Newsdesk – December 5, 2020

Hurricane Eta’s Category 4 winds slammed into Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast on November 3—it was one of the most devastating hurricanes in decades. On November 16, Hurricane Iota made landfall less than 40 kilometers south of where Eta came ashore. Iota was the first Category 5 hurricane to form in the Atlantic in November since 1932. Photo by dpa picture alliance/Alamy Stock Photo

After Eta and Iota, Central America Braces for a COVID-19 Surge. Swaths of Central America are still underwater and hundreds of thousands of people are homeless after two major hurricanes, Eta and Iota, pummeled the region in November. Governments won’t know the extent of the damage until the floodwaters recede, but hospitals, health authorities, and first responders are already bracing for another disaster: a spike in COVID-19. Alida Hernandez, a 38-year-old tortilla vendor from Tocoa, Honduras, was eight months pregnant with twins when Hurricane Eta hit. She thought her house was safe, since the hurricane had lost its power by the time it reached her town. But heavy rains caused a nearby river to overflow. Hernandez fled to a nearby terrace with her partner and seven children while their house and all of their belongings were swept away. They were stranded for three days before being rescued by boat. Hernandez is now living with her sister, mother, and three other family members. She recently gave birth to her twins, and they all sleep together in her sister’s one-room home. But the destruction wrought by the back-to-back hurricanes means the region is now facing the difficult task of confronting a surge of COVID-19 cases with a decimated healthcare system. “We’ve had problems shipping our samples to Tegucigalpa where they’re processed,” says Xiomara Arita, the executive director of the 52-bed hospital just a block away from the beach. “We haven’t been able to diagnose, because we haven’t been able to test.” As a result, Ugarte says Honduras has seen a dramatic drop in reported coronavirus cases—a sign that the surveillance system is struggling. “This is clearly a challenge for reporting new cases and detecting new cases.” But the coronavirus isn’t the only disease health professionals are keeping their eyes out for. Water sources throughout the region have been contaminated, and have become breeding grounds for dengue, malaria, and chikungunya. In Nicaragua alone, the Red Cross estimates that 4,500 wells have been compromised by the hurricanes and associated flooding. The water, contaminated with fungi and bacteria, can’t even be used for hand-washing. Studies have linked stronger hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean to warming seas, and 2020 saw the most named storms on record. With once-in-a-lifetime hurricanes now coming multiple times a season, healthcare workers are learning to adapt – Hakai Magazine

  • Polish-built electric buses take over the European market – Made for Minds
  • The fight to stop the next pandemic starts in the jungles of Borneo – Popular Science 
  • ‘Turning fear into strength’: One woman’s struggle for justice and land rights in Sulawesi – Mongabay
  • No-kill, lab-grown meat to go on sale for first time – The Guardian
  • Can Local Food Feed Big Cities? Yes, if We Cut Down on Meat – Civil Eats
  • North American farmers profit as consumers pressure food business to go green – Reuters
  • This ferocious water flea is mauling the Great Lakes – National Geographic 
Used cooking oil is one of the ingredients in renewable diesel, which generates far less emissions than conventional diesel and allows refineries to take advantage of federal and state incentives.Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Oil Refineries See Profit in Turning Kitchen Grease Into Diesel. People who buy diesel may not even know they are using renewable diesel because pumps can handle it, oil-based diesel or a combination of the two and typically carry no special labels. Renewable diesel, like biodiesel, is produced from waste agricultural products and animal fats, but it is processed differently to make it chemically identical to conventional petroleum diesel. Neste Oyj supplies its two biggest markets, Europe and North America, from refineries in Singapore, the Netherlands and Finland, and is looking to find or build another plant. The company collects grease from tens of thousands of restaurants worldwide, including in the United States, then mixes it with waste from around the world at its refineries. Once processed into renewable diesel, the fuel is sent around the world, including to California and Oregon. One of its customers is Oakland, which uses fuel in city vehicles. Renewable diesel is emerging at a time of severe stress for the oil and gas industry, with refiners closing plants across Europe and North America. Researchers, farmers, and some environmentalists have long worked on making renewable fuels a bigger part of the nation’s energy mix, with mixed success. Proponents of renewable diesel say it has many advantages over ethanol, especially when it is made from waste that would otherwise be dumped into landfills. The fortunes for renewable diesel brightened in 2011 when California enacted its Low Carbon Fuel Standard, requiring sharp cuts in carbon emissions from transportation. Under the system, producers of low-carbon fuels such as electricity for electric vehicles, hydrogen and renewable diesel can sell credits to producers of high-carbon fuels. Oregon and British Columbia have adopted similar systems, and Canada is scheduled to begin a national clean fuel standard in 2022 The New York Times



The trees, plants, funghi and microbes in forests are so thoroughly connected some scientists describe them as superorganisms. Mycorrhizas in the soil, right, provide the network

The Social Life of Forests.  What trees are sharing with one another? Underground, trees and fungi form partnerships known as mycorrhizas: Threadlike fungi envelop and fuse with tree roots, helping them extract water and nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen in exchange for some of the carbon-rich sugars the trees make through photosynthesis. For her doctoral thesis, a professor Simard of forest ecology at the University of British Columbia, decided to investigate fungal links between Douglas fir and paper birch in the forests of British Columbia. Now, Simard, who is 60, has studied webs of root and fungi in the Arctic, temperate and coastal forests of North America for nearly three decades. She has discovered that fungal threads link nearly every tree in a forest — even trees of different species. Carbon, water, nutrients, alarm signals and hormones can pass from tree to tree through these subterranean circuits. Resources tend to flow from the oldest and biggest trees to the youngest and smallest. So-called chemical alarm signals. generated by one tree prepare nearby trees for danger. Seedlings severed from the forest’s underground lifelines are much more likely to die than their networked counterparts. And if a tree is on the brink of death, it sometimes bequeaths a substantial share of its carbon to its neighbors. An old-growth forest is a vast, ancient and intricate society. There is conflict in a forest, but there is also negotiation, reciprocity and perhaps even selflessness. In a TED Talk Simard gave in 2016, she describes “a world of infinite biological pathways,” species that are “interdependent like yin and yang” and veteran trees that “send messages of wisdom on to the next generation of seedlings.” in his international bestseller, ” The Hidden Life of Trees”, the forester Peter Wohlleben writes that trees optimally divide nutrients and water among themselves, that they probably enjoy the feeling of fungi merging with their roots and that they even possess “maternal instincts.”- The New York Times