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Posts Tagged ‘climate change’

After a long dry spell, we’re posting again.

Here’s something we meant to post earlier:  It seems that the US government shares our worries about the  environmental impact of solar power projects on desert environments.  Not that we’re against them completely — just that it’s good to know what costs you are imposing on the planet, even when you figure they’ll be outweighed by the project’s benefits.

And here’s something from Mark Morford’s wonderfully provocative Notes and Errata column in the SF Chronicle.

In the face of so many people, media outlets and corporations jumping on the Green bandwagon, Morford wonders if things aren’t just a little more complicated.  After all, he notes:

Truly, before you get too cozy with your low-VOC paint and organic grass-fed burger, it takes but a split second to shatter that green lens of hope and replace it with a crimson one full of blood and pollution and phthalates and cheap copper wiring in the form of e-waste in the slums of China and India, as the residual plastic floats out to the Pacific Garbage Patch and further chokes the collapsing fish and seafood stocks of the world.

“How bleak do you want it?” he asks, before suggesting the most likely environmental reality we face is “gray and murky and strange.”

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The ‘Victory Garden’ idea is getting a lot of play these days.  We’ve already noticed appeals for us to ‘eat-like-there’s-a-war-on.’

Now the UK Independent is excited by the same idea — hooking its version of the story on a new exhibit, ‘Dig for Victory: War on Waste,‘ at the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms.

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That’s apparently the idea behind British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s new project.

Oliver’s idea, explains today’s Guardian,takes “inspiration from the Ministry of Food’s campaign to encourage families to Dig For Victory, grow their own food and make the most of their wartime rations.”

While it’s a gimmick, the notion also makes some sense.  Second World War rationing famously limited Brits to tiny portions of meat, butter, milk and eggs, but it also resulted in a population that was remarkably healthy.  Plus it got people growing their own food right in their own backyard ‘Victory Garden.’  It many ways you couldn’t find a diet and lifestyle more likely to warm Michael Pollan‘s heart.

But can we persuade people to voluntarily impose war-like conditions on themselves — even if they stand to benefit?

For Americans one answer is that, of course, the country is at war right now.  So why can’t the nation ask such a sacrifice of its citizens today?

Another, more global approach might argue that the lifestyles of even the richest of us aren’t (on the whole) doing us a lot of favors when it comes to our collective health and happiness — let alone that of the planet.  So surely we could be doing better.

It sounds like Jamie Oliver recognizes that people are busy and don’t necessarily yearn to feel tied to their kitchens or gardens.  As he told the Guardian:

“This isn’t about me wagging my finger at people, here or anywhere else, it’s about finding out what problems people are facing with time, budget and cooking know-how,” said Oliver. “Then we can see what help and support they need. Yes, people should take responsibility for their own health, but they need help and the tools to fix it.”

We’ll look forward to seeing what tools the energetic and talented Mr. Oliver will come up with.

If it starts receiving serious educational and even heavy-hitting policy support worldwide, perhaps there’s real potential for a return to the ‘victory garden’ model — beyond Mr. Oliver’s pitch for his next TV show.

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Climate change threatens to destabilize our lives, for both ill and (perhaps, even) good.

One mark of that instability will likely be a disruption in the way we produce and distribute food.

Could this be why the UK Independent finds the world suddenly ‘going crazy for allotments‘ — those small plots of land that cities lease their citizens at a peppercorn rent to grow spare fruit and vegetables for their homes? The paper discovers allotments thriving in the UK, France, Kenya, Russia, Japan, Hong Kong and the USA. In the UK alone, it says, “there are an estimated 300,000 allotments, yielding about 215,000 tons of fresh produce every year.”

It’s not just home owners who are seeing the attractions of micro-farming. As food security becomes a concern to societies accustomed to having fresh produce flown in from all over the world, the New York Times tells us, “the purposeful reclamation of urban and suburban lands is serious fodder for artists, architects and academics alike.”

Allison Arieff’s article is a good round-up of current hipster urban farming and land-reclamation projects in the US — many of them on the super-micro level, but worthy none the less.

Let’s hope, certainly,that we see more initiatives like the Edible Estates project — which “proposes the replacement of the domestic front lawn with a highly productive edible landscape.” Their motto — Attack on the Front Lawn! As Arieff reminds us, that front lawn typically uses “up to 10 times more chemical pesticides per acre . . . than farmers use on crops.”

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We’re glad to see that John Tierney gets what we were saying about climate change and behavioral economics the other week.

In his ‘Findings’ piece this week, Tierney points out that:

“We’re not good at making immediate sacrifices for an abstract benefit in the future. And this weakness is compounded when, as with climate change, we have a hard time even understanding the problem or the impact of our actions today.”

He quotes the University of Chicago’s Richard Thaler, co-author of a new book “Nudge,” in  suggesting that people need help when it comes to actually acting on any desires they have to do something about climate change.

“Getting the prices right will not create the right behavior if people do not associate their behavior with the relevant costs,” says Dr. Thaler, a professor of behavioral science and economics. “When I turn the thermostat down on my A-C, I only vaguely know how much that costs me. If the thermostat were programmed to tell you immediately how much you are spending, the effect would be much more powerful.”

No word, though, where (or even if) we can buy ourselves such a device.

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It’s not from elephants, though, and no animals are killed for it.  Mammoth ivory, the NY Times tells us, is a commodity in increasing abundance as the arctic tundra of Siberia is melting.

There’s a lot of it out there to be found, apparently:

The Siberian permafrost blankets millions of square miles, ranging in depth from a few feet to more than a mile and resembling frozen spinach.

Hidden in one of the upper layers of this mass, corresponding to the Pleistocene Epoch, are the remains of an estimated 150 million mammoths.

The trend has conservationists delighted that it leaves living animals less threatened.  Palaeontologists, though, are less sanguine.  As author Andrew Kramer writes:

In their growth rings and possible prehistoric human butcher marks, [mammoth tusks] hold a wealth of data on the ancient climate and peoples of Siberia that could shed light on, among other things, the debate about whether climate change or overhunting, or both, felled the mammoths.

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Many people feel that biofuels are not exactly the solution to climate change that others — especially in the current US administration — are claiming them to be.

They were joined by a number of European ‘top scientists’ this week, the Guardian reports.

In particular, says the article, Professor Bob Watson, chief scientific adviser at the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has warned that biofuels “could exacerbate climate change rather than combat it.”

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