The bottom line is why Big Food should take a stand on climate

Grist.org - Tue, 05/20/2014 - 22:18

Oxfam has a new report out predicting that climate change will drive up food costs, leading to hunger and suffering. Though that’s not exactly news, what’s interesting is that Oxfam has aimed this report at the 10 largest food and beverage companies in the world.

The authors take pains to demonstrate that there’s not just a moral obligation for these corporations to act against climate change; it’s also the right — intelligently selfish — business decision.

The report finds that the food industry “has a very patchy record, which for some companies verges on downright negligence.” It singles out Kellogg and General Mills for special criticism: “Both companies are highly vulnerable to climate impacts but also well positioned to lead the industry towards a more sustainable future.”

All these companies are working independently to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases they release, but none of them is going far enough. Without some assurance that all businesses will make the same kinds of sacrifices – that is, without some kind of regulation — it’s very hard for any single company to go carbon neutral.

“These companies have been speaking about the risks of climate change pretty consistently,” said Heather Coleman, climate change manager for Oxfam America. “But they have been standing on the sidelines when it comes to calling out governments for failing to provide real action.”

If companies would benefit from climate regulation, what’s holding them back from advocating for that? Well, it’s a bit like that moment when a teacher begs a class for someone to raise her hand and answer a question. Everyone probably knows the answer, but no one wants to risk getting it wrong (and looking like an idiot), or getting it right (and looking like a showoff). In the same way, big companies are scared of alienating any customers by taking a political stance — it’s easier to let someone else get that attention. And so Oxfam, like a substitute teacher, is left calling out, “C’mon, you guys can do this! Anyone?”

Some of the companies named in the report have protested, saying they are actually doing good work on greenhouse gas reductions, or that Oxfam has mischaracterized their efforts. Coleman says that, whatever the company representatives say, it remains clear that their CEOs are not “taking action in a way that shows leadership. Most CEOs aren’t coming out and calling for strong climate action.”

There is an exception: Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, “gets it,” Coleman said, and he has advocated loudly for action on climate change. Furthermore all of these companies deserve a lot of credit for taking decisive action on deforestation caused by palm oil farming. “They’ve taken on policies that go above and beyond what their industry groups have recommended,” Coleman said.

But unless companies start pushing for meaningful carbon laws, these initiatives will remain token efforts.

Filed under: Article, Climate & Energy, Food
Categories: Environment

The dictionary finally admits fracking is here to stay

Grist.org - Tue, 05/20/2014 - 21:55

Kids, do you remember the dictionary? No, not Urban Dictionary. The dictionary! That heavy, paper thing where you hum the alphabet quietly under your breath and look for physical proof that the seven-letter word you just played in Scrabble really exists.

Environmentalists got a few extra words added to their Scrabble repertoire on Monday, when Merriam-Webster announced it was adding some new vocab to its 11th edition, including fracking, e-waste, cap-and-trade and freegan. Also inducted into the halls of dictionarydom were such gems as turducken, tweep, and selfie. (So last year, gloats the Oxford English Dictionary, ahead on the pop culture curve for the first time in 200 years.)

The new edition has already shipped, which means the approximately 11 people who still rely on paper dictionaries (hi, grandma!) will have the pleasure of learning about the joys of dumpster diving. From the AP:

“It’s a young word, from 2006,” [Merriam Webster editor Peter] Sokolowski said of freegan. “It’s one of the youngest in this list. This kind of environmentalism was a Lone Ranger type of activity before but has taken off.”

Merriam-Webster relies on a network of observers who track down word usage in everything from newspapers to soup can labels. Three or four senior editors make the final cut.

Someone at MW must have noticed that there sure is an awful lot of noise about this whole fracking thing (or one of the editors finally watched the reboot of Battlestar Galactica). On the other hand, cap-and-trade was a bit of a gambit.

But Sokolowski pointed out that one reason dictionaries lag behind the internet is a conscious effort to avoid the it-factor:

“One of the most important things we have to watch is the trendiness of language, so we don’t want to put a word in that will then have to come out,” he said. “We want to make sure a word is here to stay.”

Freegans, nice to have you, but we kinda wish fracking had just been an awkward phase.

Let’s page through a few of the new entries:

cap–and–trade, adjective, relating to or being a system that caps the amount of carbon emissions a given company may produce but allows it to buy rights to produce additional emissions from a company that does not use the equivalent amount of its own allowance

e-waste, noun \ˈē-ˌwāst\waste consisting of discarded electronic products (as computers, televisions, and cell phones)

frack·ing, noun \ˈfra-kiŋ\ the injection of fluid into shale beds at high pressure in order to free up petroleum resources (such as oil or natural gas)

free·gan, noun \ˈfrē-gən\ an activist who scavenges for free food (as in waste receptacles at stores and restaurants) as a means of reducing consumption of resources

Filed under: Climate & Energy, Living
Categories: Environment

Here are some of the ridiculous food names babies got last year

Grist.org - Tue, 05/20/2014 - 21:48

The world’s youngest pretentious hipster, Quinoa, may live only on Pinterest, but kids named Kale are all too real. And not just in the Haus of Gwyneth: More than 330 actual human children, ostensibly not all celebrity spawn, were named after the leafy green in 2013. (Teachers of 2020 and beyond, we’re sorry.)

Surprising no one, little Kales are most common in California, where they will grow up to drink green juice and flirt with reality stardom. It’s an overwhelmingly male name, with only five girls to 257 boys. (Perhaps Friseé is more feminine.) But don’t worry — American girls got their own slew of food names in 2013:

  • Olive: 1,086 girls
  • Pepper: 152
  • Ginger: 92
  • Tea: 44

Are parents TRYING to make it easy for obnoxious suitors? “Tea, you’re so hot right now!” “Damn, Tea just iced me out.”

  • Maple: 44
  • Apple: 27
  • Tamari: 26
  • Chai: 7

It’s unknown if the most popular middle name for Chai is Oprah.

Oh well, it could be worse. At least parents aren’t naming their kids Mesclun.

Filed under: Food, Living
Categories: Environment

India’s new prime minister is big on solar power

Grist.org - Tue, 05/20/2014 - 21:06

The world’s biggest-ever election just spat out a potentially worrying result. Narendra Modi, a conservative Hindu nationalist who ran on a pro-development platform, will soon be India’s prime minister. What does that mean for the climate?

An American accustomed to conservative attacks on climate science and clean energy could be forgiven for assuming that it is bad news. But not all cultures equate conservatism with profligate fossil fuel burning and utter disregard for the climate. Despite his conservative chops, Modi is talking big when it comes to solar energy.

We’ve previously told you that India is making tremendous strides in building powerful solar arrays, boosting its grid-connected solar capacity from 18 megawatts to more than 2,000 megawatts in just four years. That’s a heartening trend in a nation that depends heavily on coal and frequently runs short of power — and that has shown belligerence in the face of international pressure to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Fortunately, on solar development, Modi looks set to continue the outgoing government’s admirable quest for more. Bloomberg reports:

“We look upon solar as having the potential to completely transform the way we look at the energy space,” said Narendra Taneja, convener of the energy division at Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, which swept to power on May 16 in the biggest electoral win in three decades. …

Expanding clean-power generation will be the administration’s top energy-related priority, especially solar because it has the potential to create jobs and supply millions of scattered households not connected to the grid, he said.

Modi, as chief minister of Gujarat state, pioneered India’s first incentives for large-scale solar power in 2009. The party will take lessons from Gujarat’s program as it designs policies on a national level that will include both larger, grid-connected photovoltaic projects and smaller, decentralized applications for solar, Taneja said.

Modi will inherit the awkward issue of a burgeoning trade dispute in which the U.S. is complaining about India’s protectionist policies that are designed to spur a domestic solar industry. India’s outgoing government has been working up a counter-complaint, arguing that America’s own solar policies violate World Trade Organization rules. It’s hard to imagine Modi’s administration backing away from a fight, particularly given that American environmentalists are on India’s side.

Modi is already not on great terms with the American government. The U.S. denied him a visa following accusations that he fueled ethnic violence that left nearly 1,000 people dead, most of them Muslims, in his home state of Gujarat in 2002, where he has served as the equivalent of a governor since 2001. But after his party won the election last week, Obama called to congratulate him and invite him for a visit to Washington, D.C. If Modi accepts the invitation, maybe he’ll get the opportunity to see the new solar array on the White House roof.

Filed under: Climate & Energy, Politics
Categories: Environment

Your buddy Nicolas Cage to star in “The Runner,” a film set after the BP oil spill

Grist.org - Tue, 05/20/2014 - 20:33

Whispering question mark Nicolas Cage will sneak away from filming National Treasure 3 to star in a film set immediately after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. In The Runner, which will come out next year, Cage will play a disgraced Louisiana congressmember named Colin Price, whose career disintegrates after a sex scandal.

The movie starts filming next month in New Orleans, which occupies a place in Cage’s heart right next to the Declaration of Independence. Or as IndieWire wrote, “[T]he real story here is Nicolas Cage and his somewhat healthy obsession with the city of New Orleans.” The guy not only used to live in NOLA and has filmed three movies there in the past five years, but he bought a nine-foot tomb shaped like a pyramid in the city for when he finally hangs up his hair plugs.

It’s unclear how large the BP oil spill will loom in the film, but we hope it won’t be obscured by Nic Cage’s trademark, “a flowing mane of hair that resembles a ferret carcass stapled to the carcass of a classroom skeleton.” Wait, was that not the real Nicolas Cage?

Filed under: Business & Technology, Climate & Energy, Living
Categories: Environment

It’s not too late to support Grist

Grist.org - Tue, 05/20/2014 - 20:30
Amelia Bates

Your gift in support of our 15th birthday will help us continue Grist’s indispensable green news and commentary for years to come.

That’s something we can all celebrate.

Amelia Bates
Filed under: Article
Categories: Environment

SAE International Honors Four Cummins, Inc. Engineers with the John...

PR Web - Tue, 05/20/2014 - 19:42

Four engineering professionals from Cummins, Inc., have been honored with the SAE International John Johnson Award for Outstanding Research in Diesel Engines. The group was presented with their awards...

(PRWeb May 20, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/05/prweb11869387.htm

Categories: Environment

Coco’s Day Spa & Salon Modernizes with the Only LED with a...

PR Web - Tue, 05/20/2014 - 19:42

Energy Saving Solutions USA (“ESS” or the “Company”), the creators of the LED with a lifetime guarantee™, today is proud to announce that through its authorized LED dealer, Vic Braunstein, Coco’s Day...

(PRWeb May 20, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/05/prweb11869433.htm

Categories: Environment

‘Sustainable Brands’ Selects ‘Nokero Solar’ as Exclusive Lighting...

PR Web - Tue, 05/20/2014 - 19:42

Sustainable Brands leads a global community of business innovators toward sustainable decision-making, and they have just selected Nokero Solar as the Exclusive Lighting Sponsor for 2014 San...

(PRWeb May 20, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/05/prweb11845970.htm

Categories: Environment

Registration officially open for the CLEAN GULF 2014 Conference &...

PR Web - Tue, 05/20/2014 - 19:42

Registration is now open for the 24th annual CLEAN GULF Conference & Exhibition, taking place December 2-4, 2014, in San Antonio, Texas, at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.

(PRWeb May 20, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/05/prweb11861369.htm

Categories: Environment

Evangelical Christians call on Florida politicians to take climate action

Grist.org - Tue, 05/20/2014 - 19:19

When it comes to using energy, what would Jesus do?

We’re guessing he wouldn’t use more than he needed, and he wouldn’t condemn generations to climate hell by burning fossil fuels when cleaner options were available.

Some Evangelical Christian leaders in Florida are making just that point, calling on Republican politicians in the state to take climate change seriously. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) recently went full-on climate denier, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) is a denier too.

Rev. Mich Hescox, president of the Evangelical Environmental Network, has started a petition drive calling on Scott to make climate change and “creation care” priorities. Here’s an excerpt:

We are failing to keep our air and water clean for our children, contributing to a changing climate that most hurts the world’s poor, and putting Floridians at risk as temperatures and sea levels continue to rise. To meet these challenges, we need leaders who understand our duty to God’s creation and future generations. That’s why we are calling on Gov. Rick Scott to create a plan to reduce carbon pollution and confront the impacts of a changing climate.

And the Tampa Bay Times reports that Hescox and prominent Evangelical pastor Joel Hunter are taking part in a panel discussion tonight titled “Climate Change: Should Christians Care?” From the Times article:

Evangelical leaders in Florida have taken on climate change as a cause and are trying to increase pressure on Gov. Rick Scott to take action, while criticizing Sen. Marco Rubio’s stance on the issue. …

Hunter, who is a spiritual advisor to President Obama, says he’s taken to urging congregants to do their part: Turning off lights that aren’t needed, setting air conditioning at a reasonable temperature, keeping car tires properly inflated.

He said he was neither panicked nor preoccupied with the issue. “But this is part of what I think is the moral responsibility of the church to lead in areas that can benefit and protect people.”

Should Christians care? The answer seems obvious to those who put their flocks before politics.

Filed under: Climate & Energy, Politics
Categories: Environment

Progress Reported in Global Food and Nutrition Security, but DuPont...

PR Web - Tue, 05/20/2014 - 16:42

DuPont Advisory Committee on Agricultural Innovation & Productivity Issues Report on Progress Toward a Food and Nutrition Secure World

(PRWeb May 20, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/dupont-advisory-committee/food-nutrition-security/prweb11866345.htm

Categories: Environment

'Raw Pressed Juices' Debuts Green-minded Vehicles to Deliver...

PR Web - Tue, 05/20/2014 - 16:42

Boca Raton Based Cold Press Juice Co Uses Fleet of Green Vehicles to Deliver Juice to Miami & West Palm Beach

(PRWeb May 20, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/05/prweb11861072.htm

Categories: Environment

Sports Stadiums – a PENETRON Specialty

PR Web - Tue, 05/20/2014 - 16:42

One of many recent PENETRON stadium projects, the Arena Castelão in Fortaleza, Brazil recently opened to the public, just in time for next month’s FIFA World Cup 2014. PENETRON crystalline...

(PRWeb May 20, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/05/prweb11857450.htm

Categories: Environment

Rangelands Wins EXCEL Gold Award for Journal Featured Article

PR Web - Tue, 05/20/2014 - 16:42

Allen Press, Inc. co-publishing client the Society for Range Management won the Gold EXCEL Award for a Journal Featured Article from Association Media & Publishing. The winning article, published...

(PRWeb May 20, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/05/prweb11862146.htm

Categories: Environment

LED Waves Offers New Low Price on the PR15 UltraThin Recessed Light

PR Web - Tue, 05/20/2014 - 16:42

Originally $69.95, this popular LED downlight is now $49.95 per unit.

(PRWeb May 20, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/05/prweb11865718.htm

Categories: Environment

Futaris to Exhibit at the JBER IT EXPO

PR Web - Tue, 05/20/2014 - 16:42

Company to Showcase Industry Leading IT Solutions and Technology

(PRWeb May 20, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/05/prweb11867069.htm

Categories: Environment

Local Real Estate Firm's Exponential Growth Coincides with Greater...

PR Web - Tue, 05/20/2014 - 16:42

Larry Miller announces recent growth of CENTURY 21 Larry Miller Realty and CSRA Home Connections as well as the company’s recent recognition from Cartus Broker Network.

(PRWeb May 20, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/home-services/local-businesses/prweb11867214.htm

Categories: Environment

Ask Umbra: How can I make the world a greener, funnier place?

Grist.org - Tue, 05/20/2014 - 16:24

Q. I read about all kinds of important stuff on Grist — like how to ensure my couch is flame-retardant free, how to keep toxins out of my food, and how to make the best decisions for my family and the planet. What can I do to spread the word about this stuff?

John D.
Berkeley, CA.

A. Dearest John,

It warms my heart when people like you crave green information. While Big Media often falls woefully short on this front, Grist and I always have your back.

We’re an independent news shop that’s spent the last 15 years drawing attention to the most pressing environmental topics of the day, always served with a dollop of our signature humor.

Today’s the last day of our fundraising drive. Take my advice: Make a donation in support of our work so we can keep bringing you critical green stories and tips for years to come.

We’re only 667 gifts away from our goal: Click to see our up-to-the-minute progress.

Every donation counts. Won’t you celebrate our 15-year run with a gift of $15?


Filed under: Article
Categories: Environment

This site will answer all your growing queries

Grist.org - Tue, 05/20/2014 - 15:55

According to rainforest ecologist David Hughes, agriculture went off the rails when the venues for swapping seeds, techniques, and expertise began gathering cobwebs.

“Since the beginnings of agriculture, farmers have been sharing information left, right, and center,” he said. “But we haven’t been doing that so well for the last 70 or 80 years.”

As farmers have become more specialized they’ve required more and more specialized information, and companies have figured out how to restrict and profit off this knowledge. At the same time, academics have found they prosper by spending their time publishing papers rather than disseminating knowledge.

Hughes started thinking about this when he was tramping down lonely trails with his collaborator Harry Evans. Evans is one of those rare scientists, who — instead of racking up publications in prestigious journals — has spent most of his time sharing (and applying) his knowledge. “Every time we walked out of the forest I was getting a master’s class in plant pathology,” Hughes said. “It took me two more years, but eventually it percolated into my slow-acting brain that this kind of knowledge is incredibly important, but we’re not training more people like him.”

The best solution would be for society to invest in the education of thousands more people like Evans, Hughes said. Since that wasn’t likely to happen any time soon, he partnered with Marcel Salathé, a tech-savvy colleague, and began working on a second-best solution: a web-based tool to facilitate the spread of agricultural knowledge named PlantVillage.com.

It’s a nonprofit, open-source information hub. The idea is simple: People write questions about plants they are growing (often uploading pictures), and other people answer them.

Every question on the site has an answer, and the quality of answers is high. An exception is perhaps the best proof of this rule: When a grower wrote in about a disease affecting oil palms in Vietnam, the community at PlantVillage was stumped. Hughes wrote to experts around the world and learned that they were stumped as well. “If I don’t know the answer I’ll write to the top person at the USDA or CABI, and get it. No one knew the answer. We realized we’d exposed a gap in the knowledge,” he said.

When there is a known answer, this network of experts can speedily extract information that otherwise lies hidden in scholarly journals, behind paywalls. And often the best answers may come, not from published science, but from experienced farmers.

“I know from working at a land-grant college in central Pennsylvania that, for instance, some of the farmers knew a lot more about bacterial diseases in onions than the scientists did,” Hughes said. “Imagine millions of farmers sharing information.”

Hughes says he built PlantVillage for Africa, to help get information to the growers with the least access. Currently  just 15 percent of the site’s traffic comes from that continent; many users are well-to-do hobby gardeners rather than working farmers. But that doesn’t bother Hughes. For now, he is focused on building a community and working out the technical kinks.

“Africa isn’t ready for us yet, but it’s gaining connectivity very quickly,” Hughes said. “In about two years the main crowd of African farmers will be ready for us.”

When questions do come in from Africa, like this one looking for a way to stop devastating erosion in Tanzania, the experts are quick to offer suggestions.

Hughes wants to keep expanding the site. Eventually, you should be able to point a smartphone at a diseased plant and get an immediate diagnosis. We actually have the tools to make this work now (if Facebook can identify your cousin, then surely machine learning can identify powdery leaf mildew), but we’re short on data — we don’t have enough pictures of diseased plants on the internet, Hughes said.

“The problem is that we have more pictures on the web of Kim Kardashian’s bum than we do of the food that feeds us,” he said.

If the site grows to a truly worldwide network of growers, it will also clue scientists in to the emergence of new diseases and allow a faster response. Hughes feels strongly about this sort of thing. “I’m Irish,” he said.

The implication: With better information sharing the Irish potato blight — which killed a million people — could have been alleviated. The ultimate goal here is to preempt the famines of the future.

Filed under: Article, Food
Categories: Environment