Topic: Sustainability


On Front Lines of Recycling, <br />Turning Food Waste into Biogas

Report

On Front Lines of Recycling,
Turning Food Waste into Biogas

by rachel cernansky
An increasing number of sewage treatment plants in the U.S. and Europe are processing food waste in anaerobic biodigesters, keeping more garbage out of landfills, reducing methane emissions, and producing energy to defray their operating costs.
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Life on the Mississippi: <br />Tale of the Lost River Shrimp

Dispatch

Life on the Mississippi:
Tale of the Lost River Shrimp

by paul greenberg
The 20th-century re-engineering of the Mississippi River wreaked havoc on natural systems and devastated once-abundant populations of native river shrimp. Biologist Paul Hartfield has focused his work on studying these creatures, which were known for making one of the world’s great migrations.
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Unsustainable Seafood: A New <br />Crackdown on Illegal Fishing

Report

Unsustainable Seafood: A New
Crackdown on Illegal Fishing

by richard conniff
A recent study shows that a surprisingly large amount of the seafood sold in U.S. markets is caught illegally. In a series of actions over the last few months, governments and international regulators have started taking aim at stopping this illicit trade in contraband fish.
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UN Panel Looks to Renewables <br />As the Key to Stabilizing Climate

Analysis

UN Panel Looks to Renewables
As the Key to Stabilizing Climate

by fred pearce
In its latest report, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change makes a strong case for a sharp increase in low-carbon energy production, especially solar and wind, and provides hope that this transformation can occur in time to hold off the worst impacts of global warming.
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Will Increased Food Production <br />Devour Tropical Forest Lands?

Analysis

Will Increased Food Production
Devour Tropical Forest Lands?

by william laurance
As global population soars, efforts to boost food production will inevitably be focused on the world’s tropical regions. Can this agricultural transformation be achieved without destroying the remaining tropical forests of Africa, South America, and Asia?
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In the Pastures of Colombia, <br />Cows, Crops and Timber Coexist

Analysis

In the Pastures of Colombia,
Cows, Crops and Timber Coexist

by lisa palmer
As an ambitious program in Colombia demonstrates, combining grazing and agriculture with tree cultivation can coax more food from each acre, boost farmers’ incomes, restore degraded landscapes, and make farmland more resilient to climate change.
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A New Leaf in the Rainforest: <br />Longtime Villain Vows Reform

Report

A New Leaf in the Rainforest:
Longtime Villain Vows Reform

by rhett butler
Few companies have done as much damage to the world’s tropical forests as Asia Pulp & Paper. But under intense pressure from its customers and conservation groups, APP has embarked on a series of changes that could significantly reduce deforestation in Indonesia and serve as a model for forestry reform.
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Wendell Berry: A Strong Voice <br />For Local Farming and the Land

Interview

Wendell Berry: A Strong Voice
For Local Farming and the Land

by roger cohn
For six decades, writer Wendell Berry has spoken out in defense of local agriculture, rural communities, and the importance of caring for the land. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he talks about his Kentucky farm, his activism, and why he remains hopeful for the future.
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Soil as Carbon Storehouse: <br />New Weapon in Climate Fight?

Analysis

Soil as Carbon Storehouse:
New Weapon in Climate Fight?

by judith d. schwartz
The degradation of soils from unsustainable agriculture and other development has released billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere. But new research shows how effective land restoration could play a major role in sequestering CO2 and slowing climate change.
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In Flood-Prone New Orleans, an <br />Architect Makes Water His Ally

Photo Essay

In Flood-Prone New Orleans, an
Architect Makes Water His Ally

As these photographs and illustrations show, architect David Waggonner has decided that the best way to protect low-lying New Orleans is to think about water in an entirely different way.
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In Developing World, A Push to <br />Bring E-Waste Out of Shadows

Report

In Developing World, A Push to
Bring E-Waste Out of Shadows

by mike ives
For decades, hazardous electronic waste from around the world has been processed in unsafe backyard recycling operations in Asia and Africa. Now, a small but growing movement is seeking to provide these informal collectors with incentives to sell e-waste to advanced recycling facilities.
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Growing Insects: Farmers Can <br />Help to Bring Back Pollinators

Report

Growing Insects: Farmers Can
Help to Bring Back Pollinators

by richard conniff
With a sharp decline in pollinating insects, farmers are being encouraged to grow flowering plants that can support these important insects. It’s a fledgling movement that could help restore the pollinators that are essential for world food production.
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Monitoring Corporate Behavior: <br />Greening or Merely Greenwash?

Analysis

Monitoring Corporate Behavior:
Greening or Merely Greenwash?

by fred pearce
Companies with bad environmental records are increasingly turning to a little-known nonprofit called TFT to make sure they meet commitments to improve their practices. It remains to be seen if this is just a PR move or a turning point for corporate conduct.
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Singapore Takes the Lead <br />In Green Building in Asia

Report

Singapore Takes the Lead
In Green Building in Asia

by mike ives
By encouraging the adoption of innovative architectural design and energy-saving technologies, Singapore has emerged as a model of green building in Asia — an important development in a region that is urbanizing more rapidly than any other in the world.
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Out of India’s Trash Heaps, <br />A Controversy on Incineration

Report

Out of India’s Trash Heaps,
A Controversy on Incineration

by david ferris
India is planning to burn more of its trash to generate badly needed electricity. But as the case of a waste-to-energy plant in New Delhi shows, critics are worried about lax air pollution controls and the impact of incineration on people who eke out a living picking through waste dumps.
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How Industrial Agriculture Has <br />Thwarted Factory Farm Reforms

Interview

How Industrial Agriculture Has
Thwarted Factory Farm Reforms

by christina m. russo
In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Robert Martin, co-author of a recent study on industrial farm animal production, explains how a powerful and intransigent agriculture lobby has successfully fought off attempts to reduce the harmful environmental and health impacts of mass livestock production.
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Canada’s Great Inland Delta: <br />A Precarious Future Looms

Report

Canada’s Great Inland Delta:
A Precarious Future Looms

by ed struzik
The Peace-Athabasca Delta, one of the world’s largest freshwater deltas, is facing major change as rising temperatures, a prolonged drought, and water withdrawals for Alberta’s tar sands industry threaten to increasingly dry out this vast expanse of waterways and wetlands.
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China’s Great Dam Boom: <br />A Major Assault on Its Rivers

Analysis

China’s Great Dam Boom:
A Major Assault on Its Rivers

by charlton lewis
China is engaged in a push to build hydroelectric dams on a scale unprecedented in human history. While being touted for producing lower-emission electricity, these massive dam projects are wreaking havoc on river systems across China and Southeast Asia.
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Focusing a Lens on China's Environmental Challenges

Photo Essay

Focusing a Lens on China's Environmental Challenges

by sean gallagher
Traveling throughout China, from the Tibetan Plateau to the lush subtropical forests in the south, a photojournalist documents the vast scope of the country's environmental challenges.
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In Japan, Captive Breeding <br />May Help Save the Wild Eel

Report

In Japan, Captive Breeding
May Help Save the Wild Eel

by winifred bird
As eel populations plummet worldwide, Japanese scientists are racing to solve a major challenge for aquaculture — how to replicate the life cycle of eels in captivity and commercially produce a fish that is a prized delicacy on Asian dinner tables.
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Incineration Versus Recycling: <br /> In Europe, A Debate Over Trash

Report

Incineration Versus Recycling:
In Europe, A Debate Over Trash

by nate seltenrich
Increasingly common in Europe, municipal “waste-to-energy” incinerators are being touted as a green trash-disposal alternative. But critics contend that these large-scale incinerators tend to discourage recycling and lead to greater waste.
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New Green Vision: Technology<br /> As Our Planet’s Last Best Hope

Analysis

New Green Vision: Technology
As Our Planet’s Last Best Hope

by fred pearce
The concept of ecological modernism, which sees technology as the key to solving big environmental problems, is gaining adherents and getting a lot of buzz these days. While mainstream conservationists may be put off by some of the new movement’s tenets, they cannot afford to ignore the issues it is raising.
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Marines Push to Front Lines in<br /> Renewable Energy Innovation

Report

Marines Push to Front Lines in
Renewable Energy Innovation

by justin gerdes
A backpack that generates electricity? A vest that cools you in a hot tent? As the U.S. military looks to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, the Marine Corps is leading the way with cutting-edge technology and innovative devices.
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Our Overcrowded Planet:<br /> A Failure of Family Planning

Opinion

Our Overcrowded Planet:
A Failure of Family Planning

by robert engelman
New UN projections forecast that world population will hit nearly 11 billion people by 2100, an unsettling prospect that reflects a collective failure to provide women around the world with safe, effective ways to avoid pregnancies they don't intend or want.
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Michael Pollan on the Links<br /> Between Biodiversity and Health

Interview

Michael Pollan on the Links
Between Biodiversity and Health

by jack hitt
Author Michael Pollan has often written about people’s relationship to the natural world. In a Yale Environment 360 interview, he talks about researching his latest book and what he learned about the connections between ecology and human health.
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Blocked Migration: Fish Ladders<br /> On U.S. Dams Are Not Effective

Analysis

Blocked Migration: Fish Ladders
On U.S. Dams Are Not Effective

by john waldman
Fishways on rivers in the U.S. Northeast are failing, with less than 3 percent of one key species making it upriver to their spawning grounds, according to a new study. The researchers’ findings provide a cautionary tale for other nations now planning big dam projects.
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Can a Divestment Campaign<br /> Move the Fossil Fuel Industry?

Report

Can a Divestment Campaign
Move the Fossil Fuel Industry?

by brooke jarvis
U.S. climate activists have launched a movement to persuade universities, cities, and other groups to sell off their investments in fossil fuel companies. But while the financial impact of such divestment may be limited, the campaign could harm the companies in a critical sphere — public opinion.
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Biodiversity in Logged Forests<br /> Far Higher Than Once Believed

Analysis

Biodiversity in Logged Forests
Far Higher Than Once Believed

by fred pearce
New research shows that scientists have significantly overestimated the damage that logging in tropical forests has done to biodiversity, a finding that could change the way conservationists think about how best to preserve species in areas disturbed by humans.
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Boom in Mining Rare Earths<br /> Poses Mounting Toxic Risks

Report

Boom in Mining Rare Earths
Poses Mounting Toxic Risks

by mike ives
The mining of rare earth metals, used in everything from smart phones to wind turbines, has long been dominated by China. But as mining of these key elements spreads to countries like Malaysia and Brazil, scientists warn of the dangers of the toxic and radioactive waste generated by the mines and processing plants.
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Should Environmentalists<br /> Just Say No to Eating Beef?

Report

Should Environmentalists
Just Say No to Eating Beef?

by marc gunther
Conservation organizations are working with industry to try to make beef production more sustainable. But some are questioning whether green groups should be accepting funds from the beef industry or whether they should instead be urging consumers to stop eating beef.
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A Global Treaty on Rivers:<br /> Key to True Water Security

Analysis

A Global Treaty on Rivers:
Key to True Water Security

by fred pearce
No broad-based international agreement on sharing rivers currently exists, even though much of the world depends on water from rivers that flow through more than one nation. But that may be about to change, as two separate global river treaties are close to being approved.
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What’s Wrong with<br /> Putting a Price on Nature?

Analysis

What’s Wrong with
Putting a Price on Nature?

by richard conniff
The concept of pricing ecosystem services and allowing them to be bought and sold has gained wide acceptance among conservationists in recent years. But does this approach merely obscure nature’s true value and put the natural world at even greater risk?
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Beyond Big Dams: Turning to<br /> Grass Roots Solutions on Water

Report

Beyond Big Dams: Turning to
Grass Roots Solutions on Water

by fred pearce
Mega-dams and massive government-run irrigation projects are not the key to meeting world’s water needs, a growing number of experts now say. For developing nations, the answer may lie in small-scale measures such as inexpensive water pumps and other readily available equipment.
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Shrimp Farms’ Tainted Legacy<br /> Is Target of Certification Drive

Report

Shrimp Farms’ Tainted Legacy
Is Target of Certification Drive

by marc gunther
As shrimp aquaculture has boomed globally to keep pace with surging demand, the environmental toll on mangroves and other coastal ecosystems has been severe. Now, conservation groups and some shrimp farmers are creating a certification scheme designed to clean up the industry and reward sustainable producers.
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Melting Glaciers May Worsen<br/> Northwest China’s Water Woes

Report

Melting Glaciers May Worsen
Northwest China’s Water Woes

by mike ives
In China’s sprawling Xinjiang region, where the population is growing and cotton farming is booming, a key river has been running dry in summer. Now a team of international scientists is grappling with a problem facing the Tarim River basin and other mountainous regions — how to secure water supplies as demands increase and glaciers melt.
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Will Fish-Loving Japan <br />Embrace Sustainable Seafood?

Report

Will Fish-Loving Japan
Embrace Sustainable Seafood?

by winifred bird
In fish-crazed Japan, where eating seafood is a vital part of the nation's culture, conservation groups are working with companies to persuade more Japanese to eat certified, sustainably caught seafood. It's an uphill struggle, but one that could have significant impact on the world's fisheries.
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The Dead Sea is Dying: Can<br /> A Controversial Plan Save It?

Report

The Dead Sea is Dying: Can
A Controversial Plan Save It?

by dave levitan
The Dead Sea — the lowest terrestrial point on the planet — is dropping at an alarming rate, falling more than 1 meter a year. A $10 billion proposal to pipe water from the Red Sea is being opposed by conservationists, who point to alternatives that could help save one of the world’s great natural places.
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Helping U.S. Farmers Increase<br /> Production and Protect the Land

Analysis

Helping U.S. Farmers Increase
Production and Protect the Land

by julie menter
American agriculture is steeped in a chemical-intensive system that wastes money and pollutes the environment. But by making use of new technology and innovative approaches, farmers can boost production and profits — while at the same time improving soil quality, enhancing biodiversity, and protecting habitat.
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Global Scarcity: Scramble for<br /> Dwindling Natural Resources

Interview

Global Scarcity: Scramble for
Dwindling Natural Resources

by diane toomey
National security expert Michael Klare believes the struggle for the world’s resources will be one of the defining political and environmental realities of the 21st century. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he discusses the threat this scramble poses to the natural world and what can be done to sustainably meet the resource challenge.
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The Folly of Big Agriculture:<br /> Why Nature Always Wins

Opinion

The Folly of Big Agriculture:
Why Nature Always Wins

by verlyn klinkenborg
Large-scale industrial agriculture depends on engineering the land to ensure the absence of natural diversity. But as the recent emergence of herbicide-tolerant weeds on U.S. farms has shown, nature ultimately finds a way to subvert uniformity and assert itself.
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Digital Defenders: Tribal People<br /> Use GPS to Protect Their Lands

Report

Digital Defenders: Tribal People
Use GPS to Protect Their Lands

by fred pearce
From the rainforests of central Africa to the Australian outback, indigenous people armed with GPS devices are surveying their territories and producing maps they can use to protect them from logging and other outside development.
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Amory Lovins Lays Out<br /> His Clean Energy Plan

Interview

Amory Lovins Lays Out
His Clean Energy Plan

by fen montaigne
For four decades, Amory Lovins has been a leading proponent of a renewable power revolution that would wean the U.S. off fossil fuels and usher in an era of energy independence. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he talks about his latest book, which describes his vision of how the world can attain a green energy future by 2050.
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Busting the Forest Myths:<br /> People as Part of the Solution

Analysis

Busting the Forest Myths:
People as Part of the Solution

by fred pearce
The long-held contention that rural forest communities are the prime culprits in tropical forest destruction is increasingly being discredited, as evidence mounts that the best way to protect rainforests is to involve local residents in sustainable management.
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Building a Better Bulb:<br /> Lighting Revolution Advances

Report

Building a Better Bulb:
Lighting Revolution Advances

by dave levitan
With the industry’s support and despite political opposition, new U.S. lighting efficiency standards went into effect this month. This move, along with similar actions in Europe and China, is helping spur new technologies that will change the way the world's homes and businesses are illuminated.
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Putting a Price on<br /> The Real Value of Nature

Interview

Putting a Price on
The Real Value of Nature

by roger cohn
Indian banker Pavan Sukhdev has been grappling with the question of how to place a monetary value on nature. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he discusses the ways natural ecosystems benefit people and why policymakers and businesses must rethink how they assess environmental costs and benefits.
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Can ‘Climate-Smart’ Agriculture<br /> Help Both Africa and the Planet?

Report

Can ‘Climate-Smart’ Agriculture
Help Both Africa and the Planet?

by fred pearce
One idea promoted at the Durban talks was “climate-smart agriculture," which could make crops less vulnerable to heat and drought and turn depleted soils into carbon sinks. The World Bank and African leaders are backing this new approach, but some critics are skeptical that it will benefit small-scale African farmers.
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Sweden’s Green Veneer Hides<br /> Unsustainable Logging Practices

Report

Sweden’s Green Veneer Hides
Unsustainable Logging Practices

by erik hoffner
Sweden has a reputation as being one of the world’s most environmentally progressive nations. But its surprisingly lax forestry laws often leave decisions about logging to the timber companies — and as a result, large swaths of biologically-rich boreal forest are being lost.
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The New Story of Stuff:<br /> Can We Consume Less?

Analysis

The New Story of Stuff:
Can We Consume Less?

by fred pearce
A new study finds that Britons are consuming less than they did a decade ago, with similar patterns being seen across Europe. Could this be the beginning of a trend in developed countries? Might we be reaching “peak stuff”?
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China’s Appetite for Wood<br /> Takes a Heavy Toll on Forests

Analysis

China’s Appetite for Wood
Takes a Heavy Toll on Forests

by william laurance
More than half of the timber now shipped globally is destined for China. But unscrupulous Chinese companies are importing huge amounts of illegally harvested wood, prompting conservation groups to step up boycotts against rapacious timber interests.
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A Power Company President<br /> Ties His Future to Green Energy

Interview

A Power Company President
Ties His Future to Green Energy

David Crane, the CEO of one of the nation’s largest electric companies, has become a leading proponent of renewable energy. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he explains how, in the face of government paralysis, the private sector can help lead the shift away from fossil fuels.
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Building Retrofits: Tapping<br /> The Energy-Saving Potential

Report

Building Retrofits: Tapping
The Energy-Saving Potential

by david biello
No more cost-effective way to make major cuts in energy use and greenhouse gas emissions exists than retrofitting buildings. Now, from New York to Mumbai to Melbourne, a push is on to overhaul older buildings to make them more energy efficient.
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What If Experts Are Wrong<br /> On World Population Growth?

Analysis

What If Experts Are Wrong
On World Population Growth?

by carl haub
A central tenet of demography is that global population will peak at 9 to 10 billion this century and then gradually decline as poorer countries develop. But that assumption may be overly optimistic — and if it is, population will continue to rise, placing enormous strains on the environment.
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The World at 7 Billion:<br /> Can We Stop Growing Now?

Opinion

The World at 7 Billion:
Can We Stop Growing Now?

by robert engelman
With global population expected to surpass 7 billion people this year, the staggering impact on an overtaxed planet is becoming more and more evident. A two-pronged response is imperative: empower women to make their own decisions on childbearing and rein in our excessive consumption of resources.
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In Brazil, Palm Oil Plantations<br /> Could Help Preserve the Amazon

Analysis

In Brazil, Palm Oil Plantations
Could Help Preserve the Amazon

by rhett butler
In recent years, palm oil development in Malaysia and Indonesia has devastated tropical forests there. With Brazil on the verge of its own palm oil boom, can sustainable cultivation of the crop actually help save the rainforest, rather than hastening its destruction?
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Off the Pedestal: Creating a<br /> New Vision of Economic Growth

Opinion

Off the Pedestal: Creating a
New Vision of Economic Growth

by james gustave speth
The idea of economic growth as an unquestioned force for good is ingrained in the American psyche. But a longtime environmental leader argues it’s time for the U.S. to reinvent its economy into one that focuses on sustaining communities, family life, and the natural world.
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Green Failure: What’s Wrong<br /> With Environmental Education?

Interview

Green Failure: What’s Wrong
With Environmental Education?

by michelle nijhuis
Marine conservationist Charles Saylan believes the U.S. educational system is failing to create responsible citizens who consider themselves stewards of the environment. To do that, he says in a Yale Environment 360 interview, educators need to go beyond rhetoric and make environmental values a central part of a public education.
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Africa’s Flourishing Niger Delta<br /> Threatened by Libya Water Plan

Report

Africa’s Flourishing Niger Delta
Threatened by Libya Water Plan

by fred pearce
The inland Niger delta of Mali is a unique wetland ecosystem that supports a million farmers, fishermen, and herders and a rich diversity of wildlife. But now, the country’s president and Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi have begun a major agricultural project that will divert much of the river’s water and put the delta’s future at risk.
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China Turns to Biogas to<br /> Ease Impact of Factory Farms

Report

China Turns to Biogas to
Ease Impact of Factory Farms

by eliza barclay
In China, millions of tons of waste from livestock farms are causing severe water pollution and massive emissions of methane. Now, some large livestock operators are turning to biogas fuel production in hopes of creating “ecological” factory farms.
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A Symbolic Solar Road Trip <br />To Reignite a Climate Movement

Opinion

A Symbolic Solar Road Trip
To Reignite a Climate Movement

by bill mckibben
An activist caravan to bring one of Jimmy Carter’s solar panels back to the White House symbolizes the time that the U.S. has lost in developing new energy technologies – and the urgent need for taking action on climate.
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Will REDD Preserve Forests <br />Or Merely Provide a Fig Leaf?

Analysis

Will REDD Preserve Forests
Or Merely Provide a Fig Leaf?

by fred pearce
The tropical forest conservation plan, known as REDD, has the potential to significantly reduce deforestation and carbon dioxide emissions worldwide. But unless projects are carefully designed and monitored, the program could be undercut by shady dealings at all levels, from the forests to global carbon markets.
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Eyeing the Difficult Path<br /> To a Sustainable Future

Interview

Eyeing the Difficult Path
To a Sustainable Future

Environmentalist David Orr says the easy part of helping the United States live within its ecological limits may be passing laws, such as one that puts a price on carbon. The hard part, he maintains in an interview with Yale Environment 360, is changing a culture of consumption that causes extensive environmental damage — and unhappiness.
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The Anthropocene Debate: <br /> Marking Humanity’s Impact

Analysis

The Anthropocene Debate:
Marking Humanity’s Impact

by elizabeth kolbert
Is human activity altering the planet on a scale comparable to major geological events of the past? Scientists are now considering whether to officially designate a new geological epoch to reflect the changes that homo sapiens have wrought: the Anthropocene.
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Out of the Demographic Trap:<br /> Hope for Feeding the World

Opinion

Out of the Demographic Trap:
Hope for Feeding the World

by fred pearce
In Africa and elsewhere, burgeoning population growth threatens to overwhelm already over-stretched food supply systems. But the next agricultural revolution needs to get local — and must start to see rising populations as potentially part of the solution.
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Stewart Brand’s Strange Trip:<br /> Whole Earth to Nuclear Power

Interview

Stewart Brand’s Strange Trip:
Whole Earth to Nuclear Power

by todd woody
When the founder of the Whole Earth Catalog embraces nuclear power, genetically engineered crops, and geoengineering schemes to cool the planet, you know things have changed in the environmental movement. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Stewart Brand explains how the passage of four decades — and the advent of global warming — have shifted his thinking about what it means to be green.
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The Greenest Place in the U.S.<br /> May Not Be Where You Think

Opinion

The Greenest Place in the U.S.
May Not Be Where You Think

by david owen
Green rankings in the U.S. don’t tell the full story about the places where the human footprint is lightest. If you really want the best environmental model, you need to look at the nation’s biggest — and greenest — metropolis: New York City.
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The <em>Other</em> Inconvenient Truth:<br /> The Crisis in Global Land Use

Opinion

The Other Inconvenient Truth:
The Crisis in Global Land Use

by jonathan foley
As the international community focuses on climate change as the great challenge of our era, it is ignoring another looming problem — the global crisis in land use. With agricultural practices already causing massive ecological impact, the world must now find new ways to feed its burgeoning population and launch a "Greener" Revolution.
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What Makes Europe<br /> Greener than the U.S.?

Opinion

What Makes Europe
Greener than the U.S.?

by elisabeth rosenthal
The average American produces three times the amount of CO2 emissions as a person in France. A U.S. journalist now living in Europe explains how she learned to love her clothesline and sweating in summer.
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Green Intelligence: Toward<br /> True Ecological Transparency

Analysis

Green Intelligence: Toward
True Ecological Transparency

by daniel goleman
Wal-Mart’s push to develop a sustainability index for the products it carries could prove to be a pivotal moment in the effort to make consumers aware of the environmental impacts of what they buy.
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Reconnecting with Nature<br /> Through Green Architecture

Interview

Reconnecting with Nature
Through Green Architecture

by richard conniff
Stephen Kellert, a social ecologist, is a passionate advocate for the need to incorporate aspects of the natural world into our built environment. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he explains what we can learn from cathedrals, why flowers in a hospital can heal, and how green design can boost a business’s bottom line.audio
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Adaptation Emerges as Key<br /> Part of Any Climate Change Plan

Report

Adaptation Emerges as Key
Part of Any Climate Change Plan

by bruce stutz
After years of reluctance, scientists and governments are now looking to adaptation measures as critical for confronting the consequences of climate change. And increasingly, plans are being developed to deal with rising seas, water shortages, spreading diseases, and other realities of a warming world.
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A Potential Breakthrough<br /> in Harnessing the Sun’s Energy

Report

A Potential Breakthrough
in Harnessing the Sun’s Energy

by david biello
New solar thermal technology overcomes a major challenge facing solar power – how to store the sun’s heat for use at night or on a rainy day. As researchers tout its promise, solar thermal plants are under construction or planned from Spain to Australia to the American Southwest.
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Analysis

Using Peer Pressure as a Tool
to Promote Greener Choices

by richard conniff
Environmentalists, utilities, and green businesses are turning to behavioral economics to find innovative ways of influencing people to do the right thing when it comes to the environment. Is this approach really good for the planet or just a fad?
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Consumption Dwarfs Population <br />as Main Environmental Threat

Opinion

Consumption Dwarfs Population
as Main Environmental Threat

by fred pearce
It's overconsumption, not population growth, that is the fundamental problem: By almost any measure, a small portion of the world's people — those in the affluent, developed world — use up most of the Earth's resources and produce most of its greenhouse gas emissions.
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Food Industry Pursues the Strategy of Big Tobacco

Interview

Food Industry Pursues the Strategy of Big Tobacco

Kelly Brownell has long studied the relationship between rising levels of obesity in the U.S. and the way our food is grown, processed, packaged, and sold. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he discusses the common marketing and lobbying tactics employed by the food and tobacco industries.audio
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China’s Grand Plans for <br/>Eco-Cities Now Lie Abandoned

Report

China’s Grand Plans for
Eco-Cities Now Lie Abandoned

by christina larson
Mostly conceived by international architects, China’s eco-cities were intended to be models of green urban design. But the planning was done with little awareness of how local people lived, and the much-touted projects have largely been scrapped.
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Pursuing the Elusive Goal<br />  of a Carbon-Neutral Building

Analysis

Pursuing the Elusive Goal
of a Carbon-Neutral Building

by richard conniff
Yale University’s recently opened Kroon Hall is a state-of-the-art model of where the green building movement is headed. Yet even this showcase for renewable energy highlights the difficulties of creating a building that is 100 percent carbon neutral.
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The New Urbanists: <br />Tackling Europe’s Sprawl

Analysis

The New Urbanists:
Tackling Europe’s Sprawl

by bruce stutz
In the last few decades, urban sprawl, once regarded as largely a U.S. phenomenon, has spread across Europe. Now an emerging group of planners is promoting a new kind of development — mixed-use, low-carbon communities that are pedestrian-friendly and mass-transit-oriented.
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Environmental Failure: <br/> A Case for a New Green Politics

Opinion

Environmental Failure:
A Case for a New Green Politics

by james gustave speth
The U.S. environmental movement is failing – by any measure, the state of the earth has never been more dire. What’s needed, a leading environmentalist writes, is a new, inclusive green politics that challenges basic assumptions about consumerism and unlimited growth.
READ MORE

Green Strategies Spur <br />Rebirth of American Cities

Analysis

Green Strategies Spur
Rebirth of American Cities

by keith schneider
U.S. cities have been using green planning to spark economic development, helping create a real urban renaissance in America. With a new administration soon to arrive in Washington, these same approaches may finally start being used on a national scale.
READ MORE

Thomas Friedman: Hope in a Hot, Flat and Crowded World

Interview

Thomas Friedman: Hope in a Hot, Flat and Crowded World

by elizabeth kolbert
In an exclusive interview with Yale Environment 360, best-selling author Thomas Friedman talks with Elizabeth Kolbert about his new book and about why he’s optimistic that an energy-technology revolution can revitalize the United States and set the world on a new, greener path. audio
READ MORE

Saving the Seeds of the<br /> Next Green Revolution

Analysis

Saving the Seeds of the
Next Green Revolution

by fred pearce
With food prices skyrocketing and climate change looming, the world needs a green revolution like the one a generation ago. But many valuable seed varieties have been lost – and scientists now are scrambling to protect those that remain before they vanish down the genetic drain.
READ MORE

Opinion

Has the Population Bomb Been Defused?

by fred pearce
Paul Ehrlich still believes that overpopulation imperils the Earth’s future. But the good news is we are approaching a demographic turning point: Birth rates have been falling dramatically, and population is expected to peak later this century — after that, for the first time in modern history, the world's population should actually start to decline.
READ MORE

Too Many People, <br />Too Much Consumption

Opinion

Too Many People,
Too Much Consumption

by paul r. ehrlich and anne h. ehrlich
Four decades after his controversial book, The Population Bomb, scientist Paul Ehrlich still believes that overpopulation — now along with overconsumption — is the central environmental crisis facing the world. And, he insists, technological fixes will not save the day.
READ MORE

Michael Pollan on What’s <br />Wrong with Environmentalism

Interview

Michael Pollan on What’s
Wrong with Environmentalism

In an interview with Yale Environment 360, best-selling author Michael Pollan talks about biofuels and the food crisis, the glories of grass-fed beef, and why environmentalists must look beyond wilderness to sustainability.audio
READ MORE

Global Commodities Boom <br />Fuels New Assault on Amazon

Report

Global Commodities Boom
Fuels New Assault on Amazon

by rhett butler
With soaring prices for agricultural goods and new demand for biofuels, the clearing of the world's largest rain forest has accelerated dramatically. Unless forceful measures are taken, half of the Brazilian Amazon could be cut, burned or dried out within 20 years.
READ MORE

The Tipping Point

Opinion

The Tipping Point

by bill mckibben
New evidence suggests that we have already passed a dangerous threshold for the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – and that the time for taking strong action is slipping away.
READ MORE

Analysis

Water Scarcity: The Real Food Crisis

by fred pearce
In the discussion of the global food emergency, one underlying factor is barely mentioned: The world is running out of water. A British science writer, who authored a major book on water resources, here explores the nexus between water overconsumption and current food shortages.
READ MORE

e360 digest

RELATED e360 DIGEST ITEMS


15 Jul 2014: California Agriculture Relying
Too Heavily on Groundwater in Drought

California's agriculture industry is relying too heavily on groundwater to irrigate drought-stricken farmlands — a trend that will not be sustainable long-term, according

Central Valley orchard
to a study by the University of California, Davis. The drought, which is the third most severe on record, is responsible for the greatest water loss ever seen in California agriculture, with river water for Central Valley farms reduced by roughly one-third, the study found. Groundwater pumping will likely replace most river water losses, and some areas have more than doubled their pumping rate over the previous year. If the drought continues for two more years, the report says, groundwater reserves will continue to be depleted to replace surface water losses and pumping ability will slowly decrease, which could affect crop production. So far in the current drought, 428,000 acres of cropland — roughly 5 percent — has been made fallow across the Central Valley, Central Coast, and Southern California.
PERMALINK

 

09 Jul 2014: One-third of German Power
Came from Renewables in First Half of 2014

Thanks to abundant sunshine and wind, renewable energy generated 31 percent of Germany’s electricity in the first six months of this year, according to a new report. The report, released by the Fraunhofer Insititute, said that 27 percent of the country’s electricity production came from wind and solar, and four percent from hydropower. Solar power generation grew by 28 percent in the first half of 2014 compared to the first six months of 2013, and wind power grew by 19 percent over the same period. On a couple of particularly windy and sunny days in May and June, renewable energy accounted for 50 to 75 percent of Germany’s electricity production, the report said. The Fraunhofer Institute said that as Germany continues to phase out its nuclear power plants, it remains reliant on highly polluting “brown coal” to produce electricity. A substantial portion of German coal-generated electricity is being exported, the report said.
PERMALINK

 

01 Jul 2014: Small Island Nation of Kiribati
Purchases Foreign Land as Climate Refuge

The small island nation of Kiribati has purchased a swath of land in Fiji as a refuge for citizens who may be displaced by rising sea levels, marking the first time a
retail greenhouse
Kiribati's location (red) in the Pacific Ocean.
country has taken such actions as a defense against climate change, the Guardian reports. Kiribati, home to 110,000 people scattered across 33 islands in the Pacific Ocean, is one of several small island nations in the Pacific and Indian oceans that could be extensively or completely submerged within a few decades. The cost of protecting such countries often far outweighs their national incomes. Kiribati, with a GDP of under $200 million, ranks among the 10 countries facing the most severe financial impacts of climate change. The tract of 20 square kilometers on the island of Vanua Levu, Fiji, could provide a future refuge for all of Kiribati's citizens, the nation's president said.
PERMALINK

 

27 Jun 2014: Going Vegetarian Could Halve
A Consumer’s Food-related CO2 Footprint

A new study of more than 50,000 people in the United Kingdom shows that going vegan, vegetarian, or even “pescatarian” can drastically reduce people’s carbon footprints. Published in the journal Climatic Change, the study concluded that if people eating more than 100 grams of meat a day went vegan, their food-related carbon footprint would shrink by 60 percent. If a person eating more than 100 grams of meat per day — and U.S. consumers eat about 225 grams daily — cut down to 50 grams per day, their food-related CO2 emissions would fall by a third, the study said. Pescatarians, who eat fish but no other meat, generate only 2.5 percent more CO2 emissions than vegetarians, according to the study. The research also concluded that vegans produce 25 percent fewer CO2 emissions than vegetarians, who still eat eggs and dairy. “In general there is a clear and strong trend with reduced greenhouse gas emissions in diets that contain less meat,” said Oxford University researcher Peter Scarborough, a co-author of the study.
PERMALINK

 

06 Jun 2014: Brazil Leads the World
In Cutting Deforestation, Analysis Finds

Brazil has become the world leader in reducing deforestation and, at the same time, has increased its soy and beef production, researchers report in the
Amazon rainforest near Manaus, Brazil

Amazon rainforest near Manaus, Brazil
journal Science. The country has cut its forest loss by 70 percent since 2004, sparing more than 86,000 square kilometers of rainforests and keeping more than 3.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Brazil's decline in deforestation in 2013 alone represented a 1.5 percent reduction in global emissions that year, the report says; globally, tropical forest loss accounts for 15 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. The analysis credits the success to bold government policies, pressure from environmental groups, and market fluctuations in the price of soy and beef, but the authors warn that these wins may be short-lived without more positive incentives for farmers. “These gains are globally significant, but fragile,” one researcher explained. “We’re bumping up against the limits of what can be achieved through punitive measures.”
PERMALINK

 

29 May 2014: Electric Airplane Debut
Offers Hopes for Cutting Emissions

The aircraft manufacturing giant Airbus recently unveiled a fully-electric aircraft which, if widely adopted, could reduce the aerospace industry's carbon
Airbus E-Fan electric plane
The recently debuted, fully-electric E-Fan
dioxide emissions by an order of magnitude. The E-Fan aircraft has two, 30-kilowatt electric motors powered by a series of lithium-ion batteries in the wings of the plane, as well as a 6-kilowatt electric motor in the wheel to provide extra power during takeoff and taxiing. Despite incorporating highly energy-efficient and aerodynamic design elements, however, the E-Fan has only a one-hour range and cannot leave the vicinity of the airport. Airbus says that future designs will rely on electric-hybrid engine technology and that by 2050 such airplanes should be able to accommodate 70 to 80 passengers on a three-hour flight. The plans were spurred, in part, by the European Union's Flight Path 2050, which aims to reduce the aviation sector's nitrous oxide emissions by 90 percent, noise pollution by 65 percent, and carbon dioxide emissions by 75 percent by 2050. "It's a very different way of flying," said Jean Botti, a technology officer at Airbus Group, "absolutely no noise, no emissions."
PERMALINK

 

22 May 2014: Donors Commit $220 Million
To Protect and Expand Huge Amazon Reserve

A coalition of private donors and government funders has pledged $220 million over the next 25 years to better protect the Amazon Region Protected Areas (ARPA), the world’s largest protected area network. WWF, the World Bank, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Inter-American Development Bank, and more than a dozen other donors are contributing funds to the initiative, which also will add another 8.9 million hectares of Amazon rainforest to the ARPA program, driving the total to more than 60 million hectares. That’s 232,000 square miles, an area larger than France. Most of the funds will be used to better police and enforce environmental laws on ARPA territory, which includes 90 parks and comprises 15 percent of the Brazilian Amazon. "The explosion in demand for natural resources has made our parks and world heritage sites vulnerable," said WWF president Carter Roberts. The initiative is also upgrading long-neglected parks and creating sustainable-use reserves for local communities and indigenous people.
PERMALINK

 

22 Apr 2014: Run-of-River Hydropower Set
For Big Gains, Turbine Maker Predicts

A type of hydroelectric technology known as "run-of-river" hydropower is set to grow 10-fold over the next decade, potentially becoming a $1.4 billion industry,
Hugh Keenleyside Dam, a run-of-river hydropower station
Hugh Keenleyside Dam
according to Dutch turbine maker Tocardo International BV. Run-of-river hydropower stations redirect part of a waterway through a diversion to spin turbines and generate electricity. Run-of-river is considered a more benign type of hydropower than large dam projects because it is a smaller-scale technology that doesn't create large upstream reservoirs that flood ecosystems and disrupt a river's natural flow. Some conservation groups are concerned that problems with migratory fish passage and other environmental issues could outweigh the power-generating potential of run-of-river hydro projects. The company implemented its first project to harness tidal streams at Den Oever, Holland, and it has been operating for five years.
PERMALINK

 

A Personal Note on Peter Matthiessen,
Who Wrote Eloquently of the Natural World

For an editor, the prospect of working with Peter Matthiessen was intimidating. He was one of our finest writers, and he wrote with such poetic precision and lyrical grace that at first it felt presumptuous to propose
Peter Matthiessen
Peter Matthiessen
any changes to his writing at all. That feeling was heightened by his strong physical presence — an odd mix of Manhattan patrician, rugged outdoorsman, and Zen priest (all of which he was). And yet when I worked as his editor on several magazine articles in the 1990s, it was an immensely satisfying experience. He listened Zen-like, carefully considering all my editing suggestions (with him, they were suggestions only), and to my delight, accepted almost all of them. Matthiessen died on April 5 at the age of 86, near the Long Island waters he so loved to fish. Read more of e360 editor Roger Cohn’s appreciation of Matthiessen.
PERMALINK

 

25 Mar 2014: Consumer Products Giants
Commit to Deforestation-Free Palm Oil

Two major consumer products companies — General Mills and Colgate-Palmolive — have committed to using palm oil in their products that does not come from lands cleared from tropical forests, adding to the wave
Deforestation in Malaysian Borneo
Mongabay.com
of corporations that have pledged measures to protect southeast Asian rainforests. The consumer giants' new policies go beyond standards set by the industry's main certification body and include provisions to protect wildlife-rich rainforests, carbon-dense peatlands, and the rights of local communities. Environmental groups are welcoming the commitments, though some believe the companies' pledges should go further. The Union of Concerned Scientists questions General Mills' definition of "high carbon stock" forests, while Greenpeace is urging Colgate-Palmolive to move implementation up to 2015 from 2020. Environmental groups are hopeful that new commitments will pressure Proctor & Gamble, the last remaining consumer products giant without a similar pledge, to adopt deforestation-free palm oil policies.
PERMALINK

 

An e360 Interview with Wendell Berry:
Strong Voice for Local Farms and the Land

Author Wendell Berry wrote about and practiced “sustainable agriculture” long before the term was widely used. His early writings in the 1970s, in which he argued against industrial agriculture and for small-scale, local-based farming, strongly influenced the U.S.
Wendell Berry
© Counterpoint Press
Wendell Berry
environmental movement. At age 79, Berry still speaks eloquently about the importance of local communities and of caring for the land, while warning about the destructive potential of industrialization and technology. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he talked about his Kentucky farm and why he has remained there, why sustainable agriculture faces an uphill battle, and why strong rural communities are important. “A deep familiarity between a local community and a local landscape is a dear thing, just in human terms,” Berry said. “It’s also, down the line, money in the bank, because it helps you to preserve the working capital of the place.”
Read the interview.
PERMALINK

 

21 Feb 2014: Rewritable Paper and Water Ink
Could Cut Paper Waste, Scientists Report

A new type of rewritable paper that uses water as ink could slash the amount of paper that's wasted daily, researchers say. The paper contains hydrochromic dyes — chemicals that change color when wet — and a single

Click to Enlarge
Document printed on rewritable paper

Printed document
page can be reused dozens of times, the scientists report in Nature Communications. Other types of rewritable papers have been developed, but they are all more expensive and energy-intensive to produce, and some versions use inks that pose environmental and safety hazards. The new system costs less than 1 percent of standard inkjet printing, the researchers estimate, primarily because ink cartridges are expensive. The researchers found they could refill cartridges with water and use them, along with the rewritable paper, in typical desktop printers. Print on the rewritable paper is only visible for about 22 hours, or as long as it takes the paper to dry completely. The scientists note that, while 90 percent of business information is retained on paper, most printed documents are read only once before being discarded.
PERMALINK

 

11 Feb 2014: Shrinking Household Size
May Offset Progress in Curbing Population

Household size — the number of people living together under one roof — has been shrinking worldwide, and the trend could have major consequences for resource consumption, new research finds. Although global population growth has been somewhat curbed in the developed world, the number of households has continued to grow at a much faster pace in nearly all countries, Michigan State University researchers found. Average household size in developed nations declined from approximately five members in 1893 to 2.5 in 2000, while the rapid decline in household size in developing nations began around 1987, according to the research, which analyzed trends between the years 1600 and 2000. Smaller households are typically less efficient, with fewer people using proportionally more land, water, and energy. Constructing housing units also consumes lumber and building supplies, and generally requires building more roads and commercial areas. "This will put enormous strain on the environmental life support system we rely on, even if we achieve a state of zero population growth," one study author said.
PERMALINK

 

Photo Essay: In New Orleans, an
Architect Makes Water His Ally


In Flood-Prone New Orleans, an Architect Makes Water His Ally
Dutch Dialogues II

No city in the United States faces as grave a threat from flooding, hurricanes, and rising seas as New Orleans, part of which lies below sea level. But New Orleans architect David Waggonner and his associates, learning lessons from the Dutch, have proposed a revolutionary vision for New Orleans that seeks to make an asset of the water that surrounds the city, remaking unsightly canals into an important and scenic part of the landscape and mimicking nature to store rainfall. Waggoner’s firm has been chosen to help develop a Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan, a first step in what could be a multi-billion dollar project to redesign the ways in which the region co-exists with water. “To sustain the city in this difficult site in an era of rising seas and more extreme weather, we must convert our necessities into niceties, into desirable places that connect with people and culture,” Waggonner says.
View the Photo Gallery
PERMALINK

 

23 Jan 2014: NASA Images Show Severity
Of California's Record-Setting Drought

A pair of NASA images, taken a year apart, show the profound impacts of California's current drought, which Gov. Jerry Brown said yesterday poses a major threat to California's environment and economy. A satellite image taken last Saturday shows virtually no snow cover

Click to Enlarge
California drought 2014

California has almost no snowpack this January.
in the Coast Range and Cascade Mountains, and only a modest amount of snow in the Sierra Nevada. Officials say the snowpack is only 10 to 30 percent of normal levels. In addition, California's vital agricultural areas in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys, which lie west of the Sierra Nevada, are a parched brown. By contrast, a satellite image taken in January 2013 shows significant snowpack in the mountains and a swath of green in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys. Half of California's yearly precipitation falls between December and February, so January's record dry conditions threaten water supplies for the entire year.
PERMALINK

 

16 Jan 2014: Pebble Mine Would Endanger
Alaska's Bristol Bay, Major EPA Study Finds

A three-year study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that mining in Alaska's Bristol Bay area would pose significant dangers to the environment, a potentially fatal setback for plans
Bristol Bay watershed
Mulchatna River, part of Bristol Bay watershed
to develop Pebble Mine, a major open-pit mining project that aimed to exploit one of the largest and richest mineral deposits in the world. The EPA study cited concerns for the region's thriving sockeye salmon population and its native people, saying the mine would destroy 24 to 94 miles of salmon streams and 1,300 to 5,350 acres of wetlands, ponds, and lakes. Pebble Mine proponents, including Alaska Governor Sean Parnell, criticize the study as flawed and rushed, since the development company wasn't allowed to submit its mining plan before the EPA study. Native groups, fishermen, and environmental organizations are applauding the study. The proposed mine — which seeks to exploit gold, copper, and other metals — was already in trouble, with one of two major partners withdrawing from the project last year.
PERMALINK

 

20 Dec 2013: Renewable Energy Comprised
Total U.S. November Power Generation Gains

All of the additional electricity-generating capacity added by the U.S. last month came from renewable energy sources, according to a report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Solar, biomass, wind, geothermal, and hydropower projects provided 394 megawatts — 100 percent — of all new electricity generation that went on line in November. No new capacity was added from fossil fuels or nuclear power, FERC reported. Renewable energy sources also provided 99 percent of all new electricity-generating capacity in October. Although natural gas has been the biggest player in added capacity so far this year (52 percent), solar also made gains. It alone has made up roughly 21 percent of new power capacity so far in 2013, two-thirds more than its year-to-date total in 2012. Renewable sources now account for 15.9 percent of total U.S. generating capacity, which is more than nuclear (9.2 percent) and oil (4.05 percent) combined.
PERMALINK

 

18 Dec 2013: Mapping Course and Software
Make Forest Monitoring Widely Accessible

Citizen scientists interested in tracking the health of the planet's forests have a new tool at their disposal. New software that uses satellite technology to map and

Watch Video
Forest mapping video

A video explains the mapping software.
monitor changes in forested areas is being made available to the public through a free online course. Users who complete the course, hosted by Stanford University, can receive a license to operate the software, called CLASlite. CLASlite, or the Carnegie Landsat Analysis System lite, is a highly automated system for converting satellite imagery from its original, raw format into maps that can be used to detect deforestation, logging, and other disruptions. It was developed by Carnegie researcher Greg Asner to help governments, nongovernmental organizations, and academic institutions conduct high-resolution mapping and monitoring of forests. "We are making the science of forest monitoring broadly available to people who want and need to participate in tracking and managing the health of their forests," said Asner.
PERMALINK

 

Fish 2.0: A Contest Seeks to Foster
A More Sustainable Seafood Industry

Twenty pioneers in the sustainable seafood business climbed a stage at Stanford University in November in an effort to woo the judges at the Fish 2.0 contest

Click to Enlarge
Oyster harvesting

HM Terry Co.
The winning project connects fishermen directly to customers.
with proposals on how to change the way the U.S. catches, distributes, and markets fish. A business competition at heart, Fish 2.0 brought together entrepreneurs and investors to spur innovation in the tradition-bound seafood industry. Competitors's proposals ranged from converting waste at fish processing plants to expanding a Hawaiian network of aquaponic growers, who raise fish and vegetables together in tanks, into the developing world. One proposal aimed to create a data system to track catches in real time, enabling fisheries managers to hold the line on harvests. Contestants headed home with more than $75,000 in prize money.
Read more.
PERMALINK

 

Interview: How Big Agriculture
Has Thwarted Factory Farm Reforms

In 2008, the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production released a landmark report that condemned the way the U.S. raised its cattle, pigs, and
Robert Martin
chickens and made a sweeping series of recommendations on how to reduce the severe environmental and public health problems created by the current system. Last month, the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future released a study analyzing the fate of these reforms and reached a stark conclusion: The power of the industrial agriculture lobby had blunted nearly all attempts at change. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Robert Martin, co-author of the Johns Hopkins report, discusses what went wrong and how reforms can proceed. One hopeful sign, says Martin, is "there are more and more people who are concerned about where their food comes from and how it’s produced."
Read the interview.
PERMALINK

 

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