Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday Hope Blogging

I'm very busy this week, so I beg you to concentrate on quality rather than quantity. (On second thought, maybe you'd better not concentrate on either one!)

In California, opponents of same-sex marriage didn't want the state to describe their proposed constitutional ban as a "limit" on marriage rights. For reasons that ought to be obvious even to authoritarian homophobes, a judge has rejected their argument:

[A] Sacramento Superior Court judge ruled Friday that Brown's reference to an elimination of rights was an accurate description of the purpose and effect of Prop. 8, and a state appeals court in Sacramento turned down an emergency appeal by the Yes on 8 campaign late Friday.
Meanwhile, supporters of the Electrogenital Torture for Parking Violations Act are lobbying to get it renamed the "Safer Streets Initiative." I'll let you know how things turn out.

Colombia's High Court has ruled that emergency contraception and abortion are two different things:
[C]itizen Carlos Humberto Gómez Arambula...argued that the EC is "abortive" and violated the right to life for Colombian citizens. This was the same argument that the Constitutional Court of Chile used to ban the free distribution of emergency contraception in the public health system last April.

Contrary to what happened in Chile, the Colombian high court declared that EC is not abortive and does not fall afoul of the right to life. This is in line with the World Health Organization, which has unequivocally stated that "Levonorgestrel emergency contraceptive pills have been shown to prevent ovulation and they did not have any detectable effect on the endometrium (uterine lining) or progesterone levels when given after ovulation. Emergency contraception pills are not effective once the process of implantation has begun, and will not cause abortion."
That's all well and good, but what about Carlos Humberto Gómez Arambula's feelings?

Yet another bid to expand off-road vehicle use in Death Valley has failed:
Inyo County officials had hoped to take control of three routes — little-used paths and canyon bottoms — using a repealed, 19th-century right-of-way law known as R.S. 2477. The judge ruled that the county waited too long to assert its claims to the three roads within the national park because they were included in wilderness study areas by the federal Bureau of Land Management in 1979. The court agreed with arguments by conservation groups and the National Park Service that the county’s claims were barred because it had failed to file suit within the 12-year statute of limitations. The court thus dismissed the county’s claims to all of one route and most of the other two routes.
The appalling Paul Hoffman has left the Interior Department:
Hoffman sparked a furor by trying to rewrite all Park Service management policies to subordinate the parks’ conservation mission to “enjoyment” by the public, a stance that promoted human intrusions from snowmobiles to hunting. In his draft, Hoffman, a “Young Earth” creationist, struck all references to evolution (such as, “species are evolving” and “naturally evolving ecosystems”) in some cases leaving entire paragraphs intact except to excise an evolution reference.
The Navy has agreed to limit its use of sonar:
The Navy's use of low frequency active sonar will remain limited to certain military training areas of the Pacific Ocean, according to an agreement approved by a U.S. district court in San Francisco today.
The comprehensive agreement between the Navy and conservation organizations follows a court injunction issued early this year against the Navy's Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System Low Frequency Active sonar system, which fills vast ocean areas with blasts of underwater noise to detect submarines at great distances.

The court agreed with a coalition of organizations led by the Natural Resources Defense Council that the Navy's proposed LFA deployment in more than 70 percent of the world's oceans is illegal.
The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that oil sands can't be described as "sustainable":
The ASA said that the use of the word "sustainable" throughout the advertisement was defined as "primarily in environmental terms". Because Shell had not provided evidence that it was "effectively" managing carbon emissions from its oil sands projects "in order to limit climate change", the ASA deemed that the advertisement was misleading.

The ASA came to the same conclusion about Shell's claims about the redevelopment of the Port Arthur oil refinery and said the advertisement should not be shown again in its current form.
Research continues into the use of paved surfaces as solar collectors:
“Asphalt has a lot of advantages as a solar collector,” Mallick says. “For one, blacktop stays hot and could continue to generate energy after the sun goes down, unlike traditional solar-electric cells. In addition, there is already a massive acreage of installed roads and parking lots that could be retrofitted for energy generation, so there is no need to find additional land for solar farms. Roads and lots are typically resurfaced every 10 to 12 years and the retrofit could be built into that cycle. Extracting heat from asphalt could cool it, reducing the urban ”˜heat island’ effect. Finally, unlike roof-top solar arrays, which some find unattractive, the solar collectors in roads and parking lots would be invisible.”
Ikea is investing $75 million towards cheap solar panels:
Stenebo's Greentech will put about US$75 million into at many as ten companies in five different areas: solar technology, energy conservation, water saving products, alternative lighting, and new product materials. Scandinavian companies are Greentech's first focus. Nearly all of these areas are ones we would welcome the IKEA low-cost approach to, although setting up solar roof panels with just the simplistic diagrams and little Allen keys that accompany IKEA's usual do-it-yourself furniture seems something of a stretch. Then there's the problem than many installations require building and other permits. But IKEA's fabulous distribution network of 270 global superstores would mean green tech for the global masses, a welcome development.
Texas has taken steps towards building transmission lines for wind energy:
Already the nation’s leader in wind energy, the Lone Star state has been given a preliminary go-ahead to allocate $4.9 billion towards building new transmission lines to carry wind energy from rural areas into urban hubs like Dallas. This doesn’t necessarily mean the production of new turbines, just the most efficient use of the existing wind energy infrastructure. The upgrade stands to harness 18,000 megawatts from Texas’ 4,000 wind turbines - enough to power more than 4 million homes.
Apparently, they're unaware that there are forty gallons of oil in the average tree.

A company claims to have grown "significant amounts" of bioplastic in switchgrass:
Mirel is a versatile bioplastic with has many uses including food packaging, agricultural products, and consumer goods. It’s tough and durable, resistant to heat and hot liquids, and completely biodegrades when exposed to microbial activity in soil, marine environments, or compost piles.

Now Metabolix can make Mirel by combining genes of naturally occurring substances to produce a polyhydroxybutyrate (PHA) polymer that grows directly in switchgrass. As an added bonus, once the polymer has been harvested, the leftover plant can be used as a source for biomass energy. An efficient and versatile source of bioplastic such as this is sure to enable future generations of eco-friendly industrial design.
Now, then. Precarious houses (via wood s lot). The strange story of Shanta Rao Dutt. Childhood photos recreated Many Years Later.

The type-writer! : a machine to supersede the pen. An online myriorama, complete with moving parts. Electronics in the World of Tomorrow. And an exhibition of Asia-Pacific Photography 1840s-1940s.

Last, a new type of Film-Ballet.

(Illustration at top: "Rising Sun" by Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo, 1904. Via Woolgathersome.)


Anonymous said...

Hello, Phila. Great blog, especially Friday Hope Blogging. Keeps me coming back.

One point about the Shell Oil item regarding the "oil sands", perhaps you don't know that that's an industry term for what are actually called, and for the longest time were called, "Tar Sands".

It's only in the last few years, if memory serves, that the industry-preferred, and softer sounding "oil sands" has been out-appearing the real term in the MSM, and even on cool blogs such as yours. It's pure spin and PR on the industry's part, but it's been successful, proved by the fact that the ASA let it pass even as it was questioning "sustainable".

"Tar sands" is the more accurate description; one Canadian blogger described it, quite accurately, as something akin to thick glue mixed with sand. It's the reason it costs so much to get any petroleum out of the stuff; after you scoop it out of the ground you have to practically boil it, and that takes lots of energy, so much so that there is even talk of building a nuclear power plant in Saskatchewan or Alberta to provide the energy to heat the water (from the local rivers) to steam the black gold out of the sludge.

I know I'm being pedantic, but I just can't abide seeing focus-grouped spin terminology crowding out the real thing. Your blog, of course, so your choice. I won't pester you about it again.

Oh, one more thing: if you should ever happen to blog about the "Mountain Pine Beetle", which is well on its way to killing most of British Columbia's pine forests, be aware that until about three or four years ago it was known as the Northern Pine Beetle. At that time I guess that seemed safe enough, but when it began migrating south, so that now it's only a few hundred kilometres north of Vancouver, the name had to change. (I'm expecting that in a few short years it will be the Mountain and Valley Pine Beetle, and then the Island Pine Beetle, and then, after it's fully entrenched in Alberta's boreal forests, the Canadian Pine Beetle.)

Phila said...

I know I'm being pedantic, but I just can't abide seeing focus-grouped spin terminology crowding out the real thing. Your blog, of course, so your choice. I won't pester you about it again.

I'm familiar with the extraction process, and I know that "tar sands" is an alternative name...but I had absolutely no idea that "oil sands" was a PR term! Seems obvious, in retrospect.

Thanks a million for the info. Will adjust my terminology in future!

Anonymous said...

that takes lots of energy, so much so that there is even talk of building a nuclear power plant in Saskatchewan or Alberta to provide the energy to heat the water (from the local rivers) to steam the black gold out of the sludge.

I know this is supposed to be hope blogging, but that sentence made me want to slit my own throat.

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