Catalyst Fall 2014



At a farmers market in Washington, DC, UCS Agricultural Economist Jeff O'Hara discusses our recommendations for expanding communities' access to healthy foods. Photo: Jenn Yates

Hospitals Can Make Diets Healthier

UCS recently partnered with the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future to demonstrate how health care institutions can prevent illness in their communities by encouraging healthy eating. This partnership is part of an effort to bolster an innovative new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program. In stark contrast with farm subsidies that underwrite unhealthy processed foods, this new program provides funding to help low-income consumers buy more fruits and vegetables at farmers markets, supermarkets, and elsewhere.

Our resulting policy brief uses examples set by several health care institutions around the country to show how access to healthy foods can be expanded. Hospitals have established on-site farmers markets and provided “prescriptions” for free fruits and vegetables, while health insurers have offered discounts to healthy eaters. But more investment in healthy eating is needed, and our brief recommends that hospitals partner with community groups and the USDA in that effort.

We unveiled our recommendations at the start of National Farmers' Market Week in August, and received coverage by multiple media outlets including the Spanish-language TV network Univision. Highlighting these successes for a broad audience will help build momentum for further action at the local and national levels.

Landmarks at Risk—Here and Abroad

As we uncovered in our May report National Landmarks at Risk, archaeological, cultural, and historical sites around the country are already suffering from the impacts of climate change—and this threat is not unique to the United States. UCS will bring this message to a global audience at the World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia, in November. The weeklong event, held once every 10 years, brings together more than 3,000 park managers, conservation biologists, and government ministers. Adam Markham, director of climate impacts at UCS, will moderate a panel convened by UCS and the National Park Service on managing protected archaeological and historical sites in the face of global warming.

Our efforts are intended to fill a gap in the major scientific climate assessments, including those by the U.S. Global Change Initiative and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which have not dealt with climate-related threats to cultural heritage. The stories in our report will help us build awareness, the political will to significantly reduce global warming emissions, and a network of experts and advocates who will push for additional protections at vulnerable historical and archaeological sites.

The Next Generation of Security Advocates

Young scientists and engineers from 10 countries attended the UCS International Summer Symposium on Science and World Affairs in July. Photo: Wang Xijuan

For eight days this past July, UCS brought 42 young scientists and engineers from across the globe together at Princeton University to discuss international security and arms control issues with UCS staff and other senior security experts. At this latest annual installment of the International Summer Symposiums on Science and World Affairs, which UCS has convened for more than 20 years, each participant gave a presentation on the topic of his or her choice, encompassing such issues as verification of nuclear arms control treaties, missile defense, nuclear power, and controls on nuclear materials. 

The symposiums help early-career scientists begin to apply their technical expertise to policy issues, and are frequently the first opportunity for these young researchers to travel internationally or participate in an event outside their regular academic environments. Over the years, these events have been integral to building and strengthening a technical security community internationally. Learn more about the summer symposium.

Bring More Healthy Food to Your Community

Most people aren’t familiar with the government policies that determine how the ingredients in their meals are grown, how their favorite grocery stores are stocked, or how their kids’ school cafeteria menus are planned. But now UCS has created a resource to help everyone have a say  in these decisions, Healthy Food in Your Community: A Toolkit for Policy Change.

The food policy landscape may be complex, but you can help shape local policies in a way that will ensure everyone in your community has access to healthy food. The resources and tips in our toolkit will help you understand the scientific connection between food and health, navigate the policy landscape in your community, and become an informed voice for change.

Science Must Help Protect Our Oceans

Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at UCS and an oceans expert, was recently invited to serve on the steering committee and as a panelist at a conference convened by Secretary of State John Kerry to address the health of our oceans—an issue often overlooked by the media. Marine pollution, overfishing, and ocean acidification stemming from climate change are challenges that affect society as much as military conflicts.

Rosenberg is an expert on fisheries and ocean management and was the lead author of the oceans chapter in the third National Climate Assessment released earlier this year. He spoke to the 300-plus attendees—who included heads of state, advocates, philanthropists, and scientists—about the science behind ocean assessment reports, and how their findings can help push meaningful policy action. After the conference, he was hopeful about the prospects for progress despite the lack of U.S. action (the United States has not yet signed the Law of the Sea). A follow-up conference has been scheduled for next year.