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Agricultural intensification has fed the world, but are we healthier?
The dawn of the ‘Green Revolution’ saw staple crops being produced on an unimaginable scale. World hunger decreased drastically and quickly, but so did the diversity of our diets. As biodiversity plummets, climate change takes hold and two billion people slide up the obese scale, scientists question if agricultural intensification is still the right food model for our planet and population.
Forests News pick of stories from around the globe:
McDonald’s, KFC and Domino’s: Investors dangle carrot before junk food giants
Investors are calling on fast food giants to scrutinize their supply chain and clean up any business practices that feed catastrophic climate change, the BBC reports. McDonalds, KFC and Domino’s top the corporations who have been targeted, in response to concerns that agriculture is the only high emitting sector that doesn’t have a C02 reduction plan. At the current trajectory, agricultural emissions will contribute 70% of the total emissions allowed to keep the world on track to a 2oC rise in temperature by 2050. The letter, penned by more than 80 investors with a combined $6.5 trillion USD under management, follows on from the EAT-Lancet report published mid-January- where 37 scientists from around the world resolved to feed 10 billion people without causing catastrophic damage to the planet. The report recommends eating more nuts and vegetables, whilst dramatically curbing meat and dairy intake.
The world is burning, so what?
In its weekend edition The Guardian published an extract from New York magazine journalist David Wallace-Wells’ new book, The Uninhabitable Earth. Wallace-Wells considers himself an average American, ‘not an environmentalist’ who was ‘wilfully deluded’ about the impacts of climate change, that is until he started collecting stories about it. He summarises apocalyptic accounts of wildfires from around the world: As well as recounting stories of elderly couples plunging into their swimming pools to escape encroaching flames in California (with varying degrees of success,) he zooms out to the catalytic fires in Indonesia in 1997, where millennia old peatlands burned to release 40% of the average annual global emissions level. He extends beyond wildfires – which he cites as the most feared of feedback loops as burning trees transform from carbon sink to carbon source – to Jair Bolsonaro’s ‘new Brazil’. According to some Brazil scientists’ estimates, once planned development ‘i.e. deforestation of the Amazon’ takes effect, 13.2 Gt of carbon could be released between 2021 – 2030. For reference, fossil fuel guzzling USA releases 5Gt a year. Is he optimistic for the future? Yes. And he thinks we should be too.
Is Borneo deforestation behind ‘monkey malaria’ rise in SE Asia?
Is deforestation causing an increase in vector borne diseases? That’s the question The Scientist asked last week. Numerous studies have found links to a rise in malaria passed on through macaque monkeys, as humans and animals jostle for land amid mass deforestation. P. Knowlesi, or ‘monkey malaria’, has become the leading strain of the pathogenic illness in Malaysia, its rise correlating with the clearance of Borneo’s forest for oil palm plantations.
Panicked leopard runs riot in Indian village
Becoming an ever-increasing familiar story, the BBC shares a video of a panic-stricken leopard who ran loose on a village in Punjab in India. Deforestation in India is leading to increased contact with humans and wild animals, which has led the government to issue guidelines on dealing with conflict and reprisals.
Business’ adapt to climate change
Bloomberg have done a deep dive into company risks related to water security and forests, and how climate change will force companies worldwide to rethink how they operate. The article uses CDP published data, where companies and investors disclose their business’ impact on the environment, and vice versa.
Pangolins: ‘Record’ number of scales of world’s most trafficked animal seized in Hong Kong
Officials in Hong Kong have intercepted a shipping container containing a record number of pangolin scales and 1,000 elephant tusks, the BBC reports. With an estimated market value of $8m USD, the cargo was seized following an anonymous tip-off as it made its way from Nigeria to Vietnam. Pangolins are the most trafficked animal on the planet. Their keratin scales, containing the same substance as human hair and fingernails, are thought to have medicinal properties in some parts of Asia: though this is scientifically unproven. As numbers of the endangered anteater have dwindled in Asia, traffickers have turned their attention to Africa. Pangolins, who also face deforestation of their natural habitat, are on the IUCN Red List and are protected under international law.
Why we should be optimistic about forests in five points – Justin Adams
Justin Adams, the new director of Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 – an initiative to get companies and governments to sign their commitment to halt deforestation within the next two years – reveals his five reasons to be optimistic about the future of our forests in his ‘listicle’ on Landscape News. Adams cites strong market signals and an increasing landscape approach by major actors amongst the reasons for his unwavering faith.
ICYMI – In case you missed it in January!
Haiti: A modern day Easter Island
Geographical dubs Haiti a ‘modern day Easter island,’ as the loss of its 0.32 percent of forest cover looms on the horizon. According to new research, 42 of its 50 mountains are now completely stripped bare, leading to the inevitable mass extinction of its biodiversity. Haiti is one of the poorest countries on the planet and is blighted by natural disasters, in which the forests can no longer provide cover for. Scientists call on better data of primary forests from around the world to prevent other countries, such as Madagascar, following suit.
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