Monday, November 14, 2011

Recycle, Bury or Burn

These three words are very much part of our present social consciousness.
It's not quite as easy to decide what route to take with what material.
Much has been written about "Carbon Sinks", i.e. what lock up our carbon waste so that it does not become part of the dreaded "Greenhouse Gases" threatening to cause premature harmful climate change. Charring and burying organics has been suggested. Piping waste CO2 from industrial combustion to the depths of our ocean floors is another, or growing as much photosynthetic greenery as possible. There are so many suggestions. One of the most efficient of natural processes is exhibited by marine micro-organisms which grow calcium carbonate skeletons. When they die their skeletons rain down to the ocean floor and eventually get compressed into chalk or limestone rock...a pretty good lock-up! Coral reef formation also does this. Alas most "Carbon Sinks" are temporary and the CO2 finally escapes.
This being said, humans carry on digging up fossil fuels then burn or denature them in various ways to add to the GG inventory in our atmosphere. We chop down vast forests, burn them or make things with the wood which, too, eventually rots or is burnt later...all adding more GG's.
We sometimes forget about the copious amounts of chemicals which are derived from fossil fuels that we use everyday and have to get rid of eventually. Some is burnt very soon but much ends up in landfills. We pat ourselves on the back for recycling a lot of it but it still invariably ends up with the same fate.
Most environmentalists are very squeamish about landfills. They point to the unnecessary waste of useful materials and the negative aesthetics of "dumps". But there is an irony here. Burying material containing potential greenhouse gases is probably one of the most effective methods of locking up the stuff for a long time. This is especially true of non, or near non-biodegradable matter. Some of this, like various plastics, should be buried after they have been through a few recycling journeys as long as they will not leach toxins They may be dug up in the future by zealous archeologists but they may stay underground for a very, very long time. This even begs the question as to whether we should be considering the use of biodegradable plastics since they will contribute to GG's as they break down later.
As far as I am concerned, we ought to recycle what we can and strive to get away from the reliance on fossil fuels, Fossil fuels should remain the fossils they have been for millions of years and remain carbon sinks for more millions of years.
We should bury as much as we cannot recycle of non- biodegradable, non toxic-leaching materials, and only ever burn what is absolutely necessary. All cosmetic fires should even be banned in houses, camps and in gardens wherever possible. Don't like this?.... then never consider yourself as a true environmentalist.
But, please, let this not give you sleepless nights!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Let there be Light

I am not a great fan of CFL lights. The cheap ones seem to take forever to "warm up" to optimum light output and I consider them ugly anyway. Some people also do refer to the danger of their mercury content; a problem which deserves close attention.

Standard incandescent lights give off considerable heat; albeit wasted for luminescent effect, but OK in our northern colder Canadian environment for most of the year. Indoors, the light they give is fine and the heat, as mentioned, usually is not wasted. The thermostats in our houses compensate by cutting down the furnace/wall-bar output when the bulb heat output is too much. Of course, very soon, these bulbs will be off the shelves altogether. Anyway as a gardener, I love them...... I use the old christmas incandescent light strings to over-winter my delicate plants.
However, I do really like halogen lights. These are more efficient and give out less heat as a result; without the annoying warm-up time of CFLs. They can be made small to fit where you want them and they are fairly equivalent in cost
This being said, we must not leave out LED's. These are great for Christmas lights and flash and cheap to run. Bulbs are even available for indoor regular lighting applications too. Mutiple sets of the little units are packed into each single bulb....improvement in design is on-going.
Alas, many “green initiatives”, concerning power use, are sadly political in their conception.
I am strongly in favour of the “Green Thing” but let us not succumb to the, all too common, “B S”.
For those of you who foster a streak of "Conspiracy Theory", have you ever thought that the real reason for our electical power company's promotion of the "green" bulb use (and other similar initiatives) is to create a reserve of power to sell south at a future inflated price? This is a trend which is all too familiar regarding so many of our resources. Because of our trade agreements, this inflated price merely bounces back on our shoulders for the future.

Be careful what you think

So one day John was born. Almost immediately he started looking around and learning. Most of it, at first, consisted of tactile, chemical and optical stimuli which did not make a heck of a lot of sense. Language gradually came into the picture and he began to be "told" things; things about how to behave and how to feel about what he was experiencing. Actually it was fairly easy and when alone he could do his own thing without guilt...after all THEY were in charge. Such is early childhood for most of us. For him, a Victorian/Edwardian patriarch, in the form of his Grandfather certainly helped to shape this recalled mould.
He was introduced definitively to the ethics of his place in the world and to the accepted religion going locally. This often remains the lot of many people on this planet and many die happy with it.
For some of us, things unfold differently. He was born with a potential IQ of somewhat over 100 and fell, almost accidentally, into a rich opportunity for prolonged education.
He was to begin, as a result, to think for himself. He had been told by his psychologist friends that since his mother got toxemia during pregnancy and the fact that the cord was wrapped around his neck during childbirth, he could have been brain damaged. There is evidence that such brain damage can lead to "right brain dominance". Wow, perhaps this is why he was pretty creative and constantly thought excessively. Is this a good thing or not? Evidently "left brain dominant" people can lack creativity and tend to think logically or linearly. Many might say this is boring
Well here starts the reason why I am writing least I think I know why! Like I said, John started off with Religion (note the capitalization here). He went to church; was a member of the choir and he prayed regularly. He would go home with a warm self-satisfied glow of righteousness and declared to himself that he was happy. However education and his incessant thinking started to take its toll. He began listening to others, discussing stuff and reading the News.
Over the years he started questioning everything, forming bizarre philosophies. Soon the crutch of "Religion" became less and less significant. Yes, there were other Religions and countless cults and codes of behavior to choose from. But alas the former "glow of happiness" had lost its luster. The big "R" became a little "r" and soon all possible other choices became unattractive.
Most kids go through this kind of thing. Some get totally lost but some "find themselves" again.
Well, I guess with this dilemma, after most of a lifetime, one could get to a fairly lonely place.
John is no longer in one of those "cozy, warm-fuzzy groups". World events have taught him about intolerance, conflict and terrible suffering...all of these often in the name of the big "R". It is said that cynicism is really an acute awareness of reality...well I guess you could say he has become a tad cynical.
It would be unfair to say that he has not had a "good" life. He loves music and the arts generally. His love of nature has always been there and his chosen subject of biology has given him immense pleasure over the years. He has had the privilege to have been a teacher of science for over thirty years and counts that as a success. He has a wonderful wife, son and grandchild, living in a breath-taking part of BC, Canada and does not have many financial problems. So you might say, "What is he griping about?"
Well, I guess he just thinks too much! I think we should avoid doing that.

What do I believe in?

Ietsism: may roughly be described as a belief in an end-in-itself or similar concept, without further assumption to exactly what object or objects have such a property, like intrinsic aliquidism without further specification. Other aliquidistic lifestances include the acceptance of "there is something - that is, some meaning of life, something that is an end-in-itself or something more to existence - and it is...", assuming various objects or "truths", while Ietsism, on the other hand simply accepts "there is something", without further assumption to it.
In contrast to traditional agnostics who often hold a skeptical view about gods or other metaphysical entities (i.e. "We can't or don't know for
sure that there is a God"), "Ietsists" take a viewpoint along the lines of, "And yet it feels like there is something out there..." It is a form of religious liberalism or non-denominationalism. Ietsism may also be described as the minimal counterpart of nihilism, since it accepts that there is something, but yet, assumes as little further as possible without any more substantial evidence.
Ietsism also shares many attributes with similar viewpoints such as
Deism and the so-called 'God of the Gaps', whose origins lie more in questions about the nature and origin of the physical universe. It could be said that Ietsism is 'Deism for the spiritually-inclined![weasel words]
An opinion poll conducted by the Dutch daily newspaper "Trouw" in October 2004 indicated that some 40% of its
readership felt broadly this way.
As the Ietsist will not have found any of the 'pre-packaged' Gods offered by traditional religions satisfactory, each Ietsist's conception of
God will be different. This can range from the Judeo/Christian/Islamic concept of God as a force / intelligence that exists outside the world, to a position similar to the Buddhist "world view" with collective spiritual power existing within the world. Other ietsists will dare to take a truly agnostic viewpoint - that the actual nature of God is totally unknown.

Note: I wouldn't have put it quite like that...especially the bit about "aliquidistic lifestances"!
The above is from Wikipedia, but it does have a wee jist of what I feel. So let's leave it at that!
If a person believes in something they can either keep it to themselves or they can share it with others hoping that they agree.
If enough agree then an organized religion or cult could be born. Quite often some symbols of identification become needed; it may be in the form of established rituals with some kind of uniform or common dress code.
Political groups, religious groups and in the extreme, military juntas, all need to identify their members and continually reaffirm their beliefs to reinforce their sense of belonging. For example, the Roman Catholic faith is rife with dogma, symbols and rituals.
Throughout history there has been conflict regarding icons, dress-code and the projection of "acceptable" behaviours from each group of believers. Wars, and much suffering have so often resulted from their partisan zeal.
Many would wish this were not so but, alas, it is hardly avoidable. Even the Buddhist organization (actually my favorite) dons bright orange garments, sports shaven heads and spins cans in ritualist prayer. Members festoon mountain-tops with ragged multi-coloured bunting and sometimes demonstrate condescension in their passion.
Yet, though I am religious, you many never know what I really feel; and why should this be necessary?

A Friend

It is often said that you can count your real friends with the fingers of one hand. Why could this be true? Perhaps it is because friendship is sharing part of our self with others unconditionally and the more that is shared, the stronger the friendship becomes. Most of us place severe limitations on the extent of sharing to avoid our vulnerability. It really boils down to trust.
We probably share more with our family members because we have already many experiences in common. But extending the trust to outsiders needs careful consideration. Many of us strive to share but don't do it enough or we may resort to gossip and maligning others to achieve temporary companionship. As a teacher, it has been a common experience to observe young people spending a great deal of time running down acquaintances behind their backs to cement their acceptance in a small group. The allegiances are constantly changed because there is very little trust involved.
Above all we are mindful of exposing ourselves too much. How often do we share something and then say, "don't tell anyone else about this" or, "keep it between you and me".
There is an interesting new phenomenon on the internet, in sites like Face Book, where people collect "friends" like stamps to show any one who logs-on how many they have. Some of them might hardly ever be contacted and sharing of anything personal would likely remain very restricted.
Some religious individuals may treat God as their best friend. This is easier because the trust can be unconditional and the response can be anticipated if not always fulfilled.
This lack of trust in most of us toward our fellow human beings is the real problem in our world and will never be completely resolved. Such a statement is, of course, obviously naive but the need to try to address it is paramount. Whole countries display varying degrees of trust or distrust which lead to either cooperation or grave danger.
One country can call another "its friend" or "foe" depending on the level of trust one might have for the other. Iran and Israel certainly do not have much mutual, unconditional sharing; and we know what that could lead to. Canada, the US and the UK are considered "good friends" but then they have much history in common to start with. This makes it much easier for trust to exist.
Greed, Power and Religion, both in individual relationships and international cooperation, can be all significant antagonists to trust. They have been driving forces through our history. Our ego gets in the way of our sharing with others in all three of these. The first two are obvious but differences in faith have been the cause of wars, persecution and suffering throughout the ages. When we consider our beliefs to be right and another's wrong, we can never share, trust or be true friends.
This is why we can only count our real friends with a few fingers.

Zero Mile Diet

There is a recent a book titled: "The Zero-Mile Diet" (Carolyn Herriot) which encourages us, in Canada, to grow our own fruit and vegetables very locally rather than buy imported produce from far away.The point behind such a suggestion is to help reduce our "Carbon Footprint" by reducing transportation and the resultant greenhouse gas emissions. This notion is very well intended. We ought to agree with the idea of growing fresh vegetables and fruit in our back yards. Reducing visits to the supermarket to buy produce which often originates in places like Mexico or Ecuador seems to be a good thing. However, buying produce from developing countries might be actually kinder to the planet than from agricultural outlets in many northern temperate climates. This would be vastly more useful to the people most at risk from climate change.
Today, a large percentage of populations in developing countries depends on agriculture for a livelihood. Many countries have no realistic prospect of achieving many of the the basic living standards we enjoy in most of North America and many more fortunate countries. This is why the vegetables grown in many sub-tropical and tropical areas are so important. Exports from such countries earn them more needed money, making horticulture a most valuable local industry. Environmental upsets like droughts and other adverse weather cause suffering that can be devastating. When conditions are stable, the advantage through export of fruits and vegetables must be taken and there must be a guaranteed market.
Should we stop buying imported produce, start growing our own and buy very locally?
Many state that the carbon footprint resulting from long distance, often air-freighted food, is not sustainable and will increase. But, we know that in many developing countries, a large per cent of crops are grown on farms by hand in the old-fashioned, labour-intensive way. As anyone who tends an allotment knows, this produces higher quality vegetables and lower carbon emissions than northern industrial farms. Indeed, even the government realizes how much our current agriculture pollutes: Our farmers are often told to adopt greener practices or face deductions in their subsidies. In northern climates much more energy is needed to produce the same product, as compared with that originating from poorer southern countries.
Very little of emissions from all imported freight adds to our total carbon footprint, whereas passenger air travel contributes much more. To stop importing vegetables, then, would penalize these developing countries while ignoring the effect of unnecessary tourist air travel.
To support this, last year an American study of the entire lifecycle of a food, from field to plate, found that production methods in North America account for over 80% per cent of the total carbon footprint, compared with around 10% per cent from transportation.
All this being said, of course it would be a good thing if every household were to grow some of its own vegetables but it makes more ethical and environmental sense to also continue buying produce from developing countries to our south as we need them. And if you care about the planet, cook them in the microwave, not the oven.
I grow vegetables in my garden and intend to increase this but I still will go to the local supermarket to get my favourite bananas and avocados! If and when the source from the south ceases, we will have to adapt accordingly.
That would be very sad for the people who live there.We should support them in every way we can without hurting agriculture in our own country. Right now, we should maintain a balance between imported, house-hold grown and our own commercial produce. The percentages of each can be later monitored and modified as needed. We really do not know what direction climate change will take each country.

We are but a Dream of the Past

All perception of our conscious self is received from past events only, including those from just a split second ago. All thought awareness of our environment is taken and sorted by our brains after the event(s). This is simple neurophysiology, n'est pas?
This means we are slaves to our own memory and without memory we cannot be conscious of anything. All sensations and messages from the outside must get to the brain from remote sensors, be sorted, processed and/or stored for later reference. During that "other consciousness", while sleeping; dreams are interpretations of accumulated disjointed data collected during the past day, mixed with other stored memories.
This is like a modern echo of Descartes' "Cogito ergo sum" in that our thoughts are really confirmation of this above process. Thought cannot occur without the facility of memory in its complete sense and to THINK is to BE.
One might here stretch to an analogy of two identically formatted computers to which no data has yet been added. Any extrapolation toward the notion of artificial intelligence and cyber-consciousness is impossible to contemplate for these units in this early state.
But later, and similar to the two computers, all humans have the ability to begin processing an awareness of environment soon after the formation of their nervous systems (formatted hard drives in computers). There is even some special data programming inherent in the DNA before conception in both the sperm and egg of the respective parents. Some species have more than others; this we might call instinct. A cat is born with lots for hunting and birds have plenty for flying.
It has been said that we are all one in humanity and that we are separated only by our memories and time. If we all had no memory ability and were born at the same time then we would be like the two unformatted computers - different boxes and superficial design variations, but essentially the same.
This leads to a big question: Are religions, philosophy and ethics merely driven by our personal data bases? Should we not humble ourselves to the idea that we are merely "living holograms" of protoplasm which are part of the total universe/god and very temporary slaves to our memories. Our individual perception of right and wrong, good or bad, are all products of our data bases accumulated since birth or references to the history of humanity. By this I do not imply that this should be described as an atheistic viewpoint. Rather, it need not be if we do truly consider ourselves part of the total. We do not know how the universe works or its purpose other than "being". The universe collects data, interprets it and acts on it just as we or a computer does but on a very large scale. The universe is a gigantic system whose kaleidoscopic interactions fall repeatedly into tumbling patterns which affect later patterns, interactions and outcomes. It might be logically concluded that any system which changes, due to the effect of its environment, and stores a faximily of that change, could be said to have a degree of! Concepts like "Sensient Universe" and the "Gaia" principle have been recently conceived.
Humanity's consciousness of aesthetics, beauty and art is really an awareness of the repeated patterns of the universe. Quantum physics is already converging with theology in our world. The more we see the patterns, the closer we come to see the "being" of the Universe and, as some might say, "God". Just as an aside and related to this, try this site: Fractal Patterns on our Planet" There are some good links at the end here too.
In the past, world religions have been solely based on faith, arising from very limited databases. This has lead to a wide variety of interpretations. The unfortunate but inevitable result has been wars, cruelty and persecution.
With this convergence of science with theology we can, or have a chance to, climb out of this dilemma and possibly survive on this planet.
Some point out that our senses limit the awareness which might be possible if we had even more. Telepathy and the like are often referred to in this respect. Awareness of extra "hidden" energy phenomena would be exciting to contemplate. Is there a scientific explanation for "ghosts"? What exactly is an "aura"? Perhaps we should not just dismiss these notions as mere fantasies of the deluded and try to keep an open mind. "There are more things in heaven and earth ....." Is something we should consider into our future.

Is there a universal right and wrong or does each individual invent a code of behavior in relation to his/her accumulated data-base in life? Will we be accountable for our actions in life or is the individual aspect of this irrelevant in the light of our "oneness with the universe "? There is, after all, no doubt that everything we do will have an effect on the universe. We strive to put these actions and effects into either "right or wrong" or "positive and negative". But, this classification itself may be redundant. Philosophers like the many Existentialists and Nihilists of recent times have wrestled with these kinds of questions. Of course, organized religions try to make it easier for us by citing rule books for us to blindly follow; complete with listed consequences of our various actions. I fear I have long since discarded the Judeo-Christian one and now follow my own version which refers to my own life's data base.

For myself, I await the new life I might have after I die but, I think, it will be one without any memory of this one. So will I have even existed? Or have I always existed?
Nuts? Well, nuts to you too! Anyway, to give you yet another perpective, you could also read this recent article: God and Philosophy in Hawking's Universe.