Today we had a very enjoyable visit from the Southern Highlands Sustainable Lifestyle Organisation. It is always a pleasure showing the Greeny Flat to people who are interested and knowledgeable in the field of energy efficient and sustainable building. Quite a few members of this group already live off the grid and grow much, if not all of, their own food. There were also a number of enthusiastic young men and women who are gathering information with a view to creating their own sustainable life in the near future. There were Wwoofers from Queensland, Germany and the USA, homeowners, farmers and gardeners. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day and we had a very lively and stimulating discussion sitting around our little patio. I’d like to thank the group for coming and also to invite other groups or individuals who are interested to come and see the Greeny Flat for themselves.
For more information about the Southern Highlands Sustainable Lifestyle Organisation contact Judith Collins via earthkeepers.com.au.
Wave Energy Makes Waves
Western Australian company, Carnegie Wave Energy has reached a world-first milestone by achieving 10,000 hours of continuous operation of their Ceto 5 units. Harnessing wave energy seems like such an obvious renewable energy solution but decades of research and development around the world have mostly succeeded in proving that it is extremely difficult to build a machine that can survive the rigours of salt water corrosion and constant pounding by the swells. Carnegie anchors their units below the surface of the waves where there is still plenty of wave motion but much less chop and turbulence. They use the submerged off-shore units to pump high-pressure salt water to an on-shore electricity generator. The pressure can also be used to force the salt water through a reverse osmosis membrane for desalination. For islands and other locations surrounded by wave energy and short of fresh water this technology looks like a promising way to provide both renewable energy and desalinated fresh water.
It will be interesting to see how the Carnegie experimental plant holds up to the monster swell that is currently pounding the WA coast and making a lot of surfers very happy. Click here to read about the big swell that has WA surfers excited.
Meanwhile, here are a couple of articles about ocean-going craft that use the up-and-down motion created by the waves to generate forward motion of the vessel.
Disclosure: I own shares in Carnegie Wave Energy mostly as a way to support their research and development but also in the hope that eventually their technology may prove to be a viable business venture.
The Rest of Last Week’s Newsletter
About half of last week’s Newsletter did not appear in the email we sent out to subscribers (although it does appear here on the website). So, for those who didn’t see it, the rest of this week’s is a repeat of the rest of last week’s.
The Pope Acknowledges Climate Change but Ignores Population
In an action that will no doubt see him excommunicated from Tony Abbott’s Christmas Card List, Pope Francis has come out strongly in support of action to curb climate change. As noted in this report from ABC News, the Pope’s call for ‘decisive action’ has been hailed by supporters as ‘a potential game-changer in the debate over what causes global warming and how to reverse it.’
Unfortunately, like the rest of the world’s leaders, the Pope has shied away from any discussion of how population growth might be contributing to environmental destruction. Instead he lays the blame at the feet of inequality and over-consumption. Certainly if we are to seriously tackle climate change we have to deal with those glaring issues but surely we also have to acknowledge what this article from The Guardian calls the ‘two whopping Elephants in the Basilica‘ those being the status of women in the world and the growth of population. As long as we are being led by economists and religious leaders who believe that the survival of their institutions depends on growth in population we are all in trouble. When was the last time you heard a politician or a preacher say that we need to have fewer people on the planet? I’m guessing never.
Until we get serious action on the population issue we will only be dealing with part of the environmental problem. And unless we get much smarter, more courageous leadership and voluntarily make the necessary changes, those changes will likely be made for us in ways that we won’t like one little bit. Populations will be reduced… economic growth will be curbed… as Swami Beyondananda so wisely said, ‘There will be peace on earth, I’m just not sure that humans will be here to see it’.
The Swami also said, ‘the best way to illuminate the darkness is to make light of it‘…. good reminder.
Abbott Under Pressure
In what I see as good news, Tony Abbott is apparently coming under increasing pressure to pull his head out of the sand and do something about climate change. As reported in this article from The Conversation, ‘Australia as been singled out as a climate free-rider by an international panel led by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan‘. …
But that’s more than enough about politics and religion…. here’s something much more interesting and positive.
Turning Evaporation into Motion
According to this Gizmag article, scientists at Columbia University have developed a way of using bacterial spores to harness the power of evaporation and turn it into motion. Basically, spores expand in humid air and contract in dry air so, if you stick the spores onto some tape and then repeatedly expose the tape to wet, then dry air you can create a sort of ‘evaporation-driven piston’. By harnessing the repeated expansion and contraction of the tape you can turn evaporation into motion. The motion can then be used to power a generator or propel a vehicle. It’s a fascinating concept which so far has only been applied on a very small scale. It will be interesting to see if it can be scaled up into some sort of useful renewable energy source.
I wonder if we’ll ever find ourselves debating the status of spores in the world. Are spores living creatures? Do they have feelings? Is it wrong to stick them to a piece of tape and harness their swelling and shrinking for our own energy-craving benefit? Stand up for spore’s rights now before it’s too late!
In last week’s Newsletter I featured the amazing Ryno uni-cycle/Segway type thingy… I don’t know what to call it… you can’t call it an electric bike because ‘bicycle’ implies that it has two wheels… anyway it looks like a really fun way to get around. And now I find out there’s another one. This one is called the ‘Moto Pogo’ and is under development in Canada. Apparently a Kickstarter pledge of CAD$2,200 will get you one which will go 25km/h for about 30km. Not as far or as fast as the Ryno but about half the price. I wonder how long before we start seeing these in Australia. They will certainly turn heads when we do. You can see it in action on YouTube at the following link…