Study by University of Iowa alumnus examines ability to feed communities with local food


This map shows the ability of people to eat locally in different parts of the country. (University of California-Merced)
Nick Fetty | February 3, 2016

A University of California-Merced environmental engineering professor recently published a study which found that most of the country could grow enough food within 50 miles to feed up to 100 percent of a particular area’s population.

Dr. Elliott Campbell’s study – “The Large Potential of Local Croplands to Meet Food Demand in the United States” – was published as the cover story in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment this month. Campbell and his research team used data from a farmland-mapping project funded by the National Science Foundation and information about land productivity from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to map out the ability of different communities to feed their populations with locally-produced food. Campbell also used data from University of California Global Food Initiative in his study. The researchers examined data for the period between 1850 and 2000.

Campbell said his findings could have an affect on public policy.

“Going into this study, I expected some potential for local food systems and certainly some drawbacks. The overall result was very positive. It’s drawn a strong response from the public, the media and the academic community. And it definitely has the potential to shape public policy. It’s exciting,” he said in a Q&A with the UC Food Observer.

Campbell’s work was lauded by Michael Pollan, an author and Knight Professor of Science and Environmental Journalism at UC-Berkeley.

“Elliott Campbell’s research is making an important contribution to the national conversation on local food systems,” Pollan said in a press release. “That conversation has been hobbled by too much wishful thinking and not enough hard data — exactly what Campbell is bringing to the table.”

Campbell holds a B.S. and M.S. in environmental engineering from Stanford University and a PhD in civil and environmental engineering from the University of Iowa. Elliott also served as a researcher for the Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research during his time at Iowa.

Engineers develop state-by-state plan for 100% renewable energy by 2050


(The Solutions Project)
(The Solutions Project)

Nick Fetty | June 10, 2015

Researchers at Stanford University and the University of California-Berkeley have developed a state-by-state plan for the United States to generate 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2050.

The study – which was published last month in the journal Energy and Environmental Sciences – calls for major changes to infrastructure as well as current energy consumption practices. The study’s authors outline ways to combat climate change, eliminate air pollution mortality, create jobs, and stabilize energy prices.

“The main barriers are social, political and getting industries to change. One way to overcome the barriers is to inform people about what is possible,” Stanford engineering professor Mark Z. Jacobson said in a press release. “By showing that it’s technologically and economically possible, this study could reduce the barriers to a large scale transformation.”

Jacobson – who also serves as a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and at the Precourt Institute for Energy – and his colleagues divided energy consumption into four categories: residential, commercial, industrial and transportation. The plan not only outlines ways to eliminate America’s dependence on oil and coal but also natural gas, nuclear power, carbon capture and sequestration, and biofuels.

The researchers predict that the plan could eliminate 63,000 air pollution-related deaths each year in United States and also save the world $3.3 trillion in damages caused by greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. In Iowa, the plan could save $3.5 billion in health care costs annually and also prevent 540 air pollution-related deaths each year.

University of Iowa hosts international conference about environmental contamination


Nick Fetty | August 19, 2014
Water pollution in China. (Bert van Dijk/Flickr)
Water contamination in China. (Bert van Dijk/Flickr)

Beginning today and continuing through Friday, the University of Iowa is hosting a conference to discuss emerging contaminants and their effect on the environment.

EmCon 2014: Fourth International Conference on Occurrence, Fate, Effects & Analysis of Emerging Contaminants in the Environment will feature speakers from all across the world, including a keynote speech from University of Iowa engineering professor and CGRER co-director Jerry Schnoor. Representatives from various Big Ten schools (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Purdue, Wisconsin) as well as Iowa State, Stanford and several other educational and governmental entities are scheduled to give speeches or other presentations. The event “will focus on the most recent developments and findings concerning the source, occurrence, fate, effects, and analysis of emerging contaminants in the environment, providing an ideal venue for exchange of cutting-edge ideas and information in this rapidly evolving research area.”

The first conference, EmCon 2007, was held in York, United Kingdom and brought in more than 100 attendees from all around the world. EmCon 2009 was in Fort Collins, Colorado and EmCon 2011 was in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The National Hydraulic Engineering Conference 2014 is also taking place in Iowa City this week. This event will focus on “sustainability in the design of infrastructure in a rapidly changing environment.”

EmCon 2014 begins at 4 p.m. today and the full schedule of events is available here.