What we’re reading: Ivory bans, solar subways

African elephant, South Africa

Both China and the United States recently announced new restrictions on commercial ivory trading within their countries. As the two largest consumers of ivory worldwide, changes to ivory policies in these countries could help save dwindling African elephant populations. (© Clive Rogers/Flickr Creative Commons)

Editor’s note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In this occasional series, Human Nature shares three recent stories of interest in our world

  1. Bleaching ‘devastates’ Chagos Marine Reserve

The story: We’ve already heard about the dangerous coral bleaching event — likely exacerbated by El Niño — that is taking a huge toll on the Great Barrier Reef. Now the BBC is reporting that coral bleaching has damaged up to 85% of corals in the U.K.’s Chagos Marine Reserve in the Indian Ocean.

What’s next: Normally one of the most pristine reefs in the ocean, Chagos recovered after a less severe bleaching in 1998. Time will tell if water temperatures cool down soon enough to allow the Chagos corals to revive, but their strong health before the bleaching will likely make them more resilient. As Heather Koldewey of the Zoological Society of London told the BBC, “If anywhere can bounce back, it is the Chagos Archipelago.”

Read more here.

  1. China promises timetable for ivory trading ban

The story: This week a Chinese government official announced that China will set a timetable to phase out the commercial ivory trade by the end of 2016. Sixth Tone reported that although China signed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) treaty in 1981, which banned the international ivory trade, the country still has a domestic trade in the product. This news comes after the U.S. announced the July 6 adoption of a near-total ban on its own commercial trade.

What’s next: These and other efforts continue on multiple fronts to combat the poaching crisis and the risks it poses to economic, national and global security. Even though live elephants have been estimated to be 76 times more valuable than dead ones, African elephant populations continue to plummet due to poaching.

Read more here.


The conservation world is a busy place. Stay up to date on the stories you should know about.



  1. Santiago’s subway will soon be the first to run on mostly solar and wind power

 The story: Beginning in 2017, solar power from Chile’s Atacama Desert — supposedly the sunniest place on the planet — will help fuel the country’s capital. According to FastCoExist.com, the subway will get the majority of its power from renewable energy (solar and wind).

 What’s next: As more of the global population congregates in cities, finding clean sources of power — ones that don’t contribute to air pollution or climate change like traditional sources — will be increasingly important both for sustainability and human health. FastCoExist quoted Tom Werner, the CEO of SunPower, the company building the solar system for the subway: “The value’s gotten so good they can save money. I think this is the beginning of a widespread trend.”

Read more here.

Molly Bergen is the senior managing editor of Human Nature.

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  1. Paywall says

    I wish the timetable on China’s ban was today! China is not known for the effectiveness when it comes to banned substances, but hopefully it will be different for ivory.

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