Use the Earth to Help the Earth

In these days of summer, good news is extremely hard to come by.  There isn’t a corner of the earth where murder, by the hundreds, is not a popular activity, not just ignored but applauded by many who are standing out of harm’s way.  So it is nice to turn to one small signal of sanity, actually two.

1] The wet suit, which has received positive reviews from users ” …  is made not from conventional, petroleum-based neoprene but from a natural rubber derived from a desert shrub.

Guayule Flowers

Guayule Flowers

Patagonia executives are … convinced that the many years of development and testing they have supported have resulted in a revolutionary material that will wind up not only in wet suits but also in everyday items like sneakers and yoga mats.

2] But … only a few of those products will bear the Patagonia name. Instead of holding the manufacturer of the rubber, Yulex, to a yearslong exclusive contract, Patagonia is encouraging its competitors to use the product, hoping to see its use grow and drive down the price. Other wet suit and athletic apparel companies have shown interest …

It turns out it’s not easy to do good as a corporation.  In fact the incorporation documents have to specifically define public good and how it aims to do it.

Patagonia  became a benefit, or B, corporation, one of an estimated 900 in the United States. This form of incorporation, permitted in 26 states and the District of Columbia, requires executives to take into account not just how decisions will affect profit and shareholders but also how they will affect the public, generally defined as society or the environment. Though the rules vary among states, companies must produce an annual benefit report to demonstrate how they are adhering to the mission.

Good for them and really good for pushing a non-fossil fuel solution to the production of many common items in the today’s world.

Of course, the thing to watch out for, which we should all be aware of finally, is the danger of industrialized farming and corporate mono-culture, stripping out food crops, or more jungle cover, to jump on the bandwagon.  Bridgestone, one of the world’s largest users of rubber, is doing its own R&D.

NY Tmes: Cardwell

CO2 Instrumentation into Space

Nasa has launched a mission dedicated to measuring carbon dioxide (CO2) from space.

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) will help pinpoint the key locations on the Earth’s surface where the gas is being emitted and absorbed.

Its key objective is to trace the global geographic distribution of CO2 in the atmosphere – measuring its presence down through the column of air to the planet’s surface.

This should give scientists a better understanding of how the greenhouse gas cycles through the Earth system, influencing the climate.

Uncertain ‘sinks’

Humans are currently adding nearly 40 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year, principally from the burning of fossil fuels.

Only about half of this sum stays in the atmosphere, where it drives warming.

About half of the other half is absorbed into the ocean, with the remainder pulled down into land “sinks”.

Exactly where, though, is highly uncertain.


I’d bet a few dollars that the vast kudzu jungles across the American south will be one of the great sinks…

Wind Assisted Transportation

Scudding across the San Francisco Bay of late has been a trimaran with a novel, wing-like sail, which ferry boat operators have expressed interest in fitting onto passenger carrying boats.  It’s not ready for prime time yet but serious money is being put up and serious operators watching the results.

Richard Jenkins, a longtime sail engineer, designed the sail that’s being tested for ferry service. He previously built a land sail to set the world speed record for wind-powered vehicles, hitting 126 mph in the Nevada desert in 2009, and more recently built an ocean-crossing drone with funding from Google Chairman Eric Schmidt.

“The same principles work really well for wind-assisted ferries,” Jenkins said.

The test sail that Jenkins created, which looks more like an upright airplane wing than a cloth sail, is powered by a built-in, solar-powered computer that rotates the glistening monolith to capture an optimal amount of wind and pass that power to the boat.

A unique trim tab attached to the top of the sail controls the angle at which the sail harnesses the wind.

There’s no rigging or tacking required, and all the pilot must do is turn on the sail, via a remote switch, and then watch the speed increase without revving the engine.

Wind Assist

…At a cost of about $250,000 to build, the group says the sail will quickly pay for itself through cutting fuel costs by 20 to 40 percent. A ferry can go through $1.2 million worth of fuel annually.

The prospect of curbing emissions of greenhouse gases and diesel particulate by up to 40 percent is what drew the attention of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, which helped the group secure its grant from a 2007 pot of state money for promoting clean air.

SF Gate

And that’s not all.  Promised for 2013 but not sailing yet is a four masted [or more] container ship which would radically drop the use of fossil fuel on long-haul ocean transport.


CO2 Levels Reach New Terrifying Levels

“As scientists expected, April became the first month in human history to have an average concentration of carbon dioxide — the main long-lived global warming gas — above 400 parts per million (ppm), according to data from a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) observatory, which sits atop a 11,000-foot-tall Hawaiian volcano.

This is a symbolic but grim milestone for those who are fighting to lower global greenhouse emissions to reduce manmade global warming; as carbon dioxide levels climb, so do the risks of triggering dangerous climate change, such as the melting of land-based ice sheets and flooding of coastal cities.


Instead of Cow Farms why not Carbon Farms?

Changing cattle fields to forests is a cheap way of tackling climate change and saving species threatened with extinction, a new study has found.

 Researchers from leading universities, including the University of Sheffield, carried out a survey of , biodiversity and economic values from one of the world’s most threatened ecosystems, the western Andes of Colombia.

The main use of land in communities is cattle farming, but the study found farmers could make the same or more money by allowing their land to naturally regenerate.

Under markets designed to stop global warming, they could get paid to change the use of their land from growing cows to ‘growing carbon’ – receiving around US$1.99 per tonne of carbon dioxide the trees remove from the atmosphere.

Phys. org

Municipal Internet Infrastructure

Pretty interesting from Susan Crawford in the NY Times.  Just as municipalities pay for, install and often operate city lighting, water, sewage, roadways, so they could with Internet wiring.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — LAST week’s proposal by the Federal Communications Commission to allow Internet service providers to charge different rates to different online content companies — effectively ending the government’s commitment to net neutrality — set off a flurry of protest.

The uproar is appropriate: In bowing before an onslaught of corporate lobbying, the commission has chosen short-term political expediency over the long-term interest of the country.

But if this is the end of net neutrality as we know it, it is not the end of the line for fair and equitable Internet access. Indeed, the commission’s decision frees Americans to focus on a real long-term solution: supporting open municipal-level fiber networks.

for example:

Since 1998, my hometown, Santa Monica, Calif., has been saving money by shifting from paying expensive leases on private communications lines to using its own fiber network, called City Net.

The city planned carefully and built out City Net slowly, taking advantage of moments when streets were being opened for other infrastructure projects. Businesses in Santa Monica now pay City Net a third of what a private operator would charge, and the city government has made millions leasing out its fiber resources at reasonable rates to other providers.

Let’s Go!

New Biomass to Electricity Conversion

All I can say about these new technologies of energy is, they’d better hurry!

… researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a new type of low-temperature fuel cell that directly converts biomass to electricity with assistance from a catalyst activated by solar or thermal energy. The hybrid fuel cell can use a wide variety of biomass sources, including starch, cellulose, lignin — and even switchgrass, powdered wood, algae and waste from poultry processing.

The device could be used in small-scale units to provide electricity for developing nations, as well as for larger facilities to provide power where significant quantities of biomass are available.

Debating Cause of Climate Change is Moral and Scientific Equivalent of Debating Gravity

A Republican, a meteorologist and a business owner weighs in on Climate Change and the deniers>

To the heart of your question, why don’t more climate scientists enter into the public debate? Because the debate is over. It’s the moral and scientific equivalent of debating gravity. The experts have spoken, and because a very small minority of stakeholders and shareholders don’t care for the implications there is vociferous push-back from certain special interests. I worked in television news for 35 years. Mainstream media likes a good on-air food-fight, a protagonist and antagonist, shouting at each other about their worldviews. It attracts curiosity and eyeballs – it’s ultimately good for ratings. But it’s a false equivalent, and it’s a terrible way to conduct science. We put a handful of (paid) climate skeptics and industry lobbyists on a stage with thousands of the world’s leading climate PhD’s, and think this is somehow serving the public interest? It’s not. It’s creating more confusion, more delay and more denial, as viewers and readers pick and choose their reality as easily as changing channels on their TV or grazing over their morning horoscope. I can absolutely understand why more professionals don’t want to subject themselves to inane banter with science-deniers.

Scott Mandia via Open Mind

Massive Hack Attack on European Networks

“A massive attack that exploited a key vulnerability in the infrastructure of the internet is the “start of ugly things to come”, it has been warned.
Online security specialists Cloudflare said it recorded the “biggest” attack of its kind on Monday.

Hackers used weaknesses in the Network Time Protocol (NTP), a system used to synchronise computer clocks, to flood servers with huge amounts of data.”

Vaccines Fall Off — Sickness Jumps

Vaccine anti Damage

The graphic [above] was provided by the Council on Foreign Relations and it illustrates in shockingly easy-to-understand visual language the impact the anti-vaccination movement is having in countries which should be free of easily preventable diseases. Outbreaks of whooping cough, thought to be eradicated almost entirely, now appear in places like the United States and Europe with even greater frequency and in larger numbers than in the economically underdeveloped world.

The state of Wisconsin alone saw more than 7,000 cases of the disease between 2011 and 2013. In California, the number was over 10,000. At least 10 babies died in the state from the disease in 2010. In 2009, there were no news reports of vaccine-preventable diseases in the state of Washington. In 2012, the state suffered five distinct outbreaks of whooping cough, totaling 7,000 cases of a disease that was once close to eradication.

from the LA TImes via the Daily Banter