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Tue May 19th, 2015 at 06:03:10 PM EST
Costa Rica has provided all of its electricity from renewables, usually a mix of 68 percent hydro, 15 percent geothermal, and 17% mostly diesel and gas, for the first 100 days of 2015. The Tico Times reports (http://www.ticotimes.net/2015/04/22/costa-ricas-renewable-energy-streak-is-still-going-but-what-does
"The clean energy streak is likely to continue. Last Friday [April 17, 2015] ICE (Costa Rica Electricity Institute) released a report estimating that 97 percent of the country's electricity will be produced from renewables this year. This is good news for Costa Rican residents, who will see their electricity prices drop up to 15 percent starting this month."
In 2016, Costa Rica is a launching a satellite to monitor CO2 across the world tropical belt
"...the first Central American satellite, built in Costa Rica, will be launched into space in 2016. The satellite will collect and relay daily data on carbon dioxide to evaluate the effects of climate change."
Costa Rica announced in 2009 that it plans to be a carbon neutral country by 2021 and they are following through on that planning.
Wed Apr 29th, 2015 at 01:40:57 PM EST
I was cleaning out my storeroom the other day and came across another recycled solar device that I was fooling with a few years ago. A one liter clear plastic bottle makes a good hot cap or cloche when you cut the bottom off it. Plant a seedling, pop the bottomless clear cap over it, and you protect the seedling from the cold. It probably adds between 5 and 10 degrees F over the outside temperature by protecting the seedling from the wind and by capturing sunlight in a small, closed space. My twist on this idea was to find different sizes of clear plastic bottles which could nest one inside the other making a double-glazed hot cap cloche. A double-glazed hot cap cloche might be able to protect the seedlings even better, keeping that small, closed space even warmer than the outside air.
This afternoon, I planted two tomato seedlings in my garden using this device. We'll see whether it works.
Wed Apr 1st, 2015 at 11:17:52 PM EST
Tuesday, March 31 I saw Andreas Kraemer, International Institute for Advanced Sustainability in Pottsdam, founder of the Ecological Institute of Berlin, and currently associated with Duke University, speak at both Harvard and MIT. His subject was the German Energiewende, energy turnaround, energy tack (as in sailing), or energy transition, and also the title of a book published in 1980 (Energiewende by Von F. Krause, H. Bossel and K. F. Müller-Reissmann) 1980 which described how to power Germany without fossil fuels or nuclear, partially a response to the oil shocks of the 1970s, and probably the beginning of the nuclear phase-out. Chernobyl in 1986 gave another shove in that direction and continues to do so as Chernobyl is still happening in Germany with radioactive contamination of soils, plants, animals, and Baltic Sea fish.
In 1990 the feedin tariff began but it was not started for solar. It was originally intended to give displaced hydroelectric capacity in conservative Bavaria a market and a bill was passed in Parliament very quickly, supported by the Conservatives (Blacks) in consensus with the Greens and Reds as they all agreed on incentizing renewable, local energy production through a feedin tariff on utility bills. Cross party consensus on this issue remains today. This is not a subsidy but an incentive with the costs paid by the customers. The feedin tariff has a period of 20 years and some have been retired.
Solar began with the 1000 roofs project in 1991-1994. There are 1.7 million solar roofs now although, currently, Spain and Portugal have faster solar growth rates than Germany. Renewables provide 27% of electricity, have created 80,000-100,000 new jobs directly in the industry, up to 300,000 if indirect jobs are added, and is contributing 40 billion euros per year to the German economy. By producing energy domestically Germany has built a local industry, increased tax revenue and Social Security payments, and maintained a better balance of trade through import substitution. During the recession that began in 2008, Germany had more economic stability and was even able to expand the renewable sector because steel for wind turbine towers was available at lower prices and financing was forthcoming.
Thu Mar 26th, 2015 at 04:18:28 PM EST
For the past year, the Cambridge, MA city government has had a Getting to Net Zero Task Force studying the implications of a net zero energy building requirement. They finished the draft report on March 16, 2015 and will have an open forum to introduce the study to the public on Wednesday, April 8.
The Task Force defined net zero as "an annual balance of zero greenhouse gas emissions from building operations citywide, achieved through improved energy efficiency and carbon-free energy production," applying it to the net zero target at the community level (citywide).
Net zero new construction (at the building level as opposed to citywide) is defined as "developments that achieve net zero emissions from their operations, through energy efficient design, onsite renewable energy, renewable energy infrastructure such as district energy, and, if appropriate, the limited purchase of RECs [Renewable Energy Credits] and GHG [Greenhouse Gas] offsets."
The objectives for the proposed actions from 2015 to 2035 and beyond include
(a) ...target of Net Zero Emissions for new construction: New buildings should achieve net zero beginning in 2020, starting with municipal buildings and phasing in the requirement for other building types between 2022-2030.
(b) targeted improvements to existing buildings: The Building Energy Use and Disclosure Ordinance (BEUDO) will provide the information necessary to target energy retrofit activity, including, over the long term, the regulation of energy efficiency retrofits at time of renovation and/or sale of property.
(c) proliferation of renewable energy: Increase renewable energy generation, beginning with requiring solar-ready new construction and support for community solar projects, evolving to a minimum requirement for onsite renewable energy generation.
(d) coordinated communications and engagement: Support from residents and key stakeholders is imperative to the success of the initiative.
You can read the full report at http://www.cambridgema.gov/CDD/Projects/Climate/~/media/6087FF675ADE4D51A6677E689D996465.ashx
and access other information about the Task Force at http://www.cambridgema.gov/CDD/Projects/Climate/netzerotaskforce.aspx
Sat Mar 7th, 2015 at 09:11:27 PM EST
Here's the text of a presentation I did March 4, 2015 at Northeast Sustainable Energy Association's Building Energy conference in Boston, MA. This was the first time the conference addressed urban agriculture.
Everybody eats and it's primarily solar powered. We are all solar powered through the food that we eat. Officially, we produce between 95 and 100 quadrillion btu's of energy per year in the US, an amount that's remained steady for the last 15 years or so while the GDP has continued to increase. However, we don't count any of the sunlight that powers photosynthesis on the crops we consume. All that sunlight is "free" and not included. A back of the envelope estimate is that there's at least 300 quadrillion btu's of sunlight required for the photosynthesis that grows our food. Our world is solar powered, has always been solar powered, will always be solar powered until the sun dies out.
Everybody eats and, by last count, 35% of all households in America, or 42 million households, are growing food at home or in a community garden, up 17% in the last five years. Gardening for food tends to go up in times of economic distress. Add those households which grow flowers or have a houseplant and I'd estimate about half of us garden.
Everybody eats, half of us garden, and everybody poops. In a fully functioning ecosystem "waste equals food." Cities, neighborhoods, and buildings are all beginning to be seen and designed as metabolisms, taking in raw materials, processing them, and producing wastes which can then be used as a feedstock for other processes. We are becoming biomimetic and learning from such fellow creatures as termites how to control heat and cold and humidity. Termites also "garden" and keep livestock, one of the ways that the temperature and humidity remains constant within their mounds. We are also learning how we can design ecological systems to process our own wastes safely into fertilizer and food.
Tue Feb 24th, 2015 at 11:06:30 PM EST
Cities scale is where real climate change adaptation is taking place, now, whether or not we have national or international agreements on greenhouse gases. Cities and regions have to deal with weather emergencies and, it turns out, preparing for weather emergencies and other natural disasters is very much like adapting to climate change. The best of it can be climate mitigation, too.
One way cities are climbing the learning curve is by holding design competitions. In Boston, the city, the Harbor Association, the Redevelopment Authority, and the Society of Architects are hosting Boston Living with Water, an international call for design solutions that create a "more resilient, more sustainable, and more beautiful Boston adapted for end-of-the-century climate conditions and rising sea levels." They will be announcing the finalist on Thursday, February 26 but you can vote on which of the 49 different plans you like until 12 pm (EST) on Wednesday, February 25 at http://www.bostonlivingwithwater.org/submission-gallery
The contest is based upon the recent reports by the Harbor Association on sea level rise and the Building Resilience in Boston study by the Green Ribbon Commission. Supporting documentation also includes "Designing with Water: Creative Solutions from Around the Globe" which presents twelve case studies from around the world [pdf alert]:
World-wide networks and best practices case studies can be very helpful.
Thu Jan 15th, 2015 at 11:17:47 PM EST
We are going into our fifth month of demonstrations and actions all over the USA about police violence and sanctioned summary judgment. Hearing, reading, seeing the news, it seems as if brutality, terror, and torture are breaking out worldwide, with beheadings and mass killings happening at, perhaps, a quickening rate. Violence meeting violence to make more violence, intertribal problems stuck on stupid, here and abroad.
Recently, I saw a DVD of "The Interrupters," (http://interrupters.kartemquin.com) on an open cart in the library and I took it home. It's a documentary about a group called Ceasefire which "interrupts" street violence between gangs and violent individuals in Chicago. CeaseFire's founder, Gary Slutkin, is an epidemiologist who believes that violence spreads like an infectious disease and uses a "medical" treatment: "go after the most infected, and stop the infection at its source," to stop it. One part of that treatment is the "Violence Interrupters" program, created by Tio Hardiman, a group of street-credible, mostly former offenders who defuse conflict before it becomes violence. They can speak from experience about consequences and how "no matter what the additional violence is not going to be helpful."
About the same time, a friend wrote me about a radio interview (http://www.ttbook.org/book/reforming-lapd) with Constance Rice, a civil rights attorney and cousin to the former Secretary of State, who has trained 50 LA police officers over the last five years in "public trust policing" at Nickerson Gardens, an LA public housing project.
I picked up "The Interrupters" because I was wondering why we didn't hear about this group in relation to what has been happening with the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamar Rice and others. I listened to the interview with Constance Rice for the same reason. Why haven't I seen Ms Rice, Gary Slutkin, or Tio Hardiman on my TV screen and all over "social media"? They are doing some things which have proven to work in their own communities. How much of what they've done in Chicago and LA can apply to NYC and Boston and other places all around the world? Can they teach us all how to interrupt our own violence and to build a system of public trust policing? As Tio Hardiman says in the DVD: "We've been taught violence. Violence is learned behavior." Can these people and the others like them teach us how to unlearn our violent behavior?
We'll never know unless their voices are part of the conversation.
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.
by gmoke - May 19
by talos - Apr 29