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


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


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

Jellyfish or plastic bag? New VR film dives in to troubled waters

Moon jellyfish off the coast of Gam, Raja Ampat, Indonesia. They are a food source for birds, fish and turtles which, as oceans become polluted, increasingly mistake plastic for jellyfish, often with fatal consequences. (© Conservation International/photo by Sterling Zumbrunn)

Imagine for a moment that you are 2 inches tall. Submerged in the ocean (don’t worry, you can breathe!), you hitch a ride on the back of a translucent jellyfish. Suddenly, a massive leatherback turtle swoops above your head, chasing down its next meal. As you get closer, you realize the floating translucent object is not another jellyfish — the turtle’s favorite food — it’s a plastic bag. Looking up toward the surface, you notice the sunlight is peeking through a thick layer of bottles, containers and other plastic trash.

This is Conservation International’s new social virtual reality experience, “Drop in the Ocean.” Four players are transported under water and brought face to face with the global plastic pollution crisis — from the perspective of the creatures that live in it.

When you’re under water in “Drop in the Ocean,” you will be stunned by the sheer amount of plastic that marine species encounter every day. In fact, by 2050, there will likely be more plastic in the ocean by weight than fish. Continue reading

Funds adding fuel in tech’s climate race

Anzihe Protected Area

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

How do you solve the global water crisis? An innovative hydropanel technology that uses solar energy to turn water vapor into clean, drinkable water could be part of the answer.

Making that technology available to the hundreds of millions of people lacking access to clean, stable water sources, however, is another issue entirely. That’s where a tech accelerator — a fund that give fledgling businesses much-needed capital to scale-up their brilliant ideas — comes in.

A new partnership between Conservation International and Elemental Excelerator, a tech accelerator that funds energy and water start-ups, among others, aims to direct the tech industry’s significant talent and resources toward solving pressing environmental challenges. In an article published in GreenBiz, Agustin Silvani, senior vice president of the Conservation Finance Division at Conservation International, explained the hurry: “If you look at all the climate studies, we have basically 10 years to solve these issues … We need new ideas and innovation to change these trajectories.” Continue reading

Emissions in NYC, plastic-eating bacteria, more accurate forecasts: 3 big stories you might have missed

North Vietnam

Mountains of North Vietnam. (© Hoang Giang Hai/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 a recurring feature, Human Nature shares three stories from the past week that you should know about.

  1. Big buildings hurt the climate. New York City hopes to change that

New York City’s government approved legislation last week that caps emissions for many buildings, including Trump Tower.

The story: The goal of this cap is to reduce emissions in New York City by 40 percent by 2030, William Neuman reported for The New York Times last week. The emissions cap will increase costs for real-estate owners, which will trickle down to renters. Because of this, there are exemptions for affordable housing, such as rent-regulated apartments, and for houses of worship — but even they will need to undergo energy-cutting measures, such as installing better insulation. Continue reading

5 ways you can help endangered species today

© Conor Wall

A pangolin in Cambodia. Pangolin subspecies range from critically endangered to vulnerable. (© Conor Wall)

This year for Earth Day, we turn our attention to endangered species — and what you can do to help protect them. Human Nature tapped five Conservation International experts for their best tips to help endangered species, whether you’re rustling up a mid-afternoon snack or shopping for new clothes.

Let’s jump in.

  1. Embrace meatless Mondays

“If you have easy access to food options, stop eating meat — or at least limit your consumption and choose locally sourced meat. Research shows that the rising consumption of animal-based proteins is one of the biggest drivers of the destruction of terrestrial ecosystems and the loss of species. Raising and feeding livestock also contributes to climate change, consumes tremendous water resources and generates pollution. The bonus to eating less meat? Many people in economically developed countries consume much more protein than they need — switching to a more plant-based diet would actually improve their health!” – Olivier Langrand, executive director, Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund Continue reading