I know that my take on organic & local farming varies slightly from that of many folks around MVCC. I also know that my take on genetically modified crops also varies. Here is a lecture from British journalist Mark Lynas who offers support for GMO crops. To me, this is a debate that is very important, because I have concern that the overly-simplistic GMO campaigns (many that were successful in Europe) do not allow for nuance and recognition that there are useful, valuable, and safe forms of GMO that will be necessary to stabilize the increasing world population.
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on the EPA’s ability to force state governments to curb local emissions that pollute the air of neighboring states. Under review is the 2011 Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR). The CSPAR requires 28 states to significantly improve air quality by reducing power plant emissions that cross state lines and contribute to ozone and fine particle pollution in other states.
Supporters of the rule say it would avert the loss of nearly 2 million work and school days each year to respiratory illnesses. Business groups say the rule would cost $800 million in 2014 and be otherwise economically harmful.
In a nutshell: States are required to clean their air and keep it clean. But if pollution is coming from some other state, at what point is that state responsible to help clean the impacted state’s air? That’s the question the EPA is attempting to answer with this rule.
The full report can be found here. A quick briefing of the rule is here, plus a quick synopsis of why EPA and others are asking SCOTUS to a previous D.C. appeals court ruling that invalidated it. The wind blows in all directions. There are also several articles about this, one in the Economist and another here. Both highlight cost perspectives compared to impact. It’s an interesting concept, one I hope to see get some footing and help mitigate air pollution in general.
“It may well be true that capitalism is incapable of accommodating itself to the limits of the natural world. But that is not the same question as whether or not capitalism can solve the climate crisis,” writes Christian Parenti in his article A Radical Approach to the Climate Crisis.
Parenti provides a comprehensive yet easy to understand overview of the state of our climate crisis as well as how capitalism and government influence may be the way to getting us out of it. But they can do nothing without, what he calls, radical reform. I particularly like this piece because his idea of radical reform does not hail to the ideals that we all return to living off the land, eating grasses and raising our own foods.
No, he defines it as: reforms that achieve qualitative change in the balance of power between the classes. And suggests that the only way this will happen is if we, the people, rise up and demand it. We do so by putting pressure on our government bodies as well as our business entities. The result is a shift in government behaviors which would naturally drive the costs of fossil fuels up and renewables down. I am not going into detail here because Parenti does a very fine job of explaining this in his article, which can be found in the Summer 2013 edition of Dissent Magazine or at Resilience.org
Plenty of others are in agreement with many of the points Parenti makes, including the idea of charging for polluting (some call it a carbon tax). For example, Severin Borenstein, Bad Incentives For Green Choices, explains, “The near-unanimous view of economists is that the best way to deal with pollution externalities is by pricing them, generally through a pollution tax or cap and trade program. Yet, policy makers still prefer to reward “good” behavior rather than impose costs on bad behavior…”
What happens over the next seven years or so is pivotal. Some might argue it’s too late. Call me a bit pie-eyed, perhaps even quixotic, but I’ll hold out hope for change before 2020.
Millennial Trains Project (MTP): 20 participants age 18-34 are set to embark on a fast-paced cross-country journey in the name of sustainability, entrepreneurism and social change.
Ten cities, 10 days, 20 bright young minds on a transcontinental train trip sharing ideas for solving real-world problems — that’s the concept behind The Millennial Trains Project, a sort of mobile think tank that brings together socially minded entrepreneurs to address the challenges of the present and future. Departing Aug. 8 from San Francisco, the train will stop in Salt Lake City, Denver, Omaha, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Washington on its journey of discovery.
Read more about this project in Mother Nature News reporter Gerri Miller’s interview with Patrick Dowd, the project’s founder and CEO.
All of the projects sound really interesting! There are studies of food waste, energy conservation, health and diversity issues like- living with chronic illness or what it’s like to be an Arab American- and one, not surprisingly, about the use of trains for transit as a sustainable choice. In all, the MTP categorizes the individual projects into ten tracks:
I’ll be very interested to learn more about that last one; it’s Malcolm Kenton’s project. Trains Revitalizing America, is born out of Malcolm’s passion for trains and interest in sustainability and ecology. He’ll be creating a documentary that highlights various reasons that makes train travel a sustainable, efficient and ecologically sound mode of transportation. Cool!
The individual millennials and their project ideas can be found on the Project’s website. They have some really unique and creative stories and ideas. I hope they are able to make great strides and grow their concepts into real, actionable and helpful strategies to shape a better future for us all.
Safe & successful travels, Millennials, Choo Choo!!
Students, staff and faculty frat the University of California, Santa Barabara recently participated in a 24-hour “Justice Fast”, to promote justice, solidarity, integrity and dignity, in light of humanitarian issues worldwide and other social justice concerns.
Excerpts from the article, Campus Fasting Event Highlights Diverse Social Justice Movements, shed some light on the event:
- …the act of fasting, or abstaining from eating, emphasizes a continued prevalence of people’s hunger for justice. … “We’re trying to bring awareness to certain issues that are affecting our society and our larger global society,” Ochoa said. “At first, we were trying to figure out what issue to revolve our fast around, but in the end, we realized we couldn’t just focus on one issue. So we decided to split them, and students decided to take upon their own issues.”
Another recent article, which cites this UC-SB event, discusses deeping the academic experience to help students foster their already innate connection to the global challenges facing them and expounds on why these students resorted to fasting:
- From water shortages to climate change, population growth to the health of bees, biocultural diversity to globalization, everything feels inextricably interdependent and connected. Higher education is a great leverage point for addressing the complex issues that affect us all. Many students recognize the multifaceted challenges that face us, and they can become overwhelmed when classes seem abstract and disconnected from day-to-day life and there is no clear action component to the learning process. A recent article discusses a student fast at the University of California, Santa Barbara with the slogan “There’s too much to lose, don’t make me choose!” Resorting to fasting shows the seriousness with which these students take environmental, social and economic problems.
And these students and others across the nation are serious! 80% of US grads want to make a positive impact on the environment and 92% want to work for an eco-friendly company. Thankfully, 53% of our Fortune 500 companies are publishing some kind of sustainability or corporate social responsibility report, so our grads can find these companies, and nearly 80% of the nation’s population agrees we need to decrease consumption of energy and goods. This means, more and more our institutions of higher education need to be preparing students to be able to design systems, social and economic, that will meet these concerns and allow humans to persist within our limits.
At Moraine Valley Community College, faculty are fortunate to have an excellent resource that will help them integrate the concepts of sustainability into their coursework. The Moraine Valley Learning Academy, in collaboration with the Center for Sustainability, offers a faculty-enrichment program called the Greening Your Curriculum- Prairie Project. Enrollment for Fall 2013 is open now. The course explores many facets of sustainability, addressing today’s challenges and the unknowns of tomorrow, and guides faculty to understand how these topics relate or can be used to teach their individual disciplines. The program is unique to Moraine Valley, but there are other similar examples across campuses regionally and nationally. I am inspired and hopeful because of them.
Thanks to recent municapl electricity aggregration deal cut by Chicago, the City is set to receive nearly double the wind power it has currently. The deal also includes methods to reduce carbon emissions by 16%. A 98% reduction in ozone depleting and acid rain causing NO2 emissions, and a water-use savings equivalent to the annual consumption of about 12,500 households should also be realized through this new strategy.
Read more about how this deal is also saving rate payers money and driving the demand to create more green jobs in the City. Where do you live? Do you know if your city is following suit? According to WBEZ.org reporter, Chris Bentley about 600 cities and towns across the state have pursued aggregation deals and that they can take advantage of these deals like Chicago has to create a cleaner, thriving economic environment:
Renewable energy supporters are hopeful that municipal electricity aggregation could prove a useful vehicle to promote policies from distributed energy storage to local green jobs.
“With municipal aggregation,” said The Sierra Club’s Illinois Chapter Director Jack Darin, “cities like Chicago and every city and suburb in Illinois has the power to ask those questions to their suppliers.”
“Chicago’s inclusion of local wind energy in their power supply is an example for other aggregated communities to follow and build upon,” he said in a statement.
The NY Times has an article out today about how climate change will affect (is affecting) our electrical grid. Journalist John Broder sites the US Department of Energy stating, “The nation’s entire energy system is vulnerable to increasingly severe and costly weather events driven by climate change, according to a report from the Department of Energy“.
The fact that our power grid is threatened should be alarming enough, however, climate change is affecting so much more that will then again threaten our ability to maintain power, quality of life, etc.
Broder further writes, “The effects are already being felt, the report says. Power plants are shutting down or reducing output because of a shortage of cooling water. Barges carrying coal and oil are being delayed by low water levels in major waterways. Floods and storm surges are inundating ports, refineries, pipelines and rail yards. Powerful windstorms and raging wildfires are felling transformers and transmission lines.”
Dramatic Images of Our Changing Planet “The pictures, featured in NASA’s “State of Flux: Images of Change,” show movement over time, with lapses from just a few days to centuries. They look at cities and locales the world over, from Saudi Arabia to El Salvador. They exhibit lake shrinkage and flooding and drought and fires. Many highlight the impact humans have had on these natural places.
In some instances, the changes are slight, circled or outlined to delineate the modification. But in others, like this one of deforestation in Argentina, the difference in just three decades is stark.”
In that same posting by The Weather Channel, they have quick video about how NASA is using its images and other data collected from satellites to understand climate change. It’s very quick, but educational if you’re not yet aware of this process.
I recently received the following (slightly shortened) email. Sometimes, because there’s just not enough time to read them all, I delete mass emails like this. However, I found the title compelling enough to open and then, the message within even more interesting. There could be 9 Billion people on the planet before my time is up (given I live to be nice and old and past 2050). That’s alarming since we’re struggling now to balance food and water and other resources equitably for the 7 billion we have now. Read below and learn more about these challenges- truly upsetting.
Danielle, author of the email, asks the readers to suggest other groups and names addressing the issues presented within- do you know anyone? I wrote back and suggested the Half the Sky Movement.
Thursday, July 11th, is World Population Day. The United Nations estimates that global population will swell to 9 billion by the year 2050. Most of this growth will occur in urban areas and emerging economies in Asia, Latin America, and sub-Saharan Africa. Cities such as Delhi, India; Sao Paolo, Brazil; and Lagos, Nigeria will become the largest in the world, while rural areas will lose inhabitants.
At least one billion people around the world do not get enough to eat. A nearly equal amount – 1.4 billion – are overweight, and can suffer from various health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. And more than 200 million women across the globe have an unmet need for contraception, keeping them from planning how many children they want to have and when. In addition, women farmers often lack access to land, credit, and education making it harder for them to provide for their families. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that if women had the same access to these services as men, global malnutrition could be reduced by 12 to 17 percent.
But committed groups around the world are highlighting the connections between population growth, gender, reproductive health, agricultural production, and environmental sustainability and the need for integrated, holistic approaches to nourish both people and the planet.
The 18 individuals and organizations below (in alphabetical order) are all taking action to prepare for the challenges presented by global population growth through research, advocacy, education, and community outreach. What other groups are taking on these issues? Please let us know in the comments or email me.”
- Aspen Global Health and Development
- Cecile Richards
- Center for Environment and Population
- Debra Hauser
- The Earth Institute, Colombia University Center on Globalization and Sustainable Development
- Every Mother Counts
- Family Care International (FCI)
- Global Fund for Women
- Hans Rosling
- International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF)
- Jane Goodall Institute
- Jill Sheffield
- Jon Foley
- Population Council
- Population Services International (PSI)
- Suzanne Ehlers
- Marie Stopes Foundation
- United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
All The Best,
We have reached a new record. For the first time in 800,000 years the atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide have reach 400 parts per million. For 1000s of years, the atmosphere has remained under 300 ppm of carbon dioxide. We were around 315 ppm in 1960. The rate of growth continues to grow.
Read more at: Scientific American: 400 PPM: Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere Reaches Prehistoric Levels By David Biello (May 9, 2013)
The Illinois Sierra Club put up this post,
Missing Illinois’ Lost Wetlands, in regard to the recent rains. They note that
Illinois has lost 90% of its original wetlands. They’d be storing 8.5 trillion gallons of rainwater right now if we still had them.