Saturday, October 19, 2013

Godmorgon, Världen - Oljans roll i världen

Bra och relativt kort genomgång av oljekrisen som fyller fyrtio, samt lite nutidsanalys. Hur vi visserligen minskat vårt oljeberoende sedan krisen, men endast genom att plocka "de lågt hängande frukterna", dvs. främst elproduktionen. Transporten av folk och varor är en svårare nöt att knäcka. Av Lena Bejerot, ur förra veckans "Godmorgon, Världen!".

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Fur or no fur?

Every day I take my bike to school, and every day I pass by Stureplan, where I every day have to stop at the red traffic light. Yesterday at this very traffic light I saw a lady in a long mink fur coat, which got me thinking.

I know that fur coats and leather jackets are banned by the animal rights activists, but what if you consider this from an environmental perspective? If mankind will continue to eat meat, which I am sure a lot of people will, and if you know that the fur or leather is made from 100% meat-bi-products, wouldn't it be more environmentally sustainable to wear leather jackets and fur coats rather than Gore-Tex jackets? I assume that the market value of mink meat is not that great, which would have to disqualify the lady’s mink fur coat from this particular discussion.   

What do you think, is it time to re-evaluate the fur coats?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


During this course I've read the book Kollaps: livet vid civilisationens slut (Collapse: Life at the end of civilisation) by David Jonstad ( It has proven to be a good companion during the course and has had a somewhat similar chronology. I would like to take this opportunity to give you a short summary and my views of this book.

The book begins by summing up what has lead us to the brink of collapse. As you might expect, this first part is about peak oil, peak everything and us picking the "low hanging fruits". At the same time this has created a ever increasing growth. These factors in turn lead to an unequal world where wealth is amassed in the rich part of the world and production is done in the poor part of the world. The equality issue together with the triple-E-crisis (energy, ecology, economy) can only result in one thing: collapse.

So, what do we know about collapse? Jonstad spends the second part of the book about the collapse of complex societies in history. The Roman empire and its emperors tackled every crisis by adding more complexity: more advanced administration and bureaucracy. The people involved in this administration, an emerging middle class, had to get their food from others by increased taxes and invasion of foregin territory. The increased flow of money forced the emperors to reduce the amount of precious metals in coins creating inflation. The "hordes of barbarians" had to be kept out by investing in a large army. Jonstad tells a similar story about the Mayan empire. We all know that these societies or civilisations collapsed and Jonstad argues that it was the ever-increasing complexity that is the reason.

So how might we make our society more resilient to a collapse? The third and last part of the book is about the future. Jonstad offers critique of the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (Myndigheten för samhällsskydd och beredskap) and argues that Sweden can't cope with more than two weeks without electricity on a regional level. The batteries and generators that keep the banks' databases going won't keep up that long. Sweden doesn't keep any food or water reserves that would last for long if the international distribution lines would be cut off. In short: we are not a resilient society. To be more resilient and more sustainable we need to increase our self-sustainability, both on local, regional and national levels.

So what do I feel after reading such a book? Well, I don't feel depressed and I don't feel like I've turned into a prepper. But I do feel that I would like to improve my possibilities of self-sustainability. It doesn't mean that I will turn my back on society and move to a bunker in Värmland. What I would like is to learn some skills that will make me and my family more resilient. I am planning to do some more serious growing at our cottage (kale seems like a good place to start). Also, I will do my best to avoid debts.

It was nice to read this book in parallel with the course as its content overlapped a lot. But I would still recommend it to anyone interested in sustainability. If you would like to read it you can borrow it from me (after Evert's done with it) so that we can prove that paper is still more sustainable than e-books... ;)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Follow-up on the "Blok"-based phone, is the idea something that can be achieved?

Nice post Zahra!
I have to say I Do like the idea and I thought that I would post my comment rather as a new post instead of a reply since it also adresses my personal concerns. 
As much as I think it would be nice to have a environmentally sustainable phone I'm still not really convinced that a "blok"-based phone is something that people would like to have. As much as we need to reverse the escalating trend in waste from thrown away phones, we first and foremost need to adress the mindset of the people consuming them, don't you think?

Even if we launch the idea of a "green" phone, do people want one? We can't take for granted people genuinely care about the environment. In the video he adresses very short that the waste is a problem, and it increases, but the rest of the promo is more about how nice it would be to have an upgradable phone, instead of focusing on letting the audience know Why we need it (i.e. less waste compared to an ordinary phone).

Since the increased demand from smartphones today are most likely because of the technological advancement in creating smaller and smaller components and better systems I think it is hard to propose an option to that development that contradicts that trend. The phone will most likely be bigger, heavier, and more "bulky". People who buy a smartphone are not prone to lean on these types of features: they want a sexy, slim and aerodynamically formed gadget that feels good in the hand. I can't image a "blok"-based phone appeal to that consumer. Therefore I think the bigger issue is to change the mindset of the people buying them. Buying a "green" car today can be "sexy", but it took years and years of good PR, what will it take for the phonemakers and the industry as a whole to succed in doing this?

Will it even work?

The economic divide

At Daniel Pargmans lecture concerning rebound effects, he talked about how convinience makes us travel more by car, train and airplane. He also said that as price goes down, consumption goes up, a rebound effect from better production efficiency in the industry. Well, this got me thinking about the economic divide, and its effects.

Some would argue that the economic divide is not sustainable from a social perspective. I fully agree and do not much care for a pure market economy where the rich will always get richer and the poor, poorer. (I need to state this clearly: I am a socialist, don't hang me for the following)

But on the other hand: Isn't it better to have this divide from an ecological perspective? As people get richer, their CO2 emissions rise. They can more easily afford to buy a car, a cellphone, a computer, etc., as the cost is lower relative to their income (similar to lower prices). More would have the option to go abroad during holidays and eat better food and more meat.

"But won't the rich do less than today, and even things out?", you might think.
Well, for that I want you to have a look at this video (6:24).
It explains how people in America think about how wealth is distributed, and what the real numbers in fact are.

 If you know the numbers, you will probably say something like:
"Well they (the rich) can only do so much, while the rest could do much more. Distributing that wealth would probably augment CO2 levels and the use of scarce materials immensely. We should probably continue as we were!"

Comments? Thoughts?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Heavy conscience and Ghost cities

By now, we've been to several lectures about sustainability and read many pages on the subject, from different perspectives. And we should all understand that oil is really bad, and dude, never get a car, because I already have one and it's not going to work out if you get one too.
It seems easy to forget that sustainable development is three dimensional. Some people think about the environment. Some about making money. A few might think about the society in which they live. However sustainability is about all of this, economics, ecology and society. Every change in one of them will somehow affect the other two. It is easy to understand that, without our planet, there will be no economy and no people. But we must not forget about the other parts as well, for it is the economy that drives us selfish humans and our society forward.

As a Swede living in Stockholm, I somehow feel that my impact on the environment is of little importance. Let me explain what I mean by talking about cities, how we live and how we transport ourselves around in them.

USA - They started it

The American suburbs are a good starting point for our trip. Because of the cheap oil for fuel, cities were designed with residential suburbs with large comfortable houses, far away from the office buildings in the city.

Even though Qatar is in first place 2013, the USA is (beaten by Australia in 2009) still in the top 12 when it comes to CO2 per capita. Does it really matter though? If we look at emissions per country instead, it is only second to China.

The United States has huge unpaid bills coming due for its infrastructure. There are plenty of pot holes to fill. Considering the national debt and high costs of investments in infrastructure, it seems unlikely that the US government would in any near future encourage a scrapping of highways in favor for public transportation like high speed trains. We shouldn't forget that the New York City Subway is the world's largest rapid transit though, however I don't see any new upcoming investments for the long distances. And who pays the bill for the current infrastructure then? Probably private-sector capital and revenue sources like tolls.

When I think about the future of America, I can't help to think about the post apocalyptic settings from the game Fallout 3. Somehow, they've done their part in history.

Sweden - Development hibernation

Stockholm. I feel like time is standing still. Sure, there is always some small development going on. But if we compare this city to other places in the world, nothing much is really happening regarding construction work of infrastructure and buildings.
It is estimated that the population growth in Stockholm will be about 20,000 people per year (figures vary from starting below 10,000 up to 30,000) . Still, in my opinion, the city lacks adequate development planning for future residential areas and communication.
In the 1940's, there were grand plans for the city. satellite towns were built and along with them came more infrastructure.  

The first metro line in Stockholm opened in 1950, and the latest in 1975.
Last time a large road was constructed was in 1966 when the Essingeleden  road was inaugurated. Since then, not much has happened regarding road or rail constructions in Stockholm, with the exception of a small addition called the Southern Link in 2004 and the the Tvärbanan tram in 2000. There are also plans on another major road Förbifart Stockholm, but the completion of that is at least 8 years away from now.
From the ecological perspective, lack of development is probably a good thing. With hope to stir up a discussion, I would argue that this has been bad for the economical and social development of the city of Stockholm.

However, just as I like to lighten my conscience about the environment by comparing myself and my home city to other places I find far worse regarding emissions and sustainable development, It is easy to understand that there are a number of aware people in the US with a heavy conscience for their wasteful culture. Maybe that's why the idea of Tiny Homes has been conceived, a compact living concept.
In Sweden we've have the concept Friggebod for a while. It's basically a small house that can be built without any special building permit. Most commonly used as a guest house or storage. It is rather out of context, I just mention it as a comparison to the Tiny Homes idea. Or maybe I chose the Friggebod as an unconscious comparison as to how insignificant we are as a nation in the global sustainability issue.  Anyway, here's an example of a Friggebod if you don't know what it is.

A housing trend has apparently hit America. They call it Tiny Homes. Check out the video and listen to Jay Shafer's talk about American housing.
Will this idea attract enough people to matter at all?

There is a consensus among national governments in favour of densely populated cities as a way to improve the ecological performance of the transport system. This is considered  true because the commuting length becomes shorter if homes and businesses are located in tall buildings close to each other. However as land rents in the city centre rise, people move to suburbs and in return this generates more pollution from transportation. And the concept of compact living and urbanization leads us on to talk about what is going on in China.

China - Focus on GDP growth

In the past 30 years, China's urban population has increased to 700 million from less than 200 million. The aim is to have 60% of the 1.4 billion population as urban residents by 2020.
Some of China's economical goals for 2013:

  • GDP 7.5%
  • Add more than 9 million urban jobs (Like Sweden's total population)
  • Keep registered urban unemployment rate at or below 4.6%

To reach these goals, the government is constructing whole new cities to speed up urbanization. And the strangest thing of it all, estimated figures say that there might be as many as 64 million empty apartments as a result of this construction boom! The problem is that the people that are supposed to move there, don't have the money to do so.

After having watched this video, perhaps your focus will be somewhere else as well. Do you think this development can be considered sustainable from an environmental, social or in the long run economical perspective? What can we do about this?

If you feel that you don't have enough to read already, you could have a look at this interesting article about how China's focus is on GDP growth and not climate change. It also mentions China's Climate Change Policy.