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Archive Environmental News August 2020

Current World Crisis vs Growing Future Crisis: Climate Change

Covid-19 – Not the First, Nor the Last

Throughout history, disease outbreaks have ravaged humanity, sometimes changing the course of history and, at times, ending entire civilizations.

Dating back as far as 5,000 years ago an epidemic wiped out the entire population of a prehistoric village in China.

The Black Death, a plague that ravaged Asia and Europe between 1346 – 1353 changed the course of Europe’s history. With so many dead, labor became harder to find, bringing about better pay for workers and the end of Europe’s system of serfdom.

Every pandemic has left its mark on history. Covid-19 may be one of the most widespread pandemics, infecting populations across all nations.

The pandemic will pass, eventually. But it leaves in its wake a new normal. How we deal with the new normal as a civilization will be telling in what our future looks like.

Related Article: Ancient teeth show history of epidemics is much older than we thought

Climate Change

The pandemic has taken away the focus on another real threat the world is facing.

We hope the world’s “new normal’ will address the issues that are causing climate change and global warming.  We have already seen an improvement in the environment with a reduction in automobile traffic and flights around the world lessening air pollution.

But we have a long way to go to make enough of an impact to turn around where the future is currently headed. We all need to come together and work in unison in preparation for what is coming.

Why? Because pandemics can change the course of history. Climate change has the potential to end history as we know it.

More Disease and Pestilence

We may get through COVID-19, eventually, but what is on the horizon?

Rising temperatures favor agricultural pests, diseases and disease vectors. Changing climate patterns also have pests migrating to new areas for survival, exposing new populations to their impact.

Pest populations are on the rise and illnesses once found only in limited, tropical areas are now becoming endemic in much wider zones.

In Southeast Asia, for example, where malaria had been reduced to a wet season only disease in most areas, it is again endemic almost everywhere year around, and has again invaded the American South where it was eradicated more than a century ago.

Likewise, dengue fever, once largely confined to tropical areas, has become endemic to the entire region, and is now moving into the southern and southwestern US

The exotic Zika virus, evolved in the Amazon Basin, has now taken up residence in ever hotter and more humid Florida and the bayous of Louisiana.

Increased temperatures also increase the reproduction rates of microbes and insects, speeding up the rate at which they develop resistance to control measures and drugs (a problem already observed with malaria in Southeast Asia).

Human Migration

How will climate change cause migration?

  • Sea rise swallowing up coastal cities forcing evacuation
  • Drought, fires, floods
  • Storm activity
  • Rising temperatures

All of these conditions point towards loss of habitable, farmable land, resulting in rising food insecurity.

As early as 1990 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) noted that the greatest single impact of climate change might be on human migration—with millions of people displaced by shoreline erosion, coastal flooding and agricultural disruption.Since then, successive reports have argued that environmental degradation, and in particular climate change, is poised to become a major driver of population displacement—a crisis in the making.

In the mid-1990s, it was widely reported that up to 25 million people had been forced from their homes and off their land by a range of serious environmental pressures including pollution, land degradation, droughts and natural disasters.

This has been predicted for the past 30 years, yet no solid plans have evolved to handle the problem.

It is now on our doorstep. We need to make a plan for future migration. How can we all work together towards saving this planet and providing everyone a safe, livable place in the world?

Related Article: Climate Migration

History of Pandemics

  • 1346: The Black Death
  • 1817: First Cholera Pandemic
  • 1855: The Third Plague Pandemic
  • 1875: Fiji Measles Pandemic
  • 1889: Russian Flu
  • 1918: Spanish Flu
  • 1957: Asian flu
  • 1981: HIV/AIDS
  • 2003: SARS
  • 2019: COVID-19

Safety Protocols for COVID-19

  • When in a public place wear a mask
  • Heed the warning about social distancing during this pandemic
  • Wash your hands frequently and use a disinfectant
  • Eat a healthy diet to help your immunity system stay strong

Famine: Reduced Food Security

One of the most striking impacts of rising temperatures is felt in global agriculture, although these impacts are felt very differently in the largely temperate developed world and in the more tropical developing world.

Different crops grow best at quite specific temperatures and when those temperatures change, their productivity changes significantly.

In North America, for example, rising temperatures may reduce corn and wheat productivity in the US mid-west, but expand production and productivity north of the border in Canada.

The productivity of rice, the staple food of more than one third of the world’s population, declines 10% with every 1⁰ C increase in temperature.

Past climate induced problems have been offset by major advances in rice technology and ever larger applications of fertilizer; expectations are that in Thailand, the world’s largest exporter of rice, however, future increases in temperatures may reduce production 25% by 2050.

At the same time, global population models suggest that developing world will add 3 billion people by 2050 and that developing world food producers must double staple food crop production by then simply to maintain current levels of food consumption.

On a brighter note

Warm Heart Environmental Progress News was initially begun as a way to share positive advances in finding solutions to global warming. While this month’s issue may be a little bleak, this it the reality that we all share. However, we do want to put a focus back on the positive!

Spotlight on Innovations in Technology

From China comes a new innovative technology.

Natural Technology Co., Ltd. is specialized in the technical research of air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment waste heat recovery and conversion into renewable energy secondary utilization. (It is estimated that today air conditioning alone uses 10 percent of all electricity generated in the world.) It integrates multifunctional household and commercial air-conditioning heat pump water heaters, high-temperature frost-free heat pump water heaters and various heat recovery systems. A high-tech enterprise that develops, produces, and sells equipment products and provides comprehensive solutions for energy conservation and emission reduction for various industries.

They not only sell heat pump multifunctional air conditioners, but also can transform old air conditioners, and reuse heat energy through heat recovery technology to achieve good energy-saving effects. And it can improve the urban thermal pollution caused by air-conditioning heat emission.

The application of heat pump technology can indirectly reduce carbon emissions and achieve good energy-saving effects. And the refrigerant it uses is also an environmentally friendly refrigerant that does not contain fluorine.

For more information visit their website.

Beacon of Hope: Philanthropists Focus On Funding Climate Change Solutions, Provide COVID-19 Relief

Climate change is the biggest threat today to our world. Governments and big businesses are not prepared to give up politics and profits to address the immediate needs to find solutions.

But, there is hope!

Erik Bergman, a successful entrepreneur is leading the way to help fund solutions to reverse global warming and help restore our environment to a healthy climate. Along the way he is also introducing social changes to our workforce.

His company, Great.com donates 100% of their profits to organizations who are working on solutions for global warming. The health and wellness of company employees is a priority, setting standards for improved working conditions that lead to a healthy, happy life.

Wanting to do more he joined Founders Pledge, whose mission is to empower entrepreneurs to do immense good.

“Founders Pledge has been connected to the ecosystem of tech and start-up companies from
the beginning. With the drive to create a better world and a society that enriches, they have
developed a product and community that entrepreneurs want to be a part of. The team
working for the organization is located in London, San Francisco, New York, and Berlin.”

Founders Pledge is an entrepreneurial community that, since its inception in 2015, has
recruited more than 1,400 members and pledged more than $2.4 billion to charity. To date,
their members have donated more than $435 million to various charities and causes.

Most recently, Founders Pledge have had a major impact in response to COVID-19. Founders Pledge created a single fund that enables members and the public to contribute resources that can be distributed to Founders Pledge vetted charities aimed at pandemic preparedness, stopping the spread of COVID-19, and lessening the social and economic burden on the most affected communities. Founders Pledge takes an adaptive approach with its fund allocation to COVID-19 relief which means they are making strategic decisions every time they contribute – choosing the cause for which that donation would have the greatest impact.

If we are to succeed at reversing global warming and restoring a healthy environment it will be through the help of these warm hearted people who are dedicated to giving back and making the world a better place for us all.

Related Article: Inspiring story about Erik Bergman

Solutions in India

Dinesh Mohan, a scientist at Nehru University in Delhi has come up with a solution that will tackle two of India major environmental problems.

Pine needles drop and slowly decay, building up thick flammable layers of fuel just waiting for a lightning strike to set off huge forest fires.

The second environmental problem is the high levels of lead in local water sources.

Aware of the benefits of biochar in removing lead from soils and water, he has been experimenting with collecting pine needles and turning them into biochar, which will then be used to help purify the water. What a brilliant solution to removing the fire hazard and providing safer, cleaner drinking water!

Read the full story here: Could excess pine needles help solve water pollution in India?

The Promise of Biochar

Our initial inquiry into biochar was to find a good fertilizer for our organic garden. With so many children to feed growing our own food made sense.

Living in Northern Thailand, we suffer from a smoky season every year when the farmers burn their crop waste. This is not just unhealthy for the people who have to breathe in the smoke, it is a main contributor to global warming.

Making biochar with crop waste solves 2 major problems.

Putting a stop to the smoke helps slow global warming. And the end product, the biochar, is extremely helpful in rebuilding dead soils damaged from years of abuse.

Improved soils provide for stronger, healthier crops. Increasing food security through use of biochar can be a huge solution on impacts of global warming.

We currently are active in Thailand, and Africa. We hope to continue to spread the information and help other countries join us in this win-win solution to agricultural burning and food security. We offer free videos showing step by step instructions for building biochar ovens, and the low cost, low tech biochar trench method.

There are lots of emissions control efforts, but few credible carbon removal approaches. Making biochar removes three tons CO2 from the atmosphere for every ton produced; when added to fields as a soil amendment, that carbon is permanently sequestered.  

General Background on Covid-19 in Thailand and Warm Heart responses/actions

Back to school

Thailand mounted a fast and effective national response to the novel SARS virus and the resulting Covid-19 pandemic. It imposed immediate lockdown, strict quarantines and curfews, barred inter-provincial travel and stopped all international travel into and out of the country. As a result, to date Thailand has seen fewer than 3,000 recorded cases of Covid-19 and suffered fewer than 300 deaths.

Where Warm Heart is located in the rural North, our isolation has served only to protect us still better. Warm Heart has been and remains an isolated island with little contact with the outside world.

The public health effectiveness of Thailand’s Covid-19 response has hurt the communities we serve badly. Because the economy depends heavily on tourism (20% of GDP) and large factory, assembly-type manufacturing for export (cars, car parts), as well as the small businesses that support these (taxis, food stands), millions of poor lost their jobs. They retreated to their family homes in the villages where it was the dry season, a time of no jobs and little food.

The consequences have been catastrophic. Households have grown, sometimes doubled, in size, while losing income from remittances from better paid jobs in the cities. They have depleted limited food stores. Government relief payments often do not reach those most in need. Public works projects seldom help rural areas. To make matters worse, quarantines started just after children returned for mid-year break, which then extended for months. Poor children and families lost access to the free lunch and milk program so important to the majority of Thai school children who are enrolled in K to 6.

In short, the Covid crisis that has cut donations for nonprofits serving Americans just as needs have soared has had the same effect here. Warm Heart faces a fall in donations just as the rural poor we serve face rising needs.

What has Warm Heart done to improve the safety of staff and children?

  • Warm Heart imposed strict lockdown conditions on its resident staff and the 15 or so children who live with us year round because they do not have safe homes to which to return.
  • Warm Heart required anyone arriving on campus to don mask and gloves, limit their movements on campus and remain for as short a time as possible.
  • When Warm Heart children returned because of need, they quarantined for 14 days in a children’s home set aside for the purpose.
  • Warm Heart increased food production to reduce the need to visit markets for supplies.
  • Warm Heart implemented “social distancing” by taking advantage of the absence of many children to spread the remaining children thinly among the homes.
  • Warm Heart built five additional dish washing stations to eliminate lines and permit the children to wash their dishes after meals at a safe distance from one another.

What has Warm Heart done to continue to fulfill its mission?

  • Warm Heart accepted, housed, fed and cared for any child whose family could not cope.
  • Warm Heart brought our graduates to live at Warm Heart when they lost their jobs in the cities.
  • Warm Heart created a program to support the newly unemployed across the rural North by helping them learn to farm even in the dry season and support their families.
    • Warm Heart and Shangri-La Resort (Chiang Mai) had produced 50 tonnes of biochar as part of our “Stop the Smoke” campaign.
  • Warm Heart convinced Shangri-La to allow us to find small agricultural development organizations able to teach new farmers – and donate the biochar to them.
  • Warm Heart recently donated 10 tonnes of biochar to a public-private agricultural development project in Mae Chaem District to assist small farmers.
  • Warm Heart has begun raising funds to create a hybrid online/hands-on vocational training program to provide workplace skills to the rural unemployed.

Related Article: Providing a Pandemic Safety Net, Nonprofits Need Their Own

Last but not least

Fed up with the lack of leadership from the Federal Government throughout the bushfire crisis in Australia’s worst fire season, and following several unsuccessful attempts to meet with the Prime Minister, the Emergency Leaders for Climate Action took matters into their own hands, and announced they were going to host Australia’s first virtual National Bushfire and Climate Summit.

This group is effective because they are not controlled by politics but rather science seeking solutions. We need more of these groups working on the many different areas where we can find solutions. This is how changes are made, by the people, not the government. If the governments do not start listening and responding to what the people want they will be replaced by those that do.

Learn more about this dedicated group of professionals: UNPACKING THE NATIONAL BUSHFIRE AND CLIMATE SUMMIT 2020

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