What’s holding up China’s oldest buildings?

Scientists, reporting in an issue of *Accounts of Chemical Research*, have discovered the secret organic ingredient added to building mortar in China to create super strong walls that withstood even earthquakes: sticky rice. In creating what amounts to the first organic-inorganic composite material, construction workers circa 1500 years ago utilized a unique feature of a polysaccharide chain from the sticky… read more →

Cash for caulkers coming

The House passed the "Cash for Caulkers" legislation earlier this year and (maybe? hopefully? probably?) the Senate will soon follow suit. The legislation provides incentives for energy efficiency improvements by rebating to homeowners some $6 billion dollars for window retrofits, water heater upgrades, and insulation installations, among other things. I don't want to go into a ton of detail about… read more →

Media thinks scientists hype dangers of climate change

Spiegel Online recently published a narrative of the politicization of climate science over time, from James Hansen's 1988 Congressional testimony all the way to last year's "Climategate." The abbreviated story goes like this: scientists in the 1980's first discovered and proved the link between a warming planet and human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. The politicization began when Hansen, in his Congressional… read more →

No silver bullets available here

I heard a luncheon speaker last week who channeled James Hansen as he asserted that mitigating climate change is, more than anything else, about coal. And that actions short of shutting down all the coal plants are something between a palliative and an unwarranted distraction. This line of thinking couldn't be more right and more wrong at the same time.… read more →

“Science” writer John Tierney hates kittens

I occasionally find John Tierney's contrarian column in the Science section of the New York Times enlightening, but invariably when he writes about climate change I want to punch a hole through the wall. His latest column has to do with supposed doomsayers calling for expensive reductions in GDP to combat climate change. The gist is that doomsayers have always… read more →

There will be blood

The tragic oil well blowout and subsequent ongoing spill off the Louisiana coast has me depressed and angry. But not at BP, no. And I'm not going to take up the banner to ban offshore oil and gas exploration either. I see this disaster as a natural consequence of my own behavior, and that of all my friends, neighbors and… read more →

Bursting in Bhutan

I’m going to bet you’ve never heard of a GLOF. I hadn’t, until last week, when I was introduced to the idea of Glacial Lake Outburst Floods, a direct impact of climate change in the Himalayas, and specifically in the tiny kingdom of Bhutan. If you’ve heard of Bhutan, it’s probably because the country measures the health of its society… read more →

Are paper towels or sponges more efficient?

Skepticism about claims of greater efficiency or lower energy use are healthy, but Catherine Mohr (as she acknowledges) may be trying a bit too hard to make the right choices when it comes to building her home: OCD jokes aside, it's a really important exercise to examine the assumptions we often make about how sustainable or environmentally friendly a given… read more →

New bike time

I should have bought a used bike. I know that, I do. There’s no reason to go out and buy something new when something used would have worked just fine. Other than the fact that my old ride was stolen week before last, and has probably been sold since. How’s that for a dilemma - add to the demand for… read more →

People use fewer bags when charged for them

Since we're all about plastic bags over here lately, it may interest you to know that the bag tax in Washington D.C. reduced the total number of bags used last month to 3.3 million, down from 22.5 million in the previous month without a tax. This is great news! Not only are far fewer bags being used and thrown away… read more →
3 of 20