Sustainable Yada Yada Yada

This is a blog about sustainability, urban design, scientific and technological progress, and what the future may hold. As well as interesting or random stuff on occasion. I'll try my best to avoid politics!

August 2014 in Review

August 2014 in Review

At the end of July, my Hope for the Future Index stood at -2. Let’s see if things got any better in August. As I did last month, I’ll sort selected posts that talk about positive trends and ideas vs. negative trends, predictions, and risks. Just for fun, I’ll keep a score card and pretend my posts are some kind of indicator of whether things are getting better or worse. I’ll give posts a score…

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"blue carbon"

“blue carbon”

This article in Ecological Economics is about carbon sequestration in “mangrove forests, seagrass meadows, and tidal salt marshes”, and policy and market mechanisms that can help make this happen. To me carbon sequestration is not the only or the primary reason to try to conserve these ecosystems, but I will certainly support it if it gets the job done. Plus if we can come up with hard-nosed…

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Integrating the planetary boundaries and global catastrophic risk paradigms

Integrating the planetary boundaries and global catastrophic risk paradigms

I think this article in Ecological Economicsgets at a very important idea. There are planetary boundaries we are at risk of exceeding, most obviously the ability of the atmosphere and oceans to absorb and hold greenhouse gas emissions before reaching some catastrophic tipping point. Then there are catastrophic risks that come out of left field every once in a while, like war, plague, accidents,…

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cars are evil

One of the most important things we can do to build a sustainable, resilient society is to design communities where most people can make most of their daily trips under their own power – on foot or by bicycle. It eliminates a huge amount of carbon emissions. It opens up enormous quantities of land to new possibilities other than roads and parking, which right now take up half or more of the land…

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urban bee habitat

The BBC has an article on urban habitat for bees:

There is widespread concern that wild bee populations in rural areas are being adversely affected by a number of factors, including pesticides.

“For a bee species to be present in [an urban] habitat, it must be able to find food and nesting substrate,” said co-author Laura Fortel, a researcher from the French National Institute for Agricultural…

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Dashboard for inclusive, sustainable, and multi- dimensional growth

Dashboard for inclusive, sustainable, and multi- dimensional growth

The World Economic Forum has proposed a “Dashboard for inclusive, sustainable, and multi-dimensional growth.” It includes the World Bank Group’s “adjusted net savings or genuine savings indicator” which sounds to me like GDP with an adjustment for natural capital depletion.

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the cyborg moths are finally here!

Well, they’re finally here - the cyborg moth slaves. First it was cockroaches and I didn’t say much because, well, they’re cockroaches.

cap and trade

This Greentech article has a long analysis of how cap-and-trade is likely to affect gas prices in California. The author comes up with ten cents a gallon, then explains why he thinks the higher estimates offered by the oil industry are just scare tactics. To put the ten cents in perspective, he offers the following options to offset the cost:

  • Drive 70 mph instead of 72 mph on the freeway. That…

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monopoly and free markets

This article from Alternet has a nice explanation of why “free markets” in the absence of regulation do not lead to open and fair competition:

Some monopolistic industries mess around with your daily life in an obvious way, like Big Telecom bringing you the low-grade misery of shoddy service and defective products. Others fly a bit lower under the radar, like the credit reporting monopolist Fair…

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grid parity

If a good indicator of grid parity is articles about grid parity, then grid parity seems to be here. This article from Renewable Energy World has a good roundup of recent articles on grid parity and the possibly dire consequences for traditional utilities.

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more on climate change and U.S. farming

more on climate change and U.S. farming

This NPR article says that climate change is allowing North Dakota farmers to switch from wheat to corn.

“Especially the increase in moisture has allowed for better yields and more profit in corn than, say, if we had some of the lesser moisture we had in the ’70s and the ’80s,” Ritchison says.

Corn and soybeans, which also like the moisture, now cover about 15 percent of North Dakota’s cropland,…

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genuine progress indicator

Vermont is going to have a go at the Genuine Progress Indicator, a GDP alternative:

Estimating the GPI begins with household consumption, the major component of Gross Domestic (or State) Product (GDP), followed by twenty-four separate adjustments including:

  • Additions for benefits not included in GDP, for example the values of volunteer and household work, and non-market benefits from the services…

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you know nothing, snow

you know nothing, snow

From Wired Science:

The western United States is undergoing a major shift in precipitation patterns. Large swaths of the West that have historically been dominated by snow in the winter months are starting to see a lot more rain instead. A new study that maps out the predominant form of precipitation shows that this trend could result in an average reduction in snow-dominated area of around 30…

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This claims the ocean will be empty in 30 years at our current fishing pace.

climate change, water, and corn

climate change, water, and corn

Here are a couple stories on U.S. corn yields:

From the “Risky Business Project“:

Shifting agricultural patterns and crop yields, with likely gains for Northern farmers offset by losses in the Midwest and South.

  • As extreme heat spreads across the middle of the country by the end of the century, some states in the Southeast, lower Great Plains, and Midwest risk up to a 50% to 70% loss in average…

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