Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘Nation of Change’

A Smart Home

UC Davis and Honda Unveil a Smart Home for a Zero-carbon Future
by Brandon Baker
Eco Watch & Nation of Change
3 April 2014

Honda and the University of California, Davis aren’t particularly known for constructing homes, but an ambitious project places the two entities at the forefront of designing homes capable of producing more renewable energy than they consume.

They began constructing the Honda Smart Home last spring and unveiled it less than a year later on the West Village campus of UC Davis.

homezerocarbonfuture4314

While homes and cars in the U.S. account for about 44 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, the Smart Home is expected to generate a surplus of 2.6 megawatt-hours (Mwh) of energy per year, some of which will be used to power the Honda Fit electric vehicle (EV) that comes with it. A soon-to-be-selected member of the UC Davis community will reside at the home as researchers from the company and college observe the production and consumption associated with their vision for net-zero energy living and transportation.

“What we’re trying to do here is create a vision for zero-carbon living and personal mobility,” said Michael Koenig, project leader for the Honda Smart Home.

With advanced lighting, geothermal heating and cool and a 9.5 kilowatt solar photovoltaic system, the Smart Home’s design will use less than half of the energy a similarly sized new home in Davis would when it comes to heating, cooling and lighting. It’s also three times more water-efficient than the average U.S. home. Honda and UC Davis will work with Pacific Gas and Electric Co. in evaluating the home as well as the potential for more efficient technologies that positively impacting housing, transportation, energy and the environment.

“In West Village, UC Davis made a commitment to build zero net energy housing and gave our research center the goal of creating the first university hub to focus and energy and transportation research,” said Dan Sperling, Ph.D., director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis. “Honda Smart Home is a dynamic environment that will help the university meet its research objectives and is a perfect example of the industry partnerships we strive to build.”

The 2.6 Mwh surplus per year, compared to about 13.3 Mwh for the average home represents a net offset of nearly 13,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per year, according to Honda. Researchers say the excess energy will anticipate possible future increases in energy needs like additional inhabitants or more EVs in a household.

As for water efficiency, the Smart Home contains dual-flush toilets, low-flow sink and shower faucets and a high-efficiency dishwashing machine and dishwasher. Those utilities should bring down the water consumption of the average home, which typically uses 27 percent of its water consumption on a toilet by itself.

Read entire article and more at NATION OF CHANGE

More Guns, More Murder

Largest Gun Study Ever: More Guns, More Murder
by Zack Beauchamp
From Think Progress/Nation of Change
14 September 2013

The largest study of gun violence in the United States, released Thursday afternoon, confirms a point that should be obvious: widespread American gun ownership is fueling America’s gun violence epidemic.

LargestGunStudy091413

The study, by Professor Michael Siegel at Boston University and two coauthors, has been peer-reviewed and is forthcoming in the American Journal of Public Health. Siegel and his colleagues compiled data on firearm homicides from all 50 states from 1981-2010, the longest stretch of time ever studied in this fashion, and set about seeing whether they could find any relationship between changes in gun ownership and murder using guns over time.

Since we know that violent crime rates overall declined during that period of time, the authors used something called “fixed effect regression” to account for any national trend other than changes in gun ownership. They also employed the largest-ever number of statistical controls for other variables in this kind of gun study: “age, gender, race/ethnicity, urbanization, poverty, unemployment, income, education, income inequality, divorce rate, alcohol use, violent crime rate, nonviolent crime rate, hate crime rate, number of hunting licenses, age-adjusted nonfirearm homicide rate, incarceration rate, and suicide rate” were all accounted for.

No good data on national rates of gun ownership exist (partly because of the NRA’s stranglehold on Congress), so the authors used the percentage of suicides that involve a firearm (FS/S) as a proxy. The theory, backed up by a wealth of data, is that the more guns there are any in any one place, the higher the percentage of people who commit suicide with guns as opposed to other mechanisms will be.

With all this preliminary work in hand, the authors ran a series of regressions to see what effect the overall national decline in firearm ownership from 1981 to 2010 had on gun homicides. The result was staggering: “for each 1 percentage point increase in proportion of household gun ownership,” Siegel et al. found, “firearm homicide rate increased by 0.9″ percent. A one standard deviation change in firearm ownership shifted gun murders by a staggering 12.9 percent.

To put this in perspective, take the state of Mississippi. “All other factors being equal,” the authors write, “our model would predict that if the FS/S in Mississippi were 57.7% (the average for all states) instead of 76.8% (the highest of all states), its firearm homicide rate would be 17% lower.” Since 475 people were murdered with a gun in Mississippi in 2010, that drop in gun ownership would translate to 80 lives saved in that year alone.

Read complete article and more at Nation of Change.

Gay Adoption Advocate

From Nation of Change
16 April 2012

CNN Includes Gay Adoption Advocate in ‘Heros’ Series

CNN has named David Wing-Kovarik, who founded Families Like Ours to help gay and lesbian people adopt children from the foster system, as one of its Heroes of 2012. “I’m fighting for the right of that child to have that family,” Wing Kovarik says. “It’s why I keep doing it every single day.” Watch a short segment about his work:

http://www.nationofchange.org/cnn-includes-gay-adoption-advocate-heros-series-1334592700

Energy, Gas & Reality

From Nation of Change

The Energy Deficit
by Michael Spence

I have been surprised by the recent coverage in the American press of gasoline prices and politics. Political pundits agree that presidential approval ratings are highly correlated with gas prices: when prices go up, a president’s poll ratings go down. But, in view of America’s long history of neglect of energy security and resilience, the notion that Barack Obama’s administration is responsible for rising gas prices makes little sense.

Four decades have passed since the oil-price shocks of the 1970’s. We learned a lot from that experience. The short-run impact – as always occurs when oil prices rise quickly – was to reduce growth by reducing consumption of other goods, because oil consumption does not adjust as quickly as that of other goods and services.

But, given time, people can and do respond by lowering their consumption of oil. They buy more fuel-efficient cars and appliances, insulate their homes, and sometimes even use public transportation. The longer-run impact is thus different and much less negative. The more energy-efficient one is, the lower one’s vulnerability to price volatility.

“Follow Project Syndicate on Facebook or Twitter. For more from Michael Spence, click here.”

On the supply side, there is a similar difference between short-term and longer-run effects. In the short term, supply may be able to respond to the extent that there is reserve capacity (there isn’t much now). But the much larger, longer-run effect comes from increased oil exploration and extraction, owing to the incentive of higher prices.

All of this takes time, but, as it occurs, it mitigates the negative impact: the demand and supply curves shift in response to higher prices (or to anticipation of higher prices).

In terms of policy, there was a promising effort in the late 1970’s. Fuel-efficiency standards for automobiles were legislated, and car producers implemented them. In a more fragmented fashion, states established incentives for energy efficiency in residential and commercial buildings.

But then oil and gas prices (adjusted for inflation) entered a multi-decade period of decline. Policies targeting energy efficiency and security largely lapsed. Two generations came to think of declining oil prices as normal, which accounts for the current sense of entitlement, the outrage at rising prices, and the search for villains: politicians, oil-producing countries, and oil companies are all targets of scorn in public-opinion surveys.

A substantial failure of education about non-renewable natural resources lies in the background of current public sentiment. And now, having underinvested in energy efficiency and security when the costs of doing so were lower, America is poorly positioned to face the prospect of rising real prices. Energy policy has been “pro-cyclical” – the opposite of saving for a rainy day. Given the upward pressure on prices implied by rising emerging-market demand and the global economy’s rapid increase in size, that day has arrived.

Read entire article at Nation of Change.

Environmental Warrior

From Nation of Change and Yes! Magazine
by Madeline Ostrander

The Biggest Fight of Our Time

As one of the best-known writers on the world’s most dire environmental problem, climate change, Bill McKibben has long walked the razor’s edge between hope and fear. In 2010, he published Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, a sobering account of what climate change has already unleashed—the ways in which the places we live, the water, weather, seasons, ecosystems, and oceans are changing irrevocably. McKibben also founded 350.org, one of history’s largest and most ambitious political movements, uniting people around the world to fight climate change.

In this interview, YES! got personal with McKibben: Where does he find hope? What role does faith play for McKibben, a longtime Methodist Sunday school teacher? How does small-town Vermont, where the writer now lives, shape his ideas and activism? And what’s the best advice for anyone feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of what McKibben calls “the biggest fight of our time”—the fight to save the planet?

Madeline Ostrander interviewed Bill McKibben for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions for a just and sustainable world. Madeline is senior editor at YES!

Go to Nation of Change or Yes! Magazine to watch video.

Egyptian Blogger Speaks Out

From Nation of Change and Democracy Now
28 December 2011
Interview with Alaa Abdel Fattah

Democracy Now! speaks to Fattah about the Egyptian revolution’s ongoing struggle against the military regime and his ordeal in one of Egypt’s worst prisons.

Alaa Abdel Fattah, a prominent Egyptian revolutionary activist and blogger, has been released from prison after nearly two months behind bars. Fattah was ordered jailed by a military court on October 30 and summoned to face charges that included inciting violence — a charge he firmly denies. He refused to cooperate, rejecting the legitimacy of the military court who wanted to try him as a civilian. Democracy Now! speaks to Fattah about the Egyptian revolution’s ongoing struggle against the military regime and his ordeal in one of Egypt’s worst prisons, which prevented him from attending the birth of his first son. Fattah’s trial comes just as Egypt’s ousted leader, Hosni Mubarak, returns to a Cairo courtroom today to face charges over the deaths of 840 protesters during the uprising against his rule. “What comes next might be even tougher and even more difficult,” Fattah says, “but I don’t think that this revolution is going to end without really completely renegotiating the order of power in Egypt and across the Arab world.”

Read article and watch interview at Nation of Change.

Own Your Own Bank

From Nation of Change by Ellen Brown
Web of Deb/ Op-Ed
17 December 2011

The Way to Occupy a Bank is to Own One

The campaign to “move your money” has gotten a groundswell of support. Having greater impact would be to “move our money” — move our local government revenues out of Wall Street banks into our own publicly-owned banks.

Occupy Wall Street has been both criticized and applauded for not endorsing any official platform. But there are unofficial platforms, including one titled the 99% Declaration which calls for a “National General Assembly” to convene on July 4, 2012 in Philadelphia. The 99% Declaration seeks everything from reining in the corporate state to ending the Fed to eliminating censorship of the Internet. But none of these demands seems to go to the heart of what prompted Occupiers to camp out on Wall Street in the first place – a corrupt banking system that serves the 1% at the expense of the 99%. To redress that, we need a banking system that serves the 99%.

Occupy San Francisco has now endorsed a plan aimed at doing just that. In a December 1 Wall Street Journal article titled “Occupy Shocker: A Realistic, Actionable Idea,” David Weidner writes:

Protesters in the Bay Area, especially Occupy San Francisco, have something their East Coast neighbors don’t: a realistic plan aimed at the heart of banks. The idea could be expanded nationwide to send a message to a compromised Washington and the financial industry.

It’s called a municipal bank. Simply put, it would transfer the City of San Francisco’s bank accounts—about $2 billion now spread between such banks as Bank of America Corp., UnionBanCal Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co.—into a public bank. That bank would use small local banks to lend to the community.

The public bank concept is not new. It has been proposed before in San Francisco and has a successful 90-year track record in North Dakota. Weidner notes that the state-owned Bank of North Dakota earned taxpayers more than $61 million last year and reported a profit of $57 million in 2008, when Bank of America had a $1.2 billion net loss. The San Francisco bank proposal is sponsored by city supervisor John Avalos, who has been thinking about a municipal bank for several years.

Weidner calls the proposal “the boldest institutional stroke yet against banks targeted by the Occupy movement.”

Responding to the Critics

He acknowledges that it will be an uphill climb. In a follow-up article on December 6th, Weidner wrote:

Of course, there are critics. . . . They argue that public banks would put public money at risk. Would you be surprised to know that most of the critics are bankers?

That’s why you don’t hear them talking about the $100 billion they lost for the California pension funds in 2008. They don’t talk about the foreclosures that have wrought havoc on communities and tax revenues. They don’t talk about liar loans and what kind of impact that’s had on the economy, employment and the real estate market — not to mention local and state budgets.

Risk to the taxpayers remains the chief objection of banker opponents. “There is no need for such lending,” they say. “We already provide loans to any creditworthy applicant who comes to us. Why put taxpayer money at risk, lending for every crackpot scheme that some politician wants to waste taxpayer money on?”

Tom Hagan, who pays taxes in Maine, has a response to that argument. In a December 3rd letter to the editor in the Press Herald (Portland), he maintained there is no need to invest public bank money in risky retail ventures. The money could be saved for infrastructure projects, at least while the public banking model is being proven. The salubrious result could be to cut local infrastructure costs in half. Making his case in conjunction with a Maine turnpike project, he wrote:

Why does Maine pay double for turnpike improvements?

Improvements are funded by bonds issued by the Maine Turnpike Authority, which collects the principal amounts, then pays the bonds back with interest.

Over time, interest payments add up to about the original principal, doubling the cost of turnpike improvements and the tolls that must be collected to pay for them. The interest money is shipped out of state to Wall Street banks.

Why not keep the interest money here in Maine, to the benefit of all Mainers? This could be done by creating a state-owned bank. State funds now deposited in low- or no-interest checking accounts would instead be deposited in the state bank.

Those funds would be used to buy up the authority bonds and municipal bonds issued by the Maine Bond Bank. All of them. Since all interest payments would flow into the state treasury, we would end up paying half what we now pay for our roads, bridges and schools.

North Dakota has profited from a state-owned bank for 90 years. Why not Maine?

The state bank could generate “bank credit” on its books, as all chartered banks are authorized to do. This credit could then be used to buy the bonds. The government’s deposits would not be “spent” but would remain in the government’s account, as safe as they are in Bank of America—arguably more so, since the solvency of the public bank would be guaranteed by the local government.

Critics worry about the profligate risk-taking of politicians, but the trusty civil servants at the Bank of North Dakota insist that they are not politicians; they are bankers. Unlike the Wall Street banks that had to be bailed out by the taxpayers, the Bank of North Dakota invests conservatively. It avoided the derivatives and toxic mortgage-backed securities that precipitated the credit crisis, and it helped the state avoid the crisis by partnering with local banks, helping them with capital and liquidity requirements. As a result, the state has had no bank failures in at least a decade.

With intelligent use of the ever-evolving Internet, truly effective public oversight can minimize any cronyism. California’s pension funds might have avoided losing $100 billion if, instead of gambling in the Wall Street casino, they had invested in infrastructure through the state’s own state bank.

Read column at Nation of Change.

Tag Cloud