Category Archives: 7 Holonics and LOHAS

The end of fossil fuels.

The Rockerfeller Foundation plans to divest fossil fuel assets in its portfolio.

The Fund will first focus on limiting its exposure to coal and tar sands, with a goal to reduce these investments to less than one percent of the total portfolio by the end of 2014. It is planning for further divestment as quickly as is prudent over the next few years.

Rockefeller Brothers Fund director Stephen Heintz said the move to divest from fossil fuels would be in line with oil tycoon John D Rockefeller’s wishes,

“We are quite convinced that if he were alive today, as an astute businessman looking out to the future, he would be moving out of fossil fuels and investing in clean, renewable energy,” Mr Heintz said in a statement.

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund advances social change that contributes to a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world.

This is part of a growing movement to divest from the fossil fuels causing climate change and invest instead in clean, sustainable energy.  DivestInvest Philanthropy  reached an historic milestone today of $ 50 billion in pledges.  Over 800 global investors have now committed to divest their holdings in fossil fuels.

Need I say more?  This has been a long time coming, but it is the start of a sea change in opinion and investment behaviour.  This is not just talk, actual money will be divested from fossil fuel businesses and reinvested in alternative energy businesses.  And yes, the timing was influenced by the UN climate change meeting tomorrow, but the plan was set in motion earlier and will continue to be rolled out and built upon over the coming months.  The energy sector is going to be volatile for a while.

Rockefeller Brothers Fund’s Divestment Statement

Press release on Divest-Invest Philanthropy’s website

BBC: Rockefellers to divest fossil fuels

To save nature, just say NO, thank you.

The Economist offers analysis and a guide to curbing greenhouse gases, as the UN conference on climate change approaches.  Here’s their summary table.

curbinggreenhousegases

Notice that the Montreal Protocol achieved the most by a wide margin.   The next most effective policy has been China’s one-child policy.  The effectiveness of both is supported by the simple discipline of saying “no”.  “No” to more consumption of CFCs.  “No” to more people.

If we are to align human behaviour with the laws of nature we must learn to say “no” more often.  No to more consumption.  No to more people.  We can all make a difference by reducing our personal consumption and changing the permissive culture of procreation.

To keep the rise in global temperatures within safe bounds will require cutting carbon emissions by around 26 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year by 2030.  That is almost halving the current rate of emissions, not growing them, as we now are doing.   As well as personal efforts, global efforts are needed including a carbon treaty, stopping deforestation, slashing subsidies to fossil fuels and much more (see article).

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The Economist: Curbing climate change The deepest cuts
The Economist: Greenhouse gases Paris via Montreal

DuoLingo: Learn a language for free. Forever.

Duolingo is a free language-learning and crowdsourced text translation platform. The service is designed so that, as users progress through the lessons, they simultaneously help to translate websites and other documents.  They even offer Irish courses! And Duolingo won Best Education Startup at the 2014 Crunchies.

Duolingo offers extensive written lessons and dictation, but it features less speaking practice. It has a gamified skill tree that users can progress through and a vocabulary section where learned words can be practiced.

Here’s the interface for French …

Duolingo_skills

You Can Learn Anything

The Learning Myth: Why I’ll Never Tell My Son He’s Smart by Salman Khan

borntolearn01My 5-year-­old son has just started reading. Every night, we lie on his bed and he reads a short book to me. Inevitably, he’ll hit a word that he has trouble with: last night the word was “gratefully.” He eventually got it after a fairly painful minute. He then said, “Dad, aren’t you glad how I struggled with that word? I think I could feel my brain growing.” I smiled: my son was now verbalizing the tell­-tale signs of a “growth­ mindset.” But this wasn’t by accident. Recently, I put into practice research I had been reading about for the past few years: I decided to praise my son not when he succeeded at things he was already good at, but when he persevered with things that he found difficult. I stressed to him that by struggling, your brain grows. Between the deep body of research on the field of learning mindsets and this personal experience with my son, I am more convinced than ever that mindsets toward learning could matter more than anything else we teach.

Researchers have known for some time that the brain is like a muscle; that the more you use it, the more it grows. They’ve found that neural connections form and deepen most when we make mistakes doing difficult tasks rather than repeatedly having success with easy ones.

What this means is that our intelligence is not fixed, and the best way that we can grow our intelligence is to embrace tasks where we might struggle and fail.

However, not everyone realizes this. Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford University has been studying people’s mindsets towards learning for decades. She has found that most people adhere to one of two mindsets: fixed or growth. Fixed mindsets mistakenly believe that people are either smart or not, that intelligence is fixed by genes. People with growth mindsets correctly believe that capability and intelligence can be grown through effort, struggle and failure. Dweck found that those with a fixed mindset tended to focus their effort on tasks where they had a high likelihood of success and avoided tasks where they may have had to struggle, which limited their learning. People with a growth mindset, however, embraced challenges, and understood that tenacity and effort could change their learning outcomes. As you can imagine, this correlated with the latter group more actively pushing themselves and growing intellectually.

The good news is that mindsets can be taught; they’re malleable. What’s really fascinating is that Dweck and others have developed techniques that they call “growth mindset interventions,” which have shown that even small changes in communication or seemingly innocuous comments can have fairly long­-lasting implications for a person’s mindset. For instance, praising someone’s process (“I really like how you struggled with that problem”) versus praising an innate trait or talent (“You’re so clever!”) is one way to reinforce a growth ­mindset with someone. Process­ praise acknowledges the effort; talent­ praise reinforces the notion that one only succeeds (or doesn’t) based on a fixed trait. And we’ve seen this on Khan Academy as well: students are spending more time learning on Khan Academy after being exposed to messages that praise their tenacity and grit and that underscore that the brain is like a muscle.

borntolearn02The Internet is a dream for someone with a growth mindset. Between Khan Academy, MOOCs, and others, there is unprecedented access to endless content to help you grow your mind. However, society isn’t going to fully take advantage of this without growth mindsets being more prevalent. So what if we actively tried to change that? What if we began using whatever means are at our disposal to start performing growth mindset interventions on everyone we cared about? This is much bigger than Khan Academy or algebra — it applies to how you communicate with your children, how you manage your team at work, how you learn a new language or instrument. If society as a whole begins to embrace the struggle of learning, there is no end to what that could mean for global human potential.

And now here’s a surprise for you. By reading this article itself, you’ve just undergone the first half of a growth­-mindset intervention. The research shows that just being exposed to the research itself (­­for example, knowing that the brain grows most by getting questions wrong, not right­­) can begin to change a person’s mindset. The second half of the intervention is for you to communicate the research with others. We’ve made a video (above) that celebrates the struggle of learning that will help you do this. After all, when my son, or for that matter, anyone else asks me about learning, I only want them to know one thing. As long as they embrace struggle and mistakes, they can learn anything.

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Is Amazon destruction your fault?

Sadly, the truth is that we are all to blame.  We demand the paper or burgers or whatever it is for which the tropical woods are consumed.

Ok, so you want to deny it or ignore it.  That’s OK.  Today.  But tomorrow we’re all going to have to face the truth.  Sooner or later we’ll have to stop.  If you’re rich, you’ll be protected for longer, but scraping forests off the face of the earth is like scraping off the skin from your body.  It might not be your skin, but sooner or later you’re going to be affected.  And the consequences are similar: death.

Now for some of the detail.            deforestation0120140911

Around five football fields of tropical forest have been illegally cleared every minute between 2000 and 2012 according to a new report.  Consumer demand in Europe and the US for beef, leather and timber is driving these losses.   And in the first 12 years of this century, 49% of tropical deforestation was due to illegal conversion for commercial agriculture.  So we’re all accessories to that crime.

Brazilian government figures show deforestation of the Amazon rainforest was 6,000 sq km.  That’s the size of Palestine, or more than two Luxembourgs.  The rate of deforestation is up by 29% in the 12 months up to the end of July 2013.  Deforestation is due to agricultural expansion,  illegal logging and the invasion of public lands adjacent to big infrastructure projects in the Amazon, such as roads and hydroelectric dams.

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BBC: Demand for agricultural products drives ‘shock’ tree loss in tropical forests

BBC: Amazon rainforest destruction in Brazil rises again

We’re 20 years away from catastrophe, says PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Low Carbon Economy Index,” a report released by the accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers, has numerous stark warnings.  Sadly they are unlikely to be heeded by those that matter – big companies, governments and people like you and me – because those are the culprits identified in the report.

According to the PricewaterhouseCoopers report, “the gap between what we are doing and what we need to do has again grown, for the sixth year running.” The report adds that at current rates, we’re headed towards 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit of warming by the end of the century—twice the agreed upon rate. Here’s a breakdown of the paper’s major findings.

pwctemperaturechart201409

The report notes that the world is going to blow a hole in its carbon budget—the amount we can burn to keep the world from overheating beyond 3.6 degrees:

pwcco2budgetchart201409

PricewaterhouseCoopers paints a bleak picture.  The timeline is  unforgiving. The IPCC and others have estimated that global emissions must peak by 2020 to meet a 2°C budget. So emissions from  developed economies need to be consistently falling, and emissions from major developing countries have to start declining from 2020 onwards.  G20 nations will need to cut their annual energy-related emissions by one-third by 2030, and by just over half by 2050.

None of that is happening, so we all better change habits ourselves.  We must consume less and  share more, especially technology.

City Lab by The Atlantic: A Major Accounting Firm Just Ran the Numbers on Climate Change

The planet is melting faster and faster. What are you doing to stop it?

So, the ozone hole has stopped shrinking.  That’s good to know.  But I’m cynical about how good the news is because the Montreal accord banning CFCs occurred in 1987 more than a quarter of a century ago and we’re spewing out more greenhouse gases than ever.  And the weather is still wacky.

A surge in atmospheric CO2 saw levels of greenhouse gases reach record levels in 2013, according to new figures.  Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere between 2012 and 2013 grew at their fastest rate since 1984.

This warning data is compounded by the finding that CO2 locked in soil (which is 4x the amount in plants)  is being released as the planet experiences warmer,  more volatile temperatures. This means that release of greenhouse gases is creating a feedback on itself, thereby compounding the problem.

Atmospheric CO2 is now at 142% of the levels in 1750, before the start of the industrial revolution.   We are running out of time.

Reducing CO2 will only occur if we reduce energy consumption and use more renewable sources.  We must live within the laws of nature or nature will just get rid of us.

And don’t expect government to act.  It is up to each of us to take a step in the right direction, every day.  That means me and you too.

BBC: Greenhouse gas levels rising at fastest rate since 1984  Warning – this article contains depressing news.

BBC: Warning over vulnerability of soil carbon to warming

Nature:  Temperature sensitivity of soil respiration rates enhanced by microbial community response

BBC: Ozone layer showing ‘signs of recovery’, UN says

World Meteorological Organization  and UN Environment Programme Report Press Release and Report

The Good The Bad and The Ugly of Caffeine

A quick summary of the what and how of caffeine from Travis Bradberry, Ph.D.

Cutting down on caffeine is easier said than done.  But it’s worth it.

His original article is here: Caffeine: The Silent Killer of Success

For those who aren’t aware, the ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance. TalentSmart has conducted research with more than a million people, and we’ve found that 90% of top performers are high in emotional intelligence. These individuals are skilled at managing their emotions (even in times of high stress) in order to remain calm and in control.

The Good: Isn’t Really Good

Most people start drinking caffeine because it makes them feel more alert and improves their mood. Many studies suggest that caffeine actually improves cognitive task performance (memory, attention span, etc.) in the short-term. Unfortunately, these studies fail to consider the participants’ caffeine habits. New research from Johns Hopkins Medical School shows that performance increases due to caffeine intake are the result of caffeine drinkers experiencing a short-term reversal of caffeine withdrawal. By controlling for caffeine use in study participants, John Hopkins researchers found that caffeine-related performance improvement is nonexistent without caffeine withdrawal. In essence, coming off caffeine reduces your cognitive performance and has a negative impact on your mood. The only way to get back to normal is to drink caffeine, and when you do drink it, you feel like it’s taking you to new heights. In reality, the caffeine is just taking your performance back to normal for a short period.

The Bad: Adrenaline

Drinking caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline. Adrenaline is the source of the “fight or flight” response, a survival mechanism that forces you to stand up and fight or run for the hills when faced with a threat. The fight-or-flight mechanism sidesteps rational thinking in favor of a faster response. This is great when a bear is chasing you, but not so great when you’re responding to a curt email. When caffeine puts your brain and body into this hyper-aroused state, your emotions overrun your behavior.

Irritability and anxiety are the most commonly seen emotional effects of caffeine, but caffeine enables all of your emotions to take charge.

The negative effects of a caffeine-generated adrenaline surge are not just behavioral. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that large doses of caffeine raise blood pressure, stimulate the heart, and produce rapid shallow breathing, which readers of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 know deprives the brain of the oxygen needed to keep your thinking calm and rational.

The Ugly: Sleep

When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, shuffling through the day’s memories and storing or discarding them (which causes dreams), so that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your self-control, focus, memory, and information processing speed are all reduced when you don’t get enough—or the right kind—of sleep. Your brain is very fickle when it comes to sleep. For you to wake up feeling rested, your brain needs to move through an elaborate series of cycles. You can help this process along and improve the quality of your sleep by reducing your caffeine intake.

Here’s why you’ll want to: caffeine has a six-hour half-life, which means it takes a full twenty-four hours to work its way out of your system. Have a cup of joe at eight a.m., and you’ll still have 25% of the caffeine in your body at eight p.m. Anything you drink after noon will still be at 50% strength at bedtime. Any caffeine in your bloodstream—with the negative effects increasing with the dose—makes it harder to fall asleep.

When you do finally fall asleep, the worst is yet to come. Caffeine disrupts the quality of your sleep by reducing rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the deep sleep when your body recuperates and processes emotions. When caffeine disrupts your sleep, you wake up the next day with an emotional handicap. You’re naturally going to be inclined to grab a cup of coffee or an energy drink to try to make yourself feel better. The caffeine produces surges of adrenaline, which further your emotional handicap. Caffeine and lack of sleep leave you feeling tired in the afternoon, so you drink more caffeine, which leaves even more of it in your bloodstream at bedtime. Caffeine very quickly creates a vicious cycle.

Withdrawal

Like any stimulant, caffeine is physiologically and psychologically addictive. If you do choose to lower your caffeine intake, you should do so slowly under the guidance of a qualified medical professional. The researchers at Johns Hopkins found that caffeine withdrawal causes headache, fatigue, sleepiness, and difficulty concentrating. Some people report feeling flu-like symptoms, depression, and anxiety after reducing intake by as little as one cup a day. Slowly tapering your caffeine dosage each day can greatly reduce these withdrawal symptoms.