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Southern California is facing a serious tree catastrophe

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Animals painted with fantastical realism undergo an extraordinary transformation in these large-scale artworks. […]

Money doesn’t matter: White people breathe cleaner air

Money doesn’t matter: White people breathe cleaner air

By on 11 Mar 2016 7:00 amcommentsShare

Not everybody gets to breathe clean air. So how do we decide who winds up wheezing through the smog and who winds up inhaling fresh air? Too often it depends on your skin color.

For the most part, even when controlling for poverty, race is a far better indicator when it comes to determining who lives under a cloud of pollution in the United States. Thanks to a new, interactive air pollution index created by the National Equity Atlas, you can have a closer look at what that means, state to state and city to city.

Here’s how it works: The average person in the U.S. lives in a place that ranks in the 50th percentile for air pollution exposure, based on the EPA’s 2011 National Air Toxics Assessment. Anyone below the 50th percentile is essentially breathing better air than the average American, and anyone above the 50th is worse off.

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What makes the big difference? Race. People of color rank at the 60th percentile while white people breathe easier at the 44th percentile.

You might think that poverty would play a stronger role. Don’t poor people face more air pollution, regardless of race? The short answer is, yes, but barely. People of color living below the poverty line in the U.S. are reaching for their inhalers at the 62nd percentile, while those living above the poverty line fare slightly better at the 60th percentile.

By contrast, whites living below the poverty line are still better than average at the 46th percentile, while those above the poverty line rank at the 44th percentile. In other words, poverty hardly changes the ranking at all. Overall, poor whites still breathe cleaner air than better-off people of color. That’s true for the U.S. as a whole and in region after region.

“I’m sure it’s the case that in some regions, race may matter a little less, but by and large the result is that race explains the differences in pollution exposure holds,” says Justin Scoggins, the data manager for the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity at the University of Southern California who also manages data for the National Equity Atlas, which created the index.

When looking at the index, we can distinguish among people of color. Blacks, Asians, and Latinos all fare worse than the average American when it comes to air pollution exposure. Native Americans get surprisingly fresh air at the 37th percentile. I’m going to guess that may have to do with the fact that about 20 percent of Native Americans live in reservations. And reservations are often highly polluted from coal, oil, and gas extraction. The index also doesn’t measure for water and other kinds of pollution.

We can also sort by state, city, or metropolitan region and find surprises. Metropolitan areas around two famously progressive and green-friendly cities, Seattle and Minneapolis, have bad air as well as stark inequities by race.

The National Equity Atlas also provides a list of resources to combat these inequities, based on creating policies that promote equitable air quality. Think land-use planning that includes people of color in decisions about the way their neighborhoods are shaped, green affordable housing that builds homes with the premise that no one should live near environmental contamination, and leadership development that encourages those people who are most affected by pollution to advocate for themselves. All are important — as is acknowledging that communities of color face disproportionate burdens when it comes to environmental contamination.

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If You Want to Go Quickly, Go Alone. If You Want to Go Far, Go Together.

Photo Credit: Tom Puchner, Creative Commons There is a great African proverb; “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Throughout my career I’ve seen it proven again and again, the lasting solutions in fisheries and maritime issues are ones where stakeholders can find common ground, earn trust and work together. Helping people today – but not at the expense of people or nature tomorrow. When I took office as Fisheries Commissioner, only four fish stocks were being fished sustainably in the EU. At the end of my term, 27 stocks were being fished sustainably. But the agency did not get there alone. This was only possible through collaboration between communities, fishers, seafood industry and government leaders. These changes took time but they have meant more fish in the sea, more jobs in the community and growth for the economy overall. It was a challenging journey and one we took together. The oceans team at The Nature Conservancy lives by this proverb as well and for decades has worked closely in and with coastal and fishing communities around the globe. For example, ten-years ago the Conservancy, fishermen and community leaders began working together in Morro Bay, California to help rebuild the collapsed groundfish fishery. Working together, our collaboration tested new technologies and tools to reduce bycatch and protect important ocean habitat. These new approaches are developed with and implemented by local fishermen and have led to a decline in bycatch of 50%, while increasing their target catch by 20%. Now we are taking that concept to the waters of Palau, and to one of the most valuable fisheries in the world – tuna. For twenty-five years, the Conservancy has worked with the people of Palau and their government to help protect their ocean territory. And this month, we have made a major commitment to expand our work with the regional fishing industry. The Nature Conservancy has purchased a year’s worth of fishing rights (400 vessel days) in Palau’s longline tuna fishery. Together, The Conservancy and fishing industry will test new and innovative fishing practices that reduce the bycatch of turtles, sharks and rays by using different bait, hooks, time of day and depth of gear when setting the fishing line. A recent study in Palau’s longline tuna fishery found one-third of everything caught in the fishery was bycatch, sharks, rays and other marine life important to the health of Palau’s waters and its tourism. Once the fishing research is complete, we will work with the government of Palau to set new conservation standards for fleets fishing their waters – standards that support a more sustainable tuna fishery, local economy and healthy ocean. Our goal is to use this multi sector approach and the scientific data collected beyond the waters of Palau in order to better inform regional fishery management decisions, reduce illegal fishing and help establish a premium for sustainable and traceable tuna in the marketplace. Ending illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, reducing bycatch, improving access to markets for more sustainable fishing products and other efforts to improve fishing is going to be a long journey and one we must take together. Livelihoods, coastal economies, food for millions and the health of our ocean are at stake. We have far to go and so we must go together. Explore The Nature Conservancy’s latest thinking, science and recommendations on fisheries management and ocean conservation. — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website. […]

What Sustainable Development is Really About

Current conversations and dialogues relating to sustainable development are often congested with variations of words relating to the environment. Phrases such as “green energy”, “green technology”, “green solutions” or “environmentally-friendly”, have permeated global dialogues on sustainability and are often seen in conjunction with references to climate change. While these lexical variations and their ideals are at the root of this new age of sustainable development, they do a true disservice to what sustainability is really about: making smart choices that efficiently uses available resources, while maximizing public well-being at all levels. By limiting or narrowing our understanding of sustainable development to simply include the environment, we are simultaneously removing the narrative of urgency from other sustainability-related endeavors that do not fit our traditional paradigms. Around the United States, municipalities are confronted with the “dual challenge” of providing for a quickly aging population and for families with young children. By 2030, roughly a fifth of the U.S. population will be 65 years of age or older, and this share of the senior population will only double from 40 million in 2010 to 80 million in 2040. This poses particular planning and governance challenges that work in tandem with special opportunities afforded by immigration to offset the United States’ declining birthrate. To capitalize on the social and economic advantages of an increasingly diverse younger population, planning policies and programs will have to expand investments for children and youth in order to reap the ‘demographic dividend’ provided by immigration — dividend which “renews our population, and provides for a robust foundation of younger people on which the future of the country rests.” According to Mildred Warner of Cornell University, better integrated planning and service provision for both of these populations are prerequisites to reconcile the financial constrains posed by fiscal austerity. In addition to financial benefits, new findings suggest that “intergenerational programming can improve outcomes for children and seniors alike”. This research on multigenerational planning represents a project that one would not instantly recognize as a sustainability-related project, yet upon closer inspection, the concept of planning across generations represents an ideal that is at the heart of sustainable development. Links between design and service Source: Mildred Warner, et al 2013. Overview: Planning for Multigenerational Communities, Dept of City and Regional Planning, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY http://cms.mildredwarner.org/p/181 To return to the Brundtland Commission’s definition of sustainable development in their 1987 report, Our Common Future, sustainable development is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The United Nations extrapolated upon this by classifying three pillars of sustainable development: social, economic, and environmental sustainability. Similarly, these categories should not be seen independent of the others but as an interdependent whole. Research by Warner emphasizes two important pillars of sustainable development: economic and social sustainability. In order for United States to overcome the negative effects of a declining birthrate and prosper economically, it has to secure strong immigration policies. And while immigration is beginning to be recognized as economically advantageous, it is also important to recognize its significance in tandem with conversations relating to sustainability. Only a strong social and economic landscape can support an ambitious environmental policy framework conducive to sustainable development. Understanding these various nuances, UN-Habitat has taken a proactive leadership role by exploring these topics through a foray of 28 “Urban Thinkers Campus” organized by the World Urban Campaign. Titled “Urban Citizenship in a Nomadic World”, this upcoming Urban Thinkers Campus in Mannheim, Germany, will explore the social and economic component of sustainability by focusing on refugees, migrants, and others in their transitional stages, as they relate to sustainable urban development. Because of the intricacies of sustainability, it would be a mistake to simply zoom in on the environment and overlook other dimensions that support, sustain and reinforce the landscape necessary to secure sustainable development. As such, we should begin to re-orient our thinking to critically engage in topics that have traditionally been on the periphery of sustainable development, including the role of migrants and refugees in development, and give them similar levels of urgency. To ignore the multifaceted dimensions of sustainable development would be to misunderstand or misconstrue what that these two words truly mean. — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website. […]

How Sustainable Development is Saving the Future of Chocolate

By Rick Peyser, Lutheran World Relief The future of the milk chocolate bar that we have loved forever may be at risk. Industry experts predict that by 2020 the supply of cocoa will be struggling to meet the growing demand. That means that unless we do something to increase the world’s cocoa supply, your future chocolate bars may not contain very much chocolate! The products we know as cocoa and chocolate comes from a crop called “cacao.” About 70 percent of the world’s cacao originates in West Africa, with the balance coming from Asia and Latin America. Most of the cacao grown in West Africa is used to produce milk chocolate, cocoa powder, and cocoa butter. Demand for chocolate has been growing, primarily due to the increased consumption in India and China where consumers have been enjoying greater purchasing power. This growth in demand is expected to continue to accelerate in the coming years. The world market price for cocoa, like that of other commodities, is based upon supply and demand, or perceived supply and demand. With demand increasing, logic would lead us to believe that prices for cacao must be increasing, and that life must be good on farms where cacao is produced. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Even as cacao prices increase, the farmers’ who grow it aren’t seeing the full benefits of that price. Most small-scale cacao farmers struggle in meeting basic needs, including access to a continuous supply nutritious food, clean water, educational opportunities for themselves and their children, medical care, and more. According to The Guardian, cacao farmers in West Africa are likely to receive between 3.5 to 6.4 percent of the retail selling price of a chocolate bar, while manufacturers receive closer to 70 percent, and retailers about 17 percent. Given the extreme poverty and the challenges of climate change, many farmers in West Africa are encouraging their children to leave the farm to seek better opportunities in nearby urban areas, which leads to the question: “Who is going to grow the next generation of cacao?” The situation is somewhat different in Latin America, where most of the world’s fine flavored cocoa is sourced. Most cacao grown in this hemisphere is used to produce high quality dark chocolate. You’ve probably seen these bars identified by their cocoa content (i.e. 60%, 80%, etc.). You may have also noticed they are more expensive than milk chocolate and often sell for more than $5 per bar. While this “specialty” chocolate industry is relatively young, demand is growing rapidly, as in Africa. The growing demand for specialty or fine flavored chocolate, is increasing the amount of land farmers in Latin America are dedicating to growing cacao. In fact, many small-scale coffee farmers at lower altitudes are especially attracted to growing cacao. Climate change is making it more difficult to produce quality coffee at lower altitudes. Cacao thrives in higher temperatures, making it a viable alternative for farmers who struggle to support their families from growing coffee. Lutheran World Relief (LWR) is working with small-scale cacao farmers, and those in transition to cacao, in Latin America to help farmers take advantage of this growing market. We’re helping farmers with both technical assistance (teaching things like seedling selection and how to graft plants to produce favorable characteristics) and market access, while encouraging farmers to diversify their sources of income to protect themselves against shocks posed by volatile market and climactic conditions. In addition to convening and participating in regional forums on cacao production, LWR is playing an active role in helping the emerging “specialty cocoa” industry develop universal standards for sensory evaluation, as a member of the industry’s working group focused on this effort. In addition, on the international level, Jenny Wiegel, LWR’s Regional Representative for Central America, is on the Consultative Board of the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) that is composed of members from cocoa producing and cocoa consuming countries. LWR continues to participate in international forums focused on high quality cocoa, that seek to develop market access for producer organizations, like Salon du Chocolat which is held in Paris. By introducing and strengthening cacao livelihoods, and helping farmers capture more of the profits of the cacao value chain, we are making it possible for farmers to grow high quality cacao today, and for their children to grow it for generations to come. Rick Peyser is LWR’s Senior Relationship Manager for Coffee & Cocoa. Rick has worked more than 27 years in the specialty coffee industry, and has served as President of the Specialty Coffee Association of America, and as a Board of Directors member of the Fair Trade Labeling Organizations International, Food4Farmers (co-founder), Root Capital, Pueblo a Pueblo and The Coffee Trust. — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website. […]

How the World Resources Forum Came to be

By Julie Ann Aelbrecht, student in financial journalism, City University-London and Aarhus University “Some participants have said that the World Resources Forum (WRF) is actually the real World Economic Forum, because here they talk about the issues that are truly important,” says Bas de Leeuw, managing director of the WRF, a sustainability-focused nonprofit that produces conferences around the world. The conference’s flagship event is held every two years in Davos, Switzerland , the same location as the World Economic Forum meetings, where the world’s richest and most powerful gather to discuss the fate of the planet. Having started out as conferences focused on recycling with 200 participants in the 1990s to become an annual Forum twice the size, the World Resources Forum has come a long way since its inception. “Well before my time, the R-conferences in the 1990s were biannual gatherings organized by EMPA [Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology],” he says. These conferences initially focused on the technical aspects of recycling and were geared towards engineers and scientists. As recycling became a more prominent theme, people started to realize that it was more than a technical problem, that it would affect production and consumption. “During the R07 [2007] conference in Davos, they decided to rebrand it to the World Resources Forum, almost as an answer to the World Economic Forum.” De Leeuw came on board in 2011, as EMPA pulled out of the organization to focus on its research activities, and the WRF took its current form. “I think, apart from size, the most important difference with the R-conferences, is that we include people from all scientific disciplines, sociologists, psychologists, as well as businesses, governmental organizations,” he explains. Bas de Leeuw speaking at day one at WRF 2015. Source: World Resources Forum The WRF’s goal is not necessarily to become the biggest, as De Leeuw puts a strong emphasis on the quality of the event. “It’s impossible to measure impact. Not everybody understands the complexity of the problem. For instance, someone asked asked us to measure the difference between the pollution and resource use before and after the conference. We started to laugh out loud.” He hopes to make the WRF the go-to yearly gathering for scientists, companies and governments: “There is so much science already but what is missing is the connection between the right people. Only reports don’t work. Conferences alone do not change the world, but you need them to bring people together.” The first annual conference outside of Davos was held in Beijing in 2012 together with the Chinese Academy of Science. Ever since, the WRF returns to Davos every other year. Regional conferences also started up this year with an Asia Pacific-focused meeting, in Sydney, Australia. “By inviting regional scientists, businesses, NGOs and governments, and focusing on local issues and activities, we also hope to make them more practical,” says de Leeuw. The last full-scale WRF to take place outside of Davos, in Arequipa, Peru, attracted more than 1000 participants. One of them was Ana Quiros, who will organize the next regional conference in Costa Rica. Quiros, a risk assessment engineer in construction has worked on environmental issues through the UNEP Lifecycle Initiative since 2002. “Last year, I went to the World Resources Forum in Arequipa. I thought, what a drive this institute has, bringing together academia, businesses and actually pushing to change minds.” In the regional conference next year, she will focus her efforts on the construction industry: “the construction sector involves so many resources and stakeholders, it seemed like a logical partnership.” WRF 2014 in Peru. Source: World Resources Forum As far as Costa Rica’s particular challenges are concerned, Quiros reckons they’re rather typical for a nation in transition. “The most important thing is changing the way we understand sustainability as a society. For businesses and government alike, sustainability is in their rhetoric, but not embedded in their practices.” As an example, she mentioned a recent decree that would allow municipalities to build incinerators to deal with their waste. “A topic I was missing in most of the workshops [at the WRF], is corruption. I believe this is a significant issue for Costa Rica and Latin America. There cannot be sustainability if we do not change the way we are doing business.” In the presence of the Costa Rican ambassador, Ana Quiros will announce her plans for the 2016 regional World Resources Forum in San José, Costa Rica during the press conference on Wednesday. According to de Leeuw, there is a lot of demand for more regional conferences, but only one in ten gets approval; “we are looking for support from government, scientific partners and businesses. We do not just plant our flag in different cities, we are looking for true partnerships with the local organization.” This story was originally published on projourno.org. — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website. […]