3/19/2013
Tags:

 infinite resource new  

“Our challenge isn’t that we’re running out of energy. It’s that we’re tapped into the wrong source—the small, finite one that we’re depleting,” writes computer scientist, Ramez Naam in his book The Infinite Resource, a refreshingly thorough roadmap of solutions to our energy and climate crisis.

“We live on a planet that is a mostly closed system for raw materials… But the earth is not a closed system for energy. We have a huge and continual influx of energy,” Naam explains. At the current rate, the world uses seventeen terawatts of power a day; the sun strikes the earth with as much power in only nine seconds.

While media saturates us with the doom and gloom of our unsustainable raw material-powered society, Naam is geared toward the action phase, outlining a solid, supercharged course. The Infinite Resource comprehensively offers the facts of our crisis, emphasizes its criticality, and moves along toward crafty innovation ideas, encouraging the employment of our most powerful resource: our minds. “We can, as it turns out, make choices about the structure of our societies that affect the pace of innovation,” he writes, citing examples throughout human history of overcoming crisis with brainpower.

The Infinite Resource illustrates how the cost per kilowatt of alternative energies deterred tapping into the methods in the past, but shows how wind is now competitive with the wholesale prices of coal and natural gas. Solar is experiencing the rapid learning curve in manufacturing efficiency necessary in making it a competitively affordable alternative.

Further alternatives include mining the air and using genes found in the gut flora of termites to break down cellulose. He tackles ideas of carbon taxes, fixing our markets to properly account for the value of the commons, investing to fund long-range innovation, embracing technologies that improve our lives and the planet, and empowering all humans educationally to turn them into assets to produce ideas for the betterment of society.

Naam closes with a picture of the world circa 2100 on the track that he proposes, not a world struggling toward survival, but a world with abundance to meet the needs of its inhabitants. A world still visibly healing its wounds, but a world with lessons learned.

 

 



2/20/2013
palomino blackwing

Nostalgia for a legendary pencil no longer in production paves the way for its return.

For fans of the vintage Blackwing 602 pencil produced by Eberhard Faber from 1934 to 1998, a great pencil is hard to find.

Made legendary by John Steinbeck, Stephen Sondheim, and Looney Tunes animator Chuck Jones, the Blackwing 602 featured smooth, dark lines and was known for its resilience. But in 1998, Eberhard Faber decided to cease production of the fabled writing utensil, forcing its cult following to pay as much as $40 for single, unsharpened examples on eBay.

The good news for Blackwing fanatics is that it’s back, albeit under a slightly different name. As Sam Scott reports in the January/February 2013 issue of Stanford, the Palomino Blackwing 602 produced by California Cedar Products Co. in Stockton, Calif., has earned recognition from enthusiasts as the second coming of the Blackwing. While it’s just an article about pencils, Scott’s piece about the resurrection of the Blackwing 602 is a fascinating look into how nostalgia still has value in our quickly changing society.


Image courtesy tsuacctnt, licensed under Creative Commons


11/21/2012

Every day, new books arrive in the offices of Utne Reader. It would be impossible to review all of them, but a shame to leave many hidden on the shelves. In "Bookmarked," we link to excerpts from some of our favorites, hoping they'll inspire a trip to your local library or bookstore. Enjoy! 


 

The Monks And Me By Mary PatersonMary Paterson was forty years old when her father died and felt suddenly destabilized and adrift by the loss. Paterson’s response to this life crisis was to embark on a pilgrimage to Plum Village, the retreat of Nobel Prize-nominated Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh. The Monks and Me (Hampton Roads Publishing, 2012) chronicles her 40-day journey arriving at the conclusion that it is important to always find a home within ourselves. Mindful breathing and remembering The Four Noble Truths helps Paterson find peace among distractions in this excerpt taken from the introduction.


 


 

 

Fierce Medicine By Ana T ForrestAna T. Forrest, creator of Forrest Yoga, says the key to self-actualization is to understand your fear and then hunt it down. It’s not about killing fear but becoming its ally—taking its power. Forrest’s book, Fierce Medicine: Breakthrough Practices to Heal the Body and Ignite the Spirit (HarperOne, 2012), chronicles her transformation from an abusive childhood to her position as a national leader in emotional healing through Yoga. In this excerpt from chapter one, “Stalking Fear,” she tells of how to get past one of the biggest blocks to happiness through self-study and training—how to go from victim of fear to its attacker.


 


 

You Can Buy Happiness (And It's Cheap) By Tammy StrobelTammy Strobel lives with her husband in 128 square feet. And she wouldn’t have it any other way. After years of living with high stress and high debts, the pair changed their attitude toward the stuff in their lives, deciding to dramatically cut the clutter. Strobel blogged about the lifestyle changes and found a huge, receptive audience. You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap): How One Woman Radically Simplified Her Life and How You Can Too (New World Library, 2012) is her “biographical manifesto,” a combination of her story and advice on how to join the simplicity movement.



11/2/2012

Every day, new books arrive in the offices of Utne Reader. It would be impossible to review all of them, but a shame to leave many hidden on the shelves. In "Bookmarked," we link to excerpts from some of our favorites, hoping they'll inspire a trip to your local library or bookstore. Enjoy!
 

Arctic Voices By Subhankar BanerjeeArctic Alaska has quickly become the most contested land in recent U.S. history. It’s home to vast natural resources and a precariously balanced—and highly threatened—ecosystem. In this excerpt from the collection Arctic Voices (Seven Stories Press, 2012), writer Nancy Lord gives an account of a gathering of Yup’ik Elders facing the troubles of thinning ice in the Bering Sea.


 


 


 


Civic Empowerment By Edward C. LorenzIn the late 1970s, the residents of St. Louis, Michigan, found their community in the middle of a Superfund site—an area of land and water deeply contaminated by Velsicol (formerly Michigan) Chemical. Years later, with the cleanup largely failing, a citizen taskforce took on responsibilities of rebuilding. In Civic Empowerment in an Age of Corporate Greed (Michigan State University Press, 2012), professor Edward C. Lorenz evaluates several case studies in community development—perhaps the solution to rising, damaging corporate irresponsibility. In this excerpt from the book's introduction, Lorenz begins the argument that communities are the agents of civic reform.

 



10/26/2012

Every day, new books arrive in the offices of Utne Reader. It would be impossible to review all of them, but a shame to leave many hidden on the shelves. In "Bookmarked," we link to excerpts from some of our favorites, hoping they'll inspire a trip to your local library or bookstore. Enjoy! 

 

The Endless CrisisThe increasing trend of monolithic companies taking over large shares of industry has created a “financialization-stagnation trap” that’s negatively affecting economies across the world, particularly in the Global South. That’s John Bellamy Foster and Robert W. McChesney’s argument in The Endless Crisis: How Monopoly-Finance Capital Produces Stagnation and Upheaval from the USA to China (Monthly Review Press, 2012). In this excerpt from the book’s introduction, Foster and McChesney explain how understanding the rise of financialization stagnation is essential to understanding global class struggle.     

 



 

 

Killer StuffMillions of Americans are drawn to antiques and flea-market culture, whether as participants or as viewers of the perennially popular Antiques Roadshow or the recent hit American Pickers. This world has the air of a lottery: a $20 purchase might net you four, five or six figures. But as Killer Stuff and Tons of Money (Penguin Books, 2011) illustrates, you’ve got to know your history to find those hidden gems. Author Maureen Stanton shadows charismatic autodidact Curt Avery, a master dealer, to flea markets, auctions and high-end antiques shows—and discovers a true behind-the-scenes look that reveals the deep knowledge and obsessive passion necessary to earn a living selling old objects. Through the eyes of Curt Avery, learn how objects’ histories and aesthetics unfold in the flea market world in this excerpt taken from Chapter 1, “Opium Bottles and Knuckleheads.”
 



10/19/2012

Every day, new books arrive in the offices of Utne Reader. It would be impossible to review all of them, but a shame to leave many hidden on the shelves. In "Bookmarked," we link to excerpts from some of our favorites, hoping they'll inspire a trip to your local library or bookstore. Enjoy! 


Teaching in the TerrordomeTeaching in the Terrordome (University of Missouri Press, 2012) tells the story of how Heather Kirn Lanier joined Teach For America, a program that thrusts eager but inexperienced college graduates into America’s most impoverished areas to teach, asking them to do whatever is necessary to catch their disadvantaged kids up to the rest of the nation. Teaching at Southwestern High School, a.k.a. “The Terrordome,” in West Baltimore, Lanier had to overcome obstacles such as a disintegrating building, suspicious colleagues and even violent actions from the students. Despite shining statistics presented by the organization, here is a more common story of “Teaching For America,” written with thoughtful complexity, a poet’s eye and an engaging voice. Read about Lanier’s first impressions of West Baltimore and the school she would be teaching at in this excerpt taken from Chapter 1, “The School Beside the Cemetery.”

 

 

Live a Good Life in a Nursing HomeMaking Myself at Home in a Nursing Home (Vanderbilt University Press, 2012) by Sandra Gaffney is the personal account of the author’s long-term care in a nursing home after being diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Over 16 years, Sandra lived in nursing homes in Florida, Virginia and Minnesota.  During this time she became an acute observer and strategist about how to “live a good life” and navigate day-to-day issues such as how to furnish the room, talk to staff and understand nursing home culture. Read Chapter 1, “About Myself.”

 








Mr. President Book Cover During the last two weeks of the Federal Convention of 1787, delegates found themselves perplexed by, in the words of James Madison, “a point of great importance” — who should rule over a newly created nation? In Mr. President: How and Why the Founders Created a Chief Executive (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012), Ray Raphael recreates the formation of the executive office, giving those interested in political history a narrative insight into the decisions behind the creation of American presidential power. In this excerpt from the book’s prologue, Raphael sets the tense and questioning scene. 

 



10/12/2012

Every day, new books arrive in the offices of Utne Reader. It would be impossible to review all of them, but a shame to leave many hidden on the shelves. In "Bookmarked," we link to excerpts from some of our favorites, hoping they'll inspire a trip to your local library or bookstore. Enjoy! 

 

Billionaires And Ballot BanditsIn 2000, Greg Palast exposed how Katherine Harris removed thousands of innocent Black citizens from voter rolls as “felons.” It was Palast for Rolling Stone, with co-author Bobby Kennedy, who uncovered more ballot-bending trickery—from inane ID laws to “caging” of absentee ballots that earned the thanks of the US Civil Rights Commission. Now, in Billionaires & Ballot Bandits (Seven Stories Press, 2012), Palast tells two stories: First, the 9 ways over 5.9 million votes can be stolen in November 2012—unless the ballot bandits are stopped. And, second, how billionaire PAC-men purchase Congress and the White House through a mudslide of money. Discover the dirty strategies that discourage Hispanic voter registration in this excerpt taken from Chapter 26, “Block the Vote.”
 


 

 Killing The PoormasterReflecting on a sensational, Depression-era murder trial, Killing the Poormaster (Lawrence Hill Books, 2012) by Holly Metz chronicles the events that lead up to—and follow—the death of Harry Barck, a poormaster who was granted the authority to decide who would and would not receive public aid in Hoboken, New Jersey. The conditions that plagued the American people during the Great Depression—massive unemployment, endemic poverty and the inadequacy of public assistance—still trouble our world today. Find out how the conditions of unemployment during the Great Depression, from denied bread tickets to brutal abuse from corrupted officials, lead the American people to their last straw. Read an excerpt taken from Chapter 1, “Waiting for Nothing.”





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