Which way? The environment.

Discussion in 'Science and Technology' started by themickey, Nov 1, 2021.

  1. themickey


    This thread dedicated to all things regarding the preservation of earth's environment, nature, habitat, reducing polution, advances in green energy, anything which relates to making the world a cleaner and safer world.
    Government policy will have a large bearing plus how corporations largely consider others as part of their business dealings rather than prioritizing self greed.
  2. themickey


    India, China, Russia kill climate deal
    Phillip Coorey and Hans van Leeuwen Nov 1, 2021

    Glasgow | Britain and the United States have accused the major economies of Russia, China and India of failing to grasp the urgency of climate change after they led efforts to torpedo progress at the G20 summit and dashed hopes of meaningful progress being made at COP26 in Glasgow.

    Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who sided with these nations to oppose setting a firm deadline to phase out coal, said the impasse underscored that the only way to enlist developing nations in the fight against climate change was by making available low-emissions technology.

    The task facing UN climate talks in Glasgow is a gargantuan one. Getty

    “Technology is the way that China can achieve it, India can achieve it, Indonesia can achieve it,” he said.

    “The idea that we’re going to take developed-economy models and force them on developing economies and say ‘this is the path you must travel’, that is not going to work.

    “The path we’re setting out is to say, let’s get those technology costs as low as possible. Don’t force up the cost of what they’re currently using. That is only going to hurt the people who can afford it least.”

    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had hoped the G20 in Rome would generate momentum for his Glasgow summit at which he will host about 200 countries and more than 100 leaders.

    Instead, the final G20 communique was watered down to the point it contained no concrete action or target dates.

    He rated the chances of success at Glasgow as “about six out of 10” and said it risked becoming “the moment we flinched and turned away” from the 2015 Paris Agreement.

    “Just 12 G20 members have committed to reach net zero by 2050 or earlier. Barely half of us have submitted improved plans for how we will cut carbon emissions since the Paris summit of 2015,” Mr Johnson said.

    “The countries most responsible for historic and present-day emissions are not yet doing their fair share of the work. If we are going to prevent COP26 from being a failure, that must change.”

    US President Joe Biden branded the outcome “disappointing”.

    “Russia and China didn’t show up in terms of any commitments to do with climate change,” he said, also name-checking Saudi Arabia as a holdout against US, British and European aspirations.

    The G20 communique was stripped of any reference to 2050 as the deadline for net zero emissions. It was replaced with recognising the “key relevance” of achieving net zero “by or around mid-century”.

    This accommodates China, which has a 2060 net zero goal, as well as India and Russia.

    Russia suggests target is naive
    “Why do you believe that 2050 is some magic figure?” scoffed Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who said his country would be carbon neutral by “no later than 2060″. “We don’t like to go by empty promises and empty ambitions.”

    Mr Lavrov blamed the G7 for foisting the agenda on the G20.

    Attempts at the G20 to put a deadline on the phase-out of coal-fired power and coal production were resisted by Australia, Brazil, India and China, and were struck out, as was a commitment to “substantially” reduce methane emissions by 2030.

    Instead, the G20 pledged to phase out coal-fired power “as soon as possible”, to phase out fossil fuels “over the medium term” and recognises that reducing methane emissions is “one of the quickest, most feasible and most cost-effective ways to limit climate change”.

    The G20 also set no date for phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, saying they will aim to do so “over the medium term”.

    “We recognise that the impacts of climate change at 1.5 °C are much lower than at 2 °C. Keeping 1.5 °C within reach will require meaningful and effective actions and commitment by all countries,” the communique said.

    Prince Charles, who will open the Glasgow summit in the absence of his mother the Queen, travelled to Italy to rev up the G20 leaders, who represent nations which account for about 80 per cent of global emissions.

    “Ladies and gentlemen, COP26 begins in Glasgow tomorrow,” he said. “Quite literally, it is the last-chance saloon. We must now translate fine words into still finer actions.

    “And as the enormity of the climate challenge dominates people’s conversations, from newsrooms to living rooms, and as the future of humanity and nature herself are at stake, it is surely time to set aside our differences and grasp this unique opportunity to launch a substantial green recovery by putting the global economy on a confident, sustainable trajectory and, thus, save our planet.

    “And, from what they tell me, the private sector is already there, eager to work with you and ready to play a hugely significant and game-changing role.”

    Mr Johnson further conceded that COP26 would also miss a target of raising $US100 billion ($133 billion) a year in finance for developing countries’ climate mitigation and adaptation needs.

    Greta Thunberg has become the de facto leader of a growing movement of young environmental activists. PA

    The fundraising drive, crucial to shore up poorer countries’ confidence in the UN emissions reduction process, is still $US20 billion short. The new deadline to hit the target is 2023.

    “We cannot accept the failure of developed countries to meet the target to which they are committed: mobilising $US100 billion annually to counter the effects of climate change,” said Brazilian Foreign Minister Carlos Franca.

    “Our main effort at COP26 will aim to ensure that the financial flows needed to combat climate change are accessible, predictable and adequate to the needs of the most vulnerable countries.”

    Britain’s own effort has been directed at getting all leaders to pledge to reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and to take significant steps towards taking coal out of the world’s energy systems. Neither campaign made great strides at the G20.

    Mr Johnson nevertheless described the G20’s efforts as “reasonable”; and the G20 host, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, said “something has changed”, as the group had accepted for the first time that net-zero was an important mid-century goal.

    United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said: “I leave Rome with my hopes unfulfilled, but at least they are not buried.”

    Mr Morrison was mildly optimistic.

    “I think there will be progress. The destination, I think is understood and agreed. The world will move to a new energy economy. And the pace of that and the way that journey is, is travelled by countries will be different,” he said.

    “To think that aspiring to that goal means that every single country has to get there the same way. I don’t think that’s realistic. And frankly, I think it’s a bit naive.”

    But the view was not shared by environmental groups. “If the G20 was a dress rehearsal for COP26, then world leaders fluffed their lines,” said Greenpeace International chief executive Jennifer Morgan.
    Mohamed Nasheed, the speaker of the Parliament of the Maldives – one of the most high-profile delegations in Glasgow, given the immediate and existential threat to the islands – said the G20’s pledge to stop financing coal projects overseas was “a welcome start”.

    “But it won’t stop the climate from heating more than 1.5 degrees and devastating large parts of the world, including the Maldives. So clearly, this isn’t nearly enough,” he said.

    The executive secretary of the UNFCCC, the body overseeing the COP process, opened the conference by saying the focus had to be on implementation, not just commitments.

    “Every day that goes by without being able to implement the Paris Agreement in full is a wasted day,” she said.

    “I call upon all parties to recapture the spirit of multilateralism that resulted in the adoption of the Paris Agreement, and fulfil their commitments under it.”
    murray t turtle likes this.
  3. themickey


    ‘None of us will live forever’: Queen invokes own mortality, urges world leaders to act for future generations

    By Bevan Shields November 2, 2021

    Glasgow: The Queen has delivered an emotionally charged and highly political call to arms to world leaders on climate change, invoking her own mortality to send a warning about the need to protect future generations.

    In a pre-recorded speech to the COP26 climate summit, the 95-year-old monarch said politicians had an obligation to think beyond their own immediate priorities.

    Queen Elizabeth II appears on a large screen makes a video message to attendees of an evening reception to mark the opening day of the COP26 summit.Credit:Getty

    “It is the hope of many that the legacy of this summit – written in history books yet to be printed – will describe you as the leaders who did not pass up the opportunity; and that you answered the call of those future generations,” she said.

    “That you left this conference as a community of nations with a determination, a desire, and a plan, to address the impact of climate change; and to recognise that the time for words has now moved to the time for action.

    “Of course, the benefits of such actions will not be there to enjoy for all of us here today: none of us will live forever.

    “But we are doing this not for ourselves but for our children and our children’s children, and those who will follow in their footsteps.”

    Queen Elizabeth has paid tribute to her late husband and says she is proud of Prince Charles and Prince William in her video message delivered at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

    The internationally respected monarch was due to speak at the summit in-person but had to pull out after doctors told her she needed to rest.

    It is highly unusual for the Queen to address her own mortality in such a direct way and the comments will be interpreted as a subtle acknowledgment of her health issues, the seriousness of which remain unclear.

    She delivered the address at her desk in Windsor Castle alongside a framed picture of her late husband Prince Philip, a lifelong environmentalist.

    “I remember well that in 1969, he told an academic gathering, ‘If the world pollution situation is not critical at the moment, it is as certain as anything can be, that the situation will become increasingly intolerable within a very short time… If we fail to cope with this challenge, all the other problems will pale into insignificance’.

    “It is a source of great pride to me that the leading role my husband played in encouraging people to protect our fragile planet lives on through the work of our eldest son Charles and his eldest son William. I could not be more proud of them.

    "Indeed, I have drawn great comfort and inspiration from the relentless enthusiasm of people of all ages – especially the young – in calling for everyone to play their part.

    "In the coming days, the world has the chance to join in the shared objective of creating a safer, stabler future for our people and for the planet on which we depend.

    “None of us underestimates the challenges ahead; but history has shown that when nations come together in common cause, there is always room for hope. Working side by side, we have the ability to solve the most insurmountable problems and to triumph over the greatest of adversities.”

    In a rare political statement, the Queen urged world leaders to step up during the fortnight-long Glasgow talks.

    “For more than seventy years, I have been lucky to meet and to know many of the world’s great leaders. And I have perhaps come to understand a little about what made them special,” she said.

    "It has sometimes been observed that what leaders do for their people today is government and politics. But what they do for the people of tomorrow - that is statesmanship.

    Britain’s future king, Prince Charles, welcomed world leaders to the UN climate summit and urged them to see planetary warming as an existential threat akin to war.

    “We have to put ourselves on what might be called a war-like footing,” Charles said. “We need a vast military-style campaign to marshal the strength of the global private sector, with trillions at its disposal.”
  4. themickey



    Tariffs to Tackle Climate Change Gain Momentum. The Idea Could Reshape Industries.
    The proposals come with risks, including undermining world trade rules and triggering trade disputes
    Nov. 2, 2021

    Governments in the U.S., Europe and other developed nations are embarking on a climate-change experiment: using tariffs on trade to cut carbon emissions. The idea has the potential to rewrite the rules of global commerce.

    Policy makers on both sides of the Atlantic are looking at targeting steel, chemicals and cement. The tariffs would give a competitive advantage to manufacturers in countries where emissions are relatively low.

    It’s an idea that is gaining acceptance among U.S. businesses, particularly in those industries, as well as among politicians who see an opportunity to appeal to domestic manufacturers and their workers. Over the weekend, the Biden administration announced the first-ever trade agreement to incorporate such a concept. The pact with the European Union would jointly curb imports of steel that generate high levels of carbon emissions.

    Carbon tariffs, also called border adjustments, are intended to plug a hole in domestic policies that discourage emissions. A country that imposes a carbon tax or some other regulation on a steel mill, for example, can raise that company’s costs and prices, making them less competitive domestically.

    Such a move could also encourage buyers to import less expensive steel, potentially produced with higher carbon emissions, or encourage manufacturers to shift production to countries with less regulation—undoing the environmental benefits of the taxes and putting domestic companies at a disadvantage. Environmental economists call that leakage.

    The risks of carbon tariffs are similar to those that come with regular trade barriers. A carbon tariff could push up production costs and prices, hurting businesses buying those products as well as consumers. They would hit the economies of developing countries that depend heavily on exports. And they could undermine world trade rules and trigger trade disputes. Some countries say the proposals are really protectionism in disguise.

    An estimated one-quarter of global greenhouse gases are produced by goods that cross borders, according to a 2018 report by economic and environmental consulting firms KGM & Associates Pty. Ltd. and Global Efficiency Intelligence LLC. In effect, the report said, the emissions that many developed countries claim to have eliminated were “outsourced to developing countries,” which generally have fewer resources to invest in cleaner and more advanced technology.

    “America has an advantage from a lower carbon footprint,” Jim Fitterling, chief executive of chemical giant Dow Inc., said. “We want to continue to expand that advantage and I believe a carbon border-adjustment mechanism will help.”

    Economists and policy makers have been exploring the idea of carbon tariffs over the past 20 years, to level the playing field for domestic companies and to encourage trading partners to toughen their own emissions rules. When Yale University economist William Nordhaus accepted the Nobel Prize for his work on the economics of climate change in 2018, he proposed a global “climate club” of low-polluting countries that would impose a 3% tariff on imports from higher-polluting non-club members.

    The idea took on new life as nations looked to intensify their greenhouse-gas reduction plans ahead of the United Nations climate conference that opened Monday in Scotland.

    The plan unveiled Saturday came as part of an effort to curb global overcapacity for steel and aluminum, which U.S. officials have attributed largely to China. Under the arrangement, governments can restrict imports of products made using methods that produce more carbon dioxide. The two sides didn’t provide details on how and when to implement the plan, but said that they would develop it over the next two years. President Biden told reporters that the new agreement would help “restrict access to our markets for dirty steel from countries like China and counter countries that dump steel in our markets.”

    The Chinese Embassy in Washington didn’t respond to a request for comment.

    Texas Rep. Kevin Brady, the top House Republican for trade policy, criticized the agreement as “enormously complex managed trade.”

    The European Union has taken the lead in carbon tariffs, unveiling its proposed plan in July. It currently has a cap-and-trade system in which domestic companies must obtain a permit to emit carbon, capped at a set amount. Permits currently change hands for around 60 euros, or $68, per metric ton of emissions.

    Under its proposal, the EU would charge producers outside the area a fee similar to what domestic companies pay, based on the carbon content of their products sold in Europe. The border adjustments would initially apply to four heavily polluting sectors: steel, aluminum, cement and fertilizer. European officials hope to implement the program by 2025 as part of a broader deal to cut continental emissions 55% by 2030.

    British, Japanese and Canadian governments have begun exploring similar plans. In the U.S., more than a dozen bills have been introduced in Congress since 2015, by both Democrats and Republicans, that include some kind of carbon tariff, usually linked to a carbon tax on domestic products.

    “Other countries, Europe and Canada, are being very aggressive,” said Rep. Scott Peters (D., Calif.), who introduced carbon tariff legislation in July. “What we don’t want is for our companies to be at a competitive disadvantage.”

    A carbon tariff could quickly shift advantages across borders, including by significantly altering the global steel trade, the Boston Consulting Group wrote in a report about the EU’s proposal last year. Chinese and Ukrainian steel made with high-polluting blast furnaces would lose market share to more efficient mills in Canada and South Korea, it said.

    The report added that Saudi Arabian oil producers, with their easy access to crude oil found near the earth’s surface, could gain European market share, because their carbon tariff would be at little as half that of Russian and Canadian competitors, which use more energy to extract their oil.

    U.S. companies have invested heavily and taken advantage of technological improvements in recent years to reduce their carbon footprints, often driven by environmental regulations. While a boost in domestic manufacturing could potentially add to local pollution, the area is highly regulated in the U.S.—and overall would decrease the total global output of greenhouse gases.

    The Climate Leadership Council, a business-backed group lobbying for economywide carbon pricing and border adjustments, said that products manufactured in the U.S. in major sectors such as metals, chemicals, electronics and vehicles generate 40% less carbon dioxide in their production than the global average.

    It estimates that one of the largest beneficiaries of U.S. carbon tariffs would be the politically powerful steel industry. American steelmakers are more likely to use a more-efficient production method that recycles scrap metal, while many Asian producers rely on a different method that converts new iron into steel. The result: 50% to 100% more carbon dioxide is emitted in the production of imported steel than U.S.-made steel.

    A carbon tariff of $43 a ton could reduce steel imports into the U.S. by half and completely eliminate purchases from the least carbon-efficient countries, including China and Brazil, the Climate Leadership Council said.

    Supporters say a carbon tariff has the potential to rewrite the politics of climate regulations, softening resistance from conservatives skeptical of the need and worried about the cost.

    George David Banks, a veteran Republican environmental policy official who worked in the Trump White House and is now promoting carbon tariffs, said, “Once Republican voters recognize that this is the way of getting our supply chain back to the U.S., I think people are going to see the climate agenda very differently.”

    Carbon tariffs may also appeal to lawmakers as a way of blunting economic and security threats from China, the world’s largest carbon emitter.

    Workers make iron bars in a steel factory in Lianyungang, China.
    Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

    Among the groups that could find the idea less appealing are companies that end up paying more for carbon-intensive imports.

    The Boston Consulting Group’s report on the EU proposal estimates that European paper manufacturers, big importers of wood pulp, could see profits cut 65% on those imports. Importers of semi-manufactured gold—used in jewelry, electronics, dentistry products and other goods—could see profits fall by 10%. Companies would then face the choice of absorbing the costs or passing them on to customers, the report said.

    Some trade experts warn that the reshuffling might not curb total global emissions. An industry trade group representing European aluminum makers said China could evade the EU’s carbon tariff by exporting to Europe the 10% of its aluminum made with hydropower, while keeping metals made with coal in Asia. Russian aluminum maker Rusal PLC has announced plans to create a new low-energy subsidiary aimed at European sales, while focusing the rest of its factories for domestic demand.

    Carbon tariffs are “a perfect tool in economic theory, but we are not living in an economic theoretical world, unfortunately,” said Markus Zimmer, an environmental economist for Allianz SE in Germany. “Once all the politicians and the lawyers work through the regulations, you can get the opposite of what you intend.”

    Carbon tariffs can be a potential channel for protectionism, with governments designing them to benefit domestic industries rather than to simply level the playing field. World trade rules allow border adjustments that are intended to impose the same costs on foreign as domestic manufacturers, rather than to block import competition.

    “It will be hard to avoid accusations of green protectionism, given how the starting point clearly is concern about low-cost foreign production,” Michael Mehling, deputy director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said of the U.S.-EU steel trade agreement.

    The risk is exacerbated by the lack of international consensus on quantifying the carbon embedded in goods, and whether to include the full carbon footprint, from the mining of raw material to transporting the product to final users.

    Governments have submitted data on the average carbon intensity of basic products like steel and cement as part of the 190-nation Paris Agreement to curb greenhouse gases. They didn’t include data for individual manufacturers, so a low-carbon producer could be hit with a tariff calibrated to a higher national average.

    Counting and verifying emissions at individual facilities will be difficult and costly, and could create the potential for manipulation, said Stefan Koester, a senior analyst specializing in climate policy at Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a nonpartisan Washington think tank. Rather than border adjustments, he supports a climate club similar to the kind Mr. Nordhaus proposed, in which nations that commit to climate-change policies would trade freely with each other and impose tariffs on imports.

    Nearly every version of a carbon tariff designed by academics or lawmakers is twinned with some type of domestic carbon price. That makes it easier to make the case to trading partners that the purpose is to create a level playing field, so that producers all over the world pay the same fee.

    In the U.S., carbon pricing—whether a carbon tax or a European-style emissions-trading scheme—remains deeply unpopular. Congressional Democrats are looking at ways to calculate “implicit costs that come from regulation” of U.S. companies and imposing an equivalent cost on foreign competitors, said Mr. Peters, the California congressman. “It’s not a simple thing.”

    For nations, attempts to balance green pledges with a free-trade agenda haven’t had much success. The World Trade Organization has repeatedly declared illegal member environmental policies, such as subsidizing domestic renewable energy production, saying those improperly discriminate against foreign competitors.

    Liquid aluminum is drained from an electrolysis bath at the Khakas Aluminium Smelter, operated by Rusal, in Sayanogorsk, Russia.
    Photo: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg News

    The WTO tried and failed to create a global “environmental goods agreement” that would have cut tariffs and quotas on products designed to expand the world market for products helping reduce carbon emissions, such as wind turbines and solar panels. The talks collapsed in 2016 when China made a last-minute demand to include bicycles, and the Europeans refused.

    “The WTO is considered by many as an institution that not only has no solutions to offer on environmental concerns, but is part of the problem,” Mr. Biden’s trade representative, Katherine Tai, said in an April speech.

    “The WTO is only as decisive as its members,” said WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell, who stressed that the group can only make a decision with a consensus among its 164 members.

    In a meeting of the WTO’s market access committee in November last year, officials from 19 countries raised concerns about the EU’s plans for its carbon border-adjustment plan, according to meeting minutes. Russia’s representative criticized “protectionist objectives,” noting that the EU intends to use the tariff as a new source of budget for powering its economic recovery after the pandemic.

    “Tackling climate change should…not become an excuse for geopolitics, attacking other countries or trade barriers,” Chinese leader Xi Jinping said of Europe’s tariff plans in an April call with then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, according to Chinese state media.

    The WTO’s legal system is crippled by a stalemate between the U.S. and other countries over the proper mission and power of its trade courts. That heightens the risk that carbon tariffs will trigger retaliation by countries imposing their own countermeasures, rather than prompting more global cooperation.

    “Either they find a way to deal with it collectively,” said Alan Wolff, who recently retired as WTO deputy director general, “or there’s going to be the world’s largest trade conflict over this issue.”
  5. Overnight


    That is debatable! haha!

  6. themickey


    It’s a bug’s life: Aussie startup enlists insect army to tackle food waste

    By Emma Koehn November 18, 2021

    The team at Melbourne startup Bardee has a deep appreciation for the power of insects – and even snacks on them in the office.

    “We have those nut dispensers, where you turn it and a snack falls out. We have nuts and dried fruit, and we also have fried insect larvae with all sorts of different herbs and spices,” said co-founder and chief executive Phoebe Gardner.

    In a production facility in the Melbourne suburb of Sunshine North, Ms Gardner and her partner and Bardee co-founder Alex Arnold are the custodians of about 1 billion Black Soldier Flies.

    These fly larvae are not snacks for staff at this stage. Instead, they work hard in a vertical farming system to transform food waste into nutrient-rich fertiliser and pet products.

    (L-R) Alex Arnold, co-founder and CTO of Bardee, co-founder and chief executive Phoebe Gardner and Blackbird Ventures Partner Nick Crocker.

    Ms Gardner, a trained architect, and Mr Arnold, an entomologist, have been toying with business ideas to tackle the climate crisis and global food waste for years. The technology they’ve developed can transform waste from supermarkets and food manufacturers into new products, thanks to the Black Soldier Fly army.

    “[The insects] are so phenomenal. Their natural environment is cleaning up the forest floor and recycling it into new nutrients,” Ms Gardner said.

    “The insects actually move around as a pack, they go around collectively and eat everything. This [also] prevents methane production, so the only emissions emitted through Bardee’s system are water evaporation and the C02 from the insect’s respiration, which is not very much.”

    Bardee, which has been operating in stealth mode for the past two years, has swiftly captured the attention of some of the nation’s best-known startup investors.

    The company has now sealed a $5 million capital raising led by Blackbird Ventures and supported by others including Culture Amp’s Didier Elzinga and toilet paper entrepreneur Who Gives a Crap founder Simon Griffiths.

    The business has also grown throughout the pandemic from a handful of staff to more than 20, and has global ambitions.

    Bardee’s processing plant breaks down food waste much faster than commercial composting, preventing the C02 emissions that occur when food products are left to break down naturally.

    Beyond fertilisers and pet foods, the flies could also become human food in the near future, with the Bardee team anticipating that the Black Soldier Fly will be the next critter approved by food standards regulators in Australia and New Zealand to be sold as a protein product.

    “It’s just a matter of time [before it is approved],” Ms Gardner said. “And Bardee will be ready to supply insect protein food to people.”

    Black Soldier flies in one of Bardee’s breeding labs.

    Bardee joins a cohort of other global startups also looking to harness the power of insects to turbocharge recycling. Canberra business Goterra is focused on turning organic waste into food for livestock, while Canadian company Entosystem and Singapore-founded Insectta also use Black Soldier Flies to help recycle waste.

    Blackbird partner Nick Crocker sees global potential for the business to influence how food waste is managed across the world.

    “Their first facility is a true marvel of biology and engineering, and when there are thousands of Bardee facilities worldwide, not only will we transform the way society processes waste, but the way we deliver protein to animals, and humans alike,” he said.

    Ms Gardner shares this vision, observing there are 10,000 cities across the world all in need of a more efficient and carbon-neutral way to break down food waste.

    “In 10 years’ time we would hope to see Bardee facilities transforming a majority percentage of food waste in every city of the world – ten thousand facilities.”
  7. themickey


    The secret rock that could help feed the world and the ‘nerdy’ Australian scientist who discovered it

    Elizabeth Farrelly Columnist, author, architecture critic and essayist
    November 20, 2021

    Food. In the end our survival depends on our capacity to feed ourselves without destroying the planet. As our numbers increase, this seems nigh impossible. But a system invented by a NSW woman and trialled in Vietnam looks set to revolutionise the whole food-land-planet relationship – or, at least, buy us time.

    Lyndal Hugo had a background in agroscience, a Sydney Uni PhD in environmental chemistry and a post-doctoral fellowship on pesticide residues in South-East Asian food chains. It made her, she says, “a nerdy scientist – way over-educated and practically useless”. Except for three things – an idea, a piece of luck and a dream.

    Orlar co-founders Lyndal Hugo and Amanda Cornelissen Credit:Ngô Quang Thịnh/AFR

    The luck was that, when working on environmental accounting for big mining and agriculture companies in Australia and China, she’d encountered a particular rock. (Exactly what rock remains a closely guarded secret.) The idea was that this rock, treated in particular ways (also secret), had extraordinary potential not in mining but as “a home for microbes”. And the dream? It was to change the world.

    Specifically, it involved growing fresh leafy vegetables that were safe, sustainable, nutritious, affordable and ethically produced with no single-use plastics, chemical residues, wastewater or carbon emissions. Oh, and to make enough money doing it to render the model replicable – hence, to change the world.

    Now it seems she, via her company Orlar, is almost there. Rewind several years. Hugo yearned to do something meaningful. Her wife, Amanda Cornelissen, said: “You’ve got 12 months to go play.” But funding was hard to come by. “Women have 2 per cent the chance of men of raising capital,” Hugo reflects without bitterness. So, she and Cornelissen headed to Ho Chi Minh City. It was meant to be six months. That was five years ago.

    “Never take a dream to the developing world,” says Hugo now – though with obvious love for the place. It was $600 for two one-way fares home: “For years we never had more than that in the bank ... We lived in a tin shed with dirt floors, tipping a bucket over our heads for a shower.” Now, government grants pile up and investors beat a path to their door.

    Edible flowers growing on Orlar pods.Credit:Ngô Quang Thịnh /AFR

    So, what’s the system? It’s not indoor agriculture. Hugo is clear about that. The difference is that indoor agriculture normally requires huge energy inputs for temperature control and lighting. It requires a strictly controlled environment – workers in hazmat suits – to limit disease, which is virtually impossible in a developing country. And it either has high carbon emissions or, if solar-powered, the solar panels occupy large areas of land, with concomitant biodiversity impact.

    Orlar’s system – now a business that supplies Vietnam’s top 200 restaurants and most middle-class supermarkets – uses greenhouses, with light and warmth provided gratis by the sun. The key, though, is in the secret rock. It has three seemingly magical properties: enormous thermal mass, the ability to retain water against the pull of gravity and an affinity for microbes.

    It starts with chemistry – the rock’s pH and its liking for long-chain anionic molecules. Just as important, though, is how it’s treated. Ground into the right mix of sizes to optimise hydraulic conductivity, transpiration and gas exchange, it is infused with trillions of microbes, from 81 different species, which are encouraged to form a biofilm.

    These microbes – the biotech – are hugely expensive. What’s clever about this particular microbial soup, though, along with the water-holding and thermal insulation of the rock, is that it succours only beneficial bugs. The substrate is constantly subjected to microbial tests – but, says Hugo, “we can actually put e.coli and salmonella inside our materials, and they don’t survive”.

    Harvest time at an Orlar farm in Da Lat, in Vietnam’s central highlands. Credit:Ngô Quang Thịnh/AFR

    This means the rock (unlike vermiculite or rockwool) is not dumped after each growth cycle but can be reused indefinitely. This gives the microbes, too, a long and useful life – rendering them very economical.

    Because such a microbe mix generates ultra-healthy plants, no chemicals are applied and only minimal amounts of organic-certified pesticides and synthetic fertiliser. No hazmat suits, either – just local people in T-shirts and jeans. The thermal qualities of the rock mean that almost no heating or cooling is required – energy use per kilogram is less than 1 per cent of other intensive agriculture. Water use is minimal and greenhouse gas emissions net-negative. The yield, meanwhile – lettuce, edible flowers, tomatoes, strawberries, herbs – is clean, fresh, local and cheap.

    This is important because South-East Asia has the world’s highest rate of residue-induced cancer. “Clean” imported food is flown in at huge cost and huger emissions; the poor get sick. Further, roughly half of Vietnam’s food production comes from the Mekong Delta, which is gradually sinking due to climate change and salinating due to the construction of hydro-dams up-river in China and Laos.

    Mekong rice uses 2500 litres of water per kilogram; Orlar food uses just 30 litres – and with four times the revenue per kilogram. Also, being vertical farming, with 20 plants grown in each two-metre-high stack or “pod”, it is extremely space-efficient.

    Critically, the thermal qualities of the rock allow temperate vegetables to be grown in “hostile” climates such as the Mekong, providing massive climate-adaptation and jobs with minimal water and land. Plus, as a company led by women, and 89 per cent staffed by women, it transforms lives and families.

    Hugo chuckles at herself. “Two peri-menopausal women head to the jungle and go, ‘Let’s change the world.’”

    Is it mad? As we confront mass climate-induced migration, I say, what could be saner?
  8. themickey


    Pacific Ocean garbage patch is immense plastic habitat
    By Victoria Gill Science correspondent, BBC News
    [​IMG]Image source, Ocean Voyages Institute Image caption,
    The researchers collaborated with the Ocean Voyages Institute to collect ocean debris

    Scientists have discovered marine animals living on plastic debris in an area of the open ocean dubbed "the Great Pacific Garbage Patch".

    Many of the creatures are coastal species, living miles from their usual habitats, on a patch halfway between the coast of California and Hawaii.

    Plants and animals, including anemones, tiny marine bugs, molluscs and crabs, were found on 90% of the debris.

    Scientists are concerned that plastic may help transport invasive species.

    The study examined plastic items more than 5cm (2in) in diameter gathered from a gyre - an area where circulating currents cause floating debris to accumulate - in the Pacific.

    Lead researcher Dr Linsey Haram, who carried out the work at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Centre, said: "Plastics are more permanent than many of the natural debris that you previously have seen in the open ocean. They're creating a more permanent habitat in this area."

    Dr Haram worked with the Ocean Voyages Institute, a charity that collects plastic pollution on sailing expeditions, and with oceanographers from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

    [​IMG]Image source, Smithsonian Image caption,
    More than half the items the researchers examined contained species usually found on the coast.

    The world has at least five plastic-infested gyres. This one is thought to hold the most floating plastic - an estimated 79,000 tonnes in a region of more than 610,000 square miles (1.6m sq km).

    "All sorts of stuff ends up out there," said Dr Haram. "It's not an island of plastic, but there's definitely a large amount of plastic corralled there."

    Much of that is micro-plastic - very difficult to see with the naked eye. But there are also larger items, including abandoned fishing nets, buoys and even vessels that have been floating in the gyre since the Japanese tsunami in 2011.

    The researchers, who reported their findings in the journal Nature Communications, initially embarked on the investigation following that devastating tsunami.

    The disaster caused tonnes of debris to be ejected into the Pacific ocean, and hundreds of coastal Japanese marine species were found alive on items that landed on the shores of the North American Pacific coast and the Hawaiian Islands.

    "We want to get a handle on how plastics may be a transport for invasive species to coasts," Dr Haram told BBC News.

    [​IMG]Image source, Reuters Image caption,
    The research began following the devastating 2011 tsunami in Japan, which sent tonnes of debris into the Pacific Ocean.

    Some of the organisms the researchers found on the plastic items they examined were open-ocean species - organisms that survive by "rafting" on floating debris. But the most eye-opening finding, Dr Haram said, was the diversity of coastal species on the plastic.

    "Well over half of the items had coastal species on them," she said. "That creates a lot of questions about what it means to be a coastal species."

    The scientists said the discovery highlighted another "unintended consequence" of plastic pollution - a problem only expected to grow.

    One previous study estimated that a total of 25,000 million tonnes of plastic waste would be generated by 2050.
  9. themickey


    December 10, 2021
    New Zealand to ban cigarette sales for future generations

    Dec 9 (Reuters) - New Zealand plans to ban young people from ever buying cigarettes in their lifetime in one of the world's toughest crackdowns on the tobacco industry, arguing that other efforts to extinguish smoking were taking too long.

    People aged 14 and under in 2027 will never be allowed to purchase cigarettes in the Pacific country of 5 million, part of proposals unveiled on Thursday that will also curb the number of retailers authorised to sell tobacco and cut nicotine levels in all products.

    "We want to make sure young people never start smoking so we will make it an offence to sell or supply smoked tobacco products to new cohorts of youth," New Zealand Associate Minister of Health Ayesha Verrall said in a statement.

    "If nothing changes, it would be decades till Maori smoking rates fall below 5%, and this government is not prepared to leave people behind."

    Currently, 11.6% of all New Zealanders aged over 15 smoke, a proportion that rises to 29% among indigenous Maori adults, according to government figures.

    The government will consult with a Maori health task force in the coming months before introducing legislation into parliament in June next year, with the aim of making it law by the end of 2022.

    The restrictions would then be rolled out in stages from 2024, beginning with a sharp reduction in the number of authorised sellers, followed by reduced nicotine requirements in 2025 and the creation of the "smoke-free" generation from 2027.

    The package of measures will make New Zealand's retail tobacco industry one of the most restricted in the world, just behind Bhutan where cigarette sales are banned outright. New Zealand's neighbour Australia was the first country in the world to mandate plain packaging of cigarettes in 2012.

    The New Zealand government said while existing measures like plain packaging and levies on sales had slowed tobacco consumption, the tougher steps were necessary to achieve its goal of fewer than 5% of the population smoking daily by 2025.

    The new rules would halve the country's smoking rates in as few as 10 years from when they take effect, the government said.

    Like New Zealand, the United Kingdom has set goals to go smoke-free by 2030 while Canada and Sweden have targets to bring down smoking prevalence to less than 5% of their populations.

    "All these aggressive targets are being introduced, yet, to date, we have still to see any country implement a coherent strategy likely to achieve a tobacco end-game. New Zealand might be a template for just that," Jefferies analyst Owen Bennett said.

    A woman lights a cigarette in this illustration picture. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
    However, he did not expect the legislation to have a near-term impact on tobacco groups.

    "It will be minimal, in our view. New Zealand is a very small market," he said.

    Smoking kills about 5,000 people a year in New Zealand, making it one of the country's top causes of preventable death. Four in five smokers started before age 18, the country's government said.

    Vaping, often seen as a safer alternative to smoking and a useful aid to quitting, is also tightly regulated with sales only allowed to over 18s.

    Health authorities welcomed the crackdown, while retailers and tobacco companies expressed concern about the impact on their businesses and warned of the emergence of a black market.

    "We welcome the New Zealand government’s recognition that excessive excise increases disproportionately impact smokers on lower incomes," tobacco group Imperial Brands (IMB.L) said, adding it was concerned about proposals to reduce nicotine levels and eventually prohibit sales.

    "Prohibitions of any kind tend to play into the hands of criminal traders who peddle unregulated illicit products," it also said.

    Marlboro maker Philip Morris (PM.N), which has previously said it would stop sales in the country if required by law, said it was reviewing the legislative proposal.

    According to brokerage Citi, Dunhill maker British American Tobacco (BAT) (BATS.L) is the market leader in New Zealand, with a 67% share by volume, while Imperial Brands, which sells JPS, Riverstone and Horizon cigarettes, accounts for 21%, generating about 1%-2% of its group earnings before taxes.

    BAT did not respond to requests for comment.

    The government did not detail how the new rules would be policed or whether they would apply to visitors to the country.

    "Cigarette smoking kills 14 New Zealanders every day and two out of three smokers will die as a result of smoking," said New Zealand Medical Association chair Alistair Humphrey in a statement.

    However, the Dairy and Business Owners Group, a lobby group for local convenience stores, said while it supported a smoke-free country, the government's plan would destroy many businesses.

    Reporting by Byron Kaye in Sydney and Siddharth Cavale in Bengaluru; editing by Jane Wardell, Kirsten Donovan and Lisa Shumaker
  10. easymon1


    delete jdls.jpg
    #10     Dec 15, 2021