Posts by Cordelia Newlin de Rojas
Earth Day can bring out the best and worst in many people – and I’ll admit to frowning on occasion at anyone wishing a happy Earth Day. There are debates around the hypocrisy or perhaps ignorance in celebrating such a day with numerous flyers and special offers to consume more green products. But despite these very valid criticisms, Earth Day does matter if only that we all need a day to stop and take stock of our life. It is a time to celebrate our accomplishments because let’s face it change is hard. We need to figure out what comes next and this may require we look at some of our less appetizing behaviors, which we often do such an excellent job of avoiding on a day to day basis.
With that said, Earth day shouldn’t be a giant guilt-fest. We need to use it to recognize our weaknesses and figure out how to move forward constructively. What are for example, the innovations needed to address issues around toxicity, resource scarcity and geographical constraints to name just a few. Or when do we rethink our current norms – like heating our houses to 80º in the winter donning short sleeved shirts and cooling them to 65º in the summer while sporting long pants? How do we find a solution that meets the cloth diaper user’s concerns around limited landfill space and the disposable user’s concerns around energy usage?
This year, I’ve had the pleasure of working on the PopTech Ecomaterials Innovation Lab, whose goal is to foster breakthroughs in next generation ecological materials, industrial processes and critically, beginning to identify the steps, from effecting a change in consumer behavior to governmental policy, necessary to accelerate their adoption. The Lab is kicking off this summer with a three day working session. In my hunt for participants, I’ve had the opportunity to interview an incredible cross section of experts in relevant fields from green chemists and materials experts to industrial ecologists, designers and behavioral scientists to name just a few.
A couple of random yet staggering facts I gleaned from my conversations and research:
- If you were to close Sweden’s borders to any new shipments of clothing, their current stock would clothe the population for approximately15 years.
- The world consumes 67 million tons of natural and synthetic fibers annually.
- 75-80% of your clothing’s lifecycle impact comes from laundering.
And here I thought I was doing so well with my ongoing moratorium on new outfits while I was chucking clothes into the wash that were essentially barely worn.
These discussions have not only taught me a tremendous amount, they have helped me think differently about the challenges at hand such as defining what is truly green, splendidly illustrated by the fact that one industrial ecologist opted for cloth diapers while the other chose disposable. They made me realize I need to reconsider what is deemed acceptable behavior and initiate these conversations with others.
We at PopTech are incredibly excited to embark on this journey and hope you will join us. To be kept informed about the Lab and its progress, please email us at labs [at] poptech [dot] org.
As I reflect on another year gone by, what I am realizing now is that Earth Day is not just about caring for the planet but those who inhabit it. The choices we make have far reaching impacts over space, time and species. As I mentioned earlier, change is one of the hardest things and personally, putting a face to who is and will be impacted is a big help. So here are a few faces worth changing for:
CC image from Flickr user randomwire.
CC image by Flickr user Mishimoto
CC image from Flickr user prolix6x.
Image courtesy of the author.
Editor’s note: For more on the the FLAP portable solar bag, please see the FLAP FAQ page.
Back in November, we sent a number of FLAPs (Flexible Light And Power solar bags) to be tested by Maison de Naissance’s mobile health care workers. When the devastating earthquake struck, we reached out to Maison de Naissance’s staff to see if they could use additional FLAPs. With the enormous number of people displaced, Robin Johnson from Maison said they would be delighted to receive any additional FLAPs and distribute them to the displaced of Haiti.
Once we knew the FLAPs were needed, we were faced with the logistics challenge of transporting them to Port-Au-Prince. We owe a big thanks to Honeywell for providing cargo space in its business jets to transport supplies and Partners in Health medical staff. Honeywell, with the support of its employees has also committed $1 Million in cash to the Haiti Earthquake Relief Efforts.
PopTech staffer Cordelia Newlin de Rojas with FLAP bags packed for Haiti.
Much help is still needed in Haiti. We urge the PopTech community to donate urgently required funds to the many outstanding organizations such as Partners in Health and the Red Cross who are providing critical support to Haitians in need.
The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists have spoken and the verdict is: 1 minute of respite.
Launched in 1947 by scientists involved in the Manhattan Project, the Doomsday clock has only been changed 18 times since its inception. The last change occurred back in January of 2007, when it was moved 2 minutes forward from seven minutes to 5 minutes before midnight.
Today we stand 6 minutes away from catastrophic destruction.
During the announcement, panelists shared some hair-raising numbers:
- In a world where 1 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day and a child dies every 6 seconds, the world spends $1464 billion on military expenditures in a single year, $90 billion of which is spent on nuclear weapons programs.
- 9 countries have a total of 23,300 nuclear weapons.
- 8,393 of those are deployed on alert status.
- And using 0.03% of the weapons would cause catastrophic climate change.
The key concerns are nuclear proliferation and war, climate change, and biosecurity—though only the first two were referred to during the announcement. While we are still in a precarious state, it is believed that recent intentions by global leaders including restarting talks on arms reductions and securing fissile materials as well as globally addressing GHG (Greenhouse Gas) emissions are a move in the right direction. But this move is only indicative of a change in attitude and for a more substantial shift; we need to see action.
We are reminded of Einstein’s words, spoken 65 years ago, after the one and only time nuclear bombs were used in war; “Everything has changed, save the way we think.”
Here’s to hoping this minute back is truly a sign of a change in the way we are thinking.
Editor’s note: PopTech staff Coco Rojas gives an update on the FLAP (Flexible Light And Power) solar bag project and who is helping us test it right now below—FLAP is a collaborative effort from PopTech, Timbuk2, and Portable Light Project. You can find out more about the project’s history and field work on the FLAP FAQ page (including how to order the bag) and join the FLAP project on our community site, the Hub.
FLAP received a tremendous response at the PopTech 2009 conference, and we are incredibly grateful to all the PopTech’ers who offered to help field test the bag. (Let us know in the comments or tweet @poptech if you would like to help too.)
We will continue to post findings and footage on this blog and on our Web site. For those of you would like to get more involved in the project, you can visit PopTech’s FLAP project page on the PopTech Hub, our social network and collaboration space.
I’ll see you there!