"The combined impact of climate change, land mismanagement and unsustainable freshwater use has seen the world’s water-scarce regions increasingly degraded. This leaves their soils less able to support crops, livestock and wildlife. This week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will publish its special report on climate change and land. The report, written by hundreds of scientists and researchers from across the world, dedicates one of its seven chapters solely to the issue of desertification."The 30 year climate map illustrates the geographies involved (plus see also Koppen climate maps)... In this light, it's worth inverting the issues and seeking opportunities in such drylands. The big technological achievements of the past half-century are solar power and desalination. But there's more, including much greater sophistication around water use, shades of greywater, cycling, and design and landscaping for water retention. Furthermore, reforestation, for instance in the Sahel, has been done with hardier plant varieties and is increasingly including soil modification or assistive techniques to both preserve water and make maximum use of every little bit. On arid but foggy coasts (e.g. Atacama, Namibia, etc) inexpensive materials are boosting the effectiveness of fog harvesting. And we can learn from classic desert cities and ancient techniques (e.g. Petra, the medinas, etc) about greening the desert. In any case, when you stitch all the existing and emergent ideas together, I believe there's a blossoming new category of "oasis cities" in arid regions.
22 November 2019
The WEF writes about Desertification: what is it and why is it one of the greatest threats of our time?
04 November 2019
The BBC spotlights Concerns over increase in toxic brine from desalination plants...
"Desalination plants around the world are pumping out far more salt laden brine than previously believed [...] The salty effluent is a by-product of efforts to extract fresh water from the sea. [...] The brine raises the level of salinity and poses a major risk to ocean life and marine ecosystems. [...] There's been a major expansion of desalination plants around the world over the past few years, with almost 16,000 now operating in 177 countries. It's estimated that these plants produce 95 million cubic metres of freshwater per day from seas and rivers -- equivalent to almost half the average flow over Niagara Falls. But the success of the technology is coming at a price. This new study estimates these plants discharge 142 million cubic metres of extremely salty brine every day, a 50% increase on previous estimates."All challenging and yet therein also lies opportunities, including the mining and refinement of salts, minerals, and metals.
15 September 2019
31 August 2019
My MIT Media Lab colleagues Dan Novy, Joe Paradiso and I are (finally) re-offering our Sci Fab class this Fall 2019 starting Monday night September 9th from 7-10pm!
The FT writes about Remittances: the hidden engine of globalisation...
"The number of people in the world who live outside the country of their birth has risen from 153m in 1990 to 270m last year according to the World Bank, swelling global remittance payments from a trickle to a flood. As migration has increased, these financial snail-trails have become one of the defining trends of the past quarter-century of globalisation -- the private, informal, personal face of global capital flows. For many developing economies, it is a lifeline. [...] Some governments have sought to channel remittances into development efforts; Indonesia is the latest country to consider a “diaspora bond” in a bid to tap the savings of its wealthier overseas residents."
28 August 2019
My MIT Media Lab colleagues Alex (Sandy) Pentland, Ramesh Raskar and I -- together with instructor colleagues Beth Porter, David Shrier, Indu Kodukula, Thomas Hardjono, and Nathan Eagle -- are co-hosting an upgraded incarnation of our Global Ventures class this Fall 2019 at the Media Lab top-floor E14-633 starting Thursday afternoon September 5th from 10am-12noon.
27 August 2019
My MIT Media Lab colleagues Ed Boyden, Joe Jacobson and I are co-hosting the latest version of our Revolutionary Ventures class this Fall 2019 in a new bigger classroom at the Media Lab -- top-floor E14-633 -- starting Thursday afternoon September 5th from 2-4pm.
24 August 2019
CGPGrey explains The Difference between the United Kingdom, Great Britain and England...
13 August 2019
30 July 2019
21 July 2019
Richard Florida writes in CityLab that Maps Reveal Where the Creative Class Is Growing in the US...
"A growing chorus of economists and urbanists suggest that we may be seeing the “rise of the rest,” a result of both increasingly unaffordable housing in established hubs and the improvement of the economies in less-established hubs. [...] The map shows the percentage growth in the creative class from 2005 to 2017. A number of Rustbelt and Sunbelt metros which have previously lagged now show robust growth. Salt Lake City posted the fastest growth, with Pittsburgh and Cincinnati next in line. Las Vegas, which had the smallest creative class share of large metros in 2005, also saw significant growth. Of leading creative class metros, only Seattle and Baltimore registered comparable gains. [...] The even better news is that the creative class -- which often garners the highest paying jobs -- appears to be growing as a percentage of total workforce employment across the board."
06 July 2019
Today is the centennial of the start of America's "worst but most important" road-trip! Engineering News-Record writes Eisenhower's 1919 Trip Helped Pave Way for the Interstate and shares archival footage showing the...
"Grueling 1919 trek [which] helped shape then-Army officer Eisenhower’s later views that played a part in launching the Interstate system during his presidency."
Nature shares Connected World infographic spotlighting patterns of international collaborations from 1 February 2018 to 30 January 2019 as captured by the Nature Index...
04 July 2019
As this amazing country celebrates its birth -- an epic achievement made possible ~230 years ago by righteous, civic-minded, and wise men who despised and indeed fought the grotesque evil, "political correctness", and geopolitical stupidity of their day -- let's think earnestly about the subsequent violations of the US Constitution and seemingly neverending erosion of and painful decimation of hard-won liberties, including...
- Gerrymandering and Illegitimate Non-Representation
- Illegitimate Warfare, Invasions, and Offensive Actions
- Unwarranted Searches and Seizures in both Physical and Digital Realms
- Unfunded Mandates, Conscription, and Similar Unconstitutional Equivalents to Slavery
- Taxation without Proper Representation or Proportionality including Rapacious Income and Wealth Taxation
- Criminalization of Victimless Vices including Drug Use, Prostitution, Gambling, etc
- Unequal Treatment of Voting Age Citizens via Drinking, Smoking, Driving, and other Illegitimate Age-based Discriminatory Laws
- Myriad Unconstitutional Impositions upon peoples Freedoms of Religion, Speech, Commerce, Migration, and Choice
- An enormous Governmental Bloatocracy, endless Illegitimate Entitlements, and increasingly Outrageous Debt
- Absence of Reason, Facts, Evidence, Logic, and Thought in far too much of what the Government does
28 June 2019
Nadia Drake in NatGeo writes Here’s why women may be the best suited for spaceflight...
"Physically and mentally, women have the right stuff for lengthy missions in space. So why send men when you can send just their contributions to the next generation, collected and cryopreserved in tiny vials? Sending an all-female crew and a sperm bank lets a space program economize while also increasing the genetic diversity of the parental pool."
10 June 2019
01 June 2019
The Sun is a giant thermonuclear reactor in the sky powerbeaming 24x7. A tiny sliver hits the daily rotating Earth and then you have to discount for angles and overcasts. When all's accounted for, here's the resulting worldmap of terrestrial potential for PV or photovoltaic sunpower... Curiously enough, most maps like this only show land incidence. But surely we could float massive solar panels out on swathes of ocean? In fact, perhaps we should hoover up the massive ocean gyres of waste plastic and convert these into floatation for PV paneling.
27 May 2019
I'm particularly interested in seeing half of Earth be protected by 2050. Towards this goal, Protected Planet shares the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) covering both terrestrial and marine protected areas and tracks progress... The IUCN has a half dozen so-called "Protected Area Management Categories" -- and those are important and worth adding to directly, but I hope we can especially push for enhancement of Category VI "Sustainable Use" with particular eye on private conservancies, land banks, forestry reserves, flood management zones, and potentially even the careful extractions of natural resources. Finally, I hope that we figure out how not to ravage the other half of Earth but rather we green it appropriately (e.g. our cities), share it with nature, and refrain from eco-devastation generally.