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Archive for March, 2012

The Foodprint Challenge: Sydney Workshops

Posted in Events, Movements by Jessica Bird on March 29th, 2012

From The Nature Conservation Council of NSW via What’s On: City of Sydney.

The Nature Conservation Council strongly believes in access to fresh, nutritious, safe and sustainable food for all. Supported by the City of Sydney, the ‘Foodprint Challenge’ aims to work within, promote and help develop the thriving sustainable food industry and growing green food movement that is developing across Sydney.

The Foodprint Challenge invites residents of the City of Sydney local government area to take part in our FREE workshop series. Aspiring locavores should come along to our next workshop: Food miles and growing your own produce. And if you’re keen to find out more about where to buy your food, the workshop on 3 May is for you, where we will launch our ‘Green Food Shopping Guide’ for the central Sydney region.

WORKSHOP 2
FOOD MILES AND GROWING YOUR OWN PRODUCE
Wednesday 4 April 6.30 – 8.30pm
Redfern Community Centre
Guest speaker Jared Ingersoll, Danks Street Depot and author of Slow Food
Discover more about how you can reduce your impact on the environment and climate change, and meet others who are trying to do the same.

WORKSHOP 3
SUSTAINABLE FOOD SHOPPING IN THE CITY OF SYDNEY
Thursday 3 May 6.30 – 8.30pm
Redfern Community Centre
Guest speaker Adam Taylor, Alfalfa House
Gain an overview of the ever expanding network of environmentally conscious food suppliers and providers in the city of Sydney, and be the one of the first to own the Sydney ‘Green Food Guide’.

Bookings are essential and can be made at http://www.nccnsw.org.au/foodprint_register


Economic Value of an Urban Forest: $80 billion

Posted in Models, Research, Tools by Kate Archdeacon on March 22nd, 2012


Photo by Mike_tn via flickr CC

From “Environmental contribution of Tennessee’s urban trees: $80 billion”  by James Holloway:

A study published by the US Forest service values the State of Tennessee’s urban forest at $80 billion thanks to its contributions to the environment. With an urban population of 284 million, that equates to a mean value of $282 per tree.

The total is based on a number of costs that are to some extent offset by the presence of Tennessee’s urban forest (its urban tree population, in other words). These include $350 million-worth of carbon storage based on the current standing stock, over $204 million every year in pollution removal, $18.4 million per year in additional carbon sequestration, and $66 million per year in energy savings-“the most significant contribution” made by the urban forest, according to State Forester Steven G. Scott. But how are the environmental benefits of the trees evaluated?

Data was collected and analyzed using the Forest Service’s own i-Tree Eco software. Using a mobile app providing strict protocols for data collection, researchers took information from 2418 trees and saplings across 255 field plots. Variables noted include species, diameter at breast height (or DBH—taken at 1.4 meters above ground), height, crown dimensions, foliage transparency, damage, and proximity to buildings. The pool of sample data is assumed to be representative of the total population, and from there the software crunches the numbers using “peer-reviewed equations” to paint a macro-scale picture of the urban forest, based on quantifiable characteristics that describe its structure, condition and function.

>>Read the full article by James Holloway on Ars Technica.
>>Read the US Forest Service study.


Goulburn Valley Food Hub: Food sovereignty film night

Posted in Events, Movements by Kate Archdeacon on March 20th, 2012


Photo via Studio Osk

You are invited to a film / discussion evening in Sydney on 30 March, hosted by the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance.

We’ll be showing two short films. One is called Growing Change, and is about food sovereignty movements in Venezuela. For more info see: http://www.simoncunich.com.au/

The second is Food Fight and tells the story of workers in small-town Victoria trying to collectivise their closed-down tomato factory. For more info see Friends of Goulburn Valley Food Hub on facebook or check out the proposed Food Hub design by Studio Osk.

It’s going to be a great night. After the films we’ll have a group discussion with a few people there to answer questions including the makers of the films and some other folks involved in food sovereignty campaigns in Sydney and elsewhere.

A facebook event has been created: https://www.facebook.com/events/259945067424956/.  Please RSVP to the event at this email growingchangesydney@gmail.com

March 30, 6:30pm
AMWU office, 136 Chalmers Street (near Central), Sydney

Entry: By donation; some food will be available


Prison Garden Programs: Improving Health, Increasing Sustainability and Contributing to Community

Posted in Models, Movements by Jessica Bird on March 16th, 2012


Photo: agrilifetoday via Flickr CC

From “Prison Gardens a Growing Trend, Feeding Inmates on the Inside and Food Banks on the Outside” by Rachel Cernansky:

Nelson Mandela may have started it all when he was in prison—”A garden is one of the few things in prison that one could control,” he wrote in his autobiography. “Being a custodian of this patch of earth offered a small taste of freedom.”

But the idea probably rose to national fame only earlier this past decade, when the Garden Project of San Francisco started selling fresh produce to Alice Waters’s acclaimed Chez Panisse restaurant. Catherine Sneed, the woman who in 1992 founded that project, which is a post-release program for ex-prisoners, did so because she had already seen such success with the Horticulture Program at the San Francisco County Jail, where she would go out on a daily basis with prisoners to work on the farm within the boundaries of the jail. The vegetables they grew were donated to soup kitchens and homeless shelters. Her moment of realization of a need for a post-release program came when one student of hers asked the visiting sheriff for permission to stay and work on the farm; Sneed recalled, “he had nothing on the outside.”

She started a trend. An increasing number of prisons are launching gardening programs: on-site gardens improve the nutritional intake of inmates and as a direct result can reduce violence and improve participants’ mental health, teaches horticultural skills that can be used upon inmates’ release (slashing recidivism rates), and also often produce surplus that is sent to food banks or other community centers or services. Here’s just a sampler of such programs that have started since Sneed’s Garden Project, or even before:

– The Insight Garden Program, also in the Bay Area, runs a 1,200 square-foot organic flower garden at the the medium-security San Quention Prison, where classes are given to teach inmates about gardening, environmental sustainability, and community care through gardening.

– Farther down the coast, the California Institute for Women runs an organic garden that sends fresh produce straight to the prison kitchen and the hospital kitchen, and is also geared to establish connections between the women and the outside community.

The Greenhouse Project on New York’s Riker’s Island has seen tremendous success, while in Wisconsin, 28 adult correctional institutions started on-site gardening projects last year. Each facility is producing thousands of pounds of vegetables per year—the highest yield being 75,000 pounds of produce, a quarter of which is donated to local food banks.

– Inmates at Washington State’s McNeil Island Corrections Center have transformed an acre of lawn in the middle of the facility into an organic vegetable patch filled with tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins and other plants—and composting units. The state has several other prison gardens that send produce to local food banks.

– Greenleaf Gardens runs a Prison Horticulture Vocational Program in New York’s Westchester County, where produce from a one-acre garden that is maintained by inmates is distributed to people in need in the area.

Prison garden projects exist in New Zealand and London and no doubt in numerous countries in between. There’s even a how-to book about it (although it’s out of print), and some programs have ways the outside community can get involved. So if you’re looking for a way to green your neighborhood…

For more information about the success of The Greenhouse Program on Riker’s Island, follow the link to the article. -JB


Energy Independence: A Rural Town in Germany

Posted in Models, Movements by Jessica Bird on March 14th, 2012


Photo: Matt Biddulph via Flickr CC

From “A Power Grid of Their Own: German Village Becomes Model for Renewable Energy” by Renuka Rayasam:

Werner Frohwitter drives his white Prius into Feldheim, parking halfway down the village’s one street in front of what looks like a shipping container. Behind the street is a field where 43 giant wind turbines loom over the village’s 37 houses. Frohwitter works for Energiequelle Gmbh, which owns the wind park. He greets a Russian camera crew and ushers them into the chilly container, which has become Feldheim’s impromptu visitor’s center. It’s the only sign of life in this otherwise quiet village. Inside, he uses posters on the wall to explain the town’s energy transformation for the Russian crew’s renewable energy documentary.

This town of 150 inhabitants, tucked away in the Brandenburg countryside some 60 kilometers (37.2 miles) southwest of Berlin seems like an unlikely tourist hotspot. It has no bars, museums or restaurants. But since the Fukushima nuclear disaster one year ago, Feldheim has become a beacon for cities across the world that want to shift their energy mix toward renewables.

Feldheim is the only town in Germany that started its own energy grid and gets all of its electricity and heating through local renewable sources, primarily wind and biogas. This mix of energy self-sufficiency and reliance on renewables attracted 3,000 visitors in 2011. Visitors came from North and South Korea, South America, Canada, Iran, Iraq and Australia. About half of the visitors are from Japan. Eri Otsu served as a translator for a group of Japanese energy analysts and politicians who came to Germany to see Feldheim. “Feldheim is not a charming Bavarian village; it is gray and they have little,” says Otsu, an organic farmer in southern Japan. Still, the group found Feldheim the most impressive of the three German villages they visited because it is energy independent and uses renewables. “They were amazed and said they had never seen anything like that,” Otsu says.

A Mayor’s Work
“People are here almost every day,” says Michael Knape, shifting through a stack of business cards on his desk. He sighs, saying that he can’t keep track of all the visitors. The 41-year-old, with dark hair and wide eyes that make his young face look even more boyish, is the mayor of Treuenbrietzen, the larger municipality where Feldheim sits. In many ways Knape’s work is typical of a small town mayor, dealing with residents when snow is not cleared fast enough and sometimes answering the phone at the city hall. What makes Knape different is that he is also a patient ambassador for Feldheim, convinced that investing in renewables is the only answer to the country’s energy dilemma.

After the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, Chancellor Angela Merkel planned a phase-out for Germany’s nuclear power plants and set the goal of requiring 35 percent of Germany’s energy to come from renewables by 2020, up from 20 percent at the time. Yet the federal government is now cutting funding for renewable energy projects and phasing out solar subsidies. […]

A Series of Coincidences
It started with a few windmills in 1995. A series of coincidences transformed Feldheim from a backwater town in eastern Germany into a model renewable energy city. “Back in the 1990s no one expected it would get this far,” says Frohwitter. Feldheim’s strong wind and abundant land are pretty much the only reason that Michael Raschermann, head of Energiequelle Gmbh, decided to install a wind turbine in the village. Now the wind park has more turbines than the village has houses.

By 2008, after two years of planning, Feldheim built a €1.7 million biogas factory to be used for heat and fueled by slurry of unused corn and pig manure. The village received about half of the startup costs from a European Union program. Because farmers in Feldheim already grew corn and raised pigs, the biogas factory also benefits local agriculture. A furnace burning wood chips left over from felled trees in the local forest serves as a backup heat source when the temperature dips.

In 2008 Feldheim decided to take control of its own grid. Cutting out the middleman was a natural step since the town was producing all of its own energy right in its backyard. But when E.on refused to sell or lease its energy grid, Feldheim, with help from Energiequelle, had to build its own smart grid. They completed the grid in October 2010 with each villager contributing €3,000 ($3,972). Now Feldheimers pay about 31 percent less for electricity and 10 percent less for heating. The project has created about 30 jobs in Feldheim. […]

Read the rest of this entry »


Flexibility in Resource-Based Employment: Fishing

Posted in Movements, Research by Kate Archdeacon on March 8th, 2012

Source: Stockholm Resilience Centre

Photo: Swiv via flickr CC
From “Sticking to their trade: Why fishermen keep fishing despite dwindling catches” by Sturle Hauge Simonsen:

A new report, recently published by PLoS ONE, challenges previously held notions about poverty and adaptation by investigating why fishermen in developing countries stick with their trade.

“We found that half of fishermen questioned would not be tempted to seek out a new livelihood — even if their catch declined by 50 per cent. But the reasons they cling on to their jobs are influenced by much more than simple profitability,” says lead author and centre researcher Tim Daw.

Fisheries are challenged by the combined effects of overfishing, climate change, deteriorating ecosystems and conservation policies. Understanding how fishermen respond to these changes is critical to managing fisheries. The research project is the largest of its kind and was undertaken as a joint project with the Wildlife Conservation Society, the School of Marine Science and Technology at Newcastle University, and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University in Australia.

Researchers surveyed almost 600 fishers across Kenya, Tanzania, the Seychelles, Mauritius and Madagascar about how they would respond to hypothetical catch declines. They then investigated how social and economic conditions, such as local culture and socioeconomic development, influenced whether fishermen were willing to give up their trade.

“Surprisingly, fishermen in the more vibrant and developed economies were less likely to give up their trade — despite having more economically fruitful opportunities open to them,” says co-author Dr Joshua Cinner from the ARC Centre of Excellence for coral reef Studies in Australia.

[…]

“One of the unexpected findings was that fishermen in a poor country like Madagascar would leave the fishery sooner than those in wealthier countries such as Seychelles. The reason seems to be that they already have diversified livelihoods, while fishermen in wealthier countries may be locked into this occupation,” says Tim McClanahan from the Wildlife Conservation Society.  “This is contrary to many arguments about the impacts of management and climate change on poor people, so will surprise many people working in this field and on resource and disaster management policies”.

The findings add to a growing raft of literature which identifies multiple interlocking and dynamic factors which affect people’s capacity to deal with environmental change. It is hoped they will help identify points of intervention for conservation policies that aim to reduce fishing effort. They could also help communities become more adaptive to change.

“It also highlights the importance of understanding resource-based livelihoods, such as fishing and farming, in the context of the wider economy and society,” Tim Daw concludes.

Read the full article by Sturle Hauge Simonsen for the Stockholm Resilience Centre or go to the report.


Forget Superheroes: Local Government to the Rescue

Posted in Movements, Research by Jessica Bird on March 6th, 2012


Image from: CDP Cities

CDP Cities is a voluntary reporting platform for cities around the world to document their actions on climate change. An initiative of the Carbon Disclosure Project, CDP Cities have produced this neat infographic compiling data from the 48 participating cities in 2011. Melbourne features in the section on individual cities, citing ‘creating urban and rooftop gardens, lighter buildings, and lightening roof and road colours to lessen urban heat island effect’ as actions being taken by the City council.