Looking to Nature ( also see AskNature.org ) to seek examples and ways of Sustainability....biomimicry is copying what life has to show and teach. It is encouraging to see that the Biomimicry 3.8 Institue exists to help show the way...
A generation of Germans picked up the renewable torch that President Reagan tossed aside. The renewable energy revolution didn't end; it moved overseas.
"Can the American renewable energy revolution be restarted? William Reilly, the director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the George H.W. Bush administration, thinks so. "We're going to get there, one way or another," he told me during a 2009 interview about his solar-powered home.
Indeed, optimists look at recent energy figures and see evidence that a seismic shift has already begun. Since Reilly and I talked, 3,700 megawatts of solar power have been installed in the United States—nearly twice the amount that existed in 2009. More wind power (4,728 megawatts) was added to the U.S. electrical grid in the first three quarters of 2012 than the total generating capacity from wind just a decade ago (4687 megawatts). All told, over the last four years the percentage of our electricity generated by renewables (not including hydroelectric) has doubled.
Still, energy expert John Farrell warns that it's too early to celebrate an America renewable energy renaissance along the lines of Germany's Energiewende."The U.S. electric grid is poised for a transformation," Farrell, a senior researcher with the Minnesota-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance, told me, "but we're not there yet."
The numbers support Farrell's caution. Renewable energy's share of the total American electrical pie is pitifully low—just 6 percent. Germany gets a full 25 percent of its electricity from renewable sources—and has its sights set on a goal of 30 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050. Hans-Josef Fell thinks Germany can do even better, reaching 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.
The problem in the United States, John Farrell maintains, is that even as implemented by the relatively renewable-friendly Obama administration, current U.S. federal policy will only take us so far. We may be just now waking up to what the Germans realized more than a dozen years ago. "An energy revolution is only possible with a decentralized structure using proven instruments like the Feed-in Tariff," Farrell said.
If the success of America's energy transformation depends on policy, its potential undoing is found in another single word: politics."
AN : it is essential for USA and Canada to attempt to emulate the German " Energiewende " miracle. Sustainable energy brings energy security and manufacturing stability.
A high-power circuit breaker makes it possible to create highly efficient DC power grids.
"ABB's circuit breaker changes that. Within five milliseconds it can stop the flow of a huge amount of power—equal to the entire output of a nuclear power plant, ABB says. The breakers could be used to nearly instantaneously reroute power in a DC grid around a problem, allowing the grid to keep functioning. “Ordinarily, if something goes wrong anywhere, all the power goes off,” says Claes Rytoft, ABB’s chief technology officer. “The breaker can cut out the faulty line and keep the rest healthy.”
Researchers have been trying to develop high-voltage DC circuit breakers for a century (see “Edison’s Revenge: The Rise of DC Power”). Mechanical switches alone didn't work—they shut off power too slowly. Power electronics made of transistors that can switch on and off large amounts of power offered a possible solution, but they proved far too inefficient. ABB's solution combines power electronics with a mechanical switch to create a hybrid system that's both fast and efficient. The new circuit breaker could also be far less expensive than systems that use only transistors.
“The cost of the power electronics breaker was humongous,” says Ram Adapa, a power delivery technical leader at the Electric Power Research Institute. “The hybrid breaker should be less costly.”
With the major hurdle to DC grids out of the way, ABB is now developing algorithms to control them. The system will still need to work in concert with AC lines for distributing the power in local communities, since there is no inexpensive DC equivalent of the transformers needed to step down power to the relatively low voltages used in homes and businesses. One of the first markets for the new technology could be Germany, which has decided to turn off its nuclear power plants and rely heavily on renewable energy (see “The Great German Energy Experiment”).
The degree to which high-voltage DC grids can help renewables may depend on the economics of installing underground cables versus overhead lines."
AN : ABB's innovation is a significant advancement for the grid.
The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) for Business Coalition, founded by the Global Reporting Initiative, WWF-UK and six other organizations to change corporate behavior to preserve, rather than deplete the world’s natural ...
"Two years ago, TEEB released a report for the UN indicating companies were causing significant damage to the world’s natural capital – such as forest, freshwater and marine systems – and posed risks to their own profits.
Since then several organizations including TEEB have tried to make a business case for valuing natural capital, noting that companies rely on ecosystems that provide critical services, such as water and food."
AN : more on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) here : http://www.teebtest.org/about/ ;
" “There has never been a scientific question as to whether renewable energy could provide 100 per cent of Australia's energy needs,” said Mr Want, who is also chief executive of energy developer Vast Solar.
“The question is whether we as a society and as a nation see value in harnessing that resource — for domestic use and for export — and whether we are prepared to demand of our leaders that they design policies to achieve those ends.” "
AN : powerful article....food for thought for Canada....et al countries with such great potential for renewables....
"It may be full of potential, but wind power is still a young industry with many design challenges that prevent it from scaling up.
From an environmental perspective, how can designers and entrepreneurs lower the technology’s impact on local ecosystems? Bird populations in particular, can be harmed by the swiftly spinning turbines. And how can wind power be brought to a wider variety of landscapes, including urban ones, as opposed to the rural, mountainous, or desert areas where you typically find fields of hulking turbines?
A new manufacturer thinks its figured out the answers to these two questions with a new turbine design called the Windstrument. They’re hailing the product as "a truly affordable wind energy system,” that’s "quiet and powerful, bird safe, and scalable.""
AN : environment and economics are not mutually exclusive. Neither does industrial design need to be bland. This is a great example of art and pragmatic purpose in sustainablitiy.
The satellite images being used to help when natural or man-made disasters strike.
"From Hurricane Katrina to the Japanese tsunami - satellite images are increasingly playing an important role during rescue efforts after natural or man-made disasters. The images, often taken minutes after devastation has occurred, help pinpoint people and places at risk.
A formal system of sharing information by space agencies was agreed in 1999, with the creation of the Disasters Charter. Since then, the charter has helped provide data for more than 300 disasters, in more than 100 countries.
Here - to mark World Space Week 2012 - Dr Alice Bunn from the UK Space Agency looks at how the images, taken many hundreds of miles above the planet, are being used to save lives."
AN : Continue reading the main story and the six minutes video with fantastic images. International collaboration kicks in under the Disaster Charter...to save lives & protect the Earth...to observe deforestation and afforestation...agricultural conditions etc
The IUCN World Conservation Congress has adopted a motion to create a Green List to assess conservation success.
"The Green List will complement the IUCN Red List, which focuses on avoidance of extinction. The Red List has been critical in assessing conservation prioritization and has been a scientifically-rigorous tool highly regarded by governments and other conservation actors. To create the Green List to reach the same level of effectiveness, the motion recommends that IUCN conducts an international scientific consultation process to develop consensus and rigorous criteria."
The sustainability of the global food system - an issue of global, multisectoral proportions that engages individual responsibility - was discussed yesterday by a diverse panel of policy makers, business and NGO leaders at the Clinton Global Initiative...
"Rethinking agriculture with sustainability in mind
One of the important questions about the sustainability of the food system is linked to the emergence of a global middle classes. There are inherent tensions between the growing demand for protein and energy and the degradation of ecosystems. Clay spoke about the need to invest in crops that have a low impact on the soil and the environment. According to him, one of the central questions of agricultural sustainability is “which crops produce more calories by acre of land, by liter of water?”Adesina spoke about how sees seafood as a key alternative to traditional protein sources, because it has less environmental implications than other forms of protein. “Our view”, he explained, “is that it’s going to take protected wild fisheries and agriculture to deal with this. We are very aware of the need to partner with organizations to make sure we protect fisheries, and to make sure we take full advantage of agriculture and its potential.” He further noted that governments must also sett standards, monitor closely, and have the ability to sanction.
Clay, for his part, noted that biotechnology offers “a huge potential to help solve issues of food and nutrition”, for example through biofortification."
...."Our global engineering team has chosen to focus our current efforts on integrating sustainability concepts into the engineering curriculum. We chose to focus on this not only because of its importance, but also because it sustainability is an already recognized and widely accepted concept which is very much lacking from our curriculum. We are also aware of other Universities in Canada where sustainability has been widely incorporated into the engineering curriculum."
AN : the U of WIndsor in Canada incorporates the concept of sustainability into its learning modules and training. The earlier the concept get incorporated into psyche of those who have a reasonable chance of implementing the concepts in building, design , planning etc , the better. Good definition and diagram of sustainability.
"Our new website on sustainability offers insights, resources and news from across our business and from trusted partners..."
AN : it is exciting to see such a powerhouse media group as Thomson Reuters putting together a comprehensive website for information on sustainability....
"Welcome to our new website, Sustainability. We are bringing together resources from across the enterprise, combined with valuable partner content, into a single space to enable dialogue and support our customers in their efforts to find a more sustainable pathway for their businesses and communities.
"Focusing on sustainability – for ourselves and for our customers – is good business," says CEO Jim Smith. "This new Thomson Reuters website encompasses a broad range of issues, products and practices concerning the environment, economies, corporate citizenship and risk management. It is intended to serve and encourage sustainability initiatives across the global community of professionals."
Drawing on the expertise and information we have in this field, Sustainability is where knowledge – news, analysis, insight - can be found. Where new ideas can be explored and those important conversations can begin."
World’s largest natural sound archive now fully digital and fully online.
Arno Neumann's insight:
“In terms of speed and the breadth of material now accessible to anyone in the world, this is really revolutionary,” says audio curator Greg Budney, describing a major milestone just achieved by the Macaulay Library archive at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. All archived analog recordings in the collection, going back to 1929, have now been digitized and can be heard at www.MacaulayLibrary.org"
The Green Climate Fund, designed to channel about $100 billion a year to emerging nations, may try to wean recipients off fossil-fuel subsidies and encourage nations to put a price on carbon, according to an overseer.
"The fund may guarantee bank loans in developing nations for projects ranging from wind farms to building insulation and less-polluting agricultural equipment, Naoko Ishii, chief executive officer of the Global Environment Facility in Washington, said yesterday in an interview in Doha. She heads one of two secretariats governing the fund.
Climate projects may be able to get private-sector finance augmented by guarantees from the fund, alongside discounted loans from government or development banks, Ishii said. The 24- member board of the Green Climate Fund may make loans or guarantees conditional on the recipient having the right environmental policies in place, she said.
“I know that conditionality is a very sensitive word, but from the donor point of view, if the money is to be impactful, there must be some policy environment put in place,” Ishii said.
United Nations envoys from about 200 nations meeting in the Qatari capital this week are seeking to extend the Kyoto Protocol and lay the groundwork for a global climate agreement for 2020. Financing from richer nations to the developing world for the next seven years will help cut emissions before the new deal comes into force, Ishii said."
AN : a highly significant negotiation to offset carbon effects .
As it looks for ways to shore up the province's timber industry, the B.C. government is in danger of not seeing the forest for the trees.
" What is needed is a full-scale forest inventory. Much of the data available is decades old, and has likely been thrown out of whack by the pine-beetle infestation.
No business that sells a commodity can get by without taking inventory regularly. You don't know what you can sell until you know what you have.
The calculation should not be how many trees are needed to support a certain number of jobs, but how many jobs will be supported by trees available through sustainable harvest. The hard truth might well be that logging should be scaled back.
Forests Minister Steve Thomson said any decisions to cut old-growth forests will be based on science, but the science used should be forestry, not political science or economics. It should look not only at the quantity of lumber, but the entire ecosystem. A forest is more than a certain quantity of two-by-fours, it's a system that supports wildlife, generates tourism and recreation and protects watersheds."
"The SE4ALL targets cover the three major topics in the energy field: (i) Ensuring universal access to modern energy services; (ii) Doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency; and (iii) Doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix. The "Global Action Agenda" has added more concrete sub-targets (Action Areas and High-Impact Opportunities).
Ideally, all countries can participate in SE4ALL as donors or beneficiaries, as long as they commit to the objectives of the initiative. However, depending on the state of the energy sector in a given country, the order of the objectives will be re-prioritised. For instance, while the first objective represents the priority for those developing countries with low electrification rates, the second objective is rather targeting industrialised countries with high energy intensity levels. As of June 2012, more than 50 countries had already committed to the initiative . A number of NGOs and private companies had also made their commitment . "
AN: SE4All is a UN initiative.....this article provides one view and update since its inception in 2012.
Millions of the world's poorest lack power. Microgrids could be a clean-energy solution.
" Worldwide, one and a half billion people lack electricity, most of them rural dwellers. (In India, for example, 268 million people are without electricity in rural areas, but only 21 million in cities.) The International Energy Agency says the type of power plant installed at Batu Laut, known as a hybrid microgrid, will be essential to bringing power to many of them. That's because connecting a remote community to the conventional power grid, with its large, centralized plants, is expensive and can take more than a decade. In some cases, geography and economics may never permit access to the grid. Hybrid microgrids can provide dependable electricity by intelligently combining power from multiple local sources, and building them is far cheaper and faster than extending the grid to the areas where most of the people without electricity live. "
For all its good intentions, the environmental movement has historically been plagued by aesthetic ineptitude.
AN : As the TED Talks exhibit on the integration of Technology, Entertainmernt and Design, the overlap of design principles to technology goes a long way to communicating the message, importance, implications and impact of the technology. Great thought provoking short piece from the FastCoExist publication which Sustain Our Earth scooped on their site.
CNN’s innovation-themed blog, What’s Next, will keep you ahead of the curve with stories and video about forward-looking thinkers in the fields of tech, science and social change.
"Susana Heisse is an environmental activist who uses the “eco-brick” to promote recycling and proper nutrition in Guatemalan schools. She will be profiled on CNN's The Next List Sunday, September 30th, at 2 p.m. ET."
AN : Susanne Heisse's story of pragmatic change in environment in Guatamala. Inspirational and innovative story and videos.....
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke about India's economic growth and reforms at the Conference on Economic Growth in Asia and Changes of Corporate Environment on Saturday.
"Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister was the architect of modern India who spoke of the factories and dams as the new temples of secular India. He had a clear vision of the need to transform a rural and agricultural economy to a rapidly expanding modern economy, with an impressive manufacturing base. Since then we have seen new areas of transformation in modern services and a growing urban profile of our country.
As efforts are made the world over to redesign and reengineer business corporations to make them compatible with the aspirations of modern democratic societies, India can benefit from looking to its own traditions in several important respects. As I have said earlier, the concept of trusteeship of resources and wealth for the common citizen was articulated by Mahatma Gandhi based on traditional Indian thought. Similarly, the Indian philosophy of life which views man as a part of nature and one of the many living creatures, puts us in the mainstream of current thinking about concerns of environment and ecology."
AN : reflective to see India's PM to acknowledge that roots of environmental and economic interests are entwined in good social outcomes as well...
"The need to double global food production by 2050 is widely accepted by most food policy analysts, as is the concept of doing it mostly through ‘sustainable intensification’ on current cropland. ...
Farmers use land, water, air and technology to produce food. Over recent decades the developed countries of the world have become proficient enough at food production and output of other products that can be traded for food that consideration can now be given to devoting potential farmland to other uses. That has caused a shift in interest groups when food production issues are addressed.
Researchers with an interest in the trade-offs for land used for food versus land for environmental uses now have a seat at the food policy table. Their most logical allies are farmers and ranchers with modern technology that will increase output per unit of inputs to meet the food needs of the world population in 2050 without requiring the use of all the land that could potentially grow food.
The analysis supports the presumption that much of the additional food needed to have a well-fed global population in 2050 can be met from existing cropland. The challenge still remains on how to transfer the technology from the areas where it is currently used to those areas with ‘underperforming landscapes’."