The dolphin issue changed how tuna fisherman fish…but the new method is actually worse for marine life overall.
By trying to help dolphins, groups like Greenpeace caused one of the worst marine ecological disasters of all time. Few other fisheries are as bad for groups like sharks and sea turtles as the purse seine fishery, and none are as large in scale.
(via the browser)
Passive houses — homes that use “recycled heat” to heat themselves, rather than a furnace — are growing more popular in Germany and slowly spreading elsewhere in the world.
The concept of the passive house, pioneered in this city of 140,000 outside Frankfurt, approaches the challenge from a different angle. Using ultrathick insulation and complex doors and windows, the architect engineers a home encased in an airtight shell, so that barely any heat escapes and barely any cold seeps in. That means a passive house can be warmed not only by the sun, but also by the heat from appliances and even from occupants’ bodies.
Constructing new LEED-certified green buildings is all well and good, but if they’re further from your workers’ homes and you have to tear down perfectly good old buildings to do so, the hoped-for energy savings are wasted.
Embodied energy. Another term unlovely to the ear, it’s one with which preservationists need to get comfortable. In two words, it neatly encapsulates a persuasive rationale for sustaining old buildings rather than building from scratch. When people talk about energy use and buildings, they invariably mean operating energy: how much energy a building — whether new or old — will use from today forward for heating, cooling, and illumination. Starting at this point of analysis — the present — new will often trump old. But the analysis takes into account neither the energy that’s already bound up in preexisting buildings nor the energy used to construct a new green building instead of reusing an old one. “Old buildings are a fossil fuel repository,” as Jackson put it, “places where we’ve saved energy.”
If embodied energy is taken into consideration, a new building that’s replaced an older building will take up to 65 years to start saving energy…and those buildings aren’t really designed to last that long.
The PopTech blog rounds up some interesting wind turbine designs. I’m particularly intrigued by the placement of turbines on or near highways. One of the knocks against wind farms is that they disrupt the natural landscape…placing wind turbines along highways would somewhat alleviate that problem. Oobject houses a collection of beautiful wind turbines.
I’ll admit I don’t watch politicians speak that often, particularly in public. So maybe I’m being a little naive here, but San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom is nothing short of a magician up on the stage. He talked for 20 straight minutes (his would-be interviewer could only get in 2-3 questions during that time and Newsom pretty much ignored them and talked about whatever he pleased) and it felt both like 5 minutes and exhausting at the same time. By the time he’d finished what I would term a sermon, I wanted to sign up for whatever he was selling at a price no lower than my heart and soul. I haven’t non-sexually crushed this hard on a speaker since Robert Wright.
Ok, two particularly interesting things that broke my gaze long enough for me to scribble them down in my notebook.
1. Newsom talked about building filling stations for electric cars that relied on exchanging batteries instead of plugging in and waiting for your car to charge. You don’t need to own your particular battery.
2. In SF, he’s hoping to exchange the payroll tax for a carbon tax. In his words, tax a bad thing (carbon use) instead of taxing a good thing (jobs). That way, the incentives are in the right place…people aren’t penalized for working but are penalized for using excessive amounts of carbon.
Update: Oh, don’t get me wrong, I have no idea if Newsom was telling the truth or what…it’s just that it all sounded so good coming out of his mouth. Even when it sounded like bullshit I wanted to believe him. I felt so dirty and manipulated afterwards, but still wanted to believe. Like I said, love…what’s truth got to do with it?
I’ve received several emails in the past few weeks containing a variation of the following message:
Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail.
One message even formatted this line in green text. Treehugger recommended this course of action back in March 2007, but this post predates Treehugger’s. Wonder where it came from?
Manhattan, the greenest of cities? Not so fast says Tyler Cowen: “Praising Manhattan is a bit like looking only at the roof of a car and concluding it doesn’t burn much gas. […] Think of Manhattan as a place which outsources its pollution, simply because land there is so valuable.”
Worldchanging: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century is out today. “[The book] is a groundbreaking compendium of the most innovative solutions, ideas and inventions emerging today for building a sustainable, livable, prosperous future.” The authors came up with a clever stunt to promote the book: have everyone buy the book on Amazon today at 11:11am PT to drive up the sales rank and let the “rich get richer” effect take over from there. The book is currently at #13.
Since my internet access has been somewhat spotty at the conference (I’m trying to pay attention and power is hard to come by here so the laptop is closed most of the time), I’m going to do rolling wrap-ups as I go, skipping around and filling in the blanks when I can. Here we go, soundbite-style:
Alex Steffen: Cars equipped with displays that show gas mileage, when compared to cars without the mileage display, get better gas mileage. That little bit of knowledge helps the driver drive more economically. More visible energy meter displays in the home have a similar effect…people use less energy when they’re often reminded of how much energy they use. (Perhaps Personal Kyoto could help here as well.) At dinner, we discussed parallels between that and eating. Weighing yourself daily or keep track of everything you eat, and you’ll find yourself eating less. In the same way, using a program like Quicken to track your finances might compel you to spend less, at least in areas of your life where you may be spending too much.
Bruce Sterling is the Jesse Jackson of technology. He has this cadence that he gets into, neologism after neologism, stopping just short of suggesting a new word for neologism. Wonderful to experience in person. Perhaps not as upbeat as the Reverend, though.
Bruce also related a story told to him by an engineering professor friend of his. The prof split his class into two groups. The first group, the John Henrys, had to study and learn exclusively from materials available at the library…no internet allowed. The second group, the Baby Hueys, could use only the internet for research and learning…no primary source lookups at the library. After a few weeks, he had to stop this experiment because the John Henrys were lagging so far behind the Baby Hueys that it is was unfair to continue.
Kevin Kelly noted that the web currently has 1 trillion links, 1 quintillion transistors, and 20 exabytes of memory. A single human brain has 1 trillion synapses (links), 1 quintillion neurons (transistors of sorts), and 20 exabytes of memory.
Kelly also said that technology has its own agenda and went on to list what it is that technology might want. One of the things was clean water. You need clean water for industrial manufacturing…so water cleanliness is going to be a big deal in China. In a later talk, Thomas Friedman said, “China needs to go green.”
Hasan Elahi, during his ordeal being mistaken for — what’s the term these days? — an enemy combatant, learned that language translates easier than culture. That is, you can learn how to speak a language fluently way easier than to have the cultural fluency necessary to convince someone you’re a native. In his interrogations, Hasan liberally sprinkled pop culture references in his answers to questions posed by the FBI to help convince them that he was a native. Workers at call centers in India for American companies are not only taught to speak English with an American accent, they also receive training in American geography, history, and pop culture so as to better fool/serve American callers.
“The best laid plans of mice and men turn into a nonlinear system.” — Will Wright, with apologies to Robert Burns.
Speaking of Wright, a couple of Spore trivia bits. The data for a creature in Spore takes up just 3K of memory. And entire world: just 80K. And these worlds are amazingly complex.
Brian Eno: With large groups of people, the sense of shame and the sense of honor that keeps the members of small groups from misbehaving breaks down. The challenge for larger groups is to find ways of making honor and shame matter in a similar respect.
Stewart Brand: “We are terraforming the earth anyway, we might as well do it right.” Stewart also noted that cities are very effective population sinks. When people move to cities, the birthrate drops to the replacement rate (2.1 children per family) and keeps on dropping. Combine that with the fact that by early next year, more people in the world will live in cities than in rural areas, and at some point in the next hundred years, the earth’s population will start to fall.
Some notes on a presentation by Thomas Friedman, who I’ve somehow managed to unconsciously steer clear of. (Doesn’t help that his stuff is behind the NY Times paywall. If he really wanted to make the impact on this green stuff, he’d get the Times to move that stuff out in the open so us proles can link to it and discuss it.) Here are Friedman’s five reasons why “this is not your father’s energy crisis” (ie the 1970s):
1. With our energy consumption in the US, we’re funding both sides in the “war on terror”. Our oil consumption pays for terrorists and our taxes pay for the armed forces, etc.
2. The world is flat, globalization, opportunities to consume at first world levels are available to China, India, Russia, etc. And they’re seizing the day.
3. Clean power and green energy is the #1 growth industry of the 21st century.
4. What Tom referred to as the First Law of Petropolitics: the price of oil has an inverse relationship with the pace of freedom. Oil prices fall, freedom goes up; oil prices rise and Iran starts talking about the myth of The Holocaust.
5. The new economy companies (Friedman namechecked Google and Yahoo specifically) are going to drive clean power and green energy because every time you do a search on the web, it costs them a little bit of power and they are going to want to drive that price down.
He finished by saying that green has been marginalized as being sissy, liberal, and Unamerican, but Friedman says “green is the new red, white, and blue”.