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Green Dragon: Stewart Brand

David Tebbutt gets to know this profound thinker, iconoclast and provocateur.

Stewart Brand is a man who discovers paradigms, figures out how to shift them and then does it. Being born in 1938 gave him a certain advantage. While the sixties generation was still finding its feet, he’d already found his. Mind you, it didn’t stop him dropping acid (legally) and hanging out with the Grateful Dead and early hippies. He also secured an ecology degree from Stanford, became a US army officer and participated in the 1968 “mother of all demos”, when Douglas Engelbart introduced things like the mouse, teleconferencing, shared workspaces, word processing, an outliner, hypertext, windows and many other computing aspects that took another 20 to 30 years to become popular.

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David Tebbutt gets to know this profound thinker, iconoclast and provocateur.

Stewart Brand is a man who discovers paradigms, figures out how to shift them and then does it. Being born in 1938 gave him a certain advantage. While the sixties generation was still finding its feet, he’d already found his. Mind you, it didn’t stop him dropping acid (legally) and hanging out with the Grateful Dead and early hippies. He also secured an ecology degree from Stanford, became a US army officer and participated in the 1968 “mother of all demos”, when Douglas Engelbart introduced things like the mouse, teleconferencing, shared workspaces, word processing, an outliner, hypertext, windows and many other computing aspects that took another 20 to 30 years to become popular.

Brand has a talent for being in the right place at the right time – if you discount his childhood, that is. He grew up in Rockford, Illinois, the child of an advertising copy writer and a liberal arts graduate. He feared nuclear annihilation and loved nature. In fact, he still talks about the conservation pledge he took as a 10-year-old “to save and faithfully to defend from waste the natural resources of my country – its air, soil and minerals; its forests, waters and wildlife”.

Life in Rockford wasn’t all bad; but the bright lights of California and New York soon beckoned. There Brand fell in with some curious bedfellows in the arts and computer fields as he flitted around his bohemian world, taking it all in before bursting forth with some event of his own.

In 1966 Brand jumbled together people from all his different communities into a giant three-day “happening” called the Trips Festival in San Francisco. Where else? That same year he could be seen sporting (and selling) badges asking: “Why haven’t we seen a photograph of the whole Earth yet?” The following year the ATS-3 satellite took exactly that picture, which quickly became a catalyst for the global ecology movement. For the first time we could see how we’re all bound together on spaceship Earth.

His next milestone was creating the Whole Earth Catalog (tools for self-reliance) in 1968, with the satellite picture on the cover. Six years later he launched Co-Evolution Quarterly, which later became Whole Earth Magazine. In 1984 Brand and Larry Brilliant created a pioneering public online community called the Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link – the WELL. Brand also ran the first Hacker’s Conference, bringing together the first three generations of computer hackers. And, still in the same year, he wrote the Whole Earth Software Catalog, for which he pulled the largest ever advance for a paperback, $1.3 million. Such was the pace of software development that the book was out of date as soon as it was published.

He’s sidestepped that particular problem with his 2009 book, Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto, by providing a website for live updates. Brand’s not ashamed to change his mind in the light of fresh evidence, but his espousal of nuclear power, genetic modification, dense cities and geo-engineering in this book has caused many a shock among his fellow eco-travellers. However, he argues his cases carefully and still leaves you to decide what to accept or reject. This is one of his talents: identifying where we’re headed, suggesting ways of getting there and then letting us get on with it while he scoots off to his next project.

Brand splits most of his working time between two organisations he co-founded: The Long Now Foundation, of which he’s president, and the Global Business Network (GBN), a future-looking consultancy where he mainly reviews books. Part of The Long Now plan is a clock that will tick once a year for 10,000 years. A 1/50th scale prototype is in London’s Science Museum; though the real thing will be hidden in a Texas mountain. The Texas clock is a symbol of the need to think in terms of humanity’s whole future rather than just the next quarter, year or lifetime. Just as Brand challenged us with the whole Earth picture all those years ago, he’s again pushing us into a broader view of our existence and a greater sense of our responsibilities.

Over the years, Brand has befriended a heck of a lot of well-known and influential friends. Their lives are intertwined through many of his projects (not all of them reported here). And this is another thing that bugs some of the eco-folk; they believe he’s sold out to his rich mates. He told Blue & Green Tomorrow: “The eco-folk rap is a bum rap, but no surprise.”

When asked what drives him, he said: “I suppose the goal is ‘better world’, whatever that means. Lately, I’ve been thinking it means ‘more options for everybody’.”

As for his approach, he says: “The method is pretty much opportunism. Try a variety of things, pursue the few that work, keep moving.”

A bit like nature really.

Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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Energy

5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable

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sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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