By Marie Quinney and Gabriela Martinez
This article is part of The Davos Agenda.
During 2020, many of us saw images of deserted urban areas being reclaimed by animals and heard reports of carbon dioxide emissions plummeting as transportation ground to a halt. A new analysis shows that the U.S. had reached its lowest level of emissions in three decades.
NO₂ levels in the air above India (U.S. date format). World Economic Forum
Human activity is destroying our natural world. World Economic Forum Nature Risk Rising
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By Sage Lenier
Sage Lenier, an environmental activist and graduate from UC Berkeley, created a wildly popular course at her university dedicated to sustainable solutions and circular systems thinking against the broader backdrop of environmental justice. In Spring 2020, the course enrolled more than 300 students eager to learn how they can drive the shift toward a more ethical and sustainable society. The World Economic Forum sat down with Sage for a quick Q&A.
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" data-width="1244" data-height="1244" /><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 Francesco Starace and Jean-Pascal Tricoire
Why is it so important to decarbonize cities? And how can we do it?
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By Alisha Moopen
As the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic gains strength in many parts of the world, it is evident that the old normal has slipped, and a new sense of normalcy is setting in. This has been evident with the arrival of the work-from-home, study-from-home and socialize-from-home model, whenever possible.
The effects of COVID-19 on workers' lives. Ipsos-World Economic Forum
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By Natalie Marchant
- The Great American Rail-Trail will be almost 6,000km when complete, and will serve 50 million people within 80km of the route.
- Trails have proved invaluable for recreation and transport during lockdown.
- Cycling and safe routes are vital for cities planning their post-pandemic recovery.
Stretching almost 6,000km and crossing 12 states, the Great American Rail-Trail will enable cyclists, hikers and riders to traverse the entire US.
COVID-19 Lockdown Proves Rail Trails Invaluable<p>Rail trails – paths built on disused railway tracks – and other recreational routes have proved invaluable respites for many during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing alternative commuting routes and space for people to exercise, often near built-up urban areas.</p><p>"This year has proven how vital projects like the Great American Rail-Trail are to the country. Millions of people have found their way outside on trails as a way to cope with the pandemic," said Ryan Chao, president of RTC.</p><p>"As the Great American Rail-Trail connects more towns, cities, states and regions, this infrastructure serves as the backbone of resilient communities, while uniting us around a bold, ambitious and impactful vision."</p>
Great American Rail-Trail. Rails-to-trails
Cycling Increasingly Popular During Pandemic<p>While multi-use trails can be used by anyone from joggers to horse riders, cycling has become particularly popular during lockdown both as a form of exercise and a method of transport. <a href="https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-health-coronavirus-commuting/boost-for-bikes-as-europeans-gear-up-for-coronavirus-commute-idUKKBN22N1NK" target="_blank">Bike sales soared across the world</a> as people sought to avoid public transport.</p><p>There are the obvious <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-top-5-benefits-of-cycling" target="_blank">health benefits of traveling by bike</a>. Not only does it provide an aerobic workout and trigger the body's feel-good chemicals, endorphins, cycling is also easy on the joints, builds muscle, increases bone density and helps with everyday activities. Cycling is also seen as a way of handling post-pandemic pollution levels.</p><p>Paris is just one place <a href="https://www.weforum.org/videos/paris-is-planning-to-become-a-15-minute-city-897c12513b" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">planning to become a '15-minute city'</a>, where everything you need is within a 15-minute radius by foot or by bike.</p><p>Milan is implementing a similar program, while Buenos Aires has introduced free bike rental schemes. Europe has spent <a href="https://fr.weforum.org/videos/20195-this-is-covid-19-s-positive-effect-on-cycling-across-the-world" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1 billion euros on cycling infrastructure</a> since the pandemic began, according to the European Cyclists' Federation.</p>
Cycling Routes Across the World<p>At around 5,955km, the Great American Rail-Trail may be particularly ambitious in terms of scale, but it is one of many innovative cycling projects across the world. The <a href="https://en.eurovelo.com/ev6" target="_blank">4,450km EuroVelo 6 route</a> runs through 10 countries as it crosses Europe between the Atlantic and the Black Sea.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.transpenninetrail.org.uk/?doing_wp_cron=1608492448.9104659557342529296875" target="_blank">346km Transpennine Trail</a> across the north of England, which opened in 2001, uses disused railway tracks left empty after the decline of the coal industry and passes through city centers, heritage sites and national parks on its way between coastlines.</p><p>Last year, the UK launched the <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/09/the-uk-has-opened-a-1-300-km-cycle-trail-linking-england-and-scotland/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1,300km Great North Trail</a> running from the Peak District in the north of England to John O'Groats at Scotland's north-eastern tip.</p><p>In the Belgian province of Limburg, the <a href="https://www.visitlimburg.be/en/cycling-through-water" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cycling Through Water path</a> enables cyclists to cut through the ponds of Bokrijk. The 200-meter path is at eye-level with the water, allowing riders to glide across the lake.</p><p>Meanwhile the 7.6km Xiamen bicycle skyway is the world's <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/06/these-are-the-5-most-exciting-cycling-projects-in-the-world/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">longest elevated cycle path</a> and runs above the Chinese city's road network. It has capacity for about 2,000 cyclists during rush hour, with much of it suspended under an elevated bus lane, providing shelter from the weather.</p>
By Sean Fleming
What goes around comes around, according to the old saying. And in the case of the circular economy, that's certainly true.
Regenerate, reuse, recycle. Ellen MacArthur Foundation
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By Karen Scofield Seal
Demand for plant-based food and nutrition is growing. According to recent retail sales data, grocery sales of plant-based foods in place of animal products grew 29% in the U.S. to $5 billion between 2017 and 2019.
How Oceanium's technology works. Oceanium
Seaweed farming in Oban, Scotland. Oceanium
A pilot trial of Oceanium's proprietary biorefinery process. Oceanium
Oceanium research associate Andre Rastica at work. Oceanium<p>We are scaling our innovative biorefinery process – we processed approximately 8 tonnes of wet seaweed in December and have plans for 45 tonnes in 2021.</p><p>Meanwhile, we are continuing to build relationships with seaweed farmers in the UK, EU and North America. We are also fundraising for further R&D, patent applications and undergoing regulatory processes as we prepare to launch products in 2021. We are well on our way to "Kelp the World"!</p><h2>What Resources or Assistance Do You Need to Achieve Your Ambitions That You Currently Don't Have? Is There Any Assistance That the Uplink Community Could Offer?</h2><p>Definitely. Our nutraceutical products will go to market next year and we are looking for commercial or business development experts in the nutrition and cosmetics space. Importantly, we are also fundraising so always keen to connect with funders and investors!</p>
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By Victoria Masterson
Using one of the world's problems to solve another is the philosophy behind a Norwegian start-up's mission to develop affordable housing from 100% recycled plastic.
Sustainable Homes<p>UN-Habitat says an <a href="https://unhabitat.org/un-habitat-aims-to-use-plastic-waste-to-support-housing-for-all" target="_blank">estimated 60% of people living in urban areas of Africa are in informal settlements</a>. At the same time, between 1990 and 2017, African countries imported around 230 metric tonnes of plastic, "which mostly ended up in dump sites creating a massive environmental challenge," the agency adds.</p><p>UN-Habitat deputy executive director, Victor Kisob, said the aim of the partnership with Othalo was to "promote adequate, sustainable and affordable housing for all."</p>
Artist's impression of an Othalo community, imagined by architect Julien De Smedt. Othalo<p>Othalo's process involves shredding plastic waste and mixing it with other elements, including non-flammable materials. Components are used to build up to four floors, with a home of 60 square metres using eight tons of recycled plastic. A factory with one production line can produce 2,800 housing units annually.</p><p>Following successful laboratory tests, Othalo's factory in Estonia has started producing components to build three demonstration homes for Kenya's capital, Nairobi; Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon and Dakar, the capital of Senegal.</p><p>Othalo founder Frank Cato Lahti has been developing and testing the technology since 2016 in partnership with <a href="https://www.sintef.no/en/" target="_blank">SINTEF</a>, a 70-year-old independent research organization in Trondheim, Norway, and experts at Norway's <a href="https://en.uit.no/startsida" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">University of Tromsø</a>.</p>
Othalo founder Frank Cato Lahti. Othalo<p>Almost <a href="https://www.un.org/development/desa/publications/2018-revision-of-world-urbanization-prospects.html" target="_blank">seven out of every 10 people in the world are expected to live in urban areas by 2050</a>. More than 90% of this growth will take place in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean.</p><p>"In the absence of effective urban planning, the consequences of this rapid urbanization will be dramatic," UN-Habitat warns.</p><p>Lack of proper housing and growth of slums, inadequate and outdated infrastructure, escalating poverty and unemployment, and pollution and health issues, are just some of the effects.</p><p>Mindsets, policies, and approaches towards urbanization need to change for the growth of cities and urban areas to be turned into opportunities that will leave nobody behind, UN-Habitat says.</p>
Pioneers of Change<p>Reimagining cities and communities for greater resilience and sustainability was a key topic at the<a href="https://www.weforum.org/events/pioneers-of-change-summit-2020" target="_blank"> World Economic Forum's Pioneers of Change Summit 2020</a>.</p><p>The digital event brought together innovators and stakeholders from around the world to explore solutions to the challenges facing enterprises, governments and society.</p><p>Opening the summit, <a href="https://www.weforum.org/events/pioneers-of-change-summit-2020/sessions/opening-plenary-8f731cbc65" target="_blank">Stephan Mergenthaler, the Forum's Head of Strategic Intelligence and a member of the Executive Committee</a>, said: "We need to change the way we produce, the way we live and interact in our cities to make this transition to net-zero emissions a reality…</p><p>"And as this year has illustrated so dramatically, we need to make every effort that we keep populations healthy, if we want to avoid jeopardizing all this progress."</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/11/un-africa-recycled-plastic-housing/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649069252#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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By Amol Mehra
Set against rising calls for action to combat growing inequality and the climate crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic underscores the importance of the key drivers of industry and economic reform: workers, communities and the environment.
The Built Environment<p>The built environment – the physical places and structures that we inhabit – is a huge potential change agent in this regard. Buildings and construction account for massive amounts of energy usage and about 40% of global CO2 emissions, providing a clear pathway to shift current consumption and production pathways.</p><p>The construction sector accounts for around <a href="https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Industries/Capital%20Projects%20and%20Infrastructure/Our%20Insights/Reinventing%20construction%20through%20a%20productivity%20revolution/MGI-Reinventing-Construction-In-Brief.pdf" target="_blank">13% of the world's GDP </a>and<a href="https://iloblog.org/2020/05/11/the-construction-sector-can-help-lead-the-economic-recovery-heres-how/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> for 7.2% of the global workforce</a>. Many of the jobs linked to these sector have a negative history of labour rights, especially with respect to <a href="https://laborrights.org/issues/migrant-labor" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">migrant laborers</a>. As <a href="https://iloblog.org/2020/05/11/the-construction-sector-can-help-lead-the-economic-recovery-heres-how/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">experts have noted</a>, the scale of the industry and its relative impacts on labour markets and the environment make it a prime agent of transformation of the broader global economy.</p><p>By prioritizing approaches that focus on decarbonization and the promotion of labor rights protections, we can create economic opportunities that promote healthy, regenerative structures. Efforts are starting to seed in this regard, with <a href="https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2020/1/15/21058051/climate-change-building-materials-mass-timber-cross-laminated-clt" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">increased attention</a> being placed to mass timber and other wood products in construction, as well as the use of natural materials in buildings.</p><p>At the same time, leading human rights organizations are looking more closely at promoting <a href="https://www.ihrb.org/focus-areas/built-environment/commentary-linking-climate-human-rights-built-environment-lifecycle" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">rights-based approaches</a>.</p>
Not all industries are equal. ourworldindata.org
Fashion<p>But this isn't the only sector with transformative power. The fashion sector produces <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/01/fashion-industry-carbon-unsustainable-environment-pollution/" target="_blank">nearly 10% of the world's carbon emissions and is the second largest consumer of the water</a>, all while employing between <a href="https://www.ilo.org/global/industries-and-sectors/textiles-clothing-leather-footwear/lang--ja/index.htm" target="_blank">60 and 70 million</a> workers in garment supply chains.</p><p>While there have been laudable innovations in recent years towards adopting circularity and increasing the use of organic materials, there is still huge potential to promote transformative change in protections for workers.</p><p>Workers in the sector are often left without social protections, exposing them to vulnerability. In recognition of this need, the International Labor Organization, business actors and labor rights leaders have <a href="https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---ed_dialogue/---dialogue/documents/statement/wcms_742371.pdf" target="_blank">committed to take</a> action to protect garment workers' income, health and employment, and to work together to establish sustainable systems of social protection for a more just and resilient garment industry.</p><p>This "Call to Action" launched in April 2020 and now needs steady implementation. The effort should seek to cast a wide tent, bringing in other industry players and leveraging development actors as well.</p><p>What's clear from the examples above is that critical, much needed efforts are starting to emerge and that these efforts need to be encouraged and accelerated. As social movements, consumers, investors, regulators and businesses themselves start to realize the value of transforming practices, the momentum will increase for other sectors to follow suit. This domino effect will spur the economic transformation that is so desperately needed to ensure that the environment, and the people who inhabit it, can live in a healthy, just society.</p><p>There can be no doubt: transformation of our economic system is imperative. The moment is now for businesses, and the industries they are part of, to seize it.</p>
By Keith Schneider
In many ways, the story of Texas over the last century is the state's devout allegiance to the principle that mankind has dominion over nature.
Rising Demand Confronts Lower Supplies<p>There are a couple of ways to examine the coming hardship. The first is in numbers. The <a href="https://www.twdb.texas.gov/waterplanning/data/projections/index.asp" target="_blank">Texas Water Development Board found</a> that by 2070 the state's population will grow to 51 million people, 22 million more than today. The state's annual demand for water, the State Water Board projects, will climb to 21.6 million acre-feet (27 trillion liters), up from 18.4 million.</p><p>At the same time, a severe drought will bring increasing constraint. <a href="https://texasstatewaterplan.org/statewide" target="_blank">State authorities project</a> that in a drought comparable to the most severe on record, water supplies will fall over the next 50 years from 15.2 million acre-feet to 13.6 million acre-feet (17 trillion liters). During the driest periods, more people will have considerably less water.</p><p>Here's how that confrontation is playing out in the Hill Country, a region of rapid population growth and uncertain water supply west of Austin, Texas' capital city.</p><p>Two generations ago, about 40,000 people made their homes in Hays County, an epic, rural, rolling masterpiece of space and sky close to Austin and San Antonio. Authorities in Hays counted 14,000 homes that were supplied with water from the Trinity Aquifer, a giant freshwater reserve that lay below. <a href="https://www.circleofblue.org/2020/world/when-it-rains-texas-forgets-drought-and-worsening-water-scarcity/" target="_blank">In both wet years and dry, water was readily available</a>.</p>
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By Sean Fleming
Londoners worrying about air quality can now breathe a little easier, thanks to news from the city's mayor.
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By Priyanka Jaisinghani
COVID-19, "stay-at-home" orders and enforced physical distancing has made us more dependent on digital when it comes to connection and communication at both a local and global level.
Civic Engagement Redefined<p>Long-lasting impact requires changes from the bottom up. Civic engagement means working to make a difference in our communities to promote quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes.</p><p>We're seeing how, across multiple issues, young people are becoming active participants in driving dialogues with policy-makers, on a state and federal level. In addition, they are empowering the citizens of the communities in which they reside, taking an active role in shaping the future we hold.</p>
1. Racial Justice<p>Across the U.S., we saw the rise of the racial justice movement through Black Lives Matter. Hundreds of protestors came to the streets, from New York to Nevada, acknowledging, supporting and condemning the long-existing inequalities faced by the black community. We saw this movement propel beyond the streets, throughout social media, and to the polling stations.</p><p>Young activists were demanding not only awareness but also change. In this digital space, young people started sharing resources and information for others to educate themselves about the pressing need for racial justice. They were able to mobilize support to inform, educate and shape citizen action. They shared links to petitions, offered advice for safe protesting practices, created templates for emailing authorities, listed bail funds and black-owned restaurants and businesses in need of support. They used social media to support the various needs of this movement – and continue to do so.</p>
2. Climate Change<p>The youth-led climate change has become dominant online. Every Friday, young people lead a digital #ClimateStrike to raise awareness of important legislative initiatives and create tangible ways for individuals to get involved in the fight against climate change.</p><p>As a leading example, to commemorate this year's Earth Day, youth held a 72-hour, live-streamed "digital march" with protests, speeches, and more. This "digital march" was attended by more than 200,000 viewers. Young people are pivoting their strategies and applying them to a digital space. We know when the streets are safe again, they will continue their activism by marching to raise awareness both on the streets and digitally.</p>
3. Voting Rights<p>Voting is another pertinent issue coming to the fore. In <a href="https://news.gallup.com/poll/315761/lack-voting-information-hamper-youth-turnout.aspx" target="_blank">a Gallup poll</a>, four out of five (79%) young people say "the coronavirus pandemic has helped them realize how much political leaders' decisions impact their lives"; three in five say "they are part of a movement that will vote to express its views."</p><p>As a result of these changing attitudes, young people are having conversations with their families and finding ways to get politically active. They're donating funds to campaigns, volunteering their time to raise awareness around voting and creating social campaigns to try to influence other people to vote and register to vote.</p>
How social media is used in the U.S. for political issues. Statista<p>It's inspiring to see young people around the world deeply engaged in the digital space and continuing their activism. They have played a critical role in calling for change and transformation in society. From climate to health to politics, young people are the most affected. The only way to make progress is to build back better. They're building upon existing issues and movements, creating new alliances and driving conversations and action. This generation is also building upon the same values and ideas of those before them to change the status quo and find ways to enact change for a better future.</p>
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