Fukushima nuclear power plant to release contaminated water into ocean

April 14, 2021 by  
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Ten years after an earthquake and tsunami caused meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear power plant , Japan has announced plans to release contaminated water from the plant into the ocean. China, South Korea and the local fishing industry are opposed to this move. Workers used more than 1 million metric tons of water to cool the three reactors that melted down in 2011. They use a filtration process to remove radioactive elements from the water, but tritium and other potentially harmful elements remain. Tokyo Electric Power Co., the plant’s operator, has kept the water in huge tanks. But with those tanks expected to fill up by next year, the company is looking for somewhere else for the water to go. Related: Companies in Japan launch edible single-use bags to save Nara deer After treatment and dilution, the radiation levels will be below standards set for drinking water. The U.S. is backing Japan , saying the country is acting in accordance with globally accepted nuclear safety standards. The International Atomic Energy Agency agrees. “Releasing into the ocean is done elsewhere. It’s not something new. There is no scandal here,” said IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, as reported by BBC . But South Korea’s foreign minister expressed “serious regret” about the decision. Zhao Lijian, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, has questioned whether Japan is acting in a responsible manner. “To safeguard international public interests and Chinese people’s health and safety, China has expressed grave concern to the Japanese side through the diplomatic channel,” Lijian said. Whether consumers will fear three-eyed fish is another matter. According to scientists, elements like tritium are only harmful in large doses. But fishing industry groups worry that the fish will eat the tritium, and then people will eat the fish. Even if the fish are technically safe to eat, public perception of radiated fish could drive different culinary choices. Via BBC Image via TEPCO / IAEA

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Fukushima nuclear power plant to release contaminated water into ocean

Here’s how companies should prepare for new human rights regulations

April 13, 2021 by  
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Here’s how companies should prepare for new human rights regulations Alice Pease Tue, 04/13/2021 – 01:30 This article originally was published in the BSR Insight . Governments are increasingly scrutinizing human trafficking and forced labor abuses in private sector operations. In addition to the moral imperative to address these abuses, businesses should be on alert given the significant disruptions in supply chains that government regulation may cause, resulting in potential economic, legal and/or reputational harm. Apparel, food and beverage, technology and financial services companies in particular should closely monitor and prepare for global regulatory developments.  1. Companies should expect more active involvement from civil society organizations in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Withhold Release Order process The situation: The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has used Withhold Release Orders (WRO) to suspend the importation of goods at a U.S. port of entry when the agency has reasonable evidence of the use of forced labor in the manufacturing or production of a good entering the U.S. supply chain. The onus is then on the importer to demonstrate to the U.S. government that the good was not made with forced labor. In the last two years, the CBP has ramped up its use of this enforcement tool, issuing 13 WROs across multiple industries in 2020 alone. While the CBP has welcomed the public to submit information on merchandise that could be considered for a WRO, there has been limited visibility on submissions until now. In February, anti-trafficking organization Liberty Shared submitted two petitions to the CBP concerning the use of forced labor in the supply chains of the apparel industry in Leicester, U.K. and of Boohoo, PLC.  What business can do: Companies which have identified forced labor as a supply chain risk should be conducting ongoing human rights due diligence to identify, assess and mitigate potential or actual risks of forced labor, engage in meaningful dialogue with rights-holders and ensure their grievance mechanisms are working. 2. Companies should prepare for increased regulation and withholding of products sourced or manufactured in Xinjiang, China The situation: Reports have described the mass internment and surveillance of over a million ethnic Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, China. News sources detail how Uyghurs and other minorities are being forced to work in factories that produce raw materials and goods which are shipped throughout China and around the world. Reports also have documented the capital provided to Chinese technology companies by financial institutions and private equity firms to support the mass surveillance of Muslim minorities. Industries implicated in these reports include food and beverage buyers, pharmaceutical companies, apparel brands and technology and renewable energy companies. In response to these findings, the U.S. , Canada  and U.K . have published advisories for companies doing business in or with links to Xinjiang. The U.S. also has passed a Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, issued sanctions and banned the entry of goods allegedly produced by forced labor in Xinjiang. The EU is considering implementing sanctions as well.   What business can do: Companies should map business activities and business relationships with suppliers, customers and end users of products in China and conduct due diligence on business relationships to ensure that they are not working with entities involved in aiding human rights abuses. With business challenges related to Xinjiang unlikely to disappear in the short term, companies should work with third parties such as NGOs, industry associations and business associations to better understand the human rights situation, and they also should craft and pilot traceability measures in collaboration with peers. See guidance from the CBP on best practices here .  3. Companies should begin planning for more stringent modern slavery disclosure requirements The situation: In response to calls from business leaders, civil society and legislators to strengthen the U.K. Modern Slavery Act, the U.K. government in September announced proposals that would require businesses to report against each of the six reporting areas and would make approval and sign-off requirements more stringent. In September, the New South Wales government signaled its intent to enact a Modern Slavery Act (NSW MSA), which would include a provision to require more entities across Australia to submit a modern slavery statement by lowering the national reporting threshold from $76 million to $38 million. In addition, the NSW government indicated its position to levy financial penalties for breaches of the Act. A modern slavery disclosure bill also was introduced to Canada’s Senate in October. While sharing similarities with Australia, California and the U.K.’s disclosure legislation, Canada’s bill could be the first to allow personal liability for directors and officers for non-compliance.  What business can do: Businesses subjected to the U.K. Modern Slavery Act should be prepared to report against the proposed requirements. Companies that are not captured under an existing legislative scheme should at minimum understand where human trafficking risks may be present in their supply chain and proactively take prevention measures. As more governments enact modern slavery acts, more robust legislation on supply chain due diligence is on the horizon .  4. Companies should be aware of heightened scrutiny of illicit financial flows linked to human trafficking The situation: There have been some signals suggesting that companies with weak compliance systems to capture proceeds associated with human trafficking may be the subject of future attention by government authorities. For example, in July, Deutsche Bank was fined $150 million by the New York State Department of Financial Services for failing to maintain an effective and compliant anti-money laundering program related to client Jeffrey Epstein, his sex trafficking enterprise and correspondent banks. In September, Australia’s financial intelligence agency, AUSTRAC, reached a $1 billion settlement agreement with Westpac Banking Corporation for facilitating transactions that enabled child exploitation in the Philippines. What business can do: Financial institutions should integrate indicators of human trafficking into their compliance systems to capture financial flows that may be connected to human trafficking. In addition to facing fines, financial institutions face potential criminal liability through the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act and U.K. Criminal Finances Bill. Financial institutions should assess their links to human trafficking and forced labor holistically through their lending portfolios, core business operations, platform and business relationships. Guidance from the FAST initiative and FinCEN on identifying and reporting human trafficking may be a good start. Contributors Shubha Chandra Mark P. Lagon Topics Human Rights Policy & Politics Supply Chain Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Businesses should be on alert given the significant disruptions in supply chains that government regulation may cause. Shutterstock Jimmy Tran Close Authorship

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Where progressives and conservatives agree on clean energy

April 9, 2021 by  
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Where progressives and conservatives agree on clean energy Sarah Golden Fri, 04/09/2021 – 01:45 From an ideological perspective, it’s curious that clean energy became a partisan issue. Looking at it as a technology, there is a ton to like about renewables across the political spectrum.  This hasn’t escaped political conservatives outside the beltway. A number of conservative groups champion clean energy, from the Conservative Energy Network (CEN) and Young Conservatives for Energy Reform (YCER) to the Christian Coalition for America .  As the federal government considers a massive infrastructure bill that would spur clean energy growth and decarbonize the economy, it’s worth looking at where the conservative and progressive ideologies align on clean energy, and where they diverge.  CONVERGENCE: Energy independence Nothing should be more on-brand for conservatives than owning and controlling your own power. Solar panels could be rebranded as “don’t-take-my-gun-away energy.” Perhaps this is why CEN calls subscribers “energy patriots.” When millions lost power during Texas’ deadly energy crisis in February, former governor Rick Perry expressed this sentiment of rugged individualism — even if it came at the expense of grid resilience.  “Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business,” Perry said.  Of course, independence and resilience shouldn’t be a tradeoff, and no one is advocating it should be. The point is that the concept of energy independence — be it from other nations or your own government — is an attractive idea across the political spectrum.  From a national security perspective, clean energy also allows the U.S. to become less reliant on foreign oil states. The Military Advisory Board, a group of retired high-level officers from the U.S. Armed Forces, sees getting off foreign oil and getting onto clean energy as a top national security concern — both in terms of the threats that emerge from climate change and the resources the U.S. expends to secure foreign oil interests.  “As new energy options emerge to meet global demand, nations that lead stand to gain; should the U.S. sit on the sidelines, it does so at considerable risk to our national security,” writes the group on its website .  CONVERGENCE: Local empowerment Some rural communities are beginning to reap economic development benefits from renewables, warming locals to the solar and wind industries. A report from RMI, ” Seeds of Opportunity ,” says that by 2030, annual revenues from wind and solar projects could exceed $60 billion. That’s on par with the expected revenues from corn, soy and beef combined, America’s top three agricultural commodities. In Texas, renewable energy projects are expected to generate upwards of $5.7 billion in tax revenue for communities and $7.3 billion directly to landowners in lease payments over the life of the projects. This is a welcome revenue stream for farmers trying to make ends meet and communities historically dependent on oil and gas.  “The cows love wind turbines; they walk around them all day and follow the shadows that they cast,” said Louis Brooks Jr. of Nolan County, a Texas rancher, in a report . “We now have good roads on our land [because of the wind farm] that make it easier to take care of our cattle. It has been super. … It is not perfect, but I wish we had more of them on our land.” In Wyoming, towns previously reliant on fossil fuels have seen local budgets grow thanks to wind tax revenue, including Cheyenne and Rawlins . The local potential of clean energy is key to some progressive clean energy organizations’ agendas, as well. The Solutions Project , for example, funds 100 local organizations designed to bring the benefits of clean energy to marginalized communities. BlocPower works to bring advanced energy technologies to low-income homes in urban settings.  At the core of these initiatives: owning and controlling energy supports local economies.  CONVERGENCE: American competitiveness America has a proud history of innovation. But the nation has fallen behind in clean energy investment and risks missing out on growing markets. The U.S. ranks fourth , behind Japan, China and the European Union, on research and development for energy technologies as a share of GDP. President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill includes investments to make American companies competitive in the race to develop affordable clean energy technologies. The goal would be to grow the economy and create millions of jobs. For example, China is dominating in battery innovation and manufacturing globally. Through Biden’s proposed $174 billion investment in the electric vehicle market , the administration sees a path to a domestic supply chain that would keep the economic benefits in America — and position manufacturers to sell abroad.  America’s innovative spirit fits nicely into conservative ideology, as summarized in this quote from Tyler Duvelius, CEN’s director of external affairs (and YCER alum): “America gave the world flight, we put man on the moon and harnessed electricity. Clean energy is the next great frontier of American innovation.” Of course, conservatives also have balked at the idea of the government picking winners, and they point to past clean energy failures as a sign of government overreach. The poster child for this is Solyndra , a solar company that received federal grant money from the 2009 stimulus bill and later went bankrupt.  Progressives point to these investments as an important part of spurring forward other burgeoning technologies, from smartphones to natural gas and the internet.  “You have to step up to the plate and take a swing in order to hit the ball, and sometimes you swing and you miss,” U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm to the New York Times . “But if you never swing, you will never hit the ball, and you’ll never get a run. So the overall benefits of the Obama-era clean energy investments were overwhelmingly a net positive.” DIVERGENCE: Equating social justice and clean energy policy Over the years, the fight for racial justice and climate actions have merged in some progressive circles. They are different sides of the same fight, so it is impossible to systematically address one without the others. As a candidate, Biden’s climate platform featured addressing environmental racism as one of its five planks. Today, the infrastructure bill features provisions focused on fighting racial and economic inequities.  According to reports, Republicans scoff at those provisions, calling them a “Trojan horse” of liberal policies. The CEN website echoes the idea that the infrastructure proposal is too sweeping in its focus on racial justice. “We cannot afford to wrap a costly political wishlist into a broader infrastructure package,” wrote CEN’s director of policy and advocacy, Landon Stevens, in an op-ed on the organization’s website. Of course, conservatives can see the economic potential of embracing clean energy without supporting the social justice elements. But this ideological divergence touches such polarizing topics, it seems to inspire everyone to dig in their heels.  DIVERGENCE: The role of fossil fuels in the transition Most progressive organizations, using climate science as a guide, advocate for the quick transition away from all fossil fuels.  Language from conservative clean energy advocates instead talks about “market-based” transitions for encouraging alternatives.  “Our solutions are simple yet effective,” wrote a group of Republican members of Congress in an op-ed last month, including Rep. Dan Newhouse (Washington) and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (California). “Where many Democrats want to shut down, ban and overregulate, we want to incentivize, innovate and progress through market-based solutions.” Those guided by climate science point to the need to rapidly transition — faster than market forces can act. They also note that decades-long disinformation campaigns from fossil fuels companies mean we’re decades behind on the transition and that delaying action is the latest incarnation of climate denial.  Rewiring America, an organization that has mapped out how to combat climate change through electrification that leans progressive, argues that policy mandate is the only way to reach our climate goals.  “The invisible hand of markets is definitely not fast enough; it typically takes decades for a new technology to become dominant by market forces alone as it slowly increases its market share each year,” the Rewiring America handbook says. “A carbon tax isn’t fast enough, either. Market subsidies are not fast enough.” While there are certainly differences in the conservative and progressive approach to America’s clean energy future, it’s possible we’re closer to agreement than we think. And that, perhaps, the points of divergence (which are truly important and shouldn’t be ignored), don’t need to stand in the way of progress where it can be made. Especially at a moment when two-thirds of Americans think the government should do more on climate. Want more great analysis of the clean energy transition? Sign up for Energy Weekly , our free email newsletter. Topics Energy & Climate Policy & Politics Featured Column Power Points Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Lightspring Close Authorship

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Eco-tourism company Banyan Tree Group plans expansion in 2021

April 6, 2021 by  
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The Banyan Tree Group is celebrated globally for its commitment to sustainable practices in the hotel industry. This company goes above and beyond by sponsoring environmental clean-ups and educational programs in its host communities, establishing restoration zones near its properties and even donating surplus food to locals who may need it. Now, Banyan Tree Group has announced a global expansion for 2021 that includes adding 35 properties over the next 3 years. “Our robust momentum in business development and pipeline of new openings this year will continue to accelerate Banyan Tree Group’s international presence as we chart and connect guests to new awe-inspiring destinations,” said Ho Kwon Ping, executive chairman of Banyan Tree Holdings. “As a global independent hospitality company, we remain positive and resilient. As an evolving multi-branded ecosystem with Wellbeing and Sustainability at our core, we set our eyes on the global front to strategically grow our brands to global reach and range, amidst the extended travel recovery.” The new properties span across eight destinations in three regions. The group will be adding new openings in Asia, where it already has extensive experience, along with new destinations such as Qatar in the Middle East, Greece in Europe and Mozambique in Africa. Related: Qatar to create 16 sustainable floating hotels for World Cup In March, Bayan Tree Group expanded into Quzhou of Zhejiang Province, Southern China , known for being the hometown of Chinese philosopher Confucius. The property features views of the Qu River and the famous Deer Park Peninsula. Later in the year, it will open Nanjing Garden Expo in the natural hot springs-rich Tangshan of Jiangsu province. The next stop will be Angsana Corfu in Greece, marking the company’s first property in Europe. Two Indonesian properties set in Bali will follow in May and July, one highlighting wellbeing facilities and organic farm-to-table dining and the other focusing on indoor-outdoor living with a “no walls, no doors” concept. In Q4, October and December, Banyan Tree will debut its new luxury properties in Qatar, Cambodia and Mozambique. Each will feature its own unique character, with the Mozambique property located near Africa’s largest marine reserve. + Banyan Tree Group Images via Banyan Tree Group

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Eco-tourism company Banyan Tree Group plans expansion in 2021

Easy and unexpected radish recipes

April 5, 2021 by  
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If you’ve always considered the humble radish as a garnish, an afterthought or a minor player in salads, these radish recipes may surprise you. Late winter to spring is the best time for this vegetable. Here are a few things to do with those radishes you might find in your yard, your community supported agriculture box or product section at the grocery store. But first, a few radish fun facts. Radish 101 This undervalued root vegetable was a common crop in ancient Egypt, and probably originated in the eastern Mediterranean, China and Middle Asia. Ancient Greeks prized the vegetable , making small gold radish replicas. Radishes were one of the first crops that Spaniards tried out in the New World. They took to the soil, too — probably not surprisingly, as the vegetable’s name derived from rephanos, a Greek word meaning “easily reared.” Related: Grow and eat healthy spring radishes Radish roots are pink because of a pigment called anthocyanin. Their spicy flavor comes from the volatile alkaloid isothiocyanate. Radishes are full of antioxidants, such as pyrogallol, catechin and vanillic acid. These vegetables have practically no calories — only 15 in a 3-ounce serving, but they contain 30% of your vitamin C RDA and 20% of the RDA for calcium. Just think, one 15-ounce radish smoothie, and you have enough calcium to go on for a day. Joking! Don’t worry, these recipes are going to be better than a radish smoothie. How to cook radish greens “Don’t toss those radish tops!” said Kristina Todini, a registered dietitian and author of the Fork in the Road website. Instead, Todini promotes curbing food waste by sautéing radish greens for a wilted greens side dish. This is what she calls “Root to stem cooking at its finest.” Plus, you’ll get a good dose of vitamins K, A and C. While the stems are technically edible, most people find them unpleasantly tough. So cut at the end of the stems where the softer leaves begin. Because radishes grow in the dirt , the greens will need an extra-thorough wash to get the grit off. The soft leaves will cook quickly and reduce to about one-third of their original size. Add garlic, pepper and olive oil, and radish greens will taste similar to chard or other more familiar greens. Braised radishes Star chef Grant Achatz shared his recipe for honey mustard braised radishes and mustard greens with Food and Wine . Between the horseradish, Dijon mustard and the greens themselves, this one will be a spicy hit for mustard lovers. Of course, the entire stick of butter also enhances the taste and renders that above clause about 15-calorie radishes null and void. Vegans can substitute Earth Balance or similar in this recipe. Roasted radishes Roasted radishes are extremely versatile. This recipe from Real and Vibrant tosses oven-roasted radishes with garlic, lemon juice and fresh herbs. Roasted radishes make a good side dish at lunch or dinner. In salads, they pair well with balsamic vinaigrette or lemon tahini. Slice some up and serve on homemade bread for the best radish sandwich ever. Radishes complement pasta This recipe for roasted radish lemony chickpea pasta is both gluten-free and vegan and comes from Cotter Crunch , the website of nutrition specialist Lindsay Cotter. If you’re not gluten-sensitive, you could substitute any old pasta. Olives add extra flavor, but the lemony herb sauce is probably the best part of this roasted radish recipe. The sauce combines garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, onion and spices like sage or tarragon. This is a perfect light meal for summer or springtime. Quick-pickled radish Sure, you can use cucumbers to make pickles. But a jar of pickled radishes makes a more original snack or gift . If you go for a pickled watermelon radish recipe, you’ll have the prettiest pickles ever. A Beautiful Mess gives easy instructions for making quick-pickled radishes at home. All you need is water, white vinegar, salt, sugar and a jar to put them in. Oh, and your radishes, of course. You can make these pickles overnight and they’ll last for up to a month. Make them extra fancy with some whole pink peppercorns or sprigs of dill. Snack on sweet radish chips Pinch of Yum describes its recipe for cinnamon sugar radish chips as spicy, earthy, warm, a little bitter but still sweet at the same time. Intrigued? This recipe takes less than an hour from slicing the radishes to putting the finished product in your mouth, so give it a try. You’ll need olive oil, honey, cinnamon sugar and radishes. Vegans could try subbing agave syrup or molasses for the honey. You just bathe sliced radishes in this mixture and bake them on a cookie sheet. Radishes for dessert Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more unexpected, Veggie Desserts has a recipe for vegan cinnamon ice cream topped with radishes. True, if you’re used to eating delicious ice cream with mix-ins like peanut butter cups and Oreos, this healthy dessert recipe might be a hard sell. But don’t knock it until you try it. The ice cream is made from three frozen bananas and a teaspoon of cinnamon. The topping requires five radishes, a teaspoon of olive oil and a teaspoon of maple syrup. Images via Adobe Stock

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Easy and unexpected radish recipes

Prefab Zhuhai Jinwan Civic Art Centre boasts energy- and water-saving design

March 26, 2021 by  
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Currently under construction, the Zaha Hadid Architects -designed Zhuhai Jinwan Civic Art Centre will soon provide the southern Chinese city with a stunning new hub for contemporary creativity. Located on a lake in the heart of Zhuhai’s Western Ecological New Town in the Jinwan district, the sculptural building combines four cultural institutions under one roof: a 1,200-seat grand theater; a 500-seat multifunctional hall; a science center; and an art museum. Built with prefabricated construction and energy-efficient technologies, the building will adhere to Zhuhai’s “sponge city” initiative for responsible stormwater management and is expected to achieve two stars within China’s Green Building Evaluation Standard. Slated for completion this year after four years of development, the Zhuhai Jinwan Civic Art Centre draws the eye with its latticed steel roof canopy that takes inspiration from the chevron patterns of migratory birds in southern China. The sculptural roof structure is constructed from prefabricated modules that are self-supporting, self-stabilizing and repeated across the entire canopy. Perforated aluminum panels in the canopy provide external solar shading. Related: Historic Zhuhai sugar factory to be reborn as a low-carbon cultural hub The four cultural institutions are arranged symmetrically around a central outdoor plaza. The larger grand theater and art museum venues will feature a lighter color palette than the smaller multifunctional hall and science center, which will be built with a darker palette of materials. Circulation, which includes interconnecting bridges and voids, emphasize connection with the surrounding promenades and civic spaces, including an external amphitheater on the west side of the center. To achieve two stars within China’s Green Building Evaluation Standard, the building’s structural components prioritize recycled materials, and the envelope will be wrapped in double-insulated glazing. Intelligent building controls and air quality sensors will automatically adjust the center’s interior environments for user comfort and energy savings. The landscaping and surrounding lake will use aquatic flora and fauna to naturally filter contaminates, and water-saving irrigation systems and stormwater management strategies will store and reuse runoff. Waste heat recovery systems will also help reduce water usage. + Zaha Hadid Architects Photography by Minmud, Slashcube and Methanoia via Zaha Hadid Architects

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Eco-sensitive architecture helps lift a rural Chinese village out of poverty

March 23, 2021 by  
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In the misty tea terraces of southwest China, Hangzhou-based architecture practice gad · line+ studio has recently completed an eco-sensitive redevelopment project to help a rural village attract tourism revenue. Commissioned by major Chinese property developer Sunac and the Youcheng Foundation of the State Council Poverty Alleviation Office, the “targeted poverty alleviation” project included 2,400 square meters of renovation, new construction and landscape beautification to transform Guizhou’s rural Longtang village into a cultural destination with guesthouses, a new theater and other amenities. Prefabricated construction, locally sourced natural materials and solar panels were used to reduce the project’s environmental footprint. Home to the Miao community, the traditional Chinese village of Longtang has suffered from depopulation and decline due to a lack of job opportunities. To sustainably revitalize the village and celebrate the local culture, the architects renovated 750 square meters of existing architecture and added 1,650 square meters of new construction to attract tourists.  Related: Site-sensitive Woodhouse Hotel promotes agricultural tourism in Guizhou The renovation of the village’s traditional stilt buildings was a key part of the project. Locals who were increasingly renovating their structures with modern and cost-effective materials such as cement and brick had been inadvertently eroding their village’s history. As a result, the architects created a series of reconstruction demonstration projects to show villagers how locally sourced and low-cost materials can be used with space-optimizing layouts to beautifully improve the buildings. The architects also installed solar panels on the sloped roofs. To develop a tourism revenue stream, the architects built eight new hillside-embedded guesthouses that mimic the traditional Miao stilt architecture along with the Mountain House, a prefabricated , public-facing building with a panoramic roof terrace, an outdoor theater and an infinity pool. Like the guesthouses, the Mountain House appears to “float” above the landscape, but it does feature a more contemporary aesthetic. “The public building of Mountain House breaks through the traditional rural building styles, trying to create a refined and pure modern sense to dialogue with the mountains,” the architects explained. “The building is naturally divided into two L-shaped volumes according to the height differences with the mountain.” + gad · line+ studio Photography by Arch-Exist Photography via gad · line+ studio

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China’s new frontier for VOC regulations

March 23, 2021 by  
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China’s new frontier for VOC regulations Shuying Xu Tue, 03/23/2021 – 01:15 As the global economy reawakens after the COVID-19 shutdown, air emissions and VOC enforcement in China remain a hot topic. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) combine with nitrogen oxide to create ozone, a key precursor to smog. Over the past several decades, public health and environmental concerns have made controlling smog a top national policy goal in China and enforcement an increasingly critical issue for companies to navigate. Industries getting particular focus when it comes to VOC management in China include electronics, packaging and printing, pharmaceuticals, petrochemical, chemical, industrial coating, oil storage and transportation. In March 2020, for example, China’s State Council announced four national requirements for VOC content in adhesives, coatings, inks and cleaning agents widely used in the electronics and electrical industry; the stringency and implementation of these mandates may have a significant impact on production and business risk moving forward. Implementation of these standards is scheduled to start in April. For any company operating in or with significant supply chain exposure to China, building an understanding of the national and local regulatory landscape and best practices related to VOC mitigation recently has become a vital step to reducing the risk of business interruption arising from environmental enforcement that began in 2016 . Air emission reform in China More than a decade ago, national policies laid the groundwork for reducing air emissions in China. In 2010, the Central Government of China integrated the “Guideline on Strengthening Joint Prevention and Control of Atmospheric Pollution to Improve Air Quality” into its 12th Five Year Plan. This enshrined into law China’s first air emissions management plan and formalized an approach to regional collaboration. The Law on Prevention and Control of Air Pollution, also known as the ” Air Law ,” was updated in 2015 (and again in 2018) to direct local governments in key regions to form emergency response plans for heavily polluting weather conditions. When energy use surges in the autumn and winter seasons, particulate matter and ozone increase to  dangerously high levels. Strategies include tackling large networks of smaller companies, which emit up to 60% of VOCs in China, and penalizing non-compliant companies by lowering their ‘social credit’ rating. The 2018 Three ? Year Action Plan for Winning the Blue Sky Defense Battle narrowed the scope of air emission management by focusing on the rectification of key regions and industries and establishing a goal of reducing 15 percent of emissions by 2020 (Chinese) , compared to 2015 levels. Strategies include tackling large networks of smaller companies, which emit up to 60 percent of VOCs in China , and penalizing non-compliant companies by lowering their “social credit” rating. For the past 15 years, the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE) has collected and analyzed publicly disclosed environmental quality and pollution source records from hundreds of local governments and corporations across China. IPE’s online data analysis tool shows that while the total number of regulatory violations in China decreased across industries between 2016 and 2020, the proportion of enterprises with air emission issues, including VOC violations, has increased year over year. The overall decline in total violations across industries has been attributed to increased transparency among local governments and a 2016 spike in factory inspections (and shutdowns) that took place across China: The 2016 wave of enforcement actions resulted in renewed effort by companies that hadn’t been shut down to take regulatory concerns more seriously since then. Targets for regulation The unique regulatory demands and opacity of local governments, which can insist on short-term, emergency action to reduce emissions, can be a challenge to navigate. Yet, a predictable pattern gradually has emerged in how authorities determine non-compliant behavior. First, industries that emit or consume large quantities of VOCs are prioritized. Companies from such key VOC-emitting industries will be honed in on regardless of specific processes, consumption rates or volume of emissions. Second, authorities focus on specific companies within these industries that are large emitters and key industrial processes (coating, painting, printing, etc.) at those companies. Third, regional and local governments adjust reduction measures according to a factory’s environmental performance level. For example, if a total emission reduction goal of a region or city can be achieved, the least polluting companies may take reduction measures voluntarily (and not necessarily fully in accordance with regional guidelines) — while all others will be required to strictly follow reduction requirements Local governments maintain and, in many cases, publish lists that rank factories according to their performance level. Factories with substandard performance are required to monitor emissions and make the results available to the public, not dissimilar to the U.S. The contents of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) and National Pollution Discharge Permit (PDPs) also may be used to determine if and how many VOCs will be generated when a factory completes a construction project or when a factory is fully operational. In a PDP, the maximum volume of VOC emissions that a factory can emit is stated. This number is calculated based on EIA documents, periodic factory monitoring and online monitoring data of a factory. Environmental capacity Local authorities have the ability to not only implement emergency restrictions during heavily polluting weather conditions but also may apply controls if total annual emissions by factories surpass regional emission caps. The Joint Group of Experts on Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP), a United Nations advisory body, describes the concept of environmental capacity as “a property of the environment and its ability to accommodate a particular activity or rate of an activity … without unacceptable impact.” Environmental capacity is widely used in China to define acceptable limits for the amount of pollutants produced or discharged into the atmosphere. Each region has its own capacity and local governments determine quotas for each factory. If no quota is available for a factory to construct, rebuild or expand the operation, they are generally prohibited from proceeding. Examples of best practices Once companies are identified and included in a governmental list, authorities can require industries and factories to set up online pollutant monitoring that is connected to the local authority’s supervisory system. Such systems are typically designed to capture instantaneous VOC emission data. While some multinationals with operations in China — such as Toyota and General Motors — have begun to establish VOC reduction goals comparable to their GHG emission reduction goals, efforts to address VOC emissions within industrial supply chains and operations remain varied and limited. Companies from key VOC-emitting industries will be honed in on regardless of specific processes, consumption rates or volume of emissions. Innovative practices often can be found at the local level. The municipality of Shanghai, China’s largest city, is often a leader in this regard. Shanghai offers an example of a municipal government that has established a long-term protocol for VOC emission management, aligning with the goals of the national Blue Sky Defense Battle. As part of its “One Factory, One Control Plan” (Chinese), Shanghai provides a comprehensive list of methods (and projected timelines) for reducing VOC emissions across 29 diverse industries, ranging from ink and adhesives to PVC and synthetic fiber production. Two industries that emit significant quantities of VOCs and have extensive supply chains in China are the electronics and cleaning agent industries. Shanghai outlines specific governance tasks for reducing VOC emissions along various stages of production. Selected examples of required and recommended actions include: For electronics production: Use powder or water-based coatings and UV curing processes. Use electrostatic spraying. Use automated and intelligent spraying equipment in place of manual application. Adopt processes in which coatings, thinners and cleaning agents are prepared, used and recycled within sealed storage and production spaces. Transport coatings, thinners and cleaning agents in closed pipelines or containers. Collect and treat wastewater in a closed process. For cleaning agent manufacturing: Specify limits on the use of chemicals such as methylene chloride, trichloromethane, formaldehyde, benzene and toluene and xylene, among others. Replace solvent-based cleaning agents with water-based and semi-aqueous alternatives. Reduce airflow around cleaning equipment; reduce the flow of liquid from items that are being cleaned. Designate rooms specifically for cleaning, exhaust air collection, and treating cleaning exhaust. Recycle cleaning solvents. Use activated carbon absorption; record the temperature, regeneration period and replacement amount of activated carbon. While this article provides select examples of steps being taken by companies and municipalities, corporate industry goals and action plans for VOC reduction remain unclear and inconsistent. The requirements and policies of VOC management in China are dynamic and growing more stringent both nationally and locally. Part of the challenge for global companies is understanding and interpreting requirements, identifying the potential for high-risk interruption and determining economical and environmentally responsible actions that can mitigate or avoid these risks. Furthermore, unique policy is being formulated according to the needs and specialties of different regions, industries and factory conditions. Companies that have responsibility for facilities and supply chains in China can benchmark against these to better understand their regulatory and business interruption risks. Pull Quote Strategies include tackling large networks of smaller companies, which emit up to 60% of VOCs in China, and penalizing non-compliant companies by lowering their ‘social credit’ rating. The 2016 wave of enforcement actions resulted in renewed effort by companies that hadn’t been shut down to take regulatory concerns more seriously since then. Companies from key VOC-emitting industries will be honed in on regardless of specific processes, consumption rates or volume of emissions. Contributors Christopher Hazen Topics Chemicals & Toxics Policy & Politics COVID-19 China Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off A regenerative thermal oxidizer unit in China. Image courtesy of Greenment

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China’s new frontier for VOC regulations

Diversity, equity and inclusion: Incremental reform or systemic change?

March 23, 2021 by  
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Diversity, equity and inclusion: Incremental reform or systemic change? Terry F. Yosie Tue, 03/23/2021 – 01:11 Unresolved debates about the past frame choices about who owns the future. America has arrived, once again, at another momentous inflection point to try and resolve some of the most contentious issues the nation has faced and largely failed to resolve — the narrative of American history and culture, the persistence of systemic racism, and continuing debates over women’s empowerment, personal freedom and sexual orientation. The ability to reconcile these significant challenges into a workable and equitable societal consensus will require many additional decades, but many institutions and individuals are implementing partial solutions. Among the most prominent are initiatives to advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs. Diversity is expressed through a variety of identities such as age, race, religion, sexual orientation and disability. Equity aims to provide everyone with access to opportunities and recognizes that advantages and barriers exist, while making commitments to address this imbalance. Inclusion results in individuals (and groups) with different identities feeling respected, accepted and valued. For many organizations, a direct DEI connection to their mission has not been made by leadership whose inattentiveness or nonreceptivity cascades downwards into the culture. In recent years, DEI has emerged as a distinctive field in governance and public policy that provides a key set of performance measures for economic and social progress. While originally separate from environmental sustainability, they now share common values to applying human capital towards resolving society’s most vexing inter-generational challenges, including access to health care, educational opportunities, and protection from toxic exposures and climate change. Evaluating DEI practices and performance Author Pamela Newkirk, in her comprehensive analysis “Diversity, Inc.,” has identified a core set of best practices within and beyond the workplace. They include: expanding recruitment through international outreach; identifying and removing hiring and promotion barriers; strengthening professional development opportunities; providing fair and equitable compensation; building an inclusive climate and culture; and applying business practices and accountability. Many companies already have grasped the significance of integrating DEI within their business strategies, governance, employee relations, operations, customer relations and engagement with external stakeholders. The range of their programs and initiatives vary considerably, a reflection of their market sectors but also of variable leadership commitments and inconsistent performance metrics. Leaders (as measured by Forbes and other surveys) currently include BlackRock, Duke University, HP, L’Oreal, Novartis, SAP and a variety of banking and healthcare companies. Even more striking than examples of corporate DEI leadership is information from lagging and failing companies and business sectors. The Wall Street Journal reviewed more than 160 annual reports filed by S&P companies for 2020. Only a third provided diversity disclosures. More specifically, GE reported that approximately 76 percent of its U.S. workforce was white as was 81 percent of its leadership. PwC declared that 60 percent of its employees were white. Sectors that are particular DEI laggards include academia, environmental organizations, fashion, journalism, museums, professional football and technology companies. Why has so little progress been achieved despite decades of implementing civil rights legislation, philanthropic activities, and more than $20 billion spent each year on DEI programs, conferences, consultants, surveys and training sessions? For many organizations, a direct DEI connection to their mission has not been made by leadership whose inattentiveness or nonreceptivity cascades downwards into the culture. Workforce composition may be insufficiently diverse to respond to DEI dynamics, thus limiting bottom-up pressures upon management (in contrast to much stronger employee engagement in environmental sustainability). Across many institutions, the motivation for maintaining even modest DEI activities stems from a desire to avoid legal risk from potential discrimination cases, or to communicate that “we care” about the issue. Beyond the issue of leaders and laggards remains the question of whether DEI, as presently designed and implemented, significantly advances racial and social justice. Dennis Kennedy, founder and CEO of the National Diversity Council, argues that the current focus of many DEI initiatives is unlikely to yield comprehensive commitments to social justice. His argument is that: DEI as presently constituted does not sufficiently explore the roots and explanations of systemic and institutional racism; bias training, diversity consulting and other initiatives were purposely implemented to avoid legal risk and public scrutiny and not to achieve social change; and DEI was introduced within public, private and non-profit institutions that provided limited authority, resources and power to effectuate change. Expanding the boundaries Through the political process, the marketplace and social dynamics, several factors have converged to motivate greater awareness and scope of DEI activities going forward. They include activities of: Government. At the national level, the Biden administration has expanded the scope of DEI initiatives: The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced on February 24 that it will review public companies’ disclosure requirements on race and gender diversity and strengthen guidance on boardroom diversity. The acting chair noted that the results of the SEC’s voluntary program for companies to submit diversity self-assessments were “disappointing.” This follows an August 2020 SEC mandate that requires companies to begin disclosing information about their “human capital resources” that includes employee turnover rates and training programs. Companies already privately report diversity data to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and are under increasing pressure to make such information public. The White House has announced that disadvantaged communities will receive 40 percent of overall benefits from public investments in clean energy and infrastructure. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is seeking added funding for environmental justice initiatives to reduce the high exposure to unsafe drinking water supplies, toxic air pollution and hazardous waste from industrial facilities to low income communities and indigenous peoples. Investor community. Some trading houses and institutional investors are advocating that companies provide better information on workforce diversity, and they’re beginning to include such data in their assessments and rankings. Prominent examples include: On December 1, Nasdaq filed a proposal with the SEC to implement new rules that would require all listed companies to publicly disclose consistent, transparent data that measure board gender and racial diversity. It would require companies to have two diverse directors (including a female or one who self-identifies as LGBTQ+), or explain why this rule is not attainable. On December 20, BlackRock, the world’s largest asset management firm, announced that, beginning in 2021, it will seek expanded ethnic and gender diversity data for company boards and workforces. BlackRock stated that it will vote against company directors that fail to adequately respond to this expectation. State Street Global Advisors and Goldman Sachs also announced diversity measures for their clients. Talent recruitment and retention. Millennials and Generation Z employees and job seekers are increasingly utilizing Glassdoor (a leading social media platform about jobs and companies) and LinkedIn to evaluate current and prospective employers on their DEI performance. In September 2020, a Glassdoor survey reported that 76 percent of employees and those looking for jobs said a diverse workforce was important to their evaluation of companies and employment offers. Nearly half of Black and Hispanic workers and job seekers said they had quit a company after witnessing or experiencing discrimination at the work place. The bigger questions By 2045, white Americans are projected to comprise less than 50 percent of the population, and the labor force will become more diverse and older than at any other time in the nation’s history. These anticipated facts alone have intensified the “fear of losing advantage” for an already existing movement of hard core white nationalists and others sympathetic to their cause. In its present form, DEI represents a set of modest efforts for legal and institutional reforms but nothing close to a mass movement capable of resolving the widening crevices of American society and politics. Some major unresolved challenges for DEI proponents and all citizens and civil society institutions include: Will leaders across the spectrum of American institutions collaborate with the commitment, urgency and scale necessary to preserve the American democratic experiment in the coming decades? Do companies operating in America believe that a dysfunctional democracy and growing societal disharmony can provide clear and consistent rules necessary for their economic success? Can they become engines of egalitarianism and more equitable social mobility rather than of inequality? xCan public policy develop remedies to systemic racism that have historically impeded access to educational opportunity, environmental protection, health care, unbiased law enforcement, living wages and resource allocations for lower-income populations? Can white Americans be reassured that their constitutional freedoms will be preserved even as their relative size and influence diminishes in a growing multiracial, multigender society? Absent an ability to act with confidence and sustained urgency to achieve demonstrable progress in the next few decades, America will become increasingly bewildered about its own purpose and values. It will begin to hear, once again, the “fire bell in the night” that awakened and terrorized Thomas Jefferson early in the 19th century as he feared for the preservation of the Union. Pull Quote For many organizations, a direct DEI connection to their mission has not been made by leadership whose inattentiveness or nonreceptivity cascades downwards into the culture. Topics Leadership Diversity and Inclusion Featured Column Values Proposition Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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Diversity, equity and inclusion: Incremental reform or systemic change?

New study predicts 6-month summers by 2100

March 12, 2021 by  
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Schoolkids and surfers might think an endless summer sounds too good to be true. But the world may soon be facing six-month summers with staggering consequences. A new study published in Geophysical Research Letters predicts that if emissions continue at their present pace, by 2100 it’s going to be summer for half of every year. These long summers will be filled with heatwaves, droughts, wildfires and more. Scientists at the State Key Laboratory of Tropical Oceanography in China led the research. They analyzed 60 years of climate records and used models to predict future trends. For the study, they defined summer as the “onset of temperatures in the hottest 25 percent during that time period, while winter began with temperatures in the coldest 25 percent.” Related: NYC Metronome clock now displays deadline for irreversible global warming Using that definition, the researchers found that from 1952 to 2011, the number of summer days in the Northern Hemisphere increased from 78 to 95. Meanwhile, winter shrank by three days, spring by nine and fall by five. “Summers are getting longer and hotter while winters shorter and warmer due to global warming ,” lead study author Yuping Guan, a physical oceanographer at the State Key Laboratory of Tropical Oceanography, said in a statement. “Numerous studies have already shown that the changing seasons cause significant environmental and health risks.” These changes will greatly impact the environment, agriculture and the health of all living organisms on the planet. It will change the timing of feeding, breeding and migration for many animals. Instead of this extra summer meaning more beach time, it will be difficult for humans. A longer growing season will torment humans with allergies. Pestilence-carrying mosquitoes will fly at the chance to expand their range northward. More extreme weather events like fires, droughts and hurricanes will drive untold numbers of humans from their homes — if they’re lucky enough to survive. The study concluded that policies on agricultural management and disaster prevention will need to be adjusted. Seasonal-related fields of study will also have to readjust, as six months of summer will mean a new reality for those studying topics like the ocean , atmosphere and ecology. + Geophysical Research Letters Via Yale Environment 360 Image via Roger Laurendeau

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