Monday, August 21, 2017

Save money and the world at the same time

Solar flashlight is extremely bright and never, ever, needs batteries
It might not be obvious but this blog posting goes part and parcel with the last two. Those others dealt with lake trout coming back in Red Lake and an abundance of deer in Nolalu and other places in Northwestern Ontario. What is the connection? Climate change.
Lake trout may have quit spawning successfully in Red Lake for nearly two decades because the water was simply too warm in the fall. During the 17 years of lake trout study and stocking by the MNRF and assisted by Brenda and I and our staff at Bow Narrows Camp two facts came to light, both involving temperature. Several times during that period the lake temperature was above the 12 C maximum needed for spawning. The result was most of the female trout never came to the spawning beds. If the temperature isn't 12 C or colder in the first two weeks of October, spawning success will be near-zero. The lake temperature must align with the photoperiod.
The other fact was the discovery of manganese in the sediment of the spawning shoals. Where did it come from? The rock itself. There is naturally occurring manganese in the bedrock of the spawning shoals. Yet, lake trout have been spawning there successfully for probably 10,000 years. Why would it be a problem now? Manganese is inert at low temperatures and becomes reactive at higher ones.  A very real possibility is that the warmer fall temperatures are making the manganese kill the trout eggs which are one of the most sensitive things in nature.
We don't have the warm temperatures every fall but these warm years are becoming more and more frequent. For a lake trout population that was already stressed to the limit by overharvesting, it could have pushed them over the brink. Fortunately, the MNRF's stocking program has saved the day and trout are once again spawning in other places besides Pipestone Bay.
The deer example is more obvious. Warm winters and a lack of deep snowfall, all part of climate change, has seen a population explosion for this species. Because of their numbers they are eradicating moose and changing the vegetation on the landscape.
So now the flashlight. It's a dandy. I wrote about getting it a couple of years ago. I have used it every night since and haven't bought a single battery or plugged it in to charge even once. I just set it in the window and the sun does it for free. It lasts something like 22 hours on a single day's charge. And it is incredibly bright. If you are thinking a solar flashlight isn't going to hold a candle to today's super-flashlights, you haven't been paying attention. Solar energy has taken a quantum leap in recent years.
And the cost of solar equipment has plunged as the entire world jumps on the bandwagon and mass production lowers the cost of everything.
There are still tons of things to invent and manufacture, all using solar. Here's one that came to my attention lately. A person with a canoe that he powers with a 12-volt electric trolling motor and battery told me he tried plugging the motor directly into two solar panels that he carried amidships. With absolutely no battery connected his motor powered up to about 60 per cent of top speed. Now just imagine if the entire canoe -- or boat -- was made out of photovoltaic cells.
The world is converting from the internal combustion engine to electric energy at warp speed. And the proportion of that energy created by solar and wind is increasing exponentially. Who is the largest automaker in the U.S.? GM? Toyota? Honda?  Actually, it is Tesla, the maker of affordable electric cars.
The reality of never spending a nickel at a gas station again is closer than most of us realize. In fact, we could all make it a reality right now. Our cars can be charged from solar panels on the roof of our houses and on the parking garages at work. Or from the utility. That takes care of commuting and just about all of our normal daily driving. For long trips we need to build a network of recharging stations. It's already happening in California and the only thing stopping it everywhere else is a lack of political and business leadership.
Let's get at it. Not doing it is like clinging to the horse-and-buggy a hundred years ago. And the money we save will be our own as will the planet.

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