I admit that I know very little about Uganda: Idi Amin (gathered largely from THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND) and news reports of the bizarre “Kill the Gays” bill pretty much sums it up. I learned a bit in January about efforts to protect their coffee crop from the effects of climate change, but still wouldn’t want take a test on the country. So perhaps my pleasant surprise at news of a growing organic agricultural movement in the country is just a sign of my ignorance, but it strikes me as a really positive development in a nation that has been torn by by political and social unrest for decades.
Now that the debt ceiling debate/debacle has ended (for the time being), Washington pols are talking jobs. Republicans think keeping taxes low is the answer; President Obama and the Democrats want to invest in infrastructure and green technology. According to a late July report from the Union for Concerned Scientists, both parties might want to think about another angle: supporting farmers markets.
Shark fin soup has a long history in Chinese culture as a culinary symbol of prosperity and success, so it’s not surprising the the country’s economic growth has led to an increase in the dish’s consumption… and the killing of up to 73 million sharks a year largely to serve this demand.
Fortunately, public awareness campaigns on the threats to worldwide shark populations seem to have helped: in Hong Kong, for instance, this delicacy is losing its status as a “must have” for celebratory meals. A new study by Australian Institute of Marine Science, though, may completely redefine the equation between shark meat and success, as they’ve found that living sharks may have much greater economic value than dead ones.
Here in the US, bicycles generally fall into the category of “alternative transportation”… meaning an alternative to a car. Bikes are also alternatives in Rivas, Nicaragua… but, in their case, it’s an alternative to walking. Decades of war and political strife in the Central American country have left basic infrastructure and economic opportunities in ruin; in Rivas, providing citizens with bikes — about 20,000 over twenty years — has allowed them to create opportunities for themselves uncommon in many parts of the developing world.
The documentary THE BICYCLE CITY focuses on the role these bicycles have played in reinvigorating this coastal town. Currently in post-production, director Greg Sucharew’s film tells the story of how non-profit Pedals for Progress brought all those bikes (generally used ones from the US) to Rivas… and how they’re changed the socio-economic outlook for its residents.
In the developed world, renewable energy technologies have to compete with existing infrastructure based on fossil fuels or nuclear power. In the developing world, however, power grids and centralized power stations are often in poor shape or non-existent, so technologies like solar and wind play on a much more level playing field. Cambodia’s grid was relatively primitive from the start, and decades of warfare have degraded it even further; as a result, over 11 million people have no access to it.
In this kind of setting, solar power often works as a safe, affordable means of providing the most basic electric “luxury”: lighting.
As the battles over collective bargaining in Wisconsin, and now the disasters in Japan, have dominated the news over the last month, you may have missed Florida Governor Rick Scott’s rejection of federal funds to build a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando. Scott turned away the $2.4 billion for the project because he was concerned about cost overruns that Florida taxpayers may have had to cover. According to a new study by the Florida Department of Transportation, though, the governor’s fears are not only unfounded, but represent a missed opportunity to create some economic growth in the Sunshine State.
Tried arguing climate change science with someone who doesn’t buy it? Yeah, it’s tough… and getting tougher. Even as the science itself becomes more clear, fewer people are concerned about global warming and its effects. It’s enough to make a good greenie bang his/her head against the wall, or just move to a cave.
Or… we could just stop arguing about it.
When the subject of infrastructure improvements as job creators come up, the examples are almost always the same: roads and bridges. No doubt we need improvements there… but a new study from the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst suggests that bike lanes may provide a bigger bang for the buck in terms of job creation.
The idea of the value of nature traditionally involves intangibles and aesthetics: beauty, vitality, inspiration, etc. But, of course, natural systems provide more concrete value, too. We almost always think of that economic value in terms of what we can get out of these systems: lumber, minerals, food, etc… but, when intact, they often provide even an even greater “bang for the buck.”
Got a favorite book on sustainability? One that changed your view of our relationship to the environment? In my case, Paul Hawken’s The Ecology of Commerce, Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael series, and Ray Anderson’s Mid-Course Correction all opened my eyes to ideas of more sustainable relationships between the economy and the environment.
While certified green theatre may still be an anomaly, the live entertainment design community is discussing its environmental impact, as well as broader notions of sustainability, both online and in person. Yesterday, Live Design magazine published a blog post (the first in a series) from lighting designer and theatre consultant Curtis Kasefang on the concept of “sustainable theatres.” Kasefang’s notion of a sustainable performance space can be summed in up in one word: reuse.
Solar panels are certainly sexier than insulation, and new LEED-certified buildings look better on the front page than aging houses. Are aesthetics the main reason that newer technologies and practices get all the attention, while retrofits and efficiency upgrades are relegated to the sidelines of most conversations about a clean energy future?