Dubuque to hold water quality summit next week


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Screenshot from the event’s promotional flyer. 

Julia Poska | February 21, 2019

The 11th Annual Dubuque Area Watershed Symposium will be Wednesday, Feb. 27 at the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium from 3 to 9pm. The event is free to the public, but pre-registration is required to attend.

Subtitled “The True Value of Clean Water”, the event will focus on Iowa’s water quality concerns and current efforts to resolve them.  One of the first items on the agenda will be a presentation on the City of Dubuque’s recent Iowa Partners for Conservation Grant: $326,712 to be put towards engaging local farmers and helping them become leaders in efforts to reduce flooding and improve water quality in the Catfish Creek Watershed.

Other presentations will cover conservation practices, land-use practices, soil health, and water quality.

Later in the evening, keynote speakers Michael Schueller, director of environmental operations the State Hygienic Lab, and Larry Webber, IIHR research engineer and co-founder of the Iowa Flood Center, will share their knowledge and ideas about Iowa water quality.

The organizers want to hear from non-experts, too, and will hold a roundtable discussion on drafting the Dubuque County Conservation Strategic Plan, as well as encourage questions after the keynotes.

For more information visit the City of Dubuque’s official website.

 

 

 

How hairdressing can affect the environment


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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Natalia Welzenbach-Marcu | February 20th, 2019

Excessive use of hot water can be ultimately damaging to the environment.

Hairdressing, as a general vocation, uses lots of hot water and chemicals that get swept down the drain. Even showering at-home can have an impact. Using hot water that’s powered by an electric heater uses significantly more energy than other household activities.

In the UK, roughly a quarter of all carbon emissions come from residences. Because the perpetrators of co2 emissions are primarily big business types, factories and industries, we like to think that residents barely register on the map.

But we produce a lot of carbon per household, especially in the United States, where about 11% of our total c02 emissions come from residential and business areas.

Ultimately it is everyone’s responsibility to do what they can to reduce their carbon footprint. If you’re curious, the EPA has a calculator that allows you to know, for sure, how much you’re leaving behind.

 

 

 

The vital importance of sustainable food


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Photo by Trang Doan on Pexels.com

Natalia Welzenbach-Marcu | February 19th, 2019

United Nations environment recently released a statement on the current issues with farming practices, and outlines the need for a more sustainable future for food.

Food-related issues continue to be one of the largest threats to our safety and to the safety of our environment. Over 800 million people still struggle to find enough food to survive. Those that have plenty to eat often have unhealthy diets that contribute to heart disease and other health issues that greatly shorten lifespans.

The practices employed by most modern farming businesses only add to the loss of biodiversity and the increase in greenhouse gases that continue affecting the average temperature of our planet. It’s fairly well known by know that one of the biggest contributors to deforestation is, in fact, the meat industry, burning down swaths of trees to clear room for cattle to graze.

The UN suggests, looking forward to a future that’s set to cap our global population at around 10 billion, a number of ways that may help us get a handle on our farming problem: utilize the land we have. Protect biodiversity. Use resources wisely and responsibly. Start leaning on other crops as food staples.

Partnering with Biodiversity International, UN Environment launched Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition–a program to encourage biodiversity in both farming practice and diets globally. With this initiative, and with articles and press releases bringing the issues of unsustainable farming into light, there is perhaps a way for us to continue feeding out ever-growing global population.

On The Radio- Brazil and the negative affects of hydropower


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Brazil’s flag (flickr/Rodnei Reis)

Kasey Dresser| February 18, 2019

This weeks segment looks at the negative impact of the Bela Monte Hyrdodam in Brazil. 

Transcript:

Hydropower is one of the world’s leading sources of renewable energy, but in some places it has come at a cost.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Hydropower accounts for over fourteen percent of all energy globally and about seventy percent of all renewable energy. Although dams help bring power to people, they can also have negative social and environmental consequences.

Researcher Emilio Moran is helping investigate the negative impact of the Bela Monte Hyrdodam in a developing area populated with indigenous communities. The dam is the third-largest in the world, and was built over Brazil’s Xingu (SHIN-GOO) River near the city of Altamira.

The new dams reduced the amount of fish that flow downstream, impacting the fishing yields of villages that rely on the river for their livelihoods. The project took three years to complete, and twenty thousand people were displaced from their homes during that time. Altamira’s population increased by sixty thousand during construction, and the city built hotels and attractions in response. After the dam was completed, however, those sixty thousand workers left, leaving many buildings vacant in their wake.

Hydropower is an important source of power, protecting Brazil from blackouts. It is also much cleaner than coal. But dams are not guaranteed generators of power, and their effectiveness can be altered by rainfall.

Emilio Moran and other researchers are only looking for some accountability, and are pushing for dam developers to mitigate the negative economic and social consequences before building.

For more information, visit Iowa Environmental Focus dot org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Sara E. Mason.

Suburban “agrihood” proposed near Des Moines


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The proposed development would feature community gardens and organic farming (Wikimedia Commons).

Julia Poska | February 15, 2019

A tiny Iowa town may soon get an unprecedented expansion. Diligent Development wants to build Iowa’s first “agrihood” on 400 acres just south of Cumming, bringing food and outdoors living to the center of a relocalized community.

According to the Des Moines Register, which featured Diligent’s plans yesterday, over 200 such communities already exist elsewhere in the U.S.. Agrihoods bring the country closer to the city, integrating food production and nature into suburban areas without spreading neighbors too far apart or committing them to a fully rural lifestyle.

The Register reports that the Cumming agrihood could bring over 1,800 new residents into the 400-person town with mixed housing; apartments, condos, townhomes and single-family homes would all surround a large organic vegetable farm.  Farmers would sell through subscription-based services or at local stands, and residents would maintain smaller community gardens as well.

Residents would have easy access to parks and green space too, as the Great Western Trail. The community would also feature a craft brewery, an orchard and retail space.

Cumming is 20 minutes southwest of Des Moines, close to Interstate Highway 35 and Iowa Highway 5. The development would cost about $260 million and is awaiting approval by the Cumming City Council.

Iowa solar employment is on the rise


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Most solar jobs are in installation and project development (flickr).

Julia Poska | February 14, 2019

Despite a 3.2 percent drop in solar energy jobs nationwide, solar jobs in Iowa grew 4 percent in 2018, according to the recently released National Solar Jobs Census.

Various solar projects recent years likely contributed to job growth in Iowa. In 2017, Alliant Energy built Iowa’s biggest solar farm on 21 acres near Dubuque, but the Central Iowa Power Cooperative recently announced plans to surpass that record with an 800 acre solar farm in Louisa County in 2020. Solarize Johnson and Linn Counties brought a combined 1,760 kilowatts of residential solar power to eastern Iowa in 2017 and 2018. Ideal Energy in Fairfield is currently building a solar array with special battery storage at Maharishi University of Management as well.

But still, only 844 Iowans are employed in solar. The state ranks 45 in solar jobs per capita despite 2018 growth, according to the census, which is conducted annually by the Solar Foundation.

Overall, U.S. solar employment has risen 159 percent since 2010 and is projected to continue growing. The price of solar installation has fallen dramatically, too. At the utility scale, the cost of a one Watt segment of a solar panel dropped from $4.40 in 2010 to $1.03 in 2018. For residential panels, the cost dropped from $6.65 to $2.89 per Watt.

 

 

 

University designs solar and sun-powered flags


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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Natalia Welzenbach-Marcu | February 13th, 2019

Scientists at the University of Manchester have discovered a way to capture light and wind in a single, flexible panel of technology.

The project uses piezoelectric and photovoltaic cells, strips of material that work to convert movement and sunlight into energy, respectively.

Piezoelectric fibers have been used in other modern advancements in technology. Their ability to sense movement and strain make them perfect for incorporation into clothing, headbands, and other wearable electronics.

Solar and wind power tend to work well together, as the two phenomenons tend to occur strongest when the other is diminished. Gusty storms flare up and cover sources of light, making technology that combines both useful.