The Carrying Capacity of the Land

We live in the Atlanta area, where August’s intense heat, with no rain, has turned into beautiful blue skies and low humidity in September through November, with almost no rain. The governor has blamed environmentalists for Atlanta’s main water source drying up and has started leading prayer groups to bring rain. It’s heresy to point out that the rapid residential and commercial development throughout the area has created an insatiable thirst for water that cannot be satisfied by the current water resources.

I’ve included some excerpts on the use of resources below from writer and thinker John Michael Greer. Ignore his message if you don’t use energy or water, or, if you believe that your favored political party will save us. One of the targets of his sharp writing tool is the drought in the Southeast and Atlanta. Click on the link below to enjoy the full flavor of his commentary of the current state of our culture.

Link: The Archdruid Report: Lifeboat Time

As depletion of existing oil fields accelerates, the struggle to prop up the current production plateau promises to become a losing battle against geological reality.

Meanwhile the carbon dioxide generated by the 84 million barrels a day we’re currently pumping and burning, along with equally unimaginable volumes of coal and natural gas, drives changes in climate that only a handful of oil company flacks and free-market fundamentalists still insist aren’t happening. Worried scientists report from Greenland and West Antarctica that for the first time since measurements began, liquid water is pooling under both these huge continental glaciers – the likely precursor to an ice sheet collapse that could put sea levels up 50 to 60 feet worldwide within our lifetimes.

In related news, Atlanta may just be on the verge of edging out New Orleans as the poster child for climate catastrophe. Unless the crippling years-long drought over the southeast United States gives way to heavy rains very soon, Atlanta will run completely out of drinking water sometime in the new year. The city government has had to explain to worried citizens that they are out of options, and there aren’t enough tanker trucks in all of Dixie to meet the daily water needs of a big city. Nobody is willing to talk about what will happen once the last muddy dregs in the Georgia reservoirs are pumped dry, and the drinking fountains, toilet tanks, and fire hydrants of greater metropolitan Atlanta have nothing to fill them but dust.

As Macchiavelli commented in a different context, though, people care more about their finances than their lives, and even the Atlanta papers have seen the drought shoved off the front page now and then by the latest round of implosions in the world of high finance. For those of my readers who haven’t been keeping score, banks and financial firms around the world spent most of the last decade handing out mortgages to anybody with a pulse, packaging up the right to profit from those mortgages into what may just be the most misnamed “securities” in the history of financial markets, and selling them to investors around the world.

On this noticeably unsteady foundation rose the biggest speculative bubble in recorded history, as would-be real estate moguls borrowed dizzying sums to buy up property they were convinced could only go up in value, while investors whose passion for profit blinded them to the risk of loss snapped up a torrent of exotic financial products whose connection to any significant source of value can be safely described as imaginary. All this hallucinated wealth, though, depended on the theory that people with no income, job, or assets could and would pay their mortgage bills on time, and when this didn’t happen, the whole tower of cards began coming apart. Some of the world’s largest banks have already taken billions of dollars in losses, and nobody is even pretending that the economic carnage is over yet.

How Green are electronics companies

Greenpeace International rates the big electronics companies.

Link: How the companies line up | Greenpeace International

7.7 Sony Ericsson – New leader due to improved takeback reporting, new models PVC free, but falls down on takeback practice. More
7.7 Samsung – Big improvements, with more products free of the worst toxic chemicals. Loses points for incomplete takeback practice. More
7.3 Sony – More products free of toxic PVC and improved reporting on recycling and takeback especially in the US. More
7.3 Dell – Unchanged since the last version, still no products on the market without the worst chemicals. More
7.3 Lenovo – Unchanged since the last version, still no products on the market without the worst chemicals. More
7 Toshiba – Much improved on toxic chemicals but still lobbies in the US for regressive takeback policies. More
7 LGE – Unchanged since the last version, need better takeback for products other than phones. More
7 Fujitsu-Siemens – Unchanged since the last version, needs toxic elimination timelines, better takeback coverage and reporting of amounts recycled.
More
6.7 Nokia– A steep fall! Strong on toxic chemicals but penalty point deducted for deficiencies in takeback practice in Thailand, Russia and Argentina during our testsing. More
6.7 HP – Finally provided timelines for eliminating worst toxic chemicals, though not for all products; needs to improve takeback coverage. More
6 Apple – Slightly improved with new iMacs and some iPods reducing the use of toxic chemicals, takeback programme still needs more work. More
5.7 Acer – Unchanged since the last version, needs better takeback coverage and reporting of amounts recycled. More
5 Panasonic – Unchanged since the last version, need better takeback coverage and reporting of amounts recycled. More
5 Motorola – Big faller due to penalty point for poor takeback practice in Philippines, Thailand and India revealed by our testing. Still no timelines for eliminating the most harmful chemicals. More
4.7 Sharp – New to the guide – some plus points on toxic chemicals elimination but poor takeback policy and practice. More
2.7 Microsoft – New to the guide – long timeline for toxic chemicals elimination (2011) and poor takeback policy and practice. More
2

Philips – New to the guide – no timeline for toxic chemicals elimination and zero points on e-waste policy and practice. More

0 Nintendo – New to the guide – first global brand to score zero across all criteria! More

via Ecogeek

Google, HP Invest Big in Renewables

GreenBiz News provides some good news for green-necks. Good news is always welcome!

Link: GreenBiz News | Google, HP Invest Big in Renewables.

Hoping to spur a green power revolution, Google plans to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in developing renewable energy that costs less than conventional coal-fired electricity, the company announced Tuesday.

Meanwhile, HP also said Tuesday it is delving deeper into renewables by building a solar power installation at a San Diego, Calif., facility and buying enough renewable energy in Ireland to satisfy 90 percent of its needs there.

Google’s R&D initiative, Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal, will explore advanced renewable technologies, such as solar thermal, wind, enhanced geothermal, and other potent breakthroughs in its quest to produce one gigawatt – – enough to power a city the size of San Francisco — in "years, not decades," said Google Co-Founder Larry Page.

Cheap and plentiful coal is responsible for about 40 percent of world power generation and is a leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions.

Page told the Associated Press the company wants to bring down the cost of solar power by 25 percent to 50 percent. The company is now hiring engineers and energy experts to lead the research and development, first focusing on solar thermal technology and enhanced geothermal systems.

Google’s foundation, Google.org, will work with the initiative to spend "tens of millions of dollars" on research next year, with hundreds of millions more following for breakthrough renewable energy projects. Google’s foundation is reportedly sitting on a war chest of company stock totaling nearly $2 billion.

Already the foundation is working with eSolar Inc. of Pasadena, Calif., and Makani Power Inc. of Alameda, Calif., on promising technologies. eSolar specializes in solar thermal power which replaces the fuel in traditional power plants while Makani is developing high-altitude wind energy extraction technologies.

Google has already made forays into the renewable energy and alternative fuel arenas with the installation of a corporate 1.6 megawatt solar array on its Mountain View campus and a plug-in vehicle initiative designed to help bring the technologies to mass market.

Greenwashing Continues

Joel Makower at Two Steps Forward describes how pervasive greenwashing is in the current crop of politically-correct green products. Excerpts below.

Link: Joel Makower: Two Steps Forward.

This past spring, TerraChoice Environmental Marketing, which consults on green marketing and administers its own labeling and certification program, sent research teams into six category-leading "big box" stores with orders "to record every product-based environmental claim they observed." TerraChoice instructed the teams that, for each environmental claim, they should "identify the product, the nature of the claim, any supporting information, and any references offered for further information."

The products studied included a wide range of offerings, from air fresheners to appliances, televisions to toothpaste. In total, the team identified 1,018 products making 1,753 claims. Of those products, "all but one made claims that are either demonstrably false or that risk misleading intended audiences."

That’s right. Only one — a house-branded paper product sold by one Canadian retailer — came through unscathed.

The result of this exercise can be found in a new report, "The Six Sins of Greenwashing", a sobering and slightly depressing look at today’s green marketplace.

None of this bodes well for the growing green marketplace. As major retailers like Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Staples stock their shelves with a steady stream of environmentally preferable products, and thousands of both big and small manufacturers introduce environmental improvements and innovations into their product lines, the need for accountability will multiply. And without even a modicum of scrutiny, we’ll see a Wild West of Green, in which marketers can make pretty much any green claim with impunity.

What will it take to bring honesty, accuracy, accountability, and transparency to the marketplace? Who will pick up where TerraChoice left off, scrutinizing products making green claims? Who will hold companies accountable?

The obvious answer, of course, would be for a trusted environmental label to emerge — a Green Housekeeping Seal of Approval, or some such. But there already are a myriad of eco-labels — Consumer Reports lists 147 of them — and none (including TerraChoice’s own labels) has made significant inroads. Except for the government-controlled organic certification and the Energy Star label, you’d be hard-pressed to find more than a handful of green-labeled products in a typical store.

Green Hypocrisy

This video from the International Forum on Globalization (IFG) reveals some inconvenient facts about politically correct green consuming.

via Earth Harmony Home

About the IFG

THE INTERNATIONAL FORUM ON GLOBALIZATION THE INTERNATIONAL FORUM ON GLOBALIZATION (IFG) is a North-South research and educational institution composed of leading activists, economists, scholars, and researchers providing analyses and critiques on the cultural, social, political, and environmental impacts of economic globalization. Formed in 1994, the IFG came together out of shared concern that the world’s corporate and political leadership was rapidly restructuring global politics and economics on a level that was as historically significant as any period since the Industrial Revolution. Yet there was almost no discussion or even recognition of this new "free market," or "neoliberal" model, or of the institutions and agreements enforcing this system—the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and other such bureaucracies. In response, the IFG began to stimulate new thinking, joint activity and public education about this rapidly rising economic paradigm.

Liquid Coal is just too dirty

Liquid coal is a dead end for powering our cars. But coal companies have considerable influence in Washington, so we may see more energy policy written by lobbyists.

Link: The Liquid Coal Battle Rages | EcoGeek | Coal, Technology, Written, November, Liquid.

Advantages:

It doesn’t fund hostile and unstable governments/states.

Disadvantages:

It produces two times more CO2 than gasoline.

It consumes three times more water than gasoline.

It gives mining companies more incentive to tear down more of our mountain ranges (aka mountaintop removal mining, for more insight see this video — I Love Mountains).

It’s not currently economically viable, so coal companies are trying to get Congress to subsidize billion-dollar coal to liquid plants.