Daniel Collins

Celebrating Ohl Day - Crikey Creek

Mar 27, 2010

Move over Earth Hour. Get a life Edison Hour. Today is Ohl Day. Sure, Earth Hour shed some light on the consequences of mindless resource use and the benefits of behavioural change in a finite world. But replacing light bulbs with candles is not entirely climate-friendly. It’s not the electricity that’s the problem, or the lumens, it’s how these resources are obtained and at what cost. And 1 hour out of 8760 is ridiculous. Edison Hour, on the flip side, grew out of spite. Spite of Earth Hour, and the perceived insinuation that resource use and technology is bad. A convenient counter-saint was found in Thomas Edison, the great American inventor, to highlight the immense benefit that technological advancement has made to societies. The origin of Edison Hour is the Objectivist movement, whose moral code is … Read More

Battle of the bottle - Crikey Creek

Mar 26, 2010

Not the beer bottle, but the water bottle. There’s a water war going on, and one battle took place this week. The first volley came on Monday, World Water Day, by the Story of Stuff Story Team: The International Bottled Water Association returned fire with a montage of staged interviews: See Green Inc. for on-the-battle-field coverage. Read More

The sound of a tree singing the blues - Crikey Creek

Mar 24, 2010

When plants are water-stressed, water in their xylem (their water-conducting veins) can be under so much tension that the air dissolved in the water expands explosively to fill the encasing xylem unit. This is known as cavitation. And with the right equipment, or the right trees and conditions, you can hear it. BoingBoing has a delightful recoding of a one tree cavitating. Just ignore the explanation – it’s wrong. Bioacoustician Bernie Krause, source of the above recording, is also seen here describing how he came upon the sounds (but again, ignore the explanation): PS. This has nothing to do with bluegrass, which is pretty much devoid of percussion instruments. Read More

Trading water for democracy in Canterbury - Crikey Creek

Mar 23, 2010

I arrived late. A woman was speaking in Christchurch’s Victoria Square on Monday soon after noon, riding over a regular barrage of heckles from members of the 300-or-so audience (the Press under-counted). It must have been Nicky Wagner. Her task, as National list MP and Christchurch resident, was to give the government’s stance on the Creech Report – or why it may be okay to sack the regional council’s elected officials and install temporary commissioners. The hecklers, and most of the audience by the looks of it, saw the Creech Report’s main suggestion as an affront to their voting rights. Taxation without representation. But they also saw the threat that this would have: more water given to agribusiness, along with downstream consequences. Politicians must have thick skin, and Nicky Wagner was putting up with a lot. She … Read More

Recycled error in Canterbury’s freshwater supply - Crikey Creek

Mar 23, 2010

How much of New Zealand’s freshwater supply is in Canterbury? Cantabrians have heard the answer a lot lately, and if the media cycle were to be believed, it’s 70%. The Creech Report on ECan’s performance said it. The newspaper said it. An ECan councillor said it, but since retracted it after I presented the numbers. A commenter at Kiwiblog said it. And I’m sure a lot of people now believe it. Unfortunately, they’re all wrong. The best estimate at present, if the water cycle is to be believed, is probably about 10%. This comes via StatsNZ, and ultimately from NIWA. Freshwater supply – considered only what we can abstract – is defined using the StatsNZ numbers as total inflows to a region minus transfers out and minus evaporation. This gives a mere 10%. Read More

Hopeful World Water Day! - Crikey Creek

Mar 22, 2010

World Water Day isn’t really an occasion for celebrating. Nor is it really a sombre occasion to remember past sacrifices. It’s an opportunity to highlight a problem and work towards a solution, lest we become complacent. This year’s focus is on water quality. From the UN: “According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 4 billion cases of diarrhea each year in addition to millions of other cases of illness are associated with lack of access to water that is safe for human consumption. Per year 2,2 million people die as a result of diarrhea most of them are children under the age of five. Human health is severely impacted by water-related diseases (waterborne, water-washed, water-based, and water-related vector-borne infections) as well as by chemical pollution discharged to water.” These statistics are essentially a problem of the developing world. While … Read More

Energy storage by mimicking photosynthesis - Crikey Creek

Mar 19, 2010

From my old alma mater, MIT chemist Dan Nocera has developed a method to store energy that mimics photosynthesis – by splitting water. The key is having the right catalyst, and one that is cheap to make and maintain. In this case, a film of cobalt and phosphate coating an electrode. When fed a modest electric current, say from a solar panel, water is split into oxygen and hydrogen gas. This doesn’t produce energy, it just stores it in the form of two gases. When the sun goes down, the H2 can be oxidised with a fuel cell, producing electricity and water again, and the cycle can be repeated the next day. Visit Science to see footage of the process, listen to a podcast or read the abstract (published in 2008 – okay, I’m a little … Read More

Voluntary efforts to control farm pollution failing - Crikey Creek

Mar 19, 2010

Yesterday, the sh!t hit the fan. Agriculture Minister David Carter: “The data from this year’s snapshot tells a totally unacceptable story of effluent management. Regardless of whether this is because farmers don’t have the right tools, don’t know how to comply, or simply don’t care, behaviour has to change.” The snapshot in question is a progress report on the Dairying and Clean Streams Accord, released by MAF. The Accord is a framework for national and regional government, farmers and industry to work together towards targets for improving water quality around farms. Set in 2003, these targets are: 1. Dairy cattle to be excluded from 50% of streams, rivers and lakes by 2007, rising to 90% by 2012 2. 50% of regular crossing points to have bridges or culverts by 2007, and 90% by 2012 … Read More

Tumultuous week on NZ’s water front - Crikey Creek

Mar 19, 2010

When it rains, it pours. A lot happened in the last two days on New Zealand’s water front. For those on a blogging diet, here’s a fat-free summary. More to follow later. A report on voluntary efforts to improve on-farm water management shows these efforts continue to fail, and in some ways getting worse. Agriculture Minister David Carter: ’The data from this year’s snapshot tells a totally unacceptable story of effluent management. Regardless of whether this is because farmers don’t have the right tools, don’t know how to comply, or simply don’t care, behaviour has to change.’ Proposals to house 18,000 dairy cows in cubicles in the MacKenzie Country have been dropped, due to rising costs, while the farm investors aim to educate politicians and publics. Southdown Holdings director Richard Peacocke: “The irony of our … Read More