Good Tythings - May 2023
11th May 2023
Clean Air Task force released a first-of-its-kind study measuring attitudes across Europe on methane emissions and regulations. This comes as the EU continues to deliberate on its first ever EU-wide methane policy following the Global Methane Pledge. While the Clean Air Task Force has been pivotal in establishing the existence of the methane problem (as well as demonstrating excellent solutions), public opinion has often been felt to be lacking, which may explain part of the extended EU deliberation. The survey, conducted in August 2022, with 6,251 voting-age respondents from France, Italy, Germany, and Poland, is hoped to fill this gap.
Given the increased cost of living across Europe over the past year, it is perhaps surprising, and hopeful, to note that the survey found high support across the board for regulating methane, since that might logically have a knock-on effect for consumers. On the other hand, the study found there to be quite limited knowledge of methane’s impacts on the climate, and its prevalence. Younger respondents were generally more likely to understand the role of methane in the climate crisis.
Carbon180 just published ‘Depending on the Ocean’ a thought-provoking assessment of ocean carbon renewal. The ocean is the largest carbon sink on the planet, containing more than 50 times more carbon dioxide than in the atmosphere. Still, ocean CDR is not ready. More research needs to urgently be conducted regarding ecosystem impacts, removal and storage, monitoring, and community capacity building. This paper explores how different policy approaches can help increase certainty about ocean carbon renewal, and offers specific recommendations regarding ecosystem impacts, regulations and governance, and improving efficacy.
Blue Marine Foundation’s long-standing campaign to restore the critically endangered European sturgeon reached national headlines this week, as the Coronation reminded historians of the ‘Royal Sturgeon’. It’s widely believed that in 1324, King Edward II bestowed the fish with its royal title, decreeing that any sturgeon brought ashore would have to be presented to the Monarch. The sturgeon is a remarkable and ancient animal they often grow up to 5m long, weigh up to 400 pounds, and can live up to 60 years. The earliest sturgeon fossils date back to the Late Cretaceous era, ending 66 million years ago, and they were once much more common sightings in British rivers. Unfortunately sturgeon are highly vulnerable to anthropogenic abuse, requiring unpolluted estuaries, and lack of interference with their eggs, laid on upriver gravel beds.
Surfers Against Sewage, In collaboration with Niall Jones, and creative agency Mr President, created a remarkable ‘Sewage Surfboard’ called ‘The Floater’ shown in the clip below.
The Floater was created out of sewage collected from Trevaunance Cove, St Agnes. The board is filled with two litres of sewage water, and there’s sewage in the resin and panels on the nose and fins too. Ben Skinner, 11x European Surf Champion donned a gas mask before taking the board to water recently.
Surfers Against Sewage are trying to raise awareness of the sewage scandal affecting millions of people across the UK.
Maybe it’s working, with the BBC reporting how ‘Sewage topped the political agenda’ in recent local elections.
The Rainforest Trust have set out permanently safeguard 20 million acres of intact forest in the Brazilian Amazon over the next four years. That remarkable ambition will safeguard habitat for at least 70 threatened species, lock up 6 billion metric tons of CO2, and secure the territories, cultures, and livelihoods of 150,000 indigenous people.
In October 2022, the award winning fashion and youth culture photographer Colin Dodgson collaborated with the World Land Trust to create Ciento por Ciento, a 108-page photo book. The images were taken from La Meseta Somuncurá and La Estancia la Esperanza—two remote regions of Argentina’s Patagonia, where the World Land Trust operate, alongside partner organisations Fundación Somuncurá and Fundación Patagonia Natural. The photographs have been described as ‘alternating between expansiveness and hand-to-hand intimacy’. 100% of the proceeds will go to the World Land Trust. Dodgson said that he believes art has ‘an immense power to aid the fight to protect the natural environment’, and that artists can both raise awareness, but also help build a sense of optimism and uplift.
Zambian climate activist Chilekwa Mumba has just been awarded the the Goldman Environmental Prize, sometimes referred to as the ‘Climate Nobel Prizeo’. Mumba, who runs an orphanage with his wife, spearheaded the six-year battle against Vedanta Resources, a mining company found guilty of polluting Kafue River, the largest tributary of the Zambezi.
Mumba’s victory in the UK Supreme Court set a remarkable new legal precedent, as it was the first time an English court held that a British company could be held liable for environmental damage caused by subsidiary-run operations in another country.
Over the past few years Zambia has faced a series of other climate related problems in addition to industrial pollution. A nation 3x the size of the UK, over the past few years Zambia has experienced a series of extreme weather events including late rains, droughts, extremely high temperatures, insect swarms, and floods. After 15 years of economic progress, Zambia now has one of the highest rates of wealth inequality in the world.
55% of the nation’s population lives rurally, and only 14% of rural households in Zambia have access to electricity. SolarAid have been working in Zambia since 2008, working to combat energy and climate change by providing rural communities with economic opportunities and clean energy solutions. Since then, they’ve distributed over 389,000 solar lights, and helped 2.2m people gain access to solar electricity. SolarAid have recently been putting their Zambian work in the spotlight — urging for more donations at a particular time of need.
Food & Agriculture
Sustainable Food Trust CEO Patrick Holden has been speaking out this week about the dangers of Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides (weedkillers). Despite a growing body of evidence questioning the safety of such chemicals, many British farms have become almost entirely dependent on them over the past 40 years, since they have allowed farmers to abandon ploughing and grow long runs of crops in quick succession, grow monocultures, and increase farm size and efficiency.
Indeed, just last year, when Bayer CropScience revealed that a key ingredient used in its glyphosate herbicides had suffered a ‘mechanical failure’, farmers across the UK were sent into a panic.
The human impact of glyphosate is still unknown. A 2017 survey from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that 7,955 food samples, 42.3% contained detectable quantities of glyphosate. Despite its widespread presence, concerns about the toxicity and negative ecological impact of glyphosate are not new. For over 10 years, Holden and the Sustainable Food Trust have been gathering evidence calling into question the safety of glyphosate-based herbicides. Studies have connected its use to the growth in prevalence of previously uncommon diseases including diabetes, obesity, cancers, food intolerances and diseases of the nervous system. A 2015 student from the World Health Organisation (WHO) concluded that glyphosate was ‘probably’ carcinogenic. Still, the debate has not been one sided. The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) disputed these findings, saying that the evidence was ‘limited’, but ‘leapt upon by the green lobby’. Subsequent studies have proffered similarly inconclusive, but not entirely reassuring answers on glyphosates toxicity.
An area that is even less well researched is the effect of glyphosate on the climate. Some studies have suggested glyphosate might be a ‘chelator’, reducing mineral content in crops. Another study suggests it has a ‘depressing effect on the soil microbiome’, taking over a year to decompose.
Despite very concerning signals, a ban seems unlikely. Farmers, and the NFU in particular, have been arguing vehemently that a ban would devastate British farming — warning that it would lead to a reduction in farm output of £940m.
In Late March The UK’s Carbon Budget Delivery Plan was published. One important milestone was its recognition of the important role that alternative proteins can play in contributing to net zero over the next decade.
Government recognition is a significant step in national recognition of the importance of the industry. As we discussed in a previous blog, it is vital that alternative proteins receive not only private, but also public support, in order to grow.
Education & Advocacy
What if artificial intelligence (AI) could ‘prevent deforestation’? PrevisIA, an exciting new project from environmental nonprofit Imazon suggests we might already be there. PrevisIA combines satellite technology and AI to identify the Environmental Protection Areas (APAs) ‘most at risk of destruction and deforestation in Brazil’. Their challenge is not easy. It’s estimated that 90% of deforestation in Brazil is illegal, and mostly goes unchecked because of poorly matched-up monitoring systems, ambivalence, and corruption. Researchers have had to rely on aerial footage to identify the unofficial roads that connect illegal industrial activity. But Brazil is a huge country, so scraping aerial footage is tedious and difficult. AI has helped researchers map and predict future trends with comparative ease. Carlos Souza Jr, senior researcher at Imazon compared ‘Existing deforestation prediction models’ which were ‘long-term, looking at what would happen in decades’ to their model, which could ‘get ahead of the devastation. Since PrevisA introduced the public to their idea in the journal Spatial Statistics in August 2017, the company has grown rapidly, partnering with state prosecutors across western Brazil to penalise environmental crimes and irregularities.
The UK’s first ‘Young People’s Forest’ has been planted in Derbyshire as part of a Woodland Trust Project. 250,000 trees were planted on ‘Mead’, a site acquired by the Trust in 2018. Over the past five years, young people have been invited to cultivate the area. While many volunteers were motivated by their climate concerns, one major finding from the project was the strong positive [effect] engaging in nature had on volunteers’ mental health. The trust's youth development manager, Emily Moore noted how levels of climate anxiety were lower in young people who worked there regularly, since they were ‘taking action themselves’.
TikTok has announced its intention to ‘ban climate misinformation’. In a policy move that went live on April 21st, any clips which contain misinformation about the climate crisis will be removed, the video-sharing giant has committed to ‘reduce harmful misinformation’ and ‘empower accurate climate discussions’.
The company has also paired with the UN to introduce a new search feature which will direct anyone who looks up climate content towards ‘authoritative information’.