Women In Trucking Association Partners with Girl Scouts to Launch...

PR Web - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 18:17

Eighty four Girl Scouts earned the "first ever" transportation patch at Olive-Harvey College in Chicago, IL.

(PRWeb October 20, 2014)

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Categories: Environment

Intelex User Conference Leads the Way for Environmental, Health,...

PR Web - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 18:17

Global EHSQ Community Unites at 5th Annual Intelex User Conference

(PRWeb October 20, 2014)

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Categories: Environment

Faith and fears in Wendell Berry’s Kentucky

Grist.org - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 17:35

Wendell Berry’s mind is preoccupied with four dead sheep. I join the 80-year-old food movement sage for a drink and a visit in the kitchen of his neat white house on the top of the hill in Henry County. The talk meanders, picks up steam, and tapers off until the hum of the refrigerator fills the air, but the conversation always circles back to those missing animals.

Berry has four fewer sheep, but there were only two carcasses. The others disappeared without a trace. It’s coyotes, according to a trapper who knows the beasts and how to get rid of them. Berry has never heard of coyotes doing such a thing — not the stealing of sheep, for which they have an established reputation, but for doing such a clean job of it. No telltale chunks of hide or dried blood. I can tell it rattles around in his thoughts even as we trade stories of hunters being hunted, my home state of Montana, and women who tell dirty jokes.

Berry’s mind is one of the most famous and respected in environmentalism. The farming poet has been writing since the ’60s, and has more than 50 books to his name. His timeless tomes show a deep love of nature and rich understanding of the power of community. Described as the “modern-day Thoreau,” Berry holds up the simple, good things in the world while decrying the forces of greed and globalization that sully them. The man knows how to pack a punch in just a few words: “There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places.’’

A Berry sentence — “eating is an agricultural act” — set Michael Pollan off in his own storied explorations. The National Humanities Medal winner has influenced everyone from baby boomer farmers to presidents to our 23-year-old intern who, upon hearing about my trip, exclaimed, “Wendell Berry is my Leonardo DiCaprio!”

But Berry is not your typical green celebrity. While he’s attended mountaintop-removal coal mine protests and EPA hearings throughout the years, he’s more comfortable behind a pen than a podium. It’s a move that’s both wise and pragmatic: Berry has a farm to run, after all, and there are simply too many battles for one man to fight.

In a quote that could double as farm and life advice, Berry told Mark Bittman: “When you are new at sheep-raising and your ewe has a lamb, your impulse is to stay there and help it nurse and see to it and all. After a while you know that the best thing you can do is walk out of the barn.”

A few days after my one-on-one with Berry, I attended the Healthy Foods, Local Farms conference in Louisville, where I met people who traveled long distances to borrow his ear and see him deliver the keynote. One excitable man with a grey ponytail took Greyhounds for days all the way from Phoenix. As I talked to Henry County farmers and a variety of folks who fight for a better food system in red states, I learned it’s hard to overestimate how Berry’s influence helped shape several generations of people.

There’s Missouri rancher Terry Spence, who has been raising cattle for 64 years — and battling tooth-and-nail against factory hog farming for the last 20 of them. Spence had been a quiet man who mostly stuck to his farm. But as loopholes for CAFOs snuck into legislation and the lagoons of swine manure began to leak, he found his voice and his cause.

Bonnie Cecil loved bringing her first-grade class into nature and onto farms whenever possible. When she won the prestigious Milken Educator Award in 1994, she used the money to buy a small farm in Henry County for field trips and summer camps. The Berrys checked in on her after storms and taught her how to raise sheep. When her favorite ewe had to be put down, Wendell sent her away from the barn. “Bonnie, I told you this was going to break your heart,” he said.

The cowboy-hat-wearing Will Harris doesn’t look like your typical environmentalist. He’s the sort of Southern charmer you find yourself punching playfully in the shoulder after knowing for a mere hour. But the burly cattle rancher had a change of heart after seeing the way his calves were packed tight and shipped to the Midwest to meet sorry deaths. And so Harris uprooted his entire beef operation in Georgia and remade it as one that favors crop and animal diversity — and built his own humane slaughtering facilities to boot.

Carden Willis’ life has been changed at least twice by Berry’s advice — and in one case, by ignoring it. He wrote two novels by the age most of us are just old enough to buy a legal drink. He saw Berry speak and wrote for advice on how to get published. Berry’s reply: “Don’t try to make it as a writer. That’s no way to support a family.” Willis dropped the books, but he also dabbled in agriculture and wrote again to see if Berry had the same advice for hopeful farmers. Berry did. It was a wise response: The cost of land, the hard work involved, and the unreliable pay make farming a difficult profession to succeed in, let alone raise a family. But this time Willis didn’t take Berry’s advice, and he now runs a CSA from his small farm in Henry County. The farm is named after a Berry novel, A Place on Earth. Willis doesn’t have time to write anymore, but he runs a successful farm with his wife and two small boys. One of his CSA subscribers? Berry himself.

Tireless organizer Aloma Dew has been putting on the Healthy Foods, Local Farms conference — often singlehandedly — since 1999. Her husband Lee talks as slow as she moves fast. In the car, he turns with twinkling eyes and a slight smile to observe his audience’s reaction when the threads of his story finally tie into a sharp joke. The pair are retired history professors who joined the Sierra Club to work on water issues.

A lot has happened in Louisville in those 15 years. There are now more than 30 farmers markets in the area. Sarah Fritschner is a passionate farm-to-table coordinator who acts as the middleman between local farmers and distributors. A mid-size organic farm drew thousands at its fall harvest festival the weekend I was in town. At one restaurant, portraits of local farmers hang on the wall above plates filled with their own produce.

Speakers at the conference expressed disbelief at how far the food scene has come. There is a lot to celebrate, and even the cautious Berry said the experiences, knowledge, and connections of the conference-goers would be “unimaginable 15 years ago.”

He noted that the food movement is a journey, not a destination, and that “if we want to keep going on a journey we think is worthwhile, one of the things that is incumbent on us is to remember and keep in mind the things that are good.”

Back at the farm, we remember the things that are good, too. As Berry pours my bourbon and water, the mood shifts. When his wife Tanya joins us, I come to the delightful realization that Wendell Berry is a bit of a scamp. “I like her to think that I take her for granted,” he says with his back to the door she just walked in.

“That kid is too intelligent to be that good,” he says of a local toddler. After each joke, Berry looks from face to face until he lights upon someone else sharing in his glee. Since Tanya and Bonnie Cecil have had decades of his hijinks, he usually lands on my smiling mug. When he sees me giggling, he throws his head back and laughs even harder. My grin widens, and the soul of the real food movement gives a good-natured wink.

As we munch on peanut butter crackers, I marvel at the ways in which I’m different from this man (besides, you know, one of us being a national treasure). Berry refuses to own a computer. He stated his reasons why in an essay in 1987 — the year I was born. He can’t understand why I would live in a city when I could be on my family’s land. I’m young, female, and spend more time than I’d like to admit on the internet. When I go to take a sip of my drink, he asks how old I am. I tell him and both he and Cecil jump. “I could have said you were 17,” he says in either a compliment to my skin-care regime or an insult to my maturity. “Oh, everyone under a certain age looks that old,” Tanya explains. And I suppose if I’m being honest, everyone over a certain age looks 80 to me, too.

Despite our gaps, we find common ground in our enjoyment of good bourbon (Woodford Reserve), rural upbringings, and impish tendencies. We’re also tied together by our love of farming communities and our fears for where rural America is headed.

As Berry noted in his keynote, “There is a difference between agriculture on the whole in this country and the food movement. The food movement is much more successful.” Our topsoil is still eroding much faster than it can build and washing down to choke the Gulf. In the last eight years, more than a million acres of virgin prairie and grassland were plowed over for corn and soy. From 2007 to 2012, we lost nearly 100,000 farms.

Subdivisions pop up on rich farmland in Berry’s Henry County. I saw cookie cutter houses on the edge of bluegrass fields in horse country near Lexington. The abandoned effects of the last housing boom glitter on the mountainside across the river from our ranch in Montana, too.

The tension between being hopeful about the food movement and being realistic about its limitations extended to the conference as well. The mood seesawed from the exuberant to a weary recounting of losses — often from the same speaker.

Harris, the Southern charmer, said with thunder in his voice that the only thing standing in the way of more local slaughterhouses was hard work and the willingness to see it through. His operation grew from less than $500,000 a year in profits to more than $30 million. But he later noted that for years the farm operated at a loss, and at times he thought that he was going to lose it all. He ended his talk with, “Be careful out there, folks.”

A lively farmer panel swung back and forth. A young farmer in the crowd asked about raising chickens for her local co-op. The successful organic farmer on the panel argued to the effect of “if you build it, they will come.” An older and more harried panelist told her she’d be right to be cautious.

Berry told the crowd that industrial agriculture, with its reliance on fossil fuels and lack of concern for the future, was a dying system. “It has failed and it doesn’t know it. It’s brain-dead and it’s thrashing around and doing a lot of damage in its death throes,” he said. So we can all go home and wait for its last gasps, right? He then added: “And it may last a long time and do a lot of damage.” Oh.

And then there’s the issue of feeling isolated and alienated in red states. When you’re at a conference with like-minded folks, you can forget that not everyone sees our current system as problematic. “Crazy” was a word that kept coming up among sustainable farmers and local food advocates I talked to, as in “my town thinks I’m crazy” or “my parents called me crazy.”

How do advocates deal with communities that don’t share their beliefs? Berry’s Christian faith is a big part of his life and work. He believes God created a good and lovable world (including the “biting and dangerous beasts” ), and we fail in our exploitation and corruption of it.

And many of the folks I talked to shared his philosophy of being careful stewards and connecting a deeper mystery to their work.

“Outdoors we are confronted everywhere with wonders; we see that the miraculous is not extraordinary, but the common mode of existence. It is our daily bread,” Berry wrote in an essay on the survival of creation. Aloma Dew considers eating good, sustainable food more of a communion than the Welch’s grape juice and white bread at Sunday service.

Bonnie Cecil attends the same church as the Willises and Berrys, and described her second life as a small farmer in Henry County as “dropping from the sky into heaven.”

Faith and churches can strengthen local food communities and advocates. When the Unitarian Church had a big conference in Louisville, an organizer pushed for sustainable fare on the menu. Now the caterer is building a local food option for future events.

But the same institution that can provide meaning and support can be a source of pain, too. When Terry Spence organized against a factory farm that promised jobs, he felt a chill from his congregation. People his family had prayed beside for 32 years started ignoring them at services. They finally left that church for a more supportive one.

When environmentalists can feel isolated from their communities, congregations, and even their own families, the food movement can provide support and encouragement. Quite a few people, including Spence, have been coming to the Healthy Foods, Local Farms conference for years.

Berry told the conference that when the industrial food system finally reckons with its limitations and breathes its last breath, there needs to be a knowledgeable community pushing the way forward. “That’s why this little nucleus of people is so important,” he said.

In Kentucky, I witnessed how a little group of like-minded folks can cross paths and build community that will last generations. The story of Carden Willis’ farm and family sprung from an interaction with Berry, but the people of Healthy Foods, Local Farms helped make it real. Before going against Berry’s advice and getting his own place, Carden Willis ran a CSA. He found the stint because the previous head farmer John Grant had gone off and married a retired teacher turned sheep farmer, Bonnie Cecil. Carden soon met and fell in love with a farm volunteer, Courtney. When they went to look for a place of their own, Grant and Cecil told them about a small farm bordering their land. The bank wouldn’t give the Willises a big enough loan to get the place, so Grant and Cecil went in on the down payment. The Willises filled the place with chickens, organic vegetables, a hyper German shepherd, and two rascally kids, Clark and Campbell.

Farm Together Now author Daniel Tucker mentioned his Louisville roots at his speech at the conference. While Tucker spoke, guess who tottered across the stage, finger in nose, to the delight of the crowd? No, Wendell isn’t that much of a jokester: It was Carden Willis’ son, Clark. And who was the influential teacher Tucker credited with teaching him how to read? Why, Bonnie Cecil, of course.

Courtney and Campbell Willis. Darby Minow Smith

Later at the keynote, Berry spoke for a bit before pushing away his notes with some force. “That’s enough. I’ve made a lot of speeches in my time and I’ve really grown tired of hearing them,” he said.

For the next half an hour, he read a short story about a frugal Kentucky family. It had all the classic trappings of a Berry tale: The value of working the land and a loving, nosey community. He spoke of being a good neighbor and avoiding greed. “Some people work hard for what they have,” Berry said, “and other people are glad to take it from them easily.”

The last line of the story was the father reacting to his son’s flashy car: “Sweetheart, I told you. And you’re going to learn. Don’t let the sons of bitches get ahold of your money.”

Berry walked off stage and the crowd that had come so far gave a standing ovation. The conference drew to a close.

And at the farm, our visit comes to its inevitable end, too. Dusk falls and Berry’s day isn’t done. He laces up his work boots, bids us good evening, and walks out of the kitchen. He heads into the falling night to see to his flock, and to worry about the coyotes.

Filed under: Food, Living
Categories: Environment

Is there hope for West Virginia as it moves away from coal?

Grist.org - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 17:11

After I published a piece about the prospect of a federal bailout for Central Appalachian coal miners, I got an email from my friend, West Virginia native Jeff Young. He works in environmental communications now, but for years he covered coal country for PRI’s Living on Earth. I asked if I could publish it. He gave it a quick polish and it appears below. He stresses that these views are his alone.

The key to understanding West Virginia is to recognize that it is less a fully functioning state government than a resource-extraction colony. Even before King Coal’s rise, this was the case with timber and salt. And after coal’s reign ends, I predict, this will again be the case with natural gas, as wealth and power rise from the Marcellus shale (and, soon, the Utica shale). However, it might be that King Frack’s reign will be a bit more benign than King Coal’s. (More on that in a bit.)

The political, economic, and institutional forces of the state are almost completely aligned with the needs of those taking raw natural materials from the state and exporting them. This provides little incentive for investment in things like education, economic diversification, development of an entrepreneurial middle class, or (needless to say) environmental protections.

Many other states with resource-extractive bases experience this to some degree, a sort of “resource curse” at the sub-national level. However, most other states have more diversity in their economies and do not have the overwhelming reliance on one industry that West Virginia has long suffered.

The few times in West Virginia history where we see political and economic interests working in favor of the citizens’ welfare have been when organized labor played a large role and when a manufacturing base supported a higher-skilled, higher-paid workforce that could wield political influence. Those days are long gone for coal, thanks to the job cuts from automation, the move from deep mining to surface mining (which requires far fewer miners), and the vicious anti-union practices from the 1980s on. The demise of heavy industries such as glass, chemicals, and steel in the state’s Ohio and Kanawha River valleys contributed strongly to population loss and brain drain. (Price spikes in natural gas also undercut the chemical manufacturers, which used gas as both fuel and a chemical building block, or “feedstock.”)

I grew up in West Virginia and left in 2003. Every trip back home leaves me more discouraged and skeptical regarding the state’s chances to pull out of coal’s death spiral. Yes, there have been heroic political stands against coal’s abuses (Ken Hechler! Denise Giardina!) and, yes, many have fought for environmental sanity and economic justice in the coal fields (RIP Judy Bonds, Larry Gibson, and James Weekley). But the politics are such now that the electoral winners will be the ones who double down on the dumbness of “standing up for coal.”

The “war on coal” is bogus, of course. Coal’s real problem is cheaper, cleaner natural gas, which is kicking coal’s butt as a fuel for electricity. But politically it’s a lot more appealing to scream about a socialist menace than to admit you’ve lost in a capitalist market. And the “war on coal” provides a convenient scapegoat for inevitable cutbacks and layoffs that the largely played-out regional coal industry must make.

In terms of political leadership, West Virginia may have missed its last, best shot at a reasonable shift toward a post-coal future. Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D) and Rep. Alan Mollohan (D), for all their faults, both recognized the need to plan for life after coal, and both chaired major appropriations committees in Congress from which they steered major government projects to the Mountain State. (The “Prince of Pork” title never really bothered Byrd.) Late in life, Byrd made explicit his desire to use government investment as a means to diversify the economy, and he challenged West Virginians to acknowledge and address the reality of climate change. While government is not so good at economic development (as you pointed out, David), other regions (think North Carolina’s research triangle) have been able to leverage such government investments to support local tech business. But West Virginia’s “leaders” lacked the vision or spine to put resources into building upon the “Byrd droppings” and “Mollo-handouts” that came to the state in the form of an FBI identification center, NASA software center, and the like.

Also (boy, I’m really taking you into the weeds of West Virginia politics now) the state’s anachronistic statehouse system disproportionately favors the southern counties, the heart of the coal fields, while most opportunities for economic diversification were in the state’s north. This further skewed the use of resources that might have helped build an economy beyond coal.

Occasionally, West Virginia politicians will offer some happy talk about “clean coal” and the promise of carbon capture and sequestration, or CCS. I find this little more than wishful thinking, because I find CCS little more than a pipe dream, with very big, very expensive pipes. Even if it works (a very big if) at the scale needed to address utility-scale emissions, CCS won’t address the many other issues with coal: slurry, ash, MTR (mountaintop removal), PM (particulate matter), AMD (acid mine drainage), Hg (mercury), NOx, SOx … an alphabet’s worth of acronyms in coal’s pollutant horn of plenty. If CCS works, it will be better suited to removing CO2 from natural gas–fired power plants.

The rapid development of shale gas under a government with the mindset of a resource-extraction colony will no doubt mean that the people of West Virginia will again suffer unnecessarily and disproportionately in order to provide the nation energy. Regulatory safeguards for both workers and nearby residents will come only as an afterthought after damage has been done. Thankfully, however, the evidence indicates that the local, acute environmental and public health effects of the new gas drilling are much less onerous and far more solvable than those from coal mining.

Also, it is possible that a natural gas regime will bring some much-needed socioeconomic change. For example, some components of the state’s gas bounty could boost chemical manufacturing. At least then we’d be using natural gas (as both a fuel and a chemical feedstock) to make value-added products and again be able to support a skilled workforce of engineers, chemists, and the like. Eventually, you might even see the rise of a political class with the economic wherewithal to support candidates with an interest in things like good schools, decent health care, a diverse economy, and higher standard of living. This sort of electorate might just elect better politicians.

There’s not a whole lot here for a green-thinking person to get excited about (Guiding fracked gas into chemical plants? Sign me up!), but I just don’t see much of a bright side to things in West Virginia these days. Maybe I’ve missed out on some recent green shoots back home, and maybe my latent Appalachian fatalism has finally gotten the better of me. But it seems that the harder I squint to try to see a silver lining, it just brings a tear.

Filed under: Article, Business & Technology, Climate & Energy, Politics
Categories: Environment

Propell Technologies Group Inc. CEO to Present at New Orleans...

PR Web - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 15:17

CEO and IR staff on hand at Booth 414 to discuss corporate plan and answer questions

(PRWeb October 20, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/10/prweb12260712.htm

Categories: Environment

Bird B Gone® Bird Slope™ Panels Awarded Several Patents for...

PR Web - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 15:17

Bird-B-Gone, the leader in bird control products for commercial, industrial and residential applications was recently awarded another patent for its Bird Slope™ panels. Invented by Bird B Gone’s...

(PRWeb October 20, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/10/prweb12251848.htm

Categories: Environment

SAE International’s A World In Motion Curriculum Earns Two Grants from...

PR Web - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 15:17

SAE International’s award-winning science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) program, A World In Motion®, has been awarded two grants totaling $45,000 from the Michigan STEM...

(PRWeb October 20, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/10/prweb12258921.htm

Categories: Environment

Important Housing Data for This Week

PR Web - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 15:17

Peoples Home Equity highlights this week's top housing announcements.

(PRWeb October 20, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/10/prweb12261891.htm

Categories: Environment

Railcar Manufacturing in the US Industry Market Research Report from...

PR Web - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 15:17

The industry is expected to remain on track in the next five years, with increasing industrial production and higher total trade value leading to strong demand for trail transportation. For these...

(PRWeb October 20, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/10/prweb12256894.htm

Categories: Environment

Skyonic Opens World’s First Commercial-Scale Carbon Capture and...

PR Web - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 12:17

Capitol SkyMine deploys new technology to transform greenhouse gas emissions into marketable, carbon-negative products such as baking soda and bleach.

(PRWeb October 20, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/10/prweb12260938.htm

Categories: Environment

Inmar to Host Upcoming NCTA Emerging Tech + Trends

PR Web - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 12:17

Inmar will host the North Carolina Technology Association’s (NCTA) upcoming Emerging Tech + Trends session

(PRWeb October 20, 2014)

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Categories: Environment

New Protein Study Could Mean Novel Treatment Option for Some...

PR Web - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 12:17

Scientists say a protein that prevents the immune system from fighting cancer may be a new target for mesothelioma treatment.

(PRWeb October 20, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/10/prweb12259711.htm

Categories: Environment

Best Cheap Hosting USA Now Recommends The Best PHP Hosting Companies...

PR Web - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 12:17

Recently, Best Cheap Hosting USA has made a lot of research efforts and announced that InterServer, Bluehost and Arvixe are the best PHP Hosting companies in 2014.

(PRWeb October 20, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/10/prweb12260097.htm

Categories: Environment

At Crist Fundraiser, Dan Newlin Says, "No More Robert...

PR Web - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 12:17

Missing persons legislation in Florida should also protect law enforcement officers

(PRWeb October 20, 2014)

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Categories: Environment

ID Signsystems Announced as North American Distributor and...

PR Web - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 12:17

IDS expands its streetscape elements range with Solispost—an innovative, solar-powered illuminated bollard designed for outdoor applications.

(PRWeb October 20, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/10/prweb12259987.htm

Categories: Environment

Instead of trying to feed the world, we should be ending poverty

Grist.org - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 12:02

Every expert on the global food supply that I’ve talked to has told me that if you want to end hunger, you have to do something about poverty. And yet most news coverage — and certainly nearly all public statements from agribusiness — focuses on technologies to produce more food, rather than on ending destitution.

When I spoke with Raj Patel, he made this point eloquently:

“If one looks at the reasons people go hungry in the world today, poverty is the primary reason. But when one thinks about this goal of feeding the world, invariably the issue of poverty gets dropped out of that equation — because it’s such a hard problem. Whereas increasing yields is something your favorite tea company will be able to do for you, right here, right now.

“It’s interesting to think about: Why is it so hard to imagine ending poverty? It’s an idea that at various points, even in U.S. political history, was a very real goal.”

I’ve been wondering this myself. Perhaps it’s a downer to talk about poverty, while it’s exciting to talk about new agricultural technologies. Or perhaps, as Patel suggested, it just seems too hard: We are at a historical moment when changing things with politics feels impossible, but changing things with technology seems eminently achievable.

I was surprised and heartened, therefore, when I read the new report from the International Food Policy Research Institute on global hunger. The report is mostly what you’d expect: It says we’re making progress — there are fewer hungry people in the world — but some countries are backsliding. And, it says, we need to be paying more attention to micronutrient deficiencies.

Click to embiggen.IFPRI

But here’s the surprising part: When I got down to the recommendations at the end of the report there was absolutely nothing about increasing yields. Instead, the policy prescriptions were exclusively political: Make nutrition a political priority, educate and empower girls, strengthen social safety nets, crack down on corruption, require food companies to provide nutritional information …

I’m not laying out all the goals here, but you get the point. IFPRI is not restricting the focus to agriculture. In fact, agriculture gets only passing mention in these recommendations. And that’s surprising, because the institute is part of the Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers, known as CGIAR. CGIAR was born in the Green Revolution with a mandate to develop agricultural innovations that prevent famine.

I asked the director general of IFPRI, Shenggen Fan, if there had been some change.

“Yes,” he said. “It’s a sea change.” CGIAR, he said, used to be focused on yields, but in 2010, for the first time, it stopped to lay out a strategy. It now has four strategic objectives: reducing poverty, combating hunger, improving nutrition and health, and achieving environmental sustainability.

The public debate over hunger is stuck in the past. On one side, you have farmers and agribusiness talking about how they are going to feed the world. On the other side, you have activists protesting that high-tech ag could leave the poor behind. Both are right — yes, agriculture must become more efficient, and yes, new technologies can worsen inequality — but both are tangential to the most pressing causes of hunger and malnutrition.

The experts who are truly focused on reducing hunger don’t spend much time on that debate, because they are working on something bigger. If we really want to feed the world, the most direct approaches are political.

Filed under: Food, Politics
Categories: Environment

What’s the best solar charger for my cellphone?

Grist.org - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 11:03

Q. I’d like to get a good cellphone solar charger. I just got a fairly inexpensive one, and to be blunt, it sucks. Are there any good ones on the market for less than $100?

Jim R.
Ann Arbor, Mich.

A. Dearest Jim,

My sympathies to you and your less-than-satisfying solar experience. But I’m cheered to know it hasn’t left a black cloud over your head when it comes to this technology – harnessing the sun’s rays to power your next session of Fruit Ninja is still a bright idea. As you’ve so recently been reminded, sometimes you do get what you pay for. Fortunately, I’m confident those 100 smackers can get you a perfectly pleasing device.

That said, let’s make sure to have reasonable expectations for today’s chargers. They won’t juice up your phone as quickly as an AC wall outlet will. In fact, it’s pretty typical for a solar charger to take a whole day to convert sunlight into power, and then several hours to transfer that to your phone. And depending on a model’s design, they might struggle in low-light or cloudy conditions. But once you get your system down – setting the charger in the sun all day, charging your phone at night, perhaps – they can take your chatting totally off the grid. I’d say that’s a pretty sunny outcome, even if it does take a bit longer.

Speaking broadly, there are two main types of solar chargers for gizmos like cellphones, tablets, and mp3 players. One kind charges up a portable battery, which you then use to recharge your device at your leisure (usually via USB). The other charges your phone directly, without the battery middleman. While the latter can be convenient for topping off on the go, I’d recommend the battery type for you, Jim. They allow you to charge your phone even when it’s dark or cloudy (something I imagine you’re familiar with in those Midwestern winters), for one. And you can leave them baking in a sunny spot all day rather than toting them around with you, which is nice if you choose a heavier, bulkier model.

So which way thence? Consider a few more features. One, surface area: The larger the solar panel, the quicker it will transform sunshine into battery power, and the better it will be at wringing juice out of overcast skies. Smaller chargers come in around the size of your phone, while bigger panels can be four feet long or more. Shape also matters: These intrepid testers found that stiffer panels with sturdy bases are best because they can be propped up to gather maximum rays, no matter where the sun is (other models must lie flat on the ground, losing out when it’s not high noon).

Also look at the solar charger’s watt rating. The higher the watts, the faster the battery will power up your phone (by a factor of several hours). Phone-appropriate models are typically in the four to seven watt range, though you can find chargers up to 27 watts (and a $1,000 price tag, I should add). And finally, I’d lean toward a charger that uses USB to power any device, rather than one that demands specialized, fussy cords for every gadget.

I like to keep things brand agnostic over here, Jim, so I hesitate to endorse any one product over another. Plus, I haven’t personally tested the bevvy of solar chargers on the market against each other. But plenty of other smart people have, and I do feel comfortable pointing you to their recommendations, many of which come in at $100 or less.

Take the Cobra CPP 300, winner of the Wirecutter’s head-to-head review: The battery pack gathers sun efficiently and charges up quickly, and can power two electronics at once, for a cool $80. Good Housekeeping gave the crown to the Fat Cat Solstice 2.5 for its powerful battery and multidevice compatibility ($100). And the folks over at Outdoor Life ranked their top seven models, four of which come in at or under your price point. All of these reviews include plenty of runners-up, too, so you should have plenty of options to get you started.

Happy shopping, Jim, and may your skies always be sunny.


Filed under: Business & Technology, Living
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