Day: January 14, 2015

SELC and Shareable Kickoff Campaign to Save Seed Sharing in the U.S.

Read the full post at Shareable.

For the Save Seed Sharing campaign, SELC is partnering with Shareable, Richmond Grows, several other organizations including Seed Matters, SeedSavers Exchange, and concerned citizens. The campaign is designed to educate people about seed sharing issues, support seed sharing communities, and reform overzealous seed laws. The campaign goals are:

  • Educate stakeholders about how seed laws apply to seed sharing through seed libraries.
  • Build public awareness and grassroots support for seed libraries.
  • Empower local stakeholders to engage in policy advocacy to support seed sharing.
  • Remove legal barriers to seed sharing through seed libraries.
  • Support seed libraries that face regulation under seed laws.

Change 100 businesses, and the world’s food system will change with them

Read the full story in Grist.

It’s become clear to me, as I’ve worked my way through this series, that we’re going to have to make some big changes if we want to feed ourselves without making our home (and only) planet a lot less pleasant. That will come as no surprise to anyone born in the last three decades: All our lives we’ve had people telling us what we need to change, but precious few telling us how.

Jason Clay, a senior vice president at the World Wildlife Foundation, is one of those rare birds who actually has a proven strategy for changing the world. The key, he says, is working with influential partners. In a TED talk he pointed out that it’s almost impossible to transform the behavior of the world’s 7.2 billion eaters, or its 1.5 billion farmers, in any reasonable amount of time.

But between the farmers and eaters stand just a few big middlemen: Less than 500 companies handle 70 percent of ecologically significant commodities. (Clay has a list of 15 commodities that “present the most significant threats across the board to the world’s most ecologically important places.”) And there’s 100 of those companies that are so large that, if they change, all the other businesses in the field have to shift, too.

Change just 100 businesses, and the world changes with them.

Iowa’s Largest City Sues Over Farm Fertilizer Runoff In Rivers

Read the full story at NPR.

Des Moines, Iowa, is confronting the farms that surround it over pollution in two rivers that supply the city with drinking water. Des Moines Water Works says it will sue three neighboring counties for high nitrate levels in the Raccoon and Des Moines rivers. It’s a novel attempt to control fertilizer runoff from farms, which has been largely unregulated.

Prevention, Cleanup, and Reuse Benefits from the Federal UST Program

Download the document.

This paper attempts to comprehensively identify all relevant benefit categories associated with prevention and remediation of releases from underground storage tanks (USTs), as well as from reuse of formerly (or potentially) contaminated UST sites. The benefit categories include improvements in human health, ecosystem services, aesthetics, recreational opportunities, and land productivity. A qualitative explanation of each benefit category is provided and examples of UST sites associated with each is offered. The suggestion is not that all the categories are associated with all UST sites. Instead, there is a great deal of variability across sites, as illustrated by four case studies presented in this paper’s appendix. The paper also offers background information on the problem of UST releases, as well as descriptions of the regulatory program and the population of regulated systems and facilities.

No Time for Bats to Rest Easy

Read the full story in the New York Times.

White-nose syndrome, a disease contracted in hibernation, threatens a resilient, helpful marvel.

Old golf courses become new kind of wilderness

Listen to the full story at Marketplace.

I’m in a dry overgrown field of thistles and goldenrod with Michael Enright, the conservation manager with Five Rivers MetroParks.

“I’ve been to Africa several times and it reminds me of the savannah there when I look out across it,” says Enright.

Not too long ago, this was a trim, manicured golf course called Larch Tree. The private course in the Dayton suburb of Trotwood went out of business after the recession, and the parks district bought it to turn the 190 acres back into a mix of wetlands, streams and grasses. The property is adjacent to wetland restoration area of over 350 acres already owned by MetroParks, so the project will result in more than 500 acres of contiguous wildlife habitat just west of Dayton.

A Clean Ohio restoration grant helped cover much of the cost of the purchase. Enright says it helps that property values around here are low and not much is getting built; they weren’t competing with developers for the land.

“The economic downturn certainly has aided open space preservation,” Enright says.

Golf courses have been closing down by the dozens, and old greens have gone wild in Michigan, Tennessee and even California in the last few years. Florida attorney Dawn Meyers says in her neck of the woods, developers often grab up property quickly, but she says the neighbors usually don’t want a bunch of buildings going in.

“They like the view, they like the open space and they don’t want to see it developed into anything else,” Meyers says. She says parks or wildlife areas could be a good option. “No matter what happens on this property, it’s not going to be a golf course any more.”

For Dayton’s parks district, the deal is working out pretty well: Once the restoration is done, MetroParks will pay it off by selling wetland mitigation credits to developers who’ve destroyed wetlands elsewhere  – it’s called mitigation banking. In California, at least one company is working on a golf course conversion into a mitigation bank as a private enterprise.

As we’re leaving Larch Tree, a neighbor, Elmer Williams, pulls up in a van.

“Are you allowed to fish in here?” He’s been fishing the pond since the golf course closed – he’s happy it’s going to be a park. “I think it’s great! You know, someone needs to take it over and make it back to something good. Add more fish.”

The marshy ponds and crumbling trails are already open to the public.

‘Smart’ devices used to hunt for water leaks

Listen to the full story at Marketplace.

Trillions of gallons of water are lost to leakage and bursts from pipeline utilities worldwide each year.

Amanda Little wrote a feature about the conservation efforts of one man, Amir Peleg, for Bloomberg Businessweek. Peleg is an entrepreneur who started TaKaDu, a water network management company that tracks leaks in pipes using data collected by sensors.

Little points out that the U.S. probably won’t be implementing anything like this for a while. “Utilities have very little incentive to implant these smart sensors in their networks and sort of absorb the costs of that,” she says.

TaKaDu primarily works with desert countries, or countries that have been experiencing drought conditions for decades. In those places, their pricing structures penalize water use. This differs from water use in the United States, which Peleg refers to as “all-you-can-eat water.”

Little describes a difference in attitude towards water: “There has been this consciousness in Israel and actually much of the world, that water is a life-or-death issue. It is the wellspring of their economy, and for that matter, their national security. Wars have been fought around water for thousands of years. In the U.S., we’re really only just beginning to develop this sort of consciousness around water.”

“This is a story about technology and a technological shift but it’s really a story about a changing of consciousness,” she says.

Quick facts about water:  

  • 8.6 trillion gallons of water worldwide are lost to leaks each year.
  • For every $1 spent on reducing water leaks, $5 worth of water can be saved.
  • 30-35 percent of water pumped through the pipelines of utilities worldwide is lost to leaks and bursts.

You can read Amanda Little’s piece, Israel’s Water Ninja, in its entirety online.

Suburban sprawl doesn’t have to be ecologically devastating

Read the full story at Ensia.

As development gobbles up open space, conservationists take a fresh look at subdivisions with biodiversity in mind.


Climate Change and Space Heating Energy Demand: A Review of the Literature

Download the document.

This paper reviews recent evidence on the potential impacts of climate change on energy demand for space heating in residential and commercial buildings. We cover two main topics. First, we review empirical studies of the historical relationship between temperature and energy use for heating and cooling. These studies show consistent evidence of a U-shaped relationship between temperature and energy demand, in which energy use for heating is greatest at very low temperatures, and energy use for cooling is greatest at very high temperatures. The temperature at which energy use is minimized varies across geography and time periods, but in most studies is between 53°F and 72°F (12°C and 22°C). Second, we review studies that estimate how climate change will affect future energy use for space heating and cooling. Most studies predict that climate change will result in reductions in demand for heating and increases in demand for cooling. Although the sign of the net global effect depends on the time frame and climate change scenario, a very robust conclusion is that there is considerable variation across geographies, with the largest magnitude effects predicted for countries that currently have either very low or very high average temperatures. Overall, the results summarized in this paper will be useful for understanding the potential magnitude of the benefits of climate-related reductions in space heating, and for improving the damage functions used in integrated assessment models of climate change.

Cities Parched by Drought Look to Tap the Ocean

Read the full story in Time.

A seawater desalination plant under construction near San Diego will be the nation’s largest when complete.

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