Imagine a world where every window-laden skyscraper generates its own solar power, where the skylights in your ceiling are a source of light and electricity, and where your iPhone charges itself through the power of the sun. What could make this imagined world possible? Photovoltaic solar cells that are as transparent as regular glass. Our guest this week on Sea Change Radio is Prof. Richard Lunt, the lead researcher on the MIT team that developed the technology, an assistant professor at Michigan State University, and co-founder of Ubiquitous Energy, the commercial enterprise through which this energy-capturing glassy-film will be distributed. Lunt talks about the science behind “transparent luminescent solar concentrators” and the opportunities ahead with applications ranging from power-generating car and building windows, to use on every device you can think of, from smart phones to store signs.
Victor Hugo said of Paris that nothing was more fantastic, more tragic, or more sublime. Will the same ever be said of the COP 21 climate agreement brokered this month in the iconic city? This week on Sea Change Radio, we re-cap the Climate Summit with prominent freelance journalist Vivienne Walt. Walt and host Alex Wise discuss the impact of the Paris Agreement on the world’s largest polluters, explore how big banks and deep-pocketed interests are reacting to the pact, and examine efforts to accelerate the transition to clean energy in developing nations. Walt also talks about how the world views U.S. climate skepticism and what effect the November terrorist attacks and climate protests had on the summit.
Many consumers out there have made the choice to be vegan. Be it for the humane treatment of animals, or because of the damaging impact of methane, choosing not to eat dairy seems an ecologically responsible choice. But is there a responsible choice for those of us who enjoy a little parmesan grated on our pasta? This week on Sea Change Radio we speak to the director of sustainability for Cabot Creamery, Jed Davis. We talk about water usage in dairy production, methane capture, the farm co-op model, and packaging for cheese products. Maybe there is a way for us to have our cheese and eat it, too? Then, we re-visit highlights from our discussion with hemp evangelist and author, Doug Fine.
If you’ve ever seen a seal, bobbing its head in the ocean, you might have been too busy admiring its natural beauty to think about the obstacles that this graceful creature had to overcome to reach adulthood. Our guest today on Sea Change Radio is Jeff Boehm, a veterinarian and the executive director of the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, CA. When he sees that seal, he sees a potential patient. Ocean trash, toxic algae blooms, domoic acid, and over-fishing are just a few of the health threats that human activity is inflicting on marine life. We discuss these adversities and others facing seals, sea lions, and marine mammals in general, and learn about the work that Dr. Boehm and his team do to try to mitigate the perils of living in an increasingly dangerous ocean habitat.
Many of us would like to be at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, kicking off this week in Paris. Well, today on Sea Change Radio, we’ve got the next best thing. Alex Levinson is the executive director of Pacific Environment, an organization focused on environmental efforts in the Pacific Rim and the Arctic, and a Paris Summit participant. Host Alex Wise recently sat down with Levinson at Pacific Environment’s San Francisco headquarters to discuss the goals and expectations of the Paris conference, how other Pacific Rim powers such as China and Russia view the climate change denial movement in the U.S., and the mess that humans have made of an already fragile Arctic ecosystem.
This week many people in the United States will be spending a fair amount of time laboring over elaborate meals, baking pies, roasting turkeys (or tofurkeys), and beating the lumps out of the gravy. In the developing world, they may not be celebrating Thanksgiving, but there’s still news on the cooking front. Billions of people around the world cook with high-emissions methods. The fuel they use is dirty, expensive, and can be extremely labor-intensive, especially for girls and women.
So where is the good news? Well, in 2010 Hillary Clinton announced the creation of a Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, a coalition of for-profit and nonprofit organizations working together to spread cleaner cooking to the developing world. Today on Sea Change Radio, host Alex Wise speaks with Julie Greene, executive director of Solar Cookers International, one of the partners in the Global Alliance. They discuss her organization’s work, some of the business models being used to advance cleaner cooking around the world, and how Shell Oil’s foundation is sneaking fossil fuel into the “clean” cooking mix.
The drawn-out fight to prevent the Keystone XL pipeline recently ended in a triumph for environmental activists, when President Obama announced he would not approve the pipeline. This week on Sea Change Radio, we speak with the leader of the movement to stop the Keystone XL, Bill McKibben. McKibben and host Alex Wise discuss the importance of the movement to prevent the pipeline’s construction, what the recent victory means for the environmental movement in a larger sense, and whom among the current presidential candidates McKibben thinks is best on the environment. Then, we revisit our discussion with entrepreneur Harrison Dillon, the co-founder of Solazyme, a biotech company that creates environmentally-friendly synthetic designer oils that can be used in a wide array of products that have traditionally been petroleum-based.
When you see an ad sponsored by the chemical industry espousing the wonders of chemicals, you probably roll your eyes like most of us. But how much does it influence our attitude towards chemicals? As consumers we may do our best to avoid toxins and carcinogens, but they’re still everywhere we turn, from our food and clothing to the walls in our houses. This week on Sea Change Radio, we hear from Ken Geiser, whose new book “Chemicals Without Harm“ provides a roadmap for sound policing of the chemical industry. By focusing on what we know works, from greener chemicals, to greater transparency, to the templates provided by regulatory bodies beyond our borders, Geiser lays out a better way to live in our chemical world.
Now that Stephen Colbert has put his alter ego to bed, some of you may be missing broadcasters pretending to be someone else. Well, apparently, Colbert is not the only imitator out there. University of Florida Horticultural Science professor, Kevin Folta, invented a persona for his podcast, the Science Power Hour with Your Host Vern Blazek. Our guest today is Brooke Borel, a journalist who recently wrote about how, in interviewing himself, Blazek (or Folta) criticized anti-GMO activists and stirred up some controversy. Borel and host Alex Wise talk about the fake podcast persona, about how the Folta/Blazek position on GMOs has erupted into a firestorm, and how one unassuming podcast has raised much larger issues around the need for transparency when big business and academic science co-mingle.
For the second half of our show, we look at a very different sort of imitation. We revisit a discussion with geologist, biomineralization expert, and entrepreneur, Brent Constantz. He tells us about a process which mimics lobster shell generation, transforming carbon dioxide to a calcium carbonate base that can be used as cement or concrete.
The environmental impact of any business enterprise depends on the specific environmental conditions and challenges that exist where that enterprise is doing business. So a dairy in Vermont, where the water tables are high but solar energy is more intermittent, will have a different set of environmental factors to consider than a dairy in dry and sunny Arizona. In other words, sustainability planning is context-specific. Today we talk with Sea Change Radio founder Bill Baue who consults in sustainability planning with businesses around the world. He explains sustainability context, discusses why commerce should be driven by stakeholders rather than shareholders, and points to Volkswagen as an example of what can go wrong when profit dominates good sense and stewardship.