Tag: Sustainability

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.

France’s Waste-Not Experiment

The U.S. should take note of these new laws banning plasticware and requiring supermarkets to donate food.

France has embarked on two experiments we should take note of. First, the nation just banned all non-biodegradable disposable plastic cups, plates, and utensils. Second, they passed a law requiring supermarkets to donate unspoiled food they don’t want to charities instead of throwing it away.

I used to work in a supermarket, so I’ve seen what gets thrown away. In fact, I’ve thrown good food away myself. Perfectly good loaves of bread, bagels, muffins, brownies, and pastries — I put it all in the trash.

Even Organic Farms Sacrifice Sustainability to Cut Costs

Because our economic system squeezes small farmers, even the most eco-conscious among them have to compromise their values to stay in business.

I visited a family farm recently. It was small, and local, and certified organic. In theory, it was everything an eco-conscious foodie could want. And yet, it wasn’t.

Like every farm family, the couple who runs the farm is constrained by economic factors.

Unfortunately, the measures they’ve taken to make their finances work have made their farm less environmentally sustainable.

Their biggest expense is labor, so they do everything they can to reduce the amount of labor they need, including employing machines. A lot of machines. Machines that run on fossil fuels.

Living ‘in the red’

Eight months into 2016, humans have already spent Earth’s ecological budget for the year.

Earth Overshoot Day – the approximate date when humanity’s annual demand on nature exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year – is on Monday, 8 August this year, according to the Global Footprint Network.

As global consumption rises, we are emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than our oceans and forests can absorb, and we are depleting fisheries and harvesting forests more quickly than they can reproduce and regrow. Put simply, at its current rate, the estimated level of resources and ecosystem services we require to support human activities exceeds what the Earth can provide – to continue living like this, we would require over 1.6 planets.