Sustainability

Reconstructing Communities with Green Buildings
October 25, 2012 12:35 PM - Noelle Hirsch, Sierra Club Green Home

Green building is taking the construction industry by storm, and its benefits are perhaps best seen in disaster-related rebuilds. The pros of sustainable and energy-saving construction are easy for most to identify. Reducing energy consumption with efficient building materials, household appliances, and heating and cooling systems benefits the environment and saves the building owner money. Green buildings often last longer, too, meaning they won't require frequent updates and remodels. However, most people become initially concerned with green building startup costs. In this sense, disaster zones can be something of a blank slate for developers: When towns or cities need rebuilds, developers often have an easier time incentivizing home and business owners to construct with water and energy efficiency in mind.

Bringing Rain Gardens to Urban Areas
October 25, 2012 08:40 AM - Laura Laker, The Ecologist

Water management is a major issue in large urban areas, where after heavy rainfall, rooftops, streets and pavements act as funnels. This sends huge volumes of water very quickly into drainage systems, putting pressure on rivers and increasing the risk of flooding. In contrast, undeveloped land absorbs and utilises water, thus slowing its progress to rivers. It is this natural bioretention that our towns and cities must learn to mimic. Rain gardens do just that. In its most basic form a rain garden is a planted depression in the ground, providing porous and absorbent materials into which water can soak, with plants that can withstand occasional temporary flooding.

Extent of Range is a Key Factor in Extinction Risk for Ocean Animals
October 24, 2012 05:56 AM - Stanford University via ScienceDaily

What makes some ocean animals more prone to extinction than others? A new study of marine fossils provides a clue. An analysis of roughly 500 million years of fossil data for marine invertebrates reveals that ocean animals with small geographic ranges have been consistently hard hit -- even when populations are large, the authors report. The oceans represent more than 70% of Earth's surface. But because monitoring data are harder to collect at sea than on land, we know surprisingly little about the conservation status of most marine animals. By using the fossil record to study how ocean extinctions occurred in the past, we may be better able to predict species' vulnerability in the future.

Electric Vehicles: Transitioning to a Sustainable Future
October 22, 2012 03:41 PM - Cameron Scherer, Worldwatch Institute

The US has a car culture. In 2010, 95% of American households owned a car and 85% of Americans drove to work each day. This is radically different from the lifestyle most Americans had after World War II, when 40% of Americans did not own cars. China and India are rapidly adopting the US living standard, and cars are flooding the streets. In 2011, China had 100 million cars on its streets, or about 10 percent of the more than 1 billion cars on streets worldwide. On average, 9.51 million automobiles were added each year between 2006 and 2010, exceeding the government’s ability to add roads and prepare for the increasing demand on transport infrastructure. Reacting to this mismatch, cities are establishing car quotas to attempt to slow the growth. This year in Beijing, for example, a car-quota system was put into effect, allowing the registration of no more than 240,000 new cars annually.

Mississippi river diversions play an important role in wetlands
October 22, 2012 08:32 AM - University of Pennsylvania through EurekAlert

The extensive system of levees along the Mississippi River has done much to prevent devastating floods in riverside communities. But the levees have also contributed to the loss of Louisiana's wetlands. By holding in floodwaters, they prevent sediment from flowing into the watershed and rebuilding marshes, which are compacting under their own weight and losing ground to sea-level rise. Reporting in Nature Geoscience, a team of University of Pennsylvania geologists and others used the Mississippi River flood of the spring of 2011 to observe how floodwaters deposited sediment in the Mississippi Delta. Their findings offer insight into how new diversions in the Mississippi River's levees may help restore Louisiana's wetlands. While scientists and engineers have previously proposed ways of altering the levee system to restore some of the natural wetland-building ability of the Mississippi, this is among the only large-scale experiments to demonstrate how these modifications might function.

False Killer Whales to Receive Protection
October 18, 2012 06:10 AM - Center for Biological Diversity

Conservation Groups, Fisheries Service Agree on Deadline for 'Take-reduction' Plan. The federal agency charged with protecting marine mammals settled a court case yesterday by pledging to finalize and implement protections for false killer whales by Nov. 30, 2012. False killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens), which are actually large dolphins, have suffered unsustainable levels of death and serious injury in Hawaii-based longline fisheries. The National Marine Fisheries Service struck the agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity and Turtle Island Restoration Network, represented by Earthjustice. When approved by the federal district court, the settlement will wrap up a lawsuit the conservation groups brought in June 2012. "For more than two years, the Fisheries Service has had sitting on its shelf a plan to protect Hawaii's false killer whales that reflects the consensus of expert biologists, longline fishermen and conservation groups," said Brendan Cummings of the Center for Biological Diversity, a member of the take-reduction team that the Fisheries Service convened in 2010. "With the fishery continuing to kill false killer whales at rates far beyond what they can sustain, it's long past time for the agency to get that plan off the shelf, put it into action and start saving whales."

Shading the Earth: A new solution to global warming?
October 18, 2012 05:46 AM - Allison Winter, ENN

In an effort combat climate change, scientists are researching ways to reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the earth. The reasoning behind the study is that these temporary sunlight reduction methods have the potential to reduce temperatures and therefore reduce warming. A new computer analysis of future climate change that considers emissions reductions together with sunlight reduction reveals that cooling the earth would only be necessary if the planet is found to heat up easily with added greenhouse gases.

Limiting Overconsumption with "Economic Degrowth"
October 17, 2012 12:10 PM - Cameron Scherer, Worldwatch Institute

If everyone lived like the average American, according to the Global Footprint Network, the Earth could sustain only 1.7 billion people—a quarter of today's population—without undermining the planet's physical and biological systems. Overconsumption in industrialized societies and among developing world elites causes lasting environmental and human impacts. In his chapter, "The Path to Degrowth in Overdeveloped Countries," Worldwatch Senior Fellow and State of the World 2012 Project Co-director Erik Assadourian describes the benefits and opportunities of proactive "economic degrowth"—defined as the intentional contraction of overdeveloped economies and more broadly, the redirection of economies away from the perpetual pursuit of growth.

Sustainability Priorities For Global Companies
October 17, 2012 05:46 AM - Editor, Justmeans

Results from the fourth annual "BSR/GlobeScan State of Sustainable Business Poll 2012," released today, outline the progress global business has made on 14 key sustainability challenges over the past 20 years, the areas where business is likely to make the most progress over the next 20 years, and key priorities for the year ahead—including human rights and climate. BSR and GlobeScan surveyed more than 500 business leaders drawn from BSR's global network of nearly 300 member companies. To examine the progress made in sustainability over the 20 years since BSR was founded, the survey asked executives to evaluate the past and likely future progress on 14 key sustainability challenges. Considering the next 20 years, respondents rated sustainability reporting, water, and responsible supply chains as the areas in which business will likely make the most progress. In contrast, respondents were least optimistic about future progress being made in public policy, governance, and employee treatment.

Intercropping with nitrogen-fixing crops leads to increased maize yields, says study
October 17, 2012 05:25 AM - Allison Winter, ENN

Growing maize crops alongside legume trees has been shown to naturally fertilize fields and increase crop yields in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa. As a region known for its extremely volatile climate and it's population facing global hunger issues, this discovery is extremely important for the future of agroforestry in the area. In a study published in the Agronomy Journal by researchers at the World Agroforestry Center, researchers compared yield stability in three scenarios: maize intercropped with the nitrogen-fixing legume tree Gliricidia, continuously cropped monoculture maize receiving inorganic fertilizer, and the typical practice of resource-poor farmers who grow maize without any external input.

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