Flames upon flames, carbon-free planes and a very fashionable G7

News to know in our bi-weekly digest

Fire takes the frontlines of global news, as global warming, deforestation and agriculture fuel burns around the world. J42K, Flickr
26 August 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.

Imagery from NASA's Aqua satellite shows fires in the states of Rondônia, Amazonas, Pará, and Mato Grosso, captured on 11 August and 13 August 2019. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Flickr
Imagery from NASA’s Aqua satellite shows fires in the states of Rondônia, Amazonas, Pará, and Mato Grosso, captured on 11 August and 13 August 2019. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Flickr

SPECIAL REPORT: World on fire

Brazil’s forest fires have been the focus of global news and social media. According to Brazil’s National Institute of Space Research, there has been an average of 35 percent more fires this year as compared to the last eight; the U.S.’s space agency tweeted its satellite imagery saying the jury is still out on such stats. The Rainforest Alliance has been using its Twitter to help everyone help.

Burning to clear agricultural land has long been a practice of Brazilian farmers. The intensity of this year’s fires could be a result of burning happening on newly deforested land, say researchers from the University of Maryland, in line with Brazil’s uptick in deforestation of late.

Brazil’s neighbor Bolivia is burning so badly that the country’s GDP is expected to be halved this year.

After saying that the fires could have been caused by non-governmental organizations, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro responded to international pressure on Friday and called the military to take action.

Elsewhere, more than 10,000 fires blazed in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo last week.

Indonesia is seeing its worst fire season since the 2015 fire and haze catastrophe. According to Center for International Forestry Research scientist Herry Purnomo, 138,000 hectares of forest land have burned so far. In 2015, 2.6 million hectares had burned by October. Since then, the country has created a special peatland agency, extended a deforestation moratorium and strengthened firefighting capabilities. Now comes the test of these efforts.

Other 2019 hotspots: the Canary Islands, Turkey, Greece, Alaska, Greenland and Siberia.

Ingredients for Impossible Foods' plant-based proteins. Courtesy of Impossible Foods
Ingredients for Impossible Foods’ plant-based proteins. Courtesy of Impossible Foods

BUSINESS: Planes, trains and “fish” tacos

Let’s cool off with some good news, shall we? ZeroAvia is emerging as the airline industry’s carbon savior. Its renewably produced hydrogen powertrains – planned to hit markets by 2022 – will have zero emissions and reduce the cost of flying by half, the startup says.

Two years in the making by a research group called Riding Sunbeams, a train route in southern England is up and running as the world’s first solar-powered rail line.

As for human fuel, a small sea of companies is making plant-based fish the new meatless meat, to combat our impact on ocean health. Hurrah for no more fish bones – or mercury!

Whale bones and icebergs in Greenland. Helen@littlethorpe, Flickr
Whale bones and icebergs in Greenland. Helen@littlethorpe, Flickr

CLIMATE: The iceless age

A survey conducted from July 2018 to January of this year found that the impacts of climate change are having serious psychological effects of stress and anxiety on the population of Greenland. U.S. President Donald Trump’s offer to buy the resource-rich country likely isn’t helping.

Iceland mourned the death of its first glacier with a funeral attended by the prime minister. In the country’s western reaches, the Okjökull glacier melted from warming temperatures.

The American Meteorological Society released its annual State of the Climate report for 2018; the year saw greenhouse gas levels higher than have ever been recorded. Ditto sea levels.

The three "Extinction Rebels" at the City of London Magistrates Court hearing. Courtesy of Extinction Rebellion
The three “Extinction Rebels” at the City of London Magistrates Court hearing. Courtesy of Extinction Rebellion

POLICY: Court game strong

In the U.S., 29 states and cities together sued the Trump administration to block its attempt to roll back restrictions on coal-burning power plants, as instated by regulations from the Obama administration.

Extinction Rebellion activists went on trial for public order offenses of blocking a highway and obstructing police. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell spoke on their behalf in court, which nevertheless ruled guilty.

Researchers found that China, the world’s largest carbon-emitting country, has the potential to meet its emissions reduction targets between five and 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement’s 2030 deadline.

The world's largest bike deck opened in Utrecht, designed with concrete, steel and modernist pillars. Courtesy of Petra Appelhof
The world’s largest bike deck opened in Utrecht, designed with concrete, steel and modernist pillars. Courtesy of Petra Appelhof

CULTURE: Flowers in the air

The fashion industry continues to clean out its closet. Following the launch of the Fashion Industry Charter at COP24 in December 2018, 32 global fashion behemoths signed the G7 Fashion Pact at the Group of Seven summit in Paris, committing to help reduce global warming and boost biodiversity by greening their supply chains and reporting as they go.

Paris will also soon be home to the world’s largest rooftop garden: 14,000 square meters, complete with a restaurant and bar.

The world has also just received its largest bike parking deck, in the Netherlands (of course). Able to store 12,500 bikes, the architecturally chic structure is part of the country’s commitment to get as many cars off the road as possible.

Let’s end on an inspirational thrill with this podcast about near-death missions into the deep and dark unknown: underwater caves. Everest what?


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