Researchers at the Energy Research Center at the University of Maryland in College Park have developed the prototype to a genius and greener way to store energy: in wood batteries. Don’t be misled, the next generation of energy probably doesn’t involve carrying around blocks of cedar to charge your cell phone. Rather, these wood batteries are actually made from sheets of microscopic wood fibers that are coated with carbon nanotubes and packed into small metal discs. Instead of today’s modern battery, which uses lithium ions, these wood batteries use sodium ions, because as it turns out, wood is a good medium for the flow of sodium ions. What does this mean for the price of energy? Well, both wood and sodium are relatively cheap, and sodium is much more plentiful than lithium
While it’s possible the wood battery prototype may eventually move to production for home-use batteries, it’s unlikely since sodium doesn’t store energy as efficiently as lithium. Yet, given the available supply and low cost of sodium and wood, lead researchers Liangbing Hu and Hongli Zhu are aiming their focus on scaling the wood battery up to a size and capacity ideal for large-scale energy storage — the type required by an electricity grid.
Jim McGregor, Principal Analyst at Tirias Research stated, “I have never seen anything like this before, but I like the sustainability aspect of it, especially for grid-type storage.”
The wood battery goes hand-in-hand with renewable energy sources. Renewable energy is cleaner, more affordable, domestic, and just as infinite as the source it comes from. It produces no emissions and results in cleaner air and water for all. Yet one of the problems encountered with renewable energy is the inability to efficiently store the energy produced. In terms of sources such as solar and wind energy, as it stands, solar energy is stored (albeit, inefficiently), while wind energy is not stored at all, but is rather directly routed to the energy consumer via power lines. The ability to efficiently store wind and solar energy in large-scale wood batteries could be the solution the new generation of energy has been waiting for. I only have one question: How much wood would a battery use if a battery could use wood?
Adhikari, Richard. “UMD Makes a Wood Battery for Pinocchio.” 21 June 2013. TechNewsWorld. 17 July 2013. < http://www.technewsworld.com/story/78320.html>.
Palca, Joe. “All Charged Up: Engineers Create A Battery Made From Wood.” 17 July 2013. NPR. 17 July 2013. <http://www.npr.org/2013/07/17/200782520/all-charged-up-engineers-create-a-battery-made-of-wood>.
Whitwam, Ryan. “Researchers create super-efficient, long-lasting battery from wood.” 2013 June 20. ExtremeTech. 17 July 2013. <http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/159256-researchers-create-super-efficient-long-lasting-battery-from-wood>.
Adults are not alone in their concern for the health of the environment. Children, who will inherit what their forebears leave behind, are also showing an increasing awareness of the world and what sustains it. There are many easy ways for kids to get involved with environmentalism.
For parents looking to facilitate environmental awareness, it might be helpful to seek out a school or religious group that teaches about the environment and has activities. Going to nature-based camps is an excellent opportunity to connect with like-minded children and teens, in addition to learning about the environment, animals, and how to be active as an environmentalist.
My parents sent me to camps at a nature preserve (Fontanelle Forest in Nebraska) and later to a Jewish camp in Colorado that had a strong emphasis on nature-based activities (Shwayder Camp). While I always struggled getting adjusted at first, these places helped me grow and understand how I wanted to relate to the world around me.
Go to your local farmers’ market together and learn about vegetables and fruits. Talk with the farmers to get a better understanding of where the food comes from. Depending on the farmers’ market and time of year, there might be samples, cheese, eggs, frozen sea food, and even meat.
While many parents put it off, I encourage them to explain the connection between meat and animals rather early, especially those living in a meat-eating household. I know parents may try to shield sensitive children from the fact that they are eating their furry and feathered friends, but that just did not work out for my parents. When I learned to read, I unfortunately came upon a PETA site while searching my interests in environmentalism and animal rights, and POOF!!! – I became a vegetarian for six years and developed nutritional deficiencies because my household could not support my dietary choices, and I didn’t know how to manage it.
For younger children, learning the three R’s of “Reduce, reuse, and recycle” can be particularly fun with going to a thrift store and making costumes for a holiday or even making crafts out of what normally would be trash. There are some very clever ideas out there like making caterpillars out of empty egg cartons (see http://www.dltk-kids.com/crafts/insects/mcaterpillar.htm). Keep in mind that the plastic googly-eyes can easily be replaced with spare odds and ends around the house like a leftover button or a button from a holey shirt! The importance of recycling cans and excess papers is one that children can easily pick up on.
Especially for kids who live in the city, or really any kid, it is essential to foster an appreciation of nature through experiencing it. Children can easily grasp and attach to this appreciation for nature’s intrinsic beauty, connecting to a long line of conservationists, like John Muir. It doesn’t have to be a three night canoe trip or hitting up a famous national park half-way across the country. Getting a plot in a city garden and working on it with your child or children a few times a week can create a huge appreciation for nature and plants.
Alternatively, going to a zoo that has enclosures replicating animals’ natural habitats with enough space may be particularly enjoyable for children. Going for a walk in a nature reserve for a few hours or on a canoe ride is often amazing. Such endeavors need not become routine, and a trip into the wilderness or nature once and a while can create a great impact.
When going on excursions, explain the basics of conservation. While I recall my dad having a particularly interesting perspective given that he was actually a developer and had worked to preserve certain creeks and wooded areas, and once even turned down a large lumber deal due to an endangered owl, there are basic elements that help a child learn how humans and the environment interact. Bringing a bag on walks and hikes together to pick up litter and properly dispose of it teaches a sense of stewardship. Be sure to clearly express to children that they should not touch or pick up syringes or sharp objects, especially when in parks where they are more likely to accumulate.
If you are involved with activism or philanthropy around environmentalism, get your child involved. It is an ideal way to teach your child how organizations and governments work, in addition to giving a sense of contributing to society.
Many Audubon Societies host student bird drawing competitions that encourage kids to connect to birds and learn about their habitats and diets. I participated in these for nine years, and my sister won several awards.
By Emily F.
Raw? Vegan? Vegetarian? Lacto-Ovo? Pescatarian? Mediterranean? There have been so many diets promoted in natural health circles in America over the last decades. It seems they all have various benefits. And the one thing most have in common is the avoidance of consuming of cows and pigs.
Red meat and pork have no known health benefits. The animals are treated brutally and killed in a gruesome bloodbath that is easy to ignore because so few have witnessed our fellow mammals’ slaughter. Those who are employed to do the dirty work get very low wages and often incur injuries because of the size and weight of the animals and the speed of the work. It is very difficult to watch. Even when Cargill, one of the largest meat processing companies in the nation, allowed Oprah Winfrey into a couple of sanitized areas of a processing plant, they did not allow her cameras to film a cow being killed. Out of sight means out of mind.
We are very fortunate that there are so many other things to eat! This meat can feel energizing because of all the adrenaline in the animal when it is killed, and there is iron in blood and flesh, but there is also iron in spinach, dried fruit, and lentils. There is a tradition of the hunt and the roast, and this holds a special allure and place in our hearts. However, when you realize that is far from how the animals get to our plates nowadays, the romanticized vision vanishes.
One hamburger can contain up to 100 different cows. The US kills 35 million cows a year, and 13,200 pigs an hour. That is a lot of bloodshed, death, and killing. What would our country be like if that stopped? Our cardiovascular health would improve, as would our regularity. Less suffering for the animals coincides with less suffering for humanity.
If you would like to see what really goes on behind the closed doors of the slaughterhouse, it is a great motivator for change, although very sad to watch:
These videos have a louder volume, so you may wish to mute (this also makes them more bearable to watch):
This was filmed at Agriprocessors which was the largest (Glatt) Kosher meat producer in the United States, and the only one authorized by Israel’s Orthodox Rabbinate to export beef to Israel, before it was shut down in 2008 by inspectors (best to mute):
Thank you for being willing to read this, and watching some of the videos. I know it is very difficult to consider this topic because for so long we have been removed from the reality of it and since we were children we were taught to eat a certain way. Make sure to be gentle with yourself and go slowly when making changes in eating habits. Perhaps begin with a “meatless Monday.”
This film describes the positive environmental impacts that forgoing meat just one day a week can make:
For a well done documentary about one man’s journey with this issue, watch this clip:
Another inspiring story with regards to getting back to a plant-based diet is that of Dave the trucker. He was dying when he decided he had to tackle this problem head on:
Even the Mayo Clinic recommends “meatless meals”:
Recent articles in the LA Times and the Huffington Post lend weight to this conclusion:
Because of all the droughts we have been having in the US, the cattle are starving, and the herds are shrinking:
Cows are very gentle creatures. There is no skill or chase in hunting them. They are docile pacifists who give their milk and eat grass. They hurt no one, and do not deserve this torture. Pigs frolic and forage, are as sociable and intelligent as dogs, and genetically are surprisingly similar to humans (more so than any other domesticated animal):
The slaughter house is like hell on earth. It is time for the madness to end. It does not have to be this way. Humans have freedom of choice, and when we know better, we do better. And when we learn, we care.
These items can function in place of meats in traditional American recipes when needed, they’re pretty tasty, and the most popular ones are available at supermarkets:
I had a great experience when I asked my supermarket to carry a natural product they did not already have, and they now stock it in the store – thank you Vons!
If you are taking medications or have had surgery, please consult your doctor before making any changes in your diet and only undertake such changes under her/his supervision and monitoring. This is because dietary changes can lessen the need for certain medications. Also, listen to your body – if you need red meat, eat it. If you can avoid it when possible, and still feel good, please do. This article is for informational purposes only, and is not to be construed as medical advice.
America has the finest high-tech medical care in the world. If a person is in an accident, the emergency care is exemplary. We also have dedicated, energetic scientists working hard to develop new treatments every day.
I think one area we have not fully accessed is nature and indigenous knowledge. There is still a place for science within this realm, working in harmony with the natural world and people who live in close communion with it to learn from them how we too can do so more gracefully. Preventative health care begins with focusing on sustainable agriculture. This will also help stabilize the climate and prevent war, as hungry people are more belligerent. If you think I am joking, try fasting and working at the same time, and see how long you last.
Traditional crossbreeding of plants is safer and wiser than genetic engineering. Researching and testing the most reliable healing plants and fruits in each region of the earth provides a fertile field for academic and commercial institutions. If we try to leave nature behind, we will not get far, as evidenced by our current state of crisis.
For example, blackberries are incredibly healthy. They grow wild all over the Pacific Northwest of the United States. There is a wonderful blackberry breeding program at Oregon State University that has developed a number of delicious (thornless even!) blackberry varieties. If everyone in this region had a blackberry bush or free blackberries available, many health concerns could be assuaged. Daily berries (in season) really do make a difference in health. Blueberries could be cultivated freely throughout the Northeast. Mangos, avocados, and peaches can be grown in the warmer regions of the country. People’s health is in part determined by the quality of their food and drink. Organic farming will restore the land.
Before you protest and say this will never happen—asserting that we have public space set aside for nature and parks, but only planted with ornamentals—get a load of what the city of Seattle is doing!
In the neighborhood of Beacon Hill a seven acre plot is being planted with grapes, apples, raspberries, blueberries, pears, plums, pineapple, guava, persimmons, and other fruit trees, as well as herbs, chestnuts, and walnuts! It is called the Beacon Food Forest, and was designed in 2009 by students in a permaculture class. beaconfoodforest.weebly.com
The trial plot of two acres is being planted this summer, with the remaining five acres to be completed at a later date. This will be a true, sustainable food bank! Here is a video showing the first plantings:
The founding members of the project hope to educate the community of the benefits of permaculture through the site. Margarett Harrison, lead landscape architect, states, “This is totally innovative, and has never been done before in a public park!”
Jenny Pell, permaculturist, explains, “People worried, ‘What if someone comes and takes all the blueberries?’ That could very well happen, but maybe someone needed those blueberries. We look at it this way—if we have none at the end of blueberry season then it means we’re successful.”
Local residents have been enthusiastically pitching in and signing up with comments like, “Put me to work – I can’t wait to get my hands dirty,” and, “Let me know when I can show up with my wheelbarrow.” Help with propagating, mulching, and pruning is welcomed. “People will come in and for example help cut the raspberries back and then be able to take home five or ten raspberry plants to put in their own backyard!” proclaims Pell.
“When we met with all the different people from the community, what they wanted actually was fruits and berries and big nut trees- that was their biggest request. So, we’re looking at paths with berry bushes on both sides, and we’re going to have mixed fruit orchards, and big nut orchards. It will be the largest food forest on public lands in the United States.”
A couple of other folks worldwide have been at the forefront of this movement to get free produce to everyone while reforesting the earth. Kenya’s Queen of the Trees Professor Wangari Maathai inspired the planting of 47 million trees in Kenya and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her contribution to “sustainable development, democracy and peace.” Her vision of environmental stewardship rather than plunder of natural resources (which has been the accepted norm) has inspired many people. She especially encouraged women to plant trees, beginning the www.Greenbeltmovement.org in 1977.
When she started her work, Professor Maathai saw that “behind the everyday hardships of the poor—environmental degradation, deforestation, and food insecurity—were deeper issues of disempowerment, disenfranchisement, and a loss of the traditional values that had previously enabled communities to protect their environment, work together for mutual benefit, and to do both selflessly and honestly.”
Simply put, Professor Maathai said, “If you destroy the forest then the river will stop flowing, the rains will become irregular, the crops will fail and you will die of hunger and starvation… We cannot tire or give up. We owe it to the present and future generations of all species to rise up and walk.”
Anthony Anderson of www.growparadise.com states, “When we realize that we can quite easily and quickly begin to grow paradise right where we live, our power returns to us! Growing paradise requires nothing but the spirit of love and growth within us. We invite you to become a part of this, whether directly or by spreading the ideas and growing paradise in your own backyard and local community. Grow paradise. It is ours if we really want it.” He has seeded food forests in Minnesota, California, Arizona, and Cape Town, South Africa.
David Wolfe started the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation www.ftpf.org, which is a nonprofit charity dedicated to planting 18 billion organic fruit trees to “benefit the environment and all its inhabitants!”
“We envision a place where one can have a summer picnic under the shade of a fruit tree, breathe the clean air it generates, and not have to bring anything other than an appetite for the healthy fruits growing overhead. A world where one can take a walk in the park during a lunch break, pick and eat a variety of delicious fruits, plant the seeds so others can eventually do the same and provide an alternative to buying environmentally-destructive, illness-causing, chemically-laden products.”
A pioneer in community agriculture, Farmer John of www.angelicorganics.com states, “Agriculture is an underpinning of our culture. The irrepressibility of life on a farm continually manifests in myriad splendid expressions of life. This glorious unfolding provides us with the sustenance of food, while endlessly nourishing the creative spirit.”
I am very grateful for the amazing hospitals and health care workers we have in this country. They are overburdened, however, because of a lack of preventative and conservational care. With a focus on collective, populist, sustainable agriculture to grow healthy food and medicine for all, chronic disease will diminish, as much chronic degenerative disease is caused by diet and stress related to survival. Food is our first primary need. A plant-based diet is advocated as a foundation for health by leading physicians like Dr. Oz, Dr. Weil, Dr. Chopra, and Dr. Mcdougall.
Combining the skills of doctors, nurses, herbalists, midwives, doulas, shamans, gardeners, farmers, artists and other healers in the community, medicine can evolve beyond a solely symptoms-oriented approach to exploring the source, the roots of imbalance and disease. To do this we must look for help toward our origin and our sustenance – the earth.
For those interested in getting closer to the earth in the LA area and visiting the local farms, go to www.pickyourown.org/CAla.htm.
By Ashley H.
1. Blazing a Trail for a Better Bounty of Oregon Berries. (2011, July 26). Retrieved from www.oregonlive.com.
2. Seattle Food Forest. (2012, March 9). Retrieved from www.loe.org.
3. Husted, K. (2012, March 1). Seattle’s First Urban Food Forest will be Open to Foragers. Retrieved from www.npr.org.
4. Leschin-Hoar, B. C. (1, February 2012). It’s Not a Fairytale: Seattle to Build Nation’s First Food Forest . Retrieved from www.takepart.com.
As far as modern construction goes, a building of just about any shape imaginable can now be erected. From squares, to rectangles to spheres to hexagons, there are no limits to modern design- and architects are putting this limitless approach into practice every day. But this has not been a modern development; ancient builders utilized many different shapes, and many different practices to construct some of the grandest, and now longest standing, structures. The Pyramid of Giza, the tallest man-made structure in the world up until the completion of the Eiffel tower, was assembled using thousands of rectangular stones. The Pantheon in Rome was built using concentric circles fixed into a half sphere-shape set atop a rectangular building, and the Hagia Sophia, Taj Mahal and St. Peter’s Basilica all feature a similar spherical dome in their design.
A dome is essentially just an arch rotated around a central axis and continued all the way to the floor, creating an inner area free of support columns or pillars. The oldest domed structures ever found date back over 20,000 years. Found in the Ukraine in 1965, these simple dwellings were constructed using mammoth bones and tusks, though most early domes are thought to have been made out of bent over branches and layers of mud. Being so easy to erect, these structures allowed very early peoples to move with the seasons and follow their food supply. Because they have been found all over the world, it is thought that domes did not have a specific point of origin. Throughout human history the dome has been a staple of architecture for many cultures including those found in Mesopotamia, China and Syria- even the ancient Egyptians made regular use of domes in their building practices.
While domes seemed to be far more common in previous time periods, they are still being built today. Most modern domes are now designed with a bit more precision, but essentially the idea has not changed for millennia. Glass, concrete and steel has replaced many of the older building materials, and now engineered domes can be used for nearly every conceivable application. Pre-engineered and designed for any use, they can be built free standing or as an addition to almost every shape used in modern construction. There are several ways in which most domes today are built: either using a steel framed half-sphere and large glass panes, a similar metal skeletal frame around which is fixed an airfoil held up by constant air pressure supplied from within by massive fans or with a series of steel rebar set into blown-in concrete followed by layers of insulation and a finished “drywall” material. The location and intended use usually determines the dome’s method of construction
Domes have been used in the construction of many modern-era homes. So-called dome homes, geodesic or otherwise, were exceedingly popular in the 1960’s and though less popular are still being built today. Along with rather simple design and low cost building materials, domes are a very efficient and cost effective use of square footage, and can help retain heat in cooler times while dissipating it during warmer periods.
Being free standing structures, domes are also used as stadiums and gymnasiums where open space is a necessity. Since they do not need any support structures or pillars to hold up their roofs, domes have been constructed to house many indoor sports fields in less than hospitable climates all over the world. From the Astrodome in Houston and the Superdome in New Orleans, to the dome over the O2 Arena in London, many sports teams now call domes home. The Global Pagoda, now under construction in Bombay, India, is being built using modern as well as ancient Indian methods and was designed to last for thousands of years- a testament to the domes enduring characteristics.
By Will Inglis
Building Big. Domes. WGBH. PBS Online. n.d.
Welcome to monolithic.com. Monolithic Dome Homes. n.d.
ZWQ43. “Domes of the Past Present and Future.” Architecture: Domes Throughout History. YAHOOVoices. YAHOO. July7, 2008
Ever since humanity first gathered in family and tribal bands, our choice of shelter has played a major role in our survival. For a millennia we were confined to caves and forests, reliant on nature to provide us with protection from the elements. Creating more permanent dwellings allowed us to store away more food and also to survive longer periods without having to follow herds or the seasons to survive. From hobbit holes to mall sized mansions to floating apartment buildings, we have expanded our idea of housing to encompass any and every type of dwelling imaginable. Over the years we have a come a long way, from simple animal skin tents to penthouses perched high atop massive sky scrapers: The idea of a simple roof over our heads has grown to much more than the literal interpretation of the phrase.
More recently the idea of sustainable building has developers and consumers alike realizing that building green has its benefits. By implementing economically sound practices such as double pane windows, using more efficient insulation, installing solar tubes and Energy Star rated appliances, just to name a few, the money saved on utilities alone can be staggering over the life of the building. Not only that, but many consumers are now looking to purchase more energy-efficient homes. In fact, according to McGraw-Hill Construction, market share for green homes has more than doubled since 2008, from 8% to 17%. That’s not all, according to the same report, in the next few years that number could grow to somewhere between 29%-38%, or to put in plainly, as high as $114 billion annually. Sustainable construction may not be for just the hippies and tree huggers anymore, it could carve a serious chunk out of the housing market, and builders might be wise to take notice.
In 2000 the U.S. Green Building Council introduced LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) in order to provide developers with guidelines to help reduce their impact on the environment. Since then several other programs have sprouted up, and nearly all offer incentives for green building practices. For example Energy Star offers a $2,000 dollar “refund” for using appliances, and a labeling system for builders to feature in their listings.
Along with a growing market share comes higher asking prices, which builders say home buyers are willing to pay for more sustainable homes. Consumers not only see green building as more efficient, but more reliable and long lasting. In fact in the study put out by McGraw-Hill, 61% of home buyers and 66% of re-modelers are willing to pay a higher premium for green homes. Harvey Bernstein, Vice President of Industry Insights and Alliances at McGraw-Hill notes, “When builders are able to offer homes that not only are green, but also offer the combination of higher quality and better value, they have a major competitive edge over those building traditional homes.”
Being a developer myself, I’ve tried to implement as many green practices as possible. Although it initially affected my bottom line, over time I noticed that the more efficient homes were much easier to sell, and like anything else the more practice you have the more you can perfect the process. Certain things will possibly never be changed, our reliance on petroleum based plastics and copper wiring may be here to stay, but who knows if someone comes out with an alternative it may be able to further reduce the carbon footprint modern construction leaves behind. The green movement seems to be permeating all areas of our daily lives. From transportation to heavy industry to sustainable food growth we are now considering our place in the ecosystem and trying to work with nature instead of against it. Perhaps our newfound love of green living doesn’t place us as far away from animal hide tents and thatched roof homes as we think.
By Will Inglis
“Quality and Value Driving Growth in the Green Building Market—According to New McGraw-Hill Construction SmartMarket Report on Green Homes and Remodeling.” Press Release . McGraw Hill Construction. May 1, 2012
Marcacci, Silvio. “Green Home Building Booming, Could Be $114 Billion Market By 2016.” Clean Technica. June 1, 2012
US Green Building Council. What LEED is. US Green Building Council. n.d.
New evidence has shown that a “hot spot” could cause sea levels on the eastern seaboard of the US to advance faster than the projected global average. This increase is attributed to a change in the North Atlantic current, which scientist say is warming and as a result slowing down.
The affected are stretches over 600 miles, from North Carolina all the way to northern Massachusetts. In a study conducted by the USGS, global sea levels have risen between 0.6 and one millimeter per year since 1990, but levels along this portion of the eastern seaboard have gone up 3.7 millimeters in some areas- four times the global average. You may be thinking that this is such a small rise, how could it possibly affect things? Over a few years, yes, the difference may be fairly negligible, but over several decades the change adds up. This rise happens not just at a quicker rate, but at a more rapid pace, like a car on a highway “jamming on the accelerator,” says the study’s lead author, Asbury Sallenger Jr., an oceanographer at USGS. He has observed sea levels since the 1950′s, and noticed a change beginning in 1990.
By the year 2100 global sea levels are anticipated to rise more than a meter, the added increase caused by this “hot spot” could add almost an extra foot of water on top of that. “Extreme water levels that happen during winter or tropical storms, perhaps once or twice a year, may happen more frequently as sea level rise is added to storm surge,” says Karen Doran, co-author of the USGS study. This will undoubtedly cause many large population centers below this new waterline more than a little trouble in the coming decades. The number of people living in New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia, just to name a few of the cities that will likely be affected—and their likely exit from the area before, during or after the floods—poses a real problem. Where are all of these people going to go? New York City alone has over 8 million people. That’s more than a serious traffic jam; it’s an exodus, a migration of mass proportions.
Regardless if you are for or against the argument that man has caused global warming, the simple fact is that the world as we know it is getting hotter. We cannot ignore the reality that sea levels and climate as a whole are going through a major transition-nor the fact that this is a part of normal Earth function. Our planet constantly ebbs and flows between warm and cool periods- and as a result wet and dry periods. More water is locked up in ice during the cooler periods, resulting in lower sea levels, while during warmer periods more water is in liquid form, causing sea levels to rise.
Whether we are speeding up the process, all of this is part of the Earth’s natural cycles. As a species we have even experienced it before- though this was thousands of years ago and little of our ancestor’s accounts of such phenomenon and how they dealt with them remain for us to study. But many cultures share in common a flood story of some type, where in the earth is inundated by massive floods that wipe much of the earth clean of life— or at the least dramatically change the landscape.
Are we in for another flood? Scientists think so, but not on the order of world-ending myths so common to many ancient cultures. No need to rush out to your local hardware store and start construction on an ark. That being said, many cities and countries might want to take some preventative measures.
Immediate or not, we need to start to think outside of the box as to how we will deal with climate change, and building over water is one alternative to trying to divert it. This may be one of many answers to increased sea levels that seemingly every scientist agrees are in our future, the time to argue over the existence of global warming has come and gone. The time to take action is now and the sooner we prepare, the less the effects will be felt by future generations.
By Will Inglis
With today’s world learning more about the green movement and “going green” green roofs are becoming more popular everyday and provide numerous benefits for our ecosystem. Green roofs are a space of vegetation atop a building or home that shares a common root system instead of being individually potted. These buildings have specialized roofs able to hold the weight of the vegetation and prevent water from seeping into the infrastructure. There are two types of green roofs, intensive and extensive.
Intensive green roofs contain a wider variety of vegetation and require more maintenance. Extensive green roofs are covered in a light layer of vegetation and are easier to maintain, not needing as much maintenance work. The history behind green roofs began thousands of years ago with the Hanging Gardens in Babylon. These gardens were built over beams of stone covered in tar and reeds. Living plants and trees were then planted in soil on top. The modern idea of a green roof, with all its current advancements, was introduced in Germany in the 1960′s. Most popular in Europe and covering more than 10 percent of the continents buildings, green roofs are becoming more popular in the U.S.
The benefits attributed to green roofs are enormous. They provide both environmental and financial benefits. Green roofs help reduce heating loss in the winter and reduce cooling loss in the summer. They also create natural habitats for all kinds of urban wildlife. For health purposes, green roofs filter pollutants and carbon dioxide out of the air as well as harmful chemicals and metals out of rain water. They also help expand agricultural space, making it possible to grow almost any kind of fruit or vegetable for vending or personal consumption. Green roofs form a natural habitat for many species to live giving them security and tranquility.
Green roofs can increase the real estate value of a property and if ever on the market may make it more attractive to potential buyers since the green movement is flourishing. Green roofs also increase the life span of the building’s underlying roof considerably, thinning out the cost of frequent repair. Constructing these roofs also creates lots of jobs for people. Maintenance crews benefit the most from them, including companies specializing in irrigation, drainage, and construction.
The one disadvantage of installing a green roof is at times it can be quite expensive. They roughly cost between fifteen and twenty dollars per square foot and even more depending on the variety of foliage. Continuing the life of the roof also requires maintenance, which can also add to the ongoing cost. Even with this disadvantage the advantages of having a green roof are greatly superior.
Green roofs are becoming more and more popular everyday and with the green movement booming we will eventually be seeing them on every other rooftop, benefiting us with its overall beauty.
Fossil fuels propelled the industrial revolution over the last two hundred years which has brought wonderful advantages, comforts, and life-enhancing amenities, and some challenges as well. Development can be exciting and beneficial. It is important to look comprehensively at the costs associated with different methods of development because of the numerous options available in this day and age, so that enterprise can serve the greatest good.
Until the 1960′s and 70′s with the Clean Air and the Clean Water Acts, policy makers in America were not too concerned about the human and environmental costs of development. Bigger, better, faster were the concerns. During recent decades pollution and deforestation have become more severe and weather patterns more erratic so that the damage we do to nature can no longer be ignored.
Modern urban human life requires energy. Modern conveniences demand it. Taking this need for fuel into account, where will we get it? Well traditionally we have gotten it from oil, coal, and natural gas aka the fossil fuels http://carbonnationmovie.com/. We owe so many of our modern advancements to fossil fuels, and yet we must begin to wean off of them http://permaculture-media-download.blogspot.com/2011/02/power-of-community-how-cuba-survived.html.
Gigantic hydroelectric dams http://www.internationalrivers.org/node/4292 built on rivers destroying regions upstream and down (for example the Three Gorges dam in China http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9aU43suUvg&feature=player_embedded which displaced more than one million people) have also been used to generate electricity. Side effects of dams can be refugees, increased landslides and waterbourne diseases, and decreased biodiversity.
In recent decades nuclear power has been part of the energy picture as well. Despite scientific genius, nuclear power poses a serious problemhttp://www.ratical.org/radiation/IntoEternity/. Its byproducts like Iodine-129 can remain toxic for hundreds of thousands of years. Cobalt-60, another byproduct, is dangerous for only 5 years, but during that time close exposure to just 1 gram for a few minutes can be lethal. And there are over 430 nuclear plants worldwide http://www.beyondnuclear.org/human-rights/. Three Mile Island in 1979 in Pennsylvania was America’s biggest national nuclear accident that cost $975 million and 14 years to clean up and remove radioactive material. Other nuclear diasters include Chernobyl in 1986 in Ukraine, and Fukushima Daiichi in 2011 in Japan.
A review of nuclear energy policy around the world occurred after the Fukushima accident. Italy banned nuclear power. Germany decided to close all its reactors by 2022. Switzerland also decided to phase out nuclear at the end of the lifetime of its existing reactors (nuclear power plants have a 40 year max lifespan). And in September 2011, German engineering giant Siemens announced that as a result of the Fukushima catastrophe it would withdraw entirely from the nuclear industry and would no longer build nuclear power plants anywhere in the world. Australia, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, New Zealand, Austria, Sweden, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Malaysia, and Israel are all opposed to nuclear power. Another drawback of nuclear is that it increases the availability of nuclear weapons material because uranium is used for both nuclear power and weapons. Uranium mining http://www.chiptaylor.com/ttlmnp2665-.cfm is hard on the environment http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhrWCGIlku4.
The US has created 70,000 tons of nuclear waste over the past sixty years, and no one can figure out what to do with it because it is so deadly. The most popular suggestion is to stick it in a mountain near Las Vegas called Yucca Mountain which would require 40 miles of tunnels. The US has at least 108 sites designated as areas that are contaminated and unusable, sometimes many thousands of acres, due to nuclear power.
In examining the fossil fuels- oil, coal, and natural gas- there are a number of reasons why they are not sustainable http://www.blindspotdoc.com/. They are all found underground and must be mined or drilled for which can be quite disruptive http://www.crudethemovie.com/trailer-and-photos/.Their supplies are finite, meaning there will come a time when we have taken all there is to take out of the earth http://www.postcarbon.org/. And getting them requires that we displace people (often not compensating them for the loss of their land) and demolish ecosystems http://www.globalissues.org/article/86/nigeria-and-oil.
In any endeavor there is always a margin of error, and when an error occurs with technology used to extract or transport these fuels, the results are devastating, like the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 in Alaska and the BP Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico. The Chilean mining accident in the coal mines of Copiapo in 2010, and the coal mine explosion in Montcoal, West Virginia in 2010 illustrate the dangers in mining for coal http://www.coalcountrythemovie.com/. Examples of natural gas accidents are the 2010 pipeline explosion in San Bruno, California and the 2004 pipeline explosion in Ath, Belgium http://www.gaslandthemovie.com/.
Countries are recognizing that they can address these problems by investing in renewable energy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DflgducmN4. Sustainable energy is the provision of energy that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Improving both sources of energy and energy efficiency are the goals, plus creating lots of green jobs, and more localized, small-scale power generation so there is less dependence on monopolies and less energy used in transport of fuel and electricity. Green jobs http://www.bootsontheroof.com/about-us are especially satisfying because people do not have to compromise their conscience, contaminate their environment, or sacrifice their health in order to work http://www.solarenergy.org/womens-program. Application of renewable technologies adds to the diversity of electricity sources and, through local power generation, increases the adaptability of the system and its resistance to central shocks.
Solar http://www.thesolarfoundation.org/ and wind power http://www.awea.org/ are the world’s fastest growing energy sources. Leading renewable energy companies include First Solar, Q-Cells, Sharp Solar, Suntech, Gamesa, and Vestas. There are economic, social, and environmental benefits to renewable energy http://www.siemens.com/entry/cc/en/#/newzealand. Also wave power from the coastal ocean is being developed by companies like Aquamarine Power and Pelamis Wave.
Over 400 manufacturing facilities across America make components for wind turbines, and 37 states now have installed at least some utility-scale wind power. The Roscoe Wind Farm in Texas is the largest wind farm in the US http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/energy/solar-wind/4338280?page=2. Shepherds Flat Wind Farm in Oregon, which Google is helping to build, will be the largest wind farm in the world when completed in 2012. As of 2011, 83 countries around the world are using wind power on a commercial basis.
Solar Energy Generating Systems (SEGS) is the name given to nine solar power plants in California’s Mojave Desert, which were commissioned between 1984 and 1991. SEGS is the largest solar plant of any kind in the world.
More than 1.5 million homes and businesses currently use solar water heating in the United States. Compared to those with electric water heaters, Florida homeowners with solar water heaters save 50 to 85 percent on their water heating bills http://www.fsec.ucf.edu/en/index.php.
The global available solar energy resources are 3.8 YJ/yr (120,000 TW). Less than 0.02% of available solar resources are sufficient to entirely replace fossil fuels and nuclear power as an energy source. Solar cell production increased by 50% in 2007, and has been doubling every two years since http://cleantechnica.com/2011/05/29/ge-solar-power-cheaper-than-fossil-fuels-in-5-years/.
Sustainable biofuels are a great idea too, and can be made from things like algae http://www.oilgae.com/, sewage http://www.magnegas.com/index.html, and used vegetable oil http://www.lovecraftbiofuels.com/. Algae grows fast and has the added bonus of taking CO2 out of the atmosphere during photosynthesis. Finding a way to convert excrement into energy takes care of its disposal as well!
In airline news, more than 200 flights within Europe on Air France/KLM are expected to fly by burning used-cooking-oil biofuel. United Airlines launched its first flight, the ‘Eco Skies test flight’, powered with algae biofuel on November 7, 2011. Virgin and Alaska Airlines are also using jet biofuels, as is the US Military. The US Military has ventured into solar and wind as well http://cleantechnica.com/2012/03/21/u-s-army-gets-its-first-solar-powered-microgrid/!
A large barrier to the implementation of renewable energy is the unpredictability of circumstances in which wind or solar energy can be harnessed . In times with clouds or no wind, “the grid,” or the electrical supply system, must rely upon other sources of energy. According to Joyce, an NPR journalist, the grid turns to natural gas plants for fuel. Coal and nuclear plants are considered a poor fit, due to the expenses of turning them on and off with little warning. Simultaneously, the sporadic usage of gas plants does not provide business for them to be financially successful. One long-term solution to this quandary is the creation and implementation of giant batteries, “systems that store excess power to be released as needed” .
In 2011, a group of scientists began developing one such giant battery. It is intended to be a new kind of fluid battery that ultimately would be able to provide power for 2,000 homes based upon “redox flow technologies—which converts chemical energy to electrical currents very quickly” . They have already created a two kilowatt battery that they ultimately plan to create a 20 megawatt-hour battery.
Similarly, there in several years, the company, Rubenius plans to build a giant “energy-storage facility” near the United States-Mexico Border, providing energy to both countries.
Meanwhile, the State Grid Corporation of China in conjunction with BYD car company created a “battery array” that can hold up to 36 mega-watt hours and is complete with a “smart grid transmission system” . This is the largest-scale renewable energy source based battery connected to an energy grid in the world and will be educational to the world as we observe the long-term results.
Regardless of when these giant batteries come out and how successful these prototypes are, they are clearly one strong option for the future of renewable energy and energy as a whole. The exciting technological advances and experiments will continue to astound us and transform our lives into more sustainable, environmentally sound lives.
By Emily Friedman