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
The scoop Pesticides promote large-scale agriculture, yet damage environmental and human health…
Risks for humans
- At least 200,000 deaths each year.
- Cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s diseases
- Hormone disruption, developmental disorders, sterility
- Loss of: memory, motor skills, vision and coordination
- Asthma, allergies, hypersensitivity
Environmental risks Traces of pesticides are found in the air, soil, and water (thus spreading far and harming wildlife including: pollinators, amphibians, birds, fish, and invertebrates). Bee colony collapse and reproductive issues are highly concerning.
What can be done? A “systemic denial fueled by the pesticide and agroindustry” keep pesticides on the market. Luckily, the UN proposes international guidelines on regulating pesticides, while promoting agroecology: a practice which combines science and local knowledge to create community-based, agricultural systems.
The UN finds that Agroecology can “feed the entire world population and ensure that they are adequately nourished.” Using agroecology, the world could be fed, and we could drop the risks that pesticides inflict!
What can I do?
- Research your local Congressman’s stance on Pesticide Bans. Vote!
- Grow a garden. You’ll help pollinators and enjoy pesticide-free produce.
- Helpful resources…
- Watch Neonicotinoids: The New DDT? free
- Watch: Circle of Poison
- Read Silent Spring
Dig deeper → 3 min
How it works
- When microorganisms (e.g.bacteria) break down organic matter like manure and food waste anaerobically (without oxygen), biogas is released. Bio gas consists primarily of carbon dioxide and methane - one of the primary components of natural gas.
- Farmers place animal manure, food waste and agricultural waste in an anaerobic digester with a pipe to extract the gas.
- The solid byproduct is used as livestock bedding, soil amendments or in biodegradable planting pots, and the liquid byproduct is a nutrient-rich fertilizer.
Benefits of Biogas-based Energy
- Reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Biodigesters divert carbon dioxide and methane that would normally be released into the atmosphere. Greenhouse gas emissions from a dairy farm can be reduced by 35% when biogas-based electricity replaces grid-based electricity.
- Cost savings. On-site biodigesters help farmers save on electricity bills and fertilizer. A farmer told The Washington Post that he saved anywhere from $75,000 to $100,000 a year on electricity, heating, fertilizer, and animal bedding with a biodigester.
- Renewable. Biogas is generally considered renewable as it is produced by animal and plant waste and the source is not limited in quantity like coal or natural gas.
- Biogas generation is becoming increasingly popular. From 2000 to 2020, the number of operational anaerobic digesters in the United States has grown from 24 to 255.
- Biogas is a popular mode of energy production in India and China, which have 4.54 million and 27 million biogas plants respectively.
- As the world divests from fossil fuels, new and varied energy sources will be necessary to satisfy the energy needs of the world and biogas can help. Biogas just goes to show you that not all waste is useless. One cow’s waste is another man’s treasure.
Dig deeper → 4 min
What to know Congress passed the Air Pollution Control Act (APCA) in 1955, which funded federal air pollution research but did not require or give power to the federal government to regulate air pollution.
The Clear Air Act of 1963 permitted the government to control air pollution in certain capacities. In 1999, several citizens, conservation, and environmental groups filed a petition for the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate air pollution under this act.
The EPA denied the petition, and Massachusetts and several other states filed a class action lawsuit against the EPA to fight for the American people’s right to live in safe environments with clear air.
After a lengthy debate over the ambiguity of the Clean Air Act’s language, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Massachusetts in a 5-4 decision.
Key Takeaways The EPA cannot decline to issue emission standards for motor vehicles based on policy considerations not specifically enumerated in the Clean Air Act.
The Clean Air Act gives the EPA authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
Some of the progressive rules that resulted from this case, such as the Clean Car and Clean Truck Standards, were recently minimized by the Trump administration in the beginning stages of the pandemic.
Bottom line The government will continue its ableism (discrimination in favor of able-bodied people) without public pressure and scrutiny, so we must come together to vote and advocate for accelerated climate change action.
Dig deeper --> 3 min
What to know
- Over 332 active fires are burning over 1.6 million hectares of land in Siberia
- Parts of the Arctic Circle have been burning since July 2019
- These wildfires originated from a combination of natural causes including temperatures reaching 30 ℃, wind, and dry thunderstorms
- The cost-benefit ratio of saving these ecosystems indicates that Siberia should let the wildfires burn until rain comes because most of them are not directly endangering civilization
- These fires are so humongous their smoke blew across the North Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea to reach Oregon, Alaska, and Canada
- Wildfires are destroying valuable ecosystems in the Arctic Circle
- High temperatures melted the permafrost early, releasing the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases trapped underneath and contributing to climate change
- Temperatures in the Arctic Circle reached record highs within the past six months, only exacerbating the fires
- Human-caused climate change intensified these fires in a variety of ways
- We must act on climate change before other extreme weather events begin to seriously affect a greater number of humans
Dig deeper → 2 min
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