Garbage and hazardous waste are becoming valuable energy
feedstocks, thanks to researchers from Ukraine, Russia, and Israel.
Even low level radioactive wastes, medical wastes, and toxic wastes
can be converted to useful products and energy, using a new high
temperature plasma reactor.
There is no need for the world to drown in a sea of garbage and
toxic waste. We do not need to pollute the oceans, groundwater, or
air. Being smart about toxic waste is just another way of using our
most valuable resource-our brains!
Resources Ltd. (EER) of Israel, is working with researchers in
Russia, the Ukraine, the US, and other nations, to make sure that
the future environment of Earth will be as pristine as the
The new reactor uses a process called “Plasma Gasification
Melting Technology” (PGM) which was developed by scientists at two
Russian research institutes (Kurchatov and Radon Institutes) and at
Israel’s Technion Institute.
PGM Technology is suitable
for the treatment of a variety of waste types:
It’s nice to know there’s a watchdog out there trying to correct
the growing problem of e-waste. Environmental group Greenpeace just
released the latest edition of their Guide to Greener Electronics,
which more or less calls out the leading manufacturers that aren’t
taking the measures necessary to eliminate harmful chemical
The Greenpeace guide ranks the top producers of mobile phones,
computers, TVs, and game consoles on a 0-10 scale. Scoring is based
on the elimination of hazardous substances and the take-back and
recycling of products once they become obsolete.
The results proved generally encouraging, though it appears a
few companies have yet to see the light. Due to a lack of any type
of public policy on toxics elimination or recycling, Nintendo
earned last place, registering a pathetic score of 0.3. It seems
like quite a black mark to be rated the worst of all the companies
on the list. Hopefully all the unflattering attention will spark a
bit more environmental concern from the thriving Wii manufacturer
when the next report comes out in June. Notably, Microsoft also
scored in the unsatisfactory red zone, due to a poor takeback
policy and practice.
As the human population grows, people are either forced to live
further and further from the workplace, or to pay a handsome price
for the luxury of location. The resulting sprawl has had a
devastating effect on the landscape and eco-systems. Pollution
associated with requisite transportation is destroying the
environment. Rising energy costs are driving up the cost of living.
Longer commutes lessen the hours in a day we can allocate to
productivity or leisure.
How can we create cities and towns that can accommodate a
community’s economic needs, while improving the general quality of
life? This is a question that urban planners, like Michael E. Arth,
must ask and answer to the best of their abilities when designing
or retrofitting cities to best suit our changing lifestyles.
We spoke with Arth, founder of the urban planning theory of
Pedestrianism, about what the city of the future might look
like. His theory, a spinoff of New Urbanism,
addresses the social and environmental problems associated with
suburban sprawl by creating an urban design plan that places
sustainability, beauty, and functionality at its forefront.
“New Pedestrianism is an urban design movement that is a more
ecological and pedestrian-oriented branch of New Urbanism. New
Urbanism revives and expands upon the old urbanism that was common
before WWII, while New Pedestrianism is a
reiteration of experiments with more pedestrian-oriented towns and
neighborhoods that have been tried over the years,” explained Arth,
“In new and old urbanism you have streets in front and an alley in
the rear. With New Pedestrianism the alley is replaced with an
attractive tree lined street and the street in front is replaced
with a car free pedestrian/bike lane. A mixed-use village or
neighborhood center is within walking distance with higher density
toward the center. Aesthetics and quality of life are very
A trends report on world
population growth was recently released by the Worldwatch
Institute, indicating that insufficient global demographic
information is making even the best guesses for future population
The most common projection cited by demographers is that
population will peak around 9 billion people by 2050.
Unfortunately, we don’t have accurate information about how many
people are even alive today, let alone regional fertility rates, to
know if our estimates may be too conservative.
The growing number of women entering childbearing age, along
with increased lifespans due to access to healthcare could result
in a world population that is unsustainable.
One of the most urgent global issues is the availability of
clean drinking water. The United Nations Food and Agricultural
that two-thirds of the world population could face water shortages
as soon as 2025. How quickly will this problem spiral out of
control when there are billions more mouths to feed?
Cascio talks about the interlinked nature of issues stemming
from global warming, global poverty and nanotechnology and points
out that the solutions to potential problems are, fortunately, also
(Feb 8, 2008) Ralph Cavanagh of the Natural Resources Defense Council talks
with Wall Street Journal reporter Jim Carleton about which US
cities rank the highest in terms of energy efficiency and
cutting-edge alternative energy use. Also discussed are the cost
and environmental implications thereof.
Check out this short video to see if your city made the “most
‘I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of
power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out
before we tackle that.’ Thomas Edison made
that strong proclamation to Henry Ford in 1931.
Edison’s confidence most likely stemmed from the fact that our sun is responsible for
the propagation of life in addition to the vast majority of
available energy on earth. (The most notable sub-surface exceptions
being the energy potential of nuclear and geothermal which each
come with their slew of challenges)
Wind is a “by-product” of the sun, created by the diurnal (day
& night) effect of warming and cooling. Fossil fuels are simply
what their name suggests – the fossilized remains of living
organisms. Coal was the flora that photosynthesized the sun’s
power; oil, natural gas, tar sands (collectively petrochemicals)
the fauna. In short, the sun is responsible for the life and
lifestyles here on earth both directly and indirectly.
If you believe that humans will be most effective by mimicking
universal biological patterns and are already “regressing” in
that direction (as I strongly do) this begs the question…What is
the most direct way to sustainably harness the power of the sun? I
assert that the two means that are most effective are (i) passive
solar design and (ii) photovoltaic electricity production.
When you think of a farm your mind may invoke images of rolling
fields, tractors and perhaps a cow or two. But in the future – not
so! Farms are movin’ from the country and into your nearest
metropolis faster than you might think.
Due to unpredictable weather patterns that destroy millions of
tons of crops each year and a growing human population set to peak
at about 9 billion, some future-focused innovators are looking for
better ways to keep food on the table. Two neo-farm prototypes
currently evolving on separate continents share a common concept:
urban farming as the future of sustainable agriculture.
The not so fertile delta of the Arabian Desert is becoming home
to cities of the future. With an empty canvas and untold billions
of dollars to work with, technology is driving radical
transformation in cultures that are highly resistant to change.
The epicenter of this movement is the United Arab Emirates,
where Dubai and Abu Dhabi have become leaders in next generation
city building. Dubai,
with the construction of their man-made Palm Islands and
increasingly futuristic cityscape, is intent on
competing with “Singapore and Hong Kong as a business hub, and
surpassing Las Vegas as a leisure capital,” while Masdar
City, to be constructed in Abu Dhabi, is projected to house
50,000 people, run entirely on renewable energy and have zero
carbon footprint. This amazing and rapid metamorphosis has not gone
unnoticed by UAE’s neighbor to the West,
Saudi Arabia. Facing a demographic tidal wave over the next
decade or so (close to 40% of Saudis are under the age of 15) they
are undertaking a ”$500 billion investment program to build new
cities, create millions of jobs and diversify the economy away from
petroleum exports over the next two decades.”
All of this makes me wonder if this is the beginning of a wave
of transformation that will sweep through the region as other
Middle Eastern countries will have a difficult time ignoring these
changes. The experience these countries gain in converting harsh
environments into more friendly ones should translate into
opportunities for other parts of the world facing similar
challenges, particularly the ability to harvest the almost constant
sunshine many of these inhospitable areas receive…Africa