About 353 million trees were planted in a single day in Ethiopia on Monday, setting a new world record for seedling plantings, as CNN reported.
The record-setting day is part of a wider "green legacy" initiative started by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's office. The campaign wants every Ethiopian to plant 40 seedlings during the rainy season, which runs from May to October. In the end, the country will have 4 billion indigenous trees to help mitigate the effects of the global climate crisis.
Ethiopia is particularly vulnerable to extreme weather and has suffered from recurrent droughts and deforestation. According the UN figures, Ethiopia's forest coverage dropped from 35 percent a century ago to just 4 percent in the 2000s, as the Guardian reported.
While 80 percent of Ethiopia's population depends on agriculture for their livelihood, extensive farming has increased Ethiopia's vulnerability to land degradation, soil erosion and flooding, according to CNN.
Bekele Benti, a bus driver in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa who has witnessed the effects of deforestation, participated in the tree plantings.
"As a bus driver, with frequent trips across the country, I have witnessed the extent of deforestation in different parts of Ethiopia," Benti told Xinhua. "It's really frustrating to see forest-covered areas turned to be bare lands within a few years."
The Green Legacy project "is an ambitious undertaking to become a green society by planting various types of eco-friendly seedling to combat environmental degradation and, a national platform that will be used for various societal green activities," according to the prime minister's official website.
The initial plan for Monday was to plant 200 million trees, which would shatter the record for a single day planting, set in India in 2017 when 1.5 million volunteers planted 66 million trees. To facilitate the planting, many government offices were closed and civil servants were given the day off to take part in the planting, as CNN reported.
After the 12-hour period ended, the Prime Minister posted to Twitter that Ethiopia had far exceeded its goal. A total of 353,633,660 tree seedlings had been planted, the country's minster for innovation and technology, Getahun Mekuria, tweeted, as CNN reported.
Abiy took part in the planting, making appearances that included stops in Addis Ababa, Arba Minch and Wolaita Sodo. More than 400 staff from the United Nations planted trees, along with staff from the African Union, and various foreign embassies in Ethiopia, according to the BBC.
Ethiopian Airlines was one of several corporate entities to join the effort. "Environmental sustainability is one of our corporate philosophies," said the airline, which shared pictures of its executives planting trees near airplanes, according to the Africa Times.
The move to plant so many trees comes in the wake of a recent study that planting 500 billion trees could remove one-fourth of the carbon in the atmosphere, as EcoWatch reported.
Planting Billions of Trees Is the 'Best Climate Change Solution Available Today,' Study Finds https://t.co/Qv5u6ZRnEL— Ibrahim Thiaw (@ibrahimthiaw) July 28, 2019
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By Jessica Corbett
While much of the world focuses on the coronavirus pandemic that has infected more than 1.6 million people across the globe, East Africa is battling the worst invasion of desert locusts in decades — a months-long "scourge of biblical proportions" that experts warn could get worse with a larger second wave already arriving in parts of the region.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, which is shepherding the global response to the region's locust crisis, "estimates that locust numbers could grow another 20 times during the upcoming rainy season unless control activities are stepped up," U.N. News reported Thursday.
A Wednesday update from FAO's Locust Watch service warned:
The current situation in East Africa remains extremely alarming as hopper bands and an increasing number of new swarms form in northern and central Kenya, southern Ethiopia, and Somalia. This represents an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods because it coincides with the beginning of the long rains and the planting season. Although ground and aerial control operations are in progress, widespread rains that fell in late March will allow the new swarms to mostly remain, mature and lay eggs while a few swarms could move from Kenya to Uganda, South Sudan and Ethiopia. During May, the eggs will hatch into hopper bands that will form new swarms in late June and July, which coincides with the start of the harvest.
The massive swarms, as Common Dreams has reported, are partly fueled by the climate crisis and have affected Djibouti, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. The pests have also been spotted in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iran, Pakistan and India.
The main method of battling locust swarms — which each can devour enough food to feed 35,000 people in a day — is the spraying of pesticides. Concerns are mounting that locust eradication efforts in the region will be increasingly hampered by pandemic-related travel restrictions and supplies problems.
“Parts of Africa were already threatened by another kind of plague, the biggest locust outbreak some countries had… https://t.co/lrQlLrBZFE— Jonathan Lemire (@Jonathan Lemire)1586517820.0
"Suppliers of motorized sprayers and pesticides are facing major challenges with limited airfreight options to facilitate delivery," Cyril Ferrand, FAO's resilience team leader for East Africa, told EARTHER on March 30. "Purchased orders were placed [a] few weeks ago and pesticides expected last week in Kenya have been delayed by 10 days."
Ferrand said in a statement Thursday that "there is no significant slowdown" in efforts to stop the swarms across the region so far "because all the affected countries working with FAO consider desert locusts a national priority."
"While lockdown is becoming a reality, people engaged in the fight against the upsurge are still allowed to conduct surveillance, and air and ground control operations," he said. "The biggest challenge we are facing at the moment is the supply of pesticides and we have delays because global air freight has been reduced significantly."
"Our absolute priority is to prevent a breakdown in pesticide stocks in each country," Ferrand added. "That would be dramatic for rural populations whose livelihoods and food security depend on the success of our control campaign."
The fight against desert locusts in East Africa goes on despite #COVID19 restrictions, @UN's @FAOnews says, the age… https://t.co/RWb6mYgsYa— UN News (@UN News)1586498400.0
FAO has secured about $111.1 million of the $153.2 million it has requested to tackle the locust crisis and is supporting surveillance and pesticide application in 10 nations.
The U.N. agency continues to raise concerns about how locusts could impact the collective 20 million people already enduring food insecurity in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania — as well as an additional 15 million people in war-torn Yemen.
This is the worst locust invasion that Kenya has seen in 70 years. Quartz Africa reported Friday on current conditions in the country, where hoppers have been maturing into adults over the past month after hatching in February and early March:
These swarms are still immature, and take up to four weeks before they are ready to lay eggs. Kenya is more than halfway through this maturation cycle, and the new generation of locust swarms are expected to begin laying eggs within the week.
In Kenya, the locust maturation is coinciding with the onset of the rainy season. Farmers have been sowing crops of maize, beans, sorghum, barley, and millet during March and April, in hopes that a favorable rainy season will allow for abundant growth during late April and May. With the locust swarms gaining size and strength, experts fear that up to 100% of farmers' budding crops could be consumed, leaving some communities with nothing to harvest.
"The concern at the moment is that the desert locust will eat under-emerging plants," Ferrand told Quartz. "This very soft, green material, biomass leaves, rangeland, is, of course, the favorite food for the desert locusts."
As for the coronavirus pandemic that first emerged in China late last year, Africa has reported 562 deaths and nearly 11,000 COVID-19 cases, according to Al Jazeera, which are relatively low figures compared with other affected regions. However, the U.N.'s World Health Organization (WHO) is warning that some African nations could see a significant spike in cases in the coming weeks.
"During the last four days, we can see that the numbers have already doubled," Michel Yao, the WHO Africa program manager for emergency response, said Thursday. "If the trend continues, and also learning from what happened in China and in Europe, some countries may face a huge peak very soon."
As Ferrand said in his March conversation with EARTHER: "How do we respond to the needs of the European countries and North American countries as well as the humanitarian and development assistance that is still so necessary in the continent of Africa? ... This is the challenge that we will have to face in 2020."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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- Climate Crisis Brings India's Worst Locust Invasion in Decades - EcoWatch ›
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- How to Stop the Spread of Covid-19 in Africa: Lessons from Ebola ›
Throughout Texas, there are a number of solar power companies that can install solar panels on your roof to take advantage of the abundant sunlight. But which solar power provider should you choose? In this article, we'll provide a list of the best solar companies in the Lone Star State.
Our Picks for the Best Texas Solar Companies
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Sunpro Solar
- Longhorn Solar, Inc.
- Solartime USA
- Kosmos Solar
- Sunshine Renewable Solutions
- Alba Energy
- Circle L Solar
- South Texas Solar Systems
- Good Faith Energy
How We Chose the Best Solar Energy Companies in Texas
There are a number of factors to keep in mind when comparing and contrasting different solar providers. These are some of the considerations we used to evaluate Texas solar energy companies.
Different solar companies may provide varying services. Always take the time to understand the full range of what's being offered in terms of solar panel consultation, design, installation, etc. Also consider add-ons, like EV charging stations, whenever applicable.
When meeting with a representative from one of Texas' solar power companies, we would always encourage you to ask what the installation process involves. What kind of customization can you expect? Will your solar provider use salaried installers, or outsourced contractors? These are all important questions to raise during the due diligence process.
Texas is a big place, and as you look for a good solar power provider, you want to ensure that their services are available where you live. If you live in Austin, it doesn't do you much good to have a solar company that's active only in Houston.
Pricing and Financing
Keep in mind that the initial cost of solar panel installation can be sizable. Some solar companies are certainly more affordable than others, and you can also ask about the flexible financing options that are available to you.
To guarantee that the renewable energy providers you select are reputable, and that they have both the integrity and the expertise needed, we would recommend assessing their status in the industry. The simplest way to do this is to check to see whether they are North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) certified or belong to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) or other industry groups.
Types of Panels
As you research different companies, it certainly doesn't hurt to get to know the specific products they offer. Inquire about their tech portfolio, and see if they are certified to install leading brands like Tesla or Panasonic.
Rebates and Tax Credits
There are a lot of opportunities to claim clean energy rebates or federal tax credits which can help with your initial solar purchase. Ask your solar provider for guidance navigating these different savings opportunities.
Going solar is a big investment, but a warranty can help you trust that your system will work for decades. A lot of solar providers provide warranties on their technology and workmanship for 25 years or more, but you'll definitely want to ask about this on the front end.
The 10 Best Solar Energy Companies in Texas
With these criteria in mind, consider our picks for the 10 best solar energy companies in TX.
SunPower is a solar energy company that makes it easy to make an informed and totally customized decision about your solar power setup. SunPower has an online design studio where you can learn more about the different options available for your home, and even a form where you can get a free online estimate. Set up a virtual consultation to speak directly with a qualified solar installer from the comfort of your own home. It's no wonder SunPower is a top solar installation company in Texas. They make the entire process easy and expedient.
Sunpro Solar is another solar power company with a solid reputation across the country. Their services are widely available to Texas homeowners, and they make the switch to solar effortless. We recommend them for their outstanding customer service, for the ease of their consultation and design process, and for their assistance to homeowners looking to claim tax credits and other incentives.
Looking for a solar contractor with true Texas roots? Longhorn Solar is an award-winning company that's frequently touted as one of the best solar providers in the state. Their services are available in Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio, and since 2009 they have helped more than 2,000 Texans make the switch to energy efficiency with solar. We recommend them for their technical expertise, proven track record, and solar product selection.
Solartime USA is another company based in Texas. In fact, this family-owned business is located in Richardson, which is just outside of Dallas. They have ample expertise with customized solar energy solutions in residential settings, and their portfolio of online reviews attests to their first-rate customer service. We love this company for the simplicity of their process, and for all the guidance they offer customers seeking to go solar.
Next on our list is Kosmos Solar, another Texas-based solar company. They're based in the northern part of the state, and highly recommended for homeowners in the area. They supply free estimates, high-quality products, custom solar designs, and award-winning personal service. Plus, their website has a lot of great information that may help guide you while you determine whether going solar is right for you.
Sunshine Renewable Solutions is based out of Houston, and they've developed a sterling reputation for dependable service and high-quality products. They have a lot of helpful financing options, and can show you how you can make the switch to solar in a really cost-effective way. We also like that they give free estimates, so there's certainly no harm in learning more about this great local company.
"Powered by the Texas sun." That's the official tagline of Alba Energy, a solar energy provider that's based out of Katy, TX. They have lots of great information about solar panel systems and solar solutions, including solar calculators to help you tabulate your potential energy savings. Additionally, we recommend Alba Energy because all of their work is done by a trusted, in-house team of solar professionals. They maintain an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, and they have rave reviews from satisfied customers.
Circle L Solar has a praiseworthy mission of helping homeowners slash their energy costs while participating in the green energy revolution. This is another company that provides a lot of great information, including energy savings calculators. Also note that, in addition to solar panels, Circle L Solar also showcases a number of other assets that can help you make your home more energy efficient, including windows, weatherization services, LED lighting, and more.
You can tell by the name that South Texas Solar Systems focuses its service area on the southernmost part of the Lone Star State. Their products include a wide range of commercial and residential solar panels, as well as "off the grid" panels for homeowners who want to detach from public utilities altogether. Since 2007, this company has been a trusted solar energy provider in San Antonio and beyond.
Good Faith Energy is a certified installer of Tesla solar technology for homeowners throughout Texas. This company is really committed to ecological stewardship, and they have amassed a lot of goodwill thanks to their friendly customer service and the depth of their solar expertise. In addition to Tesla solar panels, they can also install EV charging stations and storage batteries.
What are Your Solar Financing Options in Texas?
We've mentioned already that going solar requires a significant investment on the front-end. It's worth emphasizing that some of the best solar companies provide a range of financing options, allowing you to choose whether you buy your system outright, lease it, or pay for it in monthly installments.
Also keep in mind that there are a lot of rebates and state and federal tax credits available to help offset starting costs. Find a Texas solar provider who can walk you through some of the different options.
How Much Does a Solar Energy System Cost in Texas?
How much is it going to cost you to make that initial investment into solar power? It varies by customer and by home, but the median cost of solar paneling may be somewhere in the ballpark of $13,000. Note that, when you take into account federal tax incentives, this number can fall by several thousand dollars.
And of course, once you go solar, your monthly utility bills are going to shrink dramatically… so while solar systems won't pay for themselves in the first month or even the first year, they will ultimately prove more than cost-effective.
Finding the Right Solar Energy Companies in TX
Texas is a great place to pursue solar energy companies, thanks to all the natural sunlight, and there are plenty of companies out there to help you make the transition. Do your homework, compare a few options, and seek the solar provider that's right for you. We hope this guide is a helpful jumping-off point as you try to get as much information as possible about the best solar companies in Texas.
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.
Food is the cornerstone of the holiday season. It brings friends and family together to share memories, cultural traditions, and great flavors.
From figgy pudding to fruit cake, many foods may bring on the holiday cheer — or a foul taste in your mouth. Depending on where you live, foods that are considered a normal part of the holiday feast to some may seem downright strange to others.
Here are 15 unique holiday foods enjoyed around the world.
1. Bûche de Noël (France)
Also known as Yule log, bûche de Noël is a sweet dessert served in France during the Christmas season.
Though there are many variations, one of the most common types is made with heavy cream, cocoa powder, eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract. It's commonly decorated with icing sugar and fruit.
Bûche de Noël commemorates the tradition of cutting and burning a specially selected log known as the Yule log. This pagan tradition was introduced to the Christian holiday many centuries ago.
Most enjoy this dessert between Christmas Eve (December 24th) and New Year (January 1st).
2. Shuba (Russia)
While most countries celebrate Christmas on December 25th, Russia is one of the few countries that celebrates this holiday on January 7th in accordance with the Orthodox Julian calendar.
Colloquially known as "herring under a fur coat," shuba is a popular dish served during the holiday season in Russia. Its main ingredients include pickled herring, hard-boiled eggs, mayonnaise, and grated vegetables like carrots, beets, potatoes, and onions.
The dish gets its name from its top layer, which is usually made of mayonnaise or a beet dressing that resembles a warm winter coat.
While this may seem like an unconventional dish, it's an excellent source of protein, potassium, antioxidants, and vitamins A and B.
3. Yebeg Wot (Ethiopia)
Similarly to Ethiopia's national dish, doro wat (chicken stew), yebeg wot is a popular lamb stew served during the holiday season.
Weeks prior to the holidays, farmers feed lambs a high calorie diet. This leads to fatty, tender meat, which is added to a stew made of onions, tomatoes, garlic, kibbeh (Ethiopian butter), berbere spice mix, and various spices.
Many serve yebeg wot with injera, a popular flatbread.
This dish is a rich source of protein, carbs, and antioxidants.
4. Spiced Hot Chocolate (Peru)
If you think you know how to make the best hot chocolate, you may want to give Peru's spiced hot chocolate a try.
This creamy hot chocolate with a kick is made with chocolate, condensed or evaporated milk, and a combination of spices, such as cinnamon, chili powder, cloves, and nutmeg.
In fact, this beverage is so popular that it has its own event known as la Chocolatadas, during which people gather and serve spiced hot chocolate with a popular cake known as panetón.
5. Mince Pie (England)
Also known as mincemeat or Christmas pie, mince pie is a widely popular and historical holiday dessert.
Despite its name, most modern mincemeat pies are meatless. Traditionally, mince pies were made of shredded beef or mutton, suet, dried fruit, and spices.
However, most varieties today simply consist of pastry dough, dried apples and raisins, distilled spirits, vegetable shortening, and a spice mixture containing nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon.
Interestingly, the pies used to be oblongly shaped to represent a manger, although most mince pies served today are circular.
6. Bibingka (Philippines)
During the holiday season, bibingka is a common breakfast item in the Philippines.
Bibingka consists of rice flour or sticky rice, coconut milk, sugar, and water wrapped and cooked in banana leaves. Eggs, cheese, and coconut flakes are sometimes added as a garnish.
This dish is usually served for breakfast or after Simbáng Gabi — a nine-day series of Filipino Catholic masses leading up to Christmas.
In fact, it's common to have food stations set up outside of church for churchgoers to buy bibingka and other popular sweets, such as steamed rice cakes known as puto bumbong. Many enjoy these treats with a hot cup of tea or coffee.
7. Butter Tarts (Canada)
While a typical Canadian diet is similar to that of a typical U.S. diet, it has a few classic treats of its own.
Butter tarts are a Canadian dessert that's served during many holidays, but mostly during Thanksgiving and Christmas.
They're small pastries with a sweet filling made of butter, sugar, maple or corn syrup, eggs, and sometimes walnuts and raisins. Enjoy these tarts with a cup of coffee for the ultimate treat.
8. Latkes (Israel)
During Hanukkah, latkes are a delicious staple on most dinner plates. In Hebrew, the dish is known as levivot.
Fried in hot oil, latkes are symbolic of the oil that, according to a text that serves as the central source of Jewish religious law, lit the menorah for 8 days despite only having enough oil for 1 day.
Made of the simplest of ingredients, you can make latkes with shredded potato and onion, eggs, and breadcrumbs or matzo. Deep fry it in hot oil, and you have yourself some delicious latkes.
Other popular Hanukkah treats include sufganiyot (jelly donuts), challah (braided bread), and beef brisket.
9. Hangikjöt (Iceland)
Served during Christmas, hangikjöt is one of the most popular Icelandic holiday foods.
It translates to "hung meat" and involves smoked lamb or mutton. Its name originates from the traditional practice of hanging smoked meats in a smoking shed for weeks to develop a smoky, salty flavor.
Hangikjöt is commonly served with green beans, potatoes that are coated in a white béchamel sauce, and side of pickled red cabbage.
10. Bahn Chung (Vietnam)
Bahn chung is a beloved rice cake enjoyed during Tết (Vietnamese New Year).
This dish is made using sticky rice, pork, mung beans, green onions, fish sauce, and spices like salt and pepper.
In addition to its great flavor, it's placed in front of family altars to pay tribute to ancestors and prayers for the upcoming year.
11. Pasteles (Puerto Rico)
Pasteles are a classic Christmas dish in Puerto Rico.
Making pasteles requires time and patience. The inner portion of the pasteles consists of a mixture of ground pork and an adobo blended spice sauce. The outer portion is made using a special masa dough made of grated green bananas, yautía, and spices.
After allowing the dough to sit for a few hours, the masa is placed on banana leaves, the pork filling is added, and it's wrapped.
Traditional Puertorican pasteles are boiled in hot water and served with rice, meat, fish, pigeon peas, and hot sauce for a delicious holiday feast.
12. Eggnog (United States)
Eggnog isn't a holiday treat around the world. In fact, it's mostly enjoyed in the United States and Canada.
This drink is made from milk, cream, whipped egg whites, egg yolks, and sugar, resulting in a creamy, smooth texture.
Most people enjoy eggnog as an alcoholic beverage by adding rum, bourbon, or brandy.
13. Kutia (Ukraine)
Kutia is a traditional Christmas Eve dish that is popular among members of the Ukranian Orthodox Church. As part of the Julian calendar, Christmas Eve falls on January 6th.
It's usually the first dish served as part of Sviata Vecheria — a 12-dish vegetarian feast to commemorate the 12 apostles.
Made from cooked wheat berries, poppy seeds, dried fruit, and honey, this dish is packed with nutrition, which is an important focus of this Ukranian feast. In fact, this dish is so important to the meal that all guests are expected to have at least one spoonful.
However, it's customary to wait until the first star in the sky appears before digging in.
14. Janssons Frestelse (Sweden)
Also known as Jansson's Temptation, this casserole dish is made from potatoes, onions, heavy cream, breadcrumbs, and sprats — a small, oily fish similar to sardines.
It's usually accompanied by a smorgasbord of food known as the "julbord," which translates to "Yule table" or "Christmas table." It's enjoyed with foods like baked ham, meatballs, fish, boiled potatoes, cheeses, and various cooked vegetables.
The origin of its name is controversial, though many believe it originated from a popular opera singer known as Pelle Janzon.
15. Christmas Cake (Global)
Christmas cake is a popular dessert around the world.
It's a type of fruit cake made of flour, eggs, sugar, spices, candied cherries, dried fruit, and brandy. Traditional Christmas cake is made at least 2 months ahead to allow adequate time to slowly "feed" the cake with brandy every 2 weeks. Finally, it's topped with a marzipan icing.
While it's mostly known as a British dessert, many countries serve Christmas cake during the holiday season. In fact, South Koreans are well-known for their beautiful, artistic Christmas cake decorations.
The Bottom Line
Many cultures celebrate the holiday season for different reasons. Whether it's Christmas, Hanukkah, or New Year, food plays a central role in celebrations around the world.
From savory main dishes to sweet desserts, each culture brings a unique twist to this jolly season.
With the holidays just around the corner, remember to enjoy all the delicious food and memories they will bring.
In a move roundly decried by public health experts, President Donald Trump announced Tuesday he would halt U.S. funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) as his administration investigates the international body's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump claimed the agency trusted the information coming out of China in the early days of the outbreak too easily, but his actions come as he tries to deflect criticism of his own response to the pandemic that has sickened more than 600,000 in the U.S. and claimed nearly 25,000 U.S. lives. His announcement also follows a weekend that saw the U.S. death toll rise to become the highest in the world, as well as the release of a major New York Times investigation revealing Trump implemented social distancing measures weeks after his own health experts thought they were necessary. More Americans now disapprove of Trump's handling of the virus than approve, The New York Times pointed out.
"It is a transparent attempt to shift blame for the U.S. administration's own failings," Center for Global Development senior policy fellow and former U.S. Agency for International Development disaster relief head Jeremy Konyndyk told Science of Trump's decision to pause funding. He also said the freeze "leaves the U.S. and the world less safe."
President @realDonaldTrump is halting funding of the World Health Organization while a review is conducted to asses… https://t.co/tbxfP81TuT— The White House (@The White House)1586904611.0
During a White House press briefing Tuesday, Trump claimed that WHO's early missteps had proven fatal.
"So much death has been caused by their mistakes," the president told reporters.
One of his major criticisms is that the agency accepted Chinese accounts of the virus too readily. But The New York Times pointed out that Trump himself praised the Chinese response in January while he was negotiating a trade deal with the country.
"China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency," he tweeted Jan. 24. "It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!'
China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts an… https://t.co/Gv3NQQlQCh— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1579900695.0
Other countries have raised concerns about the speed with which WHO responded to the virus. For example, the agency did accept the news from China in mid-January that the virus did not pass from person to person. But it also gave out warnings during that month about the new illness.
A senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, Dr. Amesh Adalja, told Reuters that while WHO may have made some errors, it still was doing vital work to control the spread of the new disease.
"It's not the middle of a pandemic that you do this type of thing," he said.
Even other members of the administration agree. Trump made his announcement despite the opposition of top health officials, who were concerned it would hamper international efforts to fight the virus that causes COVID-19., an anonymous official told Reuters.
The U.S. is the country that contributes most to WHO. In 2019, it gave more than $400 million, around 15 percent of the agency's budget. Its funding pause comes as the agency is appealing for more than a billion in extra funds to fight the virus.
Trump said he expects his review to take 60 to 90 days, but it comes as WHO is working to fight the virus in less developed countries who are less prepared to cope with its spread. On Tuesday, the first WHO "solidarity flight" took off from Ethiopia carrying essential health supplies to African countries, Science pointed out.
"WHO is in the middle of supporting global surveillance efforts and scale-up of testing and response in low- and middle-income countries around the world," Georgetown University global health researcher Matthew Kavanaugh told Science. "Hobbling that response is not just unjust, it's incredibly bad for U.S. public health at a moment when we have all learned painfully how easily this virus moves from abroad to U.S. shores."
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A number of factors, including climate change and poor water management, are worsening water scarcity, which coupled with other social problems like rising inequality and ethnic tensions, are threatening conflict between states and within states.
Charles Iceland, director of global and national water initiatives at the World Resources Institute, spoke to DW about disputes over the essential resource and how it can be avoided, as well as the new Water, Peace and Security (WPS) tool that forecasts where water disputes are likely over the next 12 months, and how they might be avoided.
DW: What is a water conflict and what does it look like?
Charles Iceland: In many places throughout the world, there's just more and more demand for water with respect to what's available. Sometimes the conflicts are nonviolent — like in Australia or California where people go through the legal system or they work their issues out without violence. But in a lot of places, the problem is grave enough and the ability to resolve the problem is not well developed. So you can see the wrestling over these scarce resources develop in violent ways.
Where would you say are the regions and countries in which water, water scarcity, water quality are playing a role in conflict?
Populations are growing very quickly in sub-Saharan Africa — going up fourfold between 1960 and today. Resources have either stayed the same or you have a reduction in resources, because of climate change or because desertification is reducing arable land. So you have a lot of violent conflicts between these smallholder farmers and pastoralists wrestling over scarce land and water resources. We've seen over the past couple of years pastoralists massacring farming communities and retribution by farming communities.
We're also seeing a lot of violent conflict play out in the Middle East. So, for example, in Iraq, a lot of the demonstrations that led to the prime minister's resignation a few months ago. But part of the grievances entailed lack of services, which included lack of access to clean water and lack of access to electricity. They're getting sick. About a year and a half ago, 120,000 people in Basra had to be hospitalized because they were drinking contaminated water.
And it's [water scarcity] is also a problem in places like Iran, Afghanistan and India. So those are some of the hotspots.
So it could be an interstate conflict, but it could be intrastate as well between various stakeholders in society?
When you have violent conflict, it usually plays out at a subnational level. While you have international conflicts over water, those are rarely resolved through violence. So, for example, we have India and Pakistan wrestling over water in the Indus. We have Iraq and Turkey wrestling over water in the Tigris and Euphrates. We have Egypt and Ethiopia wrestling over water and in the Blue Nile Basin. The parties try as much as they can to resolve the issues in a nonviolent way through diplomacy.
Will we see a future of water wars and water as the new oil?
Both, like a lot of metaphors, are not really accurate. Wars are rarely fought over water as a single issue. Rather, we see the problem as a threat multiplier. So it's one issue in the background. If you have other issues leading to instability, maybe problems between ethnic groups or anything could trigger violence, the background of having water scarcity, has destabilized the society and made it less able to resolve problems amicably.
How much of a role does climate change play in water scarcity or water quality?
We have trouble attributing any particular drought or flood to climate change, but we are seeing very dramatic increases in the incidence and severity of drought in parts of sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. So we're having a general decline in rainfall in some of these areas. In some of these areas the amount of rainfall stays the same but you have very large intermittent drought and flood periods. That's what's been predicted by climate change experts.
What other factors can lead to water scarcity?
The management of water resources is a critical factor. So people, in theory might have enough water in some places, but they're mismanaging it. They're losing water. They are polluting the water. And then there are upstream, downstream issues. There are many instances where the upstream users are accessing water, but downstream users suffer because they're getting less water.
What exactly is the Water Peace and Security tool?
We're a consortium of nine organizations in the U.S. and Europe that are working together to both try to identify hotspots of water insecurity and then try to help local people and the global community do something about this to either avoid conflict or minimize the impacts of conflict. So we've developed a machine learning-based model that tries to predict where conflict might break out in the next 12 months. We're using a number of factors — political, economic, social, demographic — that might point at imminent conflict. And to that group of indicators, we add water and food insecurity indicators. We try to identify these hotspots, whether they are water-related conflicts and what are the drivers of the conflict.
How can you resolve a water conflict?
There are lots of examples on the subnational and international levels where either global or national entities have brought competing [water] users together.
A very good example of this was in 1960 — the World Bank brought the governments of India and Pakistan together to develop a treaty that divided up the water in the Indus River Basin. That treaty has come under pressure recently but it's still been able to keep India and Pakistan from having problems boil over — at least to date.
Jennifer Collins conducted the interview, which has been shortened and edited for clarity.
Reposted with permission from DW.
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In the fifth century B.C., the playwright Sophocles begins "Oedipus Tyrannos" with the title character struggling to identify the cause of a plague striking his city, Thebes. (Spoiler alert: It's his own bad leadership.)
As someone who writes about early Greek poetry, I spend a lot of time thinking about why its performance was so crucial to ancient life. One answer is that epic and tragedy helped ancient storytellers and audiences try to make sense of human suffering.
From this perspective, plagues functioned as a setup for an even more crucial theme in ancient myth: a leader's intelligence. At the beginning of the "Iliad," for instance, the prophet Calchas — who knows the cause of a nine-day plague — is praised as someone "who knows what is, what will be and what happened before."
This language anticipates a chief criticism of Homer's legendary King Agamemnon: He does not know "the before and the after."
The epics remind their audiences that leaders need to be able to plan for the future based on what has happened in the past. They need to understand cause and effect. What caused the plague? Could it have been prevented?
The Spartan general Lysander orders the walls of Athens be destroyed, as part of the Athenian capitulation to Sparta. The Illustrated History of the World / Wikimedia Commons
Myths help their audiences understand the causes of things. As narrative theorists like Mark Turner and specialists in memory like Charles Fernyhough emphasize, people learn how to behave from stories and concepts of cause and effect in childhood. The linear sequence of before, now and after communicates the relationships between things and how we, as human beings, understand our own responsibility in the world.
Plague stories provide settings where fate pushes human organization to the limit. Human leaders are almost always crucial to the causal sequence, as Zeus observes in Homer's "Odyssey," saying, as I've translated it, "Humans are always blaming the gods for their suffering / but they experience pain beyond their fate because of their own recklessness."
The problems humans create go beyond just plagues: The poet Hesiod writes that the top Greek god, Zeus, showed his disapproval for bad leaders by burdening them with military failures as well as pandemics. The consequences of human failings are a refrain in the ancient critique of leaders, with or without plagues: The "Iliad," for instance, describes rulers who "ruin their people through recklessness." The "Odyssey" phrases it as "bad shepherds ruin their flocks."
Plagues were common in the ancient world, but not all of them were blamed on leaders. Like other natural disasters, they were frequently blamed on the gods.
But historians, like Polybius in the second century B.C. and Livy in the first century B.C., also frequently recount epidemics striking armies and people in swamps or cities with poor sanitation. Philosophers and physicians also searched for rational approaches — blaming the climate, or pollution.
When the historian Thucydides recounts how a plague with alleged origins in Ethiopia hit Athens in 430 B.C., he vividly describes patients suffering a sudden high fever, shortness of breath and an array of sickly discharges. Those who survived the sickness had endured such delirious fevers that they might have no memory of it all.
Athens as a state was unprepared to meet the challenge of that plague. Thucydides describes the futility of any human response: Appeals to the gods and the work of doctors — who died in droves — were equally useless. The disease wreaked havoc because the Athenians were massed within the city walls to wait out the Spartan armies during the Peloponnesian War.
Yet despite the plague's terrible nature, Thucydides insists that the worst part was the despair people felt from fear and the "horror of human beings dying like sheep."
Sick people died of neglect, of the lack of proper shelter and of disease spreading from improper burials in an unprepared and overcrowded city, followed by looting and lawlessness.
Athens, set up as a fortress against its enemies, brought ruin upon itself.
Making Sense out of Human Flaws
Left out of plague accounts are the names of the multitudes who died in them. Homer, Sophocles and Thucydides tell us that masses died. But plagues in ancient narratives are usually the beginning, not the end of the story. A plague didn't stop the Trojan War, prevent Oedipus' sons from waging civil war or give the Athenians enough reasons to make peace.
For years after the ravages of the plague, Athens still suffered from in-fighting, toxic politics and selfish leaders. Popular politics led to the disastrous Sicilian Expedition of 415 B.C., killing thousands of Athenians — but still Athens survived.
A decade later, the Athenians again broke into civil factions and eventually prosecuted their own generals after a naval victory in 406 B.C. at Arginusae. In 404 B.C., after a siege, Sparta defeated Athens. But, as we learn from Greek myth, it was — again — really Athens' leaders and people who defeated themselves.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
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Large swarms of locusts have ravaged crops in East Africa, prompting authorities in Somalia to declare a national emergency, making it the first country in the region to do so, as Al Jazeera reported.
As EcoWatch noted last week, this locust storm came across the Red Sea from Yemen and first attacked Eritrea, Djibouti and Ethiopia. Some Ethiopian farmers lost their entire crop yield to the notoriously voracious pests, which can eat their entire weight in 24 hours. Put another way, a small swarm can eat enough food to feed 35,000 people in 24 hours.
The ravenous swarms that have migrated over Somalia pose "a major threat to Somalia's fragile food security situation," said the country's Ministry of Agriculture in a statement, as the BBC reported. The invasion has authorities worried that the situation will not be under control by the time the harvest season begins in April.
"Food sources for people and their livestock are at risk," the statement added, according to Al Jazeera. "The desert swarms are uncommonly large and consume huge amounts of crops and forage."
The country's statement and emergency declaration is designed to focus efforts and raise money to contain the invasion. Because the country has unstable food security, it cannot use planes to spray insecticides from above. Somalia needs surveillance, data collection, reporting and control activities before the April harvest, the agriculture ministry said in an emailed statement, as Bloomberg reported.
"Given the severity of this desert locust outbreak, we must commit our best efforts to protect the food security and livelihoods of Somali people," said Minister of Agriculture Said Hussein Iid, as Al Jazeera reported. "If we don't act now, we risk a severe food crisis that we cannot afford."
East Africa is already experiencing a high degree of food insecurity, with more than 19 million people facing acute hunger, according to the regional Food Security and Nutrition Working Group, as Al Jazeera reported.
To the southwest of Somalia, Kenya is facing the worst locust invasion it has seen in 70 years, according to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), as the BBC reported. The FAO has asked for international help in fighting the swarms, saying that without containment the swarms may grow 500 times by June.
In its update, the FAO warned that the swarms are moving south toward Uganda and that breeding has taken place. "Breeding during February will cause a further increase with numerous hopper bands in all [Kenya, Ethopia, and Somalia]," the FAO said. "Some swarms may still reach Uganda and South Sudan in the coming days."
The FAO's map of locust swarms shows a migration from Pakistan to Yemen. Pakistan, like Somalia, declared a state of emergency over locust swarms on Friday.
"We are facing the worst locust infestation in more than two decades and have decided to declare national emergency to deal with the threat," Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said on Saturday, as Deutsche Welle reported.
The locusts there have decimated cotton, wheat, maize and other crops. To prevent food insecurity, Pakistan has started aerial spraying to destroy the swarms.
"The federal government will take all possible steps and provide required facilities to protect crops from any possible danger with special focus on the danger of locust," said Prime Minister Imran Khan, as Deutsche Welle reported.
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Organic farmers in Africa face an arduous journey getting cropland certified, limiting exports and frustrating farmers who say ecological practices could increase food security while protecting the land.
Just 2 percent of Africa's farmland is considered organic — seven times less than the global average, according to data from the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) — in a continent where natural agricultural and subsistence farming are widely practiced. Farmers who avoid synthetic fertilizers and pesticides but are unable to get organic certificates say their plans to export abroad are stymied by high costs, corruption and little government support.
And then there's the bureaucracy.
"The ceiling is so high for smallholder farmers to be part of the international market," said Ara Nashera, a farmer near Mount Kilimanjaro in Kenya who wants to get organic certification to sell chilies abroad. "When I looked last year at how many agencies I have to go through to start exporting, there were 53. You don't even know where to start."
Alfred Koleta, an organic farmer in the same region who is relying on sales of cassava to pay his children's school fees, said the complexity of the years-long process puts farmers off getting certified. "Unless you get someone to introduce you... it's quite challenging, it's quite tedious, because this process requires multiple agencies."
More than half of Africans are smallholder farmers and agriculture is a central pillar of economies across the continent. With Africa's population set to double by 2050 and its crops increasingly menaced by extreme weather, soil erosion and desertification, farming choices today will play a key role in the continent's food security.
"Conventional methods have been eating up arable land and making it barren," said Nashera. "If we waste land now, then food will be very expensive in the future and we'll have more people fighting for very little resources."
But scientists and farmers alike are divided on the benefits of organic farming.
Conventional farming uses artificial fertilizers and pesticides, some of which kill wildlife and may damage human health, particularly in countries where they are poorly regulated or overused.
A landmark report on biodiversity published by UN-backed scientists last year found that converting land for intensive agriculture is one of the biggest drivers of wildlife loss and degradation of nature — and that this, in turn, endangers the global food system through the less of healthy soil, clean waterways and insects that pollinate plants.
At the same time, organic farms typically require more land to achieve the same yield as conventional farms do, a review paper published in the journal Science Advances in 2017 found, meaning an expansion of organic could accelerate climate change and worsen hunger. Without an increase in modern farming too, this could prove deadly in sub-Saharan Africa. About 20 percent of sub-Saharan Africans are undernourished, data from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization shows, and East Africa is in the midst of an "unprecedented" threat to food security from a locust plague that is set to worsen in coming months.
But for smallholder farmers with limited equipment and low yields, a switch to organic methods could even be a boon to harvests and reduce post-harvest losses. "The [technical] capacity is so low that if you go organic but have some good practices... you could even increase productivity," said Malick Kane, author of a report on financing organic farming in Africa and project coordinator at UNCTAD, the UN's trade think tank. "You wouldn't necessarily face a food security challenge."
Access to Finance
The area of organic farmland in Africa has doubled in the last decade to 2.1 million hectares, FiBL data shows, with the biggest organic centers in North and East Africa and the crops they grow enjoyed the world over. In Kenya, nuts and coconuts dominate organic output. In Tunisia it is olives. Ethiopia and Tanzania are big coffee-growers, while in Uganda, home to the most organic producers in Africa, the crop of choice is cacao.
Despite some successes, farmers such as Nashera and Koleta, in Kenya, are caught in a bind between domestic markets not willing to pay a premium for organic food and wealthier regions to which they cannot export without expensive certification. A survey of African farmers by UNCTAD in 2016 found that a quarter of stakeholders thought access to finance had gotten more restrictive in the last five years. Only 13 percent said it had become more efficient.
But the industry is held back by more than just money, said Okisegere Ojepat, CEO of trade association Fresh Produce Kenya. A lack of crop-specific research and equipment, including understanding of weather patterns and pest control, is keeping farmers from innovating. Pushing for more organic farming without building technical capacity would not be sustainable in the long run, said Ojepat. "It is a double-edged sword."
Organic farmers looking to reach markets abroad are trying short-term fixes. To reduce the cost of certification — which requires paying auditors from Europe and North America to fly in and inspect farms — organic farmers could apply to be certified together, said Claire Nasike, founder of environmental educational charity the Hummingbird Foundation and an agroecologist at Greenpeace Africa, which has trained a network of farmers who are now applying to be certified as a group.
"The farmers are able to hold each other accountable," said Nasike. "If one person messes it up, the entire group's certification is cancelled."
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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The U.S. is the wealthiest country to make an appearance on a list ranking the 10 nations with the most pollution-related deaths, The Guardian reported Wednesday.
The list is part of the latest report from the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP) on the global health impacts of air, water and workplace pollution. Overall, pollution was responsible for 15 percent of deaths worldwide in 2017, remaining the No. 1 environmental killer. Pollution kills three times more people every year than HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and malaria put together, according to The Guardian, and 15 times more people than war or violence.
"The report reminds us all that pollution is a global crisis. It does not matter where you live. Pollution will find you," GAHP acting Executive Director Rachael Kupka said in a press release.
Pollution is deadliest in India, where it claimed 2,326,771 lives. China came next with 1,865,566 deaths and Nigeria third with 279,318. The U.S. ranked seventh, higher than Russia, Ethiopia and Brazil, with 196,930 deaths.
New report: US is on #top10 list with 196,930 #pollution-related deaths per year. (while ranking 132nd in the numbe… https://t.co/iYQQU9OS8j— GAHP (@GAHP)1576688112.0
The findings come as the Trump administration has worked to roll back both air and water pollution standards. At the same time, the climate crisis is making air pollution in the U.S. worse, partly because it increases wildfires.
"We're facing serious risks from pollution and those risks are exacerbated by climate change. The U.S. has historically been the gold standard in tackling pollution, and today we are sadly not doing enough and the fact that we're going backward is unconscionable," former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said in the press release. "This report reminds us that climate change isn't just about faraway countries or forest fires and floods – it's about our health and the health of our kids – here and now."
However, report coauthor and chair of the GAHP board of directors Richard Fuller said that the figures, from 2017, wouldn't account yet for the full impact of Trump rollbacks.
"We won't pick up the extra deaths for a few years, but it doesn't look good for the US," he told The Guardian. "The [regulatory] roll-backs could lead to the US moving up the chart, and as always it will be poor communities who are disproportionately affected."
The report also listed the countries with the most deaths per 100,000 people and the most deaths from air pollution specifically. The second list featured many smaller countries and was led by Chad, the Central African Republic and North Korea. India, the only country to make all three lists, came in 10th with 174 deaths per 100,000 people.
"India has seen increasing industrial and vehicular pollution from urban growth while poor sanitation and contaminated indoor air persist in low-income communities," the report said, according to an AFP article published by Phys.Org.
Here are the deadliest countries in terms of pollution-related deaths per 100,000. If you don't see your country on… https://t.co/Jswo4vCs3H— GAHP (@GAHP)1576694406.0
Overall, air pollution accounted for 40 percent of worldwide pollution deaths, AFP reported. China and India led that list as well, with their spots reversed, and Pakistan came in third. The U.S. was seventh on this list as well, and ambient air pollution was to blame for more than half of the pollution-related deaths in the country, GAHP said.
The full ranking of air pollution deaths per country is as follows:
- China: 1,242,987 deaths
- India: 1,240,529
- Pakistan: 128,005
- Indonesia: 123,753
- Bangladesh: 122,734
- Nigeria: 114,115
- United States of America: 107,507
- Russian Federation: 99,392
- Brazil: 66,245
- Philippines: 64,386
Overall, air pollution kills more people every year than tobacco, which kills around 8 million, AFP reported.
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There's no question that 2019 was a wakeup call on the climate crisis. Everything from devastating extreme weather events and seeing the planet's hottest month in recorded history to increasingly dire scientific reports coming out seemingly each week removed any doubt that this global emergency is rapidly escalating. We could hardly blame someone for feeling discouraged.
Here's what we must remember, though.
For all of the unfortunate events that happened this year, we also saw an equal (and growing) opposite reaction. People all around the world stepped up for the climate like never before.
What's more, technological advancements and plain economics are making the solutions to the crisis more feasible than ever.
So, here's the top reasons why 2019 left us with real climate hope!
Unprecedented Public Awareness and Action
Our biggest source of optimism this year? The incredible number of people around the world that stepped up for our climate. These highlights make us believe that one day we'll look back at 2019 as a historic turning point for the movement.
1. With an estimated 4 million attendees in over 163 countries, the Sept. 20 climate strike — the biggest climate demonstration in history — saw more people calling for climate action at once than ever before.
NYCs massive #ClimateStrike march has begun, from Foley Sq down Centre St to Chambers St across to Broadway... and… https://t.co/PGdw3PE3mT— Gale A. Brewer (@Gale A. Brewer)1568999257.0
2. The September strike was far from a one-off. In the spring, hundreds of thousands of young people took to the streets and since then, ongoing protests have shown world leaders that the climate movement isn't going anywhere. Take this pre-COP 25 protest in Madrid, for example, where an estimated half a million protestors once again rallied for action.
🚨 This is half a million people on the streets of Madrid. They are demanding a future that is just and livable. I… https://t.co/LX8FR8ycJ6— Adam Greenberg 🔥🍑 (@Adam Greenberg 🔥🍑)1575667061.0
3. This year saw the most Google searches for the term "climate change" ever. If that doesn't show peaking public concern on the issue, we don't know what does. In fact, the term was Googled so much that it even beat out searches for the year's most popular TV show: Game of Thrones.
4. Fortunately, it's not just awareness of the problem that reached new highs — it's also people's desire for action. Take public opinion in the U.S., for example. More than ever, Americans from all walks of life recognize that preserving a safe, sustainable climate simply can't be a partisan issue.
5. One of the best side effects of this shift in public opinion? Growing divestment from fossil fuels by individuals, universities and companies. Take the University of California schools system. This past September, UC administrators removed all fossil fuel investments from their $80 billion portfolio. With this move, the UC system joined more than a thousand institutions that have divested more than $11 trillion from fossil fuels since 2012. That's a seriously large chunk of change no longer supporting dirty energy.
It's not just organizations, though — countries around the world are also pulling their funding. In November, the European Union announced its plan to remove all fossil fuel subsidies after 2021 in what it calls the "most ambitious climate investment strategy of any public financial institution anywhere."
6. And speaking of dirty energy, 2019 left us with climate hope because of the increasing scrutiny the fossil fuel industry is finally getting for spending decades trying to stop climate action. We're seeing everything from lawsuits and growing media coverage to the growing field of attribution science — which can pin natural disasters on the emissions of specific companies — hold this industry accountable for knowingly perpetuating the climate crisis
7. Another encouraging trend? In 2019, celebrities used their far-reaching platforms to support climate action like never before. Everyone from musicians like Lizzo, Billie Eilish, Shawn Mendez, Jaden Smith and The 1975 (which even made a song with climate activist Greta Thunberg) to movie stars like Joaquin Phoenix, Chris Hemsworth, Jane Fonda and Reese Witherspoon, and global figures like Malala Yousafzai and Prince Harry, to name just a few, all joined the fight.
Influential voices amplifying the urgency of the climate crisis helps raise awareness and as a result, spurs more of the grassroots action we really need.
Game-Changing Media Coverage
8. Whether calling it a crisis, an emergency or a breakdown, this year news sources started covering climate change like never before.
Why now? Partly thanks to collective efforts by media groups to finally do this story justice. Take the Covering Climate Now global journalism initiative, for example. Co-founded by The Nation and Columbia Journalism Review, this project includes more than 350 outlets worldwide reaching a combined audience of over a billion people. Now that's the kind of climate coverage the world needs.
9. This December, climate activist Greta Thunberg was named Time magazine's person of the year — a distinction that highlights the importance of climate leadership today. What's more, earlier this year Greta was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize — perhaps the most widely recognized humanitarian award in the world. This gives us optimism not just because we're happy to see Greta receive the recognition she deserves, but because the nomination brought the world's attention to the urgent need for climate action.
10. In the U.S., the first-ever presidential climate town hall gave us a lot of hope. Why? Because it was the first time ever that presidential candidates had to address the climate crisis so seriously. Just four years ago during the 2016 election, candidates were hardly even asked about the topic.
Continued Growth of Renewables
Renewable energy — our most critical tool for reducing greenhouse gas emissions — just keeps getting cheaper and more accessible. So much so that as of this year, according to Bloomberg NEF, "for two-thirds of the global population, it is already cheaper to get power by building a new wind or solar farm than a fossil-fuel power plant." How's that for some good news?
11. Globally, solar photovoltaic installations are expected to reach a new yearly high of 114.5 GW by the end of 2019 — a 17.5 percent increase compared to 2018. What's more, estimates predict that by 2024 the price of solar should drop by another 15 to 35 percent, spurring growth even further!
12. Wind energy also saw record-breaking growth this year. Specifically, by having a little under 2 GW installed from July 1 – Sept. 30, this was the highest third quarter on record for wind installations in the U.S. This push brought the country's total wind supply to more than 100 GW of power — enough to power "the equivalent of 32 million American homes." What's more, 2019 estimates predict that global wind power capacity is expected to grow by 60 percent over the next five years.
Technological and Economic Growth
13. Battery power, which is crucial for economically feasible electric vehicles (and renewable energies like solar and wind), made some serious strides this year. Largely thanks to increased production, battery prices for EVs went from costing over $1,100 per kilowatt-hour in 2010 to $156 per kilowatt-hour in 2019. By 2023, average prices are estimated to drop to close to $100/kWh — making EV's of all kinds even more affordable.
With that cost decrease in mind, it's hardly surprising that 2019 is expected to see a record 2.6 million EVs sold globally — about a 40 percent growth rate compared to 2018.
This year also saw automakers commit a whopping $225 billion to car electrification over the next five years.
14. The building energy retrofit market — a rapidly growing sector that shows great promise for emissions reductions — is another big reason for climate hope. In 2018, New York City was spending just $235 million on building improvements to save energy. However, a groundbreaking new law passed this year is expected to grow that market to nearly $25 billion over the next decade — a 13-fold increase over today's spending.
15. This year the U.S. green economy employed more than 9.5 million people, who together generated a whopping $1.3 trillion in annual sales revenue —nearly 7 percent of annual US GDP. The importance of green jobs and green growth in the U.S. has never been clearer!
Local Wins Are Adding Up
A number of the world's countries with the highest emissions showed a lack of climate ambition this year. Now, that's certainly cause for concern and frustration, but fortunately this doesn't tell the full story.
16. According to the UN, as of this December "around 7,000 cities from 133 countries, 245 regions from 42 countries, and 6,000 companies with at least US$36 trillion in revenue have pledged to cut emissions themselves." National leadership might be faltering, but local leaders are taking up this fight like never before.
17. Natural solutions to the climate crisis saw an inspiring amount of global effort this year. Take reforestation in Ethiopia: This year, the country planted 350 million trees in what the government said was the largest one-day tree-planting effort in history. Ultimately, local wins like these are adding up to make a difference for the whole planet.
18. This year, a total of 4,527 new Climate Reality Leaders were trained in Atlanta, Brisbane, Minneapolis and Tokyo. That's 4,527 activists who now have Climate Reality training and tools to mobilize their communities for action in a decisive year.
19. Our new take on the annual 24 Hours of Reality program also saw great success this year. More than 1,500 Climate Reality Leaders gave more than 2,000 presentations on the climate crisis and how we solve it to audiences across 82 countries, on all seven continents, and in all 50 U.S. states.
20. Just this December, Climate Reality organizers mobilized the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board to sign a resolution committing the school district to transition to 100 percent clean, renewable electricity by 2030, and all other energy uses, including boilers, HVAC and transportation, by 2040.
By Dirk Lorenzen
2020 will be the year of Mars. The red planet will approach Earth in early October to within 62 million kilometers. Four space agencies are set to take advantage of this close encounter and send spacecraft to Mars. The European Space Agency (ESA) will launch its ExoMars rover on a Russian Proton rocket from the Baikonur cosmodrome. ExoMars is set to land on the surface, dig into the soil and look for traces of past life. They will be looking for possible living microbes about half a meter below the Martian surface. Above it, harmful cosmic radiation makes life as we know it impossible.
Next in line is NASA, which is preparing Mars 2020, a rover that will land on the surface as well. It is supposed to look for organic molecules, chemical stuff that contains carbon. It will also try to get the oxygen out of the carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere. This could be critical proof for future manned missions.
Most exciting: Mars 2020 is slated to collect and store samples from the Martian soil for a mission - yet to be planned in detail - that will bring them back to Earth about ten years from now.
Two New Players in the Mars Game: China and UAE
After its successful lunar missions, China is aiming for Mars too. It looks to begin a mission consisting of an orbiter that will fly around Mars for years and a lander with a rover. If their missions succeed, China and Europe will join Russia and the U.S. in landing a spacecraft safely on Mars.
The United Arab Emirates are also planing their first interplanetary mission. The Hope spacecraft will launch with a Japanese rocket and is supposed to orbit the red planet. UAE is looking to gain experience in deep space, and as the name suggests, the team hopes to successfully navigate the spacecraft into Mars' orbit.
China's Next Step in Lunar Exploration
China will most likely launch its Chang'e 5 mission some time in 2020. Early last year, Chang'e 4 landed on the far side of the moon, a feat no other space nation has achieved so far. Chang'e 5 will land on the moon's near side, analyze surface material and bring samples back to Earth. If China manages to do that, for the first time since the mid-70s, samples from the Moon will make it into labs on Earth. Back then, three Soviet Luna missions collected lunar dust.
German Technology on Its Way to the Moon
If everything goes extremely smoothly, the Orion spaceship will launch its maiden voyage in late 2020. Orion, built on the basis of a unique cooperation between NASA and ESA by U.S. and European companies, will spend about four weeks in space. The goal of this Artemis-1 mission, the first within the new lunar exploration framework of the U.S., is to be in lunar orbit for some days and check out all systems.
However, on this first trip, no humans will be on board. But two dummies from the German Aerospace Center DLR equipped with thousands of sensors are going to collect information about the flight conditions. The Orion spaceship consists of two parts: The crew capsule is provided by NASA. The service module with engines, navigation and attitude control systems, fuel, water and air are supplied by Airbus in Bremen, Germany.
Four Lunar Eclipses, Four Disappointments
The Moon is an exciting body in terms of space flight activities. It is a great sight in the sky as well. However, the lunar eclipses of 2020 won't be much for the naked eye. Four times the Moon will cross the Earth's penumbra. During a penumbral eclipse, however, the Moon is still a full circle. But some areas are slightly dimmer than others and appear in a more brown or gray color.
On Jan. 10, the Moon's southern hemisphere will be in the penumbra, visible from 18:00 to 20:00 UTC. On June 5, the same will happen from 18:30 until 20:30 UTC. On July 5, observers will note from 03:00 until 04:00 UTC that the northern hemisphere of the Moon is in Earth's penumbral shadow as well as on Nov. 30 from 09:00 until 10:30 UTC. These eclipses are visible everywhere on Earth where the Moon is above the horizon.
Two Solar Eclipses
2020 is a much better year in terms of solar eclipses. On June 21, less than a day after the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere, there is an annular solar eclipse. The Moon will be in front of the Sun, but it won't be big enough to block the sunlight entirely. It will be akin to a 1-Euro-coin sitting on top of a 2-Euro-coin.
Observers in a long but very narrow zone will experience the annular eclipse: This zone extends for more than 14.000 kilometers, but it is only about 20 kilometers wide. It passes through Congo, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Yemen, Saudi-Arabia, Oman, Pakistan, Northern India, Southern China, Taiwan all the way into the Pacific Ocean to an area south of Guam.
Globally, the eclipse starts at 03:46 and ends at 09:34 UTC. On a given location, the eclipse lasts at best slightly more than two hours. Observers in most parts of Africa and Asia as well as in the northernmost regions of Australia will experience a partial eclipse.
Black Sun Over Chile and Argentina
The 2020 highlight in the sky will be the total solar eclipse on Dec. 14. Again, in a very long zone that is about 90 kilometers wide, the New Moon will block the Sun completely. For at best 2 minutes and 10 seconds, the day will turn into night.
During totality the brightest stars in the sky light up and the black lunar disk is surrounded by the bright and beautiful corona, the Sun's atmosphere. Unfortunately the zone of totality runs almost exclusively over the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean.
Totality starts at 14:33 UTC in the South Pacific and it ends at 17:54 UTC off the Namibian coast. But eclipse chasers can count their lucky stars, because the greatest eclipse occurs over land. Between 16:00 and 16:25 UTC, the Moon's shadow will cross the southern parts of Chile and Argentina. The partial phase of this eclipse is visible in most areas of the southern Pacific, South America, Antarctica, Namibia and South Africa.
Attention! Looking into the Sun without special eclipse filters (regular sun glasses are no protection!) is extremely dangerous. In the worst case, the observer can lose his or her eye sight.
Solar Orbiter: ESA's Spacecraft for the Sun
On Feb. 5 the Solar Orbiter is scheduled to lift off from Cape Caneveral. This joint ESA/NASA mission is set to study the energetic particles constantly emitted by the Sun, to take pictures in X-ray, ultraviolet and visible light. It is set to study the Sun's surface and atmosphere.
It will provide a unique viewing angle as its orbital inclination will increase to about 33 degrees against the Sun's equator over the 10-year span of the mission. The Solar Orbiter will be in a unique position to observe the poles of the Sun, which are out of reach for telescopes on Earth. The spacecraft will get as close to the Sun as 42 million kilometers, well within the orbit of Mercury.
The Year of the Three Planets
Mars, the favorite object for space flight engineers in 2020, will be visible in the sky throughout the year. Until June, Mars shows up in the morning sky. By July it will rise before midnight and from September until December the bright reddish spot in the constellation Pisces is visible all night long. Jupiter, the biggest planet in the solar system, will be visible brilliantly from May until the end of the year.
On July 14, it is in its best position. Jupiter is in the constellation Sagittarius as well as the ring planet Saturn which is brightest on July 20. Jupiter and Saturn are the gems of the long winter nights in the southern hemisphere.
On Dec. 21, Jupiter gets very close to Saturn as the bigger and faster planet passes the slower ring planet. Such encounters of Saturn and Jupiter happen only once in 20 years!
Venus, our inner neighbor in the solar system, is a bright evening star until mid May. Then it will disappear and reemerge in mid June in the morning sky.
New U.S. Space Ships for the Station?
2020 could see a shift in paradigm for U.S. space flight activities. SpaceX and Boeing want to bring humans to the International Space Station and back to Earth. So far, both companies only deliver cargo. However, there have been significant delays in developing the Crew Dragon and the Starliner spaceships. If all goes well, the first manned flights of these capsules could occur in the second quarter of this year. For the first time since the shuttle fleet was retired in 2011, NASA astronauts would launch from US territory into space.
Ariane-6, Europe's New Rocket
Forty years ago, on Christmas Eve 1979, Europe's rocket Ariane took off for the very first time. Ariane has logged more than 250 flights since then. The current Ariane-5 is set to be phased out over the next years.
Late this year, Ariane-6 is scheduled to go on its maiden voyage into Earth's orbit. The new version of Europe's work horse for space activities is much cheaper, versatile and flexible, yet it's equally powerful in terms of payload capacity as its predecessor.
ESA and the European industry are facing strong competition from new commercial players like SpaceX in the U.S. and were forced to come up with a newly developed rocket.
2020: 30 Years of Hubble and Lots of Shooting Stars
On April 24, the Hubble Space Telescope will be in orbit for 30 years. A car on Earth as old as Hubble is considered antique. But the space telescope is still in perfect shape, doing first class science and sending mesmerizing pictures of planets, nebulae, star clusters and galaxies to Earth, reaching out to billions of people.
Stargazers are looking forward to this year's meteor showers. Last year, all three major showers were spoiled by the light of a full Moon. This year is different. While the Perseids in August will be slightly affected by the Moon, the Leonids in November and the Geminids in December will light up in a perfect dark sky. But remember: There can be a bright meteor in the sky at any time. Just look up - and be patient.
Reposted with permission from DW.
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'Grand African Savannah Green Up': Major $85 Million Project Announced to Scale up Agroforestry in Africa
By Erik Hoffner
Amid a deluge of news during the U.N. Climate Summit last month, one major announcement went largely uncovered, yet is among the most important initiatives aimed at reducing the effects of climate change revealed during the events in New York City.
A group of NGOs announced there that they have joined forces in what they're calling "the biggest land restoration project ever seen." They reported securing funding from G9 Ark to implement the initial phase of their first initiative, an $85 million project dubbed the Grand African Savannah Green Up.
The Green Up project is envisioned as a massive scaling-up of Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) — the encouragement of regeneration of trees and shrubs that sprout from stumps, roots and seeds found in degraded soils, such as those currently under agricultural production — and other complementary practices across a swath of Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia, Kenya and Ethiopia.
FMNR in action: a farmer removes side stems from resprouted Guiera senegalensis, the first step in encouraging a strong trunk. Image courtesy of P. Savadogo / World Agroforestry
Once established in farm fields, these woody plants improve soil fertility and moisture for crops planted in combination with them in a system known as agroforestry, which also sequesters carbon from the atmosphere while providing habitat for a diversity of creatures. FMNR made headlines several years ago when 5 million hectares (12 million acres) of Niger were reported to have been regreened via the practice.
The coalition, which calls itself the Global EverGreening Alliance, has a goal of capturing 20 billion tons of CO2 annually by 2050, a figure they say would offset the anticipated fossil fuel emissions during this period while cooling the atmosphere via projects across Africa, Latin America, and Southeast and South Asia. The coalition is made up of NGOs such as World Vision, Catholic Relief Services, World Agroforestry, CARE International, Justdiggit, World Resources Institute, The Nature Conservancy, Concern Worldwide, and others.
Calling the Climate Week launch event at the Global Landscapes Forum a success and climate change an existential crisis, alliance chairman Dennis Garrity (who is also a distinguished senior research fellow with World Agroforestry and drylands ambassador for the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification) told Mongabay by email that there will be six key areas of activity.
According to a draft alliance white paper reviewed by Mongabay, these activities include tripling the current rate of carbon accumulation on degraded farmlands by increasing tree cover through FMNR and agroforestry; increasing soil carbon through conservation farming practices on at least 500 million hectares (1.24 billion acres) of agricultural land; scaling up the use of leguminous shrubs that can fix nitrogen on farmlands; restoring tree cover on 575 million hectares (1.42 billion acres) of degraded forests and in urban environments; suppression of fire and regenerating a "healthy grass-tree balance" on 650 million hectares (1.61 billion acres) of degraded pasturelands; and deployment of carbon capture and storage from "evergreen energy generation."
Millet in Maradi, Niger, benefiting from proximity to Combretum glutinosum shrubs that a farmer is assisting to resprout from stumps. Combretum glutinosum is a fast-growing, drought-resistant woody plant common in the dry Sahel. Image courtesy of P. Savadogo / World Agroforestry
Reached by Mongabay for comment about the alliance's first initiative, agroforestry author and expert Eric Toensmeier said, "This may be the largest individual investment ever made in agroforestry. The area that will be restored, 2 million hectares [5 million acres] by 2025, is almost the size of New Jersey."
The author of the best-selling book The Carbon Farming Solution and a research fellow for the climate change mitigation think tank Project Drawdown, Toensmeier said that FMNR "was developed in the Sahel and is one of the world's fastest-spreading agricultural mitigation practices. It's great [to] see this recognition of the critical role that Sahelian farmers play in drawing down atmospheric carbon," he added.
The alliance's Garrity agreed: "Millions of farm families in the Sahel have been regenerating hundreds of millions of trees on their croplands, to enhance their crop and livestock production and adapt their farming systems to climate change-induced droughts [and] the average tree cover on Sahelian farmlands has now reached 16%. Their efforts are truly inspiring, and they point us toward how much greater action can be achieved to restore degraded lands throughout the drylands of the world," he said.
Agroforestry is already thought to sequester 45 gigatons of carbon, a figure estimated to grow by almost 0.75 gigatons annually, and is said to already cover up to a billion hectares (2.5 billion acres) of land globally. For the past two years, Mongabay has focused a special series on the implementation and impact of agroforestry worldwide.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.