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Enter New Competition to Solve the Plastics Crisis and (Bonus) Win $500K
2018 was a major year for raising awareness about the buildup of plastics in the world's oceans. But it also ended with one of the most high-profile attempts to solve the problem—Boyan Slat's Ocean Cleanup system—returning to port for repairs before managing to clean up any plastic.
Now, National Geographic and Sky Ocean Ventures are teaming up to make 2019 an important year for resolving the crisis. On Monday, the two organizations launched the Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge, a competition that will award up to $500,000 in prize money and potentially at least $1 million in investments to teams that can develop solutions to the plastic crisis.
"We hope we can inspire people of diverse backgrounds to utilize their own resources, to try to really solve the problems they see and reach their own goals," Sky Ocean Ventures head Fred Michel told National Geographic. "And maybe—we hope—they'll come up with something amazing, something transformational."
Participants will be invited to compete in three categories:
- Design Track: The Design Track asks competitors to improve food and beverage packaging so that it does not rely so heavily on single-use plastic. A panel of judges will select 10 finalists, who will win $5,000 each. They will then compete for a first price of $100,000 and two second prices of $45,000.
- Circular Economy Track: The Circular Economy Track invites participants to innovate business practices that value reuse of materials over reliance on single-use items. The prizes and process will be structured the same as for the Design Track.
- Data Visualization Track: The Data Visualization Track asks teams or individuals to develop engaging ways to visually raise awareness and spark action on the plastic pollution crisis. Submissions must work from a relevant and accurate data set. Judges will select four finalists, and the winner will earn $10,000 and the potential to have their visualization published digitally by National Geographic.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology prices and incentives expert Fiona Murray spoke of the importance of prizes in sparking innovation.
"It's like a really big flashing beacon, or a balloon, saying—hey! Look over here! Here's what we care about. Now go out and solve it," Murray told National Geographic.
The plastic pollution crisis is clearly in need of solving. More than nine million tons of plastic enter the world's oceans each year, and that number could reach 17 million by 2025 if nothing is done, the challenge website said.
If you want to participate, the timeline is as follows:
- Feb. 11, 2019: Registration Opens
- June 11, 2019: Submissions Due
- Week of July 8, 2019: Finalists Picked
- Week of Nov. 11, 2019: Finalists' Submissions Due
- Week of Dec. 9, 2019: Finalists Present Ideas to a Panel of Experts and Winners Chosen
- Plastics: The History of an Ecological Crisis - EcoWatch ›
- Sky and National Geographic Work Together to Fight Ocean Plastic ›
- More Plastic, More Problems: How Innovation is Taking on an ... ›
- Innovation Prize to help Plastic Crisis >> Scuttlebutt Sailing News ›
- New investment for businesses to tackle ocean plastics crisis - GOV ... ›
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Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.