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Why We Need High Performance Healthy Schools
Everyone who knows me knows how passionate I am about the future of our children. As a mom, I constantly think about the planet we are leaving to future generations and how it will impact their health and wellbeing.
In a few weeks, I will be speaking at the Green Schools National Conference in Denver to share my vision for providing children with healthy learning environments, as well as access to environmental education.
I’ll be joined by some of our country’s top education and environmental experts to discuss how schools can access funding for green projects and resources teachers can use in the classroom to ensure their students are environmentally literate.
Through my work with the Captain Planet Foundation and Mothers and Others for Clean Air (an organization I co-founded with my friend Stephanie Blank), I have seen the powerful impact certain programs can have on students, educators and school systems. I would like to take the opportunity to share a few examples here today.
An Education Model That Works
At a recent Captain Planet Foundation Benefit, we presented Arabia Mountain High School Academy of Engineering and Environmental Studies with a CPF School Award for fostering the growth of young environmental stewards and helping students connect the lessons they learn in the classroom with the outside world.
I was so impressed when I learned about this school’s education model, known as The EIC Model™, which stands for “using the Environment as an Integrating Context for improving student learning.” Not only does Arabia Mountain High School follow The EIC Model™, but it is also the first public school in Georgia with an LEED Silver Certification.
Developed by the State Education & Environmental Roundtable (SEER), the EIC Model™ consists of educational “best practices,” to teach students K-12 about the environment and service learning in their communities.
In this specialized high school, students study energy, biodiversity, water conservation and eco-friendly growth. They also have access to the Arabia Mountain Heritage Area, which encompasses 40,000 acres in three counties in the Atlanta Metro Area.
In each grade level, students are assigned an inquiry question which they study for an entire year.
This program was designed to improve engagement as well as teach students about the environment. While this is just one specific example, there are multiple schools throughout the country that follow similar models. I hope that it is a continuing trend that we will see in more schools in the future.
A Healthy Learning Environment
Mothers and Others for Clean Air works to reduce children’s exposure to air pollution—at school and in their communities. Childhood asthma is unfortunately a growing trend and here in Georgia, we have one of the highest rates of the condition in the country. To me, this is unacceptable, so I started Mothers and Others to help improve air quality for all Georgians.
We established the Mothers and Others School AQI (Air Quality Index) Flag Program based upon the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index. Through this system, parents, teachers and students are informed about each day’s air quality based on a colored flag flying outside the school.
We also encourage transportation officials to apply for grants that pay for school bus retrofits to reduce the toxic diesel emissions students are exposed to on their morning and afternoon commutes.
Our youth are our future. By educating them about our planet’s important resources, as well as providing them with safe learning environments, we are giving them the tools they need to build a healthier, safer future.
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Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.
Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.
Monocrop palm oil plantation Honduras.
SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0
"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.
It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.
Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.
In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.
The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).
"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.
The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.
"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.
Ivory Coast's rainforests have been decimated by cocoa production and what is left is put in peril by a new law that will remove legal protections for thousands of square miles of forests, according to The Guardian.
By Karin Kirk
Greenland had quite the summer. It rose from peaceful obscurity to global headliner as ice melted so swiftly and massively that many were left grasping for adjectives. Then, Greenland's profile was further boosted, albeit not to its delight, when President Trump expressed interest in buying it, only to be summarily dismissed by the Danish prime minister.
During that time I happened to be in East Greenland, both as an observer of the stark effects of climate change and as a witness to local dialogue about presidential real estate aspirations, polar bear migrations and Greenland's sudden emergence as a trending topic.
Heavy metals that may damage a developing brain are present in 95 percent of baby foods on the market. Cirou Frederic / PhotoAlto Agency RF Collections / Getty Images
Heavy metals that may damage a developing brain are present in 95 percent of baby foods on the market, according to new research from the advocacy organization Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF), which bills itself as an alliance of scientists, nonprofit organizations and donors trying to reduce exposures to neurotoxic chemicals during the first three years of development.
By Kerstin Palme
Creepy-crawlies are among the oldest life forms on this planet. Before dinosaurs ever walked the earth, insects were certainly already there. Some estimates date their origins to 400 million years ago. They're also extremely successful. Of the 7 to 8 million species documented on Earth, around three quarters are likely bugs.
But several insect species could disappear for good in the next few decades and that would have serious consequences for humans.
Volvo introduced its first-ever all-electric vehicle this week, kicking off an ambitious plan to slash emissions and phase out solely gas-powered vehicles starting this year.
The report, released Wednesday, found that almost every European who lives in a city is exposed to unhealthy air, Reuters reported.