TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: December 18

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. By breaking with the Cuba lobby, President Obama could massively disrupt American interest group politics.

By Noah Feldman in the Salt Lake Tribune

2. Sony can take a stand against the hackers whose threats have forced them to pull “The Interview” by giving the movie away online.

By Bryan Bishop in the Verge

3. Could the West help save the ruble without throwing Putin a lifeline?

By Juliet Johnson in the Globe and Mail

4. By tracking rising global temperatures, satellites can predict cholera risk.

By Dr. Kiki Sanford in BoingBoing

5. After the Taliban’s shocking attack on a school in Pakistan, the military there understands “the Frankenstein that it helped to create must now be killed.”

By Peter Bergen at CNN

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: December 10

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. The cheap oil American consumers are enjoying might be the result of an existential battle between Saudi Arabia and ISIS.

By James R. Rogers in First Things

2. Turns out the busts of the first dot-com era were great ideas.

By Robert McMillan in Wired

3. The return of American manufacturing and a skilled population hungry for jobs is reviving the Rust Belt.

By Joel Kotkin & Richey Piiparinen in the Daily Beast

4. Climate change might transform coal, oil, and gas reserves into financially-troubled stranded assets.

By Andrew Freedman in Mashable

5. A nonprofit boarding school for girls in Afghanistan is working to upend education there.

By Susan Daugherty in National Geographic

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: December 5

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Peak gas: According to some forecasts, the fracking boom could be a bust.

By Mason Inman in Nature

2. To end the conflict with Boko Haram, Nigeria needs to address the alienation of its Muslims.

By John Campbell at the Council on Foreign Relations

3. “Protecting our coal workers is critical to successfully solving the climate problem.”

By Jeremy Richardson in the Union of Concerned Scientists

4. Tanzania can fight child marriage and protect the next generation of women by keeping girls in schools.

By Agnes Odhiambo in Human Rights Watch

5. When the last baby boomers move into retirement around 2030, today’s youth will carry the weight of our economy. They need support now.

By Melody Barnes in the World Economic Forum Blog

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: November 20

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Hacking out of prison: San Quentin inmates are learning to code.

By Charley Locke in EdSurge

2. Your breath could reveal a fake: How a beetle’s camouflage trick might make money harder to counterfeit.

By James Urquhart in Chemistry World

3. Russia has learned there’s a great deal it can get away with in Ukraine.

By Amy Knight in the New York Review of Books

4. Protected areas like wetlands and coral reefs are at highest risk from climate change but can also be part of the solution.

By Adam Markham at the Union of Concerned Scientists

5. A U.S. deal with Iran could reset the Mideast balance of power.

By Patrick Smith in the Fiscal Times

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME energy

A Brief Guide to the Keystone XL Pipeline Debate

Construction Along The Keystone XL Pipeline
Workers move a section of pipe during construction of the Gulf Coast Project pipeline, part of the Keystone XL Pipeline Project, in Atoka, Okla. on March 11, 2013. Daniel Acker—Bloomberg/Getty Images

A handy explainer

What is the Keystone XL Pipeline?

It is a proposed extension of a pipeline that transports oil from Alberta, Canada to a major petroleum exchange in Cushing, Okla., and from there to the Gulf of Mexico. The existing smaller pipeline takes a more circuitous route. The Canadian company TransCanada’s solution is to build a larger-capacity, more direct link from Alberta to the existing pipeline. That project is known as Keystone XL.

Why is Obama involved?

Because the Keystone XL link would cross an international boundary between the U.S. and Canada, the project requires presidential approval. Proponents say Keystone XL will reduce the need to move oil by freight train—which can lead to potentially dangerous accidents—and create perhaps tens of thousands of jobs. President Obama, who has not taken a public position on the project, has cited a State Department analysis that concludes the pipeline will create only about 2,000 jobs during construction and 50 around permanent jobs once it’s complete.

Why is it controversial?

Climate activists have rallied around the Keystone XL pipeline as an environmental litmus test. They worry that it will intrude on property rights—courts have allowed TransCanada to run sections of the pipeline over private land, despite objections from the property owners –and warn that it could be vulnerable to environmentally dangerous leaks along its proposed 1,700 mile route. But their primary objection is that the project will encourage the burning of fossil fuels and worsen climate change. The oil shipped through the new pipe would come from Canada’s so-called tar sands, which climate activists say is dirtier and worse for the environment than regular oil.

A State Department review released in January found that Keystone XL would have little effect on the planet’s environmental health because the oil in Canada’s tar sands will be extracted and sold through another avenue if the project is blocked.

What happens next?

The southern portion of the Keystone pipeline connecting Oklahoma to the Gulf of Mexico will open for business in 2015. The northern extension—the one everyone’s arguing about—has yet to be approved. But the Dec. 6 runoff for the Louisiana Senate seat of Democrat Mary Landrieu gave the project a jolt in Washington, as Landrieu and her Republican challenger, Rep. Bill Cassidy, jockey to claim credit for getting it built. The House passed legislation sponsored by Cassidy allowing Keystone XL on Nov. 14 and the Senate votes on a similar measure backed by Landrieu on Nov. 18. President Obama has signaled that he may veto the legislation, but he has not taken a public stance. No matter what happens at the federal level, Keystone XL is likely to face court battles in states through which it passes.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: November 13

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. As separatists and Russian troops chip away at its sovereignty, Ukraine struggles with corruption while hunting heat for the coming winter.

By Leonid Bershidsky in Bloomberg View

2. Leading by example: One Silicon Valley superstar has put tech’s pernicious racism in his crosshairs.

By J.J. McCorvey in Fast Company

3. The most important element of the U.S.-China climate deal might be that China has stepped away from its go-it-alone approach on climate.

By Michael Levi at the Council on Foreign Relations

4. Is the next frontier of mesh networks — like the one that linked protestors in Hong Kong — serving news?

By Susan E. McGregor at NiemanLab

5. Lessons from the Bulungula Incubator: Zeroing in on poverty at the most basic level can catalyze community change — and transforms lives.

By Réjane Woodroffe in the Aspen Idea

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: November 12

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. “Seven years after returning from Iraq, I’m finally home.” One veteran reflects on how service after his time at war changed his life.

By Chris Miller in Medium

2. Humanity’s gift for imitation and iteration is the secret to our innovation and survival.

By Kat McGowan in Aeon

3. Amid news of a groundbreaking climate agreement, it’s clear the China-U.S. relationship will shape the global future.

By Natalie Nougayrède in the Guardian

4. Lessons a year after Typhoon Haiyan: The pilot social safety net in place before Haiyan struck the Philippines helped the country better protect families after the disaster.

By Mohamad Al-Arief at the World Bank Group Social Protection and Labor Global Practice

5. A handful of simple policy reforms — not requiring new funding — can set the table for breaking the cycle of multigenerational poverty.

By Anne Mosle in the Huffington Post

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME global health

Plant-Based Diet Is Best for the Planet, New Science Says

vegetables
Getty Images

Alternative diets could, if widely adopted, reduce global agricultural greenhouse gas emissions

Good food advocates have long argued that what’s good for your health is also good for the planet, but new science now backs up the claim. A paper published in the journal Nature by scientists at the University of Minnesota, presents numbers that suggest eating less meat, less refined fat, and less sugar will also reduce the climate change impacts of food production.

Using about 50 years’ worth of data from the world’s 100 most populous countries, UM Professor of Ecology G. David Tilman and graduate student Michael Clark show how current diet trends are contributing, not only to diet-related illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, but also to dangerously increasing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).

“This is the first time this data has been put together to show these links are real and strong and not just the mutterings of food lovers and environmental advocates,” explains Tilman.

“Alternative diets that offer substantial health benefits could, if widely adopted, reduce global agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, reduce land clearing and resultant species extinctions, and help prevent such diet-related chronic non-communicable diseases,” write Tilman and Clark in the Nature article.

Agriculture currently contributes about 25 percent of the GHG emissions that are driving climate change. Grain-based livestock production–which involves clearing land and raising grain for animal feed, particularly in the world’s tropical regions–contribute more than 75 percent of those emissions.

As the rest of the world adopts American dietary habits, the rates of meat, sugar, and processed food consumption have been on to rise. (In China alone, the numbers have skyrocketed.) If the trend continues, all those burgers and pork chops are projected to be responsible for an 80 percent increase in agricultural GHG emissions by 2050.

At the same time, thanks to the exporting of American dietary habits, more than 2.1 billion of the world’s 7.2 billion people are now either overweight or obese. Tilman explains that “empty calories”—sugar, fat, oils and alcohol—now account for almost 40 percent of food purchased in the world’s 15 wealthiest countries, which helps explain the resulting health effects.

According to the data Tilman and Clark examined, which corrected for other lifestyle factors, a vegetarian diet reduced incidence of type II diabetes by 41 percent, followed by a vegetarian diet that includes seafood (25 percent), and a Mediterranean diet that combines moderate meat consumption and is rich in fruit, vegetables, and seafood (16 percent). All three diets appeared to reduce coronary heart disease deaths between 20 and 26 percent and cancer rates by between 7 and 13 percent compared to diets that included at least twice as much meat and processed foods.

Tilman and Clark caution that while the links between what makes healthy diet and what will help lower agricultural greenhouse gas emissions are clear, it’s also possible to eat “a pure junk food diet,”–think French fries, donuts, and tortilla chips–that has low GHG emissions.

So the solution to what the scientists call the “diet-environment-health trilemma” will require choosing menus high in plant-based, whole foods like those that fit in a Meditarrean, “pescetarian” or vegetarian diet. If these diets become the norm by 2050, Tilman and Clark say “there would be no net increase in food production emissions.”

But they also note that making such a change won’t necessarily be easy. “The dietary choices that individuals make are influenced by culture, nutritional knowledge, price, availability, taste and convenience, all of which must be considered if the dietary transition that is taking place is to be counteracted,” write Tilman and Clark.

So, how do we counter the trend toward eating more meat and fatty food? “There are lots of policy options,” says Doug Boucher, director of climate research at the Union of Concerned Scientists. These include carbon taxes that would include agriculture as New Zealand now does, shifting agricultural subsidies away from livestock and related feed production, and changing government dietary guidelines to include sustainability and climate change considerations, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) 2015 guidelines are expected to.

The USDA’s climate change program director, William Hohenstein, explains that rather than addressing the “trilemma” by focusing on the menu, the agency’s preferred strategy is to work with growers and livestock producers on practices that will reduce GHGs. “Consumers always have a choice,” says Hohestein.

Tilman suggests “better education” is key to helping people of all income levels understand the impacts of their food choices. He also wonders if, given the clear trend toward convenience foods, it might be possible to develop new food that is healthy, low-carbon and he adds, “also tastes good.”

Meanwhile, the data strongly suggest that eating more like Bill Clinton post-heart surgery will not only improve personal and public health, but also help put the planet on a much needed version of a weight-reduction program for greenhouse gasses.

This story originally appeared on Civil Eats

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 7

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Learning from our mistakes: Global response to the current Ebola crisis should improve our handling of the next outbreak.

By Lena H. Sun, Brady Dennis, Lenny Bernstein, Joel Achenbach in the Washington Post

2. A blueprint for reopening the tech industry to women: be deliberate, build a new pipeline that is openly focused on women, and attack the archetype of tech success.

By Ann Friedman in Matter

3. We need to change what’s taught in business schools and the narrative about business success that dominates boardrooms.

By Judy Samuelson in the Ford Forum

4. A health system that learns from its experience through data analysis can change medicine.

By Veronique Greenwood in the New York Times Magazine

5. A long overdue move to align our international development with climate reality could trigger sweeping policy changes around the world.

By Charles Cadwell and Mark Goldberg in the Baltimore Sun

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME faith

Religions for the Earth: Redefining the Climate Crisis

Karenna Gore is the director of Union Forum at Union Theological Seminary. The Reverend Dr. Serene Jones is the President of Union Theological Seminary.

The climate crisis is not just a scientific and political challenge--it is an urgent moral imperative.

This coming week in New York City has the potential to be for climate change what the 1963 March on Washington was for civil rights. The world’s political leaders will gather at the UN for an urgent Climate Summit called by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and hundreds of thousands of people will descend on the city for the People’s Climate March.

At Union Theological Seminary, a remarkably diverse group of more than 200 religious and spiritual leaders will gather for the Religions for the Earth conference. Representing Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas, Australia, the Pacific nations and the Arctic, these leaders will bring a much-needed moral perspective to the climate crisis. They represent billions of people of faith.

Through the work at this conference, we hope to help redefine the climate crisis. It is not just a scientific and political challenge, it is an urgent moral imperative.

The Religions for the Earth initiative at Union seeks to create a place where visionary religious and spiritual leaders from around the world will convene to find common ground and offer new strategies to deal with a crisis that politicians have been unable to solve.

In meeting after meeting, from Rio to Kyoto to Copenhagen to Durban, politicians and technocrats have been thwarted, because at its core, climate change is not just about science, or zero-sum financial negotiations between emitters: it’s about values. It relates profoundly to the meaning of life rather than just its mechanics—to the essence of how we experience our being, share our resources, and regard one another across space and time. It has implications for the existence of the world itself, and humanity’s place within it.

It will take a values-driven conversation to change the materialistic and consumer-oriented culture that assigns worth only to financially quantifiable things. The unchecked profit-driven model of maximum production devours what we care most about: clean air, clean water, and the wellbeing of the most vulnerable families. We need a new moral equation.

There is already an international grassroots movement to make climate justice a moral issue, drawing on the strength of spiritual traditions around the world and often led by their representatives. Especially in places hard-hit by weather events and rising seas, leaders like Father Edwin Gariguez in the Philippines are speaking out on behalf of their beleaguered communities. This moral movement holds the potential to greatly expand our vision and options.

Climate change isn’t the first crisis around which religious and spiritual leaders have provided a moral vision when politicians could not. In India, Mahatma Gandhi led the way toward political independence through his ethical teachings and his own example, resisting imperial force with a call to personal sacrifice and higher consciousness. The great leader of the American civil rights movement was a Baptist minister, Martin Luther King, Jr., who helped the United States reimagine a moral inheritance tarnished by racism, war and poverty. In South Africa, Desmond Tutu indicted apartheid in a spiritual language that resonated around the world. In the final decades of the Cold War, Pope John Paul II helped stir deep aspirations for basic human rights throughout the Eastern bloc through his uncompromising stand against oppression.

We need to deepen and expand the worldwide movement to fight climate change and sieze its moral trajectory. Many religious leaders are already transforming their approaches to ministry and service, determined to achieve the small changes that can aggregate into a global movement. These must be accompanied by advocacy for bold strategic actions to shift power away from those who do not take the earth into account.

On all these fronts, it is incumbent on religious institutions to take the lead. At Union Theological Seminary, we were proud this past spring when we became the first seminary to divest our endowment from fossil fuels. The World Council of Churches divested soon after, and many religious groups and institutions around the world have done the same. If we can convert this growing momentum into a movement, many more will follow—because divestment is a moral claim, a clear stand for the principle that we have values more important than money. We invite our political leaders to follow our lead by taking bold steps to defend our natural world.

Spiritual leaders have been a crucial part of many of the major justice movements throughout history. As indigenous traditions have long known, harmony with nature is no less vital. To successfully emerge from this crisis, faith leaders must build public will for action by casting climate change as a clearly-defined, irresistible moral imperative. We need to harness the power of faith to affect social change. The well-being of our earth depends on it. What could be more sacred?

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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