A summary of the world, once a week.

By subscribing you agree to our Privacy Policy.

Join 1,000+ subscribers

Join 1,000+ subscribers

     Featured

Categories

Follow us on Twitter

Trending

0 K

Hectares of mangroves lost every year

0 K

Tons of plastic on ocean's surface

0 B

Humans able to make a difference

2020 Election starts in...

00
Days
00
Hours
00
Minutes
00
Seconds
Go out and vote!
 Hire us

Content Writing

Write your story to the world.

Let us write your next blog post.

Hire top-notch writers, support a good cause.

Hire us

Video Production

Show your story to the world.

Bring your mission to life through video.

Hire top-notch video creators, support a good cause.

Hire us

Campaigning

Tell your story to the world.

Market your mission at the grassroots level.

Hire top-notch micro influencers, support a good cause.

Hire us

Become an SR Campus Ambassador!

Learn about sustainable marketing & business, expand your network.


     Latest

  1. Animals
  2. Energy and Environment
  3. Land
  4. Planet
  5. Science

The scoop: 40% of insect species are at risk of extinction.

Why it matters: We need bugs to survive and thrive.

  1. Pollination: Pollinators pollinate plants; we need them to keep doing that.
  2. Pest control: Paradoxically, predatory and parasitic insects kill pests.
  3. Decomposition: Some insects are primary or secondary decomposers. They serve an important function to clean-up animal waste.
  4. Food security: Many mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians depend on bugs for food. They are a quick and easy resource for a nutritious meal.
  5. Research and innovation: Technology mimics nature (think birds and planes). Researchers can observe the ethology of insects and learn new ways to innovate. An example? Ant colony optimization in computer science.

What's causing the insect decline: Habitat loss from agriculture and urbanization is the #1 driver. Agro-chemical pollutants (think pesticides), invasive species and climate change also play a role. You can check out some cool charts and figures in this article to learn more.

How to help: Contribute to the fight against pesticides, support or start a small farm, and educate others about the importance of insects. A more positive perception of bug people can also lead to change.

Bottom line: We need bugs to survive, yet insects are on the decline. This issue deserves more recognition.

Dig deeper → 4 min

  1. Land
  2. Lifestyle
  3. People
  4. Thinking

The scoop: There is an understandable skepticism around GMOs due to our bias for natural products. But GMOs have many undeniable social and environmental benefits.

What to know: The science agrees with the use of GMOs – 90% of scientists believe they are safe.

  • GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. It is the process of selectively breeding plants with other genes to create desirable characteristics.
  • GMO characteristics have the potential to address food security with projects like Golden Rice.
  • GMOs can also help reduce food waste and help growers adapt to climate change with drought, heat, or flood tolerant seed varieties.
  • While GMOs are often negatively associated with health and sustainability, there is little to no science to support this claim.
  • There is overwhelmingly more research that supports GMO's ability to positively influence health and sustainability.

Bottom line: GMOs have become somewhat of a controversy, but the scientific consensus shows they are safe. In the face of a growing population and increased land use, we need a more efficient agriculture industry to be sustainable. GMOs are at the core of a more sustainable future, and more efficient food systems.

Dig deeper → 3 min

  1. Animals
  2. Energy and Environment
  3. Planet
  4. Thinking

Question: How can sustainability succeed without laws protecting animals?

The science is out on animals. Man's outdated perceptions of our underwater and in-the-forest cousins are coming to light as science meets PETA.

Animals are sentient beings. It's not a romance novel, it's the world we live in. Animals experience a wide range of emotions.

The animal manifesto: Every squirrel, every rabbit, every bear, every fish serves a clear, identifiable role in Earth's ecosystem except for two creatures: invasive species like pythons in the Everglades.... and mankind.

Humans as protectors: Man certainly plays a role in this crazy floating ball universe, but we've drifted so far from our hunter-gatherer origins that our ecological purpose is becoming harder and harder to define. As such, it is the moral responsibility of man to act as benevolent stewards for the vulnerable, voiceless animal kingdom.

Animal lives matter: The next sustainability chapter of post-industrial society begins with a recognition of animals as they are, fellow Earthlings deserving of basic rights.

Bottom line Today, most advanced nations do not recognize animals as sentient beings. And we expect sustainable lifestyles to be widely adopted in our homes? You have to learn how to drive a car before lifting up the hood to fix it.

  1. Energy
  2. Energy and Environment
  3. Land
  4. Planet

Big picture Solar PV and onshore wind (for new-build generation) is now cheaper for 2/3 of the global population, including the US and China.

Downsides of solar-wind Critics of widespread wind & solar point to its over-hyped environmental prowess and inefficiency.

  1. Capacity factors and values: The sun does not always shine and the wind does not always blow.
    • The capacity factor of renewables are lower than that of coal, gas and nuclear, who have a capacity factor of 85-90 percent. Onshore wind units place 40 percent capacity, whereas solar facilities use 30 percent or less.
    • Capacity values are “the ability to reliably meet demand.” Using capacity values as a metric, the price of wind & solar spikes due to the unreliability during peak demand and necessary back-ups on stand-by to ensure contingent power. As reliability and capacity values go ↑, the price of renewables will go ↓
    • If widely adopted, renewables would cost higher on average. Less efficient geographic regions need to build solar and wind infrastructure, reducing economies of scale.
    • The Institute for Energy Research estimates that wind power is about twice as expensive as conventional gas-fired power, and that solar power is almost three times as expensive (relative to its capacity value).
    • Capacity factors/values summarized: wind & solar is cheaper in 2/3 of the world, but when you factor in reliability and contingency, it is still more costly.
  2. Environmental cost: It's better than oil, it's serious. Let's talk about it.
    • Heavy land use: The Green New Deal would require over 100 million acres to power America at the same capacity as oil & gas. That’s larger than the state of California. With all that space needed, it would inevitably spill into ecologically sensitive areas.
    • Production and disposal: We would probably import metals for the wind turbines and solar panels from China. Even with tariffs, it makes more economic sense. As much as 78 million metric tons worldwide by 2050 will come from solar panel waste.
    • Impact on wildlife: hundreds of thousands of birds die every year at the hands of wind turbines.
    • Weak regulation: Wind energy development, for example, has voluntary, non-mandatory federal guidelines (even during the Obama years). Assuming that wind energy companies would behave better than their fossil fuel predecessors and willingly regulate themselves is a mistake.
  3. Reliability: Frequent backups still use fossil fuels.
    • When wind and solar can't produce enough electricity, fossil fuels are used as backups.
    • The problem? Based on today's reliability of renewables, the climate impact of a GND-sized solar-wind market would be near net-zero.

Bottom line We can now say wind & solar are cheaper (at face value) than oil & gas (in most of the world). But that's just the first step. If we want to continue the shift away from fossil fuels, we still need better solutions.

  1. Energy
  2. Energy and Environment
  3. Land
  4. Planet

The Sahara Desert can transform Africa into a solar energy superpower. Concentrated solar power (CSP) and photovoltaic power (PV) hold the answers to the energy revolution in the region.

Big picture

  • If all sunlight received by Northern Africa converted into solar energy, it could power all of Europe more than 1000 times over.
  • Concentrated solar power (CSP) technology can use lenses and mirrors to store large amounts of solar heat. 
  • Tunisian transcontinental transmission of photovoltaic power (PV) and CSP prove this concept.
  • PV is more reliable for decentralized plants to power rural regions in Africa.

Between the lines

  • To better understand how a CSP plant works, check out the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in California’s Mojave Desert.
  • Desert solar panels can improve climate conditions in the region.
    • Compared to sand, panels reflect lower amounts of heat to space.
    • The result: surface heating in the desert and cloud formation.
    • Changing the desert’s heat budget may increase precipitation levels. 

Questions to consider

  • What companies would fund the project? 
  • Who would benefit from affordable solar electricity? 
  • How can you export energy to nations inside and outside of Africa?

Why it matters

  • CSP can release energy overnight, creating a 24-hour source of energy.
  • CSP has a high initial set-up cost but has long-term advantages over traditional forms of energy generation such as hydroelectricity.

Bottom line The developing world has a unique opportunity to learn harsh lessons from 20th century economic development principles. Using natural phenomena like the Sahara Desert or the Congo River, Africa can become the solar energy superpower of the future.

  1. Energy and Environment
  2. Land
  3. Planet
  4. Tech

What is vertical farming? Indoor agriculture (like greenhouses) using vertical space to optimize crop production in a controlled environment

Pros

  • Minimized pests and pesticides
  • Greater precision and control over water and nutrients, less waste
  • More food produced per acre of land, more sustainable for our planet in the long run
  • Reduced distribution supply chains delivering fresher produce to customers at greater speed

Cons

  • Higher costs
  • Deep know-how and expertise required 
  • Limited number of crops can be grown profitably (leafy greens vs. strawberries that require more sunlight and thus more electricity)

Why vertical farming? The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted food supply chains around the world. The shift to remote work increased office space vacancies... creating an opportunity to redesign spaces. Now is a good time to rethink ways to feed a growing population, especially in urban cities. We need to better adapt to supply and demand shocks.

A touch on Big Tech Algorithmic or machine-learning solutions are applied to the biggest challenge in agriculture: optimization. Artificial intelligence (AI) helps minimize food waste by figuring out the right amount of energy, water, and nutrients required to produce food. 

Bottom line With increased pressure on supply chains around the globe, rethinking traditional farming and redirecting efforts toward vertical farming (and AI) will address food security challenges and reduce waste in the future.

Dig deeper → 4 min

   Featured

Welcome to Typer

Brief and amiable onboarding is the first thing a new user sees in the theme.
Join Typer
Registration is closed.

SR Weekly

Get it in an email

Access our Weekly recap with digestible news, articles and resources around sustainability.

By subscribing you agree to our Privacy Policy.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Get it in an email

Access our Weekly recap with digestible news, articles and resources around sustainability.

By subscribing you agree to our Privacy Policy.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

In a rush? Just a second!

Let us do the hard work for you.

By signing up for SR Weekly, you unlock a speedy, summarized version of each week in review.

Even us busy-bees need to stay learning!

By subscribing you agree to our Privacy Policy.

Hire us

Become an SRcampus ambassador

Are you…

  • A college student obsessed with sustainability?
  • Connected across your campus?
  • Seeking hands-on marketing and business experience?
  • Looking to connect with a network of like-minded, motivated students across the country?
If this sounds like you, let’s chat.

Login

Close Bitnami banner
Bitnami