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Blade Runner 2049 gets it wrong: Technology cannot defeat nature and still exist

James Kunstler writes: I watched Blade Runner 2049, the latest from Hollywood’s dream-shop. It was an excellent illustration of the over-investments in technology with diminishing returns that are dragging us into collapse and of the attendant techno-narcissism that afflicts the supposedly thinking class in this society, who absolutely don’t get what this collapse is about.

The high cost of an easy-care, low-maintenance world

Kurt Cobb writes: We’ve created a world of low-maintenance objects which are low-maintenance merely because they are disposable… Philosophers bemoan our love of material things. But I believe that we modern, industrialized people don’t actually love material things. We wouldn’t treat material things the way we do if we truly loved and cared for them.

The case against civilisation: Did our hunter-gatherer ancestors have it better?

From The New Yorker: Recent research shows a gap of 4000 years separating the “two key domestications,” of animals and cereals, from the first agrarian economies based on them. Our ancestors evidently took a good, hard look at the possibility of agriculture before deciding to adopt it; because the life they lived was remarkably abundant.

Puerto Rico: When the electricity stops

Hurricane Maria, which has devastated Puerto Rico, has left 97% the island’s population without power. Electricity is the essential pillar upon which the operations of all modern industrial societies depend. When electricity stops, pretty much everything else stops, as Puerto Rico demonstrates. Given an increasingly unstable climate, it’s a warning for everyone, writes Kurt Cobb.

India’s chief economic advisor is clueless about energy. And that’s worrying.

A recent lecture by Dr. Arvind Subramanian, the Indian government’s chief economic advisor, offers clues on its thinking on coal vis-a-vis renewable energy, crucial for meeting its stated climate goals. In this stinging rejoinder to the lecture, energy expert Prof. Mahesh Bhave shows conclusively why mainstream economists like Dr. Subramnian simply do not ‘get’ energy.

What exactly is a smart city? The Indian government does not want you to know

From Scroll.in: How does the government define a smart city under its much-publicised Smart City Mission? This may never be known. An exercise to set clear benchmarks to assess when exactly a city is delivering a high enough quality of life to be declared a smart city was shut down by the urban development ministry.

Why climate change isn’t our biggest environmental problem, and why technology won’t save us

Richard Heinberg writes: Over the past century-and-a-half, fossil fuels enabled the rapid growth of resource extraction, manufacturing, and consumption; and these in turn led to population increase, pollution, and loss of natural habitat and hence biodiversity. Our core ecological problem is not climate change. It is overshoot, of which global warming is only a symptom.

Humans are creating a new geological layer of techno-fossils

From Slate.com: Industrial civilisation’s impact is so massive that it goes way beyond climate change. Earth scientists now suggest that it is creating a distinct geological layer made of ‘technofossils’. The scale of our stuff is so gargantuan, that it is throwing off the quite robust balance of our natural systems—that’s how powerful it is.

Limits to growth: policies to steer the economy away from disaster

From The Conversation: If the global economy grows by 3% till 2100, it will be 60 times larger than now.  The existing economy is already environmentally unsustainable, so we simply cannot“decouple” growth from environmental impact. This paper looks at policies that could facilitate a planned transition beyond growth–while considering the huge obstacles along the way.

Richard Heinberg: Ecological collapse? There’s no app for that

Even when we question the personal impacts of modern technology, how many of us consider how our dependence on technology might be harming us? Or question the belief that technological advances will save us from our most pressing environmental and societal challenges? Richard Heinberg tackles this thorny issue in this brilliant essay and animation feature.

Anandi Sharan: There are no pros; only cons to nuclear energy

From Patna Daily: A nuclear power plant can be imported lock stock and barrel and all local people need to do is watch the plant and the fence around it get erected, charge their mobile phones to watch videos all day, stay out of trouble. They have no work in the creation of the asset.

This Swiss company aims to capture 1% of global CO2 emissions by 2025

CarbonBrief reports: On the roof of a waste incinerator outside Zurich, the Swiss firm Climeworks has built the world’s first commercial plant to suck CO2 directly from the air. They claim that their direct air capture process –a technology often considered too expensive– aims to capture 1% of global CO2 emissions each year by 2025.

Obituary: P.M. Bhargava: Man of science who never bowed down to authority

From The Indian Express: One of the most outstanding biological scientists in India and the founder director of CSIR-Centre for Cellular Molecular Biology (CCMB), Pushpa Mitra Bhargava was a perennial and powerful dissenter and never bowed down to authority. He was suffering from multiple health problems. He is survived by a son and a daughter.

The global crisis and the role of so-called renewable energies in solving it

In this essay, a contribution to the‘Pathways to the Post-Carbon Economy’ symposium by Insurge Intelligence, the author argues persuasively that the much-hyped “renewable energy technologies” cannot play any role in solving the multifaceted global crisis of today; on the contrary, investing in them is a waste of time, effort, energy and, most important of all, scarce resources.

Dam busters! The nascent green movement liberating rivers and freeing fish

From Hakai Magazine: For almost 15 years, Harold and Gephard have removed five dams from Connecticut waterways. They spend most of their time meeting owners whose ties to their dams can go back centuries. “It’s about trying to get dam owners to do something that they can’t quite decide. You have to basically say, ‘trust me.’”

Google engineers say today’s RE technologies won’t save us. So what will?

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.

Nuclear power: Expensive, hazardous and inequitable

From The Hindu: The government’s recent decision to approve the construction of ten 700 MW Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors deserves to be scrutinised carefully. The government claims that this displays “India’s commitment to sustainable development”. But does the path to sustainable development run through a source of electricity that’s expensive, hazardous and antithetical to equity?

Where’s the energy for “the fourth industrial revolution”? Don’t ask.

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.

Solar power: Do the ends justify the means?

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.

India has a better option than electric cars

Prem Shankar Jha in The Wire: When nearly 350 million vehicles have to be charged every day, not only will an entire nation-wide, and therefore expensive, recharging infrastructure have to be built, but the power these vehicles will consume will have to be generated first. Nearly all of this will have to come from coal.

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