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Wed Dec 17th, 2014 at 11:34:19 PM EST
Solar Microgrids in Tanzania:
Maasai Stoves & Solar Project
81 Kirkland Street, Unit 2, Cambridge, MA 02138
Water biomonitoring in Costa Rica:
1120 Meadows Road, Franklin, North Carolina 28734
More about these programs below.
Sun Dec 7th, 2014 at 10:42:02 PM EST
In 1983, a couple of years after the second of the 1970s oil shocks and at a time when petroleum prices were relatively low, in a village near Graz, Austria, in the province of Styria, a farmer and an engineer led a group of 32 people in building simple do it yourself solar heaters. They said, "Our primary aim was to build a collector that was inexpensive and easy to build for every one of us. Having become aware of the finiteness of natural resources, we also aimed at avoiding all material waste in constructing the collector. Other important aspects were the saving of energy, environmental protection, and community building. Everybody was expected to build their own collector in order to be sufficiently familiar with its function."
By the end of 1984, two more self-building groups with more than 100 participants were needed to meet the local demand for such solar heaters. By 1986, the do it yourself groups were producing more collector surface area than all the commercial suppliers in Austria. In 1987, the first build-it-yourself guide was published and in 1988 the Association for Renewable Energy (AEE) was founded to institutionalize the group build, self build, do it yourself solar movement which now included about 50 groups and more than 1,000 participants.
By the end of 1998 there were 360,000 m2 of solar collector area and about 30,000 household solar hot water heating systems built by the do it yourselfers, out of 100,000 private household solar systems with 1.3 million m2 of plate collector surface in all of Austria. For a decade and more, do it yourself, self-build groups dominated the Austrian solar industry and the model was exported to Switzerland, the Czech and Slovak Republics, and Slovenia.
Tue Dec 2nd, 2014 at 10:11:12 PM EST
"In a strategy approved by the utility's advisory board yesterday, E.ON [Germany's biggest utility] is preparing to split into two separate companies sometime next year. The new (as-yet-unnamed) company will take on the company's coal, gas and nuclear assets, as well as its trading business and hydropower plants.
"Once the spinoff is complete in 2016, E.ON will focus exclusively on renewable energy, energy efficiency, digitizing the distribution network and enabling customer-sited energy sources like storage paired with solar. The reformed utility will be active in Europe, North America and Turkey."
Wed Nov 19th, 2014 at 01:27:02 PM EST
On Friday 11/14/14, Ranganayakulu Bodavula Ph D, Chairman and Managing Director of Thrive® Solar Energy Pvt Ltd (http://www.thriveenergy.co.in), spoke at Harvard's Center for Population Studies (http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/population-development/). On Monday 11/17/14, he spoke to the MIT student group, e4Dev [Energy for Development] (http://e4dev.tumblr.com).
Thrive Solar Energy Pvt Ltd is a leading solar powered LED lighting solutions provider from India, offering
"14 types of solar powered LED lights that cater to the lighting needs of children, women, households and villages. Its lights are used by tea estate workers, farmers, weavers, vendors, dairy and any other village level vocation that is in need of a clean, safe and reliable light. Thrive Solar partners with NGOs, women Self Help Groups (SHGs), Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs), funding agencies, banks, donors, educational institutions and businesses to promote and distribute its lighting products to bottom of the pyramid (BOP) communities, located in off-grid and intermittently grid connected geographies."
Thrive is making 2 million lights per year at a price as low as $2 per lamp and are projecting 4 million per year production soon. They do not sell directly to consumers but through the different agencies with which they work. Nearly half of India still uses 12 lumen candles and 40 lumen kerosene lamps which can be replaced with 60 lumen solar lights. Currently, the Indian government subsidizes kerosene and paraffin prices by $6 billion per year. Thrive says it can provide solar lights to every Indian family now for about $1 billion.
Tue Oct 28th, 2014 at 12:00:11 AM EST
Just wanted to make sure people know about this upcoming conference which may be the start of something really exciting. I know from my monitoring of Harvard, MIT, and other universities that ecosystem solutions to climate change are not only not on their radar but met with antagonism when brought up. The conference organizers can use your help (and mine) in getting the word out.
Restoring Ecosystems to Reverse Global Warming
We have solutions!
More of our man-made carbon emissions to date have come from land mismanagement and the resulting loss of soil carbon than from burning fossil fuels. The good news is that we know how to remove that atmospheric carbon and store it back into the soils where it belongs, by harnessing the power of nature.
Restoring Ecosystems to Reverse Global Warming is a 3-day conference with the goal to bring the power of biology front and center in the climate conversation. We are bringing together a stellar roster of speakers--scientists, land managers and activists--and participants from around the world to learn from one another and to devise strategies to expand vast natural soil carbon sinks around the world. To learn more about the speakers: http://bio4climate.org/conference-2014/speakers/
Help us support the conference!
Donations will keep tickets affordable, provide scholarships, pay for materials, assist with major outreach efforts before and after the conference, and help support our hard-working and dedicated staff. Any contribution is greatly appreciated!
Restoring Ecosystems to Reverse Global Warming is hosted by the Tufts Institute of the Environment and the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts.
Tue Oct 7th, 2014 at 10:58:42 PM EST
Something is happening in the organic farming community. This year the Northeast Organic Farming Association has been exploring carbon farming, "regenerative organic agricultural techniques for sequestering atmospheric carbon in stable soil aggregates." The NOFA Summer Conference at the beginning of August (http://www.nofasummerconference.org) had a Soil Carbon and Climate Track with eight presenters, including the keynoter, Dr. Elaine Ingham, who gave workshops about farming methods that take carbon from the air and add it to the soil while improving fertility and tilth.
The sessions are available at
In September, the MA chapter of NOFA (NOFAMASS) (http://www.nofamass.org) held two seminars in Amherst and Newton with the Australian soil scientist, Christine Jones explaining the science of soil systems and talking about practical ways to sequester carbon in soil:
My notes from the Newton workshop
On Monday, November 3, 2014, NOFAMASS will have an all-day workshop on Succeeding with Grass-Fed Beef: Human Health, Carbon Sequestration, and Farm Viability at Heifer International, 216 Wachusett Street, Rutland, MA led by Ridge Shinn, an expert in grass-fed and grass-finished beef with experience in all parts of the industry.
Registration questions: Christine Rainville, 508-572-0816, firstname.lastname@example.org
Event information: Ben Grosscup, 413-658-5374, email@example.com
"What we are learning from the presenters recorded above is that not only is the world in enormous danger from climate disruption, but also the regenerative organic agricultural practices that NOFA promotes offer genuine promise for a livable future on this planet."
Organic farming saves the world. Rebuild soils while producing more and more nutritious food all while taking carbon out of the atmosphere. Sounds to me like ecological systems design or geotherapy.
Tue Aug 26th, 2014 at 04:38:23 PM EST
The Tricorder XPrize (http://www.qualcommtricorderxprize.org) is a $10 million contest
"to bring healthcare to the palm of your hand.
Imagine a portable, wireless device in the palm of your hand that monitors and diagnoses your health conditions. That's the technology envisioned by this competition, and it will allow unprecedented access to personal health metrics."
22 teams have paid the $5000 entry fee, 10 finalists will be chosen, up to 10 models will be tested by consumers May-October 2015, and the winning entry will be announced by December 2015.
One of the entries is Scanadu which seems to have a "$150 tricorder" already on the market
"The Scanadu SCOUT is incredibly easy to use--just raise the handheld device (connected by Bluetooth to a smartphone) to your temple, and wait 10 seconds for it to scan your vital signs, including temperature, ECG, SPO2, heart rate, breathing rate, and pulse transit time (that helps measure blood pressure). 'It lets the consumer explore all the diagnostic possibilities of an emergency room,' explains co-founder Walter De Brouwer, a Belgian futurist and entrepreneur who first prototyped a backpack-sized tricorder-like device in the late 1990s."
University of Florida's wireless and remote vital signs monitoring system may be available (for pets) as early as 2016:
Sun Jul 27th, 2014 at 07:33:38 PM EST
I've been going to public lectures on climate change at Harvard, MIT, and other places since at least 1980. Lately I've been thinking that I have yet to hear an ecologist talk about the subject. I've seen climatologists, atmospheric chemists, atmospheric physicists, glaciologists, rocket scientists (thanks, S Fred Singer), oceanographers, and geologists address the subject. But I can't recall hearing an ecologist talk about climate change and ecological systems. This becomes even more frustrating to me when I attend a lecture on geoengineering. In the last couple of years, a joint Harvard and MIT group has been meeting to discuss this topic and the enormous intellectual effort devoted to rather simplistic solutions to complex systems problems is astonishing to me, especially since there seems to be such a great reluctance to engage on the systems issues.
Recently, some friends and colleagues have begun trying to remedy the situation, focusing on the global carbon cycle and, in particular, soil carbon. Part of this is through the work of Allan Savory and his practice of Holistic Management in relation to livestock grazing patterns. Another part is through the work of Tom Goreau protecting and, in some cases, restoring coral reefs. Through their efforts, this year's Northeast Organic Farming Association Summer Conference will have an extensive "Soil Carbon and Climate Track" introducing practicing farmers to ways in which their daily work can sequester carbon from the atmosphere for years, decades, and even centuries, becoming an important tool in diminishing climate change and, just possibly, reversing it.
A few weeks later, the NOFA Massachusetts chapter will host two day-long workshops with Dr. Christine Jones, an Australian soil biologist, on "Practical Options for Food Production Resilience in an Increasingly Variable Climate." One workshop will be in the Boston area and the other will be in Western Massachusetts.
Lastly and certainly not least, they are organizing a conference at Tufts University at the end of November on "Restoring Ecosystems to Reverse Global Warming." Not only will the conference bring together experts from all over the world to talk about ecosystem solutions to confront climate change and global warming but it is also designed to start a global conversation and network to begin practicing these systemic solutions, sharing what works and understanding what doesn't and why.
This is a development I have long waited for and will participate in as much as I can.
Mon Jul 21st, 2014 at 01:12:41 PM EST
Switzerland came to the Boston area a week or so ago. There was a conversation with one of the political leaders of the country, Doris Leuthard, Councillor of the Swiss Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy, and Communications, at MIT on "Future Energy Supply and Security in Switzerland" and the next day a seminar on Watt d'Or, the Swiss award for the best energy projects in the country (http://www.bfe.admin.ch/org/00483/00638/?lang=en), at Northeastern University to celebrate the opening of an exhibit that will stay up at Northeastern's International Village until September.
I attended both events and learned quite a few exciting ideas from the Swiss and, inadvertently, something more about the limitations of MIT's view of the energy future.
Tue Jul 1st, 2014 at 10:39:17 PM EST
I spent the Christmas weekend of 2010 with Henri Cartier-Bresson, watching the few documentaries he made and a few documentaries about him. I've always liked his photographs, who could not? His idea of capturing the decisive moment and his success in that make his black and white photos immediate and living. In one documentary, he is shown photographing a street market in Paris, dancing to capture that instant when something, anything happens. He is thin and dapper in his suit and as graceful as Fred Astaire.
His impatience with being called an artist and his work art resonates with me. For him, the camera is an extension of his eye and the geometry of the image is what makes it work:
"The greatest joy for me is geometry, that means a structure. You can go shooting for shapes or patterns and all this but it's a sensuous pleasure an intellectual pleasure at the same time, to have everything in the right place. It's a recognition of an order which is in front of you." When eye, heart, and mind are aligned in the shot, he has what reveals, what remains. His refusal to use light meters and flashes, his respect for the subjects of his regard is more than admirable; it is necessary for the quality of his work and shines through it.
Sat Jun 28th, 2014 at 03:00:25 PM EST
A few months ago, I found an old paperback book called Skis Against the Atom by Captain Knut Haukelid (London: William Kimber and Company, 1954) and bought it. As a lifelong skier with a father who served in the original US ski troops, the 10th Mountain Division, in WWII, I felt that I had to pick it up. It is the memoir of a Norwegian soldier who fled Norway to England when the Germans occupied his country and then returned after training to commit sabotage and organize the resistance in his home country, far behind enemy lines. Captain Haukelid was one of the soldiers who committed what some call the most successful act of sabotage in WWII: they blew up the heavy water manufacturing facility in Vemork near the Rjukan Falls in the Telemark region and, later, destroyed the store of heavy water that it had produced while it was en route to Germany. This small group stopped the Nazis from building an atomic bomb.
Thu Jun 12th, 2014 at 08:53:48 PM EST
Solar is power and currency not only as energy, electricity, heat but also as politics, economics, and sociology. Solar energy is, by definition, local production, swadeshi, what Gandhi called the "heart of satyagraha," soul force, non-violent action.
Gandhi would spin for an hour each day, usually producing a hundred yards of thread, and helped develop a simple spinning wheel (charkha) that allowed many to do the same. He believed that spinning was the foundation of non-violence. I believe this type of practical labor has to be the core of any sustainable ecological action.
We need a solar swadeshi, an ecological practice on a daily basis that allows us to live within our solar income. Gandhi used the charkha, the spinning wheel. What would be an ecological charkha, a solar charkha?
Could we do with electricity what Gandhi did with cloth, at least for emergencies and disasters? Can hand-made electricity, 21st century khadi cloth, provide real electrical power to the people and a survival level of energy independence and autonomy?
Here are some examples where solar energy is building economies that are closer to the practices of a Gandhian economics, a non-violent economics, a solar swadeshi, a kind of sun money.
Sat May 3rd, 2014 at 04:45:50 PM EST
On Friday, May 2, 2014 FossilFreeMIT (http://www.fossilfreemit.org) declared a flood zone all around their campus at Hurricane Sandy strength plus projected 2050 sea level rise to publicize their divestment campaign. It was also a good advertisement for the same weekend's annual Sustainability Conference focusing on resilience and coastal cities. Here's how the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer looks under this climate change scenario.
Sun Apr 27th, 2014 at 03:28:29 PM EST
Just read these two short books, pamphlets really or essays, both bookstore finds, one in the MIT Press bookstore hurt books and the other in Harvard Books remainder section, both from France:
The Administration of Fear by Paul Virilio with Bertrand Richard
LA: Semiotext(e), 2012
The Path of Hope by Stéphane Hessel and Edgar Morin
NY: Other Press, 2012
Virilio is a sociologist and urban planner and the book/pamphlet/essay is about the present as a manifestation of speed and terror based upon Hannah Arendt's and Günther Anders' idea "Terror is the realization of the law of movement" from their The Origins of Totalitarianism. The title of the book/pamphlet is a play on Graham Greene's WWII espionage novel The Ministry of Fear.
Whether we like it or not, we cannot separate the magnitude of power, or success, from the magnitude of poverty, or finitude. Our collective determination to separate them has led us to the third great fear, the ecological fear. The Earth is too small for progress; it is too small for instant profit. Acceleration dominating accumulation ("just-in-time, zero stock") is making it implode before our eyes. Consider the logics of distribution that we see today: there are fewer and fewer warehouses, almost no stock, only the flow of goods. You can see how acceleration, the pure speed of circulation, has overcome accumulation. Turbo-capitalism has exploded the capitalism of accumulation and the major banks in favor of even larger banks that no nation state will ever be able to bail out.
Stéphane Hessel and Edgar Morin are both veterans of the French Resistance and fighters against what they call Vichyism, the collaboration with the Fascist occupiers. Hessel wrote another short book/pamphlet/essay translated as Time for Outrage: Indignez-vous! which was one of the European manifestations of political unrest in the year(s) of the Arab Spring, the Spanish Indignados, and Occupy Wall Street. This book/pamphlet/essay is a follow-up with some recommendations of how to wrest control from the plutocrats:
A new and independent national policy is possible. This political approach would follow the twofold principles we have set forth: globalize and deglobalize, develop and envelop. Deglobalization and envelopment, as we have pointed out, safeguard the vital interests of homelands and regions, while at the same time protecting living cultures. This twofold principle is the basis for a political approach that guarantees links of global and national solidarity, fellowship among the various local collectives, and the benefits of local farming.
As someone who went from the antiwar movement into the environmental movement into the local agricultural economy, there is much here to appeal to me. Growing your own food is a radically (all puns intended) subversive act in this financialized and globalized society. That 50% of the US population do it is an unrecognized constituency for change.
Sun Apr 20th, 2014 at 09:06:07 PM EST
James Hansen visited MIT on April 15 and April 16 and gave two public talks. One was for Fossil Free MIT (http://www.fossilfreemit.org), a new student group concerned with divestment, on the politics of climate change, "Combatting the Climate Crisis: the Path from Science to Action," and the other was for the climate science community on "Ice Sheet Melt, Sea Level and Storms," the subject of a paper he is now working on.
The good news is that, according to Hansen, we do not have to worry about catastrophic methane releases from the tundra or ocean clathrates as the paleoclimate record shows there were no such releases in higher temperature periods.
The bad news is that, according to a paper Hansen is now working on, we do have to worry about the effects of ice sheet melt on ocean currents and thermoclines as well as the possibility of dramatic wind intensity increases in storms. Again, based upon the paleoclimate and geologic record.
Mon Mar 10th, 2014 at 11:22:02 PM EST
HEET [Home Energy Efficiency Team http://www.heetma.com ], a Cambridge, MA nonprofit which organizes public weatherization parties and barnraisings, is crowd funding a natural gas leak monitoring project in Cambridge and Somerville. Boston University Professor Nathan Phillips, who drove the streets of Boston last year with a high-precision methane analyzer to find 3,356 natural gas leaks, will loan HEET his methane analyzer and other equipment to drive the roof Cambridge and Somerville roads mapping every leak. Moving at 15 MPH, covering both sides of every street should take about three weeks. You can learn more about HEET'S Squeaky Leak project and help fund it, if so inclined, at http://www.heetma.com/what-we-do/squeaky-leak/
Professor Phillips will analyze and map the results and HEET will do the driving, following up thusly:
Map of the leaks on the HEET website
Report the leaks to NSTAR to get all Grade 1 leaks fixed
Share the location and amount of leaks with the governments of Somerville and Cambridge so they can work with NSTAR to fix these leaks
Publicize the map to raise awareness about natural gas leaks in order to make sure effective actions are taken on the ground and in our legislature ( https://malegislature.gov/Bills/BillHtml/122690?generalCourtId=11 ) as soon as possible to reduce the leaks not only in Massachusetts, but across the country
Lastly, to compare the amount and number of leaks between Cambridge and Somerville, to see whether Cambridge's decade-long policy of fining NSTAR heavily for opening any roadway that the City is not already working on, while charging it nothing to repair pipes under the roads the City is about to work on succeeded. Since NSTAR has not shared with the city any map or information about the current or past gas leaks, Cambridge does not know whether this policy worked or not. HEET's and Prof Phillips' project would provide that data.
Wed Feb 26th, 2014 at 02:35:48 PM EST
Peter Wilson (in a Cambridgewickedlocal with news from the Chronicle and Tab LtE http://cambridge.wickedlocal.com/article/20140220/NEWS/140229717/2014/OPINION) wrote that "Net zero is not a practical goal in New England" and that may or may not be true. There are a number of net zero energy single and two family buildings in NE, including in colder climates than Cambridge, MA like Vermont, although the experience with larger and high rise net zero energy buildings is just beginning. However, there are a few examples that approach net zero, including one in Vienna, Austria, the Raffeisens Bank, a 21 story building built to PassivHaus standards (http://www.viennareview.net/news/ideas-and-trends/raiffeisens-upward-sustainability).
Whether or not net zero is a practical goal, it is an essential thought experiment we need to run. By viewing net zero energy as an approachable goal, the way statistical quality control views zero defects on a production line under Total Quality Management, we will assuredly come across many different ways we can reduce our energy needs, perhaps significantly.
I say we are not going far enough. We should be thinking not only about net zero energy but also zero emissions throughout our infrastructure. We know that pollution causes problems, that pollution is waste, and should be smart enough, wise enough to think about reducing the waste we generate to as close to zero as possible. I like the motto of Zero Waste Europe (http://www.zerowasteeurope.eu), "If you are not for zero waste, how much waste are you for?"
If you are not for net zero energy, how much wasted energy are you for?
However, even if we mandate that all new buildings achieve net zero energy, we still have to fix our existing buildings and probably have to start developing district heating and cooling to become a net zero energy community. This is a hard problem and requires concentrated efforts. Net zero energy for new buildings, if it is achievable (and I believe it is), is still only a start.
Thanks for your time and your work.
Sat Jan 18th, 2014 at 06:49:59 PM EST
Help empower coastal Caribbean communities with a solar sailboat that will provide workshops and materials for solar electric modules, solar cookers and phone chargers. Campaign now going on at Indiegogo: $18,000 over the next 40 days.
This is a project of Dr. Richard Komp, a solar scientist who has worked since 1977 empowering rural communities with solar energy projects around the world, providing both hands-on teaching and renewable resources.
Sat Jan 11th, 2014 at 09:10:11 PM EST
Susan Murcott, Bob Lange, and Richard Komp are three grassroots environmental activists who are changing lives all around the world. Susan is a water researcher whose work on simple water filters has benefitted the lives of hundreds of thousands of people from Guatemala to Ghana. Her latest project is building a block of toilets for a school in a village in Ghana, the second project of this kind she has been involved with. Bob is a physics professor who has been doing science education in Africa for many years, an activity that morphed into installing small solar systems for villages in Tanzania and now into designing, building, and installing efficient cookstoves with the Maasai people. This year, his work is expanding into Uganda. Richard is a solar expert who has worked on everything from the physics of solar electricity to building solar stoves from scrap. He has been teaching people all around the world how to do solar as a cottage industry for about three decades now. His latest idea is to outfit a sailboat as a floating solar workshop that can teach people throughout the Caribbean how to better their lives with simple solar technologies. You can read his reports on his international work at http://www.mainesolar.org/Komp.html
I consider myself immensely privileged to know all three of these remarkable and remarkably effective people.
Mon Jan 6th, 2014 at 07:36:15 PM EST
I'd like to participate in an ongoing on and off line brainstorm using Buckminster Fuller's World Game design criteria, "How can we make the world work for 100 percent of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological damage or disadvantage to anyone?" and one of Bill McDonough's Ecological Design Principles, "Use only available solar income."
Here are some free resources that are edging, gingerly, towards that possibility.
"Age of Sustainable Development (https:/www.coursera.org/course/susdev) gives students an understanding of the key challenges and pathways to sustainable development - that is, economic development that is also socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable."
free 14 week course taught by Jeffrey Sachs
starting January 21
Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided (https:/www.coursera.org/course/warmerworld )
"It is now becoming clear that without necessary climate action, the world may become 4°C warmer by the end of this century. As this threatens to roll back decades of development progress, this is a `make or break' point. This course presents the most recent scientific evidence as well as some of the opportunities for urgent action."
free World Bank MOOC [Massive Open Online Course] on climate change
starting January 27
by DoDo - Dec 21
by gmoke - Dec 2
by LEP - Dec 9