The Yoga Place Blog

Raising Global Consciousness

The Story Of Bottled Water

The History of bottled water is a case study that demonstrates many points about being human. This 8 minute animated stick person video from Anne Leonard, who came to fame with a similar video called The Story of Stuff, tells a story about how a major industry developed around a product that is essentially free.

In the USA over a third of bottled water is essentially bottled tap water. In the majority of blind taste tests that compare tap water with bottled water, tap water comes out top. In similar comparisons that measure cleanliness tap water again wins out over bottled water.

So why do we buy bottled water when we can get it free from the tap? Anne suggests that companies have used fear and disinformation. I suggest that evolutionary "status needs" also play a role. And then there is also portability - people like to take water with them when they exercise.

I have been approached by many companies to stock bottled water here but I have refused on the grounds of the pollution created by the plastic bottles.

Enjoy the video

Rediscovering Ancient Wisdom to save the human Race

His blind faith in the validity of scientific research as indisputable truth is not born out by John Ioannisis's work that has demonstrated that most published research findings are false.

The coming "gold rush" - feeding plankton with iron filings to sequester carbon - madness or saviour?

We are in need of a global carbon tax fast - forget the carbon credit scheme - it has the potential to seed bigger scams than we have ever seen before. And these scams could trigger actions that could have the potential to threaten our existence - especially when it comes to schemes that tap "free" resources like our oceans.

Have you hear of the latest potential "gold rush"? And it might save us from global warming - but then it might also accelerate the process.

Anyone will be able to join in - all you will need is a boat and a bunch of iron filings and the millions will come rolling in? And you won't have travel to California or do any hard work like digging and having the luck to strike a gold seam. All you will need to do is find a plankton forest in the ocean and throw an bunch of common iron filings over board with some form of "proof" to verify you have done it.

Can you imagine the stampede if this one gets off the ground.

If you thought that the dot-com boom or sub-prime market and associated property bubble were delusions then this one takes the cake.

The "appealing" aspect of this potential "iron rush" is that it could temporarily slow or avert global warming by removing carbon from the atmosphere. You could be a hero and make millions while doing it with relatively little skills or effort. But the "worrying" aspect is it might also backfire. Did you get that - it might backfire and release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

The Theory

The as yet unproved theory is that "iron seeding," or "iron enrichment" - dumping tons of pulverised iron ore into the ocean - can catalyse the growth of microscopic algae that will then suck carbon out of the atmosphere - in the same way a rain-forest on land works for the health of the planet.

Turning the theory into money

So how would this scheme theoretically make money?

The scheme depends on being able to "sell" the additional carbon that the iron fillings cause the plankton to "store" or sequester.

There are already markets that buy sequestered carbon. These markets buy carbon credits from countries or companies that "sequester" carbon by doing things like planting forests that "apparently" permanently remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it. These markets then sell the carbon credits to polluters to offset their emissions of carbon.

For this to work there theoretically needs to be "proof" that "adding x amount of iron fillings causes Y amount of extra carbon to be stored "permanently". And when I say permanently I am thinking of what might happen if half the planet gets in on the act and starts dumping iron filings into the ocean to make their millions - might the ocean plankton become "obese" and start to exhibit symptoms such as plankton type 2 diabetes or heart disease? Or maybe high doses of iron filings would kill off the plankton and they would release noxious greenhouse gases in the process?

But how much "proof" would these markets need that the plankton would be able to "permanently" sequester carbon? Not much I don't think, or at least not in the short run. For example these markets are already selling carbon credits from new forests that are being planted. But there is no way of proving that these forests will ever continue to grow, will last forever or will even sequester carbon. The trees might die or get burned down. There is already proof that trees behave differently in different environments - in some environmental conditions trees actually start to give off carbon dioxide rather than store it.

But the reason that a scheme like this would fail to make money for all but a few that got in early is that it is based on "access" to a free resource that anyone can exploit with little capital or skill.

Every Tom Dick, Harry and Jane would be out in the oceans dumping iron filings over board and the carbon markets would be flooded with carbon credits. The price of carbon would plunge.

It makes me wonder if the real way to make money on this scam is to hype it up and go "short" on the carbon price.

The other "alternate" way the scheme could make money is if the "process" was licensed. But this raises some interesting questions. Who owns the oceans, aren't they a common resource owned by all? And if someone is going to do the licensing who is it, what "price" do the exploiters pay and who gets the proceeds from the licence holders. What is the process for becoming a licence holder? - if the oceans belong to everyone then anyone should have an equal chance to be an exploiter.

Where is this scheme at right now?

A company called Planktos is about to start a real life experiment to attempt to prove the controversial theory almost as I write this. They have a boat called Weatherbird II out on the ocean at the moment but the details are being kept secret because a "radical environmental groups" apparently want to halt the mission.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which patrols the Galapagos Islands to protect them from ecological threats, has pledged to stop Planktos.

But Plankto's plan is to seed a patch of ocean, 50 to 100 kilometres in diameter, with 50 to 100 metric tonnes of raw iron ore in an area 320 kilometres west of the Galapagos Islands and measure the results.

Mr George, A Planktos spokesman said the area is a perfect place for a test because iron from the islands feed a vast, natural plankton bloom that can serve as a biological control for the experiment.
Environmentalists fear that the test could go awry and threaten the islands. But Mr George said the natural Galapagos bloom drifts west, and so would the one that Planktos hopes to generate.
The iron ore to be used in the test is the same as dust blown naturally by the wind into the ocean according to Mr George.
"Hundreds of millions of tons of dust are landing in the ocean every year. How can anyone suggest that our 50 tonnes of rock dust will provoke some cataclysmic result?"
If the research goes well, Planktos aims to make money by fertilising the ocean, measuring the carbon its plankton forests sequester and selling carbon credits for cash on emerging world carbon markets.

Climos, a silicon based company, also has plans to pursue iron enrichment.

Are there any environmental risks to the scheme?

News of the impending experiment has caused consternation among scientists and environmentalists, many of whom do not think the theory has been sufficiently tested to try out on such a large scale.
Oceanographers critical of Planktos say scientists have simply not yet done the work needed to prove that phytoplankton blooms can sequester carbon safely and for the long term.
There are also questions about whether decaying blooms might produce other, more powerful greenhouse gases.

Kenneth Coale, a researcher at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories in California who has conducted leading work on the subject said that "Many scientists think we should try to establish the facts and the downstream consequences of iron enrichment and there are a few non-scientists who think if it can make money we should do it now."
According to an article ion the ABC, few of the researchers who consider themselves experts in iron-enrichment appear to know who the scientists are that Planktos intends to take on its experiment.
David Santillo, a scientist at the Greenpeace Research Laboratories in Britain, said "I think that from the last 15 years of science we know enough to say, 'don't do it'." His thinks that "At this stage to have companies out there already wanting to press ahead with commercialisation is deeply unhelpful."

My own thoughts

I think we should be pursuing ideas that reduce greenhouse emissions and per capita renewable resource consumption rather than backing ideas that promise to offset emissions that allow us to continue with business as usual - especially ideas that may fail to deliver their promises in the long run, or worse still exacerbate the situation.

The problem with ideas that offset emissions is that they at best are only treating symptoms - they do nothing to reduce the cause of the problem.

We have enough examples in medicine of how symptomatic treatment of disease can go wrong in the longer term. We have evidence of an increasing number of drugs that are and have been used to treat chronic diseases causing unexpected and unintended lethal side effects. Viiox is just one example. For that matter the jury is not yet out on antibiotics even - they have only been around for 60 odd years and their effectiveness has been severely compromised. How effective will they be in 100 years time?

I had hoped that one thing we could have learned from evolution is that life forms adapt to changes in their environment. This scheme relies on changing the environment of plankton - giving them more food in the form of iron filings. I wonder how many years of testing we need to do in a real plankton environment to see how they adapt to their environment and how other parts of the ecosystem respond.

We already have proof of how previous attempts at sequestering carbon using plants has failed to live up to its promise due to "unseen" problems. initial assumptions were that tree planting would automatically sequester carbon indefinitely. But trees can die or be burnt down. They can turn from carbon absorbers to carbon emitters depending on the environment.

We already know that the oceans are changing the way that they operate as carbon storage devices. Will plankton beds change the way they behave as the oceans change - will they act differently depending on where they are and how the qualities of the ocean currents change? How bullet proof are they and what happens when they die? How dependant are they on other aspects of their ecosystem for their survival and what is happening to these environments?
One of the weaknesses of reductive science is that it doesn't see the big picture. It is reductive not integrative. We live in a nature via nurture world with complex adaptive interacting interdependent systems. The way that systems behave depends upon many things - adding refined products to environments has unintended side effects - oil and coal are in a sense refined trees and the consequence of feeding them to the "earth body" is global warming. Refined sugars, refined grains and fats fed to humans has led to a global epidemic of obesity, type 2 diabetes, coronary heat disease and so on.

The biofuel strategy is another example of a plan that hasn't been thought through. It should have been blindingly obvious that we have an impending land and food shortage. Converting grains or plant oils into ethanol or biodiesel is madness if not a crime against humanity. How is this for a statistic - if every bit of grain in the USA was converted into ethanol using current technology it would only satisfy 12% of their current petrol needs. Or the corn required to fill the petrol tank of an average SUV would provide enough food to keep a person alive for one year.