February 2010


http://xkcd.com/676/

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While we have great potential for renewables in this country, the government has taken the path of least resistance and just subsidized the oil and coal companies. We have plenty of potential though it will requie an upgrading and expansion of the energy grid.

“The United States has incredible wind power resources. Although wind energy currently provides only slightly more than 1 percent of U.S. electricity, that number is rising rapidly. A recent government report projects that we could get 20 percent of our electricity from wind by 2030. Most of that growth will be from utility-scale wind projects, although there’s great support for developing small wind power too, including home-scale wind turbines and small community-based projects.”

Read whole article here. FYI, for those who don’t read the article North Dakota is at the top of the list of windy places in the US, it just lacks a way to get that energy to the rest of you.

There are some notable exceptions on the local level, like Austin, Texas. Wouldn’t it be nice if devotee projects would take up the challenge?

Austin, Texas’ Ambitious Carbon Mitigation Targets, Results Provide Models for Cities

Austin, Texas, has one of the most ambitious carbon mitigation targets for a U.S. city—to be carbon neutral by the year 2020—a target made all the more complex by the fact that Austin owns its own power company. With significant renewable resources available, and a progressive population and local government, the city of Austin has become a model for building the diverse package of renewable procurement, efficiency measures, and public outreach that can achieve substantial results in carbon emissions reductions. In order to get a clear shematic of this progressive model, VerdeXchange News was pleased to speak with Jake Stewart, the program manager of the Austin Energy Climate Protection Program, the agency tasked with the implementation of the city’s green programs.

VerdeX: What are Austin Texas’ renewable energy goals?

Stewart: The primary goal for the municipality itself, meaning all of municipal operations, is to be carbon neutral by 2020. That will be sourced predominantly by in-house in renewables, but anything that needs to be offset will be offset. That includes fleets and municipal operations.

You have the utility plan, which sets the goal to create 700 megawatts in efficiency savings by 2015. That’s like creating a power plant worth of efficiency savings. We also have goals of 30 percent renewables by 2020 and building 100 megawatts of solar.

Extending to the community, there’s a whole separate plan that engages the community, building a consensus on how the community can reduce its carbon footprint in a way that has economic upside. We want to bring in green and clean tech companies in a Silicon Valley for renewable energy by making Austin very hospitable for those companies. That’s been true with solar companies. We have a solar rebate program, which has been really successful in other cities because it provides companies a way to bridge cost differential.

Read full article here.

To see how things can work on a national level you have to go to Europe.

Germany: The World’s First Major Renewable Energy Economy

Germany’s Reichstag in Berlin is set to become the first parliamentary building in the world to be powered 100 percent by renewable energy. Soon the entire country will follow suit. Germany is accelerating its efforts to become the world’s first industrial power to use 100 percent renewable energy — and given current momentum, it could reach that green goal by 2050.

“The technical capacity is available for the country to switch over to green energy, so it is a question of political will and the right regulatory framework. The costs are acceptable and they need to be seen against the huge costs that will result if Germany fails to take action to cut its carbon emissions.”

— David Wortmann, Director of Renewable Energy and Resources, Germany Trade and Invest

Read full article here.

There are lots more stories of innovation in Europe, here is one from Finland.

In a cave under the Eastern Orthodox Uspenski cathedral in Helsinki we find the result of a joint project between Academica and Helsingin Energia; the world’s most eco efficient computer hall. Computer halls usually require a lot of energy in order to keep the computers from overheating, but this computer hall is cooled down by district cooling. And that is not all, the heat generated from the computers is then distributed back as district heating!

Helsingin Energia reckons that in district cooling the primary energy consumption of the computer hall now commissioned is only 20% of that of a standard computer hall, and the additional benefit of the waste heat recovery is a bonus. They are in other words saving money and generating energy all at once.

Read full article here.

Washington, DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007. The man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approximately two thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

After 3 minutes a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.

4 minutes later:
The violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

6 minutes:
A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

10 minutes:
A 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children.. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.

45 minutes:
The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

1 hour:
He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before, Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities.  (See original article here, quite fascinating,) The questions raised: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made….. How many other things are we missing?

(end article)

” In that land all speech is song, and all walking is dancing, and one’s constant companion is the flute. Everything is self-luminous, just like the sun in this material world. The human form of life is meant for understanding this transcendental land of Vrndavana, and one who is fortunate should cultivate knowledge of Vrndavana and its residents. In that supreme abode are surabhi cows that overflood the land with milk. Since not even a moment there is misused, there is no past, present or future.

“An expansion of this Vrndavana, which is the supreme abode of Krsna, is also present on this earth, and superior devotees worship it as the supreme abode. However, no one can appreciate Vrndavana without being highly elevated in spiritual knowledge, Krsna consciousness. According to ordinary experience, Vrndavana appears to be just like an ordinary village, but in the eyes of a highly elevated devotee, it is as good as the original Vrndavana. A great saintly acarya has sung: ‘When will my mind be cleared of all contamination so I will be able to see Vrndavana as it is? And when will I be able to understand the literatures left by the Gosvamis so that I will be able to know of the transcendental pastimes of Radha and Krsna?’ ”

Teachings Of Lord Chaitanya 31: The Supreme Perfection

Do you hear the flute?

I went out at night alone;
.The young blood flowing beyond the sea
Seemed to have drenched my spirit’s wings—
.I bore my sorrow heavily.

But when I lifted up my head
.From shadows shaken on the snow,
I saw Orion in the east
.Burn steadily as long ago.

From windows in my father’s house,
.Dreaming my dreams on winter nights,
I watched Orion as a girl
.Above another city’s lights.

Years go, dreams go, and youth goes too,
.The world’s heart breaks beneath its wars,
All things are changed, save in the east
.The faithful beauty of the stars.

Back in the day the organic pioneers had several motivations for promoting organic — better for the future of the soil because of closed systems of returning organic wastes to the soil, less pesticides in the environment so better balance in the ecology, and last but not least healthier better tasting food. Organic was green.

Now organic isn’t green and most consumers motivation is more self centered — I want healthier food for me.  While many genuine organic growers still exist, corporations and agribusiness has gotten involved and the new standards for what is organic has dispensed with the closed system concept.

Buying organic today could mean stuff from Chile, California wherever.  Organic is no longer synonymous with locally grown.  So more aware consumers have now started to focus on ideally locally grown organic produce, but if the choice is locally grown or imported organic, they choose local. Which has lots of benefits, not least is economics of the local community as the money stays and recycles locally.

Here are some thoughts on benefits of locally grown:

The 100-Mile Index

The 100-Mile Index provides a statistical snapshot of our world’s globalized food system. The numbers are fascinating, troubling, funny and sometimes, just plain strange. Have a read and send them to a friend. Help grow this movement.

  • Minimum distance that North American produce typically travels from farm to plate, in miles: 1,500
  • Number of Planet Earths’ worth of resources that would be needed if every person worldwide lived like the average North American: 8
  • Planets saved if all of those people ate locally: 1
  • Ratio of minutes spent preparing food by English consumers who buy ready-made foods versus traditional home-cooking: 1:1
  • Estimated number of plant species worldwide with edible parts: 30,000
  • Number of species that currently provide 90 percent of the world’s food: 20
  • Share of each U.S. consumer food dollar that returned to the farmer in 1910, in cents: 40
  • Share that returned to the farmer in 1997, in cents: 7
  • Ratio of prisoners to farmers in the U.S. population: 5:2
  • Percentage of fresh vegetables eaten in Hanoi, Vietnam, that are grown in the city: 80
  • Percentage of all tomatoes in U.S. that are harvested while green : 80
  • Major river dams constructed to irrigate California, now the world’s number five agricultural producer: 1,200
  • Number of years that Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon of Vancouver, Canada, ate only foods produced from within 100 miles of their home: 1
  • Amount of potatoes, in pounds, that they bought for the winter: 100
  • Days that that 100 pounds of potatoes would have fed a person in Ireland, on average, before the potato famine of 1845: 18
  • Combined weight in pounds that Alisa and James lost on their 100-Mile Diet: 12

REFERENCES:

Rich Pirog et al., “Food, Fuel and Freeways,” Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture (Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University, 2001), p. 1.
Standard data estimate input into ecological footprint calculator, www.myfootprint.org
As above, with change only to food estimate
Brian Halweil, Eat Here: Reclaiming Homegrown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket (New York: W.W. Norton, 2004), p. 164
Edward O. Wilson, The Diversity of Life (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1992), p. 287.
Edward O. Wilson, The Diversity of Life (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1992), p. 287.
Halweil, p. 45.
Halweil, p. 45.
US Census 2000, factfinder.census.gov
Halweil, p. 94.
Halweil, p. 161.
Marc Reisner, Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water (New York: Penguin, 1987), p. 3.
California Department of Food and Agriculture, California Agriculture: Highlights 2005.
Larry Zuckerman, The Potato: How the Humble Spud Rescued the Western World (Boston: Faber & Faber, 1998), p. 30.

Back in the late 80s or early 90s, after Sri Sri Radha Vrindaban Candra had moved from Bahulaban to Their current temple, most offices and productive life of New Vrindaban was still ongoing at Bahulaban.

There was a greenhouse built off what is now known as the Pink Building where we wintered over plants, including some beautiful 4-5′ (1.2-1.5m) tall tulasis in large pots. We  had a lot of other tender stuff, including producing gardenias. We also started lots of flowers and veggie plants for the temple and Palace gardens.

One April there was a huge and quick snowstorm where like 8-12″ (20-30 cm)   of snow fell in about two hours. I was working in an office in the building and noted snow had started to fall.  I wasn’t that concerned about it because it was after all April and snow was not that common, typically small amounts, and the greenhouse usually melted off any snow that fell on it.  I never even thought to be concerned but when I stepped out two hours later the greenhouse had collapsed.

I immediately went around to the offices and  drafted some help.  Some were a little resistant, being under the bodily concept that they were office workers and adverse to doing physical labor but soon all came to help. Some threats of immediate reaction may have been employed with the more resistant of them.

Once they had visual evidence of the peril tulasi was in they did jump in with requisite enthusiasm. There was a lot of plants and it took a while but we did save them all.

So even though my greenhouse has a solid roof and would probably have been fine,  I was concerned. I spent the 20-30 minutes it took to shovel the snow off  it.

One reason I was concerned is that temperatures had started going up above freezing during the day  so melt was occurring on the upper roof. This was draining off onto the lower roof because the gutters were filled with ice. The snow on the lower roof was catching that runoff and holding it, hence the weight was building up.

I figured being safe was better than being sorry so cleaned it off. Since then there have been multiple reports of porch roofs in the local area collapsing.  For those with local knowledge of NV, the former lumber warehouse roof, current garden storage building used by Tapahpunjah by the Garden of Seven Gates,  has collapsed.

(photo by Jaya Murari)

The other danger is icicles. They can build up weight and pull the gutters right off your building so I also knocked a lot of those off.

They can also be dangerous if they fall off by themselves. A guy was just killed up at a industrial plant near Follansbee when ice broke loose and hit him as he was walking under a coal conveyor.

All that aside, it is very beautiful every where one looks, a pristine beauty of form and purity.

By Lindsey Tanner

AP Medical Writer= CHICAGO (AP) — In the autism world, “Aspies” are sometimes seen as the elites, the ones who are socially awkward, yet academically gifted and who embrace their quirkiness.

Now, many Aspies, a nickname for people with Asperger’s syndrome, are upset over a proposal they see as an attack on their identity. Under proposed changes to the most widely used diagnostic manual of mental illness, Asperger’s syndrome would no longer be a separate diagnosis.

Instead, Asperger’s and other forms of autism would be lumped together in a single “autism spectrum disorders” category. Some parents say they’d welcome the change, thinking it would eliminate confusion over autism’s variations and perhaps lead to better educational services for affected kids.

But opponents — mostly older teens and adults with Asperger’s — disagree.

Liane Holliday Willey, a Michigan author and self-described Aspie whose daughter also has Asperger’s, fears Asperger’s kids will be stigmatized by the autism label — or will go undiagnosed and get no services at all.

Grouping Aspies with people “who have language delays, need more self-care and have lower IQs, how in the world are we going to rise to what we can do?” Willey said.

Rebecca Rubinstein, 23, a graduate student from Massapequa, N.Y., says she “vehemently” opposes the proposal and will think of herself as someone with Asperger’s no matter what.

Autism and Asperger’s “mean such different things,” she said.

Yes and no.

Both are classified as neurodevelopmental disorders. Autism has long been considered a disorder that can range from mild to severe. Asperger’s symptoms can vary, but the condition is generally thought of as a mild form and since 1994 has had a separate category in psychiatrists’ diagnostic manual. Both autism and Asperger’s involve poor social skills, repetitive behavior or interests, and problems communicating. But unlike classic autism, Asperger’s does not typically involve delays in mental development or speech.

The American Psychiatric Association’s proposed revisions, announced Wednesday, involve autism and several other conditions. The suggested autism changes are based on research advances since 1994 showing little difference between mild autism and Asperger’s. Evidence also suggests that doctors use the term loosely and disagree on what it means, according to psychiatrists urging the revisions.

A new autism spectrum category recognizes that “the symptoms of these disorders represent a continuum from mild to severe, rather than being distinct disorders,” said Dr. Edwin Cook, a University of Illinois at Chicago autism researcher and member of the APA work group proposing the changes.

The proposed revisions are posted online at http://www.DSM5.org for public comment, which will influence whether they are adopted. Publication of the updated manual is planned for May 2013.

Dr. Mina Dulcan, child and adolescent psychiatry chief at Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital, said Aspies’ opposition “is not really a medical question, it’s an identity question.”

“It would be just like if you were a student at MIT. You might not want to be lumped with somebody in the community college,” said Dulcan who supports the diagnostic change.

“One of the characteristics of people with Asperger’s is that they’re very resistant to change,” Dulcan added. The change “makes scientific sense. I’m sorry if it hurts people’s feelings,” she said.

Harold Doherty, a New Brunswick lawyer whose 13-year-old son has severe autism, opposes the proposed change for a different reason. He says the public perception of autism is skewed by success stories — the high-functioning “brainiac” kids who thrive despite their disability.

Doherty says people don’t want to think about children like his son, Conor, who will never be able to function on his own. The revision would only skew the perception further, leading doctors and researchers to focus more on mild forms, he said…

Read complete article here.

The Antikythera mechanism is an ancient mechanical calculator (also described as the first known mechanical computer) designed to calculate astronomical positions. It was recovered in 1901 from the Antikythera wreck, but its complexity and significance were not understood until decades later. It is now thought to have been built about 150 BC. Technological artifacts of similar complexity did not reappear until the 14th century, when mechanical astronomical clocks appeared in Europe.

Professor Michael Edmunds of Cardiff University who led the most recent study of the mechanism said: “This device is just extraordinary, the only thing of its kind. The design is beautiful, the astronomy is exactly right. The way the mechanics are designed just makes your jaw drop. Whoever has done this has done it extremely carefully…in terms of historic and scarcity value, I have to regard this mechanism as being more valuable than the Mona Lisa.”

The device is displayed in the Bronze Collection of the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, accompanied by a reconstruction made and offered to the museum by Derek de Solla Price.

The most recent findings of The Antikythera Mechanism Research Project were
published in the July 30, 2008, edition of Nature.

Read another article here.

As you might expect, some believe it came from ancient India.

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