Rachel Carson (1907 – 1964)

Official photo of Rachel Carson ca. 1940, taken by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

This weblog post has been published on the 60th anniversary of the death of Rachel Carson on 1964-04-14. She died of cancer, at the age of 56. This was the second death of a prominent, yet relatively young person in a matter of months. The first was the assassination of American president John Kennedy (1917 – 1963). The comment, relatively young, is written by someone at the age of 75. For someone 15 years old, fifty years probably seemed an eternity into the future.

As I started writing this post, I was reading the 1998 collection, Lost Woods, the Discovered Writings of Rachel Carson, edited and with an introduction by Linda Lear (1940 – ). This was the fifth book I read, written by Rachel Carson.

The first book I read of hers was the third that Carson wrote, The Edge of the Sea (1955). It revealed the shoreline, that part of the sea accessible to a young person, probably not yet a teenager. The focus was on three edges: rocky, sandy and coral. The focus was on the east coast of North America. The rocky shores were typical of the Cape Ann region of Massachusetts, the sandy shores were of the intermediate coast off the Carolinas, while the corals were part of the Florida Keys.

The second book of hers that I read was her second book, The Sea Around Us (1951). It is often described as poetic. That term was foreign to me. I regarded it as providing me with deeper insights into life into oceans depths. It too was divided into three sections: Mother Sea, The Restless Sea, and Man and the Sea About Him.

These two books prompted an interest in marine biology, and in microscopy. I still have my compound microscope from 1962. I used it to study and make photomicrographs of plankton I had harvested using a home-made plankton net, that was essential equipment on my home-made 2.4 m = 8′ long Sabot dinghy.

The third book of hers that I read was her fourth book, Silent Spring (1962). It had nothing to do with the sea, but with birds, and how the overuse of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and other synthetic pesticides, was responsible for a decline in bird populations — the silencing of birds. At one point I voiced my concerns to my uncle Harry, an etymologist, who chastised me for my concerns, saying that DDT had saved the lives of millions of people.

The fourth book I read by Carson, was her first book, Under the Sea Wind (1941). It describes the behavior of three Atlantic coast organisms that live both on and in the sea on the Atlantic coast. Under the Sea Wind consists of three parts, each following a different organism that interacts with the sea, and viewing it from a personified organism’s perspective. The first section, Edge of the Sea, follows a female sanderling (Calidris alba, Pallas, 1764), a small wading bird Carson names Silverbar. The second section, The Gull’s Way,  follows an Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus, Linnaeus, 1758) named Scomber. The third section, River and Sea follows an American eel (Anguilla rostrata, Lesueur, 1817), Anguilla.

These were not the only books I read about the sea. To understand what was happening on the Pacific coast I used Edward Rickett’s (1897 – 1948) Between Pacific Tides (1939), as a guide. To gain a better understanding of what was happening in the depths of the ocean I also read William Beebe (1877 – 1962) as he descended in his bathosphere in Half Mile Down (1934).

As is the case with most of the books I read as a child, the books cited here were borrowed, often repeatedly, from New Westminster public library, located a convenient three blocks away from my childhood home. These books were not in the Children’s department, so I had to have special permission to borrow them.

I now have paper editions of Carson’s four earliest books, along with digital editions of these and some others written by her, or about her. I also have a paper edition of Between Pacific Tides.

Many people believe that there is a direct connection between Carson and Earth Day, first celebrated in 1970. For the most part Earth Day is harmless, and doesn’t require anyone to make changes to their consumer way of life. I am even more skeptical about Carson inspiring the Responsible Care program was established in 1988 by the Chemical Manufacturers Association (now American Chemistry Council) to help the chemical industry improve its safe management of chemicals from manufacture to disposal. I see it as an attempt to focus public attention away from the damage done by chemical manufacturers.

When these chemicals first came on the market, they appeared almost miraculous. Swiss chemist Paul Hermann Müller (1899 – 1965) had shown in 1939, that DDT eradicated insect populations in the control of vector diseases such as malaria and yellow fever. For this he received the 1948 Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine. It was noted that DDT sprayed from airplanes eliminated the malaria- and dengue fever–carrying mosquitoes that sickened and killed American soldiers in the Pacific war theater. These wartime successes led to postwar applications, with chemical companies selling DDT to farmers to reduce crop loss to insects. Tropical nations used it to prevent mosquitoes from spreading malaria.

In the 1950s the chemical industry created new pesticides and herbicides, such as chlordane and heptachlor for killing insects and 2,4-D to control sagebrush growth on western U.S. roadsides.

Carson’s most important skill was connecting existing data from many areas and synthesizing them to create a coherent narrative. In Silent Spring, this was about the effects persistent chemicals had on the landscape and its inhabitants, only some of which were human.

Carson did not condemn all chemicals, only the reckless and irresponsible poisoning of the world that man shares with all other creatures. She followed DDT from the time it was sprayed on alfalfa, through alfalfa-fed hens, into the eggs, and finally into the egg-eating humans. Then she explained, in terms readers could understand, that chemicals like dieldrin, were used to kill pests, but ended up being stored in the body. Plants, animals and people formed an interconnected web, affected by these chemical compounds.

There was a vindictive reaction from Chemical manufacturers. Velsicol Chemical Corporation, which produced chlordane and heptachlor, threatened Carson’s publisher with a lawsuit. Monsanto Company published an essay, The Desolate Year to show that without pesticides and herbicides farmers would be unable to produce enough food for a growing population and that preventable diseases would continue to kill people. Others chastised Carson for failing to mention chemical successes.

Robert A. Roland (1931 – 2013), president of the Chemical Manufacturers Association from 1978 to 1993, later admitted that the chemical industry had made a mistake in not properly engaging with Carson and addressing the environmental issues she wrote about.

President Kennedy ordered the Science Advisory Committee to review pesticide and herbicide experiments. It published its findings a year later and acknowledged some links such as that between DDT and liver damage. Later, the report was regarded as being less than forthright.

Silent Spring changed how people saw the world around them. It initiated the modern environmental movement, and influenced government regulation of pesticides and other chemicals, especially environmental effects.

In 1972 the U.S.Senate banned DDT, encouraged by the emergence of new environmental organizations like the Environmental Defense Fund. Chlordane was banned completely in 1988. Restrictions were placed on the use of heptachlor.

Silent Spring changed how governments, industry and agriculture respond to chemical ills.

Thank you, Rachel Carson, for helping to enlighten me to the dangers of chemicals in the environment. Without your efforts, I am uncertain how long it would have taken for this awareness to emerge.

Science Revolution

Often, when I talk to Norwegians, they are not concerned about a climate breakdown. They are looking forward to a warmer climate. Unfortunately, the expected heat will not be distributed equally, and Norway – dependent on the Gulf Stream for its relatively warm climate, may find that winters become colder, rather than hotter, as Greenland loses its ice sheet that in large part propels the global conveyor belt of ocean currents.

This post republishes a diagram showing recent increases in temperature and CO2, along with a letter from (more than) 1 447 scientists about their climate concerns.

Dear Reader,

We are a large and diverse group of scientists and academics writing to you from every continent. First, we were concerned. Then, we were alarmed. Now, we are terrified. World leaders have known about the dangers of the climate crisis for decades, but they are not acting accordingly. It is still possible to turn the tide – but we need you.

None of the climate disasters unfolding before our eyes were inevitable. In 1992, virtually all countries promised to avoid “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”. 27 global UN climate conferences (known as Conferences of the Parties, or COPs) later, carbon emissions are 60% higher than they were in 1992. Our political leaders are catastrophically failing us.

No country is taking action in line with a 1.5°C pathway, the temperature limit aspired to in the Paris Agreement. Some of the world’s richest and highest-emitting countries continue to approve new oil and gas fields, to subsidise fossil fuels with trillions of dollars every year, and to engage in destructive agricultural practices. Rich countries, which have contributed most to the climate crisis, pretend they have decades left to decarbonize, while poor countries bear the brunt of impacts without adequate compensation or help. Those who demand justice and accountability are increasingly being persecuted.

Continuing on this path will mean untold suffering. Large parts of our planet will become uninhabitable, creating hundreds of millions of refugees, unprecedented famines, and severe political conflicts.

We do not have to surrender to this future. But the window of opportunity to secure an alternative, livable future is rapidly closing. The task is enormous: the IPCC notes that “targeting a climate resilient, sustainable world involves fundamental changes to how society functions, including changes to underlying values, worldviews, ideologies, social structures, political and economic systems, and power relationships.”

These deep, structural changes can improve our quality of life. We have the prospect of less polluted environments, healthier food, and more time for the things that matter. Resources can be better distributed – both within countries and internationally – rather than accumulated by the few at the expense of the many.

The solutions are available. What is preventing adequate action is vested interests and entrenched power – institutions, corporations, and wealthy individuals who benefit from the destructive status quo. We need to rapidly phase out fossil fuels, yet COP28 is being chaired by the CEO of an oil company, illustrating the profound influence of this entrenched power.

Overcoming these vested interests requires a large-scale mobilisation of society. It has happened before: without strong social movements, there would be no civil rights, no women’s right to vote, no weekends, no holidays, nor much of the welfare that considerable parts of the world enjoy today. And it can happen again: citizens in the Netherlands recently forced their government to plan a phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies, while people in Ecuador prevented oil extraction in the Amazonian Yasuni National Park.

But we need you. Wherever you are, become a climate advocate or activist. Join or start groups pushing for policies that help secure a better future. Contact groups that are active where you are, find out when they meet and attend their meetings. Find out what kind of engagement suits you best and talk to friends, family, and colleagues to spread the word. If we are to create a livable future, climate action must move from being something that others do to something that we all do.

As scientists and academics, we believe it is now necessary to step up and engage in collective climate action. Like thousands of people around the world, many of us have been advocating and protesting for a better world in a variety of ways, including peaceful civil disobedience.

Join us.


In some landscapes, underground containers that extend downwards about two meters, allow sorted garbage to be deposited. In this situation, there is no control function, so anyone can use them. In other situations RFID chips are used to control access. The crown on the top of each container is used by a waste collection vehicle for hoisting the container.

I last wrote about Innherred Renovasjon (IR), just after the Utøy Recycling Station opened on 2018-09-18. This station serves all of Inderøy, and is located 7.3 km east-north-east of Cliff Cottage, on Hwy 755, our usual road to Straumen, the municipal centre, 12.3 km away.

This post looks at what happens to the various categories of waste, that is either picked up by truck, or received at a recycling station. It was started on 2018-10-21 at 14:43 to give an overview of regional recycling. For over four years this post has been gestating. This is a polite way of saying that it has been ignored most of this time, apart from short periodic bouts of guilt, encouraging sufficient enthusiasm for me to look at the post, before procrastination, once again, takes the upper hand.

Owned by and operating in nine of Trøndelag County’s 38 municipalities, IR, describes itself as an inter-municipal waste recycling company. As of 2022-01-01, it serves a population of 90 479 people, who occupy an area of 7 580 square kilometers, with 36 212 household subscribers and 12 138 cottage/ leisure subscribers.

There is considerable difference between the quality of service being offered by the various companies providing recycling services in Norway. IR has a good reputation, nationally, despite its relatively small size.

A map showing the nine municipalities served by Innherred Renovasjon (IR). The black dot shows the location of IR’s corporate headquarters. The orange dot shows Skjørdalen landfill in Verdal where, in 2021, 37 547 tonnes of waste was received and treated. Of this, 87% was food waste. The blue dots indicate the location of the nine recycling centres, one per municipality.

Of IR’s 106 employees, 21 of these work for its subsidiary, Retura IR AS. The managing director and four operations managers are responsible for four departments: Upstream operations (collection); downstream operations (reception and processing); administration; and human resources and communications.

IR is also responsible for emptying sludge (septic tanks) in all member municipalities, apart from Stjørdal. All properties with a toilet connected to a sludge system, must be emptied at regular intervals that depend on the size of the tank. In total, IR clears approx. 30 000 m³ of sludge from 6 000 septic tanks annually.

When Skarnsund bridge was under construction, from 1988 to 1991, temporary housing for bridge builders was provided in pre-fabricated buildings in a field across from Cliff Cottage. The bridge construction company was required to install a sewage system. Sixty local property owners used the opportunity to form Vangbekken kloakklag SA = Vang creek sewage cooperative, to serve local residents and the bridge builders. It was a profitable venture.

In 2022 the residents at Cliff Cottage paid NOK 500 (CAD 70/ USD 50) for sewage. Some years we pay nothing because the cost is covered by a new property owner joining the cooperative. A single connection fee pays all maintenance costs for at least a couple of years.

IR’s core values are to be open, efficient and committed. Their vision is: Itjnå e søppel! = Nothing is garbage, written in the local Trønder dialect, rather than proper Norwegian.

IR’s business concept is to offer residents efficient waste disposal with a high level of service. They use forward-looking technology, expertise and an environmental focus, to solve owner municipalities’ waste treatment, recycling and reuse tasks.

IR has the following performance targets set for 2025.

Customer satisfaction: ​80% of citizens should feel like active contributors to the circular economy by supporting IR’s schemes. IR will develop the current level of service with a focus on providing the greatest benefits for the least cost.

80% of the citizens should feel like active contributors to the circular economy by supporting IR’s programs.

Sustainable Environment: ​55% material recycling of collected waste; a transition to fossil-free fuel.

IR will utilize technology and infrastructure to reach the future’s material recycling and climate goals.​

Employees, owner-operators and others who work for IR: ​Will have a maximum of 2% short-term absence, and a maximum of 5% long-term absence,

IR must be an attractive workplace with competent and motivated employees who represent the values of the company

Fee development: ​fee development must be among the 2 best in Central Norway, by offering competitive solutions for household waste and sewage sludge.

Innovation:​ IR must be an attractive partner for regional and national development in the industry. As an example of this, the company is frequently the first in the country to offer various forms of service.

For example, IR was the first company to supply every household with four wheelie bins: blue lid, green lid, brown lid and green with a smaller orange hatch lid. Blue is for paper; brown is for organic waste, green for residual waste; green with orange is for glass and household metal, e.g. tin cans. Plastic is picked up separately, with large clear plastic bags provided for the purpose. Indoor containers are also provided, a black bucket for collecting organic material, and a blue box for paper. At local food stores households can pick up bags for organic waste as well as for plastic, without charge.

Biodegradable plastic bags for organic food waste, and plastic bags for plastic waste are available without charge at many grocery stores. The dispenser is located at the exit, so one just picks up a bag/ sack and leaves. The expression å få noe i pose og sekk = to get something in both bag and sack = to have it both ways = to have your cake and eat it, too. While a sack can refer to something bigger than a bag, much of the time the words can be used interchangeably. So there is no difference choosing one over the other. This shows an older display, replaced by a smaller one in the same location.

Other solutions involve underground storage of waste. A video shows how this waste is collected.

For us at Cliff Cottage, organic waste is picked up every other week, along with either residual waste or paper. There are other schedules for plastic and metal/ glass waste. There are Android and iPhone apps, and information sources accessible with a web browser, to advise people about their specific collection dates.

People can also deliver waste to a recycling centre, without charge. This is because recycling fees are added on to the purchase price of products to cover their return to a recycling centre. Note: this is not the situation with all recycling centres in Norway.

Residual waste
Residual waste is sent to combustion at Heimdal Central Heat, near Trondheim. The energy is used for heating households (district heating) through Statkraft Heating.

Cardboard and paper
Cardboard, paper and cardboard are sent together to Retura TRV in Trondheim, which sort out the different types for further recycling. Cardboard is delivered to the Ranheim paper and board factory, and is used as raw material in the production of new cardboard products. Paper is delivered to Norske Skog på Skogn to become newsprint. Beverage carton is sent to Fiskeby Board in Norrköping, Sweden, and is made into pizza and cornflakes packaging.

Food waste
Food waste is used as raw material for the production of biogas and fertilizer at Ecopro in Verdal. Biogas is converted into fuel and electricity, while fertilizer is distributed in agriculture. Ecopro is a high-tech biogas plant that processes food waste in an environmentally-friendly and forward-looking method. The plant removes the risk of infection, reduces odor and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. The fuel is sold to and distributed via the company Ecogas.

Household cost of IR

To use the recycling stations, and to have garbage collected regularly, a household pays about NOK 4 000  (CAD 550/ USD 410) a year. There are legitimate and acceptable ways to reduce this cost, or to pay more to receive additional services.

Note: This weblog post was updated on 2023-01-01 to make some corrections, mostly spelling, and to eliminate what one reader found to be extraneous content about financing.

The Norwegian renovasjon has nothing to do with renovation, as in refurbishment, but with the collection and processing of waste/ garbage/ trash. It is related to renhold which is a general term for cleaning.

Innherred is a term for the areas around the inner part of the Trondheimsfjord, including the municipalities of Levanger, Frosta, Verdal, Inderøy, and Steinkjer. Steinkjer has its own recycling service. Malvik, Stjørdal, Meråker, Selbu and Tydal are not included in Innherred, geographically.

International Mountain Day #20

Mountain Day, has its origins at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (now Mount Holyoke College), founded by Mary Lyon (1797 – 1849), and opened 1837-11-08, in South Hadley, Massachusetts. Every year in early fall, since 1838, its students participate in Mountain Day. On a random autumn morning, at the sound of ringing bells from Abbey Chapel, all classes are cancelled and students hike to the summit of Mount Holyoke.

Thomas Cole (1801 – 1848) View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm—The Oxbow (1836).

There are two approaches to mountain views. One is a view of a mountain from a distant point in the lowlands. Another is a view from a mountain top. Here the artist can concentrate on that particular mountain’s characteristics. This is seen in the above work, Thomas Cole (1801 – 1848): View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm—The Oxbow (1836).

Mount Holyoke, like much of the Metacomet Ridge, is composed of basalt. The mountain formed near the end of the Triassic Period, from about 250 – 50 million years ago, with the rifting apart of the North American continent from Africa and Eurasia. Mount Holyoke’s summit is 285 m high. It offers a variety of micro-climates, including hot, dry upper slopes; cool, moist ravines; mineral-rich ledges of basalt talus. These produce microclimate ecosystems on the mountain that support plant and animal species uncommon in the area.

Since then, many other American educational institutions have initiated their own mountain days.

The United Nations has celebrated International Mountain Day since 2003, The twentieth celebration is being held on Sunday, 2022-12-11. This year’s theme is, Women Move Mountains!

The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization , who coordinates events, writes about this year’s theme:

“Women play a key role in environmental protection and social and economic development in mountain areas. They are often the primary managers of mountain resources, guardians of biodiversity, keepers of traditional knowledge, custodians of local culture and experts in traditional medicine.

Increasing climate variability, coupled with a lack of investment in mountain agriculture and rural development, has often pushed men to migrate elsewhere in search of alternative livelihoods. Women have therefore taken on many tasks formerly done by men, yet mountain women are often invisible due to a lack of decision-making power and unequal access to resources.  

As farmers, market sellers, businesswomen, artisans, entrepreneurs and community leaders, mountain women and girls, in particular in rural areas, have the potential to be major agents of change. When rural women have access to resources, services and opportunities, they become a driving force against hunger, malnutrition and rural poverty and are active in the development of mountain economies.  

To trigger real change towards sustainable development, it is important to engage in gender transformative change. 

International Mountain Day 2022 is an opportunity raise awareness about the need to empower mountain women so they can participate more effectively in decision-making processes and have more control over productive resources. By sharing excellence, opportunities and capacity development in mountains, the Day can promote gender equality and therefore contribute to improve social justice, livelihoods and resilience.”

For an overview about the use of mountains, see: Martin F. Price (1957- ), Mountains: A Very Short Introduction (2015). Both Trish and I have read this book, and found it informative and entertaining.

According to Price, for a place to be defined as mountainous, the altitude had to vary by at least 300 metres over a radius of 7 kilometres.

Japan has held it own Mountain Day national holiday since 2016, based on 2014 legislation, that states that the holiday is to provide opportunities to get familiar with mountains and appreciate blessings from mountains. It is celebrated in August (the 8th month), not December (the 12th month). It is often speculated that the specific date was chosen because the kanji for the number eight “八” looks like a mountain. With eight being August in the calendar and the date 11 looking somewhat like two trees.


Tittinghalla, the highest point on the Inderøy peninsula, with a height of 268 m, is located 1 850 m north of Cliff Cottage. It is below the treeline, and is regarded as a hill. Tittinghalla Round is an annual walk (for some, race) that was first held in 1966. The track is 13.5 kilometers long. It is mostly by road, but with some forest path down from the trail’s highest point, Ørdalen, with a view over Skarnsund, that patriots call spectacular.

Cliff Cottage is on a cliff overlooking this sound, 35 m above sea level. Mosvik, across the sound, was its own independent municipality until 2012-01-01, when it merged with Inderøy. In the old Mosvik there are several forested landforms with peaks above the treeline. The highest peaks here are Storknuken (502 m, 16 km south-west of Cliff Cottage) and Bjørnakammen (414 m, 10 km west of Cliff Cottage).

Having seen real mountains, I call this area hilly, rather than mountainous. Terminology can cause people to have different world views. Thus, today’s Norwegian lesson tries to define concepts related to mountains. At times it can be hard to distinguish between a hill and a mountain.

Ås = hill, a land form that is characterized by being higher than the surrounding terrain, which is usually covered with trees or forest.

Fjell = fell, in some northern English dialects = mountain, is traditionally defined in Norwegian as a landform that sticks above the treeline. Treelines in Norway range from about 1 200 m in the south, to sea-level in the north. The treeline where Cliff Cottage is located, is about 380 meters above sea level. Some countries require a mountain to be a certain minimum height. This is not the case in Norway. In the United Kingdom it is 600 m = ca. 2 000 feet.

Vidde = plateau or plain or open area that is generally higher than the treeline. Because it is above the treeline, this term is sometimes translated as mountain.

Further comments on Mount Holyoke College and Mary Lyon.

Mary Lyon Hall (1897), Mount Holyoke College. This hall replaced other buildings destroyed in an 1896 fire. (Photo: Kenneth C. Zirkel, 2016-03-18)

It was a unique institution, founded by people of modest means and serving their daughters, rather than the children of the rich. Mary Lyon, a pioneer in education for women, was especially influenced by Joseph Emerson’s (1777 – 1833), Female Education: A Discourse (1822) that advocated for women to be trained as teachers, rather than as companions to please the other sex. Further information on Emerson, can be found here. Note: Originally, the wrong Joseph Emerson was cited as the author of a book about female information. This and the book title have now been corrected. A copy of the book can be downloaded from here.

In keeping with Lyon’s social vision, tuition fees were low, but required students to perform domestic tasks, such as preparing meals and washing floors and windows. Students were required to walk one mile = 1.6 km after breakfast, or for 45 minutes during the winter.

A comprehensive, rigorous, and innovative education was provided, with particular emphasis on the sciences where students learned science through: laboratory experiments which they performed themselves; field trips on where they collected rocks, plants, and specimens for lab work, and inspected geological formations and recently discovered dinosaur tracks.

Originally serving 200 students, in 2021 there were 2220 undergraduates and 122 post graduates. It has been ranked #1 in the list of the Top 20 Best Schools for Making an Impact. It remains an institution for women.


Den skandinaviske fjellkjede, Skandesfjellene, Kjølen, Nordryggen in Norwegian; Skandinaviska fjällkedjan, Skanderna, Fjällen, Kölen in Swedish; The Scandinavian Mountains, Scandes, the Keel, North Back in English. This mountain range has many names.

On 2022-12-11, Trish and I watched a National Geographic program in the 2019 series Wild Nordic. Kingdom in the Sky, the second episode, was about the Scandinavian mountain range, often referred to as the Keel/ Kjølen/ Kölen, in English/ Norwegian/ Swedish, respectively. Wikipedia reminds us, that the names Kjølen and Kölen are often preferentially used for the northern part, where the mountains form a narrow range near the border region of Norway and Sweden. In south Norway there is a broad scatter of mountain regions with individual names, such as Dovrefjell, Hardangervidda, Jotunheimen and Rondane.

In 2013, The Norwegian Trekking Association, and The Norwegian Geological Society, held a competition to find a new, but unofficial, name for the range. This was Nordryggen = North Back, sometimes translated as North Ridge.

The range is about 1 700 km long and 300 km wide. Examining the range from north to south, it starts in northern Norway, then forms a border area with Finland, before becoming part of the border area with Sweden. Sweden’s highest mountains are part of it: 2 104 m high Kebnekaise, with its glacier peak, and 500 m away 2 097 m high, Kebnekaise Nordtoppen which could become the highest point, if glacial melt continues.

Further south, the peaks are lower until one reaches Trøndelag, where they are only about 400 – 500 m, the low point for the range. South of Trondheim, and heading towards Stavanger, the mean altitude exceeds 1 000 m, with numerous peaks over 1 300 m. Here, one encounters Norway’s ten highest peaks, all 2 348 m or higher, with Galdhøpiggen the highest, at 2469 m. Ten of the thirty highest waterfalls in the world are found here.

The Cow and the Coke Bottle

A Coke bottle washed up on Scotland’s isle of Mull. Break Free From Plastic’s audit found Coca-Cola to be the world’s top plastic polluter for the past four years. Photograph: Will Rose/Greenpeace

This weblog post is about food, in an increasingly environmentally stressed world. To begin, there are comments about the food systems pavilion at Cop27, the annual United Nations climate change conference, held at Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, between 2022-11-06 and -20. Most of today’s weblog post looks at both the past and the future of food. The past is symbolized by the cow, and the coke bottle; the future by fermentation vats, and the rewilding of agricultural land.

Food Systems Pavilion

The Food Systems Pavilion offered Cop27 participants 11 days of programming about transforming food systems, as part of climate mitigation, adaptation and resilience. Below is a list of themes. A program booklet is available about the program.

2022-11-06 Enhance resilience to climate and shocks.

2022-11-08 Enable a culture of sustainable, healthy and nutritious diets.

2022-11-09 Increase sustainable investments and financing to build food systems.

2022-11-10 Accelerate innovation and digitalization.

2022-11-11 Boost nature positive production and soil health.

2022-11-12 Scale climate resilient agriculture

2022-11-14 Embrace sustainable water and aquatic blue food diversity for climate smart food systems.

2022-11-15 Champion youth action in food systems.

2022-11-16 Protect and restore nature.

2022-11-17 Transform value chains and develop inclusive markets.

2022-11-18 Closing

The current food system is broken and unequal: Three billion people can’t afford a healthy diet; over two billion people suffer from micro-nutrient deficiencies; two billion people are overweight; almost five hundred million people are underweight; one third of greenhouse gasses are produced by the current food systems.

Nordic/ Scandinavian approaches were presented on 2022-11-12.

The Cow

Much of the content in this section, is from George Monbiot (1963 – ), author of Regenesis: Feeding the World without Devouring the Planet (2022) and the Reboot website, where he is quoted as saying: The elephant in the room at Cop27 is the cow. But thankfully this time, there really is a recipe for success. By rebooting our food systems with precision fermentation we can phase out animal agriculture while greatly increasing the amount of protein available for human consumption..

In my daily life, I do not practice the principles found in the reboot manifesto. Currently, it is just not available. However, as a chemical engineering student, I worked with bacteria in fermentation vats. My graduating essay relates to its use, along with genetic engineering, including gene splicing, in the production of antibiotics rather than food. In both cases, the principles are the same. Thus, I have a belief that these can be the foods of the future. Unlike today’s processed foods, that typically remove nutrition, but leave tasty yet empty calories, I have a firm belief that foods based on the use of fermentation vats, can be engineered into nutritious, healthy, tasty foods.

Confession 1: We currently buy milk and eggs directly from local farmers. In addition, we eat cheese, and I drink a type of buttermilk the local dairy – so far – has been unable to produce. However, I have assisted them in a trial production of a substitute. Other animal based products we eat include honey and meat. Of the twenty-one meals we eat weekly, about four of them contain meat: one with fowl (turkey sometimes, but mainly chicken), two with fish (white fish once, salmon once) and one with red meat.

The Reboot Manifesto

[People] are standing on the cusp of a revolution, a food revolution, one unprecedented since the dawn of farming 10,000 years ago. Agriculture today is the largest single cause of biodiversity loss and emits more greenhouse gases than all our cars, planes and ships put together. Most of the damage is caused by livestock farming, which on its own covers 28% of the Earth’s surface, more than all the world’s forests combined. The non-human living world is squeezed to the margins, and wild species have been decimated. By weight, just 4% of the world’s mammals are wild, 36% are humans and 60% are our livestock.

But it no longer has to be this way. Game-changing innovations in precision fermentation and biotech now make a different future possible, one where we no longer have to cruelly exploit animals for food, and where the majority of the land currently used for livestock can be returned to nature, even as the world’s population climbs towards 10 billion and the Global South emerges from poverty.

It’s time to Reboot Food.

The four principles of rebooting food are:
1. Make it plant-based.

2. Brew don’t slaughter. Healthy, whole and varied plant-based foods should be at the centre of everything. Animal farming should be phased out and replaced by identical precision fermentation products wherever possible.

3. Use as little land and ocean as possible, rewild everything else.

4. Open source everything to guarantee a just transition.

High yield, low impact farming must be prioritized to make as much space for nature as possible. Farmers should be paid to rewild the spared land. [I am not convinced that this is the best idea in many jurisdictions, because it would allow the private ownership of what are essentially nature reserves, are prevent access to the land. For the mental health of the population, it is important that there be provisions for a general right of access.] The benefits of the food revolution should be shared with all, with new technologies made open source and corporate concentration actively mitigated.

Precision fermentation allows us to move from farming macro-organisms (cows, sheep, pigs) to farming micro-organisms (yeasts and bacteria). Using genetics, these microorganisms can be programmed to produce exactly the same proteins and fats we currently obtain from animals, powered by clean energy from solar, wind and nuclear [I object to treating nuclear power as a sustainable source of energy, in part because current technology requires the storage of waste products for thousands of years]. This [food production] technology is commercially proven and globally scalable, already producing 99% of insulin and 80% of rennet worldwide.

Protein from precision fermentation is up to 40,900 times [Why not say 40 000? A single digit 4, followed by 4 zeros might even be something people could remember] more land efficient than beef, making it technically feasible to produce the entire world’s protein on an area of land smaller than Greater London [Wikipedia says it occupies 1 569 km2. If one allows it to be 1 600 km2, it could form a square 40 km x 40 km which is about 25 miles x 25 miles = 625 square miles]. Precision fermentation products can supplement a shift to plant-based diets, with everything from non-animal milk, cheese and ice cream to non-fish omega-3s. Many of these products have already reached the market in the United States, and could come to Europe soon. In essence, we are talking about a transition to farm-free foods for everything which is currently only available from livestock. But this revolution won’t happen by accident, and isn’t inevitable. Although billions in venture capital funding is pouring into these new innovations, the scale and speed of the transition needs to be [accelerated] with public money and government support. This manifesto calls for a dramatic shift in government support for food and agriculture, away from subsidising legacy animal industries and towards encouraging delicious and low-cost animal-free foods, while supporting a just transition for farmers and fisherfolk currently in these sectors.

To Reboot Food, governments must:
1. Invest 2.5% of GDP over 10 years into rebooting our food systems.
2. Stop subsidies for animal agriculture, pay farmers a land-based subsidy to rewild and sequester carbon instead.
3. Bring agriculture into the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) so emissions are capped and costed.
4. Subsidize plant-based food at the point of sale to encourage a mass market.
5. Implement a just transition for farming and fishing communities.
6. Set land use reduction and rewilding targets, suspend organic targets until yields match those of conventional agriculture.
7. Limit patents on food innovation to 10 years and discourage corporate control.
8. Legalise gene editing, genetic modification and other new breeding techniques.
9. Make sustainability labelling mandatory.
10. Ban advertising of land- and carbon-intensive animal-based foods.

[Reboot Food] believe[s] that these measures, when combined, will make the food revolution unstoppable and make nutritious and affordable diets accessible to all the world’s people, while at the same time allowing an unprecedented regeneration of natural ecosystems on spared land. It is the single biggest thing we can do to stop and reverse the sixth mass extinction of biodiversity. And it is essential if we are to respect the Paris targets for tackling the climate emergency. The situation is urgent and the time is now. It’s time to Reboot Food.

Propaganda/ information from www.rebootfood.org // www.replanet.ngo .

Comments: While I am not anti-urbanist, I prefer to live in a rural environment, where I can have lots of trees as neighbours. A diverse community of trees improves the neighbourhood, making it a healthier place for people.

The Coke Bottle

Emma Priestland, a coordinator for Break Free From Plastic, a global alliance of organisations and individuals, said: Coca-Cola sponsoring the Cop27 is pure ‘greenwash’. Coca-Cola is one of the world’s biggest users of plastic. Over four years, we’ve found Cola-Cola to be the world’s top plastic polluter in our annual brand audits. It’s astounding that a company so tied to the fossil fuel industry is allowed to sponsor such a vital climate meeting.

Environmental campaigners described the partnership as baffling. At Cop26 in Glasgow in 2021, a petition called for an end to corporate sponsorship of Cop events, starting with the removal of Cola-Cola. Coca-Cola is the world’s biggest plastic polluter. It produces 120 billion throwaway plastic bottles a year. 99% of its plastics are made from fossil fuels. So far, Coca-Cola doesn’t acknowledge that this is a problem. They fail to explain their climate goals, or how they will end their plastic addiction.

Confession 2: I have drunk cola. Since returning to Norway on 2020-03-20, at the start of the pandemic, I have drunk 2 liters of Pepsi, when I was recovering from Covid-19, starting about 2022-09-13. The first sip tasted so terrible, that I vowed I would not repeat the experience, for the remainder of my lifetime. The orange and ginger beer drinks tasted much better.

Today’s assignment: Ahmed Rady, Coca-Cola’s vice-president of operations for north Africa, said: Coca-Cola’s firm belief that working together through meaningful partnerships will create shared opportunities for communities and people around the world and in Egypt. Comment on the greenwashing in the above sentence, especially related to: 1. meaningful partnerships, and 2. shared opportunities.

Electriciens sans frontières

The installation of electricity networks is essential for social and economic development. Important buildings in every community, such as schools and hospitals, run better with electricity. Roads become safer, and electricity can be used to give people access to clean drinking water.

A lack of electricity imposes social injustice. Admittedly, I am just a kid of 74, but I have never understood how the world has avoided imposing a universal tax to ensure that everyone has basic services/ infrastructure, such as electricity, clean water, wastewater removal, roads, even the internet.

In terms of electricity:

Close to 1.5 billion people still have no access to electricity. The majority of them live in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. 80 % of these live in isolated rural areas and are excluded from development policies.

Three billion people are still dependent on traditional energy sources (candles, paraffin lamps, wood, etc). These forms of energy are often harmful and cause 4,3 million deaths each year.

Sustainable Development Goal No. 7 adopted by the United Nations General Assembly is to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”.

In terms of water:

50 % of the world’s population still does not have access to adequate quantities of drinking water.

2,4 billion people, i.e. 30% of the world’s population, do not have access to adequate sanitation.

663 million people live without having a source of clean water.

The aim of Sustainable Development Goal 6 adopted by the United Nations General Assembly is to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”.

Helping to provide solutions

Electriciens sans frontières (ESF) = Electricians without borders, is a non-governmental international solidarity organization (NGO) created in 1986 and recognized as a public utility by the French Ministry of the Interior on 2013-05-23. It works towards equality of access to electricity and water in the world. It promotes economic/ human development using renewable energies.

Bruno Léchevin (1952 – 2020), a French union leader, is credited with starting ESF in 1986, asking workers in the French electrical sector to use their skills on international solidarity/ development projects, so that electrical energy could act as a developmental lever.

ESF’s goal is to improve the living conditions of the poorest populations, living with energy poverty. It leads access to electricity and water projects in many countries in Africa, South Asia and Latin America. ESF also intervenes during humanitarian crises, notably in the Philippines in 2013 and 2015 following typhoons Haiyan and Ruby; in 2015 in Vanuatu after cyclone Pam; in Nepal after the Gorkha earthquake in 2015; in Haiti after earthquakes in 2010 and 2016; and in 2017 in Saint Martin and Dominica following the passage of hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Since 2017-12-19, ESF has been a partner of the Le Centre de crise et de soutien (CDCS) = Crisis and Support Center, to intervene in the event of a humanitarian crisis.

CDCS was founded in 2008, and is a department of the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (MEAE). It is responsible for monitoring, anticipating, alerting and managing crises taking place abroad and requiring actions in response to a humanitarian emergency, and post-crisis stabilization support. Admittedly, it is specifically concerned about events that threaten the safety of French nationals abroad.

Within the CDCS system, ESF intervened after the Celebes earthquake in Indonesia in 2018; after cyclone Idai in Mozambique in 2018; in Lebanon in 2020, after the port of Beirut explosions.

ESF receives financial support and contributions in kind (labour, equipment, working space) from individual donors, companies, private foundations and public institutions. Volunteer work by members are significant, and represent more than that provided as financial aid.

ESF received the UN Climate Action Award at COP25, for its achievements on the island of Dominica. It received the Zayed prize for sustainable development, following its training program in a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh.

ESF has defined a vast intervention program for African health care centres, whee each requires an individual response. Needs include: rehabilitation of solar photovoltaic production plants, and even emergency generators in certain cases, in order to guarantee a reliable electricity supply; the refurbishment of interior electrical installations, in order to prevent electrical risks and to allow the use of high-performance medical equipment; installation of surge protectors to protect solar power plants in case of storms; electrification and lighting of additional spaces to increase facility capacity; the provision of refrigerators and respirators; installation of solar pumps to meet water needs; deployment of solar street lights to secure access to health care centers. Starting in 2020, ESF launched programs in 8 African countries: Togo, Burkina Faso, Mali, Cameroon, Senegal, Benin, Niger and Madagascar.

Because the protection of human lives is its first priority, ESF is currently asking for funding to support its work in Ukraine. Their mobilization aims to be strong and long-lasting, but requires external financial support to effectively meet assessed needs.

The French model has been replicated: In Germany, by the NGO Elektriker ohne Grenzen (2012); In Italy by Elettrici senza frontiere (2015); in Spain by Electricistas sin fronteras (2016); In Switzerland by Electriciens sans frontières – Suisse (2018).

The North American (USA and Canada) NGO, Electrical Workers Without Borders in North America (EWWBNA), joined the international network in 2017. Its founding in 2016 is attributed to the efforts of Edwin D. Hill (1937 – 2018) who, as retired international president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), built up the organization. Unfortunately, the EWWBNA devotes about half of its website as a eulogy to its founder, which is an inappropriate resource allocation.

These six ESF organizations have signed an agreement specifying their mutual engagements.

There is an English language ESF website.

Part of the reason I became attracted to ESF are its videos, made by another French NGO, Sikana TV in collaboration with ESF. These provide an introduction to electrical work, so that young people can understand what it entails.

Sikana was founded in 2014 with the aim of equipping people with practical skills through free educational video programs. They observe: that billions of people do not have access to teachers to help them acquire basic skills, unlock their potential and lead happy and dignified lives; three billion people have access to screens that can be transformed into tools for instruction. Video is a powerful and cost-effective medium to promote skill acquisition, as well as health and environmental awareness.

Numbers: 400 million lessons delivered to 230 countries on 2 300 videos in 16 languages with 75 pedagogical programs. They gather communities of volunteers and expert organizations to co-create educational solutions. These are involved in the entire creation process: writing, production, dubbing, dissemination, and development of IT tools. They create pedagogical programs on a wide range of topics: Health, environment, vocational skills, sports and more. Innovative technological tools enable people to collaborate and design content, translate and subtitle it and to make it available to the widest possible audience.

Factory is Sikana’s collaboration tool, allowing volunteers to translate and subtitle educational videos, from their homes. People who are fluent in at least 2 languages can help translate videos that can then be used to provide subtitles and dubbing. Both are needed because some people are illiterate, and cannot read subtitles, while others have hearing disabilities, and cannot hear dubbing.

Digital content is uploaded on the sikana.tv website and shared with partners who disseminate the content in the field. These partners include: Library Without Borders, Learning Equality, Electricians Without Borders, and the Digital Empowerment Foundation.

Sikana France has offices in Paris, Sikana Brazil has offices in Rio de Janeiro, Sikana India has offices in Pondicherry, Sikana Mali has offices in Bamako, and Sikana China has offices in Fuzhou.

The Electricity for Everyone series provides practical lessons to help anyone install electricity in their own residence. Topics are divided into five chapters: 1. An Introduction to electricity (8 videos); 2. How to Prepare Your Workspace (2 videos); 3. Electrical Boards (7 videos); 4. Lighting and Connections (7 videos); 5. Making-Of (1 video). The video lessons are suitable for two main groups of people. First, as a means of introducing individuals to the principles of electricity and to basic circuitry. Second, as a teaching aid to be used by trained electricians, to pass on their electrical knowledge/ skills/ insights to people who need it the most – particularly in the developing world and areas where access to electricity is unstable.

The videos emphasize risks when installing electricity and how to avoid them, how to save energy and how to get the most out of your electrical household appliances.

Another co-operative venture between Sikana and ESF consists of three videos about the installation of solar panels in the Discover Renewable Energy series.

A third series, Lower Your Energy Bills, does not involve ESF, but has been produced with the assistance of the Energies Solidaires organisation, and Energio, a research centre specialising in managing and economizing energy consumption. It is particularly concerned with fuel poverty. It is divided into five chapters: 1. Eco-tips (4 videos); 2. Saving on Your Heating Bills (3 videos); 3. Know Your Energy Consumption (4 videos); 4. Insulating Your Home (5 videos); and, 5. What is Fuel Poverty? (3 videos).

All of the videos produced by Sikana are free to watch and share. They can also be downloaded directly from the video player.

Fossil-fuel Non-proliferation Treaty

This photo was found on the Denman Island Climate Action website. It was at the top of the list of photos illustrating the fossil-fuel non-proliferation treaty. For those unfamiliar with the island, it is located in the Salish Sea, near Comox on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. It occupies an area of 53 km2 and has a year-round population of 1 165. The K’omoks indigenous name, Sla-dai-aich, means inner island, precisely the same meaning as Inderøy, in Norwegian.


This extra/ Sunday weblog post is an attempt to explain the basics of a fossil-fuel non-proliferation treaty, borrowing material from numerous places, without giving any appropriate credit. However, you might want to look at the documents here. This treaty doesn’t tell individuals what they have to do, but is focused on government action. Often, governments set emission limits, that affect consumers, at the same time that they subsidize oil producers.

This proposed treaty came to public attention during the 27th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27/ Cop27) = the 2022 United Nations Climate Change conference, held from 2022-11-06 to 2022-11-18 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

The proposed Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty has three pillars: Non-proliferation, a fair phase-out and a just transition. Non-proliferation prevents the propagation of coal, oil and gas by ending all new exploration and production. A fair phase-out means that existing production of fossil fuels can continue, as long as they are in line with the 1.5C global climate goal. A just transition means that governments cannot promote the wants of the fossil-energy producers, but must attend to the real needs of everyone in the world.

In a resolution passed 2022-10-20, the European Parliament called on nation-states to work on developing a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, a proposed international mechanism that would complement the Paris Agreement by enabling an equitable phase-out of oil, gas and coal production, responsible for more than 80% of global emissions in the last decade.

Earlier, on 2022-09-14, the World Health Organization urged governments to endorse a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty and Vanuatu became the first nation-state to call for Treaty at the UN General Assembly. This was followed by support from the Government of New Zealand and the President of Timor-Leste. 

The proposed Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty references the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. It would be an evidence-based international agreement to control a category of substances well-known to be harmful to human health. The health risks associated with fossil fuels are numerous.

A realistic prognosis of world energy predicts that more than twice as much coal, oil and gas will be produced by 2030 than is consistent with limiting the rise in global temperature to below 1.5C, according to the United Nations and other organizations.

The world’s oil and gas fields and coal mines contain enough carbon to push the world beyond the Paris Agreement’s temperature limits (1.5C). There must be limits imposed on fossil fuel supply and extraction; subsidies must be removed for production, dismantling unnecessary infrastructure; the rights of indigenous peoples and impacted communities must be defended; wealthy countries must lead, support and pay for the managed phase-out of fossil fuels.

A peaceful and just transition requires a clear, proactive plan that enables economic diversification, the implementation of sufficient renewable energy and other reliable, cost-effective low-carbon solutions, and to support every worker, community and country.

Burning fossil fuels presents severe threats to human and planetary health. Air pollution, from burning fossil fuels causes more than seven million premature deaths each year. It contributes to cardiovascular disease, respiratory conditions, and cancers. Wildfires, made increasingly intense and common by climate change, add to this toll.

The climate crisis represents a critical health threat. A warmer climate creates ideal conditions for the transmission of food and water-borne diseases, undermining decades of progress in global public health. It increases the risk of heat related illness and death. Droughts, floods, extreme weather events and sea level rise caused by climate change disrupt livelihoods, pollute water, jeopardize food security, damage infrastructure and force migration.

Extreme weather events disrupt global medical supply chains, destroy healthcare facilities, and prevent health workers from providing health care.

Climate change affects mental health negatively, increasing rates of anxiety and depression, especially in young people.

Tzeporah Berman (1969-02-05 – ) has produced a TED-talk that addresses the fossil-fuel non-proliferation treaty issues. She is a Canadian environmental activist, campaigner and writer. She is known for her role as one of the organizers of the logging blockades in Clayoquot Sound, British Columbia in 1992–93. [Clayoquot Sound is on the west coast of Vancouver Island, while Denman island is off the east coast.] In 2009, Berman was appointed by Premier Gordon Campbell to serve on British Columbia’s Green Energy Task Force, charged with making recommendations on the development of renewable energy for the province. She is currently an adjunct professor at the Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. In 2020 she launched the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative, of which she is the chairperson.

If individuals ask, I will suggest that they could develop a plan to abandon their own use of fossil fuels. Some elements of this plan could include something about eliminating internal combustion engines (ICE), for those who use them. Electrically powered lawnmowers, chain saws and other tools are available to replace highly polluting ICE equivalents. Electric vehicles (EV) have passed the early adapter phase, and in some places, such as Norway, are being purchased by the majority. A transition to an EV does not have to be done soon, but when people plan a transition to their next vehicle. Many sources claim that the most effective way to reduce green house emissions, is to add insulation to their housing. More advanced ways include adding solar energy (or even wind energy) and battery banks where this is feasible, and eliminating/ reducing gas for heating and cooking. The use of induction stove-tops is positive, in this respect. The use of heat pumps in space heating (and even for hot-water heaters) can be a cost-effective way of reducing emissions, depending on electricity costs in relation to other fuel costs. A personal plan, could also involve taking fewer leisure trips to exotic holiday locations.

Extreme Heat Belt

The counties marked in red are expected to experience temperatures of 125 °F = 51.67 °C at least one day a year, by 2053. This area is referred to by some as the Extreme Heat Belt. Screenshot of an Axios map, without the underlying data provided at the county level by the First Street Foundation.

The mission statement of the First Street Foundation reads: Make climate risk accessible, easy to understand and actionable for individuals, governments, and industry. A changing climate is impacting the risks facing American properties, communities, and businesses as perils like flood, fire, heat, and drought become more common, and more severe…. First Street Foundation is a non-profit research and technology group dedicated to quantifying and communicating those risks by incorporating world class modeling techniques and analysis with the most up to date science available in order to simply, and effectively, inform Americans of their risk today and into the future from all environmental changes.

Extreme heat refers to a maximum heat index greater than 125°F. This refers to a temperature reached at least one day a year. Currently (that is, in 2022) 8 million Americans are exposed to it. By 2030, some additional coastal areas in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic may also experience a heat index at or above 125°F. By 2053, the number of people exposed to extreme temperatures, is expected to increase to 107 million people.

Dangerous days have a heat index greater than 100 °F = 37.78 °C. The Gulf Coast and Southeast will see the highest chances and longest duration of exposure to these. While many place experience more than 20 consecutive days with heat indices above 100°F, by 2053, these streaks could involve up to 74 consecutive days.

Local hot days are days that exceed the temperatures typically experienced for a particular area. The West will have the highest chance of long durations of these.

Future cooling-driven increases in carbon emissions could aggravate warming further. Texas, Florida, California, Ohio and Missouri are the top 5 states with the greatest cooling demand expected increase in CO2 emissions between 2022 and 2053.

As a missionary for SI, the international system of units, temperature always presents a quandary. In this official system, temperature is measured in kelvin, with symbol K. Both the kelvin and celsius systems use a 100 K/ °C difference between the freezing and boiling point of water, at a standard/ sea-level air pressure reading.

0 K is set to absolute zero, which is -273.15 °C, while 0 °C, in the celsius system, is set to the freezing point of water. In the Fahrenheit system, water freezes at 32 °F = 0 °C and boils at 212 °F = 100 °C, resulting in a 180 °F difference between these two points.. Thus, 125 °F = 324.8167 K.

SI clergy undoubtedly use many nights, sleeplessly pondering if the extreme heat value should be increased to 325 K = 125.33 °F, or if 50 °C = 122 °F, should be used. Those prioritizing as little change as possible will support the former. Those wanting to use rounder values, ending in 0, will opt for the latter. The reason for this proposal is that the world needs a mechanism to compare extreme heat locations, which will require heat to be expressed in degrees celsius. This is why, personally, 50 °C holds greater appeal, even if more locations in the world will fall into that category.

Those wishing to be further perplexed by this topic, are invited to read the Wikipedia article on thermodynamic temperature. In an imperfect world, every gram of improved understanding is worth the effort.


WBT = wet-bulb temperature. Yes, I appreciate short, cryptic post titles. That said, there is a serious point to this post, with life-saving potential, related to heatwaves.

A digital psychrometer (combined dry and wet-bulb thermometer).
The functions available with a modern psychrometer.

When a wet cloth/ wick covers the bulb of a thermometer, evaporation of the water cools the thermometer. This results in a WBT, which is equal to or below the dry temperature, measured on a thermometer without a wet cloth. The WBT reading reflects the humidity in the atmosphere. Humidity refers to the relative saturation of air with water. Low humidity means there is not much water in the air; high humidity means lots of water in the air. When the air can hold no more water, it is totally saturated. It is referred to as 100% relative humidity (RH). Air at a higher temperature is able to hold more water vapour, than air at a lower temperature.

A related concept is that of dew point = the temperature to which air must be cooled to become saturated with water vapor, at the current relative humidity. At, and below this temperature, water vapor condenses to form dew, a liquid state of water.

WBT is important because it can measure heat-stress conditions, that affect many people. In fact, a high WBT can kill them. This happened mainly from 2021-06-24 to 2021-07-01 in British Columbia. At 100% RH, the WBT will equal the dry temperature.

A combined dry and wet-bulb thermometer is referred to as a psychrometer. While analogue models are available, they require either calculations or the reading of graphs to determine values. One should not overestimate the ability of a person to perform even simple calculations, when they are potentially dying of heat stroke. Digital models can be purchased at relatively low cost that do all of the calculations automatically. The model illustrated above costs NOK 255 = US$ 26.38 = CA$ 33.72, including taxes and delivery charges to Norway (as of 2022-08-01). The quality of this particular model has not been evaluated.

At Cliff Cottage, we have recently received temperature and humidity sensors that will be part of our weather station, a subsystem of our home automation system. These components are considerably cheaper than the Habotest model, but require electrical and mechanical work, as well as programming, to implement as a system. Thus, the first iteration does not produce a cost effective system, may be frustrating to make, but will give satisfaction when completed.

From 2021-06-20 to 2021-07-29, the British Columbia Coroners Service, reported the following heat related deaths, in the table below. There are some who feel the number of deaths were under reported. Note that 445 of the 569 deaths (78%) occurred during the transition week, between June and July.

Age Group# of Deaths 
<40 2
40-49 13
50-59 42
90+ 76
Total 569
Heat related deaths during the summer of 2021. Source: British Columbia Coroners Service.

British Columbia, was only one of many jurisdictions, that faced heat challenges in 2021. Temperature records are being broken regularly, throughout the world. In the United States, every state and territory had a maximum temperature that exceeded 37 °C. Of these 46 entities, only six had recorded maximum temperatures below 40 °C. Four states, had maximum temperatures at or exceeding 50 °C: New Mexico, 50 °C; Nevada, 52 °C; Arizona, 53 °C; and, the highest, California, 57 °C. In Canada, Lytton, British Columbia, distinguished itself with 49.6 °C, on 2021-06-29, the maximum ever recorded in the country. The next day, a wildfire destroyed most of the town. In Norway, the highest temperature recorded is 35.6 °C, at Nesbyen, on 1970-06-20.

The challenge with these high temperature values, is that they do not take into consideration humidity, which determines how people experience heat. Some locations on planet Earth may be approaching values that prevent human survivability. The countries most affected are Saudi Arabia and other Arabian Gulf states, Pakistan, India and Australia. What is not fully appreciated, is that indoor climates in temperate zones, can also create conditions that kill people during heat waves.

The difference between WBT and dry temperature, measures how effective people can cool themselves by sweating. Admittedly, this is a simplification because, in addition to humidity and temperature, solar radiation and wind speed are other factors that affect survivability. Yet, WBT is especially important in indoor environments, where deaths often occur in heatwaves.

Sweating above WBT will no longer cool down a person, but lead to a steady rise in body temperature. This is the limit of human adaptability to extreme heat. If a person cannot escape these conditions, their body’s core temperature will rise beyond the survivable range, and organs will start to fail.

The critical WBT value for humans was usually considered to be 35 °C, indicating a situation where a healthy person could survive for six hours. One representation of this is an air temperature of 40 °C, and a relative humidity of 75%. This value comes from a 2010 theoretical study. However, research by Vecellio et al., found that this value only applied to young healthy people. Real-world data indicates that the critical WBT value is closer to 31.5 °C.

This means that the numbers of people exposed to potentially deadly combinations of heat and humidity across the world would be vastly higher than previously thought. Many older and compromised people will experience dangerous conditions far below the threshold WBT.

In Canada, the humidex = humidity index has been used since 1965 to describe how hot the weather feels to the average person. It is a nominally dimensionless quantity, calculated from °C and the dew point. Values of: 20 to 29: little to no discomfort; 30 to 39: some discomfort; 40 to 45: great discomfort, avoid exertion; above 45: dangerous; heat stroke possible/ probable.

Humidex plot (Source: Morn, using Matplotlib code)

The American Heat Index (HI) was developed from the Humidex in 1979. It is calculated using °F or °C and relative humidity. It makes assumptions about: human body mass, height, clothing, level of physical activity, individual heat tolerance, sunlight exposure, ultraviolet radiation exposure, and wind speed. Significant deviations from these will result in heat index values which do not accurately reflect the perceived temperature.

Heat Index plot (Source: Morn, using Matplotlib code)

In many situations, building construction results in indoor temperatures exceeding outdoor temperatures. Construction methods may prohibit water saturated air from leaving a building. In climates with high humidity, such as along the Gulf of Mexico coast and even on the Atlantic coast of Florida, in the United States, it is often common to use a vapour barrier close to the outer wall, with negative consequences during heatwaves. Sometimes the best solution is to omit a vapour barrier. This is the opposite of the approach used in cold climates, such as Canada, Norway and northern United States where the vapour barrier is located on the inside of the outer wall.

Heatwave Precautions

Since many of the readers of this weblog are older, it is important for them to know what to do when temperatures rise.

A first step is to realize that an indoor environment can be particularly deadly, in part because there is no wind to increase evaporation rates, needed for effective sweating/ perspiration.

A second step is to track indoor temperatures. Even without a psychrometer or wet-bulb thermometer, one knows that the WBT will be below this dry temperature. This means that temperatures should probably not be allowed to rise above, say, 30 °C, without taking some action. Thus, moving to a shady, outdoor location, may reduce risk, compared with staying indoors.

Air conditioning units are another solution, but not everyone can afford them. Their acquisition typically has to be planned well in advance of a heatwave. Fans can be effective at increasing the quantity of air available for evaporation, but they usually should be used with an open window.

In some places, special shelters have been built/ commissioned, that people can visit without charge to find heat relief. While many people will search for information online about shelters located near them, there are other sources of information available. Public libraries are a great place to find this sort of information.


2021-10-16 at 10:00 a sycamore maple, Acer pseudoplatanus, at Cliff Cottage, is shedding its leaves in preparation for winter. Photo: Brock

Trees have a positive impact on mental health. People exposed to trees have been shown to experience a third less psychological stress in contrast to those without such access. Open grassy areas do not have such an effect, although they also have their value. Even looking at leafless deciduous trees during winter months is positive. Trees and shrubs has been found to increase test scores and graduation rates of students, while decreasing criminal behaviour. In workplaces, increased access to nature (not just trees) has been found to improve employee morale, to increase efficiency, decrease stress, and increase job satisfaction.

My own psychological response to looking at trees is that I begin to think of family and friends, alive and departed, especially those living in Essex county, Ontario – or with origins there, including those living across the American border in Michigan, in British Columbia as well as Norway. At times I considered naming particular trees after specific people, but have resisted this so far. However, looking at trees provides me with a form of comfort.

This week I have been reading David B. Williams, Homewaters: A Human and Natural History of Puget Sound (2021). Apart from the depth of human habitation, with some evidence pointing to 13 960 years, the other intriguing aspect of the environment where I grew up, is its transformation about seven thousand years ago, from a hotter and dryer savannah-like environment with oaks as the major tree, to a cooler and moister environment, “with conifers towering over a nearly impenetrable understory.” (p. 29)

Not all of the trees are conifers. One of my favourite trees is Arbutus menziesii. In Canada, it is referred to as an Arbutus. In Washington state and Oregon, it is called a Madrona. According to Sunset Western Garden Book, Madrone is more common south of the Siskiyou Mountains of southern Oregon/ northern California while Madrona is more common north of this divide. Much of its attraction is related to its distinctiveness. It has the leaves of a deciduous plant, yet is evergreen. Its reddish orange bark peels away in thin sheets, leaving a smooth green trunk. It is common along the protected eastern coast of Vancouver Island, and the Gulf (Canadian)/ San Juan (American) Islands that lie between it and the mainland, and more generally throughout the Salish Sea.

I grew up in New Westminster, British Columbia, not far from Puget Sound. Ash Street is one of few streets named after trees/ plants in the city. The others are Arbutus, Cedar, Cherry, Chestnut, Oak, Pine and Spruce Streets, and Blackberry Drive. Wood Street and, potentially, Holly Avenue are possibly/ probably named after people.

Ash trees are in the Fraxinus genus, and the olive (Oleaceae) family. They are often used as street trees to provide shade. Various sources state that they were once the most-planted urban tree in the United States. Ashes are dioecious, meaning that individual trees are either male or female, but not both. Of the thirteen species of Ash in the world, nine are found in North America: Black Ash (Fraxinus nigra) is native to eastern Canada and the north-eastern United States; Green Ash (F. pennsylvanica) – eastern and northern North America; White Ash (F. americana) – eastern North America; Pumpkin Ash (F. profunda) – eastern North America; Blue Ash (F. quadrangulata) – midwestern United States; California Ash (F. dipetala) – California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada and Baja California; Carolina Ash (F. caroliana) – Cuba, subtropical southern United States; Gregg’s Ash (F. greggii) – Arizona, New Mexico and Texas; and, Velvet Ash (F. velutina) – southwestern North America.

None of the species on the list inhabit the area around the Salish Sea/ Cascadia/ Pacific Northwest. Thus, on 2021-06-30 I wrote to New Westminster’s mayor, Jonathan X. Coté, expressing my concern about naming practices in New Westminster, especially that from the names used, one would think the city was located in England. Noting that there are no members of the Fraxinus genus native to the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, I hoped that “tree” streets would be renamed for native/ endemic species. I received no reply.

At Cliff Cottage, we have one European Ash tree, Fraxinus excelsior. This started life as a seedling in the garden of a colleague in Leksvik. It failed to grow vigorously in its original location, and has been moved twenty meters to a more suitable location. Throughout eastern and northern Europe, the fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, has been causing Ash dieback since the mid-1990s. Some believe the European Ash is in danger of extinction.

I have long-term relationships with several different trees. Perhaps the longest is with one particular European Beech (Fagus sylvatica) tree in New Westminster, that I have admired (coveted?) for over 60 years. I have often wondered about its origins. Once again, the species is not native to British Columbia, so at some point it has been planted. When, by whom and why have frequently occupied my mind.

A European Beach (Fagus sylvatica) growing at Cliff Cottage. The photo was taken 2020-10-31. Photo: Trish.

Walks in beech forests in Denmark, and other parts of Europe, has resulted in the belated planting of one at Cliff Cottage. Hopefully, I will live long enough to protect it, so that future owners of this property will continue to let it survive/ thrive for its natural lifetime, 200 – 300 years, when an average beech tree should have reached 25 – 40 meters in height, with a trunk diameter of up to 1.5 meters. In Trøndelag, it is an introduced but naturalized species, at its most northerly limit.

Northwest of my childhood home, but still on Ash Street, there was a Araucaria araucana, a Monkey (Puzzle/ Tail) tree of Chilean origins. It too provoked my curiosity, and I have often considered planting one at Cliff Cottage. They exist in Norway, but the most northerly one is on the island of Smøla, near Molde.

Perhaps the most successful planted tree on our property is a sycamore maple, Acer pseudoplatanus. This is a daughter plant to one found at Utøy elementary school, that our children attended. Naturvernforbundet, the environmental organization usually translated as Friends of the Earth, in English, complains loudly about this species. Yet, it is Inderøy municipality – owner of Utøy school – that has allowed this species to thrive on the school grounds. The school has also distributed seeds to pupils. While the Norway maple, Acer platanoides, is endemic to southern Scandinavia, it is equally foreign as the sycamore in Trøndelag, where both species have been introduced and naturalized. Neither are endemic. I find it hypocritical of biologists to condemn the one species without condemning the other.

Other trees growing at Cliff Cottage are: Norway spruce (Picea abies), Scots/ Scotch/ Baltic pine (Pinus sylvestris), Common juniper (Juniperus communis), eastern/ northern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis), silver birch (Betula pendula), European rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), white poplar (Populus alba), bird cherry, (Prunus padus), Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) – red leaved cultivar, goat willow (Salix caprea), small leaved lime/ linden (Tilia cordata) and red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa). We also have rhododendrons but are uncertain as to the species. At one time we also had two coffee trees (Coffea arabica) growing indoors, but they grew too large and were given away.

The main purpose of this weblog post is to encourage people to enjoy the trees they have access to.

Note: Most of this post was written 2020-08-12, but updated 2021-10-15 and 16.