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  Thursday, 28 April 2005

9:52:56 PM    Comment []

  Wednesday, 27 April 2005

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7:26:11 PM    Comment []

  Tuesday, 26 April 2005

If my post last weekend on the subject of peak oil got you thinking (and I hope it did), you might be wanting to find out more. If so I suggest this documentary.

With brutal honesty and a touch of irony, The End of Suburbia explores the North American Way of Life and its prospects as the planet approaches a critical era, as global demand for fossil fuels begins to outstrip supply. Some scientists and policy makers argue in this documentary, World Oil Peak and the inevitable decline of fossil fuels are upon us now. The consequences of inaction in the face of this global crisis are enormous. What does Oil Peak mean for North America? As energy prices skyrocket in the coming years, how will the populations of suburbia react to the collapse of their dream? Are today's suburbs destined to become the slums of tomorrow? And what can be done NOW, individually and collectively, to address this crisis?

It is available on Netflix, or you can buy a copy here . An interesting point about this documentary; The makers actually encourage you to organise public screenings, lend it to your friends, make copies and 'get the word out'. They are not trying to set any sales records.

If you are in Nelson the Nelson Peak Oil Study and Action Group have organised a public screening this Saturday afternoon.

"Great crises, by definition, are problems that got ignored until they were enormous problems, and I think we've got a great crisis coming with energy." Matthew Simmons

9:44:53 PM    Comment []

  Monday, 25 April 2005

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This morning I added the Thrush to the list of birds I have on photographic record.  I snapped this through my front windows. The glass in these windows is old and is full of imperfections which distort the view. This makes taking pictures through them rather challenging because you not only have to move around to get the best view of the subject, but also to find relatively 'flat' piece of glass to focus through. In this case the wonky glass has created quite a nice effect with the background while not really effecting the subject (I didn't do any Photoshop filters, honest!)

6:20:23 PM    Comment []

  Sunday, 24 April 2005

I slept in my van on the top of the Takaka Hill last night and woke to a snow fall. It must have just begun as I woke because there was no snow on the ground. I watched from my sleeping bag, with a warm flask of coffee, as it settled on spider webs and the tops of fence posts.

This was the view from my campsite. Just a light dusting across the hill tops, but its enough to annouce the arrival of winter.

The Riwaka valley packed with kiwifruit, apples, pears, hops, and many other crops was already looking thawed by the time I was halfway down the hill.

This afternoon I peeled cooked and preserved 4.5 litres of stewed apple. They were going to be apple quarters but... well, you live and learn :)   They will still taste just as good baked in apple crumble and smothered in custard in the middle of winter.

7:58:59 PM    Comment []

  Saturday, 23 April 2005

Happy Earth Day

"A true conservationist is a man who know that the world is not given by his fathers...
...but borrowed from his children." - John James Audubon

9:19:04 AM    Comment []

  Friday, 22 April 2005

Today, for the first time in my life, I am bottling fruit. Pears to be exact which, at the moment I can get for free (although I'm not doing this to save money). A friend of mine is currently working at a pack-house where they have been packing pears for export. As a perk of the job they are allowed to take a bag of fruit home each night. He is sick of the sight of pears so I asked if he would get me some. Ask and you shall receive. Right now I'm halfway through filling a 9 litre stock pot with peeled pear quarters and I barely made a dent in the bag of fruit he gave me.

This afternoon I stopped the supermarket to get a few more preserving jars. Must be a sign of the times, but the first shop I went to had a total of two 300ml preserving jars in stock. Wow. I won't get far with that, I thought. So I trotted over a block to the next shop. They didn't stock them at all! The third shop did, and I almost cleared the shelf when I took six 1 litre jars (with lids) to the check-out.

The girl at the check-out swiped the first jar across the bar code scanner and was visibly surprised by how light it was. She held it up to the light and looked at it. She looked at the other five jars, then looked at me and said...

"That is the first time, in all my time on check-out, I have ever seen anyone buy jars with nothing in them."
"Terribly old-fashioned isn't it?" I said smiling.

5:35:40 PM    Comment []

  Wednesday, 20 April 2005

7:44:20 PM    Comment []

I've been working from home today. I've had this feathered friend for company. She's got quite a taste for the berries on this tree near my front door, which I can see from where I sit at my computer. I let her eat all the berries she wants in exchange for a picture or two. I sense a keen intelligence in the blackbird. They can live up to 15 years which means this one has probably lived in this valley longer than I have.

5:33:39 PM    Comment []

  Tuesday, 19 April 2005

Today started like this...

... and slipped into evening like this...

In between those two photographs, I went to work, but since it's school holidays (which means I'm on "glide-time") I left at 1.30pm to go out to Rabbit Island Beach for a long overdue kite buggy session. I was treated to a nice gentle northerly sea-breeze that was perfect for my 8.5m2 C-Quad. I love that kite. Its a big green cruising machine.

I stopped in at my parents house on the way home for coffee, and realised it hadn't seen them since Christmas.

Right now, instead of a 'proper' dinner, I'm eating a huge plate full of freshly peeled and cooked, apples, pears, and nashi, wind-falls from my neighbours organic orchard, all smothered in heaps of hot custard. And I'm listening to my new Xavier Rudd CD, Solace, which arrived in the mail today. A perfect end to a deluxe day.

8:00:41 PM    Comment []

  Monday, 18 April 2005

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"...its hard to stay mad
when theres so much beauty in the world
sometimes i feel like I'm seeing it all at once
and its too much
my heart fills up like a balloon
its about to burst
and then I remember
to relax
and stop trying to hold onto it
and then it flows through me like rain
and I can't feel anything but gratitude
for every single moment
of my stupid little life"
American Beauty


Thanks for all the great feedback on my last post. That was very difficult for me to write. It a tough subject to talk about because I always feels like the 'negative' one in the room. As the regular readers know it not the usual flavour of things I like to write here, but I hope you understand why I felt the need to share it. There will be more on the subject here, but in the meantime, if anyone wants to discuss it one on one drop me an email.

10:05:05 PM    Comment []

  Saturday, 16 April 2005

About six months ago I heard the term Peak Oil in a conversation. “Whats Peak Oil?” I asked innocently. The two guys exchanged an understanding look, and one quickly produced a home burnt CDROM, which he handed to me with barely a word of explanation.

Later that evening I listened to that CD. It was a radio interview on Coast to Coast AM with a young lawyer named Matt Savinar. What this guy had to say is still dominating my thoughts now after 6 months of reading and tossing it around in my head. I have been trying to write something on the subject for weeks now, but every time I sit down to do that, I find it very difficult to find the words. I am so used to relating nice stories and pretty pictures via this weblog it is with sadness that I am about to write something you really won't want to hear.

Right now I am tempted to use a line like “The world as we know it, is about to end”, or “Society is heading for a cliff that we cannot see or avoid”, but I don't want to sound like an alarmist. So instead I will simply present some facts which, after much thought and months of personal research, have forced me to accept some big changes in my vision of our future.

First of all let me be clear that Peak Oil is NOT about running out of oil. The planet will never run out of oil completely, it will simply not be able to produce it at anywhere near the rate we, the human race, want (need) to consume it to survive at our present and future numbers. Peak oil is about running out of cheap, easily accessible oil.

Every oil field ever discovered follows the same pattern in production throughout its life. When oil is first discovered (or suspected as is usually the case) it takes a lot of initial investment, energy and time to get the first barrel of usable oil from it. Then as the oil flows production will increase rapidly until approximately half the oil has been extracted. Then production decreases at about the same rate until it is no longer economically viable to continue extracting. The result of this when graphed is a typical bell curve. In the oil industry this is known as Hubbert's Peak.

In 1956 Dr. M. King Hubbert, a Geophysicist, used this method to predict the peak of US oil production. He knew that peak oil production must follow about 40 years after the peak of oil discovery (as it does for pretty much every oil-field ever tapped). Oil discovery in the US had peaked in 1930, so production should peak around 1970. Pretty basic logic really. He was not taken seriously and was scoffed at. By the mid 1970's pretty much everyone had to agree that US oil production had indeed peaked (and has been in steady decline ever since), and that Hubbert's prediction had been remarkably accurate.

The same method can be used to predict the peak of oil production for any individual oil-field, country, or indeed, the world as a whole.

World oil discovery peaked in the mid 1960's. We currently burn more than four barrels of oil for every new barrel discovered. Obviously this cannot continue for long.

UK North Sea oil production began in the early 1970's, peaked in 1999, and is now declining at -6% per year. Although no really knows for sure, the Middle East is estimated to have peaked in 1997. Iraq has around 11% of the earths remaining oil reserves (and has the greatest potential for further exploration and increased production). Saudi Arabia has around 25% of the planets remaining reserves. If Saudi Arabia has peaked, then certainly, the world has peaked.

But to look just at oil production is only seeing half the picture. The other half is demand. Demand for oil world wide is skyrocketing. Growing economies need an ever increasing supply of energy. Skyrocketing world populations (made possible by cheap fossil fuels) need and ever increasing supply of energy. Our supply is about to begin declining. Forever.

About now you might be thinking, we'll just have to tighten our belts and conserve a bit. No more big cars, we'll get one of those electric hybrid cars or move closer to work. That is to grossly underestimate the problem. We rely on cheap oil for far more than just transport. We eat fossil fuels. Approximately 10 calories of fossil fuel energy is required to produce 1 calorie of food eaten in the US. I guess its about the same here in New Zealand or in any other “developed” country. The average piece of food on my table traveled over 2000km to get there. Then theres the oil based pesticides and the fertilizers that are based on natural gas (which is also about to peak). The oil powered irrigation, the oil powered tractors that prepare the ground, apply the pesticides and fertilizers, and the oil powered harvesters that bring the crops to the oil powered transport that will take it to the oil powered factory.... you get the picture. The one factor that has allowed human population to explode from a mere 1 billion in 1804, to 3 billion in 1959 and on to the staggering 6.3 billion of us here today, is cheap, abundant fossil fuel energy.

"Between 1950 and 1984, as the Green Revolution transformed agriculture around the globe, world grain production increased by 250%. That is a tremendous increase in the amount of food energy available for human consumption. This additional energy did not come from an increase in incipient sunlight, nor did it result from introducing agriculture to new vistas of land. The energy for the Green Revolution was provided by fossil fuels in the form of fertilizers (natural gas), pesticides (oil), and hydrocarbon fueled irrigation." - Eating Fossil Fuels by Dale Allen Pfeiffer

Apart from running our cars, and our food supply, oil is the base ingredient for many other things that we depend on. Plastics for example are all oil based. For a real insight on just how many materials we use everyday that are oil-based I recommend reading “The Long Fingers of Petroleum”.

In a nutshell we, as a species, are about to experience a major shock. Our population has overshot our environments ability to sustain us.

We have no viable alternatives in sight. Sure, there are lots of interesting, technically and theoretically possible alternative energy supplies but none that come remotely close to meeting our need for oil. I can't imagine a airliner flying on solar or wind power. Don't even start me on hydrogen economy. Its a myth. Hydrogen is not a source of energy, it is a means of energy storage. You need to input energy from another source to build a hydrogen fuel cell. Whats more, it stores energy at a net loss. You need to input around 1.3 units of energy to get 1 unit back. Bio-desil would require too much land to grow the raw ingredients, leaving no room to grow our food. Name your favorite alternative. It just can't come close to oil; and even if it could, we would need to replace an entire infrastructure, and bring it online, very very quickly. And even if we could do that, it would be like a drug addict replacing one drug with another (until we deplete another resource), when what we really need to do is break the addiction.

For me, after all the research I've done into this over the past six months (just trying to find a way out, a hole in the inescapable truth), the only question left is when. When will we start to see the effects of peak oil and the inevitable decline (read crash) that follows? I think we are already seeing them. The military activity in the Middle East is the obvious example, not to mention the price of oil which is at an all time high. The Scientists are saying it, the environmentalists are saying it, only the economists (and therefore the politicians) don't get it. It just doesn't fit their “supply will always meet demand” mentality. By the time they get it, and the markets begin to react (violently) it will be too late. Like a tidal wave. If you can see it coming, you're already dead. I honestly think all we can do is be aware, make others aware, get informed and prepare. Learn to grow your own food, and decrease your dependency on fossil fuels wherever you can. We're going back to the lifestyle we were meant to be living, and its going to be a very rocky road.

I would like to hear what you have to say about this. To me this information came as a shock, and has been difficult for deal with personally. The more I find out, the worse it gets. It has been very difficult for me to even write this post. It will even harder for me to post it. But I will, because I cannot in good conscience keep it to myself, and I want to generate some discussion about it here. So please, comments and questions (even flames) are welcome...

Some further reading on the subject:

3:19:41 PM    Comment []

  Thursday, 14 April 2005

9:55:36 PM    Comment []

Scientists at Roll Royce built a gun specifically to launch dead chickens at the windshields of airliners, and military jets all travelling at maximum velocity. The idea is to simulate the frequent incidents of collisions with airborne fowl to test the strength of the windshields.

American engineers heard about the gun and were eager to test it on the windshields of their new high speed trains. Arrangements were made, and a gun was sent to the American engineers. When the gun was fired, the engineers stood shocked as the chicken hurled out of the barrel, crashed into the shatterproof shield, smashed it to smithereens, blasted through the control console, snapped the engineer's back-rest in two and embedded itself in the back wall of the cabin, like an arrow shot from a bow.

The horrified Americans sent Rolls Royce the disastrous results of the experiment, along with the designs of the windshield and begged the British scientists for suggestions.

Rolls Royce responded with a one-line memo:

"Defrost the chicken."

9:36:37 PM    Comment []

  Monday, 11 April 2005

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6:21:47 PM    Comment []

Never wash black work shirt in the same load as a new fluffy lime green bath towel, unless your going for that old tennis ball look.

5:06:21 PM    Comment []

  Sunday, 10 April 2005

I have not been kayaking enough this summer. I haven't been out half as much as I did last season. Today I went back to one of my favourite places to paddle, Pepin Island. Perfect day for it too. Barely a breath of wind and blue skies all round. Devon came along and we both decided to give fishing a go. We towed lures behind our boats all the way around the island in the hope of catching a Kawai to cook for dinner. Unlike our last two attempts at fishing this area, we had no luck today.

I did take my camera along, wrapped up inside three layers of zip lock bags. I carefully took it out to get some photos inside the many caves around the islands coast that we can paddle into. Having a digital SLR camera near all that salt water was probably not a good idea it did a good job of capturing the strange light inside the caves.

We've dubbed this one the Bat-cave because its hidden, and hard to spot from the sea. It looks like a mere crack in a large rock face, but opens up to a large cavern. In the early afternoon, the sunlight shafts through the crack to light up the interior in spectacular fashion, as it bounces off the water to dance on the ceiling. I've tried to photograph this before with a pocket sized digital camera but it could never quite capture the colours in this semi darkness. The Canon 300D did a much better job.

Devon having fun herding schools of little fish around the Bat-cave.

Just one of dozens of little stoney beaches around Pepin Island's coast. I've said it before but I never get tired of the sound a beach like this makes.

Devon and kayak are dwarfed by the cliffs on the North side of the island. The large white patches on the rock give away the favourite perches of the many types of sea-birds that feed here.

I won't leave it so long between kayaking trips this time.

7:29:10 PM    Comment []

  Saturday, 9 April 2005

10:48:01 PM    Comment []

See if you can guess who made the following quote (without using google! The answer is in the comments.)

"The National Government will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and cooperation. It will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life."

10:19:41 AM    Comment []

  Thursday, 7 April 2005

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9:07:11 PM    Comment []

  Wednesday, 6 April 2005

Another new title graphic. I think I like this one.

...or does it look to much like a vanilla coke logo?

10:30:50 PM    Comment []

8:34:13 PM    Comment []

  Monday, 4 April 2005

9:38:17 PM    Comment []

  Saturday, 2 April 2005

I took this picture (one of 36) of a lone White Heron (Kotuku) in Whakapuaka Estuary this morning.

In Maori culture one of the highest compliments, is to compare someone to Kotuku. The White Heron symbolise everything rare and beautiful. It is easy to understand why, particularly when they leap into flight with a slow elegant wing beat. Kotuku was believed to be an inhabitant of the the spirit world, hence these words from an old funeral chant...

"Ko to kotuku to tapui, e Tama - e" (Kotuku is now thy sole companion, O my son!).

8:58:48 PM    Comment []

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