Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Chindia Steamroller

Last night I saw a presentation on investing in India and China - Chindia. The thesis was that this region is now a relatively safe place to invest, despite a number of achilles heels, because the enormous wave of enrichment and infrastructure has enough momentum to be unlikely to falter now. The numbers are enormous: with a combined population of 2.4 billion, in each country about half a billion people have already been lifted into the middle class, and the infrastructure buildout is proportionate. In Shanghai in 1996 the biggest skyscraper was the Union Hall, which you can see in an aerial photo clearly standing twice as high as all the surrounding colonial buildings. In 2006 this building is lost in a sea of skyscapers and is now the 48th biggest. China has half a million post-graduate students in universities.

The presenters were pushing infrastructure as the steadiest investment - cement, steel, heavy electrical, etc., and automobiles not far behind: all heavily energy-intensive. Personal electronics is also exploding, so toxic waste is going to be an issue in India (China has already passed waste electronics regulations). Returns of 15%-40% were routine. MERs are high (3-4%) due to the extra management connecting these investments with Canada.

India is about 10-15 years behind China, which is now trying to cool down its economy a little - from 10% to 7-8% GDP growth - but not succeeding. India has little domestic energy so may be more vulnerable to global oil politics; China has lots of coal though it is still looking for lots more overseas.

It's not difficult to grasp the attitude of those who see two very large golden geese here. Nobody suggested that this kind of investment was at any kind of risk from clean energy technologies or consumption reduction.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

What Are You Flushing With?

It's reno time in my house (and I know it's going to go on for years). Currently on the list of 'projects' are redoing the front hallway flooring (it's not level and I don't want to talk about it) and the two main bathrooms. The first, our 'powder room' on the first floor is getting the full overhaul. New flooring, new paint job, new sink and taps and my long coveted item: A NEW TOILET!!! And that is the point of this blog (and yes though it may seem a little brown, overall it is green).

I've been wanting low-flush toilets since I was old enough to know better. But I also try to avoid land fill--so it's hard. But the time has come and the old toilet is out the door and the new one about to appear. Like all things--this required research. Lo and behold all toilets are not created equal (go figure) and price and brand do not translate into quality of product (unfortunately it isn't that easy).

Thank goodness then for the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association. They've been testing low-flush toilets for years now and have a handy-dandy guide you can download (CWWA Maximum Performance Testing of Popular Toilet Models). This lovely document, now in its 8th edition, not only gives you the rather riveting background details of how one tests toilets but provides such nuggets (sorry) of information as what is the average fecal output of an adult. Why do we care? Well, because we want a toilet that flushes what we need flushed in one flush. If it doesn't, it negates the whole idea of buying a 6L toilet.

Here's the wrinkle for me: my 'powder room' has special demands placed upon its white receptacle. For I, as the city suggests, flush all my pet waste (both cats and dogs). I don't just want any 6L toilet. I want one that can handle doing this heavy duty job in, as much as possible, on flush. I needed to know! Is this possible?

The report above not only rates toilets by their ability to flush the average human waste (approximately 250 grams--I know you wanted to know that). But also clearly rates toilets that flush up to 1000 grams! Now I don't know how many of you have big dogs--but I have two. And I need to flush both in one go.

I figure that 1000 grams should about do it (I'm not going to share how I know that). Thanks to the CWWA I now know which toilet can handle the task I'm going to lay in its bowl. It is possible to to get the job done and save the environment twice--by not putting pet waste in landfill but sending it for treatment like human waste AND get this done with only 6L of water a flush! David Suzuki I've taken your challenge into unknown directions!

Now this report isn't just for those of us who share our dwellings with super-sized creatures with fur (and teenage boys). I recommend anyone going out and buying a 6L toilet to check out this report. It's essential reading. You'd be shocked that some toilets declared as low flush cannot even meet the base standard of 250 grams of waste per flush!

I consider it the practicality of going green. We've all got to start somewhere. I've just gone down the toilet!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Canada's Green Party - The New Canadian Center

Elizabeth May met with the Citizen edtiorial board last week. She got two editorials out of it.

Leonard Stern (deep conservative) was mostly favorable (commented that she was not a darling of the left due to things like her stand on abortion, but said she was primitive on things like foreign policy).

Today David Reevely (moderate) disputed the criticisms of his editor Leonard Stern, saying that she does a god job drawing the distinction between pure environmentalism and sustainability (an example is her support of a limited seal hunt. His ending quote is: "It sounds like, at last, we have a party leader who's determined to treat voters with respect".

You can listen to the interview at:

These indicate the growing undestanding and acceptance of the Green Party's "socially progressive, fiscally conservative" approach to gorvernment issues in Canada.