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- All Subjects: Sustainability
Sinaloa, a coastal state in the northwest of Mexico, is known for irrigated conventional agriculture, and is considered one of the greatest successes of the Green Revolution. With the neoliberal reforms of the 1990s, Sinaloa farmers shifted out of conventional wheat, soy, cotton, and other commodities and into white maize, a major food staple in Mexico that is traditionally produced by millions of small-scale farmers. Sinaloa is now a major contributor to the national food supply, producing 26% of total domestic white maize production. Research on Sinaloa's maize has focused on economic and agronomic components. Little attention, however, has been given to the environmental sustainability of Sinaloa's expansion in maize. With uniquely biodiverse coastal and terrestrial ecosystems that support economic activities such as fishing and tourism, the environmental consequences of agriculture in Sinaloa are important to monitor. Agricultural sustainability assessments have largely focused on alternative agricultural approaches, or espouse alternative philosophies that are biased against conventional production. Conventional agriculture, however, provides a significant portion of the world's calories. In addition, incentives such as federal subsidies and other institutions complicate transitions to alternative modes of production. To meet the agricultural sustainability goals of food production and environmental stewardship, we must put conventional agriculture on a more sustainable path. One step toward achieving this is structuring agricultural sustainability assessments around achievable goals that encourage continual adaptations toward sustainability. I attempted this in my thesis by assessing conventional maize production in Sinaloa at the regional/state scale using network analysis and incorporating stakeholder values through a multicriteria decision analysis approach. The analysis showed that the overall sustainability of Sinaloa maize production is far from an ideal state. I made recommendations on how to improve the sustainability of maize production, and how to better monitor the sustainability of agriculture in Sinaloa.
Driven by concern over environmental, economic and social problems, small, place based communities are engaging in processes of transition to become more sustainable. These communities may be viewed as innovative front runners of a transition to a more sustainable society in general, each one, an experiment in social transformation. These experiments present learning opportunities to build robust theories of community transition and to create specific, actionable knowledge to improve, replicate, and accelerate transitions in real communities. Yet to date, there is very little empirical research into the community transition phenomenon. This thesis empirically develops an analytical framework and method for the purpose of researching community transition processes, the ultimate goal of which is to arrive at a practice of evidence based transitions. A multiple case study approach was used to investigate three community transitions while simultaneously developing the framework and method in an iterative fashion. The case studies selected were Ashton Hayes, a small English village, BedZED, an urban housing complex in London, and Forres, a small Scottish town. Each community was visited and data collected by interview and document analysis. The research design brings together elements of process tracing, transformative planning and governance, sustainability assessment, transition path analysis and transition management within a multiple case study envelope. While some preliminary insights are gained into community transitions based on the three cases the main contribution of this thesis is in the creation of the research framework and method. The general framework and method developed has potential for standardizing and synthesizing research of community transition processes leading to both theoretical and practical knowledge that allows sustainability transition to be approached with confidence and not just hope.
The sacred San Francisco Peaks in northern Arizona have been at the center of a series of land development controversies since the 1800s. Most recently, a controversy arose over a proposal by the ski area on the Peaks to use 100% reclaimed water to make artificial snow. The current state of the San Francisco Peaks controversy would benefit from a decision-making process that holds sustainability policy at its core. The first step towards a new sustainability-focused deliberative process regarding a complex issue like the San Francisco Peaks controversy requires understanding the issue's origins and the perspectives of the people involved in the issue. My thesis provides an historical analysis of the controversy and examines some of the laws and participatory mechanisms that have shaped the decision-making procedures and power structures from the 19th century to the early 21st century.
Haiti has witnessed high deforestation rates in recent decades, caused largely by the fuel needs of a growing population. The resulting soil loss is estimated to have contributed towards a decline in agricultural productivity of 0.5% -1.2% per year since 1997. Recent studies show the potential of biochar use through pyrolysis technology to increase crop yields and improve soil health. However, the appropriateness of this technology in the context of Haiti remains unexplored. The three objectives of this research were to identify agricultural- and fuel-use-related needs and gaps in rural Haitian communities; determine the appropriateness of biochar pyrolyzer technology, used to convert agricultural biomass into a carbon-rich charcoal; and develop an action-oriented plan for use by development organizations, communities, and governmental institutions to increase the likelihood of adoption. Data were collected using participatory rural appraisal techniques involving 30 individual interviews and three focus-group discussions in the villages of Cinquantin and La Boule in the La Coupe region of central Haiti. Topics discussed include agricultural practices and assets, fuel use and needs, technology use and adoption, and social management practices. The Sustainable Livelihoods framework was used to examine the assets of households and the livelihood strategies being employed. Individual and focus group interviews were analyzed to identify specific needs and gaps. E.M. Rogers' Diffusion of Innovations theory was used to develop potential strategies for the introduction of pyrolysis technology. Preliminary results indicate biochar pyrolysis has potential to address agricultural and fuel needs in rural Haiti. Probable early adopters of biochar technology include households that have adopted new agricultural techniques in the past, and those with livestock. Education about biochar, and a variety of pyrolysis technology options from which villagers may select, are important factors in successful adoption of biochar use. A grain mill as an example in one of the study villages provides a model of ownership and use of pyrolysis technology that may increase its likelihood of successful adoption. Additionally, women represent a group that may be well suited to control a new local biochar enterprise, potentially benefiting the community.
Second-generation biofuel feedstocks are currently grown in land-based systems that use valuable resources like water, electricity and fertilizer. This study investigates the potential of near-shore marine (ocean) seawater filtration as a source of planktonic biomass for biofuel production. Mixed marine organisms in the size range of 20µm to 500µm were isolated from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) seawater filtration system during weekly backwash events between the months of April and August, 2011. The quantity of organic material produced was determined by sample combustion and calculation of ash-free dry weights. Qualitative investigation required density gradient separation with the heavy liquid sodium metatungstate followed by direct transesterification and gas chromatography with mass spectrometry (GC-MS) of the fatty acid methyl esters (FAME) produced. A maximum of 0.083g/L of dried organic material was produced in a single backwash event and a study average of 0.036g/L was calculated. This equates to an average weekly value of 7,674.75g of dried organic material produced from the filtration of approximately 24,417,792 liters of seawater. Temporal variations were limited. Organic quantities decreased over the course of the study. Bio-fouling effects from mussel overgrowth inexplicably increased production values when compared to un-fouled seawater supply lines. FAMEs (biodiesel) averaged 0.004% of the dried organic material with 0.36ml of biodiesel produced per week, on average. C16:0 and C22:6n3 fatty acids comprised the majority of the fatty acids in the samples. Saturated fatty acids made up 30.71% to 44.09% and unsaturated forms comprised 55.90% to 66.32% of the total chemical composition. Both quantities and qualities of organics and FAMEs were unrealistic for use as biodiesel but sample size limitations, system design, geographic and temporal factors may have impacted study results.
Contemporary urban food security in the US is influenced by complex, multidimensional, and multi-scale factors. However, most assessment methods and intervention efforts in food security research are: 1) narrowly focused on environmental factors (i.e. the presence or absence of quality food outlets), 2) divorced from the human dimension and, 3) ultimately disempower communities to affect change at the local level. New approaches are needed to capture the lived experiences and unique perspectives of people potentially most vulnerable to food insecurity, while also empowering people to become change agents in their lives and in the wider community. This thesis argues that sustainability problem solving frameworks such as transformational sustainability research (TSR), and community-based participatory research (CBPR) provide promising bases from which to address these deficiencies. Through interactive workshops with youth in Canyon Corridor, a neighborhood in Phoenix, Arizona, I demonstrate the potential of concept mapping, sketch mapping, and intervention mapping methods that prioritize participation and co-production of knowledge to: 1) better understand the contextual, community-identified factors that contribute to food security or food insecurity, 2) identify and adapt interventions for the local context and, 3) promote community agency and action. Workshop outcomes suggest the relevance of these frameworks and methods, and the potential for more people- and place-based approaches to food security research.
Ecolabels are the main driving force of consumer knowledge in the realm of sustainable product purchasing. While ecolabels strive to improve consumer's purchasing decisions, they have overwhelmed the market, leaving consumers confused and distrustful of what each label means. This study attempts to validate and understand environmental concerns commonly found in ecolabel criteria and the implications they have within the life cycle of a product. A life cycle assessment (LCA) case study of cosmetic products is used in comparison with current ecolabel program criteria to assess whether or not ecolabels are effectively driving environmental improvements in high impact areas throughout the life cycle of a product. Focus is placed on determining the general issues addressed by ecolabelling criteria and how these issues relate to hotspots derived through a practiced scientific methodology. Through this analysis, it was determined that a majority the top performing supply chain environmental impacts are covered, in some fashion, within ecolabelling criteria, but some, such as agricultural land occupation, are covered to a lesser extent or not at all. Additional criteria are suggested to fill the gaps found in ecolabelling programs and better address the environmental impacts most pertinent to the supply chain. Ecolabels have also been found to have a broader coverage then what can currently be addressed using LCA. The results of this analysis have led to a set of recommendations for furthering the integration between ecolabels and life cycle tools.
Food security literature has a heavy emphasis on physical barriers, often employing spatial analysis or market-based approaches, but the human dimensions of food security remain unexplored. This has resulted in a disconnect between the understanding of the problem and proposed interventions, as the contextual factors and lived experiences of residents are not considered. There are many barriers and opportunities for food security that are not spatially fixed (e.g. family relations, social capital) that may be important but are unrepresented in these types of studies. In order to capture these barriers and opportunities, community stakeholders need to play a fundamental role in the problem analysis and visioning stages. This study utilized community-based participatory research methods to engage an important stakeholder in the future food environment, youth, to 1) understand how the youth of Canyon Corridor describe their food environment, and thus capture contextual aspects of food security 2) adapt CBPR methods to engage youth in a visioning session to elicit their ideal community food environment and 3) determine if these applications of CBPR can empower youth of Canyon Corridor to mobilize towards a more secure food environment. I found that while the youth did identify many barriers to food security (i.e. transportation, cost, availability), this community also had significant strengths, particularly social capital, that allowed them to overcome what would be food insecurity. Despite their conclusions on food security, youth did desire many changes for the future food environment and felt increased empowerment after the workshops. Thus this shows the need for incorporating methods that also acknowledge the role of social and individual factors and how they interrelate with the physical environment in relation to food security.
The handling of waste encompasses the following processes: recycling, collection, treatment, and disposal. It is crucial to provide a cost-effective waste management system that improves public health and reduces environmental risks. In developing countries, proper handling of solid and hazardous wastes remain severely limited in urban cities if the industries and hospitals producing it do not take responsibility. Recycling and reusing of 12% of total waste in Phnom Penh is an active industry in Cambodia, driven by an informal network of waste pickers, collectors, and buyers. This thesis examines the environmental situation of solid and hazardous wastes in Phnom Penh. The socio-economic background of waste pickers and their current practices for handling solid and hazardous wastes will be mainly discussed in order to understand health and sanitation impacts and risks for disposal of solid and hazardous waste by these informal waste pickers. Surveys and interviews with the following sources are conducted: waste pickers, community members, observation at local dumpsites, governmental officials, and other non-government organization agencies in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. This thesis reports the external and internal factors that hinder safety and cost-effective management for disposal of solid and hazardous wastes. Multiple literature reviews are assessed in regards to the health effects, economic, and social impacts in developing countries. Evidentially, after attending several training and environmental awareness-raising programs, waste pickers expressed concerns about their health and the environment. Instead of receiving support, waste pickers are under economic pressure to use improper tools for waste picking, to stop working, get access to health care/service, to change their career, and prevent contact to limit serious communicable diseases and disability. As a result, the government and other related government agencies have made an effort to establish sanitation handling, treatment, and disposal systems by closing the old dumpsite. Due to limited entrepreneurship and business experience after training, most waste pickers cannot initiate micro business or find new jobs and then resume their waste picking. In conclusion, this thesis proposed that there are alternative technologies and management methods that will allow waste pickers to maintain employment while minimizing hazardous waste. Some examples of alternatives for waste pickers are establishing a material recovery center and alternative higher income occupation.
ABSTRACT Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a non-governmental organization of U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) which promotes a sustainable built environment with its rating systems. One of the building segments which it considers is healthcare, where it is a challenge to identify the most cost-effective variety of complex equipments, to meet the demand for 24/7 health care and diagnosis, and implement various energy efficient strategies in inpatient hospitals. According to their “End Use Monitoring” study, Hospital Energy Alliances (HEA), an initiative of U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), reducing plug load reduces hospital energy consumption. The aim of this thesis is to investigate the extent to which realistic changes to the building envelope, together with HVAC and operation schedules would allow LEED credits to be earned in the DOE–hospital prototype. The scope of this research is to specifically investigate the inpatient block where patient stays longer. However, to obtain LEED credits the percentage cost saving should be considered along with the end use monitoring. Several steps have been taken to identify the optimal set of the end use results by adopting the Whole Building Energy Simulation option of the LEED Energy & Atmosphere (EA) pre– requisite 2: Minimum Energy Performance. The initial step includes evaluating certain LEED criteria consistent with ASHRAE Standard 90.1–2007 with the constraint that hospital prototype is to be upgraded from Standard 2004 to Standard 2007. The simulation method stipulates energy conservation measures as well as utility costing to enhance the LEED credits. A series of simulations with different values of Light Power Density, Sizing Factors, Chiller Coefficient of Performance, Boiler Efficiency, Plug Loads and utility cost were run for a variety of end uses with the extreme climatic condition of Phoenix. These assessments are then compared and used as a framework for a proposed interactive design decision approach. As a result, a total of 19.4% energy savings and 20% utility cost savings were achieved by the building simulation tool, which refer to 5 and 7 LEED credits respectively. The study develops a proper framework for future evaluations intended to achieve more LEED points.