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The Waggle

Issue 74

Project Regeneration

 Flamingos Returning to Florida  Scott Hannan

After decades of dwindling numbers due to habitat degradation and poaching in the southern portion of Florida’s Everglades National Park, the native flamingo population is returning and thriving once again. The flamingo renaissance is due in large part to the conservation and restoration efforts of the National Park Service, which worked for over 20 years to restore water flow under the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP)-- among the world’s largest collective ecosystem restoration projects. As little as fifteen years ago, there were only six or seven flamingo sightings a year.  This year, there were hundreds of sightings in just a few days at the beginning of their migratory return. This coincides with the Guy Bradley Visitor Center reopening in the park, named after a conservation officer who died protecting the flamingos from poachers in 1905.

 Global Emissions in Decline Juliana Birnbaum

A collage of an industrial factory and a forested landscape. 
The world reached a monumental tipping point in the past year, and this one is good! According to new data estimates from BloombergNEF, global carbon dioxide emissions are starting to fall for the first time since the start of the Industrial Revolution. The data aligns with projections made by Climate Analytics last November that 2023 was the year of peak emissions, led by the explosive growth of renewable energy capacity. While forecasting emissions is not an exact science, the fact that humans are finally reducing the production of greenhouse gases is certainly worth celebrating. However, the decline will not be a rapid one– even if combating climate change were a top priority of every nation and corporation (which it isn’t), it would take at least two decades to fully transition to net zero emissions. The BloombergNEF report lays out a spectrum of scenarios. The most optimistic is that the world will reach net zero by 2050 with extraordinary decarbonization efforts, resulting in a temperature rise of 1.75 degrees above preindustrial levels. The other end has emissions falling by just 27 percent by mid-century, resulting in a 2.6-degree increase and accompanying extreme weather and sea level rise. Which direction we go depends on many factors, but the faster we can implement a wide range of solutions, the better chance we have of averting the worst consequences of climate change.

 Seattle Celebrates World Environment Day • Anna Steltenkamp

Two massive pieces of artwork now grace a revitalized Seattle waterfront in celebration of World Environment Day and of the City of Seattle as a “role model city” selected by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). (1 min.)
In celebration of World Environment Day, the city of Seattle, Washington, unveiled the largest exterior mural in North America to honor its designation as the only US “Role Model City” for urban restoration by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). It is the latest in a global series produced by Street Art for Mankind to visually spotlight the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. After the morning unveiling, the celebrations continued with a community event hosted by the Society for Ecological Restoration Northwest Chapter, UNEP, and the Green Seattle Partnership, a collaboration of private and public bodies that actively restore and maintain the City’s forested parklands. This multigenerational gathering invited young community leaders to share and connect about their work as restoration practitioners, illuminating the many opportunities for youth stewardship of urban natural spaces. At a time when 76% of Gen Z consider climate change to be one of their biggest concerns and more than half say they believe humanity is doomed, informing young people about ways to make a difference as a collective community is key for their agency activation. Plus, bio-regional placemaking and social ties are proven to be important factors for climate change action. Community engagement invites youth to become active stewards of their local landscapes, enhancing their feelings of belonging as they co-create their shared public spaces. 

 Geothermal Temp Control • Claire Inciong Krummenacher

On June 12, 2023, Eversource ceremonially broke ground on our first-of-its-kind #networkedgeothermal pilot at MassBay Community College in Framingham, MA, marking the start of construction for this unique #cleanenergy project. (1 min. 22 sec.)
This week, Framingham, Massachusetts, became home to a unique neighborhood-scale geothermal heating and cooling project following months of collaboration between climate advocates and local utility company Eversource. The project connects thirty-one residential and five commercial buildings (including Housing Authority apartments) that share the underground infrastructure needed to heat and cool them throughout New England’s unpredictable seasons. Although the project currently operates on a small neighborhood scale, Eversource received a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to expand the initial system. The utility company National Grid is developing a similar project in the nearby cities of Lowell and Dorchester. Given that Massachusetts will need to stop heating buildings with fossil fuels in order to meet its emissions reduction requirements, the success of the unlikely collaboration is a promising step given the high efficiency of clean geothermal energy. As an additional measure to help the state meet the reduction requirements, a recent bill brought to the state legislature would also change existing regulations to allow gas utilities to transition to thermal utilities. To learn more, see our Geothermal Nexus.

 Future Ancestors George Biesmans

As last week’s European elections reminded us, visions of the future based on fear, exclusion, and scarcity are alive and well. If, like me, you long for an antidote to these dystopias, you might turn to the Imagine 2200: climate fiction for future ancestors writing contest. It invites people everywhere to craft short stories that imagine “futures of abundance, adaptation, reform, and hope.” The goal is not to shy away from our existential challenges - these futures aren’t utopias. It is to offer a “canvas to our imagination” (in the words of Henry David Thoreau). One winning entry from a previous contest is an illustrated story set two hundred years from now about the sacrifice of the last almond farm in California to create levees to deal with now-frequent atmospheric rivers and floods. Another told of the end of “The Great Drying” through the eyes of a people who built towers high into the clouds to escape the heat. A third story is set long after the end of the Fossil Fuel Age, in which a Cherokee grandmother recounts the “Dark Decade” of the 21st century to her teenage granddaughter. Inspired by genres and movements, including Afrofuturism, Indigenous futurism, and Solarpunk, the contest “celebrates stories that offer vivid, hope-filled and diverse visions of climate progress.” Submissions for this year’s contest close on June 24, 2024.

 Healthier Sustainable Chocolate • Hugo Paquin

Close-up of three African farmers showing their cocoa pods cut open.
Scientists from ETH Zurich have discovered a new chocolate recipe that fully utilizes the cocoa fruit’s potential. While traditional production methods use only about 10% of the fruit, namely the beans, and pulp, this new technique innovates by adding the underutilized cocoa pod husk into the mix. The jelly produced from the endocarp (the inner layer of the fruit shell) replaces granulated sugar in a chocolate that contains 20% more fiber and 30% less saturated fat. Beyond the health benefits, the environmental and social impacts of this chocolate could be a game-changer. Globally, smallholder farmers in high-biodiversity regions produce roughly 70% of cocoa, with Ivory Coast and Ghana alone representing 60%. They have been hit hard in recent years with bad weather and disease outbreaks, which have threatened production, resulting in a historical price surge and a global chocolate crisis. Using and selling other parts of the fruit would offer a financial upside, which could be applied to better crop management and protection. It would also help get more value out of the land, which represents 70% of chocolate's environmental impacts. Learn more with our Wasting Nothing Nexus.

 A Concrete Step for Carbon Architecture  Tobias Schmitz

An introduction to Seratech's revolutionary new carbon-negative cement and concrete. (2 min.)
In early May, the startup Sublime Systems, producing innovative fossil-fuel-free cement, achieved a concrete step on the journey to more sustainable green concrete. They partnered with the Massachusetts-based WS Development on a Boston office building with a carbon footprint ninety percent below code requirements. Since cement production accounts for around eight percent of global CO2 emissions, evolution in the construction space is a huge lever to address climate change. Instead of burning fossil fuels, Sublime Systems uses electrically charged baths of chemicals and calcium silicate rocks to produce their cement. A London-based research team goes a step further, developing carbon-negative cement that employs enhanced weathering techniques. The slow geologic transformation of a mineral called olivine, found in the rocks in the Earth’s upper mantle, is accelerated. The process captures CO2, converting it into stable carbonates. The team recently launched Seratech to bring their cement to market. Ventures like those play an essential role in tackling the high emissions from conventional cement production. You can check out Nexus to learn more about Green Cement, Carbon Architecture, and the use of Enhanced Weathering in oceans to absorb carbon from the atmosphere.

Take Action on Nexus
Find out why you should reuse and recycle your clothing and buy only what you need from manufacturers who use natural fibers from regeneration sources or slow fashion practices in our Clothing Nexus.

Photo Credits
1. Nadezda Murmakova / Alamy Stock Photo
2. Media Lens King / Alamy Stock Photo
3. olga Yastremska / Alamy Stock Photo

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