Small Entrepreneurs with Huge Potential

With any problem that our species faces as a whole, come new and creative ideas to solve these problems. A group of innovators steps up and tries to solve the problem to the best of their ability. Climate change is one of these huge problems that our species is facing today. The forecast for climate change is grim, but that is not all there is to the story. There are tons of small entrepreneurs that are reinventing energy and that are poised to save the planet through their ideas.

“Our future growth relies on competitiveness and innovation, skills and productivity” Julia Gillard

As an eager freshman determined to face the climate change problem head on, I came across this book called Earth: The Sequel by Fred Krupp and Miriam Horn. This book is all about how small entrepreneurs are using capitalism to save the world.

Harman's refrigerator fan.

Harman’s refrigerator fan.

One way these innovators are trying to solve climate change is by finding ways to make products more efficient. An example of this is PAX Scientific in San Rafael, California. Founded in 1997, Jay Harman harnessed nature’s efficiency to mundane products: fans and mixers, propellers and turbines. He first noticed that seaweed will twist itself into a coil in order for water to easily pass through it with the least possible resistance. Harman translated these natural shapes into mathematical algorithms that made these products. One of their first products was a little fan for refrigerator motors that is 25% more efficient than the conventional fans. If everyone who owned a refrigerator had this motor, it would translate to 219,000 megawatt-hour of electricity not being used (Krupp and Horn, 2008). Not too shabby for a refrigerator fan.

Another example is Serious Material, a construction company founded in 2002 by Marc Porat. Snoop Dogg was actually one of Porat’s first costumers. A product that is now in the market is called EcoRock, a type of drywall. Drywall produces 12 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide each year. These emissions come from the burning required to dry gypsum, grind it, boil it with water, shaping it, and drying it. EcoRock cooks itself through exothermic chemical reactions. Since it needs no heaters, it produces little to no carbon dioxide. It is also stronger, cheaper, and lighter than conventional drywall (Krupp and Horn, 2008).

A quick, little ted talk on EcoRock:

These are just several examples of the many entrepreneurs mentioned in this book that have the potential to change the way we deal with climate change. With new challenges, comes new solutions. With climate change being a complex problem, there are more opportunities for people to share their ideas on ways to solve this problem. Personally, I had only heard of a handful of these companies before reading this book. It is a shame that these companies have big ideas and even developed better, more efficient technology, but are not getting much recognition. Maybe if they did get the recognition they deserve and their products were more integrated into our lives, climate change would be much different than it is today.

References:

Krupp, Fred, and Miriam Horn. Earth, the Sequel: The Race to Reinvent Energy and Stop Global Warming. New York: W.W. Norton, 2008. Print.

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How we deal with Ozone depletion VS Global warming

 

One of the most biggest issues across the world is probably ‘global warming’. According to the IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report (AR5), the world is struggling with climate change because of the artificial rising of instruction development. Globally, we are still of different minds for how to deal with global warming. However, it is not true that we need to just let climate change happen without any action. In fact, we have acted globally to confront environmental problems in the past. A great example of this is ‘ozone depletion’ in 1980s. You probably know this was big news and also know that it is steadily recovering. This is a good example how international efforts can and are working. Then what about global warming? Do we think it has the possibility to recover from our current gloomy situation?

What I want to talk about through this post is our attitude on each situation: ‘ozone depletion’ and ‘global warming’.

Let’s compare the two situations. First, consider ozone depletion. Observed since the late 1956 by G.M.B. Dobson (Exploring the Atmosphere, 2nd Edition, Oxford, 1968), the ozone hole was what gathered the attention of not only a lot of scientists from all around the world, but also public’s fear of ozone depletion and the ozone hole. As many of you already know, the ozone layer is a belt of naturally occurring ozone gas that sits 9.3 to 18.6 miles (15 to 30 kilometers) above the Earth and serves as a shield from the harmful ultraviolet B radiation emitted by the Sun. Thanks to media’s fuss at that time, fear of ozone depletion spread all around the world. Throughout the 20th century, discoveries and observations trickled in that allowed scientists to understand how human-made chemicals like chlorofluorocarbons create a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica each spring. Not only people’s fears about ozone depletion but also swift action by advanced countries led to clear and concrete actions. In 1987, representatives from 43 nations signed the Montreal Protocol. At Montreal, almost all advanced countries, such as USA and EU, agreed to freeze production of CFCs at 1986 levels and to reduce production by 50% by 1999. Apparent results and swift actions led by advanced countries made a bad situation better noticeably and effectively. It has been extremely successful.

What about global change? Global warming is what we struggle with these days. What is now clear is that global warming is caused by humankind. This fact was not acknowledged by many people at first. Too many suspicions even at the national level made it hard to progress into action. Because the burning of fossil fuels – which produce of GHGs – are linked to both global warming and national development, it is no doubt to hard to give up. The first time when it was brought up, developed countries such as USA did not really pay attention to global warming. The countries that emit the most GHGs in the world are reluctant to stop burning fossil fuels to cease the acceleration of global warming. Even though fossil fuel burning must stop (or reduce dramatically) to reduce global warming, when it comes to real actions, the USA didn’t really act. At the ‘Kyoto protocol’, it implemented the objective of the UNFCCC to fight global warming by reducing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. However, the United States rejected the treaty on the basis that “it exempts 80% of the world, including major population centers such as China and India, from compliance, and would cause serious harm to the US economy.” For these reasons, the treaty to reduce global warming is not effective and slow. Fortunately, fewer and fewer people believe global warming is fake and the IPCC also clearly states that it is caused by people’s actions. However, actions toward global warming are still slow and not effective.

Because global warming is entwined with economical and political issues, it is really hard to step forward. Comparing the two examples of ‘ozone depletion’ and ‘global warming’, the approach each issue shows how much we can accomplish when we decide to take action. Complex situations with other countries – especially related to economic and political issues – make it more difficult to step forward and achieve what we need to achieve. We need to think seriously and act to do our best to stop global warming.

Reference :

– Liverman, D.M. (2008). “Conventions of climate change: constructions of danger and the dispossession of the atmosphere” (PDF). Journal of Historical Geography 35 (2): 279–296. doi:10.1016/j.jhg.2008.08.008. Retrieved 10 May 2011

-Summary for Policymakers” (PDF). IPCC/TEAP special report on safeguarding the ozone layer and the global climate system: issues related to hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons. Cambridge: Published for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [by] Cambridge University Press. 2005. ISBN 0-521-86336-8.

We Need to Believe in Change!

I think one of the hardest ideas to comprehend about climate change to is that we can reverse or reduce the damage humanity has already done to Earth. This doubt might prevent someone from taking action. Everyone says, “how is one person not recycling going to make a difference”, just as an example. Especially right now with many of the 2016 presidential campaign politicians still rejecting climate change as a fact. It seems like only one of the candidates is motivated to do something about climate change – maybe two but I am not sure if I trust what that individual has to say.

To understand if change can happen you can’t focus on what is happening politically. As we know there are many sources of greenhouse gases. All need to decrease significantly in order for modern society to live sustainably, but I want to focus on energy. This is the largest source of carbon into the atmosphere and the oceans. Finally, change is happening in this industry!

In 2000 the IEA Global Wind Council projected that wind power would account for 30 Gigawatts by 2010. By 2015, the amount of energy produced by wind turbine was 14.5x the projected amount. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association solar companies will add 16 gigawatts of panels in the U.S. in 2016. This is over double of what was installed last year (Ryan 2016). The triggers for the increase of solar installation were the price plunging by 67% since 2010 and a 30% tax credit that makes solar even more affordable. The price of solar has dropped so much that it is getting closer to cross the grid parity line, which is when the cost of renewable energy is less than the cost of fossil fuel. Once it crosses this line the incentive to invest in solar will be exponential.

The investment in renewable energy is happening around the world as well. 81% percent of the energy Germany uses comes from renewable sources. Many underdeveloped nations have been increasing the installation of solar panels (Sawin 2015). The Sustainable Energy for All is an international initiative with the goals of ensuring universal access to modern energy services, doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency, and doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.

There is hope that we can get away from our reliance on fossil fuels. For a long time scientists have been working to increase the public’s understanding of what climate change is and how it works (for example, on TV news and science shows). Now that the global majority understand this, the next step is getting people to believe they should invest in a sustainable future. The most successful companies in the world tell the consumers why they believe in their product. Its not about what their product is or how it works. The climate change movement should start to send the message of why we believe renewable energy and other sustainable environmental practices will create a better future for society.

References:

Ryan, Joe. “U.S. Solar Growth Will More Than Double in 2016, Study Finds.” Bloomberg.com. Bloomberg, 9 Mar. 2016. Web. 17 Mar. 2016.

Sawin, Janet L. RENEWABLES 2015 (n.d.): n. pag. http://www.ren21.net/. Renewable Energy Policy Network, 9 Apr. 2015. Web. 17 Mar. 2016.

http://www.se4all.org/our-vision_our-objectives_renewable-energy

The Dirt on Climate Change

As a collective whole, we humans are making dangerous adjustments to our planet’s thermostat. Then again, as individuals, many of us are searching for ways to reverse this trend. For now, look no farther than the patch of ground beneath your feet.

soil-918006_960_720

You may be standing on the second story of an office building or on a parking lot, but beneath these trappings, lies potential. As opposed to just a blank slate in which we grow our veggies, healthy soil is a living entity and a crucial carbon sink.

Plants convert CO2 into chemical energy through photosynthesis. Rather than being released back to the atmosphere, this carbon can end up in the soil thanks to the host of microbes that do business with plant roots. Essentially, living plants leak extra carbon to  bacteria and fungi in the soil in exchange for other nutrients. Soil organisms use this energy to go about their lives, and in the process, they transform decaying organic matter into humus.

k7421540_HUMMUSDespite lacking a second “m,” humus does relate to the delicious Mediterranean spread in the sense that it is extremely important to soil fertility, and thus all plants, garbanzo beans notwithstanding. Although humus is highly complex and difficult to define, there is no mystery shrouding its relative stability. Humified carbon can stick around for well over a hundred years in the soil without degrading to CO2. 1   So, we can picture high-functioning soil as a massive carbon sponge capable of storing thousands of gigatonnes of carbon.2

But, what about soil­­­ that no longer hosts an ecosystem of humus-makers? Unfortunately, there’s a lot of it underfoot. Any number of crops may soon be planted in such soils across the continent this summer. Widespread application of chemicals has largely uncoupled conventional agriculture from soil health in the modern era. In excess, fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides can severely alter microbial communities, rendering the soil inherently less fertile (so it requires even more inputs), and ultimately reducing its carbon-storing capacity.3

Crop-articleLarge

But, let’s set industrial agriculture aside, and ground this conversation closer to home. At the very least, we can all be the land managers of our own backyards. Even damaged dirt can recover if we are willing to get our hands dirty restoring soil health. As you roll up your sleeves, keep the following principles in mind:

1. Less Lawn

Let’s face it, despite being costly
to maintain in terms of cash, water, and fossil fuel, many of us still want tidy, green grass in our lives. Nevertheless, we can shrink our lawns and our carbon footprint in step. Even if you replace just the corners of your lawns with native shrubs and cover plants, you can improve soil health and streamline your  lawnmower’s trajectory. Ask around at your local plant nursery to select suitable, native vegetation that’s pleasing to the eye and to the soil microbes.Screen Shot 2016-03-13 at 10.18.41 PM

2. More Mulch

Don’t toss the grass clippings when you trim your now-svelte lawn. Use them as a “green manure” to boost the health of your yard. Let them dry for a few days, and then incorporate them as needed around flowerbeds, trees, or shrubs. Also, use mulches such as straw, leaves, or wood chips on top of your soil as a protective blanket to encourage soil moisture and to reduce weeds.

3. You till, you kill

Admittedly, this mantra is a bit of an overstatement. Tilling can be very useful; experienced gardeners routinely dig up tidy rows in the spring. But, tearing up the dirt disturbs the living soil community and the resources they depend on. Avoiding tillage can improve soil moisture, prevent soil loss, and promote soil fertility in the long run.650x360xnotilling.jpg.pagespeed.ic.eOHliNvsUc

 4. Don’t dare to bare

Perhaps the most important lesson of all is to minimize bare soil. Carbon stored in soil can rapidly escape to the atmosphere as CO2 when exposed to the air. Prevent this scenario by keeping pathways narrow, tilling less, and covering  exposed  soil with vegetation or mulch.

Additional Resources:

Sources:

  1. Dungait, J. A. J., Hopkins, D. W., Gregory, A. S. and Whitmore, A. P. 2012. Soil organic matter turnover is governed by accessibility not recalcitrance. Glob Change Biol, 18: 1781–1796.
  2. Ecological Society of America. 2000. Carbon sequestration in soils.
  3. Schwartz, J. 2014. Soil as carbon storehouse: new weapon in climate fight? Yale Environment 360.
  4. Barker, D. and M. Pollan. 2015. A secret weapon to fight climate change: dirt. The Washington Post.

Ecotourism the New Movement

Ecotourism has become extremely popular in a lot of countries, mostly in developing countries. Ecotourism is a great way to preserve the environment while providing the local people with economic profit. According to Martha Honey book, Ecotourism and Sustainable Development: Who owns Paradise? There are new tourists that want a different experience from the resort world. People are starting to get into tourism that involves nature. These types of activities might include hiking, sight-seeing, zip lining, climbing, and other recreational activities. Since this boom of ecotourism has arisen, many countries have taken initiative to conserve more forests and wildlife. This also gives the opportunity to the local people to start their own small sustainable businesses. Martha Honey mentioned in her book the seven key characteristics of ecotourism are: It

  1. Travel to natural destinations
  2. Minimizes environmental impact
  3. Builds environmental awareness
  4. Provides direct money to conservation
  5. Provides money and empowerment to local people
  6. Respects local culture
  7. Supports human rights and democratic movements

A great example of this is Costa Rica, which have broken a record this year for having 2.6 million tourists visits in the year 2015. That is fantastic that so many people around the world want to visit Costa Rica to explore its natural wonders. In Monteverde, Costa Rica is located the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, which allows the visitors access to see only 2% of the forest. The rest of the forest is protected and the visitors of the forest help contribute to the protection of the forest: some of the money for the ticket goes toward persevering the forest. The visitors also bring in revenue for the local people instead of the big corporations that are not involved in the environmental movement.

The community of Monteverde knows how popular ecotourism has become and has created small businesses that provide people with different experiences. Tourism has also become a popular career choice for students. Tour guides go into the field, and mostly work in national parks to eventually have their own business one day. Another popular attraction in Costa Rica, is in the Osa Peninsula where the Corcovado National Park is located. This national park holds 2.5% of the world’s biodiversity. It is a major attraction for people and economic source for the country. This makes the government more willing to protect the forests of Costa Rica, at the same time creating environmental awareness for people.

Ecotourism is helping combat climate change because since the forests are being reserved, there are more trees and biodiversity. The forests are acting as carbon sinks and absorbing more CO2 in the atmosphere. If the forests will use this CO2 and store it in biomass. There will be less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which will cause  less harmful impacts to the environment. If there is less CO2 in then it will reduce the greenhouse effect and climate change.

IMG_3475

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

If ecotourism is done the right way then more forests and natural land are going to be conserve which is going to help with climate change. If more forests are being protected instead of being deforested by people, then they will act as carbon sinks and decrease the amount of CO2 occurring in the environment. Ecotourism provides a lot of benefits, and the biggest one is protecting the environment. I am hopeful that a lot of forests and wildlife will be protected in the long term because of ecotourism.

Sources:

Honey, Martha (2008) Ecotourism and Sustainable Development:Who Owns Paradise? 2nd Edition. Washington, DC: Island Press.

http://www.ticotimes.net/2016/01/16/costa-rica-welcomes-2-6-million-tourists-2015-hits-new-record

http://www.untamedpath.com/eco-tours/benefits-of-ecotourism.shtml

http://www.monteverdeinfo.com/monteverdes-cloud-forests.html

http://costa-rica-guide.com/nature/national-parks/corcovado/