Please support this Forum and Neven's Blog

Author Topic: On the individual level? A mea culpa  (Read 17677 times)

misfratz

  • ASIF Lurker
  • Posts: 31
    • View Profile
On the individual level? A mea culpa
« on: February 21, 2013, 02:24:12 PM »
So far this calendar year I have taken domestic UK flights on six occasions. This hasn't been easy for me, as someone convinced of the need to reduce carbon emissions, but it does make me sceptical of the viability of solving this problem on an individual level.

Why have I taken these six flights?

I live and work in Exeter, in the county of Devon in south-west England (some would say in Wessex). In 2006 my then wife went to do a PhD in Aberdeen, and for one reason or another our relationship came to an end. Last summer our daughter, who had lived with me, went to live with her mother in Edinburgh, about 450 miles away. The flights I have taken so far this year have been to visit my daughter and collect her for school holidays.

What about other forms of transport?

Previously, most of this travel would have occurred by train. Unfortunately, the train has now become relentlessly more expensive, and a standard return generally costs at least 50% more than a flight, depending on how far in advance I can book tickets. The plane can even be cheaper than the 16 hour coach journey, and cheaper than the fuel used by our efficient diesel car.

I don't exclusively use the plane. The next journey is likely to be by coach. There has been a train journey so far this year. However, if I were to voluntarily exclude the use of the plane, I would not be able to visit as often as I am now. It is hard to choose to make my daughter suffer in the short-term, when it will only have a long-term benefit if everyone else follows suit.

So what can be done?

Only collective action will solve the problem. Or am I excusing my irresponsible actions?

Neven

  • Administrator
  • ASIF Governor
  • *****
  • Posts: 3842
    • View Profile
    • Arctic Sea Ice Blog
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2013, 04:11:17 PM »
It really sucks when life forces you to take actions that you know are part of the problem.  :(
My wife, daughter and I moved from the Netherlands to Austria in order to be able to set up a more sustainable lifestyle, but now everyone comes over to visit us.  ::)

For the last 2,5 years we have lived in a really bad apartment, which was refurbished but not the right way. They put in double glazing, painted the whole house, but took out the wood stove. Combined with thick, but uninsulated outer walls and undersized radiators (with long pipes, big heat losses), the effect was that during winter the temperature in our house never got over 18-19 °C, and moisture would condense around the windows and in corners, creating large patches of mold. So we were paying big time for heating (oil), but didn't get enough heat.

The only reason we stayed there, was that we were looking for a house or plot of land to buy, but didn't find anything suitable. Moving to another rental apartment has the disadvantage here in Austria that you have to stay at least 1 year and 3 months before you can move out again. I mean, you can move out earlier if you like, but you still have to pay rent. So we thought: "Better stay, because if we suddenly buy a house, we're paying double. Now we can move out whenever we like."

Luckily we found a plot of land to buy about three months ago, and my wife being so fed up with the cold and the mold decided to ask at the town hall of the village where the plot of land was if they knew of any apartment for rent in the village. Turned out the municipality has its own apartments (for old and/or handicapped people) and them being so happy that young people are going to build a house here, they offered us a small apartment that we can move out of any time we like. It's brand new, well-insulated and cheap. Things have definitely improved for us, and will hopefully improve even more once we build our eco-passive-blahblah-house.

And so you see, in the end these things always improve, surely but slowly, and you have to be mindful of them. Perhaps something changes for you too, Misfratz, like your daughter studying somewhere in Dover or you going more towards to the North for work or something. Or revolutionary battery technology makes it cleaner to travel!

It will take time, but just like you can't hurry love, it seems you can't hurry sustainability either. Beating yourself up about it doesn't help, but keep looking for improvements, however small they are.

BTW, I don't mean to sound like I know it all! Because I most definitely don't!
Il faut cultiver notre jardin

Bob Wallace

  • ASIF Upper Class
  • Posts: 1784
    • View Profile
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2013, 08:36:29 PM »
I live most of my life in ways that keep my carbon footprint low - recycle, reuse, limit driving, etc.  But I'm not willing to give up my annual trip to somewhere interesting as long as the majority of people are not working to keep their carbon footprint low.

What I've decided to do, have been doing, is to get an estimate of my carbon footprint and purchase offsets.  I've been helping finance micro-solar systems in less developed parts of the world.  I'm paying for others to cut their carbon while I selfishly don't cut mine to the bone.

(Actually I'm buying about 3x my carbon footprint and expect to increase it.)

gfwellman

  • ASIF Lurker
  • Posts: 85
    • View Profile
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2013, 08:51:17 PM »
Misfratz, you're right that it's a problem of collective action - we need a corrective tax structure to give individuals the best options.  So vote for the correct people, agitate for better policies, but take those cheap flights to see your daughter.

Neven, if it's not an imposition, could you comment on why you can build an eco-passive-etc house in Austria, but not in the Netherlands?  Land prices?  Something else?

I wish I was in a position to build an eco-passive-etc house from the ground up but it's not to be.  However, I've taken a reasonably modern (built 1996) house and halved energy use relative to the previous owners by replacing an inefficient furnace with an air source heat pump, replacing incandescents with CFLs, adding insulation, etc.  Future plans include replacing the inefficient hot water tank with a high efficiency tankless on-demand system, and replacing the refrigerator.  Eventually (timeline depending on manufacturing improvements and that collective action we want more of) solar panels will make sense even here, near Seattle.  One would hope that by that time, every building in AZ, NV, NM and CA would be covered with them.

Aside to other North Americans, if Misfratz's use of the word "coach" confused you, think "Greyhound bus".

Neven

  • Administrator
  • ASIF Governor
  • *****
  • Posts: 3842
    • View Profile
    • Arctic Sea Ice Blog
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2013, 09:11:35 PM »
Aside to other North Americans, if Misfratz's use of the word "coach" confused you, think "Greyhound bus".


Yes, he didn't mean that Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger is driving him.  ;)

Neven, if it's not an imposition, could you comment on why you can build an eco-passive-etc house in Austria, but not in the Netherlands?  Land prices?  Something else?


Definitely land prices. The Netherlands has half the surface of Austria, but twice the population (17 million souls). This part of Austria is one of the cheapest places in Western Europe, next to East Germany, AND has a decent infrastructure, like broadband Internet that I need for my job. You can find regions in every country where it's reasonably cheap, but with only old people, or you have to move towards Eastern Europe, where language would become a problem.

Other than that Austrians and Germans actually know how to build low energy homes with natural materials, because they have a tradition of people building their own houses. Because land is so expensive in the Netherlands, most of the time people buy one of a hundred similar looking houses that are developed by big building firms (with a bottom line). So building a passivehouse there is also quite expensive, because a lot of materials and expertise comes from Germany.

---

Bob, do you have a link to those microsolar projects? I usually transfer money to efficient wood stove projects such as Potential Energy, but microsolar sounds great as well.
Il faut cultiver notre jardin

Bob Wallace

  • ASIF Upper Class
  • Posts: 1784
    • View Profile
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #5 on: February 21, 2013, 10:56:32 PM »
Here's one in Guatemala - nice videos - Indiegogo link at the bottom of the page.

http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/energy/blogs/quetsol-working-to-bring-clean-solar-power-to-guatemalas-rural-poor

The Bangladesh program has gotten large and they've received funding from the World Bank so they don't seem to be asking for public donations any longer.  I suspect they've become somewhat self-supporting.

http://cleantechnica.com/2011/11/17/world-bank-bringing-solar-power-to-over-1-million-homes-shops-in-rural-bangladesh/

These programs seem to be gaining strength and are getting funding from development banks as well as private companies.  Some of the systems are now being financed and installed by mobile phone companies.  That gives the phone companies more customers and it looks like money can be made while giving people clean energy for less than they were paying for kerosene.


And here's something interesting - a "gravity" light.  I doubt that it's going to be the long term answer, but it could be useful in places where solar doesn't work for lots of days.  A potential backup for solar.

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/gravitylight-lighting-for-developing-countries

Jim Hunt

  • ASIF Governor
  • Posts: 3103
    • View Profile
    • The Arctic sea ice Great White Con
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #6 on: February 22, 2013, 01:08:21 PM »
Neven - There's also the Solar Electric Light Fund:

http://self.org/haiti/

Solar powered health care. Not exactly "micro" though.
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one - Albert Einstein

Bob Wallace

  • ASIF Upper Class
  • Posts: 1784
    • View Profile
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #7 on: February 22, 2013, 08:04:44 PM »
This one isn't a carbon offset program, but a program in which you can invest in solar projects.  I suppose one could count it against their personal carbon footprint.  Solar is going on roofs where it might not otherwise go.

Mosaic is crowdsourcing solar projects, financing them, and returning earnings to their investors. 

Those investments are expected to generate annual returns of 4.5% or more, well in excess of the 1.9% yield of comparable 10-year US Treasury notes.

http://cleantechnica.com/2013/01/30/solar-pv-crowd-funding-pioneer-mosaic-joins-with-sp-dupont-others-to-make-the-sun-bankable/

Here are the three projects they've financed so far...

https://joinmosaic.com/browse-investments

Artful Dodger

  • ASIF Citizen
  • Posts: 436
  • The era of procrastination is coming to a close.
    • View Profile
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2013, 05:23:32 AM »
So far this calendar year I have taken domestic UK flights on six occasions.

Hi misfratz,

Sympathies on your domestic arrangements. It's hard to know what's right in every situation.

However, air transport is not inherently worse than other forms of transport. For example, a Boeing 747 at capacity is more fuel efficient than a car on a passenger*mile basis.

But that is just part of the equation. The other is carbon offsets. And I don't mean buying phony credits from greenwashers. I mean *actually* accounting for the carbon you emit, and capturing the same amount in biomass.

First, can you burn biodiesel in your Golf? (did i guess right?)  ::)

Do you own some land where you can grow a woody crop? Have access to public land where you can plant such?

Many say that biochar is a good way to do it. I say do what you can!  :D
Cheers!
Lodger

Lynn Shwadchuck

  • ASIF Citizen
  • Posts: 189
    • View Profile
    • 10 in 10 Diet
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2013, 09:21:30 PM »
I'm so torn on this. It's easy to turn fairly small behaviour changes into something like an obsessive religious practice. Vaclav Smil is clear on the point that meat-eating and fossil fuel electrical generation are the two major things we need to change. For years I've focused on eating a peasant vegetarian diet and trying to set an example. Now I live with a regular carnivore, who's given my diet the old college try, but has decided to eat his way now. So I have my own personal window on how this is with most Western people. It's much easier to say the word 'should' than to change deeply embedded habits and cravings.

So, on an individual level, we heat as much as possible with a high-efficiency wood stove, grow food on our four acres, I eat legumes for protein, we stay home, and I try not to buy food that had to be flown to me or shipped a long distance in a refrigerated container.
I'm putting this site as my signature. I built it five years ago to make it easy for people to eat less meat. This is a major way individuals can make a difference.
www.10in10diet.com

Doc Snow

  • ASIF Lurker
  • Posts: 4
    • View Profile
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #10 on: February 24, 2013, 11:31:19 PM »
I think Neven is right--it takes time to make these changes.  Like him, we are working towards a really sustainable home.  Got the site; next steps, get our finances really sorted, find architects/designers with whom we can work/consult, educate ourselves, and get the planning process really going.

But of course, there are all kinds of other 'needs' that get in the way... less important, perhaps, but more urgent.

Matt

  • ASIF Lurker
  • Posts: 5
    • View Profile
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #11 on: February 25, 2013, 04:49:08 AM »
Misfratz,

I sympathise with your situation...
Although not in your situation, I have also had the torment of being stuck in a situation where i wanted to become more carbon neutral, but in my case unable to afford to do so.
It has taken my family 4 years now to finish renovating our old home and sell (the market here in Aus is woeful) in order to remove our debt so we can now afford to go "off the grid" with solar in our new home.
the irony for us was a major part of the problem we had was the massive service bills (power being the worst) limiting our capacity to progress on being self sufficient.
Unfortunately our government (and opposition) are owned by the mining and fossil fuel sector, so relatively easy affordable schemes to put everyone onto solar are not being implemented (and won't be for the foreseeable future).
 

Lynn Shwadchuck

  • ASIF Citizen
  • Posts: 189
    • View Profile
    • 10 in 10 Diet
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #12 on: February 25, 2013, 03:04:24 PM »
Honestly, I believe the best thing we can each do in order to be as resilient as possible as things heat up is to build community. I left my corporate job in the city eight years ago and moved to a spot outside a small village in a sparsely populated county, an hour from a city of 115,000 people. It has amazed me how many like-minded people have made an effort to form casual networks of gardeners, solar buffs, forest managers, canners, knitters, bakers, natural healers, soap-makers, creative recyclers, etc.
I'm putting this site as my signature. I built it five years ago to make it easy for people to eat less meat. This is a major way individuals can make a difference.
www.10in10diet.com

ralphw

  • ASIF Lurker
  • Posts: 6
    • View Profile
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #13 on: February 28, 2013, 05:06:18 PM »
Hi,  I've been reading Nevan's blog for some months but I really could not add anything useful there.  I'm coming here with a 'limits to growth' view of the world,  so I see the loss of sea ice as a major alarm bell but just an early symptom of the damage we are doing as a species to the natural environment and our own own survival prosects, from both an over consumption and over population.

Anyway,  I do what I do in my own stubborn little way.  I cycle commute.  I don't fly any more.  I try to cut my domestic energy use by all the usual means.  I own the most fuel efficient car I can afford that will fit my family.  I have been vegetarian these last 15 years. 

However,  I have a wife,  adopted family, geriatric parents.  My house is 70 years old and draughty, my wife's medical conditions require a warmer house than I need to function.  I drive to visit my parents regulary and they live 130 miles away.  I allow my kids to be driven the one mile to school when they could walk or cycle.  I am lazy,  and don't have the time or energy I did 20 years ago.  It is easier to be an ecowarrier online than in real life. 

There are only so many hours in a day and in the end we are all dead.  Any changes I make will be ovewhelmed by population growth and consumption growth elsewhere.  Energy resources especially oil are already so constrained as to make industrial society unsustainable even without the pollution coming back to bite us,  my attempts at transitioning to a low carbon lifestyle will be overrun by financial and probably population collapse in my children's lifetime,  if not my own.  In the meantime they are 9 and 10 and are far too busy being emotionally damaged and overwhelmed by what their traumatic infancy and modern society have already thrown at them to take on any life lessons I can teach them about building a resilient local society.  And here I am typing when that programme won't write itself...

Any,  keep up the posts.  They are inspirational to me at least.

TerryM

  • ASIF Upper Class
  • Posts: 1721
    • View Profile
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #14 on: February 28, 2013, 07:50:43 PM »
Ralphw

I wish I was doing a fraction of what you've accomplished. I drive. I fly I eat what tastes good.

Rather gloomily I think we're well past the point where individual actions will make any difference. When I read Hansen I silently nod my head in agreement - until he inevitably gets to the part where he thinks that there's a way out.

If I was charged with my grand kids education I'd probably advocate for some classes involving flint knapping & subsistence gardening. I can't conceive of a way for the thin veneer of civilization to survive when the citizens can't be fed. I can't conceive of a way to feed the citizenry without modern agribusiness & I can't conceive of a way for agribusiness to survive the weather weirdness that we're already beginning to experience.

This thread is about admitting our individual responsibility.
I should have donated more to the Carter for President reelection campaign. I should have worked harder to keep Canada from falling under Stephen Harper's leadership. I should have engaged in the fight to keep the electrified buses running in Hamilton.

These actions could possibly have born fruit.

Walking to the market, cancelling a trip to Europe or relearning how to ride a bike might have some small symbolic value, but forgive me if I don't feel contrition for not participating.

Terry

benjamin

  • ASIF Lurker
  • Posts: 8
    • View Profile
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #15 on: March 02, 2013, 09:20:21 PM »
My compliments to Neven for setting up such a broad and helpful forum.
I hadn’t expected gems such as mea culpa. Sorry for the delay in reesponding but a bit of Life got in the way!

In response to the Artful Dodger’s point about equivalence of a diesel (driver only) Golf and a full Jumbo, I take the point in terms of CO2 produced but some say that CO2 released at high altitude is significantly more damaging: see the link
http://www.carbonindependent.org/sources_aviation.htm
from which an extract is:

“So for both aircraft, the emissions are around 90 kg CO2 per hour.

These CO2 emissions are generally into the high atmosphere, and this is thought to have a greater greenhouse effect than CO2 released at sea level. The emissions are therefore adjusted by multiplication by a factor of 2.00 (see 'Radiative forcing' below) to give 180 kg CO2 equivalent per hour.

Further allowance is needed for fossil fuel energy used in :
  • extraction and transport of crude oil
  • inefficiencies in refineries (around 7% [30])
  • aircraft manufacture and maintenance, and staff training
  • airport construction, maintenance, heating, lighting etc.

The CO2 emissions are therefore rounded up and the Carbon Independent calculator takes a values of 250 kg i.e. ¼ tonne CO2 equivalent per hour flying.”


This is based on average plane occupancy (65%) rather than full but it comes up with a figure of 250kg per 550 miles - much than a 65mpg (imperial) figure for my old Lupo which generates 120kg for the same 550 miles.

So flying is twice as damaging as a fairly frugal driver only car on 65% plane occupancy.

But a new Golf Blue Motion or Smart 2 diesel  would perform rather better than my Lupo and best the full Jumbo I suspect.

But the challenges that are raised are I think a more general. How do we ourselves  cut emissions? (And how do we get our Governments to level the playing field: charge flights  properly and reduce the silly costs of inefficiently structured rail; but this later point refers to a different part of this web-site)
So reverting to the first.
The same kind of question arose on Animal Testing and scientists have adopted the three Rs: Reduce the tests on live animals, Restrict the tests so less tests are required due to cleverer maths and Refine the tests so they are less painful and damaging to the animals.
For recycling it is again Reduce Reuse and Recycle.
For travel maybe Reduce the number of trips/miles, Reassign the carbon by lift sharing and Replace the carbon with Bio as suggested by AD.
Skype video-calls may enable Reduce (but I expect you already do that),
Lift sharing seems to me the as-yet-relatively-unexploited opportunity. When I was a student many of us hitch-hiked and it was great. I had a lift in a Mustang from Lisbon to Madrid with the Canadian ambassador to Portugal and a ride from an MP in Luxembourg: happy times. But of course non-students don’t have the time and now both passengers and drivers are scared of the hitch-hiking scenario for not very good reasons I suspect…but it is dead. However, lift sharing could I think readily be enabled by websites created by keen beans such as Neven has done with this one to make a two or even three person/trip from Devon to Aberdeen easy to arrange and the “fear” of strangers could be mitigated if an “audit” trail of who went with who was retained by the website.

In such a situation (of you applying these three Rs – if the lift sharing was available) I feel sure you would earn much needed brownie points with your daughter as it is her generation and the following one which will pay the cost of our flights today. So she may then be more inclined to study at Exeter perhaps. (This may, however, be a triumph of hope over experience…it rather depends on your daughter I suppose).

Good luck, life ain’t easy. They say if it isn’t difficult it isn’t worth doing.

Artful Dodger

  • ASIF Citizen
  • Posts: 436
  • The era of procrastination is coming to a close.
    • View Profile
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #16 on: March 03, 2013, 06:50:28 AM »
In response to the Artful Dodger’s point about equivalence of a diesel (driver only) Golf and a full Jumbo... some say that CO2 released at high altitude is significantly more damaging: (see the link)

These CO2 emissions are generally into the high atmosphere, and this is thought to have a greater greenhouse effect than CO2 released at sea level.

Hi benjamin,

Ah, no. I think you have two separate effects confused. ;)

Jet airliners typically operate at cruise altitudes of 9-12 km (30-40K ft). Below 15 km (50K ft) altitude, C02 is a well-mixed gas in the atmosphere. C02 released below this altitude has no significantly different radiative forcing than at the surface (see the attached graph of CO2 concentration by altitude).

What DOES remain unsettled is the effect of water vapour emitted above the troposphere (since the height of the tropopause is variable, combustion of jet fuel can release H20 into the stratosphere). However the net forcing effect is due to those contrails is not settled science.

For the purposes of this discussion, the 400 NM short haul flights undertaken by the OP would be flown at lower altitude, and likely in a turboprop aircraft. These types of flights almost always are conducted within the troposphere, where the atmosphere already has significant water vapour. As such, commuter flights with this profile are exempted by the Kyoto Protocol, since the radiative forcing effects of emissions are known to be similar to ground transport.

So I think it's okay for our friend to fly to see his daughter.  Especially in a turboprop. :D
« Last Edit: March 03, 2013, 02:32:06 PM by Artful Dodger »
Cheers!
Lodger

Artful Dodger

  • ASIF Citizen
  • Posts: 436
  • The era of procrastination is coming to a close.
    • View Profile
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #17 on: March 03, 2013, 11:39:12 AM »
Hi again, benjamin

I'd like to point out that you are almost certainly right about the overall effect of long-distance air travel. Many people agree with you on that (and I'd be one of them).  ;)

For example, here's a comparison of different travel modes by Climate Journalist Barry Saxifrage of the Vancouver Observer:

Travel's Climate Emissions published on August 13, 2009

In this age of trans-oceanic fiber-optic telepresence, IMHO we must rethink our need to travel, especially for business.

Note: the 2nd chart below is rotated and rescaled from the hi-res PDF version available from the page linked above. It shows that a lone occupant traveling in an average car is worse than traveling in a Boeing 757-200 or an Airbus A330-300.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2013, 11:54:41 AM by Artful Dodger »
Cheers!
Lodger

ccgwebmaster

  • ASIF Upper Class
  • Posts: 1085
  • Civilisation collapse - what are you doing?
    • View Profile
    • CCG Website
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #18 on: April 06, 2013, 04:20:21 AM »
So I think it's okay for our friend to fly to see his daughter.  Especially in a turboprop. :D
I'm not quite so forgiving myself, plenty of poor people who can't burn those tonnes of fuel to see their families. However, I appreciate this is a mea culpa thread - and I'd be a hypocrite to be too nasty!

Over my lifetime, I've owned and operated a car of some sort (usually a little 60-70mpg 15-20 year old diesel burner) for a few years. And I've caught a modest number of long haul flights (about 6 return trips?) that weren't related to climate change in an ironically paradoxical way - I used to be married to an American for a few years, being a UK citizen myself. So there's a moderate number of tonnes of contribution I've made to the problem in my lifetime (most of the rest of my life has been very low carbon).

If you include things I don't feel are on my conscience so much, you'd throw in several tonnes of new steel, a bunch of tools and equipment and suchlike, and a fair bit of electricity running hungry tools like arc welders, plasma cutters and air compressors (I'm writing them off my conscience as being related to responding to climate change and as a route to being zero carbon).

And it won't be too much longer before I'm virtually zero carbon, except when I can afford new clothes and a few other pieces of kit I can't afford right now.
« Last Edit: August 01, 2013, 07:09:21 AM by ccgwebmaster »

TerryM

  • ASIF Upper Class
  • Posts: 1721
    • View Profile
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #19 on: August 01, 2013, 06:57:40 AM »
I'm not really sure that this is the appropriate thread, but-


My window air conditioner's fan motor bearings seized up so I removed the panels to oil it and was astounded to find that the motor contained no oil passages - there was no way to oil the bearings so the whole unit had to be trashed. I drilled a few holes through the casing, oiled it and got the thing running again, but what percentage of owners would know how to do this.


I live in a very nice apartment. Having a small leak at the swivel connection in the kitchen faucet and a drip in the 2nd bath lavatory faucet I called the super who sent a plumber. The plumber is replacing both faucets even though all that is required is an "o" ring in the kitchen and a washer & a seat in the bath.


I pointed out the waste to the plumber who assured me that the building operators prefered replacement over repair. The waste here is as horrendous as junking a car when the tires wear out would be.


In the first instance we have an appliance that is deliberately designed to be replaced rather than repaired. In the second case we have something designed to be repaired, but the owners have a policy of not doing the repair. Both are examples of the consumption that keeps the wheels greased on the economic engine that will soon chew us all up.


Sorry if this is way OT, but I had to vent.
Terry

Bruce Steele

  • ASIF Upper Class
  • Posts: 1031
    • View Profile
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #20 on: August 02, 2013, 04:49:06 PM »
ccg,  I think it's commendable you have a zero carbon goal. I would like to get there but somehow my plan includes land and an expensive wind machine to pump water. So I need more technology and tools and money to pay for it. A farm that runs close to zero is possible but the tools both you and Terry mentioned have energy inputs. On a working farm you need big tools.  There are other options for farming low tech that generally require horses but farm animals require pasture and land is expensive, around here more than a wind generator. My plan also includes an oil press , an oilseed crop and homemade bio-diesel.  There are people out there very close to zero carbon but it doesn't get documented like it should often enough. A sweet little book on the subject by Eric Brende called "Better Off" make some important points about community and zero carbon.
Book Description
Release date: August 2, 2005 | Series: P.S.
What is the least we need to achieve the most? With this question in mind, MIT graduate Eric Brende flipped the switch on technology. He and his wife, Mary, ditched their car, electric stove, refrigerator, running water, and everything else motorized or "hooked to the grid," and spent eighteen months living in a remote community so primitive in its technology that even the Amish consider it antiquated.

Better Off is the story of their real-life experiment to see whether our cell phones, wide-screen TVs, and SUVs have made life easier -- or whether life would be preferable without them. This smart, funny, and enlightening book mingles scientific analysis with the human story to demonstrate how a world free of technological excess can shrink stress -- and waistlines -- and expand happiness, health, and leisure.

This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.

Lynn Shwadchuck

  • ASIF Citizen
  • Posts: 189
    • View Profile
    • 10 in 10 Diet
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #21 on: August 05, 2013, 01:15:01 AM »
I read Better Off a few years ago. It has remained influential in my mind, but I also remember learning from it that moving to the country to do subsistence farming is hard, hard, hard. Or impossible. I have several friends out here (the ones who weren't born here) who've been doing it for real for three decades or longer and all I can say is they're scraping by – it sucks to be over fifty and have no expectation of your kids taking over. 
I'm putting this site as my signature. I built it five years ago to make it easy for people to eat less meat. This is a major way individuals can make a difference.
www.10in10diet.com

Bruce Steele

  • ASIF Upper Class
  • Posts: 1031
    • View Profile
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #22 on: August 06, 2013, 01:00:25 AM »
Lynn, I have a goal to produce several tons of produce for my farm stand and nearby restaurants with zero or close to zero fossil fuel. I have a decade in the produce business (slowly retiring out of fishing ) and I can run all my farm tractors on a  55 gallon drum of diesel per year.  I have grown safflower as a oil crop and I have made and run my tractors on homemade bio-diesel. I will buy an oil press so I can get clean oil from about one acre of safflower. That will yield more bio-diesel than I currently need. With the addition of a good wind generator I can power my water pumps and refrigeration.  This is both achievable and maybe even profitable. The hard work is a given and other than a dedicated wife I farm alone. We need to think about how to radically reduce our carbon footprint and even though I don't have children who want to follow in my footsteps I have friends and customers hoping I pull it off. In ten years I can only think of one girl who came to help me pick vegetables for fun but she is still in agriculture after finishing college. There are only so many people who really enjoy the work but humans are amazingly efficient and feeding yourself is it's own reward. The critters both domestic and wild are another reward and always a relief from the loneliness.   
L

Bruce Steele

  • ASIF Upper Class
  • Posts: 1031
    • View Profile
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #23 on: August 28, 2013, 05:39:32 PM »
I took on some Mangalitza pigs. Mangalitza pigs are a lard hog, lots of fat, from Hungary. Like I said in my earlier post I would like to run my farm with as little off-site inputs as possible and as close to zero fossil fuel as I can get. The new electric tillers will help cut back on fuel use but the heavy tilling like reincorporating the corn stubble will still be done with a diesel tractor. I have experimented with oil crops and bio-diesel but the thrashing equipment and oil press necessary to produce a barrel of fuel create a bit of a scale issue. I have tried hand thrashing on a small scale but an acre is more work than I can fit in to my vegetable schedule ( tilling , planting, weeding , picking and selling )   Although committing a lot of lardo to the rendering tank may seem like a sin I think it may offer a low tech solution to fueling my tractor.   So in my opinion horses take to much space, vegetable oil is a viable option but probably requires some sort of cooperative to efficiently utilize the thrashing and presses currently available. Pigs may be an alternative fuel option. They love the gone large summer squash and soft tomatoes. Bug or bird damaged fruit is no longer going to the compost pile. I am going to continue to pursue vegetable based bio-fuel but in a pinch I have another option. 
There should be more discussion of very low fossil fuel living arrangements that include feeding oneself. A nice comfortable house and electric car will not fill an empty stomach. Firearms are part of what got us here and I don't think they will help feed you if everyone decides a hunter gatherer lifestyle is their preferred method of putting food on the table.   JimD or Laurent please critique, feeling kinda lonely in the solutions discussion.

Laurent

  • ASIF Governor
  • Posts: 2521
    • View Profile
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #24 on: August 28, 2013, 06:01:20 PM »
There is no critic, your way of doing and thinking is awesome ! I am going that way too (I try, you are in advance) ! I may have some ideas, I'll come back very soon, I must gather my thoughts !

Bruce Steele

  • ASIF Upper Class
  • Posts: 1031
    • View Profile
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #25 on: August 28, 2013, 06:19:54 PM »
Thanks Laurent, It's peak season for tomatoes right now and I have orders for ~ 150 pounds today. I gleaned a couple hundred pounds almonds yesterday in the heat. I know this isn't a farming forum but I pay attention to what you and Jim have to say. I know gardening and farming are similar but it's kinda like poetry, writing a poem is one thing but selling your poetry is another. It has been a beautiful summer here and as fall sets in I start to think about putting some things away for winter. Another farmer offered me some walnuts so along with my almond stash I'll have walnuts for baking and some for the farm stand. Thanks again for the quick reply and it's off to the fields.

Laurent

  • ASIF Governor
  • Posts: 2521
    • View Profile
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #26 on: August 28, 2013, 09:53:57 PM »
Hello Bruce,

The question of bringing back the people to the land is a very serious question when we face climate change, until now we have all (nearly) gathered in cities (big, huge). I am afraid most of them will have to go back to the land (all will not be farmers).
I am trying it manually for one year and yes, it is not easy...few seeds have grown up of those planted in spring, the potatoes are fine (after killing by hands the thousands of Colorado potato beetles).
I am on my way to selecte the wheat for next year right now.
So if we can bring some cheap improvements and make life easier for everyone that will do good !
Just to say that without oil, without a lot of machinery life is not easy...well I am thinking of upgrading to a little machinery. The idea is a tool (no till system, see the video (much less energy require)) that will be pull by a bike, once in the field it will cut the weeds and sow at the same time, it will be 1,5m in length and 90 cm in width, I will pull (or push for safety) and the needed energy will be supply by a battery or a mechanical motor powered with oil produce on the farm.

The idea of using compressed air is interesting too but need very strong and light airtight reservoirs.
It could be compressed through a solar concentration system.

What I am doing is more than no till farming, it is also using trees to provide food and mulch for the  crops (they have to grow). I spaced the line of trees of 3, 4 and five meters (for testing).The trees will be shopped off in winter and in Juin. There is some young walnuts trees in my garden waiting October to be transplanted (Many other species will)!

No till
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqU0k_m6qAo
Some ideas
http://newfarm.rodaleinstitute.org/international/features/0404/teikei/

OrganicSu

  • ASIF Lurker
  • Posts: 98
    • View Profile
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #27 on: September 03, 2016, 08:59:12 AM »

I am responsible for between 500,000 kg and 1,000,000 kg of CO2e just from my past flying (at 250kg CO2e per passenger per hour flown). No I wasn't a pilot, but I flew too much.

For 3 years I flew several times a week, lived in 4 or 5 star hotels, ate out always, sometimes seriously long taxi rides for work. At the time I said I was selling my soul to the devil for money. By "selling my soul" I had meant the sacrifice of all semblance of friends, of connection to community etc. I now see, so clearly, that what I sold was our common home, planet earth, it's wonderful places and species.

It's easy to turn fairly small behaviour changes into something like an obsessive religious practice.
Completely agree. Although I can never undo what is done, I won't continue to make it worse by any purchase without consciously acknowledging the CO2 rise each purchase causes.

It has been 16 months since my last flight. I did not go home for Xmas. A major upset to my mother and each of my siblings. Yes I know the planes still flew. So it made no difference? I acknowledge it did not in conventional terms but there was still no way I was getting on that plane. It would be good if it had helped my siblings to not fly for holidays abroad but it only caused them to see me as stupid, mean (depriving my mum from seeing her son) and of late as an evangelist. So what benefit? I started to feel like I am doing the right thing. I feel better in myself.

Another mea culpa:
I used 3 old sinks to provide water to wildlife on my land (no rain for 5 months and counting). In 1 mosquitoes were breeding and I was happy about this.
We need to fall in love with all of nature, today. The only way I see us making it is if we nuture her and help her get back to a state of health which will sustain us and all species. She is in a state of health, just not for us and current species. We cannot kill nature. Spraying for Zika kills us. If you don't see it that way then see that the spraying has killed entire bee colonies and without bees we fast forward to our own demise.


Bruce Steele

  • ASIF Upper Class
  • Posts: 1031
    • View Profile
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #28 on: September 03, 2016, 05:12:47 PM »
OrganicSU, I am with you in so many ways. Your island life is perhaps preferable , it will focus the mind on what truly is locally obtainable and sustainable ( in the true sense of the word ). You also can draw on a culture that made island life possible for many thousands of years.
 My family has a history in dry land farming but it was always a big family effort supported by many horses and steam, then more advanced mechanization , and finally overrun by cities and expensive real estate. Although I remember the family farm , the horse barns and infrastructure ( although the work horses were gone already ( replaced with tractors ). Anyway grandpa sold out and it took me a lifetime of fishing and my wife's income to buy a farm to start again into a farmer life. So fifteen years ago we got the farm but the last six years have been drought ! My fruit trees planted fifteen years ago are in full production but I switched from a vegetable operation to pigs partly in response to the drought. I am using less than half the water I used in vegetable farming but our water supply is now seriously threatened and I am preparing to move my pigs to a leased piece of property if my wells go dry. Everything electrical on the farm is now solar and I have enough rendered pig fat collected to run my farm tractors for a year once I convert the grease into biodiesel. So I have achieved the goal of a small farm that is very close to fossil fuel free.  If I run out of water it will be a bit of a Pyrrhic victory but I think it still is a system that others might choose to copy.Proving up was my first goal and expanding the efforts to include other farms and farmers is still a project in the works.
 I am planning on collecting enough acorns to feed three pigs for an entire year and that will show that the grease project is sustainable. I have a bit of a Mea Culpa , I misidentified the acorns I have been using to make flour. They are Holm Oaks not Island Oaks. But I have been able to produce enough
acorn flour to keep one restaurant supplied in acorn flour for an entire year now. I am thinking of expanding into a larger operation and expand the number of restaurants that are willing to utilize acorn flour in their menu . I am also expanding the list of Oak varieties I utilize for pig feed and flour production.
 So I think it all makes for an interesting story and an interesting life. I can't make it rain but in a funny way the drought is forcing me to dig deeper into the deep roots of human survival . It's fun , it's scary and at some point I will have others more interested in attempting an exit themselves.

OrganicSu

  • ASIF Lurker
  • Posts: 98
    • View Profile
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #29 on: September 03, 2016, 08:35:57 PM »
I have achieved the goal of a small farm that is very close to fossil fuel free.
I shout Bravo Bruce.
If anyone says what you have done makes no real difference in the grand scheme you know it does. You also know that that is their reasoning to themselves for remaining on BAU.
You are also incredibly hard working.

Drought - I fear for you. We have an ongoing mini-drought and it really focuses the mind. In a place like this and South Cal water is life. Wilful waste makes woeful want.

Aporia_filia

  • ASIF Lurker
  • Posts: 24
    • View Profile
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #30 on: September 04, 2016, 02:18:29 PM »
I also left a comfortable and well paid job in a university. Farming, bee-keeping and designing solar-PV installations for pumps and houses is what mainly keeps me busy.
I'm near the Mediterranean sea, in Spain. The change is not as strong as in the Polar regions but stronger than the average. This year half of our beehives collapsed and this summer our two wells dry out. 20% of the country has become desert land:
 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969716307483 
This was a wet Mediterranean climate, with ~530mm to ~650mm of rain per year. It hasn't rain properly since april-2015. Less than 80mm in a year and a half. And temperatures way up.
No water no nothing folks.
I'll love if Bruce could teach us how to make your own biodiesel. Because here almost everybody is using a lot more of FF going with truck or tractors to collect some water from public sources. A really big positive feedback. A feedback that may not be used in models (anybody knows?), when production fields start receiving less and less rain the amount of FF used in the production of food increases exponentially.
Around here, almonds, olive and pigs are the basements of the economy of the region. Almonds trees are dying and there will be little oil this year. 

be cause

  • ASIF Citizen
  • Posts: 166
  • Citizenship .. a Lurker gets asylum
    • View Profile
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #31 on: September 04, 2016, 03:32:15 PM »
Because I was 'bright' , my parents saw my future as not being on the family farm . My mother saw me as a doctor. my father , as a bank manager . I wanted to grow up outdoors .. not in classrooms and colleges .
I successfully became a failure in my parent's eyes. Now I live in a 70's mobile home bought for £1000 10 years ago . I have a few acres which I am turning into a forest garden for future generations .
Living in N. Ireland ;I have no drought problem :) My well is full ! Last night was the second of violent thunder and lightening in a week . My climate is changing too .. to more rain , wind and warmth .
I thank all who choose to lessen their destructive impact on this wonderful gift of a planet we live on .
         be cause :)
be the cause of only good
and love all beings as you should
and the 'God' of all Creation
will .. through you .. transform all nations :)

Bruce Steele

  • ASIF Upper Class
  • Posts: 1031
    • View Profile
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #32 on: September 04, 2016, 05:33:44 PM »
Aporia-filia, I have gone back and re-read your posts. On your very first post you linked an article about domestication of plants in the Midwest ~ 5,000 years ago. I read it when you first posted it and there is a saying " necessity is the mother of invention " that relates to the impetus of domestication.
We are now again reaching population stresses to our environment that will drive risk takers into new horizons. Those who fear change will cling to BAU and at some point they will kill to maintain their belief systems . So stress doesn't magically result in change, it is only a very few who can psychologically handle throwing fates to the wind and venture into the unknown. It takes a certain willingness to accept risk and partly because I am a child of the sixties I have been taking risks my whole life.
 Biodiesel is a bit dangerous, methanol is toxic and highly explosive. Sodium hydroxide is very caustic and getting it on your skin, in your eyes or in your lungs is Bad News. So proceed with caution !

   http://www.make-biodiesel.org/The-Appleseed-Biodiesel-Processor/the-appleseed.html

We have an expert here on the forum named Sidd. Sidd would caution  you about home-brewed
fuels I am sure. I started making bio with the help of a zine published by Girl Mark back in 2008 partly due to high fuel costs. It was before 911 and it was easier then to obtain the chemicals necessary.
I don't know about obtaining the chemicals in Spain. 
 I look at the Dehesa as one of the best proven sustainable farm systems in the world. I have Mangalitsa pigs that are similar to Iberico pigs and I am using them to learn curing as well as utilizing the fat in my latest biodiesel plans. Drought is a mean problem however. I think acorns are drought tolerant but there is a limit to any plants tolerance. Fire is becoming a big problem and we don't know how long this will last but water resources will hit a cliff very soon. Deep wells will still provide water but we are again mining resources rather than utilizing renewable ones. I try to be honest about my chances even when I am taking big chances and I have a tight spot in my gut right now. I dream lucid dreams and last night was filled with dreams of fire. Fire that jumped uncontrollably , magically and the water that pissed out of the hoses was no help. The fire danced. Today I will work on cutting back brush.

http://www.make-biodiesel.org/The-Appleseed-Biodiesel-Processor/the-appleseed.html

sidd

  • ASIF Upper Class
  • Posts: 1260
    • View Profile
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #33 on: September 04, 2016, 08:03:45 PM »
i'm hardly an expert, but i have made biodiesel. Look at journeytoforever.org for biodiesel tips. I would say methanol is the biggest danger. It will make you mad, blind, and then dead, and has the charming habit of exploding under a wide range of conditions. Dont breathe it and dont make sparks. Explosion proof breakers, electrical gear and pumps would be a wise investment. As would nonsparking tools. Very careful attention to leaks in plumbing (redoubled care if you attempt methanol recovery) will be rewarded by increased chance of survival.

The hydroxides are not so dangerous, potassium hydroxide is worse than sodium. You can use ethanol and sodium hydroxide to mitigate the danger, but ethanol vapor will explode also. But ethanol will not poison you as badly as methanol.

If you use an acid step, careful with sulfuric acid, dilute it by pouring into water and not vice versa. Burns from sulfuric acid are very painful.

Least dangerous is to mod a diesel engine to run on straight vegetable oil. In colder climes this takes some ingenuity, but has been done successfully. 

sidd
« Last Edit: September 04, 2016, 08:39:42 PM by sidd »

Iceismylife

  • ASIF Citizen
  • Posts: 177
    • View Profile
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #34 on: September 04, 2016, 09:39:41 PM »
... So stress doesn't magically result in change, it is only a very few who can psychologically handle throwing fates to the wind and venture into the unknown. It takes a certain willingness to accept risk and partly because I am a child of the sixties I have been taking risks my whole life.
Taking away the exiting infrastructure makes change necessary.
Biodiesel is a bit dangerous, methanol is toxic and highly explosive. Sodium hydroxide is very caustic and getting it on your skin, in your eyes or in your lungs is Bad News. So proceed with caution !
I've worked out but not tried a way to make biodiesel with ethanol (5% water content)  Including how to de emulsify an emulsion.  It uses HCl NaOH and sulfuric acid. 
   http://www.make-biodiesel.org/The-Appleseed-Biodiesel-Processor/the-appleseed.html

We have an expert here on the forum named Sidd. Sidd would caution  you about home-brewed
fuels I am sure. I started making bio with the help of a zine published by Girl Mark back in 2008 partly due to high fuel costs. It was before 911 and it was easier then to obtain the chemicals necessary.
I don't know about obtaining the chemicals in Spain. 
 I look at the Dehesa as one of the best proven sustainable farm systems in the world. I have Mangalitsa pigs that are similar to Iberico pigs and I am using them to learn curing as well as utilizing the fat in my latest biodiesel plans. Drought is a mean problem however. I think acorns are drought tolerant but there is a limit to any plants tolerance. Fire is becoming a big problem and we don't know how long this will last but water resources will hit a cliff very soon. Deep wells will still provide water but we are again mining resources rather than utilizing renewable ones. I try to be honest about my chances even when I am taking big chances and I have a tight spot in my gut right now. I dream lucid dreams and last night was filled with dreams of fire. Fire that jumped uncontrollably , magically and the water that pissed out of the hoses was no help. The fire danced. Today I will work on cutting back brush.

http://www.make-biodiesel.org/The-Appleseed-Biodiesel-Processor/the-appleseed.html
 

Good luck on farming.  If you want to higher a rain maker give me a PM.

Bruce Steele

  • ASIF Upper Class
  • Posts: 1031
    • View Profile
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #35 on: September 05, 2016, 12:35:15 AM »
The problem with ethanol is distillation can not achieve 99% pure ethanol . So after you distill ethanol you need to desiccate the remaining water. This can be achieved using a column filled with synthetic zeolite 3A. After the ethanol passes through the column the zeolite can be either heated ( dangerous) or put into a vacuum and reused . So a molecular sieve can render your ethanol 99% pure and then sodium  hydroxide is added to make your catalyst for breaking down your base oil into fuel. Vegetable oil or fat is converted into biodiesel because the resulting  fuel will not absorb water. So it won't emulsify in your fuel tank.
 If you don't desiccate ethanol it will emulsify during processing and you will get a stuck batch. I have always used methanol because you don't have these issues using methanol although it too will absorb water if exposed to too much moisture. A stuck batch will make a mess of your processing equipment and biodiesel is messy enough without dealing with stuck batches. The advantage of using ethanol is the trace amounts of ethanol remaining in the glycerin byproduct isn't toxic . If you plan on using the glycerin for soap or animal feed I think ethanol would be preferable to the thorough distillation required in cleaning up your glycerin when using methanol.
 I think maybe I have ventured a bit off subject but that always seems to happen when following a thread .  

Iceismylife

  • ASIF Citizen
  • Posts: 177
    • View Profile
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #36 on: September 05, 2016, 12:51:54 AM »
Make soap first. dissolve it in water then use HCl to turn it into fatty acid. centrifuge it to remove glycerin. Then use ethanol with 5% water and sulfuric acid to transestify  it.

sidd

  • ASIF Upper Class
  • Posts: 1260
    • View Profile
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #37 on: September 05, 2016, 12:58:02 AM »
Watch out in this step.

" After the ethanol passes through the column the zeolite can be either heated ( dangerous) or put into a vacuum and reused "

Electric heating/explosion proof breakers, careful temperature control, failsafe thermostat, and water ice or brine cooling for alcohol condensation is reasonably safe. Or Steam heat if available, or even hot water heat. If you go the vacuum route, consider very carefully how you pull the vacuum. Make absolutely sure that ethanol or methanol vapor does NOT go thru any pumps that have oil in them. They will blow up and hurt you. Much safer is to use adsorption/cryo pumping,if you can get solid CO2 or liquid N2.

Watch your temperatures and leak indicators very very carefully if you are dealing with alcohol vapor. Think hard about workspace setup, especially ventilation, for when you have a leak. Explosion proof/non sparking exhaust fans (and lights and every thing else) will save your hide.

I agree with Mr. Steele that this conversation is off topic. Perhaps take it elsewhere, a new thread ?

sidd
« Last Edit: September 05, 2016, 01:39:57 AM by sidd »

Aporia_filia

  • ASIF Lurker
  • Posts: 24
    • View Profile
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #38 on: September 06, 2016, 10:33:13 AM »
Bruce, Sidd, Ice, thanks a lot for the links and advises. I think that I'll keep my hands away from such a dangerous task. But is good to know just in case.
Sorry, I'm very busy these days, I work on my own and is hard to take free time. It was this summer heat what has given me some extra free time. To much to work during the central hours of the day.
And yeah, this was off-topic, sorry again.
I'm also from the early 60's, from the very south of the peninsula but now I'm living only 200km south of Barcelona. In the south of Spain most of the pigs are Ibericos and live in Dehesas. I thought of bringing some ibericos and let them live like in a dehesa. There're plenty of "quercus" (oaks family) trees around and I live in the middle of the forests with ~40.000m2 of cultivable land. Lots of wild boards around and a few brainless haunters who are the main problem for the iberico pigs. The second problem is not being able to sacrifice any known animal.
Most of the pigs in this region are Mangalitsa, like yours, but here they are kept in buildings.
Good to know that at least some people is happy in beautiful-green N. Ireland

Well, time to keep working to cope with the lack of water.

sidd

  • ASIF Upper Class
  • Posts: 1260
    • View Profile
Re: On the individual level? A mea culpa
« Reply #39 on: September 07, 2016, 12:41:24 AM »
Easiest is to mod a diesel engine to run on veg oil. look at journeytoforever.org for description.