We need to massively reforest the planet, in a very short period of time. Flash Forest’s drones can plant trees a lot faster than humans.
[Photo: courtesy Flash Forest] One of Flash Forest’s prototype drones.
This week, on land north of Toronto that previously burned in a wildfire, drones are hovering over fields and firing seed pods into the ground, planting native pine and spruce trees to help restore habitat for birds. Flash Forest, the Canadian startup behind the project, plans to use its technology to plant 40,000 trees in the area this month. By the end of the year, as it expands to other regions, it will plant hundreds of thousands of trees. By 2028, the startup aims to have planted a full 1 billion trees.
The company, like a handful of other startups that are also using tree-planting drones, believes that technology can help the world reach ambitious goals to restore forests to stem biodiversity loss and fight climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that it’s necessary to plant 1 billion hectares of trees—a forest roughly the size of the entire United States—to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Existing forests need to be protected while new trees are planted; right now, that isn’t working well. “There are a lot of different attempts to tackle reforestation,” says Flash Forest cofounder and chief strategy officer Angelique Ahlstrom. “But despite all of them, they’re still failing, with a net loss of 7 billion trees every year.”
Drones don’t address deforestation, which is arguably an even more critical issue than planting trees, since older trees can store much more carbon. But to restore forests that have already been lost, the drones can work more quickly and cheaply than humans planting with shovels. Flash Forest’s tech can currently plant 10,000 to 20,000 seed pods a day; as the technology advances, a pair of pilots will be able to plant 100,000 trees in a day (by hand, someone might typically be able to plant around 1,500 trees in a day, Ahlstrom says.) The company aims to bring the cost down to 50 cents per tree, or around a fourth of the cost of some other tree restoration efforts.When it begins work at a site, the startup first sends mapping drones to survey the area, using software to identify the best places to plant based on the soil and existing plants. Next, a swarm of drones begins precisely dropping seed pods, packed in a proprietary mix that the company says encourages the seeds to germinate weeks before they otherwise would have. The seed pods are also designed to store moisture, so the seedlings can survive even with months of drought. In some areas, such as hilly terrain or in mangrove forests, the drones use a pneumatic firing device that shoots seed pods deeper into the soil. “It allows you to get into trickier areas that human planters can’t,” Ahlstrom says.
After planting, the company returns to track the progress of the seedlings. “Depending on the project, we’ll go back two months after, and then a year or two after, and then three to five years after” to make sure the trees are actually sequestering as much carbon as they planned, she says. “If we fall under a threshold plant goal of a certain number of trees, we’ll go back and ensure that we are hitting our goal.” Because the company chooses native species and uses its seed pods to protect the seeds from drought, the process doesn’t typically require work from humans to keep the seedlings alive; instead, the strategy is to plant a large number of trees and let some naturally survive.
Each planting is using about four species, with a goal of eight. “We very much prioritize biodiversity, so we try to plant species that are native to the land as opposed to monocultures,” says Ahlstrom. “We work with local seed banks and also take into account that the different changes that climate change brings with temperature rise, anticipating what the climate will be like in five to eight years when these trees are much older and have grown to a more mature stage, and how that will affect them.”
After launching the company in early 2019, the small team had a working prototype by the middle of the year and ran a pilot test in August, followed by larger tests in September and October. So far, Ahlstrom says, they’ve seen high rates of survival in controlled studies, and are hoping to replicate those in real world settings.
After the current planting near Toronto and another in British Columbia, the company will begin a restoration project in Hawaii later in the year, with plans to plant 300,000 trees there. It’s also planning tree-planting pilots in Australia, Colombia, and Malaysia. In some cases, funding comes from forestry companies, government contracts, or mining companies that are required to replant trees; in other cases, the startup plants trees for companies that offer tree-planting as a donation with the sale of products, or for landowners who can get a tax break, in some areas, for planting trees. “There’s a lot of philanthropy around it, and then also just a solid business model with a desperate need and demand to plant trees,” Ahlstrom says.
To quickly plant around a trillion trees—a goal that some researchers have estimated could store more than 200 gigatons of carbon—Flash Forest argues that new technology is needed. In North America, trees need to grow 10-20 years before they efficiently store carbon, so to address climate change by midcentury, trees need to begin growing as quickly as possible now. “I think that drones are absolutely necessary to hit the kind of targets that we’re saying are necessary to achieve some of our carbon sequestration goals as a global society,” she says. “When you look at the potential for drones, we plant 10 times faster than humans.” SOURCE
Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world’s largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley, and contributed to the second edition of the bestselling book “Worldchanging: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century.”
Naomi Klein: ‘We are going to have to contract on the endless, disposable consumption.’ Photograph: Adrienne Grunwald/The Guardian
Why are you publishing this book now?
I still feel that the way that we talk about climate change is too compartmentalised, too siloed from the other crises we face. A really strong theme running through the book is the links between it and the crisis of rising white supremacy, the various forms of nationalism and the fact that so many people are being forced from their homelands, and the war that is waged on our attention spans. These are intersecting and interconnecting crises and so the solutions have to be as well.
The book collects essays from the last decade, have you changed your mind about anything?
When I look back, I don’t think I placed enough emphasis on the challenge climate change poses to the left. It’s more obvious the way the climate crisis challenges a rightwing dominant worldview, and the cult of serious centrism that never wants to do anything big, that’s always looking to split the difference. But this is also a challenge to a left worldview that is essentially only interested in redistributing the spoils of extractivism [the process of extracting natural resources from the earth] and not reckoning with the limits of endless consumption.
What’s stopping the left doing this?
In a North American context, it’s the greatest taboo of all to actually admit that there are going to be limits. You see that in the way Fox News has gone after the Green New Deal – they are coming after your hamburgers! It cuts to the heart of the American dream – every generation gets more than the last, there is always a new frontier to expand to, the whole idea of settler colonial nations like ours. When somebody comes along and says, actually, there are limits, we’ve got some tough decisions, we need to figure out how to manage what’s left, we’ve got to share equitably – it is a psychic attack. And so the response [on the left] has been to avoid, and say no, no, we’re not coming to take away your stuff, there are going to be all kinds of benefits. And there are going to be benefits: we’ll have more livable cities, we’ll have less polluted air, we’ll spend less time stuck in traffic, we can design happier, richer lives in so many ways. But we are going to have to contract on the endless, disposable consumption side.
Do you feel encouraged by talk of the Green New Deal?
I feel a tremendous excitement and a sense of relief, that we are finally talking about solutions on the scale of the crisis we face. That we’re not talking about a little carbon tax or a cap and trade scheme as a silver bullet. We’re talking about transforming our economy. This system is failing the majority of people anyway, which is why we’re in this period of such profound political destabilisation – that is giving us the Trumps and the Brexits, and all of these strongman leaders – so why don’t we figure out how to change everything from bottom to top, and do it in a way that addresses all of these other crises at the same time? There is every chance we will miss the mark, but every fraction of a degree warming that we are able to hold off is a victory and every policy that we are able to win that makes our societies more humane, the more we will weather the inevitable shocks and storms to come without slipping into barbarism. Because what really terrifies me is what we are seeing at our borders in Europe and North America and Australia – I don’t think it’s coincidental that the settler colonial states and the countries that are the engines of that colonialism are at the forefront of this. We are seeing the beginnings of the era of climate barbarism. We saw it in Christchurch, we saw it in El Paso, where you have this marrying of white supremacist violence with vicious anti-immigrant racism.
That is one of the most chilling sections of your book: I thinkthat’s a link a lot of people haven’t made.
This pattern has been clear for a while. White supremacy emerged not just because people felt like thinking up ideas that were going to get a lot of people killed but because it was useful to protect barbaric but highly profitable actions. The age of scientific racism begins alongside the transatlantic slave trade, it is a rationale for that brutality. If we are going to respond to climate change by fortressing our borders, then of course the theories that would justify that, that create these hierarchies of humanity, will come surging back. There have been signs of that for years, but it is getting harder to deny because you have killers who are screaming it from the rooftops.
In the book, you write: “The hard truth is that the answer to the question ‘What can I, as an individual, do to stop climate change?’ is: nothing.” Do you still believe that?
In terms of the carbon, the individual decisions that we make are not going to add up to anything like the kind of scale of change that we need. And I do believe that the fact that for so many people it’s so much more comfortable to talk about our own personal consumption, than to talk about systemic change, is a product of neoliberalism, that we have been trained to see ourselves as consumers first. To me that’s the benefit of bringing up these historical analogies, like the New Deal or the Marshall Plan – it brings our minds back to a time when we were able to think of change on that scale. Because we’ve been trained to think very small. It is incredibly significant that Greta Thunberg has turned her life into a living emergency.
Yes, she set sail for the UN climate summit in New York on a zero carbon yacht …
Exactly. But this isn’t about what Greta is doing as an individual. It’s about what Greta is broadcasting in the choices that she makes as an activist, and I absolutely respect that. I think it’s magnificent. She is using the power that she has to broadcast that this is an emergency, and trying to inspire politicians to treat it as an emergency. I don’t think anybody is exempt from scrutinising their own decisions and behaviours but I think it is possible to overemphasise the individual choices. I have made a choice – and this has been true since I wrote No Logo, and I started getting these “what should I buy, where should I shop, what are the ethical clothes?” questions. My answer continues to be that I am not a lifestyle adviser, I am not anyone’s shopping guru, and I make these decisions in my own life but I’m under no illusion that these decisions are going to make the difference.
Some people are choosing to go on birth strikes. What do you think about that?
I’m happy these discussions are coming into the public domain as opposed to being furtive issues we’re afraid to talk about. It’s been very isolating for people. It certainly was for me. One of the reasons I waited as long as I did to try and get pregnant, and I would say this to my partner all the time – what, you want to have a Mad Max water warrior fighting with their friends for food and water? It wasn’t until I was part of the climate justice movement and I could see a path forward that I could even imagine having a kid. But I would never tell anybody how to answer this most intimate of questions. As a feminist who knows the brutal history of forced sterilisation and the ways in which women’s bodies become battle zones when policymakers decide that they are going to try and control population, I think that the idea that there are regulatory solutions when it comes to whether or not to have kids is catastrophically ahistorical. We need to be struggling with our climate grief together and our climate fears together, through whatever decision we decide to make, but the discussion we need to have is how do we build a world so that those kids can have thriving, zero-carbon lives?
Over the summer, you encouraged people to read Richard Powers’s novel, The Overstory. Why?
It’s been incredibly important to me and I’m happy that so many people have written to me since. What Powers is writing about trees: that trees live in communities and are in communication, and plan and react together, and we’ve been completely wrong in the way we conceptualise them. It’s the same conversation we’re having about whether we are going to solve this as individuals or whether we are going to save the collective organism. It’s also rare, in good fiction, to valorise activism, to treat it with real respect, failures and all, to acknowledge the heroism of the people who put their bodies on the line. I thought Powers did that in a really extraordinary way.
What are you views on what Extinction Rebellion has achieved?
One thing they have done so well is break us out of this classic campaign model we have been in for a long time, where you tell someone something scary, you ask them to click on something to do something about it, you skip out the whole phase where we need to grieve together and feel together and process what it is that we just saw. Because what I hear a lot from people is, ok, maybe those people back in the 1930s or 40s could organise neighbourhood by neighbourhood or workplace by workplace but we can’t. We believe we’ve been so downgraded as a species that we are incapable of that. The only thing that is going to change that belief is getting face to face, in community, having experiences, off our screens, with one another on the streets and in nature, and winning some things and feeling that power.
You talk about stamina in the book. How do you keep going? Do you feel hopeful?
I have complicated feelings about the hope question. Not a day goes by that I don’t have a moment of sheer panic, raw terror, complete conviction that we are doomed, and then I do pull myself out of it. I’m renewed by this new generation that is so determined, so forceful. I’m inspired by the willingness to engage in electoral politics, because my generation, when we were in our 20s and 30s, there was so much suspicion around getting our hands dirty with electoral politics that we lost a lot of opportunities. What gives me the most hope right now is that we’ve finally got the vision for what we want instead, or at least the first rough draft of it. This is the first time this has happened in my lifetime. And also, I did decide to have kids. I have a seven year old who is so completely obsessed and in love with the natural world. When I think about him, after we’ve spent an entire summer talking about the role of salmon in feeding the forests where he was born in British Columbia, and how they are linked to the health of the trees and the soil and the bears and the orcas and this entire magnificent ecosystem, and I think about what it would be like to have to tell him that there are no more salmon, it kills me. So that motivates me. And slays me. SOURCE
The pandemic is devastating economies. As countries look to revive growth, recovery must go with — not against — the grain of nature.
Governments must resist supporting carbon-intensive industries such as coal-fired power in the dash for growth.Credit: Florian Gaertner/Photothek/Getty
“The problem with the notion that nature is indestructible is this: it is wrong. Once economists accept that they are mistaken on this count, it could revolutionize the way in which we calculate economic progress — or the lack of thereof — especially in developing countries.”
Thus wrote economist Partha Dasgupta in a Nature essay in 2008 (P. Dasgupta Nature 456, 44; 2008). The work is a lament for Earth, directed at his colleagues who study economic growth and mistakenly think that the natural resources on which we depend — from forests to fossil fuels — will always be there.
But he was optimistic, too. “It is only a matter of time before economics makes room for nature,” he wrote. And it seems he was right. Times have changed. More economics researchers are collaborating with ecologists — and vice versa. And businesses and government agencies have become ever more aware of our dependence on the fragile natural world. But there’s still one category of government department that is largely sticking to the old script. Most national ministries of finance and economics — arguably the most powerful departments of government — have been stubbornly resistant to redrawing their pictures of economic life. Until now.
The reports of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and the Intergovernmental Science–Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services have helped to sensitize governments to biodiversity’s unprecedented rate of decline — and to the fact that at least one million species are at risk of extinction. And finance ministries have been taking note on what this means for their work.
For some years, policymakers across China have been adopting a metric called gross ecosystem product, which is a measure of the monetary value of those ecosystem goods and services that benefit people — such as flood protection or clean water.
Other countries are catching up, and last year, the UK Treasury turned to Dasgupta for advice, and gave him three ‘homework’ questions: what are biodiversity’s economic benefits; what are the economic costs when biodiversity is lost — for example, how much more would we have to pay if all pollination had to be performed by humans; and what practical actions can be taken to enhance both biodiversity and economic prosperity.
Last week, Dasgupta’s team released its work in progress in the form of an interim report. It reminds its audience of economic policymakers that all human life is part of — and dependent on — natural capital and ecosystem services, which economic systems do not typically value, and which are now declining. If natural capital continues to shrink, standards of living will also eventually decline — even if growth, as measured by gross domestic product, continues to rise. Tantalizingly, the report holds back on providing examples of success stories and options for change, for which we must wait for the final version. The team is inviting feedback: readers can send comments until 1 June.
The interim report could not have been better timed — not only for the United Kingdom, but globally. The coronavirus pandemic is decimating economies. Heads of government, ministers of finance and lending agencies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are providing trillions of dollars in stimulus funding to keep economies going. But the need to urgently revive economic activity is fuelling concerns that this could come at the expense of environmental sustainability.
That isn’t the only worry. Several of this year’s key international environmental meetings — conferences led by the United Nations on climate change, biodiversity and the Sustainable Development Goals — have been postponed. The conference of the parties to the UN biodiversity convention, which would have taken place in Kunming, China, was meant to include a discussion on how and when to incorporate biodiversity into economic planning. That these meetings have been pushed back with no new scheduled dates should sound an alarm.
Fortunately, another key multilateral process — the next revision to the UN System of National Accounts (SNA) — is getting under way. The SNA is the global standard for measuring economic activity. Revising these rules is an infrequent event and will take five years to complete. Since the first publication in 1953, there have been just five revisions — the most recent in 2008. Now, for the first time, this process will include debate and discussion on how economic measurement can better account for sustainability and well-being — and also the value of the digital economy.
The significance of this development for environmental sustainability cannot be overstated. And it makes the Dasgupta review’s timing and message — that economic health depends on ecological health — even more important and necessary. It is also why the final report needs to be delivered on schedule this autumn, with concrete options for how nature can be incorporated into the work of institutions for economic planning.
Every nation’s economic plans and policies are rightly pivoting to dealing with COVID-19 and its effects. But as economies are revived, now is the right time to make up for past omissions — and rebuild them in a way that takes nature’s true value into account.
A strong signal from an independent report commissioned by the finance ministry of one of the world’s richest nations could go a long way in persuading its counterparts around the world that much-needed economic recovery must go with — and not against — the grain of nature. SOURCE
TORONTO/WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) – Canada’s oil patch has endured five years of existential threats that have pruned weaker companies, but now its strongest firms are trying to navigate the coronavirus pandemic, which has set off the worst crisis in the oil industry in 40 years.
Economic shutdowns have ground travel to a halt, cutting fuel demand by roughly 30% worldwide. With consumption down, oil producers around the globe cut production sharply.
Canada, the fourth-largest oil producer, has shut in 644,000 barrels per day, according to Eight Capital, among the highest in the world and 13% of February’s production. The nation’s biggest companies face weak demand while managing high levels of debt, forcing them to cut spending to levels not seen since early in the oil sands boom 15 years ago.
Canada’s Suncor Energy Inc (SU.TO), Cenovus Energy Inc (CVE.TO) and Husky Energy Inc (HSE.TO) all posted quarterly losses in the billions of dollars, cut or scrapped dividends and slashed budgets.
Those three, along with Canadian Natural Resources Ltd (CNQ.TO), sport a debt-to-total-equity percentage of 48.5% on average, compared with 28.3% for U.S. majors ConocoPhillips Co (COP.N), Chevron Corp (CVX.N) and Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N), according to Refinitiv data.
“The balance sheets of some very good companies are not as strong as they should be,” said Tim McMillan, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.
The industry has reduced spending by $7 billion and oil sands investment looks to hit its lowest in 15 years, according to consultancy IHS Markit. Spending had already plunged from more than $30 billion in 2014 to under $10 billion last year.
That may not be enough. Oil sands companies will need to focus on shaving operating costs due to the discounted price for Canadian heavy oil and higher operating expenses for generating steam and running trucks and equipment to extract crude, said April Read, senior upstream analyst at consultancy Wood Mackenzie.
Canadian Natural, Canada’s biggest oil and gas producer, said it requires a U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude oil price (WTI) CLc1 of $30 to $31 a barrel to cover sustaining costs and its dividend, which it maintained even as it posted a quarterly loss of C$1.3 billion.
U.S. crude closed at $24.74 a barrel on Friday. A barrel of Western Canada Select (WCS) sells for around $21.
Canadian Natural has C$1.9 billion in debt maturing this year, but executives said banks remained supportive and that it foresaw no issues funding the dividend. It has cut about 120,000 bpd of production for May and could extend curtailments to June if prices remain low, President Tim McKay told Reuters.
“We just have to cross that bridge when we get there,” he said.
Debt-saddled Cenovus, a top-four Canadian oil producer, scrapped its dividend entirely as its first-quarter loss swelled to C$1.8 billion. Chief Executive Alex Pourbaix said last week that the company is in “strong financial position,” having repaid C$2 billion since last year.
However, Cenovus may be forced to issue more shares, diluting the investments of current holders, said Jason Mann, chief investment officer at EdgeHill, which sold its Cenovus shares in February.
“They’ve just got a stressed balance sheet,” he said. “Too much debt, not enough cash flow.”
Suncor, Canada’s No. 2 oil and gas producer, cut its dividend for the first time ever on Tuesday as it reported a first-quarter loss of C$3.53 billion.
PIPELINES FEEL THE HEAT TOO
Unlike the United States, Canada’s oil industry has been under fire since the 2014 crash, as any recovery was snuffed by congested pipelines. Now, finally, those lines have space, due to demand destruction.
Canadian pipeline operator Enbridge Inc (ENB.TO) posted a C$1.4 billion quarterly loss. The company, accustomed to rationing space on its Mainline system, now has spare capacity.
It may have to revisit plans to overhaul Mainline terms as producers shelve expansions, said Ryan Bushell, president at Newhaven Asset Management, which owns shares.
“People aren’t going to want to commit volumes over a 20-year basis when they don’t know if they’re going to get through the next 20 days,” he said.
GLIMMERS OF HOPE
Canada does have some advantages.
The nation’s heavy crude is well-suited for making asphalt for road construction. Consultancy Rystad Energy expects U.S. demand for “other refined products” including asphalt will fall just 11% in the second quarter, compared with a 68% drop for jet fuel and 24% for gasoline.
Storage has not filled as rapidly as in the United States, so production is not likely to slow more than needed.
Canada has also already announced C$2.5 billion ($1.8 billion) in measures to help the industry. Banks are relaxing lending standards for energy firms to avert a wave of bankruptcies – marking a different stance from lenders in the United States.
Still, Alberta’s unemployment could spike to 25% from the current 13.4%, Premier Jason Kenney has said. Oil and gas extraction workers make up 6% of Alberta’s employment, according to Statistics Canada, not including refineries and petrochemical plants.
“This is probably the biggest existential crisis the Alberta oil industry has faced,” said Mike Ashar, who led Suncor’s oil sands and refining units through the 1990s. SOURCE
Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba and Jeff Lewis in Toronto; Editing by Marguerita Choy
Nature has an important role to play in urban planning—and human health.
During this time of social distancing due to COVID-19, I have been stuck working and home schooling two energetic kids from a small city apartment. What has kept me sane is daily walks with my kids, out our backdoor and down a couple blocks to a little remnant patch of woods near a stream, where we can throw rocks in the water and listen to the spring birds arriving in Washington, DC.
News reports and social media feeds are full of people like me—walking or running near home, attempting to get outside while following social distancing and quarantine guidelines.
In some places, public health officials have stated that exercising outdoors or spending time in your backyard is safe, so long as you are not ill, and you keep your distance from other people. And published science suggests that time outdoors can offer measurable mental and physical health benefits.
A study that colleagues and I published in Sustainable Earth in 2018 reviewed what many other researchers have found—that living in very dense urban environments increases stress levels, but even brief interactions with the natural world can mitigate some of the negative effects of that stress.
In this time of staying home, many of us seek the release that comes from getting outside, if only for a few minutes. But you may not realize how significant this effect is—in fact, exposure to nature has even been correlated with reductions in depression, anxiety and schizophrenia.
Living near nature also has well-established physiological benefits. Access to parks and trails tends to increase residents’ physical activity, which drives a reduction in obesity and offers myriad other related health improvements. Early research is beginning to indicate that neighborhoods with more trees have reduced instances of cardiac and respiratory disease, a connection that we’re investigating further with the Green Heart Louisville project.
Tree cover also influences the urban heat island—a term that describes the effects of heat radiating off buildings and streets, making cities hotter than surrounding areas. Areas with trees can be several degrees cooler, and TNC research has found that this level of cooling has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives globally during heat waves.
Even looking at nature through a hospital window can bring benefits. One study established that surgical patients with a natural view recovered more quickly than those whose rooms overlooked a busy highway.
Teasing apart the threads of the genetic and social determinants of human health is always complex, and it would be inaccurate to say that access to nature can prevent disease, but intriguing new connections are constantly emerging as more researchers focus their investigations at the nexus of nature and health.
But it’s important to note that access to the health benefits that nature can provide is not equitably distributed. Recent TNC research indicates that in the United States, tree cover correlates to neighborhood income, even when adjusted for the population density of different communities. As the climate continues to shift, heat is a very real environmental justice concern.
I realize that nature is a relatively small factor when we consider all the of determinants of human health, but it’s a factor that can begin to address some of the inequities of our health care system. Adding nature to communities is often a cost-effective public health measure that offers additional benefits—from wildlife habitat to stormwater and flood management to natural beauty.
A century ago, city planners were adding public parks and water treatment systems to improve public health. Today, adding other forms of natural infrastructure to cities is the next step in that progression to healthier, more livable communities. SOURCE
Dr. Robert McDonald is Lead Scientist for the Global Cities program at The Nature Conservancy. He researches the impact and dependencies of cities on the natural world, and helps direct the science behind much of the Conservancy’s urban conservation work.
The UN biodiversity summit offers a chance to reset our relationship with nature
The Earth is vast—but it is also finite. As human development has expanded to meet the needs of a growing population, far too much of nature has been lost or degraded. This degradation is a major driver of climate change as well as species loss—and both crises pose serious threats to people.
SEE WHAT’S AT RISK
Human Nature—Visualized: How do we balance development and conservation on a finite planet?
Scientists are talking of deadly tipping points, and recent images of blazing fires, wounded wildlife and urgent evacuations in Australia hammer home that the delicate balance of nature can be tipped out of control within a relatively short time frame. We urgently need to reset and reverse these trends—but doing so will require broad collaboration and investment. This job is too big for environmentalists alone.
Against this backdrop, representatives from the world’s governments will convene for the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Kunming, China in early 2021. It’s a pivotal moment for the countries that are party to the CBD to refresh and redouble their shared commitments to nature. But to be truly transformational, these commitments must involve key officials from finance, planning, transportation, energy and agriculture—people who have the political and economic clout to drive transformational changes that interweave nature preservation throughout political and economic systems.
Ahead of this crucial summit, here are The Nature Conservancy’s top 10 recommendations to the CBD to create a new deal for nature. Daunting? Yes. Possible? It has to be.
1. Protect the Best: Conserve remaining wild places
The Nature Conservancy (TNC) supports a new deal for nature calling for 30 percent of ocean, land and water to be managed as intact and fully functional natural ecosystems. Currently, we’re at nearly 17 percent—a previously agreed goal, yet much of this protection falls in areas like deserts and icy mountaintops that harbor less biodiversity and were unlikely development targets to begin with. New protections should be placed in areas scientifically identified as having the highest conservation value and that represent the planet’s biodiversity.And it’s not enough to draw lines on a map—we need to improve the design, management, financing and interconnectivity of these critical areas that sustain us all.
2. Improve the Rest: Restore lost habitat and reduce our impacts
Scientists now reckon that humanity has already left a significant mark on roughly half of the Earth’s lands beyond the polar regions, as well as the majority of our global ocean. In these places, we need to improve the amount, quality, and resilience of partially modified ecosystems—where we have, for example, urbanized or cut down forests—in order to sustain Earth’s biodiversity and the critical services it supplies. Essentially, this means protecting nature in areas outside of wilderness, such as cities and farms. Reducing our impacts in these areas is perhaps the largest undertaking of all, as they represent the majority of the Earth’s surface that we rely upon for food, housing, energy, and other needs.
Sure, we’ll still need to produce more food and build more infrastructure as the world’s population grows—but a new deal for nature requires that we do it smartly and sustainably.
3. Farm for the Future: Encourage sustainable food production
This is one of the biggest steps we can take. When it comes to the climate and biodiversity crises, the agricultural sector is both part of the challenge and a potential solution. The best approaches to modern farming work with nature and promote a mutually-beneficial relationship between the food we produce and the ecological processes (such as soil regeneration and groundwater recharge) that sustain it. Still, deforestation, poor agricultural practices and other land uses have led to moderate to high degradation of 40 percent of the land within the world’s urban source watersheds—a worrying statistic as demand for food is expected to increase by as much as 70 percent by 2050.
A new deal for nature requires us to channel farming into already cleared or degraded lands and boost productivity through restorative and regenerative agricultural practices. This includes adopting practices that improve soil health and water quality, limit excess pest and nutrient agrochemicals, and diversify our farmscapes. This means employing practices like conservation tillage, inter-cropping and crop rotations, limiting field sizes, living fences, silvopasture, precision nutrient management and maintaining natural and semi-natural habitats. Such practices not only increase productivity, but also improve the land’s potential as a carbon sink and habitat for wildlife.
We also need to take a clear-eyed look at current agricultural subsidies and what impact they have on nature. According to a report from the Food and Land Use Coalition, the public is providing more than US$1 million per minute in global farm subsidies. And, while these subsidies come from the noble intent of improving food security and supporting livelihoods, many of the practices they fund at scale are driving the climate crisis and the destruction of wildlife. It’s a complex challenge, but agricultural subsidies don’t have to be destructive—they can also be redirected to support wildlife-friendly farming practices like agroecology or more sustainable water use and soil practices.
By giving companies an incentive to prove they are not converting habitats or using resources inefficiently, we can achieve huge wins for nature.
4. How We Build and What We Use: Ensure net gain for nature, not net loss
Developing economies need infrastructure, and global economic output will likely double over the next two decades. Trillions of dollars are expected to be invested in new energy, mining and infrastructure projects around the world—projects that, if sited poorly, could be detrimental to nature and people.
There is a smarter way forward, though, and it all begins with better planning. New development can be sited and built in ways that minimize impacts to nature, such as building on already degraded lands whenever possible. Where infrastructure damages nature, we must counterbalance this impact with support for the “restoration economy,” and compensate for that damage by making a comparable or greater investment in the conservation of other lands—contributing to a net gain in biodiversity.
5. Our Urban Future: Plan cities for this century and beyond
With nearly 70 percent of the world’s population expected to live in urban areas by 2050, cities are swelling to accommodate newcomers—and that can put pressure on natural ecosystems. Some city governments are already integrating biodiversity protection into their future development plans, but a new deal for nature should establish national incentives for nature-based solutions in urban areas—such as investing in wetland protection for natural flood mitigation, enhanced stormwater management, and air quality—that protect biodiversity and improve residents lives. Increased funding for management and stewardship of urban biodiversity and wildlife would also help protect nature in these overlooked areas.
For the sake of nature and city dwellers—whose communities and individual health outcomes benefit greatly from green spaces—a new deal for nature must consider urban landscapes, too.
6. Nature is Water: Restore Rivers
In many places, freshwater scarcity is one of the gravest threats to both people and nature. We need to integrate nature-based approaches for sanitation, wastewater and stormwater management into any new deal for nature. Protecting and restoring ecosystem function in watersheds not only benefits nature—it helps provide access to safe drinking water.
When we restore the health and connectivity of river systems, people and nature benefit.
7. Forge the future of forests
Old-growth forests and mangroves are particularly powerful natural carbon stores, as well as precious habitat for wildlife. But rapid deforestation, forest fragmentation and degradation, hunting and the arrival of invasive species from other habitats continue to threaten these critical ecosystems. Especially in the biodiversity-rich tropics, we must strive for zero deforestation, reforest at scale and require that 100 percent of production forests be sustainably managed. We can also help forests and people thrive and forests thrive by increasing access to sustainable energy sources, which reduces fuelwood demand.
But the services the ocean provides have come at a high cost. To preserve and restore healthy marine ecosystems, we must create protected areas both along the coast and out on the high seas—safe havens where nature can regenerate and fortify itself against climate change and other threats like industrialized fishing. However, a new deal for nature should not only create more protected areas, but also enforce measures that eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, reform perverse fishing subsidies and incentivize natural infrastructure for coastal restoration.
In the ocean, as on land, we must both protect wild habitats and more sustainably manage these areas and resources we draw from them.
9. Financing the Future
The risk of inaction on climate change and the loss of nature is widely catalogued: What is less clear is how we mobilize money and institutions to rectify and course-correct. To shine a light on how we finance a transformation for nature, The Paulson Institute, TNC and Cornell University will provide a road map of policies, mechanisms and incentives to close the world’s biodiversity conservation finance gap. This report will show how we can generate the resources and the political will needed to protect and conserve nature—and how to reduce the need for conservation funding by preventing degradation in the first place.
With the global economy worth more US$80 trillion in 2017, the several hundred billion we need to ensure a healthy planet is a relatively small price to pay.
10. The Natural World is in Search of Leaders
If nature was a country, who would lead it? Who is rallying the troops, setting standards, making bold and regulatory changes, taxing the bad, rewarding the good and reframing our relationship with the natural world? A new deal for nature will require bold, visionary champions who can upend the status quo and make progress in short term, but also reshape our long-term trajectory to be more sustainable.
New Zealand has created a well-being budget that prices in the creation of a low-carbon economy and also granted legal entity to a landscape and a river. Some major economies, including the United Kingdom, have led on climate change by commiting to becoming net-zero on carbon by 2050. We’ve also seen leadership at the corporate level by industry captains such as Danone and Unilever.
But we need more—more individuals, businesses and governments committing to action on a scale the world has yet to witness, and never needed more. SOURCE
Demonstrators stopped at the train tracks in the area of Waterloo and Pall Mall streets in London, Ont. on Feb. 28, 2020. . Sawyer Bogdan/980 CFPL
At least 80 people gathered in downtown London, Ont., on Friday afternoon as another show of solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their supporters, including protesters in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, near Belleville.
The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their supporters are trying to stop construction of a massive natural gas pipeline through their traditional territory in British Columbia. Ontario Provincial Police arrested 10 people on Monday at a solidarity railway blockade in Tyendinaga, though new blockades were set up soon after.
The London event, dubbed ‘Emergency Action in Solidarity with Tyendinaga + Wet’suwet’en,’ was organized by Idle No More – London, Red Warriors, and Climate Justice London and began at 2 p.m. Friday in Victoria Park.
At roughly 2:30 p.m., they began marching north on Richmond Street before stopping at the train tracks south of Oxford Street. The march resumed soon after with protesters making their way to the tracks on Waterloo Street, near Pall Mall Street just after 3 p.m. Friday.
“We want Canada and Canadian citizens to be aware of the situation that happening and one of the ways to do that is to set up blockade at a rail station or a walking protest,” said Biinbigay Gizhig, who spoke at the rally.
London police issued a release soon after, asking motorists to avoid the area and to expect delays throughout the downtown.
“Members of the [London Police Service] Provincial Liaison Team are communicating with demonstrators, and open dialogue is continuous and ongoing,” the release stated.
“Our objective is to maintain the safe flow of traffic and, when delays occur, restore traffic flow in the safest manner possible in those areas.”
The hereditary chiefs and members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation who support them had been blocking construction on a section of the $6.6-billion Coastal GasLink project that runs through traditional Indigenous territory near Houston, B.C. before RCMP began enforcing an injunction in early February.
“We stand with them and we want the federal government to deal with them on a nation to nation relationship,” Gizhig said.
The 670-kilometre pipeline is being constructed elsewhere between northeastern B.C. and an LNG export facility in Kitimat on the coast, and has received consent from all 20 elected First Nation councils along the route.
But opponents argue that those councils only have authority over on-reserve matters, as artifacts of the colonial system under the Indian Act.
Hamilton railway blockade disbanded after protesters receive injunction notices
The Supreme Court of Canada has affirmed Indigenous rights and title over unceded land, territory that Wet’suwet’en opponents say only hereditary chiefs have authority over.
A B.C. Supreme Court injunction against the opponents was granted on Dec. 31 but enforcement was held to allow dialogue between all parties. However, talks broke off and arrests began in early February.
On Feb. 12, two Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs launched a constitutional challenge of fossil fuel projects, calling for the Federal Court to declare that Canada is constitutionally obliged to meet international climate change targets which they believe would cancel approvals for the Coastal GasLink project.
— with files from Global News’ Sean Boynton and Simon Little and The Canadian Press’s Michelle McQuigge.
With mass gatherings being paused to keep people safe amidst the spread of COVID-19, the Wet’suwet’en are adjusting their tactics, but calling on allies to keep standing with them. What can you do? Call out the largest funders of the CGL pipeline: JPMorgan Chase and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co (KKR). These companies’ plans to invest in the pipeline aren’t final and there’s still time to stop them.
Last month, militarized police conducted a raid of the resistance camps on Wet’suwet’en land and illegally evicted hereditary chiefs, land defenders, and matriarchs. The police came with assault rifles, snipers, dogs, sound cannons, and helicopters to arrest unarmed Indigenous elders and youth.
A powerful solidarity movement quickly sprang up across the globe and got the world’s attention. Indigenous people and allies have led railway blockades, port shutdowns, sit-ins at government buildings, and huge rallies that brought parts of Canada to an economic standstill. Meanwhile, global allies shut-down Canadian consulates and banks that are funding the pipeline. Now that we can’t gather in person, digital tactics are more important than ever.
The elected chiefs claim negotiation process ignored them and many clan members
Elected chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en are calling for a retraction of a joint statement by the hereditary chiefs, B.C. officials and the federal government regarding the signing of a memorandum on rights and title.
The joint statement, released this week, noted that the groups reached an agreement on Feb. 29 in regards to the contents of a memorandom of understanding (MOU), which remain confidential. The MOU was created through a days-long discussion in Smithers earlier this year.
But in their own joint statement release on Friday (May 1), the elected chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nations say they don’t support the agreement.
“This MOU consultation process has lacked any semblance of credibility,” the statement reads.
“The federal government, the provincial government and the hereditary chiefs have completely ignored many clan members and elected chiefs. These discussions have not included openness and respect for all parties.”
Details of the memorandum have not been released, but the hereditary chiefs, federal and provincial governments agree it commits them to implement the rights and title of the First Nation.
The statement notes the signing of the MOU, tentatively scheduled for May 14, would come just after the 33rd anniversary of the beginning of the original Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa case in B.C. Supreme Court, which started on May 11, 1987.
In that case, the chief justice at the time ruled against the Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan. A later Supreme Court of Canada decision in 1997 affirmed rights and title, but did not establish details such as the boundaries of the land claims, causing a series of conflicts and ambiguities in recent years – specifically in regards to pipeline projects in the area.
The elected chiefs called the announcement of the MOU signing “premature” and have demanded it be withdrawn until after COVID-19 restrictions on large gatherings have been lifted.
“We welcome engagement and collaboration with our fellow clan members, the hereditary chiefs and all levels of government, once it is safe for our communities to gather,” they said.
The memorandum is aimed at addressing broader land claim issues and does not change anything in the ongoing dispute over the Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline. In an earlier statement on April 28, the hereditary chiefs called the MOU “a step in the right direction,” but reaffirmed their opposition to the natural gas project.
Opposition to construction of 670-kilometre pipeline set off demonstrations and blockades that shut down large parts of the national economy in February.
The five communities represented by the elected chiefs have all signed on to the project and a number of Wet’suwet’en people are working on the construction, which is ongoing.
The Interior News has an interview scheduled for this afternoon with Chief Maureen Luggi (elected leader of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation) and has reached out to the hereditary chiefs and province for comment on the disconnect between the two statements. SOURCE
“Everybody needs to stand up, not just Indigenous people. Everybody needs to stand up to the political powers that be that they need to change … The whole world is watching what Canada is doing.” — Freda Huson
With a key United Nations vote on the Trudeau government’s bid for a seat on the Security Council coming this June 17, it really is worth watching Invasion.
The documentary powerfully tells the story of Wet’suwet’en land and water defenders resisting a megaproject on their unceded territory in British Columbia.
It includes footage of the RCMP raid on Wet’suwet’en territory that took place on January 7, 2019. It also includes a clip of defender Freda Huson movingly addressing the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues on April 24, 2019.
Months after her intervention, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination called on Canada to immediately halt construction on the Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline on the lands and territories of the Wet’suwet’en peoples given it lacks their UN-recognized right to free, prior and informed consent.
It further urged that “the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and associated security and policing services … be withdrawn from their traditional lands.”
That resolution was passed by the UN committee on December 13, 2019.
And yet by January 13 of this year, the RCMP had set up an exclusion zone on Wet’suwet’en traditional lands, and on February 6 launched a second militarized raid on the territory to facilitate the construction of the pipeline.
And just recently, on April 28, Export Development Canada, the Canadian government’s export credit agency, approved a loan of up to $500 million to TC Energy, the company building the Coastal GasLink pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory.
That is arguably in contravention of the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights that says states should take steps to protect against human rights abuses by business enterprises that receive support from export credit agencies.
On May 5, the CBC reported that Canada is “doubling down on its bid for a seat” on the UN Security Council that has already “set the government back $2 million.” It’s clear that the Trudeau government wants to win that seat on June 17.
Peace Brigades International-Canada has posted this online URGENT ACTION petition to enable people to send an email to the prime minister that calls on him to act in accordance with the UN committee’s resolution before the UN vote.
As the Trudeau government steps up its efforts to win the Security Council seat, there’s an opportune moment to highlight this resolution.
Pam Palmater, a Mi’kmaw citizen, lawyer and professor, has argued, “Canada does not deserve a seat at the UN Security Council unless and until they address peace and security in their own country.”
The coming weeks are a pivotal time for all of us to hear that and raise our voices on peace, security and fundamental human rights. SOURCE
Brent Patterson is the executive director of Peace Brigades International-Canada. You can follow him at @CBrentPatterson@PBIcanada on Twitter.
Locazoa joins local farmers and customers in online marketplace
A chance visit by Rachel Kuzmich and Cliff Coulter to Quinta Da Conde farm in Black River last summer set the wheels in motion for a new initiative that connects County farmers to local customers. Cliff has a background in e-commerce, and Rachel has an interest in environmentalism, and they were speaking to Joaquim Conde about some of the challenges he faces in getting customers to know about his farm produce.
The idea lay nearly dormant until this spring when Joaquim was considering how to modify his business plan in light of restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. He decided to launch a community supported agriculture (CSA) program and reached out to Cliff and Rachel, and that is when the couple really started to work on their idea to link farmers with their customers.
“Locazoa is an online marketplace for buying and selling farm products in Prince Edward County,” said Rachel.
“There are two types of users. Farmers, who are acting as vendors, can create a profile with their contact info and they can list the products they have for sale. If they have a CSA program, they can manage that through the site as well. On the customer side of things, you can go to Locazoa and you can shop across multiple farmers here in the County. So instead of going to farms individually and buying from each farm, you can shop at multiple farms all at once.” MORE