Sustainability

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.

Fall Colors and the natural Carbon Cycle
October 16, 2012 06:26 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

As Fall turns leaves to colorful displays, starting in northern New England, and moving ever southward as Fall progresses, we think of the approaching Winter. We might also think of all the carbon that the once green leaves contain that will be released to the atmosphere as they decay. In the springtime, leaves soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, converting the gas into organic carbon compounds. Come autumn, trees shed their leaves, leaving them to decompose in the soil as they are eaten by microbes. Over time, decaying leaves release carbon back into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. In fact, the natural decay of organic carbon contributes more than 90 percent of the yearly carbon dioxide released into Earth’s atmosphere and oceans. Understanding the rate at which leaves decay can help scientists predict this global flux of carbon dioxide, and develop better models for climate change. But this is a thorny problem: A single leaf may undergo different rates of decay depending on a number of variables: local climate, soil, microbes and a leaf's composition. Differentiating the decay rates among various species, let alone forests, is a monumental task.

Turning Trash into Art
October 15, 2012 08:57 AM - Kristina Anderson, Sierra Club Green Home

When you think of the words "garbage dump," the first thoughts or images that spring forth from your mind probably aren't related to art. But if you were to visit the Recology collection center in San Francisco, you would be seeing—and thinking about—trash in a whole new way. What you would witness is not only the incredible amount of debris that comes in every day, but also the artists who thrive on it. Twice a year, Recology SF brings in new artists to its Artist in Residence Program, a one-of-a-kind program that utilizes the center as inspiration, as a studio, and as an art supply closet.

Update: Fusion Power
October 13, 2012 07:06 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Green house gasses, nuclear waste.....these are concerns with our most widely used power generation technologies, fossil fuel combustion and nuclear fission. Fusion power holds the promise of abundant energy, no green house gas emissions, and little to no waste products. Fusion is getting closer to commercial reality. Until now, it has been produced only in the lab, and only for the briefest of time scales. Scientists in several countries are getting much closer to sustained fusion and this offers the real potential for commercial power production! The crucial next steps on the roadmap to developing fusion energy will be the focus of more than 70 top fusion scientists and engineers from around the world who will gather at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) this month. The Oct. 15-18 session will kick off a series of annual workshops under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that will address key scientific and technological challenges facing countries developing fusion as a source of clean and abundant energy for producing electricity.

Major Wind Energy Project Approved in Wyoming
October 10, 2012 05:46 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

The pace of wind energy development on public lands is picking up. Interior Ken Salazar announced this week that the Department has reached its goal of authorizing 10,000 megawatts of renewable power on public lands with the approval of the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project site as suitable for wind energy development. The Project is a proposed complex that could generate up to 3,000 megawatts of power in southeastern Wyoming. The project developers expect the proposal to create an estimated 1,000 construction, operation and maintenance jobs and generate enough energy to power nearly 1 million homes. The decision authorizes the BLM to proceed with site-specific environmental analyses for the Sierra Madre Wind Farm, the Chokecherry Wind Farm, the internal haul road, the internal 230 kilovolt transmission line, the rail distribution facility, and substations to connect the generated power to the electric grid. The Record of Decision also approves amendments to the BLM’s Rawlins Resource Management Plan, identifying the project area as available for wind energy development. The BLM Rawlins Field Office oversees more than 3.5 million acres in Albany, Carbon, Laramie and Sweetwater counties.

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