In celebration of Earth Day, a star-studded cast is giving fans a rare glimpse into the secret lives of some of the planet's most majestic animals: whales. In "Secrets of the Whales," a four-part documentary series by renowned National Geographic Photographer and Explorer Brian Skerry and Executive Producer James Cameron, viewers plunge deep into the lives and worlds of five different whale species.
"The title refers to the latest and greatest science, which reveals that whales are a lot more like us than we first thought," Skerry told EcoWatch. "Science is clinical and studied. Traditionally, [we were] afraid to anthropomorphize whales. But now, science shows us they're very complex — with societies, families, emotions and cultures."
Following orcas, humpbacks, belugas, narwhals and sperm whales, Skerry takes viewers on a journey into the underwater world to experience whales like never before — watching them make lifelong friendships, teach their young specific traditions and grieve the loss of family. This is whale culture, Skerry explained, and these social bonds are the secret to their success.
Skerry explained how Shane Gero, his friend and sperm whale researcher, helped him frame whale culture in human terms. "There's a difference between behavior and culture," Skerry quoted Gero. "Behavior is what we do; culture is how we do it. For example, we eat food. That is behavior. But whether we eat it with a fork or chopsticks, that is culture."
Using this lens, Skerry shows how orcas around the world have developed distinct cultures around food. While New Zealand's orcas hunt hidden stingrays in the shallows, Patagonia's whales catch sea lions off the beach, and Norway's whales slap herring schools with their tails to stun them. These unique customs are also passed down to each generation. In the first episode, viewers follow five orca matriarchs as they teach their young the family's unique hunting legacy. The skills are not innate traits, but learned techniques adapted for survival in the local environment. Skerry explained how, without this ancient passage of knowledge, specific ways of life would die out.
Herring are a primary food source for Norway's orcas. Luis Lamar / National Geographic for Disney+
"This is the whales teaching their young," Skerry said. "This is generational, teaching the young how to survive, but also cultural — teaching them what matters to their family."
The episode also shows how external forces, such as humans fishing for herring in Norway, have changed whale culture in the area. When Skerry first visited the Arctic years ago, local orcas would corral fish to hunt. Now, with the advent of commercial fishing boats, they've learned to approach the ships and eat the fish that escape.
"I think of this as takeout," Skerry joked to EcoWatch. "If this behavior lasts a long time, maybe it will become culture. Maybe it already is."
For many, the series may be the first time seeing how different populations of whales have developed different customs based on where they are from, just like humans. Skerry explained, "Whales have dialects and they isolate. Sperm whales won't intermix with genetically identical animals that don't speak the same dialect. I think of this like the neighborhoods of New York, separated in enclaves by language. That's what the whales are doing."
Belugas are extremely social creatures with a varied vocal range. Peter Kragh / National Geographic for Disney+
Filmed during three years in 24 locations and narrated by Conservationist and Actress Sigourney Weaver, the National Geographic series showcases many never-before-recorded moments, such as belugas giving themselves names and humpbacks communicating through breaching. Throughout, the underlying messages are the same: whales have cultures that differ based on where they are from; they live in complex societies framed by tradition, survival and emotions; and, they're just like us.
"Whales have preferences for food, parenting technique, singing competitions. In this way, they mirror humans," Skerry emphasized.
In conjunction, Skerry has released a photography book with the same name that shares more secrets from the world's largest mammals. Plus, National Geographic's May magazine, dubbed "The Ocean Issue," aligns with the four-part series and Skerry's book, and will feature four related stories. The issue will publish April 15 and be available at natgeo.com/planetpossible.
Skerry believes the grand presentation of this new whale world will move people. He hopes viewers and readers will come to understand the complexity and connectivity between humans and the other "societies of beings" that we share the planet with. "We are visual creatures. We respond emotionally, viscerally to powerful imagery — it touches a part of our soul. Great science and storytelling that incorporates art checks all the boxes to move that needle," Skerry said.
He added, "On Earth Day, this is a good way to celebrate... this is a new view of the world. This changes our perception: no longer are we apart from nature or above it — we are intimately connected to it."
All four episodes of "Secrets of the Whales" will start streaming on Disney+ on Earth Day, Thursday, April 22nd.
A Southern Right whales is pictured in the accompanying book, "Secrets of the Whales." Brian Skerry / National Geographic
About 66 million years ago, a 12-km asteroid struck Earth. The massive heat and impact likely triggered tidal waves and clouded the skies with ash, The Washington Post reported. Scientists estimate that up to 75 percent of all life on land went extinct, including the dinosaurs.
The space rock that triggered that mass extinction event is also the likely reason we have the Amazon Rainforest, a new study suggests. Published in the prestigious journal Science, the research indicates that that same asteroid that killed the dinosaurs also birthed all of Earth's tropical rainforests.
Mónica Carvalho, study co-author from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institution (STRI) in Panama, examined tens of thousands of fossils in Columbia to understand how the plant life in Central and South America shifted from before and after the impact, reported Nerdist. Her team discovered that the type of vegetation comprising the continent's forests drastically changed from before and after. Before the crash, widely spaced conifers and ferns filled the region, allowing in large amounts of light, The Post reported.
After the asteroid struck, many species went extinct, particularly seed-bearing plants. Plant diversity declined about 45 percent after the impact, researchers found. Examining more than 50,000 fossil pollen records, the team discovered that flowering plants called angiosperms took over as the forests recovered during the next six million years. These filled in where other species had gone extinct, leading to the "reign of flowers," an STRI press release noted.
The impact also changed the spatial structure of forests, from widely spaced to densely packed. Leaf data from more than 6,000 fossils shows that the thick, dense tropical canopy associated with today's rainforests did not develop until after the impact. The data suggests that the spatial change from "relatively open to closed and layered... led to increased vertical stratification and a larger diversity of plant growth forms," News18 reported. As trees grew taller and closer, they partially blocked the sun, allowing different species of flowering plants to flourish, the Post reported. This is how Earth's most diverse terrestrial ecosystem — the tropical rainforests teeming with bright bromeliads and abundant orchids — developed, the study implies.
As for why, the researchers offered three theories: dinosaurs had kept the forest open and sparse by feeding on and trampling plants; falling ash enriched soils, giving an advantage to faster-growing flowering plants; and preferential extinction of conifers created the opportunity for flowering plants to take over.
While scientists aren't sure which theory, or combination of theories, created modern rainforests, Carvalho did conclude with one key takeaway: "The lesson learned here is that under rapid disturbances... tropical ecosystems do not just bounce back; they are replaced, and the process takes a really long time."
The end-Cretaceous asteroid impact that resulted in the destruction of nearly 75% of Earth's terrestrial life drast… https://t.co/nMS1dbmCCb— Science Magazine (@Science Magazine)1617726607.0
The shift in plant species and tree density likely also impacted the past and present climate, the STRI release added. Tropical rainforests, and the Amazon in particular, are some of the planet's most important carbon sinks. By absorbing greenhouse gases, the trees help curb the climate crisis and keep Earth habitable.
"The sparser canopies of the pre-impact forests, with fewer flowering plants, would have moved less soil water into the atmosphere than did those that grew up in the millions of years afterward," the STRI release explained. This increased humidity and cloud coverage, making the area much more productive, Wired reported.
Legume trees, a dominant feature in today's tropical rainforests, also entered the fossil record after the impact. These trees, with the help of symbiotic bacteria in their roots, fix nitrogen into soil, Wired reported. Without these shifts in forest spacing and makeup, today's climate could have developed differently.
The researchers hope the new study can help scientists understand how today's rainforests will respond to the rapidly changing climate currently threatening their existence.
According to Wired, Carvalho also warned, "The changes we are seeing today in relation to climate and deforestation are so rapid that we haven't really seen them in any other scenario in the history of the planet. Extinction is something that occurs really fast."
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The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
In his latest documentary, 27-year-old British filmmaker Ali Tabrizi calls out the commercial fishing industry for harming the oceans in the pursuit of fish. Since its release, the polarizing film has gone viral and climbed to Netflix's top ten across the globe. The exposé has sparked countless questions about and investigation into the seafood industry's claims and practices.
Tabrizi opens the film with scenes from his childhood. His love of the ocean came from watching orcas and dolphins perform in marine theme parks. As an adult, he came to understand the harm associated with captive mammals. The storyline quickly progresses to cover mass dolphin killing in Taiji, Japan along with overfishing for tuna. Everything is connected, and the chain of destruction goes on until "the documentary loses its shock factor" because "the bleak statistics cease to surprise," reported The Independent. The message is clear: "we are destroying sea life at rapid speed."
Seaspiracy alleges that overfishing for tuna helps keep demand and prices high. Netflix
In the film, Sylvia Earle, famed marine biologist and ocean explorer, warns that since humans excel at extracting enormous amounts of marine life from the sea, commercial fishing itself will go extinct because eventually there will be no fish left.
A Thrillist review said Seaspiracy connects all of the dots between commercial fishing, ocean destruction and slavery with a "wobbly line" and the "indictment of the myth of sustainability."
With each new scene, Tabrizi reveals the fraud, corruption and greed currently destroying the oceans. Through figures and expert cameos, he claims:
- Discarded plastic fishing gear accounts for most ocean debris and is killing whales and other animals;
- The oceans will be emptied of fish in 27 years;
- Safe seafood labels are compromised by "pay-to-play" profit structures and lack enforcement;
- Overfishing is more damaging to the environment than deforestation;
- Farmed fish are disease-ridden, pollution-creating and resource-intensive;
- Thai fishing fleets use slave labor to remain profitable;
- "Sustainable seafood" is a myth; and
- The only solution is to stop eating fish.
Shark bycatch is seen being dumped overboard in West Africa. Sea Shepherd
Tabrizi's takeaway is a scathing condemnation of the multibillion-dollar seafood industry and the governments, groups and companies complicit with the ocean's destruction. Seaspiracy calls for a collective shift away from eating seafood and toward vegan and plant-based alternatives.
"The amount of fish being taken out of the ocean is absolutely stunning — five million fish a minute," Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Founder Capt. Paul Watson told EcoWatch. "We're strip-mining life from the sea. There is no sustainable fishery anywhere on the planet."
The marine conservation organization, known and sometimes criticized for its direct action techniques, features prominently in Tabrizi's film. Tabrizi films from Sea Shepherd ships as they confront an illegal Chinese fishing vessel and encounter starving artisanal fishers in West Africa who have lost their jobs and food source to industrial fisheries.
When asked if the state of the oceans is as dire as depicted in Seaspiracy, Watson told EcoWatch, "I think it's actually worse than presented in this film. For the most part, these problems are out of sight, out of mind. And, if the ocean dies, we die."
The Sea Shepherd fleet of ships patrols the world's waters. Thomas Le / Sea Shepherd
To date, millions have watched the documentary, and reactions from viewers and marine organizations run the gamut.
"I think it was a brilliant film," Watson said. "It's the first opportunity to get the message out about what's happening in our oceans. Many people are being confronted with information that they never paid attention to before."
One Twitter user agreed, saying, "So modern fishing with nets large enough to sweep up cathedrals is wiping out ocean ecosystems which we rely on to regulate the planet. We are literally killing ourselves...." Another user urged, "Do watch it if you care about oceans/fish. I'm gonna stop eating fish, starting today. A must watch."
Critics of the film have also been vocal, denouncing the underlying facts presented, the film's possible vegan agenda and its reductionist and sensationalist approach, Global Aquaculture Alliance reported. The New York Times likened the tone to "a cheap imitation of hard-hitting investigative journalism" full of "conspiratorial thinking." Some accused the film of perpetuating a "white savior complex," The Independent reported.
Leading seafood certification group Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), a target throughout the documentary, refused Tabrizi's numerous interview requests. After the documentary's release, MSC agreed that, "There is a crisis in our oceans, and an urgent need to end overfishing." The organization also rebutted, "... it is wrong to claim that there is no such thing [as] sustainable fishing and that the only solution is to stop eating fish. Some of the problems that the film highlights — bycatch, overfishing and destruction of marine ecosystems — are precisely the issues the MSC certification process is designed to address."
Sea Shepherd Founder Paul Watson considers commercial fishing the biggest threat to the future of the oceans. Sea Shepherd
Mark J. Palmer, who is connected to the Earth Island Institute, the firm that manages the "dolphin-safe" label for tuna, is featured in a pivotal scene in the film. On camera, Tabrizi asks Palmer whether he can guarantee that all tuna cans labeled dolphin-safe caused no harm to dolphins. The latter responds, "Nope. Nobody can," and justifies his answer by saying, "Once you're out there in the ocean, how do you know what [fishermen are] doing? We have observers onboard — observers can be bribed and are not out on a regular basis."
Palmer has since tried to dampen his statement and suggests that Seaspiracy took his remarks out of context, IntraFish, a seafood news site, reported. Newsweek fact-checked the film's claims and Palmer's defenses and concluded that "[b]ased on comments made by the Earth Island Institute and other experts, it is not possible to say whether all canned tuna that is labeled 'dolphin-friendly' is guaranteed to have not harmed dolphins in the fishing process."
Regardless of whether or not they are fans of the film, most conservationists and scientists agree that the oceans matter in the fight against the climate crisis, both for providing food security for millions worldwide along with protecting cultural ways of life.
According to The Guardian, Callum Roberts, a marine conservationist featured in Seaspiracy, offered this conclusion for the film's critics: "My colleagues may rue the statistics, but the basic thrust of it is we are doing a huge amount of damage to the ocean and that's true. At some point, you run out. Whether it's 2048 or 2079, the question is: 'Is the trajectory in the wrong direction or the right direction?'"
Three hundred years ago in 1723, Antonio Vivaldi composed "The Four Seasons," a series of violin concertos inspired by the natural world. Now, scientists, composers and designers have reimagined the classic to help envision what the future might feel like in 2050 — a world forever changed by the climate crisis.
Tim Devine, executive creative director of AKQA, the design firm that masterminded the project, told EcoWatch, "On the surface, the original Four Seasons is about weather and seasonal variation, but it is very much about our human relationship to the world. That's what makes it a great fit for the narratives that climate science tells us the future could be like."
The collaborators on the updated Vivaldi score used algorithms to predict specific impacts of global warming in 2050, and to interpret those changes in sonic terms. The result is "The [Uncertain] Four Seasons." In it, they explored how to "derive a lived experience of climate science predictions for RCP 8.5 in 2050," Devine explained. (RCP 8.5 is an emissions scenario for global warming.)
Hugh Crosthwaite, the composer of the piece, told EcoWatch, "The data tells us things are looking grim. Without urgent and profound action, the world will be absolutely and starkly diminished."
According to the United Nations (UN), "No corner of the globe is immune from the devastating consequences of climate change." These include environmental degradation, mass extinctions, natural disasters, extreme weather, Arctic melting, sea-level rise, acidifying and warming oceans and wildfires. The human impact will range from food and water insecurity to economic disruption, conflict and terrorism, the UN warned.
The Sydney Symphony Orchestra played their local variation of "The [Uncertain] Four Seasons" — with intense heat, biodiversity die-offs and protracted storms — for Syd Fest. Yaya Stempler / AKQA
Because climate change will have disparate effects around the globe, the team also created roughly 1,000 unique scores, personalized for every major orchestra on the planet. These are based on regional weather models, geospatial datasets and UN IPCC reports on climate change. For example, in Shanghai, which is predicted to be underwater by 2050, the concerto is full of rests and silence.
By comparing the human experience of each season in the future with Vivaldi's depictions, the team created a dire warning of what's to come. For example, Vivaldi's original included birdsong to represent spring, along with other elements that represented each of the seasons he appreciated. In almost satiric parallel, the updated version has removed birdsong notes based on data about declining bird populations and species collapse. "The more at risk a place is the greater the reduction of notes," Devine told EcoWatch.
Meanwhile, allusions to soft, summer storms have an ultra-Locrian scale (based on dissonant cords) to reinforce discomfort. Drawn-out repetitions of lightning and thunder representations match what the data indicates about rising sea surface temperatures increasing storm intensity.
"[A]t first, the storms sound intense, but with further repetition, their intensity normalizes and they lose their initial jolt," Devine said. This mimics how extreme weather has already become more frequent
.Devine told Yale Climate Connections, "We really wanted to walk that line between being too ridiculously catastrophic and kind of meaningfully changing this to make it sound what we think it might feel like to live in that time."
"For me, the whole of the works is greater than the sum of the individual changes," explained Crosthwaite. "This is important to me because it will be the whole of the changes [due to the climate crisis] that we will experience and future generations will be forced to endure."
The Sydney Symphony Orchestra played their local variation of "The [Uncertain] Four Seasons" — with intense heat, biodiversity die-offs and protracted storms — for Syd Fest. Yaya Stempler / AKQA
Music turned out to be a perfect medium for the two to share their climate message because it's "a very human thing," according to Devine. It can breathe life into stark climate data and facts. As a composer, Crosthwaite uses music to conjure a wide range of feelings and ideas. He said of the sonnets, "I feel they really capture, directly, the impact of climate science through art. We have created a modern lens through which to see Vivaldi's world and the impact of climate change."
For listeners, the familiar-but-unsettling tune serves as a warning about how the world could feel if nothing is done to prevent the worst-case scenario. Crosthwaite hopes that his audiences will leave with a profound emotional experience that motivates urgent climate action.
AKQA exists "to create a better future," Devine said. The company has worked on several projects to further the collective understanding of climate change, and how to change and reframe human behaviors. In particular, "The [Uncertain] Four Seasons" is aimed at COP26 and getting more leaders to sign the Leaders' Pledge for Nature, Devine explained.
Devine concluded, "The challenge is not awareness of climate change. We're all aware of the science. The challenge is action. What are we doing? What are our governments and businesses doing? The [Uncertain] Four Seasons is a creative act, a response to the science. Its intention is to create more noise in communities around the world so that their local and national leaders feel more responsibility to act. COP26 is that opportunity."
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"How America's most endangered cat could help save Florida."
As its headline promises, National Geographic's latest feature on the endangered Florida panther explores the unspoken, symbiotic relationship between the big cats and the humans they must coexist with. The article also showcases intimate, rare photographs of the panthers, which took five years to capture.
According to the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), Florida panthers are actually a subspecies of mountain lion — the only one remaining in the Eastern U.S. They're also known as pumas and cougars. The subspecies' historic range once extended from Florida to Louisiana throughout the Gulf Coast states, and even Arkansas, NWF reported. Today, wild Florida panthers can only be found in southwestern Florida.
Hunting decimated the population, and the species was among the first to be added to the U.S. endangered species list in 1973, with fewer than 30 individuals remaining, according to the National Geographic article. Habitat loss compounded the issue. With such a small population, inbreeding, which could lead to diseases and genetic malfunctions, was of particular concern. Journalist Douglas Main wrote the feature story, and he shared in a twitter thread how many people feared that Florida's panther had gone, or would soon go extinct, during that decade.
A massive conservation effort ensued, including bringing in eight Texas mountain lions to breed with the native Florida population in order to inject fresh genetic diversity into the population, Main said.
However, the subspecies is still so critically endangered that it remains vulnerable to "just about every major threat," NWF reported. Habitat loss is the biggest obstacle.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Florida panthers require large, contiguous areas of suitable land to live on. They are solitary and roam widely in order to meet their social, reproductive and energetic needs, FWS reported. Unfortunately, they are still restricted to less than five percent of their historical range, the report noted.
As more people move to Florida, continued development threatens the little remaining open land and panther habitat. For panthers, this is a huge challenge to recovery, and has increased cat-on-cat territorial spats and car collisions — the leading causes of death, National Geographic reported. About 25 Florida panthers are killed annually by vehicles, a devastating blow to a tiny population and "a reflection of how development and road construction threaten the species at a time when roughly 900 people are moving to Florida every day," the story detailed.
The conservation efforts worked to save the panther from the brink of extinction, but they're still very much at risk, said National Geographic Explorer Carlton Ward Jr. Ward is an eighth-generation Floridian and habitat protection advocate, as well as the photographer who spent five years capturing the panther images for the feature.
A male panther leaps over a creek at Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Florida. The rarely seen cats, which number only around 200, are reclaiming territory north of the Everglades, but their habitat is threatened by encroaching suburban sprawl. Carlton Ward, Jr.
For Ward, it became an obsession to document the elusive, endangered cats, and the pictures reflect that. "The lead image for the story, a panther jumping across a log around a flooded section of swamp, that picture took two years to capture," he admitted.
For five years, Ward set up state-of-the-art camera traps throughout the Florida woods and swamps. He shared with EcoWatch what he learned about the need to continue balancing Florida's tremendous population growth with conserving the iconic species.
"We need to cultivate a culture of coexistence," Ward said. "If the panther goes extinct, I will be worried about all the other wildlife and people in Florida, because it means we will have missed the opportunity we have now to conserve enough land to ensure balance between wildlife and people."
Today, the panther population has grown to roughly 200, and Ward's photos show that the cats are moving northward to reclaim old territories. This is critical, because northward expansion is the only path for long-term survival, Main wrote in National Geographic.
"The southern tip of Florida is not enough land to sustain a genetically viable, resilient population of panthers," Ward told EcoWatch. "The cats can only continue moving north if the Florida Wildlife Corridor, a patchwork of public and private lands that run through the state, is preserved. The Florida Wildlife Corridor is the lifeline and path of recovery for panthers."
Yet this requires the participation of landowners and ranchers, who need more conservation funding to prevent their open spaces from becoming subdivisions, parking lots and roads, Main explained in the story. Conservation easements use up development rights while allowing the owners to continue farming and ranching, Main said.
"The land is still there. We have a moment right now where we can choose to conserve," Ward told EcoWatch. "Hundreds of landowners are open to conservation as an alternative to development. They're waiting for conservation easements or to sell their land for national parks. We need to meet this opportunity."
Wildlife veterinarian Lara Cusack handles more kittens belonging to FP224. These young cats were measured and given immunity boosters while their mother was hunting away from the den. When panthers have space and protected habitats, their populations can grow. Only about one in three Florida panther kittens survives to adulthood. Carlton Ward Jr. / National Geographic Society
Landowners and ranchers, who were traditionally pitted against panthers when their cattle were eaten, will also benefit from increased protections for the cats. "On the Endangered Species Act, do you see 'cowboy' or 'rancher' written on it? No, but we benefit from the protections afforded the panther," Main quoted Florida rancher Elton Langford. "Both share a common enemy: Development," Main wrote.
People with multi-generational connections to the land share something in common with a species that's lived there for 20,000 years, Ward said. Both need the land to remain intact and open.
"There is common ground and common threat and common opportunity," Ward concluded. "That's where I feel the most hope — in how much common ground there is in saving a species, helping sustain a way of life and in sustaining the headwaters of the Everglades and the water supply. The panther is a great icon for everyone to conserve all of this."
For more on this story, visit National Geographic. The story appears in print in National Geographic's April 2021 issue.
"Return of the Florida Panther" is featured in the April 2021 issue of National Geographic. National Geographic Society
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Cars on the island of Yell, located in the Shetland Islands in Scotland's northernmost region, can now be fueled entirely by tidal energy from Nova Innovation's tidal turbines. Tidal turbines are large, revolving machines anchored to the seafloor. Besides fueling electric vehicles, the company explained that Nova Innovation's tidal turbines don't visually impact the landscape or pose a navigation hazard. They also offer long-term and accurate predictability when it comes to powering Shetland's grid.
The company tidal array has been powering local homes and businesses on Yell for more than five years, a company spokesperson told EcoWatch. Now, that same technology feeds into an electric vehicle charge point on the island fueled entirely by the sea.
Nova Innovation's CEO Simon Forrest said, "We now have the reality of tidal powered cars, which demonstrates the huge steps forward we are making in tackling the climate emergency and achieving net-zero by working in harmony with our natural environment."
The new technology is a first for the UK, and can be deployed around the world, Forrest said in a statement emailed to EcoWatch. Several different tidal energy technologies in Scotland work to capitalize on the country's many islands and tidal currents. The goal is to reduce reliance on traditional combustion engine vehicles, which are responsible for around one-fifth of all carbon emissions in the UK, Maritime Journal reported.
Fiona Nicholson, a local electric car driver and fan of Nova Innovation's technology, said, "[I]t is exciting to have this on my doorstep... Most people in Shetland live close to the sea — to be able to harness the power of the tide in this way is a great way to use this resource."
Nicholson has been following Nova Innovation since it built its test model, and believes there will be continued interest in the technology and how different businesses could potentially use it, the company statement said.
Scotland has been a global leader in renewable energy sourcing for years, particularly tidal energy innovations. In 2013, the country set a goal of being 100 percent renewable by 2020. In 2018, the country's record-breaking wind power output was enough to power five million homes; by 2019, wind power produced enough to power two Scotlands. In 2016, the world's largest tidal energy farm launched in Scotland, and in 2020, the country boasted the world's largest tidal array of underwater turbines.
By the start of 2020, the country was on track to meet its ambitious goal. As of November, Scotland had surpassed 90 percent renewables, BBC reported. More recent calculations could show that Scotland has met its target.
In its push toward net-zero, the Scottish government also banned selling new cars powered solely by gas or diesel by 2032, spurring the domestic need to develop new sources of clean energy to power vehicles, Maritime Journal reported. The government backed many of these innovations, including Nova's project, as part of its clean energy transition and fight against the climate crisis.
Scotland will also host the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26 this November in Glasgow.
Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, said, "It's fantastic to see that Nova Innovation is demonstrating yet again that Scotland remains at the forefront of developments in zero-emission transport solutions... This type of innovation is key in responding to the global climate emergency and highlights the opportunities that can be realized here in Scotland as we transition to a net-zero economy."
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About 6,200 years ago, 41 people were killed and buried in a mass grave in what is now modern-day Croatia. According to Live Science, DNA analysis has now revealed that members of their own community may have murdered them, and some researchers suggest that a sudden population boom or shift in climate conditions could have prompted the mass murder.
The grave was discovered in 2007 in a small village in the hills of Potočani, Croatia. Heavy rains exposed a pit containing dozens of skeletons, Live Science reported. The mass grave was small, about 6.5-feet across and three-feet deep, with at least 41 bodies dumped together.
Archeologists first thought it was a modern grave from World War I or the Croatian War of Independence in the 1990s, but no contemporary objects were found with the bones, according to Live Science. Radiocarbon dating of bones, soil and pottery fragments confirmed a burial date around 4200 B.C.E.
"This makes Potočani one of the first and earliest cases of systematic killing on a large scale in Europe proven by genetic data," said Mario Novak, the study's lead author and head of the Laboratory for Evolutionary Anthropology and Bioarchaeology at the Institute for Anthropological Research in Zagreb, Croatia.
Further inspection of the bones and DNA data revealed "random killing without any concern for age or sex," Novak told Live Science. Men, women and children were killed in relatively equal numbers. Many of the killing blows were strikes to the skull from behind, and there were no indications that the victims tried to defend themselves.
Genetic analysis also revealed that the victims were not a targeted family group, because 70 percent of the deceased were not closely related, Novak explained. But, because the victims' shared homogenic genetic ancestry that was almost identical to other contemporary populations from the region, Novak and his team were able to eliminate the hypothesis that the massacre was related to the arrival of new immigrants. Rather, they believe that the victims were a smaller part of the local, stable population.
These factors led the researchers to suspect a massacre.
"Basically, [all this] means that the perpetrators did not target a certain age or sex category within this community or even a certain family, as we could see in some similar prehistoric examples from continental Europe," Novak said. "The indiscriminate killing recorded in Potočani shows that this was a pre-planned act, most probably with a goal to completely exterminate this community without any consideration or remorse for their victims."
The Potočani mass grave is similar to others found in modern-day Germany and Austria dating to around 5000 B.C.E., Novak said. In total, scientists have found five or six similar cases from continental Europe so far.
According to Live Science, the "most likely explanation" for the Potočani killings and the older ones in Germany and Austria are prolonged climate changes in Central Europe that caused floods or droughts. These, along with unexpected population booms, possibly led to food shortages and violent competition for resources.
Novak's study called the reasons behind the upsurge of extreme mass violence and massacres during these eras "complex and multifactoral," and agreed that climate-induced drops in agricultural production most likely played a part.
"Human nature hasn't changed much (if at all) since those times," he told EcoWatch. "By studying such ancient massacres, we might try to get a glimpse into the psychology of these people, and maybe try to prevent similar events today," Novak told Live Science.
Novak also said it was obvious that the climate crisis profoundly impacted our distant ancestors as much as today's modern world. He warned, "If we cannot change ourselves and our attitude toward the environment drastically, I'm afraid soon the things will start resembling these ancient massacres, but on a more global scale."
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Editor's note: This article has been updated with correspondence from the Basel Action Network and the Center for International Environmental Law
The majority of the world is working together to reverse the massive plastic pollution problem. But, the world's leading producer of plastic waste, the U.S., isn't on board and isn't following the rules.
In 2019, 187 countries voted to amend the 1989 Basel Convention to include plastic waste in the definition of hazardous materials and to strictly limit how that trash is traded internationally. The binding framework aims to make global trade in plastic waste cleaner, more transparent and better regulated. It went into effect on Jan. 1, 2021.
According to Jim Puckett, executive director of the Basel Action Network (BAN), a nonprofit organization that lobbies against the plastic waste trade, the motivation was to use the existing tool of the Basel Convention to "grapple with the lifecycle plastics crisis we are in."
UN officials hoped the agreement would curb ocean plastic within five years. The only free trade that is allowed under the amended convention is the legitimate recycling of plastics that are high-quality, clean and sorted. Anything else would be banned from trade, a move hoping to prevent the incineration, dumping and dirty or incomplete recycling that currently is used to process lower quality plastics, Puckett told EcoWatch.
Supporters expected the implementation of the new regulations to curb the "uncontrolled trade" in low-quality and hard-to-recycle plastic waste, the majority of which currently results from trash collected in the global North being exported and then "recycled" in a "substandard, incomplete and polluting" manner in the global South, Puckett said. They also believed the convention would level the industry's global playing field by allowing developing nations such as Vietnam and Malaysia to refuse such plastics before they were shipped from developed nations, a UN transboundary waste chief told The Guardian.
At the start of the year, when the new rules were just being implemented, the fact remained that the U.S. had not ratified the amendment to become a Party to the Basel Convention despite producing most of the world's plastic waste. Proponents held that the amendment would still apply to the U.S. anytime it tried to trade plastic waste with any of the participating 187 countries, many of which are poor and developing nations, CNN reported.
According to David Azoulay, senior attorney with the Center for International Environmental Law, participating nations are prohibited from trading waste with countries that have not ratified the Basel Convention, including the U.S. This creates an effective ban on plastic waste trade between the U.S. and most of the world.
"Legally, there's nowhere waste from the U.S. can go, so right when it gets on the high seas, it becomes illegal," Azoulay told EcoWatch.
Despite these new rules, U.S. Customs data from January shows that optimism about the convention's effectiveness may have been premature. According to The New York Times, American exporters continue to ship plastic waste overseas, despite the fact that receiving countries have agreed, per the Basel Convention, not to accept it. In fact, the new report showed that American exports of plastic scrap to poorer countries have barely changed and that overall exports of scrap plastics even rose.
The Times reported that environmental watchdog groups viewed this as evidence that exporters are either ignoring the new rules or following their own interpretations. American companies are justifying waste shipments as being legal even though recipient countries legally can't accept them. The former is using the logic that because the U.S. never ratified the global ban, the rules don't apply to originating shipments.
"The U.S. is walking a very fine line here," Azoulay explained. "Even though it is not technically illegal to send the plastic waste, allowing its traders to send waste knowing there is nowhere for it to be accepted is a form of defeating the object and purpose of the convention. The U.S. has an obligation under international law not to do this because it is a signatory to the convention, even if it has not yet ratified. Doing so is a lack of respect of international law by the U.S. and a misinterpretation or evasion of the rules."
The Maritime Executive also noted that America's plastic waste shipments continue to be associated with "uncontrolled dumping" in developing countries and that much of the plastic waste collected in the U.S. under the guise of recycling actually ends up in overseas landfills and the oceans. In fact, a new Woods Hole study found that the U.S. is likely the world's third-largest source of ocean plastic, not just because it is the world's largest producer of plastic waste, but also because recyclables being sent to the developing world are often mishandled and discarded into the ocean.
"This is our first hard evidence that nobody seems to be paying attention to the international law," Puckett told The Times regarding the new trade data. "As soon as the shipments get on the high seas, it's considered illegal trafficking. And the rest of the world has to deal with it."
Azoulay offered up some stopgap solutions. Because waste is hard to send back once accepted, recipient countries need to be "more forceful" in border control and enforcement of what comes in, he said. The illegal traffic in low-quality plastics must be prosecuted as criminal.
On the U.S. side, the easy solution would be to prevent the shipments from going out in the first place, Azoulay added, and for the U.S. to respect international law.
He and Puckett both have called upon the Biden Administration to ratify the Basel Convention now, which would create the obligation for the U.S. to criminalize illegal trading. This also, ironically, would facilitate the trade of legitimate U.S. waste, Azoulay said. It would just need prior informed consent before sending and could only send high-quality, recyclable plastics.
As a more permanent solution, Azoulay and Puckett both also advocated for a mindset shift by consumers and manufacturers. Puckett said, "We will never recycle our way out of the plastic lifecycle crisis. We need to all stop using single-use plastic in our lives and demand that our markets also reduce the consumption and use of single-use plastics (such as packaging) as soon as possible."
Azoulay agreed, saying, "We're talking about waste trade because we're producing waste….The less plastic you use, the less ends up as waste, the less has to be sent or managed, and the less you have to dump. This works for everyone."
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"I AM DONE!!! I DID IT!!!"
I AM DONE!!! I DID IT!!! After **589** days of picking up trash every single day, I can say with confidence that E… https://t.co/7ko2wntQK3— Edgar McGregor (@Edgar McGregor)1614982100.0
The 20-year-old visited Eaton Canyon, his local park, for at least an hour every day to clean up municipal waste. He persisted during the pandemic and through extreme weather, including hail, 65 MPH winds and ashy rain from nearby wildfires, he said in the viral video celebrating his accomplishment.
McGregor's goal involved cleaning up after visitors in order to leave the hiking trail, which is part of the Angeles National Forest in Southern California, trash-free. Armed every day with gloves and empty paint buckets, the activist told ABC that he filled up at least two buckets during each visit.
"I just started picking up one day because I knew it needed to be done. I knew no one was doing it, and that was that," he added.
McGregor shared his daily progress on Twitter, gaining more than 18,000 followers. He documented not just how much trash he picked up, but also the weather, minor injuries he sustained, where he cleaned and how long it took.
On March 5, the last day of his marathon cleanup, he proudly announced, "After **589** days of picking up trash every single day, I can say with confidence that Eaton Canyon, one of Los Angeles's most popular hiking trail [sic], is now free of municipal waste!" That single tweet has been liked on Twitter's platform more than 107,600 times, and even famed climate activist Greta Thunberg congratulated McGregor.
"There is nothing more satisfying than seeing brand new animals return to your park after months of cleaning up. I highly encourage anyone with any spare time to give this mission a shot. Your parks need you," McGregor told NPR.
During his months of garbage removal, McGregor separated recyclables from trash and traded the former for cash. It totaled roughly $30 every two to three weeks, NPR reported, and McGregor donated that money to various charities and causes that mattered to him and his followers.
Earlier this week, McGregor tweeted that he raised more than $400 from recycling and donated all of it to plant native trees in Eaton Canyon, fund charities around the world and support political candidates that promise to act on the climate crisis.
McGregor also uses his platform to explain why cleanups matter and how they help.
Five days after his monumental achievement and proclamation, he recorded a new message in Eaton Canyon. McGregor explained how new trash had entered the park from several adjacent communities at higher elevations.
Trash pickup day 594. This was a 150 minute pickup. #EarthCleanUp It's hailing! Did two buckets in my park. Most… https://t.co/AcEAkC10Xn— Edgar McGregor (@Edgar McGregor)1615406445.0
"So trash on city streets gets into storm drains and dumps into this park," he said. "So this morning, all of this trash in this bucket was brand new. It entered this park after midnight today, and I was able to come out here before the rainstorm hit and clean up trash."
In his video, McGregor pointed out how the nearby storm drain had filled with water from a flash flood and carried tons of trash a mile and a half. Had he not intervened, that trash would have entered a local watershed that feeds directly to the Pacific Ocean, he explained. McGregor added a call to action for his followers, saying, "So, if you see rain in the forecast, be sure to clean up trash on your local streets and your local boulevards. Because if that trash is not cleaned up and the rain hits, it's gonna flow into the storm drains, and it can get into your local parks. It can get into the rivers, and, even worse, it can get into the ocean. And, it's a lot harder to clean up."
ON CBS, McGregor shared his ideal solution to this massive trash problem, saying, "The only solution to picking up trash in our local parks is to... hire people to clean them up permanently."
Because that isn't yet a reality, McGregor continues to return several times a week to Eaton Canyon to remove trash while also considering new parks to clean up. He encourages everyone to go on their own pickup expeditions and post photos with the hashtag #EarthCleanUp, which he promises to retweet and celebrate.
"If you think my work is inspiring, prove it to me by going out there and defending this planet with all you've got," McGregor urged on Twitter. "It can be anything within your abilities. It just has to be something."
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Four orangutans and five bonobos at the world-famous San Diego Zoo have become the first great apes in the world to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. The great apes received a COVID-19 vaccine made especially for animals.
In January, a troop of eight western lowland gorillas at the associated San Diego Zoo Safari Park contracted the contagious virus. They were the first great apes in the world to test positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance (SDZWA) confirmed. The organization includes both the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park.
The infected animals exhibited mild to concerning symptoms, including runny noses, cough, wheezing and lethargy. One, a 49-year-old silverback named Winston, fell ill with heart disease and pneumonia, but recovered after receiving an experimental antibody treatment, National Geographic reported. At this point, the entire troop is doing well and have fully recovered, a SDZWA spokesperson told EcoWatch.
"COVID has shown us that human health and wildlife health are inextricably linked," said Nadine Lamberski, SDZWA's chief conservation and wildlife health officer. "San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance recognizes that the documentation of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park may provide important information regarding scientific understanding of the virus and its effects on great apes."
It's suspected that the apes caught the virus from an infected worker despite mask usage, NBC reported.
The troop's infection caused particular concern because less than 5,000 wild gorillas remain, National Geographic reported. Because they live in close family groups, when one animal catches the virus, the infection can quickly spread and decimate an entire family group. With such low numbers remaining, every loss is detrimental to the survival of the species.
As a precautionary response to the ape infections in January, SDZWA veterinarians identified which of the zoo's great apes were high risk and could be easily vaccinated, the spokesperson said.
"[We realized] that our other apes were at risk," Lamberski told the San Diego Tribune. "We wanted to do our best to protect them from this virus because we don't really know how it's going to impact them."
"Our friends at Zoetis, a veterinary pharmaceutical company, provided our veterinarians with a limited supply of recombinant purified spike protein vaccine, intended for use in protecting animals against SARS-CoV-2," she told EcoWatch. "The vaccine doses originated from a supply strictly intended for nonhuman use. We received enough doses to vaccinate 13 animals."
Two doses of the new, experimental animal vaccines were given to troops of bonobos and orangutans, and the remaining doses will go to other gorillas that weren't yet infected, SDZWA confirmed. The previously infected gorillas did not receive the vaccine as they have already been exposed to the virus and are presumed to have developed antibodies.
According to the San Diego Tribune, gorillas, bonobos, orangutans and chimpanzees are the closest cousins to humans, placing them at high risk for contracting the coronavirus.
The animals that received the vaccine are doing well and no adverse reactions have been observed, SDZWA reported. They will continue to be closely monitored and receive periodic exams. SDZWA also added that they would look into vaccinating other high-risk animals should the zoo receive more vaccines.
Vaccine manufacturer Zoetis has been discussing using these vaccines at other zoos, as well as at commercial mink operations, and plans to make additional doses available soon.
SDZWA will share what they learn from this experience with global conservation organizations and wildlife care professionals at more than 200 zoos worldwide.
"This is a really precious opportunity to observe what happens to endangered great apes when they're vaccinated to a potentially important disease," UC San Diego Zoologist Pascal Gagneux, an expert on primate evolution, told the San Diego Tribune. "Nothing prevents COVID-19 from starting to infect the wild populations."
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"Watch. Connect. Take Action."
These words are the invitation and mandate of the WaterBear Network, a free film-streaming platform that launched in November of 2020. Its goal is to turn inspirational images of the natural world into actions to save it.
"WaterBear is the first streaming platform dedicated to the future of our planet," said CEO Ellen Windemuth. "WaterBear uses great storytelling to drive action."
Windemuth is no stranger to the power of films. Before WaterBear, she produced Netflix's hit documentary My Octopus Teacher, a unique story of friendship and recovery between a freediver and an octopus. The film stunned audiences around the world as it reinforced the power of nature. It has won several prestigious awards and recently was shortlisted for an Oscar, Cape Talk reported.
Describing the film's broad appeal, Windemuth said, "It does not hit you over the head with graphs and pie charts to tell you to care about life in the ocean. I think people appreciate being led into the subject matter through a compelling character and a story they can empathize with. They have the choice to care, so very often they do."
The planet positive momentum of My Octopus Teacher created a "direct transition" for Windemuth to WaterBear. She said, "I had always been passionate about empowering people to repair their relationship with nature and become part of the solution for environmental problems. Storytelling has a pivotal effect on getting people involved, especially the young generation."
WaterBear CEO Ellen Windemuth uses films to inspire planet-positive actions. WaterBear
Viewers come to WaterBear for award-winning short- and long-form documentaries about the planet. According to Vogue, these include original films like Africa's Hidden Sea Forest, produced by the same team behind My Octopus Teacher; Turning The Tide On Plastic, highlighting how rivers bring 80 percent of the plastic waste that ends up in our oceans; and The Black Jaguar's Amazon, providing an inside-look at the deforestation ravaging the world's biggest rainforest.
"It is our goal to tell stories about the meaning of the 17 UN Sustainable Development goals for people to... absorb them as true values instead of words," Windemuth told EcoWatch. To that end, the films focus on biodiversity, climate change, circularity and community – the four themes around which WaterBear aims to inspire action to create a more sustainable future.
While sneaking a peak into the world's wildest and most endangered landscapes, viewers are connected on the interactive platform to over 90 NGO partners and organizations, from smaller grassroots organizations to global mainstays like Greenpeace, Conservation International and Amazon Watch. Then, they're provided with numerous ways to get involved with these groups. Suggested actions range from donating to sharing and signing petitions to volunteering, Windemuth said.
"WaterBear bridges the gap between media and action," Dave Martin of Mongabay said in an introductory video.
"The Era of Action campaign is focused on energizing the sustainability movement," Windemuth said. "This campaign provides 100 clear steps for members to take action each week."
"Microplastics are literally in our bodies, and about 9 million people die each year of air pollution," Windemuth said.
Overall, WaterBear hopes to encourage more people to amplify their messages through films and storytelling, with the hope that this novel approach to conservation will reach new audiences and shift public opinion in time to make change for the planet.
WaterBear is currently available in eight countries and is planning to increase their film offerings and global expansion. Through the network, Windemuth hopes people find and pursue their own personal passions on how to save the planet and have a good time doing so.
As the WaterBear introductory video concludes, "This is our world. Let's make sure it remains extraordinary."
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While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
As the planet's largest ecosystem, the ocean stabilizes climate, stores carbon, nurtures biodiversity and directly supports human well-being through food, energy, medicinal, cultural and recreational services, the United Nations recently reported. However, poor management and conservation have led to serious degradation of ocean resources, which is only set to increase as the world's population does, the report noted.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels
The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.
According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," Science Direct reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.
As recently as Aug. 2020, Reuters noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.
"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.
Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.
Current, upward shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.
In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," iTrade reported.
Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub theDOCK. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.
"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."
In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.
Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren
theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.
"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."
There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.
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