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Our planet
Environment, natural resources, geopolitics

16 April 2021

Paint it white
Fans of the great comedy show The Young Ones will recall the hippy Neil painting himself white to deflect a potential nuclear explosion. So it is hard not to feel a measure of scepticism about the ‘whitest white’ paint developed by scientists at Purdue University in Indiana – which, they claim, reflects 98 per cent of sunlight, while radiating infrared heat through the atmosphere into space. So far, though, the research does seem to check out: the paint appears to cool surfaces by 4.5°C below ambient temperature. Though the Purdue team is some way off delivering so-called ‘free air-conditioning’, their work does illustrate the point that our response to climate emergency has to be holistic: right down to exterior decor.

15 April 2021

Glacial pace
An Alaskan glacier is on the move. The Muldrow Glacier, a 39-mile-long ice river, has been moving up to 90 feet a day over the past few months. The move is unusually fast and has excited glaciologists who are studying it with a mixture of satellite imaging, aerial photography, and global positioning systems. Mark Fahnestock, a glaciologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, thinks global warming, which causes less ice accumulation and more melting, is likely to be behind the glacier’s march. “There will be effects, especially in Alaska because the mass loss is so high,” Fahnestock said.

14 april 2021

Trees in crisis
Just seven per cent of the UK’s native woodlands are in good health. A report from the Woodland Trust, a conservation charity, found the woods were suffering from development, imported pests, pollution, and the climate crisis. The poor state of the woods isn’t only a problem for woodland birds and butterflies, both in decline, but for the climate crisis itself. We need to cut carbon emissions and sequester them to get to a carbon neutral world. Trees can sequester carbon both above- and below-ground, and can retain more carbon than crops. They also make people happier.

13 April 2021

Aviation
Only 38 per cent of business people expect to return to the same volume of flying as before the pandemic, the Guardian reports. The poll, covering seven countries, speaks to the second biggest issue in economics right now. After the pandemic is dealt with (the biggest issue) how will the world that is left be different? In France, there is some effort to force the issue: no domestic flights will be allowed if a sub-2.5-hour train service already exists. 

12 april 2021

Lost city
A city built more than 3,400 years ago has been uncovered in Egypt. Archaeologists were originally searching for the mortuary temple of the pharaoh Tutankhamun but within weeks found that mud brick formations were appearing in every direction – uncovering streets and houses with rooms filled with jewellery, scarab beetle amulets, pottery and tools. The lost city is so well preserved that it’s been described as “ancient Egypt’s Pompeii” and one of the most important archaeological discoveries since Tutankhamun’s tomb. A very happy accident.