Regenerative Organic Agriculture Can Save the Planet.
The nutrient content of foods has dramatically declined across the board since the introduction of mechanized farming in 1925. For example, as explained by Dr. August Dunning, chief science officer and co-owner of Eco Organics, in order to receive the same amount of iron you used to get from one apple in 1950, by 1998 you had to eat 26 apples!
There is ample scientific research proving that organically grown crops give higher yield, organic produce is more nutritious, and organic plants are more disease resistant than conventionally grown plants or GMO crops. If done right, organic farming can feed the world.
According to the UK's Soil Association, "Scientists have modeled how we can feed 9 billion people in 2050 with a healthy diet in an environmentally sustainable way. ...A scientific study in Germany and Austria found that organic agriculture can probably feed the world population of 9.2 billion in 2050 if relatively modest diets are adopted, with a low level of inequality in food distribution required to avoid malnutrition."
Genetically modified crops are not the answer. It is by now widely acknowledged that the pesticides used on GMO crops are highly toxic to humans as well as to insect pests. Roundup herbicide, widely used on GMO crops, contains glyphosate, which is lethal to frogs and toxic to beneficial insects or to the plants upon which they depend. Glyphosate has been shown to damage soil fertility, the crops themselves, as well as off-target organisms.
Numerous studies have shown glyphosate to cause other serious human illnesses, birth defects, cancer, and damage to human cells and dna.
As British scientist, Mae Wan Ho has written, "Genetic engineering in the laboratory is crude, imprecise and invasive. The rogue genes inserted into a genome to make a GMO could land anywhere; typically in a rearranged or defective form, scrambling and mutating the host genome, and have the tendency to move or rearrange further once inserted, basically because they do not know the dance of life. That’s ultimately why genetic modification doesn’t work and is also dangerous."
The health of the individual cannot be separated from the health of the surrounding environment, in all its aspects -- physical, social, economic & political. It is largely the responsibility of the individual to take care of his or her own health, given the overly-expensive, Big-Pharma-driven, anti-wholistic orientation of the nation's health-care system and the general level of environmental pollution, not to mention the poor nutritional content in much of our conventionally farmed and processed foods. It is entirely possible, still, for a person to protect his/her health by following certain basic practices, which should be common sense: drinking plenty of clean water, preferably filtered with a solid-carbon block filter; getting plenty of exercise; eating clean food (organic whenever possible); avoiding household products containing toxic chemicals; and last, but not least, maintaining a healthy psychology and spirit.
If one has been compromised by environmental toxins, one needs to follow best practices to de-toxify the physical body.
Public outcry has had a modicum of effect in requiring our government agencies to do their jobs in protecting our environment, but the battle is ongoing.
A Renewables Revolution Is Toppling the Dominance of Fossil Fuels in U.S. Power.
According to Bloomberg, Feb. 2016, renewable energy was the biggest source of new power added to U.S. electricity grids last year as falling prices and government incentives made wind and solar increasingly viable alternatives to fossil fuels.
Developers installed 16 gigawatts of clean energy in 2015, or 68 percent of all new capacity, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said in its Sustainable Energy in America Factbook released Thursday with the Business Council for Sustainable Energy. That was the second straight year that clean power eclipsed fossil fuels.
The biggest growth came from wind farms, with 8.5 gigawatts of new turbines installed as developers sought to take advantage of a federal tax credit that was due to expire at the end of 2016; Congress extended it in December.
U.S. clean-energy investments rose to $56 billion last year, up 7.5 percent from 2014. The majority, $30.2 billion, went to solar. Investors pumped $11.6 billion into wind energy and $11.1 billion into technology to improve grids, boost efficiency, develop storage systems and other ways to better manage power usage.
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Climate Change Poses Existential Water Risks
The U.S. Southwest and Great Plains will almost certainly experience unprecedented “mega-droughts” this century.
National Geographic Magazine, Feb. 17, 2016 edition, cites a new study by researchers with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and Cornell and Columbia Universities. The study warns that the U.S. Southwest and Great Plains are almost certainly in for unprecedented “mega-droughts” during this century. Using 17 different state-of-the-art climate models, the scientists found “a coherent and robust drying response to warming.”
Under scenarios of both moderate and high greenhouse gas emissions, the team concludes that these regions can expect drought periods even more severe than the driest centuries of the last millennium.
What is rarely mentioned is the enormous amount of water used in animal agriculture (as well as the amount of methane gas produced).
Animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation.
Agriculture is responsible for 80-90% of US water consumption (includes greywater).
Growing feed crops for livestock consumes 56% of water in the US.
2,500 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 pound of beef.
Reservoir water lost to evaporation: About 170 cubic kilometres of water evaporates from the world's reservoirs every year, more than 7% of the total amount of freshwater consumed by all human activities.
US fresh water: 48% goes to cool power plants, which means taking away the roughly 60% of the heat generated by uranium, coal or natural gas and send it skyward. Switch to renewables means this ends. Suddenly our water supply is doubled, or we cut total usage in half depending on how you see it. Now take industrial water, which is increasingly recycled in plant or could be. Then urban water. Why are we moving fresh water 150 miles from mountains only to use a fraction to drink, cook or wash ourselves with, while using the rest to carry sewage and other waste "away," then purifying the water to .99999% clean only to drain it to the sea and talk of desalinization?
Groundwater restoration will become increasingly important in the face of climate change and population growth. Rainwater collection could be extended to buildings, collected in cisterns, and to local ponds, potentially created along natural creeks. These can be combined with biological water treatment facilities in parks and inside greenhouses in dense cities, producing fish, flowers and fertilizer. Water is then pumped underground and or drained to natural wetland for seepage.
Excellent water conservation tips and facts are available here.
The sustainable architecture movement has been going on now for decades, and many fine examples exist, alongside many fine "green" architects throughout the world. Standards and principles are well-known and recognized, qua LEEDS standards, and many cities require them whenever and wherever practicable and affordable. Innovation continues apace, in spite of the global economy being in a "downturn."
The New Economy
Increasing consolidation of corporations into ever-more gigantic conglomerates, responsive only to dictates of profit, has provoked the emergence of its opposite: decentralized, localized small organizations of workers, farmers, producers -- those who actually create the wealth traditionally appropriated by mega-corporations. These new forms include workers-cooperatives, community supported farms, local and community banking, expanding access to micro-lending via grameen banks in the US, and a wealth of new thinking about the new economy. Technology enables demand and distribution networks that bypass the middlemen and unresponsive gigantic corporations.
As noted by Rachel Botsman, Collaborative Economy Global Expert, "Today, we are seeing an erosion in confidence in established hierarchies, and the rise of decentralized platforms and marketplaces built on peer trust. Technologies are making it easier by reducing the fear of interacting and directly exchanging with ‘strangers’. Our peers are not just shaping our purchasing decisions through online review platforms such as Yelp, TripAdvisor and Angie’s List but are increasingly the people we want to directly transact with, bypassing traditional institutions."
For better and for worse, the "Internet of Things" is creating horizontal linkages throughout industry, enabling to a growing extent, an efficient by-pass of traditional hierarchical corporations. Its applications include healthcare, all kinds of electrical systems within buildings, manufacturing systems and machines, supply chain control, traffic management, forest fire detection, and water management, to name just a few.
The "IoT" is increased machine-to-machine communication, it’s built on cloud computing and networks of data-gathering sensors; it’s mobile, virtual, and instantaneous connection; Optimists expect this will make everything in our lives from streetlights to seaports “smart.”
Transportation, infrastructure - all one piece
Christopher Swan, a brilliant San Francisco-based environmental visionary and author, has proposed some of the most advanced as well as practical modeling of infrastructure and transportation, to date. No one now would disagree with his long-held view that we need a new model infrastructure. We need it as an alternative to traffic and lost time, we need it to become more competitive, we need it to become less vulnerable to terrorists and we need it to respond to peak oil, water shortages and climate change. The challenge is nothing less than the transformation of the infrastructure our lives now rely upon.
Remarkably, new infrastructure trends include the technology that all but started industrialization: the railway. Railways still work extremely well. Over the last three decades countless government planners did the numbers on their transportation options and came to the conclusion that in 150 years no one had invented any form of transportation that tops the railway in terms of efficacy, efficiency and economy.
Compared to highways railways use a fifth the land, a third the energy and a fraction of the total resources. Railway development radically reduces the land, cost and impact of transportation, passenger trains are very competitive with cars and planes, especially passenger trains exceeding 100 miles per hour. Just one freight train operated by two people can move the equivalent of 200 trucks that would otherwise require three times the space on an interstate. On the sustainability chart railways are off the chart. One standard coach routinely lasts 40 years, and in that time it would replace 6,000 automobiles that would have been melted down and re-made at least six times.
Given the will, transportation can be designed as an integral part of a city or community, in ways that enhance one's experience of being there: shops and cafes, parks, waterways, all can be included in the overall design.