Electric planes, food from thin air and suing your government

News to know in our bi-weekly digest

Wales' Brecon Beacons, which is hosting the world's largest youth-led conservation project. Nick (nicksarebi), Flickr
15 July 2019
Ming Chun Tang

Welcome to the Landscape News bi-weekly digest on landscapes, climate and sustainability. From what’s on your shelves to what’s in the atmosphere, here’s the news to know.

Biodiversity illustration, Geert Gratama
Courtesy of Geert Gratama

LANDSCAPE NEWS: Conference on a canvas

Dutch illustrator Geert Gratama made a quiet cameo at the Global Landscapes Forum in Bonn last month and shares his inspiration with Landscape News.

Two scientists from the Crowther Lab at ETH Zurich featured in a digital summit earlier in June. They’ve since released their findings, showing that tree planting is by far the cheapest and most effective way to combat climate change.

CLIMATE: Staying warm

Last month’s heat wave smashed records across Europe, and scientists have found that climate change made it at least five times as likely.

Little wonder, then, that climate change-related disasters are now occurring once every week, according to the U.N. special representative on disaster risk reduction.

Luckily, news organizations around the world are devoting increasing resources towards covering the climate crisis. The question of how to convey it – whether in alarmist fashion or more subtly – remains up for debate, though.

Berlin U-Bahn carriage
The Berlin U-Bahn (metro). Matteo Artizzu, Flickr

POLICY: Punitive damages

Lawsuits are an increasingly common tool for climate action, with some 1,300 lawsuits filed against governments and corporations globally since 1990. Five of these have been in Brazil, where deforestation has spiked under the Bolsonaro administration.

There’s better news at the city level: Paris has joined a growing list of cities in declaring a climate emergency, whereas Berlin is hoping to increase public transport ridership by slashing the price of annual tickets to 1 euro per day.

Japan whaling ship
A Japanese whaling vessel. Global Panorama, Flickr

BIODIVERSITY: Progress for Wales, not for whales

In the Brecon Beacons of Wales, teenagers are embarking on the biggest youth-led conservation project in the world, working with local farmers and communities to restore habitats and stem biodiversity loss.

Japan, meanwhile, has officially resumed commercial whaling for the first time in more than 30 years, after having withdrawn from the International Whaling Commission last December.

Primary scum pipe, sewage treatment plant
Pipes in a sewage treatment plant in San Francisco. Peretz Partensky, Flickr

RESEARCH: Closing the poop loop

Land tenure is crucial to sustainable landscapes – but according to a new study, a REDD+ scheme in the Brazilian Amazon has benefited local communities who lack formal land rights by rewarding them for their labor rather than for their land.

There’s ecological value in human waste, say scientists at the University of Illinois, who found that nutrients, water and organic material recovered from sewage could be used for applications like water purification or climate regulation.

BUSINESS: Soylent Green is air

It might sound like sci-fi, but Finnish startup Solar Foods has devised a way to make protein-rich food from just electricity, water and air – and they’re aiming to sell 50 million meals of it in supermarkets by 2021.

Electric cars could soon have built-in solar panels on their roofs, meaning they’ll no longer have to be plugged in for charging. Toyota plans to start testing a solarized Prius later this month.

Soon, even airliners could be electrically powered. Israeli start-up Eviation just unveiled an all-electric nine-seater commuter aircraft that’s expected to enter service with U.S. airline Cape Air in 2022.

Most aircraft, though, will still be powered by jet fuel – which is why Dutch national airline KLM is now calling on its customers to fly less.


Leave a Reply