Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Disappearing Male and Chemicals

The omnipresence of synthetic chemicals, exponentially increasing in diversity and concentration for the last 100 years, is not without consequences. Amongst these consequences, there's a dramatic reduction of male fertility, malformations and miscarriages, the birth of more females than males , etc. Most of the blamed chemicals have proven bad repercussions on animals, but very rare are longer term studies on humans. Of course, the chemical lobby will tell you the suspected synthetic chemicals are safe, which reminds us of the tobacco lobby that swore not so long ago that there's no link between smoking and lung cancer... This is not my invention, but it's the subject of the well done documentary with pertinent interviews that a friend sent me. It's named The Disappearing Male:
"The Disappearing Male is about one of the most important, and least publicized, issues facing the human species: the toxic threat to the male reproductive system. The last few decades have seen steady and dramatic increases in the incidence of boys and young men suffering from genital deformities, low sperm count, sperm abnormalities and testicular cancer. [...] The Disappearing Male takes a close and disturbing look at what many doctors and researchers now suspect are responsible for many of these problems: a class of common chemicals that are ubiquitous in our world."

I'm happy we have a seemingly healthy one-year old daughter and hope we won't have serious problems engendering brothers and sisters for our little Vickie. Apparently harmless chemicals, dangerous synthetic compounds are one of the troubles of modern life and one of the global challenges for today and tomorrow. Thanks to the CBC Canadian public TV for providing the full documentary online - we don't own a TV.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Out of Gaz: Learning to live without oil

A good friend gave me the book 'Out of Gaz' by David Goodstein and that was a pretty interesting read. It's short, only 131 pages, and rather to the point. Critics say it's disjointed and there are better books about the worldwide depletion of oil, maybe, but that's the one I read and found it excellent.

So what it's all about? It's mainly about worldwide energy consumption. About how we are largely dependant on oil as a source of energy for everything and how that very source will be depleted in this century. It's doesn't matter much if it happens in 10, 20 or 50 years now, it will happen for sure and from an historical timeline perspective, it will happen very soon. The book also largely documents and details the peak oil and Hubbert Peak theory, which tells us the next energy crisis will not begin when the last drop of oil has been pumped, but rather when supply and demand can't play nice together anymore.

Large sections of the book are dedicated to the history of energy and the physics of energy. As an engineer myself, I was happy to read those parts. Entropy is also covered. Energy myths as well.

But what the book is also about, and probably that's the most dramatic part of it, is alternative sources of energy. The book seems to do a good job at enumerating and evaluating all the alternative energy sources and convince us that most, if not all of them, simply physically can't provide all the energy we need to sustain our actual rhythm of consumption! And worldwide demand for energy is exponentially increasing! It's not a matter of money: there is no simple technological fix.

It's a very cheap book, only a few dollars on Amazon (used, see first link above) and definitely worth the read.

Let's hope we wake up soon enough and that the inevitable bumps on the road ahead won't hurt too much.