Sunday, 13 December 2009

Copenhagen Climate Conference

I just returned from Sweden to present my thesis, and stopped by the Copenhagen Conference of the Parties on Climate Change. No-- I wasn't a delegate, rather, I participated in a more productive assemblage of civil society meetings and rallies. Dispite the failure of the official talks, I was pleased at least by the maturity of debates at the street level. In particular, the attention brought upon meat consumption. Placard after placard, a long line of marchers, floats and banners drawing attention to something no one in the mainstream media wants to touch.

The meteoric rise in meat consumption from more afluent Chinese (for example) has two dire consequences for our atmosphere: ONE ) more rainforest and native land is turned into agriculture to grow soya and corn for cows... about 90% of global goes to cows, not to tofu, and along the way more than 10% of the energy is lost; so switching the route that soya travels to enter a Chinese consumer from a "tofu pathway" to a "meat pathway" means that more and more rainforest needs to be converted to make up for that 90% loss in energy. (I hitchhiked in Yellowstone with a german agricultural economist, who balked at the idea that global food shortages and price surges were due to biofuels: its the Chinese, he said, eating more meat). More agricultural and less rainforest releases a horrid amount of stored carbond in the soil and wood into the atmosphere. Globally, deforestation accounts for over 10% of carbon dioxide increase.

TWO ) Cows fart, a lot! Its a products of the long long disgestive tract tackling the recalcitrant cellulose material. Methane is much much worse a greenhouse gas than carbon released from industry and deforestation.

If this sounds like an affront to "Cowboys", its not. On the contrary, I would absolutely LOVE it, if supposed Cowboys were actually out in the plains and hearding grass-fed cattle. If you like cowboys and cowboy culture, eat grass-fed pastural cows, thereby supporting cattle-hearding cowboys (and girls), not the factory "farms" that import corn and soya.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

4th of July outta USA!

Its the fourth of July and I'm getting out of the States! Not that I can't enjoy the ultra-nationalism, parades and flag waving (in an ironic way), but two months doing point counts in Oregon was enough. It was no easy job, crawling through the "japanese prison" of wine maple and rhododendrons, stumpling down slopes of slippery debris, and bearing the brunt of a ultra-stressed Ph.D student. A steady diet of demoralization, getting banged up, bruised, waking at 3:30 am to count the old growth passerines in the HJ Andrews Experimental forest. It just goes to show you that not all field biologist jobs are a dream job. It had to happen sooner or later I suppose, as I've been lucky with amazing employers and amazing co-workers before. Some hot springs, treks to the coast weren't so bad though.

But wow, two months to really examine what it is to be an American vs. a Canadian. I had sort of idealized Americans, having lived in Sweden, where they were a delightfully chatty and interesting bunch, in comparison to the more humble Swedes. I had forgotton the otherside of the coin, that with the fanciful ambitions and mental plasticity comes those with mad individualism, unchecked and inconsiderate of others. Not everyone, of course, not by far, but there are definitely a high proportion to steer clear off and not work for (ask for references). In a slight but noticeable contrast, I'd say Canadians at least have politeness and humility as values, even aspects of "national character". You just can't get away with somethings.

On the other hand, I've been seeing a wonderful Californian girl. California, I'm been lectured, is another story unto itself, and why not, given its the population nearly of Canada and certainly more wealthy, productive and creative. Buts thats for another blog; now, its back up to the Arctic!

Monday, 27 April 2009

A brief stop through California…

California is one of those places you can’t help but have prejudices and expectations, especially for a self styled Green, and especially for the Bay Area: from the Berkeley bicycle-friendly avenues adorned with “organic” shops, to the sight of a wild sea otter anchored in the mats of giant kelp, acres of artichokes interspersed with fresh Tomales stands, and the immense scale of vaporous waterfalls drifting down the many faces of Yosemite. so far so good!

There’s a lot happening here, good and bad. Good in the sense of a coastal culture proudly engaged in their wildlands and progressive legislation, bad in that it’s entirely unsustainable. I’ve just passed through, hanging out with a friend in a vegetarian coop, mostly doing ridiculous certification and work permits stuff, and otherwise weekend tripping. At Ana Nuevo State park, I was privileged to get within metres of Elephant Seals! All the magnificent males (upto 6 m long) had left, having fought and fornicated and leaving the females to tend to the pups. Some of the subadult 5 year old males started to have that characteristic floppy snout and head-banding fighting disposition. We even spotted one with a time-depth recorder. At the park, the officials had measured dives down to 2 km, a depth which beats the record of any air-breathing animal, from whales to penguins.

Now, I’m off to Vancouver and back down to Oregon. It’s a border run to get a firearms license and a TN1 Status work permit. It’s ridiculous what I have to do to work in the USA. Considering how easy it is people like Poles and a Swedes, whose differences rank among the most extreme on the planet, can work in each other’s country without any formalities, and yet I’m terrified by what harassment I’ll get at our border….


Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Carry on 2009

Its been a while since I added to this blog...having been a tumultuous month, another new year. We had a wonderful time celebrating new years in Paris. Countdown at the Eiffel tower. Never have I seen so many people converged to one place at one time. My previous record was 80000 people in a Toronto peace demonstration leading up to the Iraq war.

Paris was paris. Wine, cheese, art galleries, c'est la vie! We did a mad tourist dash, not wanting to sit still and think about the future. The highlight was our fortune to couch surf with a wonderful gabonese women who gave us her entire apartment to our selves, and showed us around the city a bit, came out in the evenings. I even got to see my brother en route to Morocco, a delightful coincidence, once in four years. Sadly, it was also the last time I got to see a really good friend from Lund, heading back to the States. Strange thinking she is resuming her "normal" life back in California, that Lund is a bit of a fantasy-land to exchange students. Such is the scourge of international students, so many friends come and go so quickly. Throughout January, it was one after another, a piece of my heart stolen away every which destination they return to, and me carrying on in Lund.

I remember a moment like this, last year, reflecting on 2007. I wrote "I can die a happy man because of 2007", and I think 2008 (minus the broken jaw incident) was even better! The year stretches impossibly back into the stuff of legend, but I recall, as if it were last month, sitting just down the hall, marvelling about the dawn of 2008 and what it would bring. My californian friend reminds me of something I wrote last year: "A heart stretched too thin across the globe, memories too grandiose to believe, mistakes too plentiful to be sad, a future too beautiful to name." And go it goes...

So far 2009 is serious: emotions and missings sublimated into analyzes and script writing. I buy an extra fan for my computer, defragment, optimize and send it humming into hours of computations of theoretical birds in the Swedish alpine. Hopefully, I'll be able to write my masters this semester. It won't be fun, but I've had my kicks in Sweden. I'm already applying for jobs for the summer....

Sunday, 4 January 2009


In scotland on a Marine Biology trip, visiting especially Aberdeen and Oban