January can be a grim month. The ludicrous descent after the holiday season is tough; the weather can be cruel. But there’s quite a bit of good news to report on the sustainability front to cheer you up. That’s why we’re here. We’ve even put a jaunty infographic in to help.
Let’s go! Skip over the graphic to get to the fine details…
Birds need 10% eco-friendly farming to recover
Link: The Ecologist
Akepa is named after a bird: the endangered Hawai’i ‘akepa. We have a special kinship with avians. It worries us that there are fewer of our feathered acquaintances, flying in the air or scurrying around.
There are many reasons why birds are on a steep decline, from pesticides to habit loss. It’s a sad trend but birds can strike back if impactful measures are taken. Which brings us onto a ten-year study that was published in January showing that only around 10% of farmland needs to be devoted to bird-friendly measures, like providing insect-rich habitats, for declines to reverse. Problems and solutions.
The findings could be incorporated into legally-binding targets to halt species declines in England by 2030. Similar targets are also up for discussion in the EU.
And now it’s time for a Lapwing, which is one of the birds in decline in the UK at the moment. Haircuts like these enrich our landscapes and lives.
Earth’s ozone layer to heal within decades
Link: The Guardian
Who knows whether our generation will meet the colossal challenge of averting a climate catastrophe. Still, when you consider that folk have faced huge environmental challenges before and found solutions, it perks you up a bit.
In the 1980s and 90s, one of the most feared environmental perils was the hole in the ozone. With the gap exposing people to ruinous ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Yet, we got our sh*t together and agreed to eliminate ozone-depleting chemicals, like CFCs. Many of those would have also contributed to even higher greenhouse gas emissions since.
As a result that hole has steadily shrunk. It has almost healed. In January it was reported that the hole in the ozone layer will be gone over the Arctic by 2045 and the Antarctic by 2066. The lesson is that dire outcomes can be avoided if strong action is taken.
Fishing workers can now wear shellmets
Overfishing harms our oceans and marine life due to impacts like the mass of abandoned fishing nets. But we’re finding solutions to the massive amounts of waste. In comes the Shellmet: a helmet made from scallops. You heard that right. The helmet’s main material, Shellstic is made from discarded scallop shells that would otherwise go to waste, plus recycled plastic. Shella good!
The Shellmet was designed for the Japanese fishing community in Sarufutsu village, where every year, 40,000 tons of scallop shells go to waste. Which is great, because seashell waste is an issue.
The Shellmet doesn’t have to only be used by fishing workers, though. It can be used by other workers who should be helmeted. The ingenious hard hat will also be available to the public soon for other applications such as cycling helmets.
Solar panels that can swim
Solar panels on land are not enough. We need land for many other things. Plus, solar panels require more land space than other sources of energy. An alternative is to put solar panels on the surface of the ocean. This approach could also provide energy to remote, land-scarce locations where millions of people have no access to electricity, like Indonesian islands. Floating solar panels could even produce as much electricity as all the fossil fuel plants in the world if 10% of the planet’s hydropower reservoirs were covered with them.
These buoyant absorbers are growing in popularity in Asia, which is where a new megafarm in South Korea will be the world’s largest. It’ll power 1 million homes with 2.1 gigawatts of electricity when it opens later this year!
Solar panels are not just popping up on water but also other unusual places like abandoned golf courts so stay vigilant, just in case.
CO2 removal technologies – we need them
If one thing’s for sure, there’s too much CO2 in the air. And unfortunately it stays up there for centuries once released. That means to get rid of it, we’re going to need novel technologies to remove the problematic gas, as well as reducing our emissions and planting trees.
That’s what it says in an influential report, released in January “The State of Carbon Dioxide Removal”. It’s the first comprehensive assessment of how CO2 removal is going.
One option is carbon removal facilities, which filter CO2 from the air before storing it under the ground where it can’t get up to no good. Climeworks is a company that builds those. Here’s a little more from them on how it all works.
Hellish prison to make a green transformation
Link: Positive News
Rikers Island prison, notorious for being one of the worst in the world, is going to close by 2027. The non-profit Regional Plan Association (RPA) has partnered with the Renewable Rikers Coalition and Rhode Island School of Design to create a vision for Rikers Island as a centre for green energy.
The plan includes removing sewage plants in the Bronx and Queens and replacing them with solar arrays and wastewater facilities on Rikers. There’s a composting and recycling hub, a research and a training institute for solar installation and repair skills. Cleaning up New York’s electricity grid will also provide jobs for the former inmates. That’s way better than turning the hellish inescapable complex into some luxury attic lofts. But will it happen? We hope so.
And that is the end of this post. See you next month.