Shut Up or the Kid Dies. What the Frack?

When hydraulic fracturing goes wrong, people get sick and corporations silence them. What the Frack? Climate Justice and Our Culture was the highlight of my final day at SXSW Eco 2013. This five-member panel was led by Dr. M.K. Dorsey, director of the Climate Justice Research Project at Dartmouth College. I was stunned by what I heard in this session; here are some highlights. If you're not familiar with hydraulic fracturing, click here for a simple summary. Hundreds of chemicals are mixed with sand and water, and millions of gallons of this mixture are blasted into the ground until the earth to cracks. Natural gas is collected as it escapes through these cracks, and much of the chemical cocktail remains in the earth. Details of the poisonous mixture are kept secret by gas companies, but about half of the ingredients are known. Many of the chemicals have been linked to cancer and others are known to cause respiratory damage. Some of this stuff can short-circuit the way your brain communicates with your body, it can also impact your fertility. We don’t know exactly how these chemicals affect children, but we do know that this crap has caused serious illnesses. During this session, Michael Green told a story so appalling that I thought it could only happen in some third-world country that I’m too lazy to read about; he explained how gas companies silence their victims. Green is some bigwig from the Center for Environmental Health, which is dedicated to protecting children from toxic threats. His story resembled that Erin Brockovich movie, but there’s more poison, less ethical behavior, no...

M. Sanjayan Was Condemned to a Drowning Death

“Your child is going to die from drowning.” That’s what some astrologist prick told M. Sanjayan’s family when he was a little boy. So they kept him away from water and wouldn’t teach him to swim. Sure it defies logic, but the death of their child was foretold. What’s a freaked out parent to do? It’s several decades later, and the child has outlived the astrologer (suck it, pseudoscience). Now he’s on live television responding to questions that he wasn’t prepared to answer. Dr. Sanjayan is on the David Letterman show discussing climate change. If you watch the interview, you’ll see an admittedly skeptical Letterman challenging the optimism of a well-informed, charismatic scientist, but Sanjayan didn’t see it that way. He says he left the interview thinking, “Damn, I gotta learn about this.” During his presentation at SXSW Eco, Sanjayan explained what he decided to learn and how his work on an eight-part series for Showtime helped him do it. Despite the big names involved with the Showtime project, Sanjayan was reluctant to participate. He didn’t want to contribute to “just another show about climate change.” He told the producers that he would contribute only if the show was compelling and creditable, so they promised to do three things. First, to tell real human stories. If the story sucks but the people in the story are compelling, people will watch it. Second, to focus on things that are happening right now. Most people think that climate change is something that’s gonna happen at some point in the future, so they need to see current events. Finally, to send Sanjayan...

Water that Can Tweet

  The Voice of Water. Secure Waters Inc. has robots that test water and use socialmedia to share the results. I don’t know if they caught wild robots and trained them to do this stuff, or if they built them specifically for these tasks, but I know they have at least one. It’s in Ladybird Lake, and it started tweeting today, but it might not be there much longer. Remember when terrorists were going to poison our water supply? Me either, but I can’t forget a time when “the media” wouldn’t stop shouting about the inevitability of such an attack. That crap fueled a lot of fear and uneasiness, which helped drive the creation of some pretty damn versatile technology. Secure Waters expanded upon some of that stuff and now they’re trying to put it to work with what they call the AquaSentinel. The AquaSentinel can be deployed to salt or freshwater environments. Once there, it uses light to monitor the photosynthesis process in green algae, and it doesn’t require chemicals or frequent maintenance. If the sentinel detects a pollutant or an unfamiliar condition, it draws a water sample into onboard storage and tells its human overlords to take a look. This sucker has won multiple awards, it’s quickly becoming a decorated veteran. You can help keep Austin’s aquatic point man in the water by donating to their Indiegogo campaign. Also check out the reports submitted by your local robot ally by following his-her-its Twitter feed, @AustinAQS I know that Austin cares about water, can you help us keep this AquaSentinel in our city? @stupidgregg Update: The Indiegogo campaign has...

Pre-Party with Bug Eating Weirdos

  Bug eating weirdos will try to trick SXSW Eco attendees into eating insects, just like a 3rd grade bully, but without the boogers. The folks from Little Herds  will provide edible insects, which you can wash down with complimentary beverages from Lagunitas, at the pre-party this evening. Registration starts at 6pm today. I’m going to beat tomorrow’s badge pickup lines, and walk over to the party to meet some fellow eco-freaks. If you’re reading this, you should come join us for some complimentary beverages and foo… food? This is the official start to my SXSW Eco experience, and I couldn’t be more excited. Let’s eat bugs!...

Things I’m Not Going to Miss at SXSW Eco

  SXSW Eco is where activism, science, business, and education merge. It’s my favorite component of SXSW, and it starts on monday, October 7th. I’ll post some updates here and we’ll be live blogging from the Fairey keynote, so stayed tuned… and, if you like birds or whatever, follow us on Twitter @B2Me2Biz @stupidgregg This is my second year at SXSW Eco, I don’t attend for any business or professional purpose, I go to have fun and learn. If you’re seeking a serious, information-packed, intellectual perspective of this conference, go ahead and close this browser window, you won’t find that shit here. There’s a lot to see this year, but here are few of the things that I’m not going to miss. Parties with smart people and free booze. There are a couple of official SXSW Eco parties, but there will be unofficial evening events with free access for attendees. If you get a badge, you’ll probably receive a few drink tickets for SXSW-sanctioned events, if you don’t want them you should give them to me #sustainability. The closing party will probably involve lots of free booze, no drink tickets needed.  These parties are far more tame than any other SXSW event, but they’re a lot of fun. You’ll be surrounded by EcoGeeks of all kinds, you’ll end up with a pocket full of business cards from people you don’t remember, and inspiring ideas that you can’t forget. Movies at planet Earth’s most awesome film sanctuary, Alamo Drafthouse, at The Ritz, it’s a two blocks from the conference. I’m going to see American Meat  and Pandoras Promise. If you’re attending...
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