Precision Fermentation’s Implied Potential

Illustration: Eleanor Shakespeare/The Guardian

It is the first time we are seeing these two words together, and George Monbiot has this to say about the potential implied:

Embrace what may be the most important green technology ever. It could save us all

Never mind the yuck factor: precision fermentation could produce new staple foods, and end our reliance on farming

So what do we do now? After 27 summits and no effective action, it seems that the real purpose was to keep us talking. If governments were serious about preventing climate breakdown, there would have been no Cops 2-27. The major issues would have been resolved at Cop1, as the ozone depletion crisis was at a single summit in Montreal. Continue reading

Fridays For Future @COP27

Fridays for Future protest calling for money for climate action at Cop27. Photograph: Peter de Jong/AP

If you wonder what our youth are up to, take a look at what the Guardian’s team of Fiona Harvey, with Adam Morton and Patrick Greenfield is reporting from Sharm el-Sheikh:

Cop27: EU agrees to loss and damage fund to help poor countries amid climate disasters

Change in stance puts spotlight on US and China, which have both objected to fund

A breakthrough looked possible in the deadlocked global climate talks on Friday as the European Union made a dramatic intervention to agree to key developing world demands on financial help for poor countries. Continue reading

New Fracking Science

A shale gas drilling rig in St. Marys, Pennsylvania. AP PHOTO / KEITH SRAKOCIC

We thought the science of fracking’s dangers was already sufficiently clear, and now this (read Jon Hurdle’s entire story at Yale e360):

As Evidence Mounts, New Concerns About Fracking and Health

Two decades after the advent of fracking, a growing number of studies are pointing to a link between gas wells and health problems, particularly among children and the elderly. Researchers are now calling for new regulations restricting where wells can be located.

Almost 20 years after the adoption of hydraulic fracturing began to supercharge U.S. production of oil and gas, there’s growing evidence of a correlation between the industry’s activities and an array of health problems ranging from childhood cancer and the premature death of elderly people to respiratory issues and endocrine disruption. Continue reading

McKibben From COP 27 & A Rare Smile

You can read the daily news from COP27 on the official website, and it is useful information but not fully contextualized; for that we have our most reliable scribe who today is giving us one of his rare smiles:

Has the fever broken just a bit?

The view from Egypt: Trumpism, Putinism, Bolsonaroism finally on the defensive

Those of us who have been faithful in bringing the world bad news are perhaps excused if we seize occasionally on the the promising straws in the wind (though always aware that ill winds continue blowing, and not just in Florida where a rare November hurricane made landfall today). I’m thinking globally this afternoon, because I’m at the climate summit in Sharm al Sheikh in Egypt, where dozens of countries have pavilions (it’s the Epcot of carbon mitigation.) And the planet looks just a little better than it did a month ago. Continue reading

David Wallace-Wells & Co With New Perspective

After providing some of the deepest gloom, one of the environmental journalists we respect for not flinching or sugar-coating is singing a new tune, at least on this day:

Beyond Catastrophe

A New Climate Reality Is Coming Into View

By David Wallace-Wells
Photographs by Devin Oktar Yalkin
Captions by Charley Locke

You can never really see the future, only imagine it, then try to make sense of the new world when it arrives Continue reading

A Decade Of Reading Yale e360 & A Monday Perspective

The Philadelphia skyline and Benjamin Franklin Bridge reflected in the Delaware River. PAUL BRADY / ALAMY

Monday mornings often have had their own theme in these pages. Fresh perspective to start the new work week on a new track. So here is my Monday morning contribution. For a brief history to immerse you in the bleak dark, I could send you here; but not today.

Following is an article that does something different, and more difficult to find recently. A look at five decades’ accomplishment on one environmental issue in one country, and a takeaway worthy of the photo above: complex, but inspiring. Our thanks as always after a decade relying on Yale e360 for environmental stories, and advocacy; in this case also for introducing us to Andrew S. Lewis, who will now be on our radar:

The Clean Water Act at 50: Big Successes, More to Be Done

Sparked by the 1970s environmental movement, the Clean Water Act — which marks its 50th anniversary this month — transformed America’s polluted rivers. The Delaware, once an industrial cesspool, is one of the success stories, but its urban stretches remain a work in progress.

Steve Meserve (second from right) is a fourth-generation shad fisherman who operates the Lewis Fishery, the last commercial shad operation on the Delaware. ANDREW S. LEWIS

When Steve Meserve’s great-grandfather, Bill Lewis, started the Lewis Fishery in 1888, it was one of dozens of commercial outfits scattered up and down the Delaware River that seined for American shad during the spring spawn. At the time, the Delaware’s shad fishery hauled 3 to 4 million of the hard-fighting fish from the river and its tributaries every year. But, soon enough, Lewis discovered that he had gotten into the business just as the river — along with the species it supported — was entering a period of catastrophic decline. Continue reading

Ecotage Made Plain

I first heard an interview with Andreas Malm last year, and listening to more on the subject I found his argument understandable, and compelling enough to read a bit further. But, I did not read the book. I let it go, the way one lets any taboo thought recede from memory. His book came back to my attention today with this essay. And I realize that by not sharing on this platform I was denying what is compelling about his basic argument. At the very least, I can share what the publisher says about the book:

Why resisting climate change means combatting the fossil fuel industry

The science on climate change has been clear for a very long time now.  Yet despite decades of appeals, mass street protests, petition campaigns, and peaceful demonstrations, we are still facing a booming fossil fuel industry, rising seas, rising emission levels, and a rising temperature. With the stakes so high, why haven’t we moved beyond peaceful protest? Continue reading

Patagonia 2.0

Details of a desk in a Patagonia office with a stack of orange and brown stickers that read “defend bears ears national monument’ on top of stacks of magazines and papers.

Patagonia has become more politically active, going so far as to sue the Trump administration in a bid to protect the Bears Ears National Monument. Laure Joliet for The New York Times

We have mentioned this company multiple times in our pages over the years, because we take inspiration from it, the same way we have taken inspiration from the example set by Chuck Feeney. It is worth noting that I also value everything I have ever bought from Patagonia. The day of this blizzard in New York I took an old beat up backpack in to see if they could repair it in the nearby shop; instead, they gave me a new one.

Good quality products, combined with good service, make the good environmental values of the company all the better:

“Hopefully this will influence a new form of capitalism that doesn’t end up with a few rich people and a bunch of poor people,” said Mr. Chouinard. Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

Billionaire No More: Patagonia Founder Gives Away the Company

Mr. Chouinard filmed an announcement for his employees at home in Wyoming. By giving away the bulk of their assets during their lifetime, the Chouinards have established themselves as among the most charitable families in the country. Natalie Behring for The New York Times

A half century after founding the outdoor apparel maker Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, the eccentric rock climber who became a reluctant billionaire with his unconventional spin on capitalism, has given the company away.

Rather than selling the company or taking it public, Mr. Chouinard, his wife and two adult children have transferred their ownership of Patagonia, valued at about $3 billion, to a specially designed trust and a nonprofit organization. They were created to preserve the company’s independence and ensure that all of its profits — some $100 million a year — are used to combat climate change and protect undeveloped land around the globe. Continue reading

Almost Missed

I have missed plenty of good articles, books and other sources of news and analysis that relate to our goals with this platform. When I am late to see something important, like the book to the right, no regrets. Especially when it comes to my attention through an essay like this one by Daniel Sherrell:

The Democrats’ climate bill is a historic victory. But we can’t stop here

Passage of the Inflation Reduction Act filled me with joy and rage, relief and apprehension, exhaustion and vigilance. We must celebrate, but also mourn, rage and organize

I was at a Mets game when news broke that the climate bill had enough votes to pass in the Senate. It was the bottom of the eighth, and Edwin Díaz had just struck out the heart of the Braves’ lineup. The crowd at Citi Field was feeling good. Everyone could sense a win was at hand.

I read the push notification then sat there stunned for several minutes, watching the Mets clinch the game, waiting for the world-shaping news to register. Continue reading

Really, Danone?

An aerial view of people standing around the sinkhole in Santa María Zacatepec, a small town in central Mexico. The opening, almost perfectly circular, grew to be longer than a football field. Photograph by Jose Castañares / AFP / Getty

Really, as in, can you not control yourselves? We asked the same of Nestle a couple times in the past:

The Sinkhole That Swallowed a Mexican Farm

A bottled-water company tapped an ancient aquifer that thousands of people and businesses share. Then came the protests.

A Bonafont bottling plant, which was occupied by activists, pictured on September 1, 2021. Photograph by Pedro Pardo / AFP / Getty

On May 29, 2021, a boom reverberated through Santa María Zacatepec, a small town near the city of Puebla, in central Mexico. At first, the sound might have been mistaken for one of the earthquakes or small volcanic eruptions that are common in the area. Then some local children told their mother that a strange hole had appeared in the farmland behind their house. Continue reading

Unwanted Plastic Renaissance

A worker at a hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal, readies bags of Covid-19 waste for treatment, December last year. Photograph: Prakash Mathema/AFP/Getty Images

The plague of plastic has zombie-like revivification capabilities:

How the plastic industry turned the pandemic to its advantage

With its products proving indispensable to combatting Covid-19, the plastics business is reinvigorated. What will it take to bring this major polluter to heel?

There are only two reasons that the plastics industry will change, a polymer scientist once told me: war or legislation. Continue reading

Monbiot Uncorked

‘The dangerous heat England is suffering at the moment is already becoming normal in southern Europe.’ A firefighter tackles a wild fire in Gironde, France, 17 July 2022. Photograph: Thibaud Moritz/AFP/Getty Images

George Monbiot has never held back, but now the cork is released full force:

This heatwave has eviscerated the idea that small changes can tackle extreme weather

Dangerous heat will become the norm, even in the UK. Systems need to urgently change – and the silence needs to be broken

Can we talk about it now? I mean the subject most of the media and most of the political class has been avoiding for so long. You know, the only subject that ultimately counts – the survival of life on Earth. Continue reading

Pantanal Priorities

The Pantanal wetlands in Brazil.

The Pantanal wetlands in Brazil. MARKUS MAUTHE / GREENPEACE

There is not much that has happened in Brazil in the last few years that I would consider good environmental news.

YALE ENVIRONMENT 360

So one more urgency is at risk of getting lost in all the rest (which may be part of a strategy). But making it easier to extract the extracted from the center of the continent is akin to adding fuel to a very big fire:

A Waterway Project in Brazil Imperils a Vast Tropical Wetland

The Pantanal, the world’s largest tropical wetland, has been battered in recent years by agricultural development, drought, and fire. Now, a push to turn the region’s key river into a waterway for soybean-laden barges threatens to alter the natural flows of this iconic ecosystem.

It takes 14 hours for Lourenço Pereira Leite to reach his fishing spot.

He and his brother-in-law chug along in a simple one-engine motorboat, towing their traditional fishing canoe behind them. Continue reading

Really, Starbucks?

Pro-union pins sit on a table during a watch party for Starbucks’ employees union election in December in Buffalo, N.Y.  Starbucks union organizers say the company is closing a New York store to retaliate. Joshua Bessex/AP

Most of the companies and places and people we ask the question “Really?” of are more clearly acting in bad faith. In this case we are more puzzled that certain. We have generally been a fan of the company that had much to do with improving the lot of coffee farmers, with educating the public about coffee quality, with treating its employees fairly, and many other good works. If their employees feel the need to organize, and clearly want to organize, then Starbucks not supporting them seems out of character. Closing a shop location in Ithaca, a town we know well, may be due to that town being cosmopolitan enough to have several good coffee options:

Starbucks union says the coffee giant is closing a store to retaliate

Starbucks is closing a store in Ithaca, N.Y., in what Starbucks union organizers are calling an illegal move of retaliation after workers at the location voted to unionize. Continue reading

The Dirty Banking & Fossil Fuel Relationship Seen From Another Angle

We know a bit about dirty banking. While we do not think money is a dirty word, we have seen how dirty it can get when mixed with fossil fuels. So thanks, as always, to Bill McKibben for this further illumination. We are sharing his newsletter, rather than the New Yorker story he references, because as you will see below he encourages sharing Your money is your carbon:

If you’ve got $125k in the financial system, it’s doing as much damage as your cooking and your heating and your flying. These are the most important new climate numbers for many years

Earlier today I published a big story in the New Yorker about how banks are driving the climate crisis. A report from a consortium of environmental groups made clear that for the biggest, richest companies on earth, the cash they keep in the banking system (which gets lent out for pipelines and the like) produces more carbon than their actual, you know, business. Google emits more carbon from its money than its phones, and Netflix from its streaming, and so on. Continue reading

Desalination’s Discontents

The commissioner of the panel said: ‘The ocean is under attack … I cannot say in good conscience that this amount of damage is OK.’ Photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters

Desalination, which we celebrated multiple times over the years, might not be all as good we thought it was:

Joy for environmentalists as California blocks bid for $1.4bn desalination plant

Poseidon Water sought to turn seawater into drinking water but activists said plan would devastate ecosystem on Pacific coast

California coastal panel on Thursday rejected a longstanding proposal to build a $1.4bn seawater desalination plant to turn Pacific Ocean water into drinking water as the state grapples with persistent drought that is expected to worsen in coming years with climate change. Continue reading

The Rights Of Man Versus The Rights Of Nature

For most of history, people saw themselves as dependent on their surroundings, and rivers and mountains had the last word. Illustration by Marion Fayolle

Florida is on my mind today. Yesterday I listened to some excellent reporting on this podcast episode and was surprised to learn that some consider the political climate in the state environmentally-friendly. Surprising because the entire reporting emphasized what sounded like anti-regulatory business-friendly fervor. And after reading this article by one of my favorite writers, I think the state will be on my mind for the indefinite future (late in the article she writes “Start taking Stone seriously and it’s hard to stop;” so far she is correct):

A Lake in Florida Suing to Protect Itself

Lake Mary Jane, in central Florida, could be harmed by development. A first-of-its-kind lawsuit asks whether nature should have legal rights.

Lake Mary Jane is shallow—twelve feet deep at most—but she’s well connected. She makes her home in central Florida, in an area that was once given over to wetlands. To the north, she is linked to a marsh, and to the west a canal ties her to Lake Hart. To the south, through more canals, Mary Jane feeds into a chain of lakes that run into Lake Kissimmee, which feeds into Lake Okeechobee. Were Lake Okeechobee not encircled by dikes, the water that flows through Mary Jane would keep pouring south until it glided across the Everglades and out to sea. Continue reading

When Diplomats Must Be Undiplomatic

Yesterday I posted about one of the easier topics among the many options I have to post about every day. Today, a topic increasingly frequent in my posts, but definitely not an easy one. So I look to one person to summarize our week-to-week progress or lack of it. As always, I recommend signing up for his newsletter:

The World’s Top Diplomat Has Had It Up to Here

The Secretary General of the UN models how to think about climate change

I can remember when some of us organized what may have been the planet’s first truly huge climate march, with 400,000 people descending on New York in 2014. Then UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon came to walk with us for a few blocks, and it was considered remarkable: the world’s top diplomat had previously been too diplomatic to join in protests challenging the policies of his member nations. Continue reading

Watching Whales, Hopefully Forever

An orca pod feeding. Iceland, one of the few countries that still hunts whales commercially plans to end the practice from 2024. Photograph: Nature Picture Library/Alamy

Of all the dozens of times in our pages where whales are the central topic, there was once when Icelandic whaling was featured. And that story was about ending the practice of hunting these majestic animals. Today’s story–‘Meet us, don’t eat us’: Iceland turns from whale eaters to whale watchers–is the first time I have heard that travelers are the primary market for whale meat there. Strange, but true:

Reykjavik harbour. The small red boat on the right is an Elding whale-watching vessel. The blue one with a tall mast is a whaling boat. Photograph: Abby Young-Powell

The country’s plan to end commercial whaling is driven by falling demand but also a 15-year-long campaign aimed at their biggest consumers of whale meat – tourists

Onboard a small whale-watching boat making its way across the choppy waters of Faxaflói Bay, off the south-west coast of Iceland, a guide urges tourists not to eat whale meat. Continue reading

Close The Hose Of Fossil Fuel Cash

Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, said fossil-fuel funding ‘has been used to compromise leading academic institutions’. Photograph: James Ross/AAP

Hats off to Michael Mann and colleagues for this determination:

Universities must reject fossil fuel cash for climate research, say academics

Open letter from 500 academics likens fossil-energy funding of climate solutions to tobacco industry disinformation

Universities must stop accepting funding from fossil fuel companies to conduct climate research, even if the research is aimed at developing green and low-carbon technology, an influential group of distinguished academics has said. Continue reading