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By Fiona Nicholls
Good news! Plastics bans across the world have been hitting the headlines lately.
From the U.S. to India to Morocco, governing bodies are taking control of the plastic pollution problem, bringing in either complete bans on plastic or bans on specific forms like polystyrene.
1. Karnataka, India
In March this year, the Indian state of Karnataka completely banned the use of plastic across the state. No wholesale dealer, retailer or trader can now use or sell plastic carrier bags, plastic plates, plastic cups, plastic spoons, cling film or anything of the sort. Since the ban came into effect four months ago 39,000kg of illegal plastic has been seized from Bengalaru, the state capital.
They even made sure to ban microbeads while they were at it! Go Karnataka!
2. The U.S. (Okay, So There's a Few Places in the U.S.)
Back in 2007, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to ban plastic shopping bags and in 2014, the city banned plastic water bottles on city properties. Last month, San Francisco joined Los Angeles and Portland and enforced a ban on styrofoam. Styrofoam is the material used for packaging peanuts, the contents of beans bags (do people still have bean bags?). It's expanded polystyrene, also known as thermocol.
Polystyrene is a problem plastic because it's very difficult to recycle. In the U.S., it's largely used for packaging eggs, meats and fruit and so a ban on this particular form of plastic will have a larger impact that you may first think.
In July 2015, Honolulu, Hawaii introduced a ban on single use plastic bags (with small exceptions, e.g. for medical use). The bill was passed by County Councils, rather than by the state legislature, which was a real victory for the local grassroots organizations. People power!
3. Coles Bay, Tasmania
Leading the way back in 2003, Coles Bay, Tasmania was the first town in Australia to ban disposable plastic bags. During the first year of the ban 350,000 fewer plastic bags were used in the area.
In 2011, Ethiopia passed a ban preventing the manufacture and import of disposable (aka single use) plastic shopping bags. This ban was in conjunction with a decision to develop wind power and geothermal energy projects, as part of Ethiopia's Green Growth Strategy.
Last month, France brought in a ban on single-use plastic bags ('less than 10L capacity' and with a thickness of less than 50 microns, you know ... microns!), like the ones handed out by major supermarkets globally. This is part of a wider EU crackdown on plastic use, acknowledging that plastic has a major impact on the environment and must be addressed.
Morocco is (or was) the world's second largest consumer of plastic bags after the U.S.. Their ban is pretty comprehensive, it includes a stop on the production, import, sale and distribution of plastic bags, prompting a major rush on plastic bag stockpiling just before coming into effect. The resistance to the ban shows just how ingrained plastic and plastic bags are in our day-to-day habits and highlights the importance of a ban. Go Morocco!
These are just a few of the main plastics bans in place across the world, which is great, so why is it important? Plastic in the oceans is a real problem, already, huge gyres swirl with polluting plastic. And we've seen the dire consequences of marine life mistaking plastics for food. Greenpeace is campaigning hard to end plastic pollution in our oceans. Add your name to the Plastics Pledge to help cut plastic pollution!
Fiona Nicholls is an oceans campaigner with Greenpeace UK.
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Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.
Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.
Monocrop palm oil plantation Honduras.
SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0
"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.
It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.
Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.
In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.
The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).
"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.
The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.
"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.
Ivory Coast's rainforests have been decimated by cocoa production and what is left is put in peril by a new law that will remove legal protections for thousands of square miles of forests, according to The Guardian.
By Karin Kirk
Greenland had quite the summer. It rose from peaceful obscurity to global headliner as ice melted so swiftly and massively that many were left grasping for adjectives. Then, Greenland's profile was further boosted, albeit not to its delight, when President Trump expressed interest in buying it, only to be summarily dismissed by the Danish prime minister.
During that time I happened to be in East Greenland, both as an observer of the stark effects of climate change and as a witness to local dialogue about presidential real estate aspirations, polar bear migrations and Greenland's sudden emergence as a trending topic.
Heavy metals that may damage a developing brain are present in 95 percent of baby foods on the market. Cirou Frederic / PhotoAlto Agency RF Collections / Getty Images
Heavy metals that may damage a developing brain are present in 95 percent of baby foods on the market, according to new research from the advocacy organization Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF), which bills itself as an alliance of scientists, nonprofit organizations and donors trying to reduce exposures to neurotoxic chemicals during the first three years of development.
By Kerstin Palme
Creepy-crawlies are among the oldest life forms on this planet. Before dinosaurs ever walked the earth, insects were certainly already there. Some estimates date their origins to 400 million years ago. They're also extremely successful. Of the 7 to 8 million species documented on Earth, around three quarters are likely bugs.
But several insect species could disappear for good in the next few decades and that would have serious consequences for humans.
Volvo introduced its first-ever all-electric vehicle this week, kicking off an ambitious plan to slash emissions and phase out solely gas-powered vehicles starting this year.
The report, released Wednesday, found that almost every European who lives in a city is exposed to unhealthy air, Reuters reported.