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Archive for the ‘Environmentalism’ Category

Cool Green Stuff

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As Kermit used to say, “it’s not easy being green,” which is why i thought these items were pretty cool…

First there’s a new Puma phone that was announced this week at MWC (the largest mobile conference in the world) and instead of trying to compete with iPhone/Android and trying to do everything it’s just a cool phone, with some cool “fun” features (pedometer, compass, audio player with turntable) and a solar panel on the back so you don’t run out of juice.  Pretty sweet.

Second, there is some more solar powered stuff:

These are lamps on a highway that are wind powered. As far as practical renewable energy concepts go, these wind-powered highway lights are pretty elegant.  I don’t see why we don’t get these on EVERY highway.

Finally, there’s just some bike new from LA:

Los Angeles is known for its freeways, and those guys are impossible to ride a bike on. That’s where a proposal from a cycling activism organization called the L.A Bike Working Group comes in. The group recently proposed a “Backbone Bikeway Network”–a system of bikeways that is comparable to a freeway for cyclists.  I don’t see this happening any time soon, but it would be really great if it did

Written by Mike Lewis

February 17th, 2010 at 9:31 am

Making Electricity

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Making electricity
Originally uploaded by pescatello

When driving this weekend down to Palm Springs, i came around a bend and saw thousands of windmills. It was an amazing site and got me thinking about our planet. Here are tons of windmills making electricity for all of us. They are reducing our need for foreign oil, and taking us out of the middle east. This wind is free and we’re taking advantage of it. It’s great.

It makes me wish i saw a lot more of these big guys on my drives through the dessert.  Or even on the great midwest plains.  Lord knows it is super windy there.

(note: i did this post directly from Flickr and it worked really well)

Written by Mike Lewis

May 4th, 2009 at 6:31 pm

Posted in Environmentalism

Hot, Flat & Crowded

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U.S.

I just finished Tom Friedman‘s Hot, Flat, and Crowded.  It’s a good book that talks about 2 things: climate change and America’s decline.   The first items is due to a number of trends: nations becoming more developed (flat) and pulling people out of poverty (crowded) which in turn requires more energy and increases production (hot).  The second issue is that America also faces a crisis.  A emotional, physical and international crisis.  One quote in the book mentions:

It’s like jumping off an 80-story building.  For 97 stories you feel as if you’re flying.  That’s where the world is now.

America is losing its entrepreneurial drive and its status as the premier innovator in the world. Friendman then goes on to describe that America should solve it’s crisis by getting entrepreneurial about green living and green technology and if America solves its problem, this will in turn solve the world’s problems too.

The book also discusses global warming and oil and their interdependence.  Global warming is here due to the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and while people dispute some of the implications of this, it is a fact that we’re putting more and more carbon into the atmosphere.  There’s also an interesting chapter about the oil industry and how the oil-rich countries become increasingly more anti-american and anti-democratic as the price of oil increases.  It also discusses the impact of supplying ultra-conservative Muslim nations with amazing amounts of cash.

It’s worth a read.  Anyone else read it?  If so, what are your thoughts?

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Written by Mike Lewis

February 24th, 2009 at 7:09 am

The Most Environment-Friendly Gas Station Ever

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I went to fill up yesterday at this gas station in West Hollywood on the corner of Olympic and Robertson and was amazed what i saw.

This place has the following:

  • The facade was made from farm-raised renewable cedar
  • The wall behind the station is wrapped with vines (require almost no upkeep)
  • All the lights are motion sensitive
  • The bathroom is all made from recycled aluminum and recycled glass
  • The ouside structure is highly durable uncoated stainless steel and is completely recycleable
  • 90 solar panels are on the canopy which produce enough energy to power 2-3 average American homes
  • Glass is mixed into the concrete which removes the need for sand
  • The canopy collects rainwater which is then filtered and reused onsite for irrigation and landscaping

All in all it’s pretty impressive for just a standard gas station.  You can read more about what BP is doing at thegreencurve.com

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Written by Mike Lewis

January 11th, 2009 at 8:36 pm

"Just Enough" is the new "Big" – but can it work?

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They should draw an equation: What level of fame do you need to achieve to keep doing what you want? Because you don’t want any more than that.

if you get too famous, you have people wanting to take a picture of your butt on the beach.

(Tina Fey

These are quotes i read from Grant’s blog and this blog post which discusses that being big enough to do something interesting without burdening yourself is what’s hot right now…

In the 1950s, it was one size fit all: gigantic or nothing at all. We wanted groaning buffet tables. We celebrated the “good life:” by consuming heroic quantities of sugar, salt, fat, nicotine, alcohol and sun (and as much carbon as possible). We wanted cars the size of a 1958 Cadillac, block long conveyances, fins and all. We wanted more shoes the Imelda Marcos. We wanted homes the size of a small town.

The world used a Denny’s model: all-you-eat plus 3000 calories more. “No one leaves this place with an empty plate.” A Martian would wonder at this. Denny’s had given us more food than we could possibly eat. Food was being wasted.

We are hearing a “just enough” sentiment more and more. It’s as if we are as a culture working on a new definition of what’s enough.

You see it with the Green movement and in music. It’s not all about being The Beatles. This makes complete sense to me. As they say in Batman Begins, “with great power comes great responsibility.” And responsibility is exhausting if you’re a celebrity, sports hero or when you’re running your own business.

In the case of an entrepreneur, “just enough” is about control. Staying small(ish), staying private, supplying your own capital, all these mean calling your own shots. Venture capitalists and Wall Street can drive someone else crazy. The just enough entrepreneur can take his or her own chances. When it comes time to choose between interesting and profitable, you can go with interesting. Just enough in this case is about control.

One problem i see with this model is that if you don’t achieve some scale or critical mass you won’t be successful. As the world becomes advertising-based, this means the person with the most engagement, page-views, etc is the one that gets the business and can continue to operate and innovate. The smaller guy doesn’t get the PR and mindshare and thus loses the users to the bigger guy. For web applications dependent on ads, can they survive in a long-tail world?

For bands does this work – can you be a medium-sized “just enough” band and still pay the bills? Ani Difranco, Clap Your Hands, and Tori Amos would say so.

Written by Mike Lewis

April 30th, 2008 at 10:51 am

Oil Companies are Hypocrites

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I read an interview this morning by former Massachusetts Representative Joe Kennedy, who runs the nonprofit Citizens Energy Corp., which provides discount heating oil to Americans in need in 15 states and the District of Columbia.

On quote of his that stuck out for me was this:

The U.S. oil industry in the last five hears has made over $800 billion in profits. None of them is putting profits back into developing new sources of crude.  ExxonMobile put zero percent of profits into renewable or alternative energy; BP, six tenths of 1%; ConocoPhillips, seven tenths of 1%; Shell, 1.3%; Chevron, 0.5%. And everybody says we’re running out of oil. You know, 74% of the earth’s surface – as we all learned in the third grade – is covered with water.  And we have developed less than 1% of the energy supplies contained underneath the surface of the ocean.  So there’s nothing to suggest to me that right now there’s an imminent crisis

It’s amazing how little these companies are putting towards alternative fuels.  It makes me think all those BP commercials I see on the Discovery Channel are totally hypocritical.

Written by Mike Lewis

March 4th, 2008 at 9:00 am

Posted in Environmentalism

All-Wooden Bike

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I love this. Some high-school kid built a wooden bike. Everything is wood – even the chain. Pretty sweet (from Gizmodo)

Written by Mike Lewis

January 25th, 2008 at 11:11 am

Technology and Genetics – When Should We Stop? When is it Enough?

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A couple of years ago i read Bill Mckibben’s book Enough. It’s a great read. In the book he discusses what it means to be human. There are 3 subjects he focuses on in the book: genetic research, nanotechnology and robotics. In each one he explores that ever shrinking moral and spiritual boundary. Eventually, we’ll get to an “enough point” where we should stop trying to push the limits of technology and medicine.

My favorite part is the discussion of genetically enhanced children and how science (and our ambition) continues to push the limits of what is possible and how children, in enhacned, will never be strive to be great or to achieve as pianists, painters, or athletes because of their “programming.”

I always like Mckibben’s summary of the state of affairs and the recognization of trends in society both on a cultural and technological level – and he does a great job here. Here, more than his others he looks at the family structure and how it has been altered due to television and he doesn’t paint a good picture…

So, in the last century, the invention of the car offered the freedom of mobility, at the cost of giving up the small, coherent physical universes most people had inhabited. The invention of radio and TV allowed the unlimited choices of a national or global culture, but undermined the local life that had long persisted; the old people in my small rural town can still recall when “visiting” was the evening pastime, and how swiftly it disappeared in the 1950′s when CBS and NBC arrived. The 60′s seemed to mark the final rounds of this endless liberation; the invention of divorce as a mass phenomenon made clear that family no longer carried the meaning we’d long assumed, that it could be discarded as the village has been discarded; the pill and the sexual revolution freed us from the formerly inherent burdens of sex, but also often reduced it to the merely “casual.”

…how all this has happened and what it means to us…

Whether all this was “good” or “bad” is an impossible question, and a pointless one. These changes came upon us like the weather; “we” “chose” them only in the broadest sense of the words. You may keep the TV in the closet, but you still live in a TV society. The possibility of divorce now hovers over every marriage, leaving it subtly different from what it would have been before. What’s important is that all these changes went in the same direction: they traded context for individual freedom. Maybe it’s been a worthwhile bargain; without it, we wouldn’t have the prosperity that marks life in the West, and all the things that prosperity implies. Longer life span, for instance; endless choice. But the costs have clearly been real, too: we’ve tried hard to fill the hole left when community disappeared, with “traditional values” and evangelical churches, with back-to-the-land communes and New Age rituals. but those frantic stirrings serve mostly to highlight our radical loneliness.

All of this makes me hate myself for loving the show Seinfeld, which is actually just a show exploring what it means to live a life that has no meaning. It is true, when i look around I see a world where there’s nothing but consumption – and when Mckibben points it out, I had to step back and let out a big whoa.

Where it all ends – the mindless consumption, the lack of context – is that we need to take a stand as individuals and produce context for ourselves. If genetic engineering takes place, the human race can lose the ability to be an individual and for each person to have meaning. If technology continues, we can continue to go beyond nature to a world that is completely unrecognizable. McKibben concludes that it is our capacity as humans for restraint-and even for finding great meaning in restraint. “We need to do an unlikely thing: We need to survey the world we now inhabit and proclaim it good. Good enough.”

As a lover of technology and change, the concept of “Good enough” is quite a thought. You should definitely read this book.

Written by Mike Lewis

April 25th, 2007 at 5:23 pm

DC Metro of the Future

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Dean posted this on his site, and i thought it was worth a re-posting.

I love mass transit. I think it makes the world a better place and makes city life more vibrant and personal. There’s nothing worse than having all a city’s residents drive around in cars – or “metal coffins” (to quote Bodhi). DC is making an effort to expand the metro to reach farther out into the burbs and make it easier to get from Bethesda to Silver Spring.

  1. The purple line will go from Silver Spring to Bethesda and make it much easier to get “across town” which right now is always a traffic nightmare
  2. The Silver line will let you get to Tysons or Dulles. If anyone’s been on 66 during rush hour, you know that this is about 10 years too late. But it is still nice
  3. They want to extend the Green line out to BWI, which would be nice, but they already have a train that goes out there. Maybe they should just increase the frequency of the train?

I would also like them to add more stops on each line, especially going out on the red line. In NY, there’s a stop every 5 blocks (1/4 mile) and in DC it is more like every mile. More stops would make it more convenient and usable. But, as always, it’s a money issue.

What would you like to see the metro do for you to use it?

Written by Mike Lewis

January 13th, 2007 at 11:00 am

How to Save our Civilization (quote)

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Quick quote by Lester Brown who is the author of over 50 books and thought to be “the guru of the environmental movement.”

One of the questions I am frequently asked when I am speaking in various countries is, Given the environmental problems that the world is facing, can we make it? That is, can we avoid economic decline and civilizational collapse? My answer is always the same: it depends on you and me, on what you and I do to reverse these trends. It means becoming politically active. Saving our civilization is not a spectator sport.

A good bio of Lester is here.  Check him out, he’s a legend

Written by Mike Lewis

October 9th, 2006 at 1:31 pm