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Web & Media - Jan 18

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage


‘Eco’ packaging

Toban Black blog
I’m sure that there are no cell phones out there that can be produced, packaged, shipped, sold, or recycled without negative environmental impacts. Generally, electronics equipment is made with non-renewable materials; and materials for the devices often will have to be extracted from environments, which still may be inhabited, or which people may have been forcibly displaced from, in other cases. Pollution from that extraction generally will be one more type of environmental impact around the production of electronics devices (for the time being, at least).

But we are supposed to believe that those “fido” phones are environmentally friendly because the words “nature” and “eco-friendly” are in the ad, with an image of a dog and a tree branch. It’s hard to imagine a shallower ‘environmental’ message. In other words: that marketing language and imagery obviously is very hollow...
(31 Dec 2009)


Google defies Chinese censors after cyberattacks on Gmail accounts of activists

Jane Macartney, Times online
Google has announced it will no longer submit to Chinese internet censors after it discovered cyber attacks aimed at human rights activists.

The company said last night that it had detected a “highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China”.

Further investigation showed that “a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists”. Google said that at least 20 other large companies from a range of businesses had been similarly targeted.

Google believes that the attack was mostly blocked and that only minor information, such as creation dates and subject lines, were stolen from two accounts.

It said the investigation showed that accounts of dozens of China human rights activists using Gmail in Europe, China or the United States had been “routinely accessed” using malware (malicious software)...
(13 Jan 2009)


Public Produce: Filling the Sidewalks with Fruit Trees

Jen Boynton, triplepundit
Triple Pundit was thrilled to take part in the green books campaign because we love reading and we especially love reading books that have been produced in an environmentally responsible way.

We reviewed Public Produce: The New Urban Agriculture, a book that lays out the public policy rationale for landscaping public lands with fruit bearing trees. Imagine if that shrub was replaced with an apple tree? It’s a pretty neat idea. Even better, this tome is printed on recycled paper.

At first glance, this doesn’t seem to have much to do with sustainable business, because the book argues for a shift in municipal policy. But Triple Pundit is a place where we love to talk about food and we’ve covered many businesses that deal with food innovation. The policy laid out in Public Produce has all the tenets of an innovative model: cost reduction, life improvement and a healthy a dose of “why haven’t I thought of that.” Author Darrin Norahl lays out all the problems with our current food production and distribution system: the dearth of affordable healthy food in the inner city and its connection to obesity; hunger; the 1500 miles the average piece of produce travels; outbreaks of food borne illness that sicken and kill people country wide and the environmental degradation associated with big ag. Then he provides an elegant solution:

“If a network of locally available, publicly accessible produce is to be successful, the largest single land-owner within the city- the municipality itself- will have to be engaged.”...
(10 Nov 2009)


As the World Burns

Jeff Goodell, rollingstone.com
This was supposed to be the transformative moment on global warming, the tipping point when America proved to the world that capitalism has a conscience, that we take the fate of the planet seriously. According to the script, Congress would pass a landmark bill committing the U.S. to deep cuts in carbon emissions. President Obama would then arrive in Copenhagen for the international climate summit, armed with the moral and political capital he needed to challenge the rest of the world to do the same. After all, wasn't this the kind of bold move the Norwegians were anticipating when they awarded Obama the Nobel Peace Prize?

As we now know, it didn't work out that way. Obama arrived in Copenhagen last month without any legislation committing the U.S. to reduce carbon pollution. Instead of reaching agreement on how to stop cooking the planet, the summit devolved into bickering over who bears the most blame for turning up the heat. The world once again missed an opportunity to avert disaster — and the delay is likely to have deadly consequences. In recent years, we have moved from talking about the possibility of climate change to watching it unfold before our eyes. The Arctic is melting, wildfires are turning into infernos, warm-weather insects are devouring forests, droughts are getting longer and more lethal. And the more we learn about climate change, the more it becomes apparent how enormous the risks are. Just a few years ago, researchers estimated that sea levels would likely rise 17 inches by 2100. Now they believe it could be three feet or more — a cataclysmic shift that would doom many of the world's cities, including London and New Orleans, and create tens of millions of climate refugees.

Our collective response to the emerging catastrophe verges on suicidal. World leaders have been talking about tackling climate change for nearly 20 years now — yet carbon emissions keep going up and up. "We are in a race against time," says Rep. Jay Inslee, a Democrat from Washington who has fought for sharp reductions in planet-warming pollution. "Mother Nature isn't sitting around waiting for us to get our political act together." In fact, our failure to confront global warming is more than simply political incompetence. Over the past year, the corporations and special interests most responsible for climate change waged an all-out war to prevent Congress from cracking down on carbon pollution in time for Copenhagen. The oil and coal industries deployed an unprecedented army of lobbyists, spent millions on misleading studies and engaged in outright deception to derail climate legislation. "It was the most aggressive and corrupt lobbying campaign I've ever seen," says Paul Begala, a veteran Democratic consultant...
(6 Jan 2010)


Movie Review Friday: The Road

Sophie Matson, The Green Life
The Road is a captivating and terrifying tale of a nameless man (played by Viggo Mortensen) and boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) trying desperately to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. Based on the Pulitzer-winning novel by Cormac McCarthy, the film shows desolate landscapes ravaged by an unknown catastrophe that happened years earlier. The father and son trek across dreary countryside and through abandoned cities, long ago picked over by looters, clinging to an imagined promise that things will be better when they reach the coast.

In their world, the skies are always gray and the land is in a constant state of winter; no plant has grown for a very long time. Nearly all resources have been consumed and people have turned to loathsome methods to retain their lives, but perhaps not their humanity. The devastation is chilling and, like a spate of other recent movies, offers a dire warning for what our planet’s fate might resemble if we're not careful...
(7 Jan 2010)
related: If the world doesn't heed the warnings and get this right, we may be a lot closer to The Road than we think. -KS


Avatar: Going Native, in 3D (FILM REVIEW)

Rob Williams, Valley Futures
Unless you’ve been living in the wilderness of the rural Vermont frontier, you probably have heard that uber-director James (Titanic and Aliens) Cameron is back with an incredible “game-changing” new film called “Avatar” that has imperial audiences and critics talking. Much has been made, and rightly so, of the movie’s brilliance: the creation of an entirely new language, for example, and the film’s iridescent three-dimensional visuality – a phenomenal spectacle – and well-worth seeing on the big screen. Equally interesting, though, is “Avatar’s” highly critical anti-imperial vision, dismissed by most mainstream critics, like the New Yorker’s David Denby, as little more than echoes of 1960s counter-culture. For anyone considering the United States as Empire, however, “Avatar’s” evocative and disturbing storyline – “Aliens” meets “Dances With Wolves” meets Lord of the Rings” – proves much more damning than not.

The story unfolds like this. Sometime in the future, a young and embittered U.S. ex-marine named Jake Sully (a convincing Sam Worthington) ships out to a remote mining colony called Pandora. Leg-less, Sully finds himself a mercenary working for the Company as a specially trained soldier who inhabits an “avatar,” a genetically hybridized creature designed to build relationships with the natives known as Na’Vi. Sully’s job is to “win hearts and minds,” as the old imperialistic propaganda goes. The Company’s ongoing goal? Profit-maximization through the pursuit of an element called “Unobtanium.” (I can see Cameron smiling.)

Tough-talking scientist Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) heads up the avatar program, and when she isn’t butting heads with the Company brass, she oversees training for Sully, who finds himself separated from his team on his first foray into the jungle. His life saved by a beautiful “barbarian,” he winds up in the hands of “the savages, and soon discovers that this indigenous community is defined by “the bond” – connections between all living things, The tall, lithe, tailed, blue, willowy creatures that Sully impersonates share a deep “hook up” (quite literally) to the stunning natural world of Pandora – cascading waterfalls, craggy chasms and canyons, and a diverse array of fascinating, marvelous (and ferocious) creatures....
(18 Dec 2009)


Photo Gallery: Homes for a changing climate

Will Anderson, The ecologist
In an extract from his new book Homes for a Changing Climate, Will Anderson makes the case for building 21st century homes that can withstand the effects of climate change and help usher in a low-carbon revolution

Climate change is upon us. In Britain the effects are still relatively modest and can be hard to discern above the natural variability of the weather. But in recent years variations have been so pronounced - flooding, heatwaves and drought - that there seems little prospect of a happy return to the predictably unpredictable British climate.

Furthermore, we know from the scientific evidence that global temperatures will continue to rise for the next 50 years even if the most optimistic predictions of future greenhouse gas emissions are achieved. Our climate will take time to change but change is inescapable.

The fact that we cannot stop climate change does not mean that we should lessen our efforts to reduce emissions and create a low-carbon world. Today, people are dying from the effects of climate change, largely in vulnerable countries that do not have the resources for defence and adaptation.

Hence the challenge is no longer to stop climate change but to contain it and minimise its harm. The more we cut emissions, the less the world will suffer.

...The primary focus of Homes for a Changing Climate is the built environment and houses in particular. Most of the houses we build, renovate or adapt today will still be with us in 10, 40 or 80 years' time. So we cannot put off building for the future. We are building for it now.
(29 Dec 2009)
You can read more about the book here.

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