Sustainability

Category Archives: SustainableBizness

One-third of global protected land is under intense human pressure

Protected yet pressured

Protected areas are increasingly recognized as an essential way to safeguard biodiversity. Although the percentage of land included in the global protected area network has increased from 9 to 15%, Jones et al. found that a third of this area is influenced by intensive human activity. Thus, even landscapes that are protected are experiencing some human pressure, with only the most remote northern regions remaining almost untouched.

In an era of massive biodiversity loss, the greatest conservation success story has been the growth of protected land globally. Protected areas are the primary defense against biodiversity loss, but extensive human activity within their boundaries can undermine this. Using the most comprehensive global map of human pressure, we show that 6 million square kilometers (32.8%) of protected land is under intense human pressure. For protected areas designated before the Convention on Biological Diversity was ratified in 1992, 55% have since experienced human pressure increases. These increases were lowest in large, strict protected areas, showing that they are potentially effective, at least in some nations. Transparent reporting on human pressure within protected areas is now critical, as are global targets aimed at efforts required to halt biodiversity loss.

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/360/6390/788

Agroecology is Advancing Around the Globe. Will the U.S. Take Part?

With its strong focus on social change for small farmers, agroecology is going mainstream worldwide, but the American food movement has yet to catch up.

Earlier this month, the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) held the 2nd International Symposium on Agroecology at its headquarters in Rome. The gathering attracted almost 800 participants, with representatives from 72 governments and 350 “non-state actors,” including civil society, academia, and the private sector. Farmers from Senegal, academics from the U.S., French parliamentarians, and staff of CropLife International, among others, gathered to debate the FAO’s claim of the urgent need to “scale up” agroecology as a means of achieving a more sustainable food system.

The symposium, hosted by the preeminent global institution on food issues, suggests that agroecology may finally be moving out of the margins. And it’s in the process of being mainstreamed.

Yet here in the U.S., it’s a different story. In fact, the word is rarely heard, even among people concerned with both agriculture and ecology. Instead, advocates—and the food industry—use the words organic, sustainable, and regenerative. And while some seem to use agroecology as an umbrella term that encompasses all of these practices, it’s more complex than that.

Shifting Language

All the above-mentioned terms share a commitment to food production without negative impacts on the environment. What makes agroecology different, potentially, is the combination of its scientific bona fides and its rootedness in the practices and political organization of small-scale food producers from across the globe. The former—as seen in multiple scientific elaborations of agroecology’s principles, like improved soil health, crop rotation, and diversification—is complemented by the latter, which gives agroecology meaning beyond the combination of “ecological” and “agriculture.”

Agroecology is Advancing Around the Globe. Will the U.S. Take Part?

California Will Require Solar Power for New Homes

SACRAMENTO — Long a leader and trendsetter in its clean-energy goals, California took a giant step on Wednesday, becoming the first state to require all new homes to have solar power.

The new requirement, to take effect in two years, brings solar power into the mainstream in a way it has never been until now. It will add thousands of dollars to the cost of home when a shortage of affordable housing is one of California’s most pressing issues.

That made the relative ease of its approval — in a unanimous vote by the five-member California Energy Commission before a standing-room crowd, with little debate — all the more remarkable.

State officials and clean-energy advocates say the extra cost to home buyers will be more than made up in lower energy bills. That prospect has won over even the construction industry, which has embraced solar capability as a selling point.

One of the most worrisome predictions about climate change may be coming true

Two years ago, former NASA climate scientist James Hansen and a number of colleagues laid out a dire scenario in which gigantic pulses of fresh water from melting glaciers could upend the circulation of the oceans, leading to a world of fast-rising seas and even superstorms.

Hansen’s scenario was based on a computer simulation, not hard data from the real world, and met with skepticism from a number of other climate scientists. But now, a new oceanographic study appears to have confirmed one aspect of this picture — in its early stages, at least.

The new research, based on ocean measurements off the coast of East Antarctica, shows that melting Antarctic glaciers are indeed freshening the ocean around them. And this, in turn, is blocking a process in which cold and salty ocean water sinks below the sea surface in winter, forming “the densest water on the Earth,” in the words of study lead author Alessandro Silvano, a researcher with the University of Tasmania in Hobart.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2018/04/23/one-of-the-most-worrisome-predictions-about-climate-change-may-be-coming-true/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.350ee40a21c8

7 things we’ve learned about Earth since the last Earth Day

Our understanding of Earth — and how we’re changing it — just keeps expanding.

Earth Day turns 48 today, April 22, and Google is celebrating it with a Google Doodle of conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall, who nudges us in a video a “do our part for this beautiful planet.”

When Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-Wisc.) founded Earth Day in 1970, his hope was to make the environment a political issue in an era where US rivers caught on fire and thick smog choked cities.

In many ways, it worked. Since then, major environmental laws have helped clean up much of the vivid toxic detritus in the soil, air, and water in the US. But our challenges today are no less daunting. The accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the loss of wilderness and species, and the acidification and pollution of the oceans have all become more acute — and more destabilizing.

In keeping with the tradition started by former Vox writers Brad Plumer and Joseph Stromberg, here are seven of the most troubling, intriguing, and encouraging things we learned about the Earth since the last Earth Day.

https://www.vox.com/2018/4/21/17247994/earth-day-2018-plastic-climate-change

Achieving 100% Renewable Energy is Within Our Reach

“..if you pay a power bill [100% renewable] is increasingly the common-sense path forward.”

We watch in horror as the damages from climate change continue to mount.

Last year, Hurricane Harvey dropped more rain on Houston than any storm has ever dropped on any American city, ever. Hurricane Maria set back development in Puerto Rico 25 years, according to early estimates. And the tab keeps mounting: in 2017 alone, the economic cost of hurricanes and wildfires was greater than the cost of paying tuition for every American in a public college or university. We can’t have a working nation or a world if we don’t stop the climate from careening out of control. That’s been clear for decades now, but what’s been less clear is precisely what we should do about it.

Happily, that’s no longer the case. We now know exactly what to do, and we’re increasingly certain it can be done. We have to switch off of coal, oil, and gas, and on to 100% wind, water, and sun energy sources. And though this drive for a conversion to clean energy started in northern Europe and northern California, it’s a call that’s gaining traction outside the obvious green enclaves. More and more major US cities have taken the pledge to go 100% renewable by the year 2050, while others have taken action to sever their ties with the fossil fuel industry, signifying a global shift in how we’re thinking about our energy system.

https://www.sandersinstitute.com/blog/04/18/2018/achieving-100-renewable-energy

Americans waste 150,000 tons of food each day – equal to a pound per person


Research shows people with healthy diets rich in fruit and vegetables are the most wasteful and calls for better education for consumers

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/18/americans-waste-food-fruit-vegetables-study

About 150,000 tons of food is tossed out in US households each day, equivalent to about a third of the daily calories that each American consumes. Fruit and vegetables were the most likely to be thrown out, followed by dairy and then meat.

This waste has an environmental toll, with the volume of discarded food equivalent to the yearly use of 30m acres of land, 780m pounds of pesticide and 4.2tn gallons of irrigated water. Rotting food also clogs up landfills and releases methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

Researchers at the US Department of Agriculture analysed eight years of food data, up to 2014, to see where food is wasted and also what members of the public say they do at mealtimes. The research has been published in Plos One.

 

A eureka moment for the planet: we’re finally planting trees again

After centuries of bad stewardship, communities are at last starting to see the benefits of forests.

China plans to plant forests the size of Ireland. Latin American countries have pledged to restore 20m hectares of degraded forest and African countries more than 100m hectares. India is to plant 13m hectares, and on a single day last year 1.5 million people planted 66m trees in Madhya Pradesh alone.

Much of Europe is physically greener than it was just a few years ago. England is to plant 50m trees in a new coast-to-coast forest and newly planted saplings now cover tens of thousands of hectares of former farmland in Ireland, Norway and France. From Costa Rica to Nepal and Peru to Mongolia, tree planting has become a political, economic and ecological cause, and a universal symbol of restoration, regrowth and faith in the future. More than 120 countries promised in 2015 to plant and restore large areas of forest as a response to the climate crisis, and the UN has set a target to restore 350m hectares by 2030 – an area bigger than India.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/13/worlds-lost-forests-returning-trees

Top