Wellness for Cities – Greenings naturally

Adapting with climate change, rather than ‘to’ is proving to have multiple benefits. At the city levels the buildings can be our food sources, and can be improved to be more energy efficient, even the street can be better designed to help shield the needs for more energy.

Posted on 9 Sept 2012 Co2land.org was a story of innovation on using cities as part of our food production “Another way to design for food production” this story is also a must read for it also tackles the city problems and the innovation needed to prepare for the future. Featured: Stockolm’s purpose build highrise gardens and a Melbourne Hatch System enterprise.

The following is a post on Chicago and how the city is doing more to prepare for coping with climate change: The scene is set with the iconic CITY HALL building installing an impressive green roof in the city. The building has a 7010m2 (23,000 square foot) green roof and serves as a test bed for researching and measuring the impact of green roofs. This one innovation saves the city about $3600 a year in heating and cooling for the building and can reduce the external surface temperature of the building by as much as 80 degrees Fahrenheit! The roof features a spectacular rooftop garden and grows more than 100 plant species. A rainwater collection system irrigates the roof and several bee hives pollinate the many flower varieties. The plants on the rooftop soak up the sun’s heat to evaporate water, keeping both the buildings underneath and the air above it cooler. It is further claimed an expanded similar project for all roofs in Chicago could save $100 million in energy every year, and help absorb stormwater runoff.

Chicago is known for its climate extremes and residents can endure days of summer when the heat index reaches 120 degrees Fahrenheit. “The city’s annual average temperature has increased by 2.5 degrees since 1945, according to this climate assessment created by a consortium of scientists and commissioned by the city”. Of even more worry is that it is no longer about peak heat, the problem extends as an increase in ambient temperature rises.

To do more the city is working to engineer that it can stay cooler using less energy even as temperatures rise by putting into place innovative ideas and concepts. The green roof is one, and another combating the ‘urban heat island effect’. Simply, concrete and pavement, which absorb and trap heat, make cities like Chicago hotter than surrounding rural areas. Buildings soak up the sun’s rays during the day and release that heat into the night. Additional research (Joseph Fernando of University of Notre Dame) shows that Chicago is about four to five degrees warmer than the neighbouring rural town because of this effect. It is also a worrying trend discovered in research that it is shown that urban sites and rural sites are warming at about the same rate (Thomas Peterson, chief climatologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). It does appear by the evidence all life styles are suffering because of climate change: You should also read: Global climate data shows the Earth has been warming increasingly over time.

Hat tip to that city’s officials for the $7 billion plan to build a “new Chicago” (source: Karen Weigert, the city’s chief sustainability officer).  That means renovating citywide infrastructure from sidewalk to rooftop. The additional innovation and steps taken by the city include:

  • Chicago already has 359 green roofs covering almost 5.5 million square feet — that’s more than any other city in North America. City planners are pushing for even more.
  • Chicago has mandated that all new buildings that require any public funds must be “LEED” Certified — designed with energy efficiency in mind — and that usually includes a green roof. Any project with a green roof in its plan gets a faster permitting process. That combined with energy savings is the kind of green that incentivizes developers.

But the city is looking beyond buildings — they’re hitting the streets too:

  • That’s why they’re designing new streetscapes that integrate technology and design elements from widened sidewalks for increased pedestrian traffic to tree and plant landscaping that provide shade. The pavements are made of a light reflecting material mix that includes recycled tire pieces and lanes coated with a microthin concrete layer that keep the street from absorbing so much heat.
  • Chicago’s 3058 klms (1,900 miles) of alleyways traditionally absorb heat and cast away potentially cooling rainwater. But new ‘green alleys’ use permeable pavement that absorb rainwater. As that underground water evaporates that also keeps the alley and air around it cool.

CO2Land org enjoys hearing these stories and in particular where cities consider they need to be looking beyond buildings and streets as just a place where we move vehicles and goods. They need to be places that integrate technology and design elements for a better place.


Ready Steady Farmer – and the Challenge of Climate Change.

Access to finance is not significant in persuading farmers to adopt other than business as usual (BAU) agricultural practices. It is more likely some farmers’ actions and views are driven by near term happenings, such as extreme weather events. Possibly, the inability of outreach attempts by our Australian Government to have farmers change from BAU is the dogma of the belief we need initiatives to deal with long term problems. To test a farmers response to change might be as simple as determining which are the most are reactive, and who is proactive, in terms of how they manage and respond to impacts associated with climate change. Policies might then tailor the necessary competencies to suit the bands of farmers needing to change.

It does not matter whether we are in Australia, UK, US Russia or whatever, our changing climate and the effects of extreme weather events, such as the recent floods and droughts are having a significant impact on agriculture. Changed practices are required. However, if you don’t understand the problems of the farmers you only ‘feed the chooks’(referring to the media stories). We suggest a survey is necessary after taking note that in the UK the Environment Agency approach is commit to supporting the agricultural industry. Supporting to be more sustainable and resilient to climate change. They also go the extra to know how farmers are responding to the challenge of a changing climate and ask what are their needs?

A better way to promote the Carbon Farming Initiate or BioDiversity challenges could take the lead from the report on the analysis and key findings of the opinions, attitudes and behaviours of farmers across the UK, towards climate change. The report draws conclusions and recommendations that could inform future action, led by the Environment Agency (UK) and its key partners. The evidence came from surveys conducted by the Farming Futures project, the National Farmers Union (NFU) Water Survey 2011, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Irrigation Survey 2009/10 and the Defra Farm Practices Survey.

“The report‟s focus is predominantly on water use on the farm, as an indicator of attitudes and practice. It is recognised that wider agronomic issues such as pests, disease, soil management, plant genetics and nutrient management are important factors within the climate change context; these issues are outside the scope of this report.” The full report is at: http://publications.environment-agency.gov.uk/PDF/GEMI0512BWKV-E-E.pdf

The key findings in this report highlight (source: Farming Futures 4 Sept 2012):

“Arable and horticulture businesses appear to be the most forward thinking farm types on climate change and are actively preparing for change.

Some management decisions on farms positively address climate change issues, however decisions are usually driven by the need to increase production and resource efficiency and thereby reduce overall costs.

Access to finance is not in itself a significant barrier to farmers changing existing practices.

Farmers need better support to understand climate change and what measures they could take in order that the UK food production becomes more sustainable in the future.

Many of the methods that farming could consider to help them adapt will already be familiar as good environmental practice. These include: maintaining good water quality, conserving water resources, conserving soils, following good nutrient management and improving wildlife habitats.

Many actions can lead to cost savings for example, reduced water and energy bills; and could create new income, for example, generating renewable energy.

Enabling farmers to take action now will result in a more ‘climate change proof’ agriculture industry.

Recommendations for enabling change:

Recommendation 1 – Production of targeted information for farmers on climate change impacts for agriculture.

Recommendation 2 – Establish or utilise existing good practice farm programmes.

Recommendation 3 – Farm advice programmes need to integrate and improve upon how climate change is represented, with information and best practice guidance produced for agriculture.

Recommendation 4 – To monitor and analyse the activities of farmers on climate change adaptation, and in the long term, understand the impact which is made by agriculture.

Recommendation 5 – For the Environment Agency and key partners who work with agriculture, to work in partnership to implement the recommendations identified in this report.”

CO2Land org strongly supports Farming Futures in how they flag practices. It is a signals approach and they allocate their assessment of blogs with ‘weak signals logo’ for yet unrecognized, by mainstream agriculture, ideas, trends, technologies or behaviour changes within the farming industry.  We are sure you will have stories of your own that know of practices that might have a big impact on future farm practices or have disappeared from the radar for no good reason other than they get forgotten or were poorly promoted.

CO2Land org will talk to some friends to see if this problem can be addressed in a better way for Australia.

Understanding how soil and plants cope with climate change

Managing carbon in the soil is complex, and chemical reactions are essential to trigger responses to help plants grow and develop. Understanding how soil and plants cope with climate change logically leads to questioning the necessary terrestrial ecosystem carbon balance that will be sustainable under future climate-change scenarios.

CO2Land org has previously discussed ‘soil bugs’ under ‘Bugs to cure our climate ills’, on 21 Aug 2012 and more recently further information as been sent on findings that have been on public release (30 Aug 2012 ): “Unexpected finding shows climate change complexities in soil.  While it is hard to describe the finding as surprising it is more evidence of underground organisms ability to play complex roles with greenhouse sequesting.

Presented by mick_kulikowski@ncsu.edu of North Carolina State University  in a paper published in the Aug. 31 edition of Science, “North Carolina State University researchers show that important and common soil microscopic organisms, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), play a role in sequestering carbon below ground, trapping it from escaping into the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas…. Yet at the same time, the study shows, elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide also increase a number of underground decomposing interactions that cause carbon to be released back into the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas. This greenhouse gas release essentially offsets any carbon sink benefits, the researchers found…AMF have a win-win relationship with plants. The fungi take carbon from plants and provide nitrogen and other useful soil nutrients that plants need in order to grow and develop. Present in the roots of about 80 percent of plants that grow on land, AMF help hold this carbon in the ground by putting the brakes on the decomposition of soil organic matter, which prevents the carbon in the decomposing material from escaping into the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas”.

What was so complex in that action you might ask?  The paper says different experiments yielded different results. However all concluded AMF spur other soil micro-organisms to help fill the plant’s need for ammonia. To do so, soil micro-organisms decompose soil organic matter, which allows the carbon to escape into the atmosphere.

Quoting the paper: “We showed that the fungi previously thought to control carbon in the soil can increase carbon decomposition when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are elevated. ” The study lead Dr. Shuijin Hu, associate professor of plant pathology at NC State and the corresponding author of the paper to say: “But if we effectively manage x, we have a chance to manage carbon sequestration in the soil.”

What CO2Land org reads of this is that regardless, we humans can manage the need for change and anthropogenic change can affect the extent to which terrestrial ecosystems will interact and need the sequester carbon to mitigate climate change is a matter of debate. And to quote the study again “The stimulation of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) by elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) has been assumed to be a major mechanism facilitating soil carbon sequestration by increasing carbon inputs to soil and by protecting organic carbon from decomposition via aggregation. We present evidence from four independent microcosm and field experiments demonstrating that CO2 enhancement of AMF results in significant soil carbon losses. Our findings challenge the assumption that AMF protect against degradation of organic carbon in soil and raise questions about the current prediction of terrestrial ecosystem carbon balance under future climate-change scenarios”.


Bugs to cure our climate ill’s

Something we all know, we need help to adjust to climate change – and in other civilisations and cultures we have been told of stories of using nature to cure our ills. In the search for our cure for the climate ills, we should consider “Soil ‘bugs’ help plants survive – Posted by Layne Cameron-Michigan State on Wednesday, August 15 2012”.

It follows that climate change will occur quicker than plants can adapt – obviously a food security risk for the world. In a report put forward by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “a new study shows how plants interact with microbes to survive the effects of global changes, including increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations, warmer temperatures, and altered precipitation patterns”. While the report is called new, many have previously speculated or even preached that healthy soils and microbes in balance are promoters of healthy plant growth. This story is new in the way it explains how microbes in the soil adapt quickly, doing most of the work so plants can survive. “In doing that the microbes in the soil work overtime to give plants the power to face the challenges of a rapidly changing climate. (Source: “growing plant” via Shutterstock)”

The method of the conduct of the experiment involved multi-generational sampling of manipulated environmental factors above and below ground, and paying close attention to the interaction between the plants and microbes in the soil.

CO2Land org has recently been discussing how this type of research has far reaching implications that can provide measures to not only give assurance of economic, national accounting of sustainable agriculture and a healthy future – but illustrates that there needs to be more of this type of literature and studies to assure we have something to leave behind for the future of our kind.


Waste, Land, Climate Changes

Waste movers:

South Australians have done what is the environmental equivalent of taking more than 300,000 passenger cars off the road, or planting 2 million trees and set a new record for recycling, diverting almost 80% of waste from landfill in the past financial year. Source: The Adelaide Advertiser 26 June 2012.

A printer cartridge in a landfill will take between 450–1,000 years to decompose, and creating the plastic for one laser toner cartridge uses 3 litres of oil. In 2012, in Australia an estimated 5 million litres of oil could be saved annually by using remanufactured printer cartridges. The claim is 450 million toner cartridges and 1.5 billion ink cartridges are expected to be used and thrown into landfill this year

Aluminum is almost endlessly recyclable – it saves 95% of the energy it would take to make new metal – nearly three-quarters of all aluminum ever made since 1886 remains in use today.

The Land Changes

Small family-owned and managed farms are struggling for survival in the face of corporate and large-scale agriculture – research released by the Australian Farm Institute (AFI) found that in Victoria last year, only 28% of family farms were of sufficient scale and profitability to earn enough income to support the families owning them – more than one-third of all family farms relied on adults living on the farm to earn wages elsewhere – another 39% of farmers earned so little from trying to grow and produce food that their family income was below the median of all Australian households. Source: SmartCompany 26 June 2012.

Farms with under $100,000 of sales a year tend to have in excess of 95% of their net income from off-farm wages – there is a “strong disconnect” between the public perception of where food comes from and the reality, with 20% of farmers producing almost 80% of total production – the AFI says that while the major retailers and food producers advertise their connection with the average Joe farmer, a bloke on a tractor with his hat on, that’s not the reality – the reality now is much larger-scale farm businesses.

A recent national Landcare survey found that 93% of the landholders surveyed practiced Landcare on their farms, and 73% said that they feel they are part of Landcare – 61% said that Landcare plays an important role in building social capacity in their local community – 95% of farmers indicated that Landcare has not ‘had its day’ yet – 79% believe the movement needs to evolve to meet the challenges of the future – and 80% see the movement as having a major role in responding to national challenges such as food security, environment and climate adaptation. Landcare 09 August 2012.

The US is the biggest producer of corn, soybeans and wheat in the world – the first 7 months of the year have been the hottest on record and the country is experiencing the worst drought in 50 years – a poor harvest will mean global prices will rise and global stockpiles will be depleted – whereas Australian farmers envision a good season and bumper crops. Source: SunHerald 12 August 2012.

Climate Change

The Arctic’s glaciers, including those of Greenland’s vast ice caps, are retreating – the Greenland ice sheet has recently shed around 200 gigatonnes of ice a year- this is a 4 –fold increase on a decade ago -– the area covered by snow in June was roughly a fifth less than in the 1960s – the land is also thawing and the permafrost is shrinking – alien plants, birds, fish and animals are creeping north. Source: The Economist 16 June 2012.

The Arctic is warming roughly twice as fast as the rest of the planet – as the ice melts it is replaced by dark melt-water pools which attract more solar heat – this causes local warming – more melting and more solar heat gain. Source: The Economist 16 June 2012.

Thank you to Garry Reynolds DAFF NRM Co-ordinator.

Sequenced – a banana genome

Looking at a banana you might ask, how did this monoculture, a cultivar derived from only one seed become a major source of food (eighty-five percent of banana production is consumed locally in tropical and sub-tropical countries), and is a major source of income for over 500 million people.  You might then fairly come to the realisation a banana is a staple food and food security issues abound.

With a little research the prime issues surface as: Pests and diseases have gradually adapted to the cultivar that is predominating in banana production; the two main diseases at the moment are the Panama Disease and the Black Sigatoka Disease. The Black Sigatoka is now all over the world and the Panama Disease – a new type – is in Asia only, but it will probably extend to other areas.

The potential solution is reported by DW and according to Zulfikar Abbanyin: “France’s CIRAD – a centre for agricultural research for development – and the National Research Agency (ANR) say they have sequenced the DNA of banana. Led by CIRAD’s Angélique D’Hont, the researchers were able to map the genome of a wild Asian strain called Musa acuminate – a component in every edible variety of bananas. They say their work is an important step toward understanding the genetics of the crop – and toward improving varieties and strengthening them against fungus and pests. But Angélique D’Hont says CIRAD is focused on cross-breeding rather than genetically modifying bananas”.

So, how can the findings help farmers and cultivators beat the pests?

The work has the objective to breed new banana varieties – new cultivar. CIRAD say this type of breeding is quite complicated, as bananas have to produce sterile fruit – that is, fruit without seeds to make them edible. And to make new bananas you have to perform crossbreeding, so you need a fertile plant. So far CIRAD has sequenced one banana genome type and have identified 36,000 genes and the exact position of these genes on the chromosome. And, more work is required to find the specific genes that confer resistance to the main diseases and also for conferring good fruit quality.

Now comes the interesting question: Will they want to genetically modify…? No.

The answer comes in the term transgenesis – to modify current cultivar and then attempting to breed new cultivar by crossing different cultivar with different types of resistance. This breeding approach is possible because of knowing which gene and which genotype has the important gene that will help the breeder to create new cultivar by classical breeding techniques.

CO2Land org can see the approach to protect this important food source as most important and the other value added aspects for the environment become apparent including the reduced need for using pesticides and reducing cost for agriculture.  But a surprising barrier to the adoption of the new cultivar is the process for transporting and conserving bananas for export. The fact is current refrigerated means of transport are developed for one cultivar, the Cavendish banana. An interesting case of need for adaptation to changed needs, and the change will all come down to the money- Yes!