UN predicts dire future for planet unless people change their ways NOW

March 18, 2019 by  
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The United Nations’ newest Global Environmental Outlook reinforces the worries of everyone concerned about the environment and our planet’s future. The 708-page report, released last week, examines human-inflicted woes on air, land and water. Scientists urge humans to immediately change their ways before we render Earth inhabitable. To those who have been paying attention to the planet’s decline, this report will not be news. But seeing all this human-wrought destruction in one enormous document makes for a grim, and even, shocking read. A few lowlights: Most land habitats have decreased in productivity for growing food and other vegetation; urban development and agriculture have claimed 40 percent of wetlands since 1970; water quality continues to worsen, due in part to chemical pollution; biodiversity is tanking, with many land, marine and freshwater species at risk for extinction; a third of the world’s people lack safe sanitation. Related: Air pollution is killing Europeans at an alarming rate With human population expected to hit 10 billion by 2050, these problems will only increase. “The science is clear,” Joyce Msuya, acting executive director of U.N. Environment, said in a briefing. “The health and prosperity of humanity is directly tied with the state of our environment .” If we don’t change our ways soon, she said, the problem won’t be reversible. Changes in consumption, energy creation and waste disposal are crucial. Fortunately, the new UN report also contains solutions. For example, changing agricultural practices and redistributing food could help stem land degradation and biodiversity loss. More efficiently using and storing water, and investing in desalination, could improve the water scarcity situation. But it will take more than well-meaning individuals to reverse Earth’s fast track toward destruction. Politicians and policy makers around the world will need to join together to devise and enforce strategies to stabilize and improve water , air and land quality before it’s too late. Via National Geographic Image via 

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UN predicts dire future for planet unless people change their ways NOW

Botswana considers lifting elephant hunting ban due to overpopulation

February 25, 2019 by  
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Botswana is contemplating removing an elephant hunting ban that has successfully boosted populations over the past four years. The country has seen the number of elephants increase over the years and officials believe culling is needed to prevent conflicts between the mammals and people. Experts believe there are around 130,000 elephants in Botswana, a number that has steadily grown since the country adopted a hunting ban in 2014. Although Botswana’s tourism sector has benefited greatly from the population boost, President Mokgweetsi Masisi advised ministers to re-evaluate the ban in light of overpopulation. Related: Mass poaching in Botswana leaves behind 90 tuskless elephants Officials in Botswana deliberated for months and consulted with residents and companies about the elephant hunting ban before releasing any data. The research indicated that people and organizations are in favor of lifting the hunting ban and keeping elephant populations within their traditional range. The ministers also recommended limited culling efforts in the event that the ban is lifted. “I can promise you and the nation that we will consider it. A white paper will follow, and it will be shared with the public,” President Masisi stated. Masisi added that they plan on consulting with parliament before they remove the ban and allow hunting of elephants . The president is also open to keeping the ban in place if parliamentary leaders believe it should be upheld. Proponents of lifting the ban claim that the rise in elephant populations in Botswana has led to an increase in conflict between the large mammals and humans. Farmers have also complained that elephants have been ruining crops. In some cases, the interactions between elephants and humans has turned violent, even leading to deaths. Environmentalists, on the other hand, disapprove of lifting the ban and say that better conservation efforts are needed to protect these animals . Experts also believe that Botswana’s tourism sector could take a major hit if the country starts hunting elephants again. Following its productive diamond mining, tourism is the country’s next highest source of outside income. It is unclear when officials in Botswana will initiate a plan to remove the elephant hunting ban and what the culling process will entail. Via BBC Image via designerpoint

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Botswana considers lifting elephant hunting ban due to overpopulation

This artist created a stunning art installation made from 168,000 plastic straws to encourage people to use less

February 25, 2019 by  
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The world produces 260 million tons of plastic every year, and 10 percent of it ends up in our oceans either degrading at a painfully slow rate or not degrading at all. Artist Benjamin Von Wong wants to send a message: The smallest action can make the biggest impact. Even something as simple as saying “no thanks” to a plastic straw. The numbers are constantly rising and soon the earth won’t be able to take it anymore. Among these troublesome pollutants is the humble plastic straw. Durable, too small to recycle and usually only used once, straws make up a huge portion of unnecessary plastic waste. Related: Volvo creates the living seawall in Sydney to help with plastic pollution Thankfully this epidemic is beginning to gain attention. With the help of volunteers, Starbucks Vietnam and Zero Waste Saigon, Von Wong spent six months gathering used plastic straws to turn into “The Parting of the Plastic Sea .” The art installation, also known as “strawpocalypse,” took over two weeks to create. To represent different parts of the wave, the straws were divided by color and connected together and formed into the flowing base, the white froth and the yellow sand. Volunteers spent hours arranging the straws to mimic paint brush strokes. Plastic bags were used to support the straws onto the structure and to act as a diffuser for the LED lighting . “The plastic problem is either out of sight, out of mind– or so omnipresent that it becomes invisible,” says Von Wong. “I wanted to use art to tackle both angles – by creating something beautiful and unique out of an environmental tragedy.” “Strawpocalypse” was truly a team effort. Along with the volunteers, Von Wong had the help of Nick Moser, a technical builder in SF, Stefan Suknjaja, an escape room designer in Serbia and Fosha Zyang, a local set designer . When it came to arranging the straws everything came together organically . Since it was difficult to predict exactly how the structure would look once finished, it was exciting for everyone when the piece finally began to come together. The piece currently resides inside the atrium at Estella Place in Ho Chi Minh City, giving viewers a chance to see “strawpocalypse” from a 360-degree angle. They also built a plastic background with a “sun” effect with LED light panels and galvanized wire to prevent distraction. The art installation is fitting, “something so large that if anybody walked by, they couldn’t help but ignore,” according to the artist. So next time you think to yourself “it’s only one straw,” just remember that eight billion other people are saying the same thing. “Strawpocalypse” will be looking for a new home starting in late March 2019, those interested can visit thestrawpocalypse.com + Von Wong Images via Von Wong

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This artist created a stunning art installation made from 168,000 plastic straws to encourage people to use less

New study predicts mass extinction in 140 years

February 25, 2019 by  
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A new study suggests that the old saying about history repeating itself is absolutely true. In this case, history repeating itself pertains to none other than the topic on everyone’s minds— extinction. Researchers believe it’s taken 56 million years for earth to face another mass extinction that can occur in as little as 140 years.  The research, released last Wednesday and published in Geophysical Research Letters , compares conditions in the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) period with our planet’s present warming condition. Back in PETM days, carbon dioxide shot up, increasing Earth’s temperatures by 9 to 14 degrees. The tropical Atlantic heated up to approximately 97 degrees. Land and marine animals died. It took 150,000 years for the planet to recover. Related: Global warming will melt over 1/3 of the Himalayan ice cap by 2100 Unfortunately for us, carbon dioxide emissions are rising ten times faster now than they did during the PETM. Back then, wildfires, volcanic activity and methane wafting from the seafloor and permafrost were the culprits. Today, it’s down to us. Last year, emissions in countries with advanced economies rose slightly after a five-year decline. At this rate, the study predicts Earth’s atmosphere will be comparable to the beginning of PETM in 140 years, reaching a peak in 259 years. The result? Mass extinction. Philip Gingerich, the study’s author, did a literature review of previous studies on PETM and the rate of carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere. Based on eight studies published between 2009 and 2018, he used models to project future emissions caused by humans. Gingerich is an emeritus professor in the University of Michigan’s earth sciences department. He directed the university’s Museum of Paleontology for nearly 30 years. “[It’s] as if we are deliberately and efficiently manufacturing carbon for emission to the atmosphere at a rate that will soon have consequences comparable to major events long ago in earth history,” Gingerich told Earther. As he states in his study, “A second PETM-scale global greenhouse warming event is on the horizon if we cannot lower anthropogenic carbon emission rates.” Via Earther Image via nikolabelopitv

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Women are essential to climate resilience in the Caribbean heres why

February 7, 2019 by  
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The impacts of climate change are felt most intimately by poor and rural women. Many women rely directly on nature for their income, and their lack of resources prevents them from shifting to alternate jobs or safer locations during disasters. However, the same factors that make women vulnerable — their connection to nature and ties to community — are also the strengths that make women critical and competent leaders in times of crises. In the Caribbean, climate experts are increasingly looking at not only at how they can include female perspectives to alleviate inequalities, but how they can empower women to lead the way toward resilience. Women and climate vulnerability According to a UN Population Fund report , “The poor are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and the majority of the 1.5 billion people living on $1 a day or less are women.” With men leaving rural communities to find jobs in urban areas or overseas, women in the country-side are often the primary — and in many cases the sole — caretaker and breadwinner for their families. Many women lack the freedom, flexibility and mobility to relocate or readjust their lives for work, or for safety when disasters hit. Small islands are on the front lines of climate change The Caribbean region is particularly vulnerable, with small rises in sea level and temperatures having drastic consequences ranging from flooding, severe erosion and massive die-off of coral reefs to consecutive category five hurricanes. Caribbean nations depend on natural resources for their economies — namely agriculture, fisheries and coastal tourism. With so much at stake, Caribbean leaders united to demand world leaders commit to curbing global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius, arguing that the agreed upon increase of 2 degrees would be catastrophic. As small islands fight to have their struggles and solutions heard in global debates about global warming, they are also fighting for the muffled, but mighty voices of women. Women, advocates argue, are accustomed to being resilient, community-driven and goal oriented — especially when it comes to the goal of feeding their families. “In climate change decision making, when women are in control in critical large numbers, we see the emphasis placed on the social issues of housing, refugees, food , food security — in a way that doesn’t happen if women are absent,” said Dessima Williams, Grenada’s previous ambassador to the UN and Chair of the Association of Small Island States. Related: The world is close to annihilation according to the iconic Doomsday Clock Natural disasters exacerbate inequalities During natural disasters, limited resources are further diminished. Limited jobs — such as clearing roads and restoring power — are often earmarked for men. Social services, such as child care, are slow to restart, preventing women from returning to work as swiftly as their male counter parts. “Homelessness and overcrowding in damaged homes, reduced income, health problems, lack of transportation, disrupted social services and other disaster effects impact women disproportionately, exacerbating preexisting power imbalances between women and men,” wrote  Dr. Elain Enarson in her book, Women Confronting Natural Disasters: From Vulnerability to Resilience . Women are part of the solution Sustainable development experts argue that a power shift to give women decision-making authority would not only uplift women and their dependents, but societies as a whole. In fact, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s website stated, “Women’s participation at the political level has resulted in greater responsiveness to citizen’s needs, often increasing cooperation across party and ethnic lines and delivering more sustainable peace.” Recognizing the benefits of including women in decision making, the Caribbean region has hosted a number of meetings to spur discussion on including gender perspectives into climate adaptation strategies. “There needs to be dialogue, learning and listening. The power relationships determine how action on climate change is played out and the success rate of projects to deal with climate change,” Vijay Krishnarayan, director general of the Commonwealth Foundation, said at a regional meeting on the intersection of gender and climate change in the Caribbean. Related: Is the Green New Deal the all-inclusive climate plan we need? “Much more needs to be done to completely capitalize on women’s potential, requiring methods that encompass their access to education and quality training, to economic resources and financial services, and to new forms of financing,” Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean Alicia Bárcena underscored at a High-Level Political Forum at the UN headquarters. The inclusion of women is not unique to the Caribbean, and leaders throughout developing nations have united to recognize the importance of sharing successful solutions across continents and then enabling women’s leadership in implementing localized projects that fit for their own communities. “A lot of women have developed micro-level adaptation approaches, indigenous solutions and traditional knowledge that are not being replicated at the macro level,” said Kalyani Raj, a representative from India during a climate conference in Paris. “We must recognize that women are not just victims, we are powerful agents for change. Therefore, women need to be included in the decision-making processes and allowed to contribute their unique expertise and knowledge to adapt to climate change, because any climate change intervention that excludes women’s perspective and any policy that is gender blind, is destined to fail.” Via Panos Caribbean Images via Shutterstock

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Women are essential to climate resilience in the Caribbean heres why

Reclaiming lost energy: Can we wield photosynthesis to boost crop yields?

January 11, 2019 by  
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To solve the global challenge of feeding the population of the future, we’re going to need to develop innovative solutions for plants.

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Samson Ogbole is a Nigerian farmer who wants to bring aeroponics to the world

December 24, 2018 by  
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Samson Ogbole is a Nigerian farmer who is trying to solve the problem of land shortages in his native country. Nigeria’s population has now reached 190 million, but there isn’t enough land in the country to grow the food needed for the ever-growing population. So, Ogbole has found a solution — aeroponics. This unconventional method is the process of growing plants in the air without using soil. Ogbole first got involved with soilless farming in 2014, and just two years later founded PS Nutraceuticals, a company that puts cutting-edge agricultural technologies into action to improve the efficiency of food production and to ensure food security. “Soilless growing entails removing the soil component, bringing in substitutes, and applying fertilizer to enable the plants to grow,” Ogbole says. “With soilless farming, we have been able to push for what you call urban farming , where we now have farms in cities such that we are able to cut off the middlemen and marketers.” Ogbole says that there are many advantages to aeroponics, the biggest being that you can grow crops at any time of the year. The method has also allowed them to eliminate pathogens that naturally exist in the soil and affect crops. Related: Farmscape helps communities embrace urban farming  Nigeria needs an estimated 78.5 million hectares of land to produce enough food for the population. But, right now there are only 30 million hectares of farmland under cultivation , according to the International Trade Administration of the United States. And, Ogbole says that only 46 percent of Nigerian soil is fertile to grow crops, so the country needs to take steps towards self-sustainability in food production and let technology play a more prominent role. He believes that the “war of the future will be fought through agriculture .” “We’re bringing in technology into agriculture so that the youth can actually see this as a viable option,” explains Ogbole. “We also want to ensure that food production is no longer seasonal, and we’re also bringing in smart sensor technologies into agriculture so that you’re able to get feedback from your plants.” The farmer added that the future of the economy depends on a few people who have bright ideas and can think outside the box. It is ideas, not money, that solves problems. Via CNN Images via Shutterstock

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Samson Ogbole is a Nigerian farmer who wants to bring aeroponics to the world

Scientists find air pollution leads to a significant decline in cognition

August 28, 2018 by  
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It turns out pollution affects more than just the environment. New research shows there might be a correlation between significant air pollution and cognitive decline in humans. Scientists hope their research will lead to changes in how countries deal with excessive air pollution, especially in heavily populated urban areas. Over the course of several years, more than 25,000 people hailing from 162 different counties in China were studied. The researchers published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and are calling for China to reform its pollution policies. The researchers believe China can significantly increase the population’s education level by adhering to the U.S. EPA guidelines. So, how did researchers link pollution with cognitive decline? The scientists performed verbal and math exams on all of the subjects in 2010 and again in 2014. The data from the exams were then compared between the years, and the team linked these changes to  air pollution . The researchers found that the older subjects performed worse on the tests, which led the team to believe that pollution has a bigger effect on brains as people age. The study also showed that individuals with little education were more affected by pollution, possibly because they typically work outdoors. Although the researchers were confident in linking pollution and cognitive decline, they are not sure why it is happening. Xi Chen, study co-author and professor of health policy at Yale, believes that pollution could be harming white matter in the brain , a region that controls communication within this important organ. James Hendrix, the head of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Global Science Initiative, disagrees. Hendrix does not believe the researchers have any evidence to suggest that pollution is damaging white matter. He also argues that associating air pollution with cognitive deterioration is difficult, because there are too many other factors at play. Either way, it’s clear that air pollution is negatively impacting our health and our planet. + Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Via NPR Images via Fredrik Rubensson and  Nicolò Lazzati

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Scientists find air pollution leads to a significant decline in cognition

The Philippines envisions a green smart city to combat pollution in Manila

June 11, 2018 by  
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Traffic is an unpleasant facet of life in cities , but in Manila, the most densely populated city in the world , it’s a severe drain on the economy and the quality of life of residents. This metropolis in the Philippines is infamous for traffic congestion, which contributes to its substantial smog problem. With it also comes many other forms of pollution and environmental hazards. The country has an ambitious plan to combat these issues — build a new smart city that is green and resilient. The Plan The new city, dubbed New Clark City , is considered Manila’s twin city. It’s located in Central Luzon, about  75 miles from Manila at a former U.S. military base. It’s expected to be larger than the size of Manhattan and home to up to two million people . The Bases Conversion and Development Authority ( BCDA ), a government entity vested with corporate powers that converts former military properties, is the leading developer of the project. Both government and private investments will fund the new city. The government plans to move many of its offices and thousands of its workers to the smart city .  By the end of 2023, the government aims to have eight mid-rise government buildings and 8,000 housing units in New Clark City. The Department of Transportation has already moved to Clark , and BCDA will do so this year. One of the most notable parts of the project is the expansion of Clark Airport, which would double the volume of flights the facility can handle. This development is scheduled for completion in 2020. Related: Panasonic is building an incredible smart city outside of Denver Smart, Green and Resilient New Clark City aims to avoid many of the problems that plague Manila by emphasizing green design and smart technologies.  Two-thirds of the city’s land will be used for green space and agriculture . Developers plan to use green building techniques — such an energy monitoring systems and renewable energy — to increase energy efficiency and cut greenhouse gas emissions. The project is slated to include a  rail system connecting the new city to Manila . The inclusion of reliable public transport should alleviate some of the hassle for commuters, visitors and in-city residents alike. The Philippines anticipates autonomous cars will further reduce current and future congestion. While reducing traffic, these technologies are also expected to help keep air quality at the World Health Organization’s recommended safe levels — air pollution levels in Manila are currently  70 percent higher than WHO’s endorsed rates. New Clark City is designed with resilience to disasters in mind. The city’s elevation at its lowest point is 184 feet above sea level  to minimize the risk of flooding, and green space along rivers will also allow room for water to rise without damaging nearby property. In case of power disruption or an emergency, the city will also host backup government offices, so agencies can continue operations. The government said it is working to develop the city quickly while still keeping the design green. Challenges Against New Clark City The New Clark City project has received praise for its vision, and the plans suggest it could have substantial environmental and economic benefits for Manila and the Philippines. But such an ambitious project isn’t without its challenges. One of the primary roadblocks is getting residents to actually move to the city. To address this challenge, the Philippines is prioritizing connecting New Clark City to Manila via train to make the smart city easily accessible. The BCDA also hopes to attract people by building a sports facility that will host the 2019 Southeast Asian Games. Another critical strategy for jump-starting the economy and moving people to the urban center is to gradually relocate government agencies to New Clark City. Sustainable design is another critical challenge to this project. Because of the tight time frame, project managers had to carefully weigh the long-term needs of the natural world with the short-term profitability of the developers. To that end, they have spent time making sure the space, when finished, will prioritize natural landscapes and farmland. The Philippines expects to complete the full development plan within 30 years . In total, New Clark City is an approximately $14 billion project — a high price to pay, especially  if the city fails . A City for the Future The government hopes the benefits of New Clark City will outweigh the costs. As evidenced by the state of Manila’s traffic congestion and environmental problems, there is a demand for change. If New Clark City succeeds, its victory may enable Manila to revitalize and integrate more smart, green features, which could reduce the country’s environmental impact substantially. Building a new city from scratch — and keeping it green — is, of course, no small feat, but this modern city could mean a new, brighter future for the Philippines . + New Clark City Via  World Population Review ,  Rent PMI ,  Business Insider ,  Bloomberg ,  Reuters  and  CNN Images via New Clark City  and BCDA

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The Philippines envisions a green smart city to combat pollution in Manila

Earth’s population just hit 7.5 billion people

May 15, 2017 by  
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Over 7.5 billion people now reside on planet Earth , according to the World Population Clock . But with more people could comes less access to resources like food and energy . A global population of 7.5 billion people has far-reaching repercussions – including increased greenhouse gas emissions , strained food supplies, and increased total consumption, according to Charity organization Population Matters . Population Matters says that population growth could keep some countries in poverty , and it intrudes on land needed by wildlife . Head of Campaigns Alistair Currie told edie.net , “We will see cutthroat competition for shrinking resources which will include not just fossil fuels but productive land and water, pushing prices up not just for consumers but for the businesses and industries which need them too. Huge potential markets like much of sub-Saharan Africa will be stuck in poverty and we’ll see political instability arising from population and migration pressures, including conflict over resources.” China has the most people in one country; 1.38 billion people live there. India is next with 1.34 billion, followed by the United States with 326 million. The United Nations thinks our global population will hit 10 billion people by the year 2056. Related: Scientists say the world is “one crop breeding cycle away from starvation” Currie warned that while businesses may see increased global population as the opportunity to gain more customers, too much growth won’t be good for our planet – or business. He said, “Growth cannot continue indefinitely on a finite planet and fewer consumers is ultimately better for all of us. Business must start recognizing and adapting to that reality. With action now, we can limit population growth and eventually reach sustainable levels.” We’re currently using up the resources of 1.6 Earths , and we’ll need 3 Earths by 2050 unless we can alter our consumption patterns. + Population Matters Via edie Images via Stròlic Furlàn – Davide Gabino on Flickr and McKay Savage on Flickr

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Earth’s population just hit 7.5 billion people

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