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Vibrant Environment

War and Peace: Colombia’s Environmental Degradation Paradox

Policía Antinarcóticos  stand on guard after burning a coca laboratory near Tuma
By Nora Moraga-Lewy, Research Associate
Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Colombia’s government and FARC rebels signed a historic peace accord in late 2016, ending a civil war that caused over 220,000 deaths and the internal displacement of over 7 million people. In addition to devastating lives and livelihoods, the civil war was destructive to the environment. Following historic negotiations and the congressional ratification of a revised agreement, Colombia still faces environmental risks in a time of relative peace. It is crucial that ongoing talks and reforms in the wake of over five decades of conflict take these factors into account in order to ensure sustained peace and development for the future.

Measuring Up: Smart Meter Lessons From the United Kingdom

Smart meters can bring many benefits for both energy utilities and consumers (
By Miriam Aczel, Visiting Researcher, Environmental Law Institute
Monday, February 12, 2018

Smart meters—small, electronic devices that track and record energy consumption and communicate information back to the electrical utility—can reduce energy use by empowering consumers with the ability to monitor energy use and make better choices. Smart meters are an upgrade to outdated analog meters because they automatically record information in real time instead of requiring someone to manually record and transmit the collected data.

Of Frogs and Men

Are frogs better than humans at responding to slow threats?
Wednesday, February 7, 2018

In An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore famously used the example of a slowly boiled frog as a metaphor for climate change. That turns out not to be accurate, as biologists say the frog is smart enough to jump out of the pot long before it becomes frog soup. But the problem Gore described is real enough.

Public Health Consequences of Hurricane Harvey Continue to Unfold

Hurricane Harvey poses health risks, even after floodwaters have subsided (DoD).
By Christina Libre , Research Associate
Monday, February 5, 2018

Just over five months have elapsed since Hurricane Harvey battered the Texas Coast, dropping more than 50 inches of rain on parts of the Houston area. The storm’s devastation was swift, killing 88 people and displacing many thousands. Yet, Harvey’s full impacts continue to unfold. Beyond imposing huge material losses, the storm has taken a significant toll on the health of those in its wake. It may be wise to understand storm events like Harvey not only as short-term physical disruptors, but as public health crises that will likely unfold over many years, long after media attention and political will to respond may have cooled.

Microgrids, Distributed Energy, and Resilience

Destruction of the energy infrastructure on the island of Dominica, following Hu
By Miriam Aczel, Visiting Researcher, Environmental Law Institute
Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Four months after Category 5 Hurricane Maria swept through Puerto Rico causing catastrophic damage, much of the island is still without power, food, and water. The storm knocked out power to almost all the commonwealth—homes, schools, hospitals, and other critical services and infrastructure were left without power. Even now, over one-third of the island is still without electricity, and many are left without access to food and running water.

Looking at Land Restoration as a Carbon Removal Solution

Restoration of forests is one promising approach to carbon dioxide removal.
By Serena Choi, Research and Publications Intern
Monday, January 29, 2018

With the Paris Climate Agreement’s goal to keep average global temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, governments across the world are struggling to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions voluntarily and collectively. Some have described this challenge as a prisoner’s dilemma. Removing carbon from the atmosphere may be the key to escape.

Watson, Meet Eco

Could algorithms be used to automate environmental management? (Photo: Pixabay)
By Dave Rejeski, Director; Technology, Innovation and the Environment Project
Wednesday, January 24, 2018

In a not-so-far-away future, environmental management will be done largely by algorithm. Here is how that could happen . . . .

In 2015, two graduates from Stanford business school, William Glass and Eden Kropski, founded a firm to produce and sell high-performance sportswear made entirely of synthetic fibers bioengineered from yeast microbes. The product was a runaway success and low-impact, but shipping it around the planet wasn’t.

Shale Gas: Bridge Fuel or Pipe Dream?

Natural gas extraction is set to resume in the U.K. in 2018 (Photo: Geograph)
By Miriam Aczel, Visiting Researcher, Environmental Law Institute
Monday, January 22, 2018

The U.K. government cites shale gas as a “safe and environmentally sound” source of new energy and is actively promoting development of the fossil resource—using hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling—in hopes of emulating the United States’ shale gas “revolution.” 

State Policies Are Still Needed to Reduce Radon Risk

Radon can enter homes in numerous ways (Photo: US EPA)
By Tobie Bernstein, Senior Attorney; Director, Indoor Environments and Green Buildings Program
Wednesday, January 17, 2018

January is National Radon Action Month, a good time for policymakers to consider what action they can take to address one of the most important—and preventable—indoor health risks facing their constituents. Radon is responsible for around 21,000 lung cancer deaths in the United States each year. That makes it the second leading cause of lung cancer overall and the leading cause among non-smokers, according to EPA.

D.C.’s Flushable Wipes Law Gets Clogged in District Court

Flushable wipes (Your Best Digs / Flickr)
By Robert Kelsey, Associate Editor, Environmental Law Reporter
Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Flushable wipes have proven to not be so flushable and are wreaking havoc on some of the world’s major cities. Municipalities like New York City, spend millions of dollars to remedy clogging issues the wipes cause. New York City officials said in 2015 that "wipe-related equipment problems," have cost the city more than $18 million since 2010.