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An interview with author James Howard Kunstler

Author and social critic James Howard Kunstler, known for predicting our post-peak-oil future in nonfiction works such as The Long Emergency, has also brought his forecasts to life through fiction. His newest novel, World Made By Hand, describes the near future in a small town in upstate New York -- not unlike the place Kunstler himself lives today -- where a chain of global crises has forced the community to fend for itself. Despite the tragedy and violence that surround his characters, Kunstler says his vision of the future isn't nearly as grim as it might seem. "I resent the …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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An absorbing news story

A nice bit of engineering problem solving! Anything that discourages people from switching from incandescents (5 percent useful light, 95 percent wasted energy) to compact fluorescent bulbs while we wait for the prices on good LED bulbs to come down is a bad thing. One thing you hear from the nutjobs is how terrible the mercury in CFL bulbs is, and what an EPA nightmare you will have on your hands if you break one of these in your house. A clever solution is pending: Providing a small bit of mercury absorbing treated cloth with the bulbs so that, in …

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Manufactured Landscapes is as good as they say

Obviously I need to watch movies faster. Almost a year ago today I posted about wanting to watch Manufactured Landscapes, featuring the work of photographer Edward Burtynsky, mainly shot in China. I finally got around to it. Not only is the movie visually arresting, but it is very, very disturbing. Surprisingly to me, the sparse narration includes a pretty good description of peak oil. The filmmaker, Jennifer Baichwal, shows some incredible aerial shots of a ginormous highway octopus interchange and Burtynsky talks about what he calls his "oil epiphany" while he was driving one day, when he realized that nearly …

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Mercedes to offer a petroleum-free lineup by 2015

In the next seven years, Mercedes-Benz wants to eliminate petroleum-powered vehicles from its lineup. According to AutoblogGreen, "The German giant is working on a variety of technologies that will help provide crude oil free transport such as battery electrics, fuel cells and highly efficient internal combustion engines that can operate on biofuels." The automaker already has two new powertrains in either the concept or trial stages of development. The concept F700, which debuted in Frankfurt in fall 2007, is powered by a DiesOtto engine that combines Homogenous Charge Compression Ignition with spark ignition to get nearly the same efficiency as …

Read more: Cities, Living

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From Yellin’ to Melon

Are you yella? Kids driving you crazy? Steer 'em onto this trike: the louder they scream, the farther away they'll go. The shitty by the bay San Franciscans will flush with pride when they honor the nation's Number One with a building that filters their number two. The soon-to-be George W. Bush Sewage Plant is adjacent to the S.F. Zoo -- perhaps a Dick Cheney Duck Pond is in order? Photo: Jamison via Flickr Upwardly mobile For sale: Beautiful rotating home in premium Dubai location. Eighty-story shape-shifting skyscraper feeds turbine power back to the grid. Constantly changing view! Yours for …

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Compressed air cans are contributing to ozone destruction

Photo: Jeff Mo There was an interesting post a while ago about the havoc created by compressed air cans -- you know, the ones you use to dust off your keyboard. Who knew that they were full of intensely powerful greenhouse gases? I sure didn't, but thanks to Eric de Place, now I do -- so I make myself insufferable whenever I see someone with one, and I point out how easy it is to just turn the keyboard over and knock the crumbs out. But whenever I see a pallet of those cans sitting in Costco or one of …

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Day four of the UN Dispatch-Grist collaboration

The UN Dispatch-Grist collaboration rolls on today with a discussion prompt submitted by On Day One user teiki: A key to the massive use of fossil fuels in the U.S. is gross overconsumption. We use way more than necessary, through a combined dependence on the automobile and an infatuation with big, gas-hungry cars, trucks and SUVs., through wasted energy consumption in our homes and offices in everything from their construction to "phantom loads" and light bulbs, and through the amount of green house gas emitted by livestock supplying an overconsumption of food. We must learn to use less. David Roberts, …

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Iowa’s chefs and their farmer-suppliers get busy recovering from disaster

Roads and restaurants may be closed, but Iowa is getting back on its feet. Photo: Kurt Michael Friese The weather here in Iowa City has been gorgeous for more than a week. Is Mother Nature trying to make amends? While she smiles on us, she's still causing trouble for our friends to the south. The horrendous flooding continues, breeching nearly every levee it encounters in Missouri and Illinois, and leaving behind a litany of statistics that indicate the millions of lives affected. In Iowa alone, we've got 36,000 new homeless folks, and 3 million inundated acres of farmland. And then …

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California license plates will go without Wyland whale tail

Some 126,000 California license plates sport a whale tail designed by artist Robert Wyland, but the famed marine muralist is now withdrawing his permission for the state to use the art. A few months ago, Wyland asked the California Coastal Commission to donate 20 percent of profits from the plate to his ocean-conservation group. The commission, which directs the $15 or so it receives from each specialty plate to state conservation programs, says that's "outrageous"; they say Wyland gave the state rights to the whale tail in a 1994 "handshake deal" with no strings attached. Wyland disagrees: "I was being …

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