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Sunday, May 28 2017 @ 12:22 PM UTC


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State making little progress with Smart Growth, study says

Health & Environment[B' Spokes: You could say that Smart Growth is a way of preserving biking on country roads as well as making urban areas more bikeable. Granted this is not the focus of Smart Growth but it is way we support it.]

"Gerrit Knaap, director of the center, said there are "a few bright spots," notably the preservation of land and recent promotion of development around transit stops in the Baltimore and Washington areas. But overall, he said, "the evidence suggests that we haven't really bent the curves [of growth] in ways we hoped we would."

The study, underwritten by the Abell Foundation, assessed trends in population and employment, transportation, housing and development and in natural area preservation through 2007. It comes on the eve of a daylong state forum Friday on sustainability convened by Gov. Martin O'Malley, who ran for governor in 2006 on a pledge to strengthen Smart Growth policies. The session is meant to help the O'Malley administration shape its approach to environmental protection, farming and growth over the next four years."
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How did obesity become a partisan fight?

Health & EnvironmentBy Fred Hiatt

In that context, the first lady's campaign would seem to have struck Goldilocks perfection. The obesity epidemic is a genuine public health emergency, with vast implications for the nation's well-being, economy and even national security. And yet, could anyone really be against children eating healthier food and getting more exercise? Could anyone really object to White House assistant chef Sam Kass trying to interest Elmo in a vegetable-laden burrito?

Well, yes, if Michelle Obama is for it, someone will be against it. Someone like Glenn Beck, for example, who was moved to rail against carrot sticks, or Sarah Palin, who warned that Obama wants to deprive us all of dessert.

And when you look a little deeper, it's not surprising that a crusade seemingly beyond questioning would become a political battle. Interests that might feel threatened by Let's Move include the fast-food industry, agribusiness, soft-drink manufacturers, real estate developers (because suburban sprawl is implicated), broadcasters and their advertisers (of sugary cereals and the like), and the oil-and-gas and automotive sectors (because people ought to walk more and drive less).

Throw in connections to the health-care debate (because preventive services will be key to controlling the epidemic), race (because of differential patterns of obesity) and red state-blue state hostilities (the reddest states tend to be the fattest), and it turns out there are few landmines that Michelle Obama didn't trip by asking us all to shed a few pounds.

Insinuations from her critics notwithstanding, Obama has not endorsed nanny-state or controversial remedies such as ending sugar subsidies, imposing soda-pop taxes or zoning McDonald's out of certain neighborhoods. Instead, she is pushing for positive, voluntary change: more recess and physical activity, more playgrounds, more vegetable gardens, fresher food in schools and grocery stores, better education on the issue for parents and children.

All of this makes total sense, and historians will marvel (much as they will at climate-change deniers) that anyone could doubt it. The percentage of American adults who are obese more than doubled in the past 30 years, from 15 percent to 34 percent (with another 34 percent overweight); the share of obese children and teenagers more than tripled, from 5 percent to 17 percent. In fact, the astonishing acceleration of the epidemic (which may now have leveled off) might explain some of the skepticism; it takes a while for awareness to catch up to statistics.

But the statistics are scary. The implications for these children are heartbreaking, literally (obesity is associated with higher incidence of heart disease as well as diabetes) and figuratively. For the nation, it could be bankrupting. Obesity and its attendant ills already may add as much as $147 billion to health-care costs each year, one-tenth of the nation's medical bill, a figure that is certain to rise. And the Army reports that one in four young people is too fat to serve.
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Baltimore Free Farm Sustainability Center!

Health & Environment[B' Spokes: Just to note the project made its funding goal! Big thanks to the 124 people that made this happen.]
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Freinds of Baltimore Biomass we need you help!

Health & EnvironmentWe need you help! Today, the congressional tax package was released with proposed language that significantly reduces the tax credit for Biomass stoves and boilers from 30% to 10%. To change this, we need you to call or email your legislative officials today!

The current 25C tax credit (which expires on Dec. 31, 2010) provides a 30% tax credit of up to $1,500 for wood, pellet and corn stoves and boilers that are at least 75% efficient. However, today's draft tax language drops that credit down to a 10% tax credit up to $500.

Now is not the time to limit investment in clean, renewable, and energy efficient biomass heating appliances. A robust tax credit can be the difference between a family transitioning to an efficient biomass system or not.

Help us right now by contacting your Congressional Representative and Senators today. Tell them to maintain the 25C tax credit level for efficient, renewably-fueled biomass stoves and boilers. The vote could happen as soon as Monday Dec. 13th so don’t wait, take a few minutes to contact you representatives right now.

You can email your Congressman here: <a href=""></a>;

You can email your Senator here: <a href=""></a>;

Please also feel free to forward this email to your friends and family.

Thanks for your help,

George L Peters Jr – <a href=""></a>;
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Animals Are Becoming Obese Like Us, Says Study

Health & Environmentfrom TreeHugger

fat cat measured photo Photo: Yukari* / CC

Obesity rates among people worldwide have soared over the last several decades -- but it turns out that humans aren't the only ones packing on the pounds. According to a recent study from the University of Alabama, many animals that spend time living around humans are evidently more prone to becoming overweight, and researchers aren't entirely sure why.

David Allison, who studies obesity at the UA Birmingham, discovered an inexplicable trend of weight gain in small primates kept in the the university's laboratory. In hopes of learning more about the phenomenon, Allison compared his findings with 24 other data samples collected for animals ranging from domesticated dogs and cats to feral rats and chimpanzees used for research -- and what it pointed to was quite troubling. Animals are getting fatter, just like we are.

There was no single thread running through all 24 data sets that would explain a gain in weight. The animals in some of the data sets might have had access to richer food, but that was not the case in all data sets. Some of the animals might have become less active, but others would have remained at normal activity levels. Yet, they all showed overall weight gain.

The skyrocketing rates of obesity among humans over the last several decades has been attributed to unhealthy diets and increasingly sedentary lifestyles -- but, to Allison's surprise, those factors don't appear to be responsible for the animals in the study getting pudgier. In fact, at least for the lab's primates, they should be getting thinner.

"We can't explain the changes in [the animals] body weight by the fact that they eat out at restaurants more often or the fact that they get less physical education in schools," the researcher quipped in an interview with LiveScience. "There can be other factors beyond what we obviously reach for."

In the absence of any obvious reason why animals are getting fatter, some researchers are beginning to suspect the culprit may be a bit more surreptitious. Chemical additives and genetically modified food sources have been linked to childhood obesity -- and a similar process seems to be taking place within animals.

Unfortunately, this disturbing trend could mean that the overall health of the animals around us is in decline, which might have broader-reaching implications not yet fully understood. But there is one bright spot -- while it may become harder to get your chubby pooch to play fetch, teaching him to roll over and stay will probably be a bit easier.

Via Natural News

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Air Pollution Raises Obesity Risk For Young Animals, Regardless of Diet

Health & Environment&quot;A new study shows that exposure to polluted air early in life, at levels that correspond to the amount of fine particulate pollution found in many US cities, can lead to increased accumulation of abdominal fat and insulin resistance, even if a healthy diet is followed.&quot;
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Volt, Schmolt; Get a Bike Instead

Health & Environment&quot;If the LEAF is charged from a coal plant, it might not be much better than a gasoline car&quot;

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U.S. Obesity Rate May Hit 42% by 2050

Health & EnvironmentResearchers say the more obese people you know, the greater your chances of gaining weight

By Kathleen Doheny HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Nov. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Despite reports that the rate of obesity among U.S. adults might be slowing down, a new projection from Harvard University and MIT suggests otherwise.

Instead, using a sophisticated model that views obesity like an infectious disease, the team predicts that adult obesity rates will rise for another 40 years before leveling out. And before reaching that plateau, 42 percent of adults will be obese, the team predict.

For the last few years, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has placed the adult obesity rate at 34 percent, with another 34 percent of Americans overweight but not obese.

&quot;It's definitely true that the percent of obese people has slowed down,&quot; said study author Alison Hill, a graduate student in Harvard's Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, Biophysics Program. &quot;But our results suggest it is not the end.&quot;

The study is published this week in the journal PLoS Computational Biology.

The prediction is a ''best-case'' scenario, said Hill and Dr. David Rand, a research scientist at Harvard who was also involved in the study. That means the obesity rate might rise even higher than 42 percent.
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We're losing an acre of farmland every minute, according to new data

Health & Environmentfrom Switchboard, from NRDC › Kaid Benfield's Blog by Kaid Benfield

    location unknown (by: US EPA)

41 million acres of rural land has been permanently lost in the last 25 years to highways, shopping malls, poorly planned sprawl and other development, according to a new analysis by the American Farmland Trust.  Of that amount, 23 million acres (an area the size of Indiana) was agricultural land.  The rate of recent farmland loss has been an astounding acre per minute.

There has been a resurgence of interest across the country in fresh, healthy, locally grown food.  But the farms that supply local food, those closest to our urban areas, are the most vulnerable and tend to be lost the fastest.  Moreover, farmland close to the urban/suburban edge is frequently our most productive for supplying food on the tables of American families:

“America’s cities sprang up where the land was the richest.  Today, the farms closest to our urban areas produce an astounding 91% of our fruit and 78% of our vegetables, but they remain the most threatened. In addition, many of these at-risk, urban-edge farms are the ones growing fresh food for farmers markets, CSA’s [community-supported agriculture services] and other direct-to-consumer outlets. And our prime agricultural land the farmland that has the ideal combination of good soils, climate and growing conditions are being converted at a disproportionately higher rate.”

More in the linked article
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Americans need to walk more and peer-to-peer car sharing

Health & Environment[B' Spokes:The bit that got my attention from Streetsblog Capitol Hill]
Using pedometers to collect data on 1,136 Americans, researchers found that they averaged 5,117 steps a day. (A mile is roughly 2,000 steps.) Meanwhile Australians averaged 9,695 steps a day, the Swiss clocked in at 9,650, and the Japanese puttered about at 7,168 paces.

The report’s lead author, David R. Bassett of the University of Tennessee, blames America’s poor performance on its auto obsession and lack of public transportation: “People do have to exercise,” he said. “But our overall environment does not lend itself to promoting an active lifestyle.”

Bassett told Reuters, “Five thousand steps is really pretty inactive,” estimating that Americans would need to walk for another 30 to 40 minutes per day to catch up to other countries. Interestingly, findings were similar for suburban, urban and rural dwellers. Maybe some suburbs and rural areas are more walkable than others, and some cities less so.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Bike Portland offers a tutorial on peer-to-peer car sharing, following California’s actions to remove legal hurdles to the activity.
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