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Top 10 People-Powered Moments of 2019

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Top 10 People-Powered Moments of 2019
350 .org / Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

By Nicole Leonard

To close out 2019, we wanted to do something special. It's not just the end of the year — it's the end of an incredible decade of climate activism and a transition to the next. The challenge ahead is enormous, but if this year has taught us anything, it's that more of us than ever before are ready to rise.


So enjoy the top 10 people-powered moments of 2019 from around the world. And for highlights from the last 10 years, be sure to checkout the 350.org 10-year timeline.

We'll be back in 2020 with more Fossil Free News updates from around the world. From everyone at 350.org, we wish you a healthy, happy new decade – with climate justice for all.

1. Brazilian States Ban Fracking

In a historic victory after years of campaigning, the state of Paraná in Brazil passed a law in July to permanently ban fracking – and Santa Catarina state followed weeks later. It means Latin America's largest shale reserves will go untapped, with 18 million people safe from the direct impacts of fracking. The wins energized a national debate to ban fracking across the whole country; municipal bans have already passed in hundreds of cities and towns across Brazil. Read more.

2. Divestment Milestone

In September, the amount investors committed to divest from oil, coal, and gas companies reached more than $11 trillion USD, blowing past the goal set last year of $10 trillion divested by the end of 2020. And since September, we've already hit $12 trillion! Follow the cities, companies, and institutions divesting with our divestment commitment tracker.

3. Promise to Protect

Indigenous leaders and allies held a March-May training tour for 1,160 people in nine U.S. cities. They were answering the call to stop the Keystone XL pipeline and protect water and ancestral lands. Construction continues to be debated and delayed – but people across the U.S. are prepared for creative resistance in case it resumes. Watch the wrap-up video from the tour.

4. Lamu, Saved

After years of resistance, in June a Kenya tribunal cancelled a developer's license to build a new coal plant at Lamu, a stunning coastal UNESCO world heritage site. It was a huge victory, made even sweeter by the fact that the court recognized the lack of public participation and risks to people and the environment. See the celebration.

5. Williams Pipeline Moratorium

Activists pushed New York's Governor to halt the Williams Northeast Supply Enhancement pipeline, which would bring fracked gas to New York City. The company has re-applied for construction permits, but people are demanding a permanent ban and a Green New Deal to make sure it never gets built. Watch the recap.

6. Afrika Vuka Launch

A new platform to unite grassroots campaigns across Africa is bringing together learnings and resources from groups working to halt fossil fuel infrastructure and promote a transition to renewable energy. Thanks to local campaigning, in April South Africa's Nedbank became the first African bank to stop project financing for coal, after they decided not to fund Thabametsi and Khanyisa coal plants.

7. Fossil Free EIB

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is the world's biggest international public bank and the €555 billion lending arm of the European Union. Thousands of people pressured the bank to axe fossil fuels from its lending policy, and last month it permanently ended support for most fossil fuel projects! Read more.

8. Asian Banks Dump Coal 

The world's fifth largest bank, Japan's MUFG, tightened its lending policy in May, when it announced an end to new project finance for coal power. Campaigners continue to target the Asian banks financing coal, especially in Japan. And we're chipping away: Singapore's big three banks also announced ending financing to new coal plants earlier this year.

9. Europe’s Gas Does Not Pass

Three iconic fights against gas won big victories in Europe this year. The MidCat pipeline between Spain and France, and Gothenburg terminal in Sweden were both cancelled, while fracking was banned in the UK. Read more.

10. Millions Strike for the Climate

September's climate strikes were groundbreaking, with 7.6 million people in 185 countries taking part. Together, we snatched front pages of news outlets around the globe and put the fossil fuel industry on notice, setting the tone for what's to come. Read more.

A Decade of Climate Action

Back in 2009, at the end of the last decade, the climate movement was small and scrappy. Together, we've grown into a diverse, powerful movement ready to take on the fossil fuel industry into the 2020s: a mission-critical decade for averting the worst of climate crisis.

Take a look at 350.org's path through the past decade and the people-powered wins we've celebrated along the way.

That's all for now. See you in the new year!

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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