Rich Kids: ‘They have more money than you, and this is what they do’

You might love her as she emerges from the chopper in a fairy costume for a party in Las Vegas, or readies for take-off in the private jet for lunch in Monaco. Or you might hate her. It doesn’t matter. The point is, #youcantdothis.

Chryseis Tan is one of the Rich Kids of Instagram and Tumblr, social media accounts showcasing the unapologetically self-indulgent lifestyles of the world’s wealthiest millennials.



Supposedly. Some of these rich and Instafamous puckering for the camera may not be as well-off as their portraits portray. They’re draped on Ferraris, lounging on yachts, wallowing in champagne and wantonly splurging wads of cash on fashion, food and fun in the world’s most enviable environs.

But Chryseis Tan is the real deal. She’s the 27 year old jet-setting daughter of Malaysian billionaire Vincent Tan, with 58,000 Instagram followers ready to coo “woww!” “gorgeous” “love this” and “so pretty!!” at her every post. Her handbags are to die for too – Hermes of course, not to mention her fellow billionaire offspring Faliq Nasimuddin whose father was a captain of the Malaysian car industry.

Ms Tan’s tagline (apart from #youcantdothis) is “I want to travel the world”. No problem there: here she is in Hong Kong, here in Courchevel (the French ski resort recently visited by William, Kate and family), there in Japan. Zurich, Shanghai, Paris, Koh Samui, San Francisco? No problem.

But 58,000 followers is as nothing beside others of her ilk. Take Dan Bilzerian, hardly a kid at 35, a self-proclaimed “sexual philanthropist” dubbed the “King of Instagram” by 10.4 million followers. The barrel-chested professional poker player is a favourite among US college boys for his outrageous ass-kicking, gun-toting persona and risque posts with skimpily-dressed-if-at-all women. His campaign for the 2016 presidential race appears to have consisted of a series of parties at exclusive night clubs.

There’s a novel, Rich Kids of Instagram, “dishy and hilarious … revolves around a core group of spoiled young people”; a reality TV show based in Beverly Hills featuring Dorothy Wang, Morgan Stewart and their #blessed chums; and a documentary made by Britain’s Channel 4. “SLAMMED by viewers after expensive cars, cash and wealth is flaunted”, the Mirror screamed.

The media, of course, lap it up. RKOI have been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Forbes, The Atlantic, Buzzfeed, Gawker, the Telegraph in Britain, and many other places. What they do on holidays (lounge around in hotels, buy up big in boutiques) has become a bit of a seasonal meme in the northern hemisphere, a bit like bushfire and cricket stories in the Australian summer.

There’s even a Rich Kids of Australia , very modest by global standards, with just over 1000 followers and only 16 posts. These seem disproportionately to feature aspiring Perth model and socialite Eva Scolaro, mostly famous for a glassing incident in a Perth pub that landed her in jail in 2010.

Clarisse Lafleur provides Australia a closer brush with RKOI’s distinctive brand of f— you fame, because the Maserati-driving 18-year-old with the “Princess” number plate attends Bond University on the Gold Coast, or she did in January when the Daily Mail caught up with her. Her grandfather was president of New Caledonia and she lives off an allowance from her “very generous father” who is in business and tops it up as needed.
“Being wealthy doesn’t mean throwing money everywhere and wearing a bunch of designer clothes and too much jewelry all at the same time: you don’t look rich; you look like a Christmas tree.

“You need to have the culture behind it otherwise people will laugh at you,” she was quoted as saying.
You don’t need a sociology degree to figure out that the millions who follow those featured as RKOI are vicariously living out fantasies. Some responses to posts are raw with yearning: “Change my life!” wrote “liner.long” to Clarisse Lafleur. “give me a million?! I would love you like nobody did before.”


But it’s all about the display, says Emeritus Professor and cultural theorist Jon Stratton. He likens the rich kids to the dandies who paraded their wealth and style on the 19th- and early 20th-century boulevards. Their followers are the flaneurs on hand to watch.

“They want to be envied because that is a way of feeling reassured and smug with what they have got.

“A lot of these people have absolutely no idea how most people live. They come from such incredible wealth that they are completely disconnected from what the majority of the world considers to be everyday life.”

Amy Dobson, who focuses on gender and sexuality in digital cultures as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Queensland, notes the commercial flavour of many RKOI posts displaying luxury brand names.

Instagram and other commercial social media platforms are experiments in new ways of making profit, through user-generated content and “self-branding”, she says.

While Australian culture has historically been more averse to conspicuous displays of wealth, this may change in future as “celebrity” and “luxury” become popularised as key aspirations for people, Dr Dobson suggests.

Popular Internet culture encourages everyone to “take on an almost a celebrity-like way of broadcasting ourselves and engaging with other people”, says Akane Kanai, associate lecturer in sociology at the University of Newcastle.

“That is obviously easier for rich people [to have] the aesthetic kind of look, the right sort of toned bodies, the right sort of things to wear, and all the attributes of celebrity.”

10 Things Billionaires Won’t Tell You

THEY’RE the elite few that are in control of the world’s wealth, but every billionaire has their secrets.

1. “We just get richer and richer.”

In 2013, the wealth of the world’s billionaires reached a record high – helped by 200 newcomers like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. The 2013 Forbes Billionaires List names 1,426 billionaires with an aggregate net worth of $5.4 trillion, up a whopping 17% from $4.6 trillion last year. And that doesn’t include royalty or, um, dictators, MarketWatch reports.

Of those, some 442 make their home in the U.S. The average net worth of each U.S. billionaire: $10.8 billion, up from $9.1 billion last year, according to a separate survey released this month by private wealth consultancy Wealth-X and UBS.

Meanwhile, the rest of the country’s net worth has actually fallen since the Great Recession – and has yet to recover. Adjusting for inflation, real net worth per U.S. household hovered at $652,449 by the end of June 2013, according to the Federal Reserve, or about 95% of its 2007 level of $684,662.

If that seems inordinately high, that’s because the majority of U.S. households carry their net worth in their home. That average also is inflated by, well, millionaires and billionaires: In fact, around half of U.S. households have a net worth of no more than $83,000, a Pew Research Center’s analysis of 2010 Federal Reserve survey found.

Why are billionaires on the rise? “Daily record highs in the financial markets have caused surging net worth for the richest 1%,” says Mark Martiak, a wealth strategist at Premier Financial Advisors in New York. Commercial and residential real estate values have also been rebounding, he says. “Combined with low inflation and low interest rates for borrowing, this big picture presents a favourable backdrop for the wealthy, despite higher taxes, stubbornly high unemployment, the potential Fed tapering and wrangling in Washington,” Martiak says.

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and LinkedIn's Jeff Weiner shoot the breeze at a conference in Idaho.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and LinkedIn’s Jeff Weiner shoot the breeze at a conference in Idaho. Source: AP

2. “One million – or 10 – ain’t what it used to be.”

In a time when the median price of a home in Manhattan is just over $1 million, according to real-estate website Trulia, experts say that being a millionaire no longer means that you’re rich.

“The word now doesn’t have as much power,” says Charles Merlot, author of “The Billionaire’s Apprentice: How 21 Billionaires Used Drive, Luck and Risk to Achieve Colossal Success.” “In the eyes of the public, even $10 million is considered at the low end of high-net-worth.”

For the global elite, keeping up with the Joneses, Gateses and Buffetts can require, at bare minimum, an eight-figure annual income. The online listing site, a Craigslist for the super-rich, lists helicopters for a snip at $7 million-plus.

For those who believe a Bentley is too – well, obvious – the fastest and most expensive production car in the world is the $2.4 million Bugatti Veyron Super Sport car. Billionaires who don’t want (or like) their neighbours can check out, which has a collection of hideaways around the world to choose from. The 225-acre Katafanga Island in Fiji in the South Pacific is currently on the market with a price tag of $20 million.

In the movie “The Social Network,” a semi-fictionalised account of the founding of Facebook FB +0.04%, Justin Timberlake, in the role of Napster founder and early Facebook backer Sean Parker, tells the Mark Zuckerberg character, “A million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A billion dollars.” (Parker has, in interviews, denied he ever said that in real life.)

Indeed, those who have worked with billionaires say that, to be considered rich among their elite, a million doesn’t cut it. Billionaires and millionaires may sit side-by-side on boards, Martiak says, but handshakes and smiles aside, billionaires don’t see millionaires as their equals.

The richest woman in the world, Liliane Bettencourt, is one of few women in the exclusive club. Picture: AFP.

The richest woman in the world, Liliane Bettencourt, is one of few women in the exclusive club. Picture: AFP. Source: AFP

3. “This is basically a boys’ club.”

Women are making some progress: There are 138 women among the 1,426 people on Forbes’s Billionaires List this year, up from 104 last year.

Still, more than 90% of billionaires are men. Perhaps that should come as no surprise, considering that just 4% of CEO positions at Fortune 1,000 companies are held by women – a strikingly small proportion considering that 18% of members of US Congress and 30% of U.S. District Court Judges are female.

Luckily, rising through the corporate ranks isn’t the only or even the most common way to become a billionaire. The richest woman in the world – Liliane Bettencourt, 91, who has $30 billion – inherited her fortune from her father, who founded the cosmetics giant L’Oréal. And the late Rosalia Mera, one of the 20 richest women in the world, was self-made: Although she dropped out of school at age 11, she co-founded the global clothing chain Zara (she died in August).

A more novel theory for the boys’ club: For some young male billionaires, testosterone may have given them their start. “The coolest thing about Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin is that they never did it for the money,” says Ben Mezrich, author of “The Accidental Billionaires” and “Bringing Down the House,” which became the sources for “The Social Network.” “The main impetus for them at the very beginning was to meet girls. It turned into a billion dollars.”

Bill Gates may have dropped out, but it was still Harvard. Picture: AP.

Bill Gates may have dropped out, but it was still Harvard. Picture: AP. Source: AP

4. “I may be smart, but I got a headstart.”

America’s billionaires tend to also be among its most well-educated, recent research suggests. In “Investigating America’s Elite,” published in the journal Intelligence, Duke University psychologist Jonathan Wai found that billionaires are more likely than CEOs, judges, senators or House members to have attended colleges with the most rigorous admission standards

But were they born smart, or born lucky? Wai says it’s a bit of both. Most billionaires – including Bill Gates, America’s richest man, and son of a successful lawyer – were born into an upper middle-class backgrounds, he says. The father of billionaires David and Charles Koch was Fred C. Koch, the founder of Wood River Oil and Refining Company, today known as Koch Industries; granted, the Koch brothers turned the company into the multi-billion dollar conglomerate it is today. S. Robson Walton, chairman of Wal-Mart, is the son of Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart. “The first trick to becoming a billionaire is being born a millionaire,” says author Mezrich.

In fact, plenty of billionaires were not born with financial advantages. Sheldon Adelson, 80, CEO of the Las Vegas Sands casino and resort, was born in a working-class neighbourhood in Boston; his father was a cab driver. Stephen Bisciotti, 53, the majority shareholder of the Baltimore Ravens, worked his way through school; his father died when he was eight. Lynn Tilton, 54, founder of private equity firm Patriarch Partners, grew up in the Bronx, and was a single mother working 100 hours on Wall Street in her 20s. “I can’t even remember my 20s,” she says, “they were so dark.”

Oprah famously worked her way out of poverty to become a billionaire. Picture: AP.

Oprah famously worked her way out of poverty to become a billionaire. Picture: AP. Source: AP

5. “It’s like Monopoly money.”

Billionaire Donald Trump offered to build a $100 million ballroom for the White House in 2011, but that’s nothing compared with what some of the mega-rich have actually spent without blinking. In 2010, Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich purchased his latest yacht – the 536-foot-long “Eclipse”- for a reported price of about $1 billion. In 2009, Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud bought an Airbus A380 for $400 million. In 2006, Mexican businessman David Martinez bought a Jackson Pollock classic drip painting from music producer David Geffen for $140 million. And in 2012, real estate mogul Stan Kroenke bought a 240,000-acre Montana ranch for more than $132 million.

But in some cases, the lavish spending is all relative. Oprah Winfrey, 59, was reportedly recently in the market for a $38,000 Tom Ford handbag, but she’s worth an estimated $2.9 billion, according to Forbes – so the handbag would cost just 0.001% of her wealth.

Indeed, “most billionaires can actually be very cheap,” says David Friedman of Wealth-X. Many have spent their lives trying to make a profit and doing accounting in their heads. “They’ll ask for the receipt in a restaurant and argue over 50 cents,” he says. “But then they’ll go buy a jet for $50 million.”

Donald Trump is among the super-wealthy to splurge huge amounts on luxury goods. Picture: AP.

Donald Trump is among the super-wealthy to splurge huge amounts on luxury goods. Picture: AP. Source: AP

6. “What scares us? Divorce lawyers.”

Luckily, and perhaps not coincidentally, divorce is relatively rare among the moneyed set. Of the 84% of billionaires who are married, only 8% are divorced, according to a survey of the world’s billionaires published by Wealth-X earlier this month. That’s far lower than the U.S. divorce rate: Some 40% to 50% of marriages overall end in divorce, according to the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia.

Billionaire divorces can cost hundreds of millions of dollars and exact a heavy toll on the couple’s privacy, says Janet Lowe, author of books about biographies of several billionaires, including Berkshire Hathaway’s BRK. A +0.57% Charlie Munger and Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. The 2003 divorce between former General Electric head Jack Welch and his second wife Jane Welch, she says, is a prime example: Divorce paperwork filed in Connecticut revealed the couple’s high (and previously undisclosed) standard of living, and major newspapers throughout the U.S. publicised the details, focusing on the generous benefits Welch received as a retired GE exec. The Securities and Exchange Commission then launched a formal inquiry into Welch’s compensation agreement, and Welch voluntarily gave up his GE retirement package, valued at $2.5 million a year. “In this environment, I don’t want a great company with the highest integrity dragged into a public fight because of my divorce proceedings,” Welch wrote in a column for The Wall Street Journal at the time, explaining his decision.

Annual lists from Forbes, shown here in Vietnam, show America's richest are getting even richer. Picture: AFP.

Annual lists from Forbes, shown here in Vietnam, show America’s richest are getting even richer. Picture: AFP. Source:AFP

7. “We didn’t get rich investing in stocks.”

If you want to be a billionaire and you’re starting from scratch, don’t bet on the stock market, some advisers say. Sure, an individual who happens to invest at the bottom of the market and sell at the top can do quite well.

In general, “if you beat stock indexes by 1% consistently over 20 years, you’re a massive superstar,” says Martin Fridson, author of “How to Be a Billionaire: Proven Strategies From the Titans of Wealth.” But at that rate, it’ll be a long time before the average investor becomes a billionaire. Here’s another way to look at it: If you earned 15% a year on your investments – an astronomical benchmark that almost nobody has consistently hit – you’d still have to start with about $65 million in order to wind up with $1 billion after 20 years.

Many billionaires – Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg – instead made their fortunes in start-ups, says Robert Klein, founder and president of Retirement Income Center, a retirement and income planning firm in Newport Beach, California.

The founders of Twitter likewise became billionaires with their IPO earlier this month. “You’re far more likely to become a billionaire in Silicon Valley than on Wall Street”, says wealth strategist Martiak. “Wall Street becomes far more important later on when you’re preserving their wealth.”

Even Buffett hasn't received mythical 15 per cent returns consistently. Picture: AP.

Even Buffett hasn’t received mythical 15 per cent returns consistently. Picture: AP. Source: AP

8. “You say evading, we say avoiding.”

There’s no data on whether the ultrawealthy shirk their responsibility to pay taxes more often than the average citizen, but incidents involving billionaires certainly garner more media attention – presumably because of the vast sums involved.

“A lot of billionaires try to avoid paying taxes,” says Friedman of Wealth-X. The latest to be named and shamed – and face jail time: Ty Warner, 69, CEO of Ty, the maker of stuffed Beanie Babies and worth an estimated $2.6 billion, according to Forbes.

“I apologise for my conduct,” Warner told a U.S. District Court in Chicago in October. “I made a mistake. I’m fully responsible.” He owes the government $53.6 million for failing to file a report on foreign financial accounts, one of the largest offshore-account penalties ever.

The line certainly gets blurred between illegal tax evasion and lawful tax avoidance. For the most part, Martiak says, “no-one is deliberately or intentionally avoiding paying tax.” The very wealthy – billionaires included – also have the opportunity to pay a far smaller percentage of their income in taxes, since most of their income is from investments and, therefore, taxed at lower rates than wages and salary.

Google has made its founders a fortune after starting up in a garage. Picture: AP.

Google has made its founders a fortune after starting up in a garage. Picture: AP. Source: AP

9. “My family hates me, loves my money.”

Spare a thought for Gina Rinehart, 59, Australia’s richest woman – whose children, John Hancock, 37, and Bianca Rinehart, 36, are suing her. They allege that she engaged in serious misconduct as trustee of the family’s multi-billion-dollar trust by trying to delay the date when the trust’s beneficiaries – her four children – could access their money. (Gina Rinehart’s law firm, Corrs Chambers Westgarth, says she denies all wrongdoing and, in a statement released to the press, said she’s offering to give up her role as trustee to end the litigation.)

Not all family disputes are about money, however. Nor is it always the kids suing the parents: Financier T. Boone Pickens sued his son Michael in February for alleged defamation, libel, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of distress and harmful access by computer, after Michael began writing about the family in a blog called “5 Days In Connecticut.” Collin Porterfield, an attorney representing Michael Pickens, says the case is being considered by Dallas County Court and no decision had been reached.

Gina Rinehart and daughter Bianca in Perth.

Gina Rinehart and daughter Bianca in Perth. Source: Supplied

10. “King Lear taught me everything I know.”

Most billionaires have traditionally left their fortune to their offspring or brought them into the family business. Case in point: Three of Donald Trump’s children work in the family business and even appear on his reality TV show, “The Apprentice.” These days, however, more billionaires are taking a slightly different tack. At least 30 billionaires have chosen to sign the “Giving Pledge,” an initiative started in 2009 to encourage the ultrawealthy to give away half their wealth. (Warren Buffett has pledged to give away 99% of his wealth. He once told a television interviewer: “I want to give my kids just enough so that they would feel that they could do anything, but not so much that they would feel like doing nothing.”)

Others who have made the pledge thus far include hotelier Barron Hilton, banker David Rockefeller, financier Ronald Perelman, Citigroup founder Sandy Weill and his wife, Joan, hedge-fund managers Julian Robertson Jr. and Jim Simons, private-equity financier David Rubenstein and “Star Wars” creator George Lucas. In fact, Lucas, 69, also sold off the bulk of his business empire last year, which some experts say will prevent a power struggle among his three adopted children after he’s gone.

For many billionaires, their legacy becomes more important than their money, says Martin Fridson, author of “How to be a Billionaire: Proven Strategies from the Titans of Wealth.” Although they obviously didn’t become billionaires by accident, he says many billionaires mellow with age: “They’ll usually tell you, ‘I never set out to be a billionaire, I set out to do good.'”

Renewable Energy

Hi-tech ways to capture enough sunlight per day every day to power everything in a home or business hasn’t been discovered yet. The current cost of solar panels can run into thousands of pounds, which would require the panels to produce electricity for years without maintenance in order to see a return on investment.

Many people use solar panels, which can be placed on a side of a roof to attract sunlight during the day to heat a small number of rooms and water. Solar panels can be purchased at a number of locations throughout the UK, as well as online. Panels do a great job of helping families and businesses to conserve energy. Hopefully, solar panels will become a part of daily life, in order to prevent the disappearance of natural resources and to maintain energy conservation. In the recent 2006 Budget announcement by Gorden Brown, millions of pounds have been allocated to helping homes and businesses take advantage of renewable energy and the benefits that it brings. This is a welcoming strategy by the government. More and more homes are also attaching mini-wind turbines to their homes to boost the electricity generated by solar panels, British Gas (Centrica) have recently been looking for volunteers to pilot this with.

Developing countries with sunny climates such as Africa are the perfect place to take advantage of this renewable energy especially in rural areas that are not connected to the national grid for electricity. There needs to be a commitment from the G8 and other government around the world in providing funds to achieve this.

Log Homes, the Natural Green Building Solution

Building and living “Green” is good for your health, conserves energy and protects the environment. Log homes are the original green building solution made directly from the earth’s natural resource. This abundant, beautiful and renewable natural resource is 100% green.

Building green is a hot topic among building professionals and consumers – for good reason. The exposure to toxic chemicals in our every day lives is resulting in significant increases in asthma and respiratory illnesses, skin problems, migraine headaches and any number of health related problems.

Since we spend much of our time indoors, it is critical that our indoor environment is healthy and safe. Many building products today are made of man-made chemicals and emit high levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Health experts are becoming increasingly aware and alarmed that these man-made chemicals are showing up in our blood and lungs.

Logs are 100% natural and don’t emit VOCs or other pollutants. Soil, water and air combined with the energy from the sun, in a miraculous process of photosynthesis, are everything needed to make a tree grow. From an ecological point of view, solid wood is the only building product that is renewable, biodegradable, recyclable, energy efficient and extremely beautiful. Logs and other solid wood, as basic building components, generate the least amount of air and water pollution, emission of greenhouse gases and solid waste. For example, steel and concrete require 2.4 times and 1.7 times more energy than wood to produce and 1.42 times and 1.67 times more airborne emissions with potential toxic or negative health effects. (The Canadian Wood Council – The Anhena Project).

Advances in forestry practices have steadily increased the supply and growth of plantation and private forests. In North America, the growth of new forests has outpaced the demand and can remain at a sustainable rate. In the long run, sustainable building products that are ecologically friendly are the only viable answer to a cleaner environment.

With energy costs on the rise and no end is sight, it makes good economic sense to design and build with conservation in mind. There is a great deal of documented evidence supporting the energy efficiency related to the construction of log homes. Studies conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and other testing organizations have compared log homes to other types of construction such as conventionally framed and masonry. Test results prove the energy efficiency gained through the thermal mass of solid wood walls. Log walls better utilize the available energy in both summer cooling and winter heating. (The Log Home Council (, Documented Energy-Efficiency and Thermal Mass Benefits of Log Construction).

Most people building log homes plan to own and live in them for an extended period of time. Their log home may be a family retreat or a retirement home that they intend to own for the rest of their lives. The turnover rate of log homes is much lower than the average conventionally built house. With such a long term outlook, the decision to build and live in an energy efficient log home makes good sense for the health of the environment, you and your family.

The Reality Of Global Warming

Global warming is happening because of Carbon dioxide being released into our atmosphere. This is like the city smogs that we used to see in the 1900’s, retaining or trapping the infrared heat from the sun in the atmosphere. Global mean temperature rises can be directly correlated to the mean increase in Carbon Dioxide in our atmosphere.

There is significant evidence that our planet’s weather and climate patterns are changing rapidly as a direct result of Global Warming. Droughts, receding glaciers and ice caps, extreme storms, rises in ocean temperatures and sea levels, shifts in distribution of organisms and diseases. Many think human activities are a significant contributing cause. As of this year, compelling scientific evidence has come to light to quantify this issue (Oct 2007). The rate at which Carbon Dioxide is being absorbed by the world’s oceans has now depreciated significantly. This is because oceans are now overloaded with Carbon Dioxide. From this point forward, more and more of our CO2 output will go straight into the atmosphere, adding to global warming.

“A warming atmosphere and seas make for loads of extra energy available for the creation of abnormal weather patterns. Around the world, recent data shows an increase in severity of storms, droughts, rainfall, and floods. The disastrous hurricane season of 2005 was just one indication of how synergistic weather is with sea level rise, resulting in loss of wetlands, social issues, and the ability of governments to respond. Three storms strengthened to category 5 in the Atlantic Basin for the first time in a single season (Katrina, Rita, and Wilma). An unprecedented 27 named tropical storms formed, according to NOAA, and more than half of them became hurricanes.

“The Arctic is receding very quickly (as a direct result of Global Warming) according to reports from scientists and arctic natives. The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment was released in late 2004, and shows changes from the ice at the North Pole to animals and human settlements. More recent reports from Greenland reveal glaciers moving meters per hour and rapidly thinning. The Arctic ice cap is shrinking in summer to the smallest it has ever been in modern measurements, and even winter cold has not been refreezing it as much as before. Basically, there’s a rise in overall sea level going on, coupled with an increase in violent weather, so coastal areas will get hit very hard from now on.

In effect, we can now expect all previous climate change models to be obsolete. Rather like a movie straight out of Hollywood, you can imagine a scientist trying to explain to the president how a slowing in the rate of CO2 absorption by the world’s oceans translates directly into increased CO2 in the atmosphere and that “we are now expecting a 2 degree rise in global temperatures in the next 10 years rather than the 50 years previously estimated Mr President.” Or for you gas guzzling Americans: Forget any major coastal cities Mr President. I would also suggest that New Orleans will not need re-development or more capital expense. I foresee that a further category 4 or above hurricane will destroy any Levy’s around the coastal areas. Substantial sea rises will prevent any attempts to protect these areas.

Solar Panels

A solar panel is basically a device that enables the collection of and conversion of solar energy into electrical energy or even heat.

The Concept of Solar Panels

Solar panels are also known as photovoltaic panels and the atoms that are present in these panels are excited by the action of the sun’s energy. These atoms are present in a silicon layer that lies between two panels known as protector panels.

A formation of electric current takes place as a result of the action of the electrons from the aforementioned, excited atoms, and these are then used by a myriad of external devices. The history of solar panels dates back by hundreds of years, when their sole purpose was to heat the water for use in homes. Many-a-times specially shaped mirror is used for the concentration of light onto a tube of oil. Due to this action, there is a heating up of oil and as these heated oil travels through a vat of water, it instantly results in the boiling of this water. The steam that is a resultant of this process of boiling is used to turn a turbine for the generation of electricity.

The History of Solar Panels

It was in the year 1839 that the photovoltaic effect was discovered by Antoine – Cesar – Becquerel, a French physicist. His experiment in this regard involved the placement of an electrolyte cell in an electrolyte solution; two metal electrodes made up the electrolyte cell.

When this device was exposed to sunlight, Becquerel found that the generation of electricity saw a marked increase. It was in 1883 that Charles Fritts coated sheets of selenium with a thin layer of gold and built the first genuine solar cell. Over a period of time many experiment were conducted and discoveries were made when it came to solar cells. Albert Einstein also published his thesis on the photoelectric effect, during this time and also won the Nobel Prize for his research.

It was space satellites that made large scale use of solar electrical energy for the first time. By 1980, the United States of America, produced a solar cell which provided an efficiency of nearly twenty percent, this efficiency was increased to around twenty four percent in the next two decades and currently there are a few companies that are manufacturing solar cells that offer efficiency levels of nearly twenty eight percent

The Working of Solar Panels

Pure silicon forms the basic element of all solar panels as its makes for an ideal platform that aids transmission of electrons. This material is used on the plates that form a solar panel. Solar panels are also created by combining silicon panels with other elements, with negative or positive charges.

The Silicon atoms are exposed to the bombardment of photons when negative plates of solar cells are faced towards the sunlight. Once all free electrons are drawn away from the plates, enough electricity is generated to power various electronic appliances that do not require too much electricity to power them.

Features and Types of Solar Panels

Basically there are three types of solar panels, namely mono-crystalline solar panels, polycrystalline solar panels, and amorphous solar panels. The life expectancy of solar panels depends on the type of solar panels selected by you; generally it’s around twenty years or so.

Solar panels do not require sustained maintenance for their upkeep although; if lead acid batteries are used then they must be checked every six months and topped up with distilled water if required. If you are looking for a solar panel for your needs and do not know what size to go for, then the best way would be to calculate your average consumption of electricity on a daily basis. This would give you a fair idea of what kind of solar panel to go for. In the long run, solar panels will reduce your electricity bill by a long way, and hence the option of using solar energy must be explored in a positive manner.

Top Tips For Conserving Water In Your Area

Of course, some of us live in areas where we get plenty of rain all year around, maybe even too much. However, in other areas water supplies can run low quickly, especially in summer.

So, it is all of our responsibilities to conserve this essential natural resource when we can. And even if we are a little careful with our water usage habits, we can make a big difference. Here is some advice on how you can conserve water around the home.

In the kitchen

* See if you can redirect waste water from the kitchen sink to the garden. Also, use a bowl when washing dishes so you don’t just leave the tap running.

* If you have a dishwasher wait until you have a full load and use the economy cycle, again reducing the amount of water used.  Also before putting the dirty plates etc. into the dishwasher, scrape the leftovers into the bin rather than rinsing under the running tap.

* Wait until there is a full load before washing your dirty clothes and front loaders use less water than top loaders.

In the garden

* Water your garden early in the morning or just before sunset.  This allows the water to be absorbed into the ground instead of evaporating in the hot sun if you water during the day.  Also the water droplets left on the leaves from the watering can damage your plants if the sun is too hot, so better wait until it cools down.

* If you have directed your bathroom and kitchen water to the garden and connected to garden hoses around the garden, puncture the hoses with holes which will allow the water to filter out from various places instead of from one end only.  This lets the water to penetrate to a deeper level and encourages the plant roots to grow longer and stronger, and therefore enhances the plants’ own search for water.

* Water sprinklers are time-savers but do use huge quantities of water if left on for long periods of time.  It is said they use 300 – 650 litres of water an hour. If left on over night, that’s a minimum of 2,400 litres! So, if you have to use them, please try only to use them for shorter periods of time and look for alternatives if possible.

* Rain water is a free, natural and easy source of water. Get a large tank or water butt and place it where the roof water from your home runs off. This will fill quickly in a big rain and provide a great source of water for the garden, or even for washing.

In the bathroom

* Flushing a toilet can use between 12 – 20 litres of water, so put a brick or a plastic bottle filled with water into the toilet cistern and this will reduce the water you use.  Or you can install dual flush toilets where you can opt for a small or a large flush.

* Up to 4.5 litres of water is wasted when we brush our teeth because most people leave the tap running.  Turn the tap off when cleaning your teeth or, even better, have a bottle of water and a glass near the basin and use these to rinse instead of running the tap every time you brush.

* Showers are much more environmentally friendly than baths. Even if you use the shower, you may still be able to reduce the amount of water you use.  Install a low-flow shower head if you can get one.  Also, spray taps release smaller amounts of water but do the same job as a normal tap and these can be fitted to your bathroom and kitchen sinks.

* Throw your rubbish in the bin and not down the toilet.

* Consider ways to get water from the shower to the garden and use this water for your plants.

These tips are not only directed at private households but to businesses as well. If you own or manage a business, or even if you feel your employer could do better when it comes to conserving water, try to use some of these methods at work. It is in all our interests that we have a plentiful and reliable supply of water.

If you introduce these habits and measures slowly into your routine you will find that it really will have no impact on your day-to-day life, but you will save a lot of water.

Green Living And Your Neighborhood

Green living is no longer a vague term known only by environmentalists. One of the ways we know that an important social trend has hit the big time is when major consumer providers adopt the term. Just about every major influencer in our society from Walmart to national broadcasting networks, are using the term to promote products and attract audiences. Green living is a welcome lifestyle that individuals, families and companies are choosing to ensure that the things they do and the products they use have as little an impact on the environment as possible. One of the best ways that you can build this thinking into your lifestyle is to live in a community that subscribes to green living.

If you are among the population of people who live a green lifestyle as a member of a rural community, you are in a good position. I would suggest, however, that you think about ways you can support a lifestyle movement that seeks to protect rural areas of our country (like your community), by making the more urban areas more livable, sustainable and green. This movement is here and it is strong and it is called new urbanism. New urbanism is a movement affecting areas where most of us live, including those in the suburbs and city centers.

One of the key threats to our beautiful rural areas and farming communities is the spread of urban development. New urbanism seeks to contain that spread by encouraging the development of communities that can accommodate more people. I’m not talking about increased high rises and ugly housing complexes. I’m referring to the development of lovely and affordable urban houses, town homes and condos/apartments that reflect the beautiful architecture and unique detail of those neighborhoods that were created in America before World War II.

New urbanism neighborhoods are found in newly built developments and renovated communities both in the suburbs and older city centers. This new mindset has taken almost 20 years to take root in our national psyche. It is at its essence a straightforward, fundamental focus on changing where we live to improve our quality of life. We are tired of choosing or rating successful neighborhoods based on the largeness of the yard or house. Life is much more than that.

In the new urbanism mind set, quality of life is defined by how our environments affect our emotions and our ability to live a life according to sustainable, healthy values and core life priorities. New urbanists believe that if we can develop more communities that make it is easy to enjoy green living, working and socializing right in our own neighborhood we can make a positive impact on our environments.

Benefits of New urbanism communities:

• New urbanism will contribute to less vehicular pollution by making it easier for people to find employment close to where they live or to establish their own businesses at or close to home. New urbanism communities, because of their location near or close to population centers, have the technological and business resources to support entrepreneurs and a wide range of businesses.

• Communities that subscribe to new urbanism principles attract residents who want to live a green lifestyle so it will make it easier for you or your family to adopt green lifestyle practices.

• The greenbelts surrounding your city or suburban area will be better protected if new urbanism communities in your region thrive since new urbanism encourages home buyers and renters to choose existing urban centers over new developments on large lots in shrinking rural regions.

New urbanism provides the structure needed to influence the largest percentage of our populations in North America and around the world.

Recycling Resolutions

It’s not too late to make your recycling resolutions.

The holidays are finally over and we can all hopefully begin slowing down and getting our lives back to normal.

If your home is like mine, the holidays left you with a huge mess. Empty boxes and torn wrapping paper litter the floor after the kids excitedly open their gifts. It’s so tempting to gather it all up and through it in the outside garbage bin.
But this is a great opportunity to not only recycle, but to reuse. Almost all of the wrapping paper and boxes can be recycled, so consider keeping your contribution out of the landfill. And for the reuse possibilities…they are practically endless. I’m pretty sure that most of the ribbons I use have been used for several years. And many of the boxes that hold the gifts are great to use for packaging gifts next year. Do you realize that many stores now CHARGE you for a gift box? Sheesh, I’ll save mine for next year, thank you. Not to mention the gift bags. I LOVE getting my gifts in those pretty little bags. Especially since I know I will be using it for someone else’s gift somewhere down the road. Do you know how much those things cost? They are outrageous. No way would I throw them away. They are too valuable.

Now what are we to do with the tree? If you use an artificial tree, it’s a pretty easy decision. You fold it up and store it for next year. Simple. And if you are lucky enough to live in a warm environment and purchased a live tree including the root ball, you can get to work planting it in your yard to enjoy for years to come. But what about cut trees? Most communities offer some sort of Christmas tree recycling. The lucky ones have curbside pickup to recycle their trees. The rest of us need to decide what to do. What convinces me to haul the tree to the recycling facility is a couple of things.
I was willing to haul it home after I purchased it, so I can just as easily take it to be recycled.

Some communities use the old trees to shred and cover pathways and trails through parks. This helps to repair and reduce the damage we create as we enjoy our hikes.

Some communities turn the old trees into mulch and then provide it to the public for free! What a deal. Spring is just right around the corner, by the way.

So that pretty much covers what we can do to reduce our holiday effect on the environment. Now it’s a new year and we can begin thinking about getting a fresh start.
Some resolutions to consider:

– Resolve to begin recycling if you don’t already. You can start small. This site provides a wealth of information about getting your recycling efforts off the ground.

– If you already recycle, step it up a notch. If your curbside recycling service doesn’t accept a particular item (like glass or cardboard), resolve to begin taking that item to the drop off facility in your area.

– Resolve to purchase more products packaged with post consumer recycled materials. The higher the percentage listed on the package, the better.

– Resolve to purchase more items made from recycled materials. Paper towels, toilet paper, napkins, and many other paper products fall into this category.

– Resolve to purchase more items in bulk, thus reducing packaging waste.

– Resolve to create at least one creative craft using something you might otherwise throw away. This is fun, gets your creative juices flowing, can reduce stress, and is a g reat way to spend some quality time with your family.

Bio-Fuels: The Fuel Of The Future

Biomass burning has an overall impact on the atmospheric chemistry as well as the climate. When there is a fire in the savannas, or tropical forests, or like the recent California fire, large quantities of particulate matter and trace gases are released.

Biomass fuel is also known as Bio-fuel. Bio-fuel is defined as liquid, solid or gaseous fuel that consists of biomass. Biomass fuels can be used for generating power and also for heating purposes.

Biomass fuels can help greatly in reducing the various greenhouse gas emissions and at the same time can increase energy security by being an alternative to fossil fuels. Today, you will find expansion of bio-fuel industries in Asia, Europe, and America.

Bio-fuels are most commonly used in automotive transport like the E10 fuel. They can easily be produced from any source containing carbon like plants. Biomass is mostly derived from living organisms, which includes animals, plants, and their by-products. Manure, crop residues and garden waste are some of the different sources of biomass. This is a renewable energy source that is associated to the carbon cycle as compared to various natural resources like coal, petroleum, and nuclear energy.

Some of the most popular agricultural products that are grown for the purpose of creating Bio-fuel in the United States are soybeans and corn while Europe uses wheat, rapeseed and sugar beet; sugar cane is grown in Brazil, Jatropha in India and palm oil in South-East Asia.

In the early part of 2007, Diversified Energy Corporation with the help of North Carolina State University (NCSU) geared itself for a breakthrough in biofuel technology, which has been named Centia. Centia has been positioned for producing military and commercial jet fuel and can even act as a biodiesel additive in cold or freezing weather. The process of developing Centia looks promising and is expected to deliver a high energy efficiency level that can be in excess of 85%.

There are a wide variety of scientific experiments being conducted, globally, to produce a viable bio-fuel that will be efficient and environmentally friendly. Scientists have started to look beyond the bio-fuels and started to work on the various byproducts of bio-fuel that can be used and even consumed as food in our daily lives.

Considered as an integral part of the green revolution, bio-fuels offer quite a few advantages over other fossil fuels like coal and petroleum. Bio fuels have the ability to recycle carbon dioxide with every growing season by getting it from the air to convert it into biomass. So unlike coal, which upon burning releases carbon, biomass in a way traps all the carbon that is in the air. This is an important aspect from the point of view of global warming because it doesn’t release any carbon components into the air. The biggest advantage over conventional fuel is that bio-fuel is renewable and hence they will not deplete the limited natural resources of our planet.
Common Biomass Fuels
Here is a list of some of the most common first generation Biomass fuels:

Vegetable oil
Vegetable oil is used for cooking food and also as a fuel. Vegetable oil is not high quality oil for fuel use but it is still used in older diesel engines, which are equipped with an indirect injection system.

In most of the cases, vegetable oil is used for manufacturing bio-diesel that is compatible with most of the diesel engines. It is normally blended with conventional diesel fuel for optimum efficiency.

Bio-diesel is one of the most common Bio-fuels in Europe. It is produced mainly from fats or oils using the process of trans-esterification. It is a liquid that has a similar composition like that of mineral diesel. The chemical name for bio-diesel is fatty acid methyl ester (FAME).

The oil is mixed with methanol or ethanol and sodium hydroxide, which initiates a chemical reaction to produce glycerol and bio-diesel (FAME). The process produces 1 part of glycerol per 10 parts of bio-diesel.

Bio-diesel is extensively used in diesel engines after it is blended with mineral diesel. Some countries like Germany have manufacturers Volkswagen, who provide a cover on their diesel engines as a part of their warranty for 100% bio-diesel use.

A majority of vehicle manufacturers still limit to use of 15% bio-diesel blended with mineral diesel. In some of the European countries, 5% bio-diesel blend is widely used and even available at gas stations

Ethanol is one of the most common Bio-fuels across the world. It is also known as an alcohol fuel and is produced by fermenting sugars, which are derived from corn, wheat, sugar cane and sugar beet. The various production methods for ethanol are fermentation of the sugars, enzymatic digestion, distillation and drying.

The use of Ethanol has been widely seen in petrol engines where it replaces gasoline. Almost all the petrol engines in the world can run on 15% blends of bio-ethanol with gasoline.

With an eye on the diminishing natural resources, its time for us to usher in the bio-fuel era!