Nov 13, 2014

Dreaming the end of our own Stone Age

Master stonemasons built a masterpiece of stone in the form of Lund's Domkyrka cathedral

The following quote is a cathedral of thought, and one of the most inspiring sentiments I've come across in a long, long time:

                                                    Ahmed Zaki Yamani, regarding our apparent addiction to fossil fuels

Before leaving you to reflect on Ahmed Zaki Yamani's stroke of genius, I have to point you to an excellent New York Times article that shows some of the complexity of leaving our own version of the Stone Age. The article treats the topic of some of my earlier posts on wind power (see my list of labels). As the New York Times article describes so well, the politics of striding towards alternative futures is not so simple, and full of ironies. Check out:

More on this in my next post! Turn a stone . . .

Nov 12, 2014

A planetary gas machine

Look, Mommy, the blue oxygen part is getting smaller! 

Imagine that we had a civilization that depended on living plants for its source of raw materials and energy (instead of fossil fuels). In that civilization, we were happy at the ease with which living plants provided us with all we needed, so that we hardly thought about how everything we relied upon in our everyday lives, our economy and our transport and trade could be provided by this readily accessible source.

Then, one day, as this parable continues, scientists told us that our "way of life" was creating an unwise surplus of oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere. Our activities were creating such an imbalance that rapid climate change was in store. Just think how hard it would be to change everything, how difficult the possibility that we could shift into another kind of global economy would seem. After all, plants are everywhere and moving away from their use would ruin our way of life. Even though many scientists were trying to convince us to create a vast machine that would change the situation on a global scale, we would respond that it was too difficult. What was that enormous global machine? Yes, the machine was called the fossil fuel high carbon economy, and we could just move to that if we really really wanted to. But, we all joined in chorus, "We have so many plants and they are so easy to use! We have enough to last forever! Why change?"

If creating shifts on a global scale is so hard, isn't it ironic that we already have the alternative in place that that other civilization would find so unimaginable? Oh, yes, change is hard, isn't it? And just to make it clear, if we've been so successful in creating our present fossil fuel-burning machine, why can't we create a different one? But everyone says that that's so hard.

Now, meanwhile, in an alternative universe near you . . .

Feb 19, 2014


Dear faithful readers,

A certain amount of buzz has emerged even around old posts on this blog lately, so I just want to say:

This blog is coming back to life shortly!

It is soon spring in the northern hemisphere, after all.

Thank you for waiting this long


I look forward to all of your thoughts and prods and reflections.

You are the mirrors and prisms of the world!


Mar 13, 2013

A brave conservative

Stockholm this evening, while walking from the parliament to the subway

Tonight I attended a meeting of RIFO (Swedish Society for Members of Parliament and Scientists) that was held in the Swedish Riksdag, the parliament buildings. The theme was "from global intransigence to national solutions" ("Från globala låsningar till nationella lösningar"). It was an excellent program, but tonight I just want to applaud an idea that was voiced by one of the panel members, Johan Hultberg, of the Moderat party (sort of right-of-center, roughly equivalent to the UK's Conservatives). In a discussion of how climate and environment should and could be mainstreamed, he suggested that the ministries of environment and finance could be merged, as a way of making a meaningful move towards a serious transformation in the way that we deal with valuing our world and all it provides us with. Several politicians from other parties, as well as other participants, even said that the idea had possibilities. Why not? they said. Yes, why not? What are we waiting for and waiting for and waiting for . . .

Mar 3, 2013

Vertical horizons: parking matrix

Where's your car?

As we all know, cities are more and more becoming the home for increasing numbers of people around the world. We are heading towards an extremely urbanized future. Everything that we humans like to do needs to take place surrounded by growing congestion. It's getting crowded. More cars, more "housing units," more stores, more roads, more pollution, fewer green areas, fewer parking spots, everything more expensive by the square-meter. Here in Sweden, as I've been reporting, one avenue of adaptation is the switch to electric cars, as just one area that could ease some of the pressure.

Big department store chains like Coop Forum and IKEA are beginning to add charging stations for electric vehicles, but the cars themselves are often still missing. IKEA, though, has also developed a partnership with a Göteborg-based renter of electric vehicles, Move About, to provide easy rentals for its own customers. The incredibly popular MAX hamburger chain is also adding charging stations. Since hamburgers will probably be with us for some time, it is heartening to see how much effort MAX is putting into its overall climate change and environment policy. They claim that even their newest restaurants are entirely recyclable! (It's their claim.) When I was reading about their policy, I saw that they have been developing it with help from a foundation called The Natural Step, which is on my list of good causes to promote here. So I'll do it here, now!

One of those involved in starting up The Natural Step was Kaj Embren. Nowadays, he has an informative and provocative blog, dedicated to all aspects of sustainable development. He has also continued his work on sustainability via his company, Respect, which focuses on developing sustainability-conscious businesses. It's worth following, too! See you there! And I'll be writing more about The Natural Step in a later blog. Stay tuned . . .

Feb 28, 2013

Vertical horizons: farming matrix

The iconic "Toronto Sky Farm" (design and image copyright, Gordon Graff).

Today on Swedish Radio's science program, "Vetandets värld," you could hear about a Swedish company's efforts to develop urban farming systems. The company, Plantagon, is not only developing innovative designs for vertical agriculture, but it is doing so in partnership with the native American Onandoga Nation. This is worth learning more about. The company was a partner in organizing the recent conference, Urban Agriculture Summit, held at the end of January, 2013, in Linköping, Sweden. You can read about Gordon Graff's iconic design and study for his Toronto Sky Farm, as well as lots, lots more about urban farming, on the Treehugger website. (Let's hope that Swedish Radio's interest lasts longer than one day).

Do you have a company and do you feel moved to develop a climate change consciousness? Read Sarah Cornell's blog on the website, Hagainitiativet (The Haga Initiative), which promotes active, responsible corporate behavior in relation to climate change. (Does this mean that even Coca-Cola has realized that it's hard to have market dominance when you don't have a planet?)

Stay tuned for more vertical thinking from a horizontal position!

Feb 27, 2013

"Danes like ecology more than money"

"Danes like ecology more than money, and other short stories." Is this for real? It stands proudly, larger-than-life, in one of the concourses at Copenhagen's international airport, Kastrup. Walking by, I simply stopped in awe. What was this telling me? Ecology is an alternative to money? The commercialization of ecology? More greenwash? Well, that would be OK, I guess, if it actually made one want to ride a bicycle instead of a taxi. Preferring to have money is of course always a nice idea. It does help when buying that next titanium-framed two-wheeled dream machine that I've been lusting after. Or does it mean that "the Danish" don't like money, or taxis? Well, I guess it's a "successful" ad, right? I mean, here we are talking about it . . . What's your version?