Friday, December 28, 2007

Friday Hope Blogging

The EPA claims it will surrender all documents relating to Stephen L. Johnson's denial of California's request to impose stricter air quality standards:

The surrender of the EPA staff recommendations to Congress sets up an unusual autopsy of the behind-the-scenes factors for an executive branch decision— presumably a decision that had been cleared by the White House.
Nanosolar has shipped its first thin-film solar panels. They estimate that energy generated by these panels will be cheaper than coal power:
"With a $1-per-watt panel," [CEO Martin Roscheisen] said, "it is possible to build $2-per-watt systems."

According to the Energy Department, building a new coal plant costs about $2.1 a watt, plus the cost of fuel and emissions, he said.
Greensburg, Kansas - which was destroyed earlier this year by a tornado - is making progress towards recreating itself as the greenest town in America:
Wallach says residents here embraced environmental sustainability as good old-fashioned thrift and independence.

"They really get it, and they say 'OK, it's not this crazy tree-hugger agenda.' It's common sense, and it's what these people are really about," Wallach said.
Students in an MIT engineering class have come up with some interesting inventions, including a solar-powered bottle sorter, and low-cost insulation panels:
They came up with a way of making insulation panels out of old plastic bottles, of which about a half million are discarded each year in the city of Karachi alone. The cost of enough panels to insulate a typical home would be paid back in fuel savings in about one year, the students calculated, and in the process would create jobs for local people while reducing local fuel needs and the amount of waste sent to landfills.
A innovative recycling facility in California keeps old mattresses out of landfills:
Between its Eugene and Oakland facilities, SVDP manufactures about 200 rebuilt mattress sets every month, says McDonald. Some of these they sell, and some they give away to low-income people. They also recycle various mattress components, including about 600,000 pounds a year of polyurethane foam, most of which is remanufactured into carpet pad.
Congress has allocated $40 million to watershed restoration in America's national forests:
"This funding represents a critical first step in the development of common-sense solutions that include both retiring unnecessary roads and focusing scarce resources on proper maintenance of roads that best serve the public," said Matt Skroch, executive director of the Sky Island Alliance, a regional land and wildlife conservation organization based in Tucson.
Forty million dollars could otherwise fund roughly 34 minutes' worth of the Iraq War, if my offhand calculation is correct.

New Jersey has won the right to improve security at its chemical plants beyond what BushCo thinks is adequate:
The Lautenberg provision, passed over industry objections, says the federal Homeland Security Department can't supersede a state measure that is "more stringent" than federal rules.

"We're very pleased," said Rick Engler, executive director of the New Jersey Work Environment Council, an alliance of environmental and labor groups. "We certainly think there's more to be done and this should remove one obstacle."
An art dealer who got $3 million for a rare Picasso print is giving most of the money to charity:
I found myself in the position of just having sold the world's most expensive printed image in the form of Picasso's La Minotauromachie, in which Picasso contemplates a future of personal change. I had owned the object for many years and although it was a wrench to let it go I realised that, just as the print's imagery addressed the issue of a chaotic future, the assets the sale generated could also be used to address our chaotic future.

I could use the profits for the issues I felt strongly about, in particular climate change, conflict prevention and Third World development. This is going to give sight to people, educate people and help charities working on climate change. One doesn't like to be too dramatic but all of this is as satisfying as having any work of art.
Andrew Dessler at Grist has begun what's sure to be an entertaining series on the scientific bona fides of the 400 "prominent scientists" who signed onto James Inhofe's latest denialist manifesto. This week's lucky winner is one Thomas Ring:
Mr. Ring's credentials include a degree from Case Western Reserve University in chemical engineering, although it is not specified what level degree it is.

The sum and total of his writings on climate change appear to be one letter he wrote to the Marin Independent Journal....
A new study suggests that restrictions on fishing ultimately lead to higher profits for fishing boats:
The new finding is anchored in the cost side of the ledger, rather than the historic focus on the size of the catch. "Our results prove that the highest profits are made when fish numbers are allowed to rise beyond levels traditionally considered optimal," says study author Quentin Grafton, research director at the Crawford School of Economics and Government at the Australian National University.
New Zealand's effort to preserve its dwindling population of kiwis seems to be paying off:
The plan, called Operation Nest Egg, is simple in conception but difficult to execute. Eggs are taken from kiwi nests in the wild and incubated in places like Willowbank. The newly hatched chicks are then taken to protected areas, many of them on isolated islands off the coast without predators, for about a year until they are big enough to fend for themselves. Then they are returned to the place their egg was found....

After a slow start, Operation Nest Egg is picking up momentum. Its success rate is rising, and similar programs are starting throughout the country.

Planning Magazine discusses the benefits to cities of temporary uses:
Once considered purely a regulatory hassle, temporary use ordinances mainly addressed short-term firework stands, flea markets, and real estate sales offices, among others. Today, many cities are taking a fresh look at the benefits offered by creative temporary uses.

Temporary uses can draw positive attention to underused or vacant sites. They add immediate neighborhood amenities. They incubate innovative business ideas. They also buy time while longer planning and community input processes play out.
A British firm has a come up with a very efficient paper-recycling scheme for London-based companies:
The company sends their paper for recycling at a local mill in Kent. Then it buys back their own, now recycled, paper for the office. It is less hassle and cost saving for the company and guarantees a buyer of the recycled paper.
AfriGadget has more on Africa's modular machines:
[T]he machines are used in wood workshops to make design cutouts, carve out pieces for furniture and to split planks of wood. It is essentially the same machine pieces, motor, pulleys and frame, just customized for different uses.
Treehugger reports on an Kenyan ambulance made of bamboo:
[T]he bambulance will improve transportation for patients as well as medics to and from rural areas, where other transport methods don’t exist or are unsuitable. The benefits of this EMTD are improved speed and comfort over what is currently available, while maintaining cost efficiency and sustainability. Plus, the project will provide education and sustainable employment for HIV positive women and youth.
The One Laptop Per Child program is raising some interesting issues in Peru:
Eduardo Villanueva, a communications professor at Lima's Catholic University, fears "a general disruption of the educational system that will manifest itself in the students overwhelming the teachers."

To counter that fear, Becerra said the government is offering $150 grants to qualifying teachers toward the purchase of conventional laptops, for which it is also arranging low-interest loans.

The second big concern is maintenance. For every 100 units it will distribute to students, Peru is buying one extra for parts. But there is no tech support program. Students and teachers will have to do it.

"What you want is for the kids to do the repairs," said Negroponte, who believes such tinkering is itself a valuable lesson. "I think the kids can repair 95 percent of the laptops."
A court in Nepal has ruled that the government must create new laws to protect gay rights:
Sunil Pant of the Blue Diamond Society, the country's main gay rights group, said it was a bold decision by the highest court in Nepal, where gays frequently face harassment, including by police.

"It was an extremely positive decision and a pleasant surprise for us. It would set a precedent for other conservative countries like Nepal," Pant told the Associated Press.
Washington DC is finally lifting a deadly nine-year ban on funding needle-exchange programs:
Eleanor Holmes Norton, the city's congressional delegate, said the ban has contributed to Washington's AIDS rate, which is higher than any other major city in the country, according to a recent report on the epidemic.
Pharyngula has reprinted a droll cartoon on the "scientific" side of scientific racism. And Gever Tulley of the Tinkering School has designed some nice warning labels for childrens' toys (via AIDG Blog):

This morning, I stumbled upon a large gallery of old Meccano fire engines. They're very...soothing, somehow. As are the beautiful old photos of the UK at BLDGBLOG:

My existence has also been solaced, somewhat, by the fantastic architectural drawings of Hugh Ferriss (via Coudal), and this typewriter sculpture by Jeremy Mayer.

Strangely Compelling South Jersey, a Flickr set by phoebeofthesea, is strangely compelling, as is Botanicals, an exhibition by Caroline Hyman at Luminous Lint.

If you don't have the time for gateway drugs, you can always skip straight to the hard stuff: Wageningen Wall Charts at BibliOdyssey, and "Les phénomènes de la Nature" at Agence Eureka.

Last, Heinrich the Amazing Dancing Mechanical Man, circa 1919.

(Photo at top by Kievaholic.)


peacay said...

The kiwi story reminded me of something I saw on tv news the other night: off the coast of Victoria (Oz) is an island on which the penguin population has plummeted over recent years due to introduced foxes and cats. Some bright spark came up with the idea of having maremma dogs to guard the penguins.

Although I can't find anything online of recent times, it seems that the guard dog idea has worked (according to the tv report I saw).

See: this, this, this, this.

Phila said...

Fascinating! Thanks for the links.

MikeJ said...

To clarify: D.C. never banned needle exchange programs. Congress banned them, and this year's funding bill lifted the ban. Sadly, even though the tax paying citizens of D.C. want needle exchanges, the Congress could reinstate the ban anytime someone from Alabama gets a stick up his or her ass.

Phila said...

To clarify: D.C. never banned needle exchange programs. Congress banned them, and this year's funding bill lifted the ban.

Quite right. I phrased that badly. Thanks for setting the record straight!