The Case for Compression

  • Biomes in Buildings

    We know too little about quality of life in an indoor environment to be confident that we can make it truly better. Nonetheless, imaginative ideas for buildings that inhale pollution and exhale clean air are being proposed. A coalition by the name of The Healthy Building Network is dubious of such claims. Many people and […]

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  • Bubbles of Trust

    Executives loved Francis Fukuyama’s 1995 book, Trust. It posited that broad social trust is necessary to form big corporations, complex economic systems, and innovative start-ups. People must quickly learn to trust strangers. However, that trust is thin. It’s over-lawyered with contracts and typified by the phrase “trust but verify.” A modern financial bubble is also […]

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  • Food Security

    Although obscure to most of us, the phrase “food security” is significant to those serious about global food. To them, food security denotes food adequate in quality as well as in quantity, or non-interrupted sources of nutrition on which humans can thrive, not just stay alive. Very few people today feed themselves entirely with food […]

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  • Soil Biodiversity and Glyphosate

    Of all the Jeremiads that environmentalists invoke, declining biodiversity is probably the easiest to see, because it is all around us, but hardest to fully comprehend. The notion that biodiversity is essential to ecosystem survival is hard to technically grasp, so environmental arguments too often degenerate into campaigns to save a cute critter threatened with […]

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  • EROI and Quality of Life

    EROI is becoming the standard acronym for energy returned on energy invested to obtain it. A rough consensus of those estimating EROI from various sources is about like the chart below. Different estimators’ calculations vary because a standard methodology is not settled. Despite that, the message is clear. As the world shifts toward energy sources […]

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  • Social Butterfly Effect

    This title is a mixed metaphor. Picture a social butterfly, flitting from person to person and group to group. Then picture the butterfly effect from chaos theory, “Can a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?” Are these connectable? Yes. What do they have to do with promoting effective action […]

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  • Honeybee Crisis

    Last winter, between 40 and 50% of U.S. honeybees disappeared in the worst season of colony collapse disorder (CCD) since it was first reported in 2006. For a day or so, this penetrated national news. Both beekeepers and growers of crops dependent on pollination (about 25% of items in an American diet) are deeply concerned. […]

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  • Egypt in Compression

    For the last two years, Egypt has been prominent in global political news, but that tends to bury deeper issues in the excitement of who’s in, who’s winning, and who’s not. Any Egyptian government will have to get beyond finger-pointing circuses to address long-term issues. Descended from a very old civilization, Egypt is a one-nation […]

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  • Explaining Risks

    The difficulties of explaining risk are the nub of the recent conviction on manslaughter changes of six Italian seismologists and a public official for inadequately forewarning the public of the L’Aquila earthquake in 2009: 309 fatalities, over 1500 injuries, and about 20,000 buildings destroyed. Seismologists classified the L’Aquila as a “moderate earthquake,” 6.3 Richter, but […]

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  • Food Risk

    Formal risk management has become common in large organizations. Risk management has become complex, standardized in ISO 31000, and meriting university degrees. Most risk assessment multiplies the consequences of an event times its probability to create a risk index. Managements can then choose to eliminate, mitigate, or accept each risk. This simplifies complex issues for […]

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  • Resolving Hydraulic Fracturing Uncertainties

    American prospects to displace coal and petroleum fuels have been boosted by natural gas from hydraulic fracturing. This “fracking boom” began when “slickwater “ fracturing made extracting gas from shale feasible in 1999. By 2005 thousands of fracking operations provoked vehement protests. Wikipedia’s page on hydraulic fracturing plus its talk page evidence fragmented and contentious […]

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