Sustainability News Round-up: October 2023

This blog resembles a quaint, hidden alley. In its depths, Akepa quietly offers the rare and often elusive wares known as ‘good news.’
Now that you’ve arrived, let’s explore the offerings. They may be unconventional, but they’re thoroughly authentic.

Manta Ray robots could help clean our oceans

October 1st, 2023
Link: Yahoo News

Manta Rays are the largest living rays, reaching up to 23 ft in width. Despite their intimidating size, they are inquisitive, intelligent and placid – which makes them a favourite with divers. In fact, here’s one that Akepa met earlier this year.

Lately, a startup called Seaweed Generation has taken some hints from Mother Nature to create robots that mimic Manta Rays. What’s more, they’d be even bigger – reaching up to 32ft.

But why! Well, these solar-powered robots, called AlgaRays, will collect invasive ‘sargassum’ seaweed – and sink it with the CO2 that’s absorbed inside. A bit like a roomba for the oceans.

Artist’s impression of the AlgaRay. Source: Seaweed Generation

A second model, called the AlgaVator, will assist the cultivation of beneficial seaweed.

The short-term plan is to deploy a squadron of 10 AlgaRays. In the future they’ll become autonomous but for now they’ll be controlled remotely by folk.

12 Billion to help save the world’s coral reefs

October 3rd, 2023
Link: Reuters

There was the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics where a single country shelled out a mere $50 billion. The Clock Towers in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, had an estimated bill of $15 billion. Heck, even the most expensive transfer in football (aka ‘soccer’) history only cost a quarter of a billion dollars.

So really, is $12 billion too much to ask for when it means saving the planet?

Coral reefs
A source of food, livelihood, and protection for over half a billion people.

That’s the magic number needed to protect at least 125,000 square kilometres of shallow coral reef. Plus addressing other threats like overfishing, coastal development, etc. Since 2009, Earth has lost 14% of coral in tropical reefs, largely due to rising ocean temperatures. But science has found these particular habitats contribute nearly $10 trillion per year in ecosystem services. Talk about benefits outweighing costs…

The project, which involves 45 countries, has been dubbed The Coral Breakthrough. It’s a consortium co-led by the International Coral Reef Initiative and the Global Fund for Coral Reefs.

Stockholm to ban petrol cars in its centre from 2025

October 11th, 2023
Link: The Guardian

We get it. People need to be able to get around. But wouldn’t it be nice if we could move from point A to point B without adding to fossil fuel emissions? Part of the answer lies in our hands to exchange private comfort for public transport, bikes, or even walking. Another part of it is having governments willing enough to make bold decisions.

Take Stockholm for example.

Stockholm Sweden
Stockholm. Source: Flickr

They just announced a plan to prohibit petrol and diesel cars from the city centre starting 2025. No waivers for those willing to pay the fee. No special timetables for those who don’t mind the inconvenience. It’s a pretty ballsy move.

There are a few exceptions of course. Ambulances and police cars won’t be subject to the incoming ban. And neither will disabled persons. But if all goes well, the Swedish capital could see more of its square footage getting greener.

Hull: the first UK city to give people a ‘right to grow’ on unused land

October 16th, 2023
Link: The Guardian

Now to another port city. Hull – in Yorkshire – is set to become the first town in the UK to give its denizens a “right to grow” on unused council land.

Which sounds a bit rough, on the surface. But dig deeper and it’s wholesome. There’s a huge waiting list for ‘allotments’ in the UK, which are a type of rented plot of land where fruit and veg can be grown. The new legislation will cut the bureaucracy to obtain a plot and increase the number of such plots, too.

Unused land allotments UK
UK allotments from above

It’s all part of a burgeoning ‘right to grow’ movement in the UK. With this move, Hull’s folk are set to lead the way, with a boost to their mental health, which is just as important as cheaper cabbages etc.

Next steps? Councillors will map out the available land and help aspiring cultivators to get growing.

Scotland’s biggest offshore wind farm is now Go!

October 17th, 2023
Link: BBC

If you’ve ever been to Scotland you’ll know that Scottish weather can be crap. In local parlance, you could even say dreekit.

Seagreen Wind Farm

Nevertheless, that wet and windy weather has its advantages. One of them being that Scotland is ideally placed to generate power from renewable sources, like wind. That’s why Scotland has been capable of producing enough renewable energy to power all of its households, since 2022.

And now Caledonia’s renewable credentials have been boosted with its biggest offshore wind farm: Seagreen. It comprises 114 titanic turbines that are operating at full capacity and able to generate enough electricity to power two thirds of Scotland’s households alone. It’s also the deepest fixed wind farm in the world.

Of course, Scotland is also part of the UK. The energy from Seagreen will reduce the UK’s CO2 footprint by two million tonnes each year, by reducing fossil fuel reliance.

A letter from 131 firms demands that fossil fuels be ditched ahead of COP28

October 23rd, 2023
Link: Business Standard

There are your everyday petitions – signed by who knows how many and heard by very few. And there are petitions – signed by the ones with loud voices and heard by the change-makers.

This one’s been backed by some mighty giants: Nestlé, Volvo Cars, Unilever, Mahindra Group, plus 127 others. Together, they’ve got combined annual revenues of nearly $1 trillion (so maybe they can help fund the Coral Reef Breakthrough?).

In their letter, they’re asking politicians attending November’s COP28 summit to commit. Richer economies need to reach 100% decarbonized power systems by 2035. And they need to lend financial support to developing countries to do the same by 2040.

Whether these requests come from the purest of intentions is seriously questionable. After all, many of the petitioners cite increasing business costs as a main reason to address climate change.

But if their support means more action from governments, we’ll take what we can get.

Best get going. We’ll return next month with some more esoteric cheer. See you then.

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