Europe’s lost forests – study shows coverage has halved over six millennia

More than half of Europe’s forests have disappeared over the past 6,000 years thanks to increasing demand for agricultural land and the use of wood as a source of fuel, new research led by the University of Plymouth suggests.

Using pollen analysis from more than 1,000 sites, scientists showed that more than two thirds of central and northern Europe would once have been covered by trees.

Today, that is down to around a third, although in more western and coastal regions, including the UK and Republic of Ireland, the decline has been far greater with forest coverage in some areas dropping below 10 percent.

However, those downward trends have begun to reverse, through the discovery of new types of fuel and building techniques, but also through ecological initiatives such as the ongoing National Forest project and the new Northern Forest, announced by the UK Government in January 2018.

The study is published in Nature’s Scientific Reports and lead author Neil Roberts, Professor of Physical Geography at the University of Plymouth, said:

“Most countries go through a forest transition and the UK and Ireland reached their forest minimum around 200 years ago. Other countries in Europe have yet to reach that point, and some parts of Scandinavia – where there is not such a reliance on agriculture – are still predominantly forest. But generally, forest loss has been a dominant feature of Europe’s landscape ecology in the second half of the current interglacial, with consequences for carbon cycling, ecosystem functioning and biodiversity”.

The research, which also involved academics in Sweden, Germany, France, Estonia and Switzerland, sought to establish precisely how the nature of Europe’s forests has changed over the past 11,000 years. It combined three different methods of analysing pollen data, taken from the European Pollen Database, and showed that forest coverage actually increased from around 60 percent 11,000 years ago up to as much as 80 percent 6,000 years ago.

However, the introduction of modern farming practices during the Neolithic period sparked a gradual decline which accelerated towards the end of the Bronze Age and has largely continued until the present day.

Professor Roberts said this was one of the more surprising elements of the research because while forest clearance might be assumed to be a relatively recent phenomena, 20 percent of Britain’s forests had actually gone by the end of the Bronze Age 3,000 years ago. He added:

“Around 8,000 years ago, a squirrel could have swung tree to tree from Lisbon to Moscow without touching the ground. Some may see that loss as a negative but some of our most valued habitats have come about through forests being opened up to create grass and heathland. Up until around 1940, a lot of traditional farming practices were also wildlife friendly and created habitats many of our most loved creatures. This data could then potentially be used to understand how future forestry initiatives might also influence habitat change”.


Atmospheric Pollution – Part I: The problem of Atmospheric Pollution in Urban Areas.

Peter Essick, National Geographic

Pollution is any undesirable change in the physical, chemical or biological characteristics of air, soil or seas which adversely affects both flora and fauna of the planet. Air pollution is creating due to the accession of any material, molecular or particulate, to the atmosphere that surrounds us. This unnecessary influx of materials results in short or long-term pollution of life on Earth. Air pollutants are considered to be any material that may enter in it – through deliberate or unintentional processes – creating direct or indirect harmful influence on the organisms. Pollutants include specific chemicals and various forms of energy such as heat, sounds and radiation.

Under certain circumstances, air pollution is likely to reach levels that create unhealthy living conditions, so, it is necessary in this article to introduce the main sources of pollution and the harmful pollutants. In addition, it is important to explain how this situation is formed in the various urban centers of our country – especially in Attica – in order to realize the scope of the problem.

In modern times, the problem of atmospheric pollution is largely due to the anthropogenic factor. The main sources of air pollution due to human activities are: means of transport, domestic heating, electricity generation, unwanted combustion and generally industrial emissions. It is difficult to determine precisely the percentage of participation of each source in the general pollution problem, as our society is constantly evolving, so the contribution rates cannot be stable.

Image Source: Getty Images

Image Source: Getty Images


When we deal with the issue of air pollution, we usually refer to seven main groups of pollutants [Ref.1: Atmospheric Pollution, Ioannis Gentekakis, 2010]:

  1. carbon-containing compounds: such as carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide (CO2 & CO), hydrocarbons and their derivatives (H/Cs), methane (CH4) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
  2. nitrogen-containing compounds: such as nitrous oxide (Ν2Ο), nitrogen oxide and dioxide (ΝΟ & ΝΟ2), ammonia (ΝΗ3) and reactive nitrogen (ΝΟy).
  3. sulfur-containing compounds: such as sulfur dioxide (SO2), hydrogen sulfide (Η2S), ΟCS / carbonyl sulfide, dimethyl sulfide, CH3SCH3, DMS.
  4. halogen-containing compounds: such as the known halogen gases (CL2, F2, Br2) and hydrogen halides (HCl, HBr, HF) and the halogenated hydrocarbons which consist the basis of insecticides and herbicides, refrigerants or freons, fire extinguishers, sprays and cleansing / disinfecting agents.
  5. photochemical oxidants: which are the result of a series of complex atmospheric reactions that occur when active organic substances and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) accumulate in the atmosphere and are exposed to sunlight.
  6. particulate pollutants & aerosols: where particulate pollutants are all those non-gaseous substances in the atmosphere, and may include ions, molecule complexes, ice crystals, dust, tobacco particles, raindrops, pollen etc. which evolve into the atmosphere through various mechanisms.
  7. hazardous air pollutants, air toxics: a category of pollutants that are directly responsible for increasing mortality, or causing serious illnesses, or endanger human health, for example: alkyllated lead compounds, mercury and others.


Some of the substances, that are mentioned above, enter into the atmosphere directly after their emission from the source (primary pollutants), while others, considering the atmosphere as a large reactor, arise after some processes (secondary pollutants). The Environmental Sciences are extensively involved in the sources, appearance and impact of pollutants, so for more information you can refer to the literature at the end of the article, and this is generally a part of the topic “Atmospheric Pollution” that could not be confined to a single article.

Greece continues to face environmental problems and challenges. The main problems are in the control of emissions to the atmosphere from road transport, industrial enterprises and the extraction of large lignite (for electricity). In the large urban centers of our country (Athens, Thessaloniki, Patras, Heraklion, etc.), there have been identified mainly two types of atmospheric pollution that have been recognized for many years: high concentrations of PM and photochemical cloud, that is associated with nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2), smoke, hydrocarbons (HC) and carbon monoxide (CO) (which are primary pollutants) and the presence of various secondary pollutants, as a result of a series of chemical reactions caused by sunlight [2].

In particular, in the past decades, Athens experienced the yellow-brown photochemical smog that was a mixture of tobacco particles, carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and ozone (O3) mainly internal combustion engines, central heating and exhaust gases from industries and crafts. However, over the years and in addition with the imposition of changes such as fuel improvement and vehicle replacement, the upgraded environmental legislation in order to restrict pollutants from crafts and industries, the relocation to industrial areas, and the import of natural gas as an energy fuel, have led to the gradual improvement of air quality in major cities.

We could admit that the condition of the atmosphere of major cities had a positive development until the appearance of the financial crisis in our country. The 2010-2017 crisis, that connected to the forthcoming increase in heating oil tax, is directly linked to the increase in photochemical pollutants (O3) and particulate matter (PM), despite the fact that in recent years it has declined air pollution with regard to the SO2, NOx, CO and exceedance of the alert thresholds of the concentrations of the different pollutants are less frequent than in the past. This means that the problem of air pollution is multidimensional, continuous, and we must approach it every time from a different perspective so that it can understood and eventually, resolved.



Bolonaki Evropi,

Physicist – Physical Oceanographer



[1] «Ατμοσφαιρική Ρύπανση: επιπτώσεις, έλεγχος & εναλλακτικές τεχνολογίες- 2η έκδοση», Ιωάννης Γεντεκάκης, Publications: Κλειδάριθμος, 2010.

[2] «Atmospheric Pollution in Urban Areas of Greece and Economic Crisis.  Trends in air quality and atmospheric pollution data, research and adverse health effects», Valavanidis Athanasios, Thomais Vlachogianni, Spyridon Loridas, Constantinos Fiotakis, Department of Chemistry, University of Athens, University Campus Zografou, 15784 Athens, Greece, 20/11/2015, link:

[3] «Οικολογία: Εισαγωγή στη Μελέτη του Περιβάλλοντος», Dr. Ν.Σ. Χριστοδουλάκης, Publications: Πατάκη.


China is about to get its first vertical forest


They could be the breath of fresh air that pollution-choked cities desperately need. Vertical forests – high-rise buildings covered with trees and plants – absorb carbon dioxide, filter dust from pollution and produce oxygen. They’re also an ingenious way of planting more trees and creating habitats for wildlife in cities that are squeezed for space.

OK_SIbq5yr7L-k5Bqp_9tgZowPLlP7snhbVdFu8dPcYChina, a nation experiencing rocketing urban growth and an air pollution crisis, is set to get its first vertical forest. The project in the eastern city of Nanjing is the brainchild of the Italian architect Stefano Boeri and his team, who built Milan’s Bosco Verticale (vertical forest), consisting of two residential high-rises at 110 and 76 meters with around 900 trees and over 20,000 smaller plants and shrubs.

The Nanjing vertical forest will be higher than its Milanese predecessor, with two neighbouring towers at 200 and 108 meters tall. Scheduled for completion in 2018, the complex will house a 247-room luxury hotel, offices, shops, restaurants, a food market, conference and exhibition spaces, a museum, a rooftop club and even a green architecture school.

The skyscrapers will hold 1100 trees from 23 local species and 2500 cascading plants and shrubs, which the architects say will provide 25 tons of CO2 absorption each year and produce about 60 kg of oxygen a day.

From vertical forests to forest cities?

To put things in perspective, saving 25 tons of Co2 would be equivalent to taking five cars off the road for a year. Chinese cities have some of the most polluted air in the world. In December, air quality got so bad that 24 cities across north-east China were put on “red alert”. Schools were temporarily closed, flights were cancelled, vehicles ordered off the roads and residents urged to stay indoors until the smog eased.

Boeri told The Guardian that while his vertical forest will only make a tiny difference in Nanjing, he hopes it will act as a catalyst for more green architecture projects.

Two towers in a huge urban environment [such as Nanjing] is so, so small a contribution – but it is an example. We hope that this model of green architecture can be repeated and copied and replicated,” he said.

His firm, which has offices in Shanghai, has even bigger plans afoot – forest cities. It has come up with a concept for the northern industrial hub of Shijiazhuang, one of China’s most polluted cities, which envisions a compact and green mini-city for 100,000 people with buildings of different sizes covered in trees and plants.


Today around 54% of the world’s population lives in urban areas – a proportion that is expected to increase to 66% by 2050, with most of the growth concentrated in Africa and Asia.

As more people move to cities, urban sprawl encroaches further into surrounding green space. Boeri conceived his vertical forests as a way of “giving back to nature the space we are taking from it”.

And the idea appears to be catching on. New examples of vertical greenery are springing up around the world, from Singapore’s “Supertrees” to Sydney’s One Central Park.


Scientists Create Hybrid Coral To Combat Reef Destruction


Coral reefs are not only a beautiful cacophony of colors and textures, but these organisms also play a very crucial role in the ocean. While they cover less than 0.1 percent of the ocean’s surface, coral reefs are home to a large percentage of sea life. Corals grow by laying down their skeletons and can thrive because of algae that live in their tissue. This algae captures sunlight as an energy source and is an essential key to building reefs.

Yet, coral reefs are dying at an alarming rate. Their inability to adapt to the rapidly changing climate is threatening to disrupt the aquatic environment many marine organisms depend on. According to Professor Madeleine van Oppen, a senior researcher on coral reefs from the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the University of Melbourne, increased carbon dioxide in the environment during recent history has contributed to not only increased ocean temperature but also stronger, more frequent storms.

As the oceans heat up, the algae from the coral becomes damaged, and the coral loses its color and turns pale. The most famous area that has experienced this change is Australia’s Great Barrier Reef which lost half of its coral in just two years and has undergone substantial coral bleaching. The increased number of heavy storms also damages the reefs and scientists estimate that if nothing is done, coral reefs could be wiped out by 2050.


However, van Oppen is creating a solution to help oceans get ahead of the problem. She and her team are working towards coral reef restoration by finding ways to make the coral strong enough to cope with the rising global temperatures. To create coral that is resistant to environmental changes, she’s focusing on a few approaches such as genetic manipulations to increase stress tolerance and probiotic administrations to improve health.

Van Oppen’s approach to producing improved coral stock is similar to how farmers improve crops and animals through careful selection and breeding. While this method does involve human-assisted evolution, van Oppen is not creating genetically modified organisms (GMOs) since no new genetically modified material is being introduced.

Instead, her team is using the technique of accelerating a naturally occurring evolutionary process so that a living organism, in this case coral, can better adapt to its changing environment. So far, it’s working. The experiments have successfully crossed different types of corals to create hybrids that can handle heat better and they are looking to test them in the Great Barrier Reef.


Her team is also trying to strengthen coral algae. By using beneficial bacteria as a probiotic remedy, they can help corals cope with stress before they start to bleach. This approach would allow scientists to help an established reef get out of trouble instead of having to create one from scratch every time a coral reef dies.

While creating stronger coral might help reefs stay ahead of extinction for a little while, it is not a permanent solution since the climate might continue to get hotter at faster speeds. Still, as the environment evolves, scientists are determined to buy the oceans some time.


International Mountain Day 11 December


Mountains under pressure: climate, hunger and migration

Almost one billion people live in mountain areas, and over half the human population depends on mountains for water, food and clean energy. Yet mountains are under threat from climate change, land degradation, over exploitation and natural disasters, with potentially far-reaching and devastating consequences, both for mountain communities and the rest of the world.

Mountains are early indicators of climate change and as global climate continues to warm, mountain people — some of the world’s hungriest and poorest — face even greater struggles to survive. The rising temperatures also mean that mountain glaciers are melting at unprecedented rates, affecting freshwater supplies downstream for millions of people. Mountain communities, however, have a wealth of knowledge and strategies accumulated over generations, on how to adapt to climate variability.

Climate change, climate variability and climate-induced disasters, combined with political, economic and social marginalization, increase the vulnerability of mountain peoples to food shortages and extreme poverty. Currently, about 39 percent of the mountain population in developing countries, or 329 million people, is estimated to be vulnerable to food insecurity.

As the vulnerability of mountain populations grows, migration increases both abroad and to urban centres. Those who remain are often women, left to manage the farms but with little access to credit, training and land tenure rights. Out-migration from mountain areas will also result in an inestimable loss in terms of provision of ecosystem services and preservation of cultural and agrobiodiversity. Investments and policies can alleviate the harsh living conditions of mountain communities and reverse out-migration trends from mountain areas.

Celebrate International Mountain Day

International Mountain Day 2017 provides an occasion to highlight how climate, hunger and migration are affecting highlands and to ensure that sustainable mountain development is integrated into the 2030 Agenda and in the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

This year, the theme is also linked to the Mountain Partnership Global Meeting, to be held on 11-13 December at FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy, which will focus on the challenges and opportunities in sustainable mountain development and will launch a Framework for Action to support concrete actions and establish policies that strengthen the resilience of mountain peoples and environments.

While “Mountain under Pressure: climate, hunger, migration” is the suggested theme for 2017, countries, communities and organizations are welcome to celebrate International Mountain Day through the choice of a different theme that might be more relevant to them.


atmospheric pollution by airplanes


Plane Pollution

Environmental pollution is directly related to the evolution of technology and science, the progress of which, in addition to significant benefits to mankind, also has adverse effects on the environment and hence on human health, the so-called “price of evolution” .

Today, air transport occupies a significant part of the passenger and freight transport activity. It accounts for over 3.3 billion passengers per year and 60 million jobs, accounting for 3.5% of global GDP. At the same time, however, the aviation industry produces about 2% of the world’s man-made CO2 emissions, which are the cause of the ozone depletion and global warming.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in a report that carbon dioxide emissions rose 3% per annum from 1990 to 2015, contributing 3.5% to global warming. Other estimates raise this figure to 6%, while they even expect an increase of 300% by 2018. The scenarios show that the share of the whole aviation – international, national, military and other – as a source of CO2 emissions may increase to over 15% of total CO2 emissions in 2050.

However, CO2 is not the only greenhouse gas emitted by aircraft and is expected to increase in the future. Exhaust from aircraft engines consists of about 0.03% nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOC), unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide (CO), other trace elements such as

sulfur dioxide (SO2) hydroxide, nitrite and nitric acids and finally small amounts of soot particles (PM).


As far as the ozone is concerned, airplanes create it as a result of the reaction of nitrogen oxide with various volatile organic compounds, a reaction which is catalysed by sunlight. Essentially, ozone can be produced from dry O2 driven to an area where high-voltage electrical discharges occur. The ozone hole raises today the interest of millions of researchers trying to find a solution to this ominous problem.

Among other things, the short-term impact of aircraft is strongly enhanced by cyclical clouds. In particular, SO2 forms sulphate particles and soot particles from the exhaust gases of the aircraft. These aerosols act as seeds which water vapor condenses or freezes by turning them into cloud particles (circular clouds). The exhaust of the aircraft produces condensation paths about 5 miles above the Earth’s surface and forms nicks. All these reflect the sunlight and absorb heat instead of letting it

It is worth noting here that emissions of pollutants depend on different phases of the flight, such as landing, sailing and take-off, since they require different engine power settings for the airplane. Both the amount of fuel consumed per second and the amount of pollutants per fuel unit may vary for each power setting. In particular, an aircraft uses a higher power setting during take – off typically about 70% of its total power, so it uses more fuel and will emit more pollutants for a few seconds, while during the course the engines will run at about 15-30% of total power this time but for several minutes. Finally, during the landing, aircraft engines will operate at less than 30%, so emissions per second will be much lower than any other phase. Also, the higher the airplane flies and the heavier it is, the harder it can be to break the CO2 into the atmosphere.

Aircraft manufacturers and airlines are working on ways to reduce pollutant emissions by increasing fuel efficiency – by making lighter and more aerodynamic airplanes, trailing fins on the ground and improving engine capacity. Designers even look at the case of aircraft using biofuels while it has been proposed to build a biological jet from next year. However, industry experts believe that these changes could improve efficiency by 1% or 2% per annum at most, while passenger miles will increase from 5% to 6% per year, confirming the sustainability gap. It is obvious, therefore, that scientists, activists and parliaments should work together to find a solution to this enormous environmental evil.

The environment is also directly connected with human health, which is seriously hindered by the lack of scientific initiative! Changing legislation to eradicate morbidity and mortality is imperative. If we wanted to pinpoint the issue of human health, we could say that the suspended particles of the airgass smoke can cause immediate and chronic effects on the human organism. Due to their diameter, they can be deposited in the tracheobronchial area (TB) of the respiratory system, even reaching the alveoli. They have the property of weakening the natural functions of the human, resulting in disfunctions of the nervous system, the right ventricle of the heart, in the bloodstream and can cause swelling and inflammation of the lungs. The most important impacts of air pollution are on the health of people in specific vulnerable groups. More particularly, we can mention the following examples:

a) Carbon monoxide reacts with blood hemoglobin and at high concentrations can lead to visual abnormalities, poor assessment of space and time and possibly anesthesia. Also, UV-C radiation is the cause of the cataract, as it is strong enough to pass through the retina of the eye.

(b) Sulfur dioxide affects the respiratory system, particularly when combined with high concentrations of suspended particles

c) It is the primary cause of melanoma, a form of lethal skin cancer. In Australia, where UV radiation is 15% more than Europe, it was estimated that in 2011, melanoma cases were increased by 23% for women and 28% for males compared to 2002.

d) Ozone is extremely toxic and exposure of the individual to high concentrations may cause dizziness, etc.

e) Last, and potentially, the main effect of UV-C radiation on living organisms is the mutation of their DNA. Indeed, it is so powerful that scientists use it in laboratories and under appropriate conditions to achieve gene mutations. In particular, UV-C alters the DNA to such an extent that it gradually loses its ability to divide and multiply.

It is obvious that the treatment of illnesses that are caused by aircraft costs trillions globally.

A prudent solution for removing harmful pollutants from the atmosphere is tree planting in large areas around airports. In the global fight for greenhouse gas mitigation, forest production has proven to be the most effective medium-term strategy. This conclusion has been reached by the scientific world, having identified the crucial role the forest plays in limiting carbon dioxide. Plants use light for photosynthesis, converting carbon dioxide into carbohydrate and releasing oxygen at the same time. The scientific team has now discovered that when carbon dioxide is bound by trees, it is stored in its trunk and in the soil under their roots while remaining on the leaves for a longer period of time, acting as a fertilizer and accelerating the growth of the plant. So we see the double profit we have in a tree planting initiative: the exhaust gases for which there is no way to be limited, are ultimately absorbed by the foliage of trees by benefiting the tree itself.d

An airline crew who has realized how many pollutants it produces in each flight has already taken action, giving the example to other airlines and sensitizing its passengers to exert pressure.

Georgia Skiada

Εnvironmental Εngineer at Technical University of Crete



Penzance wins first plastic-free status award to help clean up beaches

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A Cornish town has become the first community in the UK to be awarded “plastic-free” status after dozens of residents and business people backed a grassroots scheme aimed at helping clean up oceans and beaches. As part of a campaign being run by the marine conservation charity Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), Penzance has been given “plastic-free coastlines approved” status.

Shops, cafes and visitor attractions have reduced single-use plastics and children and adults have taken part in beach cleans. The town’s status was confirmed after the town council voted to support the initiative.

Another 100 communities across the UK are taking part in SAS’s plastic-free coastlines scheme and working towards the status, which has been inspired by the fair trade and transition town schemes.

Rachel Yates, an SAS regional representative in Penzance, said she had been impressed by how keen people were to take part.

Everybody you speak to wants to do something,” she said. “People are contacting us asking what they can do. We haven’t had to chase people”.

Among those who have signed up to Plastic Free Penzance is the Cornish Hen Deli. Owner Sarah Shaw said she was using biodegradable pots, wooden cutlery, paper straws and cornstarch plates for outside catering jobs.

She said: “It’s hugely important because one of the reasons a lot of people live down here is the connection to the sea and the elements. You’re so much more aware of what’s going on that the thought of not doing something about it is awful”.

Flo Gibson, manager of the Jubilee open-air pool cafe, said reducing plastics was becoming easier. She said: “People are becoming more aware of plastic and the negative effects. Suppliers are also a lot more aware”.

Plastic Free Penzance’s next moves include setting up a plastic-free clinic to spread the word further and speaking to holiday home owners. They will also lobby local supermarket managers, although the emphasis is on changing behaviour on a local level and leaving national campaigning to SAS leaders.

To win the plastic free coastlines approved status, Penzance had to complete five objectives set out by SAS such as setting up a steering group and organising beach cleans. Its status was confirmed after Penzance town council passed a motion on Monday pledging to support all plastic-free initiatives in the area and to lead by example through removing single-use plastics from their own premises.

Google Reaches 100% Renewable Energy Goal By End Of 2017


Google has reached its goal to run on 100-percent renewable energy by the end of this year. Sealing the deal was the company’s move to sign onto three wind-generated power plants, which boost Google’s operating capacity up to three gigawatts. The landmark achievement continues a trend of tech giants diving into the renewable energy industry.

Contracts for the additional 535 megawatts of capacity came from two 98-megawatt wind plants in South Dakota, a 200-megawatt wind farm in Iowa, and a 138-megawatt plant in Oklahoma, according to Sam Arons, senior leader at Google’s Energy and Infrastructure division.

More than $3.5 billion worth of investments have been put into the renewable energy infrastructure for Google. The lion’s share of that money was put into solar and wind-powered energy sources, as those prices have dropped significantly; by as much as 60 to 80 percent. The investments have ensured no interruption in Google’s products and services while completely eliminating the need for fossil fuels.

“With solar and wind declining dramatically in cost and propelling significant employment growth, the transition to clean energy is driving unprecedented economic opportunity and doing so faster than we ever anticipated,” Gary Demasi, Google’s global infrastructure director, said in a company statement.

Google announced its target date operating at 100-percent off renewable energy in a blog post last December by Urs Holzle, senior VP of the technical infrastructure. At the time, the company had already purchased 20 different renewable energy sources around the world. Two-thirds of them are in the United States, and the company reports already seeing a return of “tens of millions of dollars” annually to property owners and the government.

While Google’s engineers have been able to improve the efficiency of data centers and office programs — up to 50 percent less energy being utilized — they continue looking for ways to help the company cut down on its carbon footprint. Holzle noted that by switching over to renewable energy, Google had a more stable price to pay for power as traditional methods will inevitably cost more in the future.

Google’s investments will help the communities that host the renewable energy sources, as well. Avangrid, who operates the wind farms in South Dakota, said the economy would improve from the influx of jobs to rural areas there. While Google’s power would still be coming from the grid, renewable energy credits will be matched to what’s generated from the source in order to reach the company’s target.

Other corporate giants have stepped into the renewable energy market, as well. Apple recently launched a store that’s completely powered by renewable energy, and is pushing to get operations at that level. Amazon has installed a 253-megawatt wind farm in Scurry County, Texas, to help operations become 100-percent renewable. Striving to reach half that mark by the end of 2017, Amazon is well on its way with four wind farms located in Indiana, North Carolina, and Ohio.


World Soil Day


World Soil Day (WSD) is held annually on 5 December as a means to focus attention on the importance of healthy soil and advocating for the sustainable management of soil resources.

An international day to celebrate Soil was recommended by the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS) in 2002. Under the leadership of the Kingdom of Thailand and within the framework of the Global Soil Partnership, FAO has supported the formal establishment of WSD as a global awareness raising platform. The FAO Conference unanimously endorsed World Soil Day in June 2013 and requested its official adoption at the 68th UN General Assembly. In December 2013 the UN General Assembly responded by designating 5 December 2014 as the first official World Soil Day.

The date of 5 December for WSD was chosen because it corresponds with the official birthday of H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King of Thailand, who officially sanctioned the event. In 2016 this day was officially recognized in memory and with respect for this beloved monarch who passed away in October 2016 after seven decades as head of state.

  • World Soil Day 2016

FAO/GSP dedicated World Soil Day 2016 to the theme Soils & Pulses: Symbiosis for life, in celebration of the synergy between the International Year of Soils (IYS) 2015 and the International Year of Pulses (IYP) 2016. There are various ways in which the “strategic alliance” between soils and pulses contributes to forging more sustainable food and agriculture systems. The book “Soils & Pulses: Symbiosis for life”, presents decision-makers and practitioners with scientific facts and technical recommendations for managing the symbiosis between soils and pulses.

  • World Soil Day 2015

FAO was nominated to implement the International Year of Soil (IYS) 2015, within the framework of the Global Soil Partnership and in collaboration with FAO member countries. The theme for World Soil Day 2015 was “Healthy soils for a healthy life“.

Special focus was placed on increasing awareness and understanding of the importance of soil for food security and essential ecosystem functions. Soils are a critical component of the natural system and a vital contributor to human wellbeing through its contribution to food, water and energy security and mitigation of biodiversity loss. It was celebrated by the global community of 60.000 soil scientists charged with the responsibility of generating and communicating soil knowledge for the common good of all.

  • World Soil Day 2014

The soils community could really contribute to the efforts of food security, hunger eradication, climate change adaptation, poverty reduction and sustainable development

This is how FAO and the GSP secretariat started their words of welcome during the first official celebration of World Soil Day… Soil specialists, politicians, leading experts, and top officials from all across the globe convened at FAO headquarters to emphasize the importance of soils beyond the soil science community.

  • World Soil Day 2013 and 2012

Recognizing the importance of soils, under the framework of the Global Soil Partnership and with the unanimous support of FAO members, the 37th FAO Conference endorsed 5th December as WSD and requested the UN General Assembly to provide its final endorsement. Since then the soils community has an important opportunity as soils are placed high in global discussions.


These Three Cities In Scotland Are Now Zero-Waste Utopias


Scotland is continuing to position itself as a global leader in environmental sustainability with the addition of three more cities gaining “Zero Waste Town” status: Perth, Leith and Edinburgh.

The designation is part of the country’s Zero Waste Plan, an ambitious project initiated in 2010 to promote the adoption of a circular economy and zero-waste approaches in cities across the nation. The newest three to attain the status join Dunbar and the Isle of Bute as the first to spearhead the soon-to-be nationwide project.

In Scotland, the project is described by the government as a vision in which “all waste is seen as a resource; Waste is minimized; valuable resources are not disposed of in landfills, and most waste is sorted, leaving only limited amounts to be treated.” Some of the targets set within those parameters include recycling 70 percent of material waste and sending a maximum of 5 percent sent to landfills by 2025. It also includes measuring the carbon impacts of all waste and bans on types of waste that enter landfills to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Scotland also joins a growing community of Zero Waste cities across Europe and the world, including towns in the Netherlands, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Slovenia and Romania. In Europe, the initiative is part of the Resource Efficiency operations, funded by the Resource Efficiency Circular Economy Accelerator Program to the tune of £73 million.

This is just one part of Scotland’s environmental plans. Earlier this year, a University of Sheffield report found that Scotland is positioned to become a global leader in the CO2 utilization market, and the Scottish government announced a new fund to further its manufacturing sector’s transition to a circular economy. All of this starts with the Zero Waste Towns initiative.

“Engaging communities in Scotland’s transition to a circular economy, where waste is eliminated and we make things last longer is absolutely essential,” said Iain Gulland, CEO of Zero Waste Scotland. “Only by engaging individuals at community level can we fully grasp the potential to deliver circular economy solutions in a way that maximizes social and local economic benefits. This is vital to achieving inclusive and sustainable growth for the future”.

In 2016, Scotland implemented the “circular economy strategy”, the goals of which include reducing all food waste by 33 percent by 2025—the first such target to be set in Europe—as well as “developing a more comprehensive approach to producer responsibility by setting up a single framework for all product types that drives choices for reuse, repair and remanufacture, while more fully exposing and addressing the costs of recycling and disposal”. The strategy also targets four “priority areas” that could have a large environmental impact—positive or negative: food, drink, and the broader bio-economy; remanufacture; construction and the built environment; and energy infrastructure.

Communities are right at the heart of delivering real, lasting behavior change,” Gulland said. “With their new Zero Waste Town status, these three areas will have new tools with which to build on their zero waste work — while contributing to coordinated action across the country to drive a more sustainable, circular economy”.