Author Archives: hugostrange2

The Most Common Reasons for Global Warming Skepticism (And Why They’re Wrong)

I’m always surprised at people who claim that global warming is little more than a liberal conspiracy, despite a worldwide scientific consensus and clear symptoms of rising global temperatures. The data is very clear from Science News. We have a changing climate and extreme heat is occurring more frequently. However, this rarely makes a large dent on climate change deniers’ skepticism. So I’m going to address two key common points that I’ve always heard in defense of their stance.

1. It’s a Conspiracy By Scientists

Why It Sounds Sensible: It’s common for those of a liberal persuasion to work in scientific fields, so isn’t there an element of bias into this consensus against large corporations and big oil?

Why It’s Total Bunk: Scientists around the globe are in agreement. That is a massive consensus measured in at least thousands. People from all over the Earth with different languages, cultures, and interests (many of which not particularly interested in the U.S. dollar value) agree that humans are altering the climate in some way. Scientists tend not to care about the economics of a country and more about the safety of mankind as a whole and their own scientific curiosity. It goes against the very code of ethics that scientists often take up for their lifelong search for truth. If humanity can’t even come together for an effective United Nations, then what makes you think that we can come together on this?

2. It’s Going to Slow the Economy

Why It Sounds Sensible: Oil, coal, and fracking companies create much needed labor jobs for an economically anemic America as well create further energy independence from foreign nations.

Why It’s Total Bunk: The argument is valid to an extent. But it’s often used in a false dilemma: support industry X or continue down an economic and foreign relation trainwreck. However, it’s always either derided or ignored that green energy industries can create jobs and opportunities. Currently, the research into solar, wind, and its kind are rapidly expanding. Even for labor forces that lack scientific training, there are jobs to be had in creating energy-efficient homes and power plants.

This article right here tells us that temperatures are changing and right now, we are experiencing major fallout from it as whole swaths of farmland have been wrecked from the heat. It’s insane to insist that even our very thermometers are lying to us about what is going on in the atmosphere. Climate change deniers, maybe it’s time to start opening your minds a little more. You may want to believe what you believe and change is a hard thing for everybody, but this sort of thing has massive consequences for us all and it’s time to entertain the thought that there may be something wrong with this view.

Frack You

Fracking is yet another charged issue in the United States. If every political issue were a dollar, we’d be able to pay off our national debt twice over, and still have enough to fund NASA. Hyperbole aside, fracking is an incredibly serious issue. It’s very fundamental and reflective of the eternal environmental argument: economy vs. conservation. Environmentalists argue that no amount of economic growth is worth irreversible damage to our own environment and capitalistic opposition tend to argue that no amount of conservation is worth the human suffering from economic slowdown. Now this report from threatens that endless clash. But not really.

Fracking is the use of high pressure water, sand, and chemicals to blast rock and release gas. Natural gas. Advocates can now back their claims that it will reduce carbon emissions as the report linked states that U.S. emissions from energy production dropped 2.4% in 2011 and further down 8% in the first quarter of 2012. It’s linked to the switch from coal plants to natural gas. However, the Energy Information Administration noted that it can’t be entirely the root cause as there was also more switching to hydropower around the same time. There is also the element of more hybrid cars on the road and changing driving routines as a result of higher gas prices. The information is muddled but it is cogent enough to make the case that natural gas and fracking is a progressive measure.

I wouldn’t make that case but others would. To me, fracking is too steeped in the same economic interests as oil companies are. My hesitation to embrace fracking also comes from reports of possible bribes to scientists and pollution to water. Even famous celebrities like Mark Ruffalo (aka The Incredible Hulk) are getting into the water pollution from the undisclosed chemicals used in fracking. The report about a drop in emissions with fracking appended as a cause can only make the issue more complicated and harder to argue for either side.

Green Energy: Real Job Creators

Job creator. Never before have four syllables created such rage. It is the buzzword that electrifies millions of Americans. With the recent recession and its anemic recovery, people want to know if they’re ever going to see better days and working hours. The current rhetoric on the right is that job creators can only come from rich people, which is a logical point. A concentration of wealth to “trickle down” to others in exchange for services, driving the economy. Though Paul Krugman begs to differ. As does Mary Ellen Ardouny of AmeriCorps who writes about a youth development program for, wait for it,

Still Waiting For It....

Source: CBS

Still waiting for it…


The Clean Energy Corps is a  program that would make Marshall Eriksen proud. Ardouny claims that more than 400 volunteers have gone to old houses and retrofitted them for energy efficiency and informing inhabitants about how to save energy, which would promote sustainability as well as save them money. Volunteers gain valuable job training and help conserve energy for a sustainable power grid.

This isn’t a new idea by any stretch of the imagination as this kind of corps model originates from FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps, which helped millions of Americans gain job training and protect natural environments. However, the relevance of the Clean Energy Corps is great in our current demand for both jobs and energy. Volunteers learn marketable job skills in the expanding field of green energy, even ex-convicts looking for a solid second chance. This is a wonderful opportunity for anyone looking to learn and maybe a get a job.

Biofuels: Starving the World?

Biofuels are a stepping stone to sustainable energy. Since biofuels still run on with internal combustion engines, it’s an excellent transition away from fossil fuels. The biofuel ethanol is made from corn, consuming great quantities for cars designed for it. However, the drought that has plagued midwestern states in North America have created widespread crop damage. The corn loss drives up food prices.  This was an issue before and it’s an official UN issue now, which I believe to be important in drawing attention to the flaws of ethanol.

In the article above, the UN director of Food and Agricultural Organization urges the U.S. to ease biofuel production for fear that there will be a food crisis. Now the UN really doesn’t hold significant power and functions more as an official mouthpiece for the world community. Most people tend to cite incidents like Rwanda and Iran to disparage their influence. However, it is an official global voice that can’t be easily dismissed.

This may be the first time in human history where we’re afraid of feeding more corn to machines than to actual human beings. It sounds absurd enough to be the plot of a sci-fi b-movie. The unfortunate truth is that we are facing the distinct possibility of a food shortage with this summer’s droughts.  Food is going to rise at least 6% in price. 6% doesn’t sound like much but remember that this accumulates similar to gas costs. With this potential food crisis on the horizon, I think it is important that we start recognizing the limitations of ethanol. The simple truth is that ethanol is not done in its technological journey. One of the biggest concerns of ethanol in the U.S. is the use of land in growing corn as it damages soil in the long term. Also, the amount of carbon dioxide produced is uncertain as there are mixed claims of ethanol cars producing more CO2 and corn fields absorbing enough to make up for the excess.

I’m not disparaging the advances on biofuels because these miraculous innovations are a fantastic transition away from fossil fuel cars and toward a more sustainable future. Right now, ethanol has a lot of valid criticisms at the moment. I point out these problems because critics would try to discourage biofuel advances with ethanol’s issues. I am insisting that we give the technology more time to mature and if we have to halt ethanol production to avoid a food shortage, so be it. But we shouldn’t use this as impetus to come to a screeching halt in advancing the technology. It’s only a speed bump and we’ll be over it shortly.

Eeyore and the Future of the Electric Car

Pessimism is a magical personality quality. Like Harry Potter, it belongs to everyone and it’s often dusted off when a new Twilight movie comes out. It draws down moods and gives grit to an otherwise clear picture. Yet at the same time, we need it to temper any complacency or illusion we have about things. In this case, we’re poking at the future of green automobiles. Steven Ashley, scientific writer, recently wrote a BBC column on how unlikely it is for gas-powered car to become outdated, making some very excellent points about the technological, political, and economic reality of the auto industry.

If you don’t want to read the whole thing, I get it. Here’s the snapshot about the future of automobiles: We’re not sure. We’re not sure about how easily electric vehicles can replace gas ones, especially trucks and 18-wheelers. We’re not sure about the cost and time invested in green power grids. It’s the simple truth that at this point in time in the research, we can’t say if fossil fuels will disappear from cars in our lifetime. Steven Ashley only offers the hope we’re making progress, such as lithium air batteries that can be an important step forward in a fully electric car.

While I think Steven Ashley makes excellent points on the reality of electric vehicles as they stand now, I think he might be jumping the gun on how much hope to assign to its future. I can understand how he can be tentative in admitting optimism; the science is still being worked out. The last time we had pie-in-the-sky designs on the future, Marty McFly was still playing on his hoverboard. But I personally have more faith in the thousands of brilliant and dedicated minds working on this problem. Our ability to discover things has been booming at a practically exponential rate. From particle physics to seedless watermelons, we’ve made leaps and bounds. I don’t think we should start slumping our shoulders and sighing like Eeyore about the state of electric cars. Instead we should be supporting and believing in our scientists and engineers. Steven Ashley gives excellent grounding to our expectations so if what happens falls short, it’s not a big deal. I can respect that. However, he cites what’s known for hope like lithium air batteries but things like hope are generally found in faith and faith is not grounded in what is known. It is grounded in what we wish.

I have faith in the hardworking scientists of the world. I have faith that there will be a breakthrough in my lifetime. In the meantime, I’m going to sigh like Eeyore. Not because I’m a mopey hypocrite. I just like Eeyore. That donkey was my introduction to existentialism at eight years of age.

Eeyore: The Ultimate Pessimist

Source: Wikipedia

Chin up. You’ll find that tail.

Sunny Side Up

What is the most under appreciated thing in your life? If you said your mom, you’re right. If you said electricity, you’re even more right.

Not that Right.

Electricity is something of a miracle in both modern life and a purely scientific sense, but it’s so commonplace that we’ve simply accepted it. However, even if the average person doesn’t contemplate their outlet, other people do. Well, more specifically, researchers at the University of Berkeley and U.S. Department of Energy do. These fantastic (and likely under appreciated) people have pioneered a way for solar cells to be made from any semiconductor, such as relatively cheap metal oxides or phosphides. This is a tremendous step forward to sustainability.

Metal oxides and phosphides were previously too unstable to be used. Also, the chemical treatment that could stabilize them was so cost ineffective that it was better to use existing rare and expensive semiconductors like silicon or cadmium telluride.

So why is this a big deal?

For environmental enthusiasts, this means that solar panels can be created at a far cheaper rate and going off grid has become easier. For political people, it means an opening has been made to reduce demand for rare earth materials from China. For everybody else, it means potentially cheaper, renewable energy. Renewable energy is the thousand dollar prize here and what’s more renewable than a 4.5 billion year old ball of nuclear fire?

All State and Dennis Haysbert: Together again

Source: WordPress

Your car insurance?

Solar energy is usually derided for not being cost-effective and that’s because it’s expensive to build solar panels and the resultant conversion of light to useful energy barely ever touches more than 30%. However, solar panels are still being researched alongside its far more popular cousin, the combustion engine. Combustion engines are still being worked on to improve fuel efficiency because despite more than a century of development, the full potential energy of a gallon of gas isn’t being tapped, which is dangerously wasteful given that we have only so much oil and so many automobiles. With this in mind, detractors should give solar panels time to mature as they do with the combustion engine. Renewable energy is not just about reducing reliance on fossil fuels but also about planning for sustainability. In essence, I am talking about the long game where every human being from this point on will be playing in. Billions upon billions of people that we may never see but will forever affect.

So let’s appreciate this step forward as much as we do our mothers.

Sustainability: Buzzword Extraordinaire

Buzzwords are the highest form of lie. If I talked about Web 2.0, crowdsourcing, and metrics all the time, people might make the mistake of thinking that I know what I’m talking about. Nowadays, anybody can appear to be an expert with a strong wi-fi signal, especially people who write on the internet.

Hi, there.

Sustainability is my word of the day because despite having used it all the time, I realize that I have no idea what it means. Specifically, I have no idea if it means the same thing to me as it does to everybody else. I’ve had a number of responses to what it means that range from vague—

To good old fashioned B.S. I call this guy Steve Holt.

To the nonsensical.

However, I like the word and don’t want to throw anybody off from my use of it. Sustainability has become something of a buzzword. Buzzwords are often used to cover up how little the person knows about the subject. In this case, environmentalism. Environmental poseurs love the crap out of this term and its kin like “biodiversity” or “organically grown” since it gives the appearance of knowledge and wisdom. And that’s all it is in the end. It is appearance. Inside this blog, this word is only going to be used the way words are meant to be used: communication. The means to convey what I think to whomever may be listening, either with their eyes, ears, or whatever Google fixes up in the future.

Sustainability in my little corner of the internet means “responsible natural resource management in the long game” or more simply “live within your means”. The long game is living as a whole species. As it stands right now, there are reports that we’re consuming 50% more resources than the Earth actually has. Essentially, we’re that sorority girl who thinks a credit card is a plastic wand and American Apparel is Hogwarts. It’s not “sustainable”. And as we’ve learned from our recent recession, we can’t take on debts that we can never pay back. In the confines of this blog, sustainability is a buzzword that will transform into a real word with real substance and authenticity that add to a discussion. And that is my mandate for this blog: to be authentic and substantial to the environmental discussion.

Welcome to Embracing Our Environment.