Our fractured future

This post started as an embryonic thought in my mind nearly a year ago. It’s about coal seam gas (CSG) mining and hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ – terms that are even more of a conversation-killer than the topic of my last post.

There is still a great deal of vagueness around the CSG industry, and I think the exploration companies prefer it that way.

Yet there is enough information out there if you look for it. I won’t list all the (reputable and rational) discussions of evidence that fracking or CSG mining is bad for the environment and bad for people – if you’re interested, they’re not hard to find. DeSmogBlog, Yale environment360 and Mother Jones are a good start. Also a must-see is the movie Gasland, by Josh Fox. Continue reading

Biofuel is not the answer

I saw an article today in the journal Energy and Environmental Science that claims to have the answer to the biofuel problem. Apparently agave, the plant that has provided a sugar alternative, rope, food, soap and tequila to centuries of human communities, has a bright new future as a bioethanol producer.

Biofuels are one of those contentious issues that everyone loves to argue about, so as to procrastinate the task of actually doing something about our increased fuel consumption. They’re wonderful in concept (plants take up CO2 from the atmosphere and then provide a ‘natural’, ‘renewable’, non-fossilised fuel source), but come with a whole suite of problems and unanswered questions, just like every other ‘quick-fix’ solution we’ve come up with in the past (and haven’t learnt from). Continue reading

Learning Danger

We may be taking our ability to learn for granted. It seems such an obvious thing…of course we learn! We went to school, started a new job, did a Masters in something, learned a new language…we can obviously learn.

Unfortunately, one aspect of our learning ability is falling short, mostly as a result of a very common trait – Complacency conveniently disguised as Confidence. We all know that most animals learn by conditioning – anyone who has trained a horse or owns a pet dog recognises that. A dog will eventually learn that going for the brush cutter’s head = smack on the nose. Training it to recognise other dangers (e.g. snakes) is then fairly straightforward. Continue reading

Another day for the Daly

Is it human nature to run away from a problem, instead of trying to solve it?

When Australia began to face serious questions about the future of food and water security in the Murray-Darling Basin, those who could do something about it first disregarded the problem, and then, once it was beyond repair, immediately threw it into the too hard basket.

This avoidance tactic would let the Murray-Darling die an agonising death, while turning the focus onto the Kimberley-Top End region.  Continue reading

Coal-fired nothings…

I didn’t post anything in January because I was in India for most of the month.  It was an amazing trip, but I came home to the same news from before I went away…Australia still hasn’t cottoned on to the fact that coal is on the way out.

I saw these while I was in India:

Wind farm near Ahmednagar, Maharashtra State, India

India is ranked 5th in the world in terms of wind power installed capacity, with almost 11,000 MW capacity, and they’re planning more.  The US and a lot of Europe are already on the fast-track to zero-emissions power generation.  Even China reached their 2020 target of 30,000 MW of wind power this year, and have now increased the target to 150,000 MW.  All this is compared to Australia’s current operating capacity of about 1,300 MW. Continue reading