We should never have called it Earth. Three quarters of the planet’s surface is saltwater, and most of it does not lap at tranquil beaches for our amusement. The ocean is deep; things are lost at sea. Sometimes we throw them there: messages in bottles, the bodies of mutinous sailors, plastic bags of plastic debris. Our sewage.
Sometimes the things we lose slip unnoticed down the sides of passing ships. We expect never to see lost objects again, but every so often they are carried by shifting currents and swirling eddies to wash ashore on distant beaches. We are reminded that things, once submerged, have a habit of returning.
I am not afraid of the ocean, although I should be. On hot summer weekends I take my son to the beach. He toddles toward the water, laughs at the lazy waves splashing his fat baby legs. I follow behind, turn him back when the water reaches his naked belly. He is too young to know the sea gets deeper, that eventually it rises above your head and you must swim so as not to drown. I am prepared for nightmares as he grows and learns about the vastness of the ocean and the monsters real and imagined that swim there. He will soon know that evil things lurk in the deep.
Los Angeles Power and Water officials have struck a deal on the largest and cheapest solar + battery-storage project in the world, at prices that leave fossil fuels in the dust and may relegate nuclear power to the dustbin.Later this month the LA Board of Water and Power Commissioners is expected to approve a 25-year contract that will serve 7 percent of the city’s electricity demand at 1.997¢/kwh for solar energy and 1.3¢ for power from batteries.
“This is the lowest solar-photovoltaic price in the United States,” said James Barner, the agency’s manager for strategic initiatives, “and it is the largest and lowest-cost solar and high-capacity battery-storage project in the U.S. and we believe in the world today. So this is, I believe, truly revolutionary in the industry.”
A remarkable thing happened in the US in April. For the first time ever, renewable electricity generation beat out coal-fired electricity generation on a national level, according to the Energy Information Agency (EIA). While renewable energy—including hydro, wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass—constituted 23 percent of the nation’s power supply, coal-fired electricity only contributed 20 percent of our power supply.
Last month was the hottest June ever recorded, the EU‘s satellite agency has announced.Data provided by the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), implemented by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts on behalf of the EU, showed that the global average temperature for June 2019 was the highest on record for the month.
Ten feet before us, a sewer pipe made out of limestone spews yellow-brownish insults into the reef ecosystem. The pipe’s mouth is barely visible through the cluster of baitfish and foragers, a silver mass of twitch and glide binging on nutrients long processed and evacuated by Broward County taxpayers. A goliath grouper bullies its way through and enters the pipe to feed. I’m told to watch out for fishing lines—an entanglement hazard for the sub’s thrusters. The Hollywood outfall pipe serves as a popular fishing spot, toilet to table.
It is difficult to exaggerate just what a sea change has taken place in the discussion of renewable energy in recent years.
Oldsters like me remember when the idea that (unsubsidized) renewable energy would be able to compete directly with fossil fuels was downright utopian. As late as the early 2000s, people were debating whether it would happen this century, or at all.
But the extraordinary progress of renewables in the past two decades has moved that hoped-for future closer and closer. And now, unbelievably, it is right on our doorstep.
It’s one thing for advocates or energy analysts to say that, of course. It’s something else to hear it coming out of the mouths of energy executives. But these days, residents of the C-suite are discussing renewable energy in terms that would have made hippies blush a decade ago.
Teenagers like to take long showers. They can easily spend 20 minutes in there, idling away their time as well as the family’s hot water. I’d done a few rounds of knocking on the bathroom door. I’d even taped photos of baby Arctic seals on the door to remind the kids of the consequences. Didn’t seem to get the point across.
When one night came where one of the kids drained the hot water from our tank I knew desperate measures were needed. I threatened to switch out the nice Delta showerhead with a miserly spray one, guaranteed to save water at the price of a miserable shower experience. Certainly that would get the point across but I knew I’d soon have to swap it out. You know, the Geneva Convention and all.
I began to ponder how a proper geek might solve the problem. I am a Site Reliability Engineer in my day job and I love gathering metrics on the computers I wrangle. What if there were a way to track my kids’ use of water? Wouldn’t it be great to show them how much water their showers actually use? I began to dream up a product I could create that would do just that but then some clever Googling showed me one was already out there: the Water Hawk.
China’s refusal to accept American recycling could lead to a drastic change in consumer habits. Perhaps we will finally have a discussion about our throwaway society.
For decades, we were sending the bulk of our recycling to China—tons and tons of it, sent over on ships to be made into goods such as shoes and bags and new plastic products. But last year, the country restricted imports of certain recyclables, including mixed paper—magazines, office paper, junk mail—and most plastics. Waste-management companies across the country are telling towns, cities, and counties that there is no longer a market for their recycling. These municipalities have two choices: pay much higher rates to get rid of recycling, or throw it all away.
A good analysis on which mode of transportation is the greenest.
One question we’ve fielded lately with the release of our US airline efficiency ranking is how the fuel efficiency, and therefore carbon intensity, of aircraft compare to other modes of transportation. Vehicles meet a variety of transport needs, in terms of what is transported (people vs. goods), distance traveled (short intercity trips vs. transoceanic transport), and speed (12 mph on a bike vs. Mach 0.85 in a long-haul aircraft). Typically, travelers choose between different transport modes based upon a variety of criteria—cost, speed, comfort, even safety—with carbon footprint generally only a secondary consideration. But, for those relative few who would consider planning a trip with carbon dioxide emissions in mind, here are some preliminary thoughts.
Insects are the most abundant animals on planet Earth. If you were to put them all together into one creepy-crawly mass, they’d outweigh all humanity by a factor of 17.
Insects outweigh all the fish in the oceans and all the livestock munching grass on land. Their abundance, variety (there could be as many as 30 million species), and ubiquity mean insects play a foundational role in food webs and ecosystems: from the bees that pollinate the flowers of food crops like almonds to the termites that recycle dead trees in forests.
Insects are also superlative for another, disturbing reason: They’re vanishing at a rate faster than mammals, fish, amphibians, and reptiles.
“The pace of modern insect extinctions surpasses that of vertebrates by a large margin,” write the authors of an alarming new review in Biological Conservation of the scientific literature on insect populations published in the past 40 years. The state of insect biodiversity, they write, is “dreadful.” And their biomass — the estimated weight of all insects on Earth combined — is dropping by an estimated 2.5 percent every year.
In all, the researchers conclude that as much as 40 percent of all insect species may be endangered over the next several decades. (Caveat: Most of the data was obtained from studies conducted in Europe and North America.) And around 41 percent of all insect species on record have seen population declines in the past decade.
“We estimate the current proportion of insect species in decline … to be twice as high as that of vertebrates, and the pace of local species extinction … eight times higher,” the authors write. “It is evident that we are witnessing the largest [insect] extinction event on Earth since the late Permian and Cretaceous periods.”