Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Kogi: The lost tribe that is trying to save the world

The Kogi - trying to save the world

Although global distribution deals for cinema and television have been signed, the Kogi want worldwide, non-commercial screenings, initiated from within farming and fishing communities, and promoted online.

Ereira says it’s also important that fishermen and farmers, young and old, will be part of the Blasket Centre’s invited audience, and their voices should be listened to as carefully in the ensuing discussion as those of the environmentalists, politicians and policy-makers.
The Kogi are afraid, he repeats, but they’re also hopeful. Aluna contains both memory and potential. Potentially, we could still work together and get things right.

The Kogi are the last surviving civilization from the world of the Inca and Aztec, and their cities are untouched by our world. The mountain they inhabit is an isolated triangular pyramid rising over 18,000 feet from the sea, the highest coastal mountain on earth. More

alunathemovie.com

The Great Change: The Climate Bums


The curve we’ve been forced onto bends so steeply, that the pace of victory is part of victory itself. Winning slowly is basically the same thing as losing outright. We cannot afford to pursue past strategies, aimed at limited gains towards distant goals. In the face of both triumphant denialism and predatory delay, trying to achieve climate action by doing the same things, the same old ways, means defeat. It guarantees defeat.

(http://peaksurfer.blogspot.com/2017/12/the-climatebums.html

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The House of the Future Is Elevated


Three months after Hurricane Harvey churned through Texas, dumping 51 inches of rain and damaging an estimated 150,000 homes, the state’s most populous county took a bureaucratic step that has huge implications for how it will deal with the risk of future flooding.

On December 5, Harris County, which surrounds the City of Houston, approved an overhaul of its flood rules, expanding them from 100-year floodplains—which have a 1 percent change of flooding in a given year—to 500-year floodplains. The new rules (which don’t apply inside Houston city limits) will compel people building houses in some areas to elevate them up to eight feet higher than before.

“We had 30,000 houses that flooded” from Harvey, said John Blount, the county engineer, who put forward the rule changes. Before the floodwaters even subsided, hundreds of county employees fanned out to survey the damage. “We went to every one of those houses and figured out how much water got in them, and then we did a statistical analysis,” Blount said.

The data was geocoded, factoring in location and neighborhood conditions, and one result was the increased elevation rule. (The county is also buying out 200 of the most vulnerable homes and hopes to buy out thousands more, but those represent a small fraction of the homes inside the floodplain.)

Harris County’s new rules are the most stringent flood-related development restrictions anywhere in the United States, according to Blount. If a future Harvey-sized deluge comes, almost all the homes in the area will be safe, he said: “Had that same event happened, at the same location but [with houses] built to the new standard, 95 percent or more would not have flooded.”

For a structure, standing water is a fearsome enemy. Even a small amount of flooding in a home can exile its inhabitants for weeks and require costly repairs. After Harvey, tens of thousands of evacuees lived in hotels or with friends as workers in their homes tore out drywall to prevent the spread of mold, which can sicken residents. And more Harveys are coming: As my colleague Robinson Meyer reported, a new MIT study concludes that Harvey-scale flooding in Texas is six times as likely now as it was in the late 20th century, and will only get more likely as this century wears on. More

Friday, December 8, 2017

Silicon Valley Wants to Solve Our Water Problems


Despite a ​lack of VC ​funds, ​there’s a ​steady flow of ​entrepreneurs. ​

Gary ​Kremen—​the founder of ​Match.com, ​former owner of ​Sex.com, and ​serial ​investor—​is into water. ​

The ​entrepreneur ​started ​investing in ​water tech ​startups a few ​years ago. ​Today ​he’s an ​elected member ​of Silicon ​Valley’​s ​water district , an ​agency that ​manages water ​and flood ​control ​for 2 million ​people. ​Earlier this ​year, he helped ​craft ​a proposal to build ​a tunnel under ​the Sacramento-​San Joaquin ​River Delta ​that could ​improve ​drinking water ​reliability for ​cities from San ​Jose to San ​Diego. ​

Following ​several years ​of ​investing in ​energy and ​solar startups, ​Kremen became ​attracted to ​water problems, ​he says, ​because ​it’s an ​issue ​that’s ​yet to be ​solved. “​Water is so, so,​ so, so hard,​” he says.​ “We need ​to focus on the ​hard things.​” ​

A small ​fraction of ​venture capital ​dollars ​currently goes ​into tech to ​manage or clean ​water. Analysis ​from research ​company ​Cleantech Group ​finds that ​total dollars ​and deal volume ​for water tech ​startups in ​2016 were down ​70 percent ​and 65 percent,​ ​respectively, ​from a ​peak in ​2013. Many ​water ​investments are ​now coming from ​family offices, ​corporate ​investors, and ​philanthropy. ​

But despite ​the investing ​challenges, ​there’s ​still healthy ​interest from ​entrepreneurs, ​who are ​drawn in ​by issues such ​as California’​s drought, the ​Flint, Mich., ​water crisis, ​climate change, ​and population ​growth. ​The number of ​tech accelerators ​focused on ​water issues ​jumped from 14 ​in 2013 to 26 ​in the first ​half of 2017, ​according to ​Cleantech Group.​

At the same ​time, water-​intensive ​industries ​looking to ​conserve ​resources ​and comply with ​regulations are ​increasingly ​turning to ​software to do ​so.

Robin ​Gilthorpe, ​chief executive ​officer of ​seven-year-​old ​WaterSmart Software Inc. , says he ​now sees “​a good steady ​flow of capital ​and entrepreneurs ​into the water ​sector.” ​His company, ​which was ​Kremen’s ​first ​investment, ​uses data to ​help water ​utilities ​improve their ​operations. ​

“Three ​years ago, ​‘digital ​water’ ​wasn’t a ​thing. ​Today ​there’s a ​lot of talk ​about it,”​ says ​Gilthorpe, who ​entered the ​field ​after a career ​in big data and ​analytics. ​

Silicon ​Valley even has ​its own water-​focused tech ​accelerator,​ ​ImagineH2O . The ​company began ​eight years ago ​and has worked ​with more than ​80 companies, ​including ​WaterSmart.​ ​Leveraging ​water data is ​one of the ​bigger trends ​for ImagineH20’​s companies, ​says its ​president, ​Scott Bryan. ​“​Entrepreneurs ​are applying ​what they ​learned in IT ​and biotech to ​the water space,​” he ​says. ​

Some argue ​that the ​greatest ​opportunity to ​invest in water ​is in ​industrial ​applications, ​not municipal ​water use. ​

The 50,000 or ​so U.S. water ​utilities are ​both highly ​regulated ​and ​conservative ​when it comes ​to buying and ​installing new ​technology.​ ​Gilthorpe ​of ​WaterSmart—​which does ​sell to ​utilities—​contends ​that these ​utilities are ​conservative ​with good ​reason. “​Water is so ​essential to ​life; you ​can’t ​take risks with ​it,” ​he says. ​

But even the ​market for ​managing ​industrial ​water has its ​challenges. In ​recent years, ​the oil and gas ​sectors have ​pulled back ​from buying ​tech that’​s used to ​manage ​wastewater. ​That has ​contributed to ​a drop in ​venture capital ​investment in ​water tech ​startups in ​recent years, ​say analysts ​at ​Cleantech Group.​

Some startups ​have managed to ​find buyers ​despite the ​difficulties. ​Earlier this ​year, ​Monsanto Co.-​owned Climate ​Corp. ​acquired a ​startup called ​HydroBio, which ​was using data ​to help farmers ​manage ​irrigation. ​Climate Corp. ​now offers the ​software ​to customers in ​Europe and ​plans to expand ​sales to ​farmers in the ​U.S.

“Water ​will continue ​to be a ​challenge in ​agriculture. ​Digital tools ​will help ​growers make ​more informed ​decisions,​” says ​Climate Corp. ​CEO Mike Stern. ​

Kremen has ​had more ​success than ​most with his ​water ​investments. In ​addition to ​putting one of ​the first ​checks into ​WaterSmart, he ​also backed ​Aquacue ​Inc., a leak ​detection ​company that ​was bought by ​Badger Meter ​Inc., as well ​as a water ​treatment ​startup called ​HydroNovation ​Inc., which was ​acquired by ​Taiwanese ​company ​KemFlo ​International ​Co.

Despite his ​investing wins,​ ​Kremen ​remains ​unusually ​focused on ​water policy. ​He plans to run ​for reelection ​to ​his ​district board ​seat in 2018. More

How to Build a City That Doesn’t Flood? Turn it Into a Sponge

The number of ​cities around ​the world is ​growing quickly.​ In her book,​ ​ Replenish: ​The Virtuous ​Cycle of Water ​and Prosperity ​ , Sandra ​Postel, the ​director of the ​Global Water ​Policy Project, ​reports that ​over the past ​35 years, the ​number of ​cities in China ​alone has ​climbed from ​193 to 653.​ ​As urban and ​suburban areas ​expand , the ​stormwater ​runoff problems ​will grow as ​well. ​

But now ​there’s a ​movement around ​the world to ​build smarter ​and “​spongier” ​cities that can ​absorb ​rainwater ​instead of ​letting it flow ​through miles ​of pavement and ​cause damaging ​floods. ​From Iowa to ​Vermont and ​from San ​Francisco to ​Chicago , urban ​infrastructure ​is getting a ​reboot. ​

Creating ​better ​stormwater ​management ​systems ​requires using ​green ​infrastructure ​elements in ​urban planning ​and restoring ​some of the ​rain-retention ​capacity that ​cities have ​lost to ​urbanization. ​These elements ​can be roughly ​broken into two ​categories: the ​man-made ​engineered ​replacements of ​the natural ​water pathways ​and the ​restorations of ​the original ​water routes ​that existed ​before a city ​was developed. ​

Man-Made ​Solutions: Rain ​Gardens, ​Bioswales, and ​Porous ​Pavements ​

Traditional ​road construction,​ made with ​asphalt, gravel ​and sand, is a ​very compacted ​structure that ​leaves little ​space between ​the particulates,​ and thus no ​room for the ​rainwater to ​seep through. ​In the ​construction ​industry that ​gap measure is ​described by ​the term “​air void,”​ which is ​typically set ​at four percent ​for the ​traditional ​pavement mix, ​says Richard ​Willis, ​Director of ​Pavement ​Engineering and ​Innovation at ​National ​Asphalt ​Pavement ​Association. ​More

Thursday, December 7, 2017

What needs to happen by COP24 to keep the Paris Agreement on track?

COP23 video: What needs to happen by COP24 to keep the Paris Agreement on track? | Carbon Brief

Carbon Brief has been talking to a range of people attending COP23, the latest annual round of international climate negotiations being held this year in Bonn, Germany.

A large proportion of the talks has been focused on making progress across a range of issues before the next COP, which is due to be held in Katowice, Poland.

These include finalising the format of the “Talanoa dialogue”, the new Fijian name for the collective stocktake (or “facilitative dialogue”) scheduled for 2018 to allow countries to assess their progress towards meeting the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Carbon Brief asked delegates what they thought needs to happen by COP24 to maintain the momentum of the Paris Agreement. More

Sicilians take aim at oil 'monster' they blame for children's birth defects


The refinery in Gela.


Everyone in the Sicilian town of Gela knows someone who has been hit by the health crisis that has gripped the town for decades.

Mortality rates are higher than elsewhere on the island, and the town has an unusually high rate of birth defects, including the highest rate in the world of a rare urethra disorder.

“There were tragedies that happened daily in the city,” said Luigi Fontanella, an Italian lawyer who began gathering testimony on the health of Gela’s 70,000 residents in 2007. “Everyone in Gela had a relative, a friend and often a child suffering from serious ailments.”

Fontanella found that hundreds of children had been born with congenital anomalies including hypospadias – the urethra disorder – cleft palates and spina bifida.

Local people have long blamed pollution. A 2011 study by the Italian health service drew a similar conclusion: dozens of babies were dying in the womb or within a week of being born every year from complications caused by environmental contamination. More