Negative oil prices, a Korean Green Deal, and face masks from ocean plastic

News to know in our bi-weekly digest

Jernej Furman, Flickr
30 April 2020
30 April 2020

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.

Kamut Lane, named after a form of ancient wheat revived by American organic farmer Bob Quinn, on Quinn's farm in Big Sandy, Montana. PHilary Page
Kamut Lane, named after a form of ancient wheat revived by American organic farmer Bob Quinn, on Quinn’s farm in Big Sandy, Montana. PHilary Page

LANDSCAPE NEWS

Is it time to reevaluate our relationship with the planet before the next pandemic strikes? Look no further than bushcraft for a fresh and humbling perspective on living with Mother Nature.

All eyes on organic farming, a rapidly growing sector now worth over USD 1 billion. We asked farmer and author Bob Quinn how to bring organic food to the mainstream. And while they may be pricey, here are 10 foods worth buying organic.

Our GLF Live series continues with a look at how deforestation is fueling the spread of diseases like COVID-19, and how the pandemic could reshape the global food system.

A disposable face mask on the street in Vancouver, Canada, during the COVID-19 Pandemic. GoToVan, Flickr
A disposable face mask on the street in Vancouver, Canada, during the COVID-19 Pandemic. GoToVan, Flickr

CORONAVIRUS

Our destruction of the natural environment is the root cause of pandemics like COVID-19, according to the world’s top biodiversity experts, who warned last year that around 1 million species were at risk of extinction.

Coronavirus has been detected on particles of air pollution in Italy, though it’s too early to say whether that might contribute to its spread or to higher mortality rates in areas with high levels of air pollution.

Single-use face masks have become hot property – and they’re increasingly found littered on streets and washing up on beaches. To combat that, a U.S. scuba diving group is developing reusable masks made from plastic waste recovered from the ocean.

The Tambo Complex in southeastern Australia, where bushfires took more than 90 days for firefighters to contain. BLMIdaho, Flickr
The Tambo Complex in southeastern Australia, where bushfires took more than 90 days for firefighters to contain. BLMIdaho, Flickr

CLIMATE

It can hardly be called news at this point, but Europe experienced its hottest year on record in 2019  – and despite COVID-19, 2020 is likely to be the world’s hottest year yet.

But as fossil fuel consumption goes down, the price of E.U. carbon permits is expected to drop significantly, making it cheaper for firms to emit carbon dioxide.

After the worst fire season in its history, Australia is experimenting with new technologies such as drones and simulation tools to prepare for more frequent and intense fires in years to come.

PEOPLE

The pandemic didn’t deter activists from observing the 50th anniversary of Earth Day with a series of online events, including one tapping into the gaming community. Many of the issues that inspired the first Earth Day remain unaddressed, as Extinction Rebellion and Fridays for Future are keen to digitally point out.

Meanwhile, in rural communities in the Philippines and Sri Lanka, Indigenous and local traditions are helping keep the outbreak under control.

Globally, a record 50 million people were recorded as internally displaced in 2019. About 25 million were forced from their homes last year by climate-related disasters such as hurricanes and typhoons.

Bats in a site in Chon Buri, Thailand, where USAID's PREDICT project conducted work sampling viruses. USAID Asia
Bats in a site in Chon Buri, Thailand, where USAID’s PREDICT project conducted work sampling viruses. USAID Asia

PLANET

To date, scientists have only identified 4,000 of the roughly 1.67 million viruses in existence – but a controversial USD 1.2 billion project seeks to eventually discover 70 percent.

That may not be enough to prevent the next pandemic, but scientists and farmers alike believe a key part of the solution will involve rethinking industrial factory farming, which contributes to the spillover of zoonotic diseases to humans.

And with many cities around the world on lockdown, now is the perfect time to listen out for the birds, watch nature take over our urban environments, and virtually travel to the world’s greatest natural wonders.

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline, completed in the late 1970s, carries some 1.8 million barrels of oil a day. U.S. Geological Survey
The Trans-Alaska Pipeline, completed in the late 1970s, carries some 1.8 million barrels of oil a day. U.S. Geological Survey

BUSINESS

Major carbon emitters such as airlines, fossil fuel companies and agricultural firms are using the pandemic to obtain bailouts and weaken environmental protections, say campaigners.

COVID-19 shutdowns are taking their toll on the oil industry, with U.S. oil prices briefly turning negative on 21 April as demand collapsed and storage facilities filled up (here’s a brief explainer), before fluctuating wildly this week.

Similarly, Polish trade unions have warned that the country’s coal industry could collapse without government support. Poland relies heavily on coal power and is the only E.U. country that hasn’t pledged to reduce net carbon emissions to zero by 2050, though its solar energy capacity is growing steadily.

Speaking of solar, ramping up investments in renewable energy could generate economic benefits of USD 100 trillion by 2050, says the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

A bikeshare station on the street in Milan. Ade Oshineye, Flickr
A bikeshare station on the street in Milan. Ade Oshineye, Flickr

POLICY

The E.U. is building a EUR 1 trillion economic recovery fund for the pandemic. Both economic experts and corporations are calling for the plan to be tied to climate action. However, some climate policies in its European Green Deal proposal could be delayed.

South Korea is embarking on its own E.U.-inspired Green Deal, becoming the first East Asian country to commit to zero emissions by 2050.

And lastly, a less polluted and congested version of Milan will emerge from lockdown, as the Italian city will convert 35 kilometers of streets to better accommodate cyclists and pedestrians this summer.


Leave a Reply