Sustainability Interest Survey

Click here to complete the Sustainability Interest Google Form for Monday, January 22nd. 

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Discussion Day: Where to Reinforce, Where to Retreat?

The issues of climate change and its effect on natural disasters in the New England area is discussed in this article. Problems that never use to effect these areas before, like flooding and sea level rises, are becoming increasingly dangerous to those living there. The article also talks about ways in which to rebuild from disasters and to adapt to environmental change, and what steps we can take to build cities that are more resilient to these issues. Resiliency is one of the topics from the article that were stressed because of all the lives it could save. It means to recover quickly, and to also adapt to reduce those vulnerabilities. Not only physically but economically, how is the act of rebuilding, redesigning, and adapting with resiliency going to help these regions stay safe. Also consider what factors need to be taken into account to benefit the area as a whole, and the individuals living there.

Discussion Day: “Toward Climate Resilience: A Framework and Principles for Science-Based Adaptation”

Consider some major natural disasters that have occurred in recent years with relation to climate change (eg. Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Harvey, etc.) After reading the 15 principles/ideas presented in the article, what do you think local governments could have done before those disasters occurred to mitigate the effects and increase their preparedness? In addition, comment on what principles presented by the author of climate adaptation you feel will be most effective and will have a significant impact on our future working towards climate resilience. How can they be revised or altered?

$15 billion dollar bees

Image result for honeybee

Source: Wikipedia

Beekeepers across the United States lost more than 40 percent of their honey bee colonies during the year spanning April 2014 to April 2015. While for some people this may not seem significant, and some instances where the fear of bees brought on a silent cheer, the effects are enormous and sobering. Bees are pollinators, which means their decline is a real threat not only to agricultural sustainability and food security, but to ecosystem health and biodiversity as a whole.

In 2014, the White House cited that honey bees citing that honey bees contribute more than $15 billion to the United States economy and stressed the economic challenge posed by declining pollinator populations,. President Obama communicated a federal strategy for 2015 to promote the health of honey bees and other pollinators. Scientists and beekeepers knew the importance of the pollinators decline, but the message needed to be broader. Companies like Whole Foods and Burts Bee’s began educating consumers and Häagen-Dazs’ donated more than $1 million to research.

The link was made between bee decline and neonicotinoids – an insecticide chemical that affect the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis and death. The issue also sparked action against companies who produce and carry them. In 2014, activists targeted Lowe’s and Home Depot demanded they stop selling the pesticides. That same year, Home Depot complied and Lowe’s followed suit in 2015.

This is an example of federal power policy promoting positive national change. It also speaks to the the intersection of federal, corporate and citizens advocating begetting policy change resulting in enormous ripple effects, including those of corporate and consumer behavior.

Sources:

http://www.sustainablebrands.com/news_and_views/marketing_comms/mike_hower/survey_us_beekeepers_lost_40_bees_2014

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/home-depot-looks-to-limit-pesticides-to-help-honeybees/

 

 

 

Sprawl, health and energy consumption

Image result for chicago suburbs sprawl cookie cutter garage

Source: TRG Communities

Two-car garages facing the street, big box stores, parking lots and chain restaurants. What am I describing? Chicago-land suburbs, of course – along with thousands upon thousands of other suburbs scattered all over the United States. This is sprawl.

Decades ago many people’s life goals included buying a nice house in the suburbs. Today we know that sprawl causes many problems like individual health issues like obesity and other weight related illnesses like Type 2 diabetes, social inequity, job loss, environmental degradation, and massive energy spending. Climate change and the need to reduce energy consumption is one important factor in attempting to reverse sprawl, and instead approach the way we build and live our lives differently from the suburban lifestyle so many still lead. A world without sprawl is more compact, more walkable, less car dependent and more transit-served and diverse. The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in the United States is from burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation. Reversing sprawl and design cities, towns and villages with this in mind will help to reduce our overall GHG emissions and in turn our overall public health, including the health of our planet.

Fixing the issue sprawl focuses on specific design to change the built environment and policy changes. Possible responses would include government subsidies and funding priorities, market incentives, transportation systems and new urban design plans.

Sources:

https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions

https://www.bizjournals.com/memphis/news/2017/10/31/guest-column-what-can-be-done-about-sprawl.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/suburbs-increasingly-view-their-auto-centric-sprawl-as-a-health-hazard/2016/12/28/49a99542-c6f9-11e6-8bee-54e800ef2a63_story.html?utm_term=.c1bdc4fd411d

 

Carbon Credits

As we have learned, climate change solutions are easier said than done. How do we get the entire world on the same team in regards to fighting climate change while preserving the country’s best interest. One of the biggest problems with climate change is the output large corporations have during their business practices with little to nothing set up to reduce their footprint on the earth. What these companies need is an incentive or an easier way to help fight climate change while keeping their business running. This is where the carbon credit system comes in that was first drafted up at the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.

Carbon credits work like modern day credit cards where you can continue buying stuff on credit and pay it back later. The one thing about carbon credits is many corporations and large businesses are running out of time and need to pay back what they did to the earth now. When you purchase a carbon credit as a company you are investing in sustainable projects that happen around the world. The projects that are part of this program get funding for their sustainable project and the corporation gets to write off that they are offsetting their footprint by a given amount. This allows the business to keep practicing what they do while investing in other projects. They do not have to make cuts or open up different sectors of their company just to fight climate change.

The carbon credits do work but of course it is not an ideal permanent fix to climate change. There are certain companies that will always be pumping out toxins into the environment that are far worse than buying some carbon credits to fix them. But companies big and small that want to make a change without reorganizing their business benefit from this program. One of the biggest successes in carbon credits is allowing the funding of small scale projects. Projects that could lead to a long term solution have a way of getting funding that means something and this could continue to push their project forward.

https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/carbon-credits.php

 

 

Banning the use of micro beads

In 2015, California banned the sale of micro beads (the little plastic beads used as exfoliators in personal products), which will take affect in 2020. These tiny plastic beads easily slip through water treatment plants and make their way into the ocean, where they can hurt marine life. Eventually even making it into the food web as the beads resemble fish eggs, a favorite food of many fish. Illinois is even planning on implementing this as micro beads are present in most of the waterways including the Great Lakes. Many companies have voluntarily switched to biodegradable exfoliants like apricots, almonds, or cocoa beans. When the ban is effective companies will have no choice to change their products or they cannot sell in those states. Politics has a direct effect of environmental issues. Without the ban of micro beads these states enacted companies may have never switched from plastic to biodegradable micro beads, further adding to the problem of plastics in water and food supply.microbead

 

 

 

https://www.npr.org/2014/05/21/313157701/why-those-tiny-microbeads-in-soap-may-pose-problem-for-great-lakes

https://www.nrdc.org/experts/elizabeth-murdock/california-bans-plastic-microbeads-key-step-reducing-marine-plastic

https://www.popsci.com/what-are-microbeads-and-why-are-they-illegal

China’s Air Pollution Prevention and Control Law

China Air Pollution

Image source: https://financialtribune.com/articles/people-environment/56230/china-to-levy-pollution-tax-on-industries

The Air Pollution Prevention and Control Law was implemented by China in 1987 and then amended in 1995 and 2000. The purpose of this law is to prevent air pollution, safeguard public health, and encourage economic and social sustainable development. The issue that prompted for this law to be enforced and revised yet again is China’s urgent air pollution problem. In China, air pollution kills about 1.1 million people a year. In addition, China is the world’s largest emitter of climate-warming greenhouse gases, which is especially unfortunate for its large and concentrated population. Due to this, the Legislative Affairs Office of China’s State Council drafted revisions of the Air Pollution Prevention and Control Law, released them, and then accepted comments on them from the public between September 9 and October 8, 2014. The law considers control of multiple air pollutants through planning, clear standards, and environmental protection requirements for construction projects. Whereas the initial law focused on control of individual pollutants, the revised one encourages a shift to co-control of multiple air pollutants. The new drafted law also proposes a shift from focus on individual areas where the pollution is generated to regional management. Key policies focus on areas such as coal combustion, motor vehicles, and dust-blowing activities by using a combination of economical, legal, and technological administrative measures. This plan intersects politics around environmental issues by strengthening the environmental protection responsibilities of governments and also intertwining the environmental protection obligations of citizens. By this law, legal responsibilities will be strengthened by increasing the penalties and consequences for violations. This law also hopes to promote social awareness on the issue, establish heavy air pollution alerts, improve product quality, and create a long-term mechanism to prevent and control air pollution.

Sources:

“China’s Surprising Solutions to Clear Killer Air.” National Geographic, National Geographic Society, 17 Oct. 2017, news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/05/china-air-pollution-solutions-environment-tangshan/.

Database, IIP Industrial Efficiency Policy. “Air Pollution Prevention and Control Law (Revision).” IIP Industrial Efficiency Policy Database, 7 July 2015, iepd.iipnetwork.org/policy/air-pollution-prevention-and-control-law-revision.

 

A Glimpse of the World

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For over a century, The National Parks Services have been dedicated to preserving the natural beauty and educating America. All over the country, you can see diverse environments protected from the negative influence of industrialism and capitalism. That being said, there aren’t many places in America where Climate Change is as apparent as it is in our National Parks. Once lush and filled with biodiversity, National Parks have faced erosion, species endangerment, and disrupted habitats due to Climate Change. In response, the National Parks Services have created the Green Parks Plan. The Green Park Plan aims to directly address the causes and effects of climate change on the grounds of National Parks. The plan’s “call to action” details goals like being energy and water smart, committing to buying green, and making their grounds themselves more sustainable. By dedicating themselves to direct action, The National Park Services is taking another big step in their goal of maintaining and protecting nature. The National Parks have been a key player in protecting the environment since their inception.  In 2015, the National Parks services reported a 13% decrease in water use, diverted 50% of its waste away from landfills, and an 11% decrease in energy emissions. Different regions also accomplished their own goals, like the Midwest partnering with the Innovators Educational Foundation in an effort to increase the presence of solar-powered vehicles and parks in the Southeast holding climate-friendly workshops. Overall, America’s National Parks are taking important action to combat the negative effects climate change has on some of our most precious assets.

 

Sources:

https://www.nps.gov/subjects/sustainability/upload/NPS-Green-Parks-Plan-2016.pdf

https://www.nps.gov/subjects/sustainability/upload/NPS_Green_Parks_Progress_2015-Public.pdf

https://www.nps.gov/subjects/sustainability/green-parks.htm

China and sustainability: connecting the dots between economy and ecology

The sustainability issues facing China are tied to economic development and the problems are growing in size and frequency. Sustainability is huge problem in china due to amount of the energy they release everyday from public transportation and factories. There are lots of reports on the country’s deteriorating environment and the problems this cause – from air pollution to “cancer villages” near dirty factories to the devastation caused by partially man made droughts and floods.

For our generations, the basic meaning of sustainability meant simply having enough to eat. Since china started adopting free enterprise in the early 1980s, an estimated 400 million have been lifted out of absolute poverty and it now has a prosperous middle class. But unrestrained growth has brought problems of its own. These include rampant corruption, growing social unrest because of the widening gap between rich and poor, and a wide array of environmental problems.

Policies

This is the part where a lot of things will be changed, as Beijing looks to tighten regulations and enforcement in critical areas of the economy to drive change. The most widely used tools to date have fallen into several categories.

Technology

With the dynamics and complexity of the issues that China faces, the role of technology (or clean tech) will play a role with Awareness and engagement campaigns

Some of the problems with NGOs,  particularly as agents of awareness. With a history of poor ties to central government, which often views NGOs with suspicion, only a few of them actually been able to gain enough traction to stability their operations.

 

Air pollution in Beijing China :

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/blog/china-sustainability-economy-environment-ecology

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/steven-cohen/sustainability-policy-is_b_7735064.html