Sustainability

Category Archives: Sustainability

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

World’s First Road That Recharges Vehicles While Driving Opens in Sweden

(VIDEO at link)

Sweden inaugurated on Wednesday the first road of its kind that can recharge commercial and passenger car batteries while driving.

The eRoadArlanda project consists of 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) of electric rail installed on a public road outside Arlanda Airport. The innovation was funded by the Swedish Transport Administration and is part of the government’s goal of fossil fuel-free transportation infrastructure by 2030.

According to the project website, the road works by transferring energy from an electrified rail to a movable arm attached underneath the vehicle. The arm is able to detect and lower onto the electrified section when the vehicle drives above it.

The road is divided into 50-meter sections, with each section supplying power only when a vehicle is above it. When the vehicle stops, the current is disconnected. The system is also able to calculate the vehicle’s energy consumption, which enables electricity costs to be debited per vehicle and user.

A diesel-turned-electric truck owned by logistics firm PostNord is the first to use the road. Over the next 12 months, the truck will stay juiced as it shuttles deliveries between Arlanda Airport and its distribution center 12 kilometers away, The Local reported.

https://www.ecowatch.com/electric-vehicles-recharge-road-sweden-2559608067.html

Pesticides Are Making Children Aggressive

“Pesticides cause a multitude of adverse effects on humans. However, they are especially harmful to children.”

Pesticides cause a multitude of adverse effects  on humans. However, they are especially harmful to children. They may have something to do with the mass-shootings in schools all over America because some of them are neurotoxins. This means they affect and damage the central nervous system and the brain – of all animals, including humans.

Warren Porter, professor emeritus of zoology at the University of Wisconsin, conducted experiments with ground water – water drawn from the ground of farms with typical levels of pesticides and fertilizers. He chose farm water contaminated with the insecticide aldicarb, the herbicide atrazine, and nitrogen fertilizer. He tested that mixture on white mice and deer mice.

The concentrations of the fertilizer with each of the pesticides (aldicarb and atrazine) in the ground water were of the order of magnitude the Environmental Protection Agency says the chemicals cause “no unreasonable harm to man and the environment.” In other words, Porter put to the ultimate test the assurances of EPA and the chemical industry about the toxins EPA registers (approves) – that they are safe and farmers may spray on crops Americans eat.

Porter discovered the mixture of common ground water and farm chemicals had detrimental effects on the animals’ nervous, immune, and endocrine systems. The mice became aggressive and had problems with their thyroid hormones. Their immune system was also compromised in its ability to make antibodies against foreign proteins.

Organic food means food without farm sprays, sludge, radiation, and genetic engineering. This healthy food is also political food: helping us to fight pollution and control by the agrochemical-industrial-political complex.

https://www.commondreams.org/views/2018/04/14/pesticides-are-making-children-aggressive

Regenerative Organics: Drawing a Line in the Soil

In recent years, we’ve seen a boom in production and sales of organic foods worldwide. The global organic food market is expected to grow by 16 percent between 2015 and 2020, a faster rate than conventionally-grown foods.

This seems like good news—but in truth, organic farming makes up just a tiny fraction of the global agriculture system controlled by a few giant corporations generating enormous profits. And it’s about to get worse: If current deals in the works make it past European and U.S. regulators, three companies—Bayer, DowDupont and ChemChina—will own two-thirds of the world’s seeds and pesticides.

This unfortunate reality threatens to hold us hostage for decades as conventional agriculture continues to ravage our planet: gobbling up immense fossil fuels for production and shipping, flooding the earth with toxic synthetic pesticides and deadening our soil’s biodiversity with GMO seeds (along with the taste of our food). Conventional agriculture also generates a quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions now baking our atmosphere.

And food is just part of the picture. Consider cotton, a fiber used to make a large majority of our clothing globally: just one percent is grown organically. That figure has stayed mostly stagnant since at least 1996, the year Patagonia started sourcing 100 percent organic cotton. It’s especially appalling considering 16 percent of all pesticides used worldwide are used to grow conventional cotton—exposure to which has been linked to higher rates of cancer and other diseases. Conventional GMO farming practices also reduce soil fertility and biodiversity, require more water and large amounts of herbicides, alter the nutritional content of our food, and result in toxic runoff that pollutes our rivers, lakes and oceans.

Thankfully, the status quo isn’t our only option. Regenerative organic agriculture includes any agricultural practice that increases soil organic matter from baseline levels over time, provides long-term economic stability for farmers and ranchers, and creates resilient ecosystems and communities. Put simply, this approach presents an opportunity to reclaim our farming system on behalf of the planet and human health—while fulfilling the obvious need to feed and clothe billions of people around the world. We can produce what we need and revitalize soil at the same time, thereby sequestering carbon currently polluting the atmosphere and warming our planet.

https://www.patagoniaprovisions.com/pages/regenerative-organics-drawing-a-line-in-the-soil

For a deeper dive, take a look at Unbroken Ground, a 25-minute film by Chris Malloy on the wonderful work of four different groups to help create higher-quality food that is far more nutritious and delicious than anything our worn-out industrial farms can produce.

https://www.patagoniaprovisions.com/pages/unbroken-ground

Portugal reaches 100% renewables, ends fossil fuel subsidies

Portugal’s renewable energy sources generated enough power to exceed total grid demand across the month of March, a new report has found, setting a standard that is expected to become the norm for the European nation.

According to Portuguese grid operator, REN, renewable energy output over the month reached 4,812GWh, surpassing the nation’s total electricity needs for March, which only topped 4,647GWh.

In that time, power generated by Portugal’s hydroelectric dams accounted for 55 per cent of monthly consumption – boosted by drought-breaking rainfall of four times the monthly average – and wind power, 42 per cent.

The achievement comes nearly one year after hydro, wind, and solar power helped push the Iberian country to run on 100 per cent renewable electricity for 107 hours straight. Last March, however, the average renewables supply was 62 per cent.

Portugal reaches 100% renewables, ends fossil fuel subsidies

Coffee and Deforestation: Addressing Coffee’s Footprint

About one third of the world’s land, more than four billion hectares, is forest. Every year, this area decreases by an average of 13 million hectares, about the same size as 35 football fields per minute. The largest losses are observed in Africa and South America, mainly due to agriculture.

Coffee originates from the humid, tropical forests of Southern Ethiopia and South Sudan, and around the globe it is largely grown in many former forest landscapes,  some of which are located in biodiversity hotspots or protected areas, such as the Mata Atlântica and the Cerrado region in Brazil, the Mesoamerican Forests in Central America and the Eastern Afromontane Forests hosting the genetic diversity of Coffea Arabica in Ethiopia.

Yet the relationship between coffee and forest cover today is weakly addressed in our sector. We look at many other aspects related to sustainability in coffee: Where will future production come from if young people continue migrating from rural areas? How can productivity be increased to meet growing demand? How strongly will climate change impact production volumes, quality or specific coffee regions? Which varieties should be promoted to cope with rising temperatures and more irregular rainfall patterns? How can supply chains strengthen coffee producers in their operations?

Coffee and Deforestation: Addressing Coffee’s Footprint

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