Sustainable holiday gift ideas for siblings

December 11, 2020 by  
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You grew up with them and have probably known them your whole life. So why are some siblings so hard to shop for? We’ve scoured the internet for fun, thoughtful and sustainable  gifts  which even the most discerning sib will be thrilled to receive. Zero-waste cocktail kit This  zero-waste cocktail kit  lets your siblings stir up a gimlet or  French  75 anywhere. The mason jar cocktail shaker, two stainless steel mini straws and sphere ice tray travel well in their own special tote. Related: Gift loved ones with classes that teach and build nature skills Organic soaps Okay, people often use soap as a sort of fallback gift when they don’t know what else to give somebody. But  Birch Ridge ‘s handmade soaps are something special. These soaps are vegan,  organic , synthetic-free and, best of all, come in delicious fragrances with cool names. Blood Moon is a combo of citrus notes — blood orange, tangerine, lime, sweet orange, tangerine and lemongrass. Collins pairs lemongrass with sage, patchouli, lime and bergamot. Hemp socks Want  hemp socks  without the hippie look? These unisex machine washable crew socks use a cotton, nylon and  hemp  blend. They come in three patterns: mustard with a mountain pattern, tan with bison and rust with a geometric pattern. The socks are also responsibly made in China (a self-reported label meaning a company aims to treat workers fairly and reduce environmental impacts). Sustainable wireless charger For the electronically-inclined sibling, try these  chargers  made from hemp and recycled plastic. Go Nimble offers several options, including a wireless travel kit and a dual pad for simultaneously charging two devices. A safe bet for your bro who is always wearing down his phone battery at  family  dinners. EcoVibe gift set EcoVibe  has done the work of putting together cutesy gift sets for you. The company has lots of choices depending on your sib’s favorite activity. An Icelandic bath kit includes a special  Icelandic  kelp soap, stone soap dish and matching tiny Icelandic kelp candle. The bike buff gift set includes shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream and lip salve to clean up post-ride, plus a cyclist kit and a pocket bicycle multi-tool. The air plant wall mounting kit will help up your sib’s botanical game with a natural cork backdrop for their air plant collection. Includes step-by-step instructions. Vegan jams by Trade Street Jam, like soap, is a classic gift because the recipient can enjoy a special flavor without leaving behind an artifact to clutter their house forever. We want to try all of  Trade Street Jam’s  interesting  vegan  blends, like strawberry chipotle and fig or plum and rose. Or maybe sour cherry ginger. Or smoke peach. Whichever you choose, be sure to order some of Trade Street’s darling mini wooden jam spoons to go with your gift. Wellness app membership Is wellness a gift you can give? Sure. Help your anxious sib learn to slow down with a gift of  Calm , the leading meditation app.  Headspace  is another meditation app that promises to change lives with an investment of only a few minutes a day. Or you could give a gift of Zoom classes with your sibling’s favorite  yoga  teacher. Vegan, biodegradable juice masks Is your sibling into clean living? This  masking and juicing set  brings the raw juice trend into skincare with biodegradable sheet masks. We especially like the set’s included sprout headband to secure your hair while the raw juice cleanse mask is on your face. This set is, of course, vegan, organic, eco-friendly and cruelty-free. I+I Botanicals For the CBD-inclined sibling,  I+I Botanicals  offers expertly crafted feel-good formulations to solve skincare issues. I+I Infused Bath Teas blend CBD and essential oils into bath salts. I+I Dry Oil Body Mist will leave your sib glowing, not greasy, and smelling of citrus and sandalwood. This women-owned company uses only American -grown, lab-tested CBD in its products. Artsy reusable water bottle People may not leave the house as often during the pandemic, but when your sibling goes out, they’ll want to be toting an eye-catching  water bottle . This cute retro  water  bottle comes in mint, coral, dark gray and indigo, each with a contrasting top. It’s vacuum-sealed and has a double-walled construction that keeps cold drinks cold for up to 24 hours and hot drinks hot for up to twelve. Plant-based milk maker If your sibling is part of the global trend against dairy, they’ll benefit from this  plant-based milk maker . Instead of buying premade and processed faux milk from the store, this gadget turns  nuts , grains and seeds into fresh dairy-free milk at home. Your sibling can even devise their own custom blends. Compostable phone case Alas, every good thing comes to an end. Even a trusty and beloved phone case.  Compostable cases  for your iPhone and Airpods can help pare down the global waste stream. These cases made from a bamboo-based proprietary blend can decompose and return to the earth. When your sibling’s phone case must meet its maker, we prefer to think dust to dust than permanent burial in a landfill . To make these cases even sweeter, you can customize them with your sib’s name or initials. Cases come in colors like mint and French raspberry. These work great with wireless charging or a lightning cable. Images via Package Free Shop, Birch Ridge, United by Blue, Go Nimble, EcoVibe, Trade Street Jam, Calm, ESW Beauty, I+I Botanicals, The Grommet, Pexels, and Casetify

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Sustainable holiday gift ideas for siblings

McDonald’s introduces McPlant, its first plant-based burger

November 12, 2020 by  
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Now that every major fast food chain on the planet seems to have introduced a vegan option, McDonald’s is finally getting with the times. Want to eat at the golden arches without making some animal pay for it? Meet McPlant. “We have created a delicious burger that will be the first menu option in a plant-based platform,” said Ian Borden, president of McDonald’s International. The fast food giant has tested a plant-based burger in Canada and may eventually add faux meat breakfast sandwiches and mock chicken to the menu. Related: What Taco Bell’s menu changes mean for fast food-loving vegans McPlant’s exact composition is elusive. Borden said McPlant is “crafted exclusively for McDonald’s, by McDonald’s ,” according to Fast Company, but the patty was co-created with Beyond Meat. That partnership may or may not be continuing. Can McPlant help turn the tide against an ever-growing global meat demand? The fast food restaurant is, after all, one of the world’s biggest beef buyers. “This represents a significant milestone,” Zach Weston, foodservice and supply chain manager at the Good Food Institute, told Fast Company. “McDonald’s brand is iconic and global, and the scale at which they operate is unsurpassed.” With the vegan burger’s provenance unknown, much of the internet has focused on the new sandwich’s name, and not in a good way. “McPlant” has been called stupid and unoriginal, with many catchier options suggested. But it has advantages. For any vegan who’s ever been terrified their order will be misheard and soon they’ll be chowing down on a pig or cow, the name McPlant will be like a security blanket. “McPlant” sounds nothing like Big Mac, Chicken McNuggets or Snack Wrap, some of the restaurant’s top selling items. But we’ll have to wait until next year to find out how it tastes. McPlant will start popping up on McDonald’s menus in 2021. Via Eater and Fast Company Image via McDonald’s

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Driving, flying expected to spike after COVID-19 pandemic

November 12, 2020 by  
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Amidst the everlasting pandemic, fewer people yearn to squeeze into closely spaced airline seats or pack into crowded buses. As such, a new survey reveals a seemingly contradictory conclusion that post-pandemic , people expect to drive private cars more, even though the majority of respondents believe humans are responsible for the climate crisis. In some countries, people also planned to fly more after the pandemic. The YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project polled about 26,000 people in 25 countries during July and August. It found that respondents held humans as the culprits of global warming by a ratio of more than three to one. This belief was most strongly held in Brazil, Spain, China, the U.K. and Japan. The countries with the largest number of doubters regarding human responsibility rely heavily on oil production, notably Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and the U.S. Related: Could a private car ban make NYC more livable? Air travel has long been an issue to climate campaigners, because it’s a huge source of emissions . People in the U.K., Italy, Germany and India all said they plan to fly less post-pandemic, although this could well be more for fear of contagion than love of the planet. But some respondents plan to fly more, especially those in Brazil and Nigeria. People in Brazil, Nigeria, Egypt and Sweden were more likely to be looking forward to holidays abroad. Meanwhile, those in Italy, the U.K., Germany, Thailand and China will be planning more domestic vacations in the future. Researchers were most alarmed by the fact that respondents in all 25 countries plan to drive more post-pandemic. Brazilians showed the most marked planned increase, with 62% saying yes to more driving and only 12% planning to drive less. South Africa was right behind, with 60% yay and 12% nay. More than 40% of Australians and Americans planned to spend more time behind the wheel, with only 10% anticipating leaving their cars in park more often. What do all these statistics mean? Human behavior is complicated and often contradictory, as our best intentions battle with fear and convenience. But if people begin to drive as much as predicted, they could undermine global efforts to meet the Paris Agreement targets. Via The Guardian Image via S. Hermann & F. Richter

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How the digital wave is contributing to the rise of sustainable fisheries

November 12, 2020 by  
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How the digital wave is contributing to the rise of sustainable fisheries Myisha Majumder Thu, 11/12/2020 – 02:03 World fish consumption has almost doubled between the 1960s and now, and some estimates suggest fish contributes to at least 50 percent of total animal protein intake in developing nations. Despite higher demand for seafood and fish, world reserves have not kept up, and aquaculture is becoming more common as a result. Aquaculture uses techniques of breeding marine species in all types of water environments as a means to supplement seafood demand. The practice comes with many advantages, including reducing the dependence on wild-caught species, but also raises environmental concerns, which some industry experts are trying to address with up-and-coming technologies such as analytics, blockchain, artificial intelligence and the internet of things. Jennifer Kemmerly, vice president of global ocean initiatives at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, said a focus on sustainability is necessary in the field, as 3 billion people rely on seafood, and 60 million people rely on the seafood industry for their livelihood. But this demand comes with noticeable problems, Kemmerly observed during a breakout session during VERGE 20 in late October. “There’s a lot of overfishing, or depleted fish stocks on the wild side of capture fisheries. There is illegality and mismanagement traceability back to the source of where the seafood is coming from, even whether it is farmed or wild… There are environmental issues and concerns that need to be dealt with,” she said. Kristina Furnes, global communications manager for Grieg Seafood, an international seafood company in Norway, British Columbia and Shetland specializing in fresh Atlantic salmon, said fish farming is complex. “It actually takes between 2.5 to three years to farm salmon, [which is] quite a long production period compared to, for example, chicken, which maybe takes like one or two months,” she said. Part of this farming process occurs in freshwater facilities on land and the other part occurs at sea. The process becomes even more complex with the introduction of sustainable practices, as fisheries strive to reduce impact on nature and improve fish welfare. “We have to cut carbon emissions in line with the Paris Agreement, and we have to find new ways to think more in line with the circular economy,” Furnes said. Data and digital technologies can play a big role in helping out the process, said Furnes and her fellow VERGE 20 panelists. At Grieg Seafood, data analytics are being used to reduce the company’s feed conversion ratio, typically the amount of feed given over the amount of weight gained by the livestock, she said. One operational center can support all the different farms in that region, and with them, decision-making support as we call it, so we don’t think that digital tools will ever replace the fantastic guys on the farm. Although technological advances can assist in making fishery practices more sustainable, Furnes emphasized the importance of long histories of fishing communities. She believes that well-established farmers who have “grown up with the ocean” have had the experience-based learning crucial for decision-making. Furnes does not see technology as a way to replace humans in the process, but rather to assist, through the creation of operational centers in the Grieg Seafood infrastructure. “One operational center can support all the different farms in that region, and with them, decision-making support as we call it, so we don’t think that digital tools will ever replace the fantastic guys on the farm. But the idea is that it will help them to make better decisions,” she said. Among the sources of information Grieg uses to inform decisions include sensors and cameras to gather environmental data and monitor equipment on the farms. Another area where data analytics can be used to help fisheries is through early detection of potential damages. Furnes offered the example of harmful algae blooms that can damage the salmon by decreasing levels of oxygen. In Grieg Seafood’s British Columbia center, the company uses machine learning models to predict the probability of algae blooms. If the model warns of such an event, the company puts into place protective barriers through use of upwelling systems, which is simply taking water from further down in the ocean and increasing the overall height. Blockchain also could play a role in supporting the sustainable evolution of aquaculture, said Espen Braathe, head of blockchain transparency efforts in Europe for IBM, who believes IBM’s preexisting blockchain network for the food market in Europe can be implemented in some way. Braathe said data analytics about the condition of fish farms is appealing to consumers as well. “We expect information to be at our fingertips and we expect to have the truth about food… You want to feel good about you know the food that we eat, and we want to make sure it’s healthy right for us as well,” he said. In Braathe’s opinion, consumers are looking for the connection that once ago existed between the consumer and the farmer. It is possible to recreate this relationship through digital connections, he said. Although it is clear that usage of data can benefit the sustainability of fisheries, the industry will need to overcome certain barriers, according to the panelists. “The data is there, it resides in silos, but the quality of the data is not always to the point where you can actually use it [for analytics],” Braathe said. Furnes echoed this statement, and said some sort of streamlining across the industry and within individual companies is necessary to efficiently use the large amounts of data gathered. “There is a need for a standard in the industry on how you actually collect data… Ensuring that you actually have quality data that you are collecting that you can actually use for something and compare is really big,” she said. Adopting such practices hopefully will come with time, as global consumption of seafood likely will continue to rise and have an impact on the surrounding climate and environment. Kemmerly sees great potential in the role of technology in the solutions. “The challenges are not insurmountable. Technology has proven it can play a powerful role in enabling the sustainability and improved management of both fisheries and aquaculture,” she said. Pull Quote One operational center can support all the different farms in that region, and with them, decision-making support as we call it, so we don’t think that digital tools will ever replace the fantastic guys on the farm. Topics Oceans & Fisheries VERGE 20 Digitalization Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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The digital divide worsens the inequitable impacts of the climate crisis

August 3, 2020 by  
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The digital divide worsens the inequitable impacts of the climate crisis Maddie Stone Mon, 08/03/2020 – 01:00 This story originally appeared in Grist and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalistic collaboration to strengthen coverage of the climate story. One of the starkest inequalities exposed by the coronavirus pandemic is the difference between the digital haves and have-nots. Those with a fast internet connection are more able to work and learn remotely, stay in touch with loved ones and access critical services such as telemedicine. For the millions of Americans who live in an internet dead zone , fully participating in society in the age of social distancing has become difficult, if not impossible. But if the pandemic has laid bare America’s so-called “digital divide,” climate change will only worsen the inequality that stems from it. As the weather grows more extreme and unpredictable, wealthy urban communities with faster, more reliable internet access will have an easier time responding to and recovering from disasters, while rural and low-income Americans — already especially vulnerable to the impacts of a warming climate — could be left in the dark. Unless, that is, we can bring everyone’s internet up to speed, which is what Democratic lawmakers on the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis are hoping to do. Buried in a sweeping, 538-page climate change plan the committee released last month is a call to expand and modernize the nation’s telecommunications infrastructure in order to prepare it, and vulnerable communities around the country, for future extreme weather events and climate disruptions. The plan calls for increasing broadband internet access nationwide with the goal of getting everyone connected, updating the country’s 911 emergency call systems and ensuring cellular communications providers are able to keep their networks up and running amid hurricane-force winds and raging wildfires. This plan isn’t the first to point out that America’s internet infrastructure is in dire need of an upgrade , but it is unusual to see lawmakers frame better internet access as an important step toward building climate resilience. While the internet is often described as a great equalizer, access to the web never has been equal.   To Jim Kessler , executive vice president for policy at the moderate public policy think tank Third Way, this framing makes perfect sense. “You’ve got to build resilience into communities but also people,” Kessler said. “And you can’t do this without people having broadband and being connected digitally.” While the internet is often described as a great equalizer , access to the web never has been equal. High-income people have faster internet access than low-income people, urban residents are more connected than rural ones, and whiter counties are more likely to have broadband than counties with more Black and Brown residents. We’re not just talking about a few digital stragglers being left behind: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) estimates that more than 18 million Americans lack access to fast broadband, which the agency defines as a 25 megabits per second download speed and 3 megabits per second upload speed. Monica Anderson , who studies the digital divide at Pew Research Center, says that many more Americans have broadband access in their area but don’t subscribe because it’s too expensive. “What we see time and again is the cost is prohibitive,” Anderson said. A lack of broadband reduces opportunities for people in the best of times, but it can be crippling in wake of a disaster, making it difficult or impossible to apply for aid or access recovery resources. Puerto Ricans experienced this in the aftermath of 2017’s Hurricane Maria, which battered the island’s telecommunications infrastructure and left many residents with terminally slow broadband more than a year after the storm had passed. Three years later, with a global pandemic moving vast swaths of the economy online for the foreseeable future, internet-impoverished communities around the country are feeling a similar strain . To some extent, mobile networks have helped bridge the broadband gap in recent years. More than 80 percent of Americans own a smartphone, with similar rates of ownership among Black, white and Hispanic Americans. Nearly 40 percent of Americans access the internet primarily from a phone. As far as disaster resilience goes, this surge in mobile adoption is good news: Our phones allow us to receive emergency alerts and evacuation orders quickly, and first responders rely on them to coordinate on the fly. Of the 240 million 911 calls made every year, more than 80 percent come from a wireless device, per the FCC . But in the age of climate change, mobile networks are becoming more vulnerable. The cell towers, cables and antennas underpinning them weren’t always built to withstand worsening fires and storms, a vulnerability that Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T have all acknowledged in recent climate change disclosures filed with the CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project). And when these networks go down — as nearly 500 cell towers did during California’s Camp and Woolsey fires in 2018, according to the new House climate change plan — it can create huge challenges for emergency response. “Everything from search-and-rescue efforts to sending out warnings to getting people directions to shelters is facilitated through various telecommunications and internet,” said Samantha Montano , an assistant professor of emergency management at Massachusetts Maritime Academy. “We’re pretty reliant on them.” Democrats’ new climate plan seeks to address many problems created by unequal and unreliable internet access in order to build a more climate-hardy web and society. To help bring about universal broadband access, the plan recommends boosting investment in FCC programs such as the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund , a $20 billion fund earmarked for broadband infrastructure deployments across rural America. It also calls for increased investment in programs such as the FCC’s Lifeline , which offers government-subsidized broadband to low-income Americans, and it recommends mandating that internet service providers suspend service shutoffs for 60 days in the wake of declared emergencies. Broadband improvements should be prioritized in underserved communities “experiencing or are likely to experience disproportionate environmental and climate change impacts,” per the plan. As far as mobile networks go, House Democrats recommend that Congress authorize states to set disaster resilience requirements for wireless providers as part of their terms of service. They also recommend boosting federal investments in Next Generation 911 , a long-running effort to modernize America’s 911 emergency call systems and connect thousands of individually operating systems. Finally, the plan calls for the FCC to work with wireless providers to ensure their networks don’t go offline during disasters for reasons unrelated to equipment failure, citing Verizon’s infamous throttling of data to California firefighters as they were fighting the Mendocino Complex Fire in 2018. Kessler of Third Way said that Democrats’ climate plan lays out “the right ideas” for bridging the digital divide. “You want to be able to get the technology out there, the infrastructure out there, and you need to make sure people can pay for it,” he said. The call for hardening our internet infrastructure is especially salient to Paul Barford , a computer scientist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. In 2018, Barford and two colleagues published a study highlighting the vulnerability of America’s fiber cables to sea level rise, and he’s investigating how wildfires threaten mobile networks. In both cases, he says, it’s clear that the telecommunications infrastructure deployed today was designed with historical extreme conditions in mind — and that has to change. “We’re living in a world of climate change,” he said. “And if the intention is to make this new infrastructure that will serve the population for many years to come, then it is simply not feasible to deploy it without considering the potential effects of climate change, which include, of course, rising seas, severe weather, floods and wildfires.” Everything from search-and-rescue efforts to sending out warnings to getting people directions to shelters is facilitated through various telecommunications and internet.   Whether the House climate plan’s recommendations become law remains to be seen. Many specific ideas in the plan already have been introduced to Congress in various bills, including the LIFT America Act , which would infuse Next Generation 911 with an extra $12 billion in funding, and the WIRED Act , which would authorize states to regulate wireless companies’ infrastructure. Perhaps most significantly, House Democrats recently passed an infrastructure bill that would invest $80 billion in broadband deployment around the country overseen by a new Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth. The bill would mandate a minimum speed standard of 100/100 megabits per second for federally funded internet projects, a speed stipulation that can be met only with high-speed fiber optics, says Ernesto Omar Falcon , a senior legal counsel at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital civil liberties nonprofit. Currently, Falcon estimates that about a third of Americans have access to this advanced internet infrastructure, with a larger swath of the country accessing the web via older, slower, DSL copper or cable lines. “It would connect anyone who doesn’t have internet to a 21st century line,” Falcon said. “That’s a huge deal.” The infrastructure bill seems unlikely to move forward in a Republican-controlled Senate. But the urgency of getting everyone a fast, resilient internet connection isn’t going anywhere. In fact, the idea that internet access is a basic right seems to be gaining traction every day, even making an appearance last week in presumed Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s new infrastructure plan . With the pandemic continuing to transform how we work, live and interact with one another, and with climate change necessitating even larger transformations in the future, our need to be connected digitally is only becoming greater. “I think every day the pressure mounts, because the problem is not going away,” Falcon said. “It’s really going to come down to what we want the recovery to look like. And which of the problems COVID-19 has presented us with do we want to solve.” Pull Quote While the internet is often described as a great equalizer, access to the web never has been equal. Everything from search-and-rescue efforts to sending out warnings to getting people directions to shelters is facilitated through various telecommunications and internet. Topics Climate Change Policy & Politics Social Justice Technology Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Worker on the site of an ecological disaster.

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The digital divide worsens the inequitable impacts of the climate crisis

Educational center in Russia has a wind turbine and rooftop solar panels

July 30, 2020 by  
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Located in the Russian village of Khryug in southern Dagestan, the Luminary Inspiration Center is a welcomed educational experience in a small town of just 2,000 residents. The idea for an interactive creative center was born thanks to a local charity foundation, which delivered computers to the village schools in an effort to bring the area up to national internet communication standards. The center has been open since mid-2018 and has always remained free-of-charge for kids between the ages of 10 and 17. By 2020, there were about 120 children regularly studying in the center, half from Khryug and the rest from neighboring villages. Related: Locally crafted children’s learning center doubles as an emergency shelter in the Philippines One of the most compelling aspects of Luminary is its architecture, which is unlike anything else in the immediate region. Most of the children who frequent the center have never been outside of their villages, nor have they experienced anything outside of their own neighborhood’s common architecture. Luminary offers a chance for them to see mosaics of different styles and epochs as well as the combination of the traditional architecture of the area with contemporary black metal and glass elements. The educational center is located within a 2,500-square-meter property inside of an apple garden and includes a lecture hall designed with panoramic glass walls and an outdoor amphitheater for fresh-air learning during favorable weather. Inside, there is a wide range of educational spaces including an observatory, robotics and VR laboratories, a virtual planetarium, a cinema, a library and an artistic workshop. A peaceful, modern interior creates the perfect learning environment for studying and creative thinking. Sunlight-harvesting rooftop solar panels assist with the frequent power outages, so if the internet is lost at any time, it only takes 0.025 seconds for the solar battery to kick in. A large wind turbine in the garden powers the water fountain and provides a working example for a favorite student project — assembling a working wind turbine and solar power station in Luminary’s technological laboratory. + Archiproba Studios Photography by Alexei Kalabin via Archiproba Studios

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Villa CasaBlanca is an earthen home made from clay found onsite

July 30, 2020 by  
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The Villa CasaBlanca in Bali puts a new spin on the ancient tradition of cob building — a construction technique using materials such as clay and straw, often harvested from the building site. The home is part of a larger project consisting of 24 similar sustainable luxury homes in a communal eco-village designed by Kurt Beckman and MUD Sustainable Homes. The practice of building cob homes certainly makes sense in the tropical landscape of Bali. Cob homes provide a naturally cool living space with natural resistance to termites, mold, fires and earthquakes. The country is known for the rich clay soil that helps grow its coffee, supply spa treatments and even inspire traditional mepantigan mud wrestling. Unfortunately, the cob building technique largely disappeared following the rise of concrete in the 1970s. According to the designer, the villa is the first and only modern example of a cob and bamboo home in Bali. Related: This glamping hideout in Bali is made entirely out of bamboo Inside, low-energy design considerations include full LED lighting, while outside, a graywater reclamation system and groundwater recharge well help control water flow. Though the cob construction technique naturally cools the space, the designers included additional open living spaces to allow for further access to breezes and natural light. Sustainable building materials for the home include bamboo and sugarcane for its curved grass roof and local volcanic stone for the house’s foundation as well as the bathroom and garden walls. The garden itself is landscaped with edible plants, such as lemongrass, sugarcane, chili peppers, bananas, pineapples, roselle and local herbs. The main building of the 1,291-square-foot villa has three bedrooms with another bedroom and study available inside the guest house. Additions like interior and exterior balconies, bedroom lofts, an upstairs lounge and a swing make the space more luxurious, and furnishings of local Balinese carvings honor the cultural heritage of the area. MUD Sustainable Homes and local craftspeople were responsible for the build of the Villa CasaBlanca, with interior design by Earthwright Eco Design. Located in Ubud, Bali, the project was completed in February 2020. + Villa CasaBlanca Images via Kurt Beckman

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Villa CasaBlanca is an earthen home made from clay found onsite

Are we on the cusp of the ‘Age of Freedom’?

July 23, 2020 by  
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Are we on the cusp of the ‘Age of Freedom’? Shana Rappaport Thu, 07/23/2020 – 01:00 Anything with “technology convergence” and “climate change” in the same sentence captures my attention. Contextualize it in the “making or breaking of human civilization as we know it” and I’m hooked — and admittedly a tad skeptical. That’s why I buckled up and dug into the recent 90-page report put forth by think tank RethinkX , co-founded by internationally recognized technologists and futurists Tony Seba and James Arbib. ” Rethinking Humanity ” makes the case that the convergence of key technologies is about to disrupt the five foundational sectors that underpin the global economy, and with them every major industry in the world.  Super heady stuff, to be sure. The vision Seba and Arbib detail reads somewhat like a distant techno-utopia. But the vision they lay out isn’t all that far off: Climate change solved and poverty eradicated within the next 15 years? Got my attention. Given that Seba and Arbib have been impressively accurate over the past decade in predicting the speed and scale of technological disruption, I figured it was worth giving the analysis a closer look.  From extraction to creation  Focusing on the disruptive potential of emerging technologies in the information, energy, transportation, food and materials sectors, the report predicts that across all five — and within the next 10 years — we could see costs of key technologies fall by 10 times or more, production processes become 10 times more efficient, all while using 90 percent fewer natural resources and producing up to 100 times less waste. What Seba and Arbib are calling the “fastest, deepest, most consequential transformation of human civilization in history” isn’t just a reframe of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which we know is underway and being enabled by emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics and 3D printing. Indeed, many of their predictions will sound familiar to those conversant in technological change. But it’s not just the march of progress of individual technologies that will save us. The report does not introduce this alluring vision as an absolute — quite the contrary. Therein lies one big variable: Humans need to make it happen, and fast.   Instead, the report posits that we are on the cusp of the third age of humankind — what they describe as “The Age of Freedom.” This new era will be defined by a shift away from models of centralized extraction to localized creation; ones built, they say, not on coal, oil, steel, livestock and concrete, but on photons, electrons, DNA, molecules and qbits (a unit of quantum information).  They predict, for example, that the combination of cheap solar and grid storage will transform energy systems into entirely distributed models of self-generation in which electrons are virtually free. And that as the widespread adoption of autonomous electric vehicles replaces car ownership with on-demand ride sharing, we’ll completely reimagine and redesign our roads, infrastructure and cityscapes. Their vision for the future of food, outlined in greater detail in another report last year, predicts that traditional agriculture soon will be replaced by industrial-scale brewing of single-celled organisms, genetically modified to produce all the nutrients we need ( say what? ). Similar processes, combined with additive manufacturing and nanotechnologies, will allow us to create all the materials necessary to build infrastructure for the modern world from the molecule up, rather than by continuing to extract scarce and depleting natural resources.  These transformations mirror, in many ways, what we’ve seen already in the information sector — in which the decentralization enabled by the internet has reduced barriers to communication and knowledge in ways unimaginable 25 years ago.  What may sound like a pipe dream is what Seba and Arbib claim could be a lifestyle akin to the “American Dream” — in terms of energy consumption, transport needs, nutritional value, housing and education — accessible to anyone for as little as $250 a month by 2030. Humanity at a crossroads  To be clear, the report does not introduce this alluring vision of The Age of Freedom as an absolute — quite the contrary. Therein lies one big variable: Humans need to make it happen, and fast. Will the public embrace self-driving cars and genetically modified foods, among other innovations? Futurists have been wrong before about such things. (Weren’t we all supposed to be getting around in flying cars by now?) “We can use the upcoming convergence of technology disruptions to solve the greatest challenges of humankind — inequality, poverty, environmental destruction if, and only if, we learn from history, recognize what is happening, understand the implications and make critical choices now; because these very same technologies that hold such promise are also accelerating civilization’s collapse,” Seba said. We can use the upcoming convergence of technology disruptions to solve the greatest challenges of humankind — inequality, poverty, environmental destruction if, and only if, we learn from history …   Indeed, we face an epic choice. But, are utopia or dystopia really our only options? Is framing the path forward in a binary win-or-lose scenario actually accurate, let alone helpful for the business leaders, policy makers and citizens in whose hands such a complex set of decisions rest today? And what about the millions of people without access to jobs, food, housing or healthcare right now? Where do they fit into this grand, seemingly idyllic plan? The report outlines a set of recommendations which, in many ways, seem as unlikely as the vision they’re intended to enable. Giving individuals ownership of data rights, scaling new models for community ownership of energy and transportation networks, and allowing states and cities autonomy on policies such as immigration, taxation and public expenditure, for example, take time. The rapid reimagining and restructuring of what they call our society’s fundamental “Organizing System” is no small feat. And the report seems to gloss over many messy realities of how social change actually occurs. Still, there’s something compelling here. Regardless whether Seba and Arbib’s techno-utopian dream materializes in the ways they’ve outlined, the report offers compelling ideas for building a more robust, resilient and equitable society than we’ve ever seen. It’s certainly good fodder as we enter a decade that will, without question, be defined by great disruption — and already is. Pull Quote The report does not introduce this alluring vision as an absolute — quite the contrary. Therein lies one big variable: Humans need to make it happen, and fast. We can use the upcoming convergence of technology disruptions to solve the greatest challenges of humankind — inequality, poverty, environmental destruction if, and only if, we learn from history … Topics Innovation Information Technology Corporate Social Responsibility Clean Economy Corporate Social Responsibility Featured Column On the VERGE Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Are we on the cusp of the ‘Age of Freedom’?

Let’s incubate the Green Swans hatched by the COVID-19 Black Swan

June 23, 2020 by  
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Let’s incubate the Green Swans hatched by the COVID-19 Black Swan Tom Baruch Tue, 06/23/2020 – 01:30 The global COVID-19 pandemic is a historic Black Swan event that offers a Green Swan of opportunities to harvest innovation from 50 years of converging exponential technologies. We are presented with a rare opportunity to invest in new innovations, rebuild our data and power infrastructures and supply chains to restore and strengthen the economy while healing the environment. According to author Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Black Swans are unexpected, hard-to-predict events that result in extreme, unintended consequences. The coronavirus pandemic is a classic Black Swan. Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed countries and states scrambling for personal protective equipment and ventilators. Oil tankers are carrying millions of tons of oil with nowhere to go. Farmers are destroying food and supermarket shelves are missing essential items across the nation. These events, made visible by the COVID-19 virus, have shown us the fragility of systems pushed to their breaking point by design constraints to maximize return on investment in the absence of resiliency.  Green Swans, according to John Elkington , are positive market developments once deemed highly unlikely, if not impossible. They can have a profound positive impact across economic, social and environmental value creation. To lessen the impact of current and future Black Swan events, we have Green Swan solutions that are ready to deploy on behalf of preparedness and resilience. Entrepreneurial innovation, new investment and regulatory models must be promoted and accelerated to prepare for future pandemics, climate change and to restore the environment. Back to normal is not an option To rebuild the economy, the United States government so far seems to choose to deploy the same playbook it did in 2008: funding legacy companies in industries such as oil and gas.  History has shown us that government funding of visionary projects can have enormous positive outcomes. This old playbook will not return us to a pre-COVID-19 “normal.” The price of oil plunged below zero on some days, and customer demand remains at an all-time low. Bailouts paper over the fossil fuel industry’s weaknesses and “will create a zombie industry forever dependent on state aid for survival,” according to Jason Quay, director of the Global Climate Strategy Sunrise Project.  History has shown us that government funding of visionary projects can have enormous positive outcomes. In the United States, examples include the Transcontinental Railroad, the Manhattan Project, the Interstate Highway System and the Apollo program.  What if the government were to integrate support for clean energy into its COVID-19 economic recovery program? Renewables would emerge more robust than ever. Utilities already have found wind and solar power are less costly sources of energy. The economics of solar and wind including storage costs are quickly undercutting the economics of oil as a prime mover. According to MIT Tech Review , prices for solar energy have declined by 97 percent since 1980. Government policies that stimulated the growth of solar accounted for 60 percent of that price decline. Even without those policies — they soon expire — renewables are more than competitive against fossil fuels. The national strategy for re-opening the economy needs to focus on resilience projects and creating an infrastructure that will absorb future shocks. Government must provide the regulatory support to amplify transformative innovation from the intersections of converging exponential technologies. We already have demonstrated the efficacy of investments directed to electrical distribution, water, transportation and renewable energy. Green Swan solutions are already at work Entrepreneurs are on the verge of creating an era that will be marked by abundance, sustainability and resilience. The world that emerges from COVID-19 could offer plentiful, zero marginal cost electricity, ubiquitous computing and cheap bio-manufacturing of high-purity drugs and environmentally friendly plastics directly from DNA.  As another example, the digitization of the electrical grid, is changing the way power is delivered and consumed. Cheap electricity drives electrons across the electrical grid where they become more accessible and offer a more affordable, cleaner and more resilient way to charge electric batteries. Among other benefits, that will increase EV adoption, leading to cleaner air. Cheap electricity will increase access to clean water. One ingenious company, Zero Mass Water , has repurposed the same solar panels helping create cheap electricity to squeeze potable water from the air — even in desert conditions. Cheap electricity also will drive synthetic biology — the intersection of information and biotechnologies, where Moore’s Law meets Mendel , the father of genetics. Synthetic biology already has delivered safe, more economical, cleaner fuels, hardier crops and proteins that are brewed locally to fertilize crops and feed animals — including us humans. Futuristic, sustainable, brewed, high-performance materials already are manufactured locally, disrupting traditional supply chains. Among the many companies demonstrating the breadth of this industry are Calysta (proteins for food production), Codexis (enzymes for multiple applications) and Geltor (proteins for nutrition and personal care products). These companies are demonstrating their products can be more effective than those developed from petroleum products or requiring the slaughter of animals. Emerging digital and biological tools for traceability and reliability are helping build supply-chain resilience now when it is most needed. With digital and biological tools, entrepreneurs are mapping supply chains to increase traceability while offering new levels of transparency following goods as they make their ways from manufacturer to consumer.  Resilience, despite resistance Entrepreneurs, new business models and investors will show us the way forward. Entrepreneurs have demonstrated time and time again that they can compress a century of progress into a decade. With the support of a community of enlightened venture capital investors, corporate strategic partners, financial institutions and governmental regulatory bodies, entrepreneurs can create exponential change and generate substantial value in short periods of time. With community inputs from technology, financial and regulatory bodies, entrepreneurs can generate greater returns on investment, and their efforts can create a template for the rest of the world. We need to encourage and fund new business models that leverage converging exponential technologies. In the 1990s, business models were focused almost exclusively on share of wallet. For the past 20 years, digital technology has enabled the emergence of the business models that have driven the circular and sharing economies with their positive benefits. New business models are quickly emerging based on cloud computing, internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence, blockchain, data analytics, augmented/virtual reality and combinations thereof. No doubt, they will bring countless benefits. Regulatory barriers for new business models should be eliminated or eased. Don’t bet against America We know this current crisis is a preview or warm-up act for a climate-changing world. The pandemic demands that business and government leaders be ready, willing and able to respond while building secure and resilient supply chains and infrastructure. The post-pandemic world requires that business and government leaders encourage creativity in preparing for the next crisis.  As we try to anticipate a resilient, reliable, secure, sustainable and prosperous future, we also have the chance to incubate and create that future. We can apply what we have learned from the past 50 years of entrepreneurial innovation, from Moore’s Law (semiconductors, information technologies and the Internet) and the mapping of the human genome, and their positive impact on global GNP. It is up to us to innovate and advocate to make the right choices. In a letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, investor Warren Buffett wrote, “America’s economy will continue to grow and prosper for generations to come.” He finished by saying, “For 240 years, it’s been a terrible mistake to bet against America.”  Applying our know-how and ingenuity to prepare for the next crisis is the right place to start. Pull Quote History has shown us that government funding of visionary projects can have enormous positive outcomes. Topics Innovation VERGE Cleantech Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Let’s incubate the Green Swans hatched by the COVID-19 Black Swan

How to make vegetable broth with scraps to reduce food waste

May 22, 2020 by  
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Food waste is a major dilemma in today’s world, and throwing out even vegetable scraps contributes to the problem. Not to mention that throwing out unwanted food is also a huge waste of money. Here’s one small way to do your part —  make your own  vegetable (or meat) broths and stocks from scratch. It’s surprisingly easy to make broth and relies on bits and pieces of  veggies , meats and even odds and ends like cheese rinds, all of which would otherwise be thrown in the landfill. Plus, you’ll save money and create a much more flavorful broth than you can find at the store. Each time, the broth will taste slightly different, too, depending on the combination of scraps you have on hand. Get ready to make flavorful, comforting recipes with this tutorial on how to make your own broth to reduce  food waste . Related: Your guide to preserving, storing and canning food The first step is to find a large, freezer-safe container to store your scraps until you build up enough to produce a rich broth. Of course, much of the internet will say to throw it in a  plastic  resealable bag, but here at Inhabitat, we strongly encourage finding a glass jar or silicone resealable bag instead. The hardest part of the process is remembering to save those stems and peelings for the broth. If you are accustomed to tossing unwanted bits, like pepper stems or onion skins, straight into the garbage can or  compost bin , it will take a conscious effort to train your brain and hands to grab up those scraps and throw them into the freezer container. The freezer will preserve the scraps until you are ready to make a broth. Another good candidate for your scrap container? Veggies that are on their last leg at the end of the week. If you didn’t finish those carrots and celery, chop them into smaller pieces, and toss them in the freezer.  Wilting herbs , cheese rinds and meat bones are also fair game, depending on your dietary needs and what you have available. After a few weeks (or less depending on how many people are in your home!), you will be left with a full container packed with flavorful bits and pieces. It’s time to get cooking! Break out a stockpot and  start sauteing  those frozen vegetable scraps with oil and salt. Cook for just a few minutes before adding several cups of water (about 10 cups should do, but add more if you have more scraps and a larger stockpot). Then, simmer away! Simmer those scraps in water for 30 minutes to an hour; then be sure to let it cool slightly. Don’t forget to taste the broth — add more herbs, salt or even nutritional yeast if it needs a flavor boost. Next, remove the vegetable bits for composting. Strain the broth into another pot to make sure all of the scraps have been removed. Once the broth has completely cooled, pour it into airtight containers — glass jars work well — and store in the freezer for up to a month. Then, anytime you want to make an easy soup for dinner (we recommend these  vegan slow cooker soup  recipes) or even more complex, brothy meals, you can grab your own flavorful, zero-waste broth as the base. Images via Monika Schröder , Hebi. B , Rita E. and Snow Pea & Bok Choi

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