by Michael Pulliam
“[E]very country in the world has improved its life expectancy over the last 200 years. In fact almost every country has improved by almost every measure…. My guess is you feel that me saying that the world is getting better is like me telling you that everything is fine, or that you should look away from these problems… and that feels ridiculous…. But it is just as ridiculous… to look away from all the progress that has been made….
“How can we help our brains to realize that things are getting better when everything is screaming at us that things are getting worse? A solution that works for me is to persuade myself to keep two thoughts in my head at the same time…. Does saying “things are improving” imply that everything is fine? No, not at all. Is it helpful to have to choose between bad and improving? Definitely not. It’s both. It’s both bad and better… at the same time.”
—Hans Rosling, “Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World—and Why Things are Better Than You Think”
WORLD FORESTS REGROW THE SIZE OF FRANCE
A team led by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has suggested that worldwide natural forest regeneration over the past twenty years covers an area equal to the size of France.
Since the year 2000, nearly 59 million hectares (~145 million acres) of forest have regrown with little or no direct human intervention; the results come from either the light-handed planting of native trees and the removal of invasive species, or from indirect impacts such as changing harmful industry practices and increasing conservation protections. The WWF study spent two years gathering current and historical satellite imagery, as well as conducting on-ground forest surveys in dozens of countries. The researchers identified remarkable forest regrowth in certain regions around the world, most notably Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, where an area roughly the size of the Netherlands has rebounded over the past two decades.
“We’ve known for a long time that natural forest regeneration is often cheaper, richer in carbon and better for biodiversity than actively planted forests,” says William Baldwin-Cantello of WWF. “… this research tells us where and why regeneration is happening, and how we can recreate those conditions elsewhere.”
The WWF estimates that the renewed forest areas could soak up around 5.9 gigatons of carbon dioxide, which is more than the annual carbon emissions of the entire United States. Although these “encouraging signs” give room for optimism, the researchers warn there are still “significant threats” to our world’s forests; we must continue to plant the right trees in the right places.
Sources: Happy Broadcast, BBC, The Guardian
PANDORA DITCHES MINED DIAMONDS
The world’s largest jewelry manufacturer, Pandora A/S, has announced they will no longer use ‘natural’ mined diamonds in any of their products, instead relying on lab-grown gems. After launching a lab-made diamond collection in the United Kingdom in May 2021, Pandora promised to phase out mined diamonds by 2022, by way of a new partnership with leading stone-growers Diamond Foundry.
In recent decades, major jewellers have become more conscientious about the sources of their products’ gemstones, in large part due to consumer demand and public outcry against the many human rights abuses the industry is notorious for. Even so, most companies cannot truthfully assure their customers that a given diamond was ethically mined. This has led to still more calls for humane sources.
There is a common cultural image of consumers turning up their noses at “synthetic” or “artificial” diamonds, preferring the more ‘authentic,’ ‘true’ precious stones found in the earth. However, research by a global jewelry marketing and consulting firm, The MVEye, tells a much different story. CEO Marty Hurwitz reports, “Consumers already accept lab-grown diamonds in all channels…. The roadblock to the success of this category has never been the consumer; it has been the trade.” The jewelry industry attitude has had more impact than consumer acceptance.
And a significant justification for that attitude was removed in 2018, when the US Federal Trade Commission altered the legal definition of a diamond: they removed the word “natural.” Since then, both lab- and naturally-grown “pure carbon crystallized stones” can be labelled as diamonds. And considering that both types are chemically identical, it is clear which option most consumers prefer.
Pandora has committed to growing diamonds using 60% renewable energy, scaling to 100% renewable by 2022.
Sources: Happy Broadcast, Forbes
ECUADORIAN CHILDREN WIN MAJOR OIL SUIT
In early 2020, a team of young girls (ages 7-14) from the Ecuadorian Amazon sued several state-owned energy organizations for contaminating and polluting their homes and villages; less than a year later, they won the lawsuit.
‘Gas flaring’ is an oil industry practice which allows for the constant burning of the gaseous byproducts of oil extraction, partly to avoid venting raw gasses and volatile compounds into the air around an oil well head. Flaring has been legally permitted in many populated and preserved parts of the Ecuadorian Amazon, including 79 active flares within the Yasuni World Biosphere Reserve, which some consider the most biodiverse area on Earth. The pollution resulting from gas flaring (including excess carbon monoxide & dioxide, sulfur and nitrogen oxides, and more) has been linked to low air quality, various illnesses, cancer, chromosomal damage, and childbearing complications. People living near the oil sites use the nickname “flares of death.”
So a band of nine young girls from Sucumbios, Ecuador, sued three Ecuadorian governmental and oil industry organizations to demand cessation of gas flaring near their homes, adding momentum to a 26-year-long legal battle with Texaco-Chevron in the same region. In January 2021, an appeals court ruled that flaring violated constitutional health and environment rights, the rights of nature, and Ecuador’s commitment to various aspects of the Paris Agreement.
“We are going to recover nature,” said Leonela Moncayo, one of the child plaintiffs. “For all the sick children, for the parents who have struggled to stay healthy, for the families who live under the flares and have had to abandon their land…. I am very happy because, finally, justice has been served.”
Source: Happy Broadcast, Amazon Frontlines
DUTCH SHELL DECISION
Sources: Happy Broadcast, EuroNews.com
COURT OF JUSTICE UPHOLDS BEE PROTECTIONS
Sources: Happy Broadcast, Reuters