Great stuff today. Mostly uplifting, always educational. Enjoy.
Energy | A Nation Called Tomorrow | “Senator Hillary Clinton this morning staked her place out in the debate over a new energy policy and global warming, and did so definitively, referring to “the climate crisis,” and offering a policy package that is at least as strong as that of any candidate in the race to date. Senator Clinton explicitly endorsed an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050, with 100 percent auction of all emission permits. She called for 55-mpg fuel-economy standards for cars, trucks, and SUVs by 2030; demanded that we put efficiency first, and that before we build new coal-fired power plants, state PUCs be required to make sure that there are not cost-effective efficiency alternatives; promised to reduce electricity consumption by 20 percent through a series of efficiency measures; and urged the creation of five million new jobs as part of the package, which would reduce imports of oil by two thirds.” | Carl Pope, The Huffington Post
Pope’s pieces usually have more of a negative slant, and not because he’s a negative guy, but because the world isn’t in the greatest of states these days. This article was different, and a little uplifting. The goals outlined by Clinton, on a national level, as well as those outlined by San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, on a local level, are ambitious but attainable. With victories against coal in our pockets and those against mining companies looming, the tables do seem to be turning. While the pieces are falling into place for a brighter energy future, the battle is far from over. The little things to matter, so keep greening yourself, and encouraging others to do the same.
Environment | Clean green NZ battles climate change threat to trade, tourism | “New Zealand is famous for its clean air and pristine environment but finds itself fighting for the future of its top export moneyspinners because of global climate change fears. It may seem strange that a country the size of Britain with a population of only 4.1 million and few industrial smokestacks is facing accusations that its food and tourism industries are helping destroy the global environment.” | David Brooks, Yahoo! News
This piece addresses the balance of distance and environmentalism. Can an environmentalist justify flying across the globe for vacation when air travel is terribly polluting? Should Americans and Europeans be buying fruit and meat (never!) from far away places when similar products are available locally, or at least from within the same country? These aren’t easy questions to answer, and while some environmentalists swear by the concept of “food miles”, others think it’s “superficial and flawed”.
Health | Lack Of Sleep May Lead To Fatter Kids | “Now there’s another reason to get children to bed early: More sleep might lower their risk of becoming obese. Researchers have found that every additional hour per night a third-grader spends sleeping reduces the child’s chances of being obese in sixth grade by 40 percent. Third graders are usually around 8 or 9 years old; sixth graders are around 11 or 12. The less sleep they got, the more likely the children were to be obese in sixth grade, no matter what the child’s weight was in third grade, said Dr. Julie Lumeng of the University of Michigan, who led the research. | CBS News
The study referenced in this article isn’t the most thorough ever conducted, but it does make you think. With children constantly wired to the Internet or video games during the evening, or trying to tackle ever-growing mounds of homework, bedtimes are surely creeping later and later. And, studies have showed that stimulating the eyes with an isolated light source in the evening makes it harder to fall asleep (think a reading light, TV or computer monitor in a dark room). All of this is contributing to children and adults sleeping less, and therefore needing more energy (food) to make it through the day. It’s a slippery slope, and getting a few more z’s surely can’t hurt.
Sustainability | Lessons Learned on Display at Wal-Mart’s Sustainability Summit | “Last month’s Live Better Sustainability Summit, held just outside of Bentonville, Arkansas, was yet another in what seems to be an accelerating series of “whoda thunk” moments. Bentonville, of course, is hometown to Wal-Mart, which sponsored the event, a daylong conclave that brought together more than a thousand people to a nearby convention center. It was all part of Wal-Mart’s latest crusade: to “drive profitable product innovation” into its supply chain . . . What was the point? Wal-Mart, it seems, is discovering what a growing number of companies have learned. Being a greener business isn’t just about being more efficient or increasing sales. It can be an engine for innovation in products and packaging, even delivery systems. And it wants to help its tens of thousands of suppliers move in that direction.” | Joel Makower, Greener World Media
In this case, the end justifies the means. Wal-Mart’s motives are purely economical. Part of me finds it hard to fault them, from a purely capitalistic sense. The rest of me thinks it still suck, just a little less. But, I’m heartened by the fact that Wal-Mart’s actions will spur “good” behavior among its suppliers. After years of manhandling them, it’s the least they could do. The double-edged sword in “greening” the plant is efficiency. Doing things more efficiently can mean more pollution and negative externalities but it can also mean less waste and more beneficiaries.
Technology | Solar Power Technology Claims Misleading | “A new type of solar cell has recently gained attention as a possible cost-effective way to turn sunlight into electricity. Made from organic materials, the cells are cheaper and more flexible than currently used silicon-based solar cells. But new information suggests organic solar cells may not work as well as advertised.” | Michael Schirber, LiveScience
Apparently organic solar cells convert sunlight into energy at a rate of 3%, half of the advertised rate of 6%. And compared to silicon solar cells, which operate at about 12% efficiency, organic solar cells are basically not competitive from a technological standpoint. But, economically, organic solar cells are much cheaper to produce than silicon cells. Unfortunately, solar energy is currently about three times more expensive than traditionally-sourced power. Experts estimate that unless organic solar technology can achieve 10% efficiency, it can not be competitive. We’ll get there. I hope to see a day where every single-family home (on small lots!) is powered entirely by the sunlight that hits its roof.