Still Here, But Look for Me Somewhere Else

Thursday, Nov. 3, 2011

Greetings, readers. For some months now I've been doing my blogging at Plugged-In, on the Scientific American Bloggers Network, and at the site of the Piedmont Laureate, which I'm proud to be for 2011. So please check those sites for my most recent thoughts, though this site still provides thorough information about me, my books, and my other work. Thanks for checking in.


Posted by Scott Huler


   

Communitywalk Raleigh

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Raleigh Department of Transportation Planning has an awesome updateable map in its enterprise to make the city more walkable. If you go to this map and log in (easy, free), you can use the CommjnityMap mapping application to show the city where its most significant problem spots are as it works to make the city much more walkable than it currently is. 

Yay City of Raleigh, trying to make things better!

Posted by Scott Huler


   

Everybody knows the answer but nobody asks the question

Friday, April 22, 2011

Nuclear power isn't the only issue that requires a little more consideration than we thought.

April 22 is Earth Day, so naturally the "Great Cloth Diaper Change," an event looking to get so many people changing cloth diapers at the same time that they end up in the Guinness Book of World Records, takes place at 9 a.m. on Saturday, April 23. Lots of people changing lots of babies, all at once. Good cause, good deal, right? Cloth diapers -- don't fill those landfills we're supposedly (but not actually) running out of space for, better for the environment, blah blah blah, right?

Well, maybe. First, the Diaper Change is sponsored by industry groups -- the Real Diaper Association and the Real Diaper Industry Association. Whose names imply the disposable diapers most of us use are, what -- fake diapers? They seem real enough to me when I change them. Okay -- not a big deal, probably; industry associations aren't necessarily untrustworthy, and they're going to look for whatever marketing edge they can find.

But it's worth pointing out that it's been a long time since people believed the knee-jerk "cloth is better" argument held water. As far back as 1999, in theConsumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices noted that by the time you totaled up bleaching, washing, and all the other elements of cloth diaper use, cloth and disposables were just about environmental equals: "Most people should not waste a lot of energy trying to decide which type of diapers to use based on environmental considerations." This 2005 ABC News report pretty thoroughly sums up the science at the time, drawing the same conclusion.

And a 2008 report by The Environment Agency, the UK equivalent of the United States' EPA, noted that as they're commonly used, cloth diapers actually have a higher carbon footprint than disposables -- thought it notes that users who wash them at lower heat and dry them on the line rather than in a dryer can vastly improve that. 

The point here isn't that disposable diapers are or are not a blight on the landscape, or that cloth diapers are or are not the answer. (I actually think the best answer would be to teach our children not to poop, but we failed with our own children, so who am I to preach?)

The point is that all these questions -- environmental and infrastructure -- are complex and require real thought.

And that anybody who says they know the answer is probably trying to sell you something.

Earth image from http://static.sandiego.com/articlefiles/10e06d12-d0fd-4d61-bc78-c47e265224bd/earth-325.jpg; diaper image from Wikimedia Commons, http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fa/Unangenehme_Vaterpflichten.JPG

Posted by Scott Huler

 

Wires, pipes, roads, and water support the lives we lead, but the average person doesn't know where they go or even how they work. Our systems of infrastructure are not only shrouded in mystery, many are woefully out of date. In On the Grid, Scott Huler takes the time to understand the systems that sustain our way of life, starting from his own quarter of an acre in North Carolina and traveling as far as Ancient Rome.

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