Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Destruction for fashion

Wednesday, March 15th, 2006

I don’t know what store this is, but I can’t stand egregious waste. Basically, rather than dilute their high-end brand, they destroy old merchandise in full view of customers if it doesn’t sell. I suppose the intended message is that their stuff is so exclusive that it should be destroyed rather than be seen in the dirty hands of the un-cool. Or that you may as well pay full price, since they certainly won’t be doing any discounting. Dunno. Heck – I don’t even go into stores that keep their air conditioning on with their doors wide open in the summer, so this is way over my line.

Energy: There is no silver bullet

Tuesday, February 21st, 2006

Lots of talk in the news about alternative energy. I’m skeptical of Bush’s newfound passion for clean energy (much less his oops, I didn’t mean to cut funding and force dozens of layoffs at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory explanation), but money for renewables is money for renewables. That’s certainly better than no money spent investigating true long-term solutions. I’m equally skeptical about the “let’s get off of Mideast Oil” rationale, but as usual, Dilbert says it best.

What worries me even more is that we’re not also going to focus on reducing consumption. In the long-term, I’m pretty optimistic – there is tons of energy to be had from renewable resources, and I do believe we’ll figure out ways to harness it in relatively benign ways. But most of the alternatives being bandied about aren’t magical solutions without downsides. Solar panels take considerable energy to create, install, and maintain. Dams destroy fisheries and ecosystems. Biofuels use arable land, and sometimes actual food products, along with the pesticides and water use that come with any large-scale agribusiness. Thus, overly simplistic statements from the President like, “All of a sudden, you know, we may be in the energy business by being able to grow grass on the ranch! And have it harvested and converted into energy. That’s what’s close to happening,” simply aren’t encouraging for those who care about things other than poking Saudi Arabia in the eye.

In the lifetime of anyone reading this article, we will do massive damage to the world, both environmentally and politically, by regarding thoughtless, uncontrolled, and heavily subsidized energy use as the major underpinning of our happiness. Before recent events, this is exactly what the President believed. When asked at a press conference about conservation, his press secretary stated it baldly:

“But the President also believes that the American people’s use of energy is a reflection of the strength of our economy, of the way of life that the American people have come to enjoy.”

Has he really changed his mind? The SUV presidential motocades toodling around DC make me think not. It isn’t weak to minimize and conserve, but that’s certainly not the message being sent. We don’t need to freeze to death. We don’t have to give up going places. It is at least worth considering that living a more creative life rather than solving problems through greater energy use would actually increase our overall satisfaction. That’s the American way in my book.

Looks unsafe at any speed, but wow, this two-seater is pretty cool

Tuesday, July 19th, 2005

Twike makes a skimpy looking battery powered two-seater vehicle that supposedly gets the equivalent of 550mpg and has a max speed of 55mph. Of course, if you hit a speed bump, you’re probably going to be hurting, but I’d love to be proven wrong. Maybe it has a rollcage or something? I think I’d also want to add one of those orange flags on a long pole your mom put on your bike when you were a youngin’ so that cars would hesitate a second before running you down – the Twike seems like it might be a bit hard to see from a Hummer.

Via TreeHugger.

Hacking the Prius so you can plug it into the wall

Friday, July 15th, 2005

Yes, hybrid is a good thing. I’ve been following the story of the folks who created a kit to allow you to plug in your Prius and then run it 100% on battery to get phenominal gas mileage. Some people ask why Toyota didn’t just make it an option. I think they made the right choice for the broader market – they made it work just like a standard car, removing one of the possible pieces of opposition to adopting the technology. In addition, there are some significant additional costs, like more battery storage, that would make it non-trivial to add.

But I think we’re almost ready for it as a manufacturer option in the next few years – once people really internalize that they can use it just like a normal car, having the plug-in option to really crank that gas bill down will probably be a welcome improvement. Until then, the enthusiast hacker market can get it from EDrive right now.

12,500 mpg car

Wednesday, July 6th, 2005

OK, this “car” is really small, and it may or may not handle hills. There is no cargo space – in fact, I don’t think you can carry anything in your pockets, and you have to be a 13 year-old or horse jockey to fit into it. But it apparently really does get 12,500 mpg. Wow.

Source: TreeHugger.

Driving food home is the big impact…

Monday, June 13th, 2005

New Scientist recently ran Driving food home can cost the Earth, which is in the same vein as the previous post. As much as we agonize over minimizing environmental impact by choosing the right foods with minimal packaging, our other choices have a vastly greater impact. Forest for the trees and all that.

Focus on the big decisions if you want to be eco-friendly

Monday, June 13th, 2005

Treehugger has a summary of the major points in The Consumer’s Guide to Effective Environmental Choices, by the Union of Concerned Scientists. It is easy to get caught up in small insignificant issues like recycling a single aluminum can, but this book points out that the major life decisions we make, like where to live, have a much larger impact. Lessons here for minimialism in general.

Using bats (the black flappy kind) to kill mosquitoes

Thursday, June 9th, 2005

We were really disturbed by the non-minimalism inherent in this battery-powered insect smashing tennis racket. Then in boingboing’s followup we learned that electric bug zappers can atomize all the crap (literally) stuck to the outside of whatever you smackzap, and we were really grossed out. Luckily, treehugger comes to the rescue with a much simpler solution. A bat house. Bats eat insects. Give them a friendly place to live, and they’ll eat “thousands of insects” every night. People & bats: 1 Nasty biting insects: 0.