As evidence accumulates that many of the policy decisions of the past that benefited particular business interests are shown to be false or harmful, a resilient farce is the idea that workers lack the skills needed by industry and thus we must look to other countries to supply the needed talent. If this argument could hold water, then the skilled would enjoy full employment and the unskilled would suffer from high rates of unemployment. Here we have a partial truth at work… the educated enjoy a lower rate of unemployment than those of lesser education yet there is still significant numbers of educated people that remain unemployed, not to mention under-employed. While the unemployment rate for the less educated is double that of those that have a bachelor’s degree or higher, recent petitions to increase H-1B visas limits implies that the supply of workers is insufficient to meet the demand of industry. However, a story by Martin Kaste from NPR notes that the H-1B visas are granted not to cutting edge tech giants… but to consultancies aimed at temp workers and project consultancies. The result of review H-1B visas by sector is that hiring is NOT to fill permanent skill needs, but to replace higher priced American workers through temporary assignments.
Good news on the front to fight climate change. The Supreme Court just ruled, in a 5-4 decision, that the EPA is free to impose regulations aimed at curtailing power plant CO2 emissions.
The NY Times notes Justice Scalia’s remarks as, “E.P.A. is getting almost everything it wanted in this case.”
Acknowledging that it is not feasible to convert to 100% renewable energy overnight, transitioning represents a pragmatic problem that most are willing to acknowledge. The question that follows is what time frame is appropriate to expect industry to adapt. In the United States’ concentrated production model, generating plants produce vast amounts of energy that is then distributed to individual households. The construction costs of these large facilities are very significant and undertaken based upon capital planning models that rely upon relatively stable and predictable market conditions for decades into the future. Compounding the complexity of capital planning is the period of time and commitment required to construct a generating facility.
While it is understandably seductive to argue that renewable energy adoption is the correct decision, particularly in light of the wide range of environmental and human health concerns, the initial enthusiasm is blunted when real world feasibility is considered. There is not enough solar panels, windmills, or installation crews to enact overnight transformation of our energy infrastructure.
The question that follows is what timeframe is reasonable to compel action?
Baltimore’s waterways are cleaned via a water wheel and the natural current. As the current rushes by, it turns the water wheel that collects up to 50,000 pounds of debris in waterways daily, an amount dependent upon the level of particulate matter in the water and the current of the water. Solutions such as this one are an excellent example of old technology being repurposed for the green virtuous function of cleaning up our rivers.
The water wheel won’t do anything about soluble chemicals or farm fertilizer run off, but can go a long way towards accomplishing the same thing that your once a year river clean up would otherwise. Furthermore, to compensate for fluctuations of river current, solar panels are there to provide the extra kick needed to keep the wheel turning.
While technology representing the most cutting edge science is most appealing to demonstrate that an information society can address the problems and challenges of our industrialized society trying to strike a balance with the biosphere, examples such as this water wheel demonstrate that information and technology alone will not solve our problems. Actions, not some new application or ‘likes’ on Facebook will accomplish the actual feats needed to bring our impacts into alignment with the capacity of the natural biosphere.
I particularly like this example as a showpiece of the urban infrastructure that could be a showpiece of waterfront parks in a downtown park setting. The inherent challenge to these types of solutions is whether or not individuals will assume these types of solutions merely enable their continued polluting and harmful activities to continue. My response, as a pragmatic philosopher, is that our ethics should dictate that we do not harm the environment, however there are always those that may not act ethically or situations of unintended or unforeseen outcomes, such as raccoons that tip over the garbage bin on a rainy night that washes away the refuse to the waterways. As a result, the water wheel is a means to address what might otherwise might pollute our waterways, and serves as a visual reminder that we need to act as stewards of our rivers.
Ideally, the real solution is one in which we don’t pollute the waterways in the first place… until that day becomes reality, I would love to see one of these in every city that is situated on a river.
CNET story highlights the Ryden battery from Power Japan Plus that represents a significant technological advances on two fronts:
1) Material costs and scarcity
2) Heat management
Additionally, it is noted that the recharge time of the Ryden battery vs. a similar lithium ion pack is reduced from 4 hours to 12 minutes for a full charge!
On the issue of material costs and scarcity, batteries made from organic cotton matter is a significant development needed for scaling technology and overcoming issues surrounding rare Earth metals. Furthermore, in discharging the energy there is no issue with heat that lithium ion packs suffer from, and as a result new electric vehicles may find it unnecessary for heat management systems mitigation.
While consumers may find they are most interested in reduced charge times, it is really the heat and scarcity advances that represent a significant step forward for electric vehicles to penetrate the market.
Whether it’s the grand vision of sustainable cities from a development master plan or spotted urban renewal that refocuses our attention to the integration of environmental ethics, a smaller carbon footprint, and the experience of living authentically through art and music, humankind needs to find new models for living. The obvious shortcoming of the architectural master plan for a city of the future lies in the fact that individual property ownership stands in the way of realizing the vision. Additionally, the spotted patches of urban renewal that illustrate the communities that can be, and are, exist in small pockets that only a few can benefit from. Unfortunately, the pattern of development and neighborhood maturity favors the small pockets of ‘cool’ that follow from the right mix of artistry, community, and architecture to a process that dilutes as others seek to ‘buy in’ by moving in, but not integrating themselves into the aspirational community they have infiltrated. The process of dilution, and here I am intentionally avoiding the use of the poorly defined and inflammatory term of ‘gentrification,’ is not entirely a malevolent force, it is a process that lacks direction and exposes the shortcomings of our desire to live within a collaborative community, while yet maintaining the desired degree of privacy within the needed span of time that we individually need it.
What appears to be lacking is a small to medium scale sustainable model for community development that I outline here, which I term ‘Ability Housing,’ that integrates residential space, food production, adaptive privacy, and community workspaces to achieve an integrated model of development that may be deployed in many parts of the country. Read More
It wasn’t that long ago that the Internet was abuzz regarding ‘net neutrality’ and seemingly everyone had some sort of position on the matter… or, more accurately, seemingly took a position by ‘sharing’ stories or photos that appealed to some sort of principle of freedom or inequality underlying the prospect that some data traffic may be given priority over others. Now the FCC is set to allow Internet providers to give certain traffic priority over the masses of people posting photos of their lunch or videos on Youtube. If you’ve the money to pay, then the equivalent of a carpool lane will be available for firms interested in ensuring the speed and priority of their data flow. However, the question remains whether this will actually stratify the Internet experience even further than the ever widening divide that is termed, as Thomas Piketty, Robert Reich, and Paul Krugman term it, the ‘New Gilded Age‘ encompassing nearly every other aspect of the United States?
The basis for enabling Internet providers to charge for privileged speeds of content flow is based upon a court decision that struck down ‘open Internet’ rules with the justification that, “the court said that because the Internet is not considered a utility under federal law, it was not subject to that sort of regulation.” Read More
Good critical analysis requires BOTH the rational and the empirical. Regardless of individual politics on the underlying issues of the status of workers in the United States, and comparatively to the rest of the world, this collection of charts and data is a very useful compilation to stock your data arsenal for future discussions. Also comes complete with links to the primary source material.