Monthly Archives: November 2007

Bush Compound Wind Turbine

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The former President George H. W. Bush has recently installed a 33-foot tall Skystream 3.7 wind turbine at the Bush’s Kennebunkport summer home. I would normally say something about how having a summer home is inherently NOT sustainable [you know they don't be rentin' that thing out, my ninjas], but the turbine is hooked up to the grid – supplying ‘green’ power to the local grid, and earning the Bush’s credits. Maybe some so-called ‘conservatives’ will take notice and decide to do something about the environment now, as the father of their president seems to think environmentalism makes sense [that being said, Dubya has sustainable technologies in use at his Crawford ranch, including geothermal – conservatives don’t seem to care].

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Dubya, by the way, knew immediately that the newcomer to the compound [the turbine] posed a threat – standing there, spinning around all menacingly and whatnot – and along with his faithful Sancho – er, I mean Dick – he declared that a coalition of the willing would be formed to chase the beast from the property, preferably with a tactical missile strike.

Also of interest is this ridiculous article about how global warming is going to drown the aforementioned Bush Compound. Enjoy.

::article at the Portland Press Herald via Jetson Green::

British Petroleum on Staff at UC Berkeley

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Oil giant BP has been in negotiations with UC Berkeley since February on a partnership to research renewable energy technologies, specifically biofuels. BP will provide the university with $500 million over 10 years. The contract was signed a couple of weeks ago on November 14, but the deal remains a controversial one. Two days before the contract was signed Amy Goodman from Democracy Now! hosted an interesting discussion between two UC Berkeley professors with opposing views on the debate. Miguel Altieri is a Professor of Entomology and a renowned expert in agroecology, or sustainable agriculture. He is opposed to the deal between BP and UC Berkeley. Daniel Kammen is a professor in the Energy and Resources Group, as well as professor of public policy and nuclear engineering. He directs the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory and is on the executive committee of the Energy Biosciences Institute, which will carry out much of the research under the deal. Kammen is generally supportive of the deal. I highly suggest you read the entire transcript of the interview, but here are some excerpts that highlight views on both sides of the story:

Critics at UC Berkeley point to the corporatization of academic research, the ecological dangers of biofuels, and BP’s long history of environmental irresponsibility, they say. They call this an act of greenwashing by BP and have been protesting the deal since it was announced in February of this year. But supporters claim that the corporate – academic partnership allows the university to realize its renewable energy research agenda and provides the most effective and economical means of addressing the looming environmental crisis.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, the issue of BP giving this enormous sum of money, $500 million over the next ten years, is this of concern to you, the issue of the privatization of a public institution?

DANIEL KAMMEN: Well, I think that the size of the grant can be a concern, but not for the reasons that you’re raising. I actually think that this amount of money is relatively small change, both for the oil industries around the world and, in fact, for the amount of money it takes to bring new products to market. New cars and new drugs frequently take that much money — half a billion dollars — to bring them to market. And as a research pot of money to start with, I actually don’t regard it as that much money.

The chance, though, that this amount of money would alter what a university does is a concern to me, and the degree to which a university might see grants like this as a reason or as an excuse or as a mechanism to alter what they would work on — say, move away from some areas and move into others — is a concern if it was being done in a way that I thought that the company had that driving force.
MIGUEL ALTIERI: Well, my concerns is that, first of all, Professor Kammen is saying, it’s very little money, and eventually it’s little money for BP, but a lot of money for UC Berkeley. And what they’re going to do with this money is basically skim off what 200 years of public investment has done. It would be very expensive for BP to build a university and a research facility. They will come with $500 million. They skim off what the public university has built over years, and then they bring fifty scientists from BP that are going to have access to students, and so therefore what they’re going to do is influence the research agenda of the public university. And it’s already happening.

And anybody that has protested — faculty — have been basically dismissed and disregarded as a colorful — as part of the colorful character of the campus. You know, we have to have these people that are always protesting.

And what worries me is that, on the one side, they’re promoting the wrong technology: biofuels is the wrong way to go. There’s no discussion, for example, in this proposal about alternative transportation systems, how to curb consumption patterns of petroleum and how to promote other alternatives that are much more viable. And biofuels are going to cause tremendous problems not only in the United States, but in third world countries especially, because if we devoted all the corn that is in this country, 125,000 square miles, we would only satisfy 12% of the gas needs. So obviously what’s going to happen is that it’s going to be grown in the third world, and basically the people in the third world are going to be paying the price for the over-consumption and the old-based style of living of Europe and the United States.

DANIEL KAMMEN: Well, I think there’s a couple really good points in what Miguel just said. The first one is I’m actually, as well, concerned, that I thought that the debate on campus is not one that has been as open as it could be. And you’re right, there has been sort of high-profile protests, but protests and actually having sit-downs between the sides has been somewhat lacking. And I actually really view that as a feature that the campus is responsible for the lack of that, not BP so far, and the campus needs to do a better job in that regard.

In terms of the fuel issues around the world, I actually take quite a different view than that by Miguel. It is true that if we devoted all of our corn to making ethanol in the US, we would only reach about 10% or 12%, so it wouldn’t be a significant effort, and you wouldn’t want to give up all that corn use for ethanol. But an interesting and, I think, a critical feature of the BP proposal is that, in fact, corn ethanol is excluded. Everyone who works on ethanol and biofuels worldwide recognizes that alternate fuels are available that are far better, the so-called cellulosic crops, that even include using garbage and using the waste carbon dioxide that comes out of power plants on just the land sitting next to those power plants. Those are areas for research in this proposal, not corn.

And so, if there was to be an approach that would look at alternatives that did not make the tension between food and fuel worse, it’s a project like this. In fact, in many parts of the developing world, the potential to grow crops that are useful for farmers locally at much higher efficiencies than they draw today — for food stocks, again, not corn — is an option that this proposal should be looking at. And the degree to which we do a good job there, I think, is very much due to the sort of things that Miguel said, and that is having this broader discussion and analysis not only of what we should be doing, but also how it goes on.

MIGUEL ALTIERI: I think what we need is, first of all, is to call again for an open debate, which has been suppressed, because basically the people that were questioning this have been accused of attempting against academic freedom. And basically what academic freedom now means in Berkeley is just that you cannot question the financial associations of faculty.

I mean, we need to look at the record of BP. We cannot associate with BP. It has a horrible record in terms of environment, in terms of human rights, and so on. And they have been, you know, destroying the environment for many years, and now they come as the doves of ecology.

We need to also put in place people that are going to be looking critically at the social, ecological impacts. We cannot leave in charge climate change and ecological questions to a bunch of engineers and chemists and genetic engineering people. We need to bring ecologists, social scientists, but also that are critical and are independent, that are not associated with this proposal and therefore open to debate, and also bring the public of California to question their public university that is being funded by them. They need to reclaim their university, their public university.

My question is: How many universities is BP trying to infiltrate? They have also recently teamed up with researchers at the Biodidesign Institute at Arizona State University to learn more about using cyanobacteria as a biofuel feed stock. Don’t get me wrong, it is nothing new for companies to be teaming up with universities to do research, but the sheer scale and influence of a mega-company like BP changes the dynamic of the game. It may be inevitable that the oil giants will take over the biofuels industry, if only by brute force, but is it necessary, or even allowable, that they take over our universities and intellectual freedom as well?

[DemocracyNow!]

79 Million Trees in One Day

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You read it right, 79 million trees in a day – that’s Indonesia’s planting goal for TOMORROW, November 28, 2007. It’s being reported that each of the 71,000 individual villages, plus some 8,000 other administrative areas of the country, have each been ordered to plant 1,000 trees – just before a U.N. climate change conference is scheduled to be held there in December of this year.

Why the sudden mass planting? Indonesia currently suffers from the worst example of deforestation on the planet – with their forests having lost 63% of their total area [about 91 million hectares] since 1966 [stats via] due to logging. Now I know what you’re thinking : ‘Sounds great – deforestation sucks, and trees are great. Man do I love oxygen and shade…’ – but thats not even it! The irony of the move emerges when one looks into what many of the forests are currently being clear-cut for, now that logging is being more and more heavily regulated and has been gaining national attention : biofuel. That’s right, these forests are being destroyed to produce a ‘green’ energy source! My Ninjas, Please!! The crop in particular is palm olive, which is used to produce palm oil – which can be used as a biodiesel fuel. And worse still – it’s not always the farmer’s/landowner’s decision.

[Aruk] is just one of several [villages] where the land rights of local communities and indigenous groups come head to head with new concessions given to palm oil companies.

…35-year-old Alexander [from Aruk - a village on the Indonesian side of the border with Malaysia, in West Kalimantan], lost his 10-acre plot last year.

“I went to my land one morning, and found it had been cleared. All my rubber trees, my plants had been destroyed,” he says, fighting back the tears. “Now I have to work as a builder in Malaysia, so I can feed my three children.”

The company, a subsidiary of the Indonesian Duta Palma group, did offer Alexander compensation for his land.

Full Article via the BBC

[I mean, who cares about local Indonesian farmers? I want my biodiesel so I can catch this 'green' wave before my neighbors. What can I say, I like being the trend-setter.]

Getting a ‘green’ fuel in this way is very similar to the U.S.’s use of corn to produce ethanol – claiming it as sustainable while the process both encourages the use of more and more land for farming – instead of natural habitats – AND raises/alters the value of corn itself, which will inevitably affect food supplies/prices. Creating a ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’ world first requires that we act smart, my ninjas -otherwise we’ll end up burning down all the rainforests so we can build wind-farms.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WsLxIdUkGQE[/youtube]

::Interesting random sidenote : WholeFoods‘ 365 brand uses palm oil in some of its products [I bought french fries this past weekend and noticed they were cooked with palm oil after I got home], which is considered by many to be one of the worst kinds of cooking oil. Strange coming from a store so apparently devoted to the health of its customers and the world::

Contemporary.MNP is HERE!

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The MNP Art Store, AKA the MNP Gallery, AKA Contemporary.MNP has launched. As a result of the better part of a year of networking and planning, we now present to you this labor of love, in its first official section. The Gallery/Store is up and running, featuring original works of art by local and international artists.

Contemporary.MNP is part art gallery, allowing you to view different dope works of art – with detailed high resolution pictures and part art store, providing potential purchasers with custom framing options. There are 8 different artists involved and the number is growing every day. The works are a diverse mix of paintings, dry point etchings, and sculptures. We even have some custom faceplates for DJ mixers!

Ninjas who read from our network every day know that we constantly strive to bring you new things in ways that we never even imagine ourselves to be possible. We switch up forms and formats continuously in an effort to make our blog BETTER, STRONGER, FASTER (um… kinda like what’s his name). So, stop looking so surprised, visit the art store, and expect more curveballs out of the ninja bullpen.

The MNP Art Store can currently be reached at the two following URLs:

http://contemporary.myninjaplease.com

http://www.contemporarymnp.com

Savage Worms: Weeks 8 & 9

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Brrrrr! Welcome to winter (or is it still Fall?). Whatever the official season, it is getting cold outside and in our laundry room too. As you may or may not remember, we have been keeping Andrea’s worms out in the laundry room because we had an outbreak of fruit flies (sidenote – it was brought to my attention by a certain h.n.i.c. that the fruit fly invasion was Mass-wide, and may not have been purely rotten-food-bin driven). So, how are the vermies handling the sub-tropical temperatures? Well, they are a little chilly. And sadly, we’ve had a few casualties. But for the most part, they are thriving and eating like fiends. The bin has been licked clean the past couple of times we have checked it, save for the monsterly acidic tomato and bits of twigs from our plants. Also, the castings (poo) continue to pile up. Interestingly though, Andrea noticed that the castings look rather different from the castings showed to her at her vermicomposting workshop. They are grayer and less moist. Most likely, the worms have been grubbin up all the nasty food we’ve been feeding them and then continuing to feast on the newspaper bedding. Not sure if you tell from the photo below, but it’s pretty clear, looking in the bin, that this is the case. So, what can we do but try to satiate them with more nitrogen-rich nastiness. Equipped with nose plugs, Andrea left the worms three juicy piles of grub, about a cupful each, which is quite a step up from the two 1/2 cup piles we had been feeding them. The flies should be less of a problem now that it is colder out, and so far, the smell has not permeated outside of the worm bin (thank god. have i mentioned how bad it smells??).
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On another note, I was doing a bit of vermi-blog reading (who knew this was such a popular endeavor?) and came across a post by Canadian vermi-ninja Bentley who has set up an outdoor WINTER worm bin. In CANADA. If we think our worms are roughing it in our 50-degree laundry room, these Canadian worms are straight igloo-ing it. I will be interested to check up on Bentley’s worms as we get deeper into the season. This is his second attempt at winter-worming; the first one did not end too well. Our Savage Worms will be sending warm thoughts to their vermi-brethren up north!

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Yikes!

Check in next Monday, and until then, read up on the Savage Worms archives. Actually, you should probably just stop in at green.mnp every day for more green goodness.

Win A Subscription to dwell

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That’s right my ninjas – we here at MNP are giving away a subscription to dwell [I believe that's 10 issues over 12 months] to one of our readers. How do you get in on this, you ask? It’s simple – every visitor who leaves a comment [a content-related comment, not just 'first!' or something foolish] on ANY MNP SITE, along with their email address will be entered. The ninjas will then select a commenter at random, and name the winner on Novermber 26th. Every individual comment counts [the more you comment, the more likely you are to win] so visit all of our sites and let your voice be heard.

myninjaplease.com

architecture.mnp

green.mnp

music.mnp

politricks.mnp

arquitectura.mnp

robotninja.mnp

the pimp’s corner [warning: may be too hood for the white belt]

Too lazy to post a comment? Well, we won’t give you anything for free – but you can follow this link to pay for your own [discounted - 2 bucks is 2 bucks] subscription to dwell. There are only a few publications we’ll point you to off-line, and this is one; don’t sleep!

[helpful hint: look in the ‘Talk of the Dojo’ section of the sidebar to read comments made by other MNP readers]