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by Lawson Schaller
The past two months I have written about the Bioneers and the local satellite Bioneers Conference that took place this month at Cal Poly. I went to the event and for me it was one of the more inspirational and informative I have ever attended.
I was most struck by the plenary speakers that were beamed in live from the San Francisco Bay area main event. Some, or most all, of the speakers at the conference have devoted their adult lives to the environmental cause. What impacted me was how they were able to deliver a serious message of looming, staggering environmental problems while maintaining a light and humorous tact.
One of the last speakers was Jane Goodall. With the exception of a few, very distant National Geographic photos, I have not seen Jane Goodall. I half expected a hardened soul with the weathered look of living in the jungle for too long to emerge on stage—dirt under the fingernails, disheveled hair, a slight crazed look in the eye, and an angry tone of voice that said "You people are killing my chimps!"
Well, to my surprise, an older, proper, English woman appeared at the podium. She had tidy, pulled back, graying-white hair, a soft skin tone, and was wearing a nice turtleneck and sweater. She spoke with grace, humor, respect, and a deep sense of awareness. She displayed no signs of anger or frustration. A heartwarming talk ensued where she laid out problems and challenges but she also laid out examples of solutions, and success stories. She did make it clear that we have a long way to go, but at the same time spoke of her hope in our young people, the human brain, the human spirit, and the resilience of nature. She was great.
Another speaker, Andy Lipkis, founded Tree People as a teenager. Most recently he has been doing fantastic work in the Los Angeles area with storm water management, recycling, and other projects. Andy also spoke with humor and light-heartedness. At the same time he laid out serious problems and challenges. This was immediately followed up with examples of successful projects and other possible solutions and strategies going forward. Okay, there were definitely some feel good vibes going on that I am sure much of the audience fell for. I sure did.
Another speaker, John Frances, made a vow of silence that lasted seventeen years and gave up motorized vehicles after witnessing a massive oil spill in the 1970's. He went on to earn a PhD and eventually contributed to the Coast Guards' Oil Pollution Act of 1990. He also served as a goodwill ambassador to the United Nations' environmental program—very inspiring. John, like the others, spoke with a sense of humor while delivering a serious message. I will not go on with the other many impressive stories and speakers.
A common thread in the talks was how one person's ideas and actions can make a real difference. A number of speakers wove their relationship with their grandchildren and future generations into their message. Having covered the Bioneers to some degree over the last three columns I will try and refrain until next year, when I look forward to their return.
Nissan's Electric Car, the Leaf
Electric Car Update: A recent issue of Chemical and Engineering News (CEN) cited a study that claims that a full life cycle analysis (LCA) shows the electric car out-performs the internal combustion engine. This is probably not a surprise to many, but some folks were concerned about the environmental impact of the batteries.
The Tree Hugger website claims that at most the batteries are about 15% of the total impact of the electric car. The lithium in the battery accounts for about 7.5% of the impact. It is added that the lithium battery is reusable at approximately 80% capacity after its' useful life in the car. So the battery could be reused for lighter duty and then eventually recycled, perhaps even up-cycled. Both reports are based on a study from Journal of Environmental Science and Technology. One comment claimed that the study was funded by a Swiss electricity producer, hmmm? I suppose one should always be aware of who is funding a particular study. At any rate, it strikes me as credible.
The study goes on to state that an internal combustion engine would need to get about 60-80 mpg to compare or compete with the electric cars using European charging sources. I believe the European charging source is probably more ‘green' than that of the U.S. as many countries in Europe are well ahead of the U.S. in renewable energies like solar and wind. Each month I seem to come across information that supports a distinct and perhaps significant shift towards the use of electric cars. Perhaps its' time has come. Expect more updates about electric cars in the future.
Next month's topic may be on renewable energies, cleantech, and how different countries around the globe are planning for and investing in this growing area of opportunity. There is financial opportunity, but also opportunity to improve the environment.
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