Newsdesk – April 22

Image Credit: NASA

Earth Day 2020: The Thirty Year War. On April 22, 1990, the 20th anniversary of Earth Day, a six-figure sized crowd flocked to the National Mall. Apart from New York, D.C. and ABC, every media outlet and city had their own observances that day. More remarkably, Earth Day was so hot that ABC handed over more than two hours of its priceless prime time that night for a special featuring appearances by the well-know celebrities such as Bette Midler, Danny DeVito, Bill Cosby, Kevin Costner, Jane Fonda, Morgan Freeman, Dustin Hoffman, Magic Johnson, Meryl Streep, Robin Williams, Barbra Streisand, and others. And thirty years later, this year, thanks to the COVID-19 calamity, the National Mall and just about every other public place in the world will be desolate. This article will now take a look at the other differences between Earth Day 20 and Earth Day 50—aside from presuming that Bill Cosby will not be among this year’s celebrity endorsers. From 1990, the deepening of the political divide has increased and the two parties have rushed to the opposite end of the political spectrum. Environmental advocacy groups came along for the ride, and even the fiercely non-partisan LCV strongly leans by appearance to the Democrats. Environmental racism, other than the bipartisan split, has been another growing issue. In early 1990, the Rev. Ben Chavis, future head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), led the Commission on Racial Justice on behalf of the United Church of Christ and organized civil rights leaders to sign a letter informing major environmental groups that their virtually all-white leaderships constituted a form of racism in hiring. Today in Alabama, Residents there blamed their off-the-charts cancer rates on a toxic landfill adjacent to the town. Their plea to address the problem through the Civil Rights Act was denied by Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2018. Another important figure, House Minority Whip Newt Gingrich was only a rising star in 1990 and in 2007.  As late as 2007, Gingrich’s environmental street cred was solid. The retired Speaker posed, American Gothic-style, in front of the U.S. Capitol with the current Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, in a TV ad calling for action on climate change before falling into the climate change denial trap. Climate change, which first topped the headlines after Congressional hearings in 1988 with dramatic projections of harm, remains largely ignored by Washington. And problems yet to be introduced to the broader public by 1990 are now new specters. So, for these problems and an empty National Mall on Earth Day, we rely on our yet-unrealized political will and our yet-undiscovered breakthroughs – Environmental Health News

  • ‘Coronavirus profiteers’ condemned as polluters gain bailout billions – The Guardian
  • Is fungus the answer to climate change? Student who grew a mushroom canoe says yes – News
  • Scientists confirm dramatic melting of Greenland ice sheet – The Guardian
  • Think This Pandemic Is Bad? We Have Another Crisis Coming – The New York Times 
  • Climate Change Turns the Tide on Waterfront Living – The Washington Post Magazine
  • A house blown onto a street, an untouched cake and photos carried 100 miles: Tornadoes leave bizarre scenes in their wake – The Washington Post
  • South Korea to implement Green New Deal after ruling party election win –  Climate Home News
  • Climate Change Has Helped Fuel a Megadrought in the Southwest – Scientific American
  • Bank of England ‘failing climate’ with Covid-19 stimulus programme – The Guardian
The trickle of a once-potent river on the island of Anjouan, in the Comoros. Image Credit: Tommy Trenchard for The New York Times

There’s No More Water: Climate Change on a Drying Island.  The island, part of the nation of the Comoros off the East African coast, receives more annual rainfall than most of Europe. However, a combination of deforestation and climate change has caused at least half of its permanent rivers to stop flowing in the dry season. Deforestation has been occurring over the last 70 years to make way for farmland but in the process, it disrupted a delicate ecosystem. As a result, the water the now cut-down trees and plants would normally collect and feed back into the ground and rivers is disappearing. “We’ve lost 40 permanent rivers in the last 50 years,” said Mohamed Misbahou, the technical director of Dahari, a nonprofit focused on reforesting land in some of the hardest hit areas on the island. “In some parts of the country, there’s now a big problem getting water.” These drying rivers are only part of the web of environmental problems on the islands. We’re faced with increasing temperatures over time, so we know different crops will respond differently, as well as more extreme weather events, and that makes it harder for farmers,” said Alex Forbes, a manager for the United Nations Environment Program’s work on adapting to climate change. In response to these changes, including decreasing crop growth, tens of thousands of people have left their villages in the Comoros to look for work elsewhere. Indeed, Crops have declined noticeably, farmers and agricultural charities say, a major problem in a place where more than three-quarters of the population is involved in agriculture. The decrease in agricultural production has led to food insecurity. The population of the Comoros has more than doubled since 1980, to just under one million people, putting pressure on its forests. After gaining independence from France in 1975, the country experienced one of the world’s fastest rates of deforestation. This has led to the scarcity of water in parts of the island is exacerbated by an antiquated distribution system which, if fixed, might take off some of the pressure. But as the population grows and the climate continues to heat up, that would only go so far – The New York Times 

A sea turtle hatchling headed for the ocean in Aceh Province, Indonesia. Image Credit: Chaideer Mahyuddin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Wildlife Collapse From Climate Change Is Predicted to Hit Suddenly and Sooner. A study published on Nature predicted that large swaths of ecosystems would falter in waves, creating sudden die-offs that would be catastrophic not only for wildlife, but for the humans who depend on it. Unfortunately, the latest research adds to an already bleak picture for the world’s wildlife unless urgent action is taken to preserve habitats and limit climate change. In fact, over a million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction because of the myriad ways humans are changing the earth by farming, fishing, logging, mining, poaching, and burning fossil fuels. When researchers examined the projections on how soon climate change would affect population levels, they were surprised that sudden collapses appeared across almost all species — fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals — and across almost all regions. In addition, if greenhouse gas emissions remain on current trajectories, the research showed that abrupt collapses in tropical oceans could begin in the next decade. Coral bleaching events over the last several years suggest that these losses have already started, the scientists said. The collapse in tropical forests, home to some of the most diverse ecosystems on earth, could follow by the 2040s. But if global warming was held to below 2 degrees Celsius, the number of species exposed to dangerous climate change would drop by 60 percent. In response, Christopher H. Trisos, a scientist at the University of Cape Town and one of the study’s authors, said that “If we take action now, we limit this abrupt disruption to 2 percent of the planet. But that two percent of the planet still has a lot of people living there in tropical regions. And they need our help”- The New York Times