Nikon leaving the dSLR business

In a surprising if not shocking move, Nikon has announced that they will stop making new digital single lens reflex (dSLR) cameras. It’s shocking to me because ever since digital cameras have existed, Nikon dSLRs have been considered among the best by professional photographers. They’re even used on the International Space Station, where shipping anything up from Earth is so costly that there’s no reason to send anything but the best, not to mention how great photos have always been a key means of outreach for the space program.

Solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en against the Royal Bank of Canada

Yesterday I photographed a rally outside RBC headquarters, protesting their financing of the Coastal Gaslink pipeline.

The measure of whether businesses and governments care about climate change is their actions, not the sympathetic statements invented for their advertising and media relations. We can never build our way out of the climate crisis with huge new long-term investments in fossil fuels.

Eye direction and pilfering group photos

Along with people trying to light enormous spaces with tiny on-camera flashes, a photographic peeve of mine is when I’m working as a paid or official photographer, have put together a large group shot, and then one or more people sneak up behind to try to take it themselves with their cell phone.

The inevitable result is that a good fraction of the people will be looking at them, not me, thus giving the photo a confused and jumbled look because of how sensitive we are to the direction in which people’s eyes are pointing.

You can see some evidence of what I mean in this shot, though I put in a significant effort to draw people’s attention to my lens and shoo away the amateurs (who are always so wounded and pained about being denied, perhaps especially after being told why there is a good reason for it). Here is one where I made sure it did not happen, and you can see the unity of gazes which is generally desirable in a shot of a large group.

If you want a copy of a group shot being done by a professional, please wait until they are done and politely ask where it will be posted or if they will send it to you. That way, you won’t spoil the official record through the process of creating your own low resolution cell phone derivative which nobody will see.

Carbon capture options

Because the alternative is deep and rapid emissions cuts which countries are unwilling to implement, the IPCC now assumes that stabilizing the climate will involve heavy use of negative emission technologies: “between 100bn and 1trn tonnes of CO2 to be removed from the atmosphere by the end of the century if the Paris goals were to be reached; the median value was 730bn tonnes–that is, more than ten years of global emissions.”

There are numerous possible options. CO2 could be separated from flue gasses from power plants, compressed, and injected underground. If those power plants burn biomass which recently took CO2 out of the atmosphere, that could help draw down the stock of carbon in the atmosphere. That approach is called bioenergy with carbon capture and storage or BECCS. It’s also possible to separate CO2 directly from the air and bury it (direct capture). It’s also worth bearing in mind that sometimes CO2 is injected underground to push up oil to be sold (enhanced oil recovery or EOR). In that case, it likely creates more emissions than it avoids since the same volume of oil is pushed out and then likely burned in a vehicle where it cannot be captured.

All this may be highly questionable as a climate change solution and, indeed, the main push for CCS is from corporations and states that don’t want to give up fossil fuel production. The notion the technology will eventually exist at scale helps justify today’s fossil fuel burning, even though right now we’re buying about 40 million tonnes of CO2 while emitting 43.1 billion tonnes. Burying any substantial fraction of global CO2 emissions would mean compressing and burying many times the total quantity of oil we take out of the ground — with everything that implies about costs, deployment times, and capital requirements — and this whole infrastructure would require energy to run instead of producing it, either requiring us to deploy yet-more climate-safe energy to build and power the equipment or putting us in the self-defeating position of burning more fossil fuels to generate energy to bury the CO2 from the fossil fuels we already burned.


September 27th Climate Strike

After attending half of a classmate’s job talk for a law and political science position at Guelph I photographed today’s Climate Strike in Toronto. It was a big organic crowd, with some contingents from labour or specific causes who were clearly together but where most people carried home-made signs which didn’t come out of a print shop or an activists’ art build.

It’s good to see the level of concern, which is perhaps hardening into a willingness to demand action. That’s what it will take with a government as deferential to industry as Canada’s is. If Justin Trudeau hadn’t twisted a little to help SNC-Lavalin that would certainly have been the default approach in Canada’s civil service, which exists in symbiosis with the industries which it is meant to regulate. They fall over themselves to bail out the automobile industry, so the scale of changes necessary to address climate change is broadly unthinkable to them: totally outside the scope of what they see as possible to implement. They’re also the guardians of federalism, so the inter-provincial dynamics of fossil fuel and climate change politics are frightening to them, strengthening a trained impulse to generally try to muddle through with as little fundamental change as possible.

Preventing the worst effects of climate change now demands boldness far beyond what the Liberals and Conservatives are offering — perhaps more along the lines of what Green Party members whisper to each other during fearful conversations about climate change and the human future. The world of 2000 looked nothing like the world of 1900, and 2100 may be more different still. All of this can go: rapid transport options available to anyone with money, cities dominated by the private car, exotic foods in all seasons, cheap and automatic indoor climate control in summer and winter, suburbia. The populace takes it all for granted politically and ultimately emotionally, but it’s fragile. Indeed, it has never really been functioning in the way people thought, since the interactions between people behaving that way and the rest of the biosphere gradually erode away the web of life on which human survival depends. I think we’ll find that our personal options will inevitably be constrained in some ways in the future, which will produce a series of political fights which will make hyperbole about carbon taxes seem like gentle childhood provocation.

Hey, I tend to be a worrier though. Maybe Greta will provoke the world sufficiently to drive politicians everywhere to reverse their foolish commitment to continued fossil fuel dependence and implement the kind of rapid global decarbonization which is feasible with cooperation and cheap compared to suffering the effects of unconstrained climate change. The logical and ethical case for action is a slam dunk, it’s just hard to accept that we actually need to make sacrifices so that future generations won’t inherit a degraded world where changing global conditions continuously imperil them and in which the richness of life has been sharply circumscribed by our unwillingness to get over coal, oil, and gas at a rate that does justice to the inheritors of the Earth.

It’s also logically possible that some combination of technological development and political change will lead to the kind of mass renewable deployments being called for at rallies like today’s, and by organizations like David MacKay’s book is convincing that there is enough renewable energy potential to give all the world’s billions of inhabitants a standard of living comparable to that in Europe today, based around a much more equitable distribution of global energy use.