20 must-read books about food systems

July 10, 2020 by  
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20 must-read books about food systems Danielle Nierenberg Fri, 07/10/2020 – 00:50 With record high unemployment , a reeling global economy and concerns of food shortages , the world as we know it is changing. But even as these shifts expose inequities in the health and food systems, many experts hope that the current moment offers an opportunity to build a new, more sustainable food system. To understand what it will take to move forward, Food Tank has compiled its summer reading list to delve into the issues that affect our food system today. These 20 books provide insight into food access and justice in Black communities, food relief and school nutrition programs, the effects of technology on global food supply chains, the relationship between climate change and food production, and much more. 1. ” Be My Guest: Reflections on Food, Community, and the Meaning of Generosity ” by Priya Basil (forthcoming November) Priya Basil explores the meaning of hospitality within a variety of cultural, linguistic and sociopolitical contexts in this short read. Basil uses her cross-cultural experience to illustrate how food amplifies discourse within families and touches on the hospitality and the lack thereof that migrants and refugees experience. “Be My Guest” is at once an enjoyable read and a hopeful meditation on how food and hospitality can make a positive difference in our world. 2. ” Biodiversity, Food and Nutrition: A New Agenda for Sustainable Food Systems ” by Danny Hunter, Teresa Borelli and Eliot Gee Leading professionals from Bioversity International examine the positive impacts of biodiversity on nutrition and sustainability. The book highlights agrobiodiversity initiatives in Brazil, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Turkey, featuring research from the Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition Project (BFN) of the  Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT . Through this analysis, the authors propose that the localized activities in these countries not only are benefiting communities, but also are transferable to other regions. 3. ” Black Food Geographies: Race, Self-Reliance, and Food Access in Washington, D.C .” by Ashanté M. Reese Ashanté Reese draws on her fieldwork to highlight community agency in response to unequal food access. Focusing on a majority-Black neighborhood in Washington, D.C., Reese explores issues of racism, gentrification and urban food access. Through her analysis, she argues that racism affects and exacerbates issues of unequal food distribution systems. 4. ” Black Food Matters: Racial Justice in the Wake of Food Justice ” edited by Hanna Garth and Ashanté M. Reese (forthcoming October) Access, equity, justice and privilege are the central themes in this forthcoming collection of essays. The food justice movement often ignores the voices of Black communities and white food norms shape the notions of healthy food. Named for Black Lives Matter, “Black Food Matters” highlights the history and impact of Black communities and their food cultures in the food justice movement. 5. ” Diners, Dudes & Diets: How Gender and Power Collide in Food Media and Culture ” by Emily J.H. Contois (forthcoming November) Emily Contois looks at media’s influence on eating habits and gendered perceptions of food. Focusing on the concept of dude foods, the book follows the evolution of food marketing for men. In doing so, Contois shows how industries used masculine stereotypes to sell diet and weight loss products to a new demographic. She argues that this has influenced both the way consumers think about food and their own identities. 6. ” Feeding the Crisis: Care and Abandonment in America’s Food Safety Net ” by Maggie Dickinson The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is essential for individuals who face food insecurity on a daily basis. Still, the program fails to reach many, including those who are unemployed, underemployed or undocumented. “Feeding the Crisis” provides a historical overview of SNAP’s expansion and traces the lives of eight families who must navigate the changing landscape of welfare policy in the United States. 7. ” Feeding the Other: Whiteness, Privilege, and Neoliberal Stigma in Food Pantries ” by Rebecca T. de Souza Rebecca de Souza explores the relationship between food pantries and people dependent on their services. Throughout the work, de Souza underscores the structural failures that contribute to hunger and poverty, the racial dynamics within pantries and the charged idea of a handout. She argues that while food pantries currently stigmatize clients, there is an opportunity to make them agents of food justice. 8. ” Feeding the People: The Politics of the Potato ”  by Rebecca Earle Rebecca Earle tells the story of the potato and its journey from a relatively unknown crop to a staple in modern diets around the world. Earle’s work highlights the importance of the potato during famines and war, and explains the politics behind consumers’ embrace of this food. Interspersed throughout are potato recipes that any reader can try. 9. ” Food in Cuba: The Pursuit of a Decent Meal ” by Hanna Garth Hanna Garth looks at food security and food sovereignty in the context of Cuba’s second largest city, Santiago de Cuba. Throughout the work, Garth defines a decent meal as one that is culturally appropriate and of high quality. Through stories about families’ sociopolitical barriers to food access, Garth shows how ideas of food and moral character become intimately linked. 10. ” Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America ” by Marcia Chatelain Scholar, speaker and strategist Marcia Chatelain provides readers insight into the ways fast food restaurants expanded throughout Black communities. Chatelain traces their growth during the 20th century and their intersection with Black capitalists and the civil rights movement. This book highlights the dichotomy between fast food’s negative impacts on Black communities and the potential economic and political opportunities that the businesses offered them. 11. ” Honey And Venom: Confessions of an Urban Beekeeper ”  by Andrew Coté Andrew Coté provides a history of beekeeping while taking the reader through his own trajectory in the industry. A manager of over 100 beehives, Coté raises colonies across New York City, on the rooftops of churches, schools and more. Coté’s passion for beekeeping comes through clearly as he narrates the challenges and rewards of his career. 12. ” L ife on the Other Border: Farmworkers and Food Justice in Vermont ” by Teresa M. Mares Agriculture, immigration and Central American and Mexican farm workers may conjure ideas of the Mexico-U.S. border, but in “Life on the Other Border,” Teresa Mares gives a voice to those laboring much farther north. Mares introduces the readers to the Latinx immigrants who work in Vermont’s dairy industry while they advocate for themselves and navigate life as undocumented workers. This is an inspiring read that touches on the intersection of food justice, immigration and labor policy. 13. ” Meals Matter: A Radical Economics Through Gastronomy ” by Michael Symons Michael Symons argues that economics used to be, in its essence, about feeding the world but has become fixated with the pursuit of money. Symons introduces readers to gastronomic liberalism and applies the ideas of philosophers such as Epicurus and John Locke to the food system. Through this approach, he seeks to understand how large corporations gained control of the market and challenges readers to rethink their understanding of food economics. 14. ” No One is Too Small to Make a Difference ” by Greta Thunberg Greta Thunberg addressed the United Nations at the 2019 U.N. Climate Action Summit and has become a global symbol of environmental activism. Her community organizing and impassioned speeches are uncompromising as she argues that climate change is an existential crisis that needs to be confronted immediately. “No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference” includes Thunberg’s speeches and includes her 2019 address to the United Nations. 15. ” Perilous Bounty: The Looming Collapse of American Farming and How We Can Prevent It ” by Tom Philpott (forthcoming August) Journalist Tom Philpott critically analyzes the centralized food system in the United States and argues that it is headed for disaster unless it sees some much-needed changes. Philpott argues that actors within the U.S. food system are prioritizing themselves over the nation’s well-being and provides well-researched data to back up his claims. Providing readers insight into the experiences of activists, farmers and scientists, this is a great read for those starting to learn about the state of the country’s food system and for those who are already deeply involved. 16. ” Plucked: Chicken, Antibiotics, And How Big Business Changed The Way The World Eats ” by Maryn McKenna In this exposé on the chicken industry, acclaimed author Maryn McKenna explains the role antibiotics played in making chicken a global commodity. “Plucked” makes it clear that food choices matter and show how consumers’ desire for meat, especially chicken, has affected human health. McKenna also offers a way forward and outlines ways that stakeholders can make food safer again. 17. ” Stirrings: How Activist New Yorkers Ignited a Movement for Food Justice ” by Lana Dee Povitz Between 1970 and 2000, food activists in New York City pushed to improve public school lunches, provide meals to those affected by the AIDS epidemic and establish food co-ops. In “Stirrings,” Lana Dee Povitz draws on oral histories and archives to recount the stories of individuals who led these efforts. She highlights the successes of grassroots movements and reminds readers of the many female leaders in the New York food justice movement. 18. ” The New American Farmer: Immigration, Race, and the Struggle for Sustainability ” by Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern offers a look at farm labor in the U.S. Although most farm owners are white Americans, farm workers are overwhelmingly immigrants and people of color. In this book, Minkoff-Zern details the experiences of farm laborers who are becoming farm owners themselves and outlines the many barriers that workers must overcome during this transition. Through interviews with farmers and organizers, Minkoff-Zern shows that these farmers bring sustainable agricultural practices that can benefit our food system. 19. ” The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go from Here ” by Hope Jahren Hope Jahren breaks down climate change for readers in an accessible and data-driven book. “The Story of More” explains how greenhouse gas emissions and consumption of natural resources in developed nations exacerbate climate change and outlines the consequences of these actions. Although she argues that the planet is in danger, she also provides a variety of everyday actions, such as decreasing meat consumption, that consumers can take to make a difference. 20. ” Vegetable Kingdom: The Abundant World of Vegan Recipes ” by Bryant Terry Author, chef and food justice activist Bryant Terry provides readers with over 100 recipes to create approachable and flavorful vegan dishes, without relying on meat alternatives. This book is a wonderfully practical recipe book that begins with a list of recommended tools, is organized by ingredients and even includes a music playlist. Vegans and non-vegans alike will appreciate “Vegetable Kingdom.” Alonso Diaz also contributed to this article. Topics Food Systems Books Food & Agriculture Food Tank Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Credit:  GoodStudio Shutterstock GoodStudio Close Authorship

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20 must-read books about food systems

Labels: Disdain them — except one

July 6, 2020 by  
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Labels: Disdain them — except one Bob Langert Mon, 07/06/2020 – 01:45 A longtime friend told me he was Christian and couldn’t support Democrats because it violated his principles. Then I heard a news update that Republicans were trying to ax Obamacare. I think I’m an Independent.  I’ve been spending more time contemplating the racial problems our country faces. I admire the friends and family that have posted Black Lives Matter signs. I just read “White Fragility,” and it infused me with thoughts that challenged my privileged white life. I hadn’t thought I was a racist, but I now realize I am because I’m part of a systemic white-dominant society by default. Truly. And it’s got to change, including me. I’ve thought of myself as young. But now I get up in the morning and hobble about until I’ve warmed up my body to stand straight. Labels. Can’t stand them. Listening to the radio the other day I heard an ad that said, “All of us use social media way too much.” How do they know that about me? I’m not too married to Twitter. I self-label myself as “athletic.” Yet I played a bocce match the other day against an 80-year-old woman who’d recently had surgery on her arm and had to toss the bocce ball with her odd hand. I lost. By a lot. There is one label I genuinely like and admire: ‘I’m a seasoned corporate sustainability leader.’ Another good friend of mine told me on the phone that he never thought I was a radical, “so liberal,” after reading my book about corporate sustainability (“The Battle to Do Good”). I don’t think of myself as liberal, but I’m finding in my daily conversations with friends that maybe I really am. Just yesterday, a good friend of mine said he doesn’t like the politics of Starbucks. And I’m thinking, “This is a company that is really trying to do good.” I passed on a very interesting New York Times article about health care to a buddy. He told me the article was narrow-minded and wrong because — well, it’s from the New York Times. He gets his news from Fox. We’re still buddies, although sometimes I wonder where to draw the line on sharing similar values. He said I’m a CNN person. I do watch/listen to it the most. I find myself labeling others and am ashamed that I do. He is a bully. She is slovenly. And I thought I was a good Catholic. There is one label I genuinely like and admire: “I’m a seasoned corporate sustainability leader.” I started this work by addressing the Big Mac polystyrene clamshell some 32 years ago. Finding the good intersection of business and society has grabbed my heart and mind ever since. But now I am mostly retired. It’s yet another label I disdain. If anything, I feel like I’m accelerating, not stepping back. Even though I made the choice to wind down my sustainability career, I have lots yet to give to my family, friends, neighbors and community. The couple of Myers-Briggs tests I’ve taken have labeled me an introvert working in an extroverted field. My safe haven is to be alone. But what I find I miss the most about working in the day-to-day of corporate sustainability is the gobs of good people I got to know, share, laugh, commiserate with and share a passion to change the world for the better. You are my good friends. I like being with you. Which brings me to my very least favorite label: “Retired from GreenBiz.” My regular writing for GreenBiz has seen its better days. I love writing about sustainability, but now that I’m not in the frontlines, I find I have little to write about. So this is my final column. I love the GreenBiz community, starting with Joel Makower, who I met 30 years ago when I bought a bunch of his books for McDonald’s people. His integrity and caring attitude permeate the whole organization. John Davies is full of bright insight and even better wit. Twenty-four hours at a GreenBiz Executive Network meeting was like filling up the tank with high-octane gas. I was ready to rock and roll after every meeting I attended. Everyone I meet at GreenBiz is an awesome person. How do you do it, GreenBiz? Thank you for the opportunity to write a column with my thoughts for the past five years. As you can tell, I’m not one for being labeled. It irks me. But you can label me a “big sap” for how much I care about the entire sustainability movement — and the special people that make it happen. Pull Quote There is one label I genuinely like and admire: ‘I’m a seasoned corporate sustainability leader.’ Topics Leadership State of the Profession Featured Column The Inside View Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz photocollage

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What role does ESG play in the ‘new normal’?

July 6, 2020 by  
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What role does ESG play in the ‘new normal’? Janine Guillot Mon, 07/06/2020 – 01:25 Facing existential crisis, it’s only natural that our perspective will change — for better and for worse. In recent weeks and months, as many of us have “sheltered in place” in the face of a global pandemic, each of us has come to grips with a valuable reminder of what’s truly important: family, friends and colleagues; security and safety; food and water; healthcare. By comparison, everything else seems small and suddenly insignificant. For some of us, that includes our work. When people are sick, suffering and dying — with little certainty about when or how it will end — how can we be expected to focus on a project deadline, a business meeting or a PowerPoint presentation? Recently, I was asked to participate in a webinar discussion about environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing in the wake of COVID-19, and I had to ask myself, “Is the work we’re doing at SASB completely irrelevant or more relevant than ever?”  The most urgent and important work being done today is that of our healthcare workers, grocery employees, delivery people and others on the front lines of meeting society’s most basic and most critical needs. We shouldn’t let a day pass without thanking them for their service, nor without asking ourselves how we can better support them as they rise to meet the scale of challenge before us. And soon, we must start giving serious thought to what we can do to ensure they’re never put in such a desperate position again. Respond now, adapt as soon as possible While today’s triage efforts are paramount, society is clearly starting to think about what’s next. This is an opportunity for all of us — companies, investors, government, civil society — to think critically about what our role might be in creating a more resilient future.  Although the global COVID-19 outbreak is first and foremost an existential public health threat, it also likely represents the dawn of an economic “new world order” and a reshaping of the global economy. Without question, it’s too soon to draw any conclusions about the lessons we’ve learned from this experience, but it’s nevertheless clear that businesses, investors and our entire system of free enterprise will need to adapt to a new normal in the coming post-coronavirus era.  Transparency leads to accountability, accountability drives innovation and innovation is key to resilience. In recent years, the rise of ESG, responsible investing, corporate sustainability — different people use different terms — has focused on evolving “business as usual” by recognizing that effectively managing environmental and social issues is key to the long-term sustainability of both business and society. The COVID-19 crisis is likely to accelerate this trend. The key questions that have arisen from the crisis are essentially ESG questions, such as: Will rising biodiversity loss and the changing climate influence the frequency and intensity of pandemics? How can companies adapt to ensure business continuity in such an uncertain environment? How can we ensure more resilient supply chains for essential goods, such as food and medicine? What can businesses in B2C industries do to ensure the health and safety of their employees and customers? How can healthcare providers better ensure access to critical tests and treatments at an affordable price? How might a long-term period of “social distancing” influence the adoption of artificial intelligence and robotics, and how will that affect workers whose jobs can’t be done remotely — such as manufacturing, waste management and deliveries? How can traditional and ecommerce retailers ensure fair pricing and reduce the risk of supply hoarding or price gouging? How can a wide range of industries — across the transportation, technology, hospitality and infrastructure sectors and beyond — effectively adapt in the wake of an anticipated rise in telecommuting and teleconferencing? Will the COVID-19 crisis permanently change consumer behavior regarding shopping, travel and entertainment, with significant implications for the retail and hospitality sectors?  Once the worst of the current crisis is behind us, it’s crucial that we don’t weaken our resolve to ensure that individuals, businesses, investors, economies — and thus society at large — can become more resilient in the face of 21st-century challenges. An opportunity to adapt In the coming months, as the forces unleashed by the COVID-19 crisis continue to reshape the economic landscape, they will bring long-held assumptions under scrutiny and potentially render entire business models irrelevant. They will bring more questions, but also — if we’re receptive to them — more answers. At SASB, we encourage long-term thinking in capital markets, and while that may not help solve today’s crisis, we believe it can contribute to preventing — or at least tempering — tomorrow’s.  We believe transparency and disclosure on business-critical ESG issues will improve how companies and investors measure and manage so-called non-financial — but nevertheless critical — resources such as natural, social and human capital . Further, it will help corporate directors and managers, along with investors, understand how effective management of those resources is critical to the long-term sustainability of a business. Emerging from this crisis, we can shape a future in which the interests of business, investors and society are in closer alignment.   The best answer to my question about the relevance of our work came during a recent “industry deep dive” webinar. Our restaurant industry analyst was discussing the connection between worker health and foodborne illnesses — a business-critical issue in the restaurant industry — and the metrics that can help drive effective management of such risks, including worker training and food-handling protocols.  I immediately thought about the increasingly clear connection between lack of paid sick leave and the spread of illness, and it became clear: This crisis will provide important new insights into non-traditional performance metrics that will help drive a structural shift in how both companies and investors think about delivering long-term value to both shareholders and society. To return to my original question — is ESG disclosure irrelevant or more relevant than ever — I believe the communication piece is key. Transparency leads to accountability, accountability drives innovation and innovation is key to resilience. When investors readily can identify and direct financial capital to the forward-looking companies that are evolving their business models to thrive in the face of future risks, markets will be more stable, more efficient and better prepared to absorb unexpected shocks. Today, we’re being asked to choose between lives and livelihoods. Emerging from this crisis, we can shape a future in which the interests of business, investors and society are in closer alignment. When economic and human prosperity are mutually supportive, we won’t have to sacrifice one for the other.  Pull Quote Transparency leads to accountability, accountability drives innovation and innovation is key to resilience. Emerging from this crisis, we can shape a future in which the interests of business, investors and society are in closer alignment. 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What role does ESG play in the ‘new normal’?

How Black environmentalists are organizing to save the planet from injustice

June 26, 2020 by  
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How Black environmentalists are organizing to save the planet from injustice Rachel Ramirez Fri, 06/26/2020 – 00:30 This story originally appeared in Grist;  and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalistic collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story . “I can’t breathe.” These were among the final words that George Floyd and Eric Garner gasped before their deaths at the hands of white police officers. That plea has become part of the current rallying cry for racial justice and an end to police brutality in the United States. But for Black people living near industrial facilities, the phrase has an additional layer of meaning: a reminder of their disproportionate pollution burden. “While many in power seemed surprised that COVID-19 is killing twice as many Black Americans, those of us in the environmental justice movement know that the health impacts of cumulative and disproportionate levels of pollution in our communities have created underlying health conditions that contribute to our higher COVID-19 mortality rates,” said Peggy Shepard, co-founder and executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, said at a virtual press conference in mid-June. Shepard is part of the National Black Environmental Justice Network (NBEJN) , a national coalition of Black environmental justice groups and grassroots activists founded in 1991. Although the network took a hiatus in 2006 after executive director Damu Smith died , the network just announced that it’s making a comeback against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and renewed calls to fight racial injustice. We see these environmental rollbacks as not just fast-tracking project permits, but as a fast-track to the emergency room and cemeteries. The network’s mission sends a clear message: Environmental injustice is not a single issue. Rather, it’s a constellation of issues including discrimination in housing, jobs and healthcare. It’s impossible to untangle Black communities’ current risks from America’s long history of racist policies and practices. Discriminatory policies such as banks’ government-sanctioned refusal to approve home loans and insurance for people in communities of color, also known as redlining, forced Black families into neighborhoods more likely to be exposed to industrial pollution and extreme heat . Now these same communities face a surge in unemployment and poverty rates as a result of the economic downturn brought on by the pandemic, and they also are  disproportionately dying from the novel coronavirus as a result of a lack of health insurance, unequal access to test sites and higher workplace exposure via employment in essential services. As if that weren’t enough, a recent Harvard study also found a link between air pollution and death from COVID-19. Given the systemic conditions that disproportionately expose Black people to the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and other worsening crises, NBEJN members — including the network’s co-chairs, environmental justice pioneers Robert Bullard and Beverly Wright — say they are looking to bring in Black lawyers, engineers, leaders and other experts to join forces to help create an equitable green stimulus package, take on the fossil fuel industry and fight the Trump administration’s seemingly endless orders to weaken environmental protections . “We see these environmental rollbacks as not just fast-tracking project permits, but as a fast-track to the emergency room and cemeteries,” said Bullard, an author and professor of urban planning and environmental policy at Texas Southern University. “The NBEJN is about dismantling systemic racism, and we’re talking about turning the dominant paradigm on its head.” Network leaders say COVID-19 recovery legislation could be an opportunity for lawmakers to pass a robust green stimulus package that would focus on environmental justice. Such a green stimulus package, the coalition said, needs to address core issues of systemic racism by, for example, providing green jobs to communities of color. NBEJN is needed today to fight these conversing threats and underlying conditions that are denying Black people the right to breathe and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness enjoyed by white America. “Green stimulus packages often only look at protecting the world, but not protecting people like us,” said Wright, executive director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice. “Any stimulus package dealing with transportation to housing or whatever they’re talking about doing will have to include us and need to be viewed with equity and justice lenses.” Even if an equitable green stimulus package makes it through Congress and the White House, there still will be a lot more work to be done. Bullard said that even if the Democratic party wins the presidential election or takes control of the Senate, it will take time to reverse Trump-era environmental policy damages, including the country’s withdrawal from the 2016 Paris Agreement. Even then, he added, policymakers will need to take additional steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions and center frontline communities. And NBEJN leaders say the network will stick around to make sure those steps are taken. “Racism is baked into America’s DNA,” Bullard said. “NBEJN is needed today to fight these conversing threats and underlying conditions that are denying Black people the right to breathe and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness enjoyed by white America.” Pull Quote We see these environmental rollbacks as not just fast-tracking project permits, but as a fast-track to the emergency room and cemeteries. NBEJN is needed today to fight these conversing threats and underlying conditions that are denying Black people the right to breathe and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness enjoyed by white America. Topics COVID-19 Policy & Politics Environmental Justice Equity & Inclusion Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Tverdokhlib Close Authorship

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How Black environmentalists are organizing to save the planet from injustice

This moment: An open letter to the GreenBiz community

June 2, 2020 by  
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This moment: An open letter to the GreenBiz community Joel Makower Tue, 06/02/2020 – 02:11 In the wee hours of Nov. 9, 2016, shortly after Donald Trump was declared the 45th president of the United States, I sat down and penned a note to the GreenBiz community. A lot of us were shocked, confused, depressed and angry that this vulgar man, who saw climate change as a hoax and “beautiful clean coal” as our savior, would be setting the national agenda at such a critical time. It was “a stunning and devastating indictment of decency, fairness and inclusion,” I wrote that morning. And: It will be critically important, for both our individual sanity and our collective future, that we stay the course, double down, make every program, project, partnership and product count. That was then. The past few days, in the wake of the national upheaval over the death of yet another black man at the hands of yet another white police officer, have been similarly filled with angst and anger within the sustainability community. “What do we do?” we’ve asked one another. Should we simply stay the course, doubling down on our work on climate and the clean economy, which is growing more urgent by the day? Or do we stop, take stock and rethink what we do? Today, I’m not sure that staying the course is, in and of itself, what’s needed. It may be time for a radical rethink: Given all that’s changing, what does the world need of us now? Whether you come from privilege or poverty, whether your education comes from the best schools or the streets, whatever your politics or identity, this is a brutally tough moment. The coronavirus and economic crash already had laid bare the inequity and disparity among the classes and races: those who have a job and those who don’t; those who are able to earn a living at home versus those who must risk going to an employer’s workplace during a pandemic; those who are able to afford food, shelter and healthcare, even amid economic upheaval, and those who can’t; those who feel comfortable walking or driving or just being outside their home, and those who fear that any moment could lead to their becoming the next George Floyd, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice or Sandra Bland. Now, all of those inequities and disparities have been cast into the open. To the extent they existed in the shadows — festering societal problems to which those with power and privilege largely threw up their hands — they are now center stage. To the extent these problems could be ignored — that one could live life without having to reckon with race, poverty and inequality — they have been thrust onto our individual and collective doorsteps. To the extent they were topics relegated to hushed, private conversations — well, those conversations are full-throated, 24/7 and inescapable. To the extent these problems could be ignored — that one could live life without having to reckon with race, poverty and inequality — they have been thrust onto our individual and collective doorsteps. The calamities of 2020 — the physical, economic, social and psychological crises we’d already been confronting these past few months — have contributed to this raw moment, the culmination of centuries of systemic oppression and institutionalized racism. Words of comfort, of healing and hope, aren’t cutting it, and they shouldn’t. For those of us working in sustainability, it raises some fundamental questions. Among them: What led you to this work in the first place? Was it to protect the unprotected? To ensure the well-being of future generations? To engender community resilience? To create solutions to big, seemingly intractable problems? Or maybe, simply, “to make the world a better place”? If so, then this is the moment to live up to those lofty goals — fully and, most likely, uncomfortably. That means having difficult conversations with family, colleagues, friends and peers. It means recognizing — really, truly recognizing, not just mouthing the words — that nothing is sustainable if people are in pain. It matters little how much renewable energy is generated, how many circular supply chains are created, how much organic or regenerative food is produced if our fellow citizens are being exploited, discriminated against, threatened and worse. This is what ‘sustainability’ should be about — the security and well-being of all species. This is what “sustainability” should be about — the security and well-being of all species, including humans — and it no doubt will provoke nodding heads among many of you. But nodding heads aren’t enough. They never were and certainly aren’t now. This is a moment for the private sector to step up. Not just in helping to calm and heal, although that will be a critical task in the coming days and weeks, but also to lobby for justice: economic justice, racial justice, criminal justice, climate justice. And to deeply understand what these terms even mean, and how they relate to creating the societal value that is the beating heart of business.  This is a seminal moment that is testing all of us — those in sustainability, certainly, along with most everyone else. And as we work on or support societal solutions — and countless ideas are likely to come out of this, from every conceivable source — it’s important to ask some simple but profound questions: Who’s setting the rules? Who’s calling the shots? Who’s being heard? Who’s left out? Who’s benefiting from the status quo and from the proposed solutions? Does it empower the marginalized or merely placate the restless? These are the kinds of questions that have been woefully absent in the past. And we are living with the result. If we are to change the course, not simply aim to get back to some elusive “normal,” these questions will need to be asked and answered. Failure to do that will lead us right back to where we are. I’d like to end on a positive, hopeful note, much as I tried to do back in November 2016. But hope and positivity are in short supply right now. So I’ll just say this: Don’t underestimate your power in this moment. You may not feel powerful, particularly in light of the deafening voices screaming in the streets and on our screens. But there is power in us all: to care for those around us, to contribute time and resources at the community and national levels, to take the time to truly comprehend the issues before us and to understand that silence is complicity. Pull Quote To the extent these problems could be ignored — that one could live life without having to reckon with race, poverty and inequality — they have been thrust onto our individual and collective doorsteps. This is what ‘sustainability’ should be about — the security and well-being of all species. Topics Policy & Politics Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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This moment: An open letter to the GreenBiz community

The COVID-19 recovery requires a resilient circular economy

May 29, 2020 by  
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The COVID-19 recovery requires a resilient circular economy Jocelyn Bleriot Fri, 05/29/2020 – 01:00 The COVID-19 crisis has disastrous human and economic consequences, revealing our system’s exposure to a variety of risks. The call for a more resilient, circular and low-carbon economic model has garnered support from a growing number of businesses and governments over the past few years, and appears today more relevant than ever. Identifying opportunities, keeping a clear sense of direction and fostering a strong public-private collaboration will help usher in redefined growth towards the next wave of prosperity. As the pandemic forces us to adapt our daily lives in ways we would not have imagined, it also challenges us to rethink the systems that underpin the economy. While there is no question that addressing public health consequences is the priority, the nature of the equally crucial economic recovery effort raises some interrogations. Should stimulus packages focus on finding the way back to growth by kicking business as usual into overdrive, or could they accelerate the shift that has already started towards a more resilient, low-carbon circular economy? One way to tackle this polarizing question is to reject the idea that rapidly getting back to economic dynamism is incompatible with a wider system transition. Given the sums at play and the unprecedented — in peace times — rise in prominence of public authorities, this isn’t a simple equation to resolve, yet there are signs of agreement on the horizon. While the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has declared it will devote its entire activities to addressing the economic impact of the pandemic , the Investor Agenda group, which collectively manages trillions of dollars in assets, said that “Governments should avoid the prioritization of risky, short-term emissions-intensive projects.” As witnessed in countries severely hit by the virus, being able to quickly adapt industrial facilities and shift production — of automotive to medical equipment parts, for example — has been crucial. The recovery effort will, of course, require a variety of strategies. Looking at the pre-COVID-19 landscape, it is clear that momentum already had been increasing around the need for a system reset, with a visible consensus on the potential of a circular model. Over the course of the last decade, a number of leading businesses have stepped onto and invested in this transformative path, while pioneering institutions and government bodies put forward significant legislative proposals to enable the transition. This is notably true in the European Union and in China but it plays out in other regions as well, at national and municipal levels with the same degree of vitality. Far from pushing that agenda to the bottom of the list, the current crisis makes the circular economy more relevant than ever, as it holds a significant number of economically attractive answers. The early stages of the COVID-19 crisis have revealed the brittleness of many global supply chains, not limited to but illustrated by medical equipment availability issues, for example. In this specific case, circular principles provide credible solutions: design and product policy factors such as repairability , reusability and potential for remanufacturing offer considerable opportunities in resilience (stock availability) and competitiveness. It is notably telling that the global refurbished medical devices market is expected to grow by over 10 percent a year between 2020 and 2025 , which represents market opportunities as well as increased asset use rates (therefore less reliance on new raw materials). The importance of these strategies notably have been highlighted in the U.S., where several state treasurers have urged ventilator makers to make service manuals and repair-related resources available to help hospitals deal with the crisis. This has cost reduction implications which will appeal to cash-strapped public health authorities, but is also conducive to lowering the greenhouse gas footprint, as remanufacturing has been shown by the United Nations’ International Resource Panel to reduce emissions by over 80 percent in key sectors. As witnessed in countries severely hit by the virus, being able to quickly adapt industrial facilities and shift production — of automotive to medical equipment parts, for example — has been crucial. Factoring in that flexibility upstream — by designing both tooling and products to be repurposable and versatile — could be a way to enhance value-creation potential and achieve greater resilience of industry, both valuable beyond the current situation. Another domain in which circular economy appears particularly relevant is the highly sensitive area of food production and distribution. It is well documented that the current industrial agricultural model yields outputs of questionable quality, relies on fossil fuels and practices that are damaging to ecosystems, and is built around supply chains that involve long-distance transport that make it vulnerable to border closures. The dependency on seasonal foreign workforces servicing industrial scale production centers is also problematic in that regard, and farmers across Europe already have warned they probably will need to forget about this year’s crop season due to labor shortages. In certain cities, hastily implemented lockdowns have stressed food supply and emphasized the need for shorter producer-to-consumer models, which have seen a sudden rise in uptake (French) . It therefore appears timely to further explore the potential of large-scale investment in regenerative , peri-urban production, together with digitally enabled precision agriculture. As the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s research has highlighted , a circular scenario could lead to a 50 percent reduction of pesticides and synthetic fertilizer use by 2030 in Europe (compared to 2012 levels), while resulting in a 12 percent drop in household expenditure and better products. Finally, regenerative agriculture is also a powerful force in the climate crisis mitigation arsenal, as circular economy strategies could reduce emissions by 5.6 billion tonnes CO2e , corresponding to a 49 percent reduction in the projected 2050 total food system emissions. As we gradually get a better understanding of the economic ramifications of the pandemic, the ways in which a circular model can contribute to the recovery will be more detailed, and implementation plans more defined. These two specific examples only constitute a small opening onto the wider possibilities presented by the circular economy when it comes to recovery plans, and there are many areas to explore: think for instance of the staggering amount of office space overcapacity, and what modular design and use patterns could achieve in terms of reduced materials and energy consumption. As governments are looking for ways to move forward, they can do so without straying from their low-carbon commitments by implementing circular economy strategies — this rings true in the construction sector, for example, as building renovation quickly imposed itself as an obvious immediate win, combining a de facto local activity boost with a necessary efficiency upgrade. At the municipal level, some COVID-19 specific measures already have been taken around mobility and transport . Brussels, for example, has given more space to pedestrians and cyclists and has limited the speed of motor vehicles to 12.4 mph across the city . While this does not necessarily illustrate a circular development strategy per se, it shows that the need for change is acted on by policymakers , who quickly create the right conditions for new systems to emerge. In such a dynamic context, circular economy solutions can find the space to become mainstream, as the inherent wastefulness of the current model is highlighted. To stick with mobility, even before business as usual was challenged, private vehicles in Europe were sat idle 92 percent of the time. It’s therefore not a stretch of the imagination to think that designing cities for alternative urban transport solutions and better use of urban public space will become key priorities. As we gradually get a better understanding of the economic ramifications of the pandemic, the ways in which a circular model can contribute to the recovery will be more detailed, and implementation plans more defined. Short-term answers already are available, such as the ones highlighted above for food systems or decentralized production, yet it is fundamental to recognize that the effort will need to be sustained, and that its success will rely on the involvement of all stakeholders, working in a logic of co-creation. As governments step up to address the most pressing issues, setting a clear direction and enabling private sector circular innovation to reach scale will allow us to combine economic regeneration, better societal outcomes and climate ambitions. Pull Quote As witnessed in countries severely hit by the virus, being able to quickly adapt industrial facilities and shift production — of automotive to medical equipment parts, for example — has been crucial. As we gradually get a better understanding of the economic ramifications of the pandemic, the ways in which a circular model can contribute to the recovery will be more detailed, and implementation plans more defined. Topics Circular Economy Risk & Resilience Supply Chain COVID-19 Resilience Policy & Politics Ellen MacArthur Foundation Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Source: Paulo Carrolo/Unsplash

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Companies push Congress to promote climate action. Is anyone listening?

May 18, 2020 by  
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Companies push Congress to promote climate action. Is anyone listening? Joel Makower Mon, 05/18/2020 – 09:15 What happens when more than 300 business people descend, virtually, on Capitol Hill to advocate for climate action amid a pandemic and economic crisis? Logic would dictate that these well-intentioned lobbyists-for-a-day would be met with a resounding shrug. After all, with two of the most devastating events to hit the United States happening simultaneously, there doesn’t seem to be much room to talk about anything else. As with so many other things these days, logic is not always the best guide. That’s my takeaway from last week’s LEAD on Climate 2020 , organized by the nonprofit Ceres and supported by other sustainability-focused business groups. It was the second annual opportunity for companies to educate legislators and their staff on the need for congressional action on the climate crisis. Among the larger participating companies were Adobe, Capital One, Danone, Dow, eBay, General Mills, LafargeHolcim, Mars, Microsoft, NRG, Pepsico, Salesforce, Tiffany and Visa, along with hundreds of smaller firms . Last year’s LEAD (for Lawmaker Education and Advocacy Day) event brought 75 companies to Capitol Hill. This year’s garnered 333 companies, including more than 100 CEOs, to have video meetups with 88 congressional offices — 50 Democrats, 36 Republicans and 2 Independents — from both the House (51 meetings) and Senate (37 meetings). Some had as many as 70 companies in attendance. This year’s bigger turnout no doubt had to do in part with the ease of meeting from one’s sequestered location — no travel, no costs and a lot smaller carbon footprint — but also from the growing push to get companies off the sidelines on climate action advocacy, whether motivated by external pressure groups, ESG-minded investors, employee concerns or a company’s own board or C-suite. To be quite frank, it was some of the most valuable conversations we’ve had with members on climate in a long time. Last year’s LEAD event focused specifically on carbon pricing; this year’s focus was broadened, Anne Kelly, vice president of government relations at Ceres, the event’s organizer, told me last week. “We reframed it knowing that long-term solutions like carbon pricing are important, but that there were immediate opportunities that companies could speak to.” That, too, may have broadened its appeal. For Nestlé, the event was an opportunity “to have meaningful conversations with Congress on climate change and on our priorities,” said Meg Villareal, the company’s manager of policy and public affairs, in an interview for last week’s GreenBiz 350 podcast . “To be quite frank, it was some of the most valuable conversations we’ve had with members on climate in a long time. I think the virtual platform created an opportunity for us to have very in-depth discussions about what company priorities are and how we want to see Congress engage on climate going into the future.” Among Nestlé’s interests, Villareal said, was scaling up renewable energy use in its operations. “We also want to develop agriculture initiatives for carbon storage and reforestation and biodiversity that help support our carbon initiatives. That was definitely a key piece of some of the conversations we had as well.” Her company is a founding member of the Sustainable Food Policy Alliance , along with Mars, Danone and Unilever. “We put out a set of climate principles last May that have five principles as part of it, the first of which is creating a price on carbon.” Several congressional allies participated, first among them Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), who has a strong record on climate advocacy. It appeared that his role in the event was primarily to cheer the companies on and give them insight into the Capitol Hill zeitgeist. Bank shot Whitehouse made it clear that while CEO pronouncements on their company’s climate commitments are good, they only go so far. “CEOs may say we support a carbon price,” he explained. “No, they don’t. I happen to know that because I have the carbon price bill in the Senate. And nobody’s ever come to me and said, ‘We want to support your bill.’ You can’t underestimate the continued opposition and challenge that the fossil-fuel industry presents. They’re still really strong here and really powerful.” The senator cited the American Beverage Association as a case in point. “Coke and Pepsi both have terrific climate policies. They do all the stuff they should be doing. But they pretty much control the American Beverage Association because of their size. And the American Beverage Association has not lifted a finger, period” to support climate action, he said. CEOs may say we support a carbon price. No, they don’t. I have the carbon price bill in the Senate. Nobody’s ever come to me and said, ‘We want to support your bill.’ Whitehouse advocated what he called a “bank shot” — perhaps an unintentional play on words — as a way to build pressure on companies through their investors. “We put pressure on Marathon Petroleum for the climate mischief that they have done — particularly the CAFE standards, the fuel efficiency standards mischief, that they’ve been string-pulling-on behind the scenes. They could care less when I call them out on that. But their four biggest shareholders are BlackRock, Vanguard, State Street and JPMorgan. And all those entities care quite a lot when they’re funding climate misbehavior. And they get called out on it themselves. So, you can use the pressure that the financial community feels to defend itself now against these climate and economic crash warnings to bring pressure to bear on even very recalcitrant companies.” The human factor I had the opportunity to speak during the LEAD training day, the day before they “hit the Hill” for their member meetings. As part of that, I interviewed Leah Rubin Shen, energy and environment policy advisor to Sen. Chris Coons (D-Delaware), who co-chairs the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus with Sen. Mike Braun (R-Indiana). I asked Shen, a trained electrochemist with research experience in energy storage technologies and green chemistry, for some insights into what it takes to change minds on Capitol Hill. “I’m a scientist,” she responded. “I think there are plenty of things that we could do tomorrow, or today even, that would make all of our systems much more robust and resilient, and set us on the right path. But politically, it’s just really difficult. As tempting as it is to just say, ‘Well, this is what experts say,’ or ‘This is what people say we should be doing’ — I wish that were enough; it’s not. It needs to be something that will resonate back home.” Storytelling is key, she noted. “Don’t discount the human element. Facts and figures are helpful — ‘This is how many jobs we have in your state,’ or ‘This is what our annual revenue was last year.’ Those things are important and helpful. But being able to tell a story is something that will resonate with a lot of staffers and members both.” Nestlé’s Villareal experienced that in a conversation last week with a congressman from Florida “with whom last year it was a bit of a difficult conversation, particularly around carbon pricing,” she told me. “So, this year, we tried a new approach with that office. We didn’t go in and lead with the ask on carbon pricing but wanted to have more of a general conversation about the companies in his district and how we are prioritizing our carbon principles and our climate principles. And it led into a very healthy discussion on carbon pricing and why the companies in his district were supportive of it. It was a very productive and surprisingly good conversation, and we were really pleased coming out of it.” We have to make these introductions on a large scale so that Congress knows if they act on climate, the broad business community will have their back. The whole exercise isn’t just about getting members of Congress to support climate action. It’s also letting them know that if they do, they’ll get business support.  “We have to make these introductions on a large scale so that Congress knows if they act on climate, the broad business community will have their back,” explained Anne Kelly. “Most lawmakers think that big businesses only want to break the rules, not call for new ones.” Among other things, she says, members generally aren’t aware of corporate climate leadership, science-based targets or large-scale renewable energy procurement by companies. The LEAD exchanges help them understand such things.  According to Kelly, the success of the virtual advocacy day — which she dubbed a “high-impact, low-footprint and low-budget model” — and the enthusiasm by participating companies has led Ceres to consider upping the frequency of LEAD events, from annually to quarterly. “Based on the rave reviews, I’d say many colleagues are hooked,” she added. I asked Villareal, one of those enthusiasts, what advice she’d give someone who hasn’t yet dipped their toe into the congressional advocacy waters. “It can always be scary to try something new, but it is so worth it,” she replied. “In the end, you get tremendous benefit from using your voice and especially on critical and positive issues like climate.” I invite you to follow me on Twitter , subscribe to my Monday morning newsletter, GreenBuzz , and listen to GreenBiz 350 , my weekly podcast, co-hosted with Heather Clancy. Pull Quote To be quite frank, it was some of the most valuable conversations we’ve had with members on climate in a long time. CEOs may say we support a carbon price. No, they don’t. I have the carbon price bill in the Senate. Nobody’s ever come to me and said, ‘We want to support your bill.’ We have to make these introductions on a large scale so that Congress knows if they act on climate, the broad business community will have their back. Topics Policy & Politics Carbon Policy Featured Column Two Steps Forward GreenBiz Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz photocollage via Shutterstock Close Authorship

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Let’s get together: Intel’s 2030 commitments include ‘shared’ climate and social goals

May 18, 2020 by  
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Let’s get together: Intel’s 2030 commitments include ‘shared’ climate and social goals Heather Clancy Mon, 05/18/2020 – 02:16 ‘Tis the season for new corporate social and climate commitments, especially at the start of this decade of action and despite the COVID-19 pandemic, which requires short-term prioritization from responsible companies around the world.  So Intel’s declaration of its latest goals, which include a new 100 percent commitment to clean power and a “net positive” water ambition, isn’t all that unusual. But one component is highly unique: the company’s decision to include three “global challenges” — ones that require collaboration with “industries, governments and communities” to pull off. Simply stated, they are: Revolutionize health and safety with technology Make technology fully inclusive and expand digital readiness Achieve carbon-neutral computing to address climate change In the press release touting the new initiative, Intel CEO Bob Swan noted: “The world is facing challenges that we understand better each day as we collect and analyze more data, but they go unchecked without a collective response — from climate change to deep digital divides around the world to the current pandemic that has fundamentally changed all our lives. We can solve them, but only by working together.” If you glance at the challenges above, you’d be right in thinking they’re awfully broad. But Intel has laid out some very specific milestones under each of them (more on those in moment), and those aspirations are timebound. They’ll be measured and reported on, just like another other sustainability metric and the company’s leadership will be held accountable for them, said Todd Brady, senior director of global public affairs and sustainability at Intel. This year, for example, Brady said a portion of bonuses is linked to whether Intel achieves a 75 percent renewable energy benchmark (it’s near that mark) and for further progress on its water restoration efforts — so far, it has conserved billions of gallons in local communities in which it operates. This is a longstanding practice for Intel, something the company has done since 2008 . ‘One company can’t solve climate change’ Swan, who took the helm as Intel CEO in January 2019, was the catalyst for the creation of the shared goals — because “one company can’t solve climate change” — and a broad coalition of stakeholders across the company was responsible for developing them, according to Brady.  “He really pushed us to think big. We don’t see this space as competitive, we see it as one where we can work together and collaborate,” he said. The challenges are pegged to the adjectives that drive the company’s renewed corporate mandate: Responsible. Inclusive. Sustainable. Enabling. (The shorthand used by Intel is RISE.) Here is a summary of what falls under each of them, all integrally linked with Intel’s high-level strategic agenda: Revolutionize health and safety with technology A focus on providing technology to accelerate cures for diseases; it includes the company’s Pandemic Response Technology Initiative The creation of a global coalition focused on defining and setting safety standards for autonomous vehicles Make technology fully inclusive and expand digital readiness It is spearheading an effort to create and standardize a Global Inclusion Index that companies can use to track and disclose progress on issues such as equal pay or the percentage of women and minorities in senior positions A major focus on addressing the digital divide and expanding access to technology skills. By 2030, it has pledged to partner with 30 governments (it doesn’t specify at what level) and 30,000 institutions to achieve this. Achieve carbon-neutral computing to address climate change It will work with personal computer manufactures to create “the most sustainable and energy-efficient PC in the world — one that eliminates carbon, water and waste in its design and use.”  The creation of a collective approach to reducing emissions for semiconductor manufacturing and cloud computing and on using technology to combat the negative impact of climate change While Brady didn’t share the specific milestones for the global challenges — which leaves them open to interpretation — they are bound by its 2030 agenda. He acknowledged that the work already has started and that the company will be discussing new partnerships in the coming months that point the way. “We have started in a few different areas,” he said. A work in progress As you contemplate the next phase of Intel’s corporate sustainability journey, make sure to step back for a reality check on the company’s 2020 goals. According to the its latest report , Intel has delivered on the vast majority of them. For example, it has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 39 percent over the past decade, achieved its zero waste to landfill aspiration and has saved more than 4.5 kilowatt-hours of energy from 2012 to 2020 (beating its goal of 4 billion kWh).  It has also restored more than 1.6 billion gallons of water. That puts it ahead of its goal to restore as much water as it uses by 2025, which is one reason Intel is stressing a net positive vision that will see it restore more water than it uses. It’s another place where collaboration is integral. “Where we have been most successful is where we have brought multiple players to the table,” Brady said. Where Intel hasn’t delivered: increasing the energy efficiency of notebook computers and data center servers by 25 times by 2020 over 2010 level (it has managed a 14 times increase) and encouraging at least 90 percent compliance among its supply chain on 12 environmental, labor, ethics, health and safety, and diversity and inclusivity metrics (it has achieved nine out of 12).  Topics Corporate Strategy Technology Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Courtesy of Intel Close Authorship

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COVID-19 and its effects on the environment

April 20, 2020 by  
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As SARS-CoV-2, the novel  coronavirus  pathogen that causes the illness COVID-19, sweeps across the globe, social distancing measures are noticeably impacting the  environment . Consequently, both the preservation and restoration of environmental quality are experiencing a new normal as the pandemic continues. Coronavirus and climate change-related conservation COVID-19 has heightened wildlife conservation awareness. As  Scientific American  has cited, wildlife trade secured additional notoriety when the  CDC  broke the news of a zoonotic pathogen jumping from animals to humans, causing the current pandemic. Secondly, when the  American Veterinary Medical Association  announced the positive presence of COVID-19 in domestic animals, zoos and  BioTechniques Journal  likewise saw captive animals test positive with the new coronavirus. This elevated concerns for sources such as  UNESCO ,  Time ,  Nature  and  Smithsonian Magazine  about the future safety of already threatened species, like the great apes who are similar to humans. Additionally,  National Geographic  raised alarms on poaching proliferation in conservation reserves as rangers and keepers self-isolated. Related:  Discarded face masks now threatening wildlife habitats Should climate change run unabated, future zoonotic disease outbreaks may become the norm, asserts  Conservation International  and  Harvard University’s School of Public Health . Given that healthy animals living in healthy ecosystems are robust enough to resist diseases, by minimizing climate change and protecting habitats, we may be able to avoid future pandemics.   Social distancing has improved air quality The  COVID-19  crisis has forced activity freezes. Lockdowns and calls to shelter-in-place have closed schools and non-essential businesses. Minimal activity from industrial sites, factories and construction sectors has minimized the risks for toxins to escape, in turn improving  air quality . Travel bans have similarly restricted international flights. Canceled conferences, festivals, concerts and other public events have diminished interest in tourism, reports the  US Travel Association . Airline ridership has slumped, and airports are as near-empty as they were in the 2001 aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. As such, aviation emissions — which accounted for 2.4% of global  CO2 emissions  in 2018, according to the  Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI)  — have dropped significantly. Still, the  EPA  says vehicular activity contributes more to  greenhouse gas emissions  than airlines do. Presently, fewer people are commuting, not just in major cities, but all over the world. Traffic nowadays centers mainly around immediate household supply runs to nearby stores, trucking supply transports to retailers or wholesalers, plus commutes by those in essential industries. Both  Traffic Technology Today  and  The Guardian  have spotlighted the United Kingdom’s reduced traffic, which has plunged by 73% “to levels not seen since 1955.” And across the Atlantic Ocean, Canadian traffic has also declined,  GEOTAB  disclosed. As for the U.S., not only has road travel decreased, but congestion has all but disappeared, says  VentureBeat ,  Next City  and  USA Today . The decrease in congestion is critical, as idling  vehicles emit more pollution .  With substantially less vehicular movement, air quality has improved by leaps and bounds. Numerous sources have covered how air quality indices of the globe’s largest metropolitan areas have improved extensively since strict coronavirus lockdowns were issued. Even  NASA  satellites from outer-space show the significant reductions in air pollutants, which supports EcoWatch ‘s observation that the novel coronavirus  pandemic  has delivered the silver lining of decreased  air pollution .  The Guardian  added, “In China, the world’s biggest source of  carbon , emissions were down about 18% between early February and mid-March – a cut of 250m tonnes, equivalent to more than half the UK’s annual output. Europe is forecast to see a reduction of around 390m tonnes. Significant falls can also be expected in the US, where passenger vehicle traffic – its major source of CO2 – has fallen by nearly 40%. Even assuming a bounceback once the lockdown is lifted, the planet is expected to see its first fall in global  emissions  since the 2008-9 financial crisis.” Reduced carbon emissions and global warming Just last week,  Carbon Brief (CB)  published that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted  energy use  worldwide, which could cut carbon emissions by an estimated 5% of 2019’s global total. That means the coronavirus crisis is so far “trigger[ing] the largest ever annual fall in CO2 emissions in 2020, more than during any previous economic crisis or period of war.” While this is encouraging news, experts say it still may not be adequate for meeting  Paris Agreement  goals to keep global warming from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius. What’s happening with fossil fuels during the pandemic? When the pandemic called for lockdowns, paralyzing both air and ground travel, the demand for fuel was likewise decimated. An oil price war ensued with drastic shifts in global oil politics, thus destabilizing the fossil fuel sector, reported  Business Insider . Even  Fortune  magazine highlighted the worry about where to store the surplus oil. According to  Forbes , this pushed President Trump to broker a historic deal, whereby the planet’s top oil producers — namely Saudi Arabia and Russia — agreed to cut oil production. As Sandy Fielden, director of oil research firm Morningstar, said to the  BBC , “This is an unprecedented agreement because it’s not just between Opec and Opec+…but also the largest supplier in the world which is the US as well as other G-20 countries which have agreed to support the agreement both in reducing production and also in using up some of the surface supply by putting it into storage.” Effects on the renewable energy sector CNBC  showed the  renewables  industry suffering supply chain cuts and employee layoffs during the deepening COVID-19 recession. There are worries that clean energy investments appear less desirable. Construction and development projects have been delayed as lockdown periods extend. Renewables, therefore, seek slices of the stimulus package to waylay progress derailments, which even the  International Energy Agency (IEA)  has cautioned about. What’s happening to climate change policy during the coronavirus pandemic? COVID-19 could portend future pandemics, particularly if  global warming  unleashes unknown diseases trapped in ice. Ensuring that global warming and  climate change  do not disrupt our planet’s health is still of paramount importance.  Green Tech Media  emphasized this, saying, “Climate change didn’t stop as the world turned its attention to combating the coronavirus.” Climate activism continues, despite cancellations to large climate change-related summits, negotiations and conference meetings. Not all  climate  advocacy during this time is lost. Optimism reframes these economic stimulus measures as helpful nudges for climate policy and the renewables sector to evolve for the better. Indeed,  Clean Energy Wire  upholds that these federally-backed stimulus packages can be leveraged to provide investment opportunities in both the infrastructure that can reduce emissions as well as in  clean  technologies.  Science Alert , moreover, contends, “the coronavirus has forced new working-from-home habits that limit commuting, and a broader adoption of online meetings to reduce the need for long-haul business flights. This raises the prospect of long-term emissions reductions should these new work behaviours persist beyond the current global emergency.” Images via Pexels

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Trumps July 4th celebration cost our National Parks millions

July 5, 2019 by  
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The Independence Day festivities hosted by the White House yesterday cost the National Park Service an estimated $2.5 million dollars, money that is typically earmarked for park maintenance and rehabilitation. The rainy celebration, which included military jet fly overs, tank displays and the largest firework display in D.C. history, is the most expensive July 4th celebration any president has hosted. What Trump promoted via Twitter as the “show of a lifetime” was loosely inspired by his trip to France during Bastille Day. After the proposed budget for a similar celebration last year reached $92 million, Trump had to scale back his plan. Related: How National Parks benefit the environment The president also made a speech yesterday, a first in 32 years. For the past three decades, presidents have elected to not speak at the Independence Day celebrations out of respect for unity and patriotism and an attempt to not politicize the holiday. “Today, we come together as one nation with this very special salute to America. We celebrate our history, our people and the heroes who proudly defend our flag — the brave men and women of the United States military,” Trump said during his speech. Despite his message of unity, tickets for the highly anticipated events were given out as gifts to high-rolling donors to the Republican National Committee. “This is a breach of trust with the public,” said Theresa Pierno, president of the National Parks Conservation Association. “The public pays parks fees to fix national parks and for educational programs, not the president’s parades.” The national parks are reportedly $12 billion dollars behind in their maintenance needs, and this event is another major setback. While the event cost the country’s parks $2.5 million, the Trump administration refused to reveal exactly how much the antics cost taxpayers in total. Before the celebration, Trump tweeted , “The cost of our great Salute to America tomorrow will be very little compared to what it is worth. We own the planes, we have the pilots, the airport is right next door (Andrews), all we need is the fuel. We own the tanks and all. Fireworks are donated by two of the greats.” Via EcoWatch Image via Joyce N. Boghosian / The White House

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