2017: the Year of Conservation?

Will 2017 be the Year of Conservation? Might things finally look brighter rather than bleaker for the state of earth’s nature? According to Nicholas Harvey, there are hints that 2017 could finally be a better year, with China’s banning of ivory trade and the potential mainstream movement of conservation being two positive indications. The Conservation Optimism Summit, to be held in London in April, also suggests we should look to the bright side of conservation rather than get fixated on the failures.

Let’s hope they’re right, and each do our bit to help make it be so!

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A moment of life, a glimmer of hope (image author’s own)

Guardian Top Tips

With Donald Trump about the step up to be the President of the United States of America, UK newspaper the Guardian is running a 24-hour bombardment of news on environmental and climate change issues. As a part of this, they published an excellent list of 15 ways to cut your carbon consumption!

Be sure to check them out in greater detail on the Guardian website, or else read my own similar suggestions on being more sustainable!

The Guardian’s 15 Carbon Cutting Tips:

  1. Fly less
  2. Eat less meat
  3. Be more efficient in heating your home
  4. Replace old gas/oil boilers
  5. Drive less
  6. Maintain your car properly
  7. Replace Halogen lighting with LEDs
  8. Don’t use home appliances more than necessary
  9. Consume less (less random shopping!)
  10. Become knowledgeable on the carbon costs of various good and services
  11. Invest in your own source of renewable energy
  12. Buy from and work with companies that support the switch to a low-carbon future
  13. Divest and support divestment iniatives
  14. Let your politicians know what you want
  15. Buy gas and electricity from retailers who sell renewable energy

Out with the weeds, come in crops!

Sick of the weeds growing around the footpath? On that strip between your house and the road? Weeds, of course, fall to us to be defined: maybe it is the plants that one person in particular just doesn’t like, or maybe it is the species causing local extinction of native species. Nonetheless, if you’re done fighting it – why not just combat it with a crop?

As the ABC reports, this is what Guy Roth did in front of his home in NSW, Australia, where people came together to hand seed and add organic matter to the kerbside strip, which by late December 2016 was ready to be harvested and produced 10kg of wheat!

Feeling inspired? Give it a go yourself!

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Sick of weeds? Plant a crop instead! (image from Flickr)

Away with the speed humps

Cuts to carbon can happen everywhere, and sometimes it’s the small changes that add up to big differences. Take speed humps, for example. As a cyclist, they’re annoying. As a car driver, well, you have to slow down all the time. And it turns out that all this slowing down and speeding up isn’t great for emissions. So the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence is suggesting that speed humps be redesigned “to stop cars speeding up and slowing down between them.” (from the BBC)

Which sounds great except – how is a speed hump going to function as a speed hump, if not to slow down cars?

What’s in a speed hump? (images from Brian Yap and Michael Coghlan, Flickr)

The end of the empty

Connectivity has been a bit of a buzzword for landscape ecologists and conservationists alike for some years now. Connectivity might be seen as the receptivity of the landscape to the movement of species: how is the landscape formed as to allow bears to move from A to B, or daisies to spread from one field to another?

Because of concerns for connectivity, roads have been on the environmental blacklist for quite a while: not only do they disrupt the ability of certain species’ movement, but there’s associated pollution (noise, visual, air) and road kill. Roads bring people, people looking for places to do stuff, whether that be romp about on quad bikes, build a home, or start a farm. And so forth.

Roads can also bring good things for conservation: tourists who pay and whose money can be used to fund protected areas, or deliver additional assistance to species in need. With roads come cameras and film crews, who can show the world of people how beautiful all of Earth is.

Nonetheless, when I saw the heading “New map reveals shattering effect of roads on nature” I was neither surprised nor in any doubt as to what the findings would reveal. Turns out we, humanity, have built so many roads that the world is now essentially a patchwork of fragments, all cut up by roads. Damian Carrington described the research of Pierre Ibisch and others (Science) in a recent article in The Guardian (15 December 2016).

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A snippet of peaceful, diverse and wild nature in the east of the Netherlands, but nonetheless surrounded by paths and roads.

Let’s not be doomsayers though. This is great – at least we know about the extent of the expansion of the road network. So now let’s find out more accurately what its impact is, and find out a way to reduce that impact, or perhaps reduce the further expansion of roads! Roads can be built – fortunately this means they can also be unbuilt. Habitats may return, even if they won’t be the same virgin, untouched corridors they once were.

In 2017, open your eyes to roads around you, start to look for places that might hinder or help animals and plants crossing – and figure out what you can do to make the hindrances less and the help greater!

Palm Oil for Life

I make no secret of it: palm oil and I don’t really get along.

It’s a problematic topic.

The problem with palm oil is the staggering demand and continued growth in demand for the product. Sounds great. Except the majority of the production comes at the cost of land that was rainforest. Which now gets deforested for palm oil plantations.Yes, there are some attempts at producing palm oil “sustainably.” But with palm oil in so many of our products these days (body lotions, cakes, cereals, breads), the sustainable production industry and market is nowhere near as big as the unsustainable production.

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Palm oil often comes at a high cost: that of virgin, tropical forests. (image from Amauri Aguiar, Flickr)

If I don’t use palm oil, I may very well end up using butter. But producing butter takes cows, and cows consume a lot of feed grown for them overseas (think soy), which often also takes deforestation. If the rainforests of Brazil aren’t directly chopped down for growing soy, they’re cut for making space for cattle. When they’re not being cut to make space for cattle, they’re being cut to make space for soy.

I guess olive oil is my favourite, then. Or perhaps rape/canola, or sunflower. But let’s face it: anything one consumes these days, one should really strive to understand where it is coming from as to be aware of its sustainable (or not!) origins.

Which is why the Rainforest Foundation UK’s latest Palm Oil Guide is really quite fantastic: you type in the name of a shop or product, and it tells you whether the item is a “Best Buy”, “Cautious Buy” or “Don’t Buy.”

Want to see more? Check it out yourself, at: http://www.rainforestfoundationuk.org/palmoilguide/results?compid=&catid=&ratid=