Category: Environment

NEW WEBSITE SHOWCASES SEEDS OF A BRIGHTER FUTURE

Want to solve big problems? Start small.

Seeds of Good Anthropocenes, a website created by an international team of sustainability scientists, seeks to do just that. The site showcases more than 500 initiatives from around the world that, while not widespread or well known, might contribute to a sustainable future.

The purpose of the project, according to its founders, is to provide a middle ground between gloom-and-doom reports, which may inadvertently spur feelings of powerlessness and resignation, and those that are overly optimistic and risk inciting complacency. Writing in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, the founders argue that we should break through this dichotomy by looking to “seeds” — environmentally beneficial tools and techniques that are neither untested proposals nor established practices. Each seed offers an idea that helps in some way to address challenges posed by the Anthropocene, such as environmental awareness, urban sustainability and equitable decision-making.

China to ban domestic ivory trade by 2017

WWF and TRAFFIC welcomed today’s historic announcement that China will close down its domestic ivory trade by the end of 2017, signalling an end to the world’s primary legal ivory market and a major boost to international efforts to tackle the elephant poaching crisis in Africa.

The General Office of the State Council of China announced that China will “cease part of ivory processing and sales by 31 March 2017 and cease all ivory processing and sales by 31 December 2017”.

FOR OUR FOOD SYSTEM’S SAKE, LET’S SAY “NO” TO CORPORATE CONSOLIDATION

Mergers puts food workers and small-scale farmers at risk and increase vertical integration, hurting farm­ers’ ability to compete.

When you look to the year ahead, what do you see? Ensia recently invited eight global thought leaders to share their thoughts. In this interview with Ensia contributor Lisa Palmer for Ensia’s 2017 print annual, Real Food Media founder Anna Lappé responds to three questions: What will be the biggest challenge to address or opportunity to grasp in your field in 2017? Why? And what should we be doing about it now?

The food system is one of the largest forces impacting our planet’s environment and people’s health. The choices about what crops are grown, where and how they are produced, who gets access to that food and who makes those decisions all have global consequences.

Melting Greenland Ice to Stop Gulf Stream, Plunge Europe Into Cold

The mighty Gulf Stream, which keeps Northern Europe and parts of Western Russia warmer than other parts of the world that share their latitude, may collapse if greenhouse gas emissions persist, an international team of researchers warns.

Global warming and the melting ice may seriously weaken the powerful Gulf Stream current and ultimately lead to its collapse, which would have incalculable consequences for precipitation, sea ice, sea levels and natural calamities in the North Atlantic and elsewhere on Earth, an international group of researchers predict in an study which was published in the scientific magazine Geophysical Research Letters.

According to Danish climate professor Sebastian H. Mernild, CEO of the Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center in Bergen, Norway, the melting of, above all, the Greenland Ice Sheet may result in a marked freshwater influx that could substantially weaken the Atlantic Ocean’s intricate system of surface and deep ocean currents, including the Gulf Stream, which is responsible for keeping Europe temperate, Danish newspaper Berlingske reported.

Sprinting Towards Extinction: Cheetah Population Crashes

The world’s fastest land animal, the cheetah, is sprinting towards extinction and could soon be lost forever, according to a new study. It warns there are just 7,100 left in less than 9% of the species’ former habitat. Lead author Dr. Sarah Durant told Sputnik why the world needs to “hit the reset button” to save these big cats.

The cheetah may be able to sprint at speeds of 70mph, but not everything can be outrun.

With the threats posed by humans, whether it’s competition for land, hunting or the trade in exotic pets, these majestic animals are falling behind in the struggle to stay alive.

Africa’s agricultural production systems need a radical change – ECA’s Karingi

“Regardless of the approach or transformative pathway chosen to change food systems and trade regimes, African countries need to undertake radical change in agricultural production systems, adopt agribusiness and promote regional agricultural value chains as a vein for regional integration.” The statement was made by Stephen Karingi, Director of the ECA’s Regional Integration and Trade Division this week in Cote d’Ivoire, at the opening of a symposium themed: Implementing Agro-Industrialization and Regional Value Chains for Africa’s Agricultural Transformation.

“Despite a handful of landmark political commitments, Africa is the only region in the world that has witnessed an increase in the number of food insecure people and has a mushrooming agricultural and food trade deficit,” said Karingi.

How to Prevent Another DAPL

For the last few months, the Dakota Access Pipeline has captured the nation’s attention. After Energy Transfer Partners started construction on a pipeline near the Standing Rock Reservation, local Native American tribes protested the pipeline on the grounds that it could pollute their water supplies. Word of the protests spread and thousands of protesters flocked to Standing Rock. After months of confrontations between protesters and militarized police, the Army Corps of Engineers paused the project pending an environmental impact assessment.

The Native American tribes and environmentalists hailed this development as a victory, albeit a temporary one. Donald Trump, who will soon be taking office, has vowed to complete the DAPL and has signaled a willingness to carry out this campaign promise by filling his administration with oil executives and people who have invested heavily in the project. As a result, anti-DAPL protesters are gearing up for a long protest season.

Fixing throwaway culture

Sweden introduces tax breaks for repairs in bid to cut waste

The Swedish government has proposed several tax changes designed to incentivize consumers to repair broken items instead of discarding them.

Lawmakers from the ruling Social Democrat and Green Party coalition added provisions into the most recent budget, reducing Sweden’s value-added tax for all bike, clothing and shoe repairs to 12 per cent from 25 per cent. In addition, households that pay to repair appliances such as washing machines will be eligible for a tax deduction. The two initiatives are projected to cost the national treasury $114 million annually, but will be partially offset by a controversial new levy on electronics that contain chemicals the government describes as dangerous to humans. These include the fire retardant pentaBDE, often found on cellphone covers. The initiatives will be voted on later this month, but are widely expected to pass.

IT’S TIME TO STOP OVERSPENDING OUR FRESHWATER BUDGET

If freshwater is to remain a renewable resource, we must balance supply and demand on farms, in cities, in industry and in power production.

When you look to the year ahead, what do you see? Ensia recently invited eight global thought leaders to share their thoughts. In this interview with Ensia contributor Lisa Palmer, World Resources Institute Global Water Program director Betsy Otto responds to three questions: What will be the biggest challenge to address or opportunity to grasp in your field in 2017? Why? And what should we be doing about it now?

We continue to overspend our budget when it comes to freshwater resources globally. No country is immune; this is not just a challenge for arid regions.

HOW “OPEN SOURCE” SEED PRODUCERS FROM THE U.S. TO INDIA ARE CHANGING GLOBAL FOOD PRODUCTION

Around the world, plant breeders are resisting what they see as corporate control of the food supply by making seeds available for other breeders to use.

Frank Morton has been breeding lettuce since the 1980s. His company offers 114 varieties, among them Outredgeous, which last year became the first plant that NASA astronauts grew and ate in space. For nearly 20 years, Morton’s work was limited only by his imagination and by how many different kinds of lettuce he could get his hands on. But in the early 2000s, he started noticing more and more lettuces were patented, meaning he would not be able to use them for breeding. The patents weren’t just for different types of lettuce, but specific traits such as resistance to a disease, a particular shade of red or green, or curliness of the leaf. Such patents have increased in the years since, and are encroaching on a growing range of crops, from corn to carrots — a trend that has plant breeders, environmentalists and food security experts concerned about the future of the food production.

A determined fellow dedicated to the millennia-old tradition of plant breeding, Morton still breeds lettuce — it just takes longer, because more restrictions make it harder for him to do his work.

East Africa’s Largest Solar Plant Starts Operations

Honorable D’Ujanga Simon, Minister of State for Energy, together with representatives of Access Power (www.Access-Power.com), EREN RE (www.EREN-Groupe.com) and donors celebrated today the inauguration of the solar power plant in Soroti.

Made up of 32,680 photovoltaic panels, the new 10 megawatt facility is the country’s first grid-connected solar plant and will generate clean, low-carbon, sustainable electricity to 40,000 homes, schools and businesses in the area.

The project was developed under the Global Energy Transfer Feed in Tariff (“GET FiT”) (www.GetFiT-Uganda.org), a dedicated support scheme for renewable energy projects managed by Germany’s KfW Development Bank in partnership with Uganda’s Electricity Regulatory Agency (ERA) and funded by the governments of Norway, Germany, the United Kingdom and the European Union. The GET FiT programme helps renewable energy sources become more affordable and therefore more accessible in Eastern Africa.

Spain’s failure to protect Doñana World Heritage site warrants UNESCO in danger listing

A Spanish wetland stopover for six million migratory birds is poised to become the first European Union site placed on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger.

Today is the deadline set by UNESCO for Spain to address threats to Doñana National Park in order to keep the site off the in danger list.

According to a WWF assessment, the country’s government has failed to cancel the destructive dredging of the Guadalquivir River as requested by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. The committee urged the Spain to cancel the project and not to permit any future plans to deepen the river.

1.4 Bln Jobs Depend on Bees – New Study

A new study published Monday shows that the ongoing decrease in bee populations and other pollinators worldwide will also drastically decrease the number of jobs in agriculture.

“World food supplies and jobs are at risk unless urgent action is taken to stop global declines of pollinators,” according to a statement from the University of Reading, whose researchers took part in the global review.

Animal pollinators, including bees, butterflies, birds, beetles, wasps, bats, and even lizards are essential for crops. But what’s more, they provide the labor market with work.

Arctic Report Finds Ice Cap Melt Could Lead to Global Climate Consequences

Arctic Resilience Report, compiled by 11 organizations including the Arctic Council and six universities, found that the potential consequences could range from shifts in snow distribution resulting in altered climate patterns as far away as Asia, where the monsoon could be effected, to higher releases of methane from the tundra as it warms.

The increasingly rapid melting of ice caps in the Arctic risks triggering 19 regime shifts which could have consequences at a global level, the Arctic Resilience Report revealed on Friday.

Paris Agreement passes first stress test at COP22

In response to the close of COP22, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, leader of WWF International’s Climate & Energy Practice, issued the following statement:

“The UN climate talks continue to be filled with twists and turns, but they have delivered what they needed to this week – putting substance behind the promise of the Paris Agreement so it can be fully implemented. The Marrakech work has not been the most glamorous, but it’s a key step in the chain reaction needed to roll out the agreement.