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Posts Tagged ‘climate change’

2048

Photo: Gemeente Zwolle
The plastic bicycle path in Zwolle, the Netherlands, is a test for building roads from plastic waste in the future.

I don’t know if it’s because, historically, they’ve had to protect their land from the encroaching sea, but the Dutch seem to be repeat innovators. This blog has covered a lot of new ideas from the Netherlands. (3-D printed houses, anyone? Wind power for trains?) Today’s post is on a possible use for discarded plastic bottles.

Daniel Boffey writes at the Guardian, “The world’s first plastic bicycle path made of recycled bottles, cups and packaging has opened in the Netherlands, as part of a pilot that could see similar roads open up across the country.

“The 30-metre path, made of recycled plastic equivalent to more than 218,000 plastic cups, is expected to be three times as durable as an asphalt alternative. It also contains sensors to monitor the road’s performance, including its temperature, the number of bikes that pass over it and its ability to cope with the traffic.

“The prefabricated sections of cycle path are light and hollow making them easy to transport and 70% quicker to install. Cables and utility pipes are able to be easily fitted inside, and the path is designed to drain off rainwater. … It is believed that many of the benefits of the paths will apply to plastic roads.

“The path’s inventors, Anne Koudstaal and Simon Jorritsma, said: ‘This first pilot is a big step towards a sustainable and future-proof road made of recycled plastic waste. When we invented the concept, we didn’t know how to build a plastic road, now we know.’

“Asphalt concrete is responsible for 1.5m tonnes of CO2 emissions a year, equivalent to 2% of global road transport emissions. …

“Earlier this year the EU [European Union] launched an urgent plan to clean up Europe’s act on plastic waste and ensure that every piece of packaging on the continent is reusable or recyclable by 2030. … Each year, 25m tonnes of plastic waste is generated by Europeans, but less than 30% is collected for recycling.”

The idea has real possibilities, but the concerns of groups hoping to end the use of plastics altogether need to be addressed. “Plastic Soup has warned that small particles of the plastic could find their way into the living environment due to heat, wear and run-off.” More at the Guardian, here.

I’m just glad people are trying to find solutions to some of the damage that human activity has done to the planet. The issues are in the news right now as both great powers and small, climate-impacted countries are meeting in Katowice, Poland, to improve on the Paris Agreement.

By the way, if you are on twitter, do follow Sweden’s 15-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg), who is speaking truth to power in Poland: “I will not beg the world leaders to care for our future. I will instead let them know change is coming whether they like it or not.” I just read that Venice is likely to succumb of sea-level rise. Greta’s urgency is warranted. Young people give me hope.

And read a wonderful, inspiring book by former president of Ireland Mary Robinson called Climate Justice, which connects human rights and poverty to the effects of global warming and offers hope in the shape of brave, ordinary people.

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Photo: Smithsonian
A surfeit of carbon in the oceans is destroying coral reefs, home to a wide variety of marine life. But a few reefs may offer lessons for survival.

Earlier this month, I posted about an improbably successful coral reef in the busy harbor of Cartagena in South America. Scientists were thinking that if they could figure out why the reef was doing well despite inimical conditions, they might be able to save other reefs.

Now comes a story about scientists finding hopeful reefs in the Pacific Ocean and elsewhere.

Josh Gabbatiss reports at the UK’s Independent, “Sections of coral in the Pacific and the Caribbean are fighting back against the global threats that have decimated reefs worldwide. While the discovery does not allow any room for complacency in the fight to save the world’s reefs from extinction, scientists are tentatively optimistic about what they can learn from these pockets of resistance.

“Climate change, hurricanes and human activities such as intensive fishing have destroyed vast swathes of the planet’s reefs, but in a new study scientists found this destruction was not uniform. …

” ‘There are a number of reasons why one coral reef might survive while its neighbour dies,’ said Dr James Guest, a coral reef researcher at Newcastle University who led the study. ‘It could be that the location is simply better for survival – deeper water that is outside the storm tracks, for example.’

“Coral reefs might also possess certain biological characteristics that make them able to resist damage, or characteristics of their environment may allow them to rebuild themselves effectively following damage. …

“These findings were laid out in a study published in the Journal of Applied Ecology that explored dozens of these cases from tropical regions around the world. …

“The study’s lead author, Professor Peter Edmunds from California State University, Northridge, [says], ‘There are kernels of hope in places where corals are doing better, or where they are doing less badly than elsewhere and these places provide us with a focus of attention that might be used to enhance coral conservation efforts.’ …

“Scientists have voiced the need for ‘radical interventions’ such as genetic modification of corals.”

OK, I’ll let you read the rest at the Independent while I ponder the metaphors here.

Since my sister’s surgery and her diagnosis of a serious kind of cancer, I feel like I’m living in metaphor, by which I mean a couple things. For example, I can’t read about certain reefs that heal themselves because they have unique characteristics (or about scientists racing the clock to figure out how to replicate that) without thinking about how every cancer and every patient’s response to cancer is different and how researchers and physicians are trying to understand all the ways that plays out (sometimes using genetics, like the coral researchers). I also mean that literary metaphor, especially poetry, is among the few things that can help me get my head around what is going on. When you can’t understand, metaphor can be calming and provide a sense that eventually there might be answers.

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Photo: Aeromate
An urban farm flourishes on a rooftop in the heart of Paris.

I never can resist a story about urban rooftop gardens, which not only bring fresh produce to city dwellers but also make use of empty space and help reduce carbon in the atmosphere.

I have blogged about them a lot. There was the post about a rooftop garden in Montreal, here. Another about Higher Ground in South Boston, here. Suzanne and Erik’s former church in San Francisco, Glide Memorial, made its rooftop garden a community-building activity for Tenderloin residents. And this was an article about a Whole Foods that aimed to harvest 10,000 pounds of food a year from its rooftop in Lynnfield, Mass.

Today’s story comes from Paris.

Freelance blogger Aimee Lutkin writes at the World Economic Forum blog, “The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, was elected in 2014 with the intention to improve the city’s green spaces as a part of her platform. …

“In 2016, her administration launched Parisculteurs, a campaign that is working to cover 247 acres of rooftops and walls in Paris with greenery by 2020.

“One third of that greenery will specifically be set aside for urban farming. To date, 74 organizations have signed a charter to work with the city on planning this enormous enterprise. The city has already approved 75 projects for development, which are estimated to produce more than 500 tons of vegetation.

“The deputy mayor of Paris, Penelope Komites, [told CNN] … ‘Citizens want new ways to get involved in the city’s invention and be the gardeners.’ …

” ‘Three years ago, people laughed at my plan. Today, citizens are producing [food] on roofs and in basements. We are also asked by numerous cities around the world to present the Parisian approach,’ she said.

“And they already have their success stories. … La Chambeaudie started shortly after Parisculteurs was announced in 2016, but now grows over 40 varieties of plants and herbs using a hydroponic system …

” ‘We’ve seen a real craze among Parisians to participate in making the city more green,’ said Komites. ‘Urban agriculture is a real opportunity for Paris. It contributes to the biodiversity and to the fight against climate change.’

“And it also means jobs. According to Komites, Parisculteurs has created 120 full-time jobs.”

More at World Economic Forum blog, here.

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Photo: Sonia Narang/PRI  
Inka Saara Arttijeff is the adviser to the president of the Sámi Parliament and hails from a family of Sámi reindeer herders. She represents Finland at international climate change summits. 

When I was in Sweden last year, I visited the history museum in Stockholm, where I learned a little about an indigenous population called the Sámi. I had previously heard them called Laplanders, but Wikipeida says they don’t like that term:

“The Sami people (also known as the Sámi or the Saami) are a Finno-Ugric people inhabiting Sápmi, which today encompasses large parts of Norway and Sweden, northern parts of Finland, and the Murmansk Oblast of Russia. The Sami have historically been known in English as the Lapps or the Laplanders, but these terms can be perceived as derogatory.”

Sonia Narang of the GlobalPost recently reported on the Sámi people and the threat that global warming poses for their way of life.

“Inka Saara Arttijeff and her family gather in the cozy kitchen of their red, wooden house, as a pot of soup simmers on the stove. They live at the edge of a frozen lake in the storybook village of Nellim, up toward the far reaches of northern Finland. … Arttijeff is part of a family of indigenous Sámi reindeer herders who are unfazed by short days in subzero weather.

“The Sámi [are] known for their centuries-old tradition of herding reindeer. … However, the warming climate has threatened to disrupt the Sámi people’s tradition of reindeer herding. … The combination of weather changes and increased tree cutting has made it harder for reindeer to find food, and it’s altered their migration patterns.

“ ‘Reindeer herding represents a way of life,’ Arttijeff said. … Arttijeff is one of a growing number of outspoken Sámi women who are taking their voices well beyond the borders of their small villages. The 33-year-old is the adviser to the female president of the Sámi Parliament, Tiina Sanila-Aikio, and represents Finland on the world’s stage. Every year, Arttijeff joins a delegation of indigenous representatives at the UN’s climate change talks. In between all that, she is also a graduate student in international relations and law. …

” ‘For reindeer herding, [we] need forest that is healthy,’ Arttijeff said. … Finland’s state-owned forestry agency, Metsähallitus, manages about one-third of the country’s forests, and it’s also responsible for harvesting and selling timber. Kirsi-Marja Korhonen, a regional director and environmental specialist at Metsähallitus, … notes 60 percent of trees on Sámi lands are in protected areas.

“That still leaves large swaths of Sámi forests up for grabs, reindeer herders say, and they point to clear-cutting of productive forests. …

“[Saara Tervaniemi, a reindeer herder] says it’s critical to monitor forestry activities on her people’s lands since logging is eroding the culture she hopes to pass down to her children. …

“Since Sámi women are primarily responsible for child care and passing on their culture to the next generation, reindeer herding has become an important issue for them, especially as logging and climate change have intensified in recent years. …

“It’s not just reindeer herding that’s at risk — it’s the four other Sámi livelihoods, too: fishing, gathering, hunting and handicrafts. ‘For all of those, you need materials from nature,’ Arttijeff says. ‘If the nature changes, you cannot do traditional livelihoods anymore. So, if that changes, everything changes for us.’ ”

More here. Hat tip: @morinotsuma on twitter.

For more on the importance of forests, see my post reviewing The Gospel of Trees, here.

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Photo: Auscape/Getty Images/Universal Images Group
Scientists hope to restore damaged coral on the Great Barrier Reef with a technique that has seen success in the Philippines.

As I was preparing this post on an effort to save the Great Barrier Reef, I stumbled upon the news that the 37-year-old ocean warrior behind the climate-change movie Revolution, Rob Stewart, died a year ago in a dive off Key Largo.

That gives a whole different cast to my thoughts. I was going to say something about how happy he must be about the new coral-breeding program that offers a “glimmer of hope” to the Great Barrier Reef. Now it’s “how happy he would have been.” The world can ill-afford to lose an energetic ocean crusader like Stewart.

As the Guardian reports, the coral-breeding project has seen success in the Philippines and is now being tried in Australia.

“Scientists have stepped in as environmental matchmakers by breeding baby coral on the Great Barrier Reef in a move that could have worldwide significance.

“Coral eggs and sperm were collected from Heron Island’s reef during [the November 2016] coral spawning to produce more than a million larvae. The larvae were returned to the wild and placed on to reef patches in underwater mesh tents, with 100 surviving and growing successfully.

“The lead project researcher and Southern Cross University professor Peter Harrison, who discovered mass coral spawning in the 1980s, says the ‘results are very promising.’ …

“The project has the ability to restore damaged coral populations and has seen similar success in the Philippines where blast fishing using explosives to kill schools of fish has destroyed coral.

“The Great Barrier Reef Foundation managing director, Anna Marsden, said the research is an important step for the reef, but one that should not lessen the strong action needed against climate change.”

That’s because, as I learned watching Stewart’s movie, it’s the CO2 resulting from climate change that is the big danger.

More at the Guardian, here. See also my review of the movie Revolution, here.

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The Swinomish community in Washington State has seen the future in rising waters. Much of the tribe’s 15-square-mile reservation is at or near sea level.

Today I have a story about how recognizing climate change can put a community one step ahead of the game. Indigenous people around the country are taking steps to deal with the inevitable before it’s too late.

Terri Hansen writes at Yes! magazine, “Chief Albert Naquin was astounded when emergency officials warned him in September 2005 that a second hurricane would soon hammer the southern Louisiana bayous where Hurricane Katrina had struck less than a month earlier. The leader of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe, Naquin took to the Isle de Jean Charles’ lone road to urge residents who had returned home after Katrina to leave their listing, moldy homes once again. …

“Hurricane Rita flooded the island for weeks, adding insult to injury that had already reduced the tribe’s homeland to a sliver of what it once was. Rising sea levels, hurricanes, erosion from oil production, and subsidence have since shriveled the Isle de Jean Charles peninsula from 15,000 acres to a tiny strip a quarter-mile wide by a half-mile long. There were once 63 houses flanking the town’s single street. Now only 25 homes and a couple fishing camps remain. …

“In January, Louisiana received a $48 million grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to move the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw and Houma Nation tribal members to more solid ground and reestablish their communities, making tribal members the first climate change refugees in the United States. …

“Across the country, 24 tribes have responded to climate change with plans for adaptation and mitigation, and more are in development. …

“As rising temperatures cause heatwaves, droughts, floods, wildfires, and increase the severity of weather events, tribes are on the forefront in respect to both degree of impact and in initial efforts to respond to adaptation, said Ed Knight, director of planning and community development for the Swinomish tribe in Washington state. …

“Using a unique model based on an indigenous worldview, the tribe updated its adaptation strategy in 2014 with environmental, cultural, and human health impact data. It now views health on a familial and community scale, and includes the natural environment and the spiritual realm, said Jamie Donatuto, Swinomish community and environmental health analyst.”

Will government support for tribes’ efforts continue? Read more here.

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On the principle that “one and one and 50 make a million,” a better world relies on everybody pitching in. Ordinary people can help scientists and other leaders of worthy initiatives.

Lisa Mullins and Lynn Jolicoeur report at WBUR on one example.

“It’s a cloudy, cool July morning, and we’ve come to the docks at Fairhaven Shipyard, near New Bedford, to meet Chris Parks. She’s a tall, elegant, retired Boston banker in jeans and a sweatshirt.

“Parks is a volunteer with the Buzzards Bay Coalition. Residents formed the group 30 years ago to help the struggling bay.

“She’s got a plastic bottle attached to a long metal pole. She submerges it and fills it with sea water. Then she pulls out her tool box full of vials and chemicals. She mixes and measures.

“Parks determines the water is pretty cool on this day — 67 degrees. … In addition to temperature and clarity, Parks tests the water for how much salt and oxygen are in it. She’s been coming to this dock, fastidiously, one or two mornings a week for 17 years.

” ‘I’m doing it because it’s one of the few things that I can do that is a tangible task towards helping the environment,’ Parks says. ‘It’s a little bit of science that helps tell us what’s going on in Buzzards Bay.’

“What’s going on is that the water is warming — and that may be contributing to long-lasting pollution problems in the bay.”

Buzzards Bay Coalition science director Rachel Jakuba says, ” ‘If you have too much algae in the water, that’s when you get cloudy, murky water, loss of eel grass, low oxygen levels that make it hard for fish and shellfish to survive … Bay scallops are very rare now because part of their life cycle depends on eel grass blades.’

“The Buzzards Bay Coalition is attacking that pollution aggressively. It’s working with homeowners to upgrade their septic systems with technology that reduces nitrogen. …

“Jakuba says as researchers figure out how global warming fits into the bay pollution picture, citizen scientists will be key.

“Mark Sweitzer, 68, is a citizen scientist and lobsterman based at Point Judith in Galilee, Rhode Island. …

“Six times a month while he’s catching lobster, Sweitzer lowers a device to the bottom of the ocean — about 200 feet. It tracks the temperature and other characteristics of the water at every depth, and it syncs the data to an iPad on board. …

” ‘I’m just happy to do it, because I feel like I’m providing some information — even though it might not have immediate effect on my boat, but in long-term trends in the fishery and how it might influence policy or regulations,’ Sweitzer says. …’

” The settlers — the tiny little ones that are four days old that have reached the bottom — there is a temperature at which they will not survive … and there are temperatures at which we have an influx of fish. Black sea bass used to be primarily a mid-Atlantic fish. And now … the black sea bass are down there gobbling up these little lobsters that don’t have much of a chance to make it in the first place.’ ”

Read how other fishermen are noticing ocean changes before scientists do and reporting back, here.

We have a friend who sets lobster pots off New Shoreham, Rhode Island. His catch has gone down steadily over the past few years, so I know there is a problem.

Photo: Mark Degon/WBUR
Lobsterman Mark Sweitzer works out of Point Judith, Rhode Island.

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