The Optimistic Environmentalist

David Boyd is sick of hearing doom and gloom when we talk about the climate and the environment. Sure, we’ve basically ruined this planet but there’s still good news out there and we can talk about the solutions. Indeed, we have the knowledge to save the planet and all we need to do is – do it!

When it comes to news about climate change and the environment, it has to be said that the vast majority of what you hear tends to be full of doom and gloom…our own show included.

In fact, it seems the more attention one pays to the state of the planet, the more hand-wringing and pessimism would be the only suitable reaction.

But David Boyd is here to say that the position of “environmental optimism” is not the oxymoron it may appear to be.

Listen to it here.

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More Cities Ditching Cars to Increase Transportation Speed

Cities that are designed for cars now have the problem of switching from the traffic-causing polluting machines. Most places can’t build more roads so they need to use what they have more effiencetly. This means repurposing some roads or only having roads used for efficient transit solutions instead of old-school inefficient automobiles. Here are nine cities that are in the process of getting rid of cars.


THE PLANThe boundaries of Madrid’s current car-free zone are continuously expanding outwards, reaching a square mile earlier this year. While those who live within the zone are allowed to take their cars inside, those who don’t have a guaranteed parking space can expect a hefty fine. New smart parking meters throughout the city can also gauge vehicles’ fuel-efficiency, so gas-guzzler owners will have to pay more at the meter.
ECO-BONUS: As a greener alternative, Madrid’s new bike share program supplies 1,500 bikes stationed at 120 different locations throughout the city.

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A Refrigerator That Doesn’t Need Energy

Refrigerators are a massive drain on our power grids because our modern world needs them to function. Without refrigeration our food networks wouldn’t be viable nor would we be able to stay cool indoors during heatwaves. Thanks to some very bright people we now have a fridge that won’t need energy to work.

The invention, dubbed WindChill, took first place in the student category in the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge, aimed at finding solutions borrowed from nature to improve the global food system.

“We thought it would be good to decrease the amount of food waste in the world, and we came up with this design because it’s easy to build and the materials are relatively cheap,” said team member Michelle Zhou.

The design borrows the burrowing and the fanning techniques employed by some animals, siphoning in air (think elephants ears) that is then cooled by tubes which partially run underground (think digging termites). This helps provide cheap, cold air for food refrigeration.


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Solar and Wind Continue to Succeed, Coal Keeps Failing

Coal continues its downward trend to obsolescence thanks to the rise of installed solar and wind capacity. In many places around the world coal is more expensive than renewable energy and as a result it has driven costs down elsewhere.

The future is clearly one that won’t use coal as an energy resource. We need to keep the carbon in the ground, and we’re slowly starting to leave coal alone.

For the first time, widespread adoption of renewables is effectively lowering the capacity factor for fossil fuels. That’s because once a solar or wind project is built, the marginal cost of the electricity it produces is pretty much zero—free electricity—while coal and gas plants require more fuel for every new watt produced. If you’re a power company with a choice, you choose the free stuff every time.
It’s a self-reinforcing cycle. As more renewables are installed, coal and natural gas plants are used less. As coal and gas are used less, the cost of using them to generate electricity goes up. As the cost of coal and gas power rises, more renewables will be installed.

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Be a Part of the Future: Sign the Leap Manifesto


Canada has been destroying it’s own environment (and trashing international environmental policy) for way too long. As a result of this ignorant neglect a bunch of prominent Canadians have produced the Leap Manifesto.

And it’s good. Really good.

Here’s just a snippet of the Leap Manifesto:

A leap to a non-polluting economy creates countless openings for similar multiple “wins.” We want a universal program to build energy efficient homes, and retrofit existing housing, ensuring that the lowest income communities and neighbourhoods will benefit first and receive job training and opportunities that reduce poverty over the long term. We want training and other resources for workers in carbon-intensive jobs, ensuring they are fully able to take part in the clean energy economy. This transition should involve the democratic participation of workers themselves. High-speed rail powered by just renewables and affordable public transit can unite every community in this country – in place of more cars, pipelines and exploding trains that endanger and divide us.

And since we know this leap is beginning late, we need to invest in our decaying public infrastructure so that it can withstand increasingly frequent extreme weather events.

Moving to a far more localized and ecologically-based agricultural system would reduce reliance on fossil fuels, capture carbon in the soil, and absorb sudden shocks in the global supply – as well as produce healthier and more affordable food for everyone.

The Leap Manifesto has gotten international attention too because of the upcoming Canadian federal election.

A powerful movement in Canada, animated by a compelling and positive vision for the climate and economy, can force the hand of whichever government comes to power in October. Even if the entire political class has forgotten this, Canadians haven’t.

Check out (and sign!) the Leap Manifesto.

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