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isabel Kuniholm

Whole Earth Discipline: Why Dense Cities, Nuclear Power, Transgenic Crops, Restored Wet... - 0 views

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    This is a book by ecologist and environmentalist Stewart Brand who is previously known for helping create and write the Whole Earth Catalogue. In this book Brand discusses the current state of our environment and specifically focuses on climate change. He then spends the rest of the book discussing radical modern approaches that he believes will help combat climate change. Some of these methods include using nuclear power as our main source of energy and genetically modifying all of our crops to be more resilient to climate change. He also argues that densely populated cities are more efficient and that new technology must be used to help fix the environmental problems that have been caused by previous technologies. This book is well written and offers a perspective on environmental issues that most other current environmental books do not agree with. I would recommend this book to all environmental studies majors.
chloewaterman1

The Future of Animal Farming - 1 views

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    Most forecasts have presumed that animal farming is stuck on a treadmill that will only have to move faster and faster to keep up with a growing population and greater demand for meat. Animals must become more confined and concentrated--there's no turning back! The authors in this collection, however, while recognizing the severity of the problems with our current animal farming practices, take a more optimistic outlook, arguing that a renewal of the agrarian contract is more than just philosophically compelling. It is also in the interests of business and consumer welfare.

    I would especially recommend this book to retailers, farmers, and producers because their reading it would be a great first step towards the communication and collaboration that is necessary to solve the slough of problems around animal farming.
Michelle Tynan

Farm Together Now - 1 views

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    Farm Together Now in its most elemental form is a book about American farmers in the 21st century. In particular, this book addresses the other side of American agriculture: innovations moving towards sustainable farming practices. This is achieved through 20 interviews with farmers and activists across the nation along with 60 beautiful photos of their lives. 

    Although honing all 20 of the interviews down into one specific argument is difficult, the purpose of this book is to see the unity in all of their individual and sometimes philosophically contradictory approaches to sustainable agriculture. The authors argue that a shift in the dominant agricultural paradigm will not occur unless farmers and citizens are united in resisting it and are invested in working together to forge a more sustainable agricultural system. 

    What this book lacks is a deeper discussion of conflicting views in sustainable agriculture. The three issues that Franceschini and Tucker identified are provocative and would make a very interesting follow-up book.  Despite the author's insistence that we "Farm together now", they do not explore how sustainable farmers can reconcile their differences to do just that. 

    Although it's likely that urban, educated people are the main consumers of this book, I feel that it has value outside of those exclusive communities and would be beneficial for farmers, artists, and anyone looking for solutions to local problems. Personally, I would recommend this book to anyone because I feel that the authors made a sometimes-scary topic more approachable through this intimate portrayal of farmers. 

Micah Leinbach

In-Depth Series: Rice 2.0 - 1 views

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    Rice is responsible for feeding half the world, or more than 3.5 billion people. And along its path from paddy to plate, it influences (and is influenced by) a ton of things. This reminds me of other studies we've read that follow one particular item from a diverse range of perspectives. Fun read for an international food perspective very much rooted in the East - perhaps something to chew on for next years symposium?
Andrew LeDonne

The Inefficiency of Local Food - 5 views

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    One economist's view on the 'local food movement'. He explores whether local food is really more efficient. Views along the same lines as this one are pretty common among many economists.
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    I've been looking for a good defense against the local food system, though something more in-depth would be interesting. This brief analysis shows the other extreme, a situation in which ALL food was produced as "locally" and "organically" as possible. It seems that the local food movement could expand further to increase local food production (and therefore fresher, better quality) while still gaining economic benefits (since it is indeed better quality) as well as environmental ones. However, an increase in local food also may cause social stratification, as it could increase the gap between people who can and can't afford local, organic, fair trade, etc. I'm duly aware that the majority of the people at the PSU farmers market every weekend are equally well-endowed as I.
McKenzie Southworth

7 Issues Facing the 7 Billion - 1 views

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    As most of us are aware, the world's population recently passed the 7 billion mark and we're scheduled to hit 9 billion by 2050. This article discusses 7 problems that we'll have to worry about as population continues to rise. We, as ENVS students, are already aware of these issues; water, climate change, and food security to name a few. However, some of the academics interviewed have very interesting ideas about solutions to these challenges (no-growth economy for example). For the feminists among us, Roger Short states that "We need to feminise the world and look first and foremost at the interests of women because they're the ones that are going to decide our future and it is their determination to limit the size of their families which will be the saviour of the world," which I thought was pretty interesting.
Julian Cross

Michael Pawlyn TED Talk on Biomimicry Technologies for a Sustainable Future - 4 views

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    Michael Pawlyn, arguably the foremost contemporary expert on biomimicry, gives a TED talk on how the principles of this field can be applied to energy, food and agricultural systems to close the loop and build a sustainable future. Biomimicry, for those that don't know, is the a field of engineering and development that bases designs off structures and systems found in nature. This talk covers a lot of what we learned about systems and loops from 160 and I am sure a lot of information from our other classes. I am personally very compelled by biomimicry and I have always thought that it is the obvious way to innovate sustainable technologies. Enjoy.
McKenzie Southworth

People need food. What else is new? - 1 views

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    This brief article shows how global food prices (like cereal grains) are on the rise, while commodity prices (like oil) are actually falling. It also touches on connections between global climate change and food production.
Jack Andreoni

The oil we eat: Following the food chain back to Iraq-By Richard Manning (Harper's Maga... - 0 views

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    an examination of the issue of resource overconsumption in our modern agrifood system
Julia Huggins

Diet For Small Planet May be Most Efficient if it Includes Dairy and a Little Meat, Cor... - 1 views

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    This is an example of the kind of food advice I feel good about listening to. These guys have taken the time to look at the big picture, crunch the numbers, and take more into account than their initial assumptions. It's just a preliminary study for the New York area, but it's a good example of the kind of research we need for informed decision making.
Kelsey White-Davis

Could anaerobic digestion by-products replace manufactured fertilizers? - 0 views

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    This article discusses the government's recently launched research on how anaerobic digestion, "a renewable energy technology that generates heat and electricity from waste organic matter," could possibly replace manufactured nitrogen fertilizer. They hope this will save money for the farmers and increase yield.
Kristina Chyn

Timeline: 70 Years of Environmental Change - 0 views

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    This is a neat setup and visual displaying environmental movements in conjunction with presidencies. Lots of cool facts included.
Kelsey White-Davis

Eating bugs could reduce global warming - 0 views

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    Grasshopper, anyone? This article expands upon a notion I have heard about several times before, but haven't considered its possibilities on large-scale. Many countries, such as Japan and Mexico, are already comfortable with bug consumption. It has proven to be extremely nutritious in amino acids and protein. It is also very efficient space-wise, as discovered in Japan. No matter the practicality of bugs in curbing global warming, the consumers must be willing to eat them. In American culture, bugs are perceived as dirty and disease-ridden. What would it take to reshape citizens' attitude around bugs to allow this expansion?
Kelsey White-Davis

Plant Scientists build a 'Sears catalog' for the Corn Genome - 0 views

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    Ninety five percent of the corn gene has been successfully mapped out. Scientists claim that with this genetic information, they will be able to "develop new maize varieties that withstand prolonged heat and drought, use nutrients such a nitrogen more efficiently, or pack more nutrition per kernel."
Kelsey White-Davis

Agrobussiness Boom Threatens Key African Wildlife Migration - 0 views

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    A national park plans to be converted into agricultural land, yet this poses a great threat for wildlife migrations.
Jim Proctor

Klamath Basin resources (KWERI) - 1 views

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    Jim Litts, who founded KWERI (Klamath Wetland Education and Research Institute), has a good informational website on the topic, including this page with links to background documents.  As you may know, the Klamath Basin in south-central Oregon has been the focus of dispute over water use for some time, and there are a variety of local, state, and federal players in the game at this point; a very good situated case!
Julia Huggins

New Agtivists: Nikhil Arora and Alex Velez turn coffee grounds into fun fungi kits | Grist - 0 views

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    Fungi grow on coffee ground "waste," produce large edible mushrooms, and leave behind rich fertile soil for your gardens. Sound too good to be true? Incorporating and working within pre-existing energy cycles, and keeping the whole system in mind when addressing issues of "waste" and "resources" can result in some surprisingly beneficial and efficient solutions!

    The even more exciting news? We're doing this too! There's a large bin in the basement of Juniper, full of the Bon's coffee grounds, now sprouting several pounds of oyster mushrooms.

    Take home message behind inspirational change? Follow the ideas that excite you, and bring them to life in your framework of time and place.
Julia Huggins

Vertical farming: Does it really stack up? | The Economist - 2 views

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    A challenge to the idea that vertical farming may be more energy efficient than traditional approaches.

    Like the debate around local food though, it bothers me that we focus on energy and/or CO2 emissions when we measure environmental impact.

    In a much bigger picture, I'm not even so sure that another agricultural revolution, like this, is really what's best for the planet in the long run.
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    Good points all. While the excitement about vertical farms is good for attracting investors, the economic realities of all the systems involved are definitely questionable.

    That said, the Economist left out some things that are worth mentioning, both for and against the idea.

    First of all, the use of hydroponics is thrown out pretty willingly and easily, but its hardly simple. For one, you're moving away from the use of soil (and fertilizer, manure, other related mediums) as the primary medium for agricultural production. We are simulatenously just realizing that we don't really know much about soil as a medium. And even with water we have the same problems. The "known unknowns" are pretty great either way, and scale plays in. Most hydroponics (though there are major exceptions) are run by research organizations or universities, which means there is a lot more free and regular support, particularly from the sciences, than most commercial operations will be able to afford. Its much easier, when things go wrong, to have a cadre of free sciences hovering around. As for "you can grow anything in hydroponics", speaking from work I've done with those systems, you can - but good luck with a lot of it. Plus water filtration becomes an issue, though there are biological ways of handling that (even then you're creating a very limited ecosystem - they can get thrown off ridiculously easily).

    On the other hand, while light inputs are definitely a notable consideration, light science and "light engineering" is making leaps and bounds. So while I'd say issues with light are writing it off just yet, I wouldn't count on that as the everlasting limiting factor. Along with the various spinning, rotating, window side containers there are also various types of windows, "light tunnels", and even the good ol' basic efficient lighting systems and such to consider. And design, rather than technology, can also contribute - several vertical farm designs "stagger" floors to reduce
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    shading from the building itself.

    Also, for anyone following alternative agriculture from the technology/commerce/urban ag side, there are two details the Economist got wrong. Sweetwater Organics, featured on NBC a few weeks ago, is already running a commerical hydroponics farm out of an old railroad warehouse. The nutrients for their water chemistry come from fish (poop), who are also raised in tandem with the plants, also for food.

    Also, at least one vertical farm plan has moved off the drawing board (sort of) into fundraising stages, and the land for it is cleared (both physically and legally) for building. This is at Will Allen's Growing Power, in Milwaukee, WI. Will, the "father of modern urban agriculture" and a frequent visitor to the White House with Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" program, is hoping to build the five story building within a few years. It will be located (and provide food to) in a food desert, in one of Milwaukee's largest low-income housing projects. So the world will soon have a test case for this idea. Other cities may follow, but as far as I know the closest one (in terms of multiple floors of greenhouses) is planned for Toronto, and is at least two decades out - which probably means its anyone's guess whether it'll happen.
Julia Huggins

Memo to ecovores: It's cheaper being green - 0 views

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    A perspective on the environmental movement that most likely everyone in LCENVS (and beyond) should keep in mind.

    "She learned the same thing about growing fruits and vegetables: Anyone can grow shit themselves. Anyone. Broke-Ass was sick of reading about kids who just graduated from art or architecture school manning their self-righteous food-coops with heirloom everything; looking down on everyone who wasn't raising bees on their rooftops in Brooklyn. To Broke-Ass, it all smacked of Marie Antoinette playing shepherdess with her ladies at the Petit Hameau at Versailles. You don't need to have white-kid dreadlocks, a degree from Bennington, or any more than a passing interest in limiting your carbon footprint to raise your own crap. You just need to be hungry."

    Moral of the story is (in my opinion), maybe environmentalism isnt limited to the privileged middle/upper classes and we're doing ourselves a disservice by assuming so or treating it that way. Can we extrapolate this from agriculture and apply it to the greater environmental movement? Maybe our priority shouldnt be ecological modernization -- maybe we should focus on taking advantage of sustainability where it already exists and has potential to exist, instead of sending the message that it can only be achieved through college degrees, high tech appliances, and hybrid cars.

    Maybe... these are all maybes. But nonetheless I think they're maybes worth considering.
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