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Thursday, December 14, 2017

The world's greenest cruise ship will have sails

Good news on the shipping, cruise side.  We will soon have a prototype ship that is eco-friendly.  A big step forward in protection our oceans, in particular.

Every industry needs to invest in better, more efficient equipment and technology.  What we learn at sea, on the new Peace Boat, will help us craft better homes and commercial buildings as well.  Sharing best practice across many verticals is one of the things we do very well in the world of sustainability.  

The world's greenest cruise ship will have sails

Cruise ships have a bad rap with environmentalists. One cruise operator is hoping to change that.

Peace Boat, a Japanese non-governmental organization which runs educational cruises, is working on an ambitious project to build the most sustainable vessel in the booming industry.

Now in the last stages of planning, the "Ecoship" will be built by Finland's Arctech. It will cost about $500 million, financed in part by impact investors -- funds, rich families and individuals who want to use their cash to improve the world as well as make a profit. 

"Ecoship was a dream for me," said Peace Boat founder Yoshioka Tatsuya. "Using a conventional ship was frustrating for us, even though we tried our best to reduce the emissions."

A conventional cruise ship can burn hundreds of tons of heavy fuel oil a day and emit as much particulate matter as a million cars, according to German environmental group NABU.
The "Ecoship" will be fueled by a much cleaner combination of solar panels, wind power and liquid natural gas, and should produce 40% less carbon dioxide than a traditional cruise ship.

"We will have 10 sails, so it will use the wind like traditional sailing ships," Tatsuya explained.

Peace Boat is talking to impact investors in Europe, America, China and Japan and could offer them bonds or equity. It will also use loans, and possibly crowdfunding, to raise the total.

ecoship cruise ship
Artist's impression of the "Ecoship." Peace Boat has signed a letter of intent with Finland's Arctech to build the ship.

"We need to choose carefully who we work with, as they need to share our long-term vision, not just want to finance an asset," said Tatsuya.

"Shipping finance companies are quite conservative and our design and plan is quite creative, quite unique. That uniqueness adds value but it can be a challenge to convince conservative financiers."

The "Ecoship" is designed to mimic the shape of a whale. While smaller than many cruise ships currently being built, it will accommodate 2,000 passengers, and host conferences and events while docked.

ecoship interior
Artist's impression of the interior of the "Ecoship."

Charting a new course
Peace Boat hopes it will set sail on its maiden voyage in 2020, and that it will quickly become a showcase for the future of the industry.
"There's potential with a very green cruise ship to get a lot of attention at each port of call and that can make an impact," Tatsuya said.

And he doesn't plan to stop at one ship. Demand for cruises, and green tourism is booming.

"At least five ships by 2030 is necessary because of market demand," said the Peace Boat founder. "That's the first step, but in time, 10 ships."
Passengers on Peace Boat cruises pay between $15,000 and $18,000, which includes travel, meals and on board activities.

There's a mixture of entertainment, wellness programs, lectures and workshops on topics such as peace, politics, environmental change and human rights.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

North Sea water and recycled metal combined to help reduce global warming/Science Daily

Good news on the R & D side.  We believe, and we've reported on this many times, that advancements in carbon capture will help change the world.  Here we see sea water and recycled metal working together to proved another source of capture.

University of York
Scientists have used sea water collected from Whitby in North Yorkshire, and scrap metal to develop a technology that could help capture more than 850 million tons of unwanted carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Scientists at the University of York have used sea water collected from Whitby in North Yorkshire, and scrap metal to develop a technology that could help capture more than 850 million tonnes of unwanted carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
High levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are a major contributor to greenhouse gases and global warming. Carbon overload is mainly the result of burning fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, as well as deforestation.
Global efforts are being made to reduce carbon dioxide levels as well as find novel ways of trapping excess gases from the atmosphere. The team at York have now found a way to safely trap the gas as dawsonite, a solid mineral and natural component of the Earth's crust.
Professor Michael North, from the University's Department of Chemistry, said: "We wanted to look for methods of trapping the gas using environmentally friendly tools to produce a result that could be highly scalable to capture millions of tonnes of unwanted carbon dioxide.
"We started with the realisation that using graphite, the material used in pencils, to line aluminium reactors, results in the mineralisation of carbon dioxide. We wanted to trap the gas at much higher levels, using low-energy processes, so we decided to look at waste materials, such as scrap metals, to see if this could be done without using chemical agents as a catalyst."
Researchers filled the aluminium reactor with sea water taken from Whitby Bay, and waste aluminium such as that found in kitchen foil or food wrappings. The gas is transferred to the sea water inside the reactor. Electricity, captured from solar panels, is passed through it, resulting in the aluminium turning the dissolved carbon dioxide into the mineral, dawsonite.
Professor North said: "Tens of millions of tonnes of waste aluminium are not recycled each year, so why not put this to better use to improve our environment? The aluminium in this process can also be replaced by iron, another product that goes to waste in the millions of tonnes. Using two of the most abundant metals in the Earth's crust means this process is highly sustainable."
The research showed that 850 million tonnes of carbon dioxide could be mineralised each year using a combination of sea water, solar-powered electricity, and scrap metal, eliminating the need to use high energy gas-pressurisation and toxic chemicals to produce the same effect.
Unlike other electrical reaction systems for carbon dioxide treatment, hydrogen is not needed to cause the chemical reaction in the first instance, which would normally make the process more expensive.
Instead, hydrogen is produced from the electrical circuit and becomes a side-product of the process. Hydrogen gas, a non-polluting gas that is valuable to the future of fuel production at low cost and 'zero emissions'.
Researchers are now working to maximise the energy efficiency of the process and allow the hydrogen by-product to be collected and utilised, before seeking to build toward full-scale production.
This work is published in the journal ChemSusChem.

The World’s Food Sustainability Leaders Announced/Food Tank

Food, combined with water, is our most important resource.   How we grow, distribute, consume and not waste is one of our greatest challenges;  and greatest victory if we do it all well.

Here we see France and others implementing programs to drive food efficiency.  That brings us one step closer to achieving global social and economic equity.

France ranks number one in the 2017 Food Sustainability Index, which ranks countries according to their food system sustainability.

France ranks number one in the 2017 Food Sustainability Index (FSI), which grades 34 countries according to their food system sustainability. Developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit and the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation (BCFN), the FSI evaluates food sustainability issues across three pillars—food loss and waste, sustainable agriculture, and nutritional challenges.
Other top-scoring countries include Japan, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Portugal, Italy, South Korea, and Hungary. These countries typically demonstrate strong and effectively implemented government policy that address the three main pillars. Scores on lifestyle, such as physical activity and diet composition, as well as social and climate-related indicators, such as the participation rate of women in farming and monthly freshwater scarcity, are also important factors in the overall ranking.
The top performer in the food loss and waste pillar is France, followed by Germany, Spain, and Italy. In 2016, the French government passed legislation that prohibits supermarkets from throwing away food approaching its sell-by-date, requiring them to donate it to charities or food banks. Other measures have reduced food wastage in schools and prompted companies to report on food waste data.
The top performer in the sustainable agriculture pillar is Italy, followed closely by South Korea, France, and Colombia. Italy has pioneered new techniques to reduce water loss in agriculture and has implemented sustainable agricultural techniques for climate change mitigation and adaptation nationwide.
Japan scores the highest in the nutritional challenges pillar, ranking first in the life expectancy at birth—84 years—and the healthy life expectancy indicators. South Korea, Hungary, France, and Portugal also scored highly.
According to the index, high-income countries tend to have a higher level of food sustainability, however, there are several outliers. The wealthiest nation in the index, the United Arab Emirates, ranks last, while the United States ranks twenty-first. Ethiopia, the poorest country FSI researchers evaluated, ranks twelfth. Other factors such as high levels of human development, smaller populations, and slower rates of urbanization also correlate with higher food sustainability.
An interactive online database providing country ranking and profiles, case studies, and infographics is available on the FSI website.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Whirlpool Corporation Announces Plans for Wind Turbines/RNN

Renewable Now has been reporting on the business side of green for nearly 4 years.  During that time we've seen incredible growth around the green economy and its related technology.

We believe, and we see it again here with Whirlpool's commitment to renewables, that co's are driving much of our transformation to clean energy and social-impact changes.  Those companies not in line are starting to become the lepers.  And they will quickly become dinosaurs.  


    Whirlpool Corporation announced plans for three wind turbines to power its manufacturing facility in Greenville, Ohio and further build on the company’s 46-year commitment to sustainable manufacturing. Beginning construction in early 2018, the turbines will be the same as those developed for Whirlpool Corporation’s manufacturing facilities in Findlay, Marion, and Ottawa, Ohio, and will be developed in coordination with One Energy Enterprises.
The three Greenville turbines will generate more than 12 million kWh annually and offset approximately 70 percent of the plant’s electricity consumption – eliminating the equivalent of more than nine thousand annual tons of CO2. This is equivalent to generating enough clean energy to power more than 900 average American homes.
“By investing in on-site wind energy, we’re ensuring that Whirlpool Corporation is set up for success now and in the future, while also expanding the commitment to sustainability that is vital to our company,” said Ron Voglewede, Whirlpool Corporation Global Sustainability Director. “We are proud that this will be our fourth of five plants in Ohio to utilize sustainable energy, and we are committed to continuing to grow initiatives and projects like these that help reduce our overall energy footprint.”

MORE AT:  .  

Monday, December 11, 2017

Sustainable Community/RNN

How often have you thought about the best way to site renewables?  It would seem the answer would be self-explanatory:  Put turbines and panels where the wind blows and the sun shines.

Of course life if much more complicated than that.  Permitting, neighbors, natural vegetation and forest, grid access all play major roles in siting projects.  So many major sites go undeveloped, including Cape Wind off of MA's Cape Cod, because of bad politics.

Fortunately, we just did a special, in conjunction with the Environment Council of RI, that simplifies and offers great insight into this issue.  Here's some base in and the link to the shows:

Sustainable Community is where we recognize communities that are planned, built, or modified to promote sustainable living.
This includes sustainability aspects relating to equality, water, transportation, energy, and waste and materials. We focus on environmental sustainability and economic sustainability, which also includes the development of agriculture, culture, and arts. Sustainable communities focus on sustainable urban infrastructure, social equity, and sustainable municipal infrastructure, and each of these focuses benefits the public dramatically. The impact is clear when speaking to the residents of these sustainable communities, which have been popping up across the globe in the last few decades. Today, thousands of these communities exist, and worldwide millions of people reside in communities that are considered sustainable. We already have important government agencies working towards this goal. The U.S. Department of Transportation and Center for Housing and Urban Development, for example, are working with communities to establish energy-efficient communities with sustainable transportation systems and green infrastructure throughout the country.
The complement of all three areas of sustainability, economy, environment, and equity are essential to the creations of a sustainable community. Here on RNN, we celebrate those communities and showcase the people behind them that are making a difference so that future generations may grow, and enjoy.

R.I. joins 10 other states in lawsuit against EPA rule delay

Good to see many states step into the current void in DC and push hard to keep clean air standards in place.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A coalition of 11 state attorneys general that includes Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin has filed a lawsuit alleging that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has illegally delayed a rule that would enhance protections against chemical accidents.
The coalition argues that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s decision to delay the “Chemical Accident Safety Rule” by an additional 20 months exceeds the agency’s authority under the federal Clean Air Act.
“The EPA continues to exceed its authority by choosing to delay critical protections, likely at the behest of industry insiders, that could have serious life-and-death consequences for our first responders and our communities as a whole,” Kilmartin said in a statement. “Rhode Island has long held the EPA to do the right thing, no matter who was leading the agency, and we will continue to keep the pressure on the agency to properly implement sound rules and regulations.”
The other members of the coalition are the attorneys general of Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.
According to a news release from the coalition, the Obama administration finalized the rule on Jan. 13, requiring additional safeguards in accident-prevention programs, among other improvements, and it was set to take effect on March 14. On June 14, Pruitt pushed back that date until Feb. 19, 2019.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Preparing for devastation: The value of disaster scenario exercises

Excellent piece by one of our radio host:

Vigilant Guard - Westerly, Rhode Island


Thanks to a training exercise called Vigilant Guard, a group of Rhode Island architects is ready for rapid response

During the early morning hours of July 30, 2012, a “Category 3 hurricane” hit Rhode Island with devastating force, causing catastrophic damage and overwhelming state and local resources. Fortunately, there was no actual storm. It was a state-wide exercise known as Vigilant Guard, testing a series of first and second responders from Rhode Island and the New England region.

Vigilant Guard was designed around a real-time, simulated disaster scenario that replicated the impacts of a major hurricane hitting Rhode Island. The exercise served to field test and strengthen the existing relationship between the Rhode Island Architects and Engineers Emergency Response Task Force 7 (RI AEER TF-7) and the federal, state, and local governments, plus volunteer partners. Little did we know how quickly our refined skills would be utilized in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy just months later.

With sustained winds of 111 to 130 mph, the Vigilant Guard scenario modeled a storm surge of nine to 12 feet characteristic of a Category 3 hurricane, similar to the Hurricane of 1938 that devastated all of Rhode Island. Extensive residential and commercial building flooding, storm damage to a hospital, a chemical explosion in a manufacturing building, people buried under piles of rubble, and extended power outages were just some of the damage impacts, in addition to overall safety issues for both the responders and the public.

Even with significant studying of disaster response manuals and PowerPoint presentations, watching videos, and attending workshops, when disaster strikes nothing compares to on-the-ground experience. Second best to that are exercises of hazard event scenarios. Watching the local news report on a disaster and its aftermath barely describes the physically taxing experience of being part of a multi-jurisdictional, multi-disciplinary, and multi-skilled responder team. During Vigilant Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency tried to replicate the complexity of managing multiple responders, agencies and stakeholders as best they could by including in the exercise more than 1,100 National Guard troops from Rhode Island and the surrounding states with an almost-equal number of first and second responders.
During Vigilant Guard, RI AEER TF-7 had the opportunity to observe other responder teams in action, build relationships with those teams, experience the ebb and flow of disaster response, and better understand the steps and protocol of damage assessment in the field. Little did we realize that mere months later, the knowledge, skills, and relationships built up during Vigilant Guard would be put to test following Superstorm Sandy.

How Rhode Island responded to Sandy

Less than 24 hours after Rhode Island experienced coastal flooding and storm surge from Superstorm Sandy, RI AEER TF-7 received a request to deploy. With a ready responder calling list, our team was on-site and ready to proceed less than four hours after the call, owing to our tight organizational structure and specific training in both building assessment and deployment safety.

While Rhode Island dodged Superstorm Sandy’s direct impact by approximately 225 miles, the state was caught up in the significant fringes of the storm’s ocean impacts. The state’s southern coast received storm surge and wave action that seriously crippled the towns of Westerly, Charlestown, and South Kingstown.

Rapid response equals rapid recovery; Vigilant Guard helped to make that happen.

Because of our specialized education, training, and experience with Vigilant Guard, RI AEER TF-7 was prepared to answer the call for rapid mobilization to evaluate building safety in affected areas. Being familiar with proper badging, packing a “go bag,” security checkpoint procedures, deployment staging areas, the roles of other first and second responder teams, key field tools and equipment, report forms and protocols, and the structure of the Incident Command System, our efficient response during Superstorm Sandy was greatly aided by our Vigilant Guard experience.

In the Westerly area, there were approximately 800 businesses and homes impacted, and several hundred more in Charlestown and South Kingstown. We were deployed over a period of five days, with four teams on the first three days and two teams on the fourth and fifth days. Teams varied from two to four members. Each TF-7 team was accompanied by a member of the Urban Search and Rescue team.

Due largely in part to the experience gained through Vigilant Guard the State of Rhode Island could quickly compile the economic impact of the storm, based upon the field reporting of RI AEER TF-7 and other deployed teams in the overall disaster response. That immediate and critical field reporting enabled the State to receive more than $39.4 million in support from four Federal disaster relief programs. The accuracy, thoroughness, and speed of the field reporting also meant Rhode Island's disaster relief arrived far in advance of other states along the Eastern seaboard. Rapid response equals rapid recovery; Vigilant Guard helped to make that happen.
We encourage the disaster response community to keep an eye out for disaster scenario exercises taking place in your own community or state—and participate in them.
In March of 2013, the American Institute of Architects presented a National Service Award in recognition of the work of RI AEER TF-7, to quote: “In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, well prepared to lend a helping hand to those affected by the disaster, the men and women of the Architects and Engineers Emergency Task Force (AEER TF) not only showed their commitment to the highest standards of their professions, they displayed a quality of caring and compassion that provided comfort to those who had lost so much, and by their example were a source of hope for the ultimate success of the recovery effort in the months ahead.”
On June 3, 2013, the Town of Westerly, Rhode Island Town Council extended 

commendations to RI AEER TF-7, proclaiming, “In recognition of this assistance with the response and recovery efforts to restore, renew, and revitalize the Misquamicut area in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and further extends its appreciation to the Rhode Island Architects and Engineers Emergency Response Task Force 7 for its generous and tireless support throughout this challenging endeavor to bring back the beach.”

Having gone through this level of training and seeing the results first-hand, we encourage the disaster response community to keep an eye out for disaster scenario exercises taking place in your own community or state—and participate in them. The practice gained through an exercise like Vigilant Guard proved invaluable, allowing each team to get their timing and rhythm down for rapid evaluations and efficient, consistent reports for each building.

Following a disaster, performing building evaluations in a quick, efficient, and safe manner not only serves to address the safety and welfare of the community but contributes to the disaster relief request made to the federal government. Rapid response addresses the safety and welfare of people and property, and provides the necessary and critical data for the economic wellbeing and rapid recovery of a community. Important work of this sort truly has both human and economic value.

For more on disaster assistance, download the latest edition of the Disaster Assistance Handbook.
Kenneth J. Filarski, FAIA, is principal at FILARSKI/Architecture+Planning+Research. He is also a Certified Planner, a LEED and SITES Accredited Professional, a Certified Flood Plain Manager, and a Certified Disaster Responder and Trainer. This article also features contributions from David Hanrahan, AIA; Don Sansoucy, Assoc. AIA; David Grandpré; Robert Leach; and Jeff Hatcher, AIA.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Pollution from artificial, LED lights rising rapidly worldwide

When we think we are making progress....

Maybe, we are not.  LED's are very popular now.  Their efficiency is great, and their price is dropping.  The value of their performance is great.

Yet, the trade off is more light pollution.  And those of you who have been far away from lights and looking up to a starry, night sky, know how powerful and beautiful that horizon becomes.

Should we continue to replace with incandescents with LED's?  Yes, no doubt.  The reduction in energy used, and the concurrent value to the economy, out strips the blaze of night lights across the sky, which, as you also know, can be beautiful in its own right. 

Pollution from artificial, LED lights rising rapidly worldwide: Study

Artificial lighting at night is contributing to an alarming increase in light pollution, both in amount and in brightness, affecting places all over the world, including India, a study has found.


Artificial lighting at night is contributing to an alarming increase in light pollution, both in amount and in brightness, affecting places all over the world, including India, a study has found. 
Scientists fear that this “rebound effect” might partially or totally cancel out the savings of individual lighting retrofit projects, and make skies over cities considerably brighter. An international study led by Christopher Kyba from the GFZ German Research Centre for Geoscience lends proof to this hypothesis. According to the study published in the journal Science Advances, the artificially lit surface of Earth at night increased in radiance and extent over the past four years by two per cent annually.

The scientists used data from the first-ever calibrated satellite radiometer designed especially for night-lights (VIIRS for Visible/Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite). The data also showed increase in the night-lights over India between 2012 and 2016. The VIIRS Day-Night Band is mounted on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite Suomi-NPP and has been circling our planet since October 2011. Their time series comprises the years 2012 to 2016.

Globally, the increase in light emission closely corresponds to the increase of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with the fastest growth occurring in developing countries. “What is more, we actually see only part of the light increase,” said Christopher Kyba whose research was done both at GFZ and the Leibniz Institute for Freshwater Ecology and Fisheries IGB.
Comparisons of the VIIRS data with photographs taken from aboard the International Space Station (ISS) show that the

instrument on Suomi-NPP sometimes records a dimming of some cities even though these cities are in fact the same in brightness or even more brightly lit. The reason for this is that sensor cannot “see” light at wavelengths below 500 nanometres (nm), ie blue light, researchers said.

When cities replace orange lamps with white LED lights that emit considerable radiation below 500 nm, VIIRS mistakes the change for a decrease. The Earth’s night-time surface brightness and especially the skyglow over cities is increasing, probably even in the cases where the satellite detects less radiation. “Other studies and the experience of cities like Tucson, Arizona, show that well designed LED lamps allow a two-third or more decrease of light emission without any noticeable effect for human perception,” Kyba said.

A massive climate change study is canceled ... because of climate change

Interesting twist of fate.  Some people believe it's too late to arrest our eco erosion.  Others argue we are making significant progress in righting the ship.  Some of the physical evidence, as seen here, gives credence to the former.

A massive climate change study is canceled ... because of climate change

The CCGS Amundsen, a Canadian research icebreaker

Story highlights

  • Arctic sea ice has traveled farther south than normal along Newfoundland's northeast coast
  • An icebreaker has been repeatedly diverted to take part in rescue operations
(CNN)A $17 million study of climate change in the Canadian Arctic has been nixed for now -- because of climate change.

A team of scientists from the University of Manitoba and four other schools were in the middle of the first leg of a four-year study of how climate change is affecting the areas around the Hudson Bay, the university said in statement. The study, named BaySys, started last month, and the scientists were traveling on the Canadian Research Icebreaker CCGS Amundsen.
But because of warmer temperatures in the Arctic, hazardous sea ice is traveling farther south than usual. The Amundsen, which is part of the Canadian Coast Guard fleet, has been diverted several times because its ice-breaking capabilities have been needed to help out in rescue efforts along Newfoundland's northeast coast. All of the delays and concerns about safety forced the cancellation of the study's first leg.

"Considering the severe ice conditions and the increasing demand for search and rescue operations and ice escort, we decided to cancel the BaySys mission," said Dr. David Barber, expedition chief scientist and BaySys scientific lead. "A second week of delay meant our research objectives just could not be safely achieved. The challenge for us all was that the marine ice hazards were exceedingly difficult for the maritime industry, the (Canadian Coast Guard) and science."
Barber and his team confirmed that a large portion of the sea ice they were seeing off Newfoundland's coast was indeed from the Arctic.
"Climate-related changes in Arctic sea ice not only reduce its extent and thickness but also increase its mobility meaning that ice conditions are likely to become more variable and severe conditions such as these will occur more often," Barber said.
The ironic events won't scrap the entire project though. The study's second leg, due to take off early next month, is still on, said fellow researcher Dr. Louis Fortier, the scientific director of the Amundsen and ArcticNet's science programs.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

For Today's Show/The Disaster Resilience Network

About Us

The Disaster Resilience Network, formerly Tulsa Partners, Inc., is a non-profit organization incorporated in December 2000. The organization is an outgrowth of the highly successful Tulsa Project Impact program and has an established track record for effectively developing partnerships with diverse entities, both public and private, leveraging those partnerships to develop high-impact community programs, and institutionalizing the programs within existing partner organizations.
The Vision of the Disaster Resilience Network:
We envision resilient communities prepared for disruptions and disasters, capable of recovering, adapting, and growing from the experience.
Mission Statement:
The mission of the Disaster Resilience Network is to form partnerships between the public and private sectors that will facilitate the development of resilient communities through educating, mentoring, and advocating for the most effective ways to strengthen homes, schools, businesses, and communities against, and otherwise prepare for, disruptions and disasters, natural and man-made.
Parade Picture
Related documents on Tulsa’s Flood History

Bananageddon Film Examines How to Save America’s Favorite Fruit/Food Tank

We know we have put many of our food sources at risk due to industrial production volumes, stripping our soils bare of nutrients, genetic modifications and a host of other poor practices.  Here's a look at a specific food and how we might save it:

Jackie Turner is an ecologist and filmmaker currently producing the documentary Bananageddon The Film, which addresses issues facing bananas and their production. She hopes to encourage consumers to demand improvements in the way our food is produced and to empower workers.
Over 16 million tonnes of bananas are exported worldwide each year, and the United States is the top importer. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), bananas are the most popular fresh fruit and the average American consumes over five kilograms (11.4 pounds) annually. However, the most common variety of banana, the Cavendish, is being wiped out in Asia by the fungal disease Tropical Race 4 (TR4) and in Africa by a bacterial disease called Xanthomonas wilt.
During college, Turner spent time living on a banana plantation and earned a dual degree in environmental and film studies. After working in television in Los Angeles, she returned to academia where she is currently working on a Masters in applied ecology at Imperial College London. Her documentary will examine issues with monoculture agriculture, human rights violations, and crop disease while presenting small-scale production solutions based on agroforestry and sustainable practices.
Food Tank had the opportunity to discuss issues facing bananas, including the production system and laborer concerns, with Jackie Turner.
Food Tank (FT): How would the extinction of the Cavendish effect people, including those who grow them?
Jackie Turner (JT): The safest answer I can give is that we don’t know how a crop extinction of this magnitude will impact people in different parts of this food system. We do know that millions rely on the banana industry, both directly and indirectly, as their main source of income. The good that may come out of it would be the release of thousands of acres of land, potentially, to be reacquired by local people for small-scale and more environmentally friendly agriculture. But after years of being doused with chemicals, the land may not recover quickly enough to provide for the livelihoods of those who would be farming this land. As for consumers, the disappearance of bananas may go nearly unnoticed. They aren’t crucial to our nutrition or survival, and the market is fluid enough that other food trends could likely fill that gap. But that’s the cynic in me talking. As a filmmaker, I hope that people realize we can still have this fruit in our lives. We just have to eat a lot less of it, change our expectations, and revise the system that delivers it to us.
FT: The Cavendish has dominated the international banana market for over 60 years. Why is it only now facing issues?
JT: I would argue that the Cavendish has always faced issues, as do most monoculture systems. For a very long time, the banana industry was able to stay ahead of the disease through improved hygiene and anti-contamination protocols that slowed the spread of Tropical Race 4 (TR4). Banana plantations have been using ever-increasing amounts of chemicals since the introduction of the Cavendish as its pests grow more and more resistant.
FT: Before the Cavendish’s rise, the Gros Michels was the most common banana variety, which declined due to the same problems faced by the Cavendish. Why didn’t banana producers learn from their mistakes?
JT: Banana producers will tell you that they learned a lot from the demise of the Gros Michel. As I mentioned earlier, the corporations were able to figure out new procedures to prevent contaminations across plantations. Gros Michel’s fall also coincided with a boom in the food industry where technology was being heralded as the driving force behind human progress. The deadly chemicals left over from World War I were conveniently adapted into agricultural tools.
FT: If the Cavendish are facing extinction, why not switch to a different variety of banana for mass production?
JT: Switching to a different variety is Plan A, according to researchers, who have been trying to develop new banana varieties for decades. Interestingly, the group you would think would be the most invested in this, the banana corporations, closed their banana variety laboratories in the 1980s citing chemical suppression of Cavendish’s enemies as the way forward. Private researchers are still trying to find that ideal banana variety, but it’s more complicated than it seems. Cavendish is ideal for mass production because of a variety of qualities. Essentially the entire banana industry, worth billions, has been planned around how long it takes Cavendish bananas to grow and ripen, as well as their size (banana packing boxes are made to cradle bunches of nearly exactly the same size).  A new variety must be resistant to TR4, resistant to bruising, grow relatively quickly, ripen slowly but not too slowly, appear appealing to consumers, and require the same or fewer workers and resources to produce, so banana executives can keep their bottom line intact. I will point out that taste is nowhere on that list.
FT: Bananas impact nutrition and diets around the world, but their production also has negative health effects on local laborers. What problems do banana workers face?
JT: There’s no question that banana laborers have been exploited, often to deadly ends. Twenty, thirty years ago, workers were applying some truly awful stuff, by hand, often with zero protection, to the banana plants. These awful chemicals—banned in the United States because they made workers in U.S. chemical plants sterile—continued to be used, even after many banana workers reported being sterile. Today, a group of workers from Nicaragua is involved in a lawsuit with Dole over their resulting health issues, but Dole has a lot more resources than workers in third world countries do. It’s hardly a fair fight. Today, the chemicals are supposedly safer, but I still met many men who wanted children but reluctantly told me they hadn’t been able to have them with their spouse. Maybe we won’t know the full effects of this round of chemicals for another twenty or thirty years? It seems like a huge risk to take. Today, banana workers still apply chemicals without protection and the crop-dusting planes drop chemicals sometimes three to four times a week on the plantations, Many workers’ homes sit right on the edge of those plantations, where the wind carries the chemicals onto their roofs.
FT: What are smallholder farmers doing differently that can save bananas and improve laborer health?
JT: There are smallholder farmers out there growing different varieties of bananas. Since diseases are often evolved to target one type of banana, this diversity helps protect these bananas from disease, which means growers can use far fewer chemicals. Bananas can also be grown in agroforestry systems, which can provide not only biodiversity, but agrobiodiversity and a diversity of income. Growers can grow fruit bearing trees like cacao in these systems, as well as larger timber trees to be harvested periodically over long periods of time.
FT: How can smallholder banana producers compete with large multi-national corporations and break into international markets with new banana varieties?
JT: This question is the core of our film, and I’ll admit we don’t yet have the whole answer. I think a lot of it will have to come down to changes in consumer expectation and demand. We’ve already seen extraordinary shifts in the food industry in the directions of organic and fair trade. Can we expect that consumers may one day want dehydrated date bananas? I hope the answer is yes.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

As Boston Nears Plastic Bag Ban, Environmentalist Encourages RI Statewide Ban/NPR

This is a truly monumental moment as we see a major city, and a leader in sustainability, banning plastic bags (Yeah) and influencing a nearby state, RI.  Let's keep the momentum going.

\Johnathan Berard, state director of Clean Water Action, testifies during a hearing at the Statehouse in June 2017. Berard says Rhode Island should pass a statewide ban on plastic bags for environmental and economic reasons.

Boston is close to banning plastic bags after a unanimous city council vote Wednesday. Several Rhode Island municipalities have also banned the bags, but some advocates make the case for a statewide ban.

Plastic bags cannot be recycled curbside in Rhode Island, despite the recycle symbol printed on them.  Johnathan Berard, state director of the advocacy group Clean Water Action, said too many plastic bags are ending up in recycling loads anyway.
Berard said that's a problem because the loads cannot be processed when too many plastic bags are mixed in.  
“All of the good recyclable material that’s in the back of that truck now goes and gets put in with all of the rest of the municipal solid waste, and so you’ve got really good, valuable recyclable material that’s ending up in the landfill instead of being processed and sold," Berard said. 
Rhode Island’s largest landfill only has about 15 years left before its full.
Berard said because of that, it’s important to pass measures that incentivize the use of reusable bags.
Berard added when contaminated loads are sent to landfills, it costs cities and towns a fee of $39.50 per ton. Each year, that costs municipalities tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to the Providence Journal. The Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation estimates that fee also costs households an extra $1.05 a month. 
Currently, Jamestown, Middletown, Newport and Barrington have passed restrictions on plastic bags.