By Brett Wilkins
As world leaders prepare for this November's United Nations Climate Conference in Scotland, a new report from the Cambridge Sustainability Commission reveals that the world's wealthiest 5% were responsible for well over a third of all global emissions growth between 1990 and 2015.
The report, Changing Our Ways: Behavior Change and the Climate Crisis, found that nearly half the growth in absolute global emissions was caused by the world's richest 10%, with the most affluent 5% alone contributing 37%.
"In the year when the UK hosts COP26, and while the government continues to reward some of Britain's biggest polluters through tax credits, the commission report shows why this is precisely the wrong way to meet the UK's climate targets," the report's introduction states.
The authors of the report urge United Kingdom policymakers to focus on this so-called "polluter elite" in an effort to persuade wealthy people to adopt more sustainable behavior, while providing "affordable, available low-carbon alternatives to poorer households."
The report found that the "polluter elite" must make "dramatic" lifestyle changes in order to meet the UK's goal — based on the Paris climate agreement's preferential objective — of limiting global heating to 1.5°C, compared with pre-industrial levels.
In addition to highlighting previous recommendations — including reducing meat consumption, reducing food waste, and switching to electric vehicles and solar power — the report recommends that policymakers take the following steps:
- Implement frequent flyer levies;
- Enact bans on selling and promoting SUVs and other high polluting vehicles;
- Reverse the UK's recent move to cut green grants for homes and electric cars; and
- Build just transitions by supporting electric public transport and community energy schemes.
"We have got to cut over-consumption and the best place to start is over-consumption among the polluting elites who contribute by far more than their share of carbon emissions," Peter Newell, a Sussex University professor and lead author of the report, told the BBC.
"These are people who fly most, drive the biggest cars most, and live in the biggest homes which they can easily afford to heat, so they tend not to worry if they're well insulated or not," said Newell. "They're also the sort of people who could really afford good insulation and solar panels if they wanted to."
Newell said that wealthy people "simply must fly less and drive less. Even if they own an electric SUV, that's still a drain on the energy system and all the emissions created making the vehicle in the first place."
"Rich people who fly a lot may think they can offset their emissions by tree-planting schemes or projects to capture carbon from the air," Newell added. "But these schemes are highly contentious and they're not proven over time."
The report concludes that "we are all on a journey and the final destination is as yet unclear. There are many contradictory road maps about where we might want to get to and how, based on different theories of value and premised on diverse values."
"Promisingly, we have brought about positive change before, and there are at least some positive signs that there is an appetite to do what is necessary to live differently but well on the planet we call home," it states.
The new report follows a September 2020 Oxfam International study that revealed the wealthiest 1% of the world's population is responsible for emitting more than twice as much carbon dioxide as the poorest 50% of humanity combined.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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Researchers at UC-Riverside are investigating how barley, a key ingredient in beer, survives in such a wide variety of climates with hopes of learning what exactly makes it so resilient across climates.
Barley was first grown domestically in Southwest Asia about 10,000 year ago and is grown around the world, from Egypt to Minnesota.
Barley's prime growing regions have shifted northward in recent decades as global temperatures have risen due to climate change caused by human extraction and combustion of fossil fuels.
Chuck Skypeck, technical brewing projects manager for the Brewers Association located in Boulder, Colorado, told E&E climate change's effects are impacting the brewing industry.
"Certainly dynamic growing conditions, water scarcity, extreme weather events, growers' planting decisions can all affect both pricing and availability of brewers' supply of malted barley," he told E&E News.
For a deeper dive:
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
Climate change, the coronavirus pandemic, and growing inequality will exacerbate global volatility over the coming decades, a report by top U.S. intelligence officials released Thursday warns.
The Global Trends report, released every four years by the National Intelligence Council, predicted the impacts of climate change – rising temperatures, intensifying extreme weather and droughts that increase food insecurity, health risks, and conflict – would accelerate the trend of massive migration, and with it, global instability.
COVID, the report said, exposed the fragility of the world order, worsening "more and cascading global challenges, ranging from disease to climate change to the disruptions from new technologies and financial crises," the authors wrote.
"The international system – including the organizations, alliances, rules, and norms – is poorly set up to address the compounding global challenges facing populations."
Under the best-case scenario, democracies would take advantage of the opportunity to use pandemic recovery efforts to reorient national and international priorities toward solutions that would plan and adapt for climate change and other crises.
Unfortunately, said Maria Langan-Reikhof, the director of the council's strategic futures group, "greater divisions, increasing fracturing… [are] likely to continue and probably worsen."
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The study, published in Environmental Research last week, found that children were more likely to develop central nervous system (CNS) tumors if their mothers had lived within 2.5 miles of land where pesticides were being sprayed when they were born.
"This study is the first, to our knowledge, to estimate effects for a large number of specific pesticides in relation to CNS tumor subtypes," Julia Heck, a study coauthor and the associate dean for research at the University of North Texas College of Health and Public Service said, as NBC Los Angeles reported.
The research looked at the California Cancer Registry to identify cases of certain cancers in children under six years old, the study explained. They focused on mothers who lived in rural areas and gave birth between 1998 and 2011 to identify 667 cases of childhood central nervous system tumors and 123,158 controls. They then compared these cases to data from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation's (CDPR) Pesticide Use Reporting (PUR) system to identify whether chemicals classed as possible carcinogens by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had been sprayed within 2.5 miles of the mothers' homes at birth.
One important implication of the study is that the mothers did not have to be directly working in agriculture in order for their children to face dangerous exposure.
"California's agricultural work force numbers more than 800,000, according to state estimates," Dr. Christina Lombardi, study co-author and epidemiologist with the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, told Beyond Pesticides. "In addition to the negative health effects of pesticides on workers there are large numbers of pregnant women and young children living adjacent to treated fields who may experience detrimental health effects as well."
This risk is exacerbated by the fact that farmland and residential land is not always clearly delineated in the state.
"This transition from farmland to residential neighborhoods is abrupt across California, and, of course, constantly changing as farmland is developed," study co-author Myles Cockburn of the University of Southern California told Beyond Pesticides.
The researchers found that some of the chemicals they studied increased tumor risk as much as 2.5 times. Overall, exposure to the pesticides chlorthalonil, bromacil, thiophanate-methyl, triforine, kresoxim-methyl, propiconazole, dimethoate and linuron all increased tumor risk.
This is far from the first study to show that pesticide exposure is a danger to pregnant mothers and children. In fact, researchers have been studying the link between pesticides and childhood cancer since the 1970s, according to NBC Los Angeles.
The report authors called for government action to better protect mothers and children.
"Policy interventions to reduce pesticide exposure in individuals residing near agricultural fields should be considered to protect the health of children," coauthor and UCLA's Fielding School of Public Health epidemiology professor Beate Ritz told NBC Los Angeles.
By Nina Sevilla
"Food desert" has become a common term to describe low-income communities — often communities of color — where access to healthy and affordable food is limited or where there are no grocery stores. Living in Tucson, Arizona, in the Sonoran Desert, taught me that despite its common usage, "food desert" is an inaccurate and misleading term that pulls focus from the underlying root causes of the lack of access to healthy food in communities. The language we use to describe the issues can inspire solutions, so we should follow the lead of food justice leaders who urge us to reconceptualize "food deserts" as "food apartheid" by focusing on creating food sovereignty through community-driven solutions and systemic change.
The term "food desert" emerged in the 1970s and 80s, but in the past decade has really caught on, and is now a common concept in economic and public health fields. The racial demographics of the areas described by this term are most often Black and Latino. When comparing communities with similar poverty rates, Black and Latino neighborhoods tend to have fewer supermarkets that offer a variety of produce and healthy foods, and have more small retail (i.e. convenience and liquor) stores that have fewer produce options than in predominantly white neighborhoods.
Despite its prevalence, the term "food desert" has come under scrutiny for two reasons:
- It obscures the vibrant life and food systems in these communities.
- It implies that these areas are naturally occurring.
Sonoran Desert. Bob Wick / Bureau of Land Management
First, the word "desert" typically conjures up dramatic images of vast arid landscapes with little to no vegetation and water. Common uses of the word describe the absence of life or activity, but most deserts are full of adapted plants and have sustained human and animal populations for centuries. I fell into the trap of this misconception when I moved to Tucson. I thought it was going to be devoid of all life, but when I got there, I realized that the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, like most deserts, can be quite abundant, especially when they have the right resources.
Using the word "desert" to imply a location's inferiority as a desolate place writes off the people who live there, as well as the flora and fauna that are actually present in deserts. The term "food desert" obscures the presence of community and backyard gardens, farmer's markets, food businesses, and other food sharing activities that exist in these areas. As farmer and activist Karen Washington points out, "food desert" is an outsider term, used by people who do not actually live in these areas. She says, "Number one, people will tell you that they do have food. Number two, people in the 'hood have never used that term... When we're talking about these places, there is so much life and vibrancy and potential. Using that word runs the risk of preventing us from seeing all of those things."
Students harvest vegetables from a school garden. State Farm via Flickr
Second, by using the term "desert" one is implying that food deserts are naturally occurring. Deserts are classified by amount of precipitation an area receives, so they are dictated by weather patterns — forces beyond human control. Though increasing desertification due to climate change is exacerbated by human activities, for the most part, deserts are naturally occurring. Food deserts, in contrast, are not naturally occurring. They are the result of systematic racism and oppression in the form of zoning codes, lending practices, and other discriminatory policies rooted in white supremacy. Using the term desert implies that the lack of healthy and affordable food is somehow naturally occurring and obscures that it is the direct result of racially discriminatory policies and systematic disinvestment in these communities.
Building more grocery stores won't necessarily make things better. Sometimes grocery stores are unaffordable to their surrounding communities. Sociologists have started using the term "food mirage" to describe the phenomenon when there are places to buy food, but they are too expensive for the neighborhood. And, as Karen Washington and research from Johns Hopkins University highlight, people who live in the places labeled "food deserts" most of the time do have food, but often the food they can afford is fast food or junk food. People who work in public health have come up with another term for areas with easier access to fast food and junk food than to healthier food: "food swamps." Rather than simply building grocery stores, some of these communities need stable jobs and a livable wage to change their access to healthier food.
A Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC) redlining map from the 1930's that labeled "hazardous" majority Black areas of Nashville, Tennessee in red. HOLC
Swamp, desert, mirage... all these sound like places to stay away from. Language is important and using these terms prevents us from naming and addressing the root causes and making systemic change. Many groups are now using the term "food apartheid" to correctly highlight the how racist policies shaped these areas and led to limited access to healthy food. Apartheid is a system of institutional racial segregation and discrimination, and these areas are food apartheids because they too are created by racially discriminatory policies. Using the term "apartheid" focuses our examination on the intersectional root causes that created low-income and low food access areas, and importantly, points us towards working for structural change to address these root causes.
Corona Farmers Market, Queens, New York City. Preston Keres / USDA
Getting at the root causes is not a small task — naming them is the first step, and there are many different routes to take from there. Fortunately, there are many organizations already working on different aspects of addressing food apartheid, from building alternative food system models to providing ideas for policy reform. Organizations like The Ron Finley Project, the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, and Whitelock Community Farm are strengthening regional food systems through urban and small-scale farming. SÜPRMARKT, Mandela Grocery, and other nonprofits are creating affordable, organic grocery stores, and re-thinking the grocery store model through co-ops. HEAL Food Alliance offers a comprehensive policy platform to address food apartheid root causes and build a better food system. As an example of transformative policy change, the Navajo Nation passed a tax on unhealthy food to fund community health initiatives in 2014. Ultimately, strong policies are necessary to ensure that no neighborhood experiences food apartheid and to redistribute power to remove systems of oppression.
A major component of power is economic capital — a reparations map maintained by Soul Fire Farm offers an easy way to start supporting efforts across the U.S. to more fairly allocate land and money and work toward repairing historical inequities based on race. In addition to economic capital, power is also control over your decisions and the choices you make. To address this, movements of food sovereignty seek to bring power back to the people. The Declaration of Nyéléni asserts that food sovereignty is the right of all people to design and influence their own food systems and the right to healthy, culturally appropriate, and sustainably-produced food.
The food sovereignty movement and the phrase "food sovereignty" were created by La Via Campesina, the largest international peasant movement. The term and movement have since expanded across the globe and into urban areas. I have encountered the term used to describe urban farming in large cities, like Baltimore, and to describe indigenous peoples reclaiming their native foodways. I have also heard people question if food sovereignty is the right term to cover these vast topics. I believe the words we choose help us see the way forward and if we are serious about transformative change, we should explore food sovereignty seriously.
In a similar way that using the term "food apartheid" can help us identify and address the root causes of the geographies that lack access to healthy food, highlighting "food sovereignty" as a call to action directly addresses the power dynamics at play in the food system. This term focuses the lens on how our modern, globalized food system does not value the rights of peasant and small-scale farmers anywhere and how in most cases the major decisionmakers are multinational corporations. The organization A Growing Culture says "there is no genuine food security without food sovereignty." They continue, "We must stop seeing food security as the pathway to eradicating hunger. It reduces food to an economic commodity, when food is the basis of culture, of life itself. Food sovereignty is the pathway to imagining something fundamentally different."
As we look forward and imagine a fundamentally different system that nourishes all people and the planet, we have a wealth of knowledge and examples to draw upon, as well as rich terminology to describe the challenges communities are facing and our goals for the future. Any efforts to achieve — and ways we discuss — a better, more equitable, food system should address root causes, redistribute power, and be guided by people with lived experience in food apartheids. Food security is more than proximity to a grocery store; it should be about food sovereignty — the right of all people to have a say in how their food is grown and the right to fresh, affordable, and culturally appropriate food.
Reposted with permission from Natural Resources Defense Council.
By Cameron Oglesby
Since 1960, about 21 percent of global agriculture production, including livestock, tree farming, and traditional crops such as corn and soybeans, has been negatively impacted by climate change, according to a new study.
In the research published Thursday in Nature Climate Change, agriculture production is defined not just as crop yields or the amount of food or livestock grown, but the overarching energy and input it takes to produce food. This includes manual labor, fertilizers, water, and land. Unsurprisingly, agriculture production worldwide has grown over the last 60 years as a result of improved technologies and greater efficiency, primarily in higher income countries.
But the new study provides the latest evidence that climate change — and the subsequent increase in droughts, flooding, and extreme heat — has held back agricultural gains and impeded global food security efforts.
"People don't yet realize that the climate has already changed," Ariel Ortiz-Bobea, a Cornell economist and lead author of the new study, told EHN. "That's not something that we often talk about, just about what the impacts will be 50 years from now."
Climate Change Wipes Out Improvements
Using models similar to those created by climatologists to predict future climate trends, Ortiz-Bobea and his team charted climate data between 1960 and 2020, and compared it to a model where human-caused climate change never occurred.
They compared the "total factor productivity" between models: how does actual agricultural productivity over time compare to what it could have been without climate change?
"Climate change has basically wiped out about seven years of improvements in agricultural productivity over the past 60 years," Ortiz-Bobea said in a statement.
In other words, if the world were to wave a magic wand and halt the planetary changes associated with greenhouse gas emissions and a warming climate, global agricultural production would have reached the level it is today back in 2013, said Ortiz-Bobea.
Ortiz-Bobea compared the situation to someone running with a strong wind at their front: As a runner attempts to make their way to the finish line, the wind is constantly pushing them back. They're making progress but it's slow compared to a windless day. In this scenario, climate change is the strong wind and the runner's progress is farm production growth.
He noted that if climate change gets worse, a growing possibility as countries fail to set commitments that meet Paris agreement targets, it's only a matter of time until agriculture production stalls. "[Climate change has] been happening for years, and as the magnitude keeps rising and rising it's going to get harder to ignore," he said
Ortiz-Bobea wasn't expecting such a significant difference in farm production between models with and without climate change. "I didn't even think that the result would be statistically significant," he said. "I was expecting something much smaller, something almost imperceptible. But no matter how we sliced the data or looked at different variations of the econometric model, it was pretty consistent that it's a substantial negative effect."
Developing Countries Suffer
The greatest climate impacts are seen in countries that are historically warmer such as those in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. As developing regions are often without the same technological advancement or management systems for agriculture, they face the greatest losses as unpredictable weather and warming events threaten crops and livestock. Ortiz-Bobea noted that this issue is as much an equity issue as it is an economic one.
The agriculture sector faces a unique problem in the way of climate change. Historically, the industry has relied on unsustainable practices that further greenhouse gas emissions. One example is in Brazil, where massive Amazon deforestation has taken place in an attempt to grow the country's economy around cattle and soybean farming. The transformation of forests, a crucial carbon sink, into crop lands also contributes to rises in atmospheric carbon levels.
In addition, increased global meat consumption and subsequent cattle production is a common source of methane emissions, a greenhouse gas about 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
So what is the best way to produce more food without contributing to a cycle of climate change?
Ortiz-Bobea said that the solution is in a mix of mitigation and adaptation. "Despite all the new, very exciting technologies that we are coming up with like CRISPR, they will still take decades to have an impact," she said. CRISPR is an increasingly popular technology that allows geneticists to modify DNA sequences and gene functions. Often touted as the solution to harmful birth defects in human genomes, conversations have arisen around the use of gene editing to increase food production for a rapidly growing population.
Ortiz-Bobea also highlighted the potential for soil-based strategies. "There are ways to increase soil health that allow soils to improve their water holding capacity, for example," he said. "And so that improves the crop yields and allows farmers to weather the storm, no pun intended there, while at the same time it helps capture carbon from the atmosphere."
Reposted with permission from Environmental Health News.
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In flood-prone regions of Bangladesh, farmers and their families utilize a centuries-old tradition to reduce their vulnerability to climate change.
Floating gardens — known as dhap, or locally as baira — have been used in south-central Bangladesh for 300-400 years, BBC reported. Farmers build their own floating gardens out of plants, and like rafts, the gardens fall in and out with the moving water, according to Ohio State News.
In a study published recently in the Journal of Agriculture, Food and Environment, researchers interviewed families who use this farming method to determine how the gardens could provide food and income security, despite the impacts of a changing climate, like heavier rainfall and stronger cyclones, Ohio State News reported.
"We are focused here on adaptive change for people who are victims of climate change, but who did not cause climate change," Craig Jenkins, a co-author of the study and academy professor emeritus of sociology at The Ohio State University, told Ohio State News. "There's no ambiguity about it: Bangladesh didn't cause the carbon problem, and yet it is already experiencing the effects of climate change."
Two-thirds of Bangladesh is wetland and large parts of the land can be underwater for up to eight months a year, BBC reported. The country also suffers from poverty, where 48 percent of its population is landless. As climate change grows more severe, bringing stronger tropical storms to the region, it is estimated that one in seven people will be displaced by 2050, the Environmental Justice Foundation found, BBC reported.
But despite these challenges, farmers have implemented this sustainable, low-cost option as a means to survive. In their study, researchers suggest these floating gardens can provide both food security and income for rural households, Ohio State News reported.
"It is very environmentally friendly – all the necessary inputs and resources are natural, and it does not create any waste or byproduct which can impact the environment negatively," Fahmida Akter, a senior research fellow at the James P Grant School of Public Health at Brac University in Dhaka, told BBC about the floating gardens, which rely on water hyacinth, an aquatic plant, for support. Once farmers layer these aquatic plants about three feet deep to mimic a raised-garden bed, they then plant vegetables, such as okra, some gourds, spinach and eggplant, according to Ohio State News.
The practice also contributes to local economies, giving middlemen a chance to buy and sell seedlings, villagers a chance to earn wages from building the beds and creates an income strategy for households, the researchers wrote.
"In Bangladesh, a lot of small farmers that had typically relied on rice crops are moving away from those because of the effects of climate change and better returns from alternative crops," Jenkins added. One floating garden farmer told the researchers that he now earns four times the amount he did at the rice paddies, Ohio State News reported.
Floating gardens are not exclusive to Bangladesh. In southern Mexico, for example, farmers in the city of Xochimilco are reviving a similar practice that was first built by the Aztecs to meet food demand — a struggle ever since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. "Now the virus is revealing the strength of this model in the midst of a crisis," Atlas Obscura reported.
While the gardens provide a reliable source of food for farmers impacted by both the climate and covid crises, the floating gardens are still in need of improvement. According to Pravash Mandal, a farmer in the Barisal district of Bangladesh, the gardens cannot withstand waves or heavy currents, BBC reported.
Researchers call on NGOs and the government to provide support to help farmers develop floating gardens efficiently, noting their ability to create a "sustainable and lucrative income strategy for rural households," in increasingly vulnerable, flood-prone communities in Bangladesh.
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The research, published in Nature Geoscience Monday, looked at the use and spread of 92 active pesticide ingredients in 168 countries. They considered an area at risk if the concentration of a chemical exceeded the limit at which it would have no effect, and at high risk if that concentration exceeded the limit by a factor of 1,000.
"Our study has revealed 64 percent of the world's arable land is at risk of pesticide pollution," University of Sydney Research Associate and the study's lead author, Dr Fiona Tang said in a University of Sydney press release. "This is important because the wider scientific literature has found that pesticide pollution can have adverse impacts on human health and the environment."
Further, a total of 31 percent of land was at high risk, the study authors wrote.
Pesticides, herbicides and fungicides are widely used to boost productivity in farming, the press release noted. However, they have unintended consequences for human and environmental health. They can enter bodies of water through runoff or by entering the groundwater, contaminating drinking water. Pesticides like chlorpyrifos have been shown to harm the cognitive development of children, while others have been linked to cancer. They also pose a threat to wildlife such as bees and birds.
These threats are why the research is important, Tang told AFP.
"It is significant because the potential pollution is widespread and some regions at risk also bear high biodiversity and suffer from water scarcity," she said in an AFP article published by Phys.org.
Specifically, 34 percent of the high risk areas were in regions with high biodiversity while five percent were in water-scarce areas, the study found. Nineteen percent of the high risk areas were in low or middle income countries.
Regionally, Asia had the most high-risk land, with China, Japan, Malaysia and the Philippines especially impacted, the press release said. In Europe, almost 62 percent of agricultural land was at high risk, AFP reported. This was largely due to high concentrations in Russia, Ukraine and Spain.
The researchers looked at 59 herbicides, 21 insecticides and 19 fungicides and based their calculations on application rate data from the U.S. Geological Survey and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. They then used a model to estimate how much of the pesticides would remain in the soil, atmosphere, groundwater and surface water.
The researchers pointed out that pesticide use is only expected to increase in the future because of the climate crisis and population growth.
"In a warmer climate, as the global population grows, the use of pesticides is expected to increase to combat the possible rise in pest invasions and to feed more people," coauthor and University of Sydney associate professor Federico Maggi said in the press release.
However, the researchers advised a different path.
"We urgently recommend that a global strategy is established to transition towards sustainable agriculture and sustainable living with low pesticide inputs and reduced food loss and food waste to achieve responsible production and consumption in an acceptable, profitable system," they wrote.
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By Douglas Broom
- In the US, over half of fresh fruit and vegetables go to waste.
- But a new invention claims to extend the shelf life of fresh fruit.
- A simple sticker can add an extra 14 days of freshness, says StixFresh.
- Using natural plant compounds, the sticker creates a protective layer, slowing the ripening process.
- The company is hoping to extend the process to vegetables.
Roughly a third of all the food produced around the world goes to waste. But now an innovator has come up with a way of making fruit last longer by simply applying a sticker.
It sounds too good to be true, but the inventor of StixFresh says that the sticker acts in the same way as the natural protections used by plants themselves. Simply sticking one to a piece of fruit can extend its shelf life by up to two weeks, says Zhafri Zainudin.
Going to Waste
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended food supply chains, leaving fruit and vegetables to rot because they cannot reach buyers in time.
China has the most estimated food waste per year. Statista
It's not a new problem, either. Even before the pandemic, 52% of fruits and vegetables grown in the United States went to waste, part of a $161 billion mountain of wasted food. More than 50 million Americans currently experience food insecurity, up by 13 million since 2018.
Zainudin says his StixFresh stickers will tackle hunger and improve health by giving more time to get fruit to consumers before it goes bad.
So How Does it Work?
The stickers, which are the size of a 50 cent piece, use 100% natural ingredients which replicate the antimicrobial compounds that plants use to protect themselves against post-harvest diseases.
Once the sticker is attached to the fruit, the chemicals spread out to create a protective layer covering the surface of the fruit and slowing the ripening process.
StixFresh stickers are said to increase the shelf life of fruit such as mangoes by up to two weeks. StixFresh
Zainudin came up with the idea after a friend asked for help to reduce the amount of stock on his fruit stall he was losing to spoilage.
After hundreds of experiments, he arrived at a formula that would protect fruit. But how to apply it? It turned out that the answer was right in front of him on his friend's fruit stall in a community near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Most of the fruit already carried a sticker describing the variety, so Zainudin reasoned that using another sticker to protect the fruit would work with existing processing and avoid the need for extra investment by growers and retailers.
The stickers work best on apples, avocados, citrus fruits and mangoes. Zainudin's team are now working on new versions that will enhance the shelf life of berries and vegetables as well.
By reducing food waste they hope to help farmers, distributors, retailers and consumers save money, while at the same time protecting the environment.
Zainudin and StixFresh have been selected to join The Circulars Accelerator Cohort 2021, an initiative to help circular economy entrepreneurs scale their innovations.
The accelerator is a collaboration with UpLink, the World Economic Forum's innovation crowdsourcing platform, and is led by professional services company Accenture in partnership with Anglo American, Ecolab, and Schneider Electric.
Reposted with permission from the World Economic Forum.
Climate change poses significant dangers to global food supplies as rising temperatures make storage more difficult, The Associated Press reports.
Food around the world is stored outside after harvest, before processing, but rising temperatures and other altered weather patterns threaten to drive prices higher as more food is lost and producers are forced to install costly equipment to protect food stores.
Rising temperatures will make it easier for insects and mold to destroy grain stores in Sub-Saharan Africa, and in Mecosta, Michigan, Brian Sackett was forced to spend $125,000 on a new refrigeration unit to protect what will become potato chips. Michigan potato farmers have long been able to rely on fans and cool air from the September harvest to late spring to keep their potatoes fresh. But the annual period in which outdoor air in the region is cool enough to store potatoes will likely drop by as much as 17 days in the next 30 years. "Our good, fresh, cool air is getting less all the time, it seems like," Sackett said.
For a deeper dive:
- How Urban Agriculture Can Improve Food Security in U.S. Cities ... ›
- On Climate and Food, What's the Lesson We Insist on Missing ... ›
- Half a Degree of Warming Makes a Big Difference to Global Food ... ›
- A Brief Guide to the Impacts of Climate Change on Food Production ... ›
By Edwina Hughes, Richard Waite and Gerard Pozzi
With people increasingly aware of the climate impact of their lifestyles, the spotlight is falling on the food we eat. Agriculture and related land-use account for nearly a quarter of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But not all foods are created equal, and plant-based foods are generally a lot less resource-intensive to produce than animal proteins. Take beef vs. beans: per gram of protein, beef production uses 20 times the land and generates 20 times the GHG emissions as beans.
Much attention is paid to unusual innovations aimed at offering a wider variety of food options with a smaller climate footprint — like crackers made from insects or algae protein bars. But large institutions that want to offer diners climate-friendly food options are finding it's more straightforward than expected. That's in part thanks to recent behavioral science research, which shows that small changes in menu language or creating delicious plant-centered dishes can greatly increase the uptake of sustainable offerings. In short, they've found it's already possible to eat tomorrow's climate-friendly diet today, through easy changes that don't compromise on flavor or cost.
New data from the Cool Food Pledge — a group of restaurants, cities, hospitals and companies that have committed to cutting GHG emissions associated with the food they serve by 25% by 2030, in line with Paris Agreement goals — show that members were able to collectively reduce emissions by 4.6% overall and by 12% per plate in just four years. Some members have reduced emissions even more quickly, showing big changes are possible within a short time.
Food consumption in restaurants, workplace canteens and school cafeterias has fallen dramatically during the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns. While the industry begins to revive amid calls for a "green" recovery, these results can serve as inspiration, showing what could be achievable when the wider food service industry picks up again post-COVID. When diners return, food service operators should seize the chance to ensure strong and engaging sustainability credentials are at the center of their menu offerings. Offering more plant-rich options is key to hitting climate targets since as they are generally much less resource-intensive to produce.
So what does that mean for organizations serving food? And how feasible is it? Lessons from Cool Food Pledge members show that meaningful progress toward a sustainable food future is simple. It's just a case of keeping the spotlight on what's delicious, cost-effective and low-carbon.
Here are the three main lessons:
1. Make It Delicious
Climate-friendly food doesn't have to be dull. Take the example of biotech company Genentech, which has 10,000 staff based in California, and an in-house culinary team creating chef specials. When it joined the Cool Food Pledge it changed the chef specials to plant-rich options — serving up even more vegetables, pulses and grains. Some of the new dishes included "Vegan Jackfruit, Okra and Seitan Jambalaya" with brown rice, Creole sauce and shaved scallions as well as "Charred Yucatan Vegetables" with an array of vegetables, stewed black beans, habanero pickled red onions and flour tortillas. Following positive responses from employees, demand for the new plant-rich options grew while demand for the more traditional, meat-heavier options declined. Between 2018 to 2019 alone, the company reduced the climate impact of each plate of food it serves by an incredible 33%.
2. Keep It Cost-Effective
Climate-friendly food doesn't have to increase costs — and can even reduce them.
In the health care sector, at UCSF Health, forward-thinking chefs decided to couple a more climate-friendly ethos with a cost-effective one while feeding patients and visitors. UCSF had a 100% beef burger that wasn't selling well, so switching to a 70:30 beef/mushroom blended burger in 2017 that sold better was a no-brainer. The Department of Nutrition and Health Services at UCSF Health realized the blended burger would cost less, the mushroom would ensure it remained flavorful and the reduction in beef would help UCSF Health hit its climate-friendly target for food.
At the same time, its central menu evolved from serving 20 entrees featuring beef in 2017 down to just three by 2020. This more plant-rich menu has proven both better for the climate and more appealing to customers. UCSF Health's total food-related GHG emissions dropped by 13% in just three years, the biggest reduction amongst the health care members of the Cool Food Pledge.
3. Explore the World of Plants
A welcome consequence of committing to a climate-friendly menu offering has been a surge in the quantity of vegetables, pulses and grains procured and served by member organizations. In fact, members purchased 12% more plant-based food items in 2019 relative to the base year. The University of Cambridge's University Catering Service, which manages 14 cafés and canteens and caters for 1,500 events a year, has phased out ruminant meat completely, and guests can enjoy Swedish-style Vegballs, Smoky Moroccan Chickpea Stew and sweet potato burgers instead. Emissions dropped by more than 30% even as the university served 30% more food, reflecting the significant change in the ingredients that make up the meals it is serving.
Having an Impact Isn’t Rocket Science
This variety of progress reflects the distinct environments in which these organizations operate and the different diners they serve. Many are cutting emissions even as the number of meals they serve grows.
While every dining facility will have its own unique operations, the Cool Food Pledge is providing structure and guidance to help the food industry lower the carbon footprint of food in line with climate science. Members are guided through a three-steps of "pledge, plan, and promote": they pledge to reduce food-related GHG emissions by 25% by 2030; they develop a plan to achieve their aims using the latest behavioral science; and by promoting their achievements, they are on the front lines of a growing movement that's slashing the impact that food has on the climate.
Reposted with permission from the World Resources Institute.
- Are Insects the Next Climate-Friendly Superfood? - EcoWatch ›
- 5 Best (Eco-Friendly) Meal Kit Delivery Services of 2021 - EcoWatch ›
- 4 Steps to a Climate-Friendly Summer Cookout - EcoWatch ›
For coffee drinkers, there's really nothing more terrifying than the thought of waking up one morning and being all out of java. One way to ensure that never happens is to sign up for a coffee subscription service. This not only keeps you well-stocked, but it also gives you the opportunity to sample some high-quality and organic coffee beans from around the world.
Of course, like any specialty beverage or product, a coffee subscription box should match your own preferences while also being good for people and the planet. In this article, we'll take a closer look at some of the top organic and specialty coffee subscription options on the market today.
Our Picks for the Top Organic and Specialty Coffee Subscriptions
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Best Organic Coffee - Purity Coffee
- Best Keto Coffee - Bulletproof Coffee
- Best Coffee Selection - Angels' Cup
- Best Carbon-Free Coffee - Grounds for Change
- Best B Corp Coffee - Conscious Coffee
- Best for International Coffees - Atlas Coffee Club
- Best for Specialty Coffees - Bean Box
- Best for Artisan Coffees - Mistobox
- Most Eco-Friendly - Driftaway Coffee
- Best Variety of Brewing Methods - Blue Bottle Coffee
- Most Affordable - Peet's Coffee
- Best for Home and Office - Crema Coffee
How We Chose the Best Coffee Subscriptions
Min Kim / Getty Images
Before we get into specific recommendations, it may be helpful to note some of the criteria we used for making our assessment. Our ranking factors include:
Some subscription services do a better job than others of giving coffee lovers lots of options, not only allowing you to pick between different beans, but also allowing you to pick from whole bean vs. ground coffee. We also gave bonus points to subscription services that provide freshly-roasted craft coffee.
Another important consideration is how much flexibility you have in your actual subscription. We love services that give you some choice in how much coffee you actually need, how often you wish to receive your next box, and the ability to try new flavors.
USDA Organic/Fair Trade/Rainforest Alliance Certifications
Many coffee drinkers will want to verify that their purchase is Fair Trade and/or USDA organic certified. We looked for the best coffee subscriptions that make the environment and the people that grow their coffee a priority in sourcing. If they didn't have these certifications, we looked to see if they explained how they approached their sourcing instead.
A lot of enthusiasts prefer single-origin coffee; that is, coffee made exclusively from beans grown in one specific geographic area. Single-origin coffee tends to provide unique characteristics and flavor notes that blended coffees cannot match.
If you're looking to minimize your environmental footprint then you'll definitely want to account for the sustainability practices of each subscription service. This can encompass the service's supply chain, production, packaging, and shipping.
Naturally, one of the deciding factors in your organic coffee quest will be the price. Some subscriptions are more budget-friendly than others. We tried to select subscription options that that are affordable and still offer subscribers amazing coffee they can't find at the grocery store.
The 12 Best Organic and Specialty Coffee Subscriptions
RyanJLane / E+ / Getty Images
Purity Coffee claims that their process maximizes the health benefits naturally found in coffee. They only use 100% USDA-certified organic coffee beans for all of their coffees. These are then screened for pesticides and molds, and then roasted using a special smokeless roasting process to ensure it contains the highest-possible levels of antioxidants. Subscribers can save on each order, and prepaid subscriptions receive free shipping.
Why buy: Not only is Purity Coffee 100% organic, it's also sustainably sourced. They offer several specialty Founders' Roasts that are Rainforest Alliance-certified and Smithsonian Bird Friendly-certified for the grower's commitment to biodiversity and habitat conservation.
Bulletproof Coffee is a keto coffee, or butter coffee, that contains both high-quality coffee and good fats to provide even more fuel to your mornings. It's meant to replace carb and sugar-heavy breakfasts while giving you what you need to get going. Bulletproof Coffee uses Rainforest Alliance-certified beans grown in direct partnership with farmers on high-altitude estates in Guatemala and Colombia. With their subscription option you can save 10% on each order, and receive free shipping on orders over $35.
Why buy: Not only can Bulletproof Coffee change the way you start your day with a keto-friendly cup of coffee, but the coffee itself is grown using sustainable methods, is sustainably washed and mechanically dried, and then thoroughly tested for toxins and impurities.
If you're just getting into serious coffee consumption, or want to dip your toes into the subscription model, Angels' Cup is an excellent starting point. You can begin by getting just a single 12 ounce bag of coffee, and they also offer blind sampler packs and subscriptions with different frequency levels, including weekly, twice monthly, or monthly. Their mobile app will help you discover the different tasting notes to find your favorites.
Why buy: There's a lot of flexibility built into the Angels' Cup model, making it an ideal choice for those who are new to the gourmet coffee scene. While they don't source the coffees themselves, they do work with roasters who pay well-above Fair Trade prices.
Grounds for Change has a reputation for being one of the most progressive, stewardship-minded coffee companies out there. If you're looking for Fair Trade, organic, and/or carbon-free options, this certified B corp is where you can find them. They also showcase a lot of unique collections, from single-origin coffees to some enticing decaf options, that are well worth investigating. We're more than happy to include Grounds for Change on our list.
Why buy: In terms of social responsibility, Grounds for Change can't be topped. They are the only company on our list that offers carbon-free coffee, meaning they offset 100% of the emissions from their coffees.
Conscious Coffee has made some really admirable investments in coffee-growing communities across the world. Their model of sustainability and corporate responsibility is commendable, but they are equally passionate about exquisite roasting. They belong on our list for these reasons and so many more, including their emphasis on 100 percent organic coffee, small-batch freshness, and sustainable sourcing.
Why buy: Conscious Coffee sets a high bar for stewardship and responsibility. We strongly recommend them to anyone who wants to invest in sustainable coffee-farming across the world.
One of the many reasons to consider a subscription coffee service is that it will give you a chance to explore different flavors from around the world. And there is no subscription service that serves up international variety quite like Atlas Coffee Club. Each month, you'll get a new coffee from a different country like Costa Rica, Colombia, or Ethiopia, in a bag that's modeled after indigenous textiles or local landscapes. For anyone who loves to travel or simply likes to try new things, Atlas Coffee Club offers a truly transportive experience.
Why buy: There's no better option for trying out different coffee flavors from across cultures. The company also pays well above market prices to growers to support ethically sustainable farming practices.
Bean Box is another outstanding choice for java enthusiasts who are curious to sample different tastes. Based in Seattle, Bean Box partners with different coffee roasters who specialize in single-origin coffees and coffee blends from around the world, including Africa, South America, and more. They'll send you a different blend each month, allowing you to develop a really broad and sophisticated palette. We also really love the price point on this one, which offers a great value.
Why buy: If you're looking for a budget-friendly way to sample specialty coffees, Bean Box is a great coffee subscription service to consider.
If you're attempting to maximize your coffee variety, you'll probably be over the moon about Mistobox. This coffee subscription company boasts partnerships with more than 50 roasters across the world, which is all but unparalleled. We also recommend them due to their commitment to Fair Trade and ecologically sustainable practices. Mistobox has a coffee curation service that will help you determine just where to start. So, if you feel overwhelmed by all the different organic coffee options, Mistobox has you covered.
Why buy: We recommend Mistobox for their sustainability, their corporate citizenship, their sheer variety of organic coffees, and their curation options.
With Driftaway Coffee, the name of the game is personalization. Their service will actually enable you to establish "coffee profiles," pinpointing your tastes and helping them determine exactly what to send you each month. As if that weren't enough, Driftaway guarantees single-source whole bean coffees, and they also do an exemplary job of providing compostable packaging. Finally, they have a sustainability program that supports regional farmers.
Why buy: A great pick for single-origin whole bean coffee, and also a really great model for sustainability within the single-origin coffee subscription vertical.
If you really want your coffee to be as fresh as can be, then we heartily recommend Blue Bottle. They ship everything within 48 hours of roasting, ensuring you get the most vibrant flavors. Another thing we'll mention about this organic coffee subscription service is that they provide a lot of different options for espresso, decaf, single-origin, and blended coffees. There's definitely a lot to like here, especially if you're keen on small-batch coffee.
Why buy: For fresh flavors and plenty of variety, Blue Bottle Coffee is a great choice. The majority of their coffees are certified organic, and they pay at least Fair Trade prices to growers, often more.
Peet's Coffee has a ton of great products to consider, including some eclectic subscription options. You can take your pick between their small batch series, single-origin coffees, signature blends, and beyond. What's more, they boast plenty of flexibility with scheduling, making it easy to get coffee exactly when you need it. Plus they offer free shipping on coffee subscriptions.
Why buy: Peet's is an outstanding choice for anyone seeking plenty of variety and built-in flexibility. You may recognize them from the grocery store, but this brand is seriously committed to responsible sourcing, support for local farmers, and energy-efficient roasting.
Crema Coffee is a popular choice among coffee connoisseurs, and it's not hard to understand why. There are over 450 coffees to choose from, spanning roasters located all over the world. You can customize your subscription to make certain you only get the roasts you're really going to be into, and you can even rate coffees to help keep track of your tastes. Crema Coffee offers subscription packages for your household and for your workplace.
Why buy: Crema Coffee offers incredible variety, plenty of options for personalization, and even a subscription model for your office. They ensure that they only work with roasters committed to an ethical coffee supply chain.
How Does a Coffee Subscription Work?
amenic181 / iStock / Getty Images Plus
Clearly, there are plenty of options to choose from as you seek a subscription-based coffee delivery service. But if you're new to this whole concept, you may have some lingering questions about precisely what you can expect from your coffee subscription.
First of all, keep in mind that these subscriptions all work a little bit differently. Most of the companies on our list offer a coffee of the month club and provide different coffees to try with each delivery.
For a general overview of the coffee subscription process, though, you can typically expect something a bit like this:
Select the Type of Subscription You Want
Are you looking to get just a sampler of coffee beans each month? Or do you want to stay well-supplied, with new coffees arriving more frequently? Choosing your preferred subscription model is usually the first step.
Choose What Kind of Coffee You Want
Different subscription services will allow you different levels of customization, but there is always some way of indicating your preferences, whether you like dark roasts over light roasts, single-origin coffees over blends, etc.
Get Coffee Delivered to You
Most coffee subscription services will box your coffee in recyclable/compostable materials and deliver right to your front door. Because it's so important to maintain freshness, most subscription companies ship within a day or two of roasting.
Prepare Your Coffee
Note that, with whole bean options, you'll actually need a grinder to grind your coffee; if you choose ground coffee, then it will be ready to brew as soon as it shows up at your door.
Try New Types of Coffee
Finally, note that subscription coffee companies tend to rotate their roaster throughout the year. Make sure you explore some different options, and you might just discover your next favorite coffee!
Coffee Subscription FAQ
What is Fair Trade coffee?
We've highlighted the importance of Fair Trade coffee, but what exactly does this term mean? Essentially, when you buy Fair Trade coffee, it means that you are directly supporting local coffee-growing families in the developing world. More specifically, Fair Trade denotes a commitment to fair prices, community development efforts, and good stewardship of the environment. The Fair Trade designation is an important way to verify that you're getting ethically-sourced coffee beans. Fair Trade sets a floor on prices that allow coffee farmers to make a living, and many specialty coffee roasters pay much more than Fair Trade prices to local growers.
How is Organic Coffee Grown?
Another common question: What does it mean for coffee to be USDA-certified as organic? Fundamentally, organic coffee is grown without the use of any artificial chemicals, including prohibited pesticides and herbicides. To achieve the official USDA certification, a coffee must be at least 95 percent organic. Growers in certain regions may have trouble attaining this certification for various reasons, but specialty roasters typically seek to support sustainable farming practices and supply chains.
What is Single-Origin Coffee?
Single-origin coffee refers to a coffee made with beans that are all grown in one specific region. This type of coffee offers some really unique flavors and characteristics. The alternative is blended coffee, which may mix beans that come from a multiple places. Many coffee enthusiasts prefer the purity of single-origin, though of course, this is all a matter of personal preference.
Order Your Coffee Subscription Today
Looking for a way to get organic, Fair Trade coffee delivered straight to your front door? There are plenty of subscription models that will do just that, all while letting you sample some incredible beans from across the world.
Take a look at the options we've listed here, and look for the coffee subscription service that seems like it's best aligned with your tastes and your budget. And from there, just sit back and wait for your next bag of coffee beans to show up at your home or office.
Josh Hurst is a journalist, critic, and essayist. He lives in Knoxville, TN, with his wife and three sons. He covers natural health, nutrition, supplements, and clean energy. His writing has appeared in Health, Shape, and Remedy Review.