Tag: ensia

WHAT DOES THE ENVIRONMENT HAVE TO DO WITH DISEASES THAT AFFECT THE IMMUNE SYSTEM?

The rise in recent decades of diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis suggests that factors in the environment are contributing.

In 1932, New York gastroenterologist Burrill Crohn described an unusual disease in 14 adults. The patients had bouts of abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, and lesions and scars on the bowel wall. Doctors in other parts of North America and Europe were seeing it in their patients, too. They called the rare condition Crohn’s disease. After World War II, the number of new people getting inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and a related condition called ulcerative colitis) skyrocketed across the West in countries such as the U.S., Canada and the UK. In the last three decades, IBD has begun to crop up in newly industrialized parts of the world like Hong Kong and China’s big cities.

TECHNOLOGY GOT US INTO THIS CLIMATE MESS, AND IT CAN HELP GET US OUT — IF WE LET IT

Challenges of this scale require people to want to solve it, and we’re not there yet.

When you look to the year ahead, what do you see? Ensia recently invited eight global thought leaders to share their thoughts. In this interview with Ensia contributor Lisa Palmer for the 2017 Ensia print annual, IT Technology Review editor in chief and publisher Jason Pontin responds to three questions: What will be the biggest challenge to address or opportunity to grasp in your field in 2017? Why? And what should we be doing about it now?

The challenge in 2017 existed in 1989: the civilizational challenge of climate change. Technology created the problem, and technology plausibly offers ways to ameliorate and manage it. But we have to want to solve the problem. Great civilizational challenge of that scale requires government, academia, business and ordinary people to want to solve it, and I don’t think as a species we are there yet.

NEW WEBSITE SHOWCASES SEEDS OF A BRIGHTER FUTURE

Want to solve big problems? Start small.

Seeds of Good Anthropocenes, a website created by an international team of sustainability scientists, seeks to do just that. The site showcases more than 500 initiatives from around the world that, while not widespread or well known, might contribute to a sustainable future.

The purpose of the project, according to its founders, is to provide a middle ground between gloom-and-doom reports, which may inadvertently spur feelings of powerlessness and resignation, and those that are overly optimistic and risk inciting complacency. Writing in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, the founders argue that we should break through this dichotomy by looking to “seeds” — environmentally beneficial tools and techniques that are neither untested proposals nor established practices. Each seed offers an idea that helps in some way to address challenges posed by the Anthropocene, such as environmental awareness, urban sustainability and equitable decision-making.

FOR OUR FOOD SYSTEM’S SAKE, LET’S SAY “NO” TO CORPORATE CONSOLIDATION

Mergers puts food workers and small-scale farmers at risk and increase vertical integration, hurting farm­ers’ ability to compete.

When you look to the year ahead, what do you see? Ensia recently invited eight global thought leaders to share their thoughts. In this interview with Ensia contributor Lisa Palmer for Ensia’s 2017 print annual, Real Food Media founder Anna Lappé responds to three questions: What will be the biggest challenge to address or opportunity to grasp in your field in 2017? Why? And what should we be doing about it now?

The food system is one of the largest forces impacting our planet’s environment and people’s health. The choices about what crops are grown, where and how they are produced, who gets access to that food and who makes those decisions all have global consequences.

IT’S TIME TO STOP OVERSPENDING OUR FRESHWATER BUDGET

If freshwater is to remain a renewable resource, we must balance supply and demand on farms, in cities, in industry and in power production.

When you look to the year ahead, what do you see? Ensia recently invited eight global thought leaders to share their thoughts. In this interview with Ensia contributor Lisa Palmer, World Resources Institute Global Water Program director Betsy Otto responds to three questions: What will be the biggest challenge to address or opportunity to grasp in your field in 2017? Why? And what should we be doing about it now?

We continue to overspend our budget when it comes to freshwater resources globally. No country is immune; this is not just a challenge for arid regions.

HOW “OPEN SOURCE” SEED PRODUCERS FROM THE U.S. TO INDIA ARE CHANGING GLOBAL FOOD PRODUCTION

Around the world, plant breeders are resisting what they see as corporate control of the food supply by making seeds available for other breeders to use.

Frank Morton has been breeding lettuce since the 1980s. His company offers 114 varieties, among them Outredgeous, which last year became the first plant that NASA astronauts grew and ate in space. For nearly 20 years, Morton’s work was limited only by his imagination and by how many different kinds of lettuce he could get his hands on. But in the early 2000s, he started noticing more and more lettuces were patented, meaning he would not be able to use them for breeding. The patents weren’t just for different types of lettuce, but specific traits such as resistance to a disease, a particular shade of red or green, or curliness of the leaf. Such patents have increased in the years since, and are encroaching on a growing range of crops, from corn to carrots — a trend that has plant breeders, environmentalists and food security experts concerned about the future of the food production.

A determined fellow dedicated to the millennia-old tradition of plant breeding, Morton still breeds lettuce — it just takes longer, because more restrictions make it harder for him to do his work.

BURUNDI LEADS THE WORLD IN RENEWABLE ENERGY USE — AND OTHER FASCINATING FACTS ABOUT POPULATION, ENVIRONMENT AND ENERGY

Good news: more people across the globe have improved access to safe water and sanitation. Bad news: air quality is a growing problem in lower-income countries. The Population Reference Bureau’s 2016 World Population Data Sheet, released in August, offers valuable insights into not only current and projected demographic measures, but also health, energy and environment trends around the world.

The report predicts that Africa’s population will reach 2.5 billion by 2050, accounting for 54 percent of the total world population growth. However, Asia will remain the most heavily populated region with a gain of nearly 900 million (36 percent of global population growth), and India will replace China as the nation with the most people. The number of people in the Americas is slated to rise by only 223 million, and Europe will experience a slight decline of 12 million.

The most threatened ecosystem you’ve never heard of

What covers up to 600,000 square kilometers (230,000 square miles) of Earth’s surface, provides benefits worth an estimated US$570 billion or more each year, and is rapidly being lost due to human activity?

If you have not a clue, you’re far from alone. Scientists who study the underwater feature known as a seagrass meadow call it a “marginalized ecosystem” that ranks with coral reefs and mangrove swamps as among the most endangered marine habitats but is “often overlooked, regarded as merely an innocuous feature of the ocean.”

How three U.S. mini-farms are sowing the seeds of global food security

Tiny, biointensive operations show smallholder farmers from around the world how they can grow far more food than conventional approaches.

Her face shaded by a wide-brimmed straw hat, Olawumi Benedict is cheerfully tending to her “little babies” — kale seedlings growing in shallow wooden flats until they’re hardy enough for transplantation into soil beds. Three miles over the hills on another small farm, Jonnes Mlegwah is double-digging the soil with a spading fork, preparing to plant potatoes. Both are Africans, but these mini-farms are 140 miles north of San Francisco in Mendocino County, better known for the harvesting of redwood trees and marijuana plants than kale and potatoes.

Benedict and Mlegwah are a long way from home, and the biointensive farming system they’re mastering is a long way from becoming the norm — in the U.S. or Africa. Still, millions of small-scale farmers, especially in Latin America and Africa, are turning to it because it’s low-cost and low-tech, and it produces far greater yields than conventional agriculture while using far less land and water.

Health and neighborhood are too often linked. These people are out to change that.

Across the U.S. people are trying to reduce inequities in how environment affects physical well-being

As an emergency room physician in Washington, D.C., it didn’t take long for Leana Wen to notice a pattern: Patients making repeat visits to the ER, wheezing and coughing from asthma exacerbations or suffering from lead poisoning, conditions that most often afflict those living in low-income neighborhoods.

She helped soothe her patients’ immediate needs, but she was acutely aware she was only providing temporary relief, leaving the root causes unchecked — and a gap in the health of residents living in the city’s poorest ZIP codes versus those in the wealthiest. She wanted the opportunity to intervene earlier in those ER patients’ lives.

10 things you need to know about the new U.S. chemicals law

The updated Toxic Substances Control Act brings new hope for protecting Americans’ health and environment. Here’s what it does — and doesn’t — do.

“This is a big deal,” said President Barack Obama as he signed into law the bill that updates — for the first time in 40 years — the nation’s main chemical safety legislation. Called the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act to honor the late senator for whom this was a special cause, the law revises the Toxic Substances Control Act that gives the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency authority to regulate chemicals used commercially in the United States.

The Urban Density Dilemma: Love Those Neighbors — Their Germs, Not So Much

Concentrated populations are often seen as a boon for the environment because resources can be easily shared. But so can pathogens. How can cities discourage infectious disease?

Near the corner of Broadwick and Lexington in London’s Soho neighborhood, a single spot on the ground has influenced more than 150 years of urban development. It’s the location of a water pump that in 1854 physician John Snow pinpointed as the source of contamination leading to a widespread outbreak of cholera in the neighborhood that killed more than 600 people.