A Second Green Revolution?

It is often said that the world now needs a Second Green Revolution. Illustration by Derrick Schultz

Elizabeth Kolbert continues exploring the potential costs and benefits of mankind’s attempted mastery over nature:

Creating a Better Leaf

Could tinkering with photosynthesis prevent a global food crisis?

This story begins about two billion years ago, when the world, if not young, exactly, was a lot more impressionable. The planet spun faster, so the sun rose every twenty-one hours. The earliest continents were forming—Arctica, for instance, which persists as bits and pieces of Siberia. Most of the globe was given over to oceans, and the oceans teemed with microbes. Continue reading

The New Carbon Trading Rules

Hundreds of billions of dollars could change hands in coming years through a global market in greenhouse emissions. Last month’s climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, approved the new trading system.
Peter Dejong/AP

This article provides a coherent summary of the carbon trading market’s prospects after the Glasgow Summit, including the key criticism of the scheme:

Carbon trading gets a green light from the U.N., and Brazil hopes to earn billions

Carbon emissions trading is poised to go global, and billions of dollars — maybe even trillions — could be at stake. That’s thanks to last month’s U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, which approved a new international trading system where companies pay for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions somewhere else, rather than doing it themselves. Continue reading

David Attenborough’s Green Planet

Mike Gunton, creative director of the BBC Natural History Unit and a long-time collaborator with David Attenborough.PHOTOGRAPH: BENEDICT REDGROVE

David Attenborough has been a frequent feature in our pages over the years. Each conversation with him repeats something we already knew but shares something we had not previously known:

David Attenborough’s Unending Mission to Save Our Planet

“We tend to think we are the be all and end all—but we’re not. The sooner we can realize that the natural world goes its way, not our way, the better.”

David Attenborough’s Green Planet is his latest series in a career that began in the 1950s and is as notable for its variety of firsts—pioneering 16-mm film in TV; first to film a Komodo dragon; first to use drone cameras—as it is for his long-standing commitment to bringing wildlife and environmental issues into the homes of viewers around the world. PHOTOGRAPH: NADAV KANDER

WE MAKE LOTS of programs about natural history, but the basis of all life is plants.” Sir David Attenborough is at Kew Gardens on a cloudy, overcast August day waiting to deliver his final piece to camera for his latest natural history epic, The Green Planet. Planes roar overhead, constantly interrupting filming, and he keeps putting his jacket on during pauses. “We ignore them because they don’t seem to do much, but they can be very vicious things,” he says. “Plants throttle one another, you know—they can move very fast, have all sorts of strange techniques to make sure that they can disperse themselves over a whole continent, have many ways of meeting so they can fertilize one another and we never actually see it happening.” He smiles. “But now we can.” Continue reading

Points For Creativity

Edward Constance and Brian Souyana race on Rasta Rocket, made from plastic drain pipes and fishing buoys that washed up on Aldabra. About 68 tonnes of marine litter a year is washed ashore

Do not ask yourself whether this will change anything; just smile and acknowledge that it is probably not hurting anyone to have some creative fun with environmental disasters:

Recycled regatta: world heritage site highlights plastic pollution crisis

When environmentalists on a Seychelles atoll decided to race boats made from ocean litter, they had 500 tonnes to pick from

Photographs: Anna Koester/Seychelles Islands Foundation

Martin van Rooyen, a researcher, and Luke A’Bear, a science coordinator, prepare to set sail on Red Lion, buoyed by discarded oil drums

Red Lion is the kind of boat you would not see in most regattas. Its frame is made of bamboo, sourced from washed-up fishing equipment, and it uses two old oil drums for buoyancy.

Equally strange is Rasta Rocket – made from old plastic drain pipes, washed-up floats and fishing buoys.

These were two of the boats in the inaugural Aldabra Regatta: an ironic attempt to draw attention to marine plastic pollution by racing boats made from marine debris. Continue reading

Planetary Health Diet

What we should eat for the sake of our individual and communal futures is one of the topics most posted on this platform.  Gayathri Vaidyanathan’s article below adds to the most macro of perspectives on these topics. It takes a moment to process the information in the graphic above, but this article from the journal Nature makes it clear:

What humanity should eat to stay healthy and save the planet

What we eat needs to be nutritious and sustainable. Researchers are trying to figure out what that looks like around the world.

Illustration by Paweł Jońca

A clutch of fishing villages dot the coast near Kilifi, north of Mombasa in Kenya. The waters are home to parrot fish, octopus and other edible species. But despite living on the shores, the children in the villages rarely eat seafood. Their staple meal is ugali, maize (corn) flour mixed with water, and most of their nutrition comes from plants. Continue reading

Greenpeace @ 50

Greenpeace ship MY Esperanza and activists try to hinder the shooting of a minke whale by the Yushin Maru No.2 catcher ship. Photograph: Kate Davison/Greenpeace

Paul Watson and Sea Shepherd were favorite post topics for a while, but long time no see. With a major anniversary for Greenpeace, a look at other important images from their history seems a fitting tribute:

Greenpeace: half a century on the frontline of environmental photo activism

On the organisation’s 50th anniversary, former head of photography at Greenpeace International talks about the motives behind the creation of its picture desk

Vega boarded by French commandos in Moruroa, 1973. Photograph: Ann-Marie Horne

Fifty years ago, on 15 September 1971, a ship named the Greenpeace set out to confront and stop US nuclear weapons testing at Amchitka, one of the Aleutian Islands in south-west Alaska.

Two years later a small boat called the Vega, crewed by David McTaggart, Ann-Marie Horne, Mary Horne and Nigel Ingram sailed into the French nuclear test site area at Moruroa, French Polynesia in the southern Pacific Ocean. Continue reading

Society for the Protection of Underground Networks

Hotspots of mycorrhizal fungi are thought to be under threat, from agriculture, urbanisation, pollution, water scarcity and changes to the climate. Photograph: Biosphoto/Alamy

We featured three articles by Fiona Harvey, Environment correspondent for the Guardian, each in 2016 on quite different topics, and then we did not see her again until today. Our attention to fungi has been constant since Milo got the topic started in 2011, and SPUN’s mapping project counts as good news:

World’s vast networks of underground fungi to be mapped for first time

Project aims to help protect some of trillions of miles of the ‘circulatory system of the planet’

Vast networks of underground fungi – the “circulatory system of the planet” – are to be mapped for the first time, in an attempt to protect them from damage and improve their ability to absorb and store carbon dioxide. Continue reading

Glass Origins

This glass fish was found in a fairly modest private house in Amarna, buried under a plaster floor along with a few other objects. It may once have contained ointment. The Trustees of the British Museum

We have featured stories about artisanal glass in the previous posts but this time the story is about the origins of the substance:

A Brief Scientific History of Glass

Featuring ingots, shipwrecks and an international trade in colors, the material’s rich past is being traced using modern archaeology and materials science

Blue glass ingots from the Uluburun shipwreck. Panegyrics of Granovetter / Flickr

Today, glass is ordinary, on-the-kitchen-shelf stuff. But early in its history, glass was bling for kings.

Thousands of years ago, the pharaohs of ancient Egypt surrounded themselves with the stuff, even in death, leaving stunning specimens for archaeologists to uncover. King Tutankhamen’s tomb housed a decorative writing palette and two blue-hued headrests made of solid glass that may once have supported the head of sleeping royals. His funerary mask sports blue glass inlays that alternate with gold to frame the king’s face. Continue reading

More Trees Now

A hazel sapling (Corylus avellana) in the ditches of the tree hub at Amsterdamse Bos. Photograph: Judith Jockel/The Guardian

The trillion trees concept, which inspires but has had its share of legitimate questions, has a scrappy cousin with a novel approach:

‘Every tree counts’: Dutch come up with cunning way to create forests for free

More Trees Now aims to give away 1m unwanted saplings to farmers and councils with hope idea will spread across Europ

Hanneke van Ormondt saves a sapling at the tree hub in Amsterdamse Bos, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Photograph: Judith Jockel/The Guardian

In a clearing in the Amsterdamse Bos, a forest on the outskirts of the Dutch capital, is a “tree hub” where hundreds of saplings, among them hazelnut, sweet cherry, field maple, beech, chestnut and ash, are organised by type.

The idea behind it is simple: every day unwanted tree saplings were being cleared and thrown away when those young trees could be carefully collected and transplanted to where they are wanted. Continue reading

Fixing Carbon Offset Markets

A steel re-rolling mill in Narayanganj, Bangladesh. Well-designed carbon markets could spur companies in developing countries to reduce emissions. AHMED SALAHUDDIN / NURPHOTO VIA AP

Thanks to Yale e360 for this opinion on a hot topic that we have sometimes mused less seriously about:

How to Repair the World’s Broken Carbon Offset Markets

Markets that connect businesses hoping to offset their carbon emissions with climate change mitigation projects have been plagued by problems. But an economist and his co-authors argue that carbon markets can be reformed and play a significant role in slowing global warming

In the wake of the Glasgow climate summit, governments must now return to the daunting challenge of making good on their emissions-reductions pledges, which at this point remain insufficient to hold warming below 2 or even 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels. Continue reading

In The UK, Trees Say I Love You

One of the National Trust’s tree-planting projects, at Kingston Lacy in Dorset. Its Plant a Tree appeal has topped £1m. Photograph: James Dobson/National Trust/PA

Planting trees is part of our business model. So, we love this news:

Forget flowers – poll shows third of people prefer to say I love you with a tree

National Trust says tree giving growing in popularity but only 7% know best season to plant

A National Trust ranger, David Smith, preparing saplings for planting at Hafod Garegog in north Wales. Photograph: Paul Harris/National Trust/PA

For centuries people have said it with flowers but research suggests a new tradition is gaining popularity in the UK – expressing love, thanks, perhaps even regret with the gift of a tree.

A third of people said they would consider saying it with a tree rather than a bouquet and more than one in 10 had already done so, according to the research commissioned by the National Trust.

However, the conservation charity also said only 7% of people in the UK knew the best time of year to plant, and it was launching a drive to improve “tree literacy”. Continue reading

More Solar Canopy Initiatives

A solar-covered parking lot at the plant of Anhui Quanchai Engine Co., Ltd. in Chuzhou, China. IMAGINECHINA VIA AP IMAGES

Using solar panels to create shade for coffee trees requires thought about the tradeoffs between the non-shade benefits trees otherwise provide: (nitrogen-fixing in the case of poro trees, plus bird habitat and other biodiversity benefits) and the non-shade benefits that solar panels provide (renewable energy). Solar panels on parking lots and other roofs, on the other hand, seems the definition of a no-brainer. Our thanks to Richard Conniff and Yale e360, as always:

Why Putting Solar Canopies on Parking Lots Is a Smart Green Move

Solar farms are proliferating on undeveloped land, often harming ecosystems. But placing solar canopies on large parking lots offers a host of advantages — making use of land that is already cleared, producing electricity close to those who need it, and even shading cars.

A solar parking facility at Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey, with an output of 8 megawatts of electricity.

Fly into Orlando, Florida, and you may notice a 22-acre solar power array in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head in a field just west of Disney World. Nearby, Disney also has a 270-acre solar farm of conventional design on former orchard and forest land. Park your car in any of Disney’s 32,000 parking spaces, on the other hand, and you won’t see a canopy overhead generating solar power (or providing shade) — not even if you snag one of the preferred spaces for which visitors pay up to $50 a day. Continue reading

Thanks Big Oil, We Got Your Messages

Illustration: Guardian Design

Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes have compiled reminders of the messaging from some of big oil’s leaders of climate change messaging, and shared it with us in the Guardian:

The forgotten oil ads that told us climate change was nothing

Since the 1980s, fossil fuel firms have run ads touting climate denial messages – many of which they’d now like us to forget. Here’s our visual guide

Both ads from the Informed Citizens for the Environment, 1991

Why is meaningful action to avert the climate crisis proving so difficult? It is, at least in part, because of ads.

The fossil fuel industry has perpetrated a multi-decade, multibillion dollar disinformation, propaganda and lobbying campaign to delay climate action by confusing the public and policymakers about the climate crisis and its solutions. This has involved a remarkable array of advertisements – with headlines ranging from “Lies they tell our children” to “Oil pumps life” – seeking to convince the public that the climate crisis is not real, not human-made, not serious and not solvable. The campaign continues to this day. Continue reading

Expo 2020’s Pavilion Of Irony

Credit: Michele Nastasi

For a second day, the story that stands out as worth sharing here is one with irony written all over it. Nevermind that this event with 2020 in its name is just being reported on now. We all know that last year’s events got postponed for good reason.  It is a story about too little too late, without saying so. Reported from a region of the world made wealthy by the proliferation of plastic and other petrochemical product, there is not a hint of irony in this story. Needless to say, architecture rethinking building materials is a topic we care about. Even without being snarky, the irony of this story is hard to miss:

Italy’s eco-friendly Expo pavilion is made using orange peel and coffee grounds

Italy’s pavilion features a facade of nautical ropes, made with 2 million recycled plastic bottles. Credit: Michele Nastasi

With three full-size, seaworthy boat hulls as its roof and a facade of nautical ropes made from recycled plastic, Italy’s pavilion at Dubai Expo 2020 embraces the concept of reusable design.

Favored by an excellent placement within the Expo site — between the “Opportunity” and “Sustainability” thematic areas and with uninterrupted front and side views — the pavilion attracted a fifth of the overall visitors to the event in the opening weeks, making it one of the most successful. Continue reading

Rigged With Irony

A supply ship sits anchored next to the Chevron Corp. Jack/St. Malo deep water oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico in the aerial photograph taken off the coast of Louisiana, U.S., on Friday, May 18, 2018. Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Irony is not always funny:

The Biden administration sold oil and gas leases days after the climate summit

Days after President Joe Biden told world leaders that his administration is committed to slowing climate change with “action, and not words,” his Interior Department oversaw one of the largest oil and gas lease sales in American history. Continue reading

Yemenis, Coffee & Entrepreneurship

Wisam Alghuzi, left, and Jab Zanta at Diwan, their cafe on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. Vincent Tullo for The New York Times

Yemeni coffee entrepreneurs have graced our pages a couple times before.  We do not tire of these stories, wherever they may originate:

Second-generation Yemeni entrepreneurs in Brooklyn want to reclaim their role as the purveyors of the original specialty coffee.

Hakim Sulaimani roasting coffee at Yafa Cafe in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Vincent Tullo for The New York Times

Hakim Sulaimani remembers exactly where he was when he first heard that his homeland, the poorest country in the Middle East, had invented one of the most popular drinks in the world.

He was sitting in the living room (which was also his bedroom) in his family’s apartment in Brooklyn, watching a children’s show on public television. When someone on the show said that coffee came from Yemen, Hakim was stunned. He had never heard anyone outside his community say anything about Yemen before, let alone something that made him proud. “I was super-hyped,” he recently recalled. “Super-giddy.” Continue reading

Thames Is Alive, Again

Species living in the Thames include seahorses and sharks. Photograph: ZSL

We will take good news where and how we can get it:

Seahorses and sharks living in River Thames, analysis shows

Zoological Society of London carries out most comprehensive survey since 1950s

Since 2003 there has been as steady increase in seal populations in the Thames estuary. Photograph: ZSL

Seahorses, eels, seals and sharks are living in the tidal Thames, according to the most comprehensive analysis of the waterway since it was declared biologically dead in the 1950s.

But scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), who carried out the work, warn that the 95 miles of the tidal Thames is suffering from rising nitrate levels as a result of industrial runoff and sewage discharges. Water levels and temperature are also rising as a result of global heating. Continue reading

Big Hydro’s Climate Change

Lake Oroville, the reservoir behind the Oroville Dam in California, at a near-record low level on September 1. Because of drought, the dam has not operated since August 5. GEORGE ROSE / GETTY IMAGES

Jacques Leslie, a Yale e360 regular and Los Angeles Times op-ed contributor, is a leading authority on dams, so his opinion here is worth noting:

As Warming and Drought Increase, A New Case for Ending Big Dams

The argument against major hydropower projects — ravaged ecosystems and large-scale displacement of people — is well known. But dam critics now say that climate change, bringing dried-up reservoirs and increased methane releases, should spell the end of big hydropower.

As the hydroelectric dam industry tries to reposition itself as a climate change solution, more and more evidence shows that climate change actually undermines the case for hydro dams. Continue reading

1992 Earth Summit Revisited

Illustration by João Fazenda

In her look back at last week’s events in Glasgow, Elizabeth Kolbert comments in Running Out of Time at the U.N. Climate Conference that we were set up for this moment at the first such event nearly three decades earlier:

To really appreciate America’s fecklessness, you have to go back to the meeting that preceded all the bad COPs—the so-called Earth Summit, in 1992.

For those inclined to see them, there were plenty of bad omens last week as the latest round of international climate negotiations—cop26—got under way in Glasgow. A storm that lashed England with eighty-mile-per-hour winds disrupted train service from London to Scotland, leaving many delegates scrambling to find a way to get to the meeting. Just as the conclave began, Glasgow’s garbage workers went on strike, and rubbish piled up in the streets. Continue reading

Can Bird Of The Year Be A Bat?

Image

People in New Zealand seem on the right side of most issues, so who are we to argue with their decision on this one? Thanks to Natasha Frost for this surprising news:

New Zealand Held a Contest for Bird of the Year. The Birds Lost.

The long-tailed bat, one of the country’s only two native land mammals, flew away with the top prize.

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — The candidates didn’t know they were running. The winner received no prize. And, at least by appearance, the champion appeared to be ineligible to compete. Continue reading