Even Smart People Are Still Arguing About Fossil-Free Electricity

Even Smart People Are Still Arguing About Fossil-Free Electricityby 3p Contributor on Friday, Jul 21st, 2017 CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENTSHAREClick to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)25Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)2556Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)56Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)U.S. cities like Chicago have pledged to continue working toward the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. By Felix Kramer and Rosana FrancescatoAt a pivotal moment for climate strategies, scientists and business leaders have started a public debate about how fast and how fully we can leave oil, coal, and gas behind. More people now recognize climate change as the pre-eminent issue of our time, a core focus of resistance, and a source of massive economic opportunities.Imagine looking back and saying, “The Anthropocene Epoch started dangerously, as human activity threatened our future. But that sparked an unprecedented transition that protected our air and water. Every country pulled together to ensure a livable world. Our confidence, ingenuity, and resolve made it humanity’s greatest triumph.”After the U.S. government walked away from its international climate commitments, other key players including companies, cities, and states – where much of the action was already taking place – upped the ante. Policies, legislation, and entrepreneurship increasingly reflect this urgency. Globally, cities and companies are setting timetables to get off fossil fuels. Some are already there! Roadmaps created by Stanford engineer/atmospheric scientist Mark Z. Jacobson and the Solutions Project he co-founded helped make “100 percent renewables by 2050” a meme.But some have privately questioned the goal’s assumptions, research, and feasibility. Now 21 prominent climate scientists have issued a comprehensive public critique in the same Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences where Jacobson published in 2015. Jacobson’s team gave broad and line-by-line responses, to which the critics responded.This debate highlights the views of experts who support renewables, but believe the electric grid needs a “many of the above” portfolio. To keep the lights on, they say we may long need 20 percent low- or zero-carbon non-renewable baseload capacity. They favor keeping open most atomic plants. They support efforts to develop affordable next-generation nuclear, CCS (carbon capture & sequestration), hot fusion, and LENR (low energy nuclear reactions). They hope these can be deployed at scale in time to make a difference.

Courtesy: By Felix Kramer and Rosana Francescato

Source: Even Smart People Are Still Arguing About Fossil-Free Electricity

A Floating Food Forest In New York City | Modern Cities

New York’s ‘barge-to-table’ floating farm gives city residents without access to farmland the opportunity to pick their own food. As a successful demonstration at Brooklyn Bridge Park comes to end later this week, Mary Mattingly has shed light on an obscure New York City law that prohibits the growing of food on public land, and demonstrated that edible perennial landscapes can help solve food insecurity problems in even the harshest of urban settings.Swale is a public floating food forest built atop a 5,000 square foot barge, currently docked at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6. Founded in 2016 by artist Mary Mattingly, Swale allows visitors to harvest herbs, fruits and vegetables for free. The project began as an idea to advocate for food to be grown on some of the 30,000 acres of public land in New York City. Although NYC boasts over 100 acres of community garden space, the City has more than 30,000 acres of park space. Picking one’s own food is illegal on New York City public land, so Mattingly banded together a team of stakeholders to construct a dense garden of edible plants atop a barge- which is technically legal due to a loophole created by waterway common law.

Source: A Floating Food Forest In New York City | Modern Cities

10 Observations About Sustainable Food Systems | UrbanTimes

Over the past few years, I have taken a somewhat winding journey through various facets of our food systems in order to understand what a sustainable and just food system might look like.  In my mind, the term “sustainability” as it applies to food systems not only embraces the ecological concepts of the food systems (i.e. the system could continue in perpetuity without degradation), but it also examines the social elements of food and the linkages within a healthy and functional society.  Asustainable food system means that we all have enough to eat and that what we’re eating is not killing us or our ecosystem.1.  Food systems are inherently complex.The solution to a sustainable food system is not as simple as wishing it so, it requires new thinking about consumption, distribution, land use patterns, and economics.  In other words, it’s not as simple making a few adjustments to how we grow food or switching to an all organic diet.  We need input from a variety of disciplines and we truly need to approach the issue in a comprehensive manner.  Even choices regarding whatfuel we put in our cars can have an impact on the food system.  Sustainable food systems require that we think not only about the food, but also the user in order to ensure that food is serving its intended purpose (i.e. nurturing and fueling us).2.  For every piece of information on sustainable food systems, there are an equal number of pieces of misinformation. I spend a lot of time looking at food systems and food sustainability, I’m just a nerd that way.  The one thing that I have noted is that out of all of the information available, very little of it actually provides us with any real information.  Wandering into the food sustainability discussion is like wandering into a 100-way argument where I’m not sure anyone knows what they are talking about.  You have to cross-check every article to make sure you’re not reading some puff piece by Monsanto and you have to make sure that people are not playing their fears to your lack of knowledge.  We need better information regarding food and we need the entire system to be depoliticized.  We have become the victim of a very competitive market place and we show very little gain from it.  To illustrate this point further, think about what you have been told about nutrition within your lifetime… we’re consistently bombarded with information that changes our understanding of food paradigms, but the information is hazy and unclear at best. Without clear and honest information, how can we be expected to make sustainable choices?3.  Robust food systems require a network of top-down and bottom-up solutions, but our focus should be on orienting communities to their food sources.There have been numerous discussions regarding food policies and regional food policy councils that use a variety of top-down and bottom-up approaches to help work through the issues of food sustainability.  These efforts are terrific and are helping to raise awareness across the board.  Government and business leaders should not sit around waiting for citizens to come up with solutions nor should citizens expect solutions to arrive from on high.  A sustainable food system should operate at a variety of levels rather than being dominated by any one approach.  What we need to see most though, is a general awareness within communities regarding where food comes from and how to ensure that everyone is getting what they need.  Food can be a binding and stabilizing force within communities and we must take advantage of that.4.  Our current legal system is not prepared for sustainable food systems.Our legal system is oriented to protect the largest food companies from endless litigation while leaving small-scale producers confused as to what is required of them.  Making food available to consumers is difficult for everyone except food giants that have enough momentum to navigate the red tape and weave through all the liability issues.  As an example, look to farmers markets which must carry liability insurance and corporate status simply to allow others to sell food in a vacant parking lot.  On top of that each vendor must be protected by similar protections.  When viewed pragmatically, this represents relatively substantial financial outflows that have relatively little to do with the production of food.  Aside from being difficult to comprehend, the legal and liability issues associated with food create levels of complexity (and cost) that are best navigated by economies of scale.  Small-scale producers are key to sustainable food systems because they aid in cutting down on the petroleum inputs required for food and food transportation and ensure a diversified agricultural base that can better protect us from crop diseases and systemic production issues.

Source: 10 Observations About Sustainable Food Systems | UrbanTimes

Soil ‘booster shots’ could turn barren lands green | Science | AAAS

Want to make your barren yard lush again? Just add a bit of soil from your local meadow. A new study reveals that the addition of foreign soil—and more importantly, the organisms it contains—can shape which plants will grow in the future. Such “inoculations” could even help bring back fallow farmlands and turn deserts green.”This is a really cool and remarkable study,” says Harsh Bais, a root biologist at the University of Delaware, Newark, who was not involved in the work. “Dirt matters.”Soil isn’t as simple as it seems. It contains microscopic bacteria and fungi, as well as tiny worms called nematodes and other invertebrates. Ecologists have long known that these underground communities build critical partnerships with the plants growing nearby. But many of these partnerships remain a mystery. Small-scale studies in greenhouses have shown that adding the right soil can promote the growth of a particular plant community, and some researchers have even tried soil transplantation—replacing one soil with another—to get certain endangered plants to grow.Such need is great across the globe, where many once-fertile lands are turning into desert, and a significant amount of agricultural land is lost every year. What’s more, when governments and nonprofit organizations try to bring back grasslands, forests, and other ecosystems destroyed by agriculture and other human uses, they are often disappointed: Restoration can take decades. It sometimes fails altogether.E. R. Jasper Wubs, an ecologist at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology in Wageningen, hoped to find a better way. But instead of doing wholesale transplantation of soil—which can be expensive—he wanted to see what would happen with a booster shot.He and colleagues set up a series of 2- to 5-hectare plots on abandoned, degraded farmland in the Netherlands. They removed about 60 centimeters of top soil from part of each plot and spread a 1-centimeter-thick layer of soil in others. The soil was taken from either a heathland—rolling hills dominated by heather and small shrubs—or a grassland. They then added seeds from 30 plant species from a variety of habitats and waited—for 6 years.When their waiting was up, they compared the seeded areas with and without the added soil layers, looking at which species were thriving and which were not. The source of the added soil greatly influenced what grew where, they report today in Nature Plants. Plots with heathland soil were covered with heather and gorse, whereas plots with grasslands soil were overflowing with a variety of grasses. The added soil made the existing land richer—as the researchers found more nematode worms, more bacteria, and more fungi in those sections of the plots. Those with heathland soil also had a greater diversity of springtails and mites.

Source: Soil ‘booster shots’ could turn barren lands green | Science | AAAS

U.S. to offer $4.5 billion for electric-car charging stations via DoE loan guarantees

The Obama Administration said yesterday that it will invest up to $4.5 billion to build electric-car charging stations in a major push to create comprehensive charging infrastructure in the U.S.Officials hope this will lead to the construction of enough new charging stations to quell “range anxiety” and enhance the appeal of electric cars for consumers.The program will use Department of Energy (DoE) loan guarantees, and promote partnerships between Federal, state, and local governments and automakers.DON’T MISS: CA issues $9 million in grants for electric-car fast charger installationsAmong the goals of the program are a national network of DC fast-charging stations, and the creation of a coalition among 50 carmakers, utilities, and charging-network operators that will work together to ramp up charging infrastructure.State and local governments will also be encouraged to buy electric cars for their fleets.The DOE believes increased charging infrastructure will pave the way for widespread electric-car adoption.

Source: U.S. to offer $4.5 billion for electric-car charging stations via DoE loan guarantees