“Controversial” environmentalist Michael Shellenberger was on Colbert the other day. Shellenberger argues that environmentalists need to embrace new technologies, such as nuclear power, rather than reject them routinely.
I like his thinking. He challenges environmentalists to reexamine their beliefs and positions without uprooting core philosophies. He makes this challenge in a way that is non-threatening and accessible. Reexamining environmentalism is, as many of my dear readers will note, a topic I’ve written about many times.
Could ethical concerns ultimately drive public acceptance of the new food technology? Cor van der Weele, Professor of Humanistic Philosophy at Wageningen University, is convinced that’s the case, with artificial meat at least. “People will see the moral benefits of cultured meats. Taking stem cells from a pig rather than killing millions of pigs in factories is already a more attractive idea to consumers.” She quotes studies of the viability of growing meat in sunlight-fuelled “bio-reactors” placed in desert areas: the reduction in resources is staggering. “It would require 1% of the land and just 2% of the water that traditional meat production does. And it would involve a 90% reduction in greenhouse gases,” she says.
Eating real meat in 2035 could be as morally questionable as eating foie gras – and about as expensive. As Dr Mark Post says: “A meat-eater with a bicycle is much more environmentally unfriendly than a vegetarian with a Hummer.”
Thoroughly enjoyed “Da Moose.” Norwegian tech enthusiast Eirik Solheim and friend’s took one of his mini-copters for a spin. They spotted a moose on the edge of field, hilarity ensues. Speakers <on>. I daydream about starting a consultancy that uses mini-copters to scout polluted sites for cities and sluethy enviro non-profits…
Urban Prototypingis a global movement exploring how rapidly-prototyped design, art, and technology projects can improve cities. UP Festivals are being held around the world to inspire and showcase the next generation of creative projects that address local issues.
Captures a novel trend in art and urban planning. Can’t help wonder of the longevity. These things require maintenance, advocates, and cash money…
Record made from ice is an interesting representation of the ephemeral nature of music. From Boing Boing:
Swedish band The Shout Out Louds released a limited edition of 10 promos for their new album that consisted of latex molds that you filled with distilled water, froze, and played on a turntable:
“We talked to professors at different universities telling us it would never work out, so we had to develop the technique ourselves,” he says. After receiving a negative imprint of the song’s master cut, they started experimenting; the office became a kind of amateur chemistry lab, and the team spent hours testing different types of liquid, various drying techniques, and multiple kinds of molds.
“One of the biggest challenges was that the bubbles made the ice cloudy and messed up the tiny tracks, which made the needle jump.” Further trial and error revealed that using distilled water did the trick, giving the final product a nice clarity and even surface. Another insight? Time is not, in fact, on your side when working with a frozen substance; functionality and sound quality diminish immediately once the melting starts. A silicone cast allowed for quick and easy record removal, essential to ensuring it could be used straight out of the freezer.
It’s a bit lo-fi, and the quality degrades quickly with meltage. But hey, record made of ice.
Robotic Ocean Explorer - The first autonomous ocean exploration robot has completed its journey from San Francisco to Australia. Traveling over 9000 nautical miles in just over a year, the solar powered wave-gliding robot braved sharks, survived storms, and navigated around treacherous coastal regions.
“During Papa Mau’s journey, [it] weathered gale-force storms, fended off sharks, spent more than 365 days at sea, skirted around the Great Barrier Reef, and finally battled and surfed the east Australian current to reach his final destination in Hervey Bay, near Bundaberg, Queensland.” […] “We are reaching a tipping point in that the technology is becoming so cheap that it’s now a much cheaper to use a robot to gather data than to pay for a manned ship to be at sea for months at a time.”
The U.S. Dept. of Energy has big plans. They want batteries that are five times more powerful than what we’ve got today, and they want them to be five times cheaper. All that in just five years. It’s a tall order, but they’ve got a plan: recreate the Manhattan Project.
It goes a little something like this. First, the DOE will create the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research, and then throw $120 million at them over half a decade. Then they’ll round up the best and brightest at six national labs, five universities, and four private firms. And lastly, we’ll (hopefully) get a Manhattan Project-esque leap forward in battery tech.
U.S. Energy Secretary Stephen Chu put it this way in a statement streamed live from Argonne National Laboratory where the project will be centered:
When you had to deliver the goods very, very quickly, you needed to put the best scientists next to the best engineers across disciplines to get very focused. …[It’s] very, very important for American industrial competitiveness that research be intimately linked with manufacturing in a way that will propel the United States forward. This is what the whole Hub concept is about.
How to produce more wealth with less resources? Some argue it’s through technology and newer regulations. The simple concepts in this video show how technology can (or at least should) be able to help cities become more sustainable. Stick with it.
“Design Matters: Doing Better with Less” is a short but powerful animated story about using design to create sustainable wealth, and it provides essential insights into the future of business and innovation.
The Google Maps folks debut their amazing “Trekker” camera in the Grand Canyon. #coolestjobever
On its first official outing, the Street View team is using the Trekker—a wearable backpack with a camera system on top—to traverse the Grand Canyon and capture 360-degree images of one of the most breathtaking natural landscapes on the planet.
This week, photos are being gathered from portions of the South Rim at Grand Canyon National Park, including the ridge, the famous Bright Angel Trail, South Kaibab Trail, and more. These panoramic views will soon be live on Google Maps, giving everyone from real-life visitors to armchair travelers the opportunity to marvel at this beautiful, majestic site from the comfort of their computers or mobile devices.
Update: Many positive responses. But, the argument the right is making is that Al Gore has an agenda with his talks. That he’s talking up saving the environment as a rouseruse to get people to invest in companies that he has stakes in. This is the same style of argument the left has used against politicians on the right - manipulating both markets and public-thought for personal gain. Dick Cheney, for the most egregious example, was hounded by the left for funneling contracts to Halliburton and the Carlyle Group, both of which Cheney had stakes in. In fact, some have argued his investments were an impeachable offense. I get that Gore is on the side of “good”. I understand that argument. But, it doesn’t really address the accusation that he’s talking up environmental regulations that would benefit a select group of ‘green’ companies. Thoughts?
Agricultural Robots Can Tell The Difference Between Plants and Weeds, Can Thin Crops
Lettuce Bot uses a camera to image the plants beneath it. Machine learning algorithms then identify which ones are desirable and which are weeds. It can work with iceberg and romaine lettuces.
Once a plant is identified as a weed, a target spray, which is mounted behind the camera, will then shoot a targeted spray of an organic compound, such as hot steam or hot organic oil, at the plant and the plant will quickly die,” the company told Startup Lab.
The plant-classification algorithm is 98 to 99 percent accurate, and the kill mechanism is accurate to a quarter of an inch when the prototype is moving a 1 mph. The firm wants it to move at 3 mph while keeping it on target. Blue River says its machines will be more efficient than other means of weed-killing, and will work well in organic fields or those that have chemical-resistant weeds.
I’d try it. Printed meat opens an interesting debate, testing environmentalists’ ethical arguments against eating beef. We know that on the whole raising cattle is environmentally terrible, painful for the animals, and expensive. Could distaste (eg, the “ew-ick” factor) for bio-beef turn into a viable solution? After all, it’s safe, tasty, equally nutritious, would save millions of acres of land, substantially lower carbon footprint, and raise water quality. It also nearly eliminates swine flu, Mad Cow, avian flu, tuberculosis, brucellosis, and other animal-to-human plagues. (I’d argue further that it would relieve ranchers the pain of losing a few head to wolves.)
Bio-beef would resolve countless issues, but the ick factor seems to overwhelm the arguments for it. Thus, testing the boundaries and worth of environmental ethics…
Vat-Meat Approaching the Mainstream: Peter Thiel Seeds Modern Meadow
Billionaire investor Peter Thiel’s philanthropic foundation plans to announce today a six-figure grant for bioprinted meat, part of an ambitious plan to bring to the world’s dinner tables a set of technologies originally developed for creating medical-grade tissues.
The recipient of the Thiel Foundation’s grant, a Columbia, Mo.-based startup named Modern Meadow, is pitching bioprinted meat as a more environmentally-friendly way to satisfy a natural human craving for animal protein. Co-founder Andras Forgacs has sharply criticized the overall cost of traditional livestock practices, saying “if you look at the resource intensity of everything that goes into a hamburger, it is an environmental train wreck.”
A blog about the interactions between the built environment, people, and nature.
I'm a climate change consultant specializing in climate adaptation, environmental law, and urban planning based in the U.S. In addition to traveling and hiking, I research, publish, and lecture on how cities can adapt to climate change.
Professional and sponsorship inquiries, please