Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Why your UPS driver may soon be wearing bike shorts

Seattle traffic is legendary, which undermines delivery services and is made worse by them. So UPS has developed a system to use e-bikes and detachable trailers to deliver packages in the urban area.  It’s cleaner, quieter. The modules can be staged in different parts of town and left once empty so the delivery driver doesn’t have to return to base. Cool idea.  I just hope they’ve thought about security.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Investors pouring money into funds to address climate change

Investors are driven both by altruism and greed as they invest in renewable energy, energy conservation and green funds. It may seem a little perverted to need to draw on our baser instincts to save the planet, but the good news is that once market forces see financial opportunity, things can change fast.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Fur-free is gaining brand advocates

Fur looks better on the animal than around your neck. Coach is the latest fashion brand to commit to being fur-free, a response to the pressure the Humane Society has been bringing to the industry to fight animal cruelty.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Amazing Blue Zones (healthy) recipes to get more beans into your diet

If you're trying to eat more plant-based protein or use less gluten, here are some great recipes for everything from hearty fall soups to evil looking brownies!

Friday, October 26, 2018

Designing buildings for the wrath of climate change

Addressing climate change requires two different types of actions:

Mitigating the causes by reducing sources of greenhouse gases (fossil fuels, ag practices, etc.)
Adapting to the inevitable consequences of climate change that is already baked in

You probably saw the devastation on Mexico Beach after the hurricane, but you might have also noticed one white house still standing. That was no accident; it was by design. Here’s an article about the architectural decisions that made this house withstand the fury of Nature.

(Side note: my husband and I built our house with integrated concrete forms too. They’re a lot stronger than stick construction, more energy efficient, and at least the product we used is virtually fire and insect proof. The blocks were made from recycled styrofoam so have diverted a lot of plastic that otherwise would have gone to landfill.)

EU is close to banning all single use plastic

Plastic is an epidemic in the oceans and it’s showing up in our own feces, indicating we are ingesting it with unknown impacts. The European Union is about to finalize their ban on all single use plastics. They’re focusing on products often found in the sea for which there are good alternatives (like plastic cutlery and straws). They’re also pushing manufacturers to take more responsibility, for example, by expecting 90% of water bottles to be recycled by 2025.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

A 5 point plan to tackle climate change

Most news stories about climate change make the situation feel hopeless and overwhelming. Here’s a scientist’s 5 point plan to get this under control and generate other social benefits at the same time. It makes it seem do-able.

...ecologist Johan Rockström, who directs the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Stockholm, thinks there might be a way to cut global emissions while eliminating poverty and hunger and keeping the world cool enough to sustain future generations.

  1. Cut greenhouse gases in half every decade starting in 2020
  2. Increase food chain efficiency by 1% per year
  3. Shift how we create wealth and prosperity
  4. Ensure the wealthiest 10% don’t get more than 40% of the pie
  5. Invest more in education, health and family planning

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Exponential growth in electric car sales

People tend to think in linear terms but change often happens exponentially.  Here’s an interesting example:

It took more than seven years for automakers to sell 4 million passenger electric vehicles. It’ll take about six months to sell the next million.

A lot of this growth is in China.

 The Future of the Car May Be Older Than the Model T - Bloomberg

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: Lost Connections

Hari, Johann (2018) Lost Connections: Uncovering the real causes of depression—and the unexpected solutions. New York, NY: Bloomsbury.

I’ve been thinking lately about the contagion of anger in our society: hate speech at political rallies, school shootings, road rage, cyber-bullying. I’ve wondered if it’s a symptom of a sick society: our focus on material goods, status, individual achievement. Mix into that stew major economic and demographic changes, and voila, we have developed a dysfunctional, disrespectful society. I was talking to the Sedona City Councilors lately and some talked about the vitriol they have to endure. “It’s okay,” they say, they’re used to it, inured to it. 
But it’s not okay. We can disagree without being disagreeable. We can assume a positive intent and not attribute evil values to people’s positions. Isn't that part of growing up, learning how to express yourself appropriately and productively? Why has this verbal abuse become socially acceptable? It's generally not acceptable in the workplace, in schools, in churches, in homes. Why have we allowed this to become acceptable in public? We still enforce other social norms (like not taking off all your clothes in public.) Why don't we have a way to give people the equivalent of a time-out, a chance to get their emotions under control so they can express themselves appropriately?
Related to these musings about the state of our society, I just read Lost Connections about research into the causes of depression. I see a connection between the causes of depression and the anger in our society. 
For decades we have been told that depression and anxiety are in your head, chemical imbalances that Big Pharma just happens to have a cure for. Hari, who has lived with depression, researches what may be a much larger cause: our society. In many ways, depression and anxiety are an expected, normal reaction to what life dishes up for some people. We can’t cure most depression with a pill (at least not alone); we need to address the underlying situation (eg, financial insecurity, the boss from hell, an abusive spouse, etc.) Hari travels the world to talk to researchers uncovering these findings.

Hari identifies 9 causes of depression (which I think might also be fueling anger):

·      disconnections from meaningful work— People need a sense of control over their workplace so he recommends worker owned cooperatives
·      disconnections from other people— When you’re depressed, the world tends to become all about you so the antidote is to do something for others.
·      disconnections from meaningful values— Our values have been perverted by advertising so he shares places that have outlawed billboards and advertising to children. What if we outlawed ads that were designed to make you feel bad about yourself? he wonders.
·      disconnections from childhood trauma— Doctors treating obesity haven’t been taught to ask, When did you start gaining weight and what was going on before then. For every type of traumatic experience a child may experience, they are radically more likely to be a depressed adult. And if a child experienced 7 of those traumas, they were 3100% more likely to attempt suicide as an adult.
·      disconnections from status and respect—Primates tend to have hierarchies but the ones at the bottom have constant stress. The ones at the top have stress when they are being challenged. Being ‘down’ (how depressed people often describe how they feel) is actually a submissive response. So why not de-emphasize hierarchy as a control mechanism and make democracy about more than voting every 4 years?
·      disconnections from the natural world—Even prisoners were 24 percent less likely to get physically or emotionally ill if they could see nature from their cells vs their other inmates looking at concrete walls.
·      disconnections from a hopeful or secure future—Hari shares the research into a universal basic income.
·      genes—according to research with twins, 37 percent of the tendency is inherited. But if you put that into perspective, 90 percent of your height is. So a lot more is going on.
·      brain changes—Our brains change so if you’re depressed it does change your brain, making it more likely you’ll feel depressed.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Communities considering managed retreat from climate change risks

Let’s face it. If we stick our heads in the sand, soon the only thing above water will be our rear ends! Coastal communities are faced with rising sea levels. Inland, extreme flooding and drought are threats.

Some communities are acknowledging the risks and trying to do something about it BEFORE people die and homes are destroyed. It’s being called a Managed Retreat.

FEMA has bought out properties so people could move but usually that’s been post-disaster. Now it seems some of the disaster relief funding can be used pre-disaster. See this Reuters article link below.

I just hope that this is done with social justice in mind. Alaskan Native villages, for example, have been in desperate need since warming has been much faster in arctic. Are we going to take care of them or just fat-cats in Houston?

One principle I learned in Curitiba, Brazil: move a community together. Maintain the social connections. It will help people heal from the disruption to their lives. This is better than scattering people across the country.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Climate Quiz to see if you know more than Bill Gates

Check your knowledge of climate science by taking this quiz. See if you can beat Bill Gates’ score.

Can you beat my score on this climate change quiz? | Bill Gates -

Saturday, October 20, 2018

By 2025 all Amsterdam buses and canal boats will be electric

Amsterdam has set a requirement that all buses and tourist canal boats be electric by 2025. This shift isn’t cheap.

... fleet operators are gradually undertaking the not insignificant task of switching out powertrains—at a cost of about $189,000 to $287,000, and taking about 3 months per boat. Fortunately, boat operators should see a return on their investment within about 12 years.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Imagine a carbon fiber car where the body is the battery

Swedish scientists have discovered that carbon fiber can store energy. The same tough material that makes the Boeing’s 787 so light and efficient could act as a battery, opening up new opportunities in design and energy storage.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Vegan dog food exec dares others to eat their dog food

Maybe you’re trying to switch to a plant based diet, but what about Fido?

Wild Earth is an emerging vegan pet food brand. Right now they are daring Purina and other execs to eat their own dog food. (Don’t try this at home; recommends washing your hands after feeding your dog treats or dog food because of salmonella.) But Wild Earth founders are happy to eat their own brand. It appears they only have treats available for sale but kibble or canned is soon to follow.

It’s still controversial whether feeding a dog a plant based diet is good for them or the planet.

According to Tufts Veterinary Center

Most dogs can do quite well on a carefully designed vegan diet that meets all of their nutritional needs.  As a veterinary nutritionist, I use meat-free diets quite a bit to help manage various health concerns. The challenge is that designing these diets is not the easiest thing to do. While a number of commercial vegan and vegetarian diets exist on the market for dogs, not all of them are equivalent in quality. In general, diets that include eggs or dairy as protein sources are less worrisome than diets based only on plant proteins. Home-prepared diets always fare worse as the vast majority of home-cooked meat-based diets dog owners are feeding lack essential nutrients and the vegetarian and vegan ones typically have all the same deficiencies and then some additional ones, such as protein.

When I was working with food processors years ago, I recall a pet food manufacturer bemoaning the trend toward organic and high end pet foods. He said this was gobbling up the supplyof organics for people and also eliminating a market for all those “by-products” from the meat and poultry industry, all those parts humans don’t want to eat, creating more waste.  If we ever get to a plant-based society and all-organic agriculture, those issues might go away; but in the meantime, it’s complicated.

If you have favorite vegan pet food recipes or brands, share your experience here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Biggest science policy issue by state

There are so many issues to focus on, people get distracted. This Popular Science article identifies THE policy issue for each state. Arizonans, no surprise, it’s water conservation.

The most important science policy issue in every state - Popular Science

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Nobel prizes tied to sustainability

Two US economists ere just awarded the Nobel Economics Prize related to sustainability.

Nobel committee chair Per Stromberg told Reuters Monday’s award was honoring research into “two big global questions”: how to deal with the negative effects of growth on the climate and “to make sure that this economic growth leaves prosperity for everyone.”

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The astounding greenhouse gases of meat and dairy companies

Here’s a startling factoid...

The world’s five largest meat and dairy companies combined, including Tyson, Cargill and Dairy Farmers of America, are responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions every year than any of the world’s biggest oil and gas companies.
For most of us, it’s going to be easier to eat more fruits and veggies than to buy an electric car and solar panels.

Some people go ‘cold turkey’ (bad vegan ‘meataphor’), committing to a vegan diet for a month and then see how they feel. I’ve found it easier to do it gradually....and I’m not quite there yet. I’ve been a vegetarian for decades which gave me time to adapt recipes (eg, pizza and chili without meat). Lately influenced by Healthy World Sedona, I’ve been experimenting with dairy alternatives (coffee creamer, yogurt, cheese...first two were easy; cheese, not so much unless it’s mixed into a dish.) Online recipes and reviews make this easier than ever. I still occasionally make an egg dish or treat myself to a slice of bacon when we go out for breakfast.

Start somewhere. It’s healthier, less expensive, better for the planet and better for the poor caged animals. Who wouldn’t want that?

Share your favorite recipes and vegan brands!

The Giant Corporations Behind Your Burgers And Milk Have A Terrifying Climate Secret - HuffPost

Friday, October 12, 2018

How the Brits used the mail to change ‘crisps’ packaging

Crisps (that’s potato chips in American English) are usually packaged in un-recyclable packaging, crackly plastic that brings your dog running, or Mylar. The Brits were fed up. Instead of staging their own version of the Boston Tea Party, they mailed the packaging back to the manufacturer. Here’s what happened....

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Leave No Trace now includes packing out your poop

What happens when too many people hike or back back in the same area? Use your imagination; it’s gross. So now some of our National Parks are requiring people to pack out their own poo (if there’s no pit toilet around.)

Even if you’re in an area that doesn’t require you to pack it out, be sure to follow the Leave No Trace guidelines.

...find a secluded spot two hundred feet away from the trail, site, or water sources; dig a six-inch hole in the earth (which many do with the help of a compact plastic trowel), do your business, and cover it up. Toilet paper, even the kind advertised as “biodegradable,” is to be packed out, not buried, burned, or lazily stuffed under a rock.
America's National Parks Are Being Ruined by Human Poop - VICE

Monday, October 8, 2018

IPCC says we need to reduce greenhouse gases by 45% by 2030

According to the world’s leading climate experts, we have 11 years to drastically reduce our impact on the climate to avoid disaster our consequences, far more onerous than those we are already experiencing.

Global net emissions of carbon dioxide would need to fall by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach "net zero" around 2050 in order to keep the warming around 1.5 degrees C.

What can you do? For around $1 a day, everyone can buy green power and carbon offsets, even if they can’t buy a more efficient car or appliances right now. (See this blog post. While it’s written for small business, it all applie equally to households.

Those of you who are motivated to save money can check their home for leaks, upgrade their HVAC system or old appliances, and move toward a plant-based diet.

Planet has 12 years to stem catastrophic climate change, experts warn - CNN

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Sign of change: Solar installation at Chernobyl

Heres a symbol of the shift from the dirty 20th Century Industrial Revolution to our clean energy future. The Russians have built a large solar installation at Chernobyl, large enough to power 2000 homes despite the fact they’re virtually in the dark during the winter.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Globally, who is concerned about climate change, and not

Heres an interesting bit of analysis on a Pew research study. Caring about the climate is tied to democratic values.

Commitment to such democratic principles is a “nearly universal” predictor of concern for climate change around the world, the study finds—except English-speaking Western democracies where “political party has a large impact.” 

The study concludes that attitudes are different in the US because of free-market ideology. This is a classic case of our brains resisting information if we don’t like the implications.

Perhaps the reason totalitarian states tend to deny climate change is that there is a relationship between extractive economies/petro-states and authoritarianism. When a small number of people get wildly rich on a resource, they generally fight to keep the spoils themselves.

I wonder where China fits in this study. They’re investing heavily in clean energy but aren’t fans of unfettered democracy.

Climate Deniers Are More Likely to Hate Democracy - VICE