By Wesley Langat
Over the years, the Rift Valley lakes in Eastern Africa have been vital in supporting livelihoods of local communities who depend on fishing, farming and livestock keeping. Apart from being a UNESCO world heritage site, the lakes are also a major tourist attraction destination with rich flora and fauna.
But recent rising levels of water in the lakes have become disastrous, displacing thousands of people. One of those displaced individuals is 60-year-old David Maragoli, a father of three. Maragoli invested his savings into buying a piece of land and building a brick house for his family in the Borut village in Nakuru, 165 kilometers west of Nairobi – Kenya's capital city.
"I'm not employed anywhere, but all my savings from the hawking business, amounting to over 2 million KSh (USD 2,000), was lost here," he said.
Climate change is one of the present day global challenges that is continuously exposing millions of people to persistent accumulation of vulnerabilities and risks such as flooding, droughts and land slides among other natural disasters.
The 2019 Global Report on Internal Displacement shows that Sub Saharan Africa recorded 2.6 million people were negatively impacted by weather-related disasters, more than any other region and accounting for 36% of all displacements worldwide.
A few months ago, the shore line of the lake was almost one kilometer away from Maragoli's house, but in recent weeks waters have been submerging houses and farms at an alarming rate near his home. Maragoli said that drivable gravel roads in the village are no longer useful. People are now having to travel by boat as a new means of transportation to collect the remains of their homes, such as bricks, iron sheets and other building materials.
"It's so sad, some weeks ago, I could load my belongings into a truck just in the compound, but now it is not accessible anymore – only by boat," he added.
Even though the entire region of the Rift Valley is not experiencing heavy rain, several other lakes including Baringo, Naivasha, Bogoria, and Turkana among others are recording high levels of water, overflowing into the nearby settlements and displacing people, flooding farms, and destroying property.
John Hauwory, an independent consultant and geologist based in Nakuru, attributed these issues to the rapidly changing climate preceded by erratic rains, droughts and increased human activities in the watershed catchment areas.
"The anthropogenic activities coupled with meteorological activity in the Lake Nakuru basin and geological activities dispose the lake to flooding," said Hauwory. He added that the impact of human activities in the lake's catchment area has had a profound effect on the flooding risk.
Dickson Ritan, the assistant director of the Central Rift conservation area based in the Nakuru Kenya Wildlife Service Office (KWS) – a government agency, said that this year Lakes Nakuru and Baringo have recorded the highest levels of waters. He noted that the flooding in the lakes has not only affected livelihoods but also wildlife and tourism, most of the hotels have been closed down and the wildlife displaced.
"In almost all the Rift Valley's lakes, water level has risen considerably, engulfing riparian areas which were previously pasture spaces for wildlife like hippos and buffalos," Ritan explained.
He added that flooding is causing a serious impact on wildlife as most of them have been displaced. In Baringo and Nakuru, for instance, Ritan said that his organization is continuously monitoring the situation and has relocated the affected wildlife to flood free zones.
Reports indicate that floods in Lake Baringo have left more than 5,000 people homeless. The Kenya's National Climate Change Action Plan indicates that the economic cost of floods and droughts in Kenya is estimated to create a long-term fiscal liability equivalent to between 2% and 2.8% of the country's GDP every year. The costs of floods are estimated to be about 5.5% of GDP every seven years, while droughts account for 8% of GDP every five years.
Experts and geologists described the East Africa Rift System as the biggest rift on Earth. Its formation was as a result of hot volcanic magma separating the two tectonic plates creating Eastern Rift Valley and Western (Albertine) Rift Valley. Additionally, the formation of the great lakes of Eastern Africa is due to massive volcanic activities and depressions.
According to Hauwory, the Great Rift Valley lakes have diverse biodiversity that supports millions of people and wildlife. However, due to the fertile soil in the upper catchment areas, a large percentage of lands adjacent to these lakes experience intensive and unsustainable land use such as agriculture, infrastructure developments, deforestation and urbanization. Therefore, these becomes the source of erosion leading to massive uncontrollable sedimentation in the lakes.
"The soil has high porosity, permeability and loose structure, therefore, highly susceptible to erosion, land subsidence and fractures during or after heavy rain," he noted. He further pointed out that widespread sediment deposition storage in these lakes end up occupying a lot of space, forcing water overflow like in the case of Lake Nakuru which is shallow.
"Due to high gradient in the catchment area, such as the Mau Forest Complex, the rate at which sedimentation takes place is too high, considering that most of these lakes do not have outlets, so the underground seepage is gradually filled with silt," he said.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature shows that the Kenya Lake System is a habitat for endangered and threatened species. In addition, due to its alkalinity, Lakes Nakuru, Elementaita and Bogoria, enable the growth of food for wildlife. The biodiversity created supports approximately 75% of the global population of flamingos.
Ritan also revealed that the current rising level of water is a threat to aquatic life, like flamingos. In Lake Nakuru, water has already covered a 30 kilometer square area of land destabilizing the composition of biodiversity in the lakes.
"The water salinity has affected the growth of algae, mainly the red algae, which is the main food for flamingos," Ritan said.
"When these food resources are threatened, this means aquatic animals are also affected. In particular, flamingos will be forced to migrate."
He commented that his agency is doing continuous surveillance, as well as, sensitizing the public to tame human-wildlife conflict as a result of displaced animals. On the other hand, Hawoury pointed out their need for educating the public on sustainable land management, soil erosion prevention, and building flood controls in the lakes.
According to government officials, the government of Kenya has formed a multi-agency technical team to deliberate on the root cause of the problem. The team also will assess the environmental, social, and economic impact of the rising level of water in the region. In addition, they seek possible mitigation measures and a possible solution.
Wesley Langat is a freelance journalist passionately covering environment, climate change and agricultural reporting around East Africa and Horn of Africa. He is currently writing for various international media outlets including Thomson Reuters Foundation, Climate Home News, News Deeply and InsideOver among others.
By Sulaiman Sesay
I lost five family members to Ebola within two weeks when the virus ravaged Liberia in 2014. First my uncle became sick. I called an ambulance to take him to the treatment center, but he died before they came. Everyone who attended to him became infected and passed away.
At the time, I was the Logistics Manager for a humanitarian organization, and we were determining how to best respond. Our mandate was maternal health, child protection and education, but Ebola was quickly becoming West Africa's number one concern. There was fear that anyone on the front lines would be in harm's way. We were losing many colleagues, including doctors and nurses, to the virus. In the early days of the outbreak, many were afraid for us to directly intervene, but I insisted that we do so before Ebola consumed us all.
I lived in a small apartment with my wife and two children. For six months, I didn't see them as I tried to protect them from contracting anything I might pick up in the field. I came home after working late into the night only to eat, rest, change my clothes, and go back out before they woke up. I wanted to make sure that even if something happened to me, they would survive.
Fortunately, our efforts paid off. We reduced the cases of Ebola down to zero in Liberia. But it wasn't easy. Our primary challenge was getting people to change fundamental behaviors.
For example, it is considered very disrespectful in Liberia to not shake another's hand. It wasn't until people were dying in the streets that people realized this important custom needed to be put on hold for the virus to subside. As more and more bodies were carried off, people awoke to the need not only to avoid hand-shaking, but to regularly wash hands with soap and avoid contact with strangers.
Fast forward to 2020 in South Sudan, where I work to prevent childhood deaths from malnutrition. Now we are faced with Covid-19, which officially has infected nearly 1,700 people, with 27 reported deaths in the country — though we know actual numbers are significantly higher. Health infrastructure is very weak here, and testing is slow where facilities exist.
As with the early phases of Ebola, people are receiving mixed messages, not knowing what to believe. They are being told not to go anywhere, but daily visits to the marketplace are essential for survival, because people don't have refrigerators or the funds to stockpile food. If you wear a mask, you are viewed with suspicion. And again, many frontline workers are becoming infected and paralyzed with fear.
While Covid-19 doesn't have an exact corollary, elements of what we now face remind me of the successful — though newly resurgent — fight against Ebola in West Africa. Here are a few key lessons for the current pandemic:
- Deliver Strong & Consistent Messages: As with the beginning of Ebola, there are significant misconceptions about Covid-19. To counter this, there needs to be clear and consistent public education that this virus is serious — and preventable — coming from top government officials to state politicians, religious leaders, elders, women's groups and young people. To raise awareness, we are coordinating with these influencers to promote social distancing, mask-wearing and hand-washing in a range of creative ways, from radio ads to community theater, and from word-of-mouth to text messages.
- Establish Community Care Centers: Isolating people who were infected with Ebola was crucial in preventing its spread, especially in hard-to-reach, remote areas. In South Sudan, where as many as 20 family members live together, quarantining from family is challenging and home-based care will not work. Health care in facilities is also extremely limited. In this context, the best approach to prevent the spread of Covid-19 is to set up "Community Care Centers," essentially single-room huts with a hand-washing facility. Anyone experiencing symptoms can be isolated in these centers for 14 days so the virus doesn't spread within their family and beyond. They also must be given daily food and water to avoid having to go into marketplaces, where they could infect others. All construction materials can be found locally, but still require funds to develop.
- Keep Treating Malnutrition: People in South Sudan will die from hunger before they die from Covid-19 if we stop vital nutrition and health services. During the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, people didn't seek basic health care because of the disease, resulting in a significant loss of life. This "indirect mortality" resulted in as many deaths as the crisis itself. We must continue to serve the most vulnerable in South Sudan so that they can become healthy and strong. To this end, we are placing utmost importance on protecting our staff so that they will feel empowered to keep doing this work safely. We also need to continue our plans to help communities better access water, soap and sanitation to build local resilience for whatever might lie ahead.
Leaders in South Sudan and throughout sub-Saharan Africa need to demonstrate that we can be safe and still work to defeat deadly threats, whether it's Covid-19, Ebola, malnutrition or otherwise. When it comes to contagious disease, we will not run away from the communities we serve, because none of us is safe until all of us are.
Sulaiman Sesay is the Country Director for Action Against Hunger in South Sudan.
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Portable generators allow you to power your devices and certain appliances, even away from home or when your primary power source is taken offline. These devices are also perfect for camping or outdoor adventures. A portable solar generator can give you the power you need with a smaller ecological footprint by using solar panels. In this article, we'll outline some of the top options available in 2021.
Our Picks for the Best Portable Solar Generators
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Best Overall - Goal Zero Yeti 1500X
- Best High-Capacity - MAXOAK Bluetti EB150
- Best Expandable Power - EcoFlow RIVER Pro
- Best Compact Design - Renogy PHOENIX 300
- Best Portability - Suaoki S370
- Best for Camping - Jackery Explorer 300
- Best Price - Westinghouse iGen200s
How We Reviewed Portable Solar Generators
A good portable generator will offer you backup power in a convenient and reliable way. We have reviewed some of the top models on the market today, and arrived at a few that we think stand out from the rest.
To rank the best solar generators, we considered the following criteria:
- Size and weight. Smaller, more lightweight units offer much greater ease of use. We sought portable solar generators that aren't too challenging to lug around your home, or take with you when you go camping.
- Battery storage capacity. While your generator absorbs light through a solar panel, that energy is ultimately stored in a battery. The battery storage capacity, measured in watt-hours (Wh) determines how long you can use the generator before it requires a recharge.
- Inverter rating. Basically, inverter rating refers to the total number of watts that the solar generator can extract at any given time. Inverter rating, along with battery capacity, determine the wattage and power output of your generator.
- Expandability. Some generators come with a predetermined number of solar panels, while some allow you to add more solar panels as needed. This is an important feature to consider when looking for generators.
- Price point. Naturally, when looking for a new solar generator, staying on budget is always going to be a factor. We chose generators that are competitively priced.
The Best Portable Solar Generators
With these ranking factors in mind, here are our picks for the best portable solar generators available in 2021.
Goal Zero's line of Yeti portable power stations are well-suited for a wide range of off-grid uses, including emergency power, camping trips, and more. The Goal Zero Yeti 1500X is their most-popular large power station with enough power for everything from cell phones and laptops to medical devices like CPAP machines and even full-size refrigerators.
Why buy: The Goal Zero Yeti 1500X includes a 2000W AC (3500W Surge) inverter giving you the equivalent of a wall outlet power supply on-the-go. It also has seven different port options and a top-of-the-line app that makes it easy to monitor and manage your solar powered generator, no matter where you are.
For a high-capacity power station, check out the Bluetti EB150 from MAXOAK. Though it's not the most affordable option, you'll get a lot of features and utility for your investment. It includes a lithium ion battery capacity of 1500 Wh. When connected to three 150W solar panels, it can be recharged in about 3.5 to 4 hours.
Why buy: For a portable solar generator designed to power most household appliances under 1000W, the high-powered Bluetti EB150 is a great choice. MAXOAK also backs their product with a 24-month replacement or maintenance warranty.
EcoFlow boasts an impressive catalog of portable power stations, as well as reliable solar panels. We like the EcoFlow RIVER Pro power station because its technology enables incredibly fast recharging; you can connect it to two 110W solar panels to recharge in as little as 4.5 hours.
Why buy: The EcoFlow RIVER Pro includes a wide range of best-in-class technologies. Offering 720 Wh of power with three pure sine wave AC outlets, and weighing only 15.9 pounds, these units are well-suited for camping and hiking, as well as use around the house. You can also add an additional EcoFlow battery pack to upgrade the power of your generator as needed.
Renogy produces several different power stations and chargers, but we especially like the PHOENIX 300, a solar power solution that's extremely lightweight and compact. It comes with an easy-grip handle and only weighs 6.4 pounds, making it one of the most portable solar generators around while still offering up to 200W of AC power for off the grid activities.
Why buy: The PHOENIX 300 can provide 337 watt-hours for up to 8 hours of AC continuous power without the noise or fumes associated with gas generators. It includes a number of the most common charging ports like two AC adaptors, a USB-C, USB-A, USB, and a D-Tap port for photography equipment.
Suaoki is a company that's known for simple, functional, reliable technology. Their S370 portable solar generator isn't necessarily flashy, but it's an extremely lightweight option, perfect for camping, hiking, and other outdoor adventures. It includes 14 outlet ports and a pure sine wave inverter, making it a versatile power option.
Why buy: This is one of our top picks for camping and hiking, though it may also serve your needs as a backup power station for small appliances and electronics. A lithium-ion battery gives this generator an incredible capacity battery life, particularly in relation to its compact size.
Jackery's portable power stations are ideally suited for camping and hiking. The Explorer 300 offers great portability and fast rechargeable power at an affordable price. It includes two AC outputs, a USB-C, USB-A, USB ports, and a 12-volt car port.
Why buy: The Explorer 300 generator is a good option for those who are new to solar power, thanks to its low price and easy-to-use controls. Jackery offers a number of portable solar panel options, and the power station's MPPT technology means that it can be recharged from the sun in just 5.5 hours.
There are plenty of reasons to consider the Westinghouse iGen200s portable generator. This is one of the more affordable options on the market today, which makes it a good entry-level solar power solution. The unit offers four charging options. You can recharge with solar panels, with the power from your vehicle, with a household power outlet, or with a separate generator.
Why buy: For a simple and inexpensive solar power generator, Westinghouse makes an outstanding product. You can charge up to nine devices at a time; and, depending on how you use it, you can potentially get more than 40 hours out of your generator.
What Types of Batteries Do Solar Generators Use?
It's important to note that solar power generators may employ different kinds of batteries. The most common option is the lithium-ion battery. These tend to be more expensive than lead-acid batteries, at least on the front end. With that said, a lithium-ion battery will prove more durable, which usually makes it the smarter investment in the long run. Solar generators include charge controllers, which regulate the volts of energy coming from the solar panels to the battery to make sure the battery isn't overcharged and damaged.
The energy stored in the battery is converted from DC power into AC power using an inverter or adapter.
What Can You Power With a Portable Solar Generator?
There are different types of solar generators. A backup generator is primarily used to power your home, should your electricity go out. In this article, we focused on portable generators, which are mostly used for hiking and camping. With that said, a portable generator can also be really useful during power outages, potentially keeping your lights, electronic devices, and small devices or appliances on for several hours. Depending on the watts of power your solar system generator kit can support, you can use it to power things like phones, tablets, laptops, TVs, coffee makers, a mini-fridge, certain medical devices, and most anything you would plug into a car charger.
Some of the generators we've listed here can be charged by solar energy or via other sources, including vehicles and power outlets. These different charging solutions make a generator more versatile, though of course, solar energy is what you'll want to use if staying away from fossil fuels is your goal.
What are the Benefits of a Portable Solar Generator?
There are a number of reasons why you might consider a portable solar generator:
- These units are ideally suited for camping and hiking. The ones on our list range in weight from under 10 pounds to over 50, but they are all fairly easy to cart around as needed, or to keep in your camper or RV.
- Though they are not primarily intended to be emergency backup generators, they can certainly be used in that capacity. In particular, they can provide emergency power to important medical devices as well as phones and computers.
- Unlike gas generators, portable solar generators offer power without making a lot of noise or creating a lot of fumes. This makes them much more appealing for campsites.
- Portable solar generators are better for the environment, since they don't rely on gas or diesel fuel to run.
- Using a solar generator is ultimately more cost-effective as you will never need to purchase fuel to recharge it.
Solar Power Can Take You Further
Solar power is one of the best options for dependable, renewable energy. Not only can it help power your house, but you can use these portable generators to carry that power with you, wherever you may go.
There are clearly lots of options on the market today. We hope our guide is helpful to you as you assess our own backup power needs, and as you determine which portable solar generator will give you the greatest value. Note that you can find many of these solar power options through third-party retailers like Amazon. Do your due diligence as you seek the perfect, portable solar solution for you and your family.
Josh Hurst is a journalist, critic, and essayist. He lives in Knoxville, TN, with his wife and three sons. He covers natural health, nutrition, supplements, and clean energy. His writing has appeared in Health, Shape, and Remedy Review.
By Anders Lorenzen, A Greener Life, a Greener World
In the wake of the global Covid-19 outbreak which has caused the biggest disruption to life as we know it and to the economy since World War II, many have been celebrating the drop in emissions from reduced industrial activity, travel and so on.
But we really must be careful about how we communicate these wins and indeed celebrate them.
For years people skeptical about climate action have argued, that ambitious emission cuts will bankrupt the world economy, will make our lives more miserable, and will take away our democratic right to do what we want. It is a view backed up by some climate activists who argue we need to get rid of capitalism in order to tackle the climate crisis.
On the other hand, the people actually working on tackling the climate crisis, including NGOs, economists, politicians, policymakers, think tanks, journalists and columnists argue that we can tackle climate change while still maintaining strong economies. They claim that many new jobs will be created through green policies and the workforce needed for clean energy projects. New infrastructure projects are needed to protect our societies from the worst impacts of climate change, and the investments in R&D to create new and better technologies, will hugely boost and diversify the economy.
If we make too much of a case for the benefit of declining emissions in the wake of Covid-19, naysayers will argue that the stringent emission cuts many have been calling for can only be made by grinding the economy to a halt and by limiting people's movements. While any drop in emissions is welcome, we will have to think about what will happen once the Covid-19 outbreak ends, and it will end.
It is important also to note that while in the wake of the outbreak, the travel industry, the fossil fuel industry and many other high emission industries are suffering, so are also the industries which fuel the green economy. We must remember that before Covid-19 struck green technologies were rapidly expanding and becoming more competitive in line with the tightening of regulations. We need to make sure that we don't experience a setback in the green economy and that we do not end up where we were ten years ago.
Some of the optimism about Covid-19 has been based around the idea that the outbreak will change everything forever and we will never go back to how it was before. But what if it doesn't? What if fossil fuel and airline companies continue unabated once the outbreak has finished benefitting from government help packages and the fewer regulations which might then come into force?
What would happen if regulations for such industries are not reinforced once the outbreak is over, or that there is a long delay? How and why do we think our societies will change once Covid-19 ends?
These are all viable questions we should ask ourselves. Many would argue that we never learned the mistakes from the 2008 financial crash and never truly reformed the financial industries.
On one hand, It is hard not to celebrate this huge saving of emissions. But we must also adopt the stance that we don't need the global economy to collapse in order to reduce emissions. We do not want to use arguments that if we are to tackle climate change we must go back to living like cavemen. If we say that this outbreak is good for tackling climate change then we also say we can only tackle it by constraining the economy, bankrupting thousands of small companies and letting millions of workers become unemployed.
A virus is not the tool needed to tackle the climate crisis. Instead, we must make it clear that the quicker the economy get back on track, we can better make sure the green economy is not impacted and that we continue investing in green solutions.
We must also keep donating to the crucially important NGO's and organizations which work tirelessly to tackle the climate crisis. This is the best chance we have of dealing in the long-term with the climate crisis.
This article originally appeared in A Greener Life, a Greener World and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalistic collaboration to strengthen coverage of the climate story.
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By Sharon Elber
You may have heard that giving a pet for Christmas is just a bad idea. Although many people believe this myth, according to the ASPCA, 86 percent of adopted pets given as gifts stay in their new homes. These success rates are actually slightly higher than average adoption/rehoming rates. So, if done well, giving an adopted pet as a Christmas gift can work out.
However, to increase the odds that you will find a good fit for your family and will be ready for the challenges of pet adoption during a busy time of year for many, consider the following tips before you sign the dotted line and commit to opening your home to an adopted dog this holiday season.
1. The right fit is more important than the right time.
One mistake to avoid when deciding to rescue a dog over the holidays is to force the timing while compromising on the right fit for your lifestyle. Important considerations like breed mix and/or personality type can be neglected as families rush to adopt and make a selection from the limited options available at that specific time.
The holidays are a busy time for animal shelters which can cause the selection of dogs to wane in the weeks leading up to Christmas in particular. It is a mistake to adopt a dog simply to check the box. Instead, carefully consider your family's lifestyle and work with a shelter and/or foster and breed rescue groups in your area to find a canine companion with the right personality, exercise needs and training requirements for your family.
Consider offering an "Adopt a Dog" coupon if you can't find the right fit in time for the big day. This will give your children the excitement of knowing a new furry addition to the family is on the way, while also offering the benefit of getting them involved in the selection process. Dog toys in advance of your new dog's arrival also make great stocking stuffers.
2. Make sure to budget for post adoption expenses.
The adoption fee often covers the cost of any vaccinations and/or spay/neutering that your rescued dog has already had prior to adoption. However, it is important to schedule a vet visit within a few weeks of your adoption, make sure your new family member is up to date on vaccines, and cover the initial cost of monthly medications such as heartworm and flea/tick prevention. These costs can easily mount to $300 or more, so be sure your post-holiday budget has room for these costs.
In addition, you will have food, toys and bedding costs that always spike when adopting a new dog. Allow for these costs as well or incorporate them into your other gift purchases this year.
3. Build a holiday schedule that accounts for the needs of your new pet.
Rehoming is generally a stressful time for animals in the rescue system. Often unsure if they have found a permanent home or just another temporary location, dogs can be prone to developing anxiety issues if transitions are not handled with care.
If you have holiday travel plans, it might be better to wait until the new year to adopt. Bringing a dog home only to drop them off at the kennel a few days later is not the best idea for your new pet. Instead, plan a "staycation" if you adopt a dog this holiday season and make sure to schedule time for dog-focused events such as extra walks, training sessions and fun games like fetch and tug.
4. Get the kids involved in the care of your new pet.
Depending on your child's age, taking on some level of responsibility for the care and training of the new member of your family is critical. This helps them to learn valuable lessons about caring for animals, responsibility, as well as offering a chance to build a human/animal bond built on trust and respect.
For example, children ages 3 - 5 years old can assist with daily care routines such as feeding, checking water and walking your dog. Older children can participate in training sessions and take on more responsibilities like joining in on puppy classes. Dogs need daily exercise and mental stimulation, so consider creating a responsibility calendar for kids so everyone in the household has a part in caring for your pet.
5. Look beyond the shelter for adoptable dogs.
Finally, if you visit the shelter and don't find the dog you are looking for, do some research to locate other adoption options in your community. For example, there are many breed rescue organizations devoted to saving particular dog breeds from kill shelters, puppy mills and abandonment. In addition, many communities have networks of volunteers devoted to fostering dogs until they find their forever homes that you may find on social networks or by a basic internet search.
One big advantage of going through these volunteer organizations before adopting a dog for Christmas is that they have direct experience living with the dog in a home setting. This means they can speak honestly and knowledgeably about any special needs, compatibility with other pets in the household, or suitability for your family's lifestyle, dog friendly amenities (such as a fenced yard), and dog ownership experience.
Giving your kids an adopted dog at Christmastime is about more than watching their faces light up with joy when they receive their new pet. With a little planning and consideration, you can make sure your adopted dog is a good fit for your family so that the joy your new pet bring extends way beyond the holiday season.
Sharon Elber is a professional dog trainer and a writer at WileyPup, a website that provides information about canine health, nutrition, breeds, training and products.
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By Jennifer Molidor, PhD
Climate change, habitat loss and pollution are overwhelming our planet. Thankfully, these enormous threats are being met by a bold new wave of environmental activism.
But there's one place where our movement hasn't brought mass extinction and the climate crisis to the table: The literal tables at environmental events — from local board meetings to international conferences where meat-centered menus are still the norm.
With holiday parties rapidly approaching, now is the time for environmental groups to walk the talk by adopting Earth-friendly menus for their events.
The global scientific community agrees that we must reduce meat and dairy production to tackle the most pressing environmental disasters of our time. To do that, we have to change what we eat. Plant-forward changes and significant meat and dairy reduction must begin with the meals served at environmentally focused events.
The catering industry is no small potatoes. Catering sales in the U.S. are worth more than $11 billion each year. Over the past three years, the industry has grown by nearly 8 percent annually. Changing event menus can make a big difference in reducing the environmental impact of U.S. food production and shifting the way people think about food.
For every 100 people at a holiday party or event, a plant-based menu can save more than a ton of greenhouse gas emissions, nearly an acre of habitat and 13,000 gallons of water. Those benefits are tallied up in Catering to the Climate: How Earth-friendly Menus at Events Can Help Save the Planet, a new report by the Center for Biological Diversity, where I work.
Making this catering shift can bring other environmental savings. For example, those plant-based choices can eliminate two tons of manure and the toxic byproducts of improperly contained manure that contaminate public waterways and lands. In fact, the manure footprint of most animal-based dishes is greater than the actual weight of the food served. On the other hand, dishes free of animal products have no manure footprint.
Catering to the Climate found that planet-friendly menus are a hugely effective way to fight the climate crisis. Each person who selects plant-based dishes at a day-long event cuts as much greenhouse pollution as would be emitted by 41 miles of driving, powering the average home for one day or charging 2,100 smart phones.
In addition, that one person's low-impact meal choices would spare more than 400 square feet of farmland, prevent about 100 pounds of manure pollution and save 250 gallons of water.
When an event planner multiplies that across their entire guest list by serving plant-based dishes as the default, the environmental savings are substantial. A low-impact menu can reduce carbon emissions by as much as 85 percent, water by 72 percent and land use by 93 percent, in addition to nearly eliminating manure pollution.
Menus that focus on plant-based dishes aren't just virtuous — they're also trending. People are increasingly seeking foods that are healthier for them and the planet. And for environmental events, serving plant-based meals sends a message that connects the movement with its own values and actions.
As we celebrate progress made in 2019 and start planning out a new year, environmental event planners should cater to the climate with delicious menus that honor the work we're doing and support a sustainable food system.
Jennifer Molidor is a senior food campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity.
By Dr. Charles Owubah
As a child growing up on a farm in Ghana, I have personally known hunger. The most challenging time was between planting and harvesting – "the hunger season." There were many occasions when we did not know where the next meal would come from.
Today, on World Food Day, I think of the 820 million people around the world who are undernourished.
While this statistic is shocking, the global community has actually cut the proportion of malnourished children in half over the last 40 years, and pioneered new ways to detect and treat malnutrition. However, hunger rates remain unnecessarily high. If the world stays on its current path, tens of millions more children will die of hunger by 2030, the target for the UN Sustainable Development Goal of ending malnutrition worldwide.
Preventing child deaths is a moral imperative. It should outrage us that nearly 50 million children are acutely malnourished — that's 7.3 percent of all children under the age of five. Fewer than one in four of those children can hope to access lifesaving treatment. Around the world, when a child dies before they reach their fifth birthday, malnutrition is a root cause nearly half the time — even though hunger is preventable and treatable.
In a community education session, Action Against Hunger trains parents how to detect malnutrition.
Christophe Da Silva / Action Against Hunger, Cameroon
Hearing this, and then hearing that the U.S. spends a tiny fraction of 1 percent of the federal budget fighting global hunger, you might think people don't care. In fact, most don't even know. A new poll that we just released today at Action Against Hunger found that more than 65 percent of Americans say the number of child deaths attributable to hunger is higher than they realized.
Across generations, more than 80 percent of those polled think the U.S. government isn't doing enough on global hunger, and most say they would have a more positive view of 2020 presidential candidates who address this issue.
Most Americans polled also support tax increases on ultra-wealthy individuals (57 percent) and corporations (58 percent) to combat child deaths from hunger, especially Generation Z and millennials, who are even more likely to support increased taxes for the cause.
It's a hopeful sign that younger generations also are leading the way in calls for greater U.S. involvement on this issue. Gen Z and millennials are more concerned about the link between hunger and the climate crisis, for example, which is reducing both the quality and quantity of crops, lowering yields and exacerbating water scarcity.
The world needs a better way to deal with hunger, helping fragile communities become more resilient and better able to deal with the challenges ahead. That includes empowering parents and health workers with simple tools to tell if children are malnourished before it's too late, even in places without electricity or internet access, and with low literacy rates.
An Action Against Hunger-trained community health worker shows a mother how to detect malnutrition using a diagnostic band.
Lys Arango / Action Against Hunger, India
One example of a solution is a simple, inexpensive band that acts as a "nutrition thermometer." It wraps around a child's upper arm, stopping at a color that corresponds to their nutrition status: green indicates good health, while yellow or red means the child is malnourished. Once it's known that a child needs help, they can be treated and cured through a highly effective medical intervention.
While most Americans surveyed prefer to donate food, the cure for malnutrition is not that simple. Severely malnourished children often do not have an appetite for food and cannot handle a normal diet right away. Instead, proven medical treatment involves a regimen of easily-digestible, calorie-rich and ready-to-eat packets containing essential vitamins and minerals, which can bring a child from a medical crisis to full health in 45 days. Infants and complicated cases are treated in hospitals and health centers, but often, recovery for most can take place at home, with regular monitoring by a community health worker.
Broad investment in nutrition programming is a wise investment. For example, The 2015 International Food Policy Institute reports that every $1 spent on reducing hunger can deliver up to $16 in return. Opportunity begins where hunger ends. It did for me.
The fact that you are reading this means someone invested in you, too. Now, it's our turn to build a future where no lives are wasted. At Action Against Hunger, we may never know the names or stories of the children that we are helping around the world, just as they may not know ours, but we can know that our world will be brighter if we can ensure each one has a chance to grow up healthy and strong.
On World Food Day, and every day, we must band together to ensure the basic human right of adequate nutrition for everyone, for good.
Dr. Charles Owubah is the CEO of Action Against Hunger, a global humanitarian organization committed to ending world hunger.
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georgeclerk / E+ / Getty Images
By Jennifer Molidor
One million species are at risk of extinction from human activity, warns a recent study by scientists with the United Nations. We need to cut greenhouse gas pollution across all sectors to avoid catastrophic climate change — and we need to do it fast, said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
This research should serve as a rallying cry for polluting industries to make major changes now. Yet the agriculture industry continues to lag behind.
A recent move by the American beef industry is no exception. Earlier this month, faced with its involvement in the planet's environmental crisis, the U.S. Roundtable on Sustainable Beef put together a voluntary framework to "assess" and "encourage" sustainability and hand out recognition certificates.
But it's totally inadequate. This framework lacks accountability, transparency and, above all, truth about beef's impacts.
Agriculture takes up more than a third of the world's land surface, uses nearly 75 percent of freshwater resources and contributes up to 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to a landmark new report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.
Infographic by supporter @sjcprojects #cowspiracy #animalagriculture #environment #goolantbased #vegan https://t.co/K6DUzwiCQF— Cowspiracy (@Cowspiracy)1555698519.0
In the agricultural industry, beef production takes the biggest bite out of the planet's natural resources. The American beef addiction creates the equivalent greenhouse gas emissions of 32.3 million cars. Crops grown to feed livestock in the U.S. take up nearly half the landmass of the lower 48 states.
Grazing cattle destroy vegetation, trample land, damage soils, contaminate waterways with fecal waste and disrupt natural ecosystem processes. And livestock-wildlife conflicts have contributed to the killing of millions of animals every year and have been a key driver in the war against wolves.
To mitigate damage from this incredibly damaging industry, we need solutions with real teeth. In fact, scientific research shows that the U.S. needs to reduce consumption of beef by 90 percent to meet climate targets.
Unfortunately the beef industry has long fought environmental protections like the Clean Water Rule, which attempts to hold the industry accountable for pollution that threatens drinking water and wildlife habitats.
The industry has also attempted to strong-arm state and federal policymakers into preventing producers of plant-based foods from using the words "meat" and "milk" on their products. Beef lobbyists have argued against including sustainability in the federal government's Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Rather than addressing the industry's underhanded approach to environmental policy or acknowledging the fundamental problems with mass-scale beef production, the roundtable has turned to greenwashing.
Bringing together stakeholders to identify the harms of beef production is a step in the right direction, but this framework is a bit like Big Tobacco releasing advice for safe smoking. It fails to admit that beef is bad for the planet, particularly at current rates of consumption. It also falls short of creating clear steps to address that problem.
What's worse, the framework is intentionally weak – seeking to appease beef producers instead of working to build trust with consumers by acknowledging hard truths about this destructive industry.
These weaknesses likely grew from the roundtable's very makeup. It is composed of beef producers and processors, along with giant corporations like McDonald's, Taco Bell, Walmart and Costco in the retail and food service sector, and public advocates. The members claim to represent 30 percent of the nation's cattle and produce 20 billion pounds of beef.
That scale of production means the roundtable can also take credit for largely contributing to 544 billion pounds of greenhouses gases and 784 billion pounds of manure per year. Its members also use more than 1 billion acres of land and 30 trillion gallons of water.
With impacts that big, the public is a stakeholder.
It's time for the roundtable to stop catering to its polluting members. Beef producers need to earn our trust, not claim it. And until they're ready to do so, we must support policies, retailers and producers shifting our food system away from excess meat and dairy and toward more plant-based foods.
Jennifer Molidor is a senior food campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity.
By Jordan Davidson
Guinness is joining the fight against single use plastic. The brewer has seen enough hapless turtles and marine life suffering from the scourge of plastic.
Guinness's parent company, Diageo, announced that the iconic Irish stout will no longer use plastic rings or shrink wrap. Instead, the company will invest $21 million to replace plastic with 100 percent recyclable and biodegradable cardboard, according to CNN Business. The change, which will be introduced in Ireland in August and the rest of the world by August 2020, also applies to Guinness's other products, Harp and Smithwick's.
"Great packaging is essential for our products," said David Cutter, Diageo's chief sustainability officer added, reported the The Telegraph. "Consumers expect our packs to look beautiful, be functional, and sustainable. I am proud to announce this investment, through which we have been able to combine all three. We have been working tirelessly to make our packaging more environmentally friendly."
Diageo estimates that its new initiative will be equivalent to removing 40 million 500 ml plastic bottles, which if laid out end-to-end, would reach from London to Beijing, or New York City to Honolulu, according to The Telegraph.
"We're continuously looking for ways to work with our suppliers, customers and consumers to make our packaging more sustainable and our targets ensure that 100% of plastics used are designed to be widely recyclable, or reusable/compostable," the company said in a statement, The Hill reported.
This piggybacks on Diageo's statement last year when it announced its intention to to ensure all plastics are widely recyclable or reusable by 2025.
"For 260 years Guinness has played a vital role in the communities around us. We already have one of the most sustainable breweries in the world at St. James's Gate and we are now leading the way in sustainable packaging," said Mark Sandys, global head of beer, Baileys and Smirnoff for Diageo, as reported by The Telegraph.
Guinness follows the footsteps of other brewers who have taken steps to reduce ocean plastic. In 2016, Salt Water Brewery announced all their six-packs of Screamin' Reels IPA would be packaged with E6PR (Eco Six Pack Ring), a compostable holder made with some brewing byproducts like spent wheat and barley, according to National Geographic.
"I can't speak to the nutrition of barley to sea turtles, but it does seem a lot more benign if ingested than traditional six-pack plastics," Nick Mallos, director of the Ocean Conservancy's Trash Free Seas program, told National Geographic in 2016
The Danish beer company, Carlsberg, announced last September that it would ditch plastic rings, according to CNN Business. Instead, Carlsberg will be packaged in a special glue that holds the cans together. The Danish brewer estimates that shifting to glue will reduce global waste by the equivalent of 60 million plastic bags.
Guinness and Carlsberg are the latest beverage companies to respond to the backlash against plastic around the world. Starbucks and Alaska Airlines will phase out plastic straws and stirrers. McDonalds will stop using plastic straws in the UK and Ireland. The Chicago White Sox became the first MLB team to ban plastic straws.
By Jordan Davidson
New Zealand's pristine image as a haven of untouched forests and landscapes was tarnished this week by a brand new government report. The Environment Aotearoa 2019 painted a bleak image of the island nation's environment and its future prospects.
The report, which was put out by the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand, is a follow-up to a 2015 report. While stopping short of making explicit suggestions, it "provides evidence to enable an open and honest conversation about what we have, what we are at risk of losing, and where we can make changes," according to the report's summary.
It found that New Zealand's native plant and animal life has been decimated by invasive species, with 75 animal and plant species having vanished since humans settled the islands. The risk of extinction has worsened for 86 species in the last 15 years, while only improving for 26 species over the last decade.
The numbers in the report tell a dark picture. Almost 4,000 of New Zealand's native species are currently threatened with or at risk of extinction. Marine, freshwater and land ecosystems all have species at risk: 90 percent of seabirds, 76 percent of freshwater fish, 84 percent of reptiles and 46 percent of plants are currently endangered or on the precipice of extinction, according to the report.
"New Zealand is losing species and ecosystems faster than nearly any other country," said Kevin Hague from the conservation group Forest and Bird to The Guardian. "Four thousand of our native species are in trouble … from rampant dairy conversions to destructive seabed trawling – [we] are irreversibly harming our natural world."
The report highlights the dairy industry as particularly problematic since maintaining a herd is land-intensive. The report found that converting land to pasture use contributed to nearly 173,000 acres of natural vegetation loss since 1996 and nearly 2,500 acres of wetland loss since 2001.
"It is undeniable that the dairy industry deserves the title of the dirtiest industry in New Zealand, and urgent action is required," Greenpeace senior campaign and political advisor, Steve Abel said, New Zealand based Newshub reported.
"To turn this around, the Government must institute policies that will lead to land use change, get rid of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, dramatically reduce cow numbers, and invest millions into regenerative farming."
The rapid increase in dairy farming has wreaked havoc on the country's freshwater. The report found that over 82 percent of river water near farmlands was unsuitable for swimming due to pathogens, which have also threatened three-fourths of New Zealand's freshwater fish with extinction.
"The biggest degradations in New Zealand's environment in recent years have been caused by the dairy industry," said Abel to Newshub. "As a nation reliant on an international reputation of being clean and green, we're failing pretty epically."
Hundreds of Pilot Whales Die in Devastating Mass Stranding in New Zealand https://t.co/qagvHbvfHQ @1World1Ocean @Oceanwire— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1486770004.0
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By Jordan Davidson
The climate crisis has us spiraling towards higher temperatures while also knocking out marine life and insect species at an alarming rate that continues to accelerate. But, just how long will it take Earth to recover? A new study offers a sobering answer: millions of years.
The researchers tried to answer how long it takes biodiversity to recover following a mass extinction. Their paper, published in Nature Ecology and Evolution, looked at the fossil records of plankton which existed for nearly 20-million years near the last mass extinction, which killed off most dinosaurs and 80-percent of Earth's animals, nearly 66 million years ago. Species diversity recovered after 10 million years, Newsweek reported.
"From this study, it's reasonable to infer that it's going to take an extremely long time — millions of years — to recover from the extinction that we're causing through climate change and other methods," said study co-author Dr. Andrew Fraass to Newsweek. "It is an apt warning about the time it takes to recover from massive losses in species."
The findings have striking implications for the long-term health of the planet and the future of humanity as we confront a climate crisis, habitat destruction and invasive species, all of which parallels ancient times, according to a University of Bristol press release.
"This should serve as an important reminder: some ecological niches lost due to anthropogenic climate change will never reappear," the authors wrote in their study. Essentially, the Earth will be drastically different after a mass extinction, according to Forbes.
The study complements other recent studies that have found declining plant and animal populations as a threat to the global food chain. Earlier this year, a separate study published in Biological Conservation found insect populations declining so rapidly that 40 percent of insect species threatened with extinction.
"The repercussions this will have for the planet's ecosystems are catastrophic to say the least, as insects are at the structural and functional base of many of the world's ecosystems since their rise at the end of the Devonian period, almost 400 million years ago," the study authors wrote.
The authors of the insect study chose their words carefully to stress the importance of insects to all life on the planet.
"We only use the word "catastrophic" once, and we use it very carefully," said study co-author Francisco Sanchez-Bayo of the University of Sydney to Civil Eats. "We chose that word deliberately: If 30 percent of insects, the largest group of animals on Earth, are in danger, that is catastrophic. Damage from a tropical cyclone can be characterized as catastrophic, but that is localized. This is global. This is a true catastrophe."
By Jordan Davidson
Plastic gets around. Previously, researchers had discovered fragments of microplastics in the world's most remote locations, like the depths of the Marianas Trench and Antarctica. New research has shown that microplastics rain down on the pristine peaks of the Pyrenees mountains.
The researchers found a daily rate of plastic pollution falling from the sky in the Pyrenees was comparable to the amount raining down on Paris and Dongguan, a large industrial city in China, NPR reported.
"It was incredible how much microplastic was being deposited," said Deonie Allen, a researcher at EcoLab in the School of Agricultural and Life Sciences in Toulouse, France, as reported by National Geographic. There were no obvious sources for the microplastics within 60 miles, said Allen, the lead author of the study published Monday in Nature Geoscience.
The study is the first of its kind to show the how far microplastics can travel on the wind. Scientists had previously thought that atmospheric microplastic pollutants would rise up and settle again near the cities and industrial hubs where they originated.
The researchers looked at computer models of wind patterns to pinpoint the source of the microplastics, but none was found within a 60-mile radius of the region — which is sparsely populated and without commercial, industrial or large agricultural centers. While scientists know how dust gets blown and travels from the Sahara to Europe, they know very little about how microplastics move.
"We don't have this sort of material in nature," said Deonie Allen, as NPR reported. She noted that microplastics vary in shapes and density, which might alter how long they remain wind-borne. The researchers also suspect that rain or snow carries some particles down to the ground, but they don't need precipitation to fall to Earth, according to NPR.
Microplastics, which measure less than one-fifth of one-inch, have been shown to affect the health and reproductive systems of marine life. In fact, they were present in every marine mammal that researchers looked at in a recent British study. Microplastics also contaminated the drinking water, according to The Guardian.
The new study suggests that humans will not only consume microplastics, but also inhale them. "We ... don't know what they do to humans," said Allen to NPR. "They're a brand new [type of] pollution, but there's so much of it and it's increasing so fast that it's something we really need to start learning about."
Yet, there are some things we do know. Microplastics smaller than 25 microns can enter the human body through the nose or mouth and those less than five microns can end up in lung tissue. And, we know that microplastics tend to be sticky and accumulate heavy metals like mercury and persistent organic pollutants, including materials with known health impacts, according to National Geographic.
To make matters worse, the researchers say that atmospheric plastic pollution is nearly impossible to clean up, so the only solution is to produce less plastic, according to Science.
#Mosquitoes Could Spread #Microplastics, Study Suggests https://t.co/tTurqQygne— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1537430712.0
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By Jordan Davidson
Electric vehicles will be the stars of the show when the Auto Shanghai 2019 expo opens Tuesday. China wanted cleaner air, reduced dependence on foreign oil and to be a pacesetter in a growing high-tech industry. So, it invested more than $60 billion in electric vehicles over the last decade and plans to keep that investment going over the next decade, according to Quartz.
The downside is the $18 billion electric vehicle industry in China is set to crash.
In 2018, sales of electric cars there outpaced the rest of the world combined. Yet, with more than 486 homegrown electric vehicle manufacturers vying for market share and in-flux of foreign companies ready to grab customers, concern is rising that too many manufacturers are churning out cars for nonexistent demand, according to Bloomberg. When the bubble bursts, only a few companies will survive.
"We are going to see great waves sweeping away sand in the EV industry,'' said Thomas Fang, a partner and strategy consultant at Roland Berger in Shanghai, as Bloomberg reported. "It is a critical moment that will decide life or death for EV startups.''
However, China's goal of having annual sales of 7 million new-energy vehicles by 2025 would barely sustain a few companies, not the hundreds currently in the industry, according to Bloomberg.
The massive growth potential drew investors not only from traditional car markers, but also from companies not known for building cars, such as internet startups, electronics companies and real-estate developers. Two dozen of those companies will show off their vehicles at the Shanghai auto show alongside Renault, Audi, Buick, Volkswagen and several other companies trying to make headway in the Chinese market, according to the automotive journal Overdrive.
"Only companies that have solid technology reserves can stand out amid competition,'" said Wang Chuanfu, founder and chairman of BYD, as reported by Bloomberg. "By owning core technologies, we can see further and deeper.''
The ones facing the biggest risk are the upstarts still seeking their footing. Many are founded or funded by people with an internet or technology background, used to hefty cash-burn rates but still not necessarily fully aware of the massive investment needed for car manufacturing, Roland Berger's Fang said, according to Bloomberg.
The dangers of creating oversupply were evident in March when an electric car "graveyard" was photographed on the outskirts of Hangzhou. Thousands of electric cars divided into three sections sit idle in the photographs. The cars belong to Microcity, a ride-sharing company. Yet ride-sharing companies, which have bought heavily into the electric vehicle market, have faced a tough road. Several folded in 2018 and the state media, CCTV, questioned not only the business model, but also whether the companies add to congestion by putting more cars on the road, according to Abacus News.
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