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Taz / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

5 Reasons the World Wastes So Much Stuff (and Why It's Not Just the Consumer's Fault)

By Mathy Stanislaus

If you need motivation to skip the straw at lunch today, consider this: Scientists found that even Arctic sea ice—far removed from most major metropolitan areas—is no longer plastic-free. According to Dr. Jeremy Wilkinson of the British Antarctic Survey, "this suggests that microplastics are now ubiquitous within the surface waters of the world's ocean. Nowhere is immune."

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Deforestation from Palm Oil Plantations in Papua. Mighty / Flickr

Places to Watch: 3 Forest Regions at Risk Right Now

By Mikaela Weisse and Katie Fletcher

This edition of Places to Watch examines forest clearing detected between Nov. 9, 2017, and Jan. 31, 2018 in Indonesian Papua, Cameroon and Brazil. Due to occasional cloud cover that can obscure satellite recognition, some loss may have occurred earlier.

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Food
A burger made with a blend of beef and mushrooms. Mushroom Council

'Blended Burger' Allows a Simple Shift to More Sustainable Eating

By Richard Waite, Daniel Vennard and Gerard Pozzi

Burgers are possibly the most ubiquitous meal on Americans' dinner plates, but they're also among the most resource-intensive: Beef accounts for nearly half of the land use and greenhouse gas emissions associated with the food Americans eat.

Although there's growing interest in plant-based burgers and other alternatives, for the millions of people who still want to order beef, there's a better burger out there: a beef-mushroom blend that maintains, or even enhances, that meaty flavor with significantly less environmental impact.

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Cape Town in South Africa.

3 Things Cities Can Learn from Cape Town’s Impending 'Day Zero' Water Shut-Off

By Betsy Otto and Leah Schleifer

Cape Town is running out of water. After three years of intense drought, South Africa's second-largest city is just a few months away from "Day Zero," the day when the city government will shut off water taps for most homes and businesses.

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Pixabay

4 Signs to Watch at COP23

By Paula Caballero, David Waskow and Christina Chan

Two years after the world joined together to forge the Paris agreement on climate change, representatives from around the globe will convene in Bonn, Germany, on Nov. 6 for the next round of United Nations talks. The summit marks a critical stepping stone for global climate action.

This year's wave of climate-related natural disasters—hurricanes, floods and wildfires in developing and developing countries alike—drives home the urgency to move full speed ahead at the 23rd Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, known informally as COP23. Increasing public and private investment in the transition to clean energy and transport, in restoring forested areas, and in more sustainable cities demonstrate that significant inroads towards tackling climate change are being made at the national and local level. Countries are also reaffirming their commitment to climate action as a priority—both at home and internationally—including support for the Paris agreement demonstrated at the G7 and G20 summits and at the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN).

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A bean farmer checks her crop in Democratic Republic of the Congo. Neil Palmer / CIAT

Now Is the Time to Solve Climate Change for 2050

By Paula Caballero

The reality of daily life is that we try to fix the problems that are staring us in the face. In many ways, the desire for short-term results defines the rhythm of both public and private life. So the idea that decisions today will define where we end up in a couple of decades is difficult to grasp, and may even appear outlandish.

Yet the unprecedented, deadly tropical cyclones in the Caribbean today and around the world foreshadow a perilous tomorrow if we don't tackle climate change now. We are at an historic crossroads that requires us to factor in the future. Because in a very real sense, 2050 is now.

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Water stress levels are rising. Flickr / Asian Development Bank

7 Reasons We Face a Global Water Crisis

By Leah Schleifer

Droughts in Somalia. Water rationing in Rome. Flooding in Jakarta. It doesn't take a hydrologist to realize that there is a growing global water crisis. Each August, water experts, industry innovators and researchers gather in Stockholm for World Water Week to tackle the planet's most pressing water issues.

What are they up against this year? Here's a quick rundown on the growing global water crisis.

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Hansen/UMD/Google/USGS/NASA tree cover data displayed on Global Forest Watch. Green pixels represent tree cover with greater than 20 percent canopy density but do not count trees outside of these pixels. Note, coarse pixels as shown above may be more efficient for rapidly detecting large scales of deforestation, while individual mapping techniques as described below may be more effective for monitoring land restoration and degradation.

Scientists Use Google Earth and Crowdsourcing to Map Uncharted Forests

By Katie Fletcher, Tesfay Woldemariam and Fred Stolle

No single person could ever hope to count the world's trees. But a crowd of them just counted the world's drylands forests—and, in the process, charted forests never before mapped, cumulatively adding up to an area equivalent in size to the Amazon rainforest.

Current technology enables computers to automatically detect forest area through satellite data in order to adequately map most of the world's forests. But drylands, where trees are fewer and farther apart, stymied these modern methods. To measure the extent of forests in drylands, which make up more than 40 percent of land surface on Earth, researchers from UN Food and Agriculture Organization, World Resources Institute and several universities and organizations had to come up with unconventional techniques. Foremost among these was turning to residents, who contributed their expertise through local map-a-thons.

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The Road Ahead for Electric Vehicles to Create a Sustainable, Equitable Future

By Eliot Metzger and Alyssa Fischer

Last weekend, Elon Musk shared the first images of a production Tesla Model 3—the much-anticipated new electric vehicle that had hundreds of thousands of people lining up last year to place preorders. It was the latest in a series of major recent announcements about the future of the automotive industry.

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