As climate warms, Ecuador fights fires with forecasts

Ecuador

Sunset in Cuenca, Ecuador. (© Robin Moore/iLCP)

Ecuador is no stranger to wildfires.

In 2015, wildfires circled Quito, the capital, killing three firefighters and forcing evacuations.

As climate change raises the risks of seasonal wildfires in the South American country, a new twist on old technology is helping local authorities stop the fires before they start.

An innovative tool is being developed by researchers at Conservation International that combines local weather forecasts with existing systems that use satellites to track forest fires. The result is a “fire weather forecast” that will communicate the risk of a fire sparking to farmers and community members. Continue reading

Climate-fighting beads, record-breaking CO2, fossil-fueled plastics: 3 big stories you might have missed

Greenland

Arctic icebergs in Greenland. (© Mlenny)

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. In the warming Arctic, a promising solution to climate change

New technology may help keep the Arctic from melting — and prevent climate change in the process.

The story: Arctic sea ice is reflective, which means it helps bounce solar radiation off its surface and back into space, but melted ice has the opposite effect and absorbs radiation from the sun, further warming Earth. One proposed solution: silica microbeads, made mainly of quartz rock sand, that can restore the sea ice’s ability to reflect radiation and make ice thicker and more reflective, Grist reported last week. Continue reading

Your summer reading list: Nature edition

Mozambique

Man walking during sunrise in Mozambique. (© William Crosse)

As the lazy days of summer rapidly approach, Conservation International staff are spending their free time with their favorite books. In their own words, here’s what they say about the books they can’t put down.

  1. “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens

“Where the Crawdads Sing is not a nature book directly, but the descriptions of the North Carolinamarsh lands are marvelous. The main character’s passion and love for studying and learning about different bird and marsh species is inspirational. The author’s knowledge of the area, as well as the range of species that she describes in vivid detail is impressive and makes this book a worthwhile read.”

– Jenny Hewson, senior director for habitat monitoring and climate mitigation Continue reading

Wildlife loss, flight footprints, Irish action: 3 big stories you might have missed

Black rhinos

Mother and baby black rhino in warm evening light in Etosha National Park, Namibia. (© WLDavies)

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: Half of world’s biggest airlines don’t offer carbon offsets

Air travel contributes 2 percent of annual global greenhouse gas emissions, but less than half of the world’s biggest airlines offer options to offset those emissions.

The story: The majority of airlines don’t offer carbon offsets, which let passengers pay a small fee to the airline to offset the carbon emissions of their flight, Dulcie Lee and Laura Foster reported for BBC last week. The money from these offsets is invested into “green” initiatives such as solar panels or planting trees. Continue reading

Want to fight climate change? Educate girls

Young girl in South Africa

Young girl in Leliefontein, Namaqualand, South Africa. (© CSA/Green Renaissance)

In sub-Saharan Africa, 52 million girls do not attend school. This doesn’t only translate to a lack of job opportunities and poverty — it also means lower climate resilience: Studies have found that for every additional year of school a girl receives (on average), her country’s climate resilience measurably improves.

“While rarely considered together, progress in girls’ education and climate change are integrally connected,” writes Alice Ruhweza, vice president of programs and partnerships at Conservation International Africa, in a recently published post. Continue reading

Styrofoam ban, a naming game, pollinators in trouble: 3 big stories you might have missed

Butterfly

A butterfly, one of the world’s pollinators, in the Philippines. Globally, pollinators are in trouble because of human activity, including pesticides and development. (© Conservation International/photo by Haroldo Castro)

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. Maine passes the U.S.’s first state ban on foam food packaging

Foam food containers (better known by the brand name Styrofoam) will be banned in Maine beginning in 2021.

The story: Many cities and counties within the U.S. have already imposed foam food container bans, but Maine is the first state to do so, Laura Parker reported for National Geographic last week. Foam containers are made of an expanded plastic called polystyrene and can take decades to break down in the environment. Continue reading

A new report depicts a failing planet. A new book has solutions

Kiribati

Global sea-level rise threatens homes and livelihoods in Kiribati, an island nation in the Pacific. (© Ciril Jazbec)

A UN report released today paints a sobering picture of the natural world — and the blame for the damage lies solely at humanity’s feet. Almost 1 million species face extinction; essential crops are under threat; our oceans are overfished.

What’s making it worse: climate change (and we’re the cause of that, too).

A new book, “Biodiversity and Climate Change: Transforming the Biosphere,” edited by renowned scientists Lee Hannah of Conservation International and Thomas Lovejoy, senior fellow at the UN Foundation, examines the rapid warming, catastrophic storms and record-breaking droughts that will upend life as we know it. In this interview, Hannah discusses the science behind the findings in their book, culled from recent research by dozens of leading scientists over the past 10 years on the intersection between wildlife and the climate — and describes the actions we must take to stop a complete climate breakdown. Continue reading

Meet a scientist: the ocean ambassador

Emily Pidgeon

Emily Pidgeon and her daughter, Bronwyn, planting mangroves together in Florida. (Photo courtesy of Emily Pidgeon)

Editor’s note: A recent survey found that 81 percent of Americans could not name a living scientist. No, not a single one. At Conservation International (CI), we have lots of scientists you should know. Here’s one.

Emily Pidgeon is senior director of the Blue Climate program within Conservation International’s Center for Oceans. Pidgeon focuses on coastal and ocean ecosystems as critical solutions to climate change, including “blue carbon” — the carbon stored naturally in mangrove forests and other coastal ecosystems.

Human Nature spoke with Pidgeon about her passion for protecting the oceans — and how a gig as a volunteer aquarium guide taught her a life-changing lesson.

Question: What made you want to study the ocean? Continue reading

Otters, economic inequality, Arctic warming: 3 big stories you might have missed

Sea otters

Sea otters swim in California. (© Will Turner)

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. These otters are popular pets in Asia. That may be their undoing

Asian small-clawed otters have rapidly become popular as pets in Asia, but they’re often captured illegally.

The story: From otter cafes to personal pets, otters have become highly sought-after as pets on the continent, Rachel Nuwer reported for The New York Times last week. Most otter species in Asia are listed as vulnerable or endangered because they are the targets of pollution, fishers, human development and poachers — and their newfound popularity as pets is making it harder for them to recover. Continue reading

The most important conservation law you’ve never heard of

Essequibo River

Essequibo River, Guyana. (© Pete Oxford/iLCP)

In January 2019, U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law the Tropical Forest Conservation Act (TFCA), a reauthorization of a landmark conservation law that lapsed in 2014.

The act, which had bipartisan support, has already saved more than 68 million acres of tropical forest — the equivalent of taking about 12 million cars off the road for one year. Over its 26 years in effect, TFCA generated more than US$ 339 million for tropical forest conservation. Its reauthorization is considered a success for U.S. and foreign governments’ economies, nature and people.

Here’s what you need to know.

What is the Tropical Forest Conservation Act?

It’s a law that redirects countries’ debt to the U.S. into the conservation of forests, wildlife and now — for the first time — coral reefs. Continue reading