I See a Bad Light Rising

So this has been sitting in a tab for awhile waiting for me to look at it:
Biochemist creates CO2-eating light that runs on algae

scientist with a glowing green lamp tube

You too can pretend you’re on a circa-1980s scifi spaceship with these throughout your home. Look soon to Etsy for handmade decals you can add to make it look like there are alien-human hybrid fetuses growing inside. Okay, I actually kind of want that.

I’m guessing we’d need a lot of creepy green lamps to make up for general vehicle use. I’m not holding my CO2-laden breath until I see something beyond kitschy articles with small-scale artsy stuff. Show me an actual real-world implementation by a city and I’ll be impressed.

Until then, I’m with John Metcalfe of The Atlantic on this when he says, “I would also imagine that the weight of these watery devices would prevent many overhead applications. Vandalism would have to be taken into consideration, too, as bad children would probably love nothing more than to crack the glass with a stone and see the green goo pour forth.” Exactly.

And while on the topic of streetlights, I also don’t buy the idea that people will – in sufficient numbers – help power street lights with treadmills or exercise bikes either. I mean I care about these issues and I’m not going to take time out of my busy day to go cycle at a light. And even if I did, what about the other ten zillion lights? You can bet they’d be powered in the neighborhoods of the rich and privileged much more than in working-class areas, contributing yet more to the disparity in crime prevention by geographic area.

I’m glad people come up with weird, out-of-the-lightbox ideas on how to solve problems. I recognize that there have to be a lot of wacky ideas before something truly useful comes out. But I’m calling algae lights for the wacky pile for now.

Educate, Don’t Manipulate

I saw this video today:

Here’s the thing: I do support the strategies to reduce pollution. Of course I do. But I find ads like this manipulative and unhelpful. This doesn’t say anything about the real issues at hand. It doesn’t address why some people may not support the strategies and refute those points. All it does is use some fear-mongering, emotionally manipulative video to goad people into following along.

I don’t like that shit when it gets done on issues I disagree with, so now I’m in a position of having to rail against it even when it’s on an issue I do agree with, because otherwise I’m a hypocrite.

And that makes me REALLY ANGRY.

Is it more effective to be emotionally manipulative and skip the meaningful discussion? Possibly, at least in the short term. But that doesn’t make it okay and I want no part of it.


Show Me The Money – Except Sometimes That Doesn’t Have to Mean Immediate Profit

Ecuador’s attempt to get paid for an environmental choice is hardly a new story but it’s very interesting that NPR is highlighting the supposed “extortion” angle with their report this morning called “Give Me The Money Or I’ll Shoot The Trees”. It’s pretty obvious that Ecuador is committed to keeping oil in the ground to protect Yasuni National Park (possibly the most biodiverse place on the planet), but yeah, they’re poor and it’s hard to do the right thing when liquid money could be slurped out so readily. How the hell else are they supposed to make it work?

We need to start figuring out as a planet and a species what our priorities are. While I agree with Sally Jewell’s quote from another NPR story this morning that “If you can’t run a healthy business, you’re not sustainable,” (something I railed against in my youth until Jason showed me so clearly how much more can be done for the environment if you find ways to make it profitable, even if that takes longer for both the eco-benefit and the profit), money can’t be the absolute and end goal for everything in any environmental, social justice, or other issue area. Sometimes there’s value in things like protecting natural spaces so we continue to have things like oxygen to breathe, water to drink, biodiversity to study, etc.

Of course, if Ecuador could find a way to make the park profitable in and of itself, that would help. Then again, that’s a problem facing pretty much all natural spaces, isn’t it? Because the things that bring sustainable profit tend to bring non-sustainable destruction. A few responsible REI campers don’t bring in enough cash to keep any park financially afloat. And while folks can go donate directly to Yasuni at http://www.yasunigreengold.org/, small individual donations are not likely to make a significant difference on that scale.

This sort of thing requires governments to act. The Ecuadorian government acted in 2007 to try to keep Yasuni from being drilled. Unless more governments understand that sometimes it takes public money to protect the long-term public good, then Yasuni and everywhere else is eventually doomed.

For the record, I was skeptical about claims I saw around that there’s only 5 days’ worth of oil under the park, so I checked some numbers and found that there’s probably about 10 days’ worth based on current estimations: 845 million barrels under the park, daily oil consumption of about 85 million barrels per day in 2006 (but there’s been both a rise and fall in that since) comes out to roughly 10 days’ worth give or take a few days. Either way it’s not like we’re talking about a massive, long-term source here, especially relative to the destruction that would be caused by extraction.

red flower from Yasuni

Your Mom Was Right: Close the Fridge Door!


Supermarket is saving $80 million a year just by putting doors on its refrigerators

Um. Duh?

Okay I get it. Not duh. Because the industry has done things a certain way and a lot of that predates refrigeration of certain products as a standard thing. And sure, because there’s the perception that doors will separate the customer from the product and affect sales.

But that’s why the last two sentences are so key:

“…they equipped the refrigerators with LED lights to better highlight the items, and customers seem to find this a satisfactory exchange. There has been no decline in sales.

Emphasis added, but there’s the point right there. Sales continue, money is saved, power is saved, produce stays fresher so there’s less waste, win-win-win-win. In fact, a Dutch study showed similar results, with the return on investment period in terms of energy savings being 1.3 to 2.9 years depending on the configuration. It also showed benefit even for just overnight closings.

The only obvious environmental downside is the material usage for converting the existing shelves into having doors, especially if they’re pulled out entirely and not reused/recycled in some fashion.

Further reading:
Co-op supermarkets extend fridge door scheme (Full article on which the Grist one above is based)
The Co-operative Food (the store in question)
Supermarkets get cold feet over fridge doors (Older Guardian article about how UK stores apparently promised to do this and then didn’t, at least until the one above just recently)
Closed supermarket refrigerator and freezer cabinets: a feasibility study (The full Dutch study)
ADVANCES IN SUPERMARKET REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS (A study on various supermarket systems in several countries and typical energy usage)
Comparative Assessment of the Climate Relevance of Supermarket Refrigeration Systems and Equipment (A German study on refrigerant use in supermarkets relative to the impact of those materials on climate change)

Happy Fucking New Year

I was going to say that it’s been a lengthy final month of the year and that there was cause to hope that maybe this year would be improved over the previous, but my original wording was borrowing a Counting Crows lyric and my author doesn’t want to have to wrestle with any more lyrics permissions until she’s paid off the previous ones.

So under the ever-oppressive weight of intellectual property fuckwittery, I’m raising my glass to you all and reminding you that at least I exist in DRM-free versions.

Now let’s recover from our hangovers and go fix the world.


I Need This

For those who are shopping for me for Christmas, you need to go here and get me one of these:

Fucking Coffee Mug

Via BoingBoing

Two News Items I Wish I Didn’t Need To Talk About

1) United Nations Declares Access To Contraception A ‘Universal Human Right’ and Birth Control is an Economic Issue.

Growing up in the last of my teen years under Jason’s watch meant I heard constantly about how important it is for girls and women to get educated because that’s a core environmental issue. I lost track of how often he said something like, “Trish, it’s not about how smart you are: it’s about your hiring credentials, especially in male-dominated fields.” And he’s right (shhh don’t tell him I said that). Female education has enormous power to reshape entire societies of all types, from empowering women to be decision-makers and control finances and property in small agrarian societies through to ensuring female first-world CEOs aren’t considered “too soft” for having the guts to implement social-minded or environmentally-friendly corporate policies.

And the fact is, it’s really hard to get an education or keep a job if you can’t control your fertility. Sex is just not going to stop. Women only get close to equality if they have the same ability to have sex without it taking over their bodies as men do.

So huzzah to the UN for their declaration, but how sad is it that that’s even needed? Or that wackjobs here in the US will no doubt use this to fuel their conspiracy theories regarding the UN coming for our bodily fluids?

Below are two of my favorite videos on the subject. Share them around. This is important stuff.

2) Save the earth, drive your car

I heard this on Marketplace as we carpooled home from work in Jason’s fancy custom EV car, and we all sighed. Because it’s true, and annoying as all fuck. Public Transportation is one of those perpetually greenwashed boondoggles, but it wouldn’t be if people would actually use it. Which we’re not, because we live across a state line and it’s long and annoying as all fuck to take multiple systems to get to where we work in Midtown.

But Jason did use it for awhile before I lived with him and before he had the EV. He gave it an honest go but it took so damned long and was unreliable on the end near the house. It’s great once you can get on the subway but before that it’s a mixed bag. And we have it good here in the NYC area; not so much for most people around the country. We’ve got colleagues in other cities where there are mediocre bus systems downtown but almost nothing out in the suburbs where they live. And when they complain to their municipal governments, they hear over and over that the cities don’t want to extend more routes out because they’re not used, but of course they’re not used because they’re not good to use.

So you get into this whole clusterfuck of crappy transit systems so hardly anybody uses them so they’re not funded so they stay crappy so hardly anybody uses them.

As the report above says, you can get people to use transit – and therefore make it environmentally friendly in aggregate – if you make driving onerous and expensive enough. But few cities feel like pissing everyone off that much.

Jason’s being particularly twitchy about it this evening. He feels guilty for his privileged position, but he also doesn’t want to deal with the hassle of the public system. He’s been grumbling repeatedly about how his earlier attempts to set a good example were never noticed even though his use of a car does get noticed. Don’s been trying to appease him with the latest news on growing EV tech through the major car companies but Jason’s not impressed: he wanted what he’s got to be the norm by now and he’s bummed that it’s barely a fraction of the market.

We’re all bummed, frankly.

But at least I’ve got birth control.

Look At Me Behaving

…and not calculating the difference between the energy expenditure on creating these videos versus turning off some lights, many of which were probably CFLs anyway.


Because it’s a bunch of well-meaning kids, and I believe that children are the future. Teach them well, but never let them lead the way, unless they have GPS. Show them all the beauty they possess inside, but only figuratively and never with a scalpel. Give them a sense of pride to make it easier, but not too easy, because holy fucking shit this self-esteem based education thing is not working out. Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be: clueless and easily amused by poop jokes.

I decided long ago never to walk in anyone’s shadow
‘Cause I’m kinda short, but not a dweeb
And I hate people towering over me
No matter what shade they impose on me
They can’t take away my furyyyyyyyy!

Because the greatest snark of all
Is coming out of meeeeeeee!
I found the greatest snark of all
Inside of me!

Um…wait, what the fuck were we talking about? Right, kids making videos about saving energy. Yes. Go give ’em some support. And turn off the damned lights and TV when you’re not using them. Sheesh.

Mmm, Maggots

Sometimes sustainability initiatives are so disgusting I wish I could go back to my earlier happy ignorance about such things.

How Fly Farming May Help More Fish Stay In The Sea

At first I misread the caption on the maggot picture (because yes, of course they had to have a fucking maggot picture, didn’t they?) as the little buggers being fed “cow blood and brain” and I was all set to go off on a juicy (ugh, wrong word) rant about Creutzfeldt–Jakob prions being spread through the fish food chain but then I realized that it says “bran”. So now I’m imagining zillions of very regular maggots.

Thank you, internet.


In other news, I noticed that instantbarfbaggie.com isn’t registered…

I Am Digital, Hear Me Hum

Interesting article from the San Francisco Chronicle:

E-readers or print books – which is greener?

Speaking as someone who exists in what’s currently only a digital universe – excluding the author’s brain, which is wet, squishy, and generally an unpleasant place to be – I’m keen to promote e-readers as much as possible. After all, the more people who read about me, the more I live.

Plus I really like it when people pay attention to me here or on Twitter.

But speaking without that meta-knowledge, I kind of get why Jason is so resistant to e-readers, especially for himself. He may be the CEO of Gaia Global and be annoying as all fuck on other eco-issues like disposable tissues – do you people have any idea how much I loathe cloth hankies during allergy season?! – but his love of old books is actually quite endearing. Here at the house, he’s got a library full of them and it just feels good to be in there, surrounded by words and thoughts and pictures and leather and paper and mmmmmm…

There’s none of that musty smell in Jason’s library because it’s been properly maintained from the start. It smells old, but good-old, and when you snuggle back on one of the sofas in there and read one of those old books, it’s a physical act with that physical item.

I love my ereader. I love reading from it in the parlor or in bed or at work or wherever. It’s really convenient in so many ways, and for a voracious reader like me it keeps everything organized. No more half-crumpled magazines piled up in the corner. No more lost bookmarks (well at least when the software works properly *shakes fist*). And the ability to search for text strings is entirely awesome. I mean actually literally awesome when you think about what research used to be and what it is now. If someone from a previous century could see what we now do on our cellphones alone, they’d have trouble getting their head around it. Regularly. They would never quite get used to it no matter how often you showed them how easy it is. Trust me.

But my digital library has none of the warmth of Jason’s old physical one.

On some level, you can’t even compare those experiences. They’re so diametrically opposed that you’d be missing the point if you tried.