Archive for the ‘Transportation’ Category

Aug14

Hidden Cost of Hamburgers

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By Caitlin Aylward

The “Food for 9 Billion” project recently released a video highlighting the “Hidden Cost of Hamburgers” as a part of a new YouTube investigative reporting channel, The I Files.

The video uncovers the true price of a hamburger, revealing the environmental and social costs of factory-farmed meat.

The average American eats around 3 hamburgers a week, which adds up to 156 burgers per person each year. As a nation, Americans consume more than 48 billion burgers annually.

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Jul25

Citywatch: Traffic Jam Blues Aching to be Solved by Main Street Food Stores

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By Wayne Roberts

Citywatch: Whether it’s action or traction in the food world, cities are stepping up to the plate. The world is fast going urban, as are challenges of social, economic and environmental well being. Citywatch is crucial to Worldwatch. Wayne Roberts, retired manager of the world-renowned Toronto Food Policy Council, has his eye out for the future of food in the city. Click here to read more from Wayne.

Toronto has the worst traffic congestion in North America. (Photo credit: Synergy Merchant Services)

Going for a drive along a nearby street isn’t my usual idea of a good conversation starter or a way to get to know someone, but it was all for a good cause, so I gave it a try—and ended up seeing the internal workings of my main street for the first time.

My assignment was to drive home my idea of a new strategy for fighting traffic congestion in Toronto, a city which regularly wins every booby prize in the books for the worst traffic congestion in North America. I got to do this during an in-car interview with Tanner Zurkoski, who has to stay in his car all-month except for brief bathroom breaks.

An aspiring filmmaker, Tanner got a one-month gig with Evergreen, the city’s leading urban sustainability group, as a stunt man whose time in the car would dramatize how much life is taken out of us while we’re going nowhere fast in a traffic jam. The average daily work commute in Toronto and area takes 81 minutes. It takes over two months of salary for reasonably well-paid people to pay off the US$9000 it costs to own and run a car for a year in Toronto.

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Jul11

Indian Food Policy: A Plentiful Harvest while Millions Starve

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By Keshia Pendigrast

According to a recent New York Times article, agriculture policy in India is shaped by two central goals: to achieve higher, more stable prices for farmers than they would normally achieve in an open market, and to distribute food to the poor at lower prices than is available from private stores. India ranks second in the world in agricultural output, and the sector employs 52 percent of the labor force. Yet one-fifth of its people are malnourished, double the rate of countries like Vietnam and China.

Sacks of rice that have suffered decay and weather damage. (Photo credit: New York Times)

India’s technical innovations and generous wheat subsidies have lead to massive success in the production of rice and wheat. According to a Reuters article, in 2011 Indian Food Minister K.V. Thomas said that wheat and rice exports would only cease after they had reached 2 million tons. August 2011 brought Indian wheat stocks over 35.87 million tons, substantially higher than its target of 17.1 million tons, set for the July-September quarter. Government warehouses were overwhelmed with over 25 million tons of rice.

But according to a World Bank study, only 41.4 percent of food stocks in warehouses reached Indian homes.

“It’s painful to watch,” said Gurdeep Singh, a farmer near Ranwan India, in an interview for the New York Times. Singh recently sold his wheat harvest to the government. “The government is big and powerful. It should be able to put up a shed to store this crop.”

“The reason we are facing this problem is our refusal to distribute the grain that we buy from farmers, to the people who need it,” said Biraj Patnaik, principal adviser to the Supreme Court on the right to food, in an interview for the New York times. “The only place that this grain deserves to be is in the stomachs of the people who are hungry.”

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Jun13

Improving Agricultural Inputs to Fix our Global Food System

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By Arielle Golden

On Thursday, June 28, the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project and the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition will release Eating Planet–Nutrition Today: A Challenge for Mankind and for the Planet in New York City. Today, Nourishing the Planet highlights a contributing author of Eating Planet, and shares his views on how to fix the broken food system. If you live in NYC, you can register to attend for FREE by clicking HERE, or tune in on the 28th via livestream. We will be taking questions in real time from the audience, from the livestream, and from Twitter and Facebook.

Paul Roberts argues that water, oil, and fertilizer shortages could greatly disrupt the food system. (Photo credit: Vermont Public Radio)

Paul Roberts, author of The End of Oil (2004) and The End of Food (2008) , discusses the main reasons that the global food system is not working properly: increasing risks to agricultural inputs like energy, fertilizers, and water.

When the global food system was designed in the 1960s, oil cost less than USD$30 a barrel, around a quarter of the current price. Currently, agriculture is increasingly under pressure due to rising oil costs, which make it difficult for producers to keep costs down without compromising quality or safety. The risk of using oil as an input is only one piece of the puzzle. Water use adds another level of complexity to the global food system. Soaring crop yields, a result of rapid growth in irrigation technologies, have compromised regional water sources, which are being depleted quickly. According to a National Academy of Sciences report, about one-sixth of China’s population is being fed with irrigation that cannot be sustained.

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Jun09

Santropol Roulant: A Leaner, Greener Meals on Wheels

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By Philip Newell

Santropol Roulant (Santropol is community, roulant means rolling in French) is an organization providing healthy, sustainable meals to homebound Montreal citizens. Instead of relying on fossil-fuel powered cars like traditional Meals-on-Wheels, this group delivers with a more carbon-friendly option—bicycles.

Part of the rooftop garden that supplies Santropol Roulant with delicious organic produce. (Photo Credit: McGill University)

But eliminating petrochemicals from their delivery routes wasn’t enough for the organization, so the group hired Natural Step (a non-profit sustainability research and education group) to help them further reduce their environmental impact. This is accomplished through Eco-Challenge, which is an action plan designed by Natural Step to help Santropol Roulant become even more sustainable.

Taking their organization’s sustainability two steps further than biking to deliver meals to the disadvantaged, Santropol Roulant grows a variety of fruits and vegetables on an organic rooftop garden, and recycle their food waste in the basement through vermicomposting. Vermicomposting is using worms to help decompose food waste for compost. That compost can be distributed to urban farmers who are starting their own backyard or roof-top gardens.

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Jun08

Ford Foundation leads discussion on Sustainable Cities at Rio+20

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By Seyyada A Burney

From New York to Kuala Lumpur, cities are sites of rapid economic growth and mass consumption.  Despite this, governments and NGOs around the world are increasingly concerned about whether cities, by their sheer size and the economic and social relations they foster, and urban growth are sustainable.

High property values and unemployment have led to rapid slum development in many cities. (Photo credit: Cityform Network)

The Ford Foundation, a private New York-based foundation that supports programs encouraging democratic values, education, and economic and social progress, is working to promote a vision of inclusive, equitable, and sustainable development in cities. On June 17 and 18 it will host side events, entitled ‘The Just City’, at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development where leaders and innovators such as Luis Ubiñas, President of the Ford Foundation, Joan Clos, Director of UN-Habitat, and Jeb Brugmann, founder of ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability, will gather to discuss the opportunities and challenges afforded by sustainable and inclusive urban development.

Discussions will focus on individuals, areas, or programs contributing to equality and integration in cities, such as public transport or participatory urban planning, and will also identify some of the common barriers they face when trying to expand, or scale up, such initiatives.

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Jun05

Wasted Food Aid: Why U.S. Aid Dollars Aren’t Going as Far as They Could

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By Eleanor Fausold

An article recently published in The Atlantic suggests that U.S. food aid money is not always being spent in the most efficient way possible. U.S. food aid programs can be extremely beneficial to struggling families in Africa, but aid dollars could go even further if they were better dedicated to supporting local supply chains in the regions they serve.  

U.S. food aid programs help small farmers in times of drought. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

The article tells the story of 60-year-old Abdoulai Mohamed, a small businessman in Turkana, Kenya who, instead of working on a farm, chose to take out a loan and opened a store selling food staples such as corn and flour.  When drought struck the region in 2011, Mohamed allowed customers to purchase food on credit so they would have enough to eat.  But Mohamed’s business suffered when the drought worsened and many customers were unable to repay their debts, forcing Abdoulai to find a way to keep his shop running without bringing in revenue from customers.

But a program funded, in part, by USAID  helped save Mohamed’s business. The program, which focuses on assisting local businesses and keeping food supply chains intact, helped repay many of the customers’ outstanding balances, allowing families to buy the food they needed. So far, this program has helped 5,500 drought-stricken families and has helped the local economy by preserving supply chains that source food from local farmers, through local businesses, and into needy households.

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May24

Innovation of the Week: Student Program Connects Consumers to the Food System Process

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By Graham Salinger

In 2009, the average distance that a granny smith apple traveled to get to McGill University in Quebec, Canada, was nearly 3,542 miles. Meanwhile, the dining halls serve approximately 2,500 meals a day. While students may not know where their food comes from, a 2009-2010 survey that was conducted by McGill’s Food and Dining Services, revealed that 80 percent of students believe environmental practices are important to food systems.

The McGill Food Systems Project implements student-led research into sustainable food options. (Photo credit: www.McGill.ca)

In an effort to increase  the amount of food that is sourced locally, students at McGill University established The McGill Food Systems Project (MFSP). The project, which began in 2009, engages students in the food system process by supporting student-led applied research that helps the University establish best practices for purchasing sustainable food. Collaborating with professors, the McGill Food and Dining Services, and the McGill Office of Sustainability, students conduct research and implement projects that help inform the University about the source of its food.

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Apr26

UN Report Highlights Marine Sector’s Potential for Sustainable Economic Growth

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By Eleanor Fausold

What if we could take better care of the world’s marine ecosystems and boost the global economy in the process? A recent report, Green Economy in a Blue World, released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Maritime Organization (IMO), United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), WorldFish Center, and GRID-Arendal suggests that by promoting practices such as renewable energy generation, ecotourism, and sustainable fishing, we can improve the health of the world’s marine ecosystems while also boosting their potential to contribute to economic growth. 

Small-scale producers must also benefit from industry improvements. (Photo credit: USAID Bangladesh)

For each of six marine-related economic sectors, Green Economy in a Blue World lays out a series of recommendations based on the current state of the resource including:

1. Fisheries and Aquaculture

With 50 percent of the world’s fish stocks fully exploited and another 32 percent overexploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion, aquaculture is growing in popularity as a way to meet the rising global demand for fish. But aquaculture can also be harmful when it is poorly planned, and in such cases it can actually increase stress on suffering marine and coastal ecosystems. Technologies that encourage low-impact and fuel-efficient fishing methods, as well as aquaculture production systems that use environmentally-friendly feeds and reduce fossil fuel use, could reduce the sector’s carbon footprint and strengthen its role in reducing poverty and improving economic growth and food and nutrition security. The report also recommends strengthening regional and national fisheries agencies and community and trade fishing associations to encourage sustainable and equitable use of marine resources. It also suggests that there is a need for policies that ensure that the benefits of these industry improvements also impact small-scale producers and traders, particularly in developing nations.    

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Dec07

Citywatch: Food’s a trip, Actually a Baker’s Dozen of Trips

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By Wayne Roberts

Citywatch: Whether it’s action or traction in the food world, cities are stepping up to the plate. The world is fast going urban, as are challenges of social, economic and environmental well-being. Citywatch is crucial to Worldwatch. Wayne Roberts, retired manager of the world-renowned Toronto Food Policy Council, has his eye out for the future of food in the city.

My first job, every Saturday from grade 7 to grade 10, was as a bicycle delivery boy for Joe Caruso’s grocery store in – I still groan at the memory – a hilly area of Scarboro. The job paid 50 cents an hour plus tips, so this is when I learned that working people tipped more generously than rich people – still a good backgrounder for any interpretation of modern neo-conservatism.

On average, our food makes 13 trips before it reaches our plates, according to food policy analyst Wayne Roberts. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

As the world turns, bike delivery jobs may be heading for a retro revival like vinyl records. They remain one of the best ways to handle the trickiest and thorniest of what delivery and logistics experts call – with a groan that reminds me of my hill-biking days – “the last mile.”

My trip backwards in time was occasioned by a two weekend assignment (for less pay than I made as a delivery boy) as the “food expert” for a dozen bold and brilliant designers-to-be working on a plan to reduce heavy traffic. The project—co-sponsored by Evergreen Foundation (recently reinvented to promote green cities), George Brown College’s Institute without Boundaries and the regional transportation giant, Metrolinx—will become a showpiece in a transit expo attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors to Evergreen’s Brick Works next spring and summer.

To come up with bright new ideas, our team (one of ten)  worked in a “charette,” with a medley of designers unburdened by vested interests or formal training, several free-floating food producer and consumer groups, and me holding the reins on any runaway plans that got too wild.

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