No one, you would think, aspires to be a night-soil man. Yet in the late 1950s, Shi Chuangxiang’s labours in the latrines of Beijing briefly won him national praise. He was proclaimed a socialist hero and met the head of state. Back then, human excreta mattered, so much so that gangs fought for the plummest spots. Why? Because cities, until relatively recently in human history, were a part of healthy ecosystems that operated according to the principles of nutrient exchange: take, use, return, all in neat equilibrium. The spoils of Mr Shi (who was nicknamed ‘Stinky Shit Egg’), collected at a time when synthetic plant food was not widely available in China, became the organic fertiliser that was intended to power the country’s Great Leap Forward in agriculture. Continue reading →
Investigation finds cases of the wellness product, hailed for its anti-ageing benefits, being derived from cattle raised on farms damaging tropical forest
Tens of thousands of cattle raised on farms that are damaging tropical forests in Brazil are being used to produce collagen – the active ingredient in health supplements at the centre of a global wellness craze. Continue reading →
The new Starbucks Oleato is terrible. But somehow there’s pleasure to be had in its existence.
As corporate legend has it, the concept of Starbucks was inspired by a visit that Howard Schultz paid to Milan in 1983. At the time, Schultz was the director of operations and marketing for a local Seattle chain with fewer than a dozen outposts; the stores, the first of which opened in 1971, sold whole beans, leaf teas, and spices in bulk. In Milan for a trade show, Schultz found himself enchanted by the city’s espresso bars. Continue reading →
The world is moving toward heavier cars at a time when it should be doing precisely the reverse.
Last year, the world’s S.U.V.s collectively released almost a billion metric tons of carbon dioxide. If all the vehicles got together and formed their own country, it would be the world’s sixth-largest emitter, just after Japan. This is a disturbing figure, but, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency, it gets worse. Globally, S.U.V. sales continue to grow, even though, last year, total passenger-vehicle sales fell. And the trend has now spread to electric vehicles: in 2022, for the first time, the sale of electric S.U.V.s edged out the sale of other electric cars. Continue reading →
The year was 1977, and I was 12 years old. A neighbor kid’s parents had bought an espresso machine—an exotic gadget in those days, even in Seattle. There was just one Starbucks in the world back then, and as luck had it, we lived within walking distance. Continue reading →
A thoughtful denunciation of the economic dogma that the market knows best.
“How did so many Americans come to have so much faith in markets and so little faith in government?” So ask Oreskes and Conway, continuing the line of research they began in their seminal 2010 book, Merchants of Doubt. Where that book focused on the co-optation of scientists to dispute the realities of climate change and the linkage of tobacco to cancer, this joins that co-optation to carefully planted “free market” fundamentalism that holds that any attempt to regulate business is a form of tyranny…
They’re more likely to listen to people they trust.
Rooftop solar panels can save people money on their electricity bills. And those savings can mean a lot — especially for people with low incomes, who might have to choose between paying for utilities or buying food or medicine…
Electric bicycles are catching on—and their lithium-ion batteries are catching fire. Why is so little being done about it?
Fires and overheating accidents attributed to lithium-ion batteries killed 19 people in the United States in 2022, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. In New York City alone, six people died in these uniquely fast-burning infernos. Experts say poorly made batteries, like those often found on cheaper e-bike models, are the primary culprit. So why is it still so easy to purchase them? Continue reading →
With soaring gas prices due to the Ukraine war and the EU’s push to cut emissions, European industries are increasingly switching to high-temperature, high-efficiency heat pumps. Combined with the boom in residential use, the EU is now hoping for a heat pump revolution.
An industrial heat pump at the Mars Confectionery in Veghel, the Netherlands. GEA
The Wienerberger brickworks in Uttendorf, Austria, in the Tyrolean Alps, has always required a steady stream of 90 degree C (194 degree F) heat to dry its construction blocks. This process would have been an expensive proposition for the company after Russia cut gas exports to Europe, as it was for most of Europe’s energy-intensive construction industry. But four years ago, Wienerberger — the largest brick producer in the world — made an investment in the future that is now paying off: it replaced Uttendorf’s gas-fired boiler with an industrial-scale heat pump, which whittles the factory’s energy bill by around 425,00 euros a year. Continue reading →
It is possible to pay farmers a premium while selling single-origin chocolate at a cheaper price – but it means companies have to transform the way it’s made
Is it possible to make an ethical chocolate bar that’s also affordable? Tim McCollum, the founder of the bean-to-bar chocolate brand Beyond Good, says the answer is yes – but you have to transform the way it’s made. Continue reading →
A video showing dozens of vehicles moving in on a pair of big cats in a Kenyan game reserve highlights how “aggressive tourism” can put endangered animals at even greater risk.
The video surfaced online around October. Filmed from a distance, it shows an antelope grazing on the African plain. Suddenly, two cheetahs race toward it and the antelope takes off, running toward the camera. But the cats are too fast. They converge on it and bring it down. They begin to feed. Continue reading →
A pile of debris from Hurricane Ian rises behind a line of people waiting to vote in Fort Myers, Fla., in November 2022. Research suggests support for some climate policies increases immediately after climate-driven disasters such as Ian. Rebecca Blackwell/AP
If you are not (yet) concerned about climate change there is no time like the present:
Most people are focused on the present: today, tomorrow, maybe next year. Fixing your flat tire is more pressing than figuring out if you should use an electric car. Living by the beach is a lot more fun than figuring out when your house will be underwater because of sea level rise. Continue reading →
A Rivian R1T electric pickup truck at the company’s factory in Normal, Illinois. JAMIE KELTER DAVIS / BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES
I had no reason to bet against Tesla until now, but I did wonder whether it was good for anyone (other than its shareholders) for that one company to dominate its market over the longer term. Now, happily, it looks like the market will do what we need it to do, which is get robust:
Spurred by federal mandates and incentives, U.S. manufacturers are pushing forward with developing new battery technologies for electric vehicles. The holy grail is a battery that is safer, costs less, provides longer driving range, and doesn’t use imported “conflict” minerals.
Sixteen years have passed since engineer Martin Eberhard unveiled his futuristic custom-designed sports car before a crowd of investors, journalists, and potential buyers in a Santa Monica Airport hangar. Continue reading →
We collect and convert NOLA’s glass bottles — which have been crammed into our landfills for decades — into functional products: sand and glass cullet. These precious materials have an array of applications, from coastal restoration to flood prevention to eco-construction.
Laurence D. Fink, who runs BlackRock, has urged companies to adopt socially conscious practices. Winnie Au for The New York Times
We have no access to Mr. Fink’s motives or those of the firm he runs, or to how he and his colleagues make decisions–only to some of the actions they have taken. Our view on him and his firm may be simplistic, in that we respect their initial leadership on ESG but fault them now for not doing more. Even if they have only been virtue-signaling, and even if they fall short on true virtue, what they have done is obviously much better than those who are wrong on climate change:
Right-wing officials are attacking BlackRock for overstepping. Those on the left say the world’s biggest asset manager is not doing enough.
Environmental, social and governance — or E.S.G. — investing, “to some degree, is a smoke screen,” said Tariq Fancy, a former BlackRock executive. Chloe Ellingson for The New York Times
It was a clarion call to chief executives everywhere.
In 2018, Laurence D. Fink, the longtime chief executive of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, urged corporate leaders to assess the societal impact of their businesses, embrace diversity and consider how climate change could affect long-term growth.
“Companies,” Mr. Fink wrote in his annual letter to chief executives, “must ask themselves: What role do we play in the community? How are we managing our impact on the environment? Are we working to create a diverse work force? Are we adapting to technological change?” Continue reading →
The Conversation is “a news organization dedicated to facts and evidence” and with the tag line “Academic rigor, journalistic flair”. Our kind of reading. The graph to the left illustrates this article’s point; the photo below to the right is too composed for rigor:
Brazil’s enormous soy farms mostly produce food for animals, not humans. lourencolf / shutterstock