By Steve Trent
Joe Biden's election is a huge positive in a year that has been extremely difficult across the globe. I speak for a vast number of people who watched anxiously from outside the United States when I heartily thank those who mobilized, campaigned and voted to make it happen. Your hard work affects us all.
But we're not at the end of the line. Far from it.
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By Melissa Gaskill
Two decades ago scientists and volunteers along the Virginia coast started tossing seagrass seeds into barren seaside lagoons. Disease and an intense hurricane had wiped out the plants in the 1930s, and no nearby meadows could serve as a naturally dispersing source of seeds to bring them back.
Restored seagrass beds in Virginia now provide habitat for hundreds of thousands of scallops. Bob Orth, Virginia Institute of Marine Science / CC BY 2.0<p>The paper is part of a growing trend of evidence suggesting seagrass meadows can be easier to restore than other coastal habitats.</p><p>Successful seagrass-restoration methods include <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0304377099000078?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">transplanting shoots</a>, <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1061-2971.2004.00314.x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mechanized planting</a> and, more recently, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-17438-4" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">biodegradable mats</a>. Removing threats, proximity to donor seagrass beds, planting techniques, project size and site selection all play roles in a restoration effort's success.</p><p>Human assistance isn't always necessary, though. In areas where some beds remain, seagrass can even recover on its own when stressors are reduced or removed. For example, seagrass began to recover when Tampa Bay improved its water quality by reducing nitrogen loads from runoff by roughly 90%.</p><p>But more and more, seagrass meadows struggle to hang on.</p><p>The marine flowering plants have declined globally since the 1930s and currently disappear at a rate equivalent to a football field every 30 minutes, according to the <a href="https://www.unep.org/resources/report/out-blue-value-seagrasses-environment-and-people" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Environment Programme</a>. And research published in 2018 found the rate of decline is <a href="https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2018GB005941" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">accelerating</a> in many regions.</p><p>The causes of decline vary and overlap, depending on the region. They include thermal stress from climate change; human activities such as dredging, anchoring and coastal infrastructure; and intentional removal in tourist areas. In addition, increased runoff from land carries sediment that clouds the water, blocking sunlight the plants need for photosynthesis. Runoff can also carry contaminants and nutrients from fertilizer that disrupt habitats and cause algal blooms.</p><p>All that damage comes with a cost.</p>
The Value of Seagrass<p>As with ecosystems like rainforests and <a href="https://therevelator.org/mangroves-climate-change/" target="_blank">mangroves</a>, loss of seagrass increases carbon dioxide emissions. And that spells trouble not just for certain habitats but for the whole planet.</p><p>Although seagrass covers at most 0.2% of the seabed, it <a href="https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/seagrass-secret-weapon-fight-against-global-heating" target="_blank">accounts for 10%</a> of the ocean's capacity to store carbon and soils, and these meadows store carbon dioxide an estimated 30 times faster than most terrestrial forests. Slow decomposition rates in seagrass sediments contribute to their <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/238506081_Assessing_the_capacity_of_seagrass_meadows_for_carbon_burial_Current_limitations_and_future_strategies" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high carbon burial rates</a>. In Australia, according to <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gcb.15204" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">research</a> by scientists at Edith Cowan University, loss of seagrass meadows since the 1950s has increased carbon dioxide emissions by an amount equivalent to 5 million cars a year. The United Nations Environment Programme reports that a 29% decline in seagrass in Chesapeake Bay between 1991 and 2006 resulted in an estimated loss of up to 1.8 million tons of carbon.</p>
Eelgrass in the river delta at Prince William Sound, Alaska. Alaska ShoreZone Program NOAA / NMFS / AKFSC; Courtesy of Mandy Lindeberg / NOAA / NMFS / AKFSC<p>Seagrasses also protect costal habitats. A healthy meadow slows wave energy, reduces erosion and lowers the risk of flooding. In Morro Bay, California, a 90% decline in the seagrass species known as eelgrass caused extensive erosion, according to a <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0272771420303528?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">paper</a> from researchers at California Polytechnic State University.</p><p>"Right away, we noticed big patterns in sediment loss or erosion," said lead author Ryan Walter. "Many studies have shown this on individual eelgrass beds, but very few studies looked at it on a systemwide scale."</p><p>In the tropics, seagrass's natural protection can reduce the need for expensive and often-environmentally unfriendly <a href="https://www.nioz.nl/en/news/zeegras-spaart-stranden-en-geld" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">beach nourishments</a> regularly conducted in tourism areas.</p><p>Seagrass ecosystems improve water quality and clarity, filtering particles out of the water column and preventing resuspension of sediment. This role could be even more important in the future. By producing oxygen through photosynthesis, meadows could help offset decreased oxygen levels caused by warmer water temperatures (oxygen is less soluble in warm than in cold water).</p><p>The meadows also provide vital habitat for a wide variety of marine life, including fish, sea turtles, birds, marine mammals such as manatees, invertebrates and algae. They provide nursery habitat for <a href="https://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/32636/seagrass.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">roughly 20%</a> of the world's largest fisheries — an <a href="https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/science/seagrass-meadows-harbor-wildlife-for-centuries/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">estimated 70%</a> of fish habitats in Florida alone.</p><p>Conversely, their disappearance can contribute to die-offs of marine life. The loss of more than 20 square miles of seagrass in Florida's Biscayne Bay may have helped set the stage for a widespread <a href="https://www.wlrn.org/2020-08-14/the-seagrass-died-that-may-have-triggered-a-widespread-fish-kill-in-biscayne-bay" target="_blank">fish kill</a> in summer 2020. Lack of grasses to produce oxygen left the basin more vulnerable when temperatures rose and oxygen levels dropped as a result, says Florida International University professor Piero Gardinali.</p>
Damaged Systems, a Changing Climate<p>Governments and conservationists around the world have already put a lot of effort into coastal restoration efforts. And that's helped some seagrass populations.</p><p>Where stressors remain, though, restoration grows more complicated. <a href="https://www.rug.nl/research/portal/en/publications/the-future-of-seagrass-ecosystem-services-in-a-changing-world(3a8c56db-7bed-4c9e-ac7f-c72453e2a102).html" target="_blank">Research</a> published this September found that only 37% of seagrass restorations have survived. Newly restored meadows remain vulnerable to the original stressors that depleted them, as well as to storms — and <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/climate-crisis">climate change</a>.</p>
Seagrass in Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida. Alicia Wellman / Florida Fish and Wildlife / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0<p>In Chesapeake Bay a cold-water species of seagrass is currently hitting its heat limit, especially in summer, according to Alexander Challen Hyman of University of Florida's School of Natural Resources and Environment. As waters continue to warm due to climate change, the species likely will disappear there.</p><p>Climate-driven sea-level rise complicates the problem as well. Seagrasses thrive at specific depths — too shallow and they dry out or are eaten, too deep and there isn't enough light for photosynthesis.</p>
But There’s Good News, Too<p>Luckily, left to its own devices, a seagrass meadow can flourish for hundreds of years, according to a <a href="https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.2019.1861" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">paper</a> published last year by Hyman and other researchers from the University of Florida. The researchers arrived at their conclusion by looking at shells of living mollusks and fossil shells to estimate the ages of meadows in Florida's Big Bend region on the Gulf Coast.</p><p>That area has extensive, relatively pristine seagrass meadows. "Our motivation was to understand the past history of these systems, and shells store a lot of history," said co-author Michal Kowalewski.</p><p>A high degree of similarity between living and dead shells indicates a stable area, while a mismatch suggests an area shifted from seagrass to barren sand. The researchers found that long-term accumulations of shells resembled living ones, suggesting that the seagrass habitats have been stable over time.</p><p>That stability allows biodiversity to thrive, creating conditions where specialist species can survive and flourish, according to Hyman.</p><p>Discovering the long-term stability of seagrass meadows has implications for choosing restoration sites, Kowalewski notes.</p><p>"There must be reasons they thrive in one place, while a mile away they don't and fossil data says they probably never did," he said. "If we remove a seagrass patch, we cannot hope to plant it somewhere else. It's not just the seagrass that is special. The location at which it's found is special, too."</p><p>A better approach is conserving these habitats in the first place, but we're not doing enough of that right now. The UN reports that marine protected areas safeguard just 26% of recorded seagrass meadows, compared with 40% of coral reefs and 43% of mangroves.</p>
Like many other plant-based foods and products, CBD oil is one dietary supplement where "organic" labels are very important to consumers. However, there are little to no regulations within the hemp industry when it comes to deeming a product as organic, which makes it increasingly difficult for shoppers to find the best CBD oil products available on the market.
Charlotte's Web<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDcwMjk3NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MzQ0NjM4N30.SaQ85SK10-MWjN3PwHo2RqpiUBdjhD0IRnHKTqKaU7Q/img.jpg?width=980" id="84700" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a2174067dcc0c4094be25b3472ce08c8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="charlottes web cbd oil" /><p>Perhaps one of the most well-known brands in the CBD landscape, Charlotte's Web has been growing sustainable hemp plants for several years. The company is currently in the process of achieving official USDA Organic Certification, but it already practices organic and sustainable cultivation techniques to enhance the overall health of the soil and the hemp plants themselves, which creates some of the highest quality CBD extracts. Charlotte's Web offers CBD oils in a range of different concentration options, and some even come in a few flavor options such as chocolate mint, orange blossom, and lemon twist.</p>
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By Tara Lohan
How much of U.S. energy demand could be met by renewable sources?
According to a new report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, the answer is an easy 100%.
Graphic: ILSR, Energy Self-Reliant States 2020
By Richard Thomas
Joseph Biden was elected to office as the world continues to struggle with a global pandemic that has killed more than a million people and wreaked devastating economic havoc. The pandemic has highlighted how humankind's abuse of our planet and the irreversible loss of the biodiversity and ecosystem services upon which we all rely for our very existence simply can't go on.
Centers for Disease Control staff inspect bushmeat being imported into the U.S. CDC<p>How do we move forward? First, I would argue that allocating resources to understanding the risks associated with trade in animals — from any source — and how to lessen the danger of disease spillover events is a wise investment. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, USAID gave the go-ahead to activities under a second phase of a Wildlife Trafficking Response, Assessment and Priority Setting (Wildlife TRAPS) Project implemented by TRAFFIC, with a renewed zoonotic disease risk focus. TRAFFIC will endeavor to ensure it's money well spent.</p><p>Meanwhile welcome global attention has been paid to addressing the wildlife crime that undermines society and threatens the future of many of the world's wild plants and animals. But we're still not there in curbing these crimes. More resources will help get us over the line.</p><p>These include better equipment, training and working conditions for the rangers on the front lines; enhanced use of wildlife forensics; training of detector dogs; and even access to skilled translators to assist enforcement agencies with interpreting transactions involving foreign nationals. We also need to see renewed efforts by governments, helped by nongovernmental organizations and others, to reduce the consumer demand that fuels such trade.</p>
Rangers on patrol in Kruger National Park, South Africa. Bernard DuPont / CC BY-SA 2.0<p>Finally, the Biden era must go down in history as the turning point when world governments came together in a united front to address the conservation crisis and start down the long road to repair. Next year the delayed <a href="https://www.cbd.int/cop/" target="_blank">15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity</a> will take place, when world governments will finalize the goals and policies of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework that will guide humankind to a biodiverse and sustainable future. The current draft of the Framework features, for the first time, a target on wildlife trade. It calls on governments to ensure that the harvesting, trade and use of wild species of fauna and flora are legal, at sustainable levels, and safe by 2030. It would be entirely appropriate if the Biden administration were at center stage throughout the negotiations. Given the role of the United States on the world stage, if Biden takes strong action, other countries will doubtless follow his lead.</p><p>Already the U.S. intention to rejoin the Paris Climate agreement has been a major symbolic step, signaling the country's aim to be at the forefront of global efforts to begin the healing process. Make no mistake: Building a green future is an enormous opportunity for businesses in the United States and beyond to meet the challenges of, and profit from, achieving the goal of a zero-carbon economy. Biden's policies should encourage achievement of that goal on every level. The future is bright, but only if it's green.</p><p>With the world's climate, forests and other natural resources under ever-increasing pressure, there has never been a more urgent need for the robust guidance, sound policies and strong leadership needed to protect our planet. The next four years could be the make-or-break moment.</p><p><em>The opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of</em> The Revelator, <em>the Center for Biological Diversity or their employees.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://therevelator.org/biden-leadership-wildlife-crime/" target="_blank">The Revelator</a>. </em></p>
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By Elizabeth Sawin
The next president will be inaugurated in the midst of a raging pandemic, an economic recession, a crisis of structural racism and an escalating climate emergency. The best chance for making progress on any of these issues is to tackle them all together.
Separated bike lane. Paul Krueger / CC BY 2.0<p>Here are a few cases drawn from a growing <a href="https://www.climateinteractive.org/ci-topics/multisolving/great/great-recovery-policies/#section-1-nat" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">database</a> of examples my colleagues and I are tracking:</p><ul><li>The Nigerian government is focusing on solar electricity as part of its recovery <a href="https://www.energyvoice.com/otherenergy/245447/nigeria-plans-solar-household-boost/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">plan</a>, with a goal of installing solar-generation capacity on 5 million homes;</li><li><a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/10/08/spain-pins-covid-recovery-hopes-green-investment-plan/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Spain</a> has pinned its recovery on an "ecological transformation" including installing 100,000 electric vehicle charging stations, making 500,000 homes more energy efficient and accelerating progress toward its goal of 100% renewable electricity by 2050;</li><li>A joint EU-Africa <a href="https://www.eib.org/en/press/all/2020-218-eib-and-afreximbank-direct-eur-300m-of-support-to-african-covid-response" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">project</a> will direct €300 million ($354 million) to projects that help businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa, especially ones owned by women. At least 25% of the funds are for projects involving renewable energy, energy efficiency and climate change resilience;</li><li>The United Kingdom has launched a £2 billion ($2.6 billion) <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/2-billion-package-to-create-new-era-for-cycling-and-walking" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">plan</a> to increase cycling infrastructure as part of its COVID-19 response. In the short term this will help people travel safely through the pandemic. In the long term it will reduce emissions from transportation and capture the health benefits of active travel.</li></ul><p>Sadly, these bright spots are so far the exception, not the rule.</p><p>A <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/370/6514/298.full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">study</a> published last month in <em>Science</em> highlights the potential of this moment. Countries around the world have already committed $12 trillion to economic recovery packages. If only 12% of that amount were to be invested in the next five years in clean energy and energy efficiency the world could place itself on a path to meeting the goals of Paris Climate Agreement, while also driving job opportunities and improving human health. But so far, the world as whole is falling short of even this modest amount of multisolving.</p><p>Some regions are doing well, though. In the European Union, for instance, somewhere between <a href="https://rhg.com/data_story/green-stimulus-and-recovery-tracker/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">19%</a> to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/nov/09/revealed-covid-recovery-plans-threaten-global-climate-hopes" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30%</a> of recovery investments are rated as "green." But many other governments are allowing this opportunity to multisolve slip away. Estimates are that only <a href="https://rhg.com/data_story/green-stimulus-and-recovery-tracker/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1%</a> of U.S. recovery funding so far has been green. For China the estimate is 0.3%; for India it's 2.4%.</p>
By Jane Braxton Little
Linda J. Cayot's scientific focus for the day was a male giant tortoise, part of her dissertation research on the ecology of these iconic Galápagos reptiles. When her study animal lumbered into a swirling torrent of muddy El Niño waters, the intrepid scientist jumped in, too. Together they banged against rocks, his carapace and her daypack catching on tree branches as they thumped in tandem down the river to the lowlands of Santa Cruz Island.
Cayot studied Galápagos giant tortoises on many islands during her 40-year career. This 1982 photo is from Pinzon Island. (© Theresa Kineke Brooks, used with permission)
Respectful Relationships: Value Everyone’s Input<p>"You accomplish much more conservation by having good relationships with everyone," says Linda Cayot.</p><p>As a scientist Cayot worked with <a href="https://www.galapagos.gob.ec/en/national-park/" target="_blank">Galápagos National Park Directorate</a> rangers who were fresh out of high school, as well as some of the world's leading herpetologists and geneticists. She sought out people with the tools and ability to solve problems, regardless of their credentials.</p><p>Wacho Tapia is among of them. When he was a 17-year-old Galapagoan volunteer Cayot recognized his passion for giant tortoises and determination to save them. Now director of Galápagos Conservancy's <a href="https://www.galapagos.org/conservation/our-work/tortoise-restoration/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative</a>, Tapia's years of working with Cayot ensure continuity in the tortoise restoration projects she initiated.</p><p>The respect Cayot demonstrated throughout her career is reflected in a small incident on Pinta Island. She asked <a href="https://www.houstonzoo.org/blog/houston-zoo-chief-veterinarian-helps-restore-giant-tortoise-population-in-galapagos/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Joe Flanagan</a>, an American collaborator and chief veterinarian at the Houston Zoo, to document the repatriation of tortoises by photographing the park rangers carrying them to their release sites. One after another refused to be photographed. But when he said the photos were for Cayot, each ranger agreed. Some even primped.</p><p>"Linda recognizes that most conservation problems are caused by people, but she strongly believes that people are also the solution," Flanagan says.</p>
Long-term Vision: Conservation Happens Slowly<p>"Projects can take 50 years," says Cayot. "That's a hell of a long time! But those are the projects that push conservation forward."</p><p>Cayot has always maintained a long-term vision. But working in the Galápagos honed it from years to decades and centuries.</p><p>The successful projects she worked on included repatriating tortoises to Española, the southernmost island. In the 1960s park rangers found just 14 tortoises there.</p><p>They took them to the <a href="https://www.galapagos.org/conservation/our-work/tortoise-restoration/tortoise-breeding-and-rearing-programs/" target="_blank">Santa Cruz breeding center</a>, added a male from the San Diego Zoo, and launched a breeding program Cayot later supervised. When young tortoises born at the center were old enough to survive out of captivity, they were released on the island of their ancestors.</p><p>In June Galápagos Park marked the successful conclusion of the <a href="https://www.galapagos.org/newsroom/espanola-tortoises-return-home-following-closure-of-successful-breeding-program/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">project</a> by returning the original tortoises to Española — 55 years after removing them — to join their progeny and the offspring they in turn had produced.</p><p>Cayot also had a central role in eradicating <a href="https://www.galapagos.org/conservation/our-work/ecosystem-restoration/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">invasive species</a> from the islands. When she first arrived in Galápagos, the southern rim of <a href="https://www.galapagos.org/about_galapagos/about-galapagos/the-islands/isabela/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Alcedo Volcano</a> was covered with <em>Zanthoxylum</em> trees. By the early 1990s, invasive goats were destroying the forest, a critical area for giant tortoises. Cayot coordinated <a href="https://www.galapagos.org/conservation/our-work/ecosystem-restoration/project-isabela/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Project Isabela</a>, the largest invasive species eradication ever attempted anywhere.</p><p>It took nearly a decade. Today the vegetation is slowly regenerating. Full restoration will take decades more, but that's not a problem in her mind: Cayot views Galápagos conservation in 100-year increments.</p><p>"I worked on the everyday details of Project Isabela, but I was thinking ahead to a century and beyond," she says.</p>
Serendipity: Learn From Surprises<p>"Don't worry if it takes a long time," says Cayot. "Emerging knowledge may result in significant changes and greater success in the end."</p><p>In 1972 <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/6/120625-lonesome-george-tortoise-last-extinct-galapagos-science-animals/" target="_blank">Lonesome George</a>, the last Pinta Island tortoise, was taken to a Santa Cruz Island pen for his protection. Scientists later decided to return tortoises to Pinta, where the habitat was declining without them. Although they would not be the endemic Pinta species, they would still disperse native plant seeds and modify habitat to help other animals and plants thrive, scientists reasoned.</p>
Lonesome George in 2008. Photo: Arturo de Frias Marques (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Collaboration: One Solution From Many Agendas<p>"You can see the excitement growing when you come up with solutions no one had thought of before," says Cayot.</p><p>When Cayot began coordinating Project Isabela, she knew it would only succeed if Galápagos Park Directorate and <a href="https://www.darwinfoundation.org/en/about/cdrs" target="_blank">Charles Darwin Research Station</a> worked together.</p><p>Because they'd never officially co-run a project, Cayot spent an evening sewing. She took a park hat and a station hat — each of which bore an image of a tortoise — cut them both in half and stitched them back together, making the bisected embroidered tortoise whole again. Cayot wore that hat when she gave talks, pulling it on if discussions became contentious.</p>
Linda Cayot made this hat out of a Galápagos Park cap and a Charles Darwin Research Station cap to symbolize and promote the cooperation required for the projects they shared. (© Jane Braxton Little, used with permission)
By Dan Farber
With the next president of the United States finally decided, we can now begin moving on to the work at hand.
Wind turbines. Photo: Shawn Meng, Oregon Department of Agriculture (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)<p>The second prong is legislative.</p><p>Although a GOP or 50-50 Senate will be a challenge, some kinds of legislation may have a chance of sneaking through.</p><p>Sen. Lisa Murkowski has an <a href="https://www.utilitydive.com/news/comprehensive-senate-energy-bill-draws-industry-bipartisan-support-but-la/573326/" target="_blank">energy bill</a> she has been trying to get to the floor that seems to have bipartisan support. The bill focuses on spending for research and demonstration projects. Even when the GOP controlled Congress during the first two years of Trump's presidency, Congress voted to increase funding for renewable energy for the Defense Department and to increase funding for research into innovative new energy technologies.</p><p>If Murkowski and fellow Republican Sen. Susan Collins can be brought on board, it may also be possible to adopt energy-related amendments to must-pass bills.</p><p>Finally, increased funding for adaptation-related spending by FEMA, the Defense Department and the Army Corps of Engineers may also be feasible.</p><p>The third prong involves climate efforts outside the federal government.</p>
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By Tara Lohan
Election Day 2020 — the day before the United States officially left the Paris climate agreement — didn't deliver an immediate rebuke to President Trump or relief for environmentalists.
That would have to wait.
The Good Stuff<p>Few big-ticket wins were clear early except for the fact that Democrats held onto the House of Representatives — an expected but not inconsequential victory. And although their majority slimmed, several new additions will be a boon for environmental issues.</p><p>One of those is progressive Cori Bush, who cruised to victory in Missouri's 1st congressional district. She's the first Black woman from the state to be elected to Congress. The nurse, pastor and Black Lives Matter activist is also a <a href="https://coribush.org/environmental-justice-and-the-green-new-deal" target="_blank">Green New Deal supporter</a>.</p><p>In gubernatorial fights, Washington's climate champion Jay Inslee won re-election. So did Democrat Roy Cooper in North Carolina, which <em><a href="https://www.eenews.net/energywire/2020/11/04/stories/1063717739" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">E&E News </a></em><a href="https://www.eenews.net/energywire/2020/11/04/stories/1063717739" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">called</a> a significant victory in the state's push for clean energy.</p><p>Mark Kelly flipped a Senate seat blue in Arizona, and so did John Hickenlooper in Colorado.</p><p>Hickenlooper, a <a href="https://coloradosun.com/2020/09/18/hickenlooper-fracking-oil-gas-colorado-us-senate-race/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">booster of the fracking industry</a> during his time as Colorado governor, is not exactly beloved by environmentalists in the state. But his defeat of Cory Gardner was hailed by the League of Conservation Voters, which called Gardner one of "<a href="https://www.lcv.org/article/lcv-congratulates-john-hickenlooper/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">worst anti-environmental candidates</a>" running this year. It was also the <a href="https://coloradosun.com/2020/11/04/colorado-history-democrats-election-sweep/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">first time in 84 years</a> that Democrats swept all statewide races in Colorado.</p><p>Along with those victories came one for wolves, too. Colorado voters passed <a href="https://therevelator.org/wolf-reintroduction-colorado/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Proposition 114</a>, which will require the state Parks and Wildlife department to develop a restoration and management plan for the reintroduction of gray wolves. It comes less than a week after the Trump administration <a href="https://therevelator.org/wolves-lose-protection/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">removed federal protection</a> from gray wolves across the country.</p>
Photo by Steve Felberg/Pixabay (CC)<p>In other statewide races, <a href="https://therevelator.org/environment-2020-ballot/" target="_blank">Nevada's Question 6</a>, which would require electric utilities to get 50% of their electricity from renewables by 2030, was approved by voters. But how much that helps the state's clean energy future is a matter of debate. Nevada has already passed similar legislation. Enshrining this benchmark into the state constitution could help protect it from future rollbacks — or it could make efforts to raise the target even harder.</p><p>Much further down the ballot, <a href="https://legal-planet.org/2020/11/05/climate-candidates-notch-victories-in-major-city-council-races-across-western-u-s/" target="_blank">climate champions made gains</a> in city council positions in major cities such as Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco and Portland.</p><p>Denver also approved an increase in sales tax to help fund <a href="https://www.denverpost.com/2020/11/03/denver-election-results-2a-2b-taxes-homeless-environment/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">climate and clean energy initiatives</a>. And Columbus, Ohio passed a measure that would help the city secure <a href="https://www.yesforissue1.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">more locally sourced renewable energy</a>.</p><p>"City leadership is <a href="https://c40-production-images.s3.amazonaws.com/other_uploads/images/955_C40_Report_US_Cities_Get_Job_Done.original.pdf?1480607660" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">important</a> for advancing climate action but new research <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/research/pledges-and-progress-steps-toward-greenhouse-gas-emissions-reductions-in-the-100-largest-cities-across-the-united-states/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">finds</a> U.S. cities falling behind," Daniel Melling, communications manager for the UCLA Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, <a href="https://legal-planet.org/2020/11/05/climate-candidates-notch-victories-in-major-city-council-races-across-western-u-s/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">wrote</a> for Legal Planet.</p>
The Bad Stuff<p>An anticipated, decisive retaking of the Senate by Democrats never materialized, and whether it remains in Republican hands won't be decided for a bit. Two Georgia races are headed to a January runoff.</p><p>If Republicans do hang on to the Senate, that will mean any bold new climate legislation — or likely any meaningful environmental legislation at all — coming out of the House will be stymied, especially <a href="https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/politics/elections/kentucky/2020/11/03/mcconnell-wins-senate-seat-will-he-be-majority-leader/6057995002/" target="_blank">if Mitch McConnell retains his role as Senate leader</a>.</p><p>Meanwhile several Republican senators with dismal environmental records will be back, including Iowa's Joni Ernst, Mississippi's Cindy Hyde-Smith, Alabama's Tommy Tuberville and Roger Marshall from Kansas. Lindsay Graham, who has a <a href="https://www.thestate.com/news/local/environment/article245783790.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mixed at best record when it comes to climate legislation</a>, also returns.</p><p>While Colorado may have seen a blue wave, <a href="https://www.thenation.com/article/politics/montana-election-results/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Montana was awash in red</a>. A Republican sweep across the state included a victory by coal-industry ally Greg Gianforte, who took the governor's mansion out of control of Democrats for the first time in 16 years.</p><p>Gianforte previously said he "would advocate as governor for increased port capacity on the West Coast to get coal to market," <a href="https://www.eenews.net/energywire/2020/11/04/stories/1063717739" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reported</a><em> E&E News</em>. Montana coal production <a href="https://www.greatfallstribune.com/story/news/2020/09/21/coal-production-montana-saw-21-decline-last-year/5858642002/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">fell 21%</a> during the pandemic.</p>
Coal train loading at Spring Creek mine, Montana. Photo: WildEarth Guardians, (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).
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By John R. Platt
Well, that was interesting … and hair-raising. At press time the harrowing presidential race of 2020 remains too close to call, as do a few key congressional and Senate seats. The Senate may not even settle out until January, when Georgia will hold runoff elections and we'll find out which party controls that house of government.
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By John R. Platt
These days many of us have a natural inclination to "doomscroll" — that constant refreshing of social media so we can gnash our teeth at the most recent bad news.
There's an alternative. Let's call it hopescrolling — the art and act of looking for beautiful things and important information to keep us inspired.
With the pandemic and election results still looming over our heads, here are 20 of our favorite nature- and environment-related Instagram accounts. May they fill your days with beauty and drive you to fight for the planet.
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By Tara Lohan
In 1999 a cheering crowd watched as a backhoe breached a hydroelectric dam on Maine's Kennebec River. The effort to help restore native fish populations and the river's health was hailed as a success and ignited a nationwide movement that spurred 1,200 dam removals in two decades.
Transmission lines from the Churchill Falls generating station in Labrador. Douglas Spott / CC BY-NC 2.0
Atlantic sturgeon were brought to the brink of extension in the 20th century and are now are listed as an endangered species. NOAA
Near Happy Valley-Goose Bay on the Churchill (Grand) River downstream from Muskrat Falls. Douglas Sprott / CC BY-NC 2.0
Construction of the Site C dam in British Columbia in 2017. Jason Woodhead / CC BY 2.0
The Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Island is the first U.S. offshore wind farm. Dennis Schroeder / NREL / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
By Tara Lohan
A blue whale can weigh as much as 200 tons and consume 12,000 pounds of krill in a single day. But even the largest animal on Earth doesn't stand a chance against a fast-moving cargo ship.
1. Acoustic monitoring instruments identify whale vocalizations. 2. Observers record whale sightings with a mobile app. 3. Oceanographic data is used to predict where blue whales are likely to be. 4. The data streams are compiled and validated. 5. Whale information is disseminated to industry, managers and the public. Nicolle R. Fuller, Sayo Studio<p><span style="background-color: initial;">There are three main components.</span><br></p><p>One is an acoustic listening station. Out in the Santa Barbara channel, our collaborators at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Texas A&M University at Galveston deployed an acoustic buoy that has an underwater microphone near the seafloor. There's a small computer that processes any audio that the microphone picks up.</p><p>It is able to automatically detect the calls of blue, humpback and fin whales. Then there's a surface buoy with a satellite transmitter that sends that information back to shore. It's then validated by a scientist on shore before it's added to the database.</p><p>Then the second piece is a blue whale habitat model. We use oceanographic data like sea-surface temperature and current to predict where blue whales are likely to be on any given day. That was developed by our collaborators at U.C. Santa Cruz, the University of Washington and NOAA Southwest Fishery Science Center.</p><p>It's a dynamic model that's running every day in an automated fashion and producing maps that show us blue whale hotspots.</p><p>The third piece is data gathered by community scientists who are out on whale-watching and tourism boats nearly every day. They use mobile apps such as <a href="http://www.whalealert.org/" target="_blank">WhaleAlert</a> and <a href="http://whaleaware.org/index.php?page=download-spotter" target="_blank">Spotter Pro</a> to record whale sightings that are also added to the database.</p>
Deploying the acoustic detection system in the Santa Barbara Channel near the shipping lanes in 2019. Benioff Ocean Initiative<p>There are quite a few challenges, both on the technological side and just the bureaucratic side, of actually getting the data delivered that way. It's their main safety and navigation tool, so you don't want it to be crowded with too much data and information. That would need to be done really thoughtfully. But that's a communication pathway that could really help get this data more easily adopted.</p><p><strong></strong><strong>Right now there are voluntary slow-speed zones, but some ships aren't abiding by those recommendations. How likely do you think they'd be to adopt technology like Whale Safe?</strong></p><p>A few years ago there was actually a NOAA-led working group that brought together many stakeholders to try to develop solutions. One of the recommendations that came out of that process was actually a call for new technology and more real-time data on whale activity. And that was supported by many members of the shipping industry that were part of that working group.</p><p>That helped to inform the approach that we decided to take. Some of these companies expressed that time is money, and if they're going to slow down, they want to make sure that they're slowing down because there are actually whales in the area.</p><p>Our hope is that this data can really help to reinforce those slow-speed zones, especially when there's high whale activity in the channel.</p>