Some of the largest wildfires ever recorded are raging across the west. Millions of acres have burned in California, Oregon and Washington. Smoke has reached as far as Europe.
Firefighters like Michael Seaton, who lost his home in the deadly 2018 Camp Fire, have worked more than a month straight.
“So you’re out on the line for two days and you’re sleep deprived out there. So I’ve seen people standing up with their eyes closed and they’re basically asleep,” said Seaton, a CAL FIRE engineer.
“All of this is on the heels of wildfire emergencies in 2019, 2018 and 2017 that points to the pattern of how climate warming is predisposing large landscapes to unprecedented fire activity,” said Doug Morton, Chief of NASA’s Biospheric Sciences Laboratory.
Heat waves and drought have left a thick layer of dry vegetation easily sparked by people and lightning. Although nearly 85% of wildland fires in the U.S. are caused by humans, people continue moving to fire-prone areas in droves.
“How are we as a country spending our money? Are we going to have an F-35 dogfight with the Russians or the Chinese? Maybe, but the more likely thing is we’re going to continue to burn our citizens over,” said Graham Kent, a seismologist who runs a system of cameras that help quickly assess fires.
New tools to fight fires
For decades, firefighting has been slow to change. Now, Kent is among a handful of mostly small groups bringing new solutions to the way we fight, detect and prevent wildfires.
With this season’s fires burning within miles of Silicon Valley, home to the world’s tech giants and some of their billionaire leaders, Kent and others are calling for more money, and ideas, to stop the trend.
“They should be involved in wide scale fuel reduction
Co-Founder & CEO of corporate venture-builder FoundersLane, a serial entrepreneur building business up to IPOs and author of ”Fightback”.
It’s hard to imagine the pandemic without digital technologies. In the West, how would we have made it through lockdown, both in a business and social sense, without Zoom calls, community support, WhatsApp, Slack, the latest Netflix docuseries and more?
These business tools, sources of entertainment and ways to stay socially connected have kept our lives together in the face of an unthinkable change. But while it is encouraging to see how technology has helped us deal with this unprecedented challenge, there is a massive delta between our technological possibilities and what we made of them to cope with this crisis. This gap is the result of inertia, of inefficiencies in the ways we orchestrate progress, and it is a factor in the human tragedies that are unfolding now.
To fight back against our current crises — including climate change and crumbling health care systems — we have to look deeply at what got us into this position in the first place, learn the lessons from the pandemic and reshape our organizations around sustained, impactful technological innovation at scale.
Where We Are Today
Covid-19 has shown clearly that ruthlessly efficient global collaboration, agility and innovation are critical when facing large-scale crises. Scientific efforts to develop a vaccine, gargantuan logistical work to ensure vital supply lines remained intact and the mass production of protective equipment have shown what widespread collaboration can achieve.
Before this, though, the early days of the pandemic were fraught with uncertainty. Western nations were unprepared, and the costs have been dear. The scrambling, due to a lack of preparedness, was compounded by innovation inertia. Western nations, particularly in Europe, which still accounts for approximately one-fourth of
University of Birmingham | Porterbrook
Trials of a hydrogen-powered train are underway in the U.K. with an initial journey successfully completed between the locations of Long Marston and Evesham in the West Midlands region of England.
The HydroFLEX train — which has been developed by a team from the University of Birmingham and Porterbrook, a rolling stock firm — uses a fuel-cell which combines hydrogen and oxygen to generate electricity, heat and water.
The train has been fitted with a range of kit inside one of its carriages. This tech includes a hydrogen fuel tank, the aforementioned fuel-cell and lithium ion batteries for storage. It’s hoped that the technology will be available to retrofit trains already in use by the year 2023.
A statement issued Wednesday, published on the website of both the University of Birmingham and U.K. government, said the university was also, “developing a hydrogen and battery powered module that can be fitted underneath the train.” The idea behind this modification is that it will create more room in the carriage to host passengers.
In its own announcement, Porterbrook described the train being used in the trials as a “demonstrator unit.” Citing customer demand, the firm also said it planned to put the HydroFLEX into production. This version of the train, it added, would “be configured for operation using both overhead-electric-wires and hydrogen for non-electrified routes.”
The trials have been backed by a grant of £750,000 (around $962,362) from the U.K.’s Department of Transport, while over £1 million has already been invested in the project by the University of Birmingham and Porterbrook.
Wednesday’s news comes at the end of a month that’s seen several interesting developments in the arena of hydrogen-powered transport.
Last week, in airspace over England, a hydrogen fuel-cell plane capable of carrying passengers completed its