Bitcoin is unsustainable Bitcoin's power usage per transaction isn't remotely sustainable as a wholesale replacement for the conventional financial system. [more inside]
According to Wired, "Paired with AI and VR, Google Earth will change the world". But just after its tenth birthday, Google Earth is already changing the world even without AI or VR, simply by giving scientists tools to map the world's problems (NYT). Google Earth Engine has become an emerging tool in environmental monitoring, conservation, water resources, regional planning, epidemiology, forestry, agriculture, climate science, and many other fields:
In 2007, not long after taking the job at Google, Askay flew to Brazil, helping an indigenous tribe, the Surui, map deforestation in their area of the Amazon, and this gave rise to a wider project called Google Earth Engine. With Earth Engine, outside developers and companies [and scientists] can use Google’s enormous network of data centers to run sweeping calculations on the company’s satellite imagery and other environmental data, a digital catalog that dates back more than 40 years.[more inside]
This is an extract from Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si. Here are some of the early analyses.
The war on coal is not just political rhetoric, or a paranoid fantasy concocted by rapacious polluters. It’s real and it’s relentless. Over the past five years, it has killed a coal-fired power plant every 10 days. It has quietly transformed the U.S. electric grid and the global climate debate.
"When you imagine France and its scenic countryside, you might think of the picturesque villages, vineyards a plenty and endless rolling green hills to drive through on a blissful summer road trip. But there’s one corner of this scenic country that no one has been allowed to enter for nearly a century, known as the 'Zone Rouge'."
"To spell out the law of the land in the dead language of your time: on a Letterman Top Ten list of this situation, we are all number one, and you are numbers two through ten. The fleek have inherited the earth." -- A Millennial Revenge Fantasy ( The Hairpin)
Tesla Powerwall Battery Economics: Almost There - "Elon Musk announced Tesla's home / business battery today. [video] tl;dr: It'll get enthusiastic early adopters to buy. The economics are almost there to make it cost effective for a wide market... That said, for large scale grid deployment (outside of the home), it still looks like flow batteries and advanced compressed air are likely to be far cheaper in the long run." [more inside]
When Dr. Patrick Moore appeared on cable channel Canal+ to argue for the safety of the widely used herbicide glyphosate he asserted that it would be completely safe to drink right from a glass. When the interviewer challenged him to follow through on the act, he backed down. Recently, Stu Burguiere of The Blaze decided to accept the challenge and drank a glass of the herbicide along with fracking fluid and artificial sweeteners. The cocktail also included a salt rimmed glass and a lemon garnish. It had the neon green appearance of a Vodka and Diet Dew. Don't try this at home. Or anywhere.
California Drought Tests History of Endless Growth [New York Times]
A punishing drought is forcing a reconsideration of whether the aspiration of untrammeled growth that has for so long been the state’s engine has run against the limits of nature.California Water Use [New York Times] Are you affected? [New York Times] The Drought, explained. [New York Times Video] [more inside]
The Marines Are Building Robotic War Balls
A research team from Stamford, Conn. has developed an amphibious drone that they are currently testing with the Marines. The GuardBot is a robot ball that swims over water at about 4 miles per hour and then rolls along the beach, at as much as a 30-degree incline and 20 miles per hour.
Treading Water by Laura Parker [National Geographic]
Phil Stoddard, in his third term as mayor of South Miami, is one of the few politicians willing to talk about when that time might come... He drew a graph with three lines that show population, property values, and sea level all rising. Then abruptly, population growth and property values plummet. “Something is going to upset the applecart,” he says. “A hurricane, a flood, another foot of sea rise, the loss of freshwater. People are going to stop coming here and bail.”[more inside]
Let Us Face the Future - "All parties pay lip service to the idea of jobs for all. All parties are ready to promise to achieve that end by keeping up the national purchasing power and controlling changes in the national expenditure through Government action. Where agreement ceases is in the degree of control of private industry that is necessary to achieve the desired end. In hard fact, the success of a full employment programme will certainly turn upon the firmness and success with which the Government fits into that programme the investment and development policies of private as well as public industry." [more inside]
Bangladesh is struggling to clean up an oil spill that threatens environmental damage in the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest and home to rare Bengal tigers and river dolphins. [more inside]
Marine salvage master Captain Nick Sloane is the man to call when your cruise ship or supertanker founders at sea. "Sloane had a six-man team. They found the Ikan Tanda lying broadside to the weather about two miles offshore. It was rolling heavily and was being swept by seas so large that the entire deck was going under, and waves were bursting over the top of the superstructure. The waves were running 14 seconds apart, an interval just large enough to allow each member of the team, in helmet and life vest, to be winched down onto the deck and take cover. They landed on one of the massive cargo hatches, unhooked from the harness, rolled to the edge, and dropped down to the side deck to crouch behind a coaming—the raised steel perimeter around a cargo hatch—just as the next wave swept across."
Some of the world’s most powerful conservationists are giving up on wilderness. They are making a big mistake [more inside]
"Am I damning with faint praise? Not at all. This is what a successful presidency looks like. No president gets to do everything his supporters expected him to. FDR left behind a reformed nation, but one in which the wealthy retained a lot of power and privilege. On the other side, for all his anti-government rhetoric, Reagan left the core institutions of the New Deal and the Great Society in place. I don't care about the fact that Obama hasn't lived up to the golden dreams of 2008, and I care even less about his approval rating. I do care that he has, when all is said and done, achieved a lot. That is, as Joe Biden didn't quite say, a big deal." Paul Krugman (previously) writes "In Defense of Obama" for Rolling Stone.
Cowspiracy is a crowdfunded documentary now being screened that examines the environmental impact of animal agriculture and seeks to examine why prominent environmental groups have apparently not made it a focus of their efforts. David Robinson Simon, the author of Meatonomics who appears in the film, interviews filmmakers Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn. [more inside]
New global population predictions published in Science today says that world population stabilisation is unlikely this century, with an 80% probability that world population, now 7.2 billion, will increase to between 9.6 and 12.3 billion in 2100, greatly exceeding previous consensus figures that settled around 9 billion, and is expected to keep growing next century. More in the Guardian.
Halfway through my three-week, 417-mile journey down the “most endangered” river in America, the water began flowing backward and the mud started talking. It spoke in baritone gurgles, like Barry White trapped in a bong. You know what this is, John? No, Barry White mud. This is QUICKSAND.
Wilson recently calculated that the only way humanity could stave off a mass extinction crisis, as devastating as the one that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, would be to set aside half the planet as permanently protected areas for the ten million other species. “Half Earth,” in other words, as I began calling it—half for us, half for them. [more inside]
An Oxford University study of over 50,000 participants, published this month in the open-access, peer-reviewed journal Climatic Change: Dietary greenhouse gas emissions in meat-eaters are twice as high as those in vegans.
Slate: "Prius Repellent is a perfect introduction to one of the Obama era’s great conservative subcultures: the men and women who “roll coal.” For as little as $500, anyone with a diesel truck and a dream can install a smoke stack and the equipment that lets a driver “trick the engine” into needing more fuel. The result is a burst of black smoke that doubles as a political or cultural statement—a protest against the EPA, a ritual shaming of hybrid “rice burners,” and a stellar source of truck memes." [more inside]
In his new book Ciphers, German photographer Christopher Gielen (previously) reveals haunting images of our endlessly repetitive development through aerial views of American urban sprawl. [more inside]
A herd of hippopotamuses once owned by the late Colombian drug baron Pablo Escobar has been taking over the countryside near his former ranch
What was the average American college graduate's college-related debt in 2013? What state has the highest rate of poverty in the United States? Answer these and other depressing questions (or submit your own) at How Wrong You Are.
“We decided that animal health, and human health, would be our priority,” Oosterlaken told me last fall in his barn, surrounded by warm plastic-lined pens where sows snoozed and new piglets squealed. “I don’t need to take antibiotics every day. There’s no reason my pigs should either.”
This morning the U.S. government released the newest National Climate Assessment, which "concludes that the evidence of human-induced climate change continues to strengthen and that impacts are increasing across the country." You can explore the assessment here. Previously.
UN Climate Report: We Must Focus On 'Decarbonization', and It Won't Wreck the Economy - "The basic message is simple: We share a planet. Let's start acting like it." [more inside]
The Dead Zoo Gang "Over the last several years, millions of dollars worth of antique rhino horns have been stolen from natural history museum collections around the world. The only thing more unusual than the crimes is the theory about who is responsible: A handful of families from rural Ireland known as the Rathkeale Rovers." (Via)
In the end, the only thing that could create the necessary traction in our minds was the intimate loss of the things we loved. Zadie Smith on climate change at a personal level.
In his 1996 book The Song of the Dodo, David Quammen observed that if you destroy most of a habitat and leave only a small patch of wilderness behind, you have effectively created an island—and islands, for complex ecological reasons, sustain far fewer species and far more extinctions than mainlands. Now watch things get complicated. At the same time that our logging, mining, farming, road-building, suburban-sprawling species is turning the entire planet into an archipelago, “global trade and travel do the reverse: they deny even the remotest islands their remoteness.” The result, as Kathryn Schulz reports, is that we are living through The Sixth Extinction.
Tractor-trailers full of bottled water are headed to affected counties in West Virginia after public authorities told residents to "refrain from using the water for drinking, cooking, cleaning, bathing and washing” following the Elk River's contamination with 4-methylcyclohexane methanol. [more inside]
24 million gallons of jet fuel have been leaking from Albuquerque’s Kirtland Air Force Base for 60 some years. And nobody seems very concerned about it.
- "Tiny plastic beads used in hundreds of toiletries like facial scrubs and toothpastes are slipping through water treatment plants and turning up by the tens of millions in the Great Lakes. " (NYT)
The NFL's Modern Man: How Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin — a bike-riding, socially conscious, Animal Collective–loving hipster — is redefining what it means to be a football player.
What Is Missing? is artist and architect Maya Lin's (previously) last memorial, this one to vanishing species and habitats. [Via] [more inside]
Alan Weisman's new book argues that we should not only slow population growth, we should decrease the world's population to 2 billion. In the New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert considers his argument for the 2 billion person world in the context of a long history of Malthusian and neo-Malthusian arguments over population growth and resource limits. “Before artificial nitrogen fertilizer became widely available, the world’s population was around 2 billion. When we no longer have it—or if we ever decide to stop using it—that may be a number to which our own naturally gravitates.” For more context, see Paul Sabin's new book The Bet: Paul Ehrlich, Julian Simon, and Our Gamble Over Earth’s Future. [more inside]
How The Economic Machine Works by Ray Dalio actually makes a case against austerity and for redistribution, but also for money printing (and, arguably, for bailouts), while stressing the need to keep making productivity-improving public and private investments. However, it could be equally entitled: How The Industrial Age Political-Economy Doesn't Work Anymore, viz. Surviving Progress (2011)... [more inside]
For several months, bitumen from the Athabasca oil sands has been leaching out of the ground near Cold Lake, Alberta, so far amounting to roughly half of the oil leaked in the Enbridge-caused disaster in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Nearby sites of high-pressure steam injection used to extract the bitumen (and which is already associated with violent seismic activity in natural gas fracking operations) are suspected to have caused fractures that push bitumen "sideways" and out to the surface. As Vice reporter Sarah Berman notes, "The oozing leaks will continue until the underground pressure subsides. How long that will take is anybody’s guess." While tons of contaminated vegetation and dead animals have been removed from the sites, access to the region and to government data by First Nation representatives has been repeatedly denied.
You Just Threw Out a Perfectly Good Gallon of Milk Because You Think the "Sell By" Date Means Something. Food waste is a huge problem. Globally, one-third of all food produced goes uneaten. In the US, that's up to 40% (pdf report). What can we do to prevent labeling confusion? And the most important question... should you eat it or is it expired?
With the Great Pacific Garbage Patch increasing in size, coming up with a viable solution seems like a pretty important thing to do. Enter Boyan Slat, the 19-year-old with a plan that could clean up 7,250,000,000kg of plastic from the world's oceans - within about five years. [more inside]
It seems eco-friendly cargo ships are slowly on the rise. Today i learned there is a full length documentary on Vimeo about one of these sailing vessels, the Tres Hombres; a bittersweet account of a voyage to transport supplies and aid to Haiti after the devastating earthquake: How Captain Longhair saved the World (HD, 42 min.).
In 2012 alone, keas were responsible for $425 million in damages and 5 deaths. And while it’s true those statistics aren’t based on real data and that I just made them up, they are nonetheless startling.
"The information and technology ecosystem now represents around 10 per cent of the world's electricity generation, and it's hungry for filthy coal. In a report likely to inspire depression among environmentalists, and fluffy statements from tech companies, analyst firm Digital Power Group has synthesized numerous reports and crunched data on the real electricity consumption of our digital world." - IT now 10 percent of world's electricity consumption, report finds
In 1971, the newly-created US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hired a bunch of freelance photographers to collectively document environmental issues around the country. They were given free rein to shoot whatever they wanted, and the project, named Documerica, lasted through 1977. After 40 years, the EPA is now encouraging photographers to take current versions of the original Documerica photos and are showcasing them on flickr at State of the Environment. There are location challenges, and a set has been created with some of the submissions, making side-by-side comparisons. [more inside]
Sweden is putting only four percent of its household waste in landfills (the US puts about half of its garbage in landfills) and much of the remainder is used for heating through an innovative waste-to-energy program. The problem? They are now running out of garbage, and have to import from neighbouring countries.