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Sustainability Science
How might we keep the lights on, water flowing, and natural world vaguely intact? It starts with grabbing innovative ideas/examples to help kick down our limits and inspire a more sustainable world. We implement with rigorous science backed by hard data.
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Are electric cars greener than traditional gas-powered cars? Depends on where you live.

Are electric cars greener than traditional gas-powered cars? Depends on where you live. | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it

Nowhere do automakers sell more hybrid vehicles than California, with its unique combination of environmental consciousness, high gas prices and traffic-choked highways.

But new hybrid models will be in short supply at this week's Los Angeles Auto Show — one sign that the technology is still struggling to break out of its green-car niche, experts say.

PIRatE Lab's insight:

There is nothing new about this analyses, but it is an updating of older efforts with the most recent numbers out there.  It is true that using coal-fired power to juice your your car is problematic, but for most of the county (e.g. coastal areas) most of us would be better off switching to electric transportation systems.  Also, the best possible solution is to power our vehicles with locally-generated power, such as roof top or garage-top solar panels.  

 

The trick is getting this into everyone's hands in a easy, turn-key manner.  I think the tone of this piece misses that key point.  This is an evolving conversation and new technology.  It also needs to be one part of a broad spectrum of approaches to de-carbonizing our energy markets.  Falling back onto the old mantra of "it doesn't work everywhere all the time" is a bit ho-hum and overly simplistic.  Kind of the way some folks feel it is necessary to write an op-ed about their research to get increased attention for it.

 

For those interested in the actual study, you can find it here:

 

http://www.dartmouth.edu/~mansur/papers/GraffZivin_Kotchen_Mansur_MargEmit.pdf

 

There is also an interesting story, in a similar vein, from the LA Times about faltering gas-electric hybrid vehicles at this week's LA Auto show:

 

http://www.latimes.com/business/autos/la-fi-hy-la-auto-show-no-hybrids-20141121-story.html

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Carbon Footprint Calculator | Carbon Credit Capital

Carbon Footprint Calculator | Carbon Credit Capital | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it

Over the past few weeks Carbon Credit Capital has updated and improved thecarbon footprint calculator for homes and individuals. It shall be continuously improved to ensure that it remains the best available.

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This celebrity scientist wants Germans to stop recycling. Here's why

This celebrity scientist wants Germans to stop recycling. Here's why | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it

CraEco-warrior turned chemist Michael Braungart is trying to kickstart a new industrial revolution.

PIRatE Lab's insight:

Cradle to cradle.

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Suicide and Depression Among Farmers Linked to Pesticides » EcoWatch

Suicide and Depression Among Farmers Linked to Pesticides » EcoWatch | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it
Studies have shown a possible link between heavy or prolonged pesticide use and depression and suicide among farmers who use certain classes of pesticides extensively

Via Anita Woodruff
PIRatE Lab's insight:

Interesting.  The devil here is in the details.  Epidemiology of many migrant populations is notoriously difficult.

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Nuno Gaspar de Oliveira's curator insight, October 6, 5:17 PM

Only three of the seven pesticides that produced a positive link are still registered for use with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and those are currently being reviewed by the EPA. But while those pesticides may be phased out—Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer, three of the largest pesticide producers, say they don’t currently make them—mental health problems could be connected to newer chemicals, such as neonocotinoids, widely connected with bee dieoffs in recent years by interfering with bees’ brains and nervous systems. No studies have been done on the effect of neonocotinoids on humans. Matt Peters was using neonocontinoids when he committed suicide.

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Reducing Plastic Debris in the Los Angeles and San Gabriel River Watersheds

Reducing Plastic Debris in the Los Angeles and San Gabriel River Watersheds | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it
Algalita Marine Research and Education recently entered into a joint project with the University of California, Santa Barbara Bren School. During 2013/2014, Masters level students completed a Masters Project Thesis: “Reducing Plastic Debris in the Los Angeles and San Gabriel River Watersheds”.  Contact us if you would like to receive copies of the complete thesis …

Via AimForGood
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China seeks to fight smog by brainstorm: All ideas welcome

China seeks to fight smog by brainstorm: All ideas welcome | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it
The city of Wuhan is considering building skyscrapers coated with a high-tech substance that can "eat" air pollutants. An artist is offering to suck particulates out of Beijing's dirty skies using a giant vacuum-cleaner-type device and sell jewelry made with the collected contaminants. One researcher is suggesting an "urban wind passage" in the Chinese capital, regulating the height and density of buildings so that smog has a dispersal channel.
PIRatE Lab's insight:

Very interesting to see the arc of history repeating.  I recall many of the crazy ideas here in California.  A similar story was had when we needed water during a drought.  And for our famously traffic-clogged highways.  

 

When you go down the same road creating a problem we know is going to happen and just think you will "deal with it" later, the next phase is the outlandish responses to dealing with those problems.  Eventually we get to the mature adult phase wherein we actually tackle the problems of our own creation.  It would be nice if we could just jump to the last phase in the first place.

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The geography of the global electronic waste (‘e-waste’) burden

The geography of the global electronic waste (‘e-waste’) burden | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it

As local and national governments struggle to deal with ever-growing piles of electronic waste (or “e-waste”), scientists are now refining the picture of just how much there is and where it really ends up.

PIRatE Lab's insight:

In 2005, more than 38 million tons of used electronics were discarded worldwide. Nearly a quarter of the waste from developed nations went to China, India and five West African countries: Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Benin and Liberia.

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Ibuprofen posing potential threat to fish, researchers say

Ibuprofen posing potential threat to fish, researchers say | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it
Many rivers contain levels of ibuprofen that could be adversely affecting fish health, researchers report. In what is believed to be the first study to establish the level of risk posed by ibuprofen at the country scale, the researchers examined 3,112 stretches of river which together receive inputs from 21 million people.
PIRatE Lab's insight:

We have found this in our samples of rivers here in Ventura County.

 

As with many emerging contaminants, the true impacts of these substances are unknown.  But it is safe to say, it is probably not a good thing they are in our coastal and inland waterways.  

 

The best solution would be to simply not get this stuff in the water in the first place.

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Inside The Most Dangerous Room in the World

Inside The Most Dangerous Room in the World | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it
"To enter you must wear a respirator, 3 pairs of gloves, 2 pairs of socks, rubber boots and a hard hat—along with a hazmat suit"

Via pdeppisch
PIRatE Lab's insight:

The legacy of nuclear waste is a real issue with this form of energy.

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Dumped WWII Chemical Munitions Still Affecting Fish

EUROPE - Thousands of tonnes of chemical warfare agents were dumped into the Baltic Sea after the Second World War. A recent study has shown that fish caught near the dumping grounds show high levels of genetic and cell damage, revealing the long legacy of these toxic substances.
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PIRatE Lab's curator insight, July 12, 8:13 PM

This is particularly interesting and an increasing venue for exploring ecotoxicity.  Our historic approach of looking for PAHs or some other substance has often missed the big story that persistent compounds can have effects upon populations and ecosystems long after the compound itself my have decayed or broken down to sub-detection levels.  Population and genetic structure is the natural place to look for this.  But even so, being able to detect impacts from seven decades ago is impressive.

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10 ways to improve your recycling

10 ways to improve your recycling | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it
Here are some tips for taking your recycling to the next level.
PIRatE Lab's insight:

Much of this is old hat or obvious, but there are some pearls in here in the specific suggestions at the bottom of the article.

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Arsenic poisoning in rural China - in pictures

Arsenic poisoning in rural China - in pictures | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it
Mines and chemical plants mushroomed in the
realgar-rich area around Heshan from the 1950s. Shut down in 2011 due to the pollution they caused, dust and run-off plagues the village to this day

Via pdeppisch
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Ocean Garbage: Why People Are Eating Their Own Garbage

Ocean Garbage: Why People Are Eating Their Own Garbage | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it

This is a nice little info graphic which might have some utility/good images for folks making outreach presentations.

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Cap-and-trade opponents hit California incumbents

Cap-and-trade opponents hit California incumbents | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it
It never came up for a vote this year, but the dispute over California’s carbon-pricing scheme continues to frame November elections, with a group launched by oil company money underwriting ads in select legislative races.
PIRatE Lab's insight:

Forces are aligning to make continual attacks on AB32 and kill that legislation by 1000 cuts/delays.  Be wary of these arguments.

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Amid California's drought, a bruising battle for cheap water

Amid California's drought, a bruising battle for cheap water | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it
The signs appear about 200 miles north of Los Angeles, tacked onto old farm wagons parked along quiet two-lane roads and bustling Interstate 5.
PIRatE Lab's insight:

This is a fantastic piece on the complexity of water fights and the powerful folks who lobby hard for a comparative few.

 

A great piece to start a discussion of water policy in California (and the western U.S. generally).

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Newlight Makes Plastic Out of Thin Air (Not Oil)

Newlight Makes Plastic Out of Thin Air (Not Oil) | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it
Newlight Technologies' patented system extracts carbon from the air and converts it into long-chain polymers that can be used as substitutes for oil-based plastics.

Via clare wormald
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Dirty air, dodgy politics: why it's easier to attack science than listen to Morwell fire death stats

Dirty air, dodgy politics: why it's easier to attack science than listen to Morwell fire death stats | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it

I’m quite nervous about writing this. I’m going to stray from my familiar academic world into a political one, and it’s on an issue that may very well have killed several people. My reputation has already been debased in the Victorian Parliament, by Health Minister David Davis. I’m expecting more political dirt to come my way.

First, the back story. The issue is the Hazelwood coalmine fire, which burned from February 9 to March 10 this year in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley. It covered the surrounding area in thick smoke and ash, and caused eye-wateringly high levels of particulate pollution in the nearby town of Morwell.


Via Kim Flintoff
PIRatE Lab's insight:

Our friends down under are increasingly dealing with a harsh anti-sciecne environment when it comes to policy and politics.

 

If you have not been following this issues, this is a good entry point.

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Kim Flintoff's curator insight, October 3, 9:41 PM

Being an academic in Australia at moment is a real test of integrity, resilience and commitment - to speak out with informed opinion is to become a target for ad hominem responses, 

All power to Adrian for having all the qualities of a real thinker, researcher and scientist.

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All Eyes On Obama, World Leaders At Climate Change Summit

All Eyes On Obama, World Leaders At Climate Change Summit | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it
More than 120 leaders are expected to attend the one-day summit sponsored by the United Nations. They have been instructed to arrive Tuesday with "bold ideas" to slow the rise in global temperatures.
PIRatE Lab's insight:

Lots of attention in New York this week in the lead up to the current UN Summit on Climate Change.

 

It would be great if our national leaders could do what our business, state and local leaders are being forced to do on their own.  For example:

 

http://www.sfgate.com/green/article/Brown-signs-several-clean-air-vehicle-bills-5771184.php?cmpid=hp-hc-bayarea

 

http://blog.sfgate.com/energy/2014/09/09/california-electric-car-sales-pass-major-milestone/#26566101=0

 

http://www.latimes.com/nation/politics/politicsnow/la-pn-google-conservative-20140922-story.html

 

 

But just in case you were forgetting about the folks on the other side of the fact/reality fence, there is always the good ol' propaganda machine humming along nicely.  For example:

 

http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-mh-a-chevron-pr-website-20140922-column.html#page=1

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Japan's real-life superhero, Mangetsu-man, is literally cleaning up the streets of Tokyo

It's a one-man crusade against grime.
PIRatE Lab's insight:

Well... this is totally Japanese.  Tackling the litter problem in one of the world's cleanest cities is certainly novel.  And hey, can you really knock someone for wanting a clean home town?

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Novel recycling methods: Fluorescent fingerprint of plastics

Novel recycling methods: Fluorescent fingerprint of plastics | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it
A new process has been developed that will greatly simplify the process of sorting plastics in recycling plants. The method enables automated identification of polymers, facilitating rapid separation of plastics for re-use.
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Cause of New Mexico nuclear waste accident remains a mystery

Cause of New Mexico nuclear waste accident remains a mystery | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it
A 55-gallon drum of nuclear waste, buried in a salt shaft 2,150 feet under the New Mexico desert, violently erupted late on Feb. 14 and spewed mounds of radioactive white foam.
PIRatE Lab's insight:

For my money, the waste issue is the largest challenge with nuclear power production.  Our general inability to administratively deal with this (e.g. know what materials were in the exploding barrel), the childish political NIMBY arc we are only too familiar with, and the growing realization that the devil is literally in the logistical details when it comes to safety and security of transuranic waste is crushingly disappointing.

 

I understand why some have called for an increased reliance on nuclear power in this era of growing carbon emissions, but none of those advocates seem interested in addressing the issues at Yucca Mountain, WIPP, etc. or at least feel that this side of the ledger is less problematic than global carbon emissions increasing.

 

see also:

 

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/nuclear_power/2013/01/nuclear_waste_storage_why_did_yucca_mountain_fail_and_what_next.html

 

http://www.theverge.com/2012/6/14/3038814/yucca-mountain-wipp-wasteland-battle-entomb-nuclear-waste

 

and the most recent congressional activity:

 

http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/house/211890-house-rejects-bids-to-abandon-yucca-mountain

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Fracking's Unlikely Opponents: German Breweries

Fracking's Unlikely Opponents: German Breweries | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it
Brewers say that contaminated groundwater would ruin a centuries-old tradition and industry.

"When the Bavarian Purity Law was first declared in 1487, not a single European had stepped on the land above the Marcellus Shale in the Eastern United States. The First Nations of Canada weren’t fighting natural gas pipelines, because as far as natural resources go, the Alberta tar sands were centuries away from being in the picture—as was the internal combustion engine.

"Yet the law, the Reinheitsgebot, which strictly dictates the ingredients that can be used in making beer, is giving the powerful German brewing industry historic ammunition against the creeping potential for new natural gas exploration.

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Via Garry Rogers
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Garry Rogers's curator insight, August 7, 11:53 AM

In the United States, people have begun recycling their urine.  How can the beer makers complain about using filthy water; the issue has been discussed ever since indoor toilets were invented.

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▶ LEGO: Everything is NOT awesome. - YouTube

http://www.legoblockshell.org/?ytv1 We love LEGO. You love LEGO. Everyone loves LEGO. But when LEGO's halo effect is being used to sell propaganda to childre...
PIRatE Lab's insight:

LEGO has been on a roll lately, partly thanks to a popular film that helped bring the 75-year old Danish company back to the forefront of popular culture. But Greenpeace thinks something is rotten in the state of Denmark! They've made this video to try to pressure LEGO into dropping its partnership with oil company Shell.

 

LEGO has responded to the Greenpeace video, basically saying "Hey, don't involve us in your dispute with Shell", to which Greenpeace countered with an open letter explaining why LEGO can't have its cake and eat it too when it comes to who they implicitly promote and support (they sell a lego set that is a Shell gas station) with their toys that are used by millions of children.

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"Save The Whales"... their poop holds the key (maybe)!

"Save The Whales"... their poop holds the key (maybe)! | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it

Whale poo could be the secret to reversing the effects of climate change. 


Via Marian Locksley, PIRatE Lab
PIRatE Lab's insight:

So whales can be seen as an ecosystem service.  In this case, a force to sequester carbon.  By saving whales from extinction we (in effect) saved this important function which "rockets" carbon from surface waters (such as krill or other plankton) into deeper waters as speed many orders of magnitude greater than the normal settling rate of typical marine snow.

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PIRatE Lab's curator insight, July 8, 8:13 PM

Its all about trying to transport carbon from the surface down to the sediments down deep in the benthos...although "reversing" climate change is a bit overly optimistic.

Marian Locksley's curator insight, July 9, 8:32 AM

3.7.14 ~ Rebounding whale populations are good for ocean ecosystems:  http://news.sciencemag.org/environment/2014/07/rebounding-whale-populations-are-good-ocean-ecosystems

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Syngenta seeks exemption from neonicotinoid ban

Syngenta seeks exemption from neonicotinoid ban | Sustainability Science | Scoop.it
The pesticide maker claims crops could fail unless farmers get an emergency exemption. But what got us into this mess in the first place?
PIRatE Lab's insight:

This is quite disappointing.  While the jury is still out, there is mounting evidence that these pesticides are quite problematic for our pollinators and part of a complex web of increasingly layered stressors for our insects.  

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