Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Book: The Post Carbon Reader

The Post Carbon Reader
Managing the 21st Century’s Sustainability Crises

Edited by Richard Heinberg and Daniel Lerch
In the 20th century, cheap and abundant energy brought previously unimaginable advances in health, wealth, and technology, and fed an explosion in population and consumption. But this growth came at an incredible cost. Climate change, peak oil, freshwater depletion, species extinction, and a host of economic and social problems now challenge us as never before. The Post Carbon Reader features articles by some of the world’s most provocative thinkers on the key drivers shaping this new century, from renewable energy and urban agriculture to social justice and systems resilience. This unprecedented collection takes a hard-nosed look at the interconnected threats of our global sustainability quandary—as well as the most promising responses. The Post Carbon Reader is a valuable resource for policymakers, college classrooms, and concerned citizens.

Table of Contents

Preface Richard Heinberg and Daniel Lerch, Editors
Foreword Asher Miller

Part I - Introduction
1. Foundation Concepts
  • Richard Heinberg: "Beyond the Limits to Growth"
  • Richard Heinberg: "What is Sustainability?"
  • Bill Rees, "Thinking 'Resilience'"
Part II - Planet
2. Climate
  • Bill McKibben, selection from Eaarth
  • Richard Douthwaite, "The international response to climate change "
  • Mark Sandler, SIDEBAR: "Cap and Dividend in the U.S."
  • David Orr, selection from Down to the Wire
3. Water
  • Sandra Postel, "Water: Adapting to a new normal"
4. Biodiversity
  • Stephanie Mills, "Peak Nature?"
Part III - Civilization
5. Food
  • Michael Bomford, "Energy and the food system"
  • Wes Jackson, transcript from 1/25/10 presentation at Univ. of California - Berkeley
  • Erika Allen, transcript from 1/24/10 conversation: "Growing community food systems"
6. Population
  • Bill Ryerson, "Population: The Multiplier of Everything Else"
7. Culture & behavior
  • Peter Whybrow, "Dangerously Addictive"
  • Gloria Flora, "Remapping Relationships: Humans in nature"
  • Bill Rees, "The Human Nature of Unsustainability"
Part IV - Modern Society
8. Energy
  • Daniel Lerch, selection from Post Carbon Cities
  • David Hughes, "Hydrocarbons in North America"
  • David Fridley, "Nine Challenges of Alternative Energy"
  • Tom Whipple, "Peak Oil and the Economy"
9. Economy
  • Josh Farley, "Ecological Economics"
  • Richard Douthwaite, SIDEBAR: "Money and Energy"
  • Michael Shuman, "The Competitiveness of Local Living Economies"
10. Cities, towns, and suburbs
  • Warren Karlenzig, "The Death of Sprawl"
  • Deborah Popper and Frank Popper, "Smart Decline in Post-Carbon Cities"
  • Hillary Brown, "Buildings"
  • John Kaufmann "Local Government in a time of Peak Oil and Climate Change"
11. Transportation
  • Richard Gilbert and Anthony Perl, "Post-carbon mobility"
12. Waste
  • Bill Sheehan and Helen Spiegelman, "Climate Change, Peak Oil and the End of Waste"
13. Health
  • Cindy Parker and Brian Schwartz, "Human Health and Well-Being in an Era of Energy Scarcity and Climate Change"
14. Education
  • Zenobia Barlow and Michael Stone, "Smart by Nature: Schooling for Sustainability"
  • Nancy Lee Wood, "Community Colleges"
Part V - Next Steps
15. Building resilience
  • Chris Martenson, "Personal preparation"
  • Rob Hopkins "Transitioning community"
16. Vision for a post-carbon century
  • Asher Miller, "What Now? The Path Forward Begins with One Step"

Monday, June 28, 2010

World3 in Modelica: System Dynamics Models

World3 in Modelica: Creating System Dynamics Models in the Modelica Framework

This paper and presentation by F. E. Cellier introduces a new release of the System-Dynamics library of Modelica and shows how it is being used by discussing a fairly large application code: Meadows’ World3 model.

Meadows’ only talked in Limits to Growth about the results obtained with the model. The model itself, originally coded in Dynamo, was described in a separate book.

Meadows’ World3 model has seen two major upgrades since its original inception, one in 1992, i.e. after 20 years, and the second in 2002, i.e., after 30 years. The World3 application code contained in SystemDynamics 2.0 implements the 2002 version of the World3 model. In the code, we offer not only the basic model, but also all 10 scenarios that Meadows and co-workers are talking about in Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update.

Future Research

What future additions are in the works? In today’s world of dwindling fossil fuel reserves, it becomes important to track how much energy we are actually using. Whereas classical System Dynamics is designed to track material flows, it does not track energy flows. This is a major drawback of the methodology.

For this reason, a second version of the System Dynamics library has also been released as a sublibrary of BondLib, our bond graph library. In that version, all material flows are represented internally by bond graphs. A bond graph naturally tracks energy flows. Each energy flow, in that version of the library, is represented as the product of a specific enthalpy and a mass flow. Hence we can track material flows and energy flows simultaneously.

When I drive my car from home to work, I am not only spending energy in the form of the gas that my car consumes. Some energy was also spent in producing the car, and more energy will be spent in discarding it at the end of its lifecycle and in recovering those materials from it that can be recycled.

The accumulated energy that accounts for all of those indirect uses of energy is called emergy. The specific enthalpy can be used to encode in the model the specific emergy, i.e., the emergy per unit of mass.

I plan on porting examples of emergy modeling, as described in the publications by Howard Odum, over to the bond graph implementation of the System Dynamics library, but this work has not yet been completed.

Check out the full paper and presentation by Prof. Dr. François E. Cellier here.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Making Sense of the Financial Crisis in the Era of Peak Oil

Nicole Foss of the Automatic Earth has delivered a very interesting presentation at the Transition Network Conference 2010 in the UK.

Peak Oil and the collapse of global Ponzi finance are a “perfect storm” of converging phenomena that threaten to sink our age of prosperity through wealth destruction, social discontent, and global conflict. Nicole will describe how our current financial system is an unsustainable credit bubble grounded in “Ponzi dynamics,” or the logic of the pyramid scheme. She warns that most people are woefully unprepared to face the consequences of the devastating deflation that is now unfolding.

Check out the following comments about Making Sense of the Financial Crisis in the Era of Peak Oil

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Monday, June 14, 2010

Lloyds Report - Sustainable Energy Security: Strategic Risks and Opportunities for Business

Chatham House-Lloyd's 360 Risk Insight White Paper
by Antony Froggatt and Glada Lahn, June 2010

As the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has amply demonstrated, growing global energy demand and the anticipated restricted availability of some conventional fossil fuels pose an escalating threat to the security of energy supply for global businesses. Sustainable Energy Security: Strategic Risks and Opportunities for Business, produced jointly by Chatham House and Lloyd's, reveals multiple vulnerabilities in our current energy system and urges both business strategists and government policy-makers to take into account a range of encroaching risks and be bold in making plans for a more resilient and low carbon energy future.

This report, jointly produced by Lloyd’s 360 Risk Insight programme and Chatham House, should cause all risk managers to pause. What it outlines, in stark detail, is that we have entered a period of deep uncertainty in how we will source energy for power, heat and mobility, and how much we will have to pay for it.

Is this any different from the normal volatility of the oil or gas markets? Yes, it is. Today, a number of pressures are combining: constraints on ‘easy to access’ oil; the environmental and political urgency of reducing carbon dioxide emissions; and a sharp rise in energy demand from the Asian economies, particularly China.

Executive Summary
  • Businesses which prepare for and take advantage of the new energy reality will prosper - failure to do so could be catastrophic
  • Market dynamics and environmental factors mean business can no longer rely on low cost traditional energy sources
  • China and growing Asian economies will play an increasingly important role in global energy security
  • We are heading towards a global oil supply crunch and price spike
  • Energy infrastructure will become increasingly vulnerable as a result of climate change and operations in harsher environments
  • Lack of global regulation on climate change is creating an environment of uncertainty for business, which is damaging investment plans
  • To manage increasing energy costs and carbon exposure businesses must reduce fossil fuel consumption
  • Business must address energy-related risks to supply chains and the increasing vulnerability of 'just-in-time' models
  • Investment in renewable energy and 'intelligent' infrastructure is booming. This revolution presents huge opportunities for new business partnerships
[via Transition Culture]

Friday, June 11, 2010

"Better than Growth" released by Australian Conservation Foundation

Arguing for something beyond economic growth

Australian Conservation Foundation has published an outstandingly well produced paper on how we can redesign our ways of living based on something other than economic growth and all its attendant troubles.

"Most australians don’t agree that their only goal in life is to increase their financial wealth and consumption – but too often our economic policy treats us as if we do. in reality, our quality of life depends on having time for family and friends, a strong sense of community, and a healthy natural environment. our economy should help us achieve those goals.

We can do better than a narrow vision of economic growth, and this report shows us how. Better than Growth explores the best practical thinking from around the world about how to improve economic measurements and align our economies to long-term environmental and social wellbeing."

[via Transition Network]

Thursday, June 10, 2010

BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2010

For 59 years, the BP Statistical Review of World Energy has provided high-quality, objective and globally consistent data on world energy markets. The Review is one of the most widely respected and authoritative publications in the fi eld of energy economics, used for reference by the media, academia, world governments and energy companies. A new edition is published every June.

BP Statistical Review of World Energy June 2010 is available online at bp.com/statisticalreview. The website contains all the tables and charts found in the latest printed edition, plus a number of extras, including:
  • Historical data from 1965 for many sections.
  • Additional data for natural gas, coal, hydroelectricity, nuclear energy, electricity and renewables.
  • An energy charting tool, where you can view predetermined reports or chart specifi c data according to energy type, region and year.
  • An oil, natural gas and LNG conversion calculator.
  • PDF versions and PowerPoint slide packs of the charts, maps and graphs, plus an Excel workbook of the historical data.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Bogotá: Building A Sustainable City

Bogota: Building a Sustainable City - documentary by PBS e2 series. Narrated by Brad Pitt. During his tenure as mayor of Bogota, Colombia, Enrique Penalosa was both revered and scorned for his urban planning and transportation policies. His public works projects, which largely favored the pedestrian experience, were unlike anything previously built in Bogota. Penalosa describes the environmental and social importance of minimizing automobile culture.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Conference on Ecomonic Degrowth Presentations

From Friday 26 to Monday 29 March 2010 the Second International Degrowth Conference took place at the historic building of ‘Universidad de Barcelona'. 500 scientists, civil society members and practionners from more than 40 countries attended the conference.

Thirty years ago, Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen published a book in French with the title “Demain la Décroissance” (Degrowth Tomorrow) (1979). The organizers of the Economic Degrowth Conference says, “Aujourd’hui la Décroissance” (Degrowth today). The economic crisis of 2008-09 brings a new perspective. Economic degrowth can be good for the environment but it must be socially sustainable.

The 2nd international conference on economic degrowth for ecological sustainability and social equity followed from the first international conference (Paris, April 2008), that took place with the support of the European Society for Ecological Economics, Club of Rome (Brussels/Europe), Telecom Sud-Paris and SERI (Sustainable Europe Research Institute)

Conference Presentations

Managing degrowth: Employment, Security and the Economy under a Degrowth trajectory
  • Blake Alcott: Degrowth and ‘unemployment’; Guaranteed jobs?
  • Gjalt Huppes & Ruben Huele: Degrowth with an aging population; increasing leisure for improving the environment. The key role of pensions and their funding
  • Richard Douthwaite: Why the global debt burden means there will be no recovery
  • Colin C.Williams & Richard White: Transcending the depiction of market and non-market labour practices; implications for degrowth
Beyond Sustainable Development: Sustainable Degrowth towards a Steady-State Economy
  • Brian Czech: The Chicken/Egg Spiral; "Reconciling" the Conflict Between Economic Growth and Environmental Protection with Technological Progress
  • Daniel W. O’Neill: Measuring progress towards a steady state economy
  • Ernest Garcia: Sociology and de-growth: social change, entropy and evolution in a way-down era
  • Nicholas A. Ashford: Pathways to Sustainable Development; Co-optimizing Economic Welfare, Employment and Environment
  • Ernest Garcia: Sociology and de-growth; social change, entropy and evolution in a way-down era
  • Jacques Lauriol: L’Economie de la Fonctionnalité; Une voie nouvelle pour une décroissance soutenable
Degrowth, Capitalist Institutions and Democracy
  • Pascal van Griethuysen : Implementing Degrowth; Evolutionary Economic Perspectives:
  • Barbara Muraca: Growth, Degrowth, and Justice; A scrutiny of ethical and anthropological assumptions in growth and degrowth
Growth is unsustainable. Long live degrowth?
  • E. Bilancini & S. D’Alessandro: Happy Degrowth vs Unhappy Growth
  • Joaquim Sempere: Degrowth; Proposals and Questions
Making it real. Practical transformations towards degrowth
  • Jørgen Stig Nørgård: Sustainable degrowth through more amateur economy
  • Dick Urban Vestbro: Saving by Sharing – Collective Housing for Sustainable Lifestyles
  • David Barkin: Constructing alternative degrowth strategies; Experience from rural communities in Latin America

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Water vs Energy - Special Report by IEEE Spectrum

The Coming Clash Between Water and Energy

Our thirst for water competes with our hunger for energy. Only radical new ideas will get us out of this mess
Consider a giant sponge, with limbs and tentacles that reach to the horizon. It dips into distant rivers, it delves for deep waters, it digs ditches to catch the rain—all to slake its insatiable thirst.

Clearly, this is no ordinary sea creature quietly snuffling the currents. We have met this sponge, and it is us. We humans are the thirstiest of creatures, and we’ve developed a nearly insatiable taste for this simple but delectable arrangement of hydrogen and oxygen atoms. But we need more. So much more.

We’re not talking about just drinking or bathing. Without water, we’d have practically no energy. Without energy—and therefore cars, planes, laptops, smartphones, and lighting—we wouldn’t be doing much.

In almost every type of power plant, water is a major hidden cost. Water cools the blistering steam of thermal plants and allows hydroelectric turbines to churn. It brings biofuel crops from the ground and geothermal energy from the depths of the Earth. Our power sources would be impotent without water.

IEEE Spectrum's June Special report is about “The Water-Energy Nexus.” It sounds wonky, but it’s a subject about which you’ll inevitably be hearing more and more. In coming years, we’ll undoubtedly face the quandaries of the Water-Energy Nexus because many renewable technologies come with big water tradeoffs. IEEE Spectrum’s Senior Editor, Sam Moore, is with us to discuss the special report in this podcast, and acquaint us with some of the stories.

Check out the rest of the special report: Water vs Energy.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Is Humanity Unsustainable?

The co-inventor of "the ecological footprint" now calls for a planned contraction of the economy, to save the biosphere and promote world fairness. How our primeval brains work against us.

Powerful speech on Radio EcoShock [mp3, transcript by Alex Smith] by Canadian biologist Dr. Bill Rees, April 15, 2010.

At a meeting of the World Federalists, guest speaker Dr. William Rees gave this speech standing, without notes. It shines with clarity, developed form decades of lecturing, in the field of his passion, which he himself developed – the “ecological footprint.” Rees is a professor at the University of British Columbia, Canada – and a Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute.

Rees begins with an early warning, following the 1992 United Nations Conference on the Environment. It is a statement by the Union of Concerned Scientists issuing a warning to humanity.

"Many of the Nobel Laureates in science signed on to this particular document but the bottom line is pretty clear: 'A great change in our stewardship of the Earth and our life on it, is required if vast misery is to be avoided, and our global home is not to be irretrievably mutilated.'"

Dr. Rees says this warning had no effect whatsoever. He moves to a more recent statement, from the Millennium Ecosystem Summary Report, in which Rees participated, along with 10,000 other scientists. It was the largest study ever taken of the world's ecosystems. It warned that:

‘human activity is putting such a strain on that the natural functions of the Earth that 'the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain human endeavor can no longer be taken for granted.'

It is no exaggeration to say that Bill Rees has taught and inspired at least two generations of students, ecologists, and environmentalists around the world. Here he outlines the condition of humanity on a small planet, with thoughts on how both can survive.

[via Energy Bulletin]