Solar sidewalks, self-isolating bats and chameleons back from the dead

News to know in our bi-weekly digest

Sundrop Farm, which uses solar energy to produce fresh water and electricity, near Port Augusta in South Australia. David Clarke, Flickr
6 November 2020
6 November 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

A cloud forest in Chiapas, Mexico. Visual Research, Flickr
A cloud forest in Chiapas, Mexico. Visual Research, Flickr

Almost 5,000 participants tuned in from 120 countries for GLF Biodiversity 2020, the Global Landscapes Forum’s second virtual conference of the year.

From nature-based solutions to engaging the private sector, the two-day event explored pathways towards a One Health approach to curb biodiversity loss and prevent future pandemics. Here’s what the 261 speakers had to say, including insights from renowned ecologist Shahid Naeem and Brazilian biologist Melina Sakiyama.

And as we learned in a recent GLF Live with climate finance expert Paul Chahinegreen bonds have a crucial role to play in raising funds for biodiversity and land restoration.

We also dive deep into the microscopic world of bacteria and viruses – or, should that hit too close to home, into the cloud forests of Mexico and the Chaparrí Ecological Reserve of Peru with Landscape Hero Javier Ruiz Gutiérrez.

COVID-19

An Antarctic research vessel docked at McMurdo Station on the southern tip of Ross Island. Eli Duke, Flickr
An Antarctic research vessel docked at McMurdo Station on the southern tip of Ross Island. Eli Duke, Flickr

Humanity faces a “perfect storm” of rising chronic illnesses, inequality and public health failures that are fueling deaths from COVID-19, finds a study published in The Lancet.

The pandemic has also hindered scientific research missions to Antarctica, while weather forecasting has also taken a hit from the sharp decline in air traffic.

CLIMATE

There has been a kimchi shortage in South Korea this year after extreme weather damaged cabbage harvests. buck82, Flickr
There has been a kimchi shortage in South Korea this year after extreme weather damaged cabbage harvests. buck82, Flickr

Vietnam and the Philippines are bearing the brunt of this year’s typhoon season: severe floods and landslides left over 100 dead and millions affected in central Vietnam. Typhoon Goni, the strongest typhoon of the year so far, then left at least 20 dead in the Philippines.

Scientists are concerned that Arctic sea ice in Siberia has yet to start freezing (here’s a quick explainer). Meanwhile, the climate crisis is threatening kimchi production in South Korea.

On the flip side, global carbon emissions from energy production likely peaked in 2019, according to a new report from BloombergNEF. Unfortunately, that same report puts us on course for 3.3 degrees Celsius of warming by 2100.

PEOPLE

Plastic, including that used in baby bottles, breaks down into tiny particles as it degrades over time. quite peculiar, Flickr
Plastic, including that used in baby bottles, breaks down into tiny particles as it degrades over time. quite peculiar, Flickr

Air pollution is killing nearly half a million babies a year globally, with the vast majority of these deaths concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Babies could also be ingesting millions of microplastic particles a day from bottles.

On Canada’s Atlantic coast, Indigenous Mi’kmaq fishers have been the target of violence and intimidation from the lobster industry, while fires are imperiling several uncontacted Indigenous groups in the Amazon.

And rest in power to South African anti-mining activist Fikile Ntshangase, who was shot dead in her home on 22 October.

PLANET

A common vampire bat at a bat conservation event in Michigan. Joy VanBuhler, Flickr
A common vampire bat at a bat conservation event in Michigan. Joy VanBuhler, Flickr

It turns out vampire bats are experts at social distancing – perhaps we should have learned to keep our distance.

And more broadly, regulating the wildlife trade and restoring ecosystems are some of the most effective ways to prevent future pandemics.

Meanwhile, scientists have raised the issue of artificial light, which is growing at about 2 percent per year and could be as harmful to animals as other forms of pollution.

Now for some good news: a chameleon species last spotted a century ago has been rediscovered in Madagascar, and about 100 pilot whales have been rescued from a beach in Sri Lanka following the country’s largest ever mass stranding.

POLICY

A gray wolf on a road in Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska. Gregory “Slobirdr” Smith, Flickr
A gray wolf on a road in Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska. Gregory “Slobirdr” Smith, Flickr

As we await the results of the U.S. presidential election, here’s what the outcome could mean for the climate and biodiversity, plus how the two candidates compare on these issues (hint: here are 75 ways the Trump administration has weakened environmental regulations).

Which party takes control of the Senate could be crucial, too, as could the recent appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

Regardless, the U.S. has formally exited the Paris Agreement (though it could rejoin under Biden) and will no longer offer federal protection to gray wolves.

South Australia has become the world’s first major jurisdiction to be entirely powered by solar energyJapan and South Korea have both pledged carbon neutrality by 2050, while China plans to launch an emissions trading scheme by 2025.

BUSINESS

An ExxonMobil refinery in Baytown, Texas. Roy Luck, Flickr
An ExxonMobil refinery in Baytown, Texas. Roy Luck, Flickr

Could the climate crisis threaten your retirement fund? An Australian pension fund has conceded that it might, settling a landmark lawsuit from a 25-year-old member.

That hasn’t stopped ExxonMobil from continuing to spread climate denial through academia, or Shell from gaslighting the public with Twitter polls.

But the end is nigh for fossil fuels, as electric cars could be as cheap to build as gas-powered cars by 2024, while zero-emissions hydrogen ships could set sail by 2030.

Not to mention, you could soon be walking on sidewalks lined with solar panels if this Hungarian tech firm gets its way.


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