Nest Thermostat's True Value: Social

Nest Labs has released the Nest Learning Thermostat 2.0 nearly a year after 1.0 was released. As Nest continues to innovate in the smart, green thermostat space, marketing and perceived value has always tended towards: how much money does this save me? However, after one year of data collection by Nest, the deeper value in Nest is its social and aggregate value.

Nest is able to collect data on energy use and energy savings (read their stats here and download the whitepaper) Nest translates that into a monetary figure for average money saved. What is really exciting about Nest is its sociological implications for connected, networked based energy production, consumption, and data collection. As Nest Labs continues to collect user data we will begin to learn how people use energy and how we can improve energy efficiency and overall reduction. 

Nest Labs markets the Nest as, how we can save you money, but the larger, sociological implications of networked and data producing energy devices is Nest's real social value. And that is more exciting, and in the long run, more important than personal savings.

Energy Democracy

I won't give away David Roberts' punchline, read the article, but I'll start you with this:

Just as a cleaner electricity system would be preferable, so too would a more small-d democratic system, one that distributes economic and social power more widely.

Organic: It's never been about nutrition

Organic agriculture is been about the elimination of pesticides, herbicides, growth hormones, and monoculture.

There is a new meta-analysis (aggregate of other scientists' studies) out from scientists at Stanford that the New York Times and others are running, which states that there are no nutritional benefits of organic produce and meats. Problem with the headlines: no serious proponent of organic produce and meats, and organic farming in general, was saying that the products were more nutritious. This always bugged me when I saw people, proponents or opponents, making this claim.

Organic agriculture has always been about rejecting pesticides, hormones, and industrial farming techniques (large inputs and monoculture), not about how the produce was more nutritious. 

Honeywell Killed Off its Learning Thermostat 20 Years Ago

I missed this one:

Katie Fahrenbacher, writing for GigaOM back in February, reported that, according to Honeywell, the company "found that consumers prefer to control the thermostat, rather than being controlled by the thermostat” and decided to cease development. Twenty years later, however, Nest Labs entered the thermostat market with in 2011 with a learning thermostat, one that requires no programming or fiddling to save money and energy use.

This past year, the Nest has gotten huge press and great reviews. Subsequently, Honeywell has sued Nest over the Nest Learning Thermostat, claiming it violated a string of patents. Interestingly, technology writer and iOS developer, Marco Arment has dinged the Nest for having weak programming abilities, a downside according to Arment of a learning thermostat, though Arment generally likes the Nest in other areas.

For the past year Nest has been a great case to watch as it attempts to disrupt the thermostat industry and points to the potential to connect internet technology and energy use and reduction. 

A Choice

President Obama signed an Executive Order "Accelerating Investment in Industrial Energy Efficiency", which comes on the heals of new improved car fuel efficiency standars for 2025

Meanwhile, Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney turned climate change into a punch line during his acceptance speech as the RNC:

Obama has been pretty good about promoting new energy sources, green tech, and efficiency, not so good on climate change however. Romney, on the other hand, represents old, dirty energy production. Gas, coal, oil. No eye for the future, whether new energy sources or climate change.

Carl Sagan's message to future explorers

Before he passed away Sagan recorded a message to future explorers of the cosmos, solar system, and Earth. Here is a snippet that went around the internet the other day after NASA successfully landed the rover Curiosity:

maybe we're on Mars because of the magnificent science that can be done there - the gates of the wonder world are opening in our time. Maybe we're on Mars because we have to be, because there's a deep nomadic impulse built into us by the evolutionary process, we come after all, from hunter gatherers, and for 99.9% of our tenure on Earth we've been wanderers. And, the next place to wander to, is Mars. But whatever the reason you're on Mars is, I'm glad you're there. And I wish I was with you.

Sagan, we wish you were with us.

Hottest month, ever, in the USA

I recently returned from a cold, rainy vacation to Souther Germany, now I'm roasting in the CA sun, which is actaully not on the charts for records. It's just hot here in Northern CA. Other parts of the country are roasting and in drought.

Check out the charts Grist has assembled.  

 

 

Welcome to 3991 C.E. aka hell

I love this Reddit post: Lycerious has been playing Sid Meier's Civilization II for 10 years (not everyday) and has ended up in a nightmarish, apocalyptic world of perpetual nuclear and conventional war, global warming with oceans covering most of the land, only three mega empires left, and the remaining land is devastated and cannot support agriculture or urban civilization.

Highlights:

I was forced to do away with democracy roughly a thousand years ago because it was endangering my empire.

You've heard of the 100 year war? Try the 1700 year war. The three remaining nations have been locked in an eternal death struggle for almost 2000 years. Peace seems to be impossible. Every time a cease fire is signed, the Vikings will surprise attack me or the Americans the very next turn, often with nuclear weapons.

As a result, big cities are a thing of the distant past. Roughly 90% of the worlds population (at it's peak 2000 years ago) has died either from nuclear annihilation or famine caused by the global warming that has left absolutely zero arable land to farm. Engineers (late game worker units) are always busy continuously building roads so that new armies can reach the front lines. Roads that are destroyed the very next turn when the enemy goes. So there isn't any time to clear swamps or clean up the nuclear fallout. 

Climate Change, a Killer of an Ancient Civilization

Albeit, this was not human induced climate change, but nonetheless, evidence points to the collapse of the urbanized Indus civilization (Harappans) due to changes in the climate. Charles Choi reports, 

Eventually, over the course of centuries, Harappans apparently fled along an escape route to the east toward the Ganges basin, where monsoon rains remained reliable.

This change would have spelled disaster for the cities of the Indus, which were built on the large surpluses seen during the earlier, wetter era. The dispersal of the population to the east would have meant there was no longer a concentrated workforce to support urbanism.

Jarred Diamond uses these as cautionary tales for our own civilization(s), but I'm not convinced of the similarities and the fruitfulness of the comparison between global society now and the relatively isolated civilizations of millennia ago. However, one thing humans never seem to remember is that nothing is stable, and that the current condition, whether political, economic, or socio-natural, is ever changing. We tend to think the way it is for us, is the way it will be forever. Not so.

The Global Conspiracy

Bill to ban sustainability action fails in Arizona, reports Maria Gallucci at Inside Climate News

Sometimes geographic uneven development is a political and cultural decision. Arizona and the other states that are attempting to block renewable energy money and investment are feeding uneven development in the US. How? Some states will benefit from these developments (West and North East, Texas), while other states will be cut out of future rewards, and hence fall behind. Uneven development. It's very short sighted, and a dangerous politics. At least it failed this time.

Union of Concerned Scientists: Reduce transport, home, food energy and CO2 output

In my research on energy use and CO2 emissions the evidence is quite clear that in the US and other late stage industrial nations an energy transition began about 30 years ago in which home energy and transportation consume more energy and release more CO2 than industry and manufacturing. So yes, we should be attempting to decrease home and transport energy use at the mid to high end of socio-economic brackets. Not necessarily an everybody for themselves, individualist approach, but through other means of aggregation (policy, home and transport industry practices, etc). 

The Anthropocene is older than you think

Interesting article about how early humans may have caused species decline in large mammalian carnivores in Africa 2 million years ago. If true, and coupled with research on pre-industrial and pre-agricultural or small scale agrarian societies and their effects on local and regional biomes, it suggests that humans began shaping new ecological relations long before industrialization began in the past two hundred years. For sure, the rate and scale of change accelerated in the past two hundred years, but the trajectory of human history is one of changing the environment for our advantage. The idea of pristine nature for which we can return continues to lose credibility.

The Pathways of Human Civilization

Cool video that depicts the interconnected cities around the world, connected by roads, highways, railways, and shipping lanes. We are approaching a planetary civilization, however, look for the dark areas and the parts of the earth that are NOT connected.

'Welcome to the Anthropocene' Earth Animation from Globaïa on Vimeo.

Think tank warns of turbulent outlook for US renewable energy industry

The recent rapid expansion of the US renewable energy sector could be thrown into reverse unless policy makers take urgent steps to reform subsidy regimes which have delivered a cycle of "boom and bust" that could yet result in a "clean tech crash".

The real problem for nascent markets: being crushed by the incumbent market. In this case, the fossil fuel industry, and all the subsidies, direct and indirect, that the incumbents receive from the government.