Environment

U.S. schools turning to propane-powered buses

In this article, Diana Cardwell writes about the growing use of propane-peered buses by U.S. schools. they believe that such buses are healthier, cleaner burning, cheaper and much quieter than the diesel option. The fuel is becoming popular for use in smaller motorized equipment like lawn mowers, especially at golf courses near residences because the lower noise allows work to start earlier. With the school buses, that relative quiet may offer a different benefit, helping to the children, and the ride, more orderly and easier to manage.

Read an excerpt of the article written by Diana Cardwell:

For many Americans, propane is that stuff from the home improvement store that fuels backyard barbecues and patio dinners. But in a growing number of cities across the country, it is what gets children to school. Of the top 25 school bus markets, 19 have propane-fueled vehicles in their fleets, including New York, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia and Phoenix. Boston just bought 86 of the alternative-fuel buses for the fall, while in the Mesa County Valley district in Grand Junction, Colo., administrators recently signed a five-year, $30 million contract that includes 122 propane buses. ...read more

 

Why 2014 is a big deal

The drastic drop in crude oil prices does increase the purchasing power of the public. But it also reduces the demand for healthy alternatives like electric cars. The articles talks about the radical changes 2014 brought with it including major weather alterations and important decisions for a cleaner environment. The article written by Thomas L. Friedman talks about how fracking (a modern technique to extract oil) is reducing the oil prices and intern cause greater pollution. The notes that the same people who invent various methods to reduce environmental degradation are the ones who invent techniques like fracking. After much pondering, the author comes to a conclusion that the year 2014 can be a year of both technological advancement as well as environment sustainability. 

Read an excerpt of the article written by Thomas L. Friedman: 

I was just about to go with a column that started like this: When they write the history of the global response to climate change, 2014 could well be seen as the moment when the balance between action and denial tipped decisively toward action. That’s thanks to the convergence of four giant forces: São Paulo, Brazil, went dry; China and the United States together went green; solar panels went cheap; and Google and Apple went home. But before I could go further, the bottom fell out of the world oil price, and the energy economist Phil Verleger wrote me, saying: ‘‘Fracking is a technological breakthrough like the introduction of the PC. Low-cost producers such as the Saudis will respond to the threat of these increased supplies by holding prices down’’ — hoping the price falls below the cost of fracking and knocks some of those American frackers out. In the meantime, though, he added, sustained low prices for oil and gas would ‘‘retard’’ efforts to sell more climate-friendly, fuel-efficient vehicles that are helped by high oil prices and slow the shift to more climate-friendly electricity generation by wind and solar that is helped by high gas prices. So I guess the lead I have to go with now is: When they write the history of the global response to climate change, 2014 surely would have been seen as the moment when the climate debate ended. Alas, though, world crude oil prices collapsed, making it less likely that the world will do what the International Energy Agency recently told us we must: keep most of the world’s proven oil and gas reserves in the ground. As the I.E.A. warned, ‘‘no more than one-third of proven reserves of fossil fuels can be consumed prior to 2050’’ — otherwise we’ll bust through the limit of a 2-degree Celsius rise in average temperature that scientists believe will unleash truly disruptive ice melt, sea level rise and weather extremes. ...Read more

Climate fiction fantasy

Climate fiction or cli-fi is a relatively new category of fiction. Through the article, Jason Mark discusses what cli’fi’s like ‘Interstellar’,  ‘Snowpiercer’, ‘Waterworld’, ‘The Day after Tomorrow’, etc. got wrong. Such filmmakers and authors believe that some humans can save themselves from the impeding disaster, or find a new planet, by promising ‘escape’. Jason Mark doesn’t believe in escaping from reality and concludes by stating that there is no Planet B and hence, these films might just be delusional. 

Read an excerpt of the article written by Jason Mark :

The end is near. At least, Hollywood seems to think so. When it comes to the steady unraveling of essential earth systems — ocean health collapsing, biodiversity plummeting and, ofcourse, the fraying of the atmosphere’s stability — much of the political establishment continues to whistle past the graveyard. Filmmakers, meanwhile, are sending out an S O S: We’re doomed. Is the premise fiction? Only partly. And not in the way you may think. The most fantastical thing about some of these films isn’t their doomsday scenarios. No, the real stretch is the idea that humanity — or at least some privileged slice of it — will be able to remove itself from the disaster. The latest example is the writer-director Christopher Nolan’s epic sci-fi adventure, ‘‘Interstellar.’’ With Earth on the brink of collapse as crops wither and oxygen in the atmosphere dwindles, a team of astronauts race to distant galaxies in search of a new planet for the human race. Earth’s last survivors won’t starve, we are told. They will suffocate. Such end-of-the-world scenarios appear so regularly in books and films that they are now their own mini-genre — cli-fi. The threats are not necessarily always climate related; the impending disaster in ‘‘Interstellar’’ seems to be as much biological as atmospheric. Cli-fi literature includes Margaret Atwood’s dark MaddAddam trilogy, Nathaniel Rich’s ‘‘Odds Against Tomorrow’’ and Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning ‘‘A Visit From the Goon Squad,’’ which closes with New Yorkers flocking to the top of a giant sea wall, one of the few spots in the city where you can still glimpse a proper sunset. In this time of global warming, cli-fi made an early splash with ‘‘Waterworld,’’ Kevin Costner’s campy 1995 vision of a future where the polar ice caps have melted and Earth is almost entirely submerged. It took almost a decade for the next major cli-fi blockbuster to arrive: Roland Emmerich’s storm-porn extravaganza, ‘‘The Day After Tomorrow.’’ While that movie had its fair share of Hollywood cheese (there was a wolf pack chase through Midtown Manhattan), the film at least made an attempt to detail the basic science of anthropogenic climate change. The protagonist, Dennis Quaid, was a climatologist. Since then, cli-fi films have gotten grimmer. ....Read more