Edge Effects

Edge Effects is a digital magazine produced by graduate students at the Center for Culture, History, and Environment (CHE), which is part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. From the About page:

Written by members of the CHE community (with occasional guest posts) and edited by CHE grad students, it offers a wide array of content relating to environmental and cultural change across the full sweep of human history. Its name—about which you can read more here—invokes our commitment to publishing across boundaries, at the intersections of the sciences with the humanities, of academe with the public, of narrated pasts with imagined futures.

Edge Effects features content in many formats—text, image, audio, video—while maintaining a commitment to clear, accessible prose. Its content is grouped into six broad categories: Essays, Commentary, Reviews, Exhibits, Fieldnotes, and Checklists.


2015 Was Officially The Deadliest Year Ever For Environmental Activists

Read the full story in Fast Company.

These are not good times to be campaigning to protect the environment, especially in countries governed by repressive regimes and powerful corporate interests.

Killings of environmental activists around the world have been on the rise for several years, as Co.Exist reported on a piece about this year’s death of Honduran indigenous activist Berta Cáceres, who was shot in her home in March.

A new report from the organization Global Witness says that trend is continuing to get worst. Last year, it says, had the most killings of environmental activists since it started tracking over the last decade, averaging to more than three activists killed every week around the world in campaigns related to mining, agribusiness, logging, and hydropower. Indigenous activists—who often stand up to powerful development interests in relatively remote regions—have it the worst, representing 40% of those killed. Brazil (50 deaths), the Philippines (33), Colombia (26), Peru (12), and Nicaragua (12), and the DRC (11) are particular hot spots.

Like to get more bang for your sustainability-boosting buck? Here’s how.

Read the full story from the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment.

Manufacturers, retailers, governments and other buyers are under a lot of pressure these days to preferentially purchase products with relatively low environmental footprints. But options can be overwhelming: Is it better to favor suppliers who use renewable electricity to produce their products, or those that use recycled cardboard for the boxes that contain them?  Until now there has been no easy way to answer that, since measuring the impact of green products can be costly and comparing the relative environmental and economic merits of different products is next to impossible.

Now, researchers at the University of Minnesota and University of Michigan have developed a method for assessing and comparing the various costs and benefits of green products — making it possible for purchasers to get the most environmental bang for their sustainability-investment buck.

  • The research, published in the scientific journal Environmental Science & Technology, was led by Rylie Pelton and Mo Li, research fellows with the Northstar Initiative for Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment, and was funded by the Global Environmental Management Initiative.
  • The new approach, known as the Hotspot Scenario Analysis-Procurement Portfolio Optimization (HSA-PPO) method, makes it possible to assess environmental impact across multiple product purchases and maximize environmental benefits under specified budget constraints.
  • The researchers estimated that a purchaser could save 36 and 54 percent more greenhouse gas emissions and water, respectively, for a given amount of money by using HSA-PPO across the portfolio of product input purchases rather than just considering one product purchase at a time.

The business case for sustainable electronics

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

In the late 1990s, the main goal was simply to create electronics that worked. Then, concerns about emissions prompted IT manufacturers to implement health and safety protocols. Environmental concerns emerged at the dawn of the new millennium, ushering in the green manufacturing era.

Most recently, social responsibility has become an issue as reports of labor abuses and unethical manufacturing practices have come to light. With growing consumer awareness of all of these issues, finding a path to sustainability is becoming increasingly important.

Colony Loss 2015-2016: Preliminary Results

Read the study.

The Bee Informed Partnership (http://beeinformed.org), in collaboration with the Apiary Inspectors of America (AIA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA),  conducted the tenth annual national survey of honey bee colony losses, funded by the USDA NIFA.


The Secret to San Francisco’s Zero Waste Success

Read the full story from Waste360.

Is there a secret in San Francisco related to their zero waste success?

Yes, I think there is, and unfortunately it is rarely discussed.

I love San Francisco and the zero waste work they are doing. And I want to draw attention to what their “secret ingredient” is so that other cities can better understand what they don’t have but might want to pursue locally, even if in an altered form.

Last month, the New York Times wrote another admiring piece about the San Francisco zero waste program. And again, the reporter missed asking the logical question, “Why San Francisco?” What is different about Golden Gate City that makes it such a star when it comes to progressive waste management systems?

It isn’t a unique technology, as Jack Macy even admits in the article. That is an important point considering all the sketchy “new tech, one-bin” proposals we’ve been seeing lately as the way to achieve zero waste.


The Continued Targeting of Environmental Activists

Read the full story in Pacific Standard.

Since the murder of Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres on March 3, regular demonstrations have been held across the globe demanding justice for her killers. For decades, Cáceres stood at the front lines in the struggle to protect native land in Honduras from being turned into dam and mining projects by local and foreign developers. Her death is now added to the long tally of murdered activists in Latin America, and like the ones before her, it’s unlikely that her killers will ever be held accountable.

Cáceres grew up witness to the ever-expanding socioeconomic disparity that plagued Honduras during the 1970s and ’80s. In 1993, as a university student, she co-funded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), where she collaborated with communities to prevent the industrialized takeover of the natural land. Over the course of a decade, Cáceres spearheaded a highly-publicized campaign against the Agua Zarca Dam, a hydroelectric dam intended to be built in the Río Blanco. Construction was planned to take place on the Gualcarque River, a sacred water source for indigenous people in the area. The building process had begun without any consent from locals.