Paul McDivitt writes: Making wind and solar seem like they’re doing better than they really are could come back to bite proponents —and the climate. If people think we are about to replace fossil fuels with renewables, they will be less likely to demand new policies and take actions to lower their own carbon footprints.
This day six years ago, tsunami waves crashed into Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant, leading to a meltdown, which by one estimate continues to leak an astounding 300 tons of radioactive waste into the Pacific daily. A selection of reports and a lead article by M.V. Ramana, on what some have called history’s worst environmental disaster.
Somehow, most people seem to believe that our economy of 7.5 billion people can get along with a very short list of energy supplies. Given climate change, this short list cannot include fossil fuels, but we believe Wind and Solar can save us. Unfortunately, a transition to such alternative fuels can’t really work. Here’s why.
Ashish Kothari writes: Convenience is trashing the earth. Unlimited motorised transport, electrical and electronic gadgets, chemicals and packaging for increased shelf-life mean carbon emissions, pollution, chemical contamination, mining. Other species and other people (whose homes happen to be above the mining deposits) are just collateral damage for a society drunk on the technologies of convenience.
The New Yorker reports: Survivalism, the practice of preparing for the collapse of civilization, tends to evoke a certain picture: eg. the religious doomsayer. But in recent years survivalism has expanded to more affluent quarters, taking root in Silicon Valley and New York City, among technology executives, hedge-fund managers, and others in their economic cohort.
T. Hanumantha Rao, irrigation engineering expert and the brain behind a participative method of water management based on his ‘Four Waters’ concept, passed away on Sunday. The Four Waters concept, explained in this video, brought rich benefits to Rajasthan, where even drought-affected areas improved over the years. Several other states are actively pursuing his recommendations.
Noted water conservationist Anupam Mishra passed away at the age of 68 on Monday. Here’s a tribute and a video where he talks with wisdom and wit about the amazing feats of engineering from centuries ago by the people of India’s desert regions to harvest water. These ancient aqueducts and stepwells are still used today.
Phys.org reports: The climate friendly electricity generated by solar panels in the past 40 years has all but cancelled out the polluting energy used to produce them, a study said Tuesday. Indeed, by some calculations, the so-called “break-even point” between dirty energy input and clean output may already have arrived, researchers in the Netherlands reported.
In scientific discovery, the first three paradigms were experimental, theoretical and (more recently) computational science. This new book of essays inspired by the Microsoft researcher Jim Gray argues that a fourth paradigm of scientific discovery is at hand: the analysis of massive data sets. Read John Markoff’s review of the book in The New York Times.
Hydropower is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions: a new study shows that the world’s hydroelectric dams are responsible for as much methane emissions as Canada. The study finds that methane, which is at least 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide, makes up 80% of the emissions from water reservoirs created by dams.
GM mustard, if approved, will open the floodgates for other such crops making India one of the largest users of GM crops in the world. Given that its agriculture is largely in the hands of MNCs, India will end up bartering its freedom for the benefit of a few and the misery of the rest.
“Producing qualities that may give excellent results in the laboratory may be advantageous for some, but have ruinous effects for others. And the principle of caution is not enough, as very often it is limited to not allowing something to be done, whereas there is a need to act in a balanced and honest way.”
Amita Bhaduri writes: Nuclear plants require enormous amounts of water for cooling and other purposes. The Fatehabad plant will be the first project in the world to be located away from water sources. “The water will not be enough even for normal operations; what if an accident takes place?”, asks Dhanraj Jat, a local farmer.
EcoSnippets reports: According to Paul Stamets, one of the world’s leading mycologists, his patented ‘smart pesticides’ can provide a safe and nearly permanent solution for controlling over 200,000 species of insects – and all thanks to the ‘magic’ of mushrooms. In fact, pesticide industry executives have called it “the most disruptive technology we have ever witnessed.”
Robin Delobel writes: The issue is rarely raised, but renewable energies have a heavy environmental impact when the total production chain and overall product life-cycle is taken into account– particularly, the stage of mining the metals needed in their production. In addition, chemical products used in the mining operations often lead to severe long-term pollution.
Sonam Wangchuk, the real life inspiration of the character “Phunsuk Wangdu” in Bollywood hit “3 idiots”, recently led an expedition to Sikkim’s Lhonak lake, which has been declared dangerous. Their objective was to install a siphoning system to drain the lake and prevent climate disaster, probably the first project of its kind in the world.
The reactor failed four times in the final commissioning test. Numerous emergency shutdowns and four maintenance outages have kept the reactor off-grid for days, and it has supplied far less electricity than it was supposed to. Yet, plans to import a dozen more reactors of the same vintage from the same vendor are in progress.
We will soon have artificial intelligence that can accomplish professional human tasks. Our lives will be totally 100% tracked by ourselves and others. Much of what will happen in the next 30 years is inevitable, driven by technological trends already in motion, and are impossible to halt without halting civilization, says Internet pioneer Kevin Kelly.
Yesterday, with protests over the Cauvery water dispute bringing Bangalore to its knees, many of the city’s techno-optimists found themselves stranded on its burning roads, like bunnies caught in headlights. It might just be another sign that ‘life as we know it’ is about to change forever, both in India and the world, writes Vijay Kundaji.
G. Sampath writes: The smart city paradigm signals a momentous shift that takes the agenda of privatisation beyond the takeover of public utilities, and inaugurates the formal privatisation of governance itself. An exclusive focus on technology in discussions of the smart city paradigm can blind one to its real driver—the global crisis of capital accumulation.