Mushrooms have the power to eat plastic say scientists

Fungi can be used to break down waste plastic and create sustainable building materials, according to scientists from Kew Gardens in London.

The State of the World’s Fungi 2018 report – the first of its kind – highlights the aspergillus tubingensis fungus, found in a Pakistani rubbish tip and first documented in 2017. It claims this substance can break down plastic in weeks rather than years.

Researchers say it could be used to deal with the global plastic-waste crisis, which has caused concern in the design industry and beyond.

Aspergillus tubingensis can grow on the surface of plastics, where it secretes enzymes that break the chemical bonds between plastic molecules.

“This ability thus has potential to be developed into one of the tools desperately needed to address the growing environmental problem of plastic waste,” reads the report.

Report explores “huge potential for fungi”

The report was compiled by a team of researchers at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, which is one of the leading institutions for fungal research internationally.

It provides an overview of current knowledge about mushrooms and other fungi, and charts their usefulness to both the natural and industrial worlds.

Source: Mushrooms have the power to eat plastic say scientists

Will it take another American Civil War to transition from fossil fuels?

Will our addiction to oil drain every last drop? "Having taken oil for granted for decades, the global economy has failed to prepare for its absence. A bleak future awaits . . .

…Today's energy supplies provide the equivalent of the work of 22 billion slaves, according to former oil industry man Colin Campbell. But now the wave of oil looks set to leave us high and dry. At well over $100 per barrel, prices are climbing again to the level last reached in 2008. Since then, however, the tone of commentary has changed." ~Andrew Simms

“In 1860, slaves as property were worth more than all the banks, factories and railroads in the country put together,” ~Eric Foner

"There is no energy crisis, only a crisis of ignorance." ~R. Buckminster Fuller

Conservative Southern businessmen backed a civil war in defense of their business model and business interests. Given that the business model had been operating in the New World for two centuries, the livelihoods of much of the population depended upon it, and had 100 years of bedrock support in the US Constitution, it may be understandable that only a bloody conflict could reconcile the inherent contradictions embedded in that system.

More than two hundred years after that horrible conflict, the nation is again bitterly divided politically, ideologically, and economically, about an economy dominated by a problematic industry, fossil fuels.

Carbon, is the foundation of the global economy and fossil-fuel based industries in the US have trillions of dollars invested in human and industrial capital. These investments supply not only the energy needs of the rest of the economy, they power our pension and investment funds as well. Furthermore, petroleum-based ancillary industries and products also complicate matters. Our food, textiles, technology, construction, etc. industries, all depend upon inputs from fossil fuels.

Millions of people depend upon income derived from fossil-fuels and although in principle they may agree with the abstract goals of sustainability, when the chips are down, most will choose the real "in-your-face" needs of their families over the perceived benefits of a green future.

Progressives are spot on about the facts of possible futures, about the need to systemically and urgently move away from fossil fuels. Conservatives are correct that there isn't enough money in the world to solve all problems everywhere now, and do it effectively using the middleman of Big Government.

If we are to effectively, justly, and quickly meet the ever evolving challenges of Climate Change, we will need more efficacious tools than stalemated government and self-interested business.

There are several sources of capital for the purpose of addressing human problems; business, government, wealthy people, foundations. Each has advantages and disadvantages but we tend to favor one source or another based upon ideology, politics, and one's values.

What is lacking is not money, what is lacking is imagination and a genuine sense of a shared future. This we can not blame on the other. This we must honestly confront with the woman/man in the mirror. If we can learn the rudimentary lessons of Human cooperation, embrace complexity and inclusion in our social relationships, be flexible and creative, we can begin to truly begin solving problems instead of preaching to our respective choirs and lobbing rotten eggs at one another from behind our group-defined walls and moats. We are One Human Family, living on a blessed and beneficent planet, let's do a better job of acting like it. Our children deserve no less.

Our addiction to oil is draining every last drop – The Guardian

Swiss startup Energy Vault is stacking concrete blocks to store energy — Quartz

Swiss-based Energy Vault provides an alternative to pumped-hydro energy storage by using concrete blocks and cranes instead of water and dams. The Energy Vault concept contends that because concrete is denser than water, lifting a block of concrete requires more energy and can store more energy than a water tank of the same size.

Source: Swiss startup Energy Vault is stacking concrete blocks to store energy — Quartz

Figuring out how climate change affects the fungi that feeds trees and absorbs carbon

Despite aspen’s ability to grow from the northernmost reaches of Canada to the highest altitudes in Mexico, the tree is on the run. The southern part of the aspen’s range is drying up, while the northern edges are warming up and thus becoming more conducive to the tree’s survival, because of climate change, said Justine Karst, the NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Terrestrial Restoration Ecology.

And while the shrinking, expanding or shifting of a tree’s habitat is always cause for concern, Karst said the bigger questions surround what then happens to one of nature’s unheralded carbon sink champions and a plant’s best friend—the mysterious mycorrhizal fungi.

According to Karst, mycorrhizal fungi—which comes in two types, arbuscular and ectomycorrhizal—colonize the fine root tips of just about every tree and plant on Earth.

In a symbiotic ballet from which life as we know it is allowed to spring, these mycorrhizal fungi grow tiny branch-like hypha into the soil to break down organic matter in a way that roots can’t, taking up nutrients and essentially feeding to the plant.

“A tree could not grow without them,” explained Karst.

While most fungi get their carbon from decomposing matter, Karst said mycorrhizal fungi have given up that ability over time and are completely reliant on a living host to get their carbon supply, which they get through the plant’s sugars

“It is a mutualism, so, yes, they both need each other.”

And while this nutrient transfer from the fungi is what feeds the tree, it’s offering is what makes the headlines these day.

Karst explained those carbon-laden sugars begin as carbon dioxide in the air before it is photosynthesized by the plant.

“Upwards of 40 per cent of those sugars get allocated below ground to support these symbiotes,” she said. “As we learn about mycorrhiza, we learn they affect a lot of ecosystem processes; one of them is carbon cycling.”

Researchers believe that up to 50 per cent of carbon in soils is derived by mycorrhizal fungi.

Karst said she chose to study the aspen because of its wide range and the fact it is the rare species of tree that hosts both ectomycorrhizal and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. Because they differ in size and carbon-cycling rates—the larger ectomycorrhizal fungi requires more carbon and leaks more carbon into the soil—she thinks she will be able to determine what is happening to the ecosystem as aspens get stressed and then are lost.

“What I’m interested in is before aspen moves across the landscape, and how a changing environment affects the mycorrhizal community and the cascading effects on ecosystem processes like carbon cycling,” she said. “Typically when we are thinking about roots and microorganisms, we don’t necessarily connect them to these larger scale ecosystem processes. We don’t think of them affecting the forest as whole. There is that avenue of recognizing when we are thinking of forest health, resiliency and productivity—you also have to think these microbes in the soil.

“When you think of the health of the forest, its resiliency and productivity and how it is going to function in the future, we need to recognize that these small things matter.”

Source: Figuring out how climate change affects the fungi that feeds trees and absorbs carbon

Texas Could See $100 Million In Solar Investments

A deal announced Monday could mean a $100 million towards solar projects in Texas. Austin-based solar power company PowerFin Partners will develop and build the projects and Toronto-based real estate investors Fengate will finance the deals as part of today’s announced co-development deal.

“Financing of solar projects is pretty difficult,” said Tuan Pham, president of PowerFin. “(The deal) allows Fengate to focus on the financing and us to focus on the operating, development, and construction.”

Source: Texas Could See $100 Million In Solar Investments | Texas Public Radio

CPS Energy Board of Trustees Public Input Session

When:  June 13, 2018 at 5 PM – 8:30 PM

Where: Villita Assembly Building 401 Villita St
San Antonio, Texas 78205 Show Map
Complimentary parking at Navarro St Garage, 126 Navarro

You are invited to attend a CPS Energy Board of Trustees Public Input Session about Our Flexible Path. Join us and learn about our Flexible Path plan and how we'll meet the future of energy needs of our community.  Hosted by CPS Energy

5 – 6pm: Sign up to speak
5 – 6pm: Simple Summer Savings event (get savings tips and learn about our programs)
6 – 8:30pm: Public Input Session

The Burden — American Resilience Project

The San Antonio chapters of the Citizens Climate Lobby, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance held a panel discussion on June 9, 2018 about how fossil fuel dependence affects national security — and how the military is primed to lead the transition into clean energy.

“The Burden makes a compelling case about the importance of energy security. Dependence on fossil fuels is not just an environmental concern: it’s a matter of national security. That’s why the military invests in renewable and efficient energy, and why the nation should invest in a clean energy future.” — Sharon Burke, Former Assistant Secretary of Defense

About the film:
The Burden tells the story of fossil fuel dependence as our greatest long-term national security threat, and why the military is leading the transition to clean energy. The film is the centerpiece of a strategic media engagement campaign to inspire a movement that strengthens our energy security and harnesses the power of American innovation to make us leaders in the 21st century global clean energy economy.

The Burden presents the determined voices of those within the military and across the political spectrum who advocate for breaking America’s addiction to fossil fuels as essential to improving our national security.

Featuring high-level active duty and retired military leaders, elected officials and others, the film illustrates a tale of energy innovation. Some of our country’s most vital consumer technologies emerged out of military needs, such as the Internet and GPS, and the military is poised to play the same role again with energy.

However, as the film highlights, the fossil fuel industry’s powerful political influence poses major challenges to successfully developing renewable energy alternatives, even within the military. But the resolute advocates featured in The Burden are determined to break the energy impasse in order to improve American security and prosperity.

Source: The Burden — American Resilience Project

If You Want To Frac Clean Up Your Act

An open verse to the National Petroleum Council, and who else to include? Please comment below and feel free to forward along to those who could most benefit…

If you’re going to frac, at least, clean up your act.
Have some damn self-respect and consideration
for yourself, children and future generations.

If you want to frac, then clean up your act.
And quit your flaring! It causes people to wheeze,
and at the very least to sneeze violently!
Stop operating so sloppily, as if your business is an old jalopy!

So what if gas is too cheap to capture compared to flare.
When you flare too much methane is released into our atmosphere,
turning, “now we’re cooking with gas”, into being no better than burning coal.
Come on you mental wimp, rise to the challenge, sack up and clean up your act!

Cause the rest of us don’t care to bear the cost of your wasteful operating methods.
So, if not for us, at least for yourself, have some damn self-respect,
and fix your inefficient wasteful plumbing problem of a deficit
that you continue to allow in it’s release of greenhouse gas emissions.

If you want to frac, clean up your act! And quit using
10,000,000 gallons of fresh water to frack one well.
Reuse flowback, clean and recycle wastewater fluids so you won't
need so many disposal wells, that too often cause earthquakes.

Have some self-respect and properly monitor
your well sites and pipelines, and take personal responsibility
to clean up your act, if you wanna frac.
Then you don't have to be crony capitalist exempt,
from the clean air, water and safe drinking water acts.

Otherwise, sooner rather than later, you’ll be disrupted out of business,
with more efficient, cheaper and cleaner renewable sources of energy.
Whale blubber and buggy whips were once fine industries too,
but it didn't take a rocket scientist to say, “who woulda knew”,
that new technology rewards you to move along to better ways,
of doing things these days that help you clean up your act.

So if you want to frac, at least clean up your act
and do something to shut up those damn hippies, treehuggers
and other do-gooders, who not only just want to make this world a better place,
but actually know they can, by getting up off their cans,
and doing something about shutting your dirty-ass industry down.
So if you want to frack, please, clean up your act and become a class act.

Your mother, children and grandchildren will be glad and proud of you that you did.

So if you want to frac clean up your act, asshole, we don’t want our country to become
a shithole country…like 45 likes to talk about and so much despises.

I hope we got my fracs straight, er, uh, I mean facts straight?
You can get confused when things go horizontal, rather than just directional,
and that's just a fraction of it, but you still need to make a correction to your operating methods!

Otherwise, people will continue to make art like this about your industry:

When you don't clean up your act this art is how people react.

When you don't clean up your act this art is how people react.

*Much thanks to Alice Canestaro-Garcia for her artwork, support and encouragement to post this. Alice has an excellent history in the arts community and working in the fine arts industry as a talented artist and also as a highly skilled researcher, events and strategic planner, teacher, and great community outreach advocate. Also, much thanks to these great spirits who believe everyday in putting their actions into being the change and leading the change. And on April 28th at the steps of City Hall provided the inspiration to write this: Sophia Sepulveda, Claudia Sanchez, Pete Bella, Moby Warren, Greg Harman, Deceleration, Climate Action SA

Companies knew about the link between fossil fuel and global warming as far back as the 1980s

Is it a surprise that Shell has known for years the dangers of fossil fuels? The same goes for ExxonMobil also having known. What should or can be done about it?

A Dutch news organization has published a trove of internal documents from the oil giant Shell showing the company knew about the link between fossil fuel and global warming as far back as the 1980s. Despite their own findings, Shell, like other oil companies, publicly disputed the climate science for decades.

One confidential 1988 report from Shell was titled “The Greenhouse Effect.” It read, “Although CO2 is emitted to the atmosphere through several natural processes … the main cause of increasing CO2 concentrations is considered to be fossil fuel burning.” Friends of the Earth Netherlands is threatening to sue Shell unless it increases efforts to comply with the Paris climate accord. (Shell Knew: Documents Show Oil Giant Hid Dangers of Fossil Fuels for Decades)

This 1988 Shell report, discovered by Jelmer Mommers of De Correspondent, shines light on what the company knew about climate science, its own role in driving global CO2 emissions, the range of potential political and social responses to a warming world.

The confidential report, “The Greenhouse Effect,” was authored by members of Shell’s Greenhouse Effect Working Group and based on a 1986 study, though the document reveals Shell was commissioning “greenhouse effect” reports as early as 1981. Report highlights include:

  • A thorough review of climate science literature, including acknowledgement of fossil fuels’ dominant role in driving greenhouse gas emissions. More importantly, Shell quantifies its own products’ contribution to global CO2 emissions.
  • A detailed analysis of potential climate impacts, including rising sea levels, ocean acidification, and human migration.
  • A discussion of the potential impacts to the fossil fuel sector itself, including legislation, changing public sentiment, and infrastructure vulnerabilities. Shell concludes that active engagement from the energy sector is desirable.
  • A cautious response to uncertainty in scientific models, pressing for sincere consideration of solutions even in the face of existing debates.
  • A warning to take policy action early, even before major changes are observed to the climate.

In short, by 1988 Shell was not only aware of the potential threats posed by climate change, it was open about its own role in creating the conditions for a warming world. Similar documents by ExxonMobil, oil trade associations, and utility companies have emerged in recent years, though this Shell document is a rare, early, and concrete accounting of climate responsibility by an oil major.

1988 Shell Confidential Report “The Greenhouse Effect”

San Antonio ranks 6th in U.S. solar

The Alamo City — which was in eighth place last year — now has 161 megawatts of direct current solar power installed, according to the latest Shining Cities report from Environment America. The numbers are through the end of 2017.

Direct current is the power produced by solar panels before being converted to alternating current, which powers homes, and typically is measured at a higher level than AC power due to loss from conversion.

The growth is a 37.6 percent increase over the 117 megawatts of solar that San Antonio had installed by the end of 2016.

“That is the largest growth in the state of Texas in solar and it jumps San Antonio up two places in the rankings from eighth place last year to sixth place this year,” said Luke Metzger, director of the advocacy group Environment Texas, which is part of Environment America.

The latest numbers show San Antonio swapping places with Indianapolis, which had previously been sixth and is now eighth, and pushing past New York City, which San Antonio was ranked just behind last year.

City-owned CPS Energy’s Chief Operating Officer Cris Eugster attributed most of the growth to the utility’s rooftop solar rebate program.

Source: San Antonio ranks 6th in U.S. solar – San Antonio Express-News

8 Answers to the Judge’s Climate Change Questions in Cities vs. Fossil Fuels Case

San Francisco and Oakland want to hold fossil fuel companies liable for sea level rise costs. In an unusual move, the judge ordered a climate tutorial for the court.

Judicial review is about to meet peer review in a federal courtroom in San Francisco, where sparring cities and fossil fuel companies have been called to brief U.S. District Judge William Alsup this Wednesday on the basics of climate change.

It's an unusual arrangement, seemingly borrowed from patent litigation, where judges commonly hear initial testimony from both sides on pertinent scientific details.

That's done because the U.S. Supreme Court has directed that the meaning of a patent's words is a matter of law, to be decided by a judge—not a matter of fact to be decided by a jury.

You wouldn't think the science of climate change was like that. No court finding can dictate whether man-made greenhouse gas emissions are warming the planet and causing damage to people, ecosystems and cities. A jury, if this case reaches one, ought to be able to comprehend overwhelming evidence that explains these realities.

Source: 8 Answers to the Judge’s Climate Change Questions in Cities vs. Fossil Fuels Case | InsideClimate News

Meet the Satellites That Can Pinpoint Methane and Carbon Dioxide Leaks – Scientific American

We have many ways of measuring methane and CO2 levels. When we measure it we can manage it…if we really want to know and manage it. Polluters can’t hide anymore.

Source: Meet the Satellites That Can Pinpoint Methane and Carbon Dioxide Leaks – Scientific American

We have many ways of measuring methane and CO2 levels. When we measure it we can manage it...if we really want to know and manage it.

We have many ways of measuring methane and CO2 levels. When we measure it we can manage it…if we really want to know and manage it.

San Antonio’s CPS Energy faces criticism on clean energy strategy – San Antonio Express-News

San Antonio’s public utility, CPS Energy, faced blowback from city leaders and environmental groups Thursday on its newly released strategic power plan that takes decades to fully transition to renewable sources of energy.

“A lot of folks felt blindsided by this,” said Russell Seal, a conservation committee co-chair for the Sierra Club’s Alamo Group, outside of City Council chambers before the Thursday meeting with CPS. Seal and a handful of other people showed up to protest the proposal.

The meeting — a regularly scheduled presentation by CPS — came just days after the utility revealed some of its future power-generation planning that assumes the city will continue to rely on coal and natural gas through at least 2040.

Under the “flexible path” plan released Tuesday, solar, wind and other renewable energy would account for half of San Antonio’s power sources by 2040. Gas and coal-fired plants would make up 20 percent of the utility’s power generation by then, with 16 percent coming from a new “flex gen” idea that counts on future technology and power storage.

The utility, which is owned by the city, currently gets roughly 22 percent of its energy from renewable sources, 45 percent from natural gas, 18 percent from coal and 14 percent from nuclear.

“It’s absurd to think that we should have any coal in our energy mix anywhere close to 2042. All coal should be phased out over the next decade if CPS is at all serious about addressing climate change and the impact air pollution has on public health,” Terry Burns, the Sierra Club’s Alamo Group chair, said in an emailed statement. “It is irresponsible and a slap in the face to San Antonio area residents with asthma and other respiratory diseases to continue running Spruce 1 for another 12 years, especially without modern pollution controls.”

The utility’s CEO, Paula Gold-Williams, sought to cool tension at the meeting, assuring City Council members that the plan could change.

“Its not a baked plan that has no flexibility; the operative word is flexible,” Gold-Williams told the council. “Every year we create a look and view of the future based on what we know, and we do multiple updates and thinking and scenarios. That’s planning.”

The plan would shut down CPS’ Spruce 1 coal plant, which went online in 1992, in 2030. The Spruce 2 coal plant, which was completed in 2010 for roughly $1 billion, would run until at least 2042, according to data provided by CPS.

CPS is planning to close the two 1970s-era J.T. Deely coal units at the end of 2018.

San Antonio mayor warns fire union proposal could hurt CPS Energy credit rating
CPS Energy’s Future of Energy Symposium shines little light on what’s next for energy mix
San Antonio’s CPS Energy faces criticism on clean energy strategy

District 9 Councilman John Courage asked Gold-Williams why CPS couldn’t just move to 100 percent renewable energy, pointing to the community of Georgetown north of Austin as an example of a city that has made such a commitment.

“That’s a declaration of commitment, and it’s backed up by power agreements in the background that can allocate renewable power fully to cover all the demand and load, which is a viable way to do it,” Gold-Williams said. “But in
reality, power is moving indiscriminately all across the grid all the time, electrons love everybody, and in reality all the power goes in there and they could be getting … like during storms and freezing and there’s no sun and no wind, they’re getting power from other units.”

Power purchase agreements, or PPAs, allow utilities to lock in the generation created by renewable facilities at fixed costs for long periods of times, generally for up to 25 years. CPS Energy uses power purchase agreements signed with multiple companies for most of its wind and solar generation, while it owns its fossil-fuel generation and a stake in a nuclear plant.

Kaiba White, an Austin-based energy policy specialist for Public Citizen, said that power purchase agreements are little different from a utility owning its power generation.

“It kind of hurt me to hear that there’s this idea being perpetuated that Georgetown isn’t doing something real because they don’t own their solar farm,” White said.

Rye Druzin is a San Antonio Express-News energy reporter. Read more of his stories here. | [email protected] | @druz_journo

Source: San Antonio’s CPS Energy faces criticism on clean energy strategy – San Antonio Express-News

Basura Bash Event 2018 – Saturday, February 17, 2018

Basura Bash is a one day, all volunteer event to clean the San Antonio Watershed. Choose a Tributary in your area.

Here’s what you need to know to help pitch in with the Basura Bash Annual Waterways Cleanup Event.

Volunteers will collect trash from the banks of San Antonio area waterways listed below.

Saturday, February 17, 2018
Registration and breakfast:  8 – 9 a.m. (generally – check with your clean up leader for your site)
Waterways Cleanup:  9 a.m. – noon

Various parks and other areas along the waterways as indicated below.

All volunteers must complete a liability form to participate in Basura Bash.
Please bring your completed form with you to Basura Bash.
Click Here to download the Liability Form

For the past 23 years you helped us clean area waterways and we are glad to see you back for the 24th Annual Basura Bash Waterways Cleanup.

During last year's event, about 3,000 volunteers pitched in to clean 21 tributaries across San Antonio! Here is how much they have collected and recycled over the years.

Kids around the world are suing their governments for ruining the planet

Do we have a fundamental right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life?

What’s the point of inheriting the Earth if it’s only going to burn (or drown)?

Kids around the world are asking governments this question and demanding answers in court. For example, on Dec. 11, Juliana v. US pitted the president and American lawmakers against the very children whose future they so often invoke when seeking votes. The kids argued that the government’s negligence in caring for the planet impedes on their rights, and it must remedy this by adopting policies that mitigate climate change.

The case is currently set to go to trial in February. The government is fighting fiercely to dismiss the matter as fast as possible—the Dec. 11 court date was to decide whether the government’s dismissal argument has any merit. But in some senses, whatever happens, it’s already a win for the 21 young Americans who are plaintiffs and their global movement. In bringing the case to the courts, the kids are challenging the world’s most prominent climate change denier, US president Donald Trump. And they are getting a chance to highlight the science that’s being ignored at their expense in the court of public opinion.

Kids v. Feds

Juliana v. US (pdf) was originally filed in an Oregon district court in 2015 by 21 minors from around the country. The youth—now ages 10 to 21—argue that by adopting policies that promote fossil fuel use, leading to the emission of carbon dioxide at rates that change the climate, despite knowing these energy sources are warming the planet, the federal government violates “the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property,” and fails to protect essential resources held in trust for the public.

The children say everything is at stake for them. “I hope that the court understands the urgency of the climate crisis and allows our case to proceed to trial,” one plaintiff, 17-year-old Jaime Butler from Flagstaff, Arizona, explained at a press conference last week (pdf). “This case will ultimately determine the livelihood of my tribe, the Navajo Nation, and all native people in this country.”

Read more at the source:  Kids around the world are suing their governments for ruining the planet

Designer Talks About Eco Positive Environmental Impact

Elegant design and engineering goes beyond being sustainable to being eco positive. New vocabulary, additional data collection and working with scientists is needed to most effectively stimulate and manage a circular economy, making the means by which we live to be resilient, efficient and productive, and most of all, regenerative and eco positive.

Did you know that most average Americans live as though they have 4.8 planets? This is what Dutch industrial designer Babette Porcelijn discovered when she largely left behind a thriving business working with commercial clients to focus on the hidden impacts of design.

In her research, Porcelijn looks at everything from the global impact of importing and exporting to the environmental toll of producing single consumer items, such as a laptop computer. Her “Impact Top 10” breaks down, with surprising results, the average items used by consumers that cause the largest amount of environmental impact.

Who knew that meat would come in second, beat out only by consumer products, but well above cars? (If you speak Dutch and want to understand your individual impact, answer a few questions to see how you compare to others.)

Excerpts from the interview:

  • The sixteen largest container ships emit as much sulfur as all the cars in the world together
  • The rich consumer buys a lot of products, but he does not see the impact the production of these goods has on the environment. How can you make sustainable choices if you don't know what’s going on?
  • When I started to investigate, I was shocked to find out that often I couldn’t find answers to my questions. Even worse, sometimes there were no words to describe the things I wanted to talk about. The worst finding, perhaps, was the fact that there was no impact top 10 of the average consumer, including hidden impacts.
  • If we assess the impact of the consumer, we usually only consider environmental impacts caused by the use of a product. Furthermore, we mainly look at climate effects, but if we solve the climate problem, and we don’t solve problems like water scarcity, pollution or plastic soup, then we still have a problem.
  • Over the last few decades, rich consumer countries have moved much of their industry and agriculture to low-wage countries. Production comes with lots of impact on climate, nature, and environment. Rich countries import these products and this food and their consumers buy these. But we often leave the “hidden impact” out of the equation.
  • Designers can make a big difference in many ways. First, we are beginning to understand what we should NOT do anymore—and Hidden Impact reveals that thoroughly—but the next question is, what to replace the fulfillment of our needs in a sustainable way? What SHOULD we do? And that is a design challenge! I think we need to work together with scientists to come up with the best solutions.
  • We are trained systems thinkers, and the world needs those—product designers can design circular products, and circular business models, while product designers and architects can design for long endurance products, with renewable materials and design for disassembly and reuse.
  • We could take responsibility for the products we put in the world; do we want to add more stuff people don’t really need into the world, while it damages the environment and brings our joint future in jeopardy, while the ones who benefit have commercial motives instead of humane motives? Also, design for communication: tell the world what’s at stake and what we can do about it, inspire them with awesome alternatives which are more attractive than our current ways
  • In short, we need nothing short of a paradigm shift and we need designers to make it a good one. Eco-positive* and fair.

  • The best thing that can happen—and it does, people tell me—is that people actually change their lifestyles. I will never tell people what they should or shouldn’t do. I merely help those who want to make effective changes to improve their environmental impact. And I hope to inspire people as a side-effect of my research.
  • Some of the biggest issues you mention, like microplastics, come from items like car tires. With this being such a common item, do you know of any companies working on alternative solutions?  ANSWER:  It is a common item, but it isn’t common knowledge yet. Nevertheless, I’ve heard about research for better tire materials, but that’s difficult to tackle since biodegradable plastics in nature aren’t as biodegradable as in the lab. We could catch run-off from the roads and clean it, and we could choose a different means of transportation (bike, walk, and public transit).
  • We need as many people on board as possible. Especially in rich consumer countries, which have—on average—the biggest impact. In the twelve biggest economies in the world lives 13% of the world population, but we cause 55% of the impact! That means that with 13% of the people, we can reduce over half the impact, and that’s a hopeful thought to me.

  • We, consumers, are key. Ultimately, we decide everything that’s going on in the world, even though we often don’t realize it. We buy products and with our money, companies thrive. They can either damage or save the environment, and we get to choose which ones survive by buying their stuff. We decide who our politicians are and what they will fight for. The more money you have, the more difference you can make, either by your lifestyle and daily habits or by devoting yourself as a professional to for an eco-positive society*.

[*Eco positive: when you (or a company, or a city/country etc) have a more positive impact on the environment than negative, harmful impact. Protecting and restoring nature, working on family planning and reducing population growth, designing sustainable or eco-positive solutions, cleaning up pollution etc.]

Read more about Porcelijn, her work and how she hopes her book can help create change both for consumers and designers in the full interview.

Source: Interview with Designer Babette Porcelijn About Environmental Impact

Polyface Farms – The Future of Farming is Holistic

Polyface FarmsHow our food is farmed is what matters most, as in biomimicry, study ecosystems and mimic ecosystems, rather than just blaming meat eaters. Animals can be good for the land and have an ecopostive affect.

Regenerative farming methods include: holistic management and planned rotational grazing of livestock; cover-cropping; no-till practices; agro-forestry; diverse crop rotations, including integrating livestock grazing; use of compost, manure and biochar; and use of deeper-rooting plants and perennials. The future of farming is holistic.

Changing our farming systems can have world wide impact. Learn more in our Food, Farms and Gardens section.

Popular Polyface Farm & Joel Salatin videos

World Happiness Report

Are we learning the difference between Socialist Authoritarianism like in Venezuela and Democratic Socialism like what they have in the top 2 happiest countries in the world, Norway and Denmark?

The World Happiness Report is a landmark survey of the state of global happiness. The World Happiness Report 2017, which ranks 155 countries by their happiness levels, will be released today at the United Nations at an event celebrating International Day of Happiness. The report, the fifth one to come out since 2012, continues to gain global recognition as governments, organizations and civil society increasingly use happiness indicators to inform their policy-making decisions. In addition to the rankings, this year’s report includes an analysis of happiness in the workplace and a deeper look at China and Africa.

World’s 1st Solar Mural Project

World’s First Solar Mural Installation, a Land Art Generator Artwork by Cruz Ortiz, to be Unveiled at Luminaria. La Monarca’s final home will be at EPIcenter where it will generate clean energy for the site

The Crew at Land Art GeneratorSAN ANTONIO, TX –– Land Heritage Institute (LHI), in collaboration with EPIcenter, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), and the Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI) have partnered to present the world’s first Solar Mural installation – public art that produces renewable energy.

The Solar Mural artwork, La Monarca, will be unveiled at Luminaria, San Antonio’s 10th annual contemporary arts festival, held at Hemisfair on November 10, 2017. La Monarca’s final home will be at EPIcenter, and it will indeed generate clean energy.

La Monarca will be a spectacular, giant lotería card #24, which celebrates San Antonio’s status as the National Wildlife Federation’s first Monarch Butterfly Champion City.

The image, crafted by San Antonio artist Cruz Ortiz, is printed onto a special film produced by Sistine Solar. The film visually masks the standard dark blue solar cells, replacing them with the beautiful La Monarca image. The film allows light to pass through to the photovoltaic cells beneath and generate electricity.

There will be four panels stacked 2×2 at a vertical angle, measuring 6’6” wide by 11’ tall. Each panel stands at 66” x 40”.

Power from La Monarca will be stored throughout the day and then used to power the lights that will illuminate the artwork during the Luminaria Festival.

Following the close of Luminaria, La Monarca will find a permanent home inside a pollinator garden on the EPIcenter campus along the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River where it will generate solar energy for the facility.

“EPIcenter is a place committed to new energy innovation; we are excited to premiere the world’s first Solar Mural at Luminaria and look forward to enjoying this work of art – and the energy it will produce – at the EPIcenter campus,” said Kimberly M. Britton, Chief Executive Officer.

Partners hope that in the near future, Las Monarcas will be a swarm of Monarch Butterfly-inspired Land Art Generator artworks to be designed for placement at and to provide power to social service centers, municipal buildings, or eco-cultural tourism destinations throughout the City of San Antonio or other stops along Monarch Butterfly migration routes.

LHI will also be hosting the 5th biennial LHI Art-Sci Symposium in partnership with Luminaria in Southtown on Saturday, November 11, 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. at The Mercury Project (538 Roosevelt Avenue), free and open to the public. Symposium sessions, geared toward a general audience and fine for families with finesse, will focus on Sound Art & Sound Walks, Feminist Art in a Digital Age and reGEN: artists and scientists exploring regenerist practices and renewable energies. For a full agenda please see

At Luminaria, La Monarca will appear atop a grassy knoll between two of the three historic 1960s-era “Confluence of Cultures” murals commissioned for the HemisFair ’68 World's Fair: a stone mural by Juan O’Gorman and a glass tile mural by Carlos Mérida. Luminaria will take place Friday, November 10, 2017 from 7:00 pm to midnight at the Hemisfair campus in downtown San Antonio, TX. (NOTE: The grassy noll is between E. Market St. and the Convention Center.)

La Monarca has been a collaboration between Land Heritage Institute’s LHI Art-Sci Projects, EPIcenter, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), and the Land Art Generator Initiative. Fabrication and technical support has been provided by OCI Solar Power, Mission Solar Energy, Sun Action Trackers, and Sistine Solar. The project has been made possible through support from EPIcenter and OCI Solar Power, the Alice Kleberg Reynolds Foundation, the Texas Commission on the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Learn more at

About EPIcenter
EPIcenter is flipping the switch on an historic 1909 power plant by transforming it into a world-class center that will be the hub for new energy technology innovation, education and community engagement, and entrepreneurial incubation and ideation. The EPI stands for Energy, Partnerships and Innovation. Learn more at

About LAGI
The Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI) delivers sculptural installations that have the added benefit of renewable power generation for individual buildings and/or the utility grid. LAGI artworks provide power to neighborhoods and cities while adding visual interest to outdoor spaces—from public parks and streets to private courtyards. LAGI arrives at context-specific design solutions that reflect the needs of the end-user by utilizing a variety of project delivery models. These include: design competitions, direct commissions, calls for proposals, and facilitating participatory design processes within communities. Learn more at

About Land Heritage Institute
Land Heritage Institute is under development as a living land museum on 1200 acres of open space along the banks of the Medina River on the far southside of San Antonio preserving, maintaining and interpreting 10,000 years of continual human habitation. Learn more at

About LISC
With residents and partners, LISC forges resilient and inclusive communities of opportunity across America – great places to live, work, visit, do business and raise families. Learn more at

About OCI Solar Power
OCI Solar Power is a leader in the solar power industry. Headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, OCISP develops, constructs, finances, owns, and operates solar photovoltaic (PV) facilities, specializing in utility, commercial, and industrial-scale solar projects. For more information, visit

Butterfly wings inspire a better way to absorb light in solar panels – The Verge

The wings of a butterfly have inspired a new type of solar cell that can harvest light twice as efficiently as before and could one day improve our solar panels.

Solar panels are usually made of thick solar cells, and are positioned at an angle to get the most amount of light from the sun as it moves throughout the day. Thin film solar cells, which can be only nanometers thick, have a lot of potential. These are cheaper and lighter, but because they’re less efficient, we usually use them only in watches and calculators, instead of solar panels. Scientists studied the black wings of the rose butterfly, and copied the structure to create thin solar cells that are more efficient. Unlike other types of cells, these can absorb a lot of light regardless of the angle, and are also easy to make. The results were published in the journal Science Advances.

The rose butterfly is native to Southeast Asia. Because it is cold-blooded and needs sunlight to fly, its black wings have evolved to be very good at absorbing energy. “The really interesting thing is that the butterflies, which have evolved these complex structures as a result of selection over millions of years, are still way outperforming our engineering,” YaleNUS College biology professor Vinod Saranathan told The Verge in an email. (Saranathan was not involved in the study.)

To figure out why these butterflies are so efficient, scientists led by Radwanul Siddique, a bioengineer at the California Institute of Technology, looked at wings under an electron microscope and created a 3D model of the wings’ nanostructures. The wings are built from tiny scales that are covered in randomly spaced holes. The holes are less than a millionth of a meter wide, and they help scatter the light and help the butterfly absorb heat.

The holes are random in size, distribution, and shape, says Siddique. Using computer models, the team figured out that the position and order are important for absorbing light, but the shape doesn’t matter. Next, they created a similar structure using extremely thin sheets of hydrogenated amorphous silicon that have the same type of holes.

Most solar panels are positioned at an angle, which means they generate lots of power for a few hours and then not much the rest of the time. Solar panels using Siddique’s technique could produce more power throughout the day. Though Siddique is now at CalTech, he did this research as part of his doctoral work in Germany, and some members of his old lab have already received funding from the German Research Foundation to work on solar cells and LEDs.

Source: Butterfly wings inspire a better way to absorb light in solar panels – The Verge