The Waggle - Issue 39
Trees with Edible Leaves: Perennial agriculture expert Eric Toensmeier has a new publication that focuses on a remarkable group of crops – trees with edible leaves. It profiles 100 species of trees, shrubs, and cacti, detailing how to cultivate these overlooked and highly nutritional food sources (as vegetables, not spices). It may be the first time they’ve been described in a single publication. It follows an important study Eric and others published in 2020 in PLOS ONE on perennial vegetables, highlighting their role in carbon sequestration. The trees with edible leaves described in the new publication are not wild crops, they’re farmed. Adding woody perennials to annual cropping systems is a type of agroforestry called silvoarable. Check out this short video. Also, check out Eric’s book The Carbon Farming Solution for more information.
Pesticide-Free Farms: The harmful impacts of pesticides on human and ecosystem health are generally undebated. Yet, in their latest report, the advocacy group Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) argues that the relationship between climate impacts and pesticide use is far less investigated. Their findings reveal the staggering levels of greenhouse gas emissions that are emitted throughout pesticides’ full lifecycles. Because synthetic pesticides are ultimately derived from fossil fuels both as an energy source and chemical feedstock, their continued use, especially under increasing pest pressures, further locks the agricultural industry into dependence on fossil fuels. Their use also releases volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and disrupts soil microbes that assist in the ability of soils to sequester carbon. The report calls for an immediate shift towards agroecology, with farmers, farmworkers, Indigenous peoples, and local communities at the center of decision-making.
Climate Maps for You: As a data scientist, I'm always a fan of a good, high-resolution map, even if the content of that map isn't exactly encouraging. And maps aimed at giving us as individuals more locally tailored climate information are cropping up on the regular. If you're curious about carbon emissions, you can learn about the greenhouse gas emissions associated with your local community. Or, if you're concerned about the potential impacts that warming might have on the area where you live—e.g. increasing risk of wildfires, floods, or heat—you can now find those estimated down to your unique street address. If you're worried about things like future sea-level rise, there are options there, too. Even if they're off a little bit in their local estimates, such maps certainly provide a decent starting point.
Public Comments on Green Guides: The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC"), the U.S. government agency in charge of consumer protection, is requesting public comments on updates to its Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims (“Green Guides”). The Green Guides provide recommendations on how environmental marketers can prevent greenwashing, and the document has not been updated since 2012. The FTC is requesting comments on a number of different topics, including whether the Green Guides should be made into enforceable regulations, potential deception in the sale of carbon offsets, and consumer perception of contested terms such as “net zero,” “carbon neutral,” and “sustainability.” While comments are due on or before February 21, many of the already-submitted comments have asked for a 60-day extension of that deadline that the FTC may grant.
Working with Water: A small but growing group of people is set to recover and even benefit from California’s recent rainstorms. These are the regenerative farmers of California whose methods have transformed dirt into soil by increasing soil life. This enables the soil to soak up water efficiently and release it to plants on demand. Another promising approach has been allowing fields to flood, increasing groundwater recharge, and sometimes improving wildlife habitat. So far this has been tested on alfalfa fields, almond orchards, and vineyards. Meanwhile, residential water users are using rainwater harvesting to capture water; one roof can shed hundreds of gallons of water in a single rainstorm. And Los Angeles is starting a decades-long shift in infrastructure to capture water instead of sending it out to sea.
Historic First Nations Land Protection: A First Nation in Canada recently declared 60% of the healthiest river system in British Columbia an “Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area.” The 1.8 million-hectare Taku River watershed is home to rare temperate coastal forest with few scars of industry. It supports grizzlies, caribou, moose, wolf, and five species of salmon in addition to the Taku River Tlingit people who have stewarded this land since time immemorial. This statement comes on the heels of COP15 in Canada where world leaders committed to conserving 30% of the world by 2030. Instead of “fortress style” conservation which has caused historic and ongoing human rights violations, native communities seek support to continue protecting the lands they already steward. If approved by the Canadian government, this Indigenous Protected Area will be not just a landmark, but also a potential model for governments and communities around the world.
A Model for Equitable Micromobility: After the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic closed New Orleans' bike-share program, Blue Bikes, the city decided to revive it in alignment with its original goal of providing affordable, equitable transportation by switching to a nonprofit model. Under the new model, Blue Bikes offers steeply discounted memberships to residents receiving Medicaid or SNAP benefits, distributes bikes equitably throughout the city, establishes stations that connect lower-income residents to their jobs, and covers the cost of rides to fitness classes and vaccine appointments—a community-based approach that its founders hope more cities throughout North America will adopt as the demand for micromobility infrastructure grows. The bike-share program is also expected to play a key role in New Orleans' newly announced climate action plan that calls for Blue Bikes' fleet to double in size as a means to achieve its goal of 50% of trips within the city being non-automotive by 2030.
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