The Waggle - Issue 35
Solving Plastic Pollution: Delegates from 150 countries met in Uruguay last week to discuss a treaty to halt plastic pollution, ending in a split over whether the goals should be global and mandatory or voluntary and country-led. As stated on Project Regeneration's Plastics Industry Nexus on action confronting the problem, plastic pollution ranks as the second most ominous threat to our planet behind climate change (and is interconnected with climate in that it harms wetlands and oceans, which have an essential role in carbon sequestration). This week I was encouraged by two articles detailing approaches to solving the crisis, the first from Nature magazine discussing approaches to reducing plastic use, mandating its reuse and recycling, and regulating harmful chemicals. The second piece describes recently-published research on the use of magnetic materials to remove microplastics from water. Meetings on the global plastics treaty will continue over the next two years, with the goal of crafting the world's first legally-binding agreement by the end of 2024.
Floating Offshore Wind on the Rise: The capacity of the world’s planned floating offshore wind projects has more than doubled in the past year in terms of capacity, from 91 gigawatts (GW) to 185 GW, according to a new report published by RenewableUK. Floating offshore wind refers to wind turbines that are installed on platforms attached to the ocean floor using flexible anchors or chains. This is different from conventional offshore wind projects that sit on fixed platforms on the seabed, and are limited to being built in shallow waters. Although the majority of this capacity will only be operational in a few years, it still signals progress on wind energy, which is much needed given that the world is falling short in wind capacity to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2030.
Electrified Fishing Hooks: The unintended harvest of non-target marine species—called bycatch—is a huge problem in the world's fisheries. Because of their stabilizing role as a top predator in the marine food web, shark bycatch is particularly problematic, and shark populations have declined over 70% in the past 50 years. A recent innovation in long-line fishing for tuna hopes to shock sharks out of becoming bycatch. The tech creates an electric field to repulse sharks by overwhelming the electroreceptors around sharks' snouts. It's clever stuff and reduces shark bycatch by over 90%. Yet there's an even better—if less fancy—solution to shark bycatch: eating lower on the marine food web and avoiding buying tuna in the first place. Sometimes even the most clever tech can't beat the collective impact of simple changes in our behaviors.
2022 Earthshot Prize Awards: The Earthshot Prize, launched in 2021 by Prince William and David Attenborough, is an initiative to fund innovative environmental solutions that will repair our planet this decade. The Earshot Prize is awarded to five winners annually, each of which receives £1 million to pursue their work in one of five areas: Protect and Restore Nature, Clean our Air, Revive our Oceans, Build a Waste-free World, and Fix our Climate. The 2022 awards ceremony was held in Boston on December 2nd, where the announced winners included a greenhouse-in-a-box, a clean cookstove, an Indigenous women rangers program, a plastic alternative made from seaweed, and a carbon mineralization solution that transforms atmospheric carbon to rock.
A Love Letter to Peatlands: Annie Proulx is one of the best writers on landscape in the business, and now she's putting her exquisite prose in the service of peatlands in her recently released Fen, Bog, and Swamp. By all accounts, she succeeds in revealing the beauty and importance of these relatively uncharismatic ecosystems. Looked at closely, they turn out to be home to rare plants and animals and incredibly efficient carbon stores that are in danger of becoming carbon bombs as they are drained or stricken by drought. Although she says the book isn't a call to action, her insistence on asking not what is peatlands' "utility to humanity," but what is their place in the "great scheme of life," is radical in itself.
Red Panda Revival in Nepal: An article published this week by a local Nepali newspaper highlights the role of communities in Red Panda conservation. Twin threats of poaching and habitat destruction have fragmented communities for the IUCN Red Listed species, but the Red Panda Conservation Network has been stemming the tide in Nepal. By supporting ecotourism and training local “forest guardians” in 110 different sites throughout Nepal, poaching has dropped to zero in each of their project areas over more than 1,000,000 acres. The effort is reflective of Nepal’s general success with grassroots (or in this case, bamboo shoot) conservation work. My experiences living in Nepal have opened a broader world where it is evident people deeply want to safeguard their local ecosystems. From the success of community forestry projects to Snow Leopard conservation, the Red Panda Network is part of this rising tide.
Claire Krummenacher and Kate Furby
Seeking Solutions to Climate Displacement: Conflicts driven by climate change and lack of resources are becoming more common. In northeastern Cameroon, some ranchers are being forced from their homes, not just from changing climate conditions, and lack of water but also the conflicts that are arising as a result. In villages like Bougoulou, however, residents have begun to implement climate solutions to keep their communities habitable, including erecting palm trees as barriers against sand encroachment, reinvigorating sand-damaged soil with irrigation containing manure and plant matter, and restoring farming production with solar-powered irrigation pumps. With yields already beginning to improve within a few years of implementation, the leaders of the soil resiliency project are optimistic that Bougoulou's success could revive key sources of water both in other villages and refugee camps. The nonprofit sector is also working to help bolster support. One based in New York even opened a brick-and-mortar shop dedicated to raising money and supporting those in need.
Biocredits: In advance of the crucial COP15 summit on Biodiversity taking place this week in Canada, the UN has thrown its support behind biocredits, which are tradeable credits that support conservation and the restoration of ecosystems. The idea is to create a marketplace-friendly funding mechanism for biodiversity. Here is a 25-page publication that explains them. Critics, however, point out that biocredits suffer the same shortcomings that hinder the carbon offset marketplace, including verification and a lack of effective results, and could be used by corporations to greenwash their credentials. Supporters argue that something is needed to break the logjam over funding for biodiversity projects. Here is a webinar on the topic. Either way, biocredits are on the move!
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