The 6 most pressing environmental issuesand what you can do to help solve them

April 12, 2018 by  
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More than four decades after the first Earth Day , there are still many environmental concerns for communities around the world to address; perhaps none so pressing as man-made climate change . But progress is being made, and it could be argued that awareness about environmental issues is at an all-time high. For this coming  Earth Day we’re shining a light on the most pressing environmental concerns that affect us al, and showing what you can do to help restore ecological balance to this amazing place we call home. Image via Shutterstock CLIMATE CHANGE While 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change  is occurring and greenhouse gas emissions are the main cause, political will has not been strong enough so far to initiate a massive policy shift away from fossil fuels and toward sustainable forms of energy. Perhaps more extreme weather events such as droughts , wildfires, heat waves and flooding will convince the public to put more pressure on policymakers to act urgently to curb carbon emissions and address this issue before it’s too late. Related: 14 Awe-Inspiring Aerial Photographs Capture the Beauty of the Earth What You Can Do: Your home and transportation could be major sources of greenhouse gas emissions. A certified home energy audit can help make your home more energy efficient. If you commute via biking, walking or public transportation you are doing your part to fight global warming, but if you must own a motor vehicle, consider trading in your gas guzzler for a fuel efficient hybrid or better yet—go electric . When you fly, make sure to reduce your carbon footprint from air miles traveled with carbon offsets from a respected company such as Carbonfund.org . Image via Shutterstock POLLUTION Air pollution and climate change are closely linked, as the same greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet are also creating smoggy conditions in major cities that endanger public health. If you’ve seen horrifying images of pollution-choked Chinese cities and think the smog is isolated to Beijing or Shanghai, think again. U.S. scientists are finding that Chinese pollution is intensifying storms over the Pacific Ocean and contributing to more erratic weather in the U.S. Water and soil pollution might not get the media attention that air pollution does, but they are still important public health concerns. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council , dirty water is the world’s biggest health risk. While the Clean Water Act did much to make American water safe from harmful pollutants, today there is a new threat to clean water coming from the shale gas fracking boom taking place across the country and from the EPA itself . Soil contamination is a major issue across the world. In China, nearly 20 percent of arable land has been contaminated by toxic heavy metals. Soil pollution threatens food security and poses health risks to the local population. The use of pesticides and fertilizers are also major factors in soil pollution Related: Nine Chinese Cities More Polluted Than Beijing What You Can Do: Many of the solutions to air pollution are similar to those for climate change, though it’s important to either make a concerted effort to drive less, or switch to a lower-emissions vehicle. Switching over to green energy is also important, as that will cut back on fossil fuel emissions. If you aren’t able to install solar or wind power on your property or if your utility gets its electricity from dirty energy sources, consider signing up for a renewable energy producer like Ethical Electric that connects consumers to 100 percent renewable energy sources to power their homes. Image via Shutterstock DEFORESTATION Forests are important to mitigating climate change because they serve as “carbon sinks,” meaning that they absorb CO2 that would otherwise escape into the atmosphere and worsen global warming. It is estimated that 15 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation . Cutting down trees also threatens animals and humans who rely on healthy forests to sustain themselves, and the loss of tropical rainforests is particularly concerning because around 80 percent of the world’s species reside in these areas. About 17 percent of the Amazon rainforest has been cut down in the past 50 years to make way for cattle ranching. That’s a double whammy for the climate because cattle flatulence is a major source of methane gas, which contributes more to short term climate change than carbon emissions. Related: New Web App Uses Google Maps to Track Deforestation as it Happens What You Can Do:  You can support Rainforest Alliance and similar organizations, stop using paper towels and use washable cloths instead, use cloth shopping bags (instead of paper), and look at labels to make sure you only use FSC-certified wood and paper products. You can also boycott products made by palm oil companies that contribute to deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia. Image via Shutterstock WATER SCARCITY As the population increases and climate change causes more droughts, water scarcity is becoming more of an issue. Only three percent of the world’s water is fresh water and 1.1 billion people lack access to clean, safe drinking water. As the current drought in California dramatically shows, access to water is not just an issue for developing countries but the United States as well. In fact, by the middle of this century more than a third of all counties in the lower 48 states will be at higher risk of water shortages with more than 400 of the 1,100 counties facing an extremely high risk. Related: Could Solar-powered Desalination Solve California’s Water Supply Problem? What You Can Do: Just as energy efficiency is considered an important solution to the issues of climate change and pollution, water efficiency can help us deal with water scarcity. Some ideas to be more water efficient include installing an ENERGY STAR -certified washer, using low-flow faucets, plugging up leaks, irrigating the lawn in the morning or evening when the cooler air causes less evaporation, taking shorter showers and not running sink water when brushing your teeth. Also, consider using non-toxic cleaning products and eco-friendly pesticides and herbicides that won’t contaminate groundwater. Seventh Generation uses plant-derived ingredients for their household cleaning products. Image via Shutterstock LOSS OF BIODIVERSITY Increasing human encroachment on wildlife habitats is causing a rapid loss of biodiversity that threatens food security, population health and world stability. Climate change is also a major contributor to biodiversity loss, as some species aren’t able to adapt to changing temperatures. According to the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Index , biodiversity has declined 27 percent in the last 35 years. Related: Costa Rica is Closing its Zoos and Freeing All Captive Animals What You Can Do: As consumers we can all help protect biodiversity by purchasing products that don’t harm the environment. Next time you are at the grocery store, check to see if food packaging contains any of the following eco-labels : USDA Organic, Fair Trade Certified, Marine Stewardship Council or Green Seal. Other product certifications include Forest Stewardship Council Certification, Rainforest Alliance Certification and Certified Wildlife Friendly. Also, reusing , recycling and composting are easy ways to protect biodiversity. Image via Shutterstock SOIL EROSION AND DEGRADATION Unsustainable industrial agriculture practices have resulted in soil erosion and degradation that leads to less arable land, clogged and polluted waterways, increased flooding and desertification. According to the World Wildlife Fund , half of the earth’s topsoil has been lost in the last 150 years. Related: Soil Erosion Could Cause Food Crisis, Expert Warns What You Can Do: Support sustainable agriculture that puts people and the planet above profit. Support sustainable agriculture by visiting the Sustainable Table for tips on fighting for a sustainable food system. On a smaller scale, you can make a difference in your backyard by switching to non-toxic green pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. The website Eartheasy.com sells natural lawn care products such as corn gluten organic fertilizer. + Earth Day Lead image via Deposit Photos

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The 6 most pressing environmental issuesand what you can do to help solve them

Land degradation could displace 50 to 700 million people by 2050

March 27, 2018 by  
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Land decay is undermining the well-being of two-fifths of all the people on Earth, or around 3.2 billion people , according to an Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) three-year assessment, penned by over 100 experts hailing from 45 countries. It’s the first comprehensive land health assessment, according to Agence France Presse (AFP) — and assessment co-chair Robert Scholes of South Africa said land degradation is “pushing the planet towards a sixth mass extinction .” Human activity is driving dangerous land degradation — specifically quick expansion and unsustainable management of crop and grazing lands, according to IPBES. They said land decay has hit critical levels, impacting food security , water purification, and energy. The impacts of land degradation can be glimpsed in loss of biodiversity , declining animal populations, deforestation , and loss of soil health, to name a few. The assessment also says land degradation contributes to climate change . Related: Substantial swaths of globe face desertification without climate action — new study Grazing and crop lands sprawl across one third of the planet’s land surface, with under 25 percent of that surface escaping significant impacts of human activity, according to IPBES, although scientists estimate that figure will plunge to under 10 percent by 2050. As the population grows, there will be an even higher demand for food and biofuels , and researchers think pesticide and fertilizer use could double by 2050. Scholes said around four billion people will reside in drylands in a little over 30 years, and by then land degradation and climate change could force “50 to 700 million people to migrate.” Social instability could be a consequence of decreasing land productivity; “particularly in dryland areas, where years with extremely low rainfall have been associated with an increase of up to 45 percent in violent conflict.” The researchers pointed to an array of options for land restoration; for example, planting native species , developing green infrastructure like parks , or river channel restoration in urban locations. IPBES’s statement said humanity can attempt to avoid agricultural expansion into native habitats by increasing yields on farmlands that already exist and by shifting toward eating habits that don’t degrade land to the same extent, such as  plant-based diets. IPBES chair Sir Robert Watson said, “Of the many valuable messages in the report, this ranks among the most important: implementing the right actions to combat land degradation can transform the lives of millions of people across the planet, but this will become more difficult and more costly the longer we take to act.” + Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Via Agence France Presse Images via Depositphotos (1 , 2 )

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Land degradation could displace 50 to 700 million people by 2050

Illicit trade in jaguar fangs linked to Chinese construction projects

March 5, 2018 by  
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Wildlife experts are worried that the illicit trade in jaguars appears to be growing — and they’ve connected it to Chinese construction projects . According to the journal a rel=”nofollow” target=”_blank” href=”https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-02314-5″> Nature , crackdowns on smuggling tiger parts for use in Chinese traditional medicine could be increasing the market for jaguars. Researchers pointed to recent killings in South America , including a dead jaguar discovered in a Belize drainage canal mostly intact, but missing its fangs. Jaguars are in trouble, according to the World Wildlife Fund , imperiled by habitat loss from deforestation and hunting. And now traffickers may be turning to these big cats for Chinese traditional medicine. According to the Nature article, wildlife trafficking “often follows Chinese construction projects in other countries.” Related: Rhino horn auction website says legal sales “best way to save the rhino” Oxford Brookes University ecologist Vincent Nijman told Nature , “If there’s a demand [in China ] for large-cat parts, and that demand can be fulfilled by people living in parts of Africa, other parts of Asia, or South America, then someone will step in to fill that demand. It’s often Chinese-to-Chinese trade, but it’s turning global.” The Guardian said according to experts, Chinese rail, power plant, and road projects in developing countries are stimulants of illicit trade in body parts of endangered animals. The Guardian quoted Nijman as saying the projects “act like giant vacuum cleaners of wildlife that suck everything back to China.” Eight packages with 186 jaguar fangs were confiscated in Bolivia between August 2014 and February 2015, according to Nature , before they could make it to China. Chinese citizens residing in Bolivia had sent seven of the packages. Eight packages were reportedly intercepted in 2016, and then another in China with 120 fangs. Bolivian biologist Angela Núñez told Nature over 100 jaguars could have been killed for those packages, but it’s impossible to be certain. In Brazil, there were over 50 seizures of packages with jaguar parts last year, according to Oxford Brookes University wildlife researcher Thaís Morcatty, with most packages destined for China or Asia. Nijman said few wildlife trafficking cases around the world end with criminal sentences. “The deterrent is when somebody ends up in jail,” he said, but that doesn’t often occur “because society as a whole in most countries is not interested.” Via Nature and The Guardian Images via Depositphotos and Wikimedia Commons

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Illicit trade in jaguar fangs linked to Chinese construction projects

12,000 distribution boxes in Germany are being converted into EV charging stations

March 5, 2018 by  
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Deutsche Telekom just announced plans to convert distribution boxes in Germany into electric vehicle chargers – and the move will double the size of the nation’s charging infrastructure with 12,000 new stations. According to Electrek , there’s currently about 10,800 public electric car charging points in Germany – and that number stands to skyrocket in the near future. Deutsche Telekom is considering installing 500 100-kilowatt (kW) fast-charging stations, while the rest of the stations will be Level 2 charge points with charge rates up to 22 kW. Level 2 chargers can fill an 80-mile battery in around three and a half hours, and DC fast chargers can get an EV up to 80 percent in around half an hour, according to EV charging technology company ChargePoint . Related: First public ultra-fast EV charging station in Europe is now operational Telekom reportedly possesses two working prototypes, Electrek said. A spokesperson told German publication Automobilwoche they could begin the process of converting distribution boxes this summer. By 2020, all 12,000 charging stations could be in place. Automobilwoche said the EV charging station network in Germany is still patchy. Electrek said EV adoption in Germany has trailed behind other European countries. So a doubling of charging infrastructure could offer a boost the electric car industry needs in the country. In November 2017 CleanTechnica reported almost 40,000 plug-in electric vehicles had been sold in the country up to the end of September that year — around a 106 percent growth rate compared to the same nine-month period in 2016. This won’t be the first time a telecommunications company has utilized infrastructure in place for electric car charging; back in 2010 Inhabitat reported that an Austrian company, Telekom Austria, transformed phone booths into charging stations . Via Electrek and Automobilwoche Images via Wikimedia Commons and K?rlis Dambr?ns on Flickr

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12,000 distribution boxes in Germany are being converted into EV charging stations

How zero-deforestation agendas affect heavily forested nations

March 5, 2018 by  
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Companies interested in cleaning up their supply chains must find better ways of accommodating the economic aspirations of communities in forest-rich developing countries.

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How zero-deforestation agendas affect heavily forested nations

The clean economy needs more vocal corporate advocates

March 5, 2018 by  
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The best of live interviews from GreenBiz events. On this episode, a Google executive, California congressman and venture capitalist debate the role of corporate advocacy in the clean energy economy.

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The clean economy needs more vocal corporate advocates

Banks branch out to take on deforestation risks

March 5, 2018 by  
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A new platform aims to help financial institutions uncover their exposure to environmental risks from palm oil, soy, cattle trading and timber, amid deforestation fears.

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Banks branch out to take on deforestation risks

Corporations need nature’s regenerative service

February 2, 2018 by  
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Many people do not perceive the value of wilderness areas, even though we receive life-sustaining services from them every day.

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Corporations need nature’s regenerative service

The uncounted cost of shipping’s environmental impact

February 2, 2018 by  
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How big banks could make a difference in accelerating the industry’s decarbonization.

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The uncounted cost of shipping’s environmental impact

Can artificial intelligence thwart forest losses in the Congo?

December 20, 2017 by  
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The research could inform future land-use decisions.

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Can artificial intelligence thwart forest losses in the Congo?

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