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News articles on sustainability
Mongabay.com news articles on sustainability in blog format. Updated regularly.
(07/14/2008) Wal-Mart, America's biggest retailer, has joined an initiative to conserve the world's most valuable and threatened forests.
Birds face higher risk of extinction than conventionally thought
(07/14/2008) Birds may face higher risk of extinction than conventionally thought, says a bird ecology and conservation expert from Stanford University. Dr. Cagan H. Sekercioglu, a senior research scientist at Stanford and head of the world's largest tropical bird radio tracking project, estimates that 15 percent of world's 10,000 bird species will go extinct or be committed to extinction by 2100 if necessary conservation measures are not taken. While birds are one of the least threatened of any major group of organisms, Sekercioglu believes that worst-case climate change, habitat loss, and other factors could conspire to double this proportion by the end of the century. As dire as this sounds, Sekercioglu says that many threatened birds are rarer than we think and nearly 80 percent of land birds predicted to go extinct from climate change are not currently considered threatened with extinction, suggesting that species loss may be far worse than previously imagined. At particular risk are marine species and specialists in mountain habitats.
Breakthrough in solar energy: ten times more effective solar power may be available in three years
(07/10/2008) The breakthrough scientists have been waiting for to make solar power cheaper, more efficient--and therefore a more effective replacement for traditional energy sources--has been made by a group of MIT researchers.
Oceans hold vast potential for wind power
(07/09/2008) The North Pacific, Tasmania, New Zealand, Tierra del Fuego in South America, and the mid-latitudes of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans are potential locations for wind power generation, according to new satellite data from NASA.
Whale biomimicry inspires better wind turbines
(07/07/2008) By studying and mimicking the characteristics of the flippers, fins and tails of whales and dolphins, engineers have devised more a efficient way to generate wind power, reports a researcher presenting at the Society for Experimental Biology's Annual Meeting in Marseille, France.
Britain urges 'cautious approach' on biofuels
(07/07/2008) Britain and the E.U. should exercise caution in pushing for wider use of biofuels, warns a new study commissioned by the U.K. government.
Australia's largest retailer Woolworths greenwashes rainforest destruction in Indonesia, allege activists
(07/07/2008) Despite a year of protesting, Woolworths continues to carry paper sourced from 'the worst fibre manufacturer in the world'. Woolworths Limited is Australia's largest retailer and the world's 25th largest; it is also the only Australian company to make into the top twenty-five. It is the "Wal-mart of Down-Under". And much like Wal-mart, Woolworths has attempted to become more green recently. Though, according to a recent campaign entitled "Wake Up Woolworths", this is merely the worst in greenwashing.
The green movement has to become a rainbow-colored movement in order to be successful
(06/23/2008) Van Jones, a social and environmental activist, believes a greener economy not only could save the planet, but also must provide pathways out of poverty for America's disadvantaged communities. A civil rights lawyer from Yale University, Jones started promoting the idea of "green-collar jobs" in 2005 through the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland, California. In September 2007, he launched the "Green for All" campaign. Jones recently took time to share his perspectives with Mongabay.com.
Biofuel production on abandoned lands could meet 8% of global energy needs
(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.
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