Goats’ Appetites Put To Work

Goats made their first appearance in our pages as a matter of pure visual fun. Then there were several in a row that touched on companionship as well as culinary aspects. Finally one treated goats as workers.  That was five years ago. Today Coral Murphy Marcos tells the story, with photographs by Amanda Lucier, about a family, plus one intern, at the cutting edge of fighting fire with appetite:

The Unconventional Weapon Against Future Wildfires: Goats

When megafires burn in unison and harsh droughts parch the West, local governments, utilities and companies struggle with how to prevent outbreaks, especially as each year brings record destruction.

Carrying an unconventional weapon, Ms. Malmberg travels the American West in an Arctic Fox camper, occupying a small but vital entrepreneurial niche.

Ms. Malmberg, 64, is a goat herder and a pioneer in using the animals to restore fire-ravaged lands to greener pastures and make them less prone to the spread of blazes. Continue reading

Agriculture In Australia Needs A Strategy

‘Farmers are at the interface of the world’s most wicked problems’. A field of canola crops near the New South Wales town of Harden. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Thanks to Gabrielle Chan for this observation on ag down under, and how it impacts us all:

Farmers manage more than half of Australia. We all have a stake in them getting it right

If you eat, you have an interest in farming. If you care about the environment, you have an interest in farming. Yet Australia has no national agriculture strategy

Strip away modernity. Unlearn everything you know about the complexity of your average day. The ordinary interaction, the workaday worries, the pinging of your phone, the relentless roll of the inbox. You are left with the human condition. Continue reading

Totes In Perspective

The original Anya Hindmarch tote, sold at Whole Foods for $15 back in 2007, that kick-started the anti-plastic-bag campaign. Lars Klove for The New York Times

It started one way.

Ms. Hindmarch’s updated version, made from recycled plastic. Suzie Howell for The New York Times

And then it evolved. Now we have to think again about the bags we use to carry things in:

The Cotton Tote Crisis

You can get cotton bags pretty much everywhere. How did an environmental solution become part of the problem?

A laundry line of cotton totes accumulated by a single person since the race to replace plastic began. Suzie Howell for The New York Times

Recently, Venetia Berry, an artist in London, counted up the free cotton tote bags that she had accumulated in her closet. There were at least 25.

There were totes from the eco-fashion brand Reformation and totes from vintage stores, totes from Soho House, boutique countryside hotels and independent art shops. She had two totes from Cubitts, the millennial-friendly opticians, and even one from a garlic farm. “You get them without choosing,” Ms. Berry, 28, said. Continue reading

Coffee & Plastic, Second Shift Footwear

The company said the shoe, called Nomad, will be made from coffee waste and recycled bottles, while recycled polyester will be used to create the membrane to make the footwear waterproof. Photograph: c/o Rens

There is nothing particularly remarkable about the idea of using coffee bags a second time. But it was fun realizing how easy it is, and just doing it. Less easy and maybe lots more fun is the idea in the article below. Hats off to the creative founders who chose this path instead of chasing Silicon Valley unicorns (perhaps their success will demonstrate that unicorns thrive on a healthy planet, as expressed in this t-shirt I saw recently):

Firm seeks funding for ‘performance sneakers’ made from coffee waste

Finnish firm Rens says shoes made from used grounds and recycled plastic will be climate neutral

It is the typical morning routine for hundreds of thousands of Britons: have a cup of coffee and then slip on your trainers before heading for a jog. Upon returning, a quick drink of water to rehydrate before stepping into the shower.

Now, one firm has enabled one thing to beget another, by creating trainers made of recycled plastic bottles and used coffee beans.

Finnish footwear firm Rens launched an online fundraising campaign for its latest sustainable trainer on Tuesday, which it claims will be climate neutral in its production, packaging and transport. Continue reading

While Considering The Switch To EV

Researchers with DeepGreen Metals deploy a box core tool to capture a sample of the seafloor. THE METALS COMPANY

As more and more households and businesses and governments plan their switch to electric vehicles, considering the ripple effects is as important now as it was in the age of fossil-fueled vehicles:

The Race for EV Parts Leads to Risky Deep-Ocean Mining

The electric vehicle boom is driving a surge in demand for prized metals needed for batteries and other components. Some companies say the solution lies in mining the deep oceans, but scientists say that could irreversibly damage a vast, largely pristine ecosystem.

A polymetallic nodule containing manganese, nickel, cobalt and copper gathered from the seafloor. THE METALS COMPANY

Nauru, lying about halfway across the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean between Australia and Hawaii, is the world’s smallest island nation. But in the emerging industry of deep-sea mining, it punches far above its weight.

This June, Nauru gave notice to the International Seabed Authority (ISA), the UN agency charged with regulating mining in international waters, that it was triggering the so-called two-year rule: The agency will have to consider any application for a deep-sea mining license two years from now, under whatever regulations are on the books at the time. This effectively forces the ISA’s hand to finalize a regulatory mining code before that deadline. With this latest development, a once-fanciful idea may soon become a global industry. Continue reading

Making Dams Deliver More

The O’Shaughnessy Dam in Ohio is being repaired and will be providing power to the city of Columbus by mid-2023. CAMERA MEETS BEARD / SHUTTERSTOCK

Thanks to Yale e360 for this story by James Dinneen:

Can Retrofitting Dams for Hydro Provide a Green Energy Boost?

With the era of building big dams over in the U.S., a growing number of existing dams are being modified to produce hydropower. These projects, advocates say, avoid the damaging impacts of new dams and could generate enough renewable electricity for several million homes. Continue reading

Peak Oil & Consequences

Donald Pols, director of the environmental group Milieudefensie, celebrates on May 26 after a court in the Netherlands ordered Shell to slash its emissions. REMKO DE WAAL / ANP / AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

The hug says all you need to know. Our kids, our grandchildren, and generations to follow will all be wondering why we we fiddled so long while carbon burned. The consequences of choices we make now related to the future of fossil fuel use are epic:

Amid Troubles for Fossil Fuels, Has the Era of ‘Peak Oil’ Arrived?

For years, analysts have predicted that rising world oil consumption would peak and start declining in the coming decades. But with a recent string of setbacks for big oil companies and the rapid advance of electric vehicles, some now say that “peak oil” is already here.

An oil platform facility operated by French oil giant Total in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Angola in 2018. RODGER BOSCH / AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

May was arguably the worst month ever for big oil — and the best for its opponents — as courts and corporate shareholders sided with environmental activists to humble the biggest of the fossil-fuel giants, culminating in “Black Wednesday.”

Electric taxis line up at a train station in Shenzhen, China in October, 2019. NIKADA VIA GETTY IMAGES

On that day, May 26, three events occurred that would have seemed nearly impossible not long ago: activists angry at ExxonMobil’s climate policies won three seats on its board of directors; Chevron shareholders voted to force the company to start cutting emissions; and a judge in the Netherlands ruled that Shell must slash its emissions by 45 percent by 2030.

So what’s next for big oil? Is the game up? Have we reached peak oil? Continue reading

When Renewables Are Less Expensive Than Coal…

A solar power plant in Gujarat, India. Renewable energy in the country would be cheaper than between 87% and 91% of new coal plants, the report says. Photograph: Amit Dave/Reuters

Looks like we are almost there:

Most new wind and solar projects will be cheaper than coal, report finds

Almost two-thirds of renewable energy schemes built globally last year expected to undercut coal costs

Almost two-thirds of wind and solar projects built globally last year will be able to generate cheaper electricity than even the world’s cheapest new coal plants, according to a report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena). Continue reading

Methane Leaks Plugged With Help From Above

Thanks to Public Broadcasting Service (USA) for this:

Satellites seek out methane leaks from pipelines, oil fields, landfills and farms

Satellite imagery shows a Russian gas pipeline (left) and highlights huge amounts of methane (right) being emitted from the pipeline on September 6, 2019. Kayrros and Modified Copernicus Data, 2019

The threat was invisible to the eye: tons of methane billowing skyward, blown out by natural gas pipelines snaking across Siberia. In the past, those plumes of potent greenhouse gas released by Russian petroleum operations last year might have gone unnoticed. But armed with powerful new imaging technology, a methane-hunting satellite sniffed out the emissions and tracked them to their sources.

Thanks to rapidly advancing technology, a growing fleet of satellites is now aiming to help close the valve on methane by identifying such leaks from space. The mission is critical, with a series of recent reports sounding an increasingly urgent call to cut methane emissions. Continue reading

Finnish Food Future

Solar Foods, a Finnish company, makes a weird promise on the landing page of its website; but still, thanks to the Guardian for this story behind the story:

A soya bean field in Argentina. The study found a hectare of soya beans could feed 40 people, the solar-microbial process 520 per hectare. Photograph: Ivan Pisarenko/AFP/Getty Images

Microbes and solar power ‘could produce 10 times more food than plants’

The system would also have very little impact on the environment, in contrast to livestock farming, scientists say

Combining solar power and microbes could produce 10 times more protein than crops such as soya beans, according to a new study. Continue reading

More Charging Stations, Please

If we’re going to deal with the climate crisis, electric cars are a crucial part of the task. Photograph by Rebekah Zemansky / Shutterstock

In his weekly newsletter Bill McKibben shares an illuminating anecdote, titled Your Electric Vehicle Can’t Get There from Here—At Least, Not Without a Charge, about driving his electric car in New England that explains

Why we need to build a national network of charging stations fast.

I pulled into a Whole Foods parking lot in Bedford, New Hampshire, hoping against hope—but no, someone was already there, their Chevy Bolt plugged into the fast charger. Continue reading

The Sinking Cost Of Renewable Energy

Because its costs continue to slide with every quarter, solar energy will be cheaper than fossil fuels almost everywhere on the planet by the decade’s end. Photograph by Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times / Getty

Thanks to Bill McKibben, as always, for at least one bit of good news in his weekly newsletter:

Renewable Energy Is Suddenly Startlingly Cheap

Now the biggest barrier to change is the will of our politicians to take serious climate action.

Earth Week has come and gone, leaving behind an ankle-deep and green-tinted drift of reports, press releases, and earnest promises from C.E.O.s and premiers alike that they are planning to become part of the solution. There were contingent signs of real possibility—if some of the heads of state whom John Kerry called on to make Zoom speeches appeared a little strained, at least they appeared. (Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister of Australia, the most carbon-emitting developed nation per capita, struggled to make his technology work.) But, if you want real hope, the best place to look may be a little noted report from the London-based think tank Carbon Tracker Initiative. Continue reading

Urban Power Shifts

Center City Philadelphia, viewed from the Schuylkill River. ZOONAR GMBH / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

Thanks to Jonathan Mingle  and Yale e360 for this analysis:

Cities Confront Climate Challenge: How to Move from Gas to Electricity?

Ending the use of fossil fuels to heat homes and buildings is a key challenge for cities hoping to achieve net-zero emissions. Nowhere is that more evident than in Philadelphia, where technical and financial hurdles and a reluctant gas company stand in the way of decarbonization.

In 1836, Philadelphians mostly used whale oil and candles to light their homes and businesses. That year, the newly formed Philadelphia Gas Works caused a stir when it lit 46 downtown street lamps with gas made from coal in its plant on the Schuylkill River. Continue reading

Scotland, Running On Almost 100% Renewables

GETTY IMAGES. Scotland’s renewables output has tripled in 10 years

Thanks to Scotland, for the ambition and demonstration; and to the BBC for reporting this:

Renewables met 97% of Scotland’s electricity demand in 2020

GETTY IMAGES. WWF Scotland is calling for an increased roll-out of electric vehicles

Scotland has narrowly missed a target to generate the equivalent of 100% of its electricity demand from renewables in 2020.

New figures reveal it reached 97.4% from renewable sources.

This target was set in 2011, when renewable technologies generated just 37% of national demand. Continue reading

Turning Point In USA’s Transition To Electric Vehicles

General Motors has partnered with EVgo to deploy more than 2,700 fast chargers across the U.S. CREDIT: GM

John Paul MacDuffie and Sarah E. Light, both professors at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, have published an article on Yale E360 highlighting the improving potential for electric vehicles to dominate the USA market sooner than previously expected:

EV Turning Point: Momentum Builds for U.S. Electric Vehicle Transition

Driven by GM, Tesla, and the Biden administration, the U.S. is now poised to press ahead in the transformation to electric vehicles. Big challenges still loom, but technological advances, government support, and growing consumer appeal will drive the inevitable switch to EVs.

Last month’s failure of the Texas electric grid, coming just weeks after General Motors’ pledge to make only electric vehicles by 2035, highlights the daunting task the United States faces as it takes the first steps toward weaning its economy off fossil fuels. Continue reading

Offshore Wind Power, Eastern USA

Construction work underway at the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project, located 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. DOMINION ENERGY

Thanks to Yale e360:

On U.S. East Coast, Has Offshore Wind’s Moment Finally Arrived?

After years of false starts, offshore wind is poised to take off along the East Coast. Commitments by states to purchase renewable power, support from the Biden administration, and billions in new investment are all contributing to the emergence of this fledgling industry.

The Block Island Wind Farm off the Rhode Island coast was the first commercial offshore wind farm in the U.S. when it became operational in 2016. DON EMMERT/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

About 60 miles east of New York’s Montauk Point, a 128,000-acre expanse of the Atlantic Ocean is expected to produce enough electricity to power around 850,000 homes when it’s populated with wind turbines and connected to the onshore grid in the next few years.

Fifteen miles off Atlantic City, New Jersey, another windy swath of ocean is due to start generating enough power for some 500,000 homes when a forest of 850-foot-high turbines start turning there in 2024.

Continue reading

Denmark’s Clean Energy Island

A simulation of Denmark’s clean energy island, due to be completed before 2033. Photograph: Danish government

Wind is picking up speed in the race for energy’s future, and to help governments meet climate goals. Denmark is in that race to win. Thanks to the Guardian for this story:

Denmark strikes deal on £25bn artificial wind energy island

Thanks to an inter-party agreement, the clean energy hub in the North Sea is set to be the largest construction project in Danish history

Denmark’s government has agreed to take a majority stake in a £25bn artificial “energy island”, which is to be built 50 miles (80km) offshore, in the middle of the North Sea.

The island to the west of the Jutland peninsula will initially have an area of 120,000 sq metres – the size of 18 football pitches – and in its first phase will be able to provide 3m households with green energy. Continue reading

Making A Better Carbon Chain

Animation by Megan McGrew/PBS Newshour

Thanks to Isabella Isaacs-Thomas and PBS Newshour for a look at our carbon chain through the lens of a scientist determined to making that chain more sustainable:

How this chemical engineer is hacking plastic production to promote sustainability

The products many of us purchase on a regular basis — the water bottles, clothes and, perhaps especially in the era of COVID, take-out containers from our local restaurants — are often plastic, disposable and bound to outlive us for generations. But the enormous amount of plastic waste that humans leave behind is a logistical and ecological nightmare, and experts say potential solutions must be approached from multiple angles, both for the planet’s sake and for our own. Continue reading

Look, Smell, Taste, Don’t Waste

Catchy. Effective? We will see.  Thanks to the Guardian for this view on a UK initiative to reducing food waste at home:

Cut food waste at home by sniffing and tasting, urges new campaign

National government-backed initiative will replace ‘use by’ with ‘best before’ and urge people to judge for themselves

Worried about whether the yoghurt, milk and cheese sitting in your fridge is still safe to eat? Rather than rely on the misleading “best by” date stamped on the side, perhaps its time to “sniff and taste” your staple foods. Continue reading