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Christopher Mims' Posts

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Geek legend hacks together an off-grid smart home

Loren Amelang is a pioneer in C++ programming, and his homebrewed live/work space is a monument to sustainable geekery, says Fair Companies.

The entire south side of his home is covered in solar capture devices: 1600 watts of photovoltaic power, solar hot water panels, a sunroom/greenhouse and a solar hot air collector.

This isn't just your usual passive house or living building, either: Amelang can control the entire thing from a smartphone.

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How China will force Americans to drive electric cars

For all the Republican blather about keeping gas prices down with domestic production, pretty soon the U.S.’s effect on the market price of oil will be totally swamped by demand from the developing world. As energy futurist Chris Nelder observes at Txchnologist, nowhere is this trend better exemplified than the fact that auto sales in China recently exceeded auto sales in the U.S.

Chart source: Feng An, Innovation Center for Energy and Transportation, Beijing, 2010.

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If fossil fuel subsidies were distributed to every person, we’d each get $58/year

Globally, every year fossil fuels get six times as much money in subsidies than renewable energy. Given a world population of around 7 billion, that means every man woman and child on the planet is spending an average of $58 a year to prop this industry up, but only around $9 to support renewables.

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Incredible NASA images of Saudi Arabia’s careless use of water

Last week, NASA released satellite images showing that the Saudis are irrigating the desert in order to grow food -- with fossil water that accumulated during the last Ice Age and will be gone completely in 50 years. It's the very definition of unsustainable.

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George Bush’s hometown is running out of water, thanks to climate change

Here's a theme we're going to see a lot in the 21st century:

Payback is a bitch.

The president who nixed America's commitment to the carbon-reducing Kyoto protocol, whose administration censored reports on climate science, and whose State Department thanked Exxon executives for their "active involvement" in helping to determine climate change policy, is watching the town in which he grew up squirm in the grip of Texas' epic, climate change-enhanced drought.

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How successful cities are like marijuana

Photo by Spreng Ben.

If you've got an acre of land, and a magical get-out-of-jail-free card, which cash crop do you grow -- wheat, soybeans, or marijuana?

That’s a good metaphor for a city's decision to invest in its downtown versus sprawl, says Joe Minicozzi, the new projects director at Public Interest Projects. Minicozzi uses the pot-vs.-soybeans hypothetical because people intuitively grasp the value of cash crops -- that an acre of high-grade weed throws off 10 or 20 times as much income as a food crop.

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Maple syrup-pocalypse arrives 20 years early

Maple syrup farmers have "never seen a season like this," and as a result, maple syrup production has cratered. If you like the stuff, it's time to start stockpiling it.

Scientists have been saying that maple syrup production could be devastated in 20 to 30 years, but this season's warm temperatures are so extreme that we're getting a taste of that state of the climate now. Or maybe climate change is two decades ahead of schedule and we are even more screwed than we thought.

Read more: Uncategorized

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Wilderness therapist: Good job or BEST job?

If you're like me, when you're finished reading Noah Davis's interview with "wilderness therapist" Brad Reedy, you're going to be thinking "yeah, I could use a month or two of that."

Wilderness therapy involves taking kids out into nature. Which, some studies suggest, is not only beneficial for children with difficulties like ADHD, but might actually be necessary for most of us to remain productive and functional human beings.

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How climate change is making the internet faster

This summer, icebreakers are going to lay the first ever trans-Arctic fiber optic cable, which will be used to carry voice and data communication directly from London to Tokyo, reports Sebastian Anthony at Extreme Tech. This new line will speed up the connection between Europe and Asia by 30 percent, and will reduce the cable distance between those two cities from 15,000 miles to 10,000.

What's making all this possible is climate change.