Category: Environment

Is Solar Energy Really Too Expensive?

Utilities are lobbying against the expansion of rooftop solar, and that’s no good for anyone.

In order for solar power to compete with other forms of energy, the conventional thinking goes, it needs to become way cheaper.

Installing rooftop solar panels can be prohibitively expensive, after all, and it takes years before the resulting energy savings pay off. For the individual, it doesn’t matter whether solar panels will save you money in the long run if you can’t afford them in the short run.

For those of us who are renters, the decision of whether to go solar is even more irrelevant. We don’t have the option to install panels ourselves. And unless your apartment comes with utilities included, your landlord has no incentive to install solar panels, because you would get all the savings.

What happens when the needs of endangered tigers and endangered people collide?

As government works to save big cats from extinction, indigenous forest dwellers pursue peaceful coexistence for man and beast

The wild hillocks and the forests of Central India are a world of their own. Nestled on lush green foothills are intermittent clusters of villages, little touched by modern civilization. They are the ancestral home of an ancient indigenous tribe, the Baiga, which has had a symbiotic relationship with these jungles and their biodiversity, preserving them with their knowledge for generations.

These forests are also a part of the Central Indian Landscape, which hosts nearly 40 percent of India’s big cats.

What We Need To Learn From Native Cultures About Climate Adaptation

When it comes to climate change, now is the time to react and develop defenses. Unfortunately, very few western resources are allocated to prepare for future environmental challenges. That’s not the case in areas inhabited by indigenous peoples, who’re already dealing with environmental changes. Recent months have seen adaptation techniques field tested in indigenous areas, for eventual use elsewhere. One of the many questions going forward, however, is whether progress itself is sustainable.

As important as the actual technologies is including as many voices as possible in climate conversations. Climate change affects humanity more than any war, or plague. In fact, grimmer predictions for the future suggest it may eventually cause those things. According to Glacier Hub, whereas indigenous peoples occupy 65% of earth’s land, they’re rarely included in climate debate.

Yet Another Environmental Activist Is Murdered in Honduras. When Will It End?

“Lesbia Yaneth lives, the fight continues! Berta lives, the fight continues!”

With those words, the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras, or COPINH) concluded their statement on their blog about the murder of community leader Lesbia Yaneth Urquía in Honduras on July 7. Her body was found in a garbage dump; she reportedly had suffered injuries to the head.

Her death was nationally and internationally condemned as yet another blow to the environmentalist fight in the region. The news came at a time when the country is still trying to recover from the loss of Berta Cáceres, the co-founder of COPINH who was murdered four months ago.

Why Degraded Reefs Could be the Future of Ocean Conservation

When there’s not enough pristine habitat left to save an ecosystem, it’s time to take a new look at less-than-perfect places.

When you think of a nature preserve, chances are you picture a tract of pristine, healthy wilderness, set aside in order to protect a functioning ecosystem. But what if not much remains of the ecosystem you want to protect?

A new proposal by an international group of scientists and conservationists is challenging traditional ideas about what’s worth saving when it comes to coral reefs. In 2010, the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity set a goal of conserving 10 percent of each of the world’s ecological regions, and agencies and governments around the world have set aside areas of healthy coral reef habitat as Marine Protected Areas or MPAs. However, the authors of a new study in the journal Conservation Biology argue that not enough pristine reefs might remain to meet this goal. The solution, they say, is to create new MPAs around degraded reef habitat, building opportunities for restoring and reconnecting reefs instead of simply abandoning these areas as lost forever.

If lead ammunition is bad for people and the environment, why do we still use it?

Concerns about regulation, skepticism about the science and misperceptions about costs are slowing the transition to nontoxic alternatives.

Andrea Goodnight knows firsthand what lead poisoning looks like. A veterinarian at the Oakland Zoo, Goodnight treats endangered California condors when testing shows dangerous levels of the toxic metal in their blood.

If blood lead levels get too high, condors, eagles and other raptors “regurgitate everything and can’t hold anything down, so basically they’re starving to death,” Goodnight says. “A very clinically ill bird is very distressing. They’re weak, they fall over, they just can’t feed themselves at all and eventually they die. To me, it’s an absolutely horrible way to die.”

These Fires Are Huge, Hidden and Harmful. What Can We Do?

Smoldering peat gives off massive quantities of carbon dioxide and other pollutants, but the search for solutions is on.

As forest fires devastated Fort McMurray, Alberta, last month, a different sort of fire may have started beneath the ground. Peat, a carbon-rich soil created from partially decomposed, waterlogged vegetation accumulated over several millennia and the stuff that fueled Indonesia’s megafires last fall, also appears in the boreal forests that span Canada, Alaska and Siberia. With the intense heat from the Fort McMurray fires, “there’s a good chance the soil in the area could have been ignited,” says Adam Watts, a fire ecologist at Desert Research Institute in Nevada.

Changes in Russian Law Threaten World Famous Nature Reserves

World Heritage sites and critical nature reserves in Russia will face new and expansive threats following a vote on Friday to reduce environmental protections across the country.

The Russian parliament vote weakens protections for natural areas and favors the expansion of private ski resorts over caring for the environment. The legal changes on environmental protection, the first in almost five decades, allow a variety of infrastructure – from hotels to ski trails – to be built on some of the world’s most famous nature reserves.

Persian Leopard Cubs Born in Russian Reintroduction Centre

Triplets have been born to a captive Persian leopard in a Russian breeding centre. The cubs are in good health and may one day be reintroduced to the wild as part of a reintroduction programme supported by WWF, Russian authorities and other partners.

Persian leopards are endangered globally and have been extinct in the Russia’s Western Caucasus region for about 100 years. A breeding and reintroduction centre was established in Sochi National Park to train cubs to live independently in hopes that they can one day repopulate the area.

Animal Poaching: How Tracking Technology Could Help Prevent Wildlife Crime, Extinctions

Over the past year, stories about animal welfare have gone viral via social media. In particular, the issues of holding animals in captivity, big game hunting and wildlife poaching have drawn significant criticism. A gorilla named Harambe was shot and killed at a Cincinnati zoo in June 2016 after a 3-year-old boy fell into his enclosure, prompting public debate over whether gorillas should be kept in zoos at all. In the summer of 2015, a beloved lion named Cecil was killed after a party of game hunters lured him away from the animal sanctuary in Zimbabwe where he had been living. Cecil’s death caused such outrage that the American dentist who shot him received death threats.

In February 2014, Prince William made animal welfare a cornerstone of his philanthropic goals. The Prince thrust anti-poaching policy into an international spotlight when he helped launch United for Wildlife, an organization dedicated to stopping the illegal trafficking of wildlife. As part of his efforts, he has held meetings with world leaders, including President Obama, and gave a major speech at the World Bank about the importance of a global commitment to stop the illegal trade.

China to Fight Pollution…With World’s Largest Air Purifier

For most people, one of the first things that comes to mind when they think of some of China’s largest cities is the massive amounts of pollution. This September, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection is partnering with a Dutch engineer to send the world’s largest air purifier on a tour of some of the country’s cities most effected by air pollution.

Daan Roosegaarde came up with the idea after a visit to Beijing in 2014 when he couldn’t see any of the city out of his hotel window, over thirty floors above the ground. After the trip Roosegaarde had the idea for the ion air purifier (similar to the types used in hospitals and homes) to filter some of the smallest, most dangerous particles of pollution out of the air.

Alligator Fatal Attacks and Encounters With Humans: Historical Data and Research

Reports of a Florida alligator dragging a 2-year-old boy into a lagoon at a Disney Resort in June 2016 have left media organizations and the public questioning how such a tragedy could have occurred. Meanwhile, state wildlife officials and animal experts have tried to explain the habits and characteristics of these large, predatory creatures to help audiences understand both the rarity of such an encounter and the dangers of humans being in or near gator habitats at night and during the summer, when alligators are more active.

A 2014 primer from the University of Florida provides a research-based overview of alligator behavior and outlines safety-related information. Academic research can also help put attacks and related incidents into a broader context. A 2005 study published in the journal Wilderness and Environmental Medicine, “Alligator Attacks on Humans in the United States,” reviews data gathered from state wildlife offices and newspaper reports from 1948 to 2004. The author, Ricky L. Langley of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, notes the following about the nature of attacks:

Living Amazon Report 2016

The Amazon is under pressure from unsustainable economic activities and is undergoing unprecedented change, according to WWF’s Living Amazon Report 2016 released today. The report highlights the regional and global realities that are impacting the Amazon and demonstrates why cooperation is so critical to the area’s future.

The Amazon spans eight countries and one overseas territory. It is home to 34 million people, 350 indigenous groups and one-tenth of the world’s species. According to the WWF report, more than 2,000 new species of plants and vertebrates have been described in the Amazon since 1999.

Despite the diversity and critical importance of the world’s largest rainforest and river system, the report warns about the dramatic increase in legislative actions to downgrade, downsize or degazette protected areas in the Amazon.

​Will Outrage Over Recent Murders Help Honduran Environmental Activists Achieve Their Goal?

Recent murders are affecting indigenous people’s efforts to protect the environment.

When Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres was gunned down in her home last spring the international community and even activists in the notoriously violent country were shocked. Her death followed threats related to her support for indigenous people fighting the construction of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam along the Gualcarque River.

A few days after her death Nelson García, another leader of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (known as COPINH), which Cáceres founded in 1993 to advocate for the native Lenca peoples’ rights, was also murdered.

Have these recent deaths made a difference in indigenous efforts to protect the environment? Though change is slow, there is some indication that they are not going unheeded.

“Berta had such an amazing support network and she had done so much great work in reaching out to other organizations both domestically and internationally that there’s this enormous outrage when she was assassinated,” says Danielle DeLuca, project manager for the Cambridge-based nonprofit Cultural Survival, which advocates for indigenous groups around the world.

This World Environment Day, can the sum of our actions be ZERO?

Over the past 40 years, World Environment Day has inspired millions to take action to help protect our planet. This year, together with our partners, WWF is urging everyone to join the fight against illegal wildlife trade.

Poaching and illegal trade represent grave threats to the world’s wildlife and wild places. Increasingly driven by international organized crime, they also constitute a major danger to communities that depend on wildlife and natural resources for lives and livelihoods.

The situation is critical. A record number of rhinos were poached in Africa last year, while around a million pangolins have been trafficked over the last decade. Of the 110,000 elephants that roamed the savannahs, wetlands and forests of the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania less than half a century ago, a mere 15,000 remain today. If this historic trend continues, WWF estimates that the entire elephant population of one of Africa’s oldest reserves could disappear within six years.