear of being “politicially incorrect”. They may not send a death threat or wish any suffering upon another being, but I bet they sure wish trophy hunters would simply vanish completely off the face of the Earth…

It’s not that Cecil was famous. That was just the icing on the cake… it was really the last straw. It’s really what made people aware that this is still going on after decades.

So I have a message to trophy hunters, don’t think that the rest of the world is at peace with you slaughtering African animals that aren’t ‘famous’. That’s just being igorant.

It’s that people the world over are fed up with both trophy hunters and poachers. People don’t want to see some fucktard grinning with overly whitened teeth mounting a majestic but dead lion on their wall. Most people want nothing to do with it. Don’t even compare it to ‘sport’.
Yes in Cecil’s case it’s probably the fact that that lion had a name. So people could empathise with it more.

But it’s not 1916. Or 1816 for that matter. It’s 2016. Maybe in 1980 Walter could’ve gotten away without being doxxed. But not today.

So. If you trophy hunters don’t want to be the victim of a barrage of hate, I suggest the following:

  • don’t ever take a selfie with a dead or a dying animal, especially not wearing makeup and smiling like a jackass and NEVER I repeat NEVER lying down next to them pretending theat they are still alive and just sleeping.
  • don’t ever kill anything outside your own country. Because that’ll never be seen as ‘good’ — even if it’s under the guise of “population management”. Why not? Because your fucking carbon footprint flying over there and back again just prevented you from being at all ‘sustainable’, that’s why.
  • don’t ever say that you are trophy hunting for ‘conservation’. Because if you are, why not simply donate the money straight to an environmental charity of your choice?

Combine all three points aboce and you have a sure fire recipe to be on the receiving end of that barrage of hate I was talking about earlier.

“The EV Bubble”

“The EV Bubble: Why Tesla, NextEV, Lucid, and Faraday Future are doomed to fail”.

The article below is written in response to this ridiculous one.

I think you’re forgetting several factors:

1) Some people like to support the underdog.

2) If anything, the fossil fuel car industry ‘bubble’ will burst well before the EV market does. Why? Because everybody already knows that it’s a bad investment in our future. How long have scientists been lecturing economists about that? We’re right in the midst of an “eco age”.

3) The trouble with VW, porsche and lambhorghini getting in on the EV bandwagon is… they are too late to the party. Way too late. 2020 for the porsche mission e? Hopeless.

It’s obvious that they were never passionate about 100% EV. Otherwise, they would have already done something about it. They’ve had two decades already. Thanks to people like Jeremy Clarkson, customers have always been more concerned with ‘performance’. But you don’t combine an electric engine with a V10 and pretend to be ‘eco’. What’s the point? It’s a half-arsed approach. Even if it is faster, that ain’t even remotely ‘eco’.

Now that there is more “impending environmental disaster” news than ever before… redesigning the exhaust pipe so that it has a hexagonal cross section “oooh, ahhh” – well, it’s just not good enough. Is it? It’s pathetic is what it is. [Read more…]

Why do I seem to ‘hate’ the rich?

Ecologists have always said that one of the greatest threats to our natural environment is habitat destruction.

One of the main gripes I have against ultra-high net worth individuals is that they cause the most environmental degradation of all groups on this planet and they don’t tend to offset this with direct contributions back towards the natural environment.

I think the following advertisement nicely sums up the ‘attitude’ that some rich people seem to have:

bentleyfinger

So the reasons that I question ‘rich’ people are:

  1. Because rich people are usually responsible for more environmental destruction than poor people, they have brought about more degradative environmental changes.
  2. Because rich people are primarily motivated by money, they are more likely can be bought out (corrupted) with even more money.
  3. When the rich do give, they tend to give back to humanitarian causes. And if they do give, is it really enough of an offset? Not always, but often. One exception I have found is Mohammad Bin Zayeed; the man started his own species conservation fund. Another is the Betty and Gordon Moore Foundation.

Why is this a problem? Well, because the only physical thing (that I know of) that stops our Earth from becoming uninhabitable is all the life forms found on Earth that stabilise everything for us. The biosphere.

Any biologist will tell you that, realistically, what is going to happen is that as nature continues to “bite back” with ever-greater intensity, productivity (and therefore profit) is just going to go down eventually… it has to. It must! Less biodiversity is ultimately going to lead to less profit. Do all investors and directors of the board actually realise that? Do they realise that infinite growth on a planet with finite resources is a physical impossibility?

So not only will it be harder to make profit feeling the increasing effects of climate change (like with the recent New York blizzard for example), but more damage will be likely to occur due to storms and other weather extremes. I’ll say it again. Less biodiversity is ultimately going to lead to less profit. Why do I say that? Why do I think it will lead to less profit? Read on..

So we know that there are other planets out there. We’re not living on the only planet. Planetary geologists like to compare the planet Earth with Mars and Venus. All of these three planets are very similar in size and yet they have distinctly different environments. These other planets show us what is possible. As of today, both of these other two planets are essentially uninhabitable. Yes we could put a person on Mars and they might survive for a while inside an artificially heated, pressurised and oxygenated atmosphere, but would they be self sufficient? The answer is no definitely not at first.

As is, nothing grows there on Mars. Nothing. Not even the most basic life form. So that means no food. Worse, there is no water. And worse still is that there is no oxygen.

What about Venus then? Well again, even if we could get there, even if we could live there, most businesses would be more viable back here on planet Earth than on the planet Venus. Wouldn’t they? Maybe the exception would be companies that need to utlise lots of carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid.

Let’s take sulfuric acid. Let’s go with that example. Sure its useful to us here on Earth for all sorts of industrial purposes. So say we started to mine sulfuric acid on the planet venus. Even then we’d first need to get robots over there, wouldn’t we? And then we’d need to get the sulfuric acid back here on Earth.

But what are the transportations costs? How much fuel is burned? And doesn’t burning all that rocket fuel fuck up the Earth’s atmosphere even further? Well yes it does. What about if the Venus mining corporation had to pay carbon credits on all the tonnes of rocket fuel? And once there, how would the rocket get back to Earth? It would have to take enough fuel and liquid oxygen for the entire return journey. Because there is no oxygen on Venus. So now you tell me. Would it be a profitable enterprise?

Think about this (and keep in mind that I am one of the few scientists who have also set up my own business, so I do know a thing or two about profitability). Well in my professional scientific and business opinion, if you wanted to set up a business on the planet Mars, it would be more economically viable to locate your business at the South pole instead.

Why do I even bring this up here? What’s this got to do with rich people? What’s this got to do with money? Well, I don’t know of any businesses that are viable on either the planet Mars or Venus. Do you? Not even the most basic lemonade stand would work on the planet Mars or Venus. Would it? And rich people tend to forget this fact.

The newest space mission is estimated to cost $1.5 trillion dollars. That is a lot of investment money for anyone. So where is the ‘ROI’ going to come from that lot? Here’s what I wrote in another post of mine:

To me, it’s the most expensive & inefficient way to create the most boring food menu imagineable. Really. I mean, just think about how much those first few thousand lettuce leaves are going to cost! A billion dollars per lettuce leaf. That’s really great NASA. Thanks.

You see, if we had to pay for our oxygen supply, our water supply and our food supply down here on Earth like we would have to on Mars, then I’m sure that most businesses on Earth would become bankrupt within a matter of weeks. So economists (and rich people) are forgetting to take nature’s services into account. And when they do, I think they’ll realise that a forest is a very valuable place indeed.

 

Drumpfomania

I normally do not ever talk about polititics in the workplace.

But honestly, drumpf is the once-in-a-lifetime exception to that rule. Sometimes, you just have to speak up.

The thing is, America does not live in an isolated bubble. You depend on foreign workers and you also depend on foreign resources. America wouldn’t function like it does today without all the other countries on the map. Many Americans today seem to forget that.

But by far the worst thing about drumpf as far as I’m concerned is his complete lack of science knowledge. He can’t even answer the most basic science or environmental question without going off at a complete tangent.

And, by the way, it doesn’t make any sense that the poorer people voted in the richer candidate. People like drumpf do not care about working class people, they exploit them. The irony!

And another thing, bringing back manufacturing isn’t always the correct way to go. That is 1920’s thinking, one hundred years behind the times.

Why I am so concerned about the state of the world.

I am worried and very concerned, yes. My background is originally materials science.

From my perspective, the problem is that there is an environmental cost to every single material that you buy — be it gold, cotton, steel, or whatever. People forget that. The economy may benefit from materialism, but the environment certainly doesn’t.

Now, keep in mind that when I did my degree over 15 years ago, the ‘environment’ wasn’t even really discussed in that course. It was all about the properties and structure of materials.

First off, there is a lot of energy required to make materials. So if the country of manufacture uses coal power to generate their electricity, and they are not offsetting those emissions, then whatever physical goods you buy from them is contributing further to climate change.

Why? Because almost all materials either require either energy, heat, or other chemicals (which, in turn, require heat) in order to produce them. That’s a bit of a worry in itself. Because people are generally becoming more materialistic.

So for instance, hunters that shoot animals and think that is a ‘sustainable’ way of life, well I have news for you. If your gun is made of plastic or metal, where does that come from? It all comes from mines. And plastic comes from oil&gas. And your bullets. What are they made from? That too comes from mines. And the gunpowder contains chemicals like sulfur and potassium. And they have to come from somewhere too. And mines don’t last forever…

Currently, the manufacture of every single synthetic material results in carbon emissions somewhere along the line, if only from the energy that is required to create them. I think the correct term is “embodied energy”. [Read more…]

Green economics

What is happening to the world?

In short, most people refuse to act, because they’re be too busy justifying their need for a high standard of living, blaming governments for the situation, & avoiding the underlying social & environmental crises. This sounds like an inescapable viscous cycle to me.

Yes its all been brought about by greedy 1st world nations. Blatant consumerism- which capitalises on the latest scientific advances and all the while fueled by governments who only think in short term economic gains. The first need is to communicate the problem. The next requirement is change. People are afraid of change, but to me it seems the world is changing for the worse anyway.

Anyone who has read Schumachers book “Small is beautful” will know that over the long term, what we are doing to planet Earth surely must be considered uneconomical. Are people so afraid of change now that they’re willing to bury their heads in the sand about the future repercussions? I think where we’re headed, the changes will be a lot more daunting than the thought of giving up our most prized possessions. Chaos will be surely covered in one of my future articles, but who wants to live in a world without nature?

TRADITIONAL ECONOMIC WORKING PRINCIPLE:

  • There is a general consensus that a fundamental source of wealth is human labour
  • Businesses & Governments maximise profit, consumption and therefore economic growth
  • Employers maximise labour effort (bosses expect their “pound of flesh”)
  • Employees minimise labour effort (to work is viewed as a sacrifice of one’s leisure and comfort; wages being a kind of compensation)

BUDDHIST ECONOMIC PRINCIPLE OF WORK:

  • Work gives each person a chance to utilise and develop their [unique] faculties
  • Work enables humans to overcome their ego-centredness by joining with other people in a common task
  • Work provides the goods and services needed for a becoming existence [creativity activity is vital]

The former, in short, tries to maximise consumption by the optimal pattern of productive effort, while the latter tries to maximise human satisfactions by the optimal pattern of consumption. It is easy to see that the effort needed sustain a way of life which seeks to attain the optimal pattern of consumption is likely to be much smaller than the effort needed to sustain a drive for maximum consumption.

It is not wealth that stands in the way of liberation but the attachment to wealth; not the enjoyment of pleasurable things but the craving for them.

But what can we actually do about it? Firstly, don’t replace things before we need to; repair them if necessary, use them until they can no longer be repaired. Yes, there is some real satisfaction to be gained by owning things that last through time. Do we need the latest 3G phone or mobile electronic device? Buy services, not products.

Zen and the art of minimalism

How can you (we) all go about buying less stuff?

I have bought many things over the last few decades. I started with bike parts, I was forever looking to build the ‘ultimate’ bicycle.

I have easily spent tens of thousands of dollars on bike parts of the last 20 years. But every time I got something new, I would lust for something even newer. The more I got, the more I’d want. It was pure greed and indulgence.

But looking back, some of my favourite rides (most of them actually) weren’t done on my most expensive bikes. Most of my favourite rides were made on relatively cheap bikes!

Whenever I see a product now I ask many additional things:

1. Where did it come from / how was it made? What was the the environmental cost of manufacture?
2. Will I be able to resell it, reuse it, recycle it or compost it when I am finished with it? (and the packaging)
3. Do I really even need it? Or do I think I just ‘want’ it?
4. What are the “false promises” being advertised?
5. Will the new item create extra ‘worry’?

The next time you go to buy something, stop yourself and ask whether you really need it. Never buy on impulse. Never! Wait. Put things in your ‘watch’ list. Meanwhile, look for the most sustainable or ecological alternative. If you still think you ‘need’ something after one or two months, by all means, go ahead and buy it.

Ever since I started doing this, I almost never regret anything I have purchased. [Read more…]

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…]

What this angry scientist has to say about climate change:

Here I go again… why am I angry? Do scientists even get angry? Yes. Yes they do. Well I am angry. Very fucken angry!

I‘m angry at politicians in the mainstream parties. Because they aren’t doing enough to mitigate an environmental catastrophe. Most politicians today only care about one thing: money. The economy. Whoop-de-doo.

Scientists, if you remember from highschool, are the clever people. They are the nerdy ones with poor social skills. You’d think most countries would be run by the smartest of individuals. Are they? No. See, I think that’s where we’re going wrong. Our countries are run by politicians.

Likewise, I am angry at climate change deniers. Because they are now claiming that “climate change is a government conspiracy” (right, well if that is true it has to be the dumbest conspiracy theory I have ever heard, because the governments are the ones who support burning coal for fuck’s sake!).

Actually, I lie. Half of it is worry, not anger. For example, what’s actually worrying is that some people think an average temperature increase of a couple of degrees in only a few decades is at all “natural”. What’s worrying is that some people still don’t seem to grasp the concept of “rate of change”. I have seen on LinkedIn that the biggest climate change deniers are frequently either working for oil companies, have a vested interest in contruction, or are simply “uneducated fools”.

I find some people’s responses to climate change infuriating. Scientists are (mostly) a VERY clever bunch of people. If climate scientists are ringing alarm bells and making videos like this one, it’s enough to make me pay attention and completely change my lifestyle.

Right. I’ll say that again, but in a different way, because it bears repeating. Because I know that people skim read things. When the leading climate scientist, James Hansen, says (back in 2012 mind you) that we have a climate emergency, well, it’s enough to make me sell my vehicle. It’s enough to make me think up a new career choice, about how I can make the world a better place for future generations to come…

In science, we have to have a kind of ‘faith’ too. Scientists have faith in other scientists. We mutually respect each others’ fields of expertise. If I were to say, as a materials scientist, that magnesium has a hexagonal close packed atomic structure, I would hope the other scientists would give me the benefit of the doubt about that. And that is how the whole science community works. Things are checked and rechecked. Publications are reviewed. These people are working on these problems their whole lives. [Read more…]

What I think about jet racing in the year 2016…

I’m sure you can do it honey. I’m sure you can. I once went to a drag race at Eastern Creek. Yes. And I think this would have been cool too. In about the year 1988.

Hello! What about the environment? Have you EVER stopped to think about the environment? Did your parents even teach you about that? Clearly they haven’t. This is what worries me. It really does. Not teaching another generation about the importance of sustainability.

What’s that all about? It seems everyone just wants to have as much fun as we want today. Because the Earth will be fucked within 200 hundred years anyway… so why bother doing anything about it now? Well I’m going to do something about it today, by criticising the hell out of this bullshit.

So it just seems to me that all of this it’s a total waste of oxygen. It’s a waste fuel. How much flaming CO2 does that thing even produce I wonder? And for what? For you to be somewhere that you don’t even need to be quicker than someone else? Whatever for? Just so you can feel better about yourself? So you feel ‘superior’? Because it’s pretty clear to be that you have some kind of female version of an inferiority complex. But my message doesn’t just apply to women racecar drivers. It applies to all drag racers. Male, female, trandgender, whatever. [Read more…]

Why do you buy?

Just a few decades ago, the reason we gave to buy something new was because our product simply broke and it could no longer be repaired. So we had to replace it. Fast forward to today, and we find that many products are no longer repairable because to do so is deemed ‘uneconomical’. These days, the art of repair seems to be all but completely forgotten.

Not too long ago, when we needed to replace something, sometimes we could even replace it with an identical model. How many times does that happen today? Never. Why? Because even if we wanted to, a product’s life cycle is so short that it is no longer possible to buy the exact same item even only 1 or 2 short years later.

Nowadays we have to buy a completely new replacement product. We have no choice. We can’t buy the same item even if we wanted to! We’re increasingly forced to live in a more ‘disposable’ world!

But what about our environment? Redesigns require more design time, new moulds and new machinery. Redesigns require new instructions, new packaging.

I am going to argue here and elsewhere that all product cycles which are shorter than necessary are sheer environmental folly. I am going to argue that product cycles need to be much longer, that the products themselves should be user-serviceable wherever possible and that replacement parts should be freely available (and for a very reasonable cost).

I think product designers have a special ethical obligation to design for the long-term not the short term. Just because you can create something new doesn’t mean that it is any good. I believe that a great design will stand the test of time. I believe that customers will return to reliable, trustworthy brands –even decades later– provided that their products have been shown to endure.

And I think consumers have an equally special ethical obligation to keep things for as long as possible. Not only is this much better for the environment, but I think we’d actually be happier for it because we’d get more satisfaction buying things that we actually need, when we need to. I almost never throw something out because I get bored with it. I always try to find a new home for my old products. I’m hoping that you will too.

You might complain that the cost of a new replacement battery or charger or whatever hardly makes it worth your while. “…for only 15 dollars more I can get a brand new XYZ…”, I hear you say. The reason for that is partially because of supply and demand. If more people bought just the replacement parts instead of the whole darn new thing, the cost of the replacement bits would surely plummet, due to the economies of scale.

What is the environmental cost of consumerism?

“We’re very very disconnected from what we consume. So because of the widening degrees of separation between the consumer and the consumed we no longer have any real appreciation for the embodied energy, the embodied destruction, the embodied suffering that goes in to every stage of the supply chain in the things we buy.” — Mark Boyle

I‘m sure that most consumers don’t care less what chemical elements are used in the manufacture of all the products that they buy. I’m talking about all the elements and compounds required to make all of these products function like they do. But consumers should care. We should care about what products are made of, what they are made from.

But with things like consumer electronic devices, customers simply don’t think about their ‘ingredients’ much. I think the problem with this world today is that consumers don’t question the true origin of synthetic materials, let alone how they are extracted and processed.

I think people really need to wake up and ask where their materials are coming from, learn about all the many processing steps each material requires (extraction, refinement, manufacturing, production) and also ask what happens to all these materials at the end of the product’s life. In many cases, even with recycling of plastic/paper/metal, the majority of materials on the periodic table aren’t being recycled and are ending up in landfill (and/or the ocean).

I think each product sold should have an ‘ingredients’ label showing exactly what materials are in it. That way, people could [eventually] reference which materials have the highest ecological impact…

The obvious exception is of course food. Wherever food is concerned, then consumers quite rightly want to know what they are consuming. We want to know all the food ingredients. We want to know what we put into our bodies.

[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:

carbon-foot-print

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

Recent research on global warming, sea level rise and super storms.

If there’s one video I think you should watch today, it’s this one.  I think climate scientists in particular have a special “duty of care” to humanity. I wholeheartedly suggest that all climate scientists boycott fossil-fuel powered cars in keeping with their discoveries and the changes we all must start to make on an individual basis. I think it may show the general public that they are prepared to make some sacrifices for what they believe in.

As I stated previously, I personally no longer own a car — but I do use (borrow) a car about once a week now. Since I sold my last vehicle, I am able to donate more money to environmental charities with the money I save on fuel, insurance, upkeep and everything else… I have actually donated more money to charity than I have spent on fuel so far in 2016. I think more people need to do that.

I really don’t think it’s wise to put all of our trust into current politicians. I firmly believe that most of the mainstream parties do not have our own long-term best interests at hand. I also think that the two very traits that have put us where we are today, namely, our anxiety and what I like to call our “social intertia”, may well be our undoing as a species.

What we can learn from North Korea.

I’ve noticed lately that a lot of Western video productions are unfairly biased about North Korea.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Wong Maye-E
Photo credit: AP Photo/Wong Maye-E

So Western journalists have a big gripe about not being able to film certain parts of North Korea. But North Koreans, okay, like all nations, want to be portrayed in a good light. Because North Koreans are smart enough to know that some journalists are unscrupulous…

What if I made a video documentary about Sydney and filmed all the homeless people, the junkies, the graffiti, the rubbish, the wastage, the consumerism, the violence, the poor distribution of wealth, the relentless urbanisation, interviewed all the aboriginal people in our jails, filmed the chopping down of forrests in the Laird state forest to make way for a new coal mine? Well okay.

But what if the Tourism Industry Association of New Zealand came to Australia for example and then used that to infer that “New Zealand was better”? Maybe we’d be able to take it like a joke (even if it were all true).

But I am pretty darn sure that if our tourism industry was proven to have suffered economically because of that documentary, then we’d promptly ‘react’ by banning such films. I’m sure the Sydney council or tourism board would stop people filming the dirtier parts of town. And I wouldn’t really have a problem with that. It doesn’t make me ‘evil’. [Read more…]

Why I decided to quit facebook.

In recent news, I just quit facebook. I quit because they are encouraging trophy hunting by allowing their pages to remain online. I believe they could do so much better with animal rights and conservation issues.
Illustration by Leslie Dean Brown
Illustration by Leslie Dean Brown

Nothing happened. My head didn’t fall off. I enjoyed real life more now. I am happier and much more productive.

I have even started this petition to get more people to quit facebook as a form of protest and defiance.

Mark Elliot Zuckerberg,

The first time I logged on to the internet, the year was 1995. I had to go into a special room at university to access it. Only about 30 computers were connected to the internet for students to use — in the whole university.

A few years later, more rooms appeared throughout the campus. I remember one day in particular. My college buddy could only find a handful of Porsche images *on the whole internet*. I can even remember him printing it out. It was so rare to him it was like a prize. I remember because we had to take turns — using the same internet connection!

Four years later, in 1999, I got “into trouble” for using the internet at work! Yes. “People can see you” he’d say. I had to show my boss that I was searching for material properties online. He promptly wheeled his office chair over. He had called my bluff. And I pointed to the screen. “See?” At that time, people didn’t use the internet for work. No.

I don’t know when it was exactly. I was still at university. All I can remember was that the internet was still fairly ‘new’. The average person still did not use the internet on an hourly or a daily basis (except for email). Anyway, I got this weird “friend request” from this unknown person calling himself “Mark Zuckerberg”. It wasn’t one of my friends. I’m pretty sure it was actually you.

If memory serves me correctly, Mr. Zuckerberg, you actually came to me. I certainly never went out specifically looking for anything like facebook, because I was a nerdy anti-social science graduate. You probably found my email or something.

I decided to accept your initial “friend request” and sign up to this new facebook thing. And because I was introverted and shy, I never really bothered to say anything to you. It was when there was only a few thousand facebook members *in the whole world*. At the time I can remember thinking:  “what harm can it do?”. Nobody I knew had a facebook account. I repeat: nobody. And so it began…

[Read more…]

High definition destruction

It always amazes me how all of these latest technologies showcase *nature*. I find that quite ironic. I find it ironic because we get the copper and other elements that are contained within electronics from mines. And it is frequently places like the forests in Papua New Guinea that are mined to get these elements.

What is the point of high-definition television, holograms, visual special effects, if we are just going to watch the destruction of nature in ever-greater detail? Or fake representations of nature? I can go outside and see it in higher definition than any screen will be able to display. It’s called “atomic resolution”. I.e. real life.

I don’t understand people. Watching nature makes us happy. As we distance ourselves further and further from nature, we think that we can live separate from it. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Yet most of us carry on our daily lives almost in fear of the natural. We go on poisoning it. Controlling it. Dominating it.

What is the point of faster or more comfortable airlines if the destinations are not as pristine as they used to be?

What is the point of creating high definition televisions, sharper lenses and ever-more megapixels, if we’re only going to witness the destruction of nature in ever-greater detail and clarity?

A common observation is that nature provides much inspiration even for 3D models. So I encourage people to donate to environmental charities instead of buying the latest technologies all the time. Half the reason we are in so much shit with the planet is because we have forgotten how to give back to nature. We are always taking and never giving back. So I encourage you to stand up, speak up . That way, you might *truly* feel better about ourselves, our civilisation, instead of feeling this ‘guilt’ for what we are doing.

The truth is, unfortunately we do not value nature as much as we should. We do not see the work that it does for us. Trees create oxygen for us for free. If we had to extract our own oxygen from carbon dioxide, how much do you think that would cost us?