From IEEE Spectrum: At the beginning, engineers at RE<C, Google’s now defunct renewable energy initiative, had shared the attitude of many environmentalists: They felt that with steady improvements to today’s renewable energy technologies, society could stave off catastrophic climate change. They now know that to be a false hope—but that doesn’t mean the planet is doomed.
science & research
From Hindustan Times: Man’s best friend has become a growing threat to India’s wildlife. As canine numbers rise in cities, towns and villages, entire ecosystems are being affected.They’ve attacked endangered stags in Kashmir and preyed on livestock in the Himalayas. Wild ass, gazelle, nilgai, blackbuck and deer have died of dog attacks in our sanctuaries.
From Mining Review Africa: Environmental NGO Urgewald has revealed companies that are at the forefront to expand the world’s coal-fired power by 42.8%. The report identifies the 120 companies that are planning about 850 new coal plants in 62 countries–including Indian coal majors Adani, Tata, Lanco and Coal India, which are driving the biggest plants.
From The Guardian: A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute and the number will jump another 20% by 2021, creating an environmental crisis some consider as serious as climate change. The demand, equivalent to about 20,000 bottles being bought every second, is driven by an apparently insatiable desire for bottled water.
From Mongabay: Scientists warn in a new study that Earth is undergoing a sixth mass extinction that is “more severe than perceived.” Not only that, human activity —including pollution, deforestation, overpopulation, poaching, warming oceans and extreme weather events tied to climate change— is to blame for this massive loss in biodiversity, according to the analysis.
From CarbonBrief: Billions of people across the world – possibly half the global population – could see climates they’ve never experienced before by the middle of the century, a new study says. One of the authors, Manoj Joshi of the University of East Anglia, speaks on the future emergence of unfamiliar climates across the world.
Bart Hawkins Kreps writes: Will we have plenty of affordable energy to power communications among trillions of internet-connected sensors in the “Internet of Things”? Will our new fleet of self-driving cars have plenty of fuel to keep us moving en masse? The uncertainty of our long-term energy supply is not even mentioned in this book.
Carbon Brief reports: A startling 22% of global CO2 emissions stem from the production of goods that are consumed in a different country. However, traditional inventories do not include emissions associated with imports. While Western countries have reduced domestic emissions recently, some of this reduction has been offset by increasing imports from countries like China.
From The Wire: Why are landslides are proving so costly in terms of loss of human lives in recent years? Relentless deforestation leads to denudation of the hills, making them more vulnerable to landslides. Another factor is that without giving due consideration to vulnerability of certain areas, indiscriminate construction and mining activities are taken up.
John Scales Avery writes in Countercurrents.org: Malthus’ “Essay on The Principle of Population” was one of the first systematic studies of the problem of population in relation to resources. He was the first to stress the fact that, in general, powerful checks operate continuously to keep human populations from increasing beyond their available food supply.
From World Economic Forum: People often have an idealised view of solar as the perfect clean energy source. Direct conversion of sunlight to electricity, no emissions, no contamination, perfectly clean. This however overlooks the messy reality of how solar panels are produced, right from the extraction of materials to scaling up the power generation process.
From Eartha Mag: The game of migrating farmers to GM seeds has a familiar marketing line: We cannot feed the millions without GMOs – the exact line they fed us in the 50s during the Green Revolution. With the government’s adamant attempts to introduce them without public consultation or scientific debate, Sandeep Anirudhan raises some basic questions.
Here are the key findings from Centre for Science and Environment’s study of how India has warmed over the years, also plotted in animation. The analysis looks at temperature trends in the country –both annual and seasonal– from 1901 till recent years. It finds that the country has been getting warmer continuously, consistently and rapidly.
Friends of Marine Life (FML), is a Kerala-based organisation that specialises in seabed ecosystem studies and also helps promote sustainable fishing. Three of it’s members, who hail from the state’s indigenous fishing community, the Mukkuva, were recently invited the first UN conference on the world’s oceans. The text of speeches they delivered at the conference.
Fish are the last wild food, but our oceans are being picked clean, giving marine wildlife little chance to regenerate. Amrita Gupta speaks to the team behind a new seafood calendar. Until now, there was no such resource for fish eaters, yet the need for awareness about the seafood we consume has never been greater.
Currently, 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean each year – the equivalent of a dump truck of plastic rubbish every minute. At current rates, by 2050 there will be as much plastic in the oceans as fish. A closer look at the plastic tsunami menacing the world, and particularly, our oceans.
Best-selling author and historian Yuval Noah Harari writes: As we enter the post-industrial world, the masses are becoming redundant. Biotechnology and the rise of Artificial Intelligence may split humankind into a small class of ‘superhumans’ and a huge underclass of ‘useless’ people. Once the masses lose their economic and political power, inequality could spiral alarmingly.
We’re all on track to use at least 29 phones in our lifetimes. This rapid turnover of devices leads to record profits for smartphone manufacturers year after year. It also leads to many damaging impacts on people and our planet. Greenpeace USA’s new report, ‘From Smart to Senseless’, explores the high cost of smartphone use.
From Quartz.com: The Luddites were the bands of English workers who destroyed machinery, especially in cotton mills, which they believed was threatening their jobs. As machine learning and robotics consume manufacturing and white-collar jobs alike, New York Times journalist Clive Thompson revisits the Luddite’s history to see what the 200-year-old workers’ rebellion can teach us.
From The New York Times: At 82, the anthropologist T. N. Pandit passes his days in the gentle occupations of old age: poetry, a Buddhist study circle, a daily walk in the park. It is rare for anyone to ask him about the years he spent with the hunter gatherer tribes of the Andaman Islands.