Fishing With Insecticide-Laced Mosquito Nets Is a Global Phenomenon
By Benjamin Graham
Fishermen in the Dili district of Timor-Leste have found an extra perk of the insecticide added to their mosquito bed nets: the chemicals act as a Taser for shrimp. The bed nets are supposed to ward off malaria, but, with a few strong branches and some twine, it's easy to refashion them into fishing nets that immobilize small shrimp or fish with toxins and ensnare them in the mesh.
The fishermen of Dili aren't the only ones to come up with this idea, either. People in developing countries around the world are repurposing mosquito nets to catch fish, according to a new study, and the practice could have significant environmental and socioeconomic implications.
In nearby Papua New Guinea, study participants reported Chinese traders giving mosquito nets to fishermen to catch seahorses, a valuable ingredient in Chinese traditional medicine. An ocean away, on the shallow waters of Lake Alaotra, Madagascar's largest freshwater body, people use their bed nets to catch juvenile fish.
A juvenile trevally caught in a mosquito net in coastal Mozambique. Trevally are a group of species that are commercially important in the region.Rebecca Short
None of this was too surprising to Rebecca Short, a researcher with the Zoological Society of London and lead author of the new study. Short first witnessed the practice in a beach town in Mozambique, where she watched two women use mosquito nets to scoop small sea creatures out of the surf.
Later during the trip, Short realized just how widespread the phenomenon might be. Women were lined up side-by-side along a remote sand flat, straining the water for tiny fish. "It was just a sea of blue nets and women fishing," Short said. "It was like, yep, okay, this is not a small issue."
In regions of the world threatened by malaria, bed nets treated with insecticides are an increasingly common public health tool, and the results have been promising. By some estimates, half of the world's population at risk of contracting the mosquito-borne parasite that causes malaria was sleeping under a bed net by 2013, up from 2 percent a decade earlier, and the World Health Organization has documented a sharp drop in global malaria cases.
But there is growing anecdotal evidence that the nets, often provided for free or at a subsidized price by hospitals and aid organizations, are being put to other uses, including fishing.
Fishers using mosquito net in Mozambique. Rebecca Short
After her experiences in Mozambique, Short set out to see just how widespread this practice might be. "There's an awful lot of piecemeal evidence out there of this happening in a lot of different places," she said. "But the general consensus was to not really worry about it, that it was happening in isolated places."
Short and her colleagues created an online survey that elicited responses from more than 100 people working in conservation, public health and fisheries management around the globe. What they found overturns the conventional thinking. From Honduras to the Philippines, the respondents reported communities using mosquito nets to fish. The study was published on Jan. 31 in the journal PLOS ONE. "We've kind of dispelled that it's just happening in inland waters in a couple of places in Africa," Short said.
Two-thirds of the observations were in marine environments, rather than freshwater. And while most cases were still concentrated in East Africa, there were reports from as far away as Nepal, American Samoa and Ecuador.
Emma Bush, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Stirling in Scotland, said many of these findings seem obvious in hindsight. In 2013, when she began studying mosquito net fishing among the Giriama people of Kenya's Mida Creek, little was known about how prevalent the practice might be. To get global health and conservation organizations to pay attention, evidence was needed.
"It was too easy for alternative mosquito net use to be dismissed as a trivial issue," Bush wrote in an email. "This study is significant because it formalizes our knowledge about mosquito net fishing and provides critical evidence that it is a global issue needing further attention."
A good-size catch using mosquito net, consisting mainly of juvenile fish, in Mozambique. Rebecca Short
Some conservationists and natural resource management officials have warned that the insecticides in the nets could contaminate the ecosystem and harm people who eat the fish, and that the practice could be damaging fish stocks. The nets' small mesh size snares juvenile fish en masse before they can reproduce, while indiscriminately scooping up all sorts of aquatic life. The widespread availability of mosquito nets also increases the number of people plying the water for food and, potentially, the overall pressure on fish stocks.
For these reasons, fisheries management officials have warned against the practice across Africa. In many places, fishing with a mosquito net is now illegal. And it's not just scientists and government officials who are concerned. Fights have broken out between established fishermen and newcomers with mosquito nets, who are viewed as a threat.
The potential ecological harm of mosquito net fishing is a legitimate concern, Short said, but she believes more study is needed and remains neutral on whether the practice is, on the whole, good or bad. "It's hugely in debate," she said. "There are very positive short-term impacts for the more vulnerable fishers." In many places, mosquito nets offer perhaps the cheapest, easiest way to start fishing, she said, opening a door for people who might have no other means to improve their diets and incomes.
Context also is critical, she said. In parts of Mozambique, for example, it's women who do most of the mosquito net fishing to feed their families, Short said. While they might sell some of the extra fish they catch within their village, theirs isn't a commercial operation. But elsewhere the practice is larger in scale and dominated by men. In Madagascar, for example, participants in Short's study reported that fishers were catching large hauls of fish using mosquito nets and selling them to animal-feed companies.
Women who fish with mosquito nets in coastal Mozambique call the technique "kutanda," which means "to drag" and was formerly done with cloth. Rebecca Short
Some researchers argue there might even be ecological value in mosquito net fishing. Jeppe Kolding, an ecologist at the University of Bergen in Norway, is a proponent of the controversial "balanced harvest" approach to fisheries management, in which fishers catch a wide range of ages and species, rather than just targeting large, healthy adults. Mosquito nets capture the smallest fish in the food chain, which are plentiful, easy to dry and transport, and nutritious because they are eaten whole. "It's almost like instant noodles. They dissolve in hot water," he said.
Communities in the Sundarbans forest of coastal Bangladesh use mosquito nets to sieve fish from the muddy waters. Bangladesh was one of several Asian nations, including Nepal and the Philippines, that turned up reports of mosquito net fishing in a recent study. Nadia Richman
For Short, one thing is clear: more research on mosquito net fishing is needed. "It appears to be increasing at an alarming rate, so we need to get a handle on it," she said.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.
By Victoria Masterson
Using one of the world's problems to solve another is the philosophy behind a Norwegian start-up's mission to develop affordable housing from 100% recycled plastic.
Sustainable Homes<p>UN-Habitat says an <a href="https://unhabitat.org/un-habitat-aims-to-use-plastic-waste-to-support-housing-for-all" target="_blank">estimated 60% of people living in urban areas of Africa are in informal settlements</a>. At the same time, between 1990 and 2017, African countries imported around 230 metric tonnes of plastic, "which mostly ended up in dump sites creating a massive environmental challenge," the agency adds.</p><p>UN-Habitat deputy executive director, Victor Kisob, said the aim of the partnership with Othalo was to "promote adequate, sustainable and affordable housing for all."</p>
Artist's impression of an Othalo community, imagined by architect Julien De Smedt. Othalo<p>Othalo's process involves shredding plastic waste and mixing it with other elements, including non-flammable materials. Components are used to build up to four floors, with a home of 60 square metres using eight tons of recycled plastic. A factory with one production line can produce 2,800 housing units annually.</p><p>Following successful laboratory tests, Othalo's factory in Estonia has started producing components to build three demonstration homes for Kenya's capital, Nairobi; Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon and Dakar, the capital of Senegal.</p><p>Othalo founder Frank Cato Lahti has been developing and testing the technology since 2016 in partnership with <a href="https://www.sintef.no/en/" target="_blank">SINTEF</a>, a 70-year-old independent research organization in Trondheim, Norway, and experts at Norway's <a href="https://en.uit.no/startsida" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">University of Tromsø</a>.</p>
Othalo founder Frank Cato Lahti. Othalo<p>Almost <a href="https://www.un.org/development/desa/publications/2018-revision-of-world-urbanization-prospects.html" target="_blank">seven out of every 10 people in the world are expected to live in urban areas by 2050</a>. More than 90% of this growth will take place in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean.</p><p>"In the absence of effective urban planning, the consequences of this rapid urbanization will be dramatic," UN-Habitat warns.</p><p>Lack of proper housing and growth of slums, inadequate and outdated infrastructure, escalating poverty and unemployment, and pollution and health issues, are just some of the effects.</p><p>Mindsets, policies, and approaches towards urbanization need to change for the growth of cities and urban areas to be turned into opportunities that will leave nobody behind, UN-Habitat says.</p>
Pioneers of Change<p>Reimagining cities and communities for greater resilience and sustainability was a key topic at the<a href="https://www.weforum.org/events/pioneers-of-change-summit-2020" target="_blank"> World Economic Forum's Pioneers of Change Summit 2020</a>.</p><p>The digital event brought together innovators and stakeholders from around the world to explore solutions to the challenges facing enterprises, governments and society.</p><p>Opening the summit, <a href="https://www.weforum.org/events/pioneers-of-change-summit-2020/sessions/opening-plenary-8f731cbc65" target="_blank">Stephan Mergenthaler, the Forum's Head of Strategic Intelligence and a member of the Executive Committee</a>, said: "We need to change the way we produce, the way we live and interact in our cities to make this transition to net-zero emissions a reality…</p><p>"And as this year has illustrated so dramatically, we need to make every effort that we keep populations healthy, if we want to avoid jeopardizing all this progress."</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/11/un-africa-recycled-plastic-housing/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649069252#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian
John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.
Energy Is at the Center of the Climate Challenge<p>The <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/1/" target="_blank">effects of climate change</a> are already evident across the globe, from <a href="https://theconversation.com/100-degrees-in-siberia-5-ways-the-extreme-arctic-heat-wave-follows-a-disturbing-pattern-141442" target="_blank">extreme heat waves</a> to <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/12/" target="_blank">sea level rise</a>. But while the challenge is daunting, there is hope. Solar and wind power have become the <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2020/Jun/Renewable-Power-Costs-in-2019" target="_blank">cheapest forms of power generation globally</a>, and technology progress and innovation continue apace to support a transition to clean energy.</p><p>In the U.S. under a Biden administration, long-term national climate legislation will depend on who controls the Senate, and that won't be clear until after two run-off elections in Georgia in January.</p><p>But there is no shortage of <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-biden-climate-change-advice/" target="_blank">ideas for ways Biden</a> could still take action even if his proposals are blocked in Congress. For example, he could use executive orders and direct government agencies to tighten regulations on greenhouse gas emissions; increase research and development in clean energy technologies; and empower states to exceed national standards, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-emissions-california/defying-trump-california-locks-in-vehicle-emission-deals-with-major-automakers-idUSKCN25D2CH" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as California did in the past with auto emission standards</a>. A focus on a just and equitable transition for communities and people affected by the decline of fossil fuels will also be key to creating a sustainable transition.</p><p>The U.S. position as the world's largest oil and gas producer and consumer creates political challenges for any administration. U.S. forays into European energy security are often treated with suspicion. Recently, France blocked <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/frances-engie-backs-out-of-u-s-lng-deal-11604435609" target="_blank">a multi-billion dollar contract</a> to buy U.S. liquefied natural gas because of concerns about limited emissions regulations in Texas.</p><p>Strengthening cooperation and partnerships with like-minded countries will be critical to bring about a transition to cleaner energy as well as sustainability in agriculture, forestry, water and other sectors of the global economy.</p>
Creating a Global Sustainable Transition<p>How the world recovers from COVID-19's economic damage could help drive a lasting shift in the global energy mix.</p><p>Nearly one-third of Europe's US$2 trillion economic relief package <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-21/eu-approves-biggest-green-stimulus-in-history-with-572-billion-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">involves investments that are also good for the climate</a>. The European Union is also strengthening its 2030 climate targets, though each country's energy and climate plans will be critical for successfully implementing them. The <a href="https://joebiden.com/clean-energy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Biden plan</a> – including a $2 trillion commitment to developing sustainable energy and infrastructure – is aligned with a global energy transition, but its implementation is also uncertain.</p><p>Once Biden takes office, Kerry will be joining ongoing <a href="https://www.un.org/en/conferences/energy2021/about#:%7E:text=The%20overarching%20goal%20of%20the,2030%20Agenda%20for%20Sustainable%20Development.&text=Accelerate%20delivery%20of%20United%20Nations,related%20issues%20at%20all%20levels." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high-level discussions on the energy transition</a> at the U.N. General Assembly and other gatherings of international leaders. With the U.S. no longer obstructing work on climate issues, the G-7 and G-20 have more potential for progress on energy and climate.</p><p>Lots of technical details still need to be worked out, including international trade frameworks and standards that can help countries lower greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global warming in check. <a href="https://www.carbonpricingleadership.org/what" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Carbon pricing</a> and <a href="https://www.csis.org/analysis/how-can-europe-get-carbon-border-adjustment-right" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">carbon border adjustment taxes</a>, which create incentive for companies to reduce emissions, may be part of it. A consistent and comprehensive set of national energy transition plans will also be needed.</p><p>The global shift to <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2019/Jan/A-New-World-The-Geopolitics-of-the-Energy-Transformation" target="_blank">clean energy will also have geopolitical implications for countries and regions</a>, and this will have a profound impact on wider international relations. Kerry, with his experience as secretary of state in the Obama administration, and Biden's plan to make the climate envoy position part of the National Security Council, may help mend these relations. In doing so, the U.S. may again join the wider community of countries willing to lead.</p>
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By Maria Caffrey
As we approach the holidays I, like most people, have been reflecting on everything 2020 has given us (or taken away) while starting to look ahead to 2021.