Friday, July 07, 2006

Friday Hope Blogging has an interesting article on the explosion of interest in green chemistry:

Green chemistry "is about looking at every component of a production process, including energy input, side-products, solvents, engineering, and transportation," says Ed Marshall, a green chemist at Imperial College London...."We are training chemists to think imaginatively about minimising environmental impacts and social and economic costs," he says. The philosophy isn't new; what's new is the discipline's recognition and influence. Green chemistry is getting popular....

Marshall says the drivers for green chemistry come equally from governments and industry. "Governments are responding to a perceived environmental concern in society," he says, "but the chemical industry is not the bad guy. Green chemistry is being seen by companies as a big potential competitive edge over rivals." He expects funding from both sources to continue increasing.
The opportunities here come in part from government initiatives like REACH, which anti-innovation conservatarians oppose in hopes of making their stolid incompetence a moral obligation for the rest of us. In the real world, however, groups like the Green Chemistry Network understand that
[T]the most successful chemists of the future will be those who use Green Chemistry concepts in R & D, innovation and education.
While wingnut dead-enders screech about "central planning," US firms scramble to meet EU standards:
Starting last week, the European Union has cracked down on hazardous electronic imports, spurring manufacturers and merchants to ensure that their products pass environmental muster — and are so certified....

Straetz said ‘‘companies are going to have to go over to this [RoHS compliance] anyway” because China has a similar directive that will go into effect on Jan. 1, and ‘‘even our own state of California” will enforce such a rule starting March 1. Japan, Argentina and several other U.S. states are also considering similar legislation.
Earlier, I mentioned that despite PR efforts costing millions of dollars, only about 7 percent of Americans buy into the conservatarian line that climate change is a hoax. A similar PR effort against organic food has been been similarly ineffective:
America's appetite for organic food is so strong that supply just can't keep up with demand....Growth in sales of organic food has been 15 percent to 21 percent each year, compared with 2 percent to 4 percent for total food sales.
A green development planned for Santa Rosa, California sounds pretty good, at least on paper. I mention it mainly because I like this quote from the architect:
Architect Dan Solomon, a founder of the Congress for New Urbanism believes that architecture should do more than "simply offer three-dimensional nostalgia for how things supposedly used to be. That lazy approach is seen too often when suburban downtowns get new buildings: They look cute on paper, but they're pallid in real life."
In other news, France and Cameroon have signed a deal to forgive the latter's debt in exchange for protection of the Congo River Basin:
Under the agreement, at least $25 million will be invested over the five years to protect parts of the Congo River Basin, the world's second largest tropical forest after the Amazon....

Environmental group World Wildlife Fund hailed the deal as a breakthrough. "The importance of this unique and history-making agreement lies in the combination of debt forgiveness and investment in forest conservation and local communities," said Laurent Some, director of WWF's program in Central Africa.
Four deep-sea fishing companies have agreed to halt operations in the Indian Ocean:
Conservationists welcomed on Thursday the first voluntary halt to high-seas trawling by four major fishing companies in the southern Indian Ocean, saying the move was vital to protect marine ecosystems....

"This will protect and conserve the bottom of the sea floor... associated fish fauna and related biodiversity in one of the largest marine protected area enclosures ever," the Swiss-based World Conservation Union said in a statement. "The combined zones have an area approximately the size of Norway. To verify compliance with these self-adopted restrictions, the companies will track their vessels' locations and activities via a special satellite monitoring system."
In Cambodia, locals have built a DIY railroad system featuring bamboo trains:
The people of Cambodia have made actions to solve their transit by building trains out of bamboo and running them on the country's underused rails. Powered by small electric generators, the trains truck along at nearly 25 miles per hour and have been very successful and popular amongs the people.
The federal government is pushing for replacement of incandescent and fluorescent lightbulbs:
With the aid of academic and private industry researchers, the Department of Energy is seeking to replace those profligate bulbs with "solid state lighting" devices that attain 50 percent efficiency.
On a smaller scale, the first drug-collection program in a Wisconsin county was surprisingly successful:
Nearly a quarter million dollars' worth of leftover medicine won't be flushed into the water supply, through treatment plants that aren't equipped to remove it and into the local waters where it can harm aquatic life.
I found yet another site compiling the sounds of satellites. While listening, you can monitor the position of current satellites, or look at images from the Soviet exploration of Venus.

When you're ready to return to earth, you might consider taking a stroll along Carmontelle's transparency, or visiting the imaginary city of Galvez.

(Hat tip: Things).


Diane said...

Phila, that note about France and Cameroon is the most exciting thing I've seen in a long time.

That kind of humane diplomacy wedded to environmental concerns is fantastic.

Thanks for the upper!


Phila said...


I aims ta please!


The reverse, alas, appears to be happening in the "organic food craze" as Wal-Marts and the like are simply coopting the name and gouging the customer rather than working on shifting production standards for all foods to sustainable methods.

To me, it's a slippery slope issue. They can coopt all they want, but they're still getting pulled away from their SOP. And if they dilute the meaning of "organic" too much, shrewd farmers can always come up with a new set of standards, and beat them over the head for not meeting those. Which is, in fact, already happening.

A lot of the battle here is about representation. Making the word "organic" mainstream basically undoes 30 years of agribusiness propaganda. Consumers who respond to it are more likely to respond to the larger issue of sustainability, I think.