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Lettuce, From a Skyscraper Near You – September 15, 2014

Vertical farms are gaining traction from Illinois to Singapore, but questions remain about their role in urban agriculture.

Skyscraper farms seem like a thing of the future: Lettuce growing in windowless rooms under red-tinted LED lights while scientists check nutrient levels and calculate optimal harvest times. Basil plants stacked 10-feet high. Tilapia swimming in large troughs. While these images may contrast with our romantic notions of farming, the truth is that intensive indoor farming isn’t just a sci-fi fantasy – but a thing of present. There are already indoor farms cranking out 10,000 heads of lettuce a day.

aquaponics bedphoto by Plant Chicago, on FlickrLettuce grows under the red-tinted glow of LED lights… more

by: Zoe Loftus-Farren

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$7.5 Billion California Water Bond Headed for the November Ballot – September 10, 2014

Voters must decide whether the bond can lead the state toward a sustainable water future

As California remains parched with drought, everyone’s mind is on water – and that includes state lawmakers’. During the final days of the legislative session, both houses passed a $7.5 billion water bond with broad bipartisan support. The new legislation will be placed before voters this November.

Replacing an earlier $11.1 billion bond, the slimmer measure provides funding to water recycling, water storage, safe drinking water, watershed protection and restoration, and flood management, among other projects.

The question is: Will the bond improve water sustainability and prepare the Golden State for future droughts? Environmental groups are divided.

P7084474-P7084477Aphoto by more

by: Zoe Loftus-Farren

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Is China Turning the Corner on Environmental Protection? – August 21, 2014

Growing health concerns have spurred significant changes to the Middle Kingdom’s environmental law and policy.

Most of the news we hear about China’s environment is depressing, filled with references to the country’s dirty air, water, and soil. Some of it is downright apocalyptic, accompanied by images of environmental destruction that remind me of Dr. Seus’ illustrations in The Lorax. These scenes are the result of lax environmental protection, combined with rapid economic development and fast-paced population growth. Lately, however, a few positive changes in policy and rhetoric have caught my eye, leading me to wonder if China is changing its tune when it comes to the environment.

Commuters wearing face masks in NanjingPhoto by Markus SpringCommuters in Nanjing,… more

by: Zoe Loftus-Farren

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Wildlife Depletion May Be Driving Child Labor and Crime – August 13, 2014

Decline in biodiversity is a source of social conflict rather than a symptom, says UC Berkeley report

What do overfishing, wildlife trafficking, and endangered species all have in common? According to a paper recently published in the journal Science, these environmental challenges may all have cascading social consequences when it comes to forced labor, organized crime, and even piracy.

photo of people folding nets on a dock; one of them is very youngphoto by ILO in Asia and the Pacific, on Flickr Children and teenagers who work on small fishing boats in Cambodia stay out at sea for 10-11 hours at a time, mostly at… more

by: Zoe Loftus-Farren

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A Pledge that Promises to Keep Seeds Free For All to Use – July 22, 2014

In battle against seed patents, plant breeders and advocates find inspiration in open source software

For years, many of us have kept an eye out for organic and pesticide free vendors at our local farmers markets. Thanks to a new movement hitting the American food scene, we may soon be looking for another important environmental marker: open source seeds. At least, that is the goal of a small but burgeoning group of plant breeders and sustainable farming advocates who hope to add “free seed” to the list of things consumers watch for as they vote with their wallets.

a newly germinated seedlingPhoto courtesy USDAThe Open Source Initiative has released 36 varieties of 14 different vegetables and grains using a new… more

by: Zoe Loftus-Farren

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