News: UK government announces funding for electric vehicles ahead of COP26 summit

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Before the COP26 summit which is being held in the UK from the 31st October to the 12th November, the UK have announced a new plan aimed at reducing carbon emissions. The main concentration being increased funding into the transportation industry aimed at transforming toward electrical vehicles. Whether this will be a considerable change in the right direction or just another empty promise is obviously yet to be determined.

Earlier in the year the UK had plans to open a new coal mine which is quite contradictory to the COP26 summit that they are hosting this year. As the agenda of government and business is always difficult to determine without direct involvement in these areas, hopefully we can see more urgency and action from the COP26 summit being held at the end of this month.

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The characteristics of a biodiverse ecosystem

Biodiversity is all the different kinds of life you’ll find in one area—the variety of animals, plants, fungi, and even microorganisms like bacteria that make up our natural world. Each of these species and organisms work together in ecosystems, like an intricate web, to maintain balance and support life. Biodiversity supports everything in nature that we need to survive: food, clean water, medicine, and shelter‘ – http://www.worldwildlife.org

Illegal deforestation and the consequences of global warming continue to destroy our planet, making biodiversity harder to find on Earth. The natural world is interconnected through millions of complex relationships which depend upon lots of different species. With less biodiverse landscapes these relationships become unstable, creating mass extinction events such as the one we are currently witnessing. However, rewilding projects strive to amend this issue by recreating natural and biodiverse landscapes to help stabilise what we have destroyed. Below I have outlined some of the characteristics that create a biodiverse landscape.

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Genetic diversity
This focuses on the variety of different genetic material within a species population. Greater genetic diversity means a population will have an easier time adapting to environmental issues. This characteristic, like others, being essential for endangered species and conservation efforts. Although, some argue that due to the unpredictable climate, species cannot adapt fast enough to keep up with the environmental pressures.

Ecosystem diversity This is essentially the different biomes across the planet which hold specific climates with species directly related to that climate. For example, a tropical climate might hold more insects and exotic plants compared to a colder climate such as Antarctica.


Species diversity
This is the variety of different species found in the area which is being researched or maintained. This can range from a species of bird to a certain species of tree. Establishing a balance is key to maintaining a biodiverse landscape, without this the ecosystem becomes unstable. For example, palm oil plantations in Indonesia are detrimental to the local ecosystem as they only consist of one species of tree which creates an imbalance of species diversity.

Functional diversity
Can be summarised as the biological and chemical processes needed for the survival of species and ecosystems. For example, the nitrogen cycle or the carbon cycle.

Some of the most biodiverse places on Earth will share all these characteristics to varying degree. Unfortunately, due to the state of the natural world caused by human behaviour over the last two centuries these rich natural environments are declining at unprecedented rates. Therefore, It is important we understand what is meant by biodiversity and why it is needed if we are to aim at repairing the natural world.

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Grassroots approach to climate change

When considering the issues surrounding climate change one can easily become overwhelmed and conclude that the solutions are out of reach and beyond their control. However, communities in the UK and US can be found which empower local communities and restore faith in the future. Aside from international movements such as FridaysForFuture, more local groups can be sourced if you know where to look.

If you live somewhere in the UK, websites like Climate Action can be a great source of finding a local group near you. Or if you would like to join a more national body, The Conservation Volunteers is a great way to get involved.

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If you live in the US, organisations such as Bioneers or OceansGlobal may be more for you. There are obviously a lot more groups out there, you may want to refer to the this list. However, being from an unreliable source you may want to take this list of recommendations with an eye of scrutiny.

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Unfortunately, local climate change groups was not easy to find for other countries based in places such as Asia or Africa. However, from a broader more international standpoint this website article was a great source for examining climate change in different areas of the world and also providing the names of the international bodies focused on climate change in those areas.

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Climate mitigation and adaptation

When discussing ways to reduce the speed at which the climate is changing in order to stabilise the planet as a whole, many look to various methods and solutions with little to no success. Due to the complexity of climate change and the plethora of issues it presents us with, others have looked toward more broad and encompassing framework to help tackle this crucial time period that we are all apart of today.

Climate mitigation focuses on reducing the output of greenhouse gases or increasing the potential to absorb these harmful gases from the atmosphere in order to reduce global warming. Although easy to explain, in practice this can be quite difficult. In order to achieve this approach, we need to internationally transition from using fossil fuels and focus more on renewable energy. We need to halt deforestation and start rewilding the planet, these solutions thus eliminate the source of harmful gases whilst increasing the rate at which the planet can absorb them.

Climate adaptation can be defined as adapting in different ways to a changing climate and preparing for future adaptation as the climate continues to change. Adaptive solutions often vary depending of geography, are difficult to predict and come with trade-offs. Examples of solutions include diversifying crops to withstand warmer or wetter conditions, helping communities reduce the risk of flooding and adapting infrastructure in order to withstand extreme weather.

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Although these approaches offer solutions and goals to tackle the different aspects of a changing climate, they are far from equal with varying outcomes. This disparity is due to one reason: climate justice.

From a policymaker’s perspective, adaptation is a local, private good with often clear and immediate benefits.  On the other, mitigation is a global, public good with far-away benefits‘ – http://www.climaterealityproject.org

In summary, both these approaches are necessary, however, as we have chosen to focus less on mitigation, the more adaptation we will need later. As a result, less wealthy countries will continue to fall behind as some already struggle to adapt to the climate change issues of today.

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https://climate.nasa.gov/solutions/adaptation-mitigation/

https://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/what-s-the-difference-between-climate-change-mitigation-and-adaptation

https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/climate-adaptation-vs-mitigation-why-does-it-matter

News: Global agreements help mitigate climate change

A recent article published by Nature has demonstrated that global agreements surrounding climate change can accelerate the rate at which we can mitigate environmental issues.

The best case scenario for global agreements would be ‘climate negotiations is a legally binding global agreement targeting < 2 °C warming by 2100 and incorporates sanctions’. However, due to various factors this may not be entirely possible, thus researchers suggest creating groups where nations or representatives are involved in a common goal with shared interests or geography. This can better enable global leaders to mitigate climate change issues whilst investing in local problems with other nations.

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https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-23056-5

News: Solar panels used over canal systems

In recent news, researchers have been studying the idea of installing solar panels over the top of canal systems. In short, this can help reduce evaporation of water, help plant growth and be used as a space for renewable energy. An article published in the Nature journal also argued that the idea of installing solar panels over canal systems outweigh the ecological and financial alternatives of installing them elsewhere; concluding that this method produces 20%-50% more solar power than conventional methods.

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How drone technology can aid people and the environment

The past decade has witnessed an increased use of drone technology within different environmental roles. From farmers to scientists, drones are now being used to reduce farming costs or help survey plant and animal populations in remote areas. Below is a short list consisting of the different tasks drones can be used to help the environment and scientific research.

Reducing the cost of farming

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Drones can help with farming tasks such as planting, crop spraying, monitoring and irrigation. Increasing the success rates of planting crops whilst also decreasing planting costs. In terms of crop spraying, drones can reduce the amount amount of chemicals that work their way into ground water whilst completing the task up to five times faster than traditional machinery.

Renewable energy maintenance

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Inspecting tall structures such as wind turbines are another way drones help reduce risk and increase efficiency. Drones are now used to help with maintenance surveys and collect data on solar panel installation as well.

Ariel mapping

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Drones can also help map and collect data on areas which may be hard to reach for people on the ground. For example, environmental scientists are using drones to help survey mangroves, coral reefs and tropical rainforests. Making the task more efficient and also safer for the researchers involved.

Population surveillance

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Drone technology is also used to monitor wildlife movement, track population numbers and survey habitats. This method makes it a lot easier for ecologists to get a more accurate number of a certain species whilst reducing the risks of interfering with the animals themselves.

Disaster relief

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Finally, drones are also used to help prevent and assess natural disasters such as wildfires or typhoons. For example, In the Philippines during 2013 drones were used to assess the damage of a typhoon and help migrate people whilst finding the most ideal places for reconstruction.

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Drones used to repopulate forests

A recent strategy to repopulate forests uses drones to plant seeds at a safer and faster way than humans can. In different parts of the world, organisations are using drones to restore forests damaged by wildfires and other consequences of climate change.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TiOPdJCukNg&ab_channel=Reuters

This short video summaries what is taking place in the United States and the process which takes place. This company’s website gives a more detailed look into how they operate.

In the UK, organisations are using drone planting techniques in order to solve the issue of Ash dieback. Ash dieback is common in most parts of Europe and is a fungal disease which often spreads from tree to tree. Therefore, the seed spreading drone program aims to help repopulate forests with healthier trees.

One UK tech company, Dendra, is aiming to plant 500 billion trees by 2060. This idea could help restore forests which are being lost to deforestation due to organisations profiteering from the newly cleared land, for example the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.

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In Myanmar people are tweaking the technology to plant mangrove trees along coastal areas and places hard to reach on foot. This new innovative design looks promising as not only are the drones used to plant trees at much higher rates and in places hard to reach, they are also used to help scan sections of woodland and provide information on specific areas of forests.

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Sustainable ideas for homes

Making your home more sustainable can be achieved in various ways and can introduce some interesting and exciting new ideas. Below are some practical ideas as well as some experimental prototypes.

Sustainable heating systems: Switching from a gas boiler can improve the sustainability of your home and in some cases save you money. If you would like more detailed information then check the hyperlink above. Three alternative heating systems I found from the website were the electrical resistance heating, biomass boilers and ground source heat pumps.

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Sustainable water systems: Again, for more in-depth information follow the hyperlink in the title. One important point I found from the website was that two central branches for sustainable water involve introducing water-efficient devices and/or using alternative water sources to supply the household.

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Tesla solar panel roofing: This involves replacing typical roof tiles with roof tiles that are also solar panels. Efficient as they maximise the space a roof can capture solar energy whilst demonstrating a modern style.

Solar panel windows: A new innovative design that replaces normal windows with clear solar panel windows. This idea is still in its infancy and being tested but could prove to be a valuable investment. Given time for transition, with enough buildings installing solar windows this could alleviate our dependence on fossil fuels for energy usage.

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Growing your own food: This is a fun and relatively easy way to reduce your dependence on supermarkets, all it takes is a little patience and saves a little money. Plastic used by supermarkets creates a lot of waste and vegetables tend to always be packaged in plastic wrapping. If you’re growing food indoors, growing near a window seal is beneficial or using artificial lights. Regardless of where you decide to grow your plants, there are sustainable techniques to growing food that are universal. Different techniques involve composting green waste, saving seeds from vegetables and mulching. Growing your own food whether in little pots by your window or in big planters in the garden is a simple solution toward being more sustainable.

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Hopefully this post offers some insight on how to make your home more sustainable, given you an activity to do during lockdown or at the very least been an interesting read.

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Why bees are integral to our ecosystems and how to restore their population

Whilst forests play an important part in maintaining habitats and provide carbon traps, bees help pollinate the food we eat as well as the trees and plants that make up forests. We rely on them to maintain a biodiverse landscape as well as pollinate 90% of food worldwide.

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We are experiencing a global decline in bee diversity and population which is a serious issue as they pollinate a large percentage of our food supply. The reasons for this loss can vary depending of geographical location. Generally, bee population decline is due to the use of pesticides, such as the ones recently allowed in the UK. Climate change also disrupts bee populations from unstable plant diversity and unpredictable weather patterns. Finally, monoculture such as palm oil plantations presents a lack of biodiversity and commercial development both impact bee populations and their chances of survival.

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There are many different ways the bee population can be restored. For example, the National Wildlife Federation has comprised a list of six different solutions:

  • Plant natives – These are accustom to your local ecosystem, provide bees with sustainable food and do not require fertilizer.
  • New garden areas – Add new garden beds and encourage others to plant more flowers.
  • Organic – Refrain from using insecticides and chemicals in your garden.
  • Water – Place shallow pools of water in your garden for bees and other pollinators to thrive.
  • Nesting places – Create nesting places in your garden to increase the likelihood of the bee population increasing.
  • Responsibility – Raise awareness of the issue and inspire others to follow the same list of resolutions.

Others suggest planting bee friendly plants to adhere more to their needs or even going further and advocating for bee protection at different levels of government.

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‘Slowing down and even reversing habitat destruction and land-conversion to intensive uses, implementation of environmentally friendly schemes in agricultural and urban settings, and programs to flower our world are urgently required. Bees cannot wait’ – Zattara, E. Aizen, M. (2021)

No matter what we decide to do in resolving this growing issue, it is undoubtedly vital that bees and other pollinators populations increase otherwise our food security and biodiversity of the planet will severely suffer.

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