September 2008

I found this fascinating item online at Wildlife Extra. According to this article, the earth’s oceans are on the brink of collapsing, due to overfishing. As long ago as 2001, Jeremy Jackson, senior scientist emeritus of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, published a landmark paper named, “Historical Overfishing and the Recent Collapse of Coastal Ecosystems”.

In this paper, Mr. Jackson made the case that some environments which have long been considered unaffected and “pristine”, have, in fact, been radically altered by centuries of exploitation. Since this is again a very serious concern, due to the high volume of pollution and drastic species reduction due to overfishing, he has offered a current article on this matter. In this article, Mr. Jackson believes that the following steps, if taken by humans immediately, could reverse the speeding collapse of the ocean ecosystems.


I got this information from The Technology Review at MIT. According to the Review, United Solar Ovonic of Auburn Hills, MI, has teamed with a major roofing company to create a metal roof system that generates electricity from sunlight. This is an effort to promote the widespread adoption of solar technology based upon a theory that integrating solar cells into building materials could make solar power more attractive to homeowners.

The partnership between Solar Ovonic and the roofing company already offers seven different prefabricated systems, ranging in capacity from 3 to 120 kilowatts. Tests show that the solar roof panels are rugged and can withstand winds in excess of 160 miles per hour. This article and the information in it gave me real reason to believe that solar power is possible for most of us and may actually be right around the corner!

Photo: Treehugger

Solar roofing materials are overall more attractive than bulky rooftop-mounted panels and they can also cut the cost of household installation by doing a double duty: generating electricity while also protecting the building from the elements. This is a great bonus, especially here in Florida. In fact, it’s perfect for Florida, if you think about it! And anyone who uses it will eventually save a lot of money.

Cecile Warner is a principal engineer at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s National Center for Photovoltaics, in Golden, CO and he has been quoted as saying that building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) have been around since the late 1980s. She also notes that only lately have they begun to see some success with large commercial and residential developments. In fact the article points out that recent advances in flexible thin-film photovoltaic materials, such as those made by United Solar Ovonic, are allowing manufacturers to more easily integrate photovoltaics directly into the roofs and facades of buildings.

Still, as expected, many builders remain leery. New technologies are always hard to adapt to, both financially and logistically. Ms. Warner notes: “In the past, people in the construction industry have been burned by trying out new products,” and, in particular, they’re wary of products that would be difficult to recall should they prove defective. Roofing materials certainly meet that description. “I think that’s probably been the sticking point all along,” Ms. Warner points out.

Photo: Eco Lumina

EnergyPeak, the partnership between United Solar and Pittsburgh-based Centria Services Group, is an attempt to allay this skepticism. Marcelino Susas is vice president of strategic marketing at United Solar’s parent company, Energy Conversion Devices, based in Rochester Hills, MI. In the article he is quoted as saying, “We worked with Centria to develop a program that would get our product out to a number of small installers because Centria already has the infrastructure to do this.” In discussion of the benefits of solar companies partnering with construction firms, he adds, “It gives the product a lot more credibility, and it helps to break down the barrier to adoption.”

Centria designs and assembles the solar roof systems using United Solar’s adhesive thin films, which can simply be peeled off of their backings and stuck to the roofing materials. This is the easiest, lightest and most facile of all solar technologies thus far. The company then distributes the final product through small metal-roofing manufacturers that do the installations for building owners and architects. The product, called EnergyPeak, comes with a 20-year warranty and, depending on the state in which the solar roof is installed, could pay for itself in less than 10 years, according to Centria’s claims.

As I already noted, United Solar’s materials are flexible and lightweight, which makes them easier and cheaper to install than conventional crystalline-silicon solar cells. Also, they can be applied to curved roof designs, says Mr. Susas. This is a new wrinkle that expands their use exponentially. United Solar’s amorphous-silicon photovoltaics also perform better than conventional crystalline-silicon solar cells under low light and high temperature, according to Mr. Susas.

Photo: Luxury Housing Trends

“BIPV is very interesting because it offsets some of the costs associated with installation and will probably occupy a larger market share of the residential portion of the market,” says Michael Locascio, a senior analyst with Lux Research, in New York. “But that portion is very small,” he adds. That’s because BIPV systems are primarily limited to new home construction or situations in which the owner needs to replace the roof.

And although the adoption of solar power is growing fast, Locascio has cautioned that the future of the industry, at least in the United States, is uncertain. As we all know, the cost of things in the US is higher than it is elsewhere, the population is much larger and more diverse and this drives up the cost of introducing new applications. As well, the federal Investment Tax Credit, one of the key incentives driving the adoption of solar power in the United States, is set to expire at the end of the year, and it is unclear whether Congress will extend it. Write or email your congressman today and tell them you want them to do that!

Currently, Europe remains the largest market for BIPV and solar products in general, says Mr. Susas. “There are very high incentives for BIPV in Italy and France.” For instance, United Solar currently sells its solar laminates to a large asphalt-shingle manufacturer in Italy that supplies residential clients with solar shingles. And once again, the US is in danger of falling behind and the American consumer will ultimately be left with very few choices, usually those that make some fat cat a lot of money. Fight it, if you want real change in this country! Get out and vote and write your legislator and tell him or her to get it right this time! There is just too much at stake.

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I am always amazed by the fact that Coral is a living animal. I mean, it looks like a sponge or a fossil. It doesn’t have eyes or ears and it breathes through little pores and not with lungs. But it is a living animal, if only a slow growing one. And Corallium, also known as red or pink coral, is the most valuable of all corals. It grows at a slow rate of less than 1 inch per year.

It’s amazing but the harvesting of Coral is devastating to the oceans. Every time you or I buy coral jewelry or trinkets we are consuming an animal that takes years to grow and is essential to the ecosystem from which it comes. In reality, we should not buy coral. It’s very much like buying harvested animals of any species, like fur from rabbits and minks or ivory from elephants. It’s an act that contributes to environmental devastation. Read More…

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was recently emailed and reminded by Oxfam International of how hard this climate change crisis is not only on us but so much more for the poor in undeveloped countries. In effect, the continuation of climate damaging activities is a large part of the constant violations of human rights worldwide. Our emissions do not stay confined to our sky. They spread worldwide and are exacerbating drastic weather events such as flooding, droughts, cyclones, tsunamis and other catastrophes. These events are much harder on isolated, poor and uneducated peoples in the poorest countries.

These people lose their homes and meager belongings as well as losing access to food and water, by such horrible events and they have a harder time, if not an impossible time, regaining their losses. Without the aide of a wealthy government or government supported agencies found in more developed countries, these people are dependent on the UN and worldwide charities such as the Red Cross and UNICEF. This unfair “dumping” of the residual waste from wealthy, self indulgent societies on the poor and helpless ones is tantamount to a human rights violation. Or so says Oxfam.

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According to a new study by the Center for American Progress, CAP, increased economic investment in clean energy sources could help revive the U.S. economy and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. They recommend investing $100 billion in the green economy, which can, according to John Podesta, the President of CAP , “create 2 million good jobs in the next two years”. The Center For American Progress, or CAP, is the Washington, DC-based think tank that sponsored the study.

The study issued a report, entitled, “Green Recovery – A Program to Create Good Jobs and Start Building a Low Carbon Economy”. The report shows that this year alone more than half a million Americans have lost their jobs due to the lingering energy crisis and economic downturn. In fact, according to CNN I saw today on TV that the number is around 606,000, which is huge. Here in my home state of Florida alone, we have a half million unemployed, but that number has accumulated over years. The current half million additional unemployed discussed in this report is from the last twelve months alone. Read More….

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Everybody is talking green these days and for good reasons. The price of gas, our dependency on foreign oil, security considerations, global warming and climate change and also the creation of localized jobs that can’t be taken off to China or India. And that’s where the good stuff really comes in. Think of a booming green business center that creates jobs in service and manufacturing that just don’t exist today. And these jobs being grounded in this country, benefiting from this country and in turn creating paying jobs that will benefit all of us! Just how would you go about finding one of the new green jobs? Well, here are some really good tips to consider:

You could start by greening up your own career. There are many ways almost every career could venture into the green. Teachers could offer classes in recycling or reuse; drivers and driving companies could offer carpooling or group transports; cleaning services could offer natural and non toxic cleaning; crafters could offer natural products to replace commercial ones; healers could move into aromatherapy or herbalism; the opportunities are endless. Just use your imagination.

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The states of Maryland and Virginia have both come to the conclusion that climate change could profoundly change the weather, animal life and even the very shape of the land in their states. A state appointed commission studied this and reported that climate change makes heat waves deadlier and may very well leave one corner of the eastern shoreline under water. This is considered to be possible over the course of the next century.

Well, these states are not waiting to head this off. The commission has reported that Maryland must eliminate most of the greenhouse gases coming from tailpipes and smokestacks in order to alter the course of events. This is hard because emissions in this neck of the woods have been on the rise.

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