Public Health Perspectives on Sustainable Diets

Coursera offers this excellent 7-hour intro-level class from Johns Hopkins (no charge so long as you don’t need the certificate). In addition to the easy-to-follow lectures and short assessments, the class offers downloadable reports and other resources, and enables you to download the videos and slides as well.


What we eat and how we produce that food have significant effects on human health and the sustainability of our planet. But what is a ‘sustainable’ diet? A sustainable diet, as defined by the FAO, promotes health and well-being and provides food security for the present population while sustaining human and natural resources for future generations. This short course looks at the urgent need to address the sustainability of our food systems, including better understanding the complex relationship between diet and climate change. Learners explore current research on dietary shifts needed in high, middle, and low-income countries to achieve both sustainability and food security goals and discuss evidence-based strategies to promote sustainable diets. This course is offered by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and draws from the graduate-level food systems curriculum at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. You may also be interested in our eight-week flagship Coursera course, “An Introduction to the US Food System: Perspectives from Public Health”.

Introduction to Food Systems Sustainability and Public Health 

Our food system is much more than a supply chain that brings food from the farm to your plate. What is a food system? How can thinking about food as a system help us understand and address the messy overlapping issues of diet, food production, planetary health and climate change? What does ‘sustainability’ mean, in the context of food systems, and is it the same as resilience? How has COVID-19 pandemic amplified the many challenges faced by vulnerable workers and consumers? Roni Neff addresses these questions – and many more – in this opening series of lectures. 

Sustainable Diets and Climate Change

What defines a sustainable diet? Why do sustainable diets matter? And what might sustainable diets look like in the US and around the world? The answers may surprise you. In this engaging and thought-provoking set of lectures, Brent Kim will address these questions and explain recent research that compares the impact of different diets on greenhouse gas emissions and water use across 140 countries. 

Strategies for Advancing Sustainable Diets 

The final week explores sustainable diets through the lens of a public health practitioner and registered dietician. They apply the concept of a sustainable diet to different parts of the world, considering the nutritional needs of different populations and why it is difficult to define a ‘sustainable’ diet for everyone. They share evidence-based strategies for communicating about sustainable diets and how different sectors can play a role in advancing change. 

For FMN members: The course has been submitted to the continuing education calendar for credit. check back for information on approval.

Taking Nature Black Conference, February 23rd- 27th

Online Tuesday, February 23 – Saturday, February 27, 2021
Register here.

Taking Nature Black is an event, an opportunity, a time to pause for the cause. It’s a regional and national environmental lovefest. And it’s a Black healing, welcoming, organizing, celebrating, networking space. The theme is Call and Response: Elevating our Stories, Naturally! This year the stories are elevated chautauqua-style, so be on the lookout for speakers, creators, innovators, scientists, educators, musicians, artists, and entertainers telling their stories about everything from climate change to environmental justice and environmental joy in creative ways. Brought to you by Audubon Naturalist Society.

Full conference schedule here.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries – developed and developing – in a global partnership. They recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.

Find the list, ways to engage, and lots of resources here.

The UN asked musician AY Young to be its only US ambassador on behalf of the 17 SDGs–because he powers all of his concerts with renewable energy.

Drawdown 101: An Introduction to the Science of Climate Change

A well-reasoned, thoughtful conversation on climate, with data, stories, and counsel.

Dr. Jonathan Foley is the Executive Director of Project Drawdown and the California Academy of Sciences (which brings us iNaturalist).

Yup, the video is an hour, and absolutely worth the investment of time. Learn the science behind bending the curve, viable drawdown scenarios, environmental justice, potential technical interventions, and steps we ourselves can easily take.

Look here for curated Creative Commons classroom materials.

Your turn: Which videos and resources are your own go-to’s? Share them in Comments and we’ll add them here with pleasure and great interest.

National Council for Science & the Environment and Project Drawdown 2021 Virtual Conference, Jan 5-9

Science & Solutions for a Planet under Pressure

Co-hosted by the National Council for Science & the Environment (NCSE) and Project Drawdown

January 5-9, 2021

The NCSE Drawdown 2021 Conference is bringing together leaders, research partners, scientists, decision-makers and friends from across the globe to share their science and solutions to the world’s most pressing global challenges. This joint conference will:

  • focus on the physical and social realities of climate change and the way this impacts people, ecosystems, markets and the places people live; and 
  • how implementing climate solutions produces positive co-benefits to society, the economy, and the planet.

Read more about the themes, schedule, and speakers, and register (the last two days are free!)

For Fairfax Master Naturalists: This opportunity is posted to the Continuing Education Calendar.

The Environmental Defense Fund’s Yesh Pavlik Slenk Hosts “Degrees,” a Podcast About Sustainability

Six inspiring episodes so far:

Why employees are key for a hopeful future, with Bill Wiehl

Chemical soup: The quest to create a toxic-free marketplace, with Boma Brown-West

Global recycling, career reinvention… and the double life of Vienna Teng, with Cynthia Shih

Tackling trash with data… and turning disappointment into delight, with Chris Kirschner

Climate intrapreneurship: Think big, start small, scale fast!, with Chris Castro

Transforming energy, unlocking change… and Bubba Gump Shrimp, with Steph Speirs

But, hey, start here for a real overview so you can meet the people and the host and the mission.

American Energy Innovation: The Federal Policy Landscape

This Zoom Webinar was held on Dec. 14, 2020, noon-1 pm

Here is a recording of the session.

Decarbonizing the US economy will require substantial investment in research, development, and deployment of technologies that have not yet entered the marketplace at large scale. There is bipartisan support for federal policy to support such clean energy innovation—particularly under the auspices of the American Energy Innovation Act, a multi-billion-dollar piece of legislation currently under consideration in the US Senate. (A companion bill, the Clean Energy and Jobs Innovation Act, was passed by the US House of Representatives in September 2020.)

Join Resources for the Future (RFF) at this important moment for innovation policy as they host a conversation, “American Energy Innovation: The Federal Policy Landscape.” Their distinguished set of panelists—including one of the lead architects of the American Energy Innovation Act—will discuss what parts of the innovation ecosystem policy can most readily support; how past innovation policies in the United States have fared, both in the energy sector and elsewhere; how the private sector takes signals from policies; and how the discussion around energy innovation policy has unfolded on Capitol Hill over the past year.


  • Colin Cunliff, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation
  • Spencer Nelson, Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
  • Richard G. Newell, Resources for the Future
  • Kristin Hayes, Resources for the Future (moderator)

Additional speakers to be announced.

About the Advanced Energy Technologies Project

RFF’s Advanced Energy Technologies Project uses new research to incorporate a number of these advanced technologies into our E4ST power sector model, which offers a detailed representation of the grid and is widely used in policy analysis related to power sector decarbonization.

The related events series covers topics such as carbon capture and sequestration, advanced nuclear energy, enhanced geothermal systems, energy storage, and direct air capture. The series will conclude with an additional event showcasing the results of RFF’s analysis of how various policy proposals will drive investment in and deployment of these technologies.


Learning Path: The Circular Economy in Detail

The Ellen Macarthur Foundation is sponsoring a free, self-paced class on the circular economy, which they describe thus:

“A circular economy is a systemic approach to economic development designed to benefit businesses, society, and the environment. In contrast to the “take-make-waste” linear model, a circular economy is regenerative by design and aims to gradually decouple growth from the consumption of finite resources. After defining what an economy actually is, this learning path explores the nuances of the concept of a circular economy with text, videos, and interactive and reflective exercises. It probes the difference between biological and technical materials, the different opportunities that exist to keep materials and products in use, and the history of the idea.”

Super interesting material and great user interface–they both make a compelling case and make it easy to engage with the content. By the time you complete the reading, videos, and exercises, the benefits of shifting from a linear to a circular economy will be clear as will how they apply to all of the work we do as naturalists.

This opportunity is approved for CE credit for FMN members.

Check back regularly for links to additional resources from which you can learn more and, maybe, will want to review for us here. This subject is amazingly rich. Please share your thoughts and resources in comments and we’ll add them to this repo.

Hope Jahren: The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where We Go From Here. Honestly, the entire book is quotable, but here are some take-aways from one early Sunday morning: “An effort tempered by humility will go much further than one armored with righteousness…. We [scientists] are watching and working, not just worrying. Climate science is part of science after all…. Having hope requires courage. It matters how we talk about this. Everything we do matters.” (Consider starting with Appendix 1: The Action You Take, and then go dig into the data in the rest of the book.) By the way, she reads the audio book herself, and she’s a kind teacher.

Joel Onorato: Stop Going Round in Circles About the Circular Economy; also see his awesome presentation to the Sierra Club as pdf or live (along with the materials of the other panelists). “Keeping materials in use means preserving the maximum value of each thing that has been produced for the longest time possible. Reuse it as long as you can (give it to another user or share it). Repair it if you can’t reuse it as is. Or, if it has too little value, then remanufacture it (turn it back into something with an as-new condition). At worst, break it down and recycle each material (or compost it) for another future use.”

Rare’s Inspiring Human Nature: Tim Ma, Chef and Garbage Picker. “Tim Ma embraces his garbage. The famed Washington, DC-area chef and restaurateur is notorious for turning food trash into dinner treasure—which he does both for environmental sustainability and his bottom-line. ‘I don’t know how I became DC’s food waste champion,’ he laughs. ‘But I love talking about it.’” Meet someone who walks his talk.

Jonathan Safran Foer: We are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast. The term circular economy never appears in this book because it’s about particular decisions we make and “our all-too-human reluctance to sacrifice immediate comfort for the sake of the future. We have, he reveals, turned our planet into a farm for growing animal products, and the consequences are catastrophic. Only collective action will save our home. And it all starts with what we eat—and don’t eat—for breakfast.” Please don’t let that stop you from considering his case and drawing your own insights. He wields data as effectively as Hope Jahren, and he tells a story just as compelling.

Green Jobs Report: Community-Based Solutions for a Diverse Green Jobs Sector, Recording and Report

The short- and long-term projections for the renewable energy sector are growth.

Renewable energy is expected to continue to increase in popularity and usage as utilities and regulators look to it as a viable option for replacing retiring capacity and customers choose it to save money and address the climate crisis. This interest is aligned with a recent poll that found 81% of Blacks, 73% of Latinos and 71% of white respondents think “clean” energy jobs can help people in their communities.

So how do we prepare the U.S. workforce for growth in the renewable energy sector? And ensure the process is just and equitable?

Members of the Environmental Justice Leadership Forum – Deep South Center for Environmental JusticeGreen Door InitiativesWE ACT for Environmental Justice – along with GRID Alternatives answer these questions via their contributions to the “Green Jobs Report: Creating a Green Workforce, Community-Based Solutions for a Diverse Green Jobs Sector.”

This report outlines imperatives for bringing underrepresented groups into climate change work and the clean energy economy, and offers policy and best practice prescriptions for closing diversity gaps in the renewable energy industry and was released via webinar on December 9. Here is the recording.

Fairfax County Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP) News

Monthly CECAP Update: November 2020

Throughout November, the Fairfax County Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP) team of staff and consultants have been working to prepare for the initial meetings of the CECAP Working Group sector-specific subgroups, taking place in early December. Per the CECAP Process Update shared in late October, the planning model has shifted from an approach based on the involvement of nine district level Focus Groups and one Task Force to an approach involving a single Working Group. The Working Group is composed of members of the former Focus Groups and Task Force, with a few new faces in the mix.

To advance discussion of emission reduction strategies and to allow all Working Group members the opportunity to actively participate and be heard, the Working Group has been split into two sector-specific subgroups. The first group, the Energy Subgroup, will focus on issues of energy efficiency, renewables, energy generation, and supply. The second group, the Transportation/Development Subgroup, will focus on transportation issues, land use, waste, and water. This group will have a more diverse portfolio. To read the full November CECAP update, please click here.

CECAP Working Group December Meetings Announced

All members of the public are invited to attend and observe the initial meetings of the two, new sector-specific CECAP Working Group subgroups, taking place December 1st and 2nd, 2020. These meetings will focus on emission reduction strategies that may help the Fairfax County community meet CECAP goals in the long-term. The meetings will take place online via WebEx. Meeting access information is available at the links below.

Join the December 1 CECAP Energy Subgroup meeting

Join the December 2 CECAP Transportation/Development Subgroup meeting

Public Feedback Summaries Now Online

The results of the public feedback provided between August 27 and September 13, 2020 via an online survey, three virtual public meetings, and via email to the public CECAP mailbox are now summarized and available online. A narrative summary of the survey results provides a question-by-question rundown of the responses given, and an overview of the public comments provides a window into the thoughts and concerns of the community. The findings of the public engagement process will be reviewed by county staff at the December 1 and December 2 CECAP subgroup meetings (see above).