Why collaboration is the missing ingredient in food system reform

January 8, 2021 by  
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Why collaboration is the missing ingredient in food system reform Jim Giles Fri, 01/08/2021 – 01:30 One of the most exciting things about food and ag right now is the potential for change. The industry’s environmental problems — waste, greenhouse gases, biodiversity loss — are real. But so are the solutions. Multiple studies have shown that new farming techniques, low-carbon foods and other advances can create a radically more sustainable food system. As we kick off 2021 and await a new U.S. administration, I’m wondering how — or if — one of these possible futures can become an actual future. The ingredients for new food systems have been rigorously detailed in reports from the World Resources Institute , the EAT-Lancet Commission and others. But building futures is a far more messy business than identifying solutions.  “These reports treat these systems as something we can program,” said Chris Barrett, an applied economist at Cornell University, when we talked this week. “As opposed to massive systems of billions of people that make decisions that none of us can control.” I’d called Barrett and his colleague, plant scientist Rebecca Nelson, to talk about a report from the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability and the journal Nature Sustainability, which they and others published last month . Yes, another report. But this one is different, because it examines the messy problem of turning potential into reality. This intrinsically social process, the authors conclude, “demands cooperation that is in shorter supply than are brilliant scientific insights.” To see what the authors mean, let’s go back to an earlier problem in food. The early 1970s saw increasing consumer interest in healthy food, but packaged food sold in the United States didn’t then include reliable nutrition information. Through a collaborative process involving the Food and Drug Administration, food companies and later the United Nations, industry and regulators developed the nutrition facts labels that we’re familiar with today — and that are mandatory in 58 countries. This kind of collaboration just isn’t a feature of U.S. food policy. These kinds of processes aren’t pretty. They involve countless meetings and technical reports and lobbying and conflict. But they can result in trusted systems that underpin structural change. We almost certainly need more of them if we’re to fully realize the potential of regenerative agriculture, alternative proteins and other promising technologies in food and agriculture. Let’s go back to labeling for an example. Last year, Unilever committed to adding emissions information to each of 400 brands, which reach 2.5 billion people every day. Other companies are pursuing similar goals. This could lead to competing emissions labels that confuse consumers and blunt the ability of food companies to translate emissions reductions into higher sales. A collaborative process involving the private sector, regulators, scientists and others could produce a unified, trusted label that would drive real change. There’s another great example in Barrett and Nelson’s report: China’s Science and Technology Backyard program . In 2009, scientists at the China Agricultural University moved their research to a village in Hebei province. Working from a local backyard, they spread the results of their research by working with the local farming community. Farmers who participate in the Backyards program, which has expanded to include other villages, local government and private companies, have increased yields while reducing environmental impact. It’s no coincidence that these examples come from another time and another country. This kind of collaboration just isn’t a feature of U.S. food policy. The closest the country has to the Backyards program, for instance, might be the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The service helped U.S. farmers recover from the Dust Bowl, but its ranks have been depleted in recent decades. That’s just one reason why I hope the ag experts on Joe Biden’s team have read the Cornell report. Pull Quote This kind of collaboration just isn’t a feature of U.S. food policy. Topics Food & Agriculture Food Systems Public-Private Partnerships Featured Column Foodstuff 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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Why collaboration is the missing ingredient in food system reform

Rolloe is a bike wheel that filters outdoor air while you cycle

January 5, 2021 by  
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While ‘rolling’ through the streets of London, Design Innovation in Plastics (DIP) 2020 award winner Kristen Tapping came up with the idea for Rolloe, a bicycle wheel that filters outdoor air pollution . With an understanding that the motion of bike wheels creates kinetic energy, Tapping , a third-year product design student from London South Bank University, began developing a prototype out of cardboard cutouts. Using smoke from incense and a basic fan, she sampled myriad variations. Related: Blix Packa, the electric bike that wants to replace your car Although the idea is scalable to a number of applications, Tapping started with bike wheels because they are similar to the existing technology in air filters . To avoid “recreating the wheel,” Tapping experimented with a variety of techniques to produce the vacuum and expulsion required to pull the dirty air into the device and release the filtered air out through the other side. The clean air stream is directed toward the rider’s face and surrounding area. With the final design structure in place, Tapping fitted loofah, HEPA and activated carbon filters to capture large and small particulates as well as noxious gases from the air. From there, the concept is simple. While in motion, the fins pull air through four layers of filtration, cleaning the air while the rider cycles through the country or polluted city. While anyone can use Rolloe, the main target market is currently bike commuters and community bike share applications. As an added incentive to help improve air quality , Rolloe will connect to an app that allows riders to share distance information and set goals. Participants can then be rewarded with credits to local businesses based on the amount of miles they peddle. According to Tapping, “If 10% of all London cyclists had one Rolloe installed on their bike, they would filter approximately 266,865m³ of air — 20 times the size of Trafalgar Square.” The filters can be cleaned and reused. The parts are also designed to be easily taken apart for assembly or disassembly and recycling at the end of their lifespan. Rolloe is currently in development and aims to be commercially available by early 2022. The final product will be made from recycled plastic materials using injection molding. Tapping also has plans to create a rear-wheel Rolloe for twice the filtering power per ride. + Rolloe Images via Kristen Tapping

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Rolloe is a bike wheel that filters outdoor air while you cycle

Architects turn invasive plants and forestry waste into a sculpture

December 29, 2020 by  
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After Architecture co-founders Katie MacDonald and Kyle Schumann recently installed Homegrown, a large-scale installation built from invasive plant species and forestry waste . Presented at the South Garden of Tennessee’s Knoxville Museum of Art, the architectural sculpture was crafted in the likeness of a large outdoor room with four walls and openings that serve as doorways and windows. The components of the 10-foot-by-10-foot structure were built of biocomposite panels made from fibrous biomaterials uniquely shaped for varying thicknesses and porosity. Designed to promote an “alternative material ethic,” Homegrown shows how small-scale landscaping waste, forestry scraps that are too small or irregular for industry use and invasive plant species , such as kudzu and bamboo, can be repurposed in architectural applications. MacDonald and Schumann transformed these plant fibers into lightweight, wall-scale panels with bio-based adhesive and an innovative and reusable inflatable mold that the duo developed and dubbed “pillow forming.” Related: Dramatically twisted timber weaves together in the Steampunk pavilion “Pillow forming allows for the design and construction of an infinite number of forms through a malleable process — the injection and removal of air — which can be repeated again and again,” Schumann explained. The architects based the molded designs on computer models for the wall panels. “Traditional digital fabrication of molds often relies on subtractive processes like CNC milling and robotic foam cutting, with each mold producing only a single unique geometry. Our system preferences variable form over repetitious form.”  Homegrown’s combination of high-tech modeling systems and primitive materials results in a one-of-a-kind sculpture with open-ended customization. The panels are covered with pine needles and set on a foundation of dimensional lumber in reference to traditional American framing. The installation and research were funded by the 2019–2020 Tennessee Architecture Fellowship at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, and Homegrown was temporarily put on view through November 29, 2020. + After Architecture Images via After Architecture

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Architects turn invasive plants and forestry waste into a sculpture

Discover Bruvi, a single-serve coffee machine with biodegradable pods

December 29, 2020 by  
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Coffee aficionados struggle with a balance between smooth flavor, convenience and environmental impact. While most single-serve coffee pods rank high in the convenience category, they fail to perform in quality, and the waste from coffee pods ranges from challenging to detrimental. Enter Bruvi, a startup aimed at solving these dilemmas. Bruvi looks like many other single-serve coffee pod systems with a water reservoir in the back and a pad to set a mug beneath the drip exit. However, the pod that goes into the machine is very different. Firstly, the company is dedicated to offering high-quality coffee options. The company’s B-pods offer premium coffees from licensed brand partners that produce ethically and sustainably sourced coffee. When Bruvi says premium, it means a brew that meets the Golden Cup Standard of the Specialty Coffee Association.  Related: Startup creates compostable, single-serve coffee bags for your busy mornings Bruvi is also an innovative product meant to cater to all types of caffeine-lovers. The machine brews filter coffee, matcha lattes, espresso, Americanos, iced coffee, infused coffee and tea. It’s also the world’s first single-serve system to produce cold brew. It can be used as a smart device that you control remotely using a phone app. Make coffee from bed or before arriving home after dropping the kids off at school. Bruvi’s B-Pods combat the mounds of disposable coffee pods dumped in the landfills. They are not only 100% recyclable, but they are also designed to break down without leaving microplastics behind in a landfill environment. The company has even eliminated adhesives and uses water-based inks for packaging. Bruvi is currently pursuing B-Corp certification and is a U.S. company based out of Los Angeles.  As Mel Elias, co-founder of Bruvi stated, “Bruvi is first and foremost, a coffee company. Our mission is to upgrade the at home coffee experience, with breakthrough brewing technology , better coffee and more eco-consciousness along with the convenience of single-serve.” + Bruvi Images via Bruvi

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Discover Bruvi, a single-serve coffee machine with biodegradable pods

Predators can easily spot mountain hares in Scotland thanks to climate change

December 18, 2020 by  
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A new study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B has revealed that mountain hares in Scotland are exposed to more predators due to climate change. Normally, the mountain hares’ fur changes from dark brown to bright white when it starts to snow. The shedding of fur is significant, because it helps the animals camouflage into their surroundings and hide from predators. The study, led by Marketa Zimova of the University of Michigan, shows that climate change has altered snow patterns. The researchers analyzed over six decades of data and found a steep decline of 37.14 annual snow days between 1990 and 2016. Although some animals have been adapting to less snow cover, the mountain hares have failed to acclimate. These animals are still shedding their dark fur at the same time each year, but less snow is coming, and it is coming later. Their white fur stands out in the snowless landscape. Related: Why should the Scottish woodlands be protected? There is cause for alarm, as hares have proven to be vulnerable worldwide. For instance, the survival of snowshoe hares in North America has declined by up to 14% due to a lack of proper camouflage. “The fact that mountain hares are not adapting the molt is really quite surprising,” said study co-author Scott Newey. “It could be because the mountain hare population doesn’t have the diversity within the gene pool to adapt and make changes, or it could be that the change in snow-lie is too rapid. The third hypothesis is that the studies were carried out on areas that are managed for driven grouse shooting, and driven grouse shooting is associated with predator control, particularly foxes and crows, which are legally controlled.” This predator control may have, at least temporarily, left the mountain hares with less pressure to shed their fur later for survival. But as the predators return, the hares are at risk of population decline until either they acclimate or humans curb climate change. + Proceedings of the Royal Society B Via The Guardian Image via John Johnston

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Predators can easily spot mountain hares in Scotland thanks to climate change

The Cyril tiny home has space for everything including the cats

December 18, 2020 by  
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Tiny houses are intended to feel cozy, so when clients Summer and Jason told the designers at Build Tiny that their house couldn’t be a home without space for their two rescue cats , the team worked the couple’s needs into the design. The Cyril tiny house, a project name inspired by Summer’s grandfather’s love of tiny homes , was originally going to be a labor of love for the couple themselves. However, once working on the details with Build Tiny, they decided to have the company take over the building process. The clients did contribute heavily to the 13-plus revisions and are thrilled with the end result. “Living in Cyril is like being on holiday every day,” Summer and Jason said. “We couldn’t be happier with what the team has built for us and will always remain friends and fans of the company.” Related: Tiny House Sustainable Living blog documents life in an off-grid tiny home Cyril is a two-story tiny house with plenty of space for an office, full kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and living room stuffed with few material possessions and a ton of amenities. Bamboo countertops, room for a washing machine and copious cabinetry in the kitchen appropriately take center stage in the middle of the tiny house . This area also connects to an outdoor dining counter through a fully-retractable passthrough window. Above the sitting area is a loft bedroom with a queen bed, cubicle and drawer storage on both sides, plus enough room to stand up. Across the tiny home, a loft office has a wall-to-wall desktop and chairs perched in front of a long window. Between the two spaces, the two cats can explore wall-mounted ramps at varying levels. The bathroom also accounts for the kitties, leaving room for a litter box amongst the various storage shelving and drawers. In addition to creating a welcoming space for the two-human, two-feline family, the goal was to use sustainable materials and systems. In alignment with that goal, solar panels produce enough power for the Cyril tiny house, and battery storage (tucked inside the sides of the home near the bathroom) holds any excess power that is produced. Another energy-efficient addition is the dome surrounding the shower, which holds in heat. The Natureshead composting toilet reduces water consumption. A gas water heater provides hot water, and there are plans to add a small fireplace to the living room, too. + Build Tiny  Via Yanko Design Images via Build Tiny Limited

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The Cyril tiny home has space for everything including the cats

Can California’s cap and trade address environmental justice?

December 16, 2020 by  
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Can California’s cap and trade address environmental justice? Julia Rosen Wed, 12/16/2020 – 01:30 Growing up in North Richmond, California, Denny Khamphanthong didn’t think much of the siren that wailed once a month at 11 a.m. every first Wednesday. The alarm is a test of the community’s emergency warning system, which has alerted residents to numerous incidents over the years at the nearby Chevron oil refinery. One accident there —  a 2012 fire  — sent a cloud of black smoke billowing over San Francisco Bay and left thousands of local residents struggling to breathe. Now, when Khamphanthong explains the sound to his young nieces, he sees the fear in their eyes. “I forget that this isn’t normal,” he says. Nor is the fact that Khamphanthong and most of his childhood friends carried inhalers. Richmond, a diverse, industrial city where housing prices and incomes have lagged behind its Bay Area neighbors, has poor air quality and some of the highest rates of respiratory and cardiovascular disease in California. “There’s a lot of beautiful things that happen out of [Richmond],” says Khamphanthong, a community organizer with the Asian Pacific Environmental Network whose family emigrated from Laos in the 1980s. “But at the same time, when you look at the reality of it, it is sad.” Pollution, poverty and race collide in many other disadvantaged communities across California — and the country — and some argue that the state’s climate policies haven’t helped. While California already has cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 13 percent since their peak in 2004, many residents still suffer from high levels of air pollution — much of it produced by fossil fuels. In particular, controversy has dogged California’s cap-and-trade policy , which took effect in 2013 and regulates roughly 450 entities accounting for 85 percent of California’s emissions. The system works by setting a limit on the total amount of greenhouse gases released by refineries, power plants and other large emitters, and requires polluters to obtain permits to cover their share. The overall “cap” lowers every year, forcing polluters to reduce their emissions or purchase allowances from others who do. Environmental justice activists say the cap and trade program has not served California’s disadvantaged communities, and particularly communities of color, where many facilities operate. Economists, environmentalists and policymakers — many of them white — tout cap and trade as a cost-effective way to cut emissions while generating money for other climate initiatives. But environmental justice activists say the program has not served California’s disadvantaged communities, and particularly communities of color, where many facilities operate. In their eyes, it doesn’t do enough to address climate change and allows emitters to continue polluting the air in the meantime. For example, state records suggest that the Chevron Richmond Refinery, one of California’s largest emitters, released more greenhouse gases in 2017 and 2018 — the last years for which data are publicly available — than it has since 2008. And in several recent years, it emitted as much or more of certain air pollutants . It also dramatically has increased the volume of gas flared off as waste — another source of harmful compounds . (Representatives from Chevron said that flaring was related to a new hydrogen plant coming online, and that the refinery has made significant investments in reducing emissions of air pollutants over the past 40 years.) To many, cap and trade highlights a contradiction. “You’re hearing all this great stuff about how amazing your governor and your state is on climate leadership,” says Lucas Zucker, policy and communications director at the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy . But “it doesn’t feel like anything is changing.” As the United States reckons with its long legacy of racial injustice and the increasingly devastating consequences of climate change, questions about the efficacy and fairness of cap and trade have taken on greater urgency than ever. But seven years on, researchers, regulators and activists are still arguing about how California’s most famous climate policy has affected its most vulnerable residents — and how to do better. The air Climate change is usually seen as a global problem. But its effects are profoundly local, and often refract through long-standing patterns of inequality and racism. In the U.S. and elsewhere, low-income residents and people of color shoulder an outsized share of the climate burden. They face greater risks from heat waves , floods and other climate-related impacts. And they have suffered collateral damage from the harmful pollutants produced by using fossil fuels. As the U.S. reckons with its long legacy of racial injustice and the increasingly devastating consequences of climate change, questions about the efficacy and fairness of cap and trade have taken on greater urgency than ever. These pollutants, which include particulate matter, nitrogen and sulfur oxides, and toxic substances such as benzene, have been linked to health problems ranging from respiratory disorders to reproductive problems to cancer. Numerous studies show that polluting facilities and their emissions tend to concentrate in disadvantaged communities. “Me and my five cousins, we all have asthma,” says Abe Francis, 15, of Sacramento. When Francis was young, doctors prescribed him medication because they feared he might stop breathing in his sleep. He still struggles to catch his breath when he plays basketball at the park. “It’s incredibly scary for me,” says Francis, who is African American. According to CalEnviroScreen , the system the state uses to identify at-risk populations, his neighborhood falls in the highest fifth of pollution-affected communities in California. It ranks in the 94th percentile for poverty and roughly 90 percent of residents are people of color. Chemical plant in Wilmington, a city in California’s Los Angeles County. Shutterstock Angel DiBilio Close Authorship   In Wilmington, a predominantly Latino community in south Los Angeles, Dulce Altamirano says her children and grandchildren suffer from headaches, rashes, nosebleeds, and respiratory problems caused by pollution. “The air quality is very bad,” 45-year-old Altamirano says in Spanish, with a sigh. “I personally have many problems with breathing, with my throat. … There have been times when my husband wanted to call the paramedics.” The city sits among numerous refineries, oil wells and storage facilities, shipping ports and high-traffic roads, and some neighborhoods rank in the top 10th of CalEnviroScreen scores. Climate policies present an opportunity to address these issues because greenhouse gases and harmful air pollutants often come from the same sources, such as industrial smokestacks and vehicle tailpipes. In fact, when California passed its landmark 2006 climate law  — which directed the state to cut greenhouse gas emissions down to 1990 levels by 2020 —  supporters claimed that it would save thousands of lives through improved air quality alone. But environmental justice advocates grew concerned that these benefits would not be equally distributed when the California Air Resources Board (CARB) decided to adopt a cap-and-trade program as part of its strategy to implement the law. CARB turned to cap and trade in part because it had broad support from both environmental groups and industry players, and was already in use by a coalition of East Coast states and the European Union to tackle greenhouse gases. (In 2014, Quebec joined California’s market and several other states and countries have considered or adopted their own versions in recent years.) However, community activists worried that the system would allow companies to find ways to keep emitting, particularly in disadvantaged neighborhoods. “Anytime to you have that kind of pay-to-pollute scheme, the communities that already were being sacrificed — that becomes a business decision,” Zucker says. Some evidence suggests that these fears have come true. A 2018 study led by Lara Cushing , now at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that more than half of the facilities covered under cap and trade actually increased their in-state emissions during the first three years of the program. These facilities were also more likely to be in disadvantaged communities. (In-state emissions were offset by purchasing cleaner power and carbon credits from other projects that reduced emissions elsewhere.) A 2019 report by the environmental group Food and Water Watch found similar results for the East Coast’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative — a cap-and-trade program that regulates the power sector. However, a new analysis by economists at the University of California, Santa Barbara, paints a slightly brighter picture in California. The researchers used a model to simulate how pollution spreads in the atmosphere to study how emissions translate to exposure. Like others, they found glaring disparities between disadvantaged communities and their whiter, more prosperous neighbors. But while this so-called environmental justice gap increased in the years before cap and trade took effect, it fell by 20 to 30 percent afterwards in the areas where facilities were covered by the program. The California studies, which took different approaches, do not offer a clear answer about whether cap and trade has helped or harmed disadvantaged communities in the state. Both had to wrestle with outside factors that affected emissions, such as the Great Recession and California’s other climate policies. But activists say that an even more important question mostly has gone unasked: What would have happened if California had adopted a different policy altogether? Many feel that their communities would have seen greater progress if the state had regulated emitters directly, says Katie Valenzuela . She grew up in Oildale — a town in a major oil-producing region in California’s Central Valley — and previously served as policy and political director for the California Environmental Justice Alliance . In March, Valenzuela was elected to Sacramento’s City Council District 4, representing midtown and downtown Sacramento and South Land Park. In recent years, state regulators have tried to tackle inequalities in air quality. But Valenzuela says that officials have leaned on cap and trade instead of embracing more aggressive climate policies — often at the expense of vulnerable communities: “It’s been 14 years, and we’ve still never had a meaningful discussion about reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.” The money By the time California’s cap-and-trade program came up for renewal in 2017, environmental justice advocates had united against it. They felt ignored by state officials and abandoned by mainstream environmental groups. The final reauthorization bill , which extended the program until 2030, only compounded their sense of betrayal: Among other provisions, it exempted many polluting facilities from extra regulation by local air districts. This souring of relationships was particularly disastrous given that many saw California’s original climate law as an explicit effort to advance environmental justice. It was “integral to the design,” says Michel Gelobter , a social entrepreneur and environmental justice advocate who helped shape the bill when he was executive director of Redefining Progress, a sustainability think tank. The law directed state officials to consider the impacts of climate policies on “communities that are already adversely impacted by air pollution.” It also mandated that the state convene an Environmental Justice Advisory Committee to oversee its climate efforts. Even the cap-and-trade program, while far from perfect, had equitable ambitions, Gelobter says. He and other economists note that traditional environmental regulations often raise the cost of goods and services, which disproportionately harms low-income people. And the extra money that consumers pay goes into the pockets of polluters, Gelobter says. Thus, to him, the most just climate policies are those that impose a price on carbon and use the revenue to blunt the economic blow on the most vulnerable members of society. California has done exactly that. Every quarter, the state auctions off emissions allowances to polluters (some are also distributed directly to industries) and by law, 35 percent of the money raised must be spent in disadvantaged communities. In practice, however, the state has delegated far more — almost 60 percent, or roughly $3 billion in total since the first funds were released in 2014. Phil Serna , a member of the California Air Resources Board, sees this as a powerful counterpoint to critiques that cap and trade is unjust. “How we invest our resources is really a reflection of our priorities,” says Serna, also a Sacramento County supervisor. How we invest our resources is really a reflection of our priorities. Some cap-and-trade revenue goes directly to California residents , to offset the increased cost of electricity and natural gas caused by the state’s climate initiatives. The rest of the money goes toward projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or improve water quality. In disadvantaged neighborhoods, that might mean expanding public transit, increasing access to renewable energy and building efficient, affordable housing. Some feel uncomfortable about the source of these funds, because they often come at a cost to community health. “We would prefer it if there was no money coming from the cap-and-trade system because there was no pollution coming from our economy,” says Alvaro Sanchez, director of environmental equity at the nonprofit Greenlining Institute . But from an investment point of view, he says, “the money picture feels fairly positive.” In the San Joaquin Valley, cap-and-trade funds have helped low-income residents purchase clean cars. Most of the valley ranks in the upper third of CalEnviroScreen scores and the region has the worst air quality in the nation . Bakersfield leads the country in particulate pollution, and Fresno ranks second. But here, the leading culprits are  agriculture and traffic  — not the large industrial facilities covered under cap and trade. (The program regulates transportation indirectly by forcing fuel distributors to buy emission allowances.) Under an initiative called Drive Clean in the San Joaquin , residents can get up to $9,500 to trade in their old car for a hybrid or electric vehicle. So far, Drive Clean has replaced 3,000 cars and saved customers hundreds of dollars a month in gas and maintenance costs, says Tom Knox, executive director of Valley Clean Air Now , which runs the program. One of those vehicles went to Sokunrith Nop, who emigrated to the U.S. from Cambodia 41 years ago and lives in Stockton. He replaced his 1995 Honda Civic with a fully electric 2017 Fiat 500e. “I love it. It suits me perfectly,” says Nop, who needed something reliable to drive his child to school. He likes saving money on gas. And he wants to help the environment. “Everybody should drive a car like that where we don’t pollute,” Nop says. He only wishes the program could help more people like him: “Those cars are expensive.” The rub Cap and trade isn’t the only way to put a price on carbon, and it’s not the only one that raises environmental justice concerns . Such issues arise whenever policies rely on market forces to drive down emissions — because markets are famously unconcerned with equity. “It’s all about finding efficiencies,” says Kyle Meng , an economist at UCSB and co-author of the study on the environmental justice gap. Still, activists and researchers have proposed numerous ways to make California’s program fairer. For instance, regulators could require that emissions in disadvantaged communities decline at least at the same rate as the overall cap, rather than setting a statewide goal, says James Boyce , an economist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Officials also could impose geographic restrictions on trading to ensure that the pollution benefits accrue more locally, or force emitters to go through local air permitting processes. California’s Environmental Justice Advisory Committee repeatedly has called on regulators to reduce the number of available allowances and do away with offsets — a cost-containment measure that allows polluters to buy added emissions credits from outside projects that reduce carbon emissions, such as planting trees or protecting them from logging , often in other states. Alicia Rivera , a community organizer for Communities for a Better Environment in Wilmington, says that she struggles to explain the concept of offsets to residents breathing unhealthy air. “The refinery gets credit, but in Wilmington, they haven’t reduced anything,” she says. (CARB has not banned offsets; however, starting in 2021, companies won’t be able to use as many, and at least half must benefit the state.) Some say that California’s program would produce more equitable results if it had a more ambitious emissions target, and thus higher carbon prices. (By the state’s own assessment , cap and trade deserves little credit for its progress so far.) Others say that it has received too much attention. Danny Cullenward , a climate policy expert at Stanford University, argues that cap and trade “claims to be able to do anything you want … while the politics frustrate any efforts to dial it up to do that.” Stanley Young, director of communications at CARB, says that cap and trade serves as a backstop for the state’s other climate policies, such as efforts to increase renewable energy use and clean up traffic pollution. He says that it works as advertised. It helps lower greenhouse gas emissions and forces companies to factor in the cost of carbon.  The program raises money, too, and California has made good on its obligation to invest the resulting funds in hard-hit communities, but some say it still could do better. Certain programs that ostensibly benefit disadvantaged communities may not actually do so; for example, a recent study by Cushing and others found that some of the state’s clean vehicle rebate programs serve more well-off Californians than low-income residents. Sanchez, of the Greenlining Institute, says that the most disadvantaged communities often lack the means to access cap-and-trade revenue. When they do, state agencies are sometimes reluctant to give control to community-based organizations, says Simeon Gant, executive director of GreenTech , a workforce training program in Sacramento whose students include teenager Abe Francis. As a result, he says, “they never get to the people they’re targeting.” Indeed, many Californians never have heard of cap and trade and remain unaware that it produces money for their benefit. Khamphanthong and others say the state should do a better job of engaging with community members to figure out what they need most. In Richmond, Khamphanthong would like to see support for green jobs that treat employees well and benefit the community. “Why not just work with us to figure out a solution?” he asks. The future In recent months, California’s cap-and-trade program has encountered problems. At the beginning of the pandemic, the spring auction brought in a fraction of the expected revenue. Over the summer, the head of California’s Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees CARB, released a letter stating that he would work with the board to reevaluate the state’s dependence on cap and trade going forward. Whatever California decides, it has to put equity first, says Jackie Cole of Veritable Good, a consulting firm that specializes in environmental justice. “If that is not the central lens through which you are developing solutions, then those communities will always be left out,” she says. New York may offer an interesting model. Last year, activists celebrated the passage of a climate law that sets even more aggressive emissions reductions goals than California. Environmental justice groups championed the bill, and they are hopeful that the state will steer clear of cap-and-trade policies (they have long fought the East Coast’s regional market). Instead, activists support imposing a polluter fee to raise money, on top of strict mandates to cut emissions. After a long negotiation among community members, local officials and industry representatives, refinery managers agreed to cut emissions of several key pollutants by 50% by 2030. Back in California, CARB passed a resolution  — “almost a constitution,” says Serna — reaffirming its commitment to social and racial justice in October. “I have every expectation that that will eventually find its place into everything that we continue to do at CARB,” he says, including managing cap and trade. (In September , Black employees at CARB wrote an open letter and proposed an action plan to address concerns about systemic racism within agency culture.) The state already has taken steps to address air pollution in disadvantaged communities, including issuing new regulations for vehicles  — a major contributor. After Francis participated in a recent CARB panel on environmental justice, the agency offered to install low-cost air monitors at his home as part of a pilot program. Francis said they already have helped his family members stay safe on unhealthy days. The state also has begun implementing a 2017 law , passed alongside the cap-and-trade extension, that creates a community-focused system for tackling harmful emissions in the most affected neighborhoods. Along with Richmond, one of the first cities to participate is Wilmington, together with neighboring Carson and West Long Beach. After a long negotiation among community members, local officials, and industry representatives, refinery managers agreed to cut emissions of several key pollutants by 50 percent by 2030. The final plan , released last year, also includes provisions to reduce pollution from traffic and oil wells. Rivera, the community organizer, says the refinery agreement represents a victory — albeit hard-won and too late for many. But Altamirano, the Wilmington resident who served as a member of the community steering committee in the negotiations, isn’t quite as hopeful. She lives close enough to a refinery to hear valves pop open and to smell the noxious fumes that seep out. Sometimes, flares illuminate the night sky above her house. And she says she’s still waiting to see change. ” Solo hablan, pero no se hace nada ,” she says. “Just talking and then doing nothing.” Listen to Public News Service’s audio version of this story. This report was made possible in part by the Fund for Environmental Journalism of the Society of Environmental Journalists . Pull Quote Environmental justice activists say the cap and trade program has not served California’s disadvantaged communities, and particularly communities of color, where many facilities operate. As the U.S. reckons with its long legacy of racial injustice and the increasingly devastating consequences of climate change, questions about the efficacy and fairness of cap and trade have taken on greater urgency than ever. How we invest our resources is really a reflection of our priorities. After a long negotiation among community members, local officials and industry representatives, refinery managers agreed to cut emissions of several key pollutants by 50% by 2030. Topics Carbon Policy Environmental Justice California YES! Magazine Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Signage from a mass mobilization at the Chevron Oil Refinery in Richmond on August 15, 2009. Flickr planet a. Close Authorship

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Can California’s cap and trade address environmental justice?

These were 10 key sustainable transport trends of 2020

December 16, 2020 by  
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These were 10 key sustainable transport trends of 2020 Katie Fehrenbacher Wed, 12/16/2020 – 01:00 Have you ever been more ready for a year to be over? In a little over two weeks, this dumpster fire of a year will be relegated to history. And while the world will be dealing with COVID-19 for many more months into 2021, something just feels so good about leaving 2020 behind.  Many books will be written about 2020 as a turning point in — you name it: American power. China relations. Democracy. In my corner of the universe, I think 2020 was a pivotal year for organizations, policymakers and the financial community to start to take sustainable and electric transportation more seriously as an emerging and powerful market — and as a key piece to tackle climate change. Here are my picks for the 10 most important sustainable transportation trends of 2020: 1. Gas car bans make it big: While some cities around the world have been adopting gasoline-powered car bans and phaseouts for a couple of years, California was the first U.S. state to adopt such an important, and jarring, measure. Just three months ago , California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order to halt the sales of new gas cars within just 15 years. Newsom signed the order as a direct response to California’s historic and tragic wildfire season and as an effort to try to ratchet up his administration’s levers to decarbonize transportation in the battle against climate change. 2. Amazon remakes e-logistics: More than any other company, Amazon has been changing how the electric truck market operates. For years, slow-moving OEMs have failed to make the kinds (and volumes) of electric trucks that commercial businesses need to move goods and people. Amazon’s answer to this problem was to partner at the ground level with startup Rivian and to place an order that turns heads: 100,000 EVs. Amazon Director of Global Fleet Ross Rachey told us at VERGE 20 : “We realized we needed to take an active role in accelerating the products and the technology.” Now Amazon is working on deploying its first Rivian electric trucks by the end of 2021. 3. Ride-hailing looks to electrify: Ride-hailing giants Uber and Lyft made big pledges this year to move to all-electric vehicles. Lyft took the plunge first, announcing it would move to all EVs for both its owned vehicles and driver-owned vehicles by 2030. Uber followed that up with its own plans to move all its vehicles to electric in the U.S., Canada and Europe by 2030 and the rest of the world by 2040. The moves show the policy pressures on these companies from cities and states to clean up their emissions, as well as the changing economics that EVs can be cheaper to operate by eliminating gasoline.  4. Fleets decarbonize with low carbon and electric: Fleet managers of public and commercial vehicle fleets are buying new electric trucks and buses and switching out diesel fleets with low-carbon fuels such as renewable diesel. These organizations are being pushed by a combination of regulations, sustainability goals and customers. While the electric truck and bus markets are young, they’re becoming increasingly competitive for certain types of vehicles running certain routes, such as last-mile delivery.  5. Tesla and Elon defy gravity: While many car companies faltered in the wake of the pandemic, Tesla continued to soar and soar. Tesla CEO Elon Musk is the second richest man in the world based on his Tesla shares, and the company plans to join the S&P on Dec. 18. The Silicon Valley-born electric car company has remade the auto industry, pushing the big car companies to chase its success into EVs, copy its online sales and promotions and mimic its over-the-air software systems.  6. Slow streets show what’s possible: 2020 saw the emergence of the slow-streets trend, where U.S. cities including Oakland, California, and Seattle blocked off miles of neighborhood streets to through traffic in a response to shelter-in-place measures. The slowed streets opened up possibilities for bikes, pedestrians and micromobility devices to move more safely, and reduced vehicles and air pollution in neighborhoods. The movement also gave city planners new tools to engage with residents and showed how cities can remake public spaces away from cars and towards humans.  7. The transport SPACs: An unusual financial tool — the Special Purpose Acquisition Company, or SPAC — emerged as the go-to choice for electric and autonomous transport companies to raise money and go public this year. It works like a reverse merger, where the company merges with a newly created entity and lists on an exchange, raising funds in the process. Why did these emerge this year? Going public via an IPO can take years, but opting for a SPAC can take mere months. Some new transport SPACs are speculative and pre-commercial, but many are legitimate companies with years of revenue and even profits. 8. Climate tech heats up: Venture capitalists and investors are increasingly interested in funding what the cool kids call “climate tech” today, and what we called cleantech in the mid-aughts. The new interest is coming from investors across the board, including old-school firms, brand-new climate funds and corporate arms ( a great resource here ). Entrepreneurs see growing markets, opportunities to work on world-changing solutions and more partners to buy energy, transport and carbontech. Is climate tech becoming so hot that there will be a bubble and bust? Probably. That’s the way Silicon Valley works.  9. Biden puts an end to the Trump darkness: While not strictly a transport story, the U.S. election of Joe Biden could be a major kickstart for the domestic electric vehicle and zero-emission vehicle industries. The president-elect could oversee the deployment of a massive ZEV infrastructure buildout and could quickly reverse the weakening of the auto emissions standards. His administration also will bring in new leadership that will prioritize decarbonizing transport and hopefully will set the bar even higher with new ZEV regulations.  10. Public transit moves into a crisis: mThe most disturbing transport story of 2020 is the crisis facing public transportation with the drop in ridership over safety concerns and COVID. Transit agencies across the U.S. are pleading with the federal government for help covering budget shortfalls, but even if tens of billions of dollars of help is approved, it likely won’t be enough. Many transit agencies will have to cut back on service, reduce staff and undermine the most climate-friendly source of transportation out there.  Topics Transportation & Mobility Clean Fleets Public Transit Electric Vehicles Featured Column Driving Change Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Rivian made headlines in September 2019 when Amazon (one of its investors) announced its plans to purchase 100,000 of the automotive startup’s all-electric delivery trucks.

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These were 10 key sustainable transport trends of 2020

Outdoor adventures in Hot Springs, Arkansas

December 9, 2020 by  
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If you look at an aerial view of Hot Springs, Arkansas , you see a few rows of buildings squeezed in between wild, green mountains. This resort town, about an hour southwest of Little Rock, is an unusual place where you can walk out the door of your downtown hotel and within minutes be shopping at boutiques, taking the waters in a historic bathhouse or hiking a national park trail. I visited in October, as COVID-19 ramped up nationwide and everybody seemed to be seeking outdoor activities. I found plenty in Hot Springs. Outdoors fun in Hot Springs Hot Springs National Park encompasses both the cultural assets of Bathhouse Row and the natural resources, such as many miles of trails in the Ouachita Mountains. Because bathhouses aren’t as popular as they were in 1900, the park has to think of new strategies to maintain its rank as the 18th most-visited U.S. national park . “It’s a lot of work to keep the park relevant to the American public,” said park ranger Ashley Waymouth. She’s preparing programming for 2021, the park’s centennial. Some of the plans revolve around that magic number 100, such as rallying people to donate 100 hours of volunteer work to the park in 2021 or walk/bike/paddle 100 miles in Arkansas. There will even be a special ‘bark ranger’ event for dogs. Related: This modern art museum was once a cheese factory in Arkansas Early Hot Springs medical practitioners prescribed walks of various distances and altitude gains as part of their patients’ health regimens. Today within the national park, the Hot Springs and North Mountain Trails and the West Mountain Trails offer hiking options ranging from short, scenic loops to the 10-mile Sunset Trail. Many of the trails are interconnected. A short walk from downtown, the Peak Trail leads you to the Hot Springs Mountain Tower. You can take an elevator or walk 300-plus steps up the 216-foot tower to get a panoramic view of the surrounding forest. Once you reach the open-air observation deck, you’re 1,256 feet above sea level and can admire 140 square miles of park and mountain views. For a more cultivated outdoors experience, venture about 8 miles from town to Garvan Woodland Gardens . Now run by the University of Arkansas’ Fay Jones School of Architecture + Design, the garden started out as the personal project of philanthropist and lumber heiress Verna Cook Garvan. Now, visitors wander 5 miles of paved pathways through an ever-changing landscape, be it an explosion of daffodils in spring or fall color in October. The garden also attracts architecture buffs, especially to see the spectacular Anthony Chapel, a light-filled structure of glass, wood and stone. In 2018, a gorgeous and innovative treehouse opened within the Evans Children’s Adventure Garden, delighting adult visitors as well. Hot Springs is also a mountain biking destination. The Northwoods Trail System has 26 miles of single-track, multi-track and other types of trails, plus a bike skills park, to keep beginning to advanced riders entertained for days. Northwoods hosts the annual Gudrun MTB Festival each November. Trail runners and hikers can also use this trail system. Wellness The city of 37,000 was founded on wellness, and you’ll still find options along those lines. Some visitors expect natural hot springs like you find in the west. But Hot Springs’ water is protected. Springs are covered, and their flow is directed. You can still experience the water at two of Hot Springs’ historic bathhouses. The Buckstaff is a bit more old-school, while the Quapaw operates more like a modern spa. When I visited in October , public bathing was still happening despite COVID-19. Bathers were asked to social distance in the Quapaw’s multiple pools of varying temperatures. The water felt good, but not as relaxing as it would’ve been in pre-pandemic times. Hot Springs has several yoga studios, including Om Lounge Yoga and The Yoga Place . For the safest options during the pandemic, check out Garvan’s schedule of outdoor classes, such as yoga and tai chi in the garden. Dining out During my October visit, I found a couple of places for excellent vegan food. The best meal I had was lunch at the Superior Bathhouse : hot, salty, blistered shishito peppers followed by a Vietnamese-inspired veggie and noodle bowl. The tofu was so good, I suspected it was from an obscure Arkansas soy artisan, but it turned out to be the magic of the Superior’s chef. For breakfast or a caffeine fix, Kollective Coffee + Tea is the place to go. Owner Kevin Rogers’ family has long been into coffee, including a Christmas tradition of sending each other unusual coffees . “We’d try to one-up each other every year,” he said. Rogers was surprised when he found the best cup of coffee close to home. Onyx Coffee Lab , an award-winning roaster in Northwest Arkansas, supplies Kollective with its coffees. I had to agree it was one of the best soy cappuccinos I ever had. Kollective draws local and visiting vegans from around the country. “It’s pretty significant for us based on how rare it is in town,” Rogers said of the demand for the restaurant’s vegan dishes. In addition to a changing assortment of vegan pastries and mini cheesecakes, Kollective offers a couple of plant-based full breakfasts, including vegan frijoles rancheros. SQZBX is open for takeaway during the pandemic. This pizzeria offers vegan cheese, which is not exactly widely available in Arkansas. Where to stay I stayed at The Waters, which afforded a lively view of Hot Springs’ main drag. George Mann, best known for designing the Arkansas State Capitol, was the building’s main architect. It was called the Thompson Building when it was built in 1913 and originally housed doctors’ offices catering to visitors taking the healing waters. After a huge renovation in 2017, The Waters offers perfectly modern and spacious hotel rooms. But my favorite part was the lovingly restored tile work in the hallways. A popular rooftop bar provides beautiful views of Bathhouse Row and the mountains beyond. Hotel Hale , which just opened in 2019, is a boutique hotel inside a restored bathhouse. The owners incorporated exposed brick walls, original pine floors and arched windows into plush and comfortable rooms. If I ever visit again, I’d love to stay here. But I’d probably never leave the bathroom; the Hale pipes in hot spring water so you can take the waters in your own private bathtub. 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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Outdoor adventures in Hot Springs, Arkansas

New Zealand targets carbon neutrality by 2025 amidst climate emergency

December 3, 2020 by  
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New Zealand has joined 32 other nations in formally acknowledging a climate emergency. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described climate change as “one of the greatest challenges of our time” and pledged that New Zealand would have a carbon-neutral government by 2025. But not all New Zealand governmental officials agreed. The Green Party and the M?ori Party supported the motion, which noted an “alarming trend in species decline and global biodiversity .” The National Party and Act Party opposed it. Related: Japan aims to be carbon-neutral by 2050 Since New Zealand ratified the Paris Agreement in 2016, its good intentions have not been matched by progress in reducing emissions . New Zealand is among 12 out of 43 industrialized countries whose net emissions increased between 1990 and 2018. In the last 20 years, the country’s net emissions rose 60%. “The irony is, even under Trump , the U.S. is going to have made better per-capita reductions than we have,” said Bronwyn Hayward, a political science professor at University of Canterbury, as reported by The Guardian . National Party leader Judith Collins called the emergency declaration virtue signaling. “We think it’s all very well to declare an emergency but there’s no proper plan in place as to how to deal with it,” Collins told Radio New Zealand. She pointed out that only about 10% of the government’s vehicle fleet is electric . The vehicle situation is one of the topics Ardern plans to address. In the future, the government sector will only buy electric or hybrid vehicles. Coal-fired boilers will also be phased out of public service buildings. “This declaration is an acknowledgement of the next generation. An acknowledgement of the burden that they will carry if we do not get this right and do not take action now,” Ardern said. “It is up to us to make sure we demonstrate a plan for action, and a reason for hope.” Via The Guardian Image via Dan Freeman

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