#BLM and climate justice join forces, the Arctic heats, and COVID-19 gear fills oceans

News to know in our bi-weekly digest

Movements for equity are joining forces around the world, crossing-cutting issues such as climate, race and health. Marcus Spiske, Flickr
16 June 2020
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.

LANDSCAPE NEWS

A live sketch artist captured speakers' messages during the GLF Bonn digital conference. Courtesy of GLF
A live sketch artist captured speakers’ messages during the GLF Bonn digital conference. Courtesy of GLF

The Global Landscapes Forum recently hosted its first ever GLF Bonn digital conference on the future of the world’s food systems. The three-day online event brought together 5,000 participants and 300 speakers to explore ways to “build back better” after COVID-19, engaging viewers with innovative new formats for conferencing, from virtual mangrove tours to live-streamed music performances.

Speaking of mangroves, our latest piece in our Forgotten Forests series explains why these ecosystems are a crucial asset for biodiversity and mitigating climate change. We also look at how bioenergy could boost food security in Africa.

COVID-19

A COVID-19 testing center in Madagascar. Henitsoa Rafalia, World Bank

Mounting evidence suggests racial and ethnic minorities are being disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in the U.S., the U.K. and Brazil. Reasons for these disparities might include higher rates of poverty, poorer health and lower access to health care.

Coronavirus is also spreading rapidly in mining sites around the world, infecting around 4,000 workers in 18 countries.

Meanwhile, ocean pollution is surging as disposable masks, latex gloves and hand sanitizer bottles become a common sight on seabeds.

CLIMATE

Meltwater lakes on the ice near Greenland’s west coast, captured in 2015. NASA Goddard Space Flight
Meltwater lakes on the ice near Greenland’s west coast, captured in 2015. NASA Goddard Space Flight

Lockdown isn’t giving the atmosphere much respite, either. Lower levels of aerosol pollution might be leading to hotter and sunnier weather in the Arctic, causing a heatwave that’s melting much of Greenland’s ice sheet.

These heatwaves are likely to become increasingly common, as carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere hit a new record of 417 parts per million in May.

East Africa is bracing for a second wave of locust swarms, which could be 8,000 times larger than the first. These swarms have been mainly due to increased rainfall and more frequent tropical cyclones in the region.

PEOPLE

A Black Lives Matter demonstrator in the U.S. Miki Jourdan, Flickr
A Black Lives Matter demonstrator in the U.S. Miki Jourdan, Flickr

Amid mass anti-racism demonstrations across the globe, black birdwatchers in the U.S. speak out on the barriers they face – and how they’re changing the narrative on race and outdoor exploration.

Climate activists, too, are joining forces with their racial justice counterparts, as the effects of environmental racism become ever clearer during the pandemic.

Female workers, along with small fishers, have been particularly affected by a sharp decline in the global fishing industry due to COVID-19, according to the U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

POLICY

A new USD 4.6 billion plan will aim to protect Miami from rising sea levels. Mack Male, Flickr
A new USD 4.6 billion plan will aim to protect Miami from rising sea levels. Mack Male, Flickr

The U.K. has set new dates for the postponed U.N. COP 26 climate talks, which will now take place from 1–12 November 2021 in Glasgow.

China has moved to protect pangolins by removing their scales from a list of approved ingredients for traditional Chinese medicine. Also in China, ‘clean coal’ will no longer be eligible for green bonds.

The U.S. federal government is proposing a USD 4.6 billion plan to protect Miami from rising sea levels due to climate change. However, President Trump has signed an executive order that will exempt infrastructure projects from environmental reviews.

BUSINESS

The maiden flight on 28 May 2020 of the electric Cessna Grand Caravan in the U.S. state of Washington, powered by a Magnix propulsion system. Courtesy of Magnix
The maiden flight on 28 May 2020 of the electric Cessna Grand Caravan in the U.S. state of Washington, powered by a Magnix propulsion system. Courtesy of Magnix

Could fossil fuels soon be on their way out? A study by Carbon Tracker finds that COVID-19 is hastening the industry’s decline and could reduce the value of the planet’s fossil fuel reserves by two-thirds. The plastic industry is in trouble, too.

Renewable energy might also have reached a tipping point. Most new solar and wind power is now cheaper than coal, finds a new study from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

And while oil increasingly stays in the ground, the world’s largest all-electric aircraft has taken to the skies.


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