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The future of urban farming sits along Fenway’s Green Monster

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Ever since the construction of Boston’s Fenway Park in 1912, the towering, 37-foot-high left field wall known as “the Green Monster” has been one of its most iconic architectural features. But in recent years, the beloved ballpark has been attracting attention for a more modern architectural amenity (one that is “green” in a different sense): a 5,000-square-foot sustainable rooftop garden area, located just behind the Green Monster, that produces 4,000-to-6,000 pounds of fresh organic produce a year.

Red Sox fans enjoy the garden’s eggplant, carrots, onions, peppers, beets, kale, cherry tomatoes, herbs, spices and other produce in the ballpark’s restaurants and concession stands, which reduces the amount of produce that must be trucked in by about 20 percent each year. The garden also lowers the roof temperature by up to 10 percent and collects rain runoff.

The rooftop garden also serves another purpose: to showcase the potential of organic, urban agriculture, a sustainable farming practice that some experts believe could, if adopted widely, significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and bring a host of other benefits. Over the past decade or so, the idea has moved from the fringes to become a topic of active discussion in much of the world. Developmental organizations have increasingly begun to stress the need to develop “resilient,” local food systems to feed the urban poor, which are expected to flock to urban centers in the decades ahead.

Urban gardens also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in two ways. First, like all organic agriculture, they don’t use synthetic nitrogen fertilizers. Eliminating these fertilizers generally would reduce agricultural emissions by about 20 percent, according to the National Resources Defense Council. Second, growing food locally, rather than flying and trucking it in from distant farms, could chip away at emissions from agricultural transport vehicles, which accounts for about 5 percent of household carbon emissions.

Although urban farming has taken off in Europe, Canada and many developing nations, it has lagged in the U.S. Fenway Farms is part of an effort to change that. The garden is operated for the Red Sox by Green City Growers, a 15-year-old, for-profit Massachusetts-based company that promotes locally based, sustainable agricultural practices. In addition to Fenway, Oracle Park in San Francisco has a rooftop garden, though it’s not run by Green City Growers.

A few years ago, the company consisted largely of a handful of “hip young people” in the metropolitan Boston area riding around on bicycles, installing and operating residential gardens, says company president Chris Grallert. Today, Green City Growers operates more than 250 urban gardens in backyards, corporate campuses and public schools across the northeast. They include a 1.6-acre garden for Fidelity Investments, New England’s largest rooftop farm on top of a Whole Food Market in Lynnfield, gardens used for educating students in 53 Boston public schools, and an installation at the Boston Children’s Museum. The company’s staff of 30 have helped introduce thousands of school children, volunteers and employees to the joys of sustainable farming.

The Fenway project aligns with the company’s social mission to introduce city dwellers to the positive power of plants. “The most important thing about Fenway Park is its high visibility,” says Grallert. “Tens of thousands of people see Fenway Farms every year. When they walk around the corner, they see this amazing garden on the rooftop of the corporate offices of the Boston Red Sox and go, ‘Wow.’ It’s a great learning experience right there in and of itself. People realize what’s possible.”

The company started in 2008 when co-founder Jessie Banhazl quit her job as a production assistant for the reality television show Wife Swap and moved back in with her parents in Wayland, Massachusetts, intent on finding a new, more meaningful vocation. Banhazl, who was 24 at the time, had gotten a phone call from a college friend, Gabriel Erde-Cohen, the other co-founder, who recommended Michael Pollan’s 2006 book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and asked her to help him set up a “backyard farming business.”

The book changed Banhazl’s life—in particular, Pollan’s explanation of how the rise of modern agricultural practices after World War II (made possible by the development of big tractors, nitrogen fertilizer and a wide array of other technological innovations) helped massively increase yields. But those developments also led to centralized food production that relied heavily on fossil fuel emissions and pesticides, and distanced consumers from the source of their food.

“The idea of getting people to understand the value of eating food that is organic, that is better for you and better for your system, was very appealing,” Banhazl tells Newsweek. “As was the idea that we’ve got all these spaces and they’re not doing anything. And if you’re growing vegetables, you’re growing life, you’re growing something that people can consume to stay alive. It was the opposite of working in reality television.”

Banhazl and Erde-Cohen began distributing fliers and setting up tables at local farmers markets, offering to install raised garden beds in small spaces, such as backyards, driveways, rooves and city lots, and then return every week or so (depending on size of the crop) to maintain it. A feature in a local foodie publication got the attention of the first corporate clients, including Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare, which wanted to create a garden for its staff as part of an employee wellness program, and the B Good restaurant chain. By 2014, Banhazl had pitched Linda Pizzuti Henry, a co-owner of the Red Sox, on the rooftop gardens, after meeting her through a local business accelerator.

Banhazl has looked abroad for inspiration. In 2019, as part of a five-week fellowship, she met with 50 organizations in eight cities in Sweden, Germany and France to gather best practices. Berlin had filled 25 square miles of public park spaces with community gardens. The Swedish cities of Gothenburg and Malmo outfitted city-owned parcels with greenhouses, fences and water, reducing barriers to entry for a new generation of urban farmers; today, 200 farms occupy 11 square miles of city land in the two cities. And on her trip, Banhazl found that Paris had converted 247 acres to green space and dedicated roughly a third of them to urban agriculture; by 2019, more than 60 urban farming organizations had sprung up.

With the percentage of the world’s population living in urban areas projected to swell from 50 percent to 70 percent by 2050, urban farming has become a hot topic. More than 190 cities around the world have signed what’s known as the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact (MUFPP), committing themselves to building sustainable and resilient urban food systems. In Bobo-Dioulasso, a city in Burkina Faso, land surface temperatures increased about six percent a year between 1991 and 2013. The city responded by promoting agroforestry activities in open urban lots and planting fruit-bearing trees and fresh vegetables, to be provided to participating households. The city of Toronto plans to double its current tree canopy, in part by providing funds to community orchards and gardens as well as home gardens.

Grallert, the current CEO of Green City Growers, is a Boston-area native with a background in commercial agriculture. He was running a large commercial apple orchard in the high Arizona desert and had been looking to move back home when he heard of Green City Growers in 2015 and decided to invest in it, eventually taking the top job. He has since helped bring in investors and launched an expansion. (Banhazl, after more than 13 years in the business, sold her stake in 2021 to Tanimura & Antle, a Californian grower and seller of conventional and organic fresh lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower and other vegetables). Grallert sees Green City Growers as a “beachhead” for a future in which distributed food production systems are a major source of produce and city dwellers across the nation are empowered to grow their own food.

“Green City Growers connects with thousands and thousands of people—tens of thousands of people every year who work in our gardens,” he says. “We send garden educators out on a weekly basis to more than 200 sites to engage with people about organic vegetable gardening.”

If the trend continues, urban gardens could play a bigger role in the greening of the American food industry in the coming years. “Distributed production agriculture is going to be a much bigger part of the future,” says Grallert. “We’re not sure yet exactly what it will look like. Consumers are asking for it, society’s asking for it.”

Kristen Mandala turns fear "into fuel" to drive climate solutions

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Canadian sustainability advocate Kristen Mandala, 31, returned to her hometown of Toronto in 2018 after having worked as a tour guide in Central and South America, and it opened her eyes as to how people can feel too overwhelmed to take action on the climate crisis.

“The biggest thing that I’ve learned, especially from that time of moving back, is that people really don’t respond to fear, shame [or] judgment in terms of a motivator for change,” she told Newsweek recently. “Oftentimes, especially when it comes to the climate, they want to feel hopeful. They want to feel as though they really can make a difference.”

That experience motivated Mandala to start The Greener Good consulting agency in 2019. It aims to “remove barriers between those who may not have previously felt able to participate in sustainable action by forging a connection to the natural world around us,” according to its website.

In a recent Zoom interview, Mandala, who is also a podcaster and a sustainability educator and speaker for Earth Day Canada, gave us a sample of the kind of guidance she offers, and outlined some of the ways that people can make a difference in their own lives regarding sustainability.

She advocated for bulk buying, thrifting and repairing clothing, favoring locally owned hotels and restaurants when traveling and just being part of the climate conversation, whether via following environment-focused accounts on social media or reaching out to government officials.

“I’m so grateful for the things that I already have that this need to constantly engage and buy and keep up with the latest trends has really gone by the wayside,” she explained. “I like making my coffee at home, I like having clothes that I’ve already worn, and I like repairing the holes in my socks.”

Besides consulting, The Greener Good offers virtual and in-person interactive workshops that highlight ways to increase the health of the planet and personal well-being and foster a greater understanding of sustainability. In her work with the Earth Day Canada nonprofit, Mandala is also part of workshops that highlight different ways people can incorporate smarter consumption into their lives.

“A lot of the things that we talk about is reducing food waste and how we move, like, engaging differently in transportation systems, growing our own food if that’s something that people are interested in,” she said. “If you really love cooking, look at some zero-waste recipes that include more plant-based ingredients.”

She said her next goal is to be able to deliver workshops at a greater scale and more frequently. Because she sees young people as the demographic who will be most greatly affected by the climate crisis, she wants to deliver more workshops in schools.

Constructive dialogue is central to Mandala. During her interview, she said something she is most proud of is people contacting her to say that they felt empowered to reach out to their government representative for the first time, even if they don’t feel like they are 100 percent informed on every facet impacting the environment.

That focus on active communication is a key quality of the podcast she co-hosts, called Accidental Friends. Along with her “accidental friend” Alene Degian, Mandala presents a weekly example of civil discourse.

The two hosts “don’t see eye-to-eye on almost anything,” Mandala said, singling out “anything pop-culture-related” as where disagreements may arise.

But, she added, “We’re still able to engage in nuanced conversation that’s super-respectful. It’s not like we’re always trying to change the other person’s mind, and I think that’s something that we could all use a little bit more of on social media, especially.”

Mandala said that social media, and its depiction of suffering in the world, has exacerbated her own sense of guilt at having access to first-world comforts like clean water and electricity that many people take for granted.

“I am trying to turn that kind of frustration and fear and anger into fuel so that I can keep showing up as a positive force that tries to empower people in the developed world, or in the Global North, to not feel like they can’t make a change,” she said. She also encouraged people follow her on Instagram and TikTok.

Along with clean air, soil and water, Mandala said that people deserve to have their voices heard, adding that she is happy to be a conduit for that engagement.

“What people really don’t realize is that they see this big word of ‘sustainability,'” she said, “and they don’t realize that sustainability is kind of a lens that you can use to see all the different things in your life.”

What the auto workers’ win might mean for cleaner cars and climate action

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Labor and industry experts say the United Auto Workers’ tentative contract agreement with Detroit’s Big Three automakers has major implications for the auto industry’s shift to electric vehicles and the nation’s effort to cut greenhouse gases.

EVs have been at the center of negotiations during the UAW’s six-week strike against Ford, GM and Stellantis, the company that makes the Jeep, Ram and Chrysler brands. The three automakers each reached tentative settlements within a few days of each other, ending with GM’s agreement on Monday. UAW members will now vote on whether to ratify the agreements.

At several points during the negotiations, industry executives claimed that they couldn’t produce EVs at large scale and remain competitive while paying higher wages. That was when EV proponent and labor supporter Jason Walsh said he started to worry. Walsh is executive director of the BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition of environmental groups and labor organizations, including the UAW, which argues that we shouldn’t have to choose between good jobs and a clean environment.

“The tentative agreements between the UAW and the Big Three, I think, conclusively show that’s a false choice,” Walsh told Newsweek.

Wage increases and other benefits the UAW won will add to the costs of making EVs. But the automakers also win by gaining certainty in business planning and resolving some long-simmering points of conflict with labor, according to Cornell University professor and labor expert Harry Katz.

“I think it’s helped, rather than hindered, the growth of electric vehicles,” Katz told Newsweek.

In addition to discontent over stagnant wages, the union was concerned that some workers would be left behind as automakers pivot to cleaner cars.

EVs generally require fewer parts and thus less labor compared to the manufacture of internal combustion vehicles. Further, federal loans and other government incentives had sparked a wave of new investment in EV battery manufacturing. Some of those new facilities are being built by battery companies that are not represented by the union and some are jointly owned by battery companies and the Detroit automakers.

“They wanted to make sure through this agreement to have at least the battery plants that are jointly owned by the Big Three have UAW representation,” Katz said. Katz studies collective bargaining at Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, and he said UAW President Shawn Fain made the most of his bargaining power in an agreement that “did very well” for his members.

The UAW won wage increases of between 25 and 30 percent, greater retirement security and a mechanism for newer workers to advance more quickly to higher pay tiers. Katz said the union also won an agreement that makes it easier to organize workers at the battery plants that the Big Three automakers jointly own.

That will become more important as the automakers build more battery facilities, according to Sam Abuelsamid, an auto industry analyst at market research company Guidehouse Insights. Abuelsamid rattled off ten planned battery facilities the Big Three will have a stake in, each bringing big job potential.

“There will be lost jobs at other plants, but there will be new ones created,” Abuelsamid told Newsweek. “So it will be more of a shift, not a huge change in the number of employees.”

Abuelsamid said the additional costs in this agreement do not look like a major barrier.

“Of the challenges the EV revolution has, this labor agreement is probably the least of them,” he said, listing material shortages and the lack of a reliable national charging system as bigger hurdles for the industry. High interest rates aren’t helping either, he said, as the lack of attractive financing suppresses consumer demand.

Former auto industry executive John Casesa is less dismissive of the costs associated with the UAW agreement.

“I think it’s fair to say it’s a more expensive contract than anybody in the industry expected,” he told Newsweek. Casesa was once a group vice president at Ford where he was head of strategy for three years. He’s now a senior managing director at the investment bank Guggenheim Securities. Casesa said any additional cost makes it harder for companies with one foot still in the gas-powered market to shift to the electric one.

“The incumbent auto companies have to remain competitive in their core business and have enough capital to build the new EV business,” Casesa said. “To the extent that the labor agreement makes it more expensive to operate the existing business, there’s less money to invest.”

Battery Belt Growth

The Big Three automakers are only part of the growing EV and battery sector, and Katz said that points to another challenge for the union.

“I call it the Achilles’ heel of their success,” Katz said of the UAW, “the growing share of cars and trucks sold in the U.S. that are not made by UAW workers.” That is especially true of EV makers such as Tesla, he said. UAW President Fain has made it clear in recent comments that the union will step up its efforts to organize nonunion EV and battery makers.

“He hopes that by all these gains in their contracts with the Big Three, that will lead the workers in the nonunion workplaces to be more interested in unionization,” Katz said. Fain will have a difficult task organizing facilities in the emerging battery belt of southeastern states, Katz said, where cultural and political forces are less labor-friendly than in the Upper Midwest.

Many of the states with the biggest recent EV and battery developments, such as Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee, have “right to work” laws which make union organizing more difficult. But difficult does not mean impossible, Walsh at the BlueGreen Alliance said.

“If anyone is under the illusion that unions can’t organize in right-to-work states, they should look to the workers at Blue Bird in Georgia,” Walsh said. Workers making electric school buses at the Blue Bird Corporation’s facility in Fort Valley, Georgia, voted in May to join the United Steel Workers.

Driving Down Emissions

Casesa said it is difficult to grasp the enormous change the auto industry is undergoing with the move to EVs.

“There’s nothing comparable in the history of the auto industry,” he said, pointing to major change coming to every aspect of the business, from the supply chain to the product and the way the companies reach customers. “With the changes rippling through the system, essentially you’re going to have a new kind of industry,” he said.

The Biden administration has set an ambitious goal for a range of electrified vehicles to make up half of total U.S. auto sales by the end of the decade, including battery-electric, plug-in hybrid and fuel cell technology. Legislation passed last year includes billions to boost the manufacture of EVs and batteries and to build a better charging infrastructure.

Car buyers can get a tax credit and other incentives for qualifying electric vehicles, battery companies are vying for $17 billion in loans from the Department of Energy, and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law included $7 billion in funding for a national charging network.

All of that is part of the administration’s larger strategy on climate action, which calls for a 50 percent reduction in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2030. The transportation sector is the country’s largest source of those emissions.

“Shifting to electric vehicles is absolutely central to meeting our emissions reduction goals,” Walsh said in a reminder of just how much is riding on the EV transition. “You can’t get there unless you significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector.”

Five tech innovations that could help save the planet

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Around the world, entrepreneurs are trying to turn green tech ideas into viable businesses. Many are working with technology that has been proven to work, but is too expensive for widespread use. The challenge is finding ways to bring the costs down enough so that their solutions can be scaled up to effect real change.

Here is a collection of innovative companies and inventors who believe they are close to hitting that mark with products ranging from the world’s whitest paint to high-efficiency electric batteries made from one of the most plentiful elements on Earth.

1. Earth-Cooling Paint

In 2020, a team of graduate students led by Purdue University mechanical engineering professor Xiulin Ruan came up with a formula for what Guinness World Records later recognized as the world’s whitest paint. While it looks pretty similar to other white paints, the new ultra-white reflects up to 98.1 percent of sunlight, which means unlike most paints, which warm buildings, this one can cool them down.

According to a Purdue study published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the new paint can lower surface temperatures 8 degrees Fahrenheit by day and 19 degrees by night. Less heat means lower energy usage and lower greenhouse gas emissions. A compound called barium sulfate is what makes the paint so reflective. Different sized particles of the chemical scatter different wavelengths of light. The Purdue team used particles of many various sizes to reflect as much light as possible.

“Products like this ultra-white paint have the potential to make a real difference,” says Karema Seliem, associate director of LEED technical development at the U.S. Green Building Council.

While Purdue’s Ruan says the paint was originally intended as a roof coating, he’s been approached by companies in industries ranging from textiles to spacecraft. A new iteration of the paint, developed last year using a different reflective chemical, is lighter and thinner than the original (although slightly less reflective), which could make it a practical coating for cars, trains and airplanes.

According to a Purdue spokesperson, Ruan and his team have partnered with an unnamed company to manufacture super-reflective paint commercially. The spokesperson, however, declined to say when it might hit the market.

2. Taking Carbon Out of the Air

Direct air capture (DAC) is a green technology whose time hasn’t quite come, but it seems to be getting closer.

Chemical filters in DAC units trap CO2 out of the air. The captured CO2 can be used to make eco-friendly products like fertilizer or fuel, or it can be pumped underground, where it is trapped permanently in rock. While the technology is proven, it now costs between $600 to $1,000 to get a metric ton of carbon out of the air via DAC, and green tech experts think a large market for the process won’t spring up until somebody gets the price under $100. Several companies around the world are competing to be first.

Arguably, the leader in that race is a Swiss company called Climeworks, whose approach mixes trapped CO2 with water and pumps it underground. The company has attracted big name investors and clients, including the band Coldplay, which hired Climeworks to take an amount of CO2 out of the air equal to what the band’s current world tour is generating.

Climeworks’ strategy has been to sign up customers willing to bankroll its efforts to get near the magic $100 mark. Earlier this year, the company said its Orca plant near Reykjavik, Iceland, which can extract 4,000 tons of carbon, had become the first in the world to achieve “large-scale capture” of CO2. The work was done for Microsoft, Stripe and Spotify. Climeworks didn’t say how much CO2 it had captured or at what price, citing confidentially agreements with its customers, but DNV, a risk management and certification company, said it had independently confirmed the company’s claim.

At a conference this year, Climeworks co-founder Jan Wurzbacher, who has expressed confidence his company can get the price down to $200, wasn’t specific about the current total cost, except to say that it was less than $1,000 per ton.

Meanwhile, the company is pressing ahead. In June, Climeworks announced a second Icelandic facility, Mammoth, slated to open early next year, that will have the ability to capture 36,000 tons of CO2. Co-founder Christoph Gebald says the company’s new goal is global expansion, beginning with a project in Kenya. “As we look toward 2024, we remain committed to making a climate impact at scale with our necessary DAC technology.”

3. A Very Old Technology, Repurposed

When biomass—agricultural waste like plant husks, stalks and wood—are burned, or even when they simply decompose, they release CO2 and other climate-changing gases like methane and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. But if biomass are heated without oxygen, those substances are trapped in a black ashy substance called biochar.

Farmers have known for thousands of years that biochar makes good fertilizer. More recently, scientists and entrepreneurs have gotten excited about it as a way to keep CO2 out of the atmosphere. In addition to fertilizer, biochar has a range of commercial uses, including as animal feed, a source of alternative fuel and an additive to concrete.

Biochar manufacturing company Biochar Now, for instance, uses a “slow pyrolysis” kiln technology at its Colorado plant to make biochar, which it packages in different sizes—from particle to chip, depending on intended use—and sells. “We created a patented technology that is easily scalable,” says Biochar Now founder and CEO James Gaspard. Biochar’s massive kilns, he says, can produce biochar at industrial scale.

Biochar Now is currently partnering with corporations across industries and with government; last December, Boulder County gave Biochar Now a $100,000 grant to take portable biochar kilns to remote parts of the country where there are large amounts of waste wood, among them wildfire sites. The waste wood will be turned into biochar to be sold to farmers, keeping it out of landfills where it would generate methane.

4. Shopping Bags Made of Seaweed

Almost all plastics are made from fossil fuels, so manufacturing them contributes to climate change. And once plastic objects have been used and discarded, they sit around the environment virtually forever. According to the nonprofit Plastic Oceans International, 50 percent of all plastic produced is for single-use purposes. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which promotes a “circular economy,” in which things are recycled rather than trashed, says there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish by 2050.

For years, entrepreneurs have been trying to come up with commercially viable, environmentally friendly alternatives to plastics but with only limited success. Corn-based plastics, for instance, are land-intensive and difficult to compost. Other alternatives are expensive to manufacture.

Sway, a small Bay Area-based startup, sees an opportunity in seaweed—a plant that doesn’t take up land or use fertilizer and naturally removes a significant amount of CO2 from the atmosphere. The company extracts the naturally occurring cellulose from seaweed and turns it into a substance with the lightness, strength and flexibility of plastic. Sway says this can be used in existing plastics manufacturing equipment and biodegrades quickly. At commercial volumes, the company says, its seaweed materials are only marginally more expensive than traditional, petroleum-based packaging.

Sway’s first project was a plastic substitute that can be used in shopping bags and the thin wrapping used in the packaging that comes with online clothing orders. This year, the company was named a winner of the Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Prize, a global competition that awards creators of scalable, biologically degradable alternatives to plastic polybags a $1.2 million cash prize. The money is split among three winners, with Sway receiving the majority. Among the categories judged were cost, performance, scale and social impact. Sway CEO and co-founder Julia Marsh says the recognition “proved that mainstream brands are hungrily seeking solutions that replenish the planet.”

Since then, Sway has entered into partnerships with home and lifestyle goods retailer Graf Lantz and footwear brand Ales Grey. Marsh says the company is now scaling up production to commercialize wrappers and pouches for food and beauty. “We see the massive demand for Sway seaweed packaging as an opportunity to help promote regenerative practices, interlinking our success with the health of oceans, communities, and land,” she says.

5. Rust-Powered Batteries

One of the biggest challenges to reducing the use of fossil fuels with renewable resources like solar and wind is how to store the energy they produce for long periods of time. What do you do for electricity on days when the sun isn’t shining, and the wind isn’t blowing? Lithium-ion batteries like those in cell phones and electric cars are expensive to make, not good at storing energy for a long time—and sometimes they explode.

“Recent severe weather events, ranging from heatwaves to cold snaps to thousand-year rains, have highlighted the weakness of our electric grid,” says Mateo Jaramillo, co-founder and CEO of a Somerville, Massachusetts, startup called Form Energy. “We need new, transformative energy storage technologies capable of cost-effectively storing electricity for multiple days.”

Form’s solution: batteries that store energy using iron and air. When iron and air combine, they form rust, a process that releases energy. Apply an electric current to rust and it turns back into iron, trapping energy. Form’s batteries are charged by this “reverse rusting.” They discharge when air is pumped in: the iron turns to rust and the stored energy is released.

The idea of iron batteries isn’t new, but they’ve never been practical for small devices or vehicles because they are so heavy. Weight would be much less of an issue, though, for large and permanent iron battery facilities meant for storing large amounts of energy from a power plant. And iron, unlike lithium, is cheap, plentiful and non-explosive.

Form says its technology can store energy much longer than existing technology—up to 100 hours—and can bring the price of storing electricity down from the current $50 to $80 per kilowatt-hour, to less than $20. Jaramillo says that’s because these batteries rely only on abundant, safe, low-cost materials that can be fully sourced in North America.

With $760 million from investors, Form is building a manufacturing facility in West Virginia that’s set to begin operating in mid-to-late 2024. Jaramillo says Form’s goals are “enhancing grid resilience and security, increasing grid reliability and safety, creating good-paying jobs and economically benefiting local communities and ensuring the inventions that secure our energy future are built right here in the United States.”

Floating solar panels can supply clean power to spots where land is limited

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Officials at Del-Co Water Company, a nonprofit cooperative in north central Ohio, were looking for ways to add solar power to reduce the carbon footprint of their energy-intensive pump systems. But development pressure on the outskirts of Columbus made land for a solar farm scarce.

“Growth is happening at such a pace that land is incredibly valuable,” Del-Co Chief Legal and Strategy Officer Jason Rafeld told Newsweek. Then, he said, someone floated an idea for placing the solar somewhere other than on land. “Well, what if we put it on our reservoirs?”

Construction scheduled to begin soon will do just that. Rafeld said a 32-acre Del-Co reservoir will have a three-acre grid of floating photovoltaic solar panels, the latest example of a technology that is expanding renewable energy in places where land is limited.

With the 1.2-megawatt installation, Del-Co is dipping a toe into floating solar, and Rafeld said if testing shows it to be a good fit, the company plans to add more floating arrays to its other reservoirs. So far, he said, he’s seen no indication that the plastic rafts and panels will negatively affect water quality or reservoir performance, and they might even have some benefits.

“A lot of algae growth happens because of sunlight and so if we block the sun on a portion we might experience less algae growth,” he said. That could lower maintenance costs and require fewer chemical treatments to counter algae growth. In drier areas, the panels can also reduce water loss due to evaporation.

“We have a lot of confidence this is going to be successful,” Rafeld said.

Floating solar has been growing slowly in the U.S. over the past few years and could soon make a much bigger splash as more companies want to tap into federal incentives for solar while avoiding land-use conflicts and high cost.

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab found that adding floating solar to just a small portion of the country’s lakes, ponds and reservoirs could provide 10 percent of the current electricity generation in the U.S. The NREL assessed potential for floating solar and found more than 24,000 man-made water bodies were suitable for the technology, and many are in places with high land costs and high electricity prices.

Countries in Asia have been leading deployment of floating solar, and a study by scientists at Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China, found enormous global potential on nearly 115,000 reservoirs around the world. The researchers identified 6,256 communities in 124 countries that could become energy self-sufficient by using floating solar.

Miami-based D3Energy is supplying the units that Del-Co will install. Development Director Stetson Tchividjian told Newsweek that the solar panels and electronics are all the same as what would go into any other installation, they just go on a floating rack instead of a rooftop or ground mount. The rack is made from molded HDPE plastic and resembles a floating dock.

“We build it all onshore row by row, almost like a giant Lego set, and then feed it out into the water,” he said, and the rafts are then anchored in place. Tchividjian said the units are cost-competitive with land-based ones and because they fit together more closely, require less space to generate power. (The higher racks for land-based arrays cast a shadow on neighboring panels, requiring extra spacing. The low-lying floating arrays don’t shade one another and can fit together snugly.)

“We’re actually just under two acres per megawatt versus the ground system at five acres,” he said.

D3Energy has had a wide range of clients, including water utilities like Del-Co, the Army’s Fort Liberty base in North Carolina (formerly Fort Bragg) and electric utility companies such as Duke Energy, which added floating solar to a cooling pond beside its fossil fuel power plant in Bartow, Florida.

Florida is an especially good place for floating solar, Tchividjian said. It is the Sunshine State, after all, and Florida has limited land but lots of water.

Justin Kramer manages emerging technologies for the Orlando Utilities Commission, which had D3Energy add floating solar to help power water systems and supply power to its 240,000 customers.

“We have a lot of stormwater ponds throughout our territory,” Kramer told Newsweek. “These ponds are right along roads which have distribution power lines and everything.”

Kramer said the floating arrays form a beneficial feedback loop as the shade keeps water cooler. That helps some aquatic wildlife while the cooler water, in turn, improves the efficiency of the solar panels, which perform best in temperatures just under 80 degrees.

OUC has partnered with the Orlando Airport and the Florida Department of Transportation to identify more water bodies suitable for the technology, and Kramer said floating solar will be a big part of helping the company meet its goal to be net carbon zero by 2050.

Tchividjian said he’s enjoyed watching the technology go from a novelty to a proven power source. He said each new project adds to the body of knowledge about how floating solar performs and the growing confidence in the technology, and the boom in solar incentives have made this the company’s busiest year.

“Wherever there’s water, this is becoming a huge point of interest for a lot of different customers,” he said.

Space station photos reveal Earth’s "bloody" lakes

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Astronauts have captured a “bloody” phenomenon running through some of the Earth’s lakes while on board the International Space Station.

They took photographs showing bodies of water flowing in red colors due to an abundance of algae and bacteria lurking in the water.

One photograph, posted to the NASA Earth Observatory, shows the Laguna Colorada, also known as the Red Lagoon in the Bolivian Andes, from above. This lagoon is famous for being bright red in appearance, and according to local folklore, the lake isn’t full of water at all, bur rather the blood of gods.

The reddish hues are characteristic of hypersaline environments—where bodies of water are typically saltier than normal seawater. In these lakes, red algae and other microorganisms are so abundant that they color the water vibrantly.

Some lakes see more of this algae growth than others. Its growth depends on several factors, including water temperature, light and the saltiness of the water. The algae in the Laguna Colorado is a vital food source for flamingos, which come to the water to feed.

Another image captured by the astronauts shows the Betsiboka River Delta in Madagascar, revealing water flowing in red and brown colors.

The redness of this river, and other waters in Madagascar, is caused by the iron-rich sediment, the NASA Earth Observatory reported.

Many pictures have been captured of these bloody waterways before by satellites and astronauts. According to a previous report from the NASA Earth Observatory, one astronaut, upon meeting the president of Madagascar said: “Oh, yes, I know your country. It is the one bleeding into the ocean.”

The sediment flows through the river and sometimes clogs waterways. However, it also occasionally forms new islands, where mangroves grow.

The Great Salt Lake in Utah has also seen a high amount of red algae blooming in its waters in the past.

A satilite image below shows the lake from above, where half the water is colored with a reddish tint.

While the bloody color may look strange, some algae provides vital water sources for bird species and marine life.

In the Betsiboka River Delta, the seagrasses in the estuary provide food to endangered green turtles and sea cows.

An excessive amount of algae in water can be harmful. Red tide, for example, is a type of algal bloom that grows quickly and can color waters bright red. High concentrations of this algae can be toxic to marine life. Warmer waters, affected by climate change, can cause high amounts of red tide in lakes and rivers.

Do you have a tip on a science story that Newsweek should be covering? Do you have a question about algae? Let us know via science@newsweek.com.

Update 10/30/23, 12:14 a.m. ET: a satellite image showing Great Salt Lake has been added to this article.

Santa Ana wind maps show peak gust forecasts

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Santa Ana winds are expected to continue affecting much of Southern California on Monday, and the National Weather Service has released maps showing peak gust forecasts.

The winds come as strong high pressure settles over the Great Basin and Rockies, the NWS said in a forecast alert released early on Monday. Maximum gusts of up to 70 miles per hour are possible, prompting High Wind Warnings throughout the region.

Dry vegetation and low relative humidity are also combining to produce conditions that present a “critical” fire risk, the NWS said, with Red Flag Warnings issued for some parts of Southern California, such as in the Los Angeles region.

A Red Flag Warning means that critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now or will shortly.

“Use extreme caution with anything that can spark a wildfire. Residents near wildland interfaces should be prepared to evacuate if a wildfire breaks out,” the NWS said.

Santa Ana winds occur when air from a region of high pressure over the dry, desert regions of the southwestern United States flows westward towards areas of low pressure located off the coast of California.

This process produces dry winds that flow east to west through the mountain passages of Southern California. Such winds typically occur during the cooler months of the year—usually from September through May.

Santa Ana winds can be strong and have the potential to cause significant damage. They can also increase the wildfire risk because of their dry nature and potentially high speeds, which can help flames spread quickly.

Several factors contribute to the spread of wildfires, including high wind speeds, low air humidity, warm air temperatures, as well as both live and dead fuel moisture.

The very worst combination of these factors in California typically occurs in the fall, Robert Fovell, a professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences at the University at Albany, previously told Newsweek.

“California has a Mediterranean climate, which means it’s winter wet and summer dry. Fire risk is highest in the autumn, after the long, dry, hot summer, but before the winter rains—when those do come,” he said.

The winds that are currently affecting Southern California represent the first Santa Ana event of the season. Among the areas affected, western Los Angeles County and eastern Ventura County will continue to be the focus of strong Santa Ana winds on Monday, NWS Los Angeles said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

The map below shows peak wind gusts in the Los Angeles region, which will typically reach 40-60 miles per hour across wind-prone areas. Some areas in the mountains surrounding the city, meanwhile, may experience isolated gusts of up to around 70 miles per hour or potentially even higher.

A wind speed of 104 miles per hour has already been recorded at one location, the Magic Mountain Truck Trail, in the western San Gabriel Mountains—located north of Los Angeles—early Monday morning local time, figures from NWS Los Angeles show. This wind speed was recorded at an elevation of 4,482 feet.

High wind warnings have been issued for several parts of the Los Angeles region, active until 10 p.m. PDT Monday. These areas include the Santa Clarita Valley, central Ventura County valleys, Calabasas and Agoura Hills, western San Fernando Valley, southeastern Ventura County valleys, the Malibu Coast, the western Santa Monica Mountains Recreational Area, the Santa Susana Mountains, the Interstate 5 corridor, and the San Gabriel Mountains.

“Damaging winds will blow down large objects such as trees and power lines. Power outages are expected. Travel will be difficult, especially for drivers of high profile vehicles,” NWS Los Angeles said.

“People should avoid being outside in forested areas and around large trees. If possible, remain indoors and avoid windows. Use extra caution if you must drive.”

Red Flag Warnings are in effect for much of Los Angeles and Ventura counties through 10 p.m. local time Monday due to dangerous fire weather conditions resulting from strong Santa Ana winds and very low humidities. In addition, there is a risk of downed trees and power lines, as well as power outages.

The Los Angeles Fire Department has declared a city-wide Red Flag Alert that involves temporary parking restrictions in designated areas—in preparation for potential evacuations. The alert began at 8 a.m. PDT on Sunday and will remain in effect for at least 48 hours.

Other areas that will be affected by Santa Ana winds on Monday include the San Diego region. A peak wind gust map for this region can be seen above.

“Gusty Santa Ana winds will continue Monday for the coastal mountain slopes, foothills, and into the valleys,” NWS San Diego said in a post on X. “Very dry conditions will accompany these winds, with widespread single digit relative humidity. Periods of critical fire weather conditions will continue.”

Much of Acapulco still without power as Hurricane Otis death toll rises

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Efforts to restore power in Acapulco are ongoing nearly a week after Hurricane Otis devastated the resort town along the Pacific Ocean in Mexico’s Guerrero state.

Hurricane Otis made landfall with Category 5 strength in the early hours of October 25, bringing with it heavy rainfall and maximum sustained wind speeds of about 165 mph. Hurricane Otis’ arrival in Acapulco surprised many weather experts due to its rapid acceleration from tropical storm into Category 5 hurricane.

Video footage captured when the storm arrived showed Acapulco plummeting into darkness as the storm shuttered power service throughout the city.

All of Acapulco’s power poles were knocked down in the storm, according to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. He said last week that more than 1,000 Federal Electricity Commission workers were sent to the area to begin restoration efforts.

On Monday afternoon, Guerrero Governor Evelyn Salgado said in a post on Facebook that 65 percent of the city’s electricity service—or 334,304 of the area’s 513,524 customers—was working again, with “titanic” efforts underway “to electrify all of Acapulco as soon as possible.”

López Obrador said during a Monday press briefing that he expects electricity will be restored to all of Acapulco either later Monday or on Tuesday.

The human impact of Hurricane Otis on Acapulco is still unclear. One day after the hurricane hit, government officials said at least 27 people had died in connection with the storm. That number jumped by Monday, with Salgado saying during López Obrador’s briefing that at least 45 deaths had been linked to Otis. However, the Associated Press reported, it was unclear if all of those deaths were in Acapulco or if the number included other hurricane-related deaths in the wider Guerrero state. Government officials had reported 48 deaths linked to the hurricane earlier this week, 43 of which were reported in Acapulco.

Several people are also still missing, with efforts just beginning to search boats that sunk in Acapulco Bay. At least 47 people were reported missing as of Monday, Salgado said.

Newsweek reached out to Salgado’s office by email on Monday for comment.

Salgado has said the government will support Acapulco through its recovery efforts. “Acapulco will rise, we will go ahead and stronger than ever,” she said last week.

Videos and photos taken during and after the storm have captured the damage inflicted on Acapulco, which had a government-estimated population of about 852,000 in 2020. One set of photos that spread on social media hours after Hurricane Otis made landfall showed a shopping mall with parts of its side and roof torn apart. Other before-and-after photos showed Acapulco Bay’s devastated marina and Arena GNP Seguros stadium surrounded by standing floodwater.

Two rainstorms reverse years-long drought at Texas lake

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Water levels at a Texas lake swole by 15 feet over the weekend after two rainstorms brought a deluge of rain to the area.

Texas has suffered from severe drought throughout the summer, with the water levels in many lakes, reservoirs, and rivers dropping as a result. AccuWeather senior meteorologist Tom Kines told Newsweek that some areas received two months’ worth of rain in only a few days. This week will bring dry weather to the Waco region, but more rain could be on the way as the season turns.

Lake Waco in McLennan County is one of several in the Lone Star state that has suffered from a years-long drought. The lake was at its lowest level this year on Wednesday at 450 feet, 12 feet below full pool. After a deluge of rain, the lake jumped by more than 15 feet, elevating the lake to levels not seen since June 2021, and the lake could continue to rise.

The most recent update to the U.S. Drought Monitor Map showed that the majority of McLennan County was suffering from extreme drought prior to the rainstorms. The storm was cause for celebration as water levels at the lake continued to rise drastically throughout the weekend. At 465 feet, the lake is now above full pool.

“LAKE WACO IS FULL! In fact, we are into the flood stage at the lake! Thanks to all the rain in the Bosque River watershed, we have seen the lake rise nearly 15 feet since Wednesday! Incredible!” KXXV meteorologist Josh Johns posted on X, formerly Twitter, on Sunday night.

Johns spoke about the shoreline in the video accompanying the post, commenting on how there was exposed shore that is no longer visible following two rainstorms in the area.

“Amazing! Lake Waco was over 12 feet down last week. We are now 1 foot over the flood pool! That’s a rise of over 13 feet in the last five days,” KXXV chief meteorologist Matt Hines posted on X on Sunday. “Parts of Bosque county saw up to 20 inches of rain…and it flowed south. That’s how you break a drought!”

“As we get into the winter months, it’s looking to be normal to above-normal rainfall,” Kines said.

The heavy rainstorms in central Texas benefitted other parched lakes as well, with Lake Travis rising by 5 feet after the Llano River flooded. Lake Buchanan also benefitted and rose approximately 1.5 feet following the rain in Llano County, which yielded more than 7 inches of rain. Both lakes were suffering from the drought, with the low water levels at Lake Travis revealing hidden pecan groves and an abandoned concrete plant.

Texas could see more rain throughout the winter as El Niño grips the region. A graphic shared by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration revealed that much of Texas could expect a wet winter. Wet weather also is expected in southern California, Arizona and New Mexico.

Backlash in America: NYPD to reconsider uniform protocol at schools

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Live Updates .videoc {position: relative;padding-bottom: 56.25%} .player > iframe {position: absolute;top: 0;left: 0;width: 100%;height: 100%;overflow:hidden;}The ongoing conflict in the Middle East has caused a ripple effect across the U.S., and hate-inspired incidents against Jews, Palestinians, Muslims and other groups have climbed since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel.A new Anti-Defamation League (ADL) report shows antisemitic incidents in the U.S. are up by 400%, compared to the same time last year.Tensions have surrounded pro-Palestinian rallies on some college campuses. with students at one college being offered extra credit to attend such demonstrations, some law students reportedly losing job offers for alleged statements blaming all the violence on Israel and a major donor threatening to pull funding over anti-Israel protests, among others.The confrontations point to potential problems for Democrats as the 2024 election nears. Democratic voters have shifted sympathies from Israel towards the Palestinians in recent years, with the latest Gallup poll showing the largest change in sentiment among Millenials.

Live updates have ended.

4 hr ago 16:31 PM EDT

NYPD to Reconsider Uniform Protocol at Schools After Cooper Union Protest

The New York Police Department will discuss changing its uniform protocol at schools citywide, following what became a tense protest at Cooper Union earlier this week.

A group of pro-Palestinian demonstrators banged and chanted outside of a school library where Jewish students were reportedly studying on Wednesday. The students told WCBS that staff locked them inside over safety concerns.

NYPD estimated there were about 20 protestors total. Their officers were on site in plainclothes for the entirety of the planned demonstration, as requested by the college.

“The school [Cooper Union] asked us that we will be in plain clothes,” NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell said. “And that’s a protocol that we’re going to change and talk to all the schools city wide about that protocol.”

Chell added there were “no direct threats,” and “no danger to any students” at the school.

5 hr ago 15:43 PM EDT

Columbia University Alumnus Threatens to Pull Funding

A Jewish billionaire Columbia University alumnus said he would stop donating to his alma mater for struggling to contain campus tensions over the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Leon Cooperman has criticized students taking part in pro-Palestinian demonstrations and the continued employment of Joseph Massad, a Modern Arab Politics professor. Massad described Hamas’ militant attack on Israel as “awesome.”

“The real shame is I’ve given to Columbia, probably about $50 million over many years,” Cooperman told Fox Business earlier this week. “And I’m going to suspend my giving. I’ll give my giving to other organizations.”

Cooperman graduated from Columbia Business School in 1967 and is the chairman and CEO of investment advisory firm Omega. The university said it is “grateful” to Cooperman’s years of generosity and service.

“This is a time of crisis for many members of our community and we are focused on providing the support they need while keeping our campus safe,” a university spokesperson told Newsweek.

Read more from Newsweek’s Aleks Phillips below.

6 hr ago 14:12 PM EDT

Three Tulane University Students Assaulted at Protest

At least three Tulane University students were assaulted at an off-campus protest on Thursday.

The protest in New Orleans turned violent after pro-Palestinian demonstrators clashed with pro-Israel counterprotesters. Several hundreds protestors were reportedly in attendance.

Videos show two men in the back of a pickup truck– one with a Palestinian flag and another ready to burn an Israeli flag. A group of pro-Israel protesters approached the truck, and one of the men swung his flag at the group. A fight then broke out.

“We condemn and are outraged by today’s violence and the hateful language and rhetoric we heard,” Tulane University President Michael Fitts said. “What started out as a peaceful demonstration unfortunately devolved into a violent incident and a dark day for our community.”

Campus police also apprehended a suspect for antisemitic graffiti on a building near campus on Thursday night.

“Symbols and acts of hatred, antisemitism, deliberate provocation and preying upon the fears of others are not part of who we are,” Fitts said, calling the day “deeply distressing” for the university.

7 hr ago 13:27 PM EDT

Antisemitic Incidents Up Nearly 400%

A significant spike in antisemitic incidents has been reported across the U.S. since the Israel-Hamas war began on October 7. Incidents of harassment, vandalism and assault increased by 388% compared to the same time last year, Anti-Defamation League (ADL) data shows.

A total of 312 antisemitic incidents were recorded between Oct. 7 and 23, according to the organization’s latest data. Of those, 190 were directly linked to the war in Israel and Gaza. Many of these incidents were reported during rallies and on college campuses in New York, California, Michigan and other states.

“When conflict erupts in Israel, antisemitic incidents soon follow in the U.S. and globally,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a release.

“From white supremacists in California displaying antisemitic banners on highway overpasses to radical anti-Zionists harassing Jewish people because of their real or perceived support for the Jewish state, we are witnessing a disturbing rise in antisemitic activity here while the war rages overseas.”

The map below depicts antisemitic incidents and anti-Israel rallies in the U.S. tracked by ADL since Oct. 7; the data is preliminary. Teal circles represent incidents of harrassment, dark blue represents vandalism, green represents anti-Israel rallies with support for terrorism and purple represents anti-Israel rallies. The interactive map can be viewed here.