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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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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By Andrea Willige
More than half of the world's population lives in cities, and most future population growth is predicted to happen in urban areas. But the concentration of large numbers of people and the ecosystems built around their lives has also been a driver of climate change.
Electric Buses in Santiago de Chile<p>Over the past few years, Chile's capital, <a href="https://cleantechnica.com/2020/07/01/chile-orders-150-electric-buses-from-byd/" target="_blank">Santiago de Chile, has bought 455 electric buses</a>, and plans to raise this to nearly 800 by the end of 2020. The e-buses do not generate emissions through their operation, reducing air pollution and its associated impact on human heath and productivity. Air conditioning and a quieter ride are also popular with Santiago's public transport users.</p><p><a href="https://iea.blob.core.windows.net/assets/db408b53-276c-47d6-8b05-52e53b1208e1/e-bus-case-study-Santiago-From-pilots-to-scale-Zebra-paper.pdf" target="_blank">Latin America's first "electric corridor"</a> now operates along one of Santiago's major transport axes, the International Energy Agency (IEA) reports. It is only served by e-buses and consists of bus stops using solar panels to power free Wi-Fi, USB charging and LED lighting – further adding to the attractiveness of the e-bus network for users.</p><p>The e-buses also help the local government to reduce operational expenditure. They cost an impressive 70% less to operate and maintain than diesel-powered buses, offsetting their higher cost of purchase, which is nearly double that of a conventional bus. These huge reductions may also lead to lower fares – which could encourage more people to use public transport.</p><p>Chile has <a href="https://webstore.iea.org/download/direct/3007" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">electrification targets</a> for both private and public transport and has put substantial effort into building demand for EVs and charging infrastructure. Its transport minister has recently issued a tender for the procurement of 2,000 more e-buses, and the project is set to be extended to other cities in Chile.</p><p>Although more than nine out of 10 electric buses in 2019 were registered in China, <a href="https://webstore.iea.org/download/direct/3007" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">South America is a major growth market for e-buses</a>, according to the IEA. Santiago's e-fleet is the largest, but cities in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador also operate electric buses.</p>
New Farming Methods in Abu Dhabi<p>As the number of urban dwellers grows, feeding them is likely to become an ever greater challenge. By 2050, it is expected that <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/01/how-to-build-a-circular-economy-for-food/" target="_blank">80% of all food will be consumed in cities</a>. Where space is limited for traditional farming or the climate makes it difficult to grow sufficient food, <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/02/hydroponics-future-of-farming/" target="_blank">hydroponic farming</a> could be one solution.</p><p>Hydroponics is a water-based farming process that feeds plants nutrient-rich water, rather than them being planted in soil. Because roots don't have to burrow into the ground, hydroponically farmed plants take up a smaller footprint and can be stacked vertically.</p><p>By carefully controlling the plant's environment and nutrient intake, hydroponic farming can not only <a href="https://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/librarypage/poverty-reduction/private_sector/catalyzing-private-sector-investment-in-climate-smart-cities.html" target="_blank">increases yield by a factor of 10 per hectare</a>, but it can also make better use of resources – reducing waste, water usage, pesticides and fertilizers - compared with traditional farming methods. Being indoors, they are less affected by pests and weather events, and crops can be grown close to where they will be consumed. This can save 'food miles' and associated emissions, according to the UN report.</p><p>Abu Dhabi is now providing $100 million in funding to build a vertical farm of over 8,200 square meters (88,000 square feet) for both research and development and the commercialization of crops. The objective for the Abu Dhabi Investment Office, which has granted the funding, is to turn <a href="https://www.just-food.com/news/abu-dhabi-invests-big-in-vertical-farming-initiatives_id143518.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">"sand into farmland,"</a> boost local food production and accelerate the growth of its agricultural technology ecosystem.</p><p>The facility will house four different vertical farming companies, whose initiatives will include indoor tomato cultivation, the development of an irrigation system and an R&D center.</p><p>Similar forays into vertical farming are under way around the world, including in neighboring Dubai, which recently launched <a href="https://gulfagriculture.com/majid-al-futtaim-launches-dubais-first-in-store-hydroponic-farm-bringing-fresh-and-sustainable-food-options-to-shoppers/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">its first in-store hydroponic farm</a>.</p>
Insuring Coral Reefs in Mexico<p>When hedging against climate risk, natural solutions can be important elements in a city's sustainable infrastructure.</p><p>Coral reefs are a case in point, serving as natural barriers against hazards such as ocean surges and flooding. <a href="https://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/librarypage/poverty-reduction/private_sector/catalyzing-private-sector-investment-in-climate-smart-cities.html" target="_blank">They can absorb as much wave energy as seawalls and breakwaters</a>, which are less durable.</p><p>The UNDP report says reefs and other natural defenses are less costly to maintain than man-made solutions and could save as much as $100 billion in cases of natural disasters.</p><p>However, it says, 20% of reefs have been lost globally and another 15% are in danger, and funding for their restoration and maintenance is limited and such initiatives only happen on a small scale.</p><p>In Mexico, the UNDP is now piloting an insurance scheme to protect and boost the Meso-American reef – the second largest globally – as a natural defense, and as a source of income for coastal populations.</p><p>Reef2Resilience is similar to a trust fund that local businesses pay into. The role of the fund is two-fold. It invests in restoring and maintaining the reef – so it can offer better natural protection. And it pays for catastrophe insurance so that the reef and its surrounding ecosystem can recover quickly after a natural disaster, ensuring future protection and protecting the livelihoods of coastal communities.</p><p>An extension of the project to the Caribbean and Asia is being discussed.</p>
Climate-Smart Infrastructure as an Investment Opportunity<p>Climate-smart urban infrastructure, whether technology-driven or natural, represents a $30 trillion investment opportunity – ranging from renewable energy to public transport and from electric vehicles to green buildings, the report says. And that's just in developing economies.</p><p>New funding models, policies and risk assessment will be needed to overcome barriers to investment and bring out the long-term value of climate-smart infrastructure for growing urban populations.</p>
By Harry Kretchmer
Who better to study the sea than a surfer?
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By Declan McAdams and Tore Angelskår
Until recently, microplastics that enter the ocean from paint have not received a lot of attention. There has been very little focus on the fact that unless paint residuals are collected during surface preparation and the maintenance process, they will largely end up in the ocean as microplastics.
Uncertain Emission Estimates<p><a href="https://www.iucn.org/content/primary-microplastics-oceans" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The most quoted source of data on how much microplastics from paint enters the ocean each year</a> gives a figure of 60,000 tons per annum. While this is still a big figure – the equivalent of six billion empty plastic bottles being dumped in the ocean every year – it falls short of the real size of the problem. This is because:</p><ul><li>It only includes marine coatings, <a href="https://www.coatingsworld.com/issues/2019-08-01/view_features/asia-pacific-coatings-market/" target="_blank">representing 4% of all paint volume, and does not include Industrial Maintenance (IM) and Protective Coating (PC) which represent another 11% of all global paint volumes sold</a>;</li><li><a href="http://www.oecd.org/officialdocuments/publicdisplaydocumentpdf/?cote=env/jm/mono(2009)24&doclanguage=en" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">It works with the 2009 OECD estimate</a> that assumes 1 % of paint applied falls off each year (meaning an average paint life of 100 years), while industry experience shows that, in fact, industrial and marine paints have an average life of approximately 20 years or about 5% of paint falls off each year.</li></ul><p>For these reasons, the real level of paint microplastics entering the environment and ocean each year could be much, much higher than 60,000 tons. <a href="https://www.miljodirektoratet.no/publikasjoner/2015/februar/sources-of-microplastic-pollution-to-the-marine-environment/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Other reports also conclude that paint is the second-largest source of microplastics in the ocean</a>.</p>
The pathway by which plastic enters the world's oceans. Our World in Data<p>Let's look at it another way and see what happens to all of the paint on steel assets. It is estimated that more than six million tons of paint are applied to industrial and marine steel structures every year.</p>
*Coatings World, **assuming 1-1.2 kg per liter of paint and 40-50% plastic content, ***assuming 50-75% of the paint residuals are not collected.
<iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fworldeconomicforum%2Fvideos%2F725096201608820%2F&show_text=0&width=476" width="476" height="476" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowTransparency="true" allowFullScreen="true"></iframe><p>Harmful open sandblasting and water jetting are the predominant methods of surface maintenance. These are used at an industrial scale worldwide with various, but very limited, degrees of waste collection and recycling. There is a certain level of collection inside controlled environments like shipyards. Offshore, however, on oil rigs, ocean wind farms and ships, and in many situations on-shore, such as bridges, there is considerably less waste collection.</p><p>Using innovative solutions in surface maintenance, such as circular sandblasting, can reduce the emissions of microplastics to zero. In addition, the zero-emission, circular solution also recycles the blasting material, reducing grit consumption by 80-90%, which generates significant reductions in CO2 emission.</p>
The Need for Regulatory Awareness and Enforcement<p>We need greater awareness of this problem on the part of environmental regulators, and a willingness to enforce existing anti-pollution laws. There should be a requirement to collect the used blasting material, with its heavy metals and other toxic components, and most importantly, the rust and paint residuals as they are blasted off the steel assets. Otherwise, they will largely find their way, directly or indirectly, into the ocean.</p><p>Even though there is considerable uncertainty regarding the extent of emissions of microplastics from paint into the ocean, one thing is very clear: it is a significant problem that deserves a lot more research and regulatory and policy-maker attention, so action can be taken to solve it as soon as possible.</p>
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By Sean Fleming
As many as one million species of animal and plant could face extinction. This dramatic decline in the health of global biodiversity is a crisis in itself as well as a threat to the wellbeing of the planet's population, the UN warns. Plus, it poses a very immediate risk to global food security and economic activity.
A quarter of all species are threatened with extinction. Statista<p>That said, there have been many <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/03/conservation-stories-on-world-wildlife-day/" target="_blank">notable conservation successes</a>. There have also been several discoveries of animals that were believed to have become extinct. Here are five examples of what are often referred to as Lazarus species – breeds that have seemingly come back from the dead.</p>
1. Elephant Shrew<p>The last time anyone recorded a sighting of the Somali elephant shrew was almost 50 years ago, after which, it was assumed to have become extinct. Then, in August 2020, a team of researchers and academics reported that <a href="https://peerj.com/articles/9652/" target="_blank">these tiny, odd-looking creatures were alive and well</a>. Also known as the Somali Sengi, this mouse-sized animal, with its distinctive elongated nose, is thriving across the Horn of Africa.</p>
2. Terror Skink<p>In 1872, the French botanist Benjamin Balansa noted the discovery of a lizard while visiting the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia. At around 50cm (20 inches) in length, it probably wasn't too hard to spot. Yet, the terror skink – <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0078638" target="_blank">the 'terror' part of the name refers to its mouthful of rapacious teeth</a> – was never seen again. Not until 2003, that is. Having been rediscovered by scientists, more research is now underway to learn more about them.</p>
3. Cuban Solenodon<p>There are <a href="https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/extinction-countdown/solenodon-8216-extinct-8217-venomous-mammal-rediscovered-in-cuba-after-10-year-search/" target="_blank">few venomous mammals in the world</a> – the Cuban solenodon is one such example. But it was a missing example for some time. Although never technically extinct, its numbers are so low and sightings are so rare, that it has often been thought to be. The Cuban <a href="http://www.edgeofexistence.org/species/cuban-solenodon/" target="_blank">solenodon's forebears were around at the same time as dinosaurs</a>: it is "a 'living fossil' that hasn't changed much in millions of years," according to the publication Scientific American. Its bite can kill yet it lacks the strength and dexterity to defend itself or flee from danger, making it an easy target for predators. Deforestation has also contributed to population disturbance.</p>
4. Bermuda Petrel<p>The Cahow, or Bermuda petrel, was last seen on Nonsuch Island in 1620. But here in 2020, you can <a href="http://www.nonsuchisland.com/live-cahow-cam/#LIVE-CahowCam" target="_blank">watch webcam footage of them</a>. A small number of the birds were spotted nesting in the east of Bermuda in the 1950s, and the population has since been resurrected. The Cahow is a burrowing bird and much of its natural habitat has been destroyed by sea erosion and hurricane damage. New <a href="http://static.squarespace.com/static/501134e9c4aa430673203999/501295cfe4b0ebc53ba7b337/501295cfe4b0ebc53ba7b33b/1320261274877/" target="_blank">nesting sites were constructed by the Government of Bermuda</a>, while chicks from established populations were relocated to Nonsuch, too.</p>
5. Australian Night Parrot<p>Another elusive bird, the Australian night parrot, was thought to be extinct after the last recorded sighting in 1912. Then, <a href="https://www.newscientist.com/article/2129980-lazarus-species-five-cool-animals-we-wrongly-believed-extinct/" target="_blank">in 1990, one was found in the state of Queensland</a>. Sadly, it was dead. It would be another 23 years before a living example was spotted by a researcher. The precise location of that sighting was kept secret to protect the birds, whose <a href="https://nightparrot.com.au/" target="_blank">populations are now closely monitored</a> and who live in vast wildlife sanctuaries.</p>
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By Douglas Broom
Its waving fronds carpet the seafloor and shelter thousands of sea creatures. But seagrass is more than a haven for marine wildlife – researchers say it could play a major role in slowing climate change.
Underwater Gardening<p><a href="https://www.projectseagrass.org/seagrass-ocean-rescue/" target="_blank">The UK has lost up to 92% of the seagrass</a> in its coastal waters and estuaries, according to the project. Its work to help restore these meadows involves an "experimental" 20,000 square meter area in Pembrokeshire, South Wales.</p><p>There, seagrass seeds are planted on the seafloor in hessian bags, held together on lines of rope. As the hessian degrades, the seeds, collected by divers<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/10/uk-lost-sea-meadows-to-be-resurrected-in-climate-emergency-fight" target="_blank"> from underwater meadows in waters off the southern coasts of England and Wales,</a> germinate and establish on the ocean bed.</p><p>The goal is to<a href="https://www.projectseagrass.org/guest-blog/who-knew-saving-the-planet-could-be-so-peaceful/" target="_blank"> plant 1 million seeds</a>, as well as inspire projects in other areas around the UK.</p>
Volunteers load seagrass seeds ready for planting. Project Seagrass
Planting Pioneers<p>Seagrass restoration projects have been successful in other parts of the world. In the United States, a team from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science <a href="https://www.vims.edu/research/units/programs/sav1/restoration/index.php" target="_blank">pioneered mechanical planting</a>.</p><p>Using <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1061-2971.2004.00314.x" target="_blank">a specially adapted boat,</a> the scientists planted seagrass seedlings directly into the seabed in inlets around Chesapeake Bay. They successfully restored seagrass meadows that were <a href="https://www.vims.edu/newsandevents/topstories/archives/2012/eelgrass_restoration_meps.php" target="_blank">destroyed by plant disease and hurricanes in the 1930s</a>.</p><p>And restoring the underwater meadows has had another benefit – <a href="https://www.vims.edu/esl/research/bay_scallop_restoration/index.php" target="_blank">Bay scallops have been successfully reintroduced </a>to an area where they have been functionally extinct since the 1930s. The Virginia team of underwater farmers are now working with projects in Europe and Australia.</p>
Under Threat<p>Seagrass meadows are among the<a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fevo.2019.00311/full" target="_blank"> world's most threatened ecosystems</a>, and they're rapidly disappearing in many places.</p><p>Globally,<a href="https://www.projectseagrass.org/" target="_blank"> over a third have been lost in the past 40 years</a>, according to Project Seagrass, the charity behind Seagrass Ocean Rescue. Destructive fishing, pollution and climate change are contributing to this decline, it says.</p><p>Scientists say that seagrass has been regarded as<a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fevo.2019.00311/full" target="_blank"> the "ugly duckling" of marine conservation,</a> but the growing climate emergency and the need to find new ways to capture and store carbon make its restoration vital. The UN has called it a "<a href="https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/seagrass-secret-weapon-fight-against-global-heating" target="_blank">secret weapon in the fight against global heating</a>."</p>
Vital Food Source<p>As well as<a href="https://www.projectseagrass.org/seagrass-ocean-rescue/" target="_blank"> storing up to 400 kilograms (882 pounds) of carbon per hectare every year</a>, seagrass also helps support sustainable fisheries by providing a home for young fish.<a href="https://www.projectseagrass.org/seagrass-ocean-rescue/" target="_blank"> One-fifth of the world's biggest fisheries depend on seagrass meadows</a> to act as fish nurseries, Project Seagrass says.</p><p>In the UK alone,<a href="https://www.projectseagrass.org/seagrass-ocean-rescue/" target="_blank"> 50 different species of fish live in or visit seagrass</a>, which is 30 times more sea creatures than nearby habitats. Seagrass also plays a role in stopping coastal erosion.</p><p>The<a href="https://www.weforum.org/projects/a-new-vision-for-the-ocean" target="_blank"> World Economic Forum's Ocean Action Agenda</a> calls for urgent action to reverse the decline in ocean health, pointing out that over 100 million households worldwide depend on fishing for their livelihoods and seafood is the primary source of protein for 3 billion people.</p>
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By Sean Fleming
You probably can't outrun a forest fire. They can travel at speeds of up to 22 kilometers per hour (up to 14 miles) and are dangerously unpredictable.
The fires currently tearing through parts of northern California include the second and third largest in the state's recorded history, have seen 200,000 people asked to leave their homes and killed at least six people.
Fire boundaries are clearly marked and refreshed hourly. Google
Wildfire timelapse. Google Maps
Early Warnings<p>The data also feeds into the company's maps and navigation tools, meaning anyone in the vicinity of a fire, and using Google Maps, can be alerted to the danger. Satellite data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is fed into Google Earth, and is refreshed hourly. This gives both infrared and standard optical views of the location and spread of fires.</p><p>Forest <a href="https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/features/GlobalFire/fire_2.php" target="_blank">fires are part of the natural cycle of the woodland ecosystem</a>, actually helping to maintain biodiversity. Not only does fire kickstart the germination process of many seeds, it also "initiates critical natural processes by breaking down organic matter into soil nutrients," Nasa's Earth Observatory explains.</p><p>Climate change is partly responsible for wildfire spread, or is at the very least becoming a contributory factor. Reduced rainfall in northern California has left forests and surrounding areas drier than normal, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. This helps create <a href="https://www.fire.ca.gov/incidents/" target="_blank">the ideal circumstances for fires to get out of control</a>, regardless of how they started.</p><p>Large parts of the U.S. face higher than normal fire risk this year, including California, putting lives and property in jeopardy. The cost of fighting such fires is also on the increase, almost doubling in California across the first two decades of the century.</p>
Counting the cost of California's wildfires. Statista
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By Sean Fleming
The Borneo rainforest is a treasure trove of biodiversity. It is home to 221 species of land-living mammals and 420 species of birds, not to mention 15,000 species of flowering plants and 3,000 species of trees.
Estimated deforestation by type of forest and time period, pre-1700-2000. FAO/Our World in Data
The Sound of Progress<p>Sarab Sethi, a PhD student from Imperial College, was involved in the design of the audio recorders. "If we can get a fingerprint of each audio stream, we can compare how the soundscapes are different between different sites and begin to quantify the changes as land-use changes, for example when forests are logged," he said.</p><p>The SAFE team has also created a website that <a href="http://acoustics.safeproject.net/12:00/10/51442" target="_blank">streams some of the rainforest recordings</a>.</p><p>A similar project from the Rainforest Connection is also using audio to tackle illegal logging. With schemes in South America, Africa and Asia, the organization <a href="https://rfcx.org/home" target="_blank">uses a system based on old mobile phones to record ambient noise in rainforests</a>. It uses a cloud-based AI engine to spot the sound of chainsaws in those recordings. If any are detected, it sends a real-time alert to the relevant authorities.</p><p>About <a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation-and-forest-degradation" target="_blank">17% of the Amazon rainforest has been lost in the past 50 years</a>, according to the WWF. It describes the loss of forested areas near population centers as "rampant" and says that cattle ranching is the main cause of the deforestation.</p>
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By Douglas Broom
"Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people," said former U.S. president, Franklin Roosevelt.
So the FAO is using Twitter to remind the world of these five hidden benefits of forests.
Farmers are the stewards of our planet's precious soil, one of the least understood and untapped defenses against climate change. Because of its massive potential to store carbon and foundational role in growing our food supply, soil makes farming a solution for both climate change and food security.
Soil can act as a natural "carbon sink." Climate Central, 2019
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By Alex Thornton
The Australian government has announced a A$190 million (US$130 million) investment in the nation's first Recycling Modernization Fund, with the aim of transforming the country's waste and recycling industry. The hope is that as many as 10,000 jobs can be created in what is being called a "once in a generation" opportunity to remodel the way Australia deals with its waste.
Waste Mountain<p>The need for a dramatic increase in Australia's recycling capacity pre-dates the COVID-19 pandemic. <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-12-27/where-does-all-australias-waste-go/11755424" target="_blank">Australians create approximately 67 million tons of waste a year</a>, and like in many wealthy countries, much of that was sent overseas. That all changed when China announced it was <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/10/china-has-banned-foreign-waste-so-whats-the-future-of-world-recycling" target="_blank">banning the import of a huge range of foreign waste</a> and recyclables. Soon <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/05/malaysia-flooded-with-plastic-waste-to-send-back-some-scrap-to-source" target="_blank">other countries followed suit</a>, and Australia was forced to look for alternative solutions.</p>
Biggest exporters of plastic. Statista
Waste Export Ban<p>Australia has adopted a strategy of taking responsibility for its own waste. Starting in January 2021, it is phasing in <a href="http://www.environment.gov.au/protection/waste-resource-recovery/waste-export-ban" target="_blank">bans on the export of different forms of waste</a>. By mid 2024, Australia's home-grown recycling industry will have to deal with an extra 650,000 tons of waste plastic, paper, glass and tires.</p><p>"As we cease shipping our waste overseas, the waste and recycling transformation will reshape our domestic waste industry, driving job creation and putting valuable materials back into the economy," federal environment minister Sussan Ley said in a <a href="https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-australia-waste/australia-to-set-up-132-million-fund-to-boost-recycling-following-export-curbs-idUKKBN247060" target="_blank">statement to Reuters</a>.</p>
Timeline for Australia's waste export ban. Australian Government
Trash Into Treasure<p>The benefits to the environment of boosting recycling rates are well known – less landfill, less plastic in our ocean, reduced need for virgin materials, and lower carbon emissions. The Recycling Modernization Fund initiative aims to divert more than 10 million tons of waste from landfill, part of an <a href="http://www.environment.gov.au/protection/waste-resource-recovery/publications/national-waste-policy-action-plan" target="_blank">overall strategy to reduce the total waste generated per person by 10%</a>, and push <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/7381c1de-31d0-429b-912c-91a6dbc83af7/files/national-waste-report-2018.pdf" target="_blank">Australia's total resource recovery rate from 58% in 2017</a> to 80% by 2030.</p><p>But like many countries, Australia is focusing on the economic benefits of better waste management as well.</p><p>"This will mean Australia converts more waste into higher valued resources ready for reuse locally by manufacturers and brands in their packaging and products," Rose Read, CEO of the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council, <a href="https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-australia-waste/australia-to-set-up-132-million-fund-to-boost-recycling-following-export-curbs-idUKKBN247060" target="_blank">told Reuters</a>.</p>
Green Jobs<p>The great potential of the circular economy to create green jobs is being recognized across the world.</p><p>In the UK, the Waste and Resources Action Program has launched a <a href="https://wrap.org.uk/buildbackbetter" target="_blank">six-point plan which it claims could add $90 billion to the economy, and create 500,000 new jobs</a>. Investment in the circular economy forms a significant part of the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/14/us/politics/biden-climate-plan.html" target="_blank">$2 trillion climate plan that Democratic candidate Joe Biden</a> is taking into November's US presidential election. And the <a href="https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_940" target="_blank">European Union has put its Green New Deal at the heart of its plans for recovery</a> from the economic shock of COVID-19.</p><p>The World Economic Forum's <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_The_Future_Of_Nature_And_Business_2020.pdf" target="_blank">Future of Nature and Business</a> report identifies 15 systemic transitions with annual business opportunities worth $10 billion a year that could create 395 million jobs by 2030.</p><p>As is the case with Australia's Recycling Modernization Fund, a combination of private enterprise and government investment can offer ways to get people back to work by building a more environmentally sustainable economy.</p>
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By Kate Whiting
Bernice Dapaah calls bamboo "a miracle plant," because it grows so fast and absorbs carbon. But it can also work wonders for children's education and women's employment – as she's discovered.
These are the world's most bicycle-friendly cities. Statista<p>"The reason we use bamboo to manufacture bicycles is because it's found abundantly in Ghana and this is not a material we're going to import," says Dapaah, one of the World Economic Forum's Young Global Leaders.</p><p>"It's a new innovation. There were no existing bamboo bike builders in our country, so we were the first people trying to see how best we could utilize the abundant bamboo in Ghana."</p>
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Supporting Students<p>Besides encouraging Ghanaians to swap vehicles for affordable bikes, Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative is helping students save time on walking to school so they have more time to learn.</p><p>Each time they sell a bike, they donate a bike to a schoolchild in a rural community, who might otherwise have to walk for hours to get to school.</p><p>Dapaah knows how transformative a shorter journey to school can be to academic performance. She grew up living with her <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sb3joGYmx9A&feature=emb_logo" target="_blank">grandpa, a forester in a rural part of the country</a>.</p><p>"We had to walk three and a half hours every day before I could go to school. He later bought me a bike, so I finished senior high and wanted to go to university."</p><p>The experience inspired her to launch Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative with two other students at college.</p><p>"When we started this initiative, I looked back and said, when I was young, I had to walk miles before I could get to school, and sometimes if I was late, I was punished.</p><p>"Why don't we donate bikes for students to encourage them to study and so they can have enough time to be on books."</p><p>To date, they have sold more than 3,000 road, mountain and children's bikes – and Dapaah says they plan to donate <a href="https://www.entrepreneur.com/video/350343" target="_blank">10,000 bikes to schoolchildren over five years</a>.</p>
Empowering Women<p>The enterprise is also providing local jobs. It teaches young people to build bikes, particularly women and those in rural communities, where jobs can be scarce. More than 50% of people they have trained are women.</p><p>Dapaah says they want to boost the number of people they employ to 250 over the next five years and they are looking to partner with NGOs to build a childcare facility so mothers can continue to work.</p>
Reducing Emissions<p>By promoting a cycling culture in Ghana, Dapaah says they're also committed to reducing emissions in the transport sector and contributing to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.</p><p>"I love the idea of reusing bamboo to promote sustainable cycling. People want to go green, low-carbon, lean-energy efficient," she says.</p>
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