ZOONOTIC DISEASES Stopping the Next Pandemic
of Anthropocene and Climate
Microplastics in Our Oceans
and more on Waterways, Forests, Farming, Insects & Energy
THE PLANET NEEDS YOU.
JOIN THE SAVING EARTH EVOLUTION.
MEMBERSHIP INCLUDES: Print Subscriptions. Newsletter. Community Action.
2 | savingearthmagazine.com
PUBLISHERâ€™S LETTER WELCOME TO THE FIRST ISSUE OF SAVING EARTH MAGAZINE
In December of 2019, I decided to make a change. I was tired of feeling helpless every time I thought about the state of our planet. I was tired of the endless bad news and disasters. Inspired by those who were already making a difference, I, too, wanted to do something tangible. It was in those moments I realized that we all have the ability to create the world we want to see if enough of us come together to make it a priority. While fires raged in Australia bringing shocking images of devastation, Greta Thunberg and other young people stood up for hope and change. There have always been people willing to stand up for the planet, but now small groups of protestors are growing and will continue to grow until they overshadow the people who oppose environmental protections and animal rights for their own financial gain. In my opinion, the very idea that financial markets and the natural world are two opposites on the spectrum of our ability to live in abundance lacks vision. Throughout history, we have seen the evolution of humankind thanks to discoveries of new energy sources, new ways of living, and positive societal developments. We must accept the need to evolve once more and adapt to a new vision of living in harmony with our planet and with respect for all living things. Already there are companies and individuals who are rising to this challenge and proving that this is, indeed possible. New technologies and green businesses are creating a path to a better future that includes jobs and new economic opportunities. We, at Saving Earth Magazine, look forward to highlighting the work, passion and expertise of exactly these people. Unfortunately, as we moved into 2020, in the midst of this project being born, the worst disaster yet was approaching and is still here with us as I write in late April. My heart goes out to everyone affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Let us all take a moment to think of those who have passed and those who have suffered. Let it not be in vain. Let us not emerge from our worldwide quarantine without having learned some hard lessons and without finally seeing that we have to make global level changes to the way we live. I would like to dedicate this first issue of Saving Earth Magazine to those who have lost their lives to Covid-19. Let us stand in your memory to make this world a better place. Itâ€™s time for an evolution. Teena Clipston
savingearthmagazine.com | 3
SAVING EARTH MAGAZINE PUBLISHED BY SAVING EARTH
ISSUE #1 - SUMMER 2020
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Teena Clipston
SENIOR EDITOR Cassie Pearse
Saving Earth Magazine focuses on environmental issues, green businesses, conservation, human rights, and climate science. It inspires readers to change how they interact with the planet and offers solutions to global environmental challenges that we face. Some of these solutions include directing readers to organizations and businesses that are making a difference, giving them the ability to support and follow the issues they care most deeply about.
GEARTH GEARTH GE RTH
EDITORIAL ASSISTANT Dean Unger GRAPHIC DESIGN Cassandra Redding & Teena Clipston ADVERTISING Teena Clipston GREEN BUSINESS REPRESENTATIVE Monique Tamminga CONTRIBUTORS Björn Hedlund-Länta, Cassie Pearse, David Suzuki, Dawna Mueller, Dean Unger, Emma Rodgers, Gundi Rhoades, Jay Clue, Kayla Bruce, Monique Tamminga, Nathan Niehuus, Rebecca Daniel, Roslyne Buchanan, Scott Hoffman Black, Sergio Izquierdo, Tara Pilling and Teena Clipston. PRINTING & DISTRIBUTION Royal Printers SPONSOR Angela Avery SPECIAL THANKS Angela Avery and Rusti Lehay COVER PHOTO Stéphane Rochon Saving Earth Magazine has made every effort to make sure that its content is accurate on the date of publication. The opinions expressed in the articles are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the publisher or editor. Information contained in the magazine has been obtained by the authors from sources believed to be reliable. You may email us at Saving Earth Magazine for source information. Saving Earth Magazine, its publisher, editor, and its authors are not responsible for any errors, omissions, or claims for damages, and accepts no liability for any loss or damage of any kind. The published material, advertising, advertorials, editorials, and all other content is published in good faith. ©Copyright 2020 Saving Earth. All rights reserved. Saving Earth Magazine is fully protected by copyright law and nothing herein can be reproduced wholly or in part without written consent. PRINTED IN CANADA savingearthmagazine.com photo credit: Romolo Tarani email@example.com 4 | savingearthmagazine.com
Across the world, we see a groundswell of people engaging to protect their environment, from governments banning plastic bags to individuals inventing exciting new green technologies and Saving Earth Magazine is becoming a part of this stepchange. There has never been a more crucial time for this magazine. We don’t just want to report the conversation, we plan on creating the conversation!
MISSION STATEMENT At Saving Earth Magazine, we strive to create and bring together ideas that have the power to transform the way we interact with the planet – to devise, communicate, educate, share and help implement strategies and new technologies, which reduce pollution, reduce greenhouse gases, nurture and protect flora and fauna, and protect the waterways. With contributions from experts and fieldworkers from around the globe, we seek to inspire individuals and organizations to become motivated to protect the planet. We cover stories of success in pioneering fields of ecology and environmental sciences; stories from communities that have faced challenges and found equitable, sustainable solutions that the world should replicate; and inspirational human interest stories and biographies that serve to inspire our lives and help us reconnect to the Earth. By sharing ideas about how we can make a better world, we will help to heal communities and support those who are at the forefront of ecological and environmental research. Saving Earth Magazine is a manual that can be referenced globally, and will provide an evolving canvas of themes, information and ideas, which will inspire a new era of human interaction with the planet. It is a public forum where ideas and dialogue help to shape our thinking in these emerging fields. It will help us rethink the way we interact with the planet as we seek to find solutions in the transition from fossil fuels, and into new vistas of renewable energy and resources. FACEBOOK.COM/SAVINGEARTHMAG INSTAGRAM: @SAVINGEARTHMAG
TWITTER: @SAVINGEARTHMAG ISSUU.COM/SAVINGEARTHMAGAZINE
SUGAR SHEET 100% Forest Free Paper
CONTENTS 6 Our Relationship with Nature
48 How Mangroves, seagrasses & coral reefs provide life
Emma Rodgers & Rebecca Daniel
10 Emerging Zoonotic Diseases
54 Ocean Life Could Rebound in 30 Years
56 Best Seat for Aurora Borealis
22 The Political environment
60 Reinventing Farming
26 Zero Waste Living
64 New Technology Offers a Future
30 Protecting Baja Jay Clue
38 The Age of Anthropocene
70 How to Save the Planet & Yourself
44 Direct-Air Capture
74 Insect Apocalypse
Scott Hoffman Black
Our Relationship with Nature BY DEAN UNGER
The Challenge Ahead of Us I keep a carefully crafted stack of rocks outside my door so I am reminded to enter my home with a measured step, so as not to send it crashing into oblivion.
Photography: Jonathan Wisner
6 | savingearthmagazine.com
e have come so far from the natural world - from the nature of nature - that we’ve become “apart from” or “other than”, insulated in our rooms and buildings and cities, with an immeasurable layer of concrete between the soles of our feet and the living earth. When we set foot into a forest, we enter a flourishing world of myriad forms, where every footfall may disturb entire ‘cities’ as we find our way. Although entropy and exchange is the way of all life – an exchange of energy from living form to living form – it all takes place within a balanced system of advance and decline that has worked for billions of years. The code of life is written in the rocks that make up this planet. All minerals and elements that combine to form stone and crystal decompose over time, via water, wind and the subtle movements of the earth, to infuse the soil. When broken down in this way, the resulting combination of elements provides the recipe for life. All forms of life, from plants to trees, insects to whales, are a product of this imperative toward evolution and ultimate perfection. The seat of the human spirit is but a minute fraction of the vast spirit of consciousness which exists in all things, and of which we are part. Our misguided interpretations and preoccupations along the road have kept us from true understanding of ourselves and our surroundings. Therefore, this is also about how we might fix what’s broken. I do not espouse conspiratorial notions here, in fact during my time as a magazine editor, I often railed against such notions, opting for critical analysis and a measured balance of all sides to the proposition. Ultimately, as one of the most capable and interactive creatures on the planet, we have a responsibility. We are the eyes, the ears and the agency of nature: the culmination of hundreds of millions of years of evolution
on earth. We need to put that acquired sensibility to good use. For context, consider that there are some 7.8 billion of us here, and that we tend to be a rugged lot, demanding much of the planet, tilling every tillable surface, plundering every cache, boring into every mountain side and aquifer. Of course we have had an effect upon the planet. As recent as 2017 – 2019, a rough tally puts paved roads and highways worldwide at more than 30,000,000 kilometers. Briefly consider all of the effluents, refuse, exhaust and all manner of chemical detritus we expel from all of these hundreds of millions of units and volumes. Of course we’ve had an effect on the planet. At some point, everything must reach its point of no return. The Cambridge Dictionary states that the Point of No Return (PNR) is “the stage at which it is no longer possible to stop what you are doing and when its effects cannot now be avoided or prevented”. It is, in other words, a calculated point, during a continuous action, whether setting off an explosion, or signing a contract, when the conclusion becomes inevitable. The objective then, would be to inventory our systems and our ways and means, and examine, in a thorough, meaningful way, the notion of cause and effect, in a fact-based, fundamental look at the global effects of human habitation. We must reinvent our ability to live in flow, in a way that is synergistic with the requirements the earth maintains for its inhabitants. Another challenge that will continue to be addressed, is the private taking of public commons through privatization and deregulation. Here at home, entire forests of southern Vancouver Island (British Columbia) are presently largely under lock and key, with respect to public access to wilderness areas. The forests are owned by the forestry company, which, in fact, owns the majority, by virtue of a highly unusual historic land-deal that many residents say never should have happened under laws at the time. To further complicate matters, the company recently built a realestate arm of their corporation and have begun selling off tracts to private land-owners. The company sees nothing wrong with the situation, despite a vocal and ongoing opposition from the public and many special interest groups. Further, there is pressure from business advocates and the public for the government to create a healthy secondary industry within the province with its resources, rather than export millions of raw logs overseas as it has done for decades. However, the government seems incapable of intervention, and ultimately stands to benefit from the arrangement via healthy log exports and respective fees, levies and taxation. The issue of the private taking of public commons is a problem world-wide, where lands once available to the public (notwithstanding unresolved issues with respective First Nations), are swept irretrievably into corporate ownership and commercial enterprise. In Michael Moore’s documentary film, The Corporation, the Province of British Columbia receives mention several times. In the film, Moore reveals that the major logging companies of the time hired the firm of Burson Marsteller, an American perception management company, expressly to combat ongoing and future environmental campaigns, which were seen by the company as a large problem. According to the documentary, as result of the consultation, the British Columbia Forestry Alliance was created - a proclaimed grass-roots organization that was intended to both help shape and allay people’s concerns about the activities of large logging corporations in Western Canada. In the film, Moore also includes clips from an interview with a member of the Fraser Institute - a Vancouver based think tank. In the interview, it is revealed that it was their (Fraser Institute’s) opinion that
savingearthmagazine.com | 7
every square inch of the earth should be monetized. However, it is clear that we do not exist solely to prop up monetary markets and engage in consumerism. A thorough and rigorous inquiry must be made of the systems that hinder our ability to cope and to function effectively in the present. How is the oil and gas industry, for one, changing and adapting to meet future sustainable energy needs? In a story in the New York Times, Oct. 6, 2019, “...How to Respond to a Warming World,” May Boeve, Executive Director, 350.org, points out that a rapid phasing out of fossil fuels is critical, but that despite all the rhetoric, in a research report published by the Stockholm Environment Institute, it shows the world is “on track to produce 120 percent more fossil fuels than would be consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the goal set by the Paris Agreement in 2015.” She continues: “We need the political will to fundamentally rethink some of the underlying assumptions about how we organize our societies. Technology is an important part of the coming transition, and so is finance. But what is going to make it happen is public outrage, public imagination, and public inspiration.” Where gas and oil companies are concerned, the scientific facts, the truth and reality of the situation, is that there may not be time for the luxury of a smooth landing for these megalithic craft. Shyla Raghav, Vice President, Climate Change International, said “... Just decarbonizing our economy will not by itself be enough to solve this crisis — for that, we need nature. The world’s carbon-rich ecosystems — tropical forests, mangrove swamps and peat lands — store more carbon than the entire atmosphere. Their destruction contributes to climate change, so we need a transformative shift in how we protect and manage such ecosystems as well as how we produce and use energy.” (www.nytimes.com)
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? What are the most difficult and challenging aspects of modern global culture? How would we solve these problems if we set our minds to transforming cultural and societal landscapes, to reflect our greatest ideals? Social philosophers have been musing the ideal society for centuries: a blueprint for social equity, balance, and a healthy baseline, where the needs of the majority are championed, as opposed to the few yet we are still far from reaching this ideal.
It will indeed take time for new systems, new ideologies, new paradigms to come into force. So what can we do? What are the basic questions we must ask? How do we take personal power on the larger issues in a meaningful way? How do we realign the imbalance of power that presently exists, to effectively reflect the will and mind of the majority? In fact, there are numerous ways in which we are entirely capable of effecting change in the immediate. Real meaningful change begins and grows in communities where like-minded people work together in small groups and find a synergy where needs and supports are met locally and regionally, as opposed to looking for supply and solution on a global or trans-national scale. I think the weapons of choice here are persistence, applied wisdom, functional patience, tenacity, wise council, consistency, empathy; and, finally, open, accessible and effective interpersonal communication – which means creating effective pathways and opportunities for that communication to take place, both in private lives and within effective, progressive public forums. We need to streamline delegation and committee forming processes and remove superfluous levels of determination and decision making in government and business. It is not my intention to convince anyone of anything, simply to write what I know, true to what I’ve observed, witnessed and have come to understand, via study and by experience, and in keeping with my thoughts at the time. It is with rigorous scrutiny and critical observation that I have arrived at my conclusions. The mind is limited only by one’s ability to see and to ask questions and to understand. With careful attention and patient observation, the spirit of the spirit of nature reveals itself. There are no short-cuts or easy answers. For those who care to wonder at the phenomena of life, and where and how we fit into the grand unfolding, one must be patient, open minded, understanding and empathic, to the best of their ability. For the larger lessons come from wholes, not from viewing and cataloguing things by their various parts at the expense of the whole. Once we see clearly what it is we are looking upon, we can give it a name. Once it has a name, it is easier to call upon, to resolve, or to propagate, whichever the case may be. To connect to the land, and to life itself, to reconnect with this planet that desperately needs some empathy from us who inhabit and make use of her, that is the task ahead of us. What that looks like is up to us. We’re shooting for the best possible outcome on every level.
Logging in Gold River, BC. Photography: Tim Gage
8 | savingearthmagazine.com
BY TEENA CLIPSTON
Emerging Zoonotic Diseases Stopping the Next Pandemic As I write this article the world is shutting down due to COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2), a zoonotic disease that affects the respiratory system. It is classed as zoonotic because it jumps from animal to human and vice-versa. The World Health Organization (WHO) has called the spread of this virus a pandemic, and nations are responding by closing borders, restricting travel, and enforcing quarantine. My hope is by the time you read this that we have succeeded in containing the spread of the virus. But how do we stop it from happening again?
he onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic may have seemed sudden to most of us, but The World Health Organization and epidemiologists around the globe have known a pandemic was coming since at least 2004 when WHO, the Food Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) met, in Geneva, to discuss emerging zoonotic diseases. A potential novel virus outbreak, such as Covid-19, was not a matter of if but when. According to a report by OIE, Emerging Zoonotic Viral Diseases by L.F. Wang and G. Crameri (2014) the joint consultation revealed that, “Emerging zoonosis diseases have potentially serious human health and economic impacts and their current upwards trend is likely to continue.” We had plenty of warning, in fact (included in the report), SARS, described as SARS-CoV-1, the first identified SARS coronavirus species outbreak occurred in November of 2002 in China’s Guangdong Province. This outbreak infected over 8400 people and killed more than 800 people by the end of the epidemic in June of 2003. The virus was genetically traced back via an intermediary of civets to a colony of horseshoe bats. Similarly, the main suspect in the origin of COVID-19 is said to be bats, however, it may have also been transmitted from bats to the endangered pangolin then to humans, both species being found in a wet market in Wuhan, China. Images of these types of markets are disturbing, with both living and dead animals side by side, in cages, on top of one another and slaughtered on site. It is easy to see how such a disease could originate in these types of conditions. Zoonotic diseases are not limited to transmission from wild animals. From anthrax, tuberculosis, and yellow fever to the swine flu
10 | savingearthmagazine.com
(pandemic H1N1/09) of 2009, farmed animals have been the main form of transmission to humans. The swine flu virus was said to have originated in factory pig farms in Mexico. The bird flu is said to have spread from commercially raised poultry. According to The World Health Organization, “At least 61% of all human pathogens are zoonotic, and have represented 75% of all emerging pathogens during the past decade.” With an ongoing increase in zoonotic diseases, COVID-19 will not be our last pandemic if things do not change. As governments around the world look to implement better alert and containment systems for outbreaks, and as the race for a vaccine is underway, we must ask ourselves if perhaps the cure doesn’t only involve trying to contain it, but also preventing it in the first place. If we don’t start respecting nature, animals, and the climate these episodes will continue. Nature is sending us a wakeup call; it is fighting back. The driving forces behind zoonotic diseases:
GLOBALIZATION AND THE WAY WE SUPPORT A GROWING HUMAN POPULATION Increased demand for food, as well as the focus on profit, have resulted in intensive industrial farming that is leading to the inhumane processing of animals into food on your plate as if they were nothing more than widgets. These animals, in such cramped unnatural environments, are living in misery and stress, developing and spreading diseases. Subsequently, they are overloaded with antibiotics just to provide us with cheap food. Transnational corporations and global trade are increasingly changing the face of agriculture and the agrifood system. In particular, they are increasing industrial-style farming methods and our reliance on our food being shipped and processed far from where consumers
savingearthmagazine.com | 11
12 | savingearthmagazine.com
reside. Large scale industrial farming is seen as a means to end world hunger and to feed ever-growing populations, and it has done so with some success, but at a price. For one, it has changed the landscape: deforestation of wildlife areas for grazing ultimately pushes diverse wildlife species together and closer to our livestock according to a report by the Annual Review of Resource Economics Globalization of Agriculture by Guy M. Robinson (2018): “In the late twentieth century, the larger well-capitalized producers increasingly became associated with environmental problems through degradation of traditional agricultural landscapes as a by-product of farm-based industrial processes and specialization (Foley et al. 2005). Problems such as eutrophication of watercourses, soil erosion, and farmers’ destruction of attractive landscape features such as riparian woodland, hedgerows, and stone walls were accompanied by rising concerns about animal welfare under industrialized production systems and the quality of food associated with these systems (Baudron & Giller 2014, Thompson 2017).”
WILDLIFE POACHING, BUSHMEAT, AND TRADE Wildlife trafficking whether for consumption, animal skins, traditional medicines, pets, or any other reason involves the movement of wild animals from their natural habitat into human or domesticated animal populated areas. Deadly diseases such as Ebola, HIV, and SARS are examples of transmission through wildlife trafficking or infected bushmeat. Wet markets like the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, China where the COVID-19 virus was first transmitted to humans, are prime locations for the spread of zoonotic diseases. At the time of the virus outbreak, according to the South China Morning Post, approximately “120 wildlife animals across 75 species” were being sold in the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market.
NATURAL HABITAT LOSS Deforestation for farming, as mentioned above, is one reason for wildlife natural habitat loss. Other reasons include urban expansion, tourism projects, and
extractive activities such as logging and oil exploration. Disturbing habitats opens the window for cross-species infections, which eventually, and inevitably, lead to infections in humans. Conserving and protecting our wildlife habitats needs to take priority if we all want to stay healthy. It shouldn’t take a deadly pandemic to wake us up.
CLIMATE CHANGE Although climate change and the role it plays in the spread of zoonotic diseases is an evolving area of research, some regions of the world have already started to see its effects through the distribution of vector-borne zoonotic diseases (VBZD) such as malaria and dengue due to rapidly changing environments. VBZD are infectious diseases that spread through an animal host, typically insects such as ticks, mites and mosquitos. For example, if water temperatures rise it leads to mosquito larvae developing faster, resulting in increased activity, increased reproduction, and the need for more blood meals. Another effect of climate change that impacts the spread of zoonotic diseases is the migration of people. As land becomes uninhabitable, masses of people are encroaching into areas that were once wild. This leads to increased deforestation and more contact between humans and wild animals. Finding a vaccine, early detection, and containment for COVID-19 is just the beginning of the work that needs to be done. We also need to focus on the management of new emerging disease threats. If we continue this way, eventually another zoonotic disease will emerge. We need to change the way we live with nature and respect all species that share this Earth with us. We are not here to conquer our planet, or dominate over other species, and we should not be here to destroy it. However, if humanity continues down this path of destruction, ultimately we will also destroy ourselves. We are all one and need to start living as such. For this to happen, we need to look at new ways of doing things, change old habits, and educate others to do the same. Pandemics are not someone else’s problem; we are all in this together.
Jane Goodall, Photo courtesy of Milken Institute
“It is our disregard for nature and our disrespect of the animals we should share the planet with that has caused this pandemic, that was predicted long ago. Because as we destroy, let’s say the forest, the different species of animals in the forest are forced into a proximity and therefore diseases are being passed from one animal to another, and that second animal is then most likely to infect humans as it is forced into closer contact with humans. It’s also the animals who are hunted for food, sold in markets in Africa or in the meat market for wild animals in Asia, especially China, and our intensive farms where we cruelly crowd together billions of animals around the world. These are the conditions that create an opportunity for the viruses to jump from animals across the species barrier to humans.” – Jane Goodall, primatologist and scientist, during a conference call ahead of the release of a new National Geographic documentary. clockwise from top left: Variants of coronavirus have been found in the intestines and lungs of brown bats in North America - Microbiology Society www.microbiologyresearch.org Photography: David Clode. Industrial farming practices permit pigs to live in confined spaces. Photo: Mercy For Animals Canada. Bushmeat at the weekly market of Yangambi, Democratic Republic of Congo. The main animals that are hunted are warthogs, monkeys and Gambia rats. Photography: Axel Fassio/CIFOR.
savingearthmagazine.com | 13
14 | savingearthmagazine.com
STORY & PHOTOS BY SERGIO IZQUIERDO
A life-changing experience occured in 2012 when I had the opportunity to sail with 5Gyres from Bermuda to Iceland with scientists who specialize in collecting samples of microplastics on the surface of the oceans (plastic does not biodegrade. Due to sunlight, it dries off and breaks into small particles called microplastics). During 23 days of sailing in the North Atlantic Ocean, we took samples with a trawl (a special device that captures microplastics) every 50 nautical miles. To our surprise, we found microplastics in every sample we took during the whole journey. It didn’t matter if we were near Bermuda, in the Arctic Circle or four-thousand kilometers from the nearest Canadian coast, these tiny pieces of plastic were everywhere. It was shocking to see all the samples and realize this pollution is prevalent in more than ¾ of the earth, our oceans. The plastic that floats represents only 15% of the plastic in the ocean, the rest is in the vertical column or the seabed. Since then I’ve been documenting plastic pollution all over the world.
savingearthmagazine.com | 15
Sailboat of the expedition from Bermuda to Iceland, trawling for microplastics samples (North Atlantic Gyre). photography: sergio izquierdo
e are used to hearing about plastic pollution in our oceans as a problem but we have hardly begun to talk about microplastics. Microplastics are found both on our beaches and in our oceans, and they are also impossible to collect. These microplastics absorb toxic chemical components that are floating in the water around them and then are ingested by animals such as fish. These fish are eaten by bigger fish, and these big fish end up on our plate. Although plastic is a material that has helped humankind incredibly thanks to its positive properties: it is cheap, moldable, and resistant, it is also an incredibly polluting material that has done a lot of damage. One of the biggest issues has been the encouragement of recycling plastic as our first option for disposal. Plastic use will never be a circular economy. The truth is, plastic is usually not recycled but suffers a “downcycle” process, which means that it becomes a lower quality plastic. It will never be possible to recycle all the plastic produced around the world for several reasons, including the sad fact that creating new plastic is cheaper than recycling. Just think about the costs of collecting and cleaning it, and the costs of the recycling process itself. These costs make it financially and physically impossible in many situations. 90% of the plastic that already exists has never been recycled. Another big problem is that the plastic industry is still determined to promote recycling as the first option rather than focusing on the message to reject, reduce and reuse before we recycle. Of course, this is to avoid economic losses to their businesses, but the world simply can’t handle more plastic.
THE STATISTICS ARE OVERWHELMING… 100,000 marine animals die each year from plastic ingestion. By 2050 there will be more plastics in the ocean than fish. 52% of sea turtles are known to have already ingested plastic and 91% of marine turtles that get caught in plastic waste, die. According to studies , even mosquitoes can be transmitters of microplastics from the oceans to land animals such as birds or bats that eat these mosquitoes. Every year over one million seabirds die from plastic ingestion. Even cattle feed on plastic bags once these bags reach the grassland.
16 | savingearthmagazine.com
“GREENWASHING” The term greenwashing refers to the practice whereby a business calls itself ‘green’ when it isn’t or puts a ‘green’ label on products to trick consumers into thinking their purchase is doing something good for the planet. In addition, because the plastic industry funds many environmental and conservation organizations, they are effectively buying the silence of the very agencies that could lead against plastic pollution, requiring them, instead to focus on recycling as the solution. This is also a form of greenwashing. We see different projects around the world, most of them are an “end-of-pipe solution”, instead of solving the problem at the origin. Some of these projects include ideas such as creating roads out of recycled plastic. It might sound nice, but these plastic roads will then become a source of plastic pollution as they wear off and they will end up releasing microplastics that we will either breathe in or they will be diffused through the environment. Another example is the “beach cleanup” initiative, which although important for raising awareness, is not an efficient solution. Just a few weeks after a beach clean up, it will be polluted again. It’s notable that these events are usually organized in tourist locations. The 4Rs of waste management should always be: Reject, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, in that order. There is no better waste than the one that has never been produced. Our aim should be to avoid single-use plastic since we use it for just a brief moment, and then this piece of plastic becomes a part of our environment for 500 to a 1000 years. All the plastic that humankind has ever created is somewhere on our planet, and it just keeps on coming.
One microplastics sample during the expedition (North Atlantic Gyre). photography: sergio izquierdo
ccording to Rolyand Geyer, from the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at University of California, Santa Barbara, approximately 40% of plastic production is destined for product packaging and the plastic industry plans to quadruple its production within the next 30 years. At this rate there won’t be enough beach cleanups to keep up, not enough recycling industries to stop the pollution and we will be drowning in our own plastic waste.
The team of 5gyres are pulling out the trawl to get the microplastics sample (North Atlantic Gyre). photography: sergio izquierdo
savingearthmagazine.com | 17
According to Greenpeace publications, soda and water bottling companies are the top plastic polluters (statistics indicate that around one million bottles are produced each minute). This industry, as well as other plastic industries transfer the waste management cost of the product packaging they produce to the consumer and to local governments, in the end the highest cost of all is transferred to the environment. If this actual environmental cost were incorporated, the price of the packaging would rise, and other types of packaging industries would grow, such as glass and cardboard, with a migration of jobs to these other industries. The plastic industry constantly wants to introduce misconceptions to defend their business. For example, they say that if the demand for cardboard grows, the forests will end. This is totally false, since cardboard is usually extracted from certain types of tree species that come from manageable forests. If the demand for cardboard grows, the demand for trees will grow, therefore, new areas of reforestation will be needed for the use of these manageable forests and, consequently, this will help combat climate change. Another misconception is the promotion of bioplastics. When industries call it BIO, people associate it with the idea that the plastic theyâ€™re purchasing is going to BIOdegrade. There are bioplastics that do not biodegrade, and those that do biodegrade, donâ€™t biodegrade naturally in the environment. People would have to separate these bioplastics from plastics, then take them to large facilities where they are placed above 70 degrees Celsius for a set time period (with certain atmospheric variables that do not exist in the environment), and only then, will most of the content biodegrade. These products certainly do not biodegrade in domestic compost.
e also need to be informed about the human health issue. Plastics leak substances known as Endocrine Disruptor Compounds (EDCs). These EDCs are chemical substances foreign to the human body or to any animal species, and they are capable of altering hormonal balances. EDCs generate the interruption of some physiological processes controlled by hormones, in other words, create a response of greater or lesser intensity than usual. They can cause cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular problems, premature puberty, infertility, obesity, learning problems and the list goes on. These effects are not always immediately visible. EDCs are found in many of the products we commonly use such as bottles, food containers, plastic wrap for food, toys, personal care bottles, etc. One of the most studied types of plastics is BPA (bisphenol A), whose chemicals are related to breast cancer. Babies already have many of these chemicals in their blood (transmitted by the mother in utero), and then from an early age they are constantly in direct or indirect contact with these types of plastics through toys, food packaging, straws, drinks in plastic bottles, etc. In the United States, 96% of kids under six years old have been tested positive on blood tests for BPA presence. Another study of different plastic bottles used for water around the world shows that 93% contain microplastics. A study from the University of Newcastle, Australia, found that the average person eats the equivalent of a credit card each week. Plastic pollution is not only an environmental problem, but a health problem. 70% of the oxygen we breathe comes from our oceans due to photosynthesis of phyto-plankton and algae. If we continue to pollute our oceans we are putting our own survival at extreme risk. If we continue to consume more and more products wrapped in plastic or with microplas-
18 | savingearthmagazine.com
Elephant Seal in the Argentina Patagonia. The nearest village was more than 400 km awayâ€Ś plastic travels all over the world. photography: Sergio izquierdo
savingearthmagazine.com | 19
tics in their content, we are also putting our survival in extreme risk. If we continue promoting recycling, fake plastic upcycling or beach cleanups to save the seas, we are putting our survival in extreme risk. We have to reinvent product packaging, replace the different presentations of single use plastic - and we must reject items that come packed in plastic. This way, the companies that offer us these products will move to environmentally friendly alternatives, not
A turtle makes its way over a plastic bottle. photography: sergio izquierdo
20 | savingearthmagazine.com
because they want to help the environment but for financial reasons due to the â€œsupply and demandâ€? principle. In some countries, some type of single-use plastic bans are already being enforced, but this is a measure that must be adopted globally. It is crucial to focus on finding solutions at the source urgently. We, as consumers, have the strongest role to define the plastic pollution problem, but we need to also push the single-use plastic bans on our governments.
Marcus Ericksen, director from 5 Gyres examining plastic pollution from fishing nets in the North Atlantic Gyre. photography: sergio izquierdo
savingearthmagazine.com | 21
22 | savingearthmagazine.com
BY NATHAN NIEHUUS
The Political Environment I
t’s easy to take sides in politics, maybe too easy. So before we get there, know this: I’m American, a combat veteran, and I grew up on a beef cattle ranch in rural Texas. I’ve also started, and run, a couple of small businesses and have lived in six countries to date. I travel, the more remote the better. I’m neither liberal nor conservative, I’m independent and do not play the identity-politics game. It’s a genuine love of nature that drives my critique of our current political leaders. The failure to adequately address climate change and the preservation of our natural resources lies on all of their shoulders. In order to understand what we must do, we must accurately understand where we are. There are certain inescapable truths and the sooner we grasp them, the sooner we can hope to react appropriately. It’s also important to note that each of these factors is influenced by, and further exacerbates, the other. Read carefully: We are living through the sixth major mass extinction, the first one that has been caused by the actions of humans. The more research we do, the more serious it appears. This extinction is called the Anthropocene and it’s the most serious and widespread extinction we know of, for at least the last 66 million years. The causes are varied and vast but they include habitat destruction, climate change, pesticide/insecticide use, overfishing/ overhunting, and general pollution. It’s estimated that it will take 3-5,000,000 years to bring our biological diversity back to ‘normal’ levels. Surely this isn’t true, you say. Well, it is. Take a moment and consider that 96 percent of all mammal biomass on Earth is either human beings or the animals that we raise for food. That leaves a measly four percent of all mammal biomass on Earth as ‘wild’ or ‘natural.’ That is unacceptable, and to change it we need to act immediately, and drastically.
Climate change is real, and the primary culprit is the elevation of CO2 levels in our atmosphere. The issue is that it warms Earth, and with that warming, we dramatically increase volatile weather patterns, and those patterns disrupt our ways of life. But that’s not all. Ocean acidification is a direct result of the increase in CO2 and it affects all ocean life, including the building blocks of the ocean’s food chain. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates 90% of the world’s fish stocks are now fully exploited, overexploited, or depleted.
AN ENVIRONMENT OF CONVENIENCE All of this should be common knowledge, but it’s not. The truths are inconvenient and thus our politicians engage in a form of intentional ignorance. While the USA is theoretically a global leader, we have effectively become a headwind for climate action. There is also an incredible amount of disinformation peddled by large energy companies. We’re just beginning to see the lawsuits hoping to rectify this with a wave of challenges against the oil and gas industry demanding accountability. There is also a lack of education, worldwide, about climate change. If we do not act soon, and decisively, humans will quickly become a footnote in the annals of Earth’s history. President Trump, in particular, has reversed environmental policies at a scale we have never seen before. He’s called climate change a hoax, despite having signed a letter urging Obama to act on climate change initiatives in 2009. His children signed the letter too. This kind of reversal and outright hypocrisy has become a staple of his tenure. Photography: Edrece Stansberry
savingearthmagazine.com | 23
We are aware of at least 95 environmental rollbacks during Trump’s presidency. If this doesn’t infuriate you, you haven’t been paying attention. It isn’t just pulling out of the Paris Agreement, which was an attempt to globally mitigate climate change, rather it’s a sweeping rollback of any and all environmental regulations which were designed to keep industry from permanently and negatively affecting our environment. To be fair, even if we had stayed in the Paris Agreement, it’s highly unlikely we would have reached the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit the worst effects of climate change, which makes immediate action all the more important. It should be well-known that humans are reactionary by nature, they often don’t take into account future consequences of present actions, just look at the capital markets running on fear and greed. To assume otherwise is to fail at a basic understanding of human actions, past and present. It is, therefore, any government’s role to establish rules and regulations that protect our environment from humans. Let’s examine some rollbacks to date: • In 2018 the Trump administration reversed a regulation designed to limit methane (one of the worst greenhouse gasses) in oil and gas production. This rollback sets us all back many years and makes it all but impossible to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. • In 2018 the Trump administration changed the requirements for the Clean Air Act, thereby allowing industry to pollute our air, and dramatically decreasing quality of life for each and every person on this planet. • In 2018 the Trump administration began to stop enforcing limits on hydrofluorocarbons, known informally as super-pollutants and 11 states sued the EPA hoping to reinstate the limits. • In 2018 the Trump administration, by executive order, removed the calculation of ‘social cost of carbon’ thereby removing the methods and measures we use to measure short term gain of carbon emissions with the long term costs. • In 2018 the Trump administration, by executive order, removed statutory efficiency requirements for the Federal government of the USA. The previous requirements were set in order to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of the Federal government by 40% over 10 years. • In 2019 the Trump administration reversed a regulation designed to limit the impact coal energy has on warming our environment. This is a direct move to protect the coal industry, which is one of the main culprits in greenhouse gas production. • In 2020 the Trump administration repealed the Clean Water Rule and began attempts to roll back the Clean Water Act of 1972. The Clean Water Rule of 2015 was designed to provide science-based guidance on which waterways should be protected and to what degree, affecting more than 117 million Americans.
24 | savingearthmagazine.com
There is a long list of other rollbacks, the above represent only some of the larger concerns. Of course, this list only deals with US-based rollbacks, none of it addresses how other countries are handling climate change or other global threats (such as pandemics). There is a bit of good news, though: people are becoming increasingly aware.
OUR JOB HAS JUST BEGUN It is our job, and our duty, as stewards of our environment – to get educated and to educate those around us. Climate change deniers live among us. We can educate ourselves. We can patiently educate those around us. We must sacrifice if we hope to survive. More importantly, though, we must insist that our current politicians and governments take these threats seriously.
HOW CAN YOU HELP AT THE BALLOT BOX? • Vote for politicians who place their trust in experts. • Vote for politicians who tackle tough and unpopular subjects. • Vote for politicians who stand up to energy companies and disinformation. • Vote for politicians who fight to curb lobbying. One thing that often gets forgotten when we talk about climate action is non-violent protest. This has been at the heart of much of the world’s change. Non-violent protest has pushed civil rights, women’s rights, and labor rights to the forefront of many cultures around the world. It is responsible for a massive amount of change and is often more effective than more radical measures. It has been estimated that only 3.5% of a population needs to protest in order to secure permanent change. Imagine what 10% could do? Or 25%? Let me be clear, none of the change will be painless. Change is painful and sacrifice is fundamental to change. The kind of sacrifice we need is significant because the kind of change we need is significant. The change will hurt. It will cost us money. It will cost us time. But without this sacrifice, we don’t have change, and without the change our future is bleak. Finally, yes – we can do our part by limiting single-use plastics. We can limit our travel. We can limit our energy consumption in our homes. We can buy efficient automobiles. We can develop businesses that use less energy to create the same product. We can invest in clean energy. We can make our homes and places of work more efficient. We can base decisions on peer-reviewed science and we can insist on the same from our government leaders. We can turn off faucets and stop watering lawns. We can only buy the things that we need. All of those are important. What we need, though, is systemic change – and that only happens when, we, the citizens of this world demand it. In no uncertain terms, the time for action is now.
CLIMATE HEALTH Sharing ideas and strategies to fight climate change
Looking for ideas to be more effective in your climate-related work or research?
TRY OUR SEARCHABLE IDEAS FORUM WWW.A4CH.ORG
BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY
Sustainability Resources for
LOCAL COMMUNITIES LOOKING TO REDUCE YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT
Check out our page of Climate
Full of free climate-related lessons,
Including product design,
Resources for Communities
games and activities for students
lower-energy buildings, training
Learn from other people’s
of all ages.
employees on green maintenance,
experience —where to start, well-
networking with other climate-
tested “no regrets” programs, how
to win allies and influence policy.
Check out our page of
Check out our Resources for Teachers page
Looking to share your climate success stories? Send them to us and we will happily share with our members and others.
savingearthmagazine.com | 25
26 | savingearthmagazine.com
Written By Kayla Bruce, with edits from Shayne Meechan
A Canadian Perspective
anadians are ranked as the highest per-capita waste creators on the planet, averaging around 720 kg produced per person each year. To put this into perspective, 720 kg is the weight of a large polar bear. With over 37 million people in Canada, the amount of waste produced continues to grow as the population expands, posing the question: why are we creating so much waste? Waste is the result of numerous factors. Consumption rates have been on the rise since the 1980s, aligning with the steady growth of Canadian household income. Patterns, types, and frequency of consumption multiply when there is more money to be spent. The rise of urbanization, and ease of travel – whether it be by car, plane, or otherwise – can also contribute to consumption rates and subsequent waste. Other considerations include the development of new materials, disposal methods, advertising, and government regulation. Though waste is a global issue, there are steps an individual can take to decrease personal waste generation to contribute to a more sustainable future. A growing solution to the waste crisis is those individuals embracing a low- or zero-waste lifestyle. The term zero-waste refers to the minimalist approach of living with less and being conscious of the environmental impact of your choices. Take shopping, for example: someone living a zero-waste lifestyle may ask these questions before, during, and after a trip to the store: • WHO – Who am I purchasing from? Is there a local option for me to support, such as a market or small business? • WHAT – What am I buying and for what purpose? What is the packaging like on this product? • WHEN – When I am finished using this, what will happen to it? • WHERE – Where did this product come from and how far did it travel to get to me? Where will this go when I am done with it? • WHY – Why am I buying this, is it a need or is it a want? • HOW – How am I getting to the store? Can I walk, bike, carpool or take public transportation? Zero-waste living is a highly individualized concept. What works for others may not work for you or your lifestyle and what works for you may not suit the needs of others. It is important to recognize that low- and zero-waste living is a journey. No two paths look the same and you will never really quite achieve absolute zero. The thought that goes behind adapting your choices is what will make all the difference.
Simple and small changes you make in your daily life can have a significant impact in the long-run. For example, did you know: • In Canada, 4.9 billion cups of coffee are served in single-use cups every year. • If a family of four refused plastic shopping bags, they could save around 1500 bags from going to waste each year. This is equivalent to diverting 7.5 kg of single-use plastic. An approachable way to adapt your lifestyle so it is sustainable for both you and the planet is by learning, understanding, and embracing the 5 Rs that make up the zero-waste hierarchy.
REFUSE: The simplest way to reduce your waste is by saying “no” to things you do not need, single-use items or products that generate a high amount of waste. Quite often, items we are exposed to every day such as coffee cups, straws, and food packaging are used for a short amount of time and are then thrown away. By refusing these items, you can decrease your environmental impact significantly and the amount of waste you produce. Here are some examples: • Refuse paper advertisements and flyers by opting for online options. • Instead of accepting business cards or pamphlets, take a photo of the information instead. • Say “no” to freebies, giveaways or buying things you do not need – even if they are on sale. • Ask for “no straw” when ordering drinks. • Use air dryers or cloths instead of paper towels after washing your hands. • Bring your own cutlery, container, and water bottle when on-the-go.
REDUCE: Consumption is obviously a part of our existence, overconsumption too. This overconsumption is, in part, due to relentless marketing and advertising. The desire for convenience can be a complex battle but re-framing your mindset towards conscious consumerism is key in reducing waste generation. Many people are overcome by the idea of consumption – whether it be collectibles, clothes, household décor or otherwise. Re-framing your mindset from consumption to consideration will allow you to better understand what you are buying
savingearthmagazine.com | 27
and why, which can influence the economy and market. For example, if the want for unpackaged or sustainable goods increases, suppliers will have to adapt to the changing demand. The more conscious we are as consumers, the more accountable producers and manufacturers will need to become. When you consider the energy required to create a product, the emissions produced transporting it to you, the packaging it came in and how it will be disposed of after use, the environmental impact of that product can be drastic. Try asking yourself: do I need this item? Is there a sustainable alternative? You can also reduce your waste by minimizing the items in your own home that you no longer use or need. Items in good condition can be donated to charity and second-hand stores, giving them another life, or to those in need. In this case, ask yourself: • Could this be used by someone else, or could I use it in a different way? • Is its condition suitable to be re-homed or donated? • Could it be repaired?
REUSE: A large portion of the environmental impact associated with buying new is the energy it took to design, produce, and transport the items. By embracing the zero-waste “R” of reuse, you can greatly increase the lifespan of products by purchasing second-hand, reusing items you already own, or repurposing old gems for a new use. By considering second-hand or used items, you reduce waste generation because the product does not require virgin material to create, nor does it require additional energy to produce. Reusing, repurposing, or upcycling items you already own eliminates the need to purchase altogether. Here are some suggestions for switching to sustainable, reusable alternatives: • Cut up an old pillowcase or t-shirt, to be used instead of paper towels. Simply use, wash, and reuse. • Clean and reuse food containers such as glass jars or jam/peanut butter containers to store leftovers. Beeswax wraps and cloths can also be used to store food in a waste-free way. • Dine in more often and learn to love your leftovers. When going out to eat, take your own container with you in case you don’t finish your meal. This way, you will reduce food waste and won’t need to use a single-use take-out container. • If you have an item that is broken, repair it or repurpose for another use. This will increase the lifespan of the product and the materials that went into making it.
RECYCLE: Recycling refers to the process of converting waste into usable material through technology. It can be an effective way to reduce waste by diverting material from the landfill – if done correctly. It is important to remain conscious of your consumption and follow the 5Rs of zero-waste as a hierarchy. Start by refusing when possible, reducing consumption, reusing what you can, and recycling when necessary. You can recycle by means of composting, upcycling, donating, and practicing proper waste sorting.
ROT: Composting is an effective way to decrease your environmental impact by diverting waste from landfill. Food scraps, yard waste, and other
28 | savingearthmagazine.com
organic items are all examples of materials that can be composted. Your local waste collection service may provide curbside compost collection; if not, backyard composters and vermicomposting units are effective alternatives that can decrease your waste. Standards and regulations for waste and recycling vary by municipality. Be sure to educate yourself on your local waste system to ensure you are diverting as much as possible. Learn what can be recycled and composted through curbside collection, participate in community waste events, and see if services are available for specialty items like household hazardous waste. Some common challenges that arise with transitioning to a lowwaste lifestyle are the misconception that low-waste living is more expensive, being overwhelmed with the idea of drastic changes, or feeling guilty that you are not perfectly zero-waste.
Expensive: A popular misconception with zero-waste living is the idea that it costs more. Often, those wanting to transition towards a more mindful lifestyle start by purchasing new “zero-waste” items. These purchases are typically unnecessary as many of the items that can help you create less waste can be found around your home already. Reusable shopping bags, plastic containers, napkins, cutlery – these are all items you most likely already have. Utilize these items and reuse products and packaging when possible. Take an old bandana as a reusable napkin when on-the-go; use old jars to fill bulk spices or pantry essentials; take a water bottle or thermos with you when you leave the house. Make use of what you have, get creative and when the time comes, invest in reusables.
DRASTIC CHANGES: Keep in mind that zero-waste doesn’t happen overnight. Instead of trying to convert your entire life or home to be more sustainable all at once, take it step-by-step. Smaller, realistic goals will make the journey rewarding and successful. If you’re unsure where to start, an effective way to assess where you could improve is by doing a simple self-evaluation. Take a look at your recycling, garbage, and overall waste. By doing so, you will have a stronger understanding of the items you purchase, how you dispose of them, and where you could improve. Consider how you can implement aspects of the 5 Rs into your life and how you can re-frame your thinking.
ACHIEVING PERFECTION: Nobody’s perfect, right? The same goes for achieving zero-waste. What we can do is be aware of our choices and conscious of our consumeristic and waste habits, so we can form new ones. It’s important to remember the low-waste journey is a timely one and differs for each person. If you use a disposable or singleuse item, perhaps consider what you could do differently the next time – but don’t be too hard on yourself. Your journey is a learning experience and it will take some time to figure out what works for you. One small change will lead to another. In time, your efforts will become habits. Embrace conscious consumerism and you will be part of the forward momentum towards a greater, greener tomorrow.
GREEN OKANAGAN GREEN OKANAGAN, or GO for short, is a volunteer-led registered non-profit organization based in the beautiful Okanagan, in Canada. Our mandate is to progress sustainability from an individual level. By sharing our own experiences and easy to implement tips and tricks, we hope to empower you to make smart consumer choices and adapt your lifestyle to improve your overall sustainability.
Curious about zero-waste living?
We break it down in an approachable way, with simple and affordable solutions anyone can implement. Join our online community for free resources thatâ€™ll help you simplify your life and improve your sustainability.
Local to the Okanagan?
Join us at our next event or workshop all are welcome in the GO community! VISIT: WWW.GREENOKANAGAN.ORG FOR ALL THE DETAILS!
www.greenokanagan.org savingearthmagazine.com | 29
STORY & PHOTOS BY JAY CLUE
A sustainable approach to tourism 30 | savingearthmagazine.com
One of Dive Ninja Expeditions’ guides working on a coral monitoring project in Cabo San Lucas. photography: Jay Clue.
savingearthmagazine.com | 31
s we motor out of the marina I find myself taking a deep breath of warm sea air before scanning the horizon. A backdrop of rugged desert mountains reaches down from the heavens to meet electric blue waters that are teeming with life. Baja is truly a land of contrasts. It is this distinct natural beauty that attracts so many to this narrow, rocky peninsula splitting the Pacific Ocean from the Sea of Cortez. But it’s not only natural contrasts. Here, in the tourism powerhouse of Los Cabos, you regularly see giant multimillion dollar yachts navigating alongside tiny local fishing pangas. Look across the bay and you’ll notice massive all-inclusive resorts packed with tourists covering almost every inch of coastline. Yet travel just a few minutes further and you’re treated to miles of untouched beaches dotted only by the occasional tiny fishing village or small drove of wild donkeys. It’s these contrasts that initially stole my heart and would be the inspiration for why I’m still here years later. Today we are out on the water working with our friends from Sea Shepherd Mexico. The ocean is calm as the warm Baja sun glistens across its surface. Our team is surveying sites to identify if they could be viable for a new coral restoration project. As with most large tourism destinations, there is a lot more energy put into turning a profit on the natural resources than trying to protect them. A quick visual inspection underwater at one of Cabo’s most famous dive sites makes that clearly apparent. A small graveyard of broken, dying corals litters the ocean floor. It is a harsh reminder of why this project and so many others are so important. When I began building Dive Ninja Expeditions a few years ago I wanted to create something different, something that stood apart from the industry as a beacon of light. I never wanted to run a dive shop or own a tour company. I’ve worked in enough of them over the years to know better. But what I did want was to find a way to better protect this beautiful land of contrasts that has stolen my heart and become my home. Protecting any area requires vast amounts of hard work, with many moving parts operating together in unison. And most importantly, it requires funding. Realistically, no one person, nor one business, could accomplish such big goals on their own. But there had to be a way to help. It took some time before realizing the answer was staring me right in the face all along. Every day, groups of vacationing divers journey to explore below the waves and most of them are very passionate about protecting the seas that bring them so much joy. That’s the beauty of scuba & freediving culture - they are natural ocean ambassadors. The answer was simple. Couldn’t tourism be used as a vessel to protect an area instead of destroying it? You might say, ‘but Jay, isn’t that just ecotourism? It’s nothing new.’ In some sense you are correct, however, in my years working in the world of ecotourism I have quickly learned that the term is more of a sliding scale than a definitive term. A quick search will reveal that pretty much anyone offering nature tours or outdoor activities can classify themselves as ecotour operators, leading you to assume that they
32 | savingearthmagazine.com
are providing educational, sustainable tours around a fragile ecosystem while working to protect it and the communities that surround it, right? Wrong. Being environmentally friendly has become the latest trend and businesses are using it to their advantage. There are some great ecotourism operators out there doing wonderful work. But we’ve also seen firsthand that Jay Clue, there are many, many more who use the photography: term as nothing more than a marketing Regina Domingo, ploy. It’s called greenwashing. GreenwashNakawe Project ing is a term used to describe businesses deceptively utilizing green marketing & advertising to persuade the public that their products, services, or policies are environmentally friendly and therefore ‘better’ than others. Sadly, it’s rampant in tourism, where there is little accountability or transparency of the businesses’ true practices. Many ‘ecotour’ operators fall more onto this side of that sliding scale. Companies will hire a person with a biology degree to work as a guide to boost their marketing clout by advertising, ‘We have marine biologist guides!’ while not actually utilizing the biologists’ expertise to help further any local research or conservation efforts. Others simply try to buy their green badge by donating to NGOs in the hopes of using their logos on marketing materials while at the same time breaking marine park regulations. Even worse, some just blatantly lie while hiding behind a mirage of ‘eco-friendly’ labels. It is always recommended to research when choosing tour operators.
art of my work with Dive Ninjas has me constantly looking for new projects and partnerships that we can develop. While working on one not too long ago, I decided to visit a whale watching company whose website had me convinced that they were doing great things in their area. Considering I have spent a large chunk of my life working on massive advertising campaigns and teaching undergrad students the techniques and philosophies of marketing, that says something. My assumptions were abruptly shattered within the first minutes of arriving to check out the tour. I could spend this entire article dissecting the bad practices we witnessed that morning. Instead, let’s look at just one example that underscores the larger issue at hand. Before leaving the storefront we were given a bag lunch to take with us for the tour. Stamped on the front of this small brown paper bag in big blue letters, was 100% ECO FRIENDLY TOURS, circled around a leaf. A nice touch I thought, considering the paper bag housed an insanely unnecessary nine plastic bags, a plastic-wrapped napkin, and two tiny plastic water bottles. Even the unpeeled orange, given as a snack, was inside a plastic sandwich bag. To give a little perspective, this was not a small operation. The first morning tour alone had a turnout of over 60+ guests. That’s over 540 plastic bags and 120 tiny plastic bottles making their way to the garbage dump after just one tour session. And they run three sessions each day, seven days a week. All this in an area where the nearest recycling collection facility is hundreds of miles away.
photography: Jay Clue.
top: Ninja expedition guest takes a Manta identification photo at Isla Socorro. bottom group: Baja is home to a wealth of incredible encounters including (clockwise from top left): playful California Sea Lions, big aggregations of silky sharks, gigantic bait balls of Sardines, and many species of sea turtles.
savingearthmagazine.com | 33
To add insult to injury, later that day I went looking for somewhere to take a few aerial sunset shots of the local lagoons. Instead, I stumbled upon a trail of plastic garbage along the roadside leading me to the local dumpsite. All of this garbage is just a stone’s throw from the lagoons that draw the whales here every winter to birth their young. Suffice to say that all eco-tours are not quite created equally. Let’s be clear. I’m not here to stand on a soapbox and preach. Nor am I some eco-warrior chastising anyone who doesn’t mirror the perfect image. This is not how change is made. Nor is it why we created our platform. Dive Ninja Expeditions was built in hopes of showing others what is possible on the other side of that sliding scale and maybe if we are lucky, it will inspire them to make some changes too. Our platform was built to try and bridge the gaps that lie between
34 | savingearthmagazine.com
tourism, science, and conservation. The expeditions are meticulously crafted, linking them with ongoing research projects, conservation efforts, as well as intertwining them with the communities in which they take place. Instead of just hiring biologists, we partner with researchers already working in the local area. This way, scientists not only become guides, but they are offered a free platform to help continue their research, as well as a salary to help support them financially while they further their studies. A portion of the tour profits is then donated to fund their research and conservation. In return, they teach the guests about the incredible animals they are researching and give them the chance to get involved - whether it be through citizen science or hands-on workshops. For example, on our Mobula Ray Expeditions, Marta, a marine biologist currently working on her doctorate research,
Ninja guest encounters a curious juvenile whale shark off the coast of Los Cabos. photography: Jay Clue.
introduces the guests to the plankton the rays eat. She then takes them to conduct plankton drags on the ocean surface. Later in the evening, they look under the microscope to see the incredible amount of life living in the drops of water they collected and ultimately understand why these beautiful creatures congregate here. The projects are also aligned with local conservation programs and when a conservation program isnâ€™t already in place, the team works to create the groundwork for one. For example, Dive Ninjaâ€™s striped marlin expeditions with the Nakawe Project have begun to create a partnership between the local community, tour operators, and researchers. Together, through our citizen-science tours, we are working towards building a sanctuary for the striped marlin. In addition, we are building guidelines for tour operators in the area so that as a collective we can
all work to protect this incredible encounter and the wildlife that make it so special. But science and conservation can only go so far. The involvement of the local community is vital for a project to flourish and become truly sustainable within itself. This can take many forms. For Dive Ninja Expeditions, it means locally sourcing at least 90% of the project. Meals are prepared by local chefs and restaurants with food coming from within the region. Tours are operated with a mix of local captains, scientists working in the local area, and our expert ninja guides. Accommodations are secured through locally owned hotels and property owners that are working to make a difference in the area. Our model differs from the standard business model. Instead of looking to get rich off an area or an experience by burning its resources
savingearthmagazine.com | 35
and keeping competitors away from our secrets, we look instead to build programs that can be replicated by the local community so that they can sustain themselves from tours. It’s a beautiful idea we see utilized by shark conservation organizations when working with shark fishermen. If you can give a fisherman the tools to create a better quality of life while showing them that sharks are worth more alive than dead you create opportunities in a community where maybe there weren’t any before. We’ve seen this idea in action in numerous projects here in Baja alone. Most of our captains are ex-fishermen who have made the change to ecotourism. These are humans who have an unmatched understanding of the local waters and an unrivaled passion for them. They grew up in them. It is their home. Who better than that to take you out on the sea in search of an incredible encounter or to have on your team to protect that special area? We are lucky in Baja, the local communities truly love their backyard and will jump at the chance to show you the incredible experiences that await you here. And best of all, many of them want to work to help protect it. We have seen that ecotourism can help protect locations and species, but it must be done correctly and with good intentions. Developing platforms that are sustainable within their own ecosystem and the community tied to it is not easy, but it is also not incredibly difficult work either. If we look to see what resources are already available and try to build from there instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, projects can begin to grow organically from within the community and spark further flames of change. It is not something that will happen overnight but, if we can take a moment to shift our focus from the accounting books and profit margins to the incredible humans and animals right in front of us, we can find a middle ground between the business and ecological models. Thus, we create platforms that can continue to profit for many years to come, while protecting the culture and natural beauty that make them so special - and best of all, without destroying them in the process. photography: Jay Clue.
AUTHOR BIO Jay Clue is an underwater photographer and explorer based in Los Cabos, Mexico where he leads the exploration and conservation arms of Team Ninja at Dive Ninja Expeditions. His resume includes being a Mares Mexicanos Photographer, a Nakawe Project Closed Hook Ambassador, a Sea Shepherd Coordinator, and an Ocean Culture Life Storyteller & Ocean Guardian.
Top to bottom: A humpback whale breaches just off shore in Cabo San Lucas. Sea lion hunting in a giant school of sardines at Lands End. Ten miles off shore at sunset looking for mako sharks with shark biologist.
36 | savingearthmagazine.com
THE AGE of ANTHROPOCENE
STORY & PHOTOS BY DAWNA MUELLER
how human activity has impacted the cryosphere
Iceberg, Scoresby Sund, Greenland. Photography: Dawna Mueller
38 | savingearthmagazine.com
Welcome to the Anthropocene age - we have now reached a new epoch as a direct result of our human impact on the Earthâ€™s geology and ecosystems. The consequences of this can be seen everywhere from the extinction of species, to ocean acidification and increasing global temperatures accelerating the melting of polar ice caps and the reduction of Arctic sea ice. The focus of this article is to examine the effect of anthropogenic climate change in the cryosphere, specifically in the Arctic and Antarctica.
savingearthmagazine.com | 39
WHAT’S GOING ON? One of the greatest measurable anthropogenic consequences on the planet has been the increase in emissions of greenhouse gasses – carbon dioxide (CO₂), nitrous oxide, methane, and others. The link between greenhouse gas concentrations, particularly CO₂, and global temperatures has been seen throughout the measurable climate history of the planet. Two significant scientific operations in Antarctica indicate that over the last 800,000 years, CO₂ levels have fluctuated between 170 and 300 parts per million by volume (ppm). In January 1998, a collaborative project between Russia, the US, and France at the Russian Vostok station in East Antarctica sampled the deepest ice core ever recorded. At a depth of 3,623 meters, the Vostok ice core revealed 420,000 years of ice core data showing the highest level of CO₂ over that period was 298.6 ppm. A second study at Dome Concordia, Antarctica in 2004, revealed 800,000 years of climate history showing that CO₂ levels during this time fluctuated between 170 and 300 ppm. These core sample CO₂ level fluctuations corresponded with conditions of glacial (low CO₂) and interglacial (high CO₂) periods indicating a correlation between greenhouse gases and increasing atmospheric temperatures. The evidence collected from these two significant core sample discoveries indicates that CO₂ emissions over the last 800,000 years did not exceed 300 ppm. However, these levels have dramatically increased since the Industrial Revolution, and more recently, since 2013 atmospheric CO₂ levels have risen from 280 ppm to over 415 ppm. Recent 2020 data measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii and released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) records CO₂ emissions in January at 413.40 ppm, February at 414.11 ppm, March at 415.52 ppm and April 2, 2020 at 415.60 ppm. These levels of emissions are the highest seasonal peaks in 61 years of recorded observations. It is a general consensus amongst scientists that the increase in post Industrial Revolution CO₂ results mostly from the burning of oil, gas and other fossil fuels. The elevated levels of atmospheric CO₂ are causing an increase in global temperatures worldwide, but it is in the fragile ecosystems of the polar regions where the temperatures are rising faster than anywhere else on the planet. These warming atmospheric temperatures are causing what is known as the ‘albedo effect’ whereby warming temperatures are causing ice to melt, resulting in accelerated melting. For example, ice has a high albedo, or ability to reflect sunlight. However, with an increase in air temperatures, ice melts more rapidly leaving dark pools of water on the ice caps and on sea ice, which in turn attracts the heat instead of reflecting it. As air temperatures rise, so do ocean temperatures. The ocean absorbs 93% of the excess heat gases trap in the atmosphere. Increased ocean temperatures cause the acceleration of ice melting from ice caps through melt water channels and moulins, and glaciers and sea ice through direct contact with the warmer water. All of this contributes to a rise in sea levels with significant and adverse consequences for the planet’s coastal communities. The warmer oceans are changing the fragile ecosystem, which marine life is dependent on.
ARCTIC A recent scientific study from the National Academy of Sciences from 2019 and published on February 3, 2020 in Nature, shows that this is exactly what is occurring in Greenland. Greenland is the world’s biggest island and is covered with an ice sheet over 3000 meters thick in some areas. This study warns that Greenland’s ice is melting faster than
40 | savingearthmagazine.com
scientists previously thought and the biggest surprise is that the majority of the loss is coming from the ice sheet itself and not the glaciers. The warmer air at the surface of the ice sheet is responsible for approximately 52% of surface ice melt and 48% of the ice mass loss is due to warmer ocean temperatures causing glacier calving and increased ice sheet shedding. Dr. Konrad Steffen, Director of the WSL Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research in Switzerland and one of the world’s leading authorities on the Greenland Ice Sheet, has been doing research looking through the ice and studying the ice sheet moulins. Through his research at Swiss Camp Base, Greenland, he carried out radar profiles of the moulins, through which melt water drains from the surface to the base of the ice sheet. The research findings concluded that this flow of ice water caused the ice sheet not only to lose mass but also to flow more rapidly causing the ice sheet to move 50% to 100% faster towards the coast. This only occurs in the short summer period but is significant in its contribution to the ice sheet runoff. Between 1992 and 2018, Greenland lost 3.8 trillion tons of ice and the acceleration rate has gone from 25 billion tons per year in the 1990s to 267 billion tons of ice lost in 2018. This ice loss contributes to an average sea level rise of 0.7mm per year. The situation in Svalbard is another example of a significant amount of Arctic sea ice loss over the last decades. Since 1979, the sea ice in Svalbard has declined by nearly 12% per decade. Research conducted by the
Glacier, Antarctic Peninsula, Photography: Dawna Mueller
Norwegian Polar Institute suggests that the Arctic has reached a threshold where the solar radiation absorbed by the ocean during the increasingly warm summer months limits the formation of ice during the subsequent fall and winter months. Increasing air and ocean temperatures have profound consequences for the nature of Arctic ice. The older, stronger ice, which generally is more resilient due to its thickness, is vanishing. Ice that is older than four years old is considered ‘old’ ice and in 1985 it comprised 16% of the Arctic’s total sea ice. In NOAA’s ‘2018 Arctic Report Card’, it concluded that this ‘old’ ice, which can be between five and 20 meters thick, had been reduced to only 0.9%. This is a reduction of 95% ‘old’ Arctic ice in 33 years. The temperatures recorded in Svalbard and the Barents Sea area show that between 1971-2017, there was a cumulative temperature rise of 4°C (0.87 °C per decade) in summer, and during winter of 7.3°C (1.58°C per decade). For the same period, the global temperature rise is 0.87°C in total. In a 2019 study by The University Center in Svalbard, scientists predicted that Svalbard could become 10°C warmer by 2100. The increasing temperatures and earlier seasonal melting of sea ice is naturally raising the question of when the Arctic will be free of ice during the summer months. A recent study shows that for every metric ton of CO₂ added to the atmosphere, three square meters of ice disappears. With current global CO₂ emissions rates of 35 to 40 billion metric tons per annum, it is forecasted that ice-free summers could happen within the
next 20 to 25 years when, at the current rates, another 700 to 1000 billion metric tons of CO₂ would be added to the atmosphere. If this number increases to 1800 billion metric tons, it is likely that the Arctic will be ice free from July to October.
ANTARCTICA On the other side of the globe, equally destabilizing effects are occurring in Antarctica where a recent high temperature of over 20°C was recorded for the first time. Brazilian scientists at Seymour Island, off of the Antarctic Peninsula, logged 20.75°C on February 9, 2020, which was almost one degree higher than the previous record high temperature of 19.8°C on Signy Island from January 1982. Additionally, Antarctic research stations noted that on February 6, 2020, Argentina’s Esperanza Base, recorded a temperature of 18.3°C, beating the station’s previous record high of 17.5°C from March 2015, which currently stands as the official record high temperature for the entire continent. While these 2020 record high temperatures from both the Antarctic Peninsula and the continent need to be accepted and confirmed by the World Meteorological Organization, there is no question that Antarctica is also suffering the consequences of both rising atmospheric and ocean temperatures. The Antarctic Ice Sheet extends almost 14 million square kilometers, which is roughly the size of the United States and Mexico combined, and
savingearthmagazine.com | 41
it contains 30 million cubic kilometers of ice. Antarctica, together with Greenland, contains more than 99% of the worldâ€™s fresh water, and evidence shows that along with the Arctic, the ice in Antarctica is also melting at an exponential speed. The measurable ice loss in Antarctica has been calculated as a loss of 40 billion tons of ice annually in the 1980s, to a current loss of 252 billion tons of ice per year. A report in the Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNSA) states that the entire Antarctic ice sheet is melting almost six times faster than it did 40 years ago. In Western Antarctica,
42 | savingearthmagazine.com
the Thwaites Glacier, approximately the size of Washington State, is losing ice faster than ever before. If the entire Thwaites Glacier melted, the worldwide sea level would rise between 0.5-0.6 meters and in its report, the PNSA has cited it as one of the glaciers posing the greatest CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: Iceberg, Scoresby Sund, Greenland. Adelie Penguins, Antarctic Peninsula. polar beast feasting on beached whale, schmeerenburg, svalbrad. Photography: Dawna Mueller
risk to future sea level rises and they believe it is moving towards an irreversible melting point.
SOLUTIONS The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established in 1998 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Program to analyze the latest science on climate change. A recent IPCC Report on the Ocean & Cryosphere in a Changing Climate from September 25, 2019 highlights the necessity of reducing emissions to meet requirements as set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement. Debra Roberts, Co-Chair of the IPCC Working Group concludes that, ‘we will only be able to keep global warming to well below 2°C (as recommended in the Paris Agreement) above pre-industrial levels if we effect unprecedented transitions in all aspects of society, including energy, land and ecosystems, urban and infrastructure as well as industry. The ambitious climate policies and emissions reductions required to deliver the Paris Agreement will also protect the ocean and cryosphere – and ultimately sustain all life on Earth.’ While the IPCC produces regular reports in climate science, their content is policy relevant but it refrains from any policy prescriptive statements and has no enforcement mechanisms. Rather it is up to governments, policy makers and businesses to interpret these reports and create climate friendly policies. While there is much information and data available about the effects of climate change, implementing strategies and solutions often seems overwhelming, incomprehensible or impossible to implement. In April 2017, Paul Hawken edited ‘Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming’. This coalition treatise contains 80 current solutions,
techniques and practices, along with 20 future solutions and innovations that can collectively draw down atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases in order to reverse global warming by avoiding emissions or sequestering CO₂ already emitted into the atmosphere. The goal of the research that has become Drawdown is to determine if we can reverse the buildup of atmospheric carbon within thirty years. The ultimate test of Drawdown is the question of what impact it will have on governments, companies, policymakers, entrepreneurs and the many activists working on climate issues. The book can be viewed as an operating manual to modern day life as it relates to the pressing issue of a warming planet. There is something for everyone, solutions we can each implement to minimize our carbon footprint, both on an individual and societal level. The data is there, the solutions are available, what are we waiting for?
CONCLUSION Approximately 10% of the earth is covered by glaciers and ice caps and due to ice’s sensitivity to increases in atmospheric and ocean temperatures, its accelerated loss provides clear evidence that the climate is changing. As seen from the data, ice caps and sea ice in Greenland, Svalbard and Antarctica have lost significant mass over the last century, which has exponentially increased in the last decade. Additionally, sea ice is forming later in the season and does not have sufficient time to accumulate the desired thickness to become ‘old’ ice. These are important climate indicators signaling that the climate is not in balance, and that to reduce the speed at which this is occurring, it is essential to reduce our CO₂ emissions globally, before we reach the tipping point. The consequences of this are not only significant for rising sea levels and the implications for coastal communities, but also for the entire ecosystem reliant on the homeostatic balance of life both on land and in the sea. The polar regions are our modern day ‘canaries in the coal mine’ and act as an accurate indicator of what will soon be happening in the rest of the world. We are living in a time of dramatic transformation and the current state of the planet shows us that the continued trajectory is not acceptable. Our current state is not an option. Change requires a cultural revolution starting with us as individuals, taking stock of what we value, how we treat each other, and questioning those who hold the reins of power; governments, institutions and industry. It is time to deep dive into making meaningful contributions that will have lasting impacts for generations to come. Sustainable solutions are available and time is of the essence. The time to act is now.
DAWNA MUELLER Dawna Mueller is a conservation photographer, speaker, and passionate activist for the planet. Her photographic work focuses on the Polar Regions and the Swiss Alps. Dawna exhibits her photos internationally and as well she speaks to schools, businesses and groups about the effects of global warming in these ecosystems. Dawna was trained by Al Gore and his team at the Climate Reality Project, and is a Climate Reality Leader and has recently spoken at a TEDx in Canada as well as her Alma Mater, The Peter A. Allard School of Law – ‘How Alumni are Creating Climates of Change’ Pecha Kucha event in November 2019. Her unique perspective of using photos from her own expeditions to these remote locations, combined with her own expedition experiences provide her audiences with an intimate glimpse of the effects of climate change in these fragile environments. Her passion is bringing this message of global warming to the grassroots level, and raising awareness of sustainable solutions that everyone can implement. www.dawnamueller.com Facebook: dawnamuellerphotography
savingearthmagazine.com | 43
BY CASSIE PEARSE, PHOTOS COURTESY OF CARBON ENGINEERING
Direct-Air-Capture Turning co2 into fuel
f we are serious about wanting to leave our children and our children’s children a healthy planet then we need to act yesterday. And while we often say this sort of thing, it isn’t often we find a technology that could actually allow it to happen. Imagine if we could actually make fuel out of the air and lower CO₂ levels at the same time. I spoke to Steve Oldham, CEO of Carbon Engineering, a Canadabased clean energy company that is leading the commercialization of Direct-Air-Capture (DAC) technology. DAC removes CO₂, the primary greenhouse gas responsible for climate change, from the air and either turns it into a ready to use clean fuel or buries it safely underground. I asked Oldham whether he was worried about large scale greentechnology having the unintended consequence of letting humans off the hook for the mess we’ve made of things. He told me that he doesn’t expect this to be the case, not only because he has faith in the younger generations’ well-developed environmental stewardship but also because of the sheer size of the problem we are dealing with. Oldham is clear that Carbon Engineering is a part of the solution but it can’t be the whole solution. Carbon Engineering is here to help us clear up our atmosphere but the responsibility to clean up our act absolutely lies with all of us.
processed into gas, diesel and jet fuel. The fuels produced with this method, according to CE, are cleaner burning and can be produced with 100 times less land use than biofuels. They are also produced with a far lower addition of CO₂ to the atmosphere (They could even be zero addition depending on the energy source used to power the DAC facility). While, of course, burning the fuels will then release the CO₂ that was captured to produce them, it doesn’t matter since the system is circular and the atmospheric CO₂ is constantly being reused. CO₂ can also be stored safely deep underground. This is called geological carbon dioxide storage or carbon sequestration and involves storing it in saline formations - large layers of rocks with porous spaces, isolated deep underground and that contain saltwater. Carbon sequestration has been assessed by agencies such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). These bodies have concluded that when properly regulated, and managed, CO₂ can be stored permanently for millions of years with very low risk.
SO HOW DOES IT WORK? Carbon Engineering’s DAC technology captures CO₂ directly from the atmosphere with an engineered, mechanical system. Because it is taken directly from the atmosphere rather than from factory flues, it is both helping to counteract current emissions as well as removing the ‘old’ CO₂ that remains trapped in our atmosphere, helping us to ‘fix’ yesterday’s mistakes whilst we keep on learning to value our environment and finding new and innovative ways to pollute less without entirely disrupting our way of life. It isn’t realistic to expect the world to just stop using motorized transport as a solution to our pollution problems. As one solution to this problem, Carbon Engineering has developed “Air-to-Fuel technology” that converts atmospheric CO₂ into a clean fuel that can be used immediately in all forms of motorized vehicles without any conversions required. This process splits hydrogen from water and combines it with the captured atmospheric CO₂ to create a “syncrude”, which is then
44 | savingearthmagazine.com
CLOCKWISE FROM RIGHT: Steve Oldham, CEO of Carbon Engineering. CE’s pilot plant Direct Air Capture system. CE’s pilot plant pellet reactor and associated equipment.
savingearthmagazine.com | 45
46 | savingearthmagazine.com
CE’s Direct Air Capture process, showing the major unit operations - air contactor, pellet reactor, slaker, calciner - which collectively capture, purify, and compress atmospheric CO2.
AND WHAT ABOUT US? WHAT DO WE DO? Great, Carbon Engineering is going to fix the mess we made and we can all carry on as normal? Absolutely not. Stop right there. That is not the attitude we need. Oldham is under no illusions. He knows that he and his team of engineers and scientists are not the whole solution but part of our solution. I asked him if we really needed to stop blasting fossil fuels into our atmosphere when Carbon Engineering is clearly going to be able to clean up the mess for us. Maybe I shouldn’t have joked about this but I did and I loved his answer and ability to ignore my flippancy. “The world will struggle to adopt solutions that have a massive impact. We need to address issues alongside each other. Not enough people will compromise...we need every conceivable weapon to win this fight. We obviously can’t stop using fossil fuels overnight. It just isn’t realistic to expect people to stop flying or driving so we need to find other solutions. We need electric cars, we need to keep on planting those trees and we need every individual to keep on reducing their waste, and, of course, to keep on holding governments and businesses to account.” As Oldham told me, electric cars are a part of our future but it isn’t reasonable to assume that we will all be able to buy electric cars in the near future or that existing fossil fuel using cars will ever be converted to electric. Enter Carbon Engineering’s clean-fuel. CE’s fuel is non-carcinogenic, non-sulfur emitting and clean-burning. This is why Oldham refers to his technology as “non-disruptive disruptive technology”: because it will disrupt the polluting without disrupting our lives.
WE ALL NEED TO WORK TOGETHER I asked why we can have clean water acts but why there hasn’t been the same response to our obviously dirty atmosphere. I mean, we’ve been talking about fossil fuels and CFCs for as long as I can remember yet we still haven’t fixed the problem. “Water is a local issue; if the water in the tap isn’t healthy, you know who to call and how to fix it. Air is a shared issue.” Nothing can be done to air unilaterally. It needs a macro solution, probably in the form of global agreements. We obviously have the Paris Agreement of 2015 where world leaders came together TOP LEFT: CE’s pilot plant Direct Air Capture system. Shown are the air contactor (right) and calciner (left). BOTTOM LEFT: CE’s working pilot plant in Squamish, BC.
to set targets and goals but even before that agreement was signed it was understood to not be good enough . With companies such as Carbon Engineering on the scene, gearing up for serious levels of expansion, though, the news might be brighter. According to a 2017 report by Marcucci et al, “the substantial deployment of DACCS [direct air capture and carbon storage] (of several gigatons of carbon removals per year by 2100) would allow [Paris] targets to be met.” Later this year, world leaders are due to meet again to set long-term goals for 2050 and shorter-term goals for 2030. The UK based Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit estimates that 49% of the world’s GDP is generated in places that are aiming for targets of net-zero emissions by 2050. Carbon Engineering’s test site in Squamish, British Columbia, has been operational since 2015 and they are currently working with Oxy Low Carbon Ventures to build the first commercial DAC plant. This plant is expected to be operational and capturing one million tons of CO₂ for underground storage by 2023. Carbon Engineering’s business model is to license the technology to other companies, countries and individuals interested in owning and operating plants.
AND FINALLY: WILL CLEANING UP OUR ATMOSPHERE TAKE A BACK SEAT? Fairly unsurprisingly, we began our interview with a discussion about Covid19 and its potential impact on companies working on climate change issues. Oldham told me that “it could have a substantial impact” and that we could find ourselves in a situation where climate change issues “move into second place.” He added a positive note to this, telling me that “this is the first time we are seeing the whole planet come together”, which gives hope that we can fix climate change together too. Fingers crossed.
CARBON ENGINEERING DETAILS: Carbon Engineering grew out of the academic work conducted on carbon management of Professor David Keith’s research groups at the University of Calgary and Carnegie Mellon University. The company is privately owned and is funded by investments and commitments from private investors and government agencies. Investors include Bill Gates, Murray Edwards, Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, LLC, Chevron Technology Ventures and BHP. It has led projects funded by-top-tier government agencies in both Canada and the USA. More information on their work can be found on the website carbonengineering.com.
savingearthmagazine.com | 47
location, location, location how mangroves, seagrasses, and coral reefs bring life to the ocean BY EMMA RODGERS AND REBECCA DANIEL
As the sun sets, some fish may travel to seagrass meadows for a bite to eat. Photography: Hedvika Michnova.
48 | savingearthmagazine.com
Coral reefs have stolen the show when it comes to awareness of marine ecosystems. Their loud and compelling colours, complex structures, and incredible species diversity has nurtured our wonder and curiosity, which has led coral reefs to take the spotlight in media and conservation. But, the health of coral reefs is inextricably linked to two equally important, but often overlooked marine ecosystems: mangroves and seagrass. The survival of one ecosystem is imperative for the survival of the other two. Together, they support different life stages of hundreds of marine animals, and simultaneously protect the coastline from degradation and provide us with much-needed resources.
savingearthmagazine.com | 49
50 | savingearthmagazine.com
LIFE BEGINS IN THE MANGROVES Many species of fish begin life in the safe confines of a mangrove forest. These extraordinary networks of trees and shrubs sit along the coastline, acting as a buffer against the daily rigour of the tides. Their complex interwoven roots lock the trees together, creating a harmonious forest which slows the movement of water, allowing sediment to settle. In these nursery grounds juveniles are offered refuge from predation and provided with a rich source of food. Here, they are free to grow in a sheltered environment until they are brave enough to explore the big blue and head to seagrass beds. It is therefore very troubling that one-third of the world’s mangroves have been lost in the last 50 years to aquaculture and agriculture – if we lose these critical nursery habitats, the diversity of other marine ecosystems will be under threat. As well as providing a home for juvenile fish, these intricate webs of foliage store up to five times more carbon dioxide per hectare than terrestrial forests. Leaves and branches falling from the trees are broken down by bacteria that wait eagerly in the sediment below. This continuous process of decomposition releases nutrients into the water, providing an important food source for other marine life. Waves lapping at the shore bring in oxygen that replenishes the sediment but the demanding bacteria, busy breaking down organic matter, are fast to deplete the supply. This leaves the sediment in an anoxic condition, meaning there is no oxygen at all. This is key to locking away carbon and has also led to some interesting adaptations. Mangroves have had to get creative to secure their fix, developing upwardgrowing roots, called pneumatophores or knee roots, which stick out of the mud like bizarre fingers and absorb oxygen from the air. In turn, this complex root system stabilizes the sediment, providing protection for the coastline against storms and surge.
FEEDING IN THE SEAGRASS clockwise from top left: One third of the world’s mangroves have been lost in the last 50 years. Photography: Rebecca Daniel. A nudibranch scales to new heights in a seagrass meadow. Photography: Bethany Gaffey. A blue-eyed scallop watches from below amongst the seagrass fronds. Photography: Rita Steyn.Juvenile fish seek the protection of mangrove roots. Photography: Monika P (Pixabay).
In the shallows of tropic and temperate zones, lush meadows of green fronds dance to the beat of the sea. Swaying seagrass, forming dense carpets with up to 4000 blades per meter, removes sediment from the water column, which keeps the water clear and allows light to penetrate to the seafloor. After spending their early life developing in the safety of mangrove roots, juvenile organ-
isms may move towards seagrass beds in search of food. Youngsters congregate in the enticing meadows, soaking up the calm before they face the hustle and bustle of coral reefs. Many species regularly move from adjacent reefs to seagrass beds and back: fish might grab a midnight snack in the meadow before returning to the protection of the corals during the day. Seagrass meadows also play a vital role in supporting the food chain, with a single acre supporting up to 40,000 fish and 50 million small invertebrates. The luscious grass itself draws in larger herbivorous grazers such as turtles and manatees. But perhaps the most intriguing organisms are those that reside on the blades of grass themselves: epiphytes. Tiny worms, sponges, coralline algae, and filter feeders like sea squirts and bryozoans colonise every inch of available space. These organisms may be tiny, but they are mighty, thought to act as a sunscreen for seagrass, blocking out harmful UV-B rays. Sadly, overfishing and excess nutrient input from land runoff is causing too many epiphytes to grow, which blocks out sunlight and is causing a decline in seagrass worldwide. Like mangroves, seagrass beds are also one of the most productive ecosystems in the world, but they have long been neglected compared to their neighboring corals. Seagrasses are just as important, and in fact, without the busy network of seagrass roots stabilising the sea floor, and their waving blades removing particles from the water column, soft sediment would be washed onto coral reefs, smothering the sensitive corals. Seagrass decline is a serious concern, with a rate of nearly 7% a year – higher than coral reef loss. Given their location in shallow waters, they are particularly vulnerable to human activities such as boat mooring, anchors, and fishing techniques. In some areas, they are even purposefully removed to make beaches more attractive to visitors. Seagrasses are the backbone of the ecosystem, and their disappearance would see a dramatic collapse of the ecosystem from the bottom up. Critically, the bright, sunlit meadows store carbon at a rate 35 times faster than tropical rainforests – making them one of the most important ecosystems to protect due to their ability to combat climate change.
MATURING ON CORAL REEFS Driven by instinct, juveniles, once content in seagrasses or mangroves, begin to make
savingearthmagazine.com | 51
their way to the big coral cities, where life has more to offer. With more space and resources, organisms of vastly different sizes live alongside each other, from shy shrimps and turtles to majestic manta rays. Whilst coral reefs only occupy a tiny 0.1% of the area of the ocean’s surface, these powerful ecosystems support an enormous 25% of all marine species on the planet and are vital to tourism and fisheries. They have captivated us for many years, and rightly so – the buzz of vibrant fish, graceful sharks, eclectic arrays of brightly coloured structures, turtles perching on coral ledges, and octopuses camouflaging themselves against the eccentric backdrop have earned our respect and admiration. Healthy coral is absolutely vital to a reef – without it, the entire ecosystem would crumble. The intricate architecture of the reef begins when a single coral polyp – a tiny, soft-bodied animal – establishes itself onto a rock on the sea floor and divides to form a community which acts as a single organism. Interestingly, coral polyps themselves are actually completely colourless. The spellbinding wash of colour is created by billions of algae which live inside the corals (symbionts). However, the relationship between corals and their symbiotic algae is sensitive to change; cracks begin to show when conditions are disrupted. As tropical waters become hotter the stressed symbionts are forced out, taking their colour with them. These once lively, energetic epicentres of life become ghost towns. Vast expanses of white corals quickly descend into broken, lifeless, and eerily silent deserts. With corals gone, the dawn chorus of reef fish disappears, and seaweed takes hold like a weed.
MANY ECOSYSTEMS, ONE OCEAN Mangroves, seagrass meadows, and coral reefs are intricately linked. We must not forget that the ocean has no boundaries and all marine life is connected in some way. By disrupting one ecosystem, we risk destabilizing another. Here we have touched upon just three marine ecosystems, but there are countless others which desperately need attention. Each one holds a unique value. Each one plays its part in protecting us from coastal erosion, providing us with resources including wood, food, and medicines, and storing our ever-increasing carbon emissions. In an upcoming project, The Marine Diaries will be shedding light on some of the lesser known marine ecosystems. From the icy waters of polar seas to the hydrothermal vents in the darkest depths of the ocean floor, we will be showcasing the benefits these ecosystems provide and highlighting the threats they are currently facing. By raising their profile, we hope to encourage comprehensive conservation efforts that ensure our oceans continue to thrive.
ABOUT THE MARINE DIARIES The Marine Diaries is an ocean science communication initiative, created with a mission to share ocean science and conservation with the world. We envisage a healthy ocean and a knowledgeable population with respect for our blue planet. Our content is produced to spark conversation and address the challenges that currently face the marine environment, with the goal of raising awareness and inspiring others to protect our oceans. www.themarinediaries.com The spellbinding wash of colour on coral reefs has captivated us for years. Photography: Mae Dorricott.
52 | savingearthmagazine.com
THE MARINE DIARIES
Ocean | Conservation | Science
We are an ocean science communication initiative
BY DAVID SUZUKI
Ocean Life Could Rebound in 30 Years
ith everything humanity is going through, it’s comforting to degrade already compromised habitat. Just as the Nature report shows come across good news. The best is that people are co-operating that giving ecosystems a chance to recover pays off, we must give the orca to an unprecedented extent, coming toand salmon a chance. gether even as we remain physically distant, to help The report’s authors write that achieving neighbors and families and do our part to slow or “substantial recovery of the abundance, structure halt the virus’s spread. and function of marine life” and strengthening the Another good news item shows the value of carservices oceans provide is possible within 30 years ing co-operation. A review in Nature (April 2020) with international co-operation to reduce pressures, concludes that global ocean conservation through including climate change. Although billions of dolmarine protected areas and other means is paying lars would have to be invested, the returns would be off — so much, the researchers conclude, that enormous. stepped-up efforts could bring large areas of ocean “One of the overarching messages of the review back to resilience by 2050. is, if you stop killing sea life and protect it, then it The report points to rising marine life populadoes come back. We can turn the oceans around tions in response to protection measures, includand we know it makes sense economically, for huing humpback whales near Australia, sea otters in man wellbeing and, of course, for the environment,” Western Canada, and grey seals and cormorants in said University of York Prof. Callum Roberts, from the Baltic Sea. Where I live, increasing numbers of the review’s international team, quoted in the humpback, killer and grey whales, pods of Pacific Guardian. white-sided dolphins, spawning salmon and herring The review notes we have a good start on the David Suzuki, have been returning to Atl’ka7tsem/Howe Sound 2030 goal, with successes already evident from an photography: jennifer roessler over the years since mining, pulp and paper and international push toward sustainable fisheries and other industries were closed and individuals were restoration of coastal ecosystems such as seagrass restricted from developing the shoreline. meadows and mangrove forests. Countries around the world committed to safeguarding 10 percent of The world still has danger zones, where agricultural runoff, sewage their ocean territories by this year, through marine protected areas and and pollution escape to the oceans, or too much industrial activity puts other means. Some have done better than others. marine life at risk. Unsustainable fishing is still widespread, especially on Canada has surpassed its commitment to protect at least 10 percent the high seas. of its oceans before 2020, thanks in part to significant collaboration This report shows it doesn’t have to be that way. If we invest in oceans between Indigenous communities, governments, conservation organiza- and find healthier ways to live, we’ll all be better off. tions, communities and industries. But the report shows all countries We’re showing now what humanity is capable of in the face of an should and could go further to accelerate fisheries reform, curb pollution immediate crisis and beyond. Our priority now should be to take care and climate disruption, and more. of ourselves and each other. We need our strength to get through this The benefits of healthy oceans to humans are immeasurable — from pandemic. And if we keep our distance (but stay connected, at least providing food and regulating climate to facilitating transportation and virtually, when we can), and wash our hands thoroughly and frequently, offering recreational opportunities. we’ll get through it with the spirit of co-operation and altruism that we’re One immediate Canadian concern is the pending federal approval demonstrating constantly through our individual and collective actions. of a large container-shipping terminal in South Delta near Vancouver. Everything is interconnected. A federally appointed environmental assessment panel determined that the project risks putting marine species in peril, including already David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David struggling southern resident orcas and the Chinook salmon they depend Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundaon. Increased noise and pollution from shipping traffic would further tion Senior Editor and Writer Ian Hanington. Learn more at davidsuzuki.org.
54 | savingearthmagazine.com
District of Sechelt
Kw’ech’ténm McNab Creek
Chá7elkwnech Gambier Island
Collingwood East Bay Channel
S t r a i t of G e o r gia
Bowen Mount Bay Gardner
# Siám' Smánit
District of Squamish
99 ¤ £
am mqu Ma
Squ a m ish River
Sha nno n Cre ek
n ni a Cre e
B ri ta
1 ¤ £
Swechwacħayem Porteau Cove
Ch’axay Horseshoe Bay Sk’iẃitsut LIGHTHOUSE PARK
Lhákw’tich Bowyer Island
Shishay̓u7ay̓ Britannia Beach
Eagle's Nest PORTEAU COVE PARK
99 ¤ £
Queen Charlotte Channel
Smelhmelhélch Passage Island
Kwiyitkm Pam Rocks
CRIPPEN Kẃilakm Snug Cove
Depth zones (metre) 0 - 30 30 - 50 50 - 100 100 - 200 >200
Lhaxwm Anvil Island
Kwum Kwum Defence Isl.
Bowen Island Nexwlélexwem Bowen Island #
Tsítsusm Potlatch Creek
tl a Po
Barfleur Keats Pasley Passage Island Island Eastbourne
# # Mount
Ch’ich’iyúy The Lions
Wákw’wakw’ Woolridge Island
K'l'k'elxn Port Melon
Wood f ibre Cr eek
Town of Gibsons
Cr e ek
Marine study area First Nation Reserve
Da Cr ee k
101 ¤ £
er iny Riv Ra
Populated place D Industry Highway
Watercourse Terrestrial study area
photography: Ron Caswell
photography: Ron Caswell Atl’kítsem / Texwnéẃets’ Howe Sound Marine Conservation Assessment
District Municipality of West Vancouver
Map: The David Suzuki Foundation has created the Atl’ka7tsem/Howe Sound marine conservation map, with more than 140 layers of data, ranging from estuaries to eelgrass, glass sponge reefs to shipping routes, herring spawning grounds to log-sorting sites. view the interactive map at davidsuzuki.org/project/howe-sound.
savingearthmagazine.com | 55
BY ROSLYNE BUCHANAN, PHOTOGRAPHY BY AURORA HUT
Best Seat For Aurora Borealis
Is In Sweden’s Eco-Friendly Glass Igloo Boat Imagine spending your night in a place so comfortable and quiet you can hear the rhythms of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). That’s right, a Finnish study by Unto K. Laine, engineer and acoustic researcher at Aalto University, confirmed that people can, at times, hear the natural auroral sounds of the Northern Lights. While Björn Hedlund-Länta in Jokkmokk, Sweden can’t guarantee you’ll experience those sounds on his glass igloo boat, you can be assured of a cultural retreat to be remembered. Far from the glare of urban life and protected by the surrounding mountains, the skies are clear with almost no light pollution to impede your celestial gazing. As you take in the spectacle amid the quiet, you may well hear your own heart pounding in excitement. Located in the Arctic Circle, this region is the last true wilderness of Europe with almost 80 percent of the area around Jokkmokk protected by nature reserve and national parks. Says Hedlund-Länta, “It’s more isolated than Siberia and Jokkmokk is the cultural and trade center for the Indigenous Sami people. The Sami have their own culture, customs and language.”
THE INDIGENOUS SAMI AND CULTURAL EXPERIENCE The Sami were traditionally hunters and gatherers and in the 17th century, they turned to herding reindeer following their movement across huge tracts of grazing land. Jokkmokk is known for its February Winter Market, which developed from the Sami people coming to trade reindeer skins and meat. The Winter Market has grown into a major tourist attraction drawing some 50,000 people annually. While about 80 percent of visitors come to see the Northern Lights, there are many activities in which to participate and Hedlund-Länta notes, “We always recommend starting with a couple of days in town to check out the Ajtté- Sami and the mountain museum.”
56 | savingearthmagazine.com
The UNESCO World Heritage site of Laponia Sweden is considered Europe’s final frontier. It is not only the largest area in the world with an ancestral way of life based on the seasonal movement of livestock, but it is also one of the last. UNESCO considers it to be one of the best-preserved examples of nomadic areas in Northern Scandinavia. Here, you can still witness vast expanses of nature, a well-preserved traditional way of life and wonders such as the Northern Lights and the Midnight Sun. The Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) is when the sky comes alive with vivid streaks of colors. It is best seen between late August and early April. The Midnight Sun refers to a period of time, usually between mid-May and mid-July when the sun doesn’t set.
VENTURE INTO THE WILD Once guests have found their bearings in Jokkmokk, Hedlund-Länta, an experienced military mountain guide, facilitates their wilderness experience. In winter, it’s roughly a half-hour drive into the wilderness by snowmobile snuggled into a comfortable roofed sled. You arrive at the Glass Igloo Boat, a sustainable and eco-friendly luxury suite designed for one or two people. “There you can relax and feel secure in your meeting with the wild. Spending two or three days with only you and nature, you feel the peace and tranquility of solitude. It’s a perfect time to reconnect with your true self, and if you are not alone, your partner.” The Glass Igloo Boat offers a magical year-round window to the Arctic nature experience. Rather than the fuss and timing of a tour bus, you are comfortably immersed within the experience to explore the Northern Lights, Midnight Sun or any other special light from any of the other eight Sami seasons. The Glass Igloo Boat offers a warm and cozy environment to enjoy the wild Arctic nature around you. You can choose to step outside to enjoy the snowy landscape with activities such as skiing, snowshoeing, husky or reindeer rides, or ice fishing. Climate in this region can be extreme with temperatures as low as -40°C in winter and up to +30°C in the summer. The Visit Sweden website states, “The Sami have chosen to divide their year into eight seasons, according to changes in nature and the reindeer’s life cycle. For example, the migratory birds return in the spring-summer and reindeer herds begin moving to the summer grazing land. In the autumn-winter season, the first snow arrives. Late summer and early autumn, when the mosquitoes have settled down and the berries and mushrooms are ready for picking, is the best time to hike. In the winter – the longest season up here – skiers can glide over the ice-covered wetlands and warm up in winter cabins.”
savingearthmagazine.com | 57
The igloo boat accommodates these seasonal changes and is a safe base from which to capture them in photographs or memories. For ice fishing in frigid Arctic weather, you can fish from the warmth of the igloo boat through the floor. For the warmer months of summer, the igloo boat floats and can be located where you’d like to enjoy the Midnight Sun on one of the thousands of lakes. Swim from your own floating front terrace, enjoy water sports, hike or bike on nearby pathways. In autumn, the fall foliage is spectacular and you can forage for wild berries and mushrooms. Plus, anglers soon learn the fish are filling their stomachs before winter so in the provided pantry kitchen with sink, you can create a meal that you can’t find anywhere else. The igloo boat has a toilet and outside you can enjoy a wood-burning sauna or a cold tub in the icy water. “We don’t have to create artificial cold therapy,” smiles Hedlund-Länta. “This is the real stuff for natural health and wellness.”
LESSONS IN ARCTIC SURVIVAL Your guide speaks English and German also and has a broad outdoor background as a ranger and military mountain guide assisting the Swedish army as well as exchange programs to train other special forces in the Arctic. “Learning how to cope in darkness and cold in the wilderness with no infrastructure is a life-changing experience. Participants learn how to dress properly for the climate and fight to survive.” An advocate of the Slow Food International movement, HedlundLänta collaborates with other individuals and corporations to offer guests unique and specialized packages. Consider packages on Sami culture and life, reindeer sled, dogsled, mountain expeditions, fishing lessons, foraging techniques and cooking. Born into this environment, he loves to share the beauty of Swedish Lapland while being fiercely protective of its sustainability. The igloo boat is eco-friendly and operated by solar and battery power. It offers a gentle footprint from which to experience the natural wonders of the region. With nature playing such a large role in the Swedish lifestyle, no wonder it was the first country to establish a system of national parks in 1909. Laponia is home to four Swedish national parks offering diverse terrain with snow-covered mountains, deep forests, valleys rich in vegetation and unique wildlife. Sarek, Padjelanta, Muddus and Stora Sjöfallet (great rapid) national parks are all in the municipality of Jokkmokk.
GETTING TO JOKKMOKK Once you’ve arrived in Jokkmokk, getting around is easy because almost everything is within walking distance. To head into the wilderness, Hedlund-Länta suggests getting transportation from him or any other adventure company in town. While it requires a few steps to travel to Jokkmokk, the memories you’ll make are well worth the effort. To get there, it is best is to fly from Stockholm (ARN) to Luleå. Then bus or car to Jokkmokk which is 158 kilometers. It is also possible to fly to Arvidsjaur and Gällivare. You can take a train from Stockholm to Murjek or Boden and from there bus. The Murjek train station is 49 kilometers away. Plan a nature getaway and broaden your world with a window seat to the Arctic in the Aurora Borealis Northern Lights Glass Igloo Boat. Remember your camera because whatever the season the light creates beautiful images. Learn more about Laponia at swedishlapland.com.
58 | savingearthmagazine.com
TOP TO BOTTOM: Experience the Sami culture and reindeer herding, hands on. The wilderness as your living room. Arctic dogsledding, a feeling into the wild.
savingearthmagazine.com | 59
REINVENTING FARMING BY MONIQUE TAMMINGA
to help the planet and its people
60 | savingearthmagazine.com
ontus Water Lentils, a Vancouver based company is revolutionizing farming through bio-secure sustainable farming, producing high nutrient food without using precious agricultural land. Their vision is to forge a new approach to agriculture by creating state-of-the-art closed environment bio-secure sustainable farms that can be built anywhere in the world. “Our made in Canada solution more than meets the need for a sustainable, non-GMO plant-based protein. Our aquaponics farming practice, which includes the proprietary CEVAS™ technology, allows us to build our farms virtually anywhere on the planet,” said Pontus CEO, Connor Yuen. “We harvest a minimum of every 24 hours, using 95 percent less water than traditional farms, no chemical fertilizers, pesticides or additives and we do all of this with a near-zero carbon footprint. This is not a game-changer. It’s a new game. And that’s why at Pontus we can confidently say we are reinventing agriculture.” For those who value what they feed their bodies, and what we feed the earth, Pontus believes it provides a healthy and responsible solution that helps the planet and people. Their farms use only five percent of the water required for field-based farming. Steve McArthur, as both co-founder of Garden City Aquaponics Inc., Green Oasis Foods Ltd., and Chief Technology Officer of Pontus Water Lentils Ltd., has dedicated himself to the future of farming through aquaponics. “Our water lentils are grown indoors aquaponically, where at least 95 percent of the water used is recycled and cleaned. Our water quality is monitored and controlled with Think Tank™ technology, adapted for aquaponics,” McArthur explains. “This technology is super exciting and the growth potential is so far-reaching, the possibilities are endless. While aquaponics has been around since 1979, this is the first time water lentils have been used on any sort of commercial level.” So what superfood is Pontus currently making? “Pontus harvests its water lentil crops every 24 hours. The harvest is then rinsed, dehydrated and meticulously finely ground and then packaged as a pure plant-based protein powder that is 42.1 percent protein, sustainable, non-GMO, vegan, easily digested and extremely
Steve McArthur, co-founder of Garden City Aquaponics Inc., Green Oasis Foods Ltd., and Chief Technology Officer of Pontus Water Lentils Ltd.
savingearthmagazine.com | 61
high in nutrients like Iron, Calcium, Potassium, B12, and Omega fatty acids.” “We aren’t just making pure protein powder, we are making a superfood that delivers essential nutrients to the human body,” said Yuen. The protein powder can be used as an ingredient in several foods including making pasta, some flours and of course put in smoothies and shakes. “We had a chef create a pasta dish with our water lentils making a fusilli type pasta and adding the powder to the pesto sauce too. It was delicious,” he said. The Red Seal chef has also added the powder to falafels, oat bars and more. The flavor of the powder is similar to matcha. Their aquaponic system synergistically combines hydroponics (plants grown in water) with aquaculture (fish farming) in a symbiotic environment. Water is recirculated back to the aquaculture system, establishing a closed-loop system, explains McArthur. Pontus intends to construct a 10,000 square foot pilot plant in British Columbia, likely in Delta.
62 | savingearthmagazine.com
“We don’t use a ton of space,” he said. “And we can expand vertically, instead of using acres of land like what is needed in traditional agriculture.” Aquaponics is a complex science with two functional aspects: aquaculture for raising fish (rainbow trout in this case) and hydroponics for growing plants. This symbiotic system sees fish by-products broken down by nitrifying bacteria that are then utilized by the plants as nutrients. The water is recirculated back to the aquaculture system, establishing a closed-loop system. According to the World Bank Group, a global data collection organization, in most regions of the world, over 70 percent of freshwater is used for agriculture. By 2050, feeding a planet of nine billion people will require an estimated 50 percent increase in agricultural production and a 15 percent increase in water withdrawals. The production of beef takes approximately 20,000 liters of water to produce just one kilogram. Clearly, it’s time to look at alternative sources of protein, said Yuen. And that’s what Pontus Lentils can supply in the purest form, he added.
Plant-based food is turning up on menus across the world as consumers are turning to plant-based diets as a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle option. “The market demand for Pontus Water Lentil powder is international, with companies all over North America and Netherlands reaching out to us for product info and samples, however, we’ve chosen to mainly target China first, where there is a definitive need for vast amounts of food, McArthur said. “The Chinese market has shown there is a demand for quality food from Canada. We also plan to develop food products for the local markets at the same time.” And farming rainbow trout is also a win-win. “Rainbow trout are delicious and everyone knows it. We can farm delicious trout for local supply.” But once Pontus gets a commercial farm going there is potential to try other fish, he said. “We could try Arctic char, for example, and see how it does. We would see how it affects the nutrient content. There is so much room to grow and research,” said McArthur. On March 4, Pontus launched its equity crowdfunding campaign to raise $750,000 towards building the first production farm. Even despite the influence Covid-19 has had on the investment community, Pontus’ crowdfunding campaign has gained support steadily. At time of writing, there was still an opportunity to be an investor. See frontfundr.com/company/pontuswaterlentils. Pontus has a test farm in Victoria, B.C., that has demonstrated the growth of water lentils within a proprietary automated aquaponics system. McArthur first learned about aquaponics in 2012 when he saw how it could revitalize the farming industry. He said that “In 2014, [we] built our first dark house in Victoria to test our vertical aquaponic design and we have been perfecting it ever since.” “This is fully sustainable farming never seen before,” said McArthur. “Our farms can exist anywhere and grow vertically. We don’t require precious agricultural land.” Transportation of food across large distances, while may be necessary for some items, should be reduced where possible. Pontus envisages scaling its bio-secure growing facilities to exist in cities all across the globe. The requirement for favorable growing conditions, precious land and access to an extensive water supply are not necessary and as a result, large transportation networks will not be needed either. There has never been a more challenging or complex time to be in agriculture. Amidst a climate crisis, food scarcity, water shortages and now, a pandemic, Pontus presents as a solution to help overcome some of these challenges: • Pontus farms will have a near carbon-neutral footprint. • They will grow a substantial amount of nutritious food, without soil, in any weather, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. • They recycle water, using 95% less water than traditional agriculture. • Farms are fully-enclosed, bio-secure, indoor farms that grow CLEAN, high-quality protein to feed large populations. For more information go to www.pontuswaterlentils.com. “...we are making a superfood that delivers essential nutrients to the human body...” top photo: Lentils grown by aquaponics. middle photo: dried product. bottom photo: product ready for sale. Photos courtesy of Pontus Water Lentils Ltd.
savingearthmagazine.com | 63
64 | savingearthmagazine.com
NEW TECHNOLOGY OFFERS A FUTURE WITH FOSSIL FREE ENERGY BY BJÖRN HEDLUND-LÄNTA The use of fossil fuels is the largest reason for the increase in global warming. Alternative energy sources are urgently needed to reverse the trend – now! Solar and wind power are a good start, but storing energy is key. A new battery that is up to 90 percent cheaper than lithium batteries is just around the corner. Swedish company, TEXEL Energy Storage, has the solution, and the technology behind it is derived from the development of the hydrogen bomb in the 1950s, and submarine manufacturer Kockums’ Stirling engine – now serving peace and a fossil-free future. TEXEL Energy Storage is an example of The Perfect World Foundation and its founders’ ambitions to find the necessary technical solutions for turning the world away from fossil fuels. Cheap and sustainable energy storage in combination with renewable energy, like solar and wind, is the last piece of this puzzle.
FORD MOTORS’ & KOCKUMS’ STIRLING ENGINE In 2010, The Perfect World Foundation’s founders established TEXEL and the company acquired the world’s most developed Stirling engine, the V4-90 – an engine technology that highly efficiently converts thermal energy into electricity – and it became clear that the technology could be used in the design of a new cost-effective and sustainable energy storage solution. Originally the V4-90 engine was developed by Ford Motors in cooperation with Kockums, a Swedish military submarine manufacturer. Kockums
has used the Stirling technology in submarines for years, and the new V4-90 engine was developed to be integrated into Ford Motors’ environmentally friendly cars. Two years later in 2012, the world’s leading company specifically working with thermal energy technology, Maricopa Solar Corp, in Phoenix, Arizona, was also acquired.
BY-PRODUCT OF WAR SERVING THE FUTURE Savannah River National Laboratory, one of the US Department of Energy’s 17 national laboratories, was, in 1948 commissioned by President Harry S Truman, to produce a hydrogen bomb. In the process of developing this bomb, they created a completely unique thermochemical battery technology that stores heat as a by-product. To store high heat of 600–900°C (1100–1600°F) to be delivered again a number of hours, days or years later is, of course,
savingearthmagazine.com | 65
Residential independence and grid decentralization with the TEXEL Battery.
groundbreaking, but unfortunately doesn’t have a very large or wide field of use. By combining the unexplored thermal battery technology with TEXEL’s Stirling engine, it became possible to convert stored heat energy to electricity when needed – a huge step forward for sustainable energy, especially as this can be done at less than 10 percent of the price of Lithium batteries – a battery technology used by car manufacturers such as TESLA. In February 2018, after nearly three years of negotiations over two US Presidents’ administrations, TEXEL signed an exclusive global agreement with US Department of Energy and Savannah River National Laboratory, and now has exclusive access to this unique battery technology. The new TEXEL battery, with its unique thermochemical energy storage technology and the V4-90 Stirling Engine combined, is not only cheaper than other battery technologies, but it also doesn’t consume the planet’s resources, is fully recyclable and doesn’t contain any rare earth minerals, such as cobalt – a major component of most traditional batteries.
GAME-CHANGING RECOGNITION In September 2018, at a Silicon Valley energy storage summit, TEXEL was appointed “The success story beyond Lithium-ion batteries” by the US Department of Energy, X-Labs and Stanford University. This recognition confirmed that it was now understood that a laboratory, that had previously developed a hydrogen bomb, through
66 | savingearthmagazine.com
collaboration with a company working on solutions to store thermal energy had also accidentally developed a whole new way of addressing the future’s need for a new battery technology. Quite brilliant!
A CLEAR ROAD AHEAD TEXEL is now in the phase of industrializing and commercializing the new battery technology and is planning for gigawatt volume production of batteries in both Europe and the US, within the next five to six years. The largest quantity of CO2 emissions due to the use of fossil fuels is in the production of electricity and heat energy. The TEXEL battery will progressively, in combination with solar and wind produced energy, replace fossil fuel generated energy with renewable energy distribution. The TEXEL technology also offers future possibilities for the battery to be used in larger vehicles such as buses, trucks, boats, ferries, and airplanes. “We’ll start off by delivering solutions to the larger problems, such as electricity and heat distribution, and take on the smaller challenges like the aviation industry later,” says Lars Jacobsson, founder and CEO of TEXEL Energy Storage. Right from the start, the founders decided to donate a large part of their shares in TEXEL to The Perfect World Foundation, to secure the organization’s important future work with wildlife and environmental efforts.
REVOLUTIONARY TECHNOLOGY By combining the Stirling engine, developed by Ford Motors, with the thermochemical energy storage solution, developed by the US Department of Energy, the TEXEL battery is able to store energy extremely cheaply for hundreds of years with no degradation problems. It is fully recyclable and sustainable.
NO BACKUP SYSTEM NEEDED The TEXEL battery can be charged with any form of electricity, converted to thermal energy. It can also be charged with any heat source. In a microgrid, the battery could also be charged with wind and solar energy, but during periods of no wind and/or sunshine the TEXEL system does not require a backup system, as it can then be charged with a heat source, for example, a gas. To maintain a fully renewable microgrid the gas could be locally produced hydrogen gas.
TARGET MARKETS The TEXEL battery technology is targeting the large scale battery market with applications ranging from cars, buses, trucks, boats, ferries to households, commercial buildings, microgrids, island storage, communities and large grid energy storage.
THE SOLUTION TO STEERING AWAY FROM FOSSIL FUELS – the renewable energy market needs viable energy storage to move forward TEXEL BATTERY STORES ELECTRICITY The new TEXEL battery is creating a viable space for renewable energy to seriously compete with traditional technologies such as coal, oil and gas, not only in cost but as well in performance. The new thermochemical battery technology is capable of storing electricity from wind, solar energy (PV) or any electricity down charged from the grid. In addition, the battery is capable of storing heat energy from any heat source, and as such does not need any backup system.
THE NEW GENERATION “SUPER BATTERY” By substantially bringing down battery costs, having the capability to store energy for 100 years with minimum energy loss and no degradation problems and being 100 percent recyclable, the TEXEL thermochemical battery is taking energy storage to the next level. The near-term advancement in energy density will outcompete Lithium-Ion for the mobility market.
One battery cell (as shown on page 68) can be designed to fit a specific purpose, scaling from 30 Kw – 15kWh, up to 720kWh (one household up to twenty households). Connecting a series of battery cells could store hundreds of MWh to power communities or cities.
THE TWO MAIN FEATURES OF THE TEXEL BATTERY The Metal Hydride – thermochemical battery that stores energy for up to 100 years with minimal energy loss. The Stirling Converter (engine) – that converts heat to electric energy and thermal energy.
THE METAL HYDRIDE The thermochemical battery has a hot and a cold side consisting of Metal Hydrides (special metal alloys) and hydrogen. When the hot side of the battery is charged (heated), a chemical reaction occurs and the energy is stored in the Metal Hydrides. The hydrogen will move from a hot side to a cold side during this reaction. The energy is now stored in cool conditions – the same temperature as its surroundings – with minimum loss of energy. When the hydrogen stored in the cold side of the battery is forced back to the hot side, the thermal energy will be released from the Metal Hydrides and the hot side becomes hot again.
THE STIRLING CONVERTER The heat is now transferred into the Stirling Converter that starts to spin, creating kinetic energy, which will force a generator to produce energy; approximately 40 percent electric energy and up to 50 percent thermal energy – equivalent to a total of up to 90 percent energy efficiency in some future applications when using the Stirling Converter’s cooling water as thermal energy. The Stirling engine was originally developed by Ford Motors to be used in cars and later was further developed by the Swedish submarine manufacture Kockums. The engine’s unique performance of continuous power production is confirmed by a report from NASA. At the NASA Glenn Research Center, the Stirling Engine has been running for 110,000 hours (12 years) without maintenance.
STORING ENERGY AS HEAT
BATTERY TECHNOLOGY – a scalable storage solution
Storing heat in a thermochemical battery ready to be converted to electricity is highly cost-effective in comparison with storing electricity in an electrochemical battery such as Lithium-Ion. The thermochemical battery can be charged with electricity converted to heat, or any other heat source, such as natural gas.
ONE BATTERY – NUMEROUS APPLICATIONS
HIGH ENERGY DENSITY
The TEXEL battery does not differ much from ordinary batteries, except that one TEXEL unit stores more energy than ordinary battery cells, and is scalable from single household application, a car or a bus, to cities and state grids, where Lithium-Ion batteries are scalable from phones and laptops to cars.
SCALABLE AND DESIGNED FOR PURPOSE One battery unit delivers up to 30kW and can be sized to provide between 30 minutes and 24 hours of storage. A series of batteries will increase the energy output – 10 battery units x 30kW = 300kW (scaling from one household up to hundreds).
The TEXEL battery technology based on Metal Hydrides has an energy density that is more than twenty times higher than other heat storage technologies, such as Molten Salt. According to the report by the US DOE, the energy density is also predicted to improve dramatically with future development. The TEXEL battery’s high energy density opens up opportunities for other market segments where space, weight, and environmental issues matter. The TEXEL battery is one of the most promising technologies for the future mobility market – including trucks, buses, boats, ferries, all the way down to cars and electric vehicle (EV) charging.
savingearthmagazine.com | 67
Market segments and applications – the TEXEL battery – a versatile solution
GAS HYBRID – GUARANTEED ENERGY PRODUCTION There is a great deal of focus on different batteries and energy storage technologies right now as we look to solve the main challenges of renewable energy. Combining solar and wind energy with up to 12 hours of cost-efficient storage, is a great start, and in solar and wind intensive locations this will go a long way. But nowhere on earth does the sun shine or the winds blow 365 days a year – yet the energy demand is all year round. In order to guarantee a constant supply of energy there is a need for an additional power generation system to create an overall hybrid solution, such as TEXEL’s Gas Hybrid. TEXEL’s uniquely built-in hybrid solution is based on the battery’s thermal storage technology which enables the battery to be charged with any kind of heat source, such as gas, when there is no access to solar or wind power, or in the event of catastrophes, such as wildfires, earthquakes, terror attacks, etc. This feature places the TEXEL technology far ahead of existing technologies such as LithiumIon, which needs a separate backup system to supply energy 24/7/365.
week, 365 days of the year. The added possibility to power the battery with any heat source secures a 100 percent renewable energy supply, during long periods without wind and solar energy. TEXEL-built microgrids, supported by Artificial Intelligence (AI), can be connected to large-scale grids, but will still have the flexibility to disconnect and be self-sufficient grids during danger periods, and maybe more importantly, can guarantee energy supply to important buildings, like hospitals and fire stations – a feature that is totally unique.
GRID SCALE ENERGY STORAGE IS JUST PART OF THE POTENTIAL TEXEL is focusing on the rapidly growing energy storage market, but the battery also has huge potential to compete with existing technologies in all applications where larger volumes of energy storage are wanted, and applications where the heat also is an asset. The TEXEL battery has a potential efficiency of up to 90 percent, of which 40 percent electric energy and when using the system’s cooling water an additional up to 50 percent thermal energy.
MICROGRIDS & DECENTRALIZED PRODUCTION – the key to securing state energy storage needs
RESIDENTIAL INDEPENDENCE AND GRID DECENTRALIZATION WITH THE TEXEL BATTERY
DECENTRALIZED ENERGY, STORAGE AND PRODUCTION: TEXEL OFFERS A LESS VULNERABLE SOCIETY
(PV) panels, wind power and/or any heat source e.g. natural gas, wood pellets, liquid fuels. • GRID – Several residential batteries connected to the state grid, via AI (Artificial Intelligence), could solve and secure future energy storage needs for an entire city or state. • SYSTEM OUTPUT – 40% electricity, and up to 50% thermal energy when using the system’s cooling water for residential heating.
The possibility to not only store energy, but also to produce energy with the TEXEL hybrid technology, opens up the opportunity to create grids that are less vulnerable to threats from high winds, wildfires, floods, earthquakes, and potential terror attacks, and to be completely secure in terms of energy supply. Combining the battery with a Gas Hybrid increases the utilization of the technology, and secures energy production 24 hours a day and seven days a
68 | savingearthmagazine.com
• INDEPENDENCE – the battery can be charged with photovoltaic
FOR MORE INFORMATION VISIT: WWW.TXLES.COM
Photography: David Vรกzquez
70 | savingearthmagazine.com
HOW to SAVE the PLANET and YOURSELF BY GUNDI RHOADES
THROUGH YOUR CHOICE OF FOOD
s a veterinarian and organic beef farmer, I often get asked why I speak about human health if I am not a doctor. This is a very good question. The animals we eat, the land, the soil, human health and indeed, planetary health are all connected. Through running my organic beef farm and working as a vet, I gained valuable knowledge about how the land works. First, we bred cattle, when we got smarter, we ‘bred grass’ and now, with all my accumulated knowledge behind me, I ‘breed soil’- and as such, soil microbes. Having a special interest in food, nutrition and holistic health, I slowly started to make the connections between how we grow food, what is happening in the soil and to the soil, what we do with the food, and the health of people and animals which is indeed rapidly declining and in fact, how it is connected to our ’planetary sickness’ of chemical overload, pollution and climate change. Once I became more knowledgeable about what we are doing to the soil and in particular what pesticides and fertilisers do to the soil, I started to understand where the core problems lie —with the destruction of the soil through agrichemicals. The destruction of soil through fertilisers AND pesticides (insecticides and herbicides), in my opinion, is the biggest creator of disease in society, for farmers and consumers AND it creates a massive problem for climate change. Agriculture is the second biggest polluter and emitter of greenhouse gases after fossil fuels. Against the common belief that it is all the
cattle’s fault, I would like to make the statement that it is not so much what we grow and eat, be it beef or pasta or vegetables, but how we grow the food and then what we do with it that counts. Even for beef, or especially for beef, it seems to be able to be summed up as “it’s not the cow it’s the how.” Cattle in grasslands are carbon sequesters and can be carbon negative. Cattle in feedlots though are absolutely carbon emitters on a large scale, though primarily through their consumption of vast amounts of chemically grown wheat, corn and soy feed. In grain or vegetable production it is the same: it is not so much what you eat but how it was grown. Either it was grown with chemicals in large monocultures, in very toxic vegetable beds or in hydroponic systems and sold on the world-wide commodity market, or it was grown in healthy soils on smaller scale farms without poisons and artifiGundi Rhoades cial fertilisers and sold locally. My work, therefore, is informing the consumer how to heal through change. This single biggest choice is voting with your wallet and buying organic food —or of course growing your own. This can be done without going vegan or vegetarian. You don’t have to give up meat in order to live a healthier, more ethical life. It is more about HOW we grow food then WHAT we grow. This is my main message: if you buy food that has been grown in living soils, from organic farms that don’t grow crops in monocultures, we can heal the planet. Eggs are a simple example of this: organic
savingearthmagazine.com | 71
chickens live on smaller farms (organic farms are always smaller) and are allowed to roam and scratch and see the sun and live in social groups. Because they are outside and have enough space, they are more resilient to disease. Antibiotics are not permitted in organic systems, so the eggs are free of them too. The grain and other food that the chickens eat must have been grown on organic farms for the eggs to be labelled organic. That means that these farms do not have insecticides or herbicides sprayed on them, and as such the bees, for example, can thrive, playing their vital role in nature and in the production of our food. The soils on organic farms are alive and will have increased fertility through biological methods. The crops have much more resilience against disease, so pesticides are not needed. Pesticides like Roundup (Glyphosate), which are used in modern, ‘conventional’ farming systems, kill the bacteria and fungi in the soil and make the soils ‘dead’. When the bacteria, fungi and protozoa in the soils die, the heart of the food chain is actually destroyed. The essential nutrients are made by the soil microbiome and by destroying them, we create food that is lacking in essential nutrients. The soils on those organic farms growing the feed for the chickens are alive, which means that they actually sequester carbon. Healthy soils have approximately ten times the biomass (and therefore safely stored carbon in them) than the plants and the air combined above them. Healthy soil contains plenty of bacteria, fungi, protozoa, digested organic plant material, humus, air, roots, earthworms and arthropods. All of these members of the soil microbiome help us by producing healthy food and without them food will always be deficient. Organic farms create healthy soils ‘drawing down’ carbon, but non-organic farms create dead, ‘hardpan’ soils that emit rather than sequester carbon. Wheat, soy, cotton, corn and canola grown in big monocultures either to be fed to people or animals, are among the biggest culprits of poisoning our world because many of these crops in the US and in Australia are genetically modified ‘Round-up Ready’- crops where huge amounts of artificial fertilisers, herbicides like 2-4D, Glyphosate
or Paraquat are sprayed onto them. Quite a few crops like chickpeas are sprayed with Glyphosate pre-harvesting to dry them out to make harvest easier. This is what you will eat in non-organic hummus for example.
SOIL AND CARBON As mentioned above healthy soils store carbon in them. Soil absorbs surplus CO2, but the negative impact of chemical farming is destroying the soil. As noted above, the chemicals used in farming are the second biggest emitter of CO2 and Nitrous Oxide, after fossil fuel related emissions. Nitrogen fertilizers used on crops create nitrous oxide emissions, which is a greenhouse gas 300 times stronger than CO2. Knowing that 50% of the earth’s habitable surface is used for food production (Hannah Ritchie, Our World in Data) and that most of this soil has been ‘killed’ through agrichemicals, there is a HUGE potential to store more carbon and reduce carbon in the atmosphere right under our feet if only we would stop killing the soil! You might ask yourself, “How can I help to turn the soil from an emitter to a sequester?” Here is the answer: through buying organically grown food. My dream is that the supermarket shelves run out of organic food so fast because you ‘all get it’, and consumer demand would lead the way in encouraging other agribusinesses and supermarkets to support organic. Let the ‘nutrient meter’ (that you can just hold near your carrot) tell you how nutritious the carrot is. It will show you that the organic carrot in fact has 20,000 times the nutrients of the one beside it which was grown conventionally. Knowing this, consumer demand could change the planet for good! And although not everyone can afford to buy organic (yet), making one change in your grocery shopping could make all the difference. For example, just by buying organic eggs you have changed the world and your health for the better. Gundi Rhoades is also a mother, a founding member of Vets for Climate Action and a passionate environmentalist. dr. Gundi rhoades pregnancy testiing cattle on her property in nsw, australia, photography: carolyn mitchell
72 | savingearthmagazine.com
savingearthmagazine.com | 73
INSECT APOCALYPSE? BY SCOTT HOFFMAN BLACK
What Is Really Happening; Why it Matters; and How We All Can Help
The common blue (Polyommatus icarus) is not so common in Britain. Half of the countryâ€™s butterfly species have declined in abundance, and they are found in fewer locations. PHOTOGRAPHY: BOEHRINGER FRIEDRICH
74 | savingearthmagazine.com
n the summer of 2019, I visited America’s heartland, the agricultural states of Nebraska and Iowa. My trip was for both pleasure and work—seeing family in Nebraska, where I grew up, and then taking part in a farm tour in Iowa, where I was presenting an overview of the many threats to insects and the strategies for their conservation. Driving across eastern Nebraska and western Iowa with my son to attend the farm tour in Grinnell one morning in July, the enormity of the impact we are having on the planet was brought home to me. Forty years ago I remember the rolling hills along the Missouri River covered with trees and, in the flatter areas between Lincoln and Omaha, a variety of crops, including sorghum and corn, growing in relatively small fields. Back then the sea of corn and soybeans did not start until you were into Iowa and well east of the Missouri River. All of that has changed. As we drove east from Lincoln almost every available space was corn or soybeans, giant fields stretching to the horizon. On the outskirts of Omaha, corn grew right up to the parking lot of a sprawling shopping mall. Even the steeper hills in the bluffs east of the river are now corn. Combine that with the urban sprawl from Omaha and Lincoln and it is easy to understand why we are seeing declining populations of insects, birds, and other animals. Wild creatures simply have fewer places to live, and all wildlife has to contend with the multiple poisons that humans use in both urban and rural areas. When we arrived at Grinnell Heritage Farm the loss of insects was already on people’s minds. Before I spoke, one farm visitor commented that “driving across Iowa you rarely see insects get smashed on the windshield anymore.” This is not an isolated observation. Many scientists from the United States and Europe have noted how few insects are splattered on the fronts of cars compared with the profusion that they remember from when they were growing up. As a young man in Nebraska, my pride and joy was a 1971 Mach 1 Mustang, which I had to wash weekly to keep it clean and shiny. For many of us it seems as though there are now far fewer insects to clean off of our cars after a long trip. Indeed, the windshield of my rental car was clean following that morning’s drive. But memories vary, and we really cannot rely on anecdotes of the “windshield effect” as we seek to understand long-term wildlife trends.
savingearthmagazine.com | 75
’ve had many conversations about insect conservation—which stands to reason for the ED of Xerces, right?—but over the years both the frequency of those conversations and the urgency of the issue have grown. Some people question the severity of insect declines, while on the other hand news headlines have employed phrases such as “insect apocalypse,” rhetoric that some scientists consider to be ahead of our understanding of the science. Moreover, industry representatives have tried to create confusion around the issue, particularly when it comes to the devastating impacts that pesticides inflict on insect populations. The evidence is clear that we are losing insects at an alarming rate. Among bumble bees, 28 percent of species in North America are considered threatened; 41 percent in Mesoamerica; and 23.5 percent in Europe. Among butterflies, ten-year trends in the United Kingdom show that 52 percent of species have declined in abundance at monitored sites and the geographic ranges of 47 percent of species are reduced. A monitoring program in Belgium showed that nineteen of the sixty-four butterfly species indigenous to the Flanders region have been extirpated and no longer occur there. European invertebrate species whose population trends have been evaluated show a high proportion in decline, and a far smaller fraction increasing. Assessments in North America show similar trends: NatureServe assessed 636 butterfly species in the United States and Canada and found 19 percent at risk of extinction. The situation appears no better for other groups of insects and invertebrates. Studies in the United States show that roughly a third of tiger beetle species and subspecies are sufficiently rare to be considered threatened or endangered, and 43 percent of stoneflies in the United States are at risk of extinction. Many other aquatic invertebrates are also faring poorly, with 65 percent of freshwater mussels, 64 percent of aquatic snails, and 47 percent of crayfish at risk of extinction. Although fewer than one percent of described invertebrate species have been assessed for threats by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, approximately 40 percent of all those that have been assessed are considered threatened. In addition to losses in invertebrate species and
Xerces Society conservationists collaborate with farm communities across the country to undertake planting projects. More than a million acres of habitat have been created or restored. PhotographY: the Xerces Society / Sarah Foltz Jordan.
76 | savingearthmagazine.com
distributions, reductions in total insect biomass are being reported from long-term studies done in many parts of the globe: • Ohio, USA: A 33 percent reduction in the abundance of butterflies was observed over twenty-one years of extensive monitoring. • California, USA: Monitoring done at sites across northern California from sea level to mountains over a forty-five-year period found that abundance is declining in all groups of butterflies. • Costa Rica: Repeated surveys in a protected forest have found declines in entire genera of tropical moths. • Germany: The total biomass of flying insects decreased by more than 70 percent across sixty-three study locations over twenty-seven years. There has been some criticism of individual studies, with scientists pointing out that we still need more data to understand fully the overall scale of insect losses. I agree that additional information should be gathered. But we have enough data now to know that action is necessary, and that if we do not act the consequences will be severe. We had similar warnings about human-caused climate change as early as the 1980s, and had we acted then we might not be in the climate crisis we find ourselves in now. Some in industry and government may say, “We do not know enough,” or, “We do not fully understand the causes, so how can we take action?” These are eerily reminiscent of earlier claims that climate change is not real, and that smoking does not cause cancer. The overall trend is clear. Assessments from all continents except Antarctica reveal declines—and in many cases the losses are severe. This is seen even in species that are widely found and well-known. Both eastern and western populations of the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) in North America have been devastated; the monarchs that overwinter along the Pacific coast have decreased by more than 99 percent since the 1980s. Another widely distributed species, the rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis) was once common throughout the Midwest and the northeastern United States, but its numbers have dropped by more than 90 percent; in 2017 it became the first bee in the continental United States to be protected under the Endangered Species Act.
So why are we seeing these declines? We have removed, degraded, or fragmented habitat in agricultural areas as well as in towns and cities. Less habitat means less diversity of species and less abundance of those that survive: it is as simple as that. Add in the toxic chemicals that are widely usedâ€”from the herbicides and insecticides employed in growing corn, soybeans, and many other crops, to the many pesticides applied in the quest for weed-free lawns and perfect-looking rosesâ€”and even the habitats that do remain often have pesticide residues that can profoundly impact insects. There are additional negative consequences from invasive plants and animals, globally distributed diseases of bumble bees and other insects, poor water quality and quantity that imperil stoneflies and other aquatic invertebrates, and lights that are disruptive to such nocturnal insects as fireflies and moths. Overlay all of this with the increase in severe weather events and shifting rainfall patterns that are caused by climate change, and you can see that it is hard to be an insect in this human-dominated world. So what do we do to encourage robust populations of diverse native insects? We need high-quality, climate-resilient habitat across the landscape. Government agencies, farmers, managers of natural areas, homeowners, and businesses all can protect and restore habitat, reduce the harm of pesticides on nontarget insects, and undertake actions to help slow climate change.
n my line of work, it is easy to become discouraged. The issues are large and sometimes the solutions seem too small. But I believe that there is hope. Although the evidence certainly shows that insects are declining in abundance, diversity, and biomass, studies also demonstrate that if we protect, restore, and enhance habitat and eliminate pesticides, then insects rebound. Research on a site in the United Kingdom showed that restoration led to a threefold increase in the numbers of a butterfly there. Similar studies in the United States show that hedgerow habitat on farms leads to greater diversity and abundance of bees and, over time, helps not just generalist bees but also those that are less common.
Removal of invasive plants from streams and wetlands has been shown to improve habitat for dragonflies and damselflies. And protection and restoration of the habitat of a variety of rare insects has led to increases in their population sizes. I also gather hope from seeing what people are doing in their daily lives. The Grinnell Heritage Farm is a shining example of what we can do on farms to help insects. Andrew and Melissa Dunham have converted their fifth-generation family farm from a business-as-usual conventional operation growing corn and soybeans to a farm that produces high-quality healthy food while providing for beneficial insects and other animals. They have moved away from pesticides and adopted organic practices. The farm features beetle banks to attract predators of crop pests, hedgerows crisscrossing the farm to offer refuge for pollinators and beneficial insects, and cover crops that provide habitat and improve soils. All of these increase biodiversity and help species adapt to climate change. And the Dunhams are by no means the only ones making an important contribution; we work with hundreds of farmers who are stepping up to increase habitat and decrease pesticide impacts. Almost a million acres have been restored through our partnerships with farmers, food companies, and state and federal agencies. Add to that all of those who are taking action in towns and cities, together with managers working in natural areas and on roadsides, and the combined effort does give me hope for the future. The good news is that all of us can contribute. Replace part of your lawn with native flowering plants; get rid of toxic insecticides; buy local, organic, and sustainable food when possible; and lower your climate footprint by eating more vegetables and less meat. Remember that even the tiniest backyard or balcony can be a stopover for those smallest of animals upon whom we all depend. Scott Hoffman Black, the executive director of the Xerces Society, is an internationally recognized conservationist who has spent decades projecting at-risk insects. This article first appeared in the fall 2019 issue of Wings: Essays on Invertebrate Conservation.
Simple steps, such as growing wildflowers instead of a lawn, will contribute to the health of insect populations.
savingearthmagazine.com | 77
BY TARA PILLING
ow can we save the environment if we do not save ourselves first? Everywhere you look you can see the suffering of humankind, from depression, physical illness, to anger; humankind has moved far from peace and wellness. Returning to nature can help us all heal. As a certified mindset success consultant for Proctor and Gallagher, I have spent most of my life studying and practicing holistic and energy-based medicine, yoga, meditation, Ayurveda, and self-development. But it was not until I started to mentor and teach with Bob Proctor of Proctor and Gallagher that things became crystal clear to me. We are a product of our environment and the world around us is a reflection of the environment within. Bob taught me about the mind and the spiritual laws that govern us. You may have recognized his name from the documentary hit movie ‘The Secret’. From what I have learned, your mind holds the answers you seek in any crisis. Your mind can be either your greatest gift or your greatest enemy. You choose! Self-depreciation and victimhood are human diseases, and on some level, we’ve all suffered, or are suffering from them; a longstanding pattern of repeating patterns and living in ignorance and disconnect with the world around us. Reading these words might be hard to accept. I can relate. I struggled with this myself. I was in disbelief that the ONLY problem and the ONLY solution were me. True story! The programming is deep, it is generational and environmental. If we don’t come face to face with the truth and do what is necessary, suffering will continue to plague you. Why? Because we have too many layers of living in ignorance, living in worry, and with doubt feeding fear. We must do our work now. We will have to look at the dark side, the layers of pain, suffering and trauma and take responsibility and accountability and do what is correct to fix it, to collectively heal and ultimately heal our mother earth. What’s happening currently is telling us we are offbalance, we’ve been disconnected. Perhaps I have your attention… Do you have a desire to show up better, to do better, to feel better? We all have to start somewhere! The best time to start is NOW! The answers are shown to us when our minds are calm and our hearts are open.
Is your mind calm? Do you understand your mind and why you do the things you do? Most people don’t understand their mind and why they do the things they do and why they get the results they get. Again, if this is you, I can relate. Although I had an incredible amount of knowledge, I worked hard, studying and learning from the best teachers I didn’t own my mind and I was operating out of a subconscious program that was controlling my thoughts, feelings and actions. This was why I continued to get the results I got. I am grateful for the constant nudge from my Creator, nudging me along my path to awaken. I knew there was something that needed to change within, I just didn’t know how to do it. Maybe you can relate? I learnt that my outer environment was a reflection of the world inside me. Another mentor, Mary Morrissey often says, ‘you can have a lot of knowledge, perhaps even have the ‘I know it syndrome’ but not know about a thing. You only know about a thing when your results reflect this back to you.’ You might want to read that thought a few times. It’s time for a massive paradigm shift and it all starts with each of us. Global calamities are showing us that our current level of ‘thinking’ and living is not working. We are operating out of paradigms that are outdated and debilitating us as a species and hurting the planet. The time for change has come and gone, it was yesterday. However, today is always the right time to do what is necessary, what is right! Please reach out if you’d like a consultation on how to improve your life and ultimately create the world you want to see. From my heart, Tara Tara Pilling Certified Consultant with Proctor and Gallagher Certified Infinite Possibilities Trainer Holistic Results Coach - Yoga - Ayurveda
Tara Pilling. Photography: Kevin Trowbridge
Environment is but a looking glass
ADVERTISE IN SAVING EARTH MAGAZINE
We can make a difference together. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
the time is now
Saving Earth Magazine is a quarterly environmental magazine that focuses on human rights, conservation, climate change, green businesses, an...
Published on May 11, 2020
Saving Earth Magazine is a quarterly environmental magazine that focuses on human rights, conservation, climate change, green businesses, an...