Renewable energy is the cheapest source of electricity

October 28, 2020 by  
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A new report published by Rewiring America concludes that if everybody in the U.S. switched to solar, wind or other clean energy power, not only could the country reach zero emissions, but households would save an average of $1,050 to $2,585 annually on bills. This adds up to about $321 billion savings per year. The report, No Place Like Home: Fighting Climate Change (And Saving Money) by Electrifying America’s Households , found that more than 40% of U.S. energy-related carbon emissions come from normal household activities like cooking, bathing and commuting. The way forward, according to the report, is decarbonizing households through electrification. This means driving electric cars that we charge via our rooftop solar panels. Instead of powering appliances with natural gas, the report promotes electricity to power heat pumps, stoves and clothes dryers. Related: Japan aims to be carbon-neutral by 2050 “Too often we are told doing the right thing for the environment requires sacrifice and costs more,” Adam Zurofsky, executive director of Rewiring America , told The Guardian . “But no one is talking about the upside — we can actually make a better economy and save people money and a byproduct will be to cut emissions from residential buildings.” This optimistic attitude nicely coincides with an analysis recently released by financial giant Lazard. In Lazard’s Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis Version 14.0 , the firm concluded that wind and solar are the most affordable electricity sources. Building new solar plants is less expensive than keeping existing coal plants running. Of course, the upfront cost is the hitch for individual households. A larger-scale infrastructure will be necessary for all those solar panels, car chargers and batteries to work together. And it all has to happen pretty soon, before humans render the planet uninhabitable for their own species. That’s going to require government help. According to Zurofsky, “The federal government can make it dirt cheap for people to switch to renewables.” Now we have to make sure they do. Which reminds us, please vote. + Rewiring America Via Common Dreams , PV Magazine and The Guardian Image via Charlie Wilde

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Renewable energy is the cheapest source of electricity

A closed loop fashion system requires scaling solutions now, not later

October 2, 2020 by  
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A closed loop fashion system requires scaling solutions now, not later Deonna Anderson Fri, 10/02/2020 – 01:00 The fashion industry is damaging to the planet — it’s responsible for 10 percent of the world’s carbon emissions. But there are companies — both large and small — trying to solve this problem. Back in 2017, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation tapped on large brands such as Burberry, Gap and H&M to make fashion circular  — ensuring that clothes are made from safe and renewable materials, establishing new business models to increase their use and developing systems that would enable more old clothes to be turned into new garments. Outside of this particular coalition of companies, other fashion businesses are attempting to make the industry more circular by using customizable digital technology, eliminating excess production and tracking the life cycle of products. One of those companies is San Francisco-based clothing startup unspun , which produces sustainable jeans via a unique digital process: customers design their ideal pair of jeans, use their smartphones to takes a 3D scan of their bodies, then receive the custom-built denim in the mail.  “We think it’s really important to think of this from a closed loop and regenerative system, because humans are so used to going for the ‘next thing,'” said Beth Esponnette, co-founder of unspun, during part one of a discussion about scaling circular fashion during Circularity 20 in late August. It’s really hard to change our behavior, and even if we were able to do that, it’s not going to fix the problems in the system. “It’s really hard to change our behavior, and even if we were able to do that, it’s not going to fix the problems in the system,” Esponnette continued. She noted that unspun is not trying to villify consumption, but rather to set up a more responsible industry. The company is designing for disassembly and thinking about how to go from yarn to product and back to yarn again. “It’s not quite ready yet but it’s soon to be on to its first prototypes, so we really see the industry being no-waste and actually infinitely customizable, definitely by 2050, hopefully even by 2030,” she said. While the company is not completely zero-waste at this time, it has a commitment to eventually get there. In the meantime, it works with Blue Jeans Go Green to turn its cutting waste from from the jean making process into denim insulation for homes.  At this point, a pair of custom-fitted unspun jeans costs $200 — a price that not every person who wants to make more sustainable fashion choices can afford. That’s one reason why addressing the environmental impacts of the fashion industry will require multiple solutions to be at play at the same time.  Addressing the environmental impacts of the fashion industry will require multiple solutions to be at play at the same time. Making changes along the apparel supply chain At a different part of the supply chain, labeling and embellishment manufacturer Avery Dennison has a vision of the future: where every physical label on a garment will have a digital twin or ID that would tell the sustainability or end of life story of the piece of clothing. It also could help a consumer know what to do with the garment at its end of life, whether it can be resold, repaired or recycled. “That’s what really drives us, to be able to help enable that whole circularity of the industry,” said Debbie Shakespeare, senior director of compliance and sustainability at Avery Dennison. Right now, the fashion industry operates primarily in production and consumption, but avoids the decomposition part of the loop because of the perception that it will be wasteful, said Beth Rattner, executive director at the Biomimicry Institute, which provides sustainability advising to companies, including some in the world of fashion.  Of the total fiber input used for clothing, 87 percent is either landfilled or incinerated. But working in only the front part of the loop is only ignoring a waste problem that already exists, and is even getting worse. Of the total fiber input used for clothing, 87 percent is either landfilled or incinerated, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation , a think tank advancing the circular economy. Plus, there’s the waste that’s harder to see than the piles of fabric in a landfill. “We still have polyester that’s ending up in microfibers, which are ending up in the ocean, in our seafood dinner,” Rattner said. “We’re eating about a credit card worth of plastic every year.” The fashion industry must contend with its long history of operating unsustainably A recent report from the Biomimicry Institute called The Nature of Fashion  points out how the fashion industry has unsustainably operated as a collective for decades. “It’s safe to say that no one ever looked at a barrel of oil and thought, ‘That would make a nice-looking dress,'” the report’s forward reads. “And yet, for nearly 80 years, we have collectively looked past the ill-effects of petroleum and focused solely on the versatile, low price-point clothing that polyester makes possible.” It’s safe to say that no one ever looked at a barrel of oil and thought, “That would make a nice-looking dress.” The report argues that new fibers — no matter how recyclable they may be — should not be developed if there is no natural decomposition for them, because man-made material loops always leak into the environment . “The fashion industry now more than ever needs to look at materials in the larger context of natural systems,” Anita Chester, head of materials at Laudes Foundation, a partner for the report, said in a press release at the time of the report’s release. During the Circularity 20 session, Rattner gave attendees a vision and a call to action by telling them to imagine having a pantry of Twinkies in a pantry after deciding to be a healthy eater — likening them to the mounds of polyester sitting in our waste management system. Should you eat all those Twinkies first, and then go buy your kale? Should we keep using the same materials that we’ve been using? “We know that the Twinkies are bad for us,” she said “We don’t have to keep eating them, we can do something else with them. So my call to action is: we don’t have to eat the Twinkies.” Pull Quote Addressing the environmental impacts of the fashion industry will require multiple solutions to be at play at the same time. Of the total fiber input used for clothing, 87 percent is either landfilled or incinerated. It’s really hard to change our behavior, and even if we were able to do that, it’s not going to fix the problems in the system. It’s safe to say that no one ever looked at a barrel of oil and thought, “That would make a nice-looking dress.” Topics Circular Economy Fashion Circularity 20 Textile Waste Apparel Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock New Africa Close Authorship

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Flow of plastic waste in the ocean could triple by 2040

July 24, 2020 by  
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New research by The Pew Charitable Trusts and SYSTEMIQ has found that the plastic flow into the oceans could triple by 2040 without immediate action. But the study, “Breaking the Plastic Wave: A Comprehensive Assessment of Pathways Towards Stopping Ocean Plastic Pollution,” also outlines solutions that could cut this plastic waste by more than 80%. According to the researchers, the methods currently used to deal with plastic pollution are less effective unless they are consolidated and accompanied by new technology and more research. The report shows that if governments continue addressing plastic waste as they are currently, the amount of plastic waste flowing into oceans could only be reduced by 7% in the next 20 years. With no intervention, the plastic waste entering the ocean could grow from 11 million to 29 million metric tons by 2040. Because plastic lasts for hundreds of years, the cumulative amount pf ocean plastic could reach 600 million tons (the equivalent weight of 3 million blue whales) by that point. Related: Record high amount of microplastic found on seafloors “Breaking the Plastic Wave” identifies eight measures that could reduce plastic waste by 80%. The proposed measures include reducing plastic production and consumption, substituting plastics with biodegradable alternatives, designing product packaging for recycling , increasing recycling, increasing waste collection rates and reducing plastic waste exports. More technological advancements, business models and research and development are needed to completely eliminate plastic waste in the oceans, according to the study. Although many of these methods are already being applied by some governments, the report proposes a more consolidated approach. The researchers estimate that governments could save up to $70 billion and reduce plastic-related greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2040 by adopting these measures together. According to Martin Stuchtey, SYSTEMIQ’s founder, the plastic pollution problem is solvable if action is taken now. “Our results indicate that the plastic crisis is solvable,” Stuchtey said. “It took a generation to create this challenge; this report shows we can solve it in one generation.” + Breaking the Plastic Wave Image via Sergei Tokmakov

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Flow of plastic waste in the ocean could triple by 2040

Flow of plastic waste in the ocean could triple by 2040

July 24, 2020 by  
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New research by The Pew Charitable Trusts and SYSTEMIQ has found that the plastic flow into the oceans could triple by 2040 without immediate action. But the study, “Breaking the Plastic Wave: A Comprehensive Assessment of Pathways Towards Stopping Ocean Plastic Pollution,” also outlines solutions that could cut this plastic waste by more than 80%. According to the researchers, the methods currently used to deal with plastic pollution are less effective unless they are consolidated and accompanied by new technology and more research. The report shows that if governments continue addressing plastic waste as they are currently, the amount of plastic waste flowing into oceans could only be reduced by 7% in the next 20 years. With no intervention, the plastic waste entering the ocean could grow from 11 million to 29 million metric tons by 2040. Because plastic lasts for hundreds of years, the cumulative amount pf ocean plastic could reach 600 million tons (the equivalent weight of 3 million blue whales) by that point. Related: Record high amount of microplastic found on seafloors “Breaking the Plastic Wave” identifies eight measures that could reduce plastic waste by 80%. The proposed measures include reducing plastic production and consumption, substituting plastics with biodegradable alternatives, designing product packaging for recycling , increasing recycling, increasing waste collection rates and reducing plastic waste exports. More technological advancements, business models and research and development are needed to completely eliminate plastic waste in the oceans, according to the study. Although many of these methods are already being applied by some governments, the report proposes a more consolidated approach. The researchers estimate that governments could save up to $70 billion and reduce plastic-related greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2040 by adopting these measures together. According to Martin Stuchtey, SYSTEMIQ’s founder, the plastic pollution problem is solvable if action is taken now. “Our results indicate that the plastic crisis is solvable,” Stuchtey said. “It took a generation to create this challenge; this report shows we can solve it in one generation.” + Breaking the Plastic Wave Image via Sergei Tokmakov

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Flow of plastic waste in the ocean could triple by 2040

How a Blue New Deal charts a course for a sustainable sea change

July 20, 2020 by  
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How a Blue New Deal charts a course for a sustainable sea change Joel Makower Mon, 07/20/2020 – 02:11 Last week, a group of activists, scientists, academics and others issued a report calling for policies and other initiatives to generate prosperity while addressing inequity and the climate crisis. They called it the Blue New Deal. Its focus: an ocean-based blue economy . The problem, these experts said, is that the much-ballyhooed Green New Deal doesn’t adequately address the many environmental and social challenges that lie along the world’s shorelines and into the deep blue: industrial overfishing; coastal flooding; declining biodiversity; plastic waste; irresponsible tourism; unsustainable aquaculture; oil and chemical pollution; invasive species; and a range of other issues, many affecting the lives and livelihoods of coastal communities. Yes, provisions in the Green New Deal address fisheries and fishing communities, but that’s only a drop in the ocean, say blue-economy experts. The Ocean Climate Action Plan (OCAP), produced by the Center for the Blue Economy at the Middlebury Institute and the nonprofit Blue Frontier, aims to fill the shortcomings of the Green New Deal, offering a four-part set of policy recommendations that, it says, “contains both conservative and liberal economic philosophies that are mutually reinforcing.” There’s a pool of insights for companies, too. “There’s been a lot of stovepiping between the marine conservation community and the climate community,” David Helvarg, executive director of Blue Frontier, explained to me last week. “There’s kind of this feeling that the environment ends with the shoreline.” Suffice to say, it doesn’t. Indeed, says Helvarg, 14 of the 20 biggest U.S. cities are coastal, which he and others regard as those adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes. That’s also true for eight of the world’s 10 largest cities, according to the U.N. Atlas of the Oceans . These communities face a wide range of environmental, social and economic challenges that extend well beyond their terrestrial-based boundaries. There’s kind of this feeling like the environment ends with the shoreline. The OCAP report is the result of “dozens of conversations” with leaders and experts, culminating in October in a meeting in Monterey, California, attended by 60 leading ocean and coastal experts across disciplines. It was followed by a virtual meet-up in April, attended by more than 750 people. The group is quick to distinguish the ” blue economy ” from the ” ocean economy .” The latter includes all ocean-based economic activity, including fishing, shipping, mining, port operations, oil and gas exploration and energy generation. “When we talk about the blue economy, we’re talking about sectors that are sustainable and that maintain the health of the ocean that support our economies and communities, both human and wild,” said Helvarg. “We’re looking at how you build and expand economic activity in ways that benefit both the sustainable ecological systems and the health of the ocean that sustains us and that benefits ocean-dependent communities and businesses.” That includes providing opportunities for marginalized and disadvantaged communities, including communities of color, that tend to be at greater risk of pollution and climate impacts. According to the report: One of OCAP’s core premises is that our ocean and coastal economies suffer from pervasive market failure; many externalities from industry are not properly priced in the market, many offshore industries are currently being stymied due to regulatory uncertainty over property rights, and large gaps in information lead to inefficient decisions about ocean and coastal resource use. Correcting these market failures in order to spur rapid innovation in the blue economy is one of OCAP’s top priorities. Ensuring that markets function efficiently is a deeply conservative objective. The Blue New Deal laid out in the OCAP report is a policy framework that aims to achieve two key objectives: use ocean and coastal resources to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and draw atmospheric greenhouse gases down to safer levels; and enable coastal communities to more effectively and equitably adapt to climate impacts. No wish list  To accomplish these things, the report lays out four key issue areas along with policy recommendations for each: Coastal adaptation and financing: helping vulnerable communities retreat from unstable shorelines; catalyzing a “large-scale dynamic living shorelines industry”; creating jobs that rehabilitate coastal ecosystems; reforming flood insurance; improving coastal wastewater management. Clean ocean energy: catalyzing large-scale deployment of offshore wind power; ensuring the protection of critical offshore habitats; creating robust programs to assess additional renewable ocean energy systems such as wave, current, tidal and thermal. Ports, shipping and the maritime sector: accelerating the decarbonization of ports and the shipping industry, including dramatically improving air and water quality in adjacent communities. Aquaculture, sustainable fisheries and marine biodiversity conservation: helping U.S. fisheries adapt to climate impacts; catalyzing the growth of a “new sustainable seafood industry,” including aquaculture, mariculture and plant- and cell-based seafood alternatives. It’s not just a wish list. The report offers a gap analysis of how current U.S. congressional legislation aligns — and doesn’t — with Blue New Deal objectives. Example: I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the report’s recommendation to fund state governments to pilot living shoreline projects in at-risk coastal counties is addressed in seven congressional bills. As with most other sustainability-related matters, there’s a takes-a-village aspect of all of this, along with a sense of urgency as climate impacts become increasingly evident, particularly along coasts. “It’s triage at this point,” Helvarg explained. “I mean, we’re fighting to preserve the last 10 percent of the world’s tropical corals. We’re fighting to minimize the impacts of sea-level rise and intensifying hurricanes, where NOAA just put out a report that hurricane intensity increased 8 percent a decade over the last 40 years. That means we’re going to have a more-than-normal active hurricane season on top of the pandemic this year, and if a hurricane comes ashore this year it’s going to be a third more intense than one that would have come ashore in 1980.” Given U.S. legislators’ decidedly somnolent approach to addressing the climate crisis, it likely will take a few more devastating hurricanes or other natural disasters before the Blue New Deal — and the Green New Deal, for that matter — garner a sense of urgency. It’s also possible that market signals could drive many of these notions forward without policy action. “We think that the crisis is an opportunity for almost every maritime sector and industry to engage and work with other stakeholders in turning the tide on this,” Helvarg said. Our aim is to restore the blue in our red, white and blue. Helvarg’s group works with a wide range of industries, but not with the oil and gas sector — “they’re the problem, not the solution,” he said — but there’s good news even there. “There’s a lot of potential lateral movement for the roughnecks and roustabouts ” — skilled and unskilled workers on oil rigs, respectively. “They have all the skill sets to immediately transition to be wind turbine technicians and linesmen and ocean engineers, which have the potential to be at least as significant in terms of U.S. domestic energy as offshore oil.” Can ocean and coastal health become part of a “new deal” — green, blue or any other hue? This is yet another arena where equity and environmental issues align, creating opportunities for leadership companies and communities to uplift the 40 percent of Americans living in coastal regions. And help thwart the worst impacts of what may well be a future national crisis. As Helvarg quipped: “Our aim is to restore the blue in our red, white and blue.” Pull Quote There’s kind of this feeling like the environment ends with the shoreline. Our aim is to restore the blue in our red, white and blue. Topics Oceans & Fisheries Policy & Politics Social Justice Coastal Health Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock / GreenBiz photocollage

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How a Blue New Deal charts a course for a sustainable sea change

1 million species are at risk of extinction, says new UN report

May 7, 2019 by  
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A new study released Monday by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services reports that nearly one million animal and plant species are at risk of extinction largely due to unsustainable economic development. The global assessment is the largest and most comprehensive study about biodiversity loss and the role of capitalism. The report synthesizes more than 15,000 scientific papers published over three years; it was released on May 6 and endorsed by more than 130 countries. The report focuses on the disappearance of key species such as pollinators, coral reefs , fish and medicinal plants and specifies the devastating role of industrial farming, fishing and climate change . “If we want to leave a world for our children and grandchildren that has not been destroyed by human activity, we need to act now,” Robert Watson, who chaired the study,  told Reuters . The report’s drastic findings mirror the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change’s report from October that recommends drastic economic and social changes are needed to slow extinction. Related: Even scientists are shocked by the latest UN report on climate change According to the report, the list of threatened species includes 40 percent of all amphibians, 33 percent of reef-building corals and sharks and one third of all marine mammals. The report calls the rate of extinction “unprecedented” and “accelerating,” explaining that the current rate of extinction is tens to hundreds times higher than it has been over the last ten million years. The report also delves into the economic valuation of ecosystems and biodiversity loss and the impact on human societies. For example, the report findings indicate that $577 billion dollars annually in crop production are at risk if bees and other pollinators become extinct. The loss of mangroves and coral reefs could put 300 million coastal residents at risk of flooding. Reuters described the report as “a cornerstone of an emerging body of research that suggests the world may need to embrace a new ‘post-growth’ form of economics;” however, this acknowledgement continues to ignore ‘non-traditional’ and non-academic voices that have been calling for and modeling more sustainable economies and ecosystems for centuries. + United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Via Reuters Image via Pixels

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1 million species are at risk of extinction, says new UN report

Conservationists in Florida are making the ultimate effort to protect manatees from tourism

May 7, 2019 by  
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Captain Ross Files sees ripples on the surface of the water down a side canal and instructs Captain Steve Browning to turn in that direction. Files sprints up a ladder to sit on top of the boat, his bare feet and legs dangling, as he looks for more telltale signs in the water. After a minute, he admits defeat. “No, I don’t think that’s a ‘tee!” he calls back to Browning. The early sun rays illuminate the Crystal River in Florida as eight other tourists wearing wetsuits and snorkels share a boat— dreaming of swimming with manatees. By manatee standards, we’re a few weeks late. Cold winter waters in the Gulf of Mexico force manatees to seek warmer climes. Spring-fed Crystal River, 78 miles north of Tampa, provides a winning temperature for pods of manatees. About 700 manatees spent last winter here, but by early April the gulf is warmer than the river, so most manatees have vanished— which is why our captains are having to work so hard. Related: Kin Travel is offering unique vacation ideas that benefit destinations through conservation and sustainability Florida is the only place in North America that you can legally swim with manatees. To animal lovers, this is an awesome opportunity, but one that can weigh on your conscience. While you many want to swim with manatees, the important question here is,  do manatees want to swim with you? Does raising tourists’ awareness help manatees? Biologists and conservationists are studying these questions and devising best practices for manatee tourism. History of Manatee Tourism After being placed on the Endangered Species List in 1967, before that they were widely hunted, the manatee population increased. Crystal River is currently the epicenter of manatee tourism. Coast Heritage Museum of Crystal River volunteer Maryann Jarrell, said back in the 1940s the river was extremely clear, giving one entrepreneur the idea to launch glass bottom boat tours. When Jarrell moved to Crystal River in 1971, the water was still stunningly clear and full of wildlife . “You didn’t need a rod and reel,” she told me. “Just put a net out and one of those fish was going to jump in it.” Once people discovered Crystal River, the water stopped being so clear. New residents built septic tanks, landscaped their riverfront houses and fertilized lawns. Runoff turned the water mucky. Despite the decrease in water clarity, the increased number of manatees opened up new tourism opportunities. Boats started taking out paying customers and dropping them in the water with manatees. Tourism became even more important after the Crystal River nuclear power plant shut down permanently in 2013, eliminating hundreds of jobs. “Before anybody could get a handle on it, there was this whole economy in that county based on people being able to swim with the manatees,” explained Katie Tripp, director of science and conservation at Save the Manatee Club. “Then it became a matter of not hurting business and not wanting to take that part of the economy away.” Now there’s a tension between allowing people to see manatees in the wild, but not hampering their reason for being in Citrus County, Tripp tells me. Best Practices for Manatee Tourism Dozens of boats are anchored in known party spot Homosassa cove, which is 10 miles south of Crystal River. Suddenly somebody spots a manatee and a couple of swimmers begin a hot pursuit, driving the manatee towards shore. Once it can’t go any farther without beaching itself, one swimmer encourages another to reach out and touch the manatee. This scenario contradicts everything we learned about passive observation from the boat guides and the 7-minute film “Manatee Manners,” which we watched before our swim encounter. Yet, even guides find themselves debating the finer points of passive observation— should you touch a manatee? Captains Mike and Stacy Dunn, owners of Manatees in Paradise, enacted a strict hands off policy for their company about five years ago. Despite naysayers swearing they’d lose customers, Mike Dunn said business improved and drew more respectful clientele. “We got away from the petting zoo mentality,” he said. When they do catch a customer trying to cop a feel, they send the swimmer back to the boat. Both Dunn and Tripp acknowledged that guides sometimes feel pressure to produce friendly manatees for the tourists. Most companies sell videos after the tour and customers are likelier to buy the video if it captures them interacting with manatees. Instead of selling the video for $40 like other companies do, the Dunns give the customers video for free— if they behave. “If they do touch a manatee, they don’t get the video at all.” Tripp has been working with the Manatee Ecotourism Association to develop best practices for manatee tourism and to start a certification program called Guardian Guides. To qualify, tour operators must adhere to strict standards, including varying the times and locations of their tours, insisting that patrons wear wetsuits and use additional flotation devices to decrease splashing, accompanying guests in the water and making sure everybody keeps their hands off the manatees. So far, Manatees in Paradise and Crystal River Watersports are the only two companies certified. Tripp would like to see manatees get their fair share of the tourism pie. “Even though the industry has been growing and growing exponentially, I’m not seeing tons more money go into manatee conservation,” she said. “I’m not seeing tons more people write letters on conservation issues.” Dunn sees an upside of tourism for the manatees. Since guides are in the water every day, they’re often the first to know when a manatee is in distress and proceed to contact authorities and often help in rescuing and rehabbing manatees. Dunn is also in close touch with manatee researchers, reporting on day-to-day behaviors he observes. The Manatee Experience The group climbs stealthily down the boat ladder. The water is murky, but Files assures us a manatee is nearby. Then suddenly this enormous thing appears out of the depths, floating silently like a blimp. It comes up, takes a breath then sinks back down as if we imagined the whole thing. Afterwards, on the boat, we’re awed. We’re on a manatee high. These creatures are so huge, quiet and alien. We got to slip into their world for just a moment. In the future, maybe the group will take Tripp’s advice and watch manatees from a boardwalk, where we’ll be able to see more of their authentic group behavior. But for now, we wouldn’t trade our up-close experience. Via  Manatee Ecotourism Association ,  Crystal River Watersports ,  Save the Manatee Club , Manatees in Paradise Images via Inhabitat, Manatees in Paradise

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Conservationists in Florida are making the ultimate effort to protect manatees from tourism

No more neglect: Mongolia says rangelands are a global priority

April 12, 2019 by  
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When most people think of conservation , they often picture the large, hallmark mammals (think pandas) or key ecosystems like coral reefs and rainforests. Few people think about or even understand rangelands as a priority for land restoration, even though rangelands cover more than 50 percent of all land on earth. In March, Mongolian community-conservation leaders persuaded the United Nations to acknowledge the importance of rangelands and commit to global action to fill glaring gaps in data. As a result of their efforts, the United Nations adopted a resolution to recommend an official “Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists” and to center rangeland restoration within the already declared Decade of Ecosystems Restoration (2021-2030). In Mongolia, leaders have also submitted a “Rangeland Law” to parliament, which would ensure that herders have legal land rights and are named the primary protectors of their land. What are rangelands? The International Center for Agriculture Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA) defines rangelands as land that is covered with grass and shrub species and used as a primary source for livestock grazing. Rangelands are also recognized for their ability to provide other environmental services, including carbon sequestration, eco-tourism opportunities, biodiversity, ranching and mining. Related: Less fertilizer, greater crop yields and more money — China’s agricultural breakthrough ICARDA estimates suggest that nearly 50 percent of all land surface is considered rangeland, which includes grasslands, savannas and marshes. Why is Mongolia on the forefront? Herding has been a defining part of Mongolian culture and tradition for more than 4,000 years . Up to 15 percent of the country’s gross domestic product comes from sheep, cattle and other livestock. However, economic, environmental and migration changes have caused much of Mongolia’s rangelands to become degraded. The United Nations reports that nearly 57 percent of all rangeland in Mongolia is degraded and 13 percent is so degraded that it is believed to be impossible to restore. Despite this, Mongolia still has some of the world’s last remaining natural grasslands, and people there are committed to preserving these diverse ecosystems and their traditional way of life. “If nothing is done now, we face the danger of losing this beautiful land, threatening the livelihoods of thousands of nomadic herder families,” said Enkh-Amgalan Tseelei , a sustainable rangeland expert from Mongolia. Research shows that indigenous and local communities are some of the most effective stewards of natural land. However, these same groups rarely have legal land rights, making them vulnerable to dislocation and exploitation. According to the World Resource Institute’s  land mapping tool , indigenous and collectively-managed lands store about 25 percent of the world’s above-ground carbon , which means land restoration in these areas is essential to reducing climate change , and that indigenous people are the rightful leaders. We don’t know enough about rangelands The UN resolution aims to elevate awareness, earmark funding and increase collaborative action to improve the  protection and restoration of rangelands. The resolution also amplifies the role of community leadership and traditional management practices. Most critically, however, the resolution calls for increased research, pointing to major gaps in current scientific knowledge about the “status, conditions and trends in rangeland, pastoral land and pastoralism.” Another UN report from March suggests that current data on agriculture and livestock within rangeland regions and societies are insufficient to inform effective policy. The report, “A case of benign neglect: Knowledge gaps about sustainability in pastoralism and rangelands,” recommends further collection and disaggregation of data to highlight different needs and opportunities for locally based, sustainable management. For example, the report warns that some governments have misconceptions of rangelands and even consider them to be “forgotten” or “barren.” Seemingly environmentally progressive programs have implemented afforestation projects — meaning large  tree  planting initiatives — in rangelands. This can actually devastate rangeland biodiversity and have a negative impact on existing carbon sequestration. Pastoralism and marginalization Nearly 500 million people are considered pastoralists, yet these communities are among the most marginalized societies in the world. Herding, nomadic and pastoral groups face challenges such as land degradation, biodiversity loss, vulnerability to climate change, low investments, inequity, low literacy, inadequate infrastructure, lack of access to markets, lack of legal ownership and exodus of youth. Related: One of the last remaining communities still farming like the Aztecs If March is any indication of the next few years — and hopefully the next decade — pastoralists might have the attention, investment and collective action needed to make meaningful advancements in land restoration and community management. Deputy Director General of Integrated Sciences at the International Livestock Research Institute, Iain Wright, praised the efforts of governments and partners so far. “In my 35 years’ experience working on rangelands and pastoralists, this is the first real progress I am seeing,” Wright said. “The lack of data up to now has been critical, and this report forms one of the building blocks in getting this issue into the political and international agenda.” Via UN Environment Images via Jeanne Menjoulet , Ludovic Hirlimann , Sergio Tittarini ,  Christopher Michel , and Paulo Philippidis

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No more neglect: Mongolia says rangelands are a global priority

New study finds harmful chemicals, including glyphosate, in disposable diapers

January 30, 2019 by  
Filed under Eco, Green, Recycle

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In the first study of its kind, French researchers have discovered that disposable diapers contain trace amounts of chemicals that are harmful to humans. After testing 23 different diapers sold in France between 2016 and 2018, the researchers found about 60 dangerous chemicals, including glyphosate , which is used in the controversial weed killer Roundup. Now, Ministers have given manufacturers two weeks to put together a “plan of action” to remove the harmful substances. In the report published last week and first reported by The Guardian , no specific brands were mentioned; however, researchers did find the toxins in diapers marketed as “ecological.” They also said that they tested well-known labels. Anses, the French agency for food, environmental and occupational health and safety, said that some of the chemicals, like perfumes , were added intentionally. Some of them could also “migrate through urine, for example, and enter into prolonged contact with babies’ skin.” Related: This groundbreaking new machine can recycle 220 pounds of diapers in a single hour In the 206-page Safety in Baby Nappies report , researchers said that some of the substances they found had been banned in the EU for more than 15 years, and others were usually found in cigarette smoke or diesel fumes. Agnes Buzyn, the French health secretary, said that “there is no immediate risk for the health of the child,” and parents should keep using disposable diapers, just as they have for decades. She did admit that there could be some long-term risks, and they do want to protect children. Pampers and Joone, two major diaper manufacturers, have already reacted to the report. Pampers said its diapers have always been safe, and it has already put the report’s recommendations in place. Joone’s president Carole Juge-Llewellyn said that the report was “alarmist,” and the company is transparent about the toxicology analysis of its products. The report said that it can’t prove the health effects linked to wearing disposable diapers, but it still recommends eliminating or minimizing the dangerous chemicals. Of course, if parents want to avoid chemicals completely as well as minimize waste when it comes to diapers, they can always opt for cloth diapers , which are now easier to use than ever before. + Safety in Baby Nappies Via The Guardian Image via Shutterstock

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New study finds harmful chemicals, including glyphosate, in disposable diapers

Even scientists are shocked by the latest UN report on climate change

October 10, 2018 by  
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According to a Monday report on climate change from the United Nations, maintaining the Earth’s temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius is crucial if more extreme weather events and species’ extinctions are to be avoided. The current ceiling on temperature increase is set at 2 degrees Celcius since the 2015 Paris Agreement , to which nearly 200 nations are committed. However, new UN research shows that this pledge is not enough to avoid possibly irreparable damage to our planet’s ecosystems. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) both weighed in on the report, saying that as of now, the world is not even on course to achieving the 2C benchmark, let alone a lower target. The UN is calling for rapid changes on the part of nations, businesses and individuals. The unprecedented changes to travel and lifestyle may be jarring but are the only way to avoid catastrophic damage to our planet in the near future. Related: Flood frequency of the Amazon River has increased fivefold “There is clearly need for a much higher ambition level to reach even a 2 degrees target, we are moving more toward 3 to 5 (degrees) at the moment,” explained Petteri Taalas, secretary-general of the WMO. The 1.5C target would slow coastal flooding and ocean rise by the end of the century, giving people in these areas time to adapt to changes. Many species would also be given a greater chance of survival. Under the 2C target, coral reefs are still projected to disappear. The lower target would allow anywhere between 10 to 30 percent of coral reefs to possibly survive. “Even the scientists were surprised to see … how much they could really differentiate and how great are the benefits of limiting global warming at 1.5 compared to 2,” IPCC Vice-Chair Thelma Krug told Reuters . According the the IPCC, the human carbon footprint must fall by at least 45 percent by 2030 in order for the planet to maintain the 1.5C temperature rise and reach “net-zero” by mid-century. The report also stated that 70-85 percent of energy needs to be supplied by renewable sources by 2050 to stay at the 1.5C target — right now, renewable energy accounts for about 25 percent. Amjad Abdulla — board member for the IPCC and chief negotiator for small island states at risk of flooding — said, “The report shows we only have the slimmest of opportunities remaining to avoid unthinkable damage to the climate system that supports life as we know it.” While the U.S. is on target to meet the previous goal, the UN is still stressing that more action is needed. Urging individuals to make changes to their lifestyles, even at the smallest of levels, the report believes that every small incentive will make the difference. For us, this means reducing meat consumption and dairy intake, choosing public transportation or switching to electric and hybrid vehicles and demanding companies to supply low-carbon products for purchase. + United Nations Via Reuters Image via  Natasha Kasim

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Even scientists are shocked by the latest UN report on climate change

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