Jean Marc Jancovici on Radio Eco Shock

14 11 2018

I’ve just listened to his podcast, and it’s a must listen item……  you will not be disappointed!

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jean-marc-jancoviciDid you know energy is free, and Peak Oil is not dead? That comes from a French expert in technology, energy, and climate, Jean-Marc Jancovici. Jean-Marc co-founded Carbone 4 consultancy, and The Shift Project. He advises, writes books, and lectures mostly in French, but his ideas resonate with American writers like Richard Heinberg.

We have a special treat for you this week: the world premiere of an English language in-depth radio interview with Jean-Marc JancoviciJean-Marc is well known in Europe and beyond. He is a Professor, an author of several books, the latest being “Sleep quiet until 2100, and other misunderstandings about climate and energy” (French only, translation pending?). Jancovici is also a member of ASPO France, the Association for the Study of Peak Oil.

Listen to or download this Radio Ecoshock show in CD Quality (57 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

In a Foreword to the book by Bernard Durand, Jean-Marc writes

The only question, so to say, is when the peak occurs (and should we trigger it for environmental reasons, or wait for it to happen for other reasons?), at what level, and with what consequences. The oil production of the North Sea peaked in 2000, and the world production of conventional oil (everything except tar sands and shale oil) peaked in 2006, so this is no virtual process!

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Musings on a wedding, a funeral, and another road trip….

13 11 2018

About a month ago, I was woken up at the crack of dawn by my mobile phone ringing…. this can’t be good news I figured. It was my darling wife who informed me I had to be at Hobart airport by mid-day, she’d booked me on a flight to Brisbane that was scheduled to leave at 1PM…. her mother, she informed me, was probably going to die that day, or some time very soon, and I was needed for moral support, among other things…….

Obviously, I staggered out of bed, packed my bags, forced breakfast down, and cleaned up my mess at the building site.

I had originally been booked a week or more later to attend a wedding, and everything was now up in the air – literally – as I sat in one of those amazing aluminium tubes that can fly you thousands of kilometres in the blink of an eye lid, thanks to those irreplaceable fossil fuels…..

It was warm and sunny when I left Tassie, and pouring rain and cold when I arived in Brisbane. I had planned for this, carrying a raincoat on board. My son picked me up in Brisbane and drove me through peak hour traffic to Caloundra where my mother in law Bettywas going to spend her last three days before calmly passing away, unconscious, I think. It was a lot like turning the ignition off a very old and tired motorcar that had simply reached the end of the road…..

At 94, darling old Betty, who has been the kindest and most generous mother in law one could have wished for simply stopped breathing as her heart finally gave up. Without Glenda’s unflinching care, she would most likely have left us five years ago, at least. Because her death came as no surprise, and everyone had prepared for the inevitable, the whole episode, while sad, didn’t cause cascades of grief and tears such as I have experienced in previous such events……. virtually everyone was relieved she’d had a painless and stress free death, the type I could only wish for myself.

In reality, organising the funeral with all of Glenda’s siblings having different ideas on how it should be held, was the hardest part for me, trying to keep the peace between them all……  there was a really funny moment while going through the ordeal of choosing a coffin when, a product called ‘eco-board’ was offered. Everyone turned to me, as if it was my decision to make, with eyes wide open obviously asking did I think it was a good idea? I thought it was, but it was quickly dismissed…….

At the wake, everyone stayed civil, a real bonus if you ask me….. the real upside to all of this of course is that Glenda will finally join me in Tassie, for good. Now we are both staring down the barrel of end of life too, we’re going to make the most of it, let me tell you!

The wedding, fortunately, was about a week later, giving everyone in the family time to recover. In a previous life, I photographed hundreds of weddings, and I suddenly realised I hadn’t been to one in a good  20 years. It was amazing how the photography side of things has completely changed since I gave up real photography, with film in the camera! Back then, every shot had to count. If I screwed one up, I would know, and got upset with myself……. but not today. There were four photographers (one was video) who were dressed rather informally in shorts and sandals! I would never have dreamed of turning up without a tie, but there you go…… and they were firing those cameras at unbelievable rates, I’m sure they took thousands of photos…..

It took all my self control when the usual guff about what a lovely future they were going to have together, with lots of children, to not groan out loud…… ignorance truly is bliss.

The best bit about weddings is that you usually end up having your photo taken looking rather better than in building or gardening gear…..!

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I scrub up pretty good for an old fart……

Me being me of course, I could not help thinking of the environmental cost of this whole thing, with the groom’s family all coming up from Sydney by aluminium tube (to the Gold Coast Hinterland where it was held), and all the driving, not least the antique bridal limo that came up from Brisbane, overheating up the hill on a scorcher of a day…. even we ended up doing 560km in Little Suzi, which at least was returning 4.4L/100km with the aircon going flat out…..  How long before love miles become impossible?

I had planned on flying back to Tassie to get stuck into some serious work before I put on too much weight, but having got quotes to truck Glenda’s Little Suzi to at least Melbourne, it was decided I should drive it to Tassie myself……… trucking to Melbourne was at least $600, to Geeveston, double that. And I would have had to pay for an air fare to boot…

So, we packed Little Suzi with as much stuff as would fit in it with the seats folded down, which I estimate at about one cubic metre, and around 250kg. Little Suzi is no ute, but she only consumed $240 worth of 98 octane for the entire trip!

Glenda and I drove to Brisbane where we had a farewell dinner with our kids. I woke up Little Suzi at 5:30AM and drove straight to Warwick for breakfast. I wish there had been some place to stop on the climb up Cunningham’s Gap to take some photos, because I had never seen it like this early in the morning light, with clouds half way up the mountains….

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Little Suzi did about 1000km that day, a scorcher at that with 35 degrees most of the way down from Goondiwindi to Farm Hill where I stopped for the night in this quaint old hotel that only cost me $40 for the night….  mind you, at 5AM the pub was all shut up, and I had to climb over a fence to get back to the main road where the car was parked overnight!

As I had made a sizeable dent in the trip to Melbourne to catch the ferry, the next day was a leisurely drive to Wagga where I caught up with my mate Dave. Off the main drag now, I was able to slow down and take my time, saving fuel in the process. I made it all IMG_20181105_080751the way to Wodonga in Victoria on a single tank – bear in mind she only holds 35L – for an average consumption of 4.5L/100km…… and as I drove further and further South, and it got cooler and I was able to sit on 90 in the left lane of the Hume Highway, consumption got better and better…

I eventually made Melbourne, guided by my GPS that took me places I didn’t know existed, arriving at the Spirit of Tasmania terminal with several hours to kill. I found Frankie’s cafe in Port Melbourne where I had a delicious vegetarian lunch and great coffee……  speaking of which I stocked up at an ALDI store with their great organic and fair trade variety before queuing up to get on board.

The Spirit people have improved their computer systems, as I was greeted with “HelloIMG_20181105_165459 Mike” and not needing to show ID or my pension card! Little Suzi was eventually driven into the bowels of the ship – I’m sure it was below the waterline – parked behind a classic BMW 635 Csi, an entirely different car! It was very amusing next morning seeing drivers trying to exit the ferry, obviously having no idea how to unpark a car in tight conditions, even when guided by the staff….

I was home just after lunch, having filled up in Huonville….. I had driven Little Suzi right through Victoria and Tasmania on just 28.8L of petrol for a fuel consumption of 4.24L/100km! If anyone tells you you must have a big car to travel long distances, tell ’em they’re dreaming……

I’ve now spent a week cutting grass….. nearly a metre tall. Can’t believe how it all went berserk in just four weeks…….





The Hopium of the people

8 11 2018

The Consciousness of Sheep has published another important article. I first came across the impossibility of carbon capture and storage as a silver bullet for ‘solving’ climate change while listening to Kevin Anderson speaking on the matter…….  he says CCS is assumed to work in the future and adopted in ALL of the IPCC’s scenario, even the bleakest 6-8 degrees C rise by 2100. Yet, not one single attempt at this technology has come close to working or being economically viable. And it won’t because it’s literally the stupidest idea yet, even if George Monbiot’s latest garbage comes a close second….

It was this realisation that eventually drove me to accepting nothing but de-industrialisation would save us now…….

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If it sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is.  That, at least, is the approach I’m taking to the flurry of crowd-funder videos currently doing the rounds on social media, promoting technologies that suck carbon out of the atmosphere.  As with a raft of other faux-green technologies that were hawked around social media, like solar roadways, waterseers and hyperloops, the machine that can suck carbon dioxide out of the air will never fulfill its promise.

To understand why, consider that the atmosphere is very big – roughly 5.5 quadrillion tons of gas.  But the carbon dioxide content is very small – just over 405 parts per million.  And humans release around 40 billion tons of the stuff every year.  So any machine that is going to attempt the task – even assuming 100 percent efficiency – would need to hoover up 2,470 tons of atmosphere to capture just 1 ton of carbon dioxide; and it would have to do this roughly a thousand times a second to keep up with our ongoing emissions.

 

Even when fitted to chimneys – where the carbon dioxide is at least concentrated – carbon capture technologies have proved excessively expensive in both financial and energy terms.  There is little point deploying technologies that are so energy-intensive that they themselves depend upon fossil fuels to power them.  However, this issue pales into insignificance when compared to the difficulty of storing any carbon dioxide that is captured.  As Kevin Bullis warned a few years ago in MIT Technology Review:

“Even if costs are made far lower than they are today, the impact of carbon capture will be limited by the sheer scale of infrastructure needed to store carbon dioxide… Vaclav Smil, a professor at University of Manitoba and master of sobering energy-related numbers, calculates that if we were to bury just one-fifth of the global carbon dioxide emissions, we would need to build an industry capable of handling twice the volume of stuff as the entire oil industry, an industry that took 100 years to develop, driven by a large and mostly expanding market.”

Selling captured carbon might provide a means of financing some limited deployment of carbon capture technology.  However, as Bullis notes, ironically:

“One market is for enhanced oil recovery; that is, injecting carbon dioxide into oil wells to increase the amount of oil they can produce. The carbon dioxide would stay underground. In some cases, this technique could double the amount of oil that comes out of a well. And, of course, burning that oil emits a fair amount of carbon dioxide.”

One reason why so many of us might be prepared to stump up the cash to fund carbon capture technologies – both those hawked around social media and those on laboratory benches in our universities – is that the alternative is too bleak to face up to.  As Mayer Hillman at the Guardian notes:

“There are three options in tackling climate change. Only one will work… the first and only effective course, albeit a deeply unpopular one, would be to stop using any fossil fuels. The second would be to voluntarily minimise their use as much as climate scientists have calculated would deliver some prospect of success. Finally, we can carry on as we are by aiming to meet the growth in demand for activities dependent on fossil fuels, allowing market forces to mitigate the problems that such a course of action generates – and leave it to the next generation to set in train realistic solutions (if that is possible), that the present one has been unable to find…”

The stark reality, of course is that “we” are not going to do anything about climate change.  This is because – in the US, UK and EU where lifestyles will need to change the most – there is no “we,” but rather an increasingly polarised “us” and “them.”  Andy Stone at Forbes alludes to this when he says:

“Summing up, the path to least climate impact will require nations to work together to cut global carbon emissions by 45% in just over a decade.”

“Such a cut in emissions will require an unprecedented degree of political will and global cooperation…

“Yet, despite the major political barriers to dramatic near-term emissions cuts, a terrifying realization is that such action is, in fact, the most realistic option available to hold climate change in check. Of the climate action pathways modeled by the IPCC, the scenario that requires boldest action in the near term is the only one that doesn’t also require a leap of faith that a suite of uneconomic, logistically challenging, and ultimately unproven negative emissions technologies will in fact deliver us from our collective peril.”

In more egalitarian societies in which the gap between rich and poor is narrower, an “unprecedented degree of political will” might be possible.  However, after decades of neoliberal politics and economics, only massive sacrifices on the part of the very wealthy are likely to prevent a further drift toward a climate change denying populism among the majority of impoverished citizens.  Speaking to the likelihood of the affluent making such sacrifices, Hillman points out that:

“Remarkably, public expectations about the future indicate that only minor changes in the carbon-based aspects of our lifestyles are anticipated. It is as if people can continue to believe that they have an inalienable right to travel as far and as frequently as they can afford. Indeed, there is a widespread refusal by politicians to admit to the fact the process of melting ice caps contributing to sea level rises, and permafrost thawing in tundra regions cannot now be stopped, let alone reversed.”

Even those – like Hillman and Stone – who have dropped the techno-rose-tinted glasses and acknowledged the huge changes to our lifestyles that are needed to reverse the climate damage that has already been done are oblivious to the consequences of that change.  More than six out of every seven people alive today only exist because of the Haber–Bosch process that produces synthetic ammonia (fertiliser) from fossil fuels.  Any genuine effort at reversing climate change had to have as its starting point a reduction in the human population at least to the level prior to the (industrial agriculture) “Green Revolution;” less than half of today’s population.  Instead – with a great deal of help from religions that implore us to go forth and multiply, and economists that need a new base for the global Ponzi scheme – we have grown our population as fast as agricultural productivity has improved.

Comic actor/director Woody Allen summed up our predicament thus:

“More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness; the other to total extinction.  Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.”

The choice before us is that we can take action to reverse climate change and a lot of people are going to die.  Alternatively, we can do nothing about climate change and a lot of people are going to die.  And since nobody has the wisdom or the bravery to make that choice, we can all sit around pretending that some incredibly implausible technology is going to come riding to our rescue… the opium of the people indeed.





It’s going to require something drastic……

30 10 2018

Like…..  maybe…..  DE-INDUSTRIALIZATION?





Want to fight climate change? Have fewer children

30 10 2018

Most people think that selling your car, avoiding flights and going vegetarian are the best strategies for fighting climate change, but in fact, according to a study into true impacts of different green lifestyle choices, having fewer children beats all those actions by a very long margin…….

I’ve been saying this for years and years, but the graphic below might just about convince anyone……..

The greatest impact individuals can have in fighting climate change is to have one fewer child, according to a new study that identifies the most effective ways people can cut their carbon emissions.

The next best actions are selling your car, avoiding long flights, and eating a vegetarian diet. These reduce emissions many times more than common green activities, such as recycling, using low energy light bulbs or drying washing on a line. However, the high impact actions are rarely mentioned in government advice and school textbooks, researchers found.

Carbon emissions must fall to two tonnes of CO2 per person by 2050 to avoid severe global warming, but in the US and Australia emissions are currently 16 tonnes per person and in the UK seven tonnes. “That’s obviously a really big change and we wanted to show that individuals have an opportunity to be a part of that,” said Kimberly Nicholas, at Lund University in Sweden and one of the research team.

The new study, published in Environmental Research Letters, sets out the impact of different actions on a comparable basis. By far the biggest ultimate impact is having one fewer child, which the researchers calculated equated to a reduction of 58 tonnes of CO2 for each year of a parent’s life.

The figure was calculated by totting up the emissions of the child and all their descendants, then dividing this total by the parent’s lifespan. Each parent was ascribed 50% of the child’s emissions, 25% of their grandchildren’s emissions and so on.

The graphic shows how much CO2 can be saved through a range of different actions.
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“We recognise these are deeply personal choices. But we can’t ignore the climate effect our lifestyle actually has,” said Nicholas. “It is our job as scientists to honestly report the data. Like a doctor who sees the patient is in poor health and might not like the message ‘smoking is bad for you’, we are forced to confront the fact that current emission levels are really bad for the planet and human society.”

Besides, who in their right mind would want to bring children into this dysfunctional world? Oh wait……  nobody is in their right mind!





Meet Joel Salatin……

29 10 2018

I’ve been following Salatin for years, and he is truly inspiring…….  my goal is to run the Fanny Farm as a scaled down version of Polyface Farm……. I do wish he wouldn’t put all ‘greenies’ in the same basket though!

The following post originally appeared on the Polyface Farms Facebook page.

Cows at Polyface Farm. Photo by Amber Karnes.

The recent editorial by James McWilliams, titled “The Myth of Sustainable Meat,” contains enough factual errors and skewed assumptions to fill a book, and normally I would dismiss this out of hand as too much nonsense to merit a response. But since it specifically mentioned Polyface, a rebuttal is appropriate. For a more comprehensive rebuttal, read the book Folks, This Ain’t Normal.

Let’s go point by point. First, that grass-grazing cows emit more methane than grain-fed ones. This is factually false. Actually, the amount of methane emitted by fermentation is the same whether it occurs in the cow or outside. Whether the feed is eaten by an herbivore or left to rot on its own, the methane generated is identical. Wetlands emit some 95 percent of all methane in the world; herbivores are insignificant enough to not even merit consideration. Anyone who really wants to stop methane needs to start draining wetlands. Quick, or we’ll all perish. I assume he’s figuring that since it takes longer to grow a beef on grass than on grain, the difference in time adds days to the emissions. But grain production carries a host of maladies far worse than methane. This is simply cherry-picking one negative out of many positives to smear the foundation of how soil builds: herbivore pruning, perennial disturbance-rest cycles, solar-grown biomass, and decomposition. This is like demonizing marriage because a good one will include some arguments.

Apparently if you lie often and big enough, some people will believe it: Pastured chicken has a 20 percent greater impact on global warming? Says who? The truth is that those industrial chicken houses are not stand-alone structures. They require square miles of grain to be carted into them, and square miles of land to handle the manure. Of course, many times that land is not enough. To industrial farmers’ relief, more often than not a hurricane comes along just in time to flush the toilet, kill the fish, and send pathogens into the ocean. That’s a nice way to reduce the alleged footprint, but it’s devilish sleight of hand with the data to assume that ecological toxicity compensates for the true land base needed to sustain a factory farm.

While it’s true that at Polyface our omnivores (poultry and pigs) do eat local GMO (genetically modified organism)-free grain in addition to the forage, the land base required to feed and metabolize the manure is no different than that needed to sustain the same animals in a confinement setting. Even if they ate zero pasturage, the land is the same. The only difference is our animals get sunshine, exercise, fresh pasture salad bars, fresh air, and a respectful life. Chickens walking on pasture certainly do not have any more leg sprains than those walking in a confinement facility. To suggest otherwise, as McWilliams does, is sheer nonsense. Walking is walking — and it’s generally considered to be a healthy practice, unless you’re a tyrant.

Interestingly, in a lone concession to compassion, McWilliams decries ranging hogs with rings in their noses to keep them from rooting, lamenting that this is “one of their most basic instincts.” Notice that he does not reconcile this moral imperative with his love affair with confinement hog factories. Nothing much to use their noses for in there. For the record, Polyface never rings hog noses, and in the few cases where we’ve purchased hogs with rings, we take them out. We want them to fully express their pigness. By moving them frequently using modern electric fencing, polyethylene water piping, high-tech float valves, and scientifically designed feed dispensers, we do not create nor suffer the problems encountered by earlier large-scale outdoor hog operations 100 years ago. McWilliams has apparently never had the privilege of visiting a first-rate, modern, highly managed, pastured hog operation. He thinks we’re all stuck in the early 1900s, and that’s a shame because he’d discover the answers to his concerns are already here. I wonder where his paycheck comes from?

Then McWilliams moves on to the argument that economic realities would kick in if pastured livestock became normal, driving farmers to scale up and end up right where we are today. What a clever ploy: justify the horrible by eliminating the alternatives. At Polyface, we certainly do not discourage scaling up — we actually encourage it. We think more pasture-based farms should scale up. Between the current abysmal state of mismanagement, however, and efficient operations, is an astronomical opportunity to enjoy economic and ecological advantages. McWilliams is basing his data and assumptions on the poorest, the average or below. If you want to demonize something, always pick the lowest performers. But if you compare the best the industry has to offer with the best the pasture-based systems have to offer, the factory farms don’t have a prayer. Using portable infrastructure, tight management, and techno-glitzy tools, farmers running pastured hog operations practically eliminate capitalization costs and vet bills.

Finally, McWilliams moves to the knock-out punch in his discussion of nutrient cycling, charging specifically that Polyface is a charade because it depends on grain from industrial farms to maintain soil fertility. First of all, at Polyface we do not assume that all nutrient movement is anti-environmental. In fact, one of the biggest reasons for animals in nature is to move nutrients uphill, against the natural gravitational flow from high ground to low ground. This is why low lands and valleys are fertile and the uplands are less so. Animals are the only mechanism nature has to defy this natural downward flow. Fortunately, predators make the prey animals want to lounge on high ground (where they can see their enemies), which insures that manure will concentrate on high lookout spots rather than in the valleys. Perhaps this is why no ecosystem exists that is devoid of animals. The fact is that nutrient movement is inherently nature-healing.

But, it doesn’t move very far. And herein lies the difference between grain used at Polyface and that used by the industry: We care where ours comes from. It’s not just a commodity. It has an origin and an ending, start to finish, farmer to eater. The closer we can connect the carbon cycles, the more environmentally normal we will become.

Second, herbivores are the exception to the entire negative nutrient flow argument because by pruning back the forage to restart the rapid biomass accumulation photosynthetic engine, the net carbon flow compensates for anything lost through harvest. Herbivores do not require tillage or annuals, and that is why all historically deep soils have been created by them, not by omnivores. It’s fascinating that McWilliams wants to demonize pasture-based livestock for not closing all the nutrient loops, but has no problem, apparently, with the horrendous nutrient toxicity like dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico the size of New Jersey created by chemical fertilizer runoff to grow grain so that the life of a beef could be shortened. Unbelievable. In addition, this is one reason Polyface continues to fight for relaxing food safety regulations to allow on-farm slaughtering, precisely so we can indeed keep all these nutrients on the farm and not send them the rendering plants. If the greenies who don’t want historically normal farm activities like slaughter to occur on rural acreage could understand how devastating these government regulations actually are to the environmental economy, perhaps McWilliams wouldn’t have this bullet in his arsenal. And yes, human waste should be put back on the land as well, to help close the loop.

Third, at Polyface, we struggle upstream. Historically, omnivores were salvage operations. Hogs ate spoiled milk, whey, acorns, chestnuts, spoiled fruit, and a host of other farmstead products. Ditto for chickens, who dined on kitchen scraps and garden refuse. That today 50 percent of all the human edible food produced in the world goes into landfills or greenie-endorsed composting operations rather than through omnivores is both ecologically and morally reprehensible. At Polyface, we’ve tried for many, many years to get kitchen scraps back from restaurants to feed our poultry, but the logistics are a nightmare. The fact is that in America we have created a segregated food and farming system. In the perfect world, Polyface would not sell eggs. Instead, every kitchen, both domestic and commercial, would have enough chickens proximate to handle all the scraps. This would eliminate the entire egg industry and current heavy grain feeding paradigm. At Polyface, we only purport to be doing the best we can do as we struggle through a deviant, historically abnormal food and farming system. We didn’t create what is and we may not solve it perfectly. But we’re sure a lot farther toward real solutions than McWilliams can imagine. And if society would move where we want to go, and the government regulators would let us move where we need to go, and the industry would not try to criminalize us as we try to go there, we’ll all be a whole lot better off and the earthworms will dance.

AND here’s a lecture Joel gave in Australia last year……..





A reality check on Renewable Energy

23 10 2018

Hat tip to my friend Shane who put me onto this TedX lecture…….  well worth sharing with your ecotopian friends! It does show how Australia – and Canada –  with very low population densities, are in not a bad position, except of course for the fact they are nowhere near the places with high densitity populations. You can’t beat arithmetics and physics…….

How much land mass would renewables need to power a nation like the UK? An entire country’s worth. In this pragmatic talk, David MacKay tours the basic mathematics that show worrying limitations on our sustainable energy options and explains why we should pursue them anyway. (Filmed at TEDxWarwick.) Lesson by David MacKay.