I recently listened to a Freakonomics podcast that draws attention to the relatively new issue of "bad environmentalism." They refer to the practice of companies and individuals that frequently use phrases like "eco-friendly" and "green" as a means to sell a product. The big example used in the piece is that of bamboo flooring, which has recently received the approval of the LEED building program as a green material. The fact of the matter is that the only thing green about bamboo is that it has a rapid renewal time. Many of the same issues with traditional timber still apply to it, such as land clearing, pesticide use, and impacts from shipping the material. There are plenty of sustainably produced timber products that have less of an impact on our environment than the bamboo operations.
As a consumer it is very difficult to be fully informed on the life-cycle footprint of a product so we should all be wary when we hear a sales pitch from someone that has an obvious personal interest in the matter. In defense of the people selling "green" products, they themselves are probably not informed on the entire life-cycle analysis of their product either.
On a positive note, it's great that a product's environmental rating has become a selling point for consumers in our country. I don't think that would have been the case a few decades ago.
Earth as Art
The USGS has put together a collection of beautiful satellite images entitled Earth as Art and the results are stunning. The image above was acquired from Landsat 7 and depicts the Terkezi Oasis in the Sahara Desert region of Chad. The purple outcrops of bedrock are a stark contrast to the surrounding desert and look like they shield certain areas from sand deposition; perhaps that is why this area is referred to as an oasis. I was not able to find any information on what band combinations were used to generate this picture (a quick overview of "bands" for those unfamiliar with satellite imagery). A quick search on Google Earth shows that the rocks do actually have a purplish tinge to them, so perhaps it is composited from a visible light band combination and just heavily edited for aesthetic purposes. If you are interested in the full collection of Earth as Art the free e-book can be found here.
Seeing as how there is a plethora of satellite data freely available on the USGS database, I am very interested in creating my own artistic pieces from data acquired around the globe. Playing around with band combinations often yields images with pretty wild colors. I think cool aesthetic compositions like this are an excellent way to generate interest in earth processes for the general public and, more importantly, for young people.
Scientist, photographer, and outdoor athlete based in Denver, Colorado. This blog is a place to share science-related news and ideas that I find interesting.