Archive for the 'Environment' category

Modern Day Noah’s Ark

 | June 7, 2009 6:00 AM

My fascination with animals first started with snakes. From there I started reading books about dinosaurs, then killer whales, lions, tigers, weasels, badgers, wolverines, hawks, eagles, ospreys and every other carnivore I could learn about. I was never too interested in the herbivores or omnivores. 🙂

I distinctly remember reading in one of my books about how animals were going extinct and being absolutely stunned.  I couldn’t believe that humans would willingly cause a species of animals to vanish from this earth.  The reality is that an uncountable number of animal and plant species have already vanished because of human activity.  By the end of this century it is quite likely that there will be no more tigers, lions, elephants, rhinoceros, whales, dolphins, gorillas, monkeys, etc. except for the few kept in captivity in zoos.

Some entrepreneurs are recognizing this and taking advantage of it.

Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to MercyTigers?  Even the estimated five thousand still in the wild aren’t safe.  They, too, live in small and broken remnants of forest in India, East Asia, and the Russian Far East.  As their numbers decline, their market value as “aphrodisiacs” only rises, so that a single dead tiger is today worth a fortune, and it would take a Secret Service detail to protect each one of them.  African poachers today are killing off lions, too, and storing up the powdered bones and other parts in expectation of the day when all the tigers are gone and these become the next-best alternative for the Asian market.

Matthew Scully, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy , p. 372.

Scientists are recognizing this bleak possibility and are planning for this.  Humans are again playing God but in this case they are doing this by creating a genetic Noah’s Ark.

I had a glimpse of this strange new world myself in April 2001 on a visit to the widely heralded Project Noah’s Ark at Texas A&M University.  It’s one of those genome banks storing away the DNA of endangered species…

Within these tanks … are the sperm, embryos, and skin cells of animals headed for the brink.  Humankind does not yet have the technology to clone all of them … though in theory it can be accomplished one day through the use of surrogate mothers…  Now, while gene pools are still sufficiently diverse, we must go forth and collect samples of the type.

Each tank, a kind of ultimate wildlife refuge, is filled with fifteen gallons of liquid nitrogen…  A cloud of vapor rose as Dr. Kraemer removed the lid to show me the green plastic straws stored inside.  The straws have a label bearing the name of a species expected to die off: Chimp. Lowland Gorilla.  Baboon.  Giraffe.  Bison.  Bighorn Sheep.  Oryx.  Kudu.  Tortoise.  Other straws contain the makings of Lion, Leopard, Rhinoceros, Cape Buffalo.  The sperm, embryo, and skin cells of an African elephant will be arriving soon…

Matthew Scully, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy , p. 374.

In the beginning when God created everything that lived and said it was good and to multiply, I don’t think he ever intended this.  Maybe the Bible foretold of this in Hosea 4.

The Charge Against Israel

1 Hear the word of the LORD, you Israelites,
       because the LORD has a charge to bring
       against you who live in the land:
       “There is no faithfulness, no love,
       no acknowledgment of God in the land.

2 There is only cursing, [a] lying and murder,
       stealing and adultery;
       they break all bounds,
       and bloodshed follows bloodshed.

3 Because of this the land mourns, [b]
       and all who live in it waste away;
       the beasts of the field and the birds of the air
       and the fish of the sea are dying.



 | May 1, 2009 11:18 AM

I watched Seth Godin’s fascinating talk “This is broken” from Gel 2006 which I feature below.  This got me thinking about what is broken.  And one thing that seems broken is receiving mailings you do not want.

I get so many mailings that I do not want.  I try to contact them to stop and sometimes they do but more often they don’t which just discourages me from ever trying.  Recently I asked AT&T U-Verse to stop but they won’t.  And their mailings are huge glossy color booklets that just scream “I am going to destroy the environment in the hope that you will subscribe to my service.”

What is broken is that when these companies do this my opinion of them degrades.  I am less apt to want to use their service and enter into a professional relationship with them.

What I think is even more broken is how charities automatically put you on their mailing list if you donate.  When I donate to a charity they immediately put me on a mailing list.  I then have to call them to tell them to take me off the mailing list.  Now whenever I donate to a charity I always put a note saying “Please do not put me on your mailing list.”

What was more annoying was that Ji Seon once bought a church survey and that vendor immediately sold her contact information to some Christian mailing list.  Now we get mailings from all sorts of Christian vendors hawking the widest arrangement of products and we have no idea how to get off this mailing list.

I understand why all these companies and charities automatically put people on mailing lists.  But this short-term thinking, that is seeking sales and donations as wide as possible, inevitably hurts the long-term relationship.

I think companies should consider sending no more than one mailing to someone who has not explicitly requested it.  I think all mailings should have a section on the back that very clearly explains how to get off the mailing list.  I think if a company has a website it should have a page on the website for unsubscribing from mailing lists.

I think it’d be nice if I could create a website to manage all of this.

Seth was right, it’s broken.


Rejecting Solar Power

 | March 3, 2009 1:40 PM

Previously I wrote a post called Considering Solar Power.  Around November of 2008 I heard someone in my area was trying to pool people together to install solar electric systems to get a 10% group discount.  I contacted him and then the salesman but after speaking with my real estate broker who did not think it was worth the investment I decided not to do it.

After learning that the latest federal budget had more incentives for installing solar, I called the REC Solar salesman, Max Greenberg, again and we had a meeting where he presented his solar electric system proposal.

Max is an easy going guy and the presentation was interesting and informative.  Since my electrical needs are rather modest he proposed installing the smallest system their company typically installs.  Still the cost comes out to over $10K after state rebate and federal tax credit.  The federal tax credit will be going up with Obama’s proposals but that is offset by the state rebate becoming smaller since November.

The payoff period for my system is about 15 years.  According to the proposal the first year home value appreciation is $7500, based on $1 in energy savings equals $20 in resale value.  I am sure my real estate broker would disagree with this.

In the end I decided not to do it because I just did not feel it was worth spending over $10K to save less than $400 in the first year.  In my opinion it makes more sense trying to cut down our energy use which does not cost anything but could potentially save as much.

I think if the payoff period had been eight years or less I would have done it.  For others that is the case because they use so much more electricity and the local utility charges more per kilowatt the more you use.

Below is a satellite photo of my house with a sketch by the solar salesman of where the solar panels would be installed on my house.  Since my house does not have much south facing roof space, half of the solar panels would have to be placed on the west facing roof.  The salesman said though that the drop in efficiency from south to west is about 5%.

Satellite Photo with Proposed Solar Installation


This will be my last article about bottled water.   At least for today. 🙂

Before I moved to California I read the Suburban Christian to better prepare myself for life in the suburbs.  I appreciated Al Hsu’s writing and later discovered his blog.

As a result of all this, I’ve been persuaded that this is an issue that Christians should be concerned about. Sure, it’s better to drink bottled water than soft drinks. But the commoditization of water is creating an unnecessary consumer product, and evidently the bottled water industry is not doing much to provide increased access to clean water in disadvantaged areas of the world.

So if you drink bottled water, please recycle your bottles. Better yet, just fill a reusable bottle with tap water. Save the money you would otherwise spend on bottled water and direct it in ways more beneficial for people in need of clean water.

The Suburban Christian: Bottled water as a Christian stewardship issue.


Here is an article I read two years that started my questioning the whole bottled water industry.  Before I just did not care for it much because I was too cheap to buy it. 🙂

Meanwhile, one out of six people in the world has no dependable, safe drinking water. The global economy has contrived to deny the most fundamental element of life to 1 billion people, while delivering to us an array of water “varieties” from around the globe, not one of which we actually need.

And in Fiji, a state-of-the-art factory spins out more than a million bottles a day of the hippest bottled water on the U.S. market today, while more than half the people in Fiji do not have safe, reliable drinking water.

In San Francisco, the municipal water comes from inside Yosemite National Park. It’s so good the EPA doesn’t require San Francisco to filter it. If you bought and drank a bottle of Evian, you could refill that bottle once a day for 10 years, 5 months, and 21 days with San Francisco tap water before that water would cost $1.35. Put another way, if the water we use at home cost what even cheap bottled water costs, our monthly water bills would run $9,000.

Taste, of course, is highly personal. New Yorkers excepted, Americans love to belittle the quality of their tap water. But in blind taste tests, with waters at equal temperatures, presented in identical glasses, ordinary people can rarely distinguish between tap water, springwater, and luxury waters. At the height of Perrier’s popularity, Bruce Nevins was asked on a live network radio show one morning to pick Perrier from a lineup of seven carbonated waters served in paper cups. It took him five tries.

We pitch into landfills 38 billion water bottles a year–in excess of $1 billion worth of plastic.

Message in a Bottle – Bottled Water – Luxury Water – Mineral Water | Fast Company.


Water Tappening

Over the years I have become more convinced that bottled water is bad.  Yet still on the weekend when someone offered me bottled water to drink, instead of politely saying I will just have tap water, I took the bottled water.  After reading the articles on this site, Tappening Project, I won’t be accepting the bottled water next time.

The money we, as a nation, waste on bottled water could insure every single uninsured child in America!

New research from the Pacific Institute estimates that bottled water is up to 2000 times more energy-intensive than tap water. Similarly, bottled water that requires long-distance transport is far more energy-intensive than bottled water produced and distributed locally. Indeed, when all the sums were done, it seems the annual consumption of bottled water in the U.S. in 2007 required the equivalent of between 32 and 54 million barrels of oil—roughly one-third of a percent of total U.S. primary energy consumption.

Did you know that bottled water in the U.S. is not subject to the same stringent standards as tap water? The Environmental Protection Agency sets standards for water that comes out of your sink, but bottled water is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, which uses a different – and far less strict — set of criteria to determine what can be in your drink.

Corporate Accountability International yesterday called on Gov. Deval Patrick to dump the state’s contract for bottled water. The Boston activist organization wants the state to stop spending some $500,000 a year for Belmont Springs bottled water and instead pour the money into the public water system. The group’s “Think Outside the Bottle” campaign encourages the use of tap water. Bottled-water companies make a profit at a high cost to consumers and the environment, it says, since approximately 40 percent of their water comes from the same public water supplies as tap water.


Bird Watching in Sunnyvale

 | December 31, 2008 5:49 PM

Having lived here in the Bay Area for over a year I find myself often being surprised by the flora and fauna of this area.  In particular I have enjoyed bird watching here.

One of the first birds that amazed me was the hummingbird.  I had never seen one before and I was fascinated by these small birds that dart and hover around so quickly, not unlike how insects fly.  Here is a photo of a Sunnyvale hummingbird from Flickr.

HummerPreen by oskay

In September when I was walking with Dylan to the San Jose Children’s Museum I saw an egret in the Guadalupe River.  I was so excited as I shouted and pointed it out to Dylan that the bird flew away.  I just could not believe such a large and majestic bird lived here right in the city.  Below is a photo I found on Flickr of possibly the same egret.

Great Egret by gimlack

A few weeks ago I watched a peregrine falcon swoop into my backyard and rest on the fence.  Again I was amazed at this large bird of prey just sitting a few feet away.  The falcon was my favorite bird when I was growing up because that was the name of my school intramural team.  Here I found a photo on Flickr of possibly the same falcon.

Peregrine Falcon Sunnyvale by gimlack

Recently I was visiting Las Palmas park with Dylan and Isaac.  There was a group of birds flying around and making an incredible commotion.  At first I assumed that it was your typical small birds but when the group swooped into a small tree I was able to observe that they were parrots.  They are green and incredibly noisy.  As I watched them chew on the branches I wondered where they came from since I had never seen them before.  Here is an article about these parrots, called mitred conures.  This article, which is about ten years old, says these parrots "likely started as escaped or lost pets."  Again Flickr provides an astounding photo.

Wild Parrots in Sunnyvale by larryhendler


Monty the Manatae Says No Balloons

 | December 5, 2008 7:16 AM

If you don’t see balloons at my next kid’s birthday party, you’ll know why.  That and because I’m too lazy to get them and too cheap to buy them.


Considering Solar Power

 | July 23, 2008 3:15 AM

There are a series of articles on ExtremeTech about one person right here in Sunnyvale who installed solar panels on his home.

  1. Checking Out Solar Energy
  2. Going Solar: The Install
  3. Going Solar Power: One Month Later

The cost of his solar panels, after all the tax credits and rebates, was over $35,000.  The author’s family’s power consumption is much larger than my family’s so I can probably go with a much smaller installation.

Also the author paid for the solar panels using his home equity line.  He saves about $300 per month in utilities and uses that money to make his monthly payments.  His cash flow is the same but now it is going into an asset instead of the utility company.

I might consider doing this myself, there seem to be a lot of solar power vendors in the area.


free cflGo to Greener Impact – Million Lights Project and register for a free CFL.  Sure it is full of mercury dust but it saves electricity. 🙂