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the Tomorrow Times - April‘21

News > News about the future today

Mixed feelings for this month’s edition. Exciting and disturbing news from the natural world gives this month's Tomorrow Times both a sweet and sour taste.

New laws valuing ecosystem services and making “reparable” products mandatory, collapsing ecosystems, Amazon forest CO2 emissions, and a startup that transforms CO2 into stone. Read all about it in this edition of the Tomorrow Times.

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

Follow these periodical monthly updates of tomorrow’s sustainability news today, by   subscribing    to the Tomorrow Times.

Energy & Environment

  • The true value of nature-rich sites is finally being recognized. Ecosystem services provide diversified benefits to humans. Those involve the provision of products (e.g. drinking water) and services (e.g, pollination of crops). Last month, the UN Statistical Commission laid out a set of principles for measuring ecosystem health and calculating a monetary value. This is a massive step towards enabling public authorities to put value on their environment. A new study found that land could be worth more if left to nature, compared to being farmed 42% of the time.
  • 19 'collapsing' ecosystems. Leading scientists working across Australia and Antarctica have described 19 ecosystems that are collapsing due to the impact of humans. The recent report details degradation of coral reefs, outback deserts, tropical savanna, Murray-Darling waterways, mangroves, and forests.
  • Atlantic Ocean circulation at its weakest. A new study reveals that the Atlantic Ocean circulation that underpins the Gulf Stream, the weather system that brings warm and mild weather to Europe, is at its weakest in more than a millennium. In February 2021, Antarctica’s Brunt Ice Shelf finally calved a large iceberg.

Business & Economy

  • 4 trillion euros of untapped financing. According to CDP's latest report, 65% of companies need to be fully Paris-aligned in the next decade – over 8 times the number we have today. Yet this contrasts with just 8% of European corporates having Scope 1-3 targets. This has created a gap of more than €4 trillion between the lending that banks plan to align with Paris and the demand for such financing.
  • How recycling floral waste from the Ganges can boost the local economy. Entrepreneur Ankit Agarwal’s Phool.co is a company of 100 people working to remove floral waste from the Ganges in Kanpur and recycle it. The flowers are repurposed and used to create paper, incense, and watercolors. As well as helping tackle pollution in the Ganges, it also creates jobs for the local people.
  • The real cost of cheap flowers.  According to Rebecca Swinn of Lancaster University, a bouquet of field-grown flowers from a small local grower have 5% of the carbon footprint of imported equivalent. Buyers have an increasing interest in “grown not flown” as shown by the success of the UK based organisation Flowers from the Farm.

Science, Technology & Design

  • The new "right to repair" law could make a difference. The European Parliament has recently voted in favour of establishing stronger “right to repair” rules. Companies that sell consumer electronics in the EU and in UK will need to ensure those goods can be repaired for up to 10 years. New devices will also have to come with repair manuals and be made in such a way that they can be dismantled using conventional tools.
  • Icelandic startup turns CO2 into stone. Reykjavik-based Carbfix is using an innovative method to capture and dissolve CO2 in water, then inject it into the ground where it turns into stone in less than two years.
  • Art and science combined in sustainable agriculture. A 20,000-square-metre artwork that makes colored lights appear to dance over a field at night is said to encourage crop growth. Thanks to photobiology, this technology could reduce up to 50% of the use of pesticides, not to mention the extraordinary beauty of seeing plants dancing in the dark of night.

Urban Environment

  • The floating Dutch community of Schoonschip. Designed to be self-sustaining, which includes generating its own energy, Schoonship is an inspiring project that could help tackle city-density and sea-level challenges.
  • Spain funds a €50 million 4-days work week pilot. Spaniards can enjoy a four-day working week as early as this autumn since the government has agreed to a new pilot programme. Spurred by the coronavirus pandemic, the proposed plan of a shorter working week will aim to boost employment and increase productivity during working hours.
  • Nature studies as a compulsory school subject. “Every child in every country is owed the teaching of natural history, to be introduced to the awe and wonder of the natural world, to appreciate how it contributes to our lives.” The UK government is considering making “nature studies” a compulsory subject for all pupils from primary school all the way through to university.

Unexpected and Intriguing

  • Sea cucumbers: the excremental heroes of coral reef ecosystems.  On its own, a single sea cucumber may not be very impressive. But get enough of these floppy, faceless creatures together, and they — or, more specifically, their poop — can physically and biochemically reshape a coral reef habitat.
  • How kangaroos could be jeopardizing conservation efforts across Australia. The killing of dingos — kangaroos’ natural enemies — together with the spreading of pastures for cattle breeding — an abundant food source also for kangaroos — show us some human-interaction side effects.
  • The Amazon rainforest could now worsen climate change. Activities in the Amazon, both natural and human-caused, can shift the rainforest’s contribution in a significant way. The Amazon rainforest could now be a net contributor to the warming of the planet, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis of all Amazon greenhouse gases.
  • 101 Climate Solutions - free course. A new free course, full of video conversations with leading experts, introduces solutions to climate change.

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