Climate justice and environmental ethics in tech, with Amazon engineer Rajit Iftikhar

Climate justice and environmental ethics in tech, with Amazon engineer Rajit Iftikhar

Source: TechCrunch.com

Nearly 8,000 Amazon employees, many in prestigious engineering and design roles, have recently signed a petition calling on Jeff Bezos and the Amazon Board of Directors to dramatically shift the giant company’s approach to climate change.

By deploying a kind of corporate social disobedience such as speaking out dramatically at shareholders meetings, and by engaging in a variety of community organizing tactics, the “Amazon Employees for Climate Justice” group has quickly become a leading example of a growing trend in the tech world: tech employees banding together to take strong ethical stances in defiance of their powerful employers.

The public actions taken by these employees and groups have been covered widely by the news media. For my TechCrunch series on the ethics of technology, however, I wanted to better understand what participating actively in this campaign has been like some of the individuals involved.

How are employees in high-pressure jobs balancing their professional roles and responsibilities with being actively, publicly in defiance of their employers on a high-profile issue? How do leaders in these efforts explain the philosophy underlying their ethical stance? And how likely are their ideas to spread throughout Amazon and beyond – perhaps particularly among younger tech workers?

I recently spoke with a handful of the Amazon employees most actively involved in the Employees for Climate Justice campaign, all of whom inspired me– in similar and different ways. Below is the first of two interviews I’ll publish here. This one is with Rajit Iftikhar, a young software engineer from New York who moved to Seattle to work for Amazon after earning his Bachelor’s of Engineering in Computer Science from Cornell in 2016.

Rajit Iftikhar

Rajit struck me as a humble and precociously wise young man who could be a role model — though he seems to have little interest in singling himself out that way — for thousands of other software engineers and technologists at Amazon and beyond.

Greg Epstein: Your personal story has been key to your organizing with Amazon Employees for Climate Justice. Can you start by saying a bit about why?

Rajit Iftikhar: A lot of why I care about climate justice is informed by me having parents from another country that is going to be very adversely affected by [climate change]. Countries like Bangladesh are going to suffer some of the worst consequences from climate change, because of where the country’s located, and the fact that it doesn’t have the resources to adapt.

Bangladesh is already feeling the effects of climate crisis; it is much harder for people to live in the rural areas, [people are] being forced into the cities. Then you have the cyclones that the climate crisis is going to bring, and rising sea levels and flooding.

So, my background [emphasizes, for me] how unjust our emissions are in causing all these problems for people in other countries. And even for communities of color within our country who are going to be disproportionately impacted by the emissions that largely richer people [cause].

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Rivian and ‘Free Solo’ star Alex Honnold team up to build solar microgrid with used EV batteries

Rivian and ‘Free Solo’ star Alex Honnold team up to build solar microgrid with used EV batteries

Source: TechCrunch.com

Rivian, the once secretive company that made its public debut in November with an electric pickup truck and SUV, plans to give its batteries a second life and put them to work in a solar microgrid project in Puerto Rico.

The automaker is teaming up with The Honnold Foundation, an organization started by Alex Honnold, the professional climber and subject of the documentary Free Solo, on the microgrid project. Honnold and Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe will discuss the project Saturday in Denver. The discussion, which is scheduled for 6 pm MT, will be live-streamed.

The microgrid project will be set up in Adjuntas, a city of about 20,000 people in midwestern Puerto Rico that was severely impacted by Hurricane Maria in 2017. Casa Pueblo, an environmental watchdog based in Adjuntas that has been looking for ways to set up affordable sources of community power, is also a partner in the project.

Rivian is providing 135 kilowatt-hour battery packs from its development vehicles to support the microgrid. Earlier this year, battery engineers from Rivian and The Honnold Foundation visited Casa Pueblo and met with community leaders to design a site-specific system that will power many of the businesses located in the Adjuntas town square.

The downtown solar microgrid project will serve two purposes. It will give residents access to electricity for core business if the primary source of power is gone. The microgrid will also be used daily to offset the high cost of energy in Puerto Rico, which is twice the national average of the U.S.

The system is expected to launch in 2020.

“Second-life batteries are a big enabler to accelerating widespread adoption of renewable energy, and it’s exciting to envision this system contributing importantly to a community. This project allows us to model a customized energy storage solution that takes into account space constraints, disaster resiliency and energy independence,” Scaringe said.

The project marks the beginning of the company’s long-term plans to find a wide variety of applications for second-life batteries.

The company designed its pack, module and battery management system to transition from vehicle energy storage to stationary energy storage at the end of their vehicle life. The module itself is thin, a design that allows for second-life applications that are space-efficient and customizable.

Rivian is an electric automaker focused on adventure vehicles like pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles. The company announced in February that it had raised $700 million in a round led by Amazon.

The company has spent the first part of its life operating out of the public eye. It was originally launched as Mainstream Motors in 2009. By 2011, the name changed to Rivian and moved out of Florida. Today, the company has more than 1,000 employees split between development locations in Plymouth, Mich., San Jose and Irvine, Calif. and Surrey, England. It also has a 2.6 million-square-foot factory in Normal, Ill.

Rivian plans to launch the R1T electric pickup truck and the R1S SUV in the U.S. in late 2020, with introduction to other global geographies starting in 2021.

Please note:

This article was imported from an external RSS feed distributed by Techcrunch.com. Although the article is presumed to originate from a reputable source, JusPost Inc however reserves the right to protect itself and herein affirms that it is NOT the author or copyright owner of this article, nor does it warrant or guarantee that the content of this article is 100% accurate and without prejudice. Furthermore, JusPost Inc declares that it has not modified, nor sold or redistributed this article for profit, and has credited it with the proper source link.
Zume buys packaging company, with eyes on plant-based plastic alternative

Zume buys packaging company, with eyes on plant-based plastic alternative

Source: TechCrunch.com

Zume Inc. (they of the robotic pizza) has acquired Southern California-based Pivot, designer of plant-based packaging material. Along with the deal, Zume will be opening a 70,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in the area.

Zume notes that it has actually been in the food packaging industry in one form or other since 2016, when it introduced a compostable pizza box made from the fibers of discarded sugar cane. This acquisition finds the company expanding its offering into additional containers, including bowls, plates cups, trays and cutlery.

The startup has set the lofty goal of replacing one billion plastic and styrofoam containers by next year. It’s an admirable target — food packing waste is undeniably out of control, and is likely to only get worse before it gets better.

“Food delivery is upending the food system as we know it, and we believe that the powerful consumer demand signals it generates can be a force creating a more sustainable world,” Zume CEO Alex Garden said in a release tied to the news. Food packaging is a huge part of this equation because it not only provides critical consumption data but it also provides useful information from the farm where its materials are sourced to the final disposal.”

The new manufacturing plant is the first of several in the U.S. in the works from the company.

Please note:

This article was imported from an external RSS feed distributed by Techcrunch.com. Although the article is presumed to originate from a reputable source, JusPost Inc however reserves the right to protect itself and herein affirms that it is NOT the author or copyright owner of this article, nor does it warrant or guarantee that the content of this article is 100% accurate and without prejudice. Furthermore, JusPost Inc declares that it has not modified, nor sold or redistributed this article for profit, and has credited it with the proper source link.
Tesla says solar roof is on its third iteration, currently installing in 8 states

Tesla says solar roof is on its third iteration, currently installing in 8 states

Source: TechCrunch.com

Tesla is currently installing its solar roof product in eight states, according to Elon Musk, speaking at the Tesla Annual Shareholder Meeting on Tuesday. The solar roof-tile project has had a relatively long genesis since being unveiled three years ago, in 2016.

In 2017, the company claimed its first-ever installations of the Tesla solar roof, after opening up orders for the product in the second quarter of that year. Musk noted during the company’s Q2 2017 earnings call that both himself and Tesla CTO JB Straubel had the tiles installed and operating on their homes.

The company also announced last year that it had entered into a partnership with Home Depot to sell its solar panels, along with its PowerWall home battery, but that was about its traditional panels specifically, not the new tile product. The tiles are designed to look like high-quality home tiles people use currently, with integrated solar panels that are not easily identified from ground level, in order to provide a more aesthetically pleasing solution.

In addition to having installations run in eight states, Musk said the solar roof product is currently on version three, and that this version is very exciting to him because it offers a chance of being at cost parity with an equivalent entry-level cheap traditional tile, when you include the cost of utilities you’d be saving by generating your own power instead.

Regarding timelines for wider rollout of the solar roof products at the costs he anticipates, his own words probably say it best: “I’m sometimes a little optimistic about time frames — it’s time you knew,” he joked at the meeting.

Please note:

This article was imported from an external RSS feed distributed by Techcrunch.com. Although the article is presumed to originate from a reputable source, JusPost Inc however reserves the right to protect itself and herein affirms that it is NOT the author or copyright owner of this article, nor does it warrant or guarantee that the content of this article is 100% accurate and without prejudice. Furthermore, JusPost Inc declares that it has not modified, nor sold or redistributed this article for profit, and has credited it with the proper source link.
Embraer’s new EmbraerX eVTOL concept is accessible, autonomous and courteous

Embraer’s new EmbraerX eVTOL concept is accessible, autonomous and courteous

Source: TechCrunch.com

Short-distance commuter air travel has come a long way in the past few years — at least when it comes to concepts. The latest vision from Embraer of how we’ll get around in the city skies of the (near?) future involves some of what we’ve already seen, and highlights a few things that make clear where it’s focusing its priorities — namely, on community adoption and acceptance.

The concept created by EmbraerX, which is aircraft maker Embraer’s market acceleration and innovation arm, features electric power, as well as vertical take-off and landing (the “eVTOL” piece of the puzzle). It’s optimized for a ridesharing model, and is focused on “user experience” as well as “making the aircraft easily accessible to everyone,” according to the company.

It includes redundant flight systems for safety, as well as an intentional effort to reduce overall noise output with an eight rotor system that distributes lift across the span of the vehicle’s body. The introductory video highlights how the concept vehicle can accommodate passengers who user wheelchairs, and there’s both fly-by-wire control for today, as well as all the technology on board needed for autonomous operation once the tech is ready.

No word on target timelines for bringing these to the actual skies, but this looks a lot more technically feasible when compared to existing aircraft, beyond maybe an electric drivetrain that can provide the kind of lift needed for transporting what looks like up to four passengers, and doing so reliably and consistently.

Please note:

This article was imported from an external RSS feed distributed by Techcrunch.com. Although the article is presumed to originate from a reputable source, JusPost Inc however reserves the right to protect itself and herein affirms that it is NOT the author or copyright owner of this article, nor does it warrant or guarantee that the content of this article is 100% accurate and without prejudice. Furthermore, JusPost Inc declares that it has not modified, nor sold or redistributed this article for profit, and has credited it with the proper source link.
Google offers new treasure trove of air quality data to researchers

Google offers new treasure trove of air quality data to researchers

Source: TechCrunch.com

Google has employed its network of street-view vehicles to also measure street-level air quality in recent years, through an initiative it calls “Project Air View.” Today, it’s making available to scientists and researcher organizations more of the resulting data from that ongoing initiative. The company is releasing an updated version of its air quality data set that includes information collected with partner Aclima’s environmental sensors gathered between 2017 and 2018.

The combined data cache includes info from the SF Bay and San Joaquin Valley area, originally starting in 2016, along with the additional two years’ worth of data for those areas as well as for other parts of California, and other major cities, including Houston, Salt Lake City, Copenhagen, London and Amsterdam.

All told, Google’s mapping data set for air quality now includes info covering more than 140,000 miles and 7,000 hours of combined driving time spanning 2016 through 2018. That’s a significant base upon which to build a study of the trajectory of air quality changes over time, and Google plans to not only continue this program, but expand it with additional coverage for more cities globally, including in Asia, Africa and South America.

Please note:

This article was imported from an external RSS feed distributed by Techcrunch.com. Although the article is presumed to originate from a reputable source, JusPost Inc however reserves the right to protect itself and herein affirms that it is NOT the author or copyright owner of this article, nor does it warrant or guarantee that the content of this article is 100% accurate and without prejudice. Furthermore, JusPost Inc declares that it has not modified, nor sold or redistributed this article for profit, and has credited it with the proper source link.
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