We have a collective responsibility to halve food loss and waste

Despite the central role food plays in all of our lives, we let a great deal of it go to waste. About one-third of all food produced in the world goes uneaten each year – a fact that harms our climate, costs the global economy billions of dollars and strains natural resources like water and land. Given the enormous impacts, it’s clear why the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals issued Target 12.3’s call to halve food waste and reduce food losses by 2030.

But with 13 short years to go, is the world doing enough?

According to a new report from Champions 12.3, the progress is promising. Countries or regional blocs that have set specific food loss and waste reduction targets cover an estimated 28 percent of the world’s population. At the same time, nearly 60 percent of the world’s 50 largest food companies have set targets to reduce food loss and waste. More than 10 percent of the 50 largest companies also now have active programs to waste less food.

Meanwhile, initiatives have taken off in the European Union, United States, Japan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and in other countries that expand public-private partnerships, government policies and consumer campaigns aimed at reducing food loss and waste.

But it’s not all roses. Only a few countries, accounting for just 7 percent of the world’s population, currently measure and publicly report on how much food is lost or wasted within their borders.

These latest figures beg the question: Can the world really cut global food loss and waste in half by 2030? The answer is yes – but only if many more governments and companies set ambitious targets, measure this inefficiency and take action to reduce food loss and waste. To my mind, there are three immediate challenges that require a collective approach.

The first is the importance of consumer engagement. In the United Kingdom, where I was head of WRAP for a number of years, we successfully worked with the government to help households cut their food waste by 21 percent over five years. That’s a huge achievement.

Helping people to change their habits at home takes time and requires a range of different approaches. It’s also critical to have good engagement with retailers and many others. While a 21 percent reduction is impressive, it’s not 50 percent. It will be a huge challenge to get enough households worldwide to do things differently, and it’s especially hard to make that change sustainable and long-lasting. But finding new ways to engage consumers to waste less food is also a real opportunity to help individuals live more sustainably and save money.

The second is that this needs to be a movement which results in people thinking differently about food. In many countries and urban areas, food is cheap, and in the minds of many, it therefore carries little value and is disposable. We need to change how people think about food and it’s clear that there isn’t going to be one solution.

Rather, solutions will vary around the world for different cultures and contexts. And because of that, we must take a “big tent” approach to adopting new ways of cutting food loss and waste. This is an opportunity to lift up many voices and to create the kind of movement that has staying power because it’s diverse.

The third is going to be driving real action, not just interest and awareness. We know there is a strong business case for action. There is also a moral imperative, which I know matters to a lot of leaders across the private and public sectors. It’s hard not to feel what a travesty it is that more than a billion tons of food goes uneaten while nearly 800 million people are malnourished. What ultimately will make a difference is bold action. As the new report states, that means big acts by big players, as well as millions of acts by everyone from farmers to consumers.

What’s was clear on the World Food Day, observed on October 16, was that it is going to be tough to halve food loss and waste, but it is possible. There have already been some notable achievements and good progress has been made. Now is the moment to recognize that we have a collective responsibility to act and we each are part of the solution.

Source: Liz Goodwin viaWorld Resources Institute



Air pollution linked to cardiovascular disease; air purifiers may lessen impact

Researchers focused on fine particulate matter (PM2.5) -- a component of air pollution emitted from vehicles, factories, power plants, fires and smoking -- because many studies have suggested this type of major air pollutant might lead to cardiovascular and metabolic health consequences, according to Haidong Kan, M.D., Ph.D., study author and professor of environmental health sciences at Fudan University in Shanghai, China.

However, the biological mechanisms linking air pollution to cardiovascular risk are unclear. In this study, the first of its kind, researchers used "metabolomics" -- a method that could reflect how glucose, amino acids, fatty acids and lipids are metabolized -- to get a snapshot of the chemical processes by which cells produce the substances and energy needed to sustain life.

Researchers recruited 55 healthy, young college students, who received alternate treatments of real and sham air purification in random orders in their dormitory rooms.

Researchers measured indoor and outdoor fine particulate matter levels during the study, and at certain points did health tests and collected blood serum and urine samples to analyze the students' metabolites, inflammation and oxidative stress biomarkers. They looked for differences in blood serum metabolites, biomarkers and blood pressures with increasing exposure to fine particulate matter.

Researchers found:

  • Notable changes in 97 blood serum metabolites after fine particulate matter exposure.
  • An average 82 percent lower level of indoor fine particulate matter with air purifiers versus sham purifiers.
  • Short-term reductions in stress hormone levels after air purifiers were used.
  • After 24-hours with real air purifiers in use, exposure levels for fine particulate matter were in the safe range per World Health Organization.

Higher fine particulate matter exposure was also associated with increases in stress hormone levels, which are believed to induce high blood pressure, inflammatory and metabolic effects in the body, Kan said.

Fine particulate matter exposure impacted metabolism of glucose, amino acids, fatty acids and lipids. These changes, along with the significantly higher blood pressure, insulin resistance and biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress found among people exposed to higher levels, could be partly responsible for the adverse cardiovascular effects caused by air pollution exposure, researchers said.

"Levels of stress hormones, systolic blood pressure and biomarkers of oxidative stress and inflammation were significantly lower when using real air purifiers," Kan said. "Although we found significant health benefits with air purifiers, the actual health protection people could get from air purifiers in real living conditions is still not well-determined."

This was also a small study and whether the results translate to other countries remains to be seen, because air pollution levels are much higher in urban China than in the United States or Europe. Nevertheless, the study highlights air pollution's potential impact on human health in more ways than we currently know, Kan said.

"Future studies should examine whether the health benefits from short-term air purification can improve long-term health, and whether these findings are also found in people who live in low pollution areas," Kan said. The current study only focused on one particulate matter size found in pollution.

Source:  Materials provided by American Heart Association

The ocean's fastest shark is being threatened by over fishing

Shortfin mako shark fishing mortality rate is much higher than previously thought.

"Traditionally, the data obtained to determine the rate of fishing mortality, a key parameter used to help gauge the health of shark stocks, has depended largely on fishermen self-reporting any mako sharks they may have caught," said Mahmood Shivji, Ph.D., senior author of the study and director of the NSU's GHRI. "The challenge is that not all fishermen report the same way or some may underreport or even not report their mako shark captures at all, so the these catch data are known to be of questionable reliability."

Shivji said that near real-time tracking of mako sharks using satellite tags and directly seeing how many were captured allowed researchers to bypass the dependency on self-reporting by fishermen.

"Using satellite tags for makos and possibly other fished species can be a time-efficient way and a fisheries-independent tool for gathering useful fisheries-interaction data, including answering fundamental questions about the levels of fishing survival and mortality," said Michael Byrne, Ph.D., the paper's lead author and postdoctoral fellow at NSU's GHRI when the study was done. "The tracking data also showed these mako sharks entered the management zones of 19 countries, underscoring how critical it is for countries to work together closely to manage and conserve these long-distance oceanic travelers." When the researchers began to gather, compile, disaggregate and review the data, the results were startling.

An unexpectedly high proportion, 30% of the 40 satellite tagged sharks, were captured in fisheries. After modelling the probability that a mako shark would survive a year without being captured (a 72% chance) and calculating the fishing mortality rates, researchers determined that the rate at which shortfin makos were being killed in fisheries was actually 10 times higher than previously believed.

"From a conservation and protection point of view, this is huge," said Bradley Wetherbee, Ph.D., a research scientist from the University of Rhode Island's Department of Biological Sciences and a member of NSU's GHRI. "It's vital that we have the most accurate data possible to aid decision-makers in managing marine life populations sustainably. If they have inaccurate information, it's much more difficult to make the correct decisions for properly managing populations. Everyone wants the populations managed in a sustainable way."

The tracks of the tagged mako sharks, including the ones captured, can be viewed online on NSU's GHRI shark tracking website.

Globally, many shark species have seen significant declines in their numbers, with fisheries overexploitation cited as a major cause. This can happen in many ways -- some shark species are specifically targeted while others are captured by accident (called bycatch.) No matter how sharks are taken from the world's oceans, the fact remains that the current levels of removal for many species are unsustainable.

The researchers stress that the work they are doing has the goal of providing the most accurate information possible to those in positions to take action to manage mako and other shark species. They both say that the goal is create successful fisheries management and conservation -- to avoid declining populations, and to do that, we must have as much accurate data as possible.

"We have to have sustainable approaches to fishing," Dr. Shivji said. "Sharks might get a bit of a bad rap in the media, but these apex predators are vital to the overall health of our oceans. You remove them from the equation and, quite honestly, we don't know how far those ripples will be felt. One thing we do know is it won't be inconsequential."

Photo credit: George Schellenger, GHOF

Source :Materials fromNova Southeastern University

What flowers looked like 100 million years ago

Flowering plants with at least 300,000 species are by far the most diverse group of plants on Earth. They include almost all the species used by people for food, medicine, and many other purposes. However, flowering plants arose only about 140 million years ago, quite late in the evolution of plants, toward the end of the age of the dinosaurs, but since then have diversified spectacularly. No one knows exactly how this happened, and the origin and early evolution of flowering plants and especially their flowers still remains one of the biggest enigmas in biology, almost 140 years after Charles Darwin called their rapid rise in the Cretaceous "an abominable mystery."

This new study, the "eFLOWER project," is an unprecedented international effort to combine information on the structure of flowers with the latest information on the evolutionary tree of flowering plants based on DNA. The results shed new light on the early evolution of flowers as well as major patterns in floral evolution across all living flowering plants.

Among the most surprising results is a new model of the original ancestral flower that does not match any of the ideas proposed previously. "When we finally got the full results, I was quite startled until I realized that they actually made good sense," said Hervé Sauquet, the leader of the study and an Associate Professor at Université Paris-Sud in France. "No one has really been thinking about the early evolution of flowers in this way, yet so much is easily explained by the new scenario that emerges from our models."

According to the new study, the ancestral flower was bisexual, with both female (carpels) and male (stamens) parts, and with multiple whorls (concentric cycles) of petal-like organs, in sets of threes. About 20% of flowers today have such "trimerous" whorls, but typically fewer: lilies have two, magnolias have three. "These results call into question much of what has been thought and taught previously about floral evolution!," said Juerg Schoenenberger, a Professor at the University of Vienna, who coordinated the study together with Hervé Sauquet. It has long been assumed that the ancestral flower had all organs arranged in a spiral.

The researchers also reconstructed what flowers looked like at all the key divergences in the flowering plant evolutionary tree, including the early evolution of monocots (e.g., orchids, lilies, and grasses) and eudicots (e.g., poppies, roses, and sunflowers), the two largest groups of flowering plants. "The results are really exciting!" said Maria von Balthazar, a Senior Scientist and specialist of floral morphology and development at the University of Vienna. "This is the first time that we have a clear vision for the early evolution of flowers across all angiosperms."

The new study sheds new light on the earliest phases in the evolution of flowers and offers for the first time a simple, plausible scenario to explain the spectacular diversity of floral forms. Nevertheless, many questions remain. The fossil record of flowering plants is still very incomplete, and scientists have not yet found fossil flowers as old as the group itself. "This study is a very important step toward developing a new and increasingly sophisticated understanding of the major patterns in the evolution of flowers," said Peter Crane, President of the Oak Spring Garden Foundation and a colleague familiar with the results of the study. "It reflects great progress and the results on the earliest flowers are especially intriguing."

Photo Credits: Copyright Hervé Sauquet/Jürg Schönenberger

Source: Materials via University of Vienna


Snooty, World’s Oldest Captive Manatee, Dead At 69

Snooty, the world’s oldest known captive manatee who lived at a South Florida aquarium for more than half a century, died on Sunday. He was 69.

Born in 1948, Snooty’s arrival was the first ever recorded manatee birth in human care. He moved to the South Florida Museum in Bradenton in 1949, and saw more than 1 million visitors during his lifetime.

Snooty was dubbed the official mascot for Manatee County in 1979, and celebrated his 69th birthday on Saturday.

The museum, which houses the Parker Manatee Aquarium, said Snooty died after getting trapped in an underwater area of his exhibit. Jeff Rodgers, the museum’s provost and chief operating officer, said Snooty was able to access an area of his exhibit that contained plumbing equipment after a hatch blocking it off “had somehow been knocked loose.” Three smaller manatees were able to swim in and out of the “tight area,” but Snooty swam in and became stuck.

Snooty was about twice the size of the other animals and weighed about 1,300 pounds, NPR reported. 

“It took us some time to figure out how we were going to deal with that situation, but when we did finally get to Snooty he was no longer alive,” Rodgers said, before appearing to tear up at a news conference. “We’ve been greeting people at the front door to share the heartbreaking news with them as they come in. ... Aquarium staff is heartbroken.”

“We’re all quite devastated about his passing,” Brynne Anne Besio, the museum’s CEO, said in a statement on Sunday. “We’re reviewing what happened and will be conducting a full review of the circumstances. Snooty was such a unique animal and he had so much personality that people couldn’t help but be drawn to him. As you can imagine, I ― and our staff, volunteers and board members ― considered him a star. We all deeply mourn his passing.”

The aquarium will remain closed as the investigation continues. The manatee’s veterinarian of 20 years will be conducting the necropsy.

Longtime fans of Snooty expressed their shock at the news of his death, saying the manatee was a local celebrity.

“It was a little bit surreal coming here first. We were waiting for it to open and then about five or six minutes before the museum opened a staff person walked out and breaks the news to all the kids and parents standing outside waiting to head on in,” Josh Crotts told the Sarasota Herald Tribune. “It came as a shock to everybody, especially considering the timing.”

Source : Nick Visser via HuffPost


Climate Change Causes One of The Largest Icebergs to Break off from An Ice Shelf in Western Antarctica

The iceberg about the size of Delaware and weighing an estimated 1.12 trillion tons finally ripped free from an ice shelf in Antartica.

The calving leaves Larsen C — already less than the size of West Virginia — reduced in area by more than 12 percent and the "landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula changed forever."

The iceberg itself measures more than 2,300 square miles and is on average more than 600 feet thick.

"The iceberg is one of the largest recorded and its future progress is difficult to predict," Adrian Luckman, a professor and lead investigator with Swansea University, said in a statement. "It may remain in one piece but is more likely to break into fragments. Some of the ice may remain in the area for decades, while parts of the iceberg may drift north into warmer waters."

 "In the ensuing months and years, the ice shelf could either gradually regrow, or may suffer further calving events which may eventually lead to collapse — opinions in the scientific community are divided," Luckman said.

 What happens to the Larsen C ice shelf also remains unknown. Two previous ice shelves known as Larsen A and Larsen B — all named after a Norwegian explorer — have broken up in recent decades. Larsen B, which completely collapsed in 2002, could foreshadow what is now happening to Larsen C.

"In the ensuing months and years, the ice shelf could either gradually regrow, or may suffer further calving events which may eventually lead to collapse — opinions in the scientific community are divided," Luckman said. "Our models say it will be less stable, but any future collapse remains years or decades away."

Researchers said they were not immediately aware the calving is linked to human-induced climate change. Since the ice shelf was already in the ocean and held a relatively small amount of land ice, the potential melting of the freed iceberg is not expected to have an immediate effect on the sea level.

The ice itself, however, could be a risk if it floats into in an area where cruise ships might pass from South America. In 2007, a Canadian cruise ship sunk after it struck ice off Antarctica, forcing the rescue of the 154 passengers and crew on board.

For more information click here

Souce : Erik Ortiz via NBC NEWS



Climate Change Affects A Ten-Year Contract of Fruit Supply.

When a British shop recently proposed signing a 10-year contract with a fruit supplier from South Africa – a move aimed at providing predictability for both partners – company officials got back a completely unexpected response: We’re not interested.

Climate change, the producer said, is making it harder to guarantee a consistent-enough crop to meet such a long-term contract, particularly when Britain has exacting standards for the quality it needs. South Africa’s own growing population needs more food these days, it added – and China is always willing to buy whatever’s on offer, regardless of quality, no questions asked.

As climate change creates new pressures on farmers, markets, trade and supply chains, old ways of doing things are shifting – a reality that might help create the right kind of pressure to drive action to curb global warming, some experts say.

“If we can’t make the business case (for action), we’re going to fail,” noted Will Day, a sustainability adviser for consultancy giant PwC.

Despite having achieved the colossal task of putting in place the Paris Agreement on climate change, the world is still moving far too slowly to deal with a fast-moving problem, experts said at a meeting of the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) this week.

Promises made under the Paris deal will get the world 30 percent of the way to achieving its aim to try to hold onto a relatively stable global climate – and “the remaining 70 percent is going to be much harder than the first 30 percent”, warned Simon Maxwell, the executive chair of CDKN.

Right now, the Paris Agreement “does not yet add up to anything close to the emissions reductions needed”, he said.

A big part of the problem, Maxwell said, is that putting plans into action is harder than making them, particularly when that involves tricky issues of regulatory changes, finding the needed cash, making sure things happen in the right order and negotiating ever-complicated politics.

“Every single thing we do in this space is political and if we do not think about politics we will fail – and we cannot afford to fail,” he said.

But there are some hopeful signs emerging – and a clear view of areas where important progress could be made, experts said at the two-day meeting. For example:

--Increasingly it is ministries of finance – not the less-powerful environmental ministries – that are driving action on climate change in many countries, they said.

--Pressure from investors – including investment management group BlackRock – is forcing more big companies to look at and publicly state the risks they face from climate change impacts, a move likely to help create action to deal with those risks. If the trillions of dollars invested by pension funds come under similar scrutiny – or if those trillions can be directed into more climate-friendly investments – then the stage is set for major change, they said.

--The leadership void on climate change created by U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement that he will withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change is creating opportunities to rebuild and reshape climate leadership – including by driving a surge of action by cities, states and businesses. What could happen if people at all levels – from community and citizen action groups to cities and national policymakers – all begin pushing together on climate-related issues people care about, such as air pollution?

--Infrastructure roadblocks in the way of a fast expansion of clean energy – from battery storage to transmission lines – are fast being resolved. If the right incentives can be put in place – such as removing fossil fuel subsidies and putting the money instead to health, education and other social goals that help politicians win elections – progress could be even faster, the experts said.

One of the most effective ways of pushing ahead climate action, they said, may actually be to talk a lot less about the need for it, and instead begin listening to what people do care most about, and finding the links.

Families worried about job losses or air pollution or the rising cost of flood insurance or the lengthening allergy season don’t want to hear that they need to put climate change first. But if clean power can create jobs, and swapping polluting vehicles for clean ones on the streets makes children healthier, many more people will see the point of climate action and potentially throw their support behind it, the experts said.

“The transformation is underway and we now know we can, with that, deliver all sorts of other public goods and reward people for having invested in that change,” said James Cameron, the chairman of the Overseas Development Institute.

“We need an equal dose of fear and excitement about the transition ... so we create demand for the policy changes and other interventions we know we need to do.”

Source : Laurie Goering via zilient.org

Squirrels Have Long Memory for Solving Problems

University of Exeter scientists found grey squirrels quickly remembered how to solve a problem they had not seen for almost two years.

The squirrels also quickly worked out how to use those skills in a redesigned version of the test.

"This might be why grey squirrels can survive very well in towns and cities," said Dr Pizza Ka Yee Chow, of Exeter's Centre for Research in Animal Behaviour.

"For example, they're very good at getting food from bird feeders.

"People may try different types of bird feeders to keep the squirrels away, but this research shows grey squirrels can not only remember tricks for getting food but can apply those skills in new situations."

In the study, five squirrels were given a task identical to one they had tried 22 months earlier, in which they had to press levers to get hazelnuts.

In that first experience, the squirrels improved with practice -- taking an average of eight seconds on their first attempt and just two seconds by the final time they tried it.

Trying again for the first time in 22 months, they took an average of just three seconds to get a hazelnut.

Grey squirrels are known to have good long-term memory -- they are "scatter-hoarders," collecting and hiding thousands of nuts every autumn.

"Previous research at Exeter has shown that their memory for the locations of hidden nuts is excellent," said co-author Professor Stephen Lea, of the University of Exeter.

But the new research demonstrates a "very different form of memory," said co-author Dr Théo Robert, also of the University of Exeter.

"This is not just remembering where things have been left, it shows they can recall techniques which they have not used for a long time," he said.

"It's also different from what we see in the wild because they're remembering things for longer than the few months of memory needed to find hidden food."

When presented with a version of the task that looked different but required the same technique to get hazelnuts, the squirrels showed a "neophobic" (fear of news things) response -- hesitating for more than 20 seconds on average before starting the task.

But once they started it took them just two seconds on average to get a hazelnut, showing that they were able to recall and apply the technique they learned in the previous form of the challenge.

 Read more Animal Cognition

Source: Dr Pizza Ka Yee Chow via University of Exeter


Prelude to Global Extinction : Human Impact on Earth Animals

No bells tolled when the last Catarina pupfish on Earth died. Newspapers didn't carry the story when the Christmas Island pipistrelle vanished forever.

Two vertebrate species go extinct every year on average, but few people notice, perhaps because the rate seems relatively slow -- not a clear and present threat to the natural systems we depend on. This view overlooks trends of extreme decline in animal populations, which tell a more dire story with cascading consequences, according to a new study that provides the first global evaluation of these population trends.

"This is the case of a biological annihilation occurring globally, even if the species these populations belong to are still present somewhere on Earth," said co-author Rodolfo Dirzo, a professor of biology.

Mapping loss

A 2015 study co-authored by Paul Ehrlich, professor emeritus of biology, and colleagues showed that Earth has entered an era of mass extinction unparalleled since the dinosaurs died out 66 million years ago. The specter of extinction hangs over about 41 percent of all amphibian species and 26 percent of all mammals, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which maintains a list of threatened and extinct species. This global disaster scene has the fingerprints of habitat loss, overexploitation, invasive organisms, pollution, toxification and climate change.

The new analysis, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, looks beyond species extinctions to provide a clear picture of dwindling populations and ranges. The researchers mapped the ranges of 27,600 species of birds, amphibians, mammals and reptiles -- a sample representing nearly half of known terrestrial vertebrate species -- and analyzed population losses in a sample of 177 well-studied mammal species between 1990 and 2015.

Using range reduction as a proxy for population loss, the study finds more than 30 percent of vertebrate species are declining in population size and range. Of the 177 mammals for which the researchers had detailed data, all have lost 30 percent or more of their geographic ranges and more than 40 percent have lost more than 80 percent of their ranges. Tropical regions have had the greatest number of decreasing species while temperate regions have seen similar or higher proportions of decreasing species. Particularly hard hit have been the mammals of south and southeast Asia, where all the large-bodied species of mammals analyzed have lost more than 80 percent of their geographic ranges.

The study's maps suggest that as much as 50 percent of the number of animal individuals that once shared Earth have disappeared, as have billions of animal populations. This amounts to "a massive erosion of the greatest biological diversity in the history of Earth," the authors write.

"The massive loss of populations and species reflects our lack of empathy to all the wild species that have been our companions since our origins," said the new study's lead author, Gerardo Ceballos of the National Autonomous University of Mexico. "It is a prelude to the disappearance of many more species and the decline of natural systems that make civilization possible."

Cascading effects

Why does the loss of populations and biological diversity matter? Aside from being what the scientists call a prelude to species extinction, the losses rob us of crucial ecosystem services such as honeybees' crop pollination, pest control and wetlands' water purification. We also lose intricate ecological networks involving animals, plants and microorganisms -- leading to less resilient ecosystems and pools of genetic information that may prove vital to species' survival in a rapidly changing global environment.

"Sadly, our descendants will also have to do without the aesthetic pleasures and sources of imagination provided by our only known living counterparts in the universe," said Ehrlich.

In the meantime, the overall scope of population losses makes clear the world cannot wait to address biodiversity damage, according to the authors. They call for curbs on the basic drivers of extinction -- human overpopulation and overconsumption -- and challenge society to move away from "the fiction that perpetual growth can occur on a finite planet."

Dirzo is also the Bing Professor in Environmental Science. Dirzo and Ehrlich are senior fellows at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

For more information click here

Source : Materials provided by Stanford Univeristy


Largest Canned Tuna Company Tackles Overfishing And Labour Abuse

The world's largest canned tuna company, Thai Union Group PCL, on Tuesday announced a deal with environmentalists to tackle overfishing and potential labour abuse, in the latest bid to clean up the beleaguered Thai seafood industry.

Thailand's multibillion-dollar seafood sector has come under fire in recent years after investigations showed widespread slavery, trafficking and violence on fishing boats and in onshore food processing factories.

The industry, under pressure from decades of overfishing and demand for cheap seafood, turned to slave labour, according to rights groups.

Under an agreement with environmental group Greenpeace, Thai Union said it would take steps towards sustainably caught tuna in its supply chain while ensuring all workers are "safe".

"Thai Union recognises that as a leader in the seafood sector, the operational changes and policies we introduce have a positive impact across the entire industry," its global director of sustainability Darian McBain told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Among its measures, Thai Union pledged to have human or electronic observers on the vessels it sources from, to allow for inspection and reporting of labour abuse.

Greenpeace said the company also agreed to introduce a code of conduct to ensure workers are treated "humanely and fairly", while reducing the use of the "fish aggregating devices" - floating objects used to increase catch but that also harm ocean life.

Greenpeace and Thai Union will meet every six months to assess progress.

Greenpeace, which had confronted vessels supplying Thai Union in protest previously, said it hoped other industry players will follow suit.

It said conditions for labourers on more than 400 vessels supplying Thai Union will improve if the reforms are implemented.

"This marks huge progress for our oceans and marine life, and for the rights of people working in the seafood industry," Greenpeace international executive director Bunny McDiarmid said.

Thai Union - with brands such as Chicken of the Sea, John West and Petit Navire - has invested $90 million in initiatives to ensure 100 percent of its tuna is sustainably sourced, with a commitment to achieving a minimum of 75 percent by 2020.

The company last year said it would eliminate recruitment fees for its workers, a move aimed at preventing labourers from racking up debts to job brokers and from being exploited and abused.

Credit: Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience

For more information click here

Source: Beh Lih Yi via newstrust


Plastic Made From Sugar And Carbondioxide

Some biodegradable plastics could in the future be made using sugar and carbon dioxide, replacing unsustainable plastics made from crude oil.

  • Polycarbonate is used to make drinks bottles, lenses for glasses and in scratch-resistant coatings for phones, CDs and DVDs
  • Current manufacture processes for polycarbonate use BPA (banned from use in baby bottles) and highly toxic phosgene, used as a chemical weapon in World War One
  • Bath scientists have made alternative polycarbonates from sugars and carbon dioxide in a new process that also uses low pressures and room temperature, making it cheaper and safer to produce
  • This new type of polycarbonate can be biodegraded back into carbon dioxide and sugar using enzymes from soil bacteria
  • This new plastic is bio-compatible so could in the future be used for medical implants or as scaffolds for growing replacement organs for transplant

Polycarbonates from sugars offer a more sustainable alternative to traditional polycarbonate from BPA, however the process uses a highly toxic chemical called phosgene. Now scientists at Bath have developed a much safer, even more sustainable alternative which adds carbon dioxide to the sugar at low pressures and at room temperature.

The resulting plastic has similar physical properties to those derived from petrochemicals, being strong, transparent and scratch-resistant. The crucial difference is that they can be degraded back into carbon dioxide and sugar using the enzymes found in soil bacteria.

plastic process

The new BPA-free plastic could potentially replace current polycarbonates in items such as baby bottles and food containers, and since the plastic is bio-compatible, it could also be used for medical implants or as scaffolds for growing tissues or organs for transplant.

Dr Antoine Buchard, Whorrod Research Fellow in the University's Department of Chemistry, said: "With an ever-growing population, there is an increasing demand for plastics. This new plastic is a renewable alternative to fossil-fuel based polymers, potentially inexpensive, and, because it is biodegradable, will not contribute to growing ocean and landfill waste.

"Our process uses carbon dioxide instead of the highly toxic chemical phosgene, and produces a plastic that is free from BPA, so not only is the plastic safer, but the manufacture process is cleaner too."

Dr Buchard and his team at the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies, published their work in a series of articles in the journals Polymer Chemistry and Macromolecules.

In particular, they used nature as inspiration for the process, using the sugar found in DNA called thymidine as a building block to make a novel polycarbonate plastic with a lot of potential.

PhD student and first author of the articles, Georgina Gregory, explained: "Thymidine is one of the units that makes up DNA. Because it is already present in the body, it means this plastic will be bio-compatible and can be used safely for tissue engineering applications.

"The properties of this new plastic can be fine-tuned by tweaking the chemical structure -- for example we can make the plastic positively charged so that cells can stick to it, making it useful as a scaffold for tissue engineering." Such tissue engineering work has already started in collaboration with Dr Ram Sharma from Chemical Engineering, also part of the CSCT.

The researchers have also looked at using other sugars such as ribose and mannose. Dr Buchard added: "Chemists have 100 years' experience with using petrochemicals as a raw material so we need to start again using renewable feedstocks like sugars as a base for synthetic but sustainable materials. It's early days, but the future looks promising."

This work was supported by Roger and Sue Whorrod (Fellowship to Dr Buchard), EPSRC (Centre for Doctoral Training in Sustainable Chemical Technologies), and a Royal Society research Grant.

For more information, click here

Source :  University of Bath

Suleja Flood Claims Lives.

The Chairman of Suleja Local Government Area, Abdullahi Maje, explained that a heavy rain started around 12 midnight and went on for hours, leaving more than 100 houses flooded in Suleja Local Government Area of the state.

“There are about 10 missing persons within Suleja. Three bodies have been found, we are still searching for the remaining persons dead or alive. We have made a call to the Federal Government through the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA); they responded quickly and came to Suleja,” Mr Maje said.

The worst affected areas included Kaduna Road through Bakin-Iku, Checheniya, Yaro College area, Kantoma area, Kuspa, Anguwan Gwari and Anguwan Juma.

Narrating their plights to Channels TV crew who visited the scene, residents said some who had attempted to leave their submerged homes for safety were swept away by the flood.They added that cars and vehicles parked along the roads were also moved from their original positions due to the heavy downpour.

A resident said: “I know of nine persons who were carried away by the flood and likely dead in (my) community alone”.

A Search and Rescue Officer of NEMA, Egrigba Micheal, told Channels Television that the agency was able to rescue a victim who has been rushed to the Suleja General Hospital. The rain caused lots of devastations. Many of the houses were submerged while some were completely rooted out. Many properties worth millions of naira were also destroyed.

For more information click here

Source : Michael via channelsnews


Global Innovation Challenge Opens For Students to Fight Marine Plastics

Entries open today for the world’s first student competition to find the next generation of solutions to the global problem of marine litter. Organized by UN Environment and Think Beyond Plastic, the Marine Plastics Innovation Challenge invites university students worldwide to submit fresh ideas in the fields of engineering, communications, economics and data modelling.

Each year, 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans: the equivalent of a full garbage truck every minute. This pollution threatens the survival of fish and other sea creatures, destroys marine and coastal ecosystems that support over three billion people worldwide, and endangers human health by entering the food chain. If no action is taken, by 2050 there could be more plastic than fish in the oceans.

Deadline for entries is 6 October 2017. To participate, students need to be enrolled in a graduate or postgraduate programme as of June 2017, be supported by a faculty member, and submit an entry in one or more of the following categories:

  1. Engineering and Design:  including innovations in materials, manufacturing processes, packaging design and related fields that result in a measurable reduction in marine plastic.
  2. Communication: including multimedia products, mobile apps, and innovative storytelling that raise awareness and inspire public action against marine plastics.
  3. Economics: including innovative methodologies to assess the economic impact of plastic pollution and/or develop new financial and business models to address market failures.
  4. Prediction and Recovery: including the development of analytical tools (algorithms, models, hotspot identification) to better capture and monitor data about plastic pollution and propose solutions.

One winner in each category will be announced at the Sixth International Marine Debris Conference in San Diego, California, which will run from March 12 to 16, 2018. Winners will have the chance to present their ideas at the conference and gain entry into the Think Beyond Plastic annual acceleration programme, which provides mentoring and support to help make the winning ideas commercially viable.

For detailed instructions on how to enter and judging criteria, click here

Source:  Climate Action

Seven (7) Countries that Run 100% on Clean Energy

The dream for a world that is free from fossil fuels is not really an impossibility. There are a number of countries that can convincingly prove that foregoing climate-altering traditional energy sources can be done. There's just no reason to be enslaved by the idea that you need oil or other fossil fuels to sustain the energy needs of a country.

Costa Rica, Bonaire, Tokelau, El Hierro, Samso, Denmark, and Portugal are seven places in different parts of the world that demonstrate the viability of clean energy sources. These are <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wlcr-website/countries-stopped-using-fossil-fuels-running-clean-energy.png">countries that have gladly abandoned fossil fuels</a>. If these countries were able to do it, there&rsquo;s no reason for other countries to be unable to follow their lead. It may be expensive at first and may bring about some inconveniences but in the long run the benefits are just beyond favorable.</p>

<p>Geothermal, wind, solar, and hydroelectric power are the most popular clean energy technologies that are already being used in many places worldwide. These sustainable energy technologies have played major roles in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions that significantly contribute to global warming and climate change. These clean energy technologies have likewise made countries like Costa Rica become attractive options for retirement or for those who seek a new place to call home.</p>

<p>Here is the image for you to carefully look at:</p>

<p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wlcr-website/countries-stopped-using-fossil-fuels-running-clean-energy.png" style="width: 458px; height: 2048px;" /></p>

<p>Fancy owning a property in or moving to Costa Rica? There are many reasons why you should consider this beautiful sunny country as your vacation or retirement destination. Learn more about this wonderful Latin American republic through <a href="http://www.welovecostarica.com/">WeLoveCostaRica.com