Biomimicry, Spiders, Cancer Alley and Mia Mottley

Biomimicry, Spiders, Cancer Alley and Mia Mottley
Posted on February 13th, 2024

Today, I want to talk to you about one of my favorite organizations. Just go to biomimicry dot org. The Biomimicry Institute encourages people to come up with solutions inspired by nature to save the planet. Biomimicry is the practice of imitating nature’s strategies to solve design challenges in a sustainable way. The Biomimicry Institute enables people to come up with nature-inspired solutions for a healthy planet. Their aim is to make biomimicry a normal part of the design process, fostering a new generation of innovators who prioritize all life on Earth.

Every year they give out The Ray of Hope Prize to the best nature-inspired startups. They help them grow by offering a 10-week program that focuses on sustainable business training, communication support, and funding opportunities, all without taking any ownership. Whoever wins gets a fat $100,000, and the others will split $50,000 between them.

These startups are ready to solve major environmental and social issues, thanks to nature’s billions of years of knowledge. GreenPod Labs won the prize last year.

India is the second biggest fruit and veggie producer, but 40% of it goes bad before reaching people. GreenPod Labs use plant extracts to activate the built-in defense mechanism, making fruits and veggies last longer. By knowing all about crops and spoilage, GreenPod Labs can make the perfect formula for produce to fight against stresses without needing cold storage.

If you’re scared of spiders, you might wanna skip this part. What’s Spintex? They use a spider-inspired process to create the most amazing silk fibers. They’re 1000 times more energy efficient than synthetic plastic fibers and don’t use any harmful chemicals. Water is the only thing they produce. These fibers are being used in sustainable fashion textiles, but they’re also perfect for other markets like aerospace and automotive industries, as well as medical textiles.

Textiles are everywhere in our lives. From the clothes we wear to the fibers in new materials. Sadly, this widespread use is taking a huge toll on the environment. The manufacturing process is a total mess, using way too many petrochemicals, heat energy, and materials that are just not sustainable.

​Nature is a huge inspiration for new textiles, especially spiders. With only water and protein, this creature can create amazing textile fibers without any harmful stuff. Spintex cracked the code on making spider silk. They make their fibers by pulling from a liquid protein gel, no harsh chemicals, right at room temp. Their process is way more efficient than plastic fibers, and all you get is water. These fibers are special - they’re made from protein and won’t harm the environment. While Indiana Jones had a strong dislike for snakes, I’m terrified of spiders. Even those little tiny ones. Yesterday, I walked into the bathroom and saw a spider crawling out of the drain while I was washing my hands. I said, “Later, Boris!” I cranked the water up and washed him away. I guess life’s all about timing, even for a spider. If he had popped out a few minutes earlier, he’d be crawling all over my place. I wonder how many spiders are actually living in my walls? You know what? Let’s just not think about it.

Thousands of dedicated scientists are putting in the work to understand climate change and protect it from those fossil idiots. That’s how I refer to capitalists who insist we keep using fossil fuels. This month, we’re celebrating the birthday of scientist Eystein Jansen. Can you believe his parents named him Eystein? Wow, talk about pressure! Not Einstein, but close. Could you imagine if he came home with a bad grade in math? “Eystein, you got a C plus in Algebra!!! What is the meaning of this! You’ll never amount to anything with these grades! Now, go to your room and study the Periodic Table.”

Eystein Jansen was born on Feb 28, 1953. He’s a professor in marine geology and paleoceanography at the University of Bergen. He’s a researcher and used to be the Director of the Bjerknes Center for Climate Research, too. He’s in charge of basic research in physical sciences and engineering for the EU as the VP of the European Research Council. Jansen has written 200 papers on how the ocean and climate change are connected, especially when it comes to ice sheets. He’s definitely earned the name.

What the heck is going on in Cancer Alley?

It’s a classic story of the little guy getting the short end of the economic stick. We’ve seen it play out a thousand times. City leaders sit a table with executives from a chemical company and boast how the new plant will provide lots of great jobs. What they don’t say is that all the people who live near the plant are at a greater risk to get cancer, while the bigwigs at the company drive to their big homes far away from the poison leaking out into the surrounding area of the plant. So, here’s the latest news.

The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality is getting ready to OK a $1 billion petrochemical plant in Geismar, which would be the largest plastics plant in the world.

Mitsubishi Chemical Co. is gonna build a $1 billion facility in Geismar on a 77-acre site. They’ll churn out 385,000 tons of methyl methacrylate annually. This chemical is used in all sorts of things like paints, adhesives, building panels, and other acrylic polymers. The company wants LDEQ to give them a permit so they can release a ton of toxic gasses and greenhouse gas every year. The plant would be one of the worst 50 polluters in the state, according to the EPA.

Geismar is in “Cancer Alley,” a petrochemical corridor between New Orleans and Baton Rouge with terrible air quality and high cancer rates. The new Mitsubishi plant would be surrounded by petrochemical plants, and there are already over 5,000 people living close by.

I never believe when the Governor, mayor, or city councilman or councilwoman tells a reporter not to worry. When they move their mouth, it’s time to worry. This entire proposal started when Mitsubishi came to Louisiana because Former Gov. John Bel Edwards dangled a $4 million grant and some awesome incentives like the Industrial Tax Exemption Program and Quality Jobs tax credit program. The company is getting a sweet deal of $168 million in ITEP incentives from Ascension Parish taxpayers for 10 years.

According to a statement from Louisiana Economic Development on Dec. 8, 2020, the project is expected to bring in over $1 billion and create 125 permanent jobs with an average annual salary of $100,000.

The Geismar plant would be Mitsubishi’s third worldwide that produces MMA with ethylene, a chemical made from natural gas. The company has another MMA-producing site in the US, but it’s in Memphis and uses outdated technologies. The company claims their newer tech is way more eco-friendly. LDEQ is expected to grant the air permit this year, and construction could begin as early as 2025. It sounds like another example of the poor people living in “Cancer Alley” getting the shaft.

If you turn on the television, you’ll get reports about the election, or the recent floods in California, but you won’t see much about Mia Mottley.

Mia Mottley gained attention in climate policy after her influential COP26 speech, in which she denounced a rise of 2 degrees centigrade in the world as a “Death Sentence” for many in the global south. Since then, she’s been working with developing nations to form climate partnerships, uniting their efforts for greater action on climate change and climate reparations. She won the United Nations Environment Program Champion of the Earth award in 2021 for her work in Barbados and global advocacy. Why doesn’t the mainstream media take fifteen minutes, or even five minutes during prime-time viewing hours to talk about the climate crisis? It’s always the same story, regurgitated every fifteen minutes to catch new viewers just tuning in after driving their gas-powered engines home from work. Ok, hang on, I’m still driving a combustion engine. I love my Mini-Cooper. At least it’s great on gas mileage. Not great for putting two sets of golf clubs in the trunk, but it’s fun to drive. Their first attempt at an EV went 110 miles on a full charge. Are you kidding me, Mini-Cooper. You’ve got to do better than that if you want me to buy another one of your cute little cars. Ah, but I digress. It must be my ADHD kicking in.

It’s never too early, or too late to get involved. That’s it for today.

Posted on December 22nd, 2023.

Climate fiction, or 'cli-fi', has burgeoned into a prominent genre, intertwining the narrative flair of literature with pressing environmental issues. As an author and podcaster based in Aurora, I've immersed myself in this fascinating genre, weaving stories that resonate with the urgency of our times.

A Genre Emerges from the Shadows

I remember when climate fiction was just a speck on the literary horizon. Initially, it was a niche, almost speculative theme within science fiction. But as our planet's environmental crises have deepened, cli-fi has grown in prominence and necessity. It's no longer just a genre for speculative fiction enthusiasts; it's a medium that speaks to everyone aware of the looming threat of climate change.

The Heart of Climate Fiction

At its core, cli-fi does more than just entertain. It's a vehicle for awareness, a canvas for painting the stark realities and potential futures of our planet. In my own writing journey, I've found that blending environmental facts with human stories creates a compelling narrative that can educate, inform, and inspire.

The Power of Narrative in Environmental Activism

Storytelling has always been a potent tool for change. In cli-fi, this power is harnessed to cast a spotlight on environmental issues. By crafting narratives around climate change and its impacts, I aim to evoke empathy and action. It's not just about painting a bleak future; it's about showing the path to a better one.

The Role of Characters in Cli-Fi

Characters in climate fiction are more than just protagonists in a dystopian world. They are mirrors reflecting our own dilemmas, fears, and hopes. In my books, I strive to create characters who are relatable, who grapple with the same environmental concerns that you and I face daily.

The Intersection of Science and Fiction

One of the most intriguing aspects of writing cli-fi is the blend of scientific fact and creative fiction. I spend countless hours researching climate science to ensure that my narratives are grounded in reality. This intersection creates a bridge between scientific discourse and the general public, making complex topics more accessible.

Aurora: A Hub of Inspiration

Living in Aurora, Ohio, I find myself surrounded by a landscape rich in natural beauty and biodiversity. This environment is not just a backdrop for my stories; it's a character in itself, influencing plots and driving narratives. Aurora's unique setting fuels my imagination, allowing me to create vivid and authentic cli-fi worlds.

Humor in the Face of Adversity

In addressing serious issues like global warming and pollution, I've discovered that humor can be a powerful tool. It's not about trivializing the issues but about making them more approachable. Through my podcast, I blend humor with environmental discussions, creating a space where learning and laughter go hand in hand.

The Evolution of Climate Fiction

Climate fiction has evolved rapidly over the years. From its early days of dystopian narratives, it has grown to encompass a range of sub-genres – from hopeful and optimistic to cautionary tales. In my writing, I explore these various facets, understanding that the climate crisis is a multifaceted issue requiring a diverse storytelling approach.

Cli-Fi as a Catalyst for Change

Beyond entertainment, cli-fi has the potential to be a catalyst for real-world change. Through my novels and podcast episodes, I aim to ignite conversations about sustainability, conservation, and eco-friendly practices. It's about using fiction as a tool to foster a deeper understanding and commitment to environmental stewardship.

The Future of Climate Fiction

Looking ahead, I see climate fiction not just enduring but flourishing. As the realities of climate change become increasingly evident, the demand for stories that address these issues will only grow. In my future works, I plan to continue exploring new themes and perspectives, always with an eye towards how literature can contribute to a healthier planet.

A Personal Invitation

As an author and podcaster, I'm deeply committed to the cause of environmental awareness and action. If you're intrigued by the world of climate fiction or simply want to learn more about the intersection of environmental issues and literature, I invite you to reach out. Whether it’s a discussion about my latest book, thoughts on an episode of my podcast, or your insights on climate change, I'm always eager to connect with like-minded individuals. Let's join hands in shaping a narrative that leads to a brighter, more sustainable future. Get in touch, and let's start this vital conversation.

Send a message

Got a question, a bright idea, or just want to say hello? Drop me a line right here! I'm always thrilled to connect with fellow eco-enthusiasts and readers. If you want to sign up for my newsletter, mention it in the message box and I'll send you a free short story called "The Docent." You'll also get a heads-up on coming releases and my current work in progress.