Too Many People, Too Little Water (peak water)

The news of droughts in the West this year has surely escaped none living in the US…and with global warming forecast to increase severity of droughts, and population continuing to grow, we need to take a long, hard look at water usage in this country.  The title of the video below, ‘The Drying of America: Too Many People, Too Little Water’ sums it up extremely well.  So what can the average citizen do?  Well, you can start with reducing household water consumption – replace lawns with xeriscaping and take shorter showers to begin with.  That will be a great start…though water consumption of food production will need to be improved, as well as energy production.  For example, powering a 60W incandescent lightbulb for a year requires 3,000-6,300 gallons of water (source).  Things like fracking put additional strains on an already short water supply.  So in summary…things are looking bleak, and you can expect this issue to only get worse in coming years.  Don’t be an idiot and plant a new grass lawn!

Good news for whales

The International Court of Justice ruled that Japan’s whaling program in the Antarctic is not for scientific purposes, and has revoked all permits previously given for that.  Japan has stated that they will abide by the ruling, though I remain skeptical that this means the whaling ships will not return to the southern seas next winter.  But, it’s a great step in increasing protection for whales worldwide.  Thanks, Australia, for standing up to Japan’s illegal actions and helping to bring this case to court!  Also thanks to Sea Shepherd for minimizing Japan’s effectiveness in whaling while this court case dragged out.

Is our civilization doomed?

imagesA new study by the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center argues that a combination of socio-economic stratification (haves vs. have-nots) and resource consumption are likely to lead to the collapse of our civilization.  Other studies (like this and this) have come to the same conclusion, putting the timeline in the 15 year range.  Can we avoid this?  The SESYNC‘s study states that,

Collapse can be avoided and population can reach equilibrium if the per capita rate of depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level, and if resources are distributed in a reasonably equitable fashion.

Given how our current society is doing the exact opposite, forgive me if I’m a bit pessimistic…

You can read more about this latest study here.

A new era of corporate responsibility?

Tim CookFor a while now, Apple has been working to improve worker conditions, and is using more and more ‘green’ energy (they plan to eventually get 100% of their power that way).  At the recent shareholder meeting, the NCPPR challenged CEO Tim Cook on the costs of this strategy, wanting Apple to focus more on Return on Investment (ROI) and not pursue issues that don’t boost that.  Their proposal was soundly rejected by 97% of shareholders, and Cook displayed unusual emotion in his response to the spoken question at the shareholder meeting, telling the NCPPR rep, “If you want me to do things only for ROI reasons, you should get out of this stock.”  Way to go Tim!  Cook is clearly making decisions based on human ethics and morals, and it’s great to see a company as large as Apple to do this – and to be supported by its shareholders!  I hope this encourages other large corporations to take a stand against ROI and start doing what’s morally right.

Cook also gave an example of doing things for other than ROI, when he said, “When we work on making our devices accessible by the blind,” he said, “I don’t consider the bloody ROI.”

For a long time, I’d concluded that large corporations are a form of artificial intelligence…they make decisions which a single person would not normally make, and their profit-focused intelligence is again, not a very human one.  Tim Cook’s recent actions give me hope that this corporate AI may not be all-conquering, that there may still be exceptions to this.  Resisting that AI clearly requires a strong leader like Tim Cook though, and that’s the challenge for any company.

You can read more about this over at MacObserver.

Can the Internet of Things help reduce global warming?

The Internet of Things is best thought of as abundant networked, communicating smart devices all around you.  Sensors, mostly, that are all communicating and making available unprecedented amounts of information about objects and the environment.  Houses that know what rooms people are in, what rooms they are likely to be in next, and adjust HVAC systems accordingly to reduce energy consumption, for example.  I’ve loved the idea of this from a technology geek perspective, but I hadn’t considered the environmental aspect until coming across this article talking about how it could offset billions of tons of CO2 through increased efficiency.  Interesting idea…and it makes a lot of sense.  We’d have to also consider the CO2 impact of actually producing so many sensors and networked objects, though.