Australia has been making waves in the environmental newsfeed this past year with some fantastic headlines: its energy sector powered 70% of the country’s homes using only renewable sources, a huge permaculture farm fed dozens and dozens of families with only organic produce, and even without human help, a supposedly extinct species of insectivore suddenly showed up. But this Sunday, Australia made just about its biggest wave yet.
Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull pledged more than 500 million Australian dollars for the protection of the Great Barrier Reef — the greatest single investment that this reef or any other coral ecosystem in the world has ever received.
[T]he Great Barrier Reef Foundation, a national non-profit . . . will use the money to counter water pollution, combat coral-eating starfish, increase public awareness, boost reef monitoring, and improve the environmental impact of surrounding businesses . . . The funds will also be used to expand reef restoration efforts, including trialling new techniques that can breed corals resistant to high temperatures and light stress.
For a while now, the Great Barrier Reef, which hosts about 400 types of coral and 1,500 species of fish, is known to be in great danger. Its damage — including coral bleaching and ocean acidification — can be traced to climate change as a consequence of burning fossil fuels, harmful coastal development, and continuous fishing despite the already-present negative effects. A 2016 study even said that more than 90% of the reef has already been affected by coral bleaching.
However, Australia’s environment and energy minister, Josh Frydenberg, is confident that “the right plan and the right investment” will help secure what he describes as a “remarkably resistant” reef . . . “The more we understand about the reef, the better we can protect it . . . Millions of dollars will go into science and to better data management and to be able to test the impacts on the reef.”
Of course, we must inevitably mull over the damage humans have caused the beautiful coral ecosystem in the past decades, but it seems to have been resilient in maintaining itself and in forgiving us. Perhaps the millions of dollars pledged to its protection can finally help us start to make up for the damage and deserve its forgiveness. I honestly can’t help but hope it’s better late than never for us and the Great Barrier Reef.
Some animals, such as wild tigers in Kazakhstan, are making a comeback thanks to environmental groups. However, others, like the humble sea turtle, are escaping extinction all on their own.
Massive efforts to save the egg-laying turtles by changing fishing nets and creating protected and darkened beaches are working, said . . . Antonios Mazaris, an ecology professor at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece.
“There’s a positive sign at the end of the story,” Mazaris said. “We should be more optimistic about our efforts in society.”
Before, endangered giant turtles had a difficult time with their survival due to hunting, fishing, habitat destruction, and pollution, among other things. In fact, only one of seven sea turtle species isn’t endangered. Mazaris recently found that of 299 sets of turtle populations, 95 increased. That’s serious cause for some… shell-ebration.
“Sea turtles are bellwethers. They’re flagships that we use to tell the story of what’s going on in the oceans… And that’s why people should care about turtles.”
Thanks to new fishing practices and allocated nesting hubs, the population of previously endangered giant turtles now increase by 10 – 15% annually. The Ridley sea turtle species had formerly seen a drop of roughly 38,000, and this initial devastation of turtle populations may have been our own doing. However, our awareness and action are also partially to thank now.
Penguins are adorable, and that isn’t ever up for debate. Even political bodies such as the Chilean government would agree. Ultimately, they did snub a billion-dollar mining project to save the flightless birds. However, populations are on the rocky side — or so we thought. Cruising over the Antarctic Peninsula, NASA satellites captured a 1.5 million fleet of penguins.
“The sheer size of what we were looking at took our breath away,” [said] co-author Heather Lynch, Ph.D… “We thought, ‘Wow! If what we’re seeing is true, these are going to be some of the largest Adélie penguin colonies in the world, and it’s going to be well worth our while sending in an expedition to count them properly.”
Drones captured roughly 751,527 pairs of Adélie penguins, which isn’t even the most NASA has ever tallied. It’s only the third or fourth. In the last 60 years, sea ice levels and concentrations caused population drops. Apparently, the feisty fledglings are adapting.
“The size of these colonies makes them regionally important and makes the case for expanding the proposed Weddell Sea Marine Protected Area to include the Danger Islands,” [said] co-author Michael Polito, Ph.D.
What’s that I hear? A lot of happy feet stomping on cool ice up in Antarctica!
To salvage the remnants of Mother Nature, activist groups, along with government agencies, are erecting new national parks. So far, protected areas in Chile have emerged, with Peru scrambling to assemble Yaguas National Park. The area remains one of the most intact forests on the planet.
More than 1,000 people… live along a 125-mile stretch of the Yaguas and Putumayo rivers. To them, this place is “sachamama,” a Quechua word roughly meaning “mother jungle,” the sacred heart of the area that produces the flora and fauna on which the groups depend.
Realizing the current impact of climate change, Peru is teaming up with South American countries such as Ecuador and Colombia. Together, the environmental superpowers are contending to fulfill the Paris climate agreement.
“For now, Yaguas is safe, but in the 20 years I’ve been working in the Amazon, I’ve learned the hard way that today’s remoteness is tomorrow’s access,” said Gregory Asner, an ecologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science.
In the end, it’s we who lose when we neglect the planet. After all, the Earth won’t combust–it’ll just pick us off.
Across the globe, busts against wildlife smugglers have been more copious than nature can handle. Though species such as the crest-tailed mulgara have made epic and unexpected comebacks, it isn’t the case for most. Hoping to kill two birds with one stone, Greenpeace is shutting down climate change and poaching with a wildlife reserve in Antarctica.
Will McCallum, of Greenpeace’s new Protect the Antarctic campaign, said: “The next few years are absolutely essential for the future of our oceans and we are in desperate need for governments to come together and do what is best for these amazing ecosystems.”
As city dwellers, we often remain oblivious to the consequences of melting ice caps and hits to the food chain. Nonetheless, there is much value in keeping our polar wonderland’s seals, penguins, and whales afloat.
“This will bring huge benefits in protecting this amazing ecosystem, in preserving the biodiversity and ecosystem functions of the ocean and in the wider fight against climate change.”
The reserve will cover 1.8m square kilometers of the Weddell Sea and Antarctic Peninsula. Not only will the eventual rise in fish populations excite seafood lovers — the world may not go down sinking after all.
Succeeding its “wall of trees” stint, China is finally shifting its anti-climate change efforts into third gear. It may not compare to New Zealand’s tree-planting endeavors, but the ambitious eco-warrior is coming close. Hoping to up its environmental ante, the country is reforesting an area roughly the size of Ireland. That’s 6.6 million hectares!
“Companies, organisations and talent that specialise in greening work are all welcome to join in the country’s massive greening campaign,” [head of the State Forestry Administration Zhang Jianlong] said. “Cooperation between government and social capital will be put on the priority list.”
With 21.7 percent of China covered in forest, its environmental sector hopes to expand to 23 percent by 2020. Dubbed the world’s most polluted nation, China is hoping to alleviate the need for “clean air” jars with amore eco-conscious inclinations. Tree planting? It’s a good start.
This year the new forest areas will be built in the northeast Hebei province, Qinghai province in the Tibetan Plateau, and in the Hunshandake Desert in Inner Mongolia, an autonomous region in the north.
So far, the government has shelled out $61 billion on reforesting efforts. Considering trees can save a single city $500 million a year, the forbidden land may just break even.
Though global efforts to counter climate change have been plentiful, greed remains on top of the food chain. Man has exploited nature to no end. While the earth is slowly recovering, not every starfish will save itself. Of the nations participating in oil explorations, little Belize has had enough. As the Trump administration opens more waters to drilling, Belize is placing a moratorium on its own.
“Belize is a small country making a mighty commitment to putting the environment first,” says Nadia Bood, a reef scientist with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
The developing country produces some 3,000 barrels of profitable oil per day, but its people know better. Despite a gleaming export income, the nation-that-could believes more in the value of its coral reefs.
“Ending oil activities will encourage other countries to follow suit and take the urgent action that is needed to protect our planet’s oceans,” says Chris Gee, a campaigner at WWF.
With a $200 million annual tourism cut that supports 190,000 livelihoods, banning excavations may not be a misstep after all.
Despite the looming controversies surrounding climate change, it hasn’t all been bad news for nature. Bans on hunting and the ability to help endangered species remotely have rehabilitated certain populations. One lucky animal is seeing a small but meaningful comeback in Scotland — it’s the polar bear!
The mother bear, Victoria, is one of three adult polar bears at the Highland Wildlife Park at Kincraig, near Aviemore.
The last polar bear cubs born in the UK were twins at Flamingo Land in Yorkshire on 8 December 1992.
Due to the high mortality rates of polar bear cubs, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland is treading carefully. The wildlife park has since closed Victoria’s compound to the public and limited keeper interaction. Still, though far superior to most others, its zoo-like qualities remain a concern.
“We contend that our efforts on behalf of this species should be focused on mitigating the impacts of human-induced climate change and securing the species in the wild…” [said Born Free president Will Travers.]
Nevertheless, the park remains hopeful. I would, too, after a 25-year dry-spell!
You can never go wrong with tree-planting. It is popular in India, where natives planted 66 million seedlings in record time. In Burma, engineering groups are using drones to restore forests. However, tree-planting in the Gobi desert is addressing a more urgent matter — desertification. In order to address erosion and degradation, the Chinese government is working on building a giant wall of trees, otherwise known as the Green Great Wall.
By 2050, the government intends to plant 88 million acres of forests in a belt nearly 3,000 miles long and up to 900 miles wide in places.
As a country swallowed by deserts and that is oddly skilled in wall-building, the project makes sense. Over the years, it has stabilized deserts and reduced the frequency of sandstorms. However, it has faced backlash. Most of the trees are planted in areas they don’t grow naturally and eventually die out. Thousands of farmers have been forced off their land to make way for trees.
“Combating sand is the [government’s] project, so it has deep political meaning. There are bureaucrats in every province and county. They get a lot of money for planting trees.”
There is no denying that the scheme is problematic, despite being well-intentioned. While a Green Great Wall may seem the easiest solution, perhaps we ought to be smarter about where we plant our trees.
Climate change is a force to be reckoned with. With the help of technology such as the carbon calculator, we can much more easily reduce our damaging footprints. However, for some communities, the change is too gradual, and acting quickly is a much preferred option. This is why Los Angeles is painting its streets white — to combat urban warming.
15 streets were covered with this asphalt-based paint-like substance to cool down the streets by about 11-13 degrees Fahrenheit and therefore cools down the buildings around them.
In sunny California, road surface temperatures can boast a whopping 130 – 140 degrees. Being able to fry an egg on the road is no longer just a myth. In fact, it’s the perfect temperature — but not for bare feet.
It might not seem like a lot, but… if 35% of LA’s streets were covered with a reflective surface like this, it would translate into a 1-degree drop in temperature throughout the city.
1 degree may seem insignificant, but it’s enough to save $100 million in energy spending. It’s a small but practical fix. Not to mention the roads are looking and feeling a lot cooler.