What will it take to get plastics out of the ocean?

fischernetzeFrom drones to filters to gigantic cleaning arrays, innovators are working to reduce the threat thousands of tons of trash pose to marine ecosystems. But how realistic are their plans, and how much of a difference will they be able to make? Read my article on Ensia

An Earth Journalism Network Future Oceans Story, re-published under CC-BY on Vox | Energy and Environment, GreenBiz, and BusinessInsider. Many thanks to my editors Maggie Mazzetti (Earth Journalism Network) and Mary Hoff (Ensia)!

„MIT’s integrity is at stake“

Students of the Fossil Free MIT initiative at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have been participating in an around-the-clock sit-in outside the university president’s office in an attempt to urge the administration to take more ambitious climate action. I visited students and supporting faculty on the 50th day of their sit-in and talked to them about their motivation „MIT’s integrity is at stake“ weiterlesen

Piccard and Borschberg on Their Solar Airplane


My interview with André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard on flying a solar airplane, their tour around the world, and how their technology could advance sustainable progress on the ground. Here is the transcript: Piccard and Borschberg on Their Solar Airplane weiterlesen

Transition Struggles

Italian journalists Silvia Giannelli, Elena Roda, and I did a joint project on the energy transition in our countries. The research was co-funded by the Council of Europe’s Mediane program, allowing us to conduct interviews in both Italy and Germany.

Here you can read about the outcome of our research:

RTCC: The energy bridge – How EU countries justify fossil fuels
IPS News: The Time for Burning Coal Has Passed
IPS News: There’s CO2 Under Those Hills

Flight Hangover

When I was a little kid, I loved to travel and see new places. My father worked at the airport, and so it seemed only natural to fly to places during holidays. I remember we took two transatlantic flights and later mimicked the „Thank you for flying Ammmerican Airlines“ of the on-board video.

In 1994, at age 16, I hopped on a one-way trip to Boston to spend some time in Massachusetts. The location was completely out of my mind’s range. Massachusetts? Never heard of it. Yet it took only a few hours to get to Logan airport in Boston and from there to the rural, soft New England hills. Thousands of kilometres away, but accessible in a day thanks to that metal cabin over the clouds. My favorite class at the school was, ironically, ecology.

This week, delegates from allover the world flew to Doha to meet at the climate change summit. I stumbled upon an article by Laura Cowen on her 2010 „No-fly year“. She writes:

„The single most significant thing an individual can do to reduce their impact on climate change is to stop flying.“

In the article, Laura Cowen calculates her CO2 emissions of past year’s flights. Curious about how my travels add up, I calculated my flight CO2-emissions from that first solo trip until today.

The results, calculated on atmosfair’s website, are pretty staggering. Flight Hangover weiterlesen

Bandi Mbubi on Conflict Coltan

 

„There’s nothing wrong with the technology. But we have to ensure that we are not financing the war“.

Tantalum is extracted from coltan and used in mobile phones. One of the places where the raw material is mined is the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire. Here Bandi Mbubi spent the first 21 years of his life. A student activist, Mbubi suffered persecution and fled the country two decades ago. He is the director of a centre for the homeless in London.

With his campaign „Congo Calling„, Mbubi raises attention for the ongoing conflict in the Congo, fuelled by the mining of the so-called „conflict minerals“ coltan, tin, gold and tungsten. He believes a global outcry is needed so that manufacturers of mobile phones and other applications will stop to buy materials from conflict mines in the central African country and fill the pockets of those who commit atrocities.

Trailer to Frank Poulsen’s documentary Blood in the Mobile:

Rodolfo Soler on Saving IT Energy



 
Rodolfo Soler is a 23-year old mechanical engineer from Spain specializing in thermal power plants. He believes that we waste a lot of energy by failing to chose the right devices for the tasks we want to perform: For simple tasks like browsing the web or watching a video, we don’t need powerful computers anymore. For computers that use more energy than we need, Soler proposes the technique of „underclocking“ – lowering the settings in the computer so it uses less power.

In his talk „Green Computing and Underclocking: Saving energy“ Rodolfo Soler explains how to underclock devices – which is easier for some and harder for other brands. Apple unfortunately makes underclocking very hard, Soler says.

Nikolai Maximenko and Gisela Speidel on Plastic in the Oceans

In early 2011, I had the chance to meet with Nikolai Maximenko and Jan Hafner, oceanographers at the International Pacific Research Center in Hawai’i, and talk to them about the problem of marine debris and plastic trash in the oceans. Nikolai Maximenko and Gisela Speidel on Plastic in the Oceans weiterlesen

„All Creative Work is Derivative“

I could watch this video forever. Such a beautiful illustration of how creativity is always based on inspiration, a continous process of copy and remix.

Made by Nina Paley and uploaded on the „questioncopyright“ channel. However, when it comes to that discussion, I can’t globally take sides. Conditions differ so much for different creative spheres, business models, even individuals.

It’s a big difference whether you need money for a large book project in advance, collectively produce it with editors and designers at a publishing house and then co-depend on sales. Or whether you freelance for a daily newspaper, do most of the work on your own, sell everything under Buy-Out conditions and hardly make a living. Those are just two of the many, many ways the reality of a creative might look like. Music, literature, art, journalism – even within these branches there are so many differences.

I don’t believe that the few successful crowdfunded films or podcasters living on Flattr money prove anything – yet. But one thing is for sure: Things will change, legally and economically. Our perceptions of creativity, originality and copying are already shifting. How fundamental will those changes be? That’s what the ongoing and coming struggles of interests, power, and cultures will decide. I’m really, really curious how this will all look like, ten years from now.

What to do with a broken brother?

Hello Ironbloggers, I’m happy to be part of the beer-blogging adventure! Thanks a lot for the new deadline on Monday night.

In my first post I’d like to ask for your DIY help and suggestions. I know there are some English speaking DIYers among the Ironbloggers, so it’s in English.

It’s about my Brother. My Brother is broken and has been sitting in my office for a while now. Useless and with no real functionality left. I just don’t know what to do with it. I’ve given up trying to print, copy or scan. At some point, I forgot about it. Then I read Michelle’s post on „Smart Garbage„, and it all came back.

So here’s the whole story: I bought my Brother printer about, I think, two to three years ago. The model is a DCP-385C. Installed it, used it, all was fine. But then I was away for a while and I thought (which I now realize, was stupid) I’d just turn it off so it doesn’t keep sucking power while I’m away. Sustainability, right?

The thing about this printer though, is that it needs electricity all the time to clean itself. It’s like a little human being, it cannot live without constant energy flowing through its printer veins, even when it’s in hibernation. It needs to stay clean, and for that it needs power. If it’s on electricity, it cleans itself – I guess it’s the „cartridge head“, where the cartridges are attached, but I’m not quite sure. If the printer doesn’t get power, that part can dry up. That is, possibly, what happened to the black color and broke the printer.

Admittedly I didn’t act very smart, good intentions of saving energy aside. When I wanted to restart it six months into hibernation, it did not print black anymore. I found out about it’s hygiene routine and how I had cut the Brother off the life-saving energy it needs. But fact is, now I have a big broken printer, a shiny, almost-new high-tech device, and it doesn’t work. It’s basically electronic waste, even though most of the parts are ok.

I did not want to give up on it yet. I went to a printer shop where they refill the colour cartridges. I asked them if it was possible to repair my brother, but they said „Nobody does that nowadays anymore“. No. What you do nowadays, is, you buy a device, that uses materials from all over the world, the work of people who put it together, the energy of producing, transporting, advertising and merchandising it, with all the environmental and social impact attached – and when it breaks, you throw it away and you buy a new one. It’s so much cheaper!

The people at the printer shop did have one more idea. They filled the cartridge with a cleaning liquid, and told me to print a couple of papers with it. Unfortunately, the medicine didn’t help my Brother. It remained broken. That’s the point where I gave up, about a year or so ago. It was maybe a little early for that – but I was tired of the issue and had other stuff to do.

One important thing that I haven’t tried yet is to ask the manufacturer. If I try to explain why, I tell myself it’s because I’ve tried that in other cases, which has turned out to be frustrating. Once I wanted to get a broken digital camera fixed and it was so difficult to find a workshop that offered to repair that brand. And yes, just making the attempt to fix it – no guarantees that it would work – would have been almost as expensive as a new camera with a better resolution.

So I think I should probably contact Brother and see what they say. Or maybe I can do it myself?

iFixit has advice for a similar printer by the same manufacturer with a similar problem. I have hardly ever taken devices apart. I don’t want to make the problem worse. Anyways, I would like to fix this and then make it a manual for other people to use. Does anyone of you have experience with repairing electronics who can help? That would be awesome.

The main point is, though: I’m really angry that the industry prioritizes more sales over our need for sustainable, repairable products. I want smart products, that don’t need to become garbage so quickly. Products that don’t depend on being constantly on energy. Products that can be repaired easily. Products that can be upgraded to the next level of technology without throwing away what can still be used. They could be modular, and there should be workshops everywhere so we can go and repair our machines and not turn them into e-waste that ends up in some suburb of Accra.