Friday, January 16, 2015

Turn Back Congress's Assault on our Environment!

Tell President Obama to stop the Congressional onslaught by using his executive power now to tackle climate change, defend our natural heritage and save vulnerable wildlife. Urge him to act swiftly on these critical fronts and secure his environmental legacy while creating a more sustainable future for all Americans.

Robert Redford speaks out on Congress’s assault on the environment.

For more information, please go to this link:

Thursday, February 20, 2014

2014 The Bay Area Sustainability Symposium and Tour

2014 The Bay Area Sustainability Symposium and Tour
April 25th and 26th, 2014
Location: Laney College Auditorium

Resilient Cities and Pre-Disaster Planning: Linking Together Regional and Community Partners  

The Peralta District, the Institute for Sustainable Policy Studies (ISPS) and Sustainable Pacific Rim Cities (SPRC) along with Bay Area leaders in pre-disaster planning cordially invite your participation in a special 2014 Resilient City and Sustainability Symposia commemorating the on-going efforts and partnerships around Sustainability and Resiliency work in the Bay Area.

This year, we are very excited to commemorate theResilient City Network award given by the Rockefeller Foundation to the Cities of Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda and San Francisco among an international list of 33 inaugural cities.

This one-day symposium will highlight representatives from these Bay Area Cities, local university/college researchers as well as industry leaders and professionals from the Bay Area involved in cutting edge sustainability work from community analytics to eco-water treatment systems. 

Friday, April 25th  

Morning Sessions

Registration and Breakfast
Sustainability sponsors and interactive displays in Lobby
Local coffee and pastries
“Connect the Dots” Mapping Exercise

Introduction and Welcome Opening:      
Charles Neal, Chancellor Ortiz

Keynote Address
The Regional Challenge for Climate Planning and Action: Mediating the Local and the Global

 Respondents: Rockefeller Resilience City Network
Steve Andrews, CEO, Bank of Alameda
Discussion Panel:
City of Oakland, City of Alameda, City of Berkeley, City of San Francisco, City of Emeryville, Port of Oakland, and Port of San Francisco

Networking Lunch  
The Bistro Café along the Lake Merritt Channel Gardens will be open and a catered lunch will be provided for pre-paid registrants

Concurrent Afternoon Sessions

Resiliency Planning Practice and Lessons
Panel I:
Resiliency Planning as Pre-Disaster Planning in the Bay Area and Applications to the Pacific Rim  (SPRC)
Panel II.
Healthy Neighborhoods and Resilience


Infrastructure, Institutions and Equity
Panel III:
Sustainable Water Solutions for City Infrastructure: too little clean freshwater but too much seawater (SPRC)
Panel IV:
Analytics, Data, Communication: Planning and Organizing Early Around Emergency Response Systems
Panel V:
Equity and the Role of Community Education Institutions

5:30pm - 7:30pm       
Sponsored Reception and Conference  

Networking– at Oakland Museum:  Off the Grid Mixer

Saturday, April 26th  
Sustainability Tour

Global Sustainability Centers Itself in OaklandJoin Us for a Special Guided Tour

There are also a limited space tour of the sustainable development projects in the East Bay.  The Special tour includes Sustainable Projects in the Lake Merritt District of Oakland including the new lakeside park, opening of the channel and restoration, the ground-breaking Brooklyn Basin mixed-use infill project, plans for the Lake Merritt TOD development, solar industries and local food businesses in Jack London Square, and the new Green Job center at Laney College. [$35 charge for participants]

Friday, January 3, 2014

Norman Foster unveils plans for elevated 'SkyCycle' bike routes in London

Plan for 220km network of bike paths suspended above railway lines could see commuters gliding to work over rooftops

Skyride … How the proposed SkyCycle tracks could look. Photograph: /Foster and Partners
Gliding through the air on a bike might so far be confined to the fantasy realms of singing nannies and aliens in baskets, but riding over rooftops could one day form part of your regular commute to work, if Norman Foster has his way.
Unveiled this week, in an appropriately light-headed vision for the holiday season, SkyCycle proposes a network of elevated bike paths hoisted aloft above railway lines, allowing you to zip through town blissfully liberated from the roads.
The project, which has the backing of Network Rail and Transport for London, would see over 220km of car-free routes installed above London's suburban rail network, suspended on pylons above the tracks and accessed at over 200 entrance points. At up to 15 metres wide, each of the ten routes would accommodate 12,000 cyclists per hour and improve journey times by up to 29 minutes, according to the designers.
Lord Foster, who says that cycling is one of his great passions, describes the plan as “a lateral approach to finding space in a congested city.”
“By using the corridors above the suburban railways,” he said, “we could create a world-class network of safe, car-free cycle routes that are ideally located for commuters.”
Developed by landscape practice Exterior Architecture, with Foster and Partners and Space Syntax, the proposed network would cover a catchment area of six million people, half of whom live and work within 10 minutes of an entrance. But its ambitions stretch beyond London alone.
“The dream is that you could wake up in Paris and cycle to the Gare du Nord,” says Sam Martin of Exterior Architecture. “Then get the train to Stratford, and cycle straight into central London in minutes, without worrying about trucks and buses.”
Developed over the last two years, the initial idea came from the student project of one of Martin's employees, Oli Clark, who proposed a network of elevated cycle routes weaving in and around Battersea power station. “It was a hobby in the office for a while,” says Martin. “Then we arranged a meeting at City Hall with the deputy mayor of transport – and bumped into Boris in the lift.”
Bumping into Boris has been the fateful beginning for some of the mayor's other adventures in novelty infrastructure, including Anish Kapoor's Orbit tower, apparently forged in a chance meeting with Lakshmi Mittal in the cloakrooms at Davos. Other encounters have resulted in cycle “superhighways” (which many blame for the recent increase in accidents) and a £60 million cable car that doesn't really go anywhere. But could SkyCycle be different?
“It's about having an eye on the future,” says Martin. “If London keeps growing and spreading itself out, with people forced to commute increasingly longer distances, then in 20 years it's just going to be a ghetto for people in suits. After rail fare increases this week, a greater percentage of people's income is being taken up with transport. There has to be another way to allow everyone access to the centre, and stop this doughnut effect.”
After meeting with Network Rail last year, the design team has focused on a 6.5km trial route from Stratford to Liverpool Street Station, following the path of the overground line, a stretch they estimate would cost around £220 million. Working with Roger Ridsdill-Smith, Foster's head of structural engineering, responsible for the Millennium Bridge, they have developed what Martin describes as “a system akin to a tunnel-boring machine, but happening above ground”.
“It's no different to the electrification of the lines west of Paddington,” he says. “It would involve a series of pylons installed along the outside edge of the tracks, from which a deck would project out. Trains could still run while the cycle decks were being installed.”
As for access, the proposal would see the installation of vertical hydraulic platforms next to existing railway stations, as well as ramps that took advantage of the raised topography around viaducts and cuttings. “It wouldn't be completely seamless in terms of the cycling experience,” Martin admits. “But it could be a place for Boris Bike docking stations, to avoid people having to get their own equipment up there.” He says the structure could also be a source of energy creation, supporting solar panels and rain water collection.
The rail network has long been seen as a key to opening up cycle networks, given the amount of available land alongside rail lines, but no proposal has yet suggested launching cyclists into the air.

Pipe dream … the California Cycleway, dreamt up in the 1890s, was never completed after the automobile industry took off. Photograph: Cycle Infrastructure/nai010

“It's a really interesting idea,” says Matt Winfield of Sustrans. “We've done a lot of work along rail corridors and have had ideas about suspending bike paths along the edge of rail infrastructure at particular pinch points and crossings. But we haven't yet succeeded because of cost or funding deadlines not allowing enough time.”
Funding remains the big question hanging over SkyCycle, with the designers currently looking for backing to fund a feasibility study.
“We certainly don't want to take money away from making cycling safe on the roads,” says Martin. “That should remain the priority. But our ambition is to redirect some of the money spent by central government on rail and road expenditure. Those billions can be used much more efficiently.”
Finance has confounded other attempts for aerial bikes routes in the past. The California Cycleway, dreamt up in the 1890s, was planned to connect Pasadena and Los Angeles with 14km of raised timber decking, but only 2km of the track was ever built. Conceived as a private money-making enterprise, with a toll of 10 cents and 100,000 projected annual users, it never turned a profit, destroyed instead by the rise of the Model T Ford. More than a century later, will the SkyCycle team have better luck?
more info, please go this link

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Sustainable Santa Monica Field Trip at AAG 2013

Last week SPRC traveled to Los Angeles to participate in the Sustainable Santa Monica field trip at the American Association of Geographers 2013 Meeting.  The tour was co-sponsored with the alumni interest group Yale Blue Green.  The morning segment of the field trip was led by Brenden McEneaney, Green Building Advisor at City of Santa Monica and Neal Shapiro, Watershed Management Coordinator at City of Santa Monica.  We ate lunch at the Wednesday Downtown Farmers Market followed by a tour of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) building.

The showcased the spectrum of blue-greening a city, from building- and site-based strategies to end of the pipe strategies.  (The term "blue-green" is a play on Yale Blue Green but is also a nod to the Blue-Green Building website that presents case studies of "low-impact development aimed at sustaining water and watersheds....")

We were shown the Bicknell Street Greening project, the Civic Center Parking Structure, 502 Colorado Court, and the Main Library, and the NRDC building after lunch.  These buildings and sites incorporate multiple technologies to protect watersheds and air quality and to reduce energy use.  Bioswales, cisterns, solar panels, light wells, greywater recycling, glazed glass, and more.  I will provide details of the green street and the NRDC office in future posts.

Santa Monica's  end of the pipe approach to watershed protection we saw was the first stop on the tour: the Santa Monica Urban Runoff Recycling Facility or SMURRF.  SMURRF is an impressive system and is the only such facility in the world.  One thing to note is that the City of Santa Monica has a separated sewer and water system so it does not treat stormwater.  SMURFF is a dry-weather runoff treatment system; approximately 300,000-400,000 gallons of water daily from draining pools, over-watering, and leaking pipes are treated.  The system includes several Continuous Deflective Separation detention systems one of which was opened for us to view.  The particular CDS we saw cost $500,000.  The recycled, non-potable water that is produced at the end of a five-step treatment process is provided to public and private customers for landscape irrigation and toilet flushing.  The entire SMURRF facility cost $12M; the project is cost-shared with Los Angeles including revenues. The facility is experiential; the public can view the entire treatment process.  Also, artwork was installed to tell the story of water treatment.  Learn more by watching the SMURRF Virtual Tour.

In 1994, the City developed its Sustainable City plan with eight goals areas to which arts was recently added.  The plan is funded by the rate payers via fees for water and waste.  (The City owns its own water company.)  Ten percent of the funds come from the General Fund and the Office of Sustainability also seeks grant funding.  Revenues have declined because of the success of the water program, yet the City is now pursuing an aggressive climate plan with the goal to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050!  "The DNA of the city is sustainability," noted Brenden McEneaney.

Thank you to Brenden McEneaney and Neal Shapiro at City of Santa Monica and Kristin Center at NRDC.

This post has been edited from the original at local ecologist blog.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

GM salmon's global HQ – 1,500m high in the Panamanian rainforest

Supersized genetically modified salmon grown fast and fat and after years of wrangling, are ready for market – but is the market ready for them? And why is the firm hidden away in Panama?

AquaBounty's GM salmon fish farm in Bajo Mono, near Boquete, western Panama. Photograph: Sheena Rossiter/Avaaz
It is hard to think of a more unlikely setting for genetic experimentation or for raising salmon: a rundown shed at a secretive location in the Panamanian rainforest miles inland and 1,500m above sea level.
But the facility, which is owned by an American company AquaBounty Technologies, stands on the verge of delivering the first genetically modified food animal – a fast-growing salmon – to supermarkets and dinner tables.
The US government this week enters the final stages of its deliberationson whether to allow commercial production of the GM fish, with a public consultation on the issue ending on Friday . Separately, a committee in Congress on Monday took up a bill that would outlaw GM salmon entirely – essentially destroying AquaBounty's commercial prospects in America. If approved, the salmon could be the first of some 30 other species of GM fish under development, including tilapia and trout. Researchers are also working to bring GM cows, chickens and pigs to market.
In Panama City, government officials are upbeat about AquaBounty's prospects of getting its fish to market. "From what we know it is very close to being approved. There have been tests for many years and the last thing we heard from the FDA is that there is a very good probability that it is going to be approved in the near future," said Giovanni Lauri, the director of the Aquatic Resources Authority of Panama, Arap.
Aquabounty's GM salmon fish farm

Aquabounty's GM salmon fish farm in Boquete, Panama Photo: Sheena Rossiter

AquaBounty must still overcome formidable opposition from supermarkets and consumer organisations, environmental groups and commercial fishermen to sell its fish, however. The prospect of introducing GM fish into the food supply has generated enormous passions, with the FDA receiving 36,000 comments on the fish so far, most of them opposing the move. But after 20 years, AquaBounty's efforts to bring GM animals to the table are getting closer to reality.
There was little outward sign of history in the making – or of the enormous controversy surrounding GM salmon at AquaBounty's remote Panamanian location on the banks of the Calderas river in the western highlands of Chiriqui province. At the premises, visitors can see a fading green industrial shed and four large above-ground pools behind a high wire fence. On the site are up to 5,000 salmon,according to Arap officials say.
The only evidence of AquaBounty's presence is a small round company decal next to the front door of the shack. Signs warn: "No pasar". The place seems deserted at first, then a guard suddenly emerges when visitors approach the wire fence.
The facility is leased from a commercial fish farm that produces non-GM rainbow trout for export to the US. Access to both farms is by four-wheel drive across a river bed or a rusting footbridge, kept padlocked to keep out intruders. It's a strange arrangement; the non-GM fish farm also raises organic trout for the upmarket supermarket Whole Foods. But the chain is deeply opposed to genetically engineered salmon, and said last month it would boycott the fish if it came to market.
Luis Lamastus, the owner of the trout farm and AquaBounty's landlord, has a different view: "These kind of fish are the future."
It was not entirely clear why Aquabounty chose this out-of-the-way location to raise GM fish for market, or indeed why it chose Panama at all – the company refused to comment for this article.
A genetically modified salmon, rear, and a non-genetically modified salmon, foreground. Photograph:

A genetically modified salmon, rear, and a non-genetically modified salmon, foreground. Photograph  AP
AquaBounty has had a long and difficult journey trying to develop GM fish in the 20 years since researchers at a university in Newfoundland first hit on the idea of making a faster-growing salmon.
The researchers injected growth genes from a Chinook salmon and a seal eel into an Atlantic salmon. The new genes made the fish produce growth hormone year-round, enabling the altered salmon to grow twice as fast as farmed salmon, bringing the fish up to market size in 18 months instead of 30.
But despite the commercial potential, Panamanian government officials at Arap said AquaBounty had difficulties finding a place to grow their salmon to market size. Arap's Giovanni Lauri said he understood AquaBounty had approached a number of other countries seeking to set up a research site.
"They tried many countries but they were afraid to start something new," Lauri said. After multiple refusals, the company eventually turned to Panama, where the project won a warm welcome from government officials. Lauri said officials had few concerns about the potential health and environmental risks of growing GM salmon in Panama. "We were not afraid of something new," he said.
The first few years brought mixed results. A storm in 2008 destroyed part of the facility, according to a filing to the FDA. In 2010 an entire batch of fingerlings died in transit to the Panama facility, according to Franklin Kwai Ben, research director of Arap. The company then switched to importing eggs from a research lab in Prince Edward Island in Canada, hatching them at the Panama facility, according to officials. All the while AquaBounty worked to navigate the American regulatory process and win approval for the GM salmon, while trying to fend off financial pressure. The company has run through more than $60m waiting for the FDA. Last year, its main investor, the Georgian oligarch Kakha Bendukidze, sold his shares to a synthetic biology firm, Intrexon.
With the FDA nearing its decision, Panamanian officials began to hope their hospitality to AquaBounty would help gain the country an entry to the biotech industry.
"We have been talking to them. We want to be the first to have different farms," Lauri said. His clear expectation was that this approval would clear the way for production of other GM fish, such as tilapia or trout, possibly at facilities on Panamanian soil. "Once they have salmon then I am pretty sure they are going to look for some other species," he said.
Under the law, however, FDA approval would only allow AquaBounty to produce salmon at its existing facility. Other GM fish, or a move to a full-scale commercial facility would require additional approvals, according to Theresa Eisenman, a spokeswoman for the FDA.
The Obama administration has been weighing its decision on GM food animals for at least three years, after the FDA produced its first detailed study on the effects of consuming the animals on human health, essentially concluding it was as safe to eat the genetically engineered fish as conventional Atlantic salmon. Some campaign groups still dispute the finding, saying that GM salmon potentially has more allergens.
But the study that brought GM fish closer to market, published late last year, focused on the environmental impact. The main concern of the FDA was whether the genetically engineered salmon could escape and because of its superior size conceivably take over wild Atlantic salmon. The study concluded that even if the fish did slip through the net and escape the above-ground pools, it is unlikely they would travel far. The nearby waters would be too warm for them to survive.
But those determinations came under attack from campaign groups and upscale supermarkets, as well as members of Congress concerned about the threat to wild-caught salmon industry.
Opponents of the fish argued America's regulatory system was ill-equipped to deal with new technologies such as GM foods. Unlike Europe, America has no specific laws for GM products, but regulates them as "animal drugs".
Emma Ruby-Sachs, campaign director at Avaaz, said: "The approval of transgenic salmon could open the floodgates for genetically modified meat everywhere, yet the science behind its safety has been sloppy at best. If the FDA approves this GM salmon, it risks undermining its mandate to protect public health."
Campaign groups said the current review process did not take adequate account of the sweeping changes in store for the global food supply, once GM food starts hitting the market.
"You have GM corn and soybeans," said Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food and Water Watch, which has campaigned against GM foods. "But this would be the first food animal. You are taking it to a whole other part of the food supply," she said.
There were specific concerns raised about the use of a facility in Panama for the launch of the first GM fish.
Supermarket chains said there was no need for GM salmon, andannounced a boycott. "Whole Foods Market will not sell genetically modified salmon as our quality standards prohibit the use of genetically modified animals," Beth Krauss, a spokeswoman for Whole Foods said in an email.
The company also said it was unhappy about the proximity of the GM salmon to its own trout. The two facilities are separated only by a shallow trench. Krauss indicated she hoped that AquaBounty would be forced to leave once it lease expires later this year.
But Lamastus said he would renew the lease. "They are a very good company," he said. "The salmon is something unique, growth faster, but is the same like the Atlantic salmon, producers will use less feed probably, and less feed means less pressure on our seas, to obtain more fish for consumers, and for feed; therefore, it is good for the environment!"
In their temperature-controlled waters, kept at a constant 16C, the salmon in the Panamanian rainforest are oblivious to the ferocious debate about the future of GM animals. The 5,000 or so fish now reaching maturity at the AquaBounty site are the biggest GM salmon ever raised by the company, weighing in at 5kg a piece. Under the protocols put in place by the FDA, the fish can not enter the food supply. They are due to be slaughtered in September and buried in a pit on the banks of the nearby Caldera river, according to Franklin Kwai Ben, who heads the research division at Arap.
But it could be the last time such a mass disposal is carried out. The Panama site got a shipment of about 25,000 eggs from their lab in Prince Edward Island last month. By the time those fish reach maturity, some 18 months from now, they could be bound for American supermarkets instead.
Data Source: The Guardian

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sustainable Santa Monica

Join SPRC in partnership with Yale Blue Green on the Sustainable Santa Monica tour on April 10, 2013.  The tour is part of the Association of American Geographers 2013 Annual Meeting in Los Angeles.

Sustainable Santa Monica

Wednesday, April 10, 10:00am - 6:00pm

Organizer: Georgia Silvera Seamans, Sustainable Pacific Rim Cities and Yale Blue Green

Leaders: Brenden McEneaney, City of Santa Monica; NRDC; and Steve Glenn, LivingHomes

Trip Capacity: 20

Cost/person: $5(bring money for Big Blue Bus fare, lunch)