Showing all posts tagged green-space:

Infrastructure: It's Everything We Use or Rely Upon - and it is hard work - Saul Griffith at the Long Now

Jason's Notes:
December 25, 02015
  1. Gardens have multiple benefits: lowering HVAC bills, food, education, stress reduction
  2. Bricks and mortar stores are a dying breed, and that's okay. The need to travel to shops is a ridiculous waste of resources (time, money, gas, road infrastructure, land, etc) The new distribution models make it much easier to browse online and centralize distribution. The miles driven by a delivery truck to many houses is vastly less than each of those house holds making their own trips.
  3. No one energy alternative is going to supplant hydro-carbons. Wave power in total can't meet current needs, solar could if we could tackle seasonal variations, dido wind. Geothermal is too costly (though a by-product of oil and gas drilling does help locate minor delta Ts that could be exploited on a local level). Biofuels need too much land and water.
  4. The real opportunity for improving how we utilize energy isn't just diversification of sources, but that we need to use it more efficiently. Oil's biggest sin isn't carbon or VOCs, but rather its waste heat ratio to watts.
  5. Examining transportation in particular, you want to get to a common unit like watt-miles. The power-dense batteries of today are making personal movers the most efficient option (electric skateboards) with electric bikes a close second. A Tesla roadster is way at the other end of the spectrum. Unlucky as we are, those much heavier options are heavily subsidized while much more efficient options are not.
  6. Looking at building energy efficiency, the big hurdle is latency. The typical comfort level is off the climatic offering to the tune of 40% in best case scenarios (PV on the roof, etc). There is surplus that goes to waste because we can't store it.

Saul Griffith:

Synopsis from the Long Now:

Green infrastructure

Griffith began with an eyeroll at the first round of responses in the US to reducing greenhouse gases, a program he calls “peak Al Gore.” Some activities feel virtuous —becoming vegetarian, installing LED lights, avoiding bottled water, reading news online, using cold water detergent, and “showering less in a smaller, colder house”—but they demand constant attention and they don’t really add up to what is needed.

Griffith’s view is that we deal best with greenhouse gases by arranging our infrastructure so we don’t have to think about climate and energy issues every minute. Huge energy savings can come from designing our buildings and cars better, and some would result from replacing a lot of air travel with “video conferencing that doesn’t suck.“ Clean energy will mostly come from solar, wind, biofuels (better ones than present), and nuclear. Solar could be on every roof. The most fuel-efficient travel is on bicycles, which can be encouraged far more. Electric cars are very efficient, and when most become self-driving they can be lighter and even more efficient because “autonomous vehicles don’t run into each other.” Sixty percent of our energy goes to waste heat; with improved design that can be reduced radically to 20 percent.

Taking the infrastructure approach, in a few decades the US could reduce its total energy use by 40 percent, while eliminating all coal and most oil and natural gas burning, with no need to shower less.

       --Stewart Brand

"Don't Forget the System - it won't Forget You" - Jesse Ausubel

Jason's Notes:
December 25, 02015:

When you pull the data of the last 40 years, there is a "global greening" going on with remarkable impacts. One of the follies of the mass Environmental Movement isn't a lack of worry, but a lack of measuring it's own success or unexpected innovations that reduced consumption.

Forest are rebounding, whales are proliferating, paper use is down, population is set to decline, US fresh water use has been flat since the 80s, and a slew of other metrics indicate a global greening largely from unlooked for innovations: better crop management has increased yields far more than pesticides and nitrates use, ebooks and email decimated the paper industry, etc.

Where we are still loosing ground is in the oceans, where the trend is still accelerating exploitation.

The key point is that looking at long-term data of the 70s indicated major problems. We reacted. Data gathered since then indicates flattening or declining curves against those same issues.

Side Notes:
  1. The ineffectiveness of legislation. As the last home of hope, laws attempt to criminalize behavior that should be recognized as inherently against both the common and personal good. If we have to make a law then we have failed on the Public Relations front.
  2. Mag-lev transport offers the best long-term future transportation mode. Above the speed (equal to air) it has low power inputs because it does not carry its own fuel.

Jesse Ausubel:

From the Long Now synopsis:

Jesse Ausubel is Director of the Program for the Human Environment at Rockefeller University in New York, co-founder of The Encyclopedia of Life, co-organizer of the first UN World Climate Conference in 01979, co-founder of The Barcode of Life, co-organizer of the Census of Marine Life, and former Vice President of Programs at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

In the field of environmental progress the conflict between anecdote and statistics is so flagrant that most public understanding on the subject is upside down. We worry about the wrong things, fail to worry about the right things, and fail to acknowledge and expand the things that are going well.

For decades at Rockefeller University Jesse Ausubel has assembled global data and trends showing that humanity may be entering an exceptionally Green century. The most important trend is “land-sparing”—freeing up ever more land for nature thanks to agricultural efficiency and urbanization. Ausubel notes that we are now probably at “peak farmland“ (so long as we don’t pursue the folly of biofuels). Forests are coming back everywhere in the temperate zones and in many tropical areas, helped by replacing wild logging with tree plantations. Human population is leveling rapidly and we are now probably at “peak children.” Our energy sources continue to “decarbonize,” and a long-term “dematerialization” trend is reducing the physical load of civilization’s metabolism.

In the ocean, however, market hunting for fish remains highly destructive, even though aquaculture and mariculture are taking off some of the pressure. In this area, as in the others, rigorous science and inventive technology are leading the way to the mutual flourishing of humanity and nature.
Why nature is rebounding

Over the last 40 years, in nearly every field, human productivity has decoupled from resource use, Ausubel began. Even though our prosperity and population continue to increase, the trends show decreasing use of energy, water, land, material resources, and impact on natural systems (except the ocean). As a result we are seeing the beginnings of a global restoration of nature.

America tends to be the leader in such trends, and the “American use of almost everything except information seems to be peaking, not because the resources are exhausted but because consumers changed consumption and producers changed production.“

Start with agriculture, which “has always been the greatest raper of nature.” Since 01940 yield has decoupled from acreage, and yet the rising yields have not required increasing inputs such as fertilizer, pesticides, or water. The yield from corn has become spectacular, and it is overwhelmingly our leading crop, but most of it is fed to cars and livestock rather than people. Corn acreage the size of Iowa is wasted on biofuels. An even greater proportion goes to cows and pigs for conversion to meat.

The animals vary hugely in their efficiency at producing meat. If they were vehicles, we would say that “a steer gets about 12 miles per gallon, a pig 40, and a chicken 60.“ (In that scale a farmed fish gets 80 miles per gallon.) Since 01975 beef and pork consumption have leveled off while chicken consumption has soared. “The USA and the world are at peak farmland, “ Ausubel declared, “not because of exhaustion of arable land, but because farmers are wildly successful in producing protein and calories.” Much more can be done. Ausubel pointed out that just reducing the one-third of the world’s food that is wasted, rolling out the highest-yield techniques worldwide, and abandoning biofuels would free up an area the size of India (1.2 million square miles) to return to nature.

As for forests, nation after nation is going through the “forest transition” from decreasing forest area to increasing. France was the first in 01830. Since then their forests have doubled while their population also doubled. The US transitioned around 01950. A great boon is tree plantations, which have a yield five to ten times greater than logging wild forest. “In recent times,” Ausubel said, “about a third of wood production comes from plantations. If that were to increase to 75 percent, the logged area of natural forests could drop in half.” Meanwhile the consumption of all wood has leveled off---for fuel, buildings, and, finally, paper. We are at peak timber.

One byproduct of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the longer temperate-zone growing seasons accompanying global warming is greater plant growth. “Global Greening,“ Ausubel said, “is the most important ecological trend on Earth today. The biosphere on land is getting bigger, year by year, by two billion tons or even more.”

Other trendlines show that world population is at peak children, and in the US we are peak car travel and may even be at peak car. The most efficient form of travel, which Ausubel promotes, is maglev trains such as the “Hyperloop“ proposed by Elon Musk. Statistically, horses, trains, cars, and jets all require about one ton of vehicle per passenger. A maglev system would require only one-third of that.

In the ocean, though, trends remain troubling. Unlike on land, we have not yet replaced hunting wild animals with farming. Once refrigeration came along, “the democratization of sushi changed everything for sea life. Fish biomass in intensively exploited fisheries appears to be about one‐tenth the level of the fish in those seas a few decades or hundred years ago.“ One fifth of the meat we eat comes from fish, and about 40 percent of that fifth is now grown in fish farms, but too many of the farmed fish are fed with small fish caught at sea. Ausubel recommends vegetarian fish such as tilapia and “persuading salmon and other carnivores to eat tofu,” which has already been done with the Caribbean kingfish. “With smart aquaculture,“ Ausubel said, “life in the oceans can rebound while feeding humanity.”

When nature rebounds, the wild animals return. Traversing through abandoned farmlands in Europe, wolves, lynx, and brown bears are repopulating lands that haven’t seen them for centuries, and they are being welcomed. Ten thousand foxes roam London. Salmon are back in the Thames, the Seine, and the Rhine. Whales have recovered and returned even to the waters off New York. Ausubel concluded with a photo showing a humpback whale breaching, right in line with the Empire State Building in the background.

       --Stewart Brand