All in Environmental Policy

by Amy Kochanowsky, staff editor A new solution to feeding the world’s burgeoning urban population in a sustainable way may be the introduction of vertical farms. A vertical farm is essentially a skyscraper that largely makes use of hydroponic techniques to support crops. Dickson Despommier, a Columbia University professor and main force behind the movement, touts the benefits in his recent book, the Vertical Farm. I applaud Despommier’s vision of a more sustainable future and his ability to inspire innovation. However, this concept is still in a nascent stage and there are many details to be worked out before any designs could be successfully implemented.

By Maureena Thompson, staff editor The holiday shopping season is upon us, and with it the lingering question of where to find those elusive, perfectly-tailored, and at least reasonably affordable gifts. For those wishing to buy both unique and sustainable gifts here in the Triangle, opportunities abound. As much as I enjoy these progressive shops, their prices can be significantly higher than those of so-called big box stores. While I may be willing to splurge for a one-of-a-kind gift, I sometimes find it hard to justify purchasing similar items for my own daily use. As a member of this community, though, are the social benefits I will share in the long run worth the personal cost I may forfeit up front?

By Blake Holt, staff editor "Municipal corporations owe their origin to, and derive their powers and rights wholly from, the legislature. It breathes into them the breath of life, without which they cannot exist. As it creates, so may it destroy. If it may destroy, it may abridge and control.” —John Forrest Dillon, 1868

Dillon’s Law is one of the cornerstones of municipal government in America. As stated in the quote above from Justice John Forrest Dillon, Dillon’s Law limits the scope of municipal legislation to matters in which it has been granted authority by the state legislature. However, compliance with this law has jeopardized Durham County’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% in the private sector by 2030.

By Amy Kochanowsky, staff editor While cost-benefit analysis (CBA) is nearly ubiquitous in all fields of public policy, we must be cautious about when and where it is applied, because it assumes that all outcomes can be quantified in monetary terms. If asked to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of a school program, would you be able to measure all of the outcomes? Can you put a dollar value on the satisfaction and self confidence of a child? When reducing results like this to a dollar value, you are most certainly losing something in the calculation. This is the cost of CBA.

By Thomas Lowdermilk, staff editor As this year’s meeting of the International Committee for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) comes to a close, fishermen, conservationists, and sushi-lovers all await the verdict on the Atlantic bluefin tuna. The ICCAT sets the global quota for total allowable catch for this majestic fish. Given its perilous state, many think that this year’s decision could decide the fate of the species.

By Jacob Widlitz, staff editor Black carbon reduction is an issue that could finally break through the global warming stalemate. Most solutions to global warming are met with apathy from policymakers and the general public. The problem just seems too big and expensive to solve. Black carbon emissions, however, can be reduced relatively quickly and would go a long way towards slowing down the globe’s rapidly rising temperatures.

By Tia Brueggeman, staff editor While visiting Belize, I was struck by the dichotomy between the tourists and local people. Thousands of tourists disembark cruise ships on the shores of Belize every year. This influx of tourists is beneficial to the Belizean economy, but there are consequences for the local people and the natural environment. This trend in Belize began in 2002 with an agreement between a major cruise line and a local Belizean businessman to construct a mega-terminal. An agreement needs to be reached to share the profits with the community, including local contracting. The future is potentially hopeful for the Belizean people as long as the government can work with private industry to find ways to distribute the growing wealth to the local people.

By Ellen Whelan-Wuest, staff editor On October 24, 2009, thousands of people organized over 3,400 demonstrations around the world to demand the adoption of new energy policies. Nearly one year later, on October 10, 2010 (10/10/10), a similar day of action was coordinated and the number of events worldwide more than doubled. However, despite this increase in grassroots participation, American media coverage of this year’s day of action was almost non-existent, marking a dramatic contrast with last year when several major national news outlets covered the events. There are several possible explanations for the relative media silence that followed 10/10/10, but certainly one of them is the backwards shift in the climate change movement’s political momentum over the last year.

By Patricia J. Liever, staff editor Following last month’s UN Summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), there has been increasing coverage of the impending failure of developed countries to reach their lofty goals by 2015. Critics have suggested amending the goals, replacing them with something a bit more realistically achievable. By suggesting this, critics disregard one of the central purposes of the MDGs: uniting those passionate about development under the banner of ending global poverty.

By Amy Kochanowsky, staff editor Let’s shift the debate away from polar bears and the ominous rise in sea level and toward a more human aspect. In a rational sense, it is more difficult to connect climate change to public health, children’s safety and welfare, and the threat of sending U.S. jobs overseas than it is to connect climate change to science; however, we must make these less obvious connections to show ordinary Americans how an environmental tragedy can affect them on a personal level.

Reviewed by Trey Akers Academic colleagues Peter Newman (Curtin University, Australia) and Timothy Beatley (University of Virginia) team with Island Press Senior Editor Heather Boyer to share personal experiences of sustainable urban policy as a response to risks posed by peak oil and climate change. For the first two authors, this work emerges out of crucial events surrounding the 1970s oil crisis, circumstances that shocked each as social disarray and a loss of individual freedom that transformed economic, political, and social relationships across society. Along with Boyer, a 2005 Loeb Fellow at Harvard University, the authors draw upon direct encounters with innovations in city design. More than sustainable design solutions, however, a desire to create places—settlements that strengthen human connectedness and bonds to the natural landscape—drives the authors’ impetus to restructure cities.