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Comment: Re:bike lanes (Score 1) 212

by BevanFindlay (#49348963) Attached to: Russian Official Proposes Road That Could Connect London To NYC
Actually, trains, which to me makes more sense than cars (of course, if you're thinking longer-term, then you probably want to make it electric trains). The link is from tracing the links in TFA back to a more original source ("trains (oh and some road)" --> "road!" after sufficient iterations of teh media...)

Comment: Re:Leave then (Score 1) 838

by BevanFindlay (#49340111) Attached to: Gen Con Threatens To Leave Indianapolis Over Religious Freedom Bill
Or the corollary: gay rights are an existential threat to religion and therefore must be destroyed? Are you aware of what you just said? Anyone saying "group A should be eliminated because they disagree with us" has no place in civil society. We all have a right to disagree - and the GP has a point: you are only as tolerant as you are to the person you most despise, and we are starting to see a little too much forced compliance in the name of supposed "tolerance" (i.e. believe anything you like, as long as it's this). It means you have the right to hold a repulsive opinion. Doesn't mean you should, and doesn't mean you should be a dick about it, but means you can.

Comment: Re:compelled speech (Score 1) 838

by BevanFindlay (#49339685) Attached to: Gen Con Threatens To Leave Indianapolis Over Religious Freedom Bill
This actually makes some sense. But, how do you handle what I expect is probably at the core of this debate: whether or not a religious minister can refuse to preside at a wedding he or she disagrees with? (So, in the most common case, whether Christian ministers can say no to same-sex couples). To me, I think they should be able to say no, because a lot of religions teach that homosexual sex is sinful, so you would be forcing them to condone something they consider isn't ok (that view is in disagreement with the zeitgeist obviously, and even considered repulsive by many, but that doesn't stop them being allowed to hold that view). But, I would ask why a same-sex couple would want someone involved in their wedding who doesn't like what they do - I certainly wouldn't want someone there who I knew didn't like me or what I did, and I would rather have that person say it up front rather than pretend they like me because they're afraid I might sue them.

Comment: Has our society really come to this? (Score 1) 838

by BevanFindlay (#49339493) Attached to: Gen Con Threatens To Leave Indianapolis Over Religious Freedom Bill

It scares me that this is happening. In what screwed-up version of the world do we need to even be thinking about laws that force people to serve others if they don't want to, or force people to put up with being denied service? Is it seriously so messed up in America that we need to legislate on things like basic human decency? Why is this even a debate? If someone has a really strong moral reasoning that says they don't want to do something, then fine - examples of forcing a muslim baker to make a cake for a gay wedding have already been suggested here; they have a right to stick to their own principles (but, similarly, they must be open to the fact that it isn't going to make them popular). Why do we ridicule someone for having principles (or feel we need to sue and/or legislate), even if we disagree with those principles? But at the same time, why are people so stuck up that they refuse someone based on reasons that have nothing to do with their being a customer? The fact that we even have to consider legislating on things like "don't refuse service someone you don't like" suggests our society has fundamentally failed.

I think the law is too blunt a tool for this: it is much more something that needs to be looked at on a case-by-case basis. On the one hand, I could see that a Christian minister shouldn't be forced to preside over a gay wedding if he disagrees with it - regardless of if you think he's right, it's bonkers to suggest that we should have to force someone to perform a service that disagrees with their basic beliefs. That's just rude, if nothing else (and, why would you want someone involved in a special occasion who is only there because you forced him to be and he had no legitimate way to say no - if a minister can say "I don't feel I'm suitable" to a straight couple, then surely they could say that to a same-sex couple as well, without fear of being sued?). But, at the same time, nowhere can I see it being ok for a restaurant owner to refuse two guys to have a table together because he thinks they look homosexual, or a bus driver refuse two women because he saw them kissing at the bus stop, or because of the colour of one's skin. Surely there is a balance in here somewhere? Or are we so screwed up that our only way to find solutions now is by getting lawyers and/or the government involved?

I think a person is allowed to hold an opinion, regardless of how repulsive we think that opinion is (and as long as they're ok with us telling them that we think it's repulsive), but at the same time, whatever happened to serving one's fellow man (or woman) - I'm pretty sure most religions have had kindness to others as a basic tenet for centuries?

To me, this whole debate seems to signal the end of common human decency... :-(

Comment: Re:Pointing out the stark, bleeding obvious... (Score 1) 247

I think something that never seems to factor into discussions is that we could just change the way we do things: maybe the idea of "you have power whenever you want it" should be considered outdated, and we move to fit our use around the supply, rather than the other way around? Having said that, there are things like pointing solar panels west (instead of north/south towards the equator) that move the production curve closer to the demand curve (if taking a slight penalty in overall efficiency). Nuclear (or hydro, where possible) taking up the slack for wind and solar variability should work (nuclear plants don't step up and down particularly well, but should be enough for a large system).

But, why not just build to handle the variability? It's quite a significant change in how we do things, but seems sensible (even though big users like industry maybe wouldn't like being told when they can and can't run their machinery).

Comment: Re:Pointing out the stark, bleeding obvious... (Score 1) 247

Then again, China might actually solve a big part of our energy problems (Thorium molten-salt reactors are a very, very good idea if we want to get away from fossil fuels). One thing about China's large, centrally-controlled government, is that if they choose to go in a particular direction, 1.3 billion people go in that direction, which no Western country can come close to - it just has to choose the right directions.

Comment: Re:Pointing out the stark, bleeding obvious... (Score 1) 247

Really? I wouldn't be so sure: teh Wiki lists renewables as currently around the 20% mark for energy generation. So, if we can make a 5-fold increase on what we are already doing, we would meet all global energy requirements. That's not that big a stretch goal, and assumes we do nothing to reduce energy use (and there is a lot we can do to reduce energy use - e.g. smart heat recycling on metal smelting, to use your own example (most industries are starting to notice the benefits of these sort of energy-reduction changes). In the real world, global industry and transport are a long way from thermodynamic limits.

What isn't possible though is a continued pursuit of economic growth (a fundamentally-flawed concept that is the basis of most of our economic theory) and achieving 100% renewable energy, but that's a bit of a different discussion. There is a lot of scope for downsizing though.

And, there are renewables we haven't even started on, such as ocean thermal gradients.

Comment: Re:Pointing out the stark, bleeding obvious... (Score 1) 247

Actually, wind is about middle of the field. Depending on which figures you take (this seems to be reasonably balanced), solar is the most expensive and either coal or nuclear (or on this graph hydro) are the cheapest. If you want to reduce environmental impact, nuclear is actually your best option in the short term, although we absolutely need to be pursuing renewables long-term.

But, calculating costs is tricky, because if you want a really balanced view, you need to factor in externalities (indirect or down-system effects), and this puts things like coal and other fossil fuels as horribly expensive, and wind, hydro, and nuclear come out on top.

So, depending on how much of it's effect you are measuring, wind actually can be cheaper. (I haven't even gone into subsidies).

Comment: Re:South only? (Score 2) 247

I'm a recently-graduated civil engineer, who studied under someone who I think may be a world expert on green roofs, or close to it. No, most roofs are not designed to carry heavy equipment - most are designed around the idea of "it costs more to make it stronger, so don't do more than you need to." However, the load from a well-designed green roof doesn't need to be drastically greater: extensive green roofs (as opposed to intensive ones) are usually only 100-200 millimetres thick at most, and built with highly-porous, lightweight soil mixtures (e.g. pumice or expanded clay - think the clay equivalent of rice bubbles cereal for the latter). You do need to build a stronger roof, but not much stronger (green roof retrofits are possible on most existing buildings without too much extra strengthening).

Also: yay! Green roofs are awesome (they significantly reduce stormwater volume, especially peak flow, and somewhat reduce stormwater pollutants, reduce urban heat island effect and building air-conditioning requirements, prolong roof surface lifetimes, reduce air pollution...)

Comment: I think more people need to watch this (Score 1) 572

by BevanFindlay (#49323353) Attached to: Greenpeace Co-Founder Declares Himself a Climate Change Skeptic

I think more people need to watch this. It puts the argument in really simple terms: either anthopogenic climate change is real, or it's not, and either we do something, or we don't. And the consequence of being right or wrong pretty much leave us with worst-case scenarios of: it's not real, we did something = we wasted some resources when we didn't need to, versus it is real and we did nothing = existential risk (i.e. civilisation collapse, or in layman's terms, we're screwed). Even if we're wrong (and that's in disagreement with most serious scientists), we're better to do something about it than not (and, as an aside, we're better to be reducing our environmental impacts anyway, so this is a good driver).

For reference: my position was climate change skeptic until I started talking to academics in the field and looking into the data myself. I don't think we've got the models perfect, far from it - climates are crazy-complex systems - but the data is pretty compelling.

Comment: Re:This is interesting.... (Score 1) 572

by BevanFindlay (#49323179) Attached to: Greenpeace Co-Founder Declares Himself a Climate Change Skeptic

Good point about the ozone layer. I live in New Zealand but have done a bit of travel. I could spend most of the day out in the sun in crazy-hot equatorial countries with little or no sunburn, but burn to a crisp in half an hour or so on a cloudy day here in the southern hemisphere. I haven't noticed sunburn as bad recently as back in around the 90s, but then I am a lot more mindful and careful now too.

Also, I think the GP misses the point that global civilisation-threatening risks (i.e. AGW) actually should outweigh localised risks - even if they're not entirely certain, because of the damage potential.

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