Tag Archives: trees

Friday Linkage 1/10/2020

Although it looks like the Trump administration is backing down from an actual war with Iran as you would expect the schoolyard bully to do when presented with a combatant that is unwilling to gamely play along, it shocks me that we have a Republican president yet again selling a case for a war in the Middle East.

Is there something in the air at Fox News that makes these people so eager for war in the Middle East?

On to the links…

7 High-Impact Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions—Make 2020 the year that you make changes in your lifestyle that are climate positive in a large way.

Can We Live The Good Life With Less Energy?—The answer is an unequivocal yes.  However, the shocking thing to me is that we can really live a pretty good and modern life on a surprisingly lower amount of energy compared to what we are using today.

How We Cut Our Electricity Usage by 85%—I am not saying that everyone needs to go to this level of reduction, but it shows what is possible.

2,000 Gigawatts of Solar Power Needed for 100% Renewables—All right, now we have a number to work towards.

These Three European Countries Broke Major Renewables Records In 2019—Here is the punch line: Denmark at 50%, the United Kingdom at 26.5%, and Germany at 46%.  These are the percentages of power that are coming from truly renewable energy sources for 2019 in those countries.

Parking Has Eaten American Cities—This is when I knew we had a problem with parking in the United States.  At my place of work, your car will get more space than you are allocated in a cubicle.

How Ghent got Rid of Cars and Transformed the City in a Decade—If done properly, the reduction or elimination of cars from our urbanized landscape is effective and popular.  People really do not like cars save for the dream of convenience that is all but gone in modern circumstances.

It’s Time To Let Go Of Commuter Culture—No one is asking people to give up cars for the things that they enjoy, but commuter culture needs to die.  No one likes trudging along in gridlock.  No one.

National Trust to Plant 20 million Trees in UK Over Next Decade—Why not 20 million trees over the next two years?

‘Like sending bees to war’: The Deadly Truth Behind Your Almond-Milk Obsession—I want 2020 to be the year that we just sort of give up on milk and its plant-based replacements.  Except for oat milk.  That one seems to come without a lot of problems.  Probably because oats are just kind of awesome.

The Decade Lettuce Tried To Kill Us—Maybe it is time that we gave up on the vegetable that was once described as a fancy way to basically transport water from one place to another.

What is Private Equity, and Why is it Killing Everything You Love?—If you hear someone in an expensive suit say, “I’m from a private equity firm and we are here to help” it is the end times for your business.  The business model is predicated on making more money than is possible in traditional investing with no regard for anything else.

Smart Garbage Disposal Composts Your Food Scraps instead of Grinding Them Up—If this thing actually works, I want one.

Final Report on 2019 “Resolutions”

It is time to take stock of my so-called New Year’s resolutions for 2019 and see how I did.

Without further ado, here is the list:

  • Decarbonize transportation—My 2015 Nissan Leaf has been in the garage for about a year.  Over that time ~7,987 miles at an average efficiency of 5.2 miles per kWh. The Leaf saved ~9,119 pounds of CO2 being emitted compared to my prior vehicle.  Furthermore, I added ~62% generating capacity to my home’s solar photovoltaic array so for 2020 I should be driving on sunshine 100% of the time.
  • No more Amazon—A little bit of failure and a little bit of success. I definitely spent a lot less money at Amazon than in prior years, but it speaks to the company’s ubiquity that I ended up buying anything at all.  Want to buy that odd little gadget?  Guess what, Amazon is about the only place to find fulfillment.
  • No more Walmart—A little more success as I the only trips to Walmart were few and far between for the year. Over the course of the entire holiday shopping season it never entered into my mind to even shop there.  Once a store is no longer part of your “consideration set” that has to be considered a success.
  • Read twenty five books—51 books read.
  • Drink local—Pretty good, but I think I can do better in 2020.
  • Declutter my house—Fail. My family and I spent some time getting rid of old clothes and other stuff that was taking up space in our closets.  However, it feels like we replaced whatever we got rid of over the course of the year.  I know that I will never be a fervent follower of Marie Kondo’s methods nor will I ever embrace modern minimalism.  I thought I could do a little better.
  • Replace existing toilets with low volume flush models—One toilet was replaced. A second toilet is scheduled to be replaced in January.  The third toilet in the house does not get enough use to merit replacement at this time.
  • Plant at least five trees—Two Norway spruce trees are in the ground.  Three Colorado blue spruce trees in the ground. Mission accomplished.
  • Reduce lawn coverage—Fail. I had the best of intentions to start replacing some of my lawn with mixed plantings and landscaped beds.  While I got the trees in the ground the rest of the plan did not come together.  This is where I am going to focus my 2020 landscaping efforts.
  • Ride 2,500 miles on gravel roads—Over 3,000 miles ridden on the year. Mission accomplished.

 

For 2020 I am going to try and build on what was done in 2019.  The goal is to improve each year.  Different goals or different metrics, but the overall theme is improvement.

Stay tuned!

Friday Linkage 12/6/2019

I drive by the signs advertising Ronald Reagan’s childhood home frequently when traveling to the Chicagoland area.  It is just too delicious that the patron saint of government bashing’s house is going to be administered by the government.

Or maybe the problem is that people really do not care all that much about hypocrites like Ronald Reagan.

On to the links…

The Economics behind Planting Billions and Billions of Trees–To bastardize a saying of Michael Pollan’s, “Plant trees, on appropriate land, mostly native species.”  It is a simple action that really has no downside. If we focus on areas that have been logged, burned over, or denuded by other means it will reintroduce tree cover to appropriate lands.

The World’s Top 10 Carbon Dioxide Emitters–Take a look:

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The future of the Earth rests in the hands of China, the United States, and India.

This Energy Transition Is Different. Here’s Why–I applaud Andy Stone for pointing out that the key ingredient missing in the transition to a fossil free future is sufficient political will on the part of all politicians, but particularly those leaning with a conservative bent.  Our politics are bought and paid for by fossil fuels.

Spain Might Be The World’s Most Important Climate Test–How did we end up in an era where our political choices are being defined by progressives facing off against neo-fascists?

CO2-Eating Bacteria Made in the Lab Could Help Tackle Climate Change–Does this sound like the beginning to a young adult dystopian novel?

Let’s Implement a Luxury Carbon Tax, because not all Carbon is Created Equally–Let’s start with first class and business class airline flights.  Say $25 per ticket. All funds to be spent on reforestation.

Renewables are Not Making Electricity any More Expensive–Economics is a health of a thing.

Utilities Running Uneconomic Coal Plants Cost Consumers $3.5 Billion From 2015-2017–Coal is costing you money.

Average Battery Prices Fell To $156 Per kWh In 2019–Here is the key line: “this year the average EV battery pack prices decreased to around $156/kWh, which is some 87% less than it was in 2010 (over $1,100/kWh).”  In less than a decade’s time the average price has decreased almost 90%.

Are Electric Vehicles Really About To Plateau Oil Demand?–Plateaued oil demand is bad enough, but even a lower growth model will doom many higher cost oil plays in the short term.  EVs are part of the problem for oil demand, but just as important are tighter regulations on fossil fuel emissions in general.

Coal Power Becoming ‘Uninsurable’ as Firms Refuse Cover–If you cannot get insurance, you cannot operate.  I am sure that Donald Trump and his coal dust caked cronies will come up with a government backed reinsurance scheme to make sure that people like Bob Murray can profit from killing the planet.

Why Aren’t We Building a Traveling Wave Reactor in the U.S.?–Nuclear power always seems like it is an answer to our electricity problems until you account for all of the problems that nuclear power creates.  I am unwilling to hop on the traveling wave reactor bandwagon, but maybe Bill Gates is on to something. At least he is not spending his money on running for president.

Biofuels Could Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions By 96%–If nuclear seems like the holy grail of energy security, biofuels have to be the One True Cross of energy security.  At what point do we give up on the idea of liquid biofuels?

Agriculture is Part of the Climate Change Problem. Colorado Wants Farmers’ Soil to be Part of the Solution.–Improving soil health across grazing and other agricultural lands is probably one of the biggest “gains” we can make in the war against climate change.  Furthermore, increases in soil health and captured carbon will improve our ability to feed more people.

Chew On This: Farmers Are Using Food Waste To Make Electricity–Every kilowatt hour of electricity generated without the use of fossil fuels is a good thing.  Using a waste product to generate that electricity is like a double bonus.

DiGiorno and Stouffer’s Bring Plant-Based ‘Meat’ to Frozen Italian Food–If you do not think that plant based meat stand-ins are mainstream then how do you explain it being available in frozen pizza and lasagna?  Maybe it will be considered mainstream when there is a Jack’s frozen pizza with plant based pepperoni on sale for 4 for $10.

How Our Home Delivery Habit Reshaped the World–In an age of ubiquitous and pervasive shopping opportunities we need to radically rethink our relationship with consumerism.

Green Consumerism Is Part of the Problem–There is no such thing as “green consumerism.”  There is just “less bad consumerism.” Once we understand and internalize the reality that we cannot buy our way out of the problem of climate change, the sooner everyone will be better for it.

Friday Linkage 11/22/2019

This week one of the true giants of craft brewing announced a sale to a multi-national beverage conglomerate.  Fort Collins based New Belgium Brewery–the people behind Fat Tire Amber Ale–sold out to the group behind Kirin. This is the fourth largest craft brewery in the United States and the eleventh largest brewery overall.  Middle craft beer is dead. Support your small local brewery. Like today.

On to the links…

Keystone Spill Has Affected Nearly 10x More Land Than Was Estimated–Every time that someone brings up an argument in favor of an oil pipeline, especially the Keystone XL pipeline, just link to this article.  There is no such thing as a perfectly safe and secure oil or gas pipeline. The only perfectly safe and secure oil or gas pipeline is one that is not built.

See How Good the World Could be in 2040—If We Act on Climate Solutions Now–Lost in a lot of the pessimism about climate change specifically and the state of the world in general is that a future dystopia is not the only path available to use if we act.  Sure, right wing fanatics would have you believe that accelerationism–which is really just a pet theory for apocalypse nuts–is driving the world to the end times but they are wrong.

How Much Energy do We Really Need?–This is the kind of question that we need to be asking because it cuts at the very heart of the perpetual growth arguments of modern economic theory.  If we do not need to grow in perpetuity than we will need less energy than forecast in the future.

How to Cut U.S. Carbon Pollution by Nearly 40 Percent in 10 Years–Common sense and simple solutions to accelerate the climate change solution are available.  The problem is that a portion of this country’s politicians have no incentive whatsoever to embrace anything other than reactionary politics.  This is how we got a place where a conservative solution to health care coverage became the right wing’s bugaboo. We are doomed as long as these people are given any agency.

A Carbon Tax Won’t Kill the Economy–When someone at Forbes writes this article you have to wonder if the worm has turned.  It could also be that even the people at Forbes realize that America is relatively undertaxed and a carbon tax would go a long way to addressing destructive behaviors.  Somewhere Grover Norquist is hiding under his bedsheets and crying.

Two of America’s Biggest Coal Plants Closed this Month–This is why we keep pounding away at the problem by increasing efficiency, installing solar panels, and fighting for the true costs of fossil fuels to be included in the price of extraction.  Even with a president in the pocket of coal barons the ancient fuel is dying. Here is the damning paragraph from the article:

Together, the two retirements equal all the emission reductions from coal plant shut-downs in 2015, a record year when 15 GW of mostly smaller and older units were shuttered, reports Scientific American. Last year, 14 GW were mothballed. In 2020, more are on the way, including Kentucky’s Paradise plant.

The Paradise plant in Kentucky represents 1.15 GW of coal fired capacity.  It’s closure and another TVA asset in the region will save customers over $300M.  That is economics, bro!

5 Things to Know about Fighting Climate Change by Planting Trees–Here is the thing that gets me about this debate: the argument is that planting trees is not as good as some people make it out to be.  Okay, but that does not mean it is not beneficial. Just because the upside potential is lower than advertised does not mean that it ceases to be a worthwhile endeavour.  What is the downside?

When Residents Support Solar—Just ‘Not in My Backyard’–This is the worst.  Supposed liberals and supporters of green energy who just want to put energy production somewhere else.  Take responsibility for your consumption.

EasyJet Flights are Now Carbon Neutral–Carbon offsets are kind of the crack cocaine of the climate mitigation movement.  Easy to consume and oh so addictive. “See, we are carbon neutral,” a company can say without really addressing the underlying environmentally destructive behaviors that drive their business.

This Man Wants to Convince America Beef is Healthier than Meatless Burgers–This is also a man who worked for years to convince the American public that smoking was not a public heath crisis.  This is the same kind of man who will tell you industrial pollution is actually good for you. This is the same kind of man who will sell his soul for a few extra dollars in his bank.  This is the kind of man who needs to rot in hell.

There Are 2,000 Untested Chemicals in Packaged Foods — and It’s Legal–In some dark basement somewhere Richard Berman is swimming in his ill gotten gains like an oily Scrooge McDuck wondering if he should contact the packaged food industry to begin a campaign of telling us that untested chemicals in our food are really good for us.  Or, we could just avoid the middle aisles of the grocery store.

Los Angeles Places Largest Single Electric Bus Order In US History — 130 BYD K7M Buses–I am really waiting for the day when orders like this are just commonplace.  Or when orders of a much larger magnitude are what we report about. Still, progress.

Dominion Energy’s Electric School Bus Program Offers Valuable Vehicle-to-Grid Lesson–When electric buses are idle those big batteries can be part of the solution in shifting the mismatch between the supply of renewable energy and the demand for electricity.

Thermal Camera Reveals Efficiency Gap Between EV And ICE–About this time of year I wished I had a little bit of that wasted energy for heating my Nissan Leaf.

The U.S. Natural Gas Boom Is Fueling A Global Plastics Boom–Cheap natural gas equals cheap plastic.

Fast Shipping isn’t Great for the Environment— 7 Ways to Cut the Carbon Footprint on your Amazon Deliveries–Until Amazon is rocking a fleet of Rivian electric delivery trucks you are stuck with getting stuffed shipped the old fashioned way–heavily carbon intensive.  The advice is really simple: ship it together and ship it slowly. Or just stop buying stuff online.

Third Quarter New Year’s Resolutions Progress

It is now October and that means it is fall.  It also means that I am nine months of the way through the year which is probably a good time to check in on where I am at with my resolutions or goals for 2019.  Here goes:

  • Decarbonize transportation—My 2015 Nissan Leaf has been in the garage for almost nine months. Through the end of September 2019 I have driven ~5,893 miles.  By trading a Ford F150 for a Nissan Leaf I have saved ~6,733 pounds of carbon dioxide from being emitted.
  • No more Amazon—While I failed in the first quarter and succeeded in the second quarter, the third quarter was a little better. I spent some money that I was “awarded” from work via a gift card.  It was money spent at Amazon, but it was not my cash and I felt that the effort to transfer the funds was not worth the return.  Trying to reduce my spending at both Amazon and Walmart has made me think about our consumer habits in general.  More to come.
  • No more Walmart—Spent about a $100 on school supplies for a work organized effort to help out area kids during the back to school time. Walmart was running sales where I was able to pick up whole classrooms’ worth of some supplies for a few dollars.  It was craziness and well worth failing in my goal to make it happen.
  • Read twenty five books—38 books read in the first nine months.  Mission accomplished.
  • Drink local—Doing pretty good so far.
  • Declutter my house—This is probably the singular failure so far this year. Sure, some stuff has gone to Goodwill but I feel that on the whole nothing is less cluttered than it was nine months ago.  Maybe I can sprint to the finish.
  • Replace existing toilets with low volume flush models—I have picked out the model of toilet to replace my existing commodes. I have even purchased the wax rings to install the new toilers.  Now I just need to get a free day on a weekend to spend a few hours doing some plumbing.  Can you tell that this is my favorite way to spend a few hours on a Saturday?
  • Plant at least five trees—Two Norway spruce trees are in the ground. Three Colorado blue spruce trees in the ground.  Mission accomplished.
  • Reduce lawn coverage— No real progress, but I have plans. I promise!
  • Ride 2,500 miles on gravel roads—I am sitting at ~2,718 miles for the season as the month of September came to a close. Surprisingly, September was a real dog of a month for riding as the weather really conspired to keep me inside.   Mission accomplished.

So far, so good I think.

Five Trees in the Ground

My goal for the year was to plant an additional five trees in my yard.  Before spring the yard contained thirteen trees (1 elm, 1 sycamore, 1 maple, 3 yellow poplars, 3 Norway spruce, and 4 red oaks).  Over the years I have drawn out several plans to add to my trees.

However, the nursery stock this year was harsh.  I rarely saw a shade tree worth a second look and the conifers were wicked expensive.  Early in the season I was able to find a pair of Norway spruce for about $65 each.  This was an easy choice since I had a spot picked out:

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Both trees really took to being planted and put on a thrush of new growth within weeks.  The weather this summer has been amenable to trees as well with well-spaced moisture and not too many blistering hot days.  Even the days that were hot lacked the combination of heat and sun that really seems to knock the stuffing out of plants.

Hopefully before the end of fall I can trim around the trees like the maple in the foreground of the picture above.  The surrounding mulched bed will not be planted with perennials like the maple.  Over the years the branches will spread to encompass the entirety of the mulched bed.  Also, this is just the start of what I have planned for this side of my yard.  See the disastrous “sport” court in the neighbors’ back yard?  Yeah, I do not want to see it either.  Next year is going to be a heavy year for trees.

Just this weekend I ran across a store doing a fall sale of container grown conifers for just $15 each.  Normally, I am not a fan of Colorado blue spruce as the species is over planted in eastern Iowa.  I could not turn down relatively good looking trees at a low, low price.  I picked up three and got to work finishing another planting bed where I am trying to take out all of the turf grass:

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This part of my lawn is almost entirely sand.  The only soil, so to speak, is what came on the rolls of sod that were laid down and what I have added when planting trees.  The area has little soil fertility and retains very little moisture.  It is like a thin layer of soil, compacted, and sitting on a jelly roll pan.  If you pour out a bucket of water you can watch it flow downhill without really penetrating the soil.  While the rest of the yard can handle a period of drought—mowing the grass extra high and allowing clover to spread helps—this little corner dries out and dies.  I had considered top dressing the lawn in this area, but felt that it was a better use of space to plant trees and perennials, edge the area, amend the soil, and deeply mulch.  I will get to the edging, amending, and mulching next year.  I promise.

The only downside of all of this planting is that I have used up the contents of one of my compost bins.  There is some compost left and a few things that did not break down over the years, like the muslin bags used to steep grains during my homebrewing days, which will go into a mixture to improve soil health in the areas where I remove turf.  The other bin is fairly full, so in a year or so I should have a lot of nutrient dense compost to amend my sandy soil.

Second Quarter New Year’s Resolutions Progress

June has come and gone.  Summer is officially here.

It also means that it is a good time to check in on where I am at with my resolutions or goals for 2019.  Here goes:

  • Decarbonize transportation—My 2015 Nissan Leaf has been in the garage for almost six months. Through the end of June 2019 I have driven ~3,706 miles.  By trading a Ford F150 for a Nissan Leaf I have saved ~4,181 pounds of carbon dioxide from being emitted.
  • No more Amazon—While I failed in the first quarter, I feel like I am nailing it in the second quarter with $0—yes, zero—spend at Amazon in the past three months. It is surprisingly hard to resist the temptation to just order something from Amazon at nine in the evening.  It is like our brains are wired to just hit the “add to cart” button.
  • No more Walmart—As with my goal of spending no money at Amazon met with reality in the first quarter but improved in the second quarter, so too did my attempt at not patronizing Walmart. Zero dollars in the second quarter.
  • Read twenty five books—23 down, 2 to go.
  • Drink local—Doing pretty good so far.
  • Declutter my house—I started off with the best intentions in January, but after taking an entire car load of clothes the effort to get stuff out of the house has kind of fizzled. Again, I feel a little overwhelmed by all of the stuff that we have in the house.
  • Replace existing toilets with low volume flush models—I have picked out the model of toilet to replace my existing commodes. Now I just need to get a free day on a weekend to spend a few hours doing some plumbing.  Can you tell that this is my favorite way to spend a few hours on a Saturday?
  • Plant at least five trees—Two Norway spruce trees are in the ground. I am actively hunting for additional trees to plant, but the nursery stock locally has not been very attractive.
  • Reduce lawn coverage— Plans are laid out and some of the hardscaping materials are sitting in my driveway. However, this is the kind project that has to wait until the temperature declines a little bit.  Spending a day digging out turf when the mercury is over 90 degrees and the humidity level is above 90 percent is a no go.
  • Ride 2,500 miles on gravel roads—Almost 1,200 miles have been spent in the saddle so far and this includes a lost week spent on vacation in Colorado. I had the best of intentions to ride while I was out in Summit County, but I chose to hike and raft instead.

So far, so good I think.