Day: October 2, 2014

One of America’s Most Famous Slow-Food Chefs Says Farm-to-Table ‘Doesn’t Really Work’

Read the full story in CityLab.

Dan Barber is one of the nation’s most widely respected slow-food advocates: His Blue Hill restaurants in New York serve a cornucopia of goodies from nearby farms like Cherry Lane, Herondale, and Mountain Sweet Berry.

So it was discombobulating when the chef lobbed this moldy potato during this week’s CityLab summit in L.A.: The farm-to-table movement “does not really work.”

How’s that? Well, despite the rising popularity of locally sourced, small-grower ingredients, America lost nearly 100,000 farms in the last five years, according to the U.S. Census. And the mega-conglomerates that dominate the food industry are only growing more powerful, Barber said: “The top 1 percent of farms now account for almost half of the value of all farm sales.”

Detroit Zoo so ‘green’ animals will soon contribute manure for electricity

Read the full story in the Detroit Daily Tribune.

The Detroit Zoo is so aggressively green that even the rhinoceroses, giraffes and other animals are about to get in on the act.

The zoo by next year plans to have a bio-digester in place that will use methane gas from the animals’ manure to create electricity for the zoo’s animal hospital, said Gerry Van Acker, chief operating officer at the zoo.

Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory (NHI) Public Portal

The Wisconsin NHI Public Portal is an online mapping application for landowners planning on-the-ground projects (e.g., residential development, prescribed burn, utility maintenance, lake drawdown) to learn if their project may have impacts to endangered resources (endangered, threatened and special concern animals and plants; natural communities and other unique natural features).

The Navigation Guide: Systematic Review for the Environmental Health Sciences

Download the article.

For decades the field of clinical science has used systematic review methods to integrate research findings and present the results in a consistent and unbiased manner to support health-protective recommendations. An interdisciplinary team of clinical and environmental health scientists has now adopted principles of systematic review and applied them to the environmental health sciences in a framework called the Navigation Guide. In this issue of EHP a case study on the widespread environmental contaminant perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) puts the guide through its paces to test the process itself and to judge the strength and quality of evidence regarding the effects of PFOA on fetal growth.

Related Content

Woodruff TJ, Sutton P. 2014. The Navigation Guide systematic review methodology: a rigorous and transparent method for translating environmental health science into better health outcomes. Environ Health Perspect 122:1007–1014;



Background: Synthesizing what is known about the environmental drivers of health is instrumental to taking prevention-oriented action. Methods of research synthesis commonly used in environmental health lag behind systematic review methods developed in the clinical sciences over the past 20 years.

Objectives: We sought to develop a proof of concept of the “Navigation Guide,” a systematic and transparent method of research synthesis in environmental health.

Discussion: The Navigation Guide methodology builds on best practices in research synthesis in evidence-based medicine and environmental health. Key points of departure from current methods of expert-based narrative review prevalent in environmental health include a prespecified protocol, standardized and transparent documentation including expert judgment, a comprehensive search strategy, assessment of “risk of bias,” and separation of the science from values and preferences. Key points of departure from evidence-based medicine include assigning a “moderate” quality rating to human observational studies and combining diverse evidence streams.

Conclusions: The Navigation Guide methodology is a systematic and rigorous approach to research synthesis that has been developed to reduce bias and maximize transparency in the evaluation of environmental health information. Although novel aspects of the method will require further development and validation, our findings demonstrated that improved methods of research synthesis under development at the National Toxicology Program and under consideration by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are fully achievable. The institutionalization of robust methods of systematic and transparent review would provide a concrete mechanism for linking science to timely action to prevent harm.

Johnson PI, Sutton P, Atchley DS, Koustas E, Lam J, Sen S, Robinson KA, Axelrad DA, Woodruff TJ. 2014. The Navigation Guide—evidence-based medicine meets environmental health: systematic review of human evidence for PFOA effects on fetal growth. Environ Health Perspect 122:1028–1039;


Background: The Navigation Guide methodology was developed to meet the need for a robust method of systematic and transparent research synthesis in environmental health science. We conducted a case study systematic review to support proof of concept of the method.

Objective: We applied the Navigation Guide systematic review methodology to determine whether developmental exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) affects fetal growth in humans.

Methods: We applied the first 3 steps of the Navigation Guide methodology to human epidemiological data: 1) specify the study question, 2) select the evidence, and 3) rate the quality and strength of the evidence. We developed a protocol, conducted a comprehensive search of the literature, and identified relevant studies using prespecified criteria. We evaluated each study for risk of bias and conducted meta-analyses on a subset of studies. We rated quality and strength of the entire body of human evidence.

Results: We identified 18 human studies that met our inclusion criteria, and 9 of these were combined through meta-analysis. Through meta-analysis, we estimated that a 1-ng/mL increase in serum or plasma PFOA was associated with a –18.9 g (95% CI: –29.8, –7.9) difference in birth weight. We concluded that the risk of bias across studies was low, and we assigned a “moderate” quality rating to the overall body of human evidence.

Conclusion: On the basis of this first application of the Navigation Guide systematic review methodology, we concluded that there is “sufficient” human evidence that developmental exposure to PFOA reduces fetal growth.

Koustas E, Lam J, Sutton P, Johnson PI, Atchley DS, Sen S, Robinson KA, Axelrad DA, Woodruff TJ. 2014. The Navigation Guide—evidence-based medicine meets environmental health: systematic review of nonhuman evidence for PFOA effects on fetal growth. Environ Health Perspect 122:1015–1027;


Background: In contrast to current methods of expert-based narrative review, the Navigation Guide is a systematic and transparent method for synthesizing environmental health research from multiple evidence streams. The Navigation Guide was developed to effectively and efficiently translate the available scientific evidence into timely prevention-oriented action.

Objectives: We applied the Navigation Guide systematic review method to answer the question “Does fetal developmental exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) or its salts affect fetal growth in animals ?” and to rate the strength of the experimental animal evidence.

Methods: We conducted a comprehensive search of the literature, applied prespecified criteria to the search results to identify relevant studies, extracted data from studies, obtained additional information from study authors, conducted meta-analyses, and rated the overall quality and strength of the evidence.

Results: Twenty-one studies met the inclusion criteria. From the meta-analysis of eight mouse gavage data sets, we estimated that exposure of pregnant mice to increasing concentrations of PFOA was associated with a change in mean pup birth weight of –0.023 g (95% CI: –0.029, –0.016) per 1-unit increase in dose (milligrams per kilogram body weight per day). The evidence, consisting of 15 mammalian and 6 nonmammalian studies, was rated as “moderate” and “low” quality, respectively.

Conclusion: Based on this first application of the Navigation Guide methodology, we found sufficient evidence that fetal developmental exposure to PFOA reduces fetal growth in animals.

Lam J, Koustas E, Sutton P, Johnson PI, Atchley DS, Sen S, Robinson KA, Axelrad DA, Woodruff TJ. 2014. The Navigation Guide—evidence-based medicine meets environmental health: integration of animal and human evidence for PFOA effects on fetal growth. Environ Health Perspect 122:1040–1051;


Background: The Navigation Guide is a novel systematic review method to synthesize scientific evidence and reach strength of evidence conclusions for environmental health decision making.

Objective: Our aim was to integrate scientific findings from human and nonhuman studies to determine the overall strength of evidence for the question “Does developmental exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) affect fetal growth in humans?”

Methods: We developed and applied prespecified criteria to systematically and transparently a) rate the quality of the scientific evidence as “high,” “moderate,” or “low”; b) rate the strength of the human and nonhuman evidence separately as “sufficient,” “limited,” “moderate,” or “evidence of lack of toxicity”; and c) integrate the strength of the human and nonhuman evidence ratings into a strength of the evidence conclusion.

Results: We identified 18 epidemiology studies and 21 animal toxicology studies relevant to our study question. We rated both the human and nonhuman mammalian evidence as “moderate” quality and “sufficient” strength. Integration of these evidence ratings produced a final strength of evidence rating in which review authors concluded that PFOA is “known to be toxic” to human reproduction and development based on sufficient evidence of decreased fetal growth in both human and nonhuman mammalian species.

Conclusion: We concluded that developmental exposure to PFOA adversely affects human health based on sufficient evidence of decreased fetal growth in both human and nonhuman mammalian species. The results of this case study demonstrate the application of a systematic and transparent methodology, via the Navigation Guide, for reaching strength of evidence conclusions in environmental health.

Why shareholders want materiality in reporting

Read the full post at GreenBiz.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is currently preparing a report to Congress from its review of disclosure rules for U.S. public companies as required by the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act. These rules, also known as Regulations S-K and S-X, detail the requirements for financial statements. The goal of this report, according to the Commission, is “to comprehensively review the requirements and make recommendations on how to update them to facilitate timely, material disclosure by companies and shareholders’ access to that information.”

It is important that sustainable shareholders, who know the proven correlation between social and environmental performance and financial viability, contribute to defining the parameters of disclosure rules. This addresses the very nature of materiality, which research has repeatedly shown to be connected to and affected by environmental, social and governance issues.

Must water be an evaporating asset?

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

As Climate Week drew to a close last month, the media and sustainability experts lauded the private sector for its can-do attitude towards addressing climate change. That level of action is especially welcome coming from the thousands of companies calling for a global price on carbon.

That increasing level of commitment and action from companies must also be applied to water scarcity challenges. From droughts in California and Ohio to the continuing water shortages in India, water scarcity will become only more pressing and affect billions more people with each passing year.

The World Economic Forum has identified “water crises” as one of the top 10 issues (PDF) of greatest concern to the global economy in 2014, two steps above “failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation” and the third highest risk ranked overall.

A 2012 study found that from 1995-2005 at least 2.67 billion people — over one third of the world’s population — already were living in water basins that experience severe water scarcity at least one month a year. Population growth will exacerbate stress placed on existing basins to meet the demands of agriculture, energy and industry, and a growing urban population that expects abundant and clean flows of water every time it turns on the tap.

In SustainAbility’s September report, Evaporating Asset: Water Scarcity and Innovations for the Future, developed with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation, we explored the urgency of water scarcity and some of the most innovative approaches to address it. While there is no silver bullet for what Deloitte’s enterprise water strategy director, Will Sarni, so aptly describes as a “wicked problem,” there is a critical need to find better solutions and pursue smarter collaborations to stay a step ahead.

New citizen science project on Zooniverse: Penguin Watch

Scientists have traveled to some of the coldest areas on the planet to learn more about penguin populations. Help annotate their images of wildlife in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.

EPA Releases Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data from Large Facilities

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its fourth year of Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program data, detailing greenhouse gas pollution trends and emissions broken down by industrial sector, geographic region and individual facilities. In 2013, reported emissions from large industrial facilities were 20 million metric tons higher than the prior year, or 0.6 percent, driven largely by an increase in coal use for power generation.

“Climate change, fueled by greenhouse gas pollution, is threatening our health, our economy, and our way of life—increasing our risks from intense extreme weather, air pollution, drought and disease,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “EPA is supporting the President’s Climate Action Plan by providing high-quality greenhouse gas data to inform effective climate action.”

The Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program is the only program that collects facility-level greenhouse gas data from major industrial sources across the United States, including power plants, oil and gas production and refining, iron and steel mills and landfills. The program also collects data on the increasing production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) predominantly used in refrigeration and air conditioning.

Over 8,000 large-emitters reported direct greenhouse gas emissions to the program in 2013, representing approximately 50 percent of total U.S. emissions. The data from these facilities show that in 2013:

  • Power plants remained the largest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, with over 1,550 facilities emitting over 2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, roughly 32 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas pollution. Power plant emissions have declined by 9.8 percent since 2010, but there was an uptick in emissions of 13 million metric tons in 2013 due to an increased use of coal. · Petroleum and natural gas systems were the second largest stationary source, reporting 224 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, a decrease of 1 percent from the previous year.
  • Reported methane emissions from petroleum and natural gas systems sector have decreased by 12 percent since 2011, with the largest reductions coming from hydraulically fractured natural gas wells, which have decreased by 73 percent during that period. EPA expects to see further emission reductions as the agency’s 2012 standards for the oil and gas industry become fully implemented.
  • Refineries were the third largest stationary source, reporting 177 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, up 1.6 percent from the previous year.
  • Reported emissions from other large sources in the industrial and waste sectors increased by 7 million metric tons of greenhouse gas pollution, up 1 percent from 2012.

Under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, EPA is taking steps to address carbon pollution from the power and transportation sectors, and to improve energy efficiency in homes, businesses and factories. Under EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan, carbon emissions from the power sector would decrease by 30 percent below 2005 levels and electricity bills would shrink by 8 percent by 2030. EPA’s pollution standards for cars and light trucks for model years 2012-2025 will save Americans more than $1.7 trillion at the pump. In addition, the agency’s partnerships with industry have prevented more than 365 million metric tons of greenhouse gas pollution, equal to the annual electricity use of more than 50 million homes.

EPA will be holding an information webinar today to demonstrate the greenhouse gas data publication tool, FLIGHT, highlight new features added this year, and provide a tutorial on common searches. FLIGHT allows users to view top emitters in a state or regions; see emissions data from a specific industry; track emissions trends by facility or region; and download maps, list and charts.

Climate Week is over. What do we do now?

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Jolting us back to earth from the exhilarating high of Climate Week was the release of a sobering report that atmospheric CO2 has reached record levels. From 2012 to 2013, atmospheric CO2 increased more than any other time since 1984.

Despite the marches, business coalitions, divestment pressure and political shifting, greenhouse gas emissions have continued to climb on average 2.5 percent per year for the last decade. Inspiration? Got it. Awareness? Check. Meaningful deep reductions in CO2 emissions? Not so much.

Why have we not been able to turn our good intentions into greenhouse gas reductions? Yes, some companies are taking climate seriously, seeing the opportunity of mitigating greenhouse gases, and indeed are making progress. But far more action is needed. How do we build on the growing concern among the public and the business community to achieve real, significant and lasting reductions in CO2 emissions—and fast?

There are many barriers to action. Chief among them, however, is that changing behavior is hard. As Amory Lovins and others have shown, we have the technology to achieve massive CO2 reductions, but that’s only one piece. Ben and Jerry’s CEO Jostein Solheim recently shared with me, “Technology gives us the ability to make changes. It does not give us the will. Will comes from an emotional connection.”

So how do we create a deep emotional connection to climate change, deep enough to motivate broad change and action?

Despite Their Carbon Rebellion, States Prepare for the Worst

Read the full story in Governing.

While more than a dozen states are fighting the new federal rules to reduce carbon emissions, many officials fear that ignoring them would be far worse.

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