Sunday, 20 November 2011

Snippets from the Interwebs 9

Insulate insulate insulate! It cuts down energy use but most types (foam, fibreglass wool, Rockwool etc) take a fair amount of (usually) fossil fuelled energy to create. Why not grow your own? Of course, in days gone by, people used such as bracken to keep their hovels warmer but bio-insulation is relatively rare these days. Sheep’s wool is excellent and is increasingly used and produced for this purpose – click on this link for “The Woolly Shepherd” - but is not particularly cheap.

Step forward Greensulate from Ecovative design. This wonder stuff is an insulation/packaging material that is made from a fungus mycelium grown on agricultural crop waste, such as rice husks. Its “R-Value” is comparable with fibreglass.


Why you should look pityingly at anyone who recommends economic growth as the solution to our problems… 

There is an old story about the inventor of chess. As the story goes, when chess was presented to a great king, the king offered the inventor any reward that he wanted. The inventor asked that a single grain of rice be placed on the first square of the chessboard. Then two grains on the second square, four grains on the third, and so on. Doubling each time.

The king, baffled by such a small price for a wonderful game, immediately agreed, and ordered the treasurer to pay the agreed upon sum. A week later, the inventor went before the king and asked why he had not received his reward. The king, outraged that the treasurer had disobeyed him, immediately summoned him and demanded to know why the inventor had not been paid. The treasurer explained that the sum could not be paid – by the time you got even halfway through the chessboard, the amount of grain required was more than the entire kingdom possessed.

The king took in this information and thought for a while. Then he did the only rational thing a king could do in those circumstances. He had the inventor killed, as an object lesson in the perils of trying to outwit the king.

For the most part, this fable is used as a lesson in the power of exponential growth. From the one grain of rice on the first square of the chessboard, the amount increases to the point that by the time you get to square 64, there are over 18 quintillion grains of rice on the board. In mathematics, it’s a demonstration of extreme growth.

Eventually, you run out of rice. Or land. Or water. Or any resource.

Retold story adapted from  The Seduction of the Exponential Curve from


An exciting idea to fend off mosquitoes. It also works on flies and wasps too. It uses a “wall” of infrared light to keep the little bloodsuckers out. Szabolcs Marka, an associate professor of physics at Columbia University, is developing a novel way to protect people from the vectors: a virtual mosquito net with infrared light vibrating at wavelengths that irritate the insects’ nervous systems.


A panel of expert judges has chosen Pure Power’s Mobile Solar Power System as one of its Top 10 Green Building Products of 2011. Building sites often have mobile power supplies which are usually noisy diesel generators. Here’s a solar photovoltaic power supply on a trailer to stop all that nonsense. The S48T can supply 72 kilowatts (or about 20 domestic houses worth) because it has battery storage on board too. Amongst other uses, they are being used on location for movie filming e.g. Inception

They also supply a bio-diesel hybrid version for continuity of supply on less sunny days


So much for “trickle down” economics

A recent UN Report - Human Development Report  - says developing countries will see reverse economic growth by 2050 -  it delineates the global challenges of sustainability and equity. It points out that although (conventionally measured) living standards in most countries have been rising, from now on if environmental deterioration and social inequalities continue to intensify, the least developed nations will show a downward growth by 2050.

adapted from


Floods account for more than half of global disasters, affecting more people than any other type of disaster. The menace of flooding is well known to the estimated 65,000 people living in Budalangi, an area in western Kenya near the Uganda border that is inundated by floods every few years. Mudimbia, a village in Budalangi, will be the site of a disaster relief demonstration conducted by Oregon-based Hydration Technology Innovations (HTI) in collaboration with the Kenyan Water for Health Organization

The project will focus on using the HydroPack™, a paper-thin 4-inch by 6-inch pouch filled with electrolytes and nutrients that on contact with water, any old dirty water, swells up over an 8-to-12 hour period to create a flavoured, healthy drink.


Taken from

Honey is supposed to be one of the purest natural foods there is. However, a recent report by Food Safety News blacklisted several US brands of honey for being “ultra-filtered.” Ultra-filtration is a process that removes pollen and therefore, traceability from honey. This technique is also a tacit way for Chinese manufacturers to sell their honey in the US, as there have been strict import tariffs on Chinese honey since 2001 for contamination with antibiotics and heavy metals.


Conventional farmers can sometimes sneer at organic agriculture. The facts are against them though.

Taken from The StarPhoenix

“The results are in from a 30-year side-by-side trial of conventional and organic farming methods at Pennsylvania's Rodale Institute. Contrary to conventional wisdom, organic farming outperformed conventional farming in every measure.

There are about 1,500 organic farmers in Saskatchewan, at last count. They eschew the synthetic fertilizers and toxic sprays that are the mainstay of conventional farms. Study after study indicates the conventional thinking on farming - that we have to tolerate toxic chemicals because organic farming can't feed the world - is wrong.

In fact, studies like the Rodale trials ( show that after a three-year transition period, organic yields equalled conventional yields. What is more, the study showed organic crops were more resilient. Organic corn yields were 31 per cent higher than conventional in years of drought”


On Monday the 14th November United Airlines Flight 1403 made history when it flew because it was the first biofuel powered flight either in the US or the world depending on which news source one reads.The Boeing 737-800 burned a “green jet fuel” derived partially from genetically modified algae that feed on plant waste and produce oil created by Solazyme corporation.


Photovoltaic cells have been steadily falling in price due to to innovation and economies of scale in manufacturing. Here’s yet another innovation that promise not only cheaper manufacturing using less energy but also more efficient cells that make more electricity. A game-changing Optical Cavity Furnace developed by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory uses optics to heat and purify solar cells at unmatched precision while sharply boosting the cells' efficiency.


Bill Gates backs a Tobin Tax! This tax is designed to slow down the insane pace of international financial speculation and such weapons of economic destruction as CDOs, deravatives etc . The EU are considering introducing it too


Taken from

If just one percent of the Saharan Desert were covered in concentrating solar panels, like those in the picture, it would create enough energy to power the entire world. The Desertec Initiative announced, two years ago, its intentions to harness the power of the sun in the Sahara Desert. Now, the project is moving forward, with plans for the first construction to break ground in 2012. The 500-megawatt concentrated solar power plant (CSP) will cost a cool $2.8 billion and harness the power of the sun from the desert of Morocco. Desertec is a projected half-trillion dollar solar project that will occupy parts of the Sahara, the Middle East, and Europe. The potential for the project is great — if completed, it could produce enough electricity to meet 15-20 percent of Europe’s energy demand by 2050 while providing power to the Middle East and Northern Africa as well.


Brooklyn Grange Farm is though to be the largest rooftop farm in the world. Their one-acre (40,000 square foot) commercial organic farm on a rooftop in Queens, New York is made up of roughly 1.2 million lbs of soil and over 20,000 linear feet of green roofing material. They grow vegetables in the city and sell them to local people and businesses. The goal is to improve access to very good food, to connect city people more closely to farms and food production, and to make urban farming a viable enterprise and livelihood.


Starbucks concerned world coffee supply is threatened by climate change

From and the Guardian

Coffee supplies are being reduced by higher temperatures, long droughts and intense rainfall, plus more resilient pests and plant diseases, according to the UCS, “all of which are associated with climate change.” Coffee varieties are adapted to certain climate zones so a temperature increase of just a half of a degree can have a big affect and cause lower crop yields.

Coffee is not the only food product affected by climate change. A recent International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (known by the Spanish acronym, CIAT) study predicted a one-degree Celsius temperature increase by 2030 and 2.3 degrees Celsius by 2050 in the Ivory Coast and Ghana, which would make it too hot to grow chocolate. Both countries supply more than half of the world’s cocoa.

Tea is also being affected by climate change, according to a CIAT report released in May. Climate change will cause increases in average temperatures and rainfall which will cause many Kenyan farmers at lower elevations to abandon growing tea.


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