Environment

Pixel Film Studios Announced the Release of Protext Kinetic 2 for...

PR Web - Sat, 05/02/2015 - 10:14

FCPX Effects developer Pixel Film Studios announced the release of ProText Kinetic 2.

(PRWeb May 02, 2015)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/05/prweb12697733.htm

Categories: Environment

Tips To Make A Home Move-In Ready

PR Web - Sat, 05/02/2015 - 10:14

The Federal Savings Bank offers a few helpful tips on how sellers can prepare their home to be move in ready.

(PRWeb May 02, 2015)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/05/prweb12697744.htm

Categories: Environment

Tips To Prepare For a Mortgage Application

PR Web - Sat, 05/02/2015 - 04:12

Peoples Home Equity offers a few tips on what prospective mortgage applicants should do before they apply for a home loan.

(PRWeb May 01, 2015)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/05/prweb12697710.htm

Categories: Environment

Naturalist Journeys Announces Two Arizona Summer “Monsoon Madness”...

PR Web - Sat, 05/02/2015 - 04:12

Arizona is fast being recognized as a top-rated place for avid birders to visit in summer, peaking in appeal in July and August. Fervor for this season of biodiversity has been dubbed “Monsoon...

(PRWeb May 01, 2015)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/ArizonaMonsoonBirding/NatureTour/prweb12695036.htm

Categories: Environment

SeaWorld Barbie quits her job

Grist.org - Fri, 05/01/2015 - 23:48

Barbie finally got a goddamn Netflix account, watched Blackfish on recommendation of her sad nerdy friend Skipper, cried for three days, and decided to quit her job as a SeaWorld trainer.

SeaWorld Trainer Barbie, who has an unbelievably good head of hair for spending a full work day in a shark tank, has hung up her whistle and training stick after Mattel executives decided to cut ties with the notoriously evil sea-animal park.

SeaWorld, ever mature, shamed Barbie’s pink slip by saying of her pushy new friend, PETA, in so many words: “She’s a life ruiner. She ruins people’s lives.”

“We are disappointed in Mattel’s decision to stop production of the SeaWorld Trainer Barbie,” SeaWorld said in a statement.

The company added that it was particularly disappointed that “the decision appears to be based on complaints from PETA, an extremist organization that works to close zoos and aquariums.”

Fair! PETA, like Barbie, has a bad rap that it wholly deserves. But that doesn’t mean that sometimes it can’t make a good thing happen.

Jane Goodall, a role model for girls far preferable t0 the plastic doll who launched a thousand liposuction sessions, has also spoken out against SeaWorld:

“It’s not only that they’re really big, highly intelligent and social animals so that the capture and confinement in itself is cruel,” she said of the captive orcas, but also that “they have emotions like ours.”

Whether your favorite childhood book was In the Shadow of Man or Barbie and the Mystery of Mermaid Bay, these are very compelling reasons to never go to SeaWorld again.


Filed under: Article, Living
Categories: Environment

Climate change could drive 1-in-6 species to extinction

Grist.org - Fri, 05/01/2015 - 23:40

Cranking up the planetary heat is going to ratchet down the planet’s biodiversity, and new analysis suggests global warming could directly threaten 1-in-6 species with extinction if polluting practices continue unabated — up from about 3 percent today.

Scientists triggered alarm in 2004 when they warned in the journal Nature that climate change could drive 1 million varieties of plants and animals to extinction, but that was a rough estimate. In the decade since, researchers worldwide have been probing the dangers that could face individual species as climate change causes their ideal habitats to shift around them.

Those studies are collectively revealing a strong relationship between the amount of climate pollution that human activity pumps into the atmosphere, and the number of extinctions it’s ultimately projected to cause.

An exhaustive analysis of more than 100 such studies, which was published Thursday in Science, concluded that warming recorded since the late 19th century could drive a few out of every 100 species to extinction. The number of species threatened could rise substantially with every degree of additional warming.

“The extinction risks are really dependent on the amount of climate change,” said Mark Urban, a University of Connecticut associate professor who spent more than a year conducting the new analysis.

Vulnerable species are either expected to relocate too slowly as their ideal ranges morph and shrink or they’re expected to have no place to go.

The greatest risks to biodiversity were found to be in tropical regions and in South America, Australia, and New Zealand. Those places are all home to large numbers of species that have adapted to flourish within specific chunks of elaborate mosaics of tiny habitats, each harboring its own microclimate.

“The most species-rich places are the places where extinction risks are greatest,” said Lee Hannah, a climate change and biology researcher at the nonprofit Conservation International. He was one of the authors of the 2004 study, which he later expanded into a book, Saving a Million Species. “We have a lot at risk in the tropics.”

The extinction risks analyzed by Urban would be posed solely by climate change. The planet is already in the opening throes of what could become the sixth great extinction of biodiversity since life began nearly 4 billion years ago, with contemporary extinctions caused largely by habitat losses and unsustainable hunting and fishing. The extinction risks posed by climate change would compound many of those other dangers.

“The suitable habitat for some species disappears almost completely as climates change,” Urban said. “Think of a suitable habitat for a terrestrial species disappearing off a mountaintop.”

Hannah praised Urban’s analysis, saying it highlighted not only the need to slow global warming — but also to continue to rethink conservation strategies with climate change in mind.

Research shows that national parks, marine reserves and other protected areas can help protect species from a range of extinction threats, including those from climate change.

“If climate change is kept within some bounds, protected areas could be very effective,” Hannah said.

If climate change continues unabated, however, Hannah said “expensive solutions” might be needed to protect species, such as captive breeding programs and the physical relocations of plants and animals to more hospitable climes.


Filed under: Climate & Energy, Science
Categories: Environment

Intensely Textured Reclaimed Wood to be Unveiled at ICFF in NYC by...

PR Web - Fri, 05/01/2015 - 22:12

Pioneer Millworks will introduce the latest weathered and textured reclaimed wood products with original hard-earned patinas at the ICFF trade show in NYC May 16 - 19.

(PRWeb May 01, 2015)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/textured_reclaimed_wood/Pioneer_at_ICFF/prweb12696259.htm

Categories: Environment

Menhaden Fisheries Coalition Analysis: Environmental NGOs Miss the...

PR Web - Fri, 05/01/2015 - 22:12

The Menhaden Fisheries Coalition has released a new analysis alleging misleading and misinforming coverage by leading environmental organizations of the 2015 Atlantic menhaden stock assessment.

(PRWeb May 01, 2015)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015atlanticmenhaden/MFC_ERP/prweb12696943.htm

Categories: Environment

6 things we learned about ourselves from “The Avengers: Age of Ultron”

Grist.org - Fri, 05/01/2015 - 21:31

Joss Whedon has gone on the record as a champion of climate change awareness, so we can only assume he seeded his most recent project — the action-packed Avengers Be Avengin’ Again: Age of Ultron — with a bunch of coded references to the trajectory of the human race and the planet we’re actively and enthusiastically screwing over. Carbon emissions symbolized by a fleet of self-aware robots?! If that doesn’t sound like the makings of a summer blockbuster, we don’t know what does!

We saw the movie, and now we’re here to lay out all of Whedon’s insights — whether intentional or wholly invented by yours truly — into our favorite Grist issues of the moment.

Marvel

1. Humans gonna destroy other humans. Also, everything else.

The plot of this movie hinges on what is, essentially, a very insane and elaborate metaphor for climate change. In brief, a number of huge jet engines have been buried under an unsuspecting Eastern European town already ravaged by political strife. That land mass can then be lifted at the whim of its evil metallic mastermind and dropped from great heights, to the total annihilation of everything on earth.

It’s obvious: Humans, an existential threat to life on earth on the level of a meteor strike, are turned — by a supervillain robot of their own making — into a literal meteor. It’s a metaphor as subtle as a love-tap from Thor’s hammer.

Marvel

2. As species go, humans are selfish bastards.

It figures that the only way to get the moviegoing public to care about mass extinction is when we’re the imperiled species in question. However, we wonder if a robot army might perhaps take better care of the planet than humans have. There are a few moments watching Age of Ultron where we thought, “If the sentient robots want this planet this bad, you know what, let them have it! Go and be well.” Just us? OK.

Marvel

3. Women are worth more than their uteri.

When Black Widow reveals to her Hulky love interest that she was sterilized against her will as part of her assassin training, she says “Still think you’re the only monster, Bruce?” There’s nothing sadder than Scarlett Johansson falling victim to arbitrary, archaic expectations of women — namely, that they are “monsters” if they don’t reproduce. (Well, ok — there are many sadder things, but still.) We hate to see an indispustably kickass woman beat herself up for being unable to have children. Of course, we also hate the idea of a Soviet assassin training center forcibly tying the tubes of their young charges. I mean, have they ever heard of IUDs? Come on.

Marvel

4. Gentrification really does affect us all.

“I don’t think I can even afford a place in Brooklyn,” Captain America quips at a party, when another guest suggests he settle down in the city. Homeboy can’t even get a nice little spot in Park Slope? With those pecs? Is this how we’re treating our veterans? It is a succinct commentary on income inequality in the United States, as poor ol’ Cap is making this observation from Tony Stark’s expansive and exquisite Manhattan penthouse. If you’re not going to share the wealth with the American public, Tony, at least share it with your Avenging teammates!

Marvel

5. The only way out of a crazy mistake: A crazier one?

Surprise: The first solution tech billionaire Tony Stark can come up with to his first wacky plan to build a sentient AI with designs on global destruction is to build another, bigger, BETTER sentient AI with designs on global destruction. Twice the meddling-with-forces-we-can’t-possibly-comprehend, twice the fun? Oy. Obviously, it’s an allusion to the crazy escalating logic of geoengineering. (Spoiler thought: This kind of works for Stark, and we kind of hate him for it.)

Marvel

6. Anger can be an effective tool — if you know how to use it.

Since we all know the Hulk is the Avengers’ token environmentalist (hi, Mark!) it’s easy to see his uncontrollable rage as the righteous anger of a scorned climate activist — and we all know how unpleasant that can be. Sure, he can smash the shit out of denier arguments, but public relations is a battle for the people’s hearts, not their minds. All that unregulated emotion just doesn’t look great for the climate cause — especially when the average Joe is much more concerned about the delay in commute times than killer robo— erm, carbon emissions. Of course, righteous anger has its place. And when fighting the good fight, it’s helpful to know a guy with a light trigger and a deep reserve of pent-up planetary rage.


Filed under: Living
Categories: Environment

Elon Musk unveils fancy new Tesla battery — ’cause existing batteries “suck”

Grist.org - Fri, 05/01/2015 - 21:08

We live in a world where I can say: “Elon Musk, leader of the space transportation company SpaceX, just announced that Tesla will be churning out Powerwalls from its Gigafactory in the desert by 2017,” and it makes complete sense. If that doesn’t make you excited about living in the 21st century, I don’t know what will.

Early this morning, Musk announced his new battery business: Tesla Energy. His goal is to riddle the world with much-needed solar power storage devices that will usher us into a post-fossil fuel, carbon-zero future, thus saving humankind from climate apocalypse (so, um, what have you been up to this morning?).

Speaking to a packed room powered entirely by the company’s first line of batteries, Musk kept things pretty simple:

“We have this handy fusion reactor in the sky called the sun. You don’t have to do anything — it just works, shows up every day, and produces ridiculous amounts of power.”

But here’s the problem: the damn thing disappears at night. So if the world is going to go solar, it needs batteries. More specifically, it needs new batteries, because — as Musk so eloquently put it — current batteries kind of “suck.”  In fact, they’re just “really horrible,” not to mention pricey and unreliable. And to top it all off, they’re “sort of stinky, ugly, bad in every way.”

Okay, man, we get it — you really hate today’s batteries. What are you gonna do about it?

He’s gonna unveil a sleek, wall-mounted home battery called the Powerwall. That’s what. Here are the Powerwall’s specs, according to the Tesla website:

The Powerwall is available in 10kWh, optimized for backup applications or 7kWh optimized for daily use applications. Both can be connected with solar or grid and both can provide backup power. The 10kWh Powerwall is optimized to provide backup when the grid goes down, providing power for your home when you need it most. When paired with solar power, the 7kWh Powerwall can be used in daily cycling to extend the environmental and cost benefits of solar into the night when sunlight is unavailable.

Tesla’s selling price to installers is $3500 for 10kWh and $3000 for 7kWh. (Price excludes inverter and installation.) Deliveries begin in late Summer.

For reference, the average household consumed about 900 kWh of electricity per month in 2013.

Tesla also plans to build industrial-scale versions of the battery called Powerpacks, which will come in 100kWh units and cost around $25,000. Musk said that with 2 billion Powerpacks, the entire world could run on the sun.

Okay. So this all sounds very exciting, and while Musk is a really smart dude, we must remember that he’s also a savvy businessman: he owns a majority share of the residential solar provider SolarCity, which will be partnering with Tesla Energy. And he certainly knows how to work a crowd with that subtle South African accent of his. People will surely start to poke holes in the Powerwall hype. Forbes is already kicking things off with this critique of the battery’s cost: “Why Tesla’s Powerwall is just another toy for rich green people.”

Still, it’s hard not to root for Musk. He’s genuinely concerned about the fate of humanity (so much so that he wants to colonize Mars) and has become a leader in the fight for a zero-carbon future, even though he easily could’ve just taken his big brain and gobs of money off to some secluded island somewhere.

Last year, Tesla announced that it would make all of its electric vehicle technology patents open source, allowing competitors to take a peak and build off of what they’ve already done. The same policy will hold true for the new battery technology.

During the big unveiling, Musk said that he believes solar power is the answer to our current climate crisis:

“It’s the only path that I know that can do this, and I think it’s something that we must do and we can do and that we will do.”

Preach, Elon. And while you’re at it, please keep using names like “SpaceX” and “Powerwall” and “Gigafactory,” so every time you’re in the news, the world can collectively geek out and yell: “The future is now!”


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

Nightmare school district serves students old-ass meat

Grist.org - Fri, 05/01/2015 - 20:58

As a grade schooler, I had a lot of weird cafeteria food slopped onto my lunch tray: Pizza that tasted like cardboard (that now qualifies as a vegetable!), mystery meat burritos, a sealed applesauce cup with a fly in it — the list goes on.

But Tennessee’s Hawkins School District took horrifying lunches to a new level by serving unwitting students straight up EXPIRED meat. And by “expired,” we don’t mean by a few days or weeks or months; we mean meat that could’ve been served at Obama’s inauguration — the first one.  Last week, the school cafeteria system doled out lunches featuring frozen pork roast that expired between 2009 and 2011. GAH. :(

“They go to school, and that might be the only meal they get all day long, and it just […] upsets me that these kids are going to school to get that meal,” Michael Harrell, the Hawkins county commissioner, told the Tennessean.

Thankfully, the school district has since updated its food inventory regulations. This doesn’t mean kids at Hawkins will be eating fresh, healthy food anytime soon;  getting locally grown food into school cafeterias isn’t exactly easy. But maybe it’ll keep them from being served food that was fresh when we still cared about Avatar.


Filed under: Article, Food
Categories: Environment

What’s the greenest megacity? Hint: Not NYC

Grist.org - Fri, 05/01/2015 - 20:03

Take Paris’s transportation system, Tokyo’s water infrastructure, Moscow’s combined heat and power supply, and Seoul’s wastewater services, and you’ve got yourself a pretty sustainable megacity. Sorry, New York — turns out you don’t bring much to the table, except maybe that can-do attitude.

That’s what a group of researchers found when they analyzed how energy and materials flow through the world’s 27 megacities (metro areas with populations of 10 million or more people). As of 2010, these sprawling metropolises housed more than 6 percent of the world’s population, and they’re only expected to grow in number and size. So in a paper published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers were all like, “Hey! Unless we want to end up with a bunch of bleak, garbage-filled dystopian wastelands, we should probably greenify these puppies.”

Here’s the big picture:

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA

The takeaway? Megacities consume a lot of resources. That’s not too surprising, given how much they contribute to global GDP. Still, when the researchers looked at each city’s unique “metabolism,” they found plenty of room for improvement.

Let’s start with New York, which definitively sucks when it comes to energy use, water use, and waste production:

Click to embiggen.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA

“The New York metropolis has 12 million fewer people than Tokyo, yet it uses more energy in total: the equivalent of one oil supertanker every 1.5 days. When I saw that, I thought it was just incredible,” the University of Toronto’s Chris Kennedy, lead researcher on the study, said in a press release.

This might come as a surprise to those of us in the U.S. who have come to know the city as somewhat of an urban sustainability darling, thanks to former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. That’s because New York the megacity is much different than New York the city. When you account for the sprawling suburbs, Kennedy said over the phone, “New York has a completely different face to it.”

We already knew that suburban sprawl led to more energy consumption due to increased transportation demand, but Kennedy and his colleagues found another reason to dislike the ‘burbs: Electricity consumption per capita strongly correlates with land use per capita. It’s pretty intuitive, when you think about it — a house in the suburbs is going to require more electricity than a tiny apartment in the city. That wouldn’t be so bad if all that electricity was coming from clean, renewable sources, but it’s usually not.

And then there’s the issue of wealth. “”Wealthy people consume more stuff and ultimately discard more stuff,” Kennedy said in the press release. “The average New Yorker uses 24 times as much energy as a citizen of Kolkata [formerly Calcutta, the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal] and produces over 15 times as much solid waste.”

The researchers report that the Tokyo metropolis, meanwhile, has a better public transportation system and is better designed for energy efficiency. The largest megacity, with a population of about 34 million people, Tokyo also has a remarkably efficient water supply system with leakages down to about 3 percent. (Rio de Janiero and Sao Paolo have leakage rates at around 50 percent.)

Moscow (pop. 12 million) stands out for its central heating system that harvests waste heat from electricity generation and uses it to service most of the buildings in the city — a more efficient way to heat a city than having a bunch of smaller systems.

London stands out as the only megacity to reduce electricity consumption as its GDP has grown. The researchers attribute this to a 66 percent increase electricity prices.

All this is to say that megacities are complicated beasts that should learn from one another. This is especially true for cities in developing countries, which have much lower “metabolisms” than their developed world counterparts due to poverty and resource shortages. These cities will surely grow. The question is: Can they get greener as they go?

Unfortunately, Kennedy said, no megacity has a master architect. “You can never start from scratch. You’ve got to work with what you’ve got and adapt and change.”

Kennedy and his colleagues plan to put out a followup paper later this year with specific recommendations for how megacities can do just that. In the mean time — Hey, NYC, you might want to glance up from your climate action plan for a minute. The suburbs are making you look bad in front of all your megacity friends.


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

Tusker Trail Evacuates Everest Base Camp Trekkers From Nepal

PR Web - Fri, 05/01/2015 - 19:12

Tusker Trail Adventures successfully evacuated all 16 members of a trekking expedition

(PRWeb May 01, 2015)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/05/prweb12692802.htm

Categories: Environment

Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Natural Gas Wells Are Increasing &...

PR Web - Fri, 05/01/2015 - 19:12

A new UMD study shows a steep rise in greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas wells produced by fracking in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The emitted gases travel far downwind from the...

(PRWeb May 01, 2015)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/05/prweb12693613.htm

Categories: Environment

RoboVent Showcases Mobile Collection Solutions!

PR Web - Fri, 05/01/2015 - 19:12

RoboVent (http://www.robovent.com), a leading provider in Industrial Filtration and Ventilation products, is featuring their Mobile Collection...

(PRWeb May 01, 2015)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/05/prweb12696166.htm

Categories: Environment

5 reasons there might be hope for Baltimore after all

Grist.org - Fri, 05/01/2015 - 17:42

Baltimore just flipped the script.

This morning, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced that six Baltimore City Police officers involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old who died in their custody, will be charged with murder, manslaughter, assault, and misconduct.

The charges, a rarity in a city where police violence is commonplace, cap a week of impassioned protest — protest that turned fiery Monday night, causing many in the media, and one guy in the White House, to brand the angry youth “thugs.”

Who are the thugs now?

Truth be told, this story has never fit neatly into the narratives that the police, elected officials, and the media have built around it — simplistic stories of lawless youths, tough-love police policy, and angry blacks senselessly destroying their own neighborhoods. Baltimore residents have pushed back at those narratives from the beginning, spreading news and images via social media, back-talking national TV anchors, and, most importantly, by taking actions that put the lie on any notion that this story can be painted in stark black and white.

We saw this even as things began to spin out of control on Monday, when local clergy placed themselves in between protesters and the police, urging residents to take nonviolent action. We saw it when community leaders calmed rioters and asked the police to stand down. We saw it as the smoke cleared and the National Guard rolled into the city, when residents came out en masse to clean up the mess, make peace with their fellow residents, and begin to pick up the pieces.

I’m not suggesting that all is well in Baltimore. People are angry and afraid, and rightly so. Even if justice is served in Freddie Gray’s death, and cool heads prevail from here on out, the riots will leave a lasting mark on local businesses and neighborhoods, and the larger economy as well.

But Baltimoreans have been pushing back against the narrative of hopelessness for a long time, and many of those efforts have gained momentum in recent years: Local nonprofits have sprung up to provide services for kids, keep young people in school and out of prison, and help with re-entry when inmates return to their communities; young people whose parents fled for the suburbs are coming back, setting down roots; the city’s art scene is burgeoning; there’s a growing urban farm movement, and regular events that fill the streets with bicyclists.

Small steps, perhaps — and as my friend David Dudley points out, progress has been halting. But people I’ve spoken with in Baltimore say that something snapped this week. The anger, the frustration, the fire, broke through walls of denial and discord that have prevented this city from addressing its may ills. “It is like nothing I’ve ever experienced,” one friend told me. “I don’t know if Baltimore will be the same.”

Here’s hoping that feeling of solidarity and common purpose can hold, and that Baltimore can build on the steady, quiet progress it has already made. In that spirit, here are five of the groups that I find most inspiring, pulled from my time as a writer and editor at the late, great Urbanite magazine, from the Grist archives, and from friends who are still in the city, doing great work:

1. Wide-Angle Youth Media

This 15-year-old nonprofit trains young people to tell their own stories through video, photography, mural painting, and other media. The results will change the way you look at the city. You doubt? Watch this short video, Blessed Is the Peacemaker, about East Baltimore resident Tard Carter, who works for another amazing Baltimore organization called Safe Streets, defusing violent conflict before it can blow up. “My mission in life is to change the meaning of slick in the United States Ghettos of America,” Carter says. “Positive is the new slick.”

 

2. Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle

This “grassroots think tank” was founded by an inspired group of young people that included one of the guys who used hip hop, poetry, and a focus on social justice to beat out schools like Harvard and Dartmouth for the 2008 college debate national championship. The group now focuses on youth leadership development and political advocacy, and was one of the main players in the fight against plans to build a new youth jail in Baltimore. The state scrapped the $70 million plan in 2013, opting instead to build a center where youth offenders can get education, therapy, and drug abuse counseling.

Here’s CEO Adam J. Jackson explaining to Fox News host Sean Hannity that just because Baltimore has a black mayor and a black police commissioner, that doesn’t mean that decades of racism and racist police policy didn’t come into play this week:

3. Thread

Indiana native Sarah Hemminger started this nonprofit in 2004 while she was working on a PhD in biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins University — because, you know, she needed something to do in all her free time. The group hand-picks failing Baltimore City high school students and provides them with full-time, round-the-clock, surrogate “families” — which often include more overachieving Hopkins students — that provide the support, nurturing, and sometimes tough love that any kid needs to get through high school. The group’s success rates blow other national models out of the water. Here’s its promo video:

 

4. Station North Arts District

Baltimore’s first official arts and entertainment district is about much more than murals and rock opera — although you’ll find those things, here, too. The nonprofit uses what its website calls an “arts-based revitalization and placemaking strategy” that builds bridges between the local arts community (including the cool kids from the nearby Maryland Institute College of Art), longtime neighborhood residents, and people who come from far and near to witness the district’s colorful, often campy creative antics. The district has grown in the past decade to include dozens of studios, galleries, and performance spaces. Its Open Walls Baltimore festival unleashes internationally known street artists on local edifices, with stunning results:

 

5. Duncan Street Miracle Garden

Lest you think that everything good in Baltimore has popped up since Y2K, I’ll end with this gem, a community garden lovingly tended for more than 25 years in an otherwise bleak patch of East Baltimore. Lewis Sharpe, the 76-year-old garden manager, calls it “God’s little acre.” It was born during the height of the crack cocaine epidemic, a project of a local men’s group that wanted to clear out a patch of the blighted neighborhood and create a safe zone, protected from drug dealers. These days, the garden cranks out a steady stream of fruits and veggies, many of which are distributed to neighborhood residents and local soup kitchens.

I couldn’t find any video of the miracle garden — and I’m not sure that any exists. It’s one of Baltimore’s countless hidden secrets. So I’ll leave you with this scene, a video posted the day after the riots, of Baltimore residents back in the streets, proving to each other, and to the rest of the world, that this city may be down, but it’s anything but out:

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Filed under: Cities, Living
Categories: Environment

In Baltimore and Cleveland, a unique approach to reviving the inner city

Grist.org - Fri, 05/01/2015 - 16:54

It will take more than just reforming law enforcement to produce justice for communities where African Americans have been needlessly killed by police. President Obama said this in his press conference on the Baltimore uprising spurred by the police killing of Freddie Gray. Obama said a lot of fugly things in that speech — sinking to calling some of the revolters “thugs” at moments — but there were at least 30 seconds where the president made some sense:

We also know … that if you have impoverished communities that have been stripped away of opportunity, where children are born into abject poverty; they’ve got parents — often because of substance-abuse problems or incarceration or lack of education themselves — can’t do right by their kids; if it’s more likely that those kids end up in jail or dead, than they go to college. In communities where there are no fathers who can provide guidance to young men; communities where there’s no investment, and manufacturing has been stripped away; and drugs have flooded the community, and the drug industry ends up being the primary employer for a whole lot of folks — in those environments, if we think that we’re just going to send the police to do the dirty work of containing the problems that arise there without as a nation and as a society saying what can we do to change those communities, to help lift up those communities and give those kids opportunity, then we’re not going to solve this problem. And we’ll go through the same cycles of periodic conflicts between the police and communities and the occasional riots in the streets, and everybody will feign concern until it goes away, and then we go about our business as usual.

The young people Obama is talking about in those scenarios live in hollowed- and horrored-out city blocks that have been failed, in part, by awful urban planning, or the lack of it. The illegal drug market is often the only one that gives these kids an opportunity to build any semblance of wealth. But with that comes crime and neighborhood decay. It might generate some wealth for some, but it can’t save their lives.

In recent years, a number of economists and planners have been approaching urban development by engaging institutions that are in the life-saving business: hospitals and universities.  Referred to as “anchor institution”-based development, the idea is that these large medical centers and colleges — buildings immovably rooted in host communities — should invest more in their neighbors. This means they need to do more disciplined hiring and contracting with the people living close around them. In other words, these institutions need to actually be a part of the community they sit in.

Major hospitals and universities in the city bill billions of dollars annually, but too often with vendors from other states and nations, and by prioritizing people from the suburbs for staffing. That can lead to a lot of poor outcomes, like stoking fear among community residents of gentrification and provoking loathing of the institutions that are often the best available to help improve their lives and livelihoods. In essence, anchor development proponents are pitching a seemingly oxymoronic idea: That for community wealth-building we can depend on the institutions that have historically generated wealth without so much as acknowledging the communities around them.

Speaking recently with two huge believers in anchor-based development, Ted Howard of the Democracy Collaborative and its co-founder Gar Alperovitz (also a leading coordinator of The Next System project), they pointed to two young but existing models — one in Cleveland and one in Baltimore. In Cleveland, the anchors are Case Western University, the Cleveland Clinic, and University Hospitals medical systems. For Baltimore, it’s the John Hopkins university and hospital system.

Hopkins is an interesting selection given it’s already an avatar for one of the worst examples of how a large institution engages with its surrounding community. It’s infamous for expanding its city footprint in ways that have displaced many community residents and for experimenting with its residential neighbors by dropping toxic sludge on their lawns. Just yesterday, during a public forum on race at the university, a former Hopkins professor slammed her old employer for causing gentrification.

I asked Howard (whose Democracy Collaborative was once perched at the University of Maryland where he taught) how he addresses that anti-Hopkins resentment and establish it as a friendly anchor?

He admitted that large hospitals and universities “can become very problematic,” and confessed that Hopkins itself has “at best, a really checkered history” on the community engagement front. Which is why he’s working with local partners to develop strong accountability measures for the anchors. He commissioned a survey where they interviewed community organizations currently working with anchors to find out what was and wasn’t working in the arrangement. From those surveys, they developed a set of metrics and indicators to create The Anchor Dashboard, where interested parties can track how this development progresses.

“We currently have six universities that are gathering data around these indicators,” said Howard, “We’re hopeful that this can be one piece of how you ensure that institutions are engaged with the community, because frankly the way this has been done in the past has not benefitted these communities.”

Using these metrics, anchors have found ways to become more responsive to communities’ needs by prioritizing local hiring, setting more inclusive procurement policies, increasing local job training, and helping neighbors realize their entrepreneurial goals.  After all, for anchors to truly help the local economy there have to be local businesses and vendors in place that can supply the goods and services those institutions need.

The Cleveland Model” is a gradually developing example of what that kind of supply-side investment looks like. The city of Cleveland leveraged public, private and philanthropic funds about five years ago to launch the Evergreen Cooperative Initiative, a cluster of worker co-op businesses developed to do business with the universities and hospitals. So far, Evergreen has kickstarted a laundry service, a solar energy company, and a hydroponic vegetable farm. Naturally, they have contracts with Case Western university and the medical centers to wash staff clothing, provide electricity and supply their cafeterias.

Since they’re worker cooperatives, employees earn ownership slice in the companies after a certain period of time on the job. The goal is for each worker to develop from entry-level work skills to managerial and executive, and then hopefully branch off to start their own businesses. The “Cleveland Model” has produced no overnight successes.  Michigan State University journalism professor Steve Freiss pointed out a number of problems with the Evergreen Initiative in a lengthy report last year:

Little, however, has gone quite the way Howard and his colleagues planned. The businesses have been squeaking by, only recently verging on profitability. The managers of each company have been replaced within the past year after stumbling, the business plans—as illustrated by GCG’s challenges—failed to analyze the marketplace in fundamental ways, and the touted projections of the number of jobs and the amount of equity were dramatically off-the-mark.

Howard is under no illusions about these shortcomings, and admits that some of his early forecasts on initiatives like this were ambitious.

“The reality is that these things are always out of scale,” said Howard. “No one has cracked the code on this, but the potential is tremendous and there is some learning out there on how we can do this in a way that is really beneficial instead of stomping all over the community.”

You look at a neighborhood like the one Freddie Gray lived in, and you find some of the highest levels of poverty, incarceration, toxic lead contamination in housing, and blight. And yet it’s far from unique. Census data shows that the average family of color owns less than 10 cents for every dollar held by a white family. Maybe you can close that gap by growing and selling hydroponic lettuce. For many youth, though, the streets supply hydroponic marijuana more easier, and bring profits faster. That’s one huge challenge that these anchors will have to overcome, along with challenges around gaining the trust and faith of community residents. Otherwise, if these hospitals and universities fail, there are plenty of other anchors out there waiting joyfully to take in these black youth. They’re called prisons.


Filed under: Article, Cities, Living
Categories: Environment

NYC mayor’s green plan fights poverty and pollution at the same time

Grist.org - Fri, 05/01/2015 - 16:28

When New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) unveiled his ambitious environmental agenda last week, he did not choose City Hall or the green meadows of Central Park as his backdrop. Instead, he announced the plan from the headquarters of The Point, an environmental justice organization in Hunt’s Point, the South Bronx.

It was a telling choice.

Hunt’s Point, which is in the nation’s poorest congressional district, carries a heavy burden of environmental hazards, including nine truck-based waste transfer stations. Speaking from this embattled community, surrounded by advocates who helped shape his plan, de Blasio made it clear that he understands something his predecessors have not: You cannot separate poverty and inequality from environmental issues.

In New York City, we know that low-income and working communities disproportionately bear the brunt of polluting facilities, and those communities are also typically located in flood-prone, climate-vulnerable areas. This injustice is further compounded by a lack of access to quality workforce training, good jobs, and affordable housing.

De Blasio’s plan, OneNYC, offers a chance to turn this situation around by harnessing climate sustainability initiatives as engines (clean energy–powered) of greater economic equality. The plan seeks to lift 800,000 New Yorkers out of poverty over the next decade, and significantly reduce racial and ethnic disparities in premature mortality. This is not your father’s environmental plan.

Importantly, the plan reflects the priorities of labor, community, and environmental justice groups and other members of the Climate Works for All coalition that grew out of last year’s People’s Climate March. For example, OneNYC will:

  • Leverage investments in green infrastructure and energy efficiency to create jobs and training opportunities for disadvantaged New Yorkers.
  • Establish a new model for “triple bottom line” planning that incorporates economic, environmental, and social indicators in capital planning.
  • Retrofit every city building with energy-efficiency measures by 2025, install 100 megawatts of solar on public buildings, and consider mandates for energy retrofits of private buildings.
  • Provide $30 million for stormwater management and other neighborhood resiliency projects in vulnerable neighborhoods.
  • Reduce commercial waste 90 percent by 2030 and create a Zero Waste challenge program for large commercial waste generators.
  • Conduct a comprehensive study of commercial waste collection zones that could reduce inefficiencies and create other benefits, such as improved worker conditions and wages.

Some environmental advocates have worried quietly that the plan’s emphasis on equity will diminish the focus on traditional “green” issues. But de Blasio’s plan reflects a sea change that is underway in the environmental movement. It underscores how a much broader coalition of allies — across the social and economic spectrum — are uniting for planet and people. Together, we can face the existential threat of climate change in an era of extreme — and growing — economic inequality. These problems are linked, and they must be addressed head on, together.

As de Blasio said at last week’s press conference, “Environmental sustainability and economic sustainability have to walk hand in hand. Some of my brothers and sisters in the environmental movement don’t get that yet.” He added, “A beautifully sustainable city that is the playground of the rich doesn’t work for us.”

Of course, as with any political process, the devil is in the details — and most of the details of OneNYC are yet to be determined. A key metric of success will be if OneNYC can deliver on creating good, green jobs that lift up disadvantaged communities. The good news is that the advocates who helped inspire the plan are at the table, rolling up our sleeves to help make New York City a national model of sustainability with equity.

—–

Matt Ryan is the executive director of ALIGN: The Alliance for a Greater New York, which has launched several labor-community campaigns for a new, green economy such as the Alliance for a Just Rebuilding, Transform Don’t Trash NYC, and Climate Works for All.


Filed under: Cities, Climate & Energy, Politics
Categories: Environment

MCP Supply Releases Video Showing 3 Year Results and Installation for...

PR Web - Fri, 05/01/2015 - 16:11

MCP Supply releases much anticipated video showing the improved results on paver and brick projects after a 3 year period. The EdgeTite™ Paver Edging Spikes show visible improvement over traditional...

(PRWeb May 01, 2015)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/05/prweb12693303.htm

Categories: Environment

Nation's First Mattress Recycling Program Debuts in Connecticut

PR Web - Fri, 05/01/2015 - 16:11

Allows Connecticut Residents No-Cost Drop-Off at Participating Collection Sites & Recycling Facilities

(PRWeb May 01, 2015)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/05/prweb12694771.htm

Categories: Environment

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