The Guardian has reported about the fact that while pristine rainforests are essential for wildlife and humans, we're losing them just as fast as ever. Apparently literally millions of hectares of pristine tropical rainforest were lost to deforestation during 2018, as revealed by a new satellite analysis, and it looks like beef, chocolate and palm oil are the major causes.
2018 was the second worst year since records began
Rainforests naturally stash masses of CO2 and nurture thousands of species. They are vital if we want to avoid runaway climate change and stop the current ‘sixth mass extinction' in its tracks. But deforestation is still increasing, and while the losses in 2018 were not as drastic as those we saw in 2016, it was the next worst year since records began in 2002.
Who are the worst sinners?
It looks like ‘clearcutting' by loggers hand cattle ranchers have destroyed a load of primary forest and much of it has happened in Brazil, where tribes have been invaded and land grabbed illegally. The Democratic Republic of the Congo and Indonesia also saw chronic damage through 2018, although the Indonesian government has promised to protect their rainforest better in future. The places with the worst losses of all were Ghana and Ivory Coast, thanks to runaway gold mining and cocoa farming.
The battle is being lost
As Frances Seymour from the World Resources Institute, part of the Global Forest Watch network that did the research, says, “We are nowhere near winning this battle. It is really tempting to celebrate the second year of decline since peak tree cover loss in 2016 but, if you look back over the last 18 years, it is clear that the overall trend is still upwards. The world’s forests are now in the emergency room – it is death by a thousand cuts.” she said.
While there are plenty of government and corporate efforts being made to fight deforestation, they are clearly not good enough. And the loss of primary forest is thought to be mostly irreversible.
It was just like something from a novel. When the vast carcass of a juvenile Humpback whale was found washed up inland in a remote mangrove swamp, fifty feet from the vast mouth of the Amazon river, it was a complete mystery.
It's strange that a humpback whale was on the north coast of Brazil during February in the first place, an extremely unusual occurrence. Between August and November,humpback whales are found along Brazil’s Bahia coast, where they mate before migrating north. By February, they should be a very long way away in Antarctica.
Tragedy for a 12 month old humped back whale calf
The creature's body, which was discovered thanks to the circling carrion-eating vultures circling above it, measures a whopping 26 feet long and weighs ten tons. It was found in dense undergrowth a short distance from the shore in the forest on the fringes of the north Brazilian state of Para, discovered by workers from the country's department of health, sanitation and environment. Conservation staff from the Bicho d'Agua Institute, who were also at the site, think the whale was a twelve month old calf that was separated from its mum by a storm before being washed inland by huge tides.
Was the body driven inland by high tides?
There's another theory. At this time of year the tide usually rises almost 13 feet, flooding the mangrove forest twice every 24 hours and driving massive amounts of man-made rubbish inland. Some experts think the already-dead and dramatically inflated carcass, full of the gases you get when a body decomposes, actually floated its way into the mangrove forest.
Is plastic pollution or climate change involved?
The animal wasn't visibly wounded, and now experts are testing tissue samples to see if they can find out more about how it died. Sadly there might be plastic involved, with one theory suggesting the whale suffocated after inhaling massive amounts of waste plastic while looking for food near the beach. Another theory says climate change is causing confusion amongst whales, sending them to areas of the world they wouldn't usually find themselves in, at odd times of year.
The whale's remains will be left in the forest, being too difficult to move, but the skeleton itself will be carefully removed and sent to a natural history museum in the nearby city of Belem.
Since the early noughties, London has made huge strides to become a more sustainable city. As one of the world’s largest and most densely populated cities (it ranks 27th when compared to other global metropolises), the need for sustainable development is non-negotiable – especially when we consider its estimated population growth; the capital will house 1 million more people within the next 10 years. And according to the UN, the global population is set to rise from 7.3 billion to 9.7 billion by 2050.
Undoubtedly, this will put increased pressure on healthcare, education, transport, housing and energy resources, both in the UK and abroad. It begs the question: how can London (and our other major cities across the globe) develop sustainably, and where can improvements be made?
Tackling Air Pollution in London
Despite a reduction in emissions since the millennium, air pollution is still a significant problem in the capital, threatening the health of citizens and visitors alike.
To tackle this, London has adopted increasingly strict policies for privately-owned vehicles on its roads. In a bid to reduce traffic congestion and encourage motorists to use public transport, the congestion charged was introduced in 2003. As of October 2017, older vehicles that fail to meet the minimum Euro emission standards are now charged when travelling into London too. The toxicity charge (or ‘t-charge’) acts as a deterrent for drivers, since it works in addition to the congestion charge. A Low Emissions Zone (LEZ) was also introduced to the city in 2008; it currently covers most of Greater London.
Green Spaces & Infrastructure
London is the greenest major city in Europe and the third greenest city of its size in the world; currently, 47% of the Greater London area is classified as green space.
Green (or living) walls and roofs are a modern, eco-friendly way of housing a growing population without stripping a city of its green space and vegetation. Not only do living roofs and walls support biodiversity in urban areas; since they improve a building’s insulation, they’re an energy efficient option too. There are currently around 700 green roofs in central London, covering an area of over 175,000m2 (or 17.5 hectares).
London: A Future Smart City
As technology improves, the ‘smart city’ becomes a valuable, and increasingly viable, insight into how our urban spaces will operate in the future.
In 2017, London Mayor Sadiq Khan revealed his ambition to turn the capital into ‘the world’s leading smart city.’ From transport to pollution, modern technology is being used to improve the efficiency and connectivity of London’s entire infrastructure.
In June 2018, the ‘Smarter London Together’ roadmap was released, setting out how the city’s governing bodies would turn their ambitions into reality. By collecting and managing data on the environment (emissions data can be gathered from air monitors in the city, for example), it is hoped that the city will become ‘a better place to live, work, visit and study.’
Recycling & Conscious Consumption
In 2016-17, England produced over 23 million tonnes of waste; just over 10 million tonnes of this was recycled. This is still an improvement though; in 1998-99, London’s recycling rate was just 7.6%. Fast-forward to 2017, and this has increased to 33%. However, London’s recycling rate falls short of the national average, which currently stands at 44%. The UK government has set a target that by 2020, 50% of all household waste will be recycled.
Despite global population growth, David Satterthwaite, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Environment and Development in London states, ‘it is not the number of people on the planet that is the issue, but the number of consumers and the scale – and nature, of their consumption.’
Sustainable development, then, has as much to do with the individual as the wider society; we should all strive to live more consciously, with an outward focus and an awareness that our personal consumption has an impact on the world’s resources.
Written by Amber Hall
Worldwide (and especially in the United States), bottled water is a booming industry, and its sales continue to grow. In the US alone, 97 billion bottles of bottled water are bought each year.
But, is bottled water really that much better than its tap water counterpart? Is it any safer, tastier, or healthier than tap water? And, what about the environmental impact of plastic bottles?
As a matter of fact, in the United States, Canada, and other developed countries, tap water is just as safe as bottled water. There are stricter regulations for the safety of tap water, and quality testing is done regularly. On the other hand, bottled water quality tests are essentially done voluntarily by bottled water companies, and there are very few safety and quality regulations in place.
In the infographic below by Get Green Now, we compare the differences between bottled water and tap water. You'll also learn more about why bottled water really isn't much better than tap water:
In October 2017, Oxford announced its plans to become the world’s first zero emissions city zone – they aim to ban all petrol and diesel cars from the city centre area by 2020. This suggests the UK are serious about rolling out their plans to ban the sale of all new diesel and petrol cars by 2040 in an attempt to clean up the UK’s air quality. Oxford isn’t the only city looking to introduce clear air zones either. The government has revealed five UK cities that plan to have a clean air zone by 2020, including Birmingham, Southampton and Leeds.
Motorparks Grange, retailers of prestige vehicles such used Aston Martin, Jaguar and Land Rover, discuss the future of Clean Air Zones across the UK, and what they mean for drivers:
Defining a Clean Air Zone
The government defines a Clean Air Zone as “an area where targeted action is taken to improve air quality and resources are prioritised and coordinated in order to shape the urban environment in a way that delivers improved health benefits and supports economic growth”.
The programme implements access restrictions in ‘clean zones’ to encourage cleaner vehicles on the roads. High polluting vehicles such as busses, HGV’s and taxis will be faced with a charge for entering these zones – however, private cars will not be affected by these charges yet. Fully electric vehicles and vehicles which meet the definition of an ultra-low emission vehicles will be exempt from paying entering charges. However, other vehicles are separated into different classes, and charges will depend on which class they fall into.
Where will they be?
The government have chosen areas across the UK that have the poorest air quality. Clean Air Zones expect to be introduced in Leeds, Birmingham, Southampton, Nottingham and Derby by 2020, in an attempt to bring levels of nitrogen dioxide back down to the legal limit. The zones will most likely be introduced in the city centres, and restrictions can involve entry charges, time-of-day restrictions and/or blanket vehicle bans.
Other cities across the UK, such as Manchester, are currently investigating the feasibility of introducing a Clean Air Zone onto their roads. The Sunday Times suggests that over 35 urban areas could be included in this plan, whereby both private and public vehicles could be banned on the roads during peak traffic hours in city centres.
So called ‘toxin taxes’ could be as high as £20 a day in the most polluted cities. However, the government is keen to point out that they don’t want to punish drivers who bought their diesel cars because of successive governments – they don’t want drivers to feel they are being hit hard for incentives that previous governments had encouraged.
Who will be charged?
Originally, not all zones will have fixed charges — these will be decided by local councils and authorities. Penalties are not compulsory for city Clean Air Zones either. However, councils which do implement charges have the right to charge additional penalty fines if drivers do not comply with the zone charges.
Initially, the zones will not penalise private car owners. Instead, the zones will charge drivers of buses, taxis and HGV’s which contribute the most air pollution. Charges have not been finalised yet, but they will be issued depending on which class, or category, your vehicles falls under. There are four classes, A, B, C and D and are identified on vehicle type depending on your emissions and euro standard.
To find out where your vehicle will lie, the government has released a report outlining the Clean Air Zone framework.
Countless acres of pristine rainforest around the world have been cleared to grow palm oil, a substance used in many of today's processed foods. Processed food itself has a very bad rap, increasingly found to be bad for human health, but that's another story. The trouble is, big food brands are trying to tell us their palm oil is sustainable… and that's a big, fat marketing fib. According to scientists, claims that palm oil farming does not damage rainforests is ‘problematic', because the supply chains involved are so very complicated.
‘No deforestation' labels are meaningless
If you see a ‘no-deforestation' statement printed on food packaging, walk away. While some food manufacturers might have good intentions, a report by researchers at Imperial College London say there's no way to tell whether a batch of the oil is to blame for damaging and destroying forests where precious creatures like orangutans, Borneo elephants and Sumatran tigers – all near-extinct – live. Producing the oil invariably reduces biodiversity and forces local people from their land.
Palm oil – Nasty stuff that deserves banning from the food chain
Palm oil is used to make half of all supermarket products, including biscuits, snacks, cereals and margarine, even soap and shampoo. Public pressure had led manufacturers to claim the palm oil they use is sustainable, with no deforestation, but the complexity of the supply chain, lack of consensus on the definition of ‘deforestation', no real government support and an ongoing demand for unsustainable, unbranded palm oil across India and China are making a nonsense of the often half-hearted conservation efforts that are being made.
At the same time campaigns by environmental groups and others are proving ineffective in the face of palm oil-led destruction. Government regulations are inconsistent. There's even widespread confusion about who owns the land being deforested.
Concerted action is the only way to prevent more deforestation
Sadly, simply banning palm oil production and applying more pressure to countries who produce it isn't the answer. NGO shaming campaigns are not enough. Unilateral adoption of commitments by individual companies isn't enough. We need strong, concerted action to prevent even more deforestation in the name of a product that many feel is so destructive that it has no place in the food chain.
It’s easy to forget sometimes that the air we breathe isn’t pure oxygen. It contains thousands of different chemicals including nitrogen oxide (NOx).
Depending on where you live in the UK you could be breathing in much higher levels of NOx than other areas.
Transport is one of the biggest contributors of nitrogen oxide, which is created when fuel is burned at high temperatures.
The health effects of nitrogen oxide can be deadly, and it contributes to thousands of premature deaths across the UK each year. In order to tackle the problem, the government is introducing measures to cut air pollution levels.
In London for example, a toxicity charge of £10 has been brought in for older vehicles that emit higher emissions. This is on top of the existing congestion charge of £11.50 per day.
Electric vehicles could be the answer to cutting the UKs NOx emissions and making the air we breathe cleaner and safer. Many people aren’t sure how electric cars work and are hesitant to make the switch, but many manufacturers are investing in the future of electric transport options and so should we.
To see just how bad the UK’s air pollution problem is Confused.com created an infographic to highlight the top 10 polluted areas in the UK.
Did you know that the waste in our seas is now twice the size of France?
France is 598 miles long from North to South and it would take 9 hours and 12 minutes to drive the distance. Now, double that… and that’s how much waste is currently in our oceans.
Our planet has a population of over 7.5 billion people and as a result, we dump a massive 2.12 billion tonnes of waste per year. This is partly because 99% of the stuff we buy gets binned within 6 months of purchasing – this doesn't include food, human, electronic or medical waste.
Still struggling to comprehend just how obscene this amount of waste really is? If it continues at its current rate, in 10 years time there could be over 80 million tonnes of plastic floating in our seas – and that figure will continue to increase if no real action is taken soon. To put that into perspective, that’s almost 17 times bigger than the Empire State Building in New York City, which is 443 metres tall – big, right?
Here are a few ways you can help our oceans and reduce your own plastic waste footprint:
- Stop using plastic straws – They can easily get stuck in the mouths and noses of sea creatures and get mistaken for food
- Reuse your shopping bags – A simple way to cut plastic usage is to reuse your shopping bags
- Give up gum – Gum is made of a synthetic rubber aka plastic
- Purchase products in boxes, not plastic bottles – Cardboard decomposes so it is far better for our environment
- Eat fresh produce that doesn’t come in plastic cartons and boxes – This will work out better for you as you’ll be eating fresh produce and also saving the planet. A win, win situation!
Take a look at this graphic from Eco2Greetings that shows how much waste will end up in our oceans if no action is taken.
Our climate is transforming due to natural processes and industrial impacts created by man. Heatwaves, droughts, cold snaps, and floods are four of the major environmental risks the United Kingdom is facing due to an increase in extreme weather patterns. The risks of these environmental changes can have grave effects on our habitat and make life difficult for humans, animals, and plants.
Pollution in urban areas create “heat-islands”, and the air within and around these islands is of poor quality. CO2 emissions from the transport sector and personal transportation spark local climate degeneration. Among many changes, global climate degeneration leads to sea level rise, reduced river flow, water shortages, and groundwater pollution.
Therefore, the UK is taking measures to curb risks and to be prepared for the increase of natural hazards. The entire United Kingdom is bound to the Paris Climate Agreement and is dedicated to become energy independent by 2050. Energy independence means restraining the usage of carbon fuel and becoming dependent on renewable energy sources.
The five major urban areas London, Manchester, West Yorkshire, West Midlands, and Glasgow, are determined to carry out several measures that enable them to adapt to the changing environment. These include expanding flood defenses, improving spatial planning, and installing green space covers.
What’s more, each of the five major urban areas will decrease the emission of greenhouse gases by promoting 0% CO2 emissions transportation. Cities will reduce their overall energy consumption through smarter energy use, implement street lighting, and curb internal waste. Moreover, they express the need for waste prevention and the implementation of the method of reduce, reuse, and recycle.
This is why GreenMatch has made an infographic in which the natural threats for the five urban areas are discussed, together with what preventative measures can be taken.
Until recently, global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels had levelled off, but estimates from the Global Carbon Project (GCP) suggest that this is all going to change, with global emissions set to grow by around 2%. In a new report, researchers from the University of East Anglia and the Global Carbon Project (GCP) say CO2 emissions are projected to rise by 2% to reach 41 billion tonnes by the end of 2017. The increase is largely down to growth in coal-fired electricity generation, and oil and gas consumption in China.
However looking at a country’s total carbon emissions alone, doesn’t always tell the full story of the country’s contribution to global warming.