Putting his Money to Good Use ,,,,

Creator of the online video game Fortnite, Tim Sweeney, has been captivating audiences for decades by developing intricate and interactive digital worlds for players. However, it is his work away from the screen that is currently grabbing attention from gamers and non-gamers alike.

Sweeney is best known for founding the video and 3-D software company Epic Games in the 1990’s. Epic Games has given us popular video game titles such as Unreal Tournament, Gears of War and, most recently, the massively popular game Fortnite. In addition to these popular gaming titles, the billionaire philanthropist has made good on his promise to protect undeveloped and bio-diverse land in the picturesque western Carolina mountains for future generations.

Since 2008, Sweeney has spent millions on conservation projects in his home state of North Carolina to protect and preserve its forest land. He has purchased nearly 40,000 acres over the last decade, making him one of the largest private land owners in the state. Sweeney has also donated money to several conservation parcel projects, including a 1,500 acre expansion to Mount Mitchell State Park.

In November 2016, Sweeney donated $15 million for a conservation easement to protect 7,000 acres of the The Box Creek Wilderness. The forest, located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, had been targeted by a company that wanted to carve up the land and run power lines through it.

By purchasing the land, Sweeney helped protect hundreds of endangered plant and animal species. According to Biologist Kevin Cadlwell, “ecologists documented more than 130 rare and watch-list plant and wildlife species, and several new-to‐science wildlife and plant species, including three moths and a new spiderwort species.

After the purchase Sweeney remarked:

It’s one of the most diverse areas in North Carolina. It has such rare plant and wildlife species, it seemed a perfect fit with the Fish and Wildlife Service. This is a first step – there will be other places protected. The goal is to connect South Mountains State Park to Chimney Rock. This is one piece of the puzzle.

A year later Sweeney purchased 193 acres in Alamance County for $1.973 million from Sizemore Brothers LLC. Following the purchase, Sweeney’s representative Joe Kelleher confirmed the purchase and guaranteed that the land would remain undeveloped.

Last year, the video game mogul purchased a 1,500 acre parcel of land known as Stone Hills that was being considered for development as a golf resort community. A local newspaper noted that the land would have featured two championship golf courses, a resort hotel and spa, a community of 1,050 homes and up to 90,000 square feet of retail, dining and office space. Following the purchase, Sweeney stated he intends to preserve the land for its’ natural beauty.

I bought this land because it has a nice longleaf pine forest and was available for a reasonable price. I’ll be holding it until I find a permanent nature conservation home for it, which will take years or decades.” When asked what he intends to do with the land in the short term Sweeney replied, “I just plan to hike it and do some tree thinning and burning for ecosystem restoration until I find a permanent conservancy or state home for it.”

Sweeney’s conservation efforts come at a time when protecting our nation’s forests has become increasingly important. As previously reported by The Mind Unleashed, a study led by North Carolina State University professor Nick Haddad and conducted by 24 scientists, found that there are only 2 truly intact forests left on Earth. When the study’s authors examined the effects of human involvement on forests, they found habitat fragmentation leads to 13 to 75 percent decrease in plant and animal diversity, reduces the ability of animals and plants to survive and can even distort the food chain, as smaller patches of forest tend to have an increase in predator population

Thankfully, as science continues to learn more about the importance of undeveloped forest land, billionaire philanthropists are noticing and taking action. China’s wealthiest man has also taken note of the importance of conservation. In 2015, Jack Ma, the billionaire behind online retail giant Alibaba, purchased 28,000 acres of land in the Adirondack mountains of upstate NY. His first action taken after purchasing the land was to halt logging operations.

from:    https://themindunleashed.com/2019/01/fortnite-creator-buying-thousands-acres-forest.html

Greening Interstate Corridors for Butterflies

The Quiet Revolution Turning Roadsides Into Nature Reserves

Monarch butterflies once coursed through North America in clouds so dense they darkened the sky. Now their migrations have dwindled to an uncertain trickle. The species could become the 21st century’s passenger pigeon, a once-omnipresent species driven to extinction. But there’s hope: In a literally last-ditch effort, ecologists hope to save the black-and-orange beauties by creating habitat along Interstate 35, which runs from Texas to Minnesota and tracks a major monarch migration route. The country’s forgettable roadsides could seed the monarchs’ salvation.

It may seem improbable, at least at first. But the I-35 restoration is part of a quiet revolution occurring in some of America’s most unappreciated spaces. Roadsides and utility corridors, biologists say, are potentially vital sources of life. They can become grasslands and shrublands, rich habitats that once formed after fire and other natural disturbance, but have become rare in human-dominated landscapes.

Even the most intensively developed regions, from the agricultural heartland to the heart of New York, contain millions of acres of potential habitat. People just need to wrap their heads around that idea. “People think that everything has to look like their front lawn. If you don’t mow roadsides, people complain,” says Chip Taylor, a University of Kansas ecologist and founder of conservation group Monarch Watch. “But if you like birds, if you like butterflies, you should want to restore roadside habitats. There is so much land that can be restored.”

The notion goes back several decades, most notably to landscape ecologist Richard Forman, who estimated total US roadside habitat at 10 million acres, an area the size of Maryland. Taylor thinks there’s much more. Whatever the figure, it’s been largely ignored. In a few places, like Iowa, roadsides are partially managed with consideration for wildlife, but that’s rare. Most places reflect a reflexive cultural preference for domestic landscapes as tidy as they are ecologically impoverished.

That worm is finally turning. Last summer the White House pledged to help pollinators—not just commercial honeybees, but also wild pollinators, the thousands of species of native bees and butterflies threatened by pesticides, disease and habitat loss. Modern landscapes simply don’t offer sufficient food and shelter to the creatures who literally make it bloom.

While the White House pollinator strategy didn’t contain a lot of specifics or funding, Taylor says, it’s been a powerful catalyst, pulling together government agencies, conservationists, farmers and private companies to discuss what must be done. The planned I-35 monarch corridor, which in February received a $3.2 million boost from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, emerged from these talks. And it wouldn’t only be monarchs that benefit, notes naturalist David Mizejewski of the National Wildlife Federation, but other pollinators and invertebrates, small mammals, migratory and ground-nesting birds: the entire community of life that thrives where monarchs do.

The project is in its infancy. That means partners must be enlisted, seed sources and funding sought, and best-practices developed to balance road visibility with ecosystem vibrancy. Most of all, both along the I-35 corridor and elsewhere, the people who manage these spaces need to be educated. “I ask, ‘Why do you mow there?’” said Rick Johnstone, founder of Integrated Vegetation Management Partners, of highway managers whose cuts extend hundreds of feet beyond the tarmac. “They say, ‘We always have.’ I say, ‘I know you have—but why do you do it?‘ It’s a mindset.”

While Johnstone works along roads, his specialty is utility corridors: the company-managed rights-of-way that extend along high-tension power lines and gas pipelines. In the continental US these cover some 20 million acres, roughly equivalent to the size of Maine, and like roadsides traditionally have been subject to routine mowing and landscape-scale herbicide dosing.

In a few places in the northeast, though, where rocky terrain made mowing difficult and public safety concerns mitigated herbicide use, utility companies have experimented with other management techniques. They eliminate tall and fast-growing trees that could interfere with their equipment, but otherwise allow smaller vegetation to grow unfettered. The result is dense shrubland, an early-stage forest habitat that, like grassland, teems with life and is desperately needed.

“Conservation organizations could not afford to manage the amount of shrubland that power companies manage in the process of protecting their high-tension lines,” says ecologist Robert Askins of Connecticut College, who has studied flourishing bird populations along power lines. Other researchers have studied their value for pollinators, and the White House pollinator strategy tasked federal agencies to work with utility companies in promoting corridor habitat.

As with roadsides, Johnstone says, there’s much work to be done in designing locale-specific strategies and convincing managers to change their habits. Conscientious stewardship requires expertise and extra commitment, especially at first: It’s much simpler, after all, to just cut everything down. But eventually, Johnstone says, the shrublands become largely self-perpetuating. They cost less and less to maintain. In the long run, then, being nature-friendly doesn’t just make for richer landscapes. It saves money, too.

from:    http://www.wired.com/2015/04/roadside-utility-corridor-habitat/

Small Farmers on the Chopping Block

How the Supercommittee Could Kill New Farmers Markets

—By Tom Philpott

| Wed Nov. 2, 2011 2:00 AM PDT
Farmers marketFarmers markets are just one of the sustainable ag programs now on the chopping block. NatalieMaynor/Flickr

Remember the farm bill, that monstrously complex, twice-a-decade omnibus legislation that shapes US agriculture and hunger policy? You know, the one that Michael Pollan andother sustainable foodies wrote so much about four years ago? Well, it’s back, earlier than expected (the last one doesn’t expire until 2012). And it has found itself caught in the crosshairs of DC budget hysteria—in a way that will likely reinforce the worst, most agribiz-friendly elements of US ag policy and defund the best parts, including programs that help farmers transition to organic and help communities start new farmers markets.

What gives?

In a story two weeks ago, Politicos David Rogers laid out what’s going on. The House and Senate ag committees have created a joint panel of four who are working furiously to do in a matter of days what usually takes more than a year: craft national food and farm policy for the next half-decade. They want to get it done in time to submit it to the budget-slashing “supercommittee,” whose work is scheduled to be done by Nov. 23.

The ag panel seeks to cut farm bill spending by $23 billion over the next 10 years, Rogers reported. The panel hasn’t submitted its proposal to the supercommittee yet—it’s expected to do so early this week—but Rogers wrote that broad outlines have emerged:

Nothing is set in stone, but the leadership anticipates that $14 billion to $15 billion would be cut from commodity supports—or roughly 24 percent from the baseline now projected by the Congressional Budget Office. At the same time, conservation programs would face a $6.5 billion reduction, or a 10 percent cut, and nutrition programs like food stamps would be asked to come up with $4 billion to $5 billion in savings, a less than 1 percent cut.

On the surface, given the austerity fever plaguing Washington, this distribution of cuts might seem to make sense: The commodity programs take a big cut, conservation takes a smaller one, and anti-hunger take a relatively minuscule one.

But in reality, the commodity cuts won’t change the incentives that push farmers to plant millions of acres of farmland with just a handful of crops: corn, soy, cotton, and wheat. That’s because the plan appears to be to replace the current system of direct payments—which pay commodity farmers $5 billion a year based on their acreage historically devoted to subsidy crops—with one based on government-funded revenue insurance that holds farmers’ incomes steady when prices drop.

Like the old system, the new insurance scheme would apply only to farmers who grow those subsidized commodity crops. The new setup would be cheaper than direct payments—projected to cost $3.5 billion per year versus $5 billion—but it continues to ensure that corn and soy will continue to blanket millions of acres: agribusiness as usual, in other words. Indeed, the National Corn Growers Association—the agribiz-linked voice of the nation’s industrial-scale corn farms—has vigorously endorsed the switch.

While the commodity cuts won’t affect the industrial-agriculture juggernaut, the cuts to conservation programs could have real ecological impact. And paring back food stamps at a time when a record 45 million Americans rely on them seems unconscionable.

Moreover, a whole slew of small farm bill programs designed to help farmers transition to organic, communities roll out new farmers markets, AND new farmers with start-up costs, could see draconian cuts. These programs, the result of years of lobbying work from groups like the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and the Community Food Security Coalition,have been grouped together by USDA deputy secretary Kathleen Merrigan under the banner ofKnow Your Farmer, Know Your Food. Ferd Hoefner, policy director at NSAC and a veteran of farm bill fights dating to the ’70s, told me that such programs could lose as much as half of their funding under the current process.

All of that aside, the most egregious thing about the backroom farm bill being slapped together is that it completely shuts out grassroots participation in crafting national food and farm policy. The public farm bill fervor that rose up in 2007-08 has slammed up against a brick wall enclosing secret congressional hearings.

Now, it’s true the supercommittee’s efforts to cobble together a debt deal could fail. If that happens, what becomes of the backroom farm bill now being put together? I put that question to Hoefner. “Anyone’s guess,” he said. But the deal being made now will likely be the “starting point” for negotiations going forward, he added. And that, I think, is bad news for those of us who would like to see significant food policy reform.

Tom Philpott is the food and ag blogger for Mother Jones

from:    http://motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2011/11/farm-bill-supercommittee

Levis New Twist on Water Conservation


Stone-Washed Blue Jeans (Minus the Washed)

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

A line of Levis jeans was made with world water shortages in mind.

Published: November 1, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO   —  From the cotton field in rural India to the local rag bin, a typical pair of blue jeans consumes 919 gallons of water during its life cycleLevi Strauss & Company says, or enough to fill about 15 spa-size bathtubs. That includes the water that goes into irrigating the cotton crop, stitching the jeans together and washing them scores of times at home

The company wants to reduce that number any way it can, and not just to project environmental responsibility. It fears that water shortages caused by climate changemay jeopardize the company’s very existence in the coming decades by making cotton too expensive or scarce.

So to protect its bottom line, Levi Strauss has helped underwrite and champion a nonprofit program that teaches farmers in India, Pakistan, Brazil and West and Central Africa the latest irrigation and rainwater-capture techniques.  It has introduced a brand featuring stone-washed denim smoothed with rocks but no water. It is sewing tags into all of its jeans urging customers to wash less and use only cold water.

To customers seeking further advice, Levi Strauss suggests washing jeans rarely, if at all — the theory being that putting them in the freezer will kill germs that cause them to smell.

Conservation worries are not limited to the clothing giants: food and beverage conglomerates, tobacco companies and metal and mining companies are all starting to reckon with their heavy dependence on water. Pepsico, for example, has embraced a method of sanitizing plastic bottles with purified air instead of water at a plant in Georgia. For its Frito-Lay brands, it has identified drought-resistant potato strains that it provides to farmers along with a soil-monitoring method so that crops are watered only when necessary.

The Carbon Disclosure Project, a group that monitors corporations’ greenhouse gas emissions, recently added water security to its priorities. Of the 150 companies that responded last year to a questionnaire that it sent to the world’s largest corporations, nearly 40 percent reported that water problems had already resulted in “detrimental impacts” to their businesses.

The threat of water shortages was brought home to Levi Strauss last year when floods in Pakistan and parched fields in China destroyed cotton crops and sent prices soaring. Roughly two pounds of cotton go into every pair of jeans that the company manufactures. Although scientists are wary of linking specific extreme weather events to climate change, recent increases in floods and droughts are in line with patterns that experts have long projected would result from global warming. The general rule of thumb is that wet regions will get wetter and dry regions will become even more arid.

Upmanu Lall, director of the Columbia Water Center at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, said that the local implications of those changes were still being sorted out but that “agriculture, which does best with a relatively consistent supply of water, will be impacted the most.”

That is particularly the case for cotton, the world’s biggest nonfood crop. Many big cotton-producing countries like India, which has tens of thousands of small cotton farmers, lack the reservoirs to store water, heightening the risk of shortages.

Companies doing business overseas are also contending with rising water costs or water that is not clean enough. Then there is the threat of bad publicity if a corporation is perceived to be squandering precious local water.

“The total volume of water used by a single beverage business, for example, may not be much,” Dr. Lall said. “But they are often the most visible users in a locality, depleting groundwater much more quickly than, say, a small farmer.”

It is not lost on American and European manufacturers that cotton already competes with grain for what arable land exists in some regions, a tension that will only grow as the world seeks to feed its growing population in coming decades.

Making ‘Better Cotton’

Because cotton is mostly grown by a diffuse network of very small farmers in more than 70 countries, encouraging water-efficient practices is a formidable challenge. Cotton cultivation accounts for more than 3 percent of the world’s agricultural water use and 6 percent of all pesticide purchases. Outmoded practices like field flooding contribute to overconsumption.

In 2005, nongovernmental and cotton industry organizations and some giant retailers, including Ikea, the Gap and Adidas, founded the international nonprofit Better Cotton Initiative to promote water conservation and reduce pesticide use and child-labor practices in the industry.

Levi Strauss joined in 2009. Partners include groups like Cotton Inc., an American industry association that has provided technical know-how. A three-year independent study of Indian farms found those adopting the new techniques reduced water and pesticide use by an average of 32 percent, the initiative says. The profit was 20 percent higher than that of a control group using traditional methods

to read more, go to:    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/02/science/earth/levi-strauss-tries-to-minimize-water-use.html?ref=science