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  
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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

Old Sydney warehouse is transformed into an industrial-chic home

October 10, 2018 by  
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Rather than strip Balmain, Sydney of its post-industrial architectural heritage and history, award-winning practice Carter Williamson Architects has taken care to sustainably breathe new life into the area’s old buildings. Case in point is the local studio’s transformation of a former timber factory into a stunning, modern home with industrial-chic styling woven throughout its four levels. Dubbed 102 The Mill, the unique home boasts 403 square meters of space with soaring ceilings and plenty of natural light. The adaptive reuse design is part of a greater redevelopment project in which a sawmill, cottage and factory were repurposed into multiple residences. All of the renovated buildings retain parts of the original construction. In 102 The Mill, these deliberately exposed frameworks are complemented by industrial-inspired lighting fixtures and minimalist, streamlined furnishings. Timber floors and warm fabrics help imbue the former factory with a sense of cozy warmth. Entering from the street-facing north facade, 102 The Mill allocates the main living and bedroom areas to the west side that faces the garden, while the staircase and elevator shaft are set on the eastern side of home. The ground floor includes a spacious entrance foyer that leads to an entertainment room and a guest suite; both rooms have access to the garden . An open-plan living room, kitchen and dining area are on the first floor, and an outdoor terrace has been added to the rear side. The second floor houses the master suite in addition to two bedrooms. The roof terrace offers extra entertaining space. Related: A historic farmhouse is transformed into a modern home with a green roof “By embracing its former factory life, The Mill manages to capture the gritty feel of industrial Balmain, sympathetically redefining the traditional Sydney terrace house,” reads the project description. “The result sits with an inevitability, blending in with its inner Sydney surroundings, yet striking forward as a jewel of modern Australian architecture.” + Carter Williamson Architects Photography by Brett Boardman

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Old Sydney warehouse is transformed into an industrial-chic home

IPCC’s latest report, and other troubling news

October 8, 2018 by  
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The IPCC analysis, and another report from the International Energy Agency, paint a stark picture about what it will take to keep global warming within acceptable limits. Are we up to the task?

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IPCC’s latest report, and other troubling news

Report shows that contamination monitors failed at Hanford Nuclear Site

March 12, 2018 by  
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Last December, as crews were demolishing the Hanford Nuclear Reservation site in Washington, work was halted after monitors alerted individuals that they had inhaled radioactive particles – and we now know that it could have been prevented. According to a new report, mismanagement and carelessness caused the exposure of at least 11 workers to nuclear waste after monitors failed to detect contamination. The Hanover site clean-up has been plagued with problems. Storage tanks have triggered alarms after springing leaks . In May of last year, a tunnel collapsed onto train cars containing nuclear waste. Then in December at the Plutonium Finishing Plant, at least 11 workers were exposed to radioactive materials. On the bright side, the Hanford Site was declared a national park in 2015 , so you can stop by if you want to get a good look at what the technology of war does to the environment. Related: America’s most polluted nuclear site is now a national park Contractor CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Company recently completed their evaluation on what happened in December. According to their report, continuous air monitors used to detect radioactive contamination failed – and officials ignored alarms signaled by the monitors that workers wear on their clothing. Then, when contamination was discovered, the report states that the steps taken to contain the radiation didn’t work. For instance, a fixative used to help contain particles was diluted, which reduced its effectiveness. Negative air pressure exhausters put in place to help contain radiation were also rendered less effective as parts of the structures were torn down. Pieces of debris were sprayed with fixative on one side, but not the other, the report also revealed. Radioactive particles were also found in areas where it shouldn’t be – including in areas where the public is allowed to visit. The report is being reviewed by a Department of Energy panel, and CH2M provided 42 steps that it plans to take to prevent something like this from happening in the future. Via The Tri-City Herald Images via Deposit Photos , Wikimedia, The Department of Energy and Flickr

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Report shows that contamination monitors failed at Hanford Nuclear Site

The threatened Great Barrier Reef is estimated to be worth $42 billion

June 26, 2017 by  
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Our unsustainable habits are propelling climate change , and as a result, the Great Barrier Reef is under immense environmental stress.  Coral bleaching has reached record levels and no one knows if or when the coral will ever recover. This is concerning not just from an environmental perspective, but, as a new report by Deloitte Access Economics shows, that loss of the reef would represent an “economic catastrophe” as it is estimated to be worth $56 billion (AUS), or $42 billion (USD). As water temperatures rise, the coral expels algae living within, causing it to turn ghostly white (a phenomenon known as coral bleaching). Though consumers everywhere are changing their habits to reduce greenhouse emissions and prevent global warming from worsening, no one knows for sure how long it will take — or even if — the bleached portions will bounce back. To determine that the Great Barrier Reef’s economic worth, the report took into consideration a few factors. All in all, it was concluded that $29 Billion (AUS) is generated from the tourism industry — including the creation of 64,000 jobs, $24 billion (AUS) to indirect or non-use value (describing people who have heard of the reef but haven’t yet visited) and $3 billion (AUS) from recreational use, such as boating. Commissioned by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, the report is the first in the world to calculate the economic value of the reef.   Survey answers from 1,500 Australian and international respondents from 10 countries were taken into account and ended up revealing the extent to which some people have come to depend on the Unesco World Heritage Site. Said U.S. politician and environmentalist Al Gore in the report , “This timely report is a much needed, holistic view of the incredible economic value and opportunities provided by the Great Barrier Reef. Any failure to protect this indispensable natural resource would have profound impacts not only to Australia but around the world.” Related: Rising ocean temperatures are cooking the Great Barrier Reef to death According to Great Barrier Reef Foundation director Steve Sargent, the report “sends a clear message that the Great Barrier Reef—as an ecosystem , as an economic driver, as a global treasure—is too big to fail.” He added that at $42 billion (USD), “the reef is valued at more than 12 Sydney Opera Houses.” Located off the coast of Queensland, Australia, the largest coral reef system in the world isn’t just affected by warming waters. As Gizmodo reports, farming runoff, urban development. cyclic outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish and boating accidents are also damaging the reef at an increasing rate. Experts are presently collaborating to find solutions which will preserve the Great Barrier Reef. Ideas so far include the construction of coral nurseries, increasing the efficiency of starfish culls and cutting greenhouse gas emissions to prevent a further increase in sea surface temperatures. + Deloitte Via Gizmodo Images via Pixabay  ( 1 , 2 )

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The threatened Great Barrier Reef is estimated to be worth $42 billion

Three-fourths of sunscreens don’t work as they claim and may contain harmful chemicals

May 23, 2017 by  
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Before heading to the beach, most people make sure to pack a bottle of sunscreen. After all, the ultraviolet rays can be seriously damaging and no one wants to get  skin cancer . But it turns out some ingredients in hundreds of common sunscreens don’t work as well as advertised, according to a new report released by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Additionally, 73 percent of 880 sunscreens that were tested contain “worrisome” ingredients people may not want to slather on their skin. Authors of the report , which was released on Tuesday, examined the SPF protection, chemical ingredients and overall safety and effectiveness of numerous sunscreens , moisturizers, and lip balms. Then, they compiled a list of the best- and worst-rated products to help consumers make the best – and healthiest – choices when preparing to have fun in the sun. Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst with the environmental advocacy group and lead scientist of the 2017 Sunscreens Guide, said of the findings, “Sunscreens are really mismarketed, and as a result, people who depend on them think they are far more powerful than they really are.” According to dermatologist Dr. Dawn Davis, who did not participate in the report and works at the Mayo Clinic, the SPF is a ratio of how long a person without sunscreen can be in the sun without becoming red. In his own words, “if you’re standing on the equator at high noon and it would usually take your skin one minute without sunscreen to become red and irritated, SPF 15 means you can stand in that same sun exposure for 15 minutes.” Related: Hawaii aims to ban coral reef-killing chemical sunscreens Most sunscreen brands offer products with high SPF, sometimes even over 100. Thought to be beneficial, they are actually misleading, says Lunder. “People who buy high-SPF products are more likely to get burned because they assume they’re getting better and longer-lasting protection,” she said. It is for this reason that she supports the American Academy of Dermatology’s recommendation to choose a sunscreen that is at least SPF 30 (which would block 97% of UVB rays) and suggests one reapply it every few hours. SPF protection can also vary, depending on its age, how it has been stored and lab tests find that SPF levels can vary wildly. There is also something to be said about the questionable ingredients in certain sunscreens. While most chemicals in the product create a barrier to prevent damage from UV rays, other chemicals create damaging effects. Two ingredients, in particular, oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate, consumers should avoid. According to Lunder, oxybenzone “is a hormone disruptor that mimics body hormones and affects reproductive tract and other hormones.” And Retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A, has been linked to the development of skin tumors under direct UV light. More research needs to be conducted on the latter, but authors of the report advise consumers to avoid sunscreens that contain both ingredients. All in all, the report recommends sunscreen products that are safe and offer adequate sun protection. The EWG says outdoor enthusiasts should look for three things: an SPF between 30 and 50 to protect from UVB rays, zinc oxide and titanium oxide to ward off UVA rays, and no oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate. + Environmental Working Group Via CNN Images via  Bella Mecia , Pixabay

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Three-fourths of sunscreens don’t work as they claim and may contain harmful chemicals

Report Report: Climate Week NYC 2015 edition

September 28, 2015 by  
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A slew of new reports were released during Climate Week NYC. The Report Report provides a snapshot of some that are worth a look.

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Report Report: Climate Week NYC 2015 edition

Now, the hard part: 4 keys to make the Sustainable Development Goals a reality

September 28, 2015 by  
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Consensus on sustainable development imperatives is great. Now it’s time to put in the real work.

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Now, the hard part: 4 keys to make the Sustainable Development Goals a reality

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