Keeping Some of the Lights On: Redefining Energy Security
9 December 2018 | 7:10 pm

As a society depends more on energy sources for its daily functioning, it becomes more vulnerable if the supply of energy is interrupted. This obvious fact is ignored in current strategies to achieve energy security, making them counter-productive. Image: Camilla MP. What is Energy Security? What does it mean for a society to have “energy security”? Although there are more than forty different definitions of the concept, they all share the fundamental idea that energy supply should always meet energy demand. This also implies that energy supply needs to be constant – there can be no interruptions in the service. [1-4] For example, the International Energy Agency (IEA) defines energy security as “the uninterrupted availability of energy sources at an...

How Circular is the Circular Economy?
3 November 2018 | 3:55 pm

The circular economy – the newest magical word in the sustainable development vocabulary – promises economic growth without destruction or waste. However, the concept only focuses on a small part of total resource use and does not take into account the laws of thermodynamics. Illustration: Diego Marmolejo. Introducing the Circular Economy The circular economy has become, for many governments, institutions, companies, and environmental organisations, one of the main components of a plan to lower carbon emissions. In the circular economy, resources would be continually re-used, meaning that there would be no more mining activity or waste production. The stress is on recycling, made possible by designing products so that they can easily be taken apart. Attention is also paid to...

How to Build a Low-tech Website?
25 September 2018 | 1:49 pm

Low-tech Magazine was born in 2007 and has seen minimal changes ever since. Because a website redesign was long overdue — and because we try to practice what we preach — we decided to build a low-tech, self-hosted, and solar-powered version of Low-tech Magazine. The new blog is designed to radically reduce the energy use associated with accessing our content. First prototype of the solar powered server that runs the new website. Read this article on the solar powered website. Why a Low-tech Website? We were told that the Internet would “dematerialise” society and decrease energy use. Contrary to this projection, it has become a large and rapidly growing consumer of energy itself. According to the latest estimates, the entire...

Could We Dredge the Netherlands Without Fossil Fuels?
5 August 2018 | 2:06 pm

The dredging industry has been the backbone of the Dutch economy for centuries. If canals, harbours and rivers would not be maintained for a few years, the whole country would literally grind to a halt. Today, dredging happens with oil powered ships, which burn up to 3,000 litres of fuel per hour. However, in earlier times, the Dutch waterways were dredged mostly by hand, using simple but ingenious tools. Manual dredging was heavy labour, especially when waterways became deeper. Therefore, it was supplemented by animal power, wind power and tidal power. However, in some parts of the Netherlands, people chose a different strategy: they designed a new type of cargo ship that could sail in shallow waterways. 1699 scale model...

We Can't Do It Ourselves
5 July 2018 | 11:49 am

How to live a more sustainable life? This question generates a lot of debate that is focused on what individuals can do in order to address problems like climate change. For example, people are encouraged to shop locally, to buy organic food, to install home insulation, or to cycle more often. But how effective is individual action when it is systemic social change that is needed? Individuals do make choices, but these are facilitated and constrained by the society in which they live. Therefore, it may be more useful to question the system that requires many of us to travel and consume energy as we do. Illustration: Diego Marmolejo. Climate Change Policies Policies to address climate change and other environmental...


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