Thursday, 14 April 2016

All-Electric America Book Review

It's mid-April in Winnipeg. For you that may not have noticed, the robins and geese have been back for nearly a month. The tulips and daffodils in my front yard have been struggling with the yo-yo warm and cold conditions we've been having as of late and I've noticed a few trees already starting to break bud. As a gardener and nature enthusiast these things are noticeable to me. Sometimes, however, it feels like Winnipeg is a different planet than a lot of other Canadian cities, especially when I hear about above average temperatures elsewhere. While it would be really nice to experience the same here, I know that it adversely affects natural life cycles for both plant and animals. So, yeah, climate change is kind of on my mind.

There are those who would argue that climate change is natural and a second thought shouldn't be paid to it because it's been happening forever. There is some truth to that. Nature is a continuously changing system where species are either adapting to new challenges or facing extinction. What needs to be paid attention to, however, is the acceleration of system changes brought on by human activities. Changes happen naturally but we're boosting how fast it's happening.  Natural systems are being pushed to the limit of adaptation leaving mass extinction as the most probable outcome. It's not all doom and gloom, though.

All-Electric America--A Climate Solution and the Hopeful Future, co-written by a renewable energy expert, Leah Parks, and an authority on energy policy, David Freeman, not only supports the argument for embracing renewable energy by introducing methods to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 with use of current technologies such as solar and wind power, ground source heating and cooling, hydrogen fuel cells, and electricity storage, but also with government intervention, consumer demand, and corporate influence. Using anecdotal evidence, up to date research studies, and information from already successful renewable energy based applications, the writers lay out a road map for government and energy and transportation industries to wean themselves from the fossil fuel teat and overcome obstacles while continuing to provide cost effective, clean energy service to consumers. When I say wean, I mean a 3% reduction of greenhouses gases created per year until 2050 (that's if we had started in 2015) to stay within the 2 degree Celsius temperature increase that the UN, EPA, International Energy Agency and 141 countries all agreed upon.  Some of the concepts may seem repetitive, some of the numbers may seem difficult to grasp, but the material offers a balanced, intelligent approach to a seemingly complex and nearly insurmountable global issue. The fossil fuel industry never had a stronger argument against it.

I have no affiliations with either of the fossil fuel or the renewable energy industry. I'm a gardener, I'm a mother, I'm a nature lover, sometime book reviewer and I follow the mantra that you reap what you sow.  There isn't one person I can think of that doesn't want clean air, clean water, reliable food sources, economic stability, and a bright future for their kids and I know, in my heart, that the oil and gas industry aren't going to help us realize these goals. I understand that we need to keep it in the ground, I also understand that people are out of work and losing their homes in Alberta asking for government assistance. The time is ripe right now to move along a direction that enables us to break free from fossil fuel dependence and to reach full renewable energy production before we reach an irreversible climate tipping point. There isn't any room for error and there certainly isn't a place for any anti-climate change idiot rhetoric. To put it simply, you either support a system that puts food on the table today or you support a system that does that for generations, there's no in between.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Mother Earth News Almanac, A Guide Through the Seasons: A Book Review

If you're in Winnipeg I'm sure you're pining away for spring to unofficially show up. March may be the month of Spring Equinox but Mother Nature has a mind of her own when it comes to dates, so much so, that I'm thinking she's a celibate old maid and just can't be bothered anymore. Dates are for the young and dewy eyed. Remember Spring? Feel dewy eyed yet? Good, you're still young enough.

So here's a book that is divided into four seasons, each season describing what to do with helpful tips; it's a revised and updated edition of the 1970's best seller, The Mother Earth News Almanac.

Some of the old information hasn't been included due to lack of relevance but there's still a ton of updated and new information to keep you flipping through the pages. I'm a kid of the 70's and didn't know Mother Earth News existed until about ten or fifteen years ago so I can't compare between the two books, or even the magazine for that matter, but if I had to compare against something it would be Hints from Heloise. My grandmother used to have a copy on her bookshelf when she lived at her house and I could waste a lot of time and keep occupied while my parents were visiting her and my grandfather. Thus, a book nerd was born. Anyway, Hints from Heloise was a compilation of household tips gleaned from a newspaper column of the same name. For a housewife, or householder as a I like to think of myself because I'm NOT MARRIED to the house, there were numerous helpful tips for spills, stains, laundry, baking, cooking, sewing, etc. Really, it was compendium for the household. I can see why my grandmother had a copy. This 'Guide Through the Seasons' can be thought of the same way. There are four sections to it but there's a quick list divided the same way in the table of contents. I love this. If I'm lazy I can just flip the front open, find the season, go down the list to see what the section offers, flip to the section to read about it, and voila. There are recipes, re-purposing ideas, tool tips, gardening tips, building ideas, conversion charts, reference tables, etc. Actually, it almost feels subversive reading it because of the money saving ideas such as soap making, bartering, folk medicine, foraging, and gardening. There's only one fault with it, it doesn't include metric measurements or include Canadian information in the maps for frost dates or precipitation. Someday, someone, somewhere is going to come up with a book for a North American audience, American and Canadian. That being said, I AM a child of the 70's so I do have an understanding of Imperial weights and measures AND the metric system, I just can't make the conversions worth beans. I also am acutely aware of my last and first frost dates, that's just part and parcel of being a gardener. There are more than enough interesting tidbits, fun articles, and appealing visuals here that I can overlook what really amounts to a teeny tiny drawback.

If you order Mother Earth New Almanac, A Guide Through the Seasons right now you can still get the jump on Mother Nature because she's old and really slow this spring.  Look for it, not Mother Nature, the book by Voyageur Press.