We’ve been working our butts off putting the Nau pieces back together again. Sort of like humpty dumpty who fell off the wall. So, we decided to throw a party – our “official’ launch party. The venue was Lizard Lounge, our new sister organization and retail partner in Portland where you can pick up the latest from Nau. By all accounts it was a terrific evening. Over 450 people came. They mingled, talked, drank and took in the music by Luke Reynolds who is on tour with his new album and band Pictures and Sound. According to all post party reports, the party goers had a grand time. For the gang at Nau, it was great to kick back for the night and say thanks to an amazing community of people who have helped us along the way.
We admire people who practice what they preach. In this case we’re referring to our Portland based neigbors Wend Magazine. They put out a great read. But not only that, they go to press on FSC certified sustainably sourced paper and their ink is non toxic, soy based. That’s pretty good but it doesn’t end there. 25% of your subscription cost is donated to their environmental non-profit partners. Check them out.
I’m a big supporter of creative ideas for reducing our dependence on fossil fuel and producing renewable energy. So I was intrigued when, over the summer, our friends at Inhabitat drew attention to some out-of-the-box thinking that identified an as-yet untapped area on which to deploy solar panels: rivers and streams.
First, they covered ZM Architecture’s award-winning proposal to generate solar power in Glasgow, Scotland, by floating “Solar Lily Pads” on the Clyde River. Calling the idea “a stunning example of biomimicry,” they praised the idea as “perfectly natural, and makes good sense when you consider that the intrinsic design of the lily pad is all about maximizing access to the sun’s rays.”
Less than a month later, Inhabitat highlighted the $4.5 million floating solar array of Far Niente, a California winery. Not wanting to sacrifice any of the arable land on which they grew their grapes, Far Niente mounted their panels on pontoons, and floated them on the winery’s irrigation pond.
I read these posts with interest, but also with conflicting emotions. Technical and implementation difficulties aside, is this really a good idea? Solar’s good, but do we want to start covering over our rivers with panels? We need clean energy, but what about the people who recreate on the water, the rowers and paddlers? Covering ponds with panels is good for irrigation (it slows evaporation) but what’s the impact on wildlife?
I started feeling like the label of biomimicry was being used to install an ugly power generator in a place where it didn’t belong. After all, isn’t a hydroelectric dam just a beaver dam writ large? But at the same time, it’s hard to argue with Far Niente spinning their electric meter backwards while producing great wine. (Though some might think it ironic that they also boast a beautiful classic car collection). And for whatever reason I don’t have a problem with wind turbines, which in many ways reflect the same issues, just up in the air.
So what do you think? Are “Floatovoltaics” an innovative and beautiful idea for producing power? Or are they an ugly and inefficient blight on natural environment? Do you feel the same way about wind turbines? And what role should our personal perceptions of what’s beautiful or not inform our renewable energy policies? Hit us with your thoughts in the comment thread below.
I’ve been geeking out recently. From add-ons for Firefox 3 to apps for the iPhone, I’m reliving weekly that feeling I remember as a 6 year old playing Nintendo NES for the first time: “What the…wait, you can…COOL!” The technophile in me loves how these programs are connecting me to the excitement and inspiration of my friend’s adventures.
Yet while I’ve gotten hooked on a number of these new tools, I’ve been conscious that something is missing in the experience. A link to the Picasa page from my friends trekking in Nepal is great, but lacks the speed and ease of scanning the pages of a photo album. Even the best photo sharing sites, with their invariably white backgrounds, clickable thumbnails and one-at-a-time slideshows, have always felt sterile and slow.
Well, no more. Blending the visceral, page flipping feel of a photo album with the convenience of online slideshows and storage, the web browser add-on CoolIris makes online photo-viewing incredibly, well, cool. Available for Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer, it turns any enabled web page (like Flickr, Picassa, and many others) into a scrollable, zoomable contact sheet with the click of a button. And with it’s 3D scrolling interface, it’s just plain fun to use.
It’s just one of hundreds of such apps that are coming out, and which I’m vainly trying to keep pace. So what am I missing? What other web 2.0 technologies are out there, that you’re using to share stories with your friends? Share your favorites in the comments section below.
Now that we’ve announced our New Partners for Change Program, we’d like to re-introduce each of our Partners. We will share examples that are representative of why we asked each of these progressive environmental and humanitarian organizations to be our partners.
The first one I’d like you to meet is Mercy Corps. Since it was founded 29 years ago, they’ve done work in 106 countries and have over 3,500 employee’s. Mercy Corps mission is “to alleviate suffering, poverty and oppression by helping people build secure, productive and just communities.”
Our relationship to Mercy Corps goes back to the early days of Nau when we first put together our Partners for Change program in 2006. Mercy Crops North American headquarters is here in our hometown of Portland, OR and is well-loved by our community for the work they do here in the U.S and overseas.
Since I started working with Nau almost two years ago, I’ve spent many hours perusing
through the endless amount of articles and information posted on the Mercy Corps website about their programs. Recently I found a project; the Community Health and Advancement Initiative (CHAI), that really sparked my interest. I think this program exemplifies the kind of social impacts that are possible when people get together to collectively work toward creating social change.
In 2002 Tazo Tea another Portland based company, partnered with Mercy Corps and launched the CHAI program in Darjeeling India. This specific region in India has some of the finest tea in the world and accounts for much of Tazo’s tea supply. The CHAI program focuses on three things for the garden groups in Darjeeling: improved water quality and access to clean water, vocational training, and development and implementation of self-governing bodies.
The particularly intriguing part of this program is how it’s funded; tea growers, traders, and brokers, each contribute a portion of their Tazo sales to support the program. The combine contributions result in a total of about 11% of the final sale of the tea going to the CHAI program. No one company in the supply chain is burdened with the entire 11% contribution; which makes it manageable for everyone involved. Tyson (Nau’s graphic designer) and I particularly like this one because the local communities in Darjeeling are supported by both Tazo as well as local businesses.
Mercy Corps is just one of many organizations finding new ways to improve the lives of people around the world. We believe in the work they’re doing, and hope you do too.
The Thought Kitchen is our effort at collective inquiry and its power to effect change. Have you ever noticed how the party is always in the kitchen? There are more walls to lean on and people are energized by the proximity to food and drink. Well, welcome to our kitchen, where we hope to tap into everything we love about that feeling—community, vivacious exchange, food for thought.