This Saturday, with the hope of the beginning of Spring in Northen Hemisphere an interesting event will take place: the earth hour. I think I remember it or something similar from other years, but in any case I got the news from a street advertisement (classical media are still useful to some extent, although it would be great to get it from Angry Birds). In their web explain it started in Australia in 2007, it is widespread now throughout the world, it is organized by WWF and wants us to make a contribution against climate change. The actions consists of turning of lights for one our from 20:30 to 21:30 on Saturday. I understand that it is local time, so it will not be simultaneous for all. I suposse that a coordination of a simoultaneous one is much more difficult but it would really funny for any astronaute or an alien observer.
Now, that were are in strike and demonstration times in Europe this other way to revindicate things its quite refreshing for me. New times, global problems and posibilities require global actions and new ways for cityzens in any part of the world. I think it has many unexplored possiblilities not only for general reivindication but also for more concrete ones. For example, recently there was a crowded demonstration asking to shut down Garoña nuclear power station, most people living close to it, particularly in Basque Country is quite worried by this old nuclear very similar to Fukushima. Demostrations are OK, but maybe a massive reduction of power requirement and commercialization might be more worrisome to the owners of the power station or the Goverment making the decision.
I believe in the joined power of small citizens, it is something we need in climate change, we need a big and diversified driving force. Making concrete things is a way to start and feel you get some reward. It is just a symbol, but it could help to gain moment. Next saturday I will try to shut down the lights and if we are lucky and more people shuts down their lights and the clouds go to another place enojy one hour of starry night in the city. I will prepare the telescope.
Electric Bike in a standard shop.
A pair of years ago we haired a pair of electric bikes from elektracar in a day visit to Formentera island. It was a wonderful experience to pass the other bikers efforlessly in uphills even with my son’s added weight and a quite heavy bicycle. Apart from the selfsteem increment it was very convinient for a non-frequent-biker like me not to get exhausted in a quite hot day. It was the first electric bike I rode or I saw.
For this reason, I am happy to see that nowadays even standard shops sell them and anyone can see it in Bilbao. Because this transport is easy to use, easy to deploy and confortable for small distances even if hilly. It really improves the potential of bikes for normal people without much trouble.
And could save some tons of CO2 emissions if substituting cars or motorcycles.
I was really tempted to buy one but I usually go by train to work and buying something because it is a great idea can also be a waste of CO2.
A building in maintenance work
Last week we held a long meeting in my building home community to decide about some important and expensive maintenance works we should do and I remembered Durban COP17. Why? Lets find the common points:
1.- The decision is common, we all have the share of the responsibility because the common parts of the building belongs to everyone, and we will all suffer the consequences of our decision. But not all to the same point.
2.- We are not in the same economic situation, although this is sometimes less clear than it seems.
3.- The works to be done are expensive in short term. But not doing them will be more expensive.
4.- We have serious difficulties to get agreements and sometimes we need several useless meetings for that.
5.- Some blame each other for not taking care of their part of the building.
But there are some notable differences too:
1.- In Durban it is accepted that Climate Change is occurring and that it is important. This seems basic but it is the beginning because at home some have some doubts about the need to make the maintenance works.
2.- At home we more or less know each share in the cost, even the ones that do not like it. In Durban this is a discussion.
3.- At home most accept that the problem is the age of the building in spite of some mutual criticism. In the world we know (most of us) that the problem has been created by us.
Will we reach an agreement? At home we are reaching some kind of it, maybe in the world too but it will be at time?
Our old Toledo car
The cars are something more than a transport tool in many houses of western countries, they are a dream in some cases, almost a member of the family in others. In my work enviroment they are specially important as they are the one of the main targets of the steel we produce, so we talk frequently about cars, along with soccer and weather it is a confortable subject to talk about. My opinion and the opinion of many of my colleagues is quite different regarding cars and this helps me to think a bit about my ideas about transport.
This last week I remenber 3 unimportant conversation and news that show this divergence. One by one:
- One colleague is going to buy a car and I asked him if he thought about buying an hybrid one (we are two with hybrid cars now my wonderful Prius and a new lexus one). He told me that two motors in the same car and the necessary control is too complex, he is not sure about the madurity of the technology. It is an original argument because it does not talk about the cost. Of course I beleive hybrid cars are reliable enough, at least mine is 6 years old and works wonderfully well. (I will talk about it in another post).
- The second one is a conversation about fuel consumption of the Prius. One colleague remembered a figure about 7 lt/100Km. Whereas I never said this amount becasue my experience is that it is close to 5 lt/100Km but from the lower side.
- The final one was a nice documentary in the TV about a man that built a flying car and the dream that most of the cars will be like this in the future avoiding traffic jumps, long roads,… Freedom of movement is a wonderful dream, even for me but we need a realistic fuel for it. For the moment it seems more realistic to go towards low consumtion cars, better used ones, mass transit, woirking more at home or just walking or using bicicles.
In any case transportation is one of the biggest challenges we have to reduce CO2 emissions and maybe one the the aspecs in whitch normal citicens can do more but at the same time will suffer more changes. I think it is a good time to start thinking about it, start preparing ourself and start making small steps towards lower CO2 transport. The expensive oil will help us.
Our home worm composter
Last day my wife brought home some colleagues working in the enviroment deparment of the town hall that wanted to see our composter worms. It was a very nice visit and myabe the first time in the several years we live with those wonderful worms, in which I feel proud of them and not afraid of being discovered.
This story started aroung 7-8 years ago when after reading the web compostadores and some others. I bought there the composter (not difficult for skilful or time owner to build by oneself), I learnt from them some tips, bought the worms and they have become our pet as my son says in school. OK, maybe it is not so pink but I am happy because I do not employ too much time or effort with them, they survive and eat a good part of our domestic litter (the vegeatble part, the biggest one) transforming it into good compost.
I suppose you are asking, very ecological but does it have any relationship with climate change? Maybe it is not the critical factor but other litter treatments generate more GHG as methane or CO2 when they are stored or burned. Whereas composting (worm composting in this case, it could be done without worms but in a different way with more space requirements, and this composter lives at home in a small balcony) just fixes the Carbon in soil fertilizer. Apart from transport related CO2, not needing movement is always a saving in CO2 until we change our tranportation technologies.
I live in a 9 plant house and we are facing several maintenence/repairing operation last years due to the age of the building. With my limited knowledge I participate in a small comission to check our next project, which involves changing our wasted roof. As we were talking with the architach about the project Y asked why we could not use a white material (or at least paint it) instaed of the greyish one we will finally use. He simply did not take the question into consideration.
Maybe he thought it was about aestetics but it was about albedo. This strange word plays a role in our climate and can be explained with few words (although maybe not bery precisely): It is the amount of light and so, energy, from our sun that our land reflects. For that reason a quick trick to improve our situation could be to increase this and reflect more solar radiation. I know it sounds quite artificial, but we are not in a situation with too many choices and anyway we are reducing our albedo by melting several glaciers and polar snow. And its easy and in many cases costless at least in some buildings, roofs, etc… It is not the definitive solution for climate change but it could help.
Composition if 3 images from Google Maps. Left: My home city with red roofs, not very reflective. Right: An industrial area not far from the left image, the albedo is much higher. Bottom: Image from Iceland snow, real great albedo.
However, it is not commented anywhere and no goverment (local or higuer) has it included in building rules or politics. So, standard arquitetchs and building material producers will continue thinking it is about colour preference.
I would not be difficult to encourage people to love white for their houses roofs and we could counteract some tons of CO2 without terrible effort. Or at least explain its possibilities for all of us to make choices.