Environment in Review // Volume 1, Issue 1

Our bi-weekly “Environment in Review” is loaded with inspirations and solutions for social and ecological well-being, ranging from wide political initiatives to little-known community projects.

Kazuaki Okitsu on his natural farm in Shikoku, Japan (photo: P.M. Lydon, Final Straw)

The connection between the idea of sustainability and the actions of sustainability seems an ever-elusive one. But in truth, doesn’t it all come down to cultivating an ecological mindset? The article, Building an Ecology of One offers some philosophy on how to see ourselves and our jobs as parts of a connected whole (that’s the ‘mindset’ bit), but it also goes about illustrating various practical applications (aka: how does someone like a lawyer fit into all of this). No doubt there are more answers to explore, and perhaps you have some of your own to share. Let us know, our ears are open!

Rotten Tomatoes are Hip!
Then again, over in Denmark, they’ve already got the idea, it seems. The country has reduced food waste by 25% in the past three years, according to a recent NPR report. While we’re used to negative movements against corporations, the Danes eschewed such an average reaction, instead focusing on building a positive movement with consumers. Their recipe starts with stirring up some massive cultural change through a giant public relations campaign that helped Denmark make the buying of ugly and expired foods a fashionable trend.

A Sustainable Brexit?
Across the pond in the UK, there are constant rumblings of the effects of Brexit, and on the whole these rumblings don’t seem to be the pleasurable kind. However, at least one organization seems to be looking towards the sunshine of a possible Brexit. Their view? The exit will allow the UK to break free from some of the dastardly agricultural regulations imposed by the EU. In a report prepared by People Need Nature, the organization contends that upon leaving the EU, opportunity would be ripe for a complete re-thinking of how the country grows and distributes food, opening up new paths for small, organic, and permaculture based solutions. Could Brexit see benefits for nature and society? Well, if the British lawmakers listened to nature as well as the Scottish Parliament sometimes do, then at least the odds are better than impossible.

What is “Durable” Farming?
Perhaps one of the agricultural ideas the EU gets wrong (and honestly, let’s not just pick on the EU, because we all get this one wrong) is that our ways of growing food just aren’t nurturing biodiversity. Not only that, we’re running headlong in the opposite direction of biodiversity. Forget talking about GMO’s as posing health risks for a moment, the story here is that they literally demolish the ability for farmers to nourish biodiversity. Why biodiversity anyway? This recent Guardian article by a former UN rapporteur on the right to food tells us that biodiversity is the key not only to raising productivity, but doing so in a “durable” way that can cope with a constantly changing climate. This one is not just for the EU, but for global food systems.

Texas-Sized Wind Farms
Regardless of the reportedly flawed agricultural policies, the EU don’t get everything wrong. Energy seems to be a bright spot. For the year 2015, the Guardian reports that nearly 90% of new EU electricity was from renewable sources. That’s a big number, but stateside in Texas (the King of all things big) there’s miles of cattle ranches where owners are hootin’ and hollerin’ for wind power, too; indeed, four of the eleven largest wind farms in the world are in a tiny Texas town. Though low-key, an undercurrent of enthusiasm in this typically conservative state is swaying even the most anti-green politicians. These days, critics of renewables are blown away to know that new energy is led by strong gusts of wind power.

Basic Income Gets Real
Wind power and ecological food offerings aside, the world is currently dealing with poverty on what seems like a never-before-seen scale. Not only have we not found ways to deal with poverty and economic inequality, our mainstream policy has driven us further into it – at last count 1 in 5 children in the US grow up in poverty, and 1 in 3 adults in the UK experience poverty at some point in a year. Where to go from here? Well some folks have been talking about basic income these days – by ‘these days’ I mean the past several decades – and then, some are putting it into action. The New York Times recently reported Finland’s announcement to start a basic income trial. The trial is part of what the Times calls an experiment that “underscores the deep need to find effective means to alleviate the perils of globalization.”

Scientists Like Local Food, say Leading Scientists
Finally, let’s take aim back at the little old United States, where the Union of Concerned Scientists are beginning conversations of all things, about the benefits local food. Well, the lot aren’t overly complimentary – their logic still dutifully riding the line of skepticism on the skeptic’s side – but a recent writing points out some very important ways to protect the health of land in local and regional senses through agriculture and cooperative land trust efforts. They point out the SILT trust in Iowa, and the talk of working collectively to build resilient communities also reminds us of some city-side efforts, like those at the SELC in California. There’s a tendency to focus on the large, global scale with ecological issues, and while it can be useful way to view the whole picture, it can also become daunting for the individual. We all feel at times, like there’s no way to fix all of these issues! It’s good to see then, that the value of coming together to save our local environments – and enjoying some fresh local food – is not lost on these concerned scientists.

And that’s your Environment in Review. Thanks for reading. Till next time, don’t forget to share the inspiration with your friends and colleagues!

Yours in Nature,
Patrick M. Lydon and Suhee Kang

SocieCity | www.sociecity.org
Final Straw | www.finalstraw.org

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