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Author Topic: Only a true Virgin can save us from the fires
canadian
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Richard Branson, you're my hero.

(swoon)

Branson offers $25M prize to fight climate change
Last Updated: Friday, February 9, 2007 | 8:55 PM ET

British airline tycoon Richard Branson announced a $25-million prize for the first person or group to find a way to remove billions of tonnes of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Flanked by former U.S. vice-president Al Gore and leading environmentalists, the Virgin Group chair said on Friday in London he hoped the prize would spur innovation toward solving what he sees as a crisis.

The contest, called the Virgin Earth Challenge, will be open for five years, with a panel of judges including Branson and Gore evaluating submissions.

The goal is to find a way of removing one billion tonnes of carbon gases a year from the atmosphere for 10 years. The winner will receive $5 million US up front and the remaining $20 million after the 10-year time frame. If no winner is identified after five years the judges may decide to extend the competition.

"The Earth cannot wait 60 years. We need everybody capable of discovering an answer to put their minds to it today," Branson said.


full article

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Loki
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Suddenly, I feel like caring. Hoorah, Virgin.
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scouser1
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Yeah, a British guy dragging people out of the mud, go figure!!
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Big C
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Okay.

I'm too lazy to submit a request to win the prize, so here's the winner.

Plant lots of trees.

You're all welcome to it.

And Scouser1, you Brits rock!!!

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DonaldD
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On the other hand, how about - ground all Virgin airline flights (heck all inter-continental flights as well) that would have a similar effect to removing the carbon after the fact [Smile]

But in addition to coming up with a solution, we we still should charge the 'true' externality costs for all airline travel.

Similarly, we need to charge externality costs for other human activities and guarantee that these fees go to cleaning up the effects.

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Gaoics79
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It's nice to hear. I mean let's face facts: there is pretty much a 0.0% chance of us solving this problem on our own before it reaches a crisis point (i.e. it starts seriously affecting alot of peoples' lives in a way that cannot possibly be ignored or rationalized as anything but a direct result of C02 in the atmosphere).

Our only hope is science.

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Big C
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I only hope that those who believe global warming is human-induced discover science and turn away from their Gaia-based cult/religion.
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Pete at Home
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I'm surprised that more people aren't pointing their fingers to deforestation (hello, Brazil) as the cause of increased carbon levels. Reduce the earth's ability to absorb carbon from the atmosphere, and of course they go up.

Big C, if global warming is occurring, and if it is dangerous to us, then the question of whether it is human-induced is not the only issue on the table. Perhaps we could bioengineer some fast-growing Redwood-sized Mahogany trees. Bioengineer bacteria that remove atmospheric carbon to make buckytubes and such. Find other profitable methods of turning atmospheric carbon into products. Imagine that -- using consumerism to help the environment [Big Grin]

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Big C
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Pete:

One of the ironies of the forestation issue is that North America presently has more trees than it did in 1492.

Damage to the Amazonian rainforst is certainly a concern.

I don't question global warming. I question wheter it is (primarily?) human-induced.

I remember in the early 1970s the Al Gores of the world were wailing about the approaching ice age.

Those on the left are fond of demeaning their political opposites for being alarmist.

Mirrors are wonderful devices.

[ February 10, 2007, 01:14 PM: Message edited by: Big C ]

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Funean
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There is geological evidence as well as theoretical support that strongly suggests that our several Ice Ages were preceded by periods of warming.

And most of the new trees are conifers, not the leafy deciduous trees that spew oxygen. Further, we don't have giants anymore, like the American chestnut (killed off by imported fungi); small trees produce less oxygen.

And this is without getting into the quantity of CO2 that is introduced into the atmosphere artificially, i.e., outside of the normal biological and geological cycles, from burning fuels. It's inconceivable to me how anyone could imagine the tonnage involved *wouldn't* have an effect on the balance of the systems in play.

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Pete at Home
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"And most of the new trees are conifers, not the leafy deciduous trees that spew oxygen. Further, we don't have giants anymore, like the American chestnut (killed off by imported fungi); small trees produce less oxygen."

Sounds like my bioengineered fast-growing giant hardwood trees would really hit the spot. Wonder if that's possible. Or if we could somehow clone and restore the old chestnut trees while giving them an immunity to the fungi.

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The Drake
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Seriously, we can't come up with something better than the freaking tree?

We are masters of subatomic physics, we've photographed the atom, mapped the human genome, can't we find something that binds carbon more readily than wood?

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Funean
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Kudzu. [Smile]
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The Drake
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Sweet Carbon Loving Plankton

quote:
Projections from this experiment indicate that if the polar oceans were completely seeded in such a fashion, atmospheric CO2 would decrease by about 10%. This would substantially mitigate the greenhouse effect caused by CO2. Such plankton growth has other benefits as well. One potential benefit may be that the increase in plankton would lead to an increase in the populations of other ocean fauna, such as whales and dolphins, that feed on plankton. Another benefit, again, is that it is relatively inexpensive. A continual iron-seeding program would cost only about $10 billion a year. Yet another benefit is that plankton growth stops about a week after seeding, so if the plankton were determined to have a detrimental effect, the effort could be quickly disbanded.

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The Drake
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More in depth discussion of iron fertilization
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DonaldD
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quote:
One of the ironies of the forestation issue is that North America presently has more trees than it did in 1492. - Big C
Not that old chestnut! This is one of those urban myths (OK, rural myths) that crop up here every now and then.

I don't have a quick link handy, but in North America, forest coverage has dropped from about 60% in 1700 to 40% in 2000, and the entire bio-mass of the forests has declined even more substantially.

OK, here's what Wikipedia has to say: link
quote:
Prior to the arrival of European-Americans about one half of the United States land area was forest, about 400 million hectares (1 billion acres) in 1600. For the next 300 years land was cleared, mostly for agriculture at a rate that matched the rate of population growth. For every person added to the population, one to two hectares of land was cultivated. This trend continued until the 1920s when the amount of crop land stablized in spite of continued population growth. As abandoned farm land reverted to forest the amount of forest land increased from 1952 reaching a peak in 1963 of 308 million ha (762 million acres). Since 1963 there has been a steady decrease of forest area with the exception of some gains from 1997

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by The Drake:
Seriously, we can't come up with something better than the freaking tree?

We are masters of subatomic physics, we've photographed the atom, mapped the human genome, can't we find something that binds carbon more readily than wood?

We could. I think that to do so would be foolish and dangerous; if what we created ran different than what we expected, single-cell organisms or small fast-growing plants could become completely impossible to bring back into control. Trees OTOH can't exactly run out of control.
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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by The Drake:
Sweet Carbon Loving Plankton

quote:
Projections from this experiment indicate that if the polar oceans were completely seeded in such a fashion, atmospheric CO2 would decrease by about 10%. This would substantially mitigate the greenhouse effect caused by CO2. Such plankton growth has other benefits as well. One potential benefit may be that the increase in plankton would lead to an increase in the populations of other ocean fauna, such as whales and dolphins, that feed on plankton. Another benefit, again, is that it is relatively inexpensive. A continual iron-seeding program would cost only about $10 billion a year. Yet another benefit is that plankton growth stops about a week after seeding, so if the plankton were determined to have a detrimental effect, the effort could be quickly disbanded.

So they say. Sounds like some pretty risky large-scale tampering to me, with a lot of potential for unintended consequences.
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The Drake
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Small-scale changes won't fix the problem, will they, if it is as dramatic as the scientists are claiming?

Short of killing a lot of humans, or degrading our quality of life, it seems something like this will have to be at least part of the solution.

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Pete at Home
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"Small-scale changes won't fix the problem, will they, if it is as dramatic as the scientists are claiming?"

I don't know the numbers, but tampering with the oceans on that scale could end up aggravating the problem in the long run or destroying the earth's other homeostatic mechanisms. I'm not an expert but my Botany prof showed us computer simulations of population dynamics and some very strange and non-intuitive things happen when you introduce sudden changes. Take a simple predator-prey relationship. For example, on a small island, a sudden increase of 15% in the population one year could cause predator population to spike the next, leading to extinctions of both species.

Most obvious first step IMO would be to somehow persuade Brazil to stop destroying their rain forests.

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Rallan
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quote:
Originally posted by Big C:
I only hope that those who believe global warming is human-induced discover science and turn away from their Gaia-based cult/religion.

Have you ever considered moving into stand-up?
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The Drake
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It doesn't have to be such a sudden change. Start building up year-by-year, identify monitoring to be done, etc. The advent of agriculture and animal husbandry introduced sudden changes, which humanity weathered without even being fully cognizant of anything that was happening. I think we can handle it.

The verb "tampered" suggests that we're somehow not allowed to terraform our environment, which I reject. Time to re-engineer the Earth.

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Pete at Home
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Someone might use the word "tamper" that way. I used it in a very different sense -- in the sense of terraforming our environment before we know what the hell we're doing, and without a safety net. After we've terraformed a few other planets successfully, then let's talk about making potentially irreversible terraforming changes the earth. Right now, this is the only one we've got.

"The advent of agriculture and animal husbandry introduced sudden changes, which humanity weathered without even being fully cognizant of anything that was happening."

The rain forests and the oceans do a pretty good job for maintaining homeostasis, compensating for sudden shocks. But we're destroying the first, and your suggestion might put the second in jeopardy. Destroy the earth's capacity to buffer our other antics, and the Earth could end up looking more like Mars or Venus.

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Jesse
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"One of the ironies of the forestation issue is that North America presently has more trees than it did in 1492. "

The original source of that tasty nugget is Rush Limbaugh.

We have more trees than we did in the 1920s...the lowest forestation levels in North America since the glaciers retreated.

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DonaldD
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quote:
Most obvious first step IMO would be to somehow persuade Brazil to stop destroying their rain forests. - Pete at Home
This is an interesting statement in that, yes, the removal of the forest as an entity is bad, since no new-growth trees replace the old growth, undergrowth is stripped, soil is left open to erosion, etc. But by removing the trees (or simply a portion of the trees) in a forest and replacing them with younger, faster growing trees, we can actually improve the forest's carbon sequestration factor.

Given that humanity has a spotty record with this level of bio-reengineering, we might just fubar such a program completely from a local environmental standpoint, but it's completely sound from a carbon sequestration perspective.

Of course, Brazil is clearcutting for short-term agricultural gain, so your point is well-taken.

For those interested but who haven't read anything on the subject - wikipedia provides a primer on carbon sequestration.

As to fiddling with oceans - it's possible, but we have a tendency to jump into the deep end without properly looking.

Unfortunately, there are so many factors that go into the bio and non-bio aspects of the oceans' ecology that short of actually implementing such a plan, we won't know the long-term effects, or even whether completely unexpected and catastrophic 'tipping-point' situations might suddenly occur.

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Colin JM0397
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And terraforming the Earth in an asinine effort to maintain some sort of stasis in a dynamic, ever-changing environment.

I only wish for prudence before we go screwing with things that we don't yet fully understand and aren't quite sure if we need to make that effort to begin with.

Way too many people out there saying "stop climate change". Climate change is natural and normal.

The one quote that sticks in my mind from the past week or so - don't remember from where - "was the Earth any better or worse off when the Vikings were farming in Greenland or Chicago was covered by a glacier?"

Last I read, artic ice is melting, but Antarctic ice is growing... That means we're dealing with localized changes, not global. Most of the artic ice is already in the water, so that melting won't change sea levels.

Would a longer growing season in, for instance, the northern hemisphere be a bad thing? Huge tracts of currently permafrost tundra in Russia and Canada thawing out and being put to use as productive farm land? Does that sound like a horrible thing?

Seriously, what's the fear? Run away temps cooking and killing us all? So much CO2 we suffocate?

This is troubling... what if we get a great "cure" and run-away carbon scrubbing in the process? What happens to all those nice, green oxygen producing plants and plankton when they run low on CO2?

A close parallel to “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is “if you don’t know how to fix it or why or if it’s broke to begin with, you’re liable to make it worse or break it for real.”

[ February 12, 2007, 09:29 AM: Message edited by: jm0397 ]

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Hannibal
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"Trees OTOH can't exactly run out of control"

how about this for a horror movie :

"The Attack of the Giant Tree that Ate New-York!!!"

less seriously (or not [Smile] )
the Drake said : "Short of killing a lot of humans"

Drake, i think you have a begining of idea here.
If we nuke Iran we free ourselves from around 80 million people. if we proceed with nuking Iraq too, we get 20 million more. syria 10 million more.

gee, thats a fast way of vacating 110 million humans, at a very low cost I think I'm taking the price [Smile]

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Colin JM0397
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But they don't produce much Carbon in those areas. You really want to use that technique to the most efficient means, you'll have to nuke the US, Western Europe, China and India.
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Hannibal
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hey, less 110 million breathing people, and you can also extrapulate, based on their much faster way of growing, that its more efficient!

besides, let a man bask in his delusionary dreams !!!

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Daruma28
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Cool. Someone will develop a method for withdrawing carbon from the atmosphere, and suddenly the Global Warming problem is SOLVED....

...right until the Sun enters another cycle of massive solar flares that melt all the polar ice caps and we all drown in the resulting deluge.

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by DonaldD:
quote:
Most obvious first step IMO would be to somehow persuade Brazil to stop destroying their rain forests. - Pete at Home
This is an interesting statement in that, yes, the removal of the forest as an entity is bad, since no new-growth trees replace the old growth, undergrowth is stripped, soil is left open to erosion, etc. But by removing the trees (or simply a portion of the trees) in a forest and replacing them with younger, faster growing trees, we can actually improve the forest's carbon sequestration factor.
I don't see why you'd have to remove the older trees in order to plant younger faster-growing trees. Don't need to call a tree farm a forest, since a forest has other independent benefits that affect life on the planet. Wow, is this argument starting to sound familliar [Frown]


quote:
Given that humanity has a spotty record with this level of bio-reengineering, we might just fubar such a program completely from a local environmental standpoint, but it's completely sound from a carbon sequestration perspective.

I agree that it looks better on paper, based on our limited set of facts, than it would probably play out in reality.

quote:
Of course, Brazil is clearcutting for short-term agricultural gain, so your point is well-taken.

For those interested but who haven't read anything on the subject - wikipedia provides a primer on carbon sequestration.

As to fiddling with oceans - it's possible, but we have a tendency to jump into the deep end without properly looking.

Unfortunately, there are so many factors that go into the bio and non-bio aspects of the oceans' ecology that short of actually implementing such a plan, we won't know the long-term effects, or even whether completely unexpected and catastrophic 'tipping-point' situations might suddenly occur.

Exactly. This is a very complex working system that we're only beginning to understand.
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DonaldD
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quote:
I don't see why you'd have to remove the older trees in order to plant younger faster-growing trees. Don't need to call a tree farm a forest, since a forest has other independent benefits that affect life on the planet. Wow, is this argument starting to sound familliar
Why does it sound familiar?

Regardless, my observation specifically had to do with the forest's (or farm's, if you prefer) carbon sequestration ability. A tree stores carbon in wood as it is growing, accumulating it partly from the soil but mostly through airborne C02.

It's an open question whether young or old tree sequester C02 more quickly (lazy me) but trees will be farmed and their wood used. Eventually, the oldest trees DO slow in their growth, and thus in their ability to store additional carbon. Replacing these trees (from a carbon sequestration perspective) will be good. From an overall ecological perspective, who knows?

If all we're looking at is carbon sequestration, using the fastest growing/most efficient carbon extracting trees would be ideal. Implementation of any such plan would more complex (or should be more complex) since we already know that monoculture is usually bad.

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moodi
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quote:

"One of the ironies of the forestation issue is that North America presently has more trees than it did in 1492. "

The original source of that tasty nugget is Rush Limbaugh.



Rush is such a reliable source of information. I wonder what kind of tree(s) was he smoking when he pulled that one.

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moodi
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Question to all,

Wasn't there a suggestion of pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere and burying it straight into empty oil fields?

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DonaldD
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What kind of lasso would you use for that?
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TLynch
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My opinion of Global Warming and Environmentalism is simple and logical. Not matter what technologies are discovered, we will continue(as a civilization) to burn up all available reserves of Oil and Natural Gas simply because it remains the cheapest and easiest way to keep our regular life chuggin along.

We may all as INDIVIDUALS want society to be better global caretakers, but the simple fact is profit rules all major decisions in the world. I only hope we burn the rest of the oil and gas before it kills us all, which probably won't happen. My biggest concern is the amounts of methane being released from the Siberian tundra...methane is far more volitale than is CO2. If the Siberian tundra were to thaw it would like more than double the Earth's current levels of methane which would warm the planet to it's warmest temperatures in tens of millions of years.

But then again we all come full circle to one simple fact, there isn't much we can do about it because those in power are slaves to the profit machines of the world. As Bush once said about America being an "idea", so too is our freedom of the people to rule over the leaders of America.

I do my part to conserve, but in the grand scheme of things there is little any of us can do except delay the inevitable, which is eventually all the oil and natural gas WILL be burned for profit. We as a civilization will not stop burning those two things until they are flat out gone completely. I gaurantee it.

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TLynch
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Moodi,

Yes, I believe currently United States natural gas fields are forced(by law) to pump the greenhouse gases back into the ground. I own Al Gore's book and it shows how much of a difference that makes. America and the Middle East pumps it back into the ground so the make shows very little pollution in those areas, but then over Russia where they just pump it into the atmosphere you can tell it's a major polluter. Even though Russian natural gas fields are not even as large as American ones or the ones in the Middle East. Eventually that CO2 pumped into the ground will absorb into the ground, but the process from what I understand is incredibly expensive and technologically challenging.

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TLynch
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And one more thing that I find ridiculous about Environmentalism.

There are far more people in the world than there are businesses and manufacturing plants right? Yet the biggest polluters are businesses and manufacturing facilities. So why are we, the regular Joe's of the world, told that WE need to conserve and WE need to work harder to preserve the environment? When the fact is that the 100 thousand light fixtures in a single Wal-Mart superstore or any other box-type store uses more electricity in a single day than I would in probably a year! Or the manufacturing plants spewing toxic gases out to make everything that is sold to us on a daily basis.

BUT NO, WE THE PEOPLE are the cause, WE THE PEOPLE need to change our ways, WE THE PEOPLE need to be aware of what WE are doing to mother Earth.

As I said before, Global Warming will continue because it is PROFIT that drives the destruction of the Earth. Not THE People. That is my take on it. I'll do what I can, but in reality there is nothing we can do to prevent anything as long as Profit is the main driving force of life on Earth.

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martel
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TLynch-
I do have to agree with you...but I think that is a massive problem.

JM-Did you hear antarctic ice was growing from that link on the front page of Ornery? There's a very good refutation just below the link...apparently whoever wrote the article kinda misinterpreted the study.

And I would like that Chicago not be under a glacier. It's cold enough here already.

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Pete at Home
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"JM-Did you hear antarctic ice was growing from that link on the front page of Ornery?"

Defect in web link causes global cooling! Read all about it! [Wink]

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