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Our planet
Environment, natural resources, geopolitics

17 september 2021

Jakarta pollution win
Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, has repeatedly been found to have some of the worst air quality in the world, regularly knocking notoriously polluted cities like Shanghai and Karachi off the top spot. Greenpeace Indonesia estimates that at least 7,000 Jakartans die prematurely every year because of high pollution levels, and almost a third of the city’s 44 sub-districts cite “upper respiratory infections” as the leading cause of sickness. Yesterday 32 citizens won a civil lawsuit accusing president Joko Widodo and other top officials including his environment minister of unlawfully neglecting to “take measures to control air pollution in Jakarta”. It’s not the first time citizens have successfully taken a government to court on air pollution – a similar ruling was successful two years ago in Paris – but it’s a sign that litigation is gaining impact in the armoury of climate action groups. Not that Widodo is caving. His government has said it will appeal.

16 september 2021

Climate cake
Albert, a sustainability project backed by Bafta, found that “cake” was mentioned 10 times more often on British television shows than “climate change” in 2020, and “banana bread” more than “wind power” and “solar power” combined. The findings were based on an analysis of subtitles from around 400,000 programmes from the main broadcasters. It didn’t include news broadcasts. When references to climate change were made, the analysis found that they weren’t solutions-focused. Climate action or solution, for example, had a fraction of the mentions of climate crisis or emergency, and the number of mentions overall declined. “In any normal year, a drop in climate change mentions would be a worrying headline,” said Carys Taylor, Albert’s director. “But 2020 was no normal year.” True, but the climate doesn’t care about Covid. 

15 september 2021

Dolphin massacre
Animal activists and locals are outraged by the slaughter of more than 1400 dolphins in the Faroe Islands as part of an annual ‘Grind’ hunt. Photos and videos shared by the campaigning group Sea Shepherd showed beaches filled with the dolphins’ carcasses being pulled from blood-streaked water. Some of the dolphins had been clearly cut up by boat propellers and the charity said some of the animals were still alive when pulled onto the beach. The centuries-old Grind hunt was particularly brutal this year and reportedly didn’t follow established procedures with some hunters acting without licenses. More dolphins were killed on Sunday in Skálabotnur than in recent six month seasons at Japan’s notorious Tajii cove, made famous by the Netflix documentary Seaspiracy. Although whaling was internationally banned in 1986, there are exceptions to zero catch limits for aboriginal whaling due to its purported cultural significance. The former chairman of the Faroese Grind Association, which campaigns to maintain the traditional hunt, told a local broadcaster that this year “destroyed all the work we have done to preserve the Grind”. 

14 september 2021

Cow pee control
Young cows can be potty trained faster than young humans, German research suggests. A small cohort of young Holsteins in Dummerstorf, near Rostock, was given sweet molasses after urinating in a purpose-built indoor toilet and a squirt of cold water if they went outside. The finding is valuable because cows can produce 8 gallons of urine a day and, mixed with dung, it produces ammonia. Ammonia in air and water leads in turn to the production of nitrous oxide, which is up to 300 times more powerful than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. The Dummerstorf experiment did not address dung per se, but researchers reckon cows could be trained to dump that in eco-friendly places too. 

13 september 2021

Norwegian non-payment?
Indonesia has scrapped a planned pact with Norway to halt deforestation in return for cash payments totalling $56 million. It says the deal is off because of a “lack of concrete progress on the implementation of the obligation of the government of Norway”. Norway responds that discussions on payments were “constructive and progressing well”. Indonesia says the aborted deal in no way lessens its determination to save its own forests, but this is a big backward step. Compensating countries with forests for leaving them alone is the only way to preserve the world’s great natural carbon sinks. One suspects there’s more to this than Norway simply deciding it wants to keep its money.