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For climate activist Henry Red Cloud, old ways, new urgency

On a crisp and rainy May morning on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, Henry Red Cloud recounted his team’s strategy for planting more than 1,000 ponderosa pine saplings in six short hours. Over coffee, he detailed the day’s agenda, location, and logistics with six staff members and three volunteers — a small crew compared to most planting days.

“There’s no getting to the burn-site,” he said. “There has been too much rain, so we will go over to one of the residential sites.”

Six years ago, Henry watched a wildfire rip across 25,000 acres of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation land only 20 miles from his home. Since that time, he says he’s noticed an increase in erosion and landslide events thanks to more sustained moisture over the spring and summer months.

Six years ago, a wildfire ripped across 25,000 acres of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation land. Now, indigenous activist Henry Red Cloud is working with a team to reforest the burn site.Grist / Alex Basaraba

“Due to climate change, we now have the potential to see rain all summer long,” he said.

A member of the Oglala Lakota Sioux and a fifth-generation direct descendant of the Lakota warrior Chief Red Cloud, Henry Red Cloud is focused on resiliency — both through reforestation of the land and teaching tribal communities about sustainable energy. In partnership with the organization Trees, Water, and People, a non-profit based out of Fort Collins, Colorado, Red Cloud and his team have planted more than 100,000 ponderosa pines on Pine Ridge over the past six years. Once they reach maturity, the trees will help prevent landslides, support biodiversity, and provide windbreak and shade for community members.

Hannah Eining, an employee of the Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) meticulously cares for ponderosa pine seedlings at the CSFS tree nursery. Located in northwestern Fort Collins, Colorado, the nursery team harvests native tree seeds from the Black Hills, raises them into saplings, and transports them back to Pine Ridge for planting.Grist / Alex Basaraba

Indigenous-led efforts like Red Cloud’s may play an important role in developing an effective global response to the threat of climate change. According to a new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, released Monday, which outlines the impacts of global warming and offers strategies to stave off the worst of them: “Many scholars argue that recognition of indigenous rights, governance systems, and laws is central to adaptation, mitigation, and sustainable development.”

Located in northwestern Fort Collins, the Colorado State Forest Service tree nursery supports the growth of 50 different native tree species.Grist / Alex Basaraba

While tribal innovators like Red Cloud may be on the front lines of combatting climate change, tribal communities are among those most at risk. Today, Native reservations face unique and disproportionate impacts associated with warming, such as the loss of culturally significant food, medicines, and knowledge, as well as reduced access and rights to water.

“Reservations were put on land nobody else wanted because it was too hot, cold, or windy,” Red Cloud says.

On Pine Ridge, the increasingly harsh conditions exacerbate high poverty rates and inadequate housing. In general, the average tribal household spends a higher percentage of its financial resources on electricity and heat than any other in the country. Winters can be long and cold here, and about 30 percent of people live without electricity.

Eriq Acosta, the national program director of Trees, Water, and People helps transport another load of ponderosa pine tree saplings to be planted on the sacred Wounded Knee Massacre site located on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.Grist / Alex Basaraba

By learning how to build and install small-scale solar furnaces, lighting systems, and water pumps, Red Cloud hopes individuals are able to bring these tools back to their own communities. Only five hours north at Standing Rock Reservation, Red Cloud and his team provided workshops on small-scale solar and off-grid renewable systems to hundreds of activists at the Dakota Access Pipeline Water Protector camps during the brutal 2016-17 winter.

According to a recent report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, tribal lands across the U.S. (including Pine Ridge) have vast potential for renewable energy and much of those resources have not yet been harnessed. Investing in renewable technologies, Red Cloud says, provides jobs, energy savings, and economic opportunity.”

Henry Red Cloud’s work involves more than planting trees. Through the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center, he provides workshops on small-scale solar and off-grid projects to more than 40 tribes across the U.S.Grist / Alex Basaraba

At his training facility, the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center, Red Cloud’s workshops range from do-it-yourself solar air furnace builds and straw bale home construction to wind turbine use and reforestation techniques. Inside a large Quonset hut warmed by a wood-burning barrel fireplace, the center provides staff, volunteers, and guests with cozy dormitory-style accommodations, hot showers, and a family-style dining area. The walls and ceiling are brightly decorated with art and photos. The white dry-erase board showcases diagrams and scribbles highlighting effective reforestation techniques leftover from the prior week’s training.

Recently, Red Cloud was nominated for the prestigious Oceti Sakowin Fellowship with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. And at 59, there are no signs of him slowing down. Whether it’s in preparing a new team of volunteers to plant saplings or leading a workshop on residential-scale solar furnaces, Red Cloud says he plans to continue to work towards building a more resilient and sustainable future for his people and for indigenous communities across the United States.

“That is my role,” he says, “to share my knowledge and to help bring awareness.”

Volunteers plant the new saplings on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation Tribal lands. Over two months, nearly 75 volunteers assisted Henry and his team in planting around 33,000 saplings.Grist / Alex Basaraba

As the rain began to let up outside the center, Red Cloud climbed into his truck for the short drive to the greenhouse. The thousands of vibrant, green saplings covered every available space on the floor and counter, their pungent aroma slowly covering the staleness of the damp, moldy greenhouse air with the sharpness of fresh pine.

To Red Cloud, this work is about supporting economic opportunity and resiliency to climate change. He hopes that it empowers people to carry forward a vision shared by his ancestors to build a better life for the next generations — “a new way to honor the old ways,” he says.

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For climate activist Henry Red Cloud, old ways, new urgency

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A Travel Query for the Hive Mind

Mother Jones

Ben Cawthra/Rex Shutterstock via ZUMA

OK, hive mind, I have a question for you. My sister is heading to London later this year, and this time she has a shiny new iPhone to take with her. She’s on T-Mobile, so allegedly she’ll have access to calling, texting, and low-speed data without doing anything. So here’s one plan:

Download the maps she needs before she leaves.
Rely on T-Mobile for calling and texting.
Use WiFi whenever she’s at the hotel, in a coffee shop, etc.
Register for The Cloud, and use that when she’s out and about.
When all else fails, use T-Mobile’s low-speed data.


Buy a SIM when she gets there and use local calling, texting, and high-speed internet.

Do I have any T-Mobile readers who have been to London lately? What’s the dope? What do you think her best alternative is?

UPDATE: Thanks everyone! It sounds like T-Mobile’s native service works pretty well.

Visit site – 

A Travel Query for the Hive Mind

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Raw Data: How Big Is the Cloud Computing Market?

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

I don’t know why this popped into my head, but given the enormous growth of cloud computing I got curious about how big a share it is of all computing. Roughly speaking, it turns out that total spending in 2016 is:

Cloud computing: $38 billion
All computing:1 $1.5 trillion

So cloud computing currently accounts for about 2.5 percent of all IT hardware and software spending. I have no point to make about this.

1Hardware and software only, not including telecom spending. CompTIA estimates that non-telecom spending is about $2.24 trillion in 2016 and that hardware and software account for about two-thirds of that.

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Raw Data: How Big Is the Cloud Computing Market?

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Massive Montana mine has tribes fighting over coal exports

Massive Montana mine has tribes fighting over coal exports

A huge new coal-mining project just approved by the federal government pits a Montana tribe against native communities in the Pacific Northwest.

Lance Fisher

They may soon have a lot more than litter to worry about.

The Crow Nation in southern Montana overlaps the coal-rich Powder River Basin. The tribe is sitting on a deposit of up to 1.4 billion tons of coal — more than the United States produces in a year — and on Thursday, the federal government approved the lease of that coal to mining company Cloud Peak Energy. The company has begun preliminary work on a mine that could eventually produce up to 10 million tons of coal every year, much of which it hopes to move through three proposed export terminals in Washington and Oregon to sell to Asian markets.

As demand for coal in the U.S. fizzles thanks to the natural-gas boom, the coal industry is banking on a growing Asian appetite for cheap power to keep it afloat. And the Crow Nation is banking on the deal with Cloud Peak to turn its fortunes around. The Associated Press details what’s in it for the tribe:

Cloud Peak paid the tribe $1.5 million upon Thursday’s [Bureau of Indian Affairs] approval, bringing its total payments to the tribe so far to $3.75 million.

Future payments during an initial five-year option period could total up to $10 million. Cloud Peak would pay royalties on any coal extracted and has agreed to give tribal members hiring preference for mining jobs.

The company also will provide $75,000 a year in scholarships for the tribe.

It would have been tough for tribal leaders to turn down such a deal. The New York Times describes bleak life on the reservation:

While coal mining is the largest private sector provider of jobs, half the adult population is unemployed. Homelessness would be pandemic if it were not customary for three or four families to cram into small trailers so crowded that couples sometimes go to motels for moments of privacy and children struggle to do homework through a blare of television.

Three bright days a year come when families receive small bonuses from the tribe, thanks to one coal mine that operates on the reservation, to buy presents for Christmas and beads and tepee canvas for the tribe’s annual powwow. …

The Crow Nation chairman, Darrin Old Coyote, insisted that coal was a gift to his community that goes back to the tribe’s creation story. “Coal is life,” he said. “It feeds families and pays the bills.”

But tribal leaders in western Washington and Oregon feel differently about coal. They’ve been some of the most vocal opponents of the proposed export terminals, warning of the harm that would be done to fisheries, human health, the natural environment, and sacred cultural sites if more and more coal trains start rumbling through the region toward coastal ports. The Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission have come out against coal exports. The Crow reportedly lobbied other tribes while trying to win federal approval for the Cloud Peak deal, but it doesn’t look like any officially expressed support.

Cloud Peak says it will take about five years to get the new mine up and running. But if coal opponents succeed in blocking proposed terminals, the whole deal could fall through.

Claire Thompson is an editorial assistant at Grist.

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Massive Montana mine has tribes fighting over coal exports

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Robots Get Their Own Internet

Meet Robby the Robot, who totally doesn’t look anything like the Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet. Photo: RoboEarth

Rapyuta. Remember that name. That is the name of a new shadow internet intended only for robots, designed by the international organization RoboEarth. Rapyuta is a cloud-computing engine, designed to let robots share the things they learn about the world with each other and to offload computational tasks to far more powerful computers allowing them to solve problems more complicated than they ever could on their own. The mind-melding system, says New York Magazine, won’t bring about the end of humanity, because its creators say so.

[Rapyuta] sounds fine in theory — if you trust robots. But for those convinced that providing robots with a common brain will only hasten the arrival of the robot uprising against mankind, then Rapyuta is more like a dark harbinger of the apocalypse. We happen to be one of those people, so we reached out to Dr. Heico Sandee, RoboEarth’s program manager at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, to reassure us that Rapyuta will not lead to our destruction.

“That is indeed an important point to be addressed,” Sandee acknowledged in an-email. But he assured us that robots will use Rapyuta for no such thing.

I mean, just look at this helpful promotional video released by the people at RoboEarth:

“Meet Robby the Robot,” says a soothing female voice. “One morning, Robby decides to try something new. The RoboEarth cloud engine.” “With the RoboEarth cloud engine, Robby can now take on many more tasks around the house instead of only making breakfast.”

But, sure. Just because robots will be able to coordinate and share and think beyond their means doesn’t mean much—they’ll still only really be able to do the tasks that some human, somewhere, programmed them to do.

But wait!

Wired‘s Danger Room reports that the Pentagon’s advanced research projects division is “readying a nearly four-year project to boost artificial intelligence systems by building machines that can teach themselves.”

[T]the agency thinks we can build machines that learn and evolve, using algorithms — “probabilistic programming” — to parse through vast amounts of data and select the best of it. After that, the machine learns to repeat the process and do it better.

The task is hard, but that’s the goal. Self-educating robots. (Feeding into the global robot consciousness.)

But maybe, says Wired, the worry comes not from robots learning to think and teach and desire for themselves, but rather in what would happen should our robot friends learn to control these new machinae.

[W]ith all the paranoia about machines, we’ve ignored another possibility: Animals learn to control robots and decide it’s their turn to rule the planet. This would be even more dangerous than dolphins evolving opposable thumbs. And the first signs of this coming threat are already starting to appear in laboratories around the world where robots are being driven by birds, trained by moths and controlled by the minds of monkeys.

But even still, says xkcd’s Randall Munroe,  the odds of a successful robot uprising (even with all these advances) are pretty slim (at least given the current state of things).

More from Smithsonian.com:

NASA Uses Interplanetary Internet to Control Robot in Germany
Robot Apocalypse Inches Closer as Machines Learn To Install Solar Panels

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Robots Get Their Own Internet

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