Kiss the Amazon Goodbye?

Robert Hunziker

Countercurrents | September 10, 2022

The ecosystems of the world that support life like Brazil’s Amazon rainforest have an incompatible relationship with far right governments, like the United States under Trump, who took a baseball bat to the EPA.  According to Christine Todd Whitman, who headed EPA under George W. Bush: “I’ve never seen such an orchestrated war on the environment or science.” (How Trump Damaged Science – Why It Could Take Decades To Recover, Nature, Oct. 5, 2020)

As devastating as Trump (4 more years?) was for the environment, President Jair Bolsonaro’s MBGA or Make Brazil Great Again has one-upped Trump. He’s single-handedly destroying the world’s largest rainforest. It may be the single most important ecosystem for the survival of Homo sapiens. As such, with such a big important target to ravage, Bolsonaro’s making Trump look weak.

Read More »

Ocean ‘garbage patch’ is filled with fishing gear from just a few places

The bulk of large plastic bits in the North Pacific garbage patch have been lost or discarded by fishing vessels.

Freda Kreier

Nature | September 01, 2022

A crate with Japanese text on it was among the plastic debris collected by researchers studying the North Pacific garbage patch.Credit: The Ocean Cleanup

Fishing gear from just five regions could account for most of the floating plastic debris in the ‘North Pacific garbage patch’, a vast swathe of the North Pacific Ocean that holds tens of thousands of tonnes of plastic.

A study published on 1 September in Scientific Reports1 found that up to 86% of the large pieces of floating plastic in the garbage patch are items that were abandoned, lost or discarded by fishing vessels. The finding is counter-intuitive, given that most marine plastic makes its way into the ocean through rivers.

Read More »

Cities embrace their water — and build resilience

Briony Rogers helps cities to connect to their environment to better survive drought and storm surges.

Nature | August 17, 2022

An infiltration basin at the White Gum Valley development in Perth, Australia, manages stormwater runoff and provides shade.Credit: The Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive CIties

“When we think about making decisions on how we shape our cities, that deep connection and stewardship of water is really important,” says Briony Rogers, a civil engineer at the Monash Sustainable Development Institute and director of MSDI Water, the institute’s water research hub in Melbourne, Australia.

Rogers’ work on ‘water-sensitive’ cities brings together her interest in applying civil engineering to shape the environment humans live in, and her love of the beaches and forests that surround her in Melbourne.

That interest began when she worked as a water engineer at a design infrastructure company and realized that, to create truly sustainable infrastructure, principles of sustainability needed to be incorporated from the very start of the design process.

Read More »

UN General Assembly declares access to clean and healthy environment a universal human right

Countercurrents | July 29, 2022

With 161 votes in favour, and eight abstentions*, the UN General Assembly adopted a historic resolution on Thursday, declaring access to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, a universal human right.

The resolution, based on a similar text adopted last year by the Human Rights Council, calls upon States, international organisations, and business enterprises to scale up efforts to ensure a healthy environment for all.

The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, welcomed the ‘historic’ decision and said the landmark development demonstrates that Member States can come together in the collective fight against the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.

“The resolution will help reduce environmental injustices, close protection gaps and empower people, especially those that are in vulnerable situations, including environmental human rights defenders, children, youth, women and indigenous peoples”, he said in a statement released by his Spokesperson’s Office.

Read More »

Beyond Greenwashing: The Hollow Foundations Of Ethical Capital

Claire Parfitt

Progress in Political Economy | July 21, 2022

The explosion of ESG investing

ESG investment funds, which claim to invest according to environmental, social and governance criteria, grew to almost US$3 trillion in 2021.  With a 53% increase since 2020, this made ESG the fastest growing sector of the asset management industry.

The rapid flow of funds into ESG investments has led to many demands from investors and the financial press for reliable accounting information. There is enormous variability in valuations of stocks and indices according to ESG criteria, and even a fundamental confusion about what ESG investing is.

Read More »

How different COVID-19 recovery paths affect human health, environmental sustainability, and food affordability: a modelling study

Juliette Maire, PhD; Aimen Sattar, MPhil; Roslyn Henry, PhD; Frances Warren, PhD; Magnus Merkle, MSc; Prof Mark Rounsevell, PhD; and Peter Alexander, PhD

The Lancet | Open Access | Published: July, 2022 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S2542-5196(22)00144-9

Summary
Background
The COVID-19 pandemic arrived at a time of faltering global poverty reduction and increasing levels of diet-related diseases, both of which have a strong link to poor outcomes for those with COVID-19. Governments responded to the pandemic by placing unprecedented restrictions on internal and external movements, which have resulted in an economic contraction. In response to the economic shock, G20 governments have committed to providing US$14 trillion stimuli to support economic recovery. We aimed to assess the impact of different COVID-19 recovery paths on human health, environmental sustainability, and food sustainability.

Read More »

Wildfires Ravage Spain, France, Portugal As Heatwave Kills Hundreds In West Europe

Countercurrents | July 17, 2022

Wildfires ravaged parts of Spain, France and Portugal Friday in the blistering heat, burning forests and prompting widespread evacuations. The ongoing heatwave has already claimed hundreds of lives in the west European countries. There is a spike in heat wave-related casualties in Western Europe.

On Saturday, La Vanguardia reported that there were more than 360 deaths in Spain caused by the unbelievable heatwaves, and in Portugal, 238 deaths were recorded between July 7 and July 13.

France is currently on high alert for severe weather this weekend into next week.

Italy, Greece, Morocco and the UK are also bracing for extreme weather — including fire warnings — attributed to this week’s heatwaves.

About 14,000 people have been forced to flee France’s south-western Gironde region due to dozens of wildfires that have spread across Portugal and Spain. The fires have been attributed to soaring temperatures not seen since 1757 across Europe.

Read More »

Transporting food generates whopping amounts of carbon dioxide

Moving fruit and vegetables in refrigerated vehicles is particularly emissions-intensive.

Freda Kreier

Nature | July 01, 2022

Domestic and international transport of food accounts for a large proportion of food-system emissions.Credit: Camilo Freedman/SOPA/LightRocket/Getty

Transporting ingredients and food products accounts for nearly one-fifth of all carbon emissions in the food system — a much bigger slice of the emissions pie than previously thought, according to the first comprehensive estimate of the industry’s global carbon footprint1.

Clearing land for farming, raising livestock and moving food to and from shops adds a large amount of greenhouse gas to the atmosphere. The United Nations estimates that growing, processing and packaging food accounts for one-third of all greenhouse-gas emissions. This has led to an explosion of studies looking into how food systems impact the climate, from causing damaging land-use changes to releasing greenhouse gases, says Jason Hill, an environmental scientist at the University of Minnesota in St Paul.

Read More »

Stockholm syndrome: What should ‘+50’ be about

The 50th anniversary celebration of the Stockholm conference should be about our common future, not the divisions of the past

Sunita Narain

Down To Earth | June 01, 2022

The Stockholm conference on the human environment marked the initiation of global consciousness on sustainability. It brought the world together to discuss the big issues of growth and environmental management.

This was the time when Rachel Carson, through her seminal book Silent Spring, had told the story of poisoning of nature. It was also the time when the industrialised West was battling against pollution and toxification.

Our colleague Anil Agarwal, who was at the conference in 1972, often recalled how Stockholm’s lakes were so contaminated with chemicals that you could develop a film negative in the water.

This conference was about the fallout of industrialisation and how to cope and mitigate its harmful impacts.

Read More »

Environment and war today

Farooque Chowdhury

Countercurrents | June 05, 2022

War environs environment.

War destructs and demolishes life, all forms of environment. It’s war’s powerful approach to contradictions within and with environment surrounding life. Wars including the current Ukraine War bear this signature of destruction of and on environment and ecology. The first victim is life; and, then comes surroundings of life that help sustain life. Activities to secure, nourish and sustain environment are hampered/suspended during war, and in war zones also.

Military activities, preparatory to war including training/drills/exercises, itself is threat to environment and ecology. Military/war expenditure is in direct and hostile contradiction with environment and ecology. The expenditure takes away a lot of resources, which can be allocated for life, steps to nourish and secure environment and ecology. The sphere of destruction of environment and ecology widens as the sphere of war widens. Today’s Ukraine is the witness. Iraq and Afghanistan, Yugoslavia and Vietnam are witnesses. Hiroshima and Nagasaki stand as witnesses.

Read More »