Briefly

Stuff that matters


March Madness

Mark your calendars! The March for Science is happening in D.C. on April 22.

(Yes, that is Earth Day.)

After the wild success of the Women’s March and the equally wild threats to all forms of science in just the first few days of the new administration, scientists decided they needed to show the world they’re not going to take this sitting down.

Last week, they declared an upcoming March for Science, and on Wednesday, organizers announced they’d chosen a date. (This is distinct from the People’s Climate March, which is scheduled for April 29.)

Earth Day is an auspicious choice, since Trump’s attacks on science have focused on climate in particular. From threatening to cripple the EPA and defund climate science to filling his cabinet with anti-environment industry flacks, the Trump administration is shaping up to be anything but Earth-friendly.

But if the last few days have taught us anything, it’s that Trump can draw a crowd. At least, that’s true when the crowd is marching against him.


Grist 50

Meet the fixer: This storyteller puts people first.

For all their glittering charisma, solar cells and wind turbines don’t make for the best story subjects. But the people who benefit from cleantech — whether they’re landing jobs in the industry, breathing cleaner air, or just saving a few bucks on utilities — have the real tale to tell.

With 100%, a media campaign from The Solutions Project, Sean Watkins and his team seek out diverse climate leaders across the country and tell their success stories over Facebook, Instagram, and sometimes even physical billboards. The purpose is to build inspiration and momentum for others to push for 100 percent clean energy in their communities and create campaigns that outlive our gone-in-a-minute attention spans.

For the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, Watkins enlisted Avengers star Mark Ruffalo to host eight short videos that profile tribal members and supporters at Standing Rock. Watkins also shines a light on communities that might otherwise fall under the radar. Case in point: a social media and YouTube campaign to recognize PUSH Buffalo, a local group that’s turning the shuttered houses and storefronts on the city’s West Side into a sustainable neighborhood. (Check out the story of PUSH Buffalo’s deputy director, Rahwa Ghirmatzion, another Grist 50 member.) “We know and believe that there are success stories everywhere,” says Watkins.


Meet all the fixers on this year’s Grist 50.


white greens

Environmental organizations still have a diversity problem.

A report on the employment practices of green groups finds that the sector, despite its socially progressive reputation, is still overwhelmingly the bastion of white men.

According to the study, released by Green 2.0, roughly 3 out of 10 people at environmental organizations are people of color, but at the senior staff level, the figure drops closer to 1 out of 10. And at all levels, from full-time employees to board members, men make up three-quarters or more of NGO staffs.

Click to embiggen.Green 2.0

The new report, titled “Beyond Diversity: A Roadmap to Building an Inclusive Organization,” relied on more than 85 interviews of executives and HR reps and recruiters at environmental organizations.

Representatives of NGOs and foundations largely agreed on the benefits of having a more diverse workforce, from the added perspectives in addressing environmental problems to a deeper focus on environmental justice to allowing the movement to engage a wider audience.

The most worrisome finding is that fewer than 40 percent of environmental groups even had diversity plans in place to ensure they’re more inclusive. According to the report, “Research shows that diversity plans increases the odds of black men in management positions significantly.”


over the hill

OPEC still just tryin’ to OPEC, but not doing so well at it.

The cartel confirmed at a Thursday meeting in Vienna that it would extend the production cuts announced in December through March 2018 to try to forestall further collapse of oil prices.

However, they’re just fighting the inevitable. Here’s everything working against OPEC:

  1. American-produced shale gas and oil (the kind you get from fracking) continues to be cheap and abundant.
  2. In recent years, investors have poured money into fracking companies, because they’re seen as more reliable than traditional drilling operations — in turn making the former less susceptible to shifts in price and production than the latter. (But bad news, frackers — that funding bubble isn’t expected to last forever.)
  3. Global demand for oil was lower than expected this year, and a recent analysis from consultancy Roland Berger predicts that industrialized nations’ appetite for oil has peaked, The Economist reports.
  4. The growth of the electric car market and increasingly computerized transportation means a push away from oil and gas, according to the New York Times.

To close, a brief list of metaphors used to describe OPEC’s ongoing struggles: relying on “Band-Aids to get through crises,” bringing “a knife to a gunfight,” and, our personal favorite, “U.S. shale’s the wild horse that OPEC just can’t tame.”


study up

Scott Pruitt just got debunked by climate scientists.

They came after EPA Administrator Pruitt in a very sciencey way: by publishing a study that takes down a claim Pruitt made during confirmation questions.

When asked whether he believes there is uncertainty about global warming, Pruitt responded that “over the past two decades, satellite data indicates there has been a leveling off of warming, which some scientists refer to as the ‘hiatus.’”

OK — so it’s been about three months since Pruitt’s confirmation. But science takes time, people!

The study directly refutes Pruitt’s response, calling him out by name. It analyzes satellite data sets and debunks that there has been any sort of pause in warming — a common conservative talking point.

The science is unlikely to bring an about-face from Pruitt, who recently said carbon dioxide is not a main driver of climate change. But scientists are trying.

“When incorrect science is elevated to the level of formal congressional testimony and makes its way into the official congressional record, climate scientists have some responsibility to test specific claims that were made, determine whether those claims are correct or not, and publish their results,” study coauthor Benjamin Santer told the Washington Post.


Grist 50

Meet the fixer: This entrepreneur is making a better burger.

A lot of startups want to make animal flesh obsolete with tastier, more environmentally friendly products: Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat, and Mosa Meats, to name a few. If one of these companies can convince Americans that its new product is better than meat, it could put a dent in the livestock industry, which is responsible for roughly 4.2 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the most audacious of those companies is Memphis Meats. Instead of engineering a meat replacement, Uma Valeti’s startup is growing actual meat in a lab. “The products we’re producing are the delicious meat we’ve enjoyed for thousands of years — we’re just changing the process by which it’s produced,” he says.

Valeti isn’t your average Silicon Valley founder — he’s a doctor, a cardiologist to be precise. He previously worked on experiments that used stem cells to regrow damaged heart tissue. If we can grow heart muscle with stem cells, he thought, why can’t we grow meat? With a team of foodies and scientists, he’s doing just that. Last year they fried up and ate their first no-death meatball — the video went viral. Now, they’re working to take their cultured meat to the masses.


Meet all the fixers on this year’s Grist 50.


pumping iron down the drain

The new American dream is being woefully anemic WHILE throwing away all your nutrients!

Americans waste between 1,200 and 1,400 calories of food per person everyday, which we can all agree to feel bad about: all that energy- and water- and money-intensive nourishment going straight to the landfill! But in spite of a national love for counting nutrients, we didn’t know how many macros we’ve been chucking out.

A new study courtesy of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future is the first to measure just how much nutrient value is ending up in the bin. The most jarring example: Those 1,400 calories of wasted food per person per day include 48 percent of an average adult’s daily iron intake. Also wasted: 43 percent of the recommended levels of Vitamin C and 29 percent of the calcium.

This is significant, the researchers note, because so many American adults suffer from crucial nutrient deficiencies.

We asked Kevin Klatt, a PhD candidate at the Cornell Division of Nutritional Sciences, if these numbers — they’re so big! — seemed normal. If anything, Klatt said, the percentages seemed slightly conservative, because recommended daily values tend to be higher than what most people need.