Sustainable Food Systems Sourcebook

Union of Concerned Scientists

2 Brattle Square, Cambridge, 02138, United States

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Sustainable Agriculture
Research, Policy, and Extension/Outreach Programs
General info


UCS was founded in 1969 by scientists and students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. That year, the Vietnam War was at its height and Cleveland’s heavily polluted Cuyahoga River had caught fire. Appalled at how the U.S. government was misusing science, the UCS founders drafted a statement calling for scientific research to be directed away from military technologies and toward solving pressing environmental and social problems.

We remain true to that founding vision. Throughout our history, UCS has followed the example set by the scientific community: we share information, seek the truth, and let our findings guide our conclusions.

It’s a powerful formula.

By mobilizing scientists and combining their voices with those of advocates, educators, business people, and other concerned citizens, UCS has built a reputation for fairness and accuracy and amassed an impressive history of accomplishments.


For nearly half a century, the Union of Concerned Scientists has combined the knowledge and influence of the scientific community with the passion of concerned citizens to build a healthy planet and a safer world. Here are just a few of the results that powerful combination has delivered so far:

UCS Accomplishments 2010 – Present

·       UCS plays a key role in passing landmark emissions and fuel efficiency standards that will cut in half the global warming emissions of new cars and light trucks by 2025. All told, the changes will be equivalent to taking some 40 million of today’s cars and trucks off the road.

·       UCS helps convince California to require that at least one-third of its electricity comes from clean, renewable sources by 2020, setting an inspiring precedent for the nation.

·       The result of years of analysis and advocacy, UCS helps win international protections for rainforests that will keep at least 300 million tons of global warming emissions from the atmosphere each year, an outcome  equivalent to shutting down more than 60 dirty, coal-fired plants.

·       After years of effort, UCS wins a victory in Congress with the unanimous passage of a bill that explicitly affords whistleblower protection to scientists and others who expose the distortion or suppression of federal scientific data.

·       UCS’s report, Ripe for Retirement, the first study of its kind, identifies 353 coal-fired power plants across the country as prime candidates for closure due to their inability to compete with modern, cleaner alternatives. Within a year of the report’s release in 2012, 20 percent of the coal generators named announce plans to close or convert to natural gas, an outcome that will reduce U.S. annual carbon emissions by more than 100 million tons.

·       A UCS analysis exposes News Corp for extremely misleading climate coverage, showing that Fox News Channel and the Wall Street Journal’s opinion page mislead on climate science more than 80 percent of the time.

·       UCS introduces a plan to cut projected U.S. oil consumption in half within the next 20 years. Through improved efficiency, low-carbon biofuels, vehicle electrification, and better transportation choices, the organization’s visionary Half the Oil Plan would halve projected U.S. oil use by 2030.

·       A UCS team publishes the award-winning book, Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps to Low-Carbon Living, challenging all Americans to cut their global warming emissions by 20 percent within a year and giving them the information needed to get the job done. The book has inspired thousands of readers to reduce their carbon emissions, was featured by more than 100 news outlets, and won “best science book of the year” at the Green Book Festival.

·       UCS launches the Center for Science and Democracy, an ambitious initiative dedicated to strengthening the American democracy by restoring the essential role of science, evidence-based decision making, and constructive debate as a means to improve the health, security, and prosperity of all Americans.

·       Determining that demand for palm oil was one of the major drivers of tropical deforestation, UCS’s mounts a well-timed campaign that succeeds in pressuring major companies including Wilmar, the world’s largest palm oil trader, Colgate-Palmolive, General Mills, and Hershey’s to commit to sourcing palm oil that is deforestation-free.

·       UCS helps push the U.S. Senate to approve the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) to reduce U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons stockpiles. These reductions cut down both countries’ oversized nuclear arsenals—a dangerous legacy of the Cold War—while allowing the U.S. military to preserve a flex­ible strategic deterrent.