Development, Rain Forest, and Climate Change

Over the break, I came across this article and bookmarked it. The impact of urbanization on environment and climate is not new but it is something that still warrants discussion.

Swallowing Rain Forest, Cities Surge in Amazon
By Simon Romero SIMON ROMERO, November 24, 2012

The Amazon has been viewed for ages as a vast quilt of rain forest interspersed by remote river outposts. But the surging population growth of cities in the jungle is turning that rural vision on its head and alarming scientists, as an array of new industrial projects transforms the Amazon into Brazil’s fastest-growing region.

The torrid expansion of rain forest cities is visible in places like Parauapebas, which has changed in a generation from an obscure frontier settlement with gold miners and gunfights to a sprawling urban area with an air-conditioned shopping mall, gated communities and a dealership selling Chevy pickup trucks.

Scientists are studying such developments and focusing on the demands on the resources of the Amazon, the world’s largest remaining area of tropical forest. Though Brazilian officials have historically viewed the colonization of the Amazon as a matter of national security — military rulers built roads to the forest under the slogan “Occupy it to avoid surrendering it” — deforestation in the region already ranks among the largest contributors to global greenhouse-gas emissions…read entire article here.

Marketplace: U.S. to pass Saudi Arabia as top oil producer

Yesterday, American Public Media’s show Marketplace had a story noting that the US will pass Saudia Arabia as the top oil producer (see below). The story concerned me because they were noting that this increase would come from the hydraulic fracking, which has caused concern about the sustainability of the practice. I have pasted the Marketplace story below. I am not sure that the story spend enough time discussing the nature of fracking, so it falls on our shoulders to do our research.

U.S. to pass Saudi Arabia as top oil producer
A new projection suggests the United States will leapfrog the Saudis in oil come 2020 or so. This comes not from an oil company or a bank, but the blue-ribbon International Energy Agency in Vienna. It advises governments around the world.”

Paranoia Threatens Smart Meters

Pseudoscience and paranoia are the newest threats to implementing smart-grid technologies. A “smart grid” has the potential to increase efficiency within our electrical grid by collecting data. This could help ease environmental risks and improve service. But, there is a growing fear that the use of smart meters in homes could pose a threat to the health of the people living in the home. Liberal and conservative activists are opposing smart-grid technologies even thought they cannot really define the threat that these technologies post. The activists fear the transmissions that smart meters make but they fail to note that:

1. Smart grid transmissions are nothing compared to transmissions from radios, TVs, cell phones (which most of us keep on our bodies), wireless internet hubs, and countless other wireless technologies.
2. They note a fear of the technology but there is no solid evidence that actually defines harm from the technology.

The fear of smart meters echoes past fears of fluoride in drinking water and electricity in homes. There is a naturally concern over an innovation and benefits are discounted while fears are given more credit than they deserve.

Here is a Newshour story about fears around smart meters and their impact in California, “California Activists Want Smart Meters Banned, Claim They’re Bad for Health.”

SUMMARY: Within the next three years, it is expected that nearly 65 million homes in the U.S. will have wireless smart meters. But some California environmentalists, liberals, Tea Party supporters and other activists are not enthused by this. At the heart of the debate is whether smart meters can cause illness. Spencer Michels reports

Watch Activists Want Smart Meters Gone, Say They’re Bad for Health on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

Green Festival This Weekend

Do you want to learn more about living sustainably?  Head on down to the Green Festival at Navy Pier this weekend.  Noon – 8 Saturday and 11 – 7 on Sunday.  All weekend there are great speakers like Jesse Jackson, Van Jones, Jeffrey Smith, John Perkins, Amy Goodman, Karyn Calabrese, Bill McKibbin, and more.  There is a ton to do: free yoga classes, fun and games for kids at the Green Kids’ Zone, green cooking demos, DIY stage, environmental film shorts at the Sierra Club Green Cinema, fair trade stage, green business stage, and hundreds of vendors where you can buy green and sustainable goods.  Last year I found a local mattress maker and purchased a completely organic mattress for my new baby as well as stainless steel baby bottles.  It is definitely worth checking out.  For more information: .

Unintended Consequences and The Conundrum of Sustainability

Considering the size of the global economy, driving toward sustainability is a very challenge and complex puzzle. I recently heard New Yorker writer David Owen talk about the challenges of complexity on the EconTalk podcast David Owen on the Environment, Unintended Consequences, and The Conundrum. I am not sure I absolutely agree with Owen, but his arguments are definitely worth considering. He challenges us with the question, what if our efforts to live in a more sustainable way are  actually do more damage than good? One of his examples is with efforts to make more fuel efficient cars. By making cars more efficient, we are actually making driving cheaper and encouraging people to use more gas (and therefore, putting more carbon into the atmosphere). In this podcast, Owen is talking about his new book The Conundrum: How Scientific Innovation, Increased Efficiency, and Good Intentions Can make Our Energy and Climate Problems Worse. Here is the podcast description from the EconTalk website:

  • David Owen of the New Yorker and author of The Conundrum talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the ideas in his book. Owen argues that innovation and energy innovation have increased energy use rather than reduced it and similarly, other seemingly green changes do little to help the reduce humanity’s carbon footprint or are actually counter-productive. Only large reductions in consumption are likely to matter and that prescription is unappealing to most people. Owen points out that New York City, ironically perhaps, is one of the greenest places to live because of the efficiencies of density. The conversation concludes with a discussion of how to best approach global warming given these seeming realities.

African Nobel Prize Winner Passes Away, Leaves Ethical Legacy & Call to Action

“Wangari Maathai died September 25 of cancer, age 71. The first female African Nobel Peace Prize-winner, the first woman to receive a doctorate in Central or Eastern Kenya; the organization she founded, the Green Belt Movement, is responsible for the planting of millions of trees. But Maathai planted more than trees. She planted ideas, specifically the idea that conflict and climate change are linked, that climate action will come from the bottom, and the idea that women must be in leadership of the necessary next transformation.” Wangari Maathai: The Mushrooms and the Canopy both need Light, Laura Flanders on September 27, 2011 – 1:20pm ET

Dr. Maathai was inspirational not only to the Africans she touched, but across the world.  She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her work promoting conservation, women’s rights and transparent government. She was the first African woman to receive the award.

Wangari Maathai is a heroine and world leader in sustainable development working to eradicate poverty, promote environmental conservation, enhance women’s rights, fight climate injustice and shed light on government corruption. All of these components of the sustainability movement were her passion and she was able to bring awareness to them, embracing them all as necessary for a better future. She will be deeply missed.

Wangari was supposed to speak at an upcoming conference, Association for the Advancement in Higher Education (AASHE) 2011.  Personally  I was really excited to hear her present. AASHE asked Dr. Maathai to keynote the conference because “her life embodied the conference theme of ‘Creating Sustainable Campuses and Communities.’  One portion of her legacy is the Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies at the University of Nairobi. She refers to the mission of the institute in her latest book, Replenishing the Earth: Spiritual Values for Healing Ourselves and the World.

The mission reads: To transfer knowledge and skills on sustainable use of natural resources from academic halls and laboratories to the citizenry in villages and rural communities throughout Africa and beyond, and in doing so encourage transformational leadership grounded and focused on improving peoples livelihoods and sharing cultures of peace.

A few inspiring words from the late Dr. Maathai: “we must not tire, we must not give up, we must persist.” (2004, Nobel Prize acceptance speech)

“Conflict and Climate Change are Linked” is a provocative concept; what does it make you think about or how does it make you feel?

Do you think the root of the Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies at the University of Nairobi mission: transferring sustainability knowledge from academia to communities, encouraging the improvement of peoples livelihoods and sharing cultures of peace: is possible? Necessary? Not important?

Green Festival This Weekend!

Green Festival ChicagoCelebrate Green Festival’s 10th Anniversary at the Chicago Green Festival, May 14th-15th at McCormick Place Lakeside!

Green Festival inspires and promotes the connection between change and sustainable progress for people, communities and businesses. Green Festival’s interactive marketplace and learning environment provides solutions to help make healthier lives-socially, economically and environmentally.

Fun for the whole family! Festivities include presentations by more than 125 renowned authors, leaders and visionaries, informative how-to workshops, cutting-edge films, enriching kid’s activities, organic beer and wine, delicious organic vegan and vegetarian cuisine, diverse live music and an amazing marketplace of more than 300 green local and national businesses and organizations.

Chicago Green Festival features national and internationally renowned authors, leaders, visionaries and activists. Keynote speakers include Amy Goodman, John Perkins, Dr. Sharif Abdullah, Colin Beavan (No-impact Man), The Fabulous Beekman Boys, Dr. Devra Davis and Hunter Lovins.

Preview local, regional and national green businesses in the 2011 Exhibitor Directory.

How Western Diets Are Making The World Sick

Wanted to send along this link: How Western Diets Are Making The World SickHere’s a description:

In a conversation on Fresh Air, [physician Kevin] Patterson tells Terry Gross that the effects of urbanization are making people everywhere in the world both fatter and sicker.”Type 2 diabetes historically didn’t exist, only 70 or 80 years ago,” says Patterson. “And what’s driven it, of course, is this rise in obesity, especially the accumulation of abdominal fat. That fat induces changes in our receptors that cells have for insulin. Basically, it makes them numb to the effect of insulin.”For a long time, the human body can compensate — the pancreas secretes even larger amounts of insulin, which regulates blood sugar levels. But over time, the pancreas begins to fail to secrete enough insulin, and that is when diabetes develops.He explains that the increase in abdominal fat has driven the epidemic of diabetes over the last 40 years in the developed world — and that he’s now seeing similar patterns in undeveloped regions that have adapted Western eating patterns.