Is Gaming the Future of Saving Energy?

by Abigail Wang

It’s common knowledge that a big problem in environmental issues is the need for people to undertake individual, personal energy-saving initiatives. Scientists and environmental activists trying to push people to care more about personal energy decisions may have found an answer to their struggle in gaming. By making mundane things fun, people might be more open to cutting down energy usage. A few companies have already developed games for both companies and individuals to implement better energy actions. Energy Chickens, created by a group of researches and developers at Pennsylvania State University, is one of the latest apps on the market. The game assigns a chicken to each household appliance and the user is responsible for keeping the chickens healthy by maintaining low energy consumption. Healthy chickens grow and lay eggs, which can be exchanged for market items to customize your chickens. If a user increases his or her energy consumption with particular appliances, the chickens associated with those products will grow sick and not lay eggs. Continue reading

The Unseen Problems with Nevada’s Air Quality

by Abigail Wang

For nearly twenty years Nevada, along with parts of Arizona, has been a hot topic of the debate between public health and economic development. The issue has resurfaced again as Brenda Buck and Rodney Metcalf, geologists and professors of geoscience at University of Nevada, push the Nevada Department of Health to implement more protective measures in areas filled with asbestos.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring carcinogenic fiber that damages the lungs. Deposits of asbestos minerals are fairly common and particularly rich veins have been mined for commercial use. The fibers travel easily through and air and if inhaled, even in modest amounts, can embed themselves into the lungs and cause mesothelioma and other respiratory diseases. Mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer, can only be caused by the exposure to asbestos, and it normally takes 30 or more years to recognize symptoms. Continue reading

Cut Down Energy Loss with Essess’s Infrared Technology

by Abigail Wang

In an age where most people strive to make our environment greener, it’s hard to know exactly what to do to be energy efficient. Essess, a start-up developed at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, hopes to alleviate this issue by working with the United States government and utilities companies to cut down on energy loss with infrared technology.Co-founded in 2011 by Vinny Olmstead and Sanjay Sarma, a professor in Mechanical Engineering at MIT, Essess deploys cars that have thermal-imaging rooftop rigs that create heat maps of homes and buildings. This technology detects fixable leaks in places like windows, doors, and walls to point out where home and business owners are losing the most energy. The rigs have long-wave infrared and near-infrared radiometric cameras that capture heat signatures. In order to separate buildings from natural surroundings, a LiDAR system, which is technology used to create high-resolution maps, captures 3D images. Continue reading

Protecting Alaskan Wilderness At What Cost?

by Abigail Wang

As President Obama finishes his last term, he’s rolling full steam ahead with his environmental and energy policies. In a move that left environmentalists, oil companies, and politicians upset, the president announced the Interior Department’s plans to prevent future oil and gas production in major parts of Alaska, but support development along the East Coast. The Obama administration wants to designate 12.28 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), including the coastal plains in Alaska, as “Wilderness”. Wilderness is the highest level of protection available for public lands; it prohibits mining, drilling, roads, vehicles, and the establishment of permanent structures in select areas. Over seven million acres are currently managed as wilderness because of the National Interests Lands Conservation Act of 1980, but more than 60% of the ANWR is not listed as such. Continue reading

Will Sage Grouses Stop Green Energy Development?

by Abigail Wang

The debate over the fate of the sage grouse, a bird known for its elaborate mating display, has been ongoing for over 15 years. Due to the species’ alarming population decline in the United States, the development of green energy in the West has slowed considerably. Environmental groups have thus become divided in answering the difficult question of wind and solar energy expansion versus wildlife protection. Continue reading