Agrivoltaics Advancing

Solar panels on Paul Knowlton’s farm in Grafton, Mass. Cattle will graze below the panels, which rise to 14 feet above the ground. Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

The concept of agrivoltaics has been an occasional topic in our pages over the years, most recently as we have prepared to plant thousands of coffee saplings. Ellen Rosen focuses our attention on how the advances in technology, and entrepreneurship in this space, are addressing the challenges:

Can Dual-Use Solar Panels Provide Power and Share Space With Crops?

Companies like BlueWave are betting on it. But the technology has its critics.

Mr. Knowlton preparing the soil between the panels before he plants butternut squash and lettuce. Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

In its 150-year history, Paul Knowlton’s farm in Grafton, Mass., has produced vegetables, dairy products and, most recently, hay. The evolution of the farm’s use turned on changing markets and a variable climate. Recently, however, Mr. Knowlton added a new type of cash crop: solar power. Continue reading

Lionfish Leather

A lionfish caught off Venezuela, where the authorities organise sport fishing competitions to curb the dangerous proliferation of the invasive species. Photograph: Yuri Cortéz/AFP/Getty

Lionfish came to our attention in a series of posts starting in 2014. That year we came to see that fighting this invasive species would require innovative entrepreneurial conservation methods. We published more posts and series about initiatives in the years since then, but the problem continued to grow. For some reason the stories about initiatives started fading from our attention and then stopped with a post in 2018. Now, 22 posts since the first post and four years since the last one, lionfish are back in our thoughts thanks to Inversa’s innovation:

Lionfish leather. Inversa says it is helping to solve an environmental crisis by using an invasive species that eats lots of other fish but has no predators in much of its range. Photograph: Inversa

Fish leather is here, it’s sustainable – and it’s made from invasive species to boot

An avid diver saw how lionfish have devastated populations of Florida’s native tropical fish and resolved to help solve the problem

Aarav Chavda has been diving off the coast of Florida for years. Each time he became increasingly depressed by the ever-growing void, as colourful species of fish and coral reefs continued to disappear. Continue reading

Kaboom! The First Successful Climate Raid Ever

Capitalism in the right hands: How a tech bro just rewrote Australia’s climate future

Until reading about them in this newsletter I read each week, Blair Palese, Peter McKillop and the Climate & Capital Media team were not on my radar. Now they are, and I enjoyed reading what they have written to Jeff Bezos about changing the game:

Capitalism in the right hands: How a tech bro just rewrote Australia’s climate future

  • Following a stunning shareholder coup, Australian software billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes becomes the world’s first corporate raider with a mission to radically reduce Australia’s carbon footprint.
  • Cannon-Brookes made billions in software, but he is not retiring from the game in order to “give back” in the gentlemanly pursuit of charity.
  • His victorious raid demonstrates that real climate action requires more than just writing checks.
  • Instead Cannon-Brookes channeled corporate raider Carl Icahn, investor Henry Kravis, feminist organizer Gloria Steinem, Cajun political strategist James Carville and to do what no person has ever done: Merge political, financial, shareholder, and climate action into a single, ground-breaking capitalist moment to take on global warming.
  • We thought Jeff Bezos should know Mike.

Dear Jeff Bezos,

Greetings from Climate & Capital Media. We tried to send you a message on LinkedIn, but there are like at least two dozen Jeff Bezoses and you are not one of them. We applaud your commitment to climate action and setting up the $10 Billion charitable Earth Fund.

But word in New York is you are a tad frustrated with the fund’s impact. Continue reading

Running Tide’s Buoys


An image of a man in boots in a kelp hatchery
Since kelp grows as fast as two feet per day, it absorbs a huge amount of carbon through photosynthesis. (Jamie Walter / Running Tide)

Kelp  has featured in our pages frequently enough to be considered an important topic. It will be a partial solution to something big. Thanks, as always, to Robinson Meyer for the weekly newsletter that sometimes depresses the spirit but on other occasions, like this one, titled How to Fight Climate Change With Buoys That Look Like Ramen Noodles, points a small ray of hope in an unexpected direction:

Running Tide’s buoys are made of reclaimed waste wood, limestone, and kelp seedlings. (Jamie Walter / Running Tide)

Last month, somewhere off the coast of Maine, a small group of researchers and engineers released a series of tiny, floating objects into the water. The team called them “buoys,” but they looked more like a packet of uncooked ramen noodles glued to a green party streamer than anything of the navigational or weather-observing variety. These odd jellyfish had one role in life: to go away and never be seen again. With any luck, their successors would soon be released into the open ocean, where they would float away, absorb a small amount of carbon from the atmosphere, then sink to the bottom of the seafloor, where their residue would remain for thousands of years. Continue reading

Preservation & Protection Via Gamification

Incentives to behave differently in relation to the environment is a constant topic here, but we have not used the word gamification before. Today is finally the day. Thank you, Lindsey Galloway:

Palau’s world-first ‘good traveller’ incentive

Responsible travellers will be able to unlock exclusive cultural and nature-based experiences (Credit: Colors and shapes of underwater world/Getty Images)

In a world-first initiative, visitors to Palau will be offered exclusive experiences based on how they treat the environment and culture, not by how much they spend.

Despite being home to fewer than 20,000 residents, the Republic of Palau is making an outsized impact to preserve the planet. Not only did the country Continue reading

Critical Mass On Greener Steel

Getty

Greening the production of steel has been the topic of exactly one previous post, which linked to an article by Matthew Hutson from last September that made passing reference to the company featured in the article below. Maybe we are getting closer to critical mass:

Roughly a tenth of global carbon emissions comes from the steel industry. Doing something about that is easier said than done.

In the city of Woburn, Massachusetts, a suburb just north of Boston, a cadre of engineers and scientists in white coats inspected an orderly stack of brick-size, gunmetal-gray steel ingots on a desk inside a neon-illuminated lab space.

What they were looking at was a batch of steel created using an innovative manufacturing method, one that Boston Metal, a company that spun out a decade ago from MIT, hopes will dramatically reshape the way the alloy has been made for centuries. Continue reading

Plant-based Diet Enhanced By The Sea

Seaweed ecologist Dr Sophie Steinhagen inspects the crop at the seafarm in the Koster archipelago in Sweden.

Three months into a beef-free diet, with no temptation to lapse, I am aware that other animal protein is so far a saving grace. When I switch entirely to alternative creatures such as crickets, and to plants including seaweed, I will know the transformation is complete.

Seaweed farming in Sweden could be a vital component of the shift away from eating meat for protein.

Meanwhile, thanks to the Guardian for Richard Orange’s reporting from Malmö on Sea-farmed supercrop: how seaweed could transform the way we live.

From high-protein food to plastics and fuel, Swedish scientists are attempting to tap the marine plant’s huge potential

Steinhagen inspects the tanks in her “seaweed kindergarten”.

You can just see the buoys of the seafarm,” Dr Sophie Steinhagen yells over the high whine of the boat as it approaches the small islands of Sweden’s Koster archipelago. The engine drops to a sputter, and Steinhagen heaves up a rope to reveal the harvest hanging beneath: strand after strand of sea lettuce, translucent and emerald green. Continue reading

Carbon, Sequestration & Hope

(Brandon Thibodeaux / The New York Times / Redux)

When I read about a promising new technology related to carbon sequestration, I am ambivalent based on the experience of many past false hopes. Carbon is a very large problem. Finding new methods of sequestration is a very challenging puzzle.

I track such developments every week by reading the newsletter that Bill McKibben posts on Substack. Most weeks I post something here from that, and do my best to balance the terrifying and enraging with the more hopeful news he occasionally shares there.

The only other newsletter I read regularly is Robinson Meyer’s newsletter for the Atlantic, called The Weekly Planet. Here is one of his worth reading for a bit of encouragement (when you click the hyperlink it will go to the current newsletter, which until April 20 is this one; after April 20 scroll to find this edition):

The Biggest Investment Ever in Sucking Carbon Out of the Sky

The world’s biggest tech companies are getting serious about carbon removal, the still-nascent technology wherein humanity can pull heat-trapping carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Yesterday, an alliance of prominent Silicon Valley companies—including Google, Meta, Shopify, and the payment company Stripe—announced that it is purchasing $925 million in carbon removal over the next eight years. In a world awash in overhyped corporate climate commitments, this is actually a big deal. Continue reading

A New Knife Worthy Of Our Attention

Knives are the oldest type of manufactured tool, and they’re still evolving. Karsten Moran for The New York Times

I last posted on the topic of knives earlier this year, partly because the onetime blacksmith apprentice in me felt compelled to salute the skillset, but mainly because the mission behind the knife-making in that case was worth promoting.

Otherwise, culinary utensils do not get much attention in our pages. Ceiba being the celebrated exception to that general rule–wooden culinary utensils, but no knives. Derrick Bryson Taylor offers us a good reason to revisit this neglect:

Knives are humanity’s oldest tool, dating back millions of years. A group of scientists in Maryland have produced a version made of hardened wood, which they say is sharper than steel.

More than 60 years ago in “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” Julia Child, one of America’s most emulated chefs, described the necessity of decent, reliable kitchen equipment. Continue reading

Schoonschip’s Floating Homes

Schoonschip, a floating home development in Amsterdam. ISABEL NABUURS

Shira Rubin, writing in Yale e360, offers a view of Holland’s innovative housing approach to a future where the increase in waterscape can become an advantage. And she illustrates how this might be of use in other parts of the world facing the same challenges from rising seas:

Embracing a Wetter Future, the Dutch Turn to Floating Homes

Faced with worsening floods and a shortage of housing, the Netherlands is seeing growing interest in floating homes. These floating communities are inspiring more ambitious Dutch-led projects in flood-prone nations as far-flung as French Polynesia and the Maldives.

When a heavy storm hit in October, residents of the floating community of Schoonschip in Amsterdam had little doubt they could ride it out. They tied up their bikes and outdoor benches, checked in with neighbors to ensure everyone had enough food and water, and hunkered down as their neighborhood slid up and down its steel foundational pillars, rising along with the water and descending to its original position after the rain subsided. Continue reading

Natural Fiber Welding

From left to right, SEM image of raw cotton and Natural Fiber Welding’s CLARUS® cotton. COURTESY OF NATURAL FIBER WELDING

We look forward to hearing more as they progress:

This Company Has a Way to Replace Plastic in Clothing

Natural Fiber Welding uses an innovative process to treat cotton and make it behave more like synthetic fibers.

LUKE HAVERHALS WANTS to change how yoga pants are made. Most performance fabrics used in athletic clothing, like Spandex, are made from synthetic fibers—plastic, essentially. Those plastics are problematic for humans and the environment. Haverhals’ company, Natural Fiber Welding, offers an alternative to synthetic fabrics. Continue reading

Green Steel On The Horizon

The steel industry produces around two billion tons of it each year, while emitting more than three billion tons of carbon dioxide annually. Photograph by Christine Olsson / Alamy

The ratio of carbon dioxide produced, relative to steel produced, is surprising. The bigger surprise is how to improve that ratio:

The Promise of Carbon-Neutral Steel

A new manufacturing technique could drastically reduce the footprint of one of our dirtiest materials.

Steel production accounts for around seven per cent of humanity’s greenhouse-gas emissions. There are two reasons for this startling fact. First, steel is made using metallurgic methods that our Iron Age forebears would find familiar; second, it is part of seemingly everything, including buildings, bridges, fridges, planes, trains, and automobiles. According to some estimates, global demand for steel will nearly double by 2050. Green steel, therefore, is urgently needed if we’re to confront climate change. Continue reading

Grounding The Carbon On Farmlands

Basalt is spread on the Leverhulme Centre for Climate Change Mitigation’s research cornfields in Illinois. JORDAN GOEBIG

Thanks to Yale e360:

How Adding Rock Dust to Soil Can Help Get Carbon into the Ground

Researchers are finding that when pulverized rock is applied to agricultural fields, the soil pulls far more carbon from the air and crop yields increase. More studies are underway, but some scientists say this method shows significant benefits for farmers and the climate.

Researcher Zack Kozma (left) gathers a water sample from a field where rock dust has been added to the soil at Cornell’s AgriTech Agricultural Experiment Station. GARRETT BOUDINOT; SOPHIE NASRALLAH

On a hot and humid August day near Geneva, New York, Garrett Boudinot stands in a field of hemp, the green stalks towering a foot or more over his 6-foot, 4-inch frame. Today, the mustached Cornell University research assistant will harvest six acres of the crop, weigh it in red plastic garbage bins, and continue to analyze the hundreds of water samples taken with measuring devices called lysimeters that have been buried in the field over the last three months.

A clump of soil containing rock dust. GARRETT BOUDINOT; SOPHIE NASRALLAH

Boudinot, part of a research team at Cornell University, will sweat through the next two days of field work to see whether an unusual component added to the soil earlier in the year helped increase yields and sequester carbon. This soil amendment “we just call lovingly ‘rock dust,’ which isn’t very descriptive,” says Boudinot. “But it’s really silicate rocks that have been pulverized to a fine powder.” Continue reading

Mycology’s Expansive Boundaries

Paul Stamets. Credit: Trav Williams Broken Banjo Photography

In the media we scan for articles and podcasts to share here, some of the last year’s attention to fungi has been aimed at making them seem less alien by celebrating their very alien-ness. Up to now, this has all been earth-bound, but maybe that has been an arbitrary boundary. Thanks to Scientific American magazine for this conversation with the man who has been stretching fungi boundaries for much longer than we have been paying attention:

Future Space Travel Might Require Mushrooms

Mycologist Paul Stamets discusses the potential extraterrestrial uses of fungi, including terraforming planets, building human habitats—and providing psilocybin therapy to astronauts

The list of mycologists whose names are known beyond their fungal field is short, and at its apex is Paul Stamets. Educated in, and a longtime resident of, the mossy, moldy, mushy Pacific Northwest region, Stamets has made numerous contributions over the past several decades— perhaps the best summation of which can be found in his 2005 book Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World. But now he is looking beyond Earth to discover new ways that mushrooms can help with the exploration of space. 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

Sugar’s Greater Potential

The wily ways of the biggest petrochemical companies have been a concern since we started this platform, and when something seems like big news, but turns not to be so big, we share what we find.  We have previously shared a story or two about sugar’s potential as an energy source, but in its recent edition The Economist weighs in on what may be sugar’s bigger than big potential:

Better disposable coffee cups

They can be made with the waste from sugar cane

Sugar cane contains around 10% sugar. But that means it contains around 90% non-sugar—the material known as bagasse (pictured) which remains once the cane has been pulverised and the sugar-bearing juice squeezed out of it. World production of cane sugar was 185m tonnes in 2017. That results in a lot of bagasse. Continue reading

Coffee In Space

Donald Pettit demonstrated his zero-gravity coffee cup on the space station in 2008. NASA TV

Thanks to Mary Robinette Kowal for this very brief note from history demonstrating how the need for caffeine was the mother of invention:

The first patented invention made in space was a coffee cup.

In November 2008, Donald Pettit wanted to drink his tea and coffee from an open vessel.

Samantha Cristoforetti, a European Space Agency astronaut, with the new ISSpresso machine in 2015. NASA

While aboard the I.S.S., he tore out a plastic divider from his Flight Data File and used the magic of fluid dynamics to create an open cup. Until then, astronauts drank everything out of a plastic bag with a straw.

We interact with coffee through aroma as much as through taste. In a bag, half of the experience was gone; Dr. Pettit said that he wanted to add “back the dimension of what it’s like to be a human being.” Continue reading

Upcycled Foods, Circa Late 2020

The first time I saw upcycling in action, I did not know the word. It became part of my vocabulary in 2012. And then I started seeing it more frequently, but only years later before I would see it in relation to food. Now it is more mainstream, but this PBS news segment shocked me anyway, with the revelation of how much waste there is in the production of tofu. In my experience growing up in the USA, tofu was one of the first “green foods” on the market. Little did we know. Shock is sometimes followed by awe. Case in point: Renewal Mill is providing solutions to tofu production waste and other forms of food waste that seem obvious once you see them do it. But first, someone had to do it. I have not tasted their products yet but I am confident I would savor it on multiple dimensions.

Charismatic Mega-Batteries

2000 (5)

When we started this platform, from a base in south India, we were surrounded by charismatic mega-fauna. Even the squirrels were unusually beautiful and large. The purpose of the platform being to highlight stories of creative, entrepreneurial approaches to conservation as much as to raise awareness of environmental issues more broadly, there is a new form of mega charisma worth noting today. It may make a difference to the issues we have been pointing to since the first post nine years ago:

Climate emission killer: construction begins on world’s biggest liquid air battery

Exclusive: project will store renewable energy and reduce climate-heating emissions

Construction is beginning on the world’s largest liquid air battery, which will store renewable electricity and reduce carbon emissions from fossil-fuel power plants.

The project near Manchester, UK, will use spare green energy to compress air into a liquid and store it. When demand is higher, the liquid air is released back into a gas, powering a turbine that puts the green energy back into the grid.

A big expansion of wind and solar energy is vital to tackle the climate emergency but they are not always available. Storage is therefore key and the new project will be the largest in the world outside of pumped hydro schemes, which require a mountain reservoir to store water. Continue reading

Plants To Plastic To Progress

A mound of plastic bottles at a recycling plant near Bangkok in Thailand. Around 300 million tonnes of plastic is made every year and most of it is not recycled. Photograph: Diego Azubel/EPA

We’re always happy to give credit when due. While beer isn’t the first beverage that comes to mind when thinking about the scourge of plastics in the world, bottled soda and water certainly are. So it’s heartening to hear that a company like Coca-Cola, which has contributed to the proliferation of the world’s plastic problem, is backing a bioplastic project that could help to control it.