jump to navigation

act April 23, 2008

Posted by KG in design, econ, environment, food, health, news, science, tech.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

“act” – from the nytimes magazine green issue:

WALK THE WALK: In many parts of the country, walking has become as quaint a pastime as spinning yarn or playing the bagpipes. Between 1977 and 1995, the number of daily walking trips taken by adults declined by 40 percent — while more than a quarter of all car trips are now shorter than a mile. Those under-a-mile journeys fall into the zone that new urbanists call “walkshed”: the area a person can reasonably cover on foot. People whose walksheds teem with shops and restaurants have more reason to walk than those whose don’t, so it was only a matter of time before someone tried to quantify a neighborhood’s pedestrian-friendliness. Last summer, a trio of Seattle software developers started walkscore.com, which calculates the number of potential destinations within walking distance of any given address and then produces a rating. If your neighborhood scores 90 or above, you can easily live there without a car; if it scores under 25, you’ll be driving to the backyard. More than a million addresses were searched in the site’s first month. Matt Lerner, one of the site’s developers, knew the concept had arrived when a condo in Seattle hung out a gigantic banner that said “Walk Score 100.” “People react really negatively to phrases like ‘density,’ ” he says, “but they react really positively to phrases like ‘walkability.’ ”Walk Score’s popularity may be a sign that walking is making a comeback, fueled by both rising gas prices and widening waistlines.

BEYOND WASTE: Zero waste, a state of eco-utopia far beyond ordinary sustainability, raises the notion of planetary stewardship to a sweeping level: instead of using, we should reuse; instead of dumping, we should compost. A number of municipalities, including Seattle and Boulder, Colo., have made zero waste a guiding ambition. The daunting challenge is that so many consumer products are neither recyclable nor compostable. Worse, they’re made with highly toxic chemicals. Reducing the impact of these products may depend less on finding better ways to dispose of them and more on discovering how to remake them — or on no longer making them at all. A number of green certifications exist for “healthier” consumer products, but for the past three years, a small firm in Virginia known as MBDC has been awarding a “Cradle to Cradle” certification, or “C2C,” to certain items that satisfy a rigorous philosophy espoused by its founders, the green architect William McDonough and the environmental chemist Michael Braungart. The duo have long held that, as McDonough recently put it, “waste is basically stupid.” Theirs is a business-friendly credo. Corporate growth isn’t in itself problematic; nor should sustainability mean getting by with less. Rather, the firm endorses rethinking the way products are designed and manufactured. To get a C2C seal of approval, a product needs to be made from components that are either “technical nutrients” (which can be recycled or repurposed) or biological nutrients (which can degrade naturally, like compost). “Instead of saying zero waste, we say let’s just eliminate the concept of waste,” says Jay Bolus, an environmental engineer who is in charge of the MBDC certification process. C2C has mainly been a business-to-business endeavor, and only a few of the 100 products that have won MBDC certification — Herman Miller chairs, United States Postal Service envelopes — are familiar to consumers. But C2C is expanding, and next year, according to Bolus, there should be 400 or 500 products with the logo. To McDonough, his certification is a point of entry into the world that he’s imagining. “It honors intention,” he says. “And I think that’s really important, given that we have to redesign nearly everything.”

(more…)

Advertisements

mankiw on carbon tax December 21, 2007

Posted by KG in econ, environment, interviews, politics, science.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
add a comment

npr:

Listen Now [3 min 47 sec] add to playlist

Morning Edition, December 20, 2007 · A so-called carbon tax would put a price on any carbon released into the atmosphere. But even for the greenest voters, a tax increase that would help the environment is likely to be a hard sell. “There’s no question that, politically, tax is a four-letter word. But we have to really convince voters that this is not an overall tax increase; it’s really a tax shift,” said Gregory Mankiw, an economist and former chairman of President Bush’s Council of Economic Advisors.

Mankiw, who supports a tax, speaks with John Ydstie.

mankiw’s op-ed in nytimes 16 sept. 2007:

Those vying for elected office, however, are reluctant to sign on to this agenda. Their political consultants are no fans of taxes, Pigovian or otherwise. Republican consultants advise using the word “tax” only if followed immediately by the word “cut.” Democratic consultants recommend the word “tax” be followed by “on the rich.”

Yet this natural aversion to carbon taxes can be overcome if the revenue from the tax is used to reduce other taxes. By itself, a carbon tax would raise the tax burden on anyone who drives a car or uses electricity produced with fossil fuels, which means just about everybody. Some might fear this would be particularly hard on the poor and middle class.

But Gilbert Metcalf, a professor of economics at Tufts, has shown how revenue from a carbon tax could be used to reduce payroll taxes in a way that would leave the distribution of total tax burden approximately unchanged. He proposes a tax of $15 per metric ton of carbon dioxide, together with a rebate of the federal payroll tax on the first $3,660 of earnings for each worker.

experimental philosophy December 12, 2007

Posted by AP in environment.
Tags: ,
add a comment

from the nytimes magazine, by kwame anthony appiah:

Suppose the chairman of a company has to decide whether to adopt a new program. It would increase profits and help the environment too. “I don’t care at all about helping the environment,” the chairman says. “I just want to make as much profit as I can. Let’s start the new program.” Would you say that the chairman intended to help the environment?

O.K., same circumstance. Except this time the program would harm the environment. The chairman, who still couldn’t care less about the environment, authorizes the program in order to get those profits. As expected, the bottom line goes up, the environment goes down. Would you say the chairman harmed the environment intentionally?

I don’t know where you ended up, but in one survey, only 23 percent of people said that the chairman in the first situation had intentionally helped the environment. When they had to think about the second situation, though, fully 82 percent thought that the chairman had intentionally harmed the environment. There’s plenty to be said about these interestingly asymmetrical results. But perhaps the most striking thing is this: The study was conducted by a philosopher, as a philosopher, in order to produce a piece of . . . philosophy.

“cal mulls what to do with tree-sitters” November 23, 2007

Posted by KG in berkeley, environment, news.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

savetheoaks.jpg

huffpost (via ap):

 University of California officials have won the legal right to oust a band of tree-sitters who’ve taken up residence in an oak grove standing in the way of a planned sports center.

But how do you uproot a tree-sitter in Berkeley, one of America’s most politically correct cities?

“Extremely difficult,” acknowledges campus spokesman Dan Mogulof.

As the protest nears its one-year anniversary, plenty of people have suggestions: Fire hoses, skunk spray and tranquilizer darts are among the thorny ideas Internet posters have planted.

Notable milestones have included an appearance by conservationist Sylvia McLaughlin, 91, who briefly sat on a tree platform in January. There have been two nude photo shoots, and two sitters have fallen, breaking bones.

The next big development in the case could be a ruling, expected soon, on lawsuits filed by the City of Berkeley and others challenging the building plans. They argue the athletic center would be environmentally and seismically unsound, which campus officials deny.

new yorker 2012 conference November 11, 2007

Posted by KG in arts/culture, berkeley, books, econ, environment, international, interviews, media, misc, music, news, politics, science, style, tech.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

gladwell.jpg

video archives from the “inaugural New Yorker Conference, ‘2012: Stories From the Near Future,'” which took place this past may.

“…a variety of exclusive interviews, vivid presentations, and in-depth discussions, as New Yorker writers and editors introduce you to the minds that will make a difference in the coming years”

there’s seventeen of them and they all look really interesting, and the three that i’ve watched so far (the malcolm gladwell ones) definitely were worth it. most of them seem to be around 30 mins. the “genius” malcolm gladwell talk is about “the nature of genius” and whether effort and persistence should be encouraged over innate intelligence in solving today’s problems (btw, he gets a cafe strada reference in there). the music intelligence discussion was also really interesting; platinum blue mathematically analyzes songs for “hit” qualities and uses that technology to recommend songs in what seems to be a more complex and accurate fashion than pandora.

Genius: 2012
Malcolm Gladwell on the importance of stubbornness
and collaboration in problem-solving.
watch this video
Solutions: 2012
A panel on environmental entrepreneurship, featuring Dan Barber, Marianne Cusato, and Adam Lowry. Moderated by Larissa MacFarquhar.
watch this video
Music Intelligence: 2012
Mike McCready and Malcolm Gladwell discuss how technology that analyzes the mathematical patterns in songs can help the music business identify potential hits.
watch this video
Design: 2012
The industrial designer Yves Béhar talks with Judith Thurman about design and presents new commissions, as well as the One Laptop Per Child project.
Regenerative Medicine: 2012
Dr. Anthony Atala, the director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, talks about his latest achievements in growing new human cells, tissues, and organs.
watch this video

the economics of death November 6, 2007

Posted by KG in comedy, econ, environment, film, international, media, news, science, tech.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

“In many countries you can be buried in a forest and grow into a tree that will convert carbon dioxide into oxygen”

vs.

“In Iowa you can have your ashes loaded into a shotgun shell and fired into the air”

…i suspect a new battlefront for the so called “culture wars”