‘Hyperalarming’ study shows massive insect loss – The Washington Post

Insects around the world are in a crisis, according to a small but growing number of long-term studies showing dramatic declines in invertebrate populations. A new report suggests that the problem is more widespread than scientists realized. Huge numbers of bugs have been lost in a pristine national forest in Puerto Rico, the study found, and the forest’s insect-eating animals have gone missing, too.

In 2014, an international team of biologists estimated that, in the past 35 years, the abundance of invertebrates such as beetles and bees had decreased by 45 percent. In places where long-term insect data are available, mainly in Europe, insect numbers are plummeting. A study last year showed a 76 percent decrease in flying insects in the past few decades in German nature preserves.

Source: ‘Hyperalarming’ study shows massive insect loss – The Washington Post

Jailbirds: Scooters and Sidewalks

Bird Scooter


As most residents are now aware, a few weeks ago the city of Raleigh become one of the few lucky (?) municipalities to get rentable electric scooters. These scooters (mostly of the Bird brand at this point) have been zipping merry residents from one end of town to the other for a small fee. While many are pleased that this new mobility choice has possibly decreased the number of car trips, others have pointed to the dockless nature of the scooters and how this inevitably leads to the scooters blocking sidewalks.

The City Council has not yet weighed in on the legality of scooters making their home on the sidewalks without having first been given official permission. Thus, they are operating in kind of a gray area. I decided to look into the Raleigh Municipal Code to see what laws we have on the books regarding sidewalks and motor vehicles.

It didn’t take long to find the relevant section in the Raleigh Municipal Code (and conveniently linked to from the links page of my EastRaleigh.Org website – I am awesome). Emphasis is mine:

Sec. 11-2171. – PARKING PROHIBITED IN CERTAIN PLACES.

(a) Obstructing traffic.

It shall be unlawful for any person to stop, stand or park any motor vehicle upon a street , or alley, in such manner or under such conditions as to obstruct the free movement of vehicular traffic, except that a driver may stop temporarily during the actual unloading of passengers or when necessary to obey traffic regulations or signs or signals, or signals of a police officer .

(b) Designated places.

No person shall stop, stand or park a motor vehicle (attended or unattended) except when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic or in compliance with the directions of a police officer or traffic-control device in any of the following places:

(1) On a sidewalk, in the area between the roadway and the sidewalk, in the area between the right-of-way line and the roadway or in the median area of a divided roadway

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Accelerating the throw-away society

Massive insulated bag for a bag of candy

Watched as a UPS driver wrestled with a heavy “meal delivery” box last week. Then today this bag of candy got delivered to the office. I was aghast. In both cases, 99% is wasteful packaging, ice packs and insulation blankets that go in the trash so here’s what I suggest:

1. Want a fancy meal? Cook it or eat out.
2. Want candy? Buy it at your local store.

Convenience is killing us, y’all.

Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index – Digiconomist

According to these numbers, a single Bitcoin transaction uses the same amount of electricity as thirty-one U.S. households use in one day. Insanity.

Bitcoin electricty consumption

The continuous block mining cycle incentivizes people all over the world to mine Bitcoin. As mining can provide a solid stream of revenue, people are very willing to run power-hungry machines to get a piece of it. Over the years this has caused the total energy consumption of the Bitcoin network to grow to epic proportions, as the price of the currency reached new highs. The entire Bitcoin network now consumes more energy than a number of countries, based on a report published by the International Energy Agency. If Bitcoin was a country, it would rank as shown below.

Source: Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index – Digiconomist

Raleigh charities signed off on Simple Recycling deal

I’m still poking through all the meeting notes, but I thought it notable that the local Salvation Army signed off on the deal when it was presented to Raleigh City Council at its 3 January 2017 meeting. From Council minutes: [PDF]

Lisa Rivers, Salvation Army Advisory Board, told about herself, work she has done and stated she and the Salvation Army Advisory Board are huge advocates of the proposed program. They feel it would be cost efficient, provide positive environmental impacts, etc. Ms. Rivers pointed out she is on the committee which looks for/receives donations and feels the proposed program will actually increase the donations many nonprofits receive. She stated most people who donate do not consider their donations “trash.” She feels the proposed program is a great opportunity for all and feels it will create a lot of awareness related to needs, donations, be a great thing, and
be much more effective and provide a return for all. It is a great opportunity and will provide a great partnership.

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City of Raleigh begins first in state curbside textile recycling program | abc11.com

Recycling bin

The City of Raleigh has teamed up with a for-profit company to collect clothing along with recycling. The company, SimpleRecycling, will resell the items.

I know Bianca Howard and I think the city’s recycling program is top notch, however I’m uneasy with the city’s staff doing the dirty work of a for-profit company. I’m especially uneasy with the idea that this clothing could instead have gone to charities to distribute to people who need it, free of charge. Austin’s deal with the company has become controversial after local non-profits complained it was hurting their donations.

I think I’ll pass.

RALEIGH, NC (WTVD) –The City of Raleigh will begin to offer a textile recycling program on February 20th.Stay on top of breaking news stories with the ABC11 News AppRaleigh is the first city in North Carolina to partner with Simple Recycling, a for-profit company that sells the items domestically and internationally so residents will not receive a tax write off for their items.”They’re providing this service at no charge to residents of Raleigh,” City of Raleigh Environmental Coordinator Bianca Howard said.”Residents who prefer to get a tax deduction or help a favorite charity should continue to do that,” she said. “We really see this as another way to help people learn about textiles and keep good textiles out of the landfill.”

Source: City of Raleigh begins first in state curbside textile recycling program | abc11.com

Cheap Renewables Keep Pushing Fossil Fuels Further Away From Profitability – Despite Trump’s Efforts

Rapid cost declines made renewable energy the United States’ cheapest available source of new electricity, without subsidies, in 2017. In many parts of the U.S., building new wind is cheaper than running existing coal, while nuclear and natural gas aren’t far behind. As renewable energy costs continue their relentless decline, they keep pushing fossil fuels further from profitability – and neither trend is slowing down.

This dynamic is apparent in the decade spanning 2008-2017, where nearly all retired U.S. power plants were fossil fuel generation, and was capped by utilities announcing 27 coal plant closures totaling 22 gigawatts (GW) of capacity in 2017. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts coal closures will continue through 2020, potentially setting an all-time annual record in 2018.

Source: Cheap Renewables Keep Pushing Fossil Fuels Further Away From Profitability – Despite Trump’s Efforts

In Vancouver, 50% of trips are by foot, bike, or transit. This video shows how they did it. – Vox

Vancouver, British Columbia, has aggressive aspirations for sustainability. Its goal is to be entirely powered by clean energy by 2050 — not just electricity, but transportation and heating as well. (I talked to city manager Sadhu Johnston about it in July 2016.)

As part of that effort, the city adopted the goal of 50 percent “sustainable mode share” by 2020 — half of all trips in the city taken by walking, biking, or transit rather than automobile.Fun fact: The city hit that target in 2015, five years early.

The video above, by Clarence Eckerson Jr. of Streetfilms, tells the story of how it happened. As Brent Toderian, a former Vancouver chief planner (who I interviewed at length in June), explains in the film, the city’s success traces all the way back to the 1960s and ’70s, when the extraordinarily prescient citizens of Vancouver rejected a plan to build a network of urban freeways through the city.

Source: In Vancouver, 50% of trips are by foot, bike, or transit. This video shows how they did it. – Vox

Artificially lit surface of Earth at night increasing in radiance and extent | Science Advances

I have long been a proponent of streetlights, thinking that they reduce crime. Lately, I’ve been reconsidering my position, especially once I saw the stunning astrophotography my friend Rowland has been doing.

Dark skies are natural. Artificial street lighting is by definition not natural, and its increasing prevalence has repercussions that we are only beginning to understand.

I am now starting to think that, like air conditioning, electric light is meant for the indoors.

A central aim of the “lighting revolution” (the transition to solid-state lighting technology) is decreased energy consumption. This could be undermined by a rebound effect of increased use in response to lowered cost of light. We use the first-ever calibrated satellite radiometer designed for night lights to show that from 2012 to 2016, Earth’s artificially lit outdoor area grew by 2.2% per year, with a total radiance growth of 1.8% per year. Continuously lit areas brightened at a rate of 2.2% per year. Large differences in national growth rates were observed, with lighting remaining stable or decreasing in only a few countries. These data are not consistent with global scale energy reductions but rather indicate increased light pollution, with corresponding negative consequences for flora, fauna, and human well-being.

Source: Artificially lit surface of Earth at night increasing in radiance and extent | Science Advances

Wikimedia photo by Oleg Volk, www.olegvolk.net

The Scary New Evidence on BPA-Free Plastics – Mother Jones

Yikes!

The center shipped Juliette’s plastic cup, along with 17 others purchased from Target, Walmart, and Babies R Us, to CertiChem, a lab in Austin, Texas. More than a quarter—including Juliette’s—came back positive for estrogenic activity. These results mirrored the lab’s findings in its broader National Institutes of Health-funded research on BPA-free plastics. CertiChem and its founder, George Bittner, who is also a professor of neurobiology at the University of Texas-Austin, had recently coauthored a paper in the NIH journal Environmental Health Perspectives. It reported that “almost all” commercially available plastics that were tested leached synthetic estrogens—even when they weren’t exposed to conditions known to unlock potentially harmful chemicals, such as the heat of a microwave, the steam of a dishwasher, or the sun’s ultraviolet rays. According to Bittner’s research, some BPA-free products actually released synthetic estrogens that were more potent than BPA.

Source: The Scary New Evidence on BPA-Free Plastics – Mother Jones