Making the Links: May 2015

This is my fifth post in “Making the Links,” a monthly blog series in which I attempt to connect the dots between nature and people in the news. (To learn more about the goal of the series, read the first post.)

vegetables in Mexico City market

Produce for sale at a market in Mexico City. Roughly one-third of food produced worldwide is thrown away. (© Jessica Scranton)

Here’s my link roundup from May.

The Nature in Humans (Stories Secretly about Nature)

  1. France Is Making it Illegal for Supermarkets to Throw Away Edible Food

This Washington Post article shares one country’s milestone in the fight against food waste, focusing on the fact that roughly one-third of all food produced worldwide is thrown away — an amount that could feed the 842 million people on the planet who don’t have enough to eat.

The link: According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the carbon footprint of food waste is larger than every country in the world except China and the U.S. — underscoring how useful reducing food waste could be in combating climate change.

If humanity’s nutritional needs can be met by reducing waste rather than increasing the amount of food produced, it will reduce the need to convert forests and grasslands into farms and to overfish our oceans — enabling our ecosystems to continue to filter drinking water, prevent erosion and perform the innumerable other services that people depend on.

  1. Mediterranean Migrant Crisis: Thousands of Migrants Rescued at Sea

This BBC story highlights the plight of African and Middle Eastern migrants making the dangerous crossing over the Mediterranean Sea in search of refuge and a better life in Europe. As of early May, “at least 1,750 people have died this year trying to cross the Mediterranean, a 20-fold increase on the same period in 2014,” the story notes.

The link: The influx of migrants into Europe has many causes; one of them is drought, which has devastated African countries in recent years, causing widespread famine (which killed almost 5% of Somalia’s population between 2010 and 2012). Scientists predict that climate change will exacerbate drought in places like Africa’s Sahel region, which could potentially increase the number of African migrants who attempt the perilous journey across the sea. 

The Humans in Nature (Stories Secretly about People)

  1. Feathered Dinosaurs, Cartwheeling Spiders: SUNY’s Top 10 New Species

This CNN story highlights a few species new to science that were recently compiled in a list by taxonomists at the State University of New York.

The link: Several of these species are reported to be under threat of extinction, and as CI Executive Vice Chair Russ Mittermeier explained in a recent blog post, losing species can have unexpected negative results. Not only do we depend on species for everything from food to water filtration to forest growth, we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how species keep ecosystems functioning — as well as their potential use in new medicines and technology.

  1. Sea Level Rise Accelerated over the Past Two Decades, Research Finds

This highly technical Guardian article spotlights new research indicating that the rate of sea level rise has increased in recent years, a finding in line with models produced by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The link: This piece didn’t touch upon the main reason that sea level rise is such bad news for people: According to the U.N. Environment Programme, half the world’s population lives within 60 kilometers (37 miles) of the ocean, and three-quarters of all large cities sit on the coast.

Editor’s Note: 

The daily news cycle by necessity sometimes has to leave out the big picture. However, the more we can train ourselves to see the links between nature and the news, the more aware we’ll be of nature’s central role in our lives — and of the importance of protecting it.

Stay tuned at the end of June for my next “Making the Links” post — and in the meantime, keep an eye out for these “missing links” as you peruse the news.

Molly Bergen is the senior managing editor of Human Nature. 

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