Time on the Fukushima power plant cleanup "If the consequences weren't potentially so dire, the ongoing struggles to clean up the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in northern Japan would be the stuff of comedy," writes Bryan Walsh, who takes a long look at the efforts to decontaminate the plant since its meltdown in March 2011, which have recently struggled with accidents involving the area's groundwater. He concludes: "In the end, the damage from Fukushima — especially to human health — is still unlikely to be anywhere near as large as nuclear critics feared when the plant first melted down. Indeed, the greater threat to the health of those who lived around the plant may be psychological, as they struggle with the both the upheaval of evacuation and the social taint of living near a meltdown."
The Atlantic Cities on pedestrian energy Could heavily-trafficked pedestrian sidewalks generate electricity? Emily Badger explains a new project to capture the small force of footfalls: "If you create a flooring surface that moves, imperceptibly, with the weight of many people walking, that energy could be absorbed and converted into electricity. The shifting floor could move fluid – through a series of subsurface tubes – that then drives small turbines linked to a generator. Or your footfall might compress flooring material that generates electricity." One of the project's directors is cautiously hopeful: "It’s not something that’s going to be ubiquitous in the next ten years. But it will react to the demands of modern cities."
USA Today on climate change and precipitation Dan Vergano visits rural Vermont to take stock of the damage wrought by a 2011 storm: "On Aug. 28, 2011, Tropical Storm Irene's rains swelled the Williams River, smashing dams, flooding homes and carrying off the historic Lower Bartonsville Covered Bridge." And what the storm portends: "This wasn't just another 1-in-500-years event happening, a freak occurrence, a one-off event. Rather, experts see it as the new normal across the Northeast, the latest in a series of calamitous weather events occurring because of, or amplified by, climate change."
Politico on Obama's Keystone deliberations "President Barack Obama's upcoming decision on the Keystone XL pipeline will be a defining moment for his environmental legacy, but it could also be a massive setback for a green movement that has suffered a string of bruising losses since he was elected," writes Andrew Restuccia, referring to the massive pipeline that would pump tar sands oil from Canada to the United States. But the aforementioned green movement isn't a unified front, Restuccia says: "Not every environmental group is laser-focused on Keystone. In fact, the major anti-Keystone work has been headed up by the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth, as well as newer groups, like 350.org and CREDO Action. Others ... have been less vocal."
New Statesman on the climate effects of a recession Alex Hern considers the rare upside of economic recessions: a decrease in carbon emissions. He wonders how to still limit emissions when the economy picks up again: "The real issue about fighting climate change isn't how to reduce emissions ... We know how to do that: a recession as crippling at that in 2008/9, lasting for a couple of years, would bring them right down. ... The challenge is how to do it without inflicting that pain. A planned decarbonisation of the energy sector – switching investment from high- to low- and zero-carbon forms of generation – might be expensive, but the stimulative effects of such a building program could end up being a net positive even without the environmental benefits."
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