Change Your Diet, Change The World!

Dietary changes in High Income Countries could significantly contribute to more sustainable global water usage, land use and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as being healthier, according to a scientific review in PLOS ONE.

 

 

The review looked at 63 studies of diets which had both improved human health and reduced the impact of food production on the environment. It used agricultural land use, water use and greenhouse gas emissions as markers to assess the environmental impact of each diet.

Broadly speaking the review showed that shifting typical Western diets to more sustainable dietary patterns has the potential to produce over a 70% reduction in GHG emissions and land use and a 50% reduction in water use.

Based on all three measures, vegan diets would have the most positive impact overall, followed by vegetarian and then pescatarian diets. There was also a modest health benefit associated with all the types of sustainable diet studied.

 

Eating less meat is more sustainable

 

The authors also noted that most of the environmental impact of food is associated with the food production stage rather than the transport and delivery of food.

 

While local and seasonal diets have advantages such as protecting local economies and crop diversity, efforts to reduce dietary-related environmental impacts should focus on reducing animal-based foods in high-consuming societies.

 

For more detailed information access the original article, “The Impacts of Dietary Change on Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Land Use, Water Use, and Health: A Systematic Review” by Lukasz Aleksandrowicz , Rosemary Green, Edward J. M. Joy, Pete Smith, Andy Haines in the PLOS ONE journal.

Tiny Homes as a Solution To Homelessness in NSW

The Tiny Homes Foundation (THF) has received development approval for a pilot project in Gosford, NSW. The project, which is possibly the first of it’s kind in Australia, hopes to combat homelessness with a ‘homes first’ approach, using tiny houses as an affordable, replicable solution.

 

 

The pilot project of four 16sqm homes, next to Gosford Hospital, will also include a shared living area, laundry and veggie patch. Each home uses solar efficient design, includes a full kitchen and bathroom and has a finished cost of less than $30,000.

The success of the project has been made possible by involving partners from diverse sectors. THF co-founder and CEO David Wooldridge says that whilst tiny homes themselves are ingenious, this project goes even further:

 

What makes the THF initiative groundbreaking is the fact that it is Council approved, low cost, replicable and features Australia’s first ‘equity participation scheme for tenants’ whereby accommodation payments not applied to the cost and maintenance of the project will be available to THF tenants as needed for future housing related expenditure creating a pathway from homelessness to self support.

 

Tiny Homes Foundation are offering all of their plans, documentation and processes free of charge to encourage others to replicate the project elsewhere across Australia.

See here for the full article “Australia’s First Tiny Homes Project in NSW” on the Probono Australia website.

Show Me The Honey: Communication Between Birds and Humans

A remarkable interaction between humans and birds in Mozambique is a win-win for both species, reports Karl Gruber in an article summarising the recently published research of Dr Claire Spottiswoode on the ABC News Science website.

 

Honey guide and honey hunter working as a team in Mozambique

Photo: Dr Claire Spottiswoode

 

The study draws on earlier research by the Kenyan ecologist Hussein Isack in the 1980s. Isack showed that honey hunters were able to increase their harvests using information from small birds called honeyguides to help them find bees’ nests. The honeyguides have a vested interest in helping humans to find the hives because, once the hive is cracked open, they are able to feast on the eggs, larvae and beeswax within.

Dr Spottiswood’s research goes one step further by proving that the birds actively seek out honey hunters. The birds listen out for a specific call the hunters make whilst on the hunt.
 

It’s a startlingly odd noise, but our experiments showed that it works — giving this sound doubled the chance of being guided by a honeyguide, and tripled the overall chance of actually finding a bees’ nest, so honeyguides really are paying attention to signals that humans communicate back to them.

 

 

There are relatively few documented instances of this type of mutual collaboration between humans and wild animals. Other cases in Australia include fishermen collaborating with dolphins and killer whales to catch fish.

For the full story read the original article, ‘Humans and wild birds talk to each other to find honey in Mozambique’, on the ABC news site.

Net Green: A More Accurate Measure Of Corporate Environmental Sustainability?

Using traditional life cycle assessments (LCAs) to measure the environmental impact of products and services is not an accurate enough measure and has become outmoded, according to Roland Geyer and Trevor Zink in a recent SSIR article describing a new measurement concept that they are calling ‘net green’.

 

Net green illustration choosing a lightbulb

Illustration: JooHee Yoon

 

Many current measurements, such as LCAs, assume that each ‘green’ product will replace a standard product one-for-one and that all other variables remain fixed, therefore reducing environmental impact.

The authors argue that a more efficient or ‘greener’ product may actually increase demand for, or usage of, a product. The net effect would therefore be an increase in consumption. They also point out that ultimately all products will have an impact on the environment. They challenge the very concept of a ‘green’ product or service.

 

Any corporate environmental communication strategy based on selling green products will always be plagued by the fact that all products have environmental impacts, and the greenest option will always be no product at all.

 

A more useful measure, according to Geyer and Zink, is to calculate the ‘net green’ impact of a product. This measure takes into account a whole gamut of possible impacts. These might include how consumers behaviour has changed because of the new product, which other products it is out-competing and whether the new product increases total market demand or product use.

This is clearly no mean feat. However, the authors believe that calculating ‘net green’ will be worth the effort for companies truly wishing to take responsibility for their environmental impact.

 

Embracing net green will make corporate environmental sustainability efforts more complex, but also more meaningful, rewarding, and defensible. It will also help companies enhance the credibility of their environmental communication efforts and avoid the hot water of greenwashing.

 

For more detail on Geyer and Zink’s net green concept, read the original Stanford Social Innovation Review article here.

Putting People First In Impact Investment

Genuinely involving local people in impact investment can open up new investment pipelines and make for better outcomes for investors and communities, says Kelly Ryan from the US-based Incourage Community Foundation, in a recent article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

Incourage is a “place-based philanthropy, community developer, and impact investor” which has been working in a rural area of Central Wisconsin for over a decade. They are regenerating a local economy that was severely impacted by the sale of paper manufacturer Consolidated Papers in 2000. This led to a 40% loss of area jobs within three years.

 

Involving community in impact investment

 

We are forging a new operating model as true community steward; advancing a long-term vision of inclusive community where residents and institutions are equipped with the skills, tools, and agency to shape the communities they want.

 

Impact investment can be much more than a top-down injection of cash into a community. Focusing on community involvement can diversify the benefits, creating a bigger bang for each invested buck.

Ways of working

Kelly mentions three ways that Incourage apply this model within the community:

  1. Strengthening residents’ sense of ownership over the future of their region. Building community capacity by involving them directly in investment projects.
  2. Redefining people’s understanding of what has value in communities. Moving away from a purely financial capital mindset. Recognising and building on the social and intellectual capital of residents.
  3. Modelling values-aligned behaviour in their organisation. Discussions are then initiated on how this can be carried through in impact investments.

 

 

We have learned that an infusion of financial capital by itself does not yield behavior change and inclusive, sustainable economic growth. Change requires that we connect and leverage different kinds of capital ~ including moral, human, social, intellectual, reputational, and natural capital.

 

Local and Global

In order to have greater control over the way the wider economy impacts the community, Incourage also invest in and engage with companies who operate in their area to encourage business practices which have local benefits. They also take care to ensure that success is measured in terms of outcomes defined by the community itself as well as by global financial measures.

 

Read the original SSIR article on how Incourage are putting people and place at the centre of their impact investment strategy here.

Click here for a list of Impact Investment organisations within Australia.

Doomsday Clock worsens to 2&1/2 minutes to midnight…

It’s been 64 years since the world has been this close to Doomsday.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has been updating the Doomsday Clock regularly for 70 years. On Thursday, they turned the hands to two-and-a-half minutes to midnight.

That’s a bit closer than last year, when the clock was three minutes to midnight and the closest the clock has been to midnight since 1953 when it was two minutes to midnight. That move came following the U.S. detonating its first thermonuclear bomb and Russia detonating a hydrogen bomb.

Doomsday Clock

In the early days, the threat of nuclear war was the primary gear turning the clock’s arms. Climate change became a cog in 2007, moving the clock closer to midnight that year. Scientists invoked it in 2015 again, pushing the clock closer still to midnight. And in 2017, another cog was added: a rising tide of political leaders around the world making statements unhinged from facts.

Climate change facts are clear: that  the world had its hottest year ever recorded in 2016, the third year in a row that mark has been set. Arctic sea ice has been decimated by repeated heat waves, seas continue to rise and researchers have warned of instability driven by climate shocks.

The cause is human’s pouring carbon pollution into the atmosphere.

Carbon temperatures

“Facts are stubborn things and they must be taken into account if the future of humanity is preserved,” said Lawrence Krauss, one of the clockmakers and a professor at Arizona State University.

Yet despite knowing all of that, scientists have stressed that the world is not doing enough to put humanity on course to avoid catastrophic climate change. David Titley, a professor at Penn State and one of the authors of the new doomsday clock report, said that while the Paris Agreement represents a positive step, the climate talks in Morocco late last year didn’t move the ball forward enough.

While these actions weighed on the decision to move the clock’s hands closer to midnight, scientists also considered another disturbing trend of world leaders espousing policies and making statements not tied to evidence.

There’s no more stark example than the rise of Donald Trump in the U.S. He has espoused climate science denialism as have many of his cabinet nominees and advisors. He’s also made false statements on dozens of topics, from voter fraud to the size of his inauguration crowd.

This is hugely problematic when it comes to climate change, where the U.S. stands as an outlier with the only head of state to deny the science behind it.

This is the exact moment when the world needs to be doing more to address climate change. Yet the current administration of the world’s largest historical emitter is poised to ignore this fact, putting the future of humanity at risk.

“Nuclear weapons and climate change are precisely the sort of complex existential threats that cannot be properly managed without access to and reliance on expert knowledge,” the scientists wrote in their report.

Scientists said they only moved it forward 30 seconds because Donald Trump has held office a few days. There’s still a slight hope his actions could be different from his words. If they’re not, the hands of the clock may move even closer to midnight.

Re-post ~ The Doomsday Clock just moved closer to Midnight | Climate Central

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Choose wisely what you feed your mind

Choose wisely

African refugees reinvigorating rural Mingoola, Queensland

A radical grassroots resettlement plan has transformed an ageing rural community, bringing together two groups with very different problems. In the tiny township of Mingoola, on the border of New South Wales and Queensland, local woman Julia Harpham was grappling with a common problem in rural communities.

The population was in decline, enrolments at the local primary school were down and farmers could not find labourers to help with manual work. Her town was dying before her eyes.

“Many of us have children who work in the city and aren’t going to come back to the farm because things have been so tough on the land,” Ms Harpham said. “You don’t like to see a community die. And there’s not much joy in a place with no children.”

Three years ago the local progress association decided to take a leaf from the region’s migrant past and looked for refugees willing to move to the area.

But when they began contacting refugee agencies they were told there would not be adequate support for refugees in the bush. “Every time I contacted any kind of refugee service they all said, ‘oh, no, these people need to stay in the city,'”At the end of last year matters became more urgent, with the announcement Mingoola Primary School would close if there were no enrolments in the new year.

Refugees yearn for space
Meanwhile in Sydney, refugee advocate Emmanuel Musoni was grappling with problems in his community from central Africa. They had been displaced from Rwanda and neighbouring countries during years of bitter civil war.

The majority had rural backgrounds before having to flee their homes for refugee camps.

“If you ask them, ‘What was your dream when you applied to come to Australia and boarded the plane,’ they say, ‘We hoped we were going to be put in the countryside, to connect ourselves with agricultural life and have a garden’,” Mr Musoni said.

Instead they were resettled in cities where employment prospects were few, the environment was intimidating and many became depressed and isolated.

Moving to Mingoola
Mr Musoni led a small delegation from his community to Mingoola early this year to meet locals and see whether resettlement was viable.
On his return he put out a call for families willing to make the move; within a week he had a waiting list of 50.
He chose two families from Wollongong with 16 children between them. Six of the children were of primary school age, which would allow Mingoola Primary School to remain open.
Meanwhile, the community began renovating several abandoned houses in the area to accommodate the families, who moved to Mingoola in April.

Among the families who have settled there has been a great sense of gratitude.

“The people of Mingoola are good people, friendly people, lovely people,” refugee Jonathon Kanani said. “I don’t know how to say about the things that they do for us; I can’t describe that.”

Ms Harpham said she was being realistic about the situation. “We know that nothing is ever perfect,” she said. “But I’ve been stunned by the generosity of our community. Our priority is, are they happy? Because they weren’t happy in the city.”

For those involved in this social experiment, the hope is that its success can be replicated elsewhere to help other struggling rural communities. Mr Musoni now has 205 families on his database wanting to move out of the cities and politicians have been watching the Mingoola project with interest.

“I’ve had no hesitation in telling the Mingoola story, trying to encourage other people to look at the same program,” Mr George said.

Mr Musoni said the support so far had been encouraging.

“Julia and her community have shown it’s possible that regional communities can be welcoming to people from Africa,” he said. “They have broken the ice that was existing for us to get into the regional areas. So we feel so thankful to their efforts and their help.”

Re~Post: African refugees reinvigorating rural Mingoola in social experiment to boost ageing community | ABC

See more: A Field of Dreams ~ Australian Story ABC TV

Wetlands reborn a reward in sustainability

Wetlands reborn

From the magpie geese to the mighty Barramundi and even a few crocodiles, the rehabilitation of a wetland adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef has also brought with it recognition for the traditional owners who bought back their land.

Mungalla Aboriginal Business Corporation recently won the 2016 Minister’s Award for Leadership in Sustainability as part of the Queensland Premier’s Awards. They were also finalists in the prestigious Banksia Sustainability Awards.

They’ve been responsible for restoring the Mungalla wetland, a vital ecosystem near Ingham, north of Townsville, adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef and a nursery for reef fish.

When the Nywaigi people bought Mungalla Station in 1999, they knew their battle to truly reclaim and restore the land was only just beginning.

Around one quarter of the 880 hectare station is covered by wetlands, but these wetlands were choked by invasive weeds such as water hyacinth, hymenachne and aleman grass. The waters were so starved of oxygen that they were nearly barren of fish and bird life.

It wasn’t always this way. Older members of the Nywaigi people could recall when the wetlands were so full of life that the sky was black with magpie geese. The wetlands also hold great cultural value to the Nywaigi, but when Mungulla became a cattle station in the 1940s, an earth wall was built which blocked tidal flows into the wetlands and which turned them into freshwater which allowed for ponded pastures for the cattle.

CSIRO landscape ecologist Brett Abbott and hydrological modeller Fazlul Karim said their hydrological modelling suggested that removing the earth wall ~ called a bund ~ would allow the salt water to reach around 500 metres inland on a high tide, while research by a masters student working with the team also showed that salt water immersion was likely to kill many of the weeds.

So the wall came down, and the results stunned everyone involved.

The magpie geese have returned, along with nearly 280 other species of native bird. The waters are now home to at least nine species of fish, and serve as nursery grounds for some commercially and recreationally important reef fish such as barramundi and mangrove jack.

Magpie geese

The flourishing wetlands have also attracted tourists, and there are plans for an elevated walkway through the wetlands that would help to bring in tourist dollars to be reinvested into ongoing rehabilitation efforts.

Jacob Cassady, director of the Mungalla Aboriginal Business Corporation that now owns the station, also stresses the importance of raising awareness not just about the coastal wetlands, but about the health of the Great Barrier Reef in general.

It’s possibly the first time that a bund has been removed to rehabilitate a wetland, despite the fact that there are well over a thousand similar barriers up and down the Great Barrier Reef coastline.

“Two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef is under significant bleaching, and that should be alarming, every Australian should be alarmed,” he says. “Have they forgotten that this is one of the seven wonders of the natural world and we just take what we’ve got in our backyard for granted?

“The wetland that we’re working in has a traditional story, and to restore the balance in that wetland is significantly important to the traditional owners,” he says. “When we had our workshops, one of the traditional owners said ‘healthy country, healthy people’.”

Repost ~ Wetlands reborn a reward in sustainability | ECOS