Thursday 22nd of February 2018

travelling solo to mars...

solo

The Scottish government announced that it is to host an international conference in 2019 to discuss action on marine litter. It’s ideal territory for any government seeking to be regarded as edgy and cool on this year’s fashionable cause. No one could disagree with its aims and purpose and, more importantly, nothing that emerges from it will commit anyone to spending money or risking the growth of emerging industries.

Perhaps soon our marine technology will have advanced to the stage where we can actually interpret what whales and dolphins are saying and begin to solicit their views on the subject. These creatures are believed to possess remarkable intelligence. If we reached the stage where we could converse with them, perhaps we could appoint some of them as environment tsars in western governments: that would sort the wheat from the chaff in all the chattering about human impact on the health of marine life.

As the debate about our slatternly disposal of plastics was raging down on Earth we were all acclaiming a fresh addition to the garbage dump swirling above us in space. The billionaire car manufacturer Elon Musk launched one of his Tesla Roadsters to Mars in a rocket produced by his company, SpaceX. According to people who know about this stuff, it was the biggest and most powerful rocket launched since the Apollo series and Saturn V. We further learned that the rocket, the Falcon Heavy, uses 27 Merlin rocket engines to develop 22,819kN of thrust. I’m assured that this can carry a 64-tonne payload into low Earth orbit or geosynchronous orbit: more than sufficient for propelling a sports car to Mars. I won’t pretend I understand the science but let’s just say that Musk won’t be getting invited to address an environmental summit in the near future.

You might be tempted to dismiss this as an expensive publicity stunt by a billionaire playboy with too much time on his hands. But in reality it’s an important step towards a time when space travel for your average indolent millionaire will become commonplace. It will probably become another way of managing your finances when Mars inevitably becomes the ultimate off-shore tax haven.

 

Read more:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/11/weve-trashed-ocean...

rerun of wehrun...

More than a decade ago, Bill Wehrum, then acting assistant administrator for air and radiation at the USEnvironmental Protection Agency, successfully fought to deny the state of California the right to set its own standards on greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.

He is now back in the same position at Trump's EPA, and hoping to try once again to kill the California waiver.

That first denial in 2007 was a stunning departure from precedent. For more than 30 years since the Clean Air Act was passed, California had received a waiver to set more stringent pollution standards than the EPA’s national targets every time it made the request from the agency. That changed in December 2007, when then-EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson denied the state’s request. Johnson’s decision was informed by input from Wehrum, who ran the EPA’s clean air division at the time and who later affirmed publicly that he had argued against granting the waiver.

Why does this matter now? Because Wehrum is again the EPA’s air chief, and he is currently running the agency’s midterm review of auto emissions standards—a review that necessarily touches upon California’s waivers. And his only public comments on this forthcoming decision left the door open to another denial of the waiver.

Wehrum is a key figure in deciding whether to roll back the national Obama-era emissions standards for vehicles, and whether to then rescind (or refuse to grant anew) a waiver that California will rely on to preserve the more stringent existing standards.

In short: Wehrum played a large role in the only waiver denial in the EPA’s history, and he is now in the position to do it again.

Before digging deeper into Wehrum’s history as a lawyer for industry and for issuing dozens of unlawful rules while at the EPA, let’s take a quick look at why these California waivers are such a big deal.

 

Read more:

https://www.desmogblog.com/2018/02/06/bill-wehrum-once-denied-california...

trump isn't going to the moon...

Sending astronauts back to the moon is one of the top space priorities of President Trump. But his administration wants to accomplish that without giving NASA additional money, and it won’t occur until after he leaves office, even if he wins re-election.

Instead, it aims to give the private sector a greater role, according to a budget proposal to be released on Monday.

The administration is also looking to end American payments for the International Space Station by 2025. The space station is currently scheduled to operate through 2024, but the expectation was that it would be extended through at least 2028.

According to excerpts from NASA documents obtained by The New York Times before the budget’s release, the administration will propose $19.9 billion in spending for the space agency in fiscal year 2019, which begins on Oct. 1. That is a $370 million increase from the current year, the result of the budget deal reached in Congress last week and signed by Mr. Trump.

Read more:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/11/science/nasa-budget-moon.html

tomorrow's world at ten paces...

From the best-selling, award-winning author of 1491 and 1493--an incisive portrait of the two little-known twentieth-century scientists, Norman Borlaug and William Vogt, whose diametrically opposed views shaped our ideas about the environment, laying the groundwork for how people in the twenty-first century will choose to live in tomorrow's world. 

In forty years, Earth's population will reach ten billion. Can our world support that? What kind of world will it be? Those answering these questions generally fall into two deeply divided groups--Wizards and Prophets, as Charles Mann calls them in this balanced, authoritative, nonpolemical new book. The Prophets, he explains, follow William Vogt, a founding environmentalist who believed that in using more than our planet has to give, our prosperity will lead us to ruin. Cut back! was his mantra. Otherwise everyone will lose! The Wizards are the heirs of Norman Borlaug, whose research, in effect, wrangled the world in service to our species to produce modern high-yield crops that then saved millions from starvation. Innovate! was Borlaug's cry. Only in that way can everyone win! Mann delves into these diverging viewpoints to assess the four great challenges humanity faces--food, water, energy, climate change--grounding each in historical context and weighing the options for the future. With our civilization on the line, the author's insightful analysis is an essential addition to the urgent conversation about how our children will fare on an increasingly crowded Earth.

 

Read: https://www.amazon.com/Wizard-Prophet-Remarkable-Scientists-Tomorrows/dp/0449015580