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The Waggle

Issue 65

Project Regeneration
Wistman's Wood is an oakwood forest on Dartmoor in Devon, England.

Wistman's Wood is an oakwood forest on Dartmoor in Devon, England. 

Adam Burton / Alamy Stock Photo

 Bringing Back Britain's Lost Rainforests  • George Biesmans

Britain isn’t the first place that comes to mind when thinking about rainforests. Yet temperate rainforests once covered large areas of the British Isles, with only scattered pockets of these ecosystems now remaining. That’s set to change, with work beginning on restoring vast swathes of rainforest in places including Devon, Wales, and the Isle of Mann. These projects are part of wider efforts to bring back these unique habitats, spearheaded by the Lost Rainforests of Britain campaign. In a major milestone for campaigners, in 2023, the UK government launched a temperate rainforest strategy, including funding for research and restoration and a push for local governments to include temperate rainforests in their conservation approach. These ecosystems - like Wistman’s Wood - are home to a dazzling diversity of life, including a critically endangered kind of Horsehair Lichen found nowhere else on Earth. Characterized by heavy rainfall and high moisture levels, they are also perfect habitats for rare ferns, mosses, and wildlife, including pine martens and pied fly-catchers. The regeneration of Britain’s rainforests will also benefit local communities, purifying the air and water and reconnecting people to nature. Check out Guy Shrubsole’s book, The Lost Rainforests of Britain, to discover more and support the campaign.

 Clinicians, Community Organizing, and Climate  • Amy Boyer

Climate change is a public health issue, affecting everything from heat-related diseases to medicine supply shortages and the ability of hospitals to provide care during extreme weather events. These impacts fall disproportionately on low-income people of color. What's a doctor to do? The Center for Health Equity Education and Advocacy at Cambridge Health Alliance says "organize" and backs it up with a seven-month course on community organizing for structural change. They reason that clinicians are among the most trusted messengers on the climate crisis and that mobilizing communities makes them effective change agents. Clinicians who participated felt better prepared to help their patients build resilience and have taken on important projects, including transitioning away from a harmful greenhouse-gas anesthetic and helping an urban neighborhood solve flooding problems. A beneficial side effect: the clinicians built community amongst themselves, potentially reducing burnout.

 Exposing Soil Fungi to Sound Waves  • Scott Hannan

The phialides and conidia of Trichoderma harzianum. 
Scientists at Flinders University in Australia have been experimenting with the effects of exposing soil fungi to specific sound frequencies with encouraging results. The study, “Sonic Restoration: Acoustic stimulation enhances soil fungal biomass and activity of plant growth-promoting fungi”, reported a five-fold increase in the growth rate of fungi exposed to an 8 kHz frequency at 80 decibels. As an estimated 75 percent of the world's soils are degraded to some degree, the researchers have expressed hope that these findings will have significant implications for accelerated soil and plant regeneration. The findings also have the potential to enhance mycoremediation projects, helping to sequester soil contaminants or break down and compost toxic pollution in the soil. Understanding the importance of sound in healthy ecosystems is the focus of the emerging science of Ecoacoustics. As a discipline, Ecoacoustics endeavors to create helpful sonic interventions, receiving feedback about the state of the natural world through deep listening. This work to acknowledge and understand the crucial role of the sonic environment fosters our respect for the true complexity of the natural world, expanding our vision around the vast interconnections in nature. For more on fungi and their role in soil health, see our Fungi Nexus.

 Biden Halts Gas Export Permits  • Juliana Birnbaum

Acknowledging the gravity of the climate emergency, the Biden administration recently froze approvals for new liquid natural gas (LNG) export terminals, a hard-won victory for climate and environmental justice activists. The election-year decision followed a substantial mobilization to pressure the U.S. government on the phaseout of fossil fuels and appeared to recognize the value of the youth-led climate movement to Biden’s voter base. The pause will allow the Department of Energy to review the environmental and economic impacts of LNG development, affecting about a dozen proposed terminals, mainly in Louisiana and Texas. While that may not sound all that significant, officials estimated the planned terminals could create 3.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases yearly – approximately the equivalent of the European Union’s annual emissions. And there are devastating health consequences for the primarily Black residents living close to these pollution-spewing hubs. One stretch along the Mississippi River where communities are interspersed with around 200 fossil fuel and petrochemical plants has been nicknamed “Cancer Alley.” Environmentalist Bill McKibben called the announcement “the biggest check any president has ever applied to the fossil fuel industry and the strongest move against dirty energy in American history.”

 The Big Benefits of a New Food System  • Courtney White

Yam and cassava market at the market in Sawla in the Savannah Region of central Ghana, West Africa.
A major analysis of global food policy released last week concluded that a regenerative food system could create up to $10 trillion of benefits a year, improve human health, and help the climate crisis. The study was the first ever to quantitatively compare the costs of inaction versus transformation. Current food policies are causing widespread damage to human health and ecosystems. Changes include policies that would encourage less meat production and boost locally-grown food. The cost of food would likely rise, which might make the policies unpopular, but maintaining our current policies is untenable. One of the study's authors, Johan Rockström, said: “The global food system holds the future of humanity in its hand.” A recent article in the NY Times described how this transformation might get a boost from the U.S. State Department. Cary Fowler, the global envoy for food security, is directing American policy in Africa away from its conventional support for western grain crops and toward traditional foods such as cassava and millet. “These crops have been grown for thousands of years,” Fowler pointed out. “They’re embedded in the culture. They really supply nutrition.” There is a particular focus on plant and seed diversity with an eye on drought tolerance and nutrition– crops such as fonio, cowpeas, and sweet potato. See our Perennial Crops Nexus for more information.

Take Action on Nexus
Learn how to support the development of hemp plants and products to restore soils, sequester carbon, provide food and fiber, and sustain local economies in our Hemp Nexus.

Photo Credits
1. Adam Burton / Alamy Stock Photo
2. Courtesy of The University of Adelaide
2. Image Professionals GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

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