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Oilfield Approval Off Newfoundland Coast Would Undercut Climate Commitments, Harm Biodiversity, Experts Warn

Anxiety is running high in Newfoundland and Labrador as the province waits on a federal decision about a proposed offshore oil project about 500 kilometres east of St. John’s.

Equinor’s Bay du Nord project would open a fifth oilfield for the cash-strapped province, whose oil sector was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and crashing global prices, The Canadian Press reports. But there is mounting concern an approval from Ottawa would undermine federal climate commitments and send a message to other provinces that oil and gas is a viable industry on which they can hook their financial hopes.

“If we’re going to be serious about our net-zero commitment and our international commitments, then we cannot approve any new oil and gas projects,” said Debora VanNijnatten, a public policy expert and associate political science professor at Wilfrid Laurier University.

“And we have to have a plan to help those regions that we say ‘no’ to,” she added in a recent interview.

Oil accounted for nearly 21% of Newfoundland and Labrador’s GDP in 2019, according to its latest budget, which also forecasted a deficit of C$826 million and a net debt of $17.2 billion. With an estimated 800 million recoverable barrels of oil in the proposed Bay du Nord site, the project is “critical to the Newfoundland and Labrador economy,” said a statement Thursday from Energy Minister Andrew Parsons.

Meanwhile, Canada has committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 and to doing its part to limit global warming to 1.5°C. Bay du Nord is also among the first oil and gas projects to be considered for approval by the federal government since the International Energy Agency declared in May there can be no investment in new fossil fuel supply projects if the world is going to hit net-zero targets by 2050.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Your life and the economy depend on biodiversity

Your life and the economy depend on biodiversity

Preface. We are trained in school, newspapers, and TV to view the world politically and economically. Not ecologically. Or with energy awareness, which those of us following limits to growth, peak oil, and peak everything else call energy blindness.

The World Economic Forum article below is an excellent summary of why biodiversity is so important, even more so than climate change, which will soon stop increasing because oil production peaked in 2008 (IEA 2018 p 45) or 2018 (EIA 2020).  And this is our one hope to stop destroying biodiversity as well. Now oil burning ships can go to the end of the earth to get the last schools of fish, diesel logging and road trucks destroy rain forests, and oil-based pesticides destroy soil ecosystems and pollute land, air, and water.

***

Quinney M (2020) 5 Reasons Why Biodiversity Matters – to Human Health, the Economy and Your Wellbeing. World economic forum.

Biodiversity is critically important – to your health, to your safety and, probably, to your business or livelihood.

But biodiversity – the diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems – is declining globally, faster than at any other time in human history. The world’s 7.6 billion people represent just 0.01% of all living things by weight, but humanity has caused the loss of 83% of all wild mammals and half of all plants. (Biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse is one of the top five risks in the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Risks Report, too.)

In celebration of the International Day for Biological Diversity, we break down the five ways in which biodiversity supports our economies and enhances our wellbeing – and has the potential to do even more.

1. Biodiversity Ensures Health and Food Security.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Updated Extinction Assessment Drives Fresh Call to ‘Save Life on Earth’

Africocypha blue dragonfly photo by André Günther

An Africocypha varicolor blue, categorized as endangered on the ‘Red List.’ (Photo: André Günther)

Updated Extinction Assessment Drives Fresh Call to ‘Save Life on Earth’

“Every new look at extinction shows that we’re running out of time to save wildlife and ultimately ourselves.”

The Biden administration was told Thursday it must act urgently to address the biodiversity and climate crises following the release of an updated global assessment that showed the number of species at risk of extinction now tops 40,000.

“The Biden administration has to muster the political will to move away from dirty fossil fuels, change the toxic ways we produce food, curtail the wildlife trade, and halt ongoing loss of habitat.”

“Every new look at extinction shows that we’re running out of time to save wildlife and ultimately ourselves,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity.

The update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species documents a decline in Earth’s dragonflies and damselflies, finding 16% out of over 6,000 species are at risk of extinction amid a deterioration of their freshwater breeding grounds in Asia, the Americas, and Europe. The report says the losses are driven by numerous factors including the climate crisis and land clearance for construction and agricultural crops like palm oil.

Out of the 142,577 species evaluated in 2021 by the IUCN, the analysis found an estimated 28% are threatened with extinction.

As Dr. Ian Burfield, a global science coordinator for BirdLife International, noted in a statement, “The plight of dragonflies is indicative of a wider crisis threatening many wetland species,” including major declines in wetland birds over recent years.

Curry similarly called dragonflies “not only gorgeous” but “indicator species that tell us a lot about the health of rivers and wetlands. The serious threats they face are a huge red flag that we have to do better.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Ecological Economics and the Threat of Constant Growth

 

UK will ‘pause’ publication of data showing biodiversity in decline

UK will ‘pause’ publication of data showing biodiversity in decline

Next year will see an important meeting to agree global biodiversity targets, but the UK says it won’t be publishing key data on wildlife and habitats

Lulworth skipper butterfly

A male Lulworth skipper (Thymelicus acteon) in Dorset, UK. Oliver Smart/Alamy

Conservationists and politicians have criticised the UK government for its decision to temporarily stop publishing new data on the state of the country’s wildlife and habitats in 2022, the same year as a landmark UN biodiversity summit.

Figures published today by the Department for Food, Rural Affairs & Environment (Defra) show a deteriorating picture for habitats, as well as for priority species, such as otters and red squirrels; woodland birds and butterflies that are reliant on specific habitats, such as the Lulworth skipper (Thymelicus acteon).

The UK, like many other countries, has failed to arrest declines in biodiversity in recent years despite signing up to global targets to protect nature. In April 2022, nations are expected to renew their commitment to act by agreeing new biodiversity targets for 2030 at the COP15 summit in Kunming, China.

However, Defra said that it will “pause” publishing new data on the state of UK biodiversity in 2022 to enable a “thorough review” of the indicators, such as the pressures from invasive species or the health of bird populations and other animals. Publication will not resume until 2023.

Mark Avery, a conservationist and former conservation director of the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, says: “It seems like Defra’s response to a biodiversity crisis is to stop publishing the data that show it’s happening. That’s not very good, is it?”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Soils and Life Beneath the Ground

Soils and Life Beneath the Ground

There is more life beneath the ground than you know. Healthy soils contain a vibrant range of life forms such as protozoa, nematodes, mites, springtails, spiders, insects, bacteria, fungi, earthworms and numerous burrowing animals. This rich biodiversity plays a vital role in mitigating climate change, neutralising pests, purifying and storing water, providing antibiotics and preventing soil erosion. The well-being of all people, plants and animals depends on the complex processes that take place in soil. One square meter of soil can harbour as many as one billion organisms. Soils are home to over a quarter of all living creatures on Earth.

Soils - life beneath the ground

In the context of a human life span, soil is not normally renewable. Healthy ecosystems constantly recycle and generate fresh water and air. Soil formation however takes decades or even centuries to occur. Human activity has polluted the air and severely degraded most freshwater habitats. The ability of ecosystems to produce clean air and water has been impaired. The Earth’s healthy soils are also under attack. Intensive farming destroys the soil’s natural regenerative properties and makes it entirely dependent on artificial fertilisers. Modern industrial farming practices transform previously fertile soils into dust.

Soil quality and fertility depends on the presence of a vast biodiversity of underground living organisms. This community of creatures processes dead organic matter to produce nutrient-rich complex organic matter, called humus. Humus is necessary to sustain plants. Humus cannot be man-made. It is created by soil biodiversity. Micro-organisms play a major role in processing the organic matter in soil. Soil is the most essential food source on the planet. It provides the nutrients that plants need to grow and sustain animals, as well as produce our own food and textile fibers.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Unrelenting economic growth on a finite planet is laying waste to entire living systems

Unrelenting economic growth on a finite planet is laying waste to entire living systems

Meanwhile, governments everywhere are talking about “supercharging our economy.” —

No 2784 by fw, October 5, 2021—

George Monbiot

“There is a box labelled ‘climate’, in which politicians discuss the climate crisis. There is a box named ‘biodiversity’, in which they discuss the biodiversity crisis. There are plenty of other boxes, such as  pollution, deforestation, overfishing and soil loss, gathering dust in our planet’s lost property department. But all these boxes contain aspects of one crisis, that we have divided up to make it comprehensible. The categories the human brain creates to make sense of its surroundings are not, as Immanuel Kant observed, the Thing-in-Itself. They describe perceptual artefacts, rather than the world. Nature recognizes no such divisions. As Earth systems are assaulted by everything at once, each source of stress compounds the others…. What would we see if we broke down our conceptual barriers? We would see a full spectrum assault on the living world. Scarcely anywhere is now safe from this sustained assault. A recent scientific paper estimates that only 3% of the Earth’s land surface should now be considered ‘ecologically intact’. …We have no hope of emerging from this full-spectrum crisis unless we ramp down economic activity. Wealth must be distributed – a constrained world cannot afford the rich – but it must also be reduced. Sustaining our life-support systems means doing less of almost everything. But this notion – which should be central to a new, environmental ethics – is secular blasphemy.” —George Monbiot

George Joshua Richard Monbiot is a British writer known for his environmental and political activism. He writes a weekly column for The Guardian, and is the author of a number of books.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Underestimating the Challenges of Avoiding a Ghastly Future

Underestimating the Challenges of Avoiding a Ghastly Future

Preface. This is another “Scientists Warnings to Humanity” by many famous scientists, including Paul & Anne Erlich, John Harte, Peter Raven, and Mathis Wackernagel.

Some of the challenges they point to are loss of biodiversity and consequent 6th mass extinction, human population growth which has led to ecological overshoot and overconsumption, climate change and consequent mass migrations. They conclude there will be mass extinction, declining health, and war over resources and many other grim consequences.

Unfortunately this important message is once again energy blind. It does mention that ecological overshoot is due to fossil fuels, but neglects to mention that peak oil happened in 2018 or 2008 and peak coal probably 2013, so they assume we will continue on our current population trajectory until the 22nd century! And they assume the worst about climate change as well by not acknowledging that there is a limit to fossil energy and since oil is naturally declining at 8.5% a year, offset by 4% enhanced oil recovery with little discovery of new oil the past 7 years, we may well have only half or less oil remaining by 2030. And a dieoff of billions of people, and 50% less CO2 emissions. Why peak fossils are ignored I can’t imagine, they are very aware of limits to growth.

In the end this is a shout out to their colleagues to be more honest:
“…only a realistic appreciation of the colossal challenges facing the international community might allow it to chart a less-ravaged future. While there have been more recent calls for the scientific community in particular to be more vocal about their warnings to humanity, these have been insufficiently foreboding to match the scale of the crisis…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Population explosion to destroy 11% of remaining ecosystems and biodiversity

Population explosion to destroy 11% of remaining ecosystems and biodiversity

Preface. According to a recent paper in Nature Sustainability (Williams et al 2020), we are on the verge of destroying 11% of earth’s remaining ecosystems by 2050 to grow more food. We already are using 75% of Earth’s land. What a species! Reminds me of the ecology phrase “Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?”

But I have several criticisms of this research.

Proposed remedies include increasing crop yields, but we are at peak food, so that isn’t going to happen. We are also at peak pesticides, as we are running out of new toxic chemicals and pests adapt within five years on average. The second idea is to have homo sapiens stop eating meat and adopt a plant-based diet.  As long as meat is available and affordable, that simply won’t happen.  The third way is to cut food waste or loss.  That would require all of us to live in dire poverty given human nature, and then we’d all chop away at the remaining wild lands to grow more food. And finally, the 4th solution would be to export food to the nations that are going to destroy the most creatures and forests.  Which in turn would lead to expanding populations in these regions. Malthus was right about food being the only limitation on population. And it would be difficult to export food when there are 83 million more mouths to feed every year globally.

This research article doesn’t even mention family planning and birth control as a solution.

Or point out the huge increase in greenhouse gases that would be emitted. From “Life After Fossil Fuels: A Reality Check on Alternative Energy”:  The idea that biofuels generate less CO2 than gasoline stems from the fact that biofuels are derived from plants that absorb carbon dioxide…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Páramos at Risk: The Interconnected Threats to a Biodiversity Hotspot

On a recent, pre-pandemic journey to the High Andes of Colombia, I found myself surrounded by one of the region’s emblematic species, the flowering shrubs known locally as frailejones or “big monks.” These giant plants, relatives of sunflowers from the Espeletia genus, mesmerized me, their yellow buds and silvery hairs glistening in the intense, ephemeral sunlight.

Looking out over the vast, rolling landscape, I wondered how such a stunning, incomparable ecosystem can be taken for granted.

I’d accompanied National University of Colombia agricultural scientist Jairo Cuervo, that day, to Sumapaz — about 25 miles (40 km) southwest of Bogotá — to better understand the impacts of an expanding agricultural frontier on rich páramo soils.

Sumapaz is the world’s largest páramo — a type of high-altitude moorland ecosystem found in the South and Central American neotropics that functions as a sort of sponge, efficiently absorbing and storing rainwater and moisture into its vegetation and rich soils. The water is then released slowly and steadily, which is particularly important in dry seasons. Sumapaz and the nearby Chingaza páramo, for example, provide most of the water for the entire Bogotá savanna.

Páramos, experts say, may also serve as a sort of buffer against climate-change-induced recession of tropical mountain glaciers and extended droughts — if we can protect them.

Cuervo pointed to a potato farm and some grazing cows in the distance, where they’d taken over from the native vegetation. “Despite the páramo providing us with water to live, they are largely forgotten, neglected and at terrible risk,” he says.

Agriculture is just one of many interconnected pressures threatening these unique ecosystems and the people and wildlife who depend on them.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Agroforestry: An ancient practice with a promising future?

How are we going to tackle agriculture’s enormous contribution to the climate and biodiversity crises? One of the few things everyone agrees on is that it won’t be easy, and part of the reason for this is the huge amount of disagreement around the viability and sustainability of many of the proposed solutions. Moving to faster-growing breeds of livestock, for example, could risk delivering carbon gains at the expense of biodiversity and animal welfare. There are, however, some measures with more universal support, and one of the most potentially significant of these is agroforestry.

Traditionally defined as the growing of commercially productive trees and agricultural crops on the same piece of land, agroforestry is, despite its new-found fame, a very old practice –  though one which has sadly been almost entirely lost from our landscape. In contrast to the prevailing mindset around trees and food production, which largely sees these two land uses as mutually exclusive, agroforestry systems are designed in a way that provides benefits to both enterprises, while also generating a range of environmental gains such as improved soil health, reduced runoff, increased biodiversity – and of course, carbon sequestration.

It’s no wonder, then, that agroforestry has received widespread support from many different quarters over recent years. But with a range of different possible approaches and few on-the-ground practitioners, what might its implementation at scale actually look like? Thanks to the pioneering work of the likes of Stephen Briggs and his alley cropping system of apples and cereals, we have proven models that show how agroforestry can work on cropland. But with the exception of some research trials carried out in the 1980s, there has, as far as I’m aware, been very little research done into how agroforestry might be best implemented in grassland areas…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How to Turn Your Backyard Into a Certified Wildlife Habitat

How to Turn Your Backyard Into a Certified Wildlife Habitat

Climate change continues to alter the planet and make it less suitable for sustaining life. Animals have felt this effect more than anyone else. As people look for new locations to build safer, more weather-proof cities, wildlife species have retreated to the minimal spaces still left intact.

Humans can do their part to mitigate the current mass extinction of animals and insects. Before you visit a zoo, consider transforming your property into a better home for creatures in need.

This is how you can turn your backyard into a certified wildlife habitat. Your backyard may currently have features that hurt the environment or prevent animals from roaming through or living safely. Use these tips and you’ll join the effort to save numerous species the food chain depends upon.

1. Ensure a Food Supply

Nothing can live without a steady supply of food. You’ll have to think of a way to ensure constant food that local wildlife can eat.

First, you should research where you live. Read about which animals thrive in your neighbourhood or migrate through your town. Think about whether your area interacts with creatures like:

  • Birds
  • Butterflies
  • Deer
  • Rabbits
  • Squirrels

Even some animals like bears, which don’t necessarily pose a safety threat, can find refuge in your homemade habitat if they first find access to food.

2. Provide Shelter

Bird Box
Image by Sabine Löwer from Pixabay

Animals want to feel safe, both for themselves and their potential offspring. Habitats must always include shelter for these purposes. You might hang a few birdhouses and bat houses on your trees or nestle a lizard shelter from a pet store next to your garden.

Don’t worry about needing a big budget for this step. It’s great to build or buy extra shelters, but animals will also appreciate leafy bushes and trees.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Ransomware attacks and biodiversity: A possible lesson from nature

Ransomware attacks and biodiversity: A possible lesson from nature

As I read about recent ransomware attacks on hospitals, I was reminded of a seemingly unremarkable event years ago when I was still using a computer with the Windows operating system. I was working with a medical doctor turned medical IT specialist. His preferred operating system—though not that of the hospitals he worked for—was the one on his Apple computer. When he loaded files from a flash drive onto his machine in my presence, I asked why he didn’t check for viruses first. He had a one-word answer: biodiversity.

He was, of course, using the metaphor of biodiversity to refer to the fact that the vast majority of computer viruses and malware targeted Windows systems at that time, something that is still true today. Very few threats targeted the Apple operating system, and because of its design the system was (and is) more resistant to such attacks.

Every student of biology—which naturally includes doctors and health care workers—ought to be aware of the advantages of biodiversity in natural systems. Biodiversity brings resilience to species and to entire ecosystems. Variations in members of a species make it more likely that some will survive to propagate. Variations across species that inhabit an ecosystem make it more likely that the system will survive as a coherent unit when some, but not all of a particular species die out.

Of course, computer networks are not biological systems (unless you include the human operators). But they suffer some of the same obvious vulnerabilities. When you look at the share of operating systems worldwide for all platforms there appears to be at least some diversity with two major systems, Android and Windows vying for first place.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Fifth Of Countries Worldwide At-Risk Of “Environmental Shocks” Collapsing Ecosystem 

A new report via insurance firm Swiss Re warns that one-fifth of countries worldwide are at risk of their ecosystems collapsing because of a decline in biodiversity.

The reinsurer said more than half of global GDP, equal to about $41.7 trillion, is highly dependent on “high-functioning biodiversity and ecosystem services” and warns 20% of countries are nearing tipping points.

Swiss Re Institute’s new Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Index (BES), built on ten critical ecosystem services (water security, timber provision, food provision, habitat intactness, pollination, soil fertility, water quality, regulation of air quality and local climate, erosion control and coastal protection), offers government officials and business leaders with a more enhanced view into their local ecosystems that are so critical to their economies. Reinsurers can use BES to develop insurance solutions that protect communities at risk from biodiversity loss.

Among G20 economies, South Africa, India, Turkey, Mexico, and Italy had the highest shares of fragile ecosystems within the BES index. Meanwhile, countries, including Germany, Canada, Indonesia, Brazil, and the United Kingdom, had very low percentages of their ecosystems in a fragile state.

Global BES Index Map

BES Index Ranking G20 Countries 

Christian Mumenthaler, Swiss Re’s Group Chief Executive Officer, said: “This important piece of work provides a data-driven foundation for understanding the economic risks of deteriorating biodiversity and ecosystems. In turn, we can inform governmental decision-making to help improve ecosystem restoration and preservation.”

“We can also support corporations and investors as they fortify themselves against environmental shocks. Armed with this information, we can also ensure the provision of stronger sustainable insurance services,” Mumenthaler said.

One example Swiss Re said is that certain developing and developed countries were at risk for water scarcity issues, which could damage manufacturing sectors, properties, and supply chains. The domino effect of biodiversity loss could have on economies is catastrophic if nothing is done.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Do Weeds Matter for Biodiversity?

Do Weeds Matter for Biodiversity?

Weeds. A very negative-sounding word for many. However, weeds might not exactly be what we used to think they are. Let me take you on a walk in the countryside, observing fields of barley as we pass them by. In the meanwhile, let’s explore who weeds really are. Let’s find out: do weeds matter for biodiversity? And how much?

I bet only few of you have ever seen a field as the one on the picture. Even as an attentive observer of the farmlands around me, I haven’t seen such a colourful cereal-field before, until I saw this one at my faculty of agricultural sciences. At this test plot, no herbicides have been applied, allowing the weeds to come to full bloom in summer. Maybe those from the older generation will remember such blooming fields from the time when they were young, but it has become a rare sight nowadays.

Barley field full of blooming weeds
Barley field full of blooming weeds. Photo by Naomi Bosch

While the flowers are exceptionally beautiful to look at, this is not an homage to the good old times, when “everything used to be better”. Neither does this text mean to condemn all the farmers of the world who do apply pesticides. In fact, its purpose is to strike up a debate about flowers, bread, bees and biodiversity. About who is and who isn’t paying the cost for the cornflowers and poppies we don’t see around us anymore.

Unwanted weeds

There is no doubt that the blue and red spots of flowers in the field of cereals on the picture are a pretty sight. But this doesn’t change the fact that those are weeds. Weeds are any plants that grow on the field along with a crop, that haven’t been sown there intentionally.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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