December 30, 2013


In 2013, Earth Policy Institute's researchers investigated a broad range of topics. For instance, over the 4th of July weekend the Guardian/Observer published “Peak Water: What Happens When the Wells Go Dry?” by Lester Brown. The editor accompanied this with his own article based on a conversation he’d had with Lester. It was entitled “Global threat to food supply as water wells dry up, warns top environment expert.”

The op-ed caught the attention of news organizations including Yahoo! News, the Hindu, the Free Republic, Shanghai News, and the Albuquerque Express. Meanwhile, the Institute released Lester’s piece as a Plan B Update to its public and media lists and sent targeted, personal emails to our list of agriculture reporters. We also mailed it to the state secretaries of agriculture.

This year World Food Day coincided with the official release date of Breaking New Ground. The research team released “10 Things to Know about Food.” The list was posted on major blogs including Treehugger, Grist, and Buzzfeed and was picked up by the Globalist, the Huffington Post, and Globe-net, and was even translated into Persian. It served as a good example of how the Institute’s material can be repackaged for an expanded audience.

Janet Larsen conducted a major research effort on bike-sharing. In one of the first reports of its kind, Janet took a global look at bike-sharing and found that today more than 500 cities in 49 countries host advanced bike-sharing programs, with a combined fleet of over 500,000 bicycles. Bike-sharing has come a long way since 1965, when fifty bicycles were painted white and scattered around Amsterdam for anyone to pick up and use free of charge. The piece was reposted on major blogs including Sustainablog, Grist, Treehugger, and the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia and was also reprinted in the Bicycle Times. Micheline Maynard cited it in her Forbes article “With San Francisco On Board, U.S. Bike Sharing Doubles” and the Economist shared some of the data in its October 12th print and online edition.

In June, Janet and Matt Roney collaborated on an Update titled “Farmed Fish Production Overtakes Beef.” For the first time in modern history, world farmed fish production topped beef production. The gap widened in 2012 with output from fish farming or aquaculture reaching a record 66 million tons, compared with production of beef at 63 million tons. And 2013 may well be the first year that people eat more fish raised on farms than caught in the wild. The piece received major attention in Canada where aquaculture plays a prominent role. It was also reposted on the Huffington Post and cited in a National Geographic blog.

Matt wrote a Data Highlight entitled “Wind Surpasses Nuclear in China.” Indeed, wind has overtaken nuclear as an electricity source in China. In 2012, wind farms generated 2 percent more electricity than nuclear power plants did, a gap that will likely widen dramatically over the next few years as wind surges ahead. This major new development was shared widely on social media and Matt eventually sat down with Mike Walter on China Central Television to discuss the decline of nuclear power.

Emily Adams’ Data Highlight “U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions Down 11 Percent Since 2007” revealed that carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels in the United States peaked in 2007 and have since fallen 11 percent, dropping to over 1.4 billion tons in 2013. The piece was reprinted in the National Journal and Emily was interviewed on the topic for ARD German TV. Emily also had speaking engagements at the Earth 2100 Conference put on by Our Task, the Washington Youth Summit for the Environment at George Mason University, and at the UNICEF International Development Conference at Georgetown University.

Throughout the year, news organizations interviewed researchers on various environmental issues. On the 43rd anniversary of Earth Day in April, Lester was interviewed on NPR’s Talk of the Nation and asked to explain what's changed since the first Earth Day in 1970, as concern about climate change and green energy have come to the forefront of the movement. Lester was also on The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann in October to discuss the release of the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report, which he said should serve as a wake-up call.

Janet was interviewed for NPR’s food blog The Salt on the world's first in vitro burger. She concluded that it's far simpler to accelerate the reduction we're already seeing in meat consumption in the U.S. than wait for lab-grown beef. Janet was also asked to weigh in on the destruction of the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan on France 24 News.

Other subjects covered by Data Highlights included China’s rising soybean consumption, falling gasoline use, the U.S bike-share fleet more than doubling in 2013, and China’s growing meat consumption shown by the move to buy Smithfield. The research team also released six Eco-Economy Indicators on solar power, carbon emissions, wind power, ice melt, grain stocks, and global temperature.

The team’s PowerPoint presentations relating to Full Planet, Empty Plates have collectively been viewed online more than 30,000 times. EPI’s PowerPoint presentations and data continue to be some of the most downloaded items from the Institute’s website. (See a listing of all Institute releases.)


Reah Janise Kauffman