What We Read This Week: March 15th

Here's our quick summaries of what we've read this week to help you keep on top of the latest environmental news and big ideas.

We love learning more about how to live a more eco-conscious life and we know you do too. But we also know that time isn't always on your side. Plus, with so much information available, where do you start?

We want to make it easier for you to get some bite size news and ideas in one place. So we've pulled together some of our key reads of the week with a summary and a link to the original article.


U.K. Environment News

Article: Rise in UK’s consumption of organic foods

Source: The Guardian

Link: https://bit.ly/30KVT0E

Steep rise in UK’s consumption of organic food. Soil Association announces largest year-on-year increase in sales of natural products in 15 years. As people have made more of their meals at home, many of those fortunate enough to maintain their income have also had spare cash and time to consider their food habits. Many people have reported a rise in their consciousness of environmental issues, as the lockdowns and pandemic forced a reappraisal of health and wellbeing, and of human influence on the planet.

Article: AI reveals 1,000 'dark discharges' of untreated sewage in England

Source: The Guardian

Link: https://bit.ly/2Q7ITQD

Nearly 1,000 “dark discharges” of untreated sewage from two water company treatment plants in England have been detected by scientists using artificial intelligence to map undocumented spills. Spills were often the result of storm caused over-flows, but which left over several days were even more harmful.

Recent data from the Water Framework Directive shows the poor state of English rivers. Only 14% of English rivers are of good ecological standard, a rating that suggests they are as close to their natural state as possible.

Machine learning could be helpful for water companies, the Environment Agency and for scientists to help reduce pollution from sewage spills. The AI programme could be crucial to determining the scale of untreated sewage pouring into rivers because there remain many issues with the quality of the reported data.

Article: Road pollution affects 94% of Britain, study finds.

Source: The Guardian

Link: https://bit.ly/3eBV2aJ

Roads make up 1% of the country but the pollution produced may harm wildlife everywhere, with 94% of land having some pollution above background levels, according to research. The most widespread pollutants are tiny particles, mostly from fossil fuel burning, nitrogen dioxide from diesel vehicles, and noise and light. More than 70% of the country is affected by all of these, with the only land to escape road pollution being almost entirely at high altitudes.

“Pollution from roads impairs small animals by disguising the scent of flowers, fertilising habitats [with nitrogen] so they become unsuitable for specialist species, and spilling light pollution that disrupts their movements and life-cycles,” said Matt Shardlow, of the conservation group Buglife.

The researchers said the extent of the influence of roads on the environment has been “somewhat overlooked and underestimated”. Phillips said: “We’ve got global-scale environmental pressures and people always point at agriculture, because agriculture is absolutely everywhere across the country. The point we’re making is that road pollution is another thing that’s absolutely everywhere, even though it’s low level.”

Article: Land could be worth more left to nature than when farmed, study finds

Source: The Guardian

Link: https://bit.ly/3voQ7jp

The economic benefits of protecting nature-rich sites such as wetlands and woodlands outweigh the profit that could be made from using the land for resource extraction, according to the largest study yet to look at the value of protecting nature at specific locations.

Scientists analysed 24 sites in six continents and found the asset returns of “ecosystem services” such as carbon storage and flood prevention created by conservation work was, pound for pound, greater than manmade capital created by using the land for activities such as forestry or farming cereals, sugar, tea or cocoa.

The study, which was led by academics at Cambridge University with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), suggests further modifying nature for human use could be costing society more than it benefits it, but these “natural capital” costs are often not taken into account by decision-makers.

Converting land for farming is sometimes driven by government subsidies, which encourages the production of goods that do not pay for themselves on the market. This is partly why the UK’s post-Brexit farming policy is moving towards a new environmental land management (ELM) system, which will pay farmers for environmental services their land provides. “The spirit of ELMs in England is spot on,” said Bradbury.


Consumer Choices

Article: Ethical Energy Suppliers

Source: Ethical Consumer Magazine

Link: https://bit.ly/30JDP73

Looking at the fuels that generate a supplier's electricity, green tariffs, renewable generation, biogas and 'vegan' energy, energy prices, UK renewables targets and give our recommended buys.

People have been producing proposals as to how to decarbonise for many years now. The main official body that advises the government, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), produced a report in 2019 that calculated that it was possible to do it at a “manageable” cost of 1-2% of GDP each year. However, we are missing nearly all our targets, and it really doesn’t look like a serious attempt is being made to rectify that. Given what we have committed to do, the measures in place to do it are profoundly inadequate.

There are two things that companies can do which we consider makes a meaningful difference – building renewables themselves or buying renewable electricity through ‘power purchase agreements’ (PPAs), which give generators security.

We awarded product sustainability marks to the companies that did this. Those that passed were Ecotricity, Good Energy and Green Energy UK.

On the flipside, we should be extra critical of companies lobbying against climate action.

While an increasing number of companies are putting on a public show of supporting renewables, some also continue to be involved in lobbying against climate action in private.

EDF and Shell have both been criticised for their membership of industry lobby groups that are known to have opposed robust climate measures. Shell was found to be a member of eight trade organisations opposing action just in Australia and the USA.


Big Ideas

Article: Building a New Textile Economy

Source: Yes Magazine

Link: https://bit.ly/30HCWf5

Our clothing is manufactured and transported at great cost to human welfare and our warming planet. But farmers and fashion activists are creating sustainable textiles closer to home.

The worldwide textile industry’s enormous impact on human health, climate, and the environment is often overlooked in discussions of sustainability. Rebecca Burgess, a weaver and natural dyer, started her search for solutions with a project to source clothing grown, woven, and sewn within her bioregion. In her new book, Fibershed: Growing a Movement of Farmers, Fashion Activists, and Makers for a New Textile Economy, she reports on the work of ranchers, farmers, makers, and small business owners to create a climate-friendly textile economy based on economic justice.

Article: The Rise of Community Food Forests

Source: Sustainable America

Link: https://bit.ly/3qJRtS5