It’s not only health impacts. Polluted air is affecting the crops of California

The state lost up to US$1 billion in crops per year.

More than 90% of the planet breathes unhealthy air, leading to seven million premature deaths per year and billions of dollars in extra costs for health services. But that’s not the single problem, as pollutants are also affecting the yield of food crops and their nutritional quality.

 

Food contributes to air pollution, releasing nitrogen compounds into the air. In turn, air pollution can impact food production. Ozone emissions react to form ground-level ozone, penetrating into the structure of the plant and affecting its ability to develop — a phenomenon seen across the globe.

California is not an exception. The state has lost up to US$1 billion in crops each year between 1980 and 2015 due to smog, according to a new study. Crops including grapes, strawberries, walnuts, peaches, nectarines, and hay lost between 2% and 22% of their yield over this period.

Having lower yields means bad news for California, which relies on agriculture as one of its main sources of income, and for the country as a whole, as the state is the largest agricultural producer, producing a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts.

Nevertheless, there might be a light at the end of the tunnel for California. The state has stepped up its game to reduce pollution over the years and if it continues doing so the efforts will likely pay off, the researchers estimate.

“The farming community can see improvements in yields related to a decrease in this ground-level ozone. If that continued, we could even see further improvements in the yields of these sensitive crops,” Steven Davis, an associate professor at the University of California Irvine and coauthor of the study.

Other studies previously looked at the effect of air pollution on staple crops such as wheat, soy, and rice. Now, Davis and the group of researchers decided to focus on different crops, known as perennials. These are more valuable than staples and have longer lifespans, meaning they could be more vulnerable to pollution.

The team analyzed pollution exposure and crop yields from 1980 to 2015, and also looked at the effects of warming on these perennial crops. They also projected crop yield changes up to 2050, expecting a decline in the that would boost wine grape production by 5% and nectarines by 8%.

“These aren’t the things that are providing the global population with its main source of calories. These are the sweet things in life – fruits, nuts and grapes for wine,” Davis said. “Also, monetarily, some of these crops are a lot more valuable than wheat or corn.”

The results of the study can be applied to other farming areas, according to the researchers, who now want to look at the trajectory of California’s energy systems and what benefits they might have for specific crops. “We can start analyzing trade-offs of water use and energy and try to inform the policymakers about the most cost-effective and beneficial ways to go,” Davis said. SOURCE

50 simple ways to make your life greener

Expert tips on how to be kinder to the planet – from cooking and cleaning to fashion and finance

 Photographer: Aaron Tilley. Set design: Rhea Thierstein, assisted by Isabelle Dodd

Love your leftovers
Look at what basics you’re binning. “Chefs talk about what to do with carrot tops or whey from cheese, but that’s not where we need to make changes,” says Feast food writer Anna Jones. “It’s the milk poured down the sink and stale bread – the items we don’t put as much value on.” Jones tears up bread to freeze for instant croutons, or whizzes it into breadcrumbs for adding to croustades, pastas and salads. If oats have already been made into porridge, follow Claire Thomson, chef and author of The Art Of The Larder (Quadrille, £25), and substitute for some of the flour and water in bread dough.

Treat “food waste” as ingredients, says Ollie Hunter, chef and author of 30 Easy Ways To Join The Food Revolution (Pavilion, £14.99). “It’s easy to turn it into something else; aquafaba (chickpea water) can be made into a vegan mayonnaise; fry squash seeds in oil and sprinkle with salt for a snack; cut courgette stalks into penne shapes and cook like pasta. You need to find creative ways to use everything up; wasting food is down to a lack of imagination.”

Use tech for good
Apps are taking the fight to food waste. Olio connects neighbours and local retailers so surplus food can be shared; Too Good To Go enables cafes and restaurants to sell uneaten meals at reduced rates; while Farmdrop connects you with sustainable local farmers. To recycle kitchen scraps, find neighbours with a compost bin (or chickens) at sharewaste.com.

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Shop little and often
A lot of waste comes from doing big shops, putting two-for-one “bargains” in the trolley and buying on repeat rather than planning meals. “I’m always clear about what we will eat at home and when,” says Skye Gyngell, chef and founder of Spring in London, which runs a “scratch menu” using waste. She shops little and often, supported by a store cupboard of wholegrains, olive oil, vinegars and mustards to bolster meals. “Working out what kind of cook you are is also useful,” says Jones, “then reverse engineer how you shop. There is no point doing a weekly shop if you like to decide what you’re going to make for dinner at 6pm, like me. I shop in small increments, and I find I waste less this way, too.”

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Buy half your food locally
The shorter the food chain, the less waste created before it reaches your kitchen. Hunter subscribes to buying 50% of food grown within 30 miles of where you live. “It’s an achievable figure,” he says, especially when producers, such as Hodmedod’s in Suffolk, are reviving homegrown pulses including British lentils, quinoa, carlin peas and fava beans (which Hunter ferments to turn into miso and soy sauce). The nutritional value of fruit and veg lasts for only a short time, adds Gyngell, so how far your food has travelled matters.

Pick your own
“Foraging solves many problems,” Hunter says. “You’re getting into the countryside, engaging with nature and the community, and finding food that has a different flavour.” Start with herbs, grasses, berries, wild garlic and, a favourite of Hunter’s, nettles (“They’re so underrated”). Use to garnish pies, in risottos and soups; wear gloves to avoid stings and wash thoroughly in salted water. Ensure foraged ingredients are identifiable before eating – check woodlandtrust.org or wildfooduk.com.

Switch your flours
Crops can’t be grown every year in the same soil without replacing nutrients taken by the plants, and switching the flour you use can help. “Spelt or wheat is often grown in rotation with rye and clover to replace lost nitrogen,” says Hunter. “Eating rye supports the farmers’ rotation; I use spelt and emmer flour as an alternative to wheat because they have similar baking properties, while being beneficial to the soil.”

Befriend a butcher
“There is no way around it, eating meat sustainably requires a little more effort on our part,” says Fergus Henderson, chef and godfather of nose-to-tail eating. His first rule is to “hug” your butcher: “Support them and ask questions – they are your way in to a positive supply chain. They will also give you access to the insides and extremities, such as kidneys, shanks, feet and glands, which offer so much more possibility and flavour than the fillet.” Whole-animal eating is not about blood and guts, but “respecting the animal enough to realise that, if it has died for you, the least you can do is make use of every part”.

Compost on the go
Compost isn’t just for the garden – think about reducing your food waste when you’re on the go, too, says Lindsay Miles, whose book Less Waste, No Fuss Kitchen: Simple Steps To Shop, Cook And Eat Sustainably (Hardie Grant, £12.99) is out in June. “A reusable coffee cup makes a great impromptu container for your lunch scraps – take apple cores or bread crusts home to compost.”

Plan ahead
Make the most of seasonal gluts and preserve vegetables in oils, vinegars, chutneys, ketchup and marinades, or freeze them. “Blitz and freeze tomatoes in containers for passata all year round; make kimchi from cauliflower stalks and leaves; use beetroot in jams, vinegars and oil, then chop stalks and leaves to top pastas, pizzas, curries and dal,” says Hunter.

Minimise packaging
Look for loose fruit and vegetables, and take your own containers to shops and markets. “If you are buying packaged food,” says Miles, “look at where the product comes from and try to choose the more local option – oat milk from Scotland will have a lower carbon footprint than almond milk from California, even if they have the same packaging.” The most recyclable plastics are PET, found in drinks bottles and fruit punnets, and HDPE, in milk bottles and cereal box liners; so if you can’t avoid it, go for these, then reuse or recycle what you can.

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Reduce your washing
Erin Rhoads’ Waste Not Everyday (Hardie Grant Books, £10) points out that “the majority of the environmental burden caused by fashion happens after we take the clothing home: 82% of the energy a garment will use is in the washing and drying we do each week”. Rhoads suggests spot-cleaning, and neutralising smells with a spritz of diluted vodka or lemon juice.

Clean with castile
By making cleaning products (from polish to detergent) you can reduce the amount of plastic entering your home and the level of harmful VOCs (volatile organic compounds), such as formaldehyde, that are released. “Of all the green cleaning ingredients I use, liquid castile soap is by far my favourite,” writes Jen Chillingsworth in Clean Green (Quadrille, £7.55). “Originating from Spain, castile soap was traditionally made with pure olive oil, but is now more commonly produced by mixing vegetable oils such as hemp, avocado, jojoba and coconut.” For a simple, multipurpose kitchen spray, add 50ml of castile soap to 800ml tap water in a spray bottle. Add a few drops of essential oils (tea tree is antibacterial). Spray and wipe with a clean cloth.

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Go for plastic-free personal care
There is a world of waste-free sanitary protection to explore, and Chillingsworth suggests buying a reusable tampon applicator. “The reusable version fits every size of tampon, is antimicrobial and easy to insert. After use, give it a wipe, rinse and return to the storage box that fits in your handbag. Sterilise in hot water between periods.”

Recycle as much as you can
“Most major supermarkets provide plastic recycling collection points in store for stretchy plastic (such as frozen food bags, carrier bags and bread bags) which normally can’t be recycled from home,” says Helen Bird, plastics expert at government waste advisory body Wrap.

TerraCycle rescues hard-to-recycle waste that is not processed by councils. It has free national recycling programmes and also sells zero-waste boxes, which you can fill with most non-hazardous, non-recyclable and non-organic waste, and return for recycling. Search its website for a scheme near you, or set one up.

Look after your electrical appliances
The Restart Project is a social enterprise that aims to fix our relationship with electricals and electronics. Cofounder Janet Gunter says the first step in keeping household appliances for longer is regular cleaning. “By simply cleaning and maintaining your white goods, laptop or mobile, you will prolong its life.” Restart runs a nationwide network of skill-sharing workshops as well as promoting a directory of commercial repair options in London. (See also repaircafe.org for events in your area.) “If we don’t have access to spare parts,” says Gunter, “these appliances will be thrown away, which has a huge carbon impact.”

If your electrical appliance really is beyond repair, Rhoads suggests you “call the manufacturer or company of purchase to see if they will take back items or packaging for reuse or recycling”. Not all charity shops accept electrical items, but the homelessness charity Emmaus accepts working items. These are tested before being resold, which makes it a good place to purchase secondhand electrical goods, too.

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Create clean air
“You can never have enough house plants,” says Oliver Heath, who runs a sustainable architecture practice. Certain plants are best for certain rooms: “Mother-in-law’s tongue gives off oxygen at night, which makes it best suited to the bedroom.” According to Chillingsworth, peace lilies and boston ferns thrive in rooms with high humidity and can reduce the mould spores in the air, making them ideal for bathrooms; weeping figs have been found to be the best plant for removing formaldehyde released from carpets and furniture, making them good for living areas.

Change your shower head
“Investing in an aerated shower head will make a significant difference to energy and water consumption,” says Brian Horne at the Energy Saving Trust (EST). They inject air into the water stream, limiting water usage. “A water-efficient shower head could save a four-person household £70 a year on gas for water heating, and a further £115 on water bills if they have a meter,” says Horne.

Opt for green energy suppliers
There are “shades of green” when it comes to choosing an energy supplier, says Horne. The EST identified four suppliers who clearly listed the renewable sources of their energy on their websites last year: Green Energy UK, Good Energy, Ecotricity and Octopus Energy. “But just because you’re on a green tariff, it doesn’t mean you should stop worrying about how much energy you use,” says Horne.

Practise eco-driving
Research by the RAC Foundation has found that eco-driving leads to safer, cleaner and more affordable journeys. Regular vehicle maintenance improves fuel efficiency by as much as 10%. Before a long journey, check tyre pressures (tyres underinflated by a quarter can cause a 2% increase in fuel consumption), remove unused roof racks and boxes, and don’t overload the car (every additional 45kg reduces fuel economy by 2%). At less than 40mph, it’s more fuel-efficient to open a window than use air conditioning. Turn off engines for waits of more than one minute (5-8% of fuel is consumed while idling), and avoid sharp acceleration and heavy braking: aggressive driving can significantly raise fuel consumption.

Draught-proof your home
One of the cheapest, most effective ways to save energy and money at home is to draught-proof windows, doors, letterbox, fireplaces and loft hatches, says Dr Sarah Price, head of building physics at Enhabit, a consultancy specialising in low-energy design. Done professionally, it costs about £200, or do it yourself with products such as Gap Seal.

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Buy vintage furniture
“Reusing furniture is the best thing to do, and so much more fun than buying new,” says Nicola Harding, founder of interior design studio Harding and Read. “Secondhand items come with interesting stories and force you to think creatively, and give you have something far more unique.” To keep mileage down, start at your local auction houses and charity shops (the British Heart Foundation has dedicated home stores and a free collection service), followed by a targeted trawl through Freecycle and Facebook Marketplace.

Optimise your white goods
According to independent energy comparison service U Switch, the cost of running your fridge and freezer equates to about 7% of your total energy bill (they are one of the few household energy devices that are on all the time). U Switch recommends replacing your fridge and/or freezer if it is over 10 years old. Even if it’s working, the cost of a new model will be made up for in energy savings over the years. Keep your fridge at 5C or less (most are kept at about 7C, which means food will go off sooner) and ensure there is a 10cm gap behind your fridge to let heat flow away easily. Make sure the seal is strong – if it can’t hold a piece of paper when shut, it could be letting in warm air, making it work harder.

Illustration of a plant in pot, made up of plastic bottles, old clothes, etc
Pinterest
 Photographer: Aaron Tilley. Set design: Rhea Thierstein, assisted by Isabelle Dodd
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Buy local flowers – or grow your own
About 90% of the flowers sold through UK florists, supermarkets and wholesalers are imported, mainly from the Netherlands, but they are also flown in from countries as far away as Ecuador, Colombia, Kenya and Ethiopia. Reduce your floral air miles and find a local supplier through flowersfromthefarm.co.uk, a co-operative of small independent flower growers.

Alternatively, grow your own flowers to bring indoors. Gardener Sarah Raven suggests going for “annuals which are cut and come again: pick above a pair of leaves and the plant will spring back and produce more flowers – and keep on doing so as long as you keep picking”. Sow cosmos, snapdragons, zinnias and rudbeckias on a sunny window ledge in March, pot on and plant out after the last frosts.

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Encourage bees
Honeybees visit only one type of flower in any one foraging trip, says Sarah Wyndham Lewis, author of Planting For Honeybees: The Grower’s Guide To Creating A Buzz. “This is called ‘flower fidelity’ and is what makes them such effective pollinators. So plant large clumps or ‘drifts’ of single species and optimise each of the bees’ trips.” Think swathes of catmint, field scabious and hyssop. “March to September are the key months for honeybees – they will fly whenever the temperature is above 10C, even in winter, so early- and late-flowering plants are especially valuable,” she says.

Spend less, propagate more

Your own plot is the best garden centre there is: collect seed, learn to take cuttings and divide plants to stock your own backup nursery. Gaps can then be filled with home‑propagated stock plants. Increase what does well in your garden to build a healthy community of plants. If you do go shopping, research a plant’s natural habitat to reduce failures.

Lock up carbon
In The Garden Jungle, Or Gardening To Save The Planet (out in paperback 2 April, Vintage, £9.99), Dave Goulson explains that although many gardeners don’t have room for large trees, “The basic rule is that the more vegetation you have, the more carbon you are storing.” So the fuller the planting in your garden, the better, even if it verges on overgrown. Don’t be too tidy, either. “Log piles also lock up carbon for as long as it takes them to decay, which can be many years.”

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Let the grass grow

Letting your grass grow longer between cuts not only saves petrol or electricity, and therefore reduces carbon dioxide emissions, but also encourages more wildlife into your garden. Longer grass is more drought-resistant, too. Try cutting every three or four weeks and let dandelions, daisies and violets bloom in spring, followed by buttercups, clovers and selfheal in summer.

Encourage hedgehogs

Hedgehogs have a voracious appetite for pests such as caterpillars, slugs and snails. They need easy access in and out of gardens, say Helen Bostock and Sophie Collins, authors of How Can I Help Hedgehogs? (Octopus, £14.99). They recommend that neighbours get together to arrange hedgehog holes between gardens. “This is simply a hole cut into the bottom of a fence – it should be around 13cm high and at least as wide, preferably in a sheltered corner.”

Set a bar
If a year without buying anything new seems too big a challenge, try a month, or buy only secondhand. Livia Firth, founder of sustainability consultancy Eco-Age, follows the “30 wears rule”: ask, “Will I wear it at least 30 times?” before buying.

Find a secondhand that works for you
Opting for vintage or secondhand is one of the easiest ways to shop sustainably, but while some fans will extol the virtues of rifling through giant warehouses, this approach is not for everyone. Thankfully, there are other ways. Smaller stores with a curated selection may not offer quite the same bargains as a car boot sale, but they can be less intimidating. Many, such as Paper Dress Vintage or Cow, also have websites.

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Shop in person – and alone

That said, shopping in person – especially if you walk there – is usually greener than online. Clothes shipped across the world have a significant carbon footprint, and often come packaged in plastic. You are also less likely to return things you have tried on.

It can help to ditch your friends. “When you ask a friend if you should buy something, you already know the answer will be yes,” writes Lauren Bravo in How To Break Up With Fast Fashion (Headline, £12.99). “It’s an unwritten rule of sisterhood.” Think of it as the new version of not going supermarket shopping when you’re hungry.

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Choose materials wisely

Some fabrics age better than others; the Guardian’s styling editor, Melanie Wilkinson, recommends looking for leather when shopping secondhand. Leather jackets, shoes and belts last for years and often look and feel better once they have been worn in. The environmental impact of denim – another durable fabric – means jeans are also best bought secondhand.

Unsubscribe and unfollow

“If someone wants to quit fast fashion, I recommend unsubscribing from all the emails,” says writer and fashion consultant Aja Barber. “A brand that is constantly introducing new products might be sustainable in name only. Sending emails and pressuring consumers to buy, buy, buy is not sustainability – that’s fast fashion.” The same goes for influencers and brands on social platforms such as Instagram. Deleting fast-fashion shopping apps can help, too.

Get swishing

Clothes swaps – known as swishing – are one of the greenest ways to refresh your wardrobe. They offer credits based on the value of the items you bring, which can be swapped for items brought by others. Avoid trends and hunt for quality pieces you’ll wear for years. Find one near you at swishing.com.

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Make your clothes fit

Layla Sargent, founder of The Seam, a website to connect you with local tailors, seamstresses and embroidery artists, says: “If it doesn’t fit well, you’re never going to wear it. Even by making trousers just the right length, or altering a waistband slightly, we will be inclined to wear them more.” The service is currently only in the London area, but coming to Manchester and Birmingham this year. Meanwhile, start with your local dry cleaner.

Learn how to sew on a button

How many shirts and jackets do you keep unworn at the back of your wardrobe because they are missing a button? Sewing on a button is a simple skill that everyone should have. There are lots of online tutorials; try one by the environmental activist Wilson Oryema for Fashion Revolution.

Make your own apron from a pair of old jeans

Turn a pair of old jeans into a denim work apron by unpicking the inside leg seams and stitching them together. This is one of many hacks from The Great British Sewing Bee’s book on Sustainable Style (Quadrille, £27, published on 26 March).

Darn your socks

“Once a life skill, darning has skipped a generation (or two),” says Emma Mathews of Socko (socko.shop), which makes socks from repurposed yarn. “But we can learn a lot from the way things were done in the past.” Sew small running stitches up and down the area around the hole and then turn the repair around and stitch perpendicular to them, weaving the thread together until you have covered the hole. Highly therapeutic.

Primp your trainers

This is a growing service industry. Gråel in Liverpool is a small business that specialises in cleaning “coveted footwear”, offering laces cleaning (£3), a deep clean (£15) and the meticulous premium package from undersole to insole (£35). Meanwhile, Jason Markk offers premium shoe care from branches in LA and Carnaby Street in London, where your trainers will be brought back to life by the brand’s sneaker-care technicians.

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Recycle in there

While 90% of us recycle our kitchen waste, we recycle only 50% of our beauty packaging – probably because our recycling bins are in the kitchen. Joseph Joseph makes an attractive split-waste bathroom bin for £20. You can reduce what ends up inside further by switching to bar soaps and shampoos (I love social enterprise Beco, from £2.50 at Co-op, Boots and supermarkets) and plastic-free handwash such as Soap Co (£19, 300ml, or £110 for a whopping 5l biodegradable container that should last a year).

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Lose the disposables

A staggering 20,000 litres of water are needed to create only 1kg of cotton – that’s enough to make just one T-shirt and a pair of jeans, so any cotton you buy should count. Replacing cotton wool is a good start. Remove the initial bulk of makeup with a reusable disc, such as Face Halo (£7), soaked in plain water. These do an astoundingly good job, even on waterproof mascara. Follow with a cleanser and a wet terry-cotton flannel; both flannel and disc should last for hundreds of washing machine cycles. For toners, exfoliants and nail polish remover, use washable bamboo pads. A pack of 18, plus washbag, costs about £10.

Pick the right package

There’s no justifiable excuse for packaging short-use, everyday beauty products in virgin plastic. There are now a large number of brands packaging in post-consumer recycled plastic (PCR), from the luxury (AvedaRENBiolage) to the mid-range (Soaper Duper, Lush), to the mass (all Simple and Dove bottles are now 100% PCR in Europe; L’Oréal Elvive, the world’s bestselling haircare brand, is rolling out 100% PCR bottles this summer – the caps are recyclable but not made from PCR – saving 7,000 tonnes of plastic globally a year). Alternatively, you could opt for products packaged in glass that haven’t travelled too far. Neal’s Yard mostly uses glass where safe, and distributes from Dorset.

Don’t be tempted by minis

Those pick’n’mix bars of travel-sized beauty products are so alluring, but cause a huge amount of waste for no reason and very little product. Instead, make a one-off investment in refillable travel bottles and pots from Muji (from 95p) or any high street chemist, and decant your favourite full sizes – or, even better, wash out and reuse any mini bottles you already have. Remember that active skincare such as vitamin C or retinol serums are best left in their original packaging to safeguard their stability, but anything else can be decanted for travel. And if you have so many minis left over from flights and hotel stays that you won’t use them all, take them to your nearest homeless shelter, where their clients need them.

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Embrace baths

Baths have long been seen as more wasteful and less responsible than showering, but some research shows that modern, pumped power showers can use more, not less, water than bathing. It is possible to enjoy a luxurious, but environmentally considerate, bath. Use sulphate-free oils, salts or foams and relax (I’ve even been known to wash posh, delicate bras while I soak). You can save more water by washing hair over the bath before climbing in, allowing the water to fill the tub – the shampoo will create bubbles, too.

Save water and lower your bills

Consider switching to a water meter, so you pay for only the water you use. Invest the money you save into water-saving devices and plumbing, such as rainwater harvesting and greywater recycling systems. Get free water-saving products from savewatersavemoney.co.uk. If you live in England and Wales, you can get a water meter fitted for free, but you may need to pay £300 if you live in Scotland. A number of investment funds have clean water and sanitation as their dominant theme, says Becky O’Connor of Royal London. For example, Parvest Aqua and RobecoSam Sustainable Water are recommended by ethical financial website good-with-money.com.

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Get a loan to improve your home’s energy efficiency

Some lenders provide cheap green mortgages and loans for energy-efficient improvements. Ecology Building Society offers discounts to customers borrowing for this. Nationwide says it will start offering low-interest loans of up to £25,000 to homeowners who want to retrofit existing properties with energy-efficiency measures.

Choose an environmentally friendly current account

Nearly £150bn has been invested in fossil fuels by UK banks since the Paris climate agreement was adopted in 2016. Ethical bank Triodos, which has the backing of Friends of the Earth, invests only in projects that create positive cultural, social and environmental outcomes. To review your bank’s track record, see lobbying organisation BankTrack, which reports on the activities that banks finance worldwide.

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Invest wisely

“Look at funds with sustainability in mind,” says Alice Evans, co-head of the BMO Global Investment’s responsible investment team. “Invest in funds that are described as ‘responsible’, ‘SRI’ (socially responsible investment), ‘ethical’ or ‘dark green’. These have the strictest criteria and avoid investing in any company that may have a poor record on environmental, human rights or other ethical grounds.”

Evaluate your pension

“For many people, their workplace pension will be their largest investment,” says Rich Mayor of research and analysis company Fundscape. You have the right to know where your money is being invested. “Ask your HR department or pension provider what funds you’re invested in and whether there is a sustainable or ethical option,” says Jon Dean, head of retirement strategy for financial services consultancy Altus.

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Get a green financial adviser

Last year, a new financial advice firm called The Path was set up to invest only in portfolios that have a positive impact on the planet. “You don’t need to be a millionaire to invest your money wisely,” says founder David MacDonald. “With very little effort you can make a significant difference, moving from harming the planet with your money to sustaining it.” Some research suggests that making sure your investments are sustainable has 27 times more impact than all the other things you could do to reduce your carbon footprint added together. “If you put the maximum annual ISA contribution of £20,000 into a positive-impact fund, it would be the carbon equivalent of taking one car off the road,” MacDonald says. SOURCE

Critics blast a proposal to curb climate change by halting population growth

More than 11,000 scientists signed a paper arguing the world needs to stabilize or gradually reduce the global population.

A crowd of people.
UNSPLASH / CHUTTERSNAP

More than 11,000 scientists from a broad range of disciplines signed a new editorial declaring a “climate emergency,” but other researchers immediately criticized one of the proposed remedies: halting population growth.

“Still increasing by roughly 80 million people per year, or more than 200,000 per day, the world population must be stabilized—and, ideally, gradually reduced,” reads the piece published in BioScience on Tuesday.

The authors note that effective means of lowering fertility rates include making family-planning services more widely available, improving education for girls and young women, and increasing gender equality.

But rich nations generally already have flat or declining birth rates, so the proposal largely seems directed at fast-growing developing nations in Africa and Asia. Specifically, the UN projects that nine countries will account for more than half of projected growth between now and 2050, including (in descending order) India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, the United Republic of Tanzania, Indonesia, Egypt, and the US (where migration is expected to be the main driver of growth).

“A bunch of white people in the developed world saying population should be reduced is the definition of an imperialist framing,” Arvind Ravikumar, an assistant professor of energy engineering at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, said on Twitter.

Joseph Majkut, a climate scientist and director of climate policy at the Niskanen Center, a think tank based in Washington, DC, says the suggestion is highly problematic from a political standpoint. It feeds directly into the perception among conservatives that “climate science and its conclusions are the product of an ideological movement,” one that prioritizes nature over humans.

A scientific rationale for a smaller world population could also be abused to justify more aggressive tactics of population control, or racist attitudes toward growing parts of the developing world. To some, the proposal drew to mind darker periods in the environmental movement, when various organizations and figures promoted pro-eugenics and anti-immigration views.

The UN projects that global population could grow from around 7.7 billion to 9.7 billion by 2050, and peak around the end of the century at 11 billion.

Fewer people producing less in greenhouse-gas emissions could make some difference in the danger that climate change poses over time. But whether we end up with 9, 10, or 11 billion people in the coming decades, the world will still be pumping out increasingly risky amounts of climate pollution if we don’t fundamentally fix the underlying energy, transportation, and food systems.

Others note inconsistencies in the BioScience paper’s proposed remedies to climate change. Notably, the authors also say the world needs to shift economic priorities away from growth in gross domestic product, and toward meeting basic human needs and reducing inequality.

However, rising GDP levels in many parts of the world reflect declining inequality as poor people in developing nations rise toward the middle class, says Jesse Reynolds, a fellow in environmental law and policy at the University of California, Los Angeles. And at least during the early stages, economic development is often correlated with declines in birth rates, so success at slowing GDP growth may complicate efforts to slow population growth.  

Many prominent names in climate science are conspicuously absent from the list of signatories, and many researchers who did add their names are in fields outside climate and energy. One notable name that does appear is James Hansen, an adjunct professor at Columbia who is considered the father of climate research for his early and influential modeling studies. 

SOURCE

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Innovation rush aims to help farmers, rich and poor, beat climate change

Image result for farming with drones

LONDON, July 29 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – In decades to come, African farmers may pool their money to buy small robot vehicles to weed their fields or drones that can hover to squirt a few drops of pesticide only where needed.

Smartphones already allow farmers in remote areas to snap photos of sick plants, upload them and get a quick diagnosis, plus advice on treatment.

Researchers also are trying to train crops like maize and wheat to produce their own nitrogen fertilizer from the air – a trick soybeans and other legumes use – and exploring how to make wheat and rice better at photosynthesis in very hot conditions.

Image result for photosynthesis wheatA gene that helps plants to remain healthy during times of stress has been identified by researchers at Oxford University.

As warmer, wilder weather linked to climate change brings growing challenges for farmers across the globe – and as they try to curb their own heat-trapping emissions – a rush of innovation aimed at helping both rich and poor farmers is now converging in ways that could benefit them all, scientists say.

In a hotter world, farmers share “the same problems, the same issues,” said Svend Christensen, head of plant and environmental sciences at the University of Copenhagen.

Agricultural researchers, who have teamed up to boost harvests and fight the major blight of wheat rust are now forming an international consortium in a bid to make wheat stand up to worsening heat and drought.

“There was a real shift in terms of the intensity of what we do together when we became aware of climate change,” said Hans-Joachim Braun, who heads the global wheat program for the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), based in Mexico.

For each 1 degree Celsius global temperatures rise above pre-industrial times, wheat harvests drop 5-8%, he said.

That means the world will likely see a 10% drop in harvests even if governments hold global warming to “well below” 2C, as they have agreed, he said – and that drop would come even as the world’s population grows and demand for food rises.

Finding ways to breed wheat that can cope better with heat could help farmers from Australia to India and China, as well as the people who depend on their grain, he said.

“It doesn’t matter where you use this trait – it will have an impact,” Braun said.

DARE TO DREAM

One idea scientists are working on is to fundamentally reshape how crops such as wheat and rice carry out photosynthesis, to make them better able to continue producing in hot weather, especially if less water is available.

The process – like efforts to help wheat and maize start making their own fertilizer – is hugely complex and will likely require decades of work, scientists say.

“It would be a mega-breakthrough. Many people think it’s dreaming a little bit because it’s so difficult,” said Bruce Campbell, director of the CGIAR Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

But early tests to improve photosynthesis in tobacco have shown a 40% boost in production – and the technique is now being tested with crops from cassava to maize, said Kathy Kahn, a crop research expert with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Nick Austin, who directs agricultural development for the foundation, said such changes “are going to benefit the poor and rich worlds together” – and could play a key role in keeping food prices affordable.

“These technologies… are going to be globally relevant,” he predicted. MORE

Grassroots movement to address climate crisis


Organic farmer Brenda Hsueh introduces the Green New Deal to people in her barn at Black Sheep Farm outside of Scone. PAT CARSON

The United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres does not talk about climate change, he talks about a “climate crisis,” adding that “we face a direct existential threat.”

The Paris Agreement on climate was signed by 195 nations, including Canada, in 2017. On April 2, 2019 the Government of Canada announced in a news release that Canada’s climate is warming twice as fast as the global average. The report added that Canadians are experiencing the costs of climate-related extremes first hand, from devastating wildfires and flooding to heat waves and droughts.

In January of 2019, the Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) reported that climate change is linked to depression, anxiety and stress disorders in Canada.

There is a grassroots movement afoot to address the climate crisis in Canada and it’s called the Green New Deal. The Green New Deal is a political idea to tackle the climate crisis.

There have been more than 150 Green New Deal town hall gatherings across Canada this month alone, in cities like Toronto and Vancouver and smaller communities like Barrie and Wiarton. On May 25 there was one in a barn on a farm outside of Scone on Grey Road 3.

“In part it comes out of the LEAP manifesto and a lot of different progressive groups wanting to push society to make changes, not just on climate issues, but on social justice issues too,” explained Brenda Hsueh, an organic farmer who hosted the event at Black Sheep Farm.

Hsueh decided to take up the challenge of hosting a town hall because as an organic farmer most of her work is done in isolation and she wanted to see who else in her community was as angry and frustrated with society’s lack of action on this major issue.

Twenty-four people from different walks of life and different ages, including several local organic farmers, showed up as concerned as Hsueh about the climate crisis and the need for action now.

The Green New Deal calls on workers, students, union members, migrants, community organizations and people all across the country to gather and design a plan for a safe and prosperous future for all. It is a vision of rapid, inclusive and far-reaching transition, to slash emissions, protect critical biodiversity and meet the demands of the multiple crises.

In her opening remarks, Hsueh asked people to be “mindful that we are gathered today on the traditional land of the Three Fire Confederacy of the Ojibway, Potawatomi and Odawa people.”

Before beginning small group discussions she explained the concept of “green line” statements as a way to identify what people want to see and support in communities and the country. “Red line” statements identify what people do not want to see or support. The statements might be about labour, Indigenous peoples, food, disabilities, public transportation, health, agriculture, war, youth and faith to name just a few social justice topics. MORE

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Airships to ferry goods to Northern Manitoba?

Innovation is going to result in profound changes in the new Green Economy. Airships, for example, could open up Canada’s vast northern territories, dramatically lowering the price of food, medicine, housing,  and essential supplies for development. Imagine a better future!

Airships Are Going to Redefine the Logistics Industry

Northern Manitoba chiefs are hoping an idea to help their communities avoid the high cost of fresh produce will get lift-off next month. Meagan Fiddler reports. 1:51

MKO Grand Chief David Harper said the goal is to make shipping cargo up north more cost-effective.

“There’s no reason that First Nations can’t operate these airships,” he said. “And there’s no reason they can’t build these airships.”

“Instead of sending six trucks up, you could be sending one of these, and your goods are delivered year round,” he said. Harper said climate change is making winter roads unreliable, sometimes open for just a couple of weeks. And he said a permanent road won’t be a reality for a long time.

Barry Prentice said Manitoba spends almost $5,000 per kilometer building some 2,200 kilometers of ice roads every year.

“So it’s about $10 million a year spent on ice roads,” he said. “And at the end of the year, it all melts away, and it’s gone. If we had 10 years of that money, we’d have a whole airship industry started.” MORE

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5 Ways Doug Ford’s Government Costs Us More

Neoliberal economic philosophy wants minimum government, regulation and services, minimum taxation, and the removal of all impediments to business’ efforts to maximize profits. Doug Ford is proclaiming Ontario is ‘open for business’. His government is an example of extreme neoliberalism. The other side of the coin, social democracy, proposes government is for people. It champions the plight of folks struggling with housing, those stuck in bad jobs with poor pay, families depending on public education to help their kids get ahead, and the sick. 

If there’s one thing top of mind for most folks, it’s the cost of living. Recent polling commissioned by the Broadbent Institute showed that whether it’s housing, healthcare, or simply paying for daily basics like food, Ontarians and the rest of Canada are worried that their largely stagnated incomes just can’t keep up. And they expect their government to start doing much more to make life affordable.

When Doug Ford rolled into office last June on a simple and effective slogan: “For the People”, many expected that under his rule their affordability concerns would be answered. Within the first few months however a pattern started to form of choices and policies that benefit special interest groups, while making life for the rest of us less affordable. This budget is yet more proof that Premier Ford will end up costing most folks more.

More healthcare costs on the way

It started on his second day in office when it was quietly announced that pharmacare for those under 25 was cancelled, closing the door on the promise of pharmacare for the rest of us. It’s a good deal for drug companies and insurers who make more money off of a fractured system of largely private coverage, where little is being done to control drug costs and premiums. It’s a crappy deal for the rest of us who continue to see our out-of-pocket costs for medications rise.

Yesterday’s budget plans to “save” another $200 million through the PC Government’s controversial plan to merge Health Units, but details are non existent and it’s always dangerous to cut a critical service like healthcare before identifying where the money will come from. Many public officers of health are saying it will likely mean less locally responsively service for people. MORE

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The Rapid Decline Of The Natural World Is A Crisis Even Bigger Than Climate Change

A three-year UN-backed study from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform On Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services has grim implications for the future of humanity.Image result for The Rapid Decline Of The Natural World Is A Crisis Even Bigger Than Climate Change

Nature is in freefall and the planet’s support systems are so stretched that we face widespread species extinctions and mass human migration unless urgent action is taken. That’s the warning hundreds of scientists are preparing to give, and it’s stark.

The last year has seen a slew of brutal and terrifying warnings about the threat climate change poses to life. Far less talked about but just as dangerous, if not more so, is the rapid decline of the natural world. The felling of forests, the over-exploitation of seas and soils, and the pollution of air and water are together driving the living world to the brink, according to a huge three-year, U.N.-backed landmark study to be published in May.

The study from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform On Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), expected to run to over 8,000 pages, is being compiled by more than 500 experts in 50 countries. It is the greatest attempt yet to assess the state of life on Earth and will show how tens of thousands of species are at high risk of extinction, how countries are using nature at a rate that far exceeds its ability to renew itself, and how nature’s ability to contribute food and fresh water to a growing human population is being compromised in every region on earth. MORE

Biodiversity is more than just the forests

Image result for forests biodiversity

Forest. Credit: © Pakhnyushchyy / Fotolia

TOO often when we talk about biodiversity, it evokes a notion of forest destruction or species extinction. To many, it is just about the environment. Little do we realise, however, that in fact biodiversity is the foundation for human health. It underpins the functioning of the ecosystems on which we depend for our food and fresh water. It contributes to local livelihoods, to traditional and modern medicines, and to economic development. It aids in regulating climate, floods and disease. It provides recreational benefits, and aesthetic and spiritual enrichment, supporting mental health.

The World Health Organisation offers an insightful analysis of the link between health and biodiversity, beginning with a definition of a healthy person as someone not simply free from illness but in a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing.

Knowledge of plant and animal diversity provides major benefits, including drugs. When we lose diversity, we limit our future discovery of potential treatments for our health problems. Traditional medicines are used by an estimated 60 per cent of the world’s people. And in some countries they are incorporated into the public health system extensively. Medicinal plants are the most common element of traditional medicine, collected from the wild or cultivated. MORE

It is time to respect the planet’s boundaries—and overhaul how we eat and waste food—if we want to feed our rising population

If we’re to feed the estimated 10 billion people on Earth in 2050—and protect the planet— we have to completely overhaul food production and choose healthier diets, says international report


Market in Barcelona, Spain. The authors recommend consumption of red meats and sugars to decrease by 50 percent, while increasing consumption of nuts, fruits, vegetables and legumes two-fold. Credit: ja ma/Unsplash)

The way we eat and grow food has to dramatically change if we’re going to feed the world’s increasing population by 2050 and protect the planet, according to a major report released today from the EAT-Lancet Commission.

“Civilisation is in crisis. We can no longer feed our population a healthy diet while balancing planetary resources,” wrote the commission, which was a three-year project and is comprised of 37 scientists from around the globe. “For the first time in 200,000 years of human history, we are severely out of synchronisation with the planet and nature.”

Agriculture is the largest pressure humans put on the planet.

The authors say reconnecting with nature is the key in turning around unsustainable agriculture and poor diets. If humans can “eat in a way that works for our planet as well as our bodies, the natural balance of the planet’s resources will be restored,” they write. “The nature that is disappearing holds the key to human and planetary survival.” MORE