Don’t ask me why, but occasionally my mind turns to the problem of Africa, of people living in poverty, dying of starvation or disease, people who seem to perpetually need our help. And therein lies the rub, because despite the billions we’ve poured into Africa we seem no closer to solving the problems.
My theory has been that we need to pick a nation, one with a stable and open-minded government, then attack the problems in that country as a showcase to the rest. The help would mainly be through advice and expertise. The first issue is feeding the country, aside from the obvious issue that you can’t achieve anything if your people are starving, it avoids the need for handouts and frees up money used to buy in food for other things.
So you look at improving farming techniques, run schools for farmers on how to improve crop yields, simple stuff, tailored to their environment and crops, but enough so the country is capable not just of feeding itself, but also generating a surplus to sell. Continue reading
Kottke points to a talk by Richard Rhodes called The Twilight of the Bombs about how nuclear weapons were a complete waste for all concerned in the cold war.
With the UK about to renew Trident at a cost of £20 billion I was wondering if we should bother. We’re never going to fire them and do they really work as a deterrent any more? It’s more likely the global outrage of launching a nuclear weapon and the rest of the world invading and wiping you out would keep anyone in line.
Just put together some cardboard versions, tell everyone they’re real and save the £20 billion. Same result, less money.
I’ve written about energy several times before, but I seem to be reading more and more about it in the media and on various websites. At Christmas we got an electricity monitor, you plug it into your mains, program in how much you’re charged per unit and it calculates what your current spend is (per hour). It did cause us to adjust our energy usage slightly, we definitely turn the lights off more often when we’re not using them.
It also sparked me into looking for ways to generate energy at home. We could install solar panels and and a wind turbine, but that’s far too expensive and high on the hassle factor for us (and most people) so I looked at generating personal power. Most of the household could stand to loose a few pounds, and if we’re going to burn it, well then why not convert it into power. After some investigation I found that a) there are practically no small power generation devices available and b) it takes a lot of effort to generate much of any benefit (so plans of spending an hour a day on a exercise bike style generator which would power the entire house were out).
I had to post this, found via the ever-amazing Kottke (I’m going to get a shortcut key for inserting his link), this has to be the funniest thing I’ve read in ages, courtesy of Dilbert creator Scott Adams:
For my president I want a mixture of Mother Teresa, Carl Sagan, Warren Buffet, and Darth Vader. Bill has all of their good stuff. His foundation will save more lives than Mother Teresa ever did. He’s got the Carl Sagan intelligence and rational mind. He’s a hugely successful businessman. And I have every reason to believe he can choke people just by concentrating in their general direction. You can’t tell me that wouldn’t be useful at a summit.
And you know what, he’s probably right, hell, I’d vote for him for Prime Minister, sure he’s had some questionable ethics in business, sure he’s tried to squash the little guy and stifle creative development in computers and software, but what a guy to have on your side.
It’s been a long held belief of mine and many other people in the UK that our government targets motorists as easy prey when it comes to things like emissions and fuel tax. I was reading an article about how they’ve converted a trawler to run on vegetable oil when I cam across this statistic:
The environmental benefits of using biofuel on vessels would be vast, as a typical diesel-powered trawler on a 10-day trip emits 37 tonnes of the greenhouse gas.
In contrast, running a family car for a year would result in a comparably small emission of two tonnes of CO2.
So one 10-day trip in a trawler equates to roughly 18 cars being run for a year. Lets say they only run the trawler for 25 days a month. That’s 92.5 tonnes of CO2 a month, or 1110 a year, that’s equivalent to 555 cars, and they get duty free fuel. According to Defra, there were 6,341 registered fishing vessels in 2005, that’s equivalent to 7,038,510 tonnes of CO2 or 3,519,255 cars. Now imagine how much the big ships pump out.
There barely seems to be a day that goes by at the moment without some announcement or article covering the environment, housing, transport or energy. The world seems to be caught up in this. We’re all agreed fossil fuels are running out, oil especially, while demand is only increasing. I visit the petrol station once a week on average and everytime I go there seems to have been an increase. For me, all these issues are linked.
Last week a government report suggested that vehicle tax should be massively increased, especially on gas guzzling cars. No argument from me on that, if you can spend £40,000 on a big 4×4, you can afford £1800 for car tax. Although the argument is that these people are already paying their way through the tax on the extra fuel they must buy. The other question is whether 4x4s really are that bad, certainly they appear to be no worse than big-engined executive cars for fuel consumption and size.
The BBC has a diary following Fulcrum Consulting as they take part, along with roughly 400 other businesses, in the 100 Days of Carbon Clean-Up challenge, which is run by the Chartered Institution of Building Service Engineers (Cibse) with support from the Carbon Trust.