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Tag Archives: Environment

The plastic backlash: what’s behind our sudden rage – and will it make a difference?

Plastic is everywhere, and suddenly we have decided that is a very bad thing. Until recently, plastic enjoyed a sort of anonymity in ubiquity: we were so thoroughly surrounded that we hardly noticed it. You might be surprised to learn, for instance, that today’s cars and planes are, by volume, about 50% plastic. More clothing is made out of polyester and nylon, both plastics, than cotton or wool. Plastic is also used in minute quantities as an adhesive to seal the vast majority of the 60bn teabags used in Britain each year.

Add this to the more obvious expanse of toys, household bric-a-brac and consumer packaging, and the extent of plastic’s empire becomes clear. It is the colourful yet banal background material of modern life. Each year, the world produces around 340m tonnes of the stuff, enough to fill every skyscraper in New York City. Humankind has produced unfathomable quantities of plastic for decades, first passing the 100m tonne mark in the early 1990s. But for some reason it is only very recently that people have really begun to care.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/13/the-plastic-backlash-whats-behind-our-sudden-rage-and-will-it-make-a-difference

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Posted by on January 3, 2019 in Reportages

 

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Der Gigant unter den Bäumen

Der Baobab ist so, wie er aussieht: bizarr und faszinierend. Er kann über zweitausend Jahre alt werden. Weil er so gross ist und viel Schatten spendet, hält man in Afrika gerne Märkte, Versammlungen und Palaver zu seinen Füssen ab. Oft heisst es, er sei von Geistern bewohnt, und so gilt er vielerorts auch als spirituelles Zentrum des Dorfes.

Zahlreiche Geschichten ranken sich beispielsweise um den weissen Baobab auf der Île de la Madeleine. Die Insel liegt eine halbe Stunde vor der senegalesischen Hauptstadt Dakar im Atlantik und ist unbewohnt, weil angeblich Geister in dem Baum hausen, die keine Menschen neben sich dulden. Ein Franzose hielt sich nicht an das Tabu und baute eine Hütte, um dort zu leben. Bereits in der ersten Nacht stürzte sie laut der Überlieferung zusammen. Man kann sie bei einem Besuch besichtigen; sie dient den Leuten als Warnung.

Auch das rostige, halb versunkene Schiffswrack vor der Insel weckt Ahnungen von Untergang und Tod und wirkt nicht gerade einladend. Es heisst, man dürfe nichts von der Insel mitnehmen, nicht einmal eine Muschel. Die Geister kommen sonst in der Nacht und holen sich das Geraubte zurück. Der sagenumwobene Baobab ist vermutlich so weiss vom Kot der in den Zweigen nistenden Vögel. Vor allem in der Dämmerung leuchtet er seltsam, fast phosphoreszierend. Regelmässig kommen im Morgengrauen Fischer vom Festland und bringen dem Baum Opfer dar.

https://www.nzz.ch/wissenschaft/affenbrotbaum-oder-baobab-der-gigant-unter-den-baeumen-ld.1434679

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2018 in Africa

 

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The Insect Apocalypse Is Here


Sune Boye Riis was on a bike ride with his youngest son, enjoying the sun slanting over the fields and woodlands near their home north of Copenhagen, when it suddenly occurred to him that something about the experience was amiss. Specifically, something was missing.

It was summer. He was out in the country, moving fast. But strangely, he wasn’t eating any bugs.

For a moment, Riis was transported to his childhood on the Danish island of Lolland, in the Baltic Sea. Back then, summer bike rides meant closing his mouth to cruise through thick clouds of insects, but inevitably he swallowed some anyway. When his parents took him driving, he remembered, the car’s windshield was frequently so smeared with insect carcasses that you almost couldn’t see through it. But all that seemed distant now. He couldn’t recall the last time he needed to wash bugs from his windshield; he even wondered, vaguely, whether car manufacturers had invented some fancy new coating to keep off insects. But this absence, he now realized with some alarm, seemed to be all around him. Where had all those insects gone? And when? And why hadn’t he noticed?

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2018 in Reportages

 

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How Extreme Weather Is Shrinking the Planet

Thirty years ago, this magazine published “The End of Nature,” a long article about what we then called the greenhouse effect. I was in my twenties when I wrote it, and out on an intellectual limb: climate science was still young. But the data were persuasive, and freighted with sadness. We were spewing so much carbon into the atmosphere that nature was no longer a force beyond our influence—and humanity, with its capacity for industry and heedlessness, had come to affect every cubic metre of the planet’s air, every inch of its surface, every drop of its water. Scientists underlined this notion a decade later when they began referring to our era as the Anthropocene, the world made by man.

I was frightened by my reporting, but, at the time, it seemed likely that we’d try as a society to prevent the worst from happening. In 1988, George H. W. Bush, running for President, promised that he would fight “the greenhouse effect with the White House effect.” He did not, nor did his successors, nor did their peers in seats of power around the world, and so in the intervening decades what was a theoretical threat has become a fierce daily reality. As this essay goes to press, California is ablaze. A big fire near Los Angeles forced the evacuation of Malibu, and an even larger fire, in the Sierra Nevada foothills, has become the most destructive in California’s history. After a summer of unprecedented high temperatures and a fall “rainy season” with less than half the usual precipitation, the northern firestorm turned a city called Paradise into an inferno within an hour, razing more than ten thousand buildings and killing at least sixty-three people; more than six hundred others are missing. The authorities brought in cadaver dogs, a lab to match evacuees’ DNA with swabs taken from the dead, and anthropologists from California State University at Chico to advise on how to identify bodies from charred bone fragments.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/11/26/how-extreme-weather-is-shrinking-the-planet

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2018 in Reportages

 

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Are You Ready for an Epoch Fail?

You know the story: the globalists want your guns. They want your democracy. They’re hovering just beyond the horizon in those black helicopters. They control the media and Wall Street. They’ve burrowed into a deep state that stretches like a vast tectonic plate beneath America’s fragile government institutions. They want to replace the United States with the United Nations, erase national borders, and create one huge, malevolent international order.

The only thing that stands in their way is — take your pick — the Second Amendment, Twitter, or Donald Trump.

Conspiracy theorists have, in fact, been warning about just such a New World Order for decades, going all the way back to the isolationist critics of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and to fears about the United Nations in the post-World War II moment. During the Cold War, the John Birch Society and fringe elements of the Republican Party nurtured just such anti-globalist sentiments, but they never made much headway in the mainstream world. As the Cold War ended, however, the anti-globalist virus began to spread again, this time more rapidly, and it’s threatening to become a pandemic.

The Agenda 21 Dystopia

On September 11, 1990, just after Saddam Hussein ordered the invasion of Kuwait and just before the reunification of Germany, George H.W. Bush spoke of a “new world order” that would unite all countries in defense of the rule of law and thwart the Iraqi autocrat’s regional ambitions. The phrase was meant as a rallying cry, not an actual plan, but that didn’t stop the president’s America First critics from reading all manner of mayhem into his speech.

The elder Bush, who had long toiled in the shadow of Ronald Reagan, was in some ways a curious target for those who feared the end of U.S. sovereignty. As recent posthumous assessments revealed, he was an early champion of states’ rights (against civil rights), supported prayer in school and the NRA, made a U-turn as a presidential candidate to oppose abortion, launched wars in Panama and the Persian Gulf, and presided over the collapse of the Soviet Union. Anti-globalists, however, focused on a different part of Bush’s résumé: he’d gone to Yale, later belonged to a wealthy elite of Texas oil barons, served as ambassador to the United Nations, and was a card-carrying member of both the Council on Foreign Relations and that most elite of global agenda-setting outfits, the Trilateral Commission.

http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176508/tomgram%3A_john_feffer%2C_the_new_world_order_is_here/

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2018 in North America

 

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The World Needs to Quit Coal. Why Is It So Hard?

Coal, the fuel that powered the industrial age, has led the planet to the brink of catastrophic climate change.

Scientists have repeatedly warned of its looming dangers, most recently on Friday, when a major scientific report issued by 13 United States government agencies warned that the damage from climate change could knock as much as 10 percent off the size of the American economy by century’s end if significant steps aren’t taken to rein in warming.

An October report from the United Nations’ scientific panel on global warming found that avoiding the worst devastation would require a radical transformation of the world economy in just a few years.

Central to that transformation: Getting out of coal, and fast.

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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The Game-Changing Promise of a Green New Deal

Like so many others, I’ve been energized by the bold moral leadership coming from newly elected members of Congress like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley in the face of the spiraling climate crisis and the outrageous attacks on unarmed migrants at the border. It has me thinking about the crucial difference between leadership that acts and leadership that talks about acting.

I’ll get to the Green New Deal and why we need to hold tight to that lifeline for all we’re worth. But before that, bear with me for a visit to the grandstanding of climate politics past.

https://theintercept.com/2018/11/27/green-new-deal-congress-climate-change/

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2018 in North America

 

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Electric food – the new sci-fi diet that could save our planet

It’s not about “them”, it’s about us. The horrific rate of biological annihilation reported this week – 60% of the Earth’s vertebrate wildlife gone since 1970 – is driven primarily by the food industry. Farming and fishing are the major causes of the collapse of both marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Meat – consumed in greater quantities by the rich than by the poor – is the strongest cause of all. We may shake our heads in horror at the clearance of forests, the drainage of wetlands, the slaughter of predators and the massacre of sharks and turtles by fishing fleets, but it is done at our behest.

As the Guardian’s recent report from Argentina reveals, the huge forests of the Gran Chaco are heading towards extermination as they are replaced by deserts of soya beans, almost all of which are used to produce animal feed, particularly for Europe. With Jair Bolsonaro in power in Brazil, deforestation in the Amazon is likely to accelerate, much of it driven by the beef lobby that helped bring him to power. The great forests of Indonesia, such as those in West Papua, are being felled and burned for oil palm at devastating speed.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/oct/31/electric-food-sci-fi-diet-planet-food-animals-environment

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2018 in Reportages

 

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The Guardian view on climate change: a global emergency

Climate change is an existential threat to the human race. This may seem an absurd or alarmist statement, since we have been conditioned by unparallelled growth to expect that there are no catastrophes that are insurmountable. Even apocalyptic science fiction deals with bands of survivors who have, by definition, survived. And we always imagine ourselves as among the survivors.

But the threat is real. The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tells us that there are only a dozen or so years in which to change our economies radically if we are to keep the effects of the warming already under way to manageable proportions. That would require the countries of the world to live up to the most ambitious of the goals of the Paris climate change agreement, and keep the rise in average global temperatures to 1.5C above preindustrial levels. A rise of even half a degree above that, to 2C, will have effects that are very much worse. Already this seems much more likely. All corals will disappear, as will many insects and plants.

The disappearance of plants, and in particular the deforestation of tropical regions, is doubly dangerous, because it converts carbon sinks (which living trees are, because they absorb carbon dioxide) into producers of carbon. That is only one of the many possible tipping points which may lead to a sudden and violent escalation of the rate of change as malign feedback loops are formed.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/oct/08/the-guardian-view-on-climate-change-a-global-emergency

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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Massive solar and wind farms could bring vegetation back to the Sahara

Switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy is an important and necessary step towards averting climate change. However, in our efforts to go green, we also need to be mindful of other consequences, both intended and unintended – and that includes how a mass deployment of renewable technology might affect its surrounding climate.

What if the Sahara desert was turned into a giant solar and wind farm, for instance? This is the topic of new research published in Science by Yan Li and colleagues. They found that all those hypothetical wind turbines and solar panels would make their immediate surroundings both warmer and rainier, and could turn parts of the Sahara green for the first time in at least 4,500 years.

https://theconversation.com/massive-solar-and-wind-farms-could-bring-vegetation-back-to-the-sahara-102745

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2018 in Africa, Reportages

 

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