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Fusion Reactors have long been a mystical potential energy source that have been conceptualized and debated for over fifty years now. But today, the reality of the possibilities within these complex reactors is much closer to becoming a generating truth. The U.S. Department of Energy has commissioned the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory began building a machine called a “compact stellarator.”
This star-studded machine is intended to perfect the magnetic fields needed to control the intense thermonuclear activity involved. The interior of the stellarator machine contains 18 of the most advanced electromagnets ever designed. Princeton Engineers are creating coils that weigh some 6000 pounds and come in a variety of three different shapes. When linked up to the stellarator compactor the coils form a precisely shaped magnetic field. This field can manipulate superheated ionized gas, otherwise known as plasma in this case.
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Multi-billion dollar renewable energy enterprises seem to have sprung up full-blown practically overnight, providing investment bankers, venture capitalists and financiers with their latest moveable feast. Wind power projects and companies were among the first to attract serious attention and capital. While solar and biofuels have likewise come to the fore, wind power investment continues to grow at a healthy clip, constrained more by a lack of key materials than by lack of capital, opportunity, industry or even political will.
Take Airtricity Holdings, for instance. Just four years after beginning to develop wind power projects in North America, signed off on a deal to sell the business to German utility E.ON for US$1.4 billion in order to concentrate on its European business. Less than three months later, early this month, management decided its best course of action was to sell that business, for something like ‚Ç¨1.83 billion (US$3.59 billion), to Scottish & Southern Energy, which itself recently moved into the #2 spot as a producer and distributor of electricity and natural gas in the U.K.
Andrew Burger posted two excellent articles on 3P here and here regarding the general state of research, science, and the modeling of climate change. I refer you to those article for a good foundation. There are also a variety of excellent resources on the web, some of which Andrew cites in his posts, and other worthwhile sources such as RealClimate, The National Academy of Sciences, USCap (an alliance of business and environmental research and advocacy groups), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
One of the best sources for getting a grasp on science in general and climate change in particular is the video series from “WonderingMind42”, mentioned previously on this blog. If you are at all concerned or interested in climate change, even if (especially if) you harbor skepticism regarding the efficacy of the science and are bothered by words like “consensus” I can’t recommend these videos highly enough. Look especially for the “Nature of Science” videos to get a great overview of the process of science and a guideline to assessing the credibility of sources. (here’s a hint, individual bloggers are toward the bottom of the list – more on that in a moment)
Of course, not everyone agrees with the peer-reviewed science represented in the aforementioned sources and so aptly explained in Andrew’s posts. James Inhofe has released his report from 400 “prominent” scientists refuting the reality of anthropologic climate change. I make no bones about what I think of the “James Gang” – but you should make up your own mind. Good scientific theories are continually challenged as a means of making them stronger.
I’d like to follow up in this post regarding tipping points, a look at 2007, and why I expect to be very cold next month as I try to learn more about climate change.Click to continue reading »
Voluntary Environmental Programs (VEPs) are very popular these days. Organizations that join these programs agree to voluntarily reduce their environmental impact beyond what is required by law. Examples of VEPs include the U.N.’s “IS0 14001,” the E.P.A.’s “33/50 Program,” the U.S. Chemical Manufacturers Association “Responsible Care,” the National Ski Areas Association “Sustainable Slopes Program,” and the Department of Energy’s “Climate Challenge Program.” But how effective are VEPs? Do they demonstrate that industry can reduce pollution without more stringent government regulation? These questions are posed by a recently released study by Nicole Darnall and Stephen Sides entitled, “Assessing the Performance of Voluntary Environmental Programs: Does Certification Matter?”Click to continue reading »
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How do you fit the biggest environmental film festival in the country into a town with a grand total of two movie theaters? Get creative, and reach out to groups you may not have otherwise thought to do so.
Such was the case for this past weekend’s Wild and Scenic Film Festival, taking place in tiny but lively Nevada City, California, population a bit shy of 3000. From an Odd Fellows hall (you know, those mysterious buildings that say I.O.O.F. on them?) to a solar powered Masonic hall , plus a Vets hall, an elementary school, and a former mining equipment manufacturing plant gone cultural center thrown in for good measure.
The focus of this festival was not what one might expect when you hear the words environmental film festival. Rather then a roster full of what’s wrong, they had films all from all over the spectrum, with the overall theme of this year being “Turning the tide.” As in seeking solutions, giving hope, rather then focusing on what’s not working.
I keep hearing that bottled water is the scourge of the Earth. But it sure is convenient. So what’s so bad about it? And do you have any good alternative recommendations?
Without a doubt, the vilification of bottled water has gained momentum over the past year. It’s a frequently discussed topic in the news and at city council meetings. The city of San Francisco has put a moratorium on the use of city funds to purchase bottled water when tap water is available, and the TV show “Boston Legal” recently featured a courtroom monologue on the environmental drawbacks of bottled water. We all know exotic bottled waters are built on clever marketing, but let me dive into the numbers.
Back in November I posted Willie Wonka and the Chocolate (biodiesel) Truck.
The goal was to drive a truck (three trucks actually) all the way from England to Timbuktu powered on biodiesel produced from “waste chocolate” (cocoa butter extracted from chocolate “factory rejects” that would otherwise be discarded).
I am happy to report that Andy Pag and John Grimshaw arrived in Timbuktu on Boxing Day despite breakdowns, sand storms, corrupt border guards, and a “narrowly escaped shoot out with Al-Qaeda”. Upon arrival in Timbuktu the team delivered as planned a biodiesel processing unit to the MFC organization to help local women convert waste cooking oil into fuel.Click to continue reading »
Earthen flooring is nothing more than what it sounds like – humble, natural earth compacted with straw or other fibers and stabilized with various natural oils to form eco-friendly high-quality flooring. These floors are easy to clean, comes in a variety of textures, colors, and materials. It can be installed over nearly any subflooring, it integrates well with radiant heat systems and it’s one of the cheapest flooring methods either conventional or green.
Earthen floors are picking up in popularity during the ever booming “green building” movement. Most earthen floors are laid over the top of a subfloor of tamped gravel and topped with a mixture of clay, sand and fiber. These layers can be 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch thick or more. The thinner layers will dry faster but require a better subfloor for strength or more layers. Earthen floors can be laid over the top of previously installed wood floors as well. The finishing generally involves a drying oil among which Linseed Oil is the most common application followed by hemp oil. Linseed is used to seal the floor and protect it from wear and tear. A final coat of Hard Oil and Wax Impregnation are also used for shine and weather proofing.Click to continue reading »
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Forget about the toxic lead-lined MRI suites, and do not throw to the wind the outdated CT systems. Squash the frustration for those MRI bulbs that burn out and take far too long to replace. Medical imaging is going “green,” and several new technologies are poised to enhance the medical imaging and healthcare industry.
Hospitals for a Healthy Environment (H2E) is an independent and not surprisingly non-for-profit organization that promotes environmental sustainability in the health care industry. H2E was founded in 1998 with agreements among four organizations (EPA, American Nurses Association, American Hospital Association, and Health Care Without Harm) with the goal of eliminating mercury, reducing chemical waste, and reducing the health care industries overall waste volume. The organization helps hospitals reduce their environmental footprint, from reducing the use of toxic chemicals like carpet glues and PVC to increasing recycling efficiency and disposal of unwanted electronic equipment.
China announced this week that production and use of plastic bags in supermarkets and retail shops will be banned beginning June 1. This new law could have a considerably positive environmental impact, given that Chinese citizens “use as many as 3 billion plastic bags a day.” The law is part of a larger campaign to fight “white pollution” in China, which includes other forms of rampant plastic and styrofoam use as well.Click to continue reading »
Thus is the opening line in the introduction to, and the gist of, Michael Pollan’s new book In Defense of Food.
Pollan has a gift for taking simple concepts and expand them into the “Big Picture”. Many are surely aware of his previous book Omnivore’s Dilemma, in which he presented the reader with a simple question: “What should we have for dinner?” Following three food chains – hunter-gatherer, organic, and industrial – Pollan explored not only the environmental, but the health and national security risks of how we commonly answer that simple question.
Pollan continues in his theme “what to eat” in his latest book, suggesting, in part, that much of what we eat isn’t really food at all, but “food-like substances” of which the louder the health claim associated with it, the more wary we should be as to its actual healthiness.
Sustainable food production is certainly not a new concept to readers of this blog. Pollan is an eloquent and articulate proponent of a sensible outlook on food and agriculture, and other popular books, such as Fast Food Nation, also take a critical look at our food culture. (Pollan has a suggested reading list available on “sustainable eating” in pdf format)
In a recent article published in the New York Times Magazine last month Pollan warns of the danger of proffering certain terms so much as to render their continued use less and less potent – terms such as “sustainable” – even while the concept itself remains vitally important.
Sustainable agriculture is an idea few, if any, would publicly advocate against, but Pollan suggests that when pesticide makers and genetic engineers “cloak themselves in the term” we may very well have “succeeded in defining sustainability down…”Click to continue reading »
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At a New Year’s party I attended recently I was pleasantly surprised to find a green alternative at the bar. Purus vodka was the highlighted booze for those who wished to bring in the New Year with an inebriated bang! Purus is organic vodka made with water from the Alps and organic wheat from Northern Italy. The bottle is sleek and distincly shaped; composed of recyclable glass and a 100% sustainable farmed cork. Even the label is entirely tree free and utilizes soy based inks and water based adhesives.
Purus’s website features a “virtual forest,” where you can plant virtual trees that will ultimately lead to the planting of real trees through a smart and innovative forestation program. Purus has teamed up with American Forests, a group dedicated to ensuring healthy forest eco-systems in every community. Beginning just this past month of December 07,’ American Forests kick-started the Purus program by planting one tree on behalf of each of the first 100,000 adult visitors that register for the free program on the Purus website.
William Procter made candles, James Gamble made soaps and in The Panic of 1837 they competed intensely for the same resources. The two men happened to be married to sisters and their shared father-in-law sat them down and in pursuit of peace in the family, convinced them that collaboration was better than competition, and thus Procter & Gamble was born.
Today P&G is the world’s biggest consumer products corporation, with close to 300 brands that “three billion times a day touch the lives of people around the world, making life a little better every day.” Somehow I seem to avoid these odds, understandable considering that I don’t eat non-hydrogenated oils, so the Pringles are out, I opt for laundry detergent that is biodegradable and non-toxic, sorry Tide, I leave the Duracels on the shelf as I cycle rechargeable batteries through my solar powered charger, and I’m not fully clean until I am Dr. Brommers Magic Soap fully clean. However, P&G did make my life a little better one day at the end of October when it announced that it has a new goal and perhaps the seeding of a new culture of sustainable business.
Are you ambivalent about giving to charities? You’re not alone, and in fact, in an recent article in Ode magazine called “No More Charity Please!” they profiled the head of an organization that actively opposes charity. Why? As Moniek Zegers of Comit√© tegen Goede Doelen Gekte (“Committee against good-cause lunacy”) says,
Western idealists often know far too little about the local culture of the region they want to help. They usually live with other expats and the local elite in an upscale part of the city, while the biggest problems are concentrated in remote villages. Moreover, good causes keep themselves afloat. If their governing strategies were effective, everyone involved would be out of a job. But this keeps fundamental problems from being solved.
An interesting point of view. However it overlooks many organizations who are taking an active, hands on, and integrative approach to helping people help themselves, rather then being the white knight who rushes through, without concern or awareness of the relevance of their efforts.Click to continue reading »
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Given last week’s surge in oil prices at the pump, more Americans can be counted on to explore hybrid vehicle options. Toyota plans to capitalize on this development by introducing a hybrid option for every model they make by 2010. Toyota President, Katsuaki Watanabe, recently made this announcement as part of Toyota’s plan to become a socially and environmentally responsible corporation.