Worrisome environmental headlines have become all too common. Carbon offset programs provide a real opportunity to be part of the climate change solution. And, in 2021, there are a number of impactful carbon offset programs to choose from. The question is, which one allows you to make the biggest difference? Our review will provide an overview of carbon offset programs and recommend the best ones to help reduce and counterbalance your greenhouse gas emissions.
Our Picks for the Best Carbon Offset Programs
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Best Online Calculator - NativeEnergy
- Best for Travel and Tourism - Sustainable Travel International
- Most Transparent - myclimate
- Easiest to Use - TerraPass
- Best for Certified Projects - Clear
- Best for Air Travel - atmosfair
- Best for Businesses - 3Degrees
What is a Carbon Offset?
First thing's first: what is a carbon offset program?
Consider it this way: Every day, you are engaged in activities that leave an environmental footprint behind. Specifically, you're adding to the world's carbon dioxide pollution every time you drive your car, purchase goods from a major manufacturer, and so forth.
When you purchase a membership in a carbon offset program, also offered as carbon credits, you invest in clean energy and carbon reduction efforts elsewhere in the world. The goal is basically for this environmental activity to offset your own carbon footprint. The ultimate objective is to become as close to carbon neutral as possible.
Both individuals and corporations can invest in carbon offset programs. While there are a number of options to choose from, many of them involve investment in eco-friendly initiatives in developing countries. The idea is to create an infrastructure that will allow these companies to work towards sustainability and emissions reductions well into the future, while effectively canceling out their carbon emissions in the meantime.
Historically, carbon offset programs have been fairly simple. For example, in some programs, your investment essentially goes to planting trees in reforestation efforts. More advanced carbon offset programs, however, allow you to help fund the development of important sustainability technologies, like efficient cookstoves in developing countries or methane capture at landfills.
How We Chose the Best Climate Offset Programs
Mischa Keijser / Getty Images
While there is much that is admirable about investing in these carbon offset programs, consumers may naturally have some questions about which of these programs actually do the most good.
There are concerns among some activists that carbon offset programs allow certain countries or industries to pay to appear eco-friendly while avoiding actual efforts to reduce the amount of of carbon they produce. When used properly, however, carbon offsets can be a legitimate tool to help encourage sustainable development and reduce the use of fossil fuels.
We vetted a number of climate offset programs to find options making the biggest impact in our world. A number of factors have gone into our choices.
First, we looked for carbon offset programs that came with the endorsement of prestigious environmental stewardship groups. These organizations thoroughly vet all carbon offset projects for transparency, impact, and additionality. The carbon offset programs on our list are endorsed by prominent third-party organizations, including:
- The Gold Standard
- Climate Action Reserve
- American Carbon Registry
- Verified Carbon Standard
- Plan Vivo
- Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance
- Clean Development Mechanism
Additionally, we have been intentional about choosing programs that represent many different types of projects. And, we have considered factors such as the presence of easy-to-use online calculators; the convenience of making a transaction; and the total number of options that each carbon offset program presents.
The 7 Best Carbon Offset Programs
NativeEnergy does a lot of pioneering work to reduce carbon emissions, promote biodiversity in ecosystems, and invest in regenerative agriculture across the world. We like them because they make it easy to get involved, either as an individual or as a corporation, via an intuitive online carbon calculator and a range of investment options. We'll also note that they have been around for more than 20 years, and in that time have taken on some high-level corporate partners, including Ben & Jerry's.
Learn more about NativeEnergy by checking out their website.
This organization made our list because their underlying premise makes so much sense: One of the best ways to support sustainability developments in ecologically vulnerable areas is to invest in their travel and tourism industries in local communities. Sustainable Travel International works with premier destinations, helping them develop their tourist trades while also enacting important environmental protections.
At their website, you can find a ton of information about the work Sustainable Travel International has done to minimize pollution and reduce carbon emissions. And of course, you can purchase carbon offsets to help subsidize their work.
There's a lot to appreciate about myclimate, but above all, we love this organization because of how easy they make it to purchase carbon offsets. When you go to their website, you will immediately see their carbon offset calculator, which will allow you to input information about recent travel (including flights and cruises), household activities, and more. Using this data, myclimate will provide you with an estimate of your total carbon footprint and show you some ways to invest in meaningful offsets.
If you truly want to offset your day-to-day carbon footprint in a calculated and precise way, head to myclimate and get going.
TerraPass is one of the leading names in carbon offsets, and it's not hard to see why. When you visit their website, you will find ways to get involved as an individual, as a small or mid-sized business, and even as a large enterprise. Not only do they provide a great carbon calculator, but they also have a lot of valuable information about embracing sustainability, both within your household and your business. Your investment with TerraPass can help fund energy efficiency through wind power, sustainable farming, and a range of other environmental projects.
You can explore some of the options by checking out the TerraPass website.
Clear is extremely well-regarded. Since 2005, this organization has developed a reputation for only supporting the highest quality projects, including sustainability measures that attain such standards as Certified Emission Reduction (CER) certification and Gold Standard VERs. This is actually the only organization where you can be sure that all carbon offsets are certified by the Quality Assurance Standard for Carbon Offsetting. Additional reasons to choose Clear include ultra-precise carbon offset calculators, fair and affordable pricing, and a range of opportunities for both individuals and businesses.
You can visit the Clear website to learn more about purchasing carbon offsets from them.
atmosfair is a non-profit organization based in Germany. The organization's stated goals are to offset carbon emissions, promote sustainable travel, and ultimately play a role in long-term energy transitions across the planet. They currently have projects in more than a dozen countries, and they rely entirely on carbon offsets purchased by individuals and by companies.
Their big emphasis is on offsetting the environmental impact of air travel, so if that's something that you're passionate about, we'd recommend taking a look at the atmosfair website.
Finally, we're really enthusiastic about all the good work being done by 3Degrees. This organization works with corporations across the world, helping them implement renewable energy sources, decarbonize their transportation, and more. Of course, they also have some options for you to support their work by purchasing carbon offsets. You can find out a lot more about what they do by visiting their website; they have a lot of detailed information about their different projects, including case studies.
Visit the 3Degrees site to find out more.
How to Find a Carbon Offset Program
Nick Brundle Photography / Getty Images
Clearly, there are plenty of ways to support green initiatives, and to counterbalance some of your own carbon emissions. As you seek to find the best carbon offset program for you, the primary factor to keep in mind is transparency. You want to make sure that the dollars you're donating actually go to high-quality projects that make a real-world difference in the amount of carbon produced each year.
That's one of the main reasons why we emphasize the importance of third-party verification. We mentioned a number of independent organizations above that do a lot of important work auditing and accrediting carbon offset programs. Their validation can give you confidence in selecting a carbon offset project to support.
The Benefits and Limits of Carbon Offset Programs
Before investing, it's worth pausing to consider just how much good a carbon offset program can do, and where these projects sometimes come up short.
To start with, here are some benefits to carbon offsetting:
- Carbon offset projects allow you to neutralize any negative impact you make on the environment, specifically in terms of the metric tons of carbon emissions, or CO2e, that contribute to global warming.
- Investments in developing nations can also help provide wages and other benefits to those who need them, while also preventing deforestation and supporting critical forestry projects.
- By backing carbon offset projects, you can incentivize companies to spend more money on sustainability and clean energy measures.
- Carbon offsets also help expedite the development of eco-friendly technology.
As for the potential limitations of carbon offset projects, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- The effectiveness of carbon offsetting can fluctuate from one industry to the next.
- Sometimes, carbon offsetting can make it easy to excuse large or irresponsible carbon emissions.
- Without due diligence, it's all too easy to inadvertently back an unscrupulous or non-transparent carbon offset project.
Choose the Right Carbon Offset Program for You
The bottom line is that carbon offsetting, while imperfect, can nevertheless make a positive impact, especially if you choose your carbon offset program wisely. Purchasing carbon offsets shouldn't take the place of reducing your own carbon footprint, but they can make an impact.
Start your research with some of the options here and remember to augment your carbon offsets with other lifestyle changes at work or at home.
Josh Hurst is a journalist, critic, and essayist. He lives in Knoxville, TN, with his wife and three sons. He covers natural health, nutrition, supplements, and clean energy. His writing has appeared in Health, Shape, and Remedy Review.
Australia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. It is home to more than 7% of all the world's plant and animal species, many of which are endemic. One such species, the Pharohylaeus lactiferus bee, was recently rediscovered after spending nearly 100 years out of sight from humans.
James B. Dorey, a Ph.D. student at Flinders University, was sampling more than 225 general and 20 targeted sites for research on native bee populations when he identified P. lactiferus among the specimens. Dorey took samples from areas around Queensland and New South Wales, two areas that have seen an increased loss of biodiversity in the past decades. Dorey recently published his findings in the Journal of Hymenoptera Research.
Prior to the study, the last publication on the bee species was recorded in 1923 in Queensland, with very little information on the bee's biology. However, the study in the Journal of Hymenoptera Research indicates that this bee is in need of special attention. Dorey asserts that the species "requires conservation assessment," due to its increasing loss of habitat.
Deforestation seems to be at the top of the list of concerns for P. lactiferus and neighboring species. WWF predicts that between 2015 and 2030, a mere 11 deforestation areas will account for more than 80% of global deforestation. Australia, specifically Queensland and New South Wales where P. laciferus resides, is in those top 11 regions. An alarming 80% of deforestation in Australia happens in the Queensland region, which threatens not only the endemic bee species but other iconic Australian species such as the koala.
However, Dorey cited bushfires as an equally dangerous threat to P. laciferus and other native bee species. Their dependence on the bushland for shelter and food nectar, coupled with habitat fragmentation from deforestation, has made the increasing intensity of Australian bushfires harder to survive. Dorey stated that "GIS analyses... indicate susceptibility of Queensland rainforests and P. lactiferus populations to bushfires, particularly in the context of a fragmented landscape."
Dorey also noted that the 2019 and 2020 bushfire seasons "burnt a greater area than in any year prior," for the habitats in which P. laciferus resides. However, the devastating bushfires of 2019 and 2020 are not only affecting the bees in Queensland, but are also potentially fueling the extinction crisis throughout Australia. University of Sydney ecologist, Chris Dickman, told Huffington Post that an estimated 1 billion species were affected during the wildfires. Compounding research on climate change indicates that the wildfire crisis is global, and P. laciferus might be next on the list of species affected.However, there is hope for this rare bee and the other species facing real threats from the world's extinction crisis. Dorey's work in ecology research, as well as wildlife photography, is helping to fuel wildlife preservation in Australia and beyond. To see more of his work with native Australian bees, click here
Savannah Hasty is an environmental writer with more than six years of experience and has written thousands of articles for clients around the world. Her work focuses on environmental news, lifestyle content, and copywriting for sustainable brands. Savannah lives on the sunny coast of Florida and is inspired by this to play an active role in the preservation of the state's marine life and natural ecosystems.
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Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
The study, published in Frontiers in Forests and Global Change on Thursday, is the first to consider emissions other than carbon dioxide, such as methane from floods and cattle, and black carbon from forest-clearing fires.
"Cutting the forest is interfering with its carbon uptake; that's a problem," Kristofer Covey, lead author and Skidmore environmental studies professor, told National Geographic. "But when you start to look at these other factors alongside CO2, it gets really hard to see how the net effect isn't that the Amazon as a whole is really warming global climate."
The Amazon rainforest has long been touted as a carbon sink and natural ally in the fight against the climate crisis. However, recent studies have warned that humanity may lose the rainforest's help with continued deforestation. A study published in January found that forests worldwide still absorb 7.6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, but rainforests in Southeast Asia have now become net emitters of carbon dioxide because of land use changes, EcoWatch reported at the time.
The Brazilian Amazon was also a net emitter of carbon dioxide between 2001 and 2019, the study authors found, even though the Amazon as a whole remained a carbon sink. However, a 2020 study warned that could change in the next 15 years.
All of these studies were limited because they focused exclusively on carbon dioxide emissions.
"As important as carbon is in the Amazon, it's not the only thing that's going on," Tom Lovejoy, study coauthor and senior fellow in biodiversity with the United Nations Foundation, told National Geographic. "The only surprise, if you can call it that, is how much more there is when you add it all up."
To address this gap, more than 30 scientists teamed up to analyze the existing data of "more." They found that it included emissions from the following sources:
- Black carbon: This is released from fires, such as the 2019 Amazon blazes that destroyed an area roughly the size of New Jersey. Soot particles from black carbon absorb sunlight and increase warming.
- Nitrous Oxide: This is naturally produced by forests, but gas emissions increase when wetlands dry and logging compacts the soil.
- Methane: This is also released naturally by rainforests from microbes in wet soil, which gets filtered into the atmosphere by trees. In the past, the Amazon's carbon storage abilities counteracted its methane emissions. Human activity is now limiting the forest's ability to store carbon as increased flooding, dam building and cattle grazing also release methane.
"We're taking away all the ability for the Amazon to absorb carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere while also causing it to release other greenhouse gases," CNN Meteorologist Tyler Mauldin explained.
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In October 2020, two men living in Indonesia's South Kalimantan province on Borneo managed to catch a bird that they had never seen before. They photographed and released it, then sent the pictures to birdwatching organizations in the area for identification.
📢 Missing for 170 years, BLACK-BROWED BABBLER has been rediscovered in South Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo! Until now, a taxidermy specimen was only proof of this species existence. #ThursdayThought #Mega 🤩💚💎— Oriental Bird Club (@orientbirdclub) February 25, 2021
📷: Muhammad Rizky Fauzan pic.twitter.com/R0p75EN6EZ
To the men's surprise, the bird wasn't just new to them. Ornithologists identified it as the black-browed babbler (Malacocincla perspicillata), a bird last documented around 170 years ago. It is so rare that the data on the only collected specimen lists it as "presumed extinct."
"It feels surreal to know that we have found a species of bird presumed by experts to be extinct," Muhammad Rizky Fauzan, who found the bird along with Muhammad Suranto, told The Guardian. "We didn't expect it to be that special at all — we thought it was just another bird that we simply have never seen before."
Ornithologist Panji Gusti Akbar was equally surprised when he saw Fauzan and Suranto's picture of the bird on WhatsApp, Mongabay reported.
"I contacted as many leading ornithologists as possible, and they all agreed that there is no other bird that [it] looks [like] other than a black-browed babbler," Akbar told Mongabay. "It just blew my mind."
The black-browed babbler was first captured on an expedition to the East Indies in the 1840s, according to The Guardian. Charles Lucien Bonaparte, Napoleon's nephew, named and described it. German naturalist Carl A.L.M. Schwaner collected the only known specimen, now located at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands, Mongabay reported.
Lead author Akbar detailed the new find in a paper published in BirdingAsia on Thursday. The report noted that this is the longest an Asian bird has been lost to science. The authors also detailed the rediscovered bird's physical characteristics and the differences between the one in the recent photograph and the taxidermied specimen.
"The facial appearance of the bird was very distinct, with the crown being chestnut brown, demarcated by a broad, black eye-stripe extending across the malars (cheekbone) to the nape and necksides," the report authors wrote.
There are three major differences between the live and stuffed specimens. The former has maroon irises instead of yellow; its legs are slate gray instead of brown; and its bill is a different color.
"These three parts of a bird's body are known to lose their tint and are often artificially colored during the taxidermy process," Akbar told The Guardian.
The researchers do not have enough information to determine the conservation status of the rediscovered species, but they hope to do further study. However, The Guardian noted massive deforestation in lowland Borneo, and Akbar believes habitat loss poses a threat. The bird's reemergence is another argument for preserving Borneo's unique rainforest.
"It's sobering to think that when the black-browed babbler was last seen, Charles Darwin's Origin of Species hadn't even been published and the now extinct passenger pigeon was still among the world's commonest birds," Ding Li Yong of BirdLife International and study coauthor said in a press release. "Who knows what other riches lie deep within Borneo's fabled rainforests, especially in the Indonesian part of the island?"
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By Beverly Law and William Moomaw
Protecting forests is an essential strategy in the fight against climate change that has not received the attention it deserves. Trees capture and store massive amounts of carbon. And unlike some strategies for cooling the climate, they don't require costly and complicated technology.
Yet although tree-planting initiatives are popular, protecting and restoring existing forests rarely attracts the same level of support. As an example, forest protection was notably missing from the $447 million Energy Act of 2020, which the U.S. Congress passed in December 2020 to jump-start technological carbon capture and storage.
In our work as forest carbon cycle and climate change scientists, we track carbon emissions from forests to wood products and all the way to landfills – and from forest fires. Our research shows that protecting carbon in forests is essential for meeting global climate goals.
Ironically, we see the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve as a model. This program, which was created after the 1973 oil crisis to guard against future supply disruptions, stores nearly 800 million gallons of oil in huge underground salt caverns along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. We propose creating strategic forest carbon reserves to store carbon as a way of stabilizing the climate, much as the Strategic Petroleum Reserve helps to stabilize oil markets.
The U.S. has more than 800 million acres of natural and planted forests and woodlands, of which nearly 60% are privately owned. USDA / USFS
Carbon Stockpiles That Grow
Forests pull about one-third of all human-caused carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere each year. Researchers have calculated that ending deforestation and allowing mature forests to keep growing could enable forests to take up twice as much carbon.
Half of a tree's stems, branches and roots are composed of carbon. Live and dead trees, along with forest soil, hold the equivalent of 80% of all the carbon currently in Earth's atmosphere.
Trees accumulate carbon over extremely long periods of time. For example, redwoods, Douglas firs and western red cedars in the coastal forests of the Pacific Northwest can live for 800 years or more. When they die and decompose, much of that carbon ends up in soil, where it is stored for centuries or millennia.
Mature trees that have reached full root, bark and canopy development deal with climate variability better than young trees. Older trees also store more carbon. Old-growth trees, which usually are hundreds of years old, store enormous quantities of carbon in their wood, and accumulate more carbon annually.
There are many fallacies about forest carbon storage, such as the concern that wildfires in the American West are releasing huge quantities of carbon into the atmosphere. In fact, fires are a relatively small carbon source. For example, the massive Biscuit Fire, which burned 772 square miles in southwest Oregon in 2002, emitted less than 10% of Oregon's total emissions that year.
Another false claim is that it's OK from a climate perspective to cut trees and turn them into furniture, plywood and other items because wood products can store substantial amounts of carbon. These assertions fail to count cradle-to-grave emissions from logging and manufacturing, which can be substantial.
The wood products industry releases carbon in many ways, from manufacturing products and burning mill waste to the breakdown of short-lived items like paper towels. It takes decades to centuries for newly planted forests to accumulate the carbon storage levels of mature and old forests, and many planted forests are repeatedly harvested.
In a review that we conducted with colleagues in 2019, we found that overall, U.S. state and federal reporting underestimated wood product-related carbon dioxide emissions by 25% to 55%. We analyzed Oregon carbon emissions from wood that had been harvested over the past century and discovered that 65% of the original carbon returned to the atmosphere as CO2. Landfills retained 16%, while just 19% remained in wood products.
In contrast, protecting high carbon-density western U.S. forests that have low vulnerability to mortality from drought or fire would sequester the equivalent of about six years of fossil fuel emissions from the entire western U.S., from the Rocky Mountain states to the Pacific coast.
Focus on Big Trees
In a recently published analysis of carbon storage in six national forests in Oregon, we showed why a strategic forest carbon reserve program should focus on mature and old forests. Big trees, with trunks more than 21 inches in diameter, make up just 3% of these forests but store 42% of the above-ground carbon. Globally, a 2018 study found that the largest-diameter 1% of trees hold half of all the carbon stored in the world's forests.
Findings like these are spurring interest in the idea of proforestation – keeping existing forests intact and letting them grow to their full potential. Advocates see proforestation as an effective, immediate and low-cost strategy to store carbon. Older forests are more resilient to climate change than young tree plantations, which are more susceptible to drought and severe wildfires. Like the 2,000-year-old redwoods in California that have survived recent wildfires, many tree species in old forests have lived through past climate extremes.
Creating forest carbon reserves would also conserve critical habitat for many types of wildlife that are threatened by human activities. Connecting these reserves to other parks and refuges could help species that need to migrate in response to climate change.
Using Forests to Meet Climate Goals
More than half of U.S. forested lands are privately owned, so strategic forest carbon reserves should be established on both public and private lands. The challenge is paying for them, which will require a major shift in government and societal priorities. We believe that transferring public investment in oil and gas subsidies to pay private land owners to keep their forests growing could act as a powerful incentive for private land owners.
Many researchers and conservation advocates have called for comprehensive actions to slow climate change and reduce species losses. One prominent example is the 30x30 initiative, which seeks to conserve 30% of the world's land and oceans by 2030. In an executive order on Jan. 27, 2021, President Biden directed his administration to develop plans for conserving at least 30% of federally controlled lands and waters by 2030.
Recent projections show that to prevent the worst impacts of climate change, governments will have to increase their pledges to reduce carbon emissions by as much as 80%. We see the next 10 to 20 years as a critical window for climate action, and believe that permanent protection for mature and old forests is the greatest opportunity for near-term climate benefits.
Beverly Law is professor emeritus of global change biology and terrestrial systems science at Oregon State University.
William Moomaw is professor emeritus of international environmental policy at Tufts University.
Disclosure statements: Beverly Law receives funding from U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation. She is a Fellow of the Earth Leadership Program. William Moomaw receives funding from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. He is affiliated with the Woodwell Climate Research Center, the Climate Group – North America, the Earthwatch Institute and the Nature Conservancy.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
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To save the planet, we must save the Amazon rainforest. To save the rainforest, we must save its indigenous peoples. And to do that, we must demarcate their land.
The Amazon rainforest and the indigenous tribes that call it home are in danger. The newest scientific reports predict the world's largest rainforest will collapse by 2064, causing dangerous water shortages, catastrophic biodiversity loss and much more. As the ecosystem degrades, it will also lose its ability to store carbon, changing from a carbon sink for the planet into a carbon source. A 2020 study estimated that the Amazon is already on the brink of turning into a net carbon emitter. Going past that threshold would throw the climate crisis into full swing.
Princess Esmeralda of Belgium, president of the Leopold III Fund for Nature Exploration and Conservation and one of the co-hosts of the 3-hour special, lamented the bleak outlook.
"The current state of the Amazon rainforest is dire," she told EcoWatch. "During 2019 and 2020, deforestation continued at a frightening pace and scale. Last year, it increased by 30 percent from what was already a record-breaking year in 2019."
The conservation journalist also pointed out how deforestation, invasion of indigenous lands and mining in the rainforest have skyrocketed under Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a known pro-development, anti-Amazon, anti-indigenous candidate. Bolsonaro was elected with the support of the "so-called BBB (beef, bullets and bible)," a very powerful lobby composed of militaries, Christian evangelists and meat producers, Princess Esmeralda said. She estimated that almost 20 percent of the Amazon had been lost in the last half-century.
Unfortunately, attempts to stop the destruction have fallen short.
According to Rob Harding, executive producer of Protecting the Amazon, "The international community's attempts to nurture a healthier Amazon have thus far failed... The urgency of this situation is clear."
Citing his motivations behind pitching the special project, Harding added, "There's no time like the present to help raise awareness and inspire meaningful action by instilling a sense of global collective responsibility. We believe that Protecting the Amazon will do all of the above."
The film event, a rare collaboration and amplification of indigenous voices and their allies, brings together some of the world's biggest players in conservation – including Jane Goodall, legendary indigenous rights advocates Chief Raoni Metuktire and Chief Ninawa Huni-Kui and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society founder Paul Watson – on the same virtual stage to highlight our collective responsibility to the rainforest.
All make the case for demarcating indigenous lands in the Amazon as an effective forestalling against the catastrophes forecasted above. Demarcation is the constitutionally-mandated federal process wherein indigenous territories are identified and studied to determine and mark off boundaries, explained Gert-Peter Bruch, co-host of the special and co-founder of the Alliance of Mother Nature's Guardians.
Satellite views of the rainforest make clear that where there are federally-recognized, demarcated and protected indigenous territories, the richest and most contiguous forests still remain, said Christian Poirier, program director for Amazon Watch, a partner in the special program.
"These are essentially islands of forests in a sea of deforestation," he told EcoWatch. "Everything around them has been degraded and deforested."
Importantly, he added, these areas remain pristine because (1) indigenous peoples are effective stewards of the rainforest, and (2) the federal government of Brazil has recognized the rights of indigenous peoples to these lands and helps to keep out destructive actors.
"The demarcation of indigenous lands is fundamental to the future of the Amazon, both in terms of its environmental conservation and in terms of respecting the human rights of indigenous peoples, who are the best stewards of the rainforest," Poirier said. Without demarcation, "the Amazon would cease to exist as we know it today."
In theory, once land is demarcated, non-indigenous equipment, installations and occupants would be required to leave, for good, Bruch explained. This would allow indigenous peoples to continue to act as custodians of the land as they have since time immemorial.
In the Amazon and indeed even on a global scale, indigenous peoples make up approximately 4 percent of the world's population, and yet they effectively watch over 80 percent of the planet's remaining biodiversity, Poirier explained.
"Because they are proven the best stewards of the rainforest, we need to learn from them how to keep the rainforest from reaching a tipping point," Poirier said. "The integrity of their territories is a fundamental component of that, but it goes beyond their territories. This is a worldview we need to apply to understanding how to preserve the rainforest in conjunction with its peoples ‒ its forest peoples and its indigenous peoples. We need to have their voice centered in any conversation about land conservation and their rights upheld."
Protecting the Amazon calls for this critical mass and solidarity with indigenous peoples in protecting their rights and the forest, simultaneously. The film event notes the long history of fierce indigenous resistance to the many efforts to disenfranchise and evict them from their lands. All speakers also insist that indigenous peoples cannot do this work alone.
Bruch concluded with a hope that the special event would refocus the world on these pressing issues and remind everyone that the destiny of the indigenous guardians of the Amazon is linked to ours, and that their protection depends on the protection of their territories.
"Solidarity is so critical and... this event is a critical step towards raising awareness... of the work (indigenous peoples) have always done to benefit us all," Poirier said. "If they are unsuccessful in protecting their areas, all of humanity will suffer gravely."
View the film on demand on EarthxOnDemand.
A new EarthxTV film special calls for the protection of the Amazon rainforest and the indigenous people that call it home. EarthxTV.org
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By Sean Fleming
What thrives in poor soil, can tolerate rising temperatures and is brimming with calories?
The cassava – sometimes referred to as "the Rambo root." This plant could potentially help alleviate world hunger, provide economically viable agriculture and even put an end to soil erosion, according to research published in the journal Conservation Science and Practice.
Also known as yuca (but distinct from the ornamental yucca plant) the root of the cassava is a staple of many Caribbean and South American meals – and it will thrive in conditions too difficult for many other plants.
A Gateway Crop
"Evidence suggests (cassava) could potentially revive degraded land and make it productive anew, generating numerous positive socioeconomic and environmental impacts with proper crop management," said Maria Eliza Villarino, the report's lead author and a researcher at the Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), in the science publication, PhysOrg.
An estimated 40% of land in Colombia suffers from degradation, according to the alliance. It, therefore, "serves as a good testing ground for exploring the different possibilities that farming cassava could lead to."
The cassava could become a gateway crop, helping farmers bring once unproductive land back into use. Soil that has been revived could then be used to grow commercial crops like coffee or chocolate, corn or soy.
But Cassava Mustn't Tread the Same Path as Soy
The global market for soy is estimated at around $150 billion, and around 80% of all soy production comes from the U.S., Brazil and Argentina. Making space for soy farms has resulted in significant deforestation in parts of the Amazon rainforest, with the WWF estimating that "an area roughly the size of California" was lost to deforestation around the world between 2004 and 2017.
"We acknowledge that scaling up production of any commodity risks an increase in deforestation and biodiversity loss, and we need to do more research," Augusto Castro Nunez, a land-use and climate specialist at the alliance, said in the PhysOrg article. "But what we know is that we need something new; what has been done to prevent deforestation is not working, and this is something new."
Reposted with permission from World Economic Forum.
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The new chameleon, scientific name Brookesia nana, was found in the rainforest of Madagascar and written up in Scientific Reports in late January. The male of the species has a tip to tail length of only 21.6 millimeters, making him the smallest adult male bird, mammal or reptile ever recorded.
"I think what keeps stories like this front and center in our imagination is that every time something like this is discovered, it's like, 'Oh man, I guess [living creatures] can get a little smaller,'" evolutionary biologist Tony Gamble, who was not involved in the study, told National Geographic of the find.
Researchers first observed the chameleon in 2012 during an expedition to the Sorata massif — cool, wet, forested mountains in northern Madagascar. The creature is approximately the size of a sunflower seed.
"At the first glance, we realized that it was an important discovery," study coauthor and Malagasy herpetologist Andolalao Rakotoarison told National Geographic.
So far, researchers have only identified one male and one female of the species. The male has a body length of 13.5 millimeters and a total length (including the tail) of 21.6 millimeters, the study explained. The female is slightly larger, with a body length of 19.2 millimeters and a total length of 28.9 millimeters.
The Malagasy and German research team think that both of the animals are adults, according to a press release from the German research institute SNSB, which led the study. The male had fully developed genitals, known as hemipenes. To determine the age of the female, a scan was required.
"With the aid of micro-CT scans – essentially three-dimensional x-rays – we were able to identify two eggs in the female specimen, and so demonstrate that it is an adult," study co-author of the University of Potsdam Mark D. Scherz said in the press release.
However, what the researchers can't know is how common the pair's size is for their species, National Geographic pointed out. Its closest competitor for smallest reptile is Brookesia micra, another tiny chameleon that was also discovered in Madagascar.
"There are numerous extremely miniaturised vertebrates in Madagascar, including the smallest primates and some of the smallest frogs in the world, which have evolved independently," Rakotoarison, currently at the University of Antananarivo in Madagascar, said in the press release.
However, researchers don't know why this particular chameleon is so small. It was found on mainland Madagascar, which means the "island effect" that sees smaller animals evolve on smaller islands shouldn't apply.
What they do know is that the creature may already be at risk from extinction. It lives in an area under extreme threat from deforestation, National Geographic explained. Poverty in the region where the chameleon was found means that most people can't afford basic food staples. This has put pressure on the country to clear forest for agriculture; NASA figures show that 94 percent of Madagascar's formerly forested areas have been impacted by deforestation. Hope lies in the fact that the Sorata massif has recently been included in a conservation zone. However, Scherz said the chameleon's fate likely rested on the fate of Madagascar as a whole.
"It's all good and well to say, 'Oh, I really hope that people stop deforesting this forest,'" Scherz told National Geographic. "But until the economic future of Madagascar changes, there's no hope for any of its wildlife because the people have to eat."
Deforested peat forest in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Rhett A. Butler / Mongabay
Overall, forests remain a carbon sink, stashing away 7.6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide every year, according to a recent study published in Nature Climate Change. But in the last 20 years alone, forests in Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia and Malaysia, have turned into net emitters of carbon, thanks to the spread of plantations, raging fires, and loss of peatlands.
Human activities are producing record-breaking emissions — atmospheric carbon dioxide hit a 4-million-year high last year — and they are hacking into the planet's sturdiest defenses.
Spread across 5.5 million square kilometers (2.1 million square miles) in nine countries in South America, the Amazon is still sucking out carbon from the air — but only just.
Most of the Amazon lies in Brazil, and between 2001 and 2019 the Brazilian Amazon acted as a net emitter of carbon, the study found.
Since Jair Bolsonaro became president at the start of 2019, Brazil has seen increased deforestation through clearing land for cattle pastures and through fires. The 2019 fire season raised concerns across the world about the health of the forests in Brazil, but deforestation has been steadily eating away into its green cover for years.
Of the three great swaths of tropical rainforest left on Earth, only those of the Congo Basin still stand strong.
Tropical forests grow quickly and absorb the most carbon of any type of forest. During photosynthesis, they use carbon dioxide to produce energy and biomass. Because trees lock away carbon dioxide, when forests are destroyed, not only is this vital function lost, but the stored carbon is released back into the atmosphere.
Forests are considered a carbon sink when they absorb more carbon dioxide than is released through land-use changes and forest destruction.
A 2020 study predicted the Amazon would turn into a carbon source in the next 15 years.
What is especially worrying is the loss of pristine swaths of forests that have kept carbon out of the atmosphere for decades, if not centuries. Madagascar, the world's oldest island, has lost nearly 90% of its natural forests in four decades. Since the turn of the century, unlike many African countries, it has turned into a carbon source, according to the analysis.
"Unlike secondary forests or fast-rotation pine or eucalyptus plantations, harvesting in old-growth forests releases CO2 that has taken centuries to accumulate — carbon that, once lost, is irrecoverable in our lifetime," the paper's authors write.
Forests lapsing into net producers of carbon emissions is terrible news for the planet, but it is also bad news for the forests themselves. Climate change is known to contribute to intense fire seasons and prolonged droughts that can prove fatal to trees.
One bright spot in the analysis is that more than a quarter of greenhouse gas removal occurred in forests in protected areas. The authors cite the example of the Menkragnotí Indigenous Territory in Brazil, where forests continue to absorb emissions equal to those from 2 million cars every year — even though surrounding forests have turned into net carbon sources. The researchers say mining activities, cattle ranching, and soy cultivation are to blame.
The research also represents an advancement in carbon accounting. The conventional method is to rely on data from individual countries. The new approach combines satellite data with ground measurements and presents a more refined picture. It evens out calculations on different scales, making it possible to estimate emissions and removals for small forest patches as well as countries and continents.
Reposted with permission from Mongabay.
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Tens of thousands of children in Indonesia and Malaysia work to harvest the palm oil that ends up in several beloved Western snacks, including Girl Scout cookies.
An in-depth Associated Press report published recently used U.S. customs records and the most up-to-date information from producers, traders and buyers to link palm oil harvested using child labor to major brands including Nestle, Unilever, Kellogg's, PepsiCo and Ferrero, one of two makers of Girl Scout Cookies.
"I thought Girl Scouts was supposed to be about making the world a better place," 14-year-old Girl Scout Olivia Chaffin told The Associated Press. "But this isn't at all making the world better."
Palm oil took off as a global commodity around 20 years ago after health warnings about trans fats caused food manufacturers to switch to the extremely cheap oil. It is now in about half of all supermarket products and almost 75 percent of cosmetics, but appears on labels under more than 200 different names.
Campaigners in the past have raised concerns about the oil's environmental impact. Around 85 percent of the industry is fed by plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia. Rainforests are often cleared to make way for palm oil plantations in the two countries and elsewhere, and this has a devastating impact on many species, including orangutans. A recent study found that 50 percent of deforestation in Borneo between 2005 and 2015 was linked to palm oil.
Child labor is another major problem for the industry, according to The Associated Press. The UN's International Labor Organization estimates that 1.5 million children aged 10 to 17 work in Indonesia's agricultural industry, of which palm oil is the dominant crop. In Malaysia, a 2018 study found that more than 33,000 children work in the industry, and that almost half of them are between the ages of five and 11.
Children working on these plantations face hazards like exposure to chemicals and pesticides, and many are denied proper healthcare and the chance at an education. In Malaysia, where the industry is mostly staffed by foreign workers, children without proper immigration papers are even more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
"For 100 years, families have been stuck in a cycle of poverty and they know nothing else than work on a palm oil plantation," Kartika Manurung, who has published reports on labor issues on Indonesian palm oil plantations, told The Associated Press. "When I … ask the kids what they want to be when they grow up, some of the girls say, 'I want to be the wife of a palm oil worker.'"
Environmental concerns first motivated then-11-year old Chaffin to investigate the source of the palm oil in the Girl Scout cookies she sold. Chaffin, who had earned a badge for selling more than 600 boxes of cookies, saw that the palm oil listed on the cookie boxes was supposed to come from sustainable sources. However, she looked closer and saw the word "mixed", which meant that sustainable and non-sustainable sources had been combined in the cookie recipe.
She swore off cookie-selling and launched a petition one year ago urging Girl Scouts to abandon palm oil.
"Some of my fellow girl scouts and I are boycotting Girl Scout cookie sales until palm oil is replaced with a completely sustainable oil," she wrote. "Please sign my petition because the rainforest is a very important part of life."
Chaffin told The Associated Press that learning about the child labor issues made her more motivated to fight for the oil's removal.
Girl Scout cookies are made by two U.S. bakers: Little Brownie Bakers in Kentucky and ABC Bakers in Virginia. Little Brown Bakers says its palm oil is from "mixed" sources, which means as little as one percent might be sustainable. ABC Bakers puts money towards promoting sustainable production. These bakeries belong to two parent companies, Weston Foods of Canada and Ferrero of Italy. Weston Foods would not provide any details of its supply chain, making it impossible for The Associated Press to determine if child labor was used by any of its suppliers.
The Girl Scouts did not respond to The Associated Press before the study was published, but did address the article on social media.
"Child labor has no place in Girl Scout Cookie production. Our investment in the development of our world's youth must not be facilitated by the under-development of some," the organization tweeted.
They said that their bakers and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) should take action if standards were being violated.
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A lungless worm salamander, an armored slug and a critically endangered monkey were a few of 503 new species identified this year by scientists at London's National History Museum.
"Once again, an end of year tally of new species has revealed a remarkable diversity of life forms and minerals hitherto undescribed," Dr. Tim Littlewood, executive director of science at the museum, told the National History Museum. "The Museum's collection of specimens provide a resource within which to find new species as well as a reference set to recognize specimens and species as new."
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the museum was closed to the public for part of the year. Yet, scientists, researchers, curators and associates continued to study the species' forms and structures and share their findings with the rest of the scientific community, Ken Norris, head of life sciences at the Natural History Museum, told CNN.
"You're asking whether or not that new specimen is sufficiently different from anything else that's been seen before to be regarded as a new species," he said. "So you're describing it for the first time."
"In a year when the global mass of biodiversity is being outweighed by human-made mass it feels like a race to document what we are losing," he shared.
Since 1900, the abundance of native species in land-based habitats has decreased by at least 20 percent, according to findings outlined in a United Nations Report. Over 40 percent amphibian species, nearly 33 percent reef-forming corals and over a third of all marine animals are threatened.
"503 newly discovered species reminds us we represent a single, inquisitive, and immensely powerful species with the fate of many others in our hands," Littlewood added.
Among the hundreds of species identified was a monkey called the Popa langur, found on the extinct Mount Popa volcano in Myanmar. According to the National History Museum, the skin and skull of the monkey were collected over 100 years ago.
Scientists analyzed the coloration of the Popa langur's skin and bones and sampled its genetics to compare it to related species.
"Monkeys are one of the most iconic groups of mammals, and these specimens have been in the collections for over a hundred years," Roberto Portela Miguez, the senior curator in charge of mammals at the museum and involved in identifying the new species, told the National History Museum. "But we didn't have the tools or the expertise to do this work before."
The Popa langur is considered to be critically endangered with only 200 to 260 individuals remaining in the wild, according to The Guardian. As Myanmar rapidly develops, the monkeys are threatened by decreased forest habitats and increased hunting.
Naming the species, Miguez thinks, will help in its conservation. "The hope is that by giving this species the scientific status and notoriety it merits, there will be even more concerted efforts in protecting this area and the few other remaining populations," he told the National History Museum.
"It has been a good year for discovering more amphibian and reptile species," The Guardian reported, noting the scientist's identification of a crested lizard from Borneo, two new species of frog and nine new snakes.
"At the moment we think that as a basic guess maybe 20% of life has been described in some shape or form," Norris told CNN, expecting to identify hundreds of new species in the new year.
"Our understanding of the natural world's diversity is negligible and yet we depend on its systems, interconnectedness and complexity for food, water, climate resilience and the air we breathe," Littlewood told the National History Museum. "Revealing new and undescribed species not only sustains our awe of the natural world, it further reveals what we stand to lose and helps estimate the diversity we may lose even before it's discovered."
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By John C. Cannon
Books have provided a welcome refuge in 2020. The global pandemic has, in many cases, turned even routine travel into a risk not worth taking, and it has left many longing for the day when we will once again set off for a new destination. At the same time, this year has also been a time to reflect on the sense of place and what home means to each of us.
This year's conservation book list draws on those two themes. Satisfying the urge to light out into the unknown, several authors share tales and observations from the field. Others delve deeply into a single spot, examining its importance to a people and the way we as a species fit into it, however uncomfortably. In the end, each reinforces a lesson that the pandemic has laid bare: Pull a thread on the web of life and even distant strands will reverberate as a result.
By Carl Safina
Biologist Carl Safina has made a career of working on the front lines of conservation and then imparting what he has learned in a way that makes us, his readers, take notice. Broken down into three parts, Becoming Wild explores the lives and cultures of three species: sperm whales, scarlet macaws, and chimpanzees.
By turns fascinating, heartwarming and tragic, traveling with Safina as a guide is engrossing. And, as you might suspect, there's an agenda here. Biodiversity, all the weird and wondrous speciation that evolution has molded from the building blocks of life on this planet, is under threat, now more so than at any other time since humans emerged from that same swirling mix of forces. But beyond the staggering loss of species and individual lifeforms currently underway, Safina demonstrates that the sum total of what we lose will be far more than just a statistic if we don't work to protect the life that remains.
2. Oak Flat
By Lauren Redniss
Cutting across social justice, economic and environmental lines, Oak Flat chronicles the real-life struggle of a family to protect sacred land from destruction after the discovery of a copper deposit in the desert in the U.S. Southwest. The family lives on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona and must contend with the substantial resources of a massive mining corporation, not to mention a set of laws that seem designed to put profits before people.
Told in the style of a graphic novel, author and illustrator Lauren Redniss draws on her earnest reporting and skill as an artist to shine a light on the issue, made all the more urgent because today the Apache of San Carlos are still fighting to protect their land.
By Jonathan Slaght
The Blakiston's fish owl doesn't make conservation efforts on its behalf easy. Inhabiting the unforgiving mountains and forests of Russia's Far East, its dwindling numbers are threatened by logging and fishing in Primorye province.
Enter WCS scientist Jonathan Slaght and an intimate look at meeting the owl on its own turf. Just as fascinating as the quirky bird he's pursuing are the characters who people Slaght's book, the hardy folk who at once represent both a threat to the Blakiston's fish owl and invaluable accomplices in his mission to save the species.
By Enric Sala
Ecologist and National Geographic explorer-in-residence Enric Sala says he didn't want his career as a scientist to be spent just writing obituaries, cataloging the final days of so many of the species he studies. The Nature of Nature is both an homage to the diversity of life on Earth and a warning of the steps we must take to ensure it persists. Vividly told stories from decades of observing and probing the natural world serve as a testimony to the interconnectivity that binds all life — including humans — together.
As Sala told Mongabay in an interview in August, "You tamper with nature in one part of the planet, and everyone suffers. That's why we need to protect the wild."
By Michael E. Marchand, Kristiina A. Vogt, Rodney Cawston, John D. Tovey, John McCoy, Nancy Maryboy, Calvin T. Mukumoto, Daniel J. Vogt and Melody Starya Mobley
In the most academic-leaning book to make this year's list, a group of predominantly Indigenous authors draw on the history, art and culture of Native societies from around the world with an eye toward how we might better coexist with nature. Their aim is to provide a guide for the ways in which Indigenous thinking and science, too often viewed as working at cross purposes, can come together to solve environmental problems.
By Roy Dennis
Like many of the other authors on this list, ornithologist and conservationist Roy Dennis thankfully doesn't disguise his fascination with the intricacies of nature in Cottongrass Summer. The stories he tells have been gleaned from countless years of fieldwork and, at times, battles with the prevailing conservation establishment of the day. Still, the iconoclastic 80-year-old carries on, offering a measure of hope in a book for a wilder and healthier planet.
Orangutan biologist Erik Meijaard, who reviewed Dennis's book for Mongabay in August, said, "[C]ynics among you turn away, this book is not for you. To me this book is about belief and love. Belief in a better world where wild animals and plants can once again thrive alongside people. And a deep love for the natural world around us."
By Eric Jay Dolin
In A Furious Sky, author Eric Jay Dolin digs deep into the annals of humans' history with the awe-inspiring and destructive hurricane. Along the way, he unearths a trove of engaging characters and entrancing struggles to find a way to coexist with Earth's most powerful storms. In the end, we find that, as the planet's climate changes, hurricanes will likely only grow stronger.
By Douglas W. Tallamy
Many of the world's environmental crises can feel beyond the reach of human problem solving. University of Delaware professor Douglas Tallamy takes a different tack, instead suggesting that the ideal place to begin a necessary revolution is right where we live. Instead of depending on the seep of political compromise that's so often inadequate and short-sighted in addressing issues like biodiversity loss, deforestation and climate change, Tallamy's belief is that by starting small — creating hospitable habitats for native plants and insects in our backyards, for example — we can realize the dreams of the pantheon of conservation's great thinkers, Aldo Leopold, E.O. Wilson and Rachel Carson among them.
By Rebecca Giggs
Over centuries, technological innovations, capitalist incentives and sheer grit led to many species of whales being hunted to near extinction. But the moratorium on hunting whales that coalesced in the 1980s around the awe these animals inspire and the outrage so many felt at witnessing their slaughter helped bring them back from the brink. All but a few of the world's most fervent whale-hunting nations signed on, and the rebound in whale numbers seems like a great success. But in what kind of world have we ensured their survival?
That's one of the questions that author Rebecca Giggs ponders in Fathoms, as she puts the survival of whales in the context of an increasing plastic-filled and polluted ocean, where warming waters and a paradoxically destructive ecotourism industry wait to confront them at every turn.
By Chris Hamby
2020 has proven, if there were any doubt, that human and environmental health are inextricably linked. Investigative journalist Chris Hamby probed a paragon of this connection in Soul Full of Coal Dust. As the worldwide debate over the continued use of coal for steady but dirty energy production has taken center stage, the people who haul it from the ground have been fighting for their lives just behind the curtain.
Hamby takes his readers to the mountains of Appalachia, the epicenter of U.S. coal production, where fortunes rise and fall with the industry itself. He details the David-and-Goliath struggle to take on "Big Coal" and bring much-needed help to the miners afflicted with black lung disease.
By Jeremy Hance
A 2020 Mongabay book list wouldn't be complete without a nod to the site's longtime editor and senior correspondent, Jeremy Hance (as well as the site's first staff writer), who published his own memoir this year. Hance has traveled the world in pursuit of the engaging environmental stories he's written for Mongabay, the Guardian, and Ensia, among other publications. He's also lived with hypochondria and obsessive-compulsive disorder for decades, conditions that can make the dream of travel an anxiety-producing nightmare. Fortunately for his readers, they haven't deterred him, and in Baggage, Hance recounts his voyages in a book that's as witty and self-effacing as it is poignant and instructive.
Reposted with permission from Mongabay.
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