Archive for the 'General' Category

Recently Discovered News Article on Rooftop Greenhouses

May 25th, 2016

Thanks to Google News, I’ve recently uncovered a 1981 article in which I was featured discussing rooftop greenhouses.

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Diary of the Future

February 22nd, 2014

February 22, 2014: Climate disruption is becoming increasingly evident in our times. As we begin to thaw out from what has been a surprisingly cold and snowy winter, it seems almost comical to have to ask whether this is somehow connected with global warming. It is. The southward migration of the polar vortex, which we’ve all started hearing about, is partly caused by an upwelling of warm air in the Arctic, causing the center of the vortex to rise and the edges to spill outward. This doesn’t mean that global warming causes it, but only that it likely exacerbates it, continuing a changing pattern of weather events that taken together are what we mean by “climate change.”

nasa-polarvortex-drop.jpg.CROP.original-original 300w 354w" sizes="(max-width: 150px) 100vw 150px" /> NASA Goddard Space Flight Center[/caption] Of course this is not the first 'Arctic winter' to be experienced in the U.S., though it dropped record amounts of snow and broke all of the low temperature records set since the National Weather Service started keeping them in the 1870s. And the disturbance may well be linked to climate change. According to Phil Plait writing in Slate (Feb 2014): "warming water in the Arctic leads to ice loss which leads to more warm water. Some climate scientists think this may be disrupting the air flow in the polar vortex, which in turn leads to the meanders in the jet stream. This idea is pretty new and not yet verified. But the irony is clear: If these scientists turn out to be right, not only does the cold weather not disprove global warming, it may actually be caused by it."

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What We Should Do about Gun Control

March 23rd, 2013

(Full text of blog pitch submitted to Huffington Post)

Although I’m in favor of gun control — for what I think are pretty obvious reasons, like not wanting to get shot by some crazy person at the movie theater — I’ve never spent much time thinking about it. But listening to the current discussions and debates in Congress and in the media has left me thinking that there’s something missing in this conversation.

The argument for people freely owning guns rests, supposedly, on “protecting our Second Amendment rights.” But what if it infringes on my rights to have guns readily available to a small minority of the society, that is seemingly angry, or fearful, or likes to kill animals? Don’t I have a right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” that takes precedence over any other person’s right to carry a gun? And given that the Second Amendment was explicitly intended to refer to “a militia” to ensure that America remains a free state, how does it make sense to let people have guns for any other purpose?

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State of the Sustainability Movement 2011, Part 2

December 20th, 2010

As soon as I wrote the original post, of course, I started discovering new signs of our times that are not adequately reflected in my earlier assessment. Let’s consider a few examples, and see what conclusions we can draw about where we are in the process, and where we might be going from here.

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State of the Sustainability Movement 2011 (Part 1)

December 19th, 2010

In the Spring 1990 issue of In Context — which described itself as “A Quarterly Journal of Humane Sustainable Culture” — Robert Gilman described the state of the sustainability movement in his time, and I thought it would be interesting to review this and reflect on where we are today. (See “Sustainability: The State Of The Movement,” in Sustainability (IC#25), Spring 1990, Page 10.)

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Sustainable Haiti Discussion and Conference Call Sunday, February 28, 6 p.m. EST

February 26th, 2010

The “Working Group for a Sustainable Future for Haiti,” which was convened at the Institute for Sustainable Enterprise at Fairleigh Dickinson University, has released “Haiti – A Way Forward,” an 8-page discussion paper intended as the basis for a conference call scheduled for Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 6 p.m. EST, and you are invited to join us.

Conference Dial-in number: (507) 726-4253

Participant Passcode: 100039#

For more details see the Haiti page at and our latest updates at

Toward a Sustainable Future for Haiti

February 8th, 2010

The earthquake in Haiti has been many things – including both a wakeup call for Americans, and an opportunity to demonstrate our compassion – but it has above all been a human tragedy that has revealed the weaknesses and deficiencies that were there before. A 7.5 magnitude earthquake will no doubt cause some damage no matter where it occurs, but it does not always need to cause the extent of devastation that has occurred in Haiti, or to leave the population as unaided.

Some colleagues of ours at the Institute for Sustainable Enterprise met last week to discuss what we could do to contribute to a longer-term recovery, that would try to address the social, environmental, and economic challenges facing this troubled nation. We talked about a great many things, including the fact that many of us feel powerless in the face of such catastrophes, especially those that afflict human beings in distant places. We are all “overcommitted” to many worthwhile and challenging tasks already, and taking on such a monumental task as helping to chart the way forward in Haiti clearly seems to require that we steal time and energy from other causes. But if we can make even a small difference, while honoring our other commitments, this seems a compelling goal. Continue Reading »

The Emerging Green Economy Debate

March 6th, 2009

The Green Economy appears to be gaining ground worldwide, but is already starting to be opposed by some free-market ideologues. The news is full of reports on green jobs and green economy initiatives, both in the U.S. and elsewhere, but spokesmen for some conservative think-tanks are already falling over themselves to warn of dire consequences.

Max Schulz, a senior fellow at the impressive-sounding Manhattan Institute’s Center for Energy Policy and the Environment, warns that “Inefficient eco-friendly technologies destroy more jobs than they create” (The Green-Jobs Engine That Can’t, City Journal Winter 2009). The Manhattan Institute’s Center for Energy Policy and the Environment “advances ideas about the practical application of free-market economic principles to address today’s energy issues.” According to their web site, they are “leading an effort to show how a pro-growth, supply-side energy policy can be harmonized with a concern for the environment.” But others argue this is very much the philosophy that got us into the present crisis. Continue Reading »

Report on the “Good Jobs, Green Jobs” Conference

February 7th, 2009

Here are my thoughts on the Good Jobs, Green Jobs conference I just attended in Washington, DC. (February 4-6, 2009 –

The good news is – the movement is hot and getting hotter; the bad news is, it’s running into plenty of opposition already, and even in its headiest moments it is up against some pretty challenging realities on the ground.

Let me begin with the good news.

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The (Un)Sustainability of Nations

February 1st, 2009

There is no doubt that the world faces a daunting prospect in the 21st century, which is to make a transition from an unsustainable to a sustainable way of life. Whether we humans can manage such a transition for our species, and for the web of life on which we depend, is very much an open question.

Let us be very clear about this. The “planet” is not in danger. The natural environment can tolerate an enormous amount of what we are calling “greenhouse gases,” temperatures can soar, oceans can rise, and the weather can become vastly more unstable. This has in fact occurred during the planet’s history. It’s simply that human existence may not be possible under such circumstances, and indeed many of the species that currently exist may become extinct – while others flourish. The age of the dinosaurs was much different from ours, and the ages that preceded it even more so. There was a time when oxygen was merely a trace element in the atmosphere. But what we call – presumptively, it now seems – “intelligent” life, simply did not exist under these circumstances. So the issue is not “saving the planet.” It’s saving ourselves.

The planet, frankly, does not need us. If we prove to be too bellicose to survive, and launch nuclear missiles at each other, we may in fact make the planet “uninhabitable,” but that just means “uninhabitable for us.” If we prove to be indifferent to the welfare of the whole, we will eradicate ourselves by destroying the foundation on which we depend. This may seem extreme, but it is not. The conditions necessary for human existence occur within a very narrow range. Exceeding that range is not just something we might do – as was the case during the era of nuclear confrontation – it is something that is inevitable if we do not change course.

There is almost total scientific consensus around this, and the “global warming skeptics” have now become an increasingly irrelevant fringe. But we hardly need science to prove that human development is on course to exceed the planet’s carrying capacity; it is simply a matter of recognizing that our way of life cannot be continued indefinitely, and indeed parts of it must change now if human development is to continue and to come into balance with nature. This seems so obvious that it almost goes without saying. But it needs to be our starting point in every serious conversation going forward: virtually everything in our economy and our society needs to be reexamined in the light of whether it contributes to a sustainable (and indeed restorative) way of life – or not.

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