February 16, 2008

EcoMoms - Saving the Earth starting at Home

This is an interesting article from the NY Times.

Is the to-do list of preparing waste-free school lunches; lobbying for green building codes; transforming oneself into a "locovore," eating locally grown food; and remembering not to idle the car when picking up children from school a bit overwhelming?

The EcoMom Alliance is here to help!

Their theme - Sustain Your Home, Sustain Your Planet, Sustain Your Self

Women have been instrumental in the environmental movement from the start, including their involvement in campaigns a century ago to save the Palisades along the Hudson River and sequoias in California and, more recently, Lois Gibbs's fight against toxic waste at Love Canal.
In public opinion surveys, women express significantly higher levels of environmental concern than men, said Riley Dunlap, a professor of sociology at Oklahoma State University.

Lately "local lifestyle activism," much of it driven by women, has been on the rise and is likely to continue, Dr. Dunlap said.

Members of the EcoMom Alliance "are fighting a values battle," said Tim Kasser, the author of "The High Price of Materialism." "They are ...trying to figure out how to create a life more oriented toward intrinsic values."

February 15, 2008

Top Challenges of the 21st Century

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. National Academy of Engineering (NAE) today announced the grand challenges for engineering in the 21st century. A diverse committee of experts from around the world, convened at the request of the U.S. National Science Foundation, revealed 14 challenges that, if met, would improve how we live.

The final choices fall into four themes that are essential for humanity to flourish -- sustainability, health, reducing vulnerability, and joy of living. The committee did not attempt to include every important challenge, nor did it endorse particular approaches to meeting those selected. Rather than focusing on predictions or gee-whiz gadgets, the goal was to identify what needs to be done to help people and the planet thrive.

Make solar energy affordable
Provide energy from fusion
Develop carbon sequestration methods
Manage the nitrogen cycle
Provide access to clean water
Restore and improve urban infrastructure
Advance health informatics
Engineer better medicines
Reverse-engineer the brain
Prevent nuclear terror
Secure cyberspace
Enhance virtual reality
Advance personalized learning
Engineer the tools for scientific discovery

The panel, some of the most accomplished engineers and scientists of their generation, was established in 2006 and met several times to discuss and develop the list of challenges. Through an interactive Web site, the effort received worldwide input from prominent engineers and scientists, as well as from the general public, over a one-year period. The panel's conclusions were reviewed by more than 50 subject-matter experts.

"We chose engineering challenges that we feel can, through creativity and commitment, be realistically met, most of them early in this century," said committee chair and former U.S. Secretary of Defense William J. Perry. "Some can be, and should be, achieved as soon as possible."

The committee decided not to rank the challenges. NAE is offering the public an opportunity to vote on which one they think is most important and to provide comments at the project Web site -- <www.engineeringchallenges.org>.

The Grand Challenges site features a five-minute video overview of the project along with committee member interview excerpts. A podcast of the news conference announcing the challenges will also be available on the site starting next week.

"Meeting these challenges would be 'game changing,'" said NAE president Charles M. Vest. "Success with any one of them could dramatically improve life for everyone."

"Tremendous advances in quality of life have come from improved technology in areas such as farming and manufacturing," added Larry Page, co-founder of Google and a committee member. "If we focus our effort on the grand challenges of our age, we can hugely improve the future."

WILLIAM PERRY (COMMITTEE CHAIR), former secretary of defense, U.S. Department of Defense, and Michael and Barbara Berberian Professor and professor of engineering, Stanford University
ALEC BROERS, chairman, Science and Technology Select Committee, United Kingdom House of Lords
FAROUK EL-BAZ, research professor and director, Center for Remote Sensing, Boston University
WESLEY HARRIS, department head and Charles Stark Draper Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
BERNADINE HEALY, former director, U.S. National Institutes of Health, and health editor and columnist, U.S. News & World Report
W. DANIEL HILLIS, chairman and co-founder, Applied Minds Inc.
CALESTOUS JUMA, professor of the practice of international development, Harvard University
DEAN KAMEN, founder and president, DEKA Research and Development Corp.
RAYMOND KURZWEIL, chairman and chief executive officer, Kurzweil Technologies Inc.
ROBERT LANGER, Institute Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
JAIME LERNER, architect and urban planner, Instituto Jaime Lerner
BINDU LOHANI, director general and chief compliance officer, Asian Development Bank
JANE LUBCHENCO, Wayne and Gladys Valley Professor of Marine Biology and Distinguished Professor of Zoology, Oregon State University
MARIO MOL├ŹNA, Nobel laureate and professor of chemistry and biochemistry, University of California, San Diego
LARRY PAGE, co-founder and president of products, Google Inc.
ROBERT SOCOLOW, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, Princeton University Environmental Institute
J. CRAIG VENTER, president, The J. Craig Venter Institute
JACKIE YING, executive director, Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology
The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies. They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter.


Solar Power Calculator

I found an interesting Solar Power Calculator on the web.

It provides a way for you to enter your location, your energy usage, and calculates the cost of a solar system, including all the State and Federal tax incentives!

Make sure that you update your electricity usage based on your current cost per kilowatt-hour.

The default value in the web form is 8 cents per kilowatt-hour. This was the national average for electricity a couple years ago and electricity rates have been rising rapidly in the last couple years.

Another parameter you might want to change is the expected percentage rate that electricity will increase each year.

The default number in the form is 3%.

In Massachusetts we've been averaging 10% over the last 10 years....

Kiribati: Vast Marine Reserve Created

The tiny island nation of Kiribati, the former Gilbert Islands, declared the world’s largest marine protected area, a 164,200-square-mile ocean wilderness that includes pristine reefs and eight coral atolls teeming with fish and birds. The zone, about halfway between Hawaii and Fiji, will conserve one of Earth’s last intact oceanic coral archipelago ecosystems.

February 14, 2008

Lake Mead Dry by 2021?

Lake Mead Could Be Dry by 2021
Analysis of current and scheduled use and human-induced climate change sparks urgent warning from researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego

There is a 50 percent chance Lake Mead, a key source of water for millions of people in the southwestern United States, will be dry by 2021 if climate changes as expected and future water usage is not curtailed, according to a pair of researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego.

"When Will Lake Mead Go Dry?"

February 1, 2008

"Clean" Coal project Canceled

The Federal Government's Clean Coal initiative has been canceled due to "surprising" increases in the cost of the program. Initial estimates were that the pilot program would cost about $1B. The Energy Department's current estimates are for the FutureGen project to cost $1.8B and many fear that the costs would have gone much higher.

Let your elected officials know that "Clean Coal" is an oxymoron and that the FutureGen money could be better spent to accelerate solar and other renewable energy sources which have a much higher ROI.

Higher Costs Cited as U.S. Shuts Down Coal Project