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World Mayors Call for Car-Free Streets, End to Fossil Fuel Subsidies as Part of ‘Green and Just Recovery’

Politics
World Mayors Call for Car-Free Streets, End to Fossil Fuel Subsidies as Part of ‘Green and Just Recovery’
Cyclists ride through an intersection in downtown Brooklyn on July 30, 2019 in New York City. Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Mayors from some of the world's major cities have unveiled their vision for how the world can recover from the coronavirus pandemic while encouraging environmental justice and fighting the climate crisis.


The C40 Mayors' Agenda for a Green and Just Recovery, announced Wednesday, includes measures already being adopted in many cities to recover from the pandemic in a way that addresses inequalities and keeps global heating to the Paris agreement goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. As part of their vision, the mayors are calling on national governments to end all subsidies for the fossil fuel industry.

"Nations must seize this moment to decisively move away from investments in high carbon and fossil fuel intensive industries and increase investments in a low carbon future," the mayors wrote, according to a press release emailed to EcoWatch.

C40 Cities are a group of 96 world cities representing more than 700 million of the world's people and a quarter of the world's economy. In April, they formed the Global Mayors COVID-19 Recovery Task Force to craft a way to respond to the pandemic without abandoning their climate goals, Grist reported, and Wednesday's proposal is the result.

"Right at the outset of the pandemic, C40 Mayors felt the need to collaborate even more closely, to be able to rapidly learn from each other and take the most appropriate decisions to tackle the COVID-19 challenge," task force chair and mayor of Milan, Italy Giuseppe Sala said in the press release. "A visionary Mayoral Task Force was created to elaborate on a pathway towards a new, better normal, to the benefit of all cities of the world."

The mayors' agenda is divided roughly into two parts: what cities can do on their own, and what they are calling on national and international institutions to help them achieve. On the city level, the mayors called for green jobs, support for essential workers, investments in public services and the creation of greener, more livable cities.

Part of this vision means a shift away from cars and towards public transportation, walking and cycling, Grist pointed out. The plan includes calls to "give streets back to people" by devoting more roadspace to pedestrian or bike paths. It also promotes the idea of a 15-minute city, in which residents can find everything they need within a short walk or bike-ride of their home.

These changes are already being implemented in some cities, Thomson Reuters Foundation reported. Seattle, for example, has permanently banned cars from 20 miles of city streets. Montreal has created 185 miles of new bike and walking paths in two months. Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, is working on building a network of electric cable cars.

Cities are also investing in green jobs and green energy. Los Angeles has supported the installation of solar panels on the homes of almost 2,000 low-income families and hired 200 recently incarcerated people to do it. Cape Town, South Africa is training and paying people from low-income communities to retrofit houses.

"Once again, it is city mayors who are showing us the way forward in confronting the COVID-19 public health crisis, reducing inequality and addressing the climate crisis. City mayors understand that we must take action that protects people's lives and livelihoods now and in the future by recovering better and building a more resilient and sustainable economy," UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in support. "Cities are agents and engines of change and they can deliver solutions that will reduce carbon emissions to get to carbon neutrality by 2050 while creating better and more sustainable jobs."

But the mayors also acknowledged that they could not achieve this vision alone. They called on national and international governments and institutions to support them by adapting six commitments. In addition to ending fossil fuel subsidies, the other commitments are:

  1. Ensuring all recovery plans are green
  2. Ensuring all recovery plans prioritize equality and inclusivity
  3. Supporting public transportation
  4. Supporting clean energy
  5. Investing in cities to help with the recovery

The plan also has the support of youth climate activists like University of California, Los Angeles undergraduate Briana Carbajal.

"COVID-19 made us face ourselves at our worst. We began questioning everything we know about how we exist on this planet. Out of this tragedy, I am hopeful that it has provided us with a grim enough reflection on the ways we have failed each other, and our home, so that we may move forward to remedy ourselves of racial injustice, environmental degradation, and willful ignorance," she said in the press release. "The Green and Just Recovery is a necessity on the path to healing. A path I am grateful my generation is leading."

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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