Thursday, September 25, 2008

सेंस ९००२२० लुईस जे. Sheehan

Ecuador Goes Animist in a Good Way

Ecuadorian voters are considering bestowing the basic rights widely granted to humans upon natural entities. This means rivers, air, tropical forests, islands, and so on, will have an inalienable right to not be abused or destroyed or treated purely as property।

Ecuador The new law on the table is actually a new constitution–not the kind of thing we generally go in for up here in the states, but so far polls show the Ecuadorians are into it, 56% to 23%. While this might initially sound like the latest in Latin American radicalism, a lawyer from the US, Thomas Linzey, is behind the proposal. He says the upshot will be that it will be possible to sue for damages to an ecosystem if the ecosystem isn’t on your property.

Not only is this non-anthropocentric, which isn’t that new (PETA is non-anthropocentric), it’s non-animal-centric. Actually, non-life-centric.

Image: flickr/pingnews

September 25th, 2008 by Benjamin Nugent in Uncategorized | No Comments »

MacArthur Highlights Day

Two green MacArthur recipients were named yesterday. (A MacArthur Fellowship, or “genius grant,” is $500,000 you can spend however you want, disbursed over the course of five years.) I keep wondering if there will be a news story about a MacArthur Fellow found floating in a pool in The Bellagio, but this never seems to happen, so they must have some kind of vetting process. Will Allen–a pro ball player turned urban farmer–is the obviously green one this year. But I think John Oschendorf counts too.

Falling Masonry He has this group or program or something at MIT devoted to masonry. Old stone stuff. How to keep it around, what you can learn from it about making buildings sustainable. If you understand green architecture as building new, more sustainable dwellings, you’re missing a fundamental point: it’s generally greener to figure out how to modify and preserve old structures. Any young hotshot architect whose powers of invention are focused on making flying buttresses new again deserves as much attention from the green movement as an urban farmer, no matter how amazing Allen’s baby swiss chard may be.

Image: flickr/Phillie Casablanca

September 24th, 2008 Tags: , , , , ,
by Benjamin Nugent in culture | No Comments »

Burying CO2 Might Help Asia Not Destroy Us

As pessimists on climate change are fond of reminding us, China and India are catastrophically prolific builders of coal-fired power plants these days. While we’re busy greening the Emmy Awards, they are quietly doing what they feel they need to do to provide energy for their expanding economies, more than compensating for all of the West’s cute anti-warming efforts by increasing the gadrillions of tons of carbon they release into our shared atmosphere. But new carbon burying tech might help them not be so destructive.

Coal-Fired Power Plant The consulting firm McKinsey & Co has just issued a report saying that even without government funding, the technology for trapping the carbon emitted by coal plants and burying it might pay for itself by 2030. China and India probably won’t throw themselves into the new tech whole-heartedly at first, because it looks like it will add about a billion euros to the initial cost of building each new plant. But the EU has stepped up by ordering a slew of trial models built by 2015.

Of course, there’s the small problem of the rich West having already created a horrendous climate situation. Not the best dynamic for pressuring an ascendant China into good stewardship. We’re basically the parent that just got thrown out of Betty Ford trying to get junior to put down the vodka. I think that might have been what happened in Postcards from the Edge.

Image: flickr/thewritingzone

September 22nd, 2008 Tags: , , , , ,
by Benjamin Nugent in air pollution, climate change, energy, politics, weather | No Comments »

GM Chairman Loses Mind on Colbert; RIP P.E. Clapp

Last night The Colbert Report gave us one of those episodes that pivot in the middle from comedy to that transcendent, swooning, oh-my-god-real-life-is-more-absurd feeling. This took place when GM Chariman Bob Lutz (pictured below) informed Colbert’s fictional persona that 32,000 respected scientists shared his view that climate change is caused by “sunspot activity.”

Bob Lutz If you’re done mourning David Foster Wallace, a literary ally of environmentalism, you might consider getting started on mourning Philip Clapp, who spent his career refuting ridiculousness of the Bob Lutz variety. The United States does not have an environmental lobby the same way it has a tobacco lobby, but Clapp’s National Environmental Trust was the closest thing. As its director, he pressured Clinton, Bush, and even Gore, to take serious action on climate change, advocating in vain for the Kyoto treaty. He later moved to the Pew Charitable Trusts, where he lampooned Bush’s weak, late, concession to some form of American involvement in an international treaty on emissions. Let’s take a moment to remember that environmentalism needs pinstriped Capitol Hill operators with integrity, as well as the rumpled journalists/artists/farmer types.

Image: flickr/Rockershirt

September 18th, 2008 Tags: , , , , ,
by Benjamin Nugent in climate change, culture, politics | 3 Comments »

GOP Attacks Dem Drilling Bill

Everything that happens in congress now is assumed to bear on the crazily tight presidential race। So it makes sense that the House Dems just smashed through a compromise off-shore drilling bill, thus undermining a GOP line of attack. And it makes sense that the GOP lampooned it as a “figment of the imagination” (Rep. Don Young, Republican of Alaska). Louis

Oil rig offshore Also predictable: Bush just vowed to veto it। Harder to predict is whether Senate Republicans will filibuster. They’ve been shouting “Drill baby drill” at conventions. Will they be able to get away with reading from a telephone book on the floor to block a bill that enables oil companies to do just that?

Image: flickr/PhillipC

September 17th, 2008 Tags: , , , , ,
by Benjamin Nugent in climate change, natural resources, ocean life, politics | 2 Comments »

Volt: Jesus, Finally

The first plug-in electric American car, the Chevy Volt, is going on the market in 2010. It doesn’t look like the phallus some gearheads want it to look like (they were into the old car-show model, shown here), and this is causing lamentation in the blogosphere. Pay no attention; this is very good news.

Chevy Volt Basically, the Volt can go 40 miles without using any gasoline, and plugs into any old home socket. It takes a few hours to recharge. Only when you’re taking long trips do you need to use gas; the gas motor kicks in after 40 miles and takes you another 300. It uses less electricity a year than a fridge.

The only problem: It’s not really viable as a mass-market business proposition yet. It’ll probably cost about $40,000, and GM doesn’t expect to make a significant profit, even with that hefty price. So while in my wildest dreams it becomes illegal to make any other kind of family car in 2011, that’s not going to happen without destroying the American economy.

Image: flickr/jurvetson

September 16th, 2008 Tags: , , ,
by Benjamin Nugent in climate change, culture | 1 Comment »

Off-Shore Drilling: Resistance Looks Futile

The Democrats have been gradually retreating from their anti-off-shore-drilling stance ever since polls started to indicate that drilling is a winning issue for the GOP. Now they’re transitioning into all-out surrender. The bipartisan “Gang of 10″ congresspeople pushing for an energy bill that includes off-shore drilling has become the Gang of At Minimum 20. Even Pelosi has said she’ll let the oil companies drill near the southeastern US (far from her own California).

218067555_3fd586f657_m.jpg Pelosi has also been trying to find a way to partially salvage this apparently FUBAR piece of legislation. And she is being appropriately sneaky in her proposed compromise. Which is: in return for the ability to excavate for oil off-shore, oil companies have to contribute billions to the development of non-oil energy sources (wind, solar, etc). That allows America to try to fuel itself insofar as possible, but still forces Big Oil to contribute to its own obsolesence.

And the GOP can’t really oppose that aspect of a bill without looking completely in the pocket of Big Oil. Has that ever stopped them? Not that I know of. But it will at least force them to take the bait and lose face.

Image: flickr/barbwire55

September 14th, 2008 Tags: , , , , ,
by Benjamin Nugent in energy, natural resources, ocean life, politics | No Comments »

Palin Discovers Climate Change

She just denied she ever denied manmade global warming. On ABC News. And got easily schooled by the press after.

Sarah Palin with Vikings I can appreciate the tragedy of her situation. She denied man-made climate change quite explicitly twice. Part of her whole thing is that she’s not a duplicitous Washington type. And she’s an unconventionally-educated woman of the people. So why not stay with the ill-informed thing? But there’s only so far you can go in that direction with the moderate wing of her party, and with independents.

I feel like the Obama campaign’s fate will rest partly on whether they can knock Palin off her pedestal in the coming weeks. This should give them something to work with.

Image: flickr/zieak

September 12th, 2008 Tags: , , ,
by Benjamin Nugent in climate change, politics | 3 Comments »

Reclaiming the Segway from Toolness

I should admit here I have not been a Segway believer. Ever since I saw Will Arnett straddle one on Arrested Development I have not been able to understand any possible use of the machine other than comic prop. I realize now that this was slightly unfair.

Segway Polo A British MP just defied possible arrest to lead a charge of Segwayists through London, trying to get the Department of Transportation in England to clarify whether they’re legal to drive on roads or not. He points out that in a dense urban area, they go faster than the average speed cars are able to move in traffic, and emit virtually nothing.

I guess my confusion is still this: They go 12 mph. Doesn’t a bicycle go that fast? But I guess if you don’t want to get your suit sweaty… I forget that people still go to offices in suits.

Image: flickr/RobotSkirts

September 10th, 2008 Tags: , , ,
by Benjamin Nugent in air pollution, climate change, culture, politics | 1 Comment »

New iPod Nano Cleaner, But Still a New iPod

Steve Jobs emphasized in a presentation today that the new iPod Nano is the “cleanest” ever; it contains lower levels of arsenic and other toxic substances, and it’s composed of “easily recyclable” materials.

Greenpeace Apple poster This is nice, and represents part of Apple’s response to Greenpeace’s longstanding complaints against its mediocre enviro record. (This is one of their anti-Apple posters). But it does raise a couple questions: first of all, isn’t the most impactful thing about iPods that they keep coming out with new models? So that you don’t hold on to your expensive piece of electronics for more than a year?

Second, containing “easily recyclable materials” isn’t the same as “recyclable।” I don’t know about the recycling chart in your city, but in mine, chrome things don’t appear to go into the blue bin. Somewhere at MIT, consciencious students may be disassembling iPods before they throw them out, dividing their components into tiny recyclable and non-recyclable piles. But I bet most of those easily recyclable materials aren’t getting recycled. Unless they’re being passed on to parents, homeless people, etc when a new model comes out.

Image: Greenpeace

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