Our New Environment #59

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Deepnews Digest #59

Our New Environment

Editor: Christopher Brennan
Before coronavirus, the global, often invisible challenge that demanded the world’s attention was climate change. Now that another momentous problem has been added, the questions include how to lower carbon emissions while also restarting the world’s economy, and whether things can go back to the way they were before. This Digest comes at the request of our followers on Twitter, and explores issues ranging in size from the billions of dollars in government stimulus to the individual worries of “waste pickers.” All found with the Deepnews Scoring Model.


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Story Source
Straits Times
The lessons drawn from dealing with the pandemic are just as salient in the debates over how to fight climate change. Although climate issues are currently taking a back seat to the Covid-10 pandemic, they have not gone away and are likely to flare up again as temperatures rise in summer, sparking off a new round of fires and droughts.

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MongaBay India
Around a month ago, an Indian film star shared a video of dolphins near Mumbai shores, on social media. She attributed their appearance to the fresh air following the shutdown that had begun in the city—a few days before the nationwide, government-mandated lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The video, viewed over 118,000 times, was shared widely on social media with people celebrating the appearance of the dolphins, with some even terming it as a “rare” occurrence and the dolphins “coming back.”

Editor’s Note: You’ve probably seen them, videos of dolphins or some other creature returning to the cities that have been largely vacated by coronavirus. Here Aditi Tandon offers an in-depth take for the Indian environment-focused website MongaBay , where she says that these animals have always been near cities, but they are just being noticed now. – Christopher Brennan, Editor

WSJ ($)
As oil prices spiked in the late 1970s, then-U.S. President Jimmy Carter installed solar panels on the roof of the White House. Historically, expensive crude spurred experiments to develop alternative energy sources and falling prices reversed the trend. But times have changed and today’s ultralow oil prices aren’t likely to slow the roll out of renewables.

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Japan Times
Jakarta – Wednesday marked the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, which was strikingly different from the previous years. Countries across the planet are grappling with an unprecedented situation in which a seemingly innocuous viral illness turned into a global pandemic in less than 90 days. The novel coronavirus has infected more than 2.7 million people in more than 200 countries, claimed over 190,000 lives and brought most economic activities to a standstill.

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CleanTechnica
Offices and factories have shut down. Millions of people have lost their jobs. Daily life for everyone has been altered in ways that our imaginations never could have embraced. And, while the skies are clearer in many places than they’ve been for years, it is uncertain as to whether even a slow reopening of business post-COVID-19 will have any significant effect on the long-term carbon emissions. Cleantech is the necessary next step to mitigate the climate crisis, and it’s imperative to get cleantech companies back up and running quickly.

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Washington Post
Amid its horrors and tragedies, the coronavirus pandemic has driven home a startling reality. Travel bans and lockdowns have cleaned the globe, flushing the murk from Venice’s canals, clearing Delhi’s polluted smog, making distant snowy peaks visible for the first time in years from the shores of the Bosporus. With humans in retreat, nature reclaimed what was once its own in whimsical ways: Goats strutted through villages, antlered deer grazed on manicured city lawns and mountain lions found perches by suburban fences.

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Reuters
Day labourers have been given new jobs as “jungle workers”, planting saplings as part of the country’s 10 Billion Tree Tsunami programme.

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Connecticut Post
Now, in the second month of the COVID-19 shutdown in Connecticut, the disconnect between what officials say about the food supply and what the economically challenged are experiencing is obvious: hundreds of people in cars lined up for bags of free groceries, half empty grocery store shelves, and food banks and pantries just flat out of food.

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Grist
In the decades that followed, environmental justice advocates told us to pay heed to these same communities that King died trying to help. We were warned that the storm was coming. The environmental movement, they said, should reckon with the disproportionate effects of environmental contamination — from petrochemical facilities, landfills, waste incinerators, oil refineries, smelters, and freeways — on low-income residents and communities of color.

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The Conversation
We research how consumers respond to change, such as why consumers largely resisted single-use plastic bag bans. Recently we’ve explored how the coronavirus has changed the use of plastic bags, containers and other disposable products. Amid understandable concern over health and hygiene during the pandemic, the problem of disposable plastics has taken a back seat.

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Chatham House
The pressure of the coronavirus pandemic is adding to a widely held misconception that trade in food products is bad for the environment due to the associated ‘food miles’ – the carbon footprint of agricultural products transported over long distances.

Editor’s Note: Several of the articles on this list deal with food, how it is produced, shipped and impacted by coronavirus. Here Christophe Bellmann of Chatham House says that cutting down on food trade post-Covid would be an “inefficient and expensive” way of reducing emissions. – Christopher Brennan, Editor

Financial Times ($)
Certain environmentalists have long argued that economic growth must end for the sake of the planet. “Degrowth” is concisely defined by one proponent, Riccardo Mastini, as “the abolition of economic growth as a social objective”.

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The Guardian
The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, promised EasyJet that green taxes would not be levied on airlines six months before the company was given a £600m coronavirus crisis loan with no environmental conditions attached, newly released documents show.

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Bangkok Post
Over the past year, Thais have become more aware of the impact of single-use plastics on the environment and joined hands to reduce its consumption. But as the country has been hit by the spread of Covid-19, forcing people to spend more time at home, the amount of plastic waste generated has surged by 15%.

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Independent (UK)
Pandemic on course to cause largest decrease in emissions ever recorded, six times larger than the previous record drop in 2009 following global financial downturn, says International Energy Agency.

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South China Morning Post
India’s waste is handled by millions of formal and informal garbage collectors, many of whom work without protective equipment. As the number of Covid-19 patients rises, so does the potentially tainted trash they generate, which is often not marked as hazardous.

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Stuff NZ
Traffic pollution measurements in Auckland since Level 4 restrictions were eased on Tuesday have shown levels soaring even higher than those before lockdown, NIWA air quality scientists say.

Editor’s Note: Another headline you’ve probably seen is the impact of lockdowns on emissions, which plunged as people stayed home. Here Stuff NZ digs into what is happening to the air for Kiwis now that things are more open than they were several weeks ago. – Christopher Brennan, Editor

Bloomberg
London — For much of 2019, youth-led climate protest movements dominated public conversation. Greta Thunberg, Fridays for Future and Extinction Rebellion seemed to rotate on the world’s front pages.

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Tufts University
Empty shelves lining supermarkets, farmers dumping milk and abandoning fields of crops, restaurants laying off staff — the American food landscape has changed dramatically in just a month, thanks to stay-at-home advisories and social distancing in the age of COVID-19.

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NY Times
Some 400 special electric meters in New York apartments provide a shifting view of power use while people are stuck inside.

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Bloomberg
The coronavirus lockdown will cause the biggest drop in energy demand in history, with only renewables managing to increase output through the crisis. As people around the world consume less oil, gas and coal, electricity generated from the wind and sun will keep flowing, resulting in an unprecedented 8% decline in global carbon dioxide emissions this year, according to a report from the International Energy Agency.

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Scientific American
Scientists have long known that the rise in average global temperatures is expanding the geographical presence of vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever, because the animals that transmit them are adapting to more widespread areas. The link between respiratory illnesses, including influenza and COVID-19, and a warming planet is less clear. But some scientists are concerned that climate change could alter the relationship between our body’s defenses and such pathogens. These modifications could include the adaptation of microbes to a warming world, changes in how viruses and bacteria interact with their animal hosts, and a weakened human immune response.

Editor’s Note: Climate and disease are linked not only by things like COVID’s impact on emissions. Here Sara Goudarzi explores what warming means for animals, viruses and the human response. – Christopher Brennan, Editor

The Hill
At a time when our nation is in the midst of a global pandemic, Americans can’t afford for another disaster to strike. The effects of natural catastrophes are no secret – we’ve seen the impacts of last year’s California wildfires and the intensifying hurricanes that regularly plague the southeast coasts. What we have yet to experience, however, are how to manage disaster relief efforts look like while simultaneously fighting a global health pandemic.

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HuffPost
Oil prices entered a stunning free-fall this week as the industry ran low on places to store the petroleum it can’t sell but keeps pumping amid the coronavirus pandemic. The value of oil slated for delivery next month is at $30 below zero per barrel ― the first time in history the price of crude dipped into negative territory. The downturn has wiped billions from the balance sheets of industry titans like Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. The “financial bloodbath” analysts predicted last month overflowed as hundreds of U.S. oil producers limped toward bankruptcy and the industry laid off more than 6,000 workers in a single day.

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Reuters
YAMAL-NENETS AUTONOMOUS DISTRICT, Russia – The flare stack at the Yarudeiskoye gas well burns brightly through the long Arctic night, lighting up the treeless tundra in northern Russia as compressors fill the air with an incessant whine. Indigenous Nenets reindeer herders say oil and gas operations in the Yamal region – exploration activity that includes hundreds of wells and dozens of trains and tankers – are polluting the environment and harming their animals’ health.

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