Carbon-negative diamonds, lion-saving carbon markets, and – is the Amazon a GHG emitter?

News to know in our bi-weekly digest

A lion in Kenya. Sergey Pesterev, Unsplash
19 March 2021
Ming Chun Tang
19 March 2021
Ming Chun Tang

We throw away almost a billion tons of food each year – and around a third of the food we grow never gets eaten.

In this Landscape News bi-weekly news roundup, we explore innovative new ways to combat food waste, slash carbon emissions, conserve biodiversity and more.

LANDSCAPE NEWS

In case you missed it, here’s our 2021 list of 16 female leaders defining the future of our planet through their ideas, talents, actions and inspiration.

One of these trailblazing women is U.N. biodiversity chief Elizabeth Mrema, who shared her thoughts on the crucial role of women in conservation.

Desert locusts have been ravaging crops across the Horn of Africa and Yemen since 2018. Could the climate crisis be fueling the infestation?

And following the release of the Dasgupta Review, we asked European Forest Institute director Marc Palahí how to build a global economy that recognizes the value of nature.

Up next, don’t miss our special GLF Live episode for the International Day of Forests on 22 March, discussing the state of our planet’s forested landscapes with three of the world’s top experts.

COVID-19

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

Governments are spending some USD 14.6 trillion on rescuing their economies, but only 18 percent of that spending can be consideredgreen.”

World leaders also aren’t doing enough to prevent future pandemics by ending the wildlife trade and halting deforestation, says a new alliance of health and environmental campaigners.

Israel has postponed plans to vaccinate Palestinian workersignoring advice from its own health officials.

Pfizer has been accused of holding several Latin American governments to ransom during COVID vaccine negotiations, including asking for sovereign assets to be put up as collateral.

African swine fever is again flaring up across pig farms in Asia. Could it have helped spread COVID-19 to humans?

CLIMATE

The Amazon Rainforest near Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state in Brazil. Neil Palmer, CIAT
The Amazon Rainforest near Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state in Brazil. Neil Palmer, CIAT

The Amazon may now be a net contributor to global warming, due in large part to deforestation, logging and land clearance.

That’s bad news for forests, which are growing back increasingly slowly from drought and wildfires, though drylands are less likely to be affected.

Also worryingly, the tropics could soon become unhabitable as the climate crisis stirs up a lethal cocktail of heat and humidity.

And with the Northern summer not too far away, scientists are fearful over how Europe is in a steady phase of its most severe droughts and heatwaves in more than 2,000 years.

PEOPLE

Well-Bred Kannan (WBK Photography), Flickr
Farmers harvesting their fields in India. Well-Bred Kannan (WBK Photography), Flickr

Smoke from wildfires is up to 10 times more lethal to humans than car exhaust fumes, scientists have found.

Indigenous communities are some of the planet’s most important stewards – yet they’ve been largely excluded from global negotiations on biodiversity conservation.

And while farmers’ protests in India have made global headlines, it’s time to also turn attention to the farmers on the Indian-Pakistani border who have been barred from tilling their own land for decades.

Veganism is slowly taking hold in China, but so too is beef consumption, much of it linked to deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon and Cerrado regions.

Brazilian slum-dwellers, meanwhile, are turning to urban farms to bolster food security, while this Ugandan village is rebuilding from war with the help of solar energy and shea trees.

PLANET

The shores of a Fijian island. Damon Hall, Unsplash
The shores of a Fijian island. Damon Hall, Unsplash

Humans have degraded or destroyed two-thirds of the planet’s tropical rainforests. The COVID-19 pandemic could aggravate the issue as governments roll back environmental protections.

As ecotourism collapses in Kenya, Maasai pastoralists are selling off their land to big farms, jeopardizing the country’s rare wildlife like lions and elephants – but could the carbon market save them?

This Australian songbird has become so endangered that it is starting to forget its song, and this eternal Mediterranean seagrass is coming under threat from the warming oceans.

But there’s also some good news from the underwater realms: five years after being hit by the Pacific’s worst cyclone, Fiji’s coral reefs are growing back stronger than ever.

POLICY

Athens, where temperatures can reach 40 degrees Celsius during a heatwave. Markus Winkler, Unsplash
Athens, where temperatures can reach 40 degrees Celsius during a heatwave. Markus Winkler, Unsplash

China has unveiled its latest five-year plan, which will see it reduce its carbon emissions per unit of GDP by 18 percent through 2025. Total emissions will likely continue to rise, though.

Former Australian finance minister Mathias Cormann will take over as chief of the OECD despite a questionable record on climate policy. 

The U.S. Senate has confirmed Deb Haaland as interior secretary, making her the first ever Native American Cabinet secretary

France understated the impact of nuclear tests it conducted in French Polynesia between 1966 and 1996. The new revelations could entitle over 100,000 people to compensation.

European cities have vastly expanded cycling infrastructure since the start of the pandemic. Athens is also creating green spaces to alleviate its summer heat.

BUSINESS

A double-pear diamond ring from Aether, a new company creating diamonds from emissions. Courtesy of Aether

Carbon prices will need to be raised sevenfold to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius, says consulting firm Wood Mackenzie.

Are conventional power plants the latest financial bubble? Energy analysts are vastly underestimating the cost of energy from fossil fuels, according to this new report.

Scientists have developed a way to turn food waste into jet fuel, which could drastically lower carbon emissions from flying.

Clothing stores could soon be selling sportswear made from recycled plastic bags, while this app will help you calculate the carbon footprint of your groceries based on receipts.

And in perhaps the most innovative carbon capture technology yet, these modern-day alchemists are forging diamonds out of thin air.


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