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Solar Plant Opens at Uninhabitable Chernobyl Nuclear Site
A site once a symbol of one type of apocalypse is now helping to stave off another.
"Today we are connecting the station to the power system of Ukraine," Ukrainian-German company Solar Chernobyl head Yevgen Varyagin said at the opening ceremony.
The site of the Chernobyl disaster, which killed thousands and forced hundreds of thousands to evacuate, is surprisingly ideal for renewable energy. The 1,000 square miles surrounding the plant won't be safe for humans for 24,000 years, but the site is already connected to the power grid, Fortune pointed out.
"It's not just another solar power plant," Varyagin told reporters, according to Reuters. "It's really hard to underestimate the symbolism of this particular project."
The undamaged Chernobyl power plants generated energy until 2000, when they were shut down. It looked as though the site's days as an energy source were over.
"But now we are seeing a new sprout, still small, weak, producing power on this site and this is very joyful," head of the Chernobyl nuclear plant Valery Seyda said, according to Reuters.
Ukraine, which is looking to diversify its energy portfolio as it stops buying natural gas from Russia, had offered good prices for around 6,000 acres of land and will buy the energy at 50 percent above the average EU prize, AFP reported.
The current plant cost $1.2 million to build and generates one megawatt of power on four acres of land, enough to run about 2,000 homes, Fortune reported. However, the end goal is to construct 100 megawatts worth of solar farms.
The Ukraine had previously built two solar farms in the Crimea that had a capacity of 82 and 100 megawatts, but they were annexed by Russia along with the rest of the Crimea. The Ukraine still sources coal and nuclear fuel from Russia, but has nearly 600 megawatts of its own renewable energy as of 2018.
It added more than 500 megawatts of renewable power since January, twice as much as the country added in 2017, and Yulia Kovaliv, head of the Office of the National Investment Council of Ukraine, told Reuters that investors were racing to take advantage of a renewable energy subsidy before the Ukrainian parliament votes on potentially ending it in July 2019.
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Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.
The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.
Last week we received positive news on the border wall's imminent construction in an Arizona wildlife refuge. The Trump administration delayed construction of the wall through about 60 miles of federal wildlife preserves.