How a New Generation is Getting Their Education Abroad- Without A Tuition

A generation in search of answers

There’s long been a bug in the minds of the new generation- something doesn’t add up about the modern life path. We’ve heard it all before; spend some time in school, get a career helping some corporation produce and market some product or service, buy a house, start a family, die.

But this is the age of globalization, of the Internet- we grew up knowing that wasn’t all there was, yet still seem to be told repeatedly that it is. So some of us tried to go that route, some of us succeeded, and some of us failed miserably.

Whatever path we took, a lot of us found a large world outside of us, and it is a world in crisis. The disconnect of government and economy from the Earth has broken the cycle of life and sustainability, the oceans are warming, the forests are in decline, and many species are going extinct before our eyes.

Many of us were looking for answers, but didn’t know where to turn to get started actually helping solve those problems.

An unexpected problem

When I began looking into these problems and what to do about them, I discovered, as many others do, that the issue isn’t that nobody else cares, it’s that so many of the people working on the solutions have broken from the traditional path as well.

NuMundo Two

Solutions abound in the form of communities, projects, and educational centers- but there was no single place to discover them.

There aren’t big corporate sponsorships for eco-communities, environmental projects, and grassroots initiatives. They exist somewhere far under the radar, just above the underground. Sure, you can do some digging and find out about one or two, but there was no way to visualize the extent of what was really happening unseen all around the world.

That’s when I discovered NuMundo, and realized I was not alone with this problem.

And the more people I talked to, the more NuMundo’s solution seemed to be in high demand.

A network of solutions

There’s no end to the places willing and eager to train new environmentalists, new eco-community members, or just better people. But off-grid, rugged, down-to-earth people often make the worst marketers, and so many of these communities thrived with 20, 30, or 100 people for years or decades, never getting more than a passing glance from the mainstream society.

Some of these communities prefer the obscurity, but a great many were looking for opportunities to network closer with their brethren, and engage with more people searching for alternative ways of life.

NuMundo struck out in 2013 with the goal to make it easier for the traveling, knowledge-hungry nomad to connect with those who were looking for help, or looking to share their knowledge.

In just a few short years, they managed to generate monthly web traffic upwards of 30,000 users- bringing massive exposure to the dozens of communities they had hand-picked for cooperation.

Suddenly travelers, burgeoning environmentalists, and the curious were able to find opportunities that had so far remained obscure and hidden.

A wave of transformation was beginning- a network of solutions was born.

The value in grassroots education

When you step foot onto any one of NuMundo’s verified Impact Centers, it’s not like walking into a college, or a job. There’s no corporate culture to ingest, and codes of conduct are simple and intuitive.

Friendly faces greet you, excited to show off the tangible results of their work. A traveler is enriched with the energy of hearing passionate people discuss ambitious goals. The education is nothing a text-book could reproduce, but rather something tactile and experiential.

NuMundo Five

Suddenly you’re learning skills you never thought you might need, but seeing how they play out right before your eyes. You discover the ways a community can really come together, how people can live in tandem with their environments, how the world can be flipped on its head.

These communities are experts in permaculture techniques, land remediation, yoga and personal development, and embrace ecology and sustainability in their daily living. The skills which are becoming increasingly critical in a shifting world can’t be learned in a text book- they have to be learned here in the dirt.

Each Impact Center is as much an experimental potential future for society, and a school- propagating and studying the ideas that could produce a better world.

All the while you spend with one, you begin to discover things about yourself. Old dogma and assumptions are challenged left and right, your mind becomes freer as you assume a posture of curiosity and inquisitiveness.

NuMundo Four

There’s no test, no grades, and no tuition.

This is the world NuMundo seeks to build– one in which people can discover new opportunities alongside learning about themselves.

A vision in need of help

With a serious lack of connection between projects that are promoting this lifestyle, NuMundo is giving the possibility for people who want to learn and create this change to find their tribe. As it continues to develop and grow, it will be easier and easier for all of us to find each other and create change on a much larger scale.

NuMundo has done an incredible amount of work since 2013 getting their network started. Between connecting with communities across several countries, developing a beautiful web platform, and running the marketing initiatives necessary to get their vision in front of people’s eyes- it’s been a full time job for a wide team of dedicated entrepreneurs.

Now they need as much help as they can get. They have the opportunity to grow their network at an incredible rate, and really open up a world of possibilities to travelers for education, experience, and personal development, but those goals cost money.

Click here to find out how to help NuMundo succeed, and how you can get connected to their vision!

Written by Daniel Arsenault, founder of Electric In The Forest.

Singapore Has No Natural Water Supply, but the Country Isn’t Going Thirsty

In just 10 years, two out of three people will be living in a country that’s struggling to meet demand for water, according to the United Nations.

But even though Singapore has no aquifers or lakes, it’s unlikely that nation’s 5.5 million residents will be among the world’s thirsty.

That’s because the small island nation, which consumes 400 million gallons daily, has a water strategy that is arguably one of the most successful in the world.

“We have four national taps,” George Madhavan, the spokesperson for Public Utility Board (PUB), Singapore’s government agency in charge of water quality, conservation, and supply, said during a recent Meeting of the Minds urban sustainability conference in California.

The “taps” flow from desalinated seawater, recycled wastewater, water collected from rainfall, and an imported supply from neighboring Malaysia.

Having a reliable source of water has always been on the government’s agenda, Madhavan said.

“Without secure and reliable access to water in Singapore, business will not come,” he said. “So that’s a top priority to get a bigger piece of the pie.”

The push to develop a mostly self-sufficient water supply has been credited to Lee Kuan Kew, the country’s first prime minister, who took on the task in response to water shortages in the 1960s and ’70s.

But it wasn’t a quick fix. It took 30 years to put the system into place.

The PUB water agency says its “jewel” is the ability to recycle used water, or wastewater from sinks and toilets, into what it calls NEWater. The NEWater purification process, which Singapore launched in 2003 (after getting tips from the Orange County Water District’s wastewater recycling plant in Southern California), meets 30 percent of daily water demand. While the recycled water is mainly used for industrial purposes, it also replenishes the country’s 17 reservoirs.

But recycled water can also supply water for drinking and cooking. According to PUB, NEWater has passed 130,000 scientific tests and exceeds the drinking water standards set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and guidelines issued from the World Health Organization.

RELATED: Two Billion People Are Running out of Water

Here’s what happens: The wastewater travels through a network of deep tunnel sewer pipes, then goes through conventional treatment at a sewage treatment plant. It’s then either returned to the sea or sent to one of the country’s four NEWater plants for further purification, depending on demand.

The NEWater plants follow a three-step process. First, membranes filter out small particles such as solids and bacteria. Next, reverse osmosis takes out larger-sized contaminants. Lastly, the water is disinfected with ultraviolet light and hydrogen peroxide.

But Madhavan said the government knew that a large part of successfully integrating recycled wastewater to its supply hinged on whether Singaporeans would want to drink it in the first place.

“The difficult part isn’t the technology,” he said. “It’s getting the community to embrace recycled water.”

To do that, the country had to get rid of the “yuck” factor. For its NEWater branding campaign, it bottled the recycled water with a label featuring a cartoon water drop with a gigantic grin-and constructed a slick visitor center showing how the purification process works via games and interactive exhibits. The agency also brought reporters to a Southern California wastewater recycling plant, as well as to one in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Another quarter of Singapore’s daily demand is met by its two desalination plants, which together can process 100 million gallons a day. Since the plants are energy-intensive, the country is experimenting with electrodeionization, a process that consumes less power.

The third tap comes from rainwater collected from drains, canals, rivers, and storm water collection ponds. (Residents aren’t allowed to harvest water without the government’s permission). Combined with water imports from Malaysia, the two sources fulfill the remaining 45 percent of Singapore’s daily water needs.

The PUB water agency is preparing now for a projected doubling in demand by 2060. (Singapore’s water agreement with Malaysia is set to expire in 2061). The agency says it’s on track to triple its NEWater production and build two new desalination plants that together will meet 80 percent of demand in 2060.

Madhavan said Singapore thinks about water in a different way.

“You don’t want to drain it, you want to collect it,” he said.

Ruling in Mexico Sets Into Motion Legal Marijuana

The Mexican Supreme Court opened the door to legalizing marijuana on Wednesday, delivering a pointed challenge to the nation’s strict substance abuse laws and adding its weight to the growing debate in Latin America over the costs and consequences of the war against drugs.

The vote by the court’s criminal chamber declared that individuals should have the right to grow and distribute marijuana for their personal use. While the ruling does not strike down current drug laws, it lays the groundwork for a wave of legal actions that could ultimately rewrite them, proponents of legalization say.

The decision reflects a changing dynamic in Mexico, where for decades the American-backed antidrug campaign has produced much upheaval but few lasting victories. Today, the flow of drugs to the United States continues, along with the political corruption it fuels in Mexico. The country, dispirited by the ceaseless campaign against traffickers, remains engulfed in violence.

“It’s the drama behind all of our efforts,” said Juan Francisco Torres Landa, a corporate lawyer who was one of the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case.

The marijuana case has ignited a debate about the effectiveness of imprisoning drug users in a country with some of the most conservative drug laws in Latin America. But across the region, a growing number of voices are questioning Washington’s strategy in the drug war. With little to show for tough-on-crime policies, the balance appears to be slowly shifting toward other approaches.

Uruguay enacted a law in 2013 to legalize marijuana, though the creation of a legal marijuana industry in the small country has unfolded slowly. Chile gathered its first harvest of medical marijuana this year. In Brazil, the Supreme Court recently debated the decriminalization of marijuana, cocaine and other drugs. And Bolivia allows traditional uses of coca, the plant used to make cocaine.

Many leaders in Latin America have called for a shift in policy, including President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia. In May, his government ordered a halt to the aerial spraying of illegal coca fields, rejecting a major tool in the American-backed antidrug campaign because of concerns that the herbicide spray causes cancer.

Though Mr. Santos is one of Washington’s closest allies in the region, he has pointed out the incongruity of jailing poor farmers for growing marijuana while it is slowly being decriminalized in the United States.

“Every country in the world signed up to a treaty that prescribed a prohibitionist and criminalized approach to dealing with drugs that was one-sided,” said John Walsh, a senior associate at the Washington Office on Latin America, a human rights group. “That basic response doesn’t work anymore.”

Mexicans seeking a new strategy have also been struck by the situation. “We are killing ourselves to stop the production of something that is heading to the U.S., where it’s legal,” said Armando Santacruz, another plaintiff in the case.

Still, few think that legalizing marijuana will significantly reduce drug violence or weaken the gangs.

Although the rising production of higher-quality marijuana in the United States reduces demand for Mexican imports, experts say that Mexican gangs continue to account for an important percentage of the American supply.

As it stands, marijuana accounts for more than a fifth of revenues generated by cartels, around $1.5 billion a year, according to a 2010 report by the RAND Corporation.

The one thing that could significantly affect the cartels’ marijuana business is legislation in the United States. As marijuana growing for commercial purposes in America expands, demand for Mexican marijuana could eventually dry up.

Pro-marijuana activists have scored a remarkable string of election wins in recent years even though the drug remains illegal under federal law. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have passed laws permitting medical marijuana, and four states also allow recreational use by adults.

“In the long run, as the U.S. legalizes marijuana, Mexico is going to have a tough time competing with lawful American suppliers,” Mr. Walsh said. “That doesn’t mean they won’t have a business plan, it’s just that marijuana will be removed from it.”

Marijuana is just one of many sources of income for the cartels, which smuggle narcotics across the border to the United States and run kidnapping and extortion rings at home. The criminal infrastructure will persist whether or not marijuana use is legal.

“The existing laws don’t reduce violence, either,” said Catalina Pérez Correa González, a law professor at CIDE, a university in Mexico City.

The legal ruling on Wednesday barely referred to the bloody backdrop of the drug war. Instead, Justice Arturo Zaldívar wrote an 88-page opinion based on principles of human rights, arguing that the state recognizes an individual’s autonomy to engage in recreational activities that do not harm others.

The number of marijuana users in Mexico is believed to be small. One 2011 drug-use survey estimated that 2 percent of Mexicans had smoked marijuana in the past year. Although that figure is probably low, it is less than the 7.5 percent of people in the United States who said in a 2013 survey that they had used marijuana in the previous month.

If Mexicans are allowed to grow and consume their own marijuana, casual users will not have to commit a crime to obtain it. Now, marijuana users are currently vulnerable to extortion by the police and are locked up by the thousands every year on charges of consumption and possession.

“There is an enormous institutional and social cost to enforcing the laws against marijuana,” said Ms. Pérez Correa, whose surveys of state and federal prisons suggest that 60 percent of the inmates sentenced for drug crimes were convicted in cases involving marijuana. “How many resources are being used up to reduce these low-impact crimes?”

The ruling on Wednesday was the culmination of an effort to change the law by four members of a prominent Mexican anticrime group, Mexico United Against Crime.

Mr. Torres Landa and Mr. Santacruz formed an alliance with two other people, called the Mexican Society for Responsible and Tolerant Consumption – the Spanish acronym is Smart. Their group applied for a license from Mexico’s drug regulatory agency to use marijuana, but, as expected, was turned down. Their appeal of that decision eventually reached the Supreme Court.

Yet the ruling on Wednesday applies only to their petition. For legal marijuana to become the law of the land, the justices in the court’s criminal chamber will have to rule the same way five times, or eight of the 11 members of the full court will have to vote in favor.

If the court decisions continue in that direction, they will be flying in the face of public opinion. Mexicans are so opposed to legalizing marijuana that a leading pollster told the Smart group not to bother with a survey, Mr. Santacruz recalled, or to limit it to young people.

But Adalí Cadena Rosas, 20, a pharmacy worker in Mexico City, bemoaned the decision on Wednesday. “I mean, we already have so many drug addicts,” she said. “This is only going to make things worse.”

On the other hand, Carlos Canchola, 87, a retiree, rejoiced when he learned of the ruling.

“This is great news,” he said. “People like me will be able to acquire it for rheumatism.”

President Enrique Peña Nieto said his government would respect the Supreme Court’s decision, but his government, legislators and security and health officials all oppose legalization, as does the Roman Catholic Church.

Mr. Santacruz is determined to change minds. Invoking the specter of Mexico’s most notorious drug kingpin, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, known as El Chapo, he likes to remind people: “Bad regulation is better than whatever regulation El Chapo and the narcos can provide.”

INSTAGRAM STAR WAKES UP: I Quit Social Media Because Of My 12 Year Old Self

Instagram star and Australian teen Essena O’Neill started off her journey as a young 12 year old girl spending hours watching perfect girls online, wishing she was them. Now, she is one of them. She has become the “perfect internet girl” she has always dreamed of being and is getting all the “likes”, praise and the so-called “good life” that comes with it. And guess what? She is now calling B.S. on the industry that made her famous.

“I had everything I ever wanted. Now I’m here and I see how contrived, fake and forced consistently proving to the world ‘how amazing my life/body/self is”. I spent everyday looking at a screen, viewing and comparing myself to others. It’s easier to look at shiny and pretty things that appear happy, than stopping and just getting real with yourself.”

She has now rewritten every caption of her old “perfect” and “happy” Instagram pictures, divulging the real intention behind them and the “not so happy” state of being she was actually in. Talk about an act of vulnerability!

Essena, who is now 19 years old, hopes that this will inspire others to live an authentic life that is true to themselves as opposed to sink in the illusion that more “likes” and “followers” means you are happier and more worthy. In fact, she encourages all “followers” to step off the follower train with this beautiful statement:

“I can’t tell you how beautiful life is without a phone, without social media, without comparing, or likes or followers. We are not followers, we are beings of individuality and love. I have never felt so free.”

Watch Essena pour her heart out in this video in which she shares her struggle of upholding an image of “perfection” for the world to admire, and how free she feels to finally let it go:


Shout out to all the brave souls who, despite having “gained the world”, are choosing not to lose their souls in the process. Thank you for helping break this illusion by speaking out and sharing your humaneness with all of us. This is what our children need to hear; that is it PERFECT to be imperfect. That is is PERFECT to be human, to feel sad at times, and most of all, that it is PERFECT to be yourself.

It seems more and more celebrities are speaking out about the illusion of celebrityism and the idea that wealth, fame and being “valued” by the world will make you happy. Cara Delevingne and Lady Gaga being two of the latest celebs admitting to it and expressing their desire to break free. Imagine what it must feel like to build your entire sense of self based on a mask you wear, and be “loved” not for you, but for a false image you have created of yourself. This is the lonely throne that many who have reached the so-called “top” find themselves in. And this is what the mass media and entertainment industry tell you and your kids to strive for in order to be “happy”…

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Kraft mac and cheese loses fake coloring

For years that bright yellow color of Kraft macaroni and cheese wasn’t all-natural, but it’s about to be.

Kraft is removing artificial preservatives and synthetic colors from its mac and cheese recipe, starting in January 2016.

It will use spices like paprika, annatto and turmeric to replace the synthetic colors and promises that its mac and cheese will taste the same as before.

Kraft already took out the fake coloring from its character macaroni, like its SpongeBob,Star Wars and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shapes. Starting in 2016, all of its mac and cheese boxes will be synthetic-free.

The change comes after hearing from parents who wanted improved nutrition and simpler ingredients, Kraft said.

Related: Warren Buffett must really love mac & cheese

CNNMoney (New York) April 20, 2015: 1:10 PM ET

Can Google Drive the Production of Environmentally Sustainable Buildings?

Google, in partnership with thinkstep, building architecture and engineering efficiency firm Flux and the Healthy Building Network have launched a free database that aims to promote environmentally sustainable buildings.

The Quartz database is the result of a year-long collaboration known as the Quartz Project, whose overall mission is to promote the transparency of building product information. Now freely available to building owners, architects and sustainability specialists, as well as to the general public, the database brings together data on the impacts building materials have on both human health and environmental sustainability.

The partners say the Quartz database will serve as a catalyst for more sustainable materials by providing baseline information for the AEC industry. The database aggregates and standardizes the industry’s current data into an open database of valuable and actionable information that is well organized and easy to understand. It’s an open, vendor-agnostic mechanism that allows the AEC industry to compare, contrast and evaluate materials based on their impact on the environment and human health.

Quartz integrates both LCA and health-hazard data into a single information source using widely accepted and consistent methodologies, such as Pharos Project/GreenScreen hazard screening, TRACI 2.1, and ISO14044.

Data is vendor-neutral and covers 100 building products across a range of categories, such as concrete, drywall and insulation. Products are compared by composition, health impacts, and environmental impacts.

Data is licensed under Creative Commons BY 4.0, meaning there is no restriction on the use, redistribution or modification of the data.

In 2013, Google, the Healthy Building Network and more than 20 other corporations and institutions launched the Building Health Initiative, which aims to elevate green building as a public health benefit and accelerate the development of transparency standards in building materials.

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How Campbells is Helping to Make Sustainable Growing the New Normal

There’s a lot of momentum in the sustainable agriculture world. We helped Walmart discover that fertilizer runoff is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions in its supply chain, and they’re now working with suppliers to improve the way grain is grown across the U.S. That’s because half of all fertilizer applied to crops runs off the field, leading to water pollution, aquatic dead zones that kill marine life, and contributing to climate change – since the nitrogen in fertilizer runoff converts to nitrous oxide, which is 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

Major food companies are also recognizing that increased weather variability from climate change can cause supply chain disruptions, that their customers are demanding transparency for how their food was grown, and that it’s in their best interest to meet retailers’ demands for sustainably grown grain.

That’s why Campbell’s Soup has focused on growing its vegetables as sustainably as possible, and why its Pepperidge Farm subsidiary is now investing in wheat sustainability in their Ohio and Nebraska sourcing areas.

My colleague Suzy Friedman, director of agricultural sustainability at EDF, recently interviewed Dan Sonke, manager of agricultural sustainability at Campbell’s, to get his take on this unprecedented momentum. Below are the highlights of their conversation on why his company is working with farmers to reduce environmental impacts, what they’re hearing from customers, and about why sustainable grain is becoming the new normal.

How did Campbell’s get involved in sustainable agriculture?

We heard from our customers and investors that they wanted more transparency and a greater focus on sustainable ag. We initially drafted goals for reducing our environmental footprint, then after I was hired we developed a plan to meet these goals, starting with tomatoes. I created a program to research the best techniques our farmers can use to grow our tomatoes, focusing on water, fertilizer, greenhouse gas emissions, soil quality, and pesticides. Based on the success of this program, we decided to expand our focus to four other ingredients: carrots, celery, potatoes and jalapenos.

Is fertilizer efficiency an easy sell to growers?

It depends on the crop. A specialty crop like tomatoes is very different from wheat. Fertilizer is a much smaller portion of production costs for tomato farmers, but fertilizer might be a top cost for wheat farmers. Vegetable farmers also sell directly to us, while wheat may go through several steps before it reaches us.

That’s why our collaboration with EDF and United Suppliers focuses on sustainability in our wheat sourcing areas. We’re deploying SUSTAIN™, developed and deployed by United Suppliers in collaboration with EDF, to help our wheat growers improve fertilizer efficiency and improve soil health, without sacrificing yields. United Suppliers brings a direct connection to wheat growers.

Are you seeing a shift change in terms of demand for sustainable grain?

Yes, yes, yes! Especially in the last two years – I’ve spent a lot of time at different forums and sustainable agriculture is next big thing that food companies are working on. There’s a big shift happening. Customers and a desire for transparency are one driver, but we also realize as food companies that sustainability of supply reduces risk in today’s world.

There’s a growing realization that agriculture represents the largest impact on natural systems and that we need agriculture to survive. We’re starting to see a lot of organizations that haven’t thought about this before start to express an interest in improving farming practices.

I see sustainability programs as a way to communicate to the world the progress that growers have made and the environmental benefits that come from efficiency.

5 Energy Trends Driving Climate Progress in 2015

What a difference a year can make. Even before the last weeks tick away, 2015 stands out as a remarkable and dynamic year for climate and energy in the United States.

Read on for five bold trends that are beginning to reshape our economy – and our national discourse on climate change. 1. Investments in renewables soar

I admit it: For years, I thought renewable energy was more hype than reality. I’m happy to report that recent data proves me wrong.

In just five years, solar panel prices have fallen 80 percent, and solar capacity installed worldwide grew more than six-fold. The overall cost of solar per kilowatt-hour, meanwhile, plummeted 50 percent.

For the first time in history, energy from the sun is as cheap as traditional energy in states such as Arizona, California and Texas.

The proof is in the pudding. Apple, for example, recently signed an $848-million power agreement with a solar provider – bypassing the electric grid. A deal of this magnitude shows where solar is today, and where it is headed.

2. Energy storage bursts onto the scene

If price has been the main barrier to clean energy adoption at vast scale, variability remains a second obstacle – though likely not for much longer.

Because the sun shines when people are at work, and goes down before they get home and fire up air conditioners, furnaces and electronics, there is a mismatch between when most solar energy is produced and most is needed. The key to unlocking a match is energy storage – what Deutsche Bank calls “the missing link of solar adoption.”

This was the year that breakthroughs in energy storage became inevitable with Tesla first out of the gate and other companies following close behind. With firms such as GE and Lockheed Martin now part of the contest, hundreds of millions of dollars of capital is flowing toward research, development and commercialization.

In fact, Deutsche Bank predicts energy storage is headed toward market readiness, with incremental storage costs likely to drop from about 14 cents per kilowatt-hour to about 2 cents within the next five years.

3. Clean Power Plan enjoys a head-start

The recently finalized Clean Power Plan puts long-overdue limits on carbon pollution from America’s power plants and will cut emissions by more than 30 percent by 2030, while preventing 90,000 childhood asthma attacks annually.

The interesting trend here is that while compliance is not required until 2022, many states are earning a big head start. Just look at Texas. While some politicians in Austin were quick to denounce the pollution limits as unaffordable, the facts paint a very different story.

The sky is not falling, it turns out. The sky is generating wind power.

Thanks in part to West Texas wind, current trends alone can carry the state to 88 percent of its 2030 power plant pollution reduction goal, while generating clean energy jobs and economic growth.

4. Fossil fuel scrutiny ramps up

While trends suggest a bright future for renewable energy, fossil fuels continue to produce two-thirds of the energy we use. But scrutiny is growing from the public, investors and the media.

2015 was the year methane popped on the national energy policy agenda. It’s a key issue because every ounce of methane emissions undermines the potential climate benefits of natural gas relative to other traditional fuels. New federal methane rules are a first step to meeting scrutiny with solutions and mark a needed trend toward regulating this potent greenhouse gas.

As New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer recently put it, “As long-term investors, we understand that strong methane emissions regulations will help to stimulate capital investment in the energy sector, reduce reputational risk and improve performance.”

5. Corporate climate action goes mainstream

General Motors. Walmart. Goldman Sachs. IKEA. These are just a few of the 81 companies that are already supporting the White House’s climate initiative in the run-up to the United Nations-led climate talks in Paris this fall. All signed the American Business Act on Climate Pledge.

This outpouring of corporate support shows that climate action has finally gone mainstream. And it’s no wonder. With Americans acknowledging the reality of climate change by increasing margins, and supporting action to cut fossil fuel pollution by a clear majority, the signal to business leaders is unequivocal.

And because getting ahead of climate can unlock new business models, energy savings and lesser risk, the business case is a stool with many solid legs.

2015 is the year when we can truly say that our national energy landscape began to change in tandem with climate awareness. So much so that even some lawmakers who resisted change may now be reaching a tipping point.

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Are Robots The Future of Farming Efficiency?

Are Robots the Future of Farming Efficiency?

Bosch is using a robot to make farming more efficient and reduce its environmental impact, Farming Life reports.

Deepfield Robotics, a Bosch startup, developed the robot called Bonirob, which is the size of a compact car.

The agriculture robot can monitor new crop varieties’ growth, their resistance to pests and how much fertilizer and water they need. Currently, plant scientists in a laboratory have to do these time-intensive tasks manually.

Bonirob also improves efficiency of day-to-day work in the fields. It can distinguish between crops and weeds based on the shape of their leaves and eliminates weeds manually, which means farmers don’t have to use toxic chemicals to kill weeks.

Farming Life says more efficient plant breeding is expected to play a major role in increasing agricultural output in the near future: yields must increase by 3 percent each year to keep up with population growth. The farming robot can help with this, Professor Amos Albert, general manager of Deepfield Robotics, tells the publication: “Over time, based on parameters such as leaf color, shape and size, Bonirob learns how to differentiate more and more accurately between the plants we want and the plants we don’t want.”

Oil operators are also turning to robots as they attempt to streamline drilling operations, cut down non-productive time and shave costs, according to a Lux Research report published earlier this month.



Floating Garden Cleans As It Grows In The Most Polluted Waterway in US

The Gowanus Canal in New York City is notorious for being one of the most polluted waterways in the U.S. Imagine everyone’s surprise when, three weeks ago, an oasis of pure greenery sprouted atop the surface of the river.

Not only is this improbable garden a breathtaking sight on the brackish water, but it is also cleaning the stream as it blooms.

The project, called GrowOnUs, is an experiment in “floating infrastructure” that utilizes a process called phytoremediation to tidy up the murky canal. Over 30 different kinds of plants act as sponges to purify, desalinate, and mitigate the chemicals affecting the waterway.

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The plants are grown inside the very same metal culvert piping used to carry sewage waste into the waterway. These “test tubes” are made buoyant by eco-friendly construction materials like coconut fibers and bamboo.

Balmori Associates, a New York company specializing in creating environmentally sustainable infrastructure since 1995, took action on the GrowOnUs project after receiving a $20,000 grant from the Cornelia & Michael Bessie Foundation.

According to Diana Balmori, three attempts had already been made to produce a sustainable patch of vegetation in the waters, but the pollution had been too much for the plants. Now, since using tougher, more conditioned greenery, the garden has been thriving.

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GrowOnUs, ideally, will deliver a positive change in shoreline protection, wildlife activity, and financial income for the city. It could also become the next wave in locally-grown food.

“We have pioneered floating landscapes, we now want to learn what can make these floating structures financially sustainable” said Balmori in a press release. “Dr. Michael Balick at the New York Botanical Garden suggested we grow herbs, low maintenance crops.”

See More Positive News Stories About Cutting Pollution

“In a few years NYC restaurants may be serving meals and drinks infused with herbs [and fruits] grown on one of these islands.”

(WATCH the video below to learn more)

Photos by © 2015 Balmori Associates

How the Third Industrial Revolution Will Create a Green Economy

This essay is the first in a four-part series on the theme, “The Third Industrial Revolution.” Stay tuned for the next chapters and responses from leading global figures and technologists.

The global economy is slowing, productivity is waning in every region of the world and unemployment remains stubbornly high in every country. At the same time, economic inequality between the rich and the poor is at the highest point in human history. In 2010 the combined wealth of the 388 richest people in the world equaled the combined wealth of the poorest half of the human race. By 2014 the wealth of the 80 richest individuals in the world equaled the combined wealth of the poorest half of the human race.

This dire economic reality is now compounded by the rapid acceleration of climate change brought on by the increasing emissions of industry-induced global warming gases. Climate scientists report that the global atmospheric concentration of carbon, which ranged from about 180 to 300 parts per million for the past 650,000 years, has risen from 280 ppm just before the outset of the industrial era to 400 ppm in 2013. The atmospheric concentrations of methane and nitrous oxide, the other two powerful global warming gases, are showing similar steep trajectories.

At the Copenhagen global climate summit in December 2009, the European Union proposed that the nations of the world limit the rise in Earth’s temperature to 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius). Even a 3.5 degree rise, however, would take us back to the temperature on Earth several million years ago, in the Pliocene epoch, with devastating consequences to ecosystems and human life.

The EU proposal went ignored. Now, six years later, the sharp rise in the use of carbon-based fuels has pushed up the atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide far more quickly than earlier models had projected, making it likely that the temperature on Earth will rush past the 3.5 degree target and could top off at 8.6 degrees Fahrenheit (4.8 degrees Celsius) by 2100 — temperatures not seen on Earth for millions of years. (Remember, anatomically modern human beings — the youngest species — have only inhabited the planet for 195,000 years or so.)

What makes these dramatic spikes in the Earth’s temperature so terrifying is that the increase in heat radically shifts the planet’s hydrological cycle. Ours is a watery planet. The Earth’s diverse ecosystems have evolved over geological time in direct relationship to precipitation patterns. Each rise in temperature of 1 degree Celsius results in a 7 percent increase in the moisture-holding capacity of the atmosphere. This causes a radical change in the way water is distributed, with more intense precipitation but a reduction in duration and frequency. The consequences are already being felt in ecosystems around the world. We are experiencing more bitter winter snows, more dramatic spring storms and floods, more prolonged summer droughts, more wildfires, more intense hurricanes (category 3, 4 and 5), a melting of the ice caps on the great mountain ranges and a rise in sea levels.

Typhoon Haiyan survivors make camp in the ruins of their neighborhood on the outskirts of Tacloban, central Philippines. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder, File)

The Earth’s ecosystems cannot readjust to a disruptive change in the planet’s water cycle in such a brief moment in time and are under increasing stress, with some on the verge of collapse. The destabilization of ecosystem dynamics around the world has now pushed the biosphere into the sixth extinction event of the past 450 million years of life on Earth. In each of the five previous extinctions, Earth’s climate reached a critical tipping point, throwing the ecosystems into a positive feedback loop, leading to a quick wipeout of the planet’s biodiversity. On average, it took upward of 10 million years to recover the lost biodiversity. Biologists tell us that we could see the extinction of half the Earth’s species by the end of the current century, resulting in a barren new era that could last for millions of years. James Hansen, the former head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, forecasts a rise in the Earth’s temperature of 4 degrees Celsius between now and the turn of the century — and with it, the end of human civilization as we’ve come to know it. The only hope, according to Hansen, is to reduce the current concentration of carbon in the atmosphere from 400 ppm to 350 ppm or less.

Now, a new economic paradigm is emerging that is going to dramatically change the way we organize economic life on the planet. The European Union is embarking on a bold new course to create a high-tech 21st century smart green digital economy, making Europe potentially the most productive commercial space in the world and the most ecologically sustainable society on Earth. The plan is called Digital Europe. The EU vision of a green digital economy is now being embraced by China and other developing nations around the world.

The digitalization of Europe involves much more than providing universal broadband, free Wi-Fi and a flow of big data. The digital economy will revolutionize every commercial sector, disrupt the workings of virtually every industry, bring with it unprecedented new economic opportunities, put millions of people back to work, democratize economic life and create a more sustainable low-carbon society to mitigate climate change. Equally important, this new economic narrative is being accompanied by a new biosphere consciousness, as the human race begins to perceive the Earth as its indivisible community. We are each beginning to take on our responsibilities as stewards of the planetary ecosystems that sustain all of life.

To grasp the enormity of the economic change taking place, we need to understand the technological forces that have given rise to new economic systems throughout history. Every great economic paradigm requires three elements, each of which interacts with the other to enable the system to operate as a whole: new communication technologies to more efficiently manage economic activity; new sources of energy to more efficiently power economic activity; and new modes of transportation to more efficiently move economic activity.

In the 19th century, steam-powered printing and the telegraph, abundant coal and locomotives on national rail systems gave rise to the First Industrial Revolution. In the 20th century, centralized electricity, the telephone, radio and television, cheap oil and internal combustion vehicles on national road systems converged to create an infrastructure for the Second Industrial Revolution.

The Third Industrial Revolution

The EMC earth station at Raisting in Germany provides satellite-based communications for aid organizations, the United Nations and emerging markets. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Today, Europe is laying the ground work for the Third Industrial Revolution. The digitalized communication Internet is converging with a digitalized, renewable “Energy Internet” and a digitalized, automated “Transportation and Logistics Internet” to create a super “Internet of Things” infrastructure. In the Internet of Things era, sensors will be embedded into every device and appliance, allowing them to communicate with each other and Internet users, providing up-to-the-moment data on the managing, powering and moving of economic activity in a smart Digital Europe. Currently, billions of sensors are attached to resource flows, warehouses, road systems, factory production lines, the electricity transmission grid, offices, homes, stores and vehicles, continually monitoring their status and performance and feeding big data back to the Communication Internet, Energy Internet and Transportation and Logistics Internet. By 2030, it is estimated there will be more than 100 trillion sensors connecting the human and natural environment in a global distributed intelligent network. For the first time in history, the entire human race can collaborate directly with one another, democratizing economic life.

The digitalization of communication, energy and transportation also raises risks and challenges, not the least of which are guaranteeing network neutrality, preventing the creation of new corporate monopolies, protecting personal privacy, ensuring data security and thwarting cybercrime and cyber terrorism. The European Commission has already begun to address these issues by establishing the broad principle that “privacy, data protection, and information security are complementary requirements for Internet of Things services.”

In this expanded digital economy, private enterprises connected to the Internet of Things can use Big Data and analytics to develop algorithms that speed efficiency, increase productivity and dramatically lower the marginal cost of producing and distributing goods and services, making European businesses more competitive in an emerging post-carbon global marketplace. (Marginal cost is the cost of producing an additional unit of a good or service, after fixed costs have been absorbed.)

The marginal cost of some goods and services in a Digital Europe will even approach zero, allowing millions of connected to the Internet of Things to produce and exchange things with one another for nearly free in the growing Sharing Economy. Already, a digital generation is producing and sharing music, videos, news blogs, social media, free e-books, massive open online college courses and other virtual goods at near zero marginal cost. The near zero marginal cost phenomenon brought the music industry to its knees, shook the television industry, forced newspapers and magazines out of business and crippled the book publishing market.

While many traditional industries suffered, the zero marginal cost phenomenon also gave rise to a spate of new entrepreneurial enterprises including Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and thousands of other Internet companies, which reaped profits by creating new applications and establishing the networks that allow the Sharing Economy to flourish.

Jeremy Rifkin is the author of “The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism.” Rifkin is an advisor to the European Union and to heads of state around the world, and is the president of the Foundation on Economic Trends in Washington, D.C.. For more information, please visit The Zero Marginal Cost Society.

Economists acknowledge the powerful impact the near zero marginal cost has had on the information goods industries. But, until recently, they have argued that the productivity advances of the digital economy would not pass across the firewall from the virtual world to the brick-and-mortar economy of energy, and physical goods and services. That firewall has now been breached. The evolving Internet of Things will allow conventional businesses enterprises, as well as millions of prosumers, to make and distribute their own renewable energy, use driverless electric and fuel-cell vehicles in automated car-sharing services and manufacture an increasing array of 3-D-printed physical products and other goods at very low marginal cost in the market exchange economy, or at near zero marginal cost in the Sharing Economy, just as they now do with information goods.

Shark-tracking technology instead of shark culling will keep swimmers safe in Australia

In the past few years, calls for conservation and protection of sharks have done a great job of spreading awareness of how many more sharks are killed by humans by things like shark finning or longline fishing than humans are killed by sharks. Organizations like OCEARCH have engaged the public and made them feel a connection with individual sharks that they’re tracking, making it cool to love sharks, especially great whites.

Despite all of that progress, many people still fear sharks, so much so that they believe killing them is the answer to shark attacks. In Australia, where shark attacks happen each year during the summer, that reaction has actually been government-sanctioned. In Western Australia, a program for killing sharks was instituted last year over three months where lines of baited hooks were strung off shore to catch sharks and fishermen were hired to kill sharks they saw over 10 feet in length. The program suffered from backlash and luckily was dropped, but not before 170 sharks were caught and 50 killed, none of which were species that had actually been responsible for attacks.

The state of New South Wales has sought a better solution — one that protects both sharks and swimmers. The state announced that they will be investing $16 million in a variety of shark-tracking technologies. Starting in December, which is the beginning of summer in Australia, drones and helicopters will monitor the waters for shark activity and help with shark-tagging. Tagged sharks will be tracked by 20 4G listening stations that will be placed along the coast with more stations concentrated in areas where most people swim and shark attacks are known to happen.

The data collected will be available to the public on an app called SharkSmart so that they can see the location of sharks in real time.

There will be $7 million set aside for research on additional measures of how to keep the beaches safe and protect sharks.

“We don’t cull sharks in New South Wales,” Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair told the Australian Broadcasting Company. “That’s why we’ve gone for a look into some of the new technologies and other suites of measures we can implement, and that’s what this response is about. It’s been led by our scientists.”

Science is definitely on the side of using these types of technologies instead of killing sharks. Scientists have pointed out that killing off top predators causes drastic changes in an ecosystem where prey populations increase. Recent research even suggests that an increase in prey species would lead to an increase in carbon dioxide being released from where its stored in the seabed.

Burning Hell Coming for Mideast Deserts : DNews

If any place could be described as a living hell, it might be the desert regions of the Middle East. Hot, dry, dusty and arid, these harsh landscapes still manage to support cities populated by tens of millions of people who rely on air conditioning to survive.

Now scientists say that by the end of the century, the effects of climate change will push the region into a zone that surpasses the limits of human survival. They believe that most any outdoor activity will be hazardous.

“This is a significantly more severe type of heat wave than what people have experienced before,” said Elfatih Eltahir, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Co-author Jeremy Pal, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Loyola Marymount University, said that the 2003 heat wave that killed 15,000 people in Europe “looks like a refreshing day” compared to the future conditions expected in some parts of the Middle East.

The pair’s paper is published today in the journal Nature Climate Change and examined when this area would surpass the combined heat and humidity reading, known as wet-bulb temperature, of 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit). At this level, the body is unable to cool itself through normal processes of sweating and ventilation because there is too much water vapor in the air.

“If the environment can’t take any more water, the sweat on your body no longer evaporates,” said Kris Lehnhardt, assistant professor of emergency medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. “Your body doesn’t cool anymore.”

11 Health Threats from Climate Change

Beyond this level of 35 degrees wet-bulb, (conditions of 100 degrees F, with a relative humidity of 80 percent), the body starts to go haywire, Lehnhardt explained.

After symptoms of headache, nausea and dizziness, the first organ affected is your brain. “People will start to have an altered mental status and behave in an unusual manner,” said Lenhart, who was not involved in the study. “If it gets really bad, they might have trouble walking, and then become unconscious.”

The two climate scientists used global and regional climate models with a very small geographic resolution. That means that they could pinpoint which areas would face the highest temperatures.

Global Warming Right Before Your Eyes

The affected cities include Doha (Qatar), Dharan (Saudi Arabia), Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates), Dubai, Kuwait City (Kuwait), as well as Bandar Abbas and Badar Mahshahr, Iran.

Because the Persian Gulf region lacks cloud cover or greenery, and because the gulf’s waters are shallow (which causes surface water to evaporate to the atmosphere), the entire area becomes both hot and humid in the summertime.

“People who have resources will live indoors,” said Eltahir.

US Cities Under 12 Feet of Sea-Level Rise

But he noted that there are poorer people in places like Yemen, communities that may be forced to migrate elsewhere to avoid the devastating effects of summer heat.

The annual pilgrimage of Muslims to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, will also be endangered because the ceremony takes place outdoors.

Ironically, the Persian Gulf states are also a center for petroleum and gas production, the same industry whose carbon emissions are responsible for the climate change driving the warmer planet, the scientists say.

Global Warming Could Threaten 1-in-6 Species

Just as people will suffer, so too, will the oil industry. That’s because petrochemical workers could find it too hot to maintain or repair production facilities in the searing heat, according to Pal.

Transportation, agriculture, aquaculture, fishing and any other industry that relies on moving things outdoors will also be affected, Pal noted.

But Lehnhardt, the doctor, says that humans living in the Persian Gulf will probably survive somehow, just as they do in places like the Arctic regions of Canada, Greenland or Asia.

“Humans are extremely adaptable and we find ways to survive in environments we shouldn’t be in anyway,” said Lehnhardt, who also studies the effects of space travel on humans.

“It will lead to a change in the way that homes are designed and cities are designed. It will lead to people making different choice about what they do.”

No, eating bacon is not the same as smoking cigarettes

The World Health Organization says that eating processed meat can cause cancer. But that doesn’t mean its as bad a smoking cigarettes.

The World Health Organization has declared that processed meat causes cancer, particularly colon cancer. The organization now places bacon, sausage, and hotdogs in a category of known carcinogens, a list that also includes cigarettes, diesel fumes and asbestos.

That doesn’t mean all the items in this category are equally likely to give you cancer. It just means that there’s sufficient evidence to support that these things can cause cancer, a conclusion that scientific study can only reach after much research.

But the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the organization within the WHO responsible for reviewing cancer research, doesn’t rank the items on this list against one another. In other words, all the items on this list can cause cancer, but do not represent the same level of risk.

But unfortunately, many newspapers-or at least their headline writers-don’t seem to understand this. “Bacon, burgers and sausages DO cause cancer and are as big a threat as cigarettes, says World Health Organisation” declares one headline. “Bacon, Hot Dogs, and Processed Meats Pose as High a Cancer Risk as Cigarettes” claims another. As attention-grabbing as these headlines may be, they are shamefully misleading.

Although the WHO doesn’t rank these known carcinogens, their data does provide some information about relative risk. They estimate that 34,000 cancer deaths per year worldwide are caused by eating a diet that’s high in processed meat. You can compare that number to the 200,000 deaths per year caused by air pollution, 600,000 per year caused by alcohol consumption and 1 million deaths per year caused by cigarettes according to the Global Burden of Disease Project, another WHO research body.

The WHO also placed red meat-beef, lamb and pork-in the next-to-highest cancer risk category. That means red meat is a “probable” carcinogen, but the organization said they still need further data to confirm this and that in limited quantities it may have some nutritional benefits.

Setting the misleading headlines aside, there’s still plenty of reasons to quit eating heavily processed industrial meat. Producing processed and red meat has a much heavier environmental burden than plant-based foods, requiring more water and land, and creating more pollution and greenhouse gases. If more people choose to eat less meat for personal health reasons, there could be a decrease in the amount of resources these meat products gobble up.

And much like smoking cigarettes, increasing your exposure to processed meat increases your risk of cancer, and may also put you at a higher risk for other health problems like heart disease and obesity.

So, even if starting your morning with a sausage breakfast isn’t as likely to kill you as starting your morning with a cigarette, neither is a good choice.

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Meditation and yoga make you less likely to need a doctor

A new study has found that relaxation techniques dramatically decreases the need for healthcare visits and interventions, which is a good reason to pull out the old yoga mat.

Healthcare practitioners have known for a long time that using relaxation techniques can improve health, but it’s hard to prescribe such treatments without scientific evidence. That’s why researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital decided to run a retrospective analysis, in which they analyzed the records of 4,000 patients between 2006 and 2014 who followed their doctors’ recommendations for relaxation techniques, and compared them to 13,000 other patients who did not use those same techniques.

The results were impressive. The use of “Relaxation Response and Resiliency Training,” as the study calls it, reduced the incidence of healthcare visits by 43 percent. By learning how to use the relaxation techniques, patients were better able to care for themselves and manage symptoms without needing a physician’s intervention.

Stress-related disorders are the third leading cause of healthcare expenditures in the United States, after heart disease and cancer. In 2012, the treatment of stress-related disorders, such as headaches, back pain, insomnia, reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, and chest pain, cost Americans more than $80 billion.

“Over 90 percent of people suffering from stress or stress-related problems seek help through primary care and tend to be frequent healthcare utilizers. These visits can comprise as much as 70 percent of physicians’ caseloads. In addition, more than 80 percent of patients presenting to general practice evidence lack of resiliency and psychological stress.”

Teaching patients how to use relaxation techniques is an excellent way to reduce physicians’ caseloads, lessen the overall burden on the healthcare system, save money, and provide non-interventional solutions to physical problems that are safe and effective.

“Our results indicate that mind body interventions can reduce individual disease burden as well as the utilization of healthcare resources and are well suited to the changing healthcare environment… Mind body interventions are inexpensive relative to the cost of an emergency room visit, a hospitalization, or even other complementary and alternative medicine therapies.”

Sounds like it’s time to dust off the old yoga mat or sign up for that class you’ve been meaning to take at the meditation center! You might as well start now, rather than waiting till your personal health reaches a crisis point.

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The Plan to Make California Wet By Bringing Back Beavers

Ending the drought in the West will require rain- not too much rain-and smarter ways to collect and store that water. But something else that can keep things moist? Believe it or not: Beavers.

According to a story in Water Deeply, a group of ecologists have a plan to help repopulate the Central Coast of California with Castor canadensis, the large beavers which once roamed the state in great numbers. (Not to be confused with their ancestors, giant beavers that were seven feet long.) The idea is that beavers are nature’s hydrologists, engineering the way that water travels through the landscape:

“Beavers aren’t actually creating more water, but they are altering how it flows, which creates benefits through the ecosystem,” says Michael Pollock, an ecosystems analyst and beaver specialist at the National Marine Fisheries Service Northwest Science Center.

Beavers were nearly eradicated by humans because they were interfering with our logging and fishing industries. But that’s exactly why beavers need to return. Rivers and streams that have been diverted by humans are designed to remove water quickly from the watershed, destroying local habitats for animals and making it more difficult for an ecosystem to recover from drought. Beavers build infrastructure which help to slow the flow of water, letting it recharge local aquifers, and preventing erosion which helps keep plants alive.

Not everyone is a fan of the Bring Back the Beaver campaign. Ecologists can’t agree where beavers originally lived, for one, so they aren’t sure where they should be reintroduced. And they don’t want to end up with an invasive species, which is what happened in South America. But some scientists aren’t waiting around for a consensus. The Yurok Tribal Fisheries Program is taking matters into its own hands, hiring humans to build their own beaver-like structures to mimic the rodents’ beneficial environmental impact. It sounds like a dam good idea.

[ Water Deeply]

Local Brazilian Start-Ups Challenge Status Quo; Experiment with New Ways of Doing Business

As Latin America’s largest economy and the host of the 2016 Olympic Games, Brazil is a regular fixture in international news. It’s also widely recognized for its agenda on sustainable development issues, especially for reducing deforestation and pioneering clean energy. However, progress remains uneven as the country is struggling to come to terms with one of the worst droughts in history, a chain of corruption scandals and continuing dependence on fossil fuels.


SustainAbility recently met with Álvaro Almeida and Rúbia Piancastelli of report:sustentabilidade, Brazil-based sustainability advisory firm and organizer of Sustainable Brands Rio, to talk about the country’s changing sustainability landscape.

Sustentabilidade Rio Brazil
Report Sustentabilidade was featured in the press and media throughout many different outlet genres. They also work with local community projects.


Aiste Brackley: How would you describe the current corporate sustainability landscape in Brazil? What were the dominant themes at this year’s conference?

report:sustentabilidade: With our conference, we seek to push the boundaries of conversation about corporate sustainability in Brazil, challenging ourselves and businesses to imagine what is possible. This year we decided that it was the right time to explore the topics of circular economy and innovation. While many Brazilian companies are working on reducing waste, their thinking predominantly remains embedded in linear models. We would like to challenge companies to think how the circular approach could be integrated into a business model from the very beginning. It is an entirely new way of thinking about design and production.

We also think that Brazilian businesses are ready for a more rigorous conversation about the sharing economy and business model innovation in large companies. This question is especially relevant in the context of the increasingly vibrant social innovation scene. The start-up scene is burgeoning in Brazil with many of them offering innovative solutions that large companies could potentially adopt and scale.

Could you share some examples of innovative corporate sustainability strategies by local companies?

Probably the most widely known example is that of the local beauty products manufacturer Natura. It is leading the field by setting ambitious net positive goals and planning its sustainability strategy as far as 2050. Coca-Cola and Natura are now jointly working with local açai growers in the Amazon to improve their livelihoods and reduce deforestation, a great example of collaboration between large companies.

Another interesting case is , Brazil’s largest retailer, which has also been a leader on sustainability issues. GPA has pioneered a progressive model of working with communities in the Rio de Janeiro and San Paolo neighborhoods, where its supermarkets are located.

In a way, many sustainability leadership examples in Brazil point to collaboration. Getting companies to unite their efforts, seeking synergies and common ground between parallel initiatives will be key to achieving impact.

Our surveys show that Latin America is one of the few regions where local companies dominate sustainability leadership rankings. In many other parts of the world, Unilever and Patagonia are universally seen as dominant players.

Yes, we also see that trend. We ran a survey of conference participants and Natura was overwhelmingly regarded to be the front-runner, with Itaú Unibanco and Unilever taking the second and third spots, respectively.

While we are seeing a lot of progress, for many businesses integrating sustainability into core operations remains to be a major challenge. It is often coupled with lack of a long-term vision and a focus on immediate, short-term issues.

To what extent is this absence of long-term perspective a result of relatively nascent corporate sustainability agendas? Or is it rather a consequence of the current political and economic climate?

Economic and political climate is very important but many Brazilian companies are also facing a challenge of progressing from the very basic understanding of sustainability as simply mitigating negative effects to actually creating net positive impact. I believe this transition is the next big mission for Brazilian companies.

The current economic crisis and corruption scandals have a big impact on business and especially on local companies that primarily rely on the Brazilian market. While global companies are also impacted, they are more resilient to these fluctuations. In their sustainability strategy, most multilateral corporations including Dow Chemical, Unilever, L’Oréal, rely heavily on guidance from corporate headquarters. However, in the past couple of years we have seen the Brazilian branches of some large international companies adopt sustainability strategies that are uniquely designed to address local challenges in Brazil, and that is a very welcome development.

What other sustainability issues are now top-of-mind for companies in Brazil?

Recent corruption scandals have had an effect on many aspects of life in Brazil, including business. Just like in so many other parts of the world, water scarcity is a major concern. The current water crisis is increasingly being linked by scientists to deforestation in the Amazon, another major challenge facing the country. Reducing waste is also a major issue on the corporate sustainability agenda. New environmental regulations, introduced a few years ago, are forcing companies to introduce new measures to reduce waste and rethink packaging. There is also a lot of interest by Brazilian companies in Sustainable Development Goals, with many pursuing partnerships through the UN Global Compact.

And while the Brazilian government is heavily invested in lead-up negotiations to the UN climate change conference in Paris (COP21), for most companies, the energy conversation is first and foremost about efficiency. Our economy remains to be heavily reliant on fossil fuels and hydropower and regulatory incentives are still lacking to advance other forms of renewable energy.

What is the next frontier for Brazilian companies?

Brazilian companies understand well the relevance of CSR and in the last 15 years have made a lot of progress improving sustainability management and embedding it in their governance. But I believe that the understanding of corporate responsibility remains limited. The next step for companies is to create solutions to the challenges that our society faces today and transform those challenges into business opportunities. This is the next big frontier and we are already seeing many promising examples that this transformation is under the way.

This is the third installment in a series of four blogs about Latin America. To find out more about sustainability issues shaping the debate in Latin America, view the presentation deck and listen to the recording of our mid-year Trends webinar. And, you can read our first and second installments of the series, too. For over 25 years SustainAbility has provided companies with timely intelligence and interpretation of emerging sustainability issues and trends. For more information about our bespoke trends service and how your company can benefit from it, please contact Aiste Brackley.

Consumer Reports Study Finds that Nearly All Ground Beef Sold in America Has Feces in It

The megalithic federal bureaucracy known as the U.S. Department of Agriculture is made up of 100,000 employees who are stationed at 4,500 locations across the country. Their mission statement, in part, reads “to promote agriculture production that better nourishes Americans.”

A recent study by Consumer Reports, however, shows that nourishing Americans consists of feeding them deadly superbugs, food poisoning pathogens, and feces.

meatball sandwich ground beef feces reports
A Meatball Sub, served with mozzarella, marinara and tasty feces.


While it’s not surprising to the readers of the Free Thought Project that the US government could fail so miserably in their stated mission, this recent study exhibits an unrivaled level of incompetence within this behemoth bureaucracy.

Consumer Reports tested several hundred packages of ground meat from stores across America, and their findings were shocking, to say the least.

According to the report,

New lab tests conducted by Consumer Reports found that of the 300 packages of ground beef purchased in stores across the country, almost all contained bacteria that signified fecal contamination.

More than 40 percent contained Staphylococcus aureus. Almost 20 percent contained Clostridium perfringens, which causes nearly 1 million cases of food poisoning annually, many related to beef.

A significant amount also contained superbugs, bacteria that are resistant to three or more classes of antibiotics. A key reason is the overuse of antibiotics on cattle farms.

The irony here is that local organic farmers who have harmed no one, are being raided by SWAT teams for selling raw milk, eggs, or grass fed beef. Meanwhile, millions of people are getting sick and dying across the country by government-subsidized factory farms.

In The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan points out how concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), are dependent upon the cost of corn remaining low.

The government ensures these low corn prices by throwing billions of dollars a year the top 1 percent of corn farms in the United States. Since 1995, a whopping $85 billion has been taken from taxpayers and given to corn producers; all of this so you can have poop in your burger.

Aside from the horrific results of feeding corn to cows, there is also the apocalyptic problem of creating superbugs by massively dosing the factory farmed cattle with antibiotics to counter the horrendously dirty conditions in which they live.

“That practice (heavy use of antibiotics) can lead to the creation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a major public health problem. If you get sick from these bugs, your infection can be difficult to treat,” said Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., director of Food Safety and Sustainability at Consumer Reports.

The consumer reports study wasn’t all doom and gloom, however. When they tested the sustainably produced, antibiotic-free, grass-fed cattle, they found that these were far less likely to have any of the bacteria.

“This study is significant, because it’s among the largest scientific studies to show that sustainable methods of raising cattle can produce cleaner and safer ground beef,” Rangan said.

Of course, “big government beef” is upset and defensive about these findings. When consumer reports contacted the National Cattleman’s Beef Association for a statement, they received this single comment from Kansas State University professor Mike Apley:

If all cattle were grass-fed, we’d have less beef, and it would be less affordable. Since grass doesn’t grow on pasture year-round in many parts of the country, feed lots evolved to make the most efficient use of land, water, fuel, labor and feed.

Amazingly enough, however, farmers can sustainably raise organic cattle to meet the market demand, without using government subsidized corn. Instead of massive amounts of chemical and mechanical inputs, the organic farmers can plan for the harsh winter months by saving the surplus from summer months.

The good news is that the demand is shifting from factory farmed cattle to sustainable and humanely raised cattle. Despite the best attempts of the USDA to regulate sustainable farms to death, they are thriving as demand increases.

Even some fast food chains are adopting this sustainable method. In December, California-based quick-service chain Carl’s Jr. rolled out the All-Natural Burger, which sources solely grass-fed beef from Austrailia.

Besides Carl’s Jr., a grass-fed burger chain called Farm Burger, has begun to spring up from coast to coast.

Besides sustainable beef, there is also the option of no beef. One of the fastest growing categories in food choice happens to be vegetarian.

In the information age, ignorance is a choice, and it seems that it’s a choice more, and more people are avoiding. While this study shows that we still have an uphill battle when it comes to healthy, non-taxpayer subsidized food, it is only a matter of time before we reach critical mass.

10 Ways Healthy Eating Transforms Your Mind More Than Your Body

“We forget that, historically, people have eaten for a great many reasons other than biological necessity. Food is also about pleasure, about community, about family and spirituality, about our relationship to the natural world, and about expressing our identity.” – Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.

When people turn to healthy eating, they generally do it with one goal in mind: to become healthier and skinnier. My goal was to improve my health. I wanted to eliminate my gut problems, my skin problems, minimize the rate at which I got colds and flu, and feel amazing from the inside out. I was so excited by all the health benefits whole foods could empower me with that I began my quest of healing through food.

Of course it wasn’t so easy at first. I made a lot of mistakes. When I learned that I should quit refined sugar, I switched it for brown sugar. When I learned I shouldn’t eat added sugar at all, I bought juices sweetened with Splenda. When I learned packaged juices and artificial sweeteners are even worse for you, I threw out an entire package of the aforementioned juices. It was a rocky start, but I wasn’t giving up.

I began questioning everything I decided to buy and eat and I encouraged my family to do the same. My family wasn’t as amazed by these newly found benefits as I was. At first, I would get on my dad’s nerves when I suggested him to stop buying 2-litre sodas or when I explained that Welch’s grape juice contained high fructose corn syrup.

Switching to a wholesome diet and ditching unhealthy foods got me what I initially wanted: I stopped having gut problems, my skin clarified, and my colds and flu diminished at a dramatic rate. I was healthier, but I noticed that improving my diet not only benefited my body, it created a profound change in my mindset. I became more self-loving, happier, more mindful, and more grateful.

If you’re going through a healthy eating journey, or if you’re just thinking about taking a small step towards eating better, these are 10 ways eating well can transform your mindset in a positive way, beyond the physical benefits:

1. You welcome mindfulness into your life

Healthy eating by default turns your attention towards what you consume. It makes you contemplate what you buy, what you cook, and what you bite. You’re no longer mindlessly taking sugary cereal out of a box and calling it breakfast. You become aware that every meal is an opportunity to nurture yourself with healing, delicious, and nutritious food.

This is the main shift I noticed in myself. Every food decision became deliberate and I began to purposely nourish my body with the best possible choices. Becoming aware of what you eat connects you with the moment and snaps you out of autopilot.

2. You become the boss

Once you start making better choices, you shed old patterns and behaviors. You break the status quo. Change makes you question and reject the usual order of things. This good rebellion manifests when instead of grabbing dinner at Taco Bell’s drive-through you decide to use the vegetables sitting in your fridge to make a salad, or simply go out to a non-fast food restaurant.

Every decision you make different empowers you and breaks you free from the norm.

3. You seek improvement

Once you break the status quo, you become aware of the possibilities and often seek to upgrade bit by bit. The spark of change can grow to become a fire. Maybe you switched your fries with a side of salad one day, then you decided to order a healthier meal altogether, and weeks later you decided to cook a homemade dinner for your loved ones.

Seeking an alternative to sugar made me wonder what else I was eating that had a healthier counterpart, which lead me to switch to grass-fed butter, nut milk and whole-wheat bread.

4. You share and connect more

When you experience the benefits of eating well, you want to share it with your loved ones. You want to inspire positive change around you. This doesn’t mean you start nagging or become a health nut, it simply means you share what you know and offer your friends and family a way to eat in a more nourishing way.

Offering a healthy snack at work, inviting friends over for a homemade dinner, talking to your kids about the benefits of sipping that green smoothie, and trying to get your husband or wife on board with a cleaner diet are all ways to share positive information.

Once you start sharing, you also find like-minded people who enjoy a similar lifestyle. This gives you a stronger sense of belonging.

5. You boost your self-love

Once you are motivated to make better eating choices, you accept you’re worthy of better care. Eating habits are profoundly linked to self-esteem and your sense of self-worth. That’s why people with eating disorders also suffer from emotional problems.

Choosing healthy eating is a way of taking care of yourself, of acknowledging your body is sacred and valuable, and of accepting you deserve to feel your best from the inside out. Healthy eating sparked the wish to seek out other ways to nourish myself, like exercising more and taking time to unwind my mind and body through meditation and yoga.

6. You increase your confidence

Healthy eating can boost your confidence and happiness when you set health or weight goals. You feel accomplished because you didn’t cave to that soda, because you nailed a new healthy recipe, or because you could enjoy a delicious breakfast instead of being hungry all morning. In the long term, eating healthier will lead you to your ideal weight, which can improve your self-esteem as well.

I felt amazing a couple of days ago when I decided to cook quinoa hummus cakes for the first time instead of accepting a chicken hamburger.

7. You become more grateful

When you become aware of all of the nourishing foods you have access to, feeling grateful for it comes naturally. When I realized the many options I had to eat better and improve my health, I felt immensely thankful for the opportunity to do so. People living on food stamps and earning a minimum wage don’t often have a choice. Countries with food shortages, droughts, and wars are focused on their basic survival and healthy eating is a luxury.

Healthy eating is a privilege, and I see it as so, so I’m grateful. If you have access to abundant produce and healthy products, realize you have an invaluable source of nourishment and share it if you can.

8. You become an active learner

Just because you decide to eat better doesn’t mean you automatically know how to do it. When you turn to healthy eating, your mind opens to a new field of knowledge. How do you know which ingredients to avoid? Why does this food make you feel bad? Which vegetables are more nutritious? What is gluten exactly? Is sugar that bad? What are superfoods?

Once you start caring, you seek the answers to these questions and more. You research. You ask. You feed your mind new, useful, actionable information, and enjoy the learning process.

9. You spark your creativity

Even if the microwave is the only kitchen appliance you’ve ever used in your life, healthy eating will push you to cook and create. You have to ditch that noodle cup, and take spices, legumes, vegetables, and lean meats and create nutritious meals out of that. When you start browsing easy and healthy recipes that don’t take hours to make (these are of course my favorites), you find smoothies, salads, wraps and a tons of plant-based dishes that are delicious and surprisingly easy.

Taking this first step will make you more inventive in the kitchen and you’ll find yourself thinking about food combinations that will make you excited about preparing lunch. Like Julia Child said, “You learn to cook so that you don’t have to be a slave to recipes. You get what’s in season and you know what to do with it.”

10. Your satisfaction increases

Because choosing to eat better to achieve weight or health goals is a challenging, difficult, and positive transformation, it will make you feel accomplished, satisfied, and proud of your hard work.

Seeing yourself go through the whole process, from the moment you take the first step towards a healthier lifestyle, right until you learn how to make better decisions, lose weight, learn cooking, cure your ailments or feel fantastic, will make you feel like a better version of yourself, and you’d be right. Is there a more rewarding feeling than knowing you accomplished a goal after a lot of willpower and hard work?

My journey so far in healthy eating has showed me the deep connection there is between mind and body. The way you nourish your body reflects in your mind, and anything you create in your mind will manifest in your body.

If you’re thinking about taking a step towards healthy living, or if you’re already in the process, know that it will profoundly affect your mood, self-esteem, motivation, and mentality. And it’s worth it.

How have your eating habits changed your mindset?

Please let me know in the comments below.

Homing In on the Source of Runner’s High

We’ve probably all heard someone exclaim, “Ah, my endorphins are kicking in!” at the end of a good run. Endorphins are famous for supposedly producing “runner’s high,” that fleeting sense of calm and euphoria that engulfs many of us after a satisfying workout.

But in fact, endorphins may be unfairly hogging the credit for making workouts enjoyable, according to an enlightening new experiment with animals. The findings suggest that endorphins have little to do with runner’s high. Instead, that euphoric feeling may be the product of a completely different but oddly familiar substance – the body’s own endocannabinoids, the chemicals that, like the cannabinoids in marijuana, lighten mood.

Endorphins first became a household word in the 1980s, when researchers found that blood levels increased after prolonged exercise. This finding made sense. Exercise can cause discomfort or pain, and endorphins are the body’s self-produced opiates, with pain-relieving properties much like morphine.

From that discovery, it was a short step to believing that endorphins must also produce the pleasurable mental sensations that many people feel after exercise.

But there is a substantial problem with that idea, and it involves the substantial-ness of endorphins. They are large molecules, too big to pass through the blood-brain barrier. They might staunch pain in the muscles, but they wouldn’t have effects directly inside the brain, where any high would originate.

So for the past decade or so, scientists have been looking for other substances that might be involved in making exercisers feel high, which led them, perhaps unsurprisingly, to endocannabinoids.

Endocannabinoids are, essentially, internally produced marijuana, or cannabis. Cannabis contains cannabinoid molecules, which are small enough to cross the blood-brain barrier and attach there to receptors, producing a floaty, hey-dude high.

In recent years, scientists have found that exercise raises the levels of endocannabinoids in the bloodstreams of people and animals, making these molecules good candidates to underlie the runner’s high.

But few studies have directly compared the effects of endorphins and endocannabinoids to determine which really makes exercise mildly intoxicating.

So for the new study, which was published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers with the Central Institute of Mental Health at the University of Heidelberg medical school in Mannheim, Germany, rounded up healthy lab mice, tested their anxiety levels by putting them in cages with pockets of darkness and light (anxious animals stick to the shadows), and then gave them running wheels.

Mice generally like running, engaging in the activity even when they are not being pursued. That suggests, researchers believe, that they gain some kind of mental satisfaction or reward from it, experiencing the mouse version of a runner’s high.

That possibility was borne out in an early portion of the new experiment, when the scientists noted elevated levels of both endorphins and endocannabinoids in the animals’ bloodstreams after running. The scientists also found that the animals were more tranquil after running, spending longer periods of time in lighted areas within their cages – something that anxious, twitchy animals won’t do – and that they were more pain tolerant when exposed to slight physical discomfort.

In general, these post-running mice were more chill than before.

But when the researchers used drugs to block the workings of some of the animals’ endocannabinoid system, so that receptors in the animals’ brains couldn’t take up the molecules, their post-run cool disappeared. The animals proved to be as anxious then after running as they had been before and very sensitive to pain.

Without a working endocannabinoid system, they developed no runner’s high.

However, when the researchers similarly blocked the animals’ response to endorphins, while leaving their endocannabinoid system unchanged, the mice enjoyed all of the soothing effects of running. They were calmer in their cages afterward and seemed to experience less sensitivity to pain.

Even without the ability to respond to endorphins, in other words, they experienced the rodent version of a runner’s high, strongly suggesting that endorphins do not contribute to the high, but endocannabinoids do.

The practical implications of these results are somewhat limited, of course, because they involve mice, not people, and tell us only what goes into creating a runner’s high and not how to ensure that we will feel that same post-run serenity.

One possible if slightly disheartening lesson of the study could be, in fact, that we may need to cover considerable mileage in order to experience a runner’s high; the mice in the study, small as they are, averaged more than three miles every day on their wheels.

More broadly encouraging, though, the results should remind us that, like mice, we were built through evolution to be in motion. Our ancestors ran to avoid danger and hunt food. For them, “reduced sensations of pain and less anxiety through long-distance running would have been a benefit,” says Johannes Fuss, now a professor at the University of Hamburg, who led the new study.

To survive as a species, we seem to have needed to run, and nature obligingly found ways to make this strenuous movement pleasurable by providing us with a runner’s high.

So the subtle upshot of the new study may be that we should run. And if we don’t feel a high, perhaps try running more, until eventually a gentle euphoria may settle in and we can turn to our running companion and say, “Ah, my endocannabinoids are kicking in at last!”


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