Fresh Water: Our Most Precious Resource

The oceans are the life-support system of this planet.”
Philippe Cousteau

This video does an excellent job of explaining how our oceans are being affected by climate change. Given how we depend so much on fresh water—truly the life-support system of our planet as Philippe Cousteau so eloquently explains—it would not be surprising to see a time in the not-too-distant future when wars are fought over resources that are in demand for our survival rather than the profits of some big companies.

The resource we’ll fight over won’t be oil or other fossil fuels. It will be fresh water.

The Carbon Budget Made Simple

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
—Leonardo da Vinci

Sometimes if you want to explain something that’s a little complicated, it’s best to think “How would I explain this to a child?” Often the answer is to utilize measures a child can relate to. And Lego blocks certainly fall into that category.

After the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report (IPCC AR5), one important concept received more attention than it had previously, namely a carbon budget. Although our goal is reduce emissions to extremely low thresholds, one practical aspect is that experts believe we need to avoid passing global warming beyond two degrees Celsius with some even pushing for 1.5 degrees now more recently. Tied into that number is how much carbon we can add to the atmosphere before that will happen, what works out to a grand total of a little over 800 gigatons. Problem is we have less than 300 gigatons left before we reach that amount.

In this short video, Lindsay from Shrink that Footprint does a a great job of using Lego blocks to get the point across: how much carbon we’re allowed to add to the atmosphere, how much we’ve already added and in what sectors, and how much we’ve got left in the carbon budget. (Scariest of all is to realize that’s only 20 years away if we continue on with business-as-usual.)

But hey, anything to help get the point across. Some people act like children when it comes to global warming and climate change, maybe they would benefit most from this kind of educational approach.

Climate Change and How It Affects Our Mental Health

“Climate change is a major concern in the region. Records indicate that temperatures have been six to 11 degrees warmer in recent winters than in the past.”
—Dr. Ashlee Cunsolo Willox

If global warming and climate change create more floods in some regions and more droughts in others, you can imagine it’s difficult for those living through those devastating weather events. And that would likely have a negative effect on the mental health of the people living in those regions. But floods and droughts are variable and truly a part of weather rather than climate, so few areas are going to be hit consistently by them.

Assessing the effects of weather on mental health might be difficult to quantify. But if there was a region on Earth where climate change is more consistently affecting it, then we could look to that region and more properly assess the mental health of the inhabitants of those regions. But is there such a region on the planet?

Hello Arctic! Dr. Ashlee Cunsolo Willox, Canada Research Chair in Determinants of Healthy Communities and an Assistant Professor of Community Health at Cape Breton University in Sydney has explored this topic extensively, and has published a number of articles on the effects of climate change on the Inuit. One particular group living in Labrador’s Nunatsiavut region have been living through climate change for many years already. Global warming has significantly affected their region, resulting in changes in ice conditions and snow levels. How does that affect them? This particular group depends heavily on the ability to hunt and that activity, something they depend on for their livelihood rather than for sport, is being threatened.

Dr. Willox previously published a study in Climatic Change that addressed these impacts on the mental health of the Inuit affected. The study found that climate change is clearly affecting both the mental and emotional health of the people living there. How? Dangerously thin ice affects their ability to travel which is usually by snowmobile. Even inland their transportation is affected, meaning these people are feeling trapped in their communities. Many of the residents describe feeling depressed, anxious, stressed, and angry. Some have reported feeling a loss of their own personal ancestral identity.

Interviews conducted by Dr. Willox and her staff led to a conclusion:

Changes in climate and environment increased family stress, enhanced the possibility of increased drug and alcohol usage, amplified previous traumas and mental health stressors, and were implicated in increased potential for suicide ideation.

There are so many adverse effects that result from global warming and climate change. Most of us only think about the damage to land and property. But we can’t forget that it can also damage our ability to cope. For now it’s the Inuit. In time it will be many more unless we change.

Is Progress Always a Good Thing?

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
George Santayana

Imagine trying to run the latest and greatest software on a 45-year-old computer. Keep in mind that computer technology from that era got men on the moon, but most of us would still scoff at the idea. We’d say it’s too outdated for modern times.

That’s an important premise in the documentary Surviving ProgressAccording to filmmakers Mathieu Roy and Harold Crooks, our civilization’s progress has been both “awe-inspiring” and “double-edged.” The film claims that we’re trying to run 21st century software on the “ancient hardware of our primate brain,” something which hasn’t seen an upgrade in 50,000 years.

The documentary is based on Ronald Wright’s best-seller, “A Short History Of Progress.”Through the use of many examples from all over the world, the film makes clear our folly. According to the website:

“…in the past, we could use up a region’s resources and move on. But if today’s global civilization collapses from over-consumption, that’s it. We have no back-up planet.”

Surviving Progress interviews a number of today’s brightest minds. Although some aren’t particularly optimistic about our chances, others think further progress won’t get us into further trouble but rather will actually get us out of it. Stephen Hawking thinks we need to establish settlements on other planets. Craig Venter whose team helped decode the human genome believes synthetic organisms will ultimately create all of the food and fuel our planet will need. Far-fetched solutions? Perhaps, but remember that today’s science fiction is frequently tomorrow’s science fact.

The film leaves us with a challenge: “To prove that making apes smarter was not an evolutionary dead-end.” And it’s a challenge we have no option but to face.

The New Chevy Bolt (Step Aside, Tesla?)

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”
Henry Ford

This past week, Chevrolet introduced its new 2017 Chevy Bolt electric vehicle and to the surprise of some, it’s worth a second look. Some men wonder if Chevy has managed to outdo Tesla in the EV market. Given that I’ve already invested in Tesla, I wanted to take a good look at this one.

The Bolt has a range of about 320 kilometres (200 miles). Not quite what my car promises but still pretty impressive. Perhaps its most attractive feature is the price tag: $37,500 US, nearly $100,000 less than the Signature Edition Model X. (Prices drop when tax incentives are taken into account, though.) And to be honest, the Bolt EV isn’t bad looking.

Justin Westbrook from Jalopnik says this of the Bolt:

It’s not all about Tesla though, as the Chevy Bolt looks to be a serious attempt by the company to grow the electric vehicle market, and with a price of around $30k and a range of around 200 miles — and maybe more importantly a design that will be acceptable to the mainstream automotive customers — Chevy’s EV has a serious shot at being a hit.

To no surprise (t least to me), Tesla has seemed pleased by Chevy offering this kind of competition, stating:

Commitments from traditional car makers to build electric vehicles advance Tesla’s mission to accelerate the advent of sustainable transportation. We hope to see all those additional zero-emission vehicles on the road.

Makes sense. The more that bigger automotive manufactures get into the EV game, the more these vehicles are validated as mainstream and ready for prime-time.

I’m happy the Bolt is coming, but I’m still very happy with the Tesla I’ll be getting. In the style and design category, I don’t think there’s any competition. One drawback for the Bolt EV is that it takes a full nine hours to charge with a 240-volt charging unit which requires professional installation. Tesla’s Supercharger network on the other hand takes just 30 minutes of charging to get a range of 275 kilometres (170 miles) on the Model S.

So I’m happy. Tesla is happy. Chevrolet and its customers are happy. And our planet is happy.