Today we have a guest post from Robert Kutter PhD, a recent graduate of ASU’s School of Sustainability. Paper or Plastic? Most consumers used to think the environmentally friendly option at the grocery store checkout was paper bags. Paper bags are made out of natural materials after all, whereas plastic bags are made from non-renewable … Read more…
It’s the summer and air conditioning is in the news; generating a spat of articles from journalists mostly sniping at each other about whether it is a gift from God or from the Devil. A somewhat pretentious piece in the New York Times decrying our freezing buildings kicked it off, rebutted quite thoroughly only days … Read more…
Anthropocene has made the leap out of the Ivory Tower and continues to rapidly gain popularity both in the public and academia. The term ‘Anthropocene’ is credited to Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer who proposed that it was necessary to distinguish a new geological epoch of human domination of the planet (PDF).1)Crutzen, P. J., and … Read more…
In their 2010 book, Merchants of Doubt, historians of science Naomi Oreskes and Eric Conway expose in seemingly endless detail the sordid roots of today’s climate change denial. They trace its birth from early (and recently revived) attempts to discredit Rachael Carson and the dangers of DDT to wildlife, even if that first battle was … Read more…
When I tell people that I am working in Sustainability well over half the time they immediately bring up water (the probability increases if they know of my ties to Arizona). Yet I have come to believe that water is perhaps the worst topic with which to have an introductory discussion about Achieving Sustainability. The … Read more…
This blog took a multi-month hiatus (admittedly a bad sign for such a new enterprise) as I moved between countries and had a baby (good enough excuses I think). But now I’m back and I won’t be stopped. Too much of interest has happened to list here but here are some of the more recent highlights:
- Robert Putnam is on a campaign to raise the alarm about the accelerating inequality among our youth (a book tour with a purpose).
- Describing new power plants as powering X thousand/million homes is misleading at best and sometimes purposefully deceptive.
- Just as our definitions for wild and natural are arbitrary and contrived so is our definition of native. Horses make a great example.
- “I think we need to stop kidding ourselves that meat production doesn’t have profound impacts on ecosystems – it clearly does, whether your beef comes from Britain or Brazil. The best way to reduce this impact is by eating less of the stuff.” On a related note a new study details just how destructive cattle are to our public lands (with photos).
- We scientists need to change too. Whether it is what we are doing (can science be driving the creation of a more Sustainable world?) or how we are doing it (can scientists fly to fewer conferences).
- Can we shift or re-define labels around Sustainability instead of inventing new terms, history suggest that would be a better approach than inventing new words.
- In Sustainability we talk about Food Systems because the humans from consumers to workers are centrally important but as this article details, that has been slow to trickle into the “Food movement” as a whole.
- Good news: Bald eagles are making a comeback!
- Whatever else this election was, it appears to be foreboding for Sustainability, whether it is national climate policy, state level climate action, or a deep seated antipathy for the EPA, though some saw a silver lining.
- Though I guess if our politicians are not going to do anything, maybe we can learn how to resolve our climate challenges from aliens.
- Michael Levi has a good point that talking about the cost of “ideal” climate policies is not very relevant because these only will be implemented in economist’s models, never in the real world.
- A moral argument for renewable energy.
- Ensuring honest and accurate “green” labeling is a vital role that governments can play as is demonstrated by the monster fine be levied by the US on Korean carmakers for misstating their cars’ mileage.
- Sustainability Science is Puzzling. My take: the role of Sustainability professionals should be to look at the whole picture on the puzzle box and not just a piece or two-that is the role of disciplines.
- Ever wondered what people where talking about with this Anthropocene. Michael Schoon has a nice brief overview.
- Vox.com discusses why bike share users tend to be wealthier despite the fact the poor are more likely to use bikes as their main form of transportation.
- Earlier Vox also featured an interesting discussion of possible reasons why carpooling has declined in America. I wonder how the so-called sharing economy will even further effect this trend.
- Vox was really on a Sustainability tear this week with an interesting article on dams stemming out of a new paper cataloging dam building plans around the world.
- Climate Change as always merits several mentions:
- The big news this week was the release of the IPCC’s Synthesis report. For a synthesis of the synthesis check out National Geographic’s five takeaways or Vox’s seven.
- Ruth Graham reflects on how a previous energy transition (from wood to coal heating) can assist us in the one we confront now.
- If Chile can do it why can’t we? Chile implements a carbon tax cover more than half of their emissions.
- Climate change news:
- Study out of MIT suggests that cutting carbon emissions will virtually pay for itself with health savings…
- Which is good because the World Bank is more forcefully concerned about how climate change will impact agriculture, particularly in Africa…
- And yet even clearly communicating the issues is probably not enough to motivate the public to the necessary change.
- Interesting discussion (if somewhat academic in tone) of how individuals responses to a changing climate needs to be taken into account when modeling the future.
- Dr. Shiva’s response to last week’s New Yorker piece. While correcting some errors and oversights, she does not make a very convincing case for her all-out war against GMOs (and her belief in a conspiracy against her shines through).
- Even massive reforestation efforts in China are falling short. Fixing our mistakes is much harder and more expensive than avoiding them.
- Quick review of the startling high extinction rate humans are driving (ignore the silly title and questions about how this links to human extinction-seems to have been thrown in to generate clicks). An issue worth reflecting about on the 100th anniversary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon.
- Great visual with which you can explore Louisiana’s disappearing coast.
In his 2011 book Conundrum, David Owen asks a fundamental question–can we commit to doing what is necessary to really Achieving Sustainability? Are we willing to make the necessary sacrifices, to reduce our consumption as both individuals and societies on a massive scale? As his subtitle points out Owen is really asking these questions about … Read more…