The fossil-fuel giant had planned to search for oil and gas reserves by setting off underwater explosions along a stretch of South Africa known as the Wild Coast, according to MSN. The explorations were slated to begin December 1. However, four environmental and human rights organizations filed a legal challenge Monday night to stop the blasting, Greenpeace Africa said.
“Shell’s activities threaten to destroy the Wild Coast and the lives of the people living there,” Greenpeace Africa senior climate campaigner Happy Khambule said in a statement about the challenge. “We know that Shell is a climate criminal, destroying people’s lives and the planet for profit.”
URGENT INTERDICT FILED TO PROTEC THE WILD COAST\n\u201cWe know that Shell is a climate criminal, destroying people\u2019s lives and the planet for profit.\u201d \u2013 @hkhambule >> https://act.gp/3D1pAeA\u00a0\n#StopShell NOW >> https://act.gp/3xxaQmE\u00a0pic.twitter.com/Pm5t3Nmme4— Greenpeace Africa (@Greenpeace Africa) 1638277201
“To give you an idea about the Wild Coast, where my family come from, it is the most incredibly breathtaking place one could ever dream of,” concerned citizen Tracy Carter told MSN. “The ocean is lush and abundant with sea life in all shapes and sizes.”
The testing was also slated to begin when Southern right and humpback whales are migrating back from South Africa to Antarctica after the breeding period, and the testing could injure or kill the traveling families.
The exploratory plans were first approved in 2014, before the country passed its One Environmental System legislation to coordinate mining and environmental regulations, The Guardian reported.
The environmental groups behind the court case — Border Deep Sea Angling Association, Kei Mouth Ski Boat Club, Natural Justice and Greenpeace Africa — argue that the exploration is illegal because Shell has not applied for the necessary permit under the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA).
They say that the seismic testing would mean that a vessel would fire air guns every 10 seconds for five months. The shock waves would reverberate through three kilometers (approximately 1.9 miles) of water and 40 kilometers (approximately 25 miles) below the seabed into the earth’s crust. This would harm whales, dolphins, sharks, seals, penguins and smaller animals like crabs. It would also have a negative impact on the human communities of eXolobeni, Nqamakwe and Port Saint Johns, who consider the land sacred and rely on eco-tourism and fishing for their livelihoods.
“The needs and rights of these communities, the stewards of our seas, land and biodiversity, far outweigh the selfish interests of companies like Shell,” Cullinan & Associates, the law firm representing the four groups, said, according to The Guardian.
In response, Shell has argued that its actions won’t harm marine life.
“[T]he impacts are well understood and mitigated against when performing seismic surveys. This is supported by decades of scientific research and the establishment of international best practice guidelines,” the company said, as New Frame reported. “There is no indication that seismic surveys are linked to (whale and dolphin) strandings.”
However, more than 375,000 South Africans disagree. They have signed a petition started by the Oceans Not Oil Coalition to ask Minister of Environmental Affairs Barbara Creecy to withdraw approval for the testing. They argue that Shell’s actions don’t just have local impacts.
“At a time when world leaders are making promises and decisions to step away from fossil fuels because climate science has shown we cannot burn our existing reserves (let alone drill for more), offshore oil and gas Operation Phakisa is pushing ever harder to get its hands on a local supply of gas,” the petition reads. “Shell must answer for how the harms done during this survey and any exploration drilling done hereafter are part of its energy transition plan to control global warming.”
The announcement, made November 23, is the company’s latest attempt to “have a positive impact on both people and planet.”
“Phasing out plastic in consumer packaging is the next big step on our journey to make packaging solutions more sustainable and support the overall commitment to reduce plastic pollution and develop packaging from renewable and recycled materials,” IKEA of Sweden Packaging & Identification Manager Erik Olsen said in the announcement. “The shift will happen progressively over the coming years, and mainly be focusing on paper as it is both recyclable, renewable, and widely recycled across the world.”
Reducing plastic waste and pollution is a priority for us, so we aim to phase out plastic packaging by 2028. Read on to find out why and how we're going to do that by using renewable and recyclable materials: https://about.ikea.com/en/newsroom/2021/11/17/ikea-to-phase-out-plastic-from-consumer-packaging-by-2028\u00a0\u2026 #IKEApic.twitter.com/OrQIeuCXZC— IKEA (@IKEA) 1637675035
The move will come in phases. By 2025, the company will eliminate plastic from all new range consumer packaging. Then, it will eliminate it from running range consumer packaging by 2028. It is possible that plastic will still be used for its food items after 2028 if that is the only way to meet food safety standards, but if that is the case, it will still come from renewable or recycled materials.
The commitment is part of IKEA’s broader goal of becoming a circular company by 2030, as Fast Company reported. The company defines circularlity as “the elimination of waste and continual use of resources” and has promised to use only renewable or recycled materials by the end of the decade.
Towards this goal, it has already eliminated plastic from much of its packaging. The material now accounts for less than 10 percent of its annual packaging needs. The company already switched from using polystyrene in flat-pack boxes to paper or cardboard supports, according to Fast Company. Paper products will likely replace some of the remaining 10 percent as well.
“Paper is a very good material to use because it does come from renewable sources, and it has quite strong circular capabilities,” IKEA packaging innovation leader Maja Kjellberg told Fast Company. “But we’re not limiting ourselves to paper. We do want to use other materials going forward. And we have an innovation program ongoing right now where we’re scouting on startups and scale-ups to find new ways of packing products and other materials that aren’t wood and fiber based.”While IKEA has been lauded for its environmental commitments, some argue the company still has farther to go. The Ship It Zero campaign, for example, is targeting IKEA as one of four major retailers that contribute to the climate crisis and air pollution by shipping goods to the U.S. The company has pledged to become “climate positive” by 2030, meaning it will reduce more greenhouse gas emissions than it emits across its supply chain.
\u201cThe congestion crisis brought about by the pandemic, the turn to online shopping and in-house leisure, as well as holiday related trends, has shined an additional light on this issue." Today for @EcoWatch, I wrote a new report on shipping pollution:https://www.ecowatch.com/shipping-emissions-companies-climate-2655881003.html\u00a0\u2026— Olivia Rosane (@Olivia Rosane) 1638296504
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Rugs add a cozy aesthetic to the home, but they can also contribute to toxin exposure if you’re not careful when shopping around. How do you find the best sustainable rugs in a world where almost everything is mass produced with questionable chemicals involved?
There is a lot to consider in the search for a nontoxic rug you hope was ethically made. That’s especially true in a time where we are reevaluating our environmental impact every day. We rounded up four of the best sustainable rugs for any area of your home, from your living room to your outdoor space. Read on to learn more.
Best Sustainable Rugs: Our Recommendations
- Best Overall: Safavieh Handmade Flatweave Jute Area Rug
- Best Cotton Rug: Lorena Canals Washable Rug
- Best Runner: Chardin Home Runner Rug
- Best Outdoor Rug: Fab Habitat Recycled Plastic Outdoor Rug
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. Learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn a commission.
Why Switch to a Sustainable, Nontoxic Rug?
Many people want to secure an area rug in the most affordable, fastest and easiest way. However, that often leaves your choices limited to rugs that are most likely not sustainably or ethically made.
Most ordinary new rugs and carpets contain harmful chemicals called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. They can off-gas for up to five years, emitting VOCs in your home and causing short- and long-term health issues including headaches, dizziness, liver and kidney damage, and even cancer in animals and humans. An eco-friendly rug choice avoids these adverse health effects.
You may also wonder why you need a special cleaner filled with questionable chemicals for a rug. In some ways, you end up spending more money over time on a synthetic rug that ends up in the landfill.
By choosing home decor products made from sustainable materials, you can make a positive impact and promote a kinder and healthier planet.
Full Reviews of Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Safavieh Handmade Flatweave Jute Area Rug
Safavieh is a trusted name in natural rug making that has been around for over 100 years. Its handmade flatweave jute rug collection contains size and shape options ranging from 3-by-5-foot area rugs to 5-by-6-foot ovals to 9-by-12-foot runners. The rug is handwoven, and the beige color and traditional weave of sustainably-harvested sisal and seagrass make it a classic option for any space.
Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars with over 600 Amazon ratings
Standout Review: “These rugs are absolutely awesome… They're both easy on the eyes and the feet. We have a round one in the entryway and an oval one at the bottom of the stairs… They are easy to vacuum and sweep, combining pleasing aesthetics with functionality and durability.” — Alison via Amazon
Why Buy: Safavieh is known for its high-quality yet affordable products. The flatweave jute rug is beautifully handwoven and provides a classic, minimalist look to any area of the home.
Best Cotton Rug: Lorena Canals Washable Rug
Lorena Canals’ washable cotton rugs are made with a base of 97% recycled cotton and use only natural dyes in the coloring process. They’re handcrafted by artisans in India and can give a warm yet modern touch to your home. This particular rug measures just over 5.5 by 8 feet, but there are other size options available.
The company’s RugCycled program utilizes textile leftovers from the production of its cotton and wool rugs, helping Lorena Canals’ overall process become less wasteful. Plus, every purchase helps a child in North India attend school.
Customer Rating: 3.8 out of 5 stars with under 10 Amazon ratings
Standout Review: “Taking 1 star away because by no means it can be washed in a regular washer machine… Now do I like this rug? I LOVE IT! It is worth the trip to the laundromat.” — Ann via Amazon
Why Buy: If you’re looking for something you can throw in the wash after a spill or accident, this is one of the best sustainable rugs to consider.
Best Runner: Chardin Home Runner Rug
Chardin Home collects cotton rags from different factories and upcycles them into multicolor rugs. No two rugs are exactly the same, though the company makes every effort to best match them if you buy more than one of the same kind. The most popular size is this 2-by-7-foot, but the rug options span from 2-by-5 feet to up to 8-by-10 feet. The rugs are also reversible and long-lasting.
Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars with almost 1,500 Amazon ratings
Standout Review: “With this rug, suddenly everything goes together beautifully! … I have an 8-year-old, two dogs (5 pounds and 40 pounds), and a cat. I’ve had this rug for a bit, and it has held up so well.” — Lauren W. via Amazon
Why Buy: This affordable, colorful runner is reversible and withstands your pets while being healthy for them. It’s one of the best sustainable rugs for narrow spaces.
Best Outdoor Rug: Fab Habitat Recycled Plastic Outdoor Rug
Made from recycled plastic straws, this rug by Fab Habitat is perfect for outdoor spaces. Some people also use these indoors (I personally use an outdoor rug under my bed). The rug is fade-resistant and stain-deterrent. The material also means the rug will never be threatened by moisture.
This 5-by-8-foot rug comes in several eclectic and oceanically-colorful designs from jodhpur blue to monochromatic teal and a more practical blue. At an affordable price, it helps save both the planet and your purse.
Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars with over 1,100 Amazon ratings
Standout Review: “This rug lives up to its reputation. We just moved to Florida, and it rains almost daily since we got here. This rug doesn’t hold water, and it feels smooth under your feet.” — Katelyn via Amazon
Why Buy: The U.S. city-by-city ban on plastic straws started around 2018, but they still overtake landfills and take ages to decompose. A recycled plastic straw rug helps provide one solution to this while being stylish, stain-deterrent, fade-resistant and easy to clean. Just shake it out and hose it down.
How to Choose the Best Sustainable Rug
There are a few factors to consider when purchasing the best sustainable rug for your home:
- Natural fibers: What material is the rug made out of? When looking for nontoxic rugs, choose natural fibers like organic cotton, jute, wool and sisal. Agave sisalana is the botanical name for sisal, which is native to southern Mexico. Many fruit plants also make cozy natural textile materials in place of genetically modified cotton.
- Material harvesting and manufacturing: Was the material ethically harvested? Was the rug sustainably made? Is it an ethically made rug? Was the rug treated with any chemicals?
- Cost: A handmade rug understandably costs more than a mass-produced one. However, you should also shop around and stay within budget.
- Style: Many natural fiber and sustainable rugs are varied and unique in design. Have a look in mind when shopping for an organic rug to ensure you will be happy with the aesthetic.
Note that some natural fibers, like jute, can shed and may tend to unravel lightly in some areas over time. That’s the nature of the material.
Frequently Asked Questions: Best Nontoxic Rugs
How do you know if a rug is toxic?
A rug’s surface can consist of natural fibers. However, many don’t consider that the rug's backing and underlay padding could contain toxic materials. All parts of the rug should be produced with natural materials. Unfortunately, you may also find hidden toxins in the form of formaldehyde, stain deterrent treatments and flame retardants on the surface of the rug.
Are jute rugs environmentally friendly?
Yes, jute rugs can be very environmentally friendly. Jute is a sturdy natural fiber that many consider to be one of the most eco-conscious materials out there. Jute comes from a tropical plant and is both recyclable and biodegradable. Jute fibers are spun into durable threads to create such products as twine, mats and rugs.
Are handwoven rugs ethical and sustainable?
It is ethical to purchase from a craftsperson who used their skills and traditional practices to thoughtfully make a beautiful and sustainable rug. However, many products that are labeled “sustainable” can still be produced unethically and illegally via child labor and human rights violations. A good resource to check is Amnesty.org, which recently discovered human rights violations by larger U.S. companies in the production of “sustainable” palm oil.
Research each product and manufacturer across various platforms, always checking reviews and non-biased news sources. Where possible, purchase ethical rugs from craftspeople directly. Local maker collectives and arts organizations are great places to start.
How do you clean a natural fiber rug?
Drenching a natural fiber rug with wet shampoo or steam can cause damage and discoloration. Spot-clean natural fiber rugs with a mild detergent, or use club soda for acidic stains.
Routinely sweep or vacuum your rugs lightly, using a rug beater as appropriate. You can also buy a dry cleaning powder that is compatible with natural fiber rugs. Simply sprinkle this powder on the rug and vacuum it up. Take more heavily soiled rugs to a green dry cleaner if care instructions allow.
With fair labor practices and ethical standards in place, a rug made of natural fibers is a much more eco-friendly option than a rug made with toxic chemicals. Be wary of companies that greenwash their marketing with sustainability claims they fail to deliver on.
Where possible, consider handcrafted rugs when shopping for a rug for your home. It’s much easier to verify sustainability, and you support a talented individual and the local economy with your purchase.
A unique nonprofit has set out on a mission to map the fungi that live beneath the earth.
The Society for the Protection of Underground Networks (SPUN) announced Tuesday that it had received the largest ever donation to help map and protect these underground networks that help store carbon and transport nutrients through the soil.
"This is an extremely important conservation project,” Jane Goodall, Ph.D., DBE, Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace, said in a press release emailed to EcoWatch. “An understanding of underground fungal networks is essential to our efforts to protect the soil, on which life depends, before it is too late.”
Goodall is one of a group of prominent writers and conservationists who are acting as advisors on the project, alongside Michael Pollan, Merlin Sheldrake and Fungi Foundation founder Giuliana Furci.
The project emerges from a growing understanding of the importance of fungal networks for trees and other plants. These fungi allow trees to share nutrients through something that has come to be known as the Wood Wide Web, as BBC News explained. The network is understudied but extensive, stretching for 450 quadrillion kilometers (approximately 280 quadrillion miles), half the width of the Milky Way galaxy.
However, these fungal networks are threatened by human activities including agriculture, fertilizers, pesticides, deforestation and urbanization. Despite this, plans to protect biodiversity hotspots ignore more than 50 percent of the life below the soil.
“Not a moment too soon, the public is waking up to the importance of the mycelial underground to the health of our planet and indeed to our survival as a species,” Pollan said in the press release.
SPUN aims to use machine learning to identify fungal biodiversity hotspots and take 10,000 samples from these ecosystems over the next 18 months. The first collection will take place in April 2022 in the highlands of Patagonia. Other potential network hotspots include the Canadian tundra, the Mexican plateau, Morocco, the western Sahara, Israel’s Negev desert, Kazakhstan’s steppes, Tibet’s grasslands and Russia’s taiga, The Guardian reported. Once the maps are finished, SPUN hopes to identify the underground ecosystems that are most at risk and make plans to protect them.
The donation that will boost this project came from the Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust.“Just below our feet lies an invaluable ally in mitigating climate change – vast hidden fungal networks,” Jeremy Grantham, who has pledged 98 percent of his net worth to fighting the climate crisis, said in the press release. “Billions of tons of carbon dioxide flow annually from plants into fungal networks. And yet, these carbon sinks are poorly understood. In working to map and harness this threatened but vital resource for life on earth, the Society for the Protection of Underground Networks is pioneering a new chapter in global conservation."
Confocal 3D-image of a fungal network with reproductive spores containing nuceli (smaller dots). Vasilis Kokkoris
As a congestion crisis continues to stall polluting container ships in ports around the world, there is a growing awareness of the role that international shipping plays in both the climate crisis and the public-health impacts of air pollution.
Released on Cyber Monday, a new report from Ship It Zero coalition members Stand.earth and Pacific Environment details the relationship between four major retailers that ship goods to the U.S. — Walmart, Amazon, Target and IKEA — and the fossil-fueled carrier companies that make that shipping possible.
“Major retail companies and cargo carriers are flush with cash from pandemic-driven record breaking profits and are tightening their already close relationships,” Stand.earth shipping campaigns director Kendra Ulrich said in a statement emailed to EcoWatch. “This is an unprecedented opportunity for retail brands and cargo carriers to work together to immediately reduce their maritime emissions from their existing container fleet and build zero-emissions shipping into their growth model.”
Ship It Zero
The new report builds on the work of the Shady Ships report released by Ship It Zero in July. That report detailed the 15 retail giants that caused the most air and climate pollution by shipping goods to the U.S. The new report focuses on just four of these companies, selected for both their brand recognition and the amount of pollution they contribute.
Together, the four companies’ U.S. imports were responsible for 20 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions between 2018 and 2020, as much as the yearly emissions from five coal-fired power plants. The report, titled Shady Routes: How Big Retail and their Carriers Pollute along Key Ocean Shipping Corridors, was able to better understand these emissions by mapping out the stores’ preferred routes and revealing their preferred carriers.
Walmart is the company whose U.S. imports generate the most pollution, and the report helped explain why. The retail giant tends to ship its goods from Asia all the way to the East Coast of the U.S., preferring ports in Houston, Savannah and Norfolk, Virginia.
It’s preferred carrier is also the greatest polluter among all the carriers studied in the report: French company CMA CGM. This company made $31.5 billion in revenue in 2020 and accounted for 68 percent of Walmart’s shipping emissions and 33 percent of all four retailers’ emissions.
Amazon and Target both prefer West Coast routes from China to Los Angeles/ Long Beach and Seattle/ Tacoma, while IKEA is increasingly moving goods by rail from China to Europe, and then shipping to Philadehpia and Baltimore. IKEA’s growing reliance on rail may be why its shipping emissions appear to be going down.
Congestion Crisis/ Pollution Crisis
Understanding Target and Amazon’s routes in particular helps illuminate their role in the ongoing congestion and pollution crisis impacting frontline communities who live near West Coast port cities. This finding was particularly exciting for Ship It Zero campaign lead Dawny'all Heydari, who works in Los Angeles.
Pollution from container ships is a longstanding public-health crisis for the LA-area portside communities of San Pedro, Wilmington and West Long Beach, which have a life expectancy eight years lower than the LA county average. However, the increase in shipping caused by the pandemic has only made the situation worse. Target, for example, has doubled its digital sales during that time.
“The congestion crisis brought about by the pandemic, the turn to online shopping and in-house leisure, as well as holiday related trends, has shined an additional light on this issue,” Heydari told EcoWatch.
There are now more than 100 fossil-fueled container ships stalled beside the ports of LA and Long Beach, and this is only making the pollution problem worse, according to figures from the California Air Resources Board.
Since the congestion crisis started, “ships alone are pumping an additional 20 tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxides into the air each day, which is the equivalent of adding 5.8 million passenger cars to the region, and we also know that ships have added as much particulate matter pollution to the Southern California air basin as 100,000 heavy duty trucks,” Heydari said.
The California backlog has also spread the crisis up the coast to Seattle and Tacoma, where imports rose 40 percent in 2020 compared to 2018.
Urgency of Now
The report’s findings emphasize the need for immediate action to reduce and ultimately end shipping emissions. From a public health perspective, there is a “fierce urgency of now” to prevent the 260,000 early deaths caused by fossil-fuel shipping emissions every year, Heydari said. And, from a climate perspective, international shipping contributes three percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. If the industry were a country, it would be the sixth-highest emitter.
“If we don’t rapidly cut carbon emissions this decade, we could see a scenario where global warming reaches over 10 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels by 2100, leading to a truly catastrophic scenario where we will see problems including uncontrollable wildfires, climate refugees, uncontrollable hurricanes, rapid loss of Arctic sea ice, rapid changes to our environment, etc,” Heydari explained.
Towards this end, Ship It Zero is demanding that the four companies and other major retailers take three actions:
- Stop using dirty ships: there are technologies available like wind-assisted propulsion and slow steaming that could reduce emissions by 30 percent per trip.
- Start using net-zero emissions vessels by 2024, when they are likely to become available.
- Commit to 100 percent zero-emissions shipping by 2030.
Heydari said that Ship It Zero “welcomed” a recent pledge companies including Amazon and IKEA to purchase only zero-carbon vessels by 2040, but argued that it ultimately did not move fast enough, given both the importance of reducing emissions this decade and the fact that zero-carbon vessels should be available long before then.
In the meantime, does that mean you shouldn’t be taking advantage of Cyber Monday deals until these and other retailers have changed their ways? Heydari said that Ship It Zero was focusing on corporate accountability rather than consumer behavior. What concerned individuals can do is visit Ship It Zero’s website and sign a petition urging the four companies to take action.
“The problem is fixable if these companies transition to zero-emisson vessels,” Heydari said. “There’s no reason why we wouldn't have a functioning economy where people’s needs are met.”
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The journey took six months to organize and 40 hours to complete
Thirty white rhinos have just made an incredible journey.
The vulnerable mammals traveled more than 3,400 kilometers (approximately 2,113 miles) from South Africa to Rwanda in the “largest single rhino translocation in history,” African Parks announced on Monday.
“Introductions to safe, intact wild landscapes are vital for the future of vulnerable species like white rhino, which are under considerable human-induced pressures,” African Parks’ CEO Peter Fearnhead said in the announcement.
White rhinos are considered a near threatened species by the IUCN Red List. There are currently 10,080 mature individuals in the wild, and their population is decreasing, primarily due to poaching for the illegal trade in rhino horns.
Preparing to load rhino crates onto aircraft in South Africa. Martin Meyer / African Parks
The historic move relocated the animals from Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve in South Africa to Akagera National Park in Rwanda. The animals, 19 females and 11 males, were first driven to Durban, then flown to Kigali and finally driven again to Akagara, The Guardian reported. The journey took six months to organize and 40 hours to complete. The rhinos were partially sedated for the flight.
“The rhinos weren’t sedated on the plane in the sense they were totally lying down, as that’s bad for their sternums,” African Parks’ Jes Gruner told The Guardian. “But they were partly drugged, so they could still stand up and keep their bodily functions normal, but enough to keep them calm and stable.”
The goal of the move is to expand white rhino’s African range to give them extra protection. The animals have never before lived in Rwanda.
White rhinos introduced to Akagera in Rwanda. Gael Vande Weghe / African Parks
“It’s absolutely vital to get white rhinos spread across the continent, where they have safe habitats, and not necessarily only where they used to be,” Gruner said. “We need to spread the risk. If some countries can’t get hold of the illegal wildlife trade, white rhinos and rhinos in general might be pushed to the brink of extinction. We have to do everything we can to address their safety.”
Around 95 percent of the rhino horn currently moving from Africa to Southeast Asia comes from poaching, according to IUCN. The horn has traditionally been used both in Chinese medicine and for ornamental purposes. Historically, poaching has not impacted white rhino populations overall, until they decreased by 15 percent between 2012 and 2015.
If the translocated rhinos enjoy their new home in Rwanda, it is possible that more will join them in this safe haven. The park could easily accommodate 500 to 1,000, Gruner told The Guardian. This is something that Rwanda is happy to facilitate.
White rhino in Phinda Private Game Reserve. Martin Meyer / African Parks
“This is an opportunity for Rwanda to substantially advance its contribution to rhino conservation, with Akagera poised to become a globally important sanctuary for black and now white rhinoceros,” Rwanda Development Board Acting Chief Tourism Officer Ariella Kageruka said in the announcement. “This is timely for the conservation of these incredibly threatened species. We’re extremely proud of our conservation partnerships and our national parks, which are playing a pivotal role in meeting biodiversity targets and in driving sustainable, transformative, equitable socio-economic growth.”
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“If you’re wearing leather shoes, a leather belt or carrying a leather handbag, it’s highly likely that it was made from cowhide that contributed to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest,” Slow Factory wrote in a statement about the report.
The raising of cattle for beef and leather is the leading cause of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. The new report found that more than 100 fashion brands and companies including Coach, Prada, H&M, Zara, Adidas, Nike, New Balance, Teva, UGG, and Fendi have potential links to this deforestation, The Guardian reported.
The brands in question aren’t directly intending to use leather tied to deforestation. In fact, a significant amount of them have announced policies to get deforestation out of their supply chains. Despite this, the report found that they are working with tanneries and manufacturers that in turn have links to cows raised on recently-cleared rainforest land. The findings therefore put corporate commitments in doubt.
“With a third of companies surveyed having some kind of policy in place, [you’d expect] that would have an impact on deforestation,” report researcher Greg Higgs told The Guardian. “The rate of deforestation is increasing, so the policies have no material effect.”
The findings were based on 500,000 rows of customs data. The report didn’t directly tie each brand to a dubious source, but instead revealed links that raised the likelihood that a particular leather item came from Amazon cows. It did find that more than 50 companies had more than one supply chain link to JBS, the largest Brazilian leather exporter that has been known to participate in deforestation.
JBS has pledged to have a zero-deforestation supply chain by 2035, but activists say this is not enough.
The finding comes at a critical moment for the Amazon rainforest. Brazil’s space agency recently reported that the forest was facing its highest deforestation levels in 15 years, encouraged by the extractive policies of right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro. This is a problem for the Indigenous communities and unique biodiversity that rely on the forest, as well as the global climate. A 2020 study found that the rainforest now emits one billion more tons of carbon dioxide than it absorbs.
Slow Factory is therefore calling on the fashion industry to:
- Stop buying leather from companies that can’t source their products directly to the farm they came from.
- Support legislation that would require the cattle industry to fully trace its supply chains.
- Make a public commitment to points 1 and 2, as well as eliminate deforestation from their supply chains.
Report researcher Angeline Robertson told The Guardian that the fashion industry would help its own image by taking action.
“In this time of climate emergency, if the fashion industry wants to be relevant, this is the opportunity,” she said.
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The Kashmir valley is located between the Greater Himalayas and the Pir Panjal mountains. It is responsible for nearly 80 percent of India's apple crop, but this may be changing. Early snowfalls this year have destroyed up to half of harvests in the valley, The Guardian reported Wednesday.
"In the light of the changing climate, apple harvesting is not sustainable [here]," University of Kashmir assistant professor Dr. Irfan Rashid told The Guardian. "Usually, Kashmir receives the snowfall after 15 December, but over the last two decades, we are experiencing early snowfalls. The harvest time for many apple varieties is November. In the last five years, we have had three erratic snowfalls and in the future the situation may exacerbate."
Weather patterns have been changing gradually in the valley for 20 years, but those changes accelerated in the last five. Rashid co-wrote a paper published in 2020 which looked at the impacts of early snowfalls in November 2018 and November 2019. The wintry weather either severely or mildly damaged nearly a third of the valley's orchards, and the affected orchards lost between four and 50 percent of their crop, with average losses of 35 percent.
All of this added up to an economic loss of five billion rupees in 2018 and 22.5 billion rupees in 2019, which saw the region's heaviest snowfall in 60 years. Officials are still working to calculate the total losses this year, but for the farmers directly affected, the loss is already clear.
"The snow has ruined us," widow and mother of two Noor Jehan told News 18 after a late October snowfall. "My kids afford education only because we grow apples. This year we are going to suffer. We depend on the proceeds of the orchard."
Another farmer, Aamir Hussain, said that 10 of his 70 trees cracked in the snow and another 15 had lost or damaged branches.
"I was devastated by the sight of the broken branches and fallen off apples. The snow was falling heavily. I stood there watching helplessly," Hussain told News 18.
One potential solution promoted by Kashmir's department of horticulture is to switch to imported "high density" apple varieties that have earlier harvest dates, according to The Guardian. Research has suggested that this could be a profitable solution despite the initial costs of replacing existing varieties. However, farmers have been hesitant to shoulder those costs, and Rashid said it could lead to the loss of local apple varieties.
"Already, the local varieties like ambri are shrinking," he said.
The news is full of dire warnings about the future and current health of the Great Barrier Reef, but the World Heritage Site is not dead yet.
"Nothing makes people happier than new life, and coral spawning is the world's biggest proof of that," Reef Teach principal marine scientist Gareth Phillips said in a statement emailed to EcoWatch.
Coral spawning is one way in which corals reproduce. During most of the year, the jellyfish-like animals reproduce asexually. But, once every year, they send tiny balls containing sperm and eggs up into the water. These balls break apart, the sperm and eggs bump into each other and new coral babies are born.
Phillips has spent the past 10 years watching coral spawning, which typically occurs at night when there are fewer predators. This year, billions of babies were born, and the display was uniquely impressive.
"I've seen the corals all go off at once, but this time there seemed to be different species spawning in waves, one after the other. The conditions were magical with the water like glass and beautiful light coming from the moon," he said.
Phillips said he first observed Acropora, or branching corals, release pink-mauve balls and then Porites, or boulder corals, releasing what looked like a plume from a flooding river.
The millions of new coral babies are good news for the reef after a difficult few years. The climate crisis has had a severe impact on the 2,600 kilometers (approximately 1,616 miles) of coral as warmer than usual ocean temperatures encourage coral bleaching, when the coral expel the algae that give them both nutrients and color. The reef suffered back-to-back mass bleaching events in 2016 and 2017, and again in 2020. A recent study found that the five mass bleaching events since 1998 had left only two percent of the reef unscathed.
However, the spawning gives the scientists who observed it hope for the vulnerable ecosystem.
"It made me so excited about the future – there is just so much potential for this reef," marine science student Nicole Rowberry said in a statement emailed to EcoWatch.
Phillips also observed that the spawning occurred as Australia is emerging from 18 months of border closures due to the new coronavirus.
"It is gratifying to see the reef give birth. It's a strong demonstration that its ecological functions are intact and working after being in a recovery phase for more than 18 months," Phillips said. "The reef has gone through its own troubles like we all have, but it can still respond, and that gives us hope. I think we must all focus on the victories as we emerge from the pandemic."
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In July, the water levels of Utah's iconic Great Salt Lake fell to a record low.
But this wasn't an isolated incident. A combination of the climate crisis and human water usage have reduced the lake so utterly that The Salt Lake Tribune and AccuWeather announced Monday that they were redrawing their maps to show how how much the lake has really changed.
"The need to redefine the boundaries of the Great Salt Lake is a striking reminder of the profound impact of record-low water levels to the delicate and complex ecology of the Great Salt Lake and its wide-ranging importance to the people and economy of Utah," AccuWeather chief meteorologist Jonathan Porter told The Salt Lake Tribune. "AccuWeather is committed to accurately depicting the boundaries of lakes to highlight the impact of climate change on our changing world."
Historically, the surface of the Great Salt Lake sits at 4,200 feet above sea level, which is what maps formerly showed and is also the sweet spot for the health of the lake and the creatures that live there.
Now, the lake is "a puddle of its former self," as The Salt Lake Tribune put it, sitting at 4,190.6 feet above sea level, or about 10 feet lower than typical. It also only contains 7.7 million acre feet of water, which is about half of the historical average.
This is a problem, because the lake is an important ecosystem that provides many benefits to Utah's animals, humans and economy. The edges of the lake are home to brine shrimp that provide food for migratory birds, Yahoo News explained. When the lake shrinks, these shrimp and the animals that eat them are at risk. In fact, the wetlands surrounding the lake are one of the most important migratory bird habitats in North America, welcoming around 250 species, columnist Robert Gehrke wrote for The Salt Lake Tribune.
When the lake dries, it also threatens human health because the dry, exposed lake bed is fuel for dust storms. When water levels fall, the marinas also become unusable by boaters, which is a problem for recreation and other industries.
Finally, the lake helps produce lake effect snow storms that generate water for the surrounding area, Yahoo News noted.
"From a health perspective, from an economic perspective, from an environmental perspective, the Great Salt Lake is a national treasure and must remain so. It's not just the Great Salt Lake. It's the Colorado River Basin, it's all our lakes and streams and [water] storage capacity in the state," Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said in a Thursday news conference reported by the Salt Lake Tribune. "This is an all-hands-on-deck issue."
The lake's shrinking is partly due to water management issues. In fact, as Gehrke observed, a study found that the lake would be 11 feet higher if it weren't for water diversions upstream for agriculture and residential uses. Currently, Utah allocates water rights based on "beneficial use," meaning right holders have to put it to an agricultural or economic purpose. Gehrke argued that the state should start prioritizing water for conservation as well.
"If we make conservation a priority or at least on equal footing as agriculture, conservation groups and governments can start dedicating water rights for the lake," he wrote.
The lake's shrinking is also an example of how climate change and drought can impact water systems.
"As we change the climate, we have learned over the last many decades that we are also going to fundamentally change how much water we get and where we get it, the intensity of storms, rainfall patterns, the severity of droughts and floods, the demand for water from crops and from our natural vegetation," climate scientist Peter Gleick told Yahoo News.
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The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America this month, found that bee populations can take a hit for generations if a bee is exposed just once to a common pesticide during its first year of life.
"Especially in agricultural areas, pesticides are often used multiple times a year and multiple years in a row," study lead author and University of California in Davis ecology Ph.D. candidate Clara Stuligross told The Guardian. "So this really shows us what that can actually mean for bee populations."
Stuligross and her team studied a type of bee called the blue orchard bee. These bees are about the size of a honeybee, but they live alone and have a blue, metallic color, National Geographic explained. They are also important pollinators for native U.S. wildflowers and crops like apples, cherries, almonds and peaches.
The researchers exposed the bees to a neonicotinoid called imidacloprid, which is the most commonly used neonicotinoid in the U.S. and one of the most used in California specifically, according to The Independent.
Neonicotinoids are well known to be harmful to bees and other insects because they bind to their nerve cells and prevent the insect from transmitting electrical signals, National Geographic explained. However, this study is unique in showing how exposure can continue to impact bee populations for generations, something known as the "carryover effect."
The scientists exposed the bees to the pesticide at different life stages and got the following results, The Guardian explained:
- Bees exposed only in their first year of life saw 20 percent fewer offspring.
- Bees exposed once as adults had 30 percent fewer offspring.
- Bees exposed once as both larvae and adults had 44 percent fewer offspring.
The research therefore adds to the evidence the neonicotinoids are harming bee and insect populations, which have both taken a dive in recent decades.
"These findings support what many of us beekeepers and solitary beekeepers suspect is happening in agricultural fields," researcher and beekeeper Steve Peterson, who was not involved with the research, told National Geographic. "We are seeing massive declines in all kinds of insects over the past several decades and much of it may be due to pesticide residues in the environment."
A quarter of bee species have not been sighted since the 1990s, and insects that live on land have seen their populations fall by around 25 percent in the last 30 years and 50 percent in the last 75. Pesticides are considered a major threat to insect populations, along with other stressors like habitat loss, pollution and the climate crisis.
The latest research offers another argument that U.S. regulators should follow the EU and ban neonicotinoids.
"I hope that the EPA will review studies like this and carefully consider these kinds of effects in their risk assessment," Peterson told National Geographic. "I do think that multigenerational and non-direct contact studies need to be required as part of the risk assessment for pesticides."
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It is currently illegal to feed manatees, which are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978. However, so many manatees have died of starvation this year that state and federal officials are ready to take drastic measures.
"We are considering a pilot program to do some supplemental feeding," Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) chairman Rodney Barreto told the Miami Herald. "We continue to rescue manatees, and we want to be able to rescue even more during this emergency."
As of November 12, 1,003 manatees have died in the state of Florida this year, according to FWC figures reported by CNN. This means deaths have more than doubled since the same time last year, when 498 manatees had died. The 2021 death toll also represents more than 10 percent of Florida's entire manatee population, the Miami Herald reported.
The deaths have been classed as an Unusual Mortality Event and are largely due to starvation. The most hard hit population are the manatees that live in Brevard County's Indian River Lagoon, where around 58 percent of the seagrass that manatees feed on has died in the last 11 years. This loss in an important food is partly due to algal blooms caused by nutrient pollution, which block sunlight from reaching the seagrass. Nutrient pollution can come from wastewater, microplastics and factory farming, and scientists say the manatees' distress indicates broader problems.
"A lot of our environments are under pressure, and if we do not relieve that pressure, those systems will break," Michael Walsh, a clinical associate professor of aquatic animal health at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, told CNN. "This is a continual warning sign that this is a gigantic ecosystem problem, not just a manatee problem."
However, to help the manatees right now, state and federal officials are working together on a response. The feeding proposal awaits permission from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Miami Herald reported. Then, officials need to figure out what foods are best for the manatees. One option is to add more algae to their ecosystem. The other is to feed them common land-grown vegetables.
"But we need to test all that, we don't know what foods they will accept. When you put lettuce in an estuarine environment, it's going to wilt faster. So that may not work at all, we may need to use cabbage," Save the Manatee Club Executive Director Patrick Rose told the Miami Herald.
In the longer term, Rose and other activists hope that manatees will once again be listed as endangered, after they were downgraded to threatened in 2017.
"We're hoping this will be a wake-up call for all of Florida and for the federal agencies," Rose said.
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The legislation still needs to pass the Senate to make a difference.
The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday passed the Build Back Better Act, which includes the largest-ever federal investment in fighting the climate crisis.
The $2.2 trillion spending package includes $555 billion in spending to encourage the transition away from fossil fuels, The New York Times reported, but the legislation still needs to pass the Senate to make a difference.
"Today, the House delivered on the strongest climate action in history — and not a minute too soon. The climate clock is ticking. It's time for the Senate to get this done," Natural Resources Defense Council CEO and President Manish Bapna said in a statement. "This bill calls for the most significant U.S. climate investment ever. It's the centerpiece of a broader strategy to confront the climate crisis by slashing carbon pollution in a way that creates high-quality jobs, drives innovation and sets the table for durable growth."
The climate spending promised in the bill is less than the original $600 billion in the original plan, but still makes up the largest spending category in the bill, CNBC reported. It is not enough on its own to fulfill President Joe Biden's promise, made at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow this month, to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by half of 2005 levels by 2030, but it is still the most ambitious piece of climate legislation in U.S. history, The New York Times reported.
"The Build Back Better World is going to show that we can grow our economies, fight climate change, and leave a better, cleaner, more livable planet for all of our children," Biden said in Glasgow, as CNBC reported.
The bill's important climate provisions include:
- 10-year tax credits to incentivize investments in renewable energy like wind and solar.
- Raising the electric vehicle tax credit to $12,500 for cars made in unionized, U.S. factories.
- Offering consumer rebates for switching to clean energy.
- Creating a Civilian Climate Corp to provide employment and protect public lands.
- Money for natural climate solutions like coastal restoration and forest management.
"The substantial investments the Build Back Better Act makes in predominantly Black, Brown and Indigenous communities that continue to suffer from systemic discrimination and disproportionate amounts of pollution marks a turning point in Congress' recognition of the environmental injustices and the loss of land and capital that these communities have suffered," Union of Concerned Scientists President Johanna Chao Kreilick said in a statement emailed to EcoWatch.
The eyes of environmental advocates now turn to the Senate, where there are concerns that centrist Democrats Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona could derail their party's efforts. The two have not yet endorsed the bill's framework, and Manchin already managed to kill the clean electricity program in the original version of the bill during earlier negotiations, as CNBC explained. This provision would have both incentivized energy companies to shift away from fossil fuels and penalized companies that did not.
"We'd be lying if we said the Build Back Better Act passing the House was not a historic moment for climate action, but it means nothing if the Senate does not pass it. The Senate better pass the damn bill," Sunrise Movement Executive Director Varshini Prakash said in a statement. "Progressives have made enough compromises. We've fought hard to defend the President's popular agenda, while Democratic leadership allowed fossil-fuel-funded Senators Manchin and Sinema to water this bill down from its original, transformative promise. President Biden and Senator Schumer must get their party in line, not cower to corporate Democrats, and pass the full Build Back Better Act through the Senate immediately. There are no excuses left."
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