LINKS OF THE WEEK – Jan 24, 2024

Climate litigation news, speed limits dropping like flies, saying "bye bye" to concrete & more.

LINKS OF THE WEEK – Jan 24, 2024
Photo by Chris Ensminger on Unsplash

Hey there, you awesome person! I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and that 2024 has gotten off to a great start for you. 

I took a break from writing Our Awesome Future stuff over the holidays to enjoy time with family and recuperate from a busy end to the year. Then 2024 kicked off with the realization that oh yeah, I joined the board of a local active transportation advocacy group, so should probably figure out what the heck that involved. 😁

The good news is, my work with TraC (short for Transportation Choices) means I’m helping to gather and share information about what’s happening locally and globally in terms of creating better bike and pedestrian infrastructure and giving people more environmentally friendly options for getting around town. 

That means coming across stories like these ones, which feel very Awesome Future-ish to me: 

Be prepared to see a lot more green transportation-related info coming your way!

MEANWHILE, In other news, here are some of the interesting and inspiring stories I’ve seen in the news this month: 

MIT SLOAN: 7 Sustainability Trends to Watch in 2024 

I went into this article thinking, “Oh, it’s MIT Sloan Management Review, sounds very corporate and enterprise-focused. It’s probably going to be some bland advice that makes it easier for companies to greenwash.” It ended up being a solid list of trends that everyone should pay attention to as they are likely to play a role in determining how much progress we make in achieving our sustainability goals in 2024. 

Check it out and let me know what you think!                

CHART: The World Is Building Renewable Energy Faster Than Ever

According to Canary Media, global renewable energy installations jumped nearly 50% last year, the most rapid growth rate in two decades. An estimated 507 gigawatts of renewable electricity were added to grids around the world in 2023, 370 GW of which were solar power.

Our current rate of adoption puts us on track to reach 7,500 gigawatts installed by 2028, which still would have us falling short of our goals to triple renewable energy by 2030. Looking forward to see if and how this changes in 2024. 

Speed limits are dropping like flies! (In Europe, at least) 

Last month, Amsterdam joined the ranks of European cities that have dropped their speed limit to 30 km/h – and Bologna, Italy has now followed in their footsteps. It will be interesting to see how people feel about their slower, safer streets in a few years’ time, and whether the reduced speed will achieve its goal of combatting pollution and inspiring people to travel by bike or foot more often. 

(My guess is yes.)

Speaking of making cities more fun for people and less convenient for cars... 

Montreal borough says “bye bye” to concrete

The Parc-Extension neighbourhood in Montreal is inviting residents to submit proposals for replacing concrete with green spaces to reduce the heat island effect. The initiative aims to foster community engagement with the urban planning process, address the critical issue of climate change, and enhance the biodiversity in urban settings. Vive le Québec vert! 

Biden Admin starts fining for excess methane

The Biden Administration has announced a plan to start fining oil and gas companies $900 to $1,500 for every excess ton of methane emissions they release into the environment. Makes me wonder how exactly they plan to define “excess” and whether the fines are big enough to impact companies’ bottom lines, but it’s a start!

It would be great to see more companies being fined for their methane emissions here in Canada as well.  

Why 2024 will be a crucial year for climate litigation

The Guardian recently shared an interesting article looking at some of the climate-related court cases that will be going to trial in the US this year. More than two dozen local and state governments are challenging oil companies to hold them accountable for climate-change related damages, while young people have filed 7 lawsuits against state and federal lawmakers for infringing upon their right to a safe and healthy environment. And that’s just scratching the surface!

On a related note: 

Michael Mann’s defamation trial vs. climate naysayers finally goes to court

After 10+ years, internationally renowned environmentalist Michael Mann is finally having his day in court. He’s suing a couple of prominent climate change deniers for defamation after they compared him to a molester and called his research fraudulent. Should be interesting to see what happens with this one.

Speaking of climate change deniers, check this out: 

Climate conspiracy theorist pleads guilty to setting 14 wildfires

In news that should surprise no one, a conspiracy theorist who accused the Canadian government of setting the wildfires that ripped across Quebec and Ontario causing so much devastation last summer has just pleaded guilty to setting 14 of those wildfires himself. It is beyond tragic that someone was willing to go to such horrific lengths simply to “own the libs.” 

In happier news…  

Check out this California start-up making packaging out of seaweed 😍

You know I’m always a sucker for a good seaweed story! California-based startup Sway is using polymers found in seaweed to make a compostable alternative to thin-film plastic packaging. The company won first place at the Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Prize last year and says its plastic alternative has a shelf life of 12 months and composes in 4-6 weeks.  

Here’s another green-tech business that caught my eye: 

Going off-grid at the touch of a button

This CNET article is about a “smart energy system” that allows people with solar panels and batteries (and, presumably, other renewable energy-based electricity) to optimize a building’s energy use and toggle between using/sending energy to the grid and going off the grid altogether to ensure energy use and costs are as low as possible. 

“Smart” energy usage systems like this might seem kind of boring but I suspect they’re going to play a huge role in helping communities optimize energy and resource use and meet decarbonization targets while increasing grid resilience. Bring it! 

And oh hey, look, here’s a new community based on these exact principles:  

The world's first LEEDS Zero Energy-certified residential development 

The Washington Post recently ran a story about the world's first LEEDS Zero Energy-certified residential development, which is located in Hunter’s Point, Florida. All of the homes in this new community come with solar panels and home batteries and create more energy than they use, acting as a “net positive” virtual power plant that supports the grid. Residents pay nothing for their electricity and are better protected from blackouts caused by hurricanes etc. Sweet! 

Finally, let’s end with a peek at what’s going on in the wild and wacky world of batteries: 

New solid-state battery design charges in minutes and lasts for 1000s of cycles

Another day, another enthusiastic article about the game-changing potential of solid-state batteries. This one is about researchers at Harvard who say they’ve developed a new lithium metal battery that can be charged and discharged 6,000 times – and recharged in 10 minutes. It seems like there’s a lot of buzz around the potential of solid-state batteries to revolutionize the EV industry. Should be interesting to see what progress is made with this technology in 2024. 


All right, that’s it for this installment of Links of the Week! In terms of longer stories, I’m working on my own “Who to Follow” and “Stories to Watch in 2024” articles, which should be going out this week and next. Keep an eye out for them! 

And if you come across any other stories you think I should be following, please send them my way. 🙏

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