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The week in environmental news – March 18, 2016

  • China has just released their 13th Five Year Plan, which sets new targets surrounding carbon and energy in an effort to dissociate emissions and energy use from growth.
  • Following uproar from coastal communities and environmental groups, the Obama administration announced Tuesday that it was reversing its initial plan of allowing oil exploration off America’s Atlantic coast.
  • A UN envoy warns that the recent killings of indigenous activists are an indicator of a growing “epidemic” that is happening around the world.

What China’s new five-year plan could mean for global climate change [WRI blog]

China has just released their 13th Five Year Plan, which sets new targets surrounding carbon and energy in an effort to dissociate emissions and energy use from growth. A blog post published by the World Resources Institute highlights some key points and importance of the plan for China’s action on energy and climate change.

SeaWorld announced the end of their killer whale breeding program [Guardian]

After facing a decrease in visitor numbers and years of criticism over its treatment of captive marine mammals as well as pressure from animal rights activists, the Orlando-based theme park has decided to end it’s breeding program for killer whales, effective immediately.

America’s Atlantic coast will remain off limits for oil and gas drilling for now [Mongabay]

Following uproar from coastal communities and environmental groups, the Obama administration announced Tuesday that it was reversing its initial plan of allowing oil exploration off the shores of Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia between 2017 and 2022.

The Atlantic coast off of Hilton Head, South Carolina. Photo by Jeff Gunn/CC by 2.0

Residents of Flint, Michigan are tired of all the talk about the water [NPR]

Flint Michigan is still under a state of emergency and its residents say they are tired of all the talk and testing of lead levels in their water, they just want a solution to the problem. The current federal action level in drinking water is 15 parts per billion. Virginia Tech’s random sampling last year found that Flint was 10 parts per billion over that action level.

A UN envoy warns that there is an environmental activist murder epidemic [Guardian]

Earlier this month, Berta Caceres, an award-winning campaigner, was shot and killed in her own home just weeks after opposing a hydroelectric dam in Honduras. A UN envoy warns that the recent killings of indigenous activists are an indicator of a growing “epidemic” that is happening around the world.

The environment you live in could be killing you [Mongabay]

Nearly one in every four deaths can be attributed to polluted air or water, climate change, chemical exposures, or other environmental risks, according to a new study by the World Health Organization (WHO). Scientists estimate that in 2012, 12.6 million people died because of working or living in unhealthy environmental conditions.

Woman paddling in a canoe along a trash-lined river in Banjarmasin, Indonesia. Photo by Rhett Butler.

This Kurdish group focuses their spring cleaning efforts on the environment [Rudaw]

As spring arrives, many people begin to shift their focus toward housecleaning and while the Mariwans’ do this as well, they also do their share of cleaning nature. The Mariwan Green Mountain Environmental organization has begun a “village cleaning” campaign and they go by the slogan “human beings live in nature.”

Sweden is asking for help with guarding against an American lobster invasion [Guardian]

While Maine lobster may be a popular menu item, Sweden says it doesn’t want the American crustacean taking over its waters. Sweden’s environment ministry says that American lobsters can carry diseases and parasites that could spread to the European lobster and potentially kill off the entire species.

This year the arctic was robbed of its winter [Guardian]

Warm is a relative term, but for the people living in Yukon Alaska, last month’s temperatures of up to 29F (16C) were considered to be high. This year’s record-breaking temperatures have robbed the arctic of a winter cold enough to provide the conditions that these villagers rely on for their way of life.

Yukon, Alaska. Photo by Vincent Lock/CC by 2.0

 

MONGABAY HIGHLIGHTS

Scientists blame Smokey Bear for making U.S. forests less resilient

According to a new study, strict wildfire control has changed the forests in the eastern U.S. over the past century, leading to less drought resistance. Researchers are warning this could make them more vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Two very different outlooks on conservation finance

Papua New Guinea and Tanzania are both REDD+ countries, meaning they’re participating in the UN program that aims to channel international finance to conservation activities that reduce carbon emissions associated with deforestation and forest degradation. And while they must meet significantly different challenges, both are helping to identify crucial gaps in REDD+ financing.

An expedition through a Bolivian national park reveals a butterfly bonanza

Scientists on a multi-year expedition in Bolivia’s Madidi National Park have recorded nearly a thousand species of butterflies – with many more expected to come. The expedition has registered many new records for the park, including several species new to science.

Male and female blue geckos in Tanzania. Photo by Rhett Butler.

The unexpected discovery of this small population calls for a new sanctuary

Until recently, the Sumatran rhino was believed to be extinct in Kalimanatan. Then in 2013, scientists on an orangutan search discovered rhino footprints in the Kelian Protected Forest in West Kutai district. Now, the Indonesian government has pledged to convert the area, a former mining site, into a rhino sanctuary.

Conservation and birth control: a controversial mix?

Seeing a win-win for women and ecosystems alike, some conservation groups have been widening their remits to include the provision of family planning services for local communities. But the approach has provoked criticism.