Monday, December 23, 2019

The Earth is fine, we are not

It's been a long time since I posting something to this blog. Most of my rants now go to Facebook, therefore there wasn't much of a need to post them to my blog. Today, however, I read an article that make me think it was time to post a new entry.

The Earth is fine. It's been around for billions of years and will be around for billions more. The Earth has seen climate changes from planet wide tropics to ice ages. The Earth has also seen magnetic pole reversals, solar flares, and asteroids. Life on Earth however is not fine. Each of the changes that the planet has gone through have changed the makeup of life on earth. Fossil records show we had a time period were life was made up of only simple organisms and at other periods of time we hard extremely large animals (dinosaurs) roaming the planet at a time where temperatures and oxygen levels were significantly higher than today.

Some people ask, "why are we making such a big deal over a temperature change of just a few degrees, temperatures have fluctuated before, why are we saying this has to have been human caused?" My answer to this is you must understand what global temperature is, as it is not the daily and seasonal temperature changes, but the average temperature across the globe for a year. This global temperature does not change much and takes an extremely log time to change. The global temperature changing by more than a degree within a few decades is a big deal. Currently the temperature is increasing, and the rate of that increase is increasing. When humans are pouring tons of CO2 and other green house gasses into the environment I find it arrogant to say that it's impossible for humans to be responsible for the climate change.

If your car starts making a funny noise, do you wait until it completely dies or do you have it checked out before? Right now the planet is making noise. There are signs that things are changing and the end result can be catastrophic, not to the planet, but to us. Should we wait until it's too late, or should we start paying attention and try to do something before we reach a catastrophic failure?

I've already started making changes in my life to both reduce the amount that I contribute to green house gases and to prepare for a future where the climate is significantly different. I have eliminated all incandescent bulbs form my house and completely switched over to CFL and LED which has reduced the electricity usage of my house. As CFL bulbs contain hazardous mercury I plan to phase these out as well by replacing them with LED as the burn out. Whenever any of the appliances in my house need to be replaced I always try to replace them with the most energy efficient model that makes sense. I've also replaced the furnace with a more efficient model and use a smart thermostat to try and minimize energy usage while still keeping the house comfortable.

While I traded in my car for a more fuel efficient model, I have not yet switched over to an electric vehicle, but am anxious to do so once it makes sense. The currently available electric vehicles I believe are too expensive and use too much energy and do too much damage to the environment in their manufacture to make sense.  What I want is an electric vehicle that uses a new form of battery that uses something safer than lithium and can get power from a better source such as solar.  I am also anxious to install solar panels on the roof of my house to reduce or eliminate the need for electricity from a power plant, but current cost and life expectancy of solar installations don't make economic sense for me at this time. My house doesn't receive enough solar radiation and the break-even cost is too far in the future.

To really solve the climate crisis it will take more than just individuals making small changes in their life, but it will also take the power of governments to encourage more people to make changes while helping foster new technologies to reduce and eventually reverse carbon pollution. I see a future where carbon is pulled out of the air and used to build new things, batteries are cheap and safe, and sunlight can be used to power everything.

What are you doing to help reduce climate change?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Chicago's Union Station: an Assault to the Senses

It's been a long time since my last post, partly because I now rant on Facebook, especially when it's just a little rant, and partly because I've been too busy to blog. These past few weeks though I've found a topic that really pisses me off.
With my recent move to the suburbs I've been commuting via Metra to Chicago's Union Station. While commuting via Metra for the most part is a quick and pleasant experience, the worst part of my commute is to and from Union Station and my office. With my office being north west of Union Station I exit the North side of the station at the Madison Street Entrance. Unfortunately Union Station is old with the tracks located below buildings. The ventilation on the tracks is very poor resulting in having to walk through a cloud of diesel exhaust. On top of that the trains all back in to the station so walking out the north entrance involves walking past the engines which are not only spewing diesel exhaust but are extremely loud. I have a sound meter app on my phone that I tried using, but unfortunately that topped out at 95 decibels so I can only imagine that the actual volume is well over 100. Many people, myself included, stick their fingers in their ears while walking past to block some of the noise. Sometime I try to use ear plugs, but that requires me to remember to put them in before exiting the train or before entering the station. I'm surprised I've never seen anyone with a mask over their face.
The worst part is during the evening commute since there always seems to be an engine parked at the stairway to the tracks. With two trains leaving at almost the same time the stairs are always crowded and slow moving with so many people going down and you walk right past the top part of the locomotive getting a full blast of warm air that I'm sure also contains exhaust. There was an article in the Chicago Tribune about soot particles on the trains, but I don't remember the article mentioning anything about the stations. I wonder how much soot I breath in on a daily basis.
You would think that being outside the station would end the assault, but you would be wrong. With all the cars, buses, and trucks running past you would think that's my complaint, but it's actually not. Instead it's all the smokers I have to walk past. Growing up I remember always seeing public service messages from the American Lung Association to quit smoking and I always thought that by 2000 there would be hardly anyone still smoking. Boy, was I wrong. I can't even recall that last time I saw a public service message about smoking and it seems like packs of smokers like to congregate downtown, especially around train stations.

Update 9/30/2014
I've been using these ear plugs for the past few weeks and they work really well.  They're inexpensive, reusable, can be inserted and removed quickly and easily, and come with a nice little case to keep them clean and ready to use when you need them.  They're certainly a lot more comfortable than sticking your fingers in your ears and just as effective.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Shrinking Thanksgiving

A little over five years ago I ranted about stores being open for thanksgiving.  Unfortunately since then things have only gotten worse.  Not only are stores like K-mart open today, but Black Friday, which has started earlier and earlier every year is now starting at midnight for most stores.  This means that the employees of these stores, instead of being able to enjoy a brief Thanksgiving diner with their family, now don't even get that.  Many employees have been complaining in order to work the midnight shift they must go to sleep around 2pm and completely miss out on Thanksgiving dinner.  With on-line shopping available 24/7 is it really necessary to have the stores open at midnight?  Are stores really going to make huge profits from those customers that are at the store at 1am to buy that one item on sale?  Are they really going to spend time in the store buying things that they could buy at a normal time for the same price?  It's time to let people enjoy a truly American holiday with their families and not force them to miss out just because they're not fortunate enough to have a job that allows them to sleep in.  If you must go shopping on Black Friday, do it from the comfort of your own home on-line and skip the stores.  If enough people avoid this ridiculousness maybe the stores will open later next year and let their staff enjoy the holiday the way it was meant to be enjoyed.