We’re in a global water crisis. It’s time to turn to nature

Milanovac Lake in Croatia's Plitvice National Park.

Photo of Milanovac Lake in Croatia’s Plitvice National Park. (© Maurizio Biancarelli/ Wild Wonders of Europe)

Earth has a water problem.

Water crises in Cape Town and Southern California have shined a light on the plight of the planet’s fresh water in the face of climate change — and the critical role that nature plays in addressing today’s most pressing water challenges.

A new paper published in the scientific journal Ecohydrology and Hydrobiology looks at the gravest threats to our water security — and explores how nature can help us protect and manage the global water supply, sustainably. It’s this focus on nature-based solutions that drives the study’s “21st century approach” to addressing the world’s water problems.

The paper makes the case that, while traditional engineering approaches have immediate benefits in addressing water problems, they can be costly to install and maintain, are often not designed well to respond to climate change and they impair the environment. These engineering and technology approaches are not enough to tackle water crises in the face of climate change, according to Ian Harrison, a freshwater specialist for Conservation International, and one of the paper’s co-authors. In a recent interview, Human Nature spoke with Harrison about the paper.

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In case you missed it: 3 big stories from our world

Yosemite, United States.

Yosemite, United States. (© Eric Li)

Editor’s note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Human Nature shares three stories from the past week that you should know about.

  1. Conflicting data: How fast is the world losing its forests?

Two data sources used to determine rate of deforestation directly contradict each other.

The story: Of the two main databases used to track forest loss, one claims that we are losing forests while the other says that we are gaining them — and scientists disagree on which one is more accurate, Fred Pearce for Yale Environment 360 wrote last Tuesday. What’s behind the discrepancy? One source pulls satellite images of forest cover, painting a gloomy picture, and the other compiles government inventories on how land is being used, pointing to declining rates of deforestation. For example, in the latter database, even if an area was cleared for logging, it is still considered “productive forest” because it is expected to regrow.

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Sparking an ‘ECOrenaissance’: An insider’s guide to sustainability

The cover of “ECOrenaissance: A Lifestyle Guide for Cocreating a Stylish, Sexy, and Sustainable World.” (© Courtesy of Marci Zaroff)

You’ve read about plastic drinking straws choking the oceans. You’ve heard about the human cost of your affordable shrimp — not to mention the toll on the environment. Even your holiday shopping is a climate-change culprit.

While public awareness of critical environmental issues is at an all-time high — “green” is officially mainstream — the trickiest part can be deciding where you, the individual, should start.

A new book, “ECOrenaissance: A Lifestyle Guide for Cocreating a Stylish, Sexy, and Sustainable World” by environmental pioneer Marci Zaroff is here to help you with that. Zaroff, a 30-year veteran of the industry (and coiner of the now ubiquitous term, “ecofashion,” back in 1995), offers up her insider knowledge on who and what to watch, read, listen to, eat, make, buy and wear to live an environmentally friendly lifestyle.

Human Nature sat down with Zaroff to learn more.

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A shortage of beer and fries? Climate change hits Europe where it hurts

Mug of beer and fries. (© Alex Kosev)

Climate change has fueled raging wildfires around the world, bleached coral reefs and intensified hurricanes — and now it’s coming for Europe’s fries.

A hot and dry summer has caused low potato yields in Belgium and across Europe, resulting in sad, stubby fries or “frites” — up to an entire inch shorter than the 3-inch norm. The news gets worse: If Europeans were planning to wash down those salty frites with a cold Belgian beer, then they need to think again. There might also be a shortage of the brew due to an expected decrease in barley yields.

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In case you missed it: 3 big stories from our world

A small beaver pond reflects clouds in the Hulahula River Valley, Alaska. (© Art Wolfe)

Editor’s note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Human Nature shares three stories from the past week that you should know about.

  1. Commercial fishing banned across much of the Arctic

A portion of the Arctic recently melted due to global warming, opening up the area to ships. Despite the new access, the area will be off-limits to the fishing industry.

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We can limit global warming to 1.5 degrees — with nature’s help

Danxia landform, China.

Danxia landform in Zhangye, China. (© Heng Wang)

You would be forgiven for feeling blue about the state of the climate today.

A new report released today issues an ominous warning: The world is on track to blow past the limit at which runaway climate change will upend life as we know it. Even with commitments made to date under the 2015 Paris Agreement, the largest global accord on climate change, we will overshoot Earth’s “carbon budget” in a matter of a few years.

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3 forest stories you should know about

Japanese Cedar

Japanese Cedar of Anzihe Protected Area in China. (© Kyle Obermann)

Forests are essential to human survival: They filter our air and water, keep carbon out of the atmosphere and even provide us with life-saving prescription medicines.

Despite all of these benefits, humans have already destroyed almost half of the world’s forests.

But there’s good news: People are stepping up to conserve existing forests and restore the ones we’ve already cut down. Here are three recent positive developments in forest conservation.

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The planet does not wait

Zempoala National Park

Zempoala National Park, Mexico. (© Jessica Scranton)

Editor’s note: This piece originally appeared in the September issue of Vogue Mexico. Read the post in Spanish here.

Recent images of plastic pollution in our oceans have shocked the world. The global president of Conservation International, Jennifer Morris, talks exclusively with Vogue about the main environmental problems and the urgency of passing the call to action.

Conservation International is a titan with presence in 30 countries and three decades of work for the environment. Recently, the organization was in the news for the success of its campaign Nature is Speaking, in which the voices of famous figures such as Salama Hayek, Harrison Ford and Julia Roberts, among many others, represent some of the natural resources to convey the message: Nature doesn’t need people, people need nature. “We’ve had an incredible response from people. We have launched videos in nine languages ​​thanks to the support of many celebrities, many women because we wanted to represent nature as a generator of life,” says the global president of Conservation International, Jennifer Morris.

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In case you missed it: 3 big stories from our world

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park’s glaciers have been receding rapidly over the last 100 years, and it is predicted that the glaciers in the park will disappear by 2030. (© Conservation International/photo by Robyn Dalzen)

Editor’s note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Human Nature shares three stories from the past week that you should know about.

  1. Climate change is destroying our national parks at an alarming rate, study finds

National parks throughout the U.S. are being hit harder by climate change than other parts of the country.

The story: The United States’ national parks may be in danger, Alex Horton with The Washington Post reported Tuesday. The parks are experiencing the effects of climate change more severely because many are at high elevations, where the air warms more quickly. For the eight parks located in Alaska, continually melting snow enables darker surfaces to absorb more heat.

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Good governance for migratory species

Eastern Pacific yellow-fin tuna.

Eastern Pacific yellow-fin tuna off of Cocos Island, Costa Rica. (© Conservation International/photo by Sterling Zumbrunn)

Editor’s note: The following letter originally appeared in the journal Science in response to the article, “Preparing ocean governance for species on the move.” 

In their Policy Forum “Preparing ocean governance for species on the move” (15 June, p. 1189), M. L. Pinsky et al. discuss the need to cooperatively govern fisheries affected by climate change. This idea is not new to Pacific Island states, which supply 30% of the global tuna catch. The Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) provide a shining example of how to equitably share the benefits from fishing for skipjack tuna, which move not only among the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of the island countries but also in response to climate. The PNA’s “vessel day scheme” (VDS) was developed explicitly to cooperatively manage these highly migratory tuna species within the combined EEZs of the PNA members.

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