Oysters & Rescue Plans

Halle Parker/WWNO. Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe member Pete Lebeouf works with volunteers to load bags of oyster shells onto a boat on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022.

We have enjoyed every instance of oysters being treated with respect, beyond culinary. When indigenous knowhow is part of the story, even better. Our thanks to Halle Parker and WWNO (National Public Radio, USA) for this story:

Halle Parker/WWNO.  Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe citizens Patty Ferguson-Bohnee and Lori Stewart pass bags of oyster shell and pile it on a boat for transport during a volunteer event on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022.

A Louisiana tribe is losing cultural sites to coastal erosion. Oyster reefs could help.

For the past six years, the Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe has battled to stop its historic earthen Indian mounds from slipping into the sea, looking to the power of oyster shells to protect them. Now, they’ve expanded that effort.

Halle Parker/WWNO. Volunteers boat down to Bernard’s Mound, one of the Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe’s historic mounds, to build a new oyster reef that will help slow erosion during an event on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022.

The tribe has lived in the area for centuries, forced south as Louisiana was colonized, and the mounds that past members built have a range of uses. Some might’ve held homes, others were used for ceremonies and some were burial sites, said Lori Stewart, a member of the tribe.

“The mounds are really significant because we do have some of our ancestors that are buried there, and so we don’t want to see that washed away,” she said. “That’s sacred to us.” Continue reading

Pushing Decarbonizing Technology Via Industrial Policy

The NLMK mill in Portage, Indiana, which uses a furnace powered by electricity and produces steel from recycled scrap. SCOTT OLSON / GETTY IMAGES

Thanks to Yale e360:

Beyond Biden’s Climate Plan, a New Industrial Revolution Is Needed

The new U.S. climate plan is historic and will pump billions of dollars into advancing the transition away from fossil fuels. But a more far-reaching, innovative approach is needed to push forward the radically new technologies that will be required to decarbonize the economy.

Workers guide a hydrogen-powered truck, part of Anglo American Plc’s NuGen carbon-neutral project, during a moving demonstration at the Anglo American Platinum Ltd. Mogalakwena platinum mine in Mogalakwena, South Africa, on Friday, May 6, 2022. Anglo American unveiled the worlds biggest green-hydrogen powered truck at a platinum mine in northeast South Africa where it aims to replace a fleet of 40 diesel-fueled vehicles that each use about a million liters of the fossil fuel every year. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

For all the great news in the Biden administration’s massive new climate spending plan, the hardest work of transforming the economy to stop global warming lies ahead. That’s because nearly all the money in the $369 billion plan will be spent on technologies that American companies already know how to deploy, such as solar farms, making buildings more efficient, and developing networks of electric vehicle charging systems.

Doing a lot more of the same will undoubtedly bring down emissions faster. But deep decarbonization requires a transformation of the American economy that will demand a much more active effort to push the technological frontier and build new industries so emissions can be driven to zero. Continue reading

Bee Bus Spots

A living roof in Cardiff planted with pollinator friendly plants. Photograph: Clear Channel

Phoebe Weston brightens our day with this story:

Planting at one of 30 bee bus stops in Leicester. Photograph: Clear Channel

Buzz stops: bus shelter roofs turned into gardens for bees and butterflies

Bee bus stops first appeared in the Dutch city of Utrecht. Now the UK is planning for more than 1,000 and there is growing interest across Europe and in Canada and Australia

Butterflies and bees are getting their own transport network as “bee bus stops” start to pop up around UK cities and across Europe. Humble bus shelter roofs are being turned into riots of colour, with the number of miniature gardens – full of pollinator-friendly flora such as wild strawberries, poppies and pansies – set to increase by 50% in the UK by the end of this year. Continue reading

Tree Core Samples & Age Estimations

Tree cores Harvard Forest

Core samples may hold clues to a forest’s response to climate change. Photos by Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

Juan Siliezar, staff writer for the Harvard Gazette asks and answers a question that we never tire of:

Want to know how cold it was in 1490? Ask a tree

Harvard Forest Senior Ecologist Neil Pederso

“We use tree cores to extract what I’ve been leaning toward calling the memory of the tree,” said Neil Pederson in the lab alongside core samples.

Sometimes getting to where you want to go is a matter of finding the right guide.

Four teams of researchers, led by Harvard Forest ecologists, searched for a patch of ancient trees deep in the woods of western Pennsylvania this summer as part of a project to study how climate changes affected trees over the centuries. One of the scientists had come across them 40 years earlier, but they appeared to have vanished. Just as the group was about to give up and move on they came across someone who gave them a valuable clue. Continue reading

Elephant Seals & Marine Sciences

Thanks to Sierra for this:

When Elephant Seals Become Ocean Researchers

Marine mammals unlock the secrets of climate and the Arctic

By Kate Golden

Illustrations by Masha Foya

ON A FEBRUARY MORNING at Año Nuevo Reserve on the coast of Northern California, hundreds of gray-brown elephant seals lay strewn, lumplike, all over the beach. It was hard to hear anything over the honks and shrieks of status jockeying and sex dramas. The north wind gusted to 35 knots and blew a river of fine sand into everyone’s faces. At a dense seal cluster near the water, researchers and students from the University of California, Santa Cruz, knelt over an 815-pound female whose stern had been labeled “X1” with Clairol bleach. Continue reading

Ant Mass Calculation

In this photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, yellow crazy ants are seen in a bait testing efficacy trial at the Johnston Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in December, 2015. An invasive species known as the yellow crazy ant has been eradicated from the remote U.S. atoll in the Pacific. Robert Peck/AP

The mass of ants on earth is not a topic we have considered, but there is not too much surprise at reading this news:

The number of ants on Earth has a mass greater than all birds and mammals combined

For every human on Earth, there are estimated to be about 2.5 million ants — or 20 quadrillion in total.

A new study published by researchers at both the University of Hong Kong and University of Würzburg in Germany attempts to count the total number of ground-dwelling and tree-dwelling ants. Continue reading

Patagonia 2.0

Details of a desk in a Patagonia office with a stack of orange and brown stickers that read “defend bears ears national monument’ on top of stacks of magazines and papers.

Patagonia has become more politically active, going so far as to sue the Trump administration in a bid to protect the Bears Ears National Monument. Laure Joliet for The New York Times

We have mentioned this company multiple times in our pages over the years, because we take inspiration from it, the same way we have taken inspiration from the example set by Chuck Feeney. It is worth noting that I also value everything I have ever bought from Patagonia. The day of this blizzard in New York I took an old beat up backpack in to see if they could repair it in the nearby shop; instead, they gave me a new one.

Good quality products, combined with good service, make the good environmental values of the company all the better:

“Hopefully this will influence a new form of capitalism that doesn’t end up with a few rich people and a bunch of poor people,” said Mr. Chouinard. Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

Billionaire No More: Patagonia Founder Gives Away the Company

Mr. Chouinard filmed an announcement for his employees at home in Wyoming. By giving away the bulk of their assets during their lifetime, the Chouinards have established themselves as among the most charitable families in the country. Natalie Behring for The New York Times

A half century after founding the outdoor apparel maker Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, the eccentric rock climber who became a reluctant billionaire with his unconventional spin on capitalism, has given the company away.

Rather than selling the company or taking it public, Mr. Chouinard, his wife and two adult children have transferred their ownership of Patagonia, valued at about $3 billion, to a specially designed trust and a nonprofit organization. They were created to preserve the company’s independence and ensure that all of its profits — some $100 million a year — are used to combat climate change and protect undeveloped land around the globe. Continue reading

Solar@School, Win-Win-Win

Solar panels installed near the Heart-Butte schools in Montana. Janie Osborne for The New York Times

Two elementary school students stand at table covered in papers, markers and other school materials, and face a wall with a poster map of Montana, divided by tribal territories. The child at left uses an orange marker to point at an area called “Blackfeet & Gros Ventre.”

Students at Heart-Butte School exploring their area of the world on a map in the “Blackfeet Immersion” classroom. Janie Osborne for The New York Times

In the USA it has become normal to think that partisan divisions prevent collaboration on issues of common interest. The partisan divisions are real, and then some; but there are silver linings here and there.  Cara Buckley, a climate reporter, continues to demonstrate a talent for finding cases where communities benefit from collective action in the act of taking better care of the environment:

Black and white goats frolic in grass on a field, which is fenced off and behind which is a series of solar panels angled at the sun. Trees line the horizon.

Goats cared for by Batesville High School’s 4-H students, next to the school’s solar panels. “If you’re conservative, we didn’t ask you for more taxes, if you’re liberal, you love the green concept,” Dr. Hester said. Terra Fondriest for The New York Times

Facing Budget Shortfalls, These Schools Are Turning to the Sun

Public schools are increasingly using savings from solar energy to upgrade facilities, help their communities, and give teachers raises — often with no cost to taxpayers.

One school district was able to give pay raises to its teachers as big as 30 percent. Another bought new heating and ventilation systems, all the better to help students and educators breathe easier in these times. The improvements didn’t cost taxpayers a cent, and were paid for by an endlessly renewable source — the sun.

Mike Tatsey, in jeans and a light blue plaid short sleeve shirt, his thumbs hooked into his jean pockets, stands in a field with solar panes in the background. Brush partially obscures the foreground.

Mike Tatsey, superintendent of schools in Heart-Butte, believes that freeing up extra money for staples like groceries and shoes could have a ripple effect in classrooms. Janie Osborne for The New York Times

As solar energy gains traction across the country, one beneficiary have been schools, particularly those in cash-strapped districts contending with dwindling tax bases.

From New Jersey to California, nearly one in 10 K-12 public and private schools across the country were using solar energy by early 2022, according to data released Thursday by Generation180, a nonprofit that promotes and tracks clean energy. That’s twice as many as existed in 2015. Continue reading

Lionfish, Competition & The Big Tournament

“What you’re hunting isn’t prey,” a lionfish diver told me. “It’s the enemy.”Illustrations by Johnny Dombrowski

D. T. Max has vividly sketched humans in competitive mode, harnessing tournament rules to address the aggressions of this introduced species. In the decades-long perspective, lionfish are winning the bigger tournament by adapting and expanding their range; but we admire the drive to end that success:

Killing Invasive Species Is Now a Competitive Sport

In the Panhandle, where swarms of lionfish gobble up native species, a tournament offers cash prizes to divers skilled at spearing one predator after another.

Rachel Bowman is a diver who specializes in the hunting, catching, and killing of lionfish, a species native to Indo-Pacific waters. Continue reading

Smart Cities, Japan Edition

A delivery robot makes its rounds at Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town in Japan.Credit: Yoshio Tsunoda/AFLO/Alamy

Frustrated but determined leadership on environmental challenges facing urban constituencies is worthy of our attention and even admiration, even if “smart cities” can be problematic terminology. Nature magazine offers this snapshot from Japan:

Houses equipped with solar panels in Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town.Credit: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg via Getty

Why Japan is building smart cities from scratch

Purpose-built sustainable communities can boost energy efficiency and support an ageing population.

By 2050, nearly 7 out of 10 people in the world will live in cities, up from just over half in 2020. Urbanization is nothing new, but an effort is under way across many high-income countries to make their cities smarter, using data, instrumentation and more efficient resource management. Continue reading

The Philosophers’ Stone In Appalachia

Illustration by Leif Gann-Matzen

Our gratitude to Eliza Griswold, writing in the New Yorker this week, for a look at research hinting at a potential solution to myriad challenges, that has the ring of alchemy to it:

Could Coal Waste Be Used to Make Sustainable Batteries?

Acid mine drainage has long been a scourge in Appalachia. Recent research suggests that we may be able to simultaneously clean up the pollution and extract the minerals and elements needed to power green technologies.

On a recent afternoon, near the headwaters of Deckers Creek, in West Virginia, Paul Ziemkiewicz, the biological scientist who directs the Water Research Institute at West Virginia University, squatted by a blood-red trickle seeping from a hillside. Continue reading

Re-Organizing In Northern Spain

Landscape of Mondragon. Workers eating from a roast capitalist pig that is being carved by a mechanical arm.

Illustration by James Clapham

With all the problems created by the status quo business practices and economic models, alternatives for organizing business are worthy of our consideration. Nick Romeo offers a look into the challenges facing the most important worker-owned company in the world:

How Mondragon Became the World’s Largest Co-Op

In Spain, an industrial-sized conglomerate owned by its workers suggests an alternative future for capitalism.

Jorge Vega Hernández, a mechanical engineer working in northwestern Spain, returned from a business trip and started to feel sick. It was March, 2020—the beginning of the pandemic—and so he called a government help line. Continue reading

Carbon Burial Venturing

Port Arthur’s Motiva Oil Refinery.PHOTOGRAPH: KATIE THOMPSON

The capturing of carbon is a concept we have been working to understand, but questions about where it goes  and how it is stored, have been fuzzy until now (thanks to Jeffrey Ball at Wired):

Tip Meckel holds a sandstone sample. PHOTOGRAPH: KATIE THOMPSON

The Big Business of Burying Carbon

The porous rock beneath the Gulf Coast launched the petroleum age. Now entrepreneurs want to turn it into a gigantic sponge for storing CO2.

SOMETIME AFTER THE dinosaurs died, sediment started pouring into the Gulf of Mexico. Hour after hour the rivers brought it in—sand from the infant Rockies, the mucky stuff of ecosystems. Year after year the layers of sand hardened into strata of sandstone, pushed down ever deeper into the terrestrial pressure cooker. Continue reading

Almost Missed

I have missed plenty of good articles, books and other sources of news and analysis that relate to our goals with this platform. When I am late to see something important, like the book to the right, no regrets. Especially when it comes to my attention through an essay like this one by Daniel Sherrell:

The Democrats’ climate bill is a historic victory. But we can’t stop here

Passage of the Inflation Reduction Act filled me with joy and rage, relief and apprehension, exhaustion and vigilance. We must celebrate, but also mourn, rage and organize

I was at a Mets game when news broke that the climate bill had enough votes to pass in the Senate. It was the bottom of the eighth, and Edwin Díaz had just struck out the heart of the Braves’ lineup. The crowd at Citi Field was feeling good. Everyone could sense a win was at hand.

I read the push notification then sat there stunned for several minutes, watching the Mets clinch the game, waiting for the world-shaping news to register. Continue reading

Wild Celery Grass & Cleaner Waterways

Camden Mayor Vic Carstarphen hands a flat of wild celery to an EPA diver for transplant. KATHERINE RAPIN

Thanks to Katherine Rapin and Yale e360:

River Cleanups Move to the Next Level Using Grasses and Oysters

In the Delaware River and other waterways and estuaries across the United States, scientists and conservationists are restoring aquatic vegetation and beds of mussels and oysters to fight pollution and create a strong foundation for healthy ecosystems.

On a recent summer morning near Camden, New Jersey, two divers from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hovered over a patch of sediment 10 feet below the surface of the Delaware River. Continue reading

Hacienda La Pradera, Geisha Part 3/3

The estate is beautiful but that cannot explain the quality of the coffee the way that the African beds, the drying, and the sorting can.

Combined with the concentration of sugars into the beans that results from the time on those raised beds, the way the drying takes place after the first wash is a key feature of the way these beans are processed.

Honey process, sometimes called “pulped natural,” leaves some of the fruit on the beans.

This sticky mucilage looks like honey, thus the name, and is removed during milling rather than being washed off as is typical of washed coffees. The result is greater complexity of flavor.

This is the only light roast coffee that we offer, due to that complexity. It is subtle, and the light roast allows that subtle flavor to be showcased; whereas a darker roast would hide that complexity. A final point about consistency: this beneficio employs dozens of sorters who do the final sorting of the best quality beans, work that is now done by sophisticated machinery in other beneficios. We have an agreement that next post-harvest we will come during this sorting process to film that work. Until then, we will enjoy this year’s harvest.

Hacienda La Pradera, Geisha Part 2

After the visit to Hacienda La Pradera we visited its equally important sister property down the road, the beneficio where all of La Minita’s coffees are processed after harvest. The buildings and their equipment are not as charismatic as the coffee farms, but the quality of the coffee we procure depends as much on the beneficio as the farms.

It starts with the African beds where the freshly picked coffee cherries are placed immediately after harvest. The sun “naturally” does the work that traditionally was done with water in the Costa Rica “washed”  process to get the skin, the fruit and other elements of the cherries removed to reveal the beans. Not only is this a more efficient use of natural resources–it also imparts more flavor into the beans as the sun dehydrates the juices surrounding the beans, and sugars of those concentrating juices absorb into the beans. After the drying on those beds the real work begins for the people who operate the equipment inside two buildings.

The building in the photo to the right is where all those beans land after being sorted for quality. Water is still important, even though much less is used in the natural method, to clean the beans of residuals from the fruit and skin. In the foreground of the building above you can see the washing tanks that all beans pass through.

Inside the building are drying machines that get the beans to an ideal level of humidity before a final sorting prior to packing.

In a final post on this process tomorrow, I will do my best to explain how the African beds, the drying, and the sorting are so important to the exceptional coffees we receive.

Hacienda La Pradera, Geisha Part 1

I have sampled coffees from La Minita from time to time over the last two decades, and have always been impressed by their quality. Because of that consistency we recently started offering their geisha varietal from Hacienda La Pradera at our shops in Costa Rica and also for delivery in the USA. Last week I finally had the opportunity to see first hand how and why that quality is so consistent. One reason is Pedro, pictured above while we were standing on the lookout over the farm lands he is in charge of.

From that perch we surveyed the various plots, including the nursery (about 8,200 seedlings in the image below) as well as the several arabica varietals he has been growing on the 181 hectares of land.

Geisha is special for reasons I noted last year when introducing beans from another estate. Those beans were excellent, these are exceptional. Stay tuned. Tomorrow I will explain why.

McKibben Smiles

Illustration of a smokestack windmills and trees.

Illustration by João Fazenda

When Bill McKibben is frustrated, you know it. Much less frequently you can find evidence of his ability to take a deep breath and sense some progress, however modest, so enjoy it when it comes, and try to smile:

Ever-Improving Solar Technologies & Techniques

Sheep graze alongside a solar array in Dubbo, Australia. JANIE BARRETT / THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD VIA GETTY IMAGES

Solar power, one of the renewables with the greatest promise, continues to improve:

A solar array in Madera County, California, with panels placed side-by-side on the ground. ERTHOS

More Energy on Less Land: The Drive to Shrink Solar’s Footprint

With the push for renewables leading to land-use conflicts, building highly efficient utility-scale solar farms on ever-smaller tracts of land has become a top priority. New approaches range from installing PV arrays that take up less space to growing crops between rows of panels.

Farmers grow hay between solar fences in Donaueschingen, Germany. NEXT2SUN

From the ground, the new solar farm shimmers like a mirage oasis on a hot summer day. Instead of row after slanting row of shiny panels stretching taller than corn, this array, mounted directly on the earth, lies flat as water. Continue reading

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