Category Archives: Climate Change

Good for planet and people? Renewable energy firms urged to clean up act on human rights

Workers walk at a solar power station in Tongchuan, Shaanxi province, China December 11, 2019. Picture taken December 11, 2019. REUTERS/Muyu Xu

BARCELONA, – Companies that produce clean energy are crucial for curbing climate change – but they’re not always the “good guys”, according to a report that tracks their human rights record for the first time.

The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) says 16 of the world’s largest publicly-traded wind and solar producers are not doing enough to protect their workers and the local communities affected by their operations.

Here are the key takeaways:

What’s the bigger picture?

A push to use less fossil fuel and curb climate change has seen nearly $2.7 trillion invested in renewables – mainly in solar and wind power – in the past decade, and the sector employed 11 million people in 2018.

Many of the companies are seen as saviours when it comes to tackling global warming – but the same can’t be said of how they treat human rights, according to Phil Bloomer, BHRRC executive director

That is a particular concern for indigenous people whose land has in some cases been used for clean energy projects without their agreement or fair compensation.

Which companies have been assessed and what are the key results?

Spanish energy corporations Iberdrola and Acciona, followed by Denmark’s Orsted and Italy’s Enel, had the best human rights record overall, with French and German firms dominating the middle tier – but no company scores above 53% on the benchmark.

The worst performers are Chinese and North American companies, as well investors Brookfield and BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, which own many renewable projects.

Companies, on average, scored better on indicators covering the basic human rights responsibilities, including having policies and grievance mechanisms in place, similar to other high-risk industries like apparel, agricultural products and tech manufacturing.

But they scored zero across the board when it came to commitments such as respecting local land rights and relocating or compensating communities affected by renewables projects.

The companies scored well in some areas, including anti-corruption due diligence and health and safety disclosures.

So big renewable energy firms are doing the right thing for the planet but the wrong thing for people?

The centre has tracked allegations of abuse against renewables companies over the past decade, and says complaints increased 10 times between 2010 and 2018.

Since 2010, the centre has identified 197 allegations of human rights abuses related to renewable energy projects, and asked 127 companies to respond to those allegations.

They include: killings, threats, and intimidation; land grabs; dangerous working conditions and poverty wages; and harm to indigenous peoples’ lives and livelihoods.

Allegations have been made in every region and across the wind, solar, bioenergy, geothermal and hydropower sectors, with the highest number in Latin America.

https://news.trust.org/item/20200701164637-rk6o4/

‘Care for nature’ to keep people safe and well, leaders urge

Workers clean up trash at a beach on World Environment Day in West Aceh, Aceh Province, Indonesia June 5, 2020. Antara Foto/Syifa Yulinnas/via Reuters

BARCELONA, – The COVID-19 crisis has exposed how the health of people and nature is intertwined, and protecting the planet, its climate and ecosystems will be crucial to preventing further pandemics, the U.N. chief and political leaders said on Friday.

In a video statement for World Environment Day, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said humans had been harming the natural world “to our own detriment”.

“Habitat degradation and biodiversity loss are accelerating. Climate disruption is getting worse,” he said, noting more frequent and damaging fires, floods, droughts and super-storms.

Oceans are heating and acidifying, harming coral reefs, while the new coronavirus is “raging”, undermining health and livelihoods, he said.

“To care for humanity, we must care for nature,” he added, urging more sustainable consumer habits and decision-making centred around safeguarding the natural world.

The presidents of Colombia, Costa Rica and Switzerland, joined by ministers from a dozen other countries, on Friday launched a “High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People”, aimed at persuading governments to agree on a global goal to preserve at least 30% of the planet’s lands and oceans by 2030.

This, together with retaining wildernesses and conserving biodiversity, is “a crucial step to help prevent future pandemics and public health emergencies, and lay the foundations for a sustainable global economy”, they said in a statement.

The World Health Organization has said the novel coronavirus probably has its “ecological reservoir” in bats, while scientists say 60% of the infectious human diseases that emerged from 1990 to 2004 came from animals.

The new nature coalition noted that illegal and non-regulated wildlife trade, deforestation and ecosystem destruction can increase the risk of disease transmission from wildlife to people, and urged tighter control.

“This pandemic provides unprecedented and powerful proof that nature and people share the same fate and are far more closely linked than most of us realised,” they said in a statement.

Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, told a coalition event that protecting nature was “about security and health”.

The COVID-19 crisis was a predictable manifestation of what scientists branded a “planetary emergency” several months before the pandemic began, he added.

World Environment Day should be renamed “human safety day”, he proposed, adding “it’s no longer about nature – it’s all about humans and our equitable, prosperous future on Earth”.

‘RACE TO ZERO’

The U.N. climate change secretariat (UNFCCC), alongside Britain and Chile, meanwhile, launched a “Race to Zero” campaign, committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 at the latest and “a healthy, resilient and zero-carbon recovery” from the economic fallout of the pandemic.

“Net-zero” means producing no more climate-heating emissions than can be absorbed by planting carbon-sucking trees or using other methods to trap greenhouse gases.

A U.N. climate science panel has said global emissions need to be slashed by 45% by 2030 and to net-zero by mid-century to have a 50% chance of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times.

The new climate campaign unites 120 countries with net-zero emissions initiatives backed by 992 businesses, 449 cities, 21 regions, 505 universities and 38 big investors, the UNFCCC said.

U.N. climate chief Patricia Espinosa said “Race to Zero” should also spur stronger national climate action plans due this year, including targets to cut emissions over the next decade.

The companies signed up to the net-zero goal have combined annual revenues of $4.72 trillion, the UNFCCC said, with new joiners including computer software giant Adobe, alcoholic drinks maker Diageo, fashion retailer Inditex and engineering firm Rolls-Royce.

According to analysis from the UK-based Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) think-tank, 53% of global GDP is now produced in countries, states, regions and cities that have either set a net-zero target or intend to do so.

Alison Doig, international lead at the ECIU, said participants in the “Race to Zero” campaign would have to present plans to reach net-zero, including interim emissions targets for the next decade, by the time of the delayed COP26 U.N. climate summit in Glasgow in November 2021.

“This is not… about pushing climate action to some date in the future. No entity can reach net-zero in 2050 without starting now,” she said.

https://news.trust.org/item/20200605130846-9n69a/

20,000 Ton Oil Spill in Russian Arctic Has ‘Catastrophic Consequences’ for Wildlife

The leaked diesel oil drifted some 12km (7.5 miles) from the site of the accident

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared an emergency after 20,000 tons of diesel fuel spilled into a river in the Arctic Circle.

The accident is the second largest oil spill in terms of volume in modern Russian history, the Word Wildlife Fund (WWF) told AFP, as BBC News reported. The oil spread around 7.5 miles from the fuel site, turning the Ambarnaya river bright red, and contaminated a total of 135 square miles.

“The incident led to catastrophic consequences and we will be seeing the repercussions for years to come,” Sergey Verkhovets, coordinator of Arctic projects for WWF Russia, said in a statement reported by CNN. “We are talking about dead fish, polluted plumage of birds, and poisoned animals.”

Russia’s environmental ministry Rosprirodnadzor is already reporting contaminant levels in the water that are tens of thousands of times higher than the safe limit.

“[T]here has never been such an accident in the Arctic zone, ” former deputy head of Rosprirodnadzor Oleg Mitvol told BBC News.

Greenpeace compared the disaster to the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.

The spill occurred last Friday when a fuel tank at a power plant near the city of Norilsk in Siberia collapsed. The plant is owned by a subsidiary of Norilsk Nickel, the world’s No. 1 producer of nickel and palladium. Its factories are also the reason why Norilsk is one of the most polluted places on Earth, The Guardian reported.

The plant initially attempted to clean the spill on their own and did not tell authorities about the incident for two days, Ministry of Emergency Situations head Evgeny Zinichev said, according to CNN.

Alexei Knizhnikov of WWF said his group was the first to inform cleanup specialists of the spill, according to The Guardian.

“These are huge volumes,” he said. “It was difficult for them to cover it up.”

The governor of the Krasnoyarsk region, where the spill took place, told Putin he only learned of it Sunday from social media posts.

“Why did government agencies only find out about this two days after the fact? Are we going to learn about emergency situations from social media? Are you quite healthy over there?” Putin scolded Sergei Lipin, the head of NTEK, as the subsidiary that owns the plant is called.

Norilsk Nickel countered that NTEK had alerted authorities in a “timely and proper” fashion.

https://www.ecowatch.com/oil-spill-russia-arctic-wildlife-2646152380.html?rebelltitem=6#rebelltitem6

Five years ago, Pope Francis asked us to care for Earth. Have we listened?

single tree CROP
An aerial view shows a single tree seen on land that was previously jungle in Mato Grosso, one of the Brazilian states suffering from deforestation. (Reuters/Bruno Domingos)

There was a time when Br. Jaazeal Jakosalem had little success when he asked bishops in the Philippines to join campaigns against mining or coal-fired power plants endangering communities as well as the land.

It wasn’t that the bishops were ignoring the issues facing the environment — they’d written a half-dozen statements on the topic since the late 1980s. They just weren’t as visible in the struggle to do something about them, said Jakosalem, a lifelong environmental activist and a member of the Order of Augustinian Recollects.

The Philippines is one of the world’s front lines on climate change. Last week, Typhoon Vongfong slammed into the Eastern Samar province, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people in a region that seven years earlier was decimated by Typhoon Haiyan. Climate scientists expect such tropical storms to become more powerful and more frequent as global temperatures rise.

Things have changed in the post-Laudato Si’ world.

Today, the Catholic Church of the Philippines is seen as one of the leaders in answering the call that Pope Francis issued to the entire world in his 2015 social encyclical, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home.”

Since the encyclical’s release, Jakosalem, better known as Brother Tagoy, says more bishops have joined him and other religious in speaking out against the construction of new coal-fired power plants and the damaging effects of mining on both communities and the land. Last July, the Philippine bishops conference issued a pastoral letter on the “climate emergency,” calling the full church on the islands to an ecological conversion and to “activate climate action on behalf of the voiceless people and the planet.”

“They are emboldened to act more for the caring of our environment,” Jakosalem told EarthBeat in a phone interview.

Five years after the publication of Laudato Si’, you can easily find such examples across the world of individual Catholics, parishes and institutions responding to the pope’s own repeated appeal for ecological conversion with prayer and reflection over the encyclical but also with concrete actions in living it out.

Even with those examples, the consensus among Catholic ecological leaders is those responses have been not nearly as widespread as Francis sought with his universal call “for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet.” Count the pope among them.

“Sadly, the urgency of this ecological conversion seems not to have been grasped by international politics, where the response to the problems raised by global issues such as climate change remains very weak and a source of grave concern,” Francis said in January in remarks to the Vatican diplomatic corps.

The call for increasingly urgent action from a historically slow-moving institution is driven by awareness of the numerous crises facing the planet.

The coronavirus pandemic struck at the start of a decade that climate scientists say is critical to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Doing so would prevent the most severe consequences of climate change, which threatens to exacerbate poverty, hunger, lack of water access, and migration, all impacting first and fiercest the world’s already most vulnerable communities.

Already, global temperatures have risen 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since the late 1800s. The planet is on pace to warm another 2 degrees C by the end of the century, and to reach the critical 1.5-degree mark as soon as 2030. Roughly 20% of the planet already has, according to a Pulitzer-winning report by The Washington Post.

“When we pass that 1.5 degrees threshold, climate change will move into all of our living rooms,” said Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego and member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. “You don’t have to turn on TV to find out about climate change.”

The pandemic has some worried it may slow momentum for addressing climate change. But there is also optimism up to the highest levels of the Catholic Church that how the world responds, economically and otherwise, just may be the multitrillion-dollar stimulus needed to jumpstart the globe to match societal actions with the urgency of the science.

And perhaps Laudato Si’ can play a part.

Laudato Si’ has an immense amount of wisdom to charter that path and just aid us in that journey,” said Tomás Insua, co-founder and executive director of the Global Catholic Climate Movement.

 

 

 

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/five-years-ago-pope-francis-asked-us-care-earth-have-we-listened

EarthBeat Weekly: Throwaway plastics strike back amid the pandemic

Plastive
An elderly woman wears a protective face mask as she walks with shopping bags during the COVID-19 pandemic in Barcelona, Spain, April 1, 2020. (CNS photo/Nacho Doce, Reuters)

Earlier this week, my wife Clare and I decided to try something we hadn’t done before: ride bikes to grab our groceries.

The weather was great and springy, and near our home in Kansas City (the one in Missouri, by the way) there’s a trail that passes by several grocery stores — meaning we wouldn’t have to bother with passing cars in a city that’s still learning to share the road.

So we had our route. The sky was clear. There was just one more thing to do before we were on our way: Gather our reusable bags.

One of the side effects of the coronavirus pandemic has been a restoking of the pushback on reusable goods. Some stores have barred reusable bags, concerned they could spread the virus, and coffeeshops have paused refilling reusable cups. Food pantries are placing meals in disposable bags in their efforts to feed millions in need. Restaurants struggling to stay in business have turned to disposable packaging — and often plastic foam — in their shift to carryout and delivery meals. And as they plan to reopen, some are opting for disposable menus.

In late March, The New York Times reported on how the plastic bag industry is seeking to capitalize on the pandemic to undo state and city bans on single-use plastics like bags and straws. The story has stuck with me. It was a reminder of the forces at play seeking to preserve the throwaway culture that Pope Francis has urged the world to abandon.

Economics of course are a major factor, with plastic production backed by major oil and chemical associations. But I find it harder to understand the freedom angle: Is there really such a passion to fight for the right to be able to throw something away often minutes after receiving it? I was recently reminded there was by a conservative friend, who in listing reasons why he wouldn’t want to live in Seattle stated he liked his plastic straws.

How did something like single-use plastics become so ingrained in U.S. culture when it hasn’t been around that long? It turns out others have wondered the same thing. While variations of straws have been around since 3,000 B.C., the plastic version wasn’t introduced until the 1950s and by the ’70s had overtaken the slurping market. National Geographic offered a video chronology of plastic’s history as part of its Planet or Plastic project.

Today, approximately 8.8 million tons of plastic enter the ocean each year, and upwards of 26 million tons of plastic enter landfills in the U.S. alone. As plastics pollute land and water, they threaten both biodiversity and human health, with more and more microscopic plastic particles entering into the food chain.

The disposable vs. reusable debate existed well before the novel coronavirus began spreading around the globe. How it plays out post-pandemic will likely have a significant effect on whether the planet leaves the throwaway culture in its past, as well.

And whether pedaling to grocery stores with reusable bags in tow becomes an even more prevalent practice.

 

 

 

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/earthbeat-weekly-throwaway-plastics-strike-back-amid-pandemic

On Earth Day’s 50th anniversary, bees buzz with hope for California sisters

beekeeping 7 CROP
Sr. Barbara Hagel with a frame from one of her hives on the property of the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose in Fremont, California. All of the bees in a hive are genetically related to the queen, making all of the worker bees sisters. (Melanie Lidman)

FREMONT, CALIFORNIA — A few times a week, Sr. Barbara Hagel of the Dominican Sisters of the Queen of the Holy Rosary suits up in a very different type of veil, a mesh facemask that zips to a large white jacket known as a bee suit. Carefully, she reaches in to check on one of the 13 beehives on her property. As she pulls out a frame of honeycomb, it vibrates with bees, a frenetic mass of activity shimmering in black and gold.

Hagel said it can be a spiritual moment, the first glimpse of the bees dancing over honeycomb cells.

“I’m constantly in awe of what I see and what is happening with the bees, and how the more I learn, the more I think about how God made this so incredibly complex and beautiful,” said Hagel, who serves as the Care of Creation and Sustainability coordinator for her congregation, which is also referred to as the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose.

The world celebrates Earth Day on April 22 in the shadow of a global pandemic. This year is the 50th anniversary of the original Earth Day celebrations that birthed the modern environmental movement, though the realities of the COVID-19 outbreak will push most of the celebrations and demonstrations online.

With the widespread collapse of bee colonies and the danger this poses for ecosystems, beekeepers are a small but essential part of the larger fight against climate change.

 

 

 

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/environment/news/earth-days-50th-anniversary-bees-buzz-hope-california-sisters

 

Our common home needs you on the frontline today

Earth
Students and activists hold placards with messages as they participate in a Global Climate Strike rally in New Delhi Sept. 20, 2019. (CNS/Reuters/Anushree Fadnavis)

COVID-19 has put the brakes on life as we know it. Travel and regular strolls (outside and in the supermarket) are the first to leave everyone’s itineraries. Uncertainty and foregoing daily activities has caused a lot of sleepless nights as we helplessly and radically change our lifestyles to stop the pandemic.

That is not to say that quarantines have made our lives completely miserable. After all, adapting is common nature to humans. Generally speaking, families are having meals together again, those who can work from home are now a little more tech-savvy, and people are more in touch with a slower pace of life.

But would this be the same story for those less fortunate?

Those from low socio-economic backgrounds and the elderly are hit twice as hard. After all, the pandemic is more than a public health issue – it’s a social justice issue, too.

Quarantines are only bearable if one has a stable job that can be done from the comfort of home, if one has emergency savings for basic necessities, if one has a job they can continue or return to.

When community quarantine was imposed in the Philippines, hundreds of thousands of people living below the poverty line had no other choice but to fight for rationed food. Some risked being infected or arrested because staying at home would mean their family not eating for weeks. For those less fortunate, the question in their head is: “How will I exist?”

In many ways COVID-19 is just like another existential threat – climate change. Both global issues create unprecedented adverse impacts to public health and society. Both issues have the ability to crumple global economies. Neither issue discriminates in selecting victims. But its short and long-term impacts definitely discriminate based on social class. And most importantly, both issues are at the mercy of human intervention aimed at reducing the spread of infection and emissions.

To protect the vulnerable from COVID-19 and climate change, we have to change the way we work and live. Fortunately, putting others before ourselves is paramount in Catholic teaching.

In 2015, Pope Francis penned “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” which challenged every Christian to experience an ecological conversion. He challenged us to “hear the cries of the earth and the cries of the poor” — an intentional prioritization to ease the suffering of the most vulnerable in society.

All of us are suffering but some are suffering more because they started with less to begin with. Most of us privileged enough to work from home must listen to the cries of the poor in the face of the virus and climate change. To secure an intergenerational solution to the two existential threats we currently face, Pope Francis’ challenge rings true: “We require a new and universal solidarity.… All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents.”

Perhaps this quarantine is a restart to a changed lifestyle that turns its back on  the “throwaway culture” that is built on reckless accumulation.

Perhaps this quarantine is the opportune renewal of a global ‘new normal’ in the way we treat our neighbours and our common home. After all, the science is clear: we have until 2030 to halve our emissions if we were to keep global warming well below 1.5 degrees.

So, what will your ecological conversion look like? What part of your “lockdown lifestyle” must remain post-lockdown in order to help us continue to reduce our emissions? Can you do with less flying? Would growing your own food be a suitable alternative? Could giving to charities targeted at sustaining the poor, children, and the elderly be part of your budget so that we can all recover from this unprecedented downturn together and with dignity?

With climate action as the central theme of Earth Day’s 50th anniversary on April 22, let’s all join digital campaigns on social media. If you are in the Philippines, let others into your bubble by posting a photo of your household’s road to zero waste. In New Zealand, Zoom workshops and seminars on creating our “new normal” are plenty. Climate action groups such as Generation Zero are also posting submission guidelines on infrastructure projects that align with a low emissions future. Despite the community quarantine, let’s not forget that everyday is Earth Day.

Turning a blind eye or drowning out the cries of the poor and our common home is not an option anymore. Just as the present crisis demands foresight and prompt action, climate change demands that we respond now to avert future catastrophe.

Pope Francis, scientists, doctors, essential workers, and our common home need all of us to be at the frontline.

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/our-common-home-needs-you-frontline-today

Church’s social justice teachings inspire young climate activist

climate strike
Isabella Johnson demanded the city of Chicago declare a “climate emergency” at the Oct. 7, 2019, Youth Climate Strike. Johnson, 17, leads the organization that planned the event. Her pin reads “There is no planet B.” (Zack Fishman)

Climate activist Isabella Johnson is planning a massive Earth Day protest that requires permits and other paperwork with the city of Chicago. But she is finding it challenging to get to the city’s offices before they close at 4:30 p.m.

That’s because she is still in high school.

As the leader of the Illinois chapter of the Youth Climate Strike organization, 17-year-old Johnson has helped organize four Chicago protests that are part of an international movement that encourages students to skip school to advocate for action on global warming and environmental justice.

Johnson, a senior at Benet Academy, a Catholic prep school about 35 miles west of
downtown Chicago, oversees 20 volunteer staff and regularly takes a train downtown to meet with adults from partner organizations. She squeezes in responses to media during homeroom and lunch.

“I try to fit in my homework somewhere in there, too,” she said.

Now Johnson is working on what she hopes is her biggest youth protest yet, the April 22 event that could attract some 15,000 or more Chicago-area youth.

“I’m really passionate about all these things,” she told NCR’s Earthbeat. “I saw something that needed fixing in the world, so I decided to spend my time fixing it.”

Johnson is quick to share facts about the seriousness of the crisis, citing the estimate that the world has about 12 years to avoid disastrous consequences from global warming.

“I think climate change is one of the most important issues of today, just because it is so time sensitive,” she said. “We’re damaging the earth. It’s our home; it’s our earth; it’s God’s creation.”

But being in the spotlight has not always been easy for Johnson, who grew up in nearby Naperville. She has faced online bullying and struggles with her own mental health.

What keeps her grounded — and motivates her activist work — is her faith.

Youth stepping up

Last fall, while in Colorado checking out prospective colleges, Johnson had the chance to meet Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg while backstage at that state’s climate strike.

Johnson thanked Thunberg and apologized for President Trump, who had publicly mocked the activist during her visit to the U.S. Thunberg, in turn, thanked her and the other Colorado activists.

The whole experience was “mind-blowing,” Johnson said. “Without her, I would not be doing what I’m doing.”

Johnson also owes her activism career to her older sister, Olivia, who in 2018 took her to her first protest after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. For the first time, “I felt like I could create change, too,” she recalled.

Johnson began to educate herself about the issue of gun violence and about politics. That’s when she decided to trade her involvement with track and cross country for political activism, especially around environmental issues.

“Because the adults and the politicians aren’t doing enough about this, it’s been left to the youth,” said Johnson. “Most youth activists say they don’t want to do this, but we’ve been forced to.”

As a state leader, she created an ambassador program that allows students outside the core team to get involved at a lesser level. Illinois now has more than 100 ambassadors, and the program has been replicated by other state chapters.

 

 

 

 

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/churchs-social-justice-teachings-inspire-young-climate-activist

University of Notre Dame converts tons of dining hall leftovers into energy

earth
University of Notre Dame senior Matthew Magiera stands in front of one of the school’s 5,000-gallon holding tanks of ground-up food. (William E. Odell)

Notre Dame, Indiana — On the campus of the University Notre Dame with its “Fighting Irish” mascot, green is undeniably the school color during football season. But in recent years, the 177-year-old university with about 12,000 students has been going green in other ways — reducing its carbon footprint and working towards sustainability.

In 2016, the university adopted a comprehensive sustainability strategy that featured six major areas the university intended to work on. One of them was a commitment to reduce waste, including food waste. At Notre Dame, food waste comes primarily from its two main dining halls and from campus catering events. Food waste was painfully visible on home football game weekends. Thousands of fans came to campus to cheer, eat, drink — and discard what they didn’t consume.

“One of the first things I realized when I started working at the university was that we were generating an awful lot of waste on campus, and most of it was food,” recalled Allison Mihalich, senior program director at Notre Dame’s Office of Sustainability.

Until two years ago, Mihalich worked for the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C. She’s found campus culture very different than the EPA environment. Not everyone on campus is well informed about or even interested in environmental issues. But she saw that Notre Dame administrators had a growing commitment to sustainability and wanted to both recycle and rescue food.

Mihalich said she first encountered Matthew Magiera, a chemical engineering major from Pittsford, New York, in the university’s sustainability office conference room. His research notes and calculations were spread out across the table and floor. Collaborating with Campus Dining and the Office of Sustainability, Magiera had been tasked as an intern with calculating the amount of food waste from dining hall food trays and from catering.

It was quite a challenge for a sophomore college student, even an exceptionally committed and capable one. For months, “waste weighs” of food were painstakingly recorded, analyzed and re-analyzed.

“We realized that we were generating a ton of food waste a day,” Mihalich told NCR’s EarthBeat. “Literally an actual ton of food waste every day from the two dining halls and the catering facilities!”

Two years later, Magiera shies away from taking much credit for his critical food waste research. Nonetheless, the research soon led to Notre Dame’s installation of three Grind2Energy systems, one near each of the two dining halls and one by the catering office.

Last year, Notre Dame began utilizing the Grind2Energy systems in order to process its food waste and then send it to another site for anaerobic digestion, the biological break-down of organic material that produces biogas that can be used to generate electric power.

 

 

 

 

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/university-notre-dame-converts-tons-dining-hall-leftovers-energy

Under attack from climate change, Colombia’s farmers befriend nature

Screenshot_2020-02-22 Under attack from climate change, Colombia's farmers befriend nature
A group of farmers stand near wetlands at the village of El Torno in northern province of Sucre, Colombia. February 11, 2020. THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/Anastasia Moloney

SUCRE, Colombia, – Forced to leave his small farm a decade ago to escape the worst floods in Colombia’s recent history, Manuel Jimenez knows the destruction torrential rains can inflict only too well.

“The floods left behind a desert, a cemetery of dead trees and poisonous snakes. Everything was destroyed. We lost our home, crops and animals,” said the 43-year-old farmer in Pasifueres, a remote village in the northern province of Sucre.

“We lived through a cruel tragedy,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Ten years on, as climate change bites, local farmers are learning to adapt to the impacts of wilder weather by working with nature, from restoring wetlands to planting trees and growing hardy rice varieties, backed by international funding.

The 2010 flooding, triggered by heavy downpours, killed about 300 people and displaced 2.2 million more, causing billions of dollars in damages across 1 million hectares (3,860 square miles).

Hardest-hit were poor farming communities in La Mojana, a region stretching across four northern provinces.

Aid officials warn extreme weather, from torrential rains to drought, will strike again and likely become the new normal.

Some parts of La Mojana are prone to drought, while others are experiencing more intense rains, said Jimena Puyana, who heads work on sustainable development in Colombia for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

But rural communities are fighting back.

With nearly $8 million of U.N. funding since 2013, about 6,000 farming and fishing families in three municipalities of La Mojana have introduced a series of measures to adapt to climate shifts and cope better with extreme weather.

The approach focuses on so-called “nature-based solutions” – which involves improving ecosystems, including forests, wetlands and watersheds – led by village farmer associations, rather than building infrastructure like dikes and levees to contain floods.

One of the main methods is to restore the wetlands and waterways that regulate the local water supply so that they can act as natural drainage systems and buffers against storms.

Prolonged flooding and sediment build-up from illegal gold mining have damaged the wetlands around farming villages, disrupting the water’s natural flow and channels.

“What we are seeking to do is to recover the capacity of the region’s water systems,” said Francisco Charry, head of climate change at Colombia’s environment ministry, which is leading the project in partnership with the UNDP.

Climate change is worsening the conditions faced by vulnerable communities that are prone to flooding, he added.

“(They) need to find a way to adapt to this new reality,” he said.

 

 

 

 

https://news.trust.org/item/20200222082405-lome9/