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Mitra Ardron's blog - Natural Innovation

Academia - engage or disengage ? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mitra Ardron   
Thursday, 30 October 2014 00:00
Is it worth engaging with academia?   This week I sent off a denial of a request for an interview to a PhD candidate reviewing companies in our space. They only asked for half an hour of my time, (but these calls usually go at least an hour). My reasoning was three-fold:
1: I don’t think I’ve ever been sent a copy of the results of the research.
2: It will be presented at a conference which because of its paper submission process will only have academic presenters and almost only academic attendees.
3: Its going to be published behind an academic paywall, only visible to academics.
I looked at the last year’s conference, and none of the presentations were cutting edge, there were ideas presented as new that I personally new were being done by multiple practitioners, and studies of practitioners by academics, but none of the leading edge people in the field.
I’ve given feedback several times, on how to improve the process, and even sat on a program committee once (only once, given the pressure to include rubbish in the program) but academics need the publishing brownie points so there is no real interest in actually having interesting leading edge material at conferences.  (By the way, I’m not talking about  *my* material, I just want conferences to go to where I learn something from the other leading edge people).
So what do we do - continue to engage with a broken academic process, or disengage and remove the appearance of credibility?
I’m not sure - we all lose when academic knowledge and practitioner knowledge circulate in two completely separate communities, but academia seems to have no interest in actually being state of the art any more.
Long form .. The dumbing down of the web ? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mitra Ardron   
Saturday, 27 September 2014 15:15
I’m wondering if we have entered a self-fulfilling prophecy and race to the bottom as web interfaces reverse the trend and head from information rich to information poor ?   The spiral-down scenario goes something like this ...
  • Statistics say more people on mobile
  • Bad designers can’t design two UI so they dumb down for small screens of phones
    either an app, or the ghastly “long form” websites.
  • User’s no longer experience a better experience on bigger screens so don’t use them,
    or switch to competitors with more productive interfaces.
  • Repeat and spiral

I can’t think of any website that I use that was improved by moving to the “long form”, and plenty that have gone from good to awful, and I can only think of one site (Flipboard) whose experience is better on the mobile version than their own, or their closest competitor in a tradition website

Anyone intelligent believes in climate change ? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mitra Ardron   
Thursday, 10 May 2012 07:16

Anyone intelligent believes in anthropogenic climate change

A strong statement, which you might think was overstating the issue?

I'm not going to try and give you the science - because if you are reading this website I'm presuming you are intelligent enough to understand that when >95% of the scientists in a field agree then its probably true, and at least it makes sense for the rest of us to act as if it was true and leave the dissension to the remaining 5% to try and convince their colleagues.

So what about the Republicans in the US Congress, aren't they educated.  Well I dare say there are a few who don't believe evolution or science, or I should rephrase that - a "belief" in evolution isn't required since there is science to back it up. The belief is in the creationist myth, and while I love myths - whether its biblical or greek or nordic, I'll leave it to the reader as to whether a belief in their literal truth qualifies you as intelligent.

My strong suspicion is that most of them are educated, and convinced by evolution and climate science, but when someone is offering you a large bribe to deny reality, and when your career depends on both taking the bribe, and aligning with whatever the polls say about your electorate then it just becomes another lie to spout for the media.

So what about the oil companies, the ones who pay the bribes. I've had a number of (off the record) conversations with fairly senior oil company executives over the years - not one of them denied the science of global warming, and their only question about Peak Oil was when, rather than if. They'd tell me of the amount of money they were spending to adapt to climate change & peak oil, which they not only know is happening but know will hit us hard BECAUSE of the bribes their bosses are paying to politicians.   Remember a company has a fiduciary duty to its shareholders, and staff bonuses are tied to profits, and its very easy to then consider that narrow interest, and bribe a politician to extend the amount of time you have to make money off of destroying the atmosphere.

So who is left … unfortunately with a public that gets its news more and more from TV like Fox News, who are also driven not by educating their viewers, but by the adverts bought by many of the same people above (the ones who believe in climate change, but don't want anyone else to).

And so the cycle goes on …. companies buy the media to convince the masses, and buy politicians who also listen to the masses. Don't we wish the most polluting country in the world was a democracy with a free press.

Citizens of the World ? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mitra Ardron   
Friday, 13 January 2012 00:00

Who would believe its only two weeks since Cyclone Thane took out 70% of the trees, roads, power, water, phone, and Internet and trapped most of us wherever we spent the night for 36 hours.

They must have power on in the village now because I wake up at 5:30 to amplified chanting from the village temple a couple of km away. We still haven't got power back, but at least Steffen (German) borrowed a generator yesterday to pump water, so I can wash clothes as I take a shower.

With the pumping oddities, I don't trust the water yet so breakfast, with my neighbors (Indian / French couple) is porridge & hot tea. First stop of the day is the Town Hall, where Min (indian), a colleague on the wind turbine project works. He's got power and more important Internet, so I can setup logistics for tomorrows meetings in Chennai. The net drops out mid-morning so I head over to the workshop where Jorge (Ecuadorean) is teaching a 5 day seminar on renewable energy to a class including participants from Nepal, Belgiam, India, and Canada.

Australian Solar industry celebrates grid parity PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mitra Ardron   
Wednesday, 02 November 2011 19:12

Solar industry celebrates grid parity ... via ABC

The [Australian] Photovoltaic Association says the drop in cost of producing power from solar panels has made solar power competitive with coal-generated grid power.

Solar power generated by photovoltaic cells on Australian rooftops has become so cheap and efficient that they now produce electricity for the same price that is charged by the electricity grid.

A typical day in Auroville PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mitra Ardron   
Wednesday, 03 August 2011 11:34

Its my second day in Auroville, jet-lag has kicked in, and I wake at 4am, tired but not able to sleep. I read for a while and around 4:30 the first birds start calling, followed by the frogs and crickets. Finally I give in to the inevitable, and grab a shower  - its cold, and just dribbles out the shower-head, but I'm not complaining.  A short walk across the farmyard, past the cows rattling their buckets to my rented electric scooter - which I've left charging in the barn, and then a drive through the forest to the bakery in the village.   The chocolate croissants look like they have been made for westerners, but at this time of the morning its only indians buying.

Can capitalism be fixed - Clinton Global contrasted to People's Climate March PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mitra Ardron   
Sunday, 21 September 2014 00:00

One clear contrast between the Climate March and Clinton Global Initiative is that CGI see’s enlightened capitalism as the answer - companies acting responsibly, working with NGO’s to solve problems, while one of the dominant meme’s at the march was that capitalism has been unable to solve the issue of climate, so capitalism is the problem that should be thrown out. You don’t need to apply a old-left/marxist analysis to come to that conclusion. Capitalism, US style, has given us a world where anything can be bought and sold, including the health of our children and grandchildren, AND government itself. I think the question for the CEO’s of major companies at CGI should be not - what good companies can do, but whether responsible companies can change the rules so that government doesn’t act only in the interests of their short term profits.

Funnily enough, probably the best solution to climate change would be capitalist/market-based, i.e. to put a price on carbon. Given how long this has been avoided its going to have to be a pretty steep price now, and the chances of that happening in our corporatocracy is unlikely, hence the reasonable calls of marchers to get rid of capitalism.

Of course the chances of it being replaced by something better aren't high - but you can understand the logic when capitalism - especially US style - is clearly broken if it can't fix climate change.

Of Cyclone's and Bulls PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mitra Ardron   
Saturday, 03 March 2012 14:16

A story of how a little thing like a cyclone bring us into the moment.

December 28th I went to India to spend some time with a project we are helping there that trains village mechanics to make wind turbines. The plan was to sit around with the founder and the CEO I'd helped find and work on the business plan.

I noticed as we flew that the plane's track didn't go direct from Singapore to Chennai but flew north all around the Bay of Bengal, to avoid a storm, but we landed fine in some rain, and as we drove south a few hours the rain disappeared.

Auroville devasted by cyclone PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mitra Ardron   
Monday, 02 January 2012 23:48

Just a short post ... to say that I'm in Auroville, in Southern India. I arrived a few hours before Cyclone Thane, which took out 70% of the trees, there was one down every 10 meters on the road, and that took out power; water; internet; phone (fixed & mobile). Many farms lost their crops, and the project we are supporting here - low cost wind turbines for rural poor - lost its workshop and one turbine when a tree came through it.

If you feel to help ... please donate here, on  and put "MinVayu" or "Wind" in the comments, I'll pass that on to help them rebuild.

There is more about the damage to Auroville here.

I have limited internet acces / laptop charge, so may be slow responding to email.

National or International identity PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mitra Ardron   
Saturday, 20 August 2011 21:19

Last night I went to a party in Auroville, southern india. Outdoors - lit by christmas lights strung between trees, with a dirt floor and cast concrete tables with inlaid mosaic.

My neighbours over the Middle Eastern dinner were a couple of Australians and she was studying how people relate, or don't, to their national identity. She talked about a couple she'd met, she French/German born in India; he Mexican/Canadian; their kids in theory could have five passports at birth. (Two more than me).

So I looked around - I was sitting with an Ecuadorian; German; South African & Faroe Islander (part of Denmark). The musicians were a Portuguese couple playing West African Kora and Imbira (harp and thumb piano);

A future powered by 100% renewables PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mitra Ardron   
Thursday, 19 May 2011 16:03

There was a question on Quora recently "Can anyone imagine a future powered by 100% renewable energy".

It has been interesting to me that parallel efforts are showing that this is very much possible: There are papers in the UK and Australia on exactly this topic - looking at the cost and feasibility.

In the US there is also a really good report which looks at how ten sectors could achieve 1 GTonne emission cut each - which is almost the same answer.

In fact by some analysis would be cheaper (even without the cost of dealing with climate change) than coal, natural gas and of course cheaper than nuclear.

Of course - we still need to make this work in developing countries - which is what Natural Innovation is all about.





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