Justice or overreach?: As crucial test looms, Big Greens are under fire

Read the full story at Politico.

The environmental movement embraces a broad array of progressive causes while its own agenda hangs in the balance.

What the city of Rotterdam can teach us about the power of green roofs

Read the full story at NextCity.

Green roofs are an undertapped tool in combatting urban heat islands, but all too often, the low-income communities who could benefit the most are left out. Here are lessons from one Dutch city on building rooftop spaces that benefit all.

Chicago planted trees at a higher rate in wealthier, whiter neighborhoods over the past decade, Tribune investigation finds

Read the full story in the Chicago Tribune.

Over the past decade the city has backtracked on ambitious goals made years ago to provide residents with trees, particularly on the South and West sides where researchers say trees are needed the most, a Tribune investigation found.

The failures come as research shows trees blunt the warmer, wetter effects of climate change in the Great Lakes region. Fewer trees in neighborhoods can mean hotter temperatures, more flooding, dirtier air and higher electric bills — all of which can affect mental and physical health.

The city’s half million street trees, those often found on the strip of grass between roadways and sidewalks, make up a part of the overall canopy coverage, along with trees in parks and yards. How the city manages these trees can directly affect residents’ quality of life.

Tribune analyzed the rate at which street trees were planted per mile of streets from 2011 through 2021, finding higher planting rates in wealthier, whiter neighborhoods deemed less of a priority.

Rheaply, a circular economy startup, raises $20 million from big names

Read the full story at Axios.

Rheaply, a Chicago-based startup that helps companies quantify and manage their purchased goods and resources in order to cut carbon emissions, has raised $20 million in new funding, the company told Axios.

Youth climate activists say community helps with mental health strain

Read the full story from Teen Vogue.

It makes sense that the stakes feel so high for young climate activists. Climate activism centers on an existential crisis — the end of the world as we know it. But these same activists are also human. All that pressure can test the limits of their mental health. And when that happens, they turn to the people who can understand what they’re going through — their peers who are going through the very same thing.

‘Too many people, not enough food’ isn’t the cause of hunger and food insecurity

A wheat warehouse in western Ukraine. Food insecurity is expected to worsen with rising food prices and the war trapping wheat, barley and corn in Ukraine and Russia. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

by Gisèle Yasmeen, University of British Columbia

Nearly one in three people in the world did not have access to enough food in 2020. That’s an increase of almost 320 million people in one year and it’s expected to get worse with rising food prices and the war trapping wheat, barley and corn in Ukraine and Russia.

Climate change related floods, fires and extreme weather, combined with armed conflict and a worldwide pandemic have magnified this crisis by affecting the right to food.

Many assume world hunger is due to “too many people, not enough food.” This trope has persisted since the 18th century when economist Thomas Malthus postulated that the human population would eventually exceed the planet’s carrying capacity. This belief moves us away from addressing the root causes of hunger and malnutrition.

In fact, inequity and armed conflict play a larger role. The world’s hungry are disproportionately located in Africa and Asia, in conflict-ridden zones.

As a researcher who has been working on food systems since 1991, I believe that addressing root causes is the only way to tackle hunger and malnutrition. For this, we need more equitable distribution of land, water and income, as well as investments in sustainable diets and peace-building.

But how will we feed the world?

The world produces enough food to provide every man, woman and child with more than 2,300 kilocalories per day, which is more than sufficient. However, poverty and inequality — structured by class, gender, race and the impact of colonialism — have resulted in an unequal access to the Earth’s bounty.

A map of the world with the level of access to food emphasized with different shades of blue
Despite adequate food production globally, poverty and inequality restrict many people’s access to healthy food. (FAO, The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020), CC BY

Half of global crop production consists of sugar cane, maize, wheat and rice — a great deal of which is used for sweeteners and other high-calorie, low-nutrient products, as feed for industrially produced meat, biofuels and vegetable oil.

The global food system is controlled by a handful of transnational corporations that produce highly processed foods, containing sugar, salt, fat and artificial colours or preservatives. Overconsumption of these foods is killing people around the world and taxing healthcare costs.

Nutrition experts say that we should limit sugars, saturated and trans fats, oils and simple carbohydrates and eat an abundance of fruits and vegetables with only a quarter of our plates consisting of protein and dairy. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change also recommends a move toward sustainable healthy diets.

A recent study showed that overconsumption of highly processed foods — soft drinks, snacks, breakfast cereals, packaged soups and confectionery items — can lead to negative environmental and health impacts, such as Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disorders.

Steering the world away from highly processed foods will also lessen their negative impacts on land, water and reduce energy consumption.

A stretch of land on a green mountainous terrain with a handful of wooden homes.
Land reform initiatives in Madagascar have helped further plans to redistribute land and reduce food insecurity. (Shutterstock)

We live in a world of plenty

Since the 1960s, global agricultural production has outpaced population growth. Yet the Malthusian theory continues to focus on the risk of population increases outstripping the Earth’s carrying capacity, even though global population is peaking.

Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen’s study of the Great Bengal Famine of 1943 challenged Malthus by demonstrating that millions died of hunger because they didn’t have the money to buy food, not due to food shortages.

In 1970, Danish economist Ester Boserup also questioned Malthus’s assumptions. She argued that rising incomes, women’s equality and urbanization would ultimately stem the tide of population growth, with the birthrate, even in poor countries, dropping to at or below replacement levels.

Food — like water — is an entitlement, and public policy should stem from this. Unfortunately, land and income remain highly unevenly distributed, resulting in food insecurity, even in wealthy countries. While land redistribution is notoriously difficult, some land reform initiatives — like the one in Madagascar — have been successful.

The role of war in hunger

Hunger is aggravated by armed conflict. The countries with the highest rates of food insecurity have been ravaged by war, such as Somalia. More than half of the people who are undernourished and almost 80 percent of children with stunted growth live in countries struggling with some form of conflict, violence or fragility.

Women stand in a queue with empty food containers.
Women queue up to receive food distributed by local volunteers at a camp in Somalia on May 18, 2019. Conflicts hinder the effective delivery of humanitarian aid during food security crisis. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

UN Secretary General António Guterres has warned that the war in Ukraine puts 45 African and least developed countries at risk of a “hurricane of hunger,” as they import at least a third of their wheat from Ukraine or Russia. According to the New York Times, the World Food Program has been forced to cut rations to nearly four million people due to higher food prices.

What works, ultimately, are adequate social protection floors (basic social security guarantees) and rights based “food sovereignty” approaches that put communities in control of their own local food systems. For example, the Deccan Development Society in India assists rural women by providing access to nutritious food and other community supports.

To address food insecurity, we must invest in diplomacy by co-ordinating humanitarian, development and peacekeeping activities to avoid and curtail armed conflicts. Poverty reduction is part of peace building as rampant inequalities serve as tinderboxes for aggression.

Protecting our ability to produce food

Climate change and poor environmental management have put collective food production assets including soil, water and pollinators in peril.

Several studies over the past 30 years have warned that soil and water contamination from high concentrations of toxins such as pesticides, dwindling biodiversity and disappearing pollinators could further affect the quality and quantity of food production.

Livestock, crop production, agricultural expansion and food processing account for a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, one-third of all food produced is lost or goes to waste, so tackling this travesty is also paramount.

Reducing food loss and waste will help reduce environmental impacts of the food system, as will transitioning to healthier, sustainably produced diets.

Food, health and environmental sustainability

Food is an entitlement and should be viewed as such, not framed as an issue of population growth or inadequate food production. Poverty and systemic inequalities are the root causes of food insecurity as is armed conflict. Keeping this idea central in discussions about feeding the world is essential.

We need policies that support healthy and sustainably produced, balanced diets to address chronic diet-related disease, environmental issues and climate change.

We need more initiatives that enable equitable distribution of land, water and income globally.

We need policies that address food insecurity through initiatives like rights-based food sovereignty systems.

In areas affected by conflict and war, we need policies that invest in diplomacy by co-ordinating humanitarian, development and peacekeeping activities.

These are the key pathways to recognize that “food is the single strongest lever to optimize human health and environmental sustainability on Earth.”

Gisèle Yasmeen, Senior Fellow, School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia

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

Steps to Designing Justice-Focused Assessments in Science

Download the document.

This resource outlines a nine-step process to help teams develop Framework-aligned assessment tasks in science focused on justice-centered phenomena and scenarios. It builds on the thinking about 3D assessment design from STEM Teaching Tool #29 (from March 2020), but has been significantly revised.

Justice-focused assessments are assessments where students use science knowledge and engineering design practices to solve problems involving matters related to the unequal distribution of consequences (e.g., benefits, harms) to communities that result from human-nature interactions and/or unequal voice of communities in matters affecting their thriving and sustainability. Justice-centered assessments are pertinent when assessing performance expectations that require students to engage in engineering practices, because such practices involve developing and testing solutions that address human needs. In addition, justice-centered assessments engage students with the idea of science as a human endeavor, as called for in the Nature of Science connections of the NGSS.

6 takeaways from the CEQ Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool

Read the full story from the World Resources Institute. ENB covered the release of the tools last month.

To help federal agencies implement the Justice40 Initiative by identifying disadvantaged communities, the White House Council on Environmental Quality released a beta version of its Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST) in February 2022. The tool identifies these communities through eight categories of disadvantaged status indices — related to underinvestment in energy, transit, workforce development, housing, water infrastructure and more. And each category has underlying topical indicators depicting different types of environmental, social and economic burdens.

The primary users of CEJST are likely to be federal agencies who will use the tool to direct federal investments in various climate change and clean energy programs to disadvantaged communities. However, the tool can also be used by policymakers in states and cities, industry and community organizations to identify and address areas with environmental justice concerns.  

New WRI analysis reveals insights about the disadvantaged communities the tool hopes to serve.

When it comes to solving for climate change, race and gender matter

diversity

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

We know that the impacts of the climate crisis are not being distributed equally. Whether you’re looking at New Orleans or Nigeria, women — and especially women of color — are disproportionately bearing the consequences of climate-related natural disasters, including migration, food insecurity, job insecurity and violence.

So, it makes sense that when investing in climate solutions we should be paying attention to gender, race and ethnicity, both when it comes to who is deploying capital (on investment and fund management teams, at investment committee level, as individuals), and when it comes to who it is being deployed to (ownership of firms and funds, employees, customer base, who is in the supply chain).

The confining nature of climate change on incarcerated people

Read the full story at Ms. Magazine.

Late last month, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released their sixth assessment report, which examines the impacts and solutions to climate change. It showed that society is not doing enough to mitigate the effects of climate change. From extreme flooding in Florida from Tropical Storm Elsa in July, to the wildfires that ravaged California last year, climate change is being realized in our everyday lives—with no end in sight. In fact, in the next 30 years, the cost of flood damage is expected to rise by 26 percent, according to a recent study. The IPCC report identifies half of the global population as living in highly vulnerable locations.

While these events are terrifying for all, climate-induced catastrophes disproportionately affect people who are incarcerated, as they are physically unable to flee. There are “54 jails, prisons, and detention centers nationwide that hold more than 1,000 people that are above the 95th percentile for wildfire risk,” according to The Intercept. There are also approximately 621 correctional facilities in the U.S. that are posed to major flood risks—even in landlocked states such as Tennessee, Ohio and West Virginia.