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Environmental security has taken on new meaning in the twenty-first century as sustainability and natural resource protection have become essential elements of national security and foreign policy. In the early post–Cold War era, the national security community viewed environmental security as related to contamination caused by former Soviet...
The pathway for conversion to a renewable energy future has been pioneered by Denmark and a few other visionary nations. But a global transition to renewable energy requires a focus on the developing world, where 80–90 percent of the growth in energy demand will occur in coming decades.1 To meet global deadlines on emissions reduction, achieving a...
If the United States intends to meet the Department of Energy’s goal of producing 20 percent of the nation’s electricity from wind power, some 3,000 wind farms will need to be built.1,2 Though some surveys show that the public is generally in favor of wind energy, the “Not in My Backyard” attitude is common and often relates to how a wind farm...
I fully agree with the idea that world population growth can—and should—be reversed through fertility rates that fall below replacement level on a long-term basis. This is an important but not a new idea. It has been mentioned by several authors in a more qualitative way and, in 2001, I contributed to an article published in the leading science...
The Guttmacher Institute provides estimates, covering various years in the last decade, of the proportions of all pregnancies that women report as unintended in many developing and developed countries.1,2 More than 40 percent of pregnancies fall into this category in developing countries, and more than 47 percent are unintended in developed...
The women sit on the floor, shifting their weight from time to time to keep the blood flowing to their feet. As they move about, the plastic floor covering crinkles, bunching up under their blue burqas and black chadors. Through a small window, the rays of the morning sun begin to cut across the room, illuminating the dust floating in the air....
Madawi al-Hassoun meets me in a hair salon she owns in one of Jeddah’s trendiest malls in the fancy al-Hamra District. It is the end of the day, and the salon is packed with women getting pedicures, haircuts, styling, makeup, and all sorts of other treatments. Madawi herself is in the middle of a hair treatment. Her long, dark tresses are swept up...
On April 20, 2010 the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded, killing 11 people and causing 4.9 million barrels of crude oil to be released into the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf oil spill is the largest marine oil spill in history and will result in long-lasting impacts to the economy and the environment of the Gulf coast. The nation’s experts on...
Coastal communities and decision makers urgently need to develop pragmatic, cost-effective strategies to protect both natural and human communities from the dramatic changes that are already underway due to climate change. Yet they lack both the information needed to plan and the enabling conditions needed to implement such strategies. This needs...
Climate alterations are already making several areas of the globe increasingly inhospitable to continued human occupation, and environmental refugees are becoming a measurable fraction of the world’s displaced populations. Despite the clarity of the data, mitigation strategies around climate change have been difficult to implement. At the same...
There has been growing awareness of the strong correlation between education, especially of women, and improvements in a range of indicators often associated with better quality of life and sustainability. Developing the will and the skill to deliver quality primary and secondary education to young people can be highly effective in moving toward...
As the New York Times recently reported, the microfinance business is going through something of an identity crisis.1 Microloans—small amounts of money lent to the world’s poor, including on the Indian subcontinent—have traditionally been conceived of as instruments for social justice campaigns, allowing impoverished individuals to build...
Advocates of stringent climate policy face somewhat of a strategic dilemma. On the one hand, as Ackerman and colleagues document in “The Economics of 350,” there is ample evidence that—in conventional economic terms—the costs of steep reductions in emissions to reach 350 parts per million (ppm) in atmospheric CO2 are quite manageable. Consistent...
Research to develop geoengineered climate solutions will require not just new technical knowledge, but also new societal capacity to set effective policy and align oversight with public values. Although technological governance that uses accountable democratic process requires effort, it often results in more effective policy as well as more...
Three different classes of geoengineering identified by the American Meteorological Society and the Royal Society have very different risks and time scales and would play very different roles in a climate strategy. Climate Remediation Technologies Climate remediation is similar in concept to cleaning up contamination in our water or soil. The...
This spring I turned 16 years old, and I’ve spent the last three years giving presentations to high school students about climate change. A few months ago, I gave a talk to 700 students at a high school in a very conservative community where a few of the teachers had threatened to picket and bring in their churches to protest. Early in the...
I recently was lost in the Gobi Desert of China’s Inner Mongolia. We eventually found a road that brought us out through the Valley of the Dinosaurs, where archeologists are making newsworthy discoveries about reptiles that have, rightly or wrongly, become a metaphor for life-forms that were swept away in the tides of historical and climactic...
The Alliance for Appalachia www.theallianceforappalachia.org The Alliance for Appalachia is a group of 13 organizations from five states in Central Appalachia that work together to end mountaintop-removal coal mining, stop destructive mining technologies, and support a sustainable, just economy through grassroots organizing, leadership...
Coal is cheap. At only a few cents per kilowatt-hour, it usually costs less than natural gas and nuclear power, its chief competitors. Coal's low nominal price and its abundance are the main reasons it is so heavily used. In the United States, for instance, coal accounts for 45 percent of all electricity generation, more than nuclear and natural...
The plan proposed by John Todd and colleagues is an ambitious one: to build a new economy for Appalachia based on principles of ecological and economic sustainability. These are great ideas, deserving our attention and efforts. But even under the best conditions, implementing these new economies for the region will take years, occurring in...
Environmental groups have been facing off with the coal industry for years, trying to reduce the country’s dependence on coal and to mitigate coal’s most harmful effects. This has been an uphill battle for a number of reasons. First, for the moment, we rely on coal to meet our energy demand. There is currently no affordable, abundant, clean energy...
The poet W.H. Auden remarked, “Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.” Having sufficient quantities of water is fundamental to life. Water is an engine of health, industry, energy, and agriculture. Use too much, and supplies dwindle. But quality dictates use as well. When contamination makes water undrinkable, unable to support...
“To forget how to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.” – Mahatma Gandhi Human activities have a direct impact on the earth’s surface and the thin veneer of soil that sustains us. Scientific studies on agricultural erosion, logging and deforestation, and urban development have quantified human impacts across a wide range of geographic settings,...
The conditions in Benton Harbor, Michigan—high unemployment, huge numbers living below the poverty line, enormous health problems related to obesity and weight gain even as many residents go hungry at different times during the month, and poor access to fresh, affordable, and healthy food—represent some of the most severe forms of social, economic...
Global warming is unequivocal and is largely caused by human action. Substantial disruption to coupled human and natural systems is underway, producing serious threats to people and ecosystems around the globe. There is wide agreement that if we move beyond a guardrail of about 3.6° F (2° C) of global average warming, we enter a zone of "dangerous...
Here are three reasons why an atmospheric trust should use a significant fraction of the revenues (net of administrative costs) for purposes related directly to “enhancing the asset” rather than pay out as current dividends: 1. What are “dividends” in this case? Dividends imply the net proceeds produced by the capital after subtracting all...
The cap-and-dividend proposal detailed by Barnes and McKibben is both visionary and progressive (in both social and economic senses); further, it promises accountability and transparency in its implementation. Not so—at least not yet—the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES), currently being reshaped in the Senate. While ACES’s...
For decades, even centuries, humanity will be dealing with complex climate-change impacts, yet we lack essential democratic assets to meet the challenges. Policymakers must take great care to choose paths that build our democratic-governance muscle—the decision-making structures, policies, citizen practices, and public trust we need to avert the...