Four-star Living at Burning Man: The Dome

Why didn't Buckminster Fuller's dome-a brilliant innovation of design-ever take off?

Why didn't Buckminster Fuller's dome—a brilliant innovation of design—ever take off?

A few months ago, I spent a wonderful week living in a dome. For a total investment of about $250, I acquired over a 100 sturdy, shaded, weather-proof square feet of residential real estate. At Burning Man, this was four-star living.

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Seitan: The Other Green Meat

Is there such a thing as a sustainable alternative to beef and other meats? Beef is not what's for dinner if you are serving 6...

Is there such a thing as a sustainable alternative to beef and other meats?

Beef is not what’s for dinner if you are serving 6 billion people, much less so if you are serving 9 billion (where population is expected to level off, around 2050). Current meat production puts meat on the dinner table for far fewer than 6 billion people every night, as most people can’t afford it. Meat alone is responsible for about 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The land required to grow the feed and graze those animals that are allowed to graze, the water used at every stage of the process, and the complications of hormones and antibiotics make the kind of industrial meat production required to feed billions of omnivores one of the biggest threats to the global environment. Scale that up to meet current or future demand and you have a crisis.

We really should have started eating less meat years ago, but in the 20 years until 2002 (the most recent year the data is available from the World Resources Institute) meat consumption has grown in every region of the world except in Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa, where it has essentially remained stable (and in Africa very low). The Americas, with the United States, Canada, and Argentina in the lead, are the biggest meat eaters. The Europeans aren’t far behind. As countries get richer, they eat more meat, because it tastes good, and because they can. And some very big countries are getting richer right now, so the trend is clearly upwards.

As in past pieces in this series, the question is how to find, among the many forms of meat touted as greener or more environmentally friendly, that kind of meat that really has a chance of pushing environmentally damaging, industrial meat off the table. We are looking for a “disruptive innovation,” to use the concept coined by Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen to explain how innovations in technological and business systems can gain a foothold in a market of established, profitable corporations and eventually come to dominate those markets themselves. The theory of disruptive innovation successfully explains the rise of the cell phone against the landline and Japanese automakers against Detroit. Environmentalists should hope to replicate such successes in environmentally damaging industries like transportation and electricity (discussed previously) and in the meat industry.

A trip to even a mainstream grocer or butcher will likely bring the shopper in contact with one or more of the following green “innovations” in meat production:

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Leap-frogging to Sustainability

Why the shrinking cost of solar power may be enough to change our planet's outlook-especially if it's introduced first in the developing...

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