How Growers Gamed California’s Drought

The record drought now entering its fourth year in California has alarmed the public, left a number of rural communities without drinking water, and triggered calls for mandatory rationing. There’s no relief in sight: The winter rainy season, which was a bust again this year, officially ends on April 15. Nevertheless, some large-scale farmers are enjoying extraordinary profits despite the drought, thanks in part to infusions of what experts call dangerously under-priced water.

Agriculture is the heart of California’s worsening water crisis, and the stakes extend far beyond the state’s borders. Not only is California the world’s eighth largest economy, it is an agricultural superpower. It produces roughly half of all the fruits, nuts, and vegetables consumed in the United States—and more than 90 percent of the almonds, tomatoes, strawberries, broccoli and other specialty crops—while exporting vast amounts to China and other overseas customers...

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Costa Rica goes 75 days powering itself using only renewable energy

Costa Rica has achieved a clean energy milestone by using 100 per cent renewable energy for a record 75 days in a row.

The feat was achieved thanks to heavy rainfall, which powered four hydroelectric plants in the first three months of the year, the state-run Costa Rican Electricity Institute said.

No fossil fuels have been burnt to generate electricity since December 2014, in the state which is renowned for its clean energy policies.

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Texas city opts for 100% renewable energy – to save cash, not the planet

News that a Texas city is to be powered by 100% renewable energy sparked surprise in an oil-obsessed, Republican-dominated state where fossil fuels are king and climate change activists were described as “the equivalent of the flat-earthers” by US senator and GOP presidential hopeful Ted Cruz.

“I was called an Al Gore clone, a tree-hugger,” says Jim Briggs, interim city manager of Georgetown, a community of about 50,000 people some 25 miles north of Austin.

Briggs, who was a key player in Georgetown’s decision to become the first city in the Lone Star State to be powered by 100% renewable energy, has worked for the city for 30 years. He wears a belt with shiny silver decorations and a gold ring with a lone star motif, and is keen to point out that he is not some kind of California-style eco-warrior with a liberal agenda. In fact, he is a staunchly Texan pragmatist.

“I’m probably the furthest thing from an Al Gore clone you could find,” he says. “We didn’t do this to save the world – we did this to get a competitive rate and reduce the risk for our consumers.”

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SolarCity launches community microgrids with Tesla batteries

SolarCity, well-known for rooftop solar systems, is expanding to so-called microgrids, larger power systems that can be tapped by communities when the power grid goes down.

The systems, which add generators and software to manage the power to standard solar panels, will include Tesla Motors batteries to store the energy generated. While the owner can tap the solar power for daily use, the main purpose is to maintain electricity in the event of a natural disaster such as an earthquake or hurricane.

"There has been a dramatic increase in severe weather events the last few years - climate-related, almost certainly - and its led to more grid outages," SolarCity spokesman Jonathan Bass noted, pointing to the storm known as Sandy that hit the Northeast last year as a prominent recent example.

The company is targeting cities that are in the line of fire for such catastrophic events for the new service.

"Traditionally, microgrids have been used in campuses, medical facilities and military bases, and we will pursue some of those opportunities if they become available," said Daidipya Patwa, who is leading SolarCity's microgrid efforts, "but our primary target is municipalities, communities and areas with a weak grid or no grid at all."

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Mexico Pledges to Cut Emissions 25 Percent in Climate Change Milestone

Mexico has become the first developing nation to formally promise to cut its global-warming pollution, a potential milestone in efforts to reach a worldwide agreement on tackling climate change.

Mexico expects greenhouse-gas emissions to peak by 2026 and then decline, Environment Minister Juan Jose Guerra Abud said at a news conference in Mexico City Friday. The nation has pledged to curb the growth of pollutants 25 percent from its current trajectory by 2030.

The United Nations is encouraging more than 190 countries to submit by March 31 formal plans detailing how they will curb greenhouse-gas emissions. These documents are a key step leading up to a December meeting in Paris where negotiators expect to complete a global climate-change agreement, and most nations are going to miss the deadline. Mexico’s plan is only the fourth submission, after the European Union, Switzerland and Norway.

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Neil DeGrasse Tyson Blasts Florida's Alleged Ban on Discussing Climate Change

Neil DeGrasse Tyson has now weighed in on Florida's alleged ban on using the words "climate change" and "global warming" in government communications. The astrophysicist-turned-TV-star told a Sarasota, Fla., crowd on Monday that he was astonished by the report, adding he thought "as a nation we were better than this."

"Now we have a time where people are cherry picking science," Tyson said, according to the Herald Tribune of Sarasota. "The science is not political. That's like repealing gravity because you gained 10 pounds last week."

"Debating facts takes time away from the conversation," Tyson said, according to the Bradenton Herald. "We should be talking about what we are going to do about this. I don't blame the politicians for a damn thing because we vote for the politician. I blame the electorate."

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US museums asked to sever ties with fossil fuel industry

Climate scientists and cultural figures called on national history and science museums on Tuesday to sever their ties to the fossil fuel industry, singling out a major patron from the Koch family of conservative oil billionaires.

Corporate sponsorships from the fossil fuel industry threatened the credibility of important institutions and eroded the public trust, the scientists said in a letter.

“We are concerned that the integrity of these institutions is compromised by association with special interests who obfuscate climate science, fight environmental regulation, oppose clean energy legislation, and seek to ease limits on industrial pollution,” the letter signed by nearly three dozen scientists and museum professionals said.

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Farm in a box produces an acre's worth of crops in a shipping container

Along with "exponentially higher" yields, the CropBox promises that their complete growing system also uses 90% less water and 80% less fertilizer than conventional agriculture does.

The CropBox, which is manufactured by long-time greenhouse builder Williamson Greenhouses, is an outgrowth of a project of Ben Greene and Tyler Nethers, who are developing the Farmery, an urban farm and grocery in North Carolina that uses shipping containers to grow strawberries, greens, lettuces, herbs, and gourmet mushrooms.

The shipping containers, which can fit 2800 planting spots in the 320 square feet (~ 30 square meters), are outfitted with grow lights, planting racks, a heating and ventilation system, all of the necessary hydroponic components (reservoir, pump, control & monitoring system), and a complete suite of 18 sensors for monitoring just about every environmental condition inside the container. Additionally, the networked computer system that runs the CropBox can be accessed and managed from a smartphone or web interface, and provides a complete log of records for analyzing the unit's performance.

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- CROPBOX

France decrees new rooftops must be covered in plants or solar panels

Rooftops on new buildings built in commercial zones in France must either be partially covered in plants or solar panels, under a law approved on Thursday.

The law approved by parliament was more limited in scope than initial calls by French environmental activists to make green roofs that cover the entire surface mandatory on all new buildings.

The Socialist government convinced activists to limit the scope of the law to commercial buildings.

The law was also made less onerous for businesses by requiring only part of the roof to be covered with plants, and giving them the choice of installing solar panels to generate electricity instead.

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How To Easily Create Your Own Food Security

If you’re fed up reading labels in the grocery store trying to find some real food that won’t kill you, I feel your pain. Not to worry, there is a solution and it’s awesome. The truth is, you don’t need to depend on food corporations or the government to keep you healthy. Why would you want to anyways?

All you need is a bit of space (provided you don’t live in a cave, in which case you’d have to settle on button mushrooms). Even if you have a small apartment or a small yard you can still grow quite a bit of food. You can even grow tomatoes in a small studio apartment. For those of you that have a moderate to large sized yard, follow suit on the picture story below. This is how to create REAL health security. It’s time to stop consuming and start producing...

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