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

Anzihe Protected Area

Anzihe Protected Area, Chongzhou, Sichuan. (© Kyle Obermann)

Editor’s note: Although the news cycle slowed during the holiday season, it did not stop. In a recurring feature, Human Nature shares three stories from the past week that you should know about.

  1. This island was on the brink of disaster. Then, they planted thousands of trees.

A small islet in Tanzania had water shortages, scorching heat and a dwindling food supply due to deforestation, but things began to change once they started planting trees.

The story: Kokota, home to only 500 people, had such little fresh water that people would sail for hours to the neighboring island of Pemba to buy water, Sarah Gibbens reported for National Geographic last week. So a local non-profit employee began a partnership — Community Forests International — with a Canadian tree planter to begin reforesting the islands.

The big picture: Climate change worsens the effects of deforestation, such as lack of fresh water and rising temperatures, Gibbens wrote. By planting trees, people on Pemba and Kokota can mitigate the effects of climate change and expand their economies. “It wasn’t going to be a climate-change solution unless it was also an economic solution,” Zach Melanson, co-founder and communications director for Community Forests International, said.

Read the story here.

  1. How does your state make electricity?

The United States — one of the world’s top-polluting countries per capita — is transitioning its energy production at the state level. Here’s how.

The story: The U.S. now produces more energy from natural gas than coal, Nadja Popovich reported for The New York Times last week. To see how each state stacks up against the national average, scroll through the interactive article.

The big picture: Fossil fuels are still the primary source of energy for the U.S., but natural gas is better for pollution and carbon emissions than coal. Experts say although natural gas is better, it’s the lesser of two evils when it comes to energy production, and renewable resources like solar and wind should be prioritized.

Read the story here.

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  1. How the government shutdown could impact the nation’s environment

The U.S. federal government has been shut down for more than one week, and it affects more than federal employee salaries.

The story: The shutdown of the federal government affects national parks, climate and weather research and the operations of the Environmental Protection Agency, Olivia Rosane reported in EcoWatch last week.

The big picture: Currently the shutdown impacts around one quarter of the federal government, and it has continued into the new year. Research funded by organizations such as NASA is put on hold because of the shutdown, which can delay key findings about weather and the climate, and employees of the EPA have travel restrictions, which slows down inspections and the issue of protections.

Read the story here.

Olivia DeSmit is a staff writer for Conservation International.

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