Water wars are already here in California

Water has always been an issue in California, with competing interests from farmers, ranchers, fishermen and growing cities. But with the crippling drought that the state has experienced in recent years, all of these issues and battles are becoming more important. Unfortunately, with climate change, we may see more of these issues playing out around the world.

This article offers a compelling overview of the water issues facing California.

Tony Fadell discusses Nest

Here’s an excellent interview with Tony Fadell of Nest where he discussed the ways Nest can help consumers save energy. Even more interesting is how Nest is being paid by electric power companies to help smooth out power spikes.

Kevin Rose does an excellent job with the interview and it’s worth checking out. They discuss a wide variety of topics including outsourcing to China, Kickstarter and other challenges facing hardware startups. You can follow Fadell on Twitter here.

Nest should thrive under Google

Nest makes a learning thermostat that helps you conserve energy. It learns your lifestyle and adjusts the temperature in a room based on your needs. If you’re not there or you’re sleeping, Nest automatically changes the temperature settings. You can also control it from a variety of devices. It’s part of the new “Internet of Things” movement where everyday devices become “smarter” by being connected to the Internet, your smartphone and other devices.

Nest was founded by Tony Fadell, one of the Apple guys who worked on the original iPod, and now it’s been acquired by Google for a whopping $3.2 billion. This article sums up the transaction and offers some insight on the future of this company and products like the thermostat that we’ll be able to control in the future.

Rising waters threaten South Florida coastline and Everglades

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Spend some time in the harbors of beautiful Miami and you’ll quickly get a sense of how this region would be threatened by rising sea levels. The area is spectacular but incredibly vulnerable. Many experts are starting to sound the alarm:

In the most dire predictions, South Florida’s delicate barrier islands, coastal communities and captivating subtropical beaches will be lost to the rising waters in as few as 100 years.

Further inland, the Everglades, the river of grass that gives the region its fresh water, could one day be useless, some scientists fear, contaminated by the inexorable advance of the salt-filled ocean. The Florida Keys, the pearl-like strand of islands that stretches into the Gulf of Mexico, would be mostly submerged alongside their exotic crown jewel, Key West.

Read the entire article and you’ll see how little politicians in Florida are doing to prepare for this potential scenario. Climate change is just one of many polarizing issues we face today and battle lines are drawn. One side does not want to acknowledge the potential risk at all, which makes it hard to debate how we might address this threat. One harsh reality, however, is that at some point there is no amount of engineering that can help. If we ever get to the point of a two-foot rise in seas levels, the entire area would be at risk. It’s a sobering thought.

Rain barrels and rain gardens

If you’re looking for a way to become more green with your lifestyle, think about using rain barrels and a rain garden. Here’s an article of how they are being used in Cleveland.

Karen McKay, who lives at the end of Klusner Avenue in Parma, across the street from West Creek Reservation, recently had a rain garden and two rain barrels installed on her property.

That would be unremarkable under most circumstances. After all, lots of environment-minded gardeners are hooking up rain barrels, which are cisterns that collect and store rainwater that would otherwise run off of roofs and into storm drains and streams. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a substantial amount of the pollution in streams, rivers and lakes — including fertilizers, pesticides and yard clippings — is carried there by runoff from yards and gardens.

Rain gardens are often referred to as “a beautiful solution to pollution.” Typically filled with native plants that require less water, a rain garden is a shallow depression planted at the base of a downspout, driveway or sump pump to capture rainwater runoff and stop it from reaching the sewer system or waterways.

You can also check out the video above on how to make your own rain barrel.

Push for a carbon emissions tax

A carbon emissions tax is a huge long-shot in today’s political climate, but that’s not deterring former congressman Bob Inglis.

Will lower birth rates help the environment?

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Girls just want to have fun. Or at least they don’t want to have as many babies as before. This is true in places like the United States, where a Western lifestyle has changed behavior, but also in other parts of the world where women are becoming more empowered and making the decision to have fewer children. Thus, the population around the world is aging.

Americans just don’t make babies like they used to. The U.S. birthrate is the lowest in nearly a century, according to a study released last year by the Pew Research Center. It’s half the level of the Baby Boom years after World War II. American women, on average, are likely to have fewer than two children during their lifetime, which means not enough babies are being born to maintain the current population size. Even among new arrivals, the trend is declining: The birthrate among Mexican immigrants to the U.S. has plummeted 23 percent since 2007.

This reproductive recession is not unique to America; it’s a global phenomenon. Women just about everywhere are having fewer kids and having them later in life. The world is about to get a lot older very fast.

This will present some challenges for economic growth, but the article explains that efficiencies could save us there.

More importantly, population explosion is one of the biggest challenges we have for the environment, so this trend could actually be a very good thing.

Debate over Keystone Pipeline

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There are all sorts of opinions on the Keystone Pipeline. Many environmentalists are very much opposed, while many people concerned with weaning ourselves off of Mid East oil are in favor of it, even with all the new oil American is producing through fracking. The Arkansas oil spill complicates the issue of course.

Here’s T. Boone Pickens discussing natural gas, oil and the pipeline.

Air-Powered Cars

Here’s a new kind of hybrid car that might just start another revolution in car design.

If you’re looking for a hybrid with superior mileage per gallon, then compressed air may be your thing. PSA Peugeot Citroen says its new C3 VTi 82 hatchback–which it unveils at a motor show next month–will go 81 miles, in optimum conditions. That’s compared to the Toyota Prius’s roughly 45 mile performance. And there’s no need for expensive, and heavy, lithium batteries. The compressed air system provides power as well as storage: as with other hybrids, it recovers energy from a gasoline engine when you brake or slow down.

From the video, you can see that the Air Hybrid system works in three modes, depending on the neighborhood. Above 43 miles per hour, it uses a conventional engine. Around town, it goes on air alone. And then there’s a combined mode when you need more power at lower speeds. An electronic management unit switches modes automatically.

The idea of powering a car using compressed air isn’t particularly new–several companies have explored the technology. But PSA Peugeot Citroen is the first major one to go big on it, developing a drive-train it hopes to use across several models, including light commercial vans. The company hasn’t released prices yet, saying only that the vehicles will be “competitive both in European and international markets,” but that is likely to be a major draw. Lithium batteries remain uncompetitively expensive.

Hybrids and plug-in hybrids offer incredible potential, and we’re seeing progress with hydrogen fuel cells as well. But with compressed air you have a novel approach that produces ZERO emissions when in that mode. That’s pretty impressive. Expect to hear much more about this, as it’s also much more practical than things like the AIRpod, which relies totally on compressed air but doesn’t have the size and range of this hybrid.

One Simple Thing: Reconsider Your Toilet

Image Courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

If we are going to make it as a society, we are going to have to make some tough, potentially gross decisions. One of those decisions centers around the toilet. A standard toilet in the average American household uses five gallons of water per flush and is flushed four times per day per person; that comes out to an average of 30 thousand gallons of water per year for a family of four.

If you want to reduce the water used by your toilet, you have four options.

Option 1: Get a low flow toilet.
Total potential water savings: 18, 500 gallons per year

There are a variety of low flow toilets on the market, and they way better than you think. Sure, some of them may have flushing problems for bigger “loads,” but with a little research, you can find the right one for you. Additionally, many of these models use different amounts of water for solid and liquid waste.

Option 2: Try to flush half as often.
Total potential water savings: 15,000 gallons per year
Total savings if combined with a low flow toilet: 20,000 gallons per year

If you have a standard toilet you would be saving around 15,000 gallons. With a low flow toilet, you would save around 5,000 additional gallons per year.

Option 3: Flush only for solid waste:
Total potential water savings: 22,800 gallons per year
Total potential water savings with a low flow toilet: 27,700 gallons per year
If you want to save even more water, you can try to only flush your toilet for solid waste. Sure, things may get a little grosser, but if you close your toilet seat every time, things shouldn’t get too bad.

Option 4: Compost that crap!
Total potential water savings: 30,000 gallons per year (Everything!)

If you want to almost completely eliminate the water that passes through your toilet each year, you could consider a composting toilet. With a composting toilet you take what normally passes through your toilet and simply bury it, or even use it to fertilize your flowers. Contrary to what you may think, composting toilets can be rater sophisticated and do not smell if properly maintained (as with any toilet). However, it is entirely understandable if you don’t want to go quite that far. However, if you are interested in this option, you could check it out here .

However you choose to save water, just be sure it works for you. Good luck!

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