Tuesday, April 2, 2013

This just in!

by Francesca Lyman
Well, don’t stop the presses: Annual Pew media survey reports woes for traditional media, a continuing rise in digital journalism; and a report on Entertainment news squeezing out Environmental coverage

What’s black and white, and read all over? Not newspapers, as the old children’s riddle once told us, nor traditional news media, according to the Pew Research Center’s annual report, State of the News Media,” out March 18th.

Analyzing the media industry’s economics, audience and viewership, and prospects by sector, the report details continuing rifts in the news media landscape, cuts particularly affecting newspapers, and an ongoing rise in digital media.
This may not be news to readers of Solaripedia, but most news consumers are unaware of these profound changes. Surprisingly, some 60 percent of Americans say they’re unaware of these trends, while 31 percent have stopped turning to news outlets they used to depend on.

Since last year, the newspaper industry has lost the most ground to rivals in the technology industry. The Center’s estimates for newsroom cutbacks in 2012 “put industry employment down 30% since its peak in 2000 and below 40,000 employees for the first time since 1978.” On cable TV, coverage of live events during the day, “which often requires a crew and correspondent, fell 30% from 2007 to 2012,” with interview segments up 31%.

In 2011, the center found, losses in print advertising dollars “outpaced gains in digital revenue by a factor of roughly 10 to 1, a ratio even worse than in 2010.” Their conclusion, when circulation and advertising revenue are combined, is that “the newspaper industry has shrunk 43% since 2000.” The result is a news industry understaffed and less prepared than ever to uncover stories or dig deep into emerging trends.

Nevertheless they found that news is becoming a more important and pervasive part of people’s daily lives. “That, in the end,” they wrote, “could prove a saving factor for the future of journalism.”

The brightest spot perhaps is that online news consumption rose sharply during the last two years, as digital platforms have spread. Online news was the only category of news that grew in the Pew Research Center’s 2012 News Media Consumption Survey.

Another journalism report earlier this year found particularly profound changes in news coverage  when it comes to environmental issues (science, health, climate and environmental policy).

Environmental Coverage in the Mainstream News: We Need More,” published in January 2013 by the Project for Improved Environmental Coverage (PIEC), a nonprofit organization, found that “on average, entertainment headlines get over three times more coverage than environmental stories for nationally prominent news organizations.”

The study found that environmental stories represent just 1% of news headlines in the US and that entertainment stories garner nearly three times more headlines. It also found that “for some news organizations, entertainment and crime garner twenty times and sixty times more coverage than the environment.
The project conducted a national poll in 2012 by the Opinion Research Corporation over the weekend of April 14–15, and found “seventy-nine percent of Americans believe news coverage of the environment should be improved.” Read More:http://greeningthemedia.org/wp-content/uploads/Environmental-Coverage-in-the-Mainstream-News.pdf

As the Columbia Journalism Review noted in examining the report, “Local newspapers were the only media group that paid more attention, on average, to the environment than to entertainment.”

How important is being informed, particularly on issues like the environment? Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

* Francesca Lyman is a Seattle-based freelance journalist and member of the Society of Environmental Journalists. She is the author of  The Greenhouse Trap (A World Resources Institute Guide to the Environment) and Managing Editor of Solaripedia.com.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Passive Solar Home Stuns in the Sun in New Zealand

For Te Kauwhata House, Solarei Architects of New Zealand designed a lot of thermal massing in the floors; the concrete floors act like re-chargeable batteries that use sunlight instead of electricity for heating. During the day, sunlight shines onto the concrete floor and the energy is then absorbed by the mass. When external temperatures begin to cool during the evening, heat is then released (or conducted) from the concrete slab. Concrete slabs are able to retain and release energy for several days when cloudy conditions persist.Te Kauwhata House in Waikato, New Zealand, is a three-bedroom, passive solar, energy efficient family home that utilizes green architecture principles -- it's passively self-heated during winter, self-cooled over summer and employs green materials throughout. The 2500 sq. ft. home is oriented due north to maximize solar gain and take full advantage of the low-angled winter sun. Power is provided by a 3.2 kW grid connected solar panel system. The house also collects rainwater for drinking. Materials include untreated Lawson Cyprus timber for exterior cladding, untreated macrocarpa timber for interior shelves and architraves (beams), natural bio-paints for the interior finishes, and wool/polyester composite insulation.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Manufacturing Returns to the US

An article by Charles Fishman in Atlantic Monthly magazine (DECEMBER 2012) describes a current trend to move manufacturing back to the United States; The Insourcing Boom reveals a more competitive way for the US to take back the reins on making things that is also more sustainable.


Take the GeoSpring water heater by General Electric (GE) as an example; its manufacturing was moved from a cheap Chinese factory to GE's expensive Appliance Park factory in Kentucky (see photo). With that change starting in 2010, material costs went down, labor costs to make it went down, quality went up and energy efficiency went up. And there's no longer the four-week transit on a slow boat from China that produces high carbon emissions from shipping. GE has beat the retail price of the China-produced water heater by about 20 percent by making it in the US. 

Following are a few reasons why the manufacturing move back to the US is working, not just for GE but for other companies, too:
  • Oil prices are three times what they were in 2000, making cargo-ship fuel much more expensive now than it was then.
  • The natural-gas boom in the U.S. has dramatically lowered the cost for running something as energy-intensive as a factory here at home. (Natural gas now costs four times as much in Asia as it does in the U.S.)
  • In dollars, wages in China are some five times what they were in 2000—and they are expected to keep rising 18 percent a year.
  • American unions are changing their priorities. The GeoSpring manufacturing plant worker's union at GE's Appliance Park was so fractious in the ’70s and ’80s that the place was known as “Strike City.” That same union agreed to a two-tier wage scale in 2005—and today, 70 percent of the jobs there are on the lower tier, which starts at just over $13.50 an hour, almost $8 less than what the starting wage used to be.
  • U.S. labor productivity has continued its long march upward, meaning that labor costs have become a smaller and smaller proportion of the total cost of finished goods. You simply can’t save much money chasing wages anymore.

Monday, February 18, 2013

EcoVillage Adds Passive House Neighborhood in Ithaca, NY, USA

EcoVillage, a sustainable living community located two miles outside of downtown Ithaca, New York, USA, has begun initial construction on its third and final neighborhood that will be constructed using state-of-the-art airtight enclosure technology called "Passive House."

An EcoVillage article in The Ithacan describes the project.

EcoVillage Website

Read more about Passive Design on Solaripedia

The EcoVillage is under construction on its third neighborhood (clearing at top right) that will feature Passive House design. Photo by EcoVillage.

 Designed by Jerry Weisburd, the TREE neighborhood at the EcoVillage features solar power and Passive House features. Image by Jerry Weisburd.


Third Residential EcoVillage Experience (or TREE), will feature solar technology as well as the cutting-edge design called Passive House in the EcoVillage Community near Ithaca, New York. Photo by The Ithacan.

Work Less to Slow Global Warming, Says Study

A new analysis suggests that a more 'European' schedule would reduce the effects of climate change. The article, Global Warming Can Be Slowed by Working Less by Jason Koebler, reviews a new study by the Center for Economic Policy and Research. A worldwide switch to a "more European" work schedule, which includes working fewer hours and more vacation time, could prevent as much as half of the expected global temperature rise by 2100, according to the analysis, which used a 2012 study that found shorter work hours could be associated with lower carbon emissions.


Friday, January 11, 2013

How cool is the BatchGeo mapping using Google Earth?? Here's how cool it is: the locations of almost 400 projects that are featured on Solaripedia are shown, scattered around the world, on this MAP.

View Projects Featured on Solaripedia in a full screen map