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Corporations are pledging to be ‘water positive’. What does that mean?

Green lightEnvironmentCorporations are pledging to be ‘water positive’. What does that mean?Reuse, watershed restoration and new cooling methods back companies’ commitments to conserve scarce water resources Supported byAbout this contentAmanda SchupakThu 14 Oct 2021 08.00 EDTLast modified on Thu 14 Oct 2021 08.38 EDTOne of PepsiCo’s largest food manufacturing plants sits in the perennially water-stressed Valley of Mexico watershed, which provides water to 21 million people in Mexico City and its surrounding suburbs. The aquifer running below the city is so drastically depleted that the metropolis is sinking as the water table falls, and the pipes that bring water in from far-off rivers and lakes are in disrepair.“The city cannot provide the water that we need, so we truck it in,” said Roberta Barbieri, vice-president for global sustainability at PepsiCo. It’s an expensive solution to an intractable problem – the water shortage is not sustainable from either a human or business standpoint. So Pepsi has promised to decrease its water consumption in the region and replenish what it uses. By treating wastewater on site, for example, the factory can reuse 80% of the water it draws from the tap or the truck. “We’re pushing to get that close to 100%,” Barbieri said.The efforts are part of the company’s “water positive” commitment to put more water into areas where they operate than they take out.The last year has seen a flurry of such promises from large corporations. Microsoft, Facebook and Google have …

Cement makers across world pledge large cut in emissions by 2030

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Construction industryCement makers across world pledge large cut in emissions by 2030Industry responsible for about 8% of CO2 emissions commits to reaching net zero by 2050 without offsetting Fiona Harvey Environment correspondentTue 12 Oct 2021 02.00 EDTLast modified on Tue 12 Oct 2021 02.01 EDTCement makers around the world have pledged to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by up to a quarter this decade and reach net zero by 2050, in a move they said would make a major difference to the prospects for the Cop26 climate summit.The industry is responsible for about 7%-8% of global carbon dioxide emissions, the equivalent of more than any individual country except China and the US. Cutting emissions from cement production is difficult, because the chemical processes used to make it and concrete release CO2.The Global Cement and Concrete Association (GCCA), which represents 40 of the world’s biggest producers and about 80% of the industry outside China, made the pledge on Tuesday. Several major Chinese cement and concrete companies, which account for about 20% of China’s market, have also joined.Companies have been working for more than a decade on ways to change the chemical processes and use different materials, as well as becoming more energy efficient. Tuesday’s pledge marks the first time that major producers have made a public commitment on the climate.Thomas Guillot, the chief executive of the GCCA, said: “This is an important milestone – it’s a big thing. Concrete is the second …

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California justice department to investigate enormous oil spill

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CaliforniaCalifornia justice department to investigate enormous oil spillAttorney general will seek to determine cause of spill and how it could have been prevented Mark Oliver and agenciesMon 11 Oct 2021 19.22 EDTCalifornia’s justice department is investigating the spill off the coast of Huntington Beach earlier this month, which sent thousands of gallons of oil into the ocean, the state’s attorney general, Rob Bonta, announced on Monday.The spill, from an undersea pipeline, polluted the waters near Los Angeles last weekend, blackening beaches and endangering wildlife.Bonta said the state’s justice department would work with other state, local, and federal authorities to determine the cause of the spill and what, if anything, could have been done to prevent or minimize the disaster.Officials have previously said the cause remains under investigation, and they believe the pipeline was probably damaged by a ship’s anchor several months to a year before it ruptured.Why California’s enormous oil spill won’t be its lastRead more“The oil spill off the coast of Huntington Beach is an environmental disaster with far-reaching consequences for our fish and wildlife, for our communities, and for our economy,” said Bonta.Experts have warned the spill probably won’t be the state’s last, with numerous ageing oil rigs offshore.The US senator Alex Padilla of California said: “It is unacceptable that Californians are once again facing the devastating effects of an offshore oil spill. The trade-off between oil production and environmental harm is …

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Fast track to disaster? Brazil’s Grain Train plan raises fears for Amazon

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BrazilFast track to disaster? Brazil’s Grain Train plan raises fears for Amazon Bolsonaro’s government plans to build a 1,000km railway to export soya beans despite warnings of a ‘catastrophe’ for indigenous people and the environmentTom Phillips in Sinop, Novo Progresso and BrasíliaThu 7 Oct 2021 06.00 EDTLast modified on Thu 7 Oct 2021 12.57 EDTThe Final Countdown blared from speakers and the crowd broke into applause as one of Jair Bolsonaro’s top lieutenants strode into the Amazon auditorium with glad tidings of a railroad to the future.“The ‘Grain Train’ is going to happen,” Brazil’s infrastructure minister, Tarcísio de Freitas, told the hundreds of mostly male spectators who had flocked there in a caravan of high-end SUVs.To the assembled members of Brazil’s agribusiness elite – among them several of the president’s most militant supporters – the “Ferrogrão” (Grain Train) is a long-held dream: an almost 1,000km railway that, if built, will link Brazil’s soya-growing heartlands with the northern ports that send their beans east to Asia.“It’s fabulous. The region will explode,” celebrated Adenir da Silva, one of the excitable locals who had come to welcome Bolsonaro’s minister to Sinop, the agricultural boomtown where the planned railroad would begin. Behind him a crane had hoisted an enormous Brazil flag into the morning sky in honour of the VIP visitor.To opponents, however, the R$25.2bn ($4.6bn/£3.4bn) project is a nightmare: yet another nail in the coffin of the world’s largest tropical rainforest and the indigenous …

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Licence to krill: the destructive demand for a ‘better’ fish oil

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Seascape: the state of our oceansMarine life Licence to krill: the destructive demand for a ‘better’ fish oil Industrial fishing of the tiny crustacea in a dietary supplements gold rush is threatening the very base of the food chain This article was produced with the Environmental Reporting Collective, whose full report is part of the […]

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Hitting global climate target could create 8m energy jobs, study says

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Green jobsHitting global climate target could create 8m energy jobs, study saysResearchers suggest net increase would mostly occur in renewables sector, with decline in fossil fuels Natalie Grover@

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‘We’re not animals, we’re human beings’: US farm workers labor in deadly heat with few protections

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Our unequal earthEnvironment‘We’re not animals, we’re human beings’: US farm workers labor in deadly heat with few protections Advocates want Osha to issue federal heat standards, requiring water, shade and rest breaks Supported byAbout this contentMichael SainatoFri 16 Jul 2021 07.34 EDTLast modified on Fri 16 Jul 2021 07.35 EDTThe climate crisis is endangering farm workers around the US who work outside in excessive heat throughout the year without any federal protections from heat exposure in the workplace.“It’s really challenging to work in the heat, but the reality is we have to, we don’t really have a choice, we have to keep working even when it’s incredibly hot,” said Tere Cruz, a farm worker for 15 years in Immokalee, Florida. “The first thing in the morning, you don’t feel it as much but then after 11am your body really starts to feel the heat. You feel like all the energy has been sucked out of you and it’s really hard to keep going.’’Cruz explained workers often will get too hot and vomit from drinking too much water too fast, but they face immense pressure to continue working through heat stress.“It would be really good to have a broad rule so when farm owners see that temperatures are way too high they need to stop and allow people to rest. Things as they are right now, you can see when it’s really hot that by 1 or 2 in the afternoon, people just can’t work any more. But there’s this real pressure to keep working and keep working,” added Cruz. “We’re not animals, we’re human beings, but there’s this feeling that no matter what happens, even when people can’t seem to work any more, the bosses keep pushing and pushing.”An analysis conducted by researchers at the University of Washington in March 2020 found US farm workers will experience an increase from about 21 days of working in unsafe temperatures per season to an average of 62 days by the end of the century – nearly three times as many.Heatwaves have also become more common and intense over the past several decades, as the US west coast has experienced record breaking heatwaves this year. June 2021 was the hottest June on record in the United States.“It’s extremely hot out there and it’s getting worse every year,” said Nezahualcoyotl Xiuhtecutli, general coordinator of the Farmworker Association of Florida. “One of the biggest problems is the way that farm workers are paid. When they’re paid by the piece rate, that encourages workers to exert themselves even more. When they’re part of a crew, the person who slows down because he has to take a water break or use the restroom, then they become the guy who slows down the crew.”Death of a workerThe state of Washington recently announced emergency rules to provide heat protection for farm workers and other outdoor workers, shortly after Oregon issued emergency rules in the wake of a farm worker who died from heat exposure during record high temperatures in the region. Sebastián Francisco Pérez, a 38-year-old from Guatemala who was working at a tree farm in rural St Paul, Oregon, died after collapsing on June 26.California and Minnesota are the only two other states in the US with heat protections for workers, though Colorado has some limited protections.Reyna Lopez, executive director of Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN), said the organization had been demanding Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Osha) issue heat protection rules ahead of the latest heatwaves in the region. Workers had been expressing concerns about the lack of shade or water while working through blueberry and cherry harvesting.“There’s a lot of sacrifice that happens from immigrant workers for us to have food on our table,” said Lopez. “We believe fully that any kind of death on the job is absolutely avoidable. This is the first recorded death in Oregon’s Osha fatalities report that’s specific to farm labor and heat.”According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 53 workers died in the US due to temperature extremes in 2019, and the climate crisis is creating more hazardous conditions for workers, as temperature extremes become more common.Heat stress can cause kidney issues and worsen pre-existing conditions such as asthma and heart disease, as well as cause sudden death on the job. Charts showing the rise in number and duration of US heat waves over the past year 6 decadesAccording to CDC data, farm workers are 20 times more likely to die from heat-related causes than other workers.Farm workers and several organizations have been advocating for Osha to enact federal heat safety standards to guarantee basic protections for workers, including adequate shade, water and rest breaks. Advocacy efforts have also pressured states to enact standards and bills have been introduced to Congress to grant workers federal heat protections.Alfredo Juarez, a 21-year-old farm worker in Skagit County, Washington, wakes up at 3.30am every morning during picking season to be able to get to work by 5am. He works until 4pm or later, seven days a week.“We work getting paid by the pound, so we try to work as fast as we can and it gets really hot as soon as we start picking, even when temperatures are normal,’’ said Juarez.He explained that if workers get a break, they will pile in cars and blast the air conditioning for some relief from the excessive heat, but generally workers are left with water that gets hot very fast from being outdoors. They have no shade and nowhere to sit down to take a break.“Strawberry picking takes a lot of focus. You’re on your knees every day and some of the rows are very hard to pick and your back will hurt from a lot of bending down, looking for berries,” he added. “There’s a lot of pain.” TopicsEnvironmentOur unequal earthClimate changeFarmingfeaturesReuse this content

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