Bubble in the desert

A blog I started whilst on a GE "Bubble" assignment in Nevada. I'm back in Cambridge (UK) now but still miss the desert and my friends out there.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

ran 9 miles with Ivan

Ivan called this afternoon to ask if I wanted to go for a run. It was pretty cold so I'm glad I had someone else to motivate me to get out there. The moon was bright so we could see the trail by the river pretty clearly. After half a mile I'd warmed up, though I think it took Ivan a while longer.

We made a decent pace and as we came back to the lock, with 2 miles to go, we saw another runner ahead so we tried to catch him. He heard us and was having none of it. We picked up the pace a lot and for long periods were doing 6.30-6.45 pace.

Overall, for the 9.2 miles we managed 7:40 pace and it felt pretty easy. A nice run in spite of the cold.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Simon Mentha writes to Leo Hickman on dimmable eco bulbs | Environment | The Guardian

My neighbours are pretty cool. Simon just got a mention in the Environment section of the Guardian for pointing out that you can now buy very decent dimmable flourescent lights. Here is Leo Hickman's Article on dimmable eco bulbs.

For my part I have managed to buy some flourescent Security Lights for 20 quid in B&Q. They are 24W instead of 150W per light. Now all I need to find is some who doesnt mind going up a ladder to fit them for me!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Ran 5.5

My business lunch was cancelled today so I went for another run with Ivan and Tony. We trotted around our normal circuit at a slow pace, through some thick mud, at an even slower pace, and chatted a lot. A nice relaxing run.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ready Meals for the lazy

It's odd but since I've been back in England my diet has unexpectedly improved and it has been no hassle at all.

It all started when I signed up for an organic box scheme. Now a nice lady called Doreen delivers me a mixed bag of vegetables, fresh eggs and apples; every couple of weeks. I don't even have a receipe book but I have found that chopping everything up and shoving it in a pan makes good soup. Extra flavour from the organic nature of the food is always helpful.

The most impressive thing is that I only have to cook every few days, so I am just as lazy now as I ever was. I just cook so much that I end up filling the freezer with homemade ready meals, instead of buying them.

I'm surprised, I thought all this healthy eating would be more hassle but it is really less hassle and I feel particularly smug tucking in to one of my own ready meals!

I am no saint though - I still eat far too much bread and cheese too, but the bread is normally the very cheap discounted stuff just about to be thrown out by the supermarket.

I caused a bit of a fuss in one local supermarket, the Tesco Express in Histon. I wanted some eggs but two in the box were broken so I asked for a discount (I didn't need 6). They explained they would have to throw them out. I stamped my feet a bit and ended up being able to buy them. When I was in there last week I saw their cheap counter now features eggs with some of them broken! Hurrah! They are no longer throwing them out. A further point of interest is that I even ended up eating the eggs that were broken from the original box - they tasted fine! I think the inner membrane was intact.

Ran 10 mile; 7:50 pace; HR 156; 1425 calories

Just felt like a run today so toddled up the river with my iPod. I ran beyond Clayhithe this time and was surprised to note that there is another way to cross the river just 4.6 miles from my house - a lock with a footbridge across it. I didn't fancy getting lost today since it is a bit cold but I'll try it another day.

I was surprised that a gentle jog is still sub - 8 pace for me at the moment and it felt very easy for the first 5 miles, though the 5th mile was offroad and slowed me down a bit, requiring more effort too, and the 6th mile was similar, which was disppointing because, being downwind I thought it'd be easier. Coming back along the tow path I realised that sub-8 is not my 'all day pace' but I managed to hang in there, though it wasnt totally effortless. Coughing started as soon as I stopped running but seems ok now.

Heartrate seemed a bit higher than normal at times but the average seems ok at 156. Quite a few calories burned so I'd better eat some breakfast.

Monday, December 17, 2007

My accountant is an Ironman (and so is his wife)

Tonight Chris E talked me through what I should be doing in terms of preparing records for accounting purposes. He really knows his stuff and gave me LOADS of great advice (and tea) and then we talked about triathlon for a while. Both him and Helen have done several Ironman events (2 mile swim/112 bike/26 mile run). They have infectious enthusiasm for the sport and I was already pretty curious about having a go at one.

He also showed me his turbo trainer which pumps electricity back into his household supply. Now THAT is eco living!!!!

100% Embarassing - someone interviewed us on the PCT this summer

A really nice chap joined us for lunch one day in Oregon. He was asking for advice on doing the PCT and was hiking a section to get the feel for it. He was a very decent bloke and a couple of days later we found some beers he'd left us along the trail!

I don't know why I do this to myself but here it is. I hiked with Amtrak for 6 weeks and with Speedstick for a week or so, perhaps two.

Ran 6.5

Ran 6.5 today with Tony. Nice easy pace and nice to get out.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Artic Gone by 2012 - this coal mine's canary is on the way out

The Past Peak Blog this week highlighted a story reported on Yahoo News, the essence of which is captured in the following paragraph.

This week, after reviewing his own new data, NASA climate scientist Jay Zwally said: "At this rate, the Arctic Ocean could be nearly ice-free at the end of summer by 2012, much faster than previous predictions."

Ran 6.5 (30 miles for the week)

Ran 6.5 today with Adam, Tony and Anthony. We did El Gordo through Milton Country Park at quite an easy pace, even walking at times! I sped up a bit for the last mile, I really need to speed up a bit for all of the miles! It'd be fun to do a 4 miler at sub 7 pace, so perhaps I'll work towards that.

I'm surprised to note that I've run 30 miles this week.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

ran 4; cycled 6; swam 1.5

Not much exercise today but I had a little trott lunchtime and cycled to swimming later.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Urgent Petition on Bali talks to ask US/Canada and Japan to stop blocking 2020 targets

"I just signed an emergency petition trying to save the crucial climate change talks in Bali, Indonesia right now by telling the US, Canada and Japan to stop blocking an agreemement. You can sign it here:


Almost all countries have agreed to cut rich country carbon emissions by 2020--which scientists say is crucial to stop catastrophic global warming, and will also help bring China and the developing world onboard. But with just 2 days left in the conference, the US and its close allies Canada and Japan have rejected any mention of such cuts.

We can't let three governments hold the world hostage and block agreement on this desperate issue.

There's still 2 days left to turn this around - click below to sign the petition - it will be delivered direct to summit delegates, through stunts and in media advertisements, so our voices will actually be heard. But we need a lot of us, fast, to join in if we're going to make a difference. Just click on the link to add your name:


Exponential Growth and what that means (and what Rod Smith meant)

In a previous blog entry I quoted Monbiot, who was quoting Rod Smith in talking about this doubling effect of global resource usage. Rod figured out that over the next 23 years we will use double the amount of resources than we did in the preceeding 23 years (assuming 3% growth). And, shockingly, that this equates to, over the next 23 years, to us using more resources than the whole of humanity has ever used to date - more than the WHOLE OF HUMAN EVOLUTION, INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION, STAR WARS PROGRAMMES, COLD WAR MISSILE STOCK PILING, BUTTER MOUNTAINS AND WINE LAKES - more than ALL OF THAT!


A few people (one is a Fellow of the IMechE so I need to watch my figures!) have been asking me more about it and I've added a few more links to the original presentation but questions still remain and I haven't yet got a hold of all of Rod's slides. What is he talking about? Is he talking about ALL RESOURCES or just those relating to generating energy? How does his model work if we consider than many aspects of GDP don't produce anything because they are services and not goods? What about the fact that we are getting ever more efficient - how is that factored in? I have discovered something called The Kaya Identity which I will talk about on another blog post. For now though, let's consider what Expoential Growth means.

Here is what Rod Smith actually said,
... I argue that the economy is actually driven by the physical processing of natural resources into materials than goods and services which are transported to consumers. When we have finished with the goods, we dispose of them, often with very little effort to recycle. This physical view of the economy is governed by the laws of thermodynamics and continuity. The question of how much natural resource we have to fuel the economy, and how much energy we have to extract, process and manufacture is central to our existence.

It has been calculated that if all the present population of the earth was consuming in the present style of the USA, we would need about three earths to sustain ourselves and about nine earths to absorb the wastes and toxins
generated. But we have an economic model predicated on growth. Many features of our economic consumption can be described by the exponential growth function.

A key characteristic of any variable which multiplies proportional to its current size is its doubling period. It is elementary to show that relatively modest annual percentage growth rates lead to surprisingly short doubling times. Thus, a 3% growth rate, which is typical of the rate of a developed economy, leads to a doubling time of just over 23 years. The 10% rates of rapidly developing economies double the size of the economy in just under 7 years.

These figures come as a surprise to many people, but the real surprise is that each successive doubling period consumes as much resource as all the previous doubling periods combined. This little appreciated fact [...] lies at the heart of why our current economic model is unsustainable.

It is therefore the EXPONENTIAL nature of this growth that is described by this doubling Rod is talking about. This is what exponential growth looks like - the GREEN line (from Wikipedia)...

Here are some graphs showing exponential growth curves, I think it begins to become clear what Rod Smith was talking about...

(This is from the BBC Planet under pressure series which I found from an interesting Blog called Past Peak)

Finally, I have just found another awesome video called 'The Most IMPORTANT Video You'll Ever See' and was made by the teacher that made another video I showed recently. This one explains some of the maths concerning exponential growth very well. It's an eight part series. I'll embedd the first one here and leave you to find the others if you want to. Before hitting play, remember that Rod Smith, in his calculations, was using just 3% as his growth figure.

I hope this starts to support what Rod was saying. Later I'll come on to The Kaya Identity which allows us to start to answer some of the other questions people raised.

ran 8 miles

Ran 8 with adam on the frosty, and at times, not so frosty ground - pretty muddy in places.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

What an Incredible Movie - 'This is stuff'

My eco friend Jen sent me this today. WOW. What a great movie!

This is a teaser for the full 20 minute 'This is Stuff' movie (wait a while and the movie will start at the top of the page). It is a very clear message and would be very suitable for children. Highly, highly recommended.

Freecycled! Got a shoe rack

Tonight I used the Cambridge Freecycle network to get myself a free shoe rack! I've given a few things away on freecycle but this is the first thing I rescued from landfill. There are such incredible things going for free on Freecycle it's quite amazing, but, more than that, the people, my neighbours, are pretty incredible. The first thing I gave away was a clothes rack. The lady that came for it brought me some vegetarian ratatouille!

Monday, December 10, 2007

ran 5, cycled and swam

I ran 5 miles at lunch with Adam, Tony and Anthony. Felt a bit hard after yesterday's easy 7 mile trott. The ground underfoot was extremely slippery in places. We modified the route a bit but may need to modify it again and go back to El Gordo around the country park.

I managed to swim in the evening which was fun. I raced Louise on 50s at the end at was surprised to beat her. Mind you, by the time I was ready for the first 50 she had already sprinted 3x50s. Her stroke is so economical and long I felt bad beating her with my scruffy slog through the water. On a normal day though she'd get me easily.

It occured to me, during the swim, how nice it is to be in the water. It feels so great to slip through the water, suspended. What a gift - thank you Impington Swimming Club!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

ran 7 miles to clayhithe

I ran up the river at dusk to Clayhithe. The new footpath makes it very nice to run along the river even at dusk. It is just about perfect for running, not hard and flat like tarmac but slightly uneven without potholes. When I got home I coughed quite badly for 10 minutes but while I was out there things were lovely. Dusk is such a nice time to see wildlife too. I didn't see much tonight apart from a big old Heron.

Price of petrol (US: Gas) - $8 per US Gallon in the UK

David and I were discussing the relative cost of petrol yesterday. I thought it about time I worked it out properly.

In Cambridge, 1 litre of unleaded now costs, on average, £1.04 (52% is duty, 26% is the price of the product, 15% is VAT (sales tax) and 7% goes to the retailer.

There are 3.79 litres to the US Gallon and the exchange rate is currently £1=$2.03. So, the price of petrol (gas) in Cambridge in the UK, in dollars, for 1 US Gallon would be $8.

The current price of gas in Nevada is $2.99. Converting that back to UK units, that would be 39p per litre.

Interesting. I guess this is why we have smaller cars over here in the UK! Gas is 2.7 times more expensive here than in the US.

Needless to say, it would be better, much better, if the price of gas was at this level in the US too. That would provoke some change!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

YolanDa Brown

After the march we went to see Yolanda Brown play the Sax - pretty impressive stuff.

Climate Change March in London - December 8th

Climate Change Demonstrations took place all around the world today. Dave T and I joined the 10,000 strong march in London, in the rain, to exercise our democratic right to stand up and be counted. We bumped into Peter Pope down there too.

There were all kinds of slogans and campaign groups marching to make the main point that we MUST do something about climate change. We marched alongside the photogenic Surfers Against Sewage for a while. The colourful side of the march concerns me a bit since this was also a march of ordinary people, it was not 10,000 weirdos out on a day trip. This is an issue for all of us.

The talks at the rally outside the US embassy were pretty good, especially, as ever, George Monbiot. He always has some interesting statistics and well researched statistics which are dangerous to quote casually. One such, was from the Royal Academy of Engineering's Research Chair, Rod Smith, who has calculated that over the next 23 years, our capitalist drive for continual growth, will see a doubling in the amount of the earths resources we have used. This period would see use as much resource as all those throughout the whole of human history to date. Here it is from Monbiot's blog.

In a lecture to the Royal Academy of Engineering in May, Professor Rod Smith of Imperial College explained that a growth rate of 3% means economic activity doubles in 23 years (see ref below). At 10% it takes just 7 years. This we knew. But Smith takes it further. With a series of equations he shows that “each successive doubling period consumes as much resource as all the previous doubling periods combined.” In other words, if our economy grows at 3% between now and 2030, we will consume in that period economic resources equivalent to all those we have consumed since humans first stood on two legs. Then, between 2030 and 2053, we must double our total consumption again. Reading that paper I realised for the first time what we are up against. (From Monbiot - what is progress; referenced talk - Roderick A Smith, 29th May 2007. Lecture to the Royal Academy of Engineering. Carpe Diem: The dangers of risk aversion. Reprinted in Civil Engineering Surveyor, October 2007. (link to PDF transcript - start around page 15). Further information is available frmom a lecture leaflet..

A similar analysis is made on the futurist blog along with some graphs. This may make the issue clearer.

One key strain on the planet is the size of human population. It is a difficult topic to talk about but the fact is that more people use more resources. China has put radical policies in place to do something about this - each couple is only allowed to have one child. This is clearly a difficult policy on many levels. However, they do something. Why, I wonder, does the Catholic Church, through the Pope, persist with such a massively damaging attitude towards contraception perpetuating AIDS and population explosion? There are apparently 1.3 billion catholics in the world, forbidden, by the church, from using condoms - thank goodness we can depend on the self control of 1.3 billion people or we'd really be in trouble! see this article from the Independent for some related statistics.

It is with this in mind that I view the church's contribution and calls to do something about climate change. One small sentence from the Pope could do a lot for this biosphere.

Another message from the rally attacked the UK government's minuscule and distracting efforts in the direction of climate change. We are legislating against plastic bags whilst at the same time planning to widened the M1 Motorway (freeway) and expand our biggest airport (Heathrow) in the interests of "growth". This is distraction and destruction not growth.

I'm pleased I went to London to stand with the 10,000 in the rain though I was disappointed there were not more people - just the weigh-in at the Mayweather and Hatton fight in Vegas yesterday attracted 6,0000 people! Perhaps one day we will start to take this seriously.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Ran 6 miles - El Gordo route

I ran the classic El Gordo route with Tony and Anthony. We didn't go super fast but it was a nice 6 miles and I didn't get dizzy this time, I just coughed a bit.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Dancing like nobody is watching - to Amy MacDonald

I've been hearing a song on the radio that I really like. I thought it sounded a bit like the Cranberries but not quite. I have finally discovered that it is Amy MacDonald. Someone has made a youtube video to the song (mainly from the film trainspotting for some reason). It sounds like this and I love it! - I've been dancing around the kitchen!.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

March (or cycle) against Climate Change - who is coming?

Ok it's time for a bit of direct action in the form of showing up and walking, or riding. Who is coming?


Essential Viewing on Global Warming - What an excellent argument

"The Most Terrifying Video You'll Ever See"

Thanks for showing me this DT!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

OUDES Conference - Peak Oil and Permaculture - Climate Change and Community

Nicola asked if I wanted to go to this OUDES conference and I was glad we went. What an excellent day. I knew quite a lot about some of the subjects, such as Peak Oil and the bogusness of Biofuels but it is always good to learn more.

Peak Oil is an expression which described the global peak in oil supply. It is believed we are there right now, or will be within a few years. The exact date of the peak is immaterial. The indisputable fact is that we are going to have to start managing with less oil.

What I hadn't fully realised, until we watched a DVD at lunchtime, was that Cuba has already survived peak oil. With the US embargos on supplying anything to Cuba they became heavily dependent on the Soviet Union for products like Oil. In the 1990s, with the collapse of the USSR, the oil stopped flowing pretty fast. Cuba had to adapt and adapt quickly, to life without oil. It is somewhat ironic to now look at Cuba as an excellent case study for permaculture and to consider how much more advanced they are than much of the rest of the world.

A great day - lots to think about.