Here at the Practical Environmentalist, we’re green news junkies. We keep an eagle eye out for the latest science, social, and environmental developments and try to sum up the big picture here. This week, a lot of exciting things are going on.
The cost of airfare has gotten a lot of newsprint. Even though oil prices seem to have stabilized, ticket prices are still going up. When air travel gets so expensive that even P Diddy scales back his private jet flights, well, we’ve officially reached the tipping point. Cheap airfare is history, and soon we may all be flying like it’s 1955.
Sailing is a green alternative to air travel, but it can be awfully slow. A group raising awareness of plastic pollution decided to sail across the Pacific in a boat made from plastic junk? Believe it or not, they survived the trip and made it to Honolulu. Things got a bit dicey along the way, because they ran low on food. When they tried to catch some fish to supplement their provisions, they were (ironically) foiled by plastic pollution:
One day, said Paschal, they caught a fish after watching it grow for five weeks. They were going to eat it, but when they cut it open they found its stomach was full of plastic confetti.
Monitoring pollution in the ocean may become easier in the next couple of years. Scientists have found a new way to measure water pollution using algae. The method is a bit bizarre – just shine a special light on the algae and ‘listen’ to the sounds of the light striking the water. Healthy algae will absorb more of the light, and unhealthy algae will be unable to absorb certain wavelengths that due to the pollutants in the water. Algae reacts strongly to even small amounts of water contamination, and algae is widely available. As this method is developed further, the hope is that tests using algae will cost a fraction of what conventional tests cost.
Wind energy continues to make the news too. Wind turbines are going up at a phenomenal rate, and the production capacity of wind power doubled between 2006 and 2008. Even though wind power still makes up a tiny portion of total power, wind turbines accounted for more than a third of all new electrical production built last year.
The U.S. Department of Energy in May forecast that wind power could reach 20 percent of the nation’s power supply by 2030.