Clever Cars and Trash Cans, Green Gunk, Farm-Bill Casualties, and disappearing EAs in B.C.

A heaping serving of Nooze today! First, a few stories on technology and innovation.

Lauren Sommer with KQED Quest radio in Northern California, brings us a story about that state's consideration of the new reality in cars:

California Considers Giving Self-Driving Cars Green Light

It’s every commuter’s dream – you’re stuck in an epic traffic jam and with the press of a button, your car does the driving for you. Now, thanks to companies like Google, robotic car technology isn’t far off. This week, the state legislature is considering a bill that would set up rules for putting self-driving cars on the road.

The technology has evolved rapidly. Just five years ago, I was in an empty parking lot in Mountain View, taking a ride in what was once an extremely rare vehicle.

“We’re seeing a 3-D rendering of Junior’s understanding of the world. So you see the car, but around the car you see the sensor data,” said Mike Montemerlo, pointing to a laptop screen. At the time, he was an engineer at Stanford University working on Junior, the robotic car. I was tagging along on one of Junior’s test drives... Read and hear more.



Beth Casper writing for the Salem, Oregon Statesman Journal discovers that there is, in fact, a better way to take out the trash:

Solar compactor trash cans saving Salem money, time

Emptying trash cans in Salem’s parks is toilsome, never-ending work. Especially in the summer, there always are cans needing to be emptied, many of them overflowing with garbage.

But the addition of 33 Big Belly solar compactor trash cans is reducing the workload so much that the city of Salem is saving money.

Big Belly trash compactors hold four times as much trash as one garbage can. That means parks staff doesn’t need to empty them as often.

In the past year, the Salem parks department crew has gone to parks to empty trash cans 312 fewer times. They’ve driven 2,362 fewer miles and saved 276 gallons of gas, said Jude Geist, parks operations supervisor... Read more.


Jeff Alexander, writing for the Bridge in Michigan, reports on the algal invasion at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore:

Green gunk visits Michigan's 'most beautiful place'

Ron Long recently visited one of his favorite beaches at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, only to find it marred by dark green algae that clouded the water and piled up on the sand.

“This is the worst I’ve ever seen this beach — and I’ve been coming here for 50 years. It’s really sad,” said Long, a Milford resident who was visiting the popular Esch Road beach near Empire.

Foreign mussels that hitchhiked to the Great Lakes in the ballast water tanks of international freighters have turned Sleeping Bear Dunes — “The Most Beautiful Place in America,” according to “Good Morning America” — into a poster child for one of the most vexing environmental problems facing the Great Lakes.... Read more.


Whitney Pipkin, writing for Grist, talks with ecologically minded farmers about how this year's farm bill might make their jobs harder:

The Chesapeake Bay: Another possible casualty of this year's farm bill

Standing on the edge of a streamside habitat he helped restore, Virginia farmer Buff Showalter interrupts himself mid-sentence to point out a pair of hummingbirds overhead, barely visible as they sketch busy circles against a blue-sky backdrop. By late August, he says, there will be hundreds of them flitting around their favorite jewelweed wildflowers in this forage-covered patch of wetlands.

The patch used to be a favorite drinking hole for Showalter’s cattle as well, before he realized that having cows near and in the waterways could contribute to pollution in the nearby Chesapeake Bay. A decade later, the stream is fenced off and teaming with wild-looking shrubs and trees that help soak up pollutants before they reach the water... Read more.


And finally, Larry Pynn with The Vancouver Sun covers some discouraging news from Canada:

Feds walk away from environmental assessments on almost 500 projects in B.C.

Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has washed its hands of environmental assessments of nearly 500 projects in B.C. as a result of a revised Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

The 492 wide-ranging projects include gravel extraction on the lower Fraser River, run-of-river hydro projects and wind farms, bridge construction as well as demolition of the old Port Mann Bridge, shellfish aquaculture operations, hazardous-waste facilities and liquid-waste disposal.

Ottawa is also walking away from conducting assessments on various agricultural and municipal drainage works, log-handling facilities, small-craft harbour and marina development and expansion, the sinking of ex-warships as artificial reefs, the disposal of dredged material, and a 73-hectare mixed-use development on Tsawwassen First Nation lands... Read more.