The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

The anti-whaling ‘spaceship’ ship

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Just for fun:  Ever seen anything like it?
clipped from www.smh.com.au

Looking more like a giant spider ... the activists' new Earthrace, which last year circled the globe in 61 days, fuelled by biodiesel.
JAPAN has asked Australia to prevent the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin leaving port to harass its whalers in the Antarctic next summer, but the plea may have little effect.
The anti-whaling activists plan to upgrade their fleet from an ageing, former North Atlantic fisheries patrol boat to include another ship – something out of the future. The global speedboat Earthrace would head south under Sea Shepherd colours next summer, the group’s leader Paul Watson said.
“It looks like a spaceship. It can do 40 knots and dive under waves completely. We’ll be using it to intercept and block harpoons.”
In 61 days last year Earthrace circled the globe fuelled by biodiesel.
Earthrace’s role was unveiled as the International Whaling Commission heard that Sea Shepherd’s protests endangered the lives of whalers in the Southern Ocean last summer when the Steve Irwin was involved in two collisions.
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Robt Reich: What you can do

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Excellent advice!
clipped from tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com

“What Can I Do?”

Someone recently approached me … asking “what can I do?” […]
I soon realized the question was … what can I do about the way things are going in Washington?
People who voted for Barack Obama tend to fall into one of two camps: Trusters … and cynics […]
In my view, both positions are wrong. A new president — even one as talented and well-motivated as Obama — can’t get a thing done in Washington unless the public is actively behind him.
As FDR said … “Maam, I want to do those things, but you must make me.”
We must make Obama do the right things. Email, write, and phone the White House. Do the same with your members of Congress. Round up others to do so. Also: Find friends and family members in red states who agree with you, and get them fired up to do the same. For example, if you happen to have a good friend or family member in Montana, you might ask him or her to write Max Baucus and tell him they want a public option included in any healthcare bill.
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Just to the right of these words, under the heading “Contact” are links that will take you to your Members of Congress and the President. Go for it.

Yes, we can.

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And yet we continue to bomb each other

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Found at Uniform Velocity:

Carl Sagan could deliver this line at every college graduation until the end of time, yet the reality of it will never sink [in] for some.

We prance about on this planet, self-important and ideologically bent, discounting the true insignificance of our minor differences. We oppress and murder fellow planetary inhabitants, for slightly different sets of conclusions… humans as a species are tragically arrogant.

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Written by Monte

June 25, 2009 at 10:04 am

Amazing Falkirk Wheel replaces 11 boat-lifting locks

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OK, this is not exactly “Least, First” theme material.  But this dazzling canal lock story from Treehugger.com is too good to pass up.

Trace the traffic in the photo: Boats enter from the pool in the foreground (through the semi-circle) or the canal in the background (across the bridge), then ride the wheel—in a tray gizmo full of water—upstream or down. Yes, those tiny little windowy things way down at the bottom are the boats – pleasure barges.

Spawned by a design competition, the wheel’s balance is so perfect that it uses (with each four-minute rotation) only about as much electricity as it might take to boil a few tea-kettles.

clipped from www.treehugger.com

falkirk wheel overall photo

falkirk wheel animation
When I showed the amazing Peterborough lift lock, a commenter and Kottke both pointed out that the Falkirk Wheel in Scotland goes higher, faster. It was built as part of an attempt to regenerate canals in central Scotland, and replaces 11 locks that had fallen into disuse. It also is another example of the clever and original results that come from design competitions- it is now a serious attraction.
Like Peterborough, it relies on Archimedes principle to stay balanced; the weight of the boat displaces the same weight of water.

falkirk ring gear photo
The British government made a big investment in their canal system, (£17.5 million on the Wheel, £84.5 million on the canal revitalization). Unlike the proprietors of the Erie Canal in the States, they see that canals have a role to play in tourism and transportation.

falkirk wheel panorama photo
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Zow, that is neat.  Wanna go?

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The environmental inverted pyramid in public perception

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Here’s an interesting “least, first”-related observation by Nate Silver at the excellent FiveThirtyEight.

We (Americans generally) believe the environment is in danger from global warming. But we don’t particularly believe that danger threatens us:

clipped from www.fivethirtyeight.com

The survey (.pdf), conducted by George Mason University‘s Center for Climate Change Communication, reveals that Americans are concerned about global warming in the abstract — but perhaps only in the abstract. Just 32 percent of Americans think global warming will harm them “a great deal” or a “a moderate amount” personally […]

These beliefs are not necessarily irrational. Climate change probably will have more impact on the developing world than the developed one, and it almost certainly will have more impact on our children than it does on ourselves. […]

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Without taking the time to question whether the perception of invincibility is correct, let’s observe that it raises the perennial least-first question: Will we have the courage and grace to act on behalf of others?

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EPA returns! ‘Hold’ on mountaintop removal mining

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Good news! After years of forced inaction, the Environmental Protection Agency has come back to life—for the moment, at least—to slow the rapacious practice of “mountaintop removalcoal mining.
clipped from thinkprogress.org

A picture of a mountaintop removal siteWork co...

Image via Wikipedia

In a major reversal of Bush policy, “mountaintop coal-mining permits are being put on hold until the projects’ impacts on streams and wetlands can be reviewed,” the Environmental Protection Agency announced today: […]

Citing its regulatory role under the Clean Water Act, the EPA said the letters stated that the projects “would likely cause water quality problems in streams below the mines, would cause significant degradation to streams buried by mining activities, and that proposed steps to offset these impacts are inadequate.” […]

A midnight regulation by the Bush administration attempted to make permanent its policy of permitting coal companies to strip the tops off of Appalachian mountains and bury watersheds with the waste. […]

Update: “Lax rules by the Bush Administration have made mountaintop removal an American emergency,” JW Randolph of Appalachian Voices tells ThinkProgress. “Today, the people of Appalachia are celebrating.”

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“[T]he EPA said the letters stated that the projects … would cause significant degradation to streams buried by mining activities […]”

Gosh, ya think?

The process, you’ll recall, involves ripping off the head and shoulders of an Appalachian mountain.  On this mountain lives a host of wildlife along with the descendants of Scotch-Irish pioneers who have never known another home, and have little power to prevent the theft of the one they have. The “removed” mountain gets dumped—believe it or not—into Appalachian ravines and streams; they are simply gone forever.

The holy grail of this mountains-to-mudflats search (thoughtful ad-men will want you to know) is “clean coal.”  Coal barons can hire said pretty much whatever they like; they’ve funded generations of Appalachian politicians.  Of course coal is not really the goal, nor do coal barons likely give a rip about how clean it is.   Scraping Appalachia flat – destroying national treasures and poor peoples’ homes – serves one sine qua non:  it makes a few rich people richer.

Even more then, say a bravo! for the EPA.  The permanent destruction of our lands is too great a loss to be ignored.   More millions for millionaires is a miserable trade for a mountain.


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Here’s what Canada’s tar sands oil production looks like

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clipped from www.treehugger.com

tar sands before after national geographic march 2009
Before and after: the Alberta tar sands in the March 2009 issue of National Geographic (Photo: Peter Essick)
Oil sands represent a decision point for North America and the world,” says Simon Dyer of the Pembina Institute, a moderate and widely respected Canadian environmental group. “Are we going to get serious about alternative energy, or are we going to go down the unconventional-oil track? The fact that we’re willing to move four tons of earth for a single barrel really shows that the world is running out of easy oil.
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Good point.

[h/t Deb2012]


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Written by Monte

March 3, 2009 at 8:53 pm