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Rainforest in ruin. Mighty Earth

Chocolate Barons Devastate National Parks in West Africa

By Davis Harper

For several years, chocolate barons have devastated forests to make room to plant cocoa, a crop that naturally grows in shade. Now, a report from Mighty Earth—a nonprofit that works to conserve threatened landscapes—shows new evidence that illegal deforestation is occurring in protected areas; specifically, in the national parks of West Africa.

The Ivory Coast and Ghana produce a combined 2.6 million tons of chocolate—60 percent of the world's supply. It's no wonder so many of these nations' protected lands are at risk. According to Mighty Earth's report, 10 percent of Ghana's tree cover has been replaced by cocoa monocultures. The Ivory Coast, once heavily forested and extremely biodiverse, has lost seven of its 23 protected areas to cocoa. Due to habitat loss, its chimpanzees are now endangered, and its elephants are nearly extinct. This means that companies like Mars, Nestlé, Hersey's and Godiva are on the hot seat for making products using cocoa grown by uncertified sources.

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Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. Daniel Beltrá/Greenpeace

WWF: 60% of Global Biodiversity Loss Due to Land Cleared for Meat-Based Diets

A lot has been said about the many links between the food on our plates to climate change. But a new report from the World Wildlife Fund UK (WWF) highlights how the livestock industry also gobbles up a massive amount of land, leading to wide-scale biodiversity loss.

Producing the animal feed for meat- and dairy-heavy Western diets uses up a lot of the planet's precious resources. Simply put, the more animal products we eat, the more feed we need to produce, but growing the crops used for that feed—such as soy and corn—eats up land, the Appetite for Destruction report notes.

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Kyle Spradley / MU College of Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources / Flickr

Grass-Fed Beef Will Not Help Tackle Climate Change, Report Finds

By Daisy Dunne

Billed as a more environmentally friendly way to rear cattle, grass-fed beef has been the red meat of choice for many a climate-conscious carnivore.

Indeed, research has suggested that grazing cattle can help offset global warming by stimulating soil to take up more carbon from the atmosphere. This process, known as soil carbon sequestration, is one way of reducing the amount of human-induced greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

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A thinning forest in Bolivia. Wayne Walker

Degraded Tropical Forests Now Release More Carbon Than They Store, New Study Finds

Tropical forests may no longer be acting as carbon sinks and could be releasing more carbon than they store, according to troubling new research.

A study published Thursday in the journal Science finds that forests across Asia, Latin America and Africa release 425 metric tons of carbon per year, which is equivalent to nearly one-tenth of the U.S.' annual carbon footprint.

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A stretch of the Jari River inside the Renca Reserve in Amapá state. Daniel Beltrá / Greenpeace

Brazil Backs Off Controversial Plan to Open Amazon Forest to Mining

The Brazilian government announced Monday that it has reversed President Michel Temer's decree last month to open up a protected Amazon reserve to mining.

Temer's controversial proposal had allowed mining in the National Reserve of Copper and Associates (Renca), a 17,800-square-mile nature reserve the size of Switzerland that's known to be an essential carbon sink. The area is believed to be rich in gold, manganese, iron and copper.

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Amazon pink river dolphin. Shutterstock

381 New Species Discovered in the Amazon

A new WWF and Mamirauá Institute for Sustainable Development report, released Aug. 30, reveals that a new animal or plant species is discovered in the Amazon every two days, the fastest rate to be observed this century. The findings come as huge parts of the forest are increasingly under threat, sparking further concern over the irreversible—and potentially catastrophic—consequences unsustainable policy and decision-making could have.

New Species of Vertebrates and Plants in the Amazon 2014-2015 details 381 new species that were discovered over 24 months, including 216 plants, 93 fish, 32 amphibians, 20 mammals (2 of which are fossils), 19 reptiles and 1 bird.

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Water stress levels are rising. Flickr / Asian Development Bank

7 Reasons We Face a Global Water Crisis

By Leah Schleifer

Droughts in Somalia. Water rationing in Rome. Flooding in Jakarta. It doesn't take a hydrologist to realize that there is a growing global water crisis. Each August, water experts, industry innovators and researchers gather in Stockholm for World Water Week to tackle the planet's most pressing water issues.

What are they up against this year? Here's a quick rundown on the growing global water crisis.

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A baby elephant nuzzles its mother in the Leuser Ecosystem on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. Critical elephant habitat is being decimated to make room for palm oil plantations. Paul Hitlon / RAN

World's Biggest Brands Are Pushing Indonesia's Endangered Elephants to Extinction

By Emma Rae Lierley

The Leuser Ecosystem on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia thrums with life. It is an ancient, 6.5 million acres of lush rainforest and steamy peat swamps, and because of its rich biodiversity, is one of the most important rainforests still standing today.

Its clear rivers provide drinking water for millions of people and its lowland and mountainous rainforests are literally the last place on Earth where Sumatran elephants, orangutans, tigers, rhinos and sunbears still coexist in the wild. Globally, we all depend on it for the climate regulating effects such a large carbon-sink can have.

And yet, the Leuser Ecosystem is being actively destroyed for palm oil and other industries.

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Hong Kong's Palm Oil Spill Is Wreaking Havoc on Marine Life

On the night of Aug. 3 two ships collided south of Hong Kong in the approach waters to the Pearl River Delta. According to information obtained from the Tradewinds News, the Japanese GMS chemical tanker Global Apollon and the Pacific International Lines containership Kota Ganteng had a collision but details remain very slim. Details of the damage is also unknown however the Kota Ganteng containership has since sailed onwards to Singapore. The Global Apollon remains at anchor in the waters near the Chinese Guishan Islands just to the South West of Hong Kong's Soko Islands.

The Global Apollon was carrying 9,000 tons of raw palm oil and a substantial (unknown) amount of this was spilt into the surrounding waters. The Guangzhou authorities dispatched nine vessels to assist and contain from reports we have seen, yet the Hong Kong government claim that they were not told of the spill until Aug. 5. By the time the Hong Kong government found out, large amounts of this palm oil began washing up on Hong Kong's southern beaches.

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