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International Mountain Day 11 December

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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.

Sourcewww.un.org

 

Google Reaches 100% Renewable Energy Goal By End Of 2017

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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.

Sourcewww.greenmatters.com

 

First-ever ‘negative emissions’ power plant goes online

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Unfortunately, it’s no longer enough to cut CO2 emissions to avoid further global temperature increases. We need to remove some of the CO2 that’s already there. Thankfully, that reversal is one step closer to becoming reality. Climeworks and Reykjavik Energy have started running the first power plant confirmed to produce “negative emissions” — that is, it’s removing more CO2 than it puts out. The geothermal station in Hellsheidi, Iceland is using a Climeworks module and the plant’s own heat to snatch CO2 directly from the air via filters, bind it to water and send it underground where it will mineralize into harmless carbonates.

Just like naturally forming carbon deposits, the captured CO2 should remain locked away for many millions of years, if not billions. And because the basalt layers you need to house the CO2 are relatively common, it might be relatively easy to set up negative emissions plants in many places around the world.

As always, there are catches. The Hellsheidi plant capture system is still an experiment, and the 50 metric tonnes of CO2 it’ll capture per year (49.2 imperial tons) isn’t about to offset many decades of fossil fuel abuse. There’s also the matter of reducing the cost of capturing CO2. Even if Climeworks improves the efficiency of its system to spend $100 for every metric ton of CO2 it removes, you’re still looking at hundreds of billions of dollars (if not over a trillion) spent every year to achieve the scale needed to make a difference. That will require countries to not only respect climate science, but care about it enough to spend significant chunks of their budgets on capture technology.

It could be a long while before you see systems like this implemented on a global scale as a result.

Follow the link to learn more: https://www.engadget.com/2017/10/14/negative-emissions-power-plant-online/

Funding Trees for Health

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Imagine if there were one simple action that city leaders could take to reduce obesity and depression, improve productivity, boost educational outcomes and reduce incidence of asthma and heart disease among their residents.

Urban trees offer all these benefits and more.

Yet American cities spend less than a third of a percent of municipal budgets on tree planting and maintenance, and as a result, U.S. cities are losing 4 million trees per year.

A new white paper, written by The Nature Conservancy with input from The Trust for Public Land and Analysis Group, identifies street trees as one of the most overlooked strategies for improving public health in our cities.

“For too long, we’ve seen trees and parks as luxury items, but bringing nature into our cities is a critical strategy for improving public health,” said Rob McDonald, lead scientist for global cities at The Nature Conservancy and first author of the white paper.

The white paper estimated that spending just $8 per person per year, on average, in an American city could meet the funding gap and stop the loss of urban trees and all their potential benefits.

The full paper offers several specific examples of innovative public-sector partnership and private sector investments that highlight the full societal value of urban trees. However, municipal leaders in communities of all sizes can begin to address significant health challenges by thinking creatively about the role of nature in cities and towns:

  • Establish codes to set minimum open space or maximum building lot coverage ratios for new development.
  • Implement policies to incentivize private tree planting.
  • Break down municipal silos to facilitate various departments – such as public health and environmental agencies – to collaborate.
  • Link funding for trees and parks to health goals and objectives.
  • Invest time and effort in educating the public about the tangible public health benefits and economic impact of trees.

5 Ways You Can Help The Environment In The Next Hour — Without Leaving Your Desk

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The internet: The world’s arena for catching up on news, binge-watching TV, and replaying adorable videos . And with a little know-how, you can also use it as a tool for quick, meaningful environmental action.

These days, switching over to solar power and ditching plastic are just a few clicks away, and you can majorly cut down on your footprint without even leaving your desk. Here are five ways to help out the environment from the comfort of your home. Altogether, they’ll take less than an hour and leave you feeling majorly accomplished.

1. Calculate your carbon footprint

Carbon calculators make it easy to quantify your environmental impact in a matter of minutes. Answer a few questions about your transportation habits, energy use, and consumption patterns to get a better idea of where you’re acting in an eco-friendly way and where you could use a little improvement. Then, let these insights inform your habits moving forward.

2. Offset your next plane trip

While reducing your emissions should always be your first priority, offsetting is basically a way to press tare on your environmental impact. You can donate money to initiatives that take carbon out of the environment—like tree plantings and renewable energy projects—to balance out the carbon you’re putting into it with your daily routine. Offsetting your flights is a good place to start, since plane travel is a major emitter but one that most of us can’t realistically give up altogether.

3. Pledge to give up straws

The Lonely Whale Foundation, a nonprofit that uses clever campaigns to clean oceans, recently launched the #StopSucking challenge. By accepting, you’re committing to saying no to single-use plastic straws when drinking on the go.  Take the pledge, share on social, and challenge other individuals and companies in your area to do the same, all in under five minutes.

4. Tell your representative what you care about

If hopping on the phone to call your representative isn’t your thing, environmental groups have made it super easy to write to your congressional representative online using a pre-populated form. Just sign your name,  add a quick personal message at the end and you’re good to go.

5. Check to see if you can switch over to renewable energy

You don’t need to deck out your roof with solar panels or move closer to a wind farm to switch over to renewable energy in your home.  For example, in certain parts of the United States, Green Mountain Energy lets you switch over to renewables on the spot without changing energy providers. Just input your ZIP code and see if it’s a possibility for you.

Follow the link to learn morehttps://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/help-the-environment-in-the-next-hour

“Importance and Value of Trees”

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Since the beginning, trees have furnished us with two of life’s essentials, food and oxygen. As we evolved, they provided additional necessities such as shelter, medicine, and tools. Today, their value continues to increase and more benefits of trees are being discovered as their role expands to satisfy the needs created by our modern lifestyles.

Here, some important benefits of the trees that you probably didn’t know:

  1. An acre of nature trees absorbs the amount of CO2 produced when you drive your car 42.000 Km.
  1. An acre of nature trees provides enough oxygen for 18 people.
  1. Trees reduce UV-B exposure by about 40 percent.
  1. The evaporation from a single tree can produce the cooling effect of 10 room size air-conditioners operating 20 hours a day.
  1. A well placed tree can reduce noise by as much as 40 percent.
  1. One large tree can supply a days’ supply of oxygen for 4 people.
  1. A healthy tree can store 6 kg of carbon each year.
  1. An acre of trees can store 2.6 tons of carbon dioxide each year.
  1. For every 16.000 km you drive, it takes 7 trees to remove the amount of carbon dioxide produced.
  1. A hundred million new trees would absorb 18 million tons of CO2 and cut air-conditioning cost by 84 billion annually.
  1. A belt of trees 40 meters wide and 12 meters high can reduce highway noise by 40 percent.
  1. A tree can absorb as much as 24 kg of CO2 per year and can sequester on ton of CO2 by the time it reaches 40 years old.
  1. A mature tree can have an appraised value between 1.000$ and 10.000$ council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers.
  1. About 20 percent of the worlds’ emissions are a result of deforestation.
  1. CO2 worlds’ emission is 35.000.000 metric tons per year.
  1. CO2 sequestration is 25 kg per tree per year.
  1. One half the dry weight of wood is carbon.
  1. One person emit 20 ton of CO2 per year.

So, what you have to do is “take action”, and just plant a tree. It is so simple, but so important!! Protect the environment!! Do not destroy it!!

Dipla Aikaterini (Arid Zone Afforestation)

 

 

Forests and their Benefits

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The importance of forests cannot be underestimated. Specifically, we depend on forests for our survival, from the air we breathe to the wood we use. Besides providing habitats for animals and livelihoods for humans, forests also offer watershed protection, prevent soil erosion and mitigate climate change.

Here, there are some examples of the importance of plants:

  1. Plants combat climate change: Plants absorb CO2 removing and storing carbon, while releasing the oxygen into the air.
  1. Plants clean the air: Plants absorb odors and pollutants gases (nitrogen, oxides, ammonia, sulfur dioxide, and ozone) and filter particules out of the air by trapping them on the leaves and back.
  1. Plants prevent water pollution: Plants reduce runoff by breaking rainfall thus allowing the water to flow down the trunk and into the earth below the tree. This prevents strormwater from carrying pollutants to the ocean. When mulched trees act like a sponge that filters this water naturally and uses it to recharge groundwater supplies.
  1. Plants help prevent soil erosion: On hillsides or stream slopes tress slow runoff and hold soil in place.
  1. Plants regulate the water cycle: By absorbing and redistribuing rainwater quite equal to every species living within its range.
  1. Plants provide food: Aside from fruits for humans, trees provide food for birds and wildlife.
  1. Plants provide medicine material: Huge amount of different medicine material and drugs we use are extracted from plants, as well as the drugs used to fight cancer.
  1. Plants provide clean water: By slowing rainwater so that it can be absorbed into the ground, plants help filter pollutants and sediment from our water’s while replenishing aquifers and keeping annual stream flows steady.
  1. Plants provide perfect habitat: Plants provide perfect habitat for life to flowrish on lands, containing up to 90% of the planet’s species life.
  1. Plants control floods: Plants can hold vast amount of water that would other ways stream down hills and surge along rivers into towns. That is why plants are such an important part of stormwater management for many cities.
  1. Plants enrich the soil: By recycling the nutrients throw the shedding of leaves and seeds.
  1. Plants control the temperature: The shade and wind-breaking qualities that trees provide, benefit every one from the individual taking sheltrer from a hot summer day to entire cities.
  1. Plants combat global warming: It result from leaf transpiration generating moisture that rise to the atmosphere, forming clouds which release water as rain or other precipitation.
  1. Plants protect from UV-RAYS: Trees reduce UV-B exposure by about 50 percent, thus providing protection to children on school campuses and playgrounds and to all us on the beaches.
  1. Plants heal: Studies have shown that patient with views of trees out of their windows heal faster and with less complications.
  1. Plants are our life: Plants transform solar energy into foods and supply the oxygen we need to survive as well as produce water vapour absorb carbon dioxide and store carbon.

However, today we are experiencing a tragedy, as there is a loss of 13 million hectares of forests every year via deforestation.

Dipla Aikaterini (Arid Zone Afforestation)

 

 

Soil erosion and degradation: a global problem – Effects (Part 2)

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The consequences of soil erosion are primarily centered on reduced agricultural productivity, as well as soil quality. But also, water ways may be blocked, and it may affect water quality. This means, most of the environmental problems the world face today, arises from soil erosion.

Particularly, the effects of soil erosion go beyond the loss of fertile land. In other words, it has led to increased pollution and sedimentation in streams and rivers, clogging these waterways and causing declines in fish and other species. And degraded lands are also often less able to hold onto water, which can worsen flooding.

So, the effects of soil degradation include:

  1. Loss of arable land: Lands used for crop production have been substantially affected by soil erosion. Soil erosion eats away the top soil which is the fertile layer of the land and also the component that supports the soil’s essential microorganisms and organic matter. In this view, soil erosion has severely threatened the productivity of fertile cropping areas as they are continually degraded. Because of soil erosion, most of the soil characteristics that support agriculture have been lost, causing ecological collapse and mass starvation.
  1. Water Pollution and Clogging of Waterways: Soils eroded from agricultural lands, carry pesticides, heavy metals, and fertilizers which are washed into streams and major water ways. This leads to water pollution and damage to marine and freshwater habitats. Accumulated sediments can also cause clogging of water ways and raises the water level leading to flooding.
  1. Increased flooding: Land is commonly altered from its natural landscape when it rids its physical composition from soil degradation. In other words, soil degradation takes away the soil’s natural capability of holding water thus contributing to more and more cases of flooding.
  1. Drought and Aridity: Drought and aridity are problems highly influenced and amplified by soil degradation. As much as it’s a concern associated with natural environments in arid and semi-arid areas, the UN recognizes the fact that drought and aridity are anthropogenic induced factors especially as an outcome of soil degradation. Hence, the contributing factors to soil quality decline such as overgrazing, poor tillage methods, and deforestation are also the leading causes of desertification characterized by droughts and arid conditions.
  1. Destruction of Infrastructure: Soil erosion can affect infrastructural projects such as dams, drainages, and embankments, reducing their operational lifetime and efficiency. Also, the silt up can support plant life that can, in turn, cause cracks and weaken the structures. Soil erosion from surface water runoff often causes serious damage to roads and tracks, especially if stabilizing techniques are not used.
  1. Desertification: Soil erosion is also responsible for desertification. It gradually transforms a habitable land into deserts. The transformations are worsened by the destructive use of the land and deforestation that leaves the soil naked and open to erosion. This usually leads to loss of biodiversity, alteration of ecosystems, land degradation, and huge economic losses.

Finally, we all understand that the erosion of the soil is a very serious issue, especially in our days. That is why we need to take action and prevent the unpleasant effects.

Dipla Aikaterini (Arid Zone Afforestation)

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Soil erosion and degradation: a global problem – Causes (Part 1)

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Soil degradation, defined as lowering and losing of soil functions, is becoming more and more serious worldwide in recent decades, and poses a threat to agricultural production and terrestrial ecosystem.

Particularly, soil degradation simply means the decline in soil quality, which comes about due to aspects such as improper land use, agriculture and pasture, urban or industrial purposes. It involves the decline of the soil’s physical, biological and chemical state. In other words, it is a process that leads to decline in the fertility or future productive capacity of soil, as a result of human activity.

It is well known that all soils undergo soil erosion, but some are more vulnerable than others, due to human activities and other natural causal factors. The severity of soil erosion is also dependent on the soil type and the presence of vegetation cover.

Here are few of the major causes of soil degradation:

  1. Physical factors: There are several physical factors contributing to soil degradation, distinguished by the manners in which they change the natural composition and structure of the soil.  Rainfall, surface runoff, floods, wind erosion, tillage, and mass movements result in the loss of fertile top spoil thereby declining soil quality. All these physical factors produces different types of soil erosion (mainly water and wind erosion) and soil detachment actions, and their resultant physical forces eventually changes the composition and structure of the soil by wearing away the soil’s top layer as well as organic matter.
  1. Chemical factors: The reduction of soil nutrients because of alkalinity or acidity or water logging, are all categorized under the chemical components of soil degradation. In the broadest sense, it comprises alterations in the soil’s chemical property that determine nutrient availability.
  1. Biological factors: Biological factors refer to the human and plant activities that tend to reduce the quality of soil.  Some bacteria and fungi overgrowth in an area can highly impact the microbial activity of the soil through bio-chemical reactions, which reduces crop yield and the suitability of soil productivity capacity. Also, human activities such as poor farming practices may also deplete soil nutrients thus diminishing soil fertility.
  1. Deforestation: Deforestation causes soil degradation on the account of exposing soil minerals by removing trees and crop cover, which support the availability of humus and litter layers on the surface of the soil. When trees are removed by logging, infiltration rates become elevated and the soil remains bare and exposed to erosion and the buildup of toxicities.
  1. Improper cultivation practices: There are certain agricultural practices that are environmentally unsustainable and at the same time, they are the single biggest contributor to the worldwide increase in soil quality decline. For example, due to shortage of land, increase of population and economic pressure, the farmers have adopted intensive cropping patterns of commercial crops in place of more balanced cereal-legume rotations.
  1. Misuse and Extensive cultivation: The excessive use and the misuse of pesticides and chemical fertilizers kill organisms that assist in binding the soil together. In other words, it increases the rate of soil degradation by destroying the soil’s biological activity and builds up of toxicities through incorrect fertilizer use. We all know that due to tremendous population increase, the use of land is increasing day by day.
  1. Overgrazing: The rates of soil erosion and the loss of soil nutrients as well as the top soil, are highly contributed by overgrazing. Overgrazing destroys surface crop cover and breaks down soil particles, increasing the rates of soil erosion. As a result, soil quality and agricultural productivity is greatly affected.
  1. Industrial and Mining activities: Soil is chiefly polluted by industrial and mining activities. For example, mining destroys crop cover and releases a myriad of toxic chemicals such as mercury into the soil thereby poisoning it and rendering it unproductive for any other purpose. Industrial activities, on the other hand, release toxic effluents and material wastes into the atmosphere, land, rivers, and ground water that eventually pollute the soil and as such, it impacts on soil quality. Altogether, industrial and mining activities degrade the soil’s physical, chemical and biological properties.
  1. Roads and Urbanization: Urbanization severely affects the erosion process. Land denudation by removing vegetation cover, changing drainage patterns, soil compaction during construction and then covering the land by impermeable layers of concrete or asphalt, all of them contribute to increased surface runoff and increased wind speeds.

Finally, taking into consideration all the above, we understand that soil erosion is a continuous process and may occur either at a relatively unnoticed rate or an alarming rate contributing to copious loss of the topsoil. So, we have to be careful and avoid all the above problems.

Dipla Aikaterini (Arid Zone Afforestation)

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Greenland: how rapid climate change on world’s largest island will affect us all

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The largest wildfire ever recorded in Greenland was recently spotted close to the west coast town of Sisimiut, not far from Disko Island.  The fire has captured public and scientific interest not just because its size and location came as a surprise, but also because it is yet another signpost of deep environmental change in the Arctic.

Greenland is an important cog in the global climate system. The ice sheet which covers 80% of the island reflects so much of the sun’s energy back into space that it moderates temperatures through what is known as the “albedo effect”. And since it occupies a strategic position in the North Atlantic, its meltwater tempers ocean circulation patterns.

But Greenland is especially vulnerable to climate change, as Arctic air temperatures are currently rising at twice the global average rate. Environmental conditions are frequently setting new records: “the warmest”, “the wettest”, “the driest”.

The ice sheet is melting

Between 2002 and 2016 the ice sheet lost mass at a rate of around 269 gigatonnes per year. During the same period, the ice sheet also showed some unusual short-term behaviour.

The 2012 melt season was especially intense – 97% of the ice sheet experienced surface melt at some point during the year. Snow even melted at its summit, the highest point in the centre of the island where the ice is piled up more than 3km above sea level. 

In April 2016 Greenland saw abnormally high temperatures and its earliest ever “melt event” (a day in which more than 10% of the ice sheet has at least 1mm of surface melt). Early melting doesn’t usher in a period of complete and catastrophic change – the ice won’t vanish overnight. But it does illustrate how profoundly and rapidly the ice sheet can respond to rising temperatures.

Despite its icy image, the margins of Greenland are actually quite boggy, complete with swarms of mosquitoes. This is the “active layer”, made up of peaty soil and sediment up to two metres thick, which temporarily thaws during the summer. The underlying permafrost, which can reach depths of 100m, remains permanently frozen.

If thawing continues, it’s estimated that by 2100 permafrost will emit 850-1,400 billion tonnes of CO₂ equivalent (for comparison: total global emissions in 2012 was 54 billion tonnes of CO₂ equivalent). All that extra methane and carbon of course has the potential to enhance global warming even further.

With this in mind, it is clear to see why the recent wildfire, which was burning in dried-out peat in the active layer, was especially interesting to researchers. If Greenland’s permafrost becomes increasingly degraded and dry, there is the potential for even bigger wildfires which would release vast stores of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Learn more here: https://theconversation.com/greenland-how-rapid-climate-change-on-worlds-largest-island-will-affect-us-all-82675