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Solutions & sustainability - Jan 22

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage


Where to go if you want to live to be 100

Barry Wigmore, Daily Mail (UK)
...Scientists have identified the four places in the world where many more people than usual live to be over 100, and none of them is in Britain.

They are a mountain village on the island of Sardinia in the Mediterranean, the town of Loma Linda in California, Costa Rica in Central America; and the island of Okinawa, Japan.

...There is some good news for the rest of us, however. It seems we too could benefit from following their examples of a healthy diet, exercise and a positive attitude.

Dan Buettner, who led the American research team, said many of the things those in the long-life areas do are well known - they remain active, eat mainly fruit and vegetables in small portions with little meat, and drink on average one glass of wine a day.

They also rely on family, friends and religion for a lifetime of support when things go wrong.

Mr Buettner, 47, said: "Okinawans do not even have a word for retirement. They have one word that imbues their entire adult life, and that’s 'ikigai', which means, 'Why do I wake up in the morning?'

"They also eat in moderation. Before each meal, they repeat the saying, 'Hara hachi bu' which means, 'I must stop eating when I am 80 per cent full'."
(21 Jan 2007)
The four factors that apparently lead to long life do not require increased use of fossil fuels (physical exercise, fruit/vegetables, glass of wine and community support). In fact, they are probably inversely correlated with a high consumption, high energy society. I think the "glass of wine" factor may be overstated since one of the longevity locations, Loma Linda, is inhabited by Seventh Day Adventists who oppose alcohol. -BA


7 Ways to Save the World

Stefan Theil, Newsweek via MSNBC
The need for more energy and rising greenhouse gases pose a dual challenge to global prosperity. A new vision of conservation-of doing more with less-may be the key.
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Forget the old cliche that conserving energy is a form of abstinence-riding bicycles, dimming the lights, lowering the thermostat and taking fewer showers. These days conservation is all about efficiency: getting the same-or better-results from just a fraction of the energy.

...Multiply savings like Römer's across the economy, and it's clear why energy efficiency is no longer an issue just for the eco-fringe, but one of the hottest topics in business-and a way to add billions of dollars to the bottom line. What's more, with the world worried about energy supplies, efficiency turns out to hold the key. As global leaders convene in Davos, Switzerland, this week at the World Economic Forum, they'll discuss power shifts, none of which has more positive potential than the move from squandering to saving energy. "Increasing energy efficiency is the largest, least expensive, most benign, most quickly deployable, least visible, least understood and most neglected way" to meet future energy demand, says energy guru Amory Lovins, head of the Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Institute.

It's an idea whose time has come, though. When oil spiked to more than $70 a barrel last year, oil use in the industrial world fell for the first time in 20 years, according to the International Energy Agency. That shows how quickly energy saving can come back in vogue, but the IEA is cautious. It warns that world energy demand will surge by 50 percent through 2030, outstripping even the most aggressive scenario for boosting alternative sources of energy, like biofuels or solar power. "Even moderate efficiency improvements will contribute more to meeting future demand than all the alternative fuel sources combined," says Paul Waide, an efficiency expert at the IEA.

Efficiency is also a great way to lower carbon emissions and help slow global warming. But the best argument for efficiency is its cost-or, more precisely, its profitability.

...If saving energy is so easy and profitable, why isn't everyone doing it? It has to do with psychology and a lack of information. Most of us tend to look at today's price tag more than tomorrow's potential savings. That holds double for the landlord or developer, who won't actually see a penny of the savings his investment in better insulation or a better heating system might generate. And in today's global real-estate boom, in which even a drafty hovel can fetch a fortune, efficiency standards rank unsurprisingly low on the list. "The savings rarely come in single, obvious chunks, but are hidden in a thousand little things," says Stefan Thomas of Germany's Wuppertal Climate Institute. In many people's minds, he says, conservation is still associated with abstinence and self-denial. Many environmentalists still push that view.

Smart governments can help nudge the market in the right direction.

...The most powerful incentives, of course, will come from the market itself. Over the past year, sky-high fuel prices have focused minds on efficiency like never before. Relentless pressure to cut costs has finally forced more companies to do some math on their energy use.
(29 Jan 2007 issue)
When an idea has reached the pages of Newsweek, it's a sign that it's become conventional wisdom.
Related: the Jan 22 issue of the New Yorker has a profile of efficiency guru Amory Lovins (not online, but David Roberts has details at Gristmill) -BA


Could smart urban design keep people fit and trim?

Ben Harder, Science News
Lawrence Frank is no couch potato. Taking full advantage of his city's compact design, the Vancouver, British Columbia, resident often bikes to work and walks to stores, restaurants, and museums. That activity helps him stay fit and trim. But Frank hasn't always found his penchant for self-propulsion to be practical. He previously lived in Atlanta, where the city's sprawling layout thwarted his desire to be physically active as he went about his daily business.

Metropolitan Atlanta, often called a poster child for urban sprawl, has undergone rapid geographical expansion as its population has burgeoned to about 5 million. Studies suggest that urban sprawl contributes to physical inactivity and obesity.
Getty Images

"There was not much to walk to," says Frank, a professor of urban planning at the University of British Columbia. For example, he recalls that there was only one decent restaurant within walking distance of his old home. Many restaurants and other businesses in Atlanta cluster in strip malls that stand apart from residential areas.

In Vancouver, by contrast, Frank's neighborhood contains dozens of eateries, and he often strolls to and from dinner. "I'm more active here," he says.

The glaring difference between the two cities' landscapes figures in Frank's professional life as well as in his personal one. Frank is part of an emerging area of cross-disciplinary science that's examining the relationship between the shapes of our cities and the shapes of our bodies.

He and other researchers have evidence that associates health problems with urban sprawl, a loose term for humanmade landscapes characterized by a low density of buildings, dependence on automobiles, and a separation of residential and commercial areas. Frank proposes that sprawl discourages physical activity...
(20 Jan 2007)

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