By Amol Mehra
Set against rising calls for action to combat growing inequality and the climate crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic underscores the importance of the key drivers of industry and economic reform: workers, communities and the environment.
The Built Environment<p>The built environment – the physical places and structures that we inhabit – is a huge potential change agent in this regard. Buildings and construction account for massive amounts of energy usage and about 40% of global CO2 emissions, providing a clear pathway to shift current consumption and production pathways.</p><p>The construction sector accounts for around <a href="https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Industries/Capital%20Projects%20and%20Infrastructure/Our%20Insights/Reinventing%20construction%20through%20a%20productivity%20revolution/MGI-Reinventing-Construction-In-Brief.pdf" target="_blank">13% of the world's GDP </a>and<a href="https://iloblog.org/2020/05/11/the-construction-sector-can-help-lead-the-economic-recovery-heres-how/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> for 7.2% of the global workforce</a>. Many of the jobs linked to these sector have a negative history of labour rights, especially with respect to <a href="https://laborrights.org/issues/migrant-labor" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">migrant laborers</a>. As <a href="https://iloblog.org/2020/05/11/the-construction-sector-can-help-lead-the-economic-recovery-heres-how/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">experts have noted</a>, the scale of the industry and its relative impacts on labour markets and the environment make it a prime agent of transformation of the broader global economy.</p><p>By prioritizing approaches that focus on decarbonization and the promotion of labor rights protections, we can create economic opportunities that promote healthy, regenerative structures. Efforts are starting to seed in this regard, with <a href="https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2020/1/15/21058051/climate-change-building-materials-mass-timber-cross-laminated-clt" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">increased attention</a> being placed to mass timber and other wood products in construction, as well as the use of natural materials in buildings.</p><p>At the same time, leading human rights organizations are looking more closely at promoting <a href="https://www.ihrb.org/focus-areas/built-environment/commentary-linking-climate-human-rights-built-environment-lifecycle" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">rights-based approaches</a>.</p>
Not all industries are equal. ourworldindata.org
Fashion<p>But this isn't the only sector with transformative power. The fashion sector produces <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/01/fashion-industry-carbon-unsustainable-environment-pollution/" target="_blank">nearly 10% of the world's carbon emissions and is the second largest consumer of the water</a>, all while employing between <a href="https://www.ilo.org/global/industries-and-sectors/textiles-clothing-leather-footwear/lang--ja/index.htm" target="_blank">60 and 70 million</a> workers in garment supply chains.</p><p>While there have been laudable innovations in recent years towards adopting circularity and increasing the use of organic materials, there is still huge potential to promote transformative change in protections for workers.</p><p>Workers in the sector are often left without social protections, exposing them to vulnerability. In recognition of this need, the International Labor Organization, business actors and labor rights leaders have <a href="https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---ed_dialogue/---dialogue/documents/statement/wcms_742371.pdf" target="_blank">committed to take</a> action to protect garment workers' income, health and employment, and to work together to establish sustainable systems of social protection for a more just and resilient garment industry.</p><p>This "Call to Action" launched in April 2020 and now needs steady implementation. The effort should seek to cast a wide tent, bringing in other industry players and leveraging development actors as well.</p><p>What's clear from the examples above is that critical, much needed efforts are starting to emerge and that these efforts need to be encouraged and accelerated. As social movements, consumers, investors, regulators and businesses themselves start to realize the value of transforming practices, the momentum will increase for other sectors to follow suit. This domino effect will spur the economic transformation that is so desperately needed to ensure that the environment, and the people who inhabit it, can live in a healthy, just society.</p><p>There can be no doubt: transformation of our economic system is imperative. The moment is now for businesses, and the industries they are part of, to seize it.</p>
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Glass bottles could have an even bigger impact on the environment than plastic ones, a new study has found.
Like many other plant-based foods and products, CBD oil is one dietary supplement where "organic" labels are very important to consumers. However, there are little to no regulations within the hemp industry when it comes to deeming a product as organic, which makes it increasingly difficult for shoppers to find the best CBD oil products available on the market.
Charlotte's Web<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDcwMjk3NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MzQ0NjM4N30.SaQ85SK10-MWjN3PwHo2RqpiUBdjhD0IRnHKTqKaU7Q/img.jpg?width=980" id="84700" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a2174067dcc0c4094be25b3472ce08c8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="charlottes web cbd oil" /><p>Perhaps one of the most well-known brands in the CBD landscape, Charlotte's Web has been growing sustainable hemp plants for several years. The company is currently in the process of achieving official USDA Organic Certification, but it already practices organic and sustainable cultivation techniques to enhance the overall health of the soil and the hemp plants themselves, which creates some of the highest quality CBD extracts. Charlotte's Web offers CBD oils in a range of different concentration options, and some even come in a few flavor options such as chocolate mint, orange blossom, and lemon twist.</p>
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By Jeannette Cwienk
Shubham Mani Tripathi, newspaper reporter, India: shot dead in June 2020 for exposing illegal sand mining. Maria Efigenia Vasquez Astudillo, radio reporter, Colombia: struck and killed by a projectile in October 2017 while covering clashes between the Indigenous community and local police. Joseph Oduha, journalist, South Sudan: fled the country in 2019 after imprisonment and torture for uncovering environmental destruction by international oil companies.
Indigenous Communities Threatened<p>Environmental journalists in Europe also face intimidation and harassment, said RSF spokesperson Christoph Dreyer, pointing to cases connected to the destruction of the Hambach Forest in northwestern Germany or unsustainable agriculture practices in Brittany, France. But most of these attacks, more than 65%, are recorded in Asia and the Americas.</p><p><span></span>"These cases exist in places where raw materials are being mined or where land is being seized for agriculture, in countries where the government is on the side of industry," said Dreyer.</p><p>It's in these areas, where Indigenous communities often live amid untapped natural resources and unspoiled forest, where local journalists are usually the first to report on the conflicts. Often, they're the only ones on the scene."</p><p>In some Latin American countries, the dominant traditional media are heavily controlled by the economic and political elites," said Dreyer. "They often hold back from critical reporting on environmental issues, because it clashes with their interests." As a result, when local media decide to take a closer look they're put under extreme pressure, he added.</p>
Local Journalists Under Pressure<p>The work of local journalists is extremely important for Indigenous communities, said Kathrin Wessendorf, head of the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA). "Each Indigenous community has its own language, and only community reporters can report in that language," she told DW. "They also know how best to approach the community to spread the message."</p><p>Patricia Gualinga, who fights for Indigenous rights in Ecuador, told DW that large national media networks are often slow to report on environmental and human rights issues. "It's really very difficult to get coverage on TV. And if an issue isn't reported by the media, it doesn't exist," she said.</p>
Media Coverage Provides Protection<p>Journalism is needed to bring such crimes to light, said Wessendorf, adding that international media have a particularly important responsibility.</p><p>"Journalists can bring the human rights violations often associated with environmental destruction to the attention of the wider public," she said. "This, in turn, can lead to international solidarity and put pressure on governments or companies."</p>
Documenting Violence and Intimidation Across Borders<p>Gualinga and other media workers from Latin America discussed the role of journalism in the fight for environmental protection and human rights during a <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/gmf-digital-session-tierra-de-resistentes-defending-the-planet/a-55397748" target="_blank">a recent panel discussion</a>at DW's Global Media Forum. Also taking part was Andres Bermudez Lievano, a Colombian journalist and one of the editors of <a href="https://tierraderesistentes.com/en/" target="_blank"><em>Tierra de Resistentes ("Land of Resistants"</em>)</a>. The investigative data journalism project, available in English, Spanish and Portuguese, was launched by Colombian Journalists' Association, Consejo de Redaccion, with the support of the DW Akademie.</p><p>In the project, journalists from 10 different countries documented the fates of hundreds of environmental activists in Latin America who have been threatened and killed for their work. Nearly 2,400 cases have been compiled to date, with some now taken up by UN organizations.</p>
Secondhand Clothing Sales Are Booming – and May Help Solve the Sustainability Crisis in the Fashion Industry
By Hyejune Park and Cosette Marie Joyner Armstrong
A massive force is reshaping the fashion industry: secondhand clothing. According to a new report, the U.S. secondhand clothing market is projected to more than triple in value in the next 10 years – from US$28 billion in 2019 to US$80 billion in 2029 – in a U.S. market currently worth $379 billion. In 2019, secondhand clothing expanded 21 times faster than conventional apparel retail did.
The Next Big Thing<p>The secondhand clothing market is composed of two major categories, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/20932685.2019.1684831" target="_blank">thrift stores and resale platforms</a>. But it's the latter that has largely fueled the recent boom. Secondhand clothing has long been perceived as worn out and tainted, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/0959396032000101372" target="_blank">mainly sought by bargain or treasure hunters</a>. However, this perception has changed, and now many consumers consider secondhand clothing to be of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/20932685.2019.1576060" target="_blank">identical or even superior quality</a> to unworn clothing. A <a href="https://www.cosmopolitan.com/style-beauty/fashion/a31085526/how-to-sell-clothes/" target="_blank">trend of "fashion flipping"</a> – or buying secondhand clothes and reselling them – has also emerged, particularly among young consumers.</p><p>Thanks to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/17543266.2017.1346714" target="_blank">growing consumer demand and new digital platforms</a> like Tradesy and Poshmark that facilitate peer-to-peer exchange of everyday clothing, the digital resale market is quickly becoming the next big thing in the fashion industry.</p><p>The market for secondhand luxury goods is also substantial. Retailers like The RealReal or the Vestiaire Collective provide a digital marketplace for authenticated luxury consignment, where people buy and sell designer labels such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Hermès. The market value of this sector <a href="https://www.retail-insider.com/retail-insider/2020/3/the-rise-of-pre-owned-luxury-fashion-marks-shift-amid-sustainability-movement" target="_blank">reached $2 billion in 2019</a>.</p><p>The secondhand clothing trend also appears to be driven by affordability, <a href="https://www.marketwatch.com/story/covid-19-propels-an-already-surging-secondhand-clothing-market-2020-06-23" target="_blank">especially now, during the COVID-19 economic crisis</a>. Consumers have not only <a href="https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/economy/spotlight/economics-insights-analysis.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reduced their consumption of nonessential items like clothing</a>, but are buying <a href="https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Industries/Retail/Our%20Insights/The%20State%20of%20Fashion%202019%20A%20year%20of%20awakening/The-State-of-Fashion-2019-final.ashx" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">more quality garments</a> over cheap, disposable attire.</p><p>For clothing resellers, the ongoing economic contraction combined with the increased interest in sustainability has proven to be <a href="https://www.marketwatch.com/story/covid-19-propels-an-already-surging-secondhand-clothing-market-2020-06-23" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a winning combination</a>.</p>
More Mindful Consumers?<p>The fashion industry has long been associated with <a href="https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/publications/a-new-textiles-economy-redesigning-fashions-future" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">social and environmental problems</a>, ranging from poor treatment of garment workers to pollution and waste generated by clothing production.</p><p>Less than 1% of materials used to make clothing are currently recycled to make new clothing, a <a href="https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/publications/a-new-textiles-economy-redesigning-fashions-future" target="_blank">$500 billion annual loss for the fashion industry</a>. The textile industry produces <a href="https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/putting-brakes-fast-fashion" target="_blank">more carbon emissions than the airline and maritime industries combined</a>. And approximately <a href="https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/putting-brakes-fast-fashion" target="_blank">20% of water pollution across the globe</a> is the result of wastewater from the production and finishing of textiles.</p><p><a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/solitairetownsend/2018/11/21/consumers-want-you-to-help-them-make-a-difference/#efe999c69547" target="_blank">Consumers have become more aware</a> of the ecological impact of apparel production and are more frequently demanding apparel businesses <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/pamdanziger/2020/05/10/coronavirus-will-force-fashion-to-a-sustainable-future/#6973567f5292" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">expand their commitment to sustainability</a>. Buying secondhand clothing could provide consumers a way to push back against the fast-fashion system.</p><p>Buying secondhand clothing increases the number of owners an item will have, extending its life – something that has been <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/ijcs.12354" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">dramatically shortened in the age of fast fashion</a>. (Worldwide, in the past 15 years, <a href="https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/publications/a-new-textiles-economy-redesigning-fashions-future" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the average number of times a garment is worn before it's trashed</a> has decreased by 36%.)</p>
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By Ruby Russell
We are used to hearing politicians and policy wonks talk about economic growth, celebrating when it goes up, and selling their pet projects and policies as key to boosting growth.
The problem is, as the economy expands, so does our consumption of resources. Waste, emissions and other pollution go up, too. Which is why many are asking — can we really keep infinitely expanding our economies on a planet of finite resources?
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By Tara Lohan
Election Day 2020 — the day before the United States officially left the Paris climate agreement — didn't deliver an immediate rebuke to President Trump or relief for environmentalists.
That would have to wait.
The Good Stuff<p>Few big-ticket wins were clear early except for the fact that Democrats held onto the House of Representatives — an expected but not inconsequential victory. And although their majority slimmed, several new additions will be a boon for environmental issues.</p><p>One of those is progressive Cori Bush, who cruised to victory in Missouri's 1st congressional district. She's the first Black woman from the state to be elected to Congress. The nurse, pastor and Black Lives Matter activist is also a <a href="https://coribush.org/environmental-justice-and-the-green-new-deal" target="_blank">Green New Deal supporter</a>.</p><p>In gubernatorial fights, Washington's climate champion Jay Inslee won re-election. So did Democrat Roy Cooper in North Carolina, which <em><a href="https://www.eenews.net/energywire/2020/11/04/stories/1063717739" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">E&E News </a></em><a href="https://www.eenews.net/energywire/2020/11/04/stories/1063717739" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">called</a> a significant victory in the state's push for clean energy.</p><p>Mark Kelly flipped a Senate seat blue in Arizona, and so did John Hickenlooper in Colorado.</p><p>Hickenlooper, a <a href="https://coloradosun.com/2020/09/18/hickenlooper-fracking-oil-gas-colorado-us-senate-race/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">booster of the fracking industry</a> during his time as Colorado governor, is not exactly beloved by environmentalists in the state. But his defeat of Cory Gardner was hailed by the League of Conservation Voters, which called Gardner one of "<a href="https://www.lcv.org/article/lcv-congratulates-john-hickenlooper/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">worst anti-environmental candidates</a>" running this year. It was also the <a href="https://coloradosun.com/2020/11/04/colorado-history-democrats-election-sweep/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">first time in 84 years</a> that Democrats swept all statewide races in Colorado.</p><p>Along with those victories came one for wolves, too. Colorado voters passed <a href="https://therevelator.org/wolf-reintroduction-colorado/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Proposition 114</a>, which will require the state Parks and Wildlife department to develop a restoration and management plan for the reintroduction of gray wolves. It comes less than a week after the Trump administration <a href="https://therevelator.org/wolves-lose-protection/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">removed federal protection</a> from gray wolves across the country.</p>
Photo by Steve Felberg/Pixabay (CC)<p>In other statewide races, <a href="https://therevelator.org/environment-2020-ballot/" target="_blank">Nevada's Question 6</a>, which would require electric utilities to get 50% of their electricity from renewables by 2030, was approved by voters. But how much that helps the state's clean energy future is a matter of debate. Nevada has already passed similar legislation. Enshrining this benchmark into the state constitution could help protect it from future rollbacks — or it could make efforts to raise the target even harder.</p><p>Much further down the ballot, <a href="https://legal-planet.org/2020/11/05/climate-candidates-notch-victories-in-major-city-council-races-across-western-u-s/" target="_blank">climate champions made gains</a> in city council positions in major cities such as Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco and Portland.</p><p>Denver also approved an increase in sales tax to help fund <a href="https://www.denverpost.com/2020/11/03/denver-election-results-2a-2b-taxes-homeless-environment/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">climate and clean energy initiatives</a>. And Columbus, Ohio passed a measure that would help the city secure <a href="https://www.yesforissue1.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">more locally sourced renewable energy</a>.</p><p>"City leadership is <a href="https://c40-production-images.s3.amazonaws.com/other_uploads/images/955_C40_Report_US_Cities_Get_Job_Done.original.pdf?1480607660" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">important</a> for advancing climate action but new research <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/research/pledges-and-progress-steps-toward-greenhouse-gas-emissions-reductions-in-the-100-largest-cities-across-the-united-states/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">finds</a> U.S. cities falling behind," Daniel Melling, communications manager for the UCLA Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, <a href="https://legal-planet.org/2020/11/05/climate-candidates-notch-victories-in-major-city-council-races-across-western-u-s/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">wrote</a> for Legal Planet.</p>
The Bad Stuff<p>An anticipated, decisive retaking of the Senate by Democrats never materialized, and whether it remains in Republican hands won't be decided for a bit. Two Georgia races are headed to a January runoff.</p><p>If Republicans do hang on to the Senate, that will mean any bold new climate legislation — or likely any meaningful environmental legislation at all — coming out of the House will be stymied, especially <a href="https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/politics/elections/kentucky/2020/11/03/mcconnell-wins-senate-seat-will-he-be-majority-leader/6057995002/" target="_blank">if Mitch McConnell retains his role as Senate leader</a>.</p><p>Meanwhile several Republican senators with dismal environmental records will be back, including Iowa's Joni Ernst, Mississippi's Cindy Hyde-Smith, Alabama's Tommy Tuberville and Roger Marshall from Kansas. Lindsay Graham, who has a <a href="https://www.thestate.com/news/local/environment/article245783790.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mixed at best record when it comes to climate legislation</a>, also returns.</p><p>While Colorado may have seen a blue wave, <a href="https://www.thenation.com/article/politics/montana-election-results/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Montana was awash in red</a>. A Republican sweep across the state included a victory by coal-industry ally Greg Gianforte, who took the governor's mansion out of control of Democrats for the first time in 16 years.</p><p>Gianforte previously said he "would advocate as governor for increased port capacity on the West Coast to get coal to market," <a href="https://www.eenews.net/energywire/2020/11/04/stories/1063717739" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reported</a><em> E&E News</em>. Montana coal production <a href="https://www.greatfallstribune.com/story/news/2020/09/21/coal-production-montana-saw-21-decline-last-year/5858642002/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">fell 21%</a> during the pandemic.</p>
Coal train loading at Spring Creek mine, Montana. Photo: WildEarth Guardians, (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).
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By John R. Platt
These days many of us have a natural inclination to "doomscroll" — that constant refreshing of social media so we can gnash our teeth at the most recent bad news.
There's an alternative. Let's call it hopescrolling — the art and act of looking for beautiful things and important information to keep us inspired.
With the pandemic and election results still looming over our heads, here are 20 of our favorite nature- and environment-related Instagram accounts. May they fill your days with beauty and drive you to fight for the planet.
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By Sarah Steffen
A stretch of coastline in the Philippine capital, Manila has received backlash from environmentalists. The heavily polluted Manila Bay area, which had been slated for cleanup, has become the site of a controversial 500-meter (1,600-foot) stretch of white sand beach.
Sand Makeup Crucial for Ecosystems<p>While UNEP/GRID-Geneva generally supports finding <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/not-enough-sand-for-construction-industry-despite-abundance/a-49342942" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">alternative sources of sand</a> so as not to disrupt ecosystems in rivers and oceans when extracting them, Vander Velpen stressed it was vital to use sand which closely matches the makeup of the native sand to protect beach fauna.</p><p>"If you change the core characteristics of the native sand, the original sand, you need to do an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to find out how it's going to impact the ecosystem and nearby ecosystems," he told DW.</p><p>But according to Torres, such an assessment was not done in Manila.</p>
Beautification Stunt Instead of Proper Cleanup?<p>Manila Bay's waters are heavily polluted by oil and trash from nearby residential areas and ports. A huge "No swimming" sign warns visitors to stay away from the ocean.</p><p>Philippines' <a href="https://denr.gov.ph/index.php/priority-programs/manila-bay-clean-up/25-priority-programs/1825-frequently-ask-questions-faqs-on-the-dolomite-and-the-beach-nourishment-project" target="_blank">Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)</a> has denied dolomite sand poses any risk to human health and the ecosystem.</p><p>However, scientists of the University of the Philippines have come forward disputing the DENR's claims. A <a href="https://biology.science.upd.edu.ph/index.php/ib-statement-regarding-dolomite-in-manila-bay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">statement by the Institute of Biology</a> said that using crushed dolomite did not address any of the rehabilitation phases and instead was "even more detrimental to the existing biodiversity as well as the communities in the area," pointing to the case of water birds. "The dumping of dolomite in Manila Bay has effectively covered part of the intertidal area used by the birds thereby reducing their habitat."</p><p>At peak migration season, Manila Bay is home to 90 aquatic bird species, including species of international conservation concern that are facing a very high extinction risk in the wild. </p><p>Authorities should focus on protecting and conserving biodiversity, the Institute of Biology added. "Rehabilitating mangroves is an example of a nature-based solution that is cheaper and more cost-effective than the dolomite dumping project," the scientists said.</p><p>Moreover, <a href="http://www.msi.upd.edu.ph/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the Marine Science Institute</a> has warned that prolonged inhalation of finer dust particles of dolomite could "cause chronic health effects," leading to discomfort in the chest, shortness of breath and coughing.</p><p>They also warned dolomite sand grains would erode during storms and be carried out to sea, essentially being washed away.</p>
Rehabilitation vs. Reclamation<p>Environmentalists say covering up the beach doesn't address the real issues of the bay. Torres and others believe the best way to clean up Manila Bay is not to add anything, but rather remove trash and pollution.</p><p>"There have been studies saying much of the waste comes from already collected waste — so these are open dump sites along the coast that get washed up because of the rain," Torres said.</p><p>She criticized the authorities for continuing to push reclamation projects she says are at odds with each other. These projects will affect large areas of mangrove forests, she said, and experts warn that this, in turn, exacerbates coastal erosion.</p><p>"If you've removed the areas that helped trap the sand, like mangrove forests, then the likelihood increases that you will have to nourish a beach. Same as building right up to the waterfront," said Vander Velpen of UNEP/GRID-Geneva.</p>
Plenty of Sand in the Sea?<p>The question of Manila's contentious white beach echoes larger questions about sand mining worldwide. <a href="https://unepgrid.ch/storage/app/media/documents/Sand_and_sustainability_UNEP_2019.pdf" target="_blank">Global sand consumption has tripled</a> over the past two decades, UNEP/GRID-Geneva has found. A huge chunk of it is now taken up by construction.</p><p>"Many operate on the assumption that natural sand is endless in its supply," said Vander Velpen.</p><p>Sand scarcity is a concern shared by Stefan Schimmels of <a href="https://www.fzk.uni-hannover.de/fzk_start.html?&L=1" target="_blank">Forschungszentrum Küste</a> who's done extensive research on shore nourishment to stop coastal erosion. And as climate change and rising sea levels are threatening coasts, demand for sand will grow even more.</p><p>A large study, the <a href="http://www.stencil-project.de/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/STENCIL_SWOT_Analyse_191026.pdf" target="_blank">Strategies and Tools for Environment-Friendly Shore Nourishments as Climate Change Impact Low-Regret Measures (STENCIL project)</a>, focused on the German island of Sylt, a popular vacation spot.</p><p>About 1 million cubic meter of sand per year is used to maintain the coastal area of Sylt, STENCIL project head Schimmels said. That's about 100 million 10-liter buckets of sand.</p><p>When sand was extracted off the coast of Sylt, underwater craters were formed. "You can still detect these craters even decades later," Schimmels told DW.</p><p>"Also when you add a couple of meters sand onto the beach — you essentially bury all things that do creep and fly," he said. "How quickly will they recover?" Schimmels said more research was needed as there was still too little known about long-term effects on the environment. </p>
Criticism Piling Up<p>As for Manila's artificial white sand, it looks like some might have already been blown away by a recent storm. DENR claims it wasn't washed away, but said that grayish sand, stones and other material had simply piled up over the dolomite sand. People in Manila have tweeted photos showing how the storm has ravaged the beach. </p>
<div id="adc0b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="98f9390db6bb81cb421aaf0bb9d9a6fb"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1318816633280851969" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Exactly one month after giving excited netizen a glimpse of Manila Bay white sands, look what happened now after ju… https://t.co/X0Z9i0bPB0</div> — M*A*S*H (@M*A*S*H)<a href="https://twitter.com/Magtira_Matibay/statuses/1318816633280851969">1603265362.0</a></blockquote></div><p>Authorities have been called tone-deaf for spending around 389 million pesos ($8 million) on a beach nourishment project in the middle of a raging pandemic.</p><p>An image of cake iced with the words "It really hurts - that's [worth] 389 million pesos?" has since gone viral.</p>
<div class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4387aad52ea316e4db7330052318ca2f"><div class="fb-post" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/theweekendpatisserie/posts/144564207350008"></div></div><p>"It's just a waste of precious resources," Torres said. </p><p>The environmental activist now also worries that she might be labeled a terrorist for speaking out under the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/philippine-anti-terrorism-law-triggers-fear-of-massive-rights-abuses/a-53732140" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Philippines' controversial new anti-terrorism law</a>. She says she could be arrested for inciting fear when talking about environmental dangers.</p>
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By Dr. Kate Raynes-Goldie
Of all the plastic we've ever produced, only 9% has been recycled. So what happened to all that plastic you've put in the recycling bin over the years?
Triangle of Mistruths<p>The myth created around plastic recycling has been one of simplicity. We look for the familiar triangle arrows, then pop the waste in the recycling bin so it can be reused.</p><p>But the true purpose of those triangles has been misunderstood by the general public ever since their invention in the 1980s.</p><p>These triangles were actually created by the plastics industry and, according to a report provided to them in July 1993, <a href="https://www.npr.org/transcripts/912150085" target="_blank">were creating "unrealistic expectations"</a> about what could be recycled. But they decided to keep using the codes.</p><p>Which is why many people still believe that these triangular symbols (also known as a <a href="https://sustainablepackaging.org/101-resin-identification-codes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">resin identifier code</a> or RIC) means something is recyclable.</p><p>But according to the American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM) – which controls the RIC system – the numbered triangles "<a href="https://www.astm.org/Standards/D7611.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">are not recycle codes</a>." In fact, they weren't created for the general public at all. They were made for the post-consumer plastic industry.</p><p>In other words, the symbols make it easier to sort the different types of plastics, some of which cannot be recycled – <a href="https://www.ecobin.com.au/understand-recycling-codes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">depending on the recycling facility</a>.</p><p>"Unfortunately, just placing your plastic into the recycling bin doesn't mean it will get recycled," says Lara Camilla Pinho. She is an architect and lecturer at the UWA School of Design who is researching novel uses of plastic waste.</p><p>"The recycling system is complicated and often dictated by market demand. Not all plastic is recyclable. We cannot recycle plastic bags or straws for example."</p>
Behind the Scenes<p>So, what makes recycling plastics so difficult?</p><p>"Essentially, there are two types of plastics – thermoplastics and thermosets. While thermoplastics can be re-melted and re-molded, thermosets contain cross-linked polymers that cannot be separated meaning they cannot be recycled," says Lara.</p><p>"Even thermoplastics have a limit to the amount of times we can recycle them, as each time they are recycled they downgrade in quality."</p><p>Even when plastics are recyclable, it is <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/13/war-on-plastic-waste-faces-setback-as-cost-of-recycled-material-soars" target="_blank">often more costly</a> than simply making new plastics.</p>
Sugar, Seaweed and Mushrooms<p>If the conventional recycling system isn't working, what else can we do with all the plastic we've created?</p><p>Lara is looking for ways to add value to recycled plastics such as using it in the design and development of architectural products. She hopes to use these architectural products to help underserved communities that are disproportionately affected by plastic waste.</p><p>In addition to recycling, we also need to find ways to reduce our use of virgin petroleum-based plastics.</p><p>Bioplastic is one such product that has been getting a lot of hype over the last few years. And although they're better than petroleum-based plastics, bioplastics also come with their own <a href="https://phys.org/news/2017-12-truth-bioplastics.html" target="_blank">set of challenges</a>.</p><p>"There are already a lot of bio-based alternatives to plastic, such as bagasse – a byproduct of sugar cane processing," says Lara.</p><p><a href="https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/the-mycelium-revolution-is-upon-us/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mycelium</a>, a type of fungi we most often associate with mushrooms, are also providing an interesting plastic alternative.</p><p>"In the field of architecture, mycelium is starting to be used as an alternative to plastic insulation, but also as compostable packaging and bricks," says Lara.</p><p>"The bricks take around five days to make and are strong, durable, water resistant and compostable at the end of their use."</p><p><a href="https://www.arup.com/news-and-events/hyfi-reinvents-the-brick" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hy-Fi Tower</a>, created by <a href="http://www.thelivingnewyork.com/living_about.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Living</a>, is an example of a building made from these bricks.</p><p>And finally, there's seaweed.</p><p>"[Seaweed is] cheap and can reproduce itself quickly without fertilizers. In architecture, there is use for seaweed as an alternative to plastic insulation but also as cladding," says Lara.</p>
More Money, More Problems<p>While all these alternatives are great, the main cause of our plastic dilemma is not scientific or technological, but economic.</p><p>As long as it remains <a href="https://engineering.mit.edu/engage/ask-an-engineer/why-is-it-cheaper-to-make-new-plastic-bottles-than-to-recycle-old-ones/" target="_blank">cheaper to create new plastics</a> from fossil fuels rather than from bioplastics or from recycling, we're going to be stuck with plastic garbage islands floating in our oceans.</p><p>The true cost to our health and our environment has yet to be included in the equation. But once it is, maybe that is when the real shift will happen.</p>
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By Hannah Seo
If you've been considering throwing out that old couch, now might be a good time. Dust in buildings with older furniture is more likely to contain a suite of compounds that impact our health, according to new research.
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By Robert J. Orth, Jonathan Lefcheck and Karen McGlathery
A century ago Virginia's coastal lagoons were a natural paradise. Fishing boats bobbed on the waves as geese flocked overhead. Beneath the surface, miles of seagrass gently swayed in the surf, making the seabed look like a vast underwater prairie.
Why Didn’t Seagrasses Recover Naturally?<p>Development, nutrient runoff and other human impacts have damaged marshes, mangroves, coral reefs and seagrasses in many bays and estuaries worldwide. Loss or shrinkage of these key habitats has reduced commercial fisheries, increased erosion, made coastlines more vulnerable to floods and storms and harmed many types of aquatic life. Rapid climate change has compounded these effects through <a href="https://theconversation.com/ocean-warming-has-fisheries-on-the-move-helping-some-but-hurting-more-116248" target="_blank">rising global temperatures</a>, more <a href="https://theconversation.com/more-frequent-and-intense-tropical-storms-mean-less-recovery-time-for-the-worlds-coastlines-123335" target="_blank">frequent and severe storms</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/as-climate-change-alters-the-oceans-what-will-happen-to-dungeness-crabs-61501" target="_blank">ocean acidification</a>.</p><p>In the late 1990s, local residents told two of us who are longtime students of seagrasses (Robert "JJ" Orth and Karen McGlathery) that they had spotted small patches of eelgrass in shallow waters off Virginia's eastern shore. For years the conventional view had been that seagrasses in this area had not recovered from the events of the 1930s because human activities had <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aquabot.2005.07.007" target="_blank">made the area inhospitable for them</a>.</p><p>But studies showed that water quality in these coastal bays was <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02782971" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">comparatively good</a>. This led us to explore a different explanation: Seeds from healthy seagrass populations elsewhere along the Atlantic coast simply weren't reaching these isolated bays. Seagrasses are underwater flowering plants, so seeds are among the main ways they reproduce and spread to new environments.</p>
Eelgrass beds were restored in four bays at the southern tip of Virginia's eastern shore on the Atlantic coast. David J. Wilcox/VIMS, CC BY-ND
Sowing a New Crop<p>From our <a href="https://doi.org/10.2307/1941597" target="_blank">earlier research</a>, we knew that when eelgrass seeds fall from the parent plant, they sink to the sea bottom quickly and don't move far from where they land. We also knew that these seeds don't germinate until late fall or early winter. This meant that if we collected the seeds in spring, when eelgrass flowers, we could hold them until the fall, helping them survive over the months in between.</p><p>We decided to try reseeding eelgrass in the areas where they were missing. Starting in 1999, we collected seeds by hand from underwater meadows in nearby Chesapeake Bay – plucking the long reproductive shoots, bringing them back to our laboratory and holding them in large outdoor seawater tanks until they released their seeds naturally. After about 10 years we started gathering the grasses using a custom-built underwater "lawn mower" to collect many more of the reproductive shoots than we could by hand.</p><p>In 2001 we sowed our first round by simply tossing seeds from a boat. Our first test plots covered 28 acres of mud flats in waters 2 to 3 feet deep. Returning the following year, we saw new seedlings sprouting up.</p><p>Each year since then, the <a href="https://www.vims.edu/" target="_blank">Virginia Institute of Marine Science</a> and the <a href="https://www.nature.org/en-us/about-us/where-we-work/united-states/virginia/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Nature Conservancy's Virginia Coast Reserve</a>, along with staff and students from the <a href="https://www.vcrlter.virginia.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">University of Virginia</a>, have led a team of scientists and citizens to collect and seed a combined 536 acres of bare bottom in several coastal bays.</p><p>These initial plots took off and rapidly expanded. By 2020 they covered 9,600 acres across four bays. Several factors helped them flourish. These bays are naturally flushed with cool, clean water from the Atlantic Ocean. And they lie off the tip of Virginia's eastern shore, where there is little coastal development.</p>
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Sheltering Marine Life and Storing Carbon<p>Since eelgrass disappeared from these bays in the 1930s, human understanding of seagrass ecosystems has evolved. Today people don't pack their walls full of seagrass insulation but instead value different services they provide, such as habitat for fish and shellfish – including many <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/conl.12645" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">commercially and recreationally important species</a>.</p><p>Scientists and government agencies also have recognized the importance of coastal systems in capturing and storing so-called "<a href="https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/bluecarbon.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">blue carbon</a>." In fact, we now know that seagrasses constitute a globally significant <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo1477" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">carbon sink</a>. They are a key tool for reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-64094-1" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">slowing climate change</a></p><p>We are working to understand the valuable services that our restored seagrass beds provide. To our surprise, fish and invertebrates returned within only a few years as the meadows expanded. These organisms have established extensive food webs that include species ranging from tiny seahorses to 6-foot-long sandbar sharks.<br></p><p>Other benefits were equally dramatic. Water in the bays become clearer as the seagrass canopy trapped floating particles and deposited them onto the bottom, burying significant stocks of carbon and nitrogen in sediments bound by the grasses' roots. Our research is the first to verify the overall net carbon captured by seagrass, and is now being used to issue carbon offset credits that in turn <a href="https://vaseagrant.org/eelgrass-carbon-credits/" target="_blank">create more funds for restoration</a>.</p><p>One big question was whether restoring seagrasses could make it possible to bring back bay scallops, which once generated millions of dollars for the local economy. Since bay scallops no longer existed in Virginia, we obtained broodstock from North Carolina, which we have <a href="https://chesapeakebaymagazine.com/return-of-the-bay-scallop/" target="_blank">reared and released annually</a> since 2013. Regular surveys now reveal a growing population of bay scallops in the restored eelgrass, although there is still some way to go before they reach levels seen in the 1930s.</p>
Restored seagrass beds (dark areas) along Virginia's Atlantic coast, with sunlight reflecting from a small island. Jonathan Lefcheck, CC BY-ND
A Model for Coastal Restoration<p>Repairing damaged ecosystems is such an urgent mission worldwide that the United Nations has designated 2021-2030 as the <a href="https://www.decadeonrestoration.org/" target="_blank">U.N. Decade on Ecosystem Restoration</a>. We see the success we have achieved with eelgrass restoration as a prime model for similar efforts in coastal areas around the world.</p><p>Our project focused not only on reviving this essential habitat, but also on charting how restoring seagrasses affected the ecosystem and on the co-restoration of bay scallops. It provides a road map for involving scholars, nonprofits organizations, citizens and government agencies in an ecological mission where they can see the results of their work.</p><p>Recent assessments show that the restored zone only covers about 30% of the total habitable bottom in our project area. With continued support, eelgrass – and the many benefits it provides – may continue to thrive and expand well into the 21st century.</p>
By Brian Bienkowski
Fish exposed to endocrine-disrupting compounds pass on health problems to future generations, including deformities, reduced survival, and reproductive problems, according to a new study.
Low Levels Lead to Generational Impacts<p>Researchers exposed inland silverside fish to bifenthrin, levonorgestrel, ethinylestradiol, and trenbolone to levels currently found in waterways.</p><p>"Our concentrations were actually on the low end" of what is found in the wild, DeCourten said, adding that it was low amounts of chemicals in parts per trillion.</p><p>Bifenthrin is a pesticide; levonorgestrel and ethinylestradiol are synthetic hormones used in birth controls; and trenbolone is a synthetic steroid often given to cattle to bulk them up.</p><p>Such endocrine-disruptors have already been linked to a variety of health problems in directly exposed fish including altered growth, reduced survival, lowered egg production, skewed sex ratios, and negative impacts to immune systems. But what remains less clear is how the exposure may impact future generations.</p><p>For their study, DeCourten and colleagues started the exposure when the fish were embryos and continued it for 21 days.</p><p>They then tracked effects on the exposed fish, and the next two generations.</p>
Inherited Problems<p>DeCourten said the altered DNA methylation is one of the plausible ways that future generations would experience health impacts from previous generations' exposure. Hormone-disrupting compounds have been shown to impact DNA methylation, which is an important marker of how an organism will develop.</p><p>"Methyl groups are added to specific sites on the genome, [the exposure] is not changing the genome itself, but rather how the genome is expressed," she said. "And that can be inherited throughout generations."</p><p>In addition, Brander said there are essentially different "tags" that exist on DNA molecules, which tell genes how to turn on and off. She said the exposure to different compounds may be "influencing which methyl tags get taken on or off as you proceed through generations."</p><p>The researchers said the study should prompt future toxics testing to consider impacts on future generations.</p><p>"The results … throw a wrench in the current approach to regulating chemicals, where it's often short-term testing looking at simple things like growth, survival, and maybe gene expression," Brander said.</p><p>"These findings are telling us we really at least need to consider" the next two generations, she added.</p>
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