Dairy aisles have exploded with milk and milk alternative options over the past few years, and choosing the healthiest milk isn't just about the fat content.
Whether you're looking beyond cow's milk for health reasons or dietary preferences or simply want to experiment with different options, you may wonder which type of milk is healthiest for you.
Here are the 7 healthiest milk and milk alternative options to add to your diet.
1. Hemp Milk
Hemp milk is made from ground, soaked hemp seeds, which do not contain the psychoactive component of the Cannabis sativa plant.
The seeds are high in protein and healthy omega-3 and omega-6 unsaturated fats. Thus, hemp milk contains a slighter high amount of these nutrients than other plant milks.
An 8-ounce (240-ml) serving of hemp milk provides the following:
- Calories: 60
- Protein: 3 grams
- Carbs: 0 grams
- Fat: 5 grams
- Phosphorus: 25% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Calcium: 20% of the DV
- Magnesium: 15% of the DV
- Iron: 10% of the DV
Hemp milk is virtually carb-free, but some brands add sweeteners, which increase the carb content. Make sure to check the ingredient label and buy hemp — and any other plant milk — without added sugar.
Sugar may be listed on the ingredient label as brown rice syrup, evaporated cane juice, or cane sugar.
SUMMARY: Hemp milk is made from the seeds of the Cannabis sativa plant. While the beverage doesn't have any psychoactive effects, it provides more healthy fats and protein than other plant milks.
2. Oat Milk
Though drinking milk made by soaking whole oats doesn't offer quite the same health benefits as eating a bowl of whole grain oats, it is very nutritious.
Oat milk is naturally sweet from the oats and high in carbs. It's unusual in that it contains some soluble fiber, which makes oat milk a bit creamier.
Soluble fiber absorbs water and turns into a gel during digestion, which helps slow digestion and keeps you full for longer. It can also help stabilize your blood sugar levels.
What's more, the soluble fiber in oat milk may reduce your cholesterol levels. A 5-week study in 52 men showed that drinking oat milk lowered LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, compared with a control beverage.
Although nutritional values can vary by brand and depending on how or whether the milk is fortified, an 8-ounce (240-ml) serving of Oatly oat milk provides the following:
- Calories: 120
- Protein: 3 grams
- Carbs: 16 grams
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Fat: 5 grams
- Vitamin B12: 50% of the DV
- Riboflavin: 46% of the DV
- Calcium: 27% of the DV
- Phosphorus: 22% of the DV
- Vitamin D: 18% of the DV
- Vitamin A: 18% of the DV
SUMMARY: Oat milk is higher in carbs than most other plant milks, and it also boasts extra fiber. Much of the fiber in oats is soluble fiber, which offers several health benefits, such as reducing your cholesterol levels and keeping you full for longer.
3. Almond Milk
Almond milk is made by soaking almonds in water and then blending and straining away the solids.
It's a tasty nondairy milk alternative for people who either can't tolerate or choose not to drink dairy milk, but it's not safe if you have a tree nut allergy.
Unsweetened almond milk is low in calories and much lower in carbs than cow's milk, making it a good choice if you follow a lower carb diet.
However, note that many brands contain added sugar. Always check the ingredient label and avoid those that are sweetened.
Although almond milk is a naturally good source of the antioxidant vitamin E, it's low in protein and many other nutrients. Many brands are fortified with calcium and vitamins A and D, but the amounts can vary by brand.
On average, an 8-ounce (240-ml) serving of unsweetened almond milk provides the following:
- Calories: 41
- Protein: 1 gram
- Carbs: 2 grams
- Fat: 3 grams
- Vitamin E: 50% of the DV
Many brands contain additives like carrageenan to thicken and prevent separation.
There is some debate about whether carrageenan promotes intestinal inflammation and damage. Still, most of the research on carrageenan and gut health has been conducted in animals and labs.
SUMMARY: Almond milk is a good nondairy milk alternative, but nutritionally, it's quite different from cow's milk. If you're after its lower carb content, make sure you choose an unsweetened brand.
4. Coconut Milk
Coconut milk is squeezed from the white flesh of a coconut. It has a pleasant flavor, and it's a good nondairy milk alternative that's safe if you have a tree nut allergy.
Most coconut milk packaged in cartons is blended with water to give it a consistency similar to that of cow's milk. It has even less protein than almond milk, but many brands are fortified with certain nutrients.
On the other hand, canned coconut milk is usually intended for culinary purposes. It tends to be higher in fat, is unfortified, and has a much more distinctive coconut flavor.
An 8-ounce (240-ml) serving of an unsweetened coconut milk beverage provides the following:
- Calories: 46
- Protein: none
- Carbs: 1 gram
- Fat: 4 grams
Coconut milk is a bit higher in fat than other plant milks, but the medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) in coconuts is linked to some heart health benefits, such as higher HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
Some brands are also fortified with nutrients like vitamins B12, D, and A, as well as some minerals. The type and amount of nutrients added can vary among brands, so be sure to compare the labels.
SUMMARY: Coconut milk has a light, tropical flavor and is a safe dairy-free milk alternative for those who have a tree nut allergy. Because coconuts are a source of healthy MCTs, drinking coconut milk might boost your HDL (good) cholesterol.
5. Cow's Milk
Cow's milk is the most commonly consumed dairy milk and a good source of high-quality protein.
It's naturally rich in calcium, B vitamins, and many minerals. It's also often fortified with vitamins A and D, making it a very nutritious food for both children and adults.
An 8-ounce (240-ml) serving of whole milk provides the following:
- Calories: 149
- Protein: 8 grams
- Carbs: 12 grams
- Fat: 8 grams
- Vitamin D: 24% of the DV
- Calcium: 28% of the DV
- Riboflavin: 26% of the DV
- Phosphorus: 22% of the DV
- Vitamin B12: 18% of the DV
- Selenium: 13% of the DV
- Potassium: 10% of the DV
Nevertheless, the protein in cow's milk is a common allergen. Most children outgrow it, but some people have a lifelong allergy and need to avoid this beverage and foods containing it.
In addition, an estimated 65% of the population has some degree of difficulty digesting lactose, a type of sugar in cow's milk.
SUMMARY: Regular cow's milk is an excellent source of nutrition, but due to lactose intolerance or milk protein allergy, many people have difficulty digesting it or must avoid it altogether.
6. A2 Milk
Approximately 80% of the protein in cow's milk comes from casein. Most dairy cows in the U.S. produce milk that has two main types of casein — A1 beta-casein and A2 beta-casein.
When A1 beta-casein is digested, a peptide called beta-casomorphin-7 (BCM-7) is produced. It's linked to digestive symptoms similar to those of lactose intolerance in some people, including gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.
Certain dairy cows produce milk that contains only A2 beta-casein, which doesn't form the BCM-7 peptide. The a2 Milk Company markets A2 milk as an easier-to-digest option.
A small study in 45 people with self-reported lactose intolerance found that A2 milk was easier to digest and caused less digestive discomfort, compared with regular cow's milk.
Aside from casein, A2 milk is comparable to regular cow's milk. While it's not a good choice if you are allergic to milk protein or lactose intolerant, it might be worth a try if you experience mild digestive problems after drinking regular cow's milk.
SUMMARY: A2 milk contains only A2 beta-casein, and some people find it easier to digest than cow's milk. However, it's not a good choice if you've been diagnosed with a milk protein allergy or lactose intolerance.
7. Soy Milk
Nutritionally, soy milk comes closest to cow's milk. This is partly because soybeans are an excellent source of complete protein, as well as because it's fortified so that its nutritional profile closely resembles that of milk.
Soy is a great option if you avoid dairy but want a milk beverage that's higher in protein.
An 8-ounce (240-ml) serving of unsweetened soy milk provides the following:
- Calories: 105
- Protein: 6 grams
- Carbs: 12 grams
- Fat: 4 grams
- Vitamin B12: 34% of the DV
- Calcium: 30% of the DV
- Riboflavin: 26% of the DV
- Vitamin D: 26% of the DV
- Phosphorus: 10% of the DV
Soy has been the subject of controversy, as most soybeans grown in the U.S. are genetically modified to resist the herbicide glyphosate.
However, regularly consuming soy foods is linked to health benefits, including improved cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
Furthermore, despite claims that soy may increase breast cancer risk because it mimics estrogen in the body, scientific studies suggest that it may reduce this risk.
Some brands produce organic soy milk, which is made from non-genetically modified organism (non-GMO) soybeans and free from conventional pesticides and herbicides.
SUMMARY: If you want a nondairy milk alternative that's higher in protein and nutritionally closer to cow's milk, consider soy milk. Drinking soy milk may also help reduce your cholesterol, blood pressure, and breast cancer risk.
The Bottom Line
All milk and milk alternative options offer various health advantages, such as reducing your cholesterol, boosting your antioxidant intake, or keeping you safe from an allergy or intolerance.
A good strategy may be to mix up the types of milk you drink. That way, you get the best of each of them, especially if you drink them alongside a healthy, whole foods diet.
Remember to check the labels for ingredients like added sugar or unwanted additives and avoid those with undesirable add-ins.
With the exception of soy milk, plant milk is quite a bit lower in protein and other nutrients than cow's milk. While that's not a significant concern for adults and older children, you should consult your pediatrician to check whether plant milk is appropriate for young children.
Reposted with permission from Healthline.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Heather Houser
Compost. Fly less. Reduce your meat consumption. Say no to plastic. These imperatives are familiar ones in the repertoire of individual actions to reduce a person's environmental impact. Don't have kids, or maybe just one. This climate action appears less frequently in that repertoire, but it's gaining currency as climate catastrophes mount. One study has shown that the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from having one fewer child in the United States is 20 times higher—yes 2000% greater—than the impact of lifestyle changes like those listed above.
The Stickiness of Population<p>Only five years ago, there was minimal coverage of the child-free for climate movement. AOC is just one of many reasons it's lighting up now. New scientific analyses, scholarly debates, and social media conversations have shined a light on reproduction and climate. The influential <a href="https://www.drawdown.org/" target="_blank">Project Drawdown</a> framework for climate mitigation includes a list of solutions ranked by their potential impact, two of which—educating girls and providing access to family planning—they project will have <a href="https://www.drawdown.org/solutions/table-of-solutions" target="_blank">a greater combined impact</a> on reducing greenhouse gas emissions than almost all other climate solutions because of their effect on fertility rates.</p><p>In January 2020, <a href="https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/70/1/8/5610806" target="_blank">11,000 scientists signed onto a study that warned</a> about the unfolding climate emergency. The authors prescribe steps in six sectors that can prevent irreversible planetary collapse, including that "the world population must be stabilized—and, ideally, gradually reduced—within a framework that ensures social integrity." The framework they propose includes universal access to family planning as well as education and equity for young women. (Other <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1410465111" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">scientific takes</a> on population-based climate actions are more skeptical about their immediate impact given the scale of fertility reductions needed to balance out longer lifespans.)</p><p>Even before 2020, a new movement was afoot to address climate by forgoing reproduction. Blythe Pepino, a British musician in her 30s, formed BirthStrike in 2018 to build a community of people—typically women-identified—who have opted not to reproduce in response to the ecological and social crises that climate change is creating. In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests this summer, the group recognized the need to acknowledge the oppression that colors conversations about reproduction as it relates to climate and so reformed itself into a support group for those grieving parenthood. Their new stated goal is to channel that loss into action on climate justice.</p><p>Organizations such as <a href="https://conceivablefuture.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Conceivable Future</a>, however, continue to keep reproduction at the fore. Led by climate activists Meghan Kallman and Josephine Ferorelli, Conceivable Future is raising awareness about how the climate crisis affects "<a href="https://conceivablefuture.org/about" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intimate choices</a>" like reproduction. The Conceivable Future and now-defunct BirthStrike campaigns share ideological terrain with "<a href="https://www.npr.org/2016/08/18/479349760/should-we-be-having-kids-in-the-age-of-climate-change" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">population engineers</a>," a group of bioethicists who <a href="https://doi.org/10.5840/soctheorpract201642430" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">forward policies for</a> limiting the size of the global population through positive incentives like family planning classes and negative ones such as taxes on wealthy procreators. </p><p>In proposing specific policies rather than individual action, population engineers acknowledge the structures within which reproductive choices occur, everything from media influence to the tax code. Even with this shift to the structural, however, the racist, sexist, colonialist, and nativist legacies of the population question within environmentalism still plague child-free for climate. As do the historical and social injustices that constrain so-called choices.</p>
Racism and Xenophobia in Environmentalism<p>This summer and fall, the climate crisis and its correlated catastrophes—<a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/heat-wave-western-united-states/" target="_blank">extreme heat</a>, <a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/07/14/a-third-of-bangladesh-underwater-after-heavy-rains-floods/" target="_blank">flooding</a>, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/wildfires" target="_blank">wildfires</a>—are intensifying alongside Black Lives Matter uprisings and the <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/health-happiness/2020/06/09/coronavirus-public-health-social-justice/" target="_blank">coronavirus health disparities</a> among Black, Indigenous, and Latinx populations. This confluence has brought overdue attention to racism in environmentalism, as evidenced by the Audubon Society's recent <a href="http://audubon.org/magazine/fall-2020/revealing-past-create-future" target="_blank">reckoning</a> with racial injustices in its past and present, including <a href="https://www.audubon.org/news/the-myth-john-james-audubon" target="_blank">publicizing</a> that its famed founder was a White supremacist and a slaveholder. The intersections of <a href="https://www.yesmagazine.org/opinion/2020/09/23/election-black-voters-climate/" target="_blank">climate justice and racial justice</a> have also come to the fore through <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/05/climate/heat-minority-school-performance.html" target="_blank">studies of how Black communities are greatly harmed by hotter temperatures</a> and through the popular <a href="https://www.intersectionalenvironmentalist.com/" target="_blank">intersectional environmentalist</a> platform created by Leah Thomas, a young Black activist and "<a href="https://www.greengirlleah.com/about-1" target="_blank">eco-communicator</a>." To these reckonings we need to add the racism and xenophobia that have long characterized environmentally motivated population controls.</p><p>The New York Times recently exposed these sins in <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/14/us/anti-immigration-cordelia-scaife-may.html/" target="_blank">a profile of Cordelia Scaife May</a>, showing how this heir to the Mellon fortune converted a love of birding into a network of anti-immigration, pro-population-control organizations that still influence politics today. In the 1960s May linked threatened birdlife to the rapidly expanding human population. May wasn't wrong to see and worry over this link: A host of human activities—from <a href="https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/popular-pesticides-linked-drops-bird-population-180951971/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">toxic agriculture and industry</a> to <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.0050157" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">sprawling settlements</a> and <a href="https://www.npr.org/2017/10/05/555949789/light-pollution-can-impact-noctural-bird-migration" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">light</a> and <a href="https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/blogs/birds-live-near-human-noise-sing-louder-shorter-songs" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">noise pollution</a>—decimate avian habitats and habits. May's anti-immigration approach, however, indicates how readily environmentalism can mutate into racist and xenophobic actions.</p><p>The Times investigators show that "protecting natural habitats and helping women prevent unplanned pregnancies merged over time into a single goal of preserving the environment by discouraging offspring altogether." Taken on its own, this goal resonates with Conceivable Future's and population engineers' aims. To be clear, this does not mean that today's child-free climate advocates are racist nativists. However, it does indicate how readily the affiliation arises because of the ugly history of forced population control.</p>
Contemporary Examples<p>And this history is hardly past. For example, race and class conflicts erupted around a population platform within the Sierra Club only 15 years ago. In 2004, a faction of club members took a page from May and argued that more people living in the U.S. meant more encroachment on less developed land and water. As with May's effort, this anti-immigration push amounted to "the greening of hate," according to the Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation League, who entered the dispute when they found White supremacists lobbying for anti-immigration Sierra Club board candidates. A 2010 <a href="https://www.splcenter.org/20100630/greenwash-nativists-environmentalism-and-hypocrisy-hate" target="_blank">SPLC report</a> firms up the connection between environmentalist intentions and racist agendas by explaining why White nationalist John Tanton infiltrated the club: "Using an organization perceived by the public as part of the liberal left would insulate nativists from charges of racism—charges that … would likely otherwise stick."</p><p>Charges of racism ultimately did stick to Tanton and his anti-immigration, pro-population-control allies. And they continue to stick in analyses of the child-free for climate movement today. Earlier this year, climate journalist Meehan Crist <a href="https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v42/n05/meehan-crist/is-it-ok-to-have-a-child" target="_blank">took up</a> AOC's question of whether it's OK to have a child. In arriving at an answer (for her, yes), she affiliates child-free positions with "anti-feminist, racist and anti-human" values and with bad science. "Darker visions" proceed from this analysis, she writes, visions of those who believe "racial purity will save the planet. Closed borders. . . . Ecofascist death squads." The dark visions Crist spins from the child-free for climate question underscore how readily calls for reproductive limits touch the third rails of modern environmentalism: racism, eugenics, xenophobia, even death-dealing.</p><p>We get even closer to these third rails when we consider that the question of whether to reproduce is, for some people, no choice at all. Modern efforts to limit fertility, which ramped up after World War II, have targeted poor women in the Global South, and Black, Indigenous, and people of color in the U.S. using coercion and force. BIPOC reproductive justice advocates such as Loretta Ross have condemned dichotomous pro-abortion-rights versus anti-abortion politics for producing "<a href="https://www.google.com/books/edition/Radical_Reproductive_Justice/hN-4DgAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=loretta%20ross%20radical%20reproductive&pg=PT8&printsec=frontcover&bsq=anemic" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">anemic political analyses</a>" that ignore the reality of forced sterilizations in prisons and the appallingly high maternal mortality rate for Black women in the U.S. These are all forms of what medical historian and ethicist Harriet Washington calls "<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8WCS1Rs8K8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">medical apartheid</a>."</p>
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By Sharon Guynup
At this time of year, in Russia's far north Laptev Sea, the sun hovers near the horizon during the day, generating little warmth, as the region heads towards months of polar night. By late September or early October, the sea's shallow waters should be a vast, frozen expanse.
Comparison of autumn sea ice formation for the first half of October 2012 (the record year for Arctic sea ice extent loss) and in 2020 (second place for sea ice extent loss). The satellite record goes back to 1979. @Icy_Samuel, data provided by NSIDC
Arctic sea ice extent on Oct. 25, 2020 was at a record low 5.613 million square kilometers for this date, surpassing the record set in 2019 of 6.174 million square kilometers. ChArctic NSIDC
The Arctic appears to be changing into an entirely new climate state due to rapid warming. The extent of sea ice in the late summer, when it reaches its minimum each year, has already entered a statistically different climate, with surface air temperatures and the number of days with rain instead of snow also beginning to transition. Simmi Sinha, ©UCAR
A polar bear prowls the Arctic shoreline. VisualHunt.com
A fire burning through northern forest in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, in July 2020. Greenpeace International
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By Peter A. Kloess
Picture Antarctica today and what comes to mind? Large ice floes bobbing in the Southern Ocean? Maybe a remote outpost populated with scientists from around the world? Or perhaps colonies of penguins puttering amid vast open tracts of snow?
Giants of the Sky<p>As their name suggests, these ancient birds had sharp, bony spikes protruding from sawlike jaws. Resembling teeth, these spikes would have helped them catch squid or fish. We also studied another remarkable feature of the pelagornithids – their imposing size.</p><p>The largest flying bird alive today is the <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/group/albatrosses/" target="_blank">wandering albatross</a>, which has a wingspan that reaches 11 ½ feet. The Antarctic pelagornithids fossils we studied have a wingspan nearly double that – about 21 feet across. If you tipped a two-story building on its side, that's about 20 feet.</p><p>Across Earth's history, very few groups of vertebrates have achieved powered flight – and only two reached truly giant sizes: birds and a group of <a href="https://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/pterosaurs-flight-in-the-age-of-dinosaurs/what-is-a-pterosaur" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reptiles called pterosaurs</a>.</p>
Full-size model of a Quetzalcoatlus on display at JuraPark in Baltow, Poland. Aneta Leszkiewicz / Wikimedia<p>Pterosaurs ruled the skies during the Mesozoic Era (252 million to 66 million years ago), the same period that dinosaurs roamed the planet, and they reached hard-to-believe dimensions. <a href="https://www.wired.com/2013/11/absurd-creature-of-the-week-quetz/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Quetzalcoatlus</a> stood 16 feet tall and had a colossal 33-foot wingspan.</p>
Birds Get Their Opportunity<p>Birds originated while dinosaurs and pterosaurs were still roaming the planet. But when an <a href="https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/dinosaur-killing-asteroid-impact-chicxulub-crater-timeline-destruction-180973075/" target="_blank">asteroid struck the Yucatan Peninsula 66 million years ago</a>, dinosaurs and pterosaurs both perished. Some <a href="https://www.audubon.org/news/how-birds-survived-asteroid-impact-wiped-out-dinosaurs" target="_blank">select birds survived</a>, though. These survivors diversified into the thousands of bird species alive today. Pelagornithids evolved in the period right after dinosaur and pterosaur extinction, when competition for food was lessened.</p><p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/spp2.1284" target="_blank">The earliest pelagornithid remains</a>, recovered from 62-million-year-old sediments in New Zealand, were about the size of modern gulls. The first giant pelagornithids, the ones in our study, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-75248-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">took flight over Antarctica about 10 million years later</a>, in a period called the Eocene Epoch (56 million to 33.9 million years ago). In addition to these specimens, fossilized remains from other pelagornithids have been found on every continent.</p><p>Pelagornithids lasted for about 60 million years before going extinct just before the Pleistocene Epoch (2.5 million to 11,700 years ago). No one knows exactly why, though, because few fossil records have been recovered from the period at the end of their reign. Some paleontologists cite <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/02724634.2011.562268" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">climate change as a possible factor</a>.</p>
Piecing it Together<p>The fossils we studied are fragments of whole bones collected by paleontologists from the University of California at Riverside in the 1980s. In 2003, the specimens were transferred to Berkeley, where they now reside in the <a href="https://ucmp.berkeley.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">University of California Museum of Paleontology</a>.</p><p>There isn't enough material from Antarctica to rebuild an entire skeleton, but by comparing the fossil fragments with similar elements from more complete individuals, we were able to assess their size.</p>
In life, the pelagornithid would have had numerous 'teeth,' making it a formidable predator. Peter Kloess, CC BY-NC-SA
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