This week marks the official start of fall, but longer nights and colder days can make it harder to spend time outdoors. Luckily, there are several inspiring environmental films that can be streamed at home.
1. Kiss the Ground<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ccc5f0c92a5603e68aec39e56b0db02a"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/K3-V1j-zMZw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 22</strong></p><p>Between <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wildfires-california-washington-oregon-photos-2647585008.html" target="_self">wildfires devastating the U.S. West Coast</a> and <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tropical-storm-beta-landfall-2647760268.html" target="_self">storms battering the Gulf</a>, the impacts of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/climate-change/" target="_self">climate crisis</a> can feel overwhelming right now. <em><a href="https://kissthegroundmovie.com/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Kiss the Ground</a> </em>offers an alternative to all of the bad news by focusing on solutions.</p><p>The film, directed by Josh and Rebecca Tickell and narrated by Woody Harrelson, explains how we can heal the Earth through "regenerative agriculture," farming practices that draw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and into soil as a way to restore soil health, which in turn boosts ecosystems and food supplies.</p><p>"<em>Kiss the Ground </em>shows how feasible it is to make these changes at a grassroots level immediately and make a truly substantive impact with low cost and easy to implement solutions," Executive Producer RJ Jain said in an email. "This is why I got involved."</p>
2. Public Trust: The Fight for America's Public Lands<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5338f7a2931e356910026e5fd76fac56"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/jsKMTAaj_wQ?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: YouTube</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 25, 2 p.m. EDT </strong></p><p>This <a href="https://www.patagonia.com/films/public-trust/" target="_blank">award-winning documentary</a> tells the stories of Indigenous activists, journalists, whistleblowers and historians working to protect America's <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/public-lands" target="_self">public lands</a>. The film focuses on three political struggles: the shrinking of <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/bears-ears" target="_self">Bears Ears</a> National Monument in Utah, the mining of Boundary Waters Wilderness in Minnesota and the opening of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/Arctic-National-Wildlife-Refuge" target="_self">Arctic National Wildlife Refuge</a> to fossil fuel exploration.</p><p><em>Public Trust</em> was directed by David Garrett Byars and produced by Jeremy Rubingh. Patagonia Films, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and actor Robert Redford are executive producers. It will be <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGjnIG7puzY" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">released</a> on YouTube in time for <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/national-public-lands-day-2640656776.html" target="_self">National Public Lands Day</a>.</p><p>"Our country is fortunate to have millions of acres of public lands, including National Parks, Monuments, Wildlife Refuges and Wilderness set aside for future generations," Redford said. "Sadly, these lands that belong to you and me are under unprecedented threats from the greed of big corporations, eager to weaken restrictions in the pursuit of profits. Many of our current politicians are also to blame. <em>Public Trust</em> tells the story of citizens who are fighting back. It's a much-needed wake-up call for all of us who want to preserve our unique and wild cultural heritage."</p>
3. David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="156438a30836a765d7a92982545fc334"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/B_OFZvAd05Y?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Oct. 4</strong></p><p>Beloved nature broadcaster <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/David-Attenborough" target="_self">David Attenborough</a> has spent his career introducing viewers to the wonders of our planet. In recent years, his footage of albatrosses swallowing <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/plastics" target="_self">plastic</a> in <em>Blue Planet II</em> has been credited with <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/2018-fighting-plastic-waste-2624606566.html" target="_self">helping to ramp up</a> the global fight against plastic pollution. Now, in this <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">World Wildlife Fund</a> (WWF)-produced <a href="https://www.attenborough.film/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">documentary</a>, he reflects on the defining moments of his career and the devastating changes he has witnessed.</p><p><em>David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet,</em> which was also produced by Silverback Films and directed by Alastair Fothergill, Jonnie Hughes and Keith Scholey, features an intimate conversation between Attenborough and Sir Michael Palin as the broadcaster reflects on his life and a career that took him to every continent on Earth. In addition to streaming on Netflix, the movie will be available in select theaters starting Sept. 28.</p><p>"For decades, David has brought the natural world to the homes of audiences worldwide, but there has never been a more significant moment for him to share his own story and reflections," WWF executive producer Colin Butfield said in a <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/david-attenborough-life-our-planet" target="_blank">statement</a>. "This film coincides with a monumental year for environmental action as world leaders make critical decisions on nature and climate. It sends a powerful message from the most inspiring and celebrated naturalist of our time."</p>
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Betsy Mason
For decades, climate scientist David Keith of Harvard University has been trying to get people to take his research seriously. He's a pioneer in the field of geoengineering, which aims to combat climate change through a range of technological fixes. Over the years, ideas have included sprinkling iron in the ocean to stimulate plankton to suck up more carbon from the atmosphere or capturing carbon straight out of the air.
Solar geoengineering would involve injecting reflective aerosols from high-altitude planes into the layer of the upper atmosphere known as the stratosphere, which stretches between 10 to 50 kilometers (6 to 31 miles) above Earth's surface. The idea is that the aerosol particles would reflect a small amount of sunlight away from the planet, reducing the amount of heat trapped by greenhouse gases and mitigating some of the effects of climate change.
The planned Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment will send a balloon carrying scientific instruments in a gondola into the stratosphere. The instruments will release a small amount of material — likely ice or mineral dust — to form a kilometer-long plume of aerosol particles (left). Modified airboat propellers will allow the gondola to maneuver above the plume (middle) and lower instruments into the plume to take repeated measurements of how the particles spread through the stratosphere (right). ADAPTED FROM J.A. DYKEMA ET AL / PHILOSOPHICAL TRANSACTIONS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY A 2014
David Keith envisions using multiple approaches to combat climate change. The red line shows how the impacts of climate change would worsen with a business-as-usual scenario of unabated burning of fossil fuels and other greenhouse gas emissions. Aggressively cutting emissions bends that curve, and removing carbon from the atmosphere offers further cuts, but there are still consequences from the already high levels of carbon dioxide. In this scenario, solar geoengineering would lessen the impact from existing atmospheric carbon dioxide, effectively carving the top off the curve.<p>Some people think we should use it only as a get-out-of-jail card in an emergency. Some people think we should use it to quickly try to get back to a preindustrial climate. I'm arguing we use solar geoengineering to cut the top off the curve by gradually starting it and gradually ending it.</p><p><strong>Do you feel optimistic about the chances that solar geoengineering will happen and can make a difference in the climate crisis?</strong></p><p>I'm not all that optimistic right now because we seem to be so much further away from an international environment that's going to allow sensible policy. And that's not just in the US. It's a whole bunch of European countries with more populist regimes. It's Brazil. It's the more authoritarian India and China. It's a more nationalistic world, right? It's a little hard to see a global, coordinated effort in the near term. But I hope those things will change.</p>
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By Andrea Willige
More than half of the world's population lives in cities, and most future population growth is predicted to happen in urban areas. But the concentration of large numbers of people and the ecosystems built around their lives has also been a driver of climate change.
Electric Buses in Santiago de Chile<p>Over the past few years, Chile's capital, <a href="https://cleantechnica.com/2020/07/01/chile-orders-150-electric-buses-from-byd/" target="_blank">Santiago de Chile, has bought 455 electric buses</a>, and plans to raise this to nearly 800 by the end of 2020. The e-buses do not generate emissions through their operation, reducing air pollution and its associated impact on human heath and productivity. Air conditioning and a quieter ride are also popular with Santiago's public transport users.</p><p><a href="https://iea.blob.core.windows.net/assets/db408b53-276c-47d6-8b05-52e53b1208e1/e-bus-case-study-Santiago-From-pilots-to-scale-Zebra-paper.pdf" target="_blank">Latin America's first "electric corridor"</a> now operates along one of Santiago's major transport axes, the International Energy Agency (IEA) reports. It is only served by e-buses and consists of bus stops using solar panels to power free Wi-Fi, USB charging and LED lighting – further adding to the attractiveness of the e-bus network for users.</p><p>The e-buses also help the local government to reduce operational expenditure. They cost an impressive 70% less to operate and maintain than diesel-powered buses, offsetting their higher cost of purchase, which is nearly double that of a conventional bus. These huge reductions may also lead to lower fares – which could encourage more people to use public transport.</p><p>Chile has <a href="https://webstore.iea.org/download/direct/3007" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">electrification targets</a> for both private and public transport and has put substantial effort into building demand for EVs and charging infrastructure. Its transport minister has recently issued a tender for the procurement of 2,000 more e-buses, and the project is set to be extended to other cities in Chile.</p><p>Although more than nine out of 10 electric buses in 2019 were registered in China, <a href="https://webstore.iea.org/download/direct/3007" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">South America is a major growth market for e-buses</a>, according to the IEA. Santiago's e-fleet is the largest, but cities in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador also operate electric buses.</p>
New Farming Methods in Abu Dhabi<p>As the number of urban dwellers grows, feeding them is likely to become an ever greater challenge. By 2050, it is expected that <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/01/how-to-build-a-circular-economy-for-food/" target="_blank">80% of all food will be consumed in cities</a>. Where space is limited for traditional farming or the climate makes it difficult to grow sufficient food, <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/02/hydroponics-future-of-farming/" target="_blank">hydroponic farming</a> could be one solution.</p><p>Hydroponics is a water-based farming process that feeds plants nutrient-rich water, rather than them being planted in soil. Because roots don't have to burrow into the ground, hydroponically farmed plants take up a smaller footprint and can be stacked vertically.</p><p>By carefully controlling the plant's environment and nutrient intake, hydroponic farming can not only <a href="https://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/librarypage/poverty-reduction/private_sector/catalyzing-private-sector-investment-in-climate-smart-cities.html" target="_blank">increases yield by a factor of 10 per hectare</a>, but it can also make better use of resources – reducing waste, water usage, pesticides and fertilizers - compared with traditional farming methods. Being indoors, they are less affected by pests and weather events, and crops can be grown close to where they will be consumed. This can save 'food miles' and associated emissions, according to the UN report.</p><p>Abu Dhabi is now providing $100 million in funding to build a vertical farm of over 8,200 square meters (88,000 square feet) for both research and development and the commercialization of crops. The objective for the Abu Dhabi Investment Office, which has granted the funding, is to turn <a href="https://www.just-food.com/news/abu-dhabi-invests-big-in-vertical-farming-initiatives_id143518.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">"sand into farmland,"</a> boost local food production and accelerate the growth of its agricultural technology ecosystem.</p><p>The facility will house four different vertical farming companies, whose initiatives will include indoor tomato cultivation, the development of an irrigation system and an R&D center.</p><p>Similar forays into vertical farming are under way around the world, including in neighboring Dubai, which recently launched <a href="https://gulfagriculture.com/majid-al-futtaim-launches-dubais-first-in-store-hydroponic-farm-bringing-fresh-and-sustainable-food-options-to-shoppers/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">its first in-store hydroponic farm</a>.</p>
Insuring Coral Reefs in Mexico<p>When hedging against climate risk, natural solutions can be important elements in a city's sustainable infrastructure.</p><p>Coral reefs are a case in point, serving as natural barriers against hazards such as ocean surges and flooding. <a href="https://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/librarypage/poverty-reduction/private_sector/catalyzing-private-sector-investment-in-climate-smart-cities.html" target="_blank">They can absorb as much wave energy as seawalls and breakwaters</a>, which are less durable.</p><p>The UNDP report says reefs and other natural defenses are less costly to maintain than man-made solutions and could save as much as $100 billion in cases of natural disasters.</p><p>However, it says, 20% of reefs have been lost globally and another 15% are in danger, and funding for their restoration and maintenance is limited and such initiatives only happen on a small scale.</p><p>In Mexico, the UNDP is now piloting an insurance scheme to protect and boost the Meso-American reef – the second largest globally – as a natural defense, and as a source of income for coastal populations.</p><p>Reef2Resilience is similar to a trust fund that local businesses pay into. The role of the fund is two-fold. It invests in restoring and maintaining the reef – so it can offer better natural protection. And it pays for catastrophe insurance so that the reef and its surrounding ecosystem can recover quickly after a natural disaster, ensuring future protection and protecting the livelihoods of coastal communities.</p><p>An extension of the project to the Caribbean and Asia is being discussed.</p>
Climate-Smart Infrastructure as an Investment Opportunity<p>Climate-smart urban infrastructure, whether technology-driven or natural, represents a $30 trillion investment opportunity – ranging from renewable energy to public transport and from electric vehicles to green buildings, the report says. And that's just in developing economies.</p><p>New funding models, policies and risk assessment will be needed to overcome barriers to investment and bring out the long-term value of climate-smart infrastructure for growing urban populations.</p>
Lego said on Tuesday that it plans to stop using plastic bags inside of box sets and replace them with paper ones.
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By Brett Wilkins
In the nearly six months since President Donald Trump declared a public health emergency over the coronavirus pandemic, he has rolled back at least 30 public protections, while proposing changes to at least 20 others, according to a report published Thursday by Public Citizen's Coalition on Sensible Safeguards.
The report—Pandemic Rollbacks: Slashing Safeguards During the Coronavirus—tracks dozens of regulatory rollbacks enacted or proposed by the Trump administration since March.
<div id="4dd61" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fbdc0a617c3c5d28cd82b3c2021679d0"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1304042392274771969" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">SCOOP: Six months after his emergency declaration, Trump has repealed more than 30 public protections that have not… https://t.co/19r1AuV5Pp</div> — Sensible Safeguards (@Sensible Safeguards)<a href="https://twitter.com/goodregs/statuses/1304042392274771969">1599742908.0</a></blockquote></div>
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By Breanna Draxler
Climate change is the undercurrent that drives and shapes our lives in countless ways. Journalist Judith D. Schwartz sees the term as shorthand. "It's almost as if people think climate is this phenomenon, determined solely by CO2, as if we could turn a dial up or down," she tells me over the phone. "We are missing so much."
Overcoming Cultural Myths<p>Schwartz comes to the topic of climate solutions with curiosity and a deep appreciation for science. You can hear it in the way she writes about processes like transpiration and decomposition: "The logic of nature is no secret; it is laid bare in every streambed, every handful of living soil, every spiderweb, if we bother to take a look. Its tale is told through accrual or retrenchment of biomass, biodiversity, and soil organic matter: the stuff of life."</p><p>She has a particular soft spot for soil health, sustainable grazing, and water retention—subjects on which she has written entire books. These pop up throughout The Reindeer Chronicles as she attends Ecosystem Restoration Camp in Spain and Cowgirl Camp in Eastern Washington. (Yes, it's a thing).</p><p>While I find the name off-putting, Schwartz uses her Cowgirl Camp experience as a springboard to discuss the critical role of women in agriculture. The word "farmer" often conjures an image of a man on a tractor, but she writes that a third of American farmers are women, and in the Midwest, it's closer to half. </p><p>"It's our cultural myths. It's our myth of the cowboy. It's our myth of what a farm is," Schwartz says. "There might be women involved, but you think about them as the supporting cast. We tend to look for heroes before we look for heroines."</p><p>By perpetuating the myth of the male farmer, Schwartz says, "We miss half of the imagination, insight, problem solving, intuition that's out there." And when it comes to climate change, we're going to need all we can get.</p>
Naturalizing the Economy<p>Schwartz's writing is lyrical in its descriptions of systems normally not given such linguistic fanfare. When talking about the economy, she writes, "Its theme music—the vicissitudes of the market, job numbers, profits and losses—sets both melody and tone for newscasts and public debate, the inadvertent soundscape of contemporary life." She calls the disconnect between limitless growth and a finite planet "a society-wide exercise in fooling ourselves."</p><p>But rather than try to force the complexity of nature into existing financial structures—by giving value to resources and ecosystem services, for example—she writes of naturalizing the economy instead. This requires rethinking basic concepts we take for granted, like productivity, jobs, and meaningful work.</p><p>"There is no natural law that says profit must supersede other types of reward," she writes. "The truth is, we are what we measure—or at least our actions are largely determined by how we gauge success. What if environmental healing, social engagement, and a commitment to the future governed our companies and institutions, and therefore our work lives?"</p><p>A lot of the solutions in the book talk about connecting with the land. In some communities that access is collective, but I press her on the fact that access to land is incredibly inequitable. In the U.S., a lot of that has to do with historic and systemic racism. What role does justice have to play here, and how can that be factored into the conversation about ecological restoration?</p><p>"It plays a huge role," Schwartz says. "The people who are most at risk of losing work in this time are people of color and young people." Rather than try to shoehorn everybody back into a service economy that refuses to provide a living wage and requires working two or three jobs, she tells me, we can start investing in restoration.</p><p>She describes the magnitude of the potential benefits with enthusiasm: not just a wage, but tools that are going to be needed throughout the world—the capacity to grow food, manage landscapes, design dwellings. Not to mention the impacts on mental and physical health of being in natural spaces and eating healthy food.</p><p>Schwartz describes these as short-term signposts that give positive feedback on the long road to restoring ecosystems. Biodiversity inevitably bounces back, she says, and soil health, too. While she doesn't tackle the issue of racism head-on, she makes clear that healthy communities include people and the land.</p><p>"What can be more healing than to heal land?" she asks me.</p>
A Local Land Ethic<p>The book is somewhat meandering in its quest for resilience. Schwartz's willingness to entertain a wide range of ideas and approaches is central to her message: "Once ideas on how to achieve what's assumed to be impossible are articulated, that goal is no longer impossible."</p><p>She describes different communal land management traditions—the Himma that long sustained shared grazing lands for Bedouin shepherds in Saudi Arabia, and ahupua'a, whereby each self-sustaining unit of shared land in Hawai'i included functional ecosystems that stretched from the mountains to the sea.</p><p>"I was very humbled by Indigenous knowledge, understanding myself as a newcomer on that land," she says. She admits she has a lot to learn but is excited about the prospect. I ask her how she views the relationship between Western science and traditional ecological knowledge.</p><p>"They can serve as reality checks for each other," she says. She goes on to explain how in Western culture, scientific inquiry is about breaking things apart to look at them in greater detail. But this reductive approach misses the way things fit into systems. In this way, she says science can disconnect people from the very nature they are trying to understand.</p><p>"Originally science was based on keen observation," she says. "That is part of getting us to knowledge." Ancient knowledge systems emphasize the connections between humans and nature—and see humans as part of larger whole. She says science today seems to be bearing that out more and more.</p><p>Still, that doesn't preclude the need for ancient knowledge as the climate rapidly changes. "Who better to be able to keenly observe those changes than people who have known what it has been?" she asks me. "To have a baseline and to know the various factors that will be changing?"</p>
Centering Community<p>Alongside the understanding of place, Schwartz emphasizes the equally important respect for community. Her writing recognizes that climate change is not so much an environmental problem as a human problem.</p><p>"Running in the back of my mind, like the hum of those hovering bees, was the dawning realization that all the knowledge and technology needed to shift to a regenerative future—one marked by agriculture that builds soil carbon, retains water, produces nutrient-dense food, and revives land and communities—is already available," she writes. "It's only people that get in the way."</p><p>To come at it from another angle, as one of her sources puts it, "There is nothing wrong with the Earth."</p><p>In reporting the book, Schwartz reckons with the notion of imperialism and comes to realize the limits of information. Knowing more doesn't necessarily change minds, but feeling heard can. Building trust can. Overcoming fear can. She witnesses the power of consensus when decades-old feuds among ranchers in New Mexico dissipate with the formation of a collective vision for their future.</p><p>"Worst-case-scenario perseverating keeps everyone pumping stress hormones. This leaves us at once frozen and overwhelmed, unable to act or seek alternatives," she writes. "In short, we stuff our heads with worst possible outcomes and wonder why we get them."</p><p>In my favorite example from the book, from which the title is derived, Schwartz explores what some local Indigenous leaders have called "green colonialism" in northern Norway. She follows the efforts of an Indigenous reindeer herder to prevent the government from culling his animals. While Norway's government is considered among the most progressive in the world, it doesn't recognize the value of the grazing animals in climate change mitigation, instead investing in wind turbines on those very same lands. The herder's family considers reindeer herding a cultural bank for traditional language, handicraft, knowledge of the environment, and ecology. So the loss is far greater than the animals themselves. (<a href="https://www.yesmagazine.org/environment/2020/09/02/norway-reindeer-herding-sami-culture/" target="_blank">Read an excerpt here.</a>)</p>
Homebound<p>"This was not an easy book to write," Schwartz admits, and the world looks very different today than when she was writing it. Schwartz says the pandemic has given her permission to fall in love with the place where she is. She describes her home in southern Vermont as beautiful, though somewhat dismissively, saying that she always viewed the action as taking place somewhere else. Home was just the place she returned to after each of her reporting trips to write without distractions.</p><p>Now, though, she says she's experiencing a newfound presence and grounding right where she is, and realizing there's far more to discover than she previously acknowledged. "What was in the background has become foreground." I would venture a guess that her shifted perspective is not unique in these uncertain times, and that's just what she thinks we need.</p><p>Even in the small town of Bennington, Vermont, where she lives, she's seeing the effects. A "grow your own food" webinar was offered in June. While a successful local event might usually attract five people, 100 people signed up. She says this is evidence that people are aware of the need for local resilience.</p><p>"We've all got places," she says. "Places have their own ecological logic. Let's do what we can where we are and learn from each other." That idea of connecting with place and community is central to her worldview. "The 'we' who can address climate change is everybody," she says.</p><p>"There is no one size fits all for climate action." Schwartz says we need to protest oil companies and make art and grow healthy food and feed one another and, in her case, write—all using our respective skills to imagine a more resilient world.</p><p>Her argument, reinforced by 2020's stay-at-home orders, is to focus on restoring the functions of whatever ecosystem you call home. Rhetorically, she writes, "How many microclimates does it take to make a new climate?"</p>
Tipping Points<p>In her concluding chapter, Schwartz asks what people would do if restoring ecosystems was achievable. She then lists possible answers, among them: keeping water in the ground, jettisoning the cynicism, and dancing.</p><p>I can't help but push back on this. After all, if our planet is at a tipping point, don't we need to do more and at larger scales to actually achieve meaningful ecological restoration?</p><p>Her answer is perfect in its simplicity: "Tipping points go both ways." We may be on the brink of disaster, if we choose to dwell on the worst-case scenarios. But maybe, just maybe, if we focus on the best possible outcomes, we can tip the scales to bring best-case scenarios into being.</p>
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By Ajit Niranjan
Shortly before he shot dead 22 mostly Hispanic people in El Paso, Texas, a little over a year ago, a white supremacist wrote in his online manifesto: "If we can get rid of enough people, then our way of life can be more sustainable." He was inspired by a terrorist in Christchurch, New Zealand, who five months earlier had killed 51 Muslim worshippers in attacks on two mosques and identified as an "eco-fascist."
Unequal Emissions<p>Overpopulation is a convenient idea. To some, it means their <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/our-consumption-choices-are-driving-biodiversity-loss/a-46423178" target="_blank">consumption</a> isn't what's damaging the planet, but rather the sheer mass of people — so there's little point in changing their behavior.</p><p>The IHME study says fewer people on the planet would mean lower carbon emissions, less stress on global food systems and less chance of "transgressing planetary boundaries."</p><p>But the problem, scientists say, is that people <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/the-global-injustice-of-the-climate-crisis-food-insecurity-carbon-emissions-nutrients-a-49966854/a-49966854" target="_blank">do not emit equally</a>.</p><p>"It's this extremely superficial analysis," said Arvind Ravikumar, assistant professor of energy engineering at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology.</p><p>Population growth has increased greenhouse gas emissions, according to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/ipcc_wg3_ar5_chapter5.pdf" target="_blank">IPCC</a>, the UN panel of climate science experts, but it is dwarfed by the rise in emissions per person, which is tied to income. People in the richest countries emit 50 times more than those in the poorest — and it is in these low-income, low-emitting countries where human numbers are growing fastest.</p><p>"Sometimes people try to use population as a way to let <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/wealthy-countries-pledge-98-billion-climate-fund-to-aid-poorer-nations/a-50993966" target="_blank">rich countries</a> off the hook," said Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at the Breakthrough Institute in California, "whereas in reality, it's our consumption and our level of economic activity that drives emissions more than the number of people we have."</p><p>A world with lots of people running on <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/cheap-solar-energy-prices-explained/a-53590607" target="_blank">clean energy</a> could have lower emissions than one with few people powered by fossil fuels. Big, fast-growing countries like China and India are building cheap <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/india-coal-energy-solar-power-renewables-change/a-54688107" target="_blank">solar panels</a> and wind turbines that could bring their total emissions down even as incomes and populations rise. </p>
Dark History<p>The concept of overpopulation has a dark past.</p><p>Even if you accept the premise that more people mean more emissions, "what's your solution?" said Ravikumar. "Is your solution to reduce population, forcefully, and if so, whose population should be reduced?"</p><p>Like the terrorists in El Paso and Christchurch, governments throughout history have trampled over the rights of marginalized groups to control their populations.</p><p>Countries like the United States and Canada forcibly sterilized Indigenous women in the second half of the 20th century, while Australia did the same for people with disabilities. India sterilized 6.2 million mostly poor men in 1976, encouraged by foreign donors who made aid packages contingent on population control. More than 2,000 men are thought to have died in botched operations.</p><p>From the late 1970s, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/how-has-the-one-child-policy-affected-china/a-44749604" target="_blank">China restricted population</a> growth through fines, sterilization and forced abortions under a draconian one-child policy that lasted decades. It continues such practices against ethnic Uighur women today, according to an investigation published last month by The Associated Press.</p>
Diverging Population Models<p>Women are having fewer children globally because more girls go to <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/one-in-three-girls-from-poor-households-has-never-attended-school-unicef/a-52064084" target="_blank">school</a> and more people have access to contraception. Both are human rights goals even before considering the environment.</p><p>But demographers disagree on how far — and how fast — fertility will continue to fall.</p><p>While the IHME projects the world's population will start shrinking by 2064, the United Nations expects it to continue growing throughout the century. The difference in population between the two models is about 2 billion people by 2100 — and the uncertainties are so great that both research groups accept the possibility of the opposite trend.</p><p>One reason for the discrepancy is that the UN, unlike the IHME, projects that fertility rates will rebound as countries grow richer.</p><p>Surveys show that women across Europe and North America have fewer children than they would like because of barriers like expensive child care, job pressures and men not taking on a fair share of housework. By removing some of these obstacles, countries like <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/demography-german-birthrate-down-in-coronavirus-pandemic/a-54395345" target="_blank">Germany</a> have seen an uptick in fertility.</p><p>"The UN projections embody an optimism that the long arc of human progress will continue," said Sara Hertog, a demographer at the UN, adding that changing fertility rates are, in themselves, neither good news nor bad news. "I hope the level of fertility reflects the number of children people want to have."</p>
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Environmental regulators across the country granted more than 3,000 requests from polluting oil and gas operations, government facilities, chemical plants, and other facilities to stop pollution monitoring and other procedures intended to protect human health and the environment, an expansive two-month AP investigation revealed.
By Max G. Levy
In seabird after seabird, Anna Robuck found something concerning: per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, lurking around vital organs.
Journeying Across the Globe<p>Coastal environments seem especially vulnerable to PFAS seeping from the <a href="https://www.newsobserver.com/news/business/article235963052.html" target="_blank">chemical plants</a> and military bases <a href="https://www.ewg.org/news-and-analysis/2020/04/updated-map-suspected-and-confirmed-pfas-pollution-us-military-bases" target="_blank">responsible for heavy contamination</a>. <a href="https://scholar.harvard.edu/ccwagner" target="_blank">Charlotte Wagner</a>, a researcher at Harvard University studying the global transport of pollutants, says it's still unclear what fraction of PFAS pollutants remain contained at their source, and what fraction has already leached into other environments.</p><p>But the fact that they do spread — and far — is clear. They generally wind up in oceans, according to Wagner. And not just the ones nearby. <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15913661/" target="_blank">Studies</a> in the early 2000s showed that PFAS survived decades-long journeys from manufacturers to remote ocean basins without breaking down.</p><p>"The ocean is not this static pool or bathtub," she says. Large-scale ocean circulation moves pollutants huge distances across the globe. Some varieties of PFAS may degrade slightly over the course of years, until they convert into one of the more stable "terminal PFAS" subgroups, including PFAAs.</p>
Measuring Harm to Ocean Life<p>In North Carolina's Cape Fear River, striped bass carrying <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019334762" target="_blank">high levels of PFAS </a>showed distinct signs of impaired immune and liver function. But in the vastness of ocean water, can PFAS levels be high enough to cause harm?</p><p>"In recent years there have been increases in immune-based diseases in turtles and dolphins," says DeWitt. One of the most <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22109712/" target="_blank">well-studied</a> health effects of PFAS is immune dysfunction. Most experiments are limited to humans, rodents and chickens, but researchers are piecing together the role of PFAS in marine immune issues.</p><p>One study concluded that PFOS, a phased-out PFAS that still circulates today, triggers <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5831401/" target="_blank">"chronic immune activation</a>" in bottlenose dolphins. A similar link between PFOS and susceptibility to disease appeared in <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16955890/" target="_blank">sea otters</a>. Other research links multiple PFAS to hormonal changes in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2016.07.015" target="_blank">polar bear brains</a>. But these aquatic wildlife health studies are few and far between.</p><p>"PFAS in wildlife is kind of the <em>wild west</em>," says Robuck. "Wildlife are inherently difficult to study in a lot of ways."</p><p>Zeroing on the health effects for individual species is tricky because scientists lack baseline data about stress responses and pollutant levels. They have no choice but to presume consequences in wildlife based on hormonal, immune and reproductive effects in lab animals. For Robuck, that means judging how a pelican will respond to its measured PFAS levels according to health data collected from a chicken. "That's a really crappy comparison," she says.</p><p>In one sense, the method is conservative: Lab animals are well cared for, so their health effects may be a best-case scenario compared to the stressful baseline of wild animals' experience. But it also means we don't have an accurate sense of what dangerous thresholds are for most aquatic life — despite a parade of red flags.</p>
Endless Stream of Pollutants<p>Part of the problem is the sheer number of different compounds. Of the thousands of known PFAS, studies have only deduced health thresholds for a handful. Scientists screening their effects simply can't keep up with the pace.</p><p>The chemical compounds that fall under the PFAS umbrella are also not all the same. Some are long, bulky molecules; others are smaller and more agile. Some forms tend to naturally convert into others; others don't degrade whatsoever. Each molecule has the potential to be more toxic or bioaccumulative than the next. But for a lot of PFAS, Wagner says, scientists don't even have standardized methods of <em>detecting </em>them.</p><p>To make matters worse, even as some of the most dangerous chemicals are being phased out, companies are making alternatives. But they <a href="https://www.ewg.org/release/epa-genx-nearly-toxic-notorious-non-stick-chemicals-it-replaced" target="_blank">may not be any safer</a> than what they're replacing. And scientists have found these alternatives are also accumulating in the bodies of <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214158819300145?casa_token=6t17JUQM74gAAAAA:igHTxRV6z9RPhf1UNqwvbgD9iARSODj4WJtavRsmTbF6UUvn2P1YXirvBya2VC094wm8HMxb3A" target="_blank">fish and polar bears</a>.</p><p>"It seems that we haven't learned anything from the past," says Belén González-Gaya, an analytical chemist at the University of Basque Country in Spain. "We keep on substituting compounds [for] others without any knowledge of biological effects."</p><p><a href="https://www.ewg.org/experts/sydney-evans.php" target="_blank">Sydney Evans</a>, a research scientist for the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, suggests that researchers shouldn't have to prove the health risks for thousands of similar compounds in order to warrant regulatory action. "The burden needs to be on these companies and manufacturers to prove their compounds are safe," she says.</p><p>And while there is much we don't know about the majority of PFAS, experts argue that we do know enough to assume they all share fundamental features: persistence, bioaccumulation and health risks. For this reason a group of scientists recently <a href="https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.estlett.0c00255" target="_blank">published a call</a> for governments and companies to treat all PFAS, old and new, as a single hazardous group.</p><p>"It's really the only way that we can be ahead of the curve," says Wagner, who cowrote the article. "Rather than always realizing that a compound is toxic once it's already everywhere and we measure it on a remote ice-site somewhere in Greenland."</p><p>To shut off the flow of PFAS into the ocean, scientists say that manufacturers should phase out the chemicals and focus on proving safer alternatives.</p><p>With so many open questions, Robuck hopes to see research that more closely predicts threats to marine life — and by extension people, too.</p><p>"As humans, we rely on every natural resource under the sun," she says. "When we undercut a healthy environment, we undercut our own health."</p>
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One of the best things you can do for your child's well-being may be to raise them somewhere green.
<div id="c0d26" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="03960567cbd8baf0b578ce25926363b1"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1296116607794794496" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">In their latest publication, Esmée M Bijnens and colleagues reveal beneficial effects of a green environment on a c… https://t.co/vk8uzysUyh</div> — PLOS Medicine (@PLOS Medicine)<a href="https://twitter.com/PLOSMedicine/statuses/1296116607794794496">1597853254.0</a></blockquote></div>
By Michael Svoboda
If measured by the number of reports put out in just the first half of this year, the coronavirus has not slowed the work of the international, national, and non-governmental organizations keeping an eye on climate change.
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By Jessica Corbett
A month after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro declared a 120-day ban on setting fires in the Amazon rainforest and three months after he deployed military troops to combat deforestation, Greenpeace on Tuesday called out the far-right leader for his ineffective strategies and attacks on environmental protections.
<div id="f8880" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1a36878f52d706c8d4d095685f0f8c56"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1294393701247131653" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">This is what the fires in the Amazon look like right now. Meanwhile, Bolsonaro continues to look the other way and… https://t.co/u5FCDpO6BJ</div> — Greenpeace (@Greenpeace)<a href="https://twitter.com/Greenpeace/statuses/1294393701247131653">1597442481.0</a></blockquote></div>
<div id="9212b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5fbf9e87c891f84170b3c907f03f5972"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1293755405827440641" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Man-made fires in the Amazon were caught on video by @Reuters as they were lit, the same day Brazilian President Ja… https://t.co/tFIMFMXKr0</div> — Reuters (@Reuters)<a href="https://twitter.com/Reuters/statuses/1293755405827440641">1597290300.0</a></blockquote></div>
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By Douglas Broom
"Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people," said former U.S. president, Franklin Roosevelt.
So the FAO is using Twitter to remind the world of these five hidden benefits of forests.