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Report outlines algae biofuel sustainability issues

A raceway pond used for the cultivation of microalgae. The water is kept in constant motion with a powered paddle wheel. Photo courtesy the Wikimedia Commons.

Water availability, nutrient use seen as key challenges

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Algae-based biofuels have been touted as the next big thing in renewable energy. But based on existing technologies, production on a significant scale — for example enough to supply 5 percent of U.S. transportation fuel needs — would put unsustainable demands on energy, water, and nutrients, according to a new report from the National Research Council.

But those concerns are not a definitive barrier for future production, the report concluded, emphasizing that technical innovations could change the equation.

Biofuels derived from algae and cyanobacteria could help the U.S. meet its energy security needs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Potential advantages over biofuels made from land plants, including algae’s ability to grow on non-croplands in cultivation ponds of freshwater, salt water, or wastewater. Continue reading

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A test drive for the sustainable ski industry model

Grassroots group strives toward sustainable ski industry.

Mountain Rider’s Alliance partners with sustainable engineering group to refine vision

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — The Mountain Rider’s Alliance vision for a sustainable ski industry is about to grow some flesh and bones, as the grassroots group partners with a well-known engineering firm to develop specific plans for carbon-neutral, net-zero-energy ski areas.

The partnership between MRA and the Brendle Group with forge toward a new model for sustainability in the ski industry, focused on alternative business models for small and medium-sized resorts.

For starters, the Brendle Group will develop and test a model for sustainability at Mt. Abram that can be replicated elsewhere, starting with comprehensive assessments of energy use, land use, procurement, and community sustainability to identify options for net zero carbon, energy, and water operations as well as integrating sustainability and local economic development. Continue reading

World Tourism Day focuses on sustainable energy

The Colorado ski industry has done very little to address its massive environmental impact, including significant greenhouse gas emissions and unsustainable use of water.

Colorado tourism industry lags on environmental front

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — In an era when reducing greenhouse gas emissions has been targeted as a critical priority, it’s more challenging than ever to reconcile tourism with environmental concerns.

Some parts of the tourism industry are big contributors to climate change, including energy use in lodging facilities (think of all the laundry and dishes being washed on a daily basis), as well as transportation, especially automobiles and passenger jets.

In the face of those impacts, some of the minor efforts by the industry seem almost insignificant, but at least on a global scale, tourism leaders are thinking about how to boost the use of sustainable and renewable energy in the sector.

The World Tourism Organization has faced accusations of trying to greenwash tourism, but the global body has taken a few concrete steps toward promoting sound environmental policies. Continue reading

Alternate vision for ski industry manifests in Maine

A new future for skiing is dawning at Mt. Abram. Photo courtesy Mountain Rider’s Alliance/Mt. Abram.

Sustainability, and people before profit, will be the guiding principles for a partnership between the Mountain Rider’s Alliance and Mt. Abram

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — The Mountain Rider’s Alliance is one step closer to manifesting its long-term vision for an alternate model for ski resort ownership and operation.

This week, the organization announced an agreement to partner with the Mt. Abram ski area in Maine to try out a new ownership and management model aimed at boosting regional visitation, increasing awareness of sustainability issues, and focusing on the core values of skiing.

MRA is currently raising funds for the deal through crowd-sourcing and social media with the Support the Future of Skiing campaign at indiegogo.com.

When the details are finalized, potentially next spring, the ski area will sell membership shares to the public, loosely based on a co-op business model. The membership shares  will offer a variety of benefits and privileges. Members will hold elections and be represented in a dialog with ski area management. Continue reading

Loggers, off-roaders sue USFS over new planning rule

Groups claim agency can’t base planning on ecological sustainability

Industrial users challenge national forest planning rule.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Timber, ranching and off-road motorists are suing the U.S. Forest Service over a recently adopted national planning rule. The groups claim that the Forest Service illegally adopted ecological sustainability as a primary purpose of forest management, and that rule includes an unlawful mandate to provide ecosystem services.

Careful readers will hear the faint echoes of the paranoid black-helicopter crowd in the background, for example when the lawsuit mentions a UN-sponsored report that discusses forest ecosystem services such as carbon storage, along with “educational, aesthetic, spiritual and cultural heritage values.”

That’s all apparently a bit to touchy-feely for the hoof and chainsaw crowd, who have asked the federal District Court for Washington, D.C. to overturn the rule. Read the lawsuit here. Continue reading

Colorado: Visitor center at Dinosaur National Monument earns gold LEED certification for design and operation

Visitor center construction incorporated salvaged materials

The Dinosaur National Monument visitor was recently awarded the Gold LEED certification. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —Skylights, low-flow restroom fixtures, photovoltaics and efficient utility systems at the new Dinosaur National Monument visitor center all helped the National Park Service gain Gold-standard LEED certification for the facility.

The new Quarry Visitor Center boasts new “green” energy saving aspects, including increased water efficiency, reduced CO2emissions, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts,” said superintendent Mary Risser. Continue reading

Developing countries draw attention to their vulnerability to global warming at the Rio+20 sustainability talks

Earth. Composite satellite image courtesy NASA.

‘The earth is one but the world is not’

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — With millions of people around the world already feeling the impacts of global warming, ministers from developing countries most vulnerable to climate change are calling on world leaders to address the issue more directly at the Rio+20 talks.

There has been a degradation of Agenda 21 here in Rio,” said Bangladesh Environment Minister Dr. Hasan Mahmud. “With only a few paragraphs, climate change is not adequately addressed. Not thousands, but millions of people are already displaced due to a loss of livelihood … With inadequate Rio texts our GDP losses will only grow and our condition will be further aggravated. Rio should do the opposite. My call here today to the global community, as the Chair of the Forum, is simple: amplify climate change in the Rio+20 outcome texts,” Mahmud said.

Ministers from Costa Rica and Nepal joined the appeal and are spearheading a forum of more than 2o countries pledging to show leadership on sustainable development and to follow low-carbon pathways. They want other governments to join and support the movement at the Rio+20 talks.

“Climate change and climate vulnerability must be prominent in the Rio Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals for them to have any chance of success,” said Costa Rica Environment Minister Rene Castro.

“The climate problem is international. When the Himalaya glaciers melt, it is not just Nepal that suffers,” said Nepal environment minister Dr. Kashab Man Shakya. “Bangladesh also suffers and India too. Much more international collaboration is required.”

“The international community must show a firmer resolve to tackle climate change now. The earth is one but the world is not. The Forum is committed to ensuring that climate vulnerability discourse is brought into the mainstream of sustainable development. We also wish to lead by example as low-carbon pioneers. Are you all listening? Would you like to join us?”

“The international community must show a firmer resolve to tackle climate change now,” said Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Dr. Dipu Moni. “The earth is one but the world is not. The Forum is committed to ensuring that climate vulnerability discourse is brought into the mainstream of sustainable development. We also wish to lead by example as low-carbon pioneers. Are you all listening? Would you like to join us?”

The Panel was a part of the Climate Vulnerable Forum’s side event to the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, representing a wide ranging group of developing countries each with very high stakes in the future of sustainable development under discussion at the Rio conference.

The Climate Vulnerable Forum is an international partnership of vulnerable countries from Africa, Asia, the Americas and the Pacific founded in 2009.

Nineteen members of the Forum adopted a 14-point Ministerial Declaration in Dhaka, Bangladesh in mid-November 2011 at a meeting inaugurated by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the threshold of the UN talks in Durban. Costa Rica is incoming Chair and DARA is a key support partner.

For more information on the Forum see: www.mofa.gov.bd and www.daraint.org/cvf

The Forum also publishes with DARA the Climate Vulnerability Monitor – a global assessment of the impacts of climate change. For more information see: www.daraint.org/cvm

Colorado River Basin a lab for federal water programs

The Colorado River delta, photographed from a NASA satellite.

Sustainability of regional water supplies at stake

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A federal focus on water issues and climate change is paying dividends in the Colorado River Basin, where, under the WaterSMART program, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has made 15 grants to various organizations to improve water and energy efficiency and to develop climate-change analysis tools.

Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Water and Science Anne Castle discussed the WaterSMART efforts last week at the annual Colorado River Water Users Association Conference.

A recent WaterSMART report is online at www.usbr.gov/watersmart. It highlights scientific efforts underway in the Colorado River Basin such as the USGS Water Census, the newly formed Southwest Climate Science Center, established by the USGS at the University of Arizona, and Reclamation’s ongoing Basin Supply and Demand Study. Continue reading

Report outlines ways to boost global food security

A refugee camp in Darfur. PHOTO COURTESY WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME.

More investment in sustainable agriculture and more transparency in food markets needed to address growing threats

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Global demand is growing for food, fodder and bioenergy crops; food prices are rising to historic levels, and extreme weather events around the world are further eroding food security, a group of researchers said in a new report that calls for an immediate transformation of the world’s food system.

More investment in sustainable agriculture is needed, along with greater transparency in food markets and reduction of loss and waste in food systems, the study concludes. Continue reading

Environment: UN renews call for ocean protection

A trail of broken promises on ocean conservation …

Earth's oceans need more TLC, a new UN report says. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — In preparation for the 2012 conference on sustainable development in Rio, several UN organizations last week released a new report that sounds the alarm about the health of  oceans and explains how it influences our everyday life by regulating the climate, providing highly-nutritious food and by sustaining livelihoods and economies.

Although the oceans account for 70 percent of the surface of our planet, only 1 percent of it is protected, the report explains, proposing a 10-step program to move toward a more sustainable future. Continue reading

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