Day: May 17, 2021

Can the tail wag the dog for corporate responsibility?

Small white fluffy dog in front of wind turbine

Read the full story in Chief Executive.

As the CEO of a pet care company learned, Innovative greening strategies can bring new value for doing well by doing good.

End of wind power waste? Vestas unveils blade recycling technology

Read the full story from Reuters.

Wind turbine maker Vestas unveiled new technology on Monday which it says enables wind turbine blades to be fully recycled, avoiding the dumping of old blades.

Environment department tried to bury research that found huge underspend on Australian threatened species

Read the full story in Guardian Australia.

The federal government tried to stop the publication of an academic paper that found it needed to drastically increase its spending on threatened Australian wildlife.

Internal documents released to Guardian Australia under freedom of information laws show senior officials in the federal environment department spent months pressuring the scientists from the government-funded Threatened Species Recovery Hub.

The scientists had drafted a paper in 2019 that compared Australian threatened species funding with that in the US. They found Australia was spending just a tenth of what the US dedicated to trying to recover endangered wildlife.

The documents show that before a meeting with two of the hub’s scientists at the University of Melbourne the department drew up options, including “don’t publish the paper” or remove references to the government program.

Another option considered was publishing the paper under a different set of author names – something that could have qualified as academic misconduct.

The research, known as the Spending to Save paper, was ultimately published in the journal Conservation Letters in November 2019 after the researchers deleted references to the government program and agreed not to promote its findings in the media.

Could New Jersey become a leader in bee protection?

Read the full story from the Natural Resources Defense Council.

New Jersey’s legislature is poised enact the strongest, smartest restrictions in the country to rein in widespread pollution of the state with neurotoxic neonicotinoid pesticides—or “neonics.” The bill, A2070/S1016, isn’t just good news for New Jersey’s bees, birds, and other wildlife, but also the state’s mostly pollinator-dependent farmers and all residents that value clean water and a healthy environment. 

Feral desert donkeys are digging wells, giving water to parched wildlife

by Erick Lundgren, Arian Wallach, and Daniel Ramp, (University of Technology Sydney)

In the heart of the world’s deserts – some of the most expansive wild places left on Earth – roam herds of feral donkeys and horses. These are the descendants of a once-essential but now-obsolete labour force.

These wild animals are generally considered a threat to the natural environment, and have been the target of mass eradication and lethal control programs in Australia. However, as we show in a new research paper in Science, these animals do something amazing that has long been overlooked: they dig wells — or “ass holes”.

In fact, we found that ass holes in North America — where feral donkeys and horses are widespread — dramatically increased water availability in desert streams, particularly during the height of summer when temperatures reached near 50℃. At some sites, the wells were the only sources of water.

Feral donkeys and horses dig wells to desert groundwater. Erick Lundgren

The wells didn’t just provide water for the donkeys and horses, but were also used by more than 57 other species, including numerous birds, other herbivores such as mule deer, and even mountain lions. (The lions are also predators of feral donkeys and horses.)

Incredibly, once the wells dried up, some became nurseries for the germination and establishment of wetland trees.

Numerous species use equid wells. This includes mule deer (top left), scrub jays (middle left), javelina (bottom left), cottonwood trees (top right), and bobcats (bottom right). Erick Lundgren

Ass holes in Australia

Our research didn’t evaluate the impact of donkey-dug wells in arid Australia. But Australia is home to most of the world’s feral donkeys, and it’s likely their wells support wildlife in similar ways.

Across the Kimberley in Western Australia, helicopter pilots regularly saw strings of wells in dry streambeds. However, these all but disappeared as mass shootings since the late 1970s have driven donkeys near local extinction. Only on Kachana Station, where the last of the Kimberley’s feral donkeys are protected, are these wells still to be found.

In Queensland, brumbies (feral horses) have been observed digging wells deeper than their own height to reach groundwater.

https://www.kachana-station.com/projects/wild-donkey-project/
Some of the last feral donkeys of the Kimberley. Arian Wallach

Feral horses and donkeys are not alone in this ability to maintain water availability through well digging.

Other equids — including mountain zebras, Grevy’s zebras and the kulan — dig wells. African and Asian elephants dig wells, too. These wells provide resources for other animal species, including the near-threatened argali and the mysterious Gobi desert grizzly bear in Mongolia.

These animals, like most of the world’s remaining megafauna, are threatened by human hunting and habitat loss.

Other megafauna dig wells, too, including kulans in central Asia, and African elephants. Petra Kaczensky, Richard Ruggiero

Digging wells has ancient origins

These declines are the modern continuation of an ancient pattern visible since humans left Africa during the late Pleistocene, beginning around 100,000 years ago. As our ancestors stepped foot on new lands, the largest animals disappeared, most likely from human hunting, with contributions from climate change.

If their modern relatives dig wells, we presume many of these extinct megafauna may have also dug wells. In Australia, for example, a pair of common wombats were recently documented digging a 4m-deep well, which was used by numerous species, such as wallabies, emus, goannas and various birds, during a severe drought. This means ancient giant wombats (Phascolonus gigas) may have dug wells across the arid interior, too.

Likewise, a diversity of equids and elephant-like proboscideans that once roamed other parts of world, may have dug wells like their surviving relatives.

Indeed, these animals have left riddles in the soils of the Earth, such as the preserved remnants of a 13,500-year-old, 2m-deep well in western North America, perhaps dug by a mammoth during an ancient drought, as a 2012 research paper proposes.

Acting like long-lost megafauna

Feral equids are resurrecting this ancient way of life. While donkeys and horses were introduced to places like Australia, it’s clear they hold some curious resemblances to some of its great lost beasts.

Our previous research published in PNAS showed introduced megafauna actually make Australia overall more functionally similar to the ancient past, prior to widespread human-caused extinctions.

Donkeys share many similar traits with extinct giant wombats, who once may have dug wells in Australian drylands. Illustration by Oscar Sanisidro

For example, donkeys and feral horses have trait combinations (including diet, body mass, and digestive systems) that mirror those of the giant wombat. This suggests — in addition to potentially restoring well-digging capacities to arid Australia — they may also influence vegetation in similar ways.

Water is a limited resource, made even scarcer by farming, mining, climate change, and other human activities. With deserts predicted to spread, feral animals may provide unexpected gifts of life in drying lands.

Feral donkeys, horses (mapped in blue), and other existing megafauna (mapped in red) may restore digging capacities to many drylands. Non-dryland areas are mapped in grey, and the projected expansion of drylands from climate change in yellow. Erick Lundgren/Science, Author provided

Despite these ecological benefits in desert environments, feral animals have long been denied the care, curiosity and respect native species deservedly receive. Instead, these animals are targeted by culling programs for conservation and the meat industry.

However, there are signs of change. New fields such as compassionate conservation and multispecies justice are expanding conservation’s moral world, and challenging the idea that only native species matter.

Erick Lundgren, PhD Student, Centre for Compassionate Conservation, University of Technology Sydney; Arian Wallach, Lecturer, Centre for Compassionate Conservation, University of Technology Sydney, and Daniel Ramp, Associate Professor and Director, Centre for Compassionate Conservation, University of Technology Sydney

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

New IU tool maps green infrastructure in Hoosier communities

Read the full story in the Indiana Environment Reporter.

Indiana Green City Mapper allows residents and city planners to see maps of urban green infrastructure and other climate change-related data to maximize resilience benefits.

Rhetoric and frame analysis of ExxonMobil’s climate change communications

Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes (2021). “Rhetoric and frame analysis of ExxonMobil’s climate change communications.” One Earth, published online. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.oneear.2021.04.014 [open access]

Graphical abstract

Highlights

  • ExxonMobil’s public climate change messaging mimics tobacco industry propaganda
  • Rhetoric of climate “risk” downplays the reality and seriousness of climate change
  • Rhetoric of consumer “demand” (versus fossil fuel supply) individualizes responsibility
  • Fossil Fuel Savior frame uses “risk” and “demand” to justify fossil fuels, blame customers

Science for society

A dominant public narrative about climate change is that “we are all to blame.” Another is that society must inevitably rely on fossil fuels for the foreseeable future. How did these become conventional wisdom? We show that one source of these arguments is fossil fuel industry propaganda. ExxonMobil advertisements worked to shift responsibility for global warming away from the fossil fuel industry and onto consumers. They also said that climate change was a “risk,” rather than a reality, that renewable energy is unreliable, and that the fossil fuel industry offered meaningful leadership on climate change. We show that much of this rhetoric is similar to that used by the tobacco industry. Our research suggests warning signs that the fossil fuel industry is using the subtle micro-politics of language to downplay its role in the climate crisis and to continue to undermine climate litigation, regulation, and activism.

Summary

This paper investigates how ExxonMobil uses rhetoric and framing to shape public discourse on climate change. We present an algorithmic corpus comparison and machine-learning topic model of 180 ExxonMobil climate change communications, including peer-reviewed publications, internal company documents, and advertorials in The New York Times. We also investigate advertorials using inductive frame analysis. We find that the company has publicly overemphasized some terms and topics while avoiding others. Most notably, they have used rhetoric of climate “risk” and consumer energy “demand” to construct a “Fossil Fuel Savior” (FFS) frame that downplays the reality and seriousness of climate change, normalizes fossil fuel lock-in, and individualizes responsibility. These patterns mimic the tobacco industry’s documented strategy of shifting responsibility away from corporations—which knowingly sold a deadly product while denying its harms—and onto consumers. This historical parallel foreshadows the fossil fuel industry’s use of demand-as-blame arguments to oppose litigation, regulation, and activism.

The 60-year-old scientific screwup that helped Covid kill

Read the full story in Wired.

All pandemic long, scientists brawled over how the virus spreads. Droplets! No, aerosols! At the heart of the fight was a teensy error with huge consequences.

New tool highly effective at estimating the condition of tropical forests

Read the full story from Northumbria University.

A simple tropical forest assessment tool can be used by people with no prior experience in conservation to robustly estimate the condition of tropical forests, reveals new research by Northumbria University scientists, in collaboration with the University of Oxford.

Their findings, which are published in Ecological Solutions and Evidence, show the tool demonstrates high levels of agreement with detailed scientific data sets of biodiversity, forest structure and ecosystem functioning.

NTAM launches ESG scoring tool providing material, forward-looking company ESG view

Read the full story at ESG Today.

Global investment manager Northern Trust Asset Management (NTAM) announced today the launch of the Northern Trust ESG Vector Score, a new tool designed to determine the magnitude and direction of ESG risks for companies, aimed at assessing companies.

According to NTAM, the new tool provides a consistent, transparent methodology to gain greater clarity into the financial impact of sustainability on companies, in order to build and manage sustainable portfolios.

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