A giant piece of nature conservation news graces us this issue, as 11 million acres – that’s the size of Yosemite … times ten – were added to the Chilean national park system. Most strikingly, this was not a monetary transaction, but a donation of private land, and reportedly the largest such in history. The land was acquired over the course of more than two decades by the late Doug Tompkins – co-founder of North Face – and his wife Kris – former Patagonia CEO – both tireless advocates for maintaining the earth’s natural biodiversity. Why did they do it? The Guardian offers this quote from Kris Tompkins “There is just no excuse for doing nothing.” she says, “whoever you are, wherever your interest lies, whatever you’ve fallen in love with, you get out of bed every morning and you do something … you fight for a human society that is in balance with the natural world. We have no choice, otherwise we might as well kiss our beautiful planet goodbye.” Words and actions like this are the kind of thing to light a fire under our rears.
Knowing Ourselves as Part of Nature
The kind of deep ecology mindset that Tompkins displayed during his life is also making itself felt in New Zealand of late, where the Guardian reports that the Māori tribe has won a case to grant a river the same rights as human beings. The move builds on increasing government support around the world – readers might recall Bolivia’s Law of the Rights of Mother Earth, signed into law in 2012 – to build a culture of respect for nature and understanding of human beings as a part of nature. While the hurdle of how to interpret and enforce such laws in practice remains to be worked out – and it’s a good bit of work – the fact that our relationship to nature is a topic of political discourse offers human beings a foothold that was almost unfathomable less than a decade ago.
Solar Installations Break Records in U.S.
More solar energy headlines this time around, as Think Progress reports the United States installed a record-breaking 14,762 megawatts of solar. That’s a 97 percent jump over 2015 numbers. In California alone, half of midday power in the state was generated by current solar installations. The progress in solar is being driven in part by continued cost reductions as the technology matures. The price for solar PV systems fell nearly 20 percent last year. A major challenge for the industry now as solar installations grow so quickly, is in managing a balancing act as the sun sets and evening power consumption requires other sources such as natural gas-fired plants. It’s an issue that will call both on technology and changes to social habits in energy use in the coming years.
Earth’s Tiny Meat-Eaters
Think that humans eat a lot of meat? Well spiders, apparently, eat just as much. Researchers recently estimated that the world’s spiders consume 400-800m tonnes of insects every year – as much meat and fish as humans consume over the same period. These arachnid appetites are useful, too, as without their veracious bug-chomping, we would likely face human-population-devastating crop destruction at the hands of bugs. Farmers, of course, have known this for a long while, and most of them praise spiders for their doubly hard work in natural pest control, and adding natural fertility to the field. In another part of the food news web, the UK plays host to the opening of a Pay as you Feel supermarket this month, the Independent reports. The store premises itself on selling food thrown out by other supermarkets or businesses.
Wildlife Conservation. In Cities?
Around the world, the move to protect species is recently active in cities themselves, where conservationists are noting that many of our rarest animals have chosen to make their homes in urban areas. With a ‘small is beautiful’ mentality, researchers and activists alike are seeing that even small actions to green an urban area can have enormous payoffs; pocket parks, wildlife crossings, and “Even a solitary gum tree” as the Guardian reports, can offer habitat and a “lifeline” for wild species. That’s good news, both for city dwellers, and for small actions!
And that’s your Environment in Review for this last week of March. See you again in early April, and until then, as Kris Tompkins reminds us, keep “getting up every day” and working towards your own small actions for social and environmental well being in each of those days!
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Yours in Nature,
Patrick M. Lydon and Suhee Kang