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Hurricane Sandy brought this blackout to Lower Manhattan in October 2012. Unless Britain's nuclear power stations perform implausibly well this winter, we could well be sharing the experience. Photo: Reeve Jolliffe via Flickr.

UK faces serious blackout risk this winter - National Grid's rosy forecast fails reality test

Chris Goodall

31st October 2014

The National Grid's forecast for UK power supply this winter relies on overstating the availability of increasingly unreliable nuclear power stations, writes Chris Goodall. More realistic estimates of nuclear, gas and coal power station availability shrink the 'safety margin' to zero. Even a typical winter will bring the UK far closer to power cuts than the company admits. more...
An artist's impression of the Searaser at work. Photo: DWE Ltd.

New wave generator brightens ocean power prospects

The Ecologist

27th October 2014

A new wave power generator has moved closer to reality after successful testing in simulated marine conditions. An array of the 1.5MW 'Searaser' devices could be deployed on Britain's coast within a few years. more...
Hinkley C is 'unconstructable', says a distinguished nuclear engineer - 'like building a cathedral within a cathedral'. Artist's impression of the completed nuclear power station by EDF.

'Unconstructable' Hinkley C could end UK's nuclear dream

Chris Goodall

30th October 2014

Opponents of nuclear power hold up the planned Hinkley C as an examplar of waste and idiocy that could cost the UK over £30 billion in subsidies. Chris Goodall agrees - and fears that an impending fiasco with the 'unconstructable' and commercially disastrous EPR design may kill off the UK's nuclear aspirations for a generation. more...
The answer to Earth's energy needs is floating in the skies above. Photo: Conceptual Image Lab, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. Earth photo courtesy of NASA/ISS Expedition 13 crew.

The Burning Answer to our energy needs

Jonathon Porritt

29th October 2014

Keith Barnham's new book reveals the giddying and glorious plethora of the solar technologies that lie at the heart of the all-renewable energy system that awaits us, writes Jonathan Porritt - making it 'one of the most exciting and genuinely hopeful books' that I've read in a long time'. more...
This 62.5 MW Experimental Breeder Reactor (EBR-II) at the Argonne National Laboratory (USA) was built in 1965 and closed in 1994 due to its abysmal economics and proliferation concerns. The design is the basis of the PRISM and Integral Fast Reactors being

'New' reactor types are all nuclear pie in the sky

Jim Green

2nd October 2014

There's an Alice in Wonderland flavour to the nuclear power debate, writes Jim Green. Lobbyists are promoting all sorts of new reactor types - an implicit admission that existing reactors aren't up to the job. But the designs they are promoting have two severe problems. They don't exist. And they have no customers. more...
Rewilding - how far do we want to go? A Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos ssp.) mother with two two-year old cubs in Denali National Park. Photo: Gregory 'Greg' Smith via Flickr.

Five ways to stop the world's wildlife vanishing

Paul Jepson

1st October 2014

Faced with a worldwide 52% decline in wildlife numbers over 40 years, Paul Jepson calls for action, not despondency. A new, inclusive vision of how to conserve and rebuild biodiversity is needed - that embraces diverse solutions, engages new technologies, inspires a new generation of leaders, and echoes the call of the wild. more...
The end of fossil fuel emissions is not the end of global warming! Florida Power & Light's smokestacks come down at Riviera Beach. Photo: Kim Seng via Flickr.

The end of fossil fuels is not the end of global warming

Andrew Lockley

17th September 2014

Of course we must quit burning fossil fuels and welcome a renewable future, writes Andrew Lockley. But that's not going to stop the Earth from warming, indeed the reverse. So ... we need some tricks up our sleeve to deal with it - in a word, geoengineering. Because it will save our lives, and our planet. more...
Chile's Lascar volano in eruption. Some geoengineering techniques would imitate the cooling effect of volcanic dust to reduce global warming. Photo: Neil via Flickr.

Geoengineering - the 'declaration' that never was may cause real harm

Andrew Lockley

28th August 2014

It was a great story, writes Andrew Lockley - scientists signing up to a 'Berlin Declaration' imposing an effective 'test ban' on outdoor geoengineering experiments. Except there was no declaration, and scientists never agreed to it. The world's media got it completely wrong, yet the mud will stick - and may cause severe harm in the fight against climate change. more...
A pile of waste at Aglogbloshie. Photo: qamp.net via Flickr.

On-line activism - from surveillance to ecological footprint

Paul Mobbs

15th August 2014

Campaigning has never been so easy - sign an Avaaz petition here, send an email there ... and the world is soon put to rights, no? No, writes Paul Mobbs. We must examine the impacts and implications of our e-life, from climate change to corporate dominance, and take control of the technologies we increasingly depend on. more...
With batteries and a local microgrid, this PV-powered house near Boston, Massachusetts, could eliminate its dependence on grid-supplied power. Photo: Gray Watson (256.com/solar) / Wikimedia Commons.

For the next energy revolution, we must deregulate power grids

Bill Watkins

14th August 2014

How do we spur more microgrids powered by renewable energy? Deregulate, writes Bill Watkins, ending the monopolies enjoyed by centralized energy companies. The alternative is to keep consumers and micro-generators stuck with the energy equivalent of the 'Princess' phone. more...
Colorful Heirloom Potatoes - 'Carola', 'All Red', 'All Blue', and 'Purple Viking' - collection  from Seed Savers. Photo: Susy Morris via Flickr.

Building an International Seed Savers Exchange

Andrew Kimbrell / Center for Food Safety

19th July 2014

Recent decades have seen a hardening global clampdown on the rights of farmers to use, save, develop, share, swap and distribute the seeds that produce the food we all eat, writes Andrew Kimbrell - and which constitute an essential common heritage of mankind. Here's his plan to fight back against the seed monopolists ... more...
Vandana Shiva leads a protest in India against Monsanto's GM seeds. Now she's on the warpath against Avaaz. Photo: Daniel Voglesong via Flickr.

Avaaz's global 'ebay of seeds' - how did they get it so wrong?

Julian Rose

16th July 2014

Already 56,000 people have pledged to support a global 'internet seed swap' initiative promoted by Avaaz, writes Julian Rose. Trouble is, the plans are deeply flawed, and have been developed without consultation with major seed saving groups worldwide. more...

Technology: 1/25 of 297
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Synthetic biology in your cleaning products? Image: ETC Group.

Synthetic biology - Ecover must come clean

Jim Thomas

16th July 2014

Following The Ecologist's revelation about Ecover's use of synthetic biology to make laundry detergent, the company has put its trials on hold, writes Jim Thomas. But to regain public trust, the company must re-engage honestly with its critics, and its customers. more...
Smartphone tracking device ready for installing high in the forest canopy. Photo: Rainforest Connection (RFCx).

Recycled phones drive new wildlife protection technology

Alex Kirby

7th July 2014

Networks of recycled smartphones are powering a crack down on illegal logging and poaching, writes Alex Kirby. The technology will help combat devastation of trees and wildlife in threatened habitats worldwide - beginning with Africa. more...
Smart new power electronics can keep the lights on, without the need for turbines and flywheels. Photo: Loupiote via Flickr.

Fear of blackouts is no reason to restrict renewable energy

Marek Kubik

13th July 2014

Our current electricity system cannot accept much wind and solar power because they lack the 'inertia' of spinning turbines that stabilises grid voltage, writes Marek Kubik. But that's no reason to limit renewables - there are new, smart solutions ready for deployment. more...
Nuclear submarines already have 'small modular reactors'. So if they're so cheap, safe and efficient, why aren't they already in civilian use? Photo: HMS Ambush by UK Ministry of Defence via Flickr.

Nuclear power - small isn't beautiful, safe, or cheap

Justin McKeating / Greenpeace

22nd June 2014

Nuclear power is neither beautiful, nor safe, nor cheap, writes Justin Keating - a message to the United States, where the Obama administration has pledged to waste over $200 million financing the 'Small Modular Reactor' (SMR). more...
Other ways humanity could end are more subtle - but nuclear war still presents the greatest threat to human survival. United States Department of Energy, CC BY.

The five biggest threats to human existence

Anders Sandberg

31st May 2014

Humanity has always lived under the threat of extinction, writes Anders Sandberg. Now we have reduced some of the dangers - but created new ones of our own. And right now, it's the anthropogenic threats that look the scariest ... more...
Horse chestnut leaves and fruits in autumn. A drawing for The New Sylva by Sarah Simblet.

The New Sylva - a celebration of Britain's trees

Colin Tudge

30th May 2014

The New Sylva is a worthy successor to John Evelyn's original of 1644, writes Colin Tudge, with superb line drawings and a text that looks more to the future of Britain's trees, than their past. A book for ladies, gentlemen, 'meer woodsmen' and 'ordinary rusticks' alike. more...
Can we talk about climate change now? Flooded Oxford residents take to the streets. Among their problems, sewage contamination of flood waters and non-flushing toilets. Photo: Adam Ramsay.

UK winter floods - more to come with hotter oceans

Simon Redfern

4th May 2014

A massive citizen-powered climate simulation conclusively links the UK's winter floods to global warming, writes Simon Redfern. Over 33,000 climate models running in 'screen saver' mode show a powerful connection between hotter oceans and UK rainfall. more...
Synthetic biology for everybody? What a wonderful world that would be ... at a lecture by Dr. Manuel Selg, Photo: Martin Hieslmair / Ars Electronica via Flickr.com.

It's time to get a grip on technology!

David King

12th April 2014

The issues surrounding powerful new technologies from GMOs to nuclear power appear disparate, writes David King - but look harder and most are linked by common threads. Key among them are issues of profit, control and socialisation of cost ... more...

What's the beef?

Tom Levitt

1 April 2014

Lab-grown meat could solve the environmental and ethical problems of industrial agriculture. But will anyone want to eat it? more...
Packaged food in a supermarket in Kamakura, Japan. Photo: Todd Mecklem via Flickr.com.

The chemical dangers in food packaging

Jo Adetunji

1st March 2014

The long-term effects of synthetic chemicals used in packaging, food storage and processing food could be damaging our health, scientists have warned. Jo Adetunji reports. more...
Daniel Hahn with his sexually invigorated but sterile male flies.

Pesticide-free fly control breakthrough

The Ecologist

27th February 2014

A new discovery will make a pesticide-free means of protection against fruit flies and other damaging pests cheaper and more effective. more...

Saved by Technology?

Tony Juniper

3rd January 2014

The World We Made by Jonathon Porritt takes us on an optimistic journey to 2050 via some unexpected routes more...

The Carbon Credentials of Smartphones

David Thomas

This month we see the arrival of the new iPhone. Surely the world's most desired gadget. How should we judge its carbon credentials? more...

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