Local Food…What will it take?

Check out this 5 minute video about making local food in the Chicagoland region a reality for all. There is a potential for not only increased health benefits for individuals, but also a healthier community that includes economic development (jobs).

Predicting Risk and Super Storm Sandy

Back in 2006, analysts from the insurance industries predicted the storm surge caused by Super Storm Sandy. Yet, they do not include this risk in their cost models. The US government is actually on the hook for flood insurance, not the industry. This piece from the PBS News Hour outlines the issues around this topic. Many analysts recognize that climate change is making extreme storms more possible, and they are able to identify areas where major storms are likely. But, the industry is still scared of climate skeptics who do not want to pay for models that incorporate the costs of climate change.

Climate Change Causes Insurers to Rethink Price of Risk After Hurricane Sandy

SUMMARY: The insurance industry looks at historical data, old and new, in order to assess the risk for potential disasters and put a price on premiums. But when Sandy hit the Northeast, some insurance companies reconsidered if they priced insurance high enough for the greater risks brought on by climate change. Paul Solman reports.

The Bad Old Days for Wild Life

As our Thanksgiving turkey hangover fades away, I thought it appropriate to share this video from CBS’ Fast Draw guys. They use James Sterba’s book Nature Wars as one of their sources.

I thought that this was illustrative of how we remember the past. We tend to forget about the progress we have made in terms of conservation. The late 19th and early 20th century industrialization decimated our enviroment, and through government and private groups, we have preserved many lands. We also forget that people and other animals are creating a new equilibrium in how we live together. Clearly, this equilibrium is not perfect, but it also highlights how limited our perspectives can be on problems that span generations.

The Fast Draw: Pros and cons of growing animal population
Mitch Butler and Josh Landis show us that the good old days weren’t always good for America’s wildlife.

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: http://www.greenfestivals.org/chi/updates/ .

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.