Day: September 15, 2020

Webinar: Igniting Climate Literacy

Sept 21, 10-11am CDT
Register here.

Join us for a lively discussion about the importance of educating our youth on climate and environmental topics to ensure a citizenry that is equipped with hope, skills, and motivation to take action for a more sustainable future.

We will discuss the connections of climate and environmental education to conservation goals, more green jobs, a healthy economic future, and a sustainable planet.

Panelists:

Rohan Arora
Youth Climate/Environmental Health Activist
Founder and Executive Director of The Community Check-Up

Frida Berry Eklund 
Swedish climate change communications expert, activist and writer
Founder of Our Kids’ Climate

Neeshad Shafi
Executive Director of Arab Youth Climate Movement Qatar

Rab Nawaz
Senior Director WWF Pakistan

Asha Alexander
Principal and CEO Of The Kindergarten Starters and Executive Leader, Climate Change – GEMS Education, Dubai, UAE  

Laura Secada
Director-General of Climate Change and Desertification of the Ministry of Environment of Peru

Discussion moderated by Nick Nuttall
EARTHDAY.ORG’s Strategic Communications Director

Questions? Contact the EARTHDAY.ORG Education Team

Longtime Climate Science Denier Hired At NOAA

Read the full story at NPR.

David Legates, a University of Delaware professor of climatology who has spent much of his career questioning basic tenets of climate science, has been hired for a top position at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Legates confirmed to NPR that he was recently hired as NOAA’s deputy assistant secretary of commerce for observation and prediction. The position suggests that he reports directly to Neil Jacobs, the acting head of the agency that is in charge of the federal government’s sprawling weather and climate prediction work.

Neither Legates nor NOAA representatives responded to questions about Legates’ specific responsibilities or why he was hired. The White House also declined to comment.

Milliken Employs Strategy to Increase Supply of Recycled PP Plastic

Read the full story at Waste360.

As part of a multi-pronged strategy aimed to amplify plastic circularity, Milliken & Company joined the Polypropylene Recycling Coalition, an industry collaboration established by The Recycling Partnership to improve polypropylene (PP) plastic recovery and recycling in the U.S. Milliken will tap into its material science expertise to help the organization increase the supply of high-quality recycled PP plastic in a variety of ways, including funding the coalition’s efforts to enhance the PP recycling infrastructure nationwide, establishing consumer education programs that encourage curbside recycling, and offering its product portfolio to packaging producers looking to use recycled PP plastic material.

Discovery Partners Institute Awards More Than $1 Million in R&D Grants

The Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) is launching eight, world-class research teams from the University of Illinois System and partner universities with more than $1 million in seed funding.

The goal is to develop these multi-disciplinary teams into international centers of excellence that will achieve significant economic and societal impact. Each nascent team is receiving $125,000 as well as administrative and grant-writing support, access to corporate partners and DPI’s downtown Chicago office. 

These teams’ ambitions include:

  • Tracing COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2 RNA) in Chicago’s waterways; 
  • Developing new software and hardware to help companies operate machinery remotely;
  • Creating a new repository for data about the human brain;
  • Training software engineers to build safer and more ethical algorithms; 
  • Increasing the adoption of artificial intelligence in the construction industry; and 
  • Improving farmer profitability and sustainability by accelerating adoption of artificial intelligence technologies for agriculture. 

“This is just the beginning of our efforts to put already strong industries in the region on the very cutting edge,” said Bill Jackson, DPI’s executive director. “And we’re doing so by leveraging the most ambitious talent the region has to offer and enticing them to team up, rather than operate in silos. Such teamwork is going to generate exactly what this region and state needs: More federal R&D funding and more jobs.” 

More than 55 teams applied for the funding. Teams had to be led by a University of Illinois faculty member and include scientists from at least one other partner university (including Argonne National Laboratory, Hebrew University, Illinois Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, University of Chicago and Tel Aviv University). 

“These initial seed grants will build DPI’s first group of science teams that we will help position for success in the form of further R&D funding, the creation of new companies and jobs, and societal and economic impact,” said DPI’s Interim Director of Research Venkat Venkatakrishnan.

Here is a complete list of grant recipients.

  1. The Center for Research on Autonomous Farming Technologies (CRAFT): This team will develop and test autonomous robots that will weed and spray corn and soybean crops; work in urban food gardens; and care for berry and nut orchards. Lead Primary Investigator (PI): Girish Chowdhary, The Grainger College of Engineering and College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences (ACES), UIUC.  Team: UIUC, University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory.
  2. Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Construction: With more than 40 partners lined up from the architecture, engineering and construction industries, this team will identify key areas for the highest impact of AI in the industry, and bring new AI tools to bring to market. Lead PI: Mani Golparvar Fard, The Grainger College of Engineering, UIUC. Team: UIUC and 40+ industry partners.
  3. The CREATE WISDOM initiative: This team will use data from Chicago hospitals to develop artificial intelligence technologies to improve patient outcomes, starting with cancer treatment among underserved populations. Lead PI: Karl Kochendorfer, UIC Hospital & Health Sciences System. Team: UIC, UIUC, Rush, Mayo, Northwestern, DuPage Medical.
  4. I-BRAIN: An expanded data repository for brain research: This team will bring together advanced datasets and experts on human brain disorders to support the development of new treatments for brain-related illnesses.Lead PI: Jeffrey Loeb, UIC College of Medicine. Team: UIC, UIUC, University of Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology and industry.
  5. The Center for Autonomous Construction, Agriculture and Manufacturing at Scale (CEACAMS): The goal of this team is to commercialize new technology that helps companies operate construction and industrial equipment remotely or without human intervention at all. Lead PI: William Norris,The Grainger College of Engineering, UIUC.Team: UIUC, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and eight industry partners.
  6. Trustworthy and ethical artificial intelligence systems: This team will work to train people on how to build safe and unbiased algorithms. Lead PI: Madhusudan Parthasarathy, The Grainger College of Engineering, UIUC.Team: UIUC, UIC, University of Chicago, Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University.
  7. Wastewater-based epidemiology to track SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater: This team will develop surveillance methods in the Chicago area and work with public health departments to develop a system for early warnings of outbreaks. Lead PI: Rachel Poretsky, UIC Biological Sciences. Team: UIC, Northwestern University, Argonne National Laboratory.
  8. Privacy in the era of big data: This team will create a platform that will enforce strict privacy policies in sectors such as health care, and develop tools and methods for making the best tradeoffs between privacy and utility. Lead PI: Lenore Zuck, UIC Department of Computer Science. Team: UIC, UIUC, University of Chicago, University of Pittsburgh.

About DPI

The Discovery Partners Institute empowers people to jumpstart their tech careers or companies in Chicago. Led by the University of Illinois System in partnership with top research universities, it does three things: Train people for high-demand tech jobs; conduct applied R&D; and support Chicago’s tech community. With state investment and a new innovation district in development, DPI has the resources to attract, develop and leverage the most ambitious people and companies the region has to offer — and keep them here.

Nestlé Infuses $30 Million into Circular Economy Private Equity Fund

Read the full story at Waste360.

Nestle has deployed its first investment from its sustainable packaging venture fund to support the Closed Loop Leadership Fund’s acquisition of companies that are advancing the circular economy in the United States.

Lightweight green supercapacitors could quickly charge devices

Read the full story at TechXplore.

In a new study, researchers at Texas A&M University have described their novel plant-based energy storage device that could charge even electric cars within a few minutes in the near future. Furthermore, they said their devices are flexible, lightweight and cost-effective.

 Associated journal article: Swarn Jha et al. “Design and synthesis of high performance flexible and green supercapacitors made of manganese‐dioxide‐decorated alkali lignin.” Energy Storage (2020). DOI: 10.1002/est2.184

To reduce deforestation, we must get serious about environmental crime

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

The consequences of rampant deforestation are overwhelmingly negative. Every hectare that is cleared means that parts of the overall ecosystem are degraded and cease to function. Degradation reduces the efficiency of forests, eroding their ability to generate rain. Without rain, evapotranspiration declines: the Amazon’s infamous “flying rivers” simply will cease carrying water throughout the region. This has dangerous implications not just for the 30 million people living in the Amazon, but also for food production and water availability for the nearly 300 million living in cities throughout the eight countries that form the Amazon Basin.

When Social Distancing Ends, Will We Rethink the World We Want?

Read the full story at e360.

Long before the virus, Americans had become socially isolated, retreating into sprawling suburbs and an online world of screens. When we emerge from our pandemic-mandated separation, can we reconnect with each other and reconsider how the way we live impacts the natural world?

Protecting half of the planet is the best way to fight climate change and biodiversity loss – we’ve mapped the key places to do it

Rapid loss of species like these Spix’s macaws, considered extinct in the wild, may represent the sixth mass extinction in Earth’s history. PATRICK PLEUL/DPA/AFP via Getty Images

by Greg Asner (Arizona State University)

Humans are dismantling and disrupting natural ecosystems around the globe and changing Earth’s climate. Over the past 50 years, actions like farming, logging, hunting, development and global commerce have caused record losses of species on land and at sea. Animals, birds and reptiles are disappearing tens to hundreds of times faster than the natural rate of extinction over the past 10 million years.

Now the world is also contending with a global pandemic. In geographically remote regions such as the Brazilian Amazon, COVID-19 is devastating Indigenous populations, with tragic consequences for both Indigenous peoples and the lands they steward.

My research focuses on ecosystems and climate change from regional to global scales. In 2019, I worked with conservation biologist and strategist Eric Dinerstein and 17 colleagues to develop a road map for simultaneously averting a sixth mass extinction and reducing climate change by protecting half of Earth’s terrestrial, freshwater and marine realms by 2030. We called this plan “A Global Deal for Nature.”

Now we’ve released a follow-on called the “Global Safety Net” that identifies the exact regions on land that must be protected to achieve its goals. Our aim is for nations to pair it with the Paris Climate Agreement and use it as a dynamic tool to assess progress towards our comprehensive conservation targets.

Population size of terrestrial vertebrate species on the brink (i.e., with under 1,000 individuals). Most of these species are especially close to extinction because they consist of fewer than 250 individuals. In most cases, those few individuals are scattered through several small populations. Ceballos et al, 2020., CC BY

What to protect next

The Global Deal for Nature provided a framework for the milestones, targets and policies across terrestrial, freshwater and marine realms required to conserve the vast majority of life on Earth. Yet it didn’t specify where exactly these safeguards were needed. That’s where the new Global Safety Net comes in.

We analyzed unprotected terrestrial areas that, if protected, could sequester carbon and conserve biodiversity as effectively as the 15% of terrestrial areas that are currently protected. Through this analysis, we identified an additional 35% of unprotected lands for conservation, bringing the total percentage of protected nature to 50%.

By setting aside half of Earth’s lands for nature, nations can save our planet’s rich biodiversity, prevent future pandemics and meet the Paris climate target of keeping warming in this century below less than 2.7 degrees F (1.5 degrees C). To meet these goals, 20 countries must contribute disproportionately. Much of the responsibility falls to Russia, the U.S., Brazil, Indonesia, Canada, Australia and China. Why? Because these countries contain massive tracts of land needed to reach the dual goals of reducing climate change and saving biodiversity.

Supporting Indigenous communities

Indigenous peoples make up less than 5% of the total human population, yet they manage or have tenure rights over a quarter of the world’s land surface, representing close to 80% of our planet’s biodiversity. One of our key findings is that 37% of the proposed lands for increased protection overlap with Indigenous lands.

As the world edges closer towards a sixth mass extinction, Indigenous communities stand to lose the most. Forest loss, ecotourism and devastation wrought by climate change have already displaced Indigenous peoples from their traditional territories at unprecedented rates. Now one of the deadliest pandemics in recent history poses an even graver additional threat to Indigenous lives and livelihoods.

To address and alleviate human rights questions, social justice issues and conservation challenges, the Global Safety Net calls for better protection for Indigenous communities. We believe our goals are achievable by upholding existing land tenure rights, addressing Indigenous land claims, and carrying out supportive ecological management programs with indigenous peoples.

Preventing future pandemics

Tropical deforestation increases forest edges – areas where forests meet human habitats. These areas greatly increase the potential for contact between humans and animal vectors that serve as viral hosts.

For instance, the latest research shows that the SARS-CoV-2 virus originated and evolved naturally in horseshoe bats, most likely incubated in pangolins, and then spread to humans via the wildlife trade.

The Global Safety Net’s policy milestones and targets would reduce the illegal wildlife trade and associated wildlife markets – two known sources of zoonotic diseases. Reducing contact zones between animals and humans can decrease the chances of future zoonotic spillovers from occurring.

Our framework also envisions the creation of a Pandemic Prevention Program, which would increase protections for natural habitats at high risk for human-animal interactions. Protecting wildlife in these areas could also reduce the potential for more catastrophic outbreaks.

Nature-based solutions

Achieving the Global Safety Net’s goals will require nature-based solutions – strategies that protect, manage and restore natural or modified ecosystems while providing co-benefits to both people and nature. They are low-cost and readily available today.

The nature-based solutions that we spotlight include: – Identifying biodiverse non-agricultural lands, particularly prevalent in tropical and sub-tropical regions, for increased conservation attention. – Prioritizing ecoregions that optimize carbon storage and drawdown, such as the Amazon and Congo basins. – Aiding species movement and adaptation across ecosystems by creating a comprehensive system of wildlife and climate corridors.

We estimate that an increase of just 2.3% more land in the right places could save our planet’s rarest plant and animal species within five years. https://www.youtube.com/embed/ttiI1dGxbxM?wmode=transparent&start=0 Wildlife corridors connect fragmented wild spaces, providing wild animals the space they need to survive.

Leveraging technology for conservation

In the Global Safety Net study, we identified 50 ecoregions where additional conservation attention is most needed to meet the Global Deal for Nature’s targets, and 20 countries that must assume greater responsibility for protecting critical places. We mapped an additional 35% of terrestrial lands that play a critical role in reversing biodiversity loss, enhancing natural carbon removal and preventing further greenhouse gas emissions from land conversion.

But as climate change accelerates, it may scramble those priorities. Staying ahead of the game will require a satellite-driven monitoring system with the capability of tracking real-time land use changes on a global scale. These continuously updated maps would enable dynamic analyses to help sharpen conservation planning and help decision-making.

As director of the Arizona State University Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science, I lead the development of new technologies that assess and monitor imminent ecological threats, such as coral reef bleaching events and illegal deforestation, as well as progress made toward responding to ecological emergencies. Along with colleagues from other research institutions who are advancing this kind of research, I’m confident that it is possible to develop a global nature monitoring program.

The Global Safety Net pinpoints locations around the globe that must be protected to slow climate change and species loss. And the science shows that there is no time to lose.

Greg Asner, Director, Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science and Professor, Arizona State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Connecting farmers to share agronomic data

Read the full story from Iowa State University.

A new project will help farmers harness innovative technology to pool data in an effort to improve production. The effort, recently funded by a federal grant, will start out as a small pilot project and gradually expand to hundreds of farmers.

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