Secret Weapon in Combatting Ocean Plastic? Mussel Poop, Madrid’s Great Green Wall, Aptera– the EV Super Car, Climate Champion Tom Swain @100!

by | Aug 11, 2021 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

The latest secret weapon in combatting ocean plastic? Mussel poop, plus Madrid’s great Green Wall. Aptera– the EV super car, and climate champion Tom Swain @100!



 You may have heard of The Big Green Monster at Boston’s Fenway park. It’s a massive green, 37 foot 2-inch hi left field wall. Now Madrid is building its own great green wall. Whereas Fenway Park’s is made of wood, Madrid’s great green wall is made of woods, or more precisely forests.

They’re doing it to combat climate change, air pollution, and the urban heat island effect. When complete, this forest will be 75-kilometers, surrounding Madrid with nearly a million trees. 

“What we want to do is to improve the air quality in the whole city,” says Mariano Fuentes, Madrid’s councillor for the environment and urban development. “To fight the ‘heat island’ effect that is happening inside the city, to absorb the greenhouse emissions generated by the city, and to connect all the existing forest masses that already exist around the city.”

The project will also make use of derelict sites lying between roads and buildings to help absorb 175,000 tons of CO2 per year. When finished, Madrid’s ‘green wall’ will be a forest of indigenous trees that can absorb CO2 but also the heat generated by human activity. Temperatures under the shade of these trees are 2 degrees lower than the rest of the city.

DEEPER DIVE: EuroNews, TreeHugger, BBC



Mussels get their food by filtering seawater, sieving out plankton and other nutritious particles and flushing out unwanted particles from their digestive systems.

Earlier this year, with financial support from the Waitrose ‘Plan Plastic’ Fund, Plymouth Marine Labs began testing how effective mussels are at removing microplastics from seawater using a custom-designed flume tank. Microplastics are the tiny plastic fibres and particles prevalent in our seas. Fascinating, right??

Well, in other words, here’s how mussel poop could be the secret to removing microplastics from the oceans: The Plymouth experiments confirmed that blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) readily filter microplastics out of the water column. The experiments showed that a cluster of 300 mussels (5 kg) could filter out over 250,000 microplastics per hour! 

Microplastics are then either rejected by the mussels within ‘pseudofaeces’ or ejected in their normal faecal matter. Additional experiments showed that, even when they contain high levels of buoyant plastic, these mussel faeces will rapidly sink out of the water. This means they can be collected for removal, thereby taking microplastics out of the system entirely.

Why does this matter to us? For two reasons – the “repackaging” of plastic materials causes no harm to the mussels. And because it’s one way to use nature to solve a human-made problem, thus potentially avoiding the introduction of other harmful, human-made, climate-altering pollutants into the ecosphere. Nothing sweeter than humans getting out of the way and letting nature do its thing.

Oh, and by the way, these are not the same mussels you might enjoy in your nearest seafood restaurant.

DEEPER DIVE: EuroNews, Plymouth Marine Labs, Center for Biological Diversity



 The internet is a wild and wooly place. It’s somewhere I sometimes find the most elegant things. Like Aptera.

“Aptera is the first electric/ solar vehicle that requires no charging for most daily use.  Thanks to the power of the sun, the dream of driving for more miles with less carbon, materials, and energy from the grid is now a reality,” so says its website.

 It’s classified as a Never Charge electric vehicle. Its solar system can produce more power per year than most drivers will ever need for the road. The claim is made because the skin of the vehicle is comprised of solar panels. It’s a $50K, futuristically designed, two-person, space pod-looking, reverse tricycle—meaning the two main tires are up front—vehicle that not only looks like it could levitate at any moment, it’s also designed around two major concepts.

And that’s why the Aptera matters to us: The first concept is that the reality is the average number of people in a car at any one time is one. The second is the average roundtrip distance of a person’s commute is fewer than 35 miles.

So while the onboard batteries supply about 250 miles driving range, the embedded solar panels are supposed to provide an extra 40 miles per day. The combination of those two is what makes it a Never Charge vehicle. With a never charge vehicle, out goes the need for networks of charging stations. And that’s pretty cool because that could speed the adoption of EVs by reluctant gas jugglers.

It’s definitely an EV with a cult following. The company raised $100 million back in December 2020, with just over 3,000 pre-orders taken at that time.

DEEPER DIVE: Aptera, Wikipedia,



Minnesotan Tom Swain, to mark his 100th birthday, coincidentally on July 4th, asked well-wishers to make a personal climate pledge. And don’t call Tommy a “Johnny-come-lately.” He’s been preaching about climate change awareness since he was in his 80’s.

Unlike The Climate Pledge that over 100 companies have signed, Tom Swain’s climate pledge truly is personal. All he’s asking friends, family, admirers and people who live on Earth to do is go to his Kudoboard website, and share what they plan to do to combat climate change with the world. And then stick to it.

That aligns with Tom’s “small government conservative” philosophy. Which is why Tom Swain matters to us. First he’s living proof you can be outside of “Generation Green New Deal” (aka “Gen Z”) and fight climate change. Second you don’t have to be a Democrat or Independent to believe in fighting climate change. And three, his idea is a replicable and simple way to build a climate change combatting community in your neck of the woods.

And oh, did we mention Tom Swain is also working with the University of Minnesota to launch the Swain Climate Policy Series of lectures? That may be the most relevant why it matters to us of all.

DEEPER DIVE: Tom’s Kudoboard, MPR, Minnesota Alumni