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The Waggle

Issue 69

Project Regeneration
Great bustard (Otis tarda) males fighting on Salisbury Plain, UK.

Great bustard (Otis tarda) males fighting on Salisbury Plain, UK.

Nature Picture Library / Alamy Stock Photo

 Farming Nature • Courtney White

A transformation is starting on a 2800-acre plot in southern England this spring as the family-owned farm gears up to become the largest grassland rewilding project in the region. The goal of the “Pertwood Plain” initiative is to restore declining plant, insect, and animal species, including cuckoos, grasshopper warblers, turtle doves, as well as the formerly abundant great bustard and red-backed shrike, now highly endangered. Pertwood is one of England's oldest organic farm operations but has struggled to remain profitable with the rising temperatures of climate change. To embrace a new future, the farm’s owners turned to Restore, a UK-based consulting company specializing in landscape-scale ecological restoration. Together, they devised a plan to rewild the property by ‘farming’ its grasslands for wildlife, including free-roaming pigs and cattle. Tamara Webster, the farm manager, says their plan will “deliver environmental restoration, truly sustainable food production, and achieve financial stability and profitability.” The project follows in the footsteps of other rewilding efforts in the UK and Europe, including the pioneering work of Isabella Tree and the Knepp Estate in West Sussex. Projects are partially supported by taxpayers and partially by emerging carbon markets. A list of rewilding projects in Britain and Europe demonstrates how vibrant the movement has become. See Rewilding Nexus for more information. 

 For Future Generations George Biesmans

What if we fundamentally embedded future generations into decisions at the highest level of international policy-making? That’s a question that governments at this year’s United Nations Summit for the Future will consider as they deliberate establishing a Special Envoy for Future Generations. The historic assembly is being called a once-in-a-generation opportunity to regenerate the UN, an international system “woefully inadequate for the interlocking and complex economic, ecological, and security emergencies of our time.” A high-level international office dedicated to advocating for future generations would set an important precedent. But what if these efforts went further still, taking inspiration from First Nation wisdom traditions such as the Haudenosaunee Seventh Generation Principle, where decisions hold the next seven generations in mind? In the UK, the Welsh Government created a Commissioner for Future Generations and enacted the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, enshrining intergenerational decision-making into law. What if more countries followed suit and made future generations the central organizing principle of government? In his podcast From What If to What Next, Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Movement, delves further into this question.

 Biochar is Heating Up  Amy Boyer

Usoshi Chatterjee holding poultry-waste derived biochar. 

Biochar, or biological charcoal made from heating organic material in low-oxygen conditions, is a promising way to store carbon in soil. According to an Inside Climate News report this week, it’s becoming one of the most popular ways to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Microsoft recently signed an agreement to buy 95,000 tons of carbon removal credits generated by a new biochar production facility in Mexico. In the carbon removal credit marketplace last year, 93 percent of the sequestered carbon came from biochar. Since it can come from any organic material, it can reduce fire risk when made from thinning forest overgrowth, such as "doghair stands" of crowded immature trees. It can be part of closed-loop cycles for agricultural waste such as manure and straw. Using charcoal to improve soil originated with indigenous people in the Amazon Basin approximately 2500 years ago, and it can be highly stable when buried, lasting centuries in the ground. Its benefits to soil are many: enhancing fertility, removing contaminants, and increasing water-holding capacity to protect against drought and flooding. Biochar is even being used in livestock feed to improve animal health. Durable carbon removal is crucial to combat climate change, and demand is currently much greater than supply. With growth, questions have arisen about its long-term effect. However, this Australian farmer is bullish on the numerous ways it helps his farm, and with thousands of research articles on it, the pros, cons, and best practices are becoming more evident. See Biochar Nexus.

 Swedish Citizens' Climate Assembly Juliana Birnbaum

Watch the expert keynotes and interviews from Sweden's first-ever Citizen's Assembly on Climate. (2h 53m)
Meeting for the first time in Stockholm last month after being chosen by a lottery algorithm, sixty delegates to Sweden’s first citizens' assembly on climate change discussed pathways to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. Participants aged 17 to 80 came together from across the country and discussed topics ranging from transportation to indigenous perspectives to the role of the private sector. They did workshop sessions in smaller groups and had opportunities to reflect on their role in the process. They will meet several more times in person and online to formulate detailed recommendations for policymakers. In May, delegates vote on a final proposal, intending to come up with an array of solution pathways through a democratic process. Similar national assemblies have taken place in Denmark, France, Germany, Spain, Austria, and the UK, involving everyday citizens in climate response in an inclusive and egalitarian way. Critics of the process warn against a “simplified and celebratory commentary” and too much orientation toward consensus, arguing that such assemblies should accept a certain amount of difference and allow themselves to be “animated by disagreement.” Somewhere on that spectrum, these assemblies can enrich and nuance the public debate on climate issues in Sweden and beyond, encouraging informed political engagement and meaningful action.

 Walmart to add 1 GW of Clean Energy  • Scott Hannan

On a path to run on 100% clean energy by 2035, Walmart announced it would engage in a series of investments and purchase agreements leading to the generation of approximately 1 gigawatt of power, enough to supply about 750,000 homes. Notably, their commitment goes beyond providing their stores and warehouses with clean energy and includes investments in 26 community solar and distributed generation projects developed by Pivot Energy and Reactivate. These initiatives are estimated to support community solar subscriptions for approximately 13,000 households in six states and allow $8 million in energy bill savings for participating households and businesses, three-quarters within low to moderate-income areas. The announcement also included Walmart’s plan to engage in long-term renewable power purchase agreements, guaranteeing it will buy from utilities that provide clean energy to underserved communities in Louisiana, Texas, and Michigan.

 Reef Stars Restore Coral • Claire Inciong Krummenacher

See the Mars Assisted Reef Restoration System (MARRS) in action. (3 min.)
The Spermonde Archipelago in Sulawesi, Indonesia, contained some of the most diverse coral reefs in the world until dynamite fishing decimated them in the 1990s, leaving behind loose rubble that coral struggled to attach to on their own. But beginning in 2018, a coalition of scholars, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and local communities collaborated to develop the reef star (built by strapping coral fragments harvested from nearby healthy reefs to a six-legged steel spider covered in sand) as part of the Mars Coral Reef Restoration Program, which deployed the stars across dozens of sites. This week, the first studies on the project’s effectiveness found that the protection and stability the webs provided to the coral transplants enabled the coral fragments to grow into colonies within a year and achieve a growth rate identical to that of undamaged coral nearby within a mere four years. Given the Mars program’s success, they’re now launching an effort to adapt the approach for Australia’s reefs while emphasizing partnerships with local communities and universities, which are involved in the process from the reef stars’ construction to monitoring of the restoration sites. To learn more, see Coral Reefs Nexus.

Take Action on Nexus
Find out how to protect existing forests and allow degraded forests to recover and mature to their full potential as a critical solution for carbon sequestration and biodiversity loss in our Proforestation Nexus

Photo Credits
1. Nature Picture Library / Alamy Stock Photo
Edwin Remsberg / VWPics / Alamy Stock Photo

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