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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Here’s how huge amounts of trash from the Pearl River Delta washed up on Hong Kong’s shores

Following the story we just posted, is this government's failure or our own for creating mountains of waste?  Perhaps we are all headed to seeing oceans of trash dumped back on our shorelines?

Here’s how huge amounts of trash from the Pearl River Delta washed up on Hong Kong’s shores

Over the past several weeks, Hong Kong residents have become increasingly angry about the unprecedented amount of trash landing on the city’s beaches.

While Hong Kong certainly generates plenty of its own garbage, activists and residents noticed that a majority of the trash landing on the city’s beaches had labels popular in mainland China, not Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department (EPD) believes the mainland is to blame, too. The amount of trash surfacing on the city’s beaches is six to ten times the ordinary amount at this time of year, the EPD said in a statement to Quartz. Floods and storms in mainland China are the reason:
The EPD notices that in mid-June, there had been severe rain storms and floods in many provinces along Pearl River (e.g. Guangdong, Guangxi, Hunan and Jiangxi) and there were reports that Guangdong as well as Liuzhou of Guangxi might encounter a serious 1-in-20 years flood. We suspect that the floods in mid-June in the Mainland might have brought the refuse to the sea and then the refuse is brought to Hong Kong by the southwest monsoon wind and the sea currents. Similar phenomenon happened in 2005 when massive amount of debris and refuse were found at various beaches and coastal areas of Hong Kong after a serious 1 in 100 year flood in the Mainland.

How does trash from China get here?

Yongqiang Zong, Professor at Hong Kong University’s Department of Earth Sciences, backs the Hong Kong government’s statement, though he suspects that a majority of the trash originates from Guangdong and Guangxi province, not Hunan and Jiangxi, which are further inland.

Throughout May and June, heavy rainfall has plagued Guangdong and Guangxi province. Floods swept through cities including Guangzhou and Shenzhen, the two commercial hubs in the region, disrupting traffic and displacing as many as 8,000 people.
Official data on this year’s storms remains scarce, but Yong believes rainfall was “significantly” more severe this year than last. On May 8 alone, Shenzhen received 430mm of rain—the heaviest daily rainfall in six years, and almost twice the amount of rain Hong Kong had for the entire month.

Water from the storms flows into China’s municipal sewage system, out into streams, into the Pearl River, and eventually, out into the South China Sea. This water carries a huge amount of trash because China has a number of open dump sites that are not well maintained or regulated (more on this below).
Normally, that trash would just drift further out into the South China Sea. But winds blowing from the southwest towards the northeast caused the filthy water to flow towards Hong Kong in recent weeks, Yong says.

Why is so much trash drifting around?

Activists and trash experts believe that mismanagement of dump sites in both Hong Kong and China have contributed to this year’s garbage pileup.

According to Paul Zimmerman, councilor of Hong Kong’s Pok Fu Lam district, Hong Kong alone currently has 3,000 legal “refuse collection points” where household trash is kept. But it has “thousands” more in the city which are illegal and not properly maintained, he said. During periods of heavy rain, trash will follow the flow of water and ultimately end up in the sea.

“Right now in the New Territories you can see a lot of trash heaps laying out in the open. That stuff gets washed out, and goes into the gullies from the gullies it goes into the sea,” says Zimmerman.

Zimmerman and others say mainland China has plenty of poorly maintained dumps too. One extreme example was spotted on Wai Ling Ding island, which lies about 20 kilometers from Hong Kong’s Lantau island but is under the jurisdiction of mainland China. Satellite images show a bleached white spot amidst a green landmass.

Stokes obtained photographs from sailors in the area that show that spot is an illegal landfill, with trash piled just above the high water mark.

This dump is just one of several thousand in South China that can easily disgorge trash into open waters during rainy season, Zimmerman says. Since this year’s rainfall was especially severe, that amount of trash traveling into open waters was higher than normal.

What can be done?

There are several steps Hong Kong could take to mitigate the amount of trash piling up along its beaches.

Hong Kong’s government and residents can do more to prevent the city’s trash from flowing ashore. Zimmerman argues the city government needs to open more refuse collection points and make them bigger
Most of the formal refuse collection points we use were designed thirty or forty years ago, and the land allocation is based on a very small population and our population has increased,” he says. “These things need to be rethought, redesigned, increased in size, and well-contained so the trash doesn’t overflow.

Getting mainland China to commit to revamping its trash collection is a bigger hurdle.
Hong Kong is classified as a Special Administrative Region inside the People’s Republic of China, and is seldom treated as an equal. So Hong Kong’s government is unlikely to sway municipalities across the border into managing trash better to keep the city’s beaches clean, experts believe.

While there’s not much the city can do to keep out trash from the mainland, it could do more to clean up once it gets here.

Doug Woodring, co-founder of the Ocean Recovery Alliance, argues the government ought to invest in more boats capable of skimming trash out of the water. This wouldn’t solve the problem of trash entering the water, but would make things better on the beaches.

The government has some very small scooper boats mostly out by the south side, but they don’t have large vessels to handle large volumes of stuff like this,” he says. “Why don’t we get some big boats out and get some serious cleaning done, instead of waiting every day for it to get on the shore and have a bunch elderly go there with little brooms and baskets?” he adds.

Another option, Woodring says, would be to place nets along the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao bridge once it is completed. One wrinkle is that only about 10% of the structure belongs to waters under Hong Kong’s jurisdiction, and “the trash flow isn’t coming from that 10% of where the Hong Kong part of the bridge is.”

Hong Kong’s activists are quick to stress that the city should use this incident as a catalyst to manage its own trash better, rather than just blame the mainland for the pileup.
“This is not just a case of ‘China made a mistake,'” Woodring says. “The whole planet does not have the capacity to handle waste management and recycling in a proper way.”

Four years' trash, one jar ... zero waste

Great example of a personal commitment to living sustainably?  What lessons can we learn from Ms. Singer's lifestyle?

Four years' trash, one jar ... zero waste

"Within the past four years all the trash that I've produced can fit within a 16 oz mason jar," says Singer, whose blog Trash is for Tossers shines a light on how to live sustainably.
She says compared to the average American, who produces on average around 4.5 pounds (two kilos) of trash per day, she's saved over 6,000 pounds (2,720 kilos) of it from going to landfill sites.

"I do compost and recycle but only as a last resort -- I try to avoid packaging at all costs," says the 25-year-old.

Saying goodbye to plastic

It all started when she was studying Environmental Science at New York University, when she discovered her passion for sustainability was limited to the classroom.
"One day I went home after class and opened my fridge to make dinner, and I realized that every single thing that I had in there was packaged in plastic."

How to keep four years of trash in one jar 03:05
It was a light bulb moment for Singer, who quickly decided to make some changes -- first by going plastic free, and then by committing to a zero waste lifestyle.

'I'm incredibly lazy'

With plastic bags, bottles and cutlery becoming part of everyday life, it may feel like drastic changes have to be made in order to "go green," but Singer believes anyone can do it.
"I am incredibly lazy -- I would never live a zero waste lifestyle if it meant spending extra time doing things to live this lifestyle. Contrary to what people think or might assume it's actually very easy."

It's about making small changes. For example, if you order a drink at a bar, just ask the bartender to not put a straw in your drink, Singer suggests. When you go shopping, take a cloth bag with you. And if you can't find toothpaste that doesn't come in a plastic tube, make your own.

"Everyone thinks it's really hard to make your own toothpaste but I think it's hard to go and buy my own," says Singer.
"I would have to get dressed, walk to the store, buy toothpaste, walk back - and I've spent $8 and wasted 30 minutes of my day. Whereas if I make my own toothpaste, it's three ingredients, I can do it naked in my kitchen and it takes me 30 seconds and doesn't cost more than 50 cents."

So ... what's in the jar?

From ditching packaging to making her own products, Singer has become an expert in living waste free. But she still accumulates the odd bit of plastic -- even if it's only enough to fit in a 16 oz jar.
Is your toothpaste polluting the waterways?

Is your toothpaste polluting the waterways? 01:14
Little stickers on fruit and veg can't be recycled, and although Singer only buys clothes in secondhand stores, the bits of plastic connecting the price tags also go straight in the jar.
"It's plastic that no one will recycle ... I like to collect my trash just because it helps me see what problems are difficult to avoid."

Check your trash

One of the ways Singer hopes to solve the landfill problem is to inspire people to cut down on their waste.

She says the easiest way to begin a sustainable lifestyle is just to start. Whether it's drinking from a reusable bottle or visiting the farmers' market, you have to make a first move, no matter how small.
Second, go through your trash and see what you're throwing away. If there's lots of food waste consider doing small, regular shops to avoid food going moldy. 
Third, change the products you use. Try brushing your teeth with a bamboo toothbrush, washing with hard soap rather than bottled products, and cleaning your house using vinegar instead of commercial chemicals. You may even find these options work out cheaper.

It won't break the bank

Not only has Singer saved lots of money, she's also eating a lot healthier, and has come to love her minimalist lifestyle, which she says is not just for the privileged few.
"People assume you're talking about upper class white people that have the money to buy organic products. It's a really funny comparison. Living a zero waste lifestyle has afforded me a lot of things."

So whether you want to save money or save the planet, the zero waste lifestyle might be worth a try.

"I've changed my lifestyle and prevented thousands of pounds of trash going to landfill," says Singer. "I believe that one person can make a difference, it's just having a desire to do so."

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

How toxic green slime caused a state of emergency in Florida

As we try to re-balance the environment and economy, what does worst-case-scenario look like to you in terms of eco-disasters?  Is it tidal surge washing out coastal areas and flooding away cities?  Is it oil spills coating our oceans?  Nuclear meltdowns?  Or just the on-going, pernicious destruction of our air, water, soil from pollutants?

For us losing our clean water supplies is our nightmare?  Here's an example, on top of Flint Michigan and other disasters, of waking up and being left with bottled water only.  Do we want to color our waters green with slime?  What if that scenerio plays out in multiple sites?

Sure, residents get angry after-the-fact but what are we doing, all of us, to prevent similar emergencies?  Is this government's problem our the responsibility of us all?  Everyone of us puts stress on the natural capitol.  Improving our own performance, and caring about others, will bring good changes faster than goverment regulations.

How toxic green slime caused a state of emergency in Florida

by Hannah Schwab and Tyler Treadway

Following a severe algae bloom in south Florida waters, Governor Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency.  Dirty outflow water from Lake Okeechobee has been blamed for the regularly occurring blooms for years.  (July 1) AP
Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in counties on the state's Atlantic coast last week over expansive algae blooms in the St. Lucie River.

Scott's executive order in Martin and St. Lucie counties called on state agencies to take actions to address the thick toxic blooms that are ruining the river's ecology, devastating water-related businesses and that could potentially cause health problems for those in contact with the water.

The smelly, disgusting blue-green algae blooms plaguing the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon are the result of discharges flowing out of Lake Okeechobee in southeast Florida.

Since the discharges started Jan. 30, about 150 billion gallons of the lake's water has been sent to the river, dumping nutrients and lowering the salinity of the naturally brackish water. Both spur the growth of blue-green algae.

Massive algae blooms have been growing in the lake since May 12, and the green slime can be seen moving from the lake and into the river.
We thought you would enjoy these films.  Knowledge is power when it comes to our personal health and sustainability.  Get smart and improve our environment at the same time.
If you're craving good films on the food system, Food Tank has put together a list of documentaries and films to inspire, educate, and give viewers some food for thought. Each film explores a different topic in food and agriculture, some with a dash of social equality or a splash of health awareness. Whether you're a social activist, small farmer, or sustainability advocate, or you just enjoy food, we're sure you'll find a food film to further inform and interest you in all things food.
Here are 19 films to satisfy your food films appetite:

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American Meat: “American Meat” walks viewers through the evolution of animal agriculture and highlights alternative animal husbandry systems that protect the environment and animal welfare. The film features farmer and advocate Joel Salatin, who uses sustainable land management methods, such as rotational grazing, and emphasizes the importance of supporting one’s local foodshed. The film also highlights stories from other farmers nationwide who are raising cows, pigs, and chickens in environmentally sustainable and humane ways.
Dive! The Film: In “Dive! The Film,” Director Jeremy Seifert and his friends highlight food waste in America by dumpster diving in various grocery stores around Los Angeles. Every American wastes around 20 pounds of food every month, costing U.S. consumers an estimated US$165 billion each year, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. The narrators evidence these facts by finding massive amounts of edible food in the dumpsters and confront store managers on their food donation policies. This multi-award winning documentary not only reveals the wasteful practices of grocery stores but also urges individual consumers to change their habits by offering advice and practical home solutions to reduce household waste.
The Empire of Scents: The inventive documentary “Empire of Scents” highlights the power of our sense of smell—how it affects, directs, and triggers our emotional lives. Director Kim Nguyen, nominated at the 2013 Oscars for “War Witch,” takes viewers on a visually impressive journey across five countries that inspires viewers to question how much they really know about one of the most basic human senses.
Farmageddon: “Farmageddon” takes an alarming look into excessive government oversight of American food producers. Director Kristin Canty reveals stories of government harassment and outsized force against small, independent farms that were coerced into stopping production. Canty, a mother of four, tells the story of her struggle to find the foods of her choice, such as raw milk, from the producers she wanted. In an interview about her film, Canty says, “I hope that we can come to realize that America’s farms, farmers, and homesteaders deserve a place here, and should not be under attack by our own government.”
Food Chains: “Food Chains,” produced by actress Eva Longoria and Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser, reveals the plight of farmworkers, the foundation of our food industry. Filmmakers follow a group of Florida tomato pickers in their quest for a more dignified work life through the Fair Food Program. The program brings growers and retailers together to improve farmworker working conditions. “The goal is to address human rights and labor rights that exist in the fields. The creation of the program comes directly from the participation of the workers in the program and the ideas of our community. That’s what we call worker-led social responsibility,” says farmworker and organizer Gerardo Chavez.
Food, Inc.: In “Food, Inc.,” filmmaker Robert Kenner details how the growth of industrial farming and the political power of major food companies have put human health, the independent farmer, farmworkers, and our environment at risk. The film is widely recognized as one of the most influential documentaries ever made and was nominated for Best Documentary in the 2009 Academy Awards. Despite its dire overview of the current food system, “Food, Inc.” inspires viewers to do their part in changing the food system. “You have to understand that we farmers...we're gonna deliver to the marketplace what the marketplace demands…People have got to start demanding good, wholesome food of us, and we'll deliver; I promise you,” says Troy Roush, an Indianan farmer featured in the film.
FRESH: “FRESH,” released in 2009, celebrates farmers, researchers, and activists who are reinventing the food system by developing innovative methods to grow food sustainably. By using unconventional farming practices, these agricultural pioneers hope to address food contamination, environmental pollution, natural resource depletion, and the growing obesity problem. Profiled characters include Will Allen, who converted acres of industrial wasteland into productive farmland in Milwaukee, and David Ball, who started a cooperative of local farmers in Kansas City to provide an alternative to the traditional supermarket.
The Future of Food: “The Future of Food” was written and directed by Deborah Koons Garcia and focuses on the social, economic, and environmental impacts of the proliferation of genetically engineered foods. Viewers see the issue from the perspective of small farmers, who are held legally responsible when genetically engineered, patented seeds spread into their fields. The documentary also criticizes the imbalance of power between international food companies and local farmers and the ecological harm of industrial agriculture practices, such as monoculture farming. The New York Times calls the firm a "sober, far-reaching polemic against genetically modified foods.” Since the release of the film in 2004, the GMO-labeling debate has intensified, making this film even more relevant for viewers today.
The Garden: This 2009 Oscar-nominated documentary tells the story of South Central Farm—a 14-acre community garden in South Central Los Angeles that had been gardened for more than a decade by primarily immigrant, Latino families. The land was entrusted to the community as part of a healing effort after the 1992 Rodney King Riots. However, when the land was sold back to its original owner in 2003 by the city, the farmers were forced off the land. The Garden highlights how the farmers, along with their civil rights attorney and other activists, fought hard against the complex Los Angeles politics to keep their garden—critical to their way of life—and protect their community.
The Gleaners & I: French documentary director Agnès Varda’s 2000 film gives viewers a glimpse into the lives of gleaners. Varda interviews people who scavenge for food in the fields and orchards of the French countryside as well as those who search for leftover items from urban markets and dumpsters. “The Gleaners & I” encourages viewers to re-evaluate the culture of consumption, especially towards food, all while marveling at the resourcefulness of the gleaners.
Good Things Await: Director Phie Ambo’s “Good Things Await” follows Danish farmer Niels Stokholm through his battle against government bureaucrats to keep his farm, Thorshøjgaard, and preserve the Danish Red dairy cattle. Stokholm practices biodynamic farming, which is an ecological, ethical, and sustainable approach to farming and supplies some of the country’s most well-known restaurants. Unfortunately, agricultural authorities unversed in biodynamic principles threaten the very survival of Thorshøjgaard and its unique way of farming.
How to Feed the World?: This 10-minute film was created for a Bon Appétit exhibition in Paris. It describes how developed countries can address food insecurity by investing in international development and consuming more foods with lower environmental impact. Created for children ages 9 to 14, “How to Feed the World?” explores food justice, dietary insufficiencies, the economic consequences of food aid, and the idea of a new type of agriculture for feeding more people with less environmental harm.
In Defense of Food: Based on Michael Pollan’s best-selling book, “In Defense of Food” delves into Pollan’s advice to "eat food. not too much. mostly plants.” Pollan coins the term nutritionism to describe Americans’ adherence to dietary fads and critiques the American food industry’s emphasis on specific nutrients rather than whole foods. According to Pollan, “as eaters we feel whipsawed by the changes in the nutritional advice we’re getting.”
Just Eat It: In the 2014 documentary “Just Eat it,” couple Jenny Rustemeyer and Grant Baldwin pledge to eat only food that would otherwise be thrown away for a period of six months—an effort to better understand the depth of the food waste problem. The amount of food the couple finds is shocking and encourages viewers to rethink their food behavior, especially around issues such as expiration dates and the aesthetics of produce. In an interview with National Public Radio, Rustemeyer says, “There’s a lot that we as individuals can do. It's not like other environmental and social issues, where it's a systemic problem that we don't play a part in.”
A Place at the Table: “A Place at the Table” is a moving documentary chronicling the challenges of the food insecure in America. The stories highlight the economic and social implications of hunger in a country where nearly 50 million people suffer from food insecurity. The film, produced by Magnolia Pictures, takes us into the lives of a single mother trying to provide for her kids, a fifth grader who depends on her neighbors to feed her, and a second grader whose health issues are exacerbated by her poor diet.
The Singhampton Project: This 60-minute documentary follows German-Canadian farm-to-table chefs Michael and Nobuyo Stadtländer and a French landscape artist as they create seven gardens in which they grow, cook, and serve seven-course meals for hundreds of people every night for 20 nights. The chefs use traditional growing methods and irrigate only by hand. Director Jonathon Staav says of Stadtländer, “He’s just this connection to our past where the things he does aren’t that different from what our grandmothers did when they emigrated here. They had a vegetable garden, and in the summer, that’s where produce came from,” in a Hollywood Reporter article.
Somm: This 2013 documentary, directed by Jason Wise, gives viewers a fascinating look into the secretive world of the Court of Master Sommeliers. Four candidates prepare to take the Master Sommelier Exam, a test so difficult that fewer than 200 candidates have attained Master level since its inception nearly 40 years ago. A follow-up documentary, “Somm: Into the Bottle,” was released at the Napa Valley Film Festival in 2015.
Unbroken Ground: According to the 2016 film “Unbroken Ground,” climate change and food systems are inextricably linked. This 25-minute documentary, produced by Patagonia Provisions, tells the story of leaders across the country using sustainable farming techniques that restore our natural environment, including regenerative agriculture, regenerative grazing, diversified crop development, and restorative fishing. “Unbroken Ground” is now touring the country, with showings and panel discussions from New York to Hawaii.
We Feed the World: In the 2005 documentary “We Feed the World,” Austrian filmmaker Erwin Wagenhofer travels to find out where exactly his food comes from. Wagenhofer takes viewers to France, Spain, Romania, Switzerland, and Brazil while presenting the ironies of the world’s food systems. For example, Latin America produces much of Austria’s livestock feed, while a quarter of their own population starves. The film features interviews with Jean Ziegler, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, and Peter Brabeck, Chairman and CEO of Nestle International. “We Feed the World” illustrates the effects of globalization and industrial food production on the world’s food systems and highlights the global repercussions of hunger.  
Food Tank would like to give a big shout out to the Toronto International Film Festival, which has featured some of the films mentioned above.
SHARE this list with your social network HERE:
Danielle Nierenberg
President, Food Tank

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Winds

As the economics get better on renewables, and they improving daily, the political opposition will quietly blow away.  We don't see anything to stop the clean energy revolution.

The Winds Are Changing for Renewable Energy


In the policy arena, the distance is widening between blue and red states over whether to promote, or resist, the shift away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy sources like solar and wind. But the economics of generating electricity from alternative sources are growing more attractive for states across the political divide. The pivotal, and unresolved, question is whether the political divergence or economic convergence will more heavily shape the next stages of the fractious debate over climate change and the nation’s energy mix.

Starting with Iowa in 1983, 29 states have required utilities to generate a fixed share of their power from renewable sources. Initially, these renewable portfolio standards found favor in states throughout the political spectrum.

But as on almost every other major domestic issue, red and blue states are now separating. In recent years, West Virginia, Kansas, and Ohio each repealed or suspended renewable-power requirements. Four other states with Republican-controlled legislatures (and in three cases, with Republican governors) chose not to extend earlier renewable requirements when utilities met the initial state goals in 2015.

Even more emphatically, 26 states, almost all of them Republican-led, sued to block federal Environmental Protection Agency regulations requiring states to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases tied to global warming. Those EPA rules, under President Obama’s “Clean Power Plan,” would have encouraged utilities to shift more of their power generation from coal toward lower-carbon alternatives, including both natural gas and renewables. In February, the Supreme Court blocked the EPA from developing the plan while the courts consider the states’ lawsuit.

Blue states are hurtling in the opposite direction. Eighteen states (all of them carried twice by Obama) legally intervened last year to support the EPA regulation. Almost all of those states have also indicated they will continue planning to implement the EPA rule despite the court stay. Late last year, California and New York each established landmark requirements for their utilities to generate fully half of their power from renewable sources by 2030. Oregon joined them this year with a 50 percent renewables by 2042 mandate. Though smaller markets, Vermont (75 percent renewables by 2032) and Hawaii (100 percent by 2045) have set the bar even higher. Massachusetts may soon approve its own increase. “There is a strong trend toward strengthening renewable portfolio standards,” said Jocelyn Durkay, an energy specialist at the National Conference of State Legislatures. “But that’s not a universal trend.”

This political gulf is deep and durable. But the rapidly shifting economics of renewable energy may be transcending it. The price of electricity generated from solar and wind has steadily fallen, making it more cost-competitive with conventional fossil fuels. Falling cost has triggered a growth spurt for renewables. Solar and wind combined have accounted for at least half of the total new electrical generating capacity utilities have installed in three of the past four years; so far in 2016, those two sources represent virtually all of the newly installed capacity. Another milestone fell in March when, for the first time, renewable sources (excluding hydropower) accounted for 10 percent of all power generated in the U.S., according to federal statistics. Ten years ago, renewables accounted for less than 3 percent of all power generated.

Importantly, this surge in renewable energy has extended into red states. The 11 states with the most installed wind capacity include Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and North Dakota across the blustery Great Plains. And while California has installed nearly five times as much more solar capacity as any other state, such sun-splashed red and purple places as Texas, Arizona, and North Carolina also rank in the top 10 today, with Florida and Utah projected to join them by 2021.

When economics and state policy reinforce each other, the result can be, well, electric. California is the prime example. For decades, it has led the nation in establishing standards for increasing energy efficiency, utilizing renewable sources and reducing carbon emissions. Those policy signals have helped spur a dynamic clean-energy industry. “In California the bar is being set higher and then the venture capitalists and entrepreneurs work to achieve those new goals,” said F. Noel Perry, founder of Next 10, an independent San Francisco-based think-tank that recently released an annual survey of California’s clean-energy industry. That virtuous cycle has produced both environmental and economic breakthroughs: As Next 10 reported, California has reduced its carbon emissions per dollar of economic activity by nearly 40 percent since 1990 and simultaneously built a powerhouse green industry that has attracted two-thirds of all the nation’s clean-energy capital investment.

Red states aren’t likely to soon abandon their resistance to renewable mandates or federal initiatives to reduce carbon emissions. That’s partly for ideological reasons and also because many of them are either major fossil-fuel producers or rely on low-cost (but high-carbon) coal. Yet over time, the growing dynamism of solar and wind as economic engines in those same red states could compel a more balanced approach. “As the economics get better, as the business models prove themselves, as renewable energy industries become stronger and stronger in every state,” said Aliya Haq, who follows state climate and clean air policy at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “I just think the politics have to follow that.”

Nobel winners slam Greenpeace on GMO crops campaign

Interesting look at bans on GMO crops.  We'll follow up on this story on the radio side.  Not the first time we've been told the world cannot be fed without advance GMO modifications.

Nobel winners slam Greenpeace on GMO crops campaign

Addressed to Greenpeace, the United Nations and global governments, the letter signed by Nobel laureates says the environmental group has "misrepresented the risks, benefits and impacts" of genetically altered food plants 
Addressed to Greenpeace, the United Nations and global governments, the letter signed by Nobel laureates says the environmental group has "misrepresented the risks, benefits and impacts" of genetically altered food plants (AFP Photo/Peter Parks)

Paris (AFP) - About a third of living Nobel laureates -- 108 at last count -- have signed an open letter Thursday which attacks Greenpeace for campaigning against genetically modified crops, especially one called Golden Rice.

Addressed to the global environmental group, the United Nations and governments, the letter says Greenpeace has "misrepresented the risks, benefits and impacts" of genetically altered food plants.

"There has never been a single confirmed case of a negative health outcome for humans or animals from their consumption," wrote the top scientists.

The group included 41 Nobel medicine laureates among them James Watson, honoured in 1962 for co-discovering the basic structure of DNA.

The letter called on Greenpeace to "cease and desist" in its efforts to block GMO crops, and on governments to embrace "seeds improved through biotechnology."

"Opposition based on emotion and dogma contradicted by data must be stopped."

The Nobel winners singled out Golden Rice as a genetically modified crop with huge potential to improve health and save lives in the developing world.

A patented strain developed in the 1990s, Golden Rice contains an artificially inserted gene which boosts the level of vitamin A-rich beta-carotene.

The World Health Organization estimates that a quarter of a billion people in developing nations suffer from vitamin A deficiency, causing up to two million preventable deaths per year and half-a-million cases of childhood blindness.

Golden Rice's developers say a single serving provides about 60 percent of daily vitamin A requirements. It is currently distributed royalty-free to indigent farmers on a humanitarian basis.
Greenpeace however hit back at the Nobel laureates.

"Accusations that anyone is blocking genetically engineered 'Golden' rice are false," Wilhelmina Pelegrina of Greenpeace Southeast Asia wrote in a statement.

Corporations are using the strain "to pave the way for global approval of other more profitable genetically engineered crops," she said.

Greenpeace's longstanding position is to oppose all patents on plants or animals, or their genes, and that "life is not an industrial commodity".

Previously, the environmental NGO has said Golden Rice was "environmentally irresponsible, poses risks to human health, and could compromise food, nutrition and financial security."

The NGO also maintains that genetically modified organisms should be held back "since there is not an adequate scientific understanding of their impact on the environment and human health."

Friday, August 19, 2016

High Hopes for Hydrogen-Powered Public Transit

Hydrogen continues to show up on the radar as a viable source of fuel for cars and trucks.  Here's the latest report from our main site.  Fuel cells, more common on the West Coast of the US, play an integral role here, as they do on the building side, as well. 

Sumitomo Corporation together with Sumitomo Corporation of Americas (collectively referred to as "SC Group") announced this week their Strategic Collaboration Agreement with US Hybrid to support their desire to grow its fuel cell production business through the expansion of fuel cell stack production capacity for commercial production. SC Group will play an integral role in the project by coordinating the discussions with OEM's through their extensive business network.

US Hybrid, together with their Fuel Cell division, US FuelCell, has more than 26 years of experience in fuel cell balance of plant components and vehicle development and deployment. US FuelCell develops and manufactures new technologies and transportation products.

"Fuel cell vehicles offer high energy efficiency, no tailpipe emissions, and full vehicle functionality, including the normal driving range, fast fueling and a potential path to sustainable transportation. We highly respect Japanese automakers as a leader in commercializing fuel cell passenger vehicles, and we consider our new freeze capable, fuel cell powertrains to be a game-changer for the equally important market segments of medium and heavy duty trucks for freight movement and buses for public transit," said Abas Goodarzi,Abas Goodarzi President of US Hybrid. "We are very pleased to be working with Sumitomo, as a global strategic business development partner, in order to commercialize our fuel cell engine and integrated vehicle technologies that have proven reliability for both on-road and off-road transportation."

SC Group is equally excited to be initiating this partnership. "By bridging US Hybrid's excellent technology and Sumitomo's deep relationships with OEMs, we are excited to contribute to this project and realize the potential for using clean hydrogen energy in commercial transportation," said Duke Kato, Senior Vice President at Sumitomo Corporation of Americas. "We view this partnership as an investment into the way mass transportation performs in the future, mitigating the negative impact on the environment."

SC Group has studied Hydrogen as a future clean energy source, including how fuel cell technologies can be applied to cars. In Japan the development of fuel cell technology has already been incorporated into passenger cars like the Toyota Mirai and Honda Clarity.

Through this research, SC Group has recognized the need to develop this clean energy technology for greater infrastructure needs, specifically applying it to public transportation. Reaching this agreement with US Hybrid will be an important next step in developing this technology, whose fuel cell application to public transit had been evaluated as one of the closest to the commercialization through demonstration projects in California, Hawaii, Ohio and Michigan. US Hybrid also marketed the first freeze-capable integrated fuel cell engine for medium and heavy-duty vehicles at the Hannover Messe Hydrogen and Fuel Cells and Batteries Fair this past April.
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