Monday, June 29, 2009

NC Ch 10 : Food for Life

Making modern food production sustainable is a complicated issue. Industrialized farming is very detrimental to the environment. However, it has also made food affordable. At the same time, since food production has increased, so has population, which offsets the gains and further strains our natural resources.

"The food sector uses are 10-15% of all energy in the industrialized countries, and somewhat more in the US" (p192). Industrialized farming is more energy efficient than it was in 1978, and it is much less labor intensive, but farming uses energy from oil, "perhaps ten times are much fossil-fueled energy in producing food as it returns in food energy" (p192)

Two issues are underlying causes for a lot of the problems with food production, which is the degradation of soil quality and the cultivation of "monocultures." "Monocultures' chemical dependence requires enormous amounts of fertilizers to make up for the free ecological services that the soil biota, other plants, and manure provide in natural systems" (p197).

Innovations to save energy in agriculture:
- Bill Ward - a way to dry grain in the silo
- Marcello Cabus, solar hot-air dryers
- using big slow fans instead of fast fans in barns
- pig shelter, Canadian "hoop structures"
- California Rice Industry Association - flooded rice fields after harvest for ducks instead of burning rice straw

Changing the way we raise livestock
- desubsidizing livestock production, especially for cattle, which emit about 72% of all livestock methane. ultimately reduce the amount of cattle, especially in rich countries
- reducing the rich countries' dairy output to match demand rather than propping up demand with subsidies. dairy cows emit extra methane because they're fed at about three times maintenance level to make them produce more milk
- improving livestock breeding, especially in developing countries, to increase meat or milk output per animal, consistent with humane practices
- regulating or taxing methane emissions from manure to encourage manure-to-biogas conversion for useful combustion
- reforming US beef grading standards to reduce the inefficient conversion of costly, topsoil-intensive grains into feedlot fat that's then largely discarded
- encouraging ultralean, organic range beef as a replacement for feedlot beef so that they receive no antibiotics, are healthier, can cost less, emit less methane
- for feedlot beef, shifting some meat consumption to less feed- and methane intensive animals and to aquaculture, maybe also reduce rice-paddy methane (?)

Another featured farming practice is Management-intensive rotational grazing (MIRG) for beef, pork, and dairy farming in the midwest, discovered by Allan Savory, a Zimbabwean wildlife biologist (p208). This is where cattle grazes intensely for short periods of time and then move on to another place, not returning to places they've grazed before until they're fully recovered. This seems like it would require more area, but perhaps that's not true.

The authors claim that "organic farming goes a long way toward providing better food from far smaller and more sustainable inputs" (p209). While I categorically believe in the merits of organic farming, if it's so much better, why was farming industrialized then? The only answer I can think of is that organic farming requires more labor and labor is more expensive than energy and chemicals.

Biointensive minifarming is also a productive practice that has a lot of potential. "There are four principles: deep cultivation to aid root growth, compost crops, closely spaced plants in wide beds to optimize microclimates, and interplanting of mixed species to foil pests." "Since nature does most of the work after the initial bed preparation, the upkeep is quite small and the yield can be high for crops and much higher for nutrients" (p209). "Masanobu Fukuoka's 'do-nothing' system of organic farming" has had some impressive yields.

Name dropping:
-Dr. Christine Jone's team at New South Wales's Land and Water Conservation Agency are even developing a new "pasture cropping" technique with controlled grazing on perennial grass cover but also annual grains sown into the grass in its dormant season.
-Natural Systems Agriculture - Wes Jackson, Janine Benyus, and Land Institute in Salina, Kansas, are looking into replacing annual monocultures with perennial polycultures to form a diverse ecosystem that looks rather like native prairie, doesn't erode, builds topsoil, and requires virtually no inputs.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

NC Ch 9 : Nature's Filaments

This chapter is about the production and usage of textiles and paper products.

The beginnings of industrialization were tied to textile production with the spinning jenny, cotton gin, water frame and the power loom. "The history of textiles is intimately linked to child labor and slavery, to colonialism, and to world trade and conquest" (p170).

Conclusions for today, growing cotton uses too many resources, pesticides, and chemical fertilizer, and degrades topsoil, and we are using too much paper.

Solutions :
Go paperless - inspiring figure Dan Caulfield, the CEO of Hire Quality, a Chicago job-placement service.

One suggestion I wonder about, though, is to try to restrict the number of emails that sent around by abolishing distribution lists amongst other ways of discouraging emails unless it's really important.

Looking downstream and upstream for compound savings. In order to calculate how much new wood fiber is needed, we multiply these four factors together.
-Human population
-Affluence - ave amount consumed/person
-Unsubtituted Fiber - wood fiber required/demand
-New-Materials Dependence - fraction of good made from new fiber instead of recycled

Potential savings are in
-Functional efficiency
-End-use efficiency
-Conversion Efficiency
-Field Efficiency
-Materials Cycle
-Unsubstituted Fraction

examples of new materials - Engineered Wall Framing system saves 70-74% of wood in a wall.

Bellcomb system of cardboard-like honeycombs

The authors make a long list of recycling projects. Big City Forest, Decopier Technologies, Green Bay Packaging Company...

Fiber farms
alternative fibers - bamboo, kenaf, agriresidue

The Beehive Site

so here's a mock-up of the logo for the beehive site, which I want to be a forum on sustainability.

NC Ch 8 : Capital Gains

This chapter is primarily about how to change the tax system to encourage natural capitalism.

The reason why we need to invest in natural capital and encourage natural capitalism is that using up resources faster than they are replenished will eventually have economic implications. Many people argue that we must not be running out of a resource since we are not noticing any change in the rate it is being used. That is because we are using things at a constant rate until it suddenly eventually runs out and then the rate of usage is suddenly 0.

The authors mention a book The Limits of Growth (1972) that looks at long-term consequences of existing patterns of consumption and production on factors like population growth, industrial capacity, food production, and pollution using the system dynamics model created by engineer Dr. Jay Forrester, an MIT Sloan professor and founder of the System Dynamics Group.

The importance of natural systems lies in that they provide services that would be impossible or at least prohibitively costly for people to do.

A number of economists who believe that the degradation of natural capital will limit economic growth : Peter Raven, Herman Daly, J. Peterson Myers, Paul Ehrlich, Norman Myers, Grechen Daily, Robert Costanza, Jane Lubchenco.

Subsidies and Taxes
Dr. Norman Myers examined world's subsidies in six sectors: agriculture, energy, transportation, water, forestry, and fisheries. (p160)

One notable example is roads as a subsidy for drivers. Road pricing and taxes for road use should be put into place instead of having society bear the brunt of having more drivers.

In contrast, "Indonesia heavily subsidized pesticides, resulting in massive use and equally serious side effects. Starting in 1986, the government banned many psticides and adopted Integrated Pest Management as official policy. By 1989, the subsidies were gone; pesticide production plummeted nearly to zero and imports by two-thirds; yet rice production rose by another 11% during the years 1986-1990."

In terms of using taxes as a way to inform decision-making, taxing wages and capital gains are a bad idea. Instead, taxes should be on pollution, waste, carbon fuels, and resource exploitation, all of which are currently subsidized. then "business can save money by hiring now-less-expensive labor and capital to save now-more-expensive resources." "The purpose is to lower the rate of return required to make an investment worthy. When there are high taxes on investment income, the rate of return must be correspondingly higher to justify investment. In part, that is why more money can be made by rapidly exploiting resources rather than by conserving them" (p165).

Jacques Delors, former chairman of the European Commission, is urging such a tax shift. Small trials are underway in Sweden, Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, and Norway. I wonder how they are going now.

NC Ch 7 : Muda, Service, and Flow

This chapter is about how to reduce waste. The theory of muda, service, and flow the authors outline comes out of the work of Taiichi Ohno, "the father of the Toyota Production System, which is the conceptual foundation of the world's premier manufacturing organization" (p125).

The authors cite industrial experts Jame Womack and Professor Daniel Jones and their book "Lean Thinking."

muda - waste, futility, or purposelessness. includes "mistakes which require rectification, production of items no one wants so that inventories and remaindered goods pile up, processing steps which aren't actually needed, movement of employees and transport of goods from one place to another without any purpose, groups of people in a downstream activity standing around waiting because an upstream activity has not delivered on time, and goods and services which don't meet the needs of the customer."

lean thinking has four elements:
the continuous flow of value, as defined by the customer, at the pull of the customer, in search of perfection

conclusion : "specialized, large-scale, high-speed, highly efficient production departments and equipment are they key to inefficiency and uncompetitiveness, and that maximizing the utilization of productive capacity, is nearly always a mistake."

Several examples of decreasing muda are given. Usually, complicated machines make one step faster but the whole system slower. Also, having smaller scale distributed production allows things to be made on demand with minimal transport of materials compared to large scale production whose intermediary steps are spread far apart. This is the kind of advice that may be useful for business owners for next year's summit.

vocab : continuous-value-flow, demand-pull system

three examples of lean thinking
- biggest N American maker of seals and gaskets, Freudenberg-NOK General Partnership, number of workers needed to make the part decreased from 21 to 3; pieces made per worker rose from 55 to 600; and space used fell by 48%
- Lantech, Louisville, Kentucky, firm making stretch-wrapping machines, cut development time for a new product family from 3-4 years to 1 year, halved work time and nearly halved space occupied per machine, cut delivered defects by tenfold, in-process inventory by 27%, production throughput time from 16 weeks to .6-5 days, and lead time for product delivery from 4-20 weeks to 1-4 weeks.
- Interface, commercial interior materials maker, Charlie Eitel and Ray Anderson, got rid of inputs that did not create customer value

reducing waste also is enjoyable psychologically for workers - psychological condition of flow.

service and flow :
analyst Walter Stahel came up with third principle of natural capitalism, service and flow, which is to deliver a service instead of selling a product.

example: Carrier, "world's leading maker of air-conditioning equipment, decided to offer "coolth services" since people don't really want air conditioners per se, they just want to be comfortable. "Now Carrier is starting to team up with other service providers so it can not only deliver cooling but also do lighting retrofits, install superwindows, and otherwise upgrade customers' buildings so they'll ultimately neeed less air-conditioning to provide better comfort."

This new kind of business model really excites me, and I think it's really important to follow what happens with these projects. This is the kind of revolutionary change that I'm really interested in talking about for next year's summit, and that I think will be relevant to an MIT audience, people starting a business or designing a product.

example: "Interface launched a transition from selling carpet to leasing floor-covering services. After monthly inspections, they replace 10-20% of the carpet tiles that show 80-90% of the wear. This reduces the amount of carpet material required by about 80%. It also provides better service at reduced life-cycle cost, increases net employment (less manufacturing but more upkeep), and eliminates disruption, since worn tiles are seldom under furniture" (p140)

At the same seems that an inherent problem with this model is that people abuse things they don't own, which may not be cost-effective for a company that has to maintain things it leases.

A more stable business cycle
What are the macroeconomic implications? The authors also claim that this new kind of business model won't have a boom and bust business cycle. "The heart of the periodic booms and busts in capital investments and inventories are because durable goods wear out and need replacement, and small changes in economic growth or recession cause larger shifts in behavior, because the curplus funds available for investing in capital goods represent the small different between two large numbers - total revenue and total cost. Modest fluctuations in revenues are thus magnified into big swings in purchasing. In economic downturns, the small difference is squeezed, so more products are repaired and fewer bought. If the economy is strong, older goods are scrapped and replacements purchased. When revenues fluctuate moderately, purchasing gyrates vigorously along with such economy-moving figures are manufacturing, auto production, employment, money supply, and GDP growth."

In contrast, a continuous-flow "solutions economy" would be much less volatile.

This analysis seems to make sense, but I wonder if it's true. Something to look into.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

NC Ch 6 : Tunneling Through the Cost Barrier

This chapter is about the return on investment of efficiency technology. Conventional wisdom asserts that you will get diminishing returns so you'd have to put in more and more money for smaller and smaller gains.

Some notable experts that are cited and who I'd like to look up later: building efficiency expert Joseph Romm, Senior mechanical engineer Eng Lock Lee.

With whole-system engineering, it is possible to make big gains at a lower cost.

The two main ways to make this happen are:

Integrating Design to Capture Multiple Benefits
Optimizing components in isolation tends to pessimize the whole system.
example: Interface - American carpet making company, engineer Jan Schilham, cut pumping power to 7 horsepower from 92 horsepower and also reducing capital costs by using bigger pipes with better layouts and smaller pumps.

Piggyback Onto Renovations Already Planned
example: 200,000 square foot all-glass-and-no-windows curtainwall office tower needed windows replaced, and air conditioning systems also needed renovation. Installed superwindows, deep daylighting (?), and efficient lights reduced cooling load by 85%. Cheaper to install and also cheaper to maintain because energy bill was 75% smaller.

The authors then talk about looking downstream and upstream of a process to find ways to optimize. "downstream savings merit the greatest emphasis," since savings compound upstream. It's also important to do things in the right order. "For example, if you're going to retrofit your lights and your air conditioner, do the lights first so you can make the air conditioner smaller" (p122)

NC Ch 5 : Building Blocks

This chapter is largely on sustainable architecture and "green development".

It highlights an office building by Ton Alberts in Amsterdam, built in 1987. It is the office building of what is now ING. "Upon initial occupancy, the complex used 92% less energy than an adjacent bank constructed at the same time, Absenteeism is down 15%, productivity is up, and workers hold weekend cultural and social events there."

Michael and Judy Corbett, architects of Village Homes in Davis, CA, in the 1970s, a subdivision that improves quality of life and cuts energy bills by half to two thirds.

Inn of Anasazi, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, transformed into an adobe-style structure in 1991.

One main point that the authors want to stress is that people like to be comfortable, and so the buildings need to suit people's needs better so that people will be more productive in them and also more healthy.

In order to shift to green design, we need to change the way architects design buildings and the way they get paid. Currently, "compensation paid to architects and engineers is frequently based directly or indirectly on a percentage of the cost of the building itself or of the equipment they specify for it" (p91).

The problem with skimping on design is that the owners and tenants bear the brunt of the costs later.

Some ways to encourage efficient buildings are for to have a system where appraisers credit efficient buildings for energy savings, LEED, better market-based information and accurate incentive structures for both tenants and owners, "feebates" for energy hookups.

Building technologies
Main ways to make building efficient and also comfortable for people are:
"having the physical shape, and facing in the direction, that takes the greatest advantage of solar gain and deflects unwanted heat or wind. Saves 1/3 of building's energy use at no extra cost."
Also, taking into consideration thermal mass, shading, surface finishes, landscaping, for passive-solar heat gains and passive cooling.
Installing advanced light sources (?) to eliminate flicker, hum, and glare. The authors recommend swing-arm task lights on desks combined with variable ambient lighting rather than big ceiling lights (p95).
Improvements in the building's shell such as insulation, but also "superwindows" which are insulating windows. You can install them to have different infrared properties on different sides of the building so that it optimized the flow of heat and light to have a more comfortable building with less controls.
Install photovoltaic power generation on a building envelope (windows and roofs).

Recycling buildings - Stewart Brand's How Building's Learn recommends designing in flexibility by having walls, pipes and other interior elements that can be easily moved. This is to encourage reusing buildings. "This saves the energy and landfill space embodied in construction materials, which are responsible for 40% of all materials flows and mainly end up as waste whose disposal typically costs 2-5% of construction budgets. (p100)"
Audubon and Natural Resources Defense Council Headquarters in New York is a recycled building.

Recycling sites - Building and developing on "brownfield sites," which are places that previously had a lot of industry that may need some cleanup.

The other interesting section is on Redesigning Community, where the authors talk about meeting the needs of the community with fewer resources. New Urbanism has new land-use ideas, which aren't necessarily new, but presents a new theory for how to meet people's needs.
clustering houses around minigreens - preserves privacy, fosters neighborliness, making sharing equipment easier
"granny flats" - encouraging multigenerational families
narrower streets
lighter-colored paving and building surfaces
urban trees for shading and to improve air quality
porous-surface, watershed restoration movement - better than sewage for absorbing rainwater

Prairie Crossing, 667-acre residential development near Chicago
Haymount, new town in Virginia - reduced project infrastructure costs by 40%

"Towns and cities are also starting to prevent unnecessary leaks of dollars out of the local economy through more productive use of local resources." I'm not actually exactly sure what they mean by this, perhaps that since they will pay less for energy, they will have more resources for other projects.

NC Ch 4 : Making the World

This chapter describes "methods to increase industry's energy and material productivity." Overall, I'd say this chapter is superfluous, but it does have a lot of interesting projects and examples.

- design - self-explanatory
examples: lab fume hoods, mechanical flow controller for cleanrooms, sewage pumps, moving processes closer together to reduce reheating energy, conserving heat with insulation in glass plants, Weiss - Hamburg oil re-refinery

- new technologies - self-explanatory,
examples: superefficient cooling coils, switched reluctance motors, smart materials, rapid prototyping, ultraprecision fabrication, power-switching semiconductors, atomic-scale manipulation, microfluidics, micromachines

- controls - putting in controls in plants to automatically manage energy usage.
Distributed intelligence and self-organizing systems have a lot of potential. Mentions the book Out of Control by Kevin Kelly.
examples: Georgia Power Company installed a computer system to automatically adjust valves, Toyota "self-monitoring" looms

- corporate culture - this section is pretty dumb, actually. It cites a number of mistakes that happen routinely, and basically recommends that people be competent.

- new processes - process innovations in manufacturing. This section is pretty interesting. The authors argue that since living beings, such as spiders, can make strong materials, such as spider silk, without noxious chemicals or super high temperatures, there must be a way for us to manufacture those things as well with less inputs. (p70) The main techniques are to do things at lower temperatures and to use harmless inputs.
Ernie Robertson of Winnipeg's Biomass Institute says - best way to make limestone into a structural material is to feed it to a chicken and get an egg.
Philip McCrory using hair to clean up oil spills after noticing that oil gets stuck to otters
University of Zurich changed lap course that turned $8000 of simple reagents into toxic goop that cost $16000 to dispose of so that also taught how to turn it back into simple reagents in an exercise of "cycle thinking"
DesignTex division of Steelcase, make upholstery fabric without mutagens, carcinogens, heavy metals, endocrine disruptors, persistent toxic substances, and bio-accumulative substances with the help of Ciba-Geigy, a chemical company

- saving materials
In order to reduce scrap, manufacturing processes should aim to make things that are already in the shape of the raw material. "Netshape" and "near-net-shape" manufacturing techniques involve casting metals into the final shapes instead of into blocks that then need to be cut into the final shapes. The authors then reference Buckminster Fuller and "ephemeralization" when describing redesigning something to be more effective with less materials.

Finally, the authors propose design for reuse.
examples: disposable cameras, "Dow announced a $1 billion, 10-year environmental investment program, and anticipated a 30-40 percent annual return"

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

NC Ch 3 : Waste Not

We waste a lot of stuff.

Wasting people
The most interesting and significant concepts of this chapter is when it talks about labor and unemployment (wasting people). p53

When Work Disappears by W. Julius Wilson is cited. Between 1967 and 1987, Chicago lost 360,000 manufacturing jobs, and New York over 500,000. The US has the highest prison population, which is possibly related to higher rates of poverty especially in the inner cities. (p54)

"Globally, rates of unemployment and disemployment have been rising faster than those for employment for more than 25 years." In 1998, the unemployment rate in Europe was 11%. In the US it was 4.2% in 1999. However, "according to author Donella Meadows, of the 127 million people working in the US in 1996, 38 million worked part-time, and another 35 million, though working, weren't paid enough to support a family. 19 million worked in retail and earned less than $10,000/year. The official unemployed rolls of 7.3 million do not count an additional 7 million people who are discouraged, forcibly retired, or working as temps."

Wasting money
Besides wasting human resources, we are also wasting money. While the United States is the richest country in the world, it is deeply in debt. How can this be?

Well, the authors argue that waste is included in the overall GDP, where waste is defined as money spent where the buyer gets no value.

highway accidents - $150 billion/year in health care costs, lost productivity, lost tax revenue, property damage, and police, judicial, and social services costs
social costs of driving - $1 trillion/year building and repairing roads, economic losses due to congestion, ill health caused by air pollution, and medical costs for accidents (this number seems like bs, and it includes the first number. oh well, whatever)
military guarding oil in the Middle East - $50 billion/year, could have been avoided with higher fuel efficiency standards, gutted by Reagan in 1986
medical overhead - $250 billion/year

We need to somehow measure net growth, not just money spent. Things we would identify as net growth: quality of life, more leisure and family time, higher wages, better infrastructure, greater economic security. "GDP not only masks the breakdown of the societal structure and etc, it portrays such breakdown as economic gain." Notable economists who are also against GDP as a measure of growth: Jonathan Rowe of Redefining Progress, William Nordhaus and James Tobin, Robert Repetto.

NC Ch 2 : Reinventing the Wheels

A solution to a particular problem, namely transportation.

Here, the authors tackle the car industry and promote hypercars, a Rocky Mountain Institute design from 1991.

Key features, hydrogen-fuel cell running electric motors, ultralight made out of carbon-fiber composites. (p25)

They say GM promised production-ready hybrids by 2001 and fuel-cell versions by 2004. Ford P2000, 40% lighter, 60-70mpg hybrid versions could be in dealerships by 2000. Supposedly Chrysler and Volkswagen all had plans for hybrids. (p26) So what happened?

In order to make fuel cells themselves cheaper, the authors propose using them in buildings first (2/3 of America's electricity use). "Fuel cells can turn 50-60 percent of the hydrogen's energy into electricity and 170F water" (p34).

Natural gas can be separated into hydrogen for the fuel cells and carbon dioxide, that can be reinjected into the gas field. The authors predict we have 2000 years worth of natural gas. Another option is to use electricity from wind or solar to make hydrogen. I'm a little surprised that it can be efficient to convert from fuel to fuel.

Besides technological improvements, changes in lifestyles and community planning can decrease the need for so much driving. Ave US commute increased over 30% during 1983-1990

1. Make parking and driving bear true costs
2. Foster competition between different modes of transportation
3. Emphasize sensible land use over actual physical mobility - a symptom of being in the wrong place


"parking cash-out" law in CA for firms of 40+ people in smoggy areas.
Frankfurt, Germany, no free parking built along with an office
Britain, taxing firms that provide free or below-market employee parking
Metropolitan Sydney taxes nonresidential parking spaces to fund suburban railway-station parking
Japan, can't buy car unless you prove you have spot to park
Singapore, morning-ruch-hour $3 entry fee cut the number of cars entering the city by 44%, traffic moves 20% faster

narrow windy streets can be safer than wide streets because people drive slower
Amsterdam - 18mph speed limit in central district plus more sidewalks and less parking

Pasadena, CA, free bikes for city workers for commuting
Palo Alto, CA, require office buildings to offer lockers and showers for bikers
Bicycling unit police forces
"virtual mobility" - work from home

clustering of houses, jobs, and shopping
change mortgages and tax rules- Fannie Mae experiment in 1995 with bigger mortgages for energy-efficient homes (p46)

Monday, June 22, 2009

NC Ch 1 : The Next Industrial Revolution

This is a pretty self-explanatory introductory chapter to Natural Capitalsm (1999).

I wanted to take note of some terms, though.

human capital
financial capital
manufactured capital - infrastructure, machines, tools, factories
natural capital

introduces 4 essential strategies
1. radical resource productivity - factor four, factor ten, "Carnoules declaration"

For the past 300 years or so, industrialization and modern economic practices maximize labor productivity. The authors introduce the idea of changing the focus to maximizing resource productivity.

Important factoid: Individuals do 200 times more work than they did 250 years ago.

They claim that many "subsidies to mining, oil, coal, fishing, and forest industries...are vestigial, some dating as far back as the eighteenth century, when European powers provided entrepreneurs with incentives to find and exploit colonial resources. Taxes extracted from labor subsidize patterns of resource use that in turn displace workers." (p14)

This highlights a key contradiction. One person can do the work of 200 people, and yet there are more than 8 times more people today than in 1750 (6.7 billion now, 790 million in 1750) instead of 200 times less. On the one hand, you could say that the economy has "grown," and there is not a shortage of things to do (ie, maintain the environment). However, it does seem that we are running into having an excess of labor. There does seem to be a growing shortage of things to do that you can get paid for and/or the available labor are not capable of doing higher paid tasks.

2. biomimicry - (in the sense that all processes are cyclical)

"Estimate that in the US only 6 percent of fast flows of materials actually end up in products." (p14)

3. service and flow economy - (change of relationship between consumers and producers) Swiss industry analyst Walter Stahel and German chemist Michael Braungart proposed a new industrial model featuring a service economy wherein consumers obtain services by leasing or renting goods rather than buying them outright.

Key contradiction in selling goods instead of services is that "durables manufacturers have a love-hate relationship with durability." The idea of a service economy would be to stop making things that people don't end up using, a way of reducing waste.(p19)

4. investing in natural capital -

deprintable and reprintable papers and inks
cellulose-based plastics
landfilled scrap carpets
roofs and windows and roads as solar-electric collectors

Natural Capitalism

I recently finished Natural Capitalism (1999) by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and L Hunter Lovins.

I thought it was really great, and I highly recommend it as background reading for sustainability.

Each chapter is either about a particular solution specific to a topic (transportation, water, food), a key strategy applicable to any topic, or examples of sustainable projects. I've labeled each chapter below as either a solution, strategy, or example. I'd like to write a post on each chapter describing the big ideas, noting key words and key players, and commenting on follow up research that could be useful for next year's Summit.

Table of contents:
1. The Next Industrial Revolution - (strategy) an intro.

2. Reinventing the Wheels: Hypercars and Neighborhoods - (solution)

3. Waste Not - (strategy)

4. Making the World - (strategy)

5. Building Blocks - (solution)

6. Tunneling Through the Cost Barrier - (strategy) Incremental gains in efficiency cost more until eventually they cost much less. Redefining the costs vs efficiency gains curve.

7. Muda, Service, and Flow - (strategy) This chapter is really a culmination of the previous strategy chapters.

8. Capital Gains - (strategy) Natural system's services are literally priceless since many of them are impossible for us to reproduce. This leads to proposals for changing the tax system, including the idea that we need to tax waste not work.

9. Nature's Filaments (example) Technological gains are allowing us to make textiles and paper more resource efficiently.

10. Food For Life - (solution) How can we achieve sustainable agriculture?

11. Aqueous Solutions - (solution) How can we manage our limited water resources?

12. Climate: Making Sense and Making Money (strategy)

13. Making Markets Work - (strategy)

14. Human Capitalism - (example)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bad Hippie Good Hippie

recent hippie movies.

One about dolphins

And another one about ocean fish going extinct by 2050.

The dolphins one is probably a better movie, while the ocean fish one is more of a conventional environmental awareness movie about doomsday. At the same time, the whole dolphins problem is only a small part of the ocean ecosystem problem. Dolphins are not even endangered.

The fish issue is really worrisome, actually, since it has wide economic and societal repercussions. Apparently bluefin tuna is endangered and so is yellowfin tuna! I wonder which one I eat at the sushi places around here.

Obama is Funny at the Correspondent's Dinner

Obama at radio and tv correspondent's dinner a couple weeks later.

He starts out a little slow, but gets in some good ones.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Unrest in Iran

Americans didn't take to the streets when Bush won in 2000 or 2004.

Kind of exciting. Perhaps there will be a revolution.

I think it'll be historic.

Enforcement by Staring

tactic in Wuhan used by urban control squad getting people to obey civil orders, like keeping the streets clear.

Chinese people are funny!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Flowers From Smark With Cat


Great quote

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower – April, 1953

It was quoted in David MacKay's book, Without the Hot Air.

It is part of a speech he made, the Chance for Peace.
I wish politicians and the public thought this way.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

thoughts on the future of personal transportation vehicles

i went to a conference last week, in newport beach CA. Man, it was beautiful. The sun, the breeze, the OCEAN!! and the traffic and 8 lane roads (not highways) and the endless driving. so yeah, not my ideal place to live, but sure a great place to visit.

anyways! a guy from toyota gave a really good talk about fuel cell cars (FCV) and hybrids (HEV) and plug in hybrids (PHEV). a few key points:

1) there's been a lot of hype about PHEVs getting 100mpg. However, 3+ tests with tens of cars and thousands of miles in the US and Japan have shown between 45 and 55mpg, comparable or worse than a plain HEV. Also, looking at the life cycle analysis, net CO2 emissions per mile driven are barely reduced from the HEV to PHEV when the power comes from typical American electricity sources (ie mostly coal).

2) Even if CO2 emissions from PHEVs were super extra awesome awesome, look at this.

Diminishing returns! sure, 100mpg is cool, but the real place to look for carbon savings is in the truck/RV/van side. Small, light cars and hybrids are really quite carbon-cost effective already.

2.5) so, combining points from 1) and 2), this guy's opinion was that plug in hybrids are kind of a waste of time and money, for both consumers, research dollars and focus. That time and money and effort could be going to improving fuel economy where it'll matter most, and into FCV.

3) FCV are also pretty cool! There was one at UMD last week but I didn't get to drive it :[ Toyota (and other manufacturers) have the technology, and are close to production-ready with cars that have a 300-500 mile range per tank, ~8minute refueling time for pure H2 at 70MPa, and a 25 year lifetime. WOW! The longest I've managed to keep a fuel cell alive is one week. ha. anyways! A couple interesting things - one of the most expensive components in the car is the switching valves that control the H2 flow. So expensive that they are redesigning the entire layout of the car to reduce the number of H2 tanks so that they need fewer valves [this is really inconvenient and expensive - more, smaller, distributed tanks are easier to fit in around other components, and maybe safer]. For the whole infrastructure, another huge cost is the H2 compressors that filling stations need to get the H2 up to 70MPa, which means fewer stations. So complicated! Yay systems engineering.

4) range is important. there's this number out there, that 80% of trips are 40 miles or fewer. But looking at this,

although 80% of trips are less than 40 miles, the remaining 20% of trips consume 65% of the total energy used. So really, you do want to work on higher efficiencies over longer ranges. [I have numbers on ICE (internal combustion engine) vs HEV vs FCV thermal efficiencies somewhere, will look for those later]

5) so toyota's working on cars, but looking forward, they also see a coming shift in personal transportation, and they're getting ready for that too. looking at a future where mid to long distance everyday travel is done by public transit, and there are tiny shared cars to go the 'last 5 miles'. example. person A has a car, drives it to the train station X, parks, rides train to work. Person B takes the train to station X, takes A's car, drives to work. At the end of the day, B brings car back to the station and leaves it there and takes the train home, so the car is waiting for A when he gets off the train and he drives home. Each person is responsible for charging/filling the car before they drop it off. Or other variations on zipcar, etc. He also mentioned Better Place [article is long, you can watch the video instead].

ok. that's what I remember, more analysis later when I'm more awake and un-sick.

ps yang stop slacking and talk to diana

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Feist - Dressed Up and Down

good song

Mass Innovation Nights

I went to a networking event the other day. It was one of a series of Mass Innovation Nights at the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation, which is a pretty cool place, btw! It was interesting and very new to me.

Saw a design collective making fancy housewares called Urban Animal. Turns out they are located in Somerville!

Art in the Park in De Cordova

I think me and some peeps are going to go to an Art sale at DeCordova Sculpture Park this weekend.

Looks like they have an interesting exhibit right now, too, The Weird, Old America.

Maynard James Keenan - a Wino

he's going to be at Whole Foods next Monday selling his wine and signing them. Weird!

Tis the Season For...Heirloom Tomatoes!

They are delicious.

It also seems to be the season for strawberries and peaches. WHOOOO. I like summer.

Longitudinal Study of Happiness and Success

Cool article about the Grant Study Men, people who were part of a long term study that lasted 70 years starting when they were sophomore at Harvard. It's really interesting to read about their lives and their personal development.


Was reminded lately of The Love Below, the solo project by Andre 3000. I knew that before that they did Bombs of Baghdad, which I don't like all that much. It has a lot of acclaim, it seems, because they rap so fast in it. I didn't know they also did a number of Hip Hop classics like So Fresh and So Clean. Well, I don't know if it's really a hip hop classic, but I remember hearing it around a lot, and I think the melody gets sampled a lot.

And also Rosa Parks goes even more way back.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

crazy short film

Titled, "Spider"

Friday, June 5, 2009

Anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Crackdown

the Chinese government's diversion tactics now include "umbrella men"

also, many websites in China are down for "maintenance." people in china have dubbed it "national internet maintenance day."

it's Machiavellian but hilarious.

Hillary Clinton put out a statement. actually, it's pretty good.

Obama's Cairo Speech

review from the NYT

White blog post with link to transcript

some highlights:

But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly to each other the things we hold in our hearts and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground. As the Holy Koran tells us, "Be conscious of God and speak always the truth." (Applause.)

And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear. (Applause.)

But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. (Applause.) Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire.

This was awesome because he said all this stuff praising Islam and the Muslim audience was really feeling good, but you could tell people were balking at the idea that they also need to change their perception of America but that they still wanted to get behind what Obama was saying because it was so logical. Obama made it clear that it is a two-way street.

The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. (Applause.)

America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and we will say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. (Applause.) We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.

People have been saying that Obama is mainly a realist like Bush I, except he uses idealistic rhetoric. People have expressed disappointment that he has "given up" on promoting democracy. I think that's a good thing, though. And while I'm glad he's a pragmatist like Bush I, I think his world view and foreign policy is much more nuanced and embodies a new kind of idealism that's more ambitious in some ways than conventional liberal idealism. Bush I was a pragmatist in that he didn't really know what to do, and he was not particularly interested in promoting peace or solving problems around the world. On the other hand, Obama is interested, but he has a pragmatic approach to solving these problems. He has strong convictions about the nature of these problems and strategies on how to solve them. The key parts of his policy that's really idealistic are :

1.) lead by example instead of demanding democratic reform
2.) win people over by being nice to them to marginalize extremists

Health and Bankruptcy

neato study about the causes of bankruptcy. Guess it really makes sense.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

More Music

I discovered this from listening to the Metronomy radio station on radio.

Foals - Olympic Airways

New Favorite Vegetable : Watercress

watercress is the best! It's good just stirfried by itself. The juices are really good in rice. Plus, it's really good in wontons! You can even eat it raw in a salad or sandwich. Wow.

Seriously, I am impressed.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

George Tiller Gunned Down

George Tiller ran a clinic that performed late-term abortions in Kansas. He was shot Sunday in a church. The "pro-life" movement is violent.

It will be interesting to hear testimonies of his past patients and about their circumstances when they had their abortions.

Oo, I found some.

Global Payments for Healthcare

I heard an interesting piece on healthcare reform on WBUR the other day. It was about changing the way we pay for healthcare to encourage preventative care without letting healthcare providers deny care. This is exciting to me since I do think fundamentally there is a problem if healthcare providers make more money the more services you use.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Pixar Tugging at Heart Strings So Well

Smark and I went to see Disney's Pixar's Up over the weekend. The first 10 min is so sad, everyone cries. But then after the movie, I went home and cried some more. While the rest of the movie wasn't sad, the movie as a whole was poignant in a sophisticated way. They really did a good job putting things in that elicit emotion without doing it really overtly the way the usual Hollywood drama is.

The older I get, the more I can relate to things in movies. I've also been getting soft and sappy. The protagonists in this movie was a nerd couple, too, which was really touching to me, especially since Smark and I are a nerd couple. I'm not used to feeling like the character in a movie is me except for maybe a supporting character. As they show them growing old together, making a house together, it was kind of eerie watching my vision of my own future on the big screen. When they got married, not only did it feel happy and right, but it felt important. I don't think I ever realized how big of a decision it is to get married or understood why it's so emotional. Before, it just seems like a rite and a piece of paper. I felt invested in their marriage. So then it was ever more tragic and personal when the girl gets a miscarriage. I never really considered how terrifying of a prospect that is. On the other hand, sometimes when I am indulging my emo sensibilities, I like to think about dying and leaving someone behind, or what if I am left behind. So seeing that always strikes a chord. They also portrayed all of this in about ten minutes, but I think it was in the style of how we all reminisce or dream about the future so it was more emotional without ruining it by filling it in with bad dialogue.

The movie also made me think of how your understanding of sad situations develop throughout the years from when you're a child to when you're really old. Some things seem so important to you when you're young and you overreact, but at the same time, sometimes there is an underlying situation that is really sad, but you don't even realize how sad the situation really is. As you grow older, you start to foresee the vast and complex implications of things that happen, and suddenly everything is more poignant, and you feel very sensitive and vulnerable.

And...then you're like, eh, the show must go on! Dwelling on sad things is bad for your health.