G-7 Pledge: No carbon by the year 2100.

June 13, 2015

white-semi-truckThe G-7 or Group of 7 major industrialized nations at their summit this week pledged to reduce the carbon footprint in their economies, and further to completely remove all carbon by the year 2100 or 85 years from now. The G-7 includes Canada, the United States, European countries like Germany, France and the UK, and Asian powerhouse Japan. Eighty-five years sounds like a long time, but think for a moment what no carbon would mean to our society and our lifestyle expectations.

It means no carbon fuels such as gasoline, diesel or jet fuel allowed. Planes, trains and automobiles will no longer exist in our world unless they were powered by non-carbon fuels. That means no coal, no natural gas and no crude oil in any form. They’re all are carbon-based.

Hydrogen, nuclear, solar or wind power are the potential alternatives. Visualize cars and trucks adorned with sails moving on our highways much like the sailors of old. Perhaps solar panels will be much smaller and more efficient by then and drivers will have vehicles constructed of solar panels top to bottom. When the wind dies we’ll be stranded, becalmed like sailors of old, or if it’s cloudy or when night falls drivers will be unable to go further that day.

Electric cars are also an option but remember the power to charge them is generated now by fossil fuels (carbon). Proliferation of electric powered cars means more power to be generated.

Nuclear power is non-carbon but we’d have to develop compact nuclear reactors to power our vehicles. Would we really want millions of nuclear cores traveling down our highways and byways at high speed. Accidents might result in nuclear explosions or at best meltdowns and radioactive releases to the atmosphere on a routine basis. Massive amounts of nuclear waste would be generated as a byproduct.

Hydrogen is a non-carbon fuel. Best of all it can be sourced from water an abundant resource. Water is H2O, two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. Separation is an expensive process today, but could become cheap if there was a demand. The biggest disadvantage to hydrogen is his extreme explosiveness. It is downright dangerous to handle.

boeing-787-dreamliner_100416655_mAirplanes will be drastically smaller and slower powered by solar or wind power. Traveling around the world will take a vast amount of time. Tourism will become localized. Trips to faraway places will be a thing of the past.

Unless a viable non-carbon alternative fuel is discovered between now and 2100, society will be forced to live a slower pace and stick closer to home. The goods we enjoy today that come to us over long distances will no longer be available. As an example fresh fruit and vegetables in the winter will be a thing of the past.

Society will be markedly low-tech. Our high tech society will cease to exist. Carbon based chemicals are a necessary part of our computers and high tech toys and tools. Replacements don’t presently exist for those chemicals derived from carbon.

I’m not a scientist or an inventor, but I have a hard time imagining where the cheap, abundant alternative to carbon-based fuels and chemicals will come from. I’m not saying a complete phase out of carbon-based fuels and chemicals can’t be accomplished, but it’ll take a complete reinvention of our society and its expectations.

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Meteor Crater: Impact site extraordinaire

April 18, 2014
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Meteor Crater photo Steve Davis

I recently visited one of the most extraordinary places on earth. Meteor Crater or Barringer Meteor Crater is located just west of Winslow, Arizona and east of Flagstaff off Interstate 40.

About 50,000 years ago this area was an unbroken plain. An asteroid streaking at 26,000 miles per hour was on an intercept course with the earth. It passed through the atmosphere with almost no loss of speed or mass. It was about 150 feet across and weighed several hundred thousand tons. Striking the plains it created a crater 700 feet deep and over 4000 feet across, all this in 10 seconds.

Today this is the best preserved and first proven meteorite impact site on earth. Relatively speaking this was a very small object that hit the earth. One can only imagine the result of a much larger asteroid strike. By the way when they are in space these objects are called asteroids, but once they enter the atmosphere or impact they become meteors or meteorites. Shooting stars that you see in the night sky are meteors burning up in our atmosphere, if they pass through the atmosphere and actually strike the earth they become meteorites.

Some comparisons to give you an idea of the size of the crater,

  • If a 60 story building was on the bottom of the crater the top would not extend above the rim.
  • Twenty football games could be played simultaneously on the crater floor, while more than two million fans watched from the sloping sides.
  • The Washington monument placed on the bottom would have its top at your eye level as you stood on the rim.

Native Americans spoke of the crater, but the first written account wasn’t until 1871 from one of General Custer’s scouts named Franklin. It was referred to as Franklin’s Hole for years. It was thought to be just another extinct volcano. In 1886 iron-nickel meteorites were found. These led to the belief that the crater might have been formed by a giant meteorite. It wasn’t until 1902 that a mining engineer named Daniel Barringer visited and was convinced it was the impact site of a meteorite.

The crater is located on private land, but in 1968 Meteor Crater was designated a Natural Landmark by the US Department of the Interior.

The visitor centre has fascinating exhibits concerning asteroid strikes all over the world including on-going attempts at early detection of those which may strike the earth. There is an film illustrating the strike of this particular asteroid. The largest piece recovered from the meteor is also on display. It’s about 4 feet in length and consists of iron. Most of the meteor disintegrated upon impact.

On-site is the Discovery Center, Gift & Rock Shop, rest rooms and a Subway outlet. At the intersection of I-40 and access road (exit 233)there is an RV park, country store and gas station. It is open year round including the RV park, but check the website for seasonal hours.

Admission charges when I visited in April 2014 were,

Adult: $16
Senior: $15 (age over 60)
Junior: $8 (ages 6 – 17)
5 & under Free

My son and I were in awe and fascinated by this natural attraction. It gave me lots to think about, like what happens if a huge asteroid or comet hits the earth. The one that streaked through Russian skies last year causing many injuries and extensive damage was not detected beforehand. That’s scary.

Contacts:

Meteor Crater Enterprises

928-289-2362

928-289-4002 RV Park

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MeteorCraterEnterprises

Email: info@meteorcrater.com

 


Great Sand Dunes National Park: An alien world

April 18, 2014
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Great Sand Dunes photo Steve Davis

I visited this park in March 2014. The park is located at the base of the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains in south-central Colorado. It is west of Interstate 25, north of US Highway 160, and east of Colorado 17. Access into the park is excellent, but is a little off the beaten track. It’s well worth the drive.

The huge dunes, North America’s tallest, are the focal point of this park. It was a surreal experience. One could almost visualize being in the Sahara Desert. Star Dune at 755 feet (230 metres) is the tallest in the park. At a close second is High Dune at 699 feet (213 metres).

Evidence shows that humans have lived in the area for 11,000 years. In historic times Southern Ute, Jicarilla Apache, Navajo, gold miners, homesteaders, ranchers, and farmers have lived here.

The dunes are a source of local pride and tourist income. By the 1920s valley residents petitioned for protection of the area. In 1932 it was designated national monument status under the Antiquities Act. Finally in 2000 the dunes and surrounding area became a national park and preserve.

The park facilities include a visitor/interpretive centre, hiking trails, picnic areas and campgrounds. When we visited it was still cool and jackets were a necessity. In summer though the temperature can reach into the 100s F (40s C).

Climbing the dunes is an experience not to be missed, even if you only go part of the way. Carry lots of water and a jacket. A good pair of athletic shoes is all you need, but be prepared to get sand in your shoes. From the visitor centre you have to walk a couple of hundred yards across a flat, beach-like area to get to the dunes.

Being on the dunes is like being in an alien world. As a photographer I was challenged to take the time to find new perspectives, it cries out for a picture every time you look around. It’s possible to slide down the dunes on boards similar to snow boards, these can be rented at a store a short distance outside the park entrance. The ranger told me that normal toboggans, snow boards, or saucers won’t work on the sand. Something about the consistency and make up of it. My son met some kids who let him try it and he was thrilled. They were from Colorado and told us they came here often to try out their skills. The dunes are steep, but forgiving if you fall, you’ll be filled with sand but not injuries.

If you’re looking for an unusual experience then this park is a must.

Contacts:

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
11999 Highway 150
Mosca, CO 81146-9798
USA

719-378-6300
http://www.nps.gov/grsa

 


Alberta Birds of Prey Centre – Coaldale, Alberta

August 16, 2013
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My daughter handling a Great Horned Owl which is the Provincial bird of Alberta. His name was Gordon.

Located in Coaldale, 10 minutes east of Lethbridge, Alberta on Highway #3 is a gem of an attraction. It’s the Alberta Birds of Prey Nature Centre. This is a nationally recognized conservation centre.

When injured, orphaned or distressed wildlife need help the centre offers a place to go for help. Volunteers are on call every day of the year to respond. The centre makes every effort to rehabilitate and release to the wild, but if this is not possible then they have a home and are well cared for. The resident birds serve to educate the public and raise awareness of the value of these predator birds.

Visitors experience close-up encounters with hawks, falcons, eagles and owls. They get an opportunity to see first-hand the centre’s rescue, captive breeding and public education programs. Daily flight demonstrations will awe the visitor. Wait until you see one of these magnificent birds fly. Interactive experiences are available. You can hold one of these birds on your arm and marvel close-up eye-to-eye.

I recently visited the centre with my children and came away thrilled by the experience, more than that we gained a greater appreciation of these birds.  I invite you to visit and have this experience for yourself.  You’ll be enriched for it.

Admission Prices: (as per the latest brochure – August 2013)
Adults                   $8.50
Seniors 65+         $7.50
Students (6-18)   $5.50
Youth (3 – 5)        $4.50
Under 3                No charge

Note: The centre operates without subsidies. Donations are needed to ensure the good work continues.
(Charity BN/Registration # 896535895RR001)

Hours of Operation:        9:30 to 5:00 p.m.  May 10th to September 10th

Contact:
Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation
P.O. Box 1030
Coaldale, Alberta  T1M 1M8

403-345-4262
http://www.burrowingowl.com


Train Travel – Hang On Tight

July 24, 2009
Hanging on

Hanging on

This picture of Indians traveling for the eclipse fascinated me. I wondered if,
  • Those outside got a discount over the fare for riders inside the cars.
  • If a rider falls off, can a refund be requested.
  • Train wrecks in India seem to be frequent. Wonder if this is the reason fatalities are so high when they do occur.

I’ve decided if I ever travel to India not to travel by train. I just don’t think I could hang on for very long.


Travels With The Gang: Christmas in Maui

March 25, 2008

damiangirls.jpgI know it’s a little late, but I finally put my notes together and here is another adventure we had with the kids. Over Christmas our family vacationed in Maui.

Here I was planning on confining myself for nine hours on an airplane with the gang. Was I crazy? Damian, my dynamic six year old, and three year old twins, Claire and Livia. Would this be a vacation? Sure I thought hopefully. The time in Hawaii maybe, the flight, well that might be another story.

My wife and I loaded their carry-ons with games, coloring books, markers, books and of course goodies and snacks. Will there be enough to last nine hours? That was the million dollar question.

The trek starts with waking them out of a sound sleep at 2:30 in the morning. As usual when you want them to wake up, they want to sleep. You can bet that if we wanted them to sleep, they would be up and ready to go.

Finally we get up. Next we are waiting for the cab to take us to the airport. The cab shows up at 3:30. We load up and then the cat escapes into the cold darkness. Damian and I are chasing it around the yard and it is managing to make us look like fools. At last we pounce on her and toss her back into the warmth of the house, With the cat rescued from death by deep freeze we are on our way to the airport.

At the airport we get lucky and are near the first of the line. Check in, customs pre-clearance and security goes well. Damian is convinced to remove the wheels from his Heelies. Claire refuses to let security x-ray her “little Barney”. This is one of her favorite stuffed toys, she is a Barney freak, and she is not about to part with it. Finally we manage to get it in the x-ray and returned to her. God knows it might have contained a bomb.

The first leg of the flight, Calgary to Denver, goes well. Kids are on their best behavior. The food holds out and the batteries are still working.

Damian sits with me and says, “Dad when we get to Maui I am going to run into the room, get my swim suit on, and jump into the pool.” I decide then and there I better catch some zzzz so I can keep up with him. So I make that my goal. We’ll see how that works out.

Next we board the plane to Hawaii. After sitting on the tarmack for over one hour waiting for “connecting” passengers and their bags, we finally start moving. Halfway through the flight, “the boy” decides it is time to pester the sisters. Hell, it’s been way too quiet and uneventful, at least in his opinion. A melee ensures and separation is the order of the day. When we finally get his “engine” at an idle peace settles over the passenger compartment of the jetliner.

Food has run out and we still have 4 hours to go! My kingdom for some M&Ms. Are we there yet? No that is not the kids braying that, it’s me desparately hoping the pilot has made a mistake and the islands will suddenly appear and we will be on solid ground where I can actually give them a timeout.

Turns out that United Airlines has a contest to see how long it takes to get halfway. I can tell them. It takes several fights and lots of crying, from the kids, and parents before reach that milestone.

They say that countries will always find a way to start a war. My kids parallel the Middle East, any excuse will do. Share is not a word in their vocabulary.

Finally we are at the condo. Very nice one bedroom with large pullout in the common area. The kids decide they all want to sleep in the king-size pullout. They are so tired that it works out well. Damian in the middle with sisters on either side. Big brother is so good to them.

Before bed they go swimming with Uncle Mac, Colin and Caleigh. Meanwhile Cindy, Karen and I hike down to the nearest store for some provisions. The road is super busy with little or no sidewalk. It is so dark it is dangerous walking. We return with basics for the morning.

We are all so tired. To bed with plans for finding a nice beach in the morning.

To Lahania today and the supposedly number one beach in Maui just to the north. It was OK but lots of rocks. Very hot today. Damian and the girls had a blast in the sand building sand castles and burying Uncle Mac. Tried to get on glass bottom boat but full up so will try again tomorrow. Lahania is an historic whaling town from the 1800s with many old buildings. The old court house and jail had a huge Banyan tree in front. This building was once the capital of Hawaii. It is the spot where the official ceremony took place lowering the Hawaiian flag and raising the American flag. This made Hawaii a territory of the United States in 1888. The tree resembled an octopus with its many convoluted branches. Kids climbed all over it before we realized that we weren’t supposed to do that, oh well the kids had fun. Tomorrow snorkling and perhaps the glass bottom boat. Sure beats the heck out of the snow and ice of Calgary.

Snorkling at a local beach today. Lots of fish and a reef/rock formation that came right into shore. Not deep and good viewing. Saw about 20 different species of marine fish.

Back to the condo and a steak barbeque this evening. Christmas Eve. Strange but true. Christmas Day will be a luau on the beach. Maui is fantastic.

Christmas morning we went to Big Beach down the coast from Kihei and relaxed in the sun. Later in the afternoon we went to Lahanai to the luau. The dances and such were excellent, but food was terrible. What a disappointment. All in all a good time though. They did have a special buffet for the kids with chicken fingers and fries.

I was dreading the flight home because sister-in-law and family wouldn’t be with us. They left a day earlier, we had to spent an extra night in a hotel near the airport. I extended the rental car which was one of the smartest things I did. We spent the day at the local mall and took the kids to two movies before heading to the airport.

Turns out we were worried for no reason. The kids were so exhausted that they slept all the way back to San Francisco and then to Calgary. Damian was awake for the last two hours, but he and I watched The Simpsons on my laptop and he drew pictures.
 


Travels with the Gang: Are We There Yet? God I Hope So.

March 21, 2008

cindykids2008.jpg

My Loving and understanding wife with the gang. 

Our family is used to traveling in our Dodge Caravan minivan. There are five of us. Two adults, a 6 year old boy, and twin girls 4 years old. We love to travel, but five persons in the van is getting unmanageable. Road-tripping is Mom and Dad’s favorite thing to do, that is, move from place to place seeing the country. The kids don’t mind staying in one place, but I want to show them various attractions in Canada and the United States. Well we bought a motorhome this year and hope to use it to explore this summer and in the future. This should give the kids more room to play games, watch TV, or read books as we travel. It’s got to be better than our typical travel day in the van.

We get up after a night at the hotel, usually in an uncomfortable bed, and rush downstairs to take advantage of the “continental breakfast” offered by most chains now. To their credit, these are now more than just danishes and toast. Cereal, fruit, waffles, muffins, and even eggs are now provided.

After breakfast I start packing the luggage down to the van, making sure to remember teddy bears and other stuffed friends. This usually takes a couple of trips.

It’s time to head out for the day. Before leaving we make sure the movie players are loaded with the selected entertainment. This is decided after a heated debate amongst the viewers. By this time Dad is ready to head back to the room and let them take off by themselves. However, with a large coffee in hand, provided by a loving wife, I am trying hard to ignore the sounds of open warfare coming from the rear of the van. Thank God for Ritalin!

The next major point of contention is the choice of cuisine for lunch. Which choke and puke should we stop at? Let’s see,McDonalds has terrible food for adults, but does have Kid’s Meals with a toy for the little ones and a play area to tire them out. It takes Mom and Dad all of ten seconds to wheel into McDonalds. We get a table, order the food, and the kids head for the play area. My wife and I actually get to talk to each other one on one for a few minutes. After some downtime we take the kid’s food with us, they don’t eat in the restaurant because they’re too busy playing. They eat in the van. Oh by the way this gourmet meal costs around $30-$40 for the five of us. But hey, the kids burned off some energy and have “food” to eat, Mom and Dad had conversation, but the downside is my stomach now feels like a garburator.

Finally as the day draws to a close, we start looking for a hotel. It has to have a pool and continental breakfast. This way I can take the kids to the pool to tire them out and give Mom a break. Because generally we don’t know where we will end up, reservations have not been made. Luckily finding a room isn’t too hard if we stop a little early. I manage a workout session consisting of unloading the van and manhandling the luggage into the hotel and up the elevator, or sometimes the stairs. I can’t believe that some of these places don’t have an elevator. It’s clear to me that the designer never had to pack the luggage for five people up to his room at the end of a long day.

Next we find a fast food or family restaurant and take the desparados for supper. If you’ve never taken three little ones to a restaurant, you haven’t lived. First we wait for a table, then wait for our order to be taken, then wait for the food to come, and then wait for our bill. All this time the kids are amusing, and I use that term loosely, the patrons and staff with screaming, throwing things, and running wildly from table to table. I’m sure that as soon as we leave the manager calls all the other restaurants in his chain and warns them of our approach. That must be why they always ask where we are headed.

To close out the day the kids get ready for bed and watch TV in the room. Never have I appreciated the power of the boob-tube, than at this time. Finally we all go to sleep ready for another day in the jungle of fast food, paved interstates, and hotel/motel accomodation.

The motorhome just has to be better than this. Come back soon for another episode in travels with the gang.


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