On this blog, we post recent sustainability news to help people learn about initiatives and events related to sustainability in Central Wisconsin.

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Growing on a Shoestring: Diversity Is Key for Milladore Farmer

From The Country Today, September 2, 2014

JoelfarmJoel Kuehnhold said his goal is to build up his own brand of homegrown food products, but he is facing a long line of challenges, including growing a business on a shoestring. “It means taking everything I have and using it to the best of my ability,” Kuehnhold said. “The key to a small farm is diversity.”

Kuehnhold is testing that key in a lot of locks. He grows lamb for direct sale, keeps 150 laying hens for egg production and keeps several gardens from which he is canning salsa and sauces for the Wausau Winter Market. He has aspirations of renting out space to other entrepreneurs in a certified kitchen and is looking at options for adding hogs, beef and rhubarb to his on-farm business.

Kuehnhold, who is also an agriculture science teacher at Lincoln High School in Wisconsin Rapids, said he is supposed to tell students that agriculture is more than just farming. “But farming is really the center of it,” he said.

Read the full article.

New OSU Study Shows Association between Gas Kitchen Stove Ventilation and Asthma

From Medical News, September 30, 2014

Parents with children at home should use ventilation when cooking with a gas stove, researchers from Oregon State University are recommending, after a new study showed an association between gas kitchen stove ventilation and asthma, asthma symptoms and chronic bronchitis.

“In homes where a gas stove was used without venting, the prevalence of asthma and wheezing is higher than in homes where a gas stove was used with ventilation,” said Ellen Smit, an associate professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU and one of the study’s authors. “Parents of all children should use ventilation while using a gas stove.”

Researchers can’t say that gas stove use without ventilation causes respiratory issues, but the new study clearly shows an association between having asthma and use of ventilation, Smit said. More study is needed to understand that relationship, including whether emissions from gas stoves could cause or exacerbate asthma in children, the researchers said.

Read the full article.

WWF: Half the World’s Wildlife Gone Over Last 40 Years

From Chicago Tribune, September 30, 2014

The world populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles fell overall by 52 percent between 1970 and 2010, far faster than previously thought, the World Wildlife Fund said on Tuesday.

The conservation group’s Living Planet Report, published every two years, said humankind’s demands were now 50 percent more than nature can bear, with trees being felled, groundwater pumped and carbon dioxide emitted faster than Earth can recover.

“This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live,” Ken Norris, Director of Science at the Zoological Society of London, said in a statement. However, there was still hope if politicians and businesses took the right action to protect nature, the report said.

Read the full article.

New Gleaning Group Works to Reduce Hunger in Central Wisconsin

Glean Central Wisconsin Press Release, September 2014

Glean Central Wisconsin (GCW) offers a viable option for the Stevens Point Farmer’s Market to combat hunger and reduce food waste. The volunteer group formed in August 2014 as a committee of the Hunger and Poverty Prevention Partnership of Portage County (HPPP) to connect growers, volunteers and pantries.

The act of gleaning involves collecting produce that is no longer sellable but still edible, and donating it to local food pantries. “In the first seven weeks, the network has recovered over 2,100 pounds of produce, thanks to the generosity of our market vendors,” said Taylor Christiansen, an Americorps volunteer at Portage County UW-Extension who assists with the project.

GCW hopes that vendors sell as much as they can at the market, but then offers them an easy way to donate any leftover items to pantries. The produce is distributed to the Salvation Army’s Hope Center, Interfaith Food Pantry, St. Vincent De Paul’s Food Pantry, CAP Services Family Crisis Center, and other nonprofits in Stevens Point and Plover. “I have heard a lot of positive feedback from the volunteers and staff at area pantries,” said Jen Dolan, another Americorps volunteer with Portage County UW-Extension. “One pantry distributed produce collected by our gleaners one week to over 180 families.”

GCW relies on a network of community volunteers to conduct the gleaning activities, and invites community and university groups to participate. “Gleaning at the market is a lot of fun and a great way to meet vendors and other volunteers,” said GCW volunteer Carly Swatek. Every Saturday GCW volunteers head to the market to distribute gleaning bags and collect fruits and vegetables from the vendors. Volunteers can sign up for a shift once a month, or as their schedule allows. The morning volunteer shift takes one hour and the afternoon shift takes about two hours and requires one person with a vehicle.

Community members who are interested in participating in the project can contact the group by email and learn more at the GCW website. In the future and as capacity allows, the group would also like to explore gleaning opportunities at other farms or markets.

UW-Stevens Point Promotes Energy Action Month Pledges

From the UW-Stevens Point, September 2014

Members of our Chancellor Cabinet voice their support for Energy Action Month by making pledges to conserve energy! Watch the video now. Energy Action Month pledges are promoted by the K-12 Energy Education Program (KEEP), a division of the Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education in our College of Natural Resources. Consider making your own pledge! For more information on Energy Action Month pledges please contact KEEP.




Documentary Discusses Proposed Mine in Northern Wisconsin

By Mary Maller, September 30, 2014

There will be a local screening of the film, Wisconsin Mining Standoff, at Central Rivers’ Farmshed’s headquarters, 1220 Briggs Street in Stevens Point (formerly Sorenson’s Greenhouse), at 6:30 pm on Thursday, October 23. The 30-minute film offers people living in central Wisconsin the opportunity to learn more about the environmental, economic, social and legislative issues surrounding the open pit taconite mine  proposed by Gogebic Taconite (GTAC) for Iron County in northern Wisconsin.

The film Wisconsin Mining Standoff very effectively tells the story of polarization that’s building in the area around the Penokee mountain range where GTAC has proposed establishing a taconite  mine that will be four miles long, half a mile across and 1000 feet deep.  Protests began when the governor and legislature significantly reduced the standards for environmental assessment of sites being considered for mining development.  The issues that are evident as the struggle moves forward include the standoff between GTAC and its supporters seeking mining jobs, and the residents, Native American tribes and political leaders intent on protecting their communities and water sources from contamination.

Free popcorn will be provided (bring your own beverage) and there’ll be an opportunity for discussion of the issues after the film. For more information please call Mary Maller at 715-544-4859.

CLUE Note: The film will be shown at several locations throughout the state, including in Wausau on October 8. See the website for more info.

Implementing Smarter Milk Farming

From Philadelphia Inquirer, September 29, 2014

Walt Moore’s 850 cows lounge on beds of soft sand. They are cooled by spritzes of water and breezes generated by fans. They eat a custom-blended diet of gourmet grains that a computer tells Moore will suit them best. He orders sophisticated analyses of their rations and manure, getting the results on his iPhone, synced to his watch.

Each cow wears a collar with a computer chip that keeps track of her milk production, nearly four times that of the cows his father once tended, not to mention those his great-grandfather started the family farm with in 1909.

Moore’s Chester County farm is so markedly different from the operation he took over from his father, Bill, that the elder Moore jokes: “Oh, my goodness, I don’t know if I’ll live long enough to learn how to farm or not.” All this is not so much to coddle the cows as it is to make them better citizens of the planet.

Read the full article.

USDA to Start Program to Support Local and Organic Farming

From New York Times, September 28, 2014

The United States Department of Agriculture plans to announce Monday that it will spend $52 million to support local and regional food systems like farmers’ markets and food hubs and to spur research on organic farming.

The local food movement has been one of the fastest growing segments of the business, as consumers seek to know more about where, how and by whom their food is grown.

But local farmers still struggle to market their food. Distribution systems are intended to accommodate the needs of large-scale commercial farms and growers. Grocery stores and restaurants largely rely on big distribution centers and are only beginning to figure out how to incorporate small batches of produce into their overall merchandise mixes.

Read the full article.

Celebrate Farm to School in Central Wisconsin on October 24

From Farm to School Programs in Portage, Wood, and Marathon Counties, September 30, 2014

Looking for a family-friendly event? Want to enjoy delicious local pizza?

On Friday, October 24, you are invited to join the Farm to School Programs of Portage, Wood, and Marathon Counties at Stoney Acres Farm in Athens, WI to celebrate Food Day and National Farm to School Month.Do not miss out on this rustic and unique dining experience. Brick oven pizzas, featuring local ingredients, are served right on the farm.

Come join us for great food, good company, and a celebration of local food and healthy living! Click on the invite below for more details.



New Generation: Growing Up Reading Rachel Carson, Scientists Unravel Risks of New Pesticides

From Environmental Health News, September 25, 2014

Christy Morrissey is driving her white pickup truck along the endless prairie highway, windows open, listening for birds. She points to the scatter of ponds glinting in the landscape, nestled among fields of canola that stretch as far as the eye can see. Formed by retreating glaciers 12,000 years ago and fed each spring by melted snow, these tiny potholes are the lifeblood of the prairies, the kidneys that drain impurities and the cradle that replenishes life.

But when Morrissey looks at these ponds, she sees something few others do. An ecotoxicologist at the University of Saskatchewan, she knows that nearly every pond is laced with neonicotinoids, the world’s most widely used insecticides, deadly to insects at a minute dose of a few parts per trillion.

Like biologist Rachel Carson, whose 1962 book Silent Spring warned about the devastating effects of DDT, Morrissey is mounting a scientific quest to figure out if these new pesticides are harming living things they’re not intended to kill, including birds. She is part of a new generation of scientists in North America and Europe investigating a new generation of chemicals.

Read the full article.

Switch to Natural Gas Won’t Reduce Carbon Emissions Much, Study Finds

From National Geographic News, September 24, 2014

NaturalGasWyomingSwitching from coal to natural gas for power generation won’t do much to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and might even raise them slightly, in part because it will discourage the use of carbon-free renewable energy, according to a study released Wednesday.

Increased use of natural gas has been widely credited with having reduced U.S. carbon dioxide emissions in recent years. But the new study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, finds that between 2013 and 2055 the use of natural gas could reduce cumulative emissions from the electricity sector by no more than 9 percent, a reduction the authors say will have an insignificant impact on climate. The power sector accounts for around a third of U.S. emissions.

Read the full article.

Scientist’s Aim: Save the Bees

From the Star Tribune, September 2014

Marla Spivak sat on the curb outside an emergency room in Arizona nearly four decades ago holding a jar with a lone honeybee buzzing around inside. She was 22, and on her way to a summer job with a renowned bee researcher.

She had no idea what she wanted to do with her life, only that she desperately wanted to understand those mysterious creatures who were somehow better than people at making a society. But a year earlier she had almost died after being repeatedly stung.

So with a friend at her side to call for help if she needed it, and the doors of the emergency room at her back, she pressed the bee to her arm to find out if she was, as she feared, fatally allergic to its sting.

Read the full article. Watch the Ted Talks video.

Pesticide Drift from Conventional Farms Is a Persistent Problem for Organic and Small Farms

From The Hamilton Spectator, September 8, 2014

DriftThe cloud of insecticide that drifted from a neighbour’s corn field onto the asparagus on Andrew and Melissa Dunham’s central Iowa farm cast a shadow over their organic vegetable business.

They say the costs from the incident and resulting loss of organic certification on their asparagus patch for three years will reach about $74,000, and they’re now working with the sprayer’s insurance company. [...]

Pesticide drift is a serious concern for organic farmers and they’ve come up with several defences, such as buffer strips.

Read full article.

Greener Neighborhoods Lead to Better Birth Outcomes, New Research Shows

From Oregon State University News Release, September 4, 2014

Mothers who live in neighborhoods with plenty of grass, trees or other green vegetation are more likely to deliver at full term and their babies are born at higher weights, compared to mothers who live in urban areas that aren’t as green, a new study shows.

The findings held up even when results were adjusted for factors such as neighborhood income, exposure to air pollution, noise, and neighborhood walkability, according to researchers at Oregon State University and the University of British Columbia.

“This was a surprise,” said Perry Hystad, an environmental epidemiologist in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State and lead author of the study. “We expected the association between greenness and birth outcomes to disappear once we accounted for other environmental exposures such as air pollution and noise. The research really suggests that greenness affects birth outcomes in other ways, such as psychologically or socially.”

Read the full article.

Students’ Support Needed to Back Issue on Pesticide Use

From The Pointer, September 22, 2014

A commitment to sustainability is evident at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Sustainability is mentioned in our mission statement and is a trait for which we have been recognized as a top “environmental school” by organizations as varied as The Princeton Review and College Prowler.

These initiatives and achievements provide the foundation for UWSP to achieve greater sustainability.

To maintain a well-manicured campus, UWSP permits pesticide use on landscaped areas. Aesthetics are important, especially in an age of declining enrollments and greater competition for new students. It is also important to understand that use of pesticides diminishes the claim of a sustainable university.

The issue runs deeper than aesthetics, however. Pesticide use is also linked directly with cancer development and affects developing people under age 25 most intensely.

Read the full article.

Would You Buy Ugly Vegetables? That’s How a Grocery Chain Fights Waste

From CTV News, July 27, 2014

A French supermarket chain that launched an anti-waste campaign is getting some international attention for marketing and selling “ugly” fruits and vegetables that are typically destined for the trash, not the dinner plate. Grocery giant Intermarche recently launched the cheeky “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables” campaign to “celebrate the beauty” of malformed or misshapen produce, including the “Grotesque Apple,” the “Disfigured Eggplant” and the “Unfortunate Clementine.”

The result is a slick initiative with a serious message aimed at reducing food waste. An estimated 300 million tons of produce a year are thrown out, despite food guidelines that suggest individuals should be consuming at least five fruits and veggies daily.

Sometimes the visually unappealing produce is tossed by the growers themselves, despite being just as edible and healthy-to-eat as their smooth and shiny produce brethren. To combat food waste, Intermarche bought from their growers the products that are typically disposed of, cleared entire aisles in store to make room for them, and marketed the less-than-desirable product with special signage and labels.

As the ultimate incentive, Intermarche also sells the imperfect fruits and veggies at a 30 per cent discount. Packaged dishes made from the produce, including orange juice and carrot soup, are distributed in-store. Intermarche says that during the first two days of the campaign, each of their stores sold on average 1.2 tons of the malformed fruits and veggies. In addition, stores saw a 24-percent overall traffic increase at their stores.

French foodies appear to be receptive, and the awareness campaign is reaching far beyond France’s borders via social media. The YouTube video, created by marketing company Marcel, has gone viral, with millions of views since it was posted in mid-June.

Read the full article.

Wisconsin Resources on Climate Change Available

From UW-Extension Press Release, September 22, 2014

On the heels of recent interest and concern about climate change issues, University of Wisconsin-Extension specialist David S. Liebl reminds people that they can learn more through a variety of Wisconsin-based educational resources.

Wisconsin has been leading the nation in identifying likely impacts on people and the environment resulting from the changing climate, says Liebl.

“University of Wisconsin scientists from the Center on Climatic Research have provided projections of what climate will be like for the mid and late 21st century,” says Liebl. “These projections are being used by scientists and policymakers around the state to find ways of adapting to future climate conditions.”

The Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts has compiled this information into a report titled “Wisconsin’s Changing Climate: Impacts and Adaptation.” The report and additional information about climate change in Wisconsin can be found at this link.

Information on improving community sustainability through improved energy efficiency, planning, transportation and other initiatives is available from the UW-Extension Sustainable Communities Capacity Center at this link.

Tribal members and others interested in a better understanding of the potential impact of climate on tribal culture and food sources will benefit from the resources available from the Guiding for Tomorrow project, a collaboration between the Ojibwe Nation and UW-Extension.

For a national perspective on what we can expect from our changing climate–and what we can do to prepare for and minimize future impacts–Liebl recommends visiting the National Climate Assessment website. The site provides an update on the latest climate science, and how climate affects agriculture, cities and towns, ecosystems, energy, forests, human health, land use, rural communities, transportation, tribes, water and more.

Testing Future Conditions for the Food Chain

From The New York Times, September 23, 2014

FoodChainFrom afar, the three young men tramping through a corn field here looked like Midwestern farm boys checking their crop. And a fine crop it seemed to be, with plump ears hanging off vibrant green stalks.

But as they edged deeper into the field, the men — actually young scientists, not farmers — pointed to streaked, yellowing leaves on some of the corn plants. “You’re definitely seeing some damage,” said Tiago Tomaz, a biochemist from Australia.

The injured leaves signaled trouble down the road, and not just for a single plot of corn a few miles from the main campus of the University of Illinois. By design, the scientists were studying the type of damage that could put a serious dent in the food supply on a warming planet.

The fields here are among a handful of places in the world where researchers are trying to mimic the growing conditions expected to arise decades in the future as the air fills with heat-trapping gases and other pollutants from human activity.

Read the full article.

EPA Proposes Changing Standards on Pesticides and Farm Workers

From Topeka Capital-Journal, September 20, 2014

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed stricter requirements to avoid exposure to pesticides on farms, leaving farmers and officials divided about whether they go too far or provide needed protection.

The EPA has proposed to change the Worker Protection Standards related to pesticide handlers and field workers who may be exposed to chemicals. [....]

To view the complete proposed standards, visit this site. To view a condensed version, visit this site.

Read the full article.

De Blasio Orders a Greener City, Setting Goals for Energy Efficiency of Buildings

From The New York Times, September 20, 2014

In a sweeping effort to reduce its environmental impact, New York City is planning to overhaul the energy-efficiency standards of all its public buildings and to pressure private landlords to make similar improvements.

The initiative is part of a pledge, to be announced before the start of the United Nations Climate Summit on Tuesday, to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050 from 2005 levels. The United Nations has pointed to that rate of decrease as a desired target for developed countries to mitigate the effects of climate change.

New York would become the largest city in the world to make the commitment, according to the city’s leaders.

Though the proposal is likely to rankle some residential and commercial building owners, who will bear a portion of its cost, officials have framed the issue in part as an extension of the citywide focus on income inequality since Mayor Bill de Blasio took office in January. High energy costs, the de Blasio administration argues, amount to a regressive tax, because lower-income residents by and large pay a higher share of their rent for energy than wealthier residents, and often live in less-efficient buildings. The long-term savings could prove to be a financial boost for lower-income residents, officials said — to say nothing of the environmental benefits.

Read the full article.

Global Rise Reported in 2013 Greenhouse Gas Emissions

From New York Times, September 22, 2014

Global emissions of greenhouse gases jumped 2.3 percent in 2013 to record levels, scientists reported Sunday, in the latest indication that the world remains far off track in its efforts to control global warming.

The emissions growth last year was a bit slower than the average growth rate of 2.5 percent over the past decade, and much of the dip was caused by an economic slowdown in China, which is the world’s single largest source of emissions. It may take an additional year or two to know if China has turned a corner toward slower emissions growth, or if the runaway pace of recent years will resume.

In the United States, emissions rose 2.9 percent, after declining in recent years.

Read the full article.

Hull Family’s Water Tests at 6 Times Safe Level

From Stevens Point Journal, August 7, 2014

HullWaterTim and Karen Hannon of Hull said they thought it must be a mistake.

When they noticed signs of rust in their washing machine, the couple thought it might be a good idea to get their water tested again, after it hadn’t been checked in 19 years. They collected a sample for testing in June.

“It’s pretty sad, really, to have your water contaminated,” Tim Hannon said.

The nitrate levels in their water tested at higher than 60 milligrams per liter — more than six times higher than the recommended 10 milligrams per liter as the safe level for drinking water.

High nitrate levels can be cause for health concerns, particularly for infants younger than 6 months old or pregnant women. Consumption of that nitrate concentration can result in birth defects and blue baby syndrome, said Kevin Masarik, a groundwater education specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point who is testing the water. The unidentified compounds in the water also might be cause for concern, he said, depending on what they are.

The couple lives off Highway 10 near Fleet Farm, and it’s possible that other households are also affected by the nitrate levels, although each homeowner would need to test his or her own water to be sure.

Read the full article.

Harvest of Change

From USA Today, September 21, 2014

IowaFarmTassel-topped stalks across the Midwest corn belt await a harvest of grain that will fuel your car with ethanol, feed livestock that becomes your dinner steak or be processed into foods lining shelves at your supermarket.

In the lush fields of a Page County farm in southwest Iowa, tooth-like white corn kernels almost ready for harvest are aimed at a specific audience: people who don’t want to eat food that’s been genetically modified.

It’s the first season the Dammann family farm, based here for six generations, has decided to target its crop to the demand of that niche market.

Read the full article.

County’s Groundwater Listening Sessions Begin Next Week

From Stevens Point Journal, September 22, 2014

Debates about how Portage County uses its groundwater have sometimes been contentious. County Executive Patty Dreier hopes to change that.

Dreier, who focused her 2014 State of the County address on the issue, begins a series of groundwater listening sessions for the community on Sept. 30. She noted in her address that Portage County pumped more groundwater than any other Wisconsin county during both 2012 and 2013.

“It’s time we lift our heads out of the sand and take some thoughtful actions that steward our groundwater resources instead of pitting water users against each other,” she said in the address. “We can’t wait. The free-for-all on water has got to stop.” [....]

Free nitrate water testing will be available at every listening session. Those interested in having water tested should bring a pint of cold water in a clean container. Follow-up tests might be recommended after testing.

Read the full article.

How the Built Environment is Contributing to Childhood Obesity

From Salon, September 11, 2014

trailIn the midst of a health-obsessed society, youth obesity continues to be a major issue in the United States — in the past 30 years, obesity had more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents. It turns out that the neighborhoods in which children are raised has a lot to do with the public health crisis.

Researchers from the University of Missouri and the University of Minnesota have found that by increasing the availability of public lands like nature trails and forests, local governments can take meaningful steps towards reducing childhood obesity. The study found that counties with more trails and forests had higher levels of youth activity and lower youth obesity than counties with fewer opportunities for outdoor recreation.

Read the full article.

Kids Exposed in the Womb to Plasticizers More Likely to Have Asthma

From Environmental Health News, September 17, 2014

New York City children exposed in the womb to moderate levels of two plasticizers had a 72 to 78 percent higher chance of developing asthma, according to a new study published today. The study is the first to link childhood asthma, which has been increasing in recent decades, to prenatal exposure to phthalates.

“These results suggest that phthalates may be one of the factors associated with that increase,” said Robin Whyatt, a Columbia University environmental health scientist who led the study. She added, however, that more studies are needed to understand how important a risk factor these chemicals may be.

Phthalates, used in the manufacture of vinyl and some cosmetics, have been connected to a number of health effects in lab animal and human studies, including airway inflammation, altered male genitalia, attention and learning problems and premature births.

Nationally, one in every 11 children has asthma, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Asthma rates more than doubled between 1980 and the mid-1990s, and have remained high.

Read the full article.

Students, Community Members talk “Disruption”, Latest Climate Change Documentary

From The Pointer, September 19, 2014

A crowd of students and community members gathered together in the College of Professional Studies to watch “Disruption,” a documentary chronicling the build-up to the People’s Climate March on Sept. 21 in New York.

Organizations from the entire spectrum are joining in, including women and civil rights groups, labor unions, renewable energy groups and even indigenous representatives. The idea is that every single person on this planet has a reason to care about climate change.

The march is shaping up to be the biggest in history, and the excitement has made its way to Wisconsin. Following the documentary, there was a discussion about climate change and what the local community can do to take action.

Read the full article.

Green Fund Provides Students with Opportunity, Sustainability Ideas

From The Pointer, September 18, 2014

The Green Fund is a monetary resource that supports environmental and sustainable projects on campus for students, organizations, faculty, staff and anyone affiliated with the university [of Wisconsin Stevens Point].

“There are a few other campuses in the UW system that have programs similar to this, but ours is one of the largest,” said Alex Thomas, Student Government Association’s environmental and sustainability affairs director.

The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point put the fund into effect last year after SGA wrote legislation for it. During its first year alone, nearly $100,000 was spent to finance sustainability efforts and renovations on campus.

One of the major projects funded during the Green Fund’s inaugural year was The Central Wisconsin Environmental Station’s installation of a more efficient water heater. The Encore in the Dreyfus University Center also updated its lighting system, making it 70 percent more efficient, according to Thomas.

Read the full article.

Campus Garden Provides Learning Opportunities, Vegetables for Students

From The Pointer, September 18, 2014

The Campus Garden, located on Franklin Street across from the Stevens Point Fire Department, is now a green oasis. Built by students in 2006 on a sandy lot where a house once sat, the garden is abundant with vegetables and learning resources.

Managed by the Sustainable Agriculture in Communities Society since 2005, the group has helped students interested in growing food, composting and being sustainable get hands-on experience and meet like-minded students.

Read the full article.

Altered to Withstand Herbicide, Corn and Soybeans Gain Approval

From New York Times, September 17, 2014

The Agriculture Department has approved the commercial planting of corn and soybeans genetically engineered to survive being sprayed by the herbicide known as 2,4-D, according to documents it posted on a federal regulatory website on Wednesday.

Some corn and soybean growers have been pushing for approval, saying the new crops would give them a sorely needed new tool to fight rapidly spreading weeds that can no longer be killed by Roundup, known generically as glyphosate, the usual herbicide of choice.

But critics say that cultivation of the crops, which were developed by Dow AgroSciences, will mean a sharp increase in the spraying of 2,4-D, a chemical they say would be more damaging to the environment, nearby non-engineered crops and possibly human health, than Roundup.

Read the full article.

Europeans Have Little Appetite for US Apples

From The News Tribune, September 20, 2014

With the harvest underway, Jon Alegria figures he’ll pack more than 400 million apples from this year’s crop by mid-November, relying on a widely used chemical to keep them looking fresh for months. Before sending them to warehouses, Alegria will coat roughly half of his apples with diphenylamine, or DPA, to prevent scald that would make the fruit turn brown or black.

“If you get that, nobody’s going to buy it,” said Alegria, 36, an apple grower from Tieton, Wash., calling the chemical “a necessary tool.” In Washington state, growers boast that their apples are the best in the world. But that view is far from unanimous: Fearing possible ill health effects from the chemical, Europeans want nothing to do with them.

It’s another example of the wide gulf separating the United States and the European Union when it comes to food safety.

Read the full article.

MREA Hosts the Wisconsin Solar Tour

From MREA, September 2014

The Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) will join the nonprofit American Solar Energy Society (ASES), Milwaukee Shines, and hundreds of solar-savvy installers and homeowners on Saturday, October 4, 2014 to showcase thousands of solar-powered homes, schools, and businesses ― in Wisconsin and across North America ― for the 19th Annual National Solar Tour, the world’s largest grassroots solar event. Educational and informational tours, food, drinks, and entertainment will be available between both MREA locations in Custer and Milwaukee.

Wisconsin residents will hold open house tours of more than 57 homes and businesses between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. These tours are free thanks to the individuals and business owners who will open their doors to the public. Find a tour nearest you at: midwestrenew.org/solartour.

Celebrate clean energy at MREA’s headquarters in Custer, Wisconsin, between 12:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. for free hourly tours of their diverse renewable energy systems ranging from wind turbines to solar thermal and energy-efficient design, including in-floor radiant heat and daylighting.

Changes in America’s Dairyland Foul the Waters of Green Bay

From Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 13, 2014

Manure is a potent fertilizer that does wonders for the crops that feed the cows that give the milk that makes Wisconsin America’s Dairyland. It’s also making a mess of its waters.

While Green Bay holds a mere 1.4% of Lake Michigan’s water, it receives one-third of the lake’s nutrient load — due largely to the farm fields that drip phosphorus-rich manure into the streams, creeks and rivers that flow toward the bay. Samples taken in many of those waterways over the past decade show average summer phosphorus levels twice as high — and sometimes 4 times as high — as what scientists say is acceptable.

Phosphorus at these levels is the trigger for late-summer algae blooms that smother beaches and, when they die and decompose, burn up so much oxygen that the waters of Green Bay are now plagued with chronic “dead zones” — vast stretches in which almost nothing can live.

Read the full article.

WPS Rate Increase Could Stifle Renewable Energy

From Stevens Point Journal, September 4, 2014

Environmentalists and renewable energy systems companies say they’re stepping up their fight against a proposed electricity rate increase.

Electricity costs would increase 8 percent under a Wisconsin Public Service Corp. proposal, which likely would go into effect Jan. 1 if approved by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission in November. The proposal also would change the fixed rate customers pay from $10.40 to $25 per month.

That price hike includes customers who own renewable energy systems and are using less electricity to begin with. That fact has groups like the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, a Custer-based organization that hosts the world’s largest renewable energy fair every year, worried that people will lose incentives to buy solar power systems because they won’t be able to recoup the costs of the system in saved money on energy bills.

Read the full article.

For Walkers and Cyclists, A Swedish Road-Planning Strategy Helps Save Lives

From YES! Magazine, September 2, 2014

SwedishBikeUtah, Minnesota, and Washington have seen traffic fatalities decline by 40 percent. Here’s how they did it.

More than 4,500 pedestrians are killed and more than 68,000 are injured by motor vehicles every year on the streets of America. The victims are disproportionately children, seniors, and people of color. A recent report from the National Complete Streets Coalition found that from 2003 to 2012, more than 47,000 people were killed crossing the street. That’s 16 times the number of people who died in natural disasters over the same period. [....]

From Philadelphia to Chicago to Oregon, campaigns to reduce pedestrian, bicyclist, and motorist deaths to zero are now taking shape around the country.

The campaigns are based on a new safety strategy called Vision Zero, which is modeled on successful efforts in Sweden. Pedestrian deaths in Sweden have dropped 50 percent since 2009, and overall traffic deaths have been cut in half since 2000—making Swedish streets the safest in the world, according to the New York Times.

The Economist reports that Sweden accomplished this by emphasizing safety over speed in road design, and attributes the impressive drop in traffic deaths to improved crosswalks, narrowed streets, lowered urban speed limits, and barriers that separate cars from bikes and pedestrians.

Sweden took a far different approach than conventional transportation planning, where “road users are held responsible for their own safety” according to the Vision Zero Initiative website. Swedish policy believes that to save lives, roads must anticipate driver, bicyclist, and walker errors, “based on the simple fact that we are human and we make mistakes.”

Read the full article.

Why Energy Efficiency Is the Most Important Fuel We Didn’t Know We Had

From Climate Progress, September 9, 2014

Energy efficiency has graduated from the “hidden fuel” to the “first fuel.” That’s the word from a new analysis the International Energy Agency published Tuesday, looking into the benefits of investments in energy efficiency upgrades. Those gains can be hard to measure, as they lie in energy not used and costs not encountered — hence the “hidden fuel” moniker. This tends to result in energy efficiency being chronically undervalued, a problem the study sought to remedy by taking a “multiple benefits” approach that accounted for the full sweep of effects across health, economics, energy, pollution, etc. Read the full article.


The Lead Hazard in Schools That Won’t Go Away

From Huffington Post, September 8, 2014

The worn, heart-shaped rug that greeted you upon entering Angela Molloy Murphy’s preschool was a reflection of the love she has for the 17 children she cares for daily in her home’s remodeled basement. To Tamara Rubin, however, the welcome mat was more of a warning sign. “You need to throw this out,” Rubin told Murphy.

Rubin is executive director of the nonprofit Lead Safe America Foundation. On a visit to the preschool earlier this May, she pointed an X-ray fluorescence heavy-metal detector at the rug’s faded red threads and relayed the bad news: It was loaded with lead.

Within the course of an hour, Murphy learned just how pervasive the toxic heavy metal was in her home and school: It was in the chips of lead paint on her deck steps, in dust rubbed free from door and window frames, in the glazes on her students’ thrift-store mugs. The rug itself, Rubin suggested, was likely a reservoir for lead chips and dust tracked around on students’ shoes.

Read the full article.

High Levels of Fungicide Found in Pregnant Women Living Near Banana Planations

From Tico Times, September 10, 2014

BananasA new study has found alarmingly high levels of pesticides in the urine of pregnant Costa Rican women working in and living near the banana industry in Matina, Limón. The chemical ethylene thiourea (ETU) found in the fungicide mancozeb, which is sprayed over banana plantations here, can be detrimental to fetal brain development, according to the report released Monday in Environmental Health Perspectives. Read the full article.

CLUE Note: Mancozeb, the same fungicide that is used on bananas in Costa Rica, is used on potatoes and apples in Wisconsin. According to the most recent data available, 150,000 pounds of mancozeb were applied to 41,250 acres of potatoes in Wisconsin (2010), and 13,000 pounds of mancozeb were applied to 2,552 acres of apples in Wisconsin (2005). Sources: USDA Major Chemical Use and Wisconsin Pesticide Use reports.

Cities Prepare for Warm Climate without Saying So

From Associated Press, September 8, 2014

With climate change still a political minefield across the nation despite the strong scientific consensus that it’s happening, some community leaders have hit upon a way of preparing for the potentially severe local consequences without triggering explosions of partisan warfare: Just change the subject.

Big cities and small towns are shoring up dams and dikes, using roof gardens to absorb rainwater or upgrading sewage treatment plans to prevent overflows. Others are planting urban forests, providing more shady relief from extreme heat. Extension agents are helping farmers deal with an onslaught of newly arrived crop pests.

But in many places, especially strongholds of conservative politics, they’re planning for the volatile weather linked to rising temperatures by speaking of “sustainability” or “resilience,” while avoiding no-win arguments with skeptics over whether the planet is warming or that human activity is responsible.

Read the full article.

Yale Fund Takes Aim at Climate Change

From The New York Times, September 7, 2014

As pressure grows from students who want to see their schools use financial clout to address environmental issues, Yale University’s investment office wrote to its money managers asking them to assess how investments could affect climate change and suggesting they avoid companies that do not take sensible “steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Read the full article.

Bees at the Brink: Planting a Green Desert

From Star Tribune, September 2014

Mac Ehrhardt often feels like he has one leg on either side of a barbed-wire fence. On one side stand the farmers who have bought seed from his family’s business for three generations, and who rely religiously on insecticides to protect their crops. On the other is Ehrhardt’s growing conviction that southern Minnesota’s two-tone landscape of corn and soybeans has become a barren and toxic place for a crucial player in the nation’s food system — the honeybee.

Ehrhardt’s uncomfortable position at the Albert Lea Seed Company reflects the powerful role that farmers could play in the plight of the bees. Though they represent just 2 percent of Minnesota’s population, farmers control half its land. And their embrace of the monocultures and pesticides that form the basis of modern industrial agriculture has been implicated in the decline of bees and pollinators.

Read the full article.

Judge Rules Against DNR on High-Capacity Well Issue

From Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 5, 2014

cowsIn a major victory for environmentalists, a state administrative law judge has ruled the Department of Natural Resources failed to consider the accumulated effects of groundwater use when the agency reviewed an application for a high-capacity well for a $35 million dairy farm.

Administrative Law Judge Jeffrey D. Boldt ruled on Wednesday that the DNR “took an unreasonably limited view of its authority” and failed to adequately consider what he called “basic science” when it evaluated an application for a high-capacity well in Adams County in central Wisconsin for a new farm by the state’s largest dairy operator.

The ruling could have far-reaching implications because of growing use of such wells in Wisconsin, especially in agriculture, and the impact they can have on nearby streams, lakes and wetlands.

But clouding the issue is language added last year to the current state budget by the GOP-controlled Legislature that sought to limit challenges to such projects by citizens.

Read the full article.

Target, Wal-Mart Team Up on Sustainability

From StarTribune, September 5, 2014

Target and Wal-Mart put aside their rivalry on Thursday in their zeal to sell better makeup and toothpaste.

The nation’s two largest discount retailers took the unusual step of co-hosting a meeting in Chicago to push beauty and personal care suppliers to be more transparent about the chemicals that go into their products and to better define what constitutes a sustainable product.

Read the full article.

2015 Wisconsin Local Food Summit Will Be Held in Wisconsin Rapids

From WLFN, September 2014

wilocalfoodnetworklogofinalwebSave the date for the 9th Annual Wisconsin Local Food Summit, an annual event organized by the Wisconsin Local Food Network. The Summit, themed “Seeds for Change: Learning from the Past to Grow Food for Tomorrow,” will be held in Wisconsin Rapids on January 30 and 31, 2015. This year the summit is partnering with the Farm to School Summit, which will be held at the same location on January 29. Join us for two summits in one!

Organizers are currently seeking presenters for the event. Anyone with local food expertise is encouraged to apply. Applications are due by September 26, 2014. Learn more at this link.

Urban Forestry Grants Available

From DNR Wisconsin Forestry Notes, August 2014

Wisconsin communities, tribal governments and non-profit organizations looking for financial help with urban forestry projects are invited to apply for a grant from the Department of Natural Resources. The deadline to apply for an urban forestry grant is October 1 for projects to be completed in 2015. DNR will be hosting an online meeting to answer questions from potential grant applicants on September 22 at 1:30 pm. Details about the meeting and the grant program can be found online.

Read the full newsletter.


Colorado Researchers Probe Parkinson’s Disease Causes, Treatments

From The Denver Post, 9/1/14

The corn rows are high and tassled, pumpkins are gaining girth and, amid these signs the fall harvest is near, evidence is growing that farmers and others who live or work around pesticides are at greater risk for neurogenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.

There is also new hope as Colorado researchers exploit genetic and other tools to find and test drugs they think have the potential to stop and even reverse the devastating neurological damage of the disease. Read the full article.

In Plastics and Cans, A Threat to Women

From the New York Times, August 28, 2014

A few years ago, Jodi Flaws, a bioscientist at the University of Illinois, began testing a theory about the risks to women posed by the widely used industrial compound bisphenol A, or BPA.

A series of studies had suggested that it could damage developing ovaries. But nobody knew how. So for a month, Dr. Flaws dosed young female mice with a BPA solution at a level comparable to estimated human exposure in the United States. She then examined their ovaries, focusing on the follicles, which contain the eggs.

The effect of the BPA was immediately obvious. Read the full article.