Invasive hippos, Berlin’s timber tower and techno birdsong beats

News to know in our bi-weekly digest

Four hippos cooling off in water. Wade Lambert, Unsplash
19 February 2021
19 February 2021

The U.S. has formally rejoined the Paris Agreement under new president Joe Biden, just three months after exiting the treaty. But will it be enough?

In this Landscape News bi-weekly news roundup, we bring you the latest in environmental policy, innovations, lawsuits and much more.

LANDSCAPE NEWS

The Pantanal region of South America contains the largest tropical wetland area in the world and is home to numerous species such as caimans, jaguars and parrots. Roberto Hungria, Flickr
The Pantanal region of South America contains the largest tropical wetland area in the world and is home to numerous species such as caimans, jaguars and parrots. Roberto Hungria, Flickr

Restoring the Earth’s ecosystems is one of the most effective ways to combat biodiversity loss – but which landscapes should we restore first? Scientists believe they now have an answer.

To that end, Luxembourg has launched a new sustainable finance strategy to ramp up private investment in the planet.

On Twitter, CIFOR director general Robert Nasi answers your questions on biodiversity, the climate crisis and much more.

And on GLF Live, leading climate policy expert Ko Barrett explains why women continue to be underrepresented in science and what we can do about it.

COVID-19

An estimated 75% of used face masks and other waste related to the pandemic end up in landfills or the ocean. brian_yuri, Unsplash
An estimated 75% of used face masks and other waste related to the pandemic end up in landfills or the ocean. brian_yuri, Unsplash

Did the climate crisis help cause the COVID-19 pandemic? Researchers believe it may have increased the diversity of bat species in southwestern China.

Evangelical missionaries are spreading disinformation about vaccines in Indigenous communities in the Amazon, which have been disproportionately hit by the pandemic.

With 6.8 billion face masks being disposed of daily, researchers in Australia have devised a way to recycle them to make roads.

Coal power is rapidly losing ground to other energy sources, but green stimulus makes up just 12 percent of economic recovery spending so far.

CLIMATE

New York City earlier this month, when a major snow storm disrupted schools and public transportation. European Space Agency, Flickr
New York City earlier this month, when a major snow storm disrupted schools and public transportation. European Space Agency, Flickr

weak polar vortex has unleashed deadly snowstorms across North America and Europe, leaving millions without power and disrupting COVID-19 vaccine deliveries.

A flash flood has killed at least 58 people in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. Scientists believe it was triggered by an avalanche that sent debris into a controversial series of hydroelectric dams, causing them to fail.

The climate crisis will make such deadly floods more likely, including in the Peruvian Andes, where a farmer is demanding compensation from German energy company RWE.

Conversely, effective climate action could save millions of lives each year through reduced air pollution, improved diets and increased physical activity.

PEOPLE

Disha Ravi, a founder of Fridays For Future India. Aishe (ঐশী), Twitter
Disha Ravi, a founder of Fridays For Future India. Aishe (ঐশী), Twitter

Meet the musician on a mission to clean up Mauritius – by upcycling trash into musical instruments.

India has sparked outrage by arresting prominent climate activist Disha Ravi. Her crime? Sharing an online ‘toolkit’ on the country’s ongoing farmers’ demonstrations.

The burning of fossil fuels caused 8.7 million deaths globally in 2018, accounting for almost one-fifth of all deaths that year.

Fortunately, air pollution levels are falling across much of Sub-Saharan Africa due to reduced biomass burning.

But poor communities in Hungary are forced to burn household waste to heat their homes in winter. The New York subway is dangerously polluted, too.

PLANET

A large increase in baby great white sharks has been reported around Monterey Bay since 2014. marcelocidrack, Unsplash
A large increase in baby great white sharks has been reported around Monterey Bay since 2014. marcelocidrack, Unsplash

Thanks to drug lord Pablo Escobar, Colombia is home to the world’s largest hippo population outside of Africa – and scientists think it’s time to cull the invasive species.

Meanwhile in the Colombian capital Bogotá, a popular nightclub is blending techno beats with birdsong recorded from the city’s balconies.

Ocean warming is pushing great white sharks to migrate further north along the coast of California, where they threaten endangered species such as sea otters.

The wildlife trade, widely blamed for the emergence of COVID-19, also poses a major threat to biodiversity, including in protected areas.

Humans often get in the way of wildlife migration, but digital mapping could help create corridors to enable animals to travel between protected areas without encountering humans.

POLICY

Tibet’s Yarlung Tsangpo River, which is said to represent the body of the goddess Dorje Phagmo according to Tibetan culture. Henrik Berger Jørgensen, Flickr
Tibet’s Yarlung Tsangpo River, which is said to represent the body of the goddess Dorje Phagmo according to Tibetan culture. Henrik Berger Jørgensen, Flickr

The Paris Agreement is nowhere near sufficient to abate the climate crisis – and countries will need to cut emissions by an extra 80 percent to keep global warming below 2 degrees.

India is set for ‘explosive growth’ in solar energy, which could match coal in terms of power generation by 2040, while South Korea will launch the world’s largest offshore wind farm by 2030.

But China has angered Tibetans by announcing plans to build the world’s largest hydroelectric dam on the sacred Yarlung Tsangpo River.

And Mexico is doubling down on coal, while in the U.S., the Trump administration caused 22,000 extra deaths in 2019 by weakening environmental and occupational health standards.

BUSINESS

The collapse of the dam owned by Vale in Brumadinho, Brazil killed 270 and released 12 million cubic meters of tailings into the environment. Felipe Werneck, Ibama
The collapse of the dam owned by Vale in Brumadinho, Brazil killed 270 and released 12 million cubic meters of tailings into the environment. Felipe Werneck, Ibama

Oil-polluted communities in Nigeria can sue Shell in England, the U.K. Supreme Court has ruled.

Eight former child slaves are suing several major chocolate companies including Nestlé, Mars and Mondelēz for aiding and abetting their enslavement in Ivory Coast.

In Brazil, mining giant Vale has agreed to pay USD 7 billion in compensation for the Brumadinho dam disaster in 2019.

British Airways is partnering with biotech company LanzaJet to develop low-emissions jet fuel from ethanol, while this fashion company is using blockchain to ensure that its materials are sustainably sourced.

And this timber tower – set to be the tallest in Europe – could soon grace the skies of Berlin, providing its gentrifying Kreuzberg neighborhood with affordable and eco-friendly housing.


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