A Barcelona opera house played its first concert since mid-March to an unusual audience: 2,292 plants.
The "Concert for the Biocene" at the Liceu opera house came the day after Spain finally lifted an emergency order put in place to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, Reuters reported. A string quartet played Giacomo Puccini's "Chrysanthemum," bowing respectfully before and after to its leafy audience.
"Nature advanced to occupy the spaces we snatched from it," Eugenio Ampudio, the conceptual artist behind the unique concert, said during a rehearsal Sunday, according to Reuters. "Can we extend our empathy? Let's begin with art and music, in a great theatre, by inviting nature in."
Human listeners were invited in too via a livestream.
The concert organizers are also sharing the event in another way.
"After the concert, the plants will be donated with a certificate from the artist to 2,292 people who have been on the healthcare frontlines, the toughest front in a battle unprecedented for our generations, in recognition of their work," a Liceu press release explained.
The plants came from local nurseries and will be given to workers at the Hospital Clínic of Barcelona in particular.
Spain has been one of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus, with 28,323 deaths and 246,272 cases to date, according to Reuters. As it emerges from lockdown, theaters and cinemas are being allowed to reopen with limits on audience size, NPR reported.
Monday's unique concert was conceived as a prelude to the opera's 2020-2021 season.
"The Liceu, one of the largest and most important opera halls in the world, thus welcomes and leads a highly symbolic act that defends the value of art, music and nature as a letter of introduction to our return to activity," the opera house wrote.
The concert also embodies Liceu artistic director Víctor García de Gomar's goal of forging dialogue between the venue and the visual arts. It is a collaboration between the Liceu, Ampudia, the Max Estrella Gallery and the curator Blanca de La Torre. As part of the collaboration, Ampudia took pictures and a video during the performance that will be added to the Contemporary Art Collection of "la Caixa."
"After a strange, painful period, the creator, the Liceu's artistic director and the curator Blanca de la Torre offer us a different perspective for our return to activity, a perspective that brings us closer to something as essential as our relationship with nature," the press release said.
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Spain is facing intense backlash after local officials sprayed bleach across 1.2 miles of beach near the town of Zahara de los Atunes on its southern coast, near Cádiz.
Local officials and the business association in the picturesque fishing village used tractors to spray a bleach solution onto beaches a day before Spain allowed children out of coronavirus lockdown for the first time since early March, the BBC reported.
The move devastated the local ecosystem, causing "brutal damage," reported BBC.
"It's totally absurd," said María Dolores Iglesias Benítez. "The beach is a living ecosystem. And when you spray it down with bleach, you're killing everything you come across," reported The Guardian.
Iglesias Benítez heads the local association Trafalgar that protects the beaches and nearby dunes, which serve as breeding and nesting grounds for the Kentish plover as well as several other species of migratory birds, The Guardian said.
With no humans on the beach for the past six weeks, she had hoped the number of nests would double this year, The Guardian said. Instead, she's dealing with an "environmental crime" that has left everything on the ground dead, even the insects, reported BBC.
"Bleach is used as a very powerful disinfectant, it is logical that it be used to disinfect streets and asphalt, but here the damage has been brutal," the environmentalist said, reported The Guardian.
Questioning the decision behind the move, she added, "They have devastated the dune spaces and gone against all the rules," The Guardian reported. "The virus lives in people, not on the beach. It is crazy."
According to the regional Andalusian Government, the initiative did not have the requisite environmental and sanitary authorizations. The regional body will investigate and they have already voiced their criticism, demanding "a bit of good sense," reported Spanish media elPeriódico.
"They do not think that this is a living ecosystem, but a lot of land," Iglesias Benítez told elPeriódico. "The beach regenerates and cleans itself, it was not necessary."
Trafalgar is considering going to court because they found at least one plover nest with eggs among the tractor tracks, reported elPeriódico. The plover is currently in full breeding season.
The public outcry against the fumigation caught the attention of many groups, including Greenpeace Spain.
Greenpeace reproached the decision on Twitter, comparing it to U.S. President Donald Trump's suggestion to use bleach injections to stop coronavirus in humans. Greenpeace said, "Fumigating beaches in the middle of the breeding season for birds or the development of the invertebrate network that will support coastal fishing and destroy the tourist value of the coastline is not one of Trump's ideas. It is happening in Zahara de los Atunes," reported elPeriódico.
Fumigar con lejía playas en plena época de cría de aves o de desarrollo de la red de invertebrados que sustentarán… https://t.co/y1Qb5jdpiW— Greenpeace España (@Greenpeace España)1588007402.0
One local official has admitted that it was a "wrong move," reported elPeriódico.
"I recognize it was an error," said Agustín Conejo, president of the neighborhood board, to elPeriódico. "But it was done with the best of intentions" of protecting minors who might walk along the sea, he added.
Local ecologists are not fully convinced because of the long distance between the sprayed areas and where minors can access, reported elPeriódico. They think a local hotelier is trying to guarantee that the area is free of COVID-19 for upcoming lucrative summer tourist season.
With over 23,800 deaths, Spain has been badly affected by coronavirus. It recently announced a four-phase plan to lift its stringent lockdown measures and return to a "new normality" by the end of June, reported BBC.
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The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
Despite Chile's last-minute announcement that it could no longer host the COP25 UN Climate Change Conference, the talks will continue as scheduled in Madrid, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa confirmed Friday.
The announcement came one day after Chilean President Sebastián Piñera of Chile said that acting Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez had volunteered his country's capital city as an alternative venue.
"We are pleased to announce the COP Bureau has agreed that #COP25 will take place from 2-13 December in Madrid, Spain," Espinosa tweeted.
We are pleased to announce the COP Bureau has agreed that #COP25 will take place from 2-13 December in Madrid, Spai… https://t.co/bY6e9khQdJ— Patricia Espinosa C. (@Patricia Espinosa C.)1572619529.0
Chile stepped back from hosting the summit after weeks of protests against income inequality and repression that left at least 20 dead. The protests are an indication of what is at stake if world leaders cannot find an equitable way to address the climate crisis, activists have said.
"The #COP25 is not cancelled because of 'civil unrest', but because of deep social inequality," the group Sail to the COP, 36 young European climate activists who were planning to sail to Chile for the talks, tweeted.
The #COP25 is not cancelled because of "civil unrest", but because of deep social inequality: 1/4 of the wealth is… https://t.co/cYzzzlOkzU— Sail to the COP (@Sail to the COP)1572523975.0
The move from Chile to Madrid has sent groups like Sail to the COP scrambling to arrange last-minute travel plans. The group, currently in Brazil, put out a call on Twitter for any racing sailboats to help carry some of their members back across the ocean in time.
Meanwhile, Spain stepped up to offer assistance to Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, DW reported. Thunberg, who is currently in Los Angeles, had been intending to travel to Chile for the talks without using fossil fuels.
"It turns out I've traveled half around the world, the wrong way," she tweeted Friday. "Now I need to find a way to cross the Atlantic in November... If anyone could help me find transport I would be so grateful."
A little more than five hours later, Spanish environment minister Teresa Ribera responded with an offer of assistance.
"We would love to help you to cross the Atlantic back. Willing to get in contact to make it possible," she tweeted.
Dear Greta, it would be great to have you here in #Madrid. You've made a long journey and help all of us to raise… https://t.co/R2WBloarmN— Teresa Ribera /🌹 (@Teresa Ribera /🌹)1572641724.0
However, it may be harder for delegates from small organizations or developing countries to change their travel plans, The Guardian pointed out.
"We hope all steps are going to be taken … to make access to this COP fair and inclusive. It is important that there is the full participation of climate activists and observers from different parts of the world to COP25 where important negotiations on the Paris agreement are due to be undertaken," interim Executive Director of non-profit umbrella-group Climate Action Network Tasneem Essop told The Guardian.
Madrid said it was up to the challenge of organizing in one month an event that will draw around 25,000 people and cost around $100 million, El País reported.
"We are very eager to show what Madrileños are capable of," Gabriel García Alonso, the president of Madrid's Hotel Association, told El País. "We are a city that is completely prepared to host these events."
Spain's decision to host the summit comes as the country prepares for a general election Nov. 10, and the HuffPost noted that Sánchez might have political motives for offering to host last minute. Sánchez won an election in April after campaigning on a Spanish Green New Deal. But he has also stopped short of embracing aggressive climate action, according to HuffPost:
In September, the prime minister rejected a bid to form a coalition with the left-wing party Podemos, which proposed a much more ambitious Green New Deal program that included transitioning to 100% renewables by 2040 and nationalizing the utility sector. The failure to strike a deal forced Spain to schedule its fourth election in as many years, raising the risk of a conservative government that could reverse Sánchez's climate policies.The COP25 summit is an important chance for world leaders to implement the Paris agreement, The Guardian explained, since it comes just one year before the 2020 deadline for many countries' commitments to reduce emissions.
Bringing the climate summit, known as COP25, to Madrid allows Sánchez to "trade on his credentials as a charming statesman" while putting "partisanship and pretty narrow-minded politics ahead of principle and the plight of future generations," said David Adler, a policy coordinator at the think tank Democracy in Europe Movement 2025.
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Chilean President Sebastián Piñera of Chile said in a press conference in Santiago Thursday that acting Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez had offered to host the summit in Madrid, The New York Times reported.
"Spain believe that multilateral climate action is a priority for both the UN and the EU, and one which demands the highest commitment from all of us," Spain's statement said, according to The Guardian.
He trasladado al presidente de Chile, @sebastianpinera, la disposición de #España para acoger la Cumbre del Clima e… https://t.co/PK7zhnh3OF— Pedro Sánchez (@Pedro Sánchez)1572540763.0
The conference was supposed to be held in Chile from Dec. 2 to 13, but Piñera stepped away from hosting after his country was rocked by weeks of demonstrations against income inequality and police repression.
Carolina Schmidt, the Chilean environment minister and president-designate of COP25, communicated Spain's offer to the UN, which will consider it next week, according to The Guardian. Spain has offered to host the talks, but Chile would retain presidency over them, The New York Times explained.
The conference, which is expected to draw around 20,000 delegates, would discuss the implementation of the Paris agreement to keep global warming to well below two degrees above pre-industrial levels, in an attempt to stave off the worst impacts of the climate crisis.
"It is encouraging to see countries working together in the spirit of multilateralism to address climate change, the biggest challenge facing this and future generations," Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change Patricia Espinosa said in a statement.
The Government of #Chile, as incoming #COP25 Presidency, has informed me that they received a generous offer of sup… https://t.co/o3J871X7GM— Patricia Espinosa C. (@Patricia Espinosa C.)1572540945.0
However, some are concerned with what it could mean for the talks to move them away from Chile.
"It's a shame that COP25 won't be held in Latin America to highlight some of the grave climate impacts that affect the region," Dr Kat Kramer, Christian Aid's global climate lead, told BBC News. "But hopefully a Madrid summit will be able to keep those in mind. Credit should be given to the Spanish government for offering to help at such short notice considering these often take more than a year to organise."
E3G policy adviser Jennifer Tollman, meanwhile, worried about those who had booked non-refundable tickets or made other hard-to-cancel plans.
"A lot of people sank a lot of money into this. For participants in developing countries this is a huge issue. Without support, this could impact participation by the global south," Tollman told The Guardian.
More broadly, the protests that forced Chile to step away from hosting the conference show the importance of incorporating social justice into any plan for climate action.
"Climate policy has to be social policy. That's what will be discussed inside and outside the negotiation rooms," Tollman said.
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More than 3,000 people had to be rescued from the storm that drenched Murcia, Valencia and eastern Andalusia on Spain's Mediterranean coast last week. Some towns recorded their highest rainfall on record. While it is normal for the region to see autumn storms, last week's deluge was the worst to hit eastern Spain in 140 years, EL PAÍS reported.
Floods in southeast Spain 🇪🇸— Copernicus EMS (@CopernicusEMS) September 14, 2019
This #Sentinel2 🇪🇺🛰 image acquired yesterday 13 September shows flooded areas north and northwest of Cartagena and the runoff into the Mar Menor (in blue)
Thanks to @adelgado for the cue pic.twitter.com/X4kYKuLC7O
Because warmer air holds more moisture, the climate crisis increases the chance of extreme rainfall events. Heavy rains and snowfalls are already becoming more frequent, even in dry regions, a 2016 study published in Nature Climate Change found.
In the most recent Spanish storms, Ontinyent in Valencia recorded 250 millimeters (approximately 10 inches) of rainfall in 12 hours, 10 times the normal amount for this time of year, according to EL PAÍS.
"All my warmth and solidarity for the people affected by the heavy rains," Acting Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez tweeted Saturday, as The New York Times reported. "Together, we will deploy all our resources and aid to help the population and return things to normal."
Tristemente lamentamos una nueva víctima mortal en Orihuela. Todo mi cariño para sus familiares y mi solidaridad con todas las personas afectadas por las intensas lluvias.— Pedro Sánchez (@sanchezcastejon) September 14, 2019
Coordinados, volcaremos todos los recursos y ayudas para atender a la población y recuperar la normalidad. pic.twitter.com/p9gg710GEa
The storm killed two siblings on Thursday when their car was swept away by flood waters in Caudete, in Albacete, EL PAÍS reported further. On Friday, another man drowned in Almería when he entered a flooded underpass. Two other men were found dead Friday: one, aged 36, in Granada, and another, aged 58, near Orihuela in Alicante. A sixth man was found dead in Orihuela Saturday. He was 41 years old.
The town of Orihuela was especially hard hit. It was cut off for three days due to flooding on the roads.
More than 1,100 military personnel were deployed to rescue people from flooding in Murcia and Valencia, The Guardian reported. Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said 3,500 people had to be rescued, according to The New York Times. Some people had to be rescued from rooftops by helicopter, and four people were saved from the tops of cars by boat and jet ski. The deluge closed the airports of Murcia and Almería, as well as train lines, roads and schools.
The region could be in for a lengthy recovery. The storm displaced thousands and destroyed at least 300,000 hectares (approximately 741,316 acres) of agricultural land, according to EL PAÍS.
It is too early to estimate the cost of the damages, but Ximo Puig, the head of the Valencia region, requested "something like a Marshall Plan" to help the region recover.
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The storm closed roads and subway tunnels that emergency services were still working to clear Tuesday morning. The two major highways that circle the city were closed temporarily, and flights had to be diverted from Madrid's Barajas airport.
Rain and hail struck hardest in the municipality of Arganda del Rey, southeast of Madrid, El País reported. Flood waters swept parked cars and furniture down the streets of the city, which is located in a valley.
"Trying to stabilize the situation and give an account of urgent requirements. The flash flood has been terrible. All services are working at full capacity to normalize [the situation]. Be alert to instructions," Pedro Guillermo Hita Téllez, the Socialist Party mayor of Arganda del Rey, tweeted, as El País reported.
While emergency services received more than 1,100 calls Monday and firefighters responded to more than 200, no one was injured in the storm, The New York Times reported.
The spectacle was dramatic, though. Spain's meteorological agency AEMET reported more than 9,300 lightning strikes in a six-hour period, according to El País.
Las intensas #tormentas que se están registrando vienen acompañadas de una abundante actividad eléctrica. En las últimas seis horas, nuestra red ha detectado más de 9 300 rayos. ⛈⛈https://t.co/j1GzoihYbR pic.twitter.com/wB6zSN5bi4— AEMET (@AEMET_Esp) August 26, 2019
Meteorologist Benito Fuentes told El País that extreme weather events like Monday's storm are not uncommon for late summer.
"The rain has been fairly heavy but it is not unusual for this time of the year. At the end of summer, the atmosphere is unstable, which causes air to rise for dynamic reasons, not thermal ones. This leads to quite strong rainfall and storms," he said.
But AEMET spokesperson Rubén del Campo told The Guardian that where the rain fell was unusual.
"What happened yesterday is that the Madrid area, which bore the brunt of it, isn't a region that's very accustomed to these levels of precipitation," del Campo told The Guardian. "It's normally the Mediterranean regions that get the most torrential rain. But it does sometimes happen and we saw very intense rain and hail in Arganda del Rey."
Del Campo said the climate crisis might have contributed to the storm.
"It's very difficult to say that what happened in Madrid yesterday was down to climate change, but we are living in a situation where there's no doubt that these higher temperatures mean there's more water vapour in the atmosphere — and that's the fuel that feeds the storms. That's a fact."
The rain was predicted to move east and fall on Valencia and the Balearic Islands before heading towards Italy Wednesday morning, The Guardian reported.
The party that won the most votes in Spain's national election Sunday campaigned on a Green New Deal.
The country's Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) won the largest number of parliamentary seats, at 123, though it fell short of the 176 needed to form a government. It will likely form a coalition government with the anti-austerity Unidas Podemos and smaller regional parties, The Guardian reported. The center-right Popular Party (PP) had its worst election in history, securing only 66 seats, while the anti-immigrant, nationalist Vox won 24 seats, the first time a far-right party has won more than one seat in Spain's parliament since the country transitioned to democracy following the death of General Francisco Franco in 1975.
The PSOE gained control of Spain's government in June 2017 when it ousted the PP via a no-confidence vote following a corruption scandal. Party leader Pedro Sánchez called Sunday's election in February after his party was unable to pass a 2019 budget with only 84 seats. 75.8 percent of the electorate turned out to vote, nearly 10 percentage points more than the number who turned out for the last election two years ago, and Sánchez interpreted the turnout as a rebuke to the far-right policies of his opponents.
"We made it happen," he told supporters, The Guardian reported. "We've sent out the message that we don't want to regress or reverse. We want a country that looks forwards and advances."
One of the ways the PSOE hopes to move forward is on the environment. Sánchez endorsed the idea of a Green New Deal, called "El New Deal Verde" or "El Green New Deal de España" in Spain, in January, according to The Intercept.
His party introduced a climate bill before the election that includes the following goals:
- Reducing greenhouse emissions to 90 percent of 1990 levels by 2050
- Transitioning to renewable energy completely by the same date and getting 74 percent of energy from renewables by 2030
- Banning fracking
- Divesting from and ending government subsidies for fossil fuels
- Banning the registration and sale of gas-burning vehicles by 2040
"One of the main elements of her speeches that we fully share," Ribera told The Intercept, is that "we cannot have sectoral environmental and social agendas. Climate justice and the recognition of climate injustice is very important."
To this end, Ribera has worked with unions to help compensate coal miners as Spain closes its mines. The PSOE's manifesto calls for a nationwide mobilization to clean energy that seeks to engage unions, businesses, local communities and civil society and wants to use decarbonization as a chance to create jobs.
"We cannot get as big a transformation as we need without [a] big dose of just transition and solidarity policies. Otherwise there will be many people who are left behind," Ribera said.
Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias has already called Sánchez to congratulate him and offer to form a government, The New York Times reported.
Podemos also campaigned on a Green New Deal style mobilization. In an interview with Jacobin before Sunday's election, Podemos Member of Parliament MP Txema Guijarro called the party's "Green New Deal package" one of the two "touchstones" of its campaign. That package calls for the creation of public companies including a bank to transition Spain to 100 percent renewable energy in 20 years, as well as a public energy company.
Guijarro spoke of both the opportunities and necessity of acting on climate change:
[T]he necessity of confronting climate change is also an opportunity to create quality employment in a country where there is still a 14 percent unemployment rate. Both sets of measures we were talking about before imply a program of mass public employment, the likes of which have never really been seen in Spain before. We are talking about the creation of hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
And when it comes to climate change, we have no choice but to act now, particularly given where Spain is situated geographically. We are undergoing an accelerated process of desertification which the rest of Europe has not had to deal with.
In worst-case scenario projections, Spain's temperature could rise five degrees Celsius by 2100, The Intercept reported.
The Genal Valley in Southern Spain is famous for its sweet chestnuts, and that could give the economically struggling region a huge boost as vegans and vegetarians in Northern Europe develop a taste for Castanea sativa. But a new threat is putting the valley's reputation, and future, at risk, BBC News reported Tuesday.
"We've lost at least 30% of our usual production," farmer Julio Ruiz told BBC News. "It is all the fault of a small wasp."
The wasp in question is the chestnut gall wasp (Dryoscomus kuriphillus katsumatsu), an import from China that first started causing havoc in the region three years ago. The pest has no natural predators in the area, forest engineer Antonio Pulido told BBC News, and has led to the deaths of numerous trees.
The tiny chestnut gall wasp..latest article from FR http://t.co/7ZwYBjj1F6 http://t.co/xBdavy42M0— Forest Research (@Forest Research)1444904054.0
"The main infestation is in the bud where growth is stunted. As a result the flowers and fruit cannot develop and the health and vitality of the tree is compromised. Every variety of chestnut is affected," Pulido explained.
While other crops grow in the valley, the chestnut is the most lucrative, bringing in 10 million euros a year. The wasps have further consequences for the ecology and culture of the area. For one thing, Pulido said, the burning of infected trees to stop the spread is upping the risk of wildfires.
"It is also adding to urban drift as young people in the villages see their future disappearing in front of their eyes," Pulido added.
The chestnuts of the Genal Valley aren't the only ones that have been imperiled by the wasp. The insect has caused damage throughout Europe.
"It is very likely that the chestnut gall wasp population originates from very few females which were accidentally introduced into Italy via infected plant material brought from China in 2006," University of Extremadura researcher Raúl Bonal explained in a press release translated into English and published by ScienceDaily. In a study published in May, Bonal and his fellow scientists found that the wasps present in Europe had all come from a few females reproducing asexually. This allowed the species to spread quickly throughout the continent.
The spread was also aided by the fact that the wasps are only the size of a grain of rice, and their eggs cannot be seen by the naked eye. The eggs are laid in the buds of the trees and begin to develop when the buds open the next spring. As the larvae develop, they cause galls to form on the leaves and shoots of the chestnut trees.
Oriental Chestnut Gall Wasp - Dryocosmus kuriphilus - twig tip and leaf galls found at Greenwich @theroyalparksr -… https://t.co/2RXAOvgHai— 🐝 NHM Bees 🐝 (@🐝 NHM Bees 🐝)1523198161.0
"Since the eggs cannot be seen, people take the infection with them in the seedling and we are taking the enemy home with us. As a result, before selling the plant the nursery should keep it 'in quarantine' for at least one year to ensure that the plant has no galls. In this way the plant sprouts in controlled conditions," Bonal recommended.
In the Genal Valley, government researchers are also considering another solution: introducing the wasp's natural predator, Torimus sinensis. This approach has succeeded in curbing the spread of the wasp in Italy, North America and Japan, and a limited number of them have been released in the Genal Valley already, BBC News reported.
But government researcher Juan-Ramon Boyero Gallardo is also nervous about the repercussions of a wide release.
"The problem of introducing a further exotic species such as Torimus sinensis is that it can invade the natural woodland, attack indigenous species, displace others and alter the overall biodiversity," he told BBC News.
Invasive Tick Spreads to Ninth State, CDC Warns of 'New and Emerging Disease Threat' https://t.co/9r4yqpJvxJ— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1543820052.0
A draft of the country's "Law on Climate Change and Energy Transition" published Tuesday also proposes measures such as ending fossil fuels subsidies, a ban on fracking, halting new oil exploration licenses and a transition to 100 percent renewable energy sources by 2050, according to media reports.
If enacted, the law would bring major changes to Spain, which is Europe's second-largest carmaker after Germany, and the ninth-largest globally. Brands such as Daimler, Ford, Nissan, Peugeot Citroen, Renault and Volkswagen have manufacturing plants in the country.
"Some of the most important necessary changes affect transport," the document said, per Reuters. "From 2040, the registration and sale in Spain of passenger cars and light commercial vehicles that directly emit carbon dioxide will not be permitted."
This the nation's first law on emissions reduction and clean energy, according to Climate Home News. Overall, the aim is to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20 percent by 2030 and by 90 percent by 2050, compared to 1990 levels.
"Our proposal is to reduce Spain's current greenhouse gas emissions by a third in just a decade, which we consider an international milestone and a sign of our firm commitment to the fight against climate change," Spain's ecological transition minister Teresa Ribera told the publication.
Spain joins other European countries such as France, the UK, Denmark, Scotland, the Netherlands and Norway that have proposed similar internal combustion engine bans in order to tackle climate change. Even car-obsessed Germany has allowed its cities to ban diesel vehicles from its roads to combat air pollution.
Spain's minority government is led by Socialist Pedro Sánchez, who has served as prime minister since June. His party holds less than one-quarter of the seats in parliament. The climate legislation will need the support of other parliamentary parties in order for it to pass.
José Luis García Ortega from Greenpeace España told Climate Home News that the government's proposals are actually not strong enough to meet the Paris agreement's goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. He said Spain needs to reduce its emissions to net-zero and switch to renewables by 2040 instead of 2050
"We just can't afford to wait," he said.
Wildfires Rage Through Portugal and Spain, Kill at Least 39 https://t.co/Ym9f9mo23j @wattsupwiththat @climateinstitut— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1508284206.0
27 Injured, 300,000 Without Power as Leslie Becomes Strongest Storm to Hit Iberian Peninsula Since 1842
Leslie became the rare named Atlantic tropical system to hit Europe late Saturday when it rammed into Portugal as a post-tropical cyclone, injuring 27 and leaving more than 300,000 without power, The Associated Press reported Sunday.
Leslie had been downgraded from a Category One hurricane before making landfall, but it still lashed Portugal with hurricane-force winds. The seaside town of Figueira da Foz recorded wind speeds of 105 miles per hour.
"I have never seen anything like it," one Figueira da Foz resident told SIC television, as BBC News reported. "The town seemed to be in a state of war, with cars smashed by fallen trees. People were very worried."
The storm, which was one of the most powerful to ever hit Portugal, canceled flights, caused flooding, uprooted 1,000 trees and blocked roads including, for a time, the main A1 highway. The area around the capital of Lisbon, as well as the districts of Coimbra and Leiria, were the most impacted. In the north, Aveiro, Viseu and Porto also suffered damage.
In one incident, the roof was blown off the stadium of the women's European roller hockey final.
Leslie was expected to head towards Spain Sunday, with winds of 100 kilometers per hour (approximately 62 miles per hour) recorded near Zamora early Sunday, though wind speeds then decreased.
Tropical Atlantic storm systems do not usually head towards Europe. The last hurricane to impact the Iberian peninsula was the Spanish hurricane of 1842. The last named storm system to make landfall was Vince in 2005, according to The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang.
#Leslie is going into uncharted territory as a #hurricane- closest in modern times to Spain and Portugal on record.… https://t.co/JjuwgV0LyA— Eric Blake 🌀 (@Eric Blake 🌀)1539442515.0
Leslie made it as close to Portugal in hurricane form as it did partly because of warmer than average surface temperatures off the coast of Portugal.
University of Castilla-La Mancha postdoc cyclone researcher J.J. Gonzalez-Aleman tweeted a study showing that warmer Atlantic temperatures attributed to climate change could lead to more tropical Atlantic hurricanes reaching Europe in the early autumn.
Ahora que el debate meteorológico sobre #Leslie acaba, se estarán preguntando🤔: ¿Juega aquí algún papel el Cambi… https://t.co/iSiPWaWKCg— J. J. González Alemán, PhD (@J. J. González Alemán, PhD)1539510040.0
Leslie was also unusual for the length of time it spent over the ocean before making landfall. It first formed on Sept. 23 and lasted four weeks and two days, making it one of the longest lasting Atlantic hurricanes ever recorded. When it did dissipate Oct. 14, it did so after becoming the strongest storm to hit the Iberian Peninsula since 1842, Wx Centre reported.
"Defiant" #Leslie, as @NHC_Atlantic put it. This entrancing satellite loop is 19 days ending yesterday. When I star… https://t.co/OqNhFiX2v8— Stu Ostro (@Stu Ostro)1539567913.0
The 6-ton, 33-foot-long juvenile male beached near a lighthouse in Cabo de Palos in the region of Murcia in February.
Región de Murcia
Experts at Murcia's El Valle Wildlife Recovery Center, which carried out the necropsy, said the whale was unable to expel or digest the trash, causing it to die from peritonitis, or an infection of the abdomen.
#MedioAmbiente lanza una #campaña para concienciar sobre el peligro de las #basurasmarinas para la #Fauna Ejemplo:… https://t.co/Imk9ZArFBb— EspaciosNaturalesMur (@EspaciosNaturalesMur)1522847480.0
Sperm whales, which can measure up to 67 feet long, are listed as "vulnerable" to extinction.
This grisly death has prompted the government of Murcia to launch a new campaign to combat ocean plastics.
According to Spain's English publication, The Local, the program encourages Murcia residents to responsibly dispose of their garbage and to volunteer for beach clean-ups along the coast. It also involves new research programs to help monitor the extent of plastic waste off the coast and its effect on marine life.
"The presence of plastics in seas and oceans is one of the biggest threats to the conservation of wildlife in the world," Consuelo Rosauro, Murcia's regional government's environment minister, said of the initiative.
"Many animals get trapped in the rubbish or ingest great quantities of plastics, which end up causing their death," she added.
"The Murcia region is no stranger to this problem that we must tackle by way of clean-up actions and, above all, awareness of citizens."
About 8 million metric tons of plastic enter our oceans each year—a major threat to marine life and marine ecosystems. Last month, the UK government released a startling report warning that plastic pollution in the world's seas is projected to increase three-fold within seven years unless action is taken.
The good news is many local and national governments are waking up to the scourge of ocean plastics and introducing legislation to stem its flow.
For instance, fees on single-use plastic bags have led to a 30 percent drop of plastic bags in the seafloor around Norway, Germany, northern France and Ireland, a 25-year study from the UK government recently revealed.
Plastic Bag Bans Actually Work, Study of European Waters Shows https://t.co/wixMURiRdz #plasticpollution… https://t.co/8ItJs0dT4X— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1523042387.0
Wildfires have killed at least 39 people in Spain and Portugal since Sunday.
Hundreds of fires in both countries are being fanned by winds from Hurricane Ophelia in the north, currently barreling towards Ireland, and encouraged by extremely dry terrain from a scorching hot summer in the region.
Sixty-four people died in a wildfire in Portugal in June, and the country has declared a state of emergency in the northern region. "We are facing new (weather) conditions" due to climate change, Portuguese Interior Minister Constanca Urbano de Sousa told the press, as she also referenced the fires blazing in California. "In an era of climate change, such disasters are becoming reality all over the world."
UN Urges World Leaders to Heed Climate Risk, Warns of More Severe Disasters https://t.co/e9FBEjtAm1 @Climate_Rescue @beyondzeronews— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1508239508.0
As reported by Vox:
Meanwhile, the European Environment Agency projected a rise in the "length and severity of the fire season, the area at risk and the probability of large fires," as average temperature rises this century.
Europe's fire season has already grown from July through August to June through October over the past 50 years."
For a deeper dive: