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Posts Tagged ‘global warming’

2020-07-20-karachi-forest-qureshi

Photo: Shahzad Qureshi
Shahzad Qureshi, founder of Urban Forest, in Karachi, Pakistan.

Today most people have come to realize the importance of trees for everything from reducing global warming to improving life in neighborhoods. The Amazon rain forest (currently in grave danger from Brazil’s government) is known to cool the planet by soaking up carbon in the atmosphere, and urban forests give city residents a chance to cool off — and calm down.

Sometimes it takes a tragedy, but around the world, more people are feeling they better do something themselves to protect trees.

Anna Kusmer reports at PRI’s The World, “Extreme heat often hovers over Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, creating insufferable conditions for its 16 million inhabitants. But each time Karachi resident Shahzad Qureshi transforms a barren patch of land into a dense, urban forest, he helps his city adapt to extreme urban heat that has become inevitable under climate change. Over the last four years, Qureshi’s organization, Urban Forest, has planted 14 urban forests in parks, schools, people’s yards and outside of a mosque.

“Qureshi’s quest to plant urban forests started in 2015, when temperatures reached over 120 degrees Fahrenheit in Karachi. About 2,000 people in the region died from dehydration and heatstroke. It was devastating.

‘It was just too hot,’ Qureshi said. …’ And one of the things everybody was talking about is that there’s not enough green cover.’

“Around that time, Qureshi saw a TED Talk that changed his life. He listened to a man named Shubhendu Sharma sharing a method to quickly grow dense urban forests. Qureshi was amazed. …

“Qureshi decided to learn Sharma’s technique and bring it to Karachi, joining a growing global community of urban foresters who want to help their cities adapt to extreme urban heat events created by rapid climate change. …

“Sharma’s organization Afforestt has now helped plant 150 mini-forests in 13 countries.

“ ‘So, there is a quite strong global community right now,’ Sharma said. ‘I am very keen on taking this method to every single country of the world.’

“Sharma’s special technique is known as the Miyawaki method. It involves the close placement of a variety of trees with different growing speeds and light requirements to prevent competition for the same resources. The approach specifically uses native species, allowing trees to thrive in their original climates and environments while supporting native bird and insect populations.

“ ‘Most of the city is roads and buildings and built-up urban area,’ said Nadeem Mirbahar, an ecologist with the Swiss International Union for Conservation of Nature Commission (IUCN) on Ecosystem Management, based in Karachi. His organization did a survey and found that only 7% of Karachi had green cover.

“This contributes to an ‘urban heat island’ effect, Mirbahar said. The phenomenon causes cities to be significantly hotter than the surrounding countryside. He thinks Karachi should strive for at least 25% green cover to avoid catastrophic heat events in the future.

“Qureshi’s oldest urban forest is four years old and already has towering, 35-foot-tall Acacia trees full of big, thorny branches and birds’ nests.

“ ‘I have seen bird species in this park, which I have not seen in my life,’ he said. ‘It’s a habitat for them.’ …

“Policymakers in Pakistan have started to look at planting trees as a solution to the urban heat threat, said Umer Akhlaq Malik, a policy analyst at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Pakistan.

“In 2016, the government launched a plan to plant hundreds of millions of trees as part of a project called ‘the Billion Tree Tsunami,’ in response to the fact that the country had fallen to a mere 2% forest cover.

“Malik said … ‘To take it to scale, you need more practitioners who invest their time and energy into this.’

“Malik said the biggest barriers are cost and space. Each forest can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to establish.

“But Qureshi remains hopeful that the project can scale up. He is working with the UNDP to form a coalition that aims to bring urban forests to every park in the city. He thinks Karachi could look fundamentally different.”

More at PRI, here.

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Art: Diana Beltrán Herrera
The artist makes birds and other wildlife from paper and in recent years has started to use her art to support nonprofits fighting for the environment.

Although it is not new for artists to celebrate nature — a compulsion dating at least to prehistoric cave paintings — there’s a new sense of urgency in the era of global warming.

In a 2018 article in the New York Times, for example, 12 artists described how the crisis is influencing their work.

Here artist Xavier Cortada explains to the Times why he made a work showing residential street numbers underwater. “In response to South Florida’s vulnerability to rising sea levels, the village of Pinecrest, Florida will encourage its 6,000 households to install an ‘Underwater HOA [Homeowner Association]’ yard sign (similar to the 18- by 24-inch ‘Home for Sale’ yard signs used by realtors) on their front lawns during the first week of December. I numbered each yard sign from 0 to 17 feet (the municipality’s land elevation range) to show how many feet of melted glacial water must rise before a particular property is underwater.” Oy.

860_climate_change_and_artArt: Xavier Cortada
This painted sign is a marker that someone can plant in their yard showing that the property would be underwater with a sea-level rise of five feet.

Meanwhile, the fascinating website This Is Colossal has for some years been following the amazing paper creations of Diana Beltrán Herrera as she expands from birds she knows to environments she has never seen to helping nonprofits battle climate change.

Grace Ebert writes, “In 2012, Bristol-based artist Diana Beltrán Herrera [began] sculpting impeccably layered paper birds and other wildlife as a way to record her surroundings. Her lifelike pieces continuously have captured nature’s finely detailed and minuscule elements, like the fibrous texture of feathers and the veins running through leaves.

“Today, the artist has expanded the practice to include exotic species and environments she’s never seen up close, developing her paper techniques to express the more nuanced details of the shapes and textures she studies in biology books. Now focusing on the structural elements of fungi, fruit, and florals, Beltrán Herrera shares with Colossal:

‘Paper as a medium for documentation allows me to register and create notions and ideas of subjects that I have not experienced in real life but that I can experience when a sculpture is completed. I like this approach because it is not harmful, and through my work, I can show and tell my viewers about the things I have been learning, of the importance of nature just by researching and making it myself.’

“Much of her work centers on conservation efforts and environmental justice. For example, a recent commission by Greenpeace UK bolstered the organization’s Plastic Free Rivers campaign. ‘I am constantly looking for more subjects that are relevant to the times we are living in, so that through my work I can communicate important information that can educate or just make things more visible.’ …

“Her hope is to merge graphic and digital design with her paper pieces, potentially adding in animation, as well. Ultimately, her goal is to dive into larger projects. ‘I don’t see my work as something I want to know how to make and stay safe, but as a challenge, that will always allow me to wonder how to execute and create things that were never made with paper,’ she says.” More.

Other Colossal articles on the artist’s work can be found here. Follow her on Instagram, @dianabeltranherrera.

A musical composition created from climate-change data is another example of using an art to raise consciousness about the current state of the natural world.  From the website Science News for Students.

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Photo: OceanBased Perpetual Energy
Using the constant flow of the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean to generate power holds promise for an energy future based on renewables.

People fighting global warming have been understandably concerned that coronavirus has soaked up all the oxygen (to coin a phrase) in the public forum. On social media, they try to remind us that health issues — and racial justice, too, for that matter — are inextricably tied to pollution, global warming, and climate justice. I heard one expert opine on the radio that our clearer skies would not last and that as polluting manufacturing slows down so does manufacturing related to renewable energy.

So I was happy to see from today’s story that inventors in the renewable arena are still inventing.

Craig Pittman writes at the Washington Post, “Nasser Alshemaimry was on a boat last month, heading for a spot in the Atlantic Ocean to test out his turbines. He was also, he said, heading for completion of his final life goal.

“ ‘This is my last hurrah,’ said Alshemaimry, 70. ‘I’m going to do this and then retire.’

“A year ago his company, OceanBased Perpetual Energy, agreed to work with Florida Atlantic University to develop a way to generate electricity by harnessing the steady-flowing Gulf Stream, the powerful ocean current that brings warm water from the Gulf of Mexico into the Atlantic and up the East Coast to Canada. Now his company was ready for the first test of five types of turbines to see which one would work best while anchored 80 feet below the ocean’s surface.

“A successful test, Alshemaimry said, would lead to a project that would cost an estimated $16 billion. The goal: in five years, producing 5 gigawatts of electricity from turbines spun by the Gulf Stream, which would be sent through underwater cables to a power distribution station built in the West Palm Beach area.

“The 12-person team submerged the turbines in the Gulf Stream current approximately 20 miles offshore between Broward and Palm Beach counties [and] left them there for 24 hours to see which ones would spin the best in the Gulf Stream’s flow, producing power with the fewest problems. …

“All of the turbines worked well, but the team selected a design that looks like a pair of airplane engines mounted on a single wing to eliminate the torque caused by the rotating propellers.

Ocean energy works very much like wind power — the force of the sea turns the propellers of a turbine, activating a generator to produce electricity.

“Small numbers of underwater energy devices are unlikely to harm marine life, change their habitats or affect the natural flow of ocean waters, according to [oceanographers] with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in conjunction with the International Energy Agency. But submerged turbines do come with unique challenges — electrical parts have to be sealed and must resist corrosion, while underwater repairs are disruptive and difficult.

“Producing energy from the ocean is not a new idea. The La Rance tidal power station in Brittany, France, has been using 24 turbines to convert ocean tides into electrical power since 1966. Ocean power produces none of the carbon emissions linked to climate change, and it appeals to some energy executives because tides and currents are predictable, unlike solar and wind. But the cost of building the complex infrastructure required is so great that, so far, solar and wind have outpaced it. …

“ ‘Many of these niche applications, while interesting and helpful for research purposes, can’t compete in the wholesale power market,’ said the [Energy Information Administration’s] Glenn McGrath. …

“Gabriel M. Alsenas, director of the Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Center at Florida Atlantic, said that’s in part because ocean energy hasn’t been given the same government subsidies [as] solar and wind. …

“Alshemaimry, a Saudi entrepreneur with prior experience building solar-powered homes, spent several years working on a never-completed tidal energy project in Sweden. Then [he] met a U.S. Department of Energy official who suggested he contact Alsenas at Florida Atlantic University about the use of ocean currents. …

“After one phone conversation … Alsenas said, Alshemaimry dropped his Swedish project, switched from waves to currents and moved his entire operation. …

“ ‘Tidal is not 24/7 power,’ [Alshemaimry] said. ‘It’s back and forth. … The Gulf Stream flows 24/7/365.’ ” More here.

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karnad-indiapollutioncoronavirus

Photo: Manjunath Kiran / AFP / Getty
A nationwide lockdown has had positive effects on India’s air quality. Says the
New Yorker magazine, “The sky is clearer, rivers are less contaminated, and people have awakened to possible change.”

Will less air travel, commuting, and industrial smoke mean long-term improvement in global warming and pollution? One expert I heard on the radio said no because there has also been a slowdown in work on alternate energy.

But I do think if people see a difference in their skies, they may be more motivated to keep carbon reduction going. When they can see that clear skies are not a hopeless dream, it makes an impression.

In the New Yorker, Raghu Karnad has written about what people in India are seeing.

“On the morning of April 3rd, residents of Jalandhar, an industrial town in the Indian state of Punjab, woke to a startling sight: a panorama of snowcapped mountains across the eastern sky. The peaks and slopes of the Dhauladhars—a range in the lesser Himalayas—were not new, but the visibility was. … On March 24th, as a national lockdown was imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus, nearly all of Jalandhar’s road traffic came to a halt, along with its manufacture of auto parts, hand tools, and sports equipment.

“Ten days later, suspended particulates had dispersed from the air, and the Himalayas were unveiled. Residents gathered on their rooftops, posting photos of far, icy elevations towering behind water tanks and clotheslines.

‘Never seen Dhauladhar range from my home rooftop in Jalandhar,’ the international cricketer Harbhajan Singh, who was born there forty years ago, tweeted. ‘Never could imagine that’s possible.’

“The view from my own rooftop, fifteen hundred miles to the south, in Bangalore, has not revealed any equivalent surprises. Instead, there is the birdsong. … I could never have imagined it possible, in an Indian city, to wake up not to the sounds of traffic but to the sovereignty of bulbuls and mynahs over the morning air. …

“The silence on the street may be therapeutic, but it can also feel grim, suspenseful. It suggests the held breath of a country bracing for disaster — not only for the brunt of a pandemic but for empty savings accounts, purses, and pantries. Millions of Indians eat only if they are paid wages each day, which means that when the lockdown was announced, a second epidemic, of hunger, began to unfold. …

“Of the thirty cities with the worst air pollution in the world, twenty-one are in northern India. … The World Health Organization has linked exposure to PM2.5—particles with a diameter of 2.5 micrometres or less—to a hundred thousand deaths in India each year, and that’s just among children below the age of five.

“The coronavirus will only compound these morbidities. Studies of viral pandemics such as the 1918 flu, or the 2003 SARS outbreak, found that residents of areas with more polluted air were far more likely to die. … The worst of the smog is seasonal, drifting over the city when the farmers of the Indo-Gangetic plain burn crop stubble after the harvest, in October. …

“The lockdown, whatever its effect on the virus, has given Indian cities the kiss of life. In a week, Delhi’s PM2.5 count dropped by seventy-one per cent. The sky is bluer now, the Yamuna River less black, and my friends say that the stars are out at night. ..

“The lockdown is also improving our understanding of the complex phenomena that contribute to pollution. ‘From a research viewpoint, this is a fantastic experiment,’ Sarath Guttikunda, a founder and director of UrbanEmissions.info, told me over the phone. …

‘What we’re seeing now is unprecedented: drops in commercial activity, industrial activity, and transport, all at the same time — not just in a city but, significantly, across a region,’ he said. The past few weeks have allowed his team to assess, for example, how responsible a given city is for its air quality. …

” ‘Now we don’t have to blindly say, ‘Look, you are responsible for seventy per cent of your pollution. Please do something about it,” Guttikunda said. ‘We have that proof.’ …

“To truly revitalize our air, we need to change how we cook, build, farm, travel, consume, and produce—bearing in mind, through it all, how we breathe.

“Such comprehensive action can seem impossible. Guttikunda’s hopeful analogy is to the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, a turning point for Beijing. …

” ‘For two months, people got to see the change possible in the city. … As soon as the Games were over, the restrictions were lifted and the PM2.5 levels shot back up,’ Guttikunda said. ‘But now there was a public outcry saying, “Look, we could have those blue skies for longer. We don’t mind the restrictions.” ‘ ”

More here.

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Photo: Murdo MacLeod/Guardian 
Helped by volunteers, Trees for Life planted nearly 2 million native trees on its Scottish projects.

Sometimes a tree has to be cut down because it’s rotting. But if it’s your tree, you can offset the loss for the planet by donating to an organization that plants lots of trees. Planting a lot of trees is important because it takes a long time before a bunch of little trees has the climate-saving benefits of one big tree.

I gave to the the Arbor Day Foundation last year after sadly saying good-bye to an old, old maple. Then the New York Times suggested Eden Reforestration Projects, which sounded excellent. The Times also provided names of organizations working on other climate-saving activities, including the Coalition for Rainforest Nations and a group providing fuel-efficient stoves in Kenya.

Patrick Barkham, reporting for the Guardian from Scotland, shows what can be done with a dedicated group of volunteers.

“The bracken-clad hills are marked ‘Dundreggan forest’ on the map but this Scottish glen is mostly stark Highland scenery: open, beautiful, and almost totally devoid of trees.

“On a steep-sided little gully, 40 years ago, a few baby silver birches escaped relentless browsing by red deer and grew tall. Now, the nearby path through the bracken is dusted with thousands of brown specks: birch seeds.

‘Each year, this “forest” produces trillions of birch seed,’ says Doug Gilbert, the operations manager for the charity Trees for Life at Dundreggan. ‘Until we reduce the deer pressure, not a single one has grown into a tree. Once we get the deer population right, this forest will absolutely take off. It’s starting to do that now.’

“The charity purchased the Dundreggan hunting estate 11 years ago. Slowly – ‘at tree speed,’ smiles Gilbert – it is rewilding 4,000 hectares (10,000 acres) of this degraded Highland landscape, restoring a diversity of native trees, scrub and associated life, from the dark bordered beauty moth to black grouse and, yes, red deer. …

“During the general election campaign, politicians desperately tried to outbid each other with tree-planting pledges. Who doesn’t love a tree? More trees can tackle the climate crisis – absorbing carbon dioxide – and the biodiversity crisis. But Trees for Life’s efforts reveal it is not quite so simple.

“Since Victorian times, when the sheep estates that followed the Highland clearances were replaced by more lucrative deer hunting estates, the landscape, and economic model, has been shaped by red deer. Around Dundreggan there are also non-native sika and roe deer. …

“The first step at Dundreggan has been to increase deer culling. Ecologists calculate that a red deer population of five per sq km in the wider landscape will allow natural regeneration; in many Highland regions it is 20. But culling deer is controversial because the value of stalking that estates base on deer numbers.

“Trees for Life has proceeded slowly with culling, seeking positive dialogue with neighbouring stalking estates. They’ve also tried non-lethal methods such as bagpipe-playing volunteers acting as nocturnal deer scarers. Trees and deer can coexist and Dundreggan’s deer population is now at a level where some young birches, pines, rowans and junipers will grow tall. …

“All the trees come from Scottish seeds – meaning they are suited to Highland climates and species, as well as being free of novel diseases. Half have been grown from seeds collected around Dundreggan. Its on-site nursery bristles with 94,000 saplings.

“Seed-collecting is not as simple as it sounds. Seed must come from a wide variety of individual trees to ensure genetic diversity. Cones from Scots pines have to be harvested before they drop to the ground, so specialist tree-climbers are employed. Trees for Life specialises in growing non-commercial high-mountain species such as woolly willow and dwarf birch. Surviving specimens are often only found on cliffs and crevices – with seeds or cuttings only retrievable by specialist climbers.

“Because of the deer grazing, every sapling is planted within a fenced enclosure (costing £10 [$12.79] per metre). Fencing is ‘a little bit of an admission of failure,’ says Gilbert. In the long term, when reducing deer numbers becomes less controversial, trees won’t need fences. Gilbert hopes the fences will last 30 years, when the well-established trees and scrub will survive browsing deer.” More.

(By the way, does anyone remember deer stalking in the children’s classic Wee Gillis?)

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Photo: Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District
Some California dairy farmers, concerned about their farms’ effect on global warming,
are working on long-term carbon sequestration.

My recent post “Farmers Turning Waste to Energy” described an effort to combine food waste with cow manure and convert methane gas to electricity. But as Earle noted in Comments, burning methane ultimately means more global warming. He recommended helping farmers put carbon back in the ground in ways that also improve the farm’s bottom line. It’s happening in California.

I went online and found this report at the Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District (RCD) website.

“As much as one-third of the surplus CO2 in the atmosphere driving climate change has resulted from land management practices on agricultural lands.

Carbon farming, an array of strategies designed to promote long-term carbon sequestration, holds the potential to significantly reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases by capturing carbon in the soil and plant material, while enhancing soil health and productivity.

“The RCD and its LandSmart partners are working to develop a carbon planning component to the comprehensive conservation plans developed through the LandSmart program, identifying practices that would … provide multiple benefits for climate change resiliency, by reducing atmospheric CO2 levels while improving soil health, water holding capacity, and crop and forage production. …

“Practices such as hedgerows and windbreaks [also] work to both sequester CO2 while enhancing on-farm wildlife and pollinator habitat. …

“With the use of a wide variety of beneficial practices, Sonoma County farmers have the ability to reach our County’s goal for greenhouse gas reductions. … In the words of our Executive Director, Brittany Jensen, carbon farming is a regional tactic to address a global problem.

“ ‘By helping farmers make carbon farming a part of their daily operations, we have the opportunity to work on a global problem – climate change – and make a local difference.’ …

“The Ocean Breeze Dairy has been operated by the producer Jarrid Bordessa, a fifth-generation dairy operator, since 2003. In those last 16 years, his business model has shifted to grass-fed, certified organic milk production, and he is the right place to do just that. The Valley Ford dairy covers 310 acres of coastal grassland and over 4,500 feet of perennial stream.

“In the 2018 annual newsletter, we shared an article about Ocean Breeze Dairy, their distributor, Organic Valley, the Carbon Cycle Institute and the RCD developed a Carbon Farm Plan for the property, identifying opportunities to increase carbon sequestration and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In 2018, the RCD was successful in securing a California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Healthy Soils Program Demonstration Project to implement two of the practices identified in the plan and to engage with local farmers and ranchers through public workshops.

“The two practices being implemented are the application of compost and the restoration of riparian habitat along lower Ebabias Creek, the primary tributary of Americano Creek, whose watershed estuary, the Estero Americano, drains into Bodega Bay and the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. Considered one of California’s most unique coastal wetland types, the Estero Americano contains a diverse assemblage of wetland communities and estuarine habitats.”

Read more here.

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Photo: Loren Kerns, Flickr
Many carbon offset projects reduce carbon in the atmosphere by protecting forests. Cool Effect offers other, carefully vetted offsets. The average American creates 17 tons of carbon pollution every year, so at $5 t0 $13 a ton, offsetting your footprint is a real deal.

When an arborist came to our house to remove a dangling limb on our big old tree, I was so sad to learn that the whole tree was diseased and had to come down. Not only was it beautiful, it was removing carbon from the atmosphere, which helps reduce global warming. I made a donation to the the Arbor Day Foundation, as an offset, but that’s not as good as keeping an ancient tree.

Here is what a recent episode of the radio show Living on Earth had to say about some good carbon offsets.

“Carbon-intensive activities, including global air travel, have been growing for decades. For individuals and companies interested in reducing their carbon footprints, carbon offsets promise to mitigate the damage caused by flying and other emissions sources through the investment in projects that either sequester carbon, like reforestation or forest conservation, or develop alternative energy infrastructure that reduce future emissions. Cool Effect CEO Marisa de Belloy discusses her non-profit crowdfunding platform that sells these offsets with host Bobby Bascomb.

“BASCOMB: [What] do people choose to offset with your carbon emissions offset program? …

“DE BELLOY: They’ll offset a flight, they’ll offset their trips to work; some will offset their entire year. The average American emits about 17 tons of carbon pollution every year. And so some people like to wipe that clean by offsetting that at Cool Effect. These are people who are committed environmentalists who are already doing what they can do in their daily lives, to reduce their impact. And that might be eating less meat, it might be traveling less often, it might be having an electric car or solar panels. …

“BASCOMB: [Give] me some examples of projects that participate.

“DE BELLOY: [Each] of these projects will have met the requirements of an independent standard, they’ll have been verified independently of us, and then we do our own very deep due diligence that lasts a couple of months on each project, to make sure that they’re doing exactly what they say they’re doing. …

“We have a project, for example, in Vietnam that installs biogas digesters, which is a very simple technology that takes animal waste, and turns it into clean cooking fuel for homes. We have a project in the United States that’s protecting the forest, or another one protecting grasslands; a project in Honduras that is providing clean cookstoves for families down there who were basically dying from air pollution from cooking over open fires. …

“They all are truly additional, meaning they’re truly having an impact on the planet and then they also all have their own set of co-benefits. [For] the cookstove project, it’s the health of the families. In some cases, it’s local jobs. In some cases, it’s protecting wildlife or a whole forest ecosystem and the people who live there. [The] key thing that underlies all the projects is that we have made sure that they’re actually doing the work of verifiably reducing carbon emissions.

“BASCOMB: And how do you actually verify that? I mean, how do you know that this project wouldn’t have been done anyway without this money? …

“DE BELLOY: [A] couple of different ways, but one is you have to understand what their financial model is, both when they started the business and currently. Is there a profitable way to do what they’re doing without the revenue from carbon offsets? And if the answer is yes, then the project is likely not additional. Another way to look for additionality is regulatory additionality. So, is there a law in place that’s requiring this business or this nonprofit to do what it’s doing? …

“BASCOMB: And then once you’ve identified a good project to work with, how do you guarantee the longevity of that? I mean, I saw that you have one in Brazil, protecting the Amazon, and Brazil is a famously lawless area, especially with the new president that really doesn’t encourage conservation. How can you be sure that those trees will still be standing 10 years from now, or that the landowner won’t take that money and then clear cut in a different area?

“DE BELLOY: [On] the trees still standing portion, that’s built into the methodology, so they will no longer be able to offer credits if those trees start disappearing. And each of the methodologies includes a certain buffer amount of trees, you know, because trees do die, and you can have natural fires and that sort of thing. And we take a particularly conservative approach to these projects, if there’s any doubt that, you know, the cook stove was in use, or the tree was still standing, or, you know, the animals were still having access to these grasslands, then a credit is not issued for that amount. So wherever there’s doubt, the credit is not issued. …

“[The cost for an offset] goes from about $5 to about $13 a ton. So if you think about the average American having 17 tons of carbon pollution every year, it’s a really reasonable amount of money to spend to wipe away that impact that we’re all having.” More from Living on Earth, here.

The best example I know of someone practicing what they preach is young Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who is traveling from Canada to Chile without using fossil fuels. Read this.

Photo: New York Times
So as not to use any airplane’s fossil fuels, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg crossed the Atlantic Ocean aboard the Malizia II, a zero-emissions racing yacht.
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Photo: BioCarbon Engineering
Drones can have a peaceful purpose. These are fighting climate change by “bombing” seeds into places that need trees. Trees are essential for decreasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Drones can have peaceful purposes. Some folks use them for photography or research on birds. Others have tapped drones to plant the trees our planet needs to reduce carbon dioxide and combat global warming.

Leo Shvedsky writes at Good, “Technology is the single greatest contributor to climate change but it may also soon be used to offset the damage we’ve done to our planet since the Industrial Age began.

“In September 2018, a project in Myanmar used drones to fire ‘seed missiles’ into remote areas of the country where trees were not growing. Less than a year later, thousands of those seed missiles have sprouted into 20-inch mangrove saplings that could literally be a case study in how technology can be used to innovate our way out of the climate change crisis.

“ ‘We now have a case confirmed of what species we can plant and in what conditions,’ Irina Fedorenko, co-founder of Biocarbon Engineering, told Fast Company. …

“According to Fedoranko, just two operators could send out a mini-fleet of seed missile planting drones that could plant 400,000 trees a day — a number that quite possibly could make massive headway in combating the effects of manmade climate change.

“The drones were designed by an ex-NASA engineer. And with a pressing need to reseed an area in Myanmar equal to the size of Rhode Island, the challenge is massive but suddenly within reach. Bremley Lyngdoh, founder and CEO of World Impact, says reseeding that area could theoretically house as many as 1 billion new trees. …

“For context, it took the Worldview Foundation 7 years to plant 6 million trees in Myanmar. Now, with the help of the drones, they hope to plant another 4 million before the end of 2019.

“Myanmar is a great case study for the project. In addition to the available land for the drone project, the nation has been particularly hit by the early effects of climate change in recent years. Rising sea levels are having a measurable impact on the population. In addition to their ability to clear CO2 from the atmosphere, healthy trees can also help solidify the soil, which can reduce the kind of soil erosion that has been affecting local populations in Myanmar.”

Adele Peters at Fast Company explains, “The drones first fly over an area to map it, collecting data about the topography and soil condition that can be combined with satellite data and analyzed to determine the best locations to plant each seed. Then the drone fires biodegradable pods — filled with a germinated seed and nutrients — into the ground. For the process to succeed in a mangrove forest, several conditions need to be right; if the tide comes in unexpectedly, for example, the seeds could wash away. In tests, Biocarbon Engineering has looked at which species and environmental conditions perform best.

“If drones do begin to replant entire forests, humans will still play a critical role. That’s in part because some seeds don’t fit inside the pods. But people living nearby also need a reason to leave the trees standing. ‘The project in Myanmar is all about community development and enabling people to care for trees, providing them with jobs, and making environmental restoration in a way that it’s profitable for people,’ says Fedorenko. ‘The forest didn’t vanish by itself—the forest was cut down by local people.’ ”

More at Good and Fast Company.

Hat tip: Maria Popova on Twitter.

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Photo: Thomas Turner/Reuters
This hoodwinker sunfish, a species discovered only in 2017, has washed up on a California beach. Scientists believe it belongs in the Southern Hemisphere.

As much as I love learning about new species like this giant sunfish from the Southern Hemisphere, I can’t help feeling concerned that it ended up on a beach where it doesn’t belong. Is this another sign of global warming? Not likely. This fish likes temperate water and would have had to pass the hot Equator. A mystery.

Christina Zdanowicz has the story at CNN. “This is the extraordinary tale of how a massive, strange-looking fish wound up on a beach on the other side of the world from where it lives. The seven-foot fish washed up at UC Santa Barbara’s Coal Oil Point Reserve in Southern California [in February]. Researchers first thought it was a similar and more common species of sunfish — until someone posted photos on a nature site and experts weighed in. …

“It turned out to be a species never seen before in North America. It’s called the hoodwinker sunfish.

‘When the clear pictures came through, I thought there was no doubt. This is totally a hoodwinker,’ said Marianne Nyegaard, a marine scientist who discovered the species in 2017. ‘I couldn’t believe it. I nearly fell out of my chair.’

“Nyegaard … works in the marine division at the Auckland War Memorial Museum in New Zealand. … ‘We know it has the temperate distribution around here and off the coast of Chile, but then how did it cross the equator and turn up by you guys?’ …

“An intern at Coal Oil Point Reserve alerted conservation specialist Jessica Nielsen to the dead beached sunfish on February 19. When Nielsen first saw it, the unusual features of the fish caught her eye.

” ‘This is certainly the most remarkable organism I have seen wash up on the beach in my four years at the reserve,’ Nielsen said in a UC Santa Barbara press release. She posted some photos of the fish on the reserve’s Facebook page. When colleague Thomas Turner saw the photos later that day, he rushed to the beach with his wife and young son. …

“He snapped some photos of what he thought was an ocean sunfish, a rare sight up-close, he said.

” ‘It’s the most unusual fish you’ve ever seen,’ said the UC Santa Barbara associate professor.

‘It has no tail. All of its teeth are fused, so it doesn’t have any teeth. It’s just got this big round opening for a mouth.’

“Turner posted his photos on iNaturalist, a site where people post photos and sightings of plants and animals. A fish biologist commented and alerted Ralph Foster, a fish scientist and the fish curator at the South Australian Museum.

“It was Foster who first said this may be a hoodwinker sunfish and not an ocean sunfish in the comments on iNaturalist. …

“Foster excitedly emailed Nyegaard, the woman who discovered the species, and told her what he was thinking. …

“It had been two days since Nielsen had first seen the fish. When Turner and Nielsen went back to the beach [to get sharper photos], the creature was no longer there.

“They started two miles apart from each other on the beach and kept looking, walking toward each other until they found the missing fish. It had refloated on the tide and washed up a few hundred yards away, Turner said. …

“All of the features in the photos matched up with the hoodwinker. When Nyegaard saw the photos, she knew she had a hoodwinker case on her hands. …

“Both Nyegaard and Turner marveled at how social media and the iNaturalist site can help bring researchers closer to an answer. …

“Turner said it was exciting for him to help identify the first recorded sighting of a hoodwinker sunfish in North America — and only the second in the Northern Hemisphere.

” ‘I’m a professor, I’m a biologist but I didn’t actually know what was special about this fish,’ Turner said. ‘I just posted a picture and that connected me with the world’s expert and the discoverer of the species.’ ”

Super photos at CNN, here.

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Photo: Matthew Podolsky
Conservationist Alfred Larson, 96, has installed hundreds of bluebird next boxes in southern Idaho, allowing scientists to study Mountain Bluebirds as the species recovers from a decline.

In my area of New England, I don’t often see bluebirds. I see lots of bluebird houses people put up to entice them, but few bluebirds. You can imagine how excited I was one wintry day a few years back when a whole flock showed up in our deciduous holly. It was amazing. And never repeated.

A conservationist in his 90s who wanted to learn more about Western and Mountain Bluebirds has turned southern Idaho into a bluebird haven. Now, that’s something I’d like to see!

James Crugnale writes a the Audubon website, “In 1978, Alfred Larson was looking for a hobby that would keep him busy after he retired from his job at a sawmill plant near Boise, Idaho. He remembers reading an article in National Geographic that captured his imagination—about crafting wooden nests for bluebirds to save them from dizzying declines. Around this same time, he and his wife Hilda welcomed a new guest to their backyard: a Western Bluebird.

“ ‘We noticed a bluebird going in and out of a cavity of an old, dead snag,’ Larson says. … I had heard about bluebird trails out East that Lawrence Zeleny had set up. If I put up boxes on my ranch, I’d have a captive group of birds to take pictures of.’ …

“Four decades later, at the age of 96, Larson is monitoring almost 350 nest boxes on six different bluebird trails across Southwest Idaho. From the Owyhee Mountains to Lake Cascade, he and his fellow community scientists peek into the rustic abodes every nine days to band any residents and jot down notes on behavior and growth. Larson organizes the data and shares it with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology‘s Nestwatch program. …

“Prior to the big nest box craze, all three North American species—Western, Mountain, and Eastern—saw a major dip in population numbers, due to ‘the elimination of dead trees with the invention of gas-powered chainsaws in the 1930s . . . along with the widespread use of pesticides to kill insects,’ says bluebird photographer and expert Stan Tekiela. Studies in the 1970s tied DDT to the death of hundreds of Mountain Bluebird chicks in western Canada. …

“Many of Larson’s trail buddies are wary of the day he decides to retire again. Boyd Steele, a volunteer who regularly assists Larson with the nest boxes, says the nonagenarian has been steadily passing down his knowledge. But his devotion to bluebirds will be hard to replace. ‘I don’t think there’s anybody who is as dedicated as Al,’ Steele says.

“Filmmaker Matthew Podolsky echoes that sentiment. After being introduced to Larson through a graduate advisor at Boise State University, he and his peer Neil Paprocki tracked the local legend with a camera for weeks. The resulting 30-minute documentary, titled Bluebird Man, of course, went on to be nominated for an Emmy Award in 2015.”

More here, at the Audubon website.

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This is Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden. She started the Friday school strikes that are spreading around the world and made a splash scolding power brokers at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

You have probably heard of the ubiquitous Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teen who is leading a youth movement to address global warming. But there are many other climate movements right now, as I learned when I read Mary Robinson’s inspiring book Climate Justice. One example she cites is an Australia-based organization called 1 Million Women, which was started by a woman who was able to cut way, way back on her family’s carbon footprint and wanted to share what she learned.

One Million Women’s website includes a pollution-cutting activity center that “has 50+ ways to cut pollution, covering energy, money, household, food, travel, shopping, sharing and a special girls section. Each activity has a pollution value attached. Choose the activities that work for you,” it suggests.

For those of you who really want to roll up your sleeves and tackle daily activities, 1 Million Women also has a handy feature called the Carbon Challenge, which provides sustainability tips and helps you track your progress in reducing pollution. See that here. I confess that I haven’t taken the challenge yet, but I’d love to hear from anyone who gives it a shot.

The blog for 1 Million Women features entries from many activists, each focusing on a different aspect of climate change activism. The toilet paper post was funny. In another post, Eve White, “mum of two and a freelance editor with a PhD in Ecology, … founding member of Australian Mums for a Safe Climate and Australian Parents for Climate Action,” asks, “Why are we leaving it up to our kids?”

She writes, “In November, 2018, 15,000 Australian kids went on strike from school to demand stronger action on climate change. Other actions will follow, with the next climate strike planned for March, 2019. Listening to these kids speak, it is clear that they are articulate and informed. They include school captains and future doctors, leaders and business people; not the kind of kids who’d routinely skip school. But without the power to vote they are worried about their future, frustrated with inaction on climate change and desperate to be heard.

“It is wrong that it has fallen on the kids to do this. As one young speaker said, ‘We are expected to tidy up after ourselves. Adults should tidy up their own mess, not leave it for us. This is not fair.’ ”

White goes on to list “ways that parents can support their kids in the fight for the future, and not all of them require a lot of effort,” like talking to more people about the issue, supporting the kids’ movement logistically and financially, writing to the local paper, and getting active in national environmental groups. Another “not a lot of effort” thing to do if you are on social media might be to follow people who are working on this issue and share information with your followers.

More.

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Photo: Rebecca Kordas/UBC
Limpets are easy to overlook — so too is their effect on the environment. But careful consideration of how all the life forms in an area interact is key to understanding how ecosystems thrive.

I’ve been reading a small book called The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating. A friend offered to lend it to me, and much to my surprise, I’m finding it fascinating. It’s by a woman with a debilitating illness who describes her growing interest in a snail brought to her on a wild violet plant. As the author learns, there is more to snails than meets the eye. A lot more.

The same may be said of limpets. Christopher Pollon explains why at Hakai Magazine.

“As the ocean temperature rises, it may be the little things that make the biggest difference to the survival and resilience of living things.

“Take the limpet, a tiny snail-like gastropod with a hefty appetite for the minute plants that live in the intertidal — the space between low and high tide. In 2014, Becca Kordas, then a zoology doctoral candidate at the University of British Columbia, tested the effect these creatures have on the ecosystem when exposed to ocean warming. She found that their influence was huge.

“Kordas launched her project by sinking four sets of settlement plates in the intertidal zone of Saltspring Island, British Columbia, about 55 kilometers southwest of Vancouver. For 16 months, Kordas and her colleagues tracked which plants and animals established themselves on the four different types of plots. Kordas controlled the limpets’ access to half of the plates, while they were free to graze on the other half. She also simulated the effects of ocean warming by tinting some of the plates black to attract the sun’s heat.

“By the end of the study, the differences between the four sets of plates were stark. Kordas found that when limpets’ access is restricted, the artificially warmed intertidal ecosystem collapsed — the diversity of life largely replaced by a mat of microalgae. Limpets with access to the plates, however, maintained a healthier ecological community, even in a warming environment.

“What is it about limpets that helps maintain a diverse and complex community, even when their environment warms?

“Kordas says limpets eat huge amounts of microalgae, including microscopic diatoms and the spores of larger algal species. This clears the terrain for a variety of life.

“ ‘When limpets are allowed in, they make space for things like barnacles, and then those barnacles in turn create little condos for other animals to live in,’ she says.

“In a sense, limpets are tiny ecosystem engineers. … The study comes at a critical time for intertidal life in the northeast Pacific Ocean. In this area, the summer low tide typically occurs around noon, which exposes intertidal species to warm summer temperatures. The heat shakes up the intertidal community, but shakes it up more without limpets around.

“The lesson of Kordas’s study, however, is not about limpets per se. It’s about the need to better understand the role of every organism in an ecosystem.”

Hat tip: Pablo Rodas-Martini, @pablorodas, on Twitter.

More here.

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Photo: Buzzfeed
Reducing our intake of meat, especially beef, can reduce global warming. Want to help me find quick non-meat recipes that work for the whole family?

Back in the 1970s, my sister gave me Frances Moore Lappé‘s Diet for a Small Planet. So even back then, I was hearing that eating meat was bad for Planet Earth. But I never gave it up completely. I had a few non-meat recipes that I liked, including a delicious Eggplant Parmesan from that book, but my commitment wavered.

Lately, there’s been a lot in the news about what the individual can do to fight global warming, and one of the most frequently mentioned ideas is to give up meat, especially beef. There are lots of reasons, including the fact that livestock gives off too much methane and requires extensive grazing land that could be better used. Also, destroying trees in the rainforest and elsewhere is like destroying the lungs of the planet.

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Photo: One Green Planet
Many environmentalists say that beef production is killing rainforests, which are the lungs of the planet in that they absorb carbon dioxide and give off oxygen.

Suzanne and I are giving meatless meals another shot. We’re unlikely to get as far as a true vegan diet, but we can start by serving smaller and smaller amounts of meat and larger and larger amounts of grains, nuts, fruits, eggs, veggies, and dairy products. (Dairy cows are just as flatulent as cattle raised for meat, so in California, scientists are experimenting with seaweed added to food to cut down on the methane released.)

Both Suzanne and I value prep speed. We have meat-centered meals we make quickly on autopilot. Now we need to retrain our muscle memory to make vegetarian recipes quickly.

I’ve started searching the web and would be open to ideas from readers, many of whom probably had this whole concept nailed down years ago. John’s family has an ongoing Tofu Tuesday, so I hope to get a favorite recipe from them.

BuzzFeed offers a list of 30 intriguing meals here. They’re a bit heavy on the bean component, which won’t work for me, but how do you like the one pictured at the top of the post, which BuzzFeed found at the Bojon Gourmet? It involves tofu and shiitake mushrooms roasted in a mixture of toasted sesame oil, tamari, and sriracha and transferred to a miso soup containing noodles, ginger, and kale. Mmmm.

Photo: Yale Environment 360
According to environmentalists, when humans destroy the rainforest to graze cattle, they are shooting themselves in the foot.

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Photos: Greg Davis/OPB
Oregon State University doctoral student Hankyu Kim sets up a decoy of a hermit warbler. Songbird populations have been declining, and rising temperatures are one reason.

Nearly all birds are “canaries in the coal mine,” in the sense that when they’re in trouble from habitat destruction, rising temperatures, pollutants, and so on, they’re heralding trouble for all species, including the human one. For that reason, among many others, I love to hear of efforts to protect even one kind of bird.

Consider this story by reporter Jes Burns at National Public Radio (NPR).

“Each spring, songbirds migrate thousands of miles to breed in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains. Deep in a forest, Oregon State University researcher Hankyu Kim feels he has gotten inside the head of one species, the hermit warbler.

” ‘These birds are territorial in the breeding ground, they set up their territories, and they fight with each other to defend it,’ he says.

“Armed with this knowledge, a nearly invisible net strung between two repurposed fishing poles, a lifelike plastic warbler decoy and a looped recording of birdcalls, Kim’s trap is set. …

” ‘We have these long-term population monitoring routes across the Northwest. And a surprising number of species are declining,’ says Oregon State professor Matt Betts. ‘Actually, more than about half of the species that live in a forest like this are in decline.’

“Rising temperatures can shrink where some birds can live and where they can find food. For the hermit warbler, those declines are up to 4 percent each year.

“Research by Oregon State’s Betts and Sarah Frey found warblers declined in areas with young forests, including those replanted after clear-cut logging. But hermit warblers are doing better in other areas.

” ‘In landscapes that had more older forest, their population declines were lowered, or even reversed, even though the climate has been warming,’ Frey says.

“The Pacific Northwest has had a decades-long push to preserve its old-growth forests, and the warblers thrived in them. That suggests these forests somehow shielded them from the ill effects of rising temperatures. The question is why, and that is where this new study comes in.

“Kim and fellow Oregon State researcher Adam Hadley move the trapped hermit warbler’s feathers aside and attach a tiny radio tag to its back using nontoxic glue (the kind used for fake eyelashes). Then they release the bird, and it flies away. …

“They walk down a drainage though a 50-year-old tree plantation, a remnant of the logging past at the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest. Then they cross into a grove of much older trees, some close to 300 years old.

“Hadley explains that the temperatures can be different at various heights of a tree. ‘It’s possible that when it’s warmer, [songbirds] may be only using the bottom and more shady parts of the trees,’ he says. He guesses they may move up higher when it becomes cooler.

“He says the complex layers and sheer biomass of old-growth keeps the temperature in these forests up to 5 degrees lower. But the researchers can’t fully understand what’s going on without knowing more about how the birds use the forests. …

“Hadley waves the antenna through the air trying to pinpoint the warbler’s location. … He and the others will compare the hermit warblers’ movements with temperature data they’ve also been gathering. They hope to get another step closer to understanding how this native songbird species might cope with the warming climate.”

More. This seems like an extra reason to protect old-growth forests, not just replant after logging. But how long will five degrees cooler be enough?

Kim, do you know about this? And are you seeing these warblers at your banding station?

Oregon State scientists are tagging and tracking hermit warblers in hopes of learning why their numbers have stabilized in places with old-growth forests, despite declines in other areas.

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Photo: Reuters/Bob Strong
Cities consume more than two-thirds of the world’s energy. Copenhagen is a city that’s determined to become the first carbon-neutral capital and, in the process, is showing that sustainability improvements are good for the economy.

Copenhagen, where Erik’s Swedish-Danish relatives live, is showing the world that cutting carbon emissions to fight global warming can actually reduce energy prices and boost the economy. In a win-win for all concerned, big steps by the local energy company are complemented by the small steps of individuals who know that biking everywhere is good for both the environment and personal health.

Lin Taylor writes for the World Economic Forum, “Around the world, more than 70 major cities have pledged to end their reliance on fossil fuels and stop pumping out climate-changing emissions by 2050.

“But Copenhagen — a city of wind turbines, bicycles and reliable public transportation – thinks it can go even further: It intends to accomplish that shift in just seven years. It will require a complete reimagining of how the Danish capital is powered and designed — and a lot of cyclists. …

“While other cities have parking garages for cars, Copenhagen has them for bicycles. Virtually all its 600,000 residents own a bicycle, and the city has 375 kilometres of dedicated cycle lanes.

“The harbour-rimmed municipality also is mostly powered by clean energy — and it has its own renewable energy company and wind turbines. Running its own energy systems is one of the reasons Copenhagen is already well on track to being carbon neutral – meaning it will produce no more carbon emissions than it can offset elsewhere. …

“In 2017, Copenhagen produced about 1.37 million tonnes of climate-changing gases, down 40 percent from 2005, according to city figures. That’s about 2.2 tonnes of emissions per capita, one of the lowest rates for a European city. The city said the reduction in emissions was largely due to a switch to wind energy under HOFOR, the city’s own utility company. …

“Around the world, cities consume more than two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for about three-quarters of carbon dioxide emissions, according to the United Nations. That means finding ways for cities to become carbon neutral will be key to meeting the Paris commitment to keep the rise in global temperatures to ‘well below’ 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. …

“In its quest to cut emissions, Copenhagen has another distinct advantage: For over 100 years, the city — and Denmark as a whole — has relied on district heating, a system where heat is produced and supplied from one neighbourhood or area plant, instead of per household. That means the city itself can make the switch to cleaner energy for large numbers of residents, cutting carbon emissions by over half compared to the use of individual gas or oil boilers, HOFOR says.” It adds:

“The city also has a newly-built district cooling system, which uses seawater to cool buildings and households, cutting energy consumption up to 80 percent compared to traditional methods of air-conditioning.

“By 2025, the city aims to be powered entirely by wind, sun, geothermal energy, waste, and wood and other biomass. Yet despite its huge investment in new, clean technologies, one of the city’s big priorities is cutting prices for energy users. …

“[Jørgen Abildgaard, director of the city’s climate programme,] said it was crucial to work closely with industries such as construction and transport to devise business models and technologies that work both to meet business goals and cut emissions. …

“As the city’s emissions-cutting commitments have grown, so has its economy, which has seen 25 percent growth over the past two decades.” More at the World Economic Forum, here.

Photo: Thomson Reuters Foundation/Lin Taylor
On a typical day in August, numerous bicycles are parked on a street in central Copenhagen, Denmark.

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