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Xerox PARC takes on clean, green technology
Joel Makower, WorldChanging
| The Palo Alto Research Center, the storied Xerox subsidiary responsible for many of the computer world's breakthrough technologies, is making a move into clean technology and sustainable products and services. It's a watershed moment of sorts: the birthplace of today's user-friendly computing wants to be the birthplace of tomorrow's clean and green innovations.
PARC, as it's more commonly known, recent launched a Clean Technology Initiative, focused on key areas of clean and sustainable technologies: solar, energy distribution, energy conservation and efficiency, clean water, air quality, and some paper-reduction technologies (the latter, of course, aimed at Xerox's core business).
(16 February 2006)
Also posted on Makower's blog.
Steve Frillmann, community-garden guru
("Guerillas in the Midst")
AUTHOR, Grist magazine
Steve Frillman is executive director of Green Guerillas, New York City's oldest community-gardening group. He responded to questions from Grist editors and questions from Grist readers.
Q: What does your organization do?
A: At Green Guerillas, we help people carry out their visions for what community gardens can be in a dense, vibrant urban area -- urban farms, botanic gardens, performance spaces, community centers, lungs that help the city breathe.
Some of our activities are fairly simple, like giving gardeners a few seedlings. Some are very complex, like organizing coalitions or helping grassroots leaders fight to protect gardens from development.
There are 600 community gardens in NYC, and none of them are "Green Guerillas" gardens. They were all created through the hard work and ingenuity of grassroots volunteers, and they are all independently cultivated. Numerous nonprofits and foundations also support the work of community-garden groups, so we are one part of the puzzle.
...Q: If you could institute by fiat one environmental reform, what would it be?
A: I would create a program in every city that would ensure small-scale community-initiated projects -- such as community gardens, rooftop gardens, neighborhood farmers' markets, etc. -- have all the funding and legitimacy they needed to succeed.
Q: If you could have every InterActivist reader do one thing, what would it be?
A: Whatever your cause -- stand your ground, pitch a tent, and invite people in who are willing to do hard work: wild-eyed idealists, pragmatists, activists, lawyers, planners. Don't get too caught up on consensus, and don't get discouraged by conflict. You can get a lot done together while disagreeing on important points along the way.
... Q: I'd love to hear a juicy story of how community gardening is a tool for community development. Would you share one? -- Lisa Gelczis, Flagstaff, Ariz.
A: Just this past summer, Green Guerillas cut the lock off the fence of a once-vibrant community garden that had fallen into disrepair. We put up fliers, knocked on doors, and went to community meetings to drum up interest. Community members, a teacher in the school across the street, and a social service center for formerly homeless people answered the call. In one growing season, they transformed the site into a garden together. This year, they are hatching plans to green an entire part of the neighborhood and train youth from the local housing project along the way. All that energy was there, looking for a concrete project to harness it. We just took some organizing, a little guidance, a few hundred dollars in materials, added water, and watched the project grow.
(13 February 2006)
SF group "Compact" vows not to buy anything new in 2006
Carolyn Jones, SF Chronicle
While many people will spend countless hours this year lining up at Wal-Mart and maxing out their credit cards at Nordstrom, a small Bay Area group has declared it will do just the opposite.
About 50 teachers, engineers, executives and other professionals in the Bay Area have made a vow to not buy anything new in 2006 -- except food, health and safety items and underwear.
"We're people for whom recycling is no longer enough," said one of the members of the fledgling movement, John Perry, who works in marketing at a high-tech company. "We're trying to get off the first-market consumerism grid, because consumer culture is destroying the world."
They call themselves the Compact. They have a blog, a Yahoo group and monthly meetings to reaffirm their commitment to the rule, which is to never buy anything new. "I didn't buy a pair of shoes today," said Compacter Shawn Rosenmoss, an engineer and a San Francisco resident of the Bernal Heights neighborhood. "They were basically a $300 pair of clodhoppers. But they were really nice and really comfortable, and I haven't bought new shoes for a while. But I didn't buy them. That's a big part of the Compact -- we show that we're not powerless over our purchasing."
Compacters can get as much as they want from thrift shops, Craigslist, freecycle.org, eBay and flea markets, as long as the items are secondhand. And when they're in doubt, they turn to their fellow Compacters for guidance.
(13 February 2006)
My Quaker Grandmother would approve. She thought that buying things new showed a distinct lack of imagination. Related: Passionate response to want-not-waste-not group
Some Bay Area residents who made an informal vow to not buy anything new in 2006 have found themselves in the middle of an international furor over consumerism, ecology and middle-class hypocrisy that has spread around the world in just days.
"It's been totally insane. We've had a lot of people say we're smug, self-congratulatory braggarts," John Perry, one of the founders of the original Compact group, said Thursday. He has spent much of the week fielding calls from national TV and radio stations.
"And we've had other people say it gives them hope for the future. It has definitely touched a nerve," he said. "We've been staggered by the response."
Termites may be allies in energy crisis
Scientists close to isolating genes in termite that allow it to convert plants into fuel
Ian Hoffman, Oakland Tribune
As oil companies scour the globe for new drilling spots, microbiologists are looking for the keys to an energy revolution — inside termites from the jungles of Costa Rica.
The head of the federal Joint Genome Institute in Walnut Creek reported Friday at one of the world's largest scientific conferences that his researchers are closing in on the genes that enable bacteria-packed termites to turn woody plant materials into sugars, natural gas and hydrogen.
If the effort succeeds, biotech companies could use the information to grow new enzymes and modified germs to churn out enormous quantities of biofuels burnable in automotive engines.
"I think in 10 years we're going to see significant percentages of the transportation fuel replaced" by biologically produced fuels, said Eddy Rubin, director of the Walnut Creek-based institute, established by three federal labs operated by the University of California.
Decoding the DNA inside the guts of termites is a small but critical step in shifting from fossil fuels — storing solar energy gathered by plants thousands of years ago — to biofuels that store solar energy from the last growing season.
(18 February 2006)
UK baby shortage will cost £11 billion
Gaby Hinsliff, The Observer
· Career pressures blamed for shortfall
· Early motherhood cuts women's salaries
Britain is suffering a baby 'shortage' with potentially disastrous consequences as work pressures force young women to shelve plans for a family, according to dramatic new research urging an £11bn campaign to boost parenthood.
Women have not turned against becoming mothers and, if they could have the number of children they actually wanted, more than 90,000 extra babies a year would be born, according to calculations by the respected think-tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research.
...The 'baby gap' emerging between maternal desire and reality now threatens a demographic crisis as too few children are born to support future elderly dependants, the study warns. By 2074, the year when many born now will be retiring, the pressure on public spending from an ageing population could require an 8p rise in income tax if births are at the lowest end of official forecasts.
With childlessness now forecast on a scale not seen since the mass male fatalities of the First World War destroyed many women's hopes of motherhood, the IPPR urges government intervention to raise the birth rate by making working parenthood more appealing to both mothers and fathers.
(19 February 2006)
Solution masquerading as a problem.