La Roya – to an untrained ear those words almost sound like a new blend of premium coffee. Far from it.
“The rust” is shorthand for coffee leaf rust or Hemileia vastatrix, a devastating fungus that attacks coffee plants and often threatens the plants’ survival.
Fungal spores first show on an infected plant as yellowish-brown spots on the underside of coffee leaves, eventually turning rust-colored red. As the disease progresses, infected leaves fall off the plant. If left untreated, the fungus chokes off the plant by leaving it unable to photosynthesize.
First discovered in East Africa in 1861, coffee leaf rust destroyed the crop on the island of Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, and is credited as one of the reasons the British drink tea. The disease soon spread to Southeast Asia and coffee-growing regions in south, central and western Africa. La Roya finally reached the western hemisphere in 1970, when an outbreak was discovered in Bahia, Brazil. Coffee leaf rust is now found in every coffee-growing region in the world.
Despite its global spread, coffee rust has typically been manageable and controllable, if still a serious nuisance. When treated quickly, otherwise healthy plants in good soil can survive the disease. Nonetheless, the U.S. Department of State considers the current outbreak of La Roya as the worst ever seen in Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. Losses have topped $1 billion, costing hundreds of thousands of jobs and forcing many to abandon the coffee-farming life altogether in search of a better life elsewhere.
“In some years it’s worse than others and in some geographies it’s worse than others,” says Lindsey Bolger, VP of coffee sourcing and excellence for Keurig Green Mountain. “We have seen an entire population of coffee obliterated, truly destroyed and wiped out by this particular disease.” Never has the disease been “quite as impactful in terms of coffee production and coffee farmer livelihood.”
Over the last couple of years, coffee rust has threatened the livelihoods of up to 14 million people. What is different this time? Why has leaf rust taken such a toll on an entire coffee growing region?
We humans are a visually-attuned species. For most of us “seeing is believing,” in that we understand complex ideas, mathematical concepts or raw data best when we can visualize them.
This ability to conjure up the abstract or unseen unlocks our understanding of some of nature’s more closely-held secrets; it gives us a “potential reality” glimpse of the impact of our actions, before we stumble unwittingly into undesired consequences. At the risk of invoking one too many clichés all at once: A picture is worth a thousand words.
Last year we introduced readers to the OWL, a device that its creator, San Francisco-based startup OWLized, calls “time goggles.” The OWL looks like the common “retro” viewfinder you’ve seen and probably used at scenic lookouts in national parks across the country. Drop a dime into the slot and get a close-up view of the world around you. The difference is that the OWL lets you see into the future, or even the past, and there’s no dime required to see it.
The data center is the factory floor of the information age. How well it is managed can mean the difference between profit and loss, an angry or satisfied customer, or money and resources conserved or needlessly wasted. Efficiency underpins successful management of IT infrastructure as the scale and complexity of some of the world’s biggest data center networks continues to expand.
We introduced readers to TrendPoint last year, a growing company manufacturing utility-grade data center power and cooling monitoring systems for mission-critical applications. TrendPoint designs and engineers a powerful set of cost-effective sub-metering devices, allowing users to more effectively track power consumption, maximize uptime and manage power distribution resources throughout an entire facility. As the old adage goes: You can’t manage what you don’t measure.
This fall, TrendPoint released its latest addition to the EnerSure line of products, the EnerSure Enkapsis 3-Phase Power Quality Meter (PQM). The PQM provides full power quality monitoring, environmental sensor support and the addition of high-speed waveform capture at 133 samples per cycle.
Essentially, the ability to capture waveform data at high speed enables data center managers to quickly spot and assess power spikes and anomalies for better decision making and rapid problem solving.
When Detroit’s Big Three automakers flew their corporate jets to Washington, D.C. in 2008, to plead Congress for a $25 billion bailout, those airplanes conveyed not just their contrite passengers but also a public image of corporate aviation as an excessive luxury — how the “one percent” get around (including some preachy environmentalists).
Portraying this ill-advised PR blunder on the part of Detroit’s CEOs — they could have at least made the trip in one airplane — as emblematic of business aviation in general oversimplifies the role and importance of general and business aviation.
Still, for most of us it’s easy to look at a corporate jet as a limousine with wings. The purview of large corporations and overpaid CEOs. In fact, of the 15,000 business aircraft registered in the United States, only 3 percent are in use by Fortune 500 companies, according to the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA).
A scheduled airline runs most efficiently on a hub-and-spoke system, but scheduled air carriers serve only about 500 airports in the United States, and that number is declining. Most U.S. airlines only fly into 70 major airports. General aviation business aircraft have access to more than 5,000 and go where and when needed.
Business aviation includes everything from the traffic helicopter guiding your morning commute, to a piston single-engine, four-seater Cessna providing access to remote communities, to the sleek corporate jet flying non-stop from New York to Dubai. The types of aircraft represent a cross-section of the organizations that use them — governments, NGOs, universities and businesses of all sizes.
Access, flexibility and specific use requirements make the case for business aviation. But at what cost? It takes a lot of fossil fuel to power a global aviation system. Even if general and business aviation is a small subset of the global industry, its carbon footprint is not insignificant.
Part of the problem or part of the solution?
“I think a lot of people blame the ‘top 1 percent’ for causing ‘big evil corporations’ to act in socially and environmentally unethical ways,” says Nathan MacKenzie Brown, a 34-year-old entrepreneur and impact investor — and one not prone to mince his words.
Brown doesn’t deny the consequences stemming from the concentration of wealth in the U.S. But the fact is that the spread of stock ownership has changed dramatically in the past 30 or 40 years. More Americans than ever before, 47 percent, own at least some stock.
“It certainly isn’t fair to blame the horrible behavior of corporations on the top 1 percent alone,” Brown says. “I think it is time for every one of us who puts money into an investment account for retirement to realize we are either part of the solution, or we are part of the problem.”
The task then, for those of us wishing to be part of the solution, is to reconcile our economic interests with our social values.
The land of sky blue waters – what beer, urban development and aquaponics have in common
I date myself by admitting that I reflexively think of beer when I hear the expression, “the land of sky blue waters.” Originally translated from a traditional Omaha tribe love song, the phrase became the title of a popular song in 1909 and later adapted as the Hamm’s Brewery sales jingle in the 1960s.
For decades Hamm’s beer was made at a brewery in St. Paul, Minnesota. “Sky blue water” is a rough translation of the word “Minnesota” and harkens back to the good old days when Hamm’s was purportedly brewed with water from a Minnesotan artesian well.
Long since swallowed up by the Miller Brewing Co., Hamm’s left St. Paul and for 15 years the iconic brewery lay abandoned and in disrepair — one of many crumbled, discarded buildings symbolizing the decline of the Rust Belt in America, as the once proud and powerful industrial base of the region faded, moved offshore or disappeared entirely.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is that what was once a battered, graffiti-ridden building in the center of a decaying “food desert ” — where local communities have little access to affordable, nutritious food — is now home to Urban Organics, an aquaponics startup that is a model for both global sustainable agriculture and the post-industrial revitalization of urban America.
America was built on Cod.
When Americans today think of the first Thanksgiving feast, we often lean on our childhood history lesson version of events; the brave settlers celebrating with their new neighbors the survival of those first harsh months in a new world. Long tables of turkey and maize are etched in our minds, symbolizing a land of plenty and a unifying, if short-lived, bond with the newcomer’s native benefactors.
It is a foundational moment in the mythology that helped carve out a new country. But it was not as much the turkey and maize, but the even more bountiful harvest from the North Atlantic, cod especially, that underpins the foundation of the new American continent. Cod built colonial America, at least in New England.
It is said that cod was so abundant in those times that you could walk across the ocean on their backs.
Those days are long gone. The North Atlantic cod, once fabled as inexhaustible, is all but a faded memory of the past. What then happens to the towns and villages up and down the Atlantic seaboard that once thrived on what is now a tapped-out resource?
Editor’s note: This is the third post in a three-part series on sustainable fish farming startups. In case you missed it, you can read the first post here.
In the first two posts of this series, we introduced Kampachi Farms, an open-ocean mariculture startup on the Big Island of Hawaii co-founded by Neil Sims and Michael Bullock. When their mariculture fishery, the Valella project, got started in early 2012, the future of aquaculture and mariculture was uncertain, as a lawsuit brought by Food and Water Watch against the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) pertaining to aquaculture was wending its way through court. The suit brought the founders of Valella into a complicated area that spanned legislation, the role of governments and NGOs, and how to best help environmental groups understand mariculture.
When I recently spoke to Sims for a follow-up interview, he was preparing to travel to the Hague to participate in the Global Ocean Action Summit for Blue Development.
“This is looking at the way that we can grow marine industries in a scalable, responsible manner. Work to feed the planet, work to heal the oceans from the depredation that we’ve put upon her and harness the energy of commercial development to do that.”
From the basic research, Sims and his colleagues began way back with Kona Blue Water Farms, to the Velella test projects (beta and gamma) and on to global operations for ocean mariculture, this is what is near and dear to Sims heart — finding ways to feed a hungry planet while healing a depleted ocean.
An ocean and a continent away, in New York City, the mission is the same, just replace the blue Pacific with the rooftop of a Manhattan ironworks factory.
Editor’s note: This is the second post in a three-part series on sustainable fish farming startups. In case you missed it, you can read the first post here.
In the first post of this series, we introduced Kampachi Farms, an open-ocean mariculture startup on the Big Island of Hawaii co-founded by Neil Sims and Michael Bullock. When their mariculture fishery, the Valella project, got started in early 2012, the future of aquaculture and mariculture was uncertain, as a lawsuit brought by Food and Water Watch against the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was wending its way through court. Principal among the issues Food and Water Watch had with NOAA was allowing the Velella project to proceed in federal waters.
Food and Water Watch characterized Velella as “factory fish farming,” challenging its legality in court with the Magnuson-Stevens Act as the basis for its argument.
The Magnuson-Stevens Act of 1976 is the primary law governing management of marine fisheries in the United States. Formally known as the Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976, the law has undergone a number of amendments since then, including the Sustainable Fisheries Act of 1996 and the Magnuson–Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006.
“They [Food and Water Watch] thought that aquaculture was not fishing,” says Sims. “NOAA’s position is that, under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which refers to the harvesting of living marine resources, there can be aquaculture as well.” Food and Water Watch lost their initial suit as well as an appeal in the 9th Circuit.
Editor’s note: This is the first post in a three-part series on sustainable fish farming startups. Stay tuned for the next installment tomorrow!
Powered by their rapidly expanding populations, emerging world economies are working hard to close the gap with developed nations. As this trend of convergence continues and accelerates, growth in the coming decades will increasingly focus on the developing world.
Even now about 1 billion people, mostly in developing countries, depend on seafood as their main source of protein. How to feed a hungry and growing population from an increasingly stressed resource, in many places teetering on collapse?
The World Bank estimates that by 2030, as the global population tops 8 billion people, only 38 percent of seafood consumed globally will be wild. The rest, fully 62 percent, must come from fish farming and aquaculture.
As vital as wild fishery preservation is to ocean health and biodiversity, given this outlook for the necessity of farmed fish, the focus for building an adequate source of healthy seafood for human consumption must look to the expansion of sustainable fish farming, aquaculture and aquaponics.
Bringing sustainable fish production to scale requires a variety of new approaches and techniques developed by visionary — and sometimes controversial — business startups, operating in diverse circumstances. From the open ocean far offshore to inner-city “post industrial” warehouses, solutions are emerging.
“King Cotton,” as it came to be known in the American South, has an unsettled past.
The crop has played a critical role throughout history. As with all things intertwined with human endeavor, cotton bears witness to our triumph and tragedy, often playing a central role in each.
Enduring the threefold challenge of economic, social and environmental issues, cotton production is often implicated as unsustainable and subject to the allure and consequence of profit at all cost. Global cotton production comes increasingly from low-wage areas of the developing world like China, India, Africa, Bangladesh and Latin America.
Cotton accounts for 40 percent of global textile production, supporting the livelihoods of 300 million people or nearly 7 percent of all labor in the developing world. The scale of global cotton reflects how much we depend on it and how far removed most of us are from the effects of its production and consumption. The cotton industry reaches all the way from small-holder farmers living in poverty to the chic fashion salons of New York and Europe.
Soccer rules–with the possible exception of one enclave in North America known as the United States. As Erik Distler writes in a June 2012 TriplePundit article, soccer (“football”) goes far beyond just sport and athletics. It is a unifying force that drives community and social change, two essential ingredients for sustainable development.
The stardom and celebrity of sport–of a Pelé or Beckham–grabs the spotlight for a time and sells product, but it is in the dry, dusty fields of the developing world where perhaps the biggest and most lasting impact of soccer happens–where kids learn the joy of play, even in the harshest of circumstances. Their daily lives may seem to offer few solutions for a better life, but the simple love of a game and a joyous sense of play offers solutions in unexpected ways.
Take the Soccket ball. At first glance it looks pretty much like any other soccer ball. As far as a kid playing soccer with his or her friends in an empty field after school, it is like any other soccer ball. But Soccket is different.
Soccket, the flagship product of New York City-based startup Uncharted Play, harnesses the energy of play to literally light the path of a child’s education in the developing world. In fact, 30 minutes of play translates into three hours of light from the Soccket’s companion LED light.
The idea is at once startlingly simple and eloquent; kinetic energy is stored for later use as an electrical source to power a light. Critics may–and have–assert that poverty or the energy crises can’t possibly be solved by “kicking a ball around,” and they’d be right. They’d also be entirely missing the point.
The boom in solar energy in the U.S. is due in large part to innovative financing, putting solar within reach of almost any business or homeowner with a roof, for little more than their signature. But for nonprofits it’s a different story.
Traditional banks and financial institutions shy away from lending to 501c3 nonprofit organizations who are dependent upon charitable giving because they see it as an unreliable source of revenue. “We shouldn’t penalize nonprofits for being nonprofits,” says Lee Barken, founder and CCO (chief community officer) for CollectiveSun, a firm specializing in solar power financing for nonprofits, a deeply underserved market in need of a solar power financing solution.
With years of experience as a CPA and LEED-AP in renewable energy project finance, Barken saw day-in and day-out the gap that did, in fact, penalize nonprofits interested in going solar. With no tax liability, nonprofits are unable to reap the tax benefits of solar power projects available to homeowners and for-profit corporations. “Solar should be accessible by everybody trying to expand the market and include community participation,” says Barken.
In 2002 the U.S. Department of Energy launched the Solar Decathlon, an international college competition where students refine and present their best ideas in solar-powered home design. The Solar Decathlon’s interdisciplinary challenge requires students to design, build and operate a cost-effective, energy-efficient home from the drawing board up.
The Solar Decathlon challenges participating students to break new ground, figuratively and literally, on sustainable home design. Held every two years, a top contender at the 2013 Solar Decathlon was Stanford University’s Start.Home, leading the pack in market appeal, affordability and engineering.
Getting to the core of energy efficient home building
Reflecting the holistic nature of sustainable design, the Stanford team comprised a broad range of disciplines, from design and architecture to computer science, product design, business and social science.
Ed note: This post originally published on GlobalWarmingisReal.com and has been entered in the Masdar Engage blogging contest for the upcoming Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week
If you’d like to enter, there’s still time. Just follow these instructions. The deadline is Jan 3nd!
At the national and international level climate action is stalled under the unyielding weight of factionalism and meeting the diverse agenda of a global community. At the personal level, the issues of climate change and building a sustainable future for our children seems overwhelming; whatever efforts we can lend to the cause feels too small and inadequate.
In many ways meeting the challenge of climate change and sustainable development is often most effective at the municipal level. Cities strike a balance between meeting the diverse needs of its inhabitants with the ability to adopt and adapt to the realities and challenges of global warming, development, infrastructure and energy.
Climate adaptation for cities
In the wake of the devastating storms of 2012, including Hurricane Sandy in the United States, the need for municipal-level adaptation and resilience became clearer than ever. With Sandy, New York and New Jersey saw communities destroyed and lives devastated due in part to decades of poor planning and decimation of natural infrastructure. Urban communities often take the brunt of not only extreme weather events, but the consequences of poor planning and development. The extreme weather trend has only continued globally in 2013, with drought, unprecedented storms and record temperatures in every part of the world.