On a steep road on the outskirts of Oaxaca de Juárez, Mexico, a low buzz and plastic fumes emanate from a white house. A ribbed white paper tube snakes out of a window on the building, exhaling a light smoke which mixes with fumes from nearby open-air cooks and the sooty exhaust of rumbling, unmuffled bus engines. Inside, the tube is attached to a machine that’s gobbling plastic flakes—which can come from used drink bottles—through a funnel also made from a plastic drink bottle. At the other end of the machine, a spinning wheel draws out the fresh-melted polymer into a black filament just three millimeters wide and value hundreds of times what it was worth in in bottle form.
Gardeners making their rounds through Barcelona’s Parc del Centre del Poblenou these days are as likely to carry tablets as trowels. The city recently moved 178 of its irrigation points to an Internet-controlled system. While it is handy to manage watering at the keyboard instead of turning a knob on a pipe, much of the advantage is in the data that the new system sends back to a central software system the city has built. Continue reading
Climate change negotiators agreed Sunday to monitor deforestation and to pay developing countries for keeping carbon trapped in forests. To measure just how much forest those countries are conserving, the United Nations Collaborative Program on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD+, to its friends) will rely on a complex system of satellite measurements and field checks. The agreement is a victory for advocates in the research and conservation communities. Yet they face a lot of work implementing the program. Continue reading
Debates about how best to avoid Nairobi traffic can take nearly as long as a drive across town. The city has three dozen traffic cameras downtown, but that’s not enough information for a city of over three million people. Traffic costs the city US $600 000 a day, by one estimate. IBM’s Nairobi lab, in beta since a year ago, tackled traffic early on and today launched a mobile application to help drivers avoid traffic. Continue reading