Climate change could cause crop-yield slowdown

Read the full story at EnvironmentalResearchWeb.

Climate change could increase the risk of temperature trends during the next 20 years, causing a 10% loss in crop yields, from less than a one-in-200 chance for a world with only natural climate variability, to a one-in-10 chance for maize and one-in-20 chance for wheat. That’s according to US researchers who investigated the likelihood of climate change halving the growth rate of crop yield.


An App That Tracks Water Use In Real Time, So Californians Can Save In The Drought

Read the full story in Fast Company.

Partnering with utility companies, Dropcountr is letting residents know for the first time how much water they are actually wasting.


Speciation of Sulfur in Biochar Produced from Pyrolysis and Gasification of Oak and Corn Stover

Singfoong Cheah, Shealyn C. Malone, and Calvin J. Feik (2014). “Speciation of Sulfur in Biochar Produced from Pyrolysis and Gasification of Oak and Corn Stover.” Environmental Science & Technology 48 (15), 8474-8480. DOI: 10.1021/es500073r

Abstract: The effects of feedstock type and biomass conversion conditions on the speciation of sulfur in biochars are not well-known. In this study, the sulfur content and speciation in biochars generated from pyrolysis and gasification of oak and corn stover were determined. We found the primary determinant of the total sulfur content of biomass to be the feedstock from which the biochar is generated, with oak and corn stover biochars containing 160 and 600–800 ppm sulfur, respectively. In contrast, for sulfur speciation, we found the primary determinant to be the temperature combined with the thermochemical conversion method. The speciation of sulfur in biochars was determined using X-ray absorption near-edge structure (XANES), ASTM method D2492, and scanning electron microscopy–energy-dispersive spectroscopy (SEM–EDS). Biochars produced under pyrolysis conditions at 500–600 °C contain sulfate, organosulfur, and sulfide. In some cases, the sulfate contents are up to 77–100%. Biochars produced in gasification conditions at 850 °C contain 73–100% organosulfur. The increase of the organosulfur content as the temperature of biochar production increases suggests a similar sulfur transformation mechanism as that in coal, where inorganic sulfur reacts with hydrocarbon and/or H2 to form organosulfur when the coal is heated. EDS mapping of a biochar produced from corn stover pyrolysis shows individual sulfur-containing mineral particles in addition to the sulfur that is distributed throughout the organic matrix.

These Living Food Labels Disappear As Your Food Goes Bad

Read the full story in Fast Company.

The gelatin-based Bump Marks reveal the truth about your food better than a printed label ever could.


These “Power Lanes” Could Charge An E-Bike (And Phone) As You Ride

Read the full story in Fast Company.

By getting rid of the lead battery, the design concept aims to make electric bikes a lot greener–and a lot easier to use.


The little seed library that could … get busted by a state ag department

Read the full story in Grist.

It seemed like one of the most wholesome, homespun things that a local library could do — but it was exactly how an innocent branch library like the Joseph T. Simpson Public Library in Mechanicsburg, Penn., headed down the road to lawbreaking.

It started this way. A local group called the Cumberland County Commission for Women had heard of a new thing that local libraries were doing — creating lending libraries for seeds. Someone found an old card catalog and turned it into seed packet storage. Someone else got advice from the local Penn State Ag Extension office. With the help of the librarians at Joseph T. Simpson, they launched the project in April, on Earth Day.

Then, in June, the library received a letter from Johnny Zook, seed program supervisor at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. The missive informed the library that it was in violation of the Seed Act of 2004. You can read the correspondence because the Simpson Seed Library, like the good librarians they are, posted it on their website.

What does environmental democracy look like?

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

Eight years ago, developers proposed a five-dam project on the Baker and Pascua Rivers in Patagonia, Chile. While they projected that the hydropower would produce 2,750 megawatts of power, the project would also flood 23 square miles of wilderness, jeopardizing the environment, local culture and tourism of the region.

Citizens opposed the project, arguing that Chile’s energy needs could be met through less damaging projects, such as energy efficiency and renewable energy. Just last month — after eight years of campaigning by the Patagonia Defense Council, a coalition of more than 70 domestic and international organizations and individuals — Chile’s Environment Minister, Pablo Badenier, revoked the permit. The advocacy of this coalition, which includes Access Initiative member FIMA, was credited by International Rivers as “perhaps the most important reason” for the reversal.

The success of this campaign is a powerful example of the importance of public participation in land-use decisions. Civil society raised concern over the impacts of the proposed dams on livelihoods and the environment, which ultimately created political opposition.

However, far too often the public is not meaningfully engaged in these decisions. This is often due to weak laws that limit the public’s access to information, do not provide adequate public voice in decision-making, or provide no access to justice when environmental harms are committed. These issues are at the heart of environmental democracy — a key component in preserving the health of communities and the regions they call home.

Jennifer Pahlka: What I learned as Uncle Sam’s tech geek

Read the full post at GreenBiz.

The late leadership guru Peter Drucker once wrote, “In any organization, regardless of its mission, the CEO is the link between the Inside, i.e., ‘the organization,’ and the Outside — society, the economy, technology, markets, customers, the media, public opinion.”

Last year, Code for America executive director Jennifer Pahlka took those words to heart and headed to Washington, D.C., for a one-year “fellowship” as U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Her goal: to better understand the public sector agency that the organization’s private-sector technology experts are trying to serve.

While she was there, Pahlka witnessed firsthand the passionate, 20-hour-per-day work of the private-sector technology advisers called in to rescue the ailing site. In June, she returned to her Code for America post in San Francisco, Calif., recommitted to her nonprofit organization’s mission of harnessing technology to solve community problems.

23 Food Sharing Projects That Are Disrupting Hunger

Read the full story at Shareable.

Food is one of our most basic needs. And yet, for over 800 million people, food insecurity remains a daily issue. While top-down programs that address hunger certainly exist, more efficient, immediate solutions are sometimes found on the community level, where neighbors directly help neighbors.

We’ve rounded up 23 food projects that are transforming communities by feeding the hungry, educating people about healthy eating and food justice issues, and providing opportunities for people to grow their own food.

Measurements of Selected Brominated Flame Retardants in Nursing Women: Implications for Human Exposure

Simon Ningsun Zhou, Angelina Buchar, Shabana Siddique, Larissa Takser, Nadia Abdelouahab, and Jiping Zhu (2014). “Measurements of Selected Brominated Flame Retardants in Nursing Women: Implications for Human Exposure.” Environmental Science & Technology 48 (15), 8873-8880 DOI: 10.1021/es5016839

Abstract: We have examined several emerging brominated flame retardants (BFRs) including 2-ethyl-1-hexyl-2,3,4,5-tetrabromobenzoate (TBB), bis(2-ethylhexyl) tetrabromophthalate (TBPH), 1,2-bis(2,4,6-tribromophenoxy) ethane (BTBPE), 4,5,6,7-tetrabromo-1,1,3-trimethyl-3-(2,3,4,5-tetrabromophenyl)-indane (OBIND), and decabromodiphenyl ethane (DBDPE) in paired human maternal serum (n = 102) and breast milk (n = 105) collected in 2008–2009 in the Sherbrooke region in Canada. Three legacy BFRs were also included in the study for comparison: decabromobiphenyl (BB-209), 2,2′,4,4′,5,5′-hexabromobiphenyl (BB-153), and 2,2′,4,4′,5,5′-hexabromodiphenyl ethers (BDE-153). TBB, BB-153, and BDE-153 had detection frequencies greater than 55% in both serum and milk samples. Their lipid weight (lw) adjusted median concentrations (ng g–1 lw) in serum and milk were 1.6 and 0.41 for TBB, 0.48 and 0.31 for BB-153, and 1.5 and 4.4 for BDE-153, respectively. The detection frequencies for the other BFRs measured in serum and milk were 16.7% and 32.4% for TBPH, 3.9% and 0.0% for BTBPE, 2.0% and 0.0% for BB-209, 9.8% and 1.0% for OBIND, and 5.9% and 8.6% for DBDPE. The ratio of TBB over the sum of TBB and TBPH (fTBB) in serum (0.23) was lower than that in milk (0.46), indicating TBB has a larger tendency than TBPH to be redistributed from blood to milk. Overall, these data confirm the presence of non-PBDE BFRs in humans, and the need to better understand their sources, routes of exposure, and potential human health effects.