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Food waste: harvesting Spain's unwanted crops to feed the hungry

Spain’s gleaning movement has grown rapidly in response to austerity, harvesting imperfect fruit and veg – that would otherwise be wasted – for food banks. Now its own line of jams, soups and sauces is taking off too

Under a blazing Catalan sun, Abdelouahid wipes the sweat from his brow in a cabbage patch full with clouds of white butterflies. “It’s really not warm today,” he says. “It’s only hot if you stop working.”

Around him, unemployed workers and environmentalists squat in green bibs, black gloves and hats, plucking cabbages that would otherwise be threshed, to distribute at food banks around Barcelona.

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Source: Guardian Environment

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Government is letting VW off the hook over emissions scandal, say MPs

Although 1.2m UK diesel cars were affected by Volkswagen’s defeat devices, ‘little action’ has been taken by regulators, report finds

A lack of determination by the government to hold Volkswagen to account may allow the car manufacturer get away with cheating emissions tests in Europe, MPs have warned.

In a scathing report, the transport select committee said the Department for Transport had been far too slow and ambivalent over taking any action in the wake of the diesel emissions scandal, while industry regulators had “shown little interest” in whether the law had been broken.

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Source: Guardian Environment

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Biodiversity is below safe levels across more than half of world's land – study

Habitat destruction has reduced the variety of plants and animals to the point that ecological systems could become unable to function properly, with risks for agriculture and human health, say scientists

The variety of animals and plants has fallen to dangerous levels across more than half of the world’s landmass due to humanity destroying habitats to use as farmland, scientists have estimated.

The unchecked loss of biodiversity is akin to playing ecological roulette and will set back efforts to bring people out of poverty in the long term, they warned.

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Source: Guardian Environment

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Andrea Leadsom's pledge to repeal foxhunting ban causes alarm

New environment secretary has also previously admitted being confused about whether climate change is a reality

Andrea Leadsom, the new environment secretary, supports foxhunting and once said she wanted to end farming subsidies.

The pro-Brexit cabinet minister, who was Theresa May’s leadership rival before pulling out on Monday, was a surprise appointment to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

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Source: Guardian Environment

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BP faces further $2.5bn charge over Deepwater Horizon spill

Oil company has paid more than $60bn in fines over environmental disaster that still threatens wildlife and ecology around Gulf of Mexico

BP is to take a further $2.5bn (£1.87bn) hit as a result of the Deepwater Horizon accident, bringing the total cost of the environmental disaster to almost $62bn.

The latest after-tax non-operating charge will be taken in the company’s second quarter financial results to be formally announced on 26 July.

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Source: Guardian Environment

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A climate report that we ignore at our peril | Letters

Though it does not actually say so, the report of the Committee on Climate Change (Report, 12 July) is a salutary reminder that a capitalist economy based on infinite economic growth, as expressed in terms of consumption-led GDP, is unsustainable and, if allowed to continue in its present form, will ultimately devastate the entire planet. Moreover, unless we cease using fossil fuels for energy and replace them with renewables at the earliest possible opportunity, the voluntary agreement reached at last year’s COP 21 climate summit to limit increases in global temperatures to less than 2C will be little more than hot air.

For an energy union like the GMB with thousands of members in the gas industry, the priority must be to establish a viable, UK-based, publicly owned renewable energy industry, thus enabling a just transition for those whose jobs will cease to exist in the coming decades. For this to happen, the vested interests of the privately owned energy monopolies have to be challenged, a point eloquently made by climate activist Naomi Klein at a packed meeting during COP 21 in Paris, organised by the Trade Unions for Energy Democracy network, which GMB supports.

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Source: Guardian Environment

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Scientists call for better plastics design to protect marine life

Improved materials would encourage recycling and prevent single-use containers from entering the oceans and breaking into small pieces

Plastics should be better designed to encourage recycling and prevent wasteful single-use containers finding their way into our oceans, where they break up into small pieces and are swallowed by marine animals, scientists said on Thursday.

This could be as effective as a ban on microbeads, proposed by green campaigners as a way of dealing with the rising levels of microplastic waste – tiny pieces of near-indestructible plastic materials – that are harming marine life.

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Source: Guardian Environment

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The Keartons: inventing nature photography – in pictures

Richard and Cherry Kearton, working in the 1890s, were possibly the world’s first professional wildlife photographers. The brothers’ pioneering photos include the first shot of a bird’s nest with eggs and the first Masai lion hunt.

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Source: Guardian Environment

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Do microbes hold the key for the chemicals of the future?

In the current linear economy, most products and services require continuous and increasing extraction of raw materials to maintain economic and business growth. Employing circular economy principles, where technical and biological materials are cycled at their highest value and utility at all times for as long as possible, can help to negate and reduce the necessity for new material. However, in the long term, it is highly probable that new kinds of resources will be required to maintain a prosperous global economy.

In a recent article published on the World Economic Forum Agenda blog, Sang Yup Lee, professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), argued that the global economy could be significantly better off by shifting industry chemical inputs to living organisms from. He wrote:

“We already use agricultural products in this way, of course—we wear cotton clothes and live in wooden houses—but plants are not the only source of ingredients. Microbes arguably offer even more potential, in the long term, to make inexpensive materials in the incredible variety of properties that we now take for granted. Rather than digging the raw materials of modern life from the ground, we can instead “brew” them in giant bioreactors filled with living microorganisms.”

The range of chemicals and materials that can be created using metabolic engineering, systems biology, evolutionary engineering and synthetic biology is increasing every year, as we covered last week in our piece, From silk to milk: Why growing everything could be a 21st century gamechanger, with many other potential uses including in the pharmaceutical industry and a range of production processes.

Photo via Visualhunt.com
Photo via Visualhunt.com

The prospect of a renewable source of materials is clear business opportunity worth exploring, particularly as the technology improves and becomes more cost competitive with conventional chemical production.

Of course, there are barriers that exist, including ambiguous regulation, the need to avoid clashes with agriculture in terms of land use and of course continued scientific advancement.

The post Do microbes hold the key for the chemicals of the future? appeared first on Circulate.

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Hinkley Point: new UK chancellor determined to start building

Philip Hammond says nuclear power project must go ahead but admits elements of uncertainty over spiralling cost and ministerial reshuffle

The new chancellor of the exchequer has expressed his determination to see construction begin on the controversial Hinkley Point C nuclear plant, amid mounting concerns over the cost of the project.

“We have to make sure the project goes ahead,” Philip Hammond told BBC’s Today programme. However, he admitted there was “obviously an atmosphere of uncertainty” around the £18bn scheme due to the change of ministers following the referendum.

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Source: Guardian Environment

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