Building the World

October 1, 2019
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ENERGY: Traveling Wave of the Future

“Prometheus bringt der Menschheit das Feuer,” by Heinrich Fuger, 1817. Image: Wikimedia.

Ever since Prometheus gave fire to humankind, energy has changed civilization. But energy has now become what some believe the critical challenge of the future, growing increasingly critical due to climate change. We must solve energy in this century; some say in the next decade. What if there were a form of energy that was cleaner, safer, with very low carbon emissions, and used – to power itself – some of the most toxic, undisposable waste on earth? Sounds good, but will it happen? Traveling Wave is the term given to this form of nuclear reactor, or TRW for short. It’s a fission reactor that, theoretically, could run decades, self-sustained by its own internal processes, because it uses spent fuel. Traveling wave reactors were once called “breed and burn” dating back to Saveli Feinberg in 1958, followed by advances by Michael Driscoll, Lev Feoktistov, Edward Teller and Lowell Wood, Hugo van Dam, and Hiroshi Sekimoto, among others. It was the world of Teller and Wood that attracted notice by Bill Gates, Intellectual Ventures, and TerraPower. TerraPower’s scientists applied for patent EP 2324480 A1, following WO201009199A1 “Heat pipe nuclear fission deflagration wave reactor cooling.” Plans for TerraPower to partner with CNNC, in a 2015 MoU, are perhaps in development after being on hold due to international trade issues recently in the news. While some may say nuclear energy is too dangerous to develop, others state that the world may not be able to make a climate-driven energy transition to renewables and non-carbon-emitting sources unless nuclear stays in the energy mix. ITER, in France, is working on fusion energy; TerraPower, in the USA, is working on better ways to do fission.

Alert Einstein, 1921. Image: wikimedia

Powerful enough to light and heat the world, yet yielding very few carbon emissions, a form of energy that is 70 years old this year may be due for a remake. It was in August of 1939 that physicist Albert Einstein wrote a letter to then United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt about the work of Fermi and Szilard proving “the element uranium may be turned into a new and important source of energy.” What followed was the development of atomic power through the Manhattan Project, revealing the danger and destruction that led Los Alamos Lab Director J. Robert Oppenheimer to quote the Bhagavad Gita: “I am become death,/ The destroyer of worlds.” While the Atomic Energy Act go 1946 reversed the purpose of developing nuclear power, turning the energy into productive and peaceful uses, there still remained dangers.

Nuclear disasters such as Chernobyl, Russia and Fukushima, Japan are among tragic occurrences that have plagued the use of fission energy.

Fukushima nuclear disaster: Image, wikimedia.

Another problem has grown to considerable proportion: toxic radioactive waste. Presently, the United States has 90,000 metric tons of nuclear waste that needs disposal; the substance is often called “spent” fuel. Disposal is controversial, and unwanted: case in point: Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Worldwide, the picture is even more troubling. With nuclear waste building up, and old power plants breaking down, the nuclear energy question looms: where should we head in the future? Four problems are often cited: 1) danger of radioactivity from a reactor accident like Chernobyl or Fukushima; 2) limited supply of fuels U-235 and Pu-239, as presently obtained; nuclear energy is expensive; threat of misuse for military purposes. And then there is all that spent fuel.

Bill Gates. “Climate change solutions.” Image: wikimedia

But what if all that spent fuel could power future nuclear reactors capable of transforming and eliminating the world’s toxic nuclear waste, while providing enough clean energy to power the future AND stop climate change? Should we rethink nuclear energy? At 70 years of age, nuclear power may be ready for a makeover. Want to know more? Hear some ideas in Bill Gates’ TED Talk.

Ahlheld, Charles E, John Rogers Gilleland, Roderick A. Hyde, Muriel Y. Isikawa, David G. Mcalees, Nathan P. Myhrvold, Thomas Allan Weaver, Charles Whitmer, Lowell L. Wood Jr. “Heat pipe nuclear fission deflagration wave reactor cooling.” https://patents.google.com/patent/EP2324480A4/en.

Bobin, Jean Louis. Controlled Thermonuclear Fusion. World Scientific Publishing, 2014. ISBN: 9789814590686.

Gates, Bill. “Innovating to Zero.” TED Talk. https://www.ted.com/talks/bill_gates

Gates, Bill. “Inside Bill’s Brain.” Episode Three: “The Search for Climate Change Solutions.” Netflix.com, 2019.

Einstein, Albert. “Letter of August 2nd 1939 from Albert Einstein to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.” http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/psf/box5/a64a01.html/ and Building the World (2006), pages 488-490.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Waste and Environment Safety Section, Vienna, Austria. “Estimation of Global Inventories of Radioactive Waste and Other Radioactive Materials. June 2007. IAEA-TECDOC-1591. ISBN: 9789201056085.https://www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/Publications?PDF/te_1591_web.pdf.

Oppenheimer, Robert. On the Manhattan Project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lb13ynu3Iac

Teller, Edward. “Nuclear energy for the third millennium.” Office of Scientific and Technical Information, Department of Energy, United States of America, 1 October 1997.

Transatomic Power. http://www.transatomicpower.com

United States Congress. “Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982.” https://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheet/radwaste.html and https://www.congress.gov/bill/97th-congress/house-bill/3809.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unporte

 

August 10, 2019
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Calculate Your Climate Diet: Water-Energy-Food Nexus

Bad for your health and disastrous for the planet. “Cheeseburger.” Photographer: Renee Comet. Image: National Institutes for Health, USA.

Should labels on food, commonly listing salt, fat, calories, now include water, energy, and land? Recent findings by the United Nations IPCC reveal world land use is not sustainable for growing the food we need. Agricultural practices including raising of animals meant for food, deforestation, erosion and renewal of topsoil, population expansion, and the energy and water required to produce food are all factors. Scientists term this the “Water-Energy-Food Nexus.” But what can you do, as an individual? Moving towards a plant-based diet can help.

Sir Paul McCartney, 2009. Image: wikimedia.

Sir Paul McCartney is among those who advocate a plant-oriented diet; to help the cause, Sir Paul challenges you to write a song to promote “Meat-Free Mondays.” A promising development: the plant-based Impossible Burger, offering a carbon footprint 89% smaller than beef. But even plant choices have better and worse consequences for climate change. Will farmers who vie for water to irrigate crops in agricultural areas of the Colorado River now be awarded water rights based on their produce: some food uses more water? Rice farmers may switch to millet or maize, grains that use less water but still provide nutritional benefits.

 

Potatoes Lyonnaise” Image: wikimedia.

Want to know whether to choose rice, fries, or pasta – rice uses the most energy, land, and water; pasta is second;  potatoes use the least (and are the most nutritious). Enjoy avocado toast, but note: eating one avocado per week uses 3,519 liters of water annually. Order from the sandwich menu, deciding between a beef-burger or an omelette – beef is the worst, chicken is better, eggs are the best. Wine or beer, coffee or tea – beer uses the most resources, followed by coffee, wine, and tea. Here’s a way to calculate your diet in the era of climate change. What’s your climate diet? – calculate here.

Johnson, Scott K. “New IPCC report shows land use is part of solution to climate change.” 8 August 2019. Ars Technica. https://apple.news/AEOL8nw6OWSEM4XD3elBig/

McCartney, Paul (Sir). “Meat-Free Mondays.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1E1NDjltMvk

Peters, Adele. “Here’s how the footprint of the plant-based Impossible Burger compares to beef.” Fast Company, 20 March 2019. https://www.fastcompany.com/90322572/heres-how-the-footprint-of-the-plant-based-impossible-burger-compares-to-beef.

Spang, E. W. Moomaw, K. Gallagher, P. Kirshen, David H. Marks (2014) “Multiple Metrics for Quantifying the Intensity of Water Consumption for Energy Production.” Environmental Research Letters. 9-105003. https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/9/10/105003/meta

Stylianou, Nassos, Clara Guibourg, Helen Briggs. 9 August 2019. BBC, Science & Environment. “Climate change food calculator: What’s your diet’s carbon footprint? Check the environmental impact of what you eat and drink.” https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-46459714

Thin Lei Win. “Swap rice for maize, millet and sorghum to save water and boost nutrition: experts tell India.” 5 July 2018. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/articles-india-rice-hunger/swap-rice-for-maize-millet-and-sorghum-to-save-water-and-boost-nutrition-experts-tell-india-idUSKBN1JV16P

United Nations. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). “Special Report on Climate Change and Land: desertification, land degradation, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems.” 2 August 2019. https://www.ipcc.ch/report/srccl/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Lice

 

August 2, 2019
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ENERGY: AC – Hot trends/Cool news

“Air-Conditioners are everywhere” by Peteris, 2008. Image: wikimedia.

The hotter the climate gets, the more we turn on the AC (for the privileged who may have such access). Since 16 of the 17 warmest years have been since 2000, energy consumption by air-conditioning may triple by 2050, equaling the current electricity use of the European Union, Japan, and United States – combined. Enter SkyCool: a wafer-thin reflective material that radiates infrared, thermal energy at a very precise wavelength that slips quietly through Earth’s atmosphere, into space. Normally, heat energy is trapped in the atmosphere, so that’s very good news indeed.

But there’s more, and it’s cool news. The same infrared, thermal energy can be used to cool water moving through pipes to a just noticeable difference a few degrees cooler than, say, a school or an office building. That’s like AC, but better. While New Yorkers may be interested, many of the future customers will be in China, India, and Indonesia – expected to consume half of all the demand for air-conditioning in the future. China noted a 45% increase in the air-conditioner market in 2017. The new technology could reinvent air-conditioning and cool buildings, with greatly reduced emissions.

Hoover Dam used an ice-water system to cool concrete. “Hoover Dam at Night.” wikimedia commons.

There’s historic precedent: when the Hoover Dam was built, 3.25 million cubic yards of concrete were used; so much that a bucket of concrete went through the overhead cable delivery system every 78 seconds. But that much concrete would have taken 100 years to cool. Builders (a consortium called Six Companies included J.F. Shea Co.; MacDonald & Kahn; Morrison-Knudsen; Utah Construction; and a joint venture formed by W.A. Bechtel, Henry J. Kaiser, and Warren) devised a structural system of 582 miles of steel pipes within the concrete; they filled the pipes with ice-water, causing the concrete to cool and harden, and then they emptied the pipes of water but left the supporting structure to further strengthen the edifice.

Air-conditioning is a global market of $50 billion. Will the innovation, product of the TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy at Stanford University, change the future? Inventors Aaswath Raman, Eli Goldstein, (along with earlier team members) and Shanhui Fan are optimistic. Winner of the SXSW Eco Startup Showcase, the innovation is called SkyCool Systems,  Interested? Catch Aaswath Raman’s TED talk here.

Baraniuk, Chris. “How trying to stay cool could make the world even hotter.” 18 June 2018. BBC/Business.

Temple, James. “A material that throws heat into space could soon reinvent air-conditioning.” 12 September 2017. Technology Review. https://www.technologyreview.com/s/608840/a-material-that-throws-heat-into-space-could-soon-reinvent-air-conditioning/

Raman, Aaswath. “How we can turn the cold of outer space into a renewable resource.” 22 June 2018 TED Talk. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7a5NyUITbyk

SkyCool Systems. Aaswath Raman, Eli Goldstein, Shanhui Fan. https://tomkat.stanford.edu/innovation-transfer/skycool

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Licen

July 6, 2019
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WATER: Cheers (from Cheerios)

Cheers! Can pubs offer a toast to public service? Image: “Weizenbier” by photographer Trexer, 2005. Wikimedia.

Food waste: it’s a world problem; more than 350,000,000 tons of food were lost or wasted so far, this year. Food trashed by the United States + Europe could feed the world (three times over). And, it’s not just food, but water, that is lost: food waste is responsible for 25% of the USA’s water use. But what if food waste could be transformed by the alchemy of brew?

Seven Brothers, a brewery in Manchester, England, makes rejected breakfast cereal (flakes too small, too large, for standardized manufacturing and therefore considered not right for the box) into craft beer. Like Corn Flakes?  You might appreciate “Throw Away I.P.A.” or if Coco Pops were a childhood favorite, you might re-aquaint yourself with a grown-up version in a dark stout, with chocolate overtones. Working with Kellogg’s, Seven Brothers receives 5,000 tons of deselected cereal flakes per year. Prefer toast? Try Chelsea Craft Brewing Company in New Oak for “Toast” made from left-over bread served at the screening of “Wasted! The Story of Food Waste” produced by Anthony Bourdain.

David Marks, Edward Spang, and other engineers and scientists who study the Water-Food-Energy Nexus report that 80% of the world’s water, 40% of the world’s land, and 10% of the world’s energy goes to food. Yet 1/3rd is wasted. Of course, brewing is just a very small response to food waste, but it’s a notable achievement. Should your next pub be chosen for its public service? Cheers!

Bourdain, Anthony, producer; Anna Chai and Nari Kye, directors. Wasted! The Story of Food Waste. 2017. PMK*BNC, New York and Tribeca Film Festival, TribecaFilm.com. https://tribecafilm.com/filmguide/wasted-the-store-of-food-waste-2017?smid=nytcore-ios-share.

Spang, E., W. Moomaw, K. Gallagher, P. Kirshen, and D. Marks. (2014). “Multiple Metrics for Quantifying the Intensity of Water Consumption for Energy Production.” Environmental Research Letters 9 105003.

United Nations. “Water, Food, and Energy.” UN WATER. https://www.unwater.org/water-facts/water-food-and-energy/

“World food waste statistics,” The World Counts. 5 July, 2019. https://theworldcounts.com/counters/world_food_consumption_statistics/world_food_waste_statistics.

Yaffe-Bellany. “Drink a Pint, Waste Less Food.” 3 July 2019. The New York Times.

Zimberoff, Larissa. “Toast Ale, From Recycled Bread, Is Now Brewed in New York.” 24 April 2017. The New York Times. https://wwww.nytimes.com/2017/04/24/dining/toast-ale-bread-bronx.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Licen

June 28, 2019
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TRANSPORT: Ask Alice

Alice: electric and ready to fly. Image: Eviation and Wikimedia.

Alice is a bit unusual looking. But she may be just what the world is looking for. The name, given to a new aircraft build by Eviation, Alice is a plane powered by three rear-facing push-propellers. It’s electric, and it promises to transport nine passengers, and two crew, at 276 mph (440 km/h) for 650 miles. Eviation, located in Israel, may be soon flying between Boston and Hyanis; Cape Air has ordered a number of Alice aircraft. The market for short-range air travel is considerable, but environmentally questionable. Alice may change that: using electricity. It’s also cheaper: using conventional fuel, 100-mile flight costs $400; with electricity, $8-$12: overall cost per hour is estimated at $200. The market is developing quickly. MagniX is working with Vancouver’s Harbour Air to electrify their fleet. Rolls Royce, Airbus, Siemens, and United Technologies are all working on electric aircraft; Zunum Aero, backed by Boeing, uses a French engine from Safran; EasyJet is using Wright Electric for potential flights from London to Amsterdam.

TVA logo: Image: thanks to Social Welfare Library, Virginia Commonwealth University.

When electricity first began to be used for commercial and consumer applications, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) built a new town just to demonstrate the new power source for refrigerators, toasters, and porch lights. The Town of Norris was the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) of its time. Now electricity will see a new era, as battery storage improves through innovation. According to UBS, aviation will soon move to hybrid and electric aircraft. Zero emissions; cheaper; quieter – it’s an answer to the environmental and financial costs of regional travel. Electricity may be looking up: go ask Alice.

Bailey, Joanna. “Who is Alice? – An Introduction To the Bizarre Eviation Electric Aircraft.” 26 June 2019. Simple Flying. https://simpleflyingcom/eviation-alice-electric-aircraft/.

Bowler, Tim. “Why the age of electric flight is finally upon us.” 24 June 2019. BBC/Business.

Eviation. https://www.eviation.co/alice/

Take a test flight from the Paris Air Show: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8rr4q717HUrQHilER6DcaQ.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Licen

June 22, 2019
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ENERGY: Net Zero = 10 Million Jobs

“Wind power plants in Xinjiang, China” by Chris Lim, from Windmills in China series, 2005. Image: wikimedia.

Nations, and industries, are steadily reducing carbon emissions;  the June 2019 European Union (EU) meeting  signaled progress. Finland and Norway have resolved to achieve energy net-zero (state where input and output result in a zero balance) by 2035; others pledged 2050. The COP21 Paris Agreement advocated all signatory countries (over 190) reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% from 1990 levels by 2030. Recently, Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General, urged the European Union to cut beyond that to 55%. Contributing to that goal is the phasing out of burning coal, and terminating approval of new coal-fired power plants after 2020. European Union nations failed to reach agreement on net zero by 2050; they did agree, however, to study ways to achieve that goal. One stopping point: some EU nations are more dependent upon fossil fuel systems; for example, Poland relies upon coal for 80% of its energy and many of its jobs.

“Installing Solar Panels,” Oregon Department of Transportation, 2008. Image: wikimedia

Energy Jobs: Renewable energy jobs are quickly growing and may soon overtake fossil sources. In a report by Climate Nexus, in the United States, “more people (over 3 million) work in wind, solar, efficiency and other clean energy fields than are employed as registered nurses and just shy of those working as school teachers.” Globally, people working in renewable energy reached 10 million in 2017 and continues to grow, attracting investment in technologies like solar photovoltaic. Hot job markets? By 2026, wind technician jobs will increase 96% and solar installer positions will grow 106%.

Energy innovations have always stimulated investment and jobs. The Tennessee Valley Authority was both a federally-owned electricity utility that served seven states, as well as a regional employment program: 9,000 people were hired in the first year. Will the TVA divest its 8 coal plants? There are also 30 hydroelectric facilities, 16 natural gas plants, 3 nuclear powerhouses, 14 solar energy sites and one wind energy farm. It’s still the biggest power campus in the United States. Also noteworthy: the muscle shoals sound.

Migrants invited to Australia to work on Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric also helped to build a new nation. Image: “Sydney Opera House” by Steve Collins, 2011: wikimedia.

Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric hired 100, 000, recruiting locally in Australia and also inviting war-displaced migrants to move for work and opportunity: “You won’t be Balts or Slavs…you will be people of the Snowy!” promised Sir William Hudson, first commissioner of the project. As renewable energy grows, the world may experience improvements in climate, innovation, migration, and employment.

Climate Nexus. “WHERE THE CLEAN ENERGY JOBS ARE: 2019” Climate Nexus. https://climatenexus.org/climate-issues/energy/clean-energy-jobs-2019/

Darby, Megan. “Which countries have a net zero carbon goal?” 14 June 2019. Climate Change News. https://www.climatechangenewscom/2019/06/14/countries-net-zero-climate-goal/

De Carbonnel, Alissa. “U.N. chief calls on EU to raise 2030 climate goal to 55%.” 15 June 2019. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-eu-climate-un-exclusive-un-chief-calls-on-eu-to-raise-2030-climate-goal-to-55-idUSKCN1TG0FY?smid=nytcore-ios-share/

International Renewable Energy Agency. “Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2018.” May 2018: ISBN: 9789292600624. https://www.irena.org/publications/2018/May/Renewable-Energy-and-Jobs-Annual-Review-2018.

Marcacci, Silvio. “Renewable Energy Job Boom Creates Economic Opportunity As Coal Industry Slumps.” 22 April 2019. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/energy/innovation/2019/04/22/renewable-energy-job-boom-creating-economic-opportunity-as-coal-industry-slumps/.

Schreuer, Milan. “E.U. Leaders Fail to Strengthen Climate Target.” 20 June 2019. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/20/climate/europe-carbon-neutral.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share

Sengupta, Somini. “Can Europe Wean Itself From Fossil Fuels?” 19 June 2019. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/19/climate/europe-cargon-neutral.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Licen

January 23, 2019
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PLANETARY HEALTH DIET: Menu Icon

Blue Marble: Icon for the Planetary Heath Diet on Menus? Image: NASA

If the Planetary Health Diet is adopted on menus, what should the logo be? GF means Gluten Free. V stands for Vegetarian; K means kosher.

Kosher Icon on a menu. Image: wikimedia

Icons are a special part of communication. NIKE’s “Swoosh” became popular worldwide because it’s an image rather than a word. The Tennessee Valley Authority promoted use of electricity with the logo of a fist grabbing a lightening bolt, perhaps reference to the myth of Prometheus.

The Planetary Health Diet needs a planet-related symbol, small enough to display next to a menu item. Many dietary icons like K and GF are surrounded by a circle, easy for the eye to spot on a busy menu. What if the Planetary Heath Diet icon were a circle we all know? Would you recognize the Blue Marble as a menu icon?

Should the World Economic Forum endorse the Planetary Health Diet? Image: WEF logo, wikimedia.

A diet that could feed 10 billion, ease the suffering of 11 million who go hungry, improve the health of 2 billion whose diet choices cause diabetes and cardiovascular ills, save health care costs, improve productivity, halt climate change, help achieve the Paris Agreement COP21, and advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), might be of interest to the World Economic Forum, meeting in Davos. The World Economc Forum could agree upon a global menu logo for the Planetary Health Diet.

“Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems.” 16 January 2019. The Lancet. https://www.thelancet.com/commissions/EAT

McCartney, Paul. “One Day A Week” video with Sir Paul McCartney, Mary and Stella McCartney, Woody Harrelson, and Emma Stone. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulVFWJqXNg0

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Lice

 

January 12, 2019
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WATER: Labeling the Future

Should we label products for water, land, and environmental facts? Image: wikimedia

Look at the fine print. Many items on grocery store shelves commonly have labels revealing the amount of carbs, sodium, or sugar in the product. Is it time to label information about environmental, land, and water use? For example, dairy milk, one glass per day for a year, requires 7,000 square feet (650 sq. m) of land – that’s the same size as two tennis courts. That year’s worth of dairy milk also requires water use: 2,588 gallons (9,800 liters) of water  – that’s the same amount as 150 bathing showers, each lasting a luxurious eight minutes. Switch to almond milk? It requires less water to produce than dairy, or soy, milk; but soy generates more greenhouse gases than almond.

Rome’s Trevi Fountain. Image: wikimedia.

There’s precedent for labeling environmental water sources. One of the features of water from the Roman Aqueducts was the taste and freshness of each particular spring flowing from the surrounding hills. Water surveyors used methods such as studying the health and complexions of village folk, determining water quality by such evidence. In the urbs, labeled and name-branded waters competed for consumer preference. Even today, there is a cafe in Rome advertising cappuccino made from the sweet, fresh waters of the Aqua Virgo.

The global food supply chain generates 13.7 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, or 26% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, according to Poore and Nemecek. Agriculture covers 43% of arable land; 2/3rds of the freshwater withdrawals are for irrigation. The United Nations illustration, above, indicates systemic factors regarding water, energy, and food. Wonder what you’re consuming – in food and natural resources? Even if governments don’t require such labeling, could industry groups initiate the trend? The beverage and brewing industry recently agreed to display nutrition information on beer products, but most is in small-type or hidden at the bottom of a six-pack. Coors, Corona, Guinness, and Heineken complied, and now Bud Light will display more visible listings of the amounts of barely, hops, rice – and water. According to VP of Marketing for Bud Light, Andy Goeler, younger consumers want to know and are “really in tune to ingredients.”

Here’s a link to an environmental calculator for some commonly consumed foods.

Guibourg, Clara and Helen Briggs. Calculator design by Print Shah, development by Felix Stephenson and Becky Rush.  “Climate change: Which are the best vegan milks?” 8 January 2019. BBC.com. https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-46654042/

Poore, Joseph and T. Nemecek.  “Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers.” 1 June 2018. Science. doi: 10.1126/science.aaq0216.http://science.sciencemag.org/content/sci/360/6392/987.full.pdf?ijkey=ffyeW1F0oSl6k&keytype=ref&siteid=sci

Spang, Edward J. “Food-Energy-Water Nexus.” 4 May 2017. IE GAC Presentation. https://ie.ucdavis.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/38/2017/05/Spang-03May17.pdf.

Spang, Edward J., William Moomaw, Kelly Sims Gallagher, Paul Kirshen, David H. Marks. “The water consumption of energy products: An international comparison.” October 2014. Environmental Research Letters. 9 (10): 105002 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/266620784_The_water_consumption_of_energy_production_An_international_comparison

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Lice

December 12, 2018
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Industrial Revolution 2.0

Spodek arena, Katowice, Poland, site of United Nations Climate Change Conference COP24. Image: wikimedia.

Are we on the turn of a new industrial revolution? As governments gathered in Katowice, Poland for COP24 to discuss how to bring the Paris Agreement COP 21 to a next stage actionable directives with the agreed goal of limiting global warming to below 2.0 centigrade (or ideally 1.5); and as, at the same time one outlier government’s delegation pitched coal, a trend emerged, investors and industries held their own summit. Some might term it Industrial Revolution 2.0.

Shared knowledge: 14th century manuscript depicting members of University of Paris. Image: wikimedia commons.

Medieval guilds for craft and trade set regional standards for weights and measures, as well as tithes and taxes to support social goals. Charlemagne united a region in part through development of bridges, roads, and universities. Businesses, industries, and universities have long been sources of scalable innovation. Both guilds and universities trained new generations with shared knowledge spread by exchange. Both businesses and industries developed supply chains with interlocking standards that are a kind of currency of rapid exchange. Industries may change faster than governments, in no small part due to economic incentives.

The first Industrial Revolution gave us many things, some involving energy sources that causing the crisis of our times. Industrial Revolution 2.0 will turn on those same forces, but turn away. Stopping coal, for example, means moving away from a system built around energy sources of the first Industrial Revolution. Industrial Revolution 2.0 means not just moving away from coal, oil, gas, and other older fuels; more importantly, it is more a question of moving to a new system that is built for the ride. Governments can talk about that; industry can build it.

Businesses gave collective voice in Paris, during COP21; Bill Gates gathered 28 investors including Richard Branson and Mark Zuckerberg, to launch the Breakthrough Energy Coalition to contribute seed money to new ideas about energy. Branson stated: We must produce an abundance of clean, renewable energy and drive further innovation to make the next generation of energy more efficient. It will benefit the environment, our society and the economy. When 415 investing organizations, with an economic force of $32 trillion, gathered in Katowice, Poland, this week to add their collective voice to COP24, they pledged a new set of standards that may, if met, prove of merit as detailed in the 2018 Global Investor Statement to Governments on Climate Change.

It’s clear our innovators are taking action: what can each of us do?

Conference of the Parties 24. United Nations. https://unfccc.int/event/cop-24

Crilly, Rob. “Paris climate change summit: Bill Gates launches effort to disrupt energy sector by funding new search for clean energy.” 1 December 2015. The Telegraph. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/paris-climate-change-conference/12026217/Bill-Gates-launches-effort-to-disrupt-energy-sector-with-fund-for-green-technology.html

Duncan, Bonnie. “Guilds and Skills.” ENGL403/603Chaucer. Millersville University. http://sites.millersville.edu/bduncan/403/guilds/

Jessop, Simon. “Investors managing $32 trillion in assets call for action on climate change.” 9 December 2018. Reuters. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-climatechange-investors/investors-managing-32-trillion-in-assets-call-for-action-on-climate-change-idUSKBN1080TR.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Lice

October 13, 2018
by buildingtheworld
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Eyes on the Prize

Nobel Prize in Economics 2018 goes to carbon tax advocates: William Nordhaus and Paul Romer. Image: wikimedia.

The Nobel Prize in Economics, awarded to William D. Nordhaus and Paul M. Romer, followed a recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, warning of urgent and dire effects if the world does not limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit). Nordhaus advocated carbon pricing and taxation, stating: When I talk to people about how to design a carbon price, I think the model is British Columbia. You raise electricity prizes by $100 a year, but then the government gives back a dividend that lowers internet prices by $100 a year. You’re raising the price of carbon goods but lowering the prices of non-carbon-intensive goods.

Co-laureate Paul Romer stated at a press conference following the announcement: It’s entirely possible for humans to produce less carbon. There will be some tradeoffs, but once we begin to produce fewer carbon emissions we’ll be surprised that it wasn’t as hard as it was anticipated. Romer advocated supporting and encouraging innovation, while at the same time starting with a very low tax on emissions that will rise over time, if required. Outcome? “Innovators will start investing now in ways for people to get what they want without paying the tax. They will stop investing in ways to extract more fossil fuels that will be subject to the tax. Recent pessimistic environmental warnings might be true, but bad news is not always motivating, and can even cause avoidance and apathy. Romer continued: Optimism is part of what helps motivate people attack a hard problem, hoping that the Nobel award “will help everyone see that humans are capable of amazing accomplishments when we set about trying to do something.”

Davenport, Coral. “After Nobel in Economics, William Nordhaus Talks About Who’s Getting Pollution-Tax Ideas Right: A few governments – notably parts of Canada and South Korea – have adapted the the ideas in ways that frame them as a financial windfall for taxpayers.” 13 October 2018. The New York Times.

http://www.nber.org/chapters/c7620.pdf

Nordhaus, William. https://economics.yale.edu/people/william-d-nordhaus

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). “Few countries are pricing carbon high enough to meet climate targets.” 18 September 2018. http://www.oecd.org/tax/few-countries-are-pricing-carbon-high-enough-to-meet-climate-targets.htm.

Rathi, Akshat. “Why the newest Nobel laureate is optimistic about beating climate change.” 8 October 2018. Quartz Media. https://qz.com/1417222/why-new-nobel-laureate-paul-romer-is-optimistic-about-beating-climate-change/.

Romer, Paul. https://paulromer.net/about-paul-romer/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

 

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