Sustainability Reads: 8/11-8/17

US cities combating climate change on the local level

Local decision-makers in the US are working to prepare their communities for the impacts of climate change as well as reduce their cities’ emissions. This piece interviews Mayor Jim Brainard of Carmel, Indiana and Rick Plitz, the Director of Climate Science Watch for the Government Accountability Project to see what is being done on the local level as a part of President Obama’s national climate preparedness plan. Brainard has passed an executive order requiring all city fleets to be electric and acknowledges that his city has saved millions of gallons of fuel per year by establishing the most roundabouts in the country. Published on Al Jazeera America.

Why geothermal is the new fracking

New “enhanced geothermal systems” (EGS) seek to scale geothermal energy, which currently contributes .4% of electricity in the U.S. (country with highest installed capacity for geothermal plants). Geothermal is relatively steady source of energy, but EGS increases potential by reducing the high failure rate of wells and extending the life and size of geothermal fields. However, the increase in productivity doesn’t come without environmental costs. This article explores EGS as ‘geothermal fracking’ due to similarities in the process: millions of gallons of chemicals and water are injected in wells at high pressure creating fracture networks with water pumped, heated, and sent back to the surface to generate power. Concerns with EGS are specifically seen with triggering earthquakes and water/soil contamination. Although another battle for environmentalists, EGS has fans in the U.S. Department of Energy, and a venture capital backed firm is hoping to make technology commercially viable next year (commercialization is still trickiest part). Germany, France and Britain also have state research programs. Published in The Economist.

Your iPhone is about to get (a little) less toxic

On Wednesday Apple announced an official ban on Benzene and n-hexane from its iPhone and iPad production lines, which are two toxins known to cause negative health effects including leukemia and nerve damage. These toxins are primarily used to clean and polish electronics during the final stages of production, although the company did say that it would still use a small amount of the toxins during the earlier stages of production. By Sara Bernard on Grist.org.

The challenges of the global fish food system

The global fish food system is challenged by over-fishing, climate change, and environmental problems such as pollution and ocean acidification. These challenges will increase as demand for fish grows, and the demand will grow as global human population increases. This post provides interesting statistics and local context to understand the system that provides people with fish for consumption as well as the increasing concerns. For example, 19.2% of the animal protein consumed in developing countries is provided by fish and it is projected that aquaculture will provide close to 2/3 of global food fish by 2030. Published on CGIAR Development Dialogues.

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