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- The Climate of Art: The Importance of Art in Driving Positive Change
The drive for sustainability is being increasingly seen within the art world, from museums and galleries pushing to be more sustainable in their approach, the Tate is on track to net zero emissions by 2030, to artists exploring themes of sustainability and climate change within their practice. This article will explore the importance of climate change art and its ability to drive positive change by encouraging hope. A report published by Arts Council England in January 2020, the first of its kind, revealed that 50% of their Portfolio had “developed new creative or artistic opportunities as a result of environmental initiatives and 49% have produced, programmed or curated work on environmental themes.” This is a huge positive step within such an influential sector; however, these artworks and opportunities need to be one of hope and encouragement. This necessity for positivity is argued within the 2021 study, “Does activist art have the capacity to raise awareness in audiences? —A study on climate change art at the ArtCOP21 event in Paris.” This paper ultimately argues that climate change art is capable of changing perceptions if the messages are hopeful and encouraging. The ability for art to connect people with challenging topics by being emotive, tangible, and accessible is crucial within the climate conversation. Art has an ability to stay ahead of the curve and “convey information in novel ways,” thus conveying complex scientific data or scary and confusing facts about climate change in a way that is digestible and even hopeful. Cornelia Parker, a prominent contemporary visual artist that engages with issues of ecology and climate change, suggests that “art is always about reappraising the way we look at the world. It can speak more eloquently than propaganda because it can inject emotion into facts.” This points to the emotive charge that art can have; which, in the case of climate change art must inject emotions of hope, a desire for change and empowerment into the bleak facts that circulate around climate change. One artist that explores emotive responses to our environment is Olafur Eliasson. The Icelandic-Danish artist creates installations that play with materials, reflections and colours that challenge the way we perceive our environment and reflect upon our understanding of the physical world. This playful confrontation with the environment encourages a positive and hopeful reflection on the physical world and our role within it. This was explored in the exhibition Olafur Eliasson: In Real Life at the Guggenheim Bilbao in 2021 and through his installations in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern in London. I will explore the work of Eliasson in more depth in a later article. Furthermore, a key strength of climate change art is its ability to make the scientific, confusing, or daunting accessible. In the book Art+Climate=Change, Guy Abrahams argues that “art can create the empathy, emotional engagement, and cultural understanding needed to bridge the gap between climate science and effective climate policy,” suggesting that art can be a positive catalyst for societal and cultural change. Dr Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg is an artist whose work bridges this gap between science and art through emotional engagement. Her work examines our relationships with nature and technology, exploring subjects of the human desire to better the world, biodiversity, and synthetic biology. Specifically, the work Pollinator Pathmaker, which is also about agency, explores what we can do to feel less powerless within the climate crisis by creating gardens that support pollinators. Pollinator Pathmaker is an artwork for pollinators and focuses on the importance of caring for nature and the environment. The work, through its encouragement of creating for other species, uses art to give us empathy. Therefore, a hopeful and positive culmination of art and science. Ultimately, art can be a powerful tool within the sustainability and climate change conversation for its ability to give emotion to facts, connect people to difficult and daunting ideas and bring people hope for the planet. This article has merely scratched the surface on art and climate change and I hope to expand on these ideas within a series of articles that focus on artists working within the climate change conversation, including the work of Eliasson Olafur and Dr Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg. Sources and other interesting articles: Art + Climate = Change, Guy Abrahams, Kelly Gellatly, and Bronwyn Johnson, 2016 Sommer, L. K., & Klöckner, C. A. (2021). Does activist art have the capacity to raise awareness in audiences?—A study on climate change art at the ArtCOP21 event in Paris. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 15(1), 60–75. https://doi.org/10.1037/aca0000247 https://news.artnet.com/art-world/climate-change-5-sustainability-tips-1791375 https://www.tate.org.uk/about-us/tate-and-climate-change https://www.forbes.com/sites/evaamsen/2019/09/30/climate-change-art-helps-people-connect-with-a-challenging-topic/?sh=6ce22e3075d0 https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/news/how-culture-combating-climate-change https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/who-is-alexandra-daisy-ginsberg.html https://www.daisyginsberg.com/work/pollinator-pathmaker https://www.guggenheim-bilbao.eus/en/exhibitions/olafur-eliasson-in-real-life https://www.riseart.com/article/2485/9-artists-confronting-climate-change https://theartling.com/en/artzine/art-highlights-climate-change/
- Timber: the construction material of the future
Searching for the most sustainable material we are usually thinking of the most technologically advanced one, with state-of-the-art constructive characteristics, made in a modern laboratory. But maybe that is not the case. With the built environment industry generating 40% of the annual global CO2 emissions, there is no doubt that there is a dire need for a radical solution. In terms of sustainability and circular economy, we are in search of a building material that, in plain English, ends up where it comes from, thus completing a hypothetical life cycle, starting from the extraction process of the material and ending at the recycling phase by returning to raw material form. In that case, steel or cement, which are the most broadly used materials, lack the feasibility of turning them back to raw materials or the process is highly energy and money-consuming. However, the solution could be found in simplicity and nature. Timber could probably be the one. It is claimed to be infinitely renewable and its production is indeed a part of a life cycle that, in essence, has the potential to be regenerative. Within the construction industry, timber is frequently regarded as the most environmentally sustainable building material, as it has a low embodied carbon footprint, measuring materials’ sustainability potential. At the same time, timber resources are infinitely renewable, whereas steel and concrete materials sources are not. As the tree grows, it absorbs carbon from the atmosphere's carbon dioxide (CO2) and stores it for a limited time before releasing it back into the cycle. The construction's usage of wood only momentarily diverted carbon from the primary cycle. The structure is merely storing carbon like that of a tree, albeit in stasis as opposed to a living tree. More trees are planted, absorbing and storing carbon as they grow while this carbon is safely locked up in timber products like walls, windows, doors, and floors. Research reveals that more emissions are actually absorbed and stored in wood products that are released over the whole process of harvesting, processing, manufacturing, and transportation. This offers a method for reducing emissions on a net basis. At the same time, manufactured timber products demand much lower energy inputs to be created than rival materials, thus giving prominence to timber as a low embodied carbon material. Indeed timber and its derivatives sound like an ideal alternative. It must be handled properly, though, just like any other building material, as the use of wood in a structure does not ensure sustainability by itself. Timber can actually be less environmentally friendly when used improperly in building design and construction than steel or concrete, hence proper education, in-depth knowledge, and hands-on experience in timber construction are required. Nevertheless, timber is by no means a cure-all. Some variables make wooden construction more or less appropriate based on the site of the construction, the prevailing location, weather, or phenomena, such as earthquakes. Therefore, wood’s structural characteristics have to be considered and its behavior towards the different encountered variables.
- Job Searching in the Sustainability Sector
With the recent global focus on sustainability, especially with the latest COP27 in Egypt, there has been an increased demand for meaningful sustainability strategies and improved sustainability reporting from companies. More and more companies are setting science-based targets and Net Zero goals to do their part to save the planet from the crisis. Because there are so many climate pressures to make changes such as the IPCC report pushing for climate action within a decade to keep up with the Paris Agreement, and increased consumer demand for sustainability, there needs to be an increase in the hiring of sustainability professionals in the corporate world. There are a number of sectors in which to pursue a sustainability career. These include management consulting, reporting, or finance. Roles such as ESG Analyst and Sustainability Consultant require many problem-solving and communication skills as the aim of their roles is to help companies reach its sustainability goals by understanding what needs to be done and explaining that to stakeholders. Because the work is at a company level, the complexity of the goal implementation is often high. The job listing of these roles often requires many years of experience and is plentiful on the job market. Currently, there seems to be a lack of entry-level roles in the sustainability job market. While companies acknowledge that entry-level roles are a gateway for new talent and to increase the personnel necessary to reach these goals in time, new graduates still find themselves struggling to find a job relevant to their desired career. ESG-related jobs should be abundant. Why is it so difficult for new sustainability graduates to attain entry-level jobs in the sector? One reason could be that the job doesn’t exist yet due to the nature of how “new” these types of roles are. Therefore, companies may not really know what goes into an entry-level sustainability role. In the past, there would typically be one specialized person in charge of carrying out all ESG work. Now that there is a demand and budget for growing an actual ESG team, it means there is an issue with how to organize it at a team level for a company. The difficulty of searching for an entry-level role could stem from companies not advertising the role and hiring internally. It may be easier to transfer talent already in the company roster that is already skilled in some sort of aspect and already understands the company and then incorporate sustainability training. However, that would make this role non-entry-level as the pool the company is choosing from already has previous experience in the industry. Could the lack of entry-level roles be because companies just don’t want to train new talent? Not having enough experience is a huge feedback point in the job hiring process that leads to unsuccessful applications. Is it not a gold mine for companies to take on new talent and mold them to their potential, especially if they want to remain ahead of their goals? What is the point of telling the applicant they are on the right track for an entry-level role when they need 2-3 years of sustainability experience? Is it not the point of the entry-level role to give those 2-3 years? New talent, specifically graduates, have an entirely new outlook on the climate crisis compared to more senior workers as many experienced the crisis all throughout their lives. It isn’t a new problem that arose out of nowhere. It is an ongoing issue that has been introduced to them in their youth and it has only been more detrimental the older they get. Because of this, they have ideas and processes that companies may need to reach their goals more quickly and efficiently. This treasure trove of ideas coupled with expert guidance creates the perfect candidates to create results for these climate initiatives. While a frustrating experience, an entry-level sustainability role is possible through a number of different avenues. Utilizing your network and actively doing your own sustainability-focused work will aid in resume building and help direct you toward those hidden roles. Networking with people in companies or with roles you want to be in, writing sustainability-focused blog posts, attending seminars and webinars, and subscribing to newsletters are all examples of what recent graduates can do to help their job search. Green job boards such as EnvironmentalJobsUK and GreenJobs are great places to narrow down job listings to what sustainability graduates are looking for. Compared to LinkedIn or Indeed where the search only narrows down to general sustainability jobs, these green job boards can specify what sector to work in such as solar energy or carbon reduction. A search on a specialized job board for entry-level could help find less competitive roles, thus a better chance at attaining an interview. While more competitive, the Big Four consulting firms (PwC, Deloitte, EY, and KPMG) have sustainability-focused graduate schemes that are perfect for recent graduates. The advantage of working in one of these is the opportunity to work on very relevant projects as the Big Four are some of the front runners in the fight against climate change. Fellowships are another way to gain sustainability experience and skills. While not exactly professional experience, a fellowship will help give relevant skills that look great to recruiters for entry-level roles. GreenBiz has a list of fellowships both students and recent graduates can apply to strengthen their resumes.
- How has the ocean been portrayed in movies recently?
There is a striking focus on our modern interactions with water in the cinemas recently. When I watched both Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Avatar: The Way of Water I could not stop but think of the several issues that arise but are often sidelined in the sustainability discourse around water. We have not explored, mapped or seen more than 80% of the Earth’s oceans despite the fact that 97% of our Earth’s water comes from our oceans. We dump up to 12 million metric tons of plastic annually and it is estimated that by 2050, ocean plastic will outweigh all of the ocean’s fish. We also have 5 garbage patches floating on our oceans - with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch including an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of trash. This resonates with an old article I wrote about a year ago on our out of sight, out of mind mentality when it comes to our waste culture and our toxic (literally) relationship with plastic waste. More broadly, climate change is tightly connected with water - the most essential substance we need to live. According to UN-Water: Flooding and rising sea levels can contaminate land and water resources with saltwater. Glaciers, ice caps and snow fields are rapidly disappearing. Meltwater feeds many of the great river systems. Volatility in the cryosphere can affect the regulation of freshwater resources for vast numbers of people in lowland areas. Droughts and wildfires are destabilising communities and triggering civil unrest and migration in many areas. Growing demand for water increases the need for energy-intensive water pumping, transportation, and treatment, and has contributed to the degradation of critical water-dependent carbon sinks such as peatlands. Now back to Black Panther and Avatar. Wakanda Forever introduces the Talokan in (what I found) a striking scene where American explorers are trying to find vibranium in the ocean. As with Avatar, the Talokan and their flourishing underwater in Wakanda Forever alludes to just how little we know about our oceans despite their prominent role in our ecosystems and livelihoods. Avatar featured a planet where intelligent beings live in harmony with their environment until humans come to destroy it. In Avatar 2, we see two broad themes in relation to the planet - one quite specific and the other not so much. Humans insist on colonising Pandora as climate change has destroyed Earth. This is quite a direct commentary on the endeavours of Bezos and Musk kind who see space exploration as an opportunity to continue expanding humanity, and as a means of escape in the case of a permanent climate catastrophe. The other theme we see is that in relation to poaching and the ways that the lucrative enterprise ultimately comes to finance the operations led in Pandora. “Our planet is 80% water, so there’s so much more about our life on Earth that we don’t know because it lives beneath us and Pandora was sort of mirrored from that as well. Which means that when we saw Avatar 1 we only got to see 20% and that 20% took us for a ride that many of us across the globe have been unable to sort of shake. So imagine, what is the other 80%? Obviously we do know that with all of these relatable conversations that Jim (Cameron) is having around invasion, colonization, the erasure and genocide of civilizations, and the taking and the abuse of an environment. These are things we’ve seen throughout our history repeat themselves over and over again. So it’s not like we’re going to be seeing something that we’ve never heard of before, and I just hope it’s as thought provoking as the first movie was. Just to compel us in any shape or form to be more aware of each other, but also be more aware of our environment, but not in a way that’s preachy, just in a way that betters your life.” — Zoe Saldana More than anything, both Avatar and Wakanda Forever demonstrative of the destructive role that human-centric and unsustainable practices play in This comes with some reservations as there have been calls to boycott the film as: “both Avatar films have drawn criticism for amalgamating aspects of various Indigenous cultures, while casting several white and other non-indigenous actors in the roles of the Na’vi.” “Join Natives and other Indigenous groups around the world in boycotting this horrible and racist film.” Yue Begay wrote. Nonetheless, it has been interesting to see the ways that different environmental messages are being portrayed using different mediums.
- Featured: Climate Cafe
Hearing, watching and thinking about climate change seizes the heart with worry and the rib cage becomes a cage of anxiety. It seems that every day we hear worrying news surrounding climate change. No reprieve, no break is given. Hearing, watching and thinking about climate change seizes the heart with worry and the rib cage becomes a cage of anxiety. It seems that every day we hear worrying news surrounding climate change. No reprieve, no break is given. “The forecasts are getting worse and worse, and scarier and scarier,” says Dan co-founder of Waltham Forest Climate Cafe. And with how horrifying climate change is, people don’t speak about it. Why should they? “It isn’t the first topic of conversation every day for everyone you know, and I guess partly that's natural for everyone's got. You know all sorts of things to worry about on a day-to-day basis.” It’s a topic that is sometimes deemed as remote, a problem that is across the globe or just hard to understand science. It’s more important now than ever to have discussions over climate change if we want change to happen. Discussion, talking and sharing thoughts is a small step but it is a necessary step to encourage discussions on climate change. It starts a chain reaction that can benefit the fight against climate change or simply ease climate anxiety. This needs to talk about the present increases with more evidence of climate breakdown and the environmental and social impacts it has created. Discussing may seem insignificant but it helps to calm one down, organise their thoughts, and explore feelings that sometimes feel as if it’s hard to talk about with family and friends. Climate change can be a harsh topic to think about with its increasing damage to the world around us. Having support or space to talk about this can help the individual process these thoughts or feeling without dissociating or going into a panic. These spaces can help the individual come to terms with difficult truths while at the same time being grounded and feeling safe as everyone in that space understands them. “I feel like the more spaces, the more opportunities there are for people to talk about it, engage with it and think about it, the more likely we are as communities, well, individuals, families, and society recognise how important it is and that there are things we can do. And so yeah, a space like the Climate Cafe seems important,” says Dan. Climate cafes offer that break by giving a space for people who want to come together to talk and discuss what’s on their minds. It’s an informal setting free of judgement allowing the individual to talk about what’s on their mind and what they feel, etc. It offers a space where you can utter your fears and uncertainties about the future. It helps to acknowledge that such fears, depression, help or grief exist and that it’s alright to feel that way. Dan and Kate founded a climate cafe in Waltham Forest to provide a space for people to express any thoughts they had about climate change. Kate says, “I think people can feel like they're personally responsible for it, so I think it's good to be in a space where you can feel that there's not a kind of pressure to kind of be perfect. You can be very open about how you feel, and I think that can be useful because I think people often feel like they can't open up about their feelings because of the pressure of being judged. Maybe by other people or family and friends. We also hear from people who feel like they can't have those conversations with their family and friends because they feel like they might. Their family and friends feel like they might be being judged, so they kind of don't want to open up and they want to shut that conversation down.” The climate cafe offers a space where the person is surrounded by people who do want to talk and express what they feel. “I think it's good to have that space, and it's a different kind of space,” says Kate. Climate conversations have this theme of damage, casualties, impacts and negativity. Positivism or talking about solutions and strategies being put in place to combat climate change is often sidelined as science keeps forecasting an irreversible future. Sometimes people forget that there are people out there fighting and feel alone. This space allows the person to connect with others who think alike and share similar views reminding them that they are not the only one who cares. There is comfort in talking to people who might have the same feelings. It just reinforces that they are not alone in this. And who knows, you might learn new things or even get recommended books to read- an occurrence that happens at Waltham Forest Climate Cafe. There's more awareness and talks about climate change now than ever on a global scale. And yet on an individual scale, it seems that climate change is mentioned in passing or joked about. This can be a defence mechanism to cope with the gravity of the situation, that there is a chance the future will be unstable. This is why spaces like Kate and Dan are offering are important. “You don't really get under the surface and talk about what's going on, so I think that's space for people to kind of open up and explore those feelings. And in a really safe environment with no judgement. And no pressure to act as well,” Kate says. “The forecasts are getting worse and worse, and scarier and scarier,” says Dan co-founder of Waltham Forest Climate Cafe. And with how horrifying climate change is, people don’t speak about it. Why should they? “It isn’t the first topic of conversation every day for everyone you know, and I guess partly that's natural for everyone's got. You know all sorts of things to worry about on a day-to-day basis.” It’s a topic that is sometimes deemed as remote, a problem that is across the globe or just hard to understand science. It’s more important now than ever to have discussions over climate change if we want change to happen. Discussion, talking and sharing thoughts is a small step but it is a necessary step to encourage discussions on climate change. It starts a chain reaction that can benefit the fight against climate change or simply ease climate anxiety. This needs to talk about the present increases with more evidence of climate breakdown and the environmental and social impacts it has created. Discussing may seem insignificant but it helps to calm one down, organise their thoughts, and explore feelings that sometimes feel as if it’s hard to talk about with family and friends. Climate change can be a harsh topic to think about with its increasing damage to the world around us. Having support or space to talk about this can help the individual process these thoughts or feeling without dissociating or going into a panic. These spaces can help the individual come to terms with difficult truths while at the same time being grounded and feeling safe as everyone in that space understands them. “I feel like the more spaces, the more opportunities there are for people to talk about it, engage with it and think about it, the more likely we are as communities, well, individuals, families, and society recognise how important it is and that there are things we can do. And so yeah, a space like the Climate Cafe seems important,” says Dan. Climate cafes offer that break by giving a space for people who want to come together to talk and discuss what’s on their minds. It’s an informal setting free of judgement allowing the individual to talk about what’s on their mind and what they feel, etc. It offers a space where you can utter your fears and uncertainties about the future. It helps to acknowledge that such fears, depression, help or grief exist and that it’s alright to feel that way. Dan and Kate founded a climate cafe in Waltham Forest to provide a space for people to express any thoughts they had about climate change. Kate says, “I think people can feel like they're personally responsible for it, so I think it's good to be in a space where you can feel that there's not a kind of pressure to kind of be perfect. You can be very open about how you feel, and I think that can be useful because I think people often feel like they can't open up about their feelings because of the pressure of being judged. Maybe by other people or family and friends. We also hear from people who feel like they can't have those conversations with their family and friends because they feel like they might. Their family and friends feel like they might be being judged, so they kind of don't want to open up and they want to shut that conversation down.” The climate cafe offers a space where the person is surrounded by people who do want to talk and express what they feel. “I think it's good to have that space, and it's a different kind of space,” says Kate. Climate conversations have this theme of damage, casualties, impacts and negativity. Positivism or talking about solutions and strategies being put in place to combat climate change is often sidelined as science keeps forecasting an irreversible future. Sometimes people forget that there are people out there fighting and feel alone. This space allows the person to connect with others who think alike and share similar views reminding them that they are not the only one who cares. There is comfort in talking to people who might have the same feelings. It just reinforces that they are not alone in this. And who knows, you might learn new things or even get recommended books to read- an occurrence that happens at Waltham Forest Climate Cafe. There's more awareness and talks about climate change now than ever on a global scale. And yet on an individual scale, it seems that climate change is mentioned in passing or joked about. This can be a defence mechanism to cope with the gravity of the situation, that there is a chance the future will be unstable. This is why spaces like Kate and Dan are offering are important. “You don't really get under the surface and talk about what's going on, so I think that's space for people to kind of open up and explore those feelings. And in a really safe environment with no judgement. And no pressure to act as well,” Kate says.
- How does shark finning affect us?
Did you know 73 million sharks are killed every year due to shark finning?  Shark finning  is the action of slicing off the shark’s fins and throwing the remainder of its body into the ocean where it will take days to die from suffocation. This entails substantial profits, often to make shark fin soup. This soup can cost anywhere between £50 and £400.  It has next to no taste and contains elevated amounts of methyl mercury. It is principally utilised amid occasions, for example, weddings or conferences, yet is viewed as a delicacy to numerous individuals and has turned out to be exceptionally well known throughout the years. Any shark is taken; regardless of age, size or species. The longlines used in shark finning operations are the most significant cause of losses in shark populations worldwide. Longlines  are indiscriminate and also kill sea turtles, dolphins and any other species of marine wildlife they catch. Sharks can take up to seven years to achieve development and just have around a couple of “puppies” every year, not at all like fish, who can lay a great number of eggs at any given moment. This is one of the main reasons why sharks are becoming endangered. Shark population has gone down a critical sum throughout the years. For instance: since 1972 Blacktip sharks have fallen by 93%, Tiger sharks by 97%, and Bull, Dusky and Hammerhead sharks by 99% all because of shark finning.   While sharks may often get bad press, they and their ray cousins support the health of oceans and coastal communities, according to researchers. Losing these apex predators disrupts marine food webs and threatens the sustainability of global fisheries. Sharks are the seas top predator, without them the harmony among predator and prey will turn out to be extremely unsteady.  Sharks help clean the sea of ill or dying fish, keeping them from infecting other fish and possibly killing them off. While other fish, for example, octopuses will move toward becoming overpopulated making the number of lobster decrease tremendously. We are now observing a case of what will occur if sharks end up extinct alongside the US East Coast. There is a decrease in shellfish causing water quality to wind up worse because of the absence of huge sharks, for example, black tip and tiger sharks. These sharks go after other little sharks, beams, and skates which eat a substantial number of scallops and other kinds of shellfish that clean the sea.  People do not think of the benefits sharks provide, they consider them to be vicious killers. However, sharks only harm around 16 individuals each year while only 2 every 2 years are fatal while people kill a large number of sharks every year putting the balance of marine life in danger. It is undeniable that the current rate of biodiversity loss is several orders of magnitude higher than the background historic extinction rate, leading to a biodiversity crisis.  And, while many people now know that we have a decade to stop climate change, far fewer realise we also only have a decade to reverse biodiversity loss.  For sharks and rays, enforcing existing fishing regulations and setting new limits on landings could go a long way to help them rebound. In fact, it has been done before. The white shark is one of the best success stories for U.S. shark conservation. In response to dramatic declines in the 1990s, a retention ban was placed on the species, allowing populations to slowly recover.  In July 2021, the International Commission for Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) voted on a shortfin mako retention ban, which has the potential to change the future for this overexploited, endangered shark.  The road to effective policy change may seem daunting. But meaningful steps can start at the individual level. By voicing concern, through letters to lawmakers and news editors, as well as social media and art, or as a tourist, everyone can help. Vocal, sustained support for shark conservation from the public is not only truly meaningful; it’s essential for creating a brighter future for these extraordinary animals. Sources  https://sharkstewards.org/shark-finning/shark-finning-fin-facts/ & https://www.iucnredlist.org/ & https://www.iucn.org/  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shark_finning & https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/58-03/0191/220191.pdf  https://www.sharks.org/massacre-for-soup  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longline_fishing  https://sharkchampions.org.au/issue/shark-ecosystem/  https://sharkchampions.org.au/understanding-sharks/ & https://www.sharkophile.com/  https://www.sharks.org/massacre-for-soup  https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn11495-us-shellfish-industry-destroyed-by-shark-fishing/  https://news.mongabay.com/2021/04/shark-catastrophe-points-to-failure-to-enact-global-biodiversity-agreements/amp/ & https://www.fws.gov/story/2020-08/sharks-should-be-respected-not-feared#:~:text=Why%20do%20we%20need%20to,the%20decline%20of%20coral%20reefs  https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/05/natural-resource-management-reverse-biodiversity-loss/ & https://sharkchampions.org.au/issue/shark-ecosystem/  https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/white-shark  https://www.iccat.int/Documents/Meetings/COMM2021/PRESS_RELEASE_ENG.pdf
- The future of sustainability research
Scientists and professors have been presenting research on sustainability and the climate crisis for decades. So what is it about research that needs to evolve in order to highlight the climate’s condition to leaders and the public? A (very) brief history of climate research (retrieved from the UCAR ) The connection between the climate, carbon dioxide, and coal was first made in 1896 by Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius. However, it was speculated that the warming environment would be beneficial to future generations, something that was later corrected. In the 1950s, measurements identified a significant decline in Arctic sea ice. In the late 1970s and early 1980s came faster computers which allowed researchers to develop better models, confirming that the climate was warming because of greenhouse gases. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (which you probably know as IPCC) was formed in 1988. This organisation will review the latest climate science every few years. 1992 brought around the realisation that increasing CO2 was not all positive, in fact, it was increasing the acidity of the oceans, causing corals and animals difficulties when building reefs. This work was done by U.S. scientists Stephen Smith and R Buddemeier, work that is still built upon today Human influence on climate change was acknowledged in the 1995 IPCC report. In 2003, researchers were able to link the heatwave directly to climate change, beginning to highlight the direct effects. The 4th IPCC report in 2007 stated that climate change was undeniable and could lead to impacts which are irreversible. In 2010 models allowed us to understand in more detail how climate change worked and its impacts on the planet. Scientists could begin to investigate the effect climate change was having on biodiversity in 2019, a topic still being addressed today. In most recent years we have been able to confirm that projected future warming is accurate based on past models. Allowing us to confidently act based on those figures. Furthermore, the 6th IPCC report revealed that climate change is in fact caused by humans and results in frequent, intense extreme events. The Future of Sustainability Research It is clear from the above that research into climate change has evolved and improved quickly in recent years. Allowing us to learn from past mistakes. However, now that we have accurate information about how we are damaging and impacting our planet, what will research look like? It is likely that the conversations around climate change and its impacts will move towards adaptation and mitigation. It is clear that global temperatures are continually increasing, and we are already experiencing increased extreme weather events. Projects like The Earthshot Prize  help to support solutions that will help repair our planet and adapt to our ever changing climate. Other charities and projects need to follow similar steps to support the many possible solutions being created across the world. Research, I expect, will also advance in the realm of sustainable energy and moving away from the dependence on fossil fuel. This will include scaling up projects, and, despite the economoic uncertainty, investing in sustainability. However, this will require leaders and the public to recognise the long-term financial benefits sustainable living will provide . Since COVID-19, many people around the world have realised the importance of small businesses in all ways. It is likely that in 2023 the public will continue to distrust large corporations and call for greater scrutiny. Greenwashing is still prevalent, and so this will hopefully require companies to make substantial changes and/or prove how they are including sustainability in their business model . All in all, research into sustainability continues to grow and evolve, yet the main goal remains the same; repair our planet. References  Center for Science Education [Internet]. History of Climate Science Research | Center for Science Education. 2023 [cited 2023Jan8]. Available from: https://scied.ucar.edu/learning-zone/how-climate-works/history-climate-science-research  The earthshot prize [Internet]. The Earthshot Prize. 2023 [cited 2023Jan8]. Available from: https://earthshotprize.org/  Robey J. A sustainable future: What trends can we expect to see in Sustainability in 2023 [Internet]. edie. edie; 2023 [cited 2023Jan8]. Available from: https://www.edie.net/a-sustainable-future-what-trends-can-we-expect-to-see-in-sustainability-in-2023/
- Earth's Ozone Layer Set To Recover By 2066
POSITIVE ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS ALERT!! The United Nations' new assessment has revealed that not only is the Arctics ozone layer on track to recover by 2045, but the hole over Antarctica will fully heal by 2066. An amazing discovery, considering it was causing mass panic for the future of humanity. A collective decision created 35 years ago has made this finding possible. Every nation agreed to halt the production of chemicals that eat up the Earth’s protective barrier, which is vital for shielding us from toxic radiation. A recent amendment was also put in order, eliminating aerosols made to replace those terminated by the Montreal Protocol, due to the replacements emitting strong greenhouse gases. As presented in the report, it is slow progress, but since the 1989 Montreal agreement 99% of the chemicals have been eliminated. The reaction to targeting CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons) is a representation that the agreement should be seen as “the most successful environmental treaty in history and offers encouragement that countries of the world can come together and decide an outcome and act on it.” - David Fahey, leading author of the assessment and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist. He mentions that despite the worldwide steps taken to target the CFCs, the chemicals stay lingering for around a century in the atmosphere. “It’s a bit like waiting for paint to dry, you just have to wait for nature to do its thing and flush out these chemicals”. Like carbon dioxide, greenhouse gases pose a problem due to their longevity in the atmosphere, as fossil fuel emissions both; spread further and are buried in some of society's activities. “CO2 is another order of magnitude when it comes to its longevity, which is sobering - Getting every person on the planet to stop burning fossil fuels is a vastly different challenge.” - Fahey. Petteri Taalas, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization states: “Ozone action sets a precedent for climate action - Our success in phasing out ozone-eating chemicals shows us what and must be done as a matter of urgency to transition away from fossil fuels, reduce greenhouse gases and so limit temperature increase.” The chief scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Paul Newman, announced the decrease in levels of two leading chemicals in the atmosphere. Chlorine, whose levels peaked in 1993, is now 11.5% lower, and Bromine has dropped 14.5% since 1999. Newman has said that the fact they have “stopped growing and is coming down is a real testament to the effectiveness of the Montreal Protocol”. He continues that the Antarctic’s natural weather patterns affect the ozone hole levels, as previous years have seen an increase in the holes. Nonetheless, we are seeing an overall healing process. However, there is doubt of reversed progress if geoengineering projects go ahead. Solar geoengineering - reflective particles, like sulphur, ‘are sprayed en masse into the atmosphere to deflect sunlight and therefore reduce global heating’. This proposed practice could result in “unintended consequences, including effects on the ozone”. Stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI) is an increasingly popular practice used as a ‘potential stop-gap measure’, to restrict temperatures long enough to solve the issue. The 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo provides evidence that it does work, as the dust and debris emitted from the stratovolcano subsided temperatures for nearly a year. A calculation made by scientists has seen that injecting yearly the equivalent to the 1991 event - 8-16 million tonnes of sulphur dioxide - could cool the Earth’s temperature by around 1C. Fahey mentioned how these amounts of sulphur could decrease ozone, but maybe by no more than 10%, and not cause the ozone layer to “collapse”. “These sort of climate interventions are touchy subjects because they are a tangled ball of ethics and governance, rather than just science. - They would indeed, though, be consequences for ozone if you put enough sulphur into the atmosphere. It would be unavoidable.” Reports do warn, however, that if such aerosol practices happen it would thin the ozone layer by around 20% in Antarctica. Haven’t the polar bears suffered enough! What’s more, the IPCC (UN’s climate science advisory panel) has also warned of additional unplanned consequences, such as African and Asian monsoons and the drying of the Amazon. Sadly these disastrous events mean food shortages and a savanna like rainforest - maybe this practice isn’t the best idea… Molecules like CFCs have, on the whole, slowly reduced the ozone in the upper stratosphere and both the South and North pole. Yet a new report has highlighted a surprise decrease in the lower stratosphere ozone over Earth's ‘tropical and mid-latitude regions’. Climate change and industrial chemicals not enclosed by the assessment are potential suspects Although we are aware the efforts to reverse climate change are there, a quick fix like solar geoengineering isn’t the best plan when there are possible horrible repercussions. Sources https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/jan/09/ozone-layer-healed-within-decades-un-report https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/news/ozone-layer-recovery-earth-atmosphere-b2258821.html https://www.rte.ie/news/world/2023/0109/1345698-ozone-layer/
- What about sustainable diets?
It is now known that our current food systems create several environmental challenges - from land-use change and biodiversity loss to the depletion of freshwater sources and climate change (Springman, et al,. 2018b). Historically, agriculture as an economic activity has generated a large portion of national GDP for many countries (Mbow et al., 2019), while per capita food supply has jumped by 30% since 1961 (Mbow et al., 2019, p441). However, in addition to this monetary value created by our food systems, we have created a social hierarchy from our food systems and have integrated what we eat into our cultures. It is, therefore, in this context that sustainable diets arise as a potential solution to addressing environmental challenges. The meaning of “sustainable diets” is one that lacks consensus in the literature. In its recent report, the IPCC considers “low-GHG-emission diets” (Mbow et al., 2019, p499). The Food and Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) defined “sustainable diets” as those with “low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations [...they] are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy…” (FAO, 2010). The IPCC, famously, reported the importance of consumers in mitigating climate change (demand-side mitigation). In relation to the food we eat, this found that vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian diets are the best in overall resolving some of the environmental challenges created by our current food systems. Greenhouse Gas Emissions According to the IPCC, the consumption of sustainable diets is a major opportunity for reducing GHG emissions (high confidence) (Mbow et al., 2019). Dietary changes have the potential to address environmental challenges when animal products (environmentally-intensive foods) are replaced by less intensive food types – such as certain fruits, grains and vegetables. This not only has the potential to drastically reduce environmental pressures on GHG emissions by 29%, but may also carry socio-economic benefits (Springmann et al., 2018b). In the USA, a shift in consumption to more sustainable diets signalled a potential reduction of GHG emissions from food production (Birney et al. 2017). The impacts of flexitarian diets, and by extension the impacts of sustainable diets, are shown to carry strong benefits when applied in high-income countries (Springmann et al., 2018a). However, the same paper found that replacing animal products with plant-based ones had little effectiveness in countries with low consumption of animal-source foods (Springmann et al., 2018a). Land-Use On the other hand, the transition to sustainable diets is less clear-cut in relation to land-use. One of the notorious arguments made by people who eat meat is that reducing meat consumption will not benefit land-use as the increase in plant-based alternatives will increase the need for agricultural land. In a study carried out in Sweden, a 50% reduction of meat consumption replaced by domestically grown grain legumes would lead to an estimated reduction of land-use by 23% (Röös et al., 2020). The quadruple increase of Swedish cultivation of grain legumes meant that 1% of Swedish arable land would be used, however, due to the reduction in domestic chicken and pork production - and therefore the reduced need for animal feed - there would be enough agricultural land to enable the transition (Röös et al., 2020). A systematic review carried out by Aleksandrowicz and colleagues found that plant-based diets and diets with meat-alternatives had median reductions of -28% for land-use, where vegan diets provided the most environmental benefits (Aleksandrowicz et al., 2016). However, some of the studies examined in the paper, showed that certain types of nuts and fruits had an environmental impact that was similar or higher than that of meat (Aleksandrowicz et al., 2016, p8). This may encourage some opponents to give themselves a pat in the back; however, research has shown that a combination of measures in addition to sustainable diets may do the trick. For instance, better waste management and technological changes to increase the efficiency of production; a combination of which is shown to result in the largest reductions in land-use and GHG emissions (Springmann et al., 2018b, p520). Limitations A Eurocentric perspective It is suggested that sustainable diets may be problematic in the context of low and middle-income countries that struggle with nutrition transitions (Fanzo, 2019). This is indicative of the complex relationship between sustainable and healthy diets and the role that historical development plays in addressing environmental challenges. Such nuanced recommendations often come from a Eurocentric stance and ignore the intricate relationships between food and other social factors such as income per capita and accessibility, making the applicability of sustainable diets more challenging at a larger scale. Further, ethical concerns arise in relation to consumer preferences and the potential limitations on self-liberties (Fanzo, 2019). Meat, dairy and fish are valued in Western society and are foods we have placed significance importance on in relation to social standing (Popkin, 2011, p17). These consumption patterns and expectations may be difficult to refashion overnight. Feasibility of a demand-side approach Consumer preferences drive this approach and may be the largest pitfall thereof. The switch to sustainable diets is inherently reliant on consumers and their motivations to adopt a sustainable lifestyle. Due to the social and cultural significance attached to food (Mbow et al., 2019), it may be less socially acceptable to reduce meat consumption in diverse contexts. The studies carried out that illustrate the potentially important role of sustainable diets in addressing environmental challenges are based on some fundamental assumptions - such as consumers’ willingness to quickly change their behaviour patterns, and their motivations for doing so - while ignoring the subjective nature around the social perception of food. Justice concerns The transition and attempts to cut pollution in livestock farming is already underway in the Netherlands, where to meet national targets, the government announced a €25bn plan to reduce livestock numbers by 30% (Levitt, 2021). This led to strong opposition from Dutch farmers who protested the measures through multiple blockades this summer, as they felt that their sector was singled out (Boztas, 2022). This social upheaval may be demonstrative of some of the potential justice concerns that may arise in relation to the transition to sustainable diets for addressing environmental concerns. The drastic reduction in demand means an equally as drastic drop in profits and employment for those involved in the livestock industry. As the IPCC notes, there is limited research on the ways that an unjust transition can be mitigated (Mbow et al., 2019, p514). For instance, for the effective implementation of a transition to sustainable diets, investment in incentive schemes for farmers are necessary (Springmann et al., 2018b, p523). Sustainable diets may be better paired with alternative technologies and other behavioural changes. For instance, the Western culture around food waste and the role we as consumers play in perpetuating an unsustainable system is unquestionable. However, behavioural, social and cultural change cannot happen overnight. References Birney, C.I., K.F. Franklin, F.T. Davidson, and M.E. Webber, 2017: An assessment of individual foodprints attributed to diets and food waste in the United States. Environ. Res. Lett., 12, 105008, doi:10.1088/1748-9326/aa8494. Boztas, S. (21 July 2022) ‘Emotion and pain’ as Dutch farmers fight back against huge cuts to livestock . The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/jul/21/emotion-and-pain-as-dutch-farmers-fight-back-against-huge-cuts-to-livestock [Accessed 13 December 2022]. Dagevos, H., and J. Voordouw, 2013: Sustainability and meat consumption: Is reduction realistic? Sustain. Sci. Pract. Policy, 9, 60–69, doi:10.1080/15487733.2013.11908115. Fanzo, J. (2019) Healthy and Sustainable Diets and Food Systems: the Key to Achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2? Food Ethics. 4 (2), 159-174. 10.1007/s41055-019-00052-6. Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. (2010) Sustainable Diets and Biodiversity: directions and solutions for policy, research, and action. Rome, FAO. Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. (2017) The future of food and agriculture: trends and challenges. Rome. Latino, L. R., Pica-Ciamarra, U. & Wisser, D. (2020) Africa: The livestock revolution urbanizes. Global Food Sercurity. 26 . Levitt, T. (15 December 2021) Netherlands announces €25bn plan to radically reduce livestock numbers The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/dec/15/netherlands-announces-25bn-plan-to-radically-reduce-livestock-numbers [Accessed 13 December 2022]. Mbow, C., C. Rosenzweig, L.G. Barioni, T.G. Benton, M. Herrero, M. Krishnapillai, E. Liwenga, P. Pradhan, M.G. Rivera-Ferre, T. Sapkota, F.N. Tubiello, Y. Xu. (2019) Food Security. In: Climate Change and Land: an IPCC special report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems. Cambridge University Press. Niva, M. & Vainio, A. (2021) Towards more environmentally sustainable diets? Changes in the consumption of beef and plant- and insect-based protein products in consumer groups in Finland. Meat Science. 182 108635. 10.1016/j.meatsci.2021.108635. Popkin, M. B. (2011) Agricultural policies, food and public health. EMBO Reports. 12 (1). Ridoutt, B., Anastasiou, K., Baird, D., Garcia, J.N. & Hendrie, G. (2020) Cropland footprints of Australian dietary choices. Nutrients, 12(5), 1212. Röös E, Carlsson G, Ferawati F, Hefni M, Stephan A, Tidåker P, Witthöft C (2020). Less meat, more legumes: prospects and challenges in the transition toward sustainable diets in Sweden. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 35, 192–205. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1742170518000443 Röös, E., Patel, M., Spångberg, J., Carlsson, G. & Rydhmer, L. (2016) Limiting livestock production to pasture and by-products in a search for sustainable diets. Food Policy. 58 1-13. 10.1016/j.foodpol.2015.10.008. Springmann, M., Clark, M., Mason-D'Croz, D. & et al. (2018a) Options for keeping the food system within environmental limits. Nature. 562 519-525. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-018-0594-0. Springmann, M., Wiebe, K., Mason-D'Croz, D., Sulser, T., Rayner, M. & Scarborough, P. (2018b) Health and nutritional aspects of sustainable diet strategies and their association with environmental impacts: a global modelling analysis with country-level detail. Lancet Planet Health. 2 451-461. Steenson, S. & Buttriss, J. L. (2021) Healthier and more sustainable diets: What changes are needed in high-income countries? Nutrition Bulletin. 46 (3), 279-309. 10.1111/nbu.12518.
- Featured - Parneet Kaur
Parneet Kaur is a young climate professional who participates in volunteer and activism initiatives working on development and international relations. She was selected as one of the 2022 Max Thabiso Edkins Climate Ambassadors (launched by the World Bank Group) and is the founder of GirlUp Zubaan. Parneet is currently a Postgraduate Student in the Department of Environmental Policy and Law at the National Law University, Delhi. She holds a BA in Political Science from Panjab University. Parneet, we are so glad you are here with us today to do an interview. We would like to know more about you. Please tell us more about yourself. Thank you so much for having me, Deniz. I discover new ways of defining myself every day. Whatever I have built so far pivots around two crucial ideals - intellectual flexibility and humility - which are especially critical for the young, the old and everyone in between who’s trying to serve the world. The roots of my climate consciousness can be traced back to the earliest memories of my grandfather planting the now tall and mighty trees overlooking our home, perfectly cemented by my mother’s creative way of spinning tales about inanimate and animate creatures to awaken empathy for a fallen flower to a piece of clothing I abhor. I am just a simmering mixture of all I have been gifted with. I graduated in political science this year. Currently, I am pursuing a postgraduate diploma in Environmental Law and Policy from WWF and National Law University, Delhi. In addition, I am working at the intersection of gender rights, sustainability, and indigenous peoples’ rights through my initiatives: GirlUp Zubaan and Poetry for Planet. I am also serving as the Assistant Secretary of the Youth Wing of Chandigarh United Nations Association. What occasion or circumstance encouraged you to work in the fields of international relations, climate change and sustainability? My work has largely been a by-product of my preparation for one of the toughest exams in India - UPSC, which is a gateway to diplomacy. It predisposed me to a wide range of possibilities that exist, and further, it has enabled me to create an impact through a nuanced understanding of the issues at hand. In retrospect, the earliest imprints of my love for nature can be found, which are embedded, in my poems, a deluge of romantic appreciation for the oft-dismissed beauty of nature. My journey officially kickstarted in September 2021 when I got selected as the delegate for the Fifteenth United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD15) Youth Forum, wherein I had the honour of leading and facilitating the working group on ‘’Climate action: an inclusive response’’. I co-authored the UNCTAD Youth Declaration, wherein I drafted the need to promote the acknowledgement and adoption of the traditional knowledge system of indigenous people in a gender-responsive manner to mitigate climate change. That decisive moment set the tone for everything else that followed after. My engagement with frontliners abroad, especially activists and indigenous people working on-ground, and learning about the struggles that they have to go through has implored me to leverage the nexus between climate change and international relations. One of the fiercest motivations by far is the disproportionate representation and active participation of women in COP26 and now COP27. Marginalised women suffer the worst impact of climate change in all aspects, yet they are invisible, unseen and unheard when decisions about their death and life are made. You are a young climate professional from India. What is the most significant environmental problem you have experienced in India? India is a topographically and geographically diverse country, so the interplay of several endemic factors leads to region-specific vulnerabilities. I will try to give you a briefing on national and local problems: so, the most significant problem I have experienced is air pollution. We faced severe heat waves and longer summers this year. The World Bank has recently warned us that India will be the first country to reach the breaking point of human survivability due to intensifying heat waves. That will cost us over 35 million jobs, causing an economic slowdown and loss in productivity. That’s the economic cost, and it breaks my heart to even think about the human cost. In addition, over 60% of our population, employed in the agricultural sector, has been hit hard by the frequent droughts impacting our food stability. These droughts result from depleting water levels aggravated by intensifying heat waves. The contamination of over 70% of surface water is another concern. Closer to home, in a town in Chandigarh, there is an ever-growing dismal mountain of over 7.5 lakh metric tonnes of the garbage accumulating over the last 20 years. Although Chandigarh has been intelligently designed by the Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier keeping climate responsiveness at the heart of the architectural planning, Chandigarh still finds herself susceptible to the pangs of climate change as the minimum temperature of the city has risen to 1.7 over the last 70 years which is more than the global average due to the loss in the green cover which has given way to concrete and tar. This gives rise to the urban heat island effect as the concrete structures trap heat. Additionally, every household owns two vehicles, making it the city with the highest density of vehicles in the country. Well, that’s just the tip of the iceberg :) India is currently classified as a developing country. In which areas do you think inequality is highest in a comparison between developed and developing countries? In this regard, what area of inequality does India experience the most? This Independence Day, our Prime Minister Mr Modi shared five vows with us, out of which one is for our country to become a developed country by the time we celebrate 100 years of independence from our colonisers. Well, at the outset, it is critical to mention our place in history as colonised and that of most developed countries as colonisers. India was the first in the world to launch an economic critique of colonialism spearheaded by the Indian Leader, Dadabhai Naoroji, who gave us the drain theory. Currently, India falls into the lower-middle income bracket and is regarded as developing by the World Bank. However, it ranked 131 out of 188 countries on the Human Development Index. This reveals half the picture, as some states are faring well while others are lagging. Therefore, the government launched the Aspirational Districts Programme to bridge the regional disparities. There are several areas of improvement, such as reducing poverty, and income inequalities, improving access to education and healthcare and raising living standards. The government has launched several programmes and schemes to tackle these issues. Surprisingly India is the world’s third biggest in terms of purchasing power parity, but most Indians are still relatively poorer than people in other middle-income and high-income economies. Some metrics reveal that even the rich will have to significantly enhance their consumption levels to match those of poor households in developed countries. However, there is a catch here: The level of consumption, when seen in conjunction with the average carbon emissions by a person, reveals a different picture. Indians have an extremely low carbon footprint compared to their counterparts in developed nations. I am not an expert on this issue, but sustainability could - perhaps - be included as one dimension through which we analyse ‘’developed’’ and ‘’developing’’ countries. The definitions need to be revised, and new parameters for assessing development should be incorporated to align with current realities. You are the founder of ‘’Poetry for Planet’’, an enterprise that tries to promote local and indigenous literature and wisdom by sharing stories in the native languages of climate professionals in the spirit of inclusivity and recognition. What was your purpose in founding ‘’Poetry for Planet’’? My willingness to leverage creative expression as a vehicle of change has culminated in establishing an international youth-led enterprise called Poetry for Planet, which aims to celebrate the unsung climate champions from across the world by documenting their unique struggles in creative formats such as poetry and prose. The spotlight is always on those who speak, protest and react. Yet, simultaneously, an army of proactive leaders is working in silence while battling financial, social, political and psychological struggles. Poetry for Planet is to celebrate all those heroes who stay hidden. Having first-hand experienced eco-anxiety and witnessing my fellow friends go through psychological struggles inspired me to initiate critical discourse about eco-anxiety and the mental well-being of people working at the frontline to create psychological safety for the community. My involvement with indigenous leaders has implored me to increase their visibility by promoting their literature, wisdom and sustainable practices. Poetry for Planet is a digital repository of unique indigenous poetic expression that has been deprived of a place in history. It’s an attempt to make visible some of the most valuable contributions to humanity. In 2021, it was reported that India has already lost almost 90% of the area under four major biodiversity hotspots [the Himalayas, the Western Ghats, the Sundaland (including the Nicobar Islands), and the Indo-Burma region) because of the catastrophic consequences of human actions and unplanned urbanisation. Could you please tell us about your experiences and observations concerning this? India hosts 8% of biological diversity on only 2.4% of the world's land area. Well, the major threat to biodiversity comes from the expansion of agriculture and contamination due to the use of harmful pesticides. In Punjab, we are currently witnessing an ecocide due to the overuse of pesticides and chemical fertilisers in the soil, threatening our biodiversity. In addition, the focus on High-yielding varieties, exotic breeds, and invasive alien plant species is a major threat to biodiversity. It’s time we go back to the golden teachings of our Guru Nanak Dev ji, the spiritual guru of Sikhism, who advocated for harmonious coexistence with nature. Over 13 species of flora and fauna are on the brink of extinction in Punjab, including the white-backed vulture, Indus River dolphin and Saras crane, among others. Furthermore, the wetlands in Punjab are under stress due to encroachment, soil erosion, and land reclamation for agriculture, among other things. In addition, the introduction of exotic species of fish has had a detrimental impact on the natural fish population. For example, it has led to a substantial decline in the catch of Indian carp. The developmental projects in eco-sensitive Shivalik hills are also a cause of concern. The state is diverting resources to mitigate this by establishing wildlife sanctuaries and protected area networks and promoting soil, water, and wetland conservation. According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), India currently produces more than 25,00 tonnes of plastic waste on a daily basis. This situation also leads to a plastic crisis in the Indus, Brahmaputra and Ganges rivers. Does the government have action plans on this subject? Our government has launched several programmes, out of which the Namami Gange programme to clean the holy river Ganges is one that comes to my mind right away. To tackle the plastic crisis in Yamuna, Geocycle under UNEP partnered with Agra to implement the ‘bubble curtain technology’ for the first time in India to stop plastic from entering the Yamuna river. It’s a non-invasive technology which allows ships and fish to pass through but prevents plastic from entering the oceans. The Union Ministry of Earth sciences has launched an all-encompassing study to identify the source of waste, especially plastic waste, to tackle marine pollution across our coastline. India banned single-use plastics such as plastic straws to curb plastic pollution's menace to becoming plastic-free. As one of the world’s most water-stressed countries, India is also facing extreme heat waves that cause water shortages throughout the country (especially in the states of Punjab, Haryana, and western Uttar Pradesh). Therefore, how does this affect agricultural areas and food security? The impact of heatwaves on India’s food security is three dimensional as it affects the availability, access and absorption. The underlying vulnerabilities compound the cumulative impact of heat waves. Take, for instance, the case of Punjab, which is grappling with three major problems: Polluted canals and rivers, depleting groundwater and polluted groundwater. The depletion and contamination of groundwater are the direct impacts of excessive dependence on water-intensive crops such as paddy and wheat and the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. The trend of crop homogenisation from crop diversification at the onset of the green revolution in the 1970s, a movement to increase produce and productivity, has devastating implications for Punjab and Haryana. The water resources have been overexploited in 109 out of 138 development blocks in the state. The per capita water availability in the country has declined by 70% since 1950 and over 600 million people face acute water shortages. This has caused farmers to rethink their choice of crop. Prime Minister Modi is advocating to switch from water guzzlers like rice to less water-intensive crops such as corn and pulses. The government’s major challenge is to change the mindset of the people, which can be partially tackled by rolling out diversification incentives. Any thoughts on COP27? The exclusivity and inaccessibility of the conference for youth, women, indigenous people and other vulnerable communities due to structural, financial, social and security reasons has been a major highlight for me as I am one of the many who lost the opportunity to attend COP27 on account of financial and logistical constraints despite securing the accreditation. COP is an exclusive party for a lucky few. I have been pushing for more women at COP, but the entry barriers to such an exclusive platform are insurmountable for so many of us. COP27 fared well on Loss and Damage as we saw the creation of a loss and Damage Fund. It is a big win for all the right-holders and stakeholders who have been relentlessly working towards its realisation for years. It failed to deliver effectively on adaptation and mitigation, though. We need to have more women in these spaces, not in the spirit of diversity but in the spirit of inclusivity. It's a fundamental right denied to be deprived of the decisions that can mean life or death for the most vulnerable communities. You are also the founder and the current president of ‘’GirlUp Zubaan’’, a civic and social organisation. Is it possible for you to give us details about this organisation? Do you have any projects, especially for Indian women and young girls? GirlUp Zubaan is a chapter under the GirlUp initiative pioneered by the UN foundation that aims to redefine and reform feminism through an inclusive and empathetic approach. We aim to uplift marginalised women by enhancing their representation and encouraging active participation. We recently unveiled the Legal and Mental health wing intending to provide equitable and affordable access to legal and mental health services to the marginalised in India. We operate virtually as our members hail from different parts of the country, which has enabled us to understand and take into account the intricacies and regional disparities which imbue feminism. We will be continuing with our series of offline workshops on “Sustainability and Empowerment” to nudge young girls into cultivating critical skills, empathy, and love for themselves as well as nature. Our focus in the coming year is to enhance access to affordable mental health and legal services to marginalised communities. Can you share some of the future projects of ‘’Poetry for Planet’’ and ‘’GirlUp Zubaan’’ with us? Well, the coming months are pretty-packed. Poetry for Planet is a relatively new youth-led creative enterprise, so our core focus is expanding and spreading awareness about our initiative. In addition, we hope to highlight unsung climate champions, those on whom the spotlight is rarely shown. More so, our focus would be predominantly on highlighting indigenous poetic gems which encapsulate the essence of love for nature and bring to the fore the unparalleled contribution of indigenous people to the conservation of nature. As with GirlUp Zubaan, we are planning to bring this year to a close by hosting a heartwarming mental health week in the spirit of nurturing and strengthening the GirlUp family. You can only serve the world better if you serve yourself better first. We also hope to unveil some projects and workshops to raise awareness and access to mental health and legal services among the marginalised. In addition, we plan to spearhead discussions pivoting around sustainability and empowerment in the local schools. Lastly, could you please tell us your favourite plant-based milk? (It’s a tradition😊) Almond milk :)
- 2022 Wrap Up and What to Look for in 2023
2022 was defined by the war in Ukraine and the subsequent energy crisis that showed to the world just how underprepared we were not only to let go of fossil fuels but also how our securitised and highly politicised dependence on gas and oil ultimately had massive consequences for society. Yet, 2022 saw $4 trillion made by fossil companies. 2022 showed to the world the ways that we have slowed down our progress in a post-pandemic world, but also the ways that change could be possible. 2022 was another (precious) year that came to an end in the climate discourse; so, here’s the scene it set for 2023. Protests got more creative People’s anger has manifested in different ways - a phenomenon that was not exclusive to the climate arena. Just Stop Oil threw soup at (protected) Van Gogh’s Sunflowers which sparked debate over the different ways that activism may look like. Mel Carrington, a spokeswoman for Just Stop Oil, said in a telephone interview with the New York Times that the group’s intention had been to generate publicity and to create debate around the climate crisis and the actions needed to stop it. Beyond this, in Iran young people led national uprising for social and political reform. In China, people took the streets in a historical protest against the zero-Covid policy. The sun came through Solar power grew so fast in 2022 that the IEA concluded that it could become the largest source of global electricity by 2027. “The first truly global energy crisis, triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has sparked unprecedented momentum for renewables. Fossil fuel supply disruptions have underlined the energy security benefits of domestically generated renewable electricity, leading many countries to strengthen policies supporting renewables. Meanwhile, higher fossil fuel prices worldwide have improved the competitiveness of solar PV and wind generation against other fuels.” As a result of this and despite the growth in coal this year, renewables are now set to double between 2022 and 2027 in comparison to the previous 5 years. In December, Scientists Achieve Nuclear Fusion Breakthrough With Blast of 192 Lasers that could ultimately pave the way to producing limitless, zero-carbon energy. You can read more about the controversial role of nuclear energy here. Loss and damage might be possible The economies of several developing nations have plummeted as a result of various natural disasters that led to the displacement of thousands of people. Perhaps the only success in COP27 was the agreement to create a loss and damage fund to help developing nations cope with the irreversible economic losses and damages caused by climate change (a phenomenon largely attributed to wealthier nations’ development). In 2023 we not only expect to see the creation of the fund, but also the creation of criteria of eligibility. Laws around the world are changing In 2022, the Biden administration delivered a landmark law which included a $370 billion package to nudge businesses to shift to renewable energy, and made public money available for research into climate innovation. In 2023 we expect to see this money roll out and the relevant impacts of this unfold. In Brazil, on new year's day, Lula was sworn in office. His Environment Minister, Marina Silva - a leading climate activist whose work has focused on the Amazon. Marina Silva acted as the minister for the environment in 2003-2008, and her time in office was defined by bold policies tackling deforestation with massive successes. During COP27, Lula promised zero deforestation in the Amazon. Despite the heated geopolitical scene in 2022, political willingness to mitigate and adapt to climate change is shifting in some parts of the world, while others like the UK limp behind. We can choose to be optimistic in our expectations for 2023.
- Children's Environmental Rights and Climate Litigation
In several reports, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has highlighted that warming caused by anthropogenic emissions will persist for centuries and will continue to impact the climate system (IPCC, 2014, 2018, 2022) hinting at the intergenerational nature of climate change. Despite this, very little attention is paid on the impact of climate change on those inheriting the earth – children - who also happen to be the most vulnerable group to the climate crisis due to their behavioural patterns, sensitivity to exposure and dependence on caregivers (Ebi & Paulson, 2007). Despite these vulnerabilities and the intergenerational nature of climate change, equally as little consideration is placed on children's environmental rights, as children are not explicitly represented in the environmental law-making discourse (Makuch et al., 2020). The environmental rights of children are instead linked to other rights and standards including those introduced by the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (Makuch, 2019). In fact, the UNCRC does not explicitly include a right to environment making children’s environmental rights very indirectly guaranteed to the extent to which these can be construed from the UNCRC. In the UK in 2013, Ella Kissi-Debrah died as a direct result of air pollution - she was 9 years old and was later described as a canary in a coalmine. In 2022, the UK’s Green Party proposed what is called “Ella’s Law” to codify the right to clean air. Nonetheless, there is not a single mention of children and young people in the proposed law. To fill this gap, human rights-based litigation has become a means of promoting children's environmental rights, as 33 rights-based climate cases involve plaintiffs who are children (Donger, 2022). However, the extent to which a human rights-based climate litigation approach is beneficial for incorporating children's environmental rights will depend on our interpretation of the aim of the law and the position we wish to place children in as stakeholders in the sustainability discourse. While such an approach may be impactful, it is the case that issues of agency, causation, and the ethical concerns of placing the burden on children to ensure their sustainable futures, often taint the potential thereof. Children’s Standing Human rights-based climate litigation brought by children raises several questions on the link between human rights and environmental harm, particularly where a complaint looks to future harms or is cross-border in nature (Lewis, 2021). In Juliana, 21 young people alleged violations of their constitutional rights and sought declaratory relief and an injunction ordering the US government to implement a plan to "phase out fossil fuel emissions and draw down excess atmospheric [carbon dioxide]" (Juliana). The plaintiffs were found to be injured parties as the Court held that the US government actively and passively contributed over 25% of global emissions by 2012. Similar to this is the argument made by the petitioners in Duarte, where the petitioners claim that the failure of 33 European countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions (GHG emissions) is a violation of their rights under the ECHR – specifically the right to life and enjoyment of family life (Duarte). Unlike Juliana, this case extends itself to states' failures to prevent anticipated harm. Similar to Duarte is Sacchi – a claim brought by 16 children to the Committee on the Rights of the Child where it was argued that their rights to life, health, and culture under the UNCRC are being violated by the respondent states due to their failure to take stronger action to reduce GHG emissions (Sacchi). Unlike Juliana and in part Duarte, the argument made in Sacchi sees the children as foreseeable victims. Nonetheless, the Committee opined that due to the impact on children and the recognition by States to the Convention that children are entitled to special safeguards, states have heightened obligations to protect children from foreseeable harm - concluding that the children have sufficiently established the impairment of their Convention rights (Sacchi). Distinct from Juliana, Duarte, and Sacchi are cross-border in nature, as they argue that the states are aware of the impact that climate change will have on people's human rights outside their territory (Sacchi). The Committee in Sacchi found that the communication is inadmissible and argued that extraterritorial jurisdiction should be interpreted restrictively (Sacchi). This is an inherent weakness in human rights-based cases as the inability of the petitioners to show that a respondent owes them a duty to protect their human rights will deem the case inadmissible (Lewis, 2021). Arguably, a nuanced interpretation of extraterritorial jurisdiction has the potential open floodgates of litigation by placing international bodies in a position of governance that may curb sovereign states' autonomy. This remains to be seen in the ECtHR's opinion in Duarte, which may depart from Sacchi due to its regional interests. Rights and duties Lewis (2021) argues that in the absence of a standalone right to a healthy environment, the next best claim is one on the state's duty to take preventative action due to the risk of foreseeable future harm (Lewis, 2021). Unlike Juliana, Sacchi and Duarte are pursued in international and regional human rights systems, which are argued to adopt a supervisory role, consistent with the doctrine of subsidiarity within international human rights law (Lewis, 2021; Benson, 2016; Neuman, 2015), therefore placing states as the primary guarantors for human rights. At a European level, this is represented as the margin of appreciation doctrine – leaving matters of policy to the States (Lewis, 2021; Spielman, 2014). In response to this, Lewis argues that domestic courts are better placed to assess the issues of substance and implementation of climate policies (Lewis, 2021). The reasoning and dissent in Juliana illustrate where this thinking fails. The Court found that the case is non-justiciable due to its political nature. Relying on Rucho (2019) the majority opined that upholding the plaintiffs' request would be stepping out of their judicial role and into policymaking, implicating the traditional understanding of separation of powers. On the other hand, District Judge Staton argued in his dissenting opinion that history has seen "widespread, programmatic changes in government functions ushered in by the judiciary's commitment to requiring adherence to the Constitution" (Juliana, p. 58). This dissent is not only representative of the politicisation of climate change which plagues not only the US environmental agenda but those of many other governments. In the traditional legal systems, children plaintiffs lack agency and need to be represented by their guardians; as they are not political agents in their own capacity but form an independent group of climate victims, it may be argued that an orthodox interpretation of the balance of powers doctrine – as mentioned in Juliana and as implied in the Committee's opinion in Sacchi – is inappropriate where children are involved, as their political interests are not represented by elected governments, making the international legal system the appropriate medium for redress. So, how impactful are child-led climate litigation cases? The nature of these cases evidences the ways that a legal system founded on positivism is inappropriate where children lack a form of political and individual agency. This approach to climate litigation asks which legal system is the most appropriate medium for redress if we assume that the current systems can effectively solve issues of morality. Redress sought at an international level may become more appropriate in resolving transboundary issues, as domestic courts are bound by outdated notions of balance of powers that have been designed on draconian assumptions of agency that are no longer appropriate for resolving contemporary issues. However, such a radical transformation does not come without its pitfalls, as this international accountability must be balanced with state sovereignty. Further, rethinking children's agency may be placing the burden on children themselves to ensure their own sustainable futures, which may ethically taint the potential of this transformation. References Barron, A., Collins, H., Jackson, E., Lacey, N., Ross, H., Reiner, R., Teubner, G. & Penner, J. (2002) Introduction to Jurisprudence and Legal Theory: Commentary and Materials. Oxford, Oxford University Press. Besson, S. (2016a) Subsidiarity in International Human Rights Law—What is Subsidiary about Human Rights? 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