SinglePlanetLiving2 – Energy Subsidy

August 13th 2019

I started last January thinking I would find time to write pieces for this blog at fairly regular intervals, but life, the universe and everything got in the way of that noble intention, and so the second instalment is only surfacing now. Such is life.

There are many ways in which we humans are unique amongst the myriads of species on this planet. One that rarely gets mentioned is the fact that we require extra energy from nature, as well as our food. This is our energy subsidy. All other species get all they need through their “food”. For example most animals consume food through their mouths and they convert this internally into all the energy they need to keep them warm, to grow, to move and to generally operate all the systems in their bodies. For plants they absorb nutrients and water via their roots as well as taking carbon dioxide from the air which they convert to glucose and oxygen, and the energy they get from this they then use to operate all their internal systems and to grow. Like other animals we too consume food to give us the energy to run our internal systems and to grow, but then we also require further energy inputs from various sources in order to survive, such as clothing to keep us protected from the elements, and it is this extra energy that is unique to us – our energy subsidy.

When the upright apes from which we have evolved first appeared on the planet, they, like all other animal species, basically had no need of an energy subsidy apart from their food, but since then we have evolved to require this energy subsidy for a variety of purposes. The first manifestations of this were probably in the form of making tools and weapons, and this further evolved into us making shelter and housing for ourselves, all made from materials we found in our environment, some plant derived such as wood, others mineral in nature such as stone. At some stage we significantly lost much of our fur, and this meant we then required clothing which would initially have come from animal hides, a by-product of our hunting the animals for food.

The first big leap occurred when we discovered how to light and control fires, and we used fires to cook our food and to keep our caves or housing warm, particularly at night. The source of fuel for the fire was wood and other dead plant matter. All of this was completely sustainable long term, as we were just using materials that were abundant in our environment, many of them “waste” from other processes, such as the hides for our clothing and the sticks we gathered to burn.

The next big leap was the development of agriculture and the domestication of animals. This required us to store food long term, and keep it fresh and away from vermin, requiring an energy subsidy in the form of extra buildings and storage vessels, and also the development of tools for agriculture. Also with the domestication of animals like horses, camels and donkeys, we now had the ability to travel much further than we could previously on foot, and it also meant we could trade over longer distances, leading to the development of things such as the Silk Road. As we continued to evolve and “progress”, so the energy subsidy we required to live went up. In ancient times this was all perfectly sustainable as we were getting that energy subsidy sustainably from the environment directly around us.

As societies continued to develop and evolve, so the energy subsidy required increased. As we moved away from being purely a rural and agricultural people, and we started to develop cities and hierarchical structures in our society, so the energy subsidy required continued to rise. In the Roman Empire for example, much of that energy subsidy for the Roman elite came from slaves and servants. As we moved forward into the Middle Ages, so that subjugation of “lesser” people as slaves and servants by the elite continued, to provide them with the energy subsidy necessary to live the high life. This continued with the development of plantations for sugar and rubber in the “New World”, which required huge amounts of energy subsidy in the form of slaves imported from Africa.

Up until the Industrial Revolution, this was all quite sustainable from an environmental perspective, though a lot of the moral and ethical issues within society were far from sustainable. The key change that happened in the Industrial Revolution from an energy perspective is that we started to supplement and replace the labour of humans and animals with energy from fossil fuels, first coal, and later oil and gas. The photo shows an early steam engine (Newcomen engine) in action. This is really the point at which it all started to become unsustainable from an environmental perspective.

The issue with fossil fuels is right there in the name – fossils. All fossil fuels are the ancient remains of large amounts of plants and animals that got trapped in a particular way at some point in geological time, and over millions of years the energy in their remains concentrated in such a way that it became a useful fuel for us, all those millions of years later. All living matter is based on carbon, and basically living things, particularly plants, take carbon from the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide, and turn it into other substances which trap the carbon in non-gaseous form. Fossil fuels are full of this trapped carbon, and when we burn them, we release the carbon that was trapped from the atmosphere millions of years ago back into the atmosphere again. This is the crux of the problem with our use of fossil fuels. Since the Industrial Revolution we have been releasing more and more of this carbon, which was removed from the atmosphere all those millions of years ago, back into the atmosphere again. We have completely overloaded the natural systems of the earth, so that the amount of carbon dioxide the natural systems can take out of the atmosphere are far exceeded by the amount we are pumping into the atmosphere, and so the amount of carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gases) in our atmosphere is increasing unsustainably, and this has now reached a crisis point.

The challenge facing humanity now, and it is a truly enormous challenge, is to very rapidly change how we do things so that our energy subsidy is back within sustainable limits again. By sustainable in this context I mean that the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases we emit is within the limits that the earth’s natural systems can deal with, and that the amount of greenhouse gases are no longer increasing in the atmosphere. Nothing else has energy in such concentrated form as fossil fuels, but we have at this stage used a lot of them up, and must leave the rest of them where they are, in the ground. This means fundamentally re-examining literally everything we do, because everything we do requires an energy subsidy, and trying to do it in a way that minimises that energy subsidy. In reality this means that a lot of we do and take for granted in the modern world, we will simply have to stop doing, and very soon, as there is simply no way of continuing to do this in a sustainable way. I would put the aviation industry into this category, and I will deal with that in detail in another blog post very soon. Other things we do we will hopefully be able to continue doing, but maybe to a much lesser extent or by changing radically how we do it. I would put shipping in this category, for example.

Renewable energy sources (wind, solar, water, etc) will be able to provide some of the energy subsidy we need into the future in a sustainable way, but they will not be able to provide an energy subsidy to us to anything like the extent that we are used to in the “developed” world. We simply have to reduce our energy subsidy substantially. Those of us in the developed world are currently living as if we have 3 or 4 planets. We only have one. In energy terms, single planet living means we have to reduce our consumption of energy subsidy to a third or a quarter of what it currently is. This doesn’t mean just turning off a few lights and using a bit less electricity. Everything we consume is embodied energy. We have to cut our consumption to only the essentials. We have to travel a huge amount less and better. We have to use way less energy in our homes: bye-bye tumble drier, bye-bye air conditioner and bye-bye a lot more gizmos and gadgets. If we humans are to survive on this planet in any sort of numbers, we have to live a hell of a lot smarter than we do today. And we only have a decade to make substantial changes. The emergency is now.

At the start of the Industrial Revolution there were less than a billion humans on the planet. The population is now approaching 8 billion, and is expected to rise to approaching 10 billion. This population explosion has been mirrored by an explosion in our energy subsidy. In many ways our population explosion is dependent on that energy subsidy. This leads to the thorny question: how many humans is planet Earth able to sustain? I don’t know the answer to that question, but I intend to return to explore it in detail in a later blog post.

For the moment, for there to be any hope of single planet living, we must develop a deep understanding of the energy subsidy we rely on, and the implications of that. There is energy in everything, and everything is energy. We must learn to live with a lot less energy. We must learn to live with a lot less of everything.

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SinglePlanetLiving1 – What is Single Planet Living?

December 29th 2018

This is the first instalment of a series of blog posts I intend to write throughout 2019, looking at ways we in Ireland can reduce the negative impacts of how we currently live, so that over the next decade or so we can substantially decarbonise what we do, to give us a chance of mitigating the worst effects of climate breakdown.

This is written primarily in response to the IPCC SR15 report (https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/), published earlier in 2018, in which the case for reducing carbon emissions by 45% globally by 2030 is outlined. In Ireland, to quote our Taoiseach, we are the “climate laggards” of Europe. For Ireland, given our already overly high carbon outputs, this means we need to reduce our carbon emissions by more than 50% in the next decade or so, and then continue to reduce carbon outputs for the following decades. This is possible, though it is an enormous challenge. We simply as a society have not taken climate breakdown seriously at all, and we have not, and are not, adapting how and what we do to take climate into consideration. If we are to achieve anything like this level of reduction, we must work collectively together, every single one of us, to try to achieve this. There is simply no room on the bus for laggards.

We only have one planet to live on, albeit one very beautiful planet. Those of us in the “civilised” west are currently living as if we have 3-4 planets, in terms of the carbon and other resources we are using. What we are doing is inherently unsustainable; literally the planet cannot support that level of consumption of resources. There are a group of technogeeks, mostly centred around Elon Musk, who think that in order to maintain this level of consumption, we should start mining the moon, Mars, or any other available planetary bodies. This is patently ludicrous if considered from an energy perspective. Surely it is much better that we learn to live well, within the finite resources provided to us by our beautiful home planet. This is why I have called this Single Planet Living.

The age we live in has been called the Anthropocene, which literally mean that human activity is now the dominant factor affecting our climate and environment. We must get out of the Anthropocene as quickly as possible, and get to a state where the human population is living within the constraints imposed by nature and the finite resources of our home planet, so that we are no longer having such a negative influence on the very systems which sustain our lives on this planet. This requires us to fundamentally reassess our relationship with nature and the environment around us.

We have, for too long, generally viewed ourselves, Homo Sapiens, as somehow separate and “above” nature, rather than just one species among a myriad of interconnected species which make up the complex web of life on this planet. In the book of Genesis in the Bible it says: “And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” We have taken this idea of dominion literally, and have sought to dominate nature, rather than working with nature, and being a part of nature, and it is largely, in my opinion, this attitude which has led us to the crisis we are now facing. This is the key reason we have put the earth systems under immense pressure, and why we are in the middle of a mass extinction, as we have forced nature to react to our abuse of its generosity and abundance.

This also leads us to the key obstacle, and that is that the vast majority of people are happy to keep going with “business as usual”, and see no sense of crisis. There are many names for what is happening: global warming, climate change, climate breakdown, etc. At a recent meeting I was at Dr. Margaret Desmond of the EPA described it as: “It’s not about climate change, it’s about everything change.” Unfortunately the number of people who see is this way, while it is steadily growing, is still realistically a tiny minority of the population.

Therefore the key challenge facing all of us is how to persuade our friends and family that, first of all there is a crisis, and that secondly, we have it within our grasp to rectify that crisis. Yes the changes we need to make are radical and extensive, but we humans have proven before that in times of crisis we can radical changes to how we go about our daily lives. I think the most startling example in recent history is how society changed so radically and extensively during the Second World War, from how the role of women changed, to the development of a myriad of new technologies, to setting the seeds of internationalism which resulted in the UN and the EU and other organisations. When you are in the middle of a war, it is easy to see you are in a crisis, and to adapt your behaviours to the common and collective good. The really difficult part of the current crisis is persuading people that it is in their own best interests to act in favour of the common good, and to ditch their own selfish objectives and desires. The great British film-maker Adam Curtis aptly called his examination of the roots of the consumer age “The Century of the Self” (which are available on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnPmg0R1M04&list=PL6pY_60DybELxkbu23bC6NahuxF1edoVw, though not correctly licenced!) Moving beyond this selfishness is our most difficult task.

Over the years, when I have entered discussions on this kind of thing with many people, the instinct is to always blame others. We can always point the finger at someone over there who is worse than us – that does not mean we have permission to do nothing. No-one on our little green island is living in such a way that they are in fact Single Planet Living. We are, as a nation, the worst per capita in Europe, and our first task is to move ourselves rapidly down that European league table. We all have a journey to make, and the first thing we must all do is accept that fact, and not blame others. The default Irish response to anything like this is to blame the politicians. This is a lazy and dangerous response. We elect politicians to reflect who we are as a population, so until we are ready as a population to meet the challenges ahead, and to make the necessary changes, we won’t have the politicians to enable those changes. Politics in Ireland follows, it doesn’t lead, and we actually don’t want it to lead, and we don’t vote, by and large, for leaders.

I hope that in reading this I have helped convince you, if you weren’t convinced already, that we are in a crisis situation, and that this crisis requires radical change in how we do everything. The time is short, but I am confident we can do this, as long as we do it together. Those who are reluctant to come on this journey must be convinced and cajoled, and ultimately coerced, into it. I hope and pray that in twelve years time, at the end of 2030, as we look forward to celebrating the start of 2031, that we will be well on our way to preserving life as we know it on this, our beautiful fragile planet. Wishing everyone a happy and peaceful 2019, and that we may all have the resolve to start this journey of change together.

Report on the 2018 Higher Level Leaving Certificate Applied Maths examination

Report on the 2018 Higher Level Leaving Certificate Applied Mathematics paper
by Dominick Donnelly, Bruce College, Cork
http://www.appliedmathematics.ie

Question 1(a)
Straightforward deceleration question.

Question 1(b)
Algebraic overtaking question involving velocity / time graphs. Very reasonable question, and more straightforward than many such questions.

Overall on question 1: A good question, pitched at about the right level of difficulty overall. More straightforward than many Q1s have been, which is good.

Question 2(a)
Standard enough aeroplane question.

Question 2(b)
2(b)(i) Very standard. 2(b)(ii) Absolutely diabolical question. Very difficult, involving minimisation. It is however very similar to Q2(b)(ii) in 2016, so hopefully students were able to deal with it. Many students already struggle with question 2 as it is the most vector based question, there is no need to make it this difficult. I really hope the marks get loaded into 2(a) and 2(b)(i), as I doubt there will be many succeeding with 2(b)(ii). While there is a very elegant solution using loci and not involving calculus, I would doubt many if any of the candidates would be aware of it.

Overall on question 2: Part (a) fine, part (b) awful. One of the hardest questions on the paper. Many students were shattered by this question. Hopefully most of them went elsewhere and did a different question. There is no need to make relative velocity this hard, it is hard enough already.

Question 3(a)
A novel question involving 2 colliding projectiles. Combines collisions with overtaking and meeting from Q1. Not too difficult, but the novelty may have caught students out.

Question 3(b)
Really tough and long question involving 2 particles on an inclined plane with different angles of projection and the same range. The hardest on the paper. Part (i) and the first part of (ii) standard enough. The latter part of part (ii) to find the other angle very long, and involves the use of difficult trigonometric equations. The students almost certainly won’t have solved a trig equation of this style before, and while there are various methods to solve it, this is generally a skill very few students have, as there is so little of it on the Maths course now. Hopefully the solving of the trig equation will carry very few marks.

Overall on question 3: This question is usually a banker for the vast majority of students, particularly the more moderate students. This year it was almost certainly the toughest and longest question on the paper, with the novelty in part (a) and the difficult trig in part (b). In general many of the better students will hopefully hae avoided it, but for those that did it, which is probably still a large proportion, hopefully it will be marked generously.

Question 4(a)
A standard enough question involving motion of two linked particles on an inclined plane.

Question 4(b)
A very standard moving pulley in the middle question. The main source of error in these is usually mistakes in the accelerations, and I presume it will be the same again here.

Overall on question 4: A good question, pitched at about the right level of difficulty overall. Again it is a banker for most candidates, particularly the more moderate ones, and they hopefully should have been ok here.

Question 5(a)
A standard enough 3 ball direct collision problem.

Question 5(b)
A standard enough oblique collision problem.

Overall on question 5: A good question, pitched at about the right level of difficulty overall.

Question 6(a)
A very standard 2 string Hooke’s Law problem.

Question 6(b)
A standard motion in a vertical circle problem.

Overall on question 6: A good question, pitched at about the right level of difficulty overall, for the few who have studied question 6.

Question 7(a)
A standard single ladder problem.

Question 7(b)
A tricky and difficult enough double ladder question. The fact that the two feet of the ladder are on different levels really complicates it, and I would imagine there would be very few successful attempts at it, as the distances for taking moments are complicated. Also a lot of tricky surds to deal with.

Overall on question 7: One of the hardest questions on the paper. While part (a) was straightforward, part (b) wasn’t, and I would imagine very few students will have attempted it, and for those that did, I would imagine there will be very few successful attempts at part (b).

Question 8(a)
Standard proof of moment of inertia of a disc.

Question 8(b)
A tricky enough question involving getting the moment of inertia of a disc with holes. Involves getting moment of inertia by subtraction which is relatively novel, though it was on the exam in 2017 too. Most students should have been able to have a reasonable effort at the question.

Overall on question 8: A good question, pitched at about the right level of difficulty overall, albeit at the harder end.

Question 9(a)
A very standard floating hollow sphere question.

Question 9(b)
A standard inclined rod question.

Overall on question 9: A good question, pitched at about the right level of difficulty overall. One of the shorter questions.

Question 10(a)
A standard differential equation question, going back to the old style of Q10(a) prior to 2012.

Question 10(b)
A straightforward enough question, involving population growth / decline. The question was expressed quite clearly, so the students should have been able to deal with it.

Overall on question 10: A good question, pitched at about the right level of difficulty overall, and reasonable short.

Overall impressions of whole paper
Overall a reasonable paper, pitched at about the correct level of difficulty. Most of the students I spoke to were happy with it. Eight of the ten questions (Qs. 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 &10) were pitched within the normal range of questions, some at the harder end, but most well within the normal range. The two more difficult questions were Qs. 2(b) and 3(b), and while Q. 2(a) was standard, Q. 3(a) was quite novel, and made this question the most difficult on the paper. Given that Q3 is generally the most frequently answered question, this may pose a problem for some candidates. Those that were able to avoid it will generally have profited, but hopefully the marking will be generous enough for those that did attempt question 3. Question 2 (b) was also very difficult, but it is very similar to the question in 2016, so that may have helped many to succeed at it.

Report on the 2016 Higher Level Leaving Certificate Applied Mathematics paper

by Dominick Donnelly, Bruce College, Cork
http://www.appliedmathematics.ie

Question 1(a)
Straightforward arithmetic velocity/time graph question, very similar to a previously asked question.

Question 1(b)
Standard enough algebraic 2 particle problem. Tricky enough algebra, but standard enough.

Overall on question 1: A good question, pitched at about the right level of difficulty overall. More straightforward than many Q1s have been, which is good.

Question 2(a)
Standard enough interception question. Some candidates may have difficulty rotating the frame of reference. Otherwise fine. Also getting the second solution in part (ii) slightly novel, but not difficult.

Question 2(b)
2(b) (i) Very standard. 2(b) (ii) Absolutely diabolical question. Very difficult. Maximisation / minimisation has only been brought into Q2 once before, and it too was a diabolical question. Many students already struggle with question 2 as it is the most vector based question, there is no need to make it this difficult. I really hope the marks get loaded into 2(a) and 2(b)(i), as I doubt there will be many succeeding with 2(b)(ii). While there is a very elegant solution not involving calculus, I would doubt many if any of the candidates would be aware of it.

Overall on question 2: Part (a) fine, part (b) awful. The hardest question on the paper. Many students were shattered by this question. Hopefully most of them went elsewhere and did a different question. There is no need to make relative velocity this hard, it is hard enough already.

Question 3(a)
A nice question about hitting (or missing) a target. Standard enough, with a slight level of novelty to make it interesting.

Question 3(b)
A tough question involving maximisation of range on the inclined plane. A second question with maximisation / minimisation, albeit in this case in a more familiar context. The trigonometry involved will have caused a serious obstacle to many candidates, particularly when coupled with the calculus. Its saving grace is that it is reasonably similar to a recent question, so if they had practised the trig. there, it is the same here.

Overall on question 3: This question is usually a banker for the vast majority of students, particularly the more moderate students. This year it was at the top end of the range of difficulty for Q3 in general, and may have caused some students to reach out for a different question. They could have found both parts off-putting, part (a) for the novelty of its wording, and part (b) if they weren’t well practised on maximisation, which many won’t have been.

Question 4(a)
A standard enough question involving a pulley system on an inclined plane. There was a similar pulley system in a recent enough question, so the candidates should have been able to get the accelerations right. Of course this will be the main source of errors. Overall a nice question.

Question 4(b)
A very standard moving pulley in the middle question. The main source of error in these is usually mistakes in the accelerations, and I presume it will be the same again here. Part (ii) is an interesting variation for this type of question.

Overall on question 4: A good question, pitched at about the right level of difficulty overall. Again it is a banker for most candidates, particularly the more moderate ones, and they hopefully should have been ok here.

Question 5(a)
It is a long time since there was a pendulum involved in a Q5 collision question, and since many candidates will not have studied question 6, they may not have been aware that they need to use conservation of energy here, twice. Otherwise it is a straightforward enough question, albeit quite long. The given diagram should have included the 60° angle.

Question 5(b)
Quite a straightforward oblique collision question, though with two distinct novelties. The first novelty was that the collision was in the j direction rather than the i. The second is that the question gives v for each particle instead of u. Candidates should have been able to work around these two ok. Once the novelties are dealt with a very straightforward question, and quite short.

Overall on question 5: A good question, pitched at about the right level of difficulty overall. Slight novelties in both parts may have hindered some students, though hopefully not too many, as it is another banker for most students.

Question 6(a)
A very standard motion in a vertical circle question. I imagine the main source of errors would be candidates taking v = 0 as the condition at D, rather than T = 0. Quite long though. Also too similar to question 5(a), with more conservation of energy.

Question 6(b)
A standard vertical Hooke’s Law problem. Again quite long, particularly part (iii).

Overall on question 6: A good question, pitched at about the right level of difficulty overall, though both parts are quite long.

Question 7(a)
This question is, quite literally, impossible. It is utterly shocking that this question made it through the checks and balances that surely exist, and actually made it onto the paper. There must be an internal inquiry within the SEC as to how this happened, and the internal procedures must be strengthened to avoid this happening again. The question is impossible because as the problem is written it cannot be in equilibrium. There are only three forces on the rod, and two are definitely vertical (the reaction at A and the weight), and since it is stated that the third (the tension at B) is not vertical therefore there is a resultant horizontal force and the rod is accelerating to the right. To rectify this question, either the horizontal surface should have been rough instead of smooth, or there should have been a hinge at A, or the string at B should have been vertical. It could, and should, have been a standard enough question. It is possible to get answers to this question, but they are in reality nonsense. How this is going to be marked must be worked out very carefully so as not to disadvantage those who attempted it. The examiners made the mistake here, not the candidates, and the candidates must be treated fairly.

Question 7(b)
A standard enough double ladder question. Part (i) very straightforward, part (ii) a bit trickier. Overall quite long.

Overall on question 7: The most important thing for now is that the candidates who tried this question are treated fairly and not disadvantaged. Hopefully there aren’t too many of them. Then the SEC must act to ensure that this does not happen again, and they must be open enough in their processes to reassure us all that they have taken the necessary measures, which unfortunately is not usually the way they operate. We all make mistakes, to err is human. However in a process as vital as writing a national examination paper, there should be sufficient checks and balances in place to prevent something like this happening. Obviously there are not.

Question 8(a)
Standard proof of moment of inertia of a rod about its midpoint.

Question 8(b)
Nice question about getting the moment of inertia of a wheel comprised of various components. In part (i) the likely errors will occur in not using the Parallel Axis Theorem correctly, or not using it at all, to find I for the spokes. Part (ii) should be straightforward, though they may forget to use both forms of kinetic energy. Part (iii) is conservation of energy again, of which there is probably too much in one paper, Quite a long question all told.

Overall on question 8: A good question, pitched at about the right level of difficulty overall. Part (b) quite long, involving more work than usual.

Question 9(a)
An interesting and novel twist on a typical U-tube question. Once you get past the novelty a very straightforward and quick question. My only concern is that this question sets a precedent for future papers to go further into the area of hydraulics. The course is long enough!

Question 9(b)
A standard inclined rod question.

Overall on question 9: A good question, pitched at about the right level of difficulty overall. One of the shorter questions, which is good, as this paper was overall on the long side.

Question 10(a)
A standard question involving variable acceleration. I imagine a large proportion of candidates will give displacement instead of distance for part (ii).

Question 10(b)
A standard enough question, also involving variable acceleration. Basically this is the proof of a couple of SHM equations by integration.

Overall on question 10: A good question, pitched at about the right level of difficulty overall.

Overall impressions of whole paper
Eight of the ten questions (Qs. 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 &10) were pitched within the normal range of questions, and each one on its own was fine. However collectively I feel not enough of them were straightforward enough, with a large range of either novelty or complexity involved. This seems to have demoralised a number of candidates, particularly the weaker ones. Also many questions were longer than usual, and I am sure many candidates were under severe time pressure. However if students chose their 6 questions from within this 8, then there should have been sufficient scope for them to show off their problem solving skills successfully.

While question 2(a) was fine, question 2 (b) is what I describe to my students as an “avoid” question. Applying a max / min problem to a new, and difficult, area, that probably no candidate would have ever seen before is stretching the syllabus too far, in my opinion. We have had a number of these “avoid” questions over the years, and I really do think that they do our fabulous subject no favours.

As it is we have a very poorly defined syllabus, and all these novel and “avoid” questions stretch the edges of the syllabus, and push its boundaries wider. Any teacher or student wishing to prepare comprehensively and properly for the exam actually faces an impossible task, as all they can do is speculate where it might go next. We really need tightly defined limits within which the syllabus operates. These limits do not need to be narrow and simplistic, just defined and clear. In this paper alone we have varying degrees of novelty in the following areas: (i) in Q2(b) applying a max / min problem to a new area, (ii) in Q3(a) bringing in the idea of missing a target (while this question itself was fine, it is the precedent I am worried about), (iii) in Q5(b) there were two novelties in a fairly straightforward question, namely the collision being in the j direction, and giving v instead of u, (iv) in Q8(b) applying the Parallel Axis Theorem to the rods in the way required is novel, (v) in Q9(a) while it was in reality a fairly straightforward question, the novelty of this variation on U-tubes is a possible precedent to a whole new area of hydraulics. While some novelty in any paper is welcome and interesting, I feel there was too much here in one paper, and also there is the fear that each novelty is later used to continually broaden the scope of the syllabus: “we’ve done it before so we can do it again.”

The startling departure in this paper was the glaring error in Q7(a), which is unforgivable. We really must get meaningful reassurance from the SEC on this, that they have tightened their procedures to ensure this cannot happen again ever. Something like this can be extremely upsetting for a candidate, as in the middle of an exam they can have their confidence really shaken. The candidates will always doubt themselves, not the examiner. When I first read this question I had to check with colleagues online to see if I was missing something, the mistake seemed that glaring to me. I presumed I had to be wrong, and that I was missing something, as it seems unconscionable to me that there could be such a fundamental error on a paper. I have been teaching this subject for 26 years now, having studied it at school and college for another 6 or 7 before that, and I was in doubt with this question on first reading it. What it might have done to some candidates’ confidence during the exam is a very serious error indeed. Never again please.

Dominick Donnelly’s submission to the Oral Hearing on the proposed Ringaskiddy Incinerator

Please note that I was censored from reading the latter part of point 5 of this submission into the record at the hearing by the Inspector. It’s all about the money, and this tries to get to the heart of the money issues, but that was deemed to be irrelevant to the proceedings. We cannot live in fear of asking the difficult questions. If there is nothing to hide, then let them come out in the open. If they don’t, then they must have something to hide.

Carrigaline Court Hotel, Thursday 28th April 2016

1) Introduction:
I am Dominick Donnelly. I work as a secondary school teacher of Maths, Applied Maths and Physics in Cork City. While I currently live in Cork City, I have in the past 20 years lived in various parts of Cork Harbour, in Passage West, Cobh and Carrigaline. I have been involved with CHASE since its inception, and thereby with fighting this proposal. I had the extreme honour to be elected to Passage West Town Council for one term, and I served as Mayor of Passage West for a year, and I also chaired the CHEPA campaign to fight the Port of Cork’s proposed reclamation of the Oyster Bank off Ringaskiddy for a number of years. I am a long-standing member of the Green Party, but I wish to make it clear that this is my personal submission, and not that of the Cork Green Party, which will be delivered later in this hearing. I give this background information just to make it clear that I have had a long involvement with Cork Harbour politics. In this submission I will focus on a number of key issues which I think have not been adequately dealt with elsewhere, but I will not seek to labour points that I think have been dealt with sufficiently well by others.

2) This Incinerator is Not Needed Nationally or Regionally
When we started on this journey in Cork Harbour 15 years ago there were no mass-burn incinerators in the country. At present there is one in operation, in Carranstown Co. Meath, with a second enormous one under construction in Poolbeg, Dublin. These two combined have sufficient capacity to deal with the country’s waste suitable for incineration, particularly when you factor in that there a number of cement kilns around the country currently looking at using the same waste streams to fire their kilns. In this situation even the most ardent fans of incineration would see that it is highly premature to be considering adding to this incineration capacity at present, at least until Poolbeg comes on stream late next year, and to see how that affects the waste market. This is so enormous it is bound to have a large effect on the waste market nationally. Also given the fact that we are going to have to move towards a more circular economy in the very near future given that we live on a finite planet and there simply isn’t enough stuff on the planet for us to continue living the wasteful lives we currently do, there must be falling levels of waste arising in the coming decades, and more of this will be going for reuse and recycling. As a planning authority surely in it incumbent on the board to take into account what effect overcapacity of incineration in the country would have. The Swedes learned this lesson many years ago, and have relied on substantial amounts of imported waste to keep their incinerators going, including taking large amounts of waste from their neighbour Norway. We should learn from their lessons. At least the Swedes had the good sense to attach district heating systems to their incinerators and thus derive the maximum benefit from this noxious technology. Given the location of this proposal there is no realistic likelihood of this ever happening in Ringaskiddy. Indaver will say that under our national waste policy that each region should be dealing with its own waste, and that is true. But those regional waste regions were substantially redrawn by Minister Hogan in 2011, and if required they can easily be redrawn again. The residents in the area have always contested that the reason this proposed facility is located where it is adjacent to a port is to facilitate the importation of waste. To me that is the only plausible explanation for the location of this proposed facility.

3) Overdevelopment of the Ringaskiddy Peninsula
This incinerator is proposed to be located in what is surely the most overdeveloped part of the whole country. Enough is enough. On the Ringaskiddy peninsula 50 years ago there were a few small villages and a lot of farms. The amount, and national significance, of the developments that have taken place on the peninsula since have contributed enormously to the national economy and to general progress, but they have happened without any realistic development of the community infrastructure, and realistically it has to end. In the area you have an expanding port facility, the National Maritime College, the only naval base in the country, one of only a handful of crematoria in the country, the growing nationally and internationally significant iMERC campus, the blossoming tourism and heritage potential of Spike Island, along with an enormous amount of industry. All this with only one road in, an inadequate bus service, no hope of a rail service and a local infrastructure that is basically at breaking point. There is no other village in the country has had to endure this amount of development. How on earth could it considered appropriate planning to put an incinerator in on top of that? It just can’t.

4) Zero Acceptance by Local Population
What I fear most should this proposal be granted planning permission would be the effect of that decision on the local population around Cork Harbour. In my time I have canvassed a very large amount of houses on both sides of the harbour, and I have met a huge number of the wider harbour community. Were this development to go ahead, I sincerely believe that it would be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. There is just absolutely no acceptance of the need for this facility, and were it to be granted permission large sections of the harbour population would I believe lose faith completely in officialdom in this country, and the mechanisms by which decisions are made on their behalf. What the consequences of this would be I don’t know, but there is certainly the potential there for things to get very ugly. I say this not by way of threat, but by way of my assessment of the mood and views of the population of the harbour area. Other developments have been opposed, but there has been a recognition of potential benefits of those developments too. In my experience, nobody feels that they would derive any benefit from this proposal, and in this way it is different to other developments, and the community response is also therefore different and more heartfelt.

5) National Policy and Politics
I am a political animal by my nature. Politics is often misconstrued, but it is at its core a mechanism by which decisions are reached on behalf of the population. All national policy comes about as a result of politics, including waste policy. This hearing has heard some very valuable contributions already from a number of politicians from the area, not one of whom it must be noted have spoken up in favour of this proposal, thus underlying the depth of the communities’ opposition. Whatever their personal convictions, no politician in the area is going to dare speak up in favour, as that would be political suicide. I wish to highlight a couple of decisions and how they have brought us to where we are today. Incineration was first put on the national agenda and became part of national policy about 20 years ago by a Fianna Fail led Government. Shortly afterwards a number of proposed incinerator applications began happening around the country, including in Ringaskiddy. Of all of those, most of the applications died a death, with only two getting permission to date, Carranstown and Poolbeg. Locally we thought this application had died a death too due to the valiant efforts of the community to fight it, until it reappeared on the agenda recently again. During the Government of 2007-2011 of which my own party was part, and my party colleague John Gormley was Minister for the Environment, significant changes were made to waste policy, including the introduction of incineration levies. He was unable to ban it outright as there were at that stage two existing planning permissions in place, but he made sure that they were not economically viable, and little progress was made on their construction. It was only with the advent of the Fine Gael / Labour Government in 2011 that incineration was put firmly back on the national agenda. One of the first decisions made by the incoming Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan, or Minister against the Environment as I like to call him, was to get rid of the incineration levies, and to redraw the national waste regions. Much as I welcome the contributions of the local representatives to this hearing, none of them said anything about this decision of Phil Hogan’s at the time, and I find it duplicitous and nimbyist of them to oppose this application now. I ask the question of Fine Gael, and particularly Minister Coveney, were Fine Gael paid to remove the incineration levy? Obviously major lobbying of them went on, but I wonder how much of this lobbying went on within the confines of Fine Gael fundraising events such as golf classics or dinners? I do not expect an answer to that question, but it is to me the only rational explanation as to why the incineration levy was removed. It is the removal of the levy that has led directly to the construction of the incinerators in Carranstown and Poolbeg, and to this application now. There was thereby a huge financial incentive for those involved in incineration to have the levy removed. I also ask Indaver and John Ahern were they involved in any interactions with Fine Gael and Minister Hogan at this time? Has John Ahern or any other Indaver executives ever attended a Fine Gael fundraiser, such as a golf classic or a dinner? These seem to be the locations where much of national importance is actually decided, and if John Ahern has not got involved in this, then surely he is not doing his job properly. Again these are probably rhetorical questions and I do not expect to get a true answer.

6) Ireland Will Not Meet Its Emission Targets
Last week the EPA issued a report illustrating how Ireland has not a hope of reaching its greenhouse gas emission targets by 2020, and in fact we will be quite far away from them. This just highlights how we have failed, and continue to fail to take the issue of climate change seriously, both nationally and individually. This proposal can in no way be construed to be contributing in any positive sense to the reduction of our greenhouse gas emissions, and in fact by its very nature it would contribute to the continuation of the wasteful linear economy, rather than contributing to a shift to a more circular economy, which we desperately need if we are to have any hope of preventing runaway climate change in the near future.

I would like to finish Mr Inspector by reading a poem I wrote at the start of this hearing last week. I think it encapsulates the unbalanced nature of the proceedings here.

Round 3

Here we go again,
into the fray.

The Ringaskiddy Incinerator. Oral Hearing. Round 3.

Another bland hotel conference room,
Mr. Inspector on his dais.

To the right
a phalanx of corporate prostitutes in their grey uniformity,
keeping tight formation,
dutifully waiting to do their pimps’ bidding.
Let no-one break the line,
or dare show a glimpse of humanity.

To the left
a huddle of blinkered technocrats,
hoping to get out alive
so that they can go back,
back to hiding quietly
behind their layers of bureaucracy.
They are really not there to fight.

Out front
a motley rabble,
full of hubbub and colour and chaotic consternation
loud, proud and full of vigour
for the fight ahead.
At their centre, a quiet man in a suit
directing the show,
or more like letting the chaos unfurl gently,
the unkempt hair exposing his true loyalties.
He is not really a suit,
more at ease amongst the passions of the masses
than the cold conformity of complicity.

Amidst all this ruile buile of preparation
the fourth estate flit,
notepads at the ready,
thrusting microphones in front of all and sundry,
recording the battle cries and the bon mots.

At the top Mr. Inspector calls proceedings to order.
The rabble quietens and takes their positions,
armed only with love and passion
and bonds of conviction that bind them tighter than any mere mercenaries.
Let the battle commence.
I know which side I’m on.

Round 3

Round 3

Here we go again,
into the fray.

The Ringaskiddy Incinerator. Oral Hearing. Round 3.

Another bland hotel conference room,
Mr. Inspector on his dais.

To the right
a phalanx of corporate prostitutes in their grey uniformity,
keeping tight formation,
dutifully waiting to do their pimps’ bidding.
Let no-one break the line,
or dare show a glimpse of humanity.

To the left
a huddle of blinkered technocrats,
hoping to get out alive
so that they can go back,
back to hiding quietly
behind their layers of bureaucracy.
They are really not there to fight.

Out front
a motley rabble,
full of hubbub and colour and chaotic consternation
loud, proud and full of vigour
for the fight ahead.
At their centre, a quiet man in a suit
directing the show,
or more like letting the chaos unfurl gently,
the unkempt hair exposing his true loyalties.
He is not really a suit,
more at ease amongst the passions of the masses
than the cold conformity of complicity.

Amidst all this ruile buile of preparation
the fourth estate flit,
notepads at the ready,
thrusting microphones in front of all and sundry,
recording the battle cries and the bon mots.

At the top Mr. Inspector calls proceedings to order.
The rabble quietens and takes their positions,
armed only with love and passion
and bonds of conviction that bind them tighter than any mere mercenaries.
Let the battle commence.

I know which side I’m on.

Dominick’s submission to the Cork Cycle Network Plan

Background
I am a daily commuter cyclist, living and working in Cork City. I have been cycling in and around Cork City for the past fifteen years or so.

Cycle Lanes and Routes
First of all there has been a huge improvement in recent years in cycling infrastructure around the city, and I hope this improvement continues. I regularly use the new cycle lanes on both Anglesea Street / Parnell Place and Pope’s Quay, and these are both excellent. I used to use the old railway line from the marina to Rochestown regularly, and still do occasionally, and this too is excellent. The biggest issue with this route is the state of the road surface on Centre Park Road, which you must use to get to and from the city, which is shocking in places. This causes a definite hazard to cyclists using this route, as there are often huge potholes to negotiate, and you can often be left with the Hobson’s choice of ploughing on into a pothole, or veering out in front of a truck. I hope that this road can get a completely new surface in the near future.

I fully recognise that the potential for developing a complete cohesive cycling route around the city is not practical, as many of the city’s roads are too narrow. One route that could be developed I think is a two way route across the North channel of the River Lee, either at St. Patrick’s Bridge / Bridge Street or at Brian Boru Bridge / Brian Boru Street.

Bike Parking
There has been great improvement in bike parking facilities around the city in recent years, with a number of excellently sited bike racks. However some key locations are still lacking. Topmost of these, for me, is the English Market. There is great potential to put simple racks, probably best parallel to the walls rather than perpendicular, to which bikes could be locked on some of the laneways leading in to the market, such as Market Lane on the Oliver Plunkett Street side, or on the lane that used to have the Vineyard pub (sorry don’t know its name) on the Patrick’s Street side. Other locations I have noticed a lack, or insufficient, bike parking are Opera Lane, in the vicinity of Dunnes Stores on Patrick’s Street, the bus station, around Merchant’s Quay shopping centre, around the Gate Cinema, and around Cork Opera House, and also around Princes Street and McCurtain Street.

Also large sporting and entertainment facilities around the city are generally lacking any bike parking infrastructure, such as at Irish Independent Park, the soccer stadium at Turner’s Cross and Pairc Ui Chaoimh (which I hope can be sorted out in its current redevelopment). Also the Live at the Marquee event during the summer, while it has some bike parking, could do with much better, and maybe the Coke Zero city bikes could set up temporary stands at events like this.

Bike Pods and Bike Lockers
It would be extremely useful for people who want to leave their bikes for a few days or similar, or who have a particularly valuable bike with them, that there be paid bike lockers or bike pods or similar, at a couple of locations around the city. These could be charged on an hourly or daily basis. Suitable locations might be at the train station, the bus station, and maybe close to City Hall, or even within some the multi-storey car parks. These could be made dual purpose, for the use of motor cyclists as well as cyclists.

Bike Lifts for the Northside of the City
If we are truly to embrace cycling culture in Cork, a big obstacle to this are the hills on the North side of the city. The installation of bicycle lifts, similar to that in Trondheim in Norway, at a few key locations around the city could go a long way to opening up the north side of the city to cycling. I believe there is a French company marketing such technology. I have a number of suggested locations, such as St. Patrick’s Hill, Shandon Street as far as the north Cathedral, Summerhill North / Ballyhooly Road as far as Dillon’s Cross, and Popham’s Road, from near Blackpool Shopping Centre up to the church.

Making Work Places/ Shops/ Schools etc. more Cyclist Friendly
I think that the provision of cycling infrastructure should be fully integrated in to the planning process, so that any new developments, or any redevelopments, must provide appropriate cycling infrastructure as part of the development. I think this should apply to any sort of commercial development, or really any sort of development beyond a single private residence, including workplaces, shops, leisure facilities, schools, etc. Even private houses should be designed so that there is space to park bicycles. A key part of any design process should be the consideration of how someone arriving by bicycle at a location would fare. The following are some sample questions which could be used to test any new developments for cyclist compatibility. Where do they park the bicycle? Where do they store their helmet/ panniers/ rain gear, so that they don’t have to carry it all with them? Do cyclists need shower and / or locker facilities to freshen up and to store their gear? I think Cork City Council should consider providing a facility in the City Centre to facilitate those working or shopping in the city arriving by bicycle, where they can park their bicycle safely, where there are lockers for them to store their gear, and where there are showers available if they are arriving sweaty. Such facilities should be integrated into all larger workplaces, and where there is a concentration of smaller workplaces, such facilities should be provided communally.

Developing and Fostering a Culture of Cycling in Cork City and Environs
In order to develop a culture of cycling, it is first important to ask the questions as to what are the fundamental obstacles to this. In the last fifteen years or so that I have been cycling in Cork, the number of cyclists has increased dramatically, and if this growth is to continue, which is good for the general population in so many ways in terms of the environment, health, reduction of congestion and pollution, tourism, ease of mobility, and so on, the questions must be asked as to what is preventing more people becoming cyclists. This is not just a questions of hard cycling infrastructure, which I have already dealt with above, but is also a question of how to shift mindsets and open people up to the possibilities of cycling.

The biggest obstacle to the growth of cycling is fear. There is now largely a couple of generations in existence who have lived their whole lives using cars as their principal means of transport, and who either have never cycled, or who have only cycled as children before they were old enough to drive. There are also many parents who would not let their children cycle out of fear, even as teenagers. These are largely people who do not and have not cycled themselves. Overcoming these fears is not easy, and any schemes aimed at getting those who don’t / haven’t ever cycled out on bikes is to be encouraged. To that end, such events as the Rebel Pedal, the Cork Cycling Festival, family fun cycles, cycle to school days, charity fun cycles and so on, should be supported, encouraged and facilitated where at all possible. The long term benefits of getting people on to bicycles who haven’t cycled before are huge. Hopefully the recent introduction of the Coke Zero city bike scheme will encourage many of those who have never cycled to get out there and give it a go.

Another obstacle to the real growth of cycling is that many view it as purely a leisure or sporting activity, and not primarily as a mode of transport. While the leisure cyclists should certainly be supported and encouraged, my main concern is with cycling as a mode of transport, and many do not see it in this way. The Government’s bike to work scheme has certainly helped promote the idea of cycling as a principal mode of transport, but all possible avenues to promote this viewpoint should be explored and promoted. The introduction of cyclist friendly infrastructure within work places and schools, as outlined above, would certainly help.

It must be said that there are road users out there who neither expect, nor respect, cyclists. In my experience in the city, one of the main groupings that cyclists come into conflict with are taxi drivers. As taxi drivers are professional drivers, and their working days on the roads, they come into contact with many cyclists, and should be aware of the space cyclists need, and should also be aware of the hazards they can cause cyclists. However by their behaviour on the roads, it is patently clear that many, certainly not all, taxi drivers have no fundamental understanding of the risks they can pose to cyclists. I know that in other countries to overcome such issues, the car drivers have been taken out around the city on bicycles for a few hours, and they have the hazards caused by drivers pointed starkly out to them. I propose that, to start with, a group of taxi drivers be taken out by some experienced cyclists for a few hours around the city, as when they experience cycling from the cyclists’ perspective, they will hopefully change their behaviour as drivers as they become more aware of the hazards they pose to cyclists. Such a scheme may be possible in conjunction with the Coke Zero city bike scheme, who might be able to provide the bicycles for such an event.

Conclusion
That is all I have to say for now on the subject. If I can be of any further assistance, please feel free to get in touch. I look forward to the continuing development of cycling in and around the city, and to the development eventually of a cycling culture in Cork, as exists in many cities on the European continent already.


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Photos of Dominick

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