nature

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The Beach that Said Bye-Bye to Hollywood

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 10/08/2022 - 11:21pm in

Three great stories we found on the internet this week.

No pictures, please

Thailand’s spectacular Maya Bay, made famous by the 2000 movie The Beach, was all but dead four years ago. After the 2000 film starring Leonard DiCaprio, the number of daily visitors rose eight-fold, putting pressures on the ecosystem that wreaked havoc the bay’s coral reefs, water and wildlife. 

In response, Thailand did something tourist-dependent places rarely do: It shut down the area to visitors for four years, sacrificing millions in revenue to let the bay heal.

Maya Bay before it was closed to tourists. Credit: Kent Wang / Flickr

Now, according to one scientist, “mother nature is doing the job.” Clownfish, lobsters and blacktip sharks have returned and are mating once again. And scientists have replanted some 30,000 pieces of coral, 50 percent of which have survived. And Thailand has shown it is willing to continue moderating tourism to keep the bay healthy — just seven months after it reopened, Maya Bay closed again, though this time just for two months, during the critical monsoon season. 

“The before and after of [Maya Bay] are so much different,” said the scientist. “It’s encouraged us to preserve this area.”

Read more at CNN

Friends with benefits

Strong friendships really do pay off: a huge new study shows how friendships between rich and poor are a highly effective way to reduce poverty.

The study analyzed 72 million Facebook relationships representing some 84 percent of US adults ages 25 to 44. It then looked at this data across neighborhoods with particularly good economic mobility. What it found was amazing: the degree to which high-income and low-income residents were connected could predict whether a neighborhood’s children would go on to succeed financially. Low-income kids who grew up in neighborhoods where 70 percent of their friends were wealthy — the typical rate of friendship for higher-income children — had future incomes that were higher by 20 percent, on average.

What’s more, these cross-class friendships were more important to upward mobility than any other factor, including school quality, family structure or job opportunities. The results speak to the power of “social capital,” in which links to wealth or status tend to lead to more of the same. “Growing up in a community connected across class lines improves kids’ outcomes and gives them a better shot at rising out of poverty,” said one Harvard economist.

Read more at the New York Times

Bon voyage

The AES Hawaii Power Plant in Oahu. Credit: Flickr / Tony Webster

In its race toward carbon neutrality, Hawaii chalked up another victory last week as it accepted the final shipment of coal the state will ever receive.

Hawaii has long been a climate action forerunner. In 2014 it became the first US state to make a net-zero pledge, committing to run entirely on renewable energy by 2045. As part of this pledge, it has been steadily drawing down its fossil fuel usage. In 2020, it banned coal power entirely. Now, its last coal plant, on the island of Oahu, is about to be closed for good.

For Hawaii, getting to 100 percent green power isn’t just ideological. The state relies heavily on imported fossil fuels, particularly oil, making its energy costs the highest in the nation. But that’s quickly changing — solar installations in the sun-drenched state doubled between 2015 and 2020. “This is a huge step forward in Hawaii’s transition to clean energy,” said Governor David Ige of the last coal shipment. “Most importantly, it will leave Hawaii a better place for our children and grandchildren.”

Read more at 59 News

The post The Beach that Said Bye-Bye to Hollywood appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Pressure and Escape

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 30/06/2022 - 10:30pm in

In Palestine, nature and poetry offer a respite from constant pressure.

Hot Air: The Government is Failing on its Climate Promises

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 23/06/2022 - 7:49pm in

Vested interests are winning the battle over the UK’s climate change commitments, observes Andrew Taylor-Dawson

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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) this year issued its starkest warning yet about the action needed by 2030 to avert irreversible and catastrophic climate change. It said that “without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible” to keep warming at safe levels of below 1.5°C.

The world is not only facing climate change, but a web of overlapping crises affecting nature. We are witnessing the sixth mass extinction event and the systems that support biodiversity, from the rainforests to the oceans, are under threat.

A report by the Environmental Audit Committee in January on the state of English rivers concluded that a “chemical cocktail of sewage, slurry and plastic” was putting public health and nature at risk.

Our polluted air also kills up to 36,000 people per year, agricultural run-off has been polluting our rivers and contributing to ocean dead zones, while unsustainable fishing practices threaten the biodiversity of our waters. 

The Government has been keen to be seen as taking bold steps to tackle these crises – from backing once fringe calls for re-wilding (restoring large areas of habitat reintroducing species) to legislating on air pollution, farming reforms and banning the horticultural use of peat. 

But it has also repeatedly reneged on commitments and has now left a total of eight promised bills on the natural world dead in the water. As reported by the Guardian, the missed opportunities and abandoned promises range from measures on commercial fishing operations to post-Brexit farming reforms that would have significantly benefited wildlife. 

Indeed, the Wildlife Trusts recently criticised the Government for failing to follow through on farming reform. Its CEO Craig Bennett branded it “a disgrace”.

“Out-of-date farming policies have caused degraded soils, polluted rivers, and extreme loss of wildlife including the disappearance of insects and pollinators. Surely taxpayers’ money should be used to reward farmers to grow food in a way that is good for nature, rather than harming it,” he added.

Measures to ensure sustainability, tackle climate change and protect nature are now resoundingly popular with the public and the Government has tried to shadow this direction of travel. But, for all its rhetoric, we are now seeing repeated backsliding and abandoned promises. Boris Johnson’s much reported promise to “build back beaver” is now as ridiculous as it originally sounded.

“We’re seeing a perfect storm of threats to nature from every quarter caused by Government inaction, delay and reneging on commitments,” said Dr Lissa Batey, head of marine conservation at the Wildlife Trusts.

For a Government apparently committed to halting the decline of nature – in what the WWF has described as “one of the most nature depleted countries in the world” – what we’re seeing looks much more like the continuation of business as usual. 

A Lacklustre Environment Act

The Government was forced into an embarrassing U-turn last year on the release of sewage into rivers and the sea following public outcry as the Environment Bill passed through Parliament.

Until they received substantial opposition, ministers seemed more concerned with protecting unscrupulous water companies than ensuring that people and wildlife do not suffer the side-effects of this pollution.

When the legislation passed into law, many campaigners criticised the weakness of the measures contained within it.

Friends of the Earth stated that the newly-created Office for Environmental Protections – billed by the Government as a “world leading environmental watchdog” – “wasn’t good enough”. On the independence of the new body and its ability to punish the breaking of environmental laws, the legislation didn’t go far enough. 

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Friends of the Earth criticised everything from the Bill's measures on plastic waste to its provisions for addressing air pollution. For a piece of legislation vaunted by the Government, it significantly missed the mark. 

These failures must also be seen in the context of the Government’s much-criticised plans to develop the Cambo oilfield in the North Sea, and the potential opening of a new coal mine in Cumbria.

When push comes to shove, vested business interests are repeatedly coming out on top. While beaver reintroduction or tackling air pollution make for good soundbites, the Government’s commitment to meaningful, substantial action has repeatedly been shown to be lacking. 

With less than a decade left to reduce emissions to the level required to prevent the most dangerous impacts of global warming – combined with the overlapping crises of habitat degradation and species loss – it is essential that we act now. 

While taking the necessary steps will not be easy, it could also be an economic opportunity – creating green jobs through better stewardship of our natural world. 

The climate emergency cannot be fixed with more hot air from those in power.

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How Replacing Animal Farming with Microbial Proteins Could Feed the World and Save the Planet

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/06/2022 - 6:00pm in

As the prevailing global food system heads toward disaster, scientists are discovering exciting opportunities that could make nutritious food cheap, clean and abundant for all without hurting the planet. Nafeez Ahmed reports

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The world is currently moving – as predicted by a number of scientific models – into an era of water, energy and food scarcity that could unravel the sinews of civilisation.

In part one of my exploration of this, I posited how a ‘global polycrisis’ – caused by climate-induced droughts in Asia, the Russia-Ukraine crisis and an intensifying global food crisis – could accelerate the "irreversible decline" of the Earth's key natural and social systems.

I also explained how these very symptoms of decline also point to signals of hope – because disruptions to the existing food system could spur its transformation.

New scientific research confirms that the spectre of looming scarcity, far from being an innate and inevitable feature of nature, is instead a symptom of the constraints of the existing global system. It suggests we now have a range of powerful tools to create a global food system that, not only feeds everyone on the planet, but does so without pillaging the Earth.

A Key Solution: The Protein Revolution

The global food crisis could be eased by precision fermentation and cellular agriculture (PFCA) – technologies enabling the cheap, sustainable and efficient production of animal proteins without killing animals.

When powered by solar electricity, for instance, microbial protein production can be vastly more efficient than conventional industrial agriculture with minimal environmental impact.

It could, for instance, produce five times more soya beans per hectare than plants even in a country with low sunlight like the UK – and up to 10 times more in better conditions.

Microbial proteins are proteins produced by micro-organisms via fermentation. Precision fermentation allow these micro-organisms to be programmed to produce complex organic molecules such as proteins, with cellular agriculture permitting the production of specific animal proteins.

Two landmark studies released last month show how PFCA can play a fundamental role in transforming our global food systems.

A study published in Nature found that, if only 20% of beef production was displaced by microbial protein, it would slash annual deforestation and related carbon dioxide emissions by half, while also lowering methane emissions. If half of beef production was replaced, this would cut deforestation by 82%. But the study only scratched the surface of what’s possible.

Another team of scientists have found that a “closed-loop microbial production” system would be able to globally replace livestock industries, while dramatically eliminating negative environmental consequences.

Although the study focuses on mycoprotein (created from a naturally-occurring fungus), its lead author Alex Durkin of Imperial College Centre for Process Systems Engineering, told Byline Times that its findings are “supposed to represent microbial proteins generally” – including from PFCA.

That’s because all these approaches to protein production share the common features of “production in controlled environments, no dependence on animals, and more efficient land and crop utility”.

Impact reductions from the livestock industries, the study found, would decline “by 96%, 99%, 74% and 85% on climate change, land occupation, nitrogen fixation and freshwater consumption, respectively”.

So scaling up microbial production at the global level will not breach planetary boundaries, the study concludes.

And due to the nature of these technologies, the applications are diverse. The study points out that, with its shorter, cleaner production cycles – using a tiny fraction of the water, land and fertiliser of conventional industrial food production – “microbial protein can be harnessed to provide readily scalable protein security with vastly reduced environmental impacts, particularly beneficial for emergent nations where the increase in animal-sourced protein demand is expected to soar in response to socio-economic development”.

With such a small land footprint, it can also be scaled-up in “urban areas and countries which face arable land scarcity and depend largely on food imports” – which includes many countries in the Middle East and North Africa at risk of instability in the current crisis.

With no exposure to livestock diseases, microbial proteins can enable “sustained protein production through extreme events e.g. pandemic”.

Cascading Consequences

Perhaps the most exciting thing about these technologies is that they aren’t far-fetched breakthroughs of the future – PFCA exists now and is scaling today driven by fundamental economics.

As technology forecasting think tank RethinkX showed in 2019, cost curve projections show that it will become cost-competitive with bulk animal protein in a few years – five times cheaper by 2030, and 10 times cheaper by 2035.

Eventually it will approach the cost of sugar. And, because it’s so water, land and energy efficient, it will enable us to produce orders of magnitude more food than we do today within planetary boundaries, at a tenth of the cost. Food would never be cheaper.

This also means that conventional livestock industries are going to be economically eviscerated within about a decade. We might be able to delay or accelerate that process, but the fundamental economics of this mean this process cannot ultimately be stopped because animal farming will simply be outcompeted by superior technologies.

This could open up further huge opportunities. We would not only wipe out carbon emissions from livestock agriculture, we would free up 2.7 billion hectares of land for rewilding, reforestation, alternative farming techniques, and carbon sequestration. 

Such a rapid phase-out of animal agriculture would, in turn, stabilise greenhouse gas levels for 30 years and offset 68% of CO2 emissions this century. But we don’t need to stop there. By giving that freed up land back to nature in a managed way, we could use it to get more and more carbon out of the atmosphere in a way that is regenerative.

The implications are tremendous: we could enter a new era of clean, food abundance, and – through the same process – help solve some of our biggest ecological challenges.

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Total Transformation

In his new book, Regenesis: Feeding the World Without Devouring the Planet, renowned Guardian environment writer George Monbiot shows how a larger, system change – driven by leveraging technology disruptions – can make other regenerative agriculture solutions more feasible. Together, this would lead to a total transformation of the food system.

His book explains that the global food crisis is not just about climate change, but about the entire structure of conventional industrial agriculture – which operates in an extraction paradigm that is relentlessly degrading our soils.

With the colossal dependence of our industrial systems on fossil fuels, the addition of climate impacts into this picture is magnifying the risks of a ‘global polycrisis’ before our eyes. Nothing less than total transformation will allow us to evade the implications.

To the extent that the PFCA disruption has already begun – and will accelerate due to economic factors – the foundations of change are already here. They are being driven by markets, technology and economics.

In Monbiot’s vision, if we leverage these factors by ending subsidies for livestock farming, removing barriers to PFCA proteins, and so on, we can move faster to a final food system transformation. We could harness the best of these technologies alongside the most exciting regenerative farming techniques, in a new model of build-up and creation: producing abundant nutritious food, restoring our soils, stabilising our ecosystems and rewilding our lands.

PFCA protein hubs can be installed almost anywhere, run locally on clean electricity, and with 100 times more land efficiency, up to 25 times more feedstock efficiency, and 10 times more water efficiency.

We should not under-estimate what this opportunity entails. For the first time, we could feed everyone without breaching planetary boundaries in a new paradigm of ‘Food-as-Software’.

But the current crisis also reveals the stark dangers if we delay. We could end up being sucked into the vortex of a prevailing global food system that crumbles under its own weight before these disruptive technologies are able to accelerate the transformation we so desperately need.

In part one of my exploration, I set out the grim prospect of a decade of intensifying global thirst and hunger. But we need to see that prospect for what it is: a symptom of the demise of the old, extraction age food system. As this crisis deepens, we must remember that opening up before us is the unprecedented opportunity to create an entirely new creation-based food system – a paradigm that could empower us to solve global hunger within planetary boundaries.

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Anna Atkins: Botanical Illustration and Photographic Innovation

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 20/11/2020 - 5:53pm in

This event is supported by TORCH as part of the Humanities Cultural Programme, one of the founding stones of the future Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities. Supported by TORCH through the Humanities Cultural Programme. Join us for an online in-conversation with Prof Geoffrey Batchen and Dr Lena Fritsch, discussing the work of pioneering British photographer and botanist Anna Atkins (1799-1871). Her innovative use of new photographic technologies linked art and science, and exemplified the potential of photography in books. Geoffrey Batchen is Professor of Art History at the University of Oxford and Dr Lena Fritsch is the Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford. This talk accompanies the 2020 Photo Oxford festival, Women and Photography: Ways of Seeing and Being Seen.
Biographies:

Geoffrey Batchen is professor of History of Art at the University of Oxford. His books include Burning with Desire: The Conception of Photography (1997), Each Wild Idea: Writing, Photography, History (2001), Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph (2016), and Apparitions: Photography and Dissemination (2018).

Dr Lena Fritsch is the Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford. Her monographs on photography include Ravens & Red Lipstick: Japanese Photography since 1945 (English version with Thames & Hudson / Japanese version with Seigensha 2018), The Body as a Screen: Japanese Art Photography of the 1990s (Georg Olms 2011), and Yasumasa Morimuras Self-Portrait as Actress: Überlegungen zur Identität (VdM 2008).

Live Event: Could you be arrested for planting flowers in your street?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 15/09/2020 - 3:29pm in

Tags 

nature, culture

What guerrilla gardening reveals about our relationship with urban nature and culture. Part of the Humanities Cultural Programme, one of the founding stones for the future Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities.

Dr Elizabeth Ewart, Head of the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography at the University of Oxford joins JC Niala, one of her doctoral students to discuss human relationships to nature in cities. Dr Ewart has an interest in the anthropology of everyday practices such as gardening. JC Niala's doctoral research focuses on urban gardeners in Oxford and she is interested in the what their everyday practice reveals about the way we live.Working with the case study of guerrilla gardeners who operate in cities such as London and Oxford they will explore the interactions between different types of gardeners that challenge commonly held assumptions about nature and culture.

Biographies:
JC Niala
JC is a doctoral researcher with an interest in how people’s imaginations of nature, affects the environment. With a focus on urban practice, she has worked on food sovereignty projects in Kenya . JC has used verbatim theatre as a tool for community engagement with both adaptation and mitigation strategies for dealing with climate change. JC's current ecological project 'Plant an orchestra' brings together her love of music and trees.

Elizabeth Ewart
Elizabeth Ewart is Associate Professor in the anthropology of Lowland South America. Her research is with indigenous people in Central Brazil where she has lived and worked with Panará people. She is interested in the material and visual aspects of Amerindian lived worlds, including body adornment, beadwork, garden design and village layout and is also interested in the anthropology of everyday practices, such as child rearing and gardening.

More recently, she has been developing research in southwestern Ethiopia (together with Dr Wolde Tadesse), on local agriculture and food production, specifically in relation to a local staple, enset (Ensete ventricosum or Abyssinian banana), exploring the manifold connections between cultivation, cooking, animal husbandry, land custodianship and sense of wellbeing among Gamo communities in the southern Ethiopian highlands.

Wildlife in the Anthropocene: Conservation after Nature

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/05/2015 - 6:43pm in

An interdisciplinary discussion of Jamie Lorimer's book Jamie Lorimer (Associate Professor in Human Geography, University of Oxford) discusses his book with William Beinart (Rhodes Professor of Race Relations, University of Oxford), Daniel Grimley (Professor of Music, University of Oxford) and Nikolaj Lübecker (Associate Professor of French, University of Oxford).

In Wildlife in the Anthropocene, Jamie Lorimer argues that the idea of nature as a pure and timeless place characterized by the absence of humans has come to an end. Offering a thorough appraisal of the Anthropocene—an era in which human actions affect and influence all life and all systems on our planet—Lorimer unpacks its implications for changing definitions of nature and the politics of wildlife conservation.