Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Peak Oil - recent reports need translating

Some recent publications about when peak oil is likely to change our lives for, pretty much ever, need to be shared, and translated around here into Portuguese and Galego...

Novos relatorios sobre pico de petroleo / devemos traduzir-los...

A report by the UK Energy Research Centre was presented to the APPGPOG in London this month, see here in condensed presentation format.

This study attempts to bring together the findings of over 500 experts' reports from around the world about oil production forecasts - how long we can maintain our current output, and even increase it to meet anticipated increased demand. It finds:

- the rate of decline (of oilfield output) is accelerating. To meet our oil habit in 2030 we would need to replace around two thirds of existing capacity, or, in other words, find a lot of new Saudi Arabia's by then.

- there is a "significant risk of "a peak in conventional oil production" by 2020. Many observers / oil industry geologists believe that peak production was actually July 2008 (at around 85m barrels per day). Regardless, anytime between now and 2020 is far too close for comfort means we need to be preparing communities and adapting technologies, entire infrastructure arrangements if we are to weather this storm.

The International Energy Agency's reassuring predictions is gave in last year's World Energy Outlook are still seriously detached from reality. However, we need to use this report as an useful reference: the voice of energy strategy for most Governments in the world.

Do people, local communities, city councils, regional and state Governments not know what is at stake if global oil production peaks? Surely they will have run the numbers and felt that chill going all over their body as they realize how desperate the situation could get. Especially for food production. Especially for people in developing countries who rely partially (sometimes completely) for our spare cash in aid funds to keep basic services and often food supplies flowing. Spare money for aid will be history. There will be no spare money. Developed economies will crash far harder as people loose jobs around the world, another recession following harder and deeper than the current blip. As their economies contract, it is hardly likely they will increase spending on aid in response to the multiple crises unfolding around the world as global food prices soar.

George Monbiot, as usual sums it all up eloquently in his recent article about peak oil and our food supply. He raises some great points, but rightly comes back to the issue of UK / EU / World food supply, about 90% of which is made, processed and shipped around with oil and gas. Reduce the amount of fuel, and the price will rise.

We need to get ready

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Rocket stoves

A major development in efficient and way more healthy cooking systems the world over.

This film shows a massive production line of these things which could be great for selling to those that can afford them, or for humanitarian agencies to distribute in emergencies.
But for most communities in low income countries, buying a stove is out of the question. They just wouldn't have that of cash. So it would be better to bring the knowledge of how to make them from local materials, recycled metal from old cans, sand and local earth, etc. Very easy to make in fact.

This next link, shows step by step how it is done. These guys also have films on institutional stoves for camps and schools, etc.

The only problem in this film is that they say you need to make bricks first, in an oven at 900 degrees C. How many people have access to this kind of heat? I suppose anyone baking trees to make charcoal could try a few bricks in there, but the point is it adds a complicating factor, which we should avoid.

Paulo just built one on our land here(photos soon)without any bricks, bust using vermiculite insulation balls on the outside of the chimney (between chimney and outside container). OK, that's available cheaply here in Europe, so what could work in Robertsport, Liberia, for example?

Sunday, 8 November 2009

The wood shed

Mary is studying architecture in England and likes to draw. And have ideas about building things. One day while trying to avoid any new projects she suggested a new wood store, an extension to the garage - to store the bits of wood we had cut from Donald's place a few weeks earlier. (Here's her dreaming up wood store designs stage left).

I like ideas like these and am suseptible to distractions of this nature at any time. Anyway, we do need somewhere to store wood, bikes and wetsuits when they are drying - out of the rain and out of the sun.

We started clearing the area - which took hours: more mega-brambles, tree roots, rocks. Why does moving rubble have to occupy so much of my life?

Then we realised that it was going to take weeks of labour to bring the level of the ground down a little, to be even, and so that you wouldn't whack your head every time you reached in to the shed on the lower end.

So we capitulated and called in the digger. We needed him anyway to dig a trench between garage and house (so water and power could be laid to garage. Mainly so we could wash our wetsuits at garage, before we dry them, but there are of course lots of other worthy reasons).

While we had him on site, we decided he might as well clear a huge pile of rocks and earth from the bottom of the quarry/climbing wall. Little did we know this would mean trucks upon trucks of rubble being moved out, and hours of costly gear on site. This wood store lark was becoming a monster! In the monster's defense, however, I would add that we have now reduced the huge pile of sticks and stones which once occupied the whole area to the right of the garage (see Nikita standing on this pile about a year ago, when we first started clearing the land)

Moreover, just about where Nikita is standing in that picture, we intend to build a dojo, tea room, training and stretching zone from bamboo and oak. One day.

Tired of waiting for the digger crew, Mary had long since returned to England to get back to school. But before she left we built up the structure on the garage to rest the new roof on. So it's half way there.

So Mary, now you can see we've got the level down and the site is ready. Come back - we'll build a wood/wetsuit store!

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Moving mountains

Before we build our house we have to take the ruin that's already there to pieces. People have been telling me for years that it's more work -and more expensive - to renovate rather than build a new place. I could never quite believe them, kept thinking it would be different here because we would be doing much of the work, and all that. We are learning slowly but surely that "they" were probably right.

This is one story about just one element of de-construction we have had to do recently so that we can even think about building our house. This is one part of the main building, where we are going to build a new (first) floor, on the existing walls. You can see in the pictures above a part of the old building, and where João, the stonemason and builder is standing on a bit of bedrock that would sit above the level of the new floor. If we left this rock the way it was any rain or water would pour down and into the "new" wall - Not good. Also, we want this to be the rear entrance way to this part of the house, the kids rooms.

So João brings out his big guns: The Compressor + Marcio. Marcio is one of the few people around who is willing and able to spend days on end drilling through rock with an enormous drill that would rattle a normal mans bones to jelly within an hour. He started in the rain, which lasted a day or two, then carried on, hole after hole, hour after hour - with no earmuffs, goggles, gloves or dust-mask - and this work produces terrible granite dust, as fine as dust can be, probably leathal if inhaled in the wrong way. Marcio initially shunned my offer of all these protective bits of kit: what's the point using them now - after all these years, he shrugged. But he liked the ear muffs!

The drilling went of for 3 or 4 days. I can't remember now, it seemed interminable and the noise could be heard clearly miles across the valley. God knows why the whole village didn't come across to complain...

Next up was João with his magic "produto" a modern alternative to dynamite: something to put in the holes freshly dug to almost a meter depth by A-Team candidate Mighty Marcio. Anyway, this product is fiercly expensive (this bit pains me a lot, of course) but is quite impressive. You pour it in liquid, it expands within a few hours and whatever chamber its in splits. In Scotland I've heard they used water and wait for winter for the ice to do the same job. (Hey, cheaper too!).

Next day, the rock was giving up its grip, and had split like a melon. Lots at a time. More drilling, more produto, the process was well under way...

Safffy (our newly adopted family member) and Narissa, another short term adoptee from Australia survey the field of cracks...

By creating space in one corner, we produced a vast amout of material to move around. Rock. THis is most of what I do here: moving rubble. Oh, and dig holes, then move the earth. This time we had Team Rock, joined by local strongman Machado, to level about 20 tonnes of this nicely sized granite blocks down into the Adega room. As if by magic, by 1030 the next morning, most of it had already been moved onto a nearby terrace.

Nikita popped round on his Thursday afternoon he gets off school, and helped João with his water level (nivel de água) - the old Roman way of using water's propensity to always find level, making sure things were on an even plain. In this case, they're measuring approximate spaces where the floor beams will site, within the bedrock. From here we'll measure upwards to include the depth of floor beam + rafters + floor boards (inc. some insulation along the way) to define our final floor level, after which we'll decide exactly where to finish the newly carved stoney path...