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These seed-firing drones are planting 40,000 trees every day to fight deforestation

These seed-firing drones are planting 40,000 trees every day to fight deforestation

“Each of our drones can plant over 40,000 seed pods per day and they fly autonomously,” says Andrew Walker, CEO and co-founder of AirSeed Technologies.

Let’s face it. Talk about biodiversity loss at a party and you’re unlikely to make friends.

Talk about an army of seed-firing drones, however, and suddenly you’re the coolest person there.

Well believe it or not, an Australian start-up is doing exactly that. Using a fleet of highly advanced ‘octocopters’, AirSeed Technology is fighting deforestation by combining artificial intelligence with specially designed seed pods which can be fired into the ground from high in the sky.

“Each of our drones can plant over 40,000 seed pods per day and they fly autonomously,” says Andrew Walker, CEO and co-founder of AirSeed Technologies.

“In comparison to traditional methodologies, that’s 25 times faster, but also 80 per cent cheaper.”

The UN is calling for an end to net deforestation globally by 2030 – Canva

Planting 100 million trees by 2024

Before takeoff, each drone hopper is loaded with specially selected seed pods compatible with the habitat below.

These pods are manufactured using waste biomass, providing a carbon rich coating that protects the seeds from birds, insects and rodents.

“The niche really lies in our biotech, which is the support system for the seed once it’s on the ground,” says Walker.

“It protects the seed from different types of wildlife, but also supports the seed once it germinates and really helps deliver all of those nutrients and mineral sources that it needs, along with some probiotics to really boost early-stage growth.”

Once airborne, the drones navigate fixed flight paths, planting to predefined patterns and recording each seeds’ coordinates.

This allows AirSeed to assess the health of their trees as they grow.

“We’re being very mindful of the fact that we need to restore soil health, we need to restore microbial communities within the soil, and we need to restore primary habitat providers for animals,” continues Walker, who believes the sky’s the limit for the drone-based technology.

The company has already planted more than 50,000 trees, and aims to plant a total of 100 million by the year 2024.

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Planting more trees is one of a combination of solutions to combating climate change, but some trees are far better than others. Which ones though? ​​Scientists have designed an experimental forest in England to work out the best formula for achieving ambitious tree planting targets.


Companies will soon have to prove that the products they sell to the European Union haven’t been contributing to deforestation, according to draft legislation introduced by the European Commission.

How serious is deforestation around the world?

The United Nations Environment Programme says the earth loses 70,000 square kilometres of forest every year – an area roughly the size of Portugal.

It’s calling for this figure to be halved by 2025 and for an end to net deforestation globally by 2030.

But with deforestation rates unlikely to subside anytime soon, innovative measures such as these are needed now more than ever to mitigate the drastic implications of climate change.

AirSeed is not alone in developing drone-based planting systems to combat biodiversity loss.

Two other start-ups – Dendra and Biocarbon Engineering – are also aiming to help fight deforestation with seed-dropping technology.


Ben Anthony Horton at euronews.green

Amazon Rainforest Nears Climate ‘Tipping Point’ Faster Than Expected

Amazon Rainforest Nears Climate ‘Tipping Point’ Faster Than Expected

Hammered by climate change and relentless deforestation, the Amazon rainforest is losing its capacity to recover and could irretrievably transition into savannah, with dire consequences for the region and the world, according to a study published Monday.

Researchers warned that the findings mean the Amazon could be approaching a so-called tipping point faster than previously understood.

Analyzing 25 years of satellite data, researchers measured for the first time the Amazon’s resilience against shocks such as droughts and fires, a key indicator of overall health.

Resilience has declined across more than three-quarters of the Amazon basin, home to half the world’s rainforest, the researchers reported in the journal Nature Climate Change.

In areas hit hardest by destruction or drought, the forest’s ability to bounce back was reduced by approximately half, co-author Tim Lenton, director of the University of Exeter’s Global Systems Institute, told AFP.

“Our resilience measure changed by more than a factor of two in the places nearer to human activity and in places that are driest,” he said in an interview.

Climate models have suggested that global heating – which has on average warmed Earth’s surface 1.1 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels – could by itself push the Amazon past a point of no return into a far drier savannah-like state.

If carbon pollution continues unabated, that scenario could be locked in by mid-century, according to some models.

“But, of course, it’s not just climate change – people are busy chopping or burning the forest down, which is a second pressure point,” Lenton said.

“Those two things interact, so there are concerns the transition could happen even earlier.”

Besides the Amazon, ice sheets on Greenland and the West Antarctic, Siberian permafrost loaded with CO2 and methane, monsoon rains in South Asia, coral reef ecosystems, and the Atlantic Ocean current are all are vulnerable to tipping points that could radically alter the world as we know it.

Global fallout

Deforestation in Brazil has surged since far-right President Jair Bolsonaro took office in 2019, hitting a 15-year high last year.

Scientists reported recently that Brazil’s rainforest – 60% of the Amazon basin’s total – has shifted from a “sink” to a “source” of CO2, releasing 20% more of the greenhouse gas into the atmosphere over the past decade than it absorbed.

Terrestrial ecosystems worldwide have been a crucial ally as the world struggles to curb CO2 emissions. Vegetation and soil globally have consistently absorbed about 30% of carbon pollution since 1960, even as emissions increased by half.

“Savannification” of the Amazon would be hugely disruptive, in South America and across the globe.

More than 90 billion tons of CO2 stored in its rainforest – twice worldwide annual emissions from all sources – could be released into the atmosphere, pushing global temperatures up even faster.

Regionally, “it’s not just the forests that take a hit,” said Lenton. “If you lose the recycling of rainfall from the Amazon, you get knock-on effects in central Brazil, the country’s agricultural heartland.”

Ominously, the new findings marshal data pointing in the same direction.

“Many researchers have theorized that a tipping point could be reached,” said co-author Niklas Boers, a professor at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.

“Our study provides vital empirical evidence that we are approaching that threshold.”

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The blue milk cap mushroom is a rich source of protein. laerke_lyhne , CC BY-SA


The conversion of forests to agricultural land is happening at a mind-boggling speed. Between 2015 and 2020, the rate of deforestation was estimated at around 10 million hectares every year.

The living root bridges of north-east India have become famous as a tourist attraction - but they could also inspire European urban architecture (Credit: Getty Images)


For centuries, indigenous groups in north-east India have crafted intricate bridges from living fig trees. Now this ancient skill is making its way to European cities.

‘Saving grace’

To assess change in the resilience of the rainforest, Lenton, Boers and lead author Chris Boulton from Exeter University analyzed two satellite data sets, one measuring biomass and the other the “greenness” of the canopy.

“If too much resilience is lost, dieback may become inevitable – but that won’t become obvious until the major event that tips the system is over,” said Boers.

There may be a “saving grace” that could pull the Amazon back from the brink.

“The rainforest naturally has a lot of resilience – this is a biome that weathered the ice ages, after all,” said Lenton.

“If you could bring the temperature back down again even after passing the tipping point, you might be able to rescue the situation.”

“But that still puts you in the realm of massive carbon dioxide removal, or geoengineering, which has its own risks.”

Just under 20% of the Amazon rainforest – straddling nine nations and covering more than 5 million square kilometers (2 million square miles) – has been destroyed or degraded since 1970, mostly for the production of lumber, soy, palm oil, biofuels and beef.


Agence France-Presse via VOA News

This fabric is hailed as ‘eco-friendly.’ The rainforest tells a different story.

This fabric is hailed as ‘eco-friendly.’ The rainforest tells a different story.

Vast swaths of forest in Indonesia were chopped down through the early 2000s to make way for plantations for the production of viscose rayon and other goods.

NORTH KALIMANTAN, Indonesia — Jonni Spedika stared at the neat rows of trees and clenched his jaw. To an outsider, it may look like a serene patch of forest. To Spedika and his fellow villagers, it represents a grave threat. 

“This shouldn’t be allowed,” said Spedika, the former chief of one of the main villages here. 

Borneo ironwood and other tropical hardwood trees have long blanketed this rugged island in Indonesia. Large numbers of wild pigs, a main food source for the local people, roamed the rainforest near their homes. The trees stood undisturbed, nourishing the soil below and consuming large amounts of the carbon dioxide that fuels climate change.  

Jonni Spedika
Jonni Spedika, a local villager in North Kalimantan where a forest concession is operating in the surrounding area.NBC News

But the trees irking Spedika on that day in October were not old ironwoods or tallow nuts. They were eucalyptus trees recently planted by the wood supply company, PT. Adindo Hutani Lestari, and they represent the decline of one of the world’s most important rainforest systems, experts say. 

Adindo and its competitors have long operated in the region. For years, they cut down large swaths of ancient trees to make way for tree plantations. The wood is transported to mills, where it is dissolved into pulp and spun into a breathable fabric that has become ubiquitous across the U.S.: viscose rayon. 

Viscose rayon is used in clothing ranging from couture dresses to t-shirts to sportswear. It has been touted as eco-friendly because it comes from a renewable resource: trees.

But it is also among the products that have driven the destruction of rainforest in Indonesia. The plantations built on the cleared land create a continuous supply of new wood or goods like palm oil, often from a single species of tree.

The plantations blend into the surrounding forest. But experts say they also dry out the land and increase the risk of fires as well as destroy the natural habitat of a diverse array of plants and animals. 

“This is like them stealing our seas,” said Spedika, who noted that the pigs and other animals he used to hunt had disappeared.

Ruth DeFries, professor of ecology and sustainable development at Columbia University in New York, said tree plantations are highly disruptive to areas of biodiverse rainforest. 

“A plantation of a single kind of tree is a very, very different ecosystem than rainforest with millions of species,” said DeFries, who has done research in Indonesia.

“One of the most beautiful times I had there was shadowing someone who was doing research on orangutans,” she added. “Seeing that their habitat is being destroyed — it’s just heartbreaking.”

Deforestation in a place like Indonesia also has broader impacts. An acre of tree farm doesn’t absorb nearly as much carbon dioxide as an acre of rainforest.

study published in the journal Nature Communications in 2018 found that each hectare of rainforest converted to palm oil plantations in Indonesia results in 174 lost tons of carbon, and most of it ends up in the air as carbon dioxide. 

“Converting rainforest into tree plantations is not a one-to-one tradeoff,” said Gillian Galford, a climate scientist at the University of Vermont who was not involved in the study. “Deforestation like we’ve seen in southeast Asia is one of the number one contributors to climate change.” 

A truck loaded with wood in North Kalimantan.
A truck loaded with wood in North Kalimantan. NBC News

A range of industries have fueled the carving up of tropical forest in Indonesia, which has the third largest area of rainforest in the world behind the Amazon and Congo Basin. 

Since the 1960s, palm oil, paper and coffee companies have chopped down massive swaths of forest that are home to endangered species such as Sumatran orangutans and tigers.   

The environmental destruction and the role of big business largely stayed under the radar until the late 1990s. Over the last decade, pressure campaigns have led companies to look more closely at their supply chains and take steps to limit the degradation in tropical rainforests.

The measures have produced results. Indonesia’s deforestation rate last year dropped to its lowest level since the government began tracking it in 1990. 

Overall, the country lost about 115,000 hectares of forest cover (about 400 square miles) in 2020, according to the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry.

That amounts to an area about the size of Los Angeles, but it represents a 75 percent drop from 2019. The economic slowdown from the Covid-19 pandemic is believed to be a major factor in the sharp decline, but the deforestation rate has been steadily decreasing since 2015, according to government figures. 

Some environmental groups estimated that the country lost far more forest cover in 2020, but they don’t dispute that deforestation has decreased over the last five years. 

Indonesia had the highest deforestation rate in the world in the early 2000s.

Since 2000, the country has lost approximately 13 million hectares [50,000 square miles] of natural forest cover — an area the size of Alabama — according to an analysis by the nonprofit Auriga and other local environmental groups. The vast majority was fueled by palm oil and other agriculture such as coffee, but pulpwood plantations have also replaced large sections of rainforest. 

Even though the rate of rainforest destruction has slowed, environmentalists worry that the demand for pulpwood, which is harvested for the production of paper and viscose, will fuel the clearing of more forestland.

“For years to come, I’m most worried about pulpwood,” said Timer Manurung, director of Auriga.

Forest in North Kalimantan, Indonesia.
Forest in North Kalimantan, Indonesia.NBC News

‘Large-scale deforestation’

Viscose, the fiber derived from the cellulose in wood, is a key component in everyday products such as baby wipes and face masks. When it is turned into a fabric, it’s referred to as viscose rayon.

Viscose rayon was first created more than 100 years ago. Cheaper and more durable than silk, the plant-based fabric is marketed in fashion circles as being sustainable and biodegradable. It has surged in popularity in recent years, growing into a multi-billion industry.

A sample of viscose rayon, artificial silk, made in 1898, at the Science Museum in London.
A sample of viscose rayon, artificial silk, made in 1898, at the Science Museum in London.Science & Society Picture Library / SSPL via Getty Images

But some of the major companies in the viscose supply chain have drawn criticism for contributing to the destruction of rainforest in southeast Asia. 

Asia Pacific Resources International Holding (known as APRIL Group), the second largest pulp and paper company in Indonesia, has long faced accusations of engaging in deforestation. It sources wood from several suppliers, including Adindo, which controls land on the Indonesian island of Kalimantan (also known as Borneo).

In June 2015, APRIL pledged to stop harvesting natural forest. The announcement, which came on the heels of similar pledges from some of its competitors, was praised by environmental groups. 

The company has made significant progress in its efforts to limit deforestation. But some of APRIL’s suppliers, including Adindo, have been accused of clearing out intact rainforest since the company made its commitment.

In October 2020, a coalition of environmental groups released a report about deforestation on Adindo’s land based on satellite imagery and land-cover classification maps produced by the Indonesian government.

The report alleged that nearly 7,300 hectares [28 square miles] of natural forest was cleared within Adindo’s concession between June 2015 and August 31, 2020. Half of the deforestation occurred in areas that Adindo had designated as “high conservation value” forest, according to the report. On-the-ground reporting and drone footage were also used to make the determinations, according to Manurung, who was one of the lead authors.

APRIL denied the allegations at the time, saying no deforestation occurred in the areas cited in the report. APRIL said the land cleared on Adindo’s concession was located in designated plantation areas, none of which included “high conservation value” forest areas. 

APRIL also previously denied the allegations that other suppliers cleared standing forest since June 2015.

Edward Boyda, a physicist who co-founded the environmental research group Earthrise, was asked by NBC News to analyze deforestation on roughly 4,200 square miles of land controlled by wood suppliers to APRIL on Kalimantan.

Using NASA and commercial satellite imagery, Boyda concluded that an estimated 30 square miles [7,700 hectares] of intact forest had been cleared on that land since late 2015. He described the 30 square miles as a conservative estimate. 

Boyda says the imagery tells a story that begins with a contiguous green canopy and transforms into a growing patch of brown — what he calls “burn scars” from trees that have been felled and cleared. He says the time-lapse images show uniform rows of plantation trees cropping up. 

A sequence of satellite images appears to show rainforest in 2015, cleared on the PT. Fajar Surya Swadaya concession in 2016 and the growth of plantation trees in 2017. According to Ed Boyda at Earthrise, the sequence shows the loss of 200 acres, part of an 11 square mile stretch of rainforest apparently cleared. The company is a supplier to APRIL.
A sequence of satellite images appears to show rainforest in 2015, cleared on the PT. Fajar Surya Swadaya concession in 2016 and the growth of plantation trees in 2017. According to Ed Boyda at Earthrise, the sequence shows the loss of 200 acres, part of an 11 square mile stretch of rainforest apparently cleared. The company is a supplier to APRIL.Airbus DS / Earthrise; 2017 CNES

“You’ve gone from one of the most biodiverse places in the world to what’s essentially like a biological desert,” Boyda said in an interview from Norway, describing the change from rainforest to tree plantation. 

APRIL Group disputed that its suppliers cut down sections of intact rainforest. 

In a statement, the company said its analysis showed that the vast majority of the lost tree cover cited by Boyda represents the harvesting of trees on existing plantations. 

“These are clearly not activities involving the deforestation of intact forest but are, in fact, linked to the normal legal plantation harvesting and replanting, and small scale community agriculture,” the company said. 

APRIL Group noted that the amount of alleged deforestation on non-plantation land, 1,400 hectares [5 square miles], represents less than 0.1 percent of all of the land controlled by its suppliers on Kalimantan. 

 APRIL added that the tree cover loss detected on the 1,400 hectares consists of a mix of areas that have been “encroached or damaged by third parties” and is in some cases a result of errors in the “remote sensing algorithm” due to local conditions such as cloud and haze.

Satellite images from 2015 and 2018 show the expansion of a tree plantation on the Adindo concession. According to Ed Boyda at Earthrise, the sequence shows the loss of a square mile of rainforest.
Satellite images from 2015 and 2018 show the expansion of a tree plantation on the Adindo concession. According to Ed Boyda at Earthrise, the sequence shows the loss of a square mile of rainforest.Airbus DS / Earthrise

“Our company takes any allegation of illegal land cover change very seriously and investigates all cases that we identify or are brought to our attention,” APRIL Group said. “If an illegal activity is confirmed, we ensure that this is rapidly halted and reported to the appropriate authorities.”

The company also said it has met 81 percent of its commitment to conserve or protect one hectare of natural forest for every hectare of its plantation. “For us, production and conservation are mutually dependent where one enables the other,” APRIL Group said. 

Last November, APRIL sent a letter to the Forest Stewardship Council, the world’s top industry certification program, acknowledging the “potential environmental and social harms” of its past operations dating back to 1993.

APRIL has been prohibited from using the council’s trademark to market its paper and pulp products since 2013 when it withdrew from certification. The company said it was withdrawing over concerns about FSC policy after three environmental groups filed a complaint accusing APRIL of “engaging in large-scale deforestation” in Indonesia. 

The company has been seeking to be reinstated for several years. The process is ongoing, according to the Forest Stewardship Council, or FSC.

APRIL is managed by Royal Golden Eagle, a Singapore-based conglomerate that manages paper, palm oil and viscose businesses. 

APRIL ships the wood from Kalimantan for processing on the nearby island of Sumatra, then to a facility in China operated by another company managed by Royal Golden Eagle, Sateri, where it is made into viscose. The resulting material resembles puffy cotton.  

Sateri sends viscose to factories around the world that have supplied clothes to a host of major brands, including Adidas, Abercrombie & Fitch and H&M, according to an NBC News review of corporate disclosures. Sateri also sends viscose to U.S. facilities that produce baby, face and disinfecting wipes.

H&M and Adidas are among several major retailers that have come under pressure from NGO groups like Changing Markets for their use of viscose linked to forest destruction.

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Companies will soon have to prove that the products they sell to the European Union haven’t been contributing to deforestation, according to draft legislation introduced by the European Commission.

H&M said its manufacturing suppliers used to source material from Sateri, but the brand doesn’t “currently have any indirect business relationship with Sateri.”

Representatives for Adidas declined to comment. Abercrombie & Fitch did not respond to a request for comment. 

Adidas and H&M were among 12 brands that joined a consortium last year dedicated to selling clothing made from recycled textile waste. The group, dubbed the “New Cotton Project,” is funded by the European Union.

In a statement, Sateri said it takes steps to ensure that its wood suppliers engage in “no deforestation or exploitation.” 

“Regarding our dissolving pulp supplier APRIL, we reject suggestions that they have in any way ‘walked back’ on any of their sustainability commitments, including their steadfast commitment to no deforestation,” the statement said.

Royal Golden Eagle said it has “full confidence in the sustainability policies and commitments pursued by APRIL Group and Sateri.”

Not all viscose is derived from tree plantations in and around tropical rainforests. There are also pulpwood plantations for viscose away from rainforests in places like South Africa and the Czech Republic.

Some companies have stopped using viscose altogether. 

Dana Davis, the vice president of sustainability for the designer Mara Hoffman, said the company took a hard look at the source of its fabrics in 2015. Hoffman decided to move away from sourcing viscose rayon and use a different material instead, lyocell. Although it comes from trees, more than 99 percent of the solvent can be reused, and Davis said the company has a clearer picture of where the wood comes from. 

“The last thing we want to be doing is sourcing from endangered forests,” Davis said.

‘We cannot fight back’

Jonni Spedika hardly knows anything about viscose rayon but he talks in great detail about how the destruction of the rainforest has changed his life. And he doesn’t mince his words. 

Spedika lives in the village of Tetaban, one of the main communities of the Indigenous Dayak people, with his wife and 5-year-old daughter.

Jonni Spedika
Jonni Spedika. NBC News

There was a time when he could venture 500 meters into the forest outside his home and hunt wild pigs and other animals with relative ease. But nowadays, Spedika said he can walk 5 kilometers [3 miles] into the forest and not encounter a single animal. 

“It’s become very difficult for us to find any animals to hunt,” said Spedika, who runs a small chicken and vegetable farm to help feed his family.

Adindo, the wood supplier, controls an area around Spedika’s village that spans 190,000 hectares [700 square miles] of what used to be pristine rainforest. 

Hendrik Siregar, a researcher with the Auriga environmental watchdog group, said people who buy clothing in the U.S. should be mindful of the impacts in places like Indonesia. 

Hendrik Siregar
Hendrik Siregar, a researcher with the Auriga environmental watchdog group.NBC News

“Perhaps this will cause a debate about this material that is said to be environmentally-friendly,” Siregar said. “What’s clear is that we don’t see it as being environmentally-friendly because it continues to increase the amount of wood being chopped down.”

Adindo did not respond to requests for comment. 

Spedika said the climate around his village has changed along with the surrounding forest — it’s drier and hotter due to the reduced tree cover, and both floods and fires occur more often. 

“We cannot fight back,” Spedika said. “Because they have the permits, this area became theirs. We can only resign to our fate.”


Andrew W. Lehren, Didi Martinez, Anna Schecter and Rich Schapiro at NBC News

EU wants to ban imports linked to deforestation — beef, coffee, and chocolate are included

EU wants to ban imports linked to deforestation — beef, coffee, and chocolate are included

Companies will soon have to prove that the products they sell to the European Union haven’t been contributing to deforestation, according to draft legislation introduced by the European Commission.

The EU is one of the main importers of global deforestation, only exceeded by China, according to a report on trade by WWF, and this move could send a strong signal worldwide for producers to be more environmentally conscious. 

Wanted: only deforestation-free products

The regulation will focus on six commodities: wood, soy, cattle, palm oil, coffee, and cocoa, as well as derived products such as chocolate, leather, and oil cakes. Imports of commodities in the EU have been linked to the loss of 3.5 million hectares of forests between 2005 and 2017 and to the release of 1.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2).

“Our deforestation regulation answers citizens’ calls to minimize the European contribution to deforestation and promote sustainable consumption,” EU Commission VP Frans Timmermans said in a statement. “It ensures that we only import these products if we can ascertain that they are deforestation-free and produced legally.”

When approved, the new law will create due diligence mandatory rules applicable to commodity exporters to the EU market. They will have to implement a strict traceability control, collecting coordinates of the land where the commodities were produced. This will ensure that only deforestation-free products enter the EU market.

The EU Commission will operate a benchmarking system to classify countries with a low, standard, or high risk of producing commodities or products that aren’t deforestation-free. The requirements for companies and government authorities will depend on the level of risk of the country, from simplified to enhanced due diligence. 

With the new system, the EU hopes to prevent deforestation and forest degradation. The EU Commission estimates the bloc will reduce at least 31.9 million metric tons of carbon emissions every year due to the EU consumption of the targeted commodities. This would also mean savings of up to $3.6 billion per year, the commission estimates.

“If we expect more ambitious climate and environmental policies from partners, we should stop exporting pollution and supporting deforestation ourselves,” the EU Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius said in a statement. “It’s the most ambitious legislative attempt to tackle this worldwide.”

Will it pass?

The draft will now have to be approved by the EU Parliament and by each EU member country, something that might take a while. It follows recommendations included in a Parliament report last year but it has a more limited scope, not addressing human rights abuses and not creating civil liability for companies that export goods to the EU.

As it is now, it only targets recent deforestation due to its 2020 cut-off date. But this could change as lawmakers discuss the details at the EU Parliament, with some suggesting an earlier starting at 2014 – which is the earliest satellite images are available. The regulation also gives commodity exporters a 12-month transition.

Strong opposition is expected from forested countries that rely on export to the EU. This is the case of Brazil, for example, which exports beef to several bloc member countries. Deforestation rates have been on the rise in the country amid lax policies by President Bolsonaro. Recent data showed higher deforestation in October this year and many see beef imports from places like Brazil as an important contributor to deforestation.


Fermin Koop at ZME Science

Average westerner’s eating habits lead to loss of four trees every year

Average westerner’s eating habits lead to loss of four trees every year

Research links consumption of foods such as coffee and chocolate to global deforestation

The average western consumer of coffee, chocolate, beef, palm oil and other commodities is responsible for the felling of four trees every year, many in wildlife-rich tropical forests, research has calculated.

Destruction of forests is a major cause of both the climate crisis and plunging wildlife populations, as natural ecosystems are razed for farming. The study is the first to fully link high-resolution maps of global deforestation to the wide range of commodities imported by each country across the world.

The research lays bare the direct links between consumers and the loss of forests across the planet. Chocolate consumption in the UK and Germany is an important driver of deforestation in Ivory Coast and Ghana, the scientists found, while beef and soy demand in the US, European Union and China results in forest destruction in Brazil.

Coffee drinkers in the US, Germany and Italy are a significant cause of deforestation in central Vietnam, the research shows, while timber demand in China, South Korea and Japan results in tree loss in northern Vietnam.

Normal scene in the Amazon

As a wealthy, populous country, the US has a particularly large deforestation footprint, being the main importer of a wide variety of commodities from tropical countries, including fruits and nuts from Guatemala, rubber from Liberia and timber from Cambodia. China bears the biggest responsibility for deforestation in Malaysia, resulting from imports of palm oil and other farm produce.

Consumption in G7 states accounts for an average loss of four trees a year per person, the research says; the US is above average with five trees being lost per capita. In five G7 countries – the UK, Japan, Germany, France, and Italy – more than 90% of their deforestation footprint was in foreign countries and half of this was in tropical nations.

Dr Nguyen Hoang, at the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, in Kyoto, Japan, led the research and said the detailed maps could help target action to halt deforestation.

He added: “Policymakers and companies can get an idea of which supply chains are causing deforestation. If they know that, they can focus on those supply chains to find the specific problems and solutions.”

Full story by Damian Carrington at The Guardian


On the Web This Week, 10 October

On the Web This Week, 10 October

On the web this week, the world’s Top 20 polluters revealed, how the international cocaine trade damages the environment, and the fashion industry’s latest trend is sustainability.

Picture credit: Guardian Design

This week, The Guardian revealed the 20 fossil fuel companies whose relentless exploitation of the world’s oil, gas and coal reserves can be directly linked to more than one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions in the modern era.

New data from world-renowned researchers reveals how this cohort of state-owned and multinational firms are driving the climate emergency that threatens the future of humanity, and details how they have continued to expand their operations despite being aware of the industry’s devastating impact on the planet.

Picture credit: Reuters/Fabian Bimmer

Since nations signed on to the Paris Agreement four years ago, committing to collectively lower carbon emissions to below 2 degrees Celsius, progress across the globe has been uneven and, sometimes, even discouraging.

But there is good news. Austin, Athens, Lisbon, and Venice have joined 26 other major cities in steadily reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new analysis published by a coalition of cities known as C40, ahead of its annual World Mayors Summit in Copenhagen.

Picture credit: Luis Acosta/AFP/Getty Images

The Verge reports that the cocaine trade, and efforts to stop it, are causing $214.6 million in damage every year. Drug-related deforestation is also driving people out of the region, and making climate change worse.

Picture credit: New York Times

Of all the trends that emerged from fashion month, the four-week-long circuit of ready-to-wear shows in New York, London, Milan and Paris that ended last week, the one that trumped all others was neither a skirt length nor a color nor a borrowed reference. It dominated runways in every single city; it became so ubiquitous that it was almost a cliché.

Forget street wear. Sustainability was the hottest look of the day.

South Africans are being encouraged to ditch the electric stove and braai more. According to experts lighting a fire is less harmful for the environment.

“If you want to do your bit for the climate then you don’t have to give up braaing because braaing is in fact it is carbon neutral,” said Prof Bob Scholes from Global Change Institute.

Researchers have created a lightweight prosthetic limb from discarded plastic, which they say could save healthcare providers millions and help tackle pollution. The artificial limbs were made by grinding down plastic bottles and spinning the grains into polyester yarns which were heated to produce a light, sturdy substance that could be easily moulded.

If you’re concerned about your plastic usage, and would like a quality alternative, why not try one of these reusable water bottles?

Did you enjoy this week’s stories? Have a story you’d like us to cover? Leave a comment below and let us know!