Author: Laura B.

I'm the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center's Sustainability Information Curator, which is a fancy way of saying embedded librarian. I'm also Executive Director of the Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable. When not writing for Environmental News Bits, I'm an avid reader. Visit Laura's Reads to see what I'm currently reading.

Has California’s megadrought already begun?

Read the full story in Grist.

As California limps through another nearly rain-free rainy season, the state is taking increasingly bold action to save water.

On March 17, the California state government imposed new mandatory restrictions on lawn watering and incentives to limit water use in hotels and restaurants as part of its latest emergency drought regulations. On March 19, California Gov. Jerry Brown announced a $1 billion plan to support water projects statewide and speed aid to hard-hit communities already dealing with shortages. Last month, federal water managers announced a “zero allocation” of agricultural water to a key state canal system for the second year in a row, essentially transforming thousands of acres of California farmland into dust.

The recent moves come after the state has fallen behind targets to increase water efficiency in 2015 amid the state’s worst drought in 1,200 years. Last year, voters passed a $7.5 billion water bond and the legislature approved its first-ever restrictions on groundwater pumping, which won’t go into full effect until 2025. Stricter, more immediate limits on water use are possible as summer approaches.

But it’s not enough. These moves are small potatoes compared to what’s needed to rein in statewide water use, of which agriculture forms the vast majority. Earlier this month, a pair of op-eds, one in the Guardian and the other in the Los Angeles Times, spoke with urgency about the West’s growing water crisis.

“Honey on Tap” Beehive Smashes Indiegogo Fundraising Record

Read the full story at Shareable.

Stuart and Cedar Anderson have set the internet abuzz with their record-breaking Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. The father-and-son team’s Flow hive, a no-muss, no-fuss beehive designed to deliver honey on tap, smashed the crowdfunding site’s previous record of just over $5 million. As of March 17—the campaign runs through April 5—the Andersons have raised more than $6.3 million.

Should governments make emerging technologies a priority?

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

It’s been 20 years since Newt Gingrich sacrificed one of the most inspirational and educational 20th century institutions — the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment — on the altar of federal budget cuts. What a sad day that was.

Founded in 1972, the OTA ran for 23 influential years, employing a staff of about 200, two-thirds of them professional researchers. Of these, 88 percent had advanced degrees, mainly in economics, engineering and the physical, life and social sciences. They did heavy-duty investigative work on emerging technologies — and, as a tiny sidebar effect, had a profound impact on my own thinking and work.

Walmart is quietly going on a massive building spree

Read the full story from Grist.

The business press has seized on the Neighborhood Market as a sign that Walmart, the pioneer of the big box, has decided that small is the new big. But, in fact, Walmart’s pace of building supercenters has slowed only slightly. It’s still moving to build about 175 of the colossal stores in the U.S. over the next two years. Neighborhood Markets are designed not to supplant superstores, but to operate in tandem with them, creating a more convenient shopping option to fill in the gaps and suck up more market share. The company is even testing the idea of using supercenters as distribution hubs for the Neighborhood Markets. It’s a completely integrated vision for doing business, and one designed to enable Walmart to dominate our food system, and our landscape, well into the future.

New Grist Series: The real sharing economy

Via Grist.

Renewable energy is booming and countries are finally beginning to act committed to saving the climate, just as we’re approaching game over for the stable climate. But carbon emissions keep rising every year, in tandem with economic growth.

Sharing, real sharing, could allow humanity as a whole to produce, consume, and emit less while improving quality of life through greater social interactions, fairer wealth distribution, and stronger community relationships. But sharing needs to go far beyond profit-seeking smartphone apps for unregulated taxi services (Uber) and vacation rentals (Airbnb).

This series explores the real sharing economy — where wealth and power are shared, not just consumer goods and spare bedrooms. These real sharing entities share resources, knowledge, and decision-making responsibilities as they co-create community goods and services. Then they share the abundance together.

Troublingly, a grow-grow-grow economy makes us all more reliant on money. Real sharing economy projects make money less important, like the Buy Nothing groups on the Facebook and tool-lending libraries that Grist already writes about. This series will tour examples of Seattle’s emerging sharing movement: a bike cooperative, an urban food forest, and a community solar program.

Planting the seeds of a real sharing economy is no easy task. But it’s easier to share the work than go it alone.

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