It's easy not to trash the planet — if you're dirt poor and die young. But is it possible for all of us to live long and satisfying lives without costing the Earth? That's the question behind a measure of national well-being called the Happy Planet Index (HPI). Its latest update, released this week ahead of the Rio+20 summit on sustainable development, names Costa Rica as the world's most "developed" nation and puts the US on the sick list. To show how different the world looks when viewed according to the HPI, rather than conventional wealth, New Scientist applied distorting lenses. In the top map, countries are sized according to their GDP, and shaded by GDP per capita. As sub-Saharan Africa almost shrinks from view, western Europe, the US and Japan swell and flush a deep red. But this wealth has fuelled massively unsustainable use of natural resources. Nic Marks of the New Economics Foundation in London developed HPI as an alternative measure, "to capture the tension between good lives now and good lives in the future"...
Tag Archives | Sustainability
Americans for Prosperity now sees children flying kites as a major threat to society. Earlier today, I opened my email box to find an uproarious AFP promotion for a protest in Asbury Park and Ocean City, New Jersey this Friday. What are they so upset about? An event so dastardly and maniacal, it has the potential to tear down everything we love about our freedoms as Americans. I almost couldn’t stomach it when I found out more. Yes, it’s “extremist” kids from the Boys and Girls Club and local schools flying kites in support of offshore wind energy. Don’t worry, AFP is on the case (as explained on their website, accompanied by the smoking wind turbine)...
Republicans have launched a full-scale attack on clean energy, and Solyndra always seems to be exhibit A in their assault. Recently, Romney went so far as to fabricate tales of Obama showing favoritism in this Bush-initiated loan – a whopper even by Romney’s record of complete disregard for the truth. It’s worth reexamining this whole thing, because Solyndra is actually exhibit A in how the Republican Party manufactures failure out of whole cloth, and what it costs us when they aren’t confronted by Democrats or held accountable by the media. To understand the full treachery of Republican attacks on Solyndra funding, it’s necessary to understand a little about venture capital investments...
Oh yeah, this is going to go over really well. Via ScienceDaily:
It’s a message no one wants to hear: To slow down global warming, we’ll either have to put the brakes on economic growth or transform the way the world’s economies work. That’s the implication of an innovative University of Michigan study examining the most likely causes of global warming.
The study, conducted by José Tapia Granados and Edward Ionides of U-M and Óscar Carpintero of the University of Valladolid in Spain, was published online in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and Policy. It is the first analysis to use measurable levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide to assess fluctuations in the gas, rather than estimates of CO2 emissions, which are less accurate.
“If ‘business as usual’ conditions continue, economic contractions the size of the Great Recession or even bigger will be needed to reduce atmospheric levels of CO2,” said Tapia Granados, who is a researcher at the U-M Institute for Social Research…
Read More: ScienceDaily
Vandana Shiva writes on the intersections of capitalism, the state, agribusiness, and a burgeoning organic movement in South Asia. Via Al Jazeera:
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The economic crisis, the ecological crisis and the food crisis are a reflection of an outmoded and fossilised economic paradigm — a paradigm that grew out of mobilising resources for the war by creating the category of economic “growth” and is rooted in the age of oil and fossil fuels. It is fossilised both because it is obsolete, and because it is a product of the age of fossil fuels. We need to move beyond this fossilised paradigm if we are to address the economic and ecological crisis.
Economy and ecology have the same roots “oikos” — meaning home — both our planetary home, the Earth, and our home where we live our everyday lives in family and community.
But economy strayed from ecology, forgot the home and focused on the market.
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Depending on the weather, wind turbines can face whispering breezes or gale-force gusts. Such variable conditions make extracting the maximum power from the turbines a tricky control problem, but a collaboration of Chinese researchers may have found a novel solution in human-inspired learning models.
Most turbines are designed to produce maximum allowable power once winds reach a certain speed, called the rated speed. In winds above or below the rated speed, control systems can make changes to the turbine system, such as modifying the angle of the blades or the electromagnetic torque of the generator.
These changes help keep the power efficiency high in low winds and protect the turbine from damage in high winds. Many control systems rely on complex and computationally expensive models of the turbine’s behavior, but the Chinese group decided to experiment with a different approach.
The researchers developed a biologically inspired control system, described in the American Institute of Physics’ Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, that used memory of past control experiences and their outcomes to generate new actions.
Many cities in Asia proper, have captured the imaginations of authors, specifically science fiction writers, due in large part due to their disjointed, chaotic, and multi-layered nature. These cities have a tendency to map their histories, migration patterns, linguistic groups and associated economic levels onto the very architecture and design of the city. In Taipei much of the building is done illegally, in ‘secret’ places all around the city, particularly by rural migrants, artists and experimental architects. This has resulted in some very dynamic and cyber-punk worthy designs that further colour the fabric of Taipei. Via Web Urbanist:
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Beyond the ‘official city’ of Taipei, where modernization and beautification efforts are glossing over the city’s natural and historical origins, there’s Instant City. Using Taipei’s conventional modern architecture as a platform and energy source, this network of illegal architecture attaches itself ‘like a parasite’ to create unsanctioned urban farms, night markets and other social gathering places.
Jill Richardson writes on Alternet:
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It is hardly news that the United States faces epidemic health problems linked to poor diets. Nearly two out of every five Americans are obese. But according to a press release from the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier de Schutter, “The West is now exporting diabetes and heart disease to developing countries, along with the processed foods that line the shelves of global supermarkets. By 2030, more than 5 million people will die each year before the age of 60 from non-communicable diseases linked to diets.”
De Schutter, whose work usually focuses on ending hunger, just published a new report saying, “The right to food cannot be reduced to a right not to starve. It is an inclusive right to an adequate diet providing all the nutritional elements an individual requires to live a healthy and active life, and the means to access them.” In other words, the right to a healthful diet must be included in the human right to food.
A building, that uses historical rubble a main building component, is causing rumblings in the architecture community. What implications does this have on building a sustainable future? Via Inhabitat:
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The 2012 Pritzker Prize was just announced this morning, and the winner is Wang Shu — the first Chinese architect to receive the honor. Wang Shu runs Amateur Architecture Studio with his wife Lu Wenyu out of Hangzhou and is also the head of the Architecture Department of the China Academy of Art.
Responsible for a number of large cultural and social projects in his native country, Wang Shu has become known for work that is “deeply rooted in its context and yet universal.” Some of Wang Shu’s most well known projects include the Library of Wenzheng College at Suzhou University, the Ningbo Contemporary Art Museum, the Ningbo History Museum, phase 1 and 2 of the Xingshan Campus of the China Academy of Art, and the Vertical Courtyard Apartments.
DENVER — Just eight months ago, a one-acre plot at the Denver Green School was an unused athletic field, but now that land has come to life with food-bearing vegetation. "We have harvested over 3,000 pounds of produce from this ground. Lots of salad greens and root vegetables, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers," said Megan Caley, the programs and outreach coordinator for Sprout City Farms. Each week during harvest season, the farm produces 150 pounds of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables that end up in the school's cafeteria. "Kids are eating healthier," said Frank Coyne, lead partner at the Denver Green School. "They are excited to eat the tomatoes on the salad bar, they are excited to eat the cucumbers."