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Posts Tagged ‘alternative energies’

I got a sneak preview of Scientific American‘s Earth 3.0 special issue on ‘Solutions for Sustainable Progress’. Mostly great stuff, with the exception of one article, that prompted me to write this rebuttal.

In ‘Learning from the Internet’, Robert M. Metcalfe, venture capitalist and Internet pioneer,  expands on the dangerous idea that, 

I don’t think for a moment that we’re going to conserve our way out of the energy crisis. Internet history shows that prosperity depends on abundant bandwidth. Prosperity (gross domestic product, per capita) is proportional to energy use. We are not going to lower per capita consumptionof energy in the U.S. We are going to enable the rest of the world to be as prosperous by using not less but more energy. We need to make energy cheap, clean and therefore abundant – really abundant, for a really long time. 

Sounds familiar? This is the same kind of thinking endorsed in an earlier McKinsey study, and also to a lesser extent, by Al Gore in his Moon Shot Challenge speech.

Makes me mad. The average citizen is already confused enough. The last thing we need is more tenors in green tech and green biz to lull us into thinking that technology will get us out of our mess. Besides, I do not see what climate change has to do with the Internet. 

We need to get out of this pervasive either-or thinking. Energy conservation and new energy technologies are not mutually exclusive. Instead, they are meant to work together. One without the other will not work. It’s a matter of simple maths, and of mitigating our risks, in the unlikely event that technology does not deliver on all its promises. 

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Day 16 of Daily Footprint Project. Major overhaul of my bathroom closet. I spent a few more hours going through the Skin Deep database, and perusing Whole Foods Health and Beauty Section. The verdict: the two villains below will have to go, to make room for Aubrey Organics.

The Hidden Environmental Costs of Greener Choices

Next comes the question, of what to do with those two? Prad said he will finish up the Lubriderm. The Neutrogena Facial Cleanser is going to the trash. Not a big deal, it would have ended up there anyway. Only about three ounces of the cleanser will end up being ‘wasted’.

No, the bigger issue is, what happens when one decides to phase out big items such as energy inefficient appliances, or old cars and trucks, in favor of new greener alternatives? Prad’s answer is that all that stuff gets recycled, or ends up being reused by people in developing countries. I do not buy his argument.

First, what does recycle means? What is the energy cost of recycling? How much of the products is recyclable? What happens to the end waste? I touched on that last question in a series of articles inspired from ‘The Digital Dump‘ documentary.

Second, the whole point is to put an end to the use of these environmentally unfriendly goods, not to pass them on to somebody else.

I would like to suggest a third alternative. Taking the example of cars, most of the attention, currently, is on manufacturing new hybrid or electric cars. Much less sexy, but just as, if not more necessary, in my mind, is an approach that focuses on refurbishing existing cars to bring them to new acceptable energy standards. Autobloggreen just featured Pioneer Conversions, a small company that specializes in electrifying existing cars. Because of scale, the costs involved are high, and out of reach for most people. But the important thing is, the technology exists. There is also the biodiesel option.

Daily Footprint Project
Daily Log
Day #16

Water

personal:
flush toilet 2
wash face 2
brush teeth 2
wash hands 4
shower 1
mom:
rinse dishes
communal:

Electricity/gas

personal:
electric toothbrush 2
microwave tea 2’
microwave oatmeal 4’
microwave soup 2’
microwave milk 2’
laptop on all day
mom:
toaster 2’
communal:
lights
cook salad in wok
boil water for pasta

Food

personal:
oatmeal with organic milk
organic persimmons
tea
organic milk
takeout bean soup from Whole Foods
organic apple sauce
organic chocolate
mom:
two toasts
hot chocolate
organic grapes
communal:
fresh organic mushroom whole wheat pasta with leftover chicken
braised organic salad

Waste

personal:
toilet paper
half used tube of Neutrogena cleanser
mom:
one uneaten toast
half of hot chocolate
communal:
3 newspaper plastic wrappers
two plastic bags
plastic container from leftover takeout chicken

Recycling

personal:
mom:
communal:
2 papers
milk carton

Transportation

personal:
drive to orthodontist, stop at Whole Foods 5 miles
mom:
communal:

Non food shopping

personal:
365 body lotion, shampoo and conditioner
Audrey Organics moisturizer and cleanser
mom:
communal:

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