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News articles on bold and dangerous ideas that may save the world
Mongabay.com news articles on bold and dangerous ideas that may save the world in blog format. Updated regularly.
(12/02/2009) In 2007 American delegates to a climate summit in Bali were booed outright for obstructing a global agreement on climate change. Then in a David versus Goliath moment they were famously scolded by a negotiator from Papua New Guinea, Kevin Conrad. "If for some reason you are not willing to lead, leave it to the rest of us. Please get out of the way," Conrad told the American delegates. However, much has changed in two years: the United States, under a new administration, is no longer the climate change pariah. The US has recently announced emissions cuts, negotiated successfully with China on the issue, and will be attending—Obama included—the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen next week. Obama and his team probably don't need to worry about being booed or remonstrated this time around, but that role may instead go to Canada.
World requires radical new economic models to fight poverty and mitigate global warming
(11/30/2009) A new report calls for a radical re-envisioning of current economic models in order to tackle poverty, mitigate and adapt to climate change, and solve other environmental problems. The report was crafted by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and was supported by The Working Group on Climate Change and Development, which includes a wide variety of well-known groups, including environmental, religious, and anti-poverty organizations.
Zoos call for deeper emission cuts to save life on Earth
(11/30/2009) To save species around the world zoos say deeper emission cuts are needed than governments are currently proposing. Over 200 zoos worldwide have signed a petition calling on governments to set the target of atmospheric carbon below 350 parts per million (ppm) far lower than most government targets.
Reforestation effort would lower Britain's greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent
(11/25/2009) A study by Britain's Forestry Commission found that planting 23,000 hectares of forest every year for the next 40 years would lower the island nation's greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent, according to reporting by the BBC.
The US will set emissions target, but is this a turning point for success at Copenhagen?
(11/24/2009) Today may mark a turning point for a successful negotiation at the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen or it may just be another blip in the up-and-down news cycles that have preceded the summit for months.
Deforestation emissions should be shared between producer and consumer, argues study
(11/19/2009) Under the Kyoto Protocol the nation that produces carbon emission takes responsibility for them, but what about when the country is producing carbon-intensive goods for consumer demand beyond its borders? For example while China is now the world's highest carbon emitter, 50 percent of its growth over the last year was due to producing goods for wealthy countries like the EU and the United States which have, in a sense, outsourced their manufacturing emissions to China. A new study in Environmental Research Letters presents a possible model for making certain that both producer and consumer share responsibility for emissions in an area so far neglected by studies of this kind: deforestation and land-use change.
Using fish as livestock feed threatens global fisheries
(11/18/2009) Fish doesn't just feed humans. Millions of tons of fish are fed every year to chickens, pigs, and even farmed fish even in the midst of rising concerns over fish stocks collapses around the world. Finding an alternative to fish as livestock feed would go a long way toward preventing the collapse of fish populations worldwide according to a new paper in Oryx.
Coastal habitats may sequester 50 times more carbon than tropical forests by area
(11/16/2009) Highly endangered coastal habitats are incredibly effective in sequestering carbon and locking it away in soil, according to a new paper in a report by the IUCN. The paper attests that coastal habitats—such as mangroves, sea grasses, and salt marshes—sequester as much as 50 times the amount of carbon in their soil per hectare as tropical forest. "The key difference between these coastal habitats and forests is that mangroves, seagrasses and the plants in salt marshes are extremely efficient at burying carbon in the sediment below them where it can stay for centuries or even millennia."
New rating systems seeks to promote sustainable landscapes from shopping malls to city parks
(11/15/2009) The Sustainable Sites Initiative has developed the United States' first rating system for the design, construction, and on-going maintenance of a wide-variety of landscapes, both with and without buildings, including shopping malls, subdivisions, university campuses, corporate buildings, transportation centers, parks and other recreation areas, and single-family homes.
Declaration calls for more wilderness protected areas to combat global warming
(11/11/2009) Meeting this week in Merida, Mexico, the 9th World Wilderness Congress (WILD9) has released a declaration that calls for increasing wilderness protections in an effort to mitigate climate change. The declaration, which is signed by a number of influential organizations, argues that wilderness areas—both terrestrial and marine—act as carbon sinks, while preserving biodiversity and vital ecosystem services.
Nations vulnerable to global warming present demands: carbon levels below 350ppm and billions in aid
(11/10/2009) A group of nations especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change have released a declaration calling for developed countries to keep CO2 emission below 350 parts per million (ppm) and to give 1.5 percent of their gross domestic product to aid developing nations in adapting to the myriad impacts of climate change.
Fossil fuel subsidies "bringing us closer to irreversible climate change"
(11/06/2009) The Green Economy Coalition is urging G20 finance ministers to rapidly put an end to fossil fuel subsidies. In a letter to the ministers the coalition argues that these subsidies are contributing directly to climate change and making it difficult for the world to transition to a greener economy.
Will Ecuador's plan to raise money for not drilling oil in the Amazon succeed?
(10/27/2009) Ecuador's Yasuni National Park is full of wealth: it is one of the richest places on earth in terms of biodiversity; it is home to the indigenous Waorani people, as well as several uncontacted tribes; and the park's forest and soil provides a massive carbon sink. However, Yasuni National Park also sits on wealth of a different kind: one billion barrels of oil remain locked under the pristine rainforest.
"Money is not a problem," palm oil CEO tells conservationists during speech defending the industry
(10/26/2009) Earlier this month at a colloquium to implement wildlife corridors for orangutans in the Malaysian state of Sabah, Dr. Yusof Basiron, the CEO of Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), told conservationists and primate experts that the palm oil industry was ready to fund reforestation efforts in the corridors. "We can raise the money to replant [the corridors] and keep contributing as a subsidy in the replanting process of this corridor for connecting forests," Basiron said in response to a question on how the palm oil industry will contribute. "Money is not a problem. The commitment is already there, the pressure is already very strong for this to be done, so it's just trying to get the thing into motion."
Amazonian natives say they will defend tribal lands from Hunt Oil with "their lives"
(10/25/2009) Indigenous natives in the Amazon are headed to the town of Salvacion in Peru with a plan to forcibly remove the Texas-based Hunt Oil company from their land as early as today. Peruvian police forces, numbering in the hundreds, are said to be waiting in the town. The crisis has risen over an area known as Lot 76, or the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve. The 400,000 hectare reserve was created in 2002 to protect the flora and fauna of the area, as well as to safeguard watersheds of particular importance to indigenous groups in the region.
Logged forests support biodiversity after 15 years of rehabilitation, but not if turned into plantations
(10/21/2009) With the world facing global warming and a biodiversity crisis, a new study shows that within 15 years logged forests—considered by many to be 'degraded'—can be managed in order to successfully fight both climate change and extinction.
Emotional call for palm oil industry to address environmental problems
(10/21/2009) During what was at times an emotional speech, Sabah's Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Environment, Datuk Masidi Manjun, called on the palm oil industry to stop polluting rivers and work with NGOs to save orangutans and other wildlife. He delivered the speech on the first day of an Orangutan Conservation Colloquium held in early October in the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo.
Business and conservation groups team up to conserve and better manage US's southern forests
(10/15/2009) A new project entitled Carbon Canopy brings together multiple stakeholders—from big business to conservation organizations to private landowners—in order to protect and better manage the United State's southern forests. The program intends to employ the emerging US forest carbon market to pay private forest owners for conservation and restoration efforts while making certain that all forest-use practices subscribes to the standards of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
To save species conservationists must focus on conserving at least 5,000 individuals
(10/15/2009) The tiger has an estimated population of 3,400-5,000 individuals; the giant panda, 1,000-2,000; the North Atlantic right whale, 350-400; the Sumatran rhino, 250; and the California condor, 170. A new study shows that none of these species is safe from extinction yet, although each has received considerable conservation attention compared to most imperiled species.
Palm oil industry pledges wildlife corridors to save orangutans
(10/03/2009) In an unlikely—and perhaps tenuous—alliance, conservationists and the palm oil industry met this week to draw up plans to save Asia's last great ape, the orangutan. As if to underscore the colloquium's importance, delegates on arriving in the Malaysian State of Sabah found the capital covered in a thick and strange fog caused by the burning of rainforests and peat lands in neighboring Kalimantan. After two days of intensive meetings the colloquium adopted a resolution which included the acquisition of land for creating wildlife buffer zones of at least 100 meters along all major rivers, in addition to corridors for connecting forests. Researchers said such corridors were essential if orangutans were to have a future in Sabah.
Could agroforestry solve the biodiversity crisis and address poverty?, an interview with Shonil Bhagwat
(09/24/2009) With the world facing a variety of crises: climate change, food shortages, extreme poverty, and biodiversity loss, researchers are looking at ways to address more than one issue at once by revolutionizing sectors of society. One of the ideas is a transformation of agricultural practices from intensive chemical-dependent crops to mixing agriculture and forest, while relying on organic methods. The latter is known as agroforestry or land sharing—balancing the crop yields with biodiversity. Shonil Bhagwat, Director of MSc in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management at the School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford, believes this philosophy could help the world tackle some of its biggest problems.
Prince Charles making progress in effort to save rainforests, says leading British environmentalist
(09/22/2009) Prince Charles of Great Britain has emerged as one of the world’s highest-profile promoters of a scheme that could finally put an end to destruction of tropical rainforests. The Prince’s Rainforest Project, launched in 2007, is promoting awareness of the role deforestation plays in climate change—it accounts for nearly a fifth of greenhouse gas emissions. The project also publicizes the multitude of benefits tropical forests provide, including maintenance of rainfall, biodiversity, and sustainable livelihoods for millions of people. But the initiative goes beyond merely raising awareness. Prince Charles is using his considerable influence to bring political and business leaders together to devise and support a plan to provide emergency funding to save rainforests. Tony Juniper, one of Britain’s best-known environmentalists and Special Adviser to the project, spoke about Prince Charles' efforts in an interview with mongabay.com.
Fake Obama makes climate change top priority
(09/21/2009) In an effort to push the real President Obama to attend the UN Summit on Climate Change in December, a fake Obama took over on Friday.
Alleviating poverty and saving biodiversity are inherently linked argue scientists
(09/17/2009) Twenty-nine scientists argue in Science today that the world will not be able to lift up the world's poor unless it also addresses global biodiversity loss. They say that the same underlying problems—exploitation of resources, unsustainable overconsumption, climate change, population growth—are exacerbating global poverty and the extinction of species.
Innovative reforestation project threatened by 'regime change' in Madagascar, an interview with Rainer Dolch
(09/16/2009) In Madagascar the TAMS Program (Tetik'asa Mampody Savoka, meaning "the project to bring back the forest") is under threat due to the new government's unwillingness to provide funding. The current government, after gaining power in a coup this year, has frozen all funds slated for the project and has yet to sign a carbon credit agreement with the World Bank which would bring much needed funding. "It remains to be seen if the recognition or not of Madagascar's transitional Government will lead to signing the contract with the World Bank in the near future. This is of course essential for the continuity of the project and its future," Rainer Dolch told Monagaby.com in an interview.
Economists, scientists warn that world crises require new order of international cooperation and enforcement
(09/15/2009) A group of environmental scientists and economists warn that under current governing models the number and scale of human-caused crises are "outrunning our ability to deal with them".
Concerns over deforestation may drive new approach to cattle ranching in the Amazon
(09/08/2009) While you're browsing the mall for running shoes, the Amazon rainforest is probably the farthest thing from your mind. Perhaps it shouldn't be. The globalization of commodity supply chains has created links between consumer products and distant ecosystems like the Amazon. Shoes sold in downtown Manhattan may have been assembled in Vietnam using leather supplied from a Brazilian processor that subcontracted to a rancher in the Amazon. But while demand for these products is currently driving environmental degradation, this connection may also hold the key to slowing the destruction of Earth's largest rainforest.
Discovering nature's wonder in order to save it, an interview with Jaboury Ghazoul
(09/08/2009) Sometimes we lose sight of the forest by staring at the trees. When this happens we need something jarring and eloquent to pull us back to view the big picture again. This is what tropical ecologist Jaboury Ghazoul provided during a talk at the Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) meeting this summer in Marburg, Germany. Throwing out a dazzling array of big ideas and even bigger questions—incorporating natural history, biodiversity, morality, philosophy, and art—the enthusiastic Ghazoul left his audience in a state of wonder.
Japan throws down gauntlet, vows to cut greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020
(09/07/2009) The new prime minister of Japan, Yukio Hatoyama, has thrown down the gauntlet to other industrialized nations in the lead-up to the UN Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen this December. He had pledged to cut his nation's greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent from 1990 levels (the set date for the Kyoto Treaty) by 2020.
Investing in conservation could save global economy trillions of dollars annually
(09/03/2009) By investing billions in conserving natural areas now, governments could save trillions every year in ecosystem services, such as natural carbon sinks to fight climate change, according to a European report The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB).
Maldives president tells world: 'please, don’t be stupid' on climate change
(09/01/2009) "Please, don't be stupid," Mohamed Nasheed told the world regarding the need to act decisively against climate change. To underlie his message, Nasheed announced that his country will become carbon neutral in ten years.
Unique acacia tree could play vital role in turning around Africa's food crisis
(08/24/2009) Scientists have discovered that an acacia tree, long used by farmers in parts of Africa, could dramatically raise food yields in Africa. The acacia tree Faidherbia albida, also known as Mgunga in Swahili, possesses the unique ability to provide much-needed nitrogen to soil.
A new effort to save global biodiversity? Just ask E.O. Wilson
(08/24/2009) In a short interview with New Scientist, world renowned entomologist, conservationist, and author, E.O. Wilson speaks about his latest idea to save the world's biodiversity.
Environmental disappointments under Obama
(08/24/2009) While the President has been bogged down for the last couple months in an increasingly histrionic health-care debate-which has devolved so far into ridiculousness that one doesn't know whether to laugh or cry-environmental decisions, mostly from the President's appointees have still been coming fast and furious. However, while the administration started out pouring sunshine on the environment (after years of obfuscated drudgery under the Bush administration), they soon began to move away from truly progressive decisions on the environment and into the recognizable territory of playing it safe-and sometimes even stupid.
Little hydroelectric dams become all the rage, but do they harm the environment?
(08/23/2009) Looking for a way to create energy that doesn’t contribute to climate change and avoid the usual opposition that comes with building large hydroelectric dams, many energy companies are now pursuing constructing small hydroelectric dams in the wilderness, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Biofuel company eyes dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico for creating fish-powered fuel
(08/18/2009) 'Dead zones' in the ocean are called such for a reason. Every year agricultural run-off, especially fertilizer, floods the oceans with an abundance of nutrients leading to algae blooms, i.e. massive explosions of phytoplankton. The demise of these blooms, and the rise of bacteria feeding on them, eventually starves the entire area of oxygen creating a 'dead zone' where the vast majority marine life can't survive. Considered by most to be an environmental catastrophe, a new company is looking at dead zones in a different light: fuel and profit.
Will hydrocarbon biofuels replace gasoline and ethanol?
(08/13/2009) In a Perspectives piece in Science, John R. Regalbuto argues that the world will soon see a revolution in biofuels, but not those made from corn. Instead Regalbuto, program director of Catalysis and Biocatalysis at the National Science Foundation, says that the future of biofuels is in substances that can be converted into hydrocarbons, such as switch grass, woody biomass, corn stover, and even algae.
Greenpeace drops boulders in Swedish waters to protect marine life from bottom trawling
(08/10/2009) Activists with Greenpeace have begun placing massive granite rocks in Swedish waters to prevent fishing boats from bottom trawling in sensitive areas.
Palm oil companies trade plantation concessions for carbon credits from forest conservation
(07/22/2009) Indonesian palm oil producers are eying forest conservation projects as a way to supplement earnings via the nascent carbon market, reports Reuters.
Saving one of the last tropical dry forests, an interview with Edwina von Gal
(06/29/2009) Often we hear about endangered species—animals or plants on the edge of extinction—however we rarely hear about endangered environments—entire ecosystems that may disappear from Earth due to humankind’s growing footprint. Tropical dry forests are just such an ecosystem: with only 2 percent of the world’s tropical dry forest remaining it is one of the world’s most endangered ecosystems. A newly established organization, the Azuero Earth Project, is working not only to preserve some of the world’s last tropical dry forest on the Azuero peninsula in Panama, but also to begin restoration projects hoping to aid both the forest’s viability and the local people. Edwina von Gal, a landscape designer, is one of the founders of the Azuero Earth Project, as well as president of the organization.
Proving the ‘shifting baselines’ theory: how humans consistently misperceive nature
(06/24/2009) The theory of shifting baselines was first elucidated by scientists exploring urban children’s perception of nature in 1995. In the same year, marine biologist Daniel Pauly coined the term ‘shifting baselines’. Since then the idea of humans perceiving nature inaccurately, through ‘shifting baselines’, has taken the conservation world by storm: the theory appeared to describe a commonly noticed problem regarding people’s view of the natural world around them. However, the theory had yet to be tested in a scientific manner: were people actually undergoing shifting baselines or was something else going on? For the first time a new paper in Conservation Letters empirically tests the shifting baselines theory.
Wind could power the entire world
(06/22/2009) Wind power may be the key to a clean energy revolution: a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science finds that wind power could provide for the entire world’s current and future energy needs.
What is the crop productivity and environmental impact of too much or too little fertilizer?
(06/18/2009) While the use of synthetic fertilizer has greatly increased agricultural production globally—helping to feed a global population that is not slowing down—it has brought with it high environmental costs. Fertilizer runoff has polluted many coastal regions creating ‘dead zones’ where the ocean is starved of oxygen by the influx of nitrogen. Synthetic fertilizers have also polluted the air with ammonia, and sent emissions of nitrous oxide into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.
Attacking the demand side of deforestation
(06/16/2009) A new UK government-sponsored initiative seeks to address the demand side of deforestation by identifying how an organization's activities and supply chains contribute to forest destruction. The initiative, called the Forest Footprint Disclosure Project (FFD Project), will ask companies to "disclose how their operations and supply chains are impacting forests worldwide, and what is being done to manage those impacts responsibly." The disclosure information will be reported on an annual basis, enabling investors to identify possible risks related to a company’s "forest footprint." Disclosure will also provide consumers with information to make better informed decisions about the products they purchase.
Marine scientist calls for abstaining from seafood to save oceans
(06/08/2009) In April marine scientist Jennifer Jacquet made the case on her blog Guilty Planet that people should abstain from eating seafood to help save life in the ocean. With fish populations collapsing worldwide and scientists sounding warnings that ocean ecosystems—as edible resources—have only decades left, it is perhaps surprising that Jacquet’s call to abstain from consuming seafood is a lone voice in the wilderness, but thus far few have called for seafood lovers to abstain.
Bioelectricity bests ethanol on two fronts: land use and global warming
(05/07/2009) Yesterday the Obama Administration established a Biofuels Interagency Working Group to oversee implementation of new rules and research regarding biofuels. On the group’s first day of work they would do well to look at a new study in Science Magazine comparing the efficacy of ethanol versus bioelectricity.
Revolutionary new theory overturns modern meteorology with claim that forests move rain
(04/01/2009) Two Russian scientists, Victor Gorshkov and Anastassia Makarieva of the St. Petersburg Nuclear Physics, have published a revolutionary theory that turns modern meteorology on its head, positing that forests—and their capacity for condensation—are actually the main driver of winds rather than temperature. While this model has widespread implications for numerous sciences, none of them are larger than the importance of conserving forests, which are shown to be crucial to 'pumping' precipitation from one place to another. The theory explains, among other mysteries, why deforestation around coastal regions tends to lead to drying in the interior.
Norway emerges as champion of rainforest conservation
(03/19/2009) While citizens in western countries have long paid lip service to saving rainforests, Norway has quietly emerged as the largest and most important international force in tropical forest conservation. The small Scandinavian country has committed 3 billion krone ($440 million) a year to the effort, a figure vastly greater than the $100M pledged — but never fully contributed — by the United States under the Tropical Forest Conservation Act (TFCA). Norway now hopes it can help push to include forest conservation in the successor to the Kyoto Protocol by providing funding and fostering cooperation among international actors like the UN and World Bank, as well as developing countries, to fund the creation of an international architecture which makes it possible to incorporate deforestation and degradation into a post-2012 climate regime.
Could America’s 700 billion stimulus have saved life on earth?
(02/26/2009) In a January op-ed in Science, ecologist Jaboury Ghazoul wistfully and wittily ponders how far the 789 billion stimulus bill recently passed by the US Congress could go toward saving our planet's embattled life-forms. In his essay, Ghazoul suggests we put the 700 billion “in the context of the species extinction crisis”. According to various scientific analyses the extinction rate is currently 100 to 1,000 times the average. Such a catastrophic loss of species—while making the world a lonelier and less interesting place—will unpredictably reshape ecosystems we depend on, causing social, political, and economic upheaval.
Could engineering rainforests save the planet from global warming?
(01/21/2009) At the Smithsonian symposium entitled “Will the Rainforests Survive?”, leading tropical biologists vigorously debated current threats to the rainforest and what the future may hold. While climate change was identified as a leading threat to rainforests, many of the scientists argued that the tropics may also be the key to mitigating the impact of global warming.
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