Three things I thought you might find interesting today, starting with the shortest:
Don’t pass the gas.
When you get crude oil, there is usually a natural gas pocket that goes along with it. Most drillers just burn it off. According to the World Bank, the gas burned off last year was enough to supply 27% of the US need for natural gas (~$40 billion dollars). Geez, if you you’re gonna burn it, you might as well burn it in a usefull way. I should add that producers wouldn’t get $40B, it costs money to collect it. (Via C&EN) (Thanks for indulging my juvenile title 🙂 Oh, and my juvenile spelling, too)
China brings out the big guns on polluters.
Yeah, I’m not serious, and neither are they; although they may think they are. China’s parliament is “considering” raising the maximum fine against water polluters 10 times higher to a whopping $130,000. That’s peanuts here or there. It seems like this is all for show. C&EN (what a great magazine!) helpfully notes that in 1998 China’s Cabinet enacted a comprehensive plan to clean up Taihu Lake but sewage and industrial pollution have still been rising. Guess we shouldn’t expect too much.
While you follow that C&EN link you should check out their article about the virus alledgely killing off honey bees and chemical immune stressors.
I’m pumped about a green and joyless future (why science isn’t everything)
In the best seller The World Without Us (#7 per NYTimes) Alan Weisman suggests that we reduce our population back down to 1.5 billion by having less kids (1 per couple) so the earth can sustain us well. In other words, creating a controled population crash as opposed to an uncontrolled one due to lack of resources/global warming. He said (on To The Point) that we should at least be able to have a conversation about this. He’s right, we should at least have a conversation. But we shouldn’t do it.
Here’s why. Any plan to regulate or even create an incentive for reducing the size or existance of families is one that forgets humanity and joy for the sake of cold scientific calculation. This one child plan is wonderful in that it has the force of logic and reason. But as I read somewhere (I’m sorry, I can’t remember where), the problem is that it is merely logical. To consider decreasing family so there are no siblings so that the environment can be saved makes me wonder why in the heck are we trying to save it, and for who? This fringe of environmentalists seem to have a general contempt for the entire human race. The arguement that we should care to what happens to the environment without any considerations for ourselves is to resort to nihilism. Actually, it’s beyond that; it’s putting the world seperate from us and on a higher plane of value. This thinking implies that there is no intrinsic value in humanity, but the ecosystem does have value. I can’t prove that we do have value, it’s not something that can be proved or disproved, it’s a value you hold. People spend too much time debating the “facts” when what they are really arguing about are the goals and values. We should try to come up with solutions that get us to most people’s goals as best we can (e.g. How about encouraging more adoption?). This is why science can be a dangerous tool in some instances: it fools people into thinking that cold calculations or scientific study are the only way to come to an correct conclusion. The distiction that needs to be made is that that science isn’t wrong, it simply can’t answer all of our questions.
PS Weisman’s book is primarily about what would happen if there were no people on Earth (how fast our works would or would not decay); it’s quite facinating from a science-only standpoint.