Saturday, November 7, 2009

New Blog theme - stuff I've heard about. Part 1: Industrial Ecology

Ok, so... I run into so many interesting concepts in my frequent podcast listening (BBC is amazing and puts out a bunch of free stuff) that I feel like writing about them. And since this blog is just mainly a place for me to write whatever I want, it's perfect for that purpose. In case anyone actually reads this, here are the podcasts I'm listening to at the moment, with the average length and frequency that they're updated:

BBC Podcasts:
- Africa Today (15 minutes, every business day)
- African Perspective (20-25 minutes, weekly)
- Analysis (a short but in-depth summary of a current event or issue, 20 minutes, weekly)
- Beyond Belief (Religion and society, 25 minutes, weekly)
- The Bottom Line with Evan Davis (Business, 25 minutes, weekly)
- Business weekly (25 minutes, weekly)
- Crossing Continents (weekly, 25 minutes)
- Digital Plaet (25 minutes, weekly)
- Discovery (Science, 25 minutes, weekly)
- Documentaries (20 minutes, twice weekly)
- Dr. Karl and the Naked Scientist (45 minutes to an hour, weekly)
- Forum - a world of ideas (45 minutes, weekly)
- From our own correspondent (25 minutes, weekly)
- Global News (30 minutes twice daily)
- Interview (30 minutes, weekly)
- Material World (Science, 30 minutes, weekly)
- One Planet (Environmentalism, 30 minutes, weekly)
- Peter Day's World of Business (30 minutes, weekly, some overlap with Business Weekly)
- Thinking Allowed (30 minutes, weekly)
- This week in Africa (30 minutes, weekly)
- You and Yours: Environment (variable, usually 10-15 minutes, but sometimes an hour or more, variable posting schedule)

Non-BBC podcasts
- CBC News World Report (10 minutes, daily)
- CitizenShift Social Issues Podcasts (various lengths, intermittent posting intervals)
- Quirks and Quarks (Science, 50 minutes, weekly)
- Security Now (IT Security - 1-2 hours, weekly)

Thank god for the double-speed function on my Ipod! :)

So anyway, in my first installment of "stuff I've heard recently that was interesting, is this quote, from the Material World on October 29th:

"After milennia of mining, we're aware of the location and size of almost every
deposit of every industrially interesting metal around the world. What we've not mapped so well until now is where those metals end up after they've been extracted ... clearly there's a shift from mines to centres of population, but there's a lot more to it than that, and it could help us make better use of the metals in future."

Apparently there's a new study of where our metals resources go. I've thought for a while that garbage dumps must be great sources of materials, what with the purifying processes that these products have already gone through to get them from bits of rock to industrially useful things (I heard recently that 95% of everything we "produce" in industrial processes is waste, vs. only 5% useful product at the end of it. And then we throw out that highly refined 5% - 99% of the things you currently have in your home will be in the dump within 6 months, statistically speaking.) So the fact that there is such a thing as industrial ecology makee sense.

Here are some links I'm going to browse some more when I have a chance:

- wikipedia
- An introduction to industrial ecology from the University of Michigan including graphs and tables listing materials flows across the world (32 pages, PDF)
- An industrial ecology blog

They have a term for finding sources of valuable materials that are "in-use stocks" - they call it "urban mining". Makes perfect sense to me, and I'm glad people are finally starting to take stock of this. I like this in no small part because what they're finding is that while the developed world has run out of mineral resources in the ground, and is now transporting large quantities from the developing world, the developed world has the largest quantities of minerals in landfills and in-use stocks. So if we can access those resources, there will be less transportation required. Seems obvious, but why exactly shouldn't we treat landfills as sources of valuable materials? I know that in some places the "recycling" of computers is done at least in part by dumping them into a large pit and then treating it like an open mine, using the same processes that we've used to seperate valuable minerals from not-so-valuable stuff in mines, to economically extract valueb from electronic waste.

On One Planet recently, I heard a British person say that he now flushes all of his vegetable waste down the toilet because he hopes that his city is using sewage waste in a methane digester (this practice is not unheard of). So really, we've got two large sources of waste (organics and metals) which could easily be taken care of. Now it's only the composite plastics (like those found in plastic films like Saran Wrap, and packaging for consumer products) that are non-recyclable.

All of this is progress, and it makes me happy :)


Saray said...

Hey! I visited your blog after reading your comments on the Conversion Diary blog (written by a girl who was an atheist and later converted into Catholicism). I really loved the way you expressed your ideas on atheism and such so I just had to leave a wee comment to say that :) Greetings from Spain!

Myron said...

Hey :)

I've been busy, but I did see this comment, and intended to respond. So... thanks, it's always nice to get compliments. Also... from Spain, eh? I'm thinking of traveling there sometime (possibly later this year, or maybe next). But I have to learn some Spanish first. Shouldn't be that hard, since as I understand it it's a lot like French, and I can get by in French if I have to, but... it would be very nice to correspond with someone who's from there, and get a little bit of first-hand knowledge of what Spain is like, before I go. If you're up for that, drop me a line at the e-mail address linked to this blog.

Also, those Conversion Diary comments eventually led me to start into web forums, and now I help to manage one, at (we call it IGI for short). If you liked my comments on Conversion Diary, there's more of the same there, and there might be some conversations you'd be interested in participating in. There are a lot of atheists, but also lots of other people of various religous persuasions, from extremely liberal quakers to calvinists, to biblical-literalist protestants. I've learned a lot, over the past year and a bit, from talking to all of them.