• Are Sierra Nevada forest fires getting more severe?

    A new scientific study finds that fire severity is not increasing in the forests of California's Sierra Nevada. The findings are contrary to claims by those who have tried to use recent fires in the region to justify more logging in the state's forests. The study, by Dr. Chad Hanson of the John Muir Project, and Dr. Dennis Odion of the Earth Research Institute at University of California, Santa Barbara, was published in the International Journal of Wildland Fire. It found no trend of increasing fire severity in the Sierra Nevada management region in California over the past three decades. In fact, the study found that between 1984 and 2010, the amount of high-severity fire in the Sierra was lower than its natural level, before modern fire suppression. >> Read the Full Article
  • Switch to organic farming may boost yields and incomes

    Switching to organic and resource-conserving methods of farming can improve smallholder crop yields, food security and income, a review study has found. But a more-extensive evidence base founded on rigorous and consistent research methods is needed before the findings can be generalised to other situations, according to the study published in the current issue of the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability. "The findings show at the farm level it [organic farming] appears to be very positive — more than many people think," says Steve Franzel, an agricultural economist at the World Agroforestry Centre, Kenya, co-author of the study. >> Read the Full Article
  • Norway Devotes Big Bucks To Crop Diversity

    Earlier this week, the government of Norway pledged US$23.7 million to conserve and sustainably manage some of the world's most important food crops, citing the critical need for crop diversity at a time when populations are soaring and climate change is threatening staples like rice and maize, according to the Global Crop Diversity Trust (GCDT). "In just 10 years we will have a billion more people at the global dinner table, but during that same time we could see climate change diminish rice production by 10 percent with a one-degree increase in temperature," said Marie Haga, executive director of the GCDT. "Our best hedge against disaster is to make sure we have a wide array of food crops at our disposal to keep harvests healthy in the bread baskets of the world." >> Read the Full Article
  • Lesser Prairie Chicken numbers decline sharply

    Lesser prairie chicken population numbers dropped by more than 50 percent over the past year, according to a study released today. The finding raises questions about the adequacy of voluntary conservation measures proposed today for the rare grouse in a final rangewide conservation plan intended to preclude the need for Endangered Species Act protections. "Drought and habitat destruction are devastating the small remaining populations of this magnificent grassland bird," said Jay Lininger with the Center for Biological Diversity. "Voluntary measures are too little, too late, and will not get traction fast enough to prevent extinction. These vanishing birds need the protection that only the Endangered Species Act can provide if they're going to survive." >> Read the Full Article
  • The Greenest Building in the World

    In honor of Green Building Week, we have searched high and low to showcase one of the greenest buildings in the world -and on a recent press trip to Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh, we may have found a winner. Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens may be known for its glass Victorian greenhouse built in the late 1800s, or even as the location where President Obama hosted the G-20 summit in 2009. But the real piece de resistance that puts the Conservatory on the map is their new Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL). The CSL is primarily home to many of the administrative, educational, and research offices associated with Phipps, however parts of the building are open to the public and there are plans in the works to connect the building’s indoor space to the outdoors by means of artwork and sound installations. So why does this building rank among the greenest in the world? For one, the facility is expected to meet or exceed three of the world's highest green standards. So far the facility has achieved LEED Platinum status, the highest of the US Green Building Council's certifications. Beyond LEED certification, the CSL is striving to achieve the Sustainable Sites Initiative SITES certification for landscapes. The CSL is currently in the process of obtaining state permits and will find out in October if they have achieved 4-star status which has yet to be achieved by any other project. Finally, the CSL is involved with the Living Building Challenge. Projects that achieve this level of performance must document net zero energy, which defines the most advanced measures of sustainability in the built environment. >> Read the Full Article
  • FAO Says Food Waste Harms Climate, Water, Land, and Biodiversity

    New report, Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources, analyzes the impacts of global food waste from an environmental perspective, looking specifically at its consequences for the climate, water and land use, and biodiversity. >> Read the Full Article
  • Flying High on Research and Development

    Sixteen universities have been identified to participate in Research and Development grants to support the United States Government (USG) commitment to a reduction in greenhouse gases in the commercial airline industry. In response to ongoing global pressures to reduce the impact of commercial aviation on climate change the USG through the FAA is aggressively seeking alternative ways to reduce emissions. The goal of the United States Government (USG) is to achieve carbon-neutral growth for U.S. Commercial aviation by 2020, which equates to a reduction in carbon dioxide of 115 million metric tons (MT) over that time period. To meet this goal, the FAA has organized a Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) initiative to achieve efficient aircraft operations and greenhouse gas emission reductions operationally and through airspace infrastructure improvements. >> Read the Full Article
  • Fracking poses risk to UK farm animals and food safety, experts warn

    US researchers behind a study that showed links between gas drilling and sickness in livestock say a moratorium should be imposed on fracking in the UK until its impact on food safety can be assessed. Andrew Wasley reports >> Read the Full Article
  • Sustainable Forest Innovations Revitalize Hard Hit Communities

    From Maine to Georgia to Arizona to Oregon, new forest-based enterprises are coming on line with financial support from New Markets Tax Credits every day. These tax credits provide incentives for private investors to fund projects that create or preserve jobs and diversify economies in distressed communities. The result is re-invention and job creation within the supply chain of an age-old industry: growing new forests, sustainably harvesting and moving the timber, and then processing it in 21st century ways by breaking down the trees into fiber and even into molecules with a variety of potential uses. >> Read the Full Article
  • Shine on, Shine on, Harvest Moon

    The old time song, Shine on Harvest Moon, is a fall classic. The song was debuted by Bayes and Norworth in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1908 to great acclaim. It became a pop standard, and continues to be performed and recorded into the 21st century. But what exactly IS a Harvest Moon? According to folklore, every full Moon has a special name. There's the Wolf Moon, the Snow Moon, the Worm Moon, the Sprouting Grass Moon, the Flower Moon, the Strawberry Moon, the Thunder Moon, the Sturgeon Moon, the Harvest Moon, the Hunter's Moon, the Beaver Moon, and the Long Night's Moon. Each name tells us something about the season or month in which the full Moon appears. This month's full Moon is the Harvest Moon. >> Read the Full Article