Assessing environmental impact of measures in the OECD Green Recovery Database

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This Policy Brief provides the key findings and policy insights from the April 2022 update of OECD Green Recovery Database, which tracks recovery measures with a clear environmental impact adopted by OECD member countries, the European Union and selected large economies. Since the previous update in September 2021, the budget allocated to environmentally positive measures increased from USD 677 billion to USD 1 090 billion, while recovery spending with ‘mixed’ impacts increased from USD 163 billion to USD 290 billion. The Brief also explores how well-designed green recovery plans can generate the double dividend of enhanced energy security and better environmental outcomes, in the face of energy security concerns triggered by the war in Ukraine.

Illinois Innovation Network awards seed grants to 4 new projects

Read the full story from the University of Illinois.

The Illinois Innovation Network (IIN) has awarded $120,000 in seed grants to four research teams in its fourth round of funding. Selected projects include a new approach to improving community resilience against floods, growing the computational thinking and coding workforce in southeast Illinois, investigating the viability of geopolymer concrete as a sustainable construction material, and examining how Illinois can develop a sustainable and inclusive supply chain for the electric vehicle industry. These projects represent six of the state’s 10 economic development regions.

The funding is part of IIN’s Sustaining Illinois program, which is designed to increase collaborative research among the state’s public universities, focusing on the economy, health and social well-being, while addressing issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. Sustaining Illinois now includes 24 funded projects, and 12 of the 15 IIN hubs have been a lead recipient of funding. 

IIN is a group of 15 university-based hubs across the state working to boost Illinois’ economy through entrepreneurship, research and workforce development. The seed funding was provided by the University of Illinois System and Northern Illinois University (NIU).

E.O. Wilson’s lifelong passion for ants helped him teach humans about how to live sustainably with nature

Edward O. Wilson in his office in the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard, in 2014. Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

by Doug Tallamy, University of Delaware

E. O. Wilson was an extraordinary scholar in every sense of the word. Back in the 1980s, Milton Stetson, the chair of the biology department at the University of Delaware, told me that a scientist who makes a single seminal contribution to his or her field has been a success. By the time I met Edward O. Wilson in 1982, he had already made at least five such contributions to science.

Wilson, who died Dec. 26, 2021 at the age of 92, discovered the chemical means by which ants communicate. He worked out the importance of habitat size and position within the landscape in sustaining animal populations. And he was the first to understand the evolutionary basis of both animal and human societies.

Each of his seminal contributions fundamentally changed the way scientists approached these disciplines, and explained why E.O. – as he was fondly known – was an academic god for many young scientists like me. This astonishing record of achievement may have been due to his phenomenal ability to piece together new ideas using information garnered from disparate fields of study.

E.O. Wilson reflects on insect society, human society and the importance of biodiversity in 2009.

Big insights from small subjects

In 1982 I cautiously sat down next to the great man during a break at a small conference on social insects. He turned, extended his hand and said, “Hi, I’m Ed Wilson. I don’t believe we’ve met.” Then we talked until it was time to get back to business.

Three hours later I approached him again, this time without trepidation because surely now we were the best of friends. He turned, extended his hand, and said “Hi, I’m Ed Wilson. I don’t believe we’ve met.”

Wilson forgetting me, but remaining kind and interested anyway, showed that beneath his many layers of brilliance was a real person and a compassionate one. I was fresh out of graduate school, and doubt that another person at that conference knew less than I — something I’m sure Wilson discovered as soon as I opened my mouth. Yet he didn’t hesitate to extend himself to me, not once but twice.

Thirty-two years later, in 2014, we met again. I had been invited to speak in a ceremony honoring his receipt of the Franklin Institute’s Benjamin Franklin Medal for Earth and Environmental Science. The award honored Wilson’s lifetime achievements in science, but particularly his many efforts to save life on Earth.

My work studying native plants and insects, and how crucial they are to food webs, was inspired by Wilson’s eloquent descriptions of biodiversity and how the myriad interactions among species create the conditions that enable the very existence of such species.

Biologist E.O. Wilson with models of his life’s greatest subject, ants. Rick Friedman/Corbis via Getty Images

I spent the first decades of my career studying the evolution of insect parental care, and Wilson’s early writings provided a number of testable hypotheses that guided that research. But his 1992 book, “The Diversity of Life,” resonated deeply with me and became the basis for an eventual turn in my career path.

Though I am an entomologist, I did not realize that insects were “the little things that run the world” until Wilson explained why this is so in 1987. Like nearly all scientists and nonscientists alike, my understanding of how biodiversity sustains humans was embarrassingly cursory. Fortunately, Wilson opened our eyes.

Throughout his career Wilson flatly rejected the notion held by many scholars that natural history – the study of the natural world through observation rather than experimentation – was unimportant. He proudly labeled himself a naturalist, and communicated the urgent need to study and preserve the natural world. Decades before it was in vogue, he recognized that our refusal to acknowledge the Earth’s limits, coupled with the unsustainability of perpetual economic growth, had set humans well on their way to ecological oblivion.

Wilson understood that humans’ reckless treatment of the ecosystems that support us was not only a recipe for our own demise. It was forcing the biodiversity he so cherished into the sixth mass extinction in Earth’s history, and the first one caused by an animal: us.

Color-coded map of forest losses.
E.O. Wilson long advocated conserving the world’s biodiversity hot spots – zones with high numbers of native species where habitats are most endangered. This image shows deforestation from 1975 to 2013 in one such area, West Africa’s Upper Guinean Forest. USGS

A broad vision for conservation

And so, to his lifelong fascination with ants, E. O. Wilson added a second passion: guiding humanity toward a more sustainable existence. To do that, he knew he had to reach beyond the towers of academia and write for the public, and that one book would not suffice. Learning requires repeated exposure, and that is what Wilson delivered in “The Diversity of Life,” “Biophilia,” “The Future of Life,” “The Creation” and his final plea in 2016, “Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life.”

As Wilson aged, desperation and urgency replaced political correctness in his writings. He boldly exposed ecological destruction caused by fundamentalist religions and unrestricted population growth, and challenged the central dogma of conservation biology, demonstrating that conservation could not succeed if restricted to tiny, isolated habitat patches.

In “Half Earth,” he distilled a lifetime of ecological knowledge into one simple tenet: Life as we know it can be sustained only if we preserve functioning ecosystems on at least half of planet Earth.

But is this possible? Nearly half of the planet is used for some form of agriculture, and 7.9 billion people and their vast network of infrastructure occupy the other half.

As I see it, the only way to realize E.O.’s lifelong wish is learn to coexist with nature, in the same place, at the same time. It is essential to bury forever the notion that humans are here and nature is someplace else. Providing a blueprint for this radical cultural transformation has been my goal for the last 20 years, and I am honored that it melds with E.O. Wilson’s dream.

There is no time to waste in this effort. Wilson himself once said, “Conservation is a discipline with a deadline.” Whether humans have the wisdom to meet that deadline remains to be seen.

Doug Tallamy, Professor of Entomology, University of Delaware

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

New project brings AI to environmental research in the field

Read the full story from Ohio State University.

A new 30-foot tower has sprouted on the edge of The Ohio State University Airport, but it has nothing to do with directing the thousands of planes that take off and land there each year.

Instead, this tower is the focal point of an Ohio State research project that will explore using artificial intelligence and a variety of sensors to monitor environmental conditions on a minute-to-minute basis.

Trillions of dollars spent on Covid recovery in ways that harm environment

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Trillions of dollars poured into rescuing economies around the world from the Covid-19 crisis have been spent in ways that worsen the climate crisis and harm nature because governments have failed to fulfil promises of a “green recovery” from the pandemic.

Virtual portal creates access to food security solutions

Read the full story in the Cornell Chronicle.

Meeting the nutritional needs of current and future generations requires innovations to ensure access to healthy and nutritious food while creating equitable value chains and supporting climate and environmental sustainability. 

To this end, Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability collaborated with a group of partner organizations to design the Innovative Food System Solution (IFSS) portal launched by NutritionConnect.org in May 2021.

These are the winners of 2021’s ‘Green Nobels’

Read the full story at Fast Company.

From stopping coal plants in Japan to pushing the Malawi government to ban thin plastics, the six winners of this year’s Goldman Environmental Prize show how much climate progress is made by grassroots activism.

Green ‘liberty’ bonds: The American way to win the war on climate change?

Read the full story at Canary Media.

President Joe Biden has an aggressive plan to decarbonize the U.S. economy. But his administration hasn’t yet provided many specifics on how it plans to leverage public funding to drive greater private capital investment in the green infrastructure needed to reach its goals.

Bryan Garcia, president and CEO of the Connecticut Green Bank, thinks that a modern, green-tinged version of Liberty Bonds, the U.S. government war bonds from World War I and World War II, could be a valuable model for the federal government — particularly if Connecticut’s recent experience with it can be replicated at a national scale.

Connecticut Green Bank’s $25 million green “liberty” bond issuance on Thursday, its latest to support rooftop solar and energy efficiency projects in the state, was oversubscribed by nearly a factor of four, Garcia said.

Assessing and selecting sustainable leaders

Read the full story from Russell Reynolds Associates.

Russell Reynolds Associates recently partnered with the United Nations Global Compact to study the characteristics and behaviors that differentiate sustainable business leaders from other top-tier executives, the findings of which were summarized in our joint whitepaper Leadership for the Decade of Action. The article below builds upon this research to focus on the question of assessing and selecting sustainable leaders in the hiring process. Please refer to the original study for full details on methodology and findings.

Roots of Transformation: Lessons and Leverage Points for Sustainable Living

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Over the last 2 years (2019-2021), The Boundless Roots Community has been exploring how we can radically shift the way in which we live in response to the climate crisis. We acknowledge the need for drastic changes if we are to meet the 1.5 degree challenge. But how do we actually do it? 

We wanted to get under the surface of our various efforts to create change, to better understand the critical issues that underpin shifts towards transformation and sustainable living, and improve our individual, organisational and collective approaches to change in the process. We end this 2-year journey with a wealth of insights and specific areas of potential in which we are advocating change.