Increasing America’s domestic energy production is something most of us can agree on, but it seems there is a fork in the road as to how to get there. Some argue we should rely on the United States’ vast deposits of shale, coal and other natural resources, while others believe renewable energy from wind and solar is a better alternative. But, will either of these energy sources, or any combination of the two, actually make America truly energy independent? The overwhelming answer is no.
The snow has finally melted in Minnesota (though another round of flurries falls as I post this). Nothing signifies spring in the sustainability world quite like the season’s first Tour de Fat. In Atlanta’s Piedmont Park, New Belgium’s annual celebration of bicycles returns after its winter hiatus.
Today and tomorrow an exciting event is taking place in one of our favorite locales, Santa Barbara, California. The 4th annual Summit on Energy Efficiency is taking place at the university, home to 2nd Green Revolution writer Noelle Phares, who is a graduate student in the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management. The summit will feature former Energy Secretary Dr. Stephen Chu as one of the keynote speakers.
The city of Eindhoven in the Netherlands has literally gone above and beyond in their quest to make bicycling convenient and yet compatible with car travel. With one quarter of transportation in the region done by bike, it was important to find a way that people could bike while not clogging up the A2, which is one of the most traveled highways in the country. Since slower bicycle riders can cause traffic jams, engineers found a way to avoid a major intersection by building a 30 degree floating crosswalk above the fray of traffic. It is estimated that
Although written in 2008, Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent feels like something that could’ve been written yesterday. Extremely biased and one-sided, at times bordering on vitriolic, Andrew Nikiforuk, Tar Sands’ author, makes a strong argument against the development of the Athabaskan tar sands. While this is a losing battle if there ever was one, ignoring his warnings will only further his point that humanity has rushed ahead of itself in search of more oil.
Nikiforuk points out that the tar sands are by no means new sources of energy. However, the technology to extract oil from them is fairly new.
I feel like everywhere I look these days, all I see is excessive consumption, even when it’s not necessarily the case. On the bus, the person sitting next to me reads a magazine and my mind goes directly to the paper needed to produce it. The next step in my thinking is a tablet and how that may displace paper use, it needs a constant supply of electricity and lots of nonrenewable inputs for the device itself. I see a Prius driving down the street and think, “Wouldn’t you be better off without a car?”
This is what worries me. I’m getting to the point where I can only see the negatives, it’s harder and harder to see the strides.
I was thinking the other day how people try to make sustainability and environmental thinking an easy task. People like to come up with easy tasks to do your part. This is done to make it seem easy to be “green” and encourage people to change their ways. While these steps are helpful, in the big picture they are not going to add up to make necessary changes. Being truly sustainable is not easy and this needs to be understood. I feel the more we make it seem easy the farther we are from facing the truth. Some steps will be easier to face, like adding solar panels to your roof to create your own energy. Other steps not so much, like eating less meat as a society, having our food systems become more local, eating in season, changing our energy consumption,and changing our transportation system. The list can go on and on.
I have written a couple posts about my VW Golf TDI, noting its fuel efficiency, practicality and the relatively engaging driving experience. While I have no regrets deciding on the diesel-burning hatchback, I’ve been longing for a hybrid—or rather, the fuel efficiency of one—now that my commute is almost entirely within the city.
That is not to say the Golf’s fuel economy has been disappointing. Just the opposite; since moving to Alexandria, Virginia, a somewhat hilly suburb of D.C., the tank average has hovered around a very respectable 36mpg (30mpg is EPA’s city rating). Probably 90 percent of my driving is in the city, with the vast majority of trips being less than ten miles. On the highway, it doesn’t take much to creep past the EPA’s 42mpg rating. In fact, the car displayed 49mpg after a light-footed, 25-mile round trip to Maryland last weekend. I also averaged 47mpg on a 1,115-mile trip from Florida to Virginia last year. Compact oil burners like the Golf do well in the city but spectacular on the highway.
This is an open letter to any and all companies, organizations, governments, schools, or other miscellaneous groups considering sustainability as part of their work; I hope this includes everyone.
Dear Organization X,
Please consider making sustainability a central component of your future plans if you have not done so already. For any group that has sustainability as part of their current or future mission, directive, or plan, please define it. Sustainability apparently has very different meanings for different people or groups of people. While it might be nice to have a universal definition, that seems to be out of the question at this point. However, there are interpretations of sustainability that seemingly have little or nothing to do with the notion of sustaining life in perpetuity; sustainability has been hijacked.
New Orleans is the home of beads, mixed fruity drinks, unadulterated partying, and red beans and rice. Rarely does one think of beer, or at least craft beer. However, the New Orleans area is home to one of America’s older craft breweries, Abita Brewing Company, which started in 1986 in the town of Abita Springs about one hour north of the Crescent City. The brewery sought to make use of the artesian springs that flow through the area, and most of their beers have a mild, clean taste. Now, Abita’s Beers are fairly accessible in most markets (46 States), and they enjoy a cult following from displaced New Orleanians and Cajun-philes. Despite its national presence, being in such a delicate ecosystem, (the Mississippi Delta) especially one that has suffered much over the past ten years, Abita takes very seriously its green responsibilities and strives to give back to its community.
Progress is a relative thing, its meaning and measure differing depending on people, place, circumstances and era. What one generation sees as a proud achievement, the next may look at quite differently. This is a theme that comes up increasingly in contemporary discussions of “how the West was won,” especially on the topic of development. The engineering marvels of a century ago that harnessed nature to serve the needs of rapidly growing western U.S. cities, for example, are reevaluated today as their environmental impacts are increasingly understood and felt. This issue is one that rapidly growing cities and countries all around the world are grappling with as they seek to manage a successful balance between economic opportunity and environmental sustainability.
For South Korea—which developed into one of the world’s largest and most advanced economies more rapidly than perhaps any country ever before it—few things may exemplify this evolution better than the Cheonggyecheon Stream in Seoul. The stream, which starts just off of Seoul’s main north-south thoroughfare of Sejong-ro, courses several blocks past soaring high-rises through the heart of downtown. Visitors to this attractive and popular gathering spot today may have a hard time believing that, just ten years ago, it was an elevated highway.