Save the Peatlands, Save the Planet

When it comes to carbon storage you can’t beat peatlands. They store tons of carbon and clean the air so efficiently that we ought to protect them way better than we currently do. Indeed, peatlands are on the decline – that’s not good. Fortunately there is research in how best to protect the peatlands from further damage and ways to restore them to their former glory.

Peatlands are the superheroes of ecosystems: purifying water, sometimes mitigating flooding and providing a home for rare species. And they beat nearly every system when it comes to carbon storage. Known peatlands only cover about 3% of the world’s land surface, but store at least twice as much carbon as all of Earth’s standing forests. In addition, at least one-third of the world’s organic soil carbon, which plays a vital role in mitigating climate change and stabilizing the carbon cycle, is in peatlands.

“From a climate perspective, [peatlands] are the most essential terrestrial ecosystem,” says Tim Christophersen, a senior program officer with Forests and Climate at the United Nations Environment Programme.

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Thanks to Delaney!

Tonawanda Provides a Template for Transitioning a Town’s Economy from Coal

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Globally, coal is on the way out and in America small towns are suffering because coal demand is dropping. The predictable plight of coal-backed small towns in the USA has some politicians trying to bailout the coal industry in order to protect jobs, which is obviously the wrong approach. Instead, what those backwards-looking politicians should do is look at Tonawanda, New York.

Tonawnada had a coal power plant that recently shutdown due to lack of demand. The community was going to be hurt by the closing with lost jobs and tax revenue. Instead of bailing out the power plant they provided a plan to transition to a post-coal economy – and it’s working!

“Instead of spending millions on propping up coal plants,” Schlissel says, “we need to spend money to help communities make an economic transition.”

The Huntley Alliance took its cues from other communities forced to evolve beyond heavy industry. Members traveled as close as Appalachia and as far as Germany, where they were amazed to witness how the German government funded worker retraining programs and recycled old production plants, as renewables supplanted fossil fuels.

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Make More Things Out of Recycled Plastics

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Over at Vice, one author asked a simple question: why don’t we make everything out of relayed plastic? The short answer is that oil is too cheap and companies don’t see benefits of recylcing plastics on their bottom line. Instead of championing for higher consumption taxes or waiting for oil to go up again some people are changing the technology behind recycling plastics. By making the process of recycling cheaper, consistent, and more efficient we can make recycling plastics a default decision for many companies (and leave that oil in the ground).

Garcia said researchers are now looking for new and more efficient ways to make, and break down, plastics. “Since we make plastics chemically, the way we treat them at end of life is also probably going to be chemical,” she said.

Garcia cited a number of examples, such as chemical recycling, where the plastic is exposed to a catalyst at a very high temperature, causing the underlying compounds to break down. It’s how scientists have been able to make fuel out of old water bottles. Garcia said this technique still requires a lot of energy, and is very expensive, but she believes scientists will eventually figure out how to use a similar process at a much lower temperature.

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Build Butterflyways for Beautiful Pollinators

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Every pollinator is beautiful and there is an easy way to see more of them while helping the world: butterflyways. The concept is simple: bees and butterflies are under a lot of pressure from human activity so help them on their pollination journey by feeding them. All you have to do is look up what pollinators love in your local area then plant a small garden for them, then tell others. By combining efforts with other gardeners or community groups you can create a pleasant route for our little friends.

In May and June, activities ranged from creating butterfly-themed costumes and a bike-trailer garden that won second prize in a Victoria parade, to adopting city parks in Richmond. In Markham and Toronto, Rangers built on a project started through the foundation’s Homegrown National Park Project, installing a dozen wildflower-filled canoes in parks, schools and daycares. In Toronto’s west end, a pair of Rangers led the Butterflyway Lane art project, painting butterfly-themed murals on two dozen garage doors, walls and fences in a laneway facing Garrison Creek Park.

In late June, Toronto’s Beaches neighbourhood and Richmond, B.C. surpassed the target of a dozen Ranger-led plantings, earning kudos from the foundation for creating Canada’s first Butterflyways. The project is spreading, with neighbouring city councillors and groups clamouring to get their own Butterflyways.

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Booming Business Boast Sustainability

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Business that adapt to climate change are more likely to be successful in the coming years, and business that basically cut their carbon footprint to zero will thrive. This is the thinking behind a growing field that helps companies reduce their consumption and waste while increasing their profits. With the likelihood of global warming reaching two degrees above normal companies will have to change their practices regardless of their industry. It’s good to see that some business are planning beyond the next quarter.

“Sustainable strategy is just that — it’s a strategy. It’s not a function, it’s not an industry, it’s not just recycling. That’s a very, very small piece of a much bigger movement for business,” Loinaz says. “We’re a launching pad for future industry leaders to solve the world’s problems, particularly the most pressing social and environmental ones.”

The health of a company’s labor force is inextricably linked to its environmental practices. Oftentimes the people who extract the resources companies use are underrepresented, marginalized, or disenfranchised. Nearly all smartphones, for instance, are made from mining rare metals and rare earth elements. As investigations show, it’s incredibly dangerous work that often requires miners — many of them children — to hand-dig tunnels hundreds of feet underground, with few safety precautions in place. Local communities are often exposed to poisonous levels of toxic metals and waste as a result.

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