Sustainability

Global Warming and the Rare Haleakala Silverswords
January 16, 2013 05:57 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

One of the most spectacular sights in the Hawaiian Islands is the Haleakalā Volcano. This amazing volcano rises more than 10,000 feet from near sea level at its base. The ecosystems change dramatically as you drive up the twisting road that takes you to the summit. Near the top, you start to see the Silverswords. They are not numerous, but stand out sharply from the dark red rocky soil they grow on. In the early 20th century, the Silverswords suffered, but they have made a strong recovery from early 20th-century threats. The Silverswords have now entered a period of substantial climate-related decline. New research published this week warns that global warming may have severe consequences for the silversword in its native habitat. Known for its striking rosette, the silversword grows for 20-90 years before the single reproductive event at the end of its life, at which time it produces a large (up to six feet tall) inflorescence with as many as 600 flower heads. The plant was in jeopardy in the early 1900s due to animals eating the plants and visitors gathering them. With successful management, including legal protection and the physical exclusion of hoofed animals, the species made a strong recovery, but since the mid-1990s it has entered a period of substantial decline. A strong association of annual population growth rates with patterns of precipitation suggests the plants are undergoing increasingly frequent and lethal water stress. Local climate data confirm trends towards warmer and drier conditions on the mountain, which the researchers warn will create a bleak outlook for the threatened silverswords if climate trends continue.

Organic Farming Expands, Contributes to Sustainable Food Security
January 15, 2013 09:03 AM - Editor, Worldwatch Institute

Despite a slight decline between 2009 and 2010, since 1999 the global land area farmed organically has expanded more than threefold to 37 million hectares, according to new research conducted by the Worldwatch Institute for its Vital Signs Online service. Regions with the largest certified organic agricultural land in 2010 were Oceania, including Australia, New Zealand, and Pacific Island nations (12.1 million hectares); Europe (10 million hectares); and Latin America (8.4 million hectares), write report authors Catherine Ward and Laura Reynolds.

Update: California Carbon Caps and Market Trading
January 14, 2013 06:09 AM - Emilie Mazzacurati, Guest Author, Triple Pundit

Carbon allowances are now available for sale in California. Companies that emit more than 25,000 tons of carbon-dioxide equivalent a year (CO2e) in the power, oil, and industrial sectors will now have to turn in permits for every ton they emit this year and the years to come. Things are moving fast in California right now, so here’s a primer on what’s happening and what to expect for the coming months. Are people really buying carbon permits? Yes. Currently California Carbon Allowances (CCAs) are trading for about $15 a ton on the secondary market. Point Carbon reported a big spike in volume traded since January 1st, as a lot of new companies have entered the markets and are cutting their teeth on West Coast-style carbon trading.

Eating Sustainable Seafood
January 13, 2013 10:02 AM - SARAH SCHUMANN, ecoRI News

In the sea, almost everything that swims, burrows or crawls can be presented on a plate and eaten. Yet many marine species aren't well known among chefs and diners. The lack of variety on the menu represents not only a loss of culinary opportunity, but also a potential source of ecological imbalance. No one knows this better than sustainable seafood devotee Rizwan Ahmed, chef/owner of the Hourglass Brasserie. "There is an abundant diversity of marine life that can be used and prepared by chefs to put on their menu," Ahmed said. "But nine out of 10 restaurants have species like cod. This puts a heavy load on the cod population. People have now become so accustomed to a limited choice of seafood that they are not willing or are not aware of other species that taste just as good if not better."

El Salvador Prioritizes Geothermal Energy Development
January 11, 2013 09:06 AM - Sean Ahearn, Worldwatch Institute

During the last two decades, the global installed capacity for geothermal electricity has nearly doubled. Despite this recent expansion, geothermal energy is not getting the same level of attention as other renewable energy resources, and it remains heavily underutilized. If the world were able to tap just a small portion of the Earth's heat, we could provide everyone with clean and safe energy for centuries. Current estimates of our global potential for geothermal energy range from 35 gigawatts (GW) to 2,000 GW. However, simple technological improvements could greatly increase these projections.

Why is SO Much Food Wasted?
January 11, 2013 07:02 AM - Rhett Butler, MONGABAY.COM

A new report titled "Global food, waste not, want not" published by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers has found that 30 to 50 percent of all food produced in the world never reaches a stomach. The authors of the study warn that these figures are quite conservative. The large amounts of land, energy, fertilizers and water that are wasted in the food production have not been accounted for.

iWind Power?
January 9, 2013 05:58 AM - Leon Kaye, Triple Pundit

Apple may be the world’s valuable company and brand, but to sustainability and corporate social responsibility advocates, the company is often a pariah. But a patent application the company filed last year, first revealed on the Apple Insider blog, shows that some of that cash on which Apple is sitting could be invested in a new clean energy technology. Filed last year, the application describes a set of rotating blades that converts rotational energy from a wind turbine into heat that is then stored in a vessel containing "low heat capacity fluid." The system would then selectively transfer the heat as needed from that low heat capacity fluid to a "working fluid" and hence would generate electricity. Heat, not rotational energy, would would be the result of the turbine's blades rotating; and even more exciting, energy could be used when needed, as when there is little or no wind.

More Fin whales in the Mediterranean Sea
January 8, 2013 02:50 PM - Editor

The scientific journal Marine Ecology recently published a study undertaken by the Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research, ISPRA (Istituto Superiore per la Ricerca e Protezione Ambientale) showing that frequency of occurrence of fin whales in the central Tyrrhenian sea increased by 300% over 20 years. From 1989 to 1992 dedicated cetacean surveys along a trans regional fixed-transect in the central Tyrrhenian sea were carried out twice a week, using passengers ferries as a research observation platform. Collected data provided new information about cetacean species and their distribution in the region. From 2007 the research restarted with same protocol, the fixed line transect seasonally monitored the line from Civitavecchia (Rome district) to Golfo Aranci (Sardinia), along a strategic area just out of the southern border of the Pelagos Sanctuary.

Climate Change Finally Getting Our Collective Attention
January 2, 2013 07:02 AM - Gia Machlin, Triple Pundit

It's that time of year when we look back and reflect on the past year and make silly lists. ENN Affiliate, TriplePundit has assembled a Top Five list of the reasons that Climate Change is finally getting more attention. This list is far from silly — it is quite sobering news for many of us to accept. In 2012, climate change came to the forefront. Here are 5 reasons why: 5) 2012 was the hottest year on record. A December 2012 report by the independent non profit organization Climate Central states: "There is a 99.99999999 percent chance that 2012 will be the hottest year ever recorded in the continental 48 states, based on our analysis of 118 years of temperature records through Dec. 10, 2012." Not that we won't see more days with below freezing temperatures and chilling winds, but those days are becoming less frequent. While this is good news for those that hate the cold, it is bad news for the planet, as sea levels rise and arctic habitats disappear.

Touchdown for Sustainability: College Football Bowls Increase Efforts
December 31, 2012 08:57 AM - Leon Kaye, Triple Pundit

As is the case with most sports, college football—not to mention bowl games—and sustainability do not intuitively go in the same sentence. The long-term sustainability of many of these games themselves come into question considering how many of them there are; 6-6 teams have an opportunity to play in showcases such as the Beef-o-Brady's Bowl. Then, you have the dubious "charity" distinction and questions about whether these "nonprofits" contribute to local communities as much as they say; the nonprofit organizations that organized 24 bowl games two years ago donated less than two percent of total proceeds to charity.

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