Got one of those crazy family members who thinks that Rush Limbaugh is an expert on, well, everything, and who firmly believes that climate change is a conspiracy designed to undermine the capitalist economy? Yep, we know the type, and we fully understand that you may already be dreading family time at the holidays. This uncle or cousin or in-law isn’t going to let facts get in the way, so showing him how even scientists once skeptical about global warming are coming around in a big way probably won’t change any minds. And this relative certainly isn’t going to hold back for the sake of a peaceful gathering.
Want to get into a heated argument? Start a conversation about the methods we use to grow our food. Whether you’re supporting the current norm for agriculture (big, mechanized farms using an array of chemical products) or something that seems much greener (organics and other methods of ecological farming), you’ll likely have no trouble finding someone who disagrees with you. Vehemently. At some point, that person will tell you that you’re arguing for the starvation of millions — regardless of which side you’re on.
Missing anything this summer? How about rain? At this point, I’ve given up on some of the plants in my yard — no amount of watering will make up for the lack of rainwater. Of course, I’m just one guy with a small yard. Across the river in southern Illinois, farmers are facing historic crop losses. According to the Associated Press, the Department of Agriculture had predicted a bumper crop of corn this year: 166 bushels per acre. But with more than half the country now facing drought conditions, the USDA has not only revised those numbers downward but also made its largest disaster declaration ever: 1,000 counties spread over 26 states are eligible for low-interest loans and reduced penalties for grazing on federal land (see the image below). Livestock farmers may well need the latter: Most feed corn to their cattle and other animals, and prices are sure to shoot upward.
Did you know that there was a big meeting of world leaders and environmental organizations last week in Brazil? It’s OK if you didn’t: judging from the outcomes, neither did most of the participants. Billed as “Rio+20,” a recognition of the monumental Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, this meeting could only come up with a reaffirmation of the goals set at the earlier event. That’s right: three days of meetings involving 100 world leaders and 50,000 participants total could only say “Yes to what we said twenty years ago.”
Electricity from lobsters? Kelp as a model for renewable energy generation? Yep, we’ve got those stories, and more, in this week’s green tech finds.
Wearing used coffee pods: Single-use coffee machines are convenient, but you end up with all of those used pods you have to throw away, right? Designer Rachel Rodwell saw potential in those pods, and her Podtex concept uses them as materials for clothing and jewelry. See how she transforms them in the video above. (via Do the Green Thing)
A fictional film born from a factual source: that’s not so unusual, right? Almost any biopic falls loosely into that category, and films ranging from THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES to FROST/NIXON openly blend historical fact and a filmmaker’s imagination (as did their sources’ authors). But a story born from a scientific article? Sounds like either a stretch, or the prelude to a really boring evening. Even this kind of reimagining has worked in the past, though – think FAST FOOD NATION – and writer/director Jenny Deller is giving it another go her forthcoming FUTURE WEATHER.
Even if you buy the science behind climate change (which is very compelling), it’s still hard to make an emotional argument about global warming: all of the bad stuff’s going to happen in the future, so you can’t show someone a victim. Right? Not so fast – not only are parts of the developing world, particularly Africa, already feeling the impacts of a warming world, but the children and grandchildren of current generations will “feel the heat.” The victims of global warming are all around us, even if they’re not experiencing the worst of the phenomenon yet.
Super Bowl Sunday is coming up, and while I don’t pay enough attention to say whether it’ll be a good game, it will definitely be a green(er) game. That, plus cooler roofs for more efficient solar power, and a very quick look at over a century of global warming: your green tech finds for the week.
Buy renewable energy for your Volt: While the arguments about the energy sources for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids are generally really overblown and oversimplified, many EV drivers do want the cleanest power they can get for their vehicles. So, GM is developing a system for its OnStar platform that would notify Volt drivers when there’s renewable energy available on the grid so they could plug in at the right time. (via Earth 911)
What does global warming look like? If you’re thinking big picture in response to that question, the folks at NASA have released a video that shows 131 years of global temperature fluctuations in 26 seconds. (via Climate Central and @NRDC)
If filmmakers are poets, than documentarians stand out for their use of synecdoche: the most powerful docs almost always rely on stories that point to issues bigger than themselves. AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH isn’t just about climate change, but also about human shepherding of resources. GASLAND isn’t just about fracking, but corporate power, and its effects on the lives of individuals.
Two documentaries premiering at this year’s Sundance Film Festival not only follow in this poetic tradition, but even revel in it.
Back when I was a full-time academic, I swear we held meetings simply for the purpose of scheduling more meetings. That seems to be what’s happening with international climate change negotiations: each round of talks since Bali in 2007 seems to degenerate into a punting of major issues to the next round. This week, delegates have gathered in Durban, South Africa to discuss a global response to climate change, and some representatives of smaller countries most affected by global warming think it’s time for new tactics. In short, they’re talking about an “occupation” of the meetings.
When you challenge Big Oil in Houston, you can bet the industry is going to punch back. So when I wrote in the Houston Chronicle earlier this month that we should say no to the Keystone XL pipeline, I wasn’t surprised when the project’s chief executive weighed in with a different view.
The corporate rejoinder, written by Alex Pourbaix, president for energy and oil pipelines for the TransCanada Corp., purported to cite “errors” in my oped. Let’s set the record straight, point by point.
First, the Keystone XL, as proposed, would run from Canada across the width of our country to Texas oil refineries and ports. It would carry diluted bitumen, a kind of crude oil, produced from the Alberta tar sands. On those points, we all agree.
I say this is a bad idea. It would put farmers, ranchers and croplands at risk across much of the Great Plains. It would feed our costly addiction to oil. And it would wed our future to the destructive production of tar sands crude…
Roads that charge your electric car, biofuel from orange peels, and sucking CO2 out of the air – your green tech finds for the week.
Look out, Volt! The plug-in Prius is here: Car hackers have been converting the Toyota Prius into a plug-in hybrid (like the Chevy Volt) for years. The Japanese automaker has finally gotten in on the trend and released a plug-in version of its popular hybrid for the 2012 model year. That’s it above. (via Greenwala)
Charge your electric car while driving it: The concept of “electrified roadways” that could charge electric vehicles while they’re moving has been around for decades, and Japanese researchers may have now come up with a viable model. “Electrified metal plates are buried under roads, which ‘up-convert’ energy via a radio frequency to a steel belt inside a car’s tires, as well as to a plate sitting above the tire.” (via smartplanet and @greenamericatv)
Notice any unusual weather patterns lately? Any hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, drought or flood come your way? If you’ve lived on this Earth in the last year or two then the answer is, undoubtedly, yes. But if you’re someone who refuses to believe that these dramatic changes in our weather are a sign that maybe humans haven’t had the best impact on our environment, get ready to wake the %#*! up. This Wednesday, climate change deniers get an extra dose of reality with the Climate Reality Project, a 24-hour, global, livestream event that reveals, once and for all, the very real scope of the climate crisis.
The Climate Reality Project asks you to make time for reality on Wednesday, September 14 at 7PM, in your time zone. “Pick a faraway place or a city near you. Make it yours for one day. We’re hitting every time zone, but only once…Choose a location and get involved.” If your hometown isn’t represented, pick some place you’ve never been to (French Polynesia, Tonga, New Delhi or Seoul) or maybe never even heard of. Personally, I’m choosing Ilulissat. But prepare yourself for some serious talk on climate change, and stand ready to take action. This isn’t a fluffy, pictures of dolphins in net, tear-jerking talk-the-talk but no walk kinda thing. Did you watch the videos m ss ng p eces made? Would they create poop and hurl it at a fan if this wasn’t for real? Just watch the behind-the-scenes: Al Gore is pissed, and really, why aren’t more people? As the man says, if you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention.
Feeling paralyzed by news of environmental challenges like climate change, water shortages, and biodiversity loss? Fed up with political inaction and posturing on these issues? Groups of people around the world have decided to take matters into their own hands, and the transition movement represents efforts to by towns, villages, and even countries to adapt to changing environmental circumstances, to lighten their impact, and to even create more meaningful ways of life.
eople-powered gyms, transmitting from turtles in Illinois, and combining flies and poop for good use… your green tech finds for the week.
- The open-source solar concentrator: Designer Eerik Wissenz claims that his Solar Fire open source solar concentrator concept can harvest power at ten times cheaper than photovoltaics. Check it out in the video above… (via Earth Techling)
- New university trend — the human-powered gym: Powering exercise and recreation facilities with energy harvested from workout equipment is catching on at universities… the Sustainable Cities Collective takes a closer look at Drexel University’s approach.
Diaper-eating mushrooms, recycled oil booms, and global warming’s effects on your wi-fi signal… this week’s green tech finds.
- Solar and wind power for apartment dwellers: Jonathan Globerson’s Greenerator concept allows apartment dwellers to harvest both wind and solar power from their balconies. (via Inhabitat)
- GM recycling oil booms into Volt parts: Lots of oil booms left over from last year’s BP oil spill. Instead of letting them get tossed into landfills, GM is collecting these materials and recycling them into air-deflecting baffles for the Chevy Volt. (via Earth 911)
Lots of solar news this week… from a new efficiency record, to solar company corporate responsibility rankings, to a DIY solar cooker.
- Solar powered washing machines: They’re just one part of a test to see if people are ready for the smart grid in Breda, The Netherlands. (via Crisp Green)
- ENERGY STAR certification for senior facilities: Living and care facilities for elders are now among new commercial building types eligible for ENERGY STAR certification (via Earth Techling)
This Saturday, April 2nd, is National PB&J Day. While such an event seems aimed at our sense of childhood nostalgia, the folks at the PB&J Campaign have latched on to it (they didn’t add it to the calendar… they swear) as an opportunity to get us all thinking about the environmental impact of our lunch choices.
Tried arguing climate change science with someone who doesn’t buy it? Yeah, it’s tough… and getting tougher. Even as the science itself becomes more clear, fewer people are concerned about global warming and its effects. It’s enough to make a good greenie bang his/her head against the wall, or just move to a cave.
Or… we could just stop arguing about it.
The global Fair Trade movement has done a stellar job of highlighting the economic plight of coffee farmers in the developing world, many who barely eke out a living growing one of the world’s most heavily traded commodities. And while Fair Trade has always had an environmental element to it, that may become more pronounced as these farmers become some of the first victims of global climate change.
How do you get a group of urban high school students interested and involved in issues like climate change and environmental justice? Connecting it to the music they love is a good bet… and we’ve already seen how hip hop’s worked as a tool for engaging target audiences on topics ranging from local, healthy food to the damage created by plastic shopping bags.
Frustrated by the pace of climate policy in the US and around the world? Think you could do a better job of creating change that maintains economic and political stability while addressing the threat of global warming? Red Redemption, the British game maker who created the BBC’s popular Climate Challenge, is giving you a chance to prove your ability to save the planet with its new offering Fate of the World.
According to the Smithsonian Institution, coral reefs have been called “the rainforests of the sea” for the incredible biodiversity they support. Also like their terrestrial counterparts, reefs are under constant attack from a variety of human impacts: from commercial fishing and diving to higher, more acidic oceans caused by climate change.
Animal agriculture has been on the climate change radar since (at least) 2006, when a report by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization claimed that “the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalent – 18 percent – than transport. It is also a major source of land and water degradation.” The common response to this news: eat lower on the food chain.
You probably understand “lower on the food chain” as “plants,” but Belgian entomologist Arnold van Huis has a different take on this phrase: he thinks more people should eat insects.
If you’ve ever been to one of the big auto shows, you know that big announcements by the car companies often have many of the makings of a rock concert. For its promotion of the new CT 200h compact hybrid at the New York Auto Show, Lexus took a totally different approach: it hosted a debate on climate change.