Urban Farming Key in Fight Against Hunger and Climate Change
The urban farms sprouting up and across cities around the world aren't just feeding mouths—they are "critical to survival" and a "necessary adaptation" for developing regions and a changing climate, according to a new study.
Urban farms—which include plain ol' allotments, indoor vertical farms and rooftop gardens nestled amongst busy streets and skyscrapers—have become increasingly popular and important as the world's population grows and more and more people move to cities.
The United Nations predicts that by 2030, two-thirds of the world's population will be living in cities, with the urban population in developing countries doubling. That's a lot of mouths to feed.
The new paper, published in the journal Earth's Future and led by the Arizona State University and Google, finds that this expected urban population boom will benefit from urban farming in multiple ways.
As the Thomson Reuters Foundation explained from the study, "Urban farms could supply almost the entire recommended consumption of vegetables for city dwellers, while cutting food waste and reducing emissions from the transportation of agricultural products."
According to the study, urban agriculture can help solve a host of urban environmental problems, from increasing vegetation cover (thus contributing to a decrease in the urban heat island intensity), improving the livability of cities, and providing enhanced food security to more than half of Earth's population.
After analyzing multiple datasets in Google Earth Engine, the researchers calculated that the existing vegetation on urban farms around the world already provides some $33 billion annually in services from biocontrol, pollination, climate regulation and soil formation.
The future of urban agriculture has even more potential, the researchers found.
"We project potential annual food production of 100–180 million tonnes, energy savings ranging from 14 to 15 billion kilowatt hours, nitrogen sequestration between 100,000 and 170,000 tonnes, and avoided storm water runoff between 45 and 57 billion cubic meters annually," the authors wrote.
"In addition, we estimate that food production, nitrogen fixation, energy savings, pollination, climate regulation, soil formation and biological control of pests could be worth as much as $80–160 billion annually in a scenario of intense [urban agriculture] implementation."
Others have praised urban farming for its many benefits.
"Urban agriculture won't resolve all food production and distribution problems, but it could help take pressure off rural land while providing other advantages," wrote environmentalist Dr. David Suzuki.
He cited an example of how one patch of Detroit land, where 12 vacant houses were removed to grow food, "has supplied almost 200,000 kilograms of produce for 2,000 local families, provided volunteer experience to 8,000 residents and brought the area new investment and increased safety."
"Local and urban agriculture can also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and recycle nutrient-rich food scraps, plant debris and other 'wastes,'" Suzuki continued. "Because maintaining lawns for little more than aesthetic value requires lots of water, energy for upkeep and often pesticides and fertilizers, converting them to food gardens makes sense."
Writer and former Vancouver city councillor Peter Ladner also wrote in The Urban Food Revolution: Changing the Way We Feed Cities, "When urban agriculture flourishes, our children are healthier and smarter about what they eat, fewer people are hungry, more local jobs are created, local economies are stronger, our neighborhoods are greener and safer, and our communities are more inclusive."
Urban Farmer Transforms Community Into Thriving Local Food Haven https://t.co/oj7J048THf @urbangardens @UrbanFarmMag— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1492034710.0
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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