Thanks for reading this week’s Happy Eco News Top 5 newsletter. In this edition, we have 6 articles featured (the yellow turtle story just couldn’t be left off). In addition to yellow turtles, we have an introduction to a new book by author Ray Allwork, a couple of articles about the newest International Energy Association’s report documenting the rise of renewable energy, and also a couple of interesting stories about biodiversity and some of the interesting things we can find in nature. But first, we have a few announcements…
- You might notice the new smiley face logo this week. As good as the old one was, it was time for a change. Maybe we should give smiley a name?
- The Happy Eco News Patreon account is now live. Patrons will be able to help support Happy Eco News, participate in group calls, 1 on 1 calls with Grant, and get free Happy Eco News merchandise as our way of saying thanks!
- Guest blogging – are you volunteering for a good cause? Do you know someone doing good things that could use a shout out? Part of the reason Happy Eco News exists is to provide a platform for others to reach a wider audience. Connect us with interesting people and help us help them.
Guest Blog Post by Ray Allwork, Author, Our Future
We are a diverse bunch, growing in number for sure, but remote from each other, often frustrated, often feeling powerless. I wanted to give us a strong stance, say how right we are, that we care, that we see the madness, that we are not perfect but that we know a better way.
I wanted to write so that others know we are not alone and that it is not hopeless at all. In fact, there are millions of us doing big things and small things every day. We have high hopes, and I believe it has never been easier to change the world… [read more]
The Happy Eco News – Weekly Top 5:
Renewable energy is here to stay and is just getting stronger. There has been huge growth in the sector in the last 12 months, and places like India, the USA, and China have all played a big part in the rise. Demand is at an all-time high, and president-elect Joe Biden’s climate goals are expected to further expand this growth. John Kerry, who was recently announced as Biden’s special presidential adviser on climate, has a long history of support for clean energy during his work in the Obama administration. Mr. Kerry set the tone for how he intends to proceed with this statement: “To end this crisis, the whole world must come together, at the global meeting in Glasgow one year from now, all nations must raise ambition together, or we will all fail together. And failure is not an option.”
Why it’s important: Ironically, in a rush to avoid being left behind, much of the investment in the sector has come from the oil industry. Despite the opposition of a green transition through the funding of science denial groups and political interference, big oil companies now see a real need to diversify and have decided to get in on the action. The pessimist in me sees some interesting parallels to big tobacco. It seems almost like they stole a page from tobacco’s playbook; deny there’s a problem, discredit the science, delay the transition, explore and promote new markets, then a full-on diversification to other less toxic product offerings. One part that tobacco didn’t figure out until it was too late, is one where the oil industry has spent a lot of money on lawyers to avoid. Legal and financial accountability – in the end, big tobacco had 100’s of billions of dollars in fines and court settlements and was forced to revamp their entire business. Like big tobacco, big oil is probably not going away completely, but they are in for a rough road ahead and it looks like it could be very expensive. [read the article]
Almost 90% of new electricity generation in 2020 will have been renewable, with just 10% powered by gas and coal. This is the big news from the International Energy Association last month. The trend puts green electricity on track to become the single largest power source by 2025, displacing coal which has dominated for the past 50 years. Despite the pandemic, 2020 has been a boom year for the renewable energy industry, while fossil fuel sectors have taken hard hits in production, financing, projects, price per barrel, and share value.
Why it’s important: In order to meet global climate goals and avoid the worst of the effects of climate change, humanity must decarbonize across all sectors. This largely means transitioning to electrical power for most of our energy needs. Solar and wind are the two cheapest and easy ways to generate electricity and have become the darlings of the investment world. There is no end in sight; continued global demand for electricity is only expected to increase, and when combined with the realization of governments around the world that decarbonization is the only way forward means a bright future for renewable energy development. [read the article]
Nurdles are the small plastic pellets that are used as the base stock for plastic production. Small and light, they are easily spilled, blown by the wind, or washed into the natural environment during handling or shipping. They absorb chemicals and toxins, and because of their shape, size, and colour, they are often mistaken for food by birds, fish, and small mammals. The chemicals then have lasting and dangerous effects on the organisms that ingest them, being magnified each time they move up the food chain. Fish eat nurdles, then the fish are eaten by birds, then the birds are eaten by carnivores, each time magnifying the total amount of chemicals. Nurdles are good for making plastic, but really bad when they are loose in nature.
Why it’s important: A new program started in Texas relies on citizen scientists to locate, track, and map the locations where nurdles are found in nature. The program, called project Nurdle Patrol was founded in 2018 and uses the data submitted by everyday people to identify problem areas and then put pressure on regulators to change laws regarding the use, handling, and transportation of these toxic pollutants. Eventually, there may be increased regulations, and the wildlife in areas adjacent to plastic production facilities will be able to thrive with one less threat from humans. [read the article]
Naturalist Hugo Santa Cruz is quarantined in paradise. Originally from Bolivia, the photographer was working in Costa Rica when the pandemic exploded across the planet. Now he is stuck there, unable to leave. Spending his days in the jungle, observing the local plants and animals and photographing them all, he has a newfound appreciation of the biodiversity and interconnectedness of everything there. He was so moved by the experience that he and some friends started a foundation to help protect it. Now he is a co-founder of the new Center for Biodiversity Restoration Foundation, which will work to restore and connect natural areas in the region. Netflix heard about the project and Hugo’s predicament with being unable to travel and will feature him in an upcoming documentary about how some people are uniquely doing well during the pandemic.
Why it’s important: Mr. Santa Cruz has shown that it is possible for just one person to take action in a meaningful way. Like so many others like him, he found a place that was too perfect, too rich, and too important to let disappear. So he did what had to be done and decided to devote his time to protect it. Working with 2 brothers, local landowners who had already rehabilitated damaged and deforested land to sustainably grow cacao for chocolate, he began to create a vision for expanding the project to neighboring lands.
In addition to the agroforestry cacao business, the foundation generates revenue with eco-tourism and yoga retreats. Presently, the sanctuary is made up of a private reserve, an ecolodge, a center for eco-tourism, agroforestry production, a chocolate factory, and is home to The Center for Biological Diversity Restoration. This diversity of revenue streams make this foundation a resilient and healthy organization that can sustain itself through whatever the new world will throw at it. [read the article]
Geothermal energy is a relatively untapped source of energy. A hole is drilled straight down, deep into the earth’s surface so that when water is poured inside, it is turned to steam from the heat of the earth’s core. The steam then power turbines that create electricity. It works, but is imperfect. Instead of having the hole straight up and down, Canadian tech start-up Eavor-Loop drills vertically to a depth of 3-5km. It then turns at a right angle and drills parallel to the surface. Another vertical hole is drilled to meet the horizontal leg and all three are connected, including at the surface with pipes. This loop is filled with water at one end and using the heat of the earth’s core, creates steam and builds pressure, powering a turbine. Because it is a loop, the process powers itself through convection. There are no pumps to install or maintain and the unit will continue working forever.
Why it’s important: It’s clean and it’s cheap. The systems will be able to produce gigawatts of zero-carbon baseload power for utilities anywhere in the world for less than $50/MWh. It is such a low cost that itis already comparable to solar and is expected to fall further. It is a technology that can be deployed anywhere, even in Northern climates, as it uses the heat of the earth to provide the energy – it works 24 hours per day 365 days per year with virtually no mechanical components other than the turbine. The Eavor-Loop makes use of drilling technology that was developed by the oil industry and may be an opportunity for drilling companies hurt by the downturn in oil prices to repurpose their crews and equipment, providing good jobs and much-needed tax revenue for the governments that have relied on the sector. [read the article]
It’s a turtle, it’s ridiculously bright yellow colour (all of it), and it’s never been seen before! To be honest, the photo looks fake – like it’s been photoshopped or something, but no, it’s a real turtle that was found in India. The golden flapshell turtle is normally a golden brown with spots but this one, and another found recently not far away, may in fact be a form of albinism. In most animals, this results in a complete lack of pigment and white skin or fur, but in a flapshell turtle, it results in this extremely bright yellow colour.
Why it’s important: Maybe it’s not so important but it’s pretty fun to think that in a country with a population the size of India an animal like this could escape detection. It makes me wonder what other surprises nature has hidden away if we just slow down and take the time to look. [read the article]
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