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RE: Brazil’s Epic Water Crisis

RE: Brazil’s Epic Water Crisis

One of the world’s biggest cities is running out of water. Sao Paulo, a city of 20 million people, could run dry within weeks. The humanitarian and economic cost would be immense. The fiasco should be a global wake-up call for other metropolises. Hoping for rain isn’t a strategy. Chronic shortages would bring social unrest and undermine the city that is responsible for more than a fifth of the country’s GDP and is the capital of a region that accounts for 40 percent of Brazil’s industrial production.

TWP: Bacteria Evolved to Save the Planet. Can We?

TWP: Bacteria Evolved to Save the Planet. Can We?

After millions of years of gloriously successful life on Earth, a dangerous new organism arose and spread rapidly across the planet. Mankind? No. Two billion years ago the delinquent organisms were cyanobacteria, the first photosynthetic life forms to give off pure oxygen gas, a chemical deadly to all extant organisms. There may be surprising parallels between the, eventually positive, cyanobacteria impact 2 billion years ago and human impact today. Human beings too are a self-inflicted biosphere disaster in progress, but, in the extremely long-term, we could be just what the planet needs. We have much to learn before we become guardians rather than despoilers of Earth. If our destiny is to safeguard life’s future, it’s time our apprenticeship began.

HP: Scientists Create Telepathy

HP: Scientists Create Telepathy

Telepathy is the stuff of science fiction. But what if the dystopian futurists were on to something? What if our brains could directly interact with each other, bypassing the need for language? The idea isn’t quite so far fetched, according to a recent University of Washington study in which researchers successfully replicated a direct brain-to-brain communication between two people.

NYT: Starkest Warning Yet

NYT: Starkest Warning Yet

The gathering risks of climate change are so profound that they could stall or even reverse generations of progress against poverty and hunger if greenhouse emissions continue at a runaway pace, according to a major new United Nations report. In the starkest language the IPCC has ever used, the expert panel made clear how far society remains from having any serious policy to limit global warming.

BI: Essays on Character and Opportunity

BI: Essays on Character and Opportunity

Richard Reeves provides an introduction to the Center on Children and Families’ Essay Series on Character and Opportunity: I defy you to find a richer set of writings on the philosophical, empirical and practical issues raised by a focus on character, and in particular its relationship to questions of opportunity. There are enthusiasts for the public endeavor of character cultivation as well as thoughtful skeptics. There are calls, from differing political perspectives, to give at least equal weight to the moral dimensions of character, as well as strong demands to honor individual free will and individual development. Two scholars draw attention to the gendered nature of character formation; others stress the importance of culture, social norms, and the impact of chronic stress in the early years. Construction of a policy agenda for the cultivation of character poses a stark challenge to the partisan culture of contemporary politics, but may also alleviate it, by reinvigorating community life.

HP: Homer Describing Big Oil

HP: Homer Describing Big Oil

The dangers of climate change have grown and become palpable in myriad ways but nations have made little progress. In fact, having put the car in reverse, they are accelerating in the wrong direction. The planet has a big problem. I’m here to argue that divestment from fossil fuel companies is an important strategy for fiduciaries of all types to pursue. Divestment by any group, but particularly by thought leaders such as those responsible for public pension funds, helps to stigmatize the oil, gas and coal giants as repugnant social pariahs and rogue political forces bent on profit at whatever cost to the planet and its people.

BL: Wind Storage Holy Grail

BL: Wind Storage Holy Grail

At a windy mountain pass on the edge of the Mojave Desert, North America’s most potent collection of batteries used for storing unused power is humming its way toward an electricity revolution. Southern California Edison, a utility that serves about 14 million people, has amassed more than 600,000 lithium-ion battery cells at a substation in Tehachapi, California. The $54 million, two-year test project aims to collect power generated from the area’s 5,000 wind turbines and store it for future use.

BI: Climate Change and CA Drought

BI: Climate Change and CA Drought

It is clear that the current drought event in California is an extreme event, and that it is resulting from a complex confluence of interacting climatic conditions. And it is also clear, given the dramatic and far-reaching impacts, that effective management of climate-related risks requires rigorous, objective assessment of the probability of this kind of extreme event in the current climate.

WWF: Half of Global Wildlife Lost

WWF: Half of Global Wildlife Lost

Between 1970 and 2010 populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish around the globe dropped 52 percent, says the 2014 Living Planet Report released today by World Wildlife Fund. This biodiversity loss occurs disproportionately in low-income countries—and correlates with the increasing resource use of high-income countries. The report’s data also point to other warning signs about the overall health of the planet.

BL: Germany’s Expensive Success

BL: Germany’s Expensive Success

The Energiewende will go on despite its obvious setbacks. There are countries in Europe that already generate more than half of their electricity from renewable sources, such as Sweden, and others that are getting there, such as Austria, and the continent’s biggest economy is trying hard to catch up. The German government’s determination to experiment, and citizens’ continued willingness to pay for these experiments if they lead to a cleaner future, carry important lessons for the U.S. and other countries where politicians are afraid of the kind of upheavals that Germany has faced.

BBC: GHGs Rising Fastest Since 1984

BBC: GHGs Rising Fastest Since 1984

A surge in atmospheric CO2 saw levels of greenhouse gases reach record levels in 2013, according to new figures. Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere between 2012 and 2013 grew at their fastest rate since 1984. The WMO’s annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin suggests that in 2013, the increase in CO2 was due not only to increased emissions but also to a reduced carbon uptake by the Earth’s biosphere.

TG: Centre for the Study of Existential Risk

TG: Centre for the Study of Existential Risk

The four founders of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, cosmologist Martin Rees, Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn, economic theorist Sir Partha Desgupta and philosopher Huw Price, are in the business of “horizon scanning” – identifying low-probability-but-high-consequence events – and are concerned mainly with risks we have created ourselves – the consequences of being too clever for our own good. One prominent risk is that artificial intelligence (AI) will outcompete our own for predominance, ultimately allowing AI to relate to humans much as humans currently do to chimpanzees. There is also the risk of the deliberate or accidental release of a virus with a modified genome, the adoption of stratospheric aerosol geo-engineering, and the use of 3-D printers to create military-grade weapons.

TG: Growth No Longer Enemy of Planet

TG: Growth No Longer Enemy of Planet

Until now the story of human prosperity has been all about cheap, abundant energy. However, something big has been happening. For the first time in history, we are growing richer while using less energy. That is unalloyed good news for budgets, incomes and the planet. We have reached a technological tipping point. Energy-saving is working. Green growth makes sense, and is happening. There is a future that preserves the gains of industrialisation without its polluting losses.

DS: New Recycling Economy

DS: New Recycling Economy

Every piece of garbage can be turned into raw material that can be used in future products. With his influential Cradle to Cradle movement, Germany’s Michael Braungart espouses a form of eco-hedonism that puts smart production before conservation. In Braungart’s universe, every product is basically designed to either decompose without causing any harm or to be recycled without loss of quality. His vision is of a planet on which no garbage accumulates, because all waste becomes food.

NG: Emissions Already Locked In

NG: Emissions Already Locked In

The world’s existing power plants are on track to pour more than 300 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and current monitoring standards often fail to take these long-term emissions into account, according to new research from scientists at UC Irvine and Princeton University. The paper, published Tuesday in the scientific journal Environmental Research Letters, is the first to estimate the lifetime carbon emissions of power plants globally over multiple years.

PS: Trouble with Universal Education

PS: Trouble with Universal Education

The world is gearing up to establish a new set of goals for the next 15 years. Given limited resources, policymakers and international organizations must ask themselves: Where can we do the most good? Maximizing the impact of scarce resources on the lives of the world’s poorest people demands tough choices. In an ideal world, universal, high-quality education at all levels would be worth pursuing. But, amid competing demands for basic necessities like health care and potable water, narrower, more cost-effective education targets are essential.

TG: Water the Next Oil

TG: Water the Next Oil

Making money from water? Is this what Wall Street wants next? Bottled mineral water have always existed alongside a robust municipal water system that delivers clean water to the home. This summer, however, myriad business forces are combining to remind us that fresh water isn’t necessarily or automatically a free resource. It could all too easily end up becoming just another economic commodity. At the forefront of this firestorm is Peter Brabeck, chairman and former CEO of Nestle.

PS: The Dark Side of Physics

PS: The Dark Side of Physics

Physics provides the evolving core framework on which other fields of science are built. And now, science can go far beyond any previous expectation and extrapolation. In coming decades, everything will be susceptible to major revision as new cross-disciplines – and undisciplined threads of study – emerge. Quantum engineering teams are already springing up in academic and research institutes all around the world. The merging of computer science and engineering with neuroscience has already produced results that not long ago belonged only to science fiction.

WP: US Business Expanding in Africa

WP: US Business Expanding in Africa

Hoping in part to expand U.S. business presence in African markets, the Obama administration is hosting a three-day summit this week attended by nearly 50 African heads of state, the first gathering of its kind. Fueled by the consumption demands of a growing young middle-class, the African private sector is, unevenly yet surely, on the rise. But although the United States is still the leader in foreign direct investment in African economies, China surpassed the United States as Africa’s biggest trading partner in 2009.

TA: Secrets of the Creative Brain

TA: Secrets of the Creative Brain

What differences in nature and nurture can explain why some people suffer from mental illness and some do not? And why are so many of the world’s most creative minds among the most afflicted? Although many people continue to equate intelligence with genius, having a high IQ is not equivalent to being highly creative. Rather, creative people are better at recognizing relationships, making associations and connections, and seeing things in an original way—seeing things that others cannot see. So why do these highly gifted people experience mental illness at a higher-than-average rate? One interesting paradox that has emerged during conversations with subjects about their creative processes is that, though many of them suffer from mood and anxiety disorders, they associate their gifts with strong feelings of joy and excitement.

TG: Climate Models’ Accurate Prediction

TG: Climate Models’ Accurate Prediction

Predicting global surface temperature changes in the short-term is a challenge for climate models. Temperature changes over periods of a decade or two can be dominated by influences from ocean cycles like El Niño and La Niña. We can’t yet predict ahead of time how these cycles will change. A new paper led by James Risbey just out in Nature Climate Change takes a clever approach to evaluating how accurate climate model temperature predictions have been while getting around the noise caused by natural cycles.

BI: Harmonization of US Security and Climate Goals

BI: Harmonization of US Security and Climate Goals

Climate change poses a significant risk to national security. The U.S. has multiple tools at its disposal to mitigate the impacts of energy supply disruptions, help countries enhance their own energy security and mitigate global climate change. We will need to use all the tools in our tool kit to meet the energy and security challenges we face today. Congress can support the State Department’s role in energy diplomacy, expand our technical assistance programs, and consider energy exports in advancing energy security and promoting lower carbon fuels.

BI: US Can Learn from Brazil and Germany

BI: US Can Learn from Brazil and Germany

The net result of sub-national regulatory action, the Great Recession, and the widespread substitution of natural gas for coal in electricity generation is that US greenhouse gas emissions dropped by 10 percent between 2005 and 2012. But we must enact policies to maintain this progress, even if market forces change. The goals of Sophisticated Interdependence are to light that path domestically and to emphasize the importance of connecting with our global colleagues along the way.

NYT: Bee Colony Collapse

NYT: Bee Colony Collapse

Around the world, honeybee colonies are dying in huge numbers: About one-third of hives collapse each year, a pattern going back a decade. For bees and the plants they pollinate this is a catastrophe. But in the midst of crisis can come learning. Honeybee collapse has much to teach us about how humans can avoid a similar fate, brought on by the increasingly severe environmental perturbations that challenge modern society.

TA: Why Young Chinese Know More About Money

TA: Why Young Chinese Know More About Money

In a new report comparing financial literacy skills among 15-year-olds in 18 countries, U.S. students scored in the middle of the pack on basic questions about savings, bank accounts and credit/debit cards, and weighing risks and rewards in deciding how to spend their dollars. The ranking of U.S. students in the new assessment is consistent with the nation’s stagnant performance on the most recent PISA for math and reading—two skills that track closely with financial literacy.

TN: Obama Keeping Big Coal Alive

TN: Obama Keeping Big Coal Alive

There’s been much to-do in the past month about the “war on coal,” the latest front of which is, supposedly, the Environmental Protection Agency’s new rule to cut carbon emissions from power plants. What all this “war on coal” talk is missing is the fact that while the Obama administration is taking steps to discourage coal consumption at home, it is tacitly promoting coal exports overseas through a decades-long debacle known as the federal coal leasing program, which has cost taxpayers billions and effectively acted as a subsidy for Big Coal.

WW: A Hachette Job

WW: A Hachette Job

It is true that the big publishers buckling under Amazon’s thumb today are themselves tightly consolidated and have used their power in the past in ways that didn’t promote the best interest of writers and readers. But to champion as the antidote to their power an even bigger and consolidated power like Amazon ignores the lessons of the past – and sets up writers, publishers, and readers for fewer avenues and hence greater risks ahead.

IPS: What Piketty Forgot

IPS: What Piketty Forgot

Piketty is right that our political economy favors the growth of inequality, and that inequality in turn poisons our politics. But while we should aspire to create a society that shares its prosperity, we need to address a much bigger gap than the one between rich and poor. We need to address the gap between what’s demanded by our planet and what’s demanded by our economy.

BBC: Honeybee Loss Task Force

BBC: Honeybee Loss Task Force

The White House has set up a taskforce to tackle the decline of honey bees. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the agriculture department will lead the effort, which includes $8m (£4.7m) for new honey bee habitats. Bee populations saw a 23% decline last winter, a trend blamed on the loss of genetic diversity, exposure to certain pesticides and other factors.

WP: Pacific Marine Sanctuary

WP: Pacific Marine Sanctuary

President Obama on Tuesday will announce his intent to make a broad swath of the central Pacific Ocean off-limits to fishing, energy exploration and other activities. The proposal, slated to go into effect later this year after a comment period, could create the world’s largest marine sanctuary and double the area of ocean globally that is fully protected. The announcement is part of a broader push on maritime issues by an administration that has generally favored other environmental priorities. On Capitol Hill, some Republicans have sought to limit the administration’s ability to influence offshore activities, viewing it as another attempt by the president to test the limits of White House power.

FA: Powering the Pentagon

FA: Powering the Pentagon

The benefits of the Pentagon’s drive for energy efficiency go well beyond improving the U.S military’s energy security and lowering its costs. Through coordination and technology transfers with the private sector, the effort to create a more energy-efficient and secure fighting force could also stimulate innovation beyond the military and help reduce the carbon footprint of many businesses.

PS: Carbon Majors and Climate Justice

PS: Carbon Majors and Climate Justice

It seems only fair and reasonable, therefore, that all fossil-fuel entities, but especially the carbon majors, pay a levy on each ton of coal, barrel of oil, or cubic meter of gas they produce to a new International Mechanism for Loss and Damage, which would help to fund efforts to address the worst effects of climate change.

TE: Obama’s Green Gamble

TE: Obama’s Green Gamble

A new rule from the EPA proposes to cut emissions of carbon dioxide from power plants, which account for 39% of overall emissions, by 30% from their 2005 level by 2030. To reach that goal, each state has been handed its own target. Lawsuits are inevitable.

NYT: What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades

NYT: What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades

Does handwriting matter? Not very much, according to many educators. But psychologists and neuroscientists say it is far too soon to declare handwriting a relic of the past. New evidence suggests that children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information. In other words, it’s not just what we write that matters but how – printing, cursive writing, and typing on a keyboard are all associated with distinct and separate brain patterns and each results in a distinct end product. Researchers have found that when children compose text by hand, they not only consistently produce more words more quickly than they on a keyboard, but express more ideas. There may even be a difference between printing and cursive writing – a distinction of particular importance as the teaching of cursive disappears in curriculum after curriculum.

NYT: Democrats in Coal Country

NYT: Democrats in Coal Country

It took little time for Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democrat who is challenging Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican minority leader, in the most high-profile Senate race this year, to distance herself from the Obama administration’s proposal for sharp cuts to emissions from power plants.

NYT: Judging Spinoza

NYT: Judging Spinoza

No less an eminence than David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel, publicly argued for “amending the injustice” done to the philosopher, insisting that the 17th-century rabbis had no authority “to exclude the immortal Spinoza from the community of Israel for all time.” The ban on Spinoza was never rescinded. One pressing question concerns the wisdom and efficacy of enforcing orthodoxy, or conformity in the matter of ideas in religious communities. Spinoza believed that he had, through metaphysical inquiry, discovered important truths about God, nature and human beings, truths that led to principles of great consequence for our happiness and our emotional and physical flourishing. By enforcing conformity of belief and punishing deviations from dogma, religious authorities risk depriving the devoted of the possibility of achieving in religion that which they most urgently seek.

PS: Russia Looks East

PS: Russia Looks East

In the quarter-century since the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union collapsed, relations among the “great powers” have never been worse. Their ability to work together on regional or global issues has deteriorated substantially in the last decade. Now Putin seems to want to double down on these trends and create a new Sino-Soviet axis. China, for all of its current problems, will be not interested. The compass for China’s journey still points clearly to international integration.

FA: Treacherous Triangle

FA: Treacherous Triangle

Putin’s trip to China could mark the start of a new era in U.S.-Russian-Chinese relations, the trilateral relationship that dominated the final decades of the Cold War and is now making a comeback. After Russia’s aggression in Crimea, Moscow and Washington are locked in conflict. Beijing has thus become the new fulcrum, the power most able to play one side off the other.

AN: Outdoor Schools Make Kids Smarter

AN: Outdoor Schools Make Kids Smarter

The original kindergarten —the children’s garden—conceived by German educator Friedrich Froebel in the 19th century, was a place where children learned through play, often in nature. That idea is fast eroding. Instead children are focusing on a narrowing range of literacy and math. In the face of this indoor-ification of early childhood, a cultural and educational movement is emerging—focused on new approaches to nature-based education. The many skills children develop through play, particularly the self-control practiced and refined in imaginary play, are related to long-term academic achievement. Outdoor play can also remedy behavioral problems leading to lower arrest rates. Teachers and parents of children in nature preschools and forest kindergartens are finding that mastering puddles is just as important as learning letters in preparing children to find their way through the smartboard jungle.

NYT: Writing About a Life of Ideas

NYT: Writing About a Life of Ideas

When an intellectual dies, there are no heaps of flowers or public mournings. The odd wistful editorial will be written in upmarket newspapers; colloquia organized in ivy-clad colleges. Few Americans will know, for instance, that Ronald Dworkin, a formidable figure in American liberal philosophy, died last year.

BR: US Climate Assessment

BR: US Climate Assessment

The recently released third National Climate Assessment (NCA) is a collaborative effort by federal agencies and hundreds of experts, that focuses on the science of climate change impacts in the United States that are happening now, and those that are expected throughout this century.

BBC: The Slow Death of Purposeless Walking

BBC: The Slow Death of Purposeless Walking

A number of recent books have lauded the connection between walking – just for its own sake – and thinking. Wordsworth was a walker. Charles Dickens was a walker. Henry David Thoreau walked and walked and walked. But are people losing their love of the purposeless walk? This is the era of the “smartphone map zombie” – people who only take occasional glances away from an electronic routefinder to avoid stepping in anything or being hit by a car. But you don’t have to be an author to see the value of walking. Walking requires a certain amount of attention but it leaves great parts of the time open to thinking.

SC: One Thing to Remember on Earth Day

SC: One Thing to Remember on Earth Day

We cannot succeed if we define ourselves solely by the things that we’re against. We must be just as effective, creative, and tenacious at identifying and establishing the positive solutions we do want to see. If we don’t articulate a vision for a prosperous society powered by clean energy, then the only “optimistic” perspective is to deny reality and bury one’s head in the sand. And that’s a dangerous thing to do when the seas are rising. So here’s what I want everyone to remember this Earth Day: The world is a wonderful place. In just 90 minutes, enough sunlight strikes this planet to provide our planet’s entire energy needs for one year. The contiguous United States has enough potential wind energy to provide all of our nation’s electricity — nine times over. Renewable energy has become economically competitive faster than anyone imagined just a few years ago — in many places it is already beating all fossil fuels and nuclear power on price alone. Got it? Now, make like Muir and spread the word!

AJA: Water Privatization Despite Risks

AJA: Water Privatization Despite Risks

Humans can survive weeks without food, but only days or hours without water. Water is life. So what happens when private companies control the spigot? Evidence from water privatization projects around the world paints a pretty clear picture: Skyrocketing water prices, unsafe supply, failing infrastructure. These problems fall disproportionately on the most vulnerable among us. This is why public institutions, not private corporations, must lead the development of water systems and delivery.

BI: Energy Fueling a New Order?

BI: Energy Fueling a New Order?

The paper “Fueling a New Order? The New Geopolitical and Security Consequences of Energy” examines impacts of the major transformation in international energy markets that has begun. The United States is poised to overtake Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world’s largest oil producer and is on track to become the dominant player in global energy markets. China is in place to surpass the United States in its scale of oil imports, and has already edged out the U.S. in carbon emissions.

FPIF: America’s Homegrown Terror

FPIF: America’s Homegrown Terror

The greatest dangers for the United States do not lurk in terrorist cells in the mountains surrounding Kandahar that are planning on assaults on American targets. Rather, our vulnerabilities are homegrown. The United States currently lacks safety protocols and effective inspection regimes for the dangerous materials it has amassed over the last 60 years. Tragically we are cutting back on infrastructure investment at a time we should be increasing it dramatically.

NYT: Ideas As Property

NYT: Ideas As Property

The big story in Silicon Valley these days is a class-action lawsuit alleging that several major tech companies, including Google and Apple, agreed not to try to hire away one another’s employees – thereby hindering workers from seeking out better-paying jobs. But do-not-hire agreements are not the only way that corporations are taking control of their employees’ intellectual capital. With more corporations demanding that employees pre-assign their intellectual property, there has been a steady decrease in inventor-owned patents. The effects of giving up future control over one’s own skills and products of the mind are significant. In a world in which economic growth depends on innovation, we cannot afford such limitations on creativity.

B: US Wind Power

B: US Wind Power

Wind was responsible for 4.8 percent of America’s electricity used in January. That’s the highest January total ever, breaking the record from last January. In many areas of the country wind has reached an important tipping point: becoming cheaper than coal and natural gas.

TG: 2015 Oil Crash

TG: 2015 Oil Crash

Former oil geologist and government adviser on renewable energy, Dr. Jeremy Leggett, identifies five global systemic risks directly connected to energy which together threaten capital markets and hence the global economy in a way that could trigger a global crash sometime between 2015 and 2020.

NYT: Climate Risk

NYT: Climate Risk

Climate change is already having sweeping effects on every continent and throughout the world’s oceans, scientists reported on Monday, and they warned that the problem was likely to grow substantially worse unless greenhouse emissions are brought under control.

YCCC: Limiting Global Warming

YCCC: Limiting Global Warming

Yale Project on Climate Change Communication presents their report on Americans’ Actions to Limit Global Warming. The report provides insight into public interest as regards governmental process and political action, and business activities and consumer action. It also sheds light on efforts to achieve greater domestic energy efficiency.

IRENA: Renewable Energy Roadmap

IRENA: Renewable Energy Roadmap

REmap 2030 is a roadmap to double the share of renewable energy by 2030. It is the first global study to provide renewable energy options based on a bottom-up analysis of official national sources. The study not only focuses on technologies, but also on the availability of financing, political will, skills, and the role of planning.

WRI: Bamboo Secret Weapon

WRI: Bamboo Secret Weapon

We face an urgent need to provide innovative responses to natural resource use. Bamboo could play an important role in forest and landscape restoration. With adequate attention, investment, and the right standards in place, it could become a major renewable and sustainable crop—if we can update our outmoded view of it.

BI: State of the Int’l Order

BI: State of the Int’l Order

The State of the International Order report assesses international cooperation in the economic, diplomatic and security realms five years after the global financial crisis and over a decade after the invasion of Iraq. In gauging the state of the order, we ask two questions: What are the material realities shaping the options faced by the great powers? What are the issue-by-issue interactions that are revealing or shaping the content of great power relations, and international order more generally?

AP: Feds Move to Save Bees

AP: Feds Move to Save Bees

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will spend three million dollars to help farmers and ranchers improve pastures in five Midwestern states to provide food for the nation’s struggling honeybees. Agricultural production has been threatened by a more than decade-long decline in commercial honeybees and their wild cousins due to habitat loss and pesticide use.

BBC: California Drought

BBC: California Drought

While historic winter storms have battered much of the US, California is suffering its worst drought on record. So why is America’s most valuable farming state using billions of gallons of water to grow hay – specifically alfalfa – which is then shipped to China? Cheap water rights and America’s trade imbalance with China make this not just viable, but profitable.

DS: Century of Violence

DS: Century of Violence

World War I may have ended in 1918, but the violence it triggered in the Middle East still hasn’t come to an end. Arbitrary borders drawn by self-interested imperial powers have left a legacy that the region has not been able to overcome. No group of countries, particularly given their small sizes, has seen so many wars, civil wars, overthrows and terrorist attacks in recent decades. To understand how this historical anomaly came to pass, several factors must be considered: the region’s depressing history prior to World War I, the failure of the Arab elite and the continual intervention by the superpowers thereafter, the role of political Islam, the discovery of oil, the founding of Israel and the Cold War.

AJA: Indonesia and Climate Change Deniers

AJA: Indonesia and Climate Change Deniers

Climate change may be the world’s “most fearsome” weapon of mass destruction, and urgent global action is needed to combat it, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday, comparing those who deny its existence or question its causes to people who insist the earth is flat.

SM: Tar Sands Pollution

SM: Tar Sands Pollution

A new study, published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that production in the Athabasca oil sands region is leading to the emission of levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) two to three orders of magnitude higher—that’s one hundred to one thousand times greater—than previously thought.

AJA: US Environmental Policy Haze

AJA: US Environmental Policy Haze

Obama mentioned climate change and forcefully called for energy independence, but much of the environmental section of his speech was dedicated to his “all of the above” strategy, which includes big increases to one of the most controversial sources of alternative energy, natural gas.

TD: End of History?

TD: End of History?

Climate change exists on a time scale not congenial either to media time or to the individual lifetimes of our short-lived species. If the end of the world doesn’t fit well with “the news,” neither does denial. The idea of a futureless humanity is difficult to take in and that has undoubtedly played a role in suppressing the newsiness of climate change.

AN: Obama Gifts Big Coal

AN: Obama Gifts Big Coal

Clean coal is an essential component of the President’s ‘All of the Above’ energy strategy, but on the heels of the West Virginia coal-cleaning chemical disaster, amid record climate disruptions and drought and flooding, Obama’s billion dollar bonus to Big Coal might signal “game over” for clean energy and climate initiatives in Illinois.

TG: Vast Desert Solar Farms

TG: Vast Desert Solar Farms

Utility-sized solar plants are beginning to appear across the US, with 232 under construction, in testing or granted permits, many in the south-west and California. In the west, ample sun, wide-open spaces, financial incentives, falling costs and state mandates have made big solar plants possible.

TG: Geo-Engineering is Insane

TG: Geo-Engineering is Insane

We are already engaged in a planet-wide experiment with consequences we can already tell are unpleasant for the future of humanity. So the hubris involved in thinking we can come up with a second planet-wide experiment that would exactly counteract the first experiment is delusional in the extreme.

HI: Prepper Philosophy

HI: Prepper Philosophy

The “defend what’s mine” mentality states that the moment “shit goes down,” every other human in the world instantly becomes either a resource to be used or a threat to be eliminated. Never have I encountered someone who is prepping for the purpose of building a post-apocalyptic community or offering a haven of help and support for other less-prepared people in the event that something terrible does happen.

NC: Algae Into Oil

NC: Algae Into Oil

U.S. scientists believe they may have cracked one of the great biofuel conundrums. They have turned a thick soup of algae into a mix of crude oil, gas, water and plant nutrients in less than an hour. That is, they have taken 60 minutes to do what Nature does—at great pressures and temperatures—over millions of years.

AN: Right to Clean Water

AN: Right to Clean Water

UN member States have affirmed that the rights to water and sanitation are legally binding in international law, yet their agreement is marred by the reluctance of the United States to join in a universal agreement on the definition of these rights. The U.S. government’s position works against the interests of the billions of people who lack adequate access to water and sanitation.

NPR: Easter Island

NPR: Easter Island

Easter Island has been thought of as a clear example of a society that destroyed itself by overexploiting its own resources. Two anthropologists now think that may not be what happened, but their alternative view is hardly consoling. On Easter Island, people learned to live with less and forgot what it was like to have more. Maybe that will happen to us. A future in which we continuously degrade our planet, losing plant after plant, animal after animal, forgetting what we once enjoyed, adjusting to lesser circumstances, cannot be called “success.” To prevent an ecological crisis, we must become alarmed – that’s when we’ll act – but the new Easter Island story suggests that humans may never hit the alarm. There’s a lesson here and it’s not a happy one.

TNY: Climate By Numbers

TNY: Climate By Numbers

In 2012, drought struck nearly eighty per cent of the nation’s farmland, and the growing season was the hottest and driest in decades. Unpredictable weather is hardly rare, or new. For thousands of years, floods, droughts, tornadoes, heat waves, and early frosts have been agriculture’s unyielding enemies. But even the most sophisticated farmer would have trouble planning for the vagaries of today’s climate.

NOC: What Marx Knew

NOC: What Marx Knew

Marx put too much faith in the masses and failed to see how easily they (we) can be bought off. If corporate elites have no incentive to curb capitalism and every incentive to grab a bigger and bigger share of the world’s wealth, and if the “working class” of the world, now numbering over 7 billion, can be placated with credit cards and Walmarts, what chance do we have?

TD: Climate Change Revolution

TD: Climate Change Revolution

When it comes to a mass rebellion against the perpetrators of global destruction, we can see a glimmer of the coming upheaval in events of the present moment. Sooner or later, government leaders are likely to face multiple eruptions of mass public anger and may, in the end, be forced to make radical adjustments in energy policy or risk being swept aside.

TG: Chomsky Slams Shale Gas

TG: Chomsky Slams Shale Gas

Canada’s rush to exploit its tar sands and shale gas resources will destroy the environment as fast as possible. A major issue behind climate change is the deficiencies of the market system. Markets are lethal, if only because of ignoring externalities, the impacts of their transactions on the environment.

DS: Europe Gone Wild

DS: Europe Gone Wild

A group of scientists led by Dutch conservation expert Frans Schepers has launched a unique experiment centered on the return of the large grazing animals and predators that populated the Continent long ago. The scientists expect the greatest possible diversity of species to develop around the spectacular mammals, including insects, vultures, toads and snakes — all the kinds of animals that were once forced out of their habitats by human activity.

NoC: Hope for Future of Food

NoC: Hope for Future of Food

When it comes to the future of the food system, it’s hard not to be discouraged. Nearly one billion people are hungry, and another 1.5 billion are obese or overweight. All over the world, people waste 1.3 billion tons of food each year. But Food Tank has compiled a list of 14 reasons to be hopeful about the future of the food system.

DS: Renewable Energy for Europe

DS: Renewable Energy for Europe

Until recently, European Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger had to rely entirely on the power of his words to push through his policies. That may change as he presents a list of 200 infrastructure projects that he sees as crucial for Europe’s future energy supply. He intends to spend a total of €5.8 billion ($7.9 billion) to promote the cross-border construction of new power lines, energy storage facilities and gas pipeline.

TG: Ikea Solar Panels

TG: Ikea Solar Panels

Ikea is to sell solar panels at its British stores for the first time in an attempt to tap growth in the heavily subsidised green energy market. The Swedish company has its own ambitious clean energy target, aiming to source at least 70% of its energy needs from wind and solar by 2015 and 100% by 2020.

IISS: The Eurasian Sea

IISS: The Eurasian Sea

Maritime disputes in Eastern Asia have been sending odd ripples of excitement through Western Europe for the past few years. Experts and policymakers claim that Europe cannot stay aloof. Maritime disputes in the East are, to be sure, a source of much uncertainty, and could escalate. But is this a reason for Europe to dive into the play pool of the Pacific powers? This question needs to be examined through a broad geopolitical prism.

PS: Water Risk on the Rise

PS: Water Risk on the Rise

Water is never far from the news these days. At the World Economic Forum in Davos this year, experts named water risk as one of the top four risks facing business in the twenty-first century. Major companies are already seizing on water-risk data. The message is clear: water-risk management is shifting into the mainstream of business practices.

MIT: 80 MPG Hybrid

MIT: 80 MPG Hybrid

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich have developed an ultra-efficient new engine that runs on a combination of natural gas and diesel. When combined with a battery and electric motor to make a hybrid vehicle, it could allow a car to get the equivalent of 80 miles per gallon, the researchers say.

AlterNet: US and Democracy

AlterNet: US and Democracy

American power is diminishing, as it has been in fact since its peak in 1945, but it’s still incomparable. And it’s dangerous. Obama’s remarkable global terror campaign and the limited, pathetic reaction to it in the West is one shocking example. And it is a campaign of international terrorism – by far the most extreme in the world.

NoC: Bee-Killing Pesticides

NoC: Bee-Killing Pesticides

It is estimated over 10 million beehives been wiped out since 2007, as part of a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder. Two Congressional Democrats have co-sponsored new legislation called the Save America’s Pollinators Act of 2013 to take emergency action to save the remaining bees in the U.S., and in turn, the U.S. food supply.

Josette Sheeran: Civil Servant

Josette Sheeran: Civil Servant

Josette Sheeran is president and CEO of Asia Society. She is responsible for leading and advancing the organization’s work throughout the U.S. and Asia, and across its disciplines of arts and culture, policy and business, and education. Formerly, Sheeran was Vice Chair of the World Economic Forum and Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme.

Rob Hopkins: Environmentalist

Rob Hopkins: Environmentalist

Rob Hopkins is an independent activist and writer on environmental issues, based in Totnes, England. He is best known as the founder and figurehead of the Transition Townsmovement. In 2007, he co-founded the Transition Network, a charity designed to support the many Transition initiatives emerging around the world.

Allan Savory: Management

Allan Savory: Management

Allan Savory created the holistic management philosophy and practice and is the Founder and President of the Savory Institute. The Savory Institute team has deep expertise in land management, livestock management, business development, social entrepreneurship and environmental issues.

David Keith: Applied Physics

David Keith: Applied Physics

David Keith has worked near the interface between climate science, energy technology and public policy for twenty years. He took first prize in Canada’s national physics prize exam, won MIT’s prize for excellence in experimental physics, and was listed as one of TIME magazine’s Heroes of the Environment 2009. David’s serves as the Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics in the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Scientific American: Shultz on Climate

Scientific American: Shultz on Climate

As Secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan, George Shultz helped negotiate the most successful global environmental treaty to date: the Montreal Protocol, which phased out the use of chlorofluorocarbons and other ozone-depleting chemicals. Few modern Republican politicians favor such environmental effort, or even believe climate change is happening or that humanity could be primarily responsible for it.

Bloomberg: Solar Skinned Buildings

Bloomberg: Solar Skinned Buildings

From stadiums in Brazil to a bank headquarters in Britain, architects led by Norman Foster are integrating solar cells into the skin of buildings, helping the market for the technology triple within two years. Foster and his customers are seeking to produce eye-catching works while meeting a European Union directive that new buildings should produce next to zero emissions after 2020.

BBC: Arctic Time Bomb

BBC: Arctic Time Bomb

Scientists say that the release of large amounts of methane from thawing permafrost in the Arctic could have huge economic impacts for the world. The researchers estimate that the climate effects of the release of this gas could cost $60 trillion (£39 trillion), roughly the size of the global economy in 2012.

PS: Fairness and Climate Change

PS: Fairness and Climate Change

A sense of fairness is universal among humans, but people often differ about exactly what fairness requires in a specific situation. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the debate over the need to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in order to avoid dangerous climate change.

MIT: Rising Seas

MIT: Rising Seas

A new study finds that if temperatures go up by just one degree Celcius, sea levels will eventually—as ice sheet melt over the next 2,000 years—rise 2.3 meters. If temperature goes up 2 °C, oceans will rise 4.8 meters. If the planet warms by 4 °C, which is within the IPCC range of estimates, they will eventually rise by 9 meters, on average, and up to 12 meters in some parts of the world.

PS: Green Industrial Policies

PS: Green Industrial Policies

The future of our planet depends on the world economy’s rapid transition to “green growth” – modes of production based on clean technologies that significantly reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Yet carbon remains badly mispriced, owing to fossil-fuel subsidies and the absence of tax revenues needed to address the global externalities of climate change.

Economist: Nature’s Banker

Economist: Nature’s Banker

Mr Tercek is at the forefront of a new, businesslike sort of environmentalism, which is changing the way companies and governments view nature. Regulation is often needed to create markets for nature’s bounty to be traded on, and it may not be forthcoming. But that is no reason to damn the approach. Once the business case for greenery is accepted, the results are often stunning.

AlterNet: Rewiring the Brain

AlterNet: Rewiring the Brain

While most neuroscientists once believed that implicit memories, avoidance reactions, and rigid schemas were locked permanently in the brain’s synaptic pathways, recent brain research shows that, under certain conditions and within a brief timeframe, we can not only unlock these neural pathways, but actually erase them and substitute new learning.

Reuters: Earthquakes and Fracking

Reuters: Earthquakes and Fracking

Powerful earthquakes thousands of miles away can trigger swarms of minor quakes near wastewater-injection wells like those used in oil and gas recovery sometimes followed months later by quakes big enough to destroy buildings. The discovery threatens to make hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” even more controversial.

NYT: Obama Climate Campaign

NYT: Obama Climate Campaign

Obama’s injunction to “divest” was, pretty clearly, a signal to the thousands of college students who have been manning the barricades for nearly a year now, urging their colleges to rid their endowments of stock in fossil-fuel companies as a way of forcing climate change higher on the national political agenda.

Economist: Obama Climate Measures

Economist: Obama Climate Measures

Obama has promised to deploy almost every green weapon at his disposal, from better insulation in public buildings to loan guarantees for clean energy. To engage the enemy as quickly as possible, he is relying solely on authority already granted to him by Congress, but even if the rules survive in court, a future administration could reverse them.

NoC: German Solar

NoC: German Solar

Germany is now creating a record 23.4 gigawatts daily of solar power. This proves an industrialized nation can produce massive amounts of clean, non-petroleum based energy through strong government policies and incentives for stimulating the use of solar panels in private homes and businesses.

Foreign Affairs: Arctic Boom

Foreign Affairs: Arctic Boom

While Arctic warming is a fait accompli, it should not be taken as a license to recklessly plunder a sensitive environment. That’s why all the Arctic countries need to continue their cooperation and get to work establishing a shared vision of sustainable development, and why the United States needs to start treating the region as an economic and foreign policy priority, as China is.

New Yorker: CO2 Monitoring

New Yorker: CO2 Monitoring

In rejecting Keystone, President Obama would not solve the underlying problem, which is consumption. Nor would he halt exploitation of the tar sands. But he would put a brake on the process. Once Keystone is built, there will be no putting the tar back in the sands. The pipeline isn’t inevitable, and it shouldn’t be treated as such. It’s just another step on the march to disaster.

Foreign Affairs: Millennium Dev Goals

Foreign Affairs: Millennium Dev Goals

The Millennium Development Goals have unified, galvanized, and expanded efforts to help the world’s poorest people. The goals will expire on December 31, 2015, and the debate over what should come next is now in full swing. But prior to deciding on a new framework, the world community must evaluate exactly what the MDG effort has achieved so far.

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