Shorts: Bits of Interest and Positivity

Caroline Griffith, EcoNews Journalist

Norway Becomes First Country in the World to Ban Deforestation
Following through with a pledge made in 2014, Norway has declared that its public procurement policy will now be deforestation-free. The biggest cause of deforestation is agriculture, which means that the country will no longer be purchasing beef, palm oil, soy and wood products from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea, which were responsible for 40 percent of deforestation between 2000 and 2011. Not only that, but the country has agreed to pay $150 million in aid to Liberia through 2020 to help prevent deforestation. The aid is designed to keep Liberians from logging for profit.

Scientists Advocate for Mobile Protected Areas in the High Seas
The U.N. is currently updating the laws that govern international waters, providing a unique opportunity to include provisions for creating dynamic zones that could protect highly mobile species like whales, sea turtles, sharks and sea birds, species that can cross entire oceans in search of food and breeding grounds. As the effects of climate change intensify, the territories these species cover will likely shift, making the fixed boundaries of their protected zones inadequate. Scientists from the University of Washington are advocating for “dynamic management strategies” that will make use of existing technology to track species movement and change the boundaries of protected areas in real time. “New technology is making this dynamic approach to ocean conservation possible, at the same time that climate change is making it necessary,” said Sara Maxwell, the lead author of a study in dynamic management strategies.

Food in Exchange for Trash
The Garbage Cafe in Ambikapur has made the city the second cleanest in India. Patrons have their plastic waste weighed and get a warm meal in return. Citizens say it has made them aware of single-use plastic waste and the need to keep it out of the streets. The cafe, whose tagline is “More the waste, better the taste,” is helping to solve the plastic waste problem and hunger, at the same time.

Bangladesh Gives Legal Rights to All Rivers
Last summer, the government of Bangladesh gave rights of personhood to every single one of its rivers, meaning those who damage rivers can be prosecuted in a court of law. Though other countries and entities, including the Yurok Tribe, have recognized the rights of individual bodies of water, no other country has gone so far as to do so for all of its rivers. “In Bangladesh, the river is considered as our mother,” Mohammad Abdul Matin, general secretary of the Dhaka-based environmental group Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon, told NPR. “The river is now considered by law, by code, a living entity, so you’ll have to face the consequence by law if you do anything that kills the river.” As with other waters that have been granted personhood, the question now is how to equitably enforce the law.

How Will We Change Our Polluting Ways?
A new study by the University of Sussex shows there is a considerable lack of funding for social science research into how to get individuals and societies to overcome ingrained habits and make the changes necessary to mitigate climate change. According to the study’s estimates, between 1990 and 2018 the natural and technical sciences received 770% more funding than the social sciences for research on climate change. Funding of climate research seems to be based on the assumption that if scientists can figure out a fix, then politicians, businesses and citizens will spontaneously change their behavior. Indra Overland, who heads the Centre for Energy Research at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, said: “The one-sided emphasis on the natural sciences leaves one wondering whether funding for climate research is managed by climate sceptics. It’s as if they don’t quite believe in climate change, so they keep looking into how it really works, rather than trying to work out how to actually stop it.”

Wildlife Abundant in Fukushima Exclusion Zone
The absence of humans has led to an abundance of wildlife in the area surrounding the evacuated zone around the Fukushima nuclear reactor. More than 20 species have been photographed by researchers using game cameras in the exclusion zone. Though their numbers are large, their radiation levels and health have not been evaluated.