January 10, 2016

China Wants to Replace Millions of Workers with Robots

by @ 1:30 pm. Filed under China, Cybernation, Socialism

At the World Robot Conference in Beijing, attendees watch an industrial robot write Chinese characters.

Why It Matters

China needs to increase production even as the wages of those working in manufacturing increase.

China needs advanced robotics to help balance its economic, social, and technological ambitions with continued growth.

By Will Knight

MIT Technology Review

Dec 7, 2015  - China is laying the groundwork for a robot revolution by planning to automate the work currently done by millions of low-paid workers.

The government’s plan will be crucial to a broader effort to reform China’s economy while also meeting the ambitious production goals laid out in its latest economic blueprint, which aims to double per capita income by 2020 from 2016 levels with at least 6.5 percent annual growth. The success of this effort could, in turn, affect the vitality of the global economy.

The scale and importance of China’s robot ambitions were made clear when the vice president of the People’s Republic of China, Li Yuanchao, appeared at the country’s first major robotics conference, held recently in Beijing. Standing onstage between two humanoid entertainment robots with outsized heads, Li delivered a message from China’s leader, Xi Jinping, congratulating the organizers of the effort. He also made it clear that robotics would be a major priority for the country’s economic future.

Many of the robots on show at the conference’s exhibition hall were service or entertainment robots such as automated vacuum cleaners, cheap drones, or quirky looking machines designed to serve as personal companions. But there were also many industrial robots that signaled the real impetus for China’s robot push: its manufacturing sector.

China is already the world’s largest producer of everything from clothes to electronics, but much of it depends on low-cost, low-skill labor. And even as economic growth has slowed, wages continue to rise across the country as the economy evolves. The Chinese government is also eager to see its workforce diversify and its manufacturing industries become more technologically advanced.

(more…)

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January 6, 2016

High Design in UK Mass Transit: Why Must the US Bring Up the Rear?

by @ 12:53 pm. Filed under High Design, Mass Transit, Urban Problems

Upcoming Crossrail trains will get customers online when they're on the line

The new Crossrail trains will be 200-m (656-ft) long and will accommodate up to 1,500 passengers

The new Crossrail trains will be 200-m (656-ft) long and will accommodate up to 1,500 passengers (Credit: Transport for London)

Image Gallery (4 images)

By Stu Roberts

GizMag

Nov 23, 2015 - The trains for the UK's new Crossrail rail link have been unveiled. They will be over one-and-a-half times as long as London's longest Tube train and will accommodate 1,500 passengers. Features will include regenerative braking, intelligent lighting and temperature systems, and free Wi-Fi and 4G access.

The 118-km (73-mile) Crossrail route is said to be Europe's biggest construction project, boasting 10 new stations and 42 km (26 miles) of new tunnels. Tunneling was completed earlier this year and much of the excavated 6 million tonnes (6.6 million tons) of material has been used to develop the Wallasea Island nature reserve in Essex. The project still has a number of milestones to deliver, though, such as fitting out stations, the completion of above-ground works and, of course, the roll-out of the new trains.

Designed by Transport for London (TfL), Bombardier and Barber & Osgerby, the 200-m (656-ft) trains will be driver-operated and will comprise nine fully-interconnected walk-through carriages. TfL says they are to be built of strong and lightweight materials, such as aluminum for the body shell. It also says they will be faster than the trains they will replace, while using up to 30 percent less energy as a result of their regenerative braking.

Boarding and alighting will be made quicker and easier by virtue of large, clear areas around the doors. Once aboard, passengers have a choice of both metro-style and bay seating. There will be four dedicated wheelchair spaces on each train, as well as a number of multi-use spaces for items like strollers and luggage. Passengers will be able plan their onward journeys using real-time travel information displayed by on-board info systems and will also benefit from free Wi-Fi and access to 4G.

The interior design and color scheme of the trains is said to have been chosen to provide "an accessible and welcoming environment." The design makes use of darker floors and natural finish materials that will "wear in, and not wear out," as well as light colored ceilings that are aimed at providing a sense of spaciousness.

The new trains are scheduled to enter service from May 2017, with the full Crossrail route due to be operational from 2019.



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December 31, 2015

Revolution in the Productive Forces: 3-d Printing

by @ 11:42 am. Filed under High Design, Science, Technology

Researchers create world's first 3D-printed jet engines

11 PICTURES

The world's first 3D-printed jet engine on display at the Avalon International Airshow (Photo: Noel McKeegan/Gizmag.com)

The world's first 3D-printed jet engine on display at the Avalon International Airshow (Photo: Noel McKeegan/Gizmag.com)

Image Gallery (11 images)

 

  • Ben Coxworth , Gizmag
  • February 25, 2015

Working with colleagues from Deakin University and CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation), researchers from Australia's Monash University have created the world's first 3D-printed jet engine. While they were at it, they created the world's second one, too. One of them is currently on display at the International Air Show in Avalon, Australia, while the other can be seen at the headquarters of French aerospace company Microturbo, in Toulouse.

A team from the Monash Centre for Additive Manufacturing and spin-off company Amaero started with an older gas turbine engine contributed by Microturbo (Safran). Still in working order, the small engine was used for auxiliary power in aircraft such as the Falcon 20 business jet.

Led by Prof. Xinhua Wu, the team proceeded to take the engine apart, and scan all the individual components. Using computer models obtained from those scans, a laser was then utilized to selectively melt metal alloy powder, building up two copies of each component in successive layers. When those parts were subsequently assembled, two metal replicas of the original engine were produced.

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December 10, 2015

Trump’s Demagoguery Threatens Democracy Itself

by @ 10:00 am. Filed under Economy

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a news conference, Saturday, July 25, 2015, in Oskaloosa, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

By Chip Berlet

Daliy KOS

Dec. 10, 2015 - Now is the time for blunt talk. Donald Trump is a dangerous demagogue generating "scripted violence." Trumpism threatens not just the First Amendment but democracy itself. I call him a right-wing populist using fascistic rhetoric to target scapegoated groups. Other journalists and scholars have dubbed him a fascist or a totalitarian. But we all smell the stench of the burning bodies. So let us have our terminological debates, but setting aside all intellectual disagreements, as citizens of an increasingly unfree society, we must stand up and speak out.

The First Amendment guarantees the free exercise of religion, and that includes the right to call religion ridiculous. It protects devout Roman Catholics and those in the church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster--even those who sometimes wear colanders as hats. Over at Talk to Action. where I often blog, we are nonpartisan, welcome respectful contributions discussing human, civil, and constitutional rights, and find debates between theists and atheists annoying (no trolls blasting either are allowed). Democracy is what we cherish...and it is in trouble.

Some early studies of prejudice, demonization, and scapegoating treated the processes as marginal to “mainstream” society and an indication of an individual pathological psychological disturbance. More recent social science demonstrates that demonization is a habit found across various sectors of society among people who are no more prone to mental illness than the rest of society.

Philosopher Hannah Arendt taught us that ordinary people can become willing--even eager--participants in brutality and mass murder justified by demonization of scapegoated groups in a society

Lawrence L. Langer raises this as a troubling issue regarding the Nazi genocide:

“The widespread absence of remorse among the accused in postwar trials indicates that we may need...to accept the possibility of a regimen of behavior that simply dismisses conscience as an operative moral factor. The notion of the power to kill, or to authorize killing of others, as a personally fulfilling activity is not appealing to our civilized sensibilities; even more threatening is the idea that this is not necessarily a pathological condition, but an expression of impulses as native to ourselves as love and compassion.”

A troubling concept--that some of us who helped jumpstart the Talk to Action website have discussed for decades--is that when most people in a society realize that a fascist movement might actually seize state power, it is too late to stop it. So let us act now: as Republicans, Democrats, Independents and the folks who think voting just encourages a corrupt system. As people of faith, the spiritual, the agnostic, and those who think that God is Dead because she doesn’t exist. We are all in the same lifeboat here. Grab an oar.

Facing History and Ourselves reminds us of the “Fragility of Democracy” in a series of essays by Professor Paul Bookbinder, an international expert on the Weimar Republic in Germany in the period just before that nation collapsed into the inferno of Nazi rule and genocide. No, we do not face a crisis like that faced by the German people in the 1920s and 1930s. Yet as Bookbinder observes, there were moments when Hitler’s thugs could have been stopped.

In her small yet powerful book, Eichmann in Jerusalem, Arendt concluded that evil was banal, and that if there was one clear universal truth, it is that ordinary people have a moral obligation to not look away from individual or institutional acts of cruelty or oppression. We recognize the processes that lead from words to violence, they are well-studied, and the theories and proofs are readily available. Silence is consent. Denial is complicity with evil.


Chip Berlet, an activist involved with building democracy and human rights for over 50 years, is an investigative journalist and independent scholar whose blog is Research for Progress. This post first appeared on Talk to Action.



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December 5, 2015

Uruguay Makes Dramatic Shift to Nearly 95% Electricity from Clean Energy

by @ 9:12 am. Filed under Green Energy, Solar, Wind Power

Wind turbine blades are assembled on the ground at a wind farm in Uruguay…Renewables now provide 94.5% of Uruguay’s electricity. Photograph: Mariana Greif Etchebehere/Bloomberg/Getty Images

In less than 10 years the country has slashed its carbon footprint and lowered electricity costs, without government subsidies. Delegates at the Paris summit can learn much from its success

Jonathan Watts in Montevideo
The Guardian /UK

Dec 3 2015 - As the world gathers in Paris for the daunting task of switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy, one small country on the other side of the Atlantic is making that transition look childishly simple and affordable.

In less than 10 years, Uruguay has slashed its carbon footprint without government subsidies or higher consumer costs, according to the country’s head of climate change policy, Ramón Méndez.

In fact, he says that now that renewables provide 94.5% of the country’s electricity, prices are lower than in the past relative to inflation. There are also fewer power cuts because a diverse energy mix means greater resilience to droughts.

It was a very different story just 15 years ago. Back at the turn of the century oil accounted for 27% of Uruguay’s imports and a new pipeline was just about to begin supplying gas from Argentina.


Now the biggest item on import balance sheet is wind turbines, which fill the country’s ports on their way to installation.

Biomass and solar power have also been ramped up. Adding to existing hydropower, this means that renewables now account for 55% of the country’s overall energy mix (including transport fuel) compared with a global average share of 12%.

Despite its relatively small population of just 3.4 million, Uruguay has earned a remarkable amount of global kudos in recent years. It enacted groundbreaking marijuana legalisation, pioneered stringent tobacco control, and introduced some of the most liberal policies in Latin America on abortion and same-sex marriage.

Now, it is being recognised for progress on decarbonising its economy. It has been praised by the World Bank and the Economic commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, and the WWF last year named Uruguay among its “Green Energy Leaders”, proclaiming: “The country is defining global trends in renewable energy investment.”

(more…)

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December 1, 2015

Public Works: How The Clinton and Sanders Infrastructure Plans Measure Up

By Dave Johnson

Campaign for America’s Future

“Investing in infrastructure makes our economy more productive and competitive across the board.”
– Hillary Clinton

Dec 1, 2015 - Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has announced a plan for infrastructure investment. How does her plan stack up against that of her chief competitor, Bernie Sanders?

Also, how will Clinton and Sanders pay for their plans? On that question, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) recently came up with a set of principles we can use to judge this.

Clinton’s Infrastructure Plan

Clinton on Monday announced a plan for investing in infrastructure improvements. Meteor Blades laid out the need for infrastructure investment at Daily Kos in “Clinton proposes $275 billion spending for infrastructure“:

… 11 percent of the nation’s bridges are structurally deficient and a fourth of them are functionally obsolete. Similar deficiencies can be found in schools, dams, levees, railroads, the electrical grid, and wastewater facilities. In its 2013 quadrennial report card on U.S. infrastructure, the American Society of Civil Engineers said the nation would need to invest an additional $1.6 trillion by 2020 to put its infrastructure into good repair. And that doesn’t include innovative infrastructure like universal broadband.

Clinton’s infrastructure plan is detailed at her website in “Hillary Clinton’s Infrastructure Plan: Building Tomorrow’s Economy Today.” Here is a distillation:

? $250 billion dollars in infrastructure investment, spread out over five years as additional spending of $50 billion each year.

? An additional one-time $25 billion to seed a national infrastructure bank. The bank will support up to an additional $225 billion in direct loans, loan guarantees, and other forms of credit enhancement. These are loans to states and cities which will require tolls, fees, etc. to pay off.

? Spending priorities include “smart investments in ports, airports, roads, and waterways”; “giving all American households access to world-class broadband and creating connected ‘smart cities'”; “building airports and air traffic control systems”; “a smart, resilient electrical grid”; “safe and reliable sources of water”; “a national freight investment program”; “upgrade our dams and levees to improve safety and generate clean energy”; safe, smart roads and highways that are ready for the connected cars of tomorrow” and “the new energy sources that will power them.”

? A promise of “a faster, safer, and higher capacity passenger rail system.” But the plan does not mention high-speed rail. (Note that a single high-speed rail system from Los Angeles to San Francisco is expected to cost up to $60 billion, which alone is almost one-fourth of Clinton’s entire five-year infrastructure investment for all infrastructure needs.)

Sanders’ Infrastructure Plan

Clinton’s $275 billion infrastructure plan offers modest spending and contains few specifics. Contrast that with candidate Bernie Sanders, who has proposed a highly detailed, $1 trillion plan.

(more…)

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November 10, 2015

Transforming Cities: Baltimore to DC in 15 Minutes.

by @ 2:15 pm. Filed under High Design, High-Speed Rail, Mass Transit

 

Maglev Train in Shanghai

Maglev Train in Shanghai

Maryland's Maglev Train Gets First Round Of Federal Funding

 

By Mary Beth Griggs

Popular Science 

For the past forever, high-speed rail in the United States has existed as a sugarplum dream, sweet to think about, but dissolving instantly upon contact with reality. One of the sweetest and fastest of these dreams is maglev trains, a super-high-speed rail system that already exists in other parts of the world, reaching speeds of 373 miles per hour in Japan. Soon, our high-speed aspirations might become reality thanks to new funding for maglev research here in the United States.

On Saturday, the office of Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced that the state had received a $27.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to assess the feasibility of a superconducting maglev (also known as SCMaglev) train line between Baltimore and Washington DC.

Currently, the trip between Baltimore and Washington DC takes about an hour by car, approximately an hour and 15 minutes by commuter rail, and 40 minutes via the only current high-speed option, the Acela Express. A new maglev route could reduce that down to 15 minutes.

“The ability to travel between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. in only 15 minutes will be absolutely transformative, not just for these two cities, but for our entire state,” Hogan said in a statement. “This grant will go a long way in helping us determine our next steps in this transportation and economic development opportunity.”

$27.8 million may seem like a lot, but it's just a drop in the bucket. The final cost of such a project is still unknown, but Hogan and the Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail group, which is leading the project, expect to receive a lot more funding from private donors and the Japanese government, which already has maglev trains in use. Last April, Japan pledged to fund half of the anticipated $9.75 billion cost of the project, and license the maglev technology at no cost to the United States.

Maglev is short for magnetic levitation. A maglev train hovers above the tracks, suspended by magnets embedded in the track repelling magnets onboard. The lack of contact between the train and the track means that the train can fly between cities at ridiculously high speeds, without any friction to hold it back. There are other high-speed rail options, like the Acela, which can technically reach speeds of 150 miles per hour on conventional rails, but usually travels at speeds of 64 miles per hour.

The ride on existing maglev trains is smooth and exceedingly quick, but that doesn't mean that there are no downsides. There have been a few crashes, and maglev technology is very expensive. The cost of building a completely new infrastructure system is so high that it is hard to muster the political will to push big projects through. In 2011, Vice President Biden pledged that over the next six years, the United States government would invest $53 billion in high speed rail. That was four years ago. Between 2009 and 2014, the United States dedicated a grand total of $11 billion to high speed rail projects, which is a lot, but nowhere near $53 billion, even with the new $27.8 million grant. There are some private companies trying to step in and fill the high-speed void, but whether they get very far remains to be seen.

Here at Popular Science we've been writing about maglev trains since 1973, and there are some very cool possibilities for the technology, including trains across the Atlantic, trains to space, and even maglev elevator cars. A train between Baltimore and DC? It's a good place to start.

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November 7, 2015

Working Toward Zero: In Greece, Driverless Buses Are Now Accepting Passengers

by @ 8:00 am. Filed under Cybernation, High Design, Mass Transit

A local resident takes a photo of the tiny CityMobil2 driverless bus in Trikala, Greece. Each bus can fit 12 passengers.

AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis

 

By Lydia Chain

Popular Science

Greek commuters have a new way to get to work: a completely driverless bus that operates within normal traffic. The buses are part of a program that has been running in Trikala, Greece, since earlier this summer, but so far they’ve only been tested without passengers--up until last Saturday, that is. Now people will be able to use the buses to get around. The trip is completely free of charge, and could be safer and more efficient than buses driven by humans.

“It’s the first time someone dared to bring a totally automated vehicle into open traffic,” Angelos Amditis tells Popular Science. Amditis is the research director at Greece's Institute of Communication and Computer Systems, which is handling the technical side of the project. Previously, automated vehicles in Greece were either operated only in segregated lanes or exhibition areas, or under the supervision of a professional driver in case of emergency. There’s no human backup for Trikala’s six automated buses, which operate surrounded by other cars, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

New laws had to be passed to make way for the project, and even so the buses operate under strict limitations. The maximum permitted speed is around 12 miles per hour. While other drivers can merge into its lane, a bus isn’t allowed to change lanes or make turns—it just drives a short circular route. And if there’s any obstacle in its path, it sits there and waits for the object to move. “We have to be strict,” says Amditis. When humans crash, it’s an accident, but a crash involving an automated vehicle would be a political mess, “even if there’s a hundred less accidents overall.”

(more…)

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November 4, 2015

High Design: Tiger Stone Paving Machine Makes Brick Roads Like Laying Carpet

by @ 10:52 am. Filed under Cybernation, High Design

Tiger Stone Paving Machine 6

Living labor takes a nosedive in relation to well-designed machines

By The Engineer - December, 28th 2013

Engineers are always busy finding simpler solutions to problems and strive to decrease the time that a particular activity requires. One such endeavor has resulted in this particular machinery which is more than just a symbol of great engineering, it is frikkin’ cool and awesome.

Tiger Stone Paving Machine 5

How much paving you reckon, a paver is able to accomplish in a day? The right answer is 100 sq. meter. How do you think this compares to achieving a minimum paving of 400 square meter in a day? So what does this machine do exactly? You provide it with cobblestones and it will lay them down in a pattern to build a road that would require a couple of hours if done manually.

Tiger Stone Paving Machine 4

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October 24, 2015

Cincinnati: Labor, Churches, Schools Making Waves with Coops

Xavier students are both studying and helping the Community Blend Coffee co-op in nearby Evanston

Xavier students are both studying and helping the Community Blend Coffee co-op in nearby Evanston

Building Engaged Communities: Why Xavier is promoting the cooperative movement

 

By Kristen Kranke

Soapboxmedia.com

Oct 20, 2015 - When I spoke with Timothy Kraus, interim director of Interfaith Business Builders, he was in the middle of a history tour of the South, exploring significant landmarks related to abolition, the Civil Rights movement and blues music.


As a key player in Cincinnati’s cooperative movement, Kraus made a conscious decision to tour the South. Visiting these towns and landmarks is a part of his attempt to understand the history of a community strategy that is already taking flight in our city.


“People are slowly beginning to realize that cooperatives are not necessarily a new idea,” Kraus says. “Co-ops in the South were one of the strategies newly freed slaves used to sustain themselves. They have always been critical to pulling people through hard times.”


Today, Cincinnati’s role in the cooperative movement is rapidly expanding. Over the next year, by teaming up with a number of co-op organizations around town, Xavier University will host a three-part conference to spread the word about cooperative influence in Cincinnati and beyond; the first gathering is Nov. 12.


'Businesses rooted in the community better the community'


By definition, a cooperative business is one that exists for the benefit of those using it services. “User-owners” distribute profits and earnings among themselves. Cooperatives are often created for a specific cause or need, creating jobs for disenfranchised individuals or contributing to overall sustainable community development.
“Cooperative businesses can be great tools in low income neighborhoods to keep the money in the neighborhood,” Kraus says. “There’s a lot of money that flows through every neighborhood, but it never stays in the neighborhood.”


He says the number of “absentee landlords and business owners” in economically stressed communities is part of the problem cooperatives hope to solve.

“Businesses rooted in the community better the community,” Kraus says. “They're a way to bolster a struggling economy in a local neighborhood.”


After a long career in teaching, Kraus retired in the hopes of putting his energy into something completely different. Enter Interfaith Business Builders, one of Cincinnati’s most established worker-owned cooperative builders. Since 1983, IBB has worked with over 400 underemployed or chronically unemployed people to help them find a place in their community’s economy.


According to Kraus, IBB began as Jobs for People, the religious community's attempt to find the root causes of unemployment and poverty. The organization recognized that solution required more than employment opportunities. They needed to create ways for chronically unemployed people to find pride and ownership in their work.

“Marginalized people should be able to be participants in the economy,” Kraus says.


One of their longstanding businesses, Cooperative Janitorial Services, has been in existence for 20 years and supports 15 individuals and their families. These same families are user-owners of the profitable cooperative, which boasts an impressive client base ranging from churches and social services agencies to Towne Properties apartment complexes.

Another example of IBB's influence is
Community Blend Coffee, an Evanston-based coffeehouse that's been in existence for about a year and a half. Like any brand new business, Community Blend is still fighting for break-even status, though its impact on the neighborhood is already apparent.


Xavier's involvement


Community Blend's impact is exactly why Xavier University has turned its attention to the cooperative movement.


“Through that co-op in particular, Xavier became more interested in what was going on,” says Gabe Gottlieb, philosophy professor and director of Xavier's Ethics/Religion and Society program. “We saw it as both an educational opportunity and an opportunity to support and help out the blossoming movement.”

Xavier's newfound mission to educate both students and the community about these economic business models stems from the school's longstanding values. Its Ethics/Religion and Society Department as well as its Sustainability Department have been studying the impacts of co-ops for years; members of Xavier’s own Board of Trustees are actively involved in cooperative organizations across the country.


Not only that, but as a Jesuit institution, Xavier is always looking for more ways to provide service to those in need.

(more…)

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October 11, 2015

High Design: Get Your Fresh Veggies from Farmerless Farms

by @ 2:46 pm. Filed under Green Industry, High Design, Technology

This Robot-Run Indoor Farm Can Grow 10 Million Heads Of Lettuce A Year

This massive Japanese vegetable factory saves water and energy—along with human labor.

By Adele Peters

Solidarityeconomy.net via Fast Comany

When a sprawling new "vegetable factory" opens near Kyoto, Japan in 2017, it will be the first farm with no farmers. Robots will plant lettuce seeds, transplant them, raise the vegetables, and automatically carry the fully-grown lettuce heads to a packing line, where they can get ready to be sent to local grocery stores.

In a single day, the farm can harvest 30,000 heads of lettuce. On a traditional farm, a field of the same size can grow about 26,000 plants—but only harvest two or four crops a season.

Spread, the Japanese company planning the factory, opened its first indoor farm in 2006, and already supplies lettuce to 2,000 stores around Tokyo. But it saw the opportunity to make its process even more efficient. It sees the new farm as a model for the future of farming.

"There are several reasons vegetable factories will be needed in the future in order to create a sustainable society," says Kiyoka Morita from Spread. Like other indoor farms, Spread's new factory uses far less water than traditional agriculture; the factory's new technology also allows them to recycle 98% of that water. Because the factory is sealed, there's no need for pesticides or herbicides. The ultra-efficient lighting system can run on renewable energy. Japan imports about 60% of its food each year, but the factory can supply it locally.

(more…)

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October 8, 2015

High Design: Meet The Electric Bus That Could Push Every Other Polluting Bus Off The Road

by @ 4:59 pm. Filed under Green Industry, High Design, Mass Transit

On a single charge it can already travel farther than a typical city bus does in a day.

By Adele Peters

Solidarityeconomy.net via Fast Company

Electric cars might be sexier. But Ryan Popple, who was an early employee at Tesla, is now convinced that electric buses are more interesting.

Proterra, the startup Popple runs, designed a sleek new electric bus that drove 258 miles on a single charge in a recent test. That's farther than most tiny electric cars can go and also farther than a daily city bus route.

That means it's ready to start to replace the hundreds of thousands of diesel buses in the country, most of which average less than five miles to the gallon and pump out carbon pollution, soot, and carcinogens like arsenic.

Because the bus saves on fuel, it's actually cheaper over a lifetime of use than alternatives, including hybrid-diesel buses or those running on natural gas. And it's something that anyone can use, democratizing the most advanced alternative transportation technology.

"We're taking a technology that's used to power $100,000 sports cars, and we're putting it into the absolute most accessible transportation asset in the country," says Popple.

Like Tesla, Proterra designed its vehicle from scratch. "I think it's important to cut ties with the legacy technology," he says. "If you tell your engineering group one of the rules they have to stick by is they have to use all the old parts from the parts bin, you're going to end up with a terrible product."

Because electric vehicles work in a fundamentally different way than something that runs on gas or diesel, the old designs don't make sense. The engine is no longer the heaviest part, and you don't have to worry about exhaust or a tank of flammable liquid. New parts—like battery packs—need to go in different places.

Some parts of the new design that were optimized for electricity also have other advantages. The bus is made from carbon fiber so it's ultra-lightweight, so the battery system doesn't have to be as big. But because it isn't made of metal, it also doesn't rust and lasts longer on the road. The weight is distributed more evenly than on a regular bus, so it's also better at acceleration and turning.

It's even easier to manufacture. "Long term, we have a huge advantage over steel bus manufacturers," Popple says. "They're building buses like you'd build a house. They build a steel frame, they rivet things onto it. At our factory, we take in a composite body just like an aircraft fuselage."

(more…)

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October 7, 2015

Radical New Economic System Will Emerge from Collapse of Capitalism

Political adviser and author Jeremy Rifkin believes that the creation of a super internet heralds new economic system that could solve society’s sustainability challenges

 

By Jo Confino

Solidarityeconomy.net via The Guardian UK

Nov 7, 2014 - At the very moment of its ultimate triumph, capitalism will experience the most exquisite of deaths.

This is the belief of political adviser and author Jeremy Rifkin, who argues the current economic system has become so successful at lowering the costs of production that it has created the very conditions for the destruction of the traditional vertically integrated corporation.

Rifkin, who has advised the European Commission, the European Parliament and heads of state, including German chancellor Angela Merkel, says:

No one in their wildest imagination, including economists and business people, ever imagined the possibility of a technology revolution so extreme in its productivity that it could actually reduce marginal costs to near zero, making products nearly free, abundant and absolutely no longer subject to market forces.

With many manufacturing companies surviving only on razor thin margins, they will buckle under competition from small operators with virtually no fixed costs.

“We are seeing the final triumph of capitalism followed by its exit off the world stage and the entrance of the collaborative commons,” Rifkin predicts.

The creation of the collaborative commons

From the ashes of the current economic system, he believes, will emerge a radical new model powered by the extraordinary pace of innovation in energy, communication and transport.

“This is the first new economic system since the advent of capitalism and socialism in the early 19th century so it’s a remarkable historical event and it’s going to transform our way of life fundamentally over the coming years,” Rifkin says. “It already is; we just haven’t framed it.”

Some sectors, such as music and media, have already been disrupted as a result of the internet’s ability to let individuals and small groups compete with the major established players. Meanwhile, the mainstreaming of 3D printing and tech advances in logistics – such as the installation of billions of intelligent sensors across supply chains – means this phenomenon is now spreading from the virtual to the physical world, Rifkin says.

Climate change

The creation of a new economic system, Rifkin argues, will help alleviate key sustainability challenges, such as climate change and resource scarcity, and take pressure off the natural world. That’s because it will need only a minimum amount of energy, materials, labour and capital.

He says few people are aware of the scale of danger the human race is facing, particularly the growing levels of precipitation in the atmosphere, which is leading to extreme weather.

“Ecosystems can’t catch up with the shift in the planet’s water cycle and we’re in the sixth extinction pattern,” he warns. “We could lose 70% of our species by the end of this century and may be imperilling our ability to survive on this planet.”

Convergence of communication, energy and transport

Every economy in history has relied for its success on the three pillars of communication, energy, and transportation, but what Rifkin says makes this age unique is that we are seeing them converge to create a super internet.

(more…)

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October 5, 2015

Why Nuclear Power Is a Bad Idea: A Case in Point

by @ 8:08 am. Filed under Green Energy

Fukushima Four Years After The Nuclear Disaster Is A Post-Apocalyptic Wasteland

In these amazing photos, a photographer gets rare access to document the both extraordinary and mundane images of the Fukushima cleanup.Seven years ago, photographer and filmmaker Arkadiusz Podniesi?ski visited Chernobyl. This year, four years after the nuclear disaster in Japan, he took his camera to Fukushima to document the similarities between the two post-nuclear-disaster sites, and see how the cleanup was progressing.

Fukushima is divided into three zones: red, orange, and green. In the green zone, the cleanup has almost been finished. The topsoil has been removed and cleaned. Homes have been decontaminated, and soon residents will be allowed to return.

But Podniesi?ski was more interested in the orange and red zones. In the orange zone, where residents can visit but not stay overnight, he found farmer Naoto Matsumura, who returned illegally to live because "he could not bear to see whole herds of cattle wandering aimlessly in the empty streets when their owners had fled the radiation."

The red zone is deserted, but for the police who regularly checked Podniesi?ski’s difficult-to-secure permits. The place is eerie and peaceful. The earthquake and the tsunami that sent the nuclear plant into meltdown didn’t damage the entire town, so many deserted buildings stand intact. An abandoned motorbike stands tangled in weeds that have grown up through cracks in the concrete floor, and dumped cars are hidden in overgrowth.

Stopped clocks in a primary school still show the time they stood when the tsunami cut power to the region. Inside the school, computers remain on desks, while trophies are piled haphazardly inside glass-fronted cabinets after the earthquake shook them off their shelves. The gymnasium remains almost untouched, perfect except for deep hollows where the floors collapsed into the earth below. (Continued)

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September 24, 2015

Dublin Considers Modular Homes for the Homeless

by @ 1:24 pm. Filed under Economic Democracy, Urban Problems

 

The DRHE is part of Dublin City Council and is responsible for tackling homelessness across the ... 

The DRHE is part of Dublin City Council and is responsible for tackling homelessness across the city's four local authorities (Credit: DRHE)

Image Gallery (23 images)

 

By Stu Robarts

Solidarityeconomy.net via Gizmag 

According to the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE), there were 607 families in emergency accommodation in Dublin during August this year. One means of reducing this, it says, could be the use of modular housing. It can be built quickly and inexpensively to house homeless families temporarily.

Modular housing is already being used to accommodate the homeless elsewhere. Only recently, for example, the Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners-designed Y:Cube was opened in London, having been developed by the YMCA charity. As is the case with Y:Cube, the DRHE hopes that modular housing could provide an interim solution between people being homeless and getting back into the housing market proper.

The DRHE is part of Dublin City Council and is responsible for tackling homelessness across the city's four local authorities. As part of a conversation about how to get families in homeless accommodation back into normal housing, it has produced a demonstration development of six modular houses.

The scheme is aimed at showing what modular homes look like and how they are designed. Its purpose is to inform the discussion about the viability of modular housing as a solution to homelessness.

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