Storing Data in the Cloud: How Safe is It?

| Wednesday July 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

cloud-storage

Businesses large and small are turning to cloud computing systems to forge leaner, more effective and efficient organizations.  Amid explosive growth in the use of Internet-connected devices, deployments of the latest in mobile broadband infrastructure and the fast emerging “Internet of Things,” (IoT) cloud computing is becoming the core of a new generation of information systems (IS) architecture.

Besides opening up a world of “Big Data” and “Always-On connectivity,” the exponential increase in the number of “things” with IP addresses opens up vast opportunities  for those looking to exploit security weaknesses in connected devices, networks and servers. That includes alleged government cyber espionage campaigns as well as an ever-growing variety of increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks on the part of cyber criminals and terrorists.

As the OpenSSL Heartbleed vulnerability and Dragonfly malware group have demonstrated, these malware and cyber threats now have the capability to exploit vulnerabilities in encryption methods and technology, and access network, server and application software to control industrial processes. They can even control critical public infrastructure, such as power, energy and water distribution systems.

Recent malware invasions and security breaches notwithstanding, the cloud computing migration appears unstoppable. According to RightScale’s “2014 State of the Cloud Survey,” public cloud adoption among 1,068 organizations surveyed is nearing 90 percent. That begs the question: Are the organizations contemplating a shift to cloud IS architectures concerned about security risk? More fundamentally: Just how secure is cloud data storage?

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Manufacturers Back Bill to Limit Liability for Energy Star Ratings

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Wednesday July 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

ENERGY_STAR_WASHER_LGIf U.S. appliance manufacturers have their way, consumers who purchase washers, dryers and other appliances based on their Energy Star ratings won’t be able to sue their makers if the energy savings aren’t as good as promised.

A House bill sponsored by Robert Latta (R-Ohio) and co-sponsored by Peter Welch (D-Vt.) would remove consumers’ ability to launch class-action litigation against a manufacturer if actual energy savings did not reflect what the Energy Star rating stated at the time of sale.

The bill, which was submitted for review July 12, has the backing of several large appliance makers, including Whirlpool and LG, which are members of Alliance to Save Energy (ASE). Welch was an honorary co-chair of ASE at the time of the bill’s submission. He now serves as honorary vice-chair.

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$10 Million Tribal Climate Resilience Program a Win-Win-Win Situation

| Wednesday July 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

obama_meets_climate_change_task_force-white_house-youtube The president himself took the lead role in forging ahead and taking action to avert the worst effects of climate change last week, presiding over the fourth and final meeting of the 26-member White House State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience.

The president on July 16 announced a series of new climate change resilience initiatives, including making new investments to fortify community electric grids, build stronger man-made and natural coastal storm defenses, and protect water supplies, as well as enhance climate change and infrastructure data gathering, analysis and planning via 3-D GIS mapping initiatives.

Following up on the president’s announcement, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn announced the administration is dedicating nearly $10 million to help American Indian tribes enhance their resilience to climate change through adaptation and mitigation initiatives.

The Tribal Climate Resilience Program should be a win-win-win situation, benefiting American Indian tribes and the nation economically, socially and environmentally.

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Houston’s One-Bin Recycling Program: Path to Zero Waste or Environmental Racism?

Alexis Petru
| Wednesday July 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

HoustonWhen you think of zero waste, you might picture towering compost heaps or overflowing recycling carts – but what about one bin for all of your household waste, from carrot peels and chicken bones to junk mail and soda bottles? That’s the idea behind Houston’s “One Bin for All” program, which aims to boost the city’s dismal recycling rate of 19 percent, which falls 15 percent below the average national recycling figure.

Public officials predict the initiative will help the city keep 75 percent of its trash from the landfill, but critics of the program, ranging from the Texas Campaign for the Environment to the NAACP, contend that it will actually prevent the city from achieving zero waste and smacks of environmental racism.

Billed as the “next evolution of recycling,” Houston’s “One Bill for All” campaign is not to be confused with the single-stream recycling programs popular in many American cities. Single-stream recycling allows customers to place all of their recyclables in one cart and garbage in a second cart (there is sometimes a third cart for green waste). The one-bin program, on the other hand, is exactly as its name suggests: All of a household’s or business’ trash, recyclables and compostables are tossed into one bin, with no sorting required.

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CSR Asia Highlights Inclusive Business Opportunities in Cocoa

| Wednesday July 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

CocaCSRAsiaCvrValued at $83.2 billion in 2010, global demand for cocoa is projected to grow to $98.3 billion in 2016. With demand for chocolate and other cocoa products rising, production, along with businesses across the cocoa value chain, are challenged by a host of factors, including unfair trade and predatory business practices, social discontent, environmental degradation and climate change.

Growing middle classes in Asia and around the world are contributing to increasing demand for higher-quality cocoa products, yet cocoa cultivation remains labor- and time-intensive. That poses challenges for producers of all sizes. Sustainability standards and inclusive business models place greater value on longer-term social and ecological benefits as opposed to simply maximizing yields and productivity, however.

Focusing on two of Asia’s principal cocoa producers – Indonesia and Vietnam – CSR Asia, in collaboration with Oxfam, assessed sustainability across the cocoa industry, asserting that development of more inclusive business approaches would benefit smallholder producers, consumers and participants across the cocoa value chain.

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Entrepreneurs Transform Urban Farming with High-Tech Solutions

Sherrell Dorsey
| Wednesday July 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

urban farming, urban agricultureTech entrepreneurs are trading in their Google Glasses to try their hand at urban farming in the most unlikely of places. If these disruptive entrepreneurs had it their way, local and fresh food would be grown indoors year-round, providing entire communities and businesses with delicious produce without restriction. Another perk: Crops aren’t at risk of being destroyed by a hurricane, drought or other unpredictable natural disaster.

Surprisingly, high-tech urban farms are popping up around the world in every imaginable space from old warehouses in the Netherlands, to semi conductor factories in Japan and even on the roofs of commercial buildings in Brooklyn. In these futuristic farms, often called vertical and hydroponic farms, you’ll be more apt to find copious LED lighting and smartphone-controlled water meters in lieu of soils and fertilizers.

New York City-based Gotham Greens runs several rooftop greenhouse farms with state-of-the-art climate control and hydroponic growing systems in Brooklyn. They recently opened a 20,000-square-foot farm atop a newly built Whole Foods Market, in which they grow and deliver fresh produce sold in the store. Gotham Greens doesn’t use soil for plant growing, instead they use a hydroponic system of sunlight, oxygen and CO2 that miraculously yields about 20 times what could be cultivated on land, and with about a tenth of the water of conventional agriculture.

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Look Deep Into Nature And You Will Find the Answers

3p Contributor | Wednesday July 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

interconnected natureBy Giles Hutchins

Biomimicry is an exciting discipline which explores how we can learn from nature to solve human problems.

Humans have been gaining inspiration from nature for many thousands of years, yet biomimicry as a formal concept is more recent. The word itself, “biomimicry,” was coined by Janine Benyus (author of the book “Biomimicry” published in 1997) and originates from the Greek bios (life) and mimesis (imitation). For Benyus, biomimicry is the conscious emulation of life’s genius.

The Biomimicry Institute, founded by Janine Benyus and Dayna Baumeister, is actively involved in nature-inspired innovations. Over the last few decades, across the globe, there has been a steady increase in biomimetic innovations helping design and deploy products and services in more sustainable ways. One only has to Google ‘biomimicry’ to find ample examples of such innovations: the Shinkansen Bullet Train of the West Japan Railway inspired by the Kingfisher’s beak, the Eastgate Building in Zimbabwe taking inspiration from termites’ self-cooling mounds, and British Telecom using a biological model based on ant behavior to overhaul its phone network, by example. Such scientific innovations inspired by nature are an important part of our transformation to a more sustainable future.

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Better Cotton and Ikea Report Shows Less Pesticide and Water Use

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday July 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

Cotton_picking_in_IndiaCotton is a major world commodity, accounting for almost half of textile production. Traditional cotton farming is hard on the environment, however, as pesticide and artificial fertilizer use is heavy.

The crop accounts for 10 percent of global pesticide use and is grown in about 80 countries around the world. Cotton also needs much water: An average of 10,000 liters of water is used to grow 1 kilogram of cotton, but it can require three times as much if farming practices are poor. However, through the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) farmers are reducing their pesticide, artificial fertilizer and water use.

In 2005, Ikea and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) started joint cotton projects, and both are founding members of the BCI. The purpose of the initiative is to develop more sustainable cotton production methods.

BCI started with just 500 farmers and a goal to develop more sustainable cotton production methods. Now, through BCI and its partners, 43,000 farmers in India and Pakistan alone are using more sustainable cotton farming techniques, as the latest BCI report shows. Project farmers in Pakistan were the first in the world to produce licensed Better Cotton.

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Detroit Suspends Water Shutoffs After Protests and U.N. Condemnation

Eric Justian
| Tuesday July 22nd, 2014 | 2 Comments

water rallyFollowing massive Friday protests that led to nine arrests, the city of Detroit announced on Monday it is suspending its sweeping water shut-offs for 15 days to launch a massive campaign to inform city residents of water assistance.

It’s difficult to get a full picture of the water crisis going on in Detroit. To date, the city has cut off water service to about 16,000 households, with another 324,000 overdue water and sewage accounts facing potential shut-off. That’s over 40 percent of the city. In response, the United Nations Human Rights Council recently condemned the city’s water shut-off campaign as a human rights violation and public health concern, as thousands of low income Detroit households and families are facing the absence of a basic necessity for every living creature on planet Earth.

The U.N. special reporter on extreme poverty and human rights, Leilana Farha, added that if it turned out the water shut-offs targeted African Americans it could be in violation of treaties the U.S. has ratified. It’s important to note that Detroit’s population is 83 percent African American.

It’s also worth pointing out that Michigan is the only state entirely within the Great Lakes water basin and surrounded by some of the largest fresh water lakes in the world. It’s not like water is scarce here.

But what the heck? The Detroit Water and Sewage Department is shutting off water for non-payment in a city that’s billions of dollars in debt. What do people expect, right? Once you reach the $150 delinquency amount, your water goes off.

Unfortunately, Detroit — long at the epicenter of industrial decline, offshoring and a crumbling auto industry — has experienced massive poverty, with more than 40 percent of the population at or below the poverty line. The people are broke. The city is broke. And while the city claims there are plenty of resources for people facing water shut-offs, they admit that they’re kind of short-staffed in the Notifying People of a Shut-Off department.

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Elon Musk Lays Out Future Plans for Tesla

RP Siegel | Tuesday July 22nd, 2014 | 54 Comments

Tesla logoElon Musk continues to defy the conventional wisdom of the armchair pundits, who claim that widespread adoption of electric cars is still decades away. They claim electric vehicles (EVs) are impractical, unappealing, too expensive, with no charging infrastructure, plus they take too long to charge. One by one he has removed these barriers with his Tesla cars.

His first two models are selling well, despite efforts on the part of several states to block the company’s direct-sale model. Despite this, and the lofty price tag, Teslas are consistently the top-selling electric cars on the market. (We’ll come back to that price issue in a minute.)

Tesla has set up a supercharger network across the U.S. that will allow transcontinental drives (as long as you follow certain routes). The supercharger technology is exclusive to Tesla cars which are configured to accept higher current levels, allowing them to charge relatively quickly, at least compared to other EVs.

Still, it can take an hour or more to charge up, more time than most people want to spend at a gas station. Sure, you can stop for lunch, if that fits into your schedule, but we Americans tend to be busy people who are in a hurry as often as not. Tesla has an answer to that, too.

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Shared Value: Double the Value?

3p Contributor | Tuesday July 22nd, 2014 | 0 Comments

Share By Lars Moratis and Ronald Jeurissen

The debate over the creating shared value (CSV) concept has recently gained traction after several years of relative silence since Porter and Kramer published their well-received Harvard Business Review article. While academics Dirk Matten and his colleagues have criticized CSV for its unoriginality and conceptual superficiality in a stinging California Management Review article, practitioners welcomed the concept — as it anchors corporate social responsibility (CSR) within a tradition of strategic management and provides an appealing, fashionable label that captures the essence of business-case approaches to CSR.

It has also been argued that CSV should be an integral part of business school curricula. Interestingly, the aspects of instrumental versus ethical CSR and the lack of interaction between business and academia have hardly received any attention in this debate.

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Kung Fu and the Art of Living in Systems

GreenFutures
GreenFutures | Tuesday July 22nd, 2014 | 0 Comments

7912377858_42c1b23e3a_zBy Jeremy Mathieu

I have been training in Kung Fu and Tai Chi for 10 years now. That makes me a beginner in that field, as the traditional Chinese martial arts are pathways of cultivation that take a lifetime to learn and grow into.

A student would traditionally follow the master for years to learn the style, by repeating set movements and absorbing the way the master lives, thinks and talks. Complete devotion would be expected of the student, for by taking on the responsibility of learning a style, he or she becomes part of a lineage — an unbreakable chain connecting the past teachers to the future generations. The student holds the responsibility to learn well so that he or she can one day pass the style correctly onwards.

This traditional concept of filial piety is central to the practice of martial arts, giving the student a place within a wider system. It can be difficult for modern westerners to grasp and to accept. Seeing ourselves as independent individuals is so closely linked to our ideal of unrestricted personal freedom.

Through our current social and environmental crises, we are starting to see the limits of this mindset of separation and unrestricted individuality. Many in the sustainability movement have started to realize how interdependent we truly are, with human systems connecting us all economically, politically and culturally, while being fully embedded into natural systems.

We are part of those systems, those physical and social webs of life. While they could be thought of as a stifling limitation to our ideal of freedom, being mindful of our interconnections allows us to take our place within those systems more responsibly. I would argue that we can learn from martial arts to realize ourselves even more completely as individuals, by becoming more mindful of our participation within all these systems. Their connecting chains can help us go higher and further together, rather than keeping us prisoners.

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British Supermarket Powered By Food Waste

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Tuesday July 22nd, 2014 | 1 Comment

SainsburyThe British supermarket chain, Sainsbury’s announced that one of its stores will be powered by its food waste. All of the electricity used by the store in Cannock, England will come from what’s called anaerobic digestion, which turns food waste into bio-methane gas that is used to generate electricity. Sainsbury’s partners with Biffa which has anaerobic digestion facilities. Through its use of bio-methane gas, the store is able to come off the national grid for its electricity use. Biffa is one of the leading waste management companies in the UK. The company operates a number of food waste treatment facilities in the UK which recycle or reuse 100,000 tons of food waste a year.

The food waste that powers the stores comes from Sainsbury’s stores across the UK. Any food waste that is not fit for charitable donations or animal feed is sent to the anaerobic digestion facility in Staffordshire and is converted into energy. The electricity for the Cannock store is sent directly through a new 1.5 km long electricity cable from the Staffordshire facility, which opened in 2011. The Staffordshire facility is the largest one in the U.K. that uses food waste, and is licensed to process 120,000 tons of food waste a year.

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Obama: Climate Change Is a Threat to U.S. Infrastructure

Alexis Petru
| Monday July 21st, 2014 | 1 Comment
President Barack Obama met with the Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience last week.

President Barack Obama met with the Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience last week.

More extreme droughts, floods and wildfires – these are just some of the impacts of climate change that won’t just occur in the distant future to our great-great grandchildren, but are happening now. To address the changing climate’s current effects on communities in the U.S., President Barack Obama announced a plan to strengthen national infrastructure and help cities, states and tribal communities better prepare for and recover from natural disasters.

“Climate change poses a direct threat to the infrastructure of America that we need to stay competitive in this 21st-century economy,” Obama said last week at a meeting of the Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience. “That means that we should see this as an opportunity to do what we should be doing anyway, and that’s modernizing our infrastructure, modernizing our roads, modernizing our bridges, power grids, our transit systems, and making sure that they’re more resilient. That’s going to be good for commerce, and it’s obviously going to be good for communities.”

Obama unveiled over $260 million in federal funds to help communities build their climate adaptation and resilience. The U.S. Geological Survey and other federal agencies are dedicating $13 million to develop an advanced 3-D mapping tool of the country that communities can use to identify which areas and infrastructure are at risk from changing climatic conditions, the White House said in a statement. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will also be spending $236 million to improve rural electric infrastructure in eight states – an investment that will not only allow the deployment of smart grid technologies, but can also attract businesses and residents to these communities, according to the White House.

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California City Blocks New Power Plant, Cites Climate Change

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Monday July 21st, 2014 | 6 Comments

oxnard_climate_changeWhen it comes to updating your neighborhood power plant these days, nothing is certain. But for NRG, California’s largest power plant operator, that message came home last month with an odd twist: The city of Oxnard voted to place a moratorium on the construction of a plant that would replace the current structure at its oceanside location. The reason? Climate change.

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