Facing the Climate Gap: How Environmental Justice Communities Are Leading the Way to a More Sustainable and Equitable California

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…this is the third in atrilogy which aims to contribute to local and national conversations on climate solutions and policy choices….our first report, The Climate Gap: Inequalities in How Climate Change Hurts Americans & How to Close the Gap (2009), synthesized available data on the disproportionate and unequal health and economic consequences of climate change on people of color and the poor – as well as offering recommendations on closing that gap. Our second report, Minding the Climate Gap: What’s at Stake if California’s Climate Law isn’t Done Right and Right Away (2010) went deeper, performing an analysis that suggested that the mechanisms we choose to reduce greenhouse gases can have important and differential health consequences for people of color and poor communities and the pattern of environmental injustice in the state.

This report chronicles what’s being done by those who are actually “facing the climate gap.” This is a qualitative companion to the previous more quantitative reports on disproportionate impact. Here, we show how those affected communities are implementing creative responses in terms of adaptation and policy innovation to the direct, indirect, and unjust effects of climate change. To be clear, there are many more aspects of community response to climate issues – we were particularly interested here in which groups are doing this in relation to the rubric of “climate justice” and are thus mobilizing new constituencies to the climate change debate.

Chemical “Soup” Clouds Connection between Toxins and Poor Health

Read the full story at Scientific American.

From plastics to flame retardants, the ubiquitous chemicals of our daily lives have raised public health concerns like never before. Inside the Beltway, however, data-crunching scientists are often no match for industry lobbyists and corporate lawyers. The exception, no doubt, is Linda Birnbaum, the toxicologist who leads, two little-known scientific agencies, the National Institute of Environmental Health Services (NIEHS) and the National Toxicology Program (NTP).

Thriving with less this holiday season

Read the full story at Great Lakes Echo.

The extremes of America’s culture of excess were on display this past weekend, with the madness of holiday shopping. But do people really need all that stuff?

That’s the question some students at Michigan State University set out to answer.  Earlier this year a group of them at the East Lansing campus decided to live a more minimal and sustainable lifestyle.

They filmed the experience. The film and project, called Thrive With Less, started as a capstone for a documentary course.

Pharmaceuticals difficult to treat in drinking water

Read the full story at Great Lakes Echo.

The emerging threat of pharmaceuticals, everyday chemicals and personal care products in drinking water may be the most difficult that water treatment plants have faced.

Lake Michigan takes 99 years to “turn over,” meaning chemicals that entered the lake a century ago may only just be exiting, the Alliance for the Great Lakes reported just this week.

The report says that surface water in Lake Michigan contains six of 20 “priority” chemicals, or emerging contaminants identified by environmental engineers from Michigan State University. They include flame retardants and a cholesterol-lowering drug.

After treatment, only a fire retardant remained in ready-to-drink water.

Experts say that membrane bioreactors may remove some pharmaceuticals while treating wastewater, but they cannot catch all of the diverse medicines.

Bioengineered Marine Algae Expands Environments Where Biofuels Can Be Produced

Read the full story from the University of California, San Diego.

Biologists at UC San Diego have demonstrated for the first time that marine algae can be just as capable as fresh water algae in producing biofuels.

The scientists genetically engineered marine algae to produce five different kinds of industrially important enzymes and say the same process they used could be employed to enhance the yield of petroleum-like compounds from these salt water algae. Their achievement is detailed in a paper published online in the current issue of the scientific journal Algal Research.

The ability to genetically transform marine algae into a biofuel crop is important because it expands the kinds of environments in which algae can be conceivably grown for biofuels. Corn, for example, which is used to produce ethanol biofuel, requires prime farmland and lots of fresh water. But the UC San Diego study suggests that algal biofuels can be produced in the ocean or in the brackish water of tidelands or even on agricultural land on which crops can no longer be grown because of high salt content in the soil.

Fracking in Michigan: U-M Researchers Study Potential Impact on Health, Environment, Economy

Read the full story from the University of Michigan.

University of Michigan researchers are conducting a detailed study of the potential environmental and societal effects of hydraulic fracturing, the controversial natural gas drilling process known as fracking.

In hydraulic fracturing, large amounts of water, sand and chemicals are injected deep underground to break apart rock and free trapped natural gas. Though the process has been used for decades, recent technical advances have helped unlock vast stores of previously inaccessible natural gas, resulting in a fracking boom.

Now U-M researchers are working with government regulators, oil and gas industry representatives and environmental groups to explore seven critical areas related to the use of hydraulic fracturing in Michigan: human health, the environment and ecology, economics, technology, public perception, law and policy, and geology/hydrodynamics.

Printing Soil Science

Read the full story from the Soil Science Society of America.

Imagine printing a 3-D object as easily as a typed document. Lose a button? Print one. Need a new coffee cup? Print one. While the reality of printing any object on demand may lie in the future, the technology necessary to do it has been available for decades. And soil scientists are now taking advantage of its possibilities.

In a paper published online this week in the Soil Science Society of America Journal, a team of researchers headed by Philippe Baveye explored the potential of manufacturing soil science equipment using 3-D printing. They found that the technology, also called “rapid manufacturing” or “stereolithography,” has major benefits over traditional manufacturing methods, and they were able to successfully produce intricate pieces. Also, the ability to easily share the designs used by 3-D printers could allow for better replication of experiments and collaboration among soil scientists.