Planet education

Warming trends: swiping right and left for the planet, education as a climate solution and why it can be hard to find a Christmas tree


A shortage of Christmas trees due to the climate?

About 70 percent of noble fir seedlings in the Pacific Northwest died this summer, after a severe drought combined with an unprecedented heat wave from climate change in June that pushed temperatures up to 118 degrees Fahrenheit . The species constitutes the majority of the Christmas tree harvest in the region.

“The trees just couldn’t cope with the water loss,” said Chal Landgren, Christmas tree specialist at Oregon State University.

That could mean a shortage of Christmas trees in eight years, he said, which is roughly the time a Christmas tree needs to grow before it is harvested. Oregon is the nation’s largest producer of Christmas trees. In 2017, the state produced 4.7 million trees, nearly a third of the total United States production, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

It is too early to know the extent of the damage to the Christmas tree supply this year or in the years to come, Landgren said. But, he added, as climate change continues to generate heat and drought in the region, “some growers, especially in the lower elevations of Oregon, are likely to switch to growing crops. different species from those of the noble fir. They will produce more Douglas fir and more Turkish or Nordmann fir.


Swipe left, swipe right, for the planet

By now, almost everyone recognizes that “swiping right” or “swiping left” refers to a way of indicating whether someone wants to search for a potential dating partner or not. But can these same reflexes help collect data on the state of the planet?

In a new study, the researchers analyzed the use of an application called Picture Pile in studies conducted in different environmental environments. In the app, users see images and ask a question about what they see. For example, for a satellite image that shows hectares of felled trees, one might ask volunteers, “Does this image show deforestation?” To answer, they swipe left in the app for “yes”, right for “no” and down for “maybe”.

After reviewing the studies, researchers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria concluded that this app could help measure economic losses from disasters, the number of acres used for agriculture sustainability and other metrics that measure progress on the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which seek to solve global problems such as poverty, inequality and climate change by 2030.

Although United Nations agencies and national statistical offices collect data on more than 200 indicators that underpin the 17 goals, study lead author Dilek Fraisl said official data may be flawed or out of date.

“This is where citizen science approaches can complement official statistics,” said Fraisl, a researcher at IIASA.

The researchers estimated that 15 indicators for the Sustainable Development Goals could be fed by data collected by citizen scientists via Picture Pile.

For example, in 2017, Picture Pile was used to understand the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, a storm that hit the island as a Category 4 hurricane in October 2016. Volunteers quickly categorized where they are. found damaged buildings by swiping left at images containing broken structures. Had this been done immediately after the storm, according to the report, the data could have been used by damage assessors.

The next steps, said Fraisl, are to bring their findings and ideas to national statistical offices to build partnerships, start discussions and build confidence in citizen science systems to ensure the accuracy and reliability of data. .


Things to do with a crab shell (besides throwing it away)

A Washington state startup is turning discarded crab shells into material that can be used in clothing, mattresses, and even as a coagulant in water treatment facilities.

Tidal Vision collects wasted shellfish from shellfish producers and transforms them into chitosan, a material derived from polymeric chitin that forms the hard shells of crabs, lobsters, oysters and shrimp. The material is biodegradable, hypoallergenic and can be used in more than 400 different products as a natural substitute for synthetic and toxic materials, said Kari Ingalls, Tidal Vision business development director for textiles and others.

Chitosan isn’t a new product, Ingalls said, but Tidal Vision’s proprietary, zero-waste process for converting shells that would otherwise be wasted into a usable form is new. Discarded shells are often dumped or incinerated, so Tidal Vision’s process offers a way to recycle this waste.

“We are developing technologies that unlock the potential of sustainable chitosan and enable mass adoption for the first time in North America,” she said.

Hardware can help preserve food, can be used as natural fertilizer and can clean wastewater and rainwater.

Ingalls said chitosan has a bright future as interest in natural, non-toxic products grows, “whether because of regulatory pressures on them, or because consumers demand it.”


How much water does a waterfall produce?

How much water can be diverted from a waterfall before it loses its aesthetic and ecological value?

Researchers at ETH Zurich are developing a tool for water managers to determine this using images and audio recordings of waterfalls.

In their study, the researchers used data on the amount of water withdrawn as well as sound and visual data from 15 waterfalls in Norway, Austria and Switzerland. They found that once a threshold amount of water flowing through the system was reached, the appearance and sound level of a waterfall would remain constant.

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The researchers developed an equation that water managers can use to determine how much water can be diverted for uses such as hydropower generation or irrigation, without compromising the value for tourists visiting the waterfalls. popular or for plants and animals that depend on a certain amount of water in a waterfall system.

“This was not done, to bind the covered area or the sound [of a waterfall] discharge and quantify the extent of water withdrawal, ”said Isabella Schalko, lead author of the study and environmental engineer at ETH Zurich. “So that would actually allow for a more transparent discussion about new or planned hydropower plants. “


Education as a climate solution

When Harriet Cheelo, a young woman raised by farmers in Zambia, got a scholarship to study agricultural science in Costa Rica, she didn’t know what climate change was, even though she noticed delayed rains and droughts. extended on his family’s farm. But after graduation, she not only became aware of what was going on on her farm, but also brought knowledge about solutions to her community.

Cheelo shared his story during a panel at COP26, the United Nations climate meetings in Glasgow last month, highlighting the importance of girls’ education as a solution to climate change. Educated women, she said, can become leaders in their communities, bringing their own knowledge, perspectives and ideas on how to survive the effects of climate change.

“Investing in girls’ education is one of the most powerful ways to fight climate change,” Cheelo said. “Women, girls and children are particularly the most vulnerable to climate change, and educating women and girls certainly helps them prepare better and also helps them have a platform where they can participate. to decision making, green innovation and policy development. . “

Thanks to his own education, Cheelo now works as a climate smart agriculture guide for CAMFED, an organization that enables girls in sub-Saharan Africa to receive an education. She teaches other women farmers how to farm sustainably, such as implementing drip irrigation using plastic bottles, and how to prepare for climatic shocks like drought by covering crops with mulch to keep the soil moist.

Women “have so much to contribute,” said Cheelo. “I think of the many generations that follow me and how powerful they will be if they continue to have access to education.”

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