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On The Web This Week, 7 Jan

On The Web This Week, 7 Jan

Welcome to our weekly round up of the news stories that have caught our eye over the past seven days. If you’d like to see these stories on the day they’re posted, click here for our Facebook page.


Young Gorilllas Observed Destroying Poachers’ Traps

Just days after a poacher’s snare had killed one of their own, two young mountain gorillas worked together Tuesday to find and destroy traps in their Rwandan forest home.

For Rwanda’s population of Mountain gorillas, poaching remains one of the biggest threats to their long-term survival. But after decades of being a prime target for unlawful hunters, these critically endangered gorillas have apparently learned to outsmart them — and even the youngsters are getting in on the act.

This week, conservationists from Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund observed, for the first time ever, a pair of juvenile gorillas doing something remarkably clever: destroying sharp, wooden snares set out by poachers to trap them. Just days earlier, a gorilla had been killed in a similar snare nearby, which may have familiarized the youngsters with the workings of those cruel devices.


Norway becomes first country to sell more electric cars than petrol vehicles

Greenpeace UK has argued that a fast transition to electric cars could create thousands of jobs (Getty Images)

Electric cars comprised 54% of all new vehicle sales in Norway for 2019.

This makes Norway the first country to have sold more electric cars than petrol, hybrid, and diesel engines in a year.

The Norwegian government plans to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2025, and is using tax breaks and financial incentives to encourage the purchasing of more sustainable vehicles. 

“Our preliminary forecast is for electric cars to surpass 65% of the market in 2021,” said Christina Bu who heads the Norwegian EV Association, an interest group. “If we manage that, the goal of selling only zero-emission cars in 2025 will be within reach.“


Scientists Warn of an ‘Imminent’ Stratospheric Warming Event Around The North Pole

Every winter in the Northern Hemisphere, a cold wind circles the North Pole like water around a drain. It’s an annual weather pattern meteorologists keep an anxious eye on – any significant changes could suggest Europe is in for a serious cold snap. Right now, that wind is ripping in two.

Researchers from the Universities of Bristol, Exeter, and Bath have come up with a new way to predict the knock-on effects of various changes to this major air current high up in the stratosphere, 10 to 50 kilometres (6 to 30 miles) overhead.

“Although the prolonged cold spell and snow events in February and March of 2018 – dubbed the ‘Beast from the East’ by the UK media – were linked to a sudden stratospheric warming, the record warm spell that occurred in February 2019 also followed such an event,” says meteorologist Matthew Lehnert.

We’ve got some way to go before we can promise with confidence which way the weather will go in the wake of these polar changes.

But tools like this new algorithm will improve the odds of guessing, and continue to do so the more we learn about our atmosphere.


Study: Warming already baked in will blow past climate goals

The amount of baked-in global warming, from carbon pollution already in the air, is enough to blow past international agreed upon goals to limit climate change, a new study finds.

But it’s not game over because, while that amount of warming may be inevitable, it can be delayed for centuries if the world quickly stops emitting extra greenhouse gases from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, the study’s authors say.

“You’ve got some … global warming inertia that’s going to cause the climate system to keep warming, and that’s essentially what we’re calculating,” said study co-author Andrew Dessler, a climate scientist at Texas A&M University. “Think about the climate system like the Titanic. It’s hard to turn the ship when you see the icebergs.”

Dessler and colleagues at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab and Nanjing University in China calculated committed warming to take into account that the world has warmed at different rates in different places and that places that haven’t warmed as fast are destined to catch up.

If the world gets to net zero carbon emissions soon, 2 degrees of global warming could be delayed enough so that it won’t happen for centuries, giving society time to adapt or even come up with technological fixes, he said.

“If we don’t, we’re going to blow through (climate goals) in a few decades,” Dessler said. “It’s really the rate of warming that makes climate change so terrible. If we got a few degrees over 100,000 years, that would not be that big a deal. We can deal with that. But a few degrees over 100 years is really bad.”


South African parks and reserves face a renewed struggle for survival

A group of baboons gather around a safari vehicle in the famous Kruger National Park.(Photo: EPA / GERNOT HENSEL)

Game reserves and national parks remain open under alert Level 3, albeit with limited services and scars from financial losses brought on by the lockdown. The tourism industry continues to take a knock from ongoing restrictions, with game parks, a massive drawcard for international travellers, doing their best to survive on revenues from local holidaymakers.

Covid-19 has continued to have a devastating effect on the local tourism industry. For the country’s beloved game reserves and national parks, the impact varies: while some are surviving, others are barely hanging on as financial losses take their toll.

The shift to alert Level 3 on 29 December 2020 saw the closure of beaches, mass cancellations and financial losses for small accommodation providers in coastal towns. But game reserves have been allowed to remain open to the public if they have existing access control measures and entry limitations in place. 

South African National Parks (SANParks), which manages 19 national parks across seven provinces, said it has had to cut back on some of its service offerings to comply with restrictions. 

Tourism, which is the lifeblood of many micro and small enterprises, is set to take a further beating amid the country’s second wave of infections. The new, more infectious, strain has sounded alarm bells overseas with the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Turkey, Israel and Mauritius banning flights from South Africa. 

Figures from the Department of Tourism show the sector accounts for 2.9% of GDP and supports close to 1.5 million jobs. Inbound tourism generates more than R80-billion in direct foreign spend. 

The Department’s Tourism Recovery Plan published in August 2020 estimated R54.2-billion in losses between February and May with a further R149.7-billion in losses projected for the remainder of 2020 —and 438,000 job cuts.

But it’s not all bad news. Brendan Strydom from Gondwana private game reserve said reduced human foot traffic during the lockdown saw new (and old) creatures venturing into the game reserve.

“We had a brown hyena that actually made its way on to the property coming from the Langeberg mountains during this whole lockdown. The reduced movement of people allowed for some animals to come back so we have some great stories about our conservation side.”



On the Web This Week, 24 October

On the Web This Week, 24 October

On the web this week, Sri Lanka attempts to deal with its human-elephant relationship, scuba diving grandmothers discover an unexpected sea snake population, and a mysterious oil spill off the coast of Brazil.

Picture credit: Rachel Nuwer

“Sri Lanka has the highest level of human-elephant conflict in the world,” says Prithiviraj Fernando, chairman of the Centre for Conservation and Research in Tissamaharama. “Wherever there are people and elephants, there’s conflict.”

For more than 70 years, Sri Lanka has attempted to solve the problem by moving elephants to national parks. According to the government’s approach, the world’s second-largest land animal belongs in protected areas surrounded by electric fencing, while people belong everywhere else.

Picture credit: Claire Goiran/UNC

A group of snorkelling grandmothers who swim up to 3km five days a week have uncovered a large population of venomous sea snakes in a bay in Noumea where scientists once believed they were rare. Claire Goiran from the University of New Caledonia and Professor Rick Shine from Australia’s Macquarie University were studying a small harmless species known as the turtle‐headed sea snake located in the Baie des Citrons, but would occasionally encounter the 1.5 metre-long venomous greater sea snake, also known as the olive-headed sea snake.

Goiran and Shine believed the greater sea snake was an anomaly in the popular swimming bay as it had only been spotted about six times over 15 years. From 2013, they decided to take a closer look at the greater sea snake to better understand its importance to the bay’s ecosystem.

Picture credit: Antonello Veneri / AFP

It washed ashore in early September, thick globs of oil that appeared from out of nowhere and defied explanation. In the weeks since, the mysterious sludge — 600 tons, the largest spill in Brazil’s history — has tarred more than 1,600 kilometres of shoreline, polluted some of the country’s most beautiful beaches and killed all sorts of marine life.

But despite the time that has passed — and the damage done – the most important questions remain unanswered. Where is the oil coming from? And how can it be stopped?

Picture credit: Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images

Coca-Cola was found for the second year in a row to be the most polluting brand in a global audit of plastic trash conducted by the Break Free From Plastic global movement. The giant soda company was responsible for more plastic litter than the next top three polluters combined.

Reaffirming the importance of sustainable environmental practices, Stellenbosch Wine Routes this week signed the Porto Protocol, committing the leading wine route in South Africa to an accelerated contribution towards climate change mitigation.

Launched by former US President Barack Obama in 2018, the Porto Protocol is a global sustainable initiative signed by companies across numerous industries. These have pledged to play their part in employing and sharing sustainable environmental practices to combat climate change.

Picture credit: Farmer’s Weekly

Urban agriculture has a major role to play in providing healthy, affordable and accessible food to poor urban households in South Africa, according to Prof Juaneé Cilliers, chair of the Urban and Regional Planning Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management at North-West University.

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Continuing from last week, is part two in a six-part documentary series on global cities and the development of urban networks as the emerging geography of connectivity in an age of globalization. In this part we look at the historical development of urban centers from ancient times through to the industrial revolution. Produced by: https://systemsinnovation.io

Did you enjoy this week’s stories? Comment below and let us know! If you’re looking for eco-friendly, sustainable products for your home and/or outdoor needs, please consider one of the products below. As an Amazon Affiliate, we earn a commission on sales, which helps us to keep up our mission of keeping you entertained and informed.

On the Web This Week, 18 October

On the Web This Week, 18 October

On the web this week, a Forest Of The Future planted in Johannesburg, are electric vehicles better for SA, and scientists use drones to save sacred trees in Hawaii.

 Last month, in celebration of their 100th birthday, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, together with 14 456 scholars across Gauteng, broke the record for the most number of paper planes flown at a single time.

14 456 paper planes, each containing a message from ordinary South Africans dedicated to their future selves, were launched at 15 schools across the province. Now, the brand has taken those paper planes and used them as compost for a new ‘Forest of the Future’ initiative which has been unveiled at the Mother of Peace orphanage situated in Northriding, Johannesburg.

Picture credit: Berea Mail

AROUND 60 walkers left uShaka Pier on Saturday on an intrepid 150km seven-day adventure from Durban to Mtunzini, on the KZN north coast, to raise awareness of the province’s pristine coastline while also addressing the plastic threat to our oceans.

The participants, who were all part of the Philocaly Trail (‘Philocaly’ meaning The Love of Beauty) joined Berea resident, Nikki Williamson, the force behind the initiative and passionate lover of nature, the ocean and our natural heritage on the epic journey.

Picture credit: 123RF/Bunlue Nantaprom

SA’s submission to the Paris agreement on climate change says the country will have more than 2.9-million electric vehicles (EVs) on the road by 2050, with R6.5-trillion to be invested in the industry over the next four decades.

That is a significant sum of money for a country with failing parastatals, which include its electricity supplier, Eskom. This raises the question: is it practical for SA to commit to investing this amount in electric vehicles within the next four decades?

Picture credit: UH Hilo SDAV Laboratory

In early September, a drone flew over the Waiakea Forest Reserve on Hawaii’s Big Island. It slowed its pace, lowered itself to a hover just feet from the canopy, and readied a device attached to its undercarriage. Two plastic “arms” rotated gently, grabbed a small branch, and, using a built-in saw, chopped it off. Having collected the sample, the drone flew away.

This could be the future of forestry. The operation, conducted by Ryan Perroy, a geographer at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, is part of a rescue mission to save a special tree — the sacred ʻŌhiʻa (pronounced “oh-HEE-ah”) that blankets Hawaii’s islands. For many Hawaiians, the ʻŌhiʻa is a symbol of nature, an ecological backbone, and the very essence of the forest. But the trees are under attack.

Picture credit:  David Tipling Getty Images

Scientists are discovering that the Arctic’s rising temperatures might be the second-biggest threat to wildlife.

Climate variability is increasing, as well, meaning once-rare extreme events like flash floods and droughts happen more often. It’s difficult for wildlife to cope with these pulses; animals have responded to global warming by shifting ranges and behaviors, but these dramatic changes can come too quickly for adaptation.

This is part one in a six-part documentary series on global cities and the development of urban networks as the emerging geography of connectivity in an age of globalization. Produced by: systemsinnovation.io

Did you enjoy this week’s stories? Comment below and let us know! If you’re looking for eco-friendly, sustainable products for your home and/or outdoor needs, please consider one of the products below. As an Amazon Affiliate, we earn a commission on sales, which helps us to keep up our mission of keeping you entertained and informed.

On The Web This Week, 19 September

On The Web This Week, 19 September

On the web this week, the Global Climate Strike, trees planted on Robben Island and South Africa’s first road made from waste plastic.

Picture credit: Leon Neal/Getty Images

According to a new poll taken in eight countries, a majority of the public recognise the climate crisis as an “emergency” and say politicians are failing to tackle the problem, backing the interests of big oil over the wellbeing of ordinary people. The survey, which comes before what is expected to be the world’s biggest climate demonstrations on Friday, found that climate breakdown is viewed as the most important issue facing the world, ahead of migration, terrorism and the global economy, in seven out of the eight countries surveyed. If you’re interested in joining tomorrow’s historic Climate Strike, details of demonstrations across South Africa will be included at the bottom of this post.

Picture credit: Roger de la Harpe

Timeslive.co.za reports that a hundred and one indigenous trees were planted on Robben Island on Wednesday in celebration of late former president Nelson Mandela’s 101st birthday this year, as the first part of an initiative which will see 10,000 trees planted on the island over the next 5 years.

Picture credit: dotsure.co.za

Businesstech.co.za reports on a pilot program in the Eastern Cape which aims to use plastic waste to build roads. The technology has been used both in Africa and internationally, including Australia, Canada, Ghana, India, Kenya, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

Mother-and-daughter team Anna Hartebeest and Harriet Matjila have built Makhabisi Recycling into an inclusive green business that has created decent jobs for 60 people. 

Picture credit: Ton Kung / Shutterstock

Yes, big changes are needed, but little ones add up. These 20 simple lifestyle choices from Reader’s Digest can reduce your carbon footprint—and make a major impact.

GLOBAL YOUTH CLIMATE STRIKE / MAY 24, 2019. Over 500 students and other youth advocates across the Philippines joined today’s global youth climate strike in Manila, Philippines. LEO M. SABANGAN II.

And finally, the largest Climate Strike in history is happening worldwide tomorrow, 20 September 2019. If you’d like to join in, the details for demonstrations in South Africa’s major cities is as follows:

Johannesburg: Assemble at Pieter Roos Park, Corner of Victoria Ave and Empire Road, 10am

Durban: Assemble at the ICC , 11am

Pretoria: Assemble at the Union Buildings, 11am

Assemble: at The Greens, Corner of Cambridge & Keizergracht streets, 12am

There will also be a demonstration held outside the Eskom offices in Cape town, starting at 11am

Copac and the South African Food Sovereignty Coalition will be forming a human chain outside the Sasol offices in Sandton, 10am.

If you’re planning to attend any of these protests, please remember to bring plenty of water with you, as it can be difficult to stay properly hydrated outdoors and in large crowds. And finally, if you are attending the protests (or already have, depending on when you read this) leave us a comment below, or email any pictures you’d like to share to editor@lighthouse-eco.co.za