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Satellite Eye on Earth: March 2017 – in pictures

Mount Etna, India’s ship graveyard and trees in Africa are among the images captured by European Space Agency and Nasa satellites last month

The Mackenzie river system is Canada’s largest watershed, and the 10th largest water basin in the world. The river runs 4,200km (2,600 miles) from the Columbia icefield in the Canadian Rockies to the Arctic Ocean. If your vehicle weighs less than 22,000lb, you can drive the frozen river out to Reindeer Station. The bitterly cold ice road runs for 194km between the remote outposts of Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk. White, snow- and ice-covered waterways of the east channel of the Mackenzie river delta stand out amid green, pine-covered land. The low angle of the sunlight bathes the higher elevations in golden light. The pond- and lake-covered lands around the river are home to caribou, waterfowl, and a number of fish species. Several thousand reindeer travel through this area each year on the way to their calving grounds.

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Source: Guardian Climate Change

Trump review threatens to rip up Obama protections for wilderness areas

  • Interior secretary to review past presidents’ national monument designations
  • Designation of monuments could be ‘rescinded, modified or resized’

Donald Trump is triggering a review of protections that cover more than a billion acres of US public land and waters in a move that could potentially rescind the designation of several national monuments declared by previous presidents.

Trump will on Wednesday sign an executive order relating to the Antiquities Act, a law introduced by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1906 which gives presidents the ability to name areas of federal land and waters as national monuments. The order will direct Ryan Zinke, the secretary of the interior, to review about 30 national monuments that are larger than 100,000 acres and have been declared since 1996.

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Source: Guardian Climate Change

Punch a shark, whistle away a bear: how to survive deadly encounters | Jules Howard

From crocodiles in ponds to wasps in service stations or vampires in your hammock, your best bet for dealing with predators is simple: respect them

Punching sharks in the face isn’t something to be attempted lightly, but in the jaws of death it can be the best means of remaining uneaten, as this weekend’s incident involving a shark attack on a British woman attests. Here are some tips to help you remain alive should you face any other predators.

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Source: Guardian Climate Change

Baby whales 'whisper' to mothers to avoid predators, study finds

Scientists reveal unique, intimate form of communication between humpback mothers and calves as well as silent method to initiate suckling

Newborn humpback whales and their mothers whisper to each other to escape potential predators, scientists reported Wednesday, revealing the existence of a previously unknown survival technique.

“They don’t want any unwanted listeners,” researcher Simone Videsen, lead author of a study published in Functional Ecology, said.

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Source: Guardian Climate Change

Will Sonny Perdue, Trump's agriculture pick, stand up for the little guy? Don't bank on it

In November, America’s beleaguered rural citizens voted against the status quo – but that’s exactly what Trump’s new agriculture secretary looks set to ensure

Donald Trump owes his election in no small part to the support of farm country. But since entering office, almost all his actions and pronouncements have betrayed an abysmal understanding of farm and rural concerns. No surprise, then, that food and farm advocates have looked eagerly to Sonny Perdue, who was sworn in as agriculture secretary on Tuesday, to educate and temper the president on their issues.

The new secretary has his work cut out for him. The president unveiled a budget blueprint last month that slashed funding for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) by 21%.

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Source: Guardian Climate Change

Most global investors recognise financial risk of climate change, report finds

Global index reveals 60% of asset owners are now taking some action, but warns there is still ‘enormous resistance’ to managing climate risk

For the first time a majority of global investor heavyweights recognise the financial risks of climate change, according to the results of a major global index rating how investors manage such risks.

But despite the advances, the Asset Owner Disclosure Project chairman, John Hewson, has warned there is still an “enormous resistance” to managing climate risk.

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Source: Guardian Climate Change

Plastic-eating bugs? It’s a great story – but there’s a sting in the tail | Philip Ball

Breeding wax moth caterpillars to devour our waste sounds good. But they would attack bee colonies too, and ultimately put crops at risk

Caterpillars that can munch up plastic bags have just been identified, fuelling excited speculation that this could one day eliminate global pollution from plastic waste. The chance discovery, initially made by a scientist and amateur beekeeper whose plastic bag had been eaten through by the moth caterpillars, was reported this week by researchers at Cambridge University and the Spanish National Research Council.

Related: Plastic-eating worms could help wage war on waste

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Source: Guardian Climate Change

Policymakers can break the plastics stalemate

Policymakers across the world have a vital role to play in the transition towards a plastics system that works.

More than ever, there is global momentum for a fundamental shift in how we produce, use and reuse plastics. This material and its applications, like packaging, are an integral part of the global economy and deliver many benefits. Their linear, take-make-dispose value chains on the other hand entail significant economic and environmental drawbacks, which are becoming more apparent by the day. This growing recognition is triggering action by a wide range of stakeholders, including policymakers. It’s not about dragging makers and users of plastics kicking and screaming into a circular economy – considered and collaborative policy can stimulate progress towards a fundamentally better plastic system.

This is because policymakers are uniquely positioned to put in place enabling conditions that allow the whole supply chain to transition towards a future-proof plastics economy. It’s a bit of an oversimplification, but there’s something of a stalemate in the industry. Designers and manufacturers often wish recyclers had the technology and capacity to handle their latest plastic products. From the recyclers’ perspective, simplifying packaging types and materials could make their job a whole lot easier. Who’s going to make the first move? This is where policymakers can step in.

Image: © srki66 / stock.adobe.com

Policymakers can level the playing field for these upstream and downstream developments to happen in parallel. There are many ways that they can do this, as explored in the latest New Plastics Economy report. It might be about connecting different steps of the supply chain to foster pre-competitive collaboration; providing businesses with information and funding; developing the right infrastructure; boosting secondary material markets; or installing fiscal and regulatory frameworks to reduce or eliminate negative externalities.

Understanding this myriad of policy measures to support a system change, policymakers can crucially break this current stalemate which prevents individual companies from shifting the entire plastics packaging value chain on their own. Many of these measures have been already been implemented in some place, or are being explored.

One concrete example is Extended Producer Responsibility, or EPR, schemes. These systems allow policymakers to connect upstream packaging design with downstream recycling of plastics. EPR is a policy approach in which a producer’s responsibility for a product covers the entire product life cycle, from design to the post-consumer phase. For plastic packaging, often this principle is translated into an EPR scheme through which the producers are paying for the amount of (plastic) packaging they put on the market, which funds other organisations taking care of after-use collection and sorting. As such, it’s a policy tool that can provide (part of) the crucial funding for making the recycling of plastic packaging work. Also, when it uses modulated fees differentiating between packages, it can incentivise good design, improving the quality and economics of recycling. Implemented well, EPR schemes can have large impact: OECD research suggests, for example, that EPR schemes contributed to a 27% increase in recycling rates of containers and packaging waste in Japan over a 4 year period. Such a scheme doesn’t happen by itself, and sophisticated policy that seeks to support industry whilst eliminating waste requires time and effort from the various parties at the table.

Learn more about a plastics system that fits with circular economy principles through the New Plastics Economy website

Of course, there’s another way for policymakers to maintain a level playing field whilst driving progress, and it’s one we’ve become more familiar with in recent years. For certain practices or applications, bans or levies are straight-forward measures that can have big impacts. A ban on the landfilling of plastics, for example, could provide a firm shove in the right direction, towards after-use practices that capture the value of packaging material, as already explored by several regions. Also banning specific applications, like single-use plastic carrier bags for example, has allowed policymakers to achieve better environmental and economic outcomes. In 2002, Bangladesh was one of the first countries to ban polythene bags, as clogging drainage pipes were found to have been one of the main reasons for devastating floods, and just recently, India’s capital city Delhi has introduced a ban on disposable plastic, following complaints about environmental pollution. Similarly, by implementing a tax on plastic shopping bags, Ireland has cut its use by more than 90% and raised millions of euros in revenue.

There’s more than one way to crack the nut of a circular plastics system, and each stakeholder will need to play its role. A finessed, dialogue driven approach such as EPR can support innovation across the value chain. At the same time, there’s a lot to be said for the ‘sledgehammer’ of prohibition, which can deliver more immediate results for certain applications. These are just two of the measures available to policymakers, a group that are uniquely positioned to support the shift towards a plastics system that works.

To learn more about the role policymakers can play in the transition towards a plastics system that works, please visit www.newplasticseconomy.org

The post Policymakers can break the plastics stalemate appeared first on Circulate.

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A government of death is plundering our ancient Munduruku lands. Help us stop it

As the UN forum on indigenous issues meets in New York, we, the Munduruku people of Brazil, demand an end to the destruction of our territory

We, the Munduruku people, send our thoughts and words to you who live far away. We echo the cry for help from our mother, the forest, and from all the indigenous peoples in Brazil.

Our home of Mundurukânia and all 13,000 of our people are threatened by the Brazilian government’s plans to build more than 40 hydroelectric dams in the Tapajós basin, as well as an industrial waterway and other major projects.

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Source: Guardian Climate Change