Banned bike ads, a universal species list and the return of swine flu

News to know in our bi-weekly digest

Scientists have recently come together to create a single, comprehensive list of the world’s species to give all forms of life equal footing for receiving conservation and ecological attention. A tansy beetle is pictured here. Chris Jones, Flickr
10 July 2020
10 July 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.

LANDSCAPE NEWS

Cook pine trees rim New Caledonia’s Baie de Kanumera. These trees are one of 20 ancient Araucaria species. Forrure, Flickr
Cook pine trees rim New Caledonia’s Baie de Kanumera. These trees are one of 20 ancient Araucaria species. Forrure, Flickr

Where is the world’s smallest biodiversity hotspot? Our latest Forgotten Forests piece explores a remote Pacific archipelago that’s half the size of Switzerland, yet home to almost as many species as all of continental Europe.

But there would be no forests without soil, so we also look at how soil spectroscopy could help tackle land degradation and boost food production.

COVID-19

The Navajo Nation, which covers parts of the U.S. states of Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, has more than 7,000 cases of COVID-19 at present. Patrick Rasenberg, Flickr
The Navajo Nation, which covers parts of the U.S. states of Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, has more than 7,000 cases of COVID-19 at present. Patrick Rasenberg, Flickr

In the southwestern U.S., Indigenous people are bearing the brunt of the pandemic, dying at over five times the rate of white people in Arizona and over 10 times in New Mexico. Wildfires in the region are also producing smoke that could contribute to further deaths.

The best way to prevent future pandemics is to adopt a “One Health” approach that unites human, animal and planetary health, say the U.N. and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in a new report.

CLIMATE

Rising temperatures of the ocean’s surface in the tropical Pacific Ocean is warming the air in interior Antarctica. Eli Duke, Flickr
Rising temperatures of the ocean’s surface in the tropical Pacific Ocean is warming the air in interior Antarctica. Eli Duke, Flickr

In Siberia, last month was a record 5 degrees hotter than usual – and that heat has set fire to 140,000 hectares of land. Such heatwaves have been getting longer and more frequent across most of the world since the 1950s.

The South Pole is heating up too: recent research shows that it’s warming three times as quickly as the rest of the planet.

Meanwhile, these award-winning images show how Senegal’s former colonial capital Saint-Louis is slowly being swallowed up by the sea.

Despite all that, climate denialism is as pervasive as ever on Facebook, which is preventing scientists from flagging or fact-checking posts that contain disinformation.

PEOPLE

A new initiative by the Environmental Justice Foundation is repurposing waste from Thailand’s fishing industry – one of the world’s largest – into protective gear for health workers. Scott Maxworthy, Flickr
A new initiative by the Environmental Justice Foundation is repurposing waste from Thailand’s fishing industry – one of the world’s largest – into protective gear for health workers. Scott Maxworthy, Flickr

At least 15 people have been killed in a conflict over the construction of a new wind farm in San Mateo del Mar in southern Mexico.

Last summer’s Australian bushfires directly affected 29 percent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the states of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory.

Extinction Rebellion activists in London have shoplifted several cartloads of food to highlight global inequalities in food security. The organization has also apologized for excluding non-white communities and other marginalized groups through its civil disobedience tactics.

And two small victories in the fight against plastic pollution: women entrepreneurs in the Indian state of Goa are making sanitary pads entirely from organic materials, and an initiative in Thailand is paying fisherman to upcycle their discarded fishing nets into COVID-19 protective gear.

PLANET

Elephants in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. Michael Levine-Clark, Flickr
Elephants in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. Michael Levine-Clark, Flickr

A new strain of swine flu is emerging in China and has the potential to cause another pandemic, scientists say. There have been no human-to-human transmissions so far, but alarm bells have been sounded that this is a space to watch.

After centuries of disagreements on how to define a species, scientists are hoping to put together a single authoritative list of known species on Earth for the first time.

Authorities are looking into why more than 350 elephants have mysteriously died in Botswana over the course of the last two months.

Brazil’s accelerating deforestation is primarily driven by exports to the E.U. and China, new research finds. This forest loss is warming the country’s climate, which is in turn lowering corn yields.

And across South America and Asia, deforestation has accelerated since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, more than 2 million people gathered in Uttar Pradesh in India for a socially-distanced tree-planting session.

BUSINESS

The environmental impact of fracking techniques to extract oil and gas have long put energy companies under scrutiny. Owen Crowley, Flickr
The environmental impact of fracking techniques to extract oil and gas have long put energy companies under scrutiny. Owen Crowley, Flickr

The natural gas industry is in trouble. As COVID-19 slashes demand and sends prices tumbling, fracking giant Chesapeake Energy has filed for bankruptcy protection, and global infrastructure projects for liquefied natural gas are hitting a brick wall.

Major oil companies are exporting highly toxic, low-quality fuel to Nigeria, contributing to the country’s high levels of air pollution.

CDP has created a “temperature rating” system to help investors assess the carbon emissions of over 4,000 companies, while fellow non-profit Ceres has published an investor’s guide to deforestation risks.

POLICY

An e-bike from Dutch company VanMoof, whose recent ads have been scrutinized by France for spurring climate anxiety. Courtesy of VanMoof
An e-bike from Dutch company VanMoof, whose recent ads have been scrutinized by France for spurring climate anxiety. Courtesy of VanMoof

Indonesia’s ban on single-use plastics has come into force, albeit amid widespread confusion and lax enforcement thus far.

The E.U. will include carbon emissions from shipping in its carbon market and ban nuclear power from its green energy transition fund, though a loophole remains for natural gas. However, it is overestimating its climate spending, according to its own external auditor.

China is bringing its last hydropower mega-dams into operation, though critics say these dams are contributing to the current floods in many parts of the country.

Lastly, check out this e-bike TV commercial banned by France’s advertising watchdog for creating a “climate of fear” around the car industry.


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