My generation trashed the planet. I salute the children striking back


George Monbiot writes:

The disasters I feared my grandchildren would see in their old age are happening already: insect populations collapsing, mass extinction, wildfires, droughts, heatwaves, floods. This is the world we have bequeathed to you. Yours is among the first of the unborn generations we failed to consider as our consumption rocketed.

But those of us who have long been engaged in this struggle will not abandon you. You have issued a challenge to which we must rise, and we will stand in solidarity with you. Though we are old and you are young, we will be led by you. We owe you that, at least.

By combining your determination and our experience, we can build a movement big enough to overthrow the life-denying system that has brought us to the brink of disaster – and beyond. Together we must demand a different way, a life-giving system that defends the natural world on which we all depend. A system that honours you, our children, and values equally the lives of those who are not born. Together, we will build a movement that must – and will – become irresistible. [Continue reading…]

Toxic neighbors: Taking action to solve the climate crisis

 

Humans cannot survive without them yet within a century the world’s insects may be extinct

The Guardian reports:

The world’s insects are hurtling down the path to extinction, threatening a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”, according to the first global scientific review.

More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered, the analysis found. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5% a year, according to the best data available, suggesting they could vanish within a century.

The planet is at the start of a sixth mass extinction in its history, with huge losses already reported in larger animals that are easier to study. But insects are by far the most varied and abundant animals, outweighing humanity by 17 times. They are “essential” for the proper functioning of all ecosystems, the researchers say, as food for other creatures, pollinators and recyclers of nutrients.

Insect population collapses have recently been reported in Germany and Puerto Rico, but the review strongly indicates the crisis is global. The researchers set out their conclusions in unusually forceful terms for a peer-reviewed scientific paper: “The [insect] trends confirm that the sixth major extinction event is profoundly impacting [on] life forms on our planet.

“Unless we change our ways of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades,” they write. “The repercussions this will have for the planet’s ecosystems are catastrophic to say the least.”

The analysis, published in the journal Biological Conservation, says intensive agriculture is the main driver of the declines, particularly the heavy use of pesticides. Urbanisation and climate change are also significant factors.

“If insect species losses cannot be halted, this will have catastrophic consequences for both the planet’s ecosystems and for the survival of mankind,” said Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, at the University of Sydney, Australia, who wrote the review with Kris Wyckhuys at the China Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing.

The 2.5% rate of annual loss over the last 25-30 years is “shocking”, Sánchez-Bayo told the Guardian: “It is very rapid. In 10 years you will have a quarter less, in 50 years only half left and in 100 years you will have none.” [Continue reading…]

Rising temperatures could melt most Himalayan glaciers by 2100, threatening the water supply of 25% of global population

The New York Times reports:

Rising temperatures in the Himalayas, home to most of the world’s tallest mountains, will melt at least one-third of the region’s glaciers by the end of the century even if the world’s most ambitious climate change targets are met, according to a report released Monday.

If those goals are not achieved, and global warming and greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rates, the Himalayas could lose two-thirds of its glaciers by 2100, according to the report, the Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment.

Under those more dire circumstances, the Himalayas could heat up by 8 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 degrees Celsius) by century’s end, bringing radical disruptions to food and water supplies, and mass population displacement.

Glaciers in the Hindu Kush Himalayan Region, which spans over 2,000 miles of Asia, provide water resources to around a quarter of the world’s population. [Continue reading…]

Gigantic cavity in Antarctica glacier is a product of rapid melting, study finds

The New York Times reports:

The Thwaites Glacier on Antarctica’s western coast has long been considered one of the most unstable on the continent. Now, scientists are worried about the discovery of an enormous underwater cavity that will probably speed up the glacier’s decay.

The cavity is about two-thirds the area of Manhattan and nearly 1,000 feet tall, according to a study released Wednesday by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The hulking chamber is large enough to have contained about 14 billion tons of ice — most of which the researchers say melted in three years.

The Thwaites Glacier, which is about the size of Florida, holds enough ice that if it all melted, it would raise the world’s oceans by over two feet, a change that would threaten many coastal cities. Climate scientists tend to watch this glacier closely, usually alongside the nearby Pine Island Glacier, which is also flowing rapidly into the Amundsen Sea.

Rising sea levels, among the most obvious threats of global warming, are caused by the melting of ice sheets, as well as the thermal expansions of the ocean. A separate study released last week found that Antarctica was contributing more to rising sea levels than previously thought. [Continue reading…]

Trump nominates former lobbyist for the fossil fuel industry as the next Interior secretary

The Washington Post reports:

President Trump announced Monday that he will nominate David Bernhardt, a veteran lobbyist who has helped orchestrate the administration’s push to expand oil and gas drilling as the Interior Department’s number-two official, to serve as the next secretary.

If confirmed, Bernhardt, a 49-year old Colorado native known for his unrelenting work habits, would be well positioned to roll back even more of the Obama-era conservation policies he has worked to unravel since joining Interior a year and-a-half ago. He has helmed the department as acting secretary since Jan. 2, when Ryan Zinke resigned amid multiple ethics probes.

Bernhardt’s industry-friendly policies, coupled with his extensive work as a lobbyist, have earned him the enmity of environmental groups and many Democrats.

“The ethical questions surrounding David Bernhardt and his commitment to pandering to oil, coal, and gas executives make former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke look like a tree-hugging environmentalist in comparison,” said Vicky Wyatt of Greenpeace USA. “And Ryan Zinke was a disaster.” [Continue reading…]

David Suzuki: ‘It’s very, very late and urgent’ to take climate action if we want to prevent human extinction

 

Joshua trees destroyed in national park during shutdown may take centuries to regrow

The New York Times reports:

The partial government shutdown ended last week after 35 days, but conservationists have warned that its impact may be felt for hundreds of years in at least one part of the country: Joshua Tree National Park.

The Southern California park, which is larger than Rhode Island and famed for its dramatic rock formations and the spiky-leafed Joshua trees from which it takes it name, had only a skeleton crew of workers during the shutdown.

With most of its park rangers furloughed, vandals and inconsiderate guests ran amok. Gates and posts were toppled, new roads carved through the desert by unauthorized off-road drivers, and a small number of the park’s thousands of Joshua trees were outright destroyed, conservationists said.

Pictures posted to social media showed trees that were chopped down or that appeared to have been driven over by cars. The sensitive ecosystem of desert and craggy rock formations that surrounds them was littered with garbage and other telltale signs of illegal camping. [Continue reading…]

Can sustainable agriculture survive under capitalism?

Sophie Yeo writes:

It was one of the most beautiful—and one of the most sustainable—farms that Ryanne Pilgeram had ever seen. When she arrived, Penny, the farmer, was sorting through vegetables in the shed. Her husband Jeff, who had a full-time job as a doctor, was hauling flakes of alfalfa to feed the draft horses that they used in place of tractors.

Pilgeram, a sociologist at the University of Idaho, was touring the farm as part of her research into sustainable agriculture in the Pacific Northwest. She had grown up on a ranch in Montana and was already familiar with the world of conventional farming, although her family’s own land had been lost in the farm crisis of the 1980s.

Perhaps for that reason, she froze when a feral dog darted out from a shed and, in front of Pilgeram and the two farmers, ran off with a live chicken, which fell limp in its jaws. This dog was no stranger to the couple. She had just given birth to a litter of puppies, and Pilgeram later learned that she’d been stealing a chicken every day for a week.

“I just remember being really anxious—like, this is not going to end well, I should probably just get my car and go home,” Pilgeram recalls. “Where I grew up, they would have just shot the dog, right?”

But instead of going for his gun, Jeff offered Pilgeram one of the new puppies. She describes the moment as one of culture shock. “They were super chill about it, like it was not a big deal,” she says. “I just kept thinking that it’s a pretty privileged position to be in, to not care if some of your livestock is taken.”

In many ways, Pilgeram found that this couple (whose names she has changed in compiling her research) epitomized the new generation of farmers moving into Western states like Idaho, Washington, and Montana. [Continue reading…]

How to save the world from disposable plastics

CNN reports:

It’s the early 1960s. Girls are fainting over the Beatles, Sean Connery is James Bond and a revolutionary trend is sweeping the United States: Plastic.

Plastic is about to have its breakthrough moment in the food industry. The plastic milk jug, specifically, is on the brink of taking off: the “market potential is huge,” the New York Times correctly notes.

To American families, a third of which are still getting their milk from a milk man, plastic is a wonder package. It’s lighter than glass. It doesn’t break. Unlike paper cartons, it’s translucent. You can see how much liquid is left in the jug. With a plastic container, everybody wins.

Except for the milk man. And, as it would turn out, the planet.

Fast forward to now. Plastics are expected to outweigh fish in the ocean by 2050. Marine life is choking on the debris: Microplastics are in our soil, our water, our air, getting into our bodies with potential consequences that we don’t fully understand yet. Massive amounts of plastic have piled up in landfills, some emitting greenhouse gases and contributing to global warming over the seeming eternity they take to degrade. Plastics are threatening the health of the planet and its inhabitants, and they’re not going away.

Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Danone, Mars Petcare, Mondelēz International and others — some of the world’s largest consumer goods companies — are partnering on a potential solution to limit future waste. They’re working together on a project known as Loop, announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Thursday. It offers consumers an alternative to recycling — a system that isn’t working well these days.

At this point, the partners are testing the waters. It’s an experiment they’ll roll out to several thousand consumers in New York and Paris this May, with plans to expand to London later in 2019 and Toronto, Tokyo and San Francisco in 2020.

Loop is a new way to shop, offering about 300 items — from Tide detergent to Pantene shampoo, Häagen-Dazs ice cream to Crest mouthwash — all in reusable packaging. After using the products, customers put the empty containers in a Loop tote on their doorstep. The containers are then picked up by a delivery service, cleaned and refilled, and shipped out to consumers again.

In other words, it’s the 21st century milk man — here to save the world from single-use plastics.

Maybe. [Continue reading…]