Converging crises call for converging solutions

November 20, 2020 by  
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Converging crises call for converging solutions Sarah Golden Fri, 11/20/2020 – 01:45 In the words of President-elect Joe Biden, America is facing four historic colliding crises: the economy; a pandemic; systemic racism; and climate chaos.  These aren’t four separate asteroids all coincidentally headed our way at once. They’re intertwined and part of the same challenges; they’re the consequence of decades of actions and inactions that are boiling over and activating one another. It stands to reason that we couldn’t silo solutions.  Perversely, it is possible that economic crises will be the catalyst we need to address climate change. That’s because the problems have the same solution: the rapid deployment of clean technologies across the economy.  COVID, the economy and emissions As the world pressed pause this spring in an attempt to flatten the coronavirus curve, our emissions curve flattened, too. We conducted a science experiment on a historic scale: What happens to emissions when everyone (or a large majority of people) stands still?  As the year rounds to a close, the results are becoming clear: We’re on track to reduce carbon emissions from energy by 8 percent.  While significant, I am surprised that the emission reductions are so small. It reflects the limits of individual action; even if we all do everything we can, the built-in emissions to our economy still will bust our carbon budget. America is at its best — most collaborative, innovative and productive — when we have a shared enemy and objective. More distressing is the projection of emissions as our economy recovers. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s New Energy Outlook , carbon emissions are set to rise through 2027, then decline 0.7 percent per year through 2050. That would put the world on track for 3.3 degrees Celsius of warming.  In order to have a chance at 2 C warming, emissions would need to decrease 10 times faster. If we’re striving for 1.5 C warming (and we are), emissions will need to drop fourteenfold faster.  We can rebuild the economy without ramping up emissions Historically, emissions and the economy are closely related. It makes sense; when people have more money, they tend to use more energy, travel more, buy more things. Likewise, the only three times emissions fell between 1975 and 2015 were during the recessions of the 1980s, 1992 and 2009. And when the economy rebounded, so did emissions .  Climate skeptics have weaponized this correlation to frame the economy and the environment as trade-offs.  But thanks to clean energy, this relationship is no longer true. In 2016, the International Energy Agency confirmed that emissions and economic growth have decoupled. For the first time in more than 40 years, global GDP grew in 2014 and 2015 — but emissions didn’t.  That’s great news for this moment; the work we need to do to decarbonize is the same work that can pull us out of a global recession. Building a new type of future  The concept of a Green New Deal predates the COVID crises. Yet the harkening to the New Deal, the massive federal effort to pull America out of the depths of the Great Depression, feels prescient as we reckon with the worst economy in a century.  And it may be the urgency to address the faltering economy that spurs the necessary policy alignment to reach true decarbonization.  The numbers are there. Columbia’s Center on Global Energy Policy released a report in September making the case for investment in clean energy R&D to create jobs and boost the economy, and Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy commissioned a report to analyze the spillover economic gains from such an investment. Saul Griffith’s new organization, Rewiring America , shows how decarbonizing the economy would require around 25 million jobs in the U.S.  While the New Deal did wonders for the economy, it arguably had elements that lacked a strategic lens. Case in point: The Bureau of Reclamation damming every river it could in the west, regardless whether it was justified. Imagine what would be possible with a New Deal that has a guiding principle: rapid decarbonization.  America is at its best — most collaborative, innovative and productive — when we have a shared enemy and objective. Climate change, for reasons I don’t understand, proves to be a difficult unifier. But the economy — now that’s something Americans can get behind.  This essay first appeared in GreenBiz’s newsletter Energy Weekly, running Thursdays. Subscribe here . Pull Quote America is at its best — most collaborative, innovative and productive — when we have a shared enemy and objective. Topics Energy & Climate Racial Issues COVID-19 Clean Economy Featured Column Power Points 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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Converging crises call for converging solutions

The chef who wants diners to fund regenerative ag

November 20, 2020 by  
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The chef who wants diners to fund regenerative ag Jim Giles Fri, 11/20/2020 – 01:30 “We have solutions that are bipartisan and cost the government $0.” That was the opening line of a message I received from award-winning chef Anthony Myint, who replied to my request for elevator pitches for president-elect Joe Biden . Myint went on to describe a scalable mechanism for capturing large amounts of carbon in agricultural soils that would, indeed, cost governments $0. If this sounds too good to be true, consider what happened 20 years ago in a different economic sector. Solar and wind are cost-competitive means of producing electricity, but this wasn’t the case in the late 1990s. Back then, renewable energy advocates were trying to figure out how to scale technologies that were more expensive than fossil-fuel incumbents.  Some state governments simply mandated the use of renewables, but in places without mandates, advocates had to get creative. Even in states with mandates, some utilities wanted to do more. One solution was to ask consumers to chip in. The thinking was that if enough people opted to pay a little extra on their electricity bill, the combined funds would be enough to swap out some coal and gas plants for wind turbines and photovoltaic panels. The idea worked. In 2019, close to 8 million people in the United States voluntarily paid for electricity from renewable sources. This mechanism alone would not have driven the extraordinary growth of renewables witnessed over the past two decades, but it played an important role in kick-starting the renewables market, said Jenny Heeter , an expert on voluntary pricing at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. This brings us back to Myint, co-founder of a fantastic Chinese restaurant in San Francisco and director of partnerships at Zero Foodprint , the organization behind his pitch to the president-elect. Myint’s idea is to add a 1 percent charge to restaurant bills — perhaps someday to every bill in every restaurant — and $1 per month to waste hauling charges. The money would be used to help farmers implement regenerative agriculture techniques that boost soil fertility and store carbon.  We’re trying to unlock the ability of citizens and consumers to take climate action. Right now, Myint and colleagues are signing up restaurants one-by-one. Although progress has been slowed by the pandemic, around 40 restaurants in California and beyond are funding carbon farming, including big names such as Noma and Chez Panisse. Farmers apply to Zero Foodprint for a share of the proceeds; the proposals that sequester the most carbon for every dollar are selected for funding. “We’re trying to unlock the ability of citizens and consumers to take climate action,” Myint told me. To take it to the next level, he’s asking regional or state governments to create legislation that would make the charge a default on all restaurant bills. Diners will be able to opt out, but data on other funding schemes that use opt-in as the default show that few are likely to do so. For policy-makers that want to establish a renewable food economy, Zero Foodprint can provide model legislation that they can use as a starting point.  There’s another similarity here with renewables. I said that voluntary charges alone would not have driven renewable growth: It took a portfolio of initiatives, including state mandates and tax credits. It’s exciting to see something similar happening in regenerative ag. Companies are paying farmers to implement regenerative practices in return for carbon offsets generated — either direct, as in the case of Cargill and Bayer , or via a marketplace, such as those offered by Nori or Indigo Ag . Producers also use regenerative branding to justify premium prices . And investors are linking interest rates to carbon storage and soil health .  The challenge of reforming the way we manage the almost 1 billion acres of U.S. farmland can seem overwhelming, but we’re seeing the emergence of a suite of solutions that might be up to the job. One critical next step will be support, or lack of it, from the incoming administration. This article was adapted from the GreenBiz Food Weekly newsletter. Sign up here to receive your own free subscription. Pull Quote We’re trying to unlock the ability of citizens and consumers to take climate action. Topics Food & Agriculture Policy & Politics Regenerative Agriculture Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Anthony Myint, director of partnerships, and Karen Leibowitz, executive director, of Zero Foodprint. Courtesy of Zero Foodprint

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The chef who wants diners to fund regenerative ag

Tristan da Cunha establishes a massive marine protected area

November 16, 2020 by  
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The government of Tristan da Cunha, a four-island archipelago of about 250 people, has announced that it will be protecting approximately 700,000 square kilometers of its waters. This U.K. overseas territory is a small, volcanic archipelago, but it is also one of the most diverse wildlife habitats globally. Tristan da Cunha has now established the world’s fourth-largest Marine Protected Area (MPA). Tristan da Cunha is home to some of the most rare and endangered species in the world. Some of the wildlife now protected under the new regulation includes sevengill sharks, yellow-nosed albatross and rockhopper penguins. The new law also protects birds and other vulnerable animals that live on the islands. Related: Surfing citizen scientists collect important ocean data Tristan da Cunha’s chief islander James Glass said that the measures to be implemented include banning bottom sea trawl fishing , sea mining and other activities that may harm the marine environment or its wildlife. “Our life on Tristan da Cunha has always been based around our relationship with the sea, and that continues today,” Glass said. “The Tristan community is deeply committed to conservation : on land, we’ve already declared protected status for more than half our territory.” The archipelago’s decision has been celebrated by U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson. This move will help the U.K. achieve its target of protecting 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030. With the new MPA, the U.K. now protects a total of 4.3 square kilometers, which is equivalent to 1% of the world’s oceans. The U.K. government is now urging other nations across the world to take similar actions. “We are in danger of killing our seas. We are warming them up, making them more acidic and every day we fill them with turtle-choking, dolphin-poisoning plastic that is turning our ocean into a vast floating rubbish dump,” Johnson said. “We need collective global action if we are to bequeath a world that is every bit as wonderful and magnificent as the one we inherited.” Via The Guardian Image via Yagerq

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Tristan da Cunha establishes a massive marine protected area

Office building uses 112 ‘smart’ chimneys to regulate light, air and energy

April 10, 2020 by  
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Mario Cucinella Architects has created a sustainable public building that uses several active and passive elements to lower its environmental footprint. Specifically, the new timber-clad headquarters for the Regional Agency for Prevention, Environment and Energy (ARPAE) uses a soaring rooftop made up of 112 smart chimneys to regulate its air, light and energy so that the building relies on minimal technical systems. At more than 53,000 square feet, the immense public works building features a central courtyard. Its cladding is made up of thin timber panels that top a ground floor with floor-to-ceiling glass panels, creating a natural harmony with its woodland surroundings in the small city of Ferrara, in northern Italy. Related: 3D-printed home inspired by a wasp’s nest is made of local clay The architect chose the building’s materials based on their ability to help the structure reach a “maximum level of environmental sustainability.” Mario Cucinella explained, “The building in Ferrara explores the relationship between form and performance, that makes it the first hybrid public building in Italy.” The stand-out characteristic in the design is, without a doubt, its eye-catching rooftop, which is comprised of 112 chimneys. An essential element in regulating the building’s energy use, each chimney features a skylight that lets natural light and air filter down into the spaces below. Some of the chimneys feature solar panels that generate ample energy for the building. The passive building system also acts differently in the summer and winter months. During the hotter months, the chimneys constantly move air through the interior, creating a healthy working space for employees and visitors. In the winter months, they operate more like a greenhouse, where they accumulate solar heat to keep the spaces warm. All in all, the unique system helps the building enjoy a comfortable temperate year-round all while reducing energy demand. + Mario Cucinella Architects Images via Mario Cucinella Architects

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Office building uses 112 ‘smart’ chimneys to regulate light, air and energy

Office building uses 112 ‘smart’ chimneys to regulate light, air and energy

April 10, 2020 by  
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Mario Cucinella Architects has created a sustainable public building that uses several active and passive elements to lower its environmental footprint. Specifically, the new timber-clad headquarters for the Regional Agency for Prevention, Environment and Energy (ARPAE) uses a soaring rooftop made up of 112 smart chimneys to regulate its air, light and energy so that the building relies on minimal technical systems. At more than 53,000 square feet, the immense public works building features a central courtyard. Its cladding is made up of thin timber panels that top a ground floor with floor-to-ceiling glass panels, creating a natural harmony with its woodland surroundings in the small city of Ferrara, in northern Italy. Related: 3D-printed home inspired by a wasp’s nest is made of local clay The architect chose the building’s materials based on their ability to help the structure reach a “maximum level of environmental sustainability.” Mario Cucinella explained, “The building in Ferrara explores the relationship between form and performance, that makes it the first hybrid public building in Italy.” The stand-out characteristic in the design is, without a doubt, its eye-catching rooftop, which is comprised of 112 chimneys. An essential element in regulating the building’s energy use, each chimney features a skylight that lets natural light and air filter down into the spaces below. Some of the chimneys feature solar panels that generate ample energy for the building. The passive building system also acts differently in the summer and winter months. During the hotter months, the chimneys constantly move air through the interior, creating a healthy working space for employees and visitors. In the winter months, they operate more like a greenhouse, where they accumulate solar heat to keep the spaces warm. All in all, the unique system helps the building enjoy a comfortable temperate year-round all while reducing energy demand. + Mario Cucinella Architects Images via Mario Cucinella Architects

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Office building uses 112 ‘smart’ chimneys to regulate light, air and energy

Los Angeles air quality improves amid pandemic

April 10, 2020 by  
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There is one positive impact of the tragic coronavirus pandemic — Los Angeles is experiencing its longest stretch of good air quality since 1995. On April 7, Swiss air quality technology company IQAir cited LA as one of the cities with the cleanest air in the world. While the notoriously smoggy city is on lockdown, highway traffic has dropped 80% throughout the entire state of California, which probably accounts for much of the improvement. “With less cars on the road and less emissions coming from those tailpipes, it’s not surprising to see improvements in the air quality overall,” Yifang Zhu, professor of environmental health science at UCLA, told CNN. Zhu and her team of scientists measured a 20% overall improvement in southern California’s air quality between March 16 and April 6. They also recorded a 40% drop in PM 2.5 levels. This microscopic air pollutant is linked to both respiratory and cardiovascular problems, especially in the very young and very old. A recently released Harvard study linked PM 2.5 exposure to an increased likelihood of dying from COVID-19 . Related: Coronavirus and its impact on carbon emissions All over the world, scientists are noting that cleaner air is a side effect of the pandemic . Satellite images have revealed much lower concentrations of nitrogen dioxide over industrial areas of Europe and Asia in the past six weeks. The drops in nitrogen dioxide levels over Wuhan — a city of 11 million — and the factory-filled Po Valley of northern Italy are especially striking. “It’s quite unprecedented,” Vincent-Henri Peuch, director of the Copernicus Atmosphere Service, told the Guardian. “In the past, we have seen big variations for a day or so because of weather. But no signal on emissions that has lasted so long.” Alas, when lockdowns lift and Angelenos return to the highways, the pollution will likely return. Zhu hopes that this glimpse of clear, blue skies will inspire people to work for better air quality post-pandemic. “From the society level, I think we need to think really hard about how to bring about a more sustainable world, where technologies and policies come together to bring us cleaner energy ,” she said. “So that the air that we’re breathing will stay as clean as what we’re breathing today.” Via CNN and The Guardian Image by Joseph Ngabo

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Resurrected greenhouse to honor father of modern genetics

April 10, 2020 by  
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International architecture and urban design practice  CHYBIK + KRISTOF has unveiled designs for an energy-efficient greenhouse to commemorate Gregor Mendel, a scientist and Augustinian friar regarded as the founder of the modern science of genetics. Set on the foundations of the 19th-century Brno greenhouse where Mendel conducted his pioneering experiments, the new greenhouse will pay homage to the original architecture and Mendel’s teachings. The greenhouse is slated for completion in 2022 to commemorate Mendel’s birth 200 years ago.  Born in 1822, Gregor Mendel spent eight seasons, from 1856 to 1863, cultivating and breeding pea plants in a 19th-century greenhouse that had been built in the St. Thomas Augustinian Abbey’s gardens to cement the monastery as a leading center for scientific research. In 1870, however, a storm destroyed the building, leaving only its foundations intact today. The experiments that Mendel had conducted within the greenhouse are now widely recognized as the foundation of modern genetics .  CHYBIK + KRISTOF’s resurrection of the historic greenhouse begins with the preservation of the foundations that will be integrated into the new structure and left visible. The foundations will inform the orientation and shape of the greenhouse, which will be reminiscent of the original building. “While the trapezoidal volume is identical to the original edifice, the reimagined supporting steel structure seeks inspiration from Mendel’s three laws of inheritance – and the drawings of his resulting heredity system,” explained the architects. “Likewise, the pitched roof, consisting of a vast outer glass surface, reflects his law of segregation and the distribution of inherited traits, and is complemented by a set of modular shades.” Related: Kuehn Malvezzi tops a brick office building in Germany with an energy-efficient greenhouse In addition to celebrating Mendel’s work, the revived structure will primarily be used as a flexible events space that can adapt to a variety of functions, from conferences and lectures to temporary exhibitions. The flexible design will also be entirely exposed to the outdoors. For energy efficiency, the architects have integrated a concealed system of underground heat pumps  into the greenhouse, as well as adjustable shades and embedded blinds to facilitate natural cooling and ventilation.  + CHYBIK + KRISTOF Images by monolot and CHYBIK + KRISTOF

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Resurrected greenhouse to honor father of modern genetics

A series of geometric, sustainable treehouses is imagined for the Italian Dolomites

March 5, 2019 by  
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Milan-based design firm Peter Pichler Architecture has unveiled a conceptual design for a series of gorgeous geometrical treehouses for the lush green forests of the Italian Dolomites. The two-story structures are arranged in a modern, vertical design and clad in sustainably-sourced wood. Each treehouse is punctuated with floor-to-ceiling glazed windows to provide breathtaking views of the surrounding forestscape. According to the architects, the stunning treehouses were designed as an addition to an existing hotel . The inspiration came from wanting to create a serene but modern lodging option that would help guests immerse themselves completely in the surrounding nature. Referring to the inspiration as a “slow down” form of tourism, they explained, “We believe that the future of tourism is based on the relationship of the human being with nature. Well integrated, sustainable architecture can amplify this relationship, nothing else is needed.” Related: Stunning wooden Oberholz Mountain Hut branches out of the mountainside like a fallen tree The project includes vertical, diamond-esque volumes with sharp, steep roofs inspired by the soaring trees in the area. The design also calls for using locally-sourced wood for the cladding, which would be painted jet-black to blend in to the nearby fir and larch trees. Large, floor-to-ceiling glass panels that stretch the length of the structure would allow the guests to feel a constant connection to the amazing views. The unique guest homes would vary in size, ranging from 375 square feet to almost 500 square feet in the larger units. Spanning over two levels connected by an internal staircase, the treehouses would hold the living area with a small reading nook that looks out over the forestscape on the bottom level. The sleeping areas and a small bathroom would be on the upper floor, which would also provide breathtaking views. + Peter Pichler Architects Via Archdaily Images via Peter Pichler Architects

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A series of geometric, sustainable treehouses is imagined for the Italian Dolomites

Deli-turned-distillery renovated using materials reclaimed on-site

January 12, 2018 by  
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Architecture studio tres birds workshop used reclaimed and locally available materials to turn the former Mancinelli’s Market in Denver into a modern distillery and cocktail lounge that emphasizes the relationship between distiller, chef, bartender, and guest. The designers paired industrial elements with rich wood details in order to create a gathering place that feels familiar and cozy. A large wooden door made from reclaimed  materials sourced on-site is the entry point into The Family Jones Distillery dominated by low-slung seating, deep blue booths, and soft lighting. During warmer months, the door can slide open to facilitate a seamless transition between the interior and the patio. Related: World’s Greenest Whisky Distillery Unveiled in Scotland Two-story wooden louvers flank the Osage Street glass facade, offering passive temperature and lighting control while drawing attention inside to the well-lit copper still which acts as the focal point of the project. This element, perched above the central bar, sits in an oculus flanked by wooden mashers. Concrete walls line the space and feature extrusions that house a combination of herbs used in spirit making, as well as light fixtures that illuminate the tables below. + The Family Jones Spirit House + tres birds workshop

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Deli-turned-distillery renovated using materials reclaimed on-site

These wirelessly-powered AA batteries pull energy from thin air

January 12, 2018 by  
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Did you know that more than 3 billion batteries are thrown away every year in the United States ? The Cota Forever Battery is the world’s first wirelessly-powered AA battery – and it offers a more sustainable, convenient alternative to traditional disposable batteries. Designed by Ossia the battery enables any device that requires AA batteries to be recharged from a distance through the air. Ossia’s Cota products are based on a wireless technology that broadcasts a precise, powerful RF signal to any device which contains a Cota RF antenna. The RF receivers then convert that signal into effective power. The Forever Battery takes this a step further, inserting the RF receivers into a AA battery – a familiar household item that could ease the transition towards wirelessly-powered devices. Related: New ‘thermal battery’ soaks up heat energy like a sponge As exciting as the technology sounds, it will likely be years before homes are outfitted with smart AA batteries. The first adopters of Cota’s technology are likely to be large commercial operations, like factories and stores. Even before wide release, Ossia’s Cota products are already making news. Cota was awarded a 2016 CES Innovation Award in the “Tech for a Better World” product category, and Cota Tile, a wireless transmitter designed to mimic a ceiling tile, was the winner of the 2017 CES Best of Innovation Award. Via Gizmodo and PR Newswire Images via Ossia

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