Vaccine apartheid, “Neptune Balls” and a new dawn for U.S. climate policy

News to know in our bi-weekly digest

Dawn on 20 January 2020, the inauguration day of Joe Biden, who put the U.S. back in the Paris Agreement on climate change moments after stepping into the presidential office. Geoff Livingston, Flickr
22 January 2021
22 January 2021

Could the ocean floor clean up its own debris with ‘Neptune balls’ of seagrass? In this Landscape News bi-weekly news roundup, we delve into the magic behind oceanic plants, the numbers pointing to the hottest decade on record, the new Biden administration and more.

LANDSCAPE NEWS

Illustration by Josie Ford, studiojojo.co
Illustration by Josie Ford, studiojojo.co

How can we harness the power of landscapes to build a more sustainable world? Here are seven ways, according to the Global Landscapes Forum and several partner organizations.

Youth activists also issued this open letter calling for transformative action. We heard from two of its co-authors on GLF Live.

Meanwhile, scientists are turning to crop wild relatives to safeguard our food systems from the climate crisis by pre-breeding our staple food crops with their less-domesticated counterparts.

COVID-19

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Province of British Columbia, Flickr
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Province of British Columbia, Flickr

Over 50 million vaccine doses have been given across the globe, but the Global South is lagging well behind. Guinea is the only low-income country, and the only nation in Sub-Saharan Africa, to have begun vaccinations so far.

The U.S. experienced its largest drop in greenhouse gas emissions since World War II in 2020. Global emissions, though, are set to rebound in 2021 as economies recover from the pandemic.

Over 400,000 seafarers have been stranded at sea during COVID-19. Here are some of their faces.

CLIMATE

A blacktip reef shark. Research has shown that seas warmed by climate change may hinder the development of young sharks. Simon_sees, Flickr
A blacktip reef shark. Research has shown that seas warmed by climate change may hinder the development of young sharks. Simon_sees, Flickr

While the jury is still out on whether 2020 was the hottest or second-hottest year on record, the world’s leading climate agencies all agree that the last 10 years were the warmest decade ever recorded.

The oceans also hit record-high temperatures in 2020, fueling extreme weather and threatening the survival of baby sharks and wild Atlantic salmon.

Spain has experienced its worst snowstorm in 50 years, causing some EUR 1.4 billion in damage in Madrid alone. Both Madagascar and Turkey are experiencing severe drought, with Istanbul at risk of running out of water by the end of February.

PEOPLE

Thousands of the Indigenous Sámi are full-time reindeer herders in Norway. Michiel van Nimwegen, Flickr
Thousands of the Indigenous Sámi are full-time reindeer herders in Norway. Michiel van Nimwegen, Flickr

In a legal first, a Bangladeshi man has avoided deportation from France on the grounds that air pollution in his home country would aggravate his asthma.

Most Europeans plan to fly less frequently and cut down on meat consumption in response to the climate crisis, according to a survey by the European Investment Bank.

Indigenous Sámi herders are suing against a proposed windfarm in northern Norway, which could disrupt reindeer migration paths, while the Naso people of Panama have been granted legal rights to ancestral territory that covers two national reserves

PLANET

A single tree in the Sahara Desert in Morocco. frederikloewer, Unsplash
A single tree in the Sahara Desert in Morocco. frederikloewer, Unsplash

Plastic pollution in the oceans is skyrocketing, but seagrasses are helping to remove plastic debris from the Mediterranean by trapping it in bundles of fiber called “Neptune balls.”

Six rangers have been murdered by gunmen in Virunga National Park, a reserve for critically endangered mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Sahara Desert isn’t a place where you’d expect to find many trees – but AI has helped researchers uncover almost 2 billion of them.

Loggers are cutting down Estonia’s forests to produce wood pellets, which the E.U. recognizes as a renewable energy source. This company is fighting back with a platform that pays landowners to preserve their trees.

POLICY

Protestors have called for an end the Keystone Pipeline project for years. Lorie Shaull, Flickr
Protesters have called for the end the Keystone Pipeline project for years. Lorie Shaull, Flickr

coalition of 50 countries has pledged to protect at least 30 percent of the Earth’s land and oceans by 2030.

However, the U.N. warns that rich countries are providing far too little aid to help poorer countries adapt to the climate crisis.

New U.S. President Joe Biden has issued a set of executive orders to rejoin the Paris Agreementcancel the Keystone XL pipeline and halt oil and gas exploration in an Alaskan wildlife reserve.

Authorities in Michigan have also charged the state’s former governor and eight others over a deadly public health crisis in the city of Flint caused by contaminated drinking water.

After months of protests by farmers, India’s supreme court has shelved three laws that would have opened the country’s agricultural sector to corporations.

And despite skyrocketing deforestation, Brazil’s environmental agency issued 20 percent fewer fines in 2020 compared to 2019.

BUSINESS

In this snapshot of a central Brazilian landscape, 90% of the fields are devoted to soy production. Coordenação-Geral de Observação da Terra/INPE, Flickr
In this snapshot of a central Brazilian landscape, 90% of the fields are devoted to soy production. Coordenação-Geral de Observação da Terra/INPE, Flickr

Electric car sales are rising on both sides of the Atlantic: Volkswagen tripled its sales of battery-only cars in Europe in 2020, and it joins Ford in challenging Tesla for supremacy in the U.S. market.

Three Brazilian soy producers have committed to zero deforestation across their supply chains, while PepsiCo plans to go carbon-neutral by 2040.

Rather than planting trees, some corporations are adopting technologies that suck carbon dioxide straight out of the air – but at what cost?


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