Well, having gone down for the opening day of the State Fair in Palmer (mind you, there are several ‘State Fairs’ in Alaska by claim), there has been quite a few people who now have information about how the changing climate is effecting wildfire danger, how flooding damage can be prepared for and mitigated, and what to prepare for any evacuation that suddenly is required. Meeting many people, I was able to converse with many from out of state as well as residing in Alaska about basement flooding, mold issues, defensible space of vegetation around a home, etc…. If you haven’t gotten to the fair yet, stop by the 4H building on the red moose trail!
To many it wouldn’t be surprising to learn that the U.S. usurps the largest percentage of geothermal for energy when looking at the overall world utilization of the resource. Yet where would you expect the other four largest utilizers to be? Well, for overall use it would be: Germany, Spain, China, and then Brazil…Nations that are or were ‘superpowers’ in the world at one time, and the majority being from the Northern Hemisphere. Yet A co-worker here at the state Cooperative Extension office looked the five leading nations in terms of the largest share of their overall domestic energy production coming from geothermal, and surprisingly most came from the Southern hemisphere. Yes, Iceland with its small population and position sitting on a northern volcanic section led the way. But following were those in South or Central America: Nicaragua, El Salvador, Equador, etc.. Its interesting to look at energy resource utilization (NOT necessarily the same as resource presence) from a Human Geography point of view. What hemispheres would you expect to dominate utilization of solar, wind, hydro, etc… from a world composite use or national domestic use point of view? One place to poke around and investigate is the Energy Information Administration http://www.eia.com- though this is a U.S. sponsored site, the front article this morning opens “Russia-China deal will supply Siberian gas…”. The World Bank looks at world figures at http://data.worldbank.org/news/eatlas-of-global-development-released and http://www.iea.org taps into the International Energy Agency data. Check these locations out and grab some impressive stats to impress your friends!
Rural Alaska is not the only location with stranded resources, lack of gridded transportation routes or distribution challenges. In June I was able to meet folks at a conference on applied energy who have some of the same difficulties in getting power to their people. A teacher in South Africa spoke with me about the use of micro hydro electric components in the mountains where fresh snowmelt created creeks and rivers. A leader of a post secondary energy think tank in Pakistan spoke of efforts to provide heat and power in the mountains with biomass, and in many other parts of the nation with below surface hot water. Here is a photo another Extension colleague sent to me of some of the conditions up in the northern mountains (of Pakistan): http://www.voanews.com/content/pakistan-villagers-find-creative-energy-solutions/1870177.html. It’s interesting to see in this clip the style of community pooled turbine where a village is supplying for themselves what they can afford with their immediate resource (hyrdo here). Also the locally installed power distribution wires…. The solutions we consider for ‘off grid’ cabins and homes distanced from the railbelt/road system may just be what other rural places with similarities to rural Alaska call microgrid! The search is on for finding technology that matches the local resource and fuel capacity….
According to Policy.mic, (http://mic.com/articles/89775/india-has-a-radical-plan-to-power-every-one-of-its-homes-by-2019) India’s new Prime Minister Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party put forth the following goals:
-increases urban construction,
-extended high-speed rail,
-a cleaned up the Ganges river
-building “toilets first, temples later.”
His party’s hope is to harness enough solar power to get a an operating lightbulb in each house by 2019, and if possible, “two bulbs, a solar cooker and a television” in each dwelling. Modi has stated, “We look upon solar as having the potential to completely transform the way we look at the energy space.”
Keep an eye out over the next half decade as possibly some of the methods used in remote areas with stranded resources will have application in Alaska’s rural areas.
Many of the bathrooms which we see photos of in designer home magazines tend to have angular edges, coordinating colors and exotic items. Yet coordination, nuance and spacing many times are antithetical to accessibility- yet do not always have to be. With the bathroom being the one place in the home where most of our activities of daily living take place, it is often probably the busiest room of the home. Thus there should be freedom to access the shower, bath, toilet, sink area, etc. without problems in seeing items, getting a wheelchair stuck when turning around, being able to ambulate into the bathtub, etc…. There should also be the ability to independently dress and groom. Take a look at your bathroom and the height things are set at such as towel racks, water mixing valves, door knobs, light switches, etc… Are they in a place that someone in a wheelchair or possibly on crutches could reach? Take a look around and see what you think!
This weekend there were a couple events which politicians stopped by Fairbanks to be involved with. One of the major topics which I heard talked of was Proposition 1. Governor and senator (primary) candidates were sure to weight in on this possible repeal of Senate Bill 21 (which was passed in the state legislature this past year). Regardless where you fall on the topic, it has been a forefront topic on visits by candidates and is something that will be voted on and decided in latter August, before the governor or senatorial elections. It will add a dynamic to the election, seeing if the tax reform voted on this year will stand or be vetoed- and then to see what effect that will have on the messages of candidates on the remaining several months before elections. Time will tell….
The largest use of overall energy in Alaska is for transportation. Often for commercial shipping of goods, and transporting the public out of villages to the larger hub cities in the state (or Seattle). In these cities there are busses for mass transit with bike racks on the front (at least in Fairbanks and Anchorage) and some have wheelchair elevators. Currently in San Diego I was on the public transit train last night and noticed that for wheelchairs, the train cars’ entrances are just a couple inches above the loading platforms and are equipped with flat plates several feet wide which extend out a ways when the train stops. A person can then walk/drive a wheelchair into the train onto a small lift and take it up to the passenger area. Very simple, and very easy to accommodate those who have difficulty ambulating!
Currently in San Diego (just a short hop over from Vegas), I’ve been able to take in how teachers are using computerized mapping services known as GIS (specifically, Geographic Information Services) at the main International Users conference hosted by ESRI corp. Much of the emphasis on making useable maps has been focused on doing so in the cloud (on the internet rather than a software program you’ve put onto your computer from a CD disk). You may be familiar with the Alaska Energy Atlas which was put out by Alaska Energy Authority and Alaska Center for Energy and Power (you can download a PDF hardcopy pages/maps off the Department of Energy’s site: http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/states/maps.cfm/state=AK. These GIS maps don’t show how to get somewhere, but rather conceptually give an idea of Alaska’s Energy Resources are located. A very useful way of using thematic mapping indeed.
This time last week I was heading to Las Vegas to present about Radon Resistant Homes as well as the recovery education Extension produced for the Galena flood last year. The conference was comprised of international/U.S. environmental health professionals, and went well. Though there was just the one presentation on Radon, the bulk of the presentations were on residential contaminants such as heavy metals (as well as a strong emphasis on public venues of contamination dealing with food stuffs). Within the Public Health arena, Environmental Health is certainly a worthy career field to get into for the future.
Earlier this week we had a report come out through AHFC and the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC) which fully comes out to over a thousand pages. You can download the whole report or several regions broken out can be looked at (http://www.ncsha.org/story/alaska-hfc-2014-alaska-housing-assessment-identifies-severe-shortcomings-statewide-housing-stock). The main shortcomings seem to fall into the categories of overcrowding and heat loss (low energy efficiency). There are other factors looked, yet one category that would be handy could be a type of rating for accessibility in the housing stock. If there was some way of measuring how any resident of any age or ability can live independently, it would be helpful to see what the demand is (and may be in the near future) for assisted living homes where a shortage pervades in most all regions. Look through the report and see what the houses in your area look like!