Cellphones can contain up to 60 rare-earth metals, many of which get lost due to poor design

By contrast, modern mobile phones, which may contain up to sixty useful and rare metals, are too small and fiddly for triage to be worth the effort. The upshot is that many valuable materials end up in landfills or are melted into new metallic alloys, wasting their unique properties.

If products were designed to facilitate proper separation and recycling of the constituent parts we could have a shot at creating sustainable cycles of raw-material use. As it stands, these materials get mixed and thrown away and even where it’s possible to re-use the economic incentive is not necessarily there because of prohibitive costs (again poor design…).

Where CDM gets tricky

One criticism of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is that it sometimes produces perverse incentives to increase rather than decrease emissions. One example concerns the production of HCFC-22, a refrigerant gas commonly used in air-conditioning, which produces HFC-23 (a very potent greenhouse gas) as a by-product. Environmentalists claim that the CDM is incentivising the production of HFCs, and that companies are over-producing HFCs so they can be paid to stop doing it.  

It’s hard not to see their point. HFC-23 is 11,700 times more powerful than CO2, meaning that just one project to reduce HFC-23 can produce millions of tradable carbon credits. Of approximately 2000 registered CDM projects, the 19 HFC-23 incineration projects alone count for just over half of the 430 million CERs issued to date. Further, it is estimated that the CDM finance pays 65 to 75 times more to destroy HFC-23 than it actually costs to produce. Close analysis of the monitoring data of some HFC-23 projects, such as the review performed by the NGO coalition CDM Watch of the Ulsan project in South Korea, reveals an artificial increase in HFC-23 production during the period of project registration under the CDM. 

A host of such evidence adds weight to claims that these plants are operated in such a way as to maximise the production of offset credits. Implicated in these accusations are two HFC-23 projects in China, in which the World Bank has invested around $1 billion through its Umbrella Carbon Facility. The World Bank however denies claims that these lucrative projects are attempting to game the system and attributes the increase in HFCs to a growing demand for refrigerators and air-conditioners. Not only do environmentalists insist that the system is being abused, they are also accusing the World Bank of attempting to disrupt the investigations currently underway.

Since HFC-23 projects currently account for over 50% of the total issued volume of CERs, the future of the CDM market now rests with the outcome of three regulatory processes currently underway, catalysed by these accusations.  

Lately spending a lot of time reviewing carbon credit methodologies and the Clean Development Mechanism managed by the UN. The incentives of such programs are not always easy to get right (rather never easy) and there’s now a movement that post-2012 (when the current commitment period ends) there will be more support for governments running programs for carbon reduction. It seems to me that governments might be even worse than markets in determining successful interventions…

Where can you live well and prosper?

OECD has created a website which allows you to figure out which country scores high on a number of factors, which you can rank by order of preference to your life.

Sweden and the other Nordics always come up top no matter how you rank these factors. I’m pretty sure none of those places would be places where I’d like to live. Thinking about it, i realize that my life satisfaction probably isn’t really based on any of these factors – so what factor is missing? What is making India or China rank up top on my scale? It’s for sure not “exoticism” or anything ridculous like that, but maybe it’s access to Seligman’s “meaning”?

Try yourself, which country scores high on your indicators? 


(note you’ll obviously only find OECD members on this list, so in case they’re not really your idea of a perfect place to live, you might find the tool slightly lacking … 🙂 )

Picture courtesy of Free World Maps.

Traveling first AC on Indian railways is pure luxury


Huge, comfy beds – shared cabin with a non-snorer + get fed til’ you drop. All it lacked was coffee.

Trashed, or, the tough life of an Indian idol


Ganesh and Lakshmi was not having a good day that day.

The devil is not in the details, it’s in the beginning and the endings

Patients’ memories of the past may influence their decisions about the future, yet memories are imperfect and susceptible to bias. We tested whether a memory failure observed in psychology experiments could be applied in a clinical setting to lessen patients’ memories of the pain of an unpleasant medical procedure. We studied consecutive outpatients undergoing colonoscopy who were medically stable, mentally competent, and able to speak English (n=682). By random assignment, half the patients had a short interval added to the end of their procedure during which the tip of the colonoscope remained in the rectum. Pain during the procedure was measured with a ten point intensity scale. Memory following the procedure was measured using both a rating scale and a ranking task. Randomization resulted in two similar groups. As theorized, patients who underwent the extended procedure experienced the final moments as less painful (1.7 vs. 2.5 on a ten point intensity scale, P<0.001), rated the entire experience as less unpleasant (4.4 vs. 4.9 on a 10 cm visual analogue scale, P=0.006), and ranked the procedure as less aversive compared to seven other unpleasant experiences (4.1 vs. 4.6 with eight as the worst, P=0.002). Rates of returning for a repeat colonoscopy (median duration of follow-up 5.3 years) averaged 50.4% and were slightly higher (odds ratio=1.41, P=0.038) for those who underwent the longer procedure controlling for prior colonoscopy, procedure indications, and abnormal findings. Memory failures observed in experimental conditions can be found in clinical settings involving awake patients and may offer opportunities for improving patients’ willingness to undergo future unpleasant medical procedures.

Now, such results may not be very applicable to other situations, however there’s some evidence that our memory in general seems much more capable at capturing beginnings and endings… therefore when you design your experiences (work, holidays, etc.) it could be important to place extra emphasis on beginnings and endings.

The size of a tragedy

All of these are of course tragic, but the amount of time spent on intervention should be somehow guided by size, no?


From SaveFarmers.