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Posts Tagged ‘New York Times’

From Toilet to Treatment to Treatment to Tap in San Diego

by February 10, 2012

dog-drinking-from-toilet_sm2 My first reaction to hearing at the breakfast table about today’s piece in the NY Times about water reuse in San Diego was that it isn’t all that different from what we have been doing for years: discharging treated waste water into streams and rivers and then drawing out drinking water downstream, counting on bacterial decomposition, dilution, and other processes to treat further the discharged water. I was pleased to see that this point was discussed in the article.

Drinking water that recently was flushed down a neighbor’s drain is a tough concept, pardon the pun, to swallow. However, as the piece in the Times correctly points out, we are headed into times in which resources like water are likely to be scarcer. To my mind, this community is a shining example of people—who rightly had very strong feelings on an issue—being willing to accept what the science community had to offer. Jerry Sanders, the mayor of this San Diego community, put it this way: “If science is behind you and you can prove that, I think people are willing to listen.” Here, here!

Image in post from Climate Watch. Thumbnail image on home page from the NY Times article.

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What’s Going To Happen To Your Vehicle’s Lithium Battery At the End Of Its Life?

by September 12, 2011

Energy consumed in transportation has been the focus of a number of recent posts here, including one contemplating the use of smiley faces to help drivers understand the impact of their behavioral choices, and one exploring why the cost-benefit balance is tipped against the purchase of a hybrid car based on fuel savings alone. Another big issue to consider with either a hybrid or an all-electric vehicle is the battery, which necessarily needs to pack a lot of charge, both by being large and, increasingly, by using metals like lithium.

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How a lithium-ion battery works: This illustration shows the inner workings of a lithium-ion battery. When delivering energy to a device, the lithium ion moves from the anode to the cathode. The ion moves in reverse when recharging. Compared to other rechargeable batteries, lithium-ion batteries can store more energy in smaller, lighter packages. This unsurpassed energy-to-weight ratio make them the battery of choice for consumer electronics like cell phones and laptops, but also a great fit for electrified vehicles. Illustration and text courtesy Argonne National Laboratory and was accessed on Flickr.

A recent post about the prevalence of rare earth metals highlighted how much there is to know about the components used to make current vehicles based on new technologies, like hybrid drive trains. Massive supplies of elements like lithium are going to be key to permit scale-up of hybrid and all-electric vehicles requiring lithium batteries. Supply can come from mining operations, as well as recycling. An article a few days ago in the NY Times Business section highlighted the reality that there is no consensus on how electric car batteries should be recycled or reused. (more…)

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Have We at Dialogue Earth Broken Free of Randy Olson’s “Nerd Loop”?

by May 9, 2011

nerd-loop-piecePrior to reading Andy Revkin’s post Climate, Communication and the ‘Nerd Loop’ just now, I was unaware of Randy Olson’s newly coined term the “Nerd Loop.” It is a term that he recently gave to in-the-box strategies for communicating science to general audiences (read about it on his blog, The Benshi).

Olson argues passionately that there needs to be more risk taking in the science communication realm. I equate this to needing more out-of-the-box approaches, some of which will fail and some of which will help members of the public to understand a bit more about important issues like global warming, energy, food, water, land use, and so on. There won’t be a single approach that will work in all cases. Nor do I expect that there will be massive uptake of new information. It’ll be a slow, gradual process.

For me, I think the key for out-of-the-box approaches to work is that there needs to be an underlying genuine quality. Is there an effort to change people’s minds, or just to inform? If the goal is ultimately to change people’s minds, I deeply believe that even the most out-of-the-box efforts to raise literacy on a number of key issues connected to the environment will face barriers.

That’s why I’m committed to a non-advocacy approach with Dialogue Earth. We’re advocates for good information being present in societal dialogue and decision making. Period.

I believe that our strategy based in understanding the public dialogue, building credibility by drawing in a wide spectrum of experts, and ultimately delivering highly-engaging, crowd-based multimedia products holds lots of promise.

Ultimately, we can convince ourselves that we’ve stepped outside of the box, but our opinion amounts to very little. What do you think?

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The Gulf Oil Disaster: a peek at the nature of its media coverage

by February 25, 2011

When the Deepwater Horizon wellhead blew out on April 20th this past spring, as with what happens in most catastrophic events, the media went into frenzy.  What followed was a continuous feed of news stories about the Gulf disaster for a little longer than three months. These stories not only described what had happened, but also speculated as to what should happen, made measures of accountability, debated on restorative and retributive justice and described the potential impacts on economic markets and environmental systems as a direct or secondary effect of the spill.

Articles were written from a few varying perspectives: the heartfelt human interest stories, which pushed to convey empathy by humanizing the events; stories told on the basis of markets, externalities, profit and loss; pieces highlighting the corresponding actions of heads of government and policy makers, and stories illustrating the threats that the disaster posed to ecological systems and also populations reliant on these systems.

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Engaging Experts from Across Society Transparently

by February 16, 2011

A recent article in the NY Times about the burgeoning array of question-and-answer (Q&A) sites couldn’t have been timelier timely for me. Our strategy here at Dialogue Earth depends on figuring out how to engage a network of experts from across society—not limited to just academics, but also subject-matter experts in industry, environmental advocacy groups, and beyond. Plus, I believe we should leverage the latest technology, like this new breed of Q&A sites, if possible.

Our approach at Dialogue Earth is deeply rooted in my experience working with hundreds of subject-matter experts while at the Heinz Center in D.C. Specifically, we tapped these experts to create the beginnings of a national system of indicators for the condition and use of U.S. Ecosystems: The State of the Nation’s Ecosystems. There’s more on this on our History page.

The challenge before me is to figure out how to recreate this amazingly powerful formula, while substantially reducing the turn-around time. We operated with committees that took months to converge on common ground, in part because they were charged with solving a number of issues. I need to get the same great quality of experts on-board in a process with turn-around times of hours or days. And, if that’s not enough to ask, I also believe the process needs to be completely transparent. (more…)

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A Journey to Understand Social Media Sentiment

by February 14, 2011

Brand Bowl 2011

Chrysler stood atop the final standing for Brand Bowl 2011.

On Super Bowl Sunday, 106.5 million viewers were watching the big game—the largest TV audience ever, according to Nielsen. Many tuned in to witness the Packers battle the Steelers; even more, I imagine, were watching to see emerging brand Groupon face off against fan-favorite Go Daddy and advertising stalwarts Pepsi, Doritos and Volkswagen.

Millions were simultaneously browsing the Web, monitoring game stats and their Super Bowl pools, and checking out the brands advertised on the TV spots. A much smaller group of advertising and social media junkies were simultaneously glued to “Brand Bowl 2011,” a venture between ad agency Mullen and social media monitor Radian6 to monitor and rank the sentiment of Twitter references of Super Bowl advertisers. (more…)

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