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Category — Environment

Satellite images reveal shocking groundwater loss in California


“Most climate models indicate that by the end of this century, the dry regions of the world will become drier.”

By Karen Kaplan
Los Angeles Times
Oct 2, 2014


The severity of California’s drought continues to shock, with the latest example coming courtesy of NASA.

The space agency’s two Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, or GRACE, satellites have been been in orbit since 2002, making highly sensitive measurements of Earth’s gravity field. Variations in the gravity field can be caused by a number of factors, including the amount of water stored underground in soil and rocks.

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October 8, 2014   No Comments

Creating a Pesticide Free Neighborhood in Portland

The Pesticide Free Project has passed its 1-year mark, and has gotten 400 homes to sign the pesticide free pledge

By Rebecca Gerendasy
Cooking Up a Story
Sept 2014


As Melco explains in the video, the main goal of the project is to protect residents, especially babies and young children— from chronic, low-level exposure to potentially harmful chemicals. Through a partnership with Portland Metro, The Xerces Society, and Backyard Habitat Certification Program, Melco and her team are going door to door canvasing the 2500 homes to educate homeowners.

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September 27, 2014   Comments Off

Birds and berries in my grandmother’s garden


Worthy, indeed, is the garden that is planted, not for beauty alone, but for the welfare of Nature’s children as well.

By the Bird Man.


A host of fruit-loving birds lived in the garden in early summer. They feasted continuously on choke and wild cherries, and cloyingly sweet mulberries. Seldom at any other season, did the shy, elusive cedar wax-wings enter the garden, but love of the purple fruit of the mulberry dispelled all fear in June. The bluebirds and orioles were equally fond of it, but they must, perchance, satisfy their appetites with that which fell to the ground, for the wax-wings claimed the trees.

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September 26, 2014   Comments Off

‘Lawn Dude’ Prods Californians to Battle Drought by Conserving Water


Gov. Jerry Brown, meanwhile, has asked residents across the state to cut water use by 20%, a goal that has proved slippery so far. In some areas of the state, landscaping accounts for half of daily water use …

By Tamara Audi
Wall Street Journal
Aug. 1, 2014


The new mascot will be popping up on billboards donated by Clear Channel Outdoor across the parched region, spouting catchphrases like “Don’t hose me man!” as reminders to refrain from overwatering lawns. On another billboard, Lawn Dude carries a martini glass holding a daisy and says, “I only drink 2 days a week”—a nod to limits on outdoor irrigation to twice a week in some communities.

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August 9, 2014   Comments Off

The Hidden Dangers of Lead in Urban Gardens

Click on image for larger file. Fig. 1. A vacant lot urban farm highlighting abiotic challenges of urban agriculture, including: elevated atmospheric concentrations of industrial pollutants (A), elevated atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases from traffic emissions (B), contaminated storm water runoff (C), Pb-contaminated soils adjacent to aging housing stock (e.g., paint chips) (D), soils contaminated by heavy metals and/or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (E), unpredictable access to municipal water sources (F), potentially contaminated recycled water sources (e.g., rainwater harvesting) (G), reduced light and wind speed due to the built environment (H), increased mechanical heat (e.g., air conditioners) (I), and increased surface temperatures from pavement and rooftops (J). Credits: This illustration from Sam Worman’s study shows the myriad challenges of urban gardeners, including lead sources.

When Ryan Kuck’s young twins both tested positive for elevated lead levels in their blood he was worried — but not surprised.

By Karen Pinchin
Modern Farmer
July 28, 2014


When it comes to remediation, there are a few ways to deal with the problem. One is cap-and-fill (covering over an existing lot with cement, then trucking in soil and building a garden overtop), which is preferred by many municipal governments, simply because it buries the problem, says Wortman. There is also phytoremediation, in which plants slightly better at absorbing lead, like mustards and sunflowers, are planted on vacant land, then harvested and disposed of over a long period of time. While this technique is trendy right now, probably because it feels like “using nature to heal nature,” Wortman says it isn’t practical or effective.

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August 5, 2014   Comments Off

The Urban Bestiary: Encountering the Everyday Wild Hardcover


From the bestselling author of Crow Planet, a compelling journey into the secret lives of the wild animals at our back door.

By Lyanda Lynn Haupt
Little, Brown and Company
Sept 17, 2013

In The Urban Bestiary, acclaimed nature writer Lyanda Lynn Haupt journeys into the heart of the everyday wild, where coyotes, raccoons, chickens, hawks, and humans live in closer proximity than ever before. Haupt’s observations bring compelling new questions to light: Whose “home” is this? Where does the wild end and the city begin? And what difference does it make to us as humans living our everyday lives?

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August 2, 2014   Comments Off

Andrea Reynosa planted a 6,000-square-foot field with clover in Brooklyn


Artists Probe Urban Agriculture

By Allison Meier
July 1, 2014


In collaboration with Smack Mellon’s FOODshed, Alloy real estate development, and Brooklyn Grange, artist Andrea Reynosa planted a 6,000-square-foot field with clover that is sprouting red flowers alongside the Manhattan Bridge. The space was formerly a parking lot. The flourish of vibrancy is temporary, but Reynosa is planning that through the clover, a site that might otherwise be an empty construction lot will have life that will in turn ameliorate the soil before a condominium moves in.

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July 19, 2014   Comments Off

The University of Minnesota is studying whether urban farming can reduce heat in metropolitan areas.

Robin Major of Stone’s Throw Urban Farm.

“If you’re farming in a city, then you’re taking what used to be an impervious surface with little vegetation and making it pervious and growing vegetation”

By Lyra Fontaine
Minnesota Daily
July 02, 2014


This summer, new University research will explore a new way of mitigating heat islands — urban farming — which could help reduce heat in metropolitan areas while providing a source of fresh produce and groceries to cities.

This has yet to be explored, said Katherine Klink, a geography, environment and society associate professor.

“People just haven’t thought of [urban farms] as a potential heat island mitigation strategy,” Klink said.

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July 18, 2014   Comments Off

Greenhouse in Toronto’s Wychwood Park helps community gardens

Stop’s Green Barn: Greenhouse & Compost Demonstration Centre

Videographer Audra Brown visits a century old former streetcar repair building that has been converted into a greenhouse.
City News Toronto
June 1, 2014

Excerpt from Stop’s website:

The Stop’s Green Barn is a heritage building re-designed to Gold LEED environmental standards that grows year-round organic produce.

The Green Barn houses a 3,000-square-foot state-of-the-art greenhouse in which we grow a variety of produce, including kale, Swiss chard, lettuce, herbs, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, grapefruit, pineapple, Meyer lemons, Mizuna mustard, baby bok choy, chilies, nasturtiums, geraniums, bananas, oranges, avocado, cassava, taro, sweet potato, Indian spinach, jade, lemon balm, figs, marigold, tamarind, radishes, sprouts, callaloo, aloe vera, and olive.

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June 10, 2014   Comments Off

Urban Agriculture – Innovative water recirculation systems

Fresh City workers trim sprouts. Credit: Fresh City.

How urban agriculture set-ups cultivate local produce with the help of innovative water recirculation systems.

By Saul Chernos
Water Canada
May 12, 2014


“We’re trying to reduce our footprint on the environment as much as we possibly can,” explains Lauren Rathmell, a founding member who oversees Lufa’s greenhouse operations. She says Lufa’s hydroponic greenhouses use up to 90 per cent less water than comparable ones that don’t recirculate. “It’s all automated. We irrigate most of our plants using drip lines set up where we water the plants from above. Water that’s not taken up by the plants and doesn’t evaporate is captured, sent down to our collection tank, filtered, and reused.” Some plants, mostly the lettuces, grow with their roots submerged entirely in gently flowing water, continuously irrigated. Others sit in soilless coconut husk grow sacs.

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May 26, 2014   Comments Off

Food Safety News – Safely integrating urban agriculture

Frequent Watering of the Victory Garden Is Necessary During the Early Stages of Growth. ca. 02:1943
Watering the Victory Garden. 1943.

While growing food within city limits is exciting for urban dwellers, it also raises some unique food safety issues.

By Kelly Damewood
Food Safety News
May 2, 2014


To be clear, my opinion is that urban farmers and gardeners can absolutely keep livestock safely within the city limits. However, my experience has been that urban livestock keepers are also more likely to be novices. As a result, I have seen some unfortunate situations where people underestimate the amount of attention baby goats need or the dedication it takes to milk a goat every day.

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May 23, 2014   Comments Off

When it comes to using pallets in the garden, proceed with caution

Sample ISPM logo showing the MB for methyl bromide treatment of the wood.

Pallet manufacturers in Canada and the United States must now either heat-treat or fumigate pallets as a precaution against such pests as the emerald ash borer.

Organic Gardening
June 2014


Discarded shipping pallets, long used as construction material by gardeners, have now been discovered by crafters. But recent regulations designed to prevent invasive pests from hitching a ride in the wood mean some pallets really shouldn’t be used in the garden or home (or burned for fuel, either).

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May 16, 2014   Comments Off

Concerns about toxic soils in New York’s Community Gardens

Photo by Richard B. Levine.

In New York City, there are more than 700 community gardens and urban farms.

By Vinnie Mancuso
New York Observer


Bad news for people who like to support their local community gardens when shopping for their vegetables. Good news for people who love ingesting arsenic and lead with their vegetables.

The New York Post reports that a study on soil contamination by the state Center for Environmental Health found toxic soil at 70 percent of New York’s gardens. A shocking 44 percent of the total gardens had lead levels above federal guidelines.

A Freedom of Information Law request by the Post revealed the exact names and locations those gardens most contaminated. Brooklyn did not come out looking so hot.

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May 13, 2014   Comments Off

RUAF: Urban Agriculture as a Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy


RUAF Urban Agriculture Magazine No. 27, March 2014

RUAF-Foundation (International network of Resource centres on Urban Agriculture and Food security)
March 2014


This issue is prepared with support of the UN Habitat Cities and Climate Change Initiative. It reports on the joint urban agriculture programme implemented by RUAF and UN Habitat. This issue also shares findings of a CDKN funded innovation project on monitoring urban agriculture impacts on climate change.

Cities and climate change are virtually inseparable. Cities are major contributors to Green House Gas (GHG) emissions and thus climate change.

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April 18, 2014   Comments Off

ARUP’s ‘Cities Alive’ – 3.1 Integrating Urban Food

Eco-city, China by Arup.

Report envisages cities of the future as integrated networks of intelligent green spaces, designed to improve the health and wellbeing of citizens.

Cities Alive
April 2014
160 pages

Excerpt: Pages. 85-89

“Rooftop farms in some of the world’s most crowded cities, including Hong Kong, New York and Tokyo, are adding green to the gray. They are reconnecting city dwellers with nature, teaching consumers about homegrown food and offering a glimpse, perhaps, of a more secure and sustainable food supply.”
—Mary Hui, New York Times (2012)

Many commentors now predict that we will see peak food around the world in the next two decades— we will begin to consume more food than we can possibly produce. Following that, alternatives to the current model of mass agriculture will have to be found. A big potential for an alternative model lies within the idea of the natural city.

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April 9, 2014   Comments Off