retina is here

Since a few months I own a 'retina' MacBook Pro. Initially I bought this tool to be able to do some heavy 3D stuff, which did not really happen yet... I was stunned by the screen and everything else felt outdated immediately. Unfortunately initially only the Apple software supported the high resolution screen. And all of a sudden I discover a few updates of open source applications which I frequently use that make it support the 'retina' resolution. Big improvement in user experience. Thanks to the developers of e.g. Firefox (regular release 18) and Blender (nightly build of 2.65 at builder.blender.org), for these updates. They look stunning now. I hope that Gimp and Inkscape will follow soon.

CO2 kills polar bears

Since Al Gore's movie "An inconvenient truth" everybody knows that CO2 kills polar bears. For obvious reasons I should therefore not like CO2.

The reason why I am coming back to this topic is that in NL the government is again proposing laws to make taxes more fair (contradictio in terminis) regarding the environmental impact of (the use of) vehicles. While I find it motivating to hear that a government strives to make regulations more fair, the discussions on this topic always seem futile. The simple fact is that human kind does not understand the real impact of what we are doing. Every other week there are new results of major researches on this topic published and every other week the results contradict each other. This seems to be the only source for a government to base its laws on to be able to fix what is obviously wrong. My proposal is to stop doing just that and instead use common sense for reducing the main factors of pollution from our mobility needs, which are emissions of toxic substances, emissions of greenhouse gasses and the total material and energy footprint of the mobility solutions over its complete lifespan.

Emissions of toxic substances

Toxicity is a far greater threat to the environment and global health than the earth warming up due to greenhouse gasses. This is not only because it can immediately harm all life, but the resulting chain of effects will limit the power of nature to compensate disturbances of the balance that was once there. Regulations often do more harm than good in this regard: in Europe EV's and hybrids are sponsored financially and politically because they have no direct tailpipe emissions, but they do carry hundreds of kilograms of toxic chemicals of which regular cars are not even allowed to contain grams (because grams can already kill people and disturb large areas of nature and -ground and surface- water).

Regarding the emissions of fine particles there still are strong discussions going on if the particulate filters are actually reducing the impacts on health or not, due to the fact that smaller particles tend to have a stronger health effect, while these are the ones that are not caught properly by those filters. The smaller particles apparently contain active carbon elements which can penetrate and damage living cells directly, causing deformations such as cancer. These discussions are futile IMHO, due to the fact that all reductions are an improvement and filters are continuously improved to trap more (and smaller) particulates.

Having moved to CZ recently reminded me of the relative impact of mobility emissions. Every night here just south of Prague the complete village fogs up due to the emissions from home chimneys and this really makes it impossible for me to breath properly at that time. In NL fog is something that does not occur often anymore, even though the country has a far higher humidity than CZ. This has everything to do with the total amount of particles in the air. The amount of particles emitted by mobility solutions should be limited as much as possible, but it can not be held responsible as the single source for pollution.

Emissions of greenhouse gasses

Greenhouse gasses warm up the earth. CO2 is the most known greenhouse gas and that is because it has the strongest impact of the gasses we can influence. The global warming potential statistics show that it is not wise to just focus on CO2 though, since many others have a strong effect as well. It is actually risky to base regulations on CO2 emissions, since it can backfire. An example is that internal combustion engines such as used in cars can either be tuned on the smallest amount of CO2 or on the smallest amount of NOx. This is because these gasses form at different temperature ranges and it is possible to adjust the engine combustion temperatures for either optimisation of them, but not both. In general the EU regulations are obsessed with CO2; the USA regulations are stricter on NOx (N2O has a considerably higher -factor 300 for a period of 20yrs!- global warming potential).

Footprint

A simple way to quantify the impact of a mobility solution is to consider both its energy and material footprint over the complete life of the product. Using less energy for manufacturing and transporting has obviously a smaller environmental impact. For materials the effect of using less is even stronger, since it affects both mass (which relates strongly to energy) and toxicity. Easily recyclable and non-toxic materials are the obvious choices.

Conclusion

For consumers

It is important to be aware of the fact that it is not possible to help the environment by any technological solution. The only thing we can do is to reduce the impact of our mobility needs. This can be done by focussing on the above. At the moment the solution with the smallest total impact is a lightweight car being produced locally using easily recyclable resources. These are usually the cheapest and simplest cars as well. They do not have the social status which hybrids and EVs enjoy and that is a real shame.

The biggest change in the end though comes from how we use vehicles to meet our mobility needs. The driving style of a driver has the biggest influence on the energy consumption; e.g. my car uses 50% more fuel when I am having fun. The amount (mass over distance) we actually travel is another topic to seriously consider; travelling less is always better. Carpooling is a very effective way of reducing your emissions per distance travelled.

For the regulators

Please drop all taxes apart from the current ones on fuel. Those are the only ones directly related to the actual energy consumption and emissions. Their revenues should be used to optimise the current infrastructure, which will considerably reduce emissions (if only we could reduce the stop-and-go energy wasting driving).
To reduce the impact of the emissions, please do not simply forbid some vehicles based on rudimentary criteria and that way forcing the introduction of new vehicles. Creating new vehicles takes too much resources. Forbid the emissions of toxic substances though in all areas and set regional limits to the harmful but not toxic emissions.

jemne perlivá

Note to self: do not buy 'perlivá' water anymore; you don't like bubbles.

Interesting that I still sometimes buy the wrong products here in CZ because I do not get the descriptions. Tricky language.

And here are the big changes

Recently I mentioned that there would be big changes coming for me. They have arrived: I quit my job at B/E Aerospace in Nieuwegein to be able to live with my fiancee in Prague, Czech Republic. Currently I am enjoying the hospitality of Gabriela's family, but we hope to find a new place for us this week. Then I will really move to CZ and finally start doing what I want: design stuff which will help people. Behind the scenes I have put a lot (some say too much) of thought into my ideas and how to realise them and now it is time to actually do something with those ideas. Exciting times ahead.

Happy new year everyone!

I found an improvement in Mountain Lion!

As frustrated as I am with Mountain Lion, I am happy to report that I found an improvement. Or more a refinement. The image adjusting options in Preview are now as I knew them from iPhoto and thus far more powerful. Also the Preview PDF annotation options have been improved, just as managing PDF pages into new documents etc.

There are of course more improvements to the OS, but still I can't get my head around the fact that Apple has removed a considerable amount of functionality (at least from the graphical user interface - GUI) and thus made it 'dumber' in my opinion. As said before, I hope that Apple will realise that iOS and OS X are two different world (consumption and creation) and that they should not try to combine the two into one compromised monster which makes the users of either worlds unhappy.

Pages

Subscribe to lars.boelman.nl RSS