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News articles on sustainability
Mongabay.com news articles on sustainability in blog format. Updated regularly.
(06/23/2008) Using abandoned agricultural lands for biofuel production could help meet up to 8 percent of global energy needs without compromising food supplies or diminishing biologically-rich habitats, reports a new study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
Amazon beef producer creates eco-certified meat product with help of scientists
(06/08/2008) Independencia Alimentos SA, Brazil's fifth-largest beef producer, will create an "eco-certified", branded beef product from the Amazon's Xingu region. Certification will be based on criteria established by Alian?a da Terra, an Brazilian NGO that seeks to improve the environmental performance of ranchers and beef producers in the world's largest rainforest. The new beef product will include a per-kilo "ecosystem service fee" — calculated with the help of scientists at the Woods Hole Research Center — to facilitate a financial reward for the producer's environmental stewardship.
Big Farms Can Make the Leap to Organic Farming, Study Suggests
(06/04/2008) Large fruit and vegetable growers can adopt the methods of small-scale organic farms while maintaining crop yields, keeping pests in check, and improving the health of their soil, researchers report in the July 2008 issue of Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment.
Cellulosic biofuels may be viable alternative to gas within 5 years
(06/02/2008) A new institute in the San Francisco Bay Area is seeking to make cellulosic biofuel an economically viable alternative to corn ethanol and gasoline within the next five years. The Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), a partnership between three national laboratories and three Bay Area universities, was formed in June 2007 after the U.S. Department of Energy awarded the institute a $125 million grant to develop better methods for making liquid biofuels from the natural cellulose in trees and grasses. JBEI researchers expect cellulosic biofuels to yield more energy, produce less greenhouse gases, and have less impact on the environment than other alternatives to gasoline, such as corn ethanol.
Food miles are less important to environment than food choices, study concludes
(06/02/2008) Shoppers concerned about the environment should not place "buying local" at the top of their list of priorities when purchasing food, according to a study published online on April 16 in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. The fuel burned in transporting food items from farm to marketplace creates just a small percentage of the total greenhouse gas emissions associated with the food. Instead, consumers should shift their diets to include more foods that require less energy to produce in the first place.
Honolulu, Los Angeles have the smallest carbon footprint among U.S. cities
(05/30/2008) Honolulu, Los Angeles and metropolitan Portland have the smallest carbon footprint among American cities, while Cincinnati-Middletown area, Indianapolis, and Kentucky's Lexington-Fayette have the worst, according to a new report that analyzes carbon emissions from transportation and residential energy use by city dwellers.
China's plastic bag ban goes into effect June 1
(05/29/2008) Few Chinese businesses appear to be prepared for the June 1st ban on the manufacture and free distribution of thin plastic bags, reports Scientific American.
Congo pygmies use GPS to map eco-certified timber concession
(05/29/2008) Loggers have teamed with indigenous Pygmies to establish the largest ever eco-certified logging scheme.
Future cities will be more like ecosystems that enrich society and the environment
(05/28/2008) As The World Science Festival continues in New York this week, specialists in vastly diverse fields across scientific disciplines are coming together to talk about ideas, problems and solutions. From Astronomy to Bioacoustics, the dialogues about challenges and opportunities are rich and inspiring. At the front of this year's festival rests the issue of sustainability and how scientists, specialists and society will address the imminent environmental and economic trials we are sure to face in a rapidly changing and uncertain world.
Forest carbon credits could guide development in Congo
(05/28/2008) An initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by offering carbon credits to countries that reduce deforestation may be one of the best mechanisms for promoting sustainable development in Central Africa says a remote sensing expert from the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC). Dr. Nadine Laporte, an associate scientist with WHRC who uses remote sensing to analyze land use change in Africa, says that REDD could protect forests, safeguard biodiversity, and improve rural livelihoods in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and other Central African nations.
Will consumers pay 10% premium for sustainable palm oil?
(05/21/2008) The first shipments of certified eco-friendly palm oil will arrive in Germany during the second half of 2008 according to the head of OVID, a German edible oil industry group.
Greenpeace says carbon fund will save forests and climate
(05/20/2008) In a report unveiled today at the UN conference on biodiversity in Bonn, Greenpeace announced support for a plan to save tropical forests through a fund for carbon and other ecosystem services.
Defaunation, like deforestation, threatens global biodiversity
(05/20/2008) Loss of wildlife is a subtle but growing threat to tropical forests, says a leading plant ecologist from Stanford University. Speaking in an interview with mongabay.com, Dr. Rodolfo Dirzo says that the disappearance of wildlife due to overexploitation, fragmentation, and habitat degradation is causing ecological changes in some of the world's most biodiverse tropical forests. He ranks defaunation — as he terms the ongoing biological impoverishment of forests — as one of the world's most significant global changes, on par with environmental changes like global warming, deforestation, and shifts in the nitrogen cycle.
Carbon market could fund rainforest conservation, fight climate change
(05/19/2008) A mechanism to fund forest conservation through the carbon market could significantly reduce greenhouse emissions, help preserve biodiversity, and improve rural livelihoods, says a policy expert with the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) in Massachusetts. In an interview with mongabay.com, WHRC Policy Advisor and Research Associate Tracy Johns says that Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), a proposed policy mechanism for combating climate change by safeguarding forests and the carbon they store, offers great potential for protecting tropical rainforests.
Papua signs REDD carbon deal to generate income from rainforest protection
(05/14/2008) The government of the Indonesian province of Papua has entered into an agreement with an Australian financial firm to establish a forestry-based carbon finance project on the island of New Guinea.
Al Gore's investment firm bets that rainforest conservation will be profitable
(05/14/2008) Al Gore's investment firm has signaled an interest in the emerging market for ecosystem services by taking an equity position in an innovative Australian financial company.
U.S. climate policy could help save rainforests
(05/14/2008) U.S. policy measures to fight global warming could help protect disappearing rainforests, says the founding partner of an "avoided deforestation" policy group. In an interview with mongabay.com, Jeff Horowitz of the Berkeley-based Avoided Deforestation Partners argues that U.S. policy initiatives could serve as a catalyst for the emergence and growth of a carbon credits market for forest conservation. REDD or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation is a proposed policy mechanism that would compensate tropical countries for safeguarding their forests. Because deforestation accounts for around a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions, efforts to reduce deforestation can help fight climate change. Forest protection also offers ancillary benefits like the preservation of ecosystem services, biodiversity, and a homeland for indigenous people.
2 billion trees planted in 18 months
(05/13/2008) A campaign to plant one billion trees has planted more than 2 billion trees in just 18 months and now aims for seven billion, according to the UN Environment Programme, one of the backers of the initiative.
Indonesian palm oil firms pledge to stop clearing rainforests
(05/13/2008) Palm oil companies operating in Indonesia pledged to stop clearing forests for new plantations reports The Jakarta Post. The move is a response to growing criticism that oil palm expansion is destroying biologically-rich rainforests and contributing to global warming.
Americans least environmental, according to a new survey
(05/09/2008) A survey, entitled Greendex, by National Geographic and GlobeScan has found that out of fourteen developed and developing nations, American lifestyles are the least environmentally sustainable. The Canadians and French rounded out the bottom three. On the opposite side, Brazil and India tie as the most "green" of the nations surveyed. The survey found a clear distinction between developing and developed nations' consumption of resources and energy with developing nations more sustainable than developed nations and more concerned about the environment in general.
Unilever calls for ban on rainforest destruction for palm oil
(05/01/2008) Unilever, the world's largest consumer good company, will start using palm oil from certified sustainable sources this year and aims to have all its palm oil certified by 2015, according to a speech delivered today by CEO Patrick Cescau.
Sustainability conference reveals a rift in the Malaysian Palm Oil Council
(05/01/2008) Last month's sustainability conference sponsored by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) revealed a rift between some planters and the industry marketing organization.
What you do to help save rainforests
(04/22/2008) Most people understand that tropical rainforests are critically important in regulating rainfall and global climate, while providing habitat for millions of species and unique indigenous cultures. Yet despite this significance, rainforests continue to be destroyed at a furious pace -- in 2008 Brazil and Indonesia are expected to each lose at least 8 million acres of forest cover.
Unilever admits it can't trace origin of palm oil used in its products
(04/21/2008) Unilever has admitted to Greenpeace that it can't trace the origin of palm oil supplied by firms operating in Indonesia. The relevation suggests that efforts to improve the sustainability of Indonesian palm oil have stalled as large tracts of rainforest continue to fall for the establishment of new oil palm plantations on the islands of Borneo, New Guinea, and Sumatra.
Malaysian palm oil industry puts sustainability in the spotlight
(04/17/2008) Seeking to differentiate its palm oil from that produced less responsibly in other countries, the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) sponsored a three-day meeting this week in Kota Kinabalu, on the island of Borneo.
Palm oil boycott an unrealistic approach to conserving biodiversity
(04/15/2008) Boycotting palm oil produced in Southeast Asia in an "unrealistic" and "ineffective" approach to conserving the region's fast-disappearing rainforests, said a Princeton University researcher speaking at a conference on the sustainability of palm oil. Instead, NGOs should focus on engaging and working with the palm oil industry to reduce its impact on the environment. Addressing the first International Palm Oil Sustainability Conference in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, Princeton biologist Dr. David S. Wilcove said that the palm oil industry is too important to the economies of Indonesia and Malaysia to justify blanket import bans on the edible oil used in food, cosmetics, industrial products, and biodiesel. The palm oil industry contributes to health, education, and infrastructure in rural areas.
New plastics dervied from CO2 emissions could fight global warming
(04/10/2008) Efforts to slow global warming by "scrubbing" carbon dioxide smokestack emissions could generate a material for the production of DVDs, beverage bottles and other products made from polycarbonate plastics, say chemists speaking at the 235th annual meeting of the American Chemical Society.
Poll: Chinese more concerned about the environment than Americans
(04/07/2008) A poll released today found that 10.2 percent of the Chinese population lists environmental concerns as the nation's number one issue. It is the fourth highest concern among the Chinese after health care, employment, and the income-gap. According to the poll, the Chinese view the environment as higher than corruption, social security, housing prices, and the cost of education.
The FSC responds to its critics
(04/07/2008) Last month, Mongabay.com reported on recent and various criticisms of the FSC (the Forest Stewardship Council). The FSC is an international organization that certifies forest products which, according to their standards, have been harvested in an environmentally-sustainable and socially-responsible manner. Response to the article was significant. It was picked up by the Ecological Internet's email campaign and was mentioned on numerous environmental web sites and blogs. At the time of the publication, the FSC had not responded to requests for comments. But in the following interview, FSC International Communications Manager Nina Haase answers each criticism separately and addresses several other issues, such as the FSC and climate change, the organization's monitoring capabilities, and its adaptation to new environmental concerns. Ultimately she responds to the big question raised by critics: is the FSC stamp still credible?
Wal-Mart pushes for greener manufacturing in China
(04/07/2008) Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, will hold a meeting of around 1,000 of its Chinese suppliers in an effort to reduce its environmental impact, said Lee Scott, Wal-Mart's CEO, in an interview with the Financial Times.
New review system helps companies adapt to ecosystem degradation
(03/11/2008) A new accountability initiative will help companies factor ecosystem degradation into their business decisions.
Scientists target safe-climate future
(03/10/2008) Friends of the Earth, Australia, working in conjunction with many of the world's foremost climate scientists recently published a report which should have quickly pervaded into mainstream media. It is a detailed, 100-plus page manifesto imploring immediate, radical action beyond not only the proposed climate change responses by the IPCC, mainstream environmental agencies, and world governments but outside the procedures and proceedings of our national and international authorities. Coverage of the ground-breaking report, however, remains mostly in the realm of climate sites and blogs, absent not only from major sources such as Reuters and Associated Press, but even from major conservation and environmental new sites.
Humans are appropriating 20% more resources than Earth can provide
(03/10/2008) Mankind is appropriating 20 percent more resources each year than Earth can produce, according to a report from environmental group WWF.
Biochar fund to fight hunger, energy poverty, deforestation, and global warming
(03/10/2008) Biopact, a leading bioenergy web site, has announced the creation of a "Biochar Fund" to help poor farmers improve their quality of life without hurting the environment.
Restoring soil carbon can reverse global warming, desertification and biodiversity loss
(02/21/2008) Restoring the ability of soil to store carbon by promoting native grasses and vegetation can help reverse global warming, desertification and biodiversity loss, says an Australian researcher.
Nike to launch "green" eco-shoe
(02/15/2008) When Nike unveils the $185 Air Jordan XX3 this weekend at the NBA All-Star Game festivities this weekend, it will be the culmination of a company-wide effort to reduce the environmental impact of its footwear manufacturing, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Carbon tax would make China greener and reduce warming risks
(02/07/2008) Driven by booming economic growth and rapid urbanization, China's carbon dioxide emissions are surging. At the same time, forecasts suggest climate change will have an immense impact on the country, with rising sea levels projected to swamp key industrial areas and diminished rainfall reducing agricultural output. Given this outlook, a new policy paper published in Science argues that China will need to embark on a cleaner path to growth, one that is less dependent on coal. The authors say that international assistance in the form of carbon funds could help persuade Chinese leadership to move towards more environmentally-friendly energy technologies.
Values and Sustainability
(02/05/2008) Intentions matter. This simple wisdom becomes quite apparent the older we become. Though we don't always have control on the outcome of our effort, our intentions often dictate how happy or upset we are with any of life's results (a.k.a. the quality of our lives). For instance, if we are committed to become healthy in all aspect of our lives we are less likely to become fat, more likely to eat quality food, and more likely to exercise in ways that bring us joy. If our intentions are to be thin the road we take may be unhealthy, filled with inconsistent weight, and bring us no pleasure. When it comes to living green intentions matter more than we realize because how we define our values towards nature, conservation, and sustainability can greatly impact not only the quality of our own lives, but the quality of life for all living species.
Sustainability mandated for biofuels used in the EU
(01/24/2008) Biofuels used in the European Union will have meet strict environmental requirements said the head of the E.U.'s energy program on Wednesday.
55% of the Amazon may be lost by 2030
(01/23/2008) Cattle ranching, industrial soy farming, and logging are three of the leading drivers of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. As commodity prices continue to rise, driven by surging demand for biofuels and grain for meat production, the economic incentives for developing the Amazon increase. Already the largest exporter of beef and the second largest producer of soy - with the largest expanse of "undeveloped" but arable land of any country - Brazil is well on its way to rivaling the U.S. as the world's agricultural superpower. The trend towards turning the Amazon into a giant breadbasket seems unstoppable. Nevertheless the decision at the U.N. climate talks in Bali to include "Reducing Emissions From Deforestation and Degradation" (REDD) in future climate treaty negotiations may preempt this fate, says Dr. Daniel Nepstad, a scientist at the Woods Hole Research Institute.
New program pays Canadians for energy efficiency gains
(01/20/2008) As I write this article, CBS News is having a Sunday evening prime-time, hour long special on global warming. What is alarming is both the extent of how bad the situation is for the planet, the impact on wildlife (e.g . Polar Bear populations dwindling dangerously low due to reduced glaciers) and the alleged refusal of certain governments to acknowledge both that there is a fact based problem and that we are running out of time to reduce its effects on the air we breathe, our environments, our forests and its wildlife population.
Can China Go Green?
(01/03/2008) China's booming economic growth over the past generation has come at the expense of the environment, putting its economic health at risk, argues a policy piece published in the journal Science.
Marriage is "greener" than divorce, finds study
(12/03/2007) Divorce has previously unrecognized environmental impacts including higher demand for resources and lower efficiency in household resource use, reports a new study published in the early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Video game-makers score low on sustainability
(11/27/2007) While environmentalists, scientists, development exports, and policymakers across the political spectrum are ethusiastic about the idea of offsetting carbon emissions by preventing deforestation (a concept known as "avoided deforestation" or Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD)), the concept still faces many challenges, especially in implementation.
China urged to join sustainable soy efforts in the Amazon
(09/12/2007) Brazilian soy crushers have urged China to join an alliance to promote sustainable soybean production in the Amazon, according to Reuters. Brazil, soon to be the world's largest producer of soybeans, recently formed the Global Roundtable on Responsible Soy Association as concerns grow that global demand for biofuels will level the Amazon rainforest. Environmentalists say demand from China is playing an important role in surging soybean production in the region.
Guidelines to ensure biofuels production won't hurt the environment
(08/30/2007) Environmentalists have long seen biofuels as a means to improve the sustainability of transportation and energy use since they are a renewable source of energy that can be replenished on an ongoing basis. Further, because biofuels are generally derived from plants, which absorb carbon from the atmosphere as they grow, biofuel production offers the potential to help offset carbon dioxide emissions and mitigate climate change. Nonetheless, in recent years, there has been considerable backlash against biofuels, which are increasingly viewed as a threat to the environment. Green groups now point to large-scale land conversion for energy crops, higher food prices, and a spate to studies that suggest net emissions from corn ethanol are little better than those from fossil fuels, to caution that biofuels can cause more problems than they address.
Business has to lead the Clean Up of the Enviroment
(08/30/2007) Though the next two and-a-bit years will remain in a sort of ecological standstill, the remaining century is going to be the boiling point for earth. Will it crumble in to a roiling mass of disaster or will we finally manage to remove such a deep imprint as we have made over the past 30 years in the next 10.
Wall Street looks at energy efficiency to boost profits
(08/27/2007) Today the Wall Street Journal featured a special section on energy efficiency. The paper reports that business is increasingly looking at reducing energy use as a way to improve the bottom line.
Organic, shade grown cacao good for birds
(08/09/2007) Bird diversity in cacao farms in Panama is considerably higher when crops are grown in the shade of canopy trees, reports a study published earlier this year in Biodiversity conservation. The research has implications for biodiversity conservation and the sustainability of cacao plantations.
In Alaska, fishing industry drives marine conservation
(07/24/2007) Alaska's fisheries are some of the richest in the world, with fishermen harvesting hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of salmon, crab, herring, halibut, pollock, and groundfish every year. However, such bounty has not always been the case. Over-exploitation and poor fisheries management in the 1940s and 1950s took a heavy toll on the industry. Born of this difficult origin, today Alaska sets the bar in fisheries management. Unusually for natural resource management, industry is leading the way, relying on dialog with scientists to determine catch levels and where to designate "no-fishing zones", while pushing for certification standards for sustainable seafood products. These efforts are coordinated by the Marine conservation Alliance (MCA), an industry-backed nonprofit based in Juneau, Alaska. In July 2007, David Benton, executive director of the Marine conservation Alliance, spoke with mongabay.com about MCA's work in Alaska.
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