Wednesday, March 31st, 2010
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it will require new studies on the health and environmental effects of bisphenol A (BPA), a potentially harmful chemical found in thousands of everyday plastics.
The federal agency, which is looking to add the chemical to its list of “chemicals of concern,” will begin measuring levels of the chemical in drinking water and ground water supplies. More than one million pounds of BPA are released into the environment annually, EPA officials say.
While studies have shown that the chemical disrupts development in animals, that link has not been confirmed for humans. (more…)
Tuesday, March 30th, 2010
According to a poll conducted by the Gallup Organization in early March , Americans are less concerned about eight specific environmental issues than they were one year ago. Fewer than half of those surveyed–32 percent–said they felt that that climate change will have an impact on their way of life as compared to a high of 40 percent in 2008.
Close to 50 percent of Americans believe the threat of global warming is exaggerated. Fifty-three percent believe that economic growth, especially with regard to jobs and unemployment, is more important even if it has a negative impact on the environment, according to Frank Newport, Gallup’s editor in chief, as quoted in an article in USA Today .
Surprisingly, many Americans perceive that environmental woes in the US are improving; those polled were less concerned about other environmental problems than at any other time in the past 20 years. According to Gallup, in 1989, 72 percent of Americans were worried about pollution of rivers, lakes, and reservoirs.
By 2004, only 54 percent were concerned, and 46 percent are worried about water pollution today. Concern about pollution of drinking water is at the top of the list. (more…)
Monday, March 29th, 2010
Hydro fracturing is a profitable method of natural gas extraction that uses large quantities of water and chemicals to free gas from underground rock formations. But New York City’s concerns that the practice would threaten its water supply have slowed a juggernaut that has been sweeping across parts of the northeastern United States.
The highly productive method of natural gas extraction known as “hydro fracturing” has spread rapidly across the United States in recent years, opening up vast new reserves in Texas, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, and other states.
Last fall, however, the process — also known as “fracking” — ran headlong into opposition from New York City. And for now at least, stiff resistance from the city, which fears the contamination of its pristine water supply in upstate New York, seems to have slowed the momentum behind this highly touted — and highly controversial — drilling technique. (more…)
Monday, March 29th, 2010
There is a cascade failure going on in the world’s oceans that promises nothing but trouble in the future, and the problem stems in part from agricultural practices developed over the last half-decade aimed at growing more food on the same amount of land to feed rising populations.
A cascade failure is the progressive collapse of an integral system. Many scientists also call them negative feedback loops, in that unfortunate situations reinforce one another, precipitating eventual and sometimes complete failure.
The agricultural practices relate to “factory farming,” in which farmers grow crops using more and more chemical fertilizers, specifically nitrogen and phosphorus, which are the first two ingredients (chemical symbols N and P) listed on any container or bag of fertilizer. The last is potassium, or K. (more…)
Saturday, March 27th, 2010
The Earth is truly a blue planet; 70 percent of its surface is covered with water. Unfortunately 97.5 percent of that is salt water, unusable for humans. Fresh water accounts for the other 2.5 percent, however, about two thirds of that is locked up in glaciers and in the icy poles. That leaves humans (and every other living creature on land) only about one percent of all the water on Earth to use.
- If we break this down even further, we see more limitations. Of the one percent usable water, only one percent is actually on the surface and can be easily accessed. This includes lakes, rivers, and swamps. The rest is underground. The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated the actual quantities in cubic miles for water distribution on Earth and is as follows: (more…)
Thursday, March 25th, 2010
The Shanghai Tower will be the tallest building in China by its completion in 2014, but that is not its biggest accomplishment. The term “vertical city” has been used to describe the cornucopia of spaces that it will offer including Class-A office space, a luxury hotel, high-end retail, and event space. This aspect still pales in comparison to the building’s biggest accomplishment, its innovation in green design.
With wind turbines, a complex rainwater collection system, two envelope layers that surround nine interior sky gardens, and an ingenious design that mitigates lateral loads from wind and reduces the necessary structural steel by over 20 percent, this building is setting the bar high for super-tall buildings. Remarkably, all of these sustainable strategies are being implemented in China.
To further explain the design process and to prove that sustainability in China is not that surprising, I asked Gensler’s Director of Architecture for the Northwest Region (who is speaking on behalf of the Shanghai based project team) a couple of questions regarding sustainable building in China and how the Shanghai Tower epitomized the emerging trend.
CleanTechies: I wanted to start off by asking you what the marketplace is like for sustainable building in China. Is it as popular or as big in China as it is in the United States? (more…)
Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010
In recognition of World Water Day, Underwriters Laboratories (UL) has launched its new “Save Your Water” consumption calculator.
This device allows people to calculate their daily, weekly and annual water consumption by participating in an interactive virtual home walk-through online.
Their Web site also provides statistics on water consumption, as well as offering solutions to excessive household water use.
Thursday, March 11th, 2010
“Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over.” Often attributed to Mark Twain, whoever said that seemed to have quite a bit of foresight, something the mainstream cleantech community is only recently warming up to.
The fights over water use facing utility scale solar thermal projects in the desert Southwest may have a lot to do with opening the eyes of the clean-tech community, but the sector’s challenges and opportunities are much broader than that, as scores of Californians, Middle Easterners, and Australians will attest. So why, with the problems so immediate and demand remaining strong in the $58 billion annual market for water technologies, has water investment as a percentage of venture investment declined since 2005?
Friday, March 5th, 2010
As the climate crisis accelerates, farmers are placed in the ever more precarious position of growing food for an increasing population in the face of increasingly bizarre weather patterns. Weather patterns are shifting due to the increasing amount of energy trapped in our atmosphere by greenhouse gases.
And yet, farming offers the fastest way to slowthe climate crisis. This is because farmers manage photosynthesis, the biological process within green plants that pulls carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and stores it in a stable, useful form: organic carbon. Organic carbon is the chemical basis of leaves, shoots, roots, fungi and all the other living things that make up healthy soils.
Good farmers can accelerate this process and pull huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the air into soil organic matter. Increased soil organic carbon can help us manage dry and wet years better by storing water. And the practices that build soil organic carbon require more diverse cropping systems, making farmers (and us) less reliant in any one crop. (more…)
Monday, March 1st, 2010
When New York State’s environmental agency came out with a draft environmental review of drilling in the Marcellus Shale in September, it set off a flurry of action for environmentalists, industry advocates and the general public.
People were given 30 days — later extended to 90 — to digest the highly technical 800-plus-page document and submit comments. They could also voice their opinions at four public hearings.
At stake was the future of gas drilling in New York’s portion of the Marcellus Shale, which could produce vast amounts of natural gas, but which some residents fear also could contaminate drinking water sources and the air.
Since the comment period ended on Dec. 31, New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation has been assembling and evaluating the public’s response, which included a stinging analysis of the plan by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. DEC officials aren’t saying when the final version of the review will be unveiled, but two department representatives, Yancey Roy and Maureen Wren, did agree to walk us through the process. (more…)