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How mobile phones reduce carbon emissions

Most of us in Britain have a smartphone these days, and that’s increasingly true internationally. There are 2.6 billion mobile subscriptions in the world, and while not everyone owns one, an estimated 6 billion people have access to a phone. As the UN noted a couple of years ago, more people have access to a […]

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Why the world needs waterless toilets

The other day I was opening a charity magazine and found an insert from Practical Action inside. It’s about toilets in Bangladesh and I’ve seen it a couple of times now. Before I start, a word of warning – if you’re reading this over lunch, maybe come back later. The story in the flyer is […]

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Review: The Wealth of Humans, by Ryan Avent

The world is on the cusp of a digital revolution, argues Ryan Avent, and it will be just as transformative as the industrial revolution. It will overturn long held traditions about work, income, and politics. Depending on how we respond, we could end up with a more equal, more fulfilling future, or we could resort […]

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Rwanda’s drone flights begin

In October 2014 I wrote about how drones could be a leapfrog technology. A year later, plans were unveiled for the world’s first drone port, to be build in Rwanda. A year on again, and Rwanda clocks up another milestone: the world’s first regular commercial drone flights are underway. When I last looked in on […]

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Glowee’s biological light bulb

When I was a teenager there was a beach we used to go to in Madagascar that had glowing sand. It would spark if you kicked or dragged your feet on the sand at night. Since it was only on the wet sand that this occurred, I figured it was something in the water rather […]

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Three carbon negative technologies

Last week I wrote about four ways to draw CO2 out of the atmosphere, something we are almost certainly going to have to do to stabilise the climate in the long term. All of those techniques were natural ones, better ways of managing land to expand its capacity to lock up carbon. To my mind, […]

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The legacy of a nuclear power plant

While we were on holiday in Wales this summer, we passed Lyn Trawsfynydd and despite the protestations of my wife, we paused to take in the view: That’s Trawsfynydd nuclear power station, a name I can neither pronounce nor spell. It’s the only nuclear site in Britain that was built inland rather than on the […]

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Building of the week: the solar PV greenhouse

I’ve featured greenhouses before in my building of the week posts, including the passive solar greenhouses that are common in China. Here’s an other form of solar greenhouse, produced by a Cambridge-based company called PolySolar. At first glance it is indistinguishable from a traditional British greenhouse. That unfortunately includes all the usual design flaws that […]

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the glass cage

The Glass Cage, by Nicholas Carr

A couple of years ago I read The Shallows, a fascinating book on how the internet is changing the way we think. It was written by Nicholas Carr, and he has followed it up with a book about automation. In many ways it covers similar ground. Technology is not neutral, he argues. It empowers and […]

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Reaching the unreachable with HoverAid

We were at the Greenbelt Festival over the weekend, and among the talking points was the presence of HoverAid, who were giving hovercraft rides up and down the ornamental pond at Boughton House. I was, I will admit, predisposed to like HoverAid. For one, they work with hovercraft, which are second only to jetpacks as […]

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