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.
The story: The Belize Barrier Reef has been removed from the United Nations list of endangered world heritage sites, Tryggvi Adalbjornsson reported for the New York Times on June 27. Removal from the list is a direct result of the Belize government’s conservation actions in the nearly 10 years since the reef was added to the list.
The big picture: In response to the UN’s concerns about mangrove cutting, development and oil exploration, the government implemented laws banning oil exploration around the reef and boosting protections for coastal mangrove forests. Removal from the list doesn’t mean the reef is invulnerable to other threats, however — specifically, climate change. According to John Bruno, a marine ecologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, “The primary threats are all still there. The big one, of course, is ocean warming.”
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The story: In 2017, the world’s tropical forests lost 39 million acres of trees, Brad Plumer reported for The New York Times on June 27. Last year was second only to 2016 in recorded tropical tree cover loss.
The big picture: Deforestation accounts for 10 percent of human-induced carbon dioxide emissions. To understand where the worst damage is occurring — and to better target conservation efforts aimed at preventing further deforestation — scientists are using satellite data to track reduction in tree canopies around the world. Halting this deforestation is critical to global efforts to fight climate change. “We simply won’t meet the climate targets that we agreed to in Paris without a drastic reduction in tropical deforestation and restoration of forests around the world,” said Andreas Dahl-Jorgensen, deputy director of the Norwegian government’s International Climate and Forest Initiative.
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The story: Starbucks announced today that it plans to eliminate plastic straws from its 28,000 stores worldwide by 2020, Jennifer Liberto reported for NPR. The move is part of Starbucks’ US$ 10 million investment in creating recyclable and compostable cups. Starbucks has designed, developed and manufactured a strawless lid that will become the standard for all of the company’s iced beverages. Unlike plastic straws, the lids can be recycled.
The big picture: The movement to eliminate single-use plastic is spreading throughout companies and governments worldwide. Last week, Seattle became the first U.S. city to ban plastic drinking straws, a type of single-use plastic. Several countries have banned single-use plastics, including in Australia, the United Kingdom and Kenya. “For 20 years, Starbucks has partnered with Conservation International to lead the coffee industry toward a more sustainable future,” said Conservation International CEO Dr. M. Sanjayan. “Today, Starbucks is adding to that impressive legacy by taking a stand against single-use plastic waste. At current rates of pollution, the world’s oceans will contain more plastic than fish by 2050. By ending its use of plastic straws, Starbucks is taking meaningful action to protect our oceans.”
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Jessica Pink is an editorial intern for Conservation International.
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