Work From Home

Obviously some jobs have to be done at an office or business. Otherwise all employers should have to justify why it is necessary for any individual to stop working from home. The neediness of a middle management martinette who misses micromanaging is not a reason.

The what’s wrong with most of our activism about fighting climate change.

In 1996 I bought a new furnace. It is not very high efficiency, but high enough to need a power vent. It is now 26 years old. The heat exchanger is not rusty. It could use a new motor on the vent blower, cause one of the sealed bearings is I feel a little noisy. It has broadly serviceable parts, for instance the vent motor is bolted on and could theoretically be replaced.

My mum had a similar vintage furnace. I think it was a little older. It ran perfectly well, and was also very serviceable. In 2008 my mum, who was feeling her age, somehow decided to blame feeling cold on the furnace. Someone used that to sell her a new high-efficiency furnace, which cost at the time in excess of $5000. I tried to explain to her that there was no possible way for the new furnace, by virtue of its increased efficiency, to ever offset the cost of prematurely replacing a perfectly functioning furnace. But it was to no avail.

In 2013 the fan died. That was a $1200 part I think. It was however covered by the warranty. In 2020 the vent blower got very noisy cause a bearing was going. But you can’t just replace a bearing. That would be too sensible. Because of the intentionally unserviceable design that meant not just a motor, but an entire panel full of electronics had to be replaced. The replacement is a cheap plastic assembly that surely cost less than $100, possibly less than $50 to manufacture. And that assembly installed was $2800.

And it gets worse. The service person said that most times they see a 12-year-old high-efficiency furnace they have to disconnect and condemn the unit. Mum’s new furnace is certainly near the end of its life in 2022. The reason for this is the same as how it is high-efficiency. Instead of using waste heat to vent the furnace the unit has a secondary heat exchanger, which dramatically reduces the temperature of the power-vented exhaust, resulting in condensation and moisture and inevitably corrosion.

Meanwhile, my old furnace, while it could die tomorrow, or in another decade or two, it just keeps running tickity boo. The older furnace that my mum replaced at exorbitant cost would probably still be running fine if it had been maintained. The replacement mathematically could have taken decades to offset the net cost of replacement by increased efficiency. Except new furnaces do not last decades.

It would be completely unsurprising if you took into account the real net cost of a new high-efficiency furnace, including cost of disposal of the old unit, manufacture and maintenance of the new unit but particularly amortized that over the absurdly short lifespan of the equipment, the newer furnace almost certainly has a much larger footprint than any older lower-efficiency furnace. Replacing the old furnace with the new, high-efficiency unit was a gross waste of resources.


It upsets me that so much of our response to climate change consists mainly of this kind of poorly thought out false-economy.

This foolishness pervades much of small-e environmental activism. A certain kind of person keeps demanding broad action without any calculation of cost or consequence. I keep seeing calls to replace oil and gas, not just without any real plan to offset that energy, but in complete denial that we would need to build the electrical generating capacity to joule-for-joule replace the energy we currently get from fossil fuels. And for many that is a dream of wind and solar that despite being almost none of our supply after decades of investment is a dream too many cannot wake up from. Or “renewable energy” a political concept that is used to lump hydroelectric and biogas, both environmental no-nos, in with wind and solar to pad out the numbers, which otherwise can be summarized as insignificant. People, quite rightly, want to replace an old unsustainable energy economy, but you cannot do that by pretending a worse, or nonexistent alternative is a solution.

And as usual what I am arguing for here is again the safest, and cheapest technology we have at our disposal to generate large amounts of reliable base electricity, which is nuclear power. And right there, a great many people who might ever read this came to a complete intellectual stop. “Never nuclear!” But without it, we are not going to start moving away from fossil fuels. Without building quite a lot of nuclear electricity generating capacity we are going to continue to demand change in a rapidly heating world without ever starting to implement anything we could actually transition toward.

You can’t always do what you want

You don’t often hear people arguing in favour of open defecation. When you expect people to do their dirty business in a toilet, you don’t often hear them say, “So, no freedom? I don’t have a choice?”

No, because sanitation is important and necessary you don’t get to drop trou anywhere you want. Your freedoms do not extend to behaviours that endanger others.

Same for the series of CoViD vaccines you will have to take over the next few seasons in order to participate in public life. If you can, you will have to get those vaccines, because if you don’t, like sewage in the streets, you will pose a public health risk to everyone else.

You can probably understand that your “rights” are limited with respect to poop… the follow through is that this applies to other things as well.

To win a race, you have to start it.

Canada should be vaccinated by now. But at this rate we will not reach herd immunity this year. As vaccinations level off and stagnate we may never. And this is because perhaps a third of us don’t understand most of the fundamental concepts at play here.

People misunderstand how herd immunity and immunity in general work. They have grave misconceptions about how their own immune system protects them, what an infectious disease is, what a virus is. Lots of people have some or many grave misapprehensions about the science, the state of our understanding, and the difference between rights and responsibilities.

So, the pandemic just keeps going. People are going to restaurants and cinemas. That is insane. Insane proof that in general we are a society too ill equipped with basic knowledge and too loaded down with ignorance to respond appropriately even when all that demands of us is to stay away from other people. We can’t outrun the pandemic because we cannot even get to the starting line.

And I fear this is exactly the same as global warming. Decade after decade we have not just failed to mitigate, but we have failed to even start to stop making it worse. And so much of this is that when you talk to people about the actual technologies available to us, so many, perhaps most, are weighed down with such a heap of misinformation and disinformation that they cannot even usefully assess cost or risk even when you lay the actual data out before them.

And so we continue to argue over well understood technologies. People endlessly regurgitate either insupportable wishful thinking or outrageous paranoia. And round and round we go, over the same well worn ground. Never approaching the starting blocks for a race that began in the last century.


And I quote, “The deaths per terawatt hour graph shows nuclear energy as the safest… However, by what criteria?

for whom

Concerns over antisemitism in the Labour Party have helped ensure Brexit Conservative election victories and governments in the UK in recent years. This, despite the fact that the UK Conservatives and Brexit are both overtly racist and have brought the united Kingdom very near to dissolution as Scotland is likely to end the Union in the coming months in order to rejoin the EU. Boris Johnston is likely the last PM of the United Kingdom and his racist treacherous Conservative government its last, in a large part because of hand wringing over whether Jeremy Corbyn was or was not anti-Semitic.

Canada has a terrible history of racist injustice. But to suggest that the current Liberal federal government is maliciously engaged in a campaign of genocide against the First Nations of Canada is absurd. If you think for a second that given the opportunity of waving a magic wand and getting the credit for the miracle of providing reliable city water to remote and rural communities the federal Liberals would not take that you are gravely mistaken. But counter to wishful thinking it is quite possible for an engineering problem to remain insoluble even in concentrated outrage.

So when you are sharing demands for Trudeau to, “do something” about his government’s outrageous failure on issues that have loomed very large in two decades of Canadian politics I would like you to ask yourself who you are actually working for.

The future is…

If you had to push a car from Ajax to Thorold, which is incidentally up hill, you would quickly discover that that takes a lot of energy. Right now, for almost everyone, that work is done by burning fossil fuels. Which has to stop. But the electric car you need doesn’t get free energy by being electric. In order to do that same amount of work, the amount of energy we get from gas and diesel has to be replaced joule for joule with increased electrical energy production.

And transportation as well as industry and heating and cooling, supplied by carbon sources, are a huge fraction of our entire energy budget. To transition to carbon-free electricity we are going to need vast increases in the amount we generate. It is unlikely to be an exaggeration that our core generating capacity will have to double at least a couple of times to increase our electricity production by enough to offset depreciating other energy sources. In the end, with other factors included, no one should be surprised if it turns out that we need an order of magnitude more generation.

And while we hide the sad truth under “renewables” most of the minority of electrical generation that is called renewable is hydro, which cannot be responsibly increased, or biofuels which are a dead-end source of more greenhouse gasses. Only a tiny fraction of electrical generation is wind and solar, which is what you are hoping people are thinking you mean when you talk about green energy. It is simply a delusion that we are going to produce four or ten times as much electrical energy as we do now without new investment in nuclear power. Anyone who tells you otherwise probably means well, but has no idea what they are talking about.

Tied and Untied

A friend mentioned the other day how surprised they were that the Liberal government in Ottawa had not introduced many new sources of revenue in its latest budget. And I think the probable reason for that is important to think about if we would prefer to see a progressive future in which things broadly get better rather than worse.

So, consider Canada’s anti-prostitution law. Canada’s past and present anti-prostitution laws have repeatedly been found to be themselves illegal. Any anti-prostitution law is likely to be unconstitutional for a variety of reasons. Chief among these will be the consideration that, like so many other “morality” laws, criminalization of sex work makes the situation, whatever you might believe about it, worse. The law, its enforcement, does in the words of the Supreme Court of Canada, “disproportionate harm.” Despite this, when the old (illegal) law was struck down, the Harper government replaced it with a worse, and it turns out equally illegal law.

And I am pretty sure the current government, the PM and his cabinet understand this. So why don’t they skip the part of this process where the government faces expensive appeal after expensive appeal until the law is inevitably struck down?

Even if you personally do not have strong feelings about the wrongness of prostitution, I would be shocked to find that you do not know people who do. It is quite probable that the choice of this example is on some level upsetting to most people. And that is why I chose it. Because it is so easy to see how taking a right, legal, moral stand on reforming laws governing sex work in Canada would outrage lots of people. It would likely hand the next federal and indirectly some provincial elections to Conservatives who would have a field day with such a policy.

So, why no new revenue in the federal budget? Because one of two things is going to happen after the next federal election in Canada. Either the Liberals are going to form the government or the CPC are. That is the truth of it. The current government needs to fear the easy outrage Conservatives can expect from their supporters. Reforms that hand the disloyal opposition the next election are absolutely no use. And so, a political climate where so many voters are so easily manipulated, outraged and gulled into supporting extremist parties is one in which neither reform nor democracy have much of a chance.

Justin Trudeau was asked, when the government moved to decriminalize marijuana, if they intended to follow the successful Portuguese model and decriminalize all recreational drug use and possession. To which he answered, “no.” Because Canadians would not support that policy. So, doing the right thing was impossible.

And you may squeal that things would be different if we dumped FPTP for something else. But what is really going on here is more fundamental. It is not FPTP that is our problem. It is Canadian voters. As long as enough voters are willing to support extremists and populists, so long as so many thoughtless regressive people can be so easily manipulated by stands taken on inflammatory issues, as long as there is a threat of such people giving such parties power, no party can be free to act progressively.

Never Nuclear!

Sometime in the late ’70s I learned about the greenhouse effect in geography class. Twenty years later in Kyoto world leaders agreed they ought to do something about climate change before the consequences grew too great, before the damage became too problematic.

So, in 2000, me, “Are we gonna build the zero-carbon generating capacity we can now?”

Them, “NO! Never nuclear.” was the answer. “We can make all the electricity with windmills and PV panels.”

Ten years later, me, “It has been a decade of increasing carbon output. We have made less than no progress on carbon emissions. Shouldn’t we start building some meaningful zero-carbon generating capacity?”

Them, “NO! Nuclear scares me! I don’t understand it. I have no useful sense of the risk/benefit ratio. NEVER nuclear. Besides wind and solar are getting cheaper. We can do this with ‘renewables.’”

Ten more years later, me, “Ok, another decade of increasing carbon emissions. Wind and solar have not magicked the problem away yet. They may someday. But right now we need to build lots and lots of zero-carbon generating capacity. Could we do that now? It has been 20 years of not doing anything useful. Can we please do something?”

Them, “NO! Nuclear is an archaic technology. With ‘renewables’ and ‘green energy’ investment we don’t need it. Besides even though wind and solar are only a tiny fraction of unreliable generating capacity we have this great biofuel technology in which we cut down forests to make wood chips. We cook those in bioreactors to make carbon fuel and burn it! It is ‘RENEWABLE!’”

Me, “OMG! that is a terrible idea! That is taking a low-energy-density fuel source that is otherwise a carbon sink and turning it into a source of additional carbon. Wood burning is already a major source of atmospheric carbon globally. We need to reduce its use, not increase it. This is making the problem worse, just with extra steps.”

Them, “But it is not nuclear. NEVER nuclear.”

Me, “My gods. We are never gonna start solving this problem are we?”

Them, “We already have. You just have to BELIEVE that a solar panel on the roof of an apartment block in Scandinavia in the winter at night can produce all the energy that building needs.”


I do not know that I will be alive or able to afford internet in ten years. But I would rather not go through another iteration of this pathetic fallacy.

Failure

Why do we continue to completely fail on climate-heating mitigation?

  1. People who actively think it is a malicious hoax and actively oppose measures.
  2. People who just don’t believe it is really happening, so no measures are warranted.
  3. People who misunderstand “climate change,” do not understand the unprecedented time scale, believe it is natural and inevitable and not a problem, certainly not one caused by us, or that can or should be mitigated by us.
  4. People who may believe that it is a problem but do not care.
  5. People who believe it is not their problem.
  6. People who know it is a problem but have some vested interest that they perceive to be threatened by mitigation. So actively oppose mitigation.
  7. People who know it is a problem, but think some absurd religious mumbo jumbo. Perhaps it is God’s will.
  8. People who understand that there is a problem, but expect a deus ex machina tech solution that requires no risk, compromise, sacrifice or effort on their parts.
  9. People who know and understand that the consequences of doing nothing are dire but are emotionally invested in particular developing technologies that cannot have a meaningful impact on crucial timescales. They insist that just another ten years, and another ten, and another will see their preferred technology Superman that climate emergency.
  10. People who urgently want mitigation, but not if it involves anything they fear, or anything they misunderstand, or anything they hate. (☠️nuclear power☠️)
  11. People who despair of 1–10 and are resigned to an eventually uninhabitable world because people are almost universally unpersuaded by data and facts.

Tolerance

I have been wishing for some way to influence these creatures since Mulroney. Will Rodney leaving his cabinet post change the government’s direction on fiscal or social policy? Of course not.

I am not fooled into thinking they care about petitions. People worth knowing already oppose them and Cons very much do not care. They laugh at “liberals” and give their mean-spirited ignorant base another stir. Protests, they just characterize as uncivil disobedience and the petty snowflakeishness of the “left.”

These people already know the majority of people oppose them, that their policies mostly make most things worse for most people. And they understand that protests and outrage serve their struggling underdog narrative. “If we are offending so many people, we must be doing something right.”

You will let me know if any affirmative action suddenly has an effect on them after nearly fifty years of it not. Of them getting bolder and worse.

The only thing that is going to make a difference is to start saying, “NO!” every time a coworker regurgitates some regressive dogma. Telling family members and friends who spew racist shit to shut up or fuck off. Never tolerating any of the slow creep of nonsense we not-so-suddenly find up to our necks. Because it is our general tolerance of this extremism which has legitimized it. Just as four years of criminality by the trump administration has made sedition hardly newsworthy.

If you cannot do that, then this will keep getting worse here, as it did in the US, until we have our own trump. Fully acknowledging that Ford is but a short distance from that dumpster fire.