Sustainability Reads: April 6- April 12

Social Progress Index 2015
The annual update for my favorite alternative to the GDP is out! The Social Progress Index looks at how countries are doing in regards to providing basic human needs, foundations for wellbeing, and opportunity. You can explore the overall ranking of countries or look at how countries fare in regards to the different components (i.e. ecosystem sustainability which includes greenhouse gas emissions, water withdrawals as a percentage of resources, and biodiversity and habitat). Information on the specific indicators is available as well as a number of interesting findings. We recommend exploring this index further.

Top 10 overall: Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Iceland, New Zealand, Canada (the highest ranking member of the G7), Finland, Denmark, Netherlands, and Australia.

Bottom 10 overall (that had enough data to be included in index, lowest first): Central African Republic, Chad, Afghanistan, Guinea, Angola, Yemen, Niger, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Madagascar.

Top 10 for ecosystem sustainability: Switzerland, Norway, Slovenia, Laos, Uganda, Sweden, Serbia, Latvia, Bhutan, and Burkina Faso.

Bottom 10: Libya, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Comoros, Bahrain, Qatar, Lebanon, Myanmar, Jordan, and the Gambia.

Deforestation in the Amazon Aggravates Brazil’s Energy Crisis
As water levels drop in dammed rivers, Brazil’s electricity, which depends extensively on hydropower, is threatened, forcing the country to turn to fossil fuel-powered thermoelectric plants. The article points out that today, thermal plants, which are mainly fueled by oil, provide 28 percent of the country’s power, compared to the 66.3 percent that comes from hydroelectricity. Yet deforestation is making dependence on hydroelectric power even more risky, as forests act as reservoirs of water, retaining water in the soil, and thus keeping levels up in the rivers. Scientists are also worried that deforestation, especially in the Amazon, is affecting hydroelectric power in the Southeast of the country, the country’s economic region, by preventing air moisture from the Amazon from being transported to the Southeast. This results in a lack of rainfall and thus limited water to be used for hydropower (as well as drought that has been plaguing the region). By Mario Osava for the Inter Press Service, published at Truth-out.org.

New report shines a light on innovative American cities advancing clean energy policies
Cities around the U.S. are passing forward-thinking policies to transition to renewables, such as solar. Here are some examples of what these cities are doing:

  • Offering local government programs that support collective purchasing, which pools the purchasing power of residents, businesses and municipalities interested in solar–otherwise known as buying solar in bulk–thereby cutting solar’s already dropping costs by an additional 10-20 percent;
  • Programs that support Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing, which allows commercial and residential property owners to pay back clean energy project scoping, equipment and installation costs through their property taxes;
  • Streamlining permitting processes;
  • Installing solar on public buildings such as schools, water treatment centers, parking lots, and other large public buildings

Article by Pierre Bull on NRDC, report titled Shining Cities: Harnessing the Benefits of Solar Energy in America by Environment America.

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