Pandodyssey™ Panda Blog

This is a blog devoted to Giant Panda enthusiasts, environmental wanna-bes and peace loving funimals, world-wide.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Octane Discussion

In a article, the Green Lantern asks "Is high octane gas bad for the environment?" I sum up the Green Lantern's thoughts on the subject thusly, sans science:

If you drive a car whose manual directs you to use only high-octane gas (93 octane), you should.

Everyone else, should not. Why? Because it won't do you any good, it won't get you any more MPGs and in fact, it could seriously harm your vehicle's engine. Which in turn, can seriously harm your mental state and do terrible things to the state of your bank account in costly auto repairs. In addition, ultimately it's bad for the environment: "Ten percent of the energy a car uses in its lifetime is expended during its production, so the greenest decision is often the one that keeps your vehicle on the road for as long as possible."

So in that regard, Hondas and Toyotas, what with their great gas mileages and practically infinite life spans, might be the greenest options on the road today. So why are they too opposed to upping the federal mandate on higher gas mileage requirements? They're already there!?

It's because the auto manufacturers are influenced by the oil guys. Without asking anyone for their secret formula, we'll agree that it's safe to assume that it takes more energy to produce higher octane fuel than regular octane fuel. The Green Lantern surmises that if every oil company lowered its highest octane ratings from 93 to 92 octane, the nation's gasoline efficiency could be improved by up to 2%, or 182,000 additional barrels of gasoline a day. "Over a full year, the reduction would save us about 143.1 million barrels of oil annually—enough to satisfy our national oil demand for about seven days."

143.1 million barrels of fuel sounds like a lot, but it will only fuel our country for seven days. Since oil companies make a ton of money convincing people to spend more on fuel and then to spend even more on more expensive fuel, it's up to the consumer to be as well informed as possible, and try to make smarter choices. We the consumer need to see through the hype and make sure we're spending our money the way we want to spend it and not on industry hype.

Which brings me to my current dilemma. After the dysfunctional love/hate/more hate relationship that was the LR Freelander (talk about your unhappy engines), I too wondered "To octane or not to octane, that is the question" when considering buying a new vehicle. E and I shopped, but even in this great country of choices on top of choices, there is little that's truly appealing in the area of small-SUV/ light truck with decent gas mileage. In fact, we had almost convinced ourselves that the Ford Escape was a viable option because it was a hybrid. However, in light of our most recent car woes (involving the aforementioned Freelander and a 3000-mile, silent white-knuckled race across the country against a leaking transmission) all American-manufactured vehicles were derisively laughed at, and crossed off the list. We looked some more, and came across the FJ Cruiser by Toyota. Off-beat, SUV-like, with a large space in the back for the dogs, it wasn't my favorite, but by golly, it was a reliable make and it would certainly suit our needs.

Then, the catch: 93-octane mandatory!

Our mutual response was at once both plaintive and furious: Oh HELL no! We'd both walk before any car company could convince us to commit to high-octane fuel for the next 60 months.

As a result, now I drive a Santa Fe by Hyundai. With its 25 MPG, regular octane fuel and 100,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty, this is exactly the vehicle we needed to help us recover from the emotional abuse of the Freelander. The Santa Fe is a nice little car and, at times, I feel wholly undeserving of such a sweet natured, simple vehicle. (I hear this happens to abused folks sometimes, the internal guilt that stems from a happier life circumstance.) All the Santa Fe wants to do is get me from point A to B without drama, fuss, or emitting smoke from under the hood. And yet, I find myself occasionally wishing that it was a little flashier, a little hotter, a little greener even! Alas, sometimes you give up style points to stay true to yourself and to make the bigger point. The point being "Screw you Toyota and your 93-octane snobbiness!" Maybe my next car will be a hybrid. Sigh.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

SoKo's in the Hizzouse

This Korean guy, Lee Myung Bak, will be featured as one of Time magazine's Heroes of the Environment issue next month. Hero candidates were chosen, not for their super powers, but for their involvement in improving the environment in their respective countries. Lee, former mayor of Seoul (the capital), is commended for his efforts in cleaning up the Cheonggye Stream and the restructuring of public transportation around the city.

Perhaps more amazing (to me) is the discovery of the English version of the popular Korean newspaper, the Chosunilbo, which means "All the news that's fit to print" in Korean. Just kidding - that phrase is copyrighted by the Pusan Herald-Union-Tribune. I don't know what it means at all. My Korean vocab still consists mainly of "Go clean up your room!" and "Stop smacking your sister!" Regardless, I've always wanted to keep up with news from the Motherland except the news was in Korean and I didn't want to spend 12 hours of my day trying to decipher the day's weather. Now, finally, it's in Engrish!

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

China and the Environment

There's nothing I can add to the New York Times series titled "Choking On Growth: A series of articles and multimedia examining the human toll, global impact and political challenge of China’s epic pollution crisis" except to encourage everybody I know to read it.

Not to pick on China - every nation has got its own green skeleton in the closet. But China is in the world spot light now due to the unprecedented growth of their economy, world-wide press coverage of the upcoming 2008 Olympic games, and just plain old curiosity about the once insular Communist country. Basically, the new millennium IS China and every country on the planet knows it.

In Installment One, China's failed "Green GDP" plan is discussed. I wondered in an earlier post why the US had no similarly government sanctioned plan. Well, now China doesn't either! It appears that, once the green numbers were calculated in, the news was so sobering that the Chinese government decided to shelve the project and never discuss it again. In some areas, the green GDP figures came out to ZERO and government officials were afraid that civil unrest might ensue.

China is learning to recognize that short term gains might not be worth the long term pain. But in the meantime, China says that developed Western nations like Britain and the US started the global warming problem, and that they (we?) (us?) were permitted to expand our economies unfettered, so why shouldn't they? Touche. However, to borrow the NYT's metaphor, China is like "a teenage smoker with emphysema" - meaning China's environmental problems are growing at a rate never before seen in a developing nation. We're in uncharted territory here and there's no denying that all nations are eventually going to have to work together to fix it. It may be China's economy but the environment is everyone's to share. Just ask LA about its smog problem.

The NYT series is long - at five+ pages per article - but well worth the read.

Pictured above: Subversive cute pandas want you to read this article. Not this one, the NYT article.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day is here!

In honor of Blog Action Day, here are some fun quasi-environment related nuggets.

* According to photographer-artist, Chris Jordan, 106,000 aluminum cans are consumed in the US every THIRTY seconds! I haven't checked this fact out myself but I heard it on The Colbert Report, so therefore it must be true. Mr. Jordan created a replica of George Seurat's "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" using 106,000 aluminum cans. Mr. Jordan also stated that 426,000 cell phones are thrown out in the US every day. Go check out his work and his statements on American consumerism. (Plus, he's kinda cute in that clark-kent-might-be-Superman-in-disguise kinda way.)

* The wonderful and fabulous sister o' mine sent me a delightful gift! She said she was sending me a "panda snack" so I assumed it was edible but it's not. It's a shirt made by Panda Snack, a NYC clothing and apparel company that features clothing made of bamboo! In case you hadn't heard, bamboo is the latest and greatest wonder-fiber to hit the market. Why? According to the company, it's green because bamboo is renewable and sustainable. Bamboo is naturally resistant to plant disease and microbial bad guys so pesticides are not necessary to grow it so that makes it organic! Bamboo's natural resistance to microbes gives it anti-bacterial properties as well so you won't stink. As much. Unlike other apparel companies that advertise anti-bacterial products, this one is naturally anti-bac so there's no danger of skin irritation or harm to the environment during production. Bamboo also breathes, also helping you not to stink. As much. The best part? A portion of the proceeds go to panda preservation. You can visit the website at and listen to their funky new age music. My impression? I LOVE it! It's soft and comfy and machine-washable and has a cute little panda logo on it. Gotta love that. Neither I nor my sister are in any way affiliated with this company.

* Cut down on pesky mail that you neither asked for nor want by going to Your mail carrier will thank you.

Happy Blog Action Day! Now go forth and do something green!

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Who Even Needs to Be President?

Al Gore has had far more success as not-TPOTUS, so one has to wonder if he would even want it at this point? WE need him way more than he needs to be Chief. Though the planet probably needs him the most, and he certainly doesn't need a stressful job like the Presidency distracting him from what's really important.

In any event, is petitioning the Emmy award winning, Academy Award winning and now Nobel Peace Prize winning former VP to quit his day job and help a country out. The petition has gathered over 100,000 signatures to date. You can also volunteer to help out the non-campaign, or donate to the site by purchasing this creepy/awesome poster.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Just Call Him the Green Downer

Please please please just don't blame the messenger. This article in The Green Lantern in Slate is the Debbie Downer of all environmental articles if you're a sports fan. TGL has done the modeling and extrapolating math for us, so all I need do is regurgitate it and cut to the chase. I didn't double check any stats or math so take that for what its worth. I take it as gospel.) So according to the Green Lantern, how bad are sports for the environment and which are the worst?

Hosting a home game at your average NFL stadium pumps roughly 47.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, or about 1.35 pounds per attending fan. (Small garbanzos when you consider that the average citizen's daily carbon footprint is 64.81 pounds per day.) However, 47.6 metric tons is nothing compared to what it takes to get all those fans to and from the stadium - a whopping 232.84 metric tons under the most conservative of estimates! So it seems that the standard by which we should measure a sport's impact on the environment is not the greeness of the facility itself but the total number of attendees and how often they travel.

At least football is a short season, with the average stadium hosting 8 games per season. Baseball on the other hand, is far dirtier with the average stadium hosting 81 games every season, and fans schlepping by plane, train but mostly automobile to cheer on the home team at every game. MLB draws an average 2.66 million fans per stadium each season, compared to the NFL's 542,000 fans per stadium. Owch!

Both the NHL and NBA are greener by virtue of the fact that they have shorter seasons and are played indoors in smaller arenas, though obviously it takes far less energy to keep up a hardwood floor than an ice rink. The NBA draws an average 728,037 fans per club per season. The NHL draws 678,440 fans per club per season.

"(The Lantern didn't even bother to crunch the numbers for NASCAR; any sport that centers around vehicles that get four to six miles per gallon is obviously pretty far from green.)" This might be the most startling fact in the entire article (ahead of "In the United States, where roughly half of our electricity still comes from coal, each kilowatt hour of electricity produces an average of 1.55 pounds of carbon dioxide.") FOUR TO SIX MILES PER GALLON??????

So what's a sports fan with an environmental conscience supposed to do? How can we spectate guilt-free now that we know? The leagues themselves are listening to the public and trying to go greener with recycling programs and solar powered what not, but it appears that fan transportation ought to be the primary focus if leagues are serious about reducing the sport's impact on carbon emissions. Maybe there's an environmental group out there who will start organizing natural gas powered party buses to and from sporting events. This would minimize environmental impact and maximize tailgating so its a win for everyone! It might also get a drunken driver or two off the freeways. Another idea is for leagues to work together with public transportation to get the majority of fans to use mass transit. Or take the Fenway Park approach and have so little parking available that the public has to use public transportation.

And maybe NASCAR can race kangaroos or wheelbarrows instead of cars. Just a thought.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Eat Meat FOR the Environment?

I thought I thoroughly understood and accepted the fact that a vegetarian diet is the "greenest" way to go, at least as far as the environment is concerned. It seems to make perfect sense - plants are easier to grow than animals - so I never gave the idea much more thought. Also, I never gave it much thought because I have little desire to go vegetarian. Ahem, again. Here's a hint for the Heloise crowd: carrot sticks and a handful of gummi bears does not constitute a meal under ANY diet.

But now, that "greenest of green" diets has been challenged. According to this post in New Scientist's blog, adding a little meat to your diet may actually be greener than greens alone. Citing a new study out of Cornell, NS suggests that if everyone ate around 63 grams of meat protein (including eggs) in addition to their veggies, the ecological footprint to produce that diet would be LESS than that of a strict vegetarian diet. How so you ask? Livestock can be raised on land that is unsuitable for farming. Livestock can also be raised on farm land that is resting.

I think this is how farming was accomplished in the old days, right. Crops were rotated on plots of arable land and livestock would move from plot to plot and "fertilize" the resting plots. You know, with rakes and plows and Scotts Lawn products from Home Depot.

However, the Cornell study doesn't give us license to go forth and be unflinchingly carnivorous. The study makes it a point to say that their model assumes that all the food, meat and plant, comes from local sources. Once you start calculating the costs of importing meat overseas, the environmental footprint is considerably higher.

Under no circumstances should one eat green meat.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Blog Action Day - Oct. 15

What would happen if every blog published posts on the same topic, on the same day? One issue. One Day. Thousands of voices.

That's the tag line for On October 15, a few thousand of your best online friends, moi included, will be blogging about all things environment. (I guess this would differ from any other day at Pandodyssey only in that there is less chance of this particular day's post involving a panda.) (However now that I've thrown down the proverbial guantlet, I bet I can manage to work it in somewhere ... can you even throw down a guantlet, proverbial or literal, on yourself?) is an effort intended to raise environmental awareness through the mass participation of bloggers and readers alike. To date, there are over 5,000 blogs signed up to participate! It's an international effort with translations available for: English, Chinese, Malay, Indonesian, Bulgarian, Finnish, Spanish, Portuguese, German, French, Farsi, Italian and Turkish blogs. Surely someone out there can help the Korean folks translate their blogs! (brogs)? Ai goo!

I hope Blog Action Day is a rousing success! Let's raise some awareness and pump up some site stats.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Trash is SOOO last millenium

This morning, as I polished off my third bottle of coffee creamer this month, the question occurred to me - not the question that ought to have occurred to me, namely why do I drink so much coffee? - but what are all those mysterious symbols and numbers stamped on the bottom of plastic bottles, what do they even mean? Even though all of my carefully sorted recyclables wind up in the exact same place (in an 'outdoor living person's' shopping cart. It's a....uh....unique recycling system we have implemented here in OB.)

First of all, recycling plastic is much more difficult than recycling glass or paper. Here's the totally-readable Wiki-version, but why go there when I give you the Pandodyssey(tm)-diluted-age-7-&-up-version?? Basically, there's a million different ways of manufacturing plastic bottles. All these bottles vary in chemical composition and not all of these compositions will meld together nicely upon recycling. Even the dye used to make green Sprite bottles (as opposed to clear Coke bottles) affects the bottle's recyclability chemistry. (I obviously just made that word up. (tm) if it's a good one.)

Thus, plastics can generally only be recycled with their similarly chemically-compounded brethren. This poses a problem for sorting, all done by you, the consumer of course. If YOU want to do your part to help the environment, you better hire an accountant to handle the Pythagorean Theorem on Recycling, better known as all those cryptic numbers purportedly trying to make sense of the mess. eHow shows us how:

Step 1: Figure out who collects your trash. Ask them what recycling they even accept. Seriously. Or, stand there and cry as you watch the trash collectors mercilessly toss your meticulously rinsed and sorted recyclables 1, 2, 3, and 4 into the back of the garbage truck. With an evil laugh. Ha, no just kidding. They feel your pain.

Step 2: Sort it all by number. Yes ALL of it. They say this is necessary to prevent contamination of plastics. So...get started. Go on, I'll wait. (hmmmmm hmmmmm hmmmmm...elevator music....sun sets....sun rises...)

Step 3: Huzzah, Recycle! Type 1 - PETE and Type 2 - HDPE, are curb-recyclable, meaning most collection companies will pick this up, along with your trash, glass and newspaper. Type 1 and 2 are your regular soda bottles, water bottles, milk jugs, etc.

Step 4: Huh? Here's where it starts to get dicey. Plastic grocery bags are usually marked Type 4 - LDPE, but can also be Type 2 - HDPE. But are sometimes unmarked just to keep things interesting. You can recycle these at your grocery store, or repurpose them for another use. One of your neighbors probably needs some poo bags - go offer. Just don't throw them away. Marine animals inadvertently eat them and die and you don't need the death of a 20,000 pound whale on your conscience. Not today anyway.

Another wrinkle: sometimes Type 2 and Type 4 plastic grocery bags can be recycled together, but sometimes not. Confused? Yeah, me too. Moving on...

Step 5: Expanded Poly-what? If you're the lucky holder of Type 6 - EPS, oooh, you're in luck! You get to call or visit the website of the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers, to find out what to do with your Type 6 goodies. Unfortunately, all too often this extra effort will translate into: Type 6 = trash bin.

Step 6: But I thought we were supposed to be recycling? Gather up your Type 3s (plastic food wraps), your Type 5s (yogurt containers, diapers) and your Type 7s (layered/mixed plastics) and ... THROW THEM AWAY. Why? Because technology has not yet found a way to recycle these plastics. Something about the dried crusty yogurt molecules contaminating the dirty-diaper-compounds... So why are we still using these containers? Good question. Ask your accountant.

Step 7: For real? Take any tops of spray bottles or caps to bottles and THROW THEM AWAY. Modern science can't figure out what to do with these either so, away they go.

That's it! That is the comprehensive guide on how to recycle household plastics. Not as easy as I had hoped, for sure. Through this exercise I have learned that just because a plastic bottle has a number and little recycled-arrow-triangle on it, doesn't actually mean it can be recycled, or that it can be recycled in my particular neighborhood, or that the onus is on anyone but me to get these bottles and cans to their most environmentally safe final resting spot.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

China's Got a Greep GDP, Why Don't We?

This is a GREAT news item from the NYT. It's long (6+ minutes) but totally worth the watch. The correspondent describes how China, in an effort to curb a potential environmental disaster resulting from rapid expansion and exponential growth, has devised a "Greep GDP" whereby they subtract the environmental costs of the GDP, to arrive at a truer reflection on the health of China's economy.

So, what's the US's Green GDP? How are we doing?

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

is it midnight yet?

This famous guy has a new environmental movie out and initial reviews are unfortunately lukewarm. Reuters tries to be nice about it by touting The Eleventh Hour's message over the movie's substance - not a good sign.

One reviewer goes so far as to lament that "the film has the unfortunate effect of making the multiple-Oscar-nominated star seem somehow less charismatic than Al Gore." Ow, definitely not a good sign.

Hopefully, audiences will cleave to the movie's message and ignore the movie's first time directors' clumsy execution. Hopefully Leo's gravitational pull will carry this movie, and it won't sink faster than ... a really big boat.

Pictured above: aforementioned multiple-Oscar-nominated star.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Recycle vs. Reuse

Boxers or briefs?

Not that age old question, but a different one: paper or plastic? The debate rages on! It occurred to me today that I can't even remember a time when a trip to the grocery store didn't end with a bored cashier's perfunctory inquiry: "Paper or plastic?"

Plastic bags used to be the environmental choice. Use plastic bags and save a tree! Now plastic bags are the bane of society, all the world over. Plastic is evil because it doesn't break down in the environment. Plastic is evil because it creates excess garbage. Plastic is evil because it's petroleum-based and we need every lick of oil for our cars until we can wean ourselves from the petroleum teat. Okay I get it. Plastic is bad. But then what do I do about it? Avoid it at all costs? Go bankrupt buying those nifty Whole Foods cotton bags at $6 a pop? (Whole Foods, overrated and overpriced.)

The bags I get from Target have helpful hints printed on them as to reuse ("repurpose" is what the cool kids call it), but does that even help the environment really? I reuse every plastic bag I get, mostly for picking up dog poop. Does the fact that I'm not aimlessly throwing the plastic bags away truly help the environment? Or does the fact that plastic doesn't break down mean I am actually creating little time capsules of dog poop, enshrining it for decades in non-biodegradable plastic tombs? For that matter, are the "biodegradeable" bags truly biodegradeable, and thus an acceptable alternative?

You know who must struggle the most with this? The poor bag boys (ahem, bag persons. I guess.) They have a really hard job, tiptoeing that fine line between cramming your stuff into too few bags - causing spillage of groceries and sundries, breakage of molecule-thin-bags, and incensing of soccer moms with soccer kids in tow - or, double, triple, quadruple bagging heavy, drippy, and frozen items, thusly creating the excess garbage that refuses to break down into anything remotely organic.

I had zero point to all this, aside from being mildly annoyed that there is little reliable information available for such a simple question.

Now excuse me while I go train my dog to poop into a paper bag.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Green in the classroom

Last week I read two articles dealing with education and the environment.

San Jose Unified School District, Chevron & BoA are joining forces to create the largest kindergarten through twelfth grade energy efficiency program in the country. Chevron Energy Solutions will build and maintain a solar grid on district schools' premises and Bank of America's Energy Services Financing Solutions will own the equipment and subsidize associated costs.

Through this cooperative effort, the school district (comprised of 31,000 students in 27 elementary schools, 6 middle schools and 6 high schools) estimates it will save $25 million in energy costs over the lifetime of the program, experience a 25% reduction in energy demand throughout the district, and reduce their carbon dioxide emissions output by 37,500 tons. The district will get additional financial help in the form of incentives from California's State Solar Initiative and federal tax credits.

At the university level, Stanford has announced plans to build a green dormitory on their campus. Not only is it green - it's green for the students and by the students. Blueprints include a student-designed low-flow showerhead, to be installed campuswide, and is estimated it'll save 9 million gallons of water annually. Other student innovations to be implemented includes a system of skylights and cutouts to naturally illuminate hallways and a carbon-sequestering roof lawn. Those Stanford kids. They're so SMART!

Just for fun, here are some folks I didn't know attended Stanford:
Vint Cerf - inventor of the internet - the REAL inventor of the internet
Jack Palance - Hollywood actor, badass
Danny Pintauro - 80's has been
Fred Savage - see Danny Pintauro
Adam West - the mayor on the family guy - also a Stanford drop out
Robert Mondavi - refreshing Napa Valley beverage maker
Jerry Yang, Omid Kordestani, Larry Page, Sergey Brin - all internet guys. all wealthy.

... and a bunch of athletes, astronauts, Nobel Prize winners and Supreme Court justices.

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top 10 emerging environmental technologies

Top 10 Emerging Environmental Technologies

The list of "Top 10" emerging environmental technologies comes from The commentary is mine.

10. Electronic paper
It's just like paper, but you can use it over and over again, thanks to teeny microcapsules filled with whilte or black particles to "print" your articles and stuff. This strikes me as "cool, neat" but of little practical value to anyone except those nostalgic for tangible paper. If I want to read the paper, I read it on my laptop. Though, with 55 million papers sold everyday in the US, electronic paper would definitely save a few trees.

9. Burying Carbon Dioxide
Remember back when you were little and you tried to make yourself a yummy sandwich and you accidentally spill some crumbs and make a mess? And, being young and immature, rather than actually cleaning up the mess you made, you simply swept it under the rug, hoping that time would make it "go away"? Similar concept here only instead of sandwich crumbs we're spilling carbon dioxide gas. And rather than cleaning up the mess or addressing the cause of the mess, we're looking for ways to sweep the crumbs under the rug and hope that time will make it "go away".

8. Let Plants and Microbes Clean Up After Us
Another interesting innovation in environmental clean up., phytoremediation has already been used successfully in remediating arsenic contaminated sites. Seems a little unfair to the plants and microbes, who otherwise might just be chilling.

7. Plant Your Roof
Planting greenery and gardens on rooftops can help keep your home cool and help insulate the interior, while simultaneously adding oxygen and taking away carbon dioxide from the air. Aside from taking away rooftop space from your solar cells, I don't see one thing wrong with idea, except that it doesn't strike me as an emerging technology so much as a really ancient one.

6. Harness Waves and Tides
Now THIS is what I consider an emerging environmental technology. As anyone who has been pummelled by a wave, there is tremendous power there. And since ocean covers 70% of our planet, learning to harness wave power could well be a perfect renewable energy source.

5. Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion
Another innovative idea, using the natural temperature differentials at the ocean surface and at the ocean's floor to drive generators and create energy. I don't know the scientific mumbo-jumbology for this but it would be extra super cool because this technology would harness the energy in temperature differences, as opposed to harnessing energy already in motion (like wind). GoooOOOO thermal energy conversion!

4. Sunny New Ideas
This concept takes solar energy technology one step further. By focusing photons from the sun using mirrors and parabolic dishes, solar energy output can be increased. The sunny state of California is jumping on the sunshine bandwagon by providing incentives for new solar technology initiatives. However, the even sunnier state of Arizona has yet to make solar energy any kind of priority as its constituency (consisting mostly of old folks I guess) have deemed solar panels as unsightly to the aesthetics of their planned communities. (snicker) This is one of several thousand reasons why California is better than Arizona. But that's another post entirely.

3. H Power
Hydrogen. That's all I've got to say about that because I know zero about hydrogen power. except that it has potential. When this technology grows in the future (as it should and it will), it'll be huge.

2. Remove the Salt
Present day desalination processes are imperfect and use tons of energy to bring potable water to corners of the earth that don't have it. Obviously we need to improve this technology, which has been around forever. Why isn't desalination technology better developed by now? Oh right, because providing the basic necessities of life to impoverished people in third world countries isn't a huge moneymaker.

1. Make Oil From Just About Anything
Through thermo-depolymerization, you can turn any carbon based waste into oil. The process is similar (apparently) to the way nature makes oil: carbon based waste + pressure + heat = oil! According to this site, a ton of turkey "waste" can produce 600 pounds of petroleum. Which is kinda cool given that you don't have to drill for it but would still wreak havoc on the atmosphere don't you think?

So what can we learn from this list?
- people will try to convince you that just about anything is "emerging technology";
- "environmental technologies" is too broadly defined to be a useful term- covering up old issues or sustaining present ones can hardly be defined as "environmental";

- that you really only need to look at the top half of any "top ten" list.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

yay environment! I think?

Ecuador's Innovative Environmental Shakedown

In a way, Ecuador's president Rafael Correa, is leading the world in "outside the box" thinking as to alternative policy proposals on oil. In essence, he's asking the international community to pay Ecuador NOT to drill for oil under a rain forest within Ecuador's borders.

Under Correa's plan, countries would pay up to $350 million a year to leave untouched the estimated 1 billion barrels of oil underneath the 2.4 million acre Yasuni National Rain Forest. $350 million comprises about half the revenue that Ecuador estimates it could make from extracting the oil.

Environmentalists are applauding - in the spirit of carbon offsetting, Correa's innovative plan seems to contain all the answers. Wealthier nations that are concerned about the environment have a way to save the rain forest, and Ecuador "exports" offsets instead of oil, while simulatanously bringing in revenue for its people. Today, 6 in 10 Ecuadorians live in poverty.

However policy analysts and others disagree that this plan could even work, and cite Correa's political woes (not his environmental concerns) as the real catalyst for his proposal. There is disagreement over the estimated worth of the oil under the forest, with detractors claiming that there is not enough there to warrant the hefty $350 million price tag. Other detractors look to Ecuador's political environment and turmoil over the past 10 years and doubt whether, even with the best of intentions, Ecuador could keep its promise to the international community over the long haul.

Is this the most innovative environmental policy proposal ever, or is it merely an attempt at shaking down wealthier countries? I honestly can't say but I think it's at least a step in the right direction. And who knows? Maybe countries like ours could afford to be shooken down if we weren't wasting money on a senseless war.

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