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the Tomorrow Times - March‘21

News > News about the future today

In this edition, we celebrate massive changes that were still unthinkable some time ago. Industries, investors, and governments are changing the focus of their core business towards sustainability. A breakthrough is close(r). This change of pace was not considered possible some years ago: sustainability matters that have gone undiscussed for a long time are now more relevant than ever.

The change is happening and it’s real. Are we too late? We say ‘no’. But, as the Global Risks Report 2021 tells us, we need to act now, and stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat. If we don’t preserve the main cycles of our planet, a sudden and cataclysmic climate change might be the consequence. The COVID-19 crisis has revealed that our current systems are exposed to a variety of risks. It has taught us we must prepare for these kinds of events, whether it’s a pandemic or climate change.

What we need today for a better tomorrow are regenerative economies: moving from nature restoration and protection to fully embedding nature in our economic and financial systems. Recent reviews tell us that human societies can live in harmony with their natural environments – like the 600-page review commissioned by the UK Treasury, where a national Finance ministry has authorized a full assessment of the economic importance of nature for the first time.

Creative solutions might be the key. They can be simple, but very powerful if placed consciously within a system where they can trigger ripple effects. Read for example about how the use of parking lots can generate happiness or how a single crop can fight desertification and deforestation.

Stay curious, keep up to date, and get inspired, all in a quick read.

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Energy & Environment

  • Unknown hydrocarbon cycle hiding in the oceans. Scientists have discovered an immense, unknown hydrocarbon cycle taking place on a daily basis in the oceans. Hydrocarbon-consuming microbes that proliferate in areas with active oil seepage could be the key to break down petroleum.
  • The 'Rambo root'. Nicknamed 'Rambo root’ for its resilience, Cassava is a root crop that could potentially help alleviate world hunger, according to a new study. Its ability to bring depleted soil back to life could help soil erosion and deforestation by enabling farmers to grow other crops where this would not have been possible before.
  • Economics of biodiversity review. Biodiversity is declining faster than it has ever done in human history. A review commissioned by the UK Treasury aims to create a new economic framework, grounded in ecology, that enables humanity to live on Earth sustainably. Food production systems are among the main systems that must change to preserve biodiversity, says professor Dasgupta.

Business & Economy

  • General Motors will sell only zero-emission vehicles by 2035. This move, one of the most ambitious in the car industry, is part of a broader plan by the company to become carbon neutral by 2040.
  • Largest sovereign wealth fund in the world bets on sustainability.  The Norwegian Government Pension Fund is the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world, with more than $1.1 trillion as of January 2021. New CEO Nicolai Tangen has now made sustainable investing an explicit focus of his strategy. Their latest bold move was selling its entire portfolio of companies focused on oil exploration and production.
  • H&M to expand second-hand platform Sellpy. The fashion retailer H&M has been investing in Sellpy since 2015 and became its majority owner in 2019. It is now the largest online shop and sales service for second-hand items in Sweden and has expanded into Germany in June 2020. Two new markets will soon be the Netherlands and Austria.

Science, Technology & Design

  • E-waste in the digital era. Popular features that consumers love – speed, sharp images, responsive touch screens, and long battery life – rely on metals like cobalt, indium, and rare-earth elements that require immense energy and expense to mine. Commercial recycling technology cannot yet recover them profitably, although innovations are starting to emerge. ‘Urban mining’ initiatives and circular products such as the Fairphone can be part of a solution.
  • 7 ways the circular economy will grow in 2021. Systemic design can offer a sense of purpose for designers to address global challenges. From more reusable packaging to more companies taking back used products – 2021 will be a key year in the development of new, less wasteful systems.
  • Meet the woman focused on making the EU circular. In this interview Christa Schweng, president of the European Economic and Social Committee, explains why a circular economy will be a key priority of the European Green Deal, the EU's flagship plan. Schweng believes that "economic, social and environmental aspects have become inseparable”.

Urban Environment

  • Size matters when it comes to trees. Thanks to Victorian planners, many British streets were designed to be full of big trees. Sadly, the UK has an unhealthy street tree-felling habit; up to 60 trees per day are chopped down to make way for buildings and infrastructure. The annual net ecological benefit of planting a large species tree is 92% greater than planting a small one.
  • Sweden says goodbye to parking spaces, hello to meeting places. With shared and public transport and healthy choices such as cycling becoming increasingly popular, as well as a rise in flexible workspaces, infrastructures such as parking lots are becoming outdated. Parking spaces can become something new – green places where biodiversity can flourish and people can connect.

  • Traffic sounds make it harder for birds to think.  new study found that traffic noises can impair the ability of songbirds to learn. In the Covid era, we have rediscovered the noise of silent streets. There are those who think that birds can be the voice of Earth, telling us its “state of mind”. It is up to us to decide whether we listen to it or not.

Unexpected and Intriguing

  • Goodbye Paul. Paul Crutzen, who coined and popularised the term 'Anthropocene', passed away recently. He was an important figure who has shaped today's understanding of the relationship between people and the environment.
  • Rewilding UK.  A new initiative reintroduced beavers in record numbers across Britain this year to restore natural wetlands, which are very important for ecosystem services such as flood prevention.
  • An ancient tree reveals the effects of Earth’s magnetic field reversal. The last time the Earth's magnetic field flipped was 42,000 years ago, and a new study pictures a climate 'disaster' scenario for our future. The Earth’s magnetic field has weakened by about 9% over the past 170 years, and the researchers say another flip could be in the cards.
  • Scotch whisky distilleries with the power of the sea. Whisky distilleries on an archipelago west of mainland Scotland could soon be powered using electricity generated by subsea tidal turbines.

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