Friday, November 10, 2006

Friday Hope Blogging

David Roberts makes a point that can't be made often enough:

Far-right conservatives are fond of claiming that environmentalists use global warming as a cover for their true intent: fight progress! Reverse civilization! Leave us all shivering in a dark room….

That is, of course, exactly wrong. It is the dinosaur companies blocking progress and innovation….It's the little people -- average citizens, small companies, entrepreneurs -- who are trying to free our sclerotic system from the dinosaurs' grasp and kickstart a wave of 21st century innovation.
The funny thing is, this struggle often benefits the very people who stand in its way:
[W]hen engineers at Cummins, a diesel engine maker, first saw the suggested new federal clean-air standards for their engines in the early 1990s, they argued that the standards would be impossible to meet. After the standards became official in 2000, Cummins sued....

But in October, when the Environmental Protection Agency needed a place to trumpet the success of the standards, it came here, to Cummins’s headquarters. A day after the E.P.A. event, Cummins followed with more good news, announcing that it would invest $250 million to revive a partly idled plant and hire 600 workers to build state-of-the-art light duty diesel engines.
Sometimes, though, the best way to make progress is to go backwards:
The energy-efficient building of the future was constructed 500 years ago, according to a survey published yesterday which suggests the Tudors could have shown New Labour how to save money - and carbon emissions….Tudor properties, with their oak beams plus wattle and daub infills, leaked 10 cubic metres of warm air an hour for every square metre of wall against 15.1 for a mock-Tudor home built in the 1960s.
The houses of 500 years ago didn’t have flush toilets, of course. But perhaps the houses of the future won't, either:
From the land that gave the world the high tech toilet comes the latest state-of-the-art cistern - the biotoilet, Shukan Bunshun (11/9) says, adding that the waterless water closet has the potential to save trillions of yen….

[T]he toilet is "flushed" by turning a handle that breaks down the business and mixes it together with the sawdust. After a few twists, the mixture is so well blended there's no sign of any foreign objects having been dropped at all -- even toilet paper!
Speaking of which, the New York Times discusses the appalling amount of death and suffering resulting from a worldwide lack of toilets, and also mentions a few success stories:
In India, a private group called Sulabh has built thousands of public toilets and more than a million private latrines that cost as little as $10 each in more than 1,000 cities nationwide. The local authorities pay to build the public toilets, but user fees cover the costs of running them. The fee is about 2 cents, with free access for children, the disabled and the destitute.
Some things, thank heavens, are fine as they are. For instance, studies show that traditional books provide more benefits to children than digital formats:
Parents and pre-school children have a more positive interaction when sharing a reading experience with a traditional book as opposed to an electronic book or e-book, according researchers at Temple University's Infant Laboratory and Erikson Institute in Chicago. This shared positive experience from traditional books characteristically promotes early literacy skills.
In other news, Salt Lake City is requiring LEED certification for new state buildings:
Developers funded by city money will be required to erect buildings certified by the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED program, city council members decided unanimously on Tuesday.
Researchers are trying to use wave energy to power desalinization:
Ocean waves could provide an energy-efficient way to desalinate seawater, say UK researchers. While conventional purification plants have high energy demands, the rocking motion of floating buoys could be used to drive a pump system for desalination.
There’s also word of an interesting new approach to removing arsenic from drinking water:
In this case, the researchers made crystals of a rustlike mineral called magnetite. They found that when the crystals were smaller than 40 nanometers wide, they were much more sensitive to low-strength magnetic fields than would have been expected based on the behavior of larger particles.

At 12 nanometers wide, the researchers found, the magnetite particles could bind up to 100 times as much arsenic as the larger iron particles currently used in filters, yet still be extracted from test liquids with inexpensive magnets that are widely used as computer components.
Assuming the system works, it’ll cost about two cents per day for a family of four.

A Canadian man has invented a home sanitizing system using ozonated water:
Using an electrical charge to infuse tap water with ozone, the system acts as a natural powerful sanitizer and removes the need for chemical use in the home.
I have no idea how much electricity this thing uses, but the idea of a solar-powered version is certainly attractive. There's also word of a water-powered battery:
According to Suzuki, the water-based batts can be stored far longer than traditional batteries without degrading and also could cost about 1/10th the price of a normal battery if mass produced, all while still providing the same amount of juice as a standard manganese dioxide battery -- not to mention being less hazardous to the environment when disposed of.
Make of that what you will.

Unless you were wise enough to pour wax into your ears late Tuesday night, you're probably very tired of hearing the media's unceasing demands for civility and centrism. My advice is to fire up the Captain Haddock Insult Generator, and tell those Bashi-bazouks how you feel! (More here.)

The Victoria and Albert Museum has an exhibition of twilight photography. I think I like the series by Boris Mikhailov best.

If you're looking for a soundtrack while you browse, I suggest One-Minute Vacation, or maybe Sounds of Magma-Induced Earthquakes Below Volcanoes (especially this one.) Failing that, go to the Free Sound Project and choose your own.

(Photo at top by Stevacek.)

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