CO2 Neutral Flights & Trump Does Something Right – Top 5 Happy Eco News – 2020-12-14

Thanks for reading the Happy Eco News Weekly Top 5 newsletter!

This week we have an article by an eco-activist in England named Thomas Cooks. I met Thomas by email after he wrote to me in regard to the Happy Eco News website. Thomas presents a perspective that is positive and hopeful, but not without a basis in hard reality. I hope you enjoy it.

We also have a story about the world’s first carbon-neutral commercial flight, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand formally announces a climate emergency, the Trump administration does something good for the planet (well not really, they actually just didn’t allow something bad to happen), a huge ocean sanctuary was created, and an endangered species of gets a new shot at survival.

Enjoy!

Guest blog – The Coming Revolution

By Thomas Cooks, Eco-Activist

I discovered Happy Eco News a few years back, and some days it utterly stuns me (in a good way) to see how much things are changing, how the voices of the environmentalists are building in volume, and how the injustices that were done to the planet are now being exposed for all to see.

Revolutions can be found darted throughout the history of the human race. There are times when the governing powers are overthrown because their way of leading is intolerable.

For example, the French Revolution in 1789-99, where the rich aristocrats and royal family were living lavish lifestyles, whilst most of the country lived in squalor and poverty. The masses rose up and questioned the rule of the monarchy, fought for their basic human rights, and overthrew the ruling elite. The power of all the people speaking as one voice with one mind really can change the way something works… [read more]


The Happy Eco News – Weekly Top 5:

1. First fully carbon-neutral cargo flight set to take off from Frankfurt airport

Introducing biofuels into the commercial aviation industry is a good first step at reducing CO2 emissions during flights that travel the world. Synthetic kerosene, called Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) is produced from components such as recyclable vegetable and cooking oils. As with the shipping industry that has begun to move away from particulate-heavy bunker fuels to cleaner alternatives, SAF, and other plant-based renewable fuels are expected to replace the use of conventional kerosene in aviation. According to a report issued by analysts Lombard Odier, “SAFs’ overall GHG emissions are 65-95% lower than traditional fossil-kerosene fuels.” In this flight, only a small portion of SAF was used however the balance of carbon emissions was offset with tree planting and use of SAF in other flights with a cumulative total of zero emissions.

Why it’s important: People love to travel, and in recent decades the cost of flights has dropped significantly, to the point where many people do not hesitate to book a trip across the continent for a weekend getaway or a business meeting. Much of this low-cost air travel is subsidised by taxation and often the true cost of damage to the environment is not fully accounted for. It is overlooked because air travel and the supporting tourism industry surrounding it is a huge part of the economy and employs millions of people worldwide. The 2020 pandemic has certainly had a very serious effect on travel and these industries have taken a big hit in terms of reduced business. But what happens when the pandemic is over, and the world opens up to air travel again? SAF is better than traditional kerosene; it reduces emissions and works in current jet engines, but critics point to the fact that the agricultural land used to make it would be better used to feed the world’s poor than used to fly the world’s rich. That is why SAF is at best only a stopgap measure.

The widespread development of green hydrogen using solar power is likely the answer. All the big aviation manufacturers are currently working to develop hydrogen-powered jet aircraft that would be able to travel long distances truly emissions-free. [read more]

2. New Zealand Declares Climate Emergency

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared a climate emergency in New Zealand last week and tasked the public sector to become carbon neutral by 2025. This is a great example of making a bold statement and incentivizing NZ companies to step up to the plate. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, there is a huge increase in global warming expected over the next few years if we don’t get busy reducing greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. I agree with the Prime Minister that taking action now is so important for future generations. It seems we are working too slowly at this and may already be behind the 8-ball, but any step in the right direction gets my vote.

Why it’s important: Prime Minister Ardern is highly respected internationally and beloved in her country. Her common sense and pragmatic approach to dealing with serious problems as they have arisen during her tenure as PM have earned her this stature. The climate crisis is one of the biggest issues of today. Arguably humanity has never faced such a serious existential threat in its history and the world needs leaders who look beyond their own short-term goals for re-election and make decisions based on science and the wellbeing of future generations. PM Ardern is a leader that other leaders should look up to. In this new world of pandemics and crushing fear for the future, we certainly need more leaders like her. [read more]

3. Trump administration denies permit for Pebble mine in Southwest Alaska

Almost unbelievably, outgoing US President Trump did something good this week. His government declined a permit to build a copper and gold mine in Southwest Alaska. The Pebble Mine company was looking to build the facility in Bristol Bay, practically next door to a wild sockeye salmon fishery, considered the largest in the world. I know how pristine the area is, having traveled there myself, not to mention how precious our wild salmon population is. Apparently, as part of the mine development, Pebble’s application included its procedures for discharging fill materials that didn’t meet the Clean Water Act guidelines, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This is in addition to the negative multi-agency reviews of the initiative over nearly three years. Seems the right people did the right thing by denying the construction of a mine that could have threatened more than just the salmon ecosystem.

Why it’s important: The people of the Bristol Bay area almost unanimously opposed the mine. Despite the jobs and revenue touted by the owners of the proposed project, the people understand that their precious way of life would have been forever disrupted by this type of operation. Mining in remote areas is often hidden from scrutiny, and as a result, procedures and operations intended to safeguard the environment are often overlooked and shortcuts are taken. This type of short-sighted, maximum profit type of project can result in environmental degradation that can take decades to manifest and even longer to clean up – if ever. Often, these toxic sites are left to taxpayers to manage after the company that develops the project moves on. The US Army Corps of Engineers has not always operated in the most environmentally sensitive way, but this case is significant as it shows a willingness to forego dangerous and toxic profits over a clean and healthy environment. Hopefully, it signifies a cleaner future with environmental protection a higher priority than corporate profits. [read more]

4. World’s Most Remote Island Creates Largest Atlantic Ocean Sanctuary

The announcement of a new marine sanctuary in the South Atlantic Ocean is welcome news. What’s amazing about this story is that a small community of just 250 people living on the remote island of Tristan da Cunha is making a massive difference in marine conservation.

The large Marine Protected Area (MPA), is 700,000 square kilometers, or three times the size of Britain, and will provide refuge for many endangered marine animals, including sevengill sharks, whales, and seals, as well as thousands of seabirds, including the endangered Tristan and Yellow-nosed albatross.

No bottom-trawling fishing or deep-sea mining will be allowed. Interestingly, National Geographic states that only 2.6 % of the 8% currently MPA-designated areas prohibit fishing altogether. A step in the right direction as protecting ocean eco-systems moves closer to the 2030 global goal of preserving 30% of the world’s oceans.

Why it’s important: As the world’s population grows, there will be increasing pressure on marine habitats to provide food and resources. While it is not possible to protect all the world’s oceans, it is important to ensure the most productive and least disturbed areas remain so. Biodiversity loss is at an all-time high and the ocean is no exception. We may not be able to easily see into the deep water, but just like protected areas on land, the ocean’s wildlife and plants may be critical to our own survival in the future. The precedent that this reserve sets is huge and will likely be replicated elsewhere. [read more]


5. Sharks Tags Reveal Endangered Species Returning To Natural Refuge

Finding out that an endangered species is getting a new lease on life is music to my ears. Scientists at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, headed by Chuck Bangley, have been following a group of gray dusky sharks that feed in mid-Atlantic waters off the U.S. East Coast.

The massive sharks, are born three feet long, but may not mature for decades. Researchers studied nearly two dozen of the species through tagging and tracking their pings and found the duskies frequented a shark protected region called Mid-Atlantic Shark Closed Area. Yet they were arriving during the months from November to May, instead of the January to July time period, when longline fishing is not permitted. Is it suggested that the reason for this behavioral switch is climate change is warming the waters which may encourage the sharks to migrate at the wrong time. Interestingly, researchers also found some sharks were heading into offshore windfarm areas that could also pose a danger to them but it’s possible that some of the windfarm structures could attract prey for the sharks.

Why it’s important: Any time an endangered species is found to have a higher population than previously thought is important and cause for celebration. With new regulations protecting biodiversity, and protected marine environments also helping the cause, we can be cautiously optimistic that there are other, equally endangered creatures with viable populations. Rather than shrugging our collective shoulders and saying “oh well, that’s too bad”, maybe these beautiful and reclusive creatures have a shot at stronger protective measures and ultimately, a good shot at survival. [read more]

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