Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The magic of mushrooms

Here is Paul Stamets presenting "6 ways mushrooms can save the world". The presentation seems terribly rushed. I had trouble understanding some of it, but found these links useful: Prototaxites, medicinal uses of fungi, mycoremediation, mycofiltration. He even suggests using mycellium to convert cellulose into fungal sugars which can be turned into ethanol.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Bicycle safety

More and more people are taking to their bikes as a means of transport. Here is a film by the (US) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on safely driving, fitting and maintaining a bicycle.

They also have a leaflet about cycle safety.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Diseconomies of Scale

Last weekend I was at Moncton Market and picked up an interesting booklet at a table selling environmental cleaning products. It was produced by the Conservation Council of New Brunswick and titled 'Roadmap to a self-sufficient energy future' (pdf).

They report that New Brunswick is already experiencing the effects of climate change. The snow pack in the southern part of the province is only half the long-term average; extreme weather events have risen five fold; sea level is up 30 cm; the average annual temperature up 0.7C.

Greenhouse gas emissions in NB are up 37% from 1990-2005 and the province is the third highest per-capita emitter in Canada. The government has committed to get back to 1990 levels by 2012, and 10% below that figure by 2020. The problem is, New Brunswick Power is responsible for over half of the province's emissions, and while they do use hydro and wind power, every year they send $500 million out of the province to purchase nuclear and fossil fuels.

These are used in large and inefficient power plants. Coleson Cove, Belledune and Point Lepreau run at about 30% efficiency. They tend to be located a long way from where the power is needed, resulting in further transmission line losses. They dump large amounts of heat into the ocean.

What the Conservation Council of New Brunswick are proposing is a move to smaller combined heat and power stations which typically run in excess of 70% efficiency and can be as high as 80% or more. They would be powered by locally produced biomass, creating employment and keeping money in the province.

Since the 1980's it has been widely acknowledged that larger power plants are inefficient, expensive and time consuming to build, and down-time for repairs is hard to manage. Smaller systems however can be mass produced, more easily financed and rapidly deployed. They are faster and easier to maintain, and down-time of one generator has much less impact on the whole system. This is what is termed the Diseconomies of Scale.

NB Power Nuclear are considering building a second reactor at the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station. Elizabeth May, writing in her blog about the inability of AECL to commission two medical isotope reactors at Chalk River, Ontario, asks the Government of New Brunswick:

Are you sure you want to buy a reactor from AECL that so far is only at the design stage? That's what the MAPLE reactors were. Reactors on paper. Why would anyone have confidence in AECL? Why go with a nuclear reactor when New Brunswick has so many other options?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bus ridership increasing

I heard on the CBC recently that transit companies in both Halifax and St.John are seeing increased ridership. With the cost of gas, this is hardly surprising.

Other areas are reporting similar increases. In Colorado, bus driver Chris Gray says he has seen plenty of evidence that people are using transit as an alternative to driving themselves. In Michigan ridership is up 7% this year, and "Gas prices are doing what all the practical and common-sense arguments for mass transit have been unable to do -- driving people to change". In Bournemouth, England, figures show the number of bus passenger journeys has increased by 18 per cent in the last year. In Adelaide ridership is up 18% since 2000 and some services are reaching capacity.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Seed bomb your neighbourhood

Do you live in an urban environment full of unkempt vacant lots? Why not seed bomb them and add a little beauty to the 'hood? Here's how.

Read more about seed bombing and Guerrilla gardening on wikipedia.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Climate change in Canada

Climate change is already creating serious problems in Canada. Here is a video of Elizabeth May addressing the Global Greens Conference in Sao Paulo earlier this month.

The text of the speech is here if you prefer.