A message from our great elder, Savid Suzuki.

I went to see David Suzki talk about our planet’s health earlier this year at an event called ‘Hope for the Planet’. I’ve always been aware of the enviornment, ever since I did general studies way back in 1991.

So I paid to see this talk “hope for the planet”. I think all business owners, CEOs, directors, managers, millionaires, billionaires, developers, miners, indeed the entire human race should hear what David Suzuki has to say here. He speaks as a grandfather, an elder. Indigenous peoples will of course already know what he has to say.

“Nature couldn’t care less about human boundaries.” — David Suzki

Watch it & share. Because the fact that it only has a thousand views is unfathomable. Our future as a species depends on how many people listen to a talk like this.

We need to work collectively towards a better future. Otherwise, what’s the point of even working so hard on our businesses?

It’s so true when David Suzuki speaks about the most important things for us humans in this world: clean air, fresh water and uncontaminated, healthy food. Without aire, we’d all be dead in two minutes!

It is absolutely ridiculous that corporations can poison our world and get away with it. They are encouraged to do so by our own government. Workers in such industries are paid HUGE amounts of money and I see that as a form of environmental corrruption. When you pay your workers $100k, $200k, $1M, $10M salaries, it’s a way of getting them to forget about their conscience.

Anyway, I think seeing his talk [which is not quite what this video is about] made me realise my place in the world. I studied materials science so I know better than anybody where all these materials come from, how they are mined, extracted and used. I know that every time you buy something physical, something mandmade and synthetic, you are directly supporting the mining industry. 

And I’m sure if mining industries had their own way, no areas would be safe on this planet. They don’t truly care about this world. They only seem to care about profit. And that’s one of the many reasons why I try to reduce my consumption and materialism in all areas of my life. Ever since I decided to do this, it has made me much, much happier as a person.

I think that the whole concept of the “7 generations” that Indigenous American Indians have is way more evolved than the concept of industrialisation. I think that in that respect, Indgineous Australian Aborigines are probably a thousand years ahead of us in terms of sustainability. I think we need to look to them on how to best protect our world.

Chaos theory. The butterfly effect.

Today I’m going to talk about “sensitive dependence on initial conditions”, which is one of the foundations of chaos theory.

Chaos theory. I find it a fascinating subject to talk about, so here goes. Some people (me included!) can be really confused by the mathematics that is involved. So I’m not even going to put up a single formula here. Some people can’t seem to fathom how the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil can set off a tornado in Texas.”

I’m just going to explain the concept to you. How can I best explain this something called “sensitive dependence on initial conditions”? Easy.

I want you to think of a single marble on top of a mountain peak like the Matterhorn. Imagine if we placed a marble way up there on the very highest point.

Now imagine, too, if an abnormal amount of snow had built up over the previous winter and there is now the possibility of a great big avalanche. And you all know how avalanches are caused, right?

Avalanches are initiated by too much snow that accumulates on the side of a mountain. Even the smallest rock moving can set it off. Even the force of the snow melting in the sun can change the distribution of weight of built up snow on a slope.

We all know that the marble might dislodge a slightly bigger rock on its way down, thus causing an avalanche. So we have a situation where a very small physical event like a marble falling down could potentially generate a much larger event like an avalanche at the bottom of the mountain. Well ‘okay’ you might say.

Now this is just where it becomes interesting. Because the slightest change in the way we placed that single marble down onto the summit might have caused it to fall one way or another. Or the slighest breeze in one direction or the other. Or some small feature on the surface of the rock on which it is placed. [Read more…]

Here’s something manufacturers and industrial designers need to think more about: backlash on planned obsolescence.

If there’s one thing in this world that I can’t stand, it’s companies like Microsoft and Apple…

Who seem to make things go obsolete well before their time. And no one can tell them not to. They just keep getting away with it. Why? Probably because they make a lot of money getting away with it. That’s why.

But there are no laws to stop them getting away with it. And what this materials scientist thinks right now is “by fucken oath there should be [laws to stop them getting away with it]”. That is coming from an ex materials scientist. Right.

I think you all know what I am talking about. I’m talking about ‘old’ printers that don’t work with newer computers simply because the ‘drivers’ have ‘issues’ with the “operating system”. I’m talking about new software that won’t run on old hardware. I’m also talking about new hardware that won’t run old software. I’m talking about Apple’s proprietry connectors.

Let me tell you a little anecdote. I can even remember my dad saying about 15 or 20 years ago way back when I was a kid that Apple (you know, Macintosh it was once called) forced you to use their special cables and connectors, and thus were able to charge a premium.

At the time, I took what he said with a pinch of salt. I thought “well it’s their computer system, I suppose they would want to do that. Who can blame them?”. But now, fast forward twenty-odd years and my old man is dead [RIP, he died last year] and what he said to me in the 1990’s is looking even wiser now than it did when he said it all those years ago. Because it just so happens to be true. This man, my father, would be 90 years old if he were alive today. He was old but he knew something that I didn’t. That something is called ‘wisdom’ and all early adopters from what I’ve seen tend to suffer from a severe lack of it.

Back in the day, we used things called serial ports and parrallel ports to plug in our printers. So they got the information from one cable and they got their power from another completely separate cable. The thing is, they were slow. Really slow. But when USB came along, all those printers and mice and things became much less useful. The same thing happened to compact discs when Apple decided not to include a CD drives on their latest desktops.

People will always need to buy new peripherals to work with new plugs on their new computer system. That is now happening with USB-C connectors. Do you want to know what I think? I think USB C can go and get fucked, that’s what I think. All of my stuff (two external hard drives, external sound card for microphone, graphics tablet, mouse, wireless solar keyboard, external webcam, flash drives, the entire bloody lot is USB2 now isn’t it?). USB2 and it is plenty good enough. I’m sticking with it.

Yes, I’m talking about Apple ditching the 3.5mm headphone jack on it’s newest smartphone. Now, keep in mind that I don’t even own an Apple iphone. In fact I have never owned an Apple iphone. And here I am, compelled to write a blog article about how narky it makes me feel. Because knowing what I know, I probably won’t ever own an Apple iphone. I’m writing this from an imac retina. I don’t own an ipad. And right now, that is the way it is going to stay. After buying just one Apple product, I’m fast becoming anti-Apple. And the headphone jack decision is my last straw. It is the catalyst to me becoming “anti-Apple”.

So I’m going to just say it here in black and white. I’m going to share with all you strangers the reason it makes me so narky. Because this is my blog, my little ‘space’ and I can say pretty much whatever the hell I want. Right? There’s this thing called “free speech” in the West that not enough people take advantage of… this is vida enigmática… [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…]

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…]