The traditional practice of burning “hell bank notes” to enrich dead relatives causes considerable air pollution in Taiwan. That’s fine for people who hope to hasten their own reunion with the dearly departed, but not so good for people who prefer to linger as long as possible on this side of the grass. Fortunately, Taiwan is promoting another option for mollifying acquisitive ghosts:
[A] "doing good deeds to replace burning paper ghost money" program received an enthusiastic response in the first year following its launch last year and that they plan to expand the program this year. Local people are urged to donate the money they would use to buy paper to charitable organizations instead.As an aside, this is a fairly good example of what Ernst Bloch called “productive noncontemporaneity,” in which the power of “irrational” tradition – what he called “the unfinished past” - serves socially positive or even progressive ends. He contrasted it with a false noncontemporaneity: A “non-desire for the Now,” the “accumulated rage” of which could be turned to profitable use by reactionary politicians. I probably don’t have to explain where my own sympathies lie, or why I occasionally fail to pay due homage to reason.
Reason has its own unfinished past, of course, as does technology. Which reminds me, Honda is cooling a new plant with ice:
Honda's new Ohio plant is cooled by ice….made by two big 450 ton chillers that work all night using cheap base-load power, which then chills the air all day as the ice melts. While the system cost more at the beginning, it should pay for itself in three years and last at least thirty.In Vietnam, homemade sand filters can remove up to 80 percent of the arsenic in drinking water:
Berg and his colleagues from Eawag, Hanoi University of Science (Vietnam), and the University of Karlsruhe (Germany) studied 43 sand filters currently in use. Raw groundwater pumped from household wells contained 10–382 µg/L of arsenic. They found that 90% of the filters reduced arsenic concentrations to <50 µg/L, and 40% to <10 µg/L, which is the World Health Organization’s current drinking-water guideline and Vietnam’s drinking-water standard. Berg and his colleagues attribute the 10% of households still exceeding 50 µg/L even after filtration to low iron concentrations (<3.7 mg/L), high phosphate levels (>2.5 mg/L), or a combination of the two in the groundwater. The filters simultaneously removed 99% of the iron, 90% of the phosphate, and 71% of the manganese in the water.In California, there’s talk of building a freight rail shuttle from the coast to the Central Valley:
The San Joaquin Council of Governments, the county's transportation planning agency, completed a study in June to determine possible routes for a short-haul rail system to carry cargo between the Ports of Oakland and Stockton, and south to Modesto and Fresno. Eventually, the rail line would extend to Bakersfield, COG officials said….That likely would ease traffic jams, reduce air pollution and lessen the wear and tear on the state's highways, Ridder said.Using a train to transport goods over short distances? What’ll they think of next?
Australia’s talking about banning plastic bags. God forbid we should go back to the drudgery of carrying groceries in cloth bags, or baskets. (Them olden days! Them hard, hard times!)
A few Republicans seem to be tired of doing whatever oil companies say:
Western Republicans are starting to buck against oil and gas drilling on federal lands prized for their wildlife and recreational opportunities. Amid a Western energy boom promoted by the Bush administration, Republican officeholders from Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico and California recently have called for bans on drilling and other development on large blocs of national forest lands in their states.Acoustic Ecology reports that a small desert protection group has won a knockout victory against a planned motorcycle race in the middle of the Sonora desert:
A grassroots group based in southern Arizona has convinced the regional BLM office that a proposed motorcycle race course in near Ajo would be inconsistent with conservation needs. The BLM had been preparing an Environmental Assessment, but decided that the track was clearly an inappropriate use and abandoned the EA process, issuing a letter to the applicants explaining its decision. The Sonoran Desert Tranquilarians had gathered supporting information on rare plants and animals, and the track's likely impact on desert washes.While we’re on the topic of land protection, Pruned has a feature on precision farming, which uses remote sensing to determine which crops need special attention (and which don't):
The goal of precision farming is to improve farmers’ profits and harvest yields while reducing the negative impacts of farming on the environment that come from over-application of chemicals.The pictures are nice to look at, too:
In England, a solar ferry is taking on passengers:
The 48-foot-long shuttle has 27 solar panels on its roof, and the energy generated by the sun is enough to keep the boat running….Almost no pollutants are given off during the trip because the shuttle has two silent engines - meaning there are no carbon emissions and it is also charged fully by the sun….Meanwhile, Treehugger reports that a merger between Entech and WorldWater & Power may result in competitively priced solar power:
When the ferry is idle, surplus electricity generated by the solar panels will be fed back into the national transmission network.
Entech has developed concentrator solar power systems, supplied solar power for space missions for NASA and installed ground-based concentrating solar systems in North America.In medical news, researchers may have found an “off” switch for chronic pain:
Entech's patented concentrator technology also allows for the installation of massive solar "farms" with reduced requirements for solar cell materials (silicon or multi-junction) and, when used in conjunction with WorldWater & Power's technology, reduces the reliance on rebates or other incentives for economic installations.
[R]esearchers from Columbia University Medical Center have discovered a protein in nerve cells that acts as a switch for chronic pain, and have applied for a patent to develop a new class of drugs that will block chronic pain by turning this switch off.Last, I’m sure I won’t be the only person who welcomes the news that celebrity endorsements don’t work:
In fact, they came second last on the list of “very important” information channels that consumers used to judge products. In a new report by AccountAbility, a non-profit research institute, 10% picked celebrities’ opinions as important in helping them decide if companies were trustworthy--the only category to do worse was leaflets through the mailbox.Just in time for Thers’s learned (if insufficiently opaque and pompous) remarks on the panopticon, here are some beautiful panoptic photos.
And, as a bonus feature, here are the spokes in Saturn's rings.