First Solar and SunPower Surge After Receiving “Buy” Rating From CitiGroup

I’m not well versed in the stock market. I have principles that disagree with the whole structure of it. Not that investments are bad – but distant, “I just want a profit” dollar placement is wrought with ethical dilemma.

And then there is speculation. I was click-happy and stumbled upon “market news” relating to solar. The news was good for some companies, and clearly, investors will react to that.

I’m happy to see support for solar technology companies. But “solar” is just on the surface. And with the emotionally charged issue of energy, I expect rash and shortsighted decisions are more frequent than is healthy.

What I have learned is that the energy landscape is terribly complex. Terribly.

Still, I aspire to have panels on my roof someday. I hope this market news is balanced.

http://www.marketwire.com/press-release/first-solar-and-sunpower-surge-after-receiving-buy-rating-from-citigroup-nasdaq-fslr-1756245.htm

HB

Was Ottawa built upon “Mount Stupid?” Conservative banter about the #carbontax suggests true geography of Parliament Hill

You’d think that, coming from a bloodline that includes the likes of one of the greatest Canadians of all time, I might have a little more respect for our capital and the important work that is supposed to happen there. Regardless of my patriotic ties, I’m kind of ashamed to be Canadian at the moment.

My friend and colleague that specializes in carbon taxation, particularly with relevance to British Columbia, is frankly beside herself. While I’ve had my head buried in numerous other projects, she’s been agape over the “silliness” unfolding in our Canadian Parliament regarding carbon taxation. As per twitter, people are now playing drinking games over the number of times “carbon tax” is mentioned/slandered in question and answer period.

To sum up the written lines Harper has been feeding to our MPs, I’ll quote him:

“Canadians and people across the globe know, we have a government smart enough to reject dumb ideas like a $20 billion carbon tax.” (I’ll get back to deciphering the importance of this phrasing in a moment.)

In BC, we have a carbon tax. It has done nothing of the sort. In fact, BC’s population has gone up. BC’s GDP growth outpaced the Canadian average. And fuel use and carbon emissions during the same period have gone down. And by the way, BC is IN CANADA. (Read the full “Progress to Targets” Report. You’ll like it. Lots of colours.) Some even call it “The Most Sensible Tax of All”… and really smart economic minds agree with that statement. Enough with the gloating…

So what is this silliness happening on Parliament Hill?

@aaronwherry wrote a great article in Maclean’s summarizing what appears to be a rash of clamouring to the top of Mount Stupid:

Mount stupid

Mount Stupid. I’m sure we’ve all been there. I know I have. But maybe we can expect a little better from our “leaders?”

Yes. I am suggesting that the really smart people we have elected may be stuck in this place where they think they know just enough to know it all, giving them gumption to speak loudly about it.

MPs are suggesting (under Harper’s firm guidance, of course) that a carbon tax of any kind is dangerous nonsense and should be avoided at all costs. They are repeating this message at every prompt from the opposition, whether it is relevant or not.  They’re simply taking a page out of psychological advertising tactics (the mere-exposure effect, to be exact) book of corruption.

I say may, because there may be more to it. Harper’s statement, though seemingly directed at the NDP, may be strategically pointed to the South. You see, right now in the US, there is a coalition building in an unsuspected place: with Republicans. This short video spells it out much more effectively than I can:

What you may not know, is that BC is being looked at closely by policy makers in the US as an example of successful deployment of a revenue neutral carbon tax. Just sayin’.

Essentially, what we have is a Canadian Government that has repeated numerous times (I worked in intergovernmental relations at the time it was most in vogue… I almost want to throw up preparing to type this…) that the Canadian Government will align its climate policies with our largest and most important trading partner, the United States of America. A strategic and seemingly effective economic strategy, to be sure.

But Harper may as well be drinking oil for breakfast. And I’ll give the guy a small break: he cares about the prosperity of Canadians (mostly the already rich ones), and deterring the production and/or sale of a major commodity (which is what taxes can do) doesn’t feel right to him.

So do the math. Any stirrings of “Carbon Tax” in the US, are to be fretted about… but not directly. That would be rude. And Harper, I assume, wants to maintain some appearance of being Canadian. Instead, he is causing a stir in Canada, home of an existing carbon tax that is working… and making it seem like there’s no way in hell that could actually be the case.

“Canadians and people across the globe know, we have a government smart enough to reject dumb ideas like a $20 billion carbon tax.” – Harper

This silliness as my friend calls it, could very well be strategic silliness… directed at people outside of Canada. Regardless, it is backfiring because the knowing Canadians that DON’T live on Mount Stupid are reacting and speaking up:

We know in BC, that carbon pricing is an essential tool in the fight against climate change… but can only be bolstered and sustained at effective $100+/tonne levels if other jurisdictions get on board. Staying at $30/tonne will surely buy us 6+ degrees of warming and associated human civilization destruction.

But I digress. Kind of.

Thank you to my social media shy friend, who shall remain nameless, for bringing this to my attention and providing some excellent links. And thank you to those authors and contributors fighting for truth.

And finally, I leave you with a song – a musical tribute if you will – to our friends on “Mount Stupid”.

Head in the clouds: expanding the sky and thinning the ozone

I’ve reposted the following blog, originally written in April last year, because there is some new research indicating a link between climate change and the Ozone layer.

http://www.seas.harvard.edu/news-events/news-clips/unexpected-ozone-loss-observed-above-united-states

The concept of water vapor punching holes in the lower stratosphere (I.e. where water vapor usually doesn’t go) due to intense storms is similar to my idea that with the expansion of the troposphere, due to warming, the ozone will be stretched thinner. Basically, our atmosphere is bursting at the seams: gradually and violently.

~~

On my cycle home today my mind drifted as I cruised down the trail. The trail runs alongside a highway that snakes towards the suburbs of my home town and everyday I pedal past dozens of crawling motorists. The sky widens here as well. Today I stopped and took a moment to admire some interesting clouds.

20110406-100643.jpg
The anvil shape cloud, usually indicative of a pending thunderstorm, always draws my eye. The upper limit of the cloud is delineated by the tropopause – the top of the part of the sky where our weather exists (the troposphere), which is about ten miles above the ground. I imagine that limit as as a bubble, like a balloon, holding the breath of the world. This balloon is getting bigger.

In 2003, researchers from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, along with researchers from NASA and others, released some findings demonstrating a link between global warming and the height of the tropopause. The finding indicates that the troposphere is getting larger, with a 200-meter increase in tropopause height from 1979 to 1999.

Benjamin Santer, one of the researchers, commented that “Our best understanding is that this increase is due to two factors: warming of troposphere, which is caused by increasing greenhouse gases, and cooling of the stratosphere, which is mainly caused by depletion of stratospheric ozone. Tropopause height changes give us independent evidence of the reality of ecent warming of the troposphere.”

Recently in my twitter feed I spotted some articles citing new concerns about holes in the ozone – this time they are extremely pronounced over the Arctic. This article says briefly, that it may be related to greenhouse gases… but suggests it does not yet pose a serious hazard. Hmmm. Really? It’s as though people are afraid to consider the consequences.

The ozone layer rests just above the troposphere in the stratosphere. Imagine, as I have, that the troposphere really is a balloon. What happens when you breath into a balloon and it expands? The membrane of the balloon thins.

Could it be that the expanding troposphere is thinning the ozone layer? I don’t see how this couldn’t be the case, though I’m not entirely certain how significant 200 meters is exactly. Regardless, with more energy and heat in our climate system, we can likely expect greater thinning of our protective ozone layer.

I don’t have a multi-million dollar model telling me this, and I haven’t spent days researching peer reviewed science, so forgive me if I’ve omitted a critical variable or two… and if you’ve got better insights, I more than welcome your comments.

I’m going mostly by my intuition here, but should this be the case, I’m a little concerned. It has graver implications for our skin and health of course, but also for the productivity of plants, upon which our entire food chain relies; upon which our economies and societies rely.

One more reason to get on your bike, shun the lines of traffic, and indulge in some fresh air and scenery.

To a new world waiting,

Heather

Like buffalo with their heads smashed in (eventually): #C38 #omnibus #cdnpoli

A scary thought, it is: your way of life threatened by environmental and economic upheavals at a global scale. And not just your way of life – a way of life for the 30+ million people you are responsible to as an elected leader.

Imagine, for a moment, foreign government officials sitting down to explain the geopolitical security measures they are taking in the face of climate change and associated resource scarcity in developing and developed regions alike. Where existing turmoil and grossly erroneous sense of entitlement, respectively, create a perfect storm for state failure when $hit really hits the fan.

In regions around the world, confidence in energy security, food security and economic stability has been shaken seriously, and while your population isn’t completely unaware of these situations, they are psychologically sheltered. Interest rates are low. Jobs slightly on the rise. Canada is a GREAT place to live.

But world leaders are gathering in private, and not so private, corners discussing the fate of nations and the global economic system within the next 20 years. How can countries, already grappling with unprecedented, and in some cases, illegal debt face more frequent and severe extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and hungry, welfare seeking citizens?

Cash in now. While you still can.

While your workforce is functioning and investment is still reasonably flowing. Cash in.

Fill the coffers and quietly examine Canada’s preparedness for advanced global deterioration without scaring the heard. Proclaim aspirations of economic prosperity instead of defense against chaos. Deny chaos.

Wait a minute… there’s no denying chaos.

Like buffalo with their heads about to be smashed in, the Harper government will run, keen to protect the heard. With good intentions, and the best way they know how, this government will “responsibly develop natural resources” to prepare the country financially for a threat which no finances can prepare us for.

Rather, we must act now to recognize the smoke is fabricated. Government has the ability to turn its mighty mass in a direction that does not put the entire heard in real danger of running off a cliff. Government must identify the perceived threat and snuff out it’s unfairly subsidized torches.

And we must identify the real threat and turn our course. Climate change and resource scarcity of all kinds is not a fabrication, and while denial may seem like the root cause of inaction, I’m not convinced. The current government is fully aware that:

(admission of the threat of climate change) = (minimize resource extraction)

and

(minimizing resource extraction) = (less tax revenue for public services)

and

(less tax revenue for public services) = (less ability to prepare for impacts)

Canada has been participating in and paying very close attention to the train wreck at the international climate talks. While the excuse that “Canada is only 2% of emissions” seems ridiculous (because with 190 odd countries in the world, it makes sense that we would only be 2% or less) and that the message should be that we all need to work together, the truth is that fundamental flaws in our economic paradigm prevent us from changing our course.

As long as growth = progress, we will not avert catastrophic climate change and the cumulative and damaging effects upon human society.

That equation equals one course of action for our government: brace ourselves.

So, the question should be: how.

Without this rationalization, the anti C38 movement WILL NOT be asking the right questions. It will continue to be in opposition of a government that will not change its course because it truly believes it is acting in a way that is consistent with reality, thus putting the movement in opposition to reality (and making it seem crazy).

We need to ask the right question and have the right intentions.

How do we prepare for this future? And if we nuance this question to address our ethical missions to protect fish stocks, watersheds, old growth and a stable climate – our ecological capital – we must demonstrate how natural capital and alternative energy will effectively prepare us for this scary future.

Oh, and we need to freaking vote to avoid the cliff in 2015.

HB

#Occupying the locker room

The locker room is a great place for conversation in the morning. The mind and body are alert, fresh with oxygen and blood flow. And I thoroughly enjoy my daily chat with the ladies who also generally share my ethics on active transportation, as we all cycle or walk to work.

We are also all employed. We have fairly stable, decent paying jobs with benefits. Some own homes. Others are struggling to get into or stay in the market.

The topic of conversation lately has been the occupy movement and the varying degrees of support we feel towards it. You could say we are occupying the locker room – with thoughtful awareness and dialogue over the issues occupy seeks to raise.

That protest sites are being shunned for attracting the most marginalized people, such that the movement appears not to be representative, is of little consequence. The movement is everywhere. #Occupy is moving people to think in new ways and beyond the constraints of the current (broken) system. It is inching us closer to an awareness that eventually will pinch hard enough to shift the majority towards new norms.

For me and my locker room friends, we’ve shared at least one similar observation: that many products are being marketed as though greed, inequality, and over consumption are positive traits we should aspire too. Though I have always found that flavor of appeal distasteful, it stings with extra bitterness now: how can these people promote such ignorance? Aren’t they paying attention to the millions of voices that are speaking to real human/humane values? It makes us sick.

Of course, we aren’t the only ones. The magical twitterverse shared this with me today – very worth looking at: “Public Opinion and the Occupy Movement

To a new world waiting,

HB

How to stop #unnecessary gifts at your kid’s b-day

If you have kids, no doubt you have experienced the overwhelming flood of unnecessary stuff that accompanies birthday parties. Much of it plastic and nearly immediately disposable.

At a gathering of sustainability minded people, this topic arose from a general discussion about recycling. Recycling requires resources and energy, and so refusing unnecessary material goods is better. But how to do this in gift giving situations?

I’ve seen a new approach from parents in my community where kids have “twonie” parties so that one dollar goes to the kid, the other to a chosen charity. This works sometimes, but the folks I was chatting with observed that some people can’t help but bring a gift too.

This gets awkward. No right-minded green wants to be preachy: we know this isn’t effective. So how to tell other, perhaps, not so like minded parents you don’t want gifts for sustainability reasons? This infers you think they won’t make environmentally responsible choices (which is true). Answer: don’t.

Here is a new tactic: tell them no gifts will be accepted. Any that are received will go to children in need.

This way, it is clear that regardless of how accustomed someone may be to giving gifts you simply won’t accept them.

What we are trying to avoid is the purchase of items you don’t need or want… So they either won’t bring any, or the items will go somewhere they may be needed… And hopefully the gift givers will opt for items with a small footprint and long shelf life!

To a new world waiting,

HB

#Occupywallst and why the economy is like a game of Jenga

Like many that are tuned in to the stress in our environmental and economic systems, I’ve done some thinking about what the #occupy movement is all about… in fact, I did this thinking in 2009. Now though, my analogy for the instability of our economy is even more complete. I hope it helps you to understand it, and perhaps sheds light on a path forward.

Our global economic (capitalist) system is like a game of Jenga. My original post is here. This post is an updated version.

Our Economic System is like a game of Jenga.

Ever played Jenga? It’s a game with blocks you stack. Once you are out, you take blocks from somewhere in the stack to keep stacking higher and higher.taking from the bottom to stack on top It a visual representation I think of in relation to how sophisticated and orderly and built and unbalanced our globalized society is becoming.

The object is to get higher, and higher and don’t crash. That’s the only goal. Whoever screws up loses. I think analogy works for three reasons:

  • One, our society is predicated on growing. I.e. Gross Domestic Product. We’re not doing well unless it is getting bigger and like the game, there is inevitably a crash.
  • Secondly, we are so focused on competing with each other that we fail to realize that loosing the game means we all have to start from scratch again… and there is a mess to clean up (well, unless you play with a reward at the end, like looser cleans up… but that doesn’ fit the analogy, so forget I mentioned it).
  • Third: see all those holes in the middle of the stack that are causing the collapse? Those are the 99%.

Now that I revisit this analogy, the blocks may well represent wealth, which is being lifted to the top, leaving holes in the foundation. Arguably, the real working population – our (should be) valued human resources – are the foundation of economy.

Do you see the blocks at the top of the stack? Like Wall Street, they are well insulated by a steady stream of growth around them – afterall, that is the point of the game: “take one from the bottom and put it on top.”

Perhaps, until now, they haven’t realized the holes beneath them threatening their perch. I would argue the #occupywallstreet movement is changing that.

The rich have a long way to fall. A lot to lose. And if human behavior tells us anything:

In economics and decision theory, loss aversion refers to people’s tendency to strongly prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains. Some studies suggest that losses are twice as powerful, psychologically, as gains. (Wikipedia)

In effect, it is going to take some strong political will, perhaps spurred by the #Occupy movement to make it happen. But even then, it is tricky.

You are playing the game.

This is critical to realize.

Our economic and social welfare systems are integrated in the structure of our Jenga tower. I’m fairly ignorant to stock market investments… I generally avoid getting involved in something I inherently disagree with. But my house insurance, car insurance, pension plan, savings account, mortgage company… all playing the game. And so too then am I.

Why does this game pervade all society? Answer: it get’s played according to rules. No one likes to play a game when the rules aren’t clear or they are changing. That generally makes people mad. So over time, society as accepted the rules of the game (making money is good, even when you haven’t really sweat enough to earn it), and built ever more complex financial systems, regulatory systems and social/cultural norms that all play to the rules.

Some people understand this, and are so afraid of the breadth of potential impacts from changing the rules… they will not support change. Even if the object of the game leads the Jenga pile to fall anyway.

How to survive the tip over

Okay, so no easy answers here. But I do have some observations and thoughts about how to mitigate the worst.

Of course, when the tower falls, it doesn’t just disturb the top pieces. However, notice the blocks near the bottom are nearly unaffected. There are few places on our planet like that now… but they do exist. See: “Secluded Indonesian Tribe Unaffected By Global Crisis”

How do we pull out of the system? How do we become more self reliant?

There are people and communities in North America that are trying to do this: 100 mile diet, cooperative ventures supported by people that live in the communities in which they operate, electric vehicles, waste recovery, barter system, sharing, recycling, having fun in the back yard or in a community space… there are unique and effective economies developing in pockets. A diversity of them that meet the needs of the people involved in the places where the people are. Economies that are in touch with real, everyday human values like health, leisure, nutrition, community… this is called the social economy.

As time and crises amount, I am becoming more and more convinced this is a winning strategy for those determined enough.

We short-sighted humans need a kick in the…

This pattern of rules not only siphons wealth, but material resources, impacts of pollution and more: we are also playing Jenga with the environment.

So what do you think? Is our global system engaged in a game of Jenga? Is this a good analogy? Do you agree with my assessment of the pending doom? Or do you still have hope that we can change the rules and objectives?

To a new world waiting,

HB

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