Life Ahead logo
increasing returns
navigating to the new economy

If you’ve never heard of Hal Harvey (I hadn’t til now), he’s an engineer, specializing in energy planning and CEO of Energy Innovation: Policy and Technology LLC. Mr Harvey’s backstory involves a whole bunch of other high profile organizations working on climate and energy policy.

Bottom line: he’s got impeccable credibility on climate issues.

The video is from his presentation at the 2013 Aspen Ideas Festival. Mr. Harvey’s talk is followed by a conversation with The Atlantic’s James Fallows and finishes with a Q&A with the audience. This hour-long video is one of the most informative, frank and credible presentations I’ve seen on energy and climate change. I highly recommend slotting some time to watch this one.

Hal Harvey on ‘Fear, Hope, and Climate,’ at the Aspen Ideas Festival via The Atlantic

Share Button

{ 0 comments }

Carbon Fibre tube by John Rees CC BY 2.0Coal is Public Enemy #1 when it comes to climate change.

But what if instead of burning it for fuel – we used it make stronger, flexible, lighter materials and more efficient electronics that would reduce our environmental footprint?

Scientists are working on these possibilities right now – imagining a solid carbon future based on the enormous coal reserves that exist around the world.

We’re already making a bunch of things like aircraft out of carbon fibre so it’s not a big stretch to see how coal could be the feedstock for all manner of new and improved materials in the future. Carbon fibre is made from layers of graphene – a one atom thick lattice of densely-packed carbon atoms – it’s incredibly strong, light weight and can be mixed with other materials like plastics and cement.

Researchers at MIT are also experimenting with layers of graphene and ferroelectric metals which could lead to faster and more efficient electronics processing capabilities and improved lithium-ion battery performance.

This sure sounds like a better use of coal than killing millions of innocent people through air pollution and displacing millions more through anthropogenic climate change.

Coal Doesn’t Have To Die – We Can Make Furniture Out Of It (via Forbes)

Image: Carbon Fibre tube by John Rees CC BY 2.0

Share Button

{ 0 comments }

Wall Street Bull by BK and EP CC BY-NC 2.0Is there any chance that someday, sanity will prevail and policymakers will recognize that ‘finance’ is not a sustainable industry? I live in eternal hope, but I sure wouldn’t put any money on it.

It comes as no surprise to me that apparently Wall Street’s just a job killer in Armani clothing.

As the financial sector continues to grow and absorb more and more wealth, they’re actually sucking the lifeblood out the economy by impoverishing their most valuable resource – customers. It’s no secret most of the wealth continues to rise to the top while grossly overpaid corporate CEO’s, aided by Congress, continue to hack away at unions and living wages for the average worker in order to please their already wealthy shareholders.

According to the Huff Post article:

The easiest cost to cut when you’re trying to squeeze out some profits is labor, particularly when business is bad. That’s one reason why workers’ share of national income falls most sharply during recessions. And it has been painfully slow to bounce back in this anemic economic recovery. Hence, corporate profits and the stock market are at record highs, while wages have mostly been flat since the Great Recession.

The problem with this business model is that eventually you run out of paying customers. Rising income inequality has become a drag on economic growth, the International Monetary Fund found recently. And the financial sector’s dominance has played a huge role in that inequality, maybe the biggest role.

The financial sector seems to be an unsustainable and a moral cesspool that’s absolutely out of touch with the long-term best interests of the global economy, their employees and their customers.

But I guess that doesn’t really matter if you’ve got all the money you’ll ever need stashed in some island tax haven.

Wall Street Domination Is Crushing The Job Market (via The Huffington Post)

Image: Wall Street Bull by BK and EP CC BY-NC 2.0

Share Button

{ 0 comments }

end fossil fuel subsidies signThe International Energy Agency (IEA) recently released a report “Redrawing the Energy-Climate Map” updating our current dilemma on climate and energy use.

Our failure so far, to take collective action to address fossil fuels and their undeniable effect on climate change is already starting to catch up with us. The current projected global temparature rise of 3.6 to 5.3 degree Celsius by the end of this century will be catastrophic for our children. If we don’t take real action soon, the economic and human costs of our inaction will far outweigh the investments we should have been making for the last decade.

The good news in the IEA report is that there could still be time to limit the long-term global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius by taking action in just four policy areas with NO NET ECONOMIC COST:

„

  • Adopting specific energy efficiency measures could account for 49% of the energy savings.
    „

  • Limiting the construction and use of the least-efficient coal-fired power plants (21%).
    „

  • Minimizing methane (CH4) emissions from upstream oil and gas production (18%).
    „

  • Accelerating the (partial) phase-out of subsidies to fossil-fuel consumption (12%).


  • Taking these policy steps immediately could buy valuable time and hold the course through 2020 while world leaders work out new goals during the next phase of climate talks.

    In a saner world this would be easy. With our current state of affairs, it’s a longshot.

    The IEA thinks we can still avoid 2°C of global warming. Here’s how. (via Wonkblog)

    Image: CC BY-NC 2.0 by theverb.org on flickr

    Share Button

    { 0 comments }

    3-D Printing in Air

    Mataerial anti-gravity 3-D printingThe potential practical applications of 3-D printing just got a whole lot more interesting. Mataerial’s ‘Anti-gravity object modelling” enables printing of natural shapes in midair – no layering, or support structures. Wow!

    Petr Novikov, Saša Jokić led this ground breaking research as a collaborative project between Joris Laarman Studio and the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC).

    The patent-pending process solidifies the material as it’s extruded, printing a self-supporting structure with curves following natural stress lines.

    3-D printing has been around since the early 1980’s and primarily used for industrial rapid prototyping. Advances in technology that are making it practical for new applications is really just getting underway.

    Exciting times ahead.

    mataerial.com

    Share Button

    { 0 comments }

    Can America Accept 2nd Place to China?

    Nanpu bridge offramp in Puxi ChinaProsperity in Asia has been on the rise for decades and China is well on course to eclipse the US economically in the foreseeable future.

    Can “Exceptional” America come to terms with that?

    The fierce patriotism of the American people for the most part has made them inwardly focused, leaving them unaware of the progress being made in the rest of the world, particularly in Asia.

    With this in mind, it’s understandable why politicians claim this could be “another American century”. To admit anything less would be political suicide – especially now that partisan dysfunction and gridlock are well-established reality. Even the intellectuals avoid speaking about the increasing probability that China will surpass the US as an economic power as Asia’s middle class booms toward 1.75 billion by 2020.

    Americans need to be told a simple, mathematical truth. With 3% of the world’s population, the US can no longer dominate the rest of the world, because Asians, with 60% of the world’s population, are no longer underperforming. But the belief that America is the only virtuous country, the sole beacon of light in a dark and unstable world, continues to shape many Americans’ worldview. American intellectuals’ failure to challenge these ideas – and to help the US population shed complacent attitudes based on ignorance – perpetuates a culture of coddling the public.

    America is cobbled by a broken political system, now owned and operated by the wealthy few, reduced to petty fighting over extreme ideologies. The middle class is shrinking and the education system, still based on the old industrial economy is failing to prepare their children for the challenges of the future.

    We’re on the cusp of the most significant global power shift in our lifetimes. America just doesn’t know it yet.

    America’s Blinders (via Project Syndicate.org)

    Image: by @yakobusan Jakob Montrasio CC BY 2.0

    Share Button

    { 0 comments }

    scooter girl on phoneJames Fallows of The Atlantic talked to long time tech exec, Linda Stone about how in our connected world, you need to be aware of everything going on around you without actually focusing on anything in particular. Back in the 1980’s and ’90’s, when Stone was working on emerging technologies for Apple and Microsoft, she coined the term “Continuous Partial Attention” to describe the situation we’re in today.

    LS: From the time we’re born, we’re learning and modeling a variety of attention and communication strategies. For example, one parent might put one toy after another in front of the baby until the baby stops crying. Another parent might work with the baby to demonstrate a new way to play with the same toy. These are very different strategies, and they set up a very different way of relating to the world for those children. Adults model attention and communication strategies, and children imitate. In some cases, through sports or crafts or performing arts, children are taught attention strategies. Some of the training might involve managing the breath and emotions—bringing one’s body and mind to the same place at the same time.

    Self-directed play allows both children and adults to develop a powerful attention strategy, a strategy that I call “relaxed presence.”

    You really should read the interview transcription to get the complete picture on how we’re coping with the barrage of demands for our attention.

    The Art of Staying Focused in a Distracting World (via The Atlantic)

    Image: Scooter Girl by FaceMePLS CC BY 2.0

    Share Button

    { 0 comments }

    PSA Peugeot-Citroën Hybrid Air Car

    Automakers are exploring all avenues of clean-energy technology to go farther with fewer CO2 emissions. European automaker PSA Peugeot-Citroën is using compressed air as a storage medium instead of batteries which also add considerable weight. The car operates in three modes – combustion only, air only and combined.

    They claim the car can operate on compressed air 80% of the time and expect that by 2020 the vehicle could travel 100 kms (60 miles) on just two litres of fuel. The vehicle incorporates a regenerative braking system that recovers the energy in all operating modes.

    PSA Peugeot-Citroën leads the field in France and ranks second in the European Electric car market. They’re adding light commercial vehicles to their EV roster in 2013.

    Hybrid Air Car Debuts at Geneva Motor Show

    Share Button

    { 0 comments }

    wealth-preservation-bank-by-byzantine_K_CCBY2.0Multinational corporations playing the global shell game to avoid paying taxes may eventually have to face up to a taxpaying public that’s fed up with their sneaky shenanigans. As more people realize that hundreds of billions of corporate tax dollars have been diverted from government budgets while services are cut for those who need them most, the moral question comes into play.

    “Tax avoidance cannot be about morality, there are no absolutes …” Sir Roger Carr protested at an Oxford Business School event on Monday, before heading off to deliver a similar message to the prime minister. “Tax payments are not, and should not, be a down payment on social acceptability.” Ahead of next month’s G8 meeting on tax reform, he urged David Cameron: “Avoid the moral debate – it’s all about the rules”.

    Yeah, right. Now that taxpayers and customers are willing and able to “share” their opinions through social media, corporations could find themselves increasingly under siege by “flash mobs” boycotting stores, or calling them out publicly. At some point this has to stop – either the public outrage will finally boil over or national governments will simply run out of money.

    Multinational tax avoiders had better beware the ‘unappreciative taxpayer’ (via The Guardian.co.uk)

    Image: by Byzantine_K CC BY 2.0

    Share Button

    { 0 comments }

    facebook-spycam-Poster Boy NYC CC BY 2.0Think twice before you hit that Facebook “like” button. Apparently, a spur of the moment click can land you in hot water if you’re caught “liking” something that your boss or peers feel is inappropriate. This could be just the tip of the social sharing iceberg of the future.

    Is “Liking” something free speech? This is the question being discussed in a US court, after six employees of the Hampton, Virginia sheriffs department were fired, allegedly in retaliation for “Liking” the sheriff’s opponent on Facebook.

    In Australia, a politician was pilloried over liking was he saw as a harmless picture. He claims it escaped his attention that there was a 16 year old boy exposing his genitals in the picture. The question remains, what EXACTLY did he like about the picture when he clicked. We’ll never really know will we?

    As the Quartz story points out – what does “liking” really mean anyway?

    “Liking” something on Facebook tends to suggest some positive feelings for it. Beyond that, the emotions are unclear. Does “liking” mean you support the opinion expressed in a Facebook update? Does it mean that you appreciate a user’s right to express an opinion or start a conversation, even if you disagree? Is it meant as a “thank you”? Or maybe you were just clicking or scrolling around your news feed and you happened to click “like” on an update by accident.

    And even if you realize you’ve mistakenly liked something, you can’t undo it. You have to live with the unintended consequences. Yikes!

    Facebook’s “like” is on trial, so think twice before liking this article (via Quartz)

    Image: By Poster Boy NYC CC BY 2.0

    Share Button

    { 0 comments }