If you cannot Beat it, live with it

A wind travelling at 185 miles an hour (about 300kph) is a very strong wind indeed. Humans do not build settlements where such winds are even a remote a possibility, or so we thought until Hurricane Dorian devastated the North Bahamas. Thousands of homes have been destroyed or damaged severely. Only seven people have died, thanks to the ability of humans to predict the impact of Hurricane Dorian and the efforts of the local government to warn and prepare people for this apocalypse.

Hurricanes start when there is warm water (around and above 28 Celsius) and warm air.

Warm air from the ocean surface begins to rise rapidly. The air is naturally moist, coming from the ocean. When the warm air meets cooler air as it rises the warm moist air condenses and forms storm clouds and drops of rain. The condensation releases heat, which warms the cool air above the warm air, causing it to rise to bring more warm, moist air from the ocean .

The warm, moist air is drawn into a developing storm and more heat is transferred from the surface of the ocean to the atmosphere. This continuing heat exchange creates a wind pattern that spirals violently around a relatively calm center and so a hurricane is born.

The important word in this explanation is “warm”. The air is warmed, the oceans are warmed and this begets hurricanes.

Hurricanes have always been with those who live where the air is warmed and the sea is warmed but in the last century or more the sea has been warming and so has the air more than usual because the heat that the planet naturally receives cannot escape or dissipate into space as it had done for centuries because now the earth has a blanket of insulation, made up of an increasing thick layer carbon dioxide, deposited by kind permission of humanity and its activities.

I do not blame global warming for the creation of Hurricane Dorian – that would be a far too simplistic approach, but I do blame human activities for making hurricanes like Dorian (the most violent in recorded history in the Bahamas) more likely.

It is probably too late to reverse global warming or do much about climate change except to possibly try to slow it down. Humanity, it is clear to me, does not have the appetite to do what must be done to reverse or slow down climate change. It will probably have the appetite to build better and stronger protection against extreme weather events such as hurricanes and flooding. If you can’t beat it, live with it.

Gender Stereotyping

Two advertisements have been censored by the Advertising Standards Authority. One advertisement showed two men not caring well for a young child. the other advertisement shows men doing adventurous activities while a woman sat on a park bench next to a pram.

The reason for banning these advertisements was that the ASA say that this kind of stereotyping causes “real world harms”.

It is hard for me to see what “real world harms” will arise if some advertisers indulge in humorous stereotyping. It is harder still for me to understand what qualifications the ASA has in being able to assess whether an advertisement can create real world harms.

For example, there are numerous television and newspaper advertisements for gambling companies all permitted by the ASA. Certainly gambling creates more harm than gender stereotyping. Certain types of “fast food” create plenty of real world harm to those who eat the foods and to the environment. Air travel causes almost irreversible real world harms. Fossil fuel based energy probably causes the greatest world harms that we face at the moment probably planet threatening and life threatening as a cause of climate change , but the ASA decides to pick on gender stereotyping, leaving greater real world harms alone.

I do not find the ASA’s behaviour odd. When I was running a solar panel business, years ago, the ASA asked me to prove with documentary evidence that solar panels worked off light, and could produce energy on cloudy days. I suggested they consult an elementary book on physics and educate themselves before wasting people’s time. That suggestion still holds good today.

What I find odd is that the ASA assume gender stereotyping is harmful based on some academic theses, ignoring those theses who claim that it is not harmful. I find it even odder that short humorous television adverts are considered as ascribing to an individual woman or man specific attributes, characteristics, or roles by reason only of her or his membership in the social group of women or men.

Engineering for the future

The disruption to rail and air services caused by the present heatwave shows that our infrastructure in these islands was not designed for extreme heat, any more that it was designed for extreme cold. Continue reading

Today’s Weather will be Tomorrow’s Climate

When I started writing essays about the environment, many years ago, I was always careful to point out the difference between climate and weather. Climate, like class in a sports person, is permanent. Weather is akin to form, a temporary phenomenon. As I write these words the United Kingdom is experiencing its hottest July ever recorded and will probably, before the day is out enjoy or suffer (as the case may be) its highest recorded temperature ever. Continue reading

Victims of Our Own Success

Humanity is the most successful life form on our planet. We are nearly eight billion strong and have settled into most parts of the land and have changed not only the land but also the other parts of the planet where we do not live. But our success creates problems.

Continue reading

Must Try Harder

As I get older so the proportion of atmospheric carbon dioxide, like my age, increases. the ESRL Global Monitoring Division at Muana Loa, Hawaii,  reports atmospheric carbon dioxide is now at 414.66 parts per million compared with 411.24 ppm just a year ago in May 2018.

It is very sad to have to report this, Continue reading

The Old Forgotten Skills

The skills that human beings require change radically over the millennia. I would not be successful at hunting, farming making textiles or building a shelter any more than a person two thousand years ago could do any of the divers tasks that I have to do each day.  I suppose that I could learn skills that my ancestors had eventually and perhaps even make do after a fashion.

Today we teach the young to be adaptable because we expect that they will have to frequently learn new skills in order to make their livings.  Few are the jobs that will last a working lifetime. For example, surgeons, cooks, drivers of cars and lawyers will eventually be replaced (wholly or partially) by robots. Continue reading