The O’Shaughnessy Dam in Ohio is being repaired and will be providing power to the city of Columbus by mid-2023. CAMERA MEETS BEARD / SHUTTERSTOCK
Thanks to Yale e360 for this story by James Dinneen:
With the era of building big dams over in the U.S., a growing number of existing dams are being modified to produce hydropower. These projects, advocates say, avoid the damaging impacts of new dams and could generate enough renewable electricity for several million homes. Continue reading
The phased opening of Humboldt Forum, a museum in Berlin, includes this exhibit, and of course a beautiful book to boot.
An interesting feature, in the form of an editorial on the museum’s website can help put this exhibit in context. The goal of this museum is anti-colonial, among other things, according to the museum’s editorial:
According to the people behind the project, the partial reconstruction of Berlin’s historic palace was an expression of the power to mend, to repair the urban fabric and the historical associations enshrined in the space it occupies.
Which is unusual for a well-funded museum in a wealthy country to say. So, this book looks interesting from multiple angles, and the text describing the book is a hint at that:
The elephant is an admired but also endangered animal. In all times and cultures, the ivory of its tusks has been sought after. What kind of material is it, how is it used in history and the present, and what can be done today to protect the largest land mammals from poaching? This richly illustrated volume undertakes a cultural-historical journey and a current positioning. Ivory fascinates – and polarises. Continue reading
A collection facility in Bend, Ore. The state is expected to adopt a recycling law similar to Maine’s within weeks. Leon Werdinger/Alamy
When we were making decisions about coffee and chocolates that we would offer in the Authentica shops, which we knew to be best-selling categories for travelers wanting to take something home from Costa Rica, product quality was the top consideration. Packaging was a close second. Relative to what was sold in other shops, we radically reduced the carbon footprint of the packaging, and more recently took another step further down that road. We know that every little effort counts, but we also know that the big game is elsewhere, and we are happy to see a relatively small state making big strides in the USA:
The law aims to take the cost burden of recycling away from taxpayers. One environmental advocate said the change could be “transformative.”
Gov. Janet Mills of Maine, a Democrat, signed the new recycling policies into law this month. Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press
Recycling, that feel-good moment when people put their paper and plastic in special bins, was a headache for municipal governments even in good times. And, only a small amount was actually getting recycled.
Then, five years ago, China stopped buying most of America’s recycling, and dozens of cities across the United States suspended or weakened their recycling programs.
Now, Maine has implemented a new law that could transform the way packaging is recycled by requiring manufacturers, rather than taxpayers, to cover the cost. Nearly a dozen states have been considering similar regulations and Oregon is about to sign its own version in coming weeks. Continue reading
Only a small percentage of Americans visit the Grand Canyon, but its existence, as an ancient place of inestimable value, has a global psychological importance.Photograph by Jim Kidd / Alamy
The Line 3 story started for us last month, and continues today, with another essay by Bill McKibben, this time using the Grand Canyon for context:
What with climate change accelerating and US politics falling apart, it’s pretty grim out there. Yet alongside these doom loops, somewhat anomalously, something good is happening: the transition away from fossil fuels to clean, carbon-free energy is underway, and it is accelerating every day…
Our reading and listening options are constantly expanding and contracting, and especially with climate change and energy topics in particular it can be challenging to find options that do not simply induce panic. We have our regular go-to sources, like Yale e360, that has been creatively informative without just heaping on the bleak (any more than necessary, which it sometimes is). A recent discovery of an analytical source worth sharing is this newsletter/podcast combo by David Roberts. Below is the most recent podcast:
Designing rules (including climate rules) that are harder to break
The US has hundreds of environmental rules and regulations on the books, meant to achieve various environmental goals — clean up coal plants, reduce toxins in consumer products, limit agricultural waste, and so on.
Once these rules and regulations are put in place, most people don’t give them a lot of thought. To the extent they do, they tend to believe two things: one, that environmental rules are generally followed (maybe, what, 3-5 percent break the rules?), and two, that the answer to noncompliance is increased enforcement.
According to Cynthia Giles, both those assumptions are dead wrong.
Icebergs near Ilulissat, Greenland. Climate change is having a profound effect in Greenland with glaciers and the Greenland ice cap retreating. Ulrik Pedersen / NurPhoto / Getty Images
Thanks to Ecowatch for publishing this story by Andrea Germanos:
Greenland announced Thursday a halt on new oil and gas exploration, citing climate and other environmental impacts.
“Great news!” responded the Center for International Environmental Law.
The government of Greenland, an autonomous Danish dependent territory, framed the move as necessary to transition away from fossil fuels. Continue reading
If your summer reading does not include some dystopian fiction and you want to consider adding some, for your consideration this review b
has a strong recommendation of the above book:
Climate is everywhere in fiction these days. Omar El Akkad’s “American War,” Lydia Millet’s “A Children’s Bible,” N. K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy, Carys Bray’s “When the Lights Go Out” and Selah Saterstrom’s “Slab” are just a few of the many recent novels to highlight global warming and related extreme weather. Continue reading
Virgin Komi Forest in the northern Ural Mountains in the Komi Republic, Russia. MARKUS MAUTHE / GREENPEACE
We have not posted many times on the vastness of Russia, and its various natural resources, but they are worthy of more attention. Thanks to Yale e360:
New research indicating Russia’s vast forests store more carbon than previously estimated would seem like good news. But scientists are concerned Russia will count this carbon uptake as an offset in its climate commitments, which would allow its emissions to continue unchecked. Continue reading
The Unesco world heritage committee’s decision on the Great Barrier Reef’s ‘in danger’ status is currently scheduled for 23 July. Photograph: James Cook University/AFP via Getty Images
It’s been a couple months since we asked anyone the fundamental question. Ok, we acknowledge our not being qualified to make the scientific judgement on whether the Great Barrier Reef is in sufficient danger to be listed as such, officially. But UNESCO has the qualified scientists, so let them do their job without undue influence. It sure seems likely to help the entire world to see how fossil-fueled climate change is impacting such natural wonders. It would raise consciousness in a way that might even be good for Australia–whose government obviously thinks otherwise. Hopefully UNESCO will stick to its principles and resist this lobbying. When oil-based economies come to lend a hand, watch out for conflict of interest:
Exclusive: oil rich nations back push against Unesco recommendation to have reef placed on world heritage ‘in danger’ list Continue reading
Long-time fans, far from first-time posting:
Wherever the story of our natural world ultimately lands, Jane Goodall will have earned a proud place in its telling. Goodall, 87, first found fame in the early 1960s for her paradigm-busting work as a primatologist. Continue reading
Andrea Mantegna’s “Madonna della Vittoria” was completed in Italy in 1496. Art work from © RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY
Rebecca Mead, whose last appearance in our pages was referred to just yesterday, explores a five-century old mystery involving birds that is a fun half-hour read, especially but not exclusively for bird nerds:
“Madonna della Vittoria,” by the Renaissance painter Andrea Mantegna, must have looked imposing when it was first installed as an altarpiece in Santa Maria della Vittoria, a small chapel in the northern-Italian city of Mantua. The painting, which was commissioned by the city’s ruler, Francesco II Gonzaga, was completed in 1496, and measures more than nine feet in height. A worshipper’s eye likely lingered on its lower half—where the Virgin, seated on a marble pedestal, bestows a blessing on the kneeling, armored figure of Francesco—instead of straining to discern the intricacies of its upper half, which depicts a pergola bedecked with hanging ornaments and fruited vines. In the late eighteenth century, Napoleon’s forces looted the painting and transported it to the Louvre, where it now occupies a commanding spot in the Denon wing. Continue reading
PHOTOGRAPH: KATIE ORLINSKY/NEW YORK TIMES/REDUX
Arctic bumblebees came to our attention nearly five years ago, and this story below reminds us that while climate change is not a zero sum game–it is more like a game of perpetual loss, which is more like what we have witnessed with bees in general–there are some winning adaptations in some locations:
Mariko Wallen and Louis Godfrey tend to the seaweed on their farm in Placencia, Belize. This farm grows two species: Eucheuma (for consumption) and Gracilaria (used for skin treatments and cosmetics). The farm is part of a program sponsored by TNC to bring seaweed aquaculture to the area in cooperation with the Placencia Fishermen Cooperative.
Thanks to the Nature Conservancy’s Cool Green Science website for this:
Bivalve and seaweed farming systems result in measurable increases in fish and invertebrate abundance and diversity, new research from The Nature Conservancy, University of New England, University of Melbourne, and the University of Adelaide finds. Continue reading
When we have linked to rewilding initiatives in the past the settings are usually but not always rural locations. Here is an urban exception worthy of note, as seen on the project’s overview page:
Hunted to extinction across the UK 400 years ago for their pelts and oil from their scent glands (known as castoreum), we have a vision for returning this charismatic animal back to London where it once thrived. In January 2021, working with the Beaver Trust, we brought together some of London’s key conservation organisations, community groups and environmental decision-makers in London to discuss the possibility of beavers in our Capital once again.
As the Rewilding movement continues to grow, species reintroductions are gathering pace, and beavers are now high on the agenda of many conservation strategies. As ecosystem engineers, they breathe life into ecosystems, damming up streams to create wetland habitats where wildlife can thrive. In addition to this, the wetland habitats they create are excellent for flood prevention, sequestering carbon and providing water during periods of drought. Continue reading
A peregrine falcon flying over Leipzig, Germany. Peregrines survive and reproduce more easily in cities than in rural areas. SEBASTIAN WILLNOW / PICTURE ALLIANCE VIA GETTY IMAGES
We have frequently considered urban greening in reference to social justice and to agricultural innovation. Thanks to Janet Marinelli for this consideration of a more fundamental possibility:
Cities have long been considered species deserts, devoid of wildlife beyond pigeons and squirrels. But with animals such as snowy owls, otters and bobcats now appearing in urban areas, scientists are recognizing that cities can play a significant role in fostering biodiversity.
Last year, as billions of people around the globe were in coronavirus lockdown, students of Queens College ecologist Bobby Habig discovered a bobcat roaming around the Bronx River in New York City, better known for its recent past as an open sewer and repository for automobile tires and rusted chassis than as a habitat for elusive wildcats. In January, a snowy owl, native to Canada’s Arctic tundra, touched down in Central Park for the first time in 130 years and spent more than a month supplementing its usual diet of boreal lemmings with choice urban fare such as mice and rats. For weeks a coyote was spotted in the Ramble, a 37-acre “wilderness” of rocky crags and hilly forest in the heart of Central Park. Continue reading
The number of urban trees is shrinking due to storms, construction and insects: at the moment, the US is facing a projected loss of 8.3% in urban tree cover by 2060. Photograph: Mary Altaffer/AP
Regardless of the viability of tree-planting as a solution to climate change, the need for more trees in some locations is overwhelming:
First ever nationwide tally of trees reveals how communities of color and poorer neighborhoods lack canopy
With vast swathes of the American west baking under a record-setting heatwave, a new study has revealed how unevenly trees are spread throughout cities in the United States and how much it disadvantages communities of color and the poor. Continue reading
A European robin trapped with glue on a stick, in France. Photograph: Courtesy LPO
It took too long to outlaw, but thank goodness it has finally happened:
France’s highest appeals court has ruled that the hunting of songbirds with glue traps is illegal, saying an exemption that had permitted the practice was in breach of European legislation. Continue reading
Donald Pols, director of the environmental group Milieudefensie, celebrates on May 26 after a court in the Netherlands ordered Shell to slash its emissions. REMKO DE WAAL / ANP / AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
The hug says all you need to know. Our kids, our grandchildren, and generations to follow will all be wondering why we we fiddled so long while carbon burned. The consequences of choices we make now related to the future of fossil fuel use are epic:
For years, analysts have predicted that rising world oil consumption would peak and start declining in the coming decades. But with a recent string of setbacks for big oil companies and the rapid advance of electric vehicles, some now say that “peak oil” is already here.
An oil platform facility operated by French oil giant Total in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Angola in 2018. RODGER BOSCH / AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
May was arguably the worst month ever for big oil — and the best for its opponents — as courts and corporate shareholders sided with environmental activists to humble the biggest of the fossil-fuel giants, culminating in “Black Wednesday.”
Electric taxis line up at a train station in Shenzhen, China in October, 2019. NIKADA VIA GETTY IMAGES
On that day, May 26, three events occurred that would have seemed nearly impossible not long ago: activists angry at ExxonMobil’s climate policies won three seats on its board of directors; Chevron shareholders voted to force the company to start cutting emissions; and a judge in the Netherlands ruled that Shell must slash its emissions by 45 percent by 2030.
So what’s next for big oil? Is the game up? Have we reached peak oil? Continue reading
A humpback whale off the shore of the Gold Coast in Australia. (Photo: Steve Austin, Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0)
Just absorb this (thanks to the Living on Earth podcast for this short segment):
…Experts estimate there are about 40,000 humpbacks that migrate each year between the southern oceans around Antarctica and the oceans around Australia. And there used to be 1500 a half century ago, mostly wiped out due to wailing. Continue reading