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As I write this, Pope Francis is expected to be discharged soon from the hospital, where he has spent the past few days due to a respiratory infection that had caused him to have difficulty breathing. While the immediate cause of this hospitalization was the infection, it didn’t act on its own. Studies have found that air pollution can exacerbate the impacts of an infection by making it more difficult to breathe, therefore making hospitalization more likely.
This interconnection between disease and the environment calls to my mind one of the Pope’s first major works: Laudato si’: On Care For Our Common Home. In this 2015 encyclical, Pope Francis discusses the urgent crisis of many aspects of the environment, and calls on “the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change.”
One of the specific challenges articulated in the work is that of air pollution, which he wrote “broad spectrum of health hazards, especially for the poor, and causes millions of premature deaths.” Pollution, the bishop of Rome said, comes as a result of a “throwaway culture” that fails to be inspired by nature.
“It is hard for us to accept that the way natural ecosystems work is exemplary: plants synthesize nutrients which feed herbivores; these in turn become food for carnivores, which produce significant quantities of organic waste which give rise to new generations of plants,” Pope Francis wrote. “But our industrial system, at the end of its cycle of production and consumption, has not developed the capacity to absorb and reuse waste and by-products.”
That idea of taking inspiration from nature has common ground with science. This week, the journal PLOS Biology published a collection of papers offering potential sustainable solutions for different environmental problems, all of which take their inspiration from nature and could be, in the words of the journal’s editors, “applied to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, eliminate non-degradable plastics, produce food or energy more sustainably, and more.”
That said, as the Pope reminds us, it’s not enough to be clever. We also have to be wise. As he said in the Laudato si’, “Any technical solution which science claims to offer will be powerless to solve the serious problems of our world if humanity loses its compass, if we lose sight of the great motivations which make it possible for us to live in harmony, to make sacrifices and to treat others well.”
The Big Read
Diamond Disruptor: Meet The Nerdy King Of Bargain Bling
Though they get little respect from the industry’s old guard, technologist Martin Roscheisen’s lab-grown diamonds will soon flood the $85 billion fine jewelry market. They could also play a critical role in providing advanced chips for things like electric vehicles and quantum computing.
Read more here.
Discoveries And Innovations
A university in Finland is building a pilot plant that would make see-through food packaging out of cellulose, which would offer a biodegradable alternative to traditional plastic.
A new study suggests that “heat domes”—which caused record high temperatures in the U.S. during the summer of 2021, will become more frequent as the planet warms.
Sustainability Deals Of The Week
Robotic Irrigation: San Francisco-based Irrigreen, which creates robotic irrigation systems that can more precisely provide needed water, announced that it raised a $15 million seed funding round led by Ulu Ventures.
Solar Power: EDP Renewables has ordered solar modules from First Solar in a multi-year agreement ending in 2028. The modules will be enough to power 1.8 gigawatts of solar energy projects.
Building Decarbonization: New York-based Logical Buildings announced that it’s closed a $110 million funding facility with Keyframe Capital. This will be used to create virtual power plants for multifamily buildings, which can be used to decrease power consumption and create financial opportunities for building owners and residents.
On The Horizon
Since the beginning of October, a series of storms have gifted California’s Sierra Nevada mountains with over 700 inches of snow, which means that when it melts in the summer, it could help alleviate some of the drought conditions the area has been facing for the past few years.
What Else We’re Reading This Week
Green Transportation Update
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has promised dramatic changes in how his company makes batteries that power its electric vehicles and stationary energy storage packs. It’s now working to develop next-generation lithium-ion cells that are cheaper and more energy-dense. But he’s hardly alone in this effort. Big competitors like General Motors and China’s BYD and CATL have their own breakthrough battery plans, and so does ambitious Norwegian startup Freyr. It opened a pilot factory this week to make lithium-ion cells with a new manufacturing process that Freyr says can cut battery costs by 25%. The company aims to begin high-volume production at large-scale plants in Norway and Georgia by 2025.
The Big Transportation Story
Which Cars Qualify For An EV Tax Credit? Tough New Rules Create Confusion
The U.S. Treasury Department is tightening rules for consumers to get a generous income tax credit for buying a new electric vehicle starting next month, setting a requirement that key components including battery materials be sourced mainly from within North America. Few of the 91 EVs currently qualifying for the credit will continue to do so starting on April 18.
Read more here.
More Green Transportation News
GM’s Electric Blazer And Its Future EVs To Lose Apple Carplay And Android Auto Support
Why Are Catalytic Converter Thefts Exploding And Could There Be An “EV” Silver Lining?
While On-Road Driverless Slows, Ag-Tech Autonomy Players Are Plowing Ahead
Germany Wins European E-Fuels Concession; Nothing Much Changes
Volkswagen’s Electric ID. Buzz Captures Best Car Award
New EV Affordability Improving But Used Deals May Be Tough To Find
Here’s Which Electric Cars Are Cheaper To Own Than Their Gas-Powered Alternatives
Helixx Introduces Mc-Mobility Small EV Manufacturing Concept
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