[Coral-List] What can SCIENTISTS do??

Michael Risk riskmj at univmail.cis.mcmaster.ca
Tue Jan 1 16:24:24 EST 2008

Hello Bill, colleagues.

On this first day of 2008, I am reminded that environmental decisions
are often thorny ones. We need to start thinking of embodied energy,
lifespan utilisation, etc etc.

My nephew Dave teaches environmental science at St Frances-Xavier, in
Nova Scotia, and he put me onto some neat, surprising data, some of
which are summarised on 


Hybrid cars are no solution. Owners feel good as they drive them, but
the embodied energy in the high-tech components is very high, and
disposing of the components upon junking the vehicle is not easy.
Hybrids consume more energy in their entire lifespan than a Tahoe SUV.

In fact, much to my amazement, Hummers turn out not to be not that bad,
environmentally!! But for reasons that bring them no credit. They are
badly made, from crap components: relatively low embodied energy. They
don't last long, and when they die, they simply rust down into nontoxic

There will be no quick fixes. We will not save the planet by buying
hybrids. We need to consider all the elements, and even then there will
be gray areas. I just had an argument with a local, about wood heat. He
maintained that pellet stoves, that use compressed sawdust from
softwood logging and processing, are the "best" answer. I argued that
transportation energy was high for pellets, and that sustainably
harvesting one's own hardwood bush (as we do) was better. I am not sure
which of us was correct.

Yours in confusion-


On Mon, 31 Dec 2007 14:29:02 -0500
 "Precht, William F" <PrechtW at BATTELLE.ORG> wrote:
> Charles:
> Your note to the list reminded me of a funny (ironic) story from a
> few
> years ago.
> Isabelle Cote and John Reynolds organized and led a Coral Reef
> Conservation Workshop at the Zoological Society of London in December
> 2004 - at that meeting a prominent American reef scientist trying to
> make a point about CO2 emissions asked for a show of hands as to how
> many people in the audience drove a hybrid vehicle.  She was the only
> person to raise her hand.  This was followed by her chiding the group
> until Clive Wilkinson then asked for a show of hands as to how many
> people in the audience even owned a car.  Only a small handful (out
> of a
> group of 400) raised their hands.  
> Obviously, her point backfired but the overriding message was not
> lost
> on this group of European reef scientists.  
> Being one of only a few North American scientists at this meeting, I
> was
> amazed at how different we view, value and prioritize things that we
> normally take for granted. 
> Hopefully, we can all learn a lesson from this. 
> Have a very happy and safe New Year!
> Cheers,
> Bill Precht
> -----Original Message-----
> From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> [mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Charles
> Delbeek
> Sent: Wednesday, December 26, 2007 3:34 PM
> To: Douglas Fenner; Coral List
> Subject: Re: [Coral-List] What can SCIENTISTS do??
> Douglas Fenner wrote:
> >      I remind folks that the average French person produces one
> third
> the 
> > amount of CO2 as the average American or Australian.  It can be
> done. 
> > People are now saying that it would only take 0.1% of global GNP to
> solve 
> > this problem.  We spend more than that on stuff we throw away.  If
> society 
> > wants to solve this problem, it can be solved.  Let's get cracking.
> >   
> Don't forget too that in Europe, public transport systems are much
> more 
> prevalent than in North America (think rail, metros, buses) plus many
> of
> these cities were around long before the car was so they are smaller,
> closer together and hence were easy to connect to each other. Also, 
> people ride bikes and walk more than they do in North America. In
> North 
> America cites are huge, distances between them are great, etc etc so 
> getting around is not as easy as in Europe. I saw a Frontline program
> on
> urban congestion and srawl, using Atlanta as an example, they showed 
> newly constructed neighbourhoods with no sidewalks, all geared toward
> the car. I read recently that the feds are going to start looking
> into 
> boosting the rail system in America ... 'bout time I say.
> Doug's bang on with the gas cost observation, fuel prices have always
> been higher in Europe and yes cars are smaller, but then so are the 
> roads in many locales across Europe. Then again, gas prices were
> always 
> higher in Canada than the US due to higher taxes, didn't stop them
> from 
> buying big American made cars.
> Aloha!
> Charles
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Mike Risk
Marine Ecologist
PO Box 1195
Durham Ontario
N0G 1R0

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