Though many fondly remember the 1983 Tom Cruise film, the phrase “Risky Business” recently took on darker connotations. It’s the name of a new report on the economic risks of climate change, organized by former U.S. Treasury secretary Henry Paulson, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer, in which business leaders are challenged to view global warming as they would any other serious risk to their bottom line.
A new study out of the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and published in Nature links higher atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels with worsening nutrient deficiencies worldwide. Specifically, levels of zinc and iron, nutrients much of the world is already deficient in, may be under threat.
For those unfamiliar with the term, in the context of oceanography, a gyre refers to any large system of rotating currents in Earth’s oceans. There are five primary gyres, from which the environmental group 5 Gyres takes its name. A new partnership has been formed in support of this group’s mission, which is to “research and communicate about the global impact of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans.” Supplement company Rainbow Light now sponsors 5 Gyres, as its team embarks this month on its next sailing expedition.
If sustainability is ever going to take hold as an economic and social force, it may have to become a part of the educational process and instilled as a value in children. Aiming to do that on a grand scale is the recently released National Action Plan for Educating for Sustainability. It lays out a course of action to ensure that by 2040, every student graduating from a U.S. K–12 school “will be equipped to shape a more sustainable future,” according to the Center for Green Schools.
One would think that most consumers don’t give Mother Earth a second thought as they go about their shopping. So from that point of view, the following statistics are surprising. 71% of consumers say they at least sometimes consider the environment when they shop. Over one in four say they regularly or always keep it in mind (1). Now, there’s a difference between thinking green and actually going green, but it’s reassuring to know the vast majority of people are aware that they can vote for the environment with their dollars, and improve the ecology of their daily lives as well.
Palm oil is ubiquitous at the supermarket today, as it’s found in everything from margarine to cereal to potato chips. Palm oil imports have ramped up 485% over the last decade or so, according to the Rainforest Action Network’s palm oil factsheet. The consequence of this increased production is rampant rainforest destruction, and yet this issue may only be reaching the fringes of general consumer awareness.
An annual growth rate of 41% is highly impressive for any business or industry. Would you believe that fair trade and eco-friendly products are currently seeing just such an explosion? The good news comes in a report called The State of Sustainability Initiatives Review 2014, compiled by a coalition of fair trade and sustainable development groups. It presents an optimistic outlook for sustainability standards and certifications and the companies that choose to pursue them. Some areas that need improving were also identified.
The United States is forging ahead with the natural oil and gas boom that defines its energy policy, even as the significance of this boom flies under the radar. The average person has rarely heard about the explosive growth, except perhaps from stories about fracking controversies. But the global community has taken notice, with the official Chinese state news agency calling U.S. energy growth the most underreported story of 2013. Meanwhile, major alternative energy sources have been carving their own paths.
Frustrated with a lack of progress from negotiators, activists groups made a dramatic exit just before the close of this year’s world climate change meetings by walking out en masse from Warsaw’s National Stadium, where the meetings were held. The 19th Conference of the Parties (COP19) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), held November 11–22, was meant to firm up the timeline for a legally binding 2015 agreement on climate change goals, but observers were dismayed by continued fighting over details among the delegates.
Newly updated eco-friendly building standards made their debut at the 2013 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, held in Philadelphia from November 20–22. The U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) well-established LEED program (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) has reached its fourth version. LEED v4 is more user-friendly, and the LEED certification program is more open and ready to handle a wider variety of green construction projects, according to officials.