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- Thu Feb 27, 2020 - When climate change drove all the men away
Kilometres short of the Mexico-U.S. border, rough hands yanked Javier Hernandez from the trunk. They beat him, fractured his skull and then buried him with straws poking from his nostrils for air.
Known as coyotes, Javier's smugglers threatened to abandon his bloodied body in the desert unless his family paid a hefty ransom.
Javier had been on the road for three days. He'd left his rural farming village in central Oaxaca, one of Mexico's poorest states, to find work in \'El Norte.\' One by one, Javier's siblings had quit the family's rain-dependent corn patch to slip over the border as undocumented immigrants. His eldest brother had immigrated to California before Javier was born. The summer Javier turned 19, drought withered the corn on the stalk. With no employment possibilities, Javier hired a coyote. He was the seventh Hernandez child to bid his teary-eyed mother goodbye.
He didn't make it this time.
Before burying him alive, Javier's kidnappers called the brothers, who d
- Thu Feb 27, 2020 - Who owns the Amazon?
When local artists this fall painted a portrait of Swedish activist Greta Thunberg on the underpass of a notorious highway that slices across the Amazon, the backlash was swift. As one of the most recognized figures in the international environmental movement, the teen's portrait was so covered in graffiti that authorities had it painted over.
Today, as trucks carrying soy and corn rumble down the BR-163 in the town of Sinop at a gateway of the Amazon, the mural now depicts red and blue macaws. They may be perched tranquilly in the flora, but they stand as a symbol of fraught Amazonian politics.
Ever since settlers carved out the rainforest and turned this state, Mato Grosso, into one of the world's agricultural powerhouses, tension between development and preservation has persisted. But the gulf has widened since Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro came into office with a pro-development stance on the Amazon that critics say is emboldening legal and illegal deforestation. At the
- Thu Feb 27, 2020 - Keeping hope alive in a world of extinctions
In June of 1976, as an undergrad, I drove all night to New Jersey's Island Beach State Park, arriving shortly before first light. Whip-poor-wills filled the pre-dawn with their name while I awaited two people and a cardboard box. We boated to a marsh island where my companions finally opened the box and I locked eyes with three slightly bewildered, downy young birds. They were peregrine falcons, part of the first captive-bred peregrine cohort scheduled for release in a grand attempt to reverse their species' DDT-induced disappearance across the United States. DDT and related pesticides had been banned four years earlier, making the environment less fatal for these and many birds. We placed the chicks in a specially erected tower. My job: tend them during their weeks till fledging. None of us knew whether re-wilding would work out. Or whether I would.
Things have gotten better, and things have gotten worse. A United Nations panel last year released a summary of an upcoming report, ro
- Thu Feb 27, 2020 - Why is recycling so difficult?
Recycling: The concept is pretty simple. Throw away stuff that can be melted down, chopped up, and made back into useful stuff. The problem is, I don't understand how to do it.
For one, it's difficult to find out what can and cannot be recycled. There are so many different kinds of paper goods, plastics, and metals, and worst of all, so many things that are combinations of materials or exotic new inventions of material science, that no list could possibly include every possible case. Secondly, the rules vary from location to location, and even at one location they can change from year to year.
This is a design failing of colossal magnitude. As director of the Design Lab at UC San Diego, a former executive at Apple and HP, and the author of several books on human-centered design, I'm an expert in complex design systems. Yet I'm mystified by what should be the most basic forms of recycling, like whether or not I can recycle a milk carton.
MILK CARTONS: TO RECYCLE OR NOT TO R
- Wed Feb 26, 2020 - Has Australia reached a climate tipping point?
Only a few months ago, I joked with friends who had just returned from life in the Northern Hemisphere that, with the state of the world at that moment, our distance from the rest of the world felt more like comfort than tyranny. Australia felt like a prosperous and benign island.
But as they say on the internet, life comes at you fast. We Australians found ourselves at the center of global events when our land erupted in flames. In recent months, fires have burned millions of acres, destroyed thousands of homes and killed at least 30 people. More than a billion animals perished.
Many of us had feared that our good luck would someday come to an end, but we never imagined that the end would be so sudden, so cinematic, so biblical. We have become a portent of what the world can expect if it does not act on climate change.
So let me tell you what this portentous summer has been like, as it draws to a close. It has been a summer when even city life has not been insulated from natu
- Wed Feb 26, 2020 - BP to withdraw from U.S. trade groups
BP is withdrawing from three trade groups over climate policies, a move that comes after the company vowed to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The oil giant is pulling out of the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, the Western Energy Alliance and the Western States Petroleum Association, the company said Wednesday.
But BP will remain in the American Petroleum Institute, which has lobbied for the rollback of a wide array of environmental regulations aimed at addressing climate change. API has worked with the Trump administration to eliminate mandatory limits on methane emissions from oil and gas operations, supported the construction of major new oil and gas pipelines, and pushed for the expansion oil and gas drilling on public lands and in federal waters.
BP said that it was quitting WEA because it was \'not aligned\' with BP's positions on clamping down on methane leaks. The oil giant said it was leaving the other groups because of differences over putting a
- Tue Feb 25, 2020 - Amazon tipping point puts Brazil's agribusiness, energy sector at risk
Overshooting an Amazon rainforest-to-savanna tipping point would be \'catastrophic\' to Brazil's economic powerhouses, experts have told Mongabay --- with especially far-reaching impacts for the nation's agribusiness and energy sectors, and possibly with repercussions for international food security.
As far back as colonization, water abundance in the Amazon biome was taken for granted, benefitting agriculture, commodities transport on Brazilian waterways, and electric power generation at numerous dams. But now, the hydrological cycle is under increasing threat.
Water has always been the lifeblood of the rainforest --- it percolates into soils and aquifers, flows down rivers, also up into trees, and east to west across the sky. The Amazon River, fed by its tributaries, pours an astounding 17 billion metric tons of water into the Atlantic Ocean daily. And on a typical sunny day, trees pump another 20 billion tons into the air --- a flow of humidity nicknamed the flying rivers. So it
- Tue Feb 25, 2020 - The planet is screwed, says bank that screwed the planet
JP Morgan Chase is the world's leading financer of fossil fuel projects. And according to a report from within the company, recently leaked to the press, the world is seriously underestimating the adverse effects of climate change.
The 22-page report, entitled \'Risky Business: the climate and the macroeconomy\' and dated January 14, 2020, has been reported by multiple outlets since Friday as containing a gloomy assessment of the risk presented by climate change in the near future. But it also offers a withering takedown of how economists in particular have tended to think about the climate crisis, criticizing findings from several of the field's experts by name, including a recent winner of the Nobel Prize in economics. \'We cannot rule out catastrophic outcomes where human life as we know it is threatened,\' the report concludes. It's a stunning bit of cognitive dissonance from a bank that is doing so much to fuel the crisis. It also shows a growing push for a more grounded assessment
- Tue Feb 25, 2020 - An old-school plan to fight plastic pollution gathers steam
In the flood of innovative solutions that have emerged in the last several years to save the world from plastic pollution, Tom Szaky's fix may be one of the most audacious.
Don't misunderstand. He has not tried to come up with yet another formula to make plastic magically biodegrade like leaves on the ground, a goal of many entrepreneurs that remains elusive. Nor has he devised new ways to remake disposable plastic packaging into new plastic packaging.
Instead, Szaky has gone old school with a concept that dates to the turn of the last century---returnable, refillable containers. The idea was introduced to the world by Coca-Cola in the early 1920s, when Coke was sold in expensive glass bottles that the company's bottlers needed back. They charged a two-cent deposit, roughly 40 percent of the full cost of the soft drink, and got about 98 percent of their bottles back, to be reused 40 or 50 times. Bottle deposit programs remain one of the most effective methods ever invented for re
- Tue Feb 25, 2020 - Canada oil-sands plan collapses over politics and economics
A major effort to expand development of Canada's oil sands has collapsed shortly before a deadline for government approval, undone by investor concerns over oil's future and the political fault lines between economic and environmental priorities.
Nine years in the planning, the project would have increased Canada's oil production by roughly 5 percent. But it would have also slashed through 24,000 acres of boreal forest and released millions of tons of climate-warming carbon dioxide every year.
Some Canadian oil executives had predicted that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet would approve the project by a regulatory deadline this week, though with burdensome conditions. But in a letter released Sunday night, the Vancouver-based developer, Teck Resources, declared that \'there is no constructive path forward.\'
The unexpected withdrawal relieves Mr. Trudeau of a choice that was sure to anger environmentalists or energy interests, if not both.
Conservatives were quic