A Look Into the Ig Nobel Awards

The Ig Nobel Prize is dedicated to science that makes you laugh then makes you think. It’s a fun and great way to get people engaged in science while exploring questions that sound rather bizarre.

As founder of the Ig Nobel awards, Marc Abrahams explores the world’s most improbable research. In this thought-provoking (and occasionally side-splitting) talk, he tells stories of truly weird science — and makes the case that silliness is critical to boosting public interest in science.

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More People are Employed in Green Energy Than in the Tar Sands

Despite the fact that the tar sands get more subsidies than green energy solutions in Canada, the green energy providers employ more people. Clean Energy Canada released a report today that examines the state of green energy in Canada and they have some remarkable findings.

“Clean energy has moved from being a small niche or boutique industry to really big business in Canada,” said Merran Smith, director of Clean Energy Canada. The investment it has gleaned since 2009 is roughly the same as has been pumped into agriculture, fishing and forestry combined, she said. The industry will continue to show huge growth potential, beyond most other business sectors, she added.

While investment has boomed, the energy-generating capacity of wind, solar, run-of-river hydro and biomass plants has expanded by 93 per cent since 2009, the report says.

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Rob Ford No Longer Mayor of Toronto

Rob Ford has been the worst mayor of Toronto and as of today he’s officially no longer mayor. I say officially because he was stripped of his real power over a year ago. Why is this good news though?

Ford divided the city in a way no other politician was able (or willing) to do; he pitted the people who care about the city against people who only care about lower taxes. In Toronto this basically meant the “old” city of Toronto and the “new” inner suburbs of the city. Divisive politics is not a good thing and already the new mayor of Toronto, John Tory, has said one of his aims is to unite Toronto.

Other problems with Ford came from the fact that he openly lies about anything from quitting drinking to the state of municipal coffers. Here’s a big list of Ford’s incompetence.

Readers of this blog already know that bicycles are the present and future of urban transportation. Ford, on the other hand, thinks that cyclist deserve to die. Ford spent $300,000 to remove bike lanes in the city despite that bike lanes make the roads safer for everyone. He literally made the city a more dangerous place for road users.

On the other hand, North America’s largest city expanded their bicycle infrastructure and are reaping the benefits.

Ford also hates the environment, which is ridiculous since it’s basically hating the air. When Toronto got hit by a ton of rain in a very short time I posted this:

Yesterday Toronto got more rain in two hours than it normally does in a month which meant some serious flooding happened. This got me thinking of a program that Toronto (alleged crackhead) Mayor (busted for DUI) Rob (loves pollution) Ford (reads while driving) cancelled. The cancelled program promoted green roofs to help with flood control while lessening wear on existing infrastructure.

So the ineptitude of the current Toronto mayor got me thinking of how things could have been different with forethought of climate change. It’s worth noting that Rob Ford spent the flood idling in his SUV:

Rob Ford is still in politics in Toronto but this time as a councillor. He lacks the political sway he once had and it’s now not a good thing to associate with the tarnished and former mayor.

May we never see another mayor so malicious, evil, self-serving, and desperate to cling to power as Rob Ford. Hopefully today marks a political restart for Toronto.

Long live Toronto the good.

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Growing the Green Roof Industry in North America

Green roofs are great! They help alleviate a lot of issues that arise in urban living while making cities more beautiful. There is growing interest in making sure that urban green roofs take off and it looks like it is working.

While other countries like Germany have been using green roofs since the 1980’s, North America has been playing catch up. Toronto, however, is a city enamoured with renewable energy and sustainability. Ryerson’s engineering building on Church St., the new Forensic Services and Coroner’s Complex and Toronto City Hall are all notable examples of green roof early adopters.

A pioneer in North America, the city requires all new builds with a minimum gross floor area of 2,000m2 to include a portion of vegetation on roof surfaces. It also offers a grant of up to $75/square metre to offset the cost of green-roof installation. Similar incentive programs are being instated in Washington DC, NYC and Chicago, but Toronto is the first to actually mandate builders to include a vegetated roof – or face a hefty fine.

And with good reason. Green roofs divert waste, help manage storm water, moderate ‘urban heat island’ effects and improve air quality. They also reduce noise and can save significant amounts of money. In a warehouse complex, for example, the evaporation characteristics of a green roof can lower the inside temperature from between three to five degrees celsius.

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New York City’s Simple, and Green, Flood Prevention

New York, like other large cities, has a lot of impermeable services which means that when it rains there is little to contain the water. By using green infrastructure of soil, broken stone, shrubs, trees, etc. the bioswales can capture a lot of water. This green infrastructure is good for water management and obviously benefits the local environments through cleaner air and more pleasant views.

The Big Apple’s pretty new bioswales, built into city sidewalks much like standard tree pits and more modest in size than their suburban brethren, will join about 250 of these aesthetically pleasing drainage ditches that have already popped up around the city as part of the city’s stormwater management-focused Green Infrastructure Program. The price tag attached to this aggressive — and much needed — onslaught of vegetated swales is $46 million.
While that might seem like a hefty wad of cash for the city to dedicate to curbside rain gardens, it’s nothing compared to the costs associated with upgrading New York’s aging combined sewage system (a system that handles both storm runoff and domestic sewage) and cleaning up after perfectly foul combined sewage overflow (CSO) events that strike following heavy rainstorms (and, of course, hurricanes).

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Thanks to Shealyn!

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