Top 6 Facts and Images that Blew EcoBrandi’s Mind in 2014

These are not in a particular order. Just six things that surprised me or shifted my thinking this year.

  1. Delivery of food can cut down on cumulative food milesThe cumulative “food miles” associated with our diets are impacted dramatically by the frequency of our individual trips to the stores, and even farmers’ markets to purchase food (unless we walk or bike). Consider when thousands of pounds of food arrive by truck from even as far as California, the miles per pound of food for that leg of the trip is dwarfed by the miles that thousands of households driving to and from the store to purchase our individual grocery needs. Kinda makes a good case for home delivery of food by a truck that can cover multiple deliveries within one area. Luckily, there are local vendors such as Greenling and Farmhouse Delivery who can help you with just that. Of course air travel is still the worst, so skip the “just flown in from the coast” fish as well as other time-sensitive international delicacies to cut the carbon footprint of your meals. Source: Thanks to the CIty of Austin’s Food Policy Coordinator Edwin Marty for raising this local travel point that I had never considered before.

  1. The amount of environmental destruction and harm to human health that is associated with eating animals and animal products is completely unsustainable. SourcWatch the documentary Forks Over Knivese: I watched two documentaries this year that really gave me pause. The film Forks Over Knives (available on Netflix) draws the connection between diet and disease and makes the health case for eating a predominantly whole-food, plant-based diet. Note: it also features Austin firefighter-turned health evangelist Rip Esselstyn developer (with his physician father) of the Engine 2 Diet now-being promoted by Whole Foods Market. The provocative and enlightening documentary Cowspiracy makes the environmental case, loud and clear. When you combine the pollution and emissions (more than all forms of transportation combined), deforestation and loss of biodiversity, water and other resource consumption, (not to mention the cruelty to animals), nothing else comes close to the level of global environmental impact…and yet major environmental groups are not taking on the production or consumption of animal products proportional to its impact. Please educate yourself about these issues and then make choices that honor our planet and all the living beings on it.

  2. The amount of CO2 equivalents that will be avoided by flaring Austin’s landfill gas will have more carbon impact than implementing the entire rest of our Zero Waste plan. Of course there are MANY other reasons to embrace the full resource recovery strategy (capturing the highest value for materials, creating jobs and other economic development, social justice impacts of landfill siting and management, etc), but getting 100% of our local landfills set up with capturing and/or flaring is a climate priority. I learned this in a Community Climate Materials and Methane Technical Advisory group meeting this fall.

  3. People's Climate March on New York 2014After numerous fruitless international climate talks, and no meaningful carbon policy in the United States, we are seeing signs of hope that faceless, long-horizon threat of climate change may be getting taken seriously, despite the fact that its impacts stretch well beyond corporate quarterly reports and terms of office for elected officials. It seems that perhaps a LOT of dedicated scientists (IPCC report), policymakers, millions of demonstrators (Climate March in NYC), and one very committed Pope may be able to move the needle on climate. The December 2014 Climate talks in Lima, Peru show signs of cooperation among the big players of China and the United States. For now the XL Keystone Pipeline is not moving forward. And the man credited with helping thaw relations between Cuba and United States is making it his mission to influence action on climate change including the UN climate talks in Paris in December 2015. 

  4. Since childhood, I’ve been comfortable with the fact that 70% of our planet is covered with water, with less than 1% of that available and fresh. So it came as quite a shock for me to learn about our extremely limited global water volume, EVEN INCLUDING THE OCEANS. If you took all the water in all the oceans, seas, ice caps, lakes, groundwater and atmosphere and rolled it into a sphere, its diameter would be little more than the distance from El Paso to Texarkana. If you only included liquid freshwater it would would be a ball from Austin to Houston and 99% of that would be groundwater. If you only focused on surface water, your sphere would be 35 miles wide. Shrink earth to the size of a basketball and the water would be sphere with the diameter of a quarter. That’s how much wiggle room we have when it comes to dumping waste and washing toxic effluent into our earthly bodies of water. Source: I credit SXSW Eco Keynote speaker, Dr. Syliva Earle with bringing this image to my attention. Learn more about her important work to save the worlds' oceans with Mission Blue.

  5. Austin elected it’s first staunchly anti-environmental council member to Austin City Council (at least in my memory.) I look at this as both disappointing, mainly due to the media’s tendency to give equal attention opposing sides of issues, even if most people disagree with the opposition. On the bright side, having a more politically diverse council will hopefully produce results for the environment and other topics that will be more easily replicated across the country, and not just a few liberal oases.

I'm sure if I thought about it for awhile there would be more but these were the biggies for me this year. What were yours?

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