During lockdown, when freedom seemed lost, the world outside opened up. Wildlife, much unseen, appeared, fleetingly at first. Tentative, cautious steps, but over time the natural world became bolder, more daring. A new kingdom, once forgotten emerged into the pure, unpolluted air.
Venetian canals run clear for the first time in 60 years In April, the world was marvelling at the images of swans, dolphins, dense shoals of fish, jellyfish and even the occasional octopus, recolonising the Venetian canals, taking advantage of humankind retreating behind close doors. It seemed that there was a silver lining to the pandemic: As one observer noted, “What a marvel this Venice was. This virus brought something….beautiful.” There were precious few reasons to be cheerful during the pandemic as the world went into lockdown, people fought for their lives in hospitals around the world and economies were paralysed but the sight of nature recolonising our empty cities was heart-warming. Wildlife needed only the smallest respite from humankind to re-establish itself. Before the Coronavirus pandemic, Venice faced serious problems including flooding, unsustainable over-tourism, the sinking of historical buildings into the water and a dwindling population. Now, this crisis is prompting authorities in the Italian port to reconsider its mass-tourism model. Up to 30 million people visited in 2018. Now, like so many other places, the city is deserted. "We've gone from one extreme to the other," explained Matteo Secchi of the Venessia Association. "Here, a few months ago, we couldn't even pass each other. Now the streets are empty." The clear water running through the canals teeming with wildlife and the empty monuments and plazas have a tranquil and intense beauty nowadays - but that comes at a very high cost for the city's economy and especially, for those who make their money from tourism. A golden opportunity for change: With colossal numbers of tourists passing through Venice every year, there is a strong movement of Venetians wanting to claim back their city. They have been long overwhelmed by visitors, many of whom arrived on vast [...]
Coal has not been used to generate power for 60 days Partly due to a collapse in demand during the Coranavirus lockdown and a greater emphasis on using solar power, the UK National Grid managed to take coal plants off the network on April 10th and to avoid bringing them back online in Britain since. Britain continues to phase it out, with two of Britain’s oldest coal-fired power stations having closed at the end of March this year, leaving just three left on the mainland. This is a major shift from 10 years ago when 40% of the nation's energy came from coal and only 3% came from renewables such as wind and solar power. In 2020, the UK has the biggest offshore wind industry in the world, with the 659MW Walney Extension the world’s biggest operational offshore wind farm to date. Located in the Irish Sea near Cumbria and covering an area equal to 20,000 football pitches, it is designed to operate for 25 years and supplies enough electricity to power 590,000 UK homes. Overall, Britain’s wind farms had a bumper quarter, with output up 40% on this time last year. The Walney Extension offshore wind farm is the largest in the world. In parallel, UK solar farms generated more than 9.6GW of electricity for the first time on April 20th, setting a new solar power record. Whilst energy sector transitions are meant to be slow, Britain’s energy sector has transformed its electricity generation mix more in the 2010s than in the previous ninety years combined. As the oil crises in the 1970s caused a switch from oil to coal, the miners' strike that followed in the 1980s, coinciding with expanding gas production in the North Sea, encouraged a switch from coal to gas in the 1990s. [...]
Operation Arch of Fire combatting illegal logging in Brazil Companies are falling over themselves to offer their customers ways of contributing to cutting carbon emissions with good intent, offering them easy, “tick-box” options at the end of their on-line purchases to participate. But are these schemes any good ? How can the consumer be assured of the benefits of the scheme they have implicitly signed up to ? A major part of the problem is that the majority of carbon offsetting projects require a long-term investment which needs to be protected for its lifetime if it is to deliver all the benefits promised when first initiated. Worldwide tree-planting schemes are an excellent example of how good intentions can go astray. An endangered Mogno tree in Brazil will have to stand for 25 years, in good health, to sequester 275 Kg of carbon dioxide. It must be protected against illegal logging, disease and land clearing, often in remote sites where the indigenous people struggle to achieve even a rudimentary standard of living. At state level, the government may be committed to the success of a reforestation scheme but local officials, militia, tribal leaders and working populations may not - corruption and basic human needs will win (almost) every time. According to Haley Dixon, writing for the Daily Telegraph, “in eastern Madagascar, in the Ankeniheny-Zahamena Corridor, an area of ecological importance known as the CAZ, do not realise that the trees they cut down to clear space for mining and agriculture, or to build their homes and fuel their stoves, have already been turned into carbon credits.” If a scheme offers clean-cook stoves to local people in India to replace the centuries-old practices of burning charcoal on open fires, how does anyone know if they use it or discard it [...]
Republished from an article by John Vidal, the Environment Editor of Ensia with permission: As habitat and biodiversity loss increase globally, the novel coronavirus outbreak may be just the beginning of mass pandemics. March 17, 2020 — Mayibout 2 is not a healthy place. The 150 or so people who live in the village, which sits on the south bank of the Ivindo River, deep in the great Minkebe forest in northern Gabon, are used to occasional bouts of diseases such as malaria, dengue, yellow fever and sleeping sickness. Mostly they shrug them off. But in January 1996, Ebola, a deadly virus then barely known to humans, unexpectedly spilled out of the forest in a wave of small epidemics. The disease killed 21 of 37 villagers who were reported to have been infected, including a number who had carried, skinned, chopped or eaten a chimpanzee from the nearby forest. I traveled to Mayibout 2 in 2004 to investigate why deadly diseases new to humans were emerging from biodiversity “hot spots” like tropical rainforests and bushmeat markets in African and Asian cities. It took a day by canoe and then many hours down degraded forest logging roads passing Baka villages and a small gold mine to reach the village. There, I found traumatized people still fearful that the deadly virus, which kills up to 90% of the people it infects, would return. Villagers told me how children had gone into the forest with dogs that had killed a chimp. They said that everyone who cooked or ate it got a terrible fever within a few hours. Some died immediately, while others were taken down the river to hospital. A few, like Nesto Bematsick, recovered. “We used to love the forest, now we fear it,” he told me. Many of Bematsick’s family members [...]
GEF says the Coronavirus was a collision between human systems and natural systems… and what we can do about it.
The Global Environment Facility's new report published on May 16th, 2020 says "The coronavirus pandemic has forced us all to confront how environmental degradation bringing wildlife and people too close together endangers economies and societies alike." "The coronavirus pandemic that has shuttered most of the world in 2020 has its roots in the environmental degradation that the Global Environment Facility and its partners are working to stop. It is increasingly clear that to manage this crisis and avert future ones, we need to understand the root cause of zoonotic diseases – namely, a collision between human systems and natural systems." "Recognizing the urgency of this moment, and the high stakes for governments and businesses who are starting to think through economic recovery plans, the GEF Secretariat has outlined a set of steps for the immediate, medium, and longer term to help address the present situation and reduce the probability of new environmental crises emerging in the foreseeable future. The response spans measures to address wildlife trading, deforestation, urban sprawl, and other pressures on ecosystems that are bringing wild animals and humans in dangerous proximity." "The response also includes efforts to support a green economic recovery consistent with sustainable and nature-based development. These steps focus on the acceleration of needed transformations to economic and social systems to reduce their conflict with nature – building on efforts already underway by the GEF-funded Good Growth Partnershipand the GEF Impact Programs on Food Systems, Land Use and Restoration; Sustainable Cities; and Sustainable Forest Management." "The planned steps include: Immediate actions: Increased focus on efforts to deal with the wildlife trade and consumption challenges. Conduct analysis on the future risks linked to emerging infectious diseases along with their root causes, including their connection with deforestation and ecosystem fragmentation. Identify risks in projects and programs that may [...]
An opportunity to “Build Back Better” after the Coronavirus pandemic HRH The Prince of Wales it to launch a “Great Reset“ project on June 1st with Klaus Schwab, the founder of the World Economic Form. A Sustainable Markets Initiative spokesman, speaking to the Daily Telegraph said “No-one could have anticipated this horrific pandemic but one unmistakable positive consequence of it is that the environmental pollution that has been so hard to slow in recent decades has virtually ground to a halt in some key areas almost overnight.” “Before industries simply return to the old ways of doing things, this group, led by the Prince and Professor Schwab, is setting out to show we have a chance to recover by doing things differently and with a lot less negative impact on the world we live in.” Since the beginning of the pandemic, Prince Charles has been working with global leaders and the WEF "to determine how Sustainable Markets can serve as a catalyst to ‘build back better’ and to create a more environmentally sustainable future". “The Prince believes that as countries and businesses around the world look to rebuild after this crisis, there is a unique but narrow window of opportunity to accelerate the sustainability agenda in a way that puts people and planet first," he added. “Today we see growing momentum around a ‘green recovery’. Speaking at Davos, Prince Charles said “The world is in the midst of a crisis”, with “global warming, climate change, and the devastating loss of biodiversity, the greatest threats humanity has ever faced”. “In order to secure our future and to prosper, we need to evolve our economic model.” “We simply cannot waste any more time – the only limit is our willingness to act, and the time to act is now.” David Shepherd 24 [...]
“When we plant trees, we plant the seeds of peace and seeds of hope. We also secure the future for our children.” ― Wangari Maathai, The Green Belt Movement: Sharing the Approach and the Experience
“Instead of finding someone to blame and expecting them to take responsibility, what we need in order to save the planet from the huge risks of climate change is a realistic plan. We must put our efforts into inventing new technologies that will enable 11 billion people to live the life that we should expect all of them to strive for. The life we are living now on Level 4, but with smarter solutions.” ― Hans Rosling, Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think
“Can Earth survive ? The simple answer is a resounding “yes.” When humans are gone, as the fossil record suggests will happen eventually, Earth will clean itself up and take on yet another new look, just as it has done many times in the past. In many ways, Earth’s existence has been tested far more dramatically in the past than by anything humans have thrown at it.” Jeremy Hsu