By Larry Brand
Millions of gallons of water laced with fertilizer ingredients are being pumped into Florida's Tampa Bay from a leaking reservoir at an abandoned phosphate plant at Piney Point. As the water spreads into the bay, it carries phosphorus and nitrogen – nutrients that under the right conditions can fuel dangerous algae blooms that can suffocate sea grass beds and kill fish, dolphins and manatees.
Red tide in recent years has killed large numbers of Florida's manatees, a threatened species. David Hinkel/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
A map shows red tide reports just south of Tampa Bay. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Piney Point: Florida's Leaking Reservoir<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNjAzNDc5NS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNjM5MDc3MH0._qtv67bay76oqnix5O-YCLQX1m7fvx1-F51gL5V3IPU/img.png?width=980" id="0bc20" width="1200" height="900" data-rm-shortcode-id="358712a8098e782e6225230ab2566bdc" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Map: The Conversation/CC-BY-ND
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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.
By Diane Kim, Ignacio Navarrete and Jessica Dutton
Giant kelp, the world's largest species of marine algae, is an attractive source for making biofuels. In a recent study, we tested a novel strategy for growing kelp that could make it possible to produce it continuously on a large scale. The key idea is moving kelp stocks daily up to near-surface waters for sunlight and down to darker waters for nutrients.
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="08834d6352bb38022b2dad687d38dd40"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/IBsxRQt2tPE?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
A diver at the 'kelp elevator.' Maurice Roper, CC BY-ND
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Installing solar panels over California's network of water canals could save the state an estimated 63 billion gallons of water and produce 13 gigawatts of renewable power every year, according to a feasibility study published in Nature Sustainability.
By Anna Huber
- The importance of water – and its vital role in tackling global challenges – is not fully understood or communicated within water-rich nations.
- On a personal, political and global level, there are many actions we can take to change the way we use and manage water.
- World Water Day 2021 focuses on the value of water and how it impacts our everyday life, social and economic stability, climate change and the achievement of SDGs.
Today's World Water Day revolves around the social, economic and environmental value of water, and the essential role it plays in everyone's life. From determining where the world's oldest cities were built and where conflicts break out, to ensuring that we can access internet services and stop the spread of COVID-19 today, the significance of the role that water plays in the world cannot be understated. Water means equality: local water resources and separate toilets can determine whether a girl accesses education, while globally, it impacts the distribution of wealth.
1. Steps Individuals Can Take to Prioritize Water<p>Valuing water as an individual means we must stop polluting and start reducing daily water use (SDG 3, 13, 14).</p><p>Did you know that millions of people still dispose of their medicines in toilets, and that discarded plastics pollute our rivers and oceans, with microplastics found in <a target="_blank"></a><a target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"></a><a href="https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/32245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">81% of our urban drinking water</a>. Or that contrary to popular belief, water pollution does not decrease with economic growth, but expands? Tackling water quality can be simple: <a href="https://thinkbeforeyouflush.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">think before you flush</a> or throw anything into waterways.</p>
2. Measures Governments Can Take<p><span>Valuing water on the policy level implies featuring water as a key element in cross-sectoral policy documents and enforcements (SDG 10, 11, 16).</span></p><p>Only a few countries, such as South Africa and Slovenia, have water access written into their constitution as a human right. Many have signed a water charter, such as the US or the European Union, that recognizes the importance of water, but do not enforce their guidelines.</p><p>Governments can raise awareness of their citizens' water footprint and offer tax incentives to be less wasteful e.g. <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-05-10/make-money-by-showering-less" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">financially rewarding water conservation</a> rather than charging for its consumption, while also engaging businesses to establish water-positive behavior. This might include<a href="https://waterfootprint.org/en/water-footprint/national-water-footprint/what-can-governments-do/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> setting limits for water consumptions and pollution</a>, but also collecting data on the national water footprint. A clearer water statistic can help inform water resource management, governance and policies.</p><p>Globally, governments can demand that water be featured as the enabler to achieve the SDGs and Paris Agreement.</p>
3. What Companies Can Do to Improve Their Water Management<p>Valuing water in the private sector relates to practices, pollution and partnerships (SDG 7, 8, 9, 12 and 17).</p><p>Many companies have improved their water usage in innovative ways. Companies such as Colgate- Palmolive have set their own <a href="https://www.cdp.net/en/articles/water/water-security-how-can-pricing-drive-change" target="_blank">internal water pricing</a>, paying more than the current below-cost price for industrial water supply. Not only does that prepare companies for the inevitable cost increase, but it also signals that water should be valued more. Others have committed to give back more water than they consume, such as <a href="https://blogs.microsoft.com/blog/2020/09/21/microsoft-will-replenish-more-water-than-it-consumes-by-2030/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microsoft</a>, or are working on a transformational investment framework for water, such as <a href="https://www.dws.com/insights/global-research-institute/a-transformational-framework-for-water-risk/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">DWS</a>.</p>
Private sector action to reduce water pollution is still dangerously lacking. Water pollution: CDP, 2020<p>There has been much less progress in relation to water quality, however, with only 4.4% businesses showing improvement in their water pollution reduction targets. If current available technologies were fully utilized, companies could aim to release water in an even cleaner state to the environment than how it was extracted.</p><p>Finally, valuing water means to <a href="https://blogs.worldbank.org/water/eight-reasons-why-partnerships-are-vital-water" target="_blank">foster partnerships</a>, such as <a href="https://50lhome.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">50L Home</a> or the <a href="https://www.weforum.org/platforms/covid-action-platform/projects/mobilizing-hand-hygiene-for-all-initiative" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mobilizing Hand Hygiene for All Initiative</a>. This includes engaging local communities that sit at the source of water, following policy guidelines and collaborating with other private-sector companies.</p><p><span></span>In a nutshell, if individuals, governments and companies want to tackle our biggest global challenges, we should start by taking concrete actions to value water.</p><p><span></span><em>Reposted with permission from the <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/03/water-how-to-stop-undervaluing-a-precious-resource-and-be-ready-for-the-future/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>. </em></p>
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By Tara Lohan
One of President Joe Biden's first acts in office put an end to a decade-long fight over the Keystone XL — a pipeline that would have carried climate-polluting tar sands from Alberta, Canada into the United States.
How did you get involved in being a water protector?<p>When I was in law school, I started doing tribal law work and ended up in Washington, D.C. representing tribes all over the country. At the same time there were serious environmental issues coming through D.C. My first internship was at the White House when Obama was reviewing Keystone XL and I saw a lot of breakdowns in the efficacy of the federal system and a lack of movement.</p><p>When the<a href="https://blog.nationalgeographic.org/2014/05/14/cowboys-and-indians-stand-together-against-keystone-xl/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> Cowboy Indian Alliance</a> staged a protest in 2014 against the Keystone XL pipeline, I went. It was my first protest. After that I kept working on environmental justice issues for tribal nations, and then two years later a <a href="https://www.runnersworld.com/news/a20822956/pipeline-protesters-run-their-message-to-capitol-hill/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">group of runners</a> from Standing Rock came out to D.C. [to raise awareness about the Dakota Access Pipeline that would carry Bakken crude across the Plains].</p><p>I listened to LaDonna Brave Bull Allard [from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe] on Facebook Live ask for help. I could tell she meant everything she said, so I just packed up my stuff, rented a car and drove out to North Dakota.</p><p>I planned on being out there [at the Standing Rock protest camp] for a weekend. I ended up staying six months.</p><p>Something was different about this Native tribe saying no. There've been lots of tribes that have said no for hundreds of years, but these guys weren't just saying it, they were putting their bodies in front of the machines and refusing to move. The groundswell of youth, the encampment, the legal fight against the federal government — it all came together in this moment.</p><p>I think for a lot of tribal people it felt different. We were very united in the struggle.</p><p>It was also eye-opening for a lot of other people around the world. Mostly because I don't think a lot of people are even aware that Native people still exist. And that we're still very much engaged in an ongoing struggle for our land and water against either the United States or these foreign interests.</p>
And now you’re engaged in a similar struggle against another Canadian energy company — Enbridge. What’s at stake with Line 3?<p>After the ground fight at Dakota Access ended and they bulldozed our camp, I went back to D.C., but I had a hard time coming back to the world as I understood it, because it'd been changed.</p><p>So in 2018 I founded the Giniw Collective. It was in response to the Minnesota Public Utility Commission unanimously approving Line 3 after years of work and tens of thousands of comments and engagement against the project by Minnesotans.</p><p>I started building and finding others to build with, to create a strong resistance community that was also engaging in traditional foods and establishing foundational relationships with the land.</p>
Construction has already begun. Where do things stand legally with efforts to stop it?<p>There's a set of legal opinions due March 23 that are very critical in terms of the feds hearing what we are bringing forward, particularly from the tribal nations that have signed onto these lawsuits and are impacted directly by Line 3.</p><p>Then there's also an ongoing lawsuit by the Minnesota Department of Commerce against the Minnesota Public Utility Commission. The state is actually suing itself for not being able to demonstrate that there's a need for this project. The tar sands and oil products that will go through the pipeline are for foreign markets. They're not for Minnesota or the United States.</p>
What about at the federal level?<p>There's also this <a href="https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/03/08/climate-time-bomb-370-groups-urge-biden-immediately-halt-line-3-pipeline" target="_blank">huge push</a> on [President Joe] Biden, who canceled Keystone XL on day one and has centered himself as the climate president. We're looking to the administration to intervene on something that's an obvious climate disaster.</p><p>How can we say we'll cancel one pipeline but build another? It's the same types of violations and the same types of climate impacts coming out of the Alberta tar sands.</p><p>Building Line 3 will have the equivalent emissions of building <a href="https://mn350.org/giant-step-backward/" target="_blank">50 new coal power plants</a>. That's insane.</p><p>We <em>are</em> seeing progress, though. We just secured another meeting with the Council on Environmental Quality. I had a number of meetings with members of the Biden transition team and different agencies. I know [National Climate Advisor] Gina McCarthy was just questioned a couple of weeks ago by Showtime about Dakota Access and Line 3. So the message is getting into their ears. It's just that we need to hear some response.</p>
Where are you finding inspiration now?<p>The pieces that inspire me the most and give me the most hope are seeing people engaged in resistance during a pandemic to defend the planet and defend life for someone who's not even born yet. That's incredibly powerful to be part of and to see that happen in real time.</p><p>To watch someone harvest wild rice for the first time, to watch someone stop destruction of a place in real time for a day — that's really powerful. To see young people finding their voices and using their bodies to try to protect what's supposed to be their world. They are literally fighting for life and their right to a future. That's a really beautiful thing to see, and it's really inspiring and hopeful.</p><p>We've trained hundreds of people over the last two and a half years in direct action. I try to push folks to think about direct action not just as being about getting arrested or something like that. To me, it's about standing with the Earth in a real way, putting something at risk and being uncomfortable. I don't think that we're going to solve the climate crisis comfortably. I don't think we're going to solar panel or policy-make our way out of this massive existential threat we're facing.</p><p>To take action is to do something in community with the Earth. To think about our own connection to her in everything that we do. I like to remind people that Native people are 5% of the world's population and we're holding <a href="https://www.iucn.org/news/secretariat/201908/iucn-director-generals-statement-international-day-worlds-indigenous-peoples-2019#:~:text=For%20centuries%2C%20indigenous%20peoples%20across,preserved%20much%20of%20Earth's%20biodiversity.&text=As%20much%20as%2080%25%20of,in%20the%20world's%20tropical%20forests." target="_blank">80% of the world's [forest] biodiversity</a>.</p><p>That isn't by accident or happenstance. That is because we have a deep connection to the Earth and an understanding that the Earth is a living being, just like we are.</p>
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By Thomas Hertel
Growing food in a sustainable, environmentally friendly way – while also producing enough of it – is among the most important challenges facing the U.S. and the world today.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us that food security can't be taken for granted. Putting affordable food on the table requires both innovative producers and well-functioning markets and global supply chains. With disruptions to the system, prices rise, food is scarce – and people go hungry.
But feeding the world's 7.8 billion people sustainably – including 332 million Americans – presents significant environmental challenges. Farming uses 70% of the world's fresh water. Fertilizers pollute water with nitrates and phosphates, sparking algal blooms and creating dead zones like the one that forms every summer in the Gulf of Mexico.
Clear-cutting land for farms and ranches is the main driver of deforestation. Overall, the planet loses about 48,000 square miles (125,000 square kilometers) of forest each year. Without habitat, wildlife disappears. Farming also produces roughly one-quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions.
All of these challenges make balancing food production with environmental security a crucial issue for the Biden administration, which is working to address both a hunger crisis and an environmental crisis in the U.S.
Two Different Pathways
As an economist studying food systems, I'm keenly aware that trying to provide affordable food and a thriving agricultural sector while also preserving the environment can result in many trade-offs. Consider the different strategies that the U.S. and Northern Europe have pursued: The U.S. prioritizes increased agricultural output, while the EU emphasizes environmental services from farming.
Over the past 70 years, the U.S. has increased crop production with ever more sophisticated seed technologies and highly mechanized farming methods that employ far fewer workers. These new technologies have contributed to farm productivity growth which has, in turn, allowed U.S. farm output to rise without significant growth in the aggregate economic index of agricultural input use.
This approach contrasts sharply with Northern Europe's strategy, which emphasizes using less land and other inputs in order to protect the environment. Nonetheless, by achieving a comparable rate of agricultural productivity growth (output growth minus the growth rate inputs), Northern Europe has been able to maintain its level of total farm output over the past three decades.
Boosting Prices Versus Benefiting Nature
The U.S. also has a long history of setting aside agricultural land that dates back nearly a century. In response to low prices in the 1920s, farmers had flooded the market with grain, pork and other products, desperately seeking to boost revenues but only pushing prices down further.
Under the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933, the U.S. government paid farmers to reduce their output and limited the supply of land under cultivation to boost farm prices. This strategy is still in use today.
In 1985 the U.S. launched a new program that created real incentives to protect environmentally sensitive land. Farmers who enroll in the Conservation Reserve Program "rent" environmentally valuable tracts to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for 10-15 years. Withdrawing these acres from production provides food and shelter for pollinators and wildlife, reduces erosion and improves water quality.
But this is a voluntary program, so enrollment ebbs and flows in tandem with crop prices. For example, when corn, soy and wheat prices fell in the late 1980s and early 1990s, enrollment grew. Then with the commodity price boom of 2007, farmers could make more money from cultivating the land. Protected acreage dropped more than 40% through 2019, erasing many of the environmental benefits that had been achieved.
Enrollment in the USDA Conservation Reserve Program dropped by almost 13 million acres from 2007 to 2016. U.S. Department of Agriculture
Rental rates for agricultural land in the U.S. vary widely, with the most productive lands bringing the highest rent. Current rental rates under the Conservation Reserve Program 2021 range from $243 per acre in Cuming, Nebraska to just $6 in Sutton, Texas.
The EU also began setting aside farmland to curb overproduction in 1988. Now, however, their program focuses heavily on environmental quality. Policy reforms in 2013 required farmers to allocate 5% of their land to protected ecological focus areas. The goal is to generate long-term environmental benefits by prioritizing nature.
This program supports both production and conservation. Within this mix of natural and cultivated lands, wild pollinators benefit both native plants and crops. Birds, insects and small predators offer natural bio-control of pests. In this way, "rewilded" tracts foster biodiversity while also improving crop yields.
Who Will Feed the World?
What would happen if the U.S., a major exporter of agricultural products, followed the EU model and permanently withdrew land from production to improve environmental quality? Would such action make food unaffordable for the world's poorest consumers?
In a study that I conducted in 2020 with colleagues at Purdue and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we set up a computer model to find out. We wanted to chart what might happen to food prices across the globe through 2050 if the U.S. and other rich economies followed Northern European conservation strategies. Our analysis focused on the world's most food-insecure region, sub-Saharan Africa.
We discovered that altering food production in this way would raise food prices in that region by about 6%. However, this upward price trend could be reversed by investing in local agriculture and new technologies to increase productivity in Africa. In short, our research suggested that conserving the environment in the U.S. doesn't have to cause food insecurity in other countries.
Implications for U.S. Farm Policy
Many experts on hunger and agriculture agree that to feed a growing global population, world food output must increase substantially in the next several decades. At the same time, it's clear that agriculture's environmental impacts need to shrink in order to protect the natural environment.
In my view, meeting these twin goals will require renewed government investments in research and dissemination of new technologies. Reversing a two-decade decline in science funding will be key. Agriculture is now a knowledge-driven industry, fueled by new technologies and improved management practices. Publicly funded research laid the foundations for these advances.
To reap environmental gains, I believe the U.S. Department of Agriculture will need to revamp and stabilize the Conservation Reserve Program, so that it is economically viable and enrollment does not fluctuate with market conditions. The Trump administration reduced incentives and rental payment rates, which drove down enrollments. The Biden administration has already taken a modest step forward by extending the yearly sign-up for the program indefinitely.
As I see it, following Northern Europe's model by permanently protecting ecologically rich areas, while simultaneously investing in knowledge-driven agricultural productivity, will enable the U.S. to better preserve wildlife and its natural environment for future generations, while maintaining an affordable food supply.
Thomas Hertel is a professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University.
Disclosure statement: Thomas Hertel receives funding from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Energy.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
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By Jeff Masters
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave America's infrastructure a C- grade in its quadrennial assessment issued March 3. ASCE gave the nation's flood control infrastructure – dams and levees – a D grade. This is a highly concerning assessment, given that climate change is increasingly stressing dams and levees as increased evaporation from the oceans drives heavier precipitation events.
Figure 1. Debris fills the Feather River from the damaged spillway of California's Oroville Dam, the nation's tallest dam, after its near-collapse in February 2017. The Oroville incident forced the evacuation of nearly 190,000 people and cost $1.1 billion in repairs. California Department of Water Resources
Figure 2. The L-550 levee on the Missouri River overtopping during the spring 2011 floods. USACE
In a historic move, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) voted Thursday to ban hydraulic fracking in the region. The ban was supported by all four basin states — New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York — putting a permanent end to hydraulic fracking for natural gas along the 13,539-square-mile basin, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
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