When life gives you lemons they say to make lemonade. And what if life gives you sewage released into an enclosed bay, what can you make? Certainly not lemonade, right? Our guest today on Sea Change Radio is NASA scientist and UC Santa Cruz professor, Jonathan Trent. He has figured out how to use algae to turn wastewater pollution into biofuel. This ambitious project, called Offshore Membrane Enclosures for Growing Algae (or OMEGA) not only places algae where it can consume waste and excrete oils for fuel, it also creates spaces for low-impact aquaculture, captures CO2, and cleans pollutants out of bays.
The technology also converts wastewater to drinking water, which, with a little lemon and sugar could even be used to make, you guessed it, lemonade. Listen now as host Alex Wise talks with Dr. Trent, an inventor, pioneer, and visionary whose OMEGA project offers hope for fuel, food, water, and a cleaner world.
2013 was the driest year on record in California, and the state’s snowpack is at 12% of what it should be. Considering that this state alone houses an eighth of the US population, maintains over 25 million acres of farmland with a GDP larger than that of Canada, the current California drought reaches well beyond the borders of the golden state. This week on Sea Change Radio, host Alex Wise talks with Peter Gleick, President and Co-founder of the Pacific Institute. They discuss the realities and implications of the current water crisis, how better agricultural policy may help lessen its impact, and look at some of the innovations that have been developed in other arid geographies.
Can you think of two everyday materials with a worse environmental rep than Styrofoam and plastic bottles? From production through disposal, these things produce toxic gasses, are major culprits in our single-use disposable culture, and are rapidly invading our oceans and destroying marine food chains. This week’s guests on Sea Change Radio are each working on eco-friendly alternatives to these environmental villains.
First, we hear from Eben Bayer, one of the founders of Ecovative, a company that has developed a mushrom-based alternative to extruded polystyrene foam (more commonly known by its copyrighted name, Styrofoam). He tells us how Ecovative’s biologically-based material is replacing packing materials, insulation and maybe soon food storage containers that were previously the exclusive domain of polluting, non-biodegradable stuff. Next, host Alex Wise talks to Rick Eye, CEO of Blue Can Pure Water, a company offering an alternative to those ubiquitous plastic water bottles: on-the-go water in aluminum cans. He explains why it has taken so long for this much better idea to spring up, and discusses how he’s doing his part to reduce plastic waste.
The Ceres Conference is an annual gathering where organizations as different as the Sierra Club and Shell come together to discuss ways to accelerate the transition to a sustainable world. On the eve of the conference which takes place May 1st and 2nd in San Francisco this year, we thought it would be worthwhile to get a sneak peek at some of the Ceres speakers.
This week on Sea Change Radio, we hear from two Ceres speakers. First, we are joined by Lester Snow, the executive director of the California Water Foundation. He gives us an overview of some compelling water issues concerning the American West. Then, host Alex Wise speaks to Bennett Freeman of Calvert Investments, an investment company that has been on the forefront of the socially responsible investment movement since the 1980s.
Aside from some aesthetic advances and rudimentary low-flow innovations, the modern flush toilet basically has not evolved since its prototype first appeared at the end of the 16th Century. This year, Bill and Melinda Gates thought they’d accelerate the flow of progress by holding a contest to invent a better toilet. Across the globe over 2 and a half billion people don’t have access to adequate sanitation. The result: disease and death in the developing world that could be avoided entirely if only someone could come up with a toilet that didn’t require running water, electricity, or septic systems, wasn’t expensive, and didn’t create pollutants. Our guest today on Sea Change Radio is part of a team that invented precisely such a toilet. Clement Cid and a group of other Caltech graduate students, under the leadership of Caltech engineer Michael Hoffman, built a toilet that not only runs off of solar power, it actually creates hydrogen fuel and usable water. Hear how this team came up with the design that won the Gates Foundation contest and could potentially augur a cleaner, safer life for billions of people all around the world.
Named for the rich red dirt that once colored its rushing waters, the Colorado River has been dammed, diverted and drained to a trickle of its former self. Host Alex Wise recently watched the documentary film Watershed which provides the story of the Colorado River through the voices of its beneficiaries, from a flyfisherman to a rancher to a Navajo council member. The film is narrated by Robert Redford, and today on Sea Change Radio we have a chance to talk with James Redford, who worked alongside his father as one of the film’s producers. He explains how lessons from what’s happening to the Colorado River can help inform conservation efforts around the globe, and why he believes this important film can enable the formation of a new water ethic.
The most interesting things in life are sometimes right under our noses. Sea Change Radio host Alex Wise spent part of his Thanksgiving weekend trekking all of thirty feet to speak to his next-door-neighbor, John Hafernik, professor of biology at San Francisco State University and the President of the California Academy of Sciences. This week on Sea Change Radio, John Hafernik talks about the sudden, mysterious disappearance of many of the world’s honey bees (known as colony collapse disorder) as well as a wider pollinator crisis. Then, we discover an ecological opportunity right under our noses: IBM Researcher Christine Robson has helped develop a new iPhone application known as CreekWatch which enables regular folks to help measure the world’s water supply by simply visiting their neighborhood parks.
In some parts of the world, millions of people struggle daily for access to safe drinking water, while elsewhere people consume water at nonrenewable rates. This week on Sea Change Radio, we speak with two individuals who are working to help find a solution. Alex Wise talks with Carlos Perea, the CEO of Miox, an Albuquerque-based water purification company that uses salt and electrolysis to make potable water. Perea explains how Miox’s technology can be a cost-effective solution for both a hiker and an entire municipality. Dr. Chandrasekhar “Spike” Narayan, who heads IBM’s Almaden Lab Science & Technology Organization, discusses his team’s approach to developing energy-efficient, large-scale desalination systems using both reverse and forward osmosis (here’s a video about their work):