#45: A great Eye, lidless, wreathed in flame

Our threshold for posting something here, or online, is "why does this affect our survival as a species?" It's a high bar. No bullshit. Trivial doesn't cut it. So you might be surprised sometimes to find links regarding drinking water or job automation.

If we haven't made it clear, that's our fault -- but the key is to consider the second-order consequences regarding positive or negative developments. Running out of drinking water? Most historical wars were fought over, at least in part, resources. You know who needs water? Everybody. Find a way to create more drinking water? Fewer wars. Robots gonna take your job? You know who needs a job? Everybody (sort of. At least, some form of a job. When automation and/or AI take a fuck-ton of jobs, we're gonna have one super rough transition [hint: it's well-underway} but we'll be much better off in the long run. I think). Regardless: massive unemployment leads to unrest leads to crazy trigger-happy fascists being elected and having their finger on the big red nuke button. That directly concerns our survival as a species.

So -- that's why. 

On to the news!

1. We still need nuclear power. But the financials are failing (not the politics). - UtilityDive.com

"The fallout from Westinghouse Electric’s chapter 11 bankruptcy filing is multi-faceted and still unfolding. At the least, it is toxic news for the fate of the only nuclear projects to begin construction in the United States in three decades: the addition of two 1,100 MW reactors to Georgia Power’s Vogtle nuclear plant near Waynesboro, Ga., and the addition of two reactors of the same design to the V.C. Summer plant in Jenkinsville, S.C.

At the worst, Westinghouse’s collapse could spell the end of any nuclear build-out in the United States — at least under current designs — and lead to the abandonment of those two projects. "

+ MY NOTES: Until we figure out plentiful, affordable storage for distributed renewables, we need clean reliable power. We need nuclear.

2. If you're curious why China's taken such a lead on fighting climate change, here's why. - NYTimes

"Rushing to catch up after decades of stagnation, China built a gargantuan collection of cities the size of nations with barely a pause to consider their toll on the environment, much less the future impact of global warming. Today, the region is a goliath of industry with a population exceeding 42 million.
But while prosperity reshaped the social and cultural geography of the delta, it didn’t fundamentally alter the topography. Here, as elsewhere, breakneck development comes up against the growing threat of climate change. Economically, Guangzhou now has more to lose from climate change than any other city on the planet, according to a World Bank report. Nearby Shenzhen, another booming metropolis, ranked 10th on that World Bank list, which measured risk as a percentage of gross domestic product."

+ MY NOTES: Take note, NYC, DC, Miami.

3. Graphene sieve makes drinking water out of seawater - Nature

"Building on these findings, we demonstrate a simple scalable method to obtain graphene-based membranes with limited swelling, which exhibit 97% rejection for NaCl."

+ MY NOTES: This is cray-cray news. Graphene is gonna save the planet, I swear to god. 

4. The "solar Sauda Arabia" that just happens to look a LOT like Mordor - Washington Post

"On the solar farms of the Atacama Desert, the workers dress like astronauts. They wear bodysuits and wraparound sunglasses, with thick canvas headscarves to shield them from the radiation.

The sun is so intense and the air so dry that seemingly nothing survives. Across vast, rocky wastes blanched of color, there are no cactuses or other visible signs of life. It’s Mars, with better cellphone reception.

It is also the world’s best place to produce solar energy, with the most potent sun power on the planet.

So powerful, in fact, that something extraordinary happened last year when the Chilean government invited utility companies to bid on public contracts. Solar producers dominated the auction, offering to supply electricity at about half the cost of coal-fired plants.

It wasn’t because of a government subsidy for alternative energy. In Chile and a growing list of nations, the price of solar energy has fallen so much that it is increasingly beating out conventional sources of power. Industry experts and government regulators hail this moment as a turning point in the history of human electricity-making.

“This is the beginning of a trend that will only accelerate,” said Chilean Energy Minister Andrés Rebolledo. “We’re talking about an infinite fuel source.”"


5. This is how the world gets super duper sick (as the article notes, and to be super clear: this is fictional, but not at all fanciful) - Fast Company

"The worst fears of Chinese public health officials are realized when sputum samples from eight patients hospitalized in three different facilities are confirmed to have H7N9 influenza infection. H7N9—an avian virus by origin that made its first recognized foray into the human population of China in 2013—has now taken the last major step to becoming the pandemic influenza virus...

...By the following June, when the pandemic has finally run its primary course, the worldwide death toll from the two disease waves is approximately 360 million, out of nearly 2.22 billion total cases. The average age of those who died is 37. While the percentage of those who have died around the world does not come close to that of those who died in the Black Death, which wiped out nearly a third of the population of Europe and the Mediterranean region in the 14th century, in terms of raw morbidity and mortality statistics, the Shanghai influenza pandemic is by far the largest catastrophe in world history."

+ MY NOTES: Any article that starts with a disclaimer that reads: "This scenario has been reviewed by colleagues in public health preparedness and business continuity planning. There is general agreement that it is realistic and possible. Keep that in mind as you imagine yourself and your family living through it" is not great, Bob.

6. How the hell has an administration so disorganized been so methodical when it comes to taking apart environmental standards? - The New Yorker

"While money is clearly key, it doesn’t seem entirely sufficient as an explanation. There’s arguably more money, in the long run, to be made from imposing the regulations—from investing in solar and wind power, for example, and updating the country’s electrical grid. Writing recently in the Washington Post, Amanda Erickson proposed an alternative, or at least complementary, explanation. Combatting a global environmental problem like climate change would seem to require global coöperation. If you don’t believe in global coöperation because “America comes first,” then you’re faced with a dilemma. You can either come up with an alternative approach—tough to do—or simply pretend that the problem doesn’t exist."

+MY NOTES: #resist

7. Cars and second order consequences - Ben Evans

"I can't tell you what will happen to car repairs, commercial real-estate or buses - I'm not an expert on any of those, and neither can anyone who is - but I can suggest that something will happen, and probably something big. Hence, this post is not a description of what will happen, but of where it might, and why, with some links to further reading. "

+MY NOTES: Great read.


Why getting rid of Energy Star ratings is stupid

Scientists figure out how to stop our bodies from rejecting electronic implants, we're go for cyborgs

Climate change will make turbulence worse, I immediately take a Xanax

EPA investigating their own dickface administrator for spouting lies

Example #982398 of Trump officials not understanding how climate change works

An update on whether cancer is mostly bad luck: jury's still out