Thursday, March 31, 2011

Down the Foxhole - ActiveDen

Down the Foxhole - ActiveDen

Link to Envato Notes

Activetuts+ Embraces Unity

Posted: 31 Mar 2011 03:35 AM PDT

Some months ago we announced that ActiveDen started selling Unity assets—Unity prefabs, game starter kits, scripts, and anything else you might need to create a game.

Now Activetuts are getting in on the action. They have started a new series of tutorials geared towards helping you learn Unity 3d!

The first of these is called Getting Started with Unity. It takes you through the basics of the IDE as well as shows you, step by step, how to create your first terrain.

There’s another that teaches you how to pause, go in slow motion, speed up, and generally manipulate time in Unity. These Unity tutorials are great for anyone wanting to learn the program and there are a whole lot more on the way ranging from beginner to advanced!

Do you want to learn Unity? Visit Activetuts’ new Unity category today!

RIA Radio and Envato are Joining Forces

Posted: 31 Mar 2011 12:15 AM PDT

If you’re not already familiar with RIA Radio, then I would highly recommend that you check ‘em out. It’s a fantastic podcast run by Garth Braithwaite, Stacey Mulchay (bitchWhoCodes), Leif Wells, and Zach Stepek all about the Flash and development community. If you’ve been to many Flash conferences, you’ve probably seen them podcasting live from the event.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Garth the other day and we got talking. Here’s a paraphrased version of how the conversation went:

RIA Radio is all about improving the community through open discussion and Envato is all about improving community by helping devs learn and make money – our companies should be intimate friends.

And so we are; Envato and RIA Radio are teaming up. Listen to the podcast below for a few more details and an interview with me, Lance Snider. More exciting info on this front to come!

Your Say: Do you keep a journal?

Posted: 30 Mar 2011 05:02 PM PDT

Journal by CFleenor

We want to hear from you. Each week we give you a chance to share your thoughts, opinions and ideas. Have your say!

Do you keep a journal? Tell us about it. Ideas for the future or experiences from the past? Business or pleasure? Paper or electronic? How often do you write in it?

Latest From : CleanTechnica

Latest From : CleanTechnica

New Book on Link Between Climate Change and Human Health (You Can Win It)

Posted: 31 Mar 2011 06:03 AM PDT

changing planet changing health

Last month, we covered an epic new study by Dr. Paul Epstein, the Director of Harvard Medical School Center for Health and the Global Environment, and eleven other co-authors on the human health effects of coal and how much it is costing us in the United States.

The study, "Full Cost Accounting for the Life Cycle of Coal," was the first to track the multiple human health and environmental impacts of coal from mining, electricity production, unused waste, and more. The result: coal is costing U.S. citizens up to $500,000 in health costs.

Now, Dr. Epstein and award-winning science journalist Dan Ferber have a new book out on a similar but even bigger topic, the health impacts of climate changeChanging Planet, Changing Health: How the Climate Crisis Threatens Our Health and What We Can Do about It.

The book, which is to be published on April 4 by the University of California Press, covers critical topics most probably don’t even consider when they think about climate change as well as solutions to it. It has already received some tremendous acclaim from leaders in this field.

Praise for Changing Planet, Changing Health

“You’ll never find a clearer or smarter explanation of one of the toughest problems the world faces as the Holocene ebbs and the warming era begins,” says Bill McKibben, who was named “the nation’s leading environmentalist” by the Boston Globe in 2010 and has numerous big achievements to his name.

Changing Planet, Changing Health is a landmark book that will raise our consciousness about how we should respond to a growing emergency and save lives," Al Gore says.

What Changing Planet, Changing Health Covers

The book explains how global warming is linked to cholera, malaria, Lyme disease, asthma, and other major health threats. It connects cutting-edge scientific and medical information with the true stories of people around the world in easy-to-read English.

The book also offers numerous sustainable solutions that would not only benefit human health and the environment, but would also help address other critical problems like fuel shortages, rising food costs, and financial instability.

You Can Win the Book!

We are hosting a book giveaway here on CleanTechnica. Here’s how you can enter to win: do one or more of the following (for each thing you do, you get your name in the hat) and let us know that you did so with a separate comment for each thing you do (we pick the winners by the comment number):

  1. Like or Share this post on Facebook.
  2. Tweet this post or share it in some other way.
  3. Like CleanTechnica on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.
  4. Subscribe to our RSS feed or daily emails (on the right side of this page).
  5. Comment below on what you think are the best solutions to climate change.

Weird Biodegradable Plastic Made from Cow Bones

Posted: 31 Mar 2011 04:29 AM PDT

scientist create biodegradable plastc from cattle bone mealAs the U.S. population grows, so does the number of cattle, and that in turn is giving rise to one heck of big, strange waste disposal problem. At least one cattle carcass recycling method that was used in the past is no longer available in this country, so billions of pounds of waste meat and bone have been classified as fit only for disposal, contributing to overburdened landfills. Now a team of scientists at Clemson University have come up with a way to recycle at least part of the mess by converting cattle bone meal into bioplastic.

The Cattle Carcass Conundrum

Until a couple of years ago, cattle carcasses were routinely ground up and used to make food for domesticated animals, including pets. Then Mad Cow Disease happened in the U.K. The lethal disease can be spread by ingesting certain parts of infected cattle. In order to prevent mass infection in the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration classified certain cattle parts and whole carcasses of older cattle as “cattle material prohibited in animal feed.” As cattle herds cycle out of the age limit, the sheer bulk of the problem will diminish, but that still leaves a lot of ongoing waste, in addition to waste spikes that may arise if and when other diseases appear.

Bioplastic from Bone Meal

The Clemson team used a combination of meat and bone meal to engineer a bioplastic, using a process that has the added advantage of deactivating the infectious agent that causes bovine spongiform encephalopathy, aka Mad Cow Disease. They also found that the new bioplastic can be mixed with an ultra-durable form of polyethylene plastic, without significantly weakening the characteristics of the polyethylene. This gives rise to the possibility that one day in the future, high-durability products such as skis and snowboards may be some day include a bit of bone meal.

What Good is a Partly Biodegradable Plastic?

All things being equal, a material that is part bioplastic, part conventional plastic is not a particularly sustainable solution. However, as a transitional material, the new bone meal plastic can at least help reduce the need for petroleum feedstock to manufacture a wide variety of items, including ones that call for durability. Biodegradable car parts are on the rise, for example, not only from vegetable matter but also from at least animal-derived source, chicken feathers.

Image: Cattle skull by Tom Hilton on

BPA Formalizing Plans to Curtail Excess Wind Energy in Oversupply

Posted: 30 Mar 2011 05:19 PM PDT

Washington State’s Bonneville Power Administration has filed a request to curtail wind generators without payment when there is surplus power on the grid from hydro and wind, according to a report by Mark Ohrenschall at Energy Prospects.

The newly announced plan is proving controversial with wind developers, unsurprisingly. A New York Times article last month estimated that wind generators could lose as much as $50 million per year under worst-case conditions of excess generation and limited transmission capacity to export power out of the region.

Wind farm developer Iberdrola Renewables wrote that the status of wind developers “as relative newcomers to the region should not deprive them of all the rights embedded in law, policy and contracts when difficulties loom.”

“All the region’s interests and stakeholders should do more than cast a wary eye on Bonneville’s proposals in this proceeding — they should collectively repudiate this arbitrary, discriminatory, and illegal proposal,” Iberdrola said.

The Northwest & Intermountain Power Producers Coalition called the draft ROD “an avoidable, and presumably inadvertent, instance of blaming the victim.”

Numerous commenters said the policy would hinder regional wind development and lead to problems financing projects and achieving renewables portfolio standards. From this perspective, the policy also would conflict with federal and other policies encouraging new renewables, which BPA is obliged to follow.

BPA has had to shut down wind farms several times (most recently during a storm in June) as there was too much energy on the grid due to high river levels and high winds combined with low demand. Electricity has to be used immediately, and when there is more being put on the grid than is being taken off and used, it creates a problem.

Although extremely uneconomical for wind developers, it is easier to shut down a wind farm than hydro or most other energy supplies. Last year, a staggering total of 25 TWh of wind power had to be curtailed around the country.

BPA said it would be a last resort measure, only after all else fails to soak up the excess, including “bilateral marketing, maintenance deferrals, using available reservoir storage, reducing balancing reserves and lowering output at Columbia Generating Station” (a nuclear power plant).

Oddly, despite an inundation of innovation in storage technologies, BPA makes no mention of any way of storing the excess wind power as an alternative. Do they not read Cleantechnica?

Susan Kraemer@Twitter

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California Superior Court Rules With Environmentalists Favoring a Carbon Tax Instead of AB32′s Cap and Trade

Posted: 30 Mar 2011 02:24 PM PDT

Environmental justice groups who believe that a carbon tax will be more effective than cap and trade in lowering pollution sued and won in California’s lower court in February, and the case went to Superior Court in San Francisco.

Now a Superior Court judge has agreed that the California Air Resources Board (CARB) did not adequately review alternatives to cap and trade, halting implementation of AB32, due to begin next January. The Environmental Defense Fund, the Nature Conservancy and the Natural Resources Defense Council have backed the cap-and-trade approach as the more effective in lowering pollution.

Ruling in favor of the Association of Irritated Residents, based in the San Joaquin Valley, and Communities for A Better Environment and four other environmental justice groups, Judge Earnest Goldsmith wrote, CARB “could have, and should have used data from existing programs, studies and reports to analyze the potential impacts of various alternatives.”

However, this objection is fairly easily disproved. If there is one thing that environmental policy wonks excel at, it is undertaking copious research studies and documenting them.

Indeed, “We completed a robust and comprehensive examination of the alternatives to cap and trade with a 500-page environmental analysis that fully addresses the concerns the court raises,” said CARB representative Stanley Young, according to Energy Prospects. “We will rely on this analysis in responding to the court’s decision.”

In fact the cap and trade portion provides only one fifth of the measures in AB32 that move California into the new clean energy economy. Yet the ruling as it stands now, broadly prevents implementation of all the measures in the plan, including new building efficiency standards and low-carbon fuel regulations.

But, reassuringly, CARB Chairwoman Mary Nichols said returning to the scoping-plan process would amount to “a little bit more than a tempest in a teapot.”

“In reality it will have very little impact because the plan itself is not of any legal force,” she stated. “The cap-and-trade rule has already been adopted and in fact is already in effect.”

A cap and trade plan is superior to a carbon tax, for two reasons. Cap, and trade.

Only a cap caps pollution at a set limit, that steadily declines each year. By contrast, a tax merely makes pollution a more expensive activity, turning energy waste into a luxury for the rich, and polluter corporations are rich. So a tax does not limit pollution. Starting over, without the checks and balances of carefully written policy like the cap and trade plan, polluters can also just pass down the costs of a tax to the rest of us.

Secondly, only trade generates the auction funds that states can use to fund the rebates and efficiency measures that lower greenhouse gases. The ten Northeastern member states with RGGI cap and trade auctions have already generated almost three quarters of a billion dollars for investment in solar panel rebates and better boilers and insulation for its residents. RGGI has propelled tiny cloudy New Jersey to compete with huge sunny California in solar roof power generated.

The carbon tax is no alternative for another reason, too. In November, California voters inadvertently passed a cleverly worded voter referendum that now prevents new taxes on polluters – Prop 26.

Susan Kraemer@Twitter

Image: Artwork by Ann Duffy

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