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How do we solve global warming? Where some people see an obvious solution — stop burning so many fossil fuels and stop tearing down forests and grasslands — others see a great opportunity for technological Band-Aids that do nothing to address the root causes.

These fixes range from a plan to launch mirrors into space to deflect some of the incoming sunlight to schemes to seed the oceans with iron and other nutrients that can feed large blooms of algae. The logic goes like this: algae is a plant, plants absorb carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, algae sinks to the deep ocean after it dies, the carbon it absorbed goes with it.

Only, it turns out, that logical might not be so logical. A new study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research has found that, when algae is most abundant, the amount of carbon that gets tucked away deep underwater is at its lowest.

If that sounds counter-intuitive, it goes to show you that nature understands things better than we do. The researchers believe that when algae is more abundant, more things move in to eat it — “Waste not, want not,” being a deeply held philosophy in the natural world. So all that carbon that we thought would sink to the seafloor instead ends up in the bellies of microbes and larger creatures. And the ever-accelerating carbon cycle goes on.

Now I’m not against technology when it can really solve a problem. Compact fluorescent light-bulbs are a great innovation. So are solar panels and passive solar water-heaters. But technology that doesn’t solve a problem — or helps make a problem worse? That we can and should do without.


If climate change, dwindling oil supplies or species extinctions make life miserable for us in the near or not-so-near future, we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves. Like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” we’ve had the answer — actually, many answers — all along.

There’s no shortage of solutions being offered for all the environmental problems staring us in the face. Worried about the global destabilization that might be created by climate change? International Alert offers a hopeful and detailed blueprint for averting climate conflict.¬†Concerned about U.S. energy consumption? The National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency outlines ways to improve energy efficiency across all sectors by 2025. Want to create a sustainable, clean-energy future for all the world’s inhabitants? The InterAcademy Council provides an in-depth plan.

It’s not the lack of solutions that’s the problem: it’s the political will. What we need is a Marshall Plan for global security, a Kennedy-like challenge to deal with climate change “before the decade is out.” Of course, it’s not politicians alone who are to blame: unless more of us demand change and elect leaders capable of thinking big, we’re part of the problem too.

With daily news reports and new studies reinforcing what we already know — that the environment and climate are suffering, and we’re to blame — it’s easy to feel discouraged, helpless and even hopeless. So, for a change, today I’m focusing on something positive and hopeful: Watercone.

This simple yet elegant, portable and 100-percent solar-powered device lets users convert saltwater or brackish, undrinkable water into pure potable drinking water. Each Watercone can product 1.6 liters of clean drinking water a day — enough to meet the needs of one child.

It’s a wonderful innovation that could save many lives. Watercone’s makers point to UNICEF statistics showing that 5,000 children a day die from diarrhea caused by unsafe drinking water. To help change that, Watercone is looking for investors and companies that can help it start producing and distributing its product for a reasonable price. If you’re interested, please contact the company at

U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D, MA) recently held a climate change conference call with several environmentally-oriented bloggers, including myself. I was impressed by his depth of knowledge and clear concern about the implications of climate change, but still discouraged to hear, first-hand, how difficult it is to get good ideas transformed into good laws. As Kerry said, there are still many global warming deniers in Congress, and others who believe the science are still on the fence or reluctant to take too strong an action for one reason or another. So getting enough votes to enact anything with real teeth that has a prayer of curbing global warming is, well, like pulling teeth.

I mentioned to my husband how discouraged I felt after the call. “Kerry’s saying and doing the right things, but Congress isn’t going to do the meaningful things it needs to do now to stop this runaway train,” I complained. My husband’s answer was a wakeup call to me: “Well, what else is there?”

True, I realized. They might be frustratingly influenced by myriad special interests and prone to making decisions based on political, rather than scientific, reasoning. But we in the U.S. don’t have any other national leaders to turn to when we’re looking for effective climate change law.

Kerry himself offered¬†a good suggestion: keep the pressure on so-called moderates who support the science but could do more, he said. Pay special attention to legislators from the states most likely to feel the early effects of climate change — coastal states, for example. It was useful advice, and I’m hoping to follow it in the days, weeks and months to come. I’ll try to keep you posted with any followups in that regard.

In the meantime, to read more about the Kerry conference call, check out my post at