Wednesday, August 22, 2007


When we moved into this house, a brand new lawn had just been sown. Seven years of Geoff's and my haphazard care later, the clover and dandelions were beginning to take over. So last autumn I searched the Internet for environmentally friendly weedkiller recipes, diligently put together the most popular of these - a mixture of salt and vinegar - and sprayed the dandelions and clover, carefully avoiding the grass. What I didn't know is that salt and vinegar is not a weedkiller at all but (perhaps I should have worked this out) works by altering the soil, making it inhospitable for anything to grow in. My "weedkiller" rendered portions of our lawn such a harsh environment that only the hardiest of plants can survive there, namely the dandelions ... which have thrived and multiplied. Any grass that lay next to a sprayed weed is now dead.

This afternoon, Tessa and I began the massive task of digging up the dandelions, which I have come to believe is the only environmentally friendly way to get rid of them. We are hoping that lawn seed will be able to grow in a small layer of fresh topsoil. If not, my feeling is to accept that our lawn wants to be a dandelion bed ... after all the seed heads are very pretty.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Solar Power

One of the comments I made in yesterday's post sat uncomfortably with me all day today:

Solar cells, if I understand correctly, take considerable energy to assemble - almost as much as they in turn produce in their lifetime.

Someone told me that once. He seemed very certain of his facts; I believed him. On reflection, someone telling me something doesn't seem justification enough to spout off to others in a manner that suggests I know what I'm talking about. So I did a quick Google search, which revealed site after site asserting that what I said is a myth and not one site in agreement with me. If you're interested, Energy Bulletin was the site with the most detailed analysis of evidence.

The upshot of this is I might look into getting a roof mounting solar panel for heating water.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The truth about global warming doesn't matter

I have neglected this blog lately in favour of my Montessori homeschooling blog. This post has been percolating for a while.

I have a few friends who do not believe global warming is happening, or if they do they do not believe human activity has any significant effect on global warming. When I contemplate studying the topic in depth so that I can debate the issues with more authority (and be clearer in my own mind what is known and what is just conjecture), apathy creeps over me; the topic interests me but not enough. There is to much else I want to spend my time on.

It occurred to me recently, though, that the truth doesn't matter! Everything I can think of that scientists and environmentalists are calling on us to do in the name of preventing global warming, we should be doing anyway for other reasons!

Pollution from cars and industry may or may not contribute to global warming but it certainly costs lives and many dollars due to its effect on human health. What's more our excessive use of private motor vehicles makes the streets so dangerously congested that children are forced to depend on adults to drive them around rather than walking and biking independently as my friends and I enjoyed doing a generation ago.

My non-global-warming-related arguments against deforestation are a little more tenuous, less scientific. I don't feel that I have the right to wipe out other species through using their habitat for my own uses. Other people seem to disagree. If someone is of the opinion that they have a right to endanger animal and plant species in Papua New Guinea in order to have a cardboard box for their latest new appliance to be transported in, I can't really argue with that.

I like forest. It's a nice place to be. I would like there to be more of it again, not even less.

Our energy use contributes to global warming we are told. But it is also harmful in other ways. Energy produced by burning fuel contributes to the health damaging pollution I mentioned already. Solar cells, if I understand correctly, take considerable energy to assemble - almost as much as they in turn produce in their lifetime. As the technology improves and more efficient solar panels are created, it will make sense for roofs to be covered in solar panels. But solar power plants will always be problematic because they are take up large tracts of land that could be returned to its natural state. Wind farms seem to me to be a better option than many but again they take up land. Nuclear power produces toxic waste that will be dangerous for generations to come. Which brings us to water. Like deforestation, damming a river is taking away someone's habitat. Do we have the right to keep doing that? New Zealand is covered in hydro dams, and as a result species of plants, birds and fish that depend on rivers are dying out. Like forests, rivers are a lovely place to be. I would rather cut my power use and continue to be able to swim in rivers and walk beside rivers in their beautiful natural state than take advantage of every opportunity to use hydro power.

Cows. Apparently when we farm them (and other animals) in large numbers they produce greenhouse gases in large quantities. Regardless of whether that is true or not, we are poisoning our rivers with run off from farms. Forests are being destroyed in order to clear land either for animal farming or to grow crops to feed animals, when to feed ourselves directly with crops would take only a small portion of the land currently farmed.

I rest my case :)