#1149 Renewable energy Davids are challenging the Goliaths

Solar Rainbow; photo by Steve Jurveston, via Flickr Creative Commons

With governments, corporations and fossil-fuel companies still pretending we have time to futz around with business-as-usual energy schemes, innovators are doing an end run and coming up with alternatives. One place to check out some American ideas is on the…


#1113 Lettuce in LED-lit tiers; food factory of the future grows in Japan today

The future is today; lettuce factory in Japan; photo from video below

The future is today; lettuce factory in Japan; photo from video below

Food waste accounts for somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of all the food produced around the world. That is a shocking number. That means land, seed, water, storage, manufacturing and everything else that contributes to the food on our table is wasted.

Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, a Sony factory abandoned in the wake of the 2011 tsunami is producing lettuce with only 3 percent waste. According to Truth Atlas (a good source of hope), one of the main reasons for that impressive percentage is water. It isn’t leaching through the soil, and it isn’t evaporating, at least not the way it would in a conventional lettuce-growing operation.

Shigeharu Shimamura, a plant physiologist, is CEO of Mirai Co. He explained that conventional farms can grow 26,000 plants on an acre of land. By stacking the plants and growing them under LED lights, the plant factory can harvest 10,000 heads a day in a much smaller space than an ordinary farm. In terms of feeding a burgeoning population, the ability to grow lettuce is a small start, but this factory is pioneering techniques that can be applied to other kinds of food plants.

Maybe it’s my age, but I have a hard time getting excited about food grown in tiers in a 2300 square metre factory. I think I’m lucky. I will go to my grave with the image of seed, soil, water and sun producing a miracle of food. Still, it appears we humans are reproducing like rabbits and using up the planet’s resources at shocking speed. A factory like this will stave off disaster while we figure out more rational ways of living in harmony with the beautiful earth.

With water and food in peril, a growing population to feed, and the future of my grandchildren at stake, I am encouraged by the creativity of people such as Shigeharu Shimamura. They are working hard to ensure a future for all of us.


#1082 San Francisco Burger King shows its Pride

Proud Whopper

When customers opened the wrapper of their “Proud Whopper”, this is what they saw; photo from Burger King’s Facebook page

San Francisco just might be the safest city in the U.S. for introducing a burger called “Proud Whopper”, timed, of course, to celebrate LGBT Pride Week. But that doesn’t mean everyone greeted it with open arms. You’ll see that in the video below.

The burger was the same old Whopper but with a rainbow wrapping. When customers peeled back the paper, they saw this message, “We are all the same inside.”

Good for Burger King for the gesture, though it would have been far more powerful if it had been expanded to franchises not along the Pride parade route. Still, our LGBT brothers and sisters receive only occasional support from advertisers. So when it happens, it is still worth celebrating.

One day an ad like this will seem quaint, a reflection of those old days when prejudice still dogged the lives of people born with identities different from the heterosexist majority. In the meantime, it gives me hope.