Big picture: A 2016 study of over 8,000 threatened or near-threatened species found that over-exploitation and agricultural activity posed a much greater threat to biodiversity than climate change.
Why it matters: Climate change is abstract. It also gets all of the news coverage. In reality, ecological issues like deforestation and hunting play a significant role in the environment. These are tangible issues that we can fix before investing billions into an more abstract threat like climate change. Most of that money pours into clean energy while critical wildlife face extinction from other causes.
Sustainable suggestion: We need to approach the climate conversation in a way that works cooperatively with intersecting threats like wildfire risk mitigation or ecological restoration, not against them.
A forestry organization may want to clean-up deadwood to prevent harsher wildfires, but a conservation group will sue them for cutting down a sacred forest. A conservation group may want to support hunting an invasive species , but an animal rights group will publicly condemn them. Let's stop doing that.
Bottom line: Climate change is important, and intersects with basically every ecological issue. But that behemoth threat will be much easier to manage if we can start knocking off the little guys that we can see, touch and feel. That would call for better farming, less hunting/finishing, more land protection in sensitive areas, and less logging.
Dig deeper → 3 min
The scoop: 40% of insect species are at risk of extinction.
Why it matters: We need bugs to survive and thrive.
- Pollination: Pollinators pollinate plants; we need them to keep doing that.
- Pest control: Paradoxically, predatory and parasitic insects kill pests.
- Decomposition: Some insects are primary or secondary decomposers. They serve an important function to clean-up animal waste.
- Food security: Many mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians depend on bugs for food. They are a quick and easy resource for a nutritious meal.
- Research and innovation: Technology mimics nature (think birds and planes). Researchers can observe the ethology of insects and learn new ways to innovate. An example? Ant colony optimization in computer science.
What's causing the insect decline: Habitat loss from agriculture and urbanization is the #1 driver. Agro-chemical pollutants (think pesticides), invasive species and climate change also play a role. You can check out some cool charts and figures in this article to learn more.
How to help: Contribute to the fight against pesticides, support or start a small farm, and educate others about the importance of insects. A more positive perception of bug people can also lead to change.
Bottom line: We need bugs to survive, yet insects are on the decline. This issue deserves more recognition.
Dig deeper → 4 min
Question: How can sustainability succeed without laws protecting animals?
The science is out on animals. Man's outdated perceptions of our underwater and in-the-forest cousins are coming to light as science meets PETA.
Animals are sentient beings. It's not a romance novel, it's the world we live in. Animals experience a wide range of emotions.
The animal manifesto: Every squirrel, every rabbit, every bear, every fish serves a clear, identifiable role in Earth's ecosystem except for two creatures: invasive species like pythons in the Everglades.... and mankind.
Humans as protectors: Man certainly plays a role in this crazy floating ball universe, but we've drifted so far from our hunter-gatherer origins that our ecological purpose is becoming harder and harder to define. As such, it is the moral responsibility of man to act as benevolent stewards for the vulnerable, voiceless animal kingdom.
Animal lives matter: The next sustainability chapter of post-industrial society begins with a recognition of animals as they are, fellow Earthlings deserving of basic rights.
Bottom line Today, most advanced nations do not recognize animals as sentient beings. And we expect sustainable lifestyles to be widely adopted in our homes? You have to learn how to drive a car before lifting up the hood to fix it.
The scoop Whales accumulate carbon throughout their lifetime and die with it on the ocean floor. So they save around 33 tons of carbon from the atmosphere each.
Why it matters Today, whales number approximately 1.3 million, and conservation efforts to return them to their 4-5 million pre-whaling population could significantly reduce the greenhouse effect by lowering atmospheric carbon dioxide. However, they are constantly at threat of being hunted.
Big picture Recovering the global whale population to even half its original size is no easy feat, but we must do all in our power to multiply whale species’ populations in all of Earth’s oceans. Regardless of whether a high-tech carbon sequestration tool becomes widely available, harnessing the carbon-capturing power of these beautiful creatures will always positively enhance our atmosphere and marine ecosystems.
Dig deeper --> 3 min read
The scoop John Tyson, Chairman of Tyson Foods, sent out a dire message about the global food chain supply breaking as millions of chickens, cattle and pigs face euthanasia due to widespread closures of slaughter houses.
Where it stands
- Meat processing plants across America face closure due to the pandemic.
- Processing plants use the ’just in time’ inventory system.
- Animals have limited processing time, after which they get too big and loses their monetary value for companies such as Tyson.
- It is difficult for meat processors to pivot between varying amounts of demand, exposing its shortcomings as a reliable form of food production.
What are the main concerns?
- Most meat processing plants operate in counties in America worst-hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
- Thousands of animals and workers in these poorly-sanitised plants remain in close proximity to one other.
- The chances of infections spreading are incredibly high in the plants, with over 5,000 meat workers and 1,500 workers contracting the virus since April.
- Meat processing systems lack a vital aspect of sustainability: resilience.
Zoom out Farmers have discarded millions of pounds of edible food due to the virus and warn of increased food security concerns. Almost 30-40% of food is wasted in America, equivalent to an estimated value of $162 billion every year.
Bottom Line Our food systems need to focus on resilience plans moving forward, making them more adaptable and decentralised to effectively deal with external disturbances such as a pandemic.
Dig deeper → 5 min
What happened On the evening of April 20th 2010, a blowout occurred on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. High-pressure methane gas had risen into the drilling rig, quickly igniting and exploding.
Visible from 40 miles away, the flames overwhelmed first responders.
Two days later, the platform sank, leaving oil gushing at the seabed...until July, 87 days later. Containment started immediately, stopping the fires and oil burst. Clean up continued and ended...TBA.
Big picture Deepwater is not the first major spill, nor it seems, likely the last, and each disaster results in another human and environmental catastrophe.
- Deepwater killed 11 people, injured dozens of others, left vast swaths of ocean fatally contaminated, thousands of miles of beach polluted, killed over one million birds and continues to destroy pristine habitat and wildlife
- There are 175 offshore rigs in the Gulf of Mexico with the global total growing to 497 by 2017
Why it matters Deepwater displayed the frailties of our petroleum addiction as clear as day. In 2010, the year of the disaster, the planet used about 86 million gallons of Black Gold every day. Now, we use 100 million gallons every day. Black Gold is unsustainable, damaging to the environment, and could be replaced with sustainable alternatives.
We need a global intervention, a massive mobilization focused on powering our planet with the bountiful clean energy nature so gracefully provides. And we must develop an economic model that hastens the long overdue demise of Black Gold.
Dig deeper → 5 min
The scoop In the world of factory farming, public health risks are completely ignored.
Could applying “social distancing” rules to animals really help us all live healthier and safer lives?
Why it matters Most animals (both wild or domestic) carry some type of virus. It’s easy enough to learn from the recent outbreak and stay away from wildlife. But what about domesticated animals in factory farms? Farm animals carry many diseases.
As the world population increases, so does the demand for meat products. More meat = more crowded spaces in factory farms.
Bottom line Removing factory farming, or significantly improving its operations, is a contributing factor in preventing another public health disaster.Dig deeper → 5 min