consider that since at least 135,000 urine-diversion toilets are in use in Sweden and that a Swiss aquatic institute did a six-year study of urine separation that found in its favor. In Sweden, some of the collected urine — which contains 80 percent of the nutrients in excrement — is given to farmers, with little objection. “If they can use urine and it’s cheap, they’ll use it,” said Petter Jenssen, a professor at the Agricultural University of Norway.
A friend’s grandmother remembers the man coming round for the buckets 60 years ago in Yorkshire, which were then sold to the tanning industry. The flush toilet ended that, and no one — my friend’s nan included — wants outside privies again. “Any innovation in the toilet that increases owner responsibility is probably seen as downwardly mobile,” said Carol Steinfeld, of New Bedford, Mass., who imports NoMix toilets into the United States.
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Here's another perspective on alternatives to efficiency: resiliency, redundancy, and diversification. Chip Ward argues that efficiency-measurements are the conceptual armature of monoculture--the logic of specialization that allows for controlled-variable parameters. Ideas about resiliency (e.g. crop rotation that allows time for soil renewal) assume longer-term planning horizons, figure on the occurrence of catastrophic events, and consider ways to ensure sufficient slack in the system to allow it to bounce back.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Friday, February 13, 2009
The proposal is for a collaboration with the First UU Church in Clintonville, to build a stormwater management demonstration project, including substantial rain gardens (Franklin County has an ongoing rain garden initiative called CORGI). The UU has a large site, fronted by Panera, with a large parking lot, so this would be highly visible and could have a great effect.
In typical Web 2.0 fashion, they have to mobilize to get the grant: go to the RiverNetwork site and look for the MillerCoors grant window. They're up against seven other projects. Vote for FLOW--and pass the word along to friends.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Hung from lamp posts, dumped in the River Seine, torched and broken
into pieces, maintaining the network is proving expensive. Some have
turned up in eastern Europe and Africa, according to press reports.
Since the scheme's launch, nearly all the original bicycles have been replaced at a cost of 400 euros ($519, £351) each.
Various videos have appeared on YouTube showing riders taking the bikes
down the steps in Montmartre, into metro stations and being tested on
Monday, February 9, 2009
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Saturday, February 7, 2009
When Mr. Bush designated as national monuments almost 400,000 square miles of ocean, reefs, atolls, seamounts and surrounding waters, Elliott Nourse, president of the Marine Conservation Biology Institute, called his action “statesmanlike.”
The monuments, set aside in 2006 and 2008, are home to thousands of species of rare plants, birds and fish. But perhaps their most important characteristic is that they contain few exploitable resources and just about nobody lives there, so there were no major political or commercial objections.
In other words, do what's easiest, and kick the rest down the road (Kyoto, air pollution, clean energy, etc). That's "statesmanlike"?
Friday, February 6, 2009
Faculty, researchers and graduate students are invited to attend one of three open forums to help define future directions for the environmental sciences at Ohio State. The forums are sponsored by the Task Force on the Environmental Sciences, an initiative that came out of the doctoral review assessment process. A summary of its efforts to date will be available before the forums, to be held: Wednesday (2/11), 3-4 p.m. 333 Kottman Hall; Monday (2/16), 3-4 p.m. 1080 Smith Lecture Room, Physics Research Bldg; and Thursday (2/19), 8-9 a.m. 104 Aronoff Lab. Registration is requested. Contact: Susan Reeser, 247-7413
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Leonhardt also reports on the difficulty we're going to have in transitioning from the consumer economy to a green-investment model, which will take nothing less than recalibrating our time-horizons and, consequently, our individual and social expectations.
Sometimes a project can give an economy a lift and also lead to transformation, but sometimes the goals are at odds, at least in the short term. Nothing demonstrates this quandary quite so well as green jobs, which are often cited as the single best hope for driving the post-bubble economy. Obama himself makes this case. Consumer spending has been the economic engine of the past two decades, he has said. Alternative energy will supposedly be the engine of the future — a way to save the planet, reduce the amount of money flowing to hostile oil-producing countries and revive the American economy, all at once. Put in these terms, green jobs sounds like a free lunch.
Green jobs can certainly provide stimulus. Obama’s proposal includes subsidies for companies that make wind turbines, solar power and other alternative energy sources, and these subsidies will create some jobs. But the subsidies will not be nearly enough to eliminate the gap between the cost of dirty, carbon-based energy and clean energy. Dirty-energy sources — oil, gas and coal — are cheap. That’s why we have become so dependent on them.
The only way to create huge numbers of clean-energy jobs would be to raise the cost of dirty-energy sources, as Obama’s proposed cap-and-trade carbon-reduction program would do, to make them more expensive than clean energy. This is where the green-jobs dream gets complicated.For starters, of the $700 billion we spend each year on energy, more than half stays inside this country. It goes to coal companies or utilities here, not to Iran or Russia. If we begin to use less electricity, those utilities will cut jobs. Just as important, the current, relatively low price of energy allows other companies — manufacturers, retailers, even white-collar enterprises — to sell all sorts of things at a profit. Raising that cost would raise the cost of almost everything that businesses do. Some projects that would have been profitable to Boeing, Kroger or Microsoft in the current economy no longer will be. Jobs that would otherwise have been created won’t be. As Rob Stavins, a leading environmental economist, says, “Green jobs will, to some degree, displace other jobs.” Just think about what happened when gas prices began soaring last spring: sales of some hybrids increased, but vehicle sales fell overall.
Monday, February 2, 2009
Turning that around is a key part of the sustainability challenge, leveraging social needs and public goods out of the great conceptual glacier that is Economic Growth. Over at the Gristmill, Tom Laskawy has an interesting discussion looking at the infrastructure for local food and why "food miles" isn't necessarily the critical tool we need, since locales still need to be linked:
But as we explore ways to reform industrial agriculture and itsOn the bright side, Tom reports that a major organic farm in Florida, long accustomed to shipping to the Northeast, has re-opened a greenmarket in the Miaimi area to respond to local demand.
reliance on fossil fuels in food production, more, smaller farms
inevitably come up as an alternative -- and for that sort of system to
work, they would need to be proximate to population centers. Speaking
of the food miles argument, it's likely that, using our existing
infrastructure, exclusively procuring produce from farms within, say,
75 miles of urban centers would cause the transportation component of
agricultural carbon emissions to go way up.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Among the ideas Princen offers is the concept of a 'working rationality." Inspired by"the backward bending supply curve for labor," in which, traditionally, workers labored only as much as they wanted (rather than according to the demands of a time clock: hence the great old tradition of Saint Monday), Princen wants to break out of the straitjacket of "consumer sovereignty." The idea, Princen argues
rejects the neat consumption-is-good/work-is-bad dichotomy..[and] allows individual consumption to follow work, not drive it. It would be an economy where individuals optimize between work and consumption, where choice is, in the first instance, made by individuals themselves in the context of their broader commitments--family, neighborhood, nation. A working rationality would, in short, build in limits in work and hence, limits in consumption. It becomes one more step to make those limits congruent with ecological rationality. ... a working rationality puts a brake on excess throughput of material and energy ...that brake is released when workers specialize, resource groups exceed a manageable scale, and sovereign consumers rule (130).It looks like the aim is to undo Adam Smith's division of labor, and return the figure of the self-employed artisan--be your own boss--to the center of the economy. This resonates with other proposals to return the economy to a more human scale, although Princen is working on conceptual innovation rather than utopian blueprinting.
But this description, at least, sounds all too individualized: insufficiently sociological or political. Choices are relational, and while there ways to steer individual choice--see the work in behavioral economics summarized in Sunstein and Thaler's book Nudge--the connection between policy and individual decisions is deeply problematic.