From The Globe & Mail:

This fall, Vancouver city workers will start planting some 3,000 trees, the first of the planned 150,000 called for in the city’s 2011 Greenest City Action Plan.

The cost for the first batch of trees – to be planted on both private and city-owned land – is $650,000 of the city’s budget of about $1-billion. The investment is geared to more than shade and eye appeal. Vancouver, like other cities around the world, is looking to its urban forest for benefits ranging from energy savings to pollution control.

While such benefits have long been acknowledged, technology is making it easier to measure them – in the process, helping to build a business case for greenery.

“It’s getting easier to quantify the environmental services provided by trees, because there are programs that we have been able to plug into that give us that information,” said Beth McEwen, manager of urban forest renewal with the City of Toronto, which in 2005 announced plans to boost its tree canopy from about 20 per cent to 40 per cent over the next 50 years.

Toronto used i-Tree – software developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service – for a 2010 report, Every Tree Counts, which mapped the city’s tree cover and calculated what role trees played in, for example, reducing air pollution. Vancouver will be testing the software this fall, but has not done a cost-benefit analysis of its tree-planting target. Still, the city considers it a solid investment.

“There are social and economic benefits – including cleaner air, habitat for wildlife, increased property values and neighbourhood pride, to name a few,” Ms. Blyth said.

Check out the rest of the article here.

(Photo: Open File)

Lester Brown on ‘How the battle for water will reshape our world’

From AlterNet via YouTube:

By 2025, two-thirds of people worldwide are expected to face water shortages as businesses, agriculture and growing populations compete for the ever more precious commodity.

Map source: Water for Life Decade (UN)

Tools for Change: ‘Smart Environmental Policy with Full-Cost Pricing’

From The Pacific Institute of Climate Solutions via YouTube:

Canada’s natural resources, ecosystems and wildlife are indispensable to the sustainability of our planet and economy. Despite this, both the public and private sectors do not adequately consider the environmental consequences of production and consumption when calculating their bottom line. There is a growing need for full-cost pricing, a system that adjusts market prices to reflect not only the direct costs of goods and services, but also their impact on our country’s natural capital. Presenting the findings of a March 2012 paper, Dr. Olewiler argues that the onus is on the federal government to create the conditions for full-cost pricing to succeed.

Nancy Olewiler is the Director of the School of Public Policy at Simon Fraser University. Her areas of research include natural resource and environmental economics and policy. She has published extensively, written two widely used textbooks (The Economics of Natural Resource Use and Environmental Economics), and produced numerous reports for the Canadian federal and provincial governments, including studies on energy and climate policy, natural capital, and federal business tax policy. Nancy is the Chair of the TransLink Board of Directors, and has previously served on the boards of BC Hydro and several of its subsidiaries. She is also a member of advisory committees for Statistics Canada, WWF-Canada, Sustainable Prosperity and the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions. 

The Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions has lots of other great solutions oriented talks here


(Graphic source: TEEB4me)

Infographic: ‘The Mysterious Death of Western Honey Bees’  
Related: 'Vanishing of the Bees - Ellen Page' (YouTube)
(Infographic source: FFunction via Ethical Ocean)

Infographic: ‘The Mysterious Death of Western Honey Bees’  

Related: 'Vanishing of the Bees - Ellen Page' (YouTube)

(Infographic source: FFunction via Ethical Ocean)

Animating Biodiversity, Ecosystems & Sustainability: 'Not Another Nature Film'

From Green TV

A specially-commissioned animation featuring the voice of Stephen Merchant explaining, in simple terms, the state of our natural world, and our impacts on it.

From The Guardian:

Countries must take urgent steps to value their natural capital – such as forests, peatlands and coastal areas – as part of their economic development, the World Bank has urged.

Placing a monetary value on natural ecosystems is a key step on the road to “green” economic growth, according to the World Bank, which published a report on green growth on Wednesday at a conference in Seoul, Korea.

By making such estimates, countries can develop policies that ensure the pursuit of economic growth does not occur at the expense of future growth potential, by destroying natural assets such as water sources or polluting air, rivers and soil.

Rachel Kyte, vice president for sustainable development at the bank, said that the patterns on which economic growth had been achieved in recent decades were unsustainable, because of the amount of environmental degradation involved.

She said: "At current rates, we are in danger of undermining the basis on which growth has been achieved in the last decades. We do not believe that current growth patterns are sustainable."

She gave the example of the government of Thailand, which has moved towards more environmentally sustainable growth by attempting to place a value on its mangrove swamps. The exercise has been illuminating – chopping down mangrove for wood gives a return of less than $1,000 per hectare; removing the mangroves to make room for a shrimp farm might generate nearly $10,000 per hectare; but if the mangrove swamps were retained and their importance in providing a barrier against floods was taken into account, they could be valued at more than $16,000 per hectare.

Kyte acknowledged that few countries had so far taken steps to evaluate their natural systems in this way, and said the failure to do so had contributed to countries allowing their environment to be degraded in the pursuit of short term economic growth.

In 2010, India said it would become the first country in the world to publish accounts of its natural wealth as well as financial measurements such as GDP.

Check out the rest of the article here.

(Infographic credits: Metro VancouverFAO)

Thinking Globally: ‘Living Planet Report 2012’ - Ecological Footprint Index

From WWF:

‎”The Living Planet Report is the world’s leading, science-based analysis on the health of our only planet and the impact of human activity. Its key finding? Humanity’s demands exceed our planet’s capacity to sustain us.” 

You can find your country and see how it compares to others using the interactive Eco Footprint calculator above. 


'How to be a conscious consumer' (WWF)

'Earth's environment getting worse, not better, says WWF ahead of Rio+20' (The Guardian)

From The Vancouver Sun:

Companion planting has been around for centuries, a method that many organic gardeners use to try to protect certain vulnerable crops from insect predation, for instance, using marigolds to deter beetles and carrot fly.

Or — less believably — to improve the flavours of certain vegetables, such as planting basil among tomatoes.

But you can use an amped-up form of companion planting — succession interplanting — to double the output of each of your garden beds by pairing up plants that will grow together in close quarters without interfering with each other and then following with a full second crop for fall and winter. It is possible to get as many as four crops per bed in a single growing season.

You won’t end up with nice rows of identical plants like you see in magazines, those mini-mono-crops. But the esthetic loss is diversity’s gain and it’s not so hard on your soil.

If you have a lot of space, try some or all of these mixed bed plans. If space is tight, try one to start and see how it works for you.

There are no tomatoes in this plan. Grow them in a separate bed with plenty of space around them. Some plants can’t be crowded and few are more likely to disappoint when things don’t go their way than tomatoes.

Check out the rest of the article here and Wikipedia for a list of companion plants.

(Infographic credit: New Scientist via SeaCoast Eat Local)

From The Times Colonist:

A Canadian researcher is at the centre of a provocative new international study that puts an eye-popping price tag on the damage being done to the world’s oceans and fisheries - a cost that could reach $2 trillion a year by 2100 - from carbon emissions, over-fertilization, over-fishing and other human impacts.

University of British Columbia fisheries economist Rashid Sumaila, a leading critic of international fishing policies, is co-editor of the 300-page Valuing The Ocean report released last week at the high-profile Planet Under Pressure environmental conference in Britain.

The study, touted as a “unique,” monetary assessment of global ocean health and threats, is the latest attempt by ecosystem-conscious scientists to affix financial value to planetary resources taken for granted in traditional models of economic activity.

The project was coordinated by the Swedish-based Stockholm Environment Institute, which said in a statement that “the ocean is the victim of a massive market failure,” and that "the true worth of its ecosystems, services, and functions is persistently ignored by policy-makers and largely excluded from wider economic and development strategies."

Sumaila said that “the combined global and local threats to the ocean are unprecedented in human history. Incremental change and business-as-usual will not suffice.”

But the global ocean crisis “can be rectified,” the UBC researcher added, “if the ocean and the services it provides are placed at the heart of global efforts to build a green economy for the future.”

Check out the rest of the article here.

(Photo credit: Hani Amir via David Suzuki)