Low Impact Developments – Defining a Vision

Home buyers, and some real estate developers, are realising the impact of subdivisions on the environment and are looking at ways of minimising the environmental harm from building new. The movement to protect the environment (global and local) is also being led by enlightened local bodies which enact bylaws to meet Low Impact standards.

In Great Britain is this Stoneham Green affordable housing development near Southampton which, Green Building Press reports, is one of the UK’s first to achieve Code for Sustainable Homes Level 6 because of its utilisation of Biomass digesters amongst other energy-saving techniques. The focus here is on energy conservation. Other developments stress different benefits of sustainability.

What makes a dwelling Low Impact?

Before we can establish laws for sustainable, low impact housing we really need to understand and define what we are talking about. ‘Sustainable’ and ‘Low Impact’ are such easy words to throw around, especially when they refer to houses or buildings, but it is vital that the same definitions are held in everyone’s head.

A survey of definitions throws up a range of yardsticks used to measure Low Impact Dwellings, both in how they physically affect their surroundings to how they affect the people who live in them,

Simon Fairlie definition

Low impact dwellings (LID), in the UK sense of the term, was described by Simon Fairlie, a former editor of The Ecologist magazine (*1), in 1996 as: “development that through its low impact either enhances or does not significantly diminish environmental quality.” (*2)

For Simon Fairlie: living the good life gave him a clearer perspective of what is meant by ‘Low Impact Development (LID)

Fairlie later went on to study the ‘green’ assumptions of diet when he wrote a book ‘Meat: a Benign Extravagance’, in which he challenges conventional thinking about the sustainability of the vegan and vegetarian diets. He claims we ignore the high impact on resources necessary (and travel distances required) to gather vegan/vegetarian food and that feeding animals on waste food production could have less impact on the environment.

During his time with The Ecologist, Fairlie wrote: “Neither the term (Low Impact Dwelling) nor the concept was new. People have been living low impact lifestyles in low impact buildings for centuries; indeed until very recently the majority of people in the world lived that way.” (*3 ) In 2009 Fairlie revised his definition of a LID as: “development which, by virtue of its low or benign environmental impact, may be allowed in locations where conventional development is not permitted.” (*4)

Does low impact require fewer restrictions?

He explained: “I prefer this revised definition because wrapped up in it is the main argument; that low impact buildings need not be bound by the restrictions necessary to protect the countryside from ‘conventional’ high impact development ­ a.k.a. suburban sprawl. There are two other principle arguments in favour of LID:

  • (i) that some form of exception policy is necessary because conventional housing in a countryside protected from sprawl becomes too expensive for the people who work there; and
  • (ii) soon we will all have to live more sustainable low impact lifestyles, so pioneers should be encouraged.” (*5)

The LID connection with land

Others have expanded on the definition. A study by the University of West England (*6) acknowledged that: “LID is usually integrally connected with land management and as much as describing physical development, LID also describes a form of livelihood.” (*7) However, it also states that as LID is a “multi featured and intrinsically integrated form of development,” a simple definition cannot capture the meaning of LID and goes on to develop “a detailed themed definition with detailed criteria.”

No simple definition of Low Impact

In 2013, Dr Larch Maxey (*8) held the main features of LID to be:

  • locally adapted, diverse and unique
  • based on renewable resources
  • of an appropriate scale
  • visually unobtrusive
  • enhances biodiversity
  • increases public access to open space
  • generates little traffic
  • linked to sustainable livelihoods
  • co-ordinated by a management plan

Government commitment to Low Impact Dwellings

Already European countries, perhaps faced more obviously by the results of decades of disregard for the environment, are looking at options for low impact development. For example: all new homes in the UK are to be carbon-neutral by 2016

Low Impact must reach beyond buildings

In New Zealand, Claire Mortimer, Landcare Research November 12, 2010, posed the question: “Can we design cities to cleanse urban waterways and increase NZ’s biodiversity? Low Impact Urban Design and Development (LIUDD) is an approach which works with nature, using design features such as rain gardens and green roofs to reduce pollutants entering urban streams and harbours, while creating green spaces for NZ plants and animals to live in and green spaces for people to enjoy.”

This concept acknowledges the role many plants play in neutralising or filtering excess pollutants from waste water. While green roofs are catching on in other parts of the world (e.g. France where laws insist new houses must have either solar or rooftop gardens), in areas where water is captured for household use in holding tanks a green roof is not practical. We also have to decide if the green roof is sustainable – will people maintain the roof garden without coercion?

Sustainable water systems

With environmental warming extreme weather patterns are hitting every country. Even in our area in Golden Bay we experienced such an event. Water is very powerful and can cause unimaginable damage – and this is an area where roof water is captured in household tanks.

Rain runoff must be part of the consideration for low impact development

Can you imagine how much worse the damage would have been without tanks to reduce the runoff?

The household water tank is a relatively cheap way of reducing immediate run-off in extreme weather events. However, systems for later disposal of used (grey) water are not so cheap, especially if the water is intended only for watering a vegetable garden. Roof captured water has fallen out of favour, in that we have come to believe it is full of impurities that must be removed. Just how much of that belief is related to location and how much to superstition is unclear. The Drinking Water Standards for New Zealand focus only on public supply and so strive for optimum absence of any level of pollutants.

So what are the differences in impact (health, environment and cost) between a water system that reduces or eliminates storm water run-off through tanks and water treatment on site, and one that simply removes the runoff from the house site and at the same time delivers treated water via another public pipeline?

And this is where we come up against the differences in definition – in Canada and the US the definition used to describe low-impact development is based in a planning and engineering design approach to managing storm water runoff, while in Britain the definition is used for developments which provide little or no environmental impact, such as the housing estate pictured above.

According to the New Zealand Centre for Sustainable Cities blog: “The fundamental principle of low-impact development is that it’s better – both for people’s pocketbooks and for streams – to prevent storm runoff than it is to treat it (the water). That means building green roofs and rain gardens, installing rain barrels and cisterns, and using porous concrete and pavers.”

To balance a healthy water supply with sustainability is a challenge. Mains supply requires regular maintenance and repair of many kilometres of pipes from a treatment source. Using individual collection puts the onus of treating and maintenance on that individual. An interesting table (though totally without data) is published on the Government Health Education website. The message seems to be for a sustainable individual water supply all you need is household bleach regularly administered.

New versus old

While our focus is on changing bylaws to allow new low impact sustainable developments, we cannot turn our back on helping owners of low value housing stock to lower their environmental impact. For many, the cost required to upgrade is beyond them for the very reason that they live in low value housing.

We cannot advocate for new development as a panacea for fixing the problems of sustainability. As a Landcare Research initiative discovered, “Retrofitting an existing old building is always a challenge. We worked with the family … to build their awareness and ability to manage the ongoing operational decisions involved with balancing energy and water cost savings with comfort and health improvements.” Nor can we ensure that new low impact designs will always house people who understand their responsibility in the process.

Affordability

New Zealand construction and housing companies are catching on to the idea of ‘sustainability’, but it is hard to marry that with the cost of such a home.

Here are some New Zealand examples:

  • Ekohome offers a range of affordable eco houses that have been specifically designed “to be flexible, sustainable and within the price reach of ordinary New Zealanders at just 5%-10% above the cost of a standard NZ home”;
  • ebode “provides architecturally designed passive solar homes for New Zealanders”;
  • The Zero Energy House company incorporates passive and solar energy, rain water collection and grey water disposal systems to reach its claim to zero energy.

However, if you look at their house designs, extravagance of space is an obvious issue. When these low impact houses must compete for buyers with extravagant house plans, as seen in some recent developments around Christchurch, genuine low impact houses such a Little Greenie will wilt in comparison. We have been sold the House Beautiful concept for too long. We actually need to question why we need so much space to live in – ourselves included!

Issues to be addressed

Any move toward sustainable housing development has to address:

  • Education – landlords, renters, owners, local government and even MPs to make them aware of the economic and social benefits of low impact development
  • Affordable access – are new low impact homes only for the middle-class?
  • Building materials – why are the costs so high in New Zealand and should we import cheaper housing materials despite the social implications?
  • Economic system – will the economic system of loans coming only from Banks at relatively high interest continue to put low impact development out of the reach of most New Zealanders?
  • Maori (first people’s) values – has low impact development been ‘captured’ by European values / are Maori values being overlooked?

These questions are not posed for YES/NO answers; they are asked to generate discussion and to trigger some innovative thinking.

Further Learning

PDF academic research document on Providing Incentives for Low-Impact Development

Booklet on Low Impact Development from British perspective

References:

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ecologist

2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low-impact_development_%28UK%29#cite_note-5

3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low-impact_development_%28UK%29#cite_note-Pic kerill-6

4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low-impact_development_%28UK%29#cite_note-Pic kerill-6

5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low-impact_development_%28UK%29#cite_note-Pic kerill-6

6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_West_England

7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low-impact_development_%28UK%29#cite_note-West_England-7

8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low-impact_development_%28UK%29#cite_note-8

By Heather Sylvawood

When PayPal founder Eion Musk creates batteries for solar energy collection …

… you know that you need to take notice

For years I’ve been plagued by emails about Tesla power. First about a perpetual energy generator that you could build yourself, and not being remotely skilled in engineering I kept deleting them or sending them to spam. But now I have to take them seriously.

It’s all the news on solar energy

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the founder of PayPal, has been using his fortune to create an electric car and now a battery that can charge it.

The battery sits on a wall (pictured here in a garage) and currently can produced 7-10kWh of power. That’s equivalent to a household using 5000kWh power per month.

“Musk said that the batteries will have thermal management systems to allow them to power houses in hot and cold climates, too—the batteries have an operating temperature range of -20C (-4F) to 43C (110F).” according to a report in ARS Technica.

Working with major solar energy company

The press release says that in the US Tesla will be working with international company Solar City to develop a total package of installation (you still need to install enough panels to charge the battery).

And here is the man himself enthusing over the potential benefits of the new Powerwall battery system:

Eion Musk announces a major step forward in solar energy batteries

The video announcement: Tesla Powerwall Keynote by Elon Musk “The Missing Piece” – was published on May 1, 2015 – so it’s very recent news. It’s also news you need to take notice of, news you need to follow and perhaps put pressure on your solar installers to make sure you’re first in line when they hit your shores.

Heather Sylvawood, @eBrainz, Amazon Author

Cool fun in the solar system

By Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

Go searching around the internet and you discover all these amazing people sharing equally amazing information.

Today, investigating solar energy I came across this website and Blog: https://www.mysolarquotes.co.nz/blog/. I recommend you take a read if you are remotely interested in installing solar on your roof top. The founder, Kristy Hoare, has an Honours degree in Marketing and has worked in the solar power industry for over five years. The service offered by the website is finding you the best quotes for installation in your area.

Kirsty also gathers together news, views and experiments in solar energy use such as these: Cool sun glasses that also keep you in touch with your friends by re-charging your cell phone.

>>>

Stay charged on holiday

Another trend I have been watching for is a New Zealand company in Christchurch which has developed an easily transportable solar battery pack. The company says the flexible panel can charge anything up to a laptop or tablet – simply place the panel on a sunny surface and have the device in a cooler, shady spot, link them through the extension socket and away you go – perfect for summer camping or a break on your tramping holiday.

Transportable, light-weight and energy efficient solar panel

At under $500 (inc GST) this product is a gift – unfortunately currently out of stock. I’ve been waiting for the price to come down so that I could justify the purchase and keep my writing going over our summer camping weeks. Now I’ll have to keep checking back to when they have them in stock again.

However, another option I could use is their Power Bank 60 Battery Pack that has a high power USB port to power all your smart phones, laptops and tablets. The great thing is that you can use one of their range of single solar panels to charge the battery pack. How neat is that?

by Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

Don’t be overwhelmed by environmental issues

Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

Just had an email from a good friend who said: “There are no end of things we have to fight against and for these days”. And it does feel overwhelming if you’ve subscribed to receive newsletters and email announcement from various social campaign groups. More and more issues are emerging because social media is connecting us.

World environmental problems overwhelm us

How easy would it be to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the world’s problems? How easy it would be to feel we have to fight every unethical company in the world? We assume it would be near impossible for one individual to make a difference – but is the answer to sink into lethargy?

Taking ethical action

The reality is that individuals are taking ethical action. They’re not taking on the world or ALL the big corporations who act unethically, without regard to the citizens of the world. They’re taking on one issue and acting on that.

Let’s look at some of the groups I personally know about which stand for a more ethical future :

Project Jonah – Whale rescue teams training others to act quickly whenever there is a whale stranding. They also speak out about issues that are becoming apparent for these amazing sea-going mammals.

The Sum Of Us –  a global movement of consumers, investors, and workers all around the world, standing together to hold corporations accountable for their actions and forge a new, sustainable and just path for our global economy.

Upworthy – a social media site with a focus on entertaining and enlightening. For those enrolled to receive notifications expect a steady stream of links that could shock or enlighten.  Because it’s shareable, ethical and enlightening stuff Upworthy is enabling us to  spread the word.

Greenpeace – The environmental movement that has been actively defying nations in its determination to stop environmental degradation of ecologically vulnerable areas, wildlife and peoples. Although there was no one founder (five people are given credit on the web page) the over-arching philosophy is: ‘Greenpeace exists because this fragile Earth deserves a voice. It needs solutions. It needs change. It needs action!’ The group has received varying reviews because of its members’ determination to be heard and its startling tactics.

Causes – This is the place to discover, support and organize campaigns, fundraisers, and petitions around the issues that impact you and your community. From fundraising for individuals who need support for life-saving operations to petitions about child-abuse or to stop GMO production, the topics are diverse but always about an ethical issue facing the world populations.

Revealing ethical or environmental stories

Each of the above groups were started by friends/acquaintances with the similar views – individuals who recognised that alone they could do little to cause change, but together they could use social media/the Internet to educate and join forces with millions.

They were activists. They had the courage to step outside of their comfort zones and be counted. They stopped fearing that they would be ridiculed for having an absurd idea. They stopped listening to the naysayers and the disbelievers. They felt the fear and did it anyway.

Safeguards against suppressing information

The Internet, in fact, was the key to getting the ‘other story’ out to the millions who had always believed the ‘official version’.  Why do you think that totalitarian states want to shutdown or censor internet access to their populations? Why do governments (even so-called democracies) try to counteract breaking stories about unethical activity by putting a new ‘spin’ on the stories?

Note: The word ‘spin doctor’ is only a recent addition to our language – it wasn’t in my Pocket Oxford of 1975 or even in my Collins Concise in 1995.

No group of worthy causes would be complete with out mention of Wikimedia which was founded in 2003 by Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, as a way to fund Wikipedia and its sister projects through non-profit means. Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger launched Wikipedia on January 15, 2001. Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia, has become one of the most visited sites for verification of information. Because of its policy that information can be edited and updated by anyone, the chances that information can be suppressed is greatly reduced.

Changing the standards you live by

Many people have felt the fear and taken a step into the unknown with an ethical idea. Here are a couple:

Snap Judgement – jointly founded by Glynn Washington – Host & Executive Producer and Mark Ristich – Executive Producer, Snap Judgement aims to bring ‘community’ back into community radio at a time when most home-grown shows are struggling to survive. According to the show’s website: before creating the Snap Judgment radio show, ‘Glynn worked as an educator, diplomat, community activist, actor, political strategist, fist-shaker, mountain-hollerer, and foot stomper’. Boy, does the World need plenty of those!

The Secret – Many of you will know about Australian Rhonda Byrne and her life-changing film The Secret. Not only did Rhonda turn her whole life around, she and her writing have brought a new positive outlook to many. Critics claim that the people she has influenced are being deluded. According to the website: Skeptoid “The “secret” turns out to be nothing more than the old motivational speaker’s standby, that positive thinking leads to positive results.” However, if millions of people are feeling happier through applying her ‘discoveries’ won’t that lift the collective energy and inspire more of us to step outside our comfort zones and help others?

Taking personal ethical action

When an email arrives in our inbox urging us to act on behalf of some cause, what happens to us:

  • We feel concerned/annoyed/uncomfortable
  • We might feel embarrassed by what our friends will think of us if we take action or pass on the information
  • We pick and choose who we’ll share it with
  • We wonder if our account is being monitored by the Secret Service and whether we’re risking promotion/economic survival if we speak out

That’s pretty much where I was a few months ago. But recently I’ve decided: “What the heck. These issues are too important to be ignored.” I’m also heartened at the number of people who ‘Like’ what I stand for and are brave enough to ‘Share’. That says to me there is a ground swell of concerned citizens of the World who are based in love and want to protect what is precious no matter what the cost.

An example of personal action

I’m going to end this post with a lovely example of two men who are taking personal action. It is a story that shows you don’t have to reach the world to take environmental action, but you can make a profound difference.

The story from China comes via another social sharing site: Bored Panda. Disabled pair plant 10,000 trees in China.

So whatever you do, whether its visit a sick neighbour, singing in church, writing a book or starting a world movement, YOU are contributing to a better world.

Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

Is ‘consumerism’, like religion, not to be discussed in polite conversation?

By Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

George Monbiot in The Guardian  has thrown down a challenge when he states: “It’s the great taboo of our age – and the inability to discuss the pursuit of perpetual growth will prove humanity’s undoing.” Monbiot takes the position that the insatiable demand for growth is reflected in our demand for energy which underpins our ability to grow and make new. Read his thoughtful article here.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/27/if-we-cant-change-economic-system-our-number-is-up

 

Heather Sylvawood’s view on consumerism

DebtGap

Many of us assume that a constant upward trend towards more and more (consumerism) is inevitable. And it is – under our current economic system.The creation of new and often better technology, research and improvements to the living conditions of most all starts with an organisation/person/corporation assuming large amounts of debt (borrowed money) in the expectation that this debt will be repaid with profit once the product is developed, the house is built, the land becomes productive. It would be simple if only the debt had to be repaid, but unfortunately our economic system expects interest for the use of the money. So the objects/products/houses must all come into being as having more value than they actually represent.

Worse – The current purchasing power of the people for whom the new stuff is being produced is insufficient to buy the new objects/products/houses. So guess what? They go into debt and pledge future income to paying off these items at their already inflated values. Often the people who can least afford the consumer goods are the ones pledging a greater proportion of the weekly income to paying off these inflated products. This leads to a cycle of boom, where lots of bank credit is created, and bust, when our ability to pay interest on the debt reaches crisis point.

How to distribute money more equitably

Another entrenched belief is that the only way to distribute wealth equitably is through taxation. This is not a welcome alternative for those who have grafted themselves onto the rich side of the tree. Besides, taxation is a tool of the current economic system and has proved to be a dismal failure in closing the rich-poor divide. There are however, alternatives.

Last century a homespun economist Clifford Hugh Douglas, whose observations and theories explained this phenomena, said that the problems fundamental to economic depression are those of unequal distribution owing to lack of purchasing power. To solve these difficulties Douglas proposed a system of issuing to every citizen dividends, the amount of which would be determined by an estimate of the nation’s real wealth; the establishment of a just price for all goods would be the result. The theories became the founding doctrine of the Social Credit parties and were adopted by Alberta, Canada.

The perfect channel out of debt

One of the Channel Isles, Guernsey, is reputed to have created its own credit when it was virtually bankrupt and was unable to do even the most minor repairs to its miniscule infrastructure. Instead of taxing its already financially stretched population, it printed its own currency to cover the necessary repairs. The tradespeople on the island were paid in Guernsey currency and that was accepted by Guernsey shopkeepers who suddenly had need to employ others who were paid in Guernsey currency.

According to Wikipedia: “Public services, such as water, wastewater, the two main harbours and the airport are still owned and controlled by the States of Guernsey. The electricity, and postal services have been commercialised by the States and are now operated by companies wholly owned by the States of Guernsey. Gas is supplied by an independent private company.”

Because the Isle no longer required taxation to operate its public services, large numbers of companies, head offices and corporations based their businesses in the 78 sq kilometre island. This brought more affluence to the country without adding one cent in interest as debt to anyone. This of course is a system based on similar accounting principles as the current where the Futures Markets take the whole money-debt thing to extreme lengths by gambling on the future possible returns from a crop that has yet to planted or a technology that has yet to be invented.  In other words, we’re not happy with plain old debt we use today, we have to gamble our future away.

Consumerism has blinded us to an amazing truth

Mankind made the current economic system – so mankind can make a different one.

Our economy is NOT written on tablets of stone. It is merely a tool that no longer serves us, and it forces us into consumerism so we exploit more and more of our planet. We could stop, but we all need a deeper recognition of the consequences of NOT stopping.

By Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

 

Keep your home free of oil and SMART meters

By Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

Today I have two topics to write about. The first is a bouquet, the second a brick.

The Bouquet: I find it slightly bizarre, but commendable, that a country actively encouraging research into alternative energy should be the United Arab Emirates. The Zayed Future Energy Prize is awarded each year to Corporations, SMEs, NGOs and international high schools who are seen to be researching or implementing renewable energy options.

Check it out here.

Now what does that tell us about the future of oil?

Oil-free homes and lives are inevitable

It’s generally understood by the world that oil, natural gas and coal (anything that must be mined) is a finite resource. Although there is some renewing of the resource over time, the eons of time it takes to be renewed is far outstripped by the rate in which our oil-dependent world is consuming it. Oil exploration is now reaching into less and less likely and more inaccessible places in a desperate bid to find new fields before the main ones run out. Of course, exploration is not altruistic. Scarcity will drive up prices so investors stand to gain huge profits by discovering one new source of oil or gas.

The Zayed Future Energy Prize is designed to uncover some options to oil energy. The 2014 nominees are in the process of being assessed by a Jury and will be announced in July.  Hopefully from the public acknowledgement by an oil-producing country the oil power mongers will not be able to shutdown the technology. Read More about the nominees here:

But what are the alternatives – electricity?

The Brick:  In the US there are over 5000 alternative energy source patents that have been suppressed.  (See this YouTube posting for referencevery important!) In the meantime, power companies (not just oil-fired generators) have introduced an appliance that could be harming our health irreversibly, and we’re just going along with it without question.

The villain is the SMART meter. SMART meters are being installed world-wide, sold to us as power-price reducing devices that ensure accurate readings of our power consumption. Analogue meters, we are told, are inaccurate.

However, a body of evidence is emerging (supported by many scientists) that SMART meters are dangerous because:

  • They cause chronic illness, such as migraines and cancer (Read about it on the EMF website)
  • They can alter the structure of blood cells in people exposed to them over time (See Take Back Your Power video)
  • They have been shown to cause fires (Read EMF reports) – In New Zealand, 422 fires involved smart meters in 2010.
  • They emit radiation (Read Organic NZ report)

Take Back Your Power

Having just viewed the film Take Back Your Power, I am horrified to realise our domestic power companies are going along with a device that has not been properly tested for safety. More than that, it’s designed to transmit power (radiation) impulses that can be picked up by power companies measuring power usage.  Sounds a great idea. No problems with reading the meter and the company knows when to ramp up supply.

On the other hand, the emission of radiation pulses continues even when the power company is not collecting the data; it continues night and day. And that’s when it starts affecting our health; everyone’s health, not just those who are susceptible to electro-magnetic pulses.

Become SMART about SMART meters

So my plea to you is investigate for yourself, and if you don’t yet have a SMART meter insist that your power supplier respect your wish not to have one. If you do have a SMART meter ask your power supplier to take it out and replace it with an analogue meter – modern alternatives are available. If they won’t comply tell them you are going to change power suppliers. It’s better to reason with them and wear them down than try and find a new supplier, because the new supplier will want to hook up to the existing SMART meter.

I enquired from Contact Energy and their fee for removing an existing SMART meter and replacing it with an analogue one is $110 NZ. I also had the call centre person register on our account that we do not want a SMART meter. She actually offered, so others must be requesting to be SMART meter-free. However, she did say we would receive mail explaining why they’re being installed once they get around to our area. In other words, they won’t take a blind bit of notice of our request to not have one installed and we will have to refuse again.

By Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

US Navy now runs on seawater – celebrate!

By Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

I just have to share this article from Addicting Info . Org:

It’s just too amazing not to share. So if you don’t want to click on the link above here is a resume of the content:

After decades of experiments, U.S. Navy scientists believe they may have solved one of the world’s great challenges: how to turn seawater into fuel.

The new fuel is initially expected to cost around $3 to $6 per gallon, according to the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, which has already flown a model aircraft on it.

But as Addicting Info writer, Justin Rosario, expresses:

“Curiously, this doesn’t seem to be making much of a splash (no pun intended) on the evening news. Let’s repeat this: The United States Navy has figured out how to turn seawater into fuel and it will cost about the same as gasoline.”

“I expect the GOP to go ballistic over this and try to legislate it out of existence. It’s a threat to their fossil fuel masters because it will cost them trillions in profits. It’s also “green” technology and Republicans will despise it on those grounds alone.”

The benefits are immeasurable, here are two:

  • The process pulls carbon dioxide (the greenhouse gas driving Climate Change) out of the ocean, which has just about reached its safe limit for acidity from all of the increased carbon dioxide, which is what is destroying ecosystems like coral reef.
  • Oil rich countries such as the Middle East will no longer be of interest to the US and other major oil-dependent countries so they won’t want to meddle in Middle Eastern politics. There will be less spending on war and more leftover for humanitarian spending on citizens.
  • The use of carbon dioxide as a fuel is a carbon neutral process. The ocean is like a sponge for carbon dioxide in the air and currently has an excess amount dissolved in it. The fuel process pulls carbon dioxide out of the ocean. It’s converted and burned as fuel. This releases the carbon dioxide back into the air which is then reabsorbed by the ocean.

Also read this article from the International Business Times

So get the word out there and make it impossible for the oil giants to squash the technology.

By Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

Little light goes a long way

By Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

Have you seen those pictures taken from space looking back at the Earth? They look beautiful, like the Earth is a jewelled crown. We seem intent on lighting up space with our collective lighting energy.

Are we sending out a message to space? “Here we are. This is a perfect example of how we squander our resources.”

Earth from space

But so much of that energy is wasted on streets with few people in them or lighted while most residents sleep. What we need is targeted light as shown in the video below:

Have you seen this video?

We have the  lighting technology, so why aren’t we using it and spending the saved energy on more important things?

By Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

Solar to the rescue when these giant babies need a feed

By Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

Isn’t it wonderful to hear of efforts to put right the wrongs of humanity, especially when the wrong is committed against animals?

DSC0308-300x199

What I particularly liked about this story is that the effort of the Elephant Transit Home in Udawalawe, Sri Lanka, to save and rehabilitate these baby elephants is enhanced by solar energy.

The initiative is supported by the conservation foundation set up by the Dilmah Tea Company and was triggered by the insatiable demand for firewood needed to boil umpteen litres of water used to make-up the baby formula for orphaned elephant calves cared for by the Elephant Transit Home.

Wood burning an environmental dilemma

The search for firewood was draining in human resources because dead wood (the organisation ethically chose not to fell live trees) became scarcer and had to be fetched long distances. Also, the environmental damage of carbon-dioxide released into the atmosphere from burning large quantities of wood to boil the water did not sit well with the home.

Sri_Lanka_People_gatherWood

“They are fed 8 times a day each day, and they collectively consume a staggering quantity of over 640 litres of milk. The milk is made by combining dehydrated human infant formula (baby food) with water. Elephant calves are extremely susceptible to gastrointestinal complications that arise due to bacteria present in water used to prepare their milk. In order to prevent this, water must be boiled to remove any bacterial presence.”

To find out more about this heart-warming story click the link or copy into your browser address bar.

http://www.dilmahconservation.org/initiatives/supercharging-the-eth-kitchen-for-the-mammoth-feed/

By Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

Treehuggers are green environmental machines

I am always looking for websites that give me ideas on how to make my lifestyle more environmentally GREEN. And Treehuggers is one such site. It came to me from another wonderful website and newsletter from Wendyl Nissen the Green Goddess.

The Treehuggers site offers reports such as:

The site is also full of discussions about the validity of ‘green’ claims and information on the best and worst products to use if you want to move towards a sustainable lifestyle. Now that I have found it (thanks, Wendyl) I will be returning regularly.

Fair Trade or Local Trade?

One of the issues I regularly debate in my mind is whether to by Fair Trade items from Third World countries or follow the premise of buying locally produced food or items, even if they cost more. My thinking goes like this:

Pro’s for Fair Trade –

  • I am helping Third World producers by paying a fair price for their goods
  • I am increasing the number of job opportunities in countries with struggling populations
  • I am supporting ethically-driven aid agencies make changes in Third World countries

Pro’s for Local Trade –

  • I am supporting local people earn a living
  • I am reducing transport pollution miles by limiting my choices to what grows in my local area
  • I am more likely to know if the food is organically grown (chemical-free)

Herbal teas

Even in my search for herbal teas I can make from plants I grow myself has brought up these issues. If I limit my tea flavours to local plants, I reduce my ‘demand’ for teas grown in places like China and India (although neither can be said to be Third World in the classic sense of the word). But by not buying classic teas (even if they are packaged in my own country) I reduce those transport miles.

Should I be thinking globally and acting locally; or is that merely a trite saying that has little meaning in a global economy? I’d really like to hear what you think.

Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author