Out on a limb
Monday was my first day back at work after spending a week chaperoning a 125-voice high school choir in Costa Rica. (No, this photo is not one of our tenors.) This "Cappuccino" monkey was photographed last Wednesday at the beach on the Pacific coast by Terri Carotenuto, another parent chaperone.
Our choirs performed first at a Catholic church, then at two elementary schools, and finally, at a private high school. The performances were incredible and the connections our kids made with the local kids were a treat to witness.
Of course, in between performances, we had a ball. The first two nights we stayed at the foot of a live volcano. Unfortunately, the cloud cover made it impossible to view the spewing magma. We did, however, enjoy taking a dip in the natural hot springs, hiking through (and over) the rainforest on hanging bridges, and ziplining. One leg of the 12-leg ziplining "experience" was more than a half-mile long and was so high up in the canopy that we couldn’t hear the rushing river below. Our ridiculously over-qualified tour guides delivered us a crash course on Costa Rican history, geography, and economics by the end of the week.
I can't say I missed you all. It was great to be away from day-to-day deadline pressures. And I knew you were in good hands with Amanda, who was running the show in my absence. Now, my batteries are recharged and I'm ready for whatever you choose to throw my way.
Workplace safety and health
I've collaborated on a lot of projects with the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production at UMass Lowell. Rarely have I had the opportunity to help produce such a thorough and compelling report for them. In part, what made Lessons Learned: Solutions for Workplace Safety and Health so unique was the abundance of high-quality photography provided by Earl Dotter. Earl “seeks out those who are taking steps to improve their lives at work, and uses the camera to engage them — giving visual testimony to their achievements.”
From the back cover of this 130-page report: “Going to work should not be a choice between feeding your family and protecting your health.
Every day, 14 workers die on the job, and each year more than 4 million are seriously injured or sickened by exposures to toxic agents. Real change to the nation’s approach to workplace safety and health is desperately needed. This report includes six case studies of systemic failures in protecting workers from injury and illness. Each case documents the history of selected workplace health and safety policies and practices and reveals lessons learned to inform more effective prevention-focused worker health and safety protections. The Synthesis and Recommendations section of the report uses these lessons learned to outline a series of strategies for real change — approaches that can protect workers while stimulating innovation in safer forms of production that can also protect the communities in which we all live.”
To download a PDF of the full report, click here. To download PDFs of the executive summary or any of the six case studies individually, go to http://sustainableproduction.org/lessons.php.
Where's the beef?
We recently finished another report for the Union of Concerned Scientists — Raising the Steaks: Global Warming and Pasture-Raised Beef Production in the United States.
Beef production accounts for more global warming emissions in the United States than other foods, and contributes to other environmental problems, including water and air pollution. In Raising the Steaks, the Union of Concerned Scientists evaluates the potential for pasture beef producers — a growing segment of the industry — to curb beef’s environmental impact by adopting better management practices.
From the back cover: “For example, our analysis shows that improving the nutritional quality of forage crops could reduce emissions of methane — a global warming gas 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide — by about 15 to 30 percent. Overall, better management practices on pasture (including those that increase soil carbon storage) could offset up to about 2 percent of annual U.S. heat-trapping emissions. And climate-friendly pasture practices can also reduce problems such as erosion and the pollution of streams and groundwater with nitrogen runoff.”
The report also suggests how the farm bill and other federal policies can play a substantial role in reducing the climate change impact of pasture beef production. Incentives and technical support should be offered to help beef producers adopt the best management practices currently available, and federal research should be expanded to further develop climate-friendly practices.
To download a PDF of the full report, click here.