Flint’s Water Crisis and the Unique Role of the Reporter Who Helped Uncover It

Read the full story at Pro Publica.

With the last Republican and Democratic debates both held in Michigan (Detroit and Flint, respectively), the Flint water crisis continues to command the national stage. But long before the public health emergency became a presidential campaign issue, Curt Guyette, an investigative journalist for the ACLU of Michigan, was one of the first people to help prove that the city’s drinking water was poisoned.

Hired by the Michigan ACLU in 2013 with a grant from the Ford Foundation, Guyette initially set out to investigate and write about the state’s emergency management law, which allows the governor to appoint emergency managers to run cities and counties in severe financial distress. On this week’s podcast, Guyette tells ProPublica senior reporter Abrahm Lustgarten how his role as a public watchdog helped discover lead-contaminated water in Flint, his unique position as a reporter for an advocacy organization, and the information he’s still looking for to carry the story of Flint forward.

Stanford scientists make renewable plastic from carbon dioxide and plants

Read the full story from Stanford University.

Stanford scientists have discovered a novel way to make plastic from carbon dioxide (CO2) and inedible plant material, such as agricultural waste and grasses.  Researchers say the new technology could provide a low-carbon alternative to plastic bottles and other items currently made from petroleum.

“Our goal is to replace petroleum-derived products with plastic made from CO2,” said Matthew Kanan, an assistant professor of chemistry at Stanford. “If you could do that without using a lot of non-renewable energy, you could dramatically lower the carbon footprint of the plastics industry.”

Kanan and his Stanford colleagues described their results in the March 9 online edition of the journal Nature.

Why Farming Fish in the Great Lakes Might Not Be Such a Bad Idea

Read the full story in Pacific Standard.

Speckled fish are swimming around a 50-foot-square pen in Fraser Bay, Ontario, an inlet in the northeastern section of Lake Huron. It’s one of 14 net pens on either side of the Cold Water Fisheries dock there, near lakeside cottages with mountainous backdrops. I’m talking about 5.5 million fish here. The company harvests 1.7 million pounds of rainbow trout, also known as steelhead, every year from each of its two farms off Ontario’s shores. It’s been in business for close to 30 years, and now it hopes to expand its business across the lake to the Michigan side.

The Canadian government first allowed fish farms in Lake Huron in 1988. This huge body of freshwater now has seven such facilities, and the government is reviewing proposals for five more (but recently it hasn’t been approving commercial operations). As Cold Water Fisheries owner Robert Devine told Michigan Public Radio, he wishes to expand but is getting nowhere with the Canadian government. That’s why, he says, he wants to head south to the United States—well, more like west to Escanaba Bay, Michigan, where the conditions are very similar to those he has had so much success with in Fraser Bay.

Cold Water Fisheries is one of two companies looking to raise fish in net pens off U.S. shores, part of an aquaculture industry that grows by up to 10 percent each year. One of the benefits to Michigan, says Dale Jordison, a production manager for the company, would be local, affordable fish. In Ontario, Cold Water Fisheries has an outlet in town where it sells its product at a fraction of the grocery store cost. Another benefit would be jobs and more money coming into the state. At one of its locations, Cold Water Fisheries employs 45 people, and Michigan estimates that two new facilities could gross the state $4.5 million.

Tracking turtles via drone

Read the full story from Boston College.

While many students returned from the semester break with stories of vacations taken or jobs worked, Boston College freshman Branick Weix had something unusual and inspiring to share: his weeklong trip to Costa Rica to help researchers track endangered sea turtles.

Through his company, SkyLink Productions, the Minnesota native partnered with the nonprofit group Seeds of Change and used an array of drones to help researchers study nesting turtles on a remote peninsula of the Central American country.

The Quiet Crisis of Food Waste

Read the full story from the Coloradoan.

Picture a field ready for harvest. Any field in the world, it doesn’t matter: an acre of cassava in Nigeria, a rice paddy in Indonesia, some amber waves of grain in the United States. Now harvest this imaginary field, and toss one third of it into the trash.

Welcome to the global food supply chain of 2016, a vast system in quiet crisis which requires an emergency intervention to nourish people, preserve our planet and protect profits.

By 2050, the Earth’s population will have swelled to an estimated 9.7 billion people. According to Rockefeller Foundation research, all the food that never makes it from farm to table could feed all of the 1.2 billion hungry or undernourished people on the planet today.

While hunger is the most visible part of this quiet global crisis, it is certainly not the only impact. Indeed, the ramifications of global food loss and waste hit home throughout the entire food supply chain in every country in the world and reverberate in corporate bottom lines. Every year, food loss and waste costs the global economy nearly $1 trillion, which includes $680 billion in industrialized countries and $310 billion in developing countries. That’s more than the combined 2015 profits of the Fortune 500.



The top tech to cut energy costs and emissions? You may be surprised

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Revenues from renewables and advanced energy technologies jumped 8 percent last year but the biggest gainer was a behind-the-scenes player.

Why chief sustainability officers are in a pickle

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

At many Fortune 500 companies, the progress toward transformation is slow. Why? Data from 90 heads of sustainability or environment, health and safety (EHS) at a recent Conference Board meeting suggests that sustainability governance is broken.

27 steps to cut food waste and save billions

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

It doesn’t have to be this way  — that US consumers and businesses toss in the trash some 52 million tons of food a year, squandering $218 billion spent on growing, processing, transporting and then disposing that food.

The Rethink Food Waste through Economics and Data (ReFED) consortium who studied the problem for a year said Wednesday there are 27 pretty easy steps that, if scaled nationwide, would cut food waste by 20 percent or 13 million tons in a decade.

The steps, carried out, would put $5.6 billion back in consumers’ pockets each year and $1.6 billion back in the coffers of restaurants and food service companies while saving business in general $2 billion.

Moreover, they’d eliminate 18 million tons of methane emissions and save 1.6 trillion gallons of freshwater. And, as a huge future benefit, they’d get the world in better position to feed the 9 billion people expected to inhabit the planet by 2050.

Mix and match MOF

Read the full story from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Inexpensive materials called MOFs pull gases out of air or other mixed gas streams, but fail to do so with oxygen. Now, a team has overcome this limitation by creating a composite of a MOF and a helper molecule in which the two work in concert to separate oxygen from other gases simply and cheaply.

The results, reported in today’s Advanced Materials, might help with a wide variety of applications, including making pure oxygen for fuel cells, using that oxygen in a fuel cell, removing oxygen in food packaging, making oxygen sensors, or for other industrial processes. The technique might also be used with gases other than oxygen as well by switching out the helper molecule.

Heat People, Not Buildings

Read the full story in The Atlantic.

Personal climate-control systems could be more energy efficient than keeping entire rooms at a single temperature.