A socially distanced vacation in eastern Oregon

July 13, 2020 by  
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A close-up view of an elk. The feeling of a lake rippling beneath your paddle board. The experience of huddling under a tree, waiting for an afternoon thunderstorm to pass while staring at snow-capped mountains . These are the sorts of summer activities nature lovers miss after being stuck inside for too long. As we move into the heart of summer and pandemic-fatigue has well set in, many folks are pondering how to travel safely. This means minimal contact with people outside of those you already live with. So forget airplanes, resorts and crowded beaches. This is the summer for road-tripping to natural and wilderness areas, bringing your own food and camping or renting a cabin. <img src="//inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2020/07/Eagle-Cap-Chalets-img1-889×667.jpg" alt="log cabin in the woods" class="wp-image-2274790" Off to eastern Oregon For my husband, dog and me, who live in Portland, Oregon, east is the natural direction to get away from crowds. We booked a dog -friendly cabin with a kitchen near Wallowa Lake, about six hours east of Portland and close to the Idaho border. Then we packed up everything we could think of to create as self-sufficient a vacation as possible — two bags and a cooler full of food, hiking gear, my new inflatable stand-up paddle board (SUP), dog treats and, of course, masks. Related: An eco-travel guide to Bend, Oregon We were conscious of going from a big city into a rural area. Neither Portland nor Wallowa County had many COVID-19 cases at the time of our trip. But we weren’t sure if locals would welcome us. When we checked into our cabin at the Eagle Cap Chalets , I was the only person in the lobby wearing a mask. The young woman behind the desk said, “It’s a personal choice. Whatever you feel comfortable with.” It turned out they were more worried about a lack of tourists than contracting COVID-19 . “We have so many doctors per capita,” she told me. During our four days in the area, we saw more Trump/Pence signs than masks. Fortunately, we were able to maintain a good social distance the whole time. <img src="//inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2020/07/Wallowa-Lake-img2-889×663.jpg" alt="lake in the foreground and mountains in the distance" class="wp-image-2274789" Wallowa Lake Wallowa Lake is one of those places where you feel like you walked into a postcard. The snow-topped Wallowa Mountains loom over the glacial lake , which is about 3.7 miles long and three-quarters of a mile wide. There’s a beach on each end with suitable shallow places for family swimming. But if you venture into the middle, you’ll be nearly 300 feet from the bottom. This means the water is pretty chilly, with the swim season limited to July and August for most people, except for the hardiest souls. You can tent or RV camp in Wallowa Lake State Park , get up early and enjoy the lake at its quietest. When we visited in June, I only got knee-deep in the water — just enough to launch my SUP. Good paddlers can spend the day paddling the lake’s circumference. Amateurs, like myself, can hug the edges, peering into the clear glacial water for fish and taking breaks to lie on your back and cloud-gaze. When the wind suddenly whipped up and I had to work to get back to shore, I was glad I hadn’t ventured into the middle. Weather can change quickly here, so bring a life jacket and know your limits. The Wallowa Lake Marina offers watercraft rentals, ranging from paddle boards to 22-foot pontoon boats that hold 10 people (at least in non-pandemic times). JO Paddle rents glass-bottomed kayaks for the ultimate lake views. The company also offers full moon tours, crescent moon tours and one focused on searching for Wally, the Wallowa Lake Monster. No, Wally wasn’t just made up for the tourists. Local Native Americans tell a tragic tale of a wedding that united the Nez Perce and Blackfeet tribes. When the newlyweds rowed off into the lake, a sea serpent shot up from the depths and gulped them down. I’m glad I didn’t hear this story until after my solo SUP excursions. Several hiking trails start close to the lake. We followed the West Fork Wallowa River Trail, which ventures into the Eagle Cap Wilderness.  We took in mountain and river views and looked for treasures, like the tiny hot pink calypso orchids that grow out of the conifer forest floor. An unexpected evening thunderstorm drenched us and frightened our dog. Again, the predictably unpredictable weather. A little rain jacket folded up in a backpack sure comes in handy when hiking in Oregon. <img src="//inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2020/07/Wallowa-West-Fork-Trail-img3-889×667.jpg" alt="fallen logs on either side of a forest trail" class="wp-image-2274788" Nez Perce Country Long before European explorers came into North America, the Nez Perce lived in eastern Oregon and Idaho. When you visit Wallowa Lake, stop by the Old Chief Joseph burial site and pay your respects. This Nez Perce leader refused to sign an 1863 treaty that would sell out his homeland. He died in 1871, warning the younger Chief Joseph, “My son, never forget my dying words, this country holds your father’s body. Never sell the bones of your father and mother.” The cemetery that holds Old Chief Joseph’s remains is a national historic landmark and is sacred to the Nez Perce people. So if you visit, act with decorum. Travel a half-mile north to visit Iwetemlaykin State Heritage Site , 62 acres of land set aside in 2009 by the Nez Perce and other local people. You’ll find easy graveled trails for walking or running, meadows, a stream and lots of wildlife. The Nez Perce call this part of the Wallowa Lake basin Iwetemlaykin. <img src="//inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2020/07/Hells-Canyon-img4-889×667.jpg" alt="person looking out at Hells Canyon" class="wp-image-2274786" Hells Canyon This was my second visit to Hells Canyon. The first time was via jetboat from Lewiston, Idaho, which is the easiest and most relaxing way to see the area. All you have to do is sit back and look for big-horned sheep and admire the steep volcanic cliffs along the Snake River. But this time, we traveled by car — and a hair-rising time it was. Starting at Wallowa Lake you go northeast to Imnaha — so far, so good, so paved — but soon you reach the entrance to Hells Canyon National Recreation Area along with signs warning against passenger cars as the road turns to gravel. We have an SUV and my husband is a professional light rail operator, but I still spent much of the scenic drive with my eyes shut, hoping we wouldn’t meet a car coming the other way. We crept along a one-lane gravel road on high cliffs, sometimes slowing to seven miles an hour on steeper downhill stretches, sometimes facing obstacles in the road like a single chukar running along in front of the car before launching itself off the cliff and taking flight. Very few people live out here. We saw some ranches, four Forest Service workers and what might have been a remote gold mining operation on the Imnaha River. We stopped for a couple of short hikes. There are few trails out here, and they’re barely maintained, so you really feel the natural state of the land. We followed a cow trail up one steep hill, putting our feet in the small earthy stairs carved out by hooves. Once we reached the top, we had incredible mountain views of more of the same in every direction. We stayed a little late. The day turned to dusk and we were still on the treacherous, windy gravel roads. More animals appeared — elk, a herd of cows, bulls and calves on both sides of the road, all standing still and staring at us sternly, a flock of wild turkeys running in front of us. When we finally reached the pavement near Imnaha, it really felt like we’d been somewhere drastically removed from our daily lives — lives that had been completely overwhelmed by the constant stress of the pandemic. Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat Editor’s Note: Like the author, we recommend taking the utmost care to keep those around you safe if you choose to travel. You can find more advice on travel precautions from the CDC and WHO .

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A socially distanced vacation in eastern Oregon

Right Whales now ranked as critically endangered species

July 13, 2020 by  
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The International Union for Conservation (IUCN) has uplisted the North Atlantic Right Whales from endangered to critically endangered . This move now raises concern about the possible extinction of these whales. The Right Whales have for a long time been listed as an endangered species in a bid to lobby authorities for protection. However, the state of care for the whales has not changed, pushing the species to the brink of extinction. The uplisting follows the sad news concerning the death of a Right Whale calf. The calf was one of the only 10 Right Whale calves born during the last calving season. According to NOAA, the calf was killed by a vessel strike on the coast of New Jersey . Related: Federal agencies propose designated marine habitat to help protect Pacific humpback whales IUCN updates its Red List of threatened species every year. According to the organization, overwhelming scientific evidence now shows that the Right Whales are dying at an alarming rate because of humans. The main causes of death include vessel strikes and entanglement in fishing gear. Despite the listing of these Right Whales as endangered species previously, they have continued to be killed by human actions. IUCN now hopes that by listing the whales as critically endangered, more efforts will be geared toward their protection. Since 2017, over 31 deaths of Right Whales were reported. Additionally, more than 10 Right Whales were reported as having serious injuries. Such a large number of dead and injured whales brought a sharp focus on the declining population of the Right Whales. Today, there are less than 400 existing right whales, and conservation groups are sounding an alarm over the state of this endangered species. Scientists warn that if the Right Whales are not protected, the situation will be irreversible within a decade. Conservationists are now lobbying governments to enhance the protection of the remaining whales. The NRDC has proposed establishing a Right Whales conservation act and advises that governments put in place legislation that will end the killing of the whales by vessel strikes . + IUCN Via NRDC Image via Allison Henry/NOAA

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Right Whales now ranked as critically endangered species

Victory at Standing Rock as Dakota Access pipeline shut down

July 8, 2020 by  
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The Standing Rock Sioux tribe won a reprieve after the Monday decision by a U.S. District Court judge to suspend the Dakota Access pipeline pending further environmental review. The highly controversial  pipeline  has operated for three years. Judge James Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered both sides to submit briefs on whether the pipeline should continue operations. In March, Boasberg ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it permitted the pipeline and failed to acknowledge the devastating consequences of potential oil spills in the area. Related: Dakota Access Pipeline placed under environmental review The 1,172-mile pipeline transports oil underground from North Dakota to Illinois, passing through South Dakota and Iowa on its way. Standing Rock Reservation straddles the Dakotas’ state line and draws its water from the Missouri River. The tribe alleges the pipeline, which crosses beneath the river, pollutes their water . Energy Transfer, a Texas-based gas and oil company that owns the biggest share in the project, disagrees and claims the pipeline is safe. The $3.8 billion pipeline brought trouble from the start. During its construction in 2016-2017, tribal members began a protest campaign that drew international support. Activists from around the country stood with Standing Rock. Some clashes at the site grew violent, with police and security officers using attack dogs, water cannons and military equipment to clear protesters and their encampments. Political action persisted, with David Archambault II, then-Chairman for Standing Rock , addressing the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva in September 2016. Senator and former Democratic presidential nominee Bernie Sanders also supported the protests, and then-President Barack Obama spoke with tribal leaders.  In December 2016, before leaving office, the Obama administration ordered a full environmental review of the project, including analysis of the tribe’s treaty rights, and denied permits allowing the pipeline to cross the Missouri River. President Donald  Trump  signed an executive order expediting construction during his first week in office. But for now, the tribal  water  supply is safe. “Today is a historic day for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the many people who have supported us in the fight against the pipeline,” Mike Faith, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman, said in a statement. “This pipeline should have never been built here. We told them that from the beginning.” + The Guardian Via Earth Justice Images via Indrid Cold , Fibonacci Blue and John Duffy

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Victory at Standing Rock as Dakota Access pipeline shut down

California passes landmark rule for zero-emission trucks

July 1, 2020 by  
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California has passed a landmark rule requiring all truck manufacturers to sell more electric trucks starting in 2024. This rule comes amid efforts to reverse climate change’s effects in America.  Several states  are working to reduce carbon emission and improve air quality. Seven more states and the District of Columbia are expected to have similar legislation underway. The decision to require California car manufacturers to sell more electric trucks came on June 25. The California Air Resources Board (ARB) unanimously approved the measure. According to the California ARB, the state has set several objectives for attaining clean air . Key objectives include working toward the state only selling electric trucks by the year 2045. States planning new measures to combat climate change could learn from California. The California ARB stipulates five key targets for attaining clean air. Key goals include reaching a 40% reduction in greenhouse gasses by 2030, a 50% reduction in petroleum use by 2030 and an 80% reduction in GHGs by 2050. Such landmark decisions did not pass without opposition. Though most automakers express interest in making electric vans and trucks, some industry members have opposed the move. Despite this, many companies have been working on electric car technology in anticipation of a zero-emissions future. Jason Gray of Daimler Trucks North America explained that the company has already built 38 medium and heavy-duty electric trucks that work even better than gas-fueled trucks. These electric vehicles produce less noise and no gas emissions. Daimler Trucks has already given drivers several trucks for testing. As it turns out, even drivers favor electric trucks. “They have nothing but great things to say about them — how quiet they are, how, you know, they don’t come home smelling like diesel ,” Bill Bliem, Senior Vice President of Fleet Services at NFI Industries, a logistics company, said. If other states adopt such practices, the clean air conversation may improve in the next few years. As things stand, California’s work is just part of a nationwide revolution towards zero-emission vehicles. + NPR Images via Pexels

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California passes landmark rule for zero-emission trucks

Environmental racism in America

June 22, 2020 by  
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The stretch of land along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans is riddled with petrochemical plants spewing smoke into the air. Huge pipes pump chemicals above and below the highway to load boats in the river. This former plantation land’s modern nicknames are Cancer Alley and Death Alley because of the pollution-induced illness rife in the riverside communities. People familiar with environmental racism won’t be surprised to learn that Saint James Parish, in the heart of this area, is predominately Black. This is some of America’s most polluted air, with eight major industrial plants in 103 square miles and a new, enormous plastic project on the horizon. The cancer rate here is 700 times the national average. All around the country — and, in fact, the world — toxic plants are placed by the least affluent and most vulnerable populations, most of whom are people of color. These low-income communities tend to have the least political power to keep pollution generators out of their backyards. The term environmental racism Environmental racism is not a new concept. But with the Black Lives Matter movement thrusting all forms of racial inequity into the public eye, it’s time to take a look at what it means and how we can create change. Related: Low-income housing in flood zones traps families in harm’s way Benjamin F. Chavis, Junior, former president of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), defined the term in his 1983 work, “ Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States .” The NNPA is an association for Black-owned newspaper publishers. Chavis described environmental racism as deliberately targeting communities of color for siting toxic waste facilities that expose people to life-threatening pollutants and poisons. Chavis acknowledged different types of racism, but noted, “environmental racism is a particularly insidious and intentional form of racism that negatively affects millions of Black, Native Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans, as well as people of color around the world.” Environmental racism means that people of color feel a disproportionate impact from things like toxic waste dumps, pollution and chemical plants that expose them to pollutants, known carcinogens and contaminated water at a much higher rate than more affluent White neighborhoods. The problem is intensified by officials failing to enforce environmental laws, for example, the thousands of Black children exposed to lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan in the last decade while officials assured everybody the water was safe. Types of environmental threats that communities of color face Whether they are threats to the water , air or land, people of color face them all. According to a 2012 NAACP study , communities of color breathe in 40% more polluted air than White neighborhoods. Much of this is from coal plants. While only 13% of the U.S. population is Black, 68% live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant. That’s 12% higher than for White people. Associated problems include higher risks of birth defects, heart attacks and asthma. Black communities suffer from unusually high levels of asthma. Black women are 20% likelier to have asthma than non-Hispanic White people, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health website. In 2014, Black people were almost three times more likely to die from asthma-related causes than White people. Children are hit especially hard, with a much higher rate of asthma-related hospitalization and death. In addition to coal plants, low-income Black communities are disproportionately located near other types of toxic sites. In rural areas, this could be farm runoff. “Swine CAFOs are disproportionately located in black and brown communities and regions of poverty,” stated a study by researchers at School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. CAFOs, or concentrated animal feeding operations, are an innocuous-sounding euphemism for animals packed tightly together, living sad and squalid lives around enormous manure lagoons. People who live near these air- and water-polluting operations often suffer from eye, nose and throat irritation, depression, stress and decreased quality of life. In North Carolina, CAFOs center on pigs. In California’s San Joaquin Valley, dairy farm waste, including pesticides , has upped the asthma rates in Black and Brown communities. Environmental racism and COVID-19 The novel coronavirus has preyed especially hard on people of color. Patients with underlying conditions are up to 12 times as likely to die of COVID-19 than those that were healthy before contracting the novel coronavirus. A CDC report released June 15 cited heart disease, diabetes and chronic lung disease as the most common underlying conditions contributing to COVID-19 deaths. Black communities have a much higher rate of many conditions that predispose people to dying of COVID-19. These include diabetes, asthma, tobacco exposure, strokes, high blood pressure and cancer. Racism leads to and aggravates all of these conditions, from breathing in more pollution and experiencing more stress in the first place, to having less access to healthcare for early diagnosis and treatment of illness. Via Food is Power and The Guardian Images via Pixabay

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Environmental racism in America

The time for electric trucks and buses is now

June 10, 2020 by  
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The time for electric trucks and buses is now Katie Fehrenbacher Wed, 06/10/2020 – 01:30 Despite the pandemic, sales of electric trucks and buses are expected to surge in the United States and Canada over the next couple of years. And perhaps, surprising to many, they’ll soar even within this year (the year that can best be described as WTF).  That’s according to new data released recently by the clean-transportation-focused nonprofit CALSTART. The organization expects there to be 169 zero-emission commercial vehicles available for purchase, or soon to be available, in North America by the end of 2020; that’s a 78 percent increase from the number of zero-emission commercial vehicles available at the end of 2019. What’s more, between 2019 and 2023, the amount of zero-emission commercial vehicle models is expected to double, to 195.  Why does this matter? Because diesel-powered trucks and buses are responsible for a disproportionate amount of transportation-related carbon emissions and are also a source of air pollution, much of it in disadvantaged communities, who live closer to industrial areas or freeways. In addition, commercial vehicles are offering a bright spot for automakers that are seeing slumping sales of passenger vehicles in the wake of COVID-19.  If data and analyst predictions make your eyes glaze over, you can look at the trend another way. Companies are increasingly making zero-emission truck and bus announcements. Every day when I skim Twitter or my inbox, I see more. Here are just a few from the past couple of weeks: General Motors is making an electric van to rival Tesla. Rivian is on track with its Amazon electric delivery vans. Nikola Motors will start accepting reservations June 29 for its electric pickup truck the Badger. Ford is making an electric transit van. CALSTART says that the surge is coming from a combination of market demand, policies and economics as EV battery costs continue to drop. Big companies such as Amazon , IKEA , UPS and FedEx are making big purchases (or working with partners to make purchases). But cities across the United States are also buying EVs, including electric transit buses, garbage trucks and pickup trucks. Substantial growth in the number of commercial EV models available is particularly important for the market because model availability has long been a major hurdle. The large automakers have been pretty slow to offer a variety of models, citing a lack of demand from customers. It’s a pretty standard chicken-and-egg scenario that happens in a nascent market. But as a result, much of the early commercial EV models on the market have come from startups such as Rivian , Nikola , Chanje and Arrival . The bigger automakers are entering the market and playing catch-up.  COVID-19 also has shone a spotlight on the need for a resilient and dynamic transportation supply chain, as shippers across the country have relied heavily on trucks and truck drivers to meet unusual spikes and valleys in demand. The trucking industry, like all operators of commercial vehicles, will need to become cleaner, too, as customer demand, policies and economics evolve. This article is adapted from GreenBiz’s weekly newsletter, Transport Weekly, running Tuesdays. Subscribe here . Topics Transportation & Mobility Electric Vehicles Electric Trucks Electric Bus Clean Fleets Featured Column Driving Change Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The Nikola Badger pickup truck.

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The time for electric trucks and buses is now

Paying farmers a living wage is essential to ensuring sustainable coffee production

June 10, 2020 by  
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Paying farmers a living wage is essential to ensuring sustainable coffee production Dean Cycon Wed, 06/10/2020 – 01:00 When you sit back with a good cup of coffee, you will be engulfed in the warmth, aroma, taste, acidity and body of the brew. Yet, swirling beneath the surface all of the major issues of the 21st century — climate change, globalization, immigration, women’s rights and wealth inequity — are being played out in remote coffee villages around the world.  How companies behave in the coffee trade has a direct impact not only on the lives and livelihoods of 28 million coffee farming families but on the welfare of the planet itself. Coffee companies claiming to be “ethical” or “sustainable” that refuse to pay a living wage to the farmers are fueling this longstanding human and environmental crisis.  Changes in rainfall patterns and temperature weaken coffee plants and reduce yields. Climate-enhanced fungi and bacteria decimate coffee plants, leaving families with little or no income for the next five years until new trees can be planted and mature. Larger farm owners must deforest land and plant more coffee to make up for the historically low prices they are receiving from the market. This deforestation inhibits carbon sequestration, which leads to higher temperatures. The cycle is self-fulfilling.  As a result, coffee production will be greatly limited in medium and lower elevations by 2030 to 2050. When production is reduced, farmers may use more chemicals in the growing process, which harms the soil and water sources, further degrading the planet and human health. Coffee, poverty and migration are also connected. The largest single group of migrants trying to cross the southern border are from Guatemala, and most of them are from the coffee lands of Huehuetenango province. They are unemployed and landless coffee farming families hoping for a better life.  The price per pound paid to coffee farmers is based on the “New York C price,” a commodity system that operates much like a stock market. For several years, the C price for coffee has hovered around the farmer’s cost of production ($0.80-$1.10), which means no profit for the farmers. From a high in 2014, prices paid to farmers have plummeted by 70 percent and now dance around $1 per pound. Every pound a farmer sells, and every cup we drink, pushes a farmer deeper into poverty and despair.  If coffee companies really want to fight the difficulties facing coffee farmers and the environment, they should just pay up. Companies are not required to base their payments to farmers on the C price, and many of us do not. Organic and Bird Friendly certifications offer a price premium to the farmer. Fair Trade provides a “living wage floor” and many committed Fair Traders pay substantially higher prices. The few real Direct Traders offer real price premiums for limited amounts of high-quality coffee. Many companies hide behind labels, such as Rainforest Alliance or Utz Kapeh, or self-created programs such as “Ethical Sourcing,” which sound good but do not guarantee higher prices.  Ironically, coffee company profits may be the highest in history. Companies such as Smuckers and Starbucks continue to raise their prices while their main cost of goods (buying coffee beans) has dropped considerably. According to the United Nations, the ratio between what the farmer was paid and what the companies sold their coffee for was 1:3 during the 1970s. Today, it is as high as 1:20, as many consumers are paying $20 a pound.  In 2012, Starbucks reported its average price for green beans was $2.56 per pound . However, that is the price it paid to the broker, not to the farmer. After backing out shipping, insurance, importer and exporter and mill costs, that price would be closer to $2.20 paid per pound to the farmer. By 2014, Starbucks was only paying $1.72 to the broker (maybe $1.36 to the farmer). By paying the lower amount, Starbucks took $387 million out of the farmers’ pockets. As green prices keep falling, Starbucks has continued to pay coffee farmers less, while charging consumers more.  So, who is winning this game? Not the farmers, not the public and not the environment. Instead of paying enough to support the farmers, large and small coffee companies contribute lesser amounts to nonprofits for clean water, health and environmental projects under the banner of “corporate sustainability.” If coffee companies really want to fight the difficulties facing coffee farmers and the environment, they should just pay up. If Starbucks returned to its 2012 broker and farmer prices, it nearly would double family income on most small farms. To family farms in Nicaragua, Peru, Ethiopia and Indonesia, that $1,400 could pay for healthcare, children’s education, proper nutrition and technology to produce higher yields and reduce their need to clear land. Even a 25-cent increase in the price paid to farmers, which would get Starbucks closer to the prices paid by truly committed coffee companies, would bring $150 million back to the farms and its stock price would not even blink. As an industry, we have lived long and well by treating farmers just like coffee. We see them as fungible commodities instead of true partners in the success of our businesses who are integral to effective adaptation to climate change and other issues of the day. The days of maximizing profits without seriously incorporating farmers’ concerns that bind us all together are over. It is time to pay up. Pull Quote If coffee companies really want to fight the difficulties facing coffee farmers and the environment, they should just pay up. Topics Food & Agriculture Equity & Inclusion Environmental Justice Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Paying farmers a living wage is essential to ensuring sustainable coffee production

How Ocean Spray cranberries became America’s ‘100 percent sustainable’ crop

June 4, 2020 by  
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How Ocean Spray cranberries became America’s ‘100 percent sustainable’ crop Jesse Klein Thu, 06/04/2020 – 01:45 Cranberries are more than just an American Thanksgiving Day tradition; they also are a tradition of the American land. The crop is one of only three native cultivated fruits in North America. Because the plant is actually meant to grow in the natural environment, many growing and harvesting practices already help the surrounding land and could be considered sustainable, under normal conditions. The berry grows best in boggy, water-soaked soil that can’t be used for many other crops. And every one acre of cranberry bog requires 5.5 acres of wild marsh needed around it — a built-in wetlands preservation strategy.  “It’s a symbiotic relationship,” said Chris Ferzli, director of global corporate affairs and communications for Ocean Spray, the well-known agricultural co-operative, which generates annual revenue of about $2 billion. “The water in natural land supports the cranberry bog and in return, the cranberry bog enriches the soil that supports outside land.” Ocean Spray recently took advantage of the crop’s natural sustainability to become the first major food manufacturer in the United States to have its entire crop be certified “100 percent sustainable.” Specifically, the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform (SAI Platform) used its Farm Sustainability Assessment to verify that each organization within Ocean Spray’s 700-farm co-op is operating with regenerative agriculture in mind.  The water in natural land supports the cranberry bog and in return, the cranberry bog enriches the soil that supports outside land. SAI’s Farm Sustainability Assessment dives into 112 questions over 17 categories to evaluate a farm’s investment in sustainable practices. The questions range from the safety of workers to nuanced issues of greenhouse gas emissions, and they are categorized in three ways: “essential,” “basic” and “advanced.”  For example, one question — “Do you take measures to maximize energy use efficiency such as optimizing your farm equipment and optimizing electricity use?” — checks if farmers are reducing non-renewable sources of energy, avoiding forest degradation or conversion and optimizing farm equipment usage.  In order for the crop to be considered 100 percent sustainable, all of Ocean Spray’s farms had to score well for 100 percent of the 23 essential questions, at least 80 percent of the 60 basic questions and at least 50 percent of the 29 advanced questions.  A third-party auditor, SCS Global, verified each Ocean Spray farm’s answers.  “The biggest challenge was the gap in how we define things and how a certifying body might define things,” Ocean Spray farmer Nicole Hansen wrote in an email when asked to describe how tough the certification process was from the farmer’s point of view. “In the end, we are all talking the same language. Maybe just a different dialect.”  Hansen’s farm, Cranberry Creek Cranberries, joined the Ocean Spray co-op in the late 1990s and is one of the largest producers in Wisconsin. According to Ferzli, the adjustments the farmers had to make were few and mostly centered on upgrading technologies that made sense for the specific bogs.  There was such a strong sustainability mentality across the cooperative that making these few changes to verify this crop was worth it. For example, moisture probes help farmers conserve water by collecting real-time data and only watering when the soil dips below a certain limit instead of on a set schedule. Temperature monitors feed into smart systems and are able to more accurately measure temperatures at both the top and bottom of a cranberry bed than traditionally handheld thermometers.  When building new beds, laser levelers help ensure the bed is flat and even, so that floodwater moves efficiently during harvest season, keeping the amount needed at a minimum. Farmers also addressed irrigation systems and sprinklers that had unnecessary runoff, causing water waste.  While most of these changes were inexpensive, Ferzli said Ocean Spray does help its farmers apply for grants so they can put the most innovative and sustainable technologies in place, including the Baker-Polito Administration grant that awarded $991,837 to 21 cranberry growers in 2019, 15 of which are part of the Ocean Spray co-op. Another factor leading to Ocean Spray’s milestone was the structural history of the cranberry crop. Cranberries are already a very consolidated operation with almost all of the U.S.’s cranberries grown in Wisconsin or Massachusetts. In 2017 , Wisconsin produced 5.4 billion barrels and Massachusetts produced 1.9 million. Ocean Spray’s co-op makes up a large percentage of those farms. In fact, of the 414 cranberry growers in Massachusetts, 65 percent are part of the Ocean Spray family.  The coalition of cranberry growers and the administrative structure in place was vital. Ocean Spray growers already submit a farm assessment survey required by retail partners such as Walmart that covers the health and safety of their workers and renewable energy.  That meant the co-op had the structure to distribute the SAI Platform survey, collect the data, make adjustments and comply with an audit, making getting to 100 percent much more feasible and streamlined than if the structure weren’t already in place.  “The farmers wanted to do it,” Ferzli said. “There was such a strong sustainability mentality across the cooperative that making these few changes to verify this crop was worth it.” The verification applies to Ocean Spray’s agriculture program and operations for three years. The company plans to survey the farmers every year and continue the verification process every three years when it comes up for audit. Only then will we know if growing sustainably is sustainable for the business.   Pull Quote The water in natural land supports the cranberry bog and in return, the cranberry bog enriches the soil that supports outside land. There was such a strong sustainability mentality across the cooperative that making these few changes to verify this crop was worth it. Topics Food & Agriculture Food & Agriculture Sustainability Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off An Ocean Spray cranberry farm. Courtesy of Ocean Spray Close Authorship

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How Ocean Spray cranberries became America’s ‘100 percent sustainable’ crop

How Ocean Spray cranberries became America’s ‘100 percent sustainable’ crop

June 4, 2020 by  
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How Ocean Spray cranberries became America’s ‘100 percent sustainable’ crop Jesse Klein Thu, 06/04/2020 – 01:45 Cranberries are more than just an American Thanksgiving Day tradition; they also are a tradition of the American land. The crop is one of only three native cultivated fruits in North America. Because the plant is actually meant to grow in the natural environment, many growing and harvesting practices already help the surrounding land and could be considered sustainable, under normal conditions. The berry grows best in boggy, water-soaked soil that can’t be used for many other crops. And every one acre of cranberry bog requires 5.5 acres of wild marsh needed around it — a built-in wetlands preservation strategy.  “It’s a symbiotic relationship,” said Chris Ferzli, director of global corporate affairs and communications for Ocean Spray, the well-known agricultural co-operative, which generates annual revenue of about $2 billion. “The water in natural land supports the cranberry bog and in return, the cranberry bog enriches the soil that supports outside land.” Ocean Spray recently took advantage of the crop’s natural sustainability to become the first major food manufacturer in the United States to have its entire crop be certified “100 percent sustainable.” Specifically, the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform (SAI Platform) used its Farm Sustainability Assessment to verify that each organization within Ocean Spray’s 700-farm co-op is operating with regenerative agriculture in mind.  The water in natural land supports the cranberry bog and in return, the cranberry bog enriches the soil that supports outside land. SAI’s Farm Sustainability Assessment dives into 112 questions over 17 categories to evaluate a farm’s investment in sustainable practices. The questions range from the safety of workers to nuanced issues of greenhouse gas emissions, and they are categorized in three ways: “essential,” “basic” and “advanced.”  For example, one question — “Do you take measures to maximize energy use efficiency such as optimizing your farm equipment and optimizing electricity use?” — checks if farmers are reducing non-renewable sources of energy, avoiding forest degradation or conversion and optimizing farm equipment usage.  In order for the crop to be considered 100 percent sustainable, all of Ocean Spray’s farms had to score well for 100 percent of the 23 essential questions, at least 80 percent of the 60 basic questions and at least 50 percent of the 29 advanced questions.  A third-party auditor, SCS Global, verified each Ocean Spray farm’s answers.  “The biggest challenge was the gap in how we define things and how a certifying body might define things,” Ocean Spray farmer Nicole Hansen wrote in an email when asked to describe how tough the certification process was from the farmer’s point of view. “In the end, we are all talking the same language. Maybe just a different dialect.”  Hansen’s farm, Cranberry Creek Cranberries, joined the Ocean Spray co-op in the late 1990s and is one of the largest producers in Wisconsin. According to Ferzli, the adjustments the farmers had to make were few and mostly centered on upgrading technologies that made sense for the specific bogs.  There was such a strong sustainability mentality across the cooperative that making these few changes to verify this crop was worth it. For example, moisture probes help farmers conserve water by collecting real-time data and only watering when the soil dips below a certain limit instead of on a set schedule. Temperature monitors feed into smart systems and are able to more accurately measure temperatures at both the top and bottom of a cranberry bed than traditionally handheld thermometers.  When building new beds, laser levelers help ensure the bed is flat and even, so that floodwater moves efficiently during harvest season, keeping the amount needed at a minimum. Farmers also addressed irrigation systems and sprinklers that had unnecessary runoff, causing water waste.  While most of these changes were inexpensive, Ferzli said Ocean Spray does help its farmers apply for grants so they can put the most innovative and sustainable technologies in place, including the Baker-Polito Administration grant that awarded $991,837 to 21 cranberry growers in 2019, 15 of which are part of the Ocean Spray co-op. Another factor leading to Ocean Spray’s milestone was the structural history of the cranberry crop. Cranberries are already a very consolidated operation with almost all of the U.S.’s cranberries grown in Wisconsin or Massachusetts. In 2017 , Wisconsin produced 5.4 billion barrels and Massachusetts produced 1.9 million. Ocean Spray’s co-op makes up a large percentage of those farms. In fact, of the 414 cranberry growers in Massachusetts, 65 percent are part of the Ocean Spray family.  The coalition of cranberry growers and the administrative structure in place was vital. Ocean Spray growers already submit a farm assessment survey required by retail partners such as Walmart that covers the health and safety of their workers and renewable energy.  That meant the co-op had the structure to distribute the SAI Platform survey, collect the data, make adjustments and comply with an audit, making getting to 100 percent much more feasible and streamlined than if the structure weren’t already in place.  “The farmers wanted to do it,” Ferzli said. “There was such a strong sustainability mentality across the cooperative that making these few changes to verify this crop was worth it.” The verification applies to Ocean Spray’s agriculture program and operations for three years. The company plans to survey the farmers every year and continue the verification process every three years when it comes up for audit. Only then will we know if growing sustainably is sustainable for the business.   Pull Quote The water in natural land supports the cranberry bog and in return, the cranberry bog enriches the soil that supports outside land. There was such a strong sustainability mentality across the cooperative that making these few changes to verify this crop was worth it. Topics Food & Agriculture Food & Agriculture Sustainability Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off An Ocean Spray cranberry farm. Courtesy of Ocean Spray Close Authorship

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Orcas threatened by highly contagious respiratory virus, CeMV

June 1, 2020 by  
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Marine mammal conservationists warn of a contagious respiratory pathogen, cetacean morbillivirus (CeMV), that could potentially harm already  endangered  orca populations. Like the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 that is causing the current COVID-19 pandemic, CeMV similarly has high transmission and mortality rates. With orcas being highly social animals, an outbreak could threaten entire pod populations, in turn drastically affecting the ecosystem, since  orcas  are apex predators. According to  National Geographic , more than a million cetaceans ( whales , dolphins and porpoises) are eliminated each year through “bycatch [species caught unintentionally by fishermen], intentional killing, ship strikes, seismic surveys done for oil exploration, and naval sonar.” Oil spills are another risk, as are municipal and industrial waste polluting their marine environment. Chemicals accumulating in marine food chains are thereby ingested, leading to high toxicity levels that suppress cetacean immune systems. Related:  Federal agencies propose designated marine habitat to help protect Pacific humpback whales Worryingly,  Emerging Microbes & Infections  journal affirms CeMV as the pathogen posing the greatest risk of triggering widespread disease in cetacean populations worldwide. What’s worse, CeMV is highly contagious, capable of spreading between cetacean populations of whales, dolphins and porpoises. Cases of CeMV first appeared in cetaceans during the 1980s. So far,  Science Direct  acknowledges at least six distinct strains of CeMV — porpoise morbillivirus (PMV),  dolphin  morbillivirus (DMV), pilot whale morbillivirus (PWMV) and beaked whale morbillivirus (BWMV).  Interestingly,  Viruses  journal states that CeMV is part of a virus family — the morbilliviruses — which includes the measles virus in humans and primates, the rinderpest virus in cattle, the peste des petits ruminants virus in goats and sheep, the canine distemper virus in dogs and the phocine distemper virus in seals and walruses.  Meanwhile,  NOAA Fisheries  estimates that of 50,000 orcas worldwide, about 2,500 reside “in the eastern North Pacific Ocean…[with] Southern Residents in the eastern North Pacific… listed as endangered in 2005.” This pocket of orcas has garnered media attention for their dwindling numbers as their primary food source, chinook salmon, is depleted. Human-induced noise also interferes with echolocation, threatening the orcas’ normal behavior. Additionally, lingering polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), despite being banned for decades, persist in the  oceans , contaminating the food chain. As  The Guardian  revealed, “PCB concentrations found in killer whales can be 100 times safe levels and severely damage reproductive organs, cause cancer and damage the immune system.” Immuno-compromised orcas are left susceptible to pathogens like CeMV. Researchers ran simulations to see what would happen should the highly infectious CeMV enter a pod population. Models indicated 90% of the population would succumb. Biologist Michael Weiss of San Juan Island’s Center for Whale Research explained in a  Biological Conservation  journal study, “The social structure of this population offers only limited protection from disease outbreaks.” While immunization against measles in humans and canine distemper in pets has been successful, vaccines against CeMV for whales might not be deployed practically — unlike the morbillivirus vaccine program under development for endangered seals. A more viable solution may be to enhance the  conservation  of chinook salmon to minimize the chances of orca hunger and boost their immune systems. + KUOW and NPR Images via Pixabay

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