By Greg Lindsay
SolidarityEconomy.net via Fast Company
1. The Cloud of Smog.
The companies of the cloud--the so-called “information factories” of Google , Facebook , Amazon , and Apple , among others--have collectively achieved a scale of which old-school factories could only dream. The cloud is, however, quite dirty. It takes a lot of carbon to run all the servers that power it. And since more carbon means more money, these companies are doing everything possible to make their operations as efficient as possible.
Just as Henry Ford met economies of scale with a level of vertical integration never seen before or since--amassing railroads, mines, and even rubber plantations to supply his factories--the cloud companies are coping with their billowing carbon footprints with their own version of integration. They're making advancements in data center design, hardware, and even remaking the electrical grid itself.
Storing 1.2 zettabytes of information (that's more than a trillion gigabytes) requires the construction increasingly massive data centers whose voracious appetite for power consumes 3 percent of U.S. electricity, while personal devices comprise 15 percent of home electricity use--a figure projected to triple by 2030, equivalent to the demand of the American and Japanese home markets combined.(more...)
By Jonathan Ellis and Cody Winchester
Solidarityeconomy.net via USA TODAY
A growing number of people are investing in small electricity generating wind turbines for residential use, despite the bad economy, and backers of wind power say they expect advances in technology and manufacturing to make them even more popular. Nearly 10,000 units were sold nationally in 2009, the latest available data, according to the American Wind Energy Association. In 2001, only 2,100 units were sold.
Advocates of small wind turbines say they can be an important source of clean energy in windy parts of the country. Key hurdles to widespread use rest with local governments, their zoning ordinances and public acceptance.
"Zoning and permitting is a big issue in small wind," says Larry Flowers, the deputy director for distributed and community wind for the American Wind Energy Association.
"There's progress being made in some places and struggles in others," he says.(more...)
By Greg Lindsay
SolidarityEconomy.net via Fast Company
1. Enter The Shanzhai
In 2004, a Taiwanese electronics firm named MediaTek  unveiled its latest product--a cell-phone-in-a-box aimed at manufacturers, equipped with everything they needed to make the guts of a working phone on one chipset. Write some software, add features, and snap a plastic case on the front and you've produced a new model. It was an immediate hit with China’s notorious counterfeiters, the shanzhai .
In 2004, MediaTek sold 3 million of its chips ; six years later, its sales had soared to 500 million, more than a third of the worldwide market. Nearly half of those went to shanzhai. The sudden ability to design, manufacture, and ship millions of dirt-cheap handsets in total secrecy led to an explosion in Internet-enabled devices in China. “Five years ago, there were no counterfeit phones,” the sales manager at a Chinese component manufacturer told The New York Times in 2009. “You needed a design house. You needed software guys. You needed hardware design. But now, a company with five guys can do it.”
After conquering China, smuggled shanzhai phones made spectrum so valuable that India’s telcos allegedly bribed government ministers to get their hands on it for $40 billion less than it was worth, triggering an ongoing scandal that might bring down the government. Once India cracked down, however, the shanzhai were forced to look for new markets further afield, to the Middle East--where the glut of cheap phones would help enable the Arab Spring.
2. “Nckias” And “Blockberrys”
The key to the cheap phones was the combination of MediaTek’s chipsets and the vast component bazaars of Shenzhen. While MediaTek’s engineers focused on adding software features such as touchscreen recognition and instant messaging to their chips, shanzhai tricked out basic models with speakers, telescopic photo lenses, and flashlight-strength LEDs. Before long, “Nckias” and “Blockberrys” began appearing across Shenzhen and Shanghai.(more...)
By Hank Pellissier
World Future Society Blog, May 25, 2011
What can stop eco-disasters? Advanced technology? Perhaps, but the savior also might be a 40-million-year-old plant… Bamboo is shooting into prominence as a flexible friend of humanity. The skinny stalk with the whispering leaves and white roots is exhibiting a husky talent as a cure for multiple planetary illnesses.
The long weed has been showered in recent years with optimistic praise. Here is a partial list of its complimentary monikers:
The Wonder Grass
The Phenomenon of the Vegetable Kingdom
The 21st Century Eco-Fiber
The Future of Sustainability
The Natural Material of the 21st Century
The Future of Green Fashion
The Poster Child for Environmentally-Friendly Accessorizing
The World’s Fastest-Growing Renewable Resource
The Premiere Construction Material of Our Time
Name your main fret. Are you suffocating with fear of greenhouse gases? An acre of bamboo absorbs 33% more carbon dioxide and releases 35% more oxygen than hardwood trees. Forests of bamboo—which can thrive at subtropical sea level and on 12,000 foot mountains—can provide our lungs with an increase of our favorite gas.
Limbs quivering with despair due to deforestation? Yes, one million acres per week are lost to lumbering, and hardwoods—like oak or teak—can require up to 50 years to reach maturity. Pulp woods like poplar, eucalyptus, and pine require six to ten years, but fast-growing bamboo only needs three to five years before harvesting, with certain varieties skyrocketing up a shocking one meter per day! Harvested bamboo forests also require no additional planting; new shoots emerge from its extensive root system.(more...)
(A Critique of Michael Lind’s Salon Article, ‘Everything
you've heard about fossil fuels may be wrong’)
By David Schwartzman
It’s the other way around. Nearly everything we hear from Lind in this Salon piece (May 31, 2011) is wrong, except for his argument that huge potential reserves of fossil fuel will likely prove peak oil boosters being big exaggerators. The latter news may not be wrong, but it is hardly comforting.
More importantly, Lind’s uninformed dismissal of solar power as a real alternative is typical misinformation that we can expect from the fossil fuel/nuclear lobbies. And his misplaced optimism regarding the unlikelihood of catastrophic climate change (C3) from rising levels of greenhouse gas is still another unsubstantiated claim. We’re used to hearing this from scientifically illiterate global warming deniers. Why Lind chooses to join them is a puzzle.
Whenever peak fossil fuel usage occurs--either from the exhaustion of reserves or replacement by alternatives--the Age of Fossil Fuels will soon be over. Human civilization and existing biodiversity will simply not sustain ever rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane. We have precious little time, if any at all, to radically reduce carbon emissions and replace fossil fuel energy with solar. This is fundamentally why Lind's born again fossil fuel enthusiasm is so misplaced. If he has the facts and science to claim otherwise, he should produce it. As a scientist involved in this field, I don’t think he can.(more...)
SolidarityEconomy.net via Grist Magazine
26 May 2011 - Capital Bikeshare gives you access to 1,100 bicycles around the city.Photo: DDOT DCDo you know what it means to be "dockblocked"? (Don't worry, that's a "D," not a "C," fellas.)
If the answer is yes, you are probably a regular user of the Capital Bikeshare system in Washington, D.C. Dockblocked is what you call it when you can't dock your bikeshare bike because all the spaces are full in the station where you want to stop.
It's one of very few glitches in a system that has proven popular beyond the hopes of city officials who launched it last fall.
And the fact that CaBi, as Capital Bikeshare is known, has added a new word to the language in Washington is one indicator of how it is changing the way this city thinks about transportation -- and has the potential to profoundly change the way people see and experience the city.
A recent essay by Kasey Klimes on Next American City talked about the radically transformative potential of bikes in an urban environment:(more...)
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