Environment in Review // Volume 1, Issue 2

Our bi-weekly Environment in Review is loaded with inspirations and solutions for social and ecological well-being, ranging from national initiatives to community projects.

A bird crosses above early spring plum blossoms in Osaka, Japan | photo by P.M.Lydon
A bird crosses above early spring plum blossoms in Osaka, Japan | photo by P.M.Lydon

The turn towards local food systems is on the move; from Delhi, where the Hindustan Times reports that chefs are “finally getting over their childlike fascination with imported produce,” to Elgin, Texas, where local food is seen as an effort in taking us back to our roots. More and more, young people are the ones leading the move, making the turn from fingers at the keyboard to fingers in the soil.

These are good signs to be sure, but in truth, they are not enough. If we are to survive beyond the next few generations in any decent shape, our culture not only desperately needs to inspire a new generation of farmers and eco-conscious consumers, it needs to inspire these individuals to be stewards of the earth, rather than resource extractors.

On that note, Civil Eats tells us that a new book called Letters to a Young Farmer, aims at doing just that. The book features a star-studded cast of contributors, from Joel Salatain and Wes Jackson, to Michael Pollan and Ben Burkett, and it’s at the top of our reading list this month.

An Urban Farm to Rehabilitate People
In Vancouver, the Sustainable Food Trust reports on an urban farm that supplies all of Vancouver’s top chefs. By itself an ordinary occurrence these days, the magic is in the farm’s social mission to employ people who “are dealing with some heavy health and addiction issues on a daily basis.” The effort seems to by paying off, as a recent report shows for ever $1 the farm pays staff, the surrounding society saves twice that in health care costs, legal expenses, and general social services. Indeed, when done right, urban farming can be a smart social and economic investment.

A Rust Belt Town’s Promise to Students
The promise of higher education for an entire town also seems to be paying its fair share of social and economic dividends. This month, Yes! Magazine reports on the town of Kalamazoo, Michigan, and it’s promise to offer college scholarships to students who graduate the city’s public school system. The effects? High school graduation rates increased by 24 percent, and the number of young people from the city who attend and actually finish college has increased by over 30 percent.

Take a Walk on the Wild Side: Evolution in the Streets
Cities are often seen as destructive forces, yet the reality is that they have immense potential to be beacons of resilience and environmental regeneration. Now of course, the validity of that statement disappears as soon as we walk outside into a cloud of vehicle fumes and industrial smoke. How can a city be ecologically positive!? The Nature of Cities and its army of a few hundred writers, ecologists, planners, and artists are working on answering that very question. A recent piece by urban social ecologist Marthe Derkzen looks at the question this month by examining evolution in the streets, from coyotes in Chicago to kit foxes in Bakersfield.

Homes as Solar Power Plants
Progress on sustainable energy this month, as Australia moves to launch a power marketplace that essentially sees home rooftop solar installations as individual power plants. The distributed smart grid of home-based power stations is reportedly an important move to lower energy costs, and increase system resilience. The Guardian reports that “an individual household’s solar panels and battery might seem like small fry but aggregated together, they became a significant electricity resource.” Australia currently produces about 16% of its renewable energy by rooftop solar, with aims to reach 50% in the coming years.


And that’s your Environment in Review in this second week of March.

If you haven’t yet, sign up to get Environment in Review to your inbox every two weeks, and feel free to send your tips to director@sociecity.org on what’s happening in your area of the world so we can feature them in the next issue!

Yours in Nature,
Patrick M. Lydon and Suhee Kang

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

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