Showing posts with label energy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label energy. Show all posts

12 January 2012

Book Review: The Skeptical Environmentalist, by Bjorn Lomborg, *****

Pollution in the Maldives

Lomborg, an associate professor of statistics in the Department of Political Science at the University of Aarhus and a former member of Greenpeace, challenges widely held beliefs that the world environmental situation is getting worse and worse. Using statistical information from internationally recognized research institutes, Lomborg systematically examines a range of major environmental issues that feature prominently in headline news around the world, including pollution, biodiversity, fear of chemicals, and the greenhouse effect, and documents that the world has actually improved. He supports his arguments with over 2500 footnotes, allowing readers to check his sources.

05 May 2011

12. - 5 MAY: Three Gorges Dam: Disembarkation and brief visit of Yichang

Today we get to actually walk on the largest dam in the world by capacity (the second after Itaipu by production of electricity), it is more impressive than my words can ever convey. To acces the site, one is led through a checkpoint, with metal detectors and all, and must take a local shuttle bus. It rides for about fifteen minutes in a closed town where dam workers and families live, a perfectly manicured model project to showcase the new China to domestic and foreign visitors. And there the show begins...

04 May 2011

11. - 4 MAY: Cruise on the Yangtse:

The highlight of an otherwise quiet day is the Shennong stream cruise. We leave our ship for a ride on a smaller ferry up the Shennong river, and after half an hour or so we are transferred to smaller wooden pirogues where skinny rowmen start working their oars up the stream. We float by serene and green areas, some fishermen, some villages, and an impressive contruction site for a bridge of the Chongqing-Shanghai highway. The whole thing is a bit touristy, a lot in fact, but pleasant nonetheless.

Our guide for the tour is a semi-professional singer dressed in traditional costume. She is trying to keep alive some traditional music from the area, and on our way back offers a little performance to her captive audience on the raw-boat: us. She also has CDs to sell of course, very entrepreneurial of her...

In the evening, after dinner, we reach the Three Gorges Dam. At this point the ship is lowered through five ship-locks, in a little over three hours, to the lower part of the river. Read more on tomorrow’s post...

03 May 2011

10. - 3 MAY: Cruise on the Yangtse: Shibaozhai

Peaceful day of cruising down the river. The most meaningful part of the day is our visit to Shibaozhai (Stone Treasure Fortress) located in Zhong County, at the south bank of the Yangtze River, 52 km away from Wanxian, it was first built in Qing Dynasty in 1750, with a height of 56 meters.

The original village has been inundated after the completion of the Three Gorges Dam, and all inhabitants have been moved to a brand new village 56 meters higher on the nearby hill. I can’t comment on the old village, but people here say it was pretty poor, no sanitation, damp wooden houses and gardens by the waterline that were flooded every rainy season. Now I can see brick apartment buildings with electric power and sewage systems. Of course there will be those who will regret the romantic old ways, but to me this is a net improvement of huge proportions.

Late at night I talk to Li about our day and we sip baijiu on the balcony of my cabin. As we look out to the river, several towns and a couple of large cities pass by, she is not even sure of their names, but they count millions of people. Row after row of brightly lit skyscrapers stick out against the black moonless night. I can't but be impressed by the achievements of China.

13 November 2009

Recensione film: Dallo Zolfo al Carbone (2008), di Luca Vullo, *****


La storia e le sofferenze degli emigranti siciliani in Belgio che il giovane regista Luca Vullo ha voluto raccontare in Dallo zolfo al carbone, documentario di 53 minuti che prende spunto dal Patto Italo-Belga del 1946, accordo firmato dal primo Presidente della Repubblica Luigi Einaudi che con questa astuta mossa assicurava non solo un lavoro certo ai tanti disoccupati italiani, e nella fattispecie meridionali, ma anche una sicura fornitura energetica all’Italia in tempi di crisi post-bellica. La realtà dei fatti, quello che veramente è significato accettare quell’accordo, ci viene raccontata dalla viva voce, a volte rotta dalla commozione, a volte sorprendentemente energica, dei veri protagonisti della vicenda, coloro i quali nel dopoguerra erano bambini o ragazzetti e che, pane duro e coraggio, sono saliti su un treno e hanno raggiunto quelle preziose miniere di carbone.

27 February 2009

Film Review: The Threat (2008), by Silvia Luzi and Luca Bellino, *****


“Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution are the greatest threat since the time of the Soviet Union and communism”. Doctrine for Asymmetric War Against Venezuela,  U.S. Army, 2006

This is the starting point for a journey across the country which gave rise to the “red wave” in Latin America. Does Venezuela represent the dream of a new socialist society or is it just another distortion of populism and dictatorship?
A trip with President Chavez over the largest oil reserve in the world, situated beneath the Orinoco river, becomes the occasion in which to enter into the lives of Venezuelans, nine years after the beginning of the Bolivarian revolution. The government missions to fight illiteracy and hunger, the creation of a public health care system and the development of an economy based on cooperative work are some of the achievements which characterize the Chavez era.

On the other hand are the country’s 60 violent deaths a week and its collapsing hospitals, the closure of the most popular television channel, the old European immigrants in flight, the opposition black list and the ubiquitous government propaganda. Venezuela en route to socialism: is this still possible in our post-ideological times?

Luca and Silvia in Caracas

This is an excellent documentary on Chavez's Venezuela. A couple of young Italian directors went there to see with their own eyes how the Bolivarian revolution ideals were being implemented. They were disappointed but kept a cool balance throughout the making of this film. They went to the roughest neighborhoods of Caracas as well as with the richest elites. They went to see how the much boasted national health policy is implemented in the hospitals. They went to see what is available in the market for normal people. They spoke with immigrants, students and journalists. They also spent a whole day traveling around the country with Chavez himself, asking questions and thus allowing the viewer a chance to come to independent conclusions on the pros and cons of his rule.

Here is a trailer of the documentary in English.

You can buy the DVD here, in original Spanish with English subtitles.

The Cooperative Suttvuess based in Rome has been working in the field of research, audiovisual production and post-production since 2000. It was born as a post-production company for cinema and television. Over the years however, the cooperative has enlarged its field to the production of historical and inventive documentaries as well as commercial and social advertisements.

Or go to La Minaccia's blog.

Recensione Film: La Minaccia (2008), di Silvia Luzi e Luca Bellino, *****


Hugo Chávez, la rivoluzione bolivariana, il Venezuela. Un socialismo ambiguo che si oppone all'impero nordamericano in decadenza e si propone come capofila di un asse che punta a capovolgere gli equilibri mondiali.

LA MINACCIA racconta l'enigma Chávez, si infila nel segreto di un paese diviso, sospeso tra l'eccitazione di una rivoluzione in corso e la paura di una deriva totalitaria. Chávez chiede al suo popolo la presidenza illimitata, convoca un referendum e radicalizza lo scontro. Il documentario racconta 6 mesi di dura campagna elettorale, in un Paese messo di fronte ad una scelta definitiva: patria, socialismo o morte.

LA MINACCIA è un documentario che non tranquillizza, non osanna, resta distaccato: un lucido e a tratti spietato ritratto di una realtà simbolica, è lo spaccato di un panorama mondiale in mutamento diviso tra la crisi dell'imperialismo nordamericano e la ricerca di nuovi punti di riferimento. Una narrazione asciutta e pungente accompagna lo spettatore in un percorso pieno di tranelli e imboscate, lasciandolo inquieto e dubbioso: il Venezuela è davvero l'altro mondo possibile?

29 December 2006

Recensione: Energia - la sfida del secolo (2006), di Piero Angela, ****

Fonte: U.S. Energy Information Administration

L'energia è il motore della vita politica e sociale. In effetti al giorno d'oggi, appena si apre il giornale ci si imbatte in una notizia che, per un verso o per l'altro, ha a che fare che fare con la questione energetica. Sia direttamente, come l'aumento del prezzo del petrolio, gli approvvigionamenti di gas, l'opportunità delle centrali nucleari. Sia in maniera indiretta, visto che da essa dipendono buona parte delle controversie internazionali, prime fra tutte le guerre attuali nei paesi del Golfo Persico. Senza contare che la grande crescita economica di Cina e India porterà sicuramente a un aumento della domanda di energia. Il libro passa in rassegna tutte le fonti di energia, mettendo in risalto aspetti positivi e negativi di ognuna di esse e disegnando gli scenari futuri. Tutto con lo scopo di chiarire le idee su una questione che segna il presente e il futuro in modo così prepotente.


Un interessantissimo libro a carattere divulgativo per informare le nostre scelte in campo energetico. Il mondo avrà sempre più bisogno di energia, sia perché aumenta la popolazione, sia perché, mediamente, ogni essere umano ne consumerà di più. Gli idrocarburi continueranno a fare la parte del leone per molti anni, ed il Medio oriente sarà ancora per molto tempo la principale fonte. Non sono d'accordo però con Angela (e con l'opinone diffusa) che la guerra all'Iraq si sia fatta per il petrolio: Saddam Hussein ne vendeva a chiunque pagasse, e senza neanche fare politiche rialziste dei prezzi come alcuni "amici" dell'Occidente quali Arabia Saudita e Iran con lo Scià.

Angela è piuttosto favorevole al nucleare, considerando che i rischi reali (invece di quelli presunti emotivamente dall'impatto sensazionale degli incidenti) siano minori di quelli di altre fonti. Il carbone uccide tutti i giorni senza finire sulle prime pagine dei giornali, sia per estrarlo sia per l'inquinamento che produce: nella sola Cina muoiono ogni anno migliaia di minatori. Chernobyl e Three Mile Island, invece, hanno fatto molte meno vittime di quanto comunemente si creda: alcune migliaia nell'ipotesi peggiore, molte meno degli idrocarburi. (Il libro è stato pubblicato prima dello tsunami a Fukushima.)

L'autore è generalmente realista riguardo alle energie rinnovabili e "pulite", ed analizza con sangue freddo pro e contro della principali opzioni: eolico, solare, geotermico, idroelettrico.

Un libro da leggere e rileggere, e su cui riflettere per formarsi una propria idea sul problema principale del XXI secolo.

22 August 2002

15. - 22 AUG: Luang Prabang - Nong Kiaw (Muang Ngoy): against the current on a slow boat on the Nam Ou river

On a slow motor pirogue up the Mekong

Again up at dawn, at 7:00am we were at the Luang Prabang ferry harbor on the Mekong, just a five minute walk from our guesthouse. We load up and we are off. As we leave the last houses of Luang Prabang behind us, our slow boat begins to claw its way against the slow current of the Mekong. Soon, there is only virgin jungle all around us, and the impenetrable vegetation tumbles down decisively into the water from steep cliffs.

23 February 1980

Gasoline and the Russians

A Polish friend takes us to a gas station in town where he knows the owner and makes an introduction so we can now buy gasoline at the "Polish" price, without coupons, and pay in zloty. He charges us 25 zloty per liter instead of the official price of 16 zloty, so he pockets 9 zloty per liter but this is still a huge saving for us. Coupons cost 60 cents per liter, ie about 55 zloty.

We celebrate with a great lunch at the restaurant of the hotel Victoria. As we park Giallina in front of the hotel some guy asks us whether we'd like the car cleaned: 1.50 USD for the job. OK it's a deal. The restaurant is called "Canaletto" and two large paintings of the Venetian master are there to be admired by their patrons.

After lunch we go for a walk and some coffee in the Stare Miasto (the old city). The charming downtown has been reconstructed after having been completely destroyed by the Nazis during WW II. It is an exact replica of the original that is lost forever.

In the evening there is a party in Ann's dorm, where we meet Marta. She does not really study there, but is a friend of a friend or something, and is on the prowl for a Western boyfriend.

Most students are very happy to talk to us and their favorite topic of conversation is the Russians. They just loath the Russians and resent the system that the Soviet Union has imposed on Poland. One Arbus (Water melon?) is drunk and spends a good half hour spitting on the ground and yelling: "Russki" and then stepping on his spit. Even though we have no language in common that is communication enough.

What no one mentioned, or knows, is that gasoline in Poland is cheap because it is provided at subsidized prices by the USSR. It is a price Moscow is willing to pay to contain discontent in the satellite countries and avoid a repetition of the experience of Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968.