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We absolutely can reduce the ecological footprint of humanity all the way down to zero!
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Sustainability over growth: the paradigm shift at the heart of Green economics

Sustainability over growth: the paradigm shift at the heart of Green economics | Zero Footprint | Scoop.it
With the Green Party now polling at record levels, the predictable media backlash arrived this week.

 

The major stumbling block appears to be what a Green economy might look like. Many commentators seem to have grabbed hold of the fact that the Green Party, unlike other parties, doesn't condition all of its policies on the premise of economic growth.


First, it is important to point out that Green supporters as a whole reject Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a reliable or informative economic indicator.


GDP is misleading in all sorts of ways. It only measures certain types of transactions that occur within the formal economy, so for example a million pound personal injury claim would contribute to GDP growth whereas unpaid community work wouldn't. 


A Green government would look to different types of economic indictors as barometers for prosperity. For example, it would consider increased growth and technological advancements in priority industries such as renewable energy as a sign of success. On the other hand, growth in sectors that damage our health and social fabric would be seen as a bad thing.


Therefore the key to a Green economy is sustainability, which would always take precedence over growth. The definition of a sustainable economy is one that meets society's current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

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Sustaining Seven Billion People

Sustaining Seven Billion People | Zero Footprint | Scoop.it

"With seven billion people now living on Earth, the ever growing demand is putting unprecedented pressure on global resources—especially forests, water, and food. How can Earth’s resources be managed best to support so many people? One key is tracking the sum of what is available, and perhaps nothing is better suited to that task than satellites."

 

...the top image shows where crops are grown throughout the world. Green areas are cropland, while tan areas are other types of land cover. In the last 40 years, cropland has increased by 70 percent to feed a growing population. Crops now cover about 40 percent of Earth’s land.


The lower image provides a landscape scale view of farming.


Measurements from the Landsat satellite also make it possible to tell how much water the crops consume in an arid environment. Such measurements are likely to become more important as demands on limited water resources increase. Currently, agriculture accounts for 85 percent of the world’s fresh water consumption.


Via Seth Dixon
Daniel LaLiberte's insight:

Such studies of the agriculture around the world are essential. The way we are doing agriculture to support seven billion people now, peaking at 9-10 billion in another 60 years, it is clear that we are putting severe strains on the environment.  But we have grown lazy, and we are doing it all wrong.

 

We CAN drastically reduce the amount of meat we consume, and thus quickly reduce the amount of arable land we need.  We CAN grow plants in ways that actually sequester more carbon and improve the soil it over time rather than erode and degrade.  And we CAN in fact grow all the food we need in the space we live in, thus enabling us to recycle all the water used as well, which is mostly just lost in evaporation. 

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Russell Roberts's curator insight, July 6, 2014 5:53 AM

Thanks to environmental reporter Wes Thomas and professor Seth Dixon for this incisive analysis of how to provide sustenance to a world population nearing the 7 billion mark.  Dixon says the key is tracking the "sum of what is available...and perhaps nothing is better suited to the task than satellites."  Ever since the launch of "Landsat" and resource imaging satellites, scientists have been collecting data on global resources such as water, land use, forests, and crop production.  Dixon and Thomas say it's time the data were  put into a plan to fight hunger and habitat destruction around the world.  Such a plan may work if we as humans can keep from killing ourselves over religion, politics, and territory.  A tall order , indeed.  Aloha de Russ.

Tom Cockburn's curator insight, July 13, 2014 10:52 AM

Vital debate for the future

MsPerry's curator insight, August 13, 2014 12:44 AM

APHG-U2

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Researchers Assign Monetary Value to Nature to Promote Sustainability

Researchers Assign Monetary Value to Nature to Promote Sustainability | Zero Footprint | Scoop.it

In a study published recently in the Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, researchers from Arizona State University (ASU) and Yale University have developed a first-of-its-kind, interdisciplinary equation to estimate the current monetary value of natural resources such as fish stocks, groundwater or forests in the U.S. In assigning natural capital monetary value, the approach will have widespread implications for policymakers and various stakeholders, and will also advocate for the creation of robust asset markets for natural capital, a much-needed advance.


Unlike earlier approaches, the method takes into consideration the “opportunity cost” of losing future units of natural capital that could have helped replenish the resource, providing economic benefits in the long run. It is underpinned by the economic principles also used to value physical or human capital.


“Sustainability can be defined as ensuring that the assets the next generation inherits are worth at least as much as they were when the previous generation received them,” said Abbott. “As humans, we are not going to have zero impact on the environment, but we want to make sure that the value of human, physical and natural capital that we pass on to future generations is worth no less than when we inherited them.”

 

“We are pursuing this research to help provide better measurements of society’s wealth, so we can know whether we’re moving in a sustainable direction,” Abbott concluded. 


Daniel LaLiberte's insight:

Not only can humans have zero impact on the environment, we can do better than that.  If we can ensure that the world's natural assets have *more* value in the future, then we will be *improving* the environment. This is absolutely physically possible.  

 

We can ensure that enough fish remain in the oceans such that fish populations can actually *grow*. We can ensure that our agricultural practices actually *improve* the soil, as we use some of its products, and recycle 100% of our waste back to the land.  After we shut down the fossil fuel industry entirely, we can sequester some fraction of CO2 out of what we burn in biofuels, until we get back to the balance nature has depended on for millennia.

 

Measuring the value of natural assets could be abused, of course, if it is not done properly. Some might say we should never put a price on nature, but perhaps the proper price for natural resources should gradually grow arbitrarily high until we learn to leave nature alone.

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Phytoremediation: Healing Urban Landscapes through Plants

Phytoremediation: Healing Urban Landscapes through Plants | Zero Footprint | Scoop.it
Two graduate students present a concept for a former harbor site in north Amsterdam exploring the benefits of phytoremediation.


In the world of modern architecture everything has to be sustainable. If this means that we have to take care of nature and use our resources wisely then maybe phytoremediation can be considered a sustainable method of re-designing highly polluted areas.


Healing, remediating, cleaning, and purifying contaminated soil using plants to extract pollutants is the method of phytoremediation. It is getting attention lately, as it appears to be an effective low-cost and sustainable alternative when dealing with polluted soils. Interlaced into a good landscape design strategy it can save money, improve quality of urban spaces, and provides active and aesthetic uses of polluted areas until they are safe for other uses. 


Three categories of pollution were distinguished: heavily polluted soils, which will take up to 200 years to clean, medium polluted soils (about 60 years to clean), and clean soils. According to the level of pollution, the distribution of public spaces, land use, and accessibility of the areas are defined. Heavily polluted areas are completely closed to access during the purification process, but still visible, providing aesthetical sight of the landscape.


Via Lauren Moss
Daniel LaLiberte's insight:

Maybe before 200 years we will figure out how to speed up the process.

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9 Essential Green Elements for the Development of Sustainable Cities

9 Essential Green Elements for the Development of Sustainable Cities | Zero Footprint | Scoop.it

Many cities are coming to the realization that creating a smart and sustainable city means ultimately attaining a high level of economic efficiency, a high quality of life, a highly desirable place in which to live and do business, and a meaningful commitment to environmental responsibility.

But what really makes for a green or sustainable city?  And how can sometimes highly diverse urban areas attain it?


LEED buildings and even LEED neighborhoods are surely a good thing, but they are not a sufficient thing to declare a municipality sustainable.  This is an overview of the essential elements (there are many more, but these are the most basic):

Committing to greenBuilding greenBuying greenPowering greenConserving nearby (and creating internal) green landscapesProtecting green:  both water quality and water quantityLocating green:  creating a compact, walkable, interconnected, mixed-use communityMoving green:  diversifying transportation and increasing accessibility(Not) wasting green:  getting to zero on the production of waste

 

Read the complete article for more on the green elements listed above...


Via Lauren Moss
Daniel LaLiberte's insight:

100% Green is not fooling around.

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Jim Gramata's curator insight, April 12, 2013 2:59 PM

Nine basic concepts to achieve healthy sustainable buildings and cities. Piece of cake.

Noor Fatima's curator insight, April 12, 2013 6:05 PM

Exactly :)

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Sustainability challenged as many renewable resources max out

Sustainability challenged as many renewable resources max out | Zero Footprint | Scoop.it

The days of assuming natural resources can be swapped in and out to solve shortages - corn for oil, soy for beef - may be over. An international group of scientists demonstrate that many key resources have peaked in productivity, pointing to the sobering conclusion that "renewable" is not synonymous with "unlimited."

 

For Jianguo "Jack" Liu, who is director of MSU's Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, this is strong reason for integration—to approach sustainability problems holistically, rather than searching for a "one for one" substitution to offset shortages.

 

"People often talk about substitution. If we run out of one resource, we just substitute another. But if multiple resources are running out, we've got a problem," Liu said.

Daniel LaLiberte's insight:

Bio-renewables have a recovery rate limitation, but wind and solar energy are limited only by how much we can collect at once, which is thousands of times more than we currently need.

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Life and Leadership, by Fritjof Capra | DailyGood

Life and Leadership, by Fritjof Capra | DailyGood | Zero Footprint | Scoop.it

Sustainability is not an individual property, but is a property of an entire web of relationships. It is a community practice. This is the profound lesson we need to learn from nature. The way to sustain life is to build and nurture community.

 

A sustainable human community interacts with other communities — human and nonhuman — in ways that enable them to live and develop according to their natures. Sustainability does not mean that things do not change. It is a dynamic process of coevolution rather than a static state.

 

Living systems generally remain in a stable state, even though energy and matter flow through them and their structures are continually changing. But every now and then such an open system will encounter a point of instability, where there is either a breakdown or, more frequently, a spontaneous emergence of new forms of order.

 

Human organizations always contain both designed and emergent structures. The issue is not one of discarding designed structures in favor of emergent ones. We need both.  The challenge for leaders is to find the right balance between the creativity of emergence and the stability of design.

 

 

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MARINE DEBRIS: Why would you move through the oceans if the oceans can move through you? - YouTube

Boyan Slat, founder and president The Ocean Cleanup: "I have invented a method to clean up almost half of the great Pacific's garbage patch in just 10 years, using the currents to my advantage." 

 

But the oceans won't get clean by means of just a great idea. The Ocean Cleanup aims to not only study the solution, but actually develop the world's first feasible approach to gyre remediation, by using the ocean's currents to its advantage. So there is much more work to be done. 


Via PeerSpring
Daniel LaLiberte's insight:

After watching this video, and another video with Boyan reporting on the feasibility study: (http://www.theoceancleanup.com/blog/show/item/the-ocean-cleanup-release-event.html) I get the sense that we haven't really been trying hard enough yet to clean up our mess.  And that, ironically enough, gives me hope that there is so much more we can do.

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Daniel LaLiberte's comment, June 17, 2014 2:01 AM
Although Boyan only claims his "gadget" can clean up about half of the plastic in 10 years, the smaller bits, which are probably much more numerous, will also be important to clean up, and it will likely be much more difficult. Some complain that the whole idea seems naive (http://sco.lt/6HvjRB) but it looks like there is a reasonable value proposition here.
PeerSpring's comment, June 17, 2014 2:27 AM
Daniel - if to think without limits or confines is to be naive, then perhaps the world needs a little bit more of youth innovation? Thanks so much for your thoughtful contributions and re-scoops!
Daniel LaLiberte's comment, August 19, 2014 4:28 AM
It turns out that the amount of plastic in the oceans is quite a lot less than previously thought. Or we don't know where it is in any case, which is perhaps more disturbing: "Ninety-nine percent of the ocean's plastic is missing" http://sco.lt/6AJ3Uv
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Ecopolis: The emergence of 'regenerative cities'

Ecopolis: The emergence of 'regenerative cities' | Zero Footprint | Scoop.it

Professor Herbert Girardet has spent much of his working life on this issue and has come up with the concept of ‘regenerative cities' that aims to set out a roadmap of transformation in the way cities function - and also offers hope that humanity's fate need not be one of resource wars, conflict and climate chaos.

 

Girardet gradually came to realise that the concept of ‘sustainability' is no longer fit for purpose;

 

"Today there is much less to sustain than when the term was coined in the 1980s. We've exceeded the limits to growth on nearly every aspect of development. Sustainable development will not dig us out of the hole we find ourselves in. We have to start thinking in terms of regenerative development. This means working towards giving back to nature as much we take.

 

So, what is a regenerative city - ‘Ecopolis'? It is one that relies primarily on local and regional food supplies; it is powered, heated, cooled and driven by renewable energy, and it reuses resources and restores degraded ecosystems. This is diametrically opposed to how many cities are currently run: they use resources without concern for their origins or destination of their waste products; they emit vast amounts of carbon dioxide without ensuring reabsorption and they consume huge amounts of meat produced mainly with imported feed, often from devastated rainforest regions.

 

Waste management is an absolutely key concept in regenerative cities as it not only reduces waste going to landfill, but helps capture organic waste for composting, increases the recovery of recyclables and facilitates the growth of small businesses that use the ‘waste' as raw materials.

 

For instance, since 2006 the city of Oakland, California, has worked to implement a strategic target of Zero Waste, and has already achieved an incredible 75% reduction in waste dumping. This was accomplished by pursuing ‘upstream' redesign strategies to reduce the volume and toxicity of products and materials, and by improving ‘downstream' reuse and recycling of end-of-life products including the re-use of products and materials, to stimulate local economic and workforce development.


Local food production is also a key element of regenerative cities. Currently many cities import their foodstuffs from all over the world, resulting in huge and highly unsustainable ecological footprints.


Professor Girardet is eloquent and animated on the subject of regenerative cities. He believes that cities, at best, are important global assets and can be the places where solutions to the world's environmental and climate problems can be effectively implemented. It is in cities where creativity flourishes and people can interact and engage vigorously in the search for solutions.


We have to change course and to adapt and thrive in ‘Ecopolis' if humanity and the biosphere are to survive.


Via Steven Putter, ddrrnt
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Alex Steffen sees a sustainable future | Video on TED.com

TED Talks Worldchanging.com founder Alex Steffen argues that reducing humanity’s ecological footprint is incredibly vital now, as the western consumer lifestyle spreads to developing countries.

Via Anne Caspari
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