Mushroom coffins, high-flying hydrogen and out-of-control orcas

News to know in our bi-weekly digest

Thijs, Flickr
2 October 2020
2 October 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

The critically endangered amur leopard, native to southeastern Russia and northern China. Valerie, Flickr
The critically endangered amur leopard, native to southeastern Russia and northern China. Valerie, Flickr

With life on Earth dying out more quickly than ever, say hello to these six critical endangered species before their time runs out. Experts say thousands of other species could face extinction unless we redesign our food and energy systems.

From drones to smartphone apps, there’s no shortage of ways to plant trees – though one size doesn’t fit all. Indigenous wisdom, too, could help us rethink the way we protect and interact with nature.

The UN Summit on Biodiversity convened in New York and online. Key countries pointed fingers at NGOs or were absent altogether, while others called for more protective conservation targets in the next global biodiversity agreement, coming next year.

In our GLF Live series, we asked biodiversity experts and youth climate activists for their take on the multiple planetary crises we face.

COVID-19

According to UNDP and UN Women, 20 percent of countries and territories have put in protective measures for women in response to COVID-19. UNICEF Ethiopia
According to UNDP and UN Women, 20 percent of countries and territories have put in protective measures for women in response to COVID-19. UNICEF Ethiopia

Around 120 million antigen test kits for COVID-19 are set to be distributed across the Global South These tests provide results in 15 to 30 minutes and will be priced at no more than USD 5 each.

From unpaid care work to domestic violence, the pandemic is taking a disproportionate toll on women, who are also underrepresented in news reporting on COVID-19.

CLIMATE

The wetlands of the Pantanal in Mato Grosso, Brazil. Ronald Woam, Flickr
The wetlands of the Pantanal in Mato Grosso, Brazil. Ronald Woam, Flickr

Wildfires are consuming the Pantanal in South America, the world’s largest expanse of tropical wetlands, amid the region’s worst drought in 47 years. Meanwhile, dozens of fires are still burning across the western U.S. as hot and dry conditions persist.

Not coincidentally, the Northern Hemisphere just recorded its hottest summer ever. There’s a one-in-five chance that global warming could reach the perilous 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-Industrial level within the next five years, according to a new U.N. report.

Culpability for climate change lies mainly with the rich: one report finds that the wealthiest 10 percent of the world’s population causes around half of all global emissions, while another study holds the U.S., the E.U., Russia, Japan and Canada are responsible for 85 percent of emissions.

PEOPLE

An ancient clam garden in Orchard Bay, British Columbia. David Stanley, Flickr
An ancient clam garden in Orchard Bay, British Columbia. David Stanley, Flickr

Youth climate activists have resumed their (socially-distanced) Friday climate strikes at 3,500 locations worldwide. Hundreds of Ende Gelände activists occupied a coal mine in western Germany, while farmers in India rallied against new legislation that will open agriculture to the corporate sector.

Lebanon is running short on food after the explosion in Beirut in August – but rooftop and balcony gardens are blooming as locals take matters into their own hands.

First Nations communities in Canada are turning their beaches into “clam gardens,” reviving a practice once used by their ancestors for thousands of years.

Brazilian metal band Sepultura have paid homage to the Indigenous peoples of the Amazon with this new music video, made in collaboration with NGO Amazon Frontlines.

PLANET

An orca whale, here pictured off the coast of Alaska. Christopher Michel, Flickr
An orca whale, here pictured off the coast of Alaska. Christopher Michel, Flickr

Orca whales are attacking boats off the Iberian peninsula, baffling scientists and prompting Spain to ban yachts from some of its waters. Meanwhile, around 350 pilot whales have washed up dead in Tasmania in one of the largest mass strandings on record.

Authorities in Botswana blame cyanobacteria in water for the deaths of over 300 elephants earlier this year. Some experts are skeptical, though.

Some 40 percent of the world’s plant species are at risk of extinction, and an area of wilderness the size of Mexico was lost worldwide to human activity between 2000 and 2013.

A global ‘safety net’ of protected areas could help stem those losses – and reduce the potential for future zoonoses like COVID-19.

POLICY

Traffic and smog in Beijing, the world’s third most-polluted city, after Cairo and Delhi. Ali Utku Selen, Flickr
Traffic and smog in Beijing, the world’s third most-polluted city, after Cairo and Delhi. Ali Utku Selen, Flickr

China, the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, has pledged to become carbon-neutral by 2060. If achieved, this could lower global warming by 0.2 to 0.3 degrees Celsius by 2100.

Ahead of the UN Summit on Biodiversity, political leaders of 74 countries pledged to reduce biodiversity loss by 30 percent by 2030. The World Bank and the European Investment Bank are also launching a new multilateral fund to help decarbonize cities in the Global South.

Sri Lanka is sending 21 containers of waste back to the U.K., claiming they contained hazardous material. Wildfire-ravaged California will ban the sale of gasoline-powered cars in 2035.

BUSINESS

ZeroAvia’s six-seater Piper M-class, a hydrogen fuel-cell aircraft, releases only steam and water. Courtesy of ZeroAvia
ZeroAvia’s six-seater Piper M-class, a hydrogen fuel-cell aircraft, releases only steam and water. Courtesy of ZeroAvia

In a massive month for hydrogen, a hydrogen-powered aircraft capable of carrying passengers completed its first flight, and hydrogen trains are being trialed in the U.K. and Austria. Airbus has unveiled three hydrogen aircraft concepts, which could be available from 2035 and carry up to 200 passengers.

A major breakthrough for recycling, too: scientists have developed a new ‘super-enzyme’ that can break down plastic bottles six times faster than before.

BlackRock has voted against directors at 49 companies for their inaction on climate change. However, it continues to invest in Brazil’s three largest meatpackers, which are closely linked with deforestation in the Amazon.

Last words: this coffin made from mushrooms will help you rest at peace with the Earth, returning a human body to nature in just two to three years.

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.


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