Friday, January 12, 2007

Friday Hope Blogging

I've written a few posts about the Army's rather...impetuous plan to dump nerve gas hydrolysate in the Delaware River. Today, I'm happy to say that my efforts have paid off:

Under heavy pressure, DuPont Co. yesterday dropped out of an Army plan to dispose of caustic wastewater from the destruction of the deadly VX nerve agent in South Jersey....

"There will be no VX byproduct dumped in the Delaware River," said U.S. Rep. Robert Andrews (D., N.J.). "This is a real victory for the residents of South Jersey and the health of the Delaware River."
If you have any other problem you'd like me to solve, write it on a piece of lined notepaper, place it face up in a shoebox full of hundred-dollar bills, and send me an e-mail notification with your address. My trusty couriers will do the rest.

Israel's Yarkon River was formerly so contaminated that a couple of athletes who fell into it died. Now, after years of rehabilitation, about one-third of it is cleaned up. That's nice, but as Treehugger points out, the really heartening thing is the extent to which such efforts require cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians.
That’s because people are understanding that there is no use in rehabilitating rivers and parks if there isn’t cooperation from all the people who share Israel’s borders. A concept that gets good PR for the environment is the partnering of Palestinians and Israelis on different local issues. The most recent incarnation is the joint Palestinian-Israeli cleanup of the Alexander River that runs through the center of Israel.
AlterNet has an interesting article on the Zero Waste movement:
According to GRRN, "Markets today are heavily influenced by tax subsidies and incentives that favor extraction and wasteful industries." It's mainly for this reason -- and not for lack of the appropriate technology -- that waste has persisted, even in the wake of increasing environmental awareness. GRRN estimates that we have the existing technology to redirect 90 percent of what currently ends up in landfills.
Boeing-Spectrolab claims to have built a photovoltaic cell that's 40.7% efficient at converting sunlight to energy:
The solar cell represents "the highest efficiency level any photovoltaic device has ever achieved," according to David Lillington, president of Spectrolab. That claim has been verified by the DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo. Most of today's solar cells are between 12% and 18% efficient.
That being the case, it's just as well that homeowners will soon be able to rent solar panels:
The rental program, called REnU, is billed as a cost-effective response to the challenges many would-be solar users face when confronted with the high costs of solar system equipment, installation, and maintenance. The program’s only upfront charge is a security deposit of roughly US$500, which is paid back—with interest—at the end of the contract. The REnU website has a “solar savings calculator” that estimates the amount of money households will save by switching to solar power.
According to Inhabitat, the Skystream residential windmill "can produce 400 kilowatt hours of energy per month, up to 90% of an average household’s energy consumption."

The word on the street is that Brookhaven lab scientists have stabilized platinum electrocatalysts for use in fuel cells.
Platinum is the most efficient electrocatalyst for accelerating chemical reactions in fuel cells for electric vehicles. In reactions during the stop-and-go driving of an electric car, however, the platinum dissolves, which reduces its efficiency as a catalyst. This is a major impediment for vehicle-application of fuel cells. Now, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory have overcome this problem.
The EU is bringing a whole new meaning to "off-road vehicle":
Gas-guzzling sports cars, 4x4s and people carriers could be priced off the road within five years after a crackdown on carbon emissions to be announced by the European Commission this month.
An interesting new water purification system has been developed in response to Hurricane Katrina:
Engineers have developed a system that uses a simple water purification technique that can eliminate 100 percent of the microbes in New Orleans water samples left from Hurricane Katrina. The technique makes use of specialized resins, copper and hydrogen peroxide to purify tainted water.

The system--safer, cheaper and simpler to use than many other methods--breaks down a range of toxic chemicals. While the method cleans the water, it doesn't yet make the water drinkable. However, the method may eventually prove critical for limiting the spread of disease at disaster sites around the world.
Speaking of Katrina, a jury has ordered State Farm to pay a $2.5 million penalty for refusing to cover losses suffered by a couple in Mississippi:
Yesterday’s decision was the first by a jury in a sprawling dispute that sprang up after thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and the insurers were accused of narrowly interpreting coverage and vastly underpaying claims.
A new site called WikiLeaks claims to provide a safe means for whistleblowers to report on government and corporate wrongdoing, in the form of "an uncensorable Wikipedia for untraceable mass document leaking and analysis":
Their goal is to ensure that whistle-blowers and journalists are not thrown into jail for emailing sensitive documents. That was the fate of Chinese journalist Shi Tao, who was sentenced to a 10-year term in 2005 after publicising an email from Chinese officials about the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

According to the group's website, its primary targets include China, Russia, and oppressive regimes in Eurasia, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. It is not limited to these countries, however, and people anywhere will be able to use the site to reveal unethical behaviour by governments and corporations.
You can get more info here.

President Bush has suffered a setback, which means that the rest of the world has inched slightly forward:
The Bush administration yesterday withdrew a proposal to change the way federal agencies assess environmental hazards, health threats and other risks, after an expert panel declared that it was so scientifically flawed that it “could not be rescued.”
Too bad. Perhaps the next proposal could be drawn up by that noted polymath Frosty Hardison; I'm sure he works cheap.

Changing lobster-fishing strategies could help to save the endangered North Atlantic right whale:
The authors propose that if Maine restricted its lobster fishing season to 6 months and reduced the number of traps by a factor of ten, the more optimal fishing strategy--including decreased costs and improved total income--would allow greatly reduced risk to the remaining right whales while providing benefit to fishermen.
A new form of life has been discovered in the Arctic. It seems kind of surprising, until you remember that we really haven't been looking for very long, and we're often distracted by one thing and another.
The researchers have discovered a new group of microscopic organisms, which they have baptized "picobiliphytes": pico because of their extremely small size, measured in millionths of a meter, bili because they contain biliproteins, highly fluorescent substances that transform light into biomass, and phyte meaning they are plants.
Save the Bay, a Northern California-based wetlands protection group, plans to plant 40,000 seedlings around the bay, which will protect the clapper rail and other endangered species.
"The overall goal is to restore 100,000 acres in the Bay Area to tidal wetlands in partnership with other agencies," said Marilyn Latta, the advocacy's habitat-restoration director....

Volunteers can join Save the Bay for canoe trips to the island and to help plant seedlings there. Such outings are set for Jan. 20, Feb. 17 and March 17.
Tyson Foods must pay $1 million in penalties for the appalling problems caused by its meat-processing plant in Joslin, Illinois:
Tyson must pay $100,000 for environmental projects for Rock Island County schools, $50,000 for construction of the Quad City Botanical Center Children's Garden in Rock Island and $45,000 to remove low-concentrations of metals in a soil pile in the residential portion of Bass Street Landing in Moline.

An additional $600,000 has been earmarked for installation of idling reduction technology on Tyson-leased trucks and heavy vehicles, and $100,000 will be given to the Illinois EPA Special State Projects Trust Fund and another $100,000 to the Attorney General State Projects and Court Ordered Distribution Fund. A $30,000 civil penalty also was awarded to the state EPA, according to Gary Mickelson, a spokesman for Tyson Foods Inc.
The photo at the top is from a lovely gallery of gelatin silverprints by Jonathan Bailey. Check out the rest of his work, and if you've got a couple days' worth of time on your hands, you might also browse through all the carbroprints, bromoils, and cyanotypes exhibited at Alternative Photography.

If that doesn't satisy your appetite for the work of the antiquarian avant-garde, you can proceed to these gum bichromate images of Ghana. Or these stunning camera obscura photos by Shi Guorui (link via Subtopia).

Of all the photos I've seen this week, though, I think my favorite is this image from a Flickr set by Chicanery in WI (whose other work is well worth a look, too):

That reminds me: The University of Wisconsin's Relief Map Restoration Project is attempting to raise money to repair vintage relief maps like this one:

In addition to being a worthy cause, the photos are fascinating.

Not quite as fascinating, however, as John Logie Baird's Phonovision. After clicking the link, you can scroll down to see a small clip of the Paramount Astoria Girls, as captured by this mechanical television in 1933. And thanks to this BBC test card gallery, we even know what Baird's test card looked like:

Last, a beautiful online exhibition called The Old Order and the New spotlights photos taken in East Anglia between 1885 and 1895 by Peter Henry Emerson.

That ought to shut you people up for a while. Meantime, if anyone wants me, I'll be here, with a beehived divorcee at one elbow, and a sloe gin fizz at the other.


Anonymous said...

I always feel so enriched and edified when I've finished reading your blog each day. Thanx!

Phila said...

Thank you, Pablo! That means a lot to me.

HopeSpringsATurtle said...

WTF? Unbelievable. Great post. Thank you for all the work you put into it and all you do to improve the world.

Thers said...

Congratulations on your heroic victory. I hope all the aquatic wildlife you've saved will at least have the decency to write you a laudatory postcard, though molluscs are rather a closemouthed lot at the best of times.

Anonymous said...


In order to insure energy and economic independence as well as better economic growth without being blackmailed by foreign countries, our country, the United States of America’s Utilization of Energy sources must change.
"Energy drives our entire economy." We must protect it. "Let's face it, without energy the whole economy and economic society we have set up would come to a halt. So you want to have control over such an important resource that you need for your society and your economy." The American way of life is not negotiable.
Our continued dependence on fossil fuels could and will lead to catastrophic consequences.

The federal, state and local government should implement a mandatory renewable energy installation program for residential and commercial property on new construction and remodeling projects with the use of energy efficient material, mechanical systems, appliances, lighting, etc. The source of energy must by renewable energy such as Solar-Photovoltaic, Geothermal, Wind, Biofuels, etc. including utilizing water from lakes, rivers and oceans to circulate in cooling towers to produce air conditioning and the utilization of proper landscaping to reduce energy consumption.

The implementation of mandatory renewable energy could be done on a gradual scale over the next 10 years. At the end of the 10 year period all construction and energy use in the structures throughout the United States must be 100% powered by renewable energy.

In addition, the governments must impose laws, rules and regulations whereby the utility companies must comply with a fair “NET METERING” (the buying of excess generation from the consumer), including the promotion of research and production of “renewable energy technology” with various long term incentives and grants. The various foundations in existence should be used to contribute to this cause.

A mandatory time table should also be established for the automobile industry to gradually produce an automobile powered by renewable energy. The American automobile industry is surely capable of accomplishing this task.

This is a way to expedite our energy independence and economic growth. (This will also create a substantial amount of new jobs). It will take maximum effort and a relentless pursuit of the private, commercial and industrial government sectors commitment to renewable energy – energy generation (wind, solar, hydro, biofuels, geothermal, energy storage (fuel cells, advance batteries), energy infrastructure (management, transmission) and energy efficiency (lighting, sensors, automation, conservation) in order to achieve our energy independence.
"To succeed, you have to believe in something with such a passion that it becomes a reality."

Jay Draiman, Energy Consultant
Northridge, CA. 91325

P.S. I have a very deep belief in America's capabilities. Within the next 10 years we can accomplish our energy independence, if we as a nation truly set our goals to accomplish this.
I happen to believe that we can do it. In another crisis--the one in 1942--President Franklin D. Roosevelt said this country would build 60,000 [50,000] military aircraft. By 1943, production in that program had reached 125,000 aircraft annually. They did it then. We can do it now.
The American people resilience and determination to retain the way of life is unconquerable and we as a nation will succeed in this endeavor of Energy Independence.

Solar energy is the source of all energy on the earth (excepting volcanic geothermal). Wind, wave and fossil fuels all get their energy from the sun. Fossil fuels are only a battery which will eventually run out. The sooner we can exploit all forms of Solar energy (cost effectively or not against dubiously cheap FFs) the better off we will all be. If the battery runs out first, the survivors will all be living like in the 18th century again.

Every new home built should come with a solar package. A 1.5 kW per bedroom is a good rule of thumb. The formula 1.5 X's 5 hrs per day X's 30 days will produce about 225 kWh per bedroom monthly. This peak production period will offset 17 to 24 cents per kWh with a potential of $160 per month or about $60,000 over the 30-year mortgage period for a three-bedroom home. It is economically feasible at the current energy price and the interest portion of the loan is deductible. Why not?

Title 24 has been mandated forcing developers to build energy efficient homes. Their bull-headedness put them in that position and now they see that Title 24 works with little added cost. Solar should also be mandated and if the developer designs a home that solar is impossible to do then they should pay an equivalent mitigation fee allowing others to put solar on in place of their negligence.

Installing renewable energy system on your home or business increases the value of the property and provides a marketing advantage.

Anonymous said...

good to see someone out there fighting the good fight!

Anonymous said...

Good post!
Here some link about hurricane home protection