Day: March 17, 2021

Food & Nature Digest: Accelerating the Green Recovery

Download the document.

Bringing together expertise in nature and public trust, TNC and Edelman Data x Intelligence have launched the Food & Nature Digest—a global market analysis series about the current state of sustainability in the food, beverage and agricultural sectors.

Conducted amidst the uncertainty and unrest of 2020, the analysis includes an exploration of informed consumer expectations of the industry and recommendations for savvy business leaders to think about a path forward for the nature-positive transition.

Webinar: A Circular Economy for Plastics: How Companies are Moving from Strategy to Action

April 1, 2021, noon-1 pm CDT
Register here.

As plastic waste continues to threaten the globe, companies are making ambitious commitments and joining with partners to do their part. This new class of plastics goals include designing for recyclability, investing in recycling infrastructure and exploring material innovations, charting and reporting progress and helping to bring more partners in to drive collection action. But what happens behind the scenes once these commitments are announced? And what will it take for companies to achieve these ambitious targets one they’ve been set? 

This hour-long webinar will explore opportunities to move from aspirations and  commitments to practical action. Attendees will learn:

  • How large companies are partnering with NGOs and others to take collective action on ambitious goals.
  • How companies like Coca Cola are approaching strategic action including setting realistic and ambitious goals, engaging partners and rallying teams behind a common cause.
  • How the process of implementing meaningful change varies across industries and geographies.
  • Common challenges companies face in combating plastic waste, and how to overcome them.

Moderator

  • Lauren Phipps, Director & Senior Analyst, Circular Economy, GreenBiz

Speakers

  • Alpa Sutaria, VP & General Manager, Sustainability, North America Operating Unit, The Coca-Cola Company 
  • Erin Simon, Head, Plastic Waste and Business, WWF

If you can’t tune in live, please register and we will email you a link to access the archived webcast footage and resources, available to you on-demand after the webcast.

A Looming Disaster: New Data Reveal Where Flood Damage Is An Existential Threat

Read the full story from NPR.

Sea level rise and heavier rainstorms driven by global warming are sending more water into residential neighborhoods from the Gulf Coast to New England to Appalachia to the Pacific Northwest. And new data make it clear that many households and communities cannot afford the mounting costs.

More than 4 million houses and small apartment buildings across the contiguous U.S. have substantial risk of expensive flood damage, according to data released by the First Street Foundation, a nonprofit research organization that studies flood risk and housing. The cost of flood damage to homes nationwide will increase by more than 50% in the next 30 years, the First Street Foundation estimates.

Daily Mail owner buys New Scientist magazine in £70m deal

Read the full story in The Guardian.

The publisher of the Daily Mail has acquired the renowned weekly science and technology magazine New Scientist in a £70m cash deal – the latest round of consolidation in the publishing sector.

Facebook rainforest ads: Inquiry ordered into Amazon land sales

Read the full story from the BBC.

Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court has ordered an inquiry into the sale of protected areas of the Amazon rainforest via Facebook.

3 technologies poised to change food and the planet

Soon robotic smart tractors will drive themselves through fields and will use data to plant the right seed in the right place and give each plant exactly the right amount of fertilizer, cutting down on energy, pollution and waste. (Shutterstock)

by Lenore Newman (University of The Fraser Valley) and Evan Fraser (University of Guelph)

Agriculture’s impact on the planet is massive and relentless. Roughly 40 per cent of the Earth’s suitable land surface is used for cropland and grazing. The number of domestic animals far outweighs remaining wild populations. Every day, more primary forest falls against a tide of crops and pasture and each year an area as large as the United Kingdom is lost. If humanity is to have a hope of addressing climate change, we must reimagine farming.

COVID-19 has also exposed weaknesses with current food systems. Agricultural scientists have known for decades that farm labour can be exploitative and hard, so it should surprise no one that farm owners had trouble importing labour to keep farms running as they struggled to ensure food workers stay free from the virus.

Similarly, “just enough, just in time” food supply chains are efficient but offer little redundancy. And pushing farmland into the wilds connects humans with reservoirs of viruses that — when they enter the human population — prove devastating.

To address these challenges, new technologies promise a greener approach to food production and focus on more plant-based, year-round, local and intensive production. Done right, three technologies — vertical, cellular and precision agriculture — can remake the relationship to land and food.

Farm in a box

Vertical farming — the practice of growing food in stacked trays — isn’t new; innovators have been growing crops indoors since Roman times. What is new is the efficiency of LED lighting and advanced robotics that allow vertical farms today to produce 20 times more food on the same footprint as is possible in the field.

Currently, most vertical farms only produce greens, such as lettuce, herbs and microgreens, as they are quick and profitable, but within five years many more crops will be possible as the cost of lighting continues to fall and technology develops.

The controlled environments of vertical farms slash pesticide and herbicide use, can be carbon neutral and they recycle water. For both cold and hot climates where field production of tender crops is difficult or impossible, vertical agriculture promises an end to expensive and environmentally intensive imports, such as berries, small fruits and avocados from regions such as California.

Cellular agriculture, or the science of producing animal products without animals, heralds even bigger change. In 2020 alone, hundreds of millions of dollars flowed into the sector, and in the past few months, the first products have come to market.

This includes Brave Robot “ice cream” that involves no cows and Eat Just’s limited release of “chicken” that never went cluck.

Precision agriculture is another big frontier. Soon self-driving tractors will use data to plant the right seed in the right place, and give each plant exactly the right amount of fertilizer, cutting down on energy, pollution and waste.

Taken together, vertical, cellular and precision farming should allow us the ability to produce more food on less land and with fewer inputs. Ideally, we will be able to produce any crop, anywhere, any time of year, eliminating the need for long, vulnerable, energy intensive supply chains.

Is agriculture 2.0 ready?

Of course, these technologies are no panacea — no technology ever is. For one thing, while these technologies are maturing rapidly, they aren’t quite ready for mainstream deployment. Many remain too expensive for small- and medium-sized farms and may drive farm consolidation.

Some consumers and food theorists are cautious, wondering why we can’t produce our food the way our great-grandparents did. Critics of these agricultural technologies call for agri-ecological or regenerative farming that achieves sustainability through diversified, small-scale farms that feed local consumers. Regenerative agriculture is very promising, but it isn’t clear it will scale.

A package of 'lab-grown' beef.
Could cultured meats become common in grocery stores in the next decade? (Shutterstock)

While these are serious considerations, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to food security. For instance, alternative small-scale mixed-crop farms also suffer labour shortages and typically produce expensive food that is beyond the means of lower-income consumers. But it doesn’t have to be an “either/or” situation. There are benefits and drawbacks to all approaches and we cannot achieve our climate and food security goals without also embracing agricultural technology.

Agriculture’s hopeful future

By taking the best aspects of alternative agriculture (namely the commitment to sustainability and nutrition), the best aspects of conventional agriculture (the economic efficiency and the ability to scale) and novel technologies such as those described above, the world can embark on an agricultural revolution that — when combined with progressive policies around labour, nutrition, animal welfare and the environment — will produce abundant food while reducing agriculture’s footprint on the planet.

This new approach to agriculture, a “closed-loop revolution,” is already blooming in fields (and labs) from advanced greenhouses of the Netherlands and the indoor fish farms of Singapore to the cellular agriculture companies of Silicon Valley.

Cucumber plants growing indoors
Hydroponic cucumbers can be grown indoors with LED lights. (Lenore Newman)

Closed-loop farms use little pesticide, are land and energy efficient, and recycle water. They can allow for year-round local production, reduce repetitive hand labour, improve environmental outcomes and animal welfare. If these facilities are matched with good policy, then we should see the land not needed for farming be returned to nature as parks or wildlife refuges.

Today’s world was shaped by an agricultural revolution that began ten thousand years ago. This next revolution will be just as transformative. COVID-19 may have put the problems with our food system on the front page, but the long-term prospect for this ancient and vital industry is ultimately a good news story.

Lenore Newman, Canada Research Chair, Food Security and the Environment, University of The Fraser Valley and Evan Fraser, Director of the Arrell Food Institute and Professor in the Dept. of Geography, Environment and Geomatics, University of Guelph

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

Adapting solar energy technology to detect chemical warfare agents and pesticides

Read the full story from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science.

In a colorful solution to a dangerous problem, Australian scientists are adapting a component from cutting-edge solar cells to design a rapid, light-based detection system for deadly toxins.

Arizona utility opposes legislation barring state regulators from decarbonization mandate

Read the full story at Utility Dive.

Arizona Public Service (APS) has sent a letter to both the state senate and governor’s office, expressing opposition to proposed legislation that would bar the state’s utility regulators from mandating decarbonization.

The Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) voted in November to require the state’s utilities to achieve 100% clean energy generation by 2050. The Arizona House and Senate have introduced twin bills to overturn the ACC’s decarbonization rules and to prevent such rules in the future.

APS had remained publicly neutral toward the two bills until Thursday. The company has decided to oppose both bills in light of increasing regulatory uncertainty, according to an APS letter to state lawmakers and to the governor’s office.

Illinois legislation could free towns from dirty power but not the payments

Read the full story from Energy News Network.

The proposed Clean Energy Jobs Act would set closure dates for all coal plants in Illinois, including the troubled Prairie State Energy Campus. But it wouldn’t guarantee financial relief for customers locked into long-term contracts.

What you should know about new Interior Secretary Deb Haaland

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Haaland will oversee nearly 500 million acres of land — that’s one-fifth the land area of the U.S. and 70% of all public lands — and almost 700 million acres of natural resources that lay beneath it and its coasts.

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