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Ebb and Flow

Ebb & Flow

Go with the Flow

US – President John F. Kennedy believed that tapping the ocean’s tidal energy at Passamaquoddy Bay near the US-Canadian border would prove “one of the most astonishing and beneficial enterprises undertaken by the people of the US.” Kennedy envisioned the Passamaquoddy Tidal Power Project transforming the bay’s daily tidal surge of 70 billion cubic feet of water into 550,000 kilowatts of electric power. The dream that died with JFK now is being reborn around the globe. In May 2001, the British Parliament declared that “the world can no longer afford to neglect the massive potential of wave and tidal energy.” In June, Washington state passed a bill requiring local utilities to start providing “tidal power” and other renewable energy options as early as January 1, 2002.

Coffee from a Test Tube

UK – Because coffee beans ripen at different times, they must be carefully selected and hand-picked. Now, Integrated Coffee Technologies Inc. (ITCI) is genetically engineering coffee plants that will all ripen at the same time when they are sprayed with a potent chemical “trigger.” Plantation owners will be able to expand the size of their operations while cutting their workforce. Many of the 7 million small landholders who now pick 70 percent of the world’s coffee beans would be driven from the land and forced to search for work in crowded cities. There is still time for consumers to pull the plug on “Franken-Java” by contacting supermarkets, coffee retailers and ICTI [PO Box 1070, Waialua, Hawai’i 96791-1070, www.integratedcoffee.com].

World’s Greenest Hotel?

Germany – The Victoria Hotel in Freiburg has become “the world’s first zero-emission hotel.” Each room is equipped with energy-saving lamps, mini-refrigerators and insulated windows. Roof-top solar-electric panels light the hotel’s 63 rooms. Two basement co-generators provide 30 percent of the building’s power and heating, thereby eliminating 20 tons of CO2. A nearby windfarm provides another 64 percent of the hotel’s power.

The Final Auto Pile-Up

UK – “Bury Your Car!” That rallying cry from the ’70s is making a comeback. The University of Warwick’s Manufacturing Group has incorporated elephant grass as a main ingredient in biodegradable plastic auto parts. Tomorrow’s cars may no longer be hauled to a junkyard. They can simply be towed to a compost heap.

A Brief History of Humanity

Germany – In an interview with Focus magazine, scientist and author Stephen Hawking warned that because “computers double their performance every month... the danger is real that [computer] intelligence will develop and take over the world.” Instead of trying to control the technology, Hawking believes that the best way to insure that “biological systems... remain superior to electronic ones” is to employ the “well-aimed manipulation” of human genes to create a smarter batch of humans. If genetic engineering isn’t sufficient, Hawking proposes “a direct connection between brain and computer.” Sue Mayer, director of the group GeneWatch counters: “It is naive to think that genetic engineering will help us stay ahead of computers.”

Monks and Toads Beat Navy

US – The majestic stretch of California coast known as Big Sur is famed for its sweep and serenity. It is the last place you would expect the US Navy would want to bomb. In fact, Navy jets were poised to start dive-bombing the Santa Lucia Mountains with dummy bombs – for six hours a day – until the plan came to the attention of the 30 Benedictine monks at the New Camaldoli Hermitage. Although the monks have taken a vow of silence, the Navy plan prompted Father Raniero Hoffman to raise a cry of protest. Rep. Sam Farr (D-Carmel) intervened and, in late November, the Navy backed off. Another winner: the endangered arroyo toad, whose habitat would have been subjected to overflights and bombings. Father Hoffman credited the victory to public protests. “People spoke out for their values, their appreciation of silence, beauty and Mother Earth.” The monks’ next goal is to have Big Sur declared a national sanctuary.

Yachts a Good Idea

US – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has a new idea for gleaning information on the state of the Earth’s oceans. They have joined forces with the International SeaKeepers Society [www.seakeepers.com], an exclusive group of wealthy yacht-owners, to outfit their boats with $50,000 devices that will transmit data on water temperature and chemistry to the NOAA via satellite. This is a good deal, says SeaKeeper Chair Albert Gersten, since millionaire mariners “travel to virtually every nook and cranny in the world, way beyond the reach of existing ships.” Not to be outdone, Carnival and Royal Caribbean also have equipped their cruise ships with NOAA’s research modules.

Down-to-Earth Energy

US -The nation’s appetite for energy is expected to swell by 32 percent over the next 20 years. During this period, 27 percent of the country’s aging, polluting powerplants will be facing retirement. Since more than 30 percent of energy is used to heat and cool buildings, a shift to small, on-site geothermal exchange technologies could cut energy use by 66 percent. According to the Geothermal Heat Pump Consortium [701 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20004, www.geoexchange.org], “If less than 1 percent of the 102,830,000 occupied housing units across the country with central air conditioning were to install geo-exchange systems,” the US could save “7 to 10 billion kwh of electricity and avoid building 8 to 12 new 300 MW powerplants.” This would also avoid the production of 5.84 billion pounds of CO2 which, the Consortium points out, is “the equivalent of planting 796,400 acres of trees.”

STEP in the Right Direction

US – New York state is building the country’s first “clean-energy” business park. The 21,000 square-foot Saratoga Technology Energy Park (STEP) building will be constructed on a 280-acre site near Albany. New York Governor George Pataki proudly predicts that the new facility will “create new job opportunities, increase our access to clean energy sources and promote a cleaner, healthier environment.” The US market for clean energy is projected to grow by nearly 1,200 percent to become an $82 billion industry by 2010.

The Prophet Motive

Pakistan – Both the Bible and the Koran condemn the practice of usury. Putting the Prophet over profit, Pakistan’s highest court has ruled that charging interest on money is a violation of Islamic law. Pakistan has now adopted an interest-free lending system. As a result, reports David Boyle, author of Funny Money: In Search of Alternative Cash, “Islamic banking... is actually one of the fastest-growing new sectors in the City of London.”

Loggers Lose: A Rainforest Lives

Peru – A vast expanse of old-growth rainforest that was to have fallen under the logger’s ax has been preserved forever as Peru’s newest national park, Parque Nacional Cordillera Azul. Scientists who surveyed the new sanctuary have discovered at least 28 previously unknown plants and animals in the 5,225-square-mile park, which covers a territory larger than the state of Connecticut.

   

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