Let’s Green the Gaming Industry

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Games are fun and we should play more of them! That being said, we should also be conscious of the impact our technological-driven gaming has on the environment. Ben Abraham recently launched a new project called Greening the Game Industry to promote the concept of sustainable gaming. The project stems from his work on a very good book, Digital Games After Climate Change, and he hopes to get more people thinking about ways gaming companies can better respect the environment.

One of the best ways to reduce your impact in any industry is to buy second hand and use things to their end of their life. Thus, the thinking of a “patient gamer” is one we should all follow.

The initiative is called the “Games Consoles EU Self-Regulatory Agreement”, and I won’t go into the details of self-regulation but suffice to say most of what you need to know is right there in the name. This is not the EU trying to bring energy-profligate console manufacturers to heel, and is more like a simple mechanism to get them all to the table to see what stuff they already agree on and can codify into some (not even particularly binding) rules of the road. It is also not really a climate-focussed initiative, at least not primarily, which might work backwards from the known impact of the industry and/or a given constraint and say ‘you can use this much no more’ (and there are substantial barriers, practical and conceptual, to being able to do that yet anyway). Since the EU already has rules about “vampire power”, or the power consumed when switched off or in standby.

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How Drones Logistics Redefined Blood Delivery in Rwanda

Delivering good is always a challenge, and it’s a particularly hard challenge in a mountainous country like Rwanda. An ambitious company known as Zipline noticed that drones could solve this geographic challenge by just going over the terrain. And if it works, they should deliver one of the most time sensitive cargo that exists: blood. Now when a rural health clinic needs new blood they call Zipline who dispatch a drone.

Their system is efficient, safe, and is a good model for other countries with similar logistic challenges.

“It’s so good. And it’s not just good for Rwanda,” says Timothy Amukele, a pathologist who is not involved with the research team or Zipline, but who previously ran a medical drone group with projects in Namibia and Uganda. (Amukele is currently the global medical director for ICON Laboratory Services, which helps run clinical trials.) Drone applications for global medicine have been touted for years, but researchers have lacked concrete data to back up that promise, says Amukule: “This is more than just guys playing with toys.”

“Drones are not easy,” he continues. “To actually make this a success, where they’re getting blood and packing it safely and releasing the drones and monitoring the flight and bringing them back—and for five years covering 80 percent of that country—it’s just really impressive.”

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Carbon Capture Solutions from Students get Funding

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The best thing to do to prevent climate change is to stop burning fossil fuels, until that happens we need to find ways to extract carbon from the air to reduce the speed of climate change. Of course, carbon removal needs to be powered by renewable systems themselves. The XPrize for carbon removal kicked off in February, part of that launch involved a competition for universities to apply for funding radical carbon removal ideas. The winners have been announced and the projects are looking at everything from cleaning up asbestos to making a tea out of yard waste.

The Blue Symbiosis team from Australia’s University of Tasmania is looking to tap into the natural CO2-absorbing properties of seaweed, by repurposing oil and gas rigs as regenerative farming sites. The offshore platforms provide the trunk, while the seaweed will act as the branches, according to the team. The team aims to scale up production to the point where the system can have a real impact on ocean health, with part of the seaweed to also be used in construction materials such as fire-resilient bricks, enabling the carbon being stored to be quantified.

“I researched the potential of repurposing oil and gas infrastructure to regenerative seaweed sites, which led to the conclusion that this holds real promise for both environmental and commercial reasons,” says team leader Joshua Castle. “Decommissioning oil and gas infrastructure is an emerging AU$60-billion (US$44-billion) problem for governments and industries in which they are expected to share the costs. Seaweed has the potential to deliver vast environmental benefits for ocean health – but if it can’t be scaled, significant impacts on ocean health can’t be realized.

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Not Using Fossil Fuels is Better Than Technopostivism

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The COP26 news coverage has focussed on pledges from counties to cut their emissions (which is good) and on funding for new technologies to suck carbon out of the air (which isn’t so good). Increasingly scientists, ecologists, and activists have been calling out that technical solutions are a distraction from the core problem: we’re burning up fossil fuels. Technology won’t save us, cutting greenhouse gas emissions to zero will.

This isn’t to say we shouldn’t research carbon capture technologies, rather we should prioritize not putting more carbon into the air in the first place. Leave the oil in the ground, stop all coal consumption, and ban the production of fossil fuel powered engines.

“Simply put, technological carbon capture is a dangerous distraction,” they wrote. “We don’t need to fix fossil fuels, we need to ditch them.”

Despite these groups’ concerns, we’re likely to be bombarded with more good-news climate stories like the coverage accorded to the plant in Merritt and the project in Iceland. And carbon capture, utilization, and storage is a key component of Canada and B.C.’s plans for reducing overall emissions.

The report acknowledges that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s future scenarios allow for the deployment of carbon-capture technologies from the air in achieving the Paris targets.

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Digital Violence Exposes NSO’s Tools Targetting Activists

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NSO made the news again due to their tools being used to spy on Bahraini and Hungarian activists, which obviously isn’t good. NSO is a cyber security organization that focuses on offensive rather than defence; they sell hacking tools and exploits to target individuals. Anyone with enough money can buy their attack tools, including rich individuals or companies. In Mexico their spying tool was used to intimidate campaigners asking the government to regulate sugar content in sofas.

We know spying on human rights activists is not good for anyone, and three organizations teamed up to expose how NSO supports such spying (and thus abuse). Forensic Architecture, Amnesty International, and Citizen Lab all worked together to create a neat website called Digital Violence which explores the complexity and reach of NSO’s tools.

First detected in 2015, the NSO Group’s Pegasus malware has reportedly been used in at least 45 countries worldwide to infect the phones of activists, journalists and human rights defenders. Having learnt that our former collaborators and close associates were hacked by Pegasus, Forensic Architecture undertook 15 months of extensive open-source research, interviews assisted by Laura Poitras, and developed bespoke software to present this data as an interactive 3D platform, along with video investigations narrated by Edward Snowden to tell the stories of the individuals targeted and the web of corporate affiliations within which NSO is nested. Supported by Amnesty International and the Citizen Lab, our analysis reveals relations and patterns between separate incidents in the physical and digital sphere, demonstrating how infections are entangled with real world violence, and extend within the professional and personal networks of civil society actors worldwide.

Check out digital violence.

One way to defend yourself from NSO group and other malicious agents is to keep your software up to date. Apple released a patch this week, so update your Apple devices.

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