Webinar: Better Food, Less Carbon in the New Digital Economy

Fri, Aug 21, 2020 12:15 PM – 1:45 PM CDT
Register here.

Smart systems can link agricultural stakeholders with farmers, ranchers, and foresters. Traditional agriculture provides a meaningful opportunity to impact greenhouse gases and biodiversity. The agriculture ecosystem comprises land use, crop production, livestock and fisheries, and the food supply chain. In this system lies meaningful, measurable, and sustainable regenerative applications that can greatly reduce the impact of agriculture on the planet.

Farming data and smart technology solutions can combine to enable customers to make choices through market signals that can drive the industry to regenerative practices that both reduce atmospheric carbon, increase resilience and biodiversity in our food systems, and help improve farming profitability.

Panelist from John Deere, Land O’Lakes and the Farmers Business Network explore opportunities to lower carbon emissions, improve biodiversity, and increase the resilience of foods systems world-wide by digitally connecting it from soil to fork.

Potential implications of microplastics in human health and biodiversity

Read the full post at Open Access Government.

Cecilia Van Cauwenberghe from Frost & Sullivan’s TechVision Group, discusses the potential implications of microplastics in human health and biodiversity

Organizational transition management of circular business model innovations

Hofmann, F, Jaeger‐Erben, M. (2020).  “Organizational transition management of circular business model innovations.” Business Strategy and the Environment 1–19. https://doi.org/10.1002/bse.2542 [open access]

Abstract: Scholars and practitioners across fields increasingly recognize that business models for the circular economy may be an effective lever for solving ecological persistent problems such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and growing natural resource scarcity. Despite a growing interest in the potential of circular business models, interconnections between the organizational dimensions of firms and their business model innovation processes remain underexplored. Based on problem‐centered expert interviews with business consultants experienced in circular business development, this study creates a conceptual model that offers structured knowledge about why firms steadily reproduce linear BMs and how incumbents manifest themselves as a constant linear‐oriented value creation system. The model also demonstrates organizational conditions and management strategies that frustrate the reproduction of linear BMs and, thus, enable initial moves towards CBM innovation. Building on this, the article provides a set of propositions on how an organizational transition management may be configured and what incumbents require to successfully navigate circular business model innovation. The findings provide a foundation for a contemporary understanding of circular business model transition management, which simultaneously serve as impulses for future research investigations.

Twitter posts show that people are profoundly sad – and are visiting parks to cheer up

Central Park, New York City, on Memorial Day weekend, May 24, 2020. Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images

by Joe Roman and Taylor Ricketts, University of Vermont

The COVID-19 pandemic in the United States is the deepest and longest period of malaise in a dozen years. Our colleagues at the University of Vermont have concluded this by analyzing posts on Twitter. The Vermont Complex Systems Center studies 50 million tweets a day, scoring the “happiness” of people’s words to monitor the national mood. That mood today is at its lowest point since 2008 when they started this project.

They call the tweet analysis the Hedonometer. It relies on surveys of thousands of people who rate words indicating happiness. “Laughter” gets an 8.50 while “jail” gets a 1.76. They use these scores to measure the mood of Twitter traffic.

The Hedonometer measures happiness through analysis of key words on Twitter, which is now used by one in five Americans. This chart covers 18 months from early 2019 to July 2020, showing major dips in 2020. hedonometer.org

These same tweets also indicate a potential salve. Before pandemic lockdowns began, doctoral student Aaron Schwartz compared tweets before, during, and after visits to 150 parks, playgrounds and plazas in San Francisco. He found that park visits corresponded with a spike in happiness, followed by an afterglow lasting up to four hours.

Tweets from parks contained fewer negative words such as “no,” “not” and “can’t,” and fewer first-person pronouns like “I” and “me.” It seems that nature makes people more positive and less self-obsessed.

Parks keep people happy in times of global crisis, economic shutdown and public anger. Research has also shown that transmission rates for COVID-19 are much lower outdoors than inside. As scholars who study conservation and how nature contributes to human well-being, we see opening up parks and creating new ones as a straightforward remedy for Americans’ current blues.

Park visits are up during the pandemic

According to the Hedonometer, sentiments expressed online started trending lower in mid-March as the impacts of the pandemic became clear. As lockdowns continued, they registered the lowest sentiment scores on record. Then in late May, effects from George Floyd’s death in police custody and the following protests and police response once again could be seen on Twitter. May 31, 2020 was the saddest day of the project.

Recent surveys of park visitors around the University of Vermont have shown people using green spaces more since COVID-19 lockdowns began. Many people reported that parks were highly important to their well-being during the pandemic.

The powerful effects of nature are strongest in large parks with more trees, but smaller neighborhood parks also provide a significant boost. Their impact on happiness is real, measurable and lasting.

Twitter records show that parks increase happiness to a level similar to the bounce at Christmas, which typically is the happiest day of the year. Schwartz has since expanded his Twitter study to the 25 largest cities in the U.S. and found this bounce everywhere.

Parks and public spaces won’t cure COVID-19 or stop police brutality, but they are far more than playgrounds. There is growing evidence that parks contribute to mental and physical health in a range of communities.

In a 2015 study, for example, Stanford researchers sent people out for one of two walks: through a local park or on a busy street. Those who walked in nature showed improved moods and better memory performance compared to the urban group. And a team led by Gina South of the University of Pennsylvania showed in a 2018 study that greening and cleaning up blighted vacant lots in Philadelphia reduced local residents’ feelings of depression, worthlessness and poor mental health.

Creative strategies

It isn’t easy to create new parks on the scale of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park or the Washington Mall, but smaller projects can expand outdoor space. Options include greening vacant lots, closing streets and investing in existing parks to make them safer, greener and shadier and support wildlife.

These initiatives don’t have to be capital-intensive. In the University of Pennsylvania study, for example, renovating a vacant lot by removing trash, planting grass and trees and installing a low fence cost only about US$1,600.

Small manmade waterfall park in Seattle, Wash.
Waterfall Garden Park, a pocket park in Seattle built and maintained by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Joe Mabel/Wikipedia, CC BY-SA

Urban green space is most needed in neighborhoods that have lacked funding for parks, especially given COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on Black and Latinx people.

Cities can also create parklike spaces by closing streets to cars. Many cities worldwide are currently retooling their transportation systems for the post-COVID-19 world in order to reallocate public space, widen sidewalks and make more space for nature.

Urban designers, artists, ecologists and other citizens can play a direct role, too, creating pop-up parks and green spaces. Some advocates transform parking spaces into mini-parks with grass, potted trees and seating for just the time on the meter, to make a larger point about turning so much public space over to cars.

Or cities can invest a little more. Minneapolis, Cincinnati and Arlington, Virginia, have won national recognition for their ambitious investments in public park systems. These areas could serve as models for neighborhoods that lack access to parks.

A New Park Deal?

The United States has historically driven economic recovery with major infrastructure investments, like the New Deal in the 1930s and the 2009 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. Such investments could easily include nature-positive spaces.

Parks are not panaceas, as evidenced by the widely publicized racist confrontation between a white woman and a Black birder in New York’s Central Park in early July. But Hedonometer data add to a growing body of evidence that they provide clear mental health benefits. Creating and expanding parks also generates jobs and economic activity, with much of the money spent locally.

We believe investments in nature are well worth it, offering both short-term solace in difficult times and long-term benefits to health, economies and communities.

Joe Roman, Fellow, Gund Institute for Environment, University of Vermont and Taylor Ricketts, Professor and Director, Gund Institute for Environment, University of Vermont

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation

IEEFA U.S.: Peabody’s $1.42 billion write-down concedes coal mines have little value and dim future

Read the full story from IEEFA.

Peabody Energy, the world’s largest privately owned coal company and the biggest U.S. coal producer, has finally acknowledged a long-apparent reality: Thermal coal mines in the U.S. have little value anymore and not much of a future. 

The company said as much earlier this month when it slashed the book value of the largest coal mine in the country—the North Antelope Rochelle mine in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin—by $1.42 billion, or 22% of Peabody’s total asset value.

Increased global mortality linked to arsenic exposure in rice-based diets

Read the full story from the University of Manchester.

Rice is the most widely consumed staple food source for a large part of the world’s population. It has now been confirmed that rice can contribute to prolonged low-level arsenic exposure leading to thousands of avoidable premature deaths per year.

Associated journal article: Lingqian Xu, David A. Polya, Qian Li, Debapriya Mondal (2020). “Association of low-level inorganic arsenic exposure from rice with age-standardized mortality risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in England and Wales.” Science of The Total Environment 743, 140534 DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.140534

In a warming world, New England’s trees are storing more carbon

Read the full story from Harvard University.

The study reveals that the rate at which carbon is captured from the atmosphere at Harvard Forest nearly doubled between 1992 and 2015.

Associated journal article: Adrien C. Finzi, Marc‐André Giasson, Audrey A. Barker Plotkin, John D. Aber, Emery R. Boose, Eric A. Davidson, Michael C. Dietze, Aaron M. Ellison, Serita D. Frey, Evan Goldman, Trevor F. Keenan, Jerry M. Melillo, J. William Munger, Knute J. Nadelhoffer, Scott V. Ollinger, David A. Orwig, Neil Pederson, Andrew D. Richardson, Kathleen Savage, Jianwu Tang, Jonathan R. Thompson, Christopher A. Williams, Steven C. Wofsy, Zaixing Zhou, David R. Foster (2020). “Carbon budget of the Harvard Forest Long‐Term Ecological Research site: pattern, process, and response to global change.” Ecological Monographs DOI: 10.1002/ecm.1423

Your iPhone is a Demonstration of the Importance of Embodied Carbon

Read the full story at Treehugger.

If we are truly going to get a handle on climate change and carbon emissions then we have to deal with the issue of embodied carbon, or what I prefer to call upfront carbon emissions: the CO2, and equivalent greenhouse gases (CO2e) emitted during the manufacture of a product. Perhaps the best demonstration of their importance can be found in Apple’s 2020 Environmental Progress Report (covered here on Treehugger). The company has provided full life-cycle analyses of its products, from production through end-of-life.

A Sustainable Fashion Brand That Innovates With Fabrics and Resale Program

Read the full post at Treehugger.

Époque evolution launched new collections this year that feature recycled nylon and organic cotton.

Green, Resilient, and Equitable Actions for Transformation (GREAT) database

The Green, Resilient, and Equitable Actions for Transformation (GREAT) database collects examples of city, state, and national leaders that are making COVID-19 recovery plans in ways that could also produce benefits in racial, gender, and economic equity and in climate change mitigation and resilience. It is being maintained by the Multisolving team at Climate Interactive, including Dr. Elizabeth Sawin and Cassandra Ceballos.